Posts Tagged “Books”

How To Encourage Children To Read

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August Moon 2012If reading is fundamental, then why the heck is it one of the most frustrating and difficult things for parents to engage their children in?  UGH!!  Seriously, parents everywhere are having the “put that down and pick up a book” battle.  Gizmos of all sorts have stolen the time that once was occupied by magazines and/or a great novel (and if really lucky, perhaps a newspaper).  My son, an avid reader – which sprung out of nowhere one day several years ago… has been sucked into the Netflix unending streaming of commercial free episodes of almost everything.  What ever happened to watching ONE episode a week and flipping thru magazines during commercials?

Here are twelve suggestions to help the kiddos engage in reading.  Try a few and let us know how they go, or perhaps leave us a suggestion or two of your own.

1.  Play game directly related to a story book. (Ex: Green Eggs and Ham has several games and puzzles, Fancy Nancy Game, etc)  Follow up by reading the book another night and remembering the game play fun.  Tie the two experiences together.

   

2. Start the weekend with a book.  If your child is slow to wake in the morning, take advantage with Saturday morning early story time, then breakfast, dressing, etc.  Makes for excellent cuddle time as you ease into your day together.

Start the day with a story

Start the day with a story

3. Keep books everywhere… children recipe books in the kitchen, easy-readers in the bathroom & bedside with picture books at coffee tables.

4. Find small pockets of time for reading… this includes picture books and reading the captions.  Five or ten minutes between activities adds up over a day… over a week.

5. Read to your children in the tub.  If your kids are anything like mine, staying in the tub til lips are blue, take advantage and read while they play, soak and bathe.

6. Encourage reading through song.  (Ex: The Cat’s Pajamas album Reading Rocks has two specifically good songs for this – “I’m A Bookworm” and “Read To Me”)

7. Make time for your own reading – yes this works as you set an example.  You can claim a “reading hour” or play soft music to further encourage the environment.

8. Keep books accessible for little ones – sturdy books in a play area, while treasured family favorites reside on a book shelf until shared together.

9. Register each child for their OWN library card.  Teach them the rules of the library but also care for books.

10. Dress up as characters.  Go all out with costumes or keep it simple with hats and accessories.

Cinderella: Getting into character

Cinderella: Getting into character

11. Act out favorite parts.  Use different voices and props as you read aloud.  For those really serious – combine 10 & 11 and make your own movie with dressing up and acting out the story.

12. Puppets are an effective way to tell a story.  (Here I’m using CuddleUppets Green Crocodile to tell the story of Five Little Monkeys Sitting In A Tree)

Using puppets and props for storytime

Using puppets and props for storytime

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Adventure Series: Hanging With My Little Monkey Friends

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So, how many time since having kids have you said, “You’re not a monkey, don’t climb on the ___” (use your own example here – table, sofa, curtains)?

Seriously, “monkey” became part of our every day conversations once I had kids. Now aside from acting like monkeys or being carried on our person like monkeys… children are also fascinated with this species. (Okay, okay so not just the kids.) Guess who’s most anticipated when we go to the zoo? Of course we love the lions and bird house and those huge snakes we’d never seek out elsewhere… but the monkeys, gorillas and apes always steal the show.  (And if you think I’m a fanatic, oh you should see my sister’s menagerie of monkeys!!)

Monkeys, chimpanzees, orangutans, apes, tamarin – after a while they all just seem to be the same but in fact there are two groups of primates: Apes and Monkeys. Orangutans, chimpanzees, gibbons and gorillas fall into the Ape category, while the Monkey category includes baboon, tamarin and mandrill.   So in the spirit of Homeroom At Home, we decided to put this curiosity to work. My family held our first on-site (and quite interactive) parent/child “edu-play date”. That’s right, we got down to the fun monkey business of learning all about primates.  It was simple; it was entertaining; it was educational (even for the adults!) With crafts, games and snacks we kept ourselves quite entertained for two hours.  Knowing that our audience was going to be on the younger side, we kept the games and crafts very very simple, although you could easily choose more age-appropriate ones. We decorated bookmarks with monkey and gorilla stickers. We used hula hoops and a round table cloth to play games with a blow-up monkey. Of course our littlest guest thought he should be the monkey-in-the-middle.  Another really cute game was “Where Is Sock Monkey?” complete with a stuffed sock monkey. For snack we ate Banana Graham Cracker Pudding Cake and Monkey Bread. We read a variety of books and used a simple story board to demonstrate the differences between apes and monkeys and then we tested our knowledge with picture books and stuffed animals. Each child took home coloring sheets of either gibbons, gorillas, tamarins, orangutans or monkeys. The highlight of the evening was the puppet story telling of 5 Little Monkeys Sitting In A Tree whereby teasing a certain crocodile. I happened to have a Crocodile Cuddle-Uppet and five stuffed animal monkeys. Everyone participated as one by one the monkeys disappeared. We also read and re-enacted 5 Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed and below you’ll find a cute picture of that action. Again, these highly engaging stories were the talk of the night.   Check out our Facebook page for more fun photos of our Monkey Edu-Play Date.

