Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How To Read a Seek-and-find Book

For about a month my two year old chose "Treasure Hunt for Girls" as her bedtime book. I had a lot of issues with this book. First, it is pink. Second, why is it just for girls? (They make one for boys, too.) And, OMG, I had to give over control of the speed of bedtime to my child. At 7:30PM when I am ready to do a quick read, snuggle, and say "good night," my daughter wanted to take her time to point to all the things to find. On the up side, reading the same thing over and over again challenged me to be a little creative with the book to keep it interesting. I learned that there is more than one way to read a seek-and-find book.


All our seek-and-find books come with directions. In "Treasure Hunt for Girls" each page asks "Can you find these ____ things?" Then it goes on to list things to seek-and-find. "Can you find these fairy things?" is followed by "1 leaping frog, 2 swimming swans, 3 pretty fairies..." all the way to 10 items. Each page spread has a similar list. Naturally, we started by following the directions. I would read the instructions and Anna would point to what she could find. The first night, we looked for all ten items and that took forever. On the second night, I set a limit and found a way to reduce the amount of time we spent seeking-and-finding and follow the instructions. We searched for 1, 2, and 3 items on each page on that night. The next night we searched for 4, 5, and 6 items. Then 7, 8, and 9 items and, finally, 10 items. That bought us a good week's worth of seeking-and-finding but Anna wasn't done with the book.

I recognized that reading this seek-and-find book was great learning. A child like mine practices patience to seek and find. She counts. He names things. They learn descriptive words like colors and location (on top, left, right, near my thumb, etc.). So I started to make up my own instructions. Each night we would pick a new color. "Let's find all the blue things on each page," I suggested. As you can imagine, every night we looked on each page for a different color. Then, as you might imagine, after two weeks of reading the book I was pretty familiar with the images. I could improvise easily. So I started prompting my daughter to find things on the page that weren't listed in the instructions by the author. Looking at the jungle page, I asked "Who is looking through binoculars?" After we did improv seeking-and-finding we began to count: "Let's count! How many spiders are there?" And, finally, the most complicated way to read the seek-and-find is to make up stories for each page. On the kitchen page we could make up a story about the party for which the mother and child are preparing. Together, we realized that the seek-and-find book spurred all sorts of learning...not least of which was the creative process of making something "new" of the experience.

Here is a quick list of new ways for reading an old favorite seek-and-find:
  • Find all the green things on each page. Change the color each time you read the book.
  • Find something new. Ignore the author's instructions and do a quick seek yourself to prompt your child with a new item he or she hasn't already sought.
  • Count all the ____. For each page, choose something you haven't already sought and count them along the way.
  • Make a story about an item/animal/person on each page. 
So go out there and reinvent ways to read your child's favorite seek-and-find! If you need a place to start, here is a list of four seek-and-find books at our house on Amazon. (affiliate).

[Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and purchase, I receive a small referral fee at no cost to you. To see how I spend the money see my "Philanthropy" page. ]

Saturday, December 6, 2014

More Small Toys

Magic Scarf.

When we were checking out at the grocery store the clerk, a retired preschool teacher, couldn't resist doing a little magic for my kids. My kids loved it and it gave me an idea for a gift...the color-changing hanky. It is mechanically interesting, appropriate for small children (I think), and relatively inexpensive. What is funny about this scarf is all the ways my child has discovered for playing with it. Of course, figuring it out was first on the list. Then it turned into a snake (because snakes are big around here these days). Lastly, and I don't know why this surprised me, my kid discovered how centripetal force can be exploited. He could change the colors by twirling it around like nunchucks.

The rest of these are on our wish lists but I don't actually have experience with them. They are just ideas I'm saving for later...

Bug Lite.

In search of gifts ('tis the season), I was perusing all sorts of things in our local small toy shop (Into the Wind). I could imagine spending all of our money in that store because it is jam-packed with interesting and fun toys. But that is beside the point. The point is that I found this little "Bug Lite" there. It is a great take on a flashlight as a small gift because it has bendy arms and legs. Those bendy arms and legs make it wildly versatile because it can be mounted just about anywhere. Plus, it looks like a bug, which is a plus around our house.

Picture provided for scale.

Glow in the Dark Stars.

OK. Sometimes it is just hard to remember all those magical things from childhood that were just cool. When I saw Glow in the Dark Stars, I remembered. What a fun project for preschoolers to help decorate their space with glow in the dark stickers. And since we're approaching the solstice and we have an abundance of darkness during our waking hours, glow in the dark stars could be just the cure we need for a cold winter day.

Toysmith Crank Music Box

I saw the Toysmith brand music box at Into the Wind but I didn't see any available on Amazon. The Toysmith brand boxes at Into the Wind played Christmas songs. But the Kikkerland brand one available thru the link (above) are only available in other classics (including Stairway to Heaven). Toysmith ones were available thru sites that I'm not familiar with like "" and "" It appears as though they are also available on eBay. The one I handled in the store was cool. It seemed sturdy enough and the sound was nice enough for a $6 hand-crank music box. It was smallish in my hand but the right size for a preschooler, I think. Kind of fun and definitely up the alley for a mechanically-minded person. I did find a different branded one on Amazon so I put the link, below.

3D Doodle Kit.

Believe it or not this kit is recommended for 3 years and up! I think the pencils have a special device to hold them together, which is necessary for creating an image that will appear 3D through the glasses.  What a fun way to explore vision and various aspects of STEAM!

[Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and purchase, I receive a small referral fee at no cost to you. To see how I spend the money see my "Philanthropy" page. ]

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

DIY Audiobooks for Preschoolers

In preparing for a recent cross-country road trip I realized that listening to books would be a great idea. Audiobooks would be a great way to change from listening (and re-listening) to favorite music. Plus, it would be a great alternative to TV or screen time. I mean, just imagine your child listening to you read them a book while you are otherwise preoccupied cooking dinner, cleaning, nursing a newborn, etc!

I had this brilliant idea with very little time until "take off." So instead of buying a pre-recorded book or recording AND then creating a CD, I just decided that I could record stories onto a recorder and play it through the car speakers. It turns out that it is a great "toy" for my preschool engineers. They love sitting quietly with the recorder listening to different stories and recording their own things.

Tips for Making and Using Audiobooks for Preschoolers

  • Choose your recording device. 
    • Do you want to burn CDs or not? (I don't think it is necessary.)
    • Does the device you choose play the way you want? (Is it equipped with USB? Can your car play USB?)
  • Find quiet time and space.
  • Watch the input volume so it is in the sweet spot of not too quiet but not too loud.
  • Start small. Read "Brown Bear Brown Bear What do you see?" before diving into "The Cat in the Hat."
  • Have your child choose books they would like to hear.
  • Don't panic if your child inadvertently erases your recording while trying to listen again. It is just a life lesson.
  • Don't worry about burning CDs. Your child can listen easily enough by having the device directly in their hands, or, depending on the brand of recorder and your car, you can play it through USB to your car speakers.

I have an old Olympus voice recorder that was sitting around collecting dust. I used that one and it works beautifully. It is easy to record, user friendly (I was able to pick it up and figure it out again quickly). And it played back nicely via USB in my car. If I had to start from scratch, I would probably skip talking into my computer's microphone and attempting to burn CDs from that. I would buy a standalone device like the Olympus VN-722PC (affiliate link below).

[Disclosure Statement: This post contains affiliate links. If you click and purchase, I receive a small referral fee at no cost to you. To see how I spend the money see my "Philanthropy" page. ]