I LOVE reading to my kids. Do you? Sure, there are all kinds of educational benefits. Reading with your kids increases their vocabulary, helps them recognized words, and creates an interest in reading. But, I love reading with my kids because it’s FUN. I think it also helps us build better relationships. At the end of a very bad day when you and your kids are arguing and feelings are hurt, snuggling and reading together heals all wounds. (Chocolate does too, but that’s another post.) It helps us to not go to bed mad. When you find a good book, it’s fun to share the experience and have something to talk about at the dinner table.
My kids love to read with their grandparents, too. It brings them closer together to share a good story and spend quiet time together.
I wrote an article on the Power of a Bedtime Story for Patch.com this week. You’ll find great storytelling tips from Mo Willems, the author of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and Nili Yelin, the very entertaining Storybook Mom, that make reading together even more fun. There’s also a list of my family’s favorite Toddler Bedtime Stories. I’m sure you’re dying to know what made our list, so check it out.
Scholastic Parent & Child Magazine just published their list of the 100 Greatest Books for Kids. Did your favorite make the list?
What books do you like to read with your kids?
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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! Can you believe that 107 years ago, Theodore Geisel changed the world by teaching children to read, and enjoy it, when he introduced “The Cat in the Hat.” We want to honor his memory and thank him for entertaining and educating us and our children. He has stimulated our imaginations and engaged us with fun, humor and a whole lot of goofiness. To keep his memory alive, here are 6 ways to help celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday with some family fun activities. (more…)
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Beside being National Chocolate Cake Day it’s also Family Literacy Day. Double bonus! So, I guess we should celebrate by eating chocolate cake while we read our favorite bedtime story … as long as there are no crumbs on the bed.
So what is Family Literacy Day? It’s a day to celebrate reading together. Today families are encouraged to read together, play together, and plan to continue to learn as a family all year long. Wow! We should do that every day.
Reading with the kids is my idea of a perfect Family Fun activity. For a list of my family’s favorite Toddler Bedtime Stories, check out my literacy day post over at the Parent Tested Parent Approved Blog.
How often do you read with your kids?
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We love to read before bedtime. It’s my favorite time of the day – snuggling with the kids on the bed and reading a story that makes us smile or giggle. Here are the Kirchner Kids’ favorite books to read in anticipation of Halloween:
1. Halloween, Jerry Seinfeld. Hands down, my kids favorite book. Whether I read it or we listen to Jerry read it on the CD, they laugh and laugh.
2. Just a Minute, A Trickster Tale by Yuyi Morales. Technically this is more of a Day of the Dead book, but the graphics and theme fit right in with Halloween fun. If you want to learn more about this cool book, read my full review.
3. Winnie the Witch by Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul. The stories aren’t about Halloween per se but my kids love reading about Winnie and her cat and the illustrations are too funny. You need to really scan the pages to see all of the little creatures and details.
When my kids were toddlers, they liked these:
4. Mouse’s First Halloween by Lauren Thompson and Buket Erdogan. It is a nicely illustrated and not spooky tale to get toddler used to seeing Halloween imagery.
5. Inside a House That Is Haunted by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. This is a very funny story that uses Rebuses so the kids get to help “read” the story by saying the right work when they see each picture. The illustrations by Tedd Arnold are so cute. I think we read it every night for two weeks straight.
What are your favorite Halloween books? I’d love to discover some new favorites.
By the way, unless you buy the Just a Minute book from us, we don’t make any money on these recommendations. We give you the links to buy the books to make life easier for you.
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Looking for something fun to do this weekend with your kids? Consider splitting up and spending some precious one-on-one time with your kids by going on a date. My kids just GLOW when they get Mommy or Daddy all to themselves. It doesn’t even matter what you do, it’s the time together that creates the gooey “Chocolate Cake Moment.”
Bonus for parents: If your kids are going through a patch where they are just fighting all the time and it’s driving you nuts, cut the fighting off at the pass by separating them. Trust me, the peace and quiet is soooo worth it.
