Leanna

Oct 172018
 

Looking for a fun Day of the Dead activity for kids? Why not make an escape room? It is a fun way to engage a group of kids in crafts and puzzles related to Day of the Dead! We have you covered with a complete (though flexible) plan to set up your escape room, including a free printable pack! Perfect activity for a classroom setting or Day of the Dead party.

Day of the Dead Activity for Kids: Make an Escape Room | Alldonemonkey.com

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

Day of the Dead Activity for Kids: Make an Escape Room

Are you throwing a Day of the Dead party or looking for a fun Day of the Dead activity for kids for your classroom? Here is a complete plan, including a printable (see below), though it is also flexible to allow you to adjust to suit your needs.

Below are eight activities (many included in the printable pack) that you can use for your Day of the Dead escape room. Any of these can be swapped out or modified to suit your group of students; however, make sure that you end up with EIGHT activities total, so that they can solve the final puzzle. The activities can be done in any order, but all must be completed before they are given the final puzzle to solve.

For each activity done or puzzle solved, the students will receive one letter (included the printable). Once they receive all eight letters, they can solve the final puzzle.

Variation: To add some excitement to this Day of the Dead activity for kids, you could set a time limit to the game then blow up some of these skeleton balloons and pop one every few minutes. (So, for example, if you are going to give them 30 minutes for the activity, blow up 6 balloons and pop one every 5 minutes). Once the last balloon is popped, time’s up!

Set Up

Depending on your layout and the size of the group, the children could work together on each activity on one large table, or you could set up each activity on a separate, smaller table, and have the children work in smaller groups, each of which would complete several of the activities. (For example, 4 small groups could do 2 activities each). However you decide, the entire group should solve the final puzzle together.

Print out the Day of the Dead Activity for Kids Escape Room Printable Pack to use where indicated below.

Activity 1: Spanish Color by Number Skull

Help them learn their colors in Spanish with this Day of the Dead color by number page.

Activity 2: Day of the Dead Song

Teach them a Day of the Dead song! Depending on their level of Spanish, they could learn the lyrics or just have fun dancing.

Activity 3: Marigold Craft

Let them create a beautiful Day of the Dead decoration to take home by teaching them to make marigolds out of tissue paper.

Activity 4: Fill in the Blanks

Work together to complete a Day of the Dead fill in the blank activity (included in the printable).

Activity 5: Papel Picado

Make banners with beautiful papel picado, either using this template or their own design.

Activity 6: Word Problem

Solve a Day of the Dead themed word problem (included in the printable).

Activity 7: Acrostic Poem

Get creative by writing their own acrostic poem about Day of the Dead! (Template included in the printable).

Activity 8: Honoring Loved Ones

While Day of the Dead has become a popular holiday, it’s important to remind kids about the real meaning behind it, which is to honor and remember loved ones that have passed on. Have each student make a drawing of a loved one or hero that has passed on, along with a sentence or two about what they remember about them. (Worksheet included in the printable).

Final Puzzle:

Finish off your Day of the Dead activity for kids by having them solve one final puzzle! This puzzle (included in the printable) is solved using the letters earned with each completed activity.

Treats

Be sure to have plenty of Day of the Dead treats on hand to reward them for their hard work! You could have pan de muerto (bread of the dead), sweet pumpkin dessert, or these crispy rice treats, and, of course, candy skulls! Don’t forget these Day of the Dead cupcake toppers!

 

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We love to travel and learn about other cultures, but sometimes it can lead to misunderstandings! That’s why I love this new book from @worldwidebuddies, The Marvelous Mexican Misunderstanding! When Adri and his family move back to Mexico, he is puzzled about the Day of the Dead he hears everyone talking about. When he tries to find out more about it, his sister teases him and tells him it’s the day he’s going to die! Ride along with Adri as his family prepares for the big day – and he finally discovered what it’s really all about! This is a great book to introduce kids to Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico and let them know that misunderstandings are normal! 

A post shared by Leanna || Parenting, Education (@alldonemonkey) on

While they enjoy their treats, read this fun new picture book for older kids! A Marvelous Mexican Misunderstanding is a great introduction to Day of the Dead from the perspective of a young boy whose family has recently moved back to Mexico. Like most children, Adri has heard some about Day of the Dead but finds much of it confusing. And to top it all off, his older sister decides to play a trick on him, telling him that Day of the Dead is when Adri is going to die!

Young readers will identify with Adri’s confusion and enjoy the happy resolution, learning all about the beautiful Day of the Dead holiday along the way.

I loved the artwork in A Marvelous Mexican Misunderstanding, which captures the emotional tenor of the story as well as providing some stunning views of Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico. My favorite was the nighttime boat ride to the island of Janitzio, twinkling with candlelight. My sons enjoyed Adri’s sometimes funny, sometimes nerve-wracking misunderstandings – plus his pet axolotl, of course!

