Our Snoopy Library!

photo 2

I have wanted to have a Little Free Library in our yard for a long time.  If you aren’t familiar with this idea, check out http://www.littlefreelibrary.org for an explanation and lots of photographs.  The whole concept is to provide a watertight, weatherproof box of some kind, and fill it with books.  Then people in your neighborhood, or visitors, can borrow a book.  There is no check out system, if someone decides to keep a book that is fine, I am just happy to encourage people to read.   Some people will bring books back, others might even donate books to the library.

We live on Beagle Drive, so my husband built a Snoopy mailbox many years ago.  We really love to watch families walking with strollers or with kids on bikes who stop and enjoy looking at Snoopy.  Now we hope they will pick out a book to enjoy too.

Owen wanted to help put up the new library.


So we put it into the wagon for him to wheel out to the front of the house.  Lily and Anna got into the action too!


They lifted it onto the post, and screwed it on the little platform.  It does rock a little bit, so Mr. Fix It is working on a stabilizer!  He assures me it CANNOT fall off, but it does move a little.


We ordered a customized sign, but decided we should add a coat of polyurethane before we nail it onto the library.


We added this little paved brick area because I wanted people to be able to park their bikes or strollers off the road while they look at the books.  Then I couldn’t resist this cute little bench!

I can’t wait for our first “customers!”




I was very excited to have a chance to visit Owen’s preschool classroom last week.  They will be visiting a local farm later this month, and since Owen’s favorite animals  (and stuffed animals) are sheep, I decided to read a sheep story and share some facts about sheep with his class.

In my classroom, and now in my basement, I kept my teaching puppets in a castle that my husband built for me.  So I decided to make a traveling castle to carry my puppets into school.


I always try to bring my puppets out “alive,” already on my hand and ready to interact with children.  I love how effective puppets are at capturing children’s interest and attention, and I have fun too!

I started out telling the class how much Owen loves sheep and so I decided to bring my sheep puppet to visit with them.  But when I opened up the castle box (from the back) and brought out the puppet they all laughed.


I had a conversation with my puppet, Critter, and he tried to convince me that he was a sheep because he had a furry coat, but then he remembered that it is really called wool – not fur.

Then he told me that he really was a sheep because sheep only have teeth on the bottom, and he opened his mouth to show us.


He also said that sheep have 2 toes on each foot.


Then he shared the fact that sheep can see almost all the way around, and that he could see me, sitting behind him, without even turning his head!  I loved how engaged all the children were listening to these facts about sheep.  Then he told me that sheep are really good at smelling and he sniffed a few kids.  He asked them if they had been eating grass or flowers or clover, because those are his favorite foods and he was really hungry.  Then I told him that I was sure he could not be a sheep because sheep have 4 stomachs.  Critter insisted that he does have 4 stomachs, and opened up his wooly coat (telling us that sheep get their coats taken off in the springtime) to show his 4 stomachs underneath.


Then Critter told the children that sheep’s favorite game is Follow the Leader.  Whenever one sheep starts going somewhere the whole group (flock) follows after him.  Then I put Critter back into the castle box, and brought out Roxy Heart.


Roxy talked to me and asked who the children were, and if they were smart.  I told her that they were very smart and Roxy noticed what a great job they were doing all sitting on their bottoms.  She asked the class if they liked her dress, and told them that her mama had just made it for her.  The children noticed that it has sheep on it and Roxy told them it was because she was an expert about sheep and knows more than anyone!  She told them that sheep have a special coat and it’s called … and the children shouted out “wool!”  She turned around and stared at them and told them that they are really smart!  She continued starting to tell the kids facts about sheep that they had just heard from Critter, and she was amazed at all they knew.   So it was a review about 2 toes on each foot, teeth only on the bottom, 4 stomachs, etc.   Her mouth dropped open, she jumped up and down, and she almost fainted when they knew the facts she was trying to share!

Then she told them that she had something special in her purse and pulled out a small bottle of perfume.  She told them that she had perfume because sheep smell good.  I stopped her and said “Roxy, sheep live on a farm and they get really dirty!  I don’t think they smell good!”  Then I pretended to figure out that she meant that sheep are good at smelling.  We talked about how they CAN smell well, but they don’t smell good!  Then she said she wanted to go to the farm and play the sheep’s favorite game, and all the kids yelled “Follow the Leader!”  Roxy went back into the box after being amazed at the smartest preschoolers in the whole world.