As fun as it was playing games and tossing around stuffed animal friends, it doesn’t hold a candle next to watching these primates in action. There are many local places to check out apes and monkeys including the Philadelphia Zoo. The Philadelphia Zoo has named 2012 the Year Of The Orangutan with special exhibits, events and education awareness. The Buffalo Zoo of New York offers wonderful PDF Fact Sheets for most of their animals on exhibit – in fact many zoos offer bios or facts for their animal population but the full sheet fact pages of Buffalo Zoo was impressive and helpful. This was also the case for Brandywine Zoo of Delaware.

We can’t have all this talk about monkeys and apes and NOT mention the Ape House at the National Zoo in DC. This exhibit is home to several gorillas and orangutans. The Ape House is only one of several exhibits the National Zoo offers for primates. When visiting be sure to stop by the Small Mammal House, Think Tank, Lemur Island and more. Be sure to bookmark their website here, as it is full of information to return to – monkeys and otherwise. Another fascinating feature of the National Zoo is the creation of the first ever Orangutan Transport System (OTS) – no kidding! As a solution to a logistical and design issue within the zoo, they created a traveling system allowing the orangutans to freely roam between the Ape House and Think Tank. In addition, the orangutans are offered the freedom to choose their evening dwelling. How cool is that? Check out more on the “O line” by clicking here. Now among several on-going projects, our National Zoo at the Smithsonian has spearheaded the Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program whereby saving these critically endangered monkeys over the last three decades and reducing their classification from critically endangered to endangered. Don’t forget to check out the education tools on the website – there’s so much offered.

Play time equals learning fun too, so check out these great toys to continue your primate experience:

China’s famous Yi Yuanji of 1000 years ago, depicted a beautiful scene on silk of two gibbons in a tree. This painting became memorable due to a culture that mostly focused on flowers and birds in artistic expression. You can check it out here.

Let’s continue our discussion… chimpanzees, monkeys, gorillas, etc have been featured in a number of live-action family films. Share with us your favorite and one lucky participant will win a small monkey surprise just for leaving a comment. (Be sure to leave your email, so I can contact the winner directly.) Winner will be chosen on October 25th.

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Our Blue Moon Journey Concludes… Until 2015

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Tonight’s sky beamed with the our long awaited “Blue Moon”. Hope you’ve enjoyed this experience as much as we have. We brought our Moon story to a close with more songs and here’s one of our absolute favorites – an instrumental piece.

We just sat and watched it play on the screen in darkness… taking in its magnificent beauty. Sometimes you need to slow things down to bring out the best. And sometimes you just need a great beat to enable the lyrics or lesson to stick… try Mr. Lee’s “Phases of the Moon” in a rap. We think it is rather catchy.

Speaking of the phases of the moon, here’s another great learning video from Songs Of Higher Learning also called “Phases Of The Moon”. Take a listen, we love this one too.

Of course we love the songs designed for the little ones like “Man On The Moon” and “Hey Hey Mr. Moon”.

We love reading as much as we love music and dancing, so naturally we continued our adventures through story time. Here are a couple more good ones to consider…

Full Moon Barnyard Dance by Carole Lexa Schaefer: Cute tale of barnyard friends pairing up and dancing by the river in the moonlight.

Full Moon Barnyard Dance

Long Night Moon by Cynthia Rylant: Beautifully illustrated, it speaks to the moons named each month by the Native Americans.

Long Night Moon

Night Of The Moon Jellies by Mark Shasha: Sweet story about a boy who finds a jellyfish washed up on the shore, later discovers its a magnificent moonjelly. He and his grandmother sail to sea to return it and watch all the moonjellies light up the water.

