Aug 022017
 

We all want our children to go off and have adventures, to live life to the fullest. An essential component of this is, of course, teach them to be brave, so they are not daunted when faced with a difficult situation or a new experience. As the beginning of the school year approaches, it can be an especially important time to remind children of the courage they have inside them. Here are some wonderful books for all ages that teach by example how to be brave when faced with challenges large and small.

Children's Books About Being Brave | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Children’s Books About Being Brave

Poor little baby bird can think of all kinds of reasons why attempting to fly out of the nest is a bad idea. Each time he peers over the edge of his safe, warm nest, the shadows twist into the menacing shapes of his fears. NOPE! is his response whenever his mother tries to prod him to try to fly. Then just when it looks like he might never leave, his mother gives him some gentle, um, encouragement but pushing him out of the nest. A very funny story with extremely simple text but incredibly expressive illustrations. 

Jabari Jumps is actually one that several of us that review books have been chatting about because we all love it so much! (You can read another review from one of them). So many kids (and adults) can relate to wanting to jump off the high dive at the pool but then chickening out when the time comes and we see how far down it is to the water. I love the character of Jabari but also his dad, who is there to offer him encouragement. He recognizes when Jabari needs a little more time but also knows just what to say when the moment is right. I am going to remember his advice myself, that instead of being scared about something we can think of it like a little surprise – because who doesn’t like surprises?

My 4 year old requests Jabari Jumps every night at bedtime, and after he was brave enough to jump into the pool recently, he told me that he was just like Jabari!

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Hello Kitty Storybook) is part of a gentle series of fairy tale adventures for very young readers. It also includes Thumbelina (Hello Kitty Storybook). If you have a Hello Kitty fan in your house, you won’t want to miss these – and if you don’t, you might after you read these books! While they present somewhat scary situations (falling through a rabbit hole, being kidnapped by a toad), here the scary factor is toned down and the emphasis is on the adventure and the happy ending.

RELATED POST: Adventure Books for Kids

The Road Home is a beautiful book about finding safety and comfort in a big world. “This road is hard, this road is long, this road that leads us home” is the echoing refrain as woodland creatures and their children begin to prepare for the coming winter. What I love about this book, in addition to the gorgeous illustrations, is the idea that whenever we are with our loved ones, we are already home. A great book to snuggle up and read with your little ones, to remind them that they are never alone.

Black Belt Bunny is a cute, funny book your children will love! Black Belt Bunny has all kinds of super cool moves to face any challenge – but he wasn’t expecting to have to face salad! What will Black Belt Bunny do when he is asked to prepare his own salad? Mind you, Black Belt Bunny actually loves his vegetables (as all bunnies do), but he’s never had to make one before, and he’s not sure he can! Luckily this fierce little bunny summons his skills to invent his own creative way to make a salad! My favorite part, though, is the end, where the grown up, who has been encouraging him all the while, has the tables turned on him – he has to be brave enough to try something new, too!

We love Harriet the Hamster Princess! In fact, I just finished re-reading the first book in the series (Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible) with my boys. So we were all excited to learn that there was a new adventure out: as with all of the Harriet books, Hamster Princess: Giant Trouble is a re-telling of a classic fairy tale (this time Jack and the Beanstalk), but with a spunky heroine who loves to battle with the bad guys. Harriet and her friends are back in another hilarious book that blends the graphic novel and storybook formats. Great for reluctant and early readers. These books also make great read-louds!

RELATED POST: Hybrid Graphic Novels for Kids

I’m also happy to share the latest installment from another beloved series: Mystery of the Min Min Lights is the ninth book from Pack-n-Go Girls, the chapter books that take girls around the world on incredible adventures! (I should add that my son adores these books, so they aren’t just for girls!) Wendy Lee isn’t sure about having to spend a year in the Australian outback when her mom is on assignment for work, but at least she makes friends with Chloe, who invites her to stay at her family’s sheep station. Yet soon she discovers that someone is stealing the sheep – and what does this have to do with the spooky lights that can be seen at night? To solve the mystery and help her new friend, Wendy must dig deep to be brave and do what it takes to catch the thief.

As always, readers will learn about a new part of the world, as facts are woven naturally into the story. I love that the main character (the non-Australian character who is having an adventure in Australia) is Chinese American. Usually the “normal” character is a white Westerner, so this is a great change and adds another layer of complexity and richness to this wonderful tale.

In a time when immigration is constantly in the news, Evangelina Takes Flight gives middle grade readers a fresh look at the challenges faced by Mexican immigrants to the US over a century ago. At the time, most fled their homes because of war, rather than economic hardship. Evangelina is a young girl on the cusp of womanhood when rumors of wars and marauding soldiers reach their small ranch in the Mexican countryside. Though they are not wealthy, her family knows they will still be targets because they own their own land. Evangelina is forced to leave the only home she has ever known and travel with her family to the United States, where she struggles to find her voice in a new language and confront the many Americans who are hostile to the new arrivals.

As a history buff, I loved the detail about life in revolutionary Mexico, as well as what the long journey to the US would have been like. But young readers will identify with Evangelina’s painful transition to her new school and admire her being brave enough to finally confront those who would fight against immigrants rather than giving them a chance. Would be a great book to pair with Esperanza Rising, about another young woman who immigrants from Mexico several decades later.

Jul 202017
 

Cooking with kids always seems like such a great idea – until you actually do it. If you can see past the messes and inefficiency, however, you will be rewarded with a sweet experience that neither of you will ever forget! Cooking together builds confidence, teaches life skills, and encourages healthy eating habits. In addition, it can bring some of your most treasured bonding moments – that is, if you can manage to relax and enjoy yourself instead of worrying about the state of your kitchen. Here are my top tips for enjoying cooking with kids. Share yours in the comments!

