Good Reads for Kids – August 2014

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This month I’m focusing on poetry. There are some great poems out there for kids, and there are some truly crummy ones. Let’s focus on the good ones!

1. Oxford Illustrated Book of Children’s Poems – Not every poem in this book was our favorite (some I didn’t even read to the kids), but the classics plus illustrations made it worth checking out.

2. A Meal of the Stars – Anja originally didn’t want to read this book because “it looked boring.” But the puzzle of figuring out which way to read each poem lured her in at once, as did the clever illustrations. Bravo, local author Dana Jensen!

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3. The Real Mother Goose – Classic children’s poems (some quite frightening!) as you remember them, and some as you don’t. The price on this is outstanding

4. Where the Sidewalk Ends – Shel Silverstein’s poetry tomes have become classics in their own right, and Anja regularly picks this one up to read the silly, somewhat sordid verses. They usually rhyme, which appeals to her at age six.

 

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Summer Unit Studies

We homeschooled this past year. I plan to blog more about that later, but for now I’d love to share some of the basic ideas we have for continuing our education through the summer. We’ve done this the past several summers, and it’s worked well for our pace. I don’t always get to every activity planned (or, being honest, every theme, depending on the week!), but I know that I have something there if the kids need direction or we have a lot of open mornings in a week.

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A source of inspiration for me are the local and regional Community Ed/Activity calendars. I often use those as a jumping-off point for picking our theme and then incorporate simple activities I know our kids will love. Here are some our themes and related activities for 2014.

GARDENING

  • Rake, dig, plant seeds
  • Read gardening books
  • Learn about some different types of plants

GARDEN ART

  • Build fairy gardens
  • Make a homemade bird feeder
  • Continue gardening, planting, weeding

KITES

  • Read stories about kites
  • Make our own kites
  • Fly kites
  • Play kite-related games

PIRATES

  • Read pirate stories
  • Make treasure maps and a telescope
  • Do a treasure hunt at a local park
  • “Walk the Plank” game

UNDERSEA SURPRISES

  • Visit a local aquarium
  • Make under the sea drawings/crafts
  • Read books about unusual sea creatures
  • Practice math with “under the sea” worksheets and manipulatives

NATURE DETECTIVES

  • Go dip-netting
  • Hike together
  • Check out a bird identification book from the library and try to spot and name some local birds

PARADISE

  • Have a luau
  • Visit the local pool
  • Learn about rainforest biome and the creatures in it

GONE FISHIN’

  • Tackle box math
  • Go fishing at a local lake
  • Do a scientific experiment about buoyancy using different objects

BEACH FUN

  • Sand activities
  • Visit local beach
  • Paint al fresco
  • Read books at the beach and about the beach

CATERPILLARS AND BUTTERFLIES

  • Visit MN Zoo’s butterfly garden
  • Make caterpillar and butterfly crafts
  • Do simple math problems with caterpillar segments
  • Observe butterflies in our yard

MESSY FUN

  • Make slime
  • Paint outdoors using various homemade paints
  • Outdoor water and mud play

CAMPING

  • Read camping books
  • Learn about constellations and star patterns
  • Make s’mores over a fire
  • Learn how to pack by packing for our own camping trip

BUBBLES, RAINBOWS & POPSICLES (this one is admittedly a mish-mash of all things summer)

  • Count popsicle sticks
  • Blow bubbles, make our own solution
  • Rainbow crafts and art
  • Popsicle stick crafts

SPLASHES AND ICE CREAM

  • Run through the sprinkler
  • Visit the local pool
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Visit a local ice cream parlor
  • Play “ice cream shop” with Play-Doh creations, practice adding #s

MINNESOTA HISTORY

  • Visit a local history museum
  • Go to the Minnesota State Fair and learn about how it came to be (while eating delicious things on a stick)
  • Read books about pioneers in this area

Sea Life Aquarium MN

This week our family got a chance to visit Sea Life Aquarium at the Mall of America. They sent us some complimentary tickets a couple weeks ago, and Husband took the day off work so we could all go together.

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They just closed their octopus exhibit and are gearing up for a crab exhibit called Claws! It opens in June and includes Giant Japanese Spider Crabs. Those things are HUGE!

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My personal favorite creature was the garden eel. I could’ve watched those little guys for half an hour. Husband said they reminded him of Slimey. They fed them while we were there, and all these little snails appeared out of nowhere (I think they crawled up out of the sand) and started eating, too.

One other funny moment was when Husband was holding Markus in the Ocean Tunnel (where the creatures swim right over/around you), and I pointed and said, “Look!” Markus turned around and there was a huge stingray right in his face. He panicked and dug his little face into Husband’s neck.

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If you are looking for something fun to do in the Twin Cities and are short on time, check out Sea Life. Kids of ALL ages will enjoy it!

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They also have tours for school groups and even a special week for homeschools.

(Out to lunch afterward)

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The Post Alpha-Bits Little Free Library is up!

We’ve had quite the weather this April, from continued snow to a couple days of sun back to super-cold and then a week of rain. All that to say my lovely friend Maggie was finally able to get the Post Alpha-Bits Little Free Library up and ready for use this weekend!

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It is located at 15858 Harwell Avenue in Apple Valley, with a cute little path leading to it from the sidewalk. We would love to have you stop by and check out a book! Now that it’s finally outdoor weather, come out for a walk with the family, or bring your grandkids. If you have a book you/your kids have outgrown and would like to share it with the neighborhood, drop it off! It really is a community endeavor. We all win when kids have easy access to age-appropriate books, and we can all contribute to each other’s learning and access to great literature! And you can’t miss it–it has the Super Why? characters on the side. 🙂

Anja and I stopped by today, and she checked out a Berenstain Bears book and left a little note in Maggie’s notebook. She was very excited!

