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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Thursday, September 18, 2014

5 Informational Picture Books and 5 Good Reasons to Read Them

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links.

I love narrative books. There's something about them that's so appealing because they often provide a nice escape from reality or an exciting adventure. I have no doubt that my children who are 4 1/2 and 20 months feel the same. So often we go to the library and come home with a stack of imaginative picture books. You'll see this blog is full of these types of stories. More often than not, the non-fiction and informational picture books can get left behind at the library!

There are really REALLY great reasons, though, to embrace (and yes, check out) books that are packed with information for children.

Here are 5 benefits of reading non-fiction and informational picture books with your young child.

  • Children may gain interest in a new subject area, which drives them to learn (and read) about the topic even more.
  • Opportunities for learning new vocabulary are plentiful (which is a great thing, since vocabulary knowledge has been linked to success in Kindergarten).
  • Non-fiction and informational picture books can ignite curiosity in children and lead them to ask "why" questions.
  • These books can provide a basis for hands-on learning activities (which is one of the best ways to learn about a topic).
  • Often these books initiate more conversation than narrative stories, building language and comprehension skills.
Convinced you should check out some non-fiction and informational picture books on your next trip to the library? Take a look at these fall-inspired informational children's books!

Nuts to You by Lois Ehlert

Learn the names of plants and animals, and of course - some fun facts about squirrels. The blog Ready-Set-Read has several neat ways to extend the learning with this book in this post.

Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington

Learn all about growth, gardening, and the life cycle from seed to pumpkin. Check out this sequencing activity to accompany this book. 

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

This book is packed full of information about trees, birds, and gardening. Learn new science related vocabulary, and even practice several math concepts with these activities inspired by Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf.

             The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall

Learn about the life cycle of an apple tree, then 
try one of these cute apple crafts!

The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons

Learn about the life cycle of a pumpkin, as well as pumpkin and Halloween traditions. Check out this post for some fun pumpkin games.

Do you have any books to add to the list?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Two Ducks Theatre Company's Rainbowtown: Teaching young children about colors, emotions, and perseverance

My 4 year old and I had the pleasure of learning together in a unique way this past weekend, thanks to Two Ducks Theatre Company's original play titled Rainbowtown.

The plot of Rainbowtown focuses around Queen Annie who lives in  "graytown" where everything is "fine". But, she wants life to be a little more than just fine, so she sets off in search of a new place to call home. As she travels from town to town looking for her new residence, children are taken on a colorful, interactive journey that includes music, audience participation, and lots of laughs.

Where does Queen Annie decide to build her castle? Experience the fun yourself to find out!

You can catch a performance of Rainbowntown at Radnor United Methodist Church in Bryn Mawr:

What's the real value of Rainbowntown

At the heart of the play is a lesson for children on emotions and perseverance - two important topics in early childhood.

Talking about feelings with children is important to their social and emotional development. By doing so, children can better understand and interpret their own feelings and the feelings of others. Children with emotional competence also tend to have strong social skills which are necessary for successfully interacting with adults and peers. Rainbowtown provides a unique opportunity for families to initiate a discussion about feelings which can strengthen skills in children that are not only necessary for learning new information, but for succeeding in life.

Rainbowtown also teaches children skills regarding how to react in the face of adversity. Despite becoming discouraged after visiting a few towns that do not suit her liking, Queen Annie never gives up until she finds the place that is best for her to build her castle. Children may identify with her situation and reflect on how she copes and perseveres. By helping children learn how to react in difficult situations, parents can foster emotional skills, namely resilience.

Learning Tips and Activity Extensions for Rainbowtown

It's always fun to discuss a movie or a play after you view it. Here are some conversation starters and activities based on Rainbowtown for promoting emotional development in young children.

