13 Must Read Halloween Picture Books

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

You all know we love a good book round up for the holidays, so here is a list of thirteen of our favorite Halloween picture books.

1. The Spider and the Fly by Mary Hewitt
A cautionary tale wonderfully illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi in black and white, which lends a sense of foreboding to the entire book. A perfect Halloween read.

2. Tilly Witch by Don Freeman.
Published back in 1978, this is one that I remember enjoying as a child. Tilly is the Halloween witch and, right before Halloween, loses her meanness and has to go back to school to relearn the tricks of her trade. It's no longer in print but is available inexpensively from third party sellers.

3. Bone Soup by Cambria Evans
We fell in love with Finnigin, his eating stool, his eating spoon, and his gigantic eating mouth upon first read. It is a seasonal must and as it goes with kids sometimes a non-seasonal must read as well.

4. Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
Such a classic, we have read this one over and over and over to the delight of my children. We also like to watch the animated movie, both the book and the movie are so well done.

5. Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds
Funny with just the right amount of suspense. Creepy Carrots is a home library necessity. Frighteningly good. Yes, we just went there with the puns.

6. Space Case by Edward Marshall
A book that combines a visitor from outer space and Halloween? We're in. This humorous tale of an alien visiting Earth for the first time during the fun and festivities of trick or treating is a classic and if you are a child of the 80's, it is sure to bring on some nostalgia.

7. Monster Museum by Marilyn Singer
If your kids enjoy Monster Goose, then I highly recommend Monster Museum. There's a poem for just about every Halloween ghoul, they are witty and entertaining but just a tad on the long side. The illustrations really make this book.

8. Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara
I only recently discovered this ghost story and it's fantastic for younger children. A young girl moves into a haunted home- but she knows just what to do! I love the simple, bold illustrations and light hearted story. A genuinely sweet Halloween story that I would recommend to anyone.

9. Rattlebone Rock by Sylvia Andrews
This is definitely for the under 6 years old crowd, but hits all the right Halloween notes. A graveyard comes alive with everyone playing their part and eventually the town joins in the party. With lots of sound and movement, this is a fantastic introduction to Halloween for preschool aged children.

10. Frankenstein A Monstrous Parody by Ludworst Bemonster (Rick Walton)
A witty parody of Madeline that will have fans of that story delighted by the Halloween theme of this one. A favorite of my daughter's.

11. Mommy? by Maurice Sendak
We love a good pop up book and pretty much anything by Maurice Sendak. A small boy is in search of his mother and no monster is going to stop him. Fun and beautiful, both my children love this book.

12. Monster Goose by Judy Sierra
All of your favorite Mother Goose nursery rhymes get a Halloween makeover. It's a tad on the grisly side, both the verse and illustrations, so if you're sensitive to creepy, crawly things this may not be your cup of tea.

13. The 13 Days of Halloween by Carol Green.
A parody of the 12 Days of Christmas, The Thirteen Days of Halloween is a wonderful sing along story that is both clever and catchy, and one that even slightly older children will enjoy. A fun addition to anyone's holiday library, the illustrations are especially nice.


What to do at a Shopkins Party

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I love looking at images of cute parties on Pinterest just as much as anyone else, but what I really want to know is what are people doing at these parties? I always want a detailed breakdown of events because I like to know how people are keeping their guests entertained amidst all the cute decor and then copy the fun activities!

For anyone else who likes the details, I have a breakdown of what went on at my 8 year old's Shopkins Party. We had her party at an incredibly cute party venue in our town called House of Hadley Kate. When we booked her party, they did not have a Shopkins option so we got to customize what we wanted to do. Luckily, they had some great ideas and my daughter had some clear ideas of what she was hoping for because I was initially at a loss as to what kind of activities we should have at a Shopkins party.

For those of you who don't live nearby, or who are pros at doing parties at home, these activities would be relatively easy to implement.  We had just over an hour for activities and the birthday girl picked what she wanted to do. She chose 2 crafts (Shopkins charm bracelets and Shopkins snow globes) bingo, and a Shopkins Swap.

I like to let kids get creative when they are making something but I have also found that some kids need an example to get their creative juices rolling. I found a few examples of Shopkins bracelets that my daughter liked and set about making a display example. Which I shall call Exhibit A:

During the party the girls were supplied with a variety of colorful beads (Michael's has select beads 70% off right now until Sept 17th), Shopkins charms which I made with my husband by following this tutorial, and cute suede tassels that I picked up at Michaels with a 40% off coupon. The girls made some seriously cute creations:

While they were making bracelets they also worked on their snow globes. They either got to select a Shopkin from a bin that was provided or one from their personal stash. We made sure to let the girls know that these Shopkins would not be coming out of the jars as they were super glued to the bottom of the jars. 

