8 Favourite Travel Books for Kids

Thursday, January 31, 2019

We are so excited to team up with Elise at www.3kidstravel.com and share some of our favourite travel themed books for kids. One of the ways we get our kids excited about our next destination, or upcoming trips is through books. We've tried to include books that will appeal to a variety of age ranges, that are interactive, and wonderful for visual learners as well. We're always adding to our collection and would love to know your go to travel books!

1. This is Series by M. Sasek- We love this colourful and playful book series. The author incorporates beautiful illustrations of architecture, historic monuments, parks etc. and also adds lively text to keep kids' attention. We love how colourful the books are and the attention to detail about the various
aspects of each city he covers. Some favourites are the London and Paris books. -Elise

2. My Little City series- We are always on the look out for book that will help our youngest daughter get excited about the places we visit. These books cover the highlights of major cities and the illustrations are adorable and baby-friendly. The text is simple and perfectly complements the beautiful images. -Elise

And how darling is this supplemental matching game? Such a fun way to reinforce the books. -Sarah

3. National Parks of the U.S.A.- this oversized guide is perfect for budding National Parks enthusiasts- it takes a lot information about specific parks, including facts about flora and fauna, and distills it into smaller packages that are easily and delightfully digested. The illustrations are reminiscent of vintage travel posters which we find oh so charming. -Sarah

4. City Trails Series by Lonely Planet - as a kid I loved looking through my parent's Fodors travel guides and now I'm a huge fan of Lonely Planet guides so I think these City Trails guides for kids are awesome. They highlight various trails throughout different cities and have two characters, Marco & Amelia, who will help your kids discover some off the beaten path activities. While younger kids will have fun looking at the pages, this one is best for ages 8+ -Sarah

5. Richard Scarry's A Day at the Aiport- We are obsessed with Richard Scarry books because of the intricate details he includes. This book focuses specifically on the airport and helps kids see the terminal, runway, tower, etc. Kids and parents will love how interactive this book is, it comes with stickers and will keep kids entertained for a long time. -Elise

6. Not For Parents Series by Lonely Planet- This book series is great for younger and older kids (ideal age is 8+) and puts a fun spin on travel that helps kids take ownership of their travel experience by learning on their own. The books include all the cool information for kids to know about a country and they are jam packed with fun facts and colourful pictures. -Elise

7.- Everything & Everywhere- this book is beautifully illustrated and serves as a whimsical introduction to a smattering of cities around the world. We love that there are so many clever details to be found and discussed in relation to each city; we think this book serves as a wonderful way to spark excitement about world travel, especially for the aesthetically discerning.

8. The 50 States- another oversized guide, but this time for the 50 states. We love to get this book out before we travel around the US to learn fun facts about the states we will be visiting. This one is colourful, graphic, and makes me excited for road trips (which are possibly my least favourite form of travel, so that's quite a feat). We also like to pair it will this puzzle for birthdays and more fun learning opportunities. -Sarah


5 Favorite Classic Fiction Books

Saturday, January 26, 2019

I recently co-hosted a dinner party built around a literary theme and, in reference to Hemingway's memoir, we called is  "A Moveable Feast."  Once we decided to work with this idea, the inspiration came pouring out.  We started by listing books that we loved: books from our childhood, books that shaped our views of the world, books that helped us through difficult times, books that made us laugh out loud, books so beautifully written we forgot we were even reading.  I was amazed at how quickly we filled an entire page, dozens of titles.  We built the menu and decor around some of our favorite and, at the end of the evening, sent each guest home with a curated list of 10 of our favorite reads and an Amazon gift card.

Creating the initial list was such a fun exercise, we decided to expand and share more of our favorites, the books that we've read over and over again and have become part of our story.  Here are five of our very favorite works of classic fiction.

1. East of Eden.  John Steinbeck is an astounding writer, reading Grapes of Wrath was probably the first time I recognized the difference between a good story and a brilliant one.  He is unparalleled. I love how East of Eden both captures and illuminates the quintessential struggle of human existence, the battle between good and evil, in our world and within ourselves.  -'Thou mayest'-

2. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith.  One of the best coming-of-age novels ever written.  Francie Nolan is irresistible. "Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm. Let me be hungry...have too much to eat. Let me be ragged or well dressed. Let me be sincere-be deceitful. Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me be honorable and let me sin. Only let me be something every blessed minute. And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost."