Cooking with Kids: How to Relax and Have Fun | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Cooking with Kids: How to Relax and Have Fun

If You Invite Them to Help, Make Sure Your Mean It

If you are going to cook with your child, make sure you are really in the mood for it. If you are already feeling anxious or irritable to begin with, take a rain check and do it another time. Cooking with kids requires all of your patience and attention, so don’t start off at a deficit.

Organize Your Space

Before beginning, make sure their work space is clear, accessible, and safe. You don’t want to have them get started only to notice that the kitchen knives are within reach of your toddler or that there isn’t really enough room for them to roll out their dough. Take a few extra minutes to clear off the counter space and bring all of the ingredients into easy reach, so you aren’t leaving a small child unattended while you go to pull items out of the pantry.

Know What You’re Doing

If it is a new or less familiar recipe, be sure to read it over carefully ahead of time. Remember that once you begin you will be distracted by your kids.

Safety First

Make sure that anything dangerous is out of reach before you even begin and keep a sharp eye on what your child is doing. They seem to have a knack for discovering dangers you never would have dreamed of! Remember that you will be distracted, so as you cook, triple check that turn off the burners and put away equipment.

Allow Extra Time – But Know Your Limits

Be sure to allow plenty of extra time, not just because you’ll be cleaning up spills or teaching them how to crack eggs. Children are also much more process oriented than adults, so they will likely enjoy stirring together the ingredients or cutting out the shapes longer than is strictly necessary. Bite your tongue and let it go on for as long as you can, because often this is the part they most enjoy. Mine tend to linger at the mixing stage then lose interest and wander out of the kitchen. But do know your limits. If you feel your frustration building, gently move them along after a reasonable period.

And reliably, your child will have a messy diaper or need to go potty at a key point in the recipe, so try to make dishes that can sit on the counter while you take necessary breaks!

Cooking with Kids: How to Relax and Have Fun | Alldonemonkey.com

Embrace the Mess

Cooking with kids is messy and slow – and fun!  But you have to accept the first two in order to really enjoy the latter.

I never realized how uptight I was about messes until I had kids.  Now I really try to relax and enjoy the moment.  After all, there is often little you can do to contain the mess! Your child, covered in flour from head to foot, is bound to take off for the living room, bouncing off all the furniture, just as you have your hands full with hot cookie sheets from the oven and can’t possibly chase him down. Or he will decide to “help” you crack the eggs on the counter when you have your back turned for just a second. No matter what, there will be a mess to clean up, so you might as well make it worth it!

Set Your Priorities And Lower Your Expectations Accordingly

If you expect to bake perfect dishes in no time flat with little mess, than you have no business bringing your child into the action.  You will only become frustrated with your little one, who has very different ideas about what is going to happen.

But if you have asked your child to join you, it is probably because you want to have a special, fun experience with him, rather than a perfect product.  Just keep reminding yourself of this, when you start to switch back into a default mode of “I must get these in the oven right now!” and “Don’t pull apart the cookies!  They were so pretty!”

Cooking with Kids: How to Relax and Have Fun | Alldonemonkey.com

Try to Work with “Child Efficiency” Rather Than “Adult Efficiency”

If you are working alone, you will probably complete the steps a certain way in order to be efficient, but that may not be the most efficient way to do things when you have a little helper.  For example, when making cookies, normally I would roll out all the dough, then cut out all the shapes, then move them all to the cookie sheet.  When I did that with my toddler helping me, however, dough disappeared into his sweet little mouth before I could cut out all the shapes, and what shapes I could do were often broken or “transformed” into something entirely different by the time I could put them onto the cookie sheet.

So instead, I rolled out a bit of dough, cut a few stars, and moved those to the cookie sheet before rolling out a bit more dough.  Much more “child efficient.”

A Final Note

Some cookies will burn.  Some cakes will be lumpy.  And key ingredients will probably be forgotten.  But chances are everyone will love it anyway, especially if they know your little one helped!

And just remember: When you are cooking with kids, you always have a great excuse if your dishes don’t turn out perfectly!

Marigold Bakes a Cake

A really fun book you and your child will both enjoy is Marigold Bakes a Cake. Poor Marigold is a perfectionist, especially when it comes to baking. That is why he does it alone – until the birds show up. First one, then more fly into his kitchen and mess up the perfect cake he is baking, until Marigold finally loses his temper. After Marigold calms down a bit, he leaves to go on a walk and regain his composure. Meanwhile, the birds decide they will fix the situation by making Marigold the perfect cake he had dreamed of – except they end up making even more of a mess! Yet Marigold recognizes their love of cooking (and affection for him) and decides to teach them how to cook.

For me, this book is about learning to live with imperfection in our cooking and in ourselves. Marigold tries to be patient but fails, yet he realizes he needs to take a break to calm down. And the birds never do learn how to cook, but they have so much fun the reader can’t help but be swept up in their enthusiasm. Marigold Bakes a Cake is a fun way to remind kids (and parents!) to enjoy the process rather than getting caught up in having perfect results.

Jul 062017
 

I’m always so excited when I come across books that encourage my children to read in Spanish. Bilingual books are great choices for children learning a language, because it can help increase the reader’s vocabulary by including text in their primary language. Even though they are still learning, they are able to read more complex story lines because they can check their comprehension as they go. This is perfect for my kids, who sometimes get frustrated at having to read “easy” books in Spanish because of their more limited vocabulary. Here is a group of wonderful new bilingual books your kids will enjoy, from picture books to early chapter books! Be sure to enter our giveaway of one of these books below – details at the end of this post!

