Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dinosaurs Everywhere!

Dinosaurs Everywhere!!!!! 

 I have always been amazed at how dinosaurs engage young children.  I remember the first time a pre-schooler started to tell me all the names of the dinosaurs in the classroom toybox.  Then I was even more impressed when he was able to point to the names of the dinosaurs on the classroom chart.  I wish I knew how to keep students engaged in this way in all of their learning.  
When I see students entering college underprepared and not motivated, I wonder what happened to turn them away from that enthusiastic learning I witnessed in toddlers.  

I do know that Jane Yolen and Mark Teague have truly captured the hearts of children and adults with their "How Do Dinosaurs..?" series.  I love each and every one of these books.  Mark Teague's illustrations are sheer genius.  He seems to know exactly what readers want to see in his artistry.  Jane Yolen's themes are humorous and eternal!
The "How Do Dinosaurs...?" series has become so popular among children and teachers because they can be used to teach a variety of topics and they are so much fun!  The repetition and the rhyme help keep children engaged in the books as they become excited to say the next line.  I love the labeled illustrations that allow us to learn the names of the dinosaurs.

These books are great for my son has so many dinosaur toys and figures.  We would try to find the toy version of the dinosaur that is on each page in the book.  Eventually he would play with his dinosaurs by having them reenact the scenes from the books.  He especially liked "How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night".  I think he realized that he acted similarly to some of those Dinos and it always made him laugh.

Counting books are always great to have around while children are learning their numbers.  Toddlers are so fast to show off what they have learned and "How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten" is a great way for them to show off their counting skills.  The objects in the book are ones that most children have and can easily be found so they can use the same objects as the dinosaurs to practice their counting.

Here are some ideas for the Dinosaurs in your life !
The titles link to the websites.

Reading Rockets has an outstanding collection of themes, book lists (both fiction and nonfiction), and connected activities to use throughout the summer. Dinosaurs is just one of the many theme areas

Buddy and Tiny learn that they have different types of teeth
PBS offers a collection of dinosaur lesson plans.  These lesson plans use dinosaurs to help students explore the natural world.  The students apply scientific principles to develop a broader understanding of, and connection with nature.  These lessons are easily adaptable.


Glorious Treats offers an adorable dessert of dirt, worms, and dinosaurs!


Mom on Time Out created a wonderful after school snack.  I just love this!!!!

Martha Stewart has created a recipe for Fossil Cookies which would be intriguing to bake and delicious to eat!


Math at Home
Math at Home provides a great counting lesson connected to "How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten?"  There are many extensions as well.

 Mandy at The Haps created this terrarium of dinosaurs.  She promises it will never die like a plant terrarium.      

The Naughty Secretary Club offers a tutorial for creating your own dinosaur dig in ice!  What a creative way to keep children cool and busy in the summer!


Alphabet Soup lists many songs, poems, and fingerplays that can extend this theme.

Dinosaur Party Table setting is so cute.

Party Wishes created this wonderful tablescape for a Dinosaur themed party.  What a terrific idea!

"Good night.  Good night, little dinosaur."
Jane Yolen & Mark Teague, "How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?"

 Share It Saturday

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happiness in The Secret Garden

Happiness in The Secret Garden


I simply love being in a beautiful garden.  Whether it is just sittingstrolling, or sweating as I am cleaning and planting.  For me, there is something so very special about nature and, in particular, flora and fauna.  As a little girl, I loved the story of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. 

Janet Allison Brown has retold The Secret Garden for little ones in a picture book illustrated by Graham Rust.

One of the underlying themes of the story is the way that happiness begets happiness.  What a wonderful thought!  It is impossible to always be happy, especially in the face of adversity.  However, can we just try to find the blessings in life and be happy so that everyone we touch will experience that happiness?
Burnett Memorial Fountain Central Park, NY
The Secret Garden is one of those classic novels that will always be sentimental to me because of how much I loved it when I was an adolescent.  The idea of a secret place whose "magical" powers can help us find happiness after heartache is one I think we all wish we possessed. 

I think it is important that we have such a place where we can go to feel rejuvenated.  For some it may be the beach, for others, it may be a spa, and for still others it may be a room in the home.  No matter where our "Secret Garden" may be, we need that space to call our own and to use the magic to lift our spirits.  For some reason, it is easier to believe in the magic of a setting than it is to realize that we can control our own happiness.  That is the lesson we learn from Mary and Colin.
 I also find it fascinating that a little bit of responsibility in one's life can lead to happiness.  Mary takes on caring for the neglected garden and then for Colin.  This gives her a sense of purpose that completely changes her character.  This is a lesson we can easily teach our little ones with the reponsibility of a garden.

Brown's version of The Secret Garden shows children that it is okay to seek out a "magical" place of their own where they can learn to cope with negative feelings.  I am finding this happening to my son after the birth of my daughter.  At 5 years apart, my son finds he prefers the quiet of his room to the screaming baby in the living room.  Although I may feel sorrow about his desire to be alone, he assures me that he "just wants some alone time".....words from a 5-year-old!

Here are some ideas for The Secret Garden!
The titles link to the websites.

Teacher Link provides an interdisciplinary unit of study on The Secret Garden.

Family Gardening 
The Kids Gardening website provides great ideas to help your children enjoy growing their own garden.

Kaboose offers a tutorial for making a Birdfeeder with little ones.     

 Key Wind Chime
If Mary had not found the key, she would not have been able to enter the Secret Garden.  This craft using recyclable materials is dedicated to that moment.  This would look wonderful with antique keys.

