The Problem with Great Readers Is that We Run Out of Books

“Mom!” said my 7-year-old, M, when I arrived from work to pick up my kids from daycare, “I checked out three chapter books from the library three hours ago and now I’ve read them all. I have nothing to read!

I checked her backpack to see whether she’d picked out particularly short or easy books, but she had a 90-odd page Bailey School Kids book, a decent length presidential biography and a Katie Kazoo book in there. I asked her to tell me about the books and she regaled me at length with not-quite-summaries of what she’d consumed.

I know. This is a pretty great problem to have. My kids love to read. They’re fast. The challenge it poses, though, is a very real one.

Given a choice, this is the problem to have. Still, finding enough reading material to satiate voracious readers is a real challenge.

This is J. She was the one who happened to have a book in her hands when it occurred to me to take a photo for this post. M was brushing her teeth.

I do what I can to keep my kids supplied with reading materials.

  1. We take regular trips to the public library. Each child is allowed to pick out 7 books. Any more than that, and they lose track of where they are. I reserve a cube of the Ikea Expedit shelves in our living room for library books to keep them in one place.
  2. I haunt bookstores. We visit Half Price Books frequently and keep an eye on their clearance racks both for our home library and their classroom book collection. I invest in books that my girls will want to read again and again.
  3. Their school library is relatively well-stocked, although my daughter J took advantage of a persuasive letter writing assignment at school to ask her principal to invest in harder books.
  4. I donate outgrown books to the girls’ classroom teacher, in part so that she can also snap up more advanced books for her collection when she’s adding to it.
  5. I do a lot of book shopping online. Ebay sometimes pops up pretty fantastic lots of books. I can always donate any duplicates that we have. My girls have tablets, but they just prefer the feel of paper books to reading ebooks on their devices. I limit my Amazon.com shopping to books on specific subjects that I want but can’t find at the library, like foster care or divorce.
  6. Our loved ones know what readers J and M are. They are wonderful about giving them gifts of books.
  7. Paperbackswap.com is a great place to trade in old books for new for just the cost of media mail.

Anyone else have this problem? Any solutions I’ve missed?

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school. She also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Since You Are Spending SO Much More Time at Home…

…here’s something to do with your time (as if you have free time!).

READ.

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I’m biased because I am an avid reader, but I devoured all things baby-related while I was preggers. Here is a collection of my must-reads, from books, to websites, to blogs, to apps.

Jessica shares her favorite parenting books, apps and websitesJenny McCarthy. Period. Here are the books she wrote:

Belly Laughs. A practical guide to pregnancy told with a biting humor that you don’t want to miss.
Baby Laughs. Same as above, with a view on Mommyhood.
Life Laughs. All about Mommyhood and Marriage.

Baby Whisperer. This book is a lifesaver. From talking about breastfeeding to her E.A.S.Y. method, Tracy Hogg offers great insight into the first few weeks with baby. You just have to get past all of the “mum” talk!

What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I consider this book a STAPLE. Track your baby’s development throughout your pregnancy with this classic book all about your baby bump. Watch the movie, too, while you’re pregnant. It’s a little cutesy, but you’ll definitely find that you can relate!

When You’re Expecting Twins. I took this book out of the library hoping that it would be the twin version of What to Expect (see above). It was better! If you’re expecting multiples, GET THIS BOOK! It comes complete with a postpartum diet and exercise regimen to follow to help you shrink that giant baby bump that you proudly carried your little team of love around in for many months.

How to Rock Your Baby. This book offers a compilation of advice tidbits from experienced mommies, which is my favorite part. There are anecdotes and bullet points, and you will find advice that your mother would give on everything from what to pack in your hospital bag (I write about this here) to how to burp your baby.

Little Baby Garvin. This blog was not only my inspiration, but a lifeline for me while I was pregnant, and still is! Plus she has a great name (Jessica). She blogs about everything from recipes to adorable pictures of her daughter. A MUST READ!

