Archive for the ‘children’ Category

Write a Review Wednesday: Where’s Walrus?

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Zero Kisses for Me. This week we looked at Scholastic‘s Where’s Walrus (age 3-7) written and illustrated by Stephen Savage. I have to thank Dina at Big Honcho Media for my review copy.

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Walrus gets tired of life in the zoo; it’s boring. When the zoo keeper isn’t looking he escapes into the outside world. Walrus tries to blend in to the world around him, trying to hide from the zoo keeper hot on his tail. But eventually Walrus’ identity is revealed and in a glorious way that gives the zoo keeper an idea.

Where’s Walrus is a wordless picture book. Although wordless picture books are a great tool for young kids, encouraging them to tell their own story based on the pictures, I’m usually not a big fan of them; they’re just not a style of book I prefer. But Where’s Walrus impressed me differently. Perhaps it was the simple 2D illustrations or the clever story told without words that grabbed my attention but I enjoyed going through Where’s Walrus as much as my 4 and 6-year old did.

Where’s Walrus is sort of like a Where’s Waldo style though Walrus is much easier to find. My kids loved to ‘hunt’ for Walrus, pointing him out on each page, laughing at how silly he was trying to be a dancing girl in a stage show or a mermaid in a fountain. I love a good story that’s probably why most wordless stories don’t appeal to me; they don’t seem to have any real story just related images to encourage your own story. The lack of words in Where’s Walrus didn’t detract from the story but still left room for your imagination and your own rendition of what was happening.

This book trailer doesn’t give away any part of the story but it does give you a feel for the book’s fun:

You can add a copy of Where’s Walrus to your own library by visiting your local bookstore or Scholastic. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. What are you reading with your kids?

Write a Review Wednesday: Zero Kisses for Me

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox. This week we’re all about love with Valentine’s Day around the corner so we’re reviewing Tundra Books Zero Kisses for Me (age 4-7 ) written by Virginie Soumagnac and illustrated by Manuela Monari. I have to thank Sylvia at Tundra Books for my review copy.

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It’s hard being the little one in the family;everyone always wants to give you kisses, especially your mom. She sends you out in the rain. Kisses. She gives you a hug. Kisses. One little boy has had enough; he’s worn out by the end of the day after all those kisses. He tells his mom that from now on he wants no more mushy kisses. Not ever. But at bedtime, when his mom obliges his wishes, something isn’t quite right. Could it be he’s missing his kisses?

As my kids get older I know there will be some resistance to mom kisses; I’m already seeing this from my 8-year old daughter. I think as kids get older they feel, just like the boy in Zero Kisses for Me, that big kids don’t need to get kisses all the time; kisses are for babies. I think that’s why I loved this book so much. My kids are always trying to be ‘bigger’ and going to bed without a goodnight kiss is one of those things big kids do, so many kids think. Both the words and illustrations do a great job depicting how a young child is caught between wanting to be grown-up and not be coddled and kissed all the time while at the same time wanting to remain little and protected by their parents. All 3 of my kids could relate to both sides of the boys reaction.

When the boy has difficulty sleeping, after not getting his usual bedtime kiss, he is comforted again by lots of kisses from his mom. Reading Zero Kisses for Me segued nicely into talking about growing up and kisses and respecting personal space (such as maybe not giving too many kisses goodbye in the school yard but lots for good nights and good mornings).

If you want to add a copy of Zero Kisses for Me to your personal library, visit your local bookstore or Tundra Books. For other great book ideas for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts. I also included Zero Kisses for Me in a list of book for kids based on the topic of love. Checkout EverythingMom‘s Everything Love section to see what other books are on the list. What are you reading with your kids?

Taking Your Heart to Heart

When you think of February you probably think about Valentine’s Day, sending thoughts of love to those near and dear to us. February is also Heart Month, a time to focus on our heart, taking care of our heart, loving our heart.

Sure, I know my heart is important, I don’t think anyone would dispute that, but do I do anything about it? I think I’m like most people, taking my heart for granted. I’m young(ish). I exercise, though maybe not as regularly as I should. I try to eat healthy. I drink the occasional glass of wine. But I’m too young to really worry about a stroke. My job isn’t stressful enough to be that concerned about a heart attack. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way.

But that all changed on Thursday.

The office secretary at my children’s school died suddenly after suffering a heart attack.

I couldn’t believe the news when I heard it. The secretary and I didn’t get along that well (I wrote about our encounter one morning), but my kids liked her; they dealt with her every day and she was pleasant to them, usually. My feelings aside, I would never wish something so terrible to befall her. My older kids were upset about the whole event but it did give me pause to think. It reminded me that life is short; no matter what your age, death comes far too soon. There’s always things we plan on doing ‘someday’. This whole experience reminded me that you have to enjoy what you’re doing now; do what you want to do now. It’s one reason my husband is changing jobs, to live a better quality of life and spend more time with his kids. It was a message we passed on to our kids by making time to enjoy things now, take trips together as a family, telling each other often how much we love each other and appreciate each other.

