The Hygge You Say?
According to The Little Book of Hygge, Hygge is the Danish term for "cozy togetherness" and there is nothing like a good picture book and a hot cup of cocoa to bring you and your little one together during the cold of winter! Here are 10 books that offer you a little bit of Hygge with your preschooler:
Your List of 10 Hygge Books to Cuddle Up With Together
1. Owl Moon
2. Owl at Home
3. Very Hairy Bear
4. Mouse and Mole: A Winter Wonderland
5. Fox's Garden
6. White Snow, Bright Snow
7. Winter is the Warmest Season
10. Wolf in the Snow
More for Mommy
As ever, this blog is not just for the little ones in your life - it's for you too! I'm gonna go ahead and assume that you wouldn't reject a hot cuppa tea and a good book by the fire so here are a few ideas for getting your hygge on this winter too!
Nothing is more cozy than a village mystery and the first selection by Louise Penny offers three Inspector Gamache tales taking place in small town Quebec. Next up "Le Grand Meaulnes" is a beautiful French classic about a boy who comes across a "lost estate" in the deep of winter and his search for the feelings of childhood warmth and magic that this space created for him. Finally, explore more about the whole idea of Hygge with the last selection which offers practical ideas for integrating coziness into your home and life. Click on the images below to explore each title:
1. Picture Advent Calendars
Initially developed in Germany, these 24 little cardboard doors opened by chubby little fingers revealed magical pictures each day to help build a child's excitement for Christmas morning. The last image is always of the nativity to remind us of the reason for celebration at this time of year.
Because my mother spent some of her childhood in Germany, several of our family traditions are connected to those she remembers from this magical time of her life. As a result, chocolate calendars were highly verboten in our home growing up although my sister recently got a tea one - each day a new tea - and that was begrudgingly permitted. (Hee hee!)
It is always fun to guess what the picture might be! One year my husband and I got a very strange advent calendar with several images of crows with bones in their beaks whose meanings we are still trying to decipher....
2. Christmas Markets
Although our hometown has hosted a Christmas market for the past few years, this year we had a most glorious one in our town square that was truly reminiscent of Europe but with a Habitant twist. We live in Quebec and so there were many folksy crafts (beautifully braided mangers) along with the requisite mulled wine and pretzel stall. I was thrilled to purchase a beautiful organic tourtiere (the traditional meat pie served in French Canadian culture) for my grandmother who recently moved into a retirement home and who no longer bakes her lovely pies.
3. Ghost Stories on Christmas Eve
For my sister, The Nutcracker sparks the ultimate Christmas magic but for me the reading or watching of "A Christmas Carol" means Christmas has arrived! I love the idea that families used to gather before the fire and tell ghost stories on Christmas Eve. Clearly, there was a desire to work through the idea of the afterlife as part of a thoughtful Christmas tradition.
By the way, have you seen the new movie about how the story was born out of Dickens' serious case of writer's block?
And there we have it! European Christmas truly is the best! Prove me wrong! Are there North American traditions that can rival these?
Read alouds are now officially a huge hit in our house and we are ready to spend more time by the fire this winter as a family reading together after supper. We've discovered that being super flexible about when and where we read makes it more likely that we can commit to the process. Sometimes, my daughter and I will read on the couch while little brother gets his bath and other times we all get in our jams and under the covers to find out what happens in the next chapter.
Last season, The Princess in Black was a huge winner and because it was the first in a series, I may have a lead for Santa on what to bring down our chimney for next year's reading. Ok! Let's get this reading started and what better way to kick off the Christmas season than a book about toys?
December: Toys Go Out
One little girl packs three of her most beloved toys in a backpack and takes them on many wonderful adventures! Have you ever wondered what your toys are thinking? Wonder no more! Each toy takes a unique perspective on the world around it and on the little girl that they love. (Having just started out - we are discovering this one may be a bit of a stretch for my toddler so we have this one as back up at the library for those nights when he needs more pictures to sustain his attention. Bramble and Maggie: Snow Day.)
Fall is the time to get cozy with little ones with a cup of something warm, a blanket and a good read aloud. Right now, I target my read alouds to my daughter's age (she's 6) but usually my toddler will listen in for a bit off and on and many of these books could work for preschool-aged children too. You're the best judge of what will keep your child listening at story time but occasionally introducing and trying a few pages of a chapter book can never hurt. My daughter tends to love books with maps in them so last year Milly Molly Mandy was a hit and so was My Father's Dragon among others. This fall, we're trying something a little bit different! Here is our reading list month by month!