Night Of The Moon Jellies

Homeroom At Home facebook page offers more pictures and tips on a Moon lesson plan. Also, our main website offers video suggestions and reviews for the Solar System; click here to jump over now.

It’s been an incredible journey. We’ve enjoyed learning the ASL sign for moon and how to say it in Spanish (La Luna). Via and I have had a great time reading all sorts of stories about the moon or including it as a main story element. The crafts and music have been particularly fun. This is a fantastic topic with so many options for exploring. Parents, keep in mind that my little monkey is only two and a half, so I’ve had to dial our activities back to her age group and attention span. There is so much more you could incorporate with regard to a lesson on the moon… be it a weekend camp-out or a summer long adventure. Be sure to mix it up to keep their interest and allow their imaginations to go wild… after all that’s how we landed on the moon to begin with. We’d love to hear about your adventures, so please share your stories and pictures.

We conclude our festivities with a beautiful song: “I See The Moon And The Moon Sees Me” with great anime visuals.

Thank you for joining us on our “Once in a Blue Moon Journey”! #BlueMoon

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How to Beat Kid's Summer Boredom

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Sure there are so many things to do for the summer, and every child anxiously awaits the last day of school.  But nonetheless, they experience days of total summer boredom and with that comes nothing good, including the messiest play, mischief, migraines for parents and constant whining.  So here are a few simple suggestions to shake those days up and avoid the pitfalls of overly boring, super hot-n-sticky days of summer.

1.  Catch the sunset.

Sunset on the Delaware River

 

Catchin The Suns Rays

We are fortunate to live close to a park situated on the Delaware River… making an amazing backdrop for the day’s end.   The playground provided plenty of entertainment while we waited for each stage of the sun setting.  For my toddler is was a great lesson in colors as well, as we watched the sky transform from blues and greens to oranges and purples.  Just an amazing summertime thing to do.  We didn’t stay long after, but you could certainly take advantage of the light evening darkness for catching fireflies.  For more educational ideas, look for shapes in the distance and clouds.  For us, the bridge provided angles and triangles.  Talk about the different types of clouds, fresh water vs salt bodies of water, and perception of objects (like will that barge fit under the bridge when it looks too large?)  Test your little one to find the best angle to go down the slide or why sneakers might make you go slower.  And be sure to just sit back and enjoy nature’s beautiful daily artistry. 

Pillow Tower Fun

2. Build a tower of pillows.

Pillow Tower Tumbling

Almost like building blocks but bigger and softer.  Bed pillows, sofa pillows, even the decorative throw pillows add a different dimension to your child’s creative structure.  How high can they stack?  How about tunnels or geometric shapes?  Of course they are fun to climb and topple on top of.  The bravest moms might allow sofa cushions in the mix and/or pillow tosses and fights.  (Confession – I wasn’t that brave mom!)

3.  Themed play… in our case it was Star Wars.

These light sabers totally distract kids (and big kids) from unpleasant storms, heat waves or any boredom.  Part of the charm is that these toys rarely get played with, especially for the young one… so I encourage parents to dig deep for something that the kids rarely get to lay their hands on.

Everything Barbie

Another suggestion: clear a play area and pull out ALL of something for a huge focused playtime activity.  By example, we’ve done this with Barbie… lots and lots of Barbies, furniture, clothes, pets, etc and had one big community of Barbie.  Same idea with Little People making a large platform with all the different pieces arranged to create an interactive community (city, farm, circus).

Catching Some Quiet Time

4. Take a trip to your local library.

We enjoyed a variety of picture

Quiet Time At the Library

books and then had some quiet reading time to ourselves.  Unfortunately we missed the children’s story hour by 30 minutes but now we know better.  Be sure to check out the schedule of events at your library since most have programs for families, especially during the summer.

5. Break away from routine.

Find an opportunity to break your schedule.  Enjoy your breakfast outdoors or perhaps an informal dinner on the deck.  Put on a bubbles parade with music and dance.  Consider summer rain showers as natures sprinklers… and dance in the rain.

Picnic With My Brother

Picnic With My Cousins

6.  Create a Fort.

Sharing Our Fort

Pillows, blankets, cushions and large stuffies enable some cool creations.  Once complete, grab your flashlight for some shadow fun.  Pick out some favorite books and read by flashlight in your new cool hiding place.  Challenge your kids to build a tunnel, multiple entrances and hideaways within the structure.  For added educational fun, consider discussions around the pyramids and ancient castles that were cleverly designed with tunnels, secret spaces and defense in mind.