New Bilingual Books for Kids of All Ages | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

New Bilingual Books for Kids of All Ages

Bosley Goes on Safari (Bosley Se Va de Safari) is the sixth book in the picture book series the Adventures of Bosley Bear. In this book, Bosley travels to the African plains to go on safari. There he meets many friendly animals and learns that despite their differences, they all are alike on the inside – a really fun way to teach young children about embracing diversity! This is a very engaging story, especially since what child doesn’t love learning about animals like lions and monkeys? We had fun acting it out as part of our Spanish lesson for the day! I love having the highlighted vocabulary words in the side-by-side Spanish and English texts. And the grammar is simple enough that my kids were able to follow along and enjoy the story without getting tripped up with Spanish beyond their level.

I’m so happy to share that we are giving away a copy of this wonderful book to one lucky winner – open worldwide! See the end of this post for details!

The Little Doctor /El Doctorcito is a wonderful book to encourage kids to dream big! But this is more than just a book about a boy who decides he wants to be a doctor when he grows up. Salvador also gains motivation when he learns first hand what non-English speakers like his beloved abuelita have to deal with when they go to the doctor. When he accompanies his grandmother to the local clinic, Salvador sees how crowded it is and how difficult it is for her to understand the paperwork. But the worst is the physician himself, who is so rushed that he barely even looks at Salvador or his grandmother before running back out the door to see the next patient! Salvador decides to become a doctor so he can be the kind of patient, caring doctor he wishes his grandmother had. A beautiful story about compassion and becoming the change we want to see in the world! I also love that it uses a situation that many bilingual children find themselves in, of being the translators for family members with limited English.

To raise compassionate boys, it is important to start early. Esteban De Luna, Baby Rescuer! /Esteban De Luna, Rescatador De Bebés! is a sweet book that shows a boy who learns that caring for others is a perfect way to be a real superhero. Esteban is disappointed that his superhero cape doesn’t give him any real powers – he can’t fly or leap over tall buildings – yet when he finds an abandoned doll at the park, he soon discovers that his cape can help him do something amazing. When refashioned as a baby carrier, it helps him rescue the doll from the rainstorm! The symbolism in this book is fantastic, as the cape itself is reimagined to help Esteban learn to take care of others, not by swooping in like a traditional superhero but by gently holding his “baby” close and keeping it safe.

What child can’t relate to the delicious anticipation of waking up on their birthday to wonder about the wonderful surprises to come? In A Surprise for Teresita / Una Sorpresa Para Teresita, young Teresita learns just how difficult it can be to wait for a birthday gift. On the morning that Tío Ramón is to bring her a birthday surprise, he seems to take much longer than usual to arrive on Teresita’s block as he does the rounds through her New York neighborhood selling piraguas (snow cones). As she waits for her surprise, we witness the sights and sounds of a Puerto Rican neighborhood from a child’s point of view. A wonderful celebration of a vibrant community and the joy of a birthday gift from a loved one.

A super fun book to read with kids is El Torneo De Trabalenguas / the Tongue Twister Tournament. There is a tongue twister contest, and you get to play along! Which of the quirky contestants do you think should win? And how many of these tongue twisters can you say – in English or Spanish? Fun to read together with your kids or to use in the classroom! These tongue twisters are so much fun and will challenge even grownups! Includes many bonus tongue twisters at the end of the story.

For children ready for a chapter book, we love A Mystery Bigger Than Big / Un misterio mas grande que grandisimo. It is the fourth installment in the Mickey Rangel mystery series, based on a boy with a certificate on his wall from a real online detective course. When a new girl moves into Mickey’s Texas middle school, the young detective is on the case to figure out what her story is. Why is she so quiet and where did she come from? Despite rumors flying around school that she is the child of a drug lord or perhaps of Russian spies, Mickey discovers that she’s really an immigrant from Guatemala. But this discovery only leads to more questions – why would she leave her home, and how could she leave her family behind? A great book to explore the topic of immigration in an honest but heartfelt way.

Rooster Joe and the Bully / El Gallo Joe Y El Abusón is another great bilingual read for older kids. It focuses on the all important topic of bullying, and the importance of standing up for what’s right. I love that middle schooler Joe’s grandfather draws on their cultural heritage to teach him these lessons, by drawing on the stories of courageous people like César Chávez who fought for the rights of those that others looked down on. With his grandfather’s guidance and his own identification with the brave roosters he loves to draw, Joe comes up with a plan to end the bullying not just for him but for all of the students in his class.

Giveaway

Enter for a chance to win a copy of Bosley Goes on Safari (Bosley Se Va de Safari) a wonderful new bilingual picture book! (see review above). All you have to do is comment below with your child’s current favorite book to read! Contest is open worldwide, ends Wednesday, July 12 at midnight PT. Winner will be chosen randomly from the eligible entries.

Jun 232017
 
 June 23, 2017  Book Reviews, STEM Comments Off on How To Be A STEM Superhero – Even If You Don’t Like Science

We all know how important STEM education is – but that doesn’t mean we all feel confident teaching STEM to our children. I enjoyed my science classes as a kid, but, to be honest, it really wasn’t my thing. I did well, but I was really more of an arts and literature kind of a gal. So when it came time for college, I cheerfully tested out of my science requirements and filled my schedule with history, languages, and anthropology classes instead. Fast forward several decades, and now I am doing my best to encourage my STEM-loving kids, even without a strong background in science. The good news? You don’t have to be a scientist to be a STEM superhero!

That’s why I am so excited for this guest post from my friend Lisa at Knocked Up Abroad. Read on as she shares ideas on how you can be a STEM superhero – even if you don’t like science!

How to Be a STEM Superhero - Even If You Don't Like Science | Alldonemonkey.com

 

Our kids have a natural curiosity to question their environment, and most of their questions are usually biologic in nature. Do worms have eyes? What do ladybugs eat? etc. When our kids ask us questions, we, as parents, feel that we need to have all of the answers. However, we don’t always have these answers handy without first consulting Wikipedia. The best solution, when confronted with a question to which you do not have an answer, is to admit it.

“That’s a really good question. I don’t know the answer but let’s look it up when we get home.”

