Easy Outdoor Book Nook – Summer Reading Activity

summer reading ideas

 

Freshen up your summer reading with this fun and easy outdoor book nook. When Scholastic sent us a super fun summer reading party pack and asked us to share with our readers how we would add some extra fun to summer reading, we decided to have a little reading under the stars party in our yard. The kids tried to convince me to let them stay up until it was really dark out but around here it’s not dark until way WAY past their bedtime. Being the stickler for bedtimes that I am we came up with a fun solution so that we could still read under the stars.

Gather your materials. You will need some sheets or table cloths ( we used one of each) some glow in the dark stickers, fun props like flashlights, headlamps, camp blankets, and of course a basket of books. I also have some reading logs, a clip board, and pencils.summer reading under the stars

You can find a whole bunch of printables and other summer reading materials on Scholastic’s Summer Reading page. If you want to have a summer reading party they even have a digital invitation- check it out.

Start by tying the sheets to some trees. Here’s the thing. In my head I thought this would look like some magical reading tent but the reality is that I do not have a degree in design or architecture and I just tied the sheets where I could. Does it look at cute as I hoped? Nope. Did my kids care? Nope.

reading activities for kids

Perfect isn’t perfect. Just have fun the important part is the reading not the structure. You are just offering your children some novelty to kick some new energy into their reading goals.

I used some rocks to hold the bottoms down.

Then my daughter went to town adding the star stickers. Even in the daylight you can read under the stars this way!summer reading outside summer reading challenge

Read. Flashlights might seem silly in the bright sunlight to adults but both my kids were totally into using them for this. They jumped right into pretend play but the rad thing is that even though they were pretending to be camping out on Mt. Rainer at night the reading they were doing was real.reading under the stars summer reading

 

Books to Read Under The Stars!

 

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Check out these great books ( link here or click the image above ) that are perfect to read with headlamps and flashlights! This year’s Summer Reading theme is Reading Under The Stars, and is powered by EVEREADY® to encourage families to discover new and fun ways to explore reading outside this summer.  If you don’t have the time to make a ( not as pretty as you hoped) outdoor book nook grab a flashlight or two and  read some of these great books under the blankets.  Making reading fun doesn’t have to be complicated.

 

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As stated above this post is sponsored by Scholastic.

 

Books About Superheroes

books about superheroes for kids When my son was four he was obsessed with superheroes. If you dig through our archives from May through September 2011 you will see he is almost always in a Batman tee-shirt. This was more than just a little love of a hero it was about strength and security. We were selling our house, moving to a new one , and in his life there were a lot of changes. Kids aren’t impervious to big life changes even if they are resilient. That tee-shirt was his security along with this shield and a sword fashioned from a broken toy. This is why I LOVE books about superheroes, they help our children tap into their inner strength, feel invincible, and eventually face and work through their fears.

All our book lists include affiliate links.

 

Super Duck (Duck in the Truck) by Jez Albourough was ok, I liked it but my little man didn’t. The book is part of a series and we haven’t read the other books, we grabbed this one because of the superhero theme and Super Duck was only kinda super . I liked the rhyming text because it flowed well, the rhymes were never forced but it was just too young for my son who was 4.5 when we reviewed it.  He didn’t find Duck funny, but I am sure other kids would. It’s a fun silly book, just don’t grab it for a kid who is expecting body armor, x-ray vision, and golden lassos.

Supersister by Beth Cedena wasn’t full of x-ray vision or super powers either but my son adored it. Kids are unpredictable. This story though is sweet and also has a little but of mystery to it , which upon reflection could be one reason why my son liked it so much. Supersister is a little girl who is brave and helpful demonstrated by how she lovingly ties her moms shoes for her before zooming off to school. Okay so I preach about pre-reading books, but rarely do it and reading this I was so worried the mom was going to be in  hospital bed and that’s why she needs her daughter to tie her shoes. I lean towards the dramatic so I doubt you’d even be thinking that and my son didn’t either. No nothing tragic has happened to mom , she is just very very pregnant. Supersister is practicing her role as a caregiver and older sister! My son loved that since he takes his still fairly new role of big brother very seriously. Cute book for new siblings especially!

awesome man

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by Michael Chabon is a fun book with a little secret twist to keep readers engaged. I won’t ruin the twist but I will say that if you read this book you MUST read it with a silly announcer voice, it makes it so much more fun. In the book Awesome Man and Moskowitz the Awesome Dog fight off over the top villains and save the day more than once in this witty and surprisingly lengthy book. My children liked the book and it’s funny tone. It is not a scary superhero book at all and I love the vocabulary used throughout. The retro feel to the illustrations by Jake Parker were my favorite part !