September: Basil of Baker Street
I know! It's not just a movie! I was as surprised as you are. Just re-published this summer - this book is the first in a series of books that make up the "crumbs and clues" collection. The collection includes 5 of the books that were originally published in the 1950s about a detective mouse who is inspired by the real Sherlock Holmes! (If this is too advanced for your little one - try out the same author's "Anatole" series that we read last year about a mouse living in Paris. eek! too cute.)
What oh what will you and your little reader read this summer at the cottage, on your picnic blanket or at the beach? If only someone could compile a list of the perfect summer picture books!
Voila! A simple list of the picture books we read every single summer!
The G"olden" Book Days: Browsing the Library Shelves
When I was a kid (or as my kids would say ... in the "olden days") we went to the library regularly to browse and select books to bring home. I remember the space as a safe and warm place. There was a small puppet theater in a carpeted space that was surrounded by shelves and shelves of picture books and as I aged, I expanded my explorations to the surrounding shelves where I discovered Pippi Longstocking, The Black Cauldron, and the Fairy Books of Many Colours. I discovered all my favourites simply by browsing the shelves. I flipped through the pages, often did judge a book by its cover and threw it in the book bag to go home and devour!!
Browsing Kids Books Today: Amazon's "Look inside!", Book Blog Reviews and Picture Book Trailers
Browsing books looks a bit different today. Now - don't get me wrong - we still go to the library and enjoy being in that kind of space. We love the randomness of grabbing a book off the shelves and taking it home but this is by no means the only way my children and I browse books together. In my previous life - I was a librarian so I am a bit of a book browsing maniac. I love peeking around inside the sample pages of picture books on amazon. I adore children's book blogs, book lists, book reviews, book previews, and my guiltiest pleasure... book trailers. In fact, I'm always super disappointed when a new picture book doesn't have a book trailer and it's taken me a while to figure out why I feel this way but then I discovered... uh oh... I'm that annoying person who always says:
"If you Liked the Movie..."
Yep. I'm that annoying person. "Oh! If you liked the movie - you gotta read the book!" And it is this exact tendency in me that makes me love book trailers. It is the certainty of knowing that if I like the "preview" I will ADORE the book and if I'm entirely frank - this is usually true.
So! Do you sit your kids down to watch book trailers with you? Does it make your kids more or less likely to want to read the book? I guess the question is, picture book trailers, nay? or yay!
Have you ever borrowed a picture book from the library only to discover that the book is far too wordy or, alternatively, has too few words to sustain the attention of your Little Reader? Well, this is exactly what happened to us recently. You see, I order books from the library online and my hubby is kind enough to pick them up for us on the way home from work. Super convenient but not always conducive to picture book selections that are certain to delight my preschooler. Initially, I used to just send books that didn't feel as though they were the appropriate "level" for my little one straight back to the library but recently I've discovered a trick that keeps my preschooler coming back to these books again and again.
Let me share with you some ideas on how to read wordy, word-starved and wordless picture books with your little one so that they are sure to become hits during your bedtime reading routine!
1. You Read to Me
There are 10 minutes before lights out and you open up the wordiest picture book alive. It will take you at least 15 minutes to read it fully and that doesn't count the explaining you will have to do about the meaning of many of the words on the page. What to do? Easey peasey: ask your child to read to you! This may sound like lunacy but I assure you they will read the story in less than half the time it would have taken you to read each word fully. Moreover, they will produce a most imaginative and beautiful version of the tale! I love nothing more than listening to my child's idea of what the artist is trying to convey in pictures. The combination of beautiful art and my Little Reader's imagination are a joy to listen to - especially right before a good night's sleep.
Here is a great picture book we recently took out of the library that is very wordy but that beautifully depicts train travel across the United States during the early days of railways.
2. Quality Conversations
So you've found a beautiful book at the library but the problem is the words don't flow or there are so few words that the story is over in 30 seconds flat. Um. Now what? Well, you know what they say about lemons. This is actually a wonderful opportunity for a discussion with your little one about the book. Ask some questions about the images on the page that spark the imagination.
