Sunday, August 23, 2009

Usborne Treasury of Art

My son never took an interest in art in preschool, so I was thrilled when he wanted to make some crafts from the book “The Usborne Treasury of Art” by Rosie Dickins. We ran to our local art supply store (University Art) and bought paints, pipe cleaners, and pastels.

This beautiful book provides information about famous artists from all over the world, and then explains how to create a project in each artist’s style.
Although the book is rated for ages nine and up, my four year old was able to make a few of the projects with my help. (I did skip reading about Van Gogh cutting off his ear, and how alcoholic Jackson Pollock died in a car crash.)

I personally love modern art, and felt it was beneficial to emphasize the modern artists in the book for a few reasons. My kid is a perfectionist, and I think it’s helpful for him to see that highly valued works of art can look messy or odd or simple. Modern art also encourages us to be imaginative and analytical, and it’s fun to see my child respond to it.

Here are a few of the projects we made. (Kandinsky circles, Calder-inspired mobile) I’d love to find some other great art books for kids.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

How to encourage your child to love reading

Here is a great article about how to get your child to love reading from Jen Robinson's book page:

I thought her second point was especially interesting- read the books that your children are reading, even after they read on their own. It sounds like an effective way to encourage your children to read and a lovely way to stay close to them.

Alphabet Adventure

"Alphabet Adventure" by Audrey Wood is a new favorite in our house.
The letters of the alphabet want to help a little boy learn his letters, but first they have to help lower-case "i" find its missing dot. It's a clever story with detailed, colorful illustrations.
Your child will also enjoy looking for the hidden "i" on each page.
My son knows his letters, but I'm sure this book would be a great tool to teach letters to your youngster.

I still have to find "Alphabet Rescue" and "Alphabet Mystery" by the same author.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Usborne Puzzle Books

Usborne Books is a British publisher of children's books.
We recently discovered their "puzzle book" series, and they are a huge hit with A. "Puzzle Town", "Puzzle Planet", "Puzzle Ocean" and many others in the series each tells a story and contains lots of puzzles, mazes, and counting activites. When my son is able to read himself I think these books will occupy him for long periods of time.

I just did a search online for other Usborne books and am now coveting "Great History Search" and "Great World Search" that contain lots of puzzles and also teach kids about history and other cultures. They aren't available at our library so I might have to break down and buy them.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Criss Cross Applesauce

Peel, core and cut up three apples. (I like Fuji.) Next, throw them in a pot with 1 cup of water. Bring the water to a boil, then let it simmer for 15 minutes or until the apples are soft.
Throw them in a blender with a dash of cinnamon and a spoonful of honey if desired.
Warm, homemade applesauce is heavenly.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

My New Favorite Children's Book is...

"What's Inside?" by Giles Laroche. This book is about some of the most interesting structures in the world (including a Mayan pyramid, the Guggenheim museum, and Independence Hall in Philadelphia). It's illustrated with incredibly detailed papercuts, and describes the interior and exterior of each building. The book also contains a glossary of architectural terms. (Now when I take walks with my son we notice the cupolas, pediments and columns.) The night after we first read this book, A told me he dreamed he was trying to climb the steps of the Mayan pyramid so he could see the jaguar throne that is inside.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lighthouse mania

People always ask me why my kid is so obsessed with lighthouses. I blame Thomas the Train (and myself for encouraging him). One day we watched an episode of Thomas on tv that had a lighthouse in it. A was intrigued by the lighthouse and asked lots of questions about it, so we got a book about lighthouses from the library, and then a few more.

We've now read every children's book about lighthouses that I found in our library. We also have lighthouse coffee table books, toys, and an excellent series of lighthouse videos put together by PBS.

A has pretended that he is a lighthouse, and built lighthouses out of blocks. We've visited four lighthouses so far, and he wants to travel around the country to visit others. Last year we had a lighthouse-themed birthday party. (That was challenging- it's not easy to find lighthouse decorations in California.)

There are a lot of benefits to learning about lighthouses. A (and I) have learned a great deal about the history of navigation, optics, architecture, and geography.

I'll mention two of our favorite lighthouse books. First published in 1942, "The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge" by Hildegarde Swift and Lynd Ward is about a lighthouse on the Hudson River in New York City. In the beginning of the story, the lighthouse is very proud of itself, but later worries that it is small and useless after the George Washington bridge is built next to it. The author and illustrator do a wonderful job of bringing the lighthouse, bridge and boats to life, and they show us that even small things can be important.

We also still enjoy the Lighthouse Keeper books by David and Rhonda Armitage. A British series, these stories are about the adventures of lighthouse keeper Mr. Grinling and his wife and cat. Mr. Grinling is an appealing character because he gets into all sorts of trouble (he accidently locked the cat in the lighthouse; he fell asleep when he needed to turn on the lighthouse, etc.) and you'll enjoy reading about how he and his wife resolve his problems.

Thankfully my son now has other interests (he's moved onto towers and skyscrapers), but I suspect that he will always love lighthouses. Here is a photo I took of Point Pinos lighthouse in Pacific Grove. It's a wonderful lighthouse to visit with children because it is still operating, and you can take a tour inside it.