GOODNIGHT, MANGER: 8 Nativity Activities to Teach Little Ones about Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas memories is watching my daughter play with the Baby Jesus that was part of our Christmas nativity. All through December she’d carry him around the house saying things like, “Baby Jesus crying. It’s okay, Baby.”  Then she’d gently feed him or rock him and sing a lullaby. Before listening to her tender play, I’d never thought of Baby Jesus as ever crying. Her sweet play inspired me to write “Goodnight, Manger”, a Christmas bedtime picture book that not only serves as a fun reminder that Jesus was once a baby who cried and felt everything we feel, but which also keeps Christ, rather than Santa, as the focus during the holiday season.   Now, inspired by GOODNIGHT, MANGER, here are:

8 Nativity Activities to Spark Meaningful Conversations about Christmas with Preschoolers


1. Play “I Spy…an angel!” Identify the figures in the Christmas story using the nativity as your playground. After you “spy” each figure, ask simple questions like “Who was Mary?” or “What were the shepherds doing that night?”


2. Play “I Count… three sheep!” Preschoolers love counting. After each count, think about how everyone in the nativity was looking forward to meeting Baby Jesus. Ask them what they think about that.


3. Play “Where is Baby Jesus?” In this variation of hide and seek, take turns hiding Baby Jesus in the nativity (or beyond). Each time you find Him, marvel about how exciting it must have been to see God’s promise for a Savior fulfilled in the birth of a special baby – Jesus!


4. Re-enact the Nativity. Using Luke 2:1-20 as your guide, re-enact the Christmas story using the figurines. Add animal sounds and alleluias to bring the story to life. For extra fun, you can also retell your nativity-themed picture books (such as Goodnight, Manger, for example) using figurines. Be sure to always link back to the all important message that Jesus is the gift of Christmas.  


5. Sing Carols. While holding the appropriate figurines, sing carols that relate to the nativity story.  For example, pretend the angels are flying as you sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Have the wise men march as you sing “We Three Kings.” Place Baby Jesus in the manger as you sing “Away in a Manger,” etc.


6. Care for Baby Jesus. Just as my daughter did, let your child take care of Baby Jesus. Pretend to gently rock and feed him. Maybe even sing him a tender lullaby. Then be amazed together – that God loves us just like we love little babies. He cares for us and comforts us. His biggest gift ever? Sending Jesus to be the Savior of the world.


7. Make your own nativity figurines. Little ones love anything hands on, so roll up your sleeves and make sheep, shepherds, angels and more using whatever materials you fancy. Play dough, felt, glue, paper, crayons and even blocks are all perfect materials for a fun afternoon of nativity building. 


8. Go on a Nativity Hunt. Here’s a fun activity that will get you and your children outside on a crisp day. Walk around your neighborhood looking for nativity lawn scenes. Name the figures you see and celebrate! This also makes a good activity to keep children busy and engaged while running errands in the car.

A version of this post previously appeared on Noelle Kirchner’s amazing blog .  Thank you, Noelle, for having me and for letting me share here!

2018 Best in Rhyme Top 20!


I’m delighted to share that DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE (Sterling Children’s Books) has been selected as one of this year’s top twenty contenders for the Best in Rhyme Award. The top 10 will be announced next month and finalists and winner will be announced in February at the KidLit TV studio! There are so many wonderful books/author/illustrators included in this list! Congrats to all and I hope you will each take a moment to add these titles to your to-read lists. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the Best in Rhyme Award, it is the brainchild of rhyming picture book author Angie Karcher.  Newer writers are often discouraged from writing in rhyme, but this Award celebrates the joyful reality that rhyming stories are alive and well, but that they must be impeccably written.  Past winners include Diana Murray, Penny Parker Klostermann and Lori Mortenson. To learn more, visit https://rhymerev.com.  

WEDNESDAY’S BOOK: LOVE IS KIND Radio Interview (And a Winner!)