The Bump. If you don’t know what this website is, then go back under your rock! The sister site to TheKnot.com, sign up for a free account and watch as your baby meets milestones, find checklists for everything from your baby registry to how to be nice to yourself during pregnancy, and tips on how to keep the romance in your marriage when all you talk about is baby. You can also create a baby website to share updates with loved ones (here’s ours). There’s also a free app!

Baby Center App (My Pregnancy Today). Use this free app to track your pregnancy day-by-day. I visited this app daily, and the message boards saved my life (and stole my sleep) many, many times!

What to Expect App. The companion app to the amazing book and movie, this app will help you to know what to expect, and to find foods that you can and cannot eat, and track the growth of your baby. Not as personalized as the Baby Center app, but still a good read.

What are some of YOUR favorite parenting/pregnancy books?  I’d love to hear all about them!

Hope this list helps to keep you busy for a while! See you again soon!

Mama of twin baby girls, Jane and Emma, Wife to Hershey, Teacher at her alma mater, poet, realist, kitty-lover, friend. She decided to blog because during her pregnancy, she could never find anything having to do with twins or multiples.  There was no advice out there for registries for multiples, or pregnancy, or life after delivery.  Jessica felt extremely alone, and spent most of her pregnancy in a funk.  Today, she is the happiest she’s ever been. She continues to improve her craft (teaching) through various professional development outlets, and learns something new about being a mother every day.  Jessica is in love with her girls, with being a mama, with her husband, and with life.  She is the one people go to when they want the truth.  You can find her at Leading the Double Life.

How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk – A Book Review

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First published in 1980, How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish, is a book that I’ve seen referenced over and over in parenting conversations online since before my kids were even born. Now that R and J are two, I’m much more anxious to find and implement consistent parenting strategies that will work well for us and promote a spirit of cooperation, rather than constant discord, in our household. How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk largely fits the bill.

Because How to Talk… was first published over thirty years ago, I found many of the philosophies and parenting strategies it suggested to be fairly commonsensical. The book primarily promotes empathy with children, encouraging parents to acknowledge their child’s feelings rather than dismissing or ridiculing them. This seems like a parenting philosophy that is more mainstream now than it might have been in 1980, and it has been reinforced over the years in educational television programming like “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” “Sesame Street,” etc.

But while much of the book seemed fairly straightforward and self-evident, the authors pointed out a few things that well-meaning parents often do that might undermine their children’s feelings without ever even knowing it. For example:

  1. Parents often try to reassure their children by saying, “You’re alright!” or, “It’s okay!” if a child falls or encounters a minor mishap. While parents are trying to diffuse the situation and cheer up the child, he or she may not feel alright, and parents may seem unsympathetic. Instead, the book suggests acknowledging the child’s feelings and letting them know that it’s alright to feel what they feel. The parent could instead say, “Oh, you fell and scraped your knee. That looks like it hurt!” to a child asking for comfort and reassurance. Expressing sympathy builds trust from the child to the parent. Another pitfall that well-meaning parents sometimes fall into is immediately turning the situation into a teaching moment. While our impulse might be to immediately say, “This is why I told you not to run on the sidewalk,” kids can perceive that you haven’t “heard” their distress.
  2. Parents often try to solve a problem or resolve a conflict on behalf of their child, rather than giving children the tools to do it themselves. This is a problem we face a lot in my house, where my kids are struggling to assert their own autonomy but lack the skill to do everything by themselves. Rather than jumping in to help by saying, “Here, let me open that for you,” the authors suggest showing respect for the effort and tools for success, by saying, “It can be hard to open a jar. Sometimes it helps to tap the lid gently on the counter.”
  3. Parents can provide harmful praise. Instead of evaluating or categorizing your child, the book suggests describing what you see. If a child brings home a good grade on the spelling test, rather than saying, “What a smart boy you are!”, try describing what you see: “You put a lot of work into studying this week, and it really paid off!”