They alternated between bracelets and globes because the glue needed some time to dry before they jars were filled with water. I didn't ask where they found their mini "mason jars" but these from the Dollar Tree are almost identical. The guests were supplied with a slew of glitter options to fill their jars with, as well as glycerin drops, water and some ribbon and markers to decorate the lids with. I loved seeing what the girls picked out, and how they mixed glitter colors as well as shapes (they had some heart shaped glitter).  How cute is this little snow globe? I am also a huge fan of projects that double as take homes.

After the crafts were over, the girls moved on to a few games of bingo. I brought the prizes, which were little things I picked up at Daiso and the Target dollar spot. I still love bingo as an adult (give me all the prizes) and all the girls got really into it as well:

Laminated bingo cards, plus some bingo markers (they used sparkle stickers and Shopkins) and you've got a guaranteed 15 minutes of fun.

For the last chunk of the activity time the girls did a Shopkins Swap.  I made sure to print on the invitations that each girl should bring any Shopkins they were interested in trading and these girls came PREPARED. Some had organized bins, others pencil cases filled with Shopkins, some with gallon ziplock bags etc. The birthday girl got this cute Shopkins purse as a gift from a friend and filled it with the Shopkins she wanted to trade. There was some serious wheeling and dealing going on my friends.

We finished off the party with pink lemonade and pizza, as well as cake and ice cream. Then handed out some cute favor bags with little tags that said, "Thanks for making my party Shoptastic!"

Inside the favor bags were some of my daughter's favorite candies (the strawberry Pocky were from World Market, but if you have a 99 Ranch Market or Daiso nearby they have even more flavors and the Pop Rocks were from the Dollar Tree) plus a pencil (from the dollar spot at Target) and a krazy straw.

The party was a hit and now I can hibernate until we do another friend party in a few years (we alternate years between friend and family parties which as worked really well for us so far).


Shopkins Party Planning: A Shopkins Birthday Invite

Friday, August 12, 2016

This year my daughter is turning 8 and she has requested a Shopkins party. I have to be honest, I tried to talk her into a different kind of party because off of the top of my head I wasn't really sure what would happen at said Shopkins party. Even though I proposed some other fun ideas, like a rock climbing party, or a baking party, she was adamant about a Shopkins party. Which is when I started googling and searching Pinterest for ideas and I am happy to say we have a party plan that both she and I are excited about. For the next few weeks I am going to share some of the details of what we are doing at this Shopkins bash.

When it came to the invitations, I've been looking for an excuse to try out DIY confetti poppers. So when I saw that Hello Splendid did a Shopkins Push Pop Confetti Favor I knew it would be awesome to modify as an invitation. Here's how I did it:

Gather your Supplies:

1- Push Pop Containers - these Wilton ones with the stand were the best deal when I ordered.
2- Shopkins- I ordered a few 20 packs for invitations and to make charms for bracelets (one of our party activities). I am also not sure how many of the girls my daughter is inviting are Shopkins fanatics so I wanted each guest to have a few because we are doing a Shopkins Swap as well.
3- Confetti - I have a stock pile of tissue paper so I custom made mine but you could just as easily buy already shredded paper or pre-made confetti.
4- Labels - I used regular printer paper from my home printer to print these and designed them myself, I made a rectangle that was 3.0185 x 6.1479 inches and then picked two fonts and typed in the info I wanted on the outside of the pop. I also added a warning about this being messy as it is an explosion of confetti and Shopkins.
5- Invite - Printed on regular printer paper as well so I could easily roll this into mini scrolls and place them in the push pop.
6- String or Twine - I found some purple and pink string in our craft drawer, mostly likely the remains of a jewelry kit, to tie the scrolls up twine would also work well.
7- Hot Glue Gun - this is for gluing an optional Shopkin to the top of container, I loved that Jillian at Hello Splendid did this so I followed suit.
8- Scotch Tape- or an alternate adhesive to attach the label to the push pop container.


1- Adhere the label to the container- I used tape but you could also try glue dots or double sided tape for a more seamless look.
2- Roll up the invitation into a mini-scroll and tie with string.
3- Hot glue a Shopkin to the lid, set aside to allow time to cool.
4- Stuff the push pop container. I placed my mini-scroll in first then added the confetti and 3 Shopkins to the inside next; you could easily add more or less or even other mini-figures for different themes.
5- Attach the lid on the container securely.

Gush over the adorable invitations you just made!