Make sure you choose an activity that your child wants to do. If it’s not, then it’s just like running another errand to your child and the magic of the evening is lost. When you are together, make sure you spend some time communicating. This is the perfect time to ask your child about their day, their school work, what classes they love taking, and who’s their best friend. Get to know them and learn a little more about their personality and what they love. Discuss ideas for your next date night or what the family is going to get Mommy for Mother’s Day. (OK, that was just wishful thinking.)
Date night doesn’t have to be at “night” either. If you can’t schedule something in the evening, go out for breakfast together or do something in the afternoon.
Here are some ideas for Parent/Child Dates:
1. Dinner and a movie. Let your kids choose their favorite place to dine and then go see a flick together. Bonus tip: Dads, bring your daughter a flower for your date. Transform into a superhero because there is Power in a Flower.
2. Cooking class. If one of your kids likes to cook, check out some of your local cooking class locations to see if they have parent/child classes. You get to talk, eat and laugh together. Mangia!
3. Museum Trip. If one of your kids is really into history while the other is into astronomy, splitting up and hitting different museums in town can be a great way to indulge your child’s hobbies without the other child whining “Can we go, yet?”
4. Book Store Excursion. My kids love to read so they are thrilled when we go to the library or especially the book store, because they can sit and eat. Head on over to your local book store and spend time finding a book your child would love to read. It’s a perfect way to find out what interests them. Then go sit in the coffee bar section and share a hot chocolate or dessert while reading your own books together or reading your child’s book out loud. Bonus tip: Go to brunch before the bookstore trip. Make it a lazy Saturday or Sunday morning outing.
5. You’ve Got to Move it, Move it. Head on over to the gym and teach your child to play basketball. Go for a run together or train for a local 1 Mile or 5K race in your area. Ride your bikes and stop to have a picnic. Walk to a local park and play catch. Figure out what motivates your child to get up and move it, move it and get active with them.
I hope these ideas have inspired you to get a Date Night on the calendar with your child. What do you like to do on Kids Date Night?
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Tomorrow is Earth Day and Take Your Kids to Work Day. While my kids are all excited about going to Daddy’s work tomorrow, I thought we could fit in a few Earth Day activities as well. Here are some ideas on how to talk and act upon the meaning of Earth Day.
Play: First and foremost, go outside and just enjoy the day. If you want to get your kids some eco-friendly toys, we suggest the Green Toys Tea Set, Planet Pixie Dolls, Green Toys Recycling Truck, Tool Set and the Totem Boys Recycled Construction Set. We sell quite a few eco-friendly toys that kids love and you’ll feel good about giving.
Plant: Head over to your local nursery and buy a perennial flower that you love. Plant it with your kids to help beautify your yard and the neighborhood. Teach your kids about locally grown produce with the Playful Chef’s Farmers Market Set.
Talk & Teach: Give your kids an introdcution in respecting the Earth with the Respect the Earth Flash Cards we sell at www.ChocolateCakeClub.com. Don’t just use them on Earth Day. Pick a card every night at dinner and talk about the tips on how to take care of our planet.
Read: My favorite Dr. Seuss book – The Lorax. How could you not want to save the Truffula Trees?
Watch: Some of our favorite kids movies with a conservationist theme are Happy Feet, Fern Gully, and Wall-E. There are plenty more but we like these. (We love Robin Williams as the bat in Fern Gully. He also makes a darn cute penguin in Happy Feet.)
Help: Take a walk around your neighborhood and pick up any trash that you see. We all have a responsibility to make our planet healthy.
Happy Earth Day! How do you teach your kids to be responsible in conserving our planet?
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In the last installment of How to Have Fun with a Sick Child in the Hospital series, I’m going to share some of my favorite books and audio books that will keep you giggling and having fun. There are some nice books out there about kids being sick, but I think that reading a funny book out loud together will help heal so much better.
Here are some of our funny favorites that are fun to read out loud or have everyone giggling. When you are tired of reading and want to just rest in the room together, throw in an audio book. Grab them at your local library or I have provided the link to Amazon for purchase. (Note: I don’t receive any commission from Amazon. I just wanted to make it easier for you to find the books.)
Have fun reading! Come back and tell us what your favorite books are or which books make you laugh most. We could all use a good laugh.