I showed the class the book Where is the Green Sheep by Mem Fox, but instead of reading it, I enlarged the pictures on cardstock and told it as a magnet story.  Some of the children noticed that there are many opposites in this book.


It lent itself very well to a magnet story because of the structure of the words.  It begins “Here is the blue sheep.  And here is the red sheep.  Here is the bath sheep, and here is the bed sheep.  But where is the green sheep?”  So it worked very well to put out the first 4 pictures, and then take them off as I asked the question.  This was the pattern throughout the book, and the children quickly chimed in with some of the opposites and asking the question “Where is the green sheep?”


After the story I passed out a sheep stick puppet to each child and we acted out some of the motions – here is the high sheep, and here is the low sheep.  Here is the jumping sheep and here is the still sheep.  After leading the children this way for a few minutes I chose a child (okay – I shamelessly chose Owen!) to take a turn leading the group with motions.  I encouraged him to do 3 motions that we would repeat and follow – using the patterned words from the book “here is the _______ sheep” and then he chose another child to lead.  The preschoolers did a wonderful job listening and participating, and did not get upset when we didn’t have time for everyone to have a turn!  It was a fun time, I have missed sharing the wonderful combination of puppets and stories with children.



Easter Fun


We had a wonderful Easter celebration on a delightful sunny day!   The best day to get all the grandchildren together ended up being on Saturday.  Owen likes to see an agenda of the activities that I plan, so I typed it up for him (and to help me remember!)

Easter activities copy

Bunny hats were the first thing on the list.


I wanted to make a variation on a traditional egg hunt for a few reasons.  The range in ages gives the older kids a big advantage in a regular egg hunt.  The parents really didn’t want the kids to get tons of candy inside the plastic eggs, and the kids all participated in a couple of other regular egg hunts at other parties and in the community.  So I decided to make it into a clue hunt.  I numbered and decorated 6 paper lunch bags, and filled enough eggs for each child to open one at each stop.  Since Max is so little I just put 4 eggs into each bag.  There were a few pieces of candy in each egg, and there was one egg that contained a written clue inside each lunch bag.

hunt JPG

I gave each child a little bucket to carry to hold their eggs and the candy that spilled out when they opened them up.


We just handed them the first bag of eggs, and the clue inside one of those eggs led them outside.  They went to places like the swing set, under a tree, in the mailbox.  Owen read the clues and they all took off running for the next destination.

hunt read

They ended up back inside where they found bags full of prizes.

hunt end

The next activity was our Easter Parade.  I got out crepe paper streamers, foam Easter shapes, artificial flowers, paper plates, and other supplies.  They had fun decorating the bikes, wagons, stroller, and even our son’s wheelchair that was part of the parade!


They had a great time waving to all the cars that passed by.

We came back inside and made Tumble Bunnies, a craft I found on Pinterest.  I precut the shapes and the children colored them, then we folded and taped them with 2 marbles inside.  The directions recommended using a textured surface but the ones we made did great flipping over going down these ramps.

tumble bunny


Here is the template I got from Pinterest.  I found it on many sites there.

Tumble Bunnies

We went back outside to play with our parachute.   We played with balls I got at a Dollar Store, and each child took a ball home.



Back inside we played a Memory Game.  I set out a tray of things like a plastic Easter egg, a bunny, a jelly bean, a crocheted egg, just things I found in my Easter decorations.  The children looked carefully at the tray, then they turned away and I removed one thing.  They tried to figure out what was missing.

I included another old favorite activity – Froot Loop necklaces – they love to make and eat these!

froot loop A

We played a game of Hot Potato – passing around a bunny shaped bean bag, and trying not to be the one holding it when the music stopped.

We also did a cooking activity that I found on Pinterest too.  We used Grands Biscuits, some recipes use refrigerated crescent rolls or frozen bread dough, but they are all basically the same.  I loved this activity because it gave us a chance to tell a very simplified story of Jesus and the resurrection.

Each child rolled out one biscuit to about a 5 or 6 inch circle.  We painted on melted butter with a basting brush.  Then we put a marshmallow – which stood for Jesus, in the center of the circle, and sprinkled on a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  We gathered up the dough to seal the marshmallow inside.  I told the children that Jesus rose from the dead and was not inside the tomb the next day.  We wondered together if the marshmallow might be gone too.  We sprayed a baking sheet with nonstick spray and dipped the biscuit bundle in more melted butter and placed it on the tray and sprinkled it with more cinnamon and sugar.   We made enough rolls for each family to take a tray home, and bake them for Easter morning breakfast.