I found many parts of the book to be helpful, and I’ve been working over the last few weeks to put some of them into action. As the mom of two-year-olds, it can be challenging at times. My kids aren’t quite old enough to understand cooperation and collaboration, and because frustrating moments come about pretty frequently in our house, I don’t always have the wherewithal to think through my initial (often negative) response and replace it with something more constructive. I did find myself asking myself, “Okay, but what happens when THAT doesn’t work?” as I read through the suggestions and examples.

How to Talk… is largely opposed to punishment as an outcome, preferring solutions allow kids to have some input into the outcome. A lot of these solutions are ideas I’ve heard before, like asking children to choose between two outcomes the parent can deal with, or allowing the child to experience the natural consequences of their actions. But the book also suggests some very collaborative problem-solving, involving brainstorming solutions and choosing a combination of solutions that work for everyone. I really like this idea, as it gives kids buy-in into the final outcome, but my two-year-olds don’t really grasp the concept yet.

Overall, I found How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk to be a good read, though perhaps not a complete, bullet-proof parenting strategy. I appreciate the book’s philosophy of treating your children as people to be respected and heard, and I’m continuing to work on implementing some of the ideas I’ve read in my own home.

Favourite Chapter Book Series: Rainbow Magic

A review of Daisy Meadows' Rainbow Magic books from hdydi.com

Halloween DIY Costumes - HDYDI.com

M as Amber the Orange Fairy and J as Heather the Violet Fairy.

In the first of our chapter book series reviews, J, M and I would like to introduce you to Rainbow Magic by Daisy Meadows. M and J love these books so much that they even dressed up as characters from them for Halloween a few years ago. It was when I realized that my daughters were actually reading these books, not just looking at line drawings, that I figured out that they could read.

Rainbow Magic trivia: Daisy Meadows is actually the pseudonym for a group of four women who write these books together. They’ve done some really great marketing. There are sticker books and paper dolls and all sorts of Rainbow Magic craziness out there.

M J Sadia
What are these books about? The Rainbow Fairies are one series. The Petal Fairies are another. At the end of the series at the 7th book, Jack Frost's heart softens but then at each series he starts having another kind of the fairies. First is Rainbow, then Weather, then Jewel, then Petal They are about Kirsty and Rachel helping out the Rainbow Fairies and Kirsty and Rachel are trying to get rid of the goblins and Jack Frost. Eventually, Jack Frost has a change of heart but only for a while. This series of books is divided into 7-book series, in each of which best friends Rachel and Kirsty must work together to find 7 magical objects (one per book) to save a group of fairies from the evil Jack Frost and his minions. The books can be read alone, but make the most sense read in order.
Who are the main characters? Kirsty, Rachel and the fairies and Jack Frost and his goblins. Jack Frost and his goblins are the bad guys who are trying to harm the fairies and the fairies and Kirsty and Rachel are trying to stop him. Rachel and Kirsty are elementary aged girls who meet on vacation in the first book, Ruby the Red Fairy, and become fast friends. Their adventures all occur while they're visiting each other.
Do you have a favourite book? Which one? That's hard, 'cause in each series I have a favourite! Well, Scarlett the Garnet Fairy in the Jewel Fairy series. And Amber in the Rainbow Fairy and then we have Goldie in the Weather Fairies and in the Animal Fairy Series, we have Ashley the Dragon Fairy. The Princess series, well there's Elisa the Royal Adventures Fairy. Anya the Cuddly Creatures from the Princess Fairies collection. Not really. They're really quite formulaic.
What do you like about these books? I love adventures. In most books, there are these cool boys who are the superheroes, but actually in this series there are fairies and two regular girls who are against goblins and their really mean master. They're really adventurous and you're inspired to fun things and play instead of things that require asking. You just know that you can do it. I have a soft spot for these books because they're the first one my girls read independently. I highly recommend them to get young girly girls engaged in reading and excited about books.
Is there anything you don't like about these books? No actually. They're my favourite series. No. They're great. Even though I'm a higher level than them, they're so nice. Once you've read one series, it's not hard to see where each of the others is going. I'm honestly surprised that my kids aren't bored with them yet.
How hard are these books to read? Only takes about 20 minutes, so not hard at all. Even though they're easy, they're nice. Beginning chapter books.
Do you think boys and girls would like them? Yes, actually, 'cause boys would like the superhero part and it would get girls to like goblins better and boys to like fairies better. Yeah! It has some pretty hilarious things boys and girls would like. They're really for everyone. I don't think so. They're very much targeted at little girls. The only recurring male characters are the bad guys and the girls' fathers.

Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.

Christian Parenting Handbook

Over at my blog this week I had the privilege of being apart of a “Launch Week” for a new parenting book called The Christian Parenting Handbook: 50 Heart-Based Strategies for All the Stages of Your Child’s Life by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller R.N.

I received a free copy of the book and in return gave an honest review of the book.  You can see my full review HERE on my blog.  But, I have to say, it’s a great resource for all parents, even if you aren’t Christian.  So, that’s why I thought I would tell all you HDYDI readers about it, too!  It’s great for all parents because it focused on long-term goals with your children.  It emphasizes the heart of your child and helping them develop character qualities, and how to strengthen their character flaws.  The book addresses controversial topics and issues like spanking, helps you understand the difference between things like discipline and punishment, and does so in a non-judgmental way.  It’s not a “do-it-my-way-or-else” parenting book.  It gives you guiding principles and examples.  It shares the “how” of  Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. 

I’ve applied some of the principles and ideas taught in it with my twin three year-olds and it has made a difference.  Most of the difference made in our home from reading this book has been in how I approach my parenting and discipline.  We’ve been happier because of it.

As I am part of the launch team of this book, I have the privilege of giving away a copy of this book and its companion guide!  You can enter to win it over on my blog HERE.  I hope you will!  There aren’t that many entries yet, so the odds are in your favor!  Yeah!

I also want to let you know that the publishers of the book are hosting a Mega Multi-Blogger Giveaway (no purchase necessary) where you can enter for a chance to win some awesome prizes, including an iPad and $200 Amazon gift card!  Feel free to enter that HERE.

And finally, if you buy a copy of the book this week, they will give you $400 worth in additional resources for FREE!  But you have to buy a copy before Sunday at midnight.  Unfortunately, since they’ve been pushing so hard this week, everybody is sold out of physical copies of the book except for the National Center for Biblical ParentingThey are selling it at 25% off.  BUT, you can still buy electronic version of the book from your favorite outlets, like Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and get the extra resources for free still.  Full details about this deal HERE.

I love reading parenting books as I know I am an imperfect person and always can use some good advice on how to raise great kids and enjoy my time with them, too!  What are some of your favorite parenting books?  What have you read lately that has helped you with your multiples?

ldskatelyn is a wife and a mother of fraternal twin three-year olds and 6-week old son.  She loves reading books and then reviewing them. She blogs about her life over at whatsupfagans.blogspot.com.  Her affiliate links are used above.

Nurturing the Love of Reading

The Rainbow Magic series of books has been an obsession at our house for over a year now. The seemingly infinite sets of themed books, written by 4 British women under the pseudonym Daisy Meadows, have everything our daughters love: humour, fairies, royalty, clear cut good and bad (but not too bad), silliness, talking animals, and a sister-like friendship between the two protagonists, Rachel and Kirsty.

When our latest acquisition, Melodie the Music Fairy, arrived in the mail last week, I worried that M and J would argue over who got to read it first. Instead, they compromised. M read out loud while J peeked over her shoulder. It wasn’t until after M took a potty break that pandemonium erupted. J just couldn’t keep herself from reading ahead while M was in the bathroom. She lost M’s place in the book. These children love bookmarks, and use them with abandon. Interfere with a bookmark at your own peril. Fail to mark a child’s place in her book, and you can expect to be tarred and feathered.