While you can order A Marvelous Mexican Misunderstanding by itself, you can also find it as part of a Dead of the Dead story box that includes toys, games, and activities to teach children about this marvelous Mexican celebration!

What is your favorite Day of the Dead activity for kids?

Related Posts:

Children’s Books for Day of the Dead

Easy Day of the Dead Craft

The Aztec: Top Books for Children

Day of the Dead series | Multicultural Kid Blogs
Multicultural Kid Blogs is proud to be hosting another blog hop for Day of the Dead! (Don’t miss our series from last year, 2017, and 2016!) Be sure to visit all the posts below for great ideas on sharing Day of the Dead with kids:

Oct 082018
 
 October 8, 2018  activities, Spanish No Responses »

As a busy homeschooling mom of three, I love it when I can find easy, no-prep activities that still really pack in a lot of learning. Bonus if it works for all three kids, despite the range of ages! That’s why I love this easy Spanish activity with play dough. It uses just one material (play dough), which you likely have on hand, and a little imagination! It’s easy to adapt for different levels of language ability and tons of fun for everyone.

Easy Spanish Activity with Play Dough | Alldonemonkey.com

Easy Spanish Activity with Play Dough

Getting set up for this easy Spanish activity couldn’t be simpler – just pull out your container of play dough and get ready for some fun!

Just ask your child (in Spanish) to use the play dough to make the object you tell them. In other words, you might ask them to make un gato (a cat) or una casa (a house).

Easy Spanish Activity with Play Dough | Alldonemonkey.com

You could also give them less exact prompts, like to make un animal que vive en el bosque (an animal that lives in the forest) or tu comida favorita (your favorite food).

Easy Spanish Activity with Play Dough | Alldonemonkey.com

Giving a kiss to her pato (duck)

For older students, you can flip the script and have them build an object of their choosing and tell you in Spanish what it is!

Easy Spanish Activity with Play Dough | Alldonemonkey.com

More advanced students could come up with a story related to their creation and perhaps even act it out.

Easy Spanish Activity with Play Dough | Alldonemonkey.com

Una casa (a house)

What other variations could you add to this easy Spanish activity?

Sep 272018
 

Hispanic Heritage Month is the perfect time to share some of the many treasures of Latin American music with your children! Latin musical traditions are so rich and multifaceted, that it is sometimes hard to know where to begin! Here are some wonderful new picture books that celebrate Latin American music, from lullabies to rock and roll.

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the products 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.

Latin American Music to Honor Hispanic Heritage Month | Alldonemonkey.com

Latin American Music to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

To start at the very beginning, in more ways than one, you really should go back to nursery rhymes and lullabies. They are the beginning of Latin American music because they have been enjoyed for so many generations, and because they are the first melodies that many children in Latin America hear, often in the lap of a loved one.

The Hummingbird Sings and Dances – Latin-American Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes, also in a Spanish edition, makes these wonderful songs from throughout the Americas available to a wider audience. 19 beloved lullabies and nursery rhymes are beautifully illustrated in the picture book and performed on the accompanying CD for a new generation to enjoy.

They range from the lively La víbora de la mar from Mexico to the gentle Duerme negrito from Cuba. (Keep in mind that many of these songs are enjoyed in more than one country, but the country mentioned is the one whose version is shared here).

It is perfect for non-native speakers like me, who didn’t grow up with these nursery rhymes and lullabies. With the CD, I can assure that my children hear the original songs as they were meant to be sung, plus the full lyrics (in English and Spanish) are at the back, so that we can learn to sing them ourselves.

But Latin American music isn’t just about lullabies. It is also about finding expression through modern media like electric guitars. Few Latin American musicians embody this spirit of fearless innovation like the legendary Carlos Santana, who forged his own path by creating a unique blend of Latin, European, and African influences. Carlos Santana: Sound of the Heart, Song of the World celebrates this giant of Latin American music by telling the story of Santana’s early years. It is a story of perseverance in difficult circumstances but also about the struggle to find your own voice.

Santana was heavily influenced by his father, a mariachi musician whom young Carlos admired greatly. Yet he also realized early on that his path was different from that of his father. He felt no joy in playing mariachi and wanted to experiment with new sounds rather than playing the same songs over and over.

Despite his misgivings, Carlos’ father eventually gave his son a used electric guitar, which would change the path of the teenager’s life – and modern music – forever.

The artwork of the book is stunning and uniquely suited to Santana’s style. In fact, the artist was the same that Santana commissioned to create the iconic cover of his Shaman album.

What is your favorite style of Latin American music?

Hispanic Heritage Month Series 2018 | Multicultural Kid BlogsWe are so excited for our seventh annual Hispanic Heritage Month series! Now through October 15, you’ll find great resources to share Hispanic Heritage with kids, plus you can link up your own posts on Hispanic Heritage!

