Preschool Years at Home

Laughing, Loving, and Learning Together

Giveaway: Human Body Science Pack

Today’s giveaway, the fourth and final giveaway in our Curriculum Clean-Out, is for a collection of books to help young learners understand how the human body works. Titles include …

The first title, Play and Find Out about the Human Body, is a collection of 50 easy experiments for preschoolers through second graders. Each activity begins with a question, followed by a simple experiment, an explanation of the results, and related activities. If you have a child who asks questions about everything, this is the book for you. Our copy has been loved and shows definite signs of use, though the binding is still tight and there are no rips or tears. (We’re parting with it only because we’ve upgraded to Janice VanCleave’s Big Book of Play and Find Out Science Projects.)

The second title, Make It Work: Body, is a collection of models, artistic representations, and experiments to help elementary students visualize and understand the workings of the human body. This book is geared toward 3rd-6th graders. Younger children could probably understand the concepts presented, but would need assistance with the projects. This book is in excellent condition.

The third title, You and Your Body, introduces 4- to 8-year-olds to the basic workings of the human body and outlines steps they can take to keep their bodies healthy. It includes simple experiments and thought-provoking questions. This book is in like-new condition.

The fourth title, The Human Body, is a part of Scholastic’s Science Reader series, and is meant to be one that kindergartners and first graders can read on their own. It is new.

To enter this drawing, simply comment on this post, telling me what science curriculum or resource your family likes best. You may earn extra entries by liking Preschool Years at Home on Facebook, subscribing to our FeedBurner feed, sharing this giveaway on your own blog, or tweeting about it. The contest ends at midnight August 11. Free media mail shipping is to U.S. addresses only.

If you enjoy giveaway, please be sure to keep Preschool Years at Home on your blog list. I’ll be launching a giveaway the first Friday of each month through December. Take time also to stop by Hip Homeschool Moms Giveaway Day and enter a few more contests.

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Ocean’s Eleven

It’s too hot to spend much time outside this week, so we’re exploring oceans and sea life from the air-conditioned comfort of our living room. I’ve got videos of sea life, ocean-themed crafts, an ocean sounds CD, ocean animal flashcards, sea life puzzles, and more just waiting to be enjoyed. Little Bear, however, has mostly wanted to read this week. So we’ve read … and read … and read. And since we’ve now read most of our ocean-themed books, plus a fair number of library books, I thought I’d share our top ten eleven favorites:

1. Sounds of the Wild: Ocean

Maurice Pledger is one of our favorite nature illustrators, and this book doesn’t disappoint. It’s comprised of beautiful 3-D pop-ups of various ocean habitats, with names and brief descriptions of each creature pictured supplied on an adjacent page. It doesn’t go into great detail about the habitats or the creatures therein, but does offer solid child-friendly introductions along with a feast for the eyes. Little Bear loves the sounds, ranging from the shrieks of gulls to the songs of whales, as well. I don’t love sound books, but do find the sounds in this volume less annoying than most.

2. Under the Sea

Anna Milbourne and Usborne Books team up to deliver another gorgeous book that takes readers from shoreline to shoreline, from coral reefs to ocean trenches. Both of my girls were captivated by the simple text and beautiful illustrations of this book. After I read it to them a couple of times, I found the cubs side by side on the floor, flipping through it yet again. Little Bear delighted in pointing out seaweed, starfish, jelly fish, eels, and more to her baby sister.

3. Secret Seahorse

Yes, as a matter of fact we do love beautiful illustrations. We also love Barefoot Books, the lilting writing of author Stella Blackstone, and the unique fabric collages of illustrator Clare Beaton. This fictional title follows an elusive seahorse through a variety of marine environments, where he encounters everything from octopuses to a mermaid. This is one of those rare books that’s simple enough to capture the attention of tiny toys, yet detailed enough to still interest older children. Along with hunting for the seahorse, Little Bear enjoyed naming and counting the other ocean creatures encountered on each page.

4. The Magic School Bus on the Ocean Floor

When Ms. Frizzle takes her class on a field trip to the ocean, the bus doesn’t stop at the beach! Instead, it plunges into the water, taking readers on an unforgettable voyage along the ocean floor. I have to admit that the cartoon styling of these books does nothing for me. Little Bear, however, loves them, understands them, and begs for them.

5. In The Ocean (Nature Trails)
This touch-and-feel series, also illustrated by Maurice Pledger, is sadly out of print. We’ve been fortunate enough, however, to find second-hand copies of most of the titles, and for several months, Little Bear wanted to ready them almost every day. In this particular title, readers learn about the world beneath the water as they help a baby dolphin find its mother. At 4, Little Bear still enjoys the stories and illustrations, while 15-month-old Baby Bear delights in the sensory elements.

6. Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef >
Over in the Ocean was the first collaborative work of author Marianne Berkes and illustrator Jeanette Canyon that we purchased, though we’ve since added several more to our library. Berke introduces youngsters to a myriad of coral reef inhabitants, setting her words to the cadence of the familiar tune “Over in the Meadow.” Canyon makes each verse come to life with her unique 3-D polymer clay illustrations. The back of the book provides more detailed information about the coral reef inhabitants, along with musical score. Both girls enjoy listening to the tune and hunting for sea creatures on each colorful spread of the book.

