A Christmas READ. DISCUSS. DO!: Celebrate the Nativity with a Picture Book and A Puppet Show!!

This post is inspired by children’s author, Rebecca Gomez’s wonderful Read. Discuss. Do! initiative where she pairs a picture book with an engaging follow-up discussion starter and activity. Check out the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo for a wealth of creative book-themed ideas!

Now for my special Christmas edition:

Pairing a faith-based Christian picture book with an activity is a great way to spark meaningful conversations with our kids about what Christmas is really all about – Jesus!  With that in mind, here’s an activity that I created for my Sunday school kiddos last year. The activity was given as a gift, wrapped in paper and included the finger puppets along with the instructions. I instructed them not to open until Christmas Eve, but you could modify that to meet your needs.  However, keep in mind that they liked the mystery of not being able to open the gift right away. It added to the excitement.  Afterwards, I heard back from families that it was a big hit!  I think what the kids liked best about this nativity-themed activity was that it was phrased as a “special Christmas assignment” and what parents liked best about it was that it brought the significance of Christmas into the conversation in an engaging, kid-friendly way.  

If you choose to recreate this “SPECIAL CHRISTMAS ASSIGNMENT” for your family, Sunday school class, or homeschool co-op, here’s what you will need.

  1. First, ahead of time, make or order some simple nativity themed puppets – one set per child or one set per family. I ordered mine from Oriental Trading.  
  2. On sturdy paper, type up the instructions – as seen in the picture above.
  3. When it’s time to open the gift, be sure to have several of your family’s favorite nativity-themed picture books on hand.  Of course, I would LOVE if you included my nativity-themed picture book GOODNIGHT, MANGER in the mix and here are a few other suggestions (both new and old) to get you started:

GOODNIGHT, MANGER (Zonderkidz) written by Laura Sassi and illustrated by Jane Chapman.

THE LITTLE SHEPHERD (Beaming Books) written by Elizabeth Jaeger and illustrated by Irene Montano

WHO IS COMING TO OUR HOUSE? (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers) written by Joseph Slate and illustrated by Ashley Wolff

‘TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS (Zonderkidz) written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Elena Selivanova

CHRISTMAS IN THE MANGER (HarperFestival) written by Nola Buck and illustrated by Felicia Bond

GOOD NEWS! IT’S CHRISTMAS! ( Our Daily Bread) written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Lizzie Walkley

4. After reading and talking about the book, give your children the gift of time and creative materials like Legos, blocks, cardboard, markers etc. to plan their puppet show.  

5. Watch their nativity-themed productions, then marvel together at the wonder of Jesus – the real gift of Christmas!

CLOSING THOUGHT: What nativity-themed picture books would you add to my list? Thank you!

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: God’s Protection Covers Me (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

Over the summer I planned a series for our church’s Sunday morning children’s program called PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS:  Sparking Faith Conversations using Picture Books and Scripture. Each week, using an engaging picture book as the spark along with games and a craft, children ages 3 – 10 delved into Scripture as we investigated what it means to be a beloved child of God.  The kids enjoyed the lessons so much, that I have decided to start an occasional blog series focusing on picture books that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. Today’s lesson uses GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME (Beaming Books, 2018), written by Amy Houts and illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYSA Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME

by Amy Houts

PURPOSE:  To recognize that just as various structures/coverings protect natural creatures, God’s protection covers us. Using Houts’ lovely metaphors as the spark, we’ll delve into Scripture for promises that God indeed cares for us with an everlasting love and protects us in the palm of His hand.

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: Building Card Houses

Open in prayer, then explain that today, we’ll be reading a story about all the kinds of structures animals build or find for protection.  Can they name some?  What do we build to protect us?  Houses! Tell them it’s time to do a little building – with cards!  Using only a deck of playing cards, challenge them to build their own houses. Demonstrate two building methods:  triangular and four-card cell. This article from wiki-how will give you helpful construction tips, if needed, so you can demonstrate before the kids have their turn.

