Books for Bedtime

Books for Bedtime

It’s never too early to instill a love of literature in the very young. Children’s books familiarize kids with early concepts of print, offer a unique literacy and linguistic experience with their playful language and rhyming text, are often a child’s first introduction to high-quality art, and most importantly, help families to create warm memories together.

Each month, we’ll bring you the sweet suggestions* for building your children’s library. This month we’re focusing on books for bedtime. Check out our finds that will help you and your family establish a routine for settling into sleep at any age.

 Infant (0-6 months):

  1. Baby Love Set by Karen Katz – This trio of books is the perfect warm and cuddly introduction to bedtime stories for even the littlest readers. Daddy Hugs, Mommy Hugs and Counting Kisses are simple but lovely counting books that celebrate love and affection between parents and their babies.
  2. Goodnight My Sweet Pea by Manhattan Toy – This sweet, plush book puts animals and baby to bed. Tactile fabrics, interactive flaps, and soft, cushioned pages are an inviting introduction to story time for the very young.
  3. Little Friends: Sleepy Time by Roger Priddy – Another sweet, plush book, Sleepy Time takes the reader through Baby Bear’s bedtime routine. This story has a simple text and adorable illustrations that your baby is sure to fall in love with. 
  4. Little Friends: Home Sweet Home by Roger Priddy – This delightful book about animals and their homes was a very early favorite of my daughter’s. It features sweet illustrations that are unique to the Little Friends series, flaps to lift, and animal habitats to explore.
  5. Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt – There is a reason that touch and feel books are so popular for very young children. Infants are just exploring their world, and though they aren’t yet reading – tactile books literally put the story in their hands. This classic interactive books is truly an exploration of the senses, with textures, sights, sounds, and smells to discover.

 

Baby (6-18 months):

  1. Good Night Yoga byMariam Gates and Sarah Jane Hinder –  Yoga and meditation are a great way to settle down after a long day of play. Good Night Yoga takes children through a series of cool down poses that help young yogis to stretch out after a long day and settle in for sleep.
  2. The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton – Sandra Boynton’s tagline is “Serious silliness for all ages” and The Going to Bed Book is just that. This silly story follows a group of animals through their going to bed routine. The rhyming text pulls you in and the animal’s silly antics just might make your baby laugh out loud.
  3. Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney – The Llama Llama books are truly a favorite in our house. This little llama’s big feelings have helped us navigate emotions good and bad, and Llama Llama Red Pajama can help to tackle any fears or worries children might have around going to bed. What’s more: Anna Dewdney’s trademark lyrical text is sure to delight.
  4. Haiku Night by Betsy E. Snyder – This little poetry collection is fantastic. Betsy Snyder is a do-it-all kind of girl – lovely poetry, gorgeous illustrations, and I love the cultural component of this book. The poetry’s connection to nature speaks to its Japanese origins in haiku, and a Chinese character on each page is a simple way to introduce even very young children to linguistic diversity.
  5. Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes – This charming story about a curious kitty is sure to be a hit. Having mistaken the round, white figure in the sky for a bowl of milk, a young cat chases after the moon. Her attempts always end in trouble until she makes her way home to find a real bowl of milk waiting for her. This book speaks to the comforts of home, the perfect message to send to little ones as you settle in for the night.

 

Toddler (18 months – 3 years):

  1. Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson – We were gifted a set of Bear books for Christmas last year and they were a fast favorite. Bear Snores On has really lovely, rhyming prose, a range of vocabulary that is fun for adults and really pushes the envelope for kids, and the stories focus on friendship. This sleepy tale about a hibernating bear whose friends are just waiting for him to wake is a wonderful accompaniment to a bedtime reading routine.
  2. Sweet Dreams Lullaby by Betsy E. Snyder – We love Haiku Night for the baby set, and Sweet Dreams Lullaby is the perfect counterpart for toddlers. The nature-inspired poetic text and dream like illustrations will help your little one drift off into a calm sleep, and really, who could ask for more?
  3. Good Night Good Night Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker – Boys and girls alike will fall in love with this lyrical, rhyming text. Each of the trucks on the site has their own, distinct personality that shines through as they all settle in for the night after a long day’s work.
  4. Touch the Brightest Star by Christine Matheson –This bedtime story takes children on a journey from sunrise to sunset and introduces them to the magic and wonder of the nighttime sky. The reader interacts with the story using actions, thoughts, or words that influence a change with every turn of the page. This is a truly unique addition to any bedtime collection.
  5. I Dare You Not to Yawn by Helene Boudreau – This clever and hilarious “guide book” teaches children how to avoid bedtime with a melodrama that is sure to excite — all the while sending subliminal messages… Seriously, I dare you not to yawn while you read this funny, funny bedtime book.

