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.


Lunchbox Notes

We decided to skip the “nutritious” school lunches offered in our district (entrées include: Fried Pizza Sticks – a breaded stick of fried pizza ingredients) and opt for nutritious (sans quotation marks) packed lunches instead.

I’d like to go into this in more detail on another post, a dozen things come to mind (like the joy of Bento Boxes and helpful standards like frozen juice boxes as ice packs) – but right now I’ve got lunchbox notes on my mind.

Here is a site where you can get some generic notes (for free) to print and put into your child’s lunch.  I’m considering making a bunch of my own.  You can gear them towards what is going on in their lives right now.  I’ve found dozens of sources for buying this kind of note system for packed lunches – and many seem clever and warm, but I’m left feeling it’s lazy to spend more than a couple bucks on something so simple.

Some ideas on how to make them:

1) Use a business card template in any typesetting or graphics program – or just make your own template (dragging guides or putting card border outlines on a layer).

2) Use a sharpie to rule out 10 rectangles on a sheet of 8.5 x 11″ paper. Take it to a copier and make 15 of them to last the whole school year.

Things to put on them:

 – personal notes

 – uplifting quotes that your child can relate to

 – photos or pictures of your child’s favorite people and characters

 – facts/trivia related to your child’s interests

 – question prompts to be used at your child’s lunch table (If you could be a different animal, which would you be – and why?)

 – comic strips

 – “coupons” for something special at home (a treat, an outing, guaranteed one-on-one time, extra story time, etc.)

– small puzzles (word finds, crosswords, sudoku, etc.)

 – jokes and riddles

 – stickers

 – a month’s worth of valentines in February (those little inexpensive mass-produced cards are a great size for this)

The key is probably to produce a big batch – maybe a month at a time.  Depending on your skill-sets, hand-writing them or typing them will be most efficient.  Sitting at the dinner table one evening with a joke book could cover a month or more with minimal effort (check out a joke book from the library that your child hasn’t read).

Collectible card sleeves (available where game or baseball cards are sold) would do a good job of making them water resistant.  Page-A-Day calendar pages could be great, too (available cheaply after Jan. 1 – – you can likely still get 2011 sets for next-to-nothing)

I’m going through some separation anxiety now that my oldest is a full-day student – I see this as a way to help me stay connected through the day that both of us will appreciate and remember fondly.

Let me know how this works out for you – especially if you have other ideas and approaches that work well!

Three plus One equals Nothing At All Like Three

I’ve gotten some very friendly feedback and reminders that this blog is something people enjoy reading.  I’ve also been feeling like we’re starting to get a handle on having two children.  It has taken over a year and a half to feel that way, and it’s been one of the hardest (if not the hardest) times of our lives.

You hear a lot of slogans, platitudes and clichés when you are having a baby – when you are having a second baby one of these is “Having a second child more than doubles the work.”.  What we didn’t understand, while giving our requisite chuckles and smiles in response, was how profoundly true it is – and how it would change every area of our lives.

I read most of the book Twice Blessed by Joan Leonard before Pea was born.  It read, to me, as an immature diatribe against having more than one child – something most families in our culture seem to accomplish without my ever having heard of the drama this author described.  My reaction was: How spoiled and out-of-touch has the culture become when having a second child can be described with such melodrama?  I got rid of the book.

I just reordered it, because I want to see how it looks from the other side of the looking-glass.

So – I’m adding a new category to the sidebar (Siblings), and if you visit here with any kind of regularity you’ll note that the blog was never the same since somewhere around mid-2009.

It’s obvious to me now that people inhibit their discussion of the transition from one child to two because they don’t want their second child to receive the impression that they did something wrong or that they’re bad, or bad for the family.  That seems noble and loving and wonderful, for their second (and beyond) child.  It can also be disaster in the making for the people around them who are weighing their decision over whether or not to grow their family. We had word, a day or two ago, that friends of ours will likely be dissolving their marriage due to the strains directly stemming from the birth of their second child (the first of which was born after years of difficult infertility treatment) – and that couple is far from alone.

Part of our issue is that we set such a high priority on making Bee’s beginnings as wholesome, loving, educational, playful and enriched as possible.  We were good at it.  She’s a brilliant, incredibly well-adjusted, happy and amazing little person.

Bee was as prepared as we could help her to be for the arrival of her sister (thankfully, because their relationship is the least of our difficulties).  But, relatively speaking, she has had to adapt to life on the back burner – something we pledged that we wouldn’t allow to happen.  We, in fact, agreed that that not happening was one of the main considerations in our choice to have a second child.  It has been improving, due to Pea’s ability to do more and more every day – but being clobbered with a year and a half of turmoil has left an impression that will forever be a part of who Bee is, and a part of Pea’s beginnings.  I’m not saying this is necessarily an altogether bad thing – what I am saying is that it has been very hard.

I don’t have the time right now to get further into it – but I’ll post a couple of links to books on the subject.

Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life by Jennifer Bingham Hull  (criticism of the book includes the fact that this family can afford a nanny in addition to a parent at home)

Twice Blessed by Joan Leonard

From One Child to Two by Judy Dunn

And don’t miss the dooce® blog – no single source has been a greater comfort and philosophical companion to us on this issue (especially Mom).

In closing: I love my little girls with all my heart.

And: Biology is a harsh mistress.

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/

Sayeth The Bee

these have aged a little bit, but I love them –

“I’m laughing so much my kidneys are starting to fill up.”

“Daddy, sometimes when I have to go to the naughty chair, I feel crestfallen.”

“Mommy has something in her tummy, and it’s not food, it’s a people!”