Friday, April 29, 2011


Join us this week for Fun with Fish!

I like Fabulous Fishes because it's full of real fish and well illustrated.  And even though it's mainly nonsense, Lisa Cousins's Hooray for Fish is worth a read for the colorful pictures, plus the kids get a kick out of it.   


Leo Lionni's Swimmy is another classic, a Caldecott honor book with a lesson about overcoming adversity. 

I always love Lois Ehlert's illustrations, and Fish Eyes is no exception.  Bonus:  it's a counting book.

You may wonder why I left out the ever-popular Rainbow Fish this week.  I do love the watercolor pictures, but the not-so-subtle take-home message of the story itself makes me pause.  Sure, sharing is great, but do we really have to give away that which makes us special, in order to be liked?  Does everyone have to be exactly the same?  I haven't completely decided how I interpret Rainbow Fish, so I avoid it altogether for the time being.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on it; please comment below.

Moving on, there are so many great activities for a fish theme.  I made some fish out of craft foam to put in the sensory table, and cleaned out an old aquarium net for S. to use in scooping them up.  I read online about someone putting actual goldfish in the water table, but that seemed just a step too far...  At any rate, we talked about size (big fish and little fish) and color during this activity.

Here's a clever craft I read about on another blog.  It originally came from the Usborne Book of Art, except that they used markers to color the fish.  That would been a better idea, since the paint detracted from the scale effect of the netting.
Anyway, here's how it works.  Cut some fish from aluminum foil. 

Use a net (this one originally held oranges and came from our local grocery store) to create scales by pressing the foil fish into it.  I was lucky and had a bit of special "golden" foil left over from a nice chocolate bar.  In the future I will remember to eat more chocolate, so that we have enough golden foil for special projects like this.

Paint (or use markers).  You can then mount the fish onto a blue sheet of paper or paint an ocean, if you like.

I love the way the scales turned out!

A while back I also sewed a magnetic fishing game.  Several other bloggers shared their easy patterns, and while I can't find the specific one I followed, many of them are similar.  Here's one like what I did, only mine has a layer of batting: Go Fish .  Without the batting the magnets might work a little better, but the fish seem more limp.  Note:  use good, strong magnets-- this is not a time to skimp.

Wanna see something way cool but tons more work?  check out this one: Felt Aquarium Magnets .  You could even use these in a fishing game if you were so inclined.

Then again, you could just buy a plastic game on Amazon.  

When I did a quick search for "fish" in my itunes, a melodious playlist emerged.  Flying Fish from Alphabet Action Songs; Baby Fish and Five Fish Swimming in the Sea  by Dr. Jean (Sings Silly Songs), Three Little Fishes  by Maria Muldaur (Swingin' in the Rain), I Caught a Fish and Five Little Fishies by Pamela Conn (Wee Sing Animals, Animals, Animals) and I Caught a Fish Alive  from Variations on Traditional Pattern songs. 

Heather Forest's song-story The Fisherman and the Magic Fish on her Sing Me a Story album is another gem.

Here's a fingerplay to conclude the post on fish.  Find a ton more HERE.

Five little fishes swimming in a pool.(wiggle five fingers, move arm)
The first fish said, "This pool is cool!" (Shiver and hug yourself)
The second fish said, "This pool is deep." (Use a low voice)
The third fish said, "I want to sleep." (yawn and stretch)
The fourth fish said, "I spy a ship." (hand shading eyes)
Fishing boat comes, line goes kersplash! (throw in line)
Away the five little fishies dash. (fingers "swim" away quickly) 

See you next week!


Friday, April 22, 2011


Happy Easter!  This week's bookworm fun was all about eggs.  My very favorite egg book in the whole world is Chickens Aren't The Only Ones, a great science book on oviparous animals complete with fun rhymes and illustrations.  Keeping with the science theme, Guess What is Growing Inside This Egg has nice actual-size egg comparisons.

The classic Horton Hatches the Egg comes with a subtle moral about responsibility, and The Egg meets all the needs of young fantasy lovers.  All in all, the selection of egg books isn't too bad once you eliminate the fluffy Easter bunny ones.

One fun activity we did this week came from my mom-- she picked up a kit at a museum gift shop.  It's called "Hatch'em" and has a mystery dinosaur inside an egg.  Put the egg in water and the dinosaur begins to "grow," cracking its egg and eventually (sometimes with the help of little fingers) emerging.

Ours was a stegosaurus.