While the Rainbow Magic books are a clear frontrunner, J and M are classic bibliophiles. J got completely flustered when her grandfather asked what kind of books she liked to read. She hemmed and hawed, trying to limit herself to one category of literature. I told her she didn’t have to pick if she didn’t know, and she was visibly relieved. The girls are as likely to be found with my Complete Works of Lewis Carroll in their lap as Everyone Poops, their Children’s Atlas or anything Dr. Seuss.

It’s easy for me to forget that it’s unusual for 5-year-olds to be comfortable with chapter books or to enjoy independent silent reading. I too was an early reader, and have partially read books stashed all around the house for stolen moments of literary indulgence. My husband got me a subscription to National Geographic early in our marriage, and it was an inspired gift.

I started chatting with one of the ballet dads at the girls’ dance school this weekend. We pointed out our children to each other in the 5-year-old class, and I answered his puzzled look by explaining that my daughters were twins.

“Oh, wow!” he said. “Do they fight a lot?”

“No,” I told him. “They hardly ever argued when they were younger, but they’ve been bickering more since they started school. One will want to read when the other wants to play, and they’ll argue over who gets to pick.”

“They read?” he asked me, incredulous. “And they’re 5? I can’t get my daughter to read. I work with her on her spelling words from school. She learns them, but then she can’t recognize them on a sign or whatever. How did you get them to read?”

We spent the rest of the hour discussing ways in which a child can develop a love of reading. I’ve been asked that question before, and usually just blow it off with a “they had a great pre-K teacher.” While that’s undeniably true, having an entire hour to talk to a parent who was genuinely at a loss allowed me some time to analyze how M and J came to love books.

When I was on maternity leave, I passed the hours of nursing by reading out loud from books and magazines. I was a little surprised that “henceforth” wasn’t in their early vocabulary. We’ve always had age-appropriate books around, though. J and M chewed on their fabric books as babies, and pointed at pictures in board books when they were a little older. We read Goodnight Moon every night for 3 years. Our local library understood children, and allowed them to explore the stacks of the children’s section with abandon. It was there that we discovered the Daisy Meadows books.

Reading was a way to avert tantrums. Sitting in my lap, listening to a story and caressing the pages of books seemed to soothe both the girls. Books were also a way to get a forgivable moment away from Sissy.

When I read to the girls, I always pointed to words as I read them. I expected them to learn to read words passively, I suppose, family lore being that that was how I learned. Their daycare program took a similar approach to kids’ books as we did at home. They were available to the children at all times, displayed where they would catch their eye. In addition, the teacher read to the class as a group daily, and one day a week was designated Book from Home Day. My girls loved browsing their book collection every week to settle on the book they would take in to share with their friends. The classroom winter party included a book exchange.

When J and M began to display an ability to recognize common words in books they’d never seen before, their pre-kindergarten teacher ran with it. She found them somewhat advanced worksheets to work on. Once they were reading comfortably, she allowed them to occasionally read to the class. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish was a favourite. By the time they completed pre-K, a couple of weeks after their 5th birthday, J, M and the other girls in their class were all reading independently to some degree. All the boys were still working on letter recognition, much to the teacher’s dismay. She wasn’t thrilled about the way literacy had broken down along gender lines.

I didn’t even realize that the girls were ready for chapter books until I found them both in their room one day, noses buried in fairy books. At first, I thought they were looking at the line drawings, but J looked up and summarized the plot for me.

It wasn’t until one of the girls’ friends spent the night that I realized that my husband and I had been teaching them about reading without even realizing it. J wanted to read Llama Llama Misses Mama as a bedtime story. Their friend became angry as J embarked on the first page.

“How does she know the story?” she asked.

“She’s reading it.”

“But how does she KNOW?” she persevered.

I asked J to show her the words as she read them, and J took the initiative to point out that the word “llama” repeated, which is why she said it twice. It occurred to me that our little guest thought of reading from a book as one of those magical traits parents have, like eyes in the back of our heads. I know her parents very well, and know that she has a book collection and is read to regularly. She didn’t, however, see books as toys. They were purely for parent-child interaction.