Boom. You didn’t look incompetent; you just taught your kid how to conduct research. It is important that parents foster their children’s natural curiosity in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) even if that parent has absolutely zero training, interest, or mild expertise in STEM.

Related Post: How to Get Kids Excited About STEM

STEM jobs are our the future, and fortunately, there are a ton of children’s books that are focused on making STEM not only easy to understand but interesting to learn for young kids. STEM doesn’t have to be intimidating if you’re not a science loving parent. Many parents don’t even know where to start when it comes to answering their kids’ questions about science.

How To Be A STEM Superhero - Marie Curie and the Power of Persistencce

One book, in particular, is emphasizing the non-scientific personality traits that are inherent to all scientists—persistence (perseverance is a mouthful). Every kid needs to learn how to persist—how to overcome challenges—and it is a character trait that will serve everyone later in life regardless of what career they pursue.

In Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence, Marie is confronted time and time again by the villain, Mr. Opposition (Mr. O). Time and time again, Marie persists and overcomes Mr. O to reach both personal and professional success.

How To Be A STEM Superhero - Marie Curie and the Power of Persistencce

By focusing on Marie’s personality traits that lead to her success instead of a level of genius that may be too confusing and intimidating for young children, every child and parent can identify new ways in which they persisted over a challenge.

One great way to read this book with kids is to have a follow-up discussion about a time when each person faced a challenge. Who or what was their Mr. Opposition? How did they use persistence to reach their goals?

How To Be A STEM Superhero - Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence

Marie Curie represents a positive female role model for both girls and boys as the first person to ever win two Nobel Prizes and the only person to win Nobel Prizes in two different sciences. This book illustrates her complex discoveries using language that early readers can understand. The book is excellent for readers between the ages of 5-9 years and parents, even those who aren’t STEM-inclined, will enjoy reading the super science hero story.

With Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence, everyone can be a STEM superhero, all you need is persistence.

The book is available to pre-order now through IndieGogo until July 4. There are exclusive hands-on experiments to give kids a jump start on their own scientific discoveries. Who knows? Maybe your kid will be the next Marie Curie!

Now you can be a STEM superhero for all children! Help us bring science to life for our youngest readers by supporting the book or by sharing this project on Facebook.

Jun 082017
 
 June 8, 2017  Book Reviews, family Comments Off on New Picture Books About Grandparents

One of the most special relationships a child has is with his grandparents, whether they live nearby or far away. They can help ground children and teach them patience, but the influence is not just one way. Children also have a special ability to touch the hearts of the grandparents that love them. Here are some wonderful new picture books about grandparents you need to see!

New Picture Books About Grandparents | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

New Picture Books About Grandparents

Skyfishing: (A Grand Tale with Grandpa) is an wildly imaginative book about a young girl trying to help her grandfather overcome homesickness. When her grandfather moves from his cottage by the lake to live with her family in the city, the girl notices immediately how much her grandfather misses fishing. She tries to interest him in new hobbies, but when that doesn’t work, she comes up with a creative answer – sky fishing! As they “fish” out of their apartment window for creatures like Waste-Munchers (garbage trucks) and Signfish, they discover the power of imagination and companionship to overcome homesickness. Through patience and love, the girl helps her grandfather see the city with new eyes and begin to enjoy his new home. This is such a sweet story and addresses a common situation of when a grandparent moves into a family’s home (similar to Mango, Abuela, and Me) and also the special way that children can touch the hearts of their grandparents.

Ladybug Girl is back, and she’s off on an adventure with her grandpa! In Ladybug Girl’s Day Out with Grandpa, Lulu and her grandpa explore the museum. There is so much to see, that Lulu simply can’t make up her mind, flitting from one exhibit to the next. Ignoring her grandpa’s warning that they won’t be able to see everything in one day, Lulu does her best to prove him wrong – after all, she is Ladybug Girl! She can do anything! But soon she begins to despair. There is just too much to see! Gently, Grandpa explains that if she will learn more if she slows down to appreciate one thing at a time. I love how this book showcases the patience and wisdom with which grandparents guide children and how they can help focus that boundless energy and center them in stillness.

And don’t miss these Filipino books about grandfathers!

Jun 062017
 
 June 6, 2017  Book Reviews, parenting Comments Off on Encouraging Independence in Children

I was always focused on encouraging independence in my children – or so I thought.  When my oldest was a preschooler we created a morning routine chart that helped getting ready for school go more smoothly, and the kids know to bring their dishes to the kitchen after meals and so on. But somewhere along the way I lost sight of this goal and didn’t really develop the idea more. In the whirlwind of life after adding a third child, we switched into survival mode and never evolved our roles any further.

Now that my youngest is a toddler and we have finally come up for air, I have implemented some long overdue upgrades to our routines, so that my boys can gain confidence in their ability to take care of themselves and contribute to the family. Oh yes, and give me a little break as well! It is amazing how much extra time those minutes a day add up to! After an initial “training” period, you’ll be amazed at how much easier things are for you once your kids are taking care of more of those daily tasks, developing important life skills along the way.

Encouraging Independence in Children | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Encouraging Independence in Children

Why is it important for us to worry about encouraging independence? Yes, there is an American obsession with raising independent children, but it’s more than just that. Teaching children to take care of their own needs can paradoxically help them feeling more a part of the family or classroom unit, as they feel they are making a valuable contribution to the group. They also become more confident in their own abilities, giving them a solid boost to their self-esteem without the need to resort to empty platitudes. Plus – let’s be honest – raising kids who can do more for themselves gives parents and teachers a break from taking care of basic needs so they can concentrate on higher level needs, whether it be algebra or family movie night.

So here our my top tips for encouraging independence in children, plus favorite picture books about getting dressed. I’d love to hear your tips and experiences in the comments!