3.  My Antonia by Willa Cather.  This is just a beautiful story.  Jim Burden, an orphan sent to live with his grandparents in rural and desolate Nebraska, he tells the story of his life through his one constant, deep love, the free spirited immigrant girl from Bohemia, Antonia.  I don't think there's another novel that captures the American immigrant experience with such heart and life.

4. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  This book was one of my grandmother's favorites and it immediately became one of mine.  Jane was a thoroughly original and, for her time, revolutionary heroine.  I love her strength and her weakness. It's a novel with everything; grief, hope, love, betrayal and even a good dose of insanity.  Also, if you have not learned about the lives of the Bronte sisters, you should. The entire family is absolutely fascinating.

5. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  This book is so close to my heart that I haven't read Go Set a Watchman because I can't bear to think less of any of the characters that I love so much.  This is a book that I've appreciated in different ways at different times in my life.  When I was younger, it was a formative discussion of racial justice, respect, and humanity. As a parent, I have developed a profound appreciation for Atticus Finch and what, and how, he taught his children.  Possibly my favorite book of all time.


5 Essential Books for Baby's 1st Library

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

We love celebrating and welcoming new babies just as much as the next person and are always on the look out for fabulous baby shower book gifts. Today, we wanted to share five favorites that have been our go to gifts lately. These are books that we both love and that are sure to delight both parents and children and help kick start the building of a first library.

best books for baby shower gifts

1. The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin. Emily's whimsical illustrations are the perfect fit for this sweet book that presents both parents and children a world of wonderful possibilities for the future. The details are to die for and the sentiment strikes just the right balance of being sentimental but not overly saccharine.

2. Here We Are by Oliver Jeffers. This book serves as both an introduction and a welcome to the world, and its all packaged up by the inimitable illustrations and wry hand of Mr. Jeffers. He wrote this book for his infant son, and the overwhelming message is an oh so lovely call for kindness and understanding for our planet and the people on it.

3. Triangle by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Graphic, funny, and fast paced! We love this cheeky board book that introduces us to Triangle and Square, and their friendship. This is the first in a shape trilogy by one of our favorite author illustrator pairings. Square is out May 8th and sure to delight as well. Perfect gifts for your design loving friends or minimalist leaning parents. 

4. Touch Think Learn: ABC by Xavier Deneux. We think a wonderful ABC book is essential for a first library. We love that this one provides a tactile as well as visual experience for little ones and the design is superb!

5. AB See by Elizabeth Doyle. This ABC book also doubles as a clever seek and find. Each letter is embedded with objects that help you start conversations that will help with letter recognition and vocabulary building as well as provide a fun way to look beyond the basics of the alphabet.


Surviving Arsenic Hour: Part 4 Sanity Saving Play Materials

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Some nights it's all I can do to plop something in front of my kids and ask them to play, trying to keep the desperation out of my voice.  Thankfully, we've got a pretty well stocked arsenal of materials to keep them busy.

Note: to contain the inevitable mess, I own several of these IKEA trays.  They are fantastic and create a designated, easily washable space to keep the materials on.  And for $2, you'll have no problem stocking up.

1. Kinetic Sand
I know, I know.  So messy.  But still so fun.  I host a rotating play date for my 3 year old daughter and a few of her friends every other week and I usually start by setting out a tray for each of them with one of these materials on.  I got a bulk package of pink kinetic sand (and these toys for them to play with in it- HUGELY popular) and the girls will play for an hour or more.  (My son loves his blue sand and having battles with his army figures- and they'll mix and match their toys or trade sand, depending on the afternoon)

2. Aaron's Thinking Putty
This is another item that we ONLY play with on our IKEA trays, a huge caveat here is that this stuff sticks to everything and stains fabrics if you leave it there.  I am militant about this being kept in the kitchen.  But we have it because my kids absolutely love it.  It is stretchy, squishy, perfectly malleable, and never dries out.  I love watching them incorporate this into their play and all the different scenarios that unfold.