Find even more ideas on our Latin America Pinterest board:

September 17
Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Three Course Meal Your Kids Can Make to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

September 18
Mundo de Pepita: Celebrate el Día de la Patria en Chile

September 19
Embracing Diversity: 10 Dominican Sayings that Hold Wisdom and Cultura

September 20
MommyMaestra: Puerto Rico Coloring Activity

September 21
Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes

September 24
Hispanic Mama: 5 Films Based in Latin America that Impacted Me
Pura Vida Moms: 13 Spanish Netflix Shows for Kids

September 25
For the Love of Spanish: Barefoot Books to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

September 26
All Done Monkey

September 27
Crafty Moms Share

September 28
Spanish Mama on Multicultural Kid Blogs

October 1
Spanish Playground

October 2
Kids Spanish Book Club

October 3
LadydeeLG

October 4
Kid World Citizen

October 5
Mama Tortuga

October 8
Kids Spanish Book Club

October 9
La Clase de Sra. Dufault

October 10
Embracing Diversity

October 11
Recetas Latinas Veganas

October 12
Little Nomadas on Multicultural Kid Blogs

October 15
Hispanic Mama on Multicultural Kid Blogs

Don’t miss all of the great posts from previous years as well: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017


Sep 212018
 
 September 21, 2018  Book Reviews, World Religions Comments Off on Learn About Durga Puja with a Picture Book and Crafts

Many of us have heard of Diwali or perhaps Holi, but there are actually many important festivals in India. And to add to the complexity, which festivals are celebrated (and how) depends on what part of India you are in. Today I’m thrilled to introduce a lovely picture book and crafts to help kids learn about Durga Puja, a fall festival related to Navrati. Kids will love learning about this holiday, which celebrates the triumph of good over evil!

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.

Learn About Durga Puja with a Picture Book and Crafts | Alldonemonkey.com

Learn About Durga Puja

As a member of a minority religion, I can sympathize with author Shoumi Sen, who wanted to make sure that her young daughter would come to appreciate about their beliefs even without the support a large community of co-believers. Sometimes it can be hard to keep a child’s interest in your own religion when they almost totally surrounded by another. So Sen started to tell her daughter stories at night, making sure to tell them in a way that was fun and accessible.

These stories evolved into the “From the Toddler Diaries” series, designed to help Indian parents living outside India pass on their beliefs and traditions to their children. The series now includes Celebrate Durga Puja With Me! as well as Celebrate Holi With Me!. One thing I love about these books is that are very much aimed at young children, showing the joys of these Indian festivals in language that they can easily understand.

Learn About Durga Puja with a Picture Book and Crafts | Alldonemonkey.com

In Celebrate Durga Puja With Me! children learn about the major aspects of Durga Puja through colorful illustrations and rhyming text. I really captures the excitement and joy of the holiday as seen through the eyes of a child. Younger readers will enjoy the book as is, whereas older children can use it as a jumping off point to explore the foods, dances, and other traditions mentioned in the book.

Learn About Durga Puja with a Picture Book and Crafts | Alldonemonkey.com

Celebrate Durga Puja With Me! is great whether you’re teaching children about your own heritage or exposing them to a holiday from another culture. For background, you can learn more about Durga Puja and other Indian festivals from author Shoumi Sen.

Crafts for Durga Puja and Navrati

Kids can also celebrate Durga Puja and Navrati with these fun crafts and activities, plus there are some tips for parents!

Art with Children: Children’s Art for Durga Puja and Dussehra

Lil Creative Kids: How to Draw Durga Maa Step by Step

Hindu Mommy: Coloring Pages for Durga Puja

Artsy Craftsy Mom: 21 Navrati and Dussehra Crafts and Activities

Raising World Children: Guide to Meditation and Fasting During Navrati

Sep 142018
 
 September 14, 2018  music Comments Off on New Children’s Music to Brighten Your Autumn

As the days get shorter and families get settled back into the school routine, sometimes we need a little something to put a bounce back in our step. Which is why I’m so happy to bring you this list of wonderful new children’s music to brighten your autumn and keep everyone dancing their way through the crisp fall days and nights. And don’t miss an announcement about a music tour from one of the giants of children’s music!

New Children's Music to Brighten Your Autumn | Alldonemonkey.om

Disclosure: I received complimentary copies of the music 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 Children’s Music to Brighten Your Autumn

If you have heard of any children’s musician, chances are that it is Raffi. For four decades he has delighted audiences at his live shows and through his numerous albums. Little ones seem to instinctively respond to his gentle music and uplifting lyrics. At the age of 70, you’d think this music icon would be slowing down, but he just released a brand new 15-song album, Dog On The Floor. Young animal lovers will adore the songs inspired by Raffi’s dog Luna, as well as the other animal songs. And parents will appreciate his interpretation of “Here Comes the Sun.”

