Oct 292018
 

The children are the future, and as parents we want to prepare them for it and inspire kids to make the world a better place. But often parents struggle with how to talk to their children about real problems faced by the world today in ways that are age appropriate. That is why I am so pleased to share with you a wonderful new resource aimed at parents and children, designed to inspire the next generation of world citizens through teaching them about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Disclosure: This blog post was sponsored by Mattel but all opinions are my own.

5 Ways to Inspire Kids to Make the World a Better Place | Alldonemonkey.com

5 Ways to Inspire Kids to Make the World a Better Place

We all want to raise children who will make a difference in the world, but often we don’t know where to start. Luckily, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel! Everyone’s favorite tank engine has teamed up with the United Nations to educate families about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The Thomas & FriendsTM  interactive Global Goals website has resources to help parents and children learn more about six of these goals:

  • Quality Education
  • Gender Equality
  • Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Life on Land

For each goal, the All Aboard for Global Goals! website provides a Thomas & FriendsTM video Life Lesson, Parent Tips with conversation starters and activities to educate about the goals and get kids excited about achieving them.

Here are 5 tips on how you inspire kids to make the world a better place through using this incredible resource.

1. Educate Yourself

It’s impossible to teach what you don’t know, but this doesn’t mean you have to be an expert. What you do need is some background knowledge and – even more importantly – the right tools to teach the whole family.

One thing I love about the All Aboard for Global Goals! website is that is designed to educate parents and children. It gives you the materials and language for talking to your child about these important issues, so that you can learn about them together.

5 Ways to Inspire Kids to Make the World a Better Place | Alldonemonkey.com

2. Talk About Real Issues – in an Age Appropriate Way

If we want to inspire kids to make the world a better place, we can’t shy away from the tough issues we face globally – but we must do so in ways that are appropriate for young children. That is why the format of these upbeat Thomas the Tank Engine videos is so effective: they present the material in ways that children can easily understand without becoming overwhelmed.

The information and activities come with suggestions for older and younger children, so you can adjust to what is appropriate for your child.

3. Use Media Thoughtfully

Children immediately warm to familiar characters like Thomas & FriendsTM, and using the videos as part of your discussion will help children get excited and engaged with the material. Rather than being asked to sit through a dry lesson, you will be playing together and watching a short video with some of their favorite characters! My favorite is the one on “Gender Equality,” which uses the examples of different tank engines from the show to demonstrate that girls and boys can do the same jobs!

5 Ways to Inspire Kids to Make the World a Better Place | Alldonemonkey.com

4. Nurture a Sense of Empowerment

For each of the UN Sustainable Development Goals presented, the All Aboard for Global Goals! website offers ways that children can get involved and make a difference. At every turn they are invited to see themselves as having an important role. For example, for “Life On Land” (about caring for the environment), children can plant seeds and learn to care for their seedlings, while in “Gender Equality” they are asked to dress up as a superhero and think of tasks they would perform as a hero.

5. Keep It Fun

More than anything, for young children it is important to learn through play, especially when talking about potentially difficult topics. This wonderful resource means that you can engage with your child in fun learning activities that will inspire kids to make the world a better place.

All Aboard for Global Goals!

Join Thomas as he learns about the Sustainable Development Goals! Learn together with your child through fun videos, meaningful discussions, and playful activities on the All Aboard for Global Goals! website

Oct 262018
 

Today it is more important than ever to teach children about embracing differences and forming friendships with those with whom at first they may seem to have nothing in common. It is the critical issue facing our little world citizens, yet in reality it is as simple as making a new friend on the playground or seeing yourself in the face of a stranger. This wonderful collection of children’s books – including picture books and a chapter book – use humor and inspiring XXXX to instill these values in our children.

Children's Books About Embracing Differences | 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.

Children’s Books About Embracing Differences

The Epic Adventures of Huggie & Stick is a laugh out loud book from the author of The Day the Crayons Quit about an unlikely pair and their lively trip around the world. What makes this book so hilarious is the constant shift in perspective between these two completely opposite characters. While upbeat Stick sees every situation as a wonderful adventure, grumpy Huggie is forever looking at the downside. Stick, for example, is enchanted by the “little elves in tuxedos” they discover on Antarctica, while Huggie describes these same penguins as “vicious” because they tried to nibble on him.

The biggest misunderstanding of all, of course, is whether Huggie and Stick are actually best friends (as Stick thinks) or not (as Huggie emphatically believes). Either way, you won’t want to miss their epic adventure together!

All Are Welcome is a beautifully written picture book about embracing differences and creating an environment of respect for all. The portraits of diverse children playing, learning, and sharing are gorgeous and demonstrate an ideal climate where diversity is seen as a community’s strength. Moreover, by portraying the children engaged in similar activities during their day, it powerfully shows how we are just as much alike as we are different.

I have been a fan of Joy Sun Bear for a long time. Joy is an adorable, curious little sun bear that promotes global education through a safe, online environment full of resources for children, parents, and educators.

And now he’s starring in his very first book! The Adventures of Joy Sun Bear: The Blue Amber of Sumatra covers many important topics, like environmental destruction and having courage to do the right thing, but at its heart it is also about embracing differences. When a group of refugees arrive in Joy’s part of the rain forest, he overcomes his initial reluctance (and the prejudices of his elders) to make friends with one of the newcomers: Tipah, a frightened young orangutan.