INTRODUCE THE STORY:  Introduce the story by showing the book cover.  Ask what protection means?  What are some ways they protect themselves?  (Wearing helmets, using seatbelt etc.) Have you ever thought about how God protects us?  Ask them to be thinking about that as you read them the story.  Then read the story.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:

  1. Marvel at all the amazing ways animals are protected in nature.
  2. Brainstorm all the ways their parents protect their precious children – them!
  3. Ask, “Do you think God protects us?”  Yes!  “How?” He provides all good things – including families that care and watch over us, bodies that are designed to fight infection, human intellect that has allowed man to make medical advances to fight disease, create safer cars etc. and MIRACLES!  Yes, God is not limited by what is possible.  He invites our prayers to protect and provide for us even in the midst of the IMPOSSIBLE!
  4. And where can we find reminders of God’s protection? In the Bible!

DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME

Wrap up the discussion by digging into scripture together to find beautiful reminders of God’s protective love and care.  Use these verses to get you started: 

Psalm 5:11-12   Psalm 32:7       Psalm 116: 5 – 7  

Matthew 6: 25 – 26  I Peter 5:7

STORY-BASED ACTIVITY TIME:  Select from one of the engaging activities provided by the publisher in the GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME Activity Guide.

WRAP UP:  As children are finishing the activity – remember together all the animals and protective things mentioned in the story.  Ask what those can remind us of?  God’s protection covers us!  That is wonderful news indeed.


TWO TOUGH TRUCKS: Six Extension Activities for 3 – 6 Year Olds (And a Giveaway!)

There’s a new TRUCK-LOVING picture book that recently roared onto bookshelves everywhere, just in time the new school year. It’s called TWO TOUGH TRUCKS (Orchard Books, September 2019) and it’s co-written by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca J. Gomez, with illustrations by Hilary Leung. Using two big trucks as stand-ins for two kids, it’s the perfect story to calm back-to-school nerves and set the wheels in motion for a terrific school year.  Written by two of the best rhymers around, it’s also full of fun word play that will tickle the engines of young readers everywhere. 

Now, to celebrate reading in general – and this book in particular – here are six book-themed extension activities perfect for 3 – 6 year olds. So, invite your kiddos to find a good spot to read… then extend the fun with one, two, or all of these activities (which rhyme, by the way, just because). 

Take a local truck tally! After reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS, have each child grab an index card and pencil, then take a little drive to look for trucks of all sizes.  For younger kids, simply tally the number of trucks you spot.  (This is a good opportunity to teach them how to tally- a wonderful counting skill.) For older children, consider having them list the different types of big trucks they see, then make tallies for each of those categories.

Have a mini-truck rally! Inspired by Rebecca’s and Corey’s truck-racing text and Hillary’s wondrous setting, grab your favorite toy trucks (and/or cars) and head outside to the sandbox, playground, or even your backyard. Rev up your engines for some good old-fashioned races, challenges, and maybe even a few stunts.  

Take a picture read through. After reading TWO TRUCKS, let your littlest ones re-read it to you using the pictures as clues. Reading the pictures is a great pre-reading skill because it encourages interacting with the page. So, snuggle up and enjoy being “read” to. (Older kids who can read on their own, can also enjoy investigating the illustrations ways the pictures also tell part of the story.)

Do a “Read. Discuss. Do!” Author Rebecca Gomez has created a delightful reading extension initiative called Read.Discuss.Do! Here’s one she created for this book. To find others for a wide variety of favorite titles, search the hashtag #ReadDiscussDo on social media.

Have a truck-themed book fest. After reading the story, your kids might be inspired to read more truck-themed books. If so, head to the library and have a truck-themed book fest!  Your librarian can help you find some good books.

Painting truck tracks is the best!  Mess and grime and MUD are part of the fun when it comes to trucks (at least in my opinion). That’s why I’ve selected this messily adorable craft for post-reading artsy fun. Be sure to spread out some newspaper or a vinyl cloth before running those trucks through the paint! Smocks also advised. Afterwards, simply rinse the trucks off in a bucket of water -which also becomes an activity in and of itself that your kids will LOVE!

