Thursday, February 12, 2015

Love List: Great Books to Read Aloud with Preschoolers Again and Again

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. Thanks for your support.

When people find out that I have a love affair going with children's books, they often ask me: "So what's your favorite book at the moment?" or "What do you read to your children at bedtime?" or "What books do you recommend?" These are questions that parents and grandparents and nannies and teachers are always curious about - everybody seems to be looking for a new great book to read!

Today I'm sharing 10 great books to read aloud. I read these books often with my children, and these are books that we all love and can read again and again. Some of these books may be familiar to you, some may be unknown - but if you haven't read them aloud with your child yet, you should!

1. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz

As a child I loved hearing this story, and as an adult I love to read it to my children even more. Everyone can relate to having a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day". It's a great book to read aloud because Alexander's voice and attitude are expressed so clearly in the way Viorst writes that you can make the character "come alive" as you read it. And while I have seen this book criticized, I really couldn't love it any less, no matter what some say about Alexander being bratty and spoiled. It's a perfect book to open up a conversation with your child about having a day that's just not going his way.

2. Veggies with Wedgies by Todd H. Doodler

You might know author Todd H. Doodler from another underwear-themed tale, Bear in Underwear. This story about a bunch of veggies who happen upon a bunch of underpants hanging out to dry is....well, pretty funny. There are lots of veggie characters in this book and when I read it with my children, I give each one its own distinctive voice. I promise this book will make you and your kids chuckle, or at the very least smile. Veggies with Wedgies would be a great book to buy for a potty-training toddler or preschooler - it will not only get them excited about underwear, but will put some silliness into what can sometimes be a less than fun transition.

3. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

In my humble opinion Shel Silverstein is a genius. I've read this collection of poems over and over and over again and never tire of it. My children can recite some of the poems by heart because many are short, and I'd imagine can keep the attention of even the busiest of toddlers. All of the poems in this collection are what I would call "whimsical". Some are touching. Some are just outright hysterical and goofy. Basically what I'm saying is that this book of poems has something for everyone. And, did you know that rhymes like these aid in your child's pre-reading skills by drawing his attention to the different sounds in spoken words? Yep, you should really pick up this book if have never read it, and your child's preschool teacher will thank you. Oh, and Silverstein's drawings are just as genius as his words.

4. Blue 2 by David A Carter

Blue 2 is really an art book to me. There aren't many words, but the words that Carter uses in this intelligently crafted pop-up book will give your child a lesson in vocabulary. I put this book on my "read aloud" love list because it's something fun to read and do with your child. If you ask my daughter what her favorite present was this past Christmas, she'll definitely respond, "Blue 2". Trust me, you will read this book over and over again - not always because you want to, but because you just HAVE to find all of those hidden Blue 2's!

5. Brief Thief by Michael Escoffier and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo 

I do have to warn you that this book does contain potty humor, but the giggles I get from reading it make me happy. Brief Thief does have a very important lesson to be learned too: don't touch other people's things. My children just love to read this book over and over for a plain and simple reason: it's fun. And in my mind, if you can take a valuable lesson and make it fun to learn, it's a win win for all.

6. Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts

This book gets one thing right with its title - this world needs more female engineers! I'm loving this book not only because it's inspiring to little minds, but it gives you a great feeling when you are done reading it. You can't help but feel like you did at least one thing "right" in the day by reading it with your child. 

7. Eric!...The Hero? by Chris Wormell

Ah, Eric! The boy that nobody believes in, and who seems to be good at nothing. I think we all can relate to feeling a little lost and misunderstood at times which is why I love this book. Wormell's story is about courage, finding yourself, and believing in your own abilities, even when no one else does. This book is especially great for kids who love monster books, and parents (like me) who love to teach important life lessons through books.

8. The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson

My kids adore this book, and I do too because it's clever. The first time I read it I remember thinking - well, isn't that an adorable ending to a perfectly enjoyable book. The Gruffalo is fun to read aloud because you can really put a lot of expression into the character's voices, and even give the story an eerie feel in the way that you read it. In my opinion, this is one of those great children's books that you can cuddle under a blanket and read together....and anticipate exactly what's going to happen next. This book is truly a greatly told story.

9. The Girl Who Wouldn't Brush Her Hair by Kate Bernheimer and Jake Parker

A story of a little girl who wouldn't brush her hair...and you know what happens to her? She has a little village of mice who take up residence in her over-tangled locks! There are many days that I think this book was written specifically about my daughter (she even has the same long brown hair). We love this story because it takes something that we struggle with on a daily basis and exaggerates it. I'm sure many families with little girls can relate. And of course, if you think a book was written for you and about're going to want to read it aloud again and again like we do.

10. Tap to Play by Salina Yoon

A truly interactive book where you play a game as you read along! My 5-year old and 2-year old equally love reading this with me and the second we are through, ask to read it again. While Tap to Play reads like a traditional book, it feels like an iPad app with all of the fun, and none of the screen-time guilt (which I sometimes feel, anyway). I have no doubt this book will become one of your household favorites to read (and play) over and over, like it is ours.

