Through the Gate by Sally Fawcett is the story of a girl who moves to a new house, and gradually finds a home. I love the simple prose and the pattern it follows, repeating without being boring. The illustrations use the contrast between the grey scale and colour beautifully, and it really adds to the story, showing the difference between what the character feels about her new house versus how she feels about the other houses and things she passes on her way to school.
This book is a great story to read and re-read, children can point out the differences in each scene as the house changes bit by bit. A wonderful story for children who have recently moved or will soon move, or children that are going through any kind of changes in their life. it would make a good story to start reading before back to school, as a child starts going to school for the first time or as they go through the changing of classrooms and teachers when entering a new grade.
Book Review: An After Bedtime Story by Shoham Smith. Illustrated by Einat Tsarfati and translated by Annette Appel
In this rhyming story, Mom and Dad get little Nina down to bed…but she doesn’t stay asleep! Who can stay in bed while the adults are having a party in the living room? Mom and Dad try to maintain order while Nina gets one last hug from her Aunt…then a treat…then another treat! The rest of the guests join in on the fun while Mom and Dad try and fail to get Nina back to bed. Once her little sibling wakes up the party is in full swing! Poor Mom and Dad are so tired out from all of the hijinks that they crash on the couch, but their guests are kind enough to let them sleep while they clean up after their wild party.
This strongly reminded me of my relationship with my nieces. I’m giving horsie rides as poor Mom is trying to tell them that the living room isn’t a playground! I guess that’s part of the fun of being an Aunt or Uncle though, right?
I really loved the minimalist colour scheme of this book- everything is done in shades of pink, yellow, black, white and grey. The drawings are so well done however that the pictures are never boring. The illustrator added so many details such as items in the rooms and the expressions on faces, that there’s so much to look at, even without using a lot of colour.
Book Review: Alice & Lucy Will Work for Bunk Beds by Jaime Temairik
This is a sweet story about two bear sisters who enjoy sharing many things…but not everything! When they realize that they need separate beds they come up with the idea to buy bunk beds. They understand that they are going to need some money to buy the bunk beds, so they come up with the idea of getting a job. Luckily for them, their first job interview is successful and they land a job looking after a wedding cake while the baker is away.
When they find out that babysitting a cake is a boring job they decide to have a bake off. Lucy and Alice shows off the differences in their personality when they choose what to make- plain peanut butter cookies for Alice and a jelly pie for Lucy. They also have very different ways of baking- while Alice is neat, precise and cautious, Lucy is messy and throws caution and planning to the wind.
When their arguing over the results of the bake off results in them ruining the wedding cake right before the groom arrives to pick it up, they realize that they need to save the day with a new wedding cake. Alice and Lucy blend together their tastes and talents to create a fabulous new wedding cake! Hopefully everyone will like it.
This was a very heart warming book about sisters finding out that they don’t always have to agree or like the same things, but compromising and working together will get great results. The illustrations were well done, and I really loved the funny details in the pictures, like the industrial strength sprinkles and the buttons on the mixer. This makes it a great family read and a great book to read to a group of children with mixed ages. Alice & Lucy Will Work for Bunk Beds is the first book that Jaime Temairik has written and I’m sure that her future books will be just as fun to read! You can find out more about the author at her website.
The anticipation of looking forward to Christmas has always been one of the best parts of Christmas for me. As a child, one of my favourite Christmas traditions that we had was putting a piece up each night on our felt board advent calendar. As Christmas got closer, the scene was filled out more and more with a palm tree, camels, the three Wise Men, etc. I remember arguing about putting up favourite pieces up, such as the star or the angel.
Today you can find Advent calendars of many kinds, but the easiest ones to find are the cardboard Advent calendars filled with chocolates. With many parents trying to limit the amount of candy that their children get, non candy Advent calendars are getting easier to find.
Here’s my round up of candy free Advent calendars.
I love this charming felt Advent calendar. Each day you add another ornament on the tree as you count down to Christmas!
