Tag Archives: craft ideas for kids

Jazz: A Black History Booklist for Preschool Cats


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A few years ago, my good friends and fellow educators entrusted me to play preschool with their son Ben, who is the same age as Ashman. Pretty naive of me to think teaching high school for ten years could prepare me for teaching three-year-olds, right? Ben and Ashman turned out to be the wriggliest force I had ever reckoned with! Nevertheless, I relished the challenge of finding topics and activities that held their interest. Jazz, a topic I selected in honor of Black History Month, turned out to have immense toddler appeal. Ben and Ashman loved learning about the instruments, rhythms and rhymes of this music born in New Orleans. I loved introducing them to notable Black musicians who made this style part of our American history. Here is a list of books we used to learn about jazz. Whenever possible, I’ve tried to explain the sensory activities we paired with the book…because if there’s one thing Ben and Ashman taught me, it’s that kids gotta move! Continue reading

Book reincarnated

Book Giving Day 10: Book Reincarnated


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This is day 10 of the “12 Days of Book Giving“!

Book Giving Idea #10:

Remember the scene in Dead Poets’ Society when Robin Williams’s character gives his students permission to tear pages out of their textbooks? That kind of reckless irreverence can be quite exhilarating. Even children’s librarians tear up books in the name of engaging readers. It’s called the shredded book contest. Books are cherished objects in our house. The boys have learned not to step on them, throw them, or eat near them. Despite this kid-glove treatment, most books will eventually show some wear and tear, especially the ones that are well-loved. This is the type of book I’m recommending you give as a gift.  And then let your child rip it up and create something from its pages.

Before you shout blasphemer or book burner, let me clarify that this giving idea is not really about destroying books. It’s about loving a book so much you give it new life. The crafters and pinners of the world call this upcycling or repurposing books. I call it reincarnating. Whether you look at a used book store, thrift store, or your kids’ dusty bookshelves, start seeing used books with an artist’s eye. What sort of art project would revive them?

So what can you make with old books?

Silhouette Prints

For Christmas last year, Budlong received an illustrated collector’s copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. My yellowed paperback version from undergrad education classes was feeling a bit inadequate.  But a printed quidditch scene on a torn-out page ensured that book lives on in Budlong’s room.

Upcycled book project

To make the quidditch scene, I collaged some free silhouette clip art using Microsoft Word—very easy and low tech.  Then I ran the book pages through my printer. Feel free to download my quidditch scene if you have a Harry Potter fan.  Or make your own.  This project works for any book! You could also have your child draw or paint a scene on book pages.

More upcycled book projects to do with kids

  • Decoupage shredded book pages onto lampshades, light switch plates, Christmas ornaments, or anything else you can think of.
  • Cut the book pages into shapes and have your child collage an image on a solid background. Frame it!
  • Hollow out a book to make a secret treasure compartment!

See you back here tomorrow for day 11!

Featured image based on "Presents" by Andrew Butitta, CC-BY-SA-2.0
Day 1 of 12 Book Giving

Book Giving Day 1: An Almost Empty Box


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Woohoo!!! It’s finally here: Day 1 of my blog series “The 12 Days of Book Giving”!!!

Each day you’ll get an inspiring way to give a book to a child during the holidays.

Have you ever noticed that children are often more amused with the packaging than the presents, especially big cardboard boxes? A box so big you can climb inside is no longer a box.  It’s a vehicle, or a shelter, or a portal to another world.  When you give an empty box, you give the gift of imagination, creativity, and possibility. The same could be said of giving a book. Continue reading

It Looked Like Spilt Milk activitiy

Boys and Reading: When Acting Out is a Good Thing


When my parents gave Ashman a Lego City car transporter set as an early fifth birthday present, he was not allowed to open it until we got home from Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  We’ve had a strict “no Legos out of the house” policy ever since Budlong’s Batman minifig was snatched right out of his school cubby in kindergarten.  I know, talk about a hard life lesson.  So Ashman contented himself with sitting on the couch with his grandpa, looking at the pictures on the box, and “talking about Legos.”

“When I build this car transporter, I can act out a book I have,” I heard him say to Grandpa.

“Oh really?  Which book?” I interjected, stunned that “acting out a book” was a thing he was aware he did and was in fact making plans to do.  The boys do it all the time with TV shows.  At our house, watching a couple episodes of Wild Kratts or Jake and the Neverland Pirates can spontaneously morph into hours of animal role play or treasure hunting, but it’s a rare and beautiful occasion when books inspire children’s play.  And here’s why and how I try to encourage it whenever I can.

Continue reading


5 books that will inspire your kids to build, create, and invent this summer


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School is out and I’m noticing a lot of people pinning a summertime checklist that goes something like this:

No screentime unless / All the screentime you want if you…

read for 20 minutes

write a paragraph or solve a math problem

do something creative for 40 minutes

People, please.  I do not pretend to have all the answers, but something is not right with the universe if we are making reading, writing, math, and creativity the CHORES and screentime the REWARD.

One thing that seems to be working in our house is a daily-allotted, finite amount of screentime.  The boys know they have 60 minutes a day (usually they break that down as two 25 minute shows and 10 minutes of video games, but it’s flexible).  They can blow it all the minute they wake up in the morning or space it out across the day, but once it’s gone, it’s gone. Of course, enforcing this requires some willpower on my end.  It would be oh-so-easy to give in to just one more show and 20 more minutes of peace. And some days I do.

The other thing that works is reading great books that inspire spontaneous extensions in math, writing, and creativity.  When you find the right books for your kids, you don’t have to bribe them with screentime to get them to read.  Here are five of our favorites, why I love them, and how to use them this summer to get your kids building, creating, and inventing: Continue reading