Monday, January 18, 2010

Bear Feels Sick by Karma Wilson

On a crisp Autumn day bear catches a cold. his friends all come by to try and make him feel better by fluffing his pillow, finding him a warm, cozy spot to sleep, and making him something hot to drink. This is a lovely story about how to help a friend when they aren't feeling well. I like to use it to help preschoolers develop the ability to take the perspective of someone else. How would you like to be treated? Do you think his friends make bear happy or sad? It's a lovely story with a repetitive text line "Bear feels sick" that children love to chime in on.

Let's Go Visiting by Sue Willimas

This is a playful companion piece for the book I Went Walking. The book lets children count frisky baby animals as they explore the farm and end up taking a nap in the sweet smelling hay. The narrative is simple and repetitive (a popular feature with toddlers) and the pictures are vivid and whimsical. It's a book that I have found to be appealing with toddlers and younger preschool children alike. It comes in both a paper back format as well as a lap sized format, which makes it an excellent book for sharing with a group of children.

Laugh & Learn Learning Phone by Fisher Price

This cell phone which counts, plays music, says familiar phrases, and recites the alphabet, is an amusing toy for most older infants and toddlers. The screen lights up when you push the buttons and it rings just like a real phone. Strengths: It can be a great deterrent for a child how likes to play with Mum or Dad's phone. It's colourful and has lots of different play "modes". Weaknesses: The volume of the toy in the store is significantly higher than what it is when you get it home (which is a federally mandated safety law), but there isn't a volume switch/control that lets you adjust the sound for your child. Price: $19-$24. Where to Buy: Fisher price toys are widely available and can be found at retailers like WalMart, Target, and Toys R Us. You can also purchase it online through places like Amazon or directly through the Fisher Price site (

Uno's Garden by Graeme Base

This is another gorgeously illustrated book by this talented author for slightly older children (4 years +). The primary focus of the book is on conservation of the environment. The more building you have the fewer plants and animals can live there. The story follows Uno as he decides to live in the forest without fully appreciating what may happen if more people follow him there. The book even deals with the extinction of animal species; in this case the snortlepig, who becomes more difficult to find as the book progresses. It's a great book that teaches children an important lesson about the environment (and math). Where to Buy: As with all of Graeme Base's books you can find Uno's Garden in most children's bookstores or through online retailers.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sign Language for Babies and Toddlers by Christopher Brown

Helping infants and toddlers to find ways of expressing themselves early in life is an important part of actual language development. By using signs and other gestures many parents have found that their young children become less frustrated during the long process of learning to use spoken words. This is a very reader-friendly and practical guide to learning sign language basics that can be used with very young children. The illustrations are simple to follow and the written directions are clear and straightforward. If you were to learn the entire vocabulary offered in the book you would know the ASL alphabet, numbers, nursery rhymes, a large single word vocabulary, and a range of simple two word combinations. An excellent resource for anyone wanting to learn sign language basics.

Baby Gami by Andrea Saravady

If you're struggling to make a swaddle secure, this is a wonderful little book that provides step-by-step instructions for 20 different types of swaddles that can be used with your baby. In addition, it reviews how to wear slings and other wraps that can be used to carry a baby safely and comfortably. Baby-Gami provides full colour illustrations of how to accomplish many of the wraps and swaddles and offers great pictures of what the end product of each fabulous swaddle should look like. This is a great gift for first time parents!

Who Loves Baby by Sassy

If you're concerned about your baby's tendency to "devour literature" (a.k.a eat or chew on books), this soft, chewable book by sassy is the perfect alternative. The blank, plastic covered pages inside are the perfect place to put photos of favourite people or pets. There are several nice features about this simple book. First, you can change the pictures often. Second, it's waterproof so baby's chewing won't ruin the pictures or pages. Finally, the book is very light weight so it would be easy for a baby to grasp and move about.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Year of Fun Just for Two's by Theodosia Sideropoulos Spewock

This is month-by-month activity guide in the Year of Fun... series. It is designed to provide people who live or work with active toddlers ideas about how to keep these busy children interested and engaged in the learning process. In addition to fun activities, the book offers classic song lyrics and poems that are perfect for growing toddlers.

Choke Tube available through Noodle Soup

If you have children under 3 years in your home, this an essential piece of equipment to have. The choke tube is designed to help identify toys that are too small to be safe for children that still like to put objects in their mouths. This is a very sturdy plastic tube that is available through a company that specializes in developmental and educational materials for parents and practitioners alike.

