Best audio books for a Simple and Slower Family Christmas Season

Best audio books for a Simple and Slower Family Christmas Season

Audio books are not just for long car journeys.

Since you can download the apps to your phone and other portable devices it’s even easier for the family to take their stories with them.

I grew up listening to stories on the radio and love the theatre and drama of it all. There’s something about stories that bring them to life when you hear a good story told to you.

The challenge around the Christmas season is to keep things simple and continue to have a slower family life. One of the ways we’re going to try this year is having audio time together.

Unlike watching the same productions on the TV or going to the movies while you are listening you can be coloring, making, baking and doing or playing. This makes it perfect for the family to experience some downtime together doing what we wish and enjoying a shared experience of story.

Here’s a list of the best audio books for Christmas wish list, including affiliate links, that suit the family who wish to have more time together listening to great story and building memories.

[Read more…]

My 16 favorite Early years Pinterest Boards

Pinterest is a great place for learning and sharing early years play ideas and activities. With the range of activities and ideas it’s easy to find all different type of activities and be inspired to try something simple. Not just that but there are so many articles, videos and vlogs about the early years pinned on Pinterest you can learn more about books, ideas and reasons for play.

There are so many wonderful resources for the Early years under 5 year old play. Here I’ve added my favourite ones. Not all of these boards are exclusively for the under 5s.

You can click the links in the slides to go straight to the boards to subscribe

Click here to view Slideshow 1 ::  Click here to view Slideshow 2

  1. I’m a Kid Friendly Blog! :: started by Jaime of Hands on:: as they grow A place to find all the best, kid-friendly activities, crafts, art, and other kid inspired material! These are ‘must see’ blogs if you have kids!
  2. Lifetime Love of Learning started by  Zina of Let’s Lasso the moon This group board is a place to share educational ideas & discuss ways to keep the light in our childs’ eyes. “Together let’s stoke the flame in your child’s eyes by providing hands on, self paced, collaborative, challenging, enjoyable learning. Let’s encourage divergent thinking, instead of convergent thinking; innovation instead of standardization. Give your children a lifetime love of learning.” {Trevor Eissler}
  3. For the BOYS! Started by Jaime of Hands on: as we grow this board celebrates all things boys. Yes girls do these activities too. A wide range of activities that boys are often attracted to. As a mother of three boys it’s lovely to see and be inspired by a range of play activities
  4. Baby/Toddler Play Ideas started by Cerys of Rainy Day Mum as a place to explore Play ideas for babies and toddlers to nurture their growth and development in the early years of life
  5. Sensory Activities for Kids Started by Mary Ann of Mamasmiles. The board is full of so many different types of sensory play experiences.  She provides a space to share sensory activities for young children.
  6. Growing Creative Kids Started by Zina of Let’s lasso the moon. This board is full of share fun projects, art ideas, or unique adventures that help inspire our kid’s creativity
  7. The Weekly Kids Co-op Started by Zina. This is part of a linky. A small group of bloggers sharing a lot of play activities that offer a plethora of ideas geared for toddlers to pre-teens. What’s great is that the activities are family oriented, fun, unique or educational.
  8. The Parent Water Cooler Started by Zina. This board is the place to talk about current hot topics based on the office water cooler where everyone congregates and has a chat about articles, play activities and more.
  9. Kid Blogger Network Activities & Crafts Started by Laura of Play Dr Mom. Here a large group of play bloggers gather together to share their favourite posts that focus on activities and crafts for kids. With the foundational belief that playing and crafting with children improves well-being, creative thinking, and strengthens relationships
  10. All things parenting Started by Holly of June Cleaver Nirvana Sometimes you just need to hear a story, relate to a situation about parenting or find a good resource about parenting.
  11. It’s Preschool (Song) PreK Collaborative Peeps!!  Started by Debbie of  Rainbows within reach.This is a really active board from bloggers in the Early years. There’s a wide range of activities and lots pins to inspire.
  12. Make and Takes for Kids Community Board  Started by Marie of Make and Takes as a community board of activities and ideas that you can make and take. With lots of collaborators on many different time zones this board has new pins all the time that are related to craft, diy, and recipe ideas for kids
  13. Global and Diverse Kids Started by Melitsa of Play Activities. Chance to look further afield and connect our little ones with the big wide world, sharing the wonders of Geography, Bringing diversity into our homes and play and where we are in the global world with kid related themes, activities and articles.
  14. Reading & Writing readiness Started by Allie of NoTimeForFlashcards The place to go for fun  and imaginative lessons, activities and games that boost reading and writing readiness and progress. There’s so many different ideas and inspiration.
  15. Pretend Play Started by Mary Ann of Mamasmiles– A board dedicated to just one thing- pretend play. Lots of imaginative ideas to encourage your children in imaginative play.
  16. Get Kids moving Started by Lisa of Montessori on a budget– Lively  and creative activities to get the kids moving in more than just one way with an emphasis on fun. Lisa’s board shares large motor movement and gross motor activities and more, for brain development in children, and for fun!