3.  Play-Doh
I don't feel like a lot needs to be said about this.  Fantastic fun for the under 5 or so crowd.  These are a few of our Play Doh sets that get the most use:

4. Waterbeads
As a mom who doesn't enjoy stepping on slimy balls and cleaning them off the floor for days, I kind of hate these.  As a mom who is desperate for my kids to be engaged with an activity so I can cook dinner and put my screaming baby down for a nap, I'm a big fan.  These are sensory wonder.  Inexpensive and easy to set up, these are a great toy for completely open ended play.

5. Magnatiles
If you don't own these yet, you should.  You really should.  All of my children, from 1 year old to the 6 year old play, and play, and play with these.  Definitely start with the 100 piece set and add on from with different types (glow-in-the dark, clear, black),  bases with wheelsexpansion packs.  If I'm feeling a little extra superstar Mom, I'll throw out a building challenge or prompt to see what they come up with.


Surviving Arsenic Hour: Part 3 Storybook Endings

Sunday, March 11, 2018

This is a recent development in our home, and an idea that I got while visiting with my nephews.  They have a stack of simple, homemade books and an array of fun art materials and they will spend hours creating their own storybooks.  The results were inspiring, and inspired me to implement the activity in my own home.  My 6 year old has no interest in writing, he seems to actively dislike it.  We struggle to get him to write anything- except letters to his cousins and these books.  He's taking ideas and story lines he's already telling me about, or playing out with his toys, and putting them down on paper.  It's wonderful for writing practice, spelling, understanding story elements and so much more. Sometimes the best ideas are, blessedly, also the easiest.

Step 1: Pre-make the books.  Construction paper on the outside and a few sheets of blank, lined or otherwise prepared white paper, stapled or taped together.  Viola.  Magic waiting to happen.

Step 2: Stock up on writing materials. Kids love exciting writing supplies, think sparkles, invisible ink, etc. The supplies we've had good luck with are colorful, fun and good for writing. Here are some of our favorites:

Step 3: Have some writing prompts ready.  Just in case your little writers need a boost getting started. Here are some great sources and already developed prompts to help you along:


Surviving Arsenic Hour: Part 2 Mind Games

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Another favorite way to pass the time is playing games.  Family game nights, while absolutely wonderful, are a different beast, and we'll do another post on those in the future.  Those nights are all about fun.  Everyone is home, fed and happy, probably eating treats. Games during Satan's Revenge?  None of the above. We're focusing on games here that encourage independent play and problem solving and which keep kids occupied.  Here are some of our top picks:

1. Rush Hour: We'll start out with the classic traffic jam logic game.  Released in 1996 with more 10 million sold, this game is a classic for a reason.  In case you're not familiar, Rush Hour sets up "traffic jams" on a grid and the players goal is to manipulate the pieces until you're able to drive the red car off the board and out of the jam.  It says ages 8 and up but I've had more than one 5 year old sit down and work through multiple beginner level cards without getting frustrated.  The game comes with 40 challenge cards in 4 different levels.  And, bonus, when my son gets tired on working on the challenges, he'll often entertain himself with cars and game board for an additional 20 or 30 minutes.

2. SmartGames Little Red Riding Hood: Isn't this just darling? This is similar in some ways to Rush Hour but the story element and fewer steps makes it a little friendlier for the younger crowd. Appropriate for ages 4 and up.  If Little Red Riding Hood isn't your kid's cup of tea, there are multiple other versions of the game: dinosaurs, North Pole Expedition, the Three Little Pigs, etc.

3. Q-bitz and Q-bitz Jr. : This is a newer game in our home and a great addition.  The winner of numerous awards (Parent's Choice Gold Award, National Parenting Publications Awards' Nappa Gold. Tillywig Toy Award's Brain Child Award Winner, and the Major Fun Award), Q-bitz is simultaneously engaging in numerous ways.  Each player has a tray with a number of patterned dice (16 for regular and 4 for the junior version) that they must use to recreate the pattern on the challenge card.   And there's a lot of room for improvisation, you can create patterns with the dice for your child to extend, challenge them to recreate patterns from memory, or have them create patterns on their own.  