I am delighted to share that Raffi is also going back on tour and is coming to Sacramento! Proceeds from his concerts benefit the Centre For Child Honoring. Remaining dates are as follows:

Saturday, October 27, 2018 – Glenside, PA – Keswick Theatre – 1:00 PM

Sunday, October 28, 2018 – Easton, PA – State Theatre – 1:00 PM

Saturday, November 3, 2018 – New Haven, CT – Shubert Theatre – 1:00 PM & 4:00 PM

Sunday, November 4, 2018 – New York, NY – Town Hall – 1:00 PM & 4:00 PM

Sunday, November 24, 2018 – Sacramento, CA – Alex Theatre – 1:00 PM

Sunday, November 25, 2018 – Glendale, CA – Alex Theatre – 1:00 PM

Saturday, January 19, 2019 – Tampa, FL – Tampa Theatre – 1:00 PM

Sunday, January 20, 2019 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Parker Playhouse – 1:00 PM

Find more details for the Sacramento concert as well as other stops in the tour.

The very first song on Blue Skies and Sunny Days references the Beach Boys, and it is an apt reference, as this album from Grammy nominated Frances England definitely has the same laidback, cheerful vibe. Anytime we play this album, it puts me in a more peaceful state of mind. England has a wonderful ability to tune into the mood of a beautiful day (“Perfect Tuesday Afternoon”) or even a bad one (“Mama Said”).

Ms. England says, “I hope these songs provide an antidote to all the bad news out there…I wanted to make something that sounded really light and loose…I knew that’s what I wanted to share with children and families next because I feel like that’s what’s needed right now.” If you need a pick-me-up, be sure to listen to this album, which will remind you there is still so much to sing about.

Back to the Land

Back to the Land is an old-school style album, returning to roots “to honor the great tradition of children’s music where families could all sing along and share the experience,” as their band leader puts it. I love the diversity of musical styles – in addition to the folk influences of greats like Pete Seegar, there are also tunes based on Liberian music traditions (“Funga Alafia”) and Caribbean influences (“Ven Conmigo Para Esta Tierra”).

My little one loves “Listen to the Water,” which features animal noises, while my oldest begs to hear “Big World Kid” over and over again. A really fun multicultural family music band you don’t want to miss!

Ready Or Not! (releasing September 21) is the 7th album from the energetic group the Not-Its. The music absolutely sounds like something you would hear on a rock station, so kids and parents alike will love it! It is geared more to school age kids, addressing their interests (like playing hide and seek or having a staring contest) as well as their concerns, like what to do when you’ve told a lie. And I believe this is the first time I have ever heard a song about budget cuts at school! The Not-Its approach all of their music with a real understanding of a kid’s point of view. All of their music is really rockin’, but it is also very melodic and several songs, like “Heading Home,” are quite beautiful.

Be prepared to giggle with the new album I Am Your Food from Grammy nominated Gunnar Madsen. (Look for guest vocals from Frances England, among others). Though the songs are frequently silly, the music is still top-notch. My oldest identified right away with “10,000 Pancakes,” about a kid who never quite feels full, while my younger two loved “Divine Bovine,” sung from the point of view of a cow. Often the songs are about what happens to food, such as “Egg Salad in the Sun,” and one asks the important question, What happens if fast food is so fast that you can’t catch it?

I’m thrilled to share something very special with you – a brand new video from artist Sara Lovell that just debuted yesterday! It is the title track from her award-winning album Wild Is Everywhere. As someone raising city kids, I love the message that nature is everywhere, and children can be explorers wherever they are. The ethereal vocals highlight the beauty of the lyrics. Enjoy!

Related Posts

Classical Music Concert Activities for Kids

Spanish Learning Songs for Kids

Sep 102018
 
 September 10, 2018  Book Reviews, Halloween 2 Responses »

All you looking for some not so scary books to share with your kids this Halloween? Here are some wonderfully silly Halloween books that will make your kids giggle, not scream (though there may be some groans at a few of the jokes)! And this post is part of a Halloween blog hop, so don’t miss the links to other fun Halloween themed posts at the end.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Does Frankenstein Get Hungry? 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.

Silly Halloween Books Kids Will Love | Alldonemonkey.com

Silly Halloween Books Kids Will Love

Does Frankenstein Get Hungry? is the perfect read for any child who finds all the trappings off Halloween just a tad too scary. The young protagonist, when she gets too frightened of all things spooky, brilliantly turns the monsters and ghouls in her head from creepy to silly by asking pertinent questions, like whether Frankenstein gets hungry, or if Dracula flosses his fangs. (My son’s favorite, of course, was whether the boogeyman has boogers!) A great technique for teaching littles to conquer their fears!

AlphaOops: H Is for Halloween is such a great book for a range of ages – my toddler loves it she’s currently obsessed with the alphabet (and she gets to make her silly ghost noises), while my 5 year old laughs at all the jokes, like the running gag that the other letters keep stealing the letter B’s costume ideas. It’s a fun follow up to AlphaOops!: The Day Z Went First.

The Scariest Book Ever made us all laugh out loud, as we soon discover that this is absolutely not the scariest book ever. It’s actually a cute story about a ghost who is scared to go outside of his haunted house but eventually gains the courage to go to a Halloween party – with hilarious results! (Don’t worry, they all enjoy their Halloween cupcakes together in the end!)

