Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hansel and Gretel

A.'s favorite story these days is Hansel and Gretel, so we decided to spend a week getting more involved with the story.  Her preferred version is the Usborne Books one, which takes a humorously modern approach. I grew up with the Golden Books version-- also fun. Any library worth its salt will have at least five different picture books of Hansel and Gretel, though, and we certainly had fun with the pile we found at ours!

A. loves the story so much that I splurged on her birthday and bought her the Story Box from Steve Light. She loves playing with it, and we reenact the story together, but I'm not exactly sure why the plot needed so much revamping. Without the stepmother, the whole moral of the story changes and Hansel loses his opportunity to show his cleverness, but the kids like it anyway.

A fun, sweet activity that went well with this theme was making sugar cookies in the shapes of the gingerbread house and Hansel and Gretel.

I liked this website with 10 free activities to go along with Hansel and Gretel.  The finger puppets are fun!

Monday, September 16, 2013


A recent road trip to Salzburg inspired me to return to our History of Music series. Mozart is up next!

My chapter book readers loved the Magic Treehouse Moonlight on the Magic Flute, which gave them an opportunity to get to know "little Wolfie" as a child. Who was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a very informative picture book, though a little harder for the little ones to stay focused on.  My personal favorite is the hard-to-find Mozart Finds a Melody, by Costanza. Check your local library!

While in Salzburg we made sure to tour the Mozart Residence as well as Mozart's Birthplace. The latter was the more informative and better for kids, as it included Mozarts childhood violin, period furniture and kitchen, and dioramas of opera scenes as well as a room dedicated to listening to his music.

I've gone on and on about the Classical Kids CDs before, but Mozart's Manificent Voyage deserves its own day in the spotlight. We love listening to the young opera stars as they travel through time to see major events from the composer's life. I'm a huge fan of audio adventures anyway, and it's a fantastic format for including musical masterpieces in the narrative.

For more audible fun on Mozart, check out the Classics for Kids radio show's five different episodes on him and his works. They're short, sweet, to-the-point and informative.

How does Mom celebrate the end of Mozart Week after the kids are in bed? Why, whip out the ol' Oscar-winning Amadeus movie, of course! It's only rated PG, though, so it won't be long until I can share it with my eldest.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Monsters!  Not just for nightmares anymore. This week's bookworm fun centered on the fun, loveable monsters that have become popular in books like Laura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your Monster and Helen Ketteman's Goodnight, Little Monster.  Monster Math, by Anne Miranda, is a fun way to sneak the kindergarten number work in, too.

We did two art projects this week because monsters are a great creative inspiration. Anything goes! 

 This first project explores symmetry and the mixing of colors. We blobbed red, yellow, and blue paint onto one half of a folded sheet of paper and gently mixed them together in the spaces between the blobs. Fold the paper, squish, open and add eyes/ legs as desired.  Voila! This project also fulfilled several requirements for the Cub Scout Art Belt Loop.

Our second craft consisted of making paper bag monsters. I really gave the kids free reign with this one. 

Our monster music playlist includes favorites such as Maybe the Monster (The Wiggles), Monster Boogie (Laurie Berkner), Monster Mash (Pickett), and If You're Scary and You Know It (from the CD "Spooky Favorites"). Check them out, they're lots of fun!

For Pizza, Popcorn and a Movie Night we plan to expand on the monster theme by finally watching Monsters, Inc.  Just have to wait for our hold at the library.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Baroque Music: Handel

This week we're continuing our exploration of baroque music with Georg Friederic Handel, famous German composer who wrote for the British Royal Court. The "Getting to Know the World's Composers" book George Handel tells his biography in an entertaining, kid-friendly manner.

My kids also loved the audio adventure by Classical Kids called Hallelujah, Handel, which we checked out from our local library. Bonus: all of the background music is his work! 

Here are a few more internet resources related to Handel:

Classics for Kids has some lovely short episodes about Handel and his music.

Making Music Fun has a free printable Handel word search for early elementary kids, and Super Coloring has a bust-style coloring page. This PDF from Arts Alive CA includes a biography, interesting cultural references for the period, and a great guide to Handel's major works. 

This unit would be fun to do around Christmas, in conjunction with listening to Handel's Messiah.

Have a great weekend, bookworms!

Monday, February 25, 2013


I know I promised a sequel to our intro to baroque music, but the skies opened up and dumped snow on us and I couldn't resist spending some time on penguins! See our sensory table fun below to see why I'm stoked by the snow.

Our favorite penguin picture book is Usborne's How Big is a Million. Great help with visual math skills!