Taking care of your heart emtionally is important, being happy and sharing love, but physically taking care of your heart is key too.

Eat healthy.
Exercise regularly.
Stop smoking.
Don’t do things in excess.

These are just a few things the Heart and Stroke Foundation suggests as preventative ideas on their site The Heart Truth. This is a great site to find out the warning signs and evaluate your risk. Making changes can be easier said than done but the Heart and Stroke Foundation has a program, Heartbeats, which will set out a whole healthy heart plan for you for the year, delivering an achievable step once a week right to your inbox.

My kids are still young. I want to be around a long time to experience everything with them. That means I need to take care of my heart. Taking care of my heart means my heart will take care of mean. That’s not a bad trade off is it.

Happy Heart Month!

The Death of a Bedtime Buddy

When you have kids you sort of expect you’ll have a few years of sleepless nights but after the infant stage the novelty of waking up at night (for me at least) starts to wear off, quickly. My 4-year old hasn’t slept through the night since, well, forever. Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but the solid nights have been few and far between.

To try to appease my daughter I had given her a musical lamb that my mother-in-law had given my oldest daughter (she found it at some sale). My two older kids had no real interest in the lamb so it’s just sat on the shelf but my youngest daughter is more of a stereotypical child; she would play with toys they way manufacturers designed them to be played with (and a majority of other kids play with them). My older two were never like that as kids.

I gave the daughter the lamb, which she could wind herself, and she loved it. She would play it over and over until she fell asleep. The best part of course, no 1 a.m. wake-up call. I was feeling pretty good about this new routine so of course something had to go wrong.

Tonight as I’m getting my 4-year old into bed, I pulled out the lamb, ready for the start of an easy, solid night sleep. I tuck my daughter in, lamb resting in her arms. My daughter is in a defiant ‘I can do it’ stage so of course I didn’t even suggestion winding the lamb for her. I left to say goodnight to my son and check on my oldest daughter only to hear wailing down the hall. My 4-year old was upset that she couldn’t wind up her lamb. I tried and it wouldn’t wind either. And it wouldn’t play. I tried to find something else to entertain her but it didn’t matter, it wasn’t her lamb buddy. I sat with her as she tried to settle, sniffling and sighing between tears.

The lesson I should have walked away with: maybe teaching my daughter to rely on a toy to help her sleep isn’t the best option.

The lesson I ended up walking away with: I need to buy my daughter a new musical lamb.

Hey, if something works for you, why change it (if only the lamb still worked).

Lookout, It’s an Xbox Christmas

You would think with both a Wii and PS3 we would have enough gaming paraphernalia in our home. Well, you’re wrong of course. After my kids and I experienced the new Kinect from Xbox we were eager to add it to our collection. Thank goodness Santa pulled through (gotta love that guy). It was easy to set-up, though we had to find our own HDMI cable since the console doesn’t include one, and the kids were right into it.

We didn’t get any games but the Kinect bundle comes with the Adventure game so we could start playing right away. And the kids did and have been playing since Christmas morning. It’s amazing to see how active my kids can get playing a video game. Gone are the stereotypes of sitting slouched on the couch building up callouses on the thumb. Now I need to get a faster camera.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 22 – Christmas Wrapping Tube Craft

My kids love doing crafts, even my 6-year old son, so I knew for one of our 25 Days of Christmas activities I would have to work in some craft ideas. I was going to pick one of the great Christmas crafts found on EverythingMom‘s site but as I was wrapping gifts I had another idea. My wrapping used up a lot of paper from last year which meant I was left with a few of those cardboard rolls the paper was stored on, 6 rolls to be exact. I was going to put them in the recycling bin when I had an idea: Wrapping Paper Tube Garlands.

I cover the dining room table with newspaper since this craft would have the kids painting. We received a sample of Faber-Castell’s Young Artist Texture kit that included primary paint colours as well as 6 brushes with unique heads on them for making patterns and my 4-year old has been bugging to use it so this activity was perfect. I also brought out the Reeves Oil Pastels (I love these).

The kids each had their own wrapping paper tube to paint and colours as much as little as they wished. The experimented with the different pattern brushes but of course just plain paint brushes would have worked too.

Aft the tubes dried I cut them into shorter lengths using scissors. The actual lengths don’t really matter and because I’m not a big measuring type of person our pieces ended up in all sort of different sizes which I actually liked. We used thinner rolls so they were easier to cut, however, I still did the cutting.

