Thanksgiving Picture Books for Children.

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There are so many things to be thankful for. I’m realizing just how quickly the days, weeks, and months pass, especially when you’re raising a kid (or kids!). I try to remember to look to my toddler to slow me down. My favorite, favorite time of day is bedtime when I’m trying to settle her. She always asks me to look out the window. I’ll admit, there are days that I get annoyed by this. I feel so guilty typing that, but it’s true. I’m exhausted, frustrated and I’ve been with her ALL DAY (I’m an only parent). I’ve missed some deadlines for work or didn’t get to the laundry I intended to do. I’m spent and I just want her to sleep already. But then she says, “I see a crescent moon. What does mommy see?” and I melt. Because she genuinely wants to know what I see and because I’m her world. And there will be a day when I’m a much smaller piece of her world.

So it’s November and a month for thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I like it more than Christmas. I like it because I have really fabulous memories of my loud family talking over one another while I gnawed on a turkey leg in just my undershirt so I didn’t get my dress dirty. Family means the world to me – both my biological and chosen. The people we surround ourselves with are everything. I want my daughter to have these memories and I want her to be thankful for what she has, because (even if, as a parent I want her to have so much more) she has a lot.

I’m not sure if this intro is even completely relevant, but it is why I want to children’s books that teach gratitude and kindness. That teach readers to be thankful and appreciative for what you have and who you are.

the-big-orange-splotMy first choice is The Big Orange Splot. I have a lesson plan post in the works dedicated to this book, because I love it so much. It might be an odd or unassuming choice, but I believe that it teaches the reader to embrace our individuality. To appreciate what makes us unique – which is an incredibly important and (in my opinion) undervalued lesson and also an act of kindness. It’s at the heart of what I want for my daughter. I want her to ooze her individuality and to be surrounded by people who love, accept and embrace her for that. Families are made up of all different ‘types’ and we accept, support and love one another. It’s a valuable lesson to accept people for who they are and how they express themselves. It’s also important to let children know that they are always free to be who they are.

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The Giving Tree. I mean, come on, how could I not put this on the list! It’s a book that still makes me cry. I recently read a parenting article about carrying our kids (a debate about when is ‘too old’) and the author said to her child, “you’ll never be to old for me to carry you, just to big.” I love that. It’s such a beautiful thought and in a weird way it reminded me of The Giving Tree. A classic for children and adults.

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The Thankful Book. I love Todd Parr for his other stories, so I was very happy to stumble on the this children’s book. One of the first books I purchased for my daughter (before she was born) was The Family Book. His illustrations are simple, colorful and fun and his messages are that of kindness and acceptance. It’s a wonderful Thanksgiving choice for your little pre-schooler.

AwesomeBookofthanks

An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton. Aside from it’s whimsical illustrations (what initially appealed to me) this book breaks the act of being thankful down in a very concrete way. There are so many wonderful tiny moments in this book, I don’t know where to begin! Clayton mentionsbeing grateful for “balls to kick and kites to fly and places to go when you want to cry”. But my favorite quotation reads, “It’s so easy we see these things everyday to forget to say thank you in every way.” This sentiment ties into ending each night with acknowledging the moon and stars and trees with my daughter, as we look out the window together.

GoodPeopleEverywhere

Good People Everywhere by Lynea Gillen & Kristina Swarner is an uplifting story that encourages readers to see the good in everyone. It’s a refreshing book reminding children of the kindness in the world and within themselves. Something about this book really speaks to me. Maybe it’s negativity is so often highlighted in the media and emphasis is not placed on the ‘good people’. Whatever it is, it’s a must read for families who want to pause and take in the kindness.

What are YOUR favorite books for giving thanks. I want to know!

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Help! My child hates to write: Pre-writing Activities for Kids

IMG_9977A friend of mine recently came to me with a problem – her pre-schooler hates to write. My first thought was, “She’s 4! Of course she hates to write. What on earth is she writing anyway?” But deep down I guess that I get it. Writing is important and I know it’s a skill that is expected of pre-school aged children. Do I agree with this? Nope. Personally I think that children shouldn’t be expected to use their fine motor skills this precisely until their gross motor skills are more developed. But back to the task at hand (no pun intended).