Batman

Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight by Ralph Cosentino is rare a book about a comic book character that is in a picture book format. I am telling you it’s hard to find books about Batman that I feel is not too violent for my 4 year old. This one is great , and the illustrations will leave you breathless. It explains the gist of the Batman story without going into too many dark  details and the text is the right length for preschooler’s attention spans. My son loves it and had it memorized in just a few days. The author illustrator also has  Superman and Wonder Woman in the series.

Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero by Alex Cottringer was exactly the kind of superhero book both my son and I were looking for. Eliot is just a calm quiet boy by day but by night he saves the world! It tapped into my son’s imagination right from the start and he was hooked. He loved the action and I loved that unlike the more character driven superhero books the plot is high on action and saving and low on violence and aggression. My son loved that scientists were working with Eliot, and that he had to travel to the Himalayas as part of this mission to save the world. I loved it to because it totally promotes and makes science and geography extra cool! All in all a great book although the text would have been too long for my son a year ago at 3. I’d keep this one for the 4 and up crowd.

ladybug girl

 

Ladybug Girl Dresses Up! by Jacky Davis is one positive girl book that my daughter adores. In this board book Lulu dresses up in a handful of different costumes including both “girl” ones and “boy” ones. She is equally happy in a princess dress as she is as a pirate. The one costume she loves above all the rest is her Ladybug Girl one, because as Ladybug Girl she can do anything. The message I want to send to my daughter more than any other, she can do anything even if she may have to work as hard as a superhero.

superpowers

The Day I Lost My Superpowers by Michael Escoffier is a sweet look at a child’s imagination and how she sees the world and her place in it. I love the how the super powers include things like “going back in time” at nap time and flying… off the slide. The best part though is when all the super powers disappear. All kids have rough days and this book recognizes that and tells them it’s OK not to have super powers every day.

awesome dawson

Awesome Dawson by Chris Gall was an instant hit with both my children. Dawson is an amazing little boy who invents new things from other people’s trash. Dawson is just like other children who try to find ways to get out of their chores so he can get back to the important work of play. He’s one step ahead of most kids though and invents a robot to take care of this chores, but things don’t go as awesome as he hoped. That’s when he must re-invent himself into a superhero to save the day. I really love this book and how inspiring it is for kids exploring the idea of invention and tinkering.

traction man

Traction Man Is Here! by Mini Grey tickled me. I loved this slightly absurd book about Traction Man an action figure superhero. The excitement begins with Christmas when Traction Man is given to a little boy and they immediately dive into action. He saves the day over and over until the day includes a hand knit outfit made by Granny. The page where Traction Man puts on the outfit and matching bonnet made me snort I laughed so hard, but my daughter only smiled. While she liked the book much of the humor was above her head at 4. The very end is hilarious and everyone at the lunch table was giggling as I read it. The story is fresh and fun and in the end Traction Man saves the day.

My First Batman Book

My First Batman Book: Touch and Feel by David Katz. This is a  rare find. A board book , a touch and feel no less,  about Batman. Trust me it’s rare, I squealed when I found it at the library and could not believe what a treat it was to read with both my kids. It’s not secret my son ( the one in the improvised Batman mask above) is into superheroes, he is also into books and I want to encourage that. However some of the books are so violent and I don’t want to expose him to all that at 4.5 , he is just too young for my comfort zone. For beginning readers there are some great I Can Read books but for even younger children pickings are super slim. Luckily there is this book. It’s sturdy, it’s age appropriate and it even glows in the dark

super princess kitty

Princess Super Kitty by Antoinette Portis is fun little book about a little girl playing pretend. She starts out as a kitty and as the play continues she evolves into superhero and finally adds princess to her title before playing with her siblings.  This book captures pretend play and how so much of it is about trying on powerful roles. For my daughter this was a very familiar tale because her pretend play often includes a princess ballerina superhero. We read the book three times in one sitting and have yet to return it to the library because “It’s just so fun Mama!”