To help convince the others to welcome the refugees and help his friend, Joy embarks on a remarkable adventure, aided by magical creatures, in which he must rely on his wits but especially his heart to guide him.

I love the metaphor of the trickster used in the book to explain why the humans destroy the rainforest in the first place, and why Joy’s forest community is so convinced that the refugees are cursed. But the mischievousness of the trickster is matched by the light of the creatures that lend their aid to Joy and by the purity of his spirit.

I highly recommend this early chapter book for children that love animals, adventure, and the triumph of good.

Oct 252018
 
 October 25, 2018  Book Reviews, parenting No Responses »

A major focus at schools today is bullying, and for good reason. We often talk about how to help kids deal with being bullied, but there is another aspect that needs to be taken into account: what to do when they see someone else being bullied. Here are tips to teach kids to stop bullying by being allies to bullied students, to help break the cycle.

Keep in mind, these actions are not meant to replace adult involvement but rather reinforce it, as often a child is less likely to be picked on if they are with friends. Children should always tell a teacher or administrator if they see bullying. They can also be an ally, a powerful step towards preventing bullying from occurring or helping diffuse a bullying situation. For more on how to stop bullying visit this comprehensive website.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of I Am Gandhi 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.

Stop Bullying: Teach Kids to Be Allies | Alldonemonkey.com

Stop Bullying: Teach Kids to Be Allies

1. Distract the Bully

What should children do if they see another child being bullied? They can step in and stop the bullying – not by arguing with the bully or yelling at them to stop, but simply by distracting them. I was so impressed at my son’s recent karate class when the instructors taught the students to give the bully a compliment to distract them. This allows them to then take the bullied student by the hand and walk somewhere else. Distract with a compliment rather than getting into a combative situation. Brilliant!

2. Stop It Before It Starts

Most kids know who is being bullied at their school and when it usually happens. Teach them to keep an eye out for bullied students and try to head off the bullying before it begins. If they see a bully heading over to another student, they can get to that student first and invite them to join in a game on the playground, for example.

3. Practice Inclusion

Take this a step further by getting to know the bullied student and forming a friendship. When I was in elementary school, a friend of mine was constantly teased because of her looks and awkward behavior. Yet consistently if I was with her the other students tended to leave her alone – she was no longer an easy target. Having true friendships can also help stop bullying by helping build up the bullied student’s confidence.

4. Create a Respectful Environment 

Students can also stop bullying by helping create an environment where everyone feels respected and safe. If children laugh along with the bully or stay silent, bullies feel encouraged to continue their behavior. Other students can help change a toxic environment by making it clear that bullying is unacceptable and making sure all students feel included. They can work together to think of ways to foster this type of environment – by showing kindness to others, or putting on a school program.

One of the greatest historical examples of a person being an ally to the persecuted was Gandhi. Not only did he stand up for justice when his own people were oppressed, he did the same for others, including the Untouchables, the lowest of the low at the time in India. Children can read Gandhi’s amazing life story in I am Gandhi, part of the people Ordinary People Change the World series. I love getting to use this book to teach my children about Gandhi and how it sparked a conversation between my boys about what it means to “gently shake the world” as Gandhi did.

One of the remarkable aspects of this book, as with all of the books in this series, is that it puts historical events and trends into terms that children can understand without watering them down, highlighting the lessons that they can have in the children’s own lives. For example, I am Gandhi teaches them about Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha, ultimately explaining it as a “truth force” – which, as one character points out, sounds like a superhero team!

Our copy of this inspiring, extremely readable biography came in the mail one day just before we meet with our homeschooling group, so my son took it with him. Several of the other mothers noticed his book and told me how much their children love this book series. I highly recommend it as a great source of inspiration for children to become part of the “truth force,” to bring about change and fight for a world where everyone feels valued.

I Am Justice Blog Tour

WEEK ONE: I am Gandhi

October 22 – A Buckeye Teacher – Creative Instagram Picture + Review

October 23 – Little Homeschool on the Prairie – Fun Facts

October 24 – Happily Ever Elephants – Review + Learning Activity

October 25 – All Done Monkey – Learning Activity

WEEK TWO: I am Martin Luther King Jr.

October 29 – Reading by ovenlight – Creative Instagram Picture + Review

October 30 – 4th Grade Unicorns – Creative Instagram Picture + Review

October 31 – What’s a Kid to Read – Creative Instagram Picture + Review

November 1 – Bookoholicmom – Fun Facts

WEEK THREE: I am Rosa Parks

November 5 – Simple at Home – Learning Activity

November 6 – Within the Pages – Fun Facts

November 7 – Coquette Maman – Fun Facts

November 8 – Lovely Little Reads – Fun Facts

WEEK FOUR: I am Sonia Sotomayor

November 12 – My Little Poppies – Creative Instagram Picture

November 13 – Gravity Bread – Review + Language and Learning Tips

November 14 – Biracial Bookworms – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

November 15 – Girls Read the World – Review + Creative Instagram Picture

November 16 – This Picture Book Life – Creative Instagram Picture + Quotes from the Justice

Oct 082018
 
 October 8, 2018  activities, Spanish Comments Off on Easy Spanish Activity with Play Dough

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
 
 September 27, 2018  Book Reviews, multiculturalism, music Comments Off on Latin American Music to Honor Hispanic Heritage Month

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 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?

Related Posts:

Back to School Guide for Homeschoolers

Homeschooling Multiple Children Without Losing Your Mind

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