They turned out great!  One of my favorite parts of Easter this year was a text message my son sent.  Lily was so excited she yelled “Yook!  Jesus isn’t there!  (Still perfecting the L sound!)

Of course we had to dye eggs too!  It was a great celebration!

egg dye 2


I hope your family enjoyed a wonderful, safe and fun celebration too!


Pete the Cat


We got to meet Pete the Cat!

Commerce Township Community Library hosted another fun evening event, this time our activities were all about Pete!  We started out listening to Pete the Cat:  I Love My White Shoes, by James Dean and Eric Litwin.  If there is anyone out there who is not familiar with this set of books, please  check them out.  I still like the first two best, and our activities featured the White Shoes and Four Groovy Buttons.  After the story we were free to visit the stations that were set up around the community room.  I really appreciate all the work, and thought that goes into setting up and organizing these special evenings.  They carefully think through the details and that makes everything go so smoothly.


Our first stop was this center where we acted out the story by stepping into “a large pile of strawberries!”  and continued around the circle until our shoes were white again, even though they were wet – and it was all good!  It was fun to hear the children using the language from the book – even 19 month old Nora chants off “Goodness no!”



Next we did the color ring toss.  the rings were painted paper plates, with a hole cut in the center.  We tossed them over painted paper towel tubes that were held upright on another plate.   I called the paper plates “buttons.”  They did a lot of rolling away!



Next the children made Pete the Cat hats.  All the crafts and games were fun and appropriate for the age range of the children who attended.  As soon as our kids put on their hats they ran over to Pete who was walking around the room, to show him what they had made.




Next we made Pete the Cat stick puppets.


I had not seen glue bottles like this before.  They have a small brush attached to the lid, and they worked pretty well, but the glue bottles have to be more than half full.  In my classroom I was always looking for the best way to glue!




There was a good selection of Pete the Cat books to read, along with a few other fun cat books.


This was a fun button race game.  We played it on a magnet board, there were two rows of colored buttons – one along each side of the board.  Each player took a Pete marker and began at the bottom.  Then we took turns rolling the special die.  We would land on a colored button or a message that told us we had to go back, or take an extra turn.  The player reaching the top button first won!  This could easily be a table game too.



I found the picture of Pete the Cat online and put 6 on a page.  I thought they would be great to put on popsicle sticks as pointers too!

Pete pointers 


This was all organized so nicely!


And the kids loved it!

It was such a fun time.  There are lots and lots of Pete the Cat activities on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers.

Harper Collins offers some wonderful bonuses too!  At  http://www.harpercollinschildrens.com/feature/petethecat/‎   you can download 5 of the songs that go with the books, and one video – for FREE!  I have White Shoes and Groovy Buttons on my phone and my grandchildren love to listen to them in the car.  Basically the song downloads are read alouds of the entire books.images-5

When I was searching online I found these Pete the Cat images that would be fun to use in lots of ways.  Children could color their shoes different colors, or make a board game similar to the floor game we played.  These cats could be glued onto folded paper to make stand up game markers.  Here is another activity I came across.  You might even make a graph showing which shoe color is the most popular with your children.




Another idea I came across was to ask the children to write about where their button might roll, if it popped off.


Thank you Commerce Library, and thanks Pete!



More Fun with Nursery Rhymes!

Nora is exploring Nursery Rhymes!  At 18 months she loves to play with some plastic Humpty Dumpty and Old Woman in the Shoe toys.  She has no concern about memorization or rhyming – she just loves to manipulate the toys and yell out “Humpy Dumpy!”  But I know that she is developing essential language skills when she explores the rhythm and patterns of these rhymes.   She is gaining phonemic awareness as she plays with words, she is learning vocabulary when I explain words like broth, fleece, fiddle and curds and whey.   She is starting to sing some of the rhymes and she echoes the inflection of our voices as we emphasize different parts of the rhymes.  Nursery Rhymes are part of our culture and I think it is important for children to experience them.  In Kindergarten these rhymes can be used to enhance early reading skills in lots of ways.

One of my favorite ways to use Nursery Rhymes was to retell them.  Each rhyme is really a miniature story that children can act out, sing or retell from memory.  They gain confidence in retelling when they are repeating something they are so familiar with.  I was very excited to find some wonderful clipart images of Nursery Rhymes on my Kidoodlez Early Years CD.   Most of the pictures I am sharing are from this CD, please visit them at djinkers.com.