7. Commotion in the Ocean
This rollicking collection of humorous rhymes about swordfish, sharks, stingrays, and a dozen other sea creatures has delighted every group of preschoolers I’ve ever read it to. It was not on the shelf with our other ocean books, and Little Bear dug it out to make sure we included it in our reading.

8. Under the Sea (Usborne Lift and Look)
I debated whether to include this title because my first reaction to it was one of disappointment. I bought it, expecting to find it chock full of all the detailed facts we’ve come to love in Usborne Books. It isn’t. It has just two or three simple sentences per page and no text whatsoever on the flaps. It introduces children to a handful of sea creatures, as they hunt for a tiny fish hidden beneath one of the flaps on each page. … And Baby Bear loves it. It’s perfect for drawing her into our study. To my surprise, Little Bear enjoys it as well, although I probably would not purchase it for a child over the age of 3.

9. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Shell!

This book earned a spot on the list because Little Bear loves it. I can’t get past the mediocre illustrations, worn-out story line, and predictable text. The same predictable text that turned me off drew her in, however. Almost as soon as I read the final page and closed the book, Little Bear grabbed it, turned back to the beginning, and began re-telling it. She “read” it to herself several times, tried to read it to her sister, and even insisted on reading it to me before I read tonight’s bedtime story. Based on the Amazon reviews, it would seem that she is not alone in her love.

10. The Seashore Book

Picturesque text and peaceful water color illustrations bring the magic of the seashore to life for a child who has never actually had the opportunity to visit the beach. I truly love this book, not just because it helps my own child (who has yet to visit the ocean) capture the essence of the seaside, but also because it encourages readers to “paint with words” and describe experiences in graphic detail. This book will be on our shelves for years to come.

11. Swimmy
This Caldecott Honor Book tells the tale of a little fish, the lone survivor of a tuna attack, who urges other little fish to come out of hiding and enjoy the wonders of their watery world. There’s danger, yes. But by working together and coming up with a clever plan, the little fish are able to outsmart the bullies of the ocean. A wonderful story, and a great life lesson!

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Giveaway: Take It To Your Seat Learning Centers

Today’s Curriculum Clean-Out giveaway is for two volumes from Evan-Moor’s Take It To Your Seat Learning Center collection, a $40 retail value:

The first volume, Take It to Your Seat Early Learning Centers, Grades PreK-K, is in like new condition. It includes 14 ready-to-assemble math and reading readiness activities. The second, Take It to Your Seat Literacy Centers, Grades K-1, has been used, and the two sight word activities that were removed from the book have long since disappeared. Ten of the twelve self-contained centers are still in the book.

Please note that that the activities in these books do require some preparation. They are printed on standard paper and must be cut, laminated, and assembled. The activities are bright, colorful, engaging, and age-appropriate. These books have great reviews, and I had high hopes for putting them to good use when I bought them on August 15, 2003. … But I really don’t enjoy cutting and laminating page after page of little pieces. What’s more, after nine years of housing these books, moving them, planning to use them “someday,” but consistently passing over them, I’ve finally realized that I’m never going to roll out of bed thinking, “Hey, today’s a great day to do some cutting and laminating!” It’s time for them to find a new home.

To enter this drawing, just comment on this post and tell me how you encourage math and/or reading readiness in your own children.  You may earn extra entries by liking Preschool Years at Home on Facebook, subscribing to our FeedBurner feed, sharing this giveaway on your own blog, or tweeting about it. The contest ends at midnight August 10. Free media mail shipping is to U.S. addresses only.
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Giveaway: Toss & Learn Games Set

Today’s Curriculum Clean-Out giveaway, also linked up at Hip Homeschool Moms Giveaway Day, is for three of my favorite early childhood resource books, Scholastic’s Toss & Learn Game series:

Add a photocopier and photo blocks (trim cards to size and insert in blocks), jumbo foam dice (cut cards out and tape to dice), or even cardboard and packing tape (mount cards on cardboard, cut, and use packing tape to assemble pieces into sturdy die), and you’ve got 30 fun, active learning games for preschoolers or kindergartners. I used these games at least a couple of times a month while teaching preschool and kindergarten, and they were always a hit — so much so, in fact, that I ended up buying digital copies of these books so that when I needed a quick activity, these were just a few keystrokes and a bit of cutting away.

I’ve held on to the print copies of these, despite having digital copies, through two moves. It’s time now, however, to let them find a new home. The copies I’m offering here have my name on the front cover, but are otherwise in excellent used condition with only the lightest of shelf wear.

To enter this drawing, simply comment on this post, telling me about your favorite early childhood resource. It could be a book, a toy, a game — whatever your children have loved and learned from. You may earn extra entries by liking Preschool Years at Home on Facebook, subscribing to our FeedBurner feed, sharing this giveaway on your own blog, or tweeting about it. The contest ends at midnight August 9. Free media mail shipping is to U.S. addresses only.

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Be sure to check back tomorrow for another giveaway, a pair of Take It To Your Seat Learning Center books!