The bottom line is kindergartners and pre-schoolers are expected to write, whether they’re ready or not. Which leaves us with the question: What can parents do to practice writing and ease the frustration that may come with the task? Let’s start by finding activities that your child will enjoy and that are age-appropriate. Keep in mind that writing skills are naturally developed and strengthened during almost all play activities. Even infants reaching for a toy or picking up a cheerio for the first time are working on developing the muscles necessary to write. So simply playing catch or building blocks with your child can help them develop motor skills that are associated with writing, without mention of the dreaded word ‘write’.

Here is a list of fun activities that can help your child work on these skills, regardless of where they are in their writing abilities.

(1) Build with play dough! Squeezing, rolling, pushing, molding and pinching are all great ways to strengthen the hand muscles necessary for writing. Want to sneak in some letter identification? Use alphabet cookie cutters or roll the dough into ‘snakes’ be shaped into letters. Even my one year old loves identifying and tracing clay letters with her fingers. This is a great way to explore letter shapes, while strengthening hand muscles.

(c) 2015 Creative and Curious

(2) Though it’s definitely not necessary to purchase items, my daughter LOVES this Helping Hands Fine Motor Tool Kit! She uses the tools with enthusiasm in the sand box, water table or the bath!

Helping Hands

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(3) Another fun product (the holidays are coming!) is the Boogie Board Play N’Trace. It’s sort of like a high tech Magna Doodle. It can be used to write/draw or trace. There is a downloadable iPad app. We were given one as a gift and I think it is pretty awesome! I’m saving it for our next long car ride or restaurant trip. It’s a great quiet toy.

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(4) Multi-sensory writing practice is a fun, tactile way to encourage writing. This would include drawing in shaving cream, sand, pudding, finger paint, etc. Start simply with pre-writing shapes such as circles, vertical lines (top to bottom) and horizontal lines (left to right) before moving into letters. Rather than simply verbalizing your direction (“draw a circle”) use magnet letters or flash cards  (can be hand drawn as I’ve done) as a visual prompt. This way, your child is solely focused on the writing and not having to multi task, recalling which letter/shape you’re asking for!

(C) 2015 Creative and Curious

(C) 2015 Creative and Curious

(5) Make a letter ‘road’ to ‘trace’ with cars! Using large paper or side-walk chalk, draw a roadway in the shapes/letters you’re targeting. Let your child drive their favorite cars along the letters. This activity was a huge hit. Side note: we are definitely a Peppa Pig household…

(c) 2015 Creative and Curious

To sum things up, if your child is frustrated start by approaching writing with anything BUT a pen or pencil! Give them markers, play dough, crayons, paint brushes, scratch art, oil pastels,Wikki Stix, a Magna Doodle… really ANYTHING other than the pencil and paper they associate with writing for school. Keep in mind that their fine motor skills may not be there yet (and that’s okay) so try working with basic shapes/lines and on a larger scale (sidewalk chalk letters). Most importantly, keep it engaging and fun.

These are just a few suggestions that can be done at home. Here is a Pinterest board of additional activities you can try!

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Water WOW!

WaterWow

(photo courtesy of MelissaandDoug.com)

Since my early speech therapist days, I’ve been big a fan of Melissa & Doug toys. I think they are all around fantastic educational toys for kids. One day, while browsing my local Once Upon A Child, I stumbled upon a Water Wow book. My daughter was around ten months old then, but has had a love for painting since she was about four months, so I couldn’t pass up trying one out. We were about to take our first plane ride in a few days and I thought it would be a perfect distraction for travel!

I didn’t realize the instant love I would have for these books. Fast forward a year later and I’m pretty sure we own all of the books and splash cards they offer. They’re great for car trips and restaurants and they are always a hit with other children on play dates.

They feature a brush that holds water in its body. When you paint on their pages, an image or colors appear. When it dries, they disappear. It’s pretty genius and provides hours of entertainment for my now 22 month old.

I don’t know why more parents don’t know about these gems. Every time I give one as a gift, they’re a huge hit at the party and parents are always asking where I found them! They claim ages 3+,  but you’ll find as I post more about my favorite items, I don’t really follow those guidelines. I’d say they’re a great gift for any child!