Dq2pILBX0AE4cJH.jpg-largeThis week it was my pleasure to be interviewed by radio host Care Baldwin for her program, Wednesday’s Bookmark, a weekly show that celebrates books. The interview aired October 31st at 4:30 EST on Family Radio CHRI 99.1 fm, Canada’s largest Christian family radio station.  Thank you, Care, for being such a great host!  I had a wonderful time.  Here’s the link for the interview. Please stop by.  =)

I’m also delighted to announce that the winner of last week’s special giveaway, a brand new copy of Mindy Baker’s debut Christmas picture book, MOUSE’S CHRISTMAS GIFT, published by Zonderkidz, and illustrated by Dow Phumiruk is…

Emmie!!!!!

Congratulations! I will be in touch with you today so we can get the book to you.

Thanks again, Mindy, for an illuminating interview. I’d also like to thank Zonderkidz for providing the winning copy. Happy Friday, all!

Book Trailer PREMIERE: Diva Delores and the Opera House Mouse

TRA-L-LA!!!!  Look what we created, just in time for National Opera Week, though Delores and Fernando (and I)  think every week is a good week to celebrate opera! It’s a BOOK TRAILER… our first. We hope you like it. =)

Happy Trailer-ing!  And Happy Reading!  And Happy National Opera Week!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN from Little Owl!

Little Owl Halloween with text

LOOK! Little Owl, the sweet protagonist from LOVE IS KIND (Zonderkidz, 2018), is all dressed up for Halloween with spider buttons and a pointy hat.  And he’s got his little jack-o-lantern, ready to fill with Halloween treats. In this sweet illustration, created by illustrator Lison Chaperon (thank you, Lison!), it looks to me like he’s also whispering to Dragon that he’s ready to share his candy along the way and say please and thank you at every house he visits.  (That’s showing showing thoughtfulness and love in true LOVE IS KIND style, don’t you think?) Happy Halloween, all!

TRA-LA-LA!:  EIGHT OPERA-THEMED PICTURE BOOKS for ALL AGES

opera-themed picture booksDid you know this is National Opera Week? I love opera’s glorious ability to tell a story through song, dance, with rich orchestra and majestic sets! That’s partly why I decided it would be fun to write a picture book set in an opera house.  And did you know that reading DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE with your littles ones can be a fun and engaging way to introduce them to this great art form?  But why limit the fun to just one picture book!  In celebration of sharing a little opera love with our little ones, here are EIGHT picture books with delightful, kid-friendly opera themes.  Enjoy! (And if you can think of any I missed, please add them in the comments section.)

img_1407DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE

written by Laura Sassi and iIlustrated by Rebecca Gerlings 

(Sterling Children’s Books, 2018) 

The humorous tale of a new diva who needs all the help she can get, and the mouse who has offered to help (but she thinks she deserves bigger help than a mouse!). 

51GFENsN3ZL._SX446_BO1,204,203,200_

OPERA CAT 

written by Tess Weaver and illustrated by Andréa Wesson 

(Clarion Books, 2002) 

The charming story of a cat (who can sing) and a diva who has laryngitis!

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ENCORE, OPERA CAT

written by Tess Weaver and illustrated by Andréa Wesson 

(Clarion Books, 2009)

In the charming sequel to OPERA CAT, Alma and Madame SoSo travel to Switzerland!

51iCRAUWlJL._SX379_BO1,204,203,200_THE GREAT POOCHINI

written and illustrated by Gary Clement

(Groundbooks, 1999) 

Full of opera wordplay and doggy-transformed operatic names – such as the protagonist, Poochini- this is the fun story of a dog who seems ordinary by day, but at night he becomes an opera star!

 

3427269PET OF THE MET

written and illustrated by Don Freeman

(Viking, 1953)

A charming classic by the author of CORDUROY about a family of mice who live at the Metropolitan Opera House… oh, and there’s a cat! 

61OjQ7tRJ3L._SX403_BO1,204,203,200_BRAVO! BRAVA! A NIGHT AT THE OPERA: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH COMPOSERS, CAST, AND CREW

written by Anne Siberell

(Oxford University Press, 2002) 

An engaging, kid-friendly introduction to opera, full of fun facts and whimsical illustrations. 

