Multicultural Picture Book Review and Activities for Kids

Today is Friday – time for a children’s book and an activity to keep the kids happy and busy!

Multicultural Picture Book Review and Cooking Activities

I found this book in a box at an open air town flea market when I was visiting my daughter and grandson in New Hampshire. I get into trouble at these places – how can you say no to a beautiful picture book for 25 cents? The seller wanted me to take the entire box of over a dozen hardcover beautifully illustrated multicultural books for two dollars. That’s right…two dollars. And did I buy all of them? No, I exercised GREAT restraint and only spent $1.00 because I knew I would have to lug those hardcover books back on the plane. After I made my frugal purchase, I walked over to the next seller. Oh no!!! She was selling children’s books also! There was  Frog and Toad, The Fire Cat and Danny and the Dinosaur – each for…you guessed it…25 cents. I couldn’t resist…I bought TWELVE…but I left those with my grandson!

Multicultural Picture Book Review and Activities

Mei-Mei Loves the Morning

Written by Margaret Holloway Tsubaklyama

Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company (1999)

Ages: 4 and up

Themes:

Multigenerational activities, family bonding, urban China

Opening Lines:

“Mei-Mei loves the morning. When she wakes up, she always hears Bai-Ling rustling impatiently in his cage and Grandpa’s slippers sip-slapping on the kitchen floor. Mother and Father are still asleep, but Mei-Mei jumps out of bed.”

Synopsis:   Continue reading

The Forgotten Ones…

The Forgotten Ones….

Have you ever walked down the halls of a nursing home?

In most of them, it’s a heartbreaking sight.

I read a blog post that moved my heart…I hope it moves yours as well.

Piglet in Portugal has an award-winning blog in…you guessed it…Portugal.  Her tales about her vegetable garden will have you rolling on the floor…her sense of humor is apparent in every post she does.

The post she did about people in nursing homes won’t make you laugh…but I hope it will make you smile as you think about what you can do to bring a moment of happiness to an elderly resident of a nursing home. 

Parents: how about reading Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge, a picture book by Mem Fox about a little boy who lives next door to a home for the elderly?  Then you and your child can talk about how you can make them smile…maybe make a card or picture and deliver it to a local nursing home. 

I’ll be reviewing that book in my next post.

A Christmas Memory

 

 

Deutsch: Apfelkuchen English: Apple pie

Image via Wikipedia

 

One of the best things about blogging is reading the posts of others.

There are some really super cool writers out in the blogosphere.

I meet new friends and learn new things all the time.

The other day, I discovered Things I Want to Tell My Mother, heartfelt posts written by a woman whose mother has Alzheimer’s.  Please take the time to visit her blog, especially if you are a mother or a daughter…you will be glad you did.

Marylin, the author of that wonderful blog, is having a contest and is asking for posts of one hundred words on Christmas memories with your mother or grandmother.  Since I lived with my grandmother for many years, my Christmas memory will be about this special lady who was a role model for positive parental participation long before spending quality time with young children was considered crucial to building self-esteem.

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Baking for Christmas

            As soon as I opened my eyes that morning, I knew it was going to be a special day.  The delicious aroma of apples and cinnamon filled the little bedroom I shared with my older sister.  This was the day before Christmas, and although my parents and sister were still sleeping, I knew that someone was already awake.  I tiptoed down the stairs and entered the old-fashioned kitchen. My grandmother’s words were welcoming and her flour-dusted arms enfolded me in a loving hug. “There you are, Vivian.  I’ve been waiting for you.  Come and help me make these apple pies.”

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Memories like this one encouraged me to use cooking activities with my own children, the children in my daycare and as part of the self-esteem building activities in Show Me How!  Allowing kids to help prepare food builds true self-esteem as they master tasks and skills in the kitchen.  It also encourages fussy eaters to try new foods…if a child has helped prepare a meal; he or she is more likely to eat it.  Or, at least try it.  Here’s a cool tip: my niece who is a clinical psychologist, encourages her children to take a “no thank you” bite of every food that is being served.  They know that if they really don’t like it, they can try it and say, “no thank you” and they won’t have to finish the portion.  Experts say that it takes at least seven tries before we develop a taste for certain foods…so just because a child doesn’t like something the first time he tries it, doesn’t mean you should never serve it. 

I’ve got several school and library programs coming up this week and next and I am really excited about sharing the picture book stories and craft projects from Show Me How!  This is a back-to-basics program that builds self-esteem, develops better literacy skills and strengthens the parent-child connection.