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I hope you were inspired by our ideas yesterday to start some Holiday Family Fun at your house. Here are some more ideas to get the family smiling and saying “Wow, you are the coolest Mom on the planet!” (OK, maybe that’s a stretch but the Holidays are for dreams, right?)
DAY 2 Holiday Family Fun Ideas
Read: Tonight we read Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner. This fun board book is not only cute, but inspires some ideas for outdoor, snowy fun. Who wouldn’t love to see snowmen come to life at night and cruise around town?
Note: We just came across a great idea at another Mom’s blog site and thought we would share. Over at This Girl Loves to Talk, their family has a tradition of wrapping 24 Christmas themed books. Starting December 1st, every night the kids get to unwrap a book and read together. Pure genius!
Watch: We didn’t have time to watch any Holiday shows tonight but if we did, we would have watched A Charlie Brown’s Christmas. The dance scene is too funny, (come on, do your Linus Dance!) but the best part is when Linus explains the true meaning of Christmas. In fact, this year since our house is all ripped up for renovations, we have no room to put up our Christmas tree. The kids were really bummed until I went out and got the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. We now have it sitting in our family room waiting to be dwarfed by wrapped presents.
Bake: Our most requested cookie in the Kirchner household for the Holidays are classic Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies or Peanut Blossoms. (I personally don’t eat them, but sometimes you have to bake one for the team.) There are a million recipes out there for this cookie but our family seems to prefer the one in the Gooseberry Patch Old Fashioned Country Cookie Recipe Book. Definitely get the kids involved in baking these. They love doing the stuff that I find mind-numbing like unwrapping the kisses and rolling the dough into little balls.
Craft: AmazingMoms.com has a very cute idea to make Reindeer Candy Holders. Very cute and you can immediately fill them with Chocolate when you are done for a truly Chocolate Cake Moment with the kids.
Pure Fun: If you live in a fun neighborhood, organize a Neighborhood Decorating Contest/ Party. One of our neighbors came up with the idea a few years ago of encouraging everyone to decorate the outsides of their houses with Snowmen. Then they threw a party inviting all of the neighbors. The night of the party, we all had to walk around the block in the cold and vote on which houses had the most “Snowman Spirit”. It was a blast and we continue to do it every year. It’s so funny to see a neighbor put out a new snowman decoration and everyone runs over to check it out and ask where they got it. True Holiday bonding.
Please share your ideas or other great ideas you have seen on other sites. We love to see them and share. Check in tomorrow for Day 3.
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There are so many ways to have fun with your family around the Holidays. However, it’s very easy to get caught up in the stress and crazy-busy schedules during the Holidays that we forget to stop and have some fun. (What do you mean we forgot to get a present for your Spanish teacher? Why has the cat eaten all of the curling ribbon? I can’t wait for that gift to come out. Where did I put the Christmas cards that I bought last January on sale?) So, as a way to remind myself to plan some fun for the family every day during the Holiday Season and not become the Grinch, I will be sharing some fun ideas every day. From reading Holiday-themed books before bedtime to watching your favorite Christmas specials to finding that perfect craft or cookie recipe, I hope I can inspire you to do something every day to keep your family smiling during December. Smile and wave kids … smile and wave.
DAY 1 Holiday Family Fun Ideas
Read: Tonight we read Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman. While my kids are a little too old for this picture book, it is still a Holiday favorite. The illustrations are too cute and the rhyming words are perfect for lulling everyone to sleep. (I want some of the cookies that Bear makes his friends!)
Watch: We didn’t have a lot of time to watch anything after dinner and homework but we snuck in one of my all time favorite Christmas shows – Ziggy’s Gift. I was a huge Ziggy fan growing up and the first time I saw this Christmas special I was bawling. Guess what?After watching again tonight, I’m still tearing up. I love this story about the true meaning of giving and forgiveness at Christmas. My kids love the thief. Go figure.
Bake: We are in the process of renovating our kitchen and haven’t had an oven for about 6 weeks now. Because I can’t bake, I have been dreaming about homemade Holiday cookies for several nights now. But if you have an oven, go ahead and make these with your kids. They love rolling the cookies into a ball and then rolling them in powdered sugar. Sure, it makes a mess. Sure, these cookies are pure butter. But that’s why I love them. Here’s a recipe that is close to how we make them, only we use ground pecans because the kids don’t like the texture of nut pieces in the cookie.