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Do you live too far away to stop by our LFL? There is probably one in your neighborhood, too! Check out this map.

We are so thankful to Post Alpha Bits for the opportunity to share all the literacy fun with our community. My son continues to love Alpha Bits as a snack in the afternoons, plus there’s the added fun of picking out the letters and spelling his name with his snack! Here are some recipe ideas using Alpha Bits. Click here for more information on Alpha-Bits cereal.

To learn more about Little Free Library and how you can get involved, find them on Facebook and Twitter.

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I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

Papercuts

Last summer at the Minnesota State Fair, I had the pleasure of meeting Andrea Martin and watching her work for awhile in the Fine Arts building (looking at the art there is always a highlight of our day at the fair). I was enthralled with her work, and I immediately began looking into paper-cutting and what all it entailed.

Fast forward to January, when Husband took me to see the Papercut! exhibit at American Swedish Institute. Karen Bit Vejle has devoted decades to perfecting her craft, and to see such large-scale papercuts was very inspiring. I immediately began dabbling with the materials I had on hand. Here are my first four papercuts, done with an Exacto knife and materials I had on hand (I ordered silhouette paper for the last). On the third one I folded once to create a symmetrical border, then opened to cut the design. I really look forward to exploring this art form more!

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MN Zoo Farm Babies!

I received a cute little gift pack (more revealed later once my kids have seen it) from the Minnesota Zoo last week. Let’s just say it’s a great start to my kids’ Easter baskets and the best man from our wedding would be jealous since it’s Peeps-themed. 🙂

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The MN Zoo also sent us some complimentary zoo passes, and since we already have a family membership (have for years; highly recommend!) I had the blessing of inviting two more families to go to the zoo this month to see the Farm Babies. Chicks, piglets, ducklings, lambs, calves, bunnies and (goat and human) kids…what could be cuter?

We’re heading there this weekend for Peeps Weekend, including aforementioned farm babies, crafts and a Peep-mobile (see here for a more detailed schedule)! There are lots more activities throughout the month of April, so be sure to stop by and check out all the fun now that it’s nice outside!

Post Alpha Bits and Little Free Library

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Recently I was contacted by Post Foods and Little Free Library to see if I would consider partnering with them to host a Little Free Library and promote literacy. I just so happened to have a conversation with a friend during that same window of time, and she mentioned that she has always wanted a Little Free Library in her yard. So, she and I are partnering together to make this happen for our community!

Little-known fact: I used to be the Literacy Coordinator at a YMCA before- and after-school program when we lived in North Dakota. I am VERY passionate about reading good books to my children. Teaching them to read and reading good books myself (so they see me enjoying learning) are on the top of my educational goals for them. So this should be fun!

We received some Alpha-Bits cereal in the mail. The kids are always excited to get a package, but when they found out it was for them, it turned to all-out glee. I asked if I could take pictures of them with their cereal, and Markus started trying to bust into it within seconds. Haha!

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I used to eat Alpha-Bits as a kid, so of course I had to try some. It doesn’t taste quite how a remember it, but thankfully I have my own Post cereal that I treat myself to sometimes: Great Grains. The kids had Alpha-Bits on their yogurt for snack.

The next day we shared some with my friend’s daughter, who doesn’t even know that she’s going to have a library in her front yard soon. The kids did some Snacktivities (fun little word coined by Post) like sorting letters and writing their names. And then they gobbled down handfuls of cereal. 🙂

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(Markus had trouble finding an “M” in his pile.)
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Next time I think we’re going to separate vowels from consonants before eating, and then I might bring out the big guns: construction paper and glue. So many fun things to do with edible letters!

To learn more about Little Free Library, visit them on Twitter or Facebook or their website.

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I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a sample for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

Monster Jam Giveaway! Coming Soon to the Metrodome!

This is the last time that Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam will be coming to the Metrodome. I’ll miss that big balloon-y building. 🙂

Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam®, starring the biggest performers on four wheels: Monster Jam monster trucks! The twelve-feet-tall, ten-thousand-pound machines will bring you to your feet, racing and ripping up a custom-designed track full of obstacles to soar over or smash through!  Monster Jam provides a massive night’s entertainment tailored perfectly for your family’s budget, and these colorful, larger-than-life beasts are sure to capture the hearts of both young and old.

My son and husband went to this show last year and loved it so much that this year my daughter wants to go, too! So I think we’ll be making a family trip to Monster Jam.

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Buy tickets here and leave a comment on this post if you’d like to win TWO FREE TICKETS to Monster Jam at the Metrodome on December 7th at 7:00 p.m. A randomly-selected winner will be announced this Friday, November 22nd!

Monster Jam returns to Minnesota!

Last year we took Markus to Monster Jam along with a friend of his. They had a BLAST! This year they’re back at the Metrodome on December 7th, and I will hopefully have more info to come in a couple weeks. Stay tuned! And check out their website for more information.

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Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam®, starring the biggest performers on four wheels: Monster Jam monster trucks! The twelve-feet-tall, ten-thousand-pound machines will bring you to your feet, racing and ripping up a custom-designed track full of obstacles to soar over or smash through!  Monster Jam provides a massive night’s entertainment tailored perfectly for your family’s budget, and these colorful, larger-than-life beasts are sure to capture the hearts of both young and old.