I found many renditions of this craft online. Here’s the one I thought had the clearest instructions: 

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope these extension ideas inspire you and your littles to extend the conversation and the fun after reading TWO TOUGH TRUCKS.  If you enjoyed this post, please help me to grow my audience (and ensure that you’ll be among the first to know about new posts) by following my blog or liking my Facebook Author Page. Thank you.

Now for the GIVEAWAY! If you’d like a chance to win a FREE copy of TWO TOUGH TRUCKS (Orchard Books, September 2019) simply post a comment below. (NOTE: Must be U.S. resident and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Thursday, 10/3/19 at 11:59 pm EST. The winner will be announced that Friday!

LOVE IS KIND: Book Review & Baking Activity

Did you know that LOVE IS KIND celebrates the precious bond between little ones and their grandparents? Indeed, it’s Little Owl’s love for his grammy that sets the story in motion… and it’s Grammy’s love for him that brings the story to a cozy resolution.

Here’s a sweet glimpse of that bond in a special clip illustrator Lison Chaperon made to celebrate LOVE IS KIND:

And now, in celebration of Grandparents Day, I’m excited to share that LOVE IS KIND is featured over at Celebrate Picture Books today with a thoughtful review, a baking activity (see picture above) and a giveaway of the new board book edition! So grab a cup of coffee, or tea, as I prefer, and head on over. I’ll make it easy for you. Press here.

FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK: Six Extension Activities for Families and Classrooms

There’s a new NATURE-LOVING picture book on the trail, just in time for spring hikes and summer explorations with your child. It’s called FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN: AN ANIMAL COUNTING BOOK (Pomegranate Kids, March 15, 2019) and it’s written by Vivian Kirkfield with illustrations by Mirka Hokkanen. It’s a beautiful read and perfect for sparking thoughtful conversations with your little ones about nature – and especially about endangered species.

Here’s the description from the inside flap:  

“Water wakes. Wildlife greets the day and finds shelter, safety, and fun on the river in this lyrical, ecologically oriented counting book. One willow flycatcher, two dragonflies, three kit foxes, and more thrive in their habitat. As kids count, the day turns from dawn to dusk, and the character of the water changes as quickly as a child’s moods. Animals sing, leap, tiptoe, toboggan, hoot, hunt, flit, flutter, and hover. They ride out a storm, bask in waning rays, and tuck in under the silver moon.

Filled with modern wood engravings, Four Otters Toboggan celebrates wild beauty, encouraging readers of all ages to preserve and cherish our planet. After the story is finished, children can read more about each species in the back of the book, conservation efforts, what causes animals to become endangered, and what people can do to protect wild habitats.”

Now, in celebration of the book’s release, and in the hope of sparking some good conversations with your children, here are SIX extension activities for  FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN!  

1. Take a counting hike.  After reading FOUR OTTERS TOBOGGAN, take your child on their own nature walk through your neighborhood or at a local preserve. Bring along a notebook so they can keep a counting list of what animals, insects etc. they see. With each creature they spot, stop an marvel at what a wondrous gift it is to able to see these animals in the wild.

Here are some creatures my kids and I have spotted over the years:

2. Make your own animal counting book.  Inspired by Vivian’s delightful text and Mirka’s wondrous illustrations (and using the counting list they tallied in the hiking activity), challenge your child to create their own nature counting book.

3. Visit a local nature center.  Extend the lessons of the book by visiting a nature center or museum in your area. For example, all within an hour radius of our our, I have taken my kids to a nature museum by the sea, in the woods, and along the marshes. Some of these museums are tiny, but what they all have in common is that they celebrate and teach about the local species in each of those habitats.  

4. Watch the illustrator create one of the engravings from the story. One of the standout features of this delightful book are illustrator Mirka Hokkanen’s amazing modern wood engravings. With that in mind, older children might enjoy hearing and watching the illustrator herself as she describes the process using the very engravings that appear in the story!  Her presentation has three parts. I’m sharing the second part because it shows her actually engraving the owls from the story!  