Here are some pictures of the characters from a variety of rhymes that could be used as necklaces or stapled onto headbands.  When the children act out these short rhymes they are speaking, listening and moving.  Because they are so short it is easy to take turns and let lots of children actively participate.

HumptyThe child playing Humpty Dumpty could sit on a low table or stool, then “fall” off!



MuffetA stool could be used as a tuffet., along with a bowl and spoon for the curds and whey!

JackJill The children could hold onto a bucket and pretend to climb up a hill,


You could draw a large shoe shape on paper for all the children to try to fit into!


For this retelling I would put moveable hands on the clock so the children can turn the hands and point to 1:00.

Hey Diddle

Hey Diddle 2 Of course the cow would need a moon made from something like yellow construction paper to jump over!

Boy Blue

Boy Blue 2

It would be fun if they had a real horn to blow, and you could cut out some corn for the corn field and flowers for the meadow!  The haystack could be taped onto a chair and Little Boy Blue could “sleep” behind it. 

NimbleI had an antique looking metal candle holder that we used with this rhyme.  As each child jumped over we changed the rhyme to include his or her name.  “Owen be nimble, Owen be quick!”

You could also make stick puppets with these characters by taping them onto paint sticks or tongue depressors.

I also created some small stand up figures to go along with each Nursery Rhyme.  You could run these off as they are, or cut them apart and use them as stick puppets too!   Children can manipulate these figures as they retell the rhyme.

Humpty Dumpty


Here is Humpty’s wall along with the haystack from Little Boy Blue.

wall haystack

Little Boy Blue 

Boy blue

Old Mother Hubbard 

Mother hub

cupboard hill 

Jack and Jill

Jack Jill

Jack Be Nimble


Little Miss Muffet

Muffet spider 

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Mary Lamb 

Hey Diddle Diddle


Diddle 2 

The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe

woman shoe

Tuffet shoe

Here is an example of the stand up figures from Little Boy Blue.


I did a bit of cut and pasting to make pictures that the children could cut out and put together in the right sequence.  Using these pictures would also be helpful for kids learning the rhymes.

Mary Lamb sequence

Little boy blue seq

Humpty Dumpty Sequence 

I also used this great clipart from DJ Inkers to make a couple of  rebus stories for the children to read. 


Humpty rebus 

Mother Hubbard rebus 

Nursery Rhymes provide great practice with concepts about print, one to one word correspondence and early reading.  Because the children sing and memorize these rhymes most of them are successful “reading” them.  I loved putting the words into a pocket chart or posting a large copy of the rhymes on the wall for children to read.  I put together this sheet of characters that could be taped onto tongue depressors or popsicle sticks to make reading pointers.  Great for reading the room! 

Nursery rhyme pointers


I was thinking that I would also like  to keep a set of these sticks in a can at circle time.  It would be fun to have a child pull out a rhyme for the class to remember and recite when you have a few minutes to fill.


Here is a die I made that you could use to reinforce the rhymes or put at a center.  You could run this off on cardstock and tape it together.  When I wanted to make a cube that was more sturdy I got 2 empty milk cartons from the school cafeteria.  I cut them off so they were square cubes, and pushed one inside the other.  Then you could cover it with paper or contact paper, or just glue the pictures onto each side.  These milk carton cubes are almost indestructible!


I also made this little board game as another opportunity to practice the rhymes.  The children could use buttons or coins as markers, and a spinner or die.

Board game 

Here is another activity, the children need to identify which pictures are from the same Nursery Rhyme.  There are 2 pictures that go along with the first picture in each row.  The children cut them out and glue them on so there are 3 in a row from each different rhyme.

Matching game 2

Matching game 1 

I don’t really think that Nursery Rhymes are the best way to introduce or teach the skill of rhyming because there are really not very many rhyming words in these chants, and the rhymes are far apart.  But they can be good for reinforcing rhyming.   For this activity the children cut apart the pictures and find the 2 words that rhyme and then glue them next to each other on the recording sheet.

rhyming game 2

rhyming game 1

I found these small fold up books at Kidzone, please visit their site for more great ideas!







I hope you can use some of these ideas to have fun with Nursery Rhymes with the children in your life too!


Love Letters

I thought I would take advantage of Valentine’s Day as an excuse to share pictures of some of the people I love most:





I try to get a picture of all of them together, but so far I haven’t been successful!  I am so blessed to have 5 grandchildren – age 5 and younger!  I am spending this season of my life taking care of the two youngest, Nora age 18 months and Max who is almost 3 months, while their parents work.  I try to find as much time as I can for the other 3 too, because they are all the delight of my life!

