My Favorite Christmas Books

by Bonnie Pearson

One of my favorite sayings about reading books comes from a Mary Engelbreit poster. It reads – “A book is a present you can open again and again.”
The Polar ExpressThat is so true. How many times haven’t you had to reread a book to your child? Someone once told me that books are not an expense, but an investment. My husband and I bought a book every Christmas for each of our children. I wrote a little note in each book, along with the date it was given. Today, they have quite a library!

When you’re looking for that unusual Christmas gift, think about the present your child can open again and again – a book!

Here are a few of our Christmas favorites:

 

Christmas in the Big Woods
“Christmas in the Big Woods” (a picture book based on the novel by Laura Ingalls Wilder)
“The Wild Christmas Reindeer” by Jan Brett (the story of how the Christmas reindeer are trained)
“The Crippled Lamb” by Max Lucado (Joshua, the crippled lamb is in the stable the night of Jesus’ birth)
“The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg (yes, it was a book before it became a movie)

 

 

Merry Christmas! Big Hungry Bear
“Merry Christmas! Big Hungry Bear” by Audrey Wood (follow-up to “The Little Mouse, the Red, Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear”)
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson (we would read a few pages every night after eating supper)

 

Happy reading this season and Merry Christmas!

Travel American Style – with Games!

by Suzanne Kasper

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s time to think about travelling over the river and through the woods . . . or across the country on an airplane! Regardless of your mode of transit or your destination, the absolute best thing you can bring to gatherings of family and friends is a new game. Imagine everyone gathered around, laughing and having fun. Grandchildren and grandparents, brothers and sisters, your brother’s college roommates – everyone will love spending time together and making merry over a good old-fashioned game!

Wanna Bet

Children and adults alike will love Wanna Bet! Hilarity will ensue when you try to perform the different tasks listed on the cards while the other players bet on whether or not you will succeed. They can double their stake if they guess correctly, but if you succeed, you also win! Wanna Bet takes about 20 minutes to complete, and is perfect for 3-6 players ages 7 and up.

 

Apples to Apples Jr

Apples to Apples Jr. is a sure fire way to get an entire group laughing. The judge holds the single word characteristic card with a word such as “sharp,” “explosive,” or “goofy.” The other players have to play their people, place, thing, or event card that best matches the judge’s characteristic card. What will happen if you play your “pickle” card on the judges “explosive” card? I promise you, laughter will happen. If the judge likes your card the best, for whatever reason they choose, you win the round. Apples to Apples Jr. takes about 30 minutes to play, and is perfect for 4-10 players ages 9 and up.

Clue The Classic EditionDo you know what people love? Nostalgia. I’ve had people tell me that their family is really into Clue right now, and I think this would be fun for everyone at any gathering. A suspect, weapon, and room card are placed into the confidential case file, and the players gather clues to figure out if it was Miss Scarlet in the library with a rope or Professor Plum in the kitchen with a pipe. It really is as fun as you remember! Clue: The Classic Edition takes about 45-60 minutes to play, and is perfect for 3-6 players ages 8 and up.

No matter which game you choose (and there are lots more to choose from here), definitely consider brining a game to your next gathering. Playing a game takes the pressure off when getting reacquainted with long lost friends and relatives, and everyone will be excited to play, relax, and have fun.

We wish you safe travels!  And remember, if you don’t win the first game, you can always play the best two out of three!

Create New Thanksgiving Traditions

by Suzanne Kasper

Here we are, at the beginning of the holiday season! First up – Thanksgiving! What a fantastic holiday full of family, food, and fun! If you are looking for Thanksgiving traditions that include young children, you’ve come to the right place!

The Night Before ThanksgivingFirst up, a book that we can read every year on the night before Thanksgiving! “The Night Before Thanksgiving” is the story of the fun-filled and food-filled day that everyone in the family loves, read in the rhythm of that popular holiday song. The excitement can barely be contained as the night before Thanksgiving brings visions of turkey legs dancing in our heads!

 

Diffusing LeavesNext, the place markers for the Thanksgiving table! This very important part of your Thanksgiving table should be left to the most creative and youngest members of your family. For a really unique twist that is still very much on point, supply your little ones with Diffusing Leaves and diluted food coloring that coordinates with your tablescape. Color Diffusing Leaves are made of a fabric-like paper that just needs to be spritzed with liquid watercolor paint or food color. The leaves will come alive as your chosen colors flow and blend to make one-of-a-kind patterns. When your leaves are dry, children can decorate them further, adding names and designs using markers, crayons, glitter – nearly anything they can think of! Each pack includes 80 leaves measuring approximately 9″x7″ per package, so there should be more than plenty for all of your guests plus some! You could even go a step further by poking a hole in the top and adding a piece of ribbon or rustic twine for hanging. Your guests can then take their leaves home to add to their own holiday décor!