My kids couldn't wait to try these out and gladly did this little clasped hand pose just long enough for me to get a picture before they made it rain confetti.

I am still a big believer in the idea that an invitation should set the tone for a party or event. What do you all think? 


Reading with: Charnaie

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Good Morning Friends! We are excited to introduce you to the delightful Charnaie from Here Wee Read for today's edition of Reading With.

Charnaie is a Computer Programmer by day, an aspiring author by night and a wife and mom 24/7 and did we mention she's also a Distinguished Toastmaster?! In her spare time she enjoys reading, writing, crafting, watching classic movies, volunteering (when time permits) and spending time with her husband, children, family and friends.

She is also currently working as a Reading Ambassador for an upcoming kid's festival sponsored by Fresh Kids. Which means she gets to curate a selection of books for their Reading Orchard. How dreamy is that?

Click through for all the wonderful thoughts we gathered as we got to pick Charnaie's brain on all things reading.


STEAM Interviews: Engaging with Science

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

This summer we are excited to share a "Learning With" series focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) education.  Rania Craddock, a teacher with nearly 20 years of experience, shares some of her excellent thoughts and recommendations on how to incorporate science into our daily routines and shares so many wonderful resources.  The opportunities are everywhere!  Taking a few extra moments to stop and help our children identify what they're seeing and asking questions can make an outing an educational field trip. We are always thrilled when educators are willing to share their expertise with us and help us understand how we, as parents, can more successfully engage our children in the process of learning.  A huge thank you to Ms. Craddock for sharing so many wonderful insights with us today!

What is your professional background?
I have been a teacher for 17 years in school districts across the country.   I have an Med in Middle Grades Education and a variety of certificates that allow me to teach students with special needs from PreK to high school levels.

Why is it so important to engage students with science early?  What are the specific benefits?
It is of paramount importance to engage our children with science at an early age.  Understanding science is understanding how your world works. What is so often overlooked, or misunderstood in science education, is engagement.  To simply teach a list of standards so they can be marked off of that said list, is doing our students a disservice.  Too many of our students dread science, because they equate it to doing a worksheet, or packets, or some other form of busy work. 

As a parent and as a science educator, I asked myself many years ago, “What can I do to change this?”  Engagement was the answer.  Science must be fun, engaging and safe for our youngest learners.  By safe, I am implying our students must feel intellectual safety to ask a question, to take a risk in hypothesizing an answer, and most importantly, to know they can learn just as much from a wrong answer as they can from the “right” answer. 

As a parent, modeling inquiry is key for fostering that burning desire to know why something happens.  It doesn’t have to be another activity for you to plan and to pay a lot of money.  It can happen naturally while you’re doing something with your child, for instance, taking a hike.  While walking and talking, pause by a tree whose roots are exposed.  Ask your child to take a closer look at the tree’s roots with you.  Ask your child why the roots are exposed in some areas more than others.  Then move on to another tree to see if your guesses are true with other trees in the area.  This questioning transcends into a fun detective game.  You are modeling the scientific method for your child.   If you are unable to provide the scientific explanation or reasoning—even better!  Your child observes that it’s okay to not know all of the answers. However, together, you can find those answers at the Library, by reading science books, or looking up information on the computer.   

Modeling question-asking, investigating how our world operates and acquiring information together is science! The benefits abound—you have a child who enjoys investigating their world and how it operates—which evolves into a child who loves science!

What are some of your classroom activities that you’ve found to most successfully interest and engage your students?
As an educator, I know that any new information must be linked to prior knowledge or experiences to make learning meaningful.  Hands-on science activities are key for engagement, but there has to be purposeful thought into the design of the lesson. 

I use a variety of techniques for providing learning opportunities, however, they are contingent on what my students already know.  If I note my students have very little experience with a given topic, I design an opportunity for them to immerse themselves in the content to build an “experience.”  For example, I designed an interactive Jeopardy-like vocabulary game for my students to play one year.   fun, but it was formative piece of data for me to see how much of the content my students already knew.  I quickly realized my students knew very little about the properties of matter and, in response to this, I designed a lesson to immerse them with opportunities to describe matter, giving each student unnamed “matter” and various tools to use in identifying critical properties.  These two lessons—the vocabulary acquisition lesson and introduction to properties of matter-- allowed for fun, non-threatening opportunities to build experiences to later reference for future learning.

In science, instruction is varied and unique to content and student-understanding.  When taking notes, we “read a little, see a little, do a little and write a little.”  We read a small amount of content, we manipulate materials with our hands to observe the content, we see a virtual representation, or a 10-second cartoon demonstrating the content, and we record the information in our journals. 