The Secret Garden
You can visit Free Classic AudioBooks website to download a free audio version of The Secret Garden.  There are many other classic audio books to download as well.

Crowd-Pleasing Tea Sandwich Recipes

Kara's Party Ideas has wonderful ideas for a little girl's Secret Garden Party.

Tea Time Sandwiches
All the girls in our family love to go to Afternoon Tea!  Southern Living has provided delicious recipes for tea sandwiches.  Any or all of these would be great for a Secret Garden Tea Party!

Of course, with tea parties there are always sweets!  One of my favorite "go to" recipes for a sweet tea treat is Ina Garten's lemon squares.  They truly are the BEST! 

"If you look the right way,
you can see that the whole world is a garden."
― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Tell Us About Your "Secret Garden"!

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mothers and Creativity

In Honor of Those Who Mother Us 
and Inspire Our Creativity!


Martha Alexander used soft pencil and watercolor for her illustrations.  Her illustrations capture childhood beautifully and magically.  James Rumford met Martha when she was in her eighties, before she passed away.  She left the manuscript for Max and the Dumb Flower Picture with James Rumford.  He finished Martha's illustrations for the book.  I am very grateful he did!

Martha has two children, eight grandchildren, and ten great-grandchildren!
Max and the Dumb Flower Picture is a wonderful reminder that we must cultivate creativity in our children.  Max defiantly defends his creativity by designing his own beautiful flower picture for Mother's Day.  His creativity inspires his whole class and his teacher!

Max reminds me of a friend of mine.  We always talk about how I was the kind of kid who colored everything the way it was supposed to be with the right colors.  She was the complete opposite.  She colored pictures with almost every color in the box and it never looked the same as any other picture.  I do not know if there is any correlation; but, as an adult, she has become much more creative than I am in every category from cooking to clothing to crafts!  So to be on the safe side, I try to encourage my son's creativity as much as possible! 
 Here are some ideas to spark creativity!
The titles link to the websites.
Apex Art has a post of kindergarten art work based upon paper mosiacs and watercolor flowers that is simply adorable.


Impressionist Marker Paintings

Dick Blick offers many creative lesson plans for students.  This lesson encourages students' creativity by using markers in painting impressionism.
Impressionistic Marker Painting

Flower Snacks 
My 5-year-old loves when I make him these "special" snacks with his favorite fruit.  Spoonful has a truly creative flower fruit snack!
Flowers Made of Fruit 
Kings Foods offers another creative snack that children will enjoy.
  Tortilla flower snack for kids 
Butterfly Cupcakes
Martha Stewart provides a thorough tutorial for creating these glorious butterfly cupcakes.  These certainly can spark our creativity and would be great for Mother's Day!

MoMA Apps 
The Museum of Modern Art in NY has its own Apps and Websites for children and families.  Children of all ages can use the Art Lab App to create their own art!

Art Museums
Bank of America offers free admission to local museums.  They have 150 cultural institutions participating in 94 cities in 31 states across the United States. Many local art museums have classes for all age groups, including special events and activities for "Mommy and Me", and homeschooling groups.

Quiet Art Space
For children like Max, who need a private, quiet place to create their works of art, House to Home offers a wonderful solutionThis takes a small footprint, but offers a lot of versatility.

Child's work area | Children's rooms | Design ideas | Image | Housetohome 

 We wish all Mothers and all of you who inspire creativity in our children a very 
Happy Mothers' Day!
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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

We Are All The Same - Cinco de Mayo

In Celebration of Cinco de Mayo
Too Many Tamales
by Gary Soto 

I believe that we can find common themes in every culture and in every book that is written about cultures.  For instance, children are children no matter their heritage.  The picture book Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto is a wonderfully funny story about Maria who places her mother's diamond ring on her finger.  What follows in truly a picture of what children do to work their way out of trouble.

I really enjoy Gary Soto because of his ability to capture the innocence in adolescent-aged children.  The topics in his stories can easily remind us of our own coming-of-age experiences, as well as make all readers feel as if they can relate to his writing.  It is for this reason his stories are included on young adult reading lists.

The same holds true for the story of Maria in Too Many Tamales.  We have all found ourselves in a similar predicament in which we try everything to avoid getting into trouble.  And although it may seem nerve-wrecking at the time, those are the instances that we can look back and enjoy a good laugh.  I think that is why we can read about Maria and both sympathize and giggle.

Although the story is set at Christmastime, it really sends a universal message about the importance of family and the bond that we have with one another...a great prequel to a unit on Cinco de Mayo or Mothers' Day!

 Here are some ideas for Cinco de Mayo!
The titles link to the websites.

Cinco de Mayo Video 
This video teaches students about the meaning of Cinco de Mayo.


Shake Things Up provides a tutorial for these adorable Maraca Cookies.  Fun to make and delicious to eat.  A great treat for children and adults with a sweet tooth!

Spark People has a kid-friendly tamale recipe.

Share My Lesson has a wonderful unit of study about Cinco de Mayo that aligns with the Common Core StandardsYou can register for free to access units of study.     

Teacher Vision provides a lesson plan on inferencing using Soto's book.

Truffles that taste just like CHURROS! Perfect for Cinco de Mayo

Churro Truffles
Pizzerie has created a truffle for Cinco de Mayo that has the same flavors as the ever-loved Churro, fried-dough pastries rolled in sugar and cinnamon.   They are so easy to make.  Since they are mini you can have one (or ten) without feeling guilty!

Tell Us About How You Will Celebrate 
Cinco de Mayo!

Linking to:
Foodie Friday
Share It Saturday
On the Menu Monday
Tasty Tuesday
Homemaking Party 
Say It Two Ways Thursdays