Recently we took out this beautiful photography book from the library and flipping through it I realized it was just not going to be stimulating enough for my girl. Suddenly we grasped onto an image of a rain-drenched blue jay and had a most compelling chat about him. "How do blue jays take showers? Where does he go to get dry? If he could speak, what would he say to us right now?" So much fun and such great quality time conversing together.
3. Get Lost
And then don't you find that there are times when you both just need to get lost in a book utterly and completely at the end of the day? Silent contemplation of a wonderfully illustrated and entirely wordless book is an opportunity for bonding and quiet reflection with your preschooler. Like an Escher painting (you know those ones with all the intersecting staircases and maze like tunnels), several wordless books are illustrated to help children to just check out a bit. It's entirely OK to become wrapped up in a book that needs no words to tell a magical and enticing narrative.
Here is the trailer for one of our very favourite wordless picture books!
So there we have it. I recommend not getting too wrapped up in finding the "right level" of book to read with your preschooler. Improvise and delight in art and imagery. After all, artists have stories to tell too! Despite the fact that we might not formally read each and every book we take out from the library word for word, books no longer go back to the library unappreciated from our home.
In fact, we are always on the look out for new picture books! I would love to hear about some of your favourite wordy, word-starved and wordless picture books! Feel free to share any recommendations below.
Pssst... I have a secret... this is actually just a regular fort but - to my kids who were stuck indoors last week with colds - this was a "badadabaaaa" Fairy Tale Fort!!! Have you got kids stuck indoors too? No problemo! Here's how you're going to set up your fairy tale fort:
Step 1: Make a fort and let the kids play in it. Yep. That simple.
Step 2: Read a fairy tale together in the fort. Have your little ones gather related books and toys and bring them into the fort. In this case, we were reading The Three Bears and we brought in a book on polar bears as well and three of our stuffed bears.
Step 3: Let imaginary play run rampant. If they want to act out the fairy tale in the fort grand but if the fort suddenly becomes a cave for hibernating bears... go with it...
Step 4: Keep the fort up over night. Why? Because you know as soon as you put the whole thing away they're gonna want it set up again tomorrow. However (and here's the sneaky bit), hide a new fairy tale inside the fort for the kids to find the next day.
Step 5: Do it all again tomorrow!
Here are a few book suggestions for your very own Fairy Tale Fort! Happy ROAMing!
No matter how much we promise ourselves to have a "quiet Christmas", the holidays are always filled with insanity. There are parties to attend, extended family to see and annual visits to neighbours homes to wish a happy new year.
Oh! And don't forget the play dates, sledding, fort building and other outdoor traditions that you just don't want your child to miss. In fact, the holidays are so much about spending time with everybody that you may find yourself missing that quality one on one time you used to have all alone with your little one. You remember? That time of just hanging out arm in arm?
Don't feel blue! One on one time isn't hard to get back on track.
All this might have you feeling a bit blue. In fact, it's highly likely since today is blue Monday. Turns out that's a real thing. The third Monday of January is known as blue Monday. Why? Well, it's that first Monday after the holiday when you have finally let go of the holiday spirit and all the warm tinglyness that it brings. The tree is down but the pine needles are still finding their way into cracks and crevices all over the house.
You may also be taking stock of that new year's resolution. You know the one where you planned to spend all sorts of quality time with your little one. Chances are some things have already fallen by the wayside. That could make you feel a bit blue too.
And then there's the credit card statement that came in the mail - maybe now is not the best time to sign up for those skating lessons together either is it? Hmmm....
So - how are you going to get one on one time back on track now that the holidays are over without blowing the budget?
3 Inexpensive Ways to Get One on One Time with Your Little One
1. Take a Hike!
Nothing could be simpler. Go outside and breathe the cold air. I used to whine that it was "tooooo cooooold" but recently I've embraced the idea that "there is no bad weather just bad clothes." Have specific goals set for your walk. Look for squirrel nests, animal tracks, and even signs of melting. Gather items that you see and bring them home to display. Once home, crack out your nature journal and record your findings by drawing what you have seen. Of course, a sip a hot cocoa by the fire always helps to get things cuddly and cozy too.
2. Borrow a New Book Series from the Library
We have started one called "My Father's Dragon." This one is especially enjoyable for us because it is one my father read to me as a child (although - apparently he has no recollection of it.. sigh...). My little one has been asking me many questions lately about what things were like when I was a little girl and - short of bringing out a rotary phone for her to stare at in wonderment - I thought this would be kind of fun!