Monster Trouble! has been a bedtime favorite for a long time now, and my son still laughs every time. Of course, I love the spunky heroine who is plagued by monsters who just want to play with her every night, so that she falls asleep in class the everyday. She tries every trick she can think of to get them to leave her alone so she can get some sleep, until one night she accidentally stumbles on the perfect (and very sweet!) solution.

Skeleton Hiccups is one of our favorite silly Halloween books and will definitely have your kids giggling, as the poor Skeleton attempts all the tried and true methods to cure himself of the hiccups. (Spoiler: Drinking water doesn’t help if the water just pours right back out!) It’s left to his buddy Ghost to come up with the perfect solution and prove that even Skeletons can get scared silly!

Related Posts

Halloween Books and Activities that Encourage Working Together

Spanish Halloween Activities

Runaway Pumpkin Halloween Experiment

15+ Skeleton Crafts and Activities

This is part of a Halloween Theme Blog Hop – Check out these other fun Halloween Ideas! Click on photos!

Halloween Blog Hop

DIY Caramel Apple Lip Balm

Halloween Mug Cozy

Silly Halloween Books Kids Will Love

Halloween Rock Painting Ideas

Making Spiders Using Physics

Sep 042018
 

I am so excited because today I have the honor of sharing new diverse books for kids by diverse authors, including superstars like Jacqueline Woodson, Sonia Sotomayor, and Viola Davis.

This is a bigger deal than you might think and certainly a bigger deal than it should be. For while there are more diverse books for children available than in the past, it is alarming that diverse authors still make up only 7% of published children’s authors.

Even so, although it is tempting to simply say that we should support the books below solely for this reason (and this alone would be reason enough to support them), it must also be stated that these books are remarkable in and of themselves regardless of who wrote them, simply because they are wonderful books all children will enjoy.

New Diverse Books for Kids by Diverse Authors | Alldonemonkey.com

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

New Diverse Books for Kids by Diverse Authors

5 decades before the current push for diverse books for children, there was Corduroy, a beautiful little gem of a book about a girl and her stuffed bear. What made it so ground breaking was that the little girl was black, which made a world of difference to children like Viola Davis, who used reading as an escape into an imaginary, idealized world. It was for that reason that when Ms. Davis, the winner of multiple acting awards, turned her hand to children’s literature, she decided to write a sequel to this beloved work.

Corduroy Takes a Bow is a deserving follow up to the original. Davis and illustrator Jody Wheeler bring Corduroy and his friend Lisa back to life in this gentle adventure at the theater, as Lisa and her favorite teddy bear accompany Lisa’s mother to a performance of Mother Goose. A beautiful tale that has the feel of a classic, it is a fitting tribute to the original and a lovely way to continue Corduroy and Lisa’s story.

The Day You Begin is the first of two books in this list by award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson, best known for Brown Girl Dreaming. Her new picture book is a beautiful work that speaks to any child who has felt out of place from everyone else, too different to fit in. So many children can find themselves in the pages – as someone who looks different, speaks a different language, who can’t run as quickly as the rest, or whose mother packs a lunch that seems strange to the other kids.

What’s so lovely is that even as the children in the book find refuge in each other, they still celebrate what is unique about themselves: “This is the day you begin to find the places….where every new friend has something a little like you – and something else so fabulously not quite like you at all.”

A special mention also for award-winning illustrator Rafael López, whose graceful images match the emotional depth of the text.

 

Sonia Sotomayor is a vocal advocate of reading, telling an audience recently that, “The key to success in my life, it’s the secret that I want to share with kids and how I became successful. I’m here as a Supreme Court Justice only because of books.” And so it is fitting that she write her own life story in the form of a children’s book, Turning Pages: My Life Story. (And as a tribute to her native tongue – learned in New York from her Puerto Rican parents, the book is also available in Spanish, as Pasando páginas: La historia de mi vida).

I was instantly drawn to the personal photos at the front of the book, as well as the wonderful illustrations by the legendary Lulu Delacre. Sotomayor’s story of overcoming adversity is truly inspiring, and I love how she makes the direct connection from books to social justice and the ability to help others. The main message to take away from this work, as emphasized by Sotomayor herself, is that if she can succeed at her dreams, so can any other child who loves to read.

Harbor Me is the book we need at this moment in history, a deeply emotional story about young people forced to grapple with big social issues like racism, sexism, prison, and guns. The pacing of the story is just right, as we gradually come to know this special circle of tween students, brought together by their teacher as a sort of social experiment, in the hopes that they could learn to support and help each other. In this one novel, Woodson manages to highlight a wide range of social issues, without making it seem trendy or gimmicky. Instead, each child’s story is treated respectfully, as are the ways that the other children respond and support them.

What really makes this middle grade chapter book come alive is the authenticity of the children’s voices and the emotional range and complexity they display. As in The Day You Begin, it is a book about finding your voice and learning to respect others’ as well.

