Saturday, February 28, 2015

Teaching Children the Importance of Good Deeds: A New Easter Tradition {Carrot Saves Easter Book Review}

Since becoming a mother over 5 years ago, it's been important to me to not only teach my children the ABCs and 123s, but also teach them practical skills, values, ethnic and religious heritage, and instill in them a sense of identity and belonging. Through our family's traditions, my children are not only learning all of these things, but are forming lasting memories for years to come.

What are our family traditions? 

Well, each October a "Halloween Ghost" visits us for 31 days and leaves a little treat behind (yes, each day). In November we trace our hands, cut them out, and write one thing we are thankful for on the back, then hang our "leaves" on our "thankfulness tree" built out of branches we find in the yard. In the winter, we donate toys to children in need, and cut down our own tree at the local farm. At Christmastime, our Elf Sparkle brings us a Christmas book to read each day, and leaves a new version of The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve each year.

We have smaller traditions and rituals like having pizza every Friday night, going out for dessert on Thursday evenings, and reading exactly 3 books before bed.

A new tradition
Today I'm sharing a new book, Carrot Saves Easter, that will inspire our newest family tradition.

Created by a local Philadelphia mother of two and speech pathologist, Amanda Macielinski , Carrot Saves Easter teaches children about the importance of doing good deeds. While the book is about Easter, it isn't overtly a religious story. The creator's intent with writing the book is to bring families closer through a new tradition, and hopes that families enjoy reading all of their good deeds together, year after year.

The tale of a bunny helper
The story of Carrot Saves Easter takes place on Easter Island where a magical factory relies on kindness to help make sweet treats for little boys and girls to eat on Easter. But a problem arises when the Easter Bunny realizes the supply of good deeds is running low! A bunny helper named Carrot comes to Easter's rescue by traveling far and wide to bring stories of good deeds back to Easter Island.  

Each copy of the book comes with its own bunny helper like Carrot, who reports back to the Easter Bunny all the good deeds that your child does during the Easter season. Children are encouraged to "Each night before Easter tell your bunny helper the good deeds you have done" so that Easter can be saved year after year. There is a journal in the back of the book to record all of your child's acts of kindness.

What do I love about this book?

  • It provides great talking points for parents and children to discuss what it means to be a kind person, perform selfless acts, and why these things are important. Discussions like these are important for receptive and expressive language development.
  • It's a book that truly encourages parent and child bonding time in an age of technology 
  • It gives specific examples of children doing good deeds.
  • It provides the opportunity for children to practice writing skills with the inclusion of the journal.
  • It makes a wonderful family keepsake to look back on each year.
  • It's a sturdy and well-made product! The book will withstand being a favorite and the bunny helper is high quality to withstand cuddles from any child for many years. 

In addition to my being a fan of the book, my children really enjoyed reading it too. The illustrations are full of vibrant colors, and include one hidden egg on each page (which my children thoroughly enjoyed finding). This book inspired my daughter to make me breakfast in bed one morning (it was not yummy at all, but so cute), and I'm very impressed at my daughter's desire to do good deeds. My son is younger and only beginning to understand what it means to be a "good" person, but I know this book will help him this year and in the future!

If you'd like to adopt your very own bunny helper and make this new Easter tradition a part of your family, books can be purchased online at, and at the King of Prussia Mall at Layla's Boutique. 

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.

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