Each Friday, we have STEAM Friday, where students from the fifth grade classes are randomly assigned to a teacher and in groups of 3-4.  They are presented with a problem and must follow “engineering” steps to solve that problem with the materials presented. Our students love these opportunities to collaborate and solve problems together. 
The most successful and engaging activity design I have implemented in my classroom is the STEAM menus we offer our students in math and science.  Each unit in math, I design a menu of options for the students to “show what they know” in a different avenue.  The STEAM menus offer options for building, designing, programming, writing and artistically representing their learning in a meaningful manner.  For example, when learning about decimals, students were provided with a menu list of many opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of operations involving decimals.  Some included: design and build a fun rec room, write a children’s story which shows how a decimal number increased and decreased in its value through the adventures it experienced, design a video game cover which shows how to multiply decimal numbers and code a game of your own which matches the cover’s design, Write a “Reasonable or Not”  book which consists of student-generated word problems, with reasonable and unreasonable answers for the reader to choose.  These menus and options for students to peruse offer them choice and different avenues to demonstrate the depth of their understanding of a concept.  It integrates other subjects and disciplines to show connectivity and importance of all subjects. 

In summation, the most successful activities have a clear purpose when they are designed.  They are linked to prior knowledge, they are varied and change according to students’ needs, they allow for peer collaboration and creativity—but just as important as the activity’s design is the atmosphere in which it is carried out.  The atmosphere is one that encourages questions and concerns from the students and one which allows them to take a chance.  And regardless of the failure or success that follows, each is celebrated because learning has occurred.

As an educator, what do you wish parents would do more of at home?
As a working parent myself, I completely understand the constraints of day-to-day obligations.  We are all striving to be the best we can be to provide the most for our children.  If I were to impart advice from my own successes and failures as a parent and as an educator, I would say this: Make learning together fun and let your children know there are lessons to be learned from failures.  I see so often how much pressure our children put on themselves to be successful and to always have the right answer.  Make learning fun and help them see the value in trying something new and in failing.  Learning from mistakes is life—and it is science!

What books/activities would you recommend for at home activities?
There is a wealth of resources available at bookstores and on-line.  Oftentimes, the availability of resources is overwhelming and can feel defeating when trying to make a selection.  Below, I’ll list some resources that I have personally used with my own children and students:


Pipsticks Review

Thursday, June 16, 2016

How many of you had sticker albums growing up? Sticker albums were definitely a thing at my house, so when I heard about Pipsticks, a monthly sticker club, I wanted to immediately sign up. Then I remembered a few of the sticker mishaps we've had, like stickers on the car doors and wood floors and told myself it would be better to wait until my kids got a little bit older.

Now my kids are 7 and 3 and for the most part they have stopped putting stickers places they are not supposed; since they are ever so much more mature this summer and generally use their stickers on paper or on their bodies I figured we would be go to go with the Kids Club Classic. This one runs $14.95 a month, there is also a Kid's Club Petite option for $9.95.

Our first envelope arrived this past weekend and I gathered the kids around to divvy up the goods yesterday. Let me start by saying that their marketing is awesome. Exhibit A: the packaging

I love good packaging so I was delighted by how the stickers arrived.

Once I opened the package I laid everything out for us to admire, and admire we did. How great is that blank postcard, with postage included, this went to my oldest to create something with. Also included are some prompts on using the stickers as well as a few sheets of colorful paper.

The stickers themselves are wonderfully diverse, puffy, sparkly, varying subject matter and size and my kids were extremely excited about having this influx of stickers to add to their stash.

There is also a section on the Pipsticks site dedicated to sticker projects- I can't wait to try out the sticker crowns and mandalas with my kids.

Bottom line: we're big fans of Pipsticks so far, and are excited to get our envelope next month. My one question is how long we will stick with this during the school year as our free time isn't as plentiful then. I'll have to update you when school starts back up.

Have you tried Pipsticks or another subscription box you like? We'd love to hear which ones have been hits with you all!


Reading With: Amy

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

We are so excited for another installment of our Reading With Series!

This month we are featuring Amy from Sunlit Pages who has always loved reading but fell out of the habit as a music major in college because a lot of her time was spent practicing music instead of reading. Once she had her first son she picked the reading habit back up and has not looked back. Besides reading and blogging, Amy also loves knitting, dating her husband, going on neighborhood walks and eating yummy food she doesn't have to make herself!

One of our favorite thoughts that Amy shared with us is that the books she reads with her family mark the milestones of their lives as much as their activities and achievements.

Read on for more of Amy's lovely thoughts.


© Tee & Penguin All rights reserved . Design by Blog Milk Powered by Blogger