While so many of the other books on this list tackle major social issues, The God Gene Chronicles: The Secret of the Gods (Volume 1) is just plain fun. It is a rollicking adventure story whose main protagonists are a trio of friends at a boys’ school in Mumbai. But make no mistake, this is life or death stuff, as two clandestine organizations fight for control over the fate of humanity.

Author Projesh Banerjea was fascinated by the idea of retelling the Hindu myths he grew up with in the style of the modern superhero tales he loved. The result is a page turning novel that older readers will enjoy from beginning to end – from the boys’ shenanigans at school to the underground world of good and evil that simmers all around them.

Through much of the book the boys move in parallel to this end-of-the-world battle, oblivious to what is happening just below the surface all around them, at times involving their teachers and even their own parents. But soon the two worlds collide, and each boy is caught up in a maelstrom that will invoke the ancient tales of the gods and ultimately mean for two of them either life as a bearer of the god gene – or death as a victim of the dark side.

I thoroughly enjoyed this action adventure, and how it brings ancient stories into modern times, reworking the Western idea of superheroes to suit an entirely different Eastern universe. Don’t worry – if you don’t have much background in Hinduism, the author has a primer at the beginning, and does a great job of weaving basic explanations into the story, so you won’t miss a step!

Turning Pages Blog Tour

This post is part of the blog tour for Turning Pages: My Life Story. Find all the other stops in the tour below!

WEEK ONE

August 28 – Here Wee Read – Review

August 29 – Lu and Bean Read – Review

August 30 – DJ Reads Books – Conversations

 

WEEK TWO

September 3 – All Done Monkey – Learning Activity + Creative Instagram Picture

September 4 – Mundo de Pepita – Review

September 5 – Babies to Bookworms – Review + Learning Activity

September 6 – Biracial Bookworms – Review + Recap of Meeting Sonia

 

WEEK THREE

September 11 – Read. Learn. Repeat. – Review

September 12 – A Buckeye Teacher – Review + Classroom Activity

September 13 – Inspiring English Language Learners – Books as an essential key to unlocking identity and vision to what’s possible.

Aug 292018
 
 August 29, 2018  Book Reviews, Education, Kid Fun, music, parenting Comments Off on Encouraging Pretend Play: 3 Simple Tips

Pretend play is a wonderful way for children to work out their problems, try out new ideas, and explore imaginative worlds. It is an important part of a child’s intellectual and emotional development, as well as an integral part of cherished childhood memories.

And it’s not just for the very young! We often associate pretend play with toddlers and preschoolers, but I find that it is just as important for older children, who still have big imaginations and often use pretend play as a way to unwind.

Encouraging Pretend Play: 3 Simple Tips | Alldonemonkey.com

Here are three simple tips for encouraging pretend play for your children, no matter what their age. You can also find below great books and music to set their imaginations on fire. Share your tips and resources in the comments!

Disclosure: I was sent complimentary copies of the resources 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.

Encouraging Pretend Play: 3 Simple Tips

Allow for Plenty of Free Time

This seems so obvious, yet it’s amazing how busy our schedules can be, especially when seen from a child’s perspective. If we are exhausted after shepherding our kids through schoolwork, errands, doctor’s appointments, etc., how do we think our children feel? Depending on your circumstances, opening up some free time for imaginative play may be as simple as a change in perspective, or it may mean a more fundamental restructuring of your schedule and perhaps cutting back on organized activities.

With my children I’ve found that they do better if they have plenty of downtime, whether it’s running around outdoors or playing with playdough or Legos. So, for example, in the mornings I make sure they get an hour of free play after breakfast so that it is easier for them to focus on schoolwork. Many children find pretend play a great way to decompress after school.

Provide Open Ended Toys

While my kids love toys with all the bells and whistles, to really encourage pretend play there is nothing better than open ended toys, which are great tools for children to project their imaginations. What this really means is to provide your children with toys that don’t have a set purpose but rather can be used in many different ways, such as sensory bins, building sets, or crayons and paper. Again, don’t put age limits on these toys – I’m always pleasantly surprised at how much my eight year old still loves playing with play dough.

And nothing could be simpler than getting outdoors! Nature is the ultimate playground for young imaginations, whether it’s out in the wild or at one of the many creative local parks.

Encouraging Pretend Play: 3 Simple Tips | Alldonemonkey.com

Incorporate Pretend Play into Your Day

Pretend play can introduce an element of fun into your everyday routine. My 5 year old regularly fights off storm troopers while we are at the grocery store, and your child could be a mermaid or a pirate during bath time. Many of our learning activities also incorporate some element of pretend play. For example, when we studied about knights and castles, we did a “knighting” ceremony and made shields and swords out of cardboard, followed by plenty of pretend play as knights!

Pretend play can also be a life saver if you are waiting at a doctor’s office or have a long car drive, though in those kind of spaces you might have to be more creative about what you can do!

