Friday, June 10, 2011

Don't Put Your Finger in the Jelly, Nelly by Nick Sharratt

This is a great variation on a "finger in the hole" book for slightly older children. Preschoolers and young school aged children find the wacky illustrations and silly text absolutely irresistible. It's impossible to resist text like "Don't put your finger in the jelly, Nelly! You might upset a jellphant! (an angry looking elephant made out of green jelly) or "Don't put your finger in the cheese, Louise! You'll get caught by an alligrater!" (an alligator whose skin is the surface of a cheese grater). The book is wonderful to read aloud to a group of children.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems

This is another fabulous addition to the "Pigeon" series of books by Mo Willems. The pigeon simply wants to gobble up that hot dog that he found and not share a bite with anyone, especially a persuasive and pesky little duck who is just dying for a taste. At first the pigeon entertains the duck by telling him that "Each morsel is a joy! A celebration on a bun" and has no intention of sharing his yummy hot dog. But the little duck persists with his questions about hot dogs: "What do they taste like?...Would you say that it tastes like chicken?...Hey, I'm a curious bird." Finally the pigeon realizes that he has been our negotiated by the clever little duck who gets half of the hot dog. The illustrations are compellingly simple and the text is hilarious! Most children (and adults) will find something to laugh about in this great book.

Sugar Cookies: Sweet Little Lessons on Love by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Amy Krouse Rosenthal uses cookies as a metaphor to illustrate the qualities of love! Each page begins with a capitalized, bold word that is then defined in simple terms related to the overall theme of cookies. For example "COMPASSIONATE means that when you burn the cookies to a crisp, I'll be there to give you a hug". The books defines complex emotional themes in very simple and meaningful ways for young children. The illustrations are whimsical and help to convey the overall theme of love and caring. It's a lovely book to share with young children of all ages. 

Little People Dumpety the Dump Truck by Fisher Proce

Little construction workers will have lots of fun exploring the construction site with this bumping and bouncing dump truck. The "eyes" on the front of the truck blink as it is pushed forward and two "dirt" boulders bounce up and down as the truck is pushed along. When the driver is pushed down securely in his seat, the engine roars, a horn beeps, and the truck makes dumping sounds. The toy comes with a little people construction worker and two dirt boulders. Strengths: The toy promotes lots of simple pretend play and can be easily incorporated into other little people play sets. Weaknesses:  It's a great little truck that the children I work with love it, so I haven't been able to find any limitations. It pretty much performs as expected!

Melody the Mini Van & Lil Mover SUV by Fisher Price

Both of these vehicles are great additions to the Fisher Price house set. They come with "Mommies" and babies in car seats that fit neatly into the back seat of each car.  The hatch back doors open and both play music when certain buttons are activated.  Strengths:  These little vehicles have ample space to hold a wide variety of different people and play accessories (especially if the child doesn't need to have all of the people sit in a specific seat). Weaknesses: The side doors on my vehicles don't open (but they are a little bit older) and this can sometimes frustrate children if they are having difficulty getting the people into the cars through the roof openings.

Lil Mover Dump Truck by Fisher Price

This is another great little vehicle from Fisher Price that is appealing to toddlers and preschoolers alike. The styling is simple and there aren't lots of bells and whistles that detract from the overall play value of the toy. The driver wobbles in his seat when the truck is pushed and if the driver is pushed down on the seat a song plays. The truck comes with a driver and pretend dirt that lifts easily out of the back of the dump truck. Strengths: It's a wonderful pretend play toy that can be incorporated into many different play sets. Weaknesses: The pretend dirt is great, but it doesn't fit securely into the back of the truck. 

