A Month Of Things To Do with your Preschooler

Previously titled Things to Do with your 2 year old – too narrow, on second thought 🙂

Today I made this chart showing a month (or more) worth of weekday activities to do with a young preschooler.  This may be handy for yourself or another caregiver you know (like when Grandma or a sitter has the kiddo for a while and could use some ideas).

If there is enough interest, I’ll make new editions available.

You can click on it, click the magnifying glass and drag it to your desktop to print.

Your feedback and comments are very welcome.

Having days free with our young children is more and more rare – those of us who can do it, more and more fortunate.  They grow up fast.  Savor the time.


Fantastic Morning at 2010 Lititz Kid-Lit Festival

Due to the no-sleepinest baby this side of slumberland, we contemplated bailing on this event but thankfully we got it together early enough to make the trip.  Missing it would have been a big mistake.

Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA is one of those rare wonders still weathering the business model that is Independent Bookstore.  You can shop them online (soapbox: and you should, if you love books – and are aware of the effects of mega-store monopolies, online and off, negatively impacting selection and living wages for creators of the writer, graphic designer, printer, publisher and illustrator varieties).

Today was their annual Kid-Lit Fest. Now that my Kid (Bee) is Literate we made attending this year a big priority, and it was a great way to spend our day.


I’d like to promote the authors that made the biggest impact on us:

(Nightbear & Lambie ©Kerry and Matt Royer – image used for review)

Writer and Illustrator couple Kerry and Matt Royer are creators of the book Nightbear & Lambie (and two other forthcoming titles, one is a holiday sequel to N&L, and one involves Spring Peepers).  The book is well written, lovely in its simplicity and bound to resonate in any family where there are favorite stuffed-animal friends installed among sleeping kiddos.  The illustrations are particularly nice – oil paintings with a skillfully consistent and appealing style and palate, many of which would make choice stand-alone prints.

First editions of Nightbear & Lambie are sold out, save for a handful of stores local to the creators (list).  Also, the book is available at Pottery Barn Kids, as part of a cool deal they struck since that retailer originally sold the toys in question to the Royer family.

There is karmic value here too, for those of you who have young families similar to my own.  They are a hard-working couple with young children, making the effort to strike out creatively despite the demanding schedule.  What they’ve accomplished thus far is commendable and I wish them continued success.


(images © their respective publishers/creators – used for review)

Illustrator (and author) Amy Wummer was present (here is a Random House profile), and I quickly recognized her by her work as a contributor to High Five Magazine (a junior version of Highlights, for the 6 and under set).  Amy draws a regular feature in the magazine that Bee is fond of (Tex and Indi and their cat named Cow), and she also does at least one cover for the magazine each year.  Turns out – she is incredibly proficient and has A LOT of other (award-winning) credits to her name.

Her style is very recognizable while, somehow, also unobtrusive.  It is perfect for storytelling, as it does not overpower the story and she’s so practiced that the consistency is seamless and the coloring perfectly suited.  Especially exciting for us is that Bee sort of stood out in the readings, she asks a lot of questions and volunteers personal perspective easily – after the reading, and having two books signed to Bee (reminder: I don’t use our real names in this family blog) – Amy told Bee to expect a surprise in a future illustration, she’s going to slip Bee into a story where a child is called for (presumably a background character).  Well, Amy got herself a friend for life with that gesture :).

The two books we purchased from her today (signed) are:

The third book in The Milo and Jazz Mysteries, called The Case of the Haunted Haunted House.  Bee is a big fan of the A to Z Mysteries, and while I can’t give an experienced opinion on the matter at the moment, the Milo and Jazz Mysteries seem to be a very good series to graduate towards after the A to Z Mysteries – the stories appear to be a bit more mature, complex, long (not overly so), and they contain ‘super sleuthing puzzles’ – brain stretchers, logic puzzles and focus on motives matching to crimes.  Young mystery readers are a lucky bunch in this day and age!  Also – thanks to Lewis B. Montgomery for furnishing the store with signed copies of the book, so we have both creator signatures.

Our other book illustrated by Amy is Samuel’s Baby.  A perfect choice for a 4-6 year old expecting a baby brother or sister.  Our little Pea is a year old now, but certainly we feel the change to our family dynamic still taking hold.  I imagine this story will further solidify Bee’s memories of this transition The book is clever and funny, as a class of kindergarteners share in Samuel’s experience in a unique and teachable way.