Brainstorm a List of Tasks Together

Step one is to develop a list of tasks with your kids that they can start doing around the house or the classroom, such as making their own breakfasts, cleaning their rooms, and so on. Of course you will have some ideas in mind and can help guide the conversation, but it is essential that the children participate and help shape the outcome. Right off the bat you are helping them develop critical thinking and team building skills, plus by getting them involved in the process you are helping take ownership of the project. Make it a fun project that you are working on together, rather than work you are imposing on them.

Be Specific

Try to keep from having vague assignments like “clean your room.” This can be confusing to a child, who may interpret this very differently from you! Instead, try “put your toys into the toy baskets” or “put dirty clothes in the hamper.”

Invest Time in Training

We can’t ask our children to do tasks without actually teaching them how to do them. At first this may feel odd because it is self-evident to you how to make yourself a bowl of cereal, but this may not be the case for your four year old! Go through the steps with them (probably over the course of a few days, depending on the age of the child), and be prepared to spend 4 times as long as you would as if you had just done it yourself. For this reason, it may be easier for everyone to introduce only one new task a week.

Think Long-Term

Don’t give into temptation and therefore just do it yourself! Even though it will take longer in the beginning (and probably be messier), remember that you are helping train competent kids and, therefore, competent adults. It is worth the investment at the beginning when you are encouraging independence, because they will eventually get the hang of it!

Be Flexible

A woman I know used to always complain that her husband never shared in the family grocery shopping. After much coaxing on her part, he eventually took over some of this chore. It was a big help to her – until he started bringing home items that she hadn’t put on the list! What she hadn’t foreseen is that he would start to become interested and make decisions on his own about what to buy, rather than just follow her list.  By involving him in the tasks, she had unwittingly invited him into the process and lost some of her control over it, which she hadn’t even realized she had enjoyed.

In a similar way, when children take over tasks around the house or classroom, we need to loosen up the reins a bit and let them into the decision-making process. Obviously a parent-child relationship is different than a marital one, but the same principle of control applies. If we really want our children to take ownership of the task, we have to let them do just that. That doesn’t mean you have no say in what they pack for lunch, for example, just that you can be flexible and give them more room to make choices within set boundaries. For example, you might give them guidelines for what to pack (a protein, a fruit, a treat) and let them maneuver within those.

Embrace Imperfection

Milk will be spilled. Toothpaste will be splattered. Orange plaid shorts will be paired with pink tops. It is not the end of the world. In fact, it is part of the process of children learning to be more careful, to clean up their messes, and to (hopefully) be presentable in public. Decide what your limits are, but then know when to bite your tongue, take a deep breath, and go do something in another room.

Give Them a Break

Don’t overwhelm children by adding too many tasks at once, especially if this is a significant change from how your family or class has been functioning. Give them time to adjust, and then periodically give them a break from their tasks. For example, I’ve recently been training my sons to make their own breakfasts, but I let them choose one day that I’ll make it for them. It is a simple thing, but they love it, and it helps on those mornings when they really can’t get themselves going. Even though your ultimate goal is encouraging independence, everyone deserves a break now and then.

Picture Books About Getting Dressed

Help them celebrate their independence with these fun picture books about getting dressed! Learning to dress yourself is a milestone for many children, and these wonderful books play on that fascination and teach skills at the same time.

My toddler and preschooler both love A Good Day for a Hat. Thankfully it is one that I enjoy reading as well, even multiple times a day! It is a cute book about a bear who has a hat for every occasion, from facing a fire-breathing dragon to joining a marching band! This is lucky, because it seems that every time he opens his door the situation has completely changed and he has to go back inside and change his hat. This goes on for some time, until finally he has to forgo the perfect hat in order to make it to his friend’s house on time – so instead he piles all of his hats on his head, so he’ll be ready for anything! A silly book children will enjoy, especially if they feel like they are made to change their outfits one too many times!

If ever there was a mismatched pair, it is Fox and Ox in I Lost My Sock!: A Matching Mystery. Fox has lost his sock, and his friend Ox just can’t seem to get it right when it comes to finding the matching sock! Young children will enjoy pointing out why the sock Ox has found doesn’t match this time (“It doesn’t have dots!” “Wrong color!”) and laugh themselves silly when Ox finally does find the sock – but thinks it is a hat for him instead! Great for developing early math concepts such as pattern, shape, and color recognition.

My Kicks: A Sneaker Story! is a fun book for slightly older children. When a boy’s mother forces him to give up his beloved, well-worn sneakers for a new pair, he reminisces about the memories behind each stain and tear. Yet when he actually tries on a great pair of shiny new kicks, he discovers that a new pair of sneakers may be just what he needs! A great story for any child forced to give up a favorite shirt or pair of shoes, and a wonderful metaphor for learning to let go of the past as children grow up and move on to new things. Even includes a step by step tutorial on tying your shoes!

How are you encouraging independence with your own children or students?

May 312017
 

Books are such a wonderful way to travel the world with kids and to introduce them to new cultures. Thanks to mostly to Pokemon, my oldest son is fascinated with Japan, so we’ve been reading about its folktales, daily life, the language, and Japan’s unique blend of tradition and cutting-edge technology. Here are our top picks for children’s books about Japan!

Japan Children's Books | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copies of several books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Japan Children’s Books

Related Post: Children’s Books about Ninjas, Samurai, and Karate

All About Japan: Stories, Songs, Crafts and Games for Kids is our go-to book for anything about Japan! There are many craft books for kids about Japan and many story books, but All About Japan blends stories, songs, history, crafts, and activities into a unique, engaging book that children will love! The two main characters that present the information are a boy and a girl, one from the countryside and one from the city. This is a great way to draw in young readers as well as introduce them to diversity within Japan. You also learn about fascinating aspects of the culture that might not read about elsewhere – did you know that Japanese children learn that Japan is shaped like a seahorse? Once you see it, you won’t believe you hadn’t noticed it before!