If you want an Advent calendar that you can fill with your own treats, surprises or notes the festive Gingerbread Square Advent calendar works as both a Christmas decoration and a calendar! Open a drawer each day to see what’s inside as you count down to Christmas. It would be really sweet to fill the drawers with notes written with holiday activities for the family, such as “Write a letter to Santa”, “bake cookies” and “wrap presents”
This “Dream Snow” by Eric Carle pop up Advent Calendar is absolutely gorgeous. Each day you open a window to find a decoration to put on the pop out cardboard tree. This would be an especially sweet Advent calendar paired with a copy of the picture book Dream Snow by Eric Carle as a Christmas gift!
This Melissa and Doug Countdown to Christmas calendar is a great way to encourage children to identify numbers. Each days they can find the current day’s number on the tree and place a wooden ornament on it. This can be reused every year!
There are also lots of options out there if you would prefer to buy a pre-filled Advent calendar. This wooden Advent calendar is a really neat because it comes pre-filled, but you could save it for next year’s Christmas and refill the boxes yourself.
Playmobil sells Advent calendars in different themes such as “Christmas on the Farm” or “Christmas in the Forest”. These include 24 different figures, animals etc that you can also use with Playmobil blocks your child already has. Playmobil has several other Advent calendars with different themes.
If your children are more into Lego than Playmobil, there are multiple options to choose from, for both Lego Friends and Lego City fans. These are great accessories to add to your child’s current Lego!
If your children are too young for Lego, the Little People Advent calendar is a great option. Your child can count down to Christmas by opening one door each day to find a Little People figure or accessory.
This Thomas the Train Advent calendar is the perfect way for little Thomas fans to countdown to Christmas. Each calendar includes 24 mini trains from the Thomas and Friends collection.
If you have an artistic child, or you want an Advent calendar that will encourage creativity, you should check out these Advent calendars that include creative supplies:
Happy Birthday to author Marc Brown! Marc Brown is the creator of the Arthur books. The Arthur books were a favourite of mine when I was a child, and I still enjoy reading them and sharing them with kids today. Although the Arthur character looks different these days than he did when I was a child, he’s still the same fun character.
These days there are many more Arthur books, you can find one for almost any Holiday or event. there is even an Arthur television show that has won 6 Emmy Awards and received 25 Emmy nominations. I don’t always enjoy television shows or movies that are based on books but the Arthur series is a very high quality show that keeps the character and messages of the Arthur books intact.
Here’s some of my favourite Arthur books:
Do you have a favourite Arthur book? Share in the comments!
This is such a fun yet simple activity to encourage children to develop their fine motor skills.
Plastic lacing needles (or regular sewing needles if you are doing this activity with children old enough to use them)
Coloured embroidery thread (or regular thread if using sewing needles)
Make sure you tie a knot in the end of the embroidery thread before you start sewing. If you are doing this activity with younger kids (or if the thread keeps slipping) you can tie the thread onto the eye of the needle after threading it.
Showing the kids how to do a simple straight stitch is an easy way to start. To help them grasp the concept you could draw dashes on the leaves with a pen or marker, but once they get the hang of it they can get creative!
This is a great process oriented activity, and the kids really get into it. I’ve done sewing with kids as young as three and it’s so wonderful to see how quickly they get the hang of it and how strongly they focus on it.
Have you ever tried sewing with children? How did it turn out?
When a monster visits Mrs. Mo’s house, will he be destructive or can he find something helpful to do? This book will make for a fun read aloud, with children joining in on the monster’s actions “Crunch, Munch and Chew!”. Mrs. Mo’s Monster has a funny ending that will give the children a giggle.
The colourful monsters in this book show children how much fun colours can be! The illustrations are colorful and full of texture. I love how the text really matches the flow of the words and the movement of the monsters. These are happy, dancing, bouncing monsters- not scary at all!