  • How did Queen Annie feel at the beginning of the play?
  • How did Queen Annie feel at the end of the play, and why?
  • Can you describe a time when you felt like Queen Annie?
  • Which characters in the story did you like or dislike, and why?
  • Have you ever given up on something you've tried to do? Why? How did it make you feel?
  • Identify all of the colors and feelings in the play. Why do you think a particular color was paired with a certain feeling? Would you add any colors or feelings to the story?
  • Draw a picture of a time when you showed determination and perseverance like Queen Annie.
  • Queen Annie was upset in parts of the play. What would you have said to her to help her feel  better?
  • Identify and discuss what traits Queen Annie possessed that allowed her to persevere. 
  • Read a book with your child about feelings such as My Many Colored Days by Dr Seuss or The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

I hope you get the opportunity to enjoy Two Ducks Theatre Company's Rainbowtown with your child in the coming weeks. Take advantage of this play as not only pure entertainment, but also a cool learning experience, too!

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. We received free tickets to Rainbowtown in exchange for this post, but opinions expressed are honest!

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Super Simple School Bus Craft

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

We've noticed lots of school buses on the streets of our town this week! While my two little ones are still too small to ride the big yellow bus to school this year, we had lots of fun learning with a school bus book and craft. 

The Bus for Us Gus by Suzanne Bloom is one of those books that your child will want to read again, and again, and AGAIN (trust me on this one). While the text follows a predictable repetitive pattern, the pictures allow the child to guess what comes next. My little 20 month old just loves to turn the pages to see if the little girl Tess is ready to hop on the bus. There's also a certain silliness to this book when the page is turned and it's not the school bus, but a different vehicle. My son just loves to shout, "No Tess!" and laugh. 

School Bus Craft

We paired this book a super simple school bus craft that only uses construction paper and glue! Here's what to do to create your own at home.

1. Gather materials: yellow, black & orange construction paper; glue stick 
2. Cut the yellow paper into a shape of a school bus
3. Cut the black paper into 2 circles, 1 rectangle, 4 squares, and 1 triangle
4. Cut the orange paper into 1 small circle, and two rectangles
5. Glue the shapes on to the school bus outline

(note: you could add a red octagon for the stop sign, too)

Great way to practice colors, shapes, and counting, too!

Don't have The Bus for Us Gus? Try pairing this craft with School Bus by Donald Crews. It's also great for little minds.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Back to School Time: Books about School for Infants, Twos, and Threes

Disclosure: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.

Some children can't wait for the first day of school to begin, while other young children have a more difficult time making the transition from summer to "back to school". Today I'm sharing some simple books with a school theme that are especially appropriate for very young children (infants, twos, and threes). The simplicity of these texts, along with their vibrant pictures, allows for a great opportunity to discuss what your child might expect in school - whether it's his first time in a new school or are a returning student.

Books About School: Top Picks for Young Children 

All of these books can help young children understand the ins and outs of the school day routine. What is also so great is that they are easy to read with very young children who might be in a day care setting, but are interesting enough for preschool students who might be returning to school after a summer break.

Click on the picture or link to find out more information on Amazon.

My First Day of Nursery School
by Becky Edwards and illustrated by Anthony Flintoft
Bloomsbury USA (2004)

by Robert Neubecker
Hyperion Book reprinted (2011)

We Love School 
by Marilyn Janovitz
NorthSouth Books (2007)

                                              Maisy Goes to Preschool
by Lucy Cousins
Candlewick (2010)

Let's Go to School
by Fisher Price (TM); Doris Tomaselli
Reader's Digest (2009)

Tips for reading these books to your child:
  • Point out how your child's school will be similar to or different from the classroom's in these books.
  • Talk about how the characters are feeling in the books. Relate these feelings to how your child is feeling about going to school.
  • Use the books to help you describe to your child the types of activities that she will do in school.
  • Identify behaviors in the books that are expected of children who are in school.
  • Observe any friendships between characters in these books, and talk about making new friends.

By reading these books with your child and using these read aloud tips before you snap that "FIRST DAY OF" picture, you are giving them a head start on being ready to learn. I hope these books are a wonderful beginning to your child's school year!

What books do you read before school begins?

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