With a single hole punch I cut a hole in the each end and then tied a piece of ribbon through the holes. I just repeated this until either all the ribbon was gone or all the tubes were connected.

Then the kids strung their garland around the tree. They loved pointing out which segment was one they painted. I love it on the tree too. And our recycle bin isn’t as full. If you’re looking to keep the kids occupied and distracted today, checkout these other fun holiday crafts on EverythingMom.

Merry Christmas!
How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

Write a Review Wednesday: Christmas Delicious

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed A Porcupine in a Pine Tree. This week, with Christmas just days away, we’re reading Blue Apple Books Christmas Delicious, written by Lyn Loates and illustrated by Mark Jones. I have to thank Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.

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Raisin and Rice are two mice who were once hungry and poor. But now living in the storeroom of the Zanzibar’s Deli they never want for food, enjoying lamb and ham and cheese and more. With Christmas approaching they decide to celebrate with a feast and set out gathering and brewing and baking. Christmas day arrives and Raisin and Rice dress in their finest ready to enjoy what they had prepared but something is missing. It’s not the goodies or decorations, it was their friends. They went out and invited all their old friends to join them and had the merriest Christmas ever.

Christmas and food go so well together; that’s what appealed to me first about this book, Christmas Delicious. Although I’m not a fan of mice living and eating in a deli my kids didn’t seem to mind. But then they think of mice as humanized characters and Raisin and Rice do share their wealth with their less fortunate friends. Written in rhyme, Christmas Delicious is a very lyrical read, almost coming out as a song. Mice aside, I do love the message of sharing with friends, that no matter how much you have you don’t get the same joy out of it unless you can share that joy with someone else. It’s a wonderful message for Christmas and all year-long.

The illustrations fill the pages with warm Christmas colours. My 3 kids loved the story of the animals enjoying Christmas together, especially Christmas that involves food.

You can add a copy of Christmas Delicious to your personal library by visiting your local bookstore or Raincoast Books. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday posts.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 18 – Tree Decorating for the Birds

I know I’ve said this many times but we really are fortunate to live beside a huge natural park right here in the middle of the city. And even greater, is the High Park Nature Center located in High Park. They offer great programs for kids, families and schools. They demystify nature and bring it closer to kids, the next generation to care for and respect our symbiotic relationship with one another.

In time for winter, the Nature Center ran their wonderful Tree Decorating for the Birds workshop so as part of our 25 Days of Christmas I took all 3 kids over to participate.

I’m always amazed how the program leaders remember my kids by their names. It’s been awhile since we’ve gone and I’m sure they see many kids but it’s a wonderful feeling for the kids and shows the involvement the staff takes with the kids involved with their programs.

When we arrived the room was set-up with 5 workstations on big tables. Each station covered a decoration you were to make for the trees in the park. But these were typical decorations, like paper chains or pipe cleaner candy canes. The purpose of these decorations were to give the animals of the park food for the cold winter that lays ahead of them.

The first station the kids visited had them making Garlands. Long pieces of thread were precut and knotted and a needle hung on the other end. Around the table were bowls filled with popcorn, cranberries, apple pieces, Cheerios and orange segments. We quickly discovered that Cheerios weren’t the best item to put on the chain first (they slipped right off the sting and needed something bigger on the end) and that popcorn is harder to string than you think. My 4-year old managed her needle pretty well on her own, carefully pushing it through the different items for her chain. After about 10 pieces she was ready to move on to the next station. My 6 and 8-year-old however  wanted to finish their chains right to the end of the rope.

Each child was given a plastic plate to place their crafts on as they moved from station to station. I took my 4-year old to the next station which was making Seed-Head Bouquets. She clipped a few seed heads and bunched them together. I held her bunch while she wrapped a piece of string around the stems. I tried to let her do the crafts as much as she was able. The idea was for the kids to make the decorations and although I could have done things faster or easier my kids were getting more enjoyment out of doing each thing on their own.

After the Seed Bouquet we moved on to Yuletide Logs. This was a messy one. My e-year old took at popsicle stick (it had to be the purple one) and worked on spreading lard all over a stick, just like painting it. Eventually she decided to copy some other kids and just rub the lard on her stick with her hands. Then she dropped her lard covered stick into a bowl of seeds and rolled and patted as many seeds as she could get to adhere to her stick. Surprisingly she kept herself pretty clean.

My two oldest were still at the garland making table. It seems they were competing with each other to see who could fill their string the quickest. Ah, nothing says family fun like a little competition.

The last activity was to make Pine Cone Bird Feeders. Similar to the Yule Logs, you had to cover a pine cone in lard and then stick seeds to it. Covering a pine cone in lard is a little trickier than covering a flat stick but my 4-year old managed.