(image © respective publisher/creator – used for review)

Our third creative treasure trove was Laurel Snyder.  From her web page bio: Laurel Snyder is the author of  three novels for children, “Penny Dreadful,” “Any Which Wall” and “Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains OR The Search for a Suitable Princess” (Random House) and two picture books, “Inside the Slidy Diner” and “Baxter the Kosher Pig.” (Tricycle).

Laurel was a delight to talk to, and she obviously loves her work.  She traveled the farthest of any of the creators we met today, having come from Atlanta for the event (see how cool Aaron’s Books is?).  She read both of her picture books to the kids gathered at the event, and Bee wasn’t happy that we had to only choose one.

We bought Inside The Slidy Diner, and after reading it – I am sure we’ll be investigating her novels in due course.  Laurel does some creative (and probably therapeutic) venting about the unpleasant side of working for a greasy spoon diner – in a wonderful ‘taken to the extreme’ manner that any kid would appreciate and enjoy.  She challenges the kids to count the mice.  I myself spent more time spying out the insect life (giant mounted ‘trophy’ roach hanging on the wall of the diner FTW).  A girl spends her days like a fairy tale servant, after being caught swiping a candy from a crone (alla classic fairy tales, like Hansel and Gretel, only entirely contemporary).

The witch in question is a hair-netted crone who scratches her itchy back with the grill spatula, leaving fly guts smeared on her sweater.  Yeah, it’s that good.  The illustrations (by Jaime Zollars), are wonderful as well (Snyder hopes to work with her again because they are a dream team).

Check out Snyder’s new novel, Penny Dreadful, when you see it hitting stores in late September.  The hyperlink I’ve attached to the title is an advance copy review compliments of Kate Messner (a discerning children’s book author).


This isn’t typically a review site – I hope I’ve been helpful, though.  These are books I recommend to people like me – people in young families full of brilliant young budding bibliophiles.  Choosing picture books can be daunting – I feel that all of these would please a discerning fan of the medium.  Also – these folks put in the legwork.  They love what they do.  They spend their perfect, sunny, crisp, mid-September Saturdays trying to expose folks to their work.  In my opinion, that commitment deserves an audience.

You can find (hopefully) your own local independent book sellers here: http://www.indiebound.org/

Some Strange Dialog (babies, gender, expectations)

A guy (lets call him Dad) and his daughter (call her Bee) walk into a maternity store to try to get a nursing nightgown for some big ole’ pregnant lady (known as Jungle Woman).

Further cast:  Employee Woman, Expectant Mother, Expectant Father and Their Daughter.

Overhearing, between Employee Woman and Expecting Family-

Employee Woman: So, do you know what you are going to have?

Expectant Mom: A little boy.

EW: Oh GOOD!  Is this your daughter?

EM: Yes.

EW: Oh, wonderful – then you are done then!

Expectant Father: Oh no we aren’t.

EM: (unsettled) Don’t get him started.

EF: We are going to have 14 kids.

EW: Oh, lol, that’s a lot 🙂

EF: No it isn’t – people always used to have 12 or 14 kids.

EW: lol 🙂

EF: (dead serious)  …speaks a bizarre little speech about how he is serious, everyone becoming uncomfortable…

Then the expecting family leaves.

Bee to Employee Woman: My Mommy is going to have a baby!

EW: She is!  Do you know what it is?

B: Yes – it is a girl!

EW: (less chipper, strangely solemn and conciliatory) Oh – so you are going to be a big sister?

B: Yeah!

EW: Would you like some bubbles?  (hands child bubbles)

B: No thanks, I have lots at home.  (hands bubbles back)

EW: Oh – well you can have some for the car (tries to hand child bubbles).

B: No, thank you.

EW: Then here – have some stickers! (hands child stickers)

B: No, thank you.  I have a box of stickers at home.  Thanks for offering!

EW: Oh – well, okay – um, good job, you don’t take things from strangers!

We leave, because they don’t have the gown that Jungle Woman requested that we go and get for her.