My younger son and I love doing the crafts (like samurai helmets and origami frogs), while my older son loves the language lessons. There are kid-friendly recipes for foods like mochi and Japanese pancakes and a primer on how to use chopsticks. And I must admit that they staged a sumo wrestling tournament one day, thanks to the section on martial arts! I love how everything is arranged thematically, so each topic (such as holidays and celebrations, or everyday life) blends all of these elements together into a fun mix that keeps you turning the pages. And my son immediately noticed how the illustrations are very similar to those in Japanese cartoons.

I highly recommend All About Japan to introduce children to Japanese culture and get them excited to learn all about Japan.

The Way We Do It in Japan is the story of an American-born boy with an American mom and a Japanese dad. When the family moves from the US to Japan, we go with him as he adjusts to his new home and learns about Japanese culture, such as eating with chopsticks and wearing slippers inside the house. This book is chock full of information, all introduced in a very engaging, kid-friendly manner. But what I really love is how the boy’s parents help him frame his experiences. Rather than slipping into better/worse, right/wrong comparisons between the two countries, they always say, “That’s just the way we do it in Japan!” They really nurture his sense of adventure, but the book also acknowledges the difficulty of moving to a totally new culture. When he becomes sad because he misses home, his new friends at school surprise him with a classroom feast of his lunchtime favorite from America – peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!

 

Japan ABCs is a great overview of Japan for kids, giving fun facts about the culture and geography. For example, H is for Hanami (the Cherry Blossom Festival) and T is for Tokyo. Pronunciation is provided for Japanese words. There is even more information includes at the back, such as a craft for Children’s Day, a glossary, and resources for further exploration.

My Japan is another great overview for kids. It reminded me of Richard Scarry books, with simple illustrations of everyday life (such as a bedroom or the first day of school), accompanied by detailed, labeled drawings of objects in the pictures. It also includes information about festivals and holidays and instructions for different origami projects.

Older children will enjoy Art of Japan: Wood-Block Color Prints. It gives detailed information about how the prints are made and typical subjects, such as landscape prints and Kabuki theater. But even younger children can appreciate the beauty of this art form and the many examples included in the book.

Yoko’s Paper Cranes is a very sweet story about how to stay in touch with relatives who live far away. When Yoko and her parents move from California to Japan, Yoko misses her grandparents, with whom she had always been close. But then she remembers how her grandfather taught her to fold paper cranes, so she realizes sending these beautiful paper birds across the ocean is the perfect way to reconnect with her beloved grandparents. Wonderful story for young children, includes illustrations for making origami cranes.

Another book in this series is Yoko’s Show-and-Tell. When Yoko receives a special doll from her grandparents in Japan to celebrate Girls’ Day (a traditional Japanese holiday), she can’t resist taking it to school to show her friends, despite her mother’s admonishment against it. When rough-housing friends leave the doll in a terrible state, Yoko must admit the truth to her mother. Luckily there is a doll hospital where they can help the doll feel better, just in time for Yoko’s grandparents’ visit from Japan!

The Boy from the Dragon Palace is a fun story that kids will enjoy (especially because the main character is a snot-nosed kid!) The dragon king sends a gift to a poor flower vendor who has shown him respect. At first the vendor is confused because the gift is just a messy little boy who is very particular about how his food is prepared. But when it becomes clear that the boy really can bring him good luck – including wealth and comfort beyond the man’s imagination – the vendor quickly changes his tune. With time, however, he forgets his humble beginnings and starts to grumble about having to still prepare the boy’s food in a special way. When he turns the boy out of his palace, suddenly all of the riches disappear, leaving the dragon king to sigh and the little snot-nosed boy to observe that you just can’t help some people! They always want more.

Learn all about Kyoto in Megumi’s First Trip to Kyoto, a gentle story about a girl traveling with her grandfather. It is a beautiful book to learn about Japanese culture and Kyoto in particular. (Read my full review).

The Last Kappa of Old Japan is a wonderful bilingual fairy tale about the mythical kappa, a playful water creature. It is about friendship and courage as well as the importance of protecting our environment. (Read my full review).

Three Samurai Cats: A Story from Japan is a quirky tale about the attempts to get rid of a rat that has taken over a castle. The lord of the castle asks for help from the local temple, but the first two samurai cats it sends are quickly defeated. When the lord begs the senior monk for help again, he says he will send in his top samurai. Imagine the lord’s surprise when an old, decrepit cat shows up! A great story about patience and learning to look beyond the appearances. There is Japanese vocabulary sprinkled throughout the story, which is based on the principles of Zen Buddhism.

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Blog Hop 2017 | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Welcome to our fourth annual Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month Blog Series and Giveaway! Follow along all month for ideas about sharing with kids the rich cultures of this vast and varied region. Also, be sure to enter the giveaway below and link up your posts at the bottom of the page.

For even more ideas, visit our blog hops from last year, 2015 and 2014. You can also follow our Asia and Australia & Oceania boards on Pinterest.

May 1
Miss Panda Chinese on Multicultural Kid Blogs: 10 Fun Facts About Taiwan for Kids

May 5
Chinese American Family: Visiting Locke and Connecting with California’s Rural Chinese History

May 11
The Art Curator for Kids: Chinese Bronze Vessels with Abstract Zoomorphic Designs

May 15
Crafty Moms Share: Our Japanese Tea Party

May 17
Bicultural Mama: The Limitations of DNA Testing for Asian Americans

May 19
Wise Owl Factory: Cherry Blossom Books and Craft Idea

May 22
Ketchup Moms on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Fun Facts About India Including a Floating Post Office

May 24
All Done Monkey: Terracotta Army – Learning About Ancient China

May 25
Miss Panda Chinese: Chinese Culture for Children – Dragon Boat Festival

May 31
All Done Monkey

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Giveaway

Enter below for a chance to win one of our great prize packages in our annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month giveaway! The giveaway goes from May 1 to May 31, 2017, at midnight PT. If the winner falls outside the shipping area of a prize, that prize will revert to the next lower prize package. Read our full giveaway rules.