Here it is: 

5. Create your own simple engravings.  After watching Mirka describe her process, you children might be inspired to try their own engravings. Here’s a link to a simple block printing project from Art Class Curator that even the youngest child can do.

6. Download the “Otterly Awesome Companion Activity Book for Four Otters: A Counting Book”.  This eleven page booklet includes crafts, coloring pages, puzzles, a hands-on idea page for how to care for endangered species and more! It will provide several sessions of wonderful follow-up conversation and thought.

To learn more about Vivian Kirkfield: https://viviankirkfield.com   

To learn more about artist Mirka Hokkanen: http://www.mirkah.com/books/

To learn more about Pomegranate Kids: https://www.pomegranate.com

Good News! IT’S EASTER!: Five Ways to Engage Little Ones and a GIVEAWAY!

Spring is in the air! And just as the last little piles of snow on my front lawn are melting, look what has arrived on my porch! It’s Glenys Nellist’s newest board book. Published by Discovery House and illustrated by Lizzie Walkley, Good News! IT’S EASTER is an upbeat rhyming introduction to the real meaning of Easter. And today, the author herself, has agreed to share five lovely ways to engage little ones as you read Good News! IT’S EASTER with them. (And in the EXTRA exciting department, Glenys has also offered to give one SIGNED copy of her new board book to one lucky reader! Find out how to enter at the end of the post.) Now, without further ado, here’s Glenys. Enjoy!

FIVE WAYS TO ENGAGE LITTLE ONES WITH GOOD NEWS! IT’S EASTER! by Glenys Nellist

1. Before reading the story, look at the cover together and let your child find and trace the path (featured on every page.)


2. As you begin reading, notice that every page of this book has a picture clue that you can use to invite your child to guess who, or what, will be found when they turn the page over.


3. When you reach the last two pages of the book ask your child to look at the end of the path and ask them what’s changed from the picture on the cover.


4. After reading the story, go on a “good news” hunt in your neighborhood looking for tulips, bunnies, buds, and other signs of spring and new life.


5. Bring the message of the book to life by planting seeds together, enjoy your own Butterfly Kit or take a trip to a butterfly sanctuary or nature reserve where you can observe tadpoles and baby animals. 

Thank you, Glenys, for sharing these ideas for sparking conversation using your lovely new book. To learn more about Glenys and her books visit her website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

NOW for the GIVEAWAY!!! (Thank you, Glenys!) 

If you’d like a chance to win a FREE  copy of GOOD NEWS! IT’S EASTER written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Lizzie Walkley, let me know in a comment below. (NOTE: Must have U.S. address and at least 18 years old to enter.) The giveaway ends Friday 3/22/19 at 12:01 am EST. The winner will be announced that day!   THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW OVER. Winner announced HERE.

LOVE IS KIND Valentine Tour: FINAL STOP!

This past Sunday, in celebration of Valentine’s Day, I read LOVE IS KIND to my Sunday School kids. I focused my lesson on what LOVE is and who the author of love is: GOD! Then we had cupcakes and made valentines.

But, oh, how I wish I had waited a Sunday so that I could use this amazing KidMin (Children’s Ministry) Object Lesson created by fellow Zonderkidz author Denette Fretz. She focuses her LOVE IS KIND Object Lesson on the theme “Kindness is a Choice” and ties it in with the Good Samaritan.

Oh, and there are marbles involved and a cute craft and great puppet idea! It’s not to be missed. Here’s the link. And while you are there be sure to check out her growing collection of picture book based KidMin lessons. They are amazing! (And there’s a giveaway!)

BLOG TOUR Stop FOUR: It’s a LOVE IS KIND Valentine Sibling Craft!


CUTE! Time for STOP FOUR of the LOVE IS KIND Valentine Tour and it’s craft time! This VALENTINE BOOK INSPIRED CRAFT FOR SIBLINGS makes a great valentine, but is also fun any time of the year. And the precious conversation that she suggests to accompany the craft is priceless. Head on over to Glitter on a Dime for more on the craft as well as details regarding their book giveaway.