Bobby’s teacher, Mrs. Kirby, is an absolute monster! But when he runs into her outside of the classroom, will he see a different side to her? Children will enjoy the entertaining story as much as seeing the subtle changes in the illustrations. Although Mrs. Kirby may seem a little frightening at first, kids will finish the book with a changed heart.
When Albie’s trip to the car wash turns into joining in on a car race with monsters, there’s loads of excitement! This is a fast paced and silly story that manages to sneak in a lesson on teamwork too. The brightly coloured, furry looking monsters in this book are more cuddly looking than scary.
Brave Winifred Schnitzel tries every night to get rid of the monsters that visit. Not because she is scared, but because they keep her awake. Winifred comes up with several clever ideas to chase off the monsters until she comes across the secret to getting rid of them and getting a good nights rest!
What are your favourite monster books for children?
This year I am participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project. This means that I’ll be offering non-candy treats to trick or treaters to support children with food allergies. Children who have an allergy to something like peanuts or milk, commonly found in many chocolates and candy given out at Halloween, will have to miss out on enjoying many of the treats they collect on Halloween night.
By participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project and offering non-candy treats, kids with food allergies or intolerance (or kids who choose not to eat a lot of sweets!) can still get some great treats on Halloween.
I bought a mini pumpkin and painted it. You can paint a mini or regular size real pumpkin, buy a plastic pumpkin and paint it (although some stores are now selling teal pumpkins!) or carve it first then paint it. I think next year I’ll buy a craft pumpkin and paint it because it took a lot of layers of paint to cover the orange. I’ll also be putting up a sign that explains that non-candy treats are available. You can get your own sign on the Food Allergy Research and Education website here.
Some options or non-candy treats to give out are:
Plastic vampire teeth
Halloween pens, pencils or erasers
Or pretty much anything in the party aisle at the dollar store- bouncy balls, noisemakers, mini toys.
For more information on the Teal Pumpkin Project, please visit their website.
I made these party favours for Thanksgiving this year, but they would work for Fall birthdays or Halloween too. They would make perfect jack o’lanterns with faces drawn on them with a black Sharpie!
We only had adults this year at Thanksgiving so I had a hard time thinking of things that adults would enjoy that would fit into a balloon. I put in a paper hat, a lotto ticket rolled up and a pair of googly eye magnets in each balloon. If you are making these party favors for children there’s so many different things that would be easy to add:
The trick to getting your items into the balloon is to stretch the opening of the balloon, and have it held open while you put in your treats. To do this I cut a plastic bottle into a funnel. Try finding a bottle with a mouth that is as wide as possible, it will make putting in the treats easier. I used a Boost bottle.
After I had slid everything inside I blew up the balloon. It take a bit of practice, especially if you’ve added things that are a bit longer, like the rolled up lotto tickets or pens/pencils. irst shake everything down into the bottom of the balloon as much as possible, then pull the neck of the balloon to lengthen it. After blowing it up, tie off the end. I added green curling ribbon to make it look like vines on the pumpkin.
Here are the finished Pumpkin Popper party favours! They’re easy to customize, you can easily change up the treats for different occasions, themes or ages.
If you don’t want to pop them open (especially if you have younger guests who may be afraid of the noise of popping balloons) you can hold the neck of the balloon with one hand and cut a small snip into it with scissors. This will let all the air out, and then you can cut the top off to get the goodies that are inside!
What items would you add if you were making these party favours?
If you’re dressing up three or more children, or your kids are going with friends and are working on their Halloween costumes separately, picking a theme and letting everyone choose their own Halloween costume within the theme is fun. You could choose under the ocean, with the kids dressing up as fish, a shark, or a mermaid. Or how about fruit salad, with every child picking their favourite fruit? There are so many themes to choose from: favourite candy, weather, favourite book characters, solar system, flowers, animals, monsters.
Do your kids or friends prefer dressing up in separate Halloween costumes or organizing their Halloween costumes as a group?