This realization was borne out the next morning. Our guest was a little ticked off that M was staring at a book in bed. I told our little friend that she was reading.

“No she’s not!” she said. “She’s not saying anything.”

It struck me that she had probably only rarely seen her parents read, except out loud to her. They’re outdoorsy, very active people, and on the rare occasion that they do sit down in silence, the television is their source of entertainment. I hadn’t ever thought of the way in which seeing Daddy and Mommy with books in hand, or discussing articles with news magazines strewn across the table, had influenced our girls.

I told the dance dad all of these things, and he confessed that he’d focused on drilling his daughter rather than making reading fun, and that she’d probably never seen him pick up a book. I had my iPad on me, so I showed him a couple of interactive books I’d installed for the girls. I told him that, in my opinion, pointing or highlighting words as they’re read is a pretty powerful tool in demonstrating that collections of letters carry meaning. Also, reading has got to be fun for kids to want to do it. I doubt my girls would have graduated to chapter books when they did if we only had books about dinosaurs. I was a dinosaur kid, but these girls of mine are all about the fairies and princesses.

I suggested to the dad that he consider letting his daughter run free in the children’s section of the nearest public library branch. She was far more likely to stay engaged with something she had picked out.

I forgot to mention one other tactic that has worked for us. The girls generally have television access only on weekends, and can watch either one full-length feature or a couple of shorter episodes. On the rare occasion that they do watch some TV on weekday evenings, the choice is invariably a nature or physics documentary, and we’re likely to follow it up by a trip to the non-fiction section of their bookshelf, or a visit to National Geographic’s kids’ webpage.

What do you do to encourage your children to develop good reading habits?

Sadia, her husband and their 5-year-old identical twins maximize their bookshelf space in El Paso, TX.

Teaching Your Children About Books

“There is no such thing as a moral book or an immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all.”
– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

The last week of September is banned books week, marked by booksellers and libraries across the United States. As I’ve been looking into information on this week, I’ve found a dizzying number of lists of banned books. Harry Potter tops many recent lists, and so does my recent sob novel Bridge to Terebithia. Gone With the Wind, The Great Gatsby, Of Mice and Men – many of the greatest books of the 20th century have been challenged and banned from schools and libraries.

Those books don’t surprise you? How about The Lorax? Challenged for “criminalizing the foresting industry.” Or Where’s Waldo? Removed from a school library for “nudity” (a tiny picture of a woman lying on a beach wearing a bikini bottom but no top). A Light in the Attic, Little House on the Prairie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – all these wonderful books have faced attempts to ban them from libraries and curriculums. [source here]

As parents, we are gatekeepers to our children’s minds and morals. If you don’t want your child to read a book, don’t have it in the house. If it’s on a required curriculum, ask that your child read an alternate title. Just please don’t try to impose your morality on others.

This week is a great time to talk to your children about banned books. A list of local libraries and merchants with displays can be found here. I’ve talked about this with my children as we’ve looked at the banned books displayed at our library. Reading is a freedom. But along with that freedom comes a responsibility to choose wisely and listen to guidance from parents. I don’t want Drama Girl to read the Gossip Girl books right now, but I’m reading Twilight with her, and heaven knows she’s read an enormous number of the books on the lists. My son has read and enjoyed Phillip Pullman’s books, but he knows the difference between what that author espouses and what we teach at home and in our Church.

This week I think we’ll act like outlaws and read James and the Giant Peach together.

“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, the kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion…”
– Henry Steel Commager

Might as well catch up on my reading…

So, it’s September. I have a kid in middle school and my older twins in kindergarten and all of a sudden, I feel like I’m LIVING inside my minivan. Between shuttling back and forth to different schools and activities for the kids and going to my own meetings and outings for my twins club, I’m spending a ridiculous amount on gas! The other day at school, I was sitting in the parking lot waiting for final bell and thought to myself, this would be a great time to listen to audiobooks from the library on CD. So now I’ve been perusing my local library’s website, but I’m a little overwhelmed by the huge selection! It seems like I’m into “chick lit”, memoirs, and the occasional mystery. Any book recommendations for me? Have you read something outstanding over the summer that you think I’d like?