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On Paring Down: Why Minimalism is Powerful for Children

Maybe I’ve lost my mind. Or maybe I’ve found the perfect plan.

On our quest to “Bloom Where We Are Planted” we’ve decided to seriously downsize our apartment in order to move into a neighborhood that we love with fantastic public schools. Call us crazy, but we’re hoping that trading space for amenities will be a move we won’t regret. That being said, we need to do a major overhaul of our “stuff”. Declutter. Refresh. Minimize. That’s my mantra for our next chapter.

I’m actually quite excited to re-home things that we’ve enjoyed and start fresh in a new space. I’ve been holding onto a lot of things, particularly those of our daughter’s. Baby clothing in case another ever comes along. Sentimental baby gear that we just can’t part with. Outgrown toys in hopes of one day running classes for young children. Books because, well, books. We’ve got old favorites on rotation to keep things new and interesting, and our closets are stuffed to the brim. A LOT has to go. While I’m a little sad to part with our things, I’m empowered by a few articles*  I’ve shared in the Peace, Love and Literacy Facebook group that point to major benefits for kids in keeping a minimalist play space.

Benefits of Having a Minimalist Playspace

  1. Develop a longer attention span: When children have less choice, and therefore less distraction, they have fewer demands for their attention. As opposed to jumping from activity to activity, children develop a sense of focus as they immerse themselves in one activity.
  2. Experience greater creativity: Having endless options can keep children from using their imagination. When presented with less, children must invent their own games, for example, and exercise their creativity.
  3. Establish better social skills: Children are able to focus on those around them when presented with less toys. Kids develop conversation skills, engage in play with others (both children and adults), and develop interpersonal relationships.
  4. Learn to appreciate and take care of what they have: Children with few possessions are less likely to take something for granted. They will be more likely to keep track of their things, keep them in good condition, and have an appreciation for what they do have.
  5. Develop an appreciation for literature, art, and experiences:When not buried under a pile of toys, children will be more interested in going outdoors, visiting a museum, enjoying a story, or creating art. These collective experiences will help children to grow in ways that toys cannot provide.
  6. Learn problem solving, patience, and perseverance: If presented with a difficult puzzle, for example, children may lose interest in trying to figure it out, give up, and move onto any other of their endless choices. Problem solving, perseverance, and patience are three skills and values that can be encouraged through a minimalistic toy collection.
  7. Have a cleaner, tidier home:I don’t think I need to tell you that more toys equals more mess. Instill the sense of peace that comes from decluttering, starting with the playroom.

Here are some tips to help you find your toy zen:

  • Rotate toys and books in and out of storage so that no one toy becomes boring, and old favorites seem fresh and new.
  • You know the system: sort through your things and make 3 piles: keep, donate, throw away. Hang on to favorites, of course, and any toys you have yet to explore. There’s no better life lesson for children than to give to others in need, and this is the perfect opportunity to do so.
  • Establish a toy and book swap with friends. This keeps your storage streamlined and allows for everyone to enjoy and grow from new things on the cheap. Win, win!
  • Play up your faves. While it’s important to honor your children’s choices and foster independence, it’s also a good idea to use some good old manipulation, and lead your child towards educational toys that will push their thinking. Convey enthusiasm over puzzles and games, imaginative play, and creative activities. Ask your child to “help” you complete a puzzle. This will maximize the use of things you do have and help them to explore brain friendly activities.
  • If you’ve held onto old developmental toys, there might be a way to repurpose them and explore them in anew way that is developmentally appropriate for your child now (I.e. discovering the letters and making words with old alphabet blocks, or sorting stackers by size and color), but if you can’t find a way to make it new again, donate it (see above).
  • Slow down on gift giving: one or two large items, or a few carefully curated gifts, or focusing on activities and experiences will go a long, long way on your minimalist quest.
  • Put the value quality time and activities and experiences together over stuff. Your relationships will thrive and your pocket will thank you.
  • Focus on the positive: Reflect (our loud) on how nice it is to spend time together. Praise children for how tidy their room is without so much stuff to clutter up the space. Point out how pleased you are with their choices to share, to give, or to have displayed so much self control in the toy or book store. A little recognition will go a long way.
  • Practice minimalism yourself! Less choices are sure to bring a little peace!

