Friday, March 31, 2017

Adventures in ING: ReadING

Adventures in ING
ING is a wonderful world where kindness is important. In fact, kindness is the most important thing in ING and all the elves, sprites, fairies, and gnomes who live there celebrate kindness every chance they get. They celebrate small kindnesses like when someone smiles at them and they smile back. And they celebrate big kindnesses when someone smiles at them and they smile back.

One of the best things about ING is that everyone knows that there are countless ways of being kind and countless ways of celebrating kindness. The tricky thing for humans to learn is how to notice kindnesses. Humans have to learn to notice when other people are being kind to them just as much as the need to learn to notice when they are being kind to others (and themselves). (Yes! You can practice being kind to yourself!)

But...once someone learns how to notice kindness, many wonderful things happen. First, they start to see kindness everywhere. Then they are able to be kind wherever they go. And the funny thing about being kind - the more you do it, the more you want to do it, and the more ways you imagine to do it!

Those are the Adventures in ING. Noticing kindnesses. Being kind. Imagining new ways of being kind.

March is for Reading
The elves from ING take turns inviting humans to practice being kind. Every once in a while a couple of experts from ING offer ideas about how little humans can learn about giving, sharing, caring, loving, laughing, and living in kindness.

In March the Reading Elves, named Haiku and Story, like to explain how reading is not just a fun thing to do for yourself. It is an important one that helps make you more understanding, more knowledgable, less stressed, and - because of all those things - better able to show kindness. There is plenty of work to do to make reading part of your life.

A Letter of Introduction
When they arrive, Haiku and Story like to introduce themselves because that is the kind (and polite) thing to do.

Dear Small Persons,

Our names are Haiku and Story and we are Reading Elves from ING. We like to visit small persons in March, right around Dr. Seuss's Birthday, to have fun reading with you.

Reading is powerful business and it takes some time to learn. But there are ways you can make reading a part of your life even if you can't quite do it on your own.  
Once you are good at reading with your family, you can read by yourself, read to other persons, and even other creatures. So let’s get started by thinking about why and how we read.

We look forward to doing this fun and important work with you! Sincerely,

Haiku and Story

Four Ways of Reading - Some Ideas

Then Haiku and Story suggest some ways to practice reading. They ask the children to practice reading in different ways.


Dear Small Persons,  
When you are small there are a few different ways to enjoy stories from books. 
You can ask your mom or dad to read to you. Just pick your favorite book, walk to your parent, and ask! (Don't forget to start with, "Will you please..." Grownups are more likely to say "yes" when you ask politely.) 
You can also look at a book on your own. Just open one up and look at the pictures and the letters that are inside. 
There are even audiobooks for you at the library. You can get a CD and book that go together. 
However you make time to read something that you find funny or interesting is perfect. The important thing is that it feels good. Do you think you can read a little today? Tomorrow? Every day this week? 
Haiku and Story


Dear Small Persons, 
We think Reading to Other People feels really good! When you sit quietly together and look at a book, it is safe and cozy and fun. 
If you remember the words from your favorite story then you can pretend to read to your grownup. If you don't remember then that's OK, too. Just make up your own words for the pictures. 
Someday you will learn the letters and the words, too, and then you can read to your parents, your grandparents, your brother or sister. You could even visit an assisted living home and read to people who don't live with their families any more. 
Do you think you can read to Someone today? Tomorrow? Every day this week?  
You can start simply by choosing a book and saying, "Can I read to you?" 
Haiku and Story

Dear Small Persons,  
Did you know that you can read to animals? Of course, if you have a pet the you can read to him or her. 
If you don't have a pet of your own then you can find a different place to read to an animal. Sometimes local animal shelters invite children to read to the animals waiting to be adopted. Other times your library hosts therapy dogs who would like for you to read to them. 
Reading to Animals is often a fur-filled event! Be sure you use gentle touches and soft words when you read to them. 
Do you think you can Read to an Animal today? Tomorrow?  This week? 
Haiku and Story

Dear Small Persons,  
Reading doesn't just mean reading books. Words and pictures are used to communicate all sorts of things. Road signs tell drivers where to stop and pedestrians where it is safe to cross. In stores, words and pictures help you find bathrooms. At the grocery store, words and pictures tell you what is inside a box or can. 
So when you are out and about, keep your eyes peeled for all the places you see words and pictures.  
Do you think you can spot some words and pictures outside your home today? Tomorrow? Every day this week? 
Haiku and Story 

Saying Goodbye
Before departing, the Reading elves say goodbye because that is the kind thing to do.