Offer Big Ideas for Them to Dream with

A wonderful gift you can give your children is to introduce them to big ideas to excite their imaginations. In a way it is like giving them the vocabulary to dream with, the tools to construct their own imaginative worlds. Whether through exploring other cultures and cuisines, telling them tales from your childhood, or reading from great books together, these experiences of adventure and wonder will spark hours of pretend play!

Below are new wonderful books and music that are sure to expand children’s imaginative worlds and inspire pretend play!

How to Be a T-Rex

My son loves How to be a T. Rex! In fact, just the other day he was telling me he was scared to go into our back bedroom by himself, when he suddenly stood up straighter and said, “Wait! I’m going to be a T Rex!” and scampered off alone. Thank you, Ryan North!

This fun book is all about a dinosaur-loving kid (a little girl! an African American little girl!) who just wants to be a T Rex, even though her older brother says it’s impossible. Of course, she eventually realizes that being a T Rex also has its downsides, so she comes up with an even more creative solution! And even makes up with her brother when he apologizes 🙂

If You Want to Be a Pirate

Pirates are another set of classic characters that kids loved to act out. And now there is the perfect soundtrack! If You Want to Be a Pirate: Songs for Young Buccaneers is a brand new album of original songs from Tam Mason and the Blue Buccaneers. This group performs in costume (see below), often even on ships! This album was inspired by their youngest fans.

Tom Mason and the Blue Buccaneers

We have had so much fun listening to these swash-buckling tunes about parrots, a kindly kraken, and an invisible first mate. I also love that there’s even a song raising the environmental consciousness of young pirates, telling them that thanks to messy humanity you can’t see the treasure anymore because of all the trash.

If you have a pirate lover in your house, you won’t want to miss this album!

Sarabella’s Thinking Cap is a beautifully illustrated picture book for all of the day dreamers out there. I love it because it celebrates those children whose heads are perpetually in the clouds, at the same time as it offers ideas for how to help them function in a classroom setting. Thanks to her wise teacher, Sarabella isn’t shamed for having trouble focusing. Instead, he encourages her to come up with an invention that allows plenty of room for her imagination – and multiplication tables.

Mossby’s Magic Carpet Handbook: A Flyer’s Guide to Mossby’s Model D3 Extra-Small Magic Carpet (Especially for Young or Vertically Challenged People) is perfect for older children. My eight year old adores poring over the gorgeous illustrations and reading all of the detailed diagrams and instructions for flying magic carpets. He says he likes how realistic the book is, “which almost makes me think that it’s real.” This colorful guide covers everything from weather, spotting wild animals, recognizing things from above, and how “not to barf.” Just be sure to take the solemn magic carpet riders’ oath and follow the code of conduct, including only using your magic carpet for good.

How to Be a T Rex Blog Tour

This post is part of the blog tour for How to be a T. Rex, so don’t miss the other stops to promote this fun new picture book!

WEEK ONE

August 20 – Four Violet Reviews – Cooking Dino Grub

August 21 – Bookfoolery – Review

August 22 – The Kindergarten Connection – Creative Instagram Picture

August 23 – MaiStoryBook – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

August 24 – TheReadathon – Review

WEEK TWO

August 27 – Crayon Freckles – Learning Activity

August 28 – How Useful It Is – Review

August 29 – All Done Monkey – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

Aug 022018
 
 August 2, 2018  Education Comments Off on Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum Review: Elementary

This is the second part of our homeschool curriculum review. Earlier we focused on math, while today I’m sharing a language arts curriculum review of materials that I use with my rising third grader and kindergartner. These materials, which cover phonics, handwriting, and grammar, are perfect as part of a homeschool or as after school reinforcement.

Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum Review: Elementary | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum Review: Elementary

Our method is (mostly) based on the philosophy of classical education; however, we are also a bit eclectic and focused on finding what works best for each child! The materials below weren’t sent to me to review – they are the actual materials my soon-to-be third grader and kindergartener use for their lessons, after trial and error with other workbooks and methods.

My 5 year old has been working his way through the Evan-Moor Basic Phonics Skills for Grades K-1. They are fun, bite-sized worksheets that help them learn basic letter sounds. It has cute pictures and activities that kids will enjoy even as they are challenged to learn new skills.

My oldest really struggled with handwriting when he was younger and would fight me on any attempts to get him to write. Enter Handwriting Without Tears! When he was in kindergarten a teacher recommended this book for him, and it was a game changer. It breaks handwriting down into simple strokes and makes it more fun for kids to practice. I’m not sure if it was the visuals or way the strokes were explained, but he would no longer protest practicing his handwriting. We easily finished the entire workbook (versus others that we had given up on partway through!) If your child is struggling with handwriting, I highly recommend Handwriting Without Tears.

The Complete Writer, Writing With Ease  with the accompanying Workbook for Writing with Ease is great for older children who are ready to start copy work. In accordance with classical education, it uses living texts as the basis for its lessons. In other words, students copy lines from great (age appropriate) works of literature, such as Charlotte’s Web and Caddie Woodlawn. 