Will you be keeping a minimalist playspace?

*Resources:

Check out the inspiration for this post here and here.

8 Life Lessons from a Baby Bird

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that our family had a rather exciting day last week. We were lucky enough to have rescued a baby bird! On my way home from work, I found a tiny baby bird fallen from the nest on a Brooklyn sidewalk. With scooters and strollers coming down the block, I simultaneously stood in a protective stance and searched for a nest in the rather large tree above, but I couldn’t locate it. With spring’s trees sprouting leaves like crazy, there was no finding that nest. I hemmed and hawed about what to do (take it in? move it to safety? construct a makeshift nest in the tree? leave it for nature to take its course?). I made a few calls, and after talking with NYC’s Wild Bird Fund and explaining the situation, I took it in for the night as per their request, until we could bring it over to them the next day. The little nestling made it through the night under our care, carefully instructed by the Wild Bird Fund, and through the next afternoon when we dropped it at their location on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The tiny baby was finally in experienced hands.

Our 3.5 year old daughter was absolutely beside herself. Excited is an understatement, and totally and utterly in love is more like it. While the situation was very unfortunate (a baby bird’s best chance of survival is with its mother), I am glad that we were able to do our part.

In the face of challenge, we were given the chance to learn some very valuable “Life Lessons From a Baby Bird”:

  1. Be mindful and aware of your surroundings

In the hustle and bustle of life it is very, very easy to miss the little things (literally and figuratively). I’m so relieved that this little baby caught my eye. Spotting the bird in the first step of this rescue truly is a lesson in awareness and mindfulness.

         2. There is beauty in even the most unexpected places

Our little nestling was tiny & completely featherless. It’s eyes had yet to open, and between it’s black, bulging eyes, and it’s misshapen, bulging belly, it looked like something out of a science fiction film. That being said, this little helpless baby, with it’s wide open beak was adorable, and really a creature of true beauty.

         3. Things might not always work out the way you’d like them to 

The last thing that man at the Wild Bird Fund said to me on the phone was “Lastly, please know that this little bird might not make it through the night. And if it doesn’t, don’t be sad. You tried your best and there was nothing else you could have done.” Well, I think I could have handled that, but what to tell our daughter to prepare her? We’ve lost a couple of fish during our stint in aquatics, so the idea of an animal dying is not new to her, but this little bird really captured her heart. I did warn her (and she told her nursery class that “its going to die”, so, well, we have to revisit this, I don’t exactly want to raise a pessimist), but I did think that she needed to be warned that “things might not always work out the way you’d like them to.”

         4. Care for those that are less fortunate than we are

We’ve talked a lot recently about taking care of others, even if they aren’t a part of our family. There’s a lot of debate out there in today’s political world about whether or not those that are more fortunate should take care of those that are less so, but in this family caring for others is a point we’d like to drive home.

         5. Help out where we can, to the best of our ability

She *really* wanted to keep this baby bird. When I told her that we don’t know what kind of bird it is, and that we don’t know what it eats she said “I know mommy, birds eat worms!” And when I went on to explain that we don’t know how to care for a baby bird she said “You can watch a video mommy, and learn!” Well, yes, I suppose we could. But the care for a wild bird is really quite complicated. The Wild Bird Fund told us to give it only water until we could bring it to safety, and so that’s what we did. We tried our best with the limited knowledge and experience we had.

         6. Sometimes the right thing to do is to give something up & Let others step in when you can’t do the job 

See # 5. We aren’t the best choice for caring for this bird long-term, and we can’t pretend that we are. It is sometimes heartbreaking to give something up, but this is where the old cliche holds true: “Sometimes if you really love something, you’ve got to set it free.” It’s ok to admit that you’re not cut out for something, especially when something so precious and important such as another’s creatures life is depending on you. In this case, let the experts take over.