Craft: I’ve been on the hunt for some really cute but really easy Holiday crafts to do with the kids. You know the kind where I don’t need to spend all day shopping for supplies, doesn’t take three days of drying time to complete, and actually looks cute when finished. Well I found a fun site called Homemaking Fun and I liked their idea for making Magical Reindeer Food to sprinkle in the snow. If you are lucky, you’ll have everything you need in the house already.
Pure Fun: If your family has adopted an Elf on the Shelf, tonight is the night to start. At least in our house it is. (Some people start the day after Thanksgiving, some on December 6th which is St. Nicholas Day, and some on the 15th because they only want to hide the Elf for 10 nights.) You choose. Never heard of Elf on the Shelf? Well, this post explains it all.
We’ll be sharing ideas every day for 25 days but we’d love to hear your favorite way to have fun during the Holidays. Please share them by leaving a comment here. Check back tomorrow!
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We love bedtime stories in our house. Reading before bed is the most special time of the day for me and my kids. We are always on the hunt for great books to read, especially ones that make us laugh. After our weekly trip to the library, the Kirchner family highly recommends “Once I Ate a Pie” by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest. If you are a dog lover, you’ll definitely be smiling after reading about the 14 dogs in the book, who all have hilarious personalities. The book is written in free verse poetry, which is nice so we can expose the kids to more poetry books. The illustrations by Katy Schneider are fabuloso!
My daughter is a huge fan of Mr. Beefy, the Pug. Check out the book from your library tonight or pick it up at Amazon to read why. (We get no payment from Amazon or the author for recommending the book. We just love it.)
What are some of your favorite bedtime stories?
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Reading before bed is still one of our favorite Chocolate Cake Moments as a family. No matter how bad our day was, we all look forward to cleaning up, relaxing on the bed, sharing an adventure, and giggling. We love to read about magic, goofy animals, fun adventures, and kids solving problems. The kids love books that make them laugh. I especially love books with beautiful, fun illustrations. I lust after the talent to draw, which passed me by. Darn you, genetics!
This week we got two books from the library about fairies. The first, The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies by Ammi-Joan Paquette is a beautiful book about how to spot fairies in nature. If your child loves Fairy Houses or hunting for Gnomes, this book is for you. The book mixes photography and cute illustrations of fairies that can be found out in your yard. It give instructions on how and where to look for clues that fairies are around. It will spark the imagination of any child (or magic-loving adult) into building a fairy house, right now! Suited for kids under 10 years old. In a previous post, I talked about making it a Family Tradition to build a fairy house or troll garden. (We love all things magical and non-sensical.)
The second book is a silly book about a fairy godmother who has lost her mojo. Gone with the Wand by Margie Palatini, is a clever book about reinventing yourself and finding new passion. (OK, maybe the kids won’t get that take-away, but adults will.) The kids will love the richly-colored, silly illustrations by Brian Ajhar, as the Toothfairy helps the Fairy Godmother to discover a new purpose in life. Kids will love her new passion and it is the perfect book to read before tucking into bed. I would say kids 4-10 would appreciate this book most.
Have fun reading! Please share your favorite bedtime stories with us. We are always looking for new books to get at the library. (I think we’ve read almost everything there already. We need help. Really.)
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After being cooped up all winter, everybody is anxious to get out and enjoy the outdoors again. Liberated of our heavy winter coats, it’s hard not to feel happier, lighter, and more energetic. The longer days and warmer nights are terrific opportunities to get out of the house and enjoy nature again.
As a parent with two kids of my own, I’ve discovered that summer can be as challenging for adults as it is liberating for kids. Once the charm of sleeping in wears off, I know it’s not long before I’m hearing the dreaded refrain of “Mommy, I’m bored!” Even if they go to summer day camp, the novelty of an unstructured day will eventually wear off, too.