For more ideas visit Kelly Whalen’s article “25 Frugal Ways To Keep The Kids Busy This Summer” at blog.ableBanking.com.  She includes handy tips like finding free camps, discount museum admission, garden tours and so much more.  Share with us:  What’s your coolest boredom buster?

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Reading Rainbow – A Family Favorite is Back as an App

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The fondest memories of my childhood include dancing in the summer rain with my Dad, holding summer “camp” with my siblings and cousins in the backyard, taking day trips with my family and always story time – many times cuddled up with my Mom on our couch, or sometimes shared sitting on the floor of our local library, and often watching Reading Rainbow on PBS. Yes, my brother, sister and I were quite fortunate to have engaged parents, passionate about giving us nontraditional learning experiences and exploring with us through literature, discussion, art and hands-on activity.

Season after season, Reading Rainbow remained a “staple” program in our family’s television viewing. And this was true for millions of viewers as the television series was broadcast from June of 1983 to November of 2006. The program focused on literacy for children and introduced a wide variety of books to engage the young readers’ imagination and love of reading.

All smiles with his Reading Rainbow App

Well that beloved program is back – in a digital format to best relate with our youngest generation of readers.  On the 20th of June, RRKids relaunched Reading Rainbow as an iPad App. The Reading Rainbow App holds all of its original program’s charm and characteristics simply in a new format – a preferred method for our highly digital world. Below please check out an introduction to the App by Co-Founder and Host LeVar Burton.

Reading Rainbow Intro Video

Posing with LeVar Burton, Co-Founder

“Reading will never go out of style, but the tools used for learning are changing.  I am excited to bring Reading Rainbow back so that parents who watched the show can now share that same feel-good experience with their own children but on a platform that resonates with today’s digital kids.”  LeVar Burton, Co-Founder


This iPad App showcases several clever islands with themes such as Genius Academy, Animal Kingdom and My Family. Each of these islands hold a large variety of digital books based on the theme, age and interest of your child. Books are brought to life with some animation, activities and audio celebrity storytelling include LeVar Burton. In addition to the library of books of over 150, the App maintains the real-life exploration from the t.v. program with 16 exciting video field trip adventures built into the themed islands. This reinvented Reading Rainbow App truly captures the essence of the original television series I grew up with and loved as a child.

Posing with Mark Wolfe, Co-Founder

“Throughout its more than two decades on television, Reading Rainbow enjoyed an exceptional reputations for children’s quality programming. That same focus – bringing together the best, most enriching, content for children, all in one place – is what the RRKisz is all about; now with the Reading Rainbow App and in the future with a wide array of new projects.”  Mark Wolfe, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer


But Parents – there’s more… with the subscription option an online parental resource and dashboard is included to keep track of the books your child read and give you updates on how many hours your child is reading, suggestions for books and summaries to aid with family discussions on the lessons in the books. As parents, we don’t necessarily read every book our child does but with questions and hints made available to us, we can engage in a more interactive experience prompting creative thinking, dialog and literature concepts.

Asra Rasheed, RRKidz CEO

“We’ve created an easy-to-use subscription service for parents, allowing then to unlock the extensive Reading Rainbow library books and videos without the worry of approving and purchasing each item separately.”  Asra Rasheed, RRKidz CEO


The Reading Rainbow iPad App is free to download with access to the library of books, field trip videos and the islands, however, books are limited to one download at a time. The subscription for the iPad App includes multiple book downloads and the parental dashboard/complimentary website. For a limited-time the subscription is offered at an introductory rate of $9.99 monthly or $29.99 for a six month package.
Screen shots of the iPad App:

With the privilege of attending a preview of the App, I was also fortunate to meet the team responsible for this reinvention of Reading Rainbow, including the beautiful and talented Ms. Tina Fabrique, the original voice behind the Reading Rainbow theme song. And who can forget the creative and tasty cake by Carlo’s Bakery, as seen on TLC’s Cake Boss.

Posing with the ever-smiling Tina Fabrique

Cake by Carlos Bakery, as seen on TLCs Cake Boss.


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Frog and Toad Come to Local Theater

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Favorite Children’s Classic comes to theater…

Appel Farm Arts and Music Center of Salem County is offering a theater performance: A Year With Frog and Toad on February 11th at 2 PM.  For ticket information, directions and details please visit their website at : www.appelfarm.org.

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