         7. You can’t always get what you want 

We cross this lesson’s path each time we go shopping, and it rears it’s head again. “I know you’d really like to keep this bird but we just cannot.”

         8. A love for all creatures, big and small, and the understanding that all life is precious

We are major lovers of all living things in this house. My husband, myself, and our daughter. We try to practice kindness, empathy, and understanding towards all creatures big and small. We know that all life is precious and priceless, and this is a value that we hope to and work hard toward passing on to our child.

         9. Sometimes life’s coincidences are just uncanny

The day I found the baby bird I had taken home a “big book” from school with a collection of stories and poems inside. It was being discarded and I knew that my book fan at home would treasure it. While we were busy caring for the bird, the little miss was flipping through the book. When she uncovered a poem about baby birds inside, with an illustration complete with wide open beaks, just like our little baby, the excitement was tangible. Our brand new book forged a major life connection with our major life event. The coincidence was just uncanny.

 

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I brought this text collection home for our 3 year old daughter yesterday, and on my way I found a tiny baby bird fallen from the nest on a Brooklyn sidewalk. With scooters and strollers coming down the block, I simultaneously stood in a protective stance and searched for a nest but couldn’t locate it. I hemmed and hawed, made a few calls, and took it in for the night, until we could bring it to the local wild bird rescue center in Manhattan today. And when your 3.5 year old finds a poem in the book you’ve brought home that coincides with this (for her, and this little baby nestling) major life event, you get pretty excited. Thanks @ahmetserdareker for taking care shifts with me last night. . . . . . . #newyork #babybird #spring #springinnyc #brooklyn #birdrescue #rescue #mommyblogger #momblogger #momblog #preschool #preschooler #lifelessons

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Celebrate the Earth with Books for Spring

It’s never too early to instill a love of literature in the very young. Children’s books familiarize kids with early concepts of print, offer a unique literacy and linguistic experience with their playful language and rhyming text, are often a child’s first introduction to high-quality art. Most importantly, reading together helps families to create warm memories. Each month, we’ll bring you sweet suggestions* for building children’s collections. This April we’re focusing on books, games and activities to celebrate spring and Earth Day 2018.

Books:

Celebrate Spring:

  1. Plants Feed Me, by Lizzie Rockwell

It’s no secret that I love Lizzy Rockwell’s work, and Plants Feed Me is a treasure that shouldn’t be missed. The text is perfectly accessible for children of all ages, and explains to kids in such a simple yet technical way that we eat plants; all of a plant’s parts, in fact. The book opens with the line “I am a plant eater” and goes on to explain in simple text how plants grow, the different parts of a plant, and how we enjoy them. The ending really touches a soft spot for us: “Plants feed me. Plants feed the world.” You might know that I strive to “bring the world into our home”, and this book doesn’t fall short in helping children to see this simple, global connection: the idea that plants feed each and every one of us.

2. Plant the Tiny Seed, by Christie Matheson

In this fun, interactive book children explore how tiny seeds grown and bloom into beautiful flowers. What’s more, they’re a part of the action! What child wouldn’t love a book in which they press the seeds into the soil, wiggle their fingers to water the seeds, or clap to bring sunshine after the rain? Christie Matheson’s books are a little bit of magic for young readers.

3. And Then It’s Spring, by Julie Fogliano

Julie Fogliano will always hold a very, very dear place in my heart. I shared a while back that her book, If You Want to See a Whale, was one of our wedding readings, so when I came across And Then It’s Spring I immediately added it to this list. Following a snowy winter, a young boy decides that he’s had enough of brown and sets out to plant a garden. He and his dog dig, plant, play, wait . . . and wait . . . until at last, the brown becomes a more hopeful shade of brown, a sign that spring may be around the corner. And Then It’s Spring is told with Julie’s patient, hopeful tone – the tone that punctuates our collective wait for spring.

4. Plant a Kiss, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal


Plant a Kiss has a very, very simple text about a very, very lovely idea: Little Miss plants a kiss, and her one small act of love blooms into something beautiful. This story of love, kindness and giving is simple enough for babies, but lovely enough for children of all ages.

5. Bear Wants More, by Karma Wilson


We were gifted a set of Bear books for Christmas last year and they were a fast favorite. Bear Wants More has really lovely, rhyming prose, a range of vocabulary that is fun for adults and really pushes the envelope for kids, and a story that focuses on friendship. This tale about a bear, hungry after hibernating all winter, just can’t get enough roots, berries, or fish! His friends help him satisfy his springtime hunger in a sweet and surprising way.