And for all of our readers, here is a special offer from our sponsor Tingomo! Use the code TENOFFTINGOMO to get 10% off any pre-order! (first kits to ship in July)

APAHM Series and Giveaway: Grand Prize | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Grand Prize

From One Dear World: Set of 4 plush multicultural dolls, each with its own passport, plus the story book The Adventure of Hat Hunting in London, starring the dolls as the main characters
From Tuttle Publishing: Adventures in Asian Art, Indonesian Children’s Favorite Stories, Malaysian Children’s Favorite Stories, and Filipino Children’s Favorite Stories
From Wisdom Tales: Rock Maiden – US Shipping Only
From Bollywood Groove: Go on a fun adventure with Maya & Neel and learn about famous festivals and places in India! In this very colorful, three-picture-book series, kids will learn about festival of lights – Diwali (Amazon best-seller), festival of colors – Holi and the home of Bollywood – city of Mumbai. US Shipping Only
From Miss Panda Chinese: Winner’s choice of an “Everyday” learning unit with audio links
From Tingomo: Passport Craft™ Kit: Make Your Own NEPAL Paper Lanterns US Shipping Only, will ship in July

APAHM Series and Giveaway: 1st Prize | Multicultural Kid Blogs

1st Prize

From World Music with Daria: set of tingsha (handbells) US Shipping Only
From Quarto Knows: Summer Under the Tamarind Tree, I is for Iran, and 50 Things You Should Know About the Vietnam War – US Shipping Only
From Monika Schröder: Saraswati’s Way – US Shipping Only
From Miss Panda Chinese: Winner’s choice of an “Everyday” learning unit with audio links
From Tingomo: Passport Craft™ Kit: Make Your Own NEPAL Paper Prayer Flags US Shipping Only, will ship in July

APAHM Series and Giveaway: 2nd Prize | Multicultural Kid Blogs

2nd Prize

From The Dumpling Mama: Pack of 20 good luck envelopes: Give good luck wishes with money in a red envelope. Perfect for Lunar New Year, birthdays, graduations, and holidays US/Canada Shipping Only
From Kathleen Burkinshaw: The Last Cherry Blossom – US Shipping Only
From Candlewick Press: A Piece of Home and Bronze and Sunflower – US Shipping Only
From Miss Panda Chinese: Winner’s choice of an “Everyday” learning unit with audio links

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May 182017
 

Looking for some great summer reading for your middle schooler? Here are two wonderful new works of middle grade Latino fiction that you won’t want to miss! Both are coming of age novels that cast light on the Cuban-American experience today and yesterday as well as touching on universal themes of family, community, and finding your own voice. Don’t miss the giveaway of one of these books below!

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

New Middle Grade Latino Fiction | Alldonemonkey.com

New Middle Grade Latino Fiction

I love coming of age novels because they are all about helping children navigate that difficult terrain between childhood and adulthood, between learning from others and beginning to trust your own instincts. Both of the novels below invite us into the world of a young person discovering their own strength in part through coming to terms with their own fallibility. As they learn to accept their own weaknesses, they lose their fear and begin to blossom into extraordinary young adults.

These books are wonderful to pair together, as they both feature Cuban-American main characters but at different time periods and locations. It would be interesting to read them together and discuss how life for Cuban immigrants was different in New York City in the 1960s versus Miami in the present day, yet how themes of family and culture remained the same.

They also pair well together because each main character discovers their own voice through the arts: one through poetry and the other through literature and painting. Why not read them together alongside some wonderful books of poetry or art projects? Truly wonderful middle grade Latino fiction to share with your young readers!

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora bubbles over with all the energy and curiosity of a 13 year old boy. Arturo Zamora is looking forward to a laid back summer working in the kitchen of his Abuela’s restaurant and spending time with the cute girl who just moved into his apartment complex. Yet when a land developer enters the picture and threatens to change Arturo’s Miami neighborhood forever, he and his family must find a way to save their restaurant and their community. I love how this book is very contemporary with its references and language, without seeming like a grown up trying too hard to be hip. It also a wonderful portrait of a close extended family, with all of its quirky characters, complicated relationships, and unconditional love. Arturo blossoms inside this atmosphere of Sunday dinners and family group texts, especially through the gentle guidance of his grandparents, who show him to always trust his feelings and the power of poetry.

Lucky Broken Girl is a remarkable new book based on the author’s own experiences of being confined to her bed in a body cast after a car accident. Ruth Behar, a Cuban-Jewish girl, is the hopscotch queen of her 1960s New York City neighborhood with dreams of getting her own pair of go-go boots, when a terrible accident changes her life forever. As her outside world constricts, her inner world deepens. At first Ruth sinks into despair, but through writing and painting she learns of the healing power of forgiveness and the ability of art to transform the most dreary surroundings. This beautifully written novel gives a wonderfully nuanced look at relationships and how confusing people’s reactions to tragedy can be, whether it’s a mother forced to deal with her own resentment over caring for her injured daughter 24-7 or a girl whose sorrow over her friend’s injury makes her seem standoffish and uncaring. It also encourages introspection – what would you do if you were forced to lie on your back for nearly a year?- and sheds light on working through depression, anger, and anxiety to discover forgiveness and grace.

Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora Giveaway

And now for a giveaway of one of these amazing new works of middle grade Latino fiction! Enter for a chance to win one (1) of five (5) copies of The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya (ARV: $16.99 each).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on May 15, 2017 and 12:00 AM on May 29, 2017. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about June 2, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

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May 112017
 
 May 11, 2017  Book Reviews, spiritual education Comments Off on Raising Kids Who Do the Right Thing

Whenever my four year old wants to do something he knows he is not supposed to, he looks at me very intently and says, “Mommy, don’t see me.” It makes me laugh every time (and I do appreciate the red flag that mischief is afoot!) but on a more serious note, it reminds me that it is a work in progress to teach children to do the right thing even if no one is watching or, more importantly, even if it is difficult or they may not get an obvious reward.

