Thursday, July 24, 2014

What We Are Reading: BATMAN Who is Clayface?

The hubby has a new job and is working near a comic book store. 

When he came home with, BATMAN Who Is Clayface by Donald Lemke, pictures by Steven E. Gordon Colors by Eric A. Gordon.  I have to say I was a little disappointed. Not because I'm not a fan, but because Animal is a little much sometimes and super hero/bad guy play,  is not something he needs any extra encouraging with. 

All doubts however were wiped away when I saw the excitement in his face! One important thing when hoping to instill a love of books in a child (or any person for that matter) is to remember, interest in subject matter is of utmost importance. So if like me you're not a fan of sci-fi, don't frown when your child comes home with Dune.  Instead look on the bright side. If your child brought home a book it's probably going to get read. There in lies the trick.

What's the silver lining in our new favorite bedtime story?


What's a detective mama? A person who solves mysteries by paying attention to clues and asking questions.  What's a batarang? It's a special boomerang that looks like a bat. What's a viking? A Scandinavian pirate. What's a utility belt? It's like grandpas tool belt only filled with the things Batman needs to fight crime. 

We have learned a lot of new words.  They are seeping into his free play time and therefore creating new synapses in his little brain. Important new information onto which he can connect other new facts. This is important because it's hard to grasp new information unless it can be connected to knowledge already acquired. 


This book is 36 pages long, it takes longer to read, but he is so interested in the content  and pictures that he follows closely. A skill that will translate to other books and activities.


This story has a lot to work off as far as lesson planning goes.

For instance in the story Clayface robs a bank. What can he learn from this you might wonder? 

We can play bank. We can practice counting skills, sorting, and simple math can be presented. If he were a little older we might draw up our own money and talk about where money comes from. We might visit a bank, talk through the process of depositing and withdrawing money. What other things can you do at a bank? Maybe take a deposit and withdrawal slips to copy and have some writing and math practice. 

There are also science opportunities. Matt Hagen becomes Clayface when he falls into toxic goo. You could play mad scientist. Look up the recipe for silly putty, play dough, gak, or clay. You could fill glasses with a few drops of yellow, red and blue food coloring. Then mix them with your child to see what new colors they get.

How about art or PE? Trace your child on butcher paper of let them trace you. Then color or paint a few "wax" figures. Put them up around your backyard and let your kid go wild with a boomerang. 

If my son was older and had some writing skills I might ask him to imagine he was Mat Hagen and tell me how he might use is new shape shifting skills in a short story. If he got really creative, I could help him transform his story into a short play. We could build a set and make a short video. 

The possibilities to get creative and teach your child in a meaningful way through his own interest  are really only as limited as your imagination.

Now get out there and have fun!

Monday, July 21, 2014

I Can't Believe I'm Doing This

There are a lot of things I prepared for during pregnancy. Like labor and delivery, how to care for a newborn, and logistics like health insurance for the little guy. 

The hubby and I talked about who would get up and handle night time feeding. Birthday parties. What would we do when he wanted a Mohawk, a piercing, or a tattoo. We had philosophical chats about t-ball, corporal punishment vs. timeouts, and how long I would breastfeed. 

Before parenthood there were a shit ton of things I'd never considered or even knew existed. Like what a doula was, an episiotomy, or whether or not I would circumcise my son. I didn't know what attachment parenting was or how to use a breast pump. 

I don't like making uninformed decisions, especially  when my child is at stake. So I research and research and research until I am satisfied that I'm doing what I honestly think is best for my little love bug.

Other things I just really thought I knew. I'm an Early Childhood Educator for Pete's sake! At least a 150 kids have been in my class. I'm good at what I do. Really.

So there were a few things I was for sure not going to worry about. Like discipline. Consistency. Language development (unless I had to, and of course I would know). Socialization. Close to the top of my list was potty training. 

I've been there, done that, with so many families. I knew what the signs of toilet learning readiness were. When to start and when to step back. 

Oh I knew. Like all childless people, I knew.

I had it all planned out. I would simply wait until my son showed all the signs of readiness, was physically ready and could verbally express his needs. I the great knowing mother would just follow his lead. It was that simple. Why complicate matters? Why push my needs and desires onto this little person? Why turn it into a needless power struggle?

Why indeed. 

Here's the thing. I'm pretty sure he's there. He's even asked to use the toilet and then gone. Successfully. And you know what I'm ready. I'm tiered of spending money on diapers, wipes, desitin, and diaper genie refills. I'd love to put that money into his college savings account.