What are your  favorite collaborative boards for the Early Years? Leave your comment below

If you enjoyed this article, get the Play Activities Newsletter. ( It’s free!)



Diversity in books

Reading

When you look through your books do you see a diversity?

Do you have a range of many different types of books?

I had an opportunity this week to look at my bookshelf  and share some of them with my children. Yes lots of ladybird books and Mr. Men books. I never had though many non fiction books. What’s on your children’s shelf? Sure enough the books we buy are usually fiction. The books we borrow are often non fiction.

Let’s look wider. Do the books I have available show a diverse world? How do I share cultural hertigages from around the world or talk about friends in my neighbourhood who are different?

[Read more…]

Monday links

Easing into another week with the children, I have some links to share.  I’ve been inspired by so many posts, articles and links this week. Here are a few of them to get you going.

Independent reading

So grab yourself a cuppa/smoothie or whatever your passion and enjoy these links.

[Read more…]

What to do when "there is nothing to do"?

This is a guest post by Zoe Toft. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

How do you come up with play ideas for your kids? And, perhaps even more importantly, how do your kids come up with play ideas for themselves?

During holiday periods I, like many parents, plan ahead for games and activities we will get up to – using blogs I love (perhaps ones I’ve recently discovered via the Raising Playful Tots Index) but I also want to give my kids the tools to plan and create for themselves, and a rich vein of inspiration for my two kids comes in the form of picture books I read to them. Although it doesn’t always happen (and even when it does, it can be weeks after we’ve read the book) often my kids will create their own games and activities inspired by what they’ve read and listened to.

Three great books we’ve recently enjoyed (with my hope that they’ll sow the seed of inspiration when the time comes) are all about what can be done when it seems like there’s nothing to do.

Something to Do by David Lucas

Perfect for toddlers, this simply illustrated book is full of the adventures a baby bear gets up to having bounced on his dad complaining that there’s nothing to do until Dad finally gives in. Using a twig to draw, baby bear and his dad create places to explore, with no set agenda, just following the lines they make with their sticks.

Nothing to Do by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin

Stunningly illustrated with immense detail this book is a delight for slightly older children. Nothing to Do celebrates how wonderful it can be to actually have nothing to do; instead of needing to rush to this activity or onto another class, instead of always being timetabled, days where there is nothing to do are actually something to be relished. Such days are full of endless, exciting possibilities – as you and your kids pour over the glorious illustrations you’ll all come up with ideas of your own, from making toy ships to watching clouds, from making paper airplanes to re-reading your favourite books.

Let’s do nothing by Tony Fucile

A great all-rounder this book will have everyone in the family laughing! Two young boys have done everything they can think of doing and all that is left to try now is – quite literally – doing nothing. It turns out, however, that doing nothing is much harder than anyone had realised! The comic strip style illustrations are full of energy and there are jokes for the adults as well as the kids in this pacey debut from one of the animators behind Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

One of my stock go-to activities if we seem to have run out of anything to do is to put on some music and just dance with the kids. Here are some great songs that go wonderfully with these three fantastic books about doing nothing:

  • What Would You Do If You Had Nothing to Do? by Barney Saltzberg
  • Nothing to Do by Troubadour
  • I’m Bored by Barry Louis Polisar
  • I’m Bored by Kentucky T. Dutchersmith and the Rubber Band
  • Let’s Think Of Something To Do While We’re Waiting by Ricky Skaggs
  • And if you do want to prepare some activities for your kids taking your cue from these books, here are some I think would work brilliantly alongside reading these stories:

  • Try really drawing with sticks with some inspiration from this post at Art Adventures with Middle School Students, or this amazing large-scale drawing in sand done by artist Jim Denevan
  • Watch some clouds together with your kids and then enjoy making your own cloud book like this one from fun4kids, or your own puffy cloud paint like this from Bilbified
  • Play sleeping lions with your kids – see how long they can do nothing for!
  • Zoe Toft is a mum of two young girls and they really love words and they really love to make stuff.
    Sometimes they make or do something and they want a good book (or poem / song / audiobook) that continues the game, that captures some of the magic we’ve enjoyed. Sometimes it’s the other way round and they read a great book which inspires them to get the glue and glitter out.

    Either way, they’ve always got plenty of books around the house, boxes of “crafty stuff” and a desire to have fun. However, her memory is /terrible/ 🙂 So Playing by the book is Zoe’s way of celebrating and reminding herself of many of the things they get up to as a family, of the books they’ve read and loved and that you might just fall in love with too.

    What to do when “there is nothing to do”?

    This is a guest post by Zoe Toft. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

    How do you come up with play ideas for your kids? And, perhaps even more importantly, how do your kids come up with play ideas for themselves?

    During holiday periods I, like many parents, plan ahead for games and activities we will get up to – using blogs I love (perhaps ones I’ve recently discovered via the Raising Playful Tots Index) but I also want to give my kids the tools to plan and create for themselves, and a rich vein of inspiration for my two kids comes in the form of picture books I read to them. Although it doesn’t always happen (and even when it does, it can be weeks after we’ve read the book) often my kids will create their own games and activities inspired by what they’ve read and listened to.