 

Please pass the word and help others get on the back-to-basics bandwagon.  This will definitely be the gift that keeps on giving, long after many of the toys you buy have been discarded.

NO BATTERIES REQUIRED…POWERED BY YOUR CHILD’S IMAGINATION

SHOW ME HOW!  NOW ONLY $19.95

Three Generations Enjoy a Beautiful Autumn Day at the Lake

Are you looking for activities that can be enjoyed by three generations.

Do you want grandparents, parents and children to have fun together?

Several activities come to mind: reading, crafting, cooking, gardening and fishing.

This past week, when I was visiting my daughter and her family, we were able to do several of these and we all had an amazing time.

Encouraging young children to interact with their grandparents (or other older folk) is beneficial for everyone involved.  Positive parental (or grandparental) participation is really an important component in building self-esteem and a positive self-image.

My grandson turned three on a Monday and his dad came home early from work so that we could all go for a lovely ride to see the fall foliage.  Our destination was Wasserman Park, right in their town of Merrimack, NH.

While Jeremy and his dad played in the beautiful playground, my daughter and I put together the fishing rod and reel that had been one of the birthday presents from Jeremy’s Grampy, an avid fly-fisherman.  Parents can purchase fishing rod and reel combos at their local Wal-Mart, Target or Kmart for about $20.  You don’t have to buy the real kiddy ones that are more like toys.  Just make sure the rod is not too long and the reel is easy to operate.  This is a wonderful investment that will provide fun for the entire family and will help build a strong parent-child connection.

Down at the lake, Jeremy settled himself comfortably in my lap and we began to fish.  Holding the rod grip in his left hand, he helped me cast out the little rubber worm.  “Look, look, there’s my bobber!” he shouted excitedly.  As he reeled in the line, the bobber skated across the surface of the water.   When the bobber and worm had been retrieved, Jeremy cried, “Let’s do it again!”

And we did…dozens of times.

I’d like to say we caught lots of fish…but, to tell you the truth, no one cared that we didn’t even get a bite.

We all had the best time, enjoying the beautiful autumn day at a lake surrounded by the reds and yellows and greens and golds of the trees ablaze with their fall finery.

If you are looking for other activities that parents, grandparents and children can participate in together, just buy a copy of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking.  It’s the perfect choice if you need EASY arts and crafts or QUICK healthy recipes.   You’ll also find lots of picture book summaries and parenting tips that build self-esteem, develop literacy skills and strengthen the parent-child connection.  Check out the online special on my website…I think you’ll agree that THE PRICE IS RIGHT!  With holiday gift-giving fast approaching, why not take care of some of the people on your list by buying a few…parents, grandparents, daycare providers, nursery and preschool teachers, nannies, babysitters and early childhood education students would all appreciate this award-winning resource.

“This exceptional guide will make learning fun for all involved while creating bonds between parent and child.”  – Dr. Peter Clothier, Family Physician, CO

Click here to read a recent 5-star review of Show Me How! by children’s picture book author, Martha Rodriguez.

The Grandma Chronicles: The Aborted Sleepover

Photograph of a Coney Island hot dog.

Image via Wikipedia

My grandmother was a very special lady.

She loved people and had an special place in her heart for children.

Every summer, each of her grandchildren was given the opportunity to spend two weeks with her in that warm and welcoming house on a tree-lined street in Brooklyn, New York.

When I was 4 years old, I pleaded to be allowed to go for my first sleepover.  Even though my parents didn’t think I was old enough, they relented and so I helped my mother pack my little suitcase, dreaming of all the fun things I would do with my grandmother during those two weeks.  Visits to the beach at Coney Island, hot dogs at Nathans, hours spent helping my grandmother bake and cook in her warm kitchen,  planting seeds in her wildly beautiful and fragrant backyard garden. 

Since all of my grandmother’s children and grandchildren visited her on Sundays, my family and I took the train from Manhattan to Brooklyn.  I sat in my seat, my little suitcase at my feet, and could hardly wait for the train to arrive at her station. 

After a fun-filled day of playing with my cousins, the house slowly emptied as my aunts and uncles and cousins left for their own homes and I bid farewell to my parents and older sister.  I enjoyed the next few hours, helping my grandmother wash and dry the dishes.  I played with her special box of costume jewelry that she kept just for little girls who love to wear sparkly things.  I helped her prepare our dinner. 