My husband is over the moon about these babies too!   In my free minutes with the little ones I wanted to do something that would make him smile for Valentine’s Day.  I decided to make him a whole bunch of Love Letters, and hide them all over the house where he would find them.

letters 2

letters 1

I saw lots of similar ideas on Pinterest and other blogs, but I started out by going around my house and collecting little things I could use.  Some other sites used all kinds of candy but I just used random things.  Then I printed out little sayings to go along with each item and taped them together.   I hid them in the refrigerator, his sock drawer, the pocket of his coat, the seat of his car, the cereal bowls, the floor of the shower … everywhere I could think of!

Here is the Love Letter template I made using DJ Inkers clipart!

blank (dragged)

Here is a sample of how they looked with the sayings printed on, then I ran them off on pink paper.

love letters done

I was thinking how I might have used this idea with my Kindergartners too.  Recognizing and noticing good behavior or small achievements is so important to children, and their parents.  I often sent home little notes to reinforce these things, and I know it meant a lot to them.  You could use these “Love Letters” with a small inexpensive candy or toy as a way to celebrate something with one child, or the whole class!  If you are looking for some ideas here are some of the items I used and sayings I made up (or borrowed!)



I hope you had a great Valentine’s Day yourself – I miss the school parties, but I celebrated with a very special dinner party at the home of good friends!

Simple Machines

Last week our family experienced another STEM storytime at the Commerce Community Library.  This time we were learning about simple machines, I love how these evenings always tie in literature, hands on exploration, and a take home activity.  At first our librarian discussed what simple machines are, she defined them as “something that makes work easier.”   We learned there are 6 types of simple machines:  pulley, lever, wheel and axle, screw, wedge and inclined plane.  We spent the evening concentrating on 4 of them:  inclined plane, wheel and axle, lever, and pulley.

Here is a sampling of some of the great books available about simple machines:



After reading about inclined planes, levers, wheel and axles and pulleys we were free to experiment and try out these simple machines.

Here are the directions for our experiments with inclined planes.

inclined plane directions

There was a basket with a sturdy handle, filled with books.  First the children tried to lift the basket, then they pulled it up the ramp.  The ramp was simply a board with blocks stacked under one end.


The children agreed it was easier to pull the basket up the ramp than lift it.

Next they made the ramp more steep by adding more blocks under the end.


Then they tried to pull it up the ramp that was more steep.


There was also a sign showing where we might see inclined planes in daily life.

Inclined planes examples 

Next we experimented with wheels and axles.

wheel directions

This was such a simple idea and it worked very well.  The kids tried to push the heavy container, then we lined up dowels and set the container on top of them – it rolled great!




Then we put the container on a big cart and talked about how the wheels on the cart were bigger than the dowels – the kids loved pushing the cart!

Here are examples of wheels and axles:

wheel examples

Our next experiment was with levers.

lever directions 

First the children put a large plastic dinosaur on one end of the board, and stacked bean bags on the opposite side.


Then they tried out a tiny dinosaur


Later we moved the board so the stack of blocks (fulcrum) was close to one end of the board.   We saw how it made it much harder to lift the dinosaurs.



Here are examples of levers:

levers examples

Our final machine was a pulley.

pulley directions 

The pulley we used was a simple wheel attached to a wire coat hanger, hung from the hinge of a door.


The children filled the  pumpkin buckets with different materials and experimented with lifting them using the pulley.  The hangers were taped to the door hinge so it wouldn’t come off with the force of pulling.






My son, the engineer, told me that a pulley system really doesn’t make it easier to lift weight unless there are at least 2 pulleys.  But I noticed that the children could lift the weight much higher using this one pulley than they could have lifted it without the pulley and rope.

Here are examples of pulleys:

pulley examples

Warning!  If you take an engineer with you (like my son), be prepared to hear the intricacies of how these systems are really supposed to work.   These activities did a great job demonstrating how simple machines are used to make work easier!  It was another fun evening at the library!

The children were given this take home activity.   These pictures would be great for sorting, or you could even make a Go Fish type of game by trying to collect a set of pictures of levers, or a set of pulleys, etc.

Inclined Planes

Wheel and Axle



Now it’s fun for me to point out examples of these simple machines to my grandchildren when we are out and about!  If I were still in a classroom I would try to take some photographs of things around school that use show these simple machines in action!




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