 

51f3Bmbj5YL._SX384_BO1,204,203,200_A SOUP OPERA

written by Jim Gill and illustrated by David Moose

(Jim Gill, Inc.; Har/Com edition, 2009)

A fun introduction the feel of opera using a silly soup story.  CD included. Hear Jim read it here – with music and voices!

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THE DOG WHO SANG AT THE OPERA 

written by Marshall Izen  and Jim West and illustrated by Erika Oller

(Harry N. Abrams, 2004)

Humorous tale based on a true story about a dog who sings with the Diva on opening night at the Metropolitan Opera House! 

LOVE IS KIND: Activity Guide and Printables (Bookmark this post!)

LoveisKind_emailheader_650x254_B.jpgTEACHERS AND PARENTS: This post is a treasure that should be book-marked. It contains a wonderful activity kit offered by Zonderkidz and created by my illustrator Lison Chaperon. The not-to-be-missed kit has an assortment of LOVE IS KIND-themed printables – including coloring pages, an adorable Little Owl mask craft and a post card activity!

41257812_1845944638825854_3088792384515866624_nYou can download the kit here.

IMG_7709And for your convenience, I’m also including the downloadable baking activity with  character muffin toppers seen above – perfect for birthday parties, class celebrations etc. Press here for that.

Happy reading and creating!

 

GUEST POST: The Inspiration Behind LOVE IS KIND

Version 2A few weeks ago Christian blogger, writer, and inspirational speaker Sally Matheny reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in being a guest on her blog.  I was honored to be asked and delighted to write a post. The topic I chose was the inspiration behind LOVE IS KIND.  You can find that piece here and it includes a special giveaway – a free 15 virtual visit with me!

In addition, LAST week Sally posted a very thoughtful review LOVE IS KIND.  You can find the review here.

Thank you, Sally, for inviting me to share my thoughts and for sharing your thoughts about LOVE IS KIND.

Happy Monday, all!

 

NINE TIPS for Reading Picture Books with Babies/Toddlers

New Parent MeetupLast week I spent a special morning at the New Parent Meet Up at Farinolio‘s, sipping coffee and sharing a little bit about myself and my journey into picture book writing… along with some tips and reasons for reading to our babies. Here are a few pictures that capture the joy of the morning.

During my mini-informal presentation, one of my mama friends also captured this snippet of a sweet reading-related testimonial about the special bonding demonstrated years ago when my son was born 16 weeks early.

I hope that this clip  – along with the nine tips that follow -inspire you to read, read, read with your babies – and babies on the way! Now, without further fuss, are the nine tips I shared.

NINE TIPS FOR READING PICTURE BOOKS WITH BABIES and TODDLERS: 

Tip #1: Make reading time special. (It’s about more than just reading. It’s about
bonding, interacting and fostering love of story and storytelling.)

Tip #2: Ask questions. “Where’s the___?” “Who/what’s that?” “What’s ___ doing?”

Tip #3: Read anywhere, anytime. Read often.

Tip #4: Add simple actions and/or sounds. (Like animal sounds)

Tip #5 Vary the delivery. Sing the story. Use different voices.

Tip #6: Let toddlers turn the pages. Anticipate what will happen.

Tip #7: Extend the story with an activity. (Like counting or drawing)

Tip #8 Read the same stories again and again… if they ask! That’s how they learn and grow.

Tip #9: Establish weekly library visits. (Let them pick some of the books.)

Happy Reading, all!

LOVE IS KIND Blog Tour: Stop SEVEN

5A32405B-843A-4B7A-A32F-0CEE2DE567CEToday Susanna Leonard Hill is featuring LOVE IS KIND as part of her Perfect Picture Book Friday series!  Head on over there to find out her review.  And, inspired by Lison Chaperon’s delicious LOVE IS KIND muffin baking activity, I’m also sharing my thoughts on the benefits of pairing picture books with a tasty treat with FIVE TIPS for doing that! (Oh, and there’s also a giveaway!) So grab that cup of tea and one of those delicious virtual muffins picture above head on over.  HAPPY FRIDAY, all!