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Batman Classic: Meet the Super Heroes: With Superman and Wonder Woman by Micheal Teitelbaum is another Batman book that both my son and I really liked. It’s an easy read for independent readers and not too long for kids not yet reading alone. What I really appreciated about this book was that the super heroes used teamwork to defeat a dragon. Here is why I liked this, because it wasn’t person on person violence , no guns, and all the heroes pitched in.  It’s hard finding books that satisfy your child’s love of a character while still fitting your comfort zones. This book does it.

Magnetic Sandcastle

snadpaper craft for kids Building sandcastles is tough , especially if you don’t live anywhere near a beach. This magnetic sandcastle activity is perfect for you no matter where you live. Not only are kids exploring the texture of the sandpaper they are exploring shapes and how they can work together to create something greater. Another side effect is the storytelling that might pop up like it did with my 4 year old. Her sandcastle was a story. If you don’t have a magnetic surface pick up a cookie sheet like we did for a dollar at Dollar Tree. I buy them 3 at a time.

Gather your materials. You will need some sandpaper, self adhesive magnetic sheets ( ours came from our friends at craftprojectideas.com ), scissors, a marker, and a magnetic surface. fine motor activity for kids

Start by drawing your shapes on the back of the sandpaper. Be careful thinner sand paper will show the marker through if you use a dark color like I did. A pencil may be a better choice. magnetic sandcastle blocks

Cut them out. magnetic sandcastle activity for kids

Add the magnets to the back. My little helper showed up at this stage wondering what I was up to and helped.

Peeling the backing off of these self adhesive magnets is RAD for little fingers still developing fine motor skills, it is also fantastic for concentration and building patience. fine motor sandcastle activity for kidsWe can’t expect our kids to develop ways to deal with frustration and patience if we never give them opportunities to face them. She got frustrated a few times and I said ” It’s tough, Mama is having a hard time too. ” that was it. If you think the frustration will block the whole activity step in but it’s OK for kids to try hard things and fail.

magnetic sand castle for kids

This zig zag piece was extra but she insisted on using it so we added magnets to it together.

Time to play.  sandcastle magnetic try activityShe was totally into it. I liked to see how carefully she was placing the pieces. ” They are rough on one side but not on the other mama!”  When my children make observations like that is when I jump on and try to add a little bit more of a lesson without breaking up their exploration. If they are silent I generally let them immerse themselves completely.fine motor tray activity for kids sandcastle When a comment like  that is made I might say something like what else feels rough like that? Or Do you like the feeling? Sparking more learning but using their observations as launching pad. sandcastle building tray activity for kids

Her creation was a pool with diving boards for sand fairies.

 

reading lists for kids

 

Need some books to go with this activity? Check out our Beach Books round up. Click here or on the image to be taken to the full round up with complete reviews of each book.

 

 

 

 

 

Outdoor Math Activities For Kids

math outside Make learning memorable with these hands on outdoor math activities. Math doesn’t have to be all flash cards and worksheets. It can include games, gross motor, and some novelty like water balloons and Nerf guns. These 9 math ideas have been tested by my kids who adore math but even children who are not so keen on math ( me as a kid!) will find something they can enjoy in this list too.

water balloon math activity for kids 3

Water Balloon Math Game

cheese ball math for kids

Cheeseball Math

number line math activity for children

Sidewalk Chalk Number Line

nerf gun math gross motor activity

Shoot & Count Nerf Gun Math Game

math outside for kids

Numbers In Nature

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Hose Down Shapes

Find and Count Bug Hunt

Find & Count Bug Hunt

math games for kids shell game for 3 year olds

Shell Number Memory Game

marshmallow shoot

Marshmallow Shoot & Measure

 