Life and Learning

We took a break from “planned” learning during the month of July, in large part because Baby Bear was cutting molars and Mama Bear was too tired to plan. I’m a planner by nature, so stepping back wasn’t easy for me (and probably would not have happened without the driving force of sheer exhaustion).

Over the past month, however, I’ve watched Little Bear’s imagination come alive. Yes, she complained the first couple of times she checked her workbox drawers and found them empty. Yes, I felt guilty for not actively working to create a “learning rich environment.” But then she turned to our shelves of books and bins of toys and found creative, constructive ways to entertain herself, and I, in turn, began to grasp that the world in which we live is in and of itself a “learning rich environment.”

Take yesterday, for example. We’ve been enjoying enduring triple digit temperatures for much of the past month, and the extended forecast shows no relief in sight. So with outdoor activities largely off limits and our 800 square feet of apartment space seemingly closing in on top of us, we took the girls to see “Winnie The Pooh” at a special $1 kids’ showing yesterday morning. We’ve read The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh several times over, but the girls have not yet seen any of the movies. Seeing this one on the big screen was an extra special treat!

The girls had granola bars and milk on the way to the theater, allowing us to skip the outrageously priced theater junk food. On the way home, though, Little Bear decided she really wanted to go out for lunch, something that was not on the agenda or in the budget for the day. She whined and I lectured — a waste of words and emotional energy on both our parts. But even the rough patches can be transformed into learning experiences. Once tempers cooled and calm heads prevailed, we reviewed the food groups and discussed the importance of good nutrition. In the end, she enjoyed a healthy homemade lunch with food from each of the four food groups. She chose to enjoy watermelon and a glass of milk before swimming and identified the food groups on her dinner plate. We brainstormed an A-Z list of healthy foods while we were in the pool and read Eating the Alphabet once we were back inside. I also pulled Good Enough to Eat: A Kid’s Guide to Food and Nutrition off the shelf for us to read today.

Get those animals out of the rain!

Little Bear drew pictures and wrote cards (writing names and words in the process) while Baby Bear napped. Then she turned her attention to her toys and built a MagnaTile house to shelter her Beanie Babies from “a big storm with lots of thunder and lightning.” She made up a story about the animals and the storm as she went along and relayed it to me in graphic detail. Of course, talking about storms soon led to questions about storms …

“Why does it storm?”

“How does rain get up into the clouds?”

“What is lightning?”

“Why is lightning dangerous?”

“Are animals scared of storms?”

“Where do animals go to get away from storms?”

Suffice it to say, Google is Mama Bear’s friend. Our encyclopedias of science and nature get a fair amount of use as well!

Continuing on her play, Little Bear demolished her house, counting up how many small squares, how many large squares, and how many triangles she’d used to build it. She discovered that one large square covered the same amount of area as four small squares. She also observed that two triangles could be combined to form a square. Then she decided to build an animal motel in the shape of the letter Pp, and the whole process started over again.

After Baby Bear woke up, both girls spent some time playing with a new set of Melissa & Doug Wooden Animal Nesting Blocks, stacking them, knocking them down, nesting them, lining the up by size, identifying the animals, and grouping the animals by habitat. Little Bear played with her Wedgits, carefully recreating some of the patterns shown on the box, while Baby Bear and I spent some time matching animal sound blocks. The girls also played dress-up, built with Duplos, and enjoyed some Daddy time while I paid a much-needed visit to the supermarket.

As evening fell, we headed to the pool for some fresh air, sunshine, and active fun. Little Bear, of course, had to pick up every insect she could get her hands on, identify its body parts, count its legs, and ask endless questions about insect diet, habitats, defenses, life spans, and more. We wrapped up our time in the pool by counting from 1-100 several times over, Little Bear’s new way of guesstimating minutes. (Yes, it takes her more than a minute to count to 100, even with help. But she needs the counting practice, and I’m not about to discourage her even if her counting makes our “last five minutes” turn into ten.)

We wrapped up the day by reading three more chapters in Treasure Island. I would have read more, but Little Bear surrendered to sleep about ten seconds after the end of the third chapter. And so ended another day of no planned learning activities, another day chock full of learning because life and learning go hand in hand.

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Giveaway: Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

I saw that Homeschool Creations was launching its annual curriculum clean-out party and was inspired to do some purging on our own shelves. Young as my girls are, we’ve already amassed some resources that we’re simply not using, and I’d like to pass these on to another home.

Up for grabs in this giveaway is a like-new copy of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. This product has excellent reviews on, and many people swear by its approach. It did not appeal to my visual/kinesthetic learner, though, and got shelved after just a few uses. Please note that this giveaway is for the original 1983 version of this book.

To enter, simply comment on this blog post. Please make sure to include your e-mail address so that I may contact the lucky winner. You may earn additional entries by liking Preschool Years at Home on Facebook and/or tweeting about this giveaway. The drawing ends at midnight August 8. Shipping to U.S. only please.

I’m still cleaning shelves amid wrangling a busy 15-month-old and keeping pace with a 4-year-old, so check back later this week for more giveaways.

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If you’re looking for more free resources, be sure to check out Hip Homeschool Moms Giveaway Day as well.


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