After washing up we enjoyed some hot apple cider and cookies and then listened to the story Night Tree before heading out for our forest walk. I had never heard of the book Night Tree but it’s a delightful tale about decorating a tree in the woods for the animals, just like we were going to do.

On our walk we stopped to feed some of the birds in the forest. My 8-year old was fortunate enough to have a Nuthatch eating out of her hands 4 different times on our walk. We even had the chance to see a beautiful red cardinal. Some interesting things I learned:

  • Unlike many birds, Cardinals don’t eat things off the ground.
  • To warm up after a night’s sleep birds puff their feathers up to 3x their body size.
  • A woodpecker’s tongue is too big for its mouth. There is a spot in its head where it coils its tongue around when it’s not being used.

In the forest all the kids found spots to hang or place their decorations for the birds and then we headed home. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Best Christmas Books

I love the holidays, especially Christmas. Last week I talked about our Top 10 Christmas Albums we love to listen too. This week I’m thinking about books. We have a pretty big library of children’s books at home. There are so many great books out there but I have a real soft spot for seasonal books. We have 2 shelves on our children’s bookcase devoted to these types of books. This last month we’ve been enjoying a few classics and some new favourites. I thought with Christmas approaching I would share as part of Oh Amanada‘s Top Ten Tuesday blog, 10 of our Favourite Christmas stories, some which we’ve reviewed and others that are just part of our personal collection.

  1. Ten on the SledThis is a fun counting book, counting from 10 back to one, based on the rhyme Ten in the Bed. You can’t help but sing this story instead of reading it.
  2. The Great Reindeer Rebellion –  A fun tale about striking reindeer set to the rhyme of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
  3. The Nativity Story – This large sturdy board book is great for even little hands, with simply, rhyming text and shiny, uncluttered images.
  4. Peter Claus and the Naughty List – This is a great story illustrating that behaviour isn’t black and white and that doing something that might be deemed bad doesn’t make you an awful person (or child in this case).
  5. Olive the Other Reindeer – I love the work of J.otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh and this tale about a dog named Olive who offers to help Santa pull his sleigh is a delight to read and look at.
  6. Dream Snow – Eric Carle is another staple in a child’s book library and Dream Snow is a fantastic Christmas treat. The story is sweet, the illustrations in Carle’s trademark mosaic style and the surprise at the end is delightful
  7. Little Tree – Based on e. e. cummings’ poem, this is a beautiful story about love and belonging with wonderful whimsical illustrations.
  8. Santa Claus and the Reindeer Chase – This is a great interactive book as kids move a small cut-out Santa through various slots and openings on each page, trying to catch-up with his reindeer in time for Christmas Eve.
  9. The Present – Technically it’s about a birthday present but the concept of anticipation and charity hold true for Christmas also. Plus I just love this story.
  10. Christmas with Rita and Whatsit – Follow the adventures of Rita and her dog Whatsit as they prepare for Christmas as only a child (and child-like dog) would. I love the simple line drawing illustrations with just a splash of orange and green throughout. https://cabadov.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/warw-christmas-with-rita-and-whatsit/

Of course this is just ten of our favourites. There are so many other great Christmas books for kids out there. What are some of your favourites?

25 Days of Christmas: Day 13 – Christmas Puzzles

While the kids are still in school there isn’t a lot of time to do much in the evenings after homework and dinner. But not all Christmas activities have to be elaborate ordeals. For Day 13 of our 25 Days of Christmas we planned to work on Christmas puzzles.

I love puzzles, always have, but never really seem to have the time to do them. Designating a night of just working on puzzles, Christmas themed puzzles, was a lot of fun. And yes I do have Christmas themed puzzles. My 4-year old worked on a small 9-piece frame puzzle of a reindeer. She did it three times and got faster and faster at doing it after each time.

After dinner my 6 and 4-year old worked together on a Santa floor puzzle that I had bought from Scholastic years ago. It’s about 50 large, sturdy pieces and they worked on it, well, on the floor of course. My 8-year old was the one who insisted everyone where a festive hat while working on the puzzles. My two youngest picked parts of the puzzle they wanted to work on and then the combined the pieces to finish it.

My 8-year old worked with me on a larger 500-piece Charlie Brown Christmas puzzle scene. After we sorted out all the edge pieces we worked on the frame (that’s the way I like to start puzzles. It gives you an idea of the size you’re working with). We didn’t get very far before it was time for bed but I could have kept going. I find puzzles addictive once you start. It’s a good thing we built the larger puzzle on a puzzle roll so we could just roll it up and store it out-of-the-way until we were ready to work on it again.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.