Crayola CrayonsFinally – let’s consider the children’s table. This is such an important part of Thanksgiving for children all across the United States.   Let’s make it super fun for kids this year! First, cover the entire children’s table with Easel Paper. Not only will this create the perfect backdrop for the abundance of creativity just waiting to be set free, it will make cleanup so much easier. Next, place a large cup or two (or three or four, depending on the length of your kid’s table) of crayons, colored pencils, and markers in the center of the table. After dinner has been eaten and the tables have been cleared, cut out the drawings of each child so that they can take them home.

From our family to yours, we wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Apples!

by Bonnie Pearson

I just spent the day processing apples – making pies and sauces, as well as drying apples. Since apples were on my mind, this installment of I Love to Read is about – apples!

Apples For Everyone

 

Apples for Everyone” by National Geographic is a picture book that follows the life cycle of an apple -from seed to blossom to fruit. The realistic pictures bring the orchard to your child.

Johnny Appleseed My Story

 

Now is also a great time to read about folk legend Johnny Appleseed (his birthday was September 26). The book, “Johnny Appleseed: My Story,” which is a STEP into reading book, is a great place to start.

Ten Apples Up On Top!

 

 

Finally, just for fun, try the Dr. Seuss classic, “Ten Apples Up on Top!

 

Story Stretcher Activity: Easy Applesauce

Pour one can of frozen apple juice concentrate into your slow cooker. Fill the slow cooker with sliced, peeled, and cored apples (if you don’t own an apple peeler/corer – it’s the best $20 ever spent). Cover the slow cooker and cook all day. Not only does your house smell great, but by the end of the day – you will have applesauce! Use a potato masher if you like chunky sauce, or run it through the blender for smooth sauce. I add cinnamon and nutmeg for extra flavor. Enjoy!

Trick or Treat!

by Suzanne Kasper

What do you do to make Halloween special? Do you go pumpkin hunting and carve jack-o’-lanterns? Do you decorate your house and hand out treats?

Halloween Fun Shrinky DinksThis year, consider creating a Halloween family heirloom with the Halloween Fun Shrinky Dinks Set! With 30 happy little Halloween ornaments for you to color and bake, this set is definitely more treat than trick. Your entire family will have a great time getting into the Halloween spirit while decorating this 11” velvet tree full of not-too-spooky ornaments.

 

 

Halloween Stinky StickersAre you looking for a trick-or-treat handout to replace candy? Something the kids will love? Check out these Halloween Stinky Stickers! This is a large pack of 60 licorice-scented scratch and sniff stickers in three designs that will be a huge hit with kids of all ages!

 

 

Peanuts Halloween Mini Bulletin Board SetWhen you think of Halloween, do you think of Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang? We sure do! You can bring this classic Halloween tradition to your home or classroom with the Peanuts Halloween Mini Bulletin Board Set! Create that special Halloween feel to wherever you decorate with this fantastically fun set that includes 60 pieces and 2 banners!

 

We wish you lots more treats than tricks!
Happy Halloween!

Fall Crafting for Kids!

by Suzanne Kasper

What is it about fall that brings out the craftiness in people? Perhaps it’s the cooler weather that beckons us indoors to sit in front of a fire with a cup of hot apple cider and a lap filled with yarn. It might be the falling leaves, acorns, and pine cones, which are all free crafting materials provided by Mother Nature. Whatever the reason, fall is a fantastic time to get crafty!

Quick Knit LoomDo you have children that are interested in knitting? Even if they don’t have the dexterity to hold knitting needles, they can start knitting now with the Quick Knit Loom! This is much like the wooden knitting looms of the past, but this loom has hooked tips on the pegs to keep your yarn from slipping off. Perfect for kids ages 7 and up, the Quick Knit Loom Kit includes 90 yards of yarn, large circle loom, 2-sided hand loom, tassel maker, and decorative buttons.

 

Multi-Craft Weaving Loom

If knitting isn’t their thing, what about weaving? Children ages 6 and up will love weaving on this extra-large wooden loom! The Multi-Craft Weaving Loom Kit includes 91 yards of yarn in assorted colors, a wooden needle, and an adjustable wooden frame that measures 16.5″ wide x 22.75″ tall. Kids will be able to create cool crafts for themselves and for giving as gifts!
Hip to be Square Crochet Kit

 

Now that fall has officially arrived, you might notice a chill in the air. With few exceptions, that chill will be sticking around for the next 6 months or so. Now is the perfect time to for kids to learn how to crochet their own scarf, bag, and hat that they will adore all season long! The Hip to be Square Crochet Kit includes 300 yards of assorted colored yarn, a crochet hook, a plastic needle, one finished square, and easy to understand instructions. Children ages 7 and up will be delighted by the retro groovy chic pieces that they can make with this kit!

 

We wish you all a Happy Fall, and Happy Crafting!

Make Your Classroom Cozy!

by Suzanne Kasper

School is in full swing, and summer is turning to fall. With the changing of the seasons also comes the desire for a cozier feel for your classroom. A few simple touches will give your classroom a welcoming feel that will keep you and your students warm all season long!