What to Do – Rainbows

My daughter is almost three and often has more energy than I can handle. I’m constantly struggling to find something that she can do – something that will hold her attention for longer than the 3.865 seconds that she typically spends – so that I can deal with my 8 month old boys. I thought it would be helpful to fellow multiple mommies to have a go-to list of stuff to do that you could whip out like the mother-of-the-year that you are (or in my case, that I wish I had the time/energy/patience to be). If your kids enjoy the beginning activity, I’ll provide more things along a theme. Stuff like related songs, books, snacks – you get the drift. The first theme is rainbows. (Why rainbows first? No idea. It’s just what appealed to me. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a child of the 80′s, when rainbows, unicorns and the Preppy Handbook reigned supreme.) Anywho…let’s get started.

Core activity: Rainbow hunt.

  • Age appropriateness: 18 months & up
  • Materials needed: Nothing special, just stuff around the house!

Activity: We’re hunting rainbows! Or at least we’re looking for colors in the rainbow. The object of the activity is to have your kids look for objects around the house in each of the colors of the rainbow. When Katie was little, I used to take cups and bowls of several colors and then find little toys that would fit in each of the cups. Then we’d work together to match each thing to its “home.” For example, a blue ball would go into a blue cup, and a yellow ducky from the bath would go into a yellow bowl. Now that she’s older, I take different colors of construction paper and tell her to go find toys that match the colors. You can adapt this to your own kids’ age and interest level. I’ve tried this with kids stuck in chairs waiting for dinner to arrive at a restaurant. Each kid gets a magazine and then has 20 seconds to find as many colored images as they can. Here is Katie’s collection of treasures. She’s pointing to her favorite color (yellow) with her foot.

Note two things, if you will. Number one: I didn’t have purple construction paper in the house. I improvised with a marker. Number two: the foot that so gracefully points to her favorite color is still in pajamas. Today is a family sick day. We are all in our pj’s, including yours truly.

Sing. Here are some songs related to our rainbow theme. I did a simple search on YouTube to find clips of the songs so that you can hear the melodies.

Make. More rainbow-themed activities from other blogs that I found.

Explore. I did a couple of online searches and came up with some cool resources. My dad often sits a grandkid on his lap and does a Google images search for such favorites as helicopters or lions. Then they click through to whatever looks interesting.

Read. I’m a book-a-holic and children’s books are my favorite by far. Here are just a few – some are old favorites and others new ones to enjoy.

Experiment. Here are a couple of “scientific” activities that I found trolling the internet.

  • Fill a spray bottle with water, look at the mist in the sunlight.
  • Create an indoor rainbow with a prism
  • Make a rainbow in the dark

Eat. Fill your kids’ plates with fruits & veggies from a rainbow of colors. And you can use a drop or two of food coloring to turn milk or water into your kids’ favorite colors

  • Red: apples, strawberries
  • Orange: orange, mango
  • Yellow: banana, yellow bell pepper
  • Green: kiwi, celery, grapes
  • Blue: blueberries
  • Purple: grapes, eggplant, plums

Well, that’s all folks! I’m hoping to have a new activity every other Monday. You know, Monday, when you are chock full of energy and resolve that this week the kids are not going to watch so much TV and that you’re actually going to eat a piece of fruit or something that passes as a vegetable at least once every day and that you will, for sure!, get the minivan cleaned. Oh wait. That’s me.

If you have any more bright and colorful rainbow ideas, please add a comment. And if you have an idea for an upcoming theme, I’d love to hear about that too!

Staving Off Boredom

Dawn asked “I am curious if any of you have come across some good books with information about how to educationally entertain your toddler twins during the day. My guys are 16 months and I would like to find ways to add education into the fun mix. I realize they are always learning with everything we do but honestly I think the three of us are bored. I’m looking for inspiration!”