Mozart Magic Cube by Munchkin

This is a simple but auditorily interesting cause-effect toy that is easy for older infants and toddlers to operate. The idea behind the toy is that you push one of the large buttons to hear a single musical instrument play a song (one of the buttons actually lets you hear the entire orchestra play the song). Mine is an older version of the cube that plays a range of different children's songs, but the newer one actually plays classical music by Mozart. Strengths: The buttons are easy to activate so a young child could potentially play more independently with the toy. Weaknesses: The cube itself is a bit bulky and hard to physically manipulate, so a child could wind up listening to a single instrument over and over again. Price: $16 - $21. Where to Buy: Specialty toy shops usually carry this line of toys, but you can also find it through on-line retailers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Year of Fun Just for Ones by Jean Warren & Theodosia Sideropoulos Spewock

This is the second in the series "A Year of Fun...." books which are guides for different play and song activities that can be used with young children. This edition is designed like a monthly calendar that provides ideas for seasonal activities, songs, poems, and fingerplays for young toddlers. It also offers information about different developmental skills children master during this important time of change. It's an excellent resource book for first time parents, but can also provide parents with other children new ideas about how to keep their little one busy, happy, and learning. Where to Buy: Most children's book stores carry this series of books, but it can also be purchased through learning stores or on places like Amazon.

Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne

This book is a wonderful book for school aged children that teaches them about perspective taking. Voices in the Park actually consists of four unique perspectives about an outing in a park. The four characters telling about an adventure in the park are an uppity mother, her glum little son, an unemployed father, and his cheerful daughter. This is an excellent book that helps children understand that not all people view a situation in the same way, but it also helps them learn about how to be flexible in terms of seeing situations from different points of view. This would be a fantastic book for an older child with social communicative difficulties. Where to Buy: This book was published about 12 years ago, but is still available through most major children's book sellers. If you can't find it in a local store you can always find it on Amazon.

Basic Skills Board by Melissa & Doug

This board is designed to teach children basic dressing skills (e.g., lacing, tying, snapping, buttoning, zipping, and buckling/unbuckling.) Each piece of clothing is mounted on a separate "puzzle piece" so it can be removed from the board and things can be rearranged. Strengths: Like all of the Melissa and Doug puzzles, this is a very sturdy toy. Weaknesses: Since the pieces of the clothing aren't secured to the base of the board they come out easily. It's difficult to teach the basic skills of buttoning, lacing, and snapping when the pieces aren't stationary. I glued the pieces into place and have found that the children I work with seem to enjoy the toy much more now. Price: $19 - $23. Where to Buy: Naturally the toy is available on Amazon, but you may also find it in specialty toy shops that carry the Melissa & Doug line of puzzles and toys.

A Year of Fun for Your Baby by Theodosia Sideropoulos Spewock

Playing with toys is always fun, but it's important to remember that you are your baby's best toy! That is why it is so crucial to include "people games" in your daily interactions with your child. This is the first in an excellent series of books that focuses on fun songs, poems, and fingerplays that your baby will enjoy. It also provides tips on month-by-month developmental activities that can help support emerging skills in young children. This simple book also helps you chart the changes your baby is going through during that all important first year and gives you great ideas of how to stimulate the development of new skills. Where to Buy: This resource book is available through Amazon, but you can also find it at speciality learning stores like Lakeshore Learning or large bookstores with a children's section.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Find the Duck by Stephen Cartwright

Find the Duck is a wonderful hidden object book, that will help to encourage older infants and toddlers to scan pages and promote understanding of basic concepts such as prepositions (e.g., in, on under, above, behind, beside, etc.) The idea behind these simply illustrated pages is that the little yellow duck is hiding on every page and it is our job to see if we can find him. The pictures are bright and colourful, but not overly busy, so it's fairly easy to spot the duck. This is a fun challenge for younger children that will help them feel successful! The book is a bit large for little hands to comfortably hold, but the pages are sturdy and the text is simple so it makes it a winner in my mind!

First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

This is a clever and well illustrated book that is perfect for preschoolers (as well as younger toddlers who really like "finger-in-the-hole" books.) The text is very simple and the pictures are beautiful, rich illustrations that are appealing to children of all ages. In fact, I think that this is a book that perfectly illustrates why there is not always a need for the written word in children's books! With that being said, it's important to note that the text in this book is very simple and predictable, something that it very popular with children who are just learning about the magic of stories. Where to Buy: First the Egg could be found at most children's book stores or could be purchased through an on-line book seller. Just Google the title and you'll be able to find it.