I’m not going to editorialize too much – but here are the facts:

• Employee woman asked everyone what they were having, and if it completed a set of one boy + one girl – that meant that you should stop – because you’ve achieved what she feels is the goal.  If you have not achieved this, it appears that she assumes you are disappointed.  I think it is possible, her being an employee there, that this dialog plays out all day every day.

• That guy wants 14 children, and is very serious and kind of confrontational about it. He also had ‘crazy eyes’ – an objective assessment, since it is factually/statistically unusual to see the whites the whole way around somebody’s pupal as they respond to joking with bared teeth and are unreceptive to attempts to placate them.

• Sometimes offering gifts to children is a sophisticated way of determining whether they have been introduced to ‘stranger danger’.

Free Parent’s Guide to Nature Play (+intro to C&NN)

Here’s a great resource I was turned on to by the Children and Nature Network.

First, a little about C&NN:

The Children & Nature Network (C&NN) was created to encourage and support the people and organizations working worldwide to reconnect children with nature. C&NN provides access to the latest news and research in the field and a peer-to-peer network of researchers and individuals, educators and organizations dedicated to children’s health and well-being.

With C&NN you will find pretty much bottomless resources for raising happy healthy intelligent kids without going broke and by reconnecting with the natural world that is an integral part of what we are as the human animal.

Now, on to the resource I mentioned in the title of this post:

A Parents’ Guide to Nature Play:  How to Give Your Children More Outdoor Play, and Why You Should! by Ken Finch
Ken Finch, founder of Green Hearts Institute, has published this brand-new booklet for parents. Downloadable as a PDF, this 20 page guide helps parents understand the key elements of great nature play, why it is important, and how they can integrate it into their children’s daily lives.


Also, here’s an
Article about nature preschools.

Which sounds like a fantastic idea that needs to grow!  Support local efforts by first learning what opportunities are around you.  C&NN can help.

My interest in connecting children (and adults) with nature stems from the fact that we are an inseparable part of that natural world, and when it is thriving – we do as well.  All of our healthy activities and diets and analytical thinking comes from engaging the natural world directly – not on a monitor, by watching a cable channel, or by any other detached means.  I’m stunned and a little horrified by how many parents I know that do not even take walks in the woods with their kids – consider rocks, dirt or insects (for example) to be ‘bad or dangerous things’.  I want to shake these people.  I’ll post this (and things like it) instead.

We live in delicate interdependance with all living things – we ignore this at our peril.  Starting young is the best way to form healthy habits that last a lifetime.  As always, beware of woo which many people (including some educators, like Waldorf schools) are eager to apply to the natural world.

Grandma and Pappaw


We’ve been making the most of Bee’s last summer as an only child, and the special position that puts her in with her grandparents as their first grandchild.  Grandma and Pappaw have two new grandbabies on the way shortly – but these earlier experiences will always be special for us.

First Lemonade Stand

You might remember this puppet theater.  We put it to use as a lemonade stand for the first time, and it was a great experience.

Bee shopped for lemons, sugar, cups, ice and a pitcher with me.  I emphasized how much these individual things cost – but much of that went unregistered (except that it may not have, with Bee – there is usually more retention than you think).  Then she helped make the lemonade – squeezing some lemons herself.

We hauled everything up to the top of the driveway (which you may also remember), and set up shop.  Oh, and we made signs – four wooden ones, three of which I hung at nearby intersections, and one for the stand itself.

We had two sizes of cups (9oz. and 16oz.) with two prices (50¢ and $1).  People only bought the $1 cups – so we will nix the small cups in the future.  Once they heard it was real homemade lemonade, our customers eagerly bought the larger size.


We live a little off the beaten path – but did better than I thought we might.  We sold 8 cups (a gallon).  Bee was so happy and excited throughout the entire experience.  She also gleefully explained to her customers that half of her profits were going to be donated to help the kitties up for adoption at a local pet store.  This helped her cause and earned her so much approval, that this part of the project (initially an afterthought) became something she was very interested in and proud of.

Lemonade Recipe

6 Lemons

6 Cups of Water

1 Cup of Sugar


Juice the lemons, and pour the juice, water and sugar into a One Gallon pitcher.  Stir until the sugar dissolves.  Fill the pitcher the rest of the way with ice.  Add ice to cups before pouring – otherwise the lemonade will taste too strong (until all the ice melts in the pitcher).