To get our youngest readers up and moving on a snowy day, the scanimation Waddle and Eric Carle's From Head to Toe feature penguins getting their groove on.

My chapter book reader loves the Magic Treehouse Eve of the Emperor Penguin, and my pre-k son loves to listen to it read on CD. We'll be cracking that one out at bedtime tonight to round off our penguin playtime.

Here's our fun sensory activity with snow: I put a towel on the table, get a bin full of snow from outside the back door, set out a bowl of plastic "ice" and a bowl of penguins, and voila! Snowy indoor penguin fun. Nicole inspired this play set-- check out her version of Icy Penguins, to include a link to kid-safe instant fake snow (not for those who put things in their mouths).

Our art project was to make penguins out of our shoe prints and handprints.  I think they turned out pretty cute! We used oil pastels for the snowflakes and other details.
Storytime Katie has some other great penguin story ideas, to include this cute fingerplay that my kids insisted on doing over and over again:

Fingerplay: “Two Little Penguins”
Two little penguins sitting on the ice (hold up two fingers)
One bows once, the other bows twice (made index fingers bow)
Waddle little penguins. Waddle away. (put fingers behind back)
Come back penguins. Time to play! (bring fingers to the front)
Credit: King County Library System

See you next week!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Baroque Music: Vivaldi

This year I've been devising a History of Music curriculum that started with Gregorian Chant and will end... with ZZ Top? Who knows. At any rate, the first period in which I've found significant resources for kids has been the Baroque, so that's where I'll begin blog posts.

I chose Vivaldi first, not only because his was the first violin concerto I learned, but also because the Four Seasons is such an easy song to use for visualization. See the book,  Vivaldi's Four Seasons, which conveniently includes the CD. It's long, and was better suited for my first grader than my itty bitties.

Another book my kids enjoyed was the slightly less wordy I, Vivaldi.

For listening pleasure, check out these short but sweet  Classics for Kids episodes
on Vivaldi. I wish they were available in podcast form, but we just played them via the computer and everyone in the family learned something new.

Finally, and I've saved the best for last, the Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery CD was available at our local library, and it's a non-stop auditory adventure rich with original music recordings and suspense. Suitable for all ages and fun enough to hear over and over!

I decided to keep the art project simple this week and just played some Vivaldi music in the background while the kids drew what they heard or felt.

A wonderful way to augment this topic would be a trip to Venice, which has long been on my to-do list while we're stationed abroad. Hopefully we'll make it to the Vivaldi Museum!

On the topic of Venice, the Magic Treehouse book Carnival at Candlelight does not include mention of Vivaldi, but is a wonderful source of information on his hometown for chapter readers.

Come back next week as we continue or our inquiry into Baroque music by exploring the life and music of Handel!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I'm back after a long hiatus!  We moved to Germany and I took 2 semesters each of biology and organic chemistry, so blogging took a backseat for a while. Nothing like celebrating our return to bookworm fun with a post about castles, especially since you can't throw a cat without hitting some ruin or other here in Europe.
All three of my kids love this picture book, Over at the Castle, reminiscent of  the old folk song, "Over in the Meadow." Great illustrations; the dragon lovers in my family rejoiced.

For non-fiction we enjoyed the Ultimate Explorer Castles and the eye-popping DK Castle

Finally, my chapter-book reader has been entranced by The Castle in the Attic, by Elizabeth Winthrop. A classic coming-of-age adventure story.

For this week's art project we found a gorgeous oil pastel/ watercolor castle project from our favorite art teacher over at Deep Space Sparkle. I thought cutting it out to put on colored paper would help it stand out even more.

Here's a fun fingerplay from a teacher compilation over at Mrs. Steele's Super Kids:

Here is the Prince with the feathered cap (Boys take off caps and bow) 
Here are his boots that go tap, tap. (Boys march around) 
Here is the Princess with a crown. (Girls touch crowns with both hands) 
Here is her lovely velvet gown. (Girls hold out imaginary skirt and curtsy) 
Here is the castle tall and wide. (Lift arms for tall and wide) 
Here they can play safely inside! (Wraps arms around self and hug self)
Here is her lovely velvet gown. (Girls hold out imaginary skirt and curtsy)
Here is the castle tall and wide. (Lift arms for tall and wide)
Here they can play safely inside! (Wraps arms around self and hug self)

Finally, I couldn't resist augmenting this activity with a little field trip to a local castle outfitted with a youth hostel within its very walls. The place was enormous, the town perfectly charming, and the accommodations perfect for my family. Three bunk beds, ya can't beat that!

I'll try to be back in another week with something out of my new music history project.  Stay tuned!