I found a cool sensory table activity in an older book at the library, 2s Experience: Sensory Play.  You fill plastic Easter eggs with colored water (using food coloring).  I filled each half separately and froze them, then added a little water before closing the egg, in an attempt to make the two halves stick together.  This worked pretty well.
Then we brought the plastic eggs out to the water table and talked about how cold they felt.  I used warm water in the table so the ice eventually popped out of the eggs, coloring the water and giving the kids something interesting to feel.  We also talked a little about the way the colors blended.  It was a success, and next time I might do a few more eggs.

Of course we dyed some boiled eggs-- how can you not.  To some we added stickers, and on others we used white crayon for resistance art.  I like the way that turned out.

The other art project this week was to decorate eggs with crayons, markers, fingerpaints, etc.  I picked up a pack of cardboard eggs at Michaels, and T also drew and cut some out himself.

I would have loved to make a paper mache Easter Egg (using a balloon and newspaper) and cut it in half to make a unique type of Easter basket, but we ran out of time.  A friend of mine did that one year and it was fabulous.

We recited Humpty Dumpty this week, and here is one nice fingerplay for eggs:

Ten Fluffy Chickens

Five eggs and five eggs
that makes ten
(hold up ten fingers)
Sitting on top is Mother Hen
(place one hand on top of the other)
Cackle, cackle, cackle
(clap three times)
What do I see?
Ten fluffy chickens,
(hold up ten fingers)
As yellow as can be

Want to watch a bald eagle hatch?  Check out the eagle cam.  My kids were thrilled by this.

Still hungry for more egg fun?  Check out The Best Kids Books.  Also, make your own cascarones like they did at Nirvana Homeschooling. Happy Easter, and come back next week!

Saturday, April 16, 2011


April Showers bring May Flowers!  This week we read books on rain, rain, rain.  Ironically, the weather was as beautiful as you could ask for up until today, when it rained all day to culminate the weeks' activities.

I found gobs of fun rain books.  Here are our top four picks, but I list more at the bottom of this post because there were so many good ones:

I loved the breathtaking verse in Waiting out the Storm.  Chicky Chicky Chook Chook is rollicking fun for even the littlest readers, with great use of onomatopoeia.  Lila and the Secret of Rain is a heart-warming tale about a girl who saved her village by telling the sky her woes, thereby causing it to weep and end the long drought.  Finally, the wordless Rainstorm is fun to explore because the kids can do it all just by looking at the pictures.  It encourages that pre-literacy skill of learning context clues from the visuals.

Theo's teacher did a fun art project for rain.  They used glitter glue for the lightning, blue colored rice for the rain, and cotton balls dipped in black powdered tempera for the clouds.  The clouds continue to be a little messy, but it's still a cool project.

We did something similar at home, with a 3-d umbrella made using an octagon (my mom used a glass as a pattern and we enlarged it).  Notice that it folds up into all triangles.  I cut S's out for him, but T could do his own.

Q-tips in paint for the rain, and I thought newsprint would make cool clouds, so I cut them out in advance.  The kids drew themselves under the umbrellas.

I thought it was done, but the artist was unsatisfied.  He painted the clouds black and added some lightning.

Mom helped him do one with a gingerbread man cookie cutter for himself, which was good cutting practice and helped get the head under the umbrella.

Once upon a time we made a neat rainstick at a friend's house.  They used a packing tube (for mailing maps and such), pounded nails into it, and threw in some beans.  After the kids decorated it with stickers and markers, we covered them up with clear packing tape to reduce risk of the nails coming out.  It was fun!  Here's another version using paper towel tubes at Enchanted Learning.  Or you can buy a kit at Discount School Supply.

Fingerplays for the week:

I thought this one was really cute:
Pitter Pat, pitter pat (drum fingers on floor), the rain goes on for hours. And though it keeps me in the house, it's very (hold hands palms up and closed into fists in front of you) good for (open fists) flowers (lift hands imitating flowers growing up).

And here are some oldie-but-goodies, followed by a funny (?!) one that cracks me up:

Rain, rain, go away;
Come again another day;
Little Johnny wants to play.
(You can replace each child name in this song.)

It's raining, it's pouring;
The old man is snoring.
Bumped his head
And he went to bed
And he couldn't get up in the morning.

It ain't gonna rain no more, no more.
It ain't gonna rain no more,
How in the heck will I wash the my neck
If it ain't gonna rain no more

For more rain fingerplay fun go here.

A great soundtrack for today's activities is the title track to Maria Muldaur's Swingin' in the Rain.  Love it!

My favorite beverage for cold rainy days is cocoa from scratch.  Here's my fairly kid-friendly, Scratch Cocoa in a Jiffy recipe:

- Get out your 1/4 measuring cup.  Use it once in the cocoa and twice in the sugar (for a half cup).  Then fill it part way twice with hot water.  All of this goes in a pot with a dash of salt-- bring just to a boil.  Add four cups of milk and pour some vanilla in the vanilla lid once or twice (adding it to the pot). Heat.  Add marshmallows as desired.