In my experience, preparation is the best way to avoid the B-word. With a little creativity and planning, you can stockpile an arsenal of fun activities to throw at your kids before they can even say “bored.” None of these activities should include sitting in front of the computer, video game, or television; the whole idea is to get them outside and enjoying the sunshine while it lasts (giving you a little well-deserved space in the process).
Here are just a few outdoor activities to get you started:
1. Invest in the Super Parachute Kids Party Game. Kids love parachutes, and I’ll bet all the neighborhood Moms will love you for having this super-fun game!
2. Camp out in the backyard – pitch a tent, grab some sleeping bags, pillows, flashlights (and bug spray!). If you have a fire pit, do it up right with some S’mores.
3. Most libraries have a summer reading program, so take advantage of it. Walk to the local library to check out some fabulous summer reading. Then, set up outdoor reading stations in the backyard with umbrellas, beach towels, and frozen grapes to snack on.
4. Organize Family or Neighborhood Olympics that includes events like hula hoop competition, 3-legged races, water balloon toss, or egg and spoon races (you can buy an Egg and Spoon Race Game and save yourself an eggy yard or kid).
5. Set up a miniature golf course right in your own backyard. The Mini Golf Set has everything you need to get your toddler’s golf career started (or just to keep the little ones occupied for a few hours).
Share your favorite activities that get your kids out of the house and having fun.
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We recently took a road trip to visit family and found some great audio books and recordings to amuse the kids while we were driving … always important. (City kids can only look at cows for so long before they are bored.) We went to the library and got some audio books and a Bill Harley CD. Our criteria for road trip entertainment is that it has to amuse Mom and Dad too or it’s off. When the kids watch their DVDs in the back they use headphones, so us adults can listen to something else up front. I’d like to say it’s because we like more high-brow entertainment but really it’s because we get frustrated that we can hear the movie and not see it. “Ooh, is this where Alex the Lion starts dance fighting?” It’s better for everyone if we aren’t constantly looking behind us while we drive.
So, when we listen to an audio book or CD, everyone in the car hears it and must be amused. Here are some picks that we loved from our recent trip.
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
This story is magical! Both the adults and kids in the car were captivated and the narration is fantastic. The book had been recommended to us because the author, Brian Selznick, had created such magical illustrations. So we thought we might lose something by listening to it as opposed to reading it. However, having listened to the audio book and then seen the book after our car trip, I think it was better for us to imagine the story for a more personal experience. It is the story of an orphaned boy who lives a secret life in a Train Station Clock Tower and how he discovers the secrets of his father’s inventions. Cool!
For ages: 5 – 99 years old
Chet Gecko, Private Eye by Bruce Hale
I admit, I love a good mystery and I am a huge fan of the Film Noir and Hard-Boiled Detective movies and stories. Who doesn’t love the witty banter from Dashiell Hammett (Thin Man, Sam Spade) or Raymond Chandler (Phillip Marlowe)? Fortunately, we can now introduce this genre to our kids with Chet Gecko. We love the Chet Gecko books about a kid detective, a lizard in the fourth-grade, who solves crimes at his wacky school. While the books are great and we like to read them at bedtime, the audiobooks are awesome because they are read by Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), who can do so many distinct voices and act the parts so well. While younger kids may have a hard time with the metaphors and witty banter, they will enjoy the main story, voices and silly slapstick in the books.
For ages: 5 – 99 years old
Yes to Running: Bill Harley Live
We recently discovered Bill Harley while listening to NPR one day. We were laughing so hard we almost peed our pants. Immediately, my husband and I asked “Why haven’t we heard of this guy?” When you have kids, you become very familiar with Laurie Berkner, Dan Zanes, Ralph’s World, and Justin Roberts. But Bill Harley, who? The only reasons I can think of are that his material is for children over 5 years old and I guess the “famous” kid musicians are for the pre-school set. And, although he has songs and plays the guitar, he is more of a storyteller than a musician. However, Bill Harley deserves more fame! (Now, you may be at home saying, “I’ve known about Bill Harley for years. What rock have you been living under?” If that is the case, I’m glad for Bill Harley but don’t burst my bubble.)