3. Make Ice Decorations
We eat a lot of yogurt in this house. The kids eat it like it's going out of style with a little fruit and cereal and I love to use it for baking coffee cakes to freeze for when friends come to call. The only one who won't touch the stuff is my hubby - which is weird cuz he grew up on a dairy farm - but anyway - all this yogurt consumption means that I have a ton of yogurt containers hanging around just waiting to serve this beautiful afternoon endeavour! Nothing could be simpler. Drop some cranberries, orange slices and greenery (you know the stuff you keep finding all over the floor) into the bottom of the container and fill with a little bit of water. Insert a piece of twine to make a little handle with which to hang your ice decoration on a tree later. Set outside to freeze. Once frozen, run yogurt container under a little warm water until the decoration slides free. Hang from a branch outdoors. Ideally, somewhere you can see them when you look out a window.
For more fun activities to create more intentional one on one time with your preschooler check out the Winter Semester!
My mother just bought this beautiful Beatrix Potter set for my kids and is it ever bringing back some wonderful childhood memories! My favourite story of the bunch is the one my mother read to me over and over: Mrs. Tiggywinkle. As a child, I imagined myself climbing the stile up the path into the mountain and finding a secret door inhabited by a little hedgehog washerwoman. Reading these again to my little girl is such a nice way to spend time together!
Other than the benefits of introducing my child to the arts and to time in nature, one of the main reasons I created Artsy Startsy was to enrich my own life with reminders of the joys of childhood. Things like taking time to look up at the sky when I step outside (something kids always do but adults forget) make me feel wonderful! I also enjoy bringing an adult lens to stories, places, songs and sights that were familiar to my days growing up. Taking a look back at these tales lets me feel all the old childish feelings of coziness, safety and delight in the idea of things like Beatrix's talking animals. At the same time, I bring new and very adult insights into the tales. I appreciate the detail in Beatrix's illustrations in a new way, I review her moral leanings with a bit more of a critical bent, and I get glimpses into some of the absurdities and social mores of aristocratic rural life in Britain 100 and some odd years ago. And I'm not the only one getting "childish" about the Beatrix Potter stories! Movie-goers are super excited to learn that James Corden and (maybe) Rose Byrne will be starring in a new movie adaptation of Peter Rabbit due out in 2018! Can't wait until then? Check out these resources for both you and your Little Reader!
1. This little selection of Colouring Pages to celebrate 150 Years of Beatrix Potter!
2. A few good reads to satisfy your adult curiosity about Potter's life and landscape.
3. Watch the Miss Potter movie and a snippet from my ultimate fav forever- Mrs. Tiggywinkle!
My friend and fellow blogger over at Vintage Girls pointed me to this beautiful little article in one of the NYTimes Blogs that indicates that reading story books together at bedtime is not just for kids an more! In fact, studies are showing that much of the value of books at bed is not only about fostering literacy but also about cementing the bond between family members. Some parents interviewed for the article felt that story time was actually more for them than for the child! One parent in the article was reported as saying:
‘I need that 30 minutes of reading,
Recent ideas about reading have led us to think of it as a private experience but, actually, this concept is very new. In past centuries, reading was often a family or group activity that created connections between communities. During the Victorian era, it was not uncommon for only one family member to be able to read and for that individual to sit with the entire family after dinner to share the latest in a series of installments in the newspaper. (Dickens stories were very often read this way each week!) Monasteries, cafes, and town halls are all places where groups of people have historically gathered together to discuss new ideas and to read both ancient and contemporary tales.
This social aspect of reading is one that we would have almost completely forgotten if it were not for our children who take the opportunity to remind us of it every night at bed time. I know for a fact that reading Captain Underpants brought my friend Christa an enormous amount of joy and genuine shared laughter with her daughter. Once, while reading Frederick with my children I was brought to tears by the poetry ... so much so that I struggled to complete the tale. My Little Reader was curious to know why mama was crying. What an interesting revelation it was to her that the words themselves had moved me to tears. There is no better way to communicate to our children the power of books than to have an emotionally moving reading experience with them.
So, the next time you are reading a book with your little one and you pause to let him supply the animal noise or the rhyming word know that you are doing so much more than simply encouraging his reading skills. You are sharing ideas, connecting over illustrations and bringing your relationship to the next level.