But, as evening approached, I began to feel very anxious and unhappy.

I wanted to go home to sleep in my own bed…in the room I shared with my sister.

Although my grandmother did try to encourage me to stay, she understood how I felt and did not try to pressure me or make light of my concerns.  She called my parents and my father came to get me…no easy task since he had to take the subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn and then do the trip in reverse to bring me home.  He had already made the trip back and forth earlier in the day.  And the next day was Monday and he would have to do it again to go to work.

But there were no recriminations or “I told you so” comments from either of my parents.

Do you have a child who suffers from separation anxiety?  Early on, young children form a very strong bond with their parents.  While we don’t want to ever break that bond, each child has their own unique ability to stretch it…some are able to do it sooner and some later. 

How can you help your children get to the point where they can watch you walk away and keep a smile on their faces and in their hearts?

Here are a few good tips that might help:

1.     Reassure your child you will always return.

2.     Keep your attitude positive and matter-of-fact.

3.     Treat your child’s concerns with respect.

4.     Offer stories of your own childhood experiences and feelings.

5.     Read picture book stories where the main character faces a similar problem, but succeeds in overcoming it. 

If you check out some of my past posts that address this issue, you will find some of those book suggestions and other tips that may help.

https://viviankirkfield.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/mommy-where-are-you/

https://viviankirkfield.wordpress.com/2011/01/19/help-where-am-i-im-lost/

https://viviankirkfield.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/is-your-child-anxious-about-starting-school/

You can also find more picture book recommendations, gentle parenting tips and fun-filled educational activities in my new parenting book

I hope you’ve all enjoyed The Grandma Chronicles.  It was a wonderful experience for me, revisiting with my memories of a person who had a great impact on my early years…and in helping me to become the person I am today. 

Tomorrow I will start a new series based on The Lessons of Nanny McFee.  Have you seen the movie?  I just did and I was struck by her five lessons…I think each one has a place in every parent’s rulebook.

The Grandma Chronicles: The Summer of the Black Cat

Jules Leroy: Playful Kittens, oil on panel, 8 ...

Image via Wikipedia

Do you remember your first pet? 

My memories of the velvet black cat that followed me home are bittersweet…tangled with my annual summer idyll at my grandmother’s house in Brooklyn and the events that took place after I left.

Brooklyn, New York may not seem like a country retreat to you…but it was for a little girl from the heart of Manhattan.  My grandmother’s house was on a tree-lined street…her backyard blooming with flowers and fruit trees was a paradise…a true Garden of Eden.

My grandmother had thirteen grandchildren…and as soon as each was old enough to sleep away from home, they were invited to spend two weeks during the summer with this very special lady.

 The Summer of the Black Cat took place when I was about eight years old.  It was the first morning of my two-week stay and my grandmother had sent me to the grocery store around the corner to pick up some milk and bread.  I felt very proud and grown-up as I selected the items and paid for them.  Leaving the store, I noticed a beautiful black cat sitting on the curb.  Walking over to her, I patted her sleek fur and then turned and started back to my grandmother’s house.  Crossing the street, I turned and noticed I had a little shadow following me…the black cat. 

Perhaps she smelled the milk in the grocery bag or perhaps she was just lonely and had enjoyed the attention I had given her.  But she followed me all the way back to my grandmother’s house!  I went inside and gave my grandmother the milk and bread.  “Grandma, grandma” I exclaimed.  “A beautiful black cat followed me home…can I keep her?”

My grandmother was quite hesitant, but I should explain that she had many beautiful singing canaries.  “Vivian” she said.  “You know that birds and cats don’t belong in the same house.”

The tears that were starting to trickle down my cheeks must have touched her heart.  “You can give her a bowl of milk, but under no circumstances can she come in the house.” 

I was THRILLED!  I quickly ran to the kitchen and poured some milk in a small bowl and hurried out to the cat.  I set the bowl down next to her and sat there, watching Blackie (for so I had named her) lap it up.  As soon as she finished she climbed up on my lap, curled herself around and settled herself contently.  And I was content as well.

For the next two weeks, I had a constant companion on my walks around the neighborhood and while I sat reading in the backyard.  I was always very careful to close the screen door carefully so that Blackie would not come into the house.

But all too soon the two weeks were over and it was time for me to return to my own home.  I was sad to leave Blackie, but there was no way I could take her back to our apartment in the city.