Go buy the Yes to Running: Bill Harley Live Double CD! My kids have now played it for everyone they come into contact with. (The mailman won’t come near the house anymore.) Bill Harley totally understands kids and how adults like to fondly remember their childhood. The Great Sled Race is a hilarious story. The Ballad of Dirty Joe the pirate is definitely written for kids.
These types of storytelling CDs are great for car trips because some of the stories are 20 minutes long and you need the uninterrupted time to listen.
For ages: 5 – 99 years old. Caution: He does say words like “Stupid” and “Idiot” (only in reference to himself) but if that bothers you, don’t let the younger kids listen.
© 2009 Sue Kirchner
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After visiting family in New Hampshire for the Holidays, we took the kids to Boston for a family vacation and we wanted to share some of the highlights of the trip. Boston is a much better trip in spring, summer, or fall but we know how to have fun in the snow and thought we’d share our winter travel ideas.
We knew that we were going to do a lot of history-related sightseeing in Boston so to get the kids warmed up and interested before we left, our bedtime reading was John, Paul, George and Ben. This book is one of the kids favorites since it is a pretty funny and irreverent look at our country’s founders. What’s not to like?
We planned for 3 days in Boston and we arrived on New Years Eve and it was freezing and snowing. Boston offers some New Years Eve fun with an event called First Night. For kids, they offer all kinds of entertainment for families during the day with a Mardi Gras style parade in the evening. We enjoyed seeing some of the magic and puppet acts. The parade was pretty weak but then again it was snowing and about 10 degrees out so I think it was really toned down a notch. The kids were too cold to enjoy.
The next day, after watching the Iowa Hawkeyes football bowl game in the hotel room (which the kids loved), we ventured out into the cold to see the Boston Commons and Garden.
We saw the ultra brave people ice skating on frog pond and the obligatory sculpture dedicated to the popular children’s book Make Way for Ducklings.
We looked at some of the beautiful old houses on Beacon and Charles Street before deciding it was too gosh darn cold and headed for the Children’s Museum. While our kids are getting a little too old for these children’s museums, they really enjoyed the Blue Man Group, Bubble, and Make Your Own Sailboat exhibits. If your kids are under the age of 5 you could probably spend the day here. With older kids (9 and 6 years old) we were done in under two hours.
We then headed over to the North End and Pizza Regina, which rocked. This restaurant is hilarious. It is small, so you will end up standing outside. Fortunately we didn’t have to wait more than 15 minues in the cold. You had better know what you want to order by the time you get close to the door or you will get kicked out of line. However, this restaurant is everything a typical family Italian place should be, with wacky waitresses. The pizza was very good and for Boston, the price is perfect. Mangia!
We watched a movie in the hotel room to finish the day, which the kids thought was too cool.
The next day we hit the Freedom Trail. The kids loved this slice of history. I was so proud that they walked almost the whole trail in the cold without complaining. Of course, a few trips to some gift shops along the way helped to motivate them. We also added our typical family wackiness by since my husband and son were dancing down the street singing “Freedom” by George Michael. The Freedom Trail is marked with a red line down the sidewalk so you can easily follow. To add even more silliness to the proceedings, we started to mimic Monty Python’s “Minister of Silly Walks” skit. You know where you walk in a line and do the funniest walks you can think up. Sure, people stared at us. Did we care? NO! We’ll never see them again. (I hope.)
According to the kids, the highlights of the Freedom Trail were Paul Revere’s House, the graveyard with Ben Franklin, Mother Goose, John Hancock, and Samuel Adams graves, and the Old North Church. They were totally fascinated by the whole “One if by Land, Two if by Sea” thing. They also thought it was hilarious that John Hancock has the largest tombstone in the cemetery, just like his signature. (Was he compensating for something?) Definitely hit the bakeries in the North End for a great snack and warm-up break. You can’t go wrong ordering any of the pastries.
There’s a lot more you can do in Boston in the summer but we had a great time in the cold and snow. Have you taken a family vacation in Boston? If so, what were some of your highlights? Please share.
© 2009 Sue Kirchner
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Family traditions are so important, especially around the Holidays. Traditions help to bring the Holiday season alive for our family. They help us laugh and smile when things get a little hectic. So, let me share a cool product with you that will help you create a Family Holiday Tradition. We discovered the Elf on the Shelf Book a few years ago and it is a huge hit at our house.