7. How Did That Get In My Lunchbox?, by Chris Butterworth

How Did That Get In My Lunchbox is a playful way to introduce children to the concept of Farm to Table. Following foods from their origination at a farm, through the production process, onto the shelves of your local store, and finally, to their plate, this story shares with children the life of the foods we eat.

 

Save the Earth:

8. The Earth Book, by Todd Parr

Each and every one of Todd Parr’s books combines humor and sensitivity, the perfect combination for capturing children’s attention and capturing*and* their hearts. In The Earth Book, Todd gently suggests ways that children can help the earth and it’s creatures in this sweet introduction to environmental conservation and doing our part to protect our planet.

9. Don’t Throw That Away!, by Lara Bergen

Don’t Throw That Away is a lift the flap book, focused on reusing household items, and is made of recycled material. Talk about a good model! I love that this cute little book has realistic suggestions for kids around ways to give trash a new purpose.

10. I Can Save the Earth, by Alison Inches

I Can Save the Earth features a cute and likeable little green monster named Max who is always getting into trouble, and mistreating the earth in the process. When his shenanigans cause a blackout, he is forced to see the world from a different perspective. What he discovers is that earth is a beautiful place, and that it needs our help to care for it. Our daughter was inspired by Max to use less toilet paper, and I think your children will find inspiration here as well!

11. Rainbow Weaver, by Linda Elovitz Marshall

Rainbow Weaver is a new book to us, and a fast favorite. I picked this up at an educational conference recently, and it’s brought to us by one of my favorite publishers for children: Lee and Low Books. Set in Guatemala, Rainbow Weaver follows the story of Ixchel, a young girl frustrated by both her desire to help out at home by participating in her family’s traditional Mayan weaving, and by discarded bags in her community. With a little creativity, Ixchel tackles both of these problems and creates something both innovative and beautiful. Based on the work of Mayan Hands, a fair-trade organization out of Albany, New York, this gorgeously illustrated stories is both heart-warming and inspirational.

 

Cultivate Kindness:

12. Wangari’s Trees of Peace, by Jeanette Winter

As a child, Wangari was surrounded by trees in her homeland of Kenya. Years later, when she returns, deforestation has taken place, and she realizes that soon all of the trees she had loved will be gone. Wangari decides to take action – she starts by planting nine seedlings, and before she knows it, her efforts have turned into a country wide movement. This true story of Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner is an inspiring example of how one woman’s determination and vision inspired great change.

13. Chandra’s Magic Light

Chandra’s Magic Light is a beautifully illustrated book, outlining two girl’s struggle to provide their brother a solar lamp to replace his smoky old oil lamp. The girls work to improve both the environment and their family’s health in this touching story. Set in Nepal, this book lends itself to *gorgeous*, colorful illustrations.

14. If You Plant a Seed, by Kadir Nelson

If You Plant a Seed is a *gorgeous* book that very simply equates planting and cultivating a seed of kindness to the way in which a planted seed grows and blossoms into a plant. This simple metaphor is a great way to introduce children to the idea of nurturing kindness and positivity.

Activities:

15. Let’s Go to the Farmer’s Market, by Molly Smith

This fun set is great for guiding older kids (I’d say 6 and up) through a farmer’s market exploration. It comes with a reuseable bag and activity cards with tasks such as finding root vegetables at the farmer’s market, along with suggested questions to ask the farmer when they find it.

16. Farmer’s Market Create and Play Activity Book, by Deanna F. Cook

I love this book. It’s a go-to birthday gift for all of my daughter’s friends, and really just such a pleasure. With sticker sets to help create a DIY farmer’s market goods, punch out garden markers and craft activities and ideas, this cute craft book is everything you need to put together an imaginary garden and market for earth centered pretend play.

Games:
17. Eeboo Green Market Spinner Game

18. Eeboo Life on Earth Memory Game

I’ve confessed my love for all things Eeboo before, and the Green Market Spinner Game and Life on Earth Memory Games are no different. Durable, adorable, and simply a ton of fun, these games will introduce children to early studies of agriculture and biology in simple, engaging ways.

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