LOVE IS KIND Valentine Blog Tour: STOP THREE

One of the reasons I wrote LOVE IS KIND was to show in fun story form what love and kindness in action could look like. And today I’m excited to be the guest of picture book author Jean Matthew Hall. Please join me over at her blog as we chat about ways to foster kindness in our kids. My hope is that our conversation will inspire you and your little ones to follow in Little Owl’s footsteps and spread love and kindness near and far. (Oh, and there’s a giveaway plus Jean has created a beautiful bookmark freebie!) I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a LOVE IS KIND Party!

VALENTINE BLOG TOUR KICKOFF!

With its theme that love and kindness can be shown in many ways, LOVE IS KIND is a charming pick for a class or home Valentine’s Day Party. I’ve come up with more ideas than you’d ever use for just one party, so pick the activities that suit your class or home. Happy February! (Only 14 days until Valentine’s Day!)

Gathering Activities:

Play Musical Hearts.  First put on your favorite children’s kindness/friendship themed album.  (We like Raffi at our house.)  Then, using two heart-shaped boxes (or little heart pillows, if you have some) instead of the more traditional “hot potato”, sit in a circle and gently pass the hearts in opposite directions to the music. When the music stops, the children holding the hearts each say something kind to the person holding the other heart. (Ex. You are funny.  I like your striped socks.  You make me feel welcome etc.)

Play Little Owl Hide and Seek.  While one person has their eyes covered, another hides a little stuffed owl, or you could use one of the Little Owl muffin toppers without the toothpick (See link below.) Make sure everyone, except for the person with eyes covered, sees where the owl is hidden.  Then using hoos (like an owl would sound) help the person whose eyes were covered to find the little owl.  No talking or pointing allowed.  Only hoos – soft if they are far and loud if they are close. (Warning:  This game will be a big hit!)

Make Little Owl masks. Ahead of time gather feathers, crayons, glue and string. Then using the Little Owl mask printable found in the LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit, have each child create their own Little Owl Masks. (Note: I recommend printing the masks on card stock weight paper and pre-cutting for younger children.)

The Main Entertainment:

Read the book! For extra fun, have a basket of book-themed props available and after reading, have the kids re-enact the story using stuffed animals and/or themselves. Don’t forget to include three coins and three heart-shaped boxes of chocolates!

More Party Games/Crafts:

Make Valentines: Make old-fashioned Valentines using the heart coloring page in the LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit or cut your own from colored construction paper. Little Owl glued his on a doily. Decorate with markers, stickers and a personalized message.

Decorate Cookies: Prepare heart-shaped or owl shaped sugar cookies ahead of time. Then, have a cookie decorating station where kids can decorate using toothpicks, icing, sprinkles and sugar eyeballs! (To extend the love and kindness theme, consider having them prepare a plate of cookies to give a neighbor or deliver to a nursing home – along with the postcard notes below and/or valentines above.)

Write Love and Kindness Postcards: Illustrator Lison Chaperon created awesome postcard printables to celebrate the release of LOVE IS KIND. Print one (preferably in color) for each child and glue as directed. They are located in the LOVE IS KIND Activity Kit. When dry have your child write a sweet “I love you”  or “Kind thought” message to someone special – perhaps a grandparent or beloved aunt or uncle or teacher. Then affix proper postage and take a trip to the post office to mail! Or have them deliver with some of the cookies they made (above!)

Time for Treats:

Bake muffins (the link below includes a recipe for chocolate applesauce muffins that are both healthy and delicious) or choose your own muffin or cupcake recipe. Then top them with the adorable printable muffin toppers created by Lison Chaperon. Serve with juice or water. Enjoy!

Party Favor Ideas (not necessary but fun!):

Token gift card or coupon for local bookstore or chocolate shop.

Two or three heart-shaped cookies wrapped in cellophane with pink or red ribbon.

A small satchel of foil-wrapped heart shaped chocolates, again wrapped in cellophane or tissue paper and tied with colorful ribbon.

(Note: The link to the LOVE IS KIND Activity Guide is temporarily out of order. Please check back if you’d like to access that.)