So now here I am. Buying a potty seat. Underwear. Researching how to potty train a boy. Getting stickers and a few other little rewards (bribes). Fingers crossed hoping I'm not going to be starting a terrible power struggle I'm bound to lose. 

Any tips? 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

What We Are Reading: Building Empathy

Empathetic children. It's a characteristic most of us can agree we want our children to have. We're not the only ones. Experts have been talking a lot about it. I was reminded of this when I read this great article .

It was about why it's so important for boys and how to foster it. I giggled a little, not because I thought it was silly, but because one of the first tips was about giving little boys baby dolls. It reminded me of a certain story I shared with you. 

The other tips where great too. One was about reading with our children. It talks about a gap in reading to girls vs. boys by parents. The gap starts even before a first birthday. This makes me so sad, but I can totally relate. 

Reading is one of my greatest loves and I have been waiting so long to share that love with my child(ren). When Animal wanted nothing to do with books I could have literally cried. I refused to give up, reading daily to him. Eventually the day came when he picked his own story. It just got better from there. I could have given up, would have given up, if reading didn't mean so much to me. 

Empathy is an important skill for both sexes, it fosters courage, happiness and even success in the work place. 

Children's books are a great place to begin to build this essential skill. Books allow children to experience different points of view. To understand why others feel sad, happy, excited, scared, or lonely. To name their feelings. When you read to your child you can facilitate this process. You can ask leading questions like," What do you think the boy is feeling?" , "Why do you think he's scared?", or  "What would you do if this was happening to you?"

I have noticed my son has a hard time understanding when I'm upset. If I scowl and ask, "Am I happy or grumpy?" he can easily identify how I feel. I reward him with happy faces as well. He has really responded to this and I find he is more easily redirected this way. We can hone this skill at story time. When we read I like to ask, "Does he have a happy face or a grumpy face?" 

At work I use this technique as well. If someone is unkind or aggressive in my class room I ask them to look at their friend, how do they look? How do they think their friend is feeling right now? And finally, What can you do to make your friend feel better? Even two year old can start to understand and contemplate these things. By the end of the year I don't have to prompt them very often, they learn what to look for and how to make a situation right. Don't get me wrong, they are children and don't always care to make things right, but it's not about creating submissive robots, it's about giving them the tools to function socially.

There are many children's books specifically about feelings, and how to deal with them. There are also books like, HEY, LITTLE ANT By Phillip and Hannah Hoose.  That directly ask children to think about how they or others may feel. They are great. But don't think you have to limit yourself to books like this. Fiction titles are especially good at doing the same thing in a profound and meaningful way. 

I can still remember sobbing when I read Where The Red Fern Grows. Or how concerned I was for Ponyboy and Johnny. These characters along with hundreds of others taught me about being someone outside of myself. Outside of my comfort and even made me care for or understand someone I may have otherwise written off or disliked. The empathy that can be built when you step outside of yourself and into someone elses' shoes it's unparalleled,  because there just no other way to feel what someone else feels and think their thoughts and live their outside influences as well.

Empathetic children, another reason to read to your child.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

True Story Hot Dog Review

I grew up more or less believing every commercial on TV. I wasn't a savvy seven year old. So when I was told Ball Park Franks' were the best because "they plump when you cooked them" I was convinced it was true.

When my parents would BBQ, I would ask for Ball Park hot dogs. I thought they were tasty and I was satisfied. They were pretty cheap and so my parents (for who a hot dog is a foreign food) were also happy.

It wasn't until I was married, and once had a craving for a hot dog that I learned anything about what a good hot dog tasted like. I picked up my trusty brand. When I got home my husband was pretty surprised. He refused to eat any but promised me that very weekend I would know what a "good" hot dog tasted like. He brought home Nathan's. He was right. Those were in fact the best hot dogs, I had ever had. 

Since then, I've turned into a bit of a snob. To be fair hot dogs are one of my least favorite things to eat. I have to be really in the mood or at a ball game. What is it about a ball game that makes a hot dog so good?  

Now if some one's cooking a Ball Park Frank I wont eat it. I wont let Animal eat it either. Of course he did try one at someones BBQ, and LOVES them. So I was super excited to find this at Costco a few weeks ago.
Our new favorite!

They are free of all the yucky preservatives, all beef, organic and gluten free. I was sure they would be gross, but what would Animal know? They'd be hot dogs and he would get used to the flavor and like it. 

Well boy was I wrong, these healthier hot dogs are DELICIOUS! We all loved them, including the hubby. They are not so cheap, 11.99 for 15 hot dogs(at Costco), but man are they worth it. With Fourth of July around the corner it's a good time to try them yourselves.