Dear Small Persons, 
We have had great fun with you. Thank you for practicing reading with us. You had many clever ways of reading big and reading small. And every kindness counts! 
Haiku and Story


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Rediscover THIS Childhood Game

The door to the toy room swung lazily open. On the tips of my toes, I snuck quietly into the room, spun my back to the wall, and squeezed behind the door. Small voices called out, “eight, nine, ten!” Then the pitter patter of two sets of feet began to gently drum the tile floor.

A small gap held open by the hinges of the door did not give away my location but through it I could spy my children scurrying back and forth along the hall. As a toddler and a preschooler the 1800 square foot house must have felt enormous. And I can only imagine how liberating, exciting, and slightly scared they must have felt without my conspicuous presence.

It was so fun and so funny that I thought my smile might be too loud. So when they scurried past me for what seemed the gazillionth time I pretended to stifle a laugh. “Tee hee.”

Read the rest at Fat Brain Toys...

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Preschool Engineer's Definitive Guide to TRUCKS

Before I had a son I called all working machines “trucks.” Alongside my toddler I have learned more about trucks than I ever would have guessed. We have read books (good, bad, and ugly). We have memorized lyrics to songs. We have played with (and, if possible, broken) what seems like every toy truck available.

This is the definitive list of all things TRUCK. It is a summary of the best toys, music, videos, and books for preschoolers about trucks.

Outdoor Toys
In our experience, TONKA makes the best toy working trucks. They are rugged and can withstand the rough and tumble playground play of preschool. After being flung down the slide, their pieces remain in tact. Their wheels provide great traction on a variety of surfaces. 

These are the three best trucks for building a working fleet: 

  1. a grader (a blade for smoothing surfaces), 
  2. a trencher (for scooping and dumping), and 
  3. a dump truck (with an angled bed so contents to just fall out when being transported).

The hefty steel trucks by TONKA might be too much for your family. Prefer plastic? Our favorite plastic toy trucks are by BATTAT. And, conveniently enough, they offer three different kinds of trucks to add to the working fleet.

  1. front end loader (scoop on the front is agile and easy to maneuver but you will likely have to constantly tighten the screws),
  2. garbage truck, and
  3. cement mixer (expect your child to directly turn the drum instead using the tiny crank).

Crane trucks are tricky because there is a rope that, presumably, gets cranked up and down that has to also attach to a hook. Our favorite is by Mattel because is is sturdy and has been dragged all over. The catch is that the rope does not do a lot of out and back work...usually my kids tie or tape things on the end. At the high price, I would probably go for a different truck in the fleet but if a crane is what you need then this is our fav:

The trucks I list here have been in our family for three to five years and have withstood the tests of time.

Indoor Toys
Our favorite indoor truck play is with Play-doh's Diggin' Rigs toys. The machines themselves are interesting to work with and putting them together makes for imaginative play that might take over your entire room. These are our favs:

  • A circular saw (never did I ever think I would find a toy circular saw!),
  • Fire Truck (for spraying water that isn't really is blue play-doh!),

  • Quarry (a crank and tumbling play-doh gravel).

The last awesome toy I'll list is Constructive Eating Utensils. They are my go-to gift for two year olds. These "toys" have also been in my family...for six years...and they are still used on a weekly basis.

Truck Tunes is easy to recommend for truck lovers everywhere. The songs are snappy and strangely stick-in-your-head-y and they describe trucks and the work they do. Thirty songs are available to download!

The folks over at Twenty Trucks also made music videos of their Truck Tunes. You can preview them on YouTube or download them to your device for on-the-go entertainment (i.e., airplane travel).

Mighty Machines is a show produced in Canada for kids. It features live video footage of real machines at work. The audio is dubbed over and gives voices to the machines who tell the stories of their days. Learn about rock quarries, work on the farm, deep underground, and even take to the seas or skies!

Pick some to buy or watch on Netflix.

Bob the Builder on PBS Kids is a cartoon series and has an empire of its own. Each episode reveals a project for Bob and his team of machines to do. Books, an app and toys are available to coordinate with the show. The story-telling and animation are both awesome. Bob and his team are easy to recommend as additions to your preschooler's world of TRUCKS.


Here is my first word of warning: Steer clear of books by TONKA. They are practically sales catalogs for their toys and the writing is downright awful. If you need something akin to truck-porn then I recommend Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things that Go or Richard Priddy's First 100 Trucks

If you are looking for better books...ones that you can enjoy as much as your child then check out the list below.

For the Love of Trucks
These are the books that tell a story about playing with trucks or loving them.

Trucks and the Work They Do
These books teach about trucks...the sounds they make, the work they do on their own, or as a member of a truck team.

Trucks Come to Life
These books tell the story that has a truck as the main character. [Note: I do not LOVE "Dinotrux" but boy oh boy do kids love it!]