There is no magic formula, but here are some ways I’ve discovered that help raise children who do the right thing.

Raising Kids Who Do the Right Thing | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Raising Kids Who Do the Right Thing

Lead by Example

Nothing will make a bigger impact on your kids than how you act, even in situations where it may not seem like a “big deal.” For example, do you hold the door for others? Are you gracious when someone holds the door for you? Do you go back inside the store if you notice the cashier forgot to ring up one of your items? Do you step in when you see someone is being bullied? Kids take notice, and quickly learn to mimic your actions.

Inspire Them with Role Models

Of course, we as parents are far from perfect, which is why it is wonderful to be able to show them some examples of truly extraordinary people who can inspire us. I must confess that I didn’t really know much about Pete Seegar until I read the remarkable new children’s biography Stand Up and Sing!: Pete Seeger, Folk Music, and the Path to Justice, and then I realized how much I had already been influenced by him without even knowing it! For example, I never knew that he was the one who popularized the anthem “We Shall Overcome,” even introducing it to Martin Luther King, Jr.

This beautiful book gives us an intimate look at this pivotal figure, focusing not just on his musical legacy but on his legacy of change and fighting for justice. It is hard to read this book without wanting to get up and do something to make the world a better place – and to sing while you do it! I love the illustrations and how highlights from Seegar’s life are woven together to give the reader a cohesive message of hope and the power of one person to make a difference.

Related Post: Girls Who Changed the World

Teach Them to Look Beyond Themselves

A key element in teaching kids to do the right thing is to help them care about others. Developing empathy is key, because without it, they lack the will to take action to help others. Pass It On is a very sweet book for very young readers about sharing joy with others. It is also about recognizing the wonder of the world around you then passing that excitement on to others. Pass It On is a perfect way to teach children that sharing isn’t just about toys, it’s also about sharing a smile or a laugh with someone else.

Related Post: Children’s Books About Sharing

Teach Them to Think Long Term

A child who only seeks instant gratification will not understand the more satisfying rewards of doing the right thing, since these usually are slower in coming. Sometimes you immediately get a smile or a thank you when you help someone, but oftentimes there is no immediate reward or it may not be obvious. By helping children understand that good things come to those who wait, you will set the stage for them to do what is right, even if there is no immediate benefit to themselves.

Give Them Concrete Tools

Most children are concrete thinkers and understand better through specific examples of what behavior you expect from them. Set them up for success by giving them concrete tools of how to handle situations like bullying. For example, in our character building classes, we read stories, brainstormed how we might react in different scenarios, and did lots of role playing. These activities help build children’s confidence and give them concrete actions they can take when confronted with a difficult situation. Doing it as a group activity also helps build a community of peers that are all striving to help others and do what’s right.

How do you teach your kids to do the right thing?

May 082017
 

When our oldest son was little, and our bookshelves started to fill with colorful, engaging board books, my husband made an observation that has stuck with me ever since – nearly all of the books focused on the child’s relationship with the mother, but very few included the father. Thankfully this is not universally true, but I was surprised to see how widespread this pattern was. Ever since then, I’ve sought out books that also include the father and especially ones that celebrate their special relationship with their children. And so, in honor of Father’s Day next month, I’m happy to present to you some favorite children’s books that celebrate fathers, plus we have a giveaway for you, so be sure to scroll to the end of the post to enter!

Books that Celebrate Fathers | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of some of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Books that Celebrate Fathers

I love the adorable new book Daddy Honk Honk! Set in the Arctic, it is the tale of Aput the fox, who is thrust into fatherhood when an abandoned goose egg hatches and the little gosling mistakes Aput for its daddy. With each page we see Aput’s transformation as he learns to care for the baby but more importantly as his affection for it steadily grows. This is also a beautiful tale of the importance of community in supporting families, as Aput’s friends all help teach him what a baby needs and help surround them both with love. Very sweet tale to share with your little ones! My preschooler and toddler both really enjoy this story.

Charlie Rides: Planes, Trains, Bikes, and More! is a cute board book that your kids will love! Like so many young children, Charlie loves getting out and seeing the world using any means possible: trains, boats, bikes, soapbox derby cars, and more! While the main focus on the book is on different modes of transportation, a recurrent element is Charlie’s dad, who is with him every step of the way. This colorful book is a tribute to how fathers nurture children’s curiosity about the world and support them in all their adventures.

Be Glad Your Dad…(Is Not an Octopus!) was a lucky find at the library and has stayed in our regular rotation ever since. It is a funny book that not only teaches appreciation for dads (even when they sometimes get mad or are just totally gross!) but also teaches facts about animals in a really fun way. For example, be glad your dad is not an octopus, because he would always win at tag! My favorite, though, is the tortoise dad – who is so slow getting an ice cream cone that the ice cream actually melts before the kid can eat it! I love the illustrations, especially the kids’ reactions to the animal dads. Cute reminder about why human dads are so cool! More details about the animals can be found at the back of the book.

What are your favorite children’s books that celebrate fathers?

Daddy Honk Honk! Giveaway

I am so excited to be hosting a giveaway of Daddy Honk Honk! to one lucky winner! The winner will receive:

  • 1 set of four magnets
  • 1 button
  • 4 prints (2×9”)
  • 1 deluxe print (2×9”)
  • 1 book

Daddy Honk Honk Giveaway

To enter, simply comment on this post, telling us something you appreciate about a special father in your life. The contest goes until midnight PT on Sunday, May 14. US shipping only. Good luck!

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