Lil Mover Fire Truck by Fisher Price

Fisher Price has a great reputation for making durable toys that appeal to children of many different ages. This sturdy little truck is no exception. It's a nice size for toddlers and has some interesting little cause/effect features.There are 4 sounds when you press down on the driver's seat: a fire engine's horn, police sirens, ladder extending with a dog barking, and the "Up and down, down and up" song. The truck comes with two characters, a fireman and dog with a fire helmet (not pictured). Strengths:  The truck appeals to very young toddlers because it is so easy to manipulate but older children also like it because it's a fun toy for imaginary play. It rolls easily on a variety of different surfaces and the figures are easy to insert/remove from the truck seat and ladder bucket. Weaknesses:  Because the ladder can be folded down there is a risk that little fingers could be pinched, but I've personally never had any difficulties with the toy and the children I work with seem to love it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Einstein Never Used Flashcards: How Our Children Really Learn & Why They Need to Play More & Memorize Less by Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, Kathey Hirsch-Pasek, & Diane Eyer

When a book includes a quote that states "Put away your credit card and get out your library card" you know that you are in for an excellent review of play and development that focuses on the importance of social interactions with other people. Children of all ages really do learn the most through interacting with people in the world around them and the authors of this book explore how to make learning time fun time. Many "store bought" toys encourage children to play with them in certain ways. Those can be fun play options, but it's always nice to know that children can branch out and play with toys (and other items) in creative and engaging ways that the manufacturer of a toy may have never thought of. This is a practical and easy to read book for parents, teachers, and anyone else interested in promoting development through fun and socially reinforcing interactions!

Crazy Car by Haba

Pulling toys are always a wonderful way to encourage young children to reach out and explore their environments. Haba's Crazy car is a simple yet interesting pull toy that is appealing to little ones for many different reasons. There is a little person in the front of the car who can be rotated from side to side, a little bell that rings, a kaleidoscope that reflects the light, and shiny patterns on both the car and wheels. Both infants and toddlers find this toy interesting - babies want to crawl to get it and toddlers like to walk around pulling this funny little car behind them. As with all Haba wooden toys it is made of solid beech wood and painted with a non-toxic solvent free dye. Strengths: The care is very easy to move, so even a child who doesn't have much upper body strength can get the car to move forward by lightly tugging on the attached cord. The wheels are fun because they are slightly misshapen and therefore the car has kind of a lopsided movements that many of the children I work with find funny. The edges of the car, wheels, and little triangles on the back of the car are rounded so they won't poke or pinch little fingers.  Weaknesses: It's not a really high-tech toy with lots of bells and whistles, so if that's the kind of pull toy you want, don't get this one. But if you're looking for a durable and appealing toy that is simple and well made, this is one you should definitely check out.

    Building Blocks Zoolino Maxi by Haba

    This is a really charming set of blocks by Haba! The 25 pieces are uniquely shaped and have interesting designs painted on the front side of each block., which helps young children learn to distinguish between different shapes and colours. They work well with the Bausteine Block set and when the sets are combined there are lots of creative stacking options for young builders. Like all Haba blocks these are made of beech wood and painted with a non-toxic solvent-free dye.  Strengths: The blocks are small enough for toddlers to comfortably hold them and large enough not to pose a choking hazard. Like the Bausteine blocks the edges are all rounded so there aren't any sharp corners that could hurt a young child. Weaknesses:  The surfaces are a bit slippery and the blocks are expensive, but they offer great play value and are well worth the investment.

    The Baby Human: Geniuses in Diapers & The Human Baby 2

    , Babies are pretty amazing little beings to say the least. In a few short months of life they learn to walk, talk, relate to the world around them, solve problems, and to think. It is astounding to realize that in just a few short months babies are able to accomplish so much! Both DVDs in their series (The Baby Human and the Baby Human 2) both focus development during the first 24 months of life. From the first moments of life through the becoming a vocal and independent toddler, these DVDs allow viewers to see the world from the point of view of the child. Illustrated through a series of different learning tasks presented in a research setting, the viewer is able to see how babies learn about language, problem solving, physical development, and social interactions. For example, it is fascinating to see how babies progress from being universal language learners to being able to identify the sounds of their primary language in just a few short months of age. This is a marvelous resource for parents (and educators or clinical practitioners) to watch if they want to see how their baby learns. It's not a "how to" activity guide, but there are great vignettes about how babies master new skills.