If you’ve never heard of Elf on the Shelf, let me share. With the kit, you get a retro-designed Elf doll and a book. The Elf has a job to do, as the book explains. He sits in your house during the day and then at night, he flies back to Santa to report on who has been naughty and who has been nice. (Parents, that includes you too.) A spy in the house! Why would kids like that? But, here’s the fun part. When the Elf comes back in the morning, he sits in a different part of the house. It is the ultimate hide and seek game. Our kids wake up every morning and run around the house trying to be the first to find the Elf.
To help you make this into a tradition, your family will adopt and name this special Elf. Ours is named Jack. (I wanted Cornelius but the kids overruled me.) The book includes a page where you can write in the Elf’s name and date he was adopted into your family so it becomes a family keepsake. We love this particular Elf because it reminds my husband and I of the ones our Grandmothers used to have in their houses. The Elf has a bendable body so that he can sit around the house in all kinds of cool places. Even if your kids no longer believe in Santa, they will still love the hide and seek game. Your kids can even take turns hiding the Elf to see who is the master hider in the house.
A word of warning to parents. If you forget to move the Elf one night, you had better come up with a pretty good reason why he is still in the same spot. The first time you forget to move him you can always claim that he was trying to be tricky and fool the kids by not moving. After that, you had better be creative. I have to write myself a sticky note to remember to move the Elf at night because last year I forgot two nights in a row. My daughter was distraut! She thought that the Elf had lost his magic and how was Santa going to know she was good. Oh, the drama! My bad, bad, bad! So, I had my daughter write a letter to Santa asking him to give Jack his magic back. We went to the post office and “mailed” it. It worked, and Christmas was saved. Whew! (That should be a Christmas TV special.)
You can really have fun with your Elf. We put ours out the morning after Thanksgiving, even though the kids start asking for him in August. You can have him create some mischief around the house – move presents, decorations, etc. Or we put crumbs around him one night so that it looks like he ate some Christmas cookies. Put some fake snow on him in the morning to show how he rushed home from the North Pole.
If you have an Elf on the Shelf, I’d love to hear what your family named him. Tell us also what excuses you’ve used it he forgot to move and what else you do to have fun with the Elf.
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I love the folk art associated with the Mexican Day of the Dead Holiday. So I was thrilled when I found a children’s book that is the perfect example of this folk art style so I could share it with my kids.
Just a Minute by Mexican artist, Yuyi Morales has become a huge favorite with my kids. This book gets read many times in October and throughout the year. I love it because the illustrations are so beautiful, colorful, and remind me of my childhood when I lived in Mexico for four years. I also love it because it is a good story and helps me teach my kids how to count in Spanish. My kids love the story because it is funny. My daughter can’t stop laughing when she sees the picture of Señor Calavera, the skeleton, wearing an apron or stomping up and down in frustration.
OK, that sounds weird, so what is the story about? When skeletal Señor Calavera appears at the door, Grandma Beetle is preparing for a party. He wants her to come with him but she asks him to wait. As she prepares for a festive birthday party at which Señor Calavera finds himself a guest, kids will learn to count in English and Spanish. As Grandma Beetle keeps coming up with things to do to delay leaving with Señor Calavera, the expression on his sugar-skull face grows more and more hilariously impatient — but by party’s end, he leaves a thank-you note in his wake promising to be back for Grandma Beetle’s next birthday. While adults will understand that she tricked death, kids will be laughing at the illustrations, yelling out “Just a Minute, Señor Calavera”, and learning to count in Spanish.
This is a great story that is a tribute to Mexican traditions and family. They are definitely having a Chocolate Cake Moment at this birthday party! The book is also a nice alternative to traditional Halloween books, that still let you enjoy the spirit of spooky fun.
If you like this book, check out this site where Yuyi Morales talks about what Day of the Dead means to her. There are also coloring pages of Señor Calavera for your kids. She has a new book coming out, Just in Case, featuring Señor Calavera that you can pre-order at Amazon.
Find the book at your local library or you can purchase Just A Minute at the Chocolate Cake Club. Then come back and tell us whether your kids liked the book.
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