Fall Leaf Clings

 

Bring a fall feel to your windows, laminated materials, or any other glossy surface with Fall Leaf Clings! These reusable, residue-free clings allow you to decorate your filing cabinet this year, your windows next year, and your whiteboard the year after that!

 

Pumpkin Patch Bulletin Board SetYour bulletin board can be the centerpiece of your classroom with the Pumpkin Patch Bulletin Board Set! The large scarecrow measures over 16 inches tall, and pumpkins, 18 leaves, and 2 crows surround him. There are a total of 32 pieces (not all are shown in the photo) that you can use to design your own fall masterpiece!

 

Leaves Color Me CutoutsSpeaking of designing your own masterpiece, kids will love doing just that with these Leaves Color Me Cut-Outs! Each 6-inch leaf is ready to be colored by you and your students to allow everyone to put their mark on the room. Use on desks, calendars, or anywhere you would like to add a fabulous fall feel!

 

We would like to wish you all a spectacular fall filled with colorful leaves, pumpkin patches, and cozy classrooms!

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Create Your Own Custom Classroom Design!

by Suzanne Kasper

Now that it is officially August, it is time to think about getting your classroom into shape. Have you decided how you’re going to decorate your space this year? Will you go with a single theme, or mix and match for an eclectic look?

Teal Polka Dot Paper LanternsA fun new item this year to add a new dimension to your decor is the paper lantern. The Teal Polka Dot Paper Lanterns would be smashing with any of the Boho Birds or Dots on Turquoise themed classroom decorations. You could even mix the Teal Polka Dot lanterns with Colorful Owls, Teal Appeal, Cat in the Hat, and Calypso accents to make your classroom pop!

Lime Polka Dot Paper Lanterns

 

Create a calm corner with the Lime Polka Dot Paper Lanterns. They will beautifully fill your space, and would look super with a Frogtastic, Jingle Jungle, or Lemon Lime motif.

 

Black and White Paper LanternsWhen it comes to the Black and White Paper Lanterns, Peanuts and Mustache design elements would lend themselves nicely. Add additional black and white mixed with pops of color around your room with the Black and White line of decorations. This line contains various patterns and bright colors, so you don’t have to worry about your room becoming too duo-chromatic.

Whichever design you choose for your room, make the space your own by adding cozy elements along with colors that you love. Being surrounded by the colors, patterns, and decor that makes you happy is a great way to kick off the new school year!

Happy designing!

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Audio Books the Family Will Love!

by Bonnie Pearson

We are looking at the calendar, and the date already reads July 25th! Where did the time go? Some of you may have taken a summer vacation, and some of you are perhaps still waiting to go. If you have children, and if your vacation involves car travel, you are in the right place!

Even if you aren’t traveling a great distance, time spent in the car with antsy children may tend to drag. Audio books are a great way to pass the time in a car! If your children are old enough, you can even suggest that they follow along with the book.

 

Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile Book and CD SetSome of our favorite audio books include “Curious George,” “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel,” and “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.”

 

 

Henry HugginsFor children who are old enough to read chapter books, we’d like to suggest two series written by Beverly Cleary. First is the “Henry Huggins” series including Henry and Ribsy. These books are read by Neil Patrick Harris.

 

Ramona & BeezusThe second series includes “Beezus and Ramona.” This series is read by Stockard Channing, and her voicing for Ramona is spot on! Your entire family will be laughing along.

 

We suggest bringing along a few extra titles, as once children start reading, they often won’t want to stop!

Happy trails and safe travels to you!

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Back to School 2014!

by Suzanne Kasper

I saw it just the other day – the first “Back to School” commercial. I thought that it couldn’t be that time already, but then I realized that we are into July. For most of the country, August is the month to get back at it, and teachers need to be ahead of the game.

We want to save you a lot of stress, so we put together an inclusive list of Back to School essentials that you can use as a jumping off point. Cross off what you don’t need, add what you do. This list will spark your memory so you can pick up things as you’re out and about this summer.

For personal items and classroom supplies, Learning Shop has lots of what you’ll need. Park at the door or shop online (free shipping on orders over $69!) to make crossing things off your list a piece of cake! For classroom furnishings, check your local Craigslist, garage sales, flee markets, and resale shops to add cozy touches and make your classroom uniquely you.

Personal Items

Classroom Supplies

Classroom Furnishings

  • Baskets/Bins
  • telescopeBean Bag Chairs
  • Book Shelves
  • Bulletin Board Sets
  • Carpets/Circle Time Rugs
  • CD/MP3 Player
  • Chair for the Teacher
  • Clock
  • Cubbies
  • DVD Player
  • Extension Cords
  • File Cabinet (locking)
  • Maps
  • Pocket Charts
  • Telescope
  • Throw Pillows

Most importantly, keep enjoying summer! We’ve still got two months right?