So there you have book love list (just in time for Valentine's Day). Of course, if you ask me in a week, I might have some new favs to add to the list, but as of right now these books get my votes and I'm sticking to it.

What are your favorite books to read aloud lately?

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Watch, Move, and Learn: Prima Princessa Presents The Nutcracker {Review}

Disclosure: We received a copy of Prima Princessa's The Nutcracker for review, but my opinions expressed are honest, as always!

If you ask my daughter what she wants to be when she grows up, she'll emphatically say a dancer and a singer. She likes to perform, sing show tunes, and dance to Let it Go. I'm happy to add to this list that she is mesmerized by the Nutcracker, thanks to Prima Princessa's adorable (not to mention educational) Nutcracker DVD.

What I loved about Prima Princessa's version of the Nutcracker is that it combines live performance with interactive ballet instruction. Designed especially for a 3 - 6 year old budding ballerina, the 60 minute DVD lets children enjoy the Nutcracker as performed by England's Birmingham Royal Ballet, while a cartoon "Prima Princessa" narrates. Following clips from the live performance, the DVD invites children to dance along by demonstrating several ballet steps.

Other great things about this DVD:

  • It gets kids moving! Physical activity is very important for learning.
  • Children learn by doing with Prima Princessa. Rather than just watching a dancer twirl, they can get up and twirl along.
  • It's educational - children learn real steps and real ballet terminology.
  • It explains the plot of the Nutcracker in a kid-friendly way, with a narrator that appeals to young children.
  • The technical dance moves are repeated in the DVD, allowing children the opportunity to practice and master these steps.
  • It's fun! Children will enjoy role playing, dressing up like a ballerina, and pretending to be a star.

My daughter absolutely LOVED this DVD and we have watched it numerous times since receiving it. It's honestly a lovely way to spend an afternoon! Here's the proof:

Prima Princessa Presents the Nutcracker is available on Amazon.

 Pairing the DVD with their Ballet for Beginners book would make the perfect gift your little ballerina this holiday season!

Check out Prima Princessa's website for games, party and craft ideas, and to view all of their products. You can keep up to date with them on Pinterest.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mama May i Handmade Learning Toys: Story Starters Review

Disclosure: We received a free Story Starters game from Mama May i for this post, but my opinions are honest, as always!

While my children and I have spent countless hours reading aloud together, the stories we have created on our own are far and few between. Storytelling games, like Mama May i's Story Starters, are a fun literacy enriching experience for young children that are a great supplement to reading aloud. Through these games, children craft unique stories that stretch their creativity and empower their imagination as they take on roles as a story listener, a story teller, and a story writer.

Mama May i's storytelling game is a handmade learning toy that arrives in a shiny tin, complete with 4 story starter dice, a symbol key, a little book of why, and a pen. For group play, the youngest player rolls the cube and begins the story with the image that lands face up. Then the next player rolls and adds to the story. To play alone, you simply roll the dice and let your imagination run wild based on the pictures you see! The dice help you with the who, what, when, and where but the why is up to the players to create. To help you remember your stories, you can write or draw them in the journal provided.

If you are like us and enjoy reading and learning - you might want to invest in Mama May i's story starters as an additional literacy activity (you know, for when you've read that same book 1,000 times in a row and just can't stand to make it 1,001). Plus, storytelling games offer lots of educational experiences, in addition to being just plain fun!

Here's some benefits of storytelling play:
  • It fosters creative thinking - "you create the why".
  • It enriches your child's imagination because he'll be forming mental images as the story is being told.
  • It strengthens reading and writing skills.
  • It teaches elements of a story - who, what, when, where; beginning, middle, end; plot; conflict; theme.
  • For children who are reluctant to read aloud with their parents, storytelling can provide a different kind of shared literacy experience. 
  • It aids in emotional development as the characters in the stories partake in various adventures; children identify with the way a character responds in various situations.
  • It teaches new vocabulary.
  • It promotes listening and speaking skills.
  • It promotes teamwork and turn taking.
  • Last but not least, it creates memorable experiences!

What did my kids think of their new game?

They loved it, of course! My 4-year imagined a story around a boy named Will who was given a magical shovel that could pick up leaves on its own, and my 22 month old enjoyed naming all of the pictures and making up some shorter stories.

What did I think of the new game?

I thought it was an easy way to play a game together (without having to read a million rules, which I despise), have some fun and be silly, and sneak in something educational that didn't feel educational. I also loved the personal note from Jessica Perkins, the founder and designer of Mama May i, that came in the game's adorable packaging. The fact that it's all non-toxic is a bonus too, considering I still have a toddler who likes to put things in his mouth.


You can order this game as well as other educational, handmade toys inspired by Montessori and Waldorf methodologies from Mama May i. As a fellow Philadelphian, I just adore the Make a Match Game with Philly sites.

You can also follow Mama May i on Facebook and Twitter. If you order from Mama May i before the end of November, use the code LANDOFONCEUPONATIME at checkout for $5 off a purchase of $30 or more.

Enjoy making learning fun!

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