Many of my friends who are lovers of Waldorf education own a seasonal series by Gerda Muller that is most enchanting. It depicts a family enjoying the seasons in a series of wordless and timelessly illustrated little board books. They are truly special little books.
But I wanted to share with you another, slightly less well known, series of board books that celebrate the seasons: Eugenie Fernandez' Kitten series. Her incredible mixed media style is just exquisite. Natural elements are incorporated into each scene and we love searching for the kitten as we read .... Now, hold up, hold up... "Board books? Isn't my preschooler too old for board books?" If this thought came to mind you're in good company. It's crossed my mind too and I have even separated most of our board books out of the main collection intended for the exclusive use of my toddler. However, I'm rethinking this because every once in a while my preschooler will plunk herself down in front of a pile of board books and have a good old read. Why?
Here's my hypothesis:
Having been read hundreds of times, there's a familiarity about board books which suits the needs of Little Readers. Having memorized most of the text of these books, my preschooler is actually reading the words correctly without having even learned to recognize all of the letters of the alphabet yet. "Yes, yes. But that's not real reading," you might say. And I'm here to tell you: Oh yes. Yes it is. It's reading alright. Your little one doesn't have to know how to sound out letters and string together phrases to be reading. Just by repeating memorized words, by letting the images suggest stories to her, by taking delight in the old battered pages, by cuddling up on your lap, by doing all the voices, your little one is starting to become literate and is developing a life-long love of reading.
It's here; it's here! We are suddenly reading chapter books aloud in our house at bedtime! This is one of those fantasies I've been playing out in my mind forever and while it's not quite "Mary Poppins by the fireside" and my Little Reader does get distracted on occasion, it's been a delightful development at 8 o'clock every night in our little house.
So! One thing we've discovered about chapter books for preschoolers is that they are chock full of buddies. In fact, unique pairings of friends abound in both picture books and read alouds. We thought we would share a few of our recent favourites with you! Hope it strengthens the friendship between you and your Little Reader too!
I’m old. How do I know that I’m old? Because to my mind Elmo is still an imposter on Sesame Street. Will you permit me a short rant? Ok! How on earth did Elmo get to run the whole show when there were so many better characters to feature? His voice continues to grate even after all these years. Several key characters don’t even get any stage time anymore on that show. Hello? Sherlock Hemlock, Mumford the Magician, Biff and Sully, the guy who carried Oscar around, Herry Monster and (glack!) even dear sweet enormous Snuffy who apparently is seen by people other than Big Bird all the damn time! Ah well, I suppose we had to throw poor Bird a bone after he lost his friend Mr. Hooper. (I will take this opportunity to also strongly recommend that you do not under any circumstances google what happened to David. Just don’t do it). Deep breath. Ok. I’m ok.
Now. Let’s go back… waaaaaaay back into the vault and see what we can find. And to do this we have to go to my mom’s house since she kept so many things from our childhood! And look what comes out of the tickle trunk! Taadaaaa! The Sesame Street Library! All 15 Volumes beautifully preserved and fresh and entirely loved by my little preschooler!
Meditation is very important for little ones. The ability to just check out for about 20 minutes or so can really help re-energize your preschooler. This is where sensory bins come in. After five minutes of delving into one of these bins, you can see calm and focus descending upon your little one.
This week my preschooler sat still sorting through this bin and retelling the nursery rhyme for “Hey Diddle Diddle; The Cat and the Fiddle.” For this one I grabbed random items from our kitchen play dishes, dried goods, some craft pom poms, and various animal figures from different sets. The only splurge was on the colourful stars found at Michael’s. The simpler the better. I’ve found the fancier I try to get with these things the less the kids are interested in them.
Why do we do Nursery Rhymes in the ROAM curriculum? Because – I strongly believe nursery rhymes are a great jumping off point for literacy. Their staying power alone indicates that they are culturally valuable and they continue to be excellent initiations into literacy for little ones. The rhythm and rhyming language encourage your child to think about creative subject matter within a poetic framework. Moreover, even though the historical context of these rhymes may be lost to most of us now, we recognize that these verses connect us in some way to the past and to childhood as it was in other times and places. Exposure to rhyming and tempo in verse provide an excellent opportunity to draw your child into the world of poetry and literature generally. Movement and creative activities like this sensory bin offer opportunities for your child to explore related themes or ideas and to reenact moments that will help to solidify the poem in the mind’s eye.