Finally, these are the other rain books we enjoyed.  It's a multi-cultural list:

Rain Play by Cynthia Cotten
The Rain Stomper by Addie Boswell
Monsoon Afternoon by Kashmira Sheth
Rain School by James Rumford (try to read it without crying)
What Makes it Rain?  The Story of a Raindrop by Keith Brandt

** Addendum.  Have a Middle Grade reader?  Check out the book Drizzle by Kathleen van Cleve.  It was a good read-- kept me interested, anyway.  It features a magic rhubarb farm, who can resist?

See you next week for a celebration of eggs!

Friday, April 8, 2011


Time for a Bookworm Roadtrip!  This week we took a trip to Chincoteague, VA in order to explore the home of Misty and see the legendary wild ponies on Assateague.  T and my mom excitedly read Misty of Chincoteague in preparation.  T is a tad young (5) for the book, but I picked up a copy of it on CD at the library so he could re-listen to it a few times for greater comprehension and vocabulary development.

S (3) is definitely too young for Misty, so we found this wonderful picture book at the library for him instead: Susan Jeffers's My Chincoteague Pony.  S fell in love with the featured pony, Painted Dream.

We also found a couple of non-fiction picture books that everyone enjoyed:  Assateague: Island of Wild Ponies, by Larry Points, and Wild Ponies of Assateague by Donna Grosvenor.

All of my babies have loved the Usborne That's Not My... series, and A is no exception.  That's Not My Pony goes well with the Chincoteague trip for infants.  I also include her Indestructible book here because it has a picture of a horse on it and apparently tastes good.  :)

We had a grand time on the islands of Chincoteague and Assateague.   Here is a view of some of the ponies from our car window as we were driving through the national park.  

We also took Spider's boat cruise and enjoyed the local stories as well as more pony sightings:


Here is the statue of Misty in downtown Chincoteague:

If you are traveling to Chincoteague in celebration of Marguerite Henry's book and want the complete experience, do stay at Miss Molly's Inn.  It's where she stayed while writing.  Since I have 3 kids under 6, however, and 2 of them are boys, I chose not to curse the nice bed and breakfast with our presence.  I wish I could say I supported local business and was a good eco-tourist, but we stayed at the Comfort Suites  instead.  Free wireless, pool, breakfast... you know the deal.

We did a number of activities to support pony days and the Chincoteague trip. For dramatic play this week my mom had a cute idea of setting up a pony show and auction with some little plastic toys and a pile of change.  It was a great opportunity to introduce the names of coins (for S) and some simple addition (for T).

When we got home I tossed the ponies into a sensory tub with some hay.  Well, guinea pig hay, but hay nonetheless.  Later I'll feed the leftovers to the critter.

T kept a journal of our trip.  He drew tons of pictures that I put together into a book; here are a few of them. The green jeep features prominently.  Notice the pile of pony poop we saw on the road.

This sock horse craft was a fun activity for T.  All I used was some felt for ears, a sharpie for eye and nose holes, a bit of ribbon, and a leftover dowel rod.  Well, and an old sock of mine.  Later we might go back with some yarn and add a mane, but he likes it like this for now.  Its name is Sockpony.

In closing, here are a few fun bounce games, fingerplays and poems about ponies.  Baby especially loved the first one:

I have a little pony, her name is Macaroni (bounce on knee)

She trots and trots and then she stops (dramatic stop for long enough for baby to notice)
Funny little pony (trot gently), Macaroni (hug and rock back)

I had a little pony 
that trotted up and down.  
I bridled him and saddled him 
and rode him out of town!

Ride A Pony(bounce baby on knees) 
Ride a pony, ride a pony 
Into town, 
When you get there, 
Don’t fall down!(drop baby gently down) 

I found this cute galloping chant, where kids gallop around the room, at preschool rainbow:

Galloping, galloping, galloping,How fast my pony can go,
When he's tired we'll come home,
Slow, slow, slow.

Ten Little Ponies
Ten Little Ponies in a meadow green,
(Hold up ten fingers)
Ten little ponies, friskiest ever seen,
They go for a gallop,
(gallop hands)
They go for a trot
(trot hands)
They come for a halt in the big feed lot
(keep hands still)
Ten little ponies fat and well fed
Curl up together in a soft, straw bed.
(close up fingers in hand)

Want another gorgeous horse craft made from your child's footprint?  Check out this one at funhandprintart.

I'm not sure yet what we'll do next week.  Maybe we'll stick to the themes from our trip and do seashells, or maybe I'll return to some spring motifs.  Come back next week to find out!