Homeschool Language Arts Curriculum Review: Elementary | Alldonemonkey.com

I love its gradual progression to longer, more complex sentences, and even within each lesson you can choose between a shorter and longer sentence for your child to copy. It also incorporates reading comprehension, as students listen to a passage and have to answer questions and give a summary in their own words.

Among classical homeschoolers, First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind (and the accompanying Student Workbook) are very popular. This language arts curriculum is a great way to teach children grammar rules through repetition and memorization. I should say, however, that my oldest son found it rather boring, though I could tell it helped him get a better grasp of grammar. However, I plan to use it with my younger son, who is a very different kind of learner and I think will benefit from this approach.

If you have a child like mine who hates sitting down learning grammar rules – or just want to give them a little more practice – then you will love Easy Grammar: Daily Guided Teaching & Review. Each day your child does one short lesson (one page) – quick, painless, but effective! The daily repetition helps them really get the grammar rules without tiring them out with a long and potentially boring lesson.

Classical education typically calls for children to learn Latin. Since we are already studying Spanish and French, I didn’t want to add another language, but I still wanted my kids to get the benefits of learning those word roots. If a child knows how to identify the roots of a word, it will give them a real advantage in parsing out new words they may encounter, especially if they plan to enter a scientific field. Word Roots Beginning: Learning the Building Blocks of Better Spelling and Vocabulary is a great way for children to learn the meaning and spelling of word roots, prefixes, and suffixes commonly used in English. Even better, it can be done in sessions of just one or two pages, so it’s easy to add into your language arts curriculum.

What materials do you include in your language arts curriculum?

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Jul 302018
 
 July 30, 2018  Education Comments Off on Homeschool Math Curriculum Review: Elementary

A friend recently asked me for recommendations about math and language arts workbooks she could use with her son. I started to write out a response then realized I should just make it into a post to share with others! Instead it has grown into two separate posts. This is the first, our math curriculum review for elementary age students that you could use as part of your homeschool curriculum or as after school reinforcement.

Homeschool Math Curriculum Review: Elementary | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Homeschool Math Curriculum Review: Elementary

The materials below weren’t sent to me to review – they are the actual materials my soon-to-be third grader and kindergartner use as part of our math curriculum, after having trial and error with other workbooks and methods.

My oldest is a conceptual learner, so Singapore Primary Mathematics (also known as Singapore Math) is a perfect fit for him. The method is “concrete to pictorial to abstract,” and it’s that intermediate “pictorial” phase that makes it unique and really helps kids master the concepts. I was impressed with how multiplication and division were presented, for instance – it really made sense to my son and helped him really understand what the terms mean, not just how to get the correct result. Each lesson serves as a foundation for the next, meaning that students don’t have time to forget what they’ve just learned, as sometimes happens with other approaches, when lessons aren’t reviewed until weeks or months later.

My son literally laughs out loud when reading books from the Life of Fred series. These are wonderfully fun books that read like novels, perfect for any child but especially one who otherwise shows no interest in math. TThis math curriculum follows the life of Fred Gauss and all the funny ways he encounters in his life. So no more protests such as, “Why do I need to learn math? I’ll never need this!!” The story is so engaging, your child will enjoying reading, plus she will learn how to apply math concepts to real world situations.


If your child loves graphic novels, then you should try Beast Academy (Art of Problem Solving)! This math curriculum comes as a set of guidebooks (the graphic novels) and practice books (the workbooks). Each chapter from the practice book corresponds to a chapter from the guidebook. The guidebooks themselves are very entertaining – my 8 year old read them just for fun! And when we started working on the practice books, it was the first time in a long time that I had really seen him challenged in math!

I think of Beast Academy (Art of Problem Solving) more as set of logic puzzles than a regular math workbook. Children shouldn’t expect to get all the answers correct on the first try, nor should they expect that, as with most math books, the way to solve the problems will be provided. More than anything, Beast Academy (Art of Problem Solving) tries to get students to think in new ways and use the basic principles to come up with their own creative methods for solving.

Homeschool Math Curriculum Review: Elementary | Alldonemonkey.com

For my five year old, this past year we started using RightStart. I love that this math curriculum is so focused on hands on learning through heavy use of manipulatives like the abacus and cute teddy bears you see above. In fact, often if I need to make dinner or do one-on-one work with my oldest, I pull out some of the manipulatives from our RightStart set for my younger two to play with. They love getting their hands on the 3-D wooden shapes, for example!

RightStart emphasizes games and songs, making it fun especially for younger students like my kindergartner. And they have lots of innovative touches, such as the 5-block color changes you see in the abacus above. The colors switch with every 5 beads and again with every 5 strings, teaching children to count not just by 10’s but by 5’s and 50’s.

The manipulative sets are a bit of an investment at first, but well worth it because you can use it for multiple levels, so you will get lots of use out of them.

What is your favorite math curriculum?

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