I hear you, Dawn. I know we’re supposed to be our kids’ best teachers, but sometimes it’s hard to be a one-woman show!

I have found a few fun items along the way that have helped pass the hours, helping me to feel that I was contributing to their budding curiosity and ongoing education. At our house, it’s projects and music. When I was feeling energized and ambitious, we tried out new activities. When I was feeling like I needed energy, we would put on the music.

All of the recommendations here come straight from our own home: tried, tested and twin-approved.

You should be able to find these materials at your local library, which I learned to utilize to a whole new level once the kiddos arrived. Our library system offers online access with a hold system so that you can reserve books from across the network and have them delivered to your local branch. Extremely handy.

We’ll start with books. These are broad-theme books with a range of art and play activities. There are so many idea books out there that are wonderful; these are just a few that I personally found, used and loved.

Toddler Theme Calendar by Totline – 2001
This one is AWESOME. It’s a perpetual calendar with activities for every day of every month of the entire year. I loved that this was already organized for me. I didn’t even have to open a book to find my own ideas – they were laid out already. They have one for preschoolers as well.

Baby Play by Wendy Masi – 2001
We are big fans of Gymboree Play & Music. We started taking our boys when they were 18 months old and only just stopped going after they turned four and started preschool. I love Gymboree! This books lets you bring some Gymboree home. They also have a Toddler Play version as well as new versions published in the last year that I’m sure are wonderful.

Science is Simple by Peggy Ashbrook – 2003
This is a great resource for toddlers and preschoolers. I know it’s got “preschoolers” in its title, but I have always believed in being a little advanced with my guys. The activities in this book are laid out for preschool teachers, so that you can make a whole day’s activity out of making homemade slime. Fun! We’ve tried a few of the activities out of this book with rousing success.

The Toddler’s Busy Book by Trish Kuffner – 2001
A great book! This one is packed full of ideas, games, and activities, from simple to more-effort-needed. Again, there are other versions available for other ages.

The other essential in our house to stave off boredom is music. I cannot stress enough that you do not have to suffer through saccharine children’s music just because you have children. They like what you like, generally. (My boys love to jump around to The White Stripes just as much as they do to anything I have listed out here.) Cheryl had a great review last week of the TwinSpin-Tunes for Twins CD (which I’ve added to my wishlist!). Here are a few others that never fail to get us up and DANCE.

The Backyardigans: Born to Play – 2008
I confess: I LOVE The Backyardigans. When my boys were Tyrone and Pablo last year for Halloween, I made myself a Uniqua costume. (Only one little girl knew who I was – everyone else thought I was Piglet.) I even decorated our mini-van as a backyard for trunk-o-treat, complete with a walk-through interior and a slide out the back. We have nearly all the DVDs and have so far had to live with just two CDs of music from the TV show. Not so any longer. Born to Play is a great CD, full of the wide range of musical styles The Backyardigans is known for. It’s impossible not to dance when you listen. Even if your kids don’t watch the show, you can’t help but enjoy the music.

Ralph’s World: Happy Lemons – 2007
Ralph’s World music is just wonderful. He explores a broad range of musical styles (blues, reggae, swing and zillions more) all within songs that are fun and whimsical. Our favorite is Happy Lemons but there are many more to choose from – they’re all fantastic!

They Might Be Giants: No – 2002
Yes, this is the same They Might Be Giants of “now it’s Istanbul not Constantinople” fame. They have produced some incredible children’s music, have been featured on the Disney channel and much more. This is one of our favorite CDs of all time. The music is quirky and weird with lots of funny stuff that keep my boys laughing. You know it’s good when you end up singing along to it in the car on the way to work. And you’re all the way there before you realize you don’t have any kids with you.

Now that I’ve shared some of my family’s favorites, I would love to hear more about yours! I’m always on the lookout for new books and CDs to share with my boys.