4. Set and Set. Jr.   The idea for set came when Marsha Jean Falco was doing genetic research on German Shepards and drew symbols to represent the different traits she was tracking.  After seeing the fun in finding patterns among the traits, SET (and a game empire) was born.  This versatile game is genius, you can play alone or with up to 4 people, and it's a great for a wide range of ages.  The Jr. version is a great way to ease into recognizing the patterns, which can seem a little overwhelming at first and is suitable for ages 3 and up, but the regular version is for ages 6 and up so no need to get it unless you've got really young kids.  Each card has four different characteristics and a set is formed when three cards have each of those characteristics ALL in common, or ALL different.  It's fast-paced, challenging, educational and still fun.

5. Keva Brain Builders : If you've followed us for a while, you know that we're huge proponents of building toys.  Both of our toy rooms are filled with them.  I love that this game incorporates building, and requires you to consider the challenge from three different angles to come up with the solution.  Taking the challenge from 2 to 3 dimensions, building, and problem solving all in one.

If you miraculously have all these games, here are five more on our wish list:



Surviving the Arsenic Hours: Part 1 Shut Up and Dance

Monday, February 26, 2018

As I stood, huddled in the dark corner of my dining room, eating a cinnamon roll and pretending not to hear my offspring fighting in the kitchen, I realized that perhaps I was surviving, not thriving, this evening.  And the evening before that, and the evening before that. 4:30 p.m. hits in our house and, almost like clockwork, my children turn into demons.  When you add in homework, meal prep, dinner, clean up, bathing, pajamas- an absolute delight.

We both have husbands who work very, very long hours and travel extensively.  Our arsenic hours, from the beginning to bitter end, are almost always exclusively our responsibility.  So we've had to get a little creative, finding ways to fill the time without developing ever more elaborate hiding spots.  I still have days where I need to hide from my children, for my own survival and theirs, but there are some pretty beautiful moments of thriving thrown in there.  And I'll take it.

This is the first in a series of five posts, where we'll share some of our favorite ways to make it through Satan's Revenge/the witching hours/the arsenic hours.  We would also love to hear what works for you, because if we've learned anything so far, it's that thriving as parents requires help from a tribe.

Cranking up the music and setting the stage for an impromptu dance party is probably the quickest and easiest way to lighten the mood and bring a little fun into the evening slog.

First off, I think the disco ball is non-negotiable.  My kids, and every kid that we've had over during a dance party, love it.  It takes the activity from listening to music in the background to serious business.   It's inexpensive, small, portable, and remote controlled. We've gotten hours of use from ours and I don't see that changing any time soon.

Second, accessorize.  My daughter loves to wear things that sparkle and twirl, and especially enjoys being in character during Disney songs.  My son's dancing is often a lot like running in a giant circle around our main level (burning energy=huge win) and for some reason, wearing his Indiana Jones get up or golden ninja costume seem to help that along.  But our all-time favorite is a giant crying baby-face mask.  It is hilarious. I bought it as soon as I saw it because it's one of those things you just need to own- even if you're not quite sure what you're going to do with it.  Everyone looks ridiculous, with their tiny bodies dancing under this huge, whiny face and it never fails to up the ridiculous factor.

Third, let your kids add a personal touch.  Sometimes they want the songs to be along a specific theme, sometimes all the curtains need to be closed, sometimes they want to teach you a few moves.  The other night my son brought up our box of instruments and laid them out in very specific groupings so that we could play along while dancing to the music.  They're really small things, but giving them a chance to make a decision and exert some control and independence goes a very long way.  Especially in the evening hours.

Fourth, have a playlist ready. Have a list of songs that your kids love, that are upbeat or silly or dramatic and fun to dance to.  I'm the first to admit I have terrible taste in music but, lack of refinement aside, here are some my kids really enjoy:


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