Unfortunately, this is not the end of the story.  A few days after I had returned home, someone left the screen door open and Blackie got into the house.  Before anyone realized it, she had jumped onto a table and reached one of the cages…and there was one less voice in the canary chorus at my grandmother’s house.  When my grandmother discovered the dead bird, she was extremely upset and angry.  Searching for the cat, she found it hiding under the sofa.  She realized that just putting it out of the house was not enough because the cat would try to get in at the first opportunity and someone might forget to close the door again.  So she put the cat in a shopping bag (this was many years ago before high tech pet carriers) and took a trolley to Coney Island and deposited the cat there…hopefully the next person who gave the cat a bowl of milk didn’t have any pet birds.

What would you have done in my grandmother’s situation?

Here are some options available if you find yourself with an unwanted pet:

  • Contact a friend or relative who might want a pet.
  • Call your local ASPCA or other animal rescue shelter.

If any of you have other suggestions, please leave a comment and share them!

My grandmother reacted in the heat of the moment, as many of us do sometimes.  But her main concerns were always for people and I have to be grateful for her willingness to allow a little girl to have her first pet.

I keep thinking that each Grandma Chronicle is going to be the last one…and I really thought this one would be.  However, there is one more story that I think relates to many young children who have separation anxiety, as I did.  Stop by tomorrow for The Grandma Chronicles: The Aborted Sleepover.  

The Grandma Chronicles: Many Peach Trees Grow in Brooklyn

Howe's Historical Collections of Ohio, Ohio Ce...

Image via Wikipedia

Do you know the story of Johnny Appleseed?  Born in 1774, he was a true American hero who planted apple seeds and then sold the seedling trees for pennies so that early settlers could grow apples.  I guess we could call him one of America’s first nurserymen.

I don’t know all the details about that long-ago gardener, but I do know why there are so many peach trees growing on a particular street in Brooklyn.

As young parents, my grandmother and her husband bought a one-family home on a tree-lined street in Brooklyn.  It was a two story house with a small garden plot in the back.  And I know that the patch of dirt in the backyard of that house was a very special place for my grandmother.  For her, it was an escape when the frustrations of motherhood were overwhelming and a haven when the toils of housework called for a respite.

My grandmother told me that one day she had bought several pounds of peaches at the market.  After preparing them to use as filling for a peach pie, she held the pits in her hand, imaging the peach trees they might become.  Making up her mind, she put them in a paper bag, grabbed a small shovel and went outside to her backyard.   My grandmother proceeded to plant several peach pits in the rich earth.  Hurrying to the small plot of dirt next door, she planted a few pits there.  Her mission for that afternoon: find a home for each peach pit…and  she continued planting pits in every backyard on the street.   

I don’t know how many pits grew into peach trees…I do know that I picked many peaches from the tree behind my grandmother’s house…most of them wormy because she didn’t use any insecticides.  The next-door neighbor and my best friend who lived across the street also had peach trees in their backyards…probably equally as wormy. 🙂

As a child, I spent many blissful hours on my knees in that dirt, helping my grandmother plant and weed…learning much more than just how deep to plant a daisy seed or which weeds to pull up.  I learned to:

  • Care about and respect nature
  • Care about and respect others
  • Care about and respect myself

Another valuable lesson I learned from my grandmother was a love of cooking.  From my new parenting book, here’s a lovely child-friendly recipe for a healthy fruit-laden cake that calls for apples, but you could substitute peaches if they are in season.

 CHILD-FRIENDLY APPLE CAKE

The wonderful aroma of apples and cinnamon baking in the oven…ahhhhh!

You will need: 2 cups all purpose flour, ½ tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 cup sugar, ¾ cup canola oil, 2 eggs beaten, 2½ cups apples (peeled and sliced thinly), ½ cup applesauce, ½ cup raisins, a large bowl, a 9×13 inch greased baking pan and a spatula.

  1. 1.    In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and ¾ cup sugar.
  2. 2.    Make a well in the center of the flour and add the oil and eggs and mix well.
  3. 3.    Add the apples and raisins and stir until well distributed.
  4. 4.    Spread the batter in the greased pan.  Smooth with a spatula and sprinkle with ¼ cup sugar.
  5. 5.    Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.
  6. 6.    Insert a toothpick in the center of the cake…the cake is done if it comes out clean.
  7. 7.    Serve warm or at room temperature. 
  8. 8.    Serves 12…refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container.

Stop by tomorrow for the last installment of The Grandma Chronicles: The Summer of the Black Cat.