 

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Help Manage Separation Anxiety with a Simple DIY Photo Book

separation anxiety tools for kidsWhen I stared this blog I never dreamed it would become my job or that I would go to conferences and speak about blogging to other bloggers. This week I am heading to BlogHer in San Jose to lead a writing lab about brainstorming. As I prepare I can see that my daughter is getting a little anxious. Over the years I have made different little activities for my children when I go away like this Kissing Hand Necklace and Mailbox Activity. I decided to make a little photo book because my daughter has always found peace in photos. When  she gets upset looking at photos of family has always helped her calm down. You can use this same tutorial for any kind of book not just one for when you are separated from your children.

Gather your materials. You will need some self laminating sheets ( or a laminator), photos or print outs of photo collages ( I used picmonkey.com to make mine) , a hole punch, scissors, and a small binder ring.separation anxiety

Start by making collages in a 4×6 size. As I said above I used picmonkey.com to make these because I like how easy it is to add text to the collages. When we are apart page layoutThis is the text I added :

Even if you aren’t tight in my arms, you are snug in my heart. My love for you is just the same when we are apart.

When I am gone build with cars and Lego, say hi to the deer, take care of your babies, and get some fro-yo.

When I am gone I am going to ride in a taxi, wait at the airport, fly on a plane, listen to speakers, teach some other bloggers, and see Ms. Maya.

If you miss me while I am gone look at all these photos and know that love can stretch all the way across the world.

My heart is always filled with you and I will hold your hand again in a few days.

Mama loves you no matter how far apart we are.

Create a cover page.

when we cover

Print them out and trim to a 4×6 sizephoto book tutorial

Use the self laminating sheets and laminate the photos. This step was SUPER easy and I picked up these sheets at RiteAid.photo book for kids

Time to punch the holes!photo book for children

Add the ring.when we are apart photo book for kids

Read the book.when we are part book for anxious kids I had my husband read the book to my daughter and I will read it to her many many times before I leave so that it’s familiar. We will talk about each photo and tell stories about them as well. I find it really helpful to tell my children what I will be doing while I am away as well. I never say I won’t miss them, instead I always say I will and then tell them how I handle the emotions and ask them how they do. Giving them control and not telling them what to do has always helped my children feel empowered with hard emotions. I love when they explain to me how they conquered something hard.  I also find the following books very helpful when dealing with any sort of separation anxiety.

Books For Separation Anxiety

All book lists include affiliate links.

kishand2

The Kissing Hand by Audry Penn is an absolute favorite . Chester is a raccoon who like most of us doesn’t like change. In his case it’s starting school. He wants to stay home with his mama and play with the friends he already has instead of going to school away from her and his friends. So his mama explains to him the magic of the kissing hand . The real magic is the message that we have to do things that scare us sometimes but that the love of our family is always with us to help us through. Go get this book.

Owl Babies

Owl Babies by Martin Waddell is perfectly written for toddlers who are eager to “do it myself” but still need a loving parent safely within view.  Three baby owls wake to find their mom away and as time passes the three all get more anxious in their own ways. My daughter loves this book and completely related to poor little Bill who repeats ” I want my mommy!” over and over.  At night she is very much like little Bill, but during the day she is braver like the other two owls Sarah and Percy. No matter what level of separation anxiety your child may have at times they will relate to one or all of the little owls. Of course the story ends with mama coming back and reassuring her little owl babies that she always will.

mama always comes home

Mama Always Comes Home by Karma Wilson was a last minute grab at the library that I am so thankful I saw. It starts off with animal mother’s leaving their babies, for all different reasons . A bird gathering food, a dog greeting his master and more. The animal mothers leave, but they also always return to their babies. Then it switches to a child and mother. She reassures the child that she will be back and we watch her leave, and return . I loved this book because my son isn’t the best when I leave him, he related to this book immediately and was repeating ” Mama always comes home!” half way through. { I originally reviewed this in 2009 and have since read it many times to my daughter who also needed those gentle reminders that I would always return. }