    Three great books we’ve recently enjoyed (with my hope that they’ll sow the seed of inspiration when the time comes) are all about what can be done when it seems like there’s nothing to do.

    Something to Do by David Lucas

    Perfect for toddlers, this simply illustrated book is full of the adventures a baby bear gets up to having bounced on his dad complaining that there’s nothing to do until Dad finally gives in. Using a twig to draw, baby bear and his dad create places to explore, with no set agenda, just following the lines they make with their sticks.

    Nothing to Do by Douglas Wood, illustrated by Wendy Anderson Halperin

    Stunningly illustrated with immense detail this book is a delight for slightly older children. Nothing to Do celebrates how wonderful it can be to actually have nothing to do; instead of needing to rush to this activity or onto another class, instead of always being timetabled, days where there is nothing to do are actually something to be relished. Such days are full of endless, exciting possibilities – as you and your kids pour over the glorious illustrations you’ll all come up with ideas of your own, from making toy ships to watching clouds, from making paper airplanes to re-reading your favourite books.

    Let’s do nothing by Tony Fucile

    A great all-rounder this book will have everyone in the family laughing! Two young boys have done everything they can think of doing and all that is left to try now is – quite literally – doing nothing. It turns out, however, that doing nothing is much harder than anyone had realised! The comic strip style illustrations are full of energy and there are jokes for the adults as well as the kids in this pacey debut from one of the animators behind Finding Nemo and The Incredibles.

    One of my stock go-to activities if we seem to have run out of anything to do is to put on some music and just dance with the kids. Here are some great songs that go wonderfully with these three fantastic books about doing nothing:

  • What Would You Do If You Had Nothing to Do? by Barney Saltzberg
  • Nothing to Do by Troubadour
  • I’m Bored by Barry Louis Polisar
  • I’m Bored by Kentucky T. Dutchersmith and the Rubber Band
  • Let’s Think Of Something To Do While We’re Waiting by Ricky Skaggs
  • And if you do want to prepare some activities for your kids taking your cue from these books, here are some I think would work brilliantly alongside reading these stories:

  • Try really drawing with sticks with some inspiration from this post at Art Adventures with Middle School Students, or this amazing large-scale drawing in sand done by artist Jim Denevan
  • Watch some clouds together with your kids and then enjoy making your own cloud book like this one from fun4kids, or your own puffy cloud paint like this from Bilbified
  • Play sleeping lions with your kids – see how long they can do nothing for!
  • Zoe Toft is a mum of two young girls and they really love words and they really love to make stuff.
    Sometimes they make or do something and they want a good book (or poem / song / audiobook) that continues the game, that captures some of the magic we’ve enjoyed. Sometimes it’s the other way round and they read a great book which inspires them to get the glue and glitter out.

    Either way, they’ve always got plenty of books around the house, boxes of “crafty stuff” and a desire to have fun. However, her memory is /terrible/ 🙂 So Playing by the book is Zoe’s way of celebrating and reminding herself of many of the things they get up to as a family, of the books they’ve read and loved and that you might just fall in love with too.

    Creative play then and now

    Adults who take part in creative play as children are more likely to have a healthy diet and to take regular exercise, according to a new study.The research from the University of Ulster, which was presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Stratford-upon-Avon last week, surveyed 505 young adults about their experiences and opportunities for play during childhood.

    Source: The Nursery World

    Where do you stand? Do you think your lifestyle now is from what you did when you were younger?

    I don’t encourage play to get these benefits but it sure is nice to know that there are knock on benefits.

    Photo credit:carlol

    8 things to do when stuck in traffic with the kids

    It’s all too easy to jump in the car to grab something from the supermarket. Or you’re late for an appointment so you bundle the kids into the car and make a dash for it. Only to find that somehow you meet a delay or road works.
    Worse is when you are on a long commute home from a trip out and you get caught up in traffic. I nervously start working out the nearest toilet stops. Although having boys it’s not so bad it’s me I worry about. Sound familiar?
    Do you turn off the car then on again? Do you chug along slowly so you keep moving or accelerate then sharply break? Am I in the right lane……..? That’s just me. But what happens to the kids behind.
    These are our ” Traffic Jam” sanity savers or long journey savers. You usually find these in our car- always!  We’ve used them and now keep available for times such as these.

    Sticker books

    These are a big favourite. There is a stall in a local market in the UK that sells sticker books. Whenever I’m home or anyone is coming over I beg ask them to bring a stack. All on different themes. With 20-30 pages they fit nicely into the pockets of the car seats in front of the children or into the stroller. Always something new and different in them. We reserve the 400 page mega sticker books for home or heavy-duty waiting. These little sticker books are often switched out and rotated.

    Magnetic books

    I’ve talked about Muddle Farm before and we love it in the car for the imaginary stories the boys make. They don’t always use the background and the stories are hilarious. We take an animal and start a story. Try the one where the pig goes to the beach for the day. Someone starts that story and everyone chimes in with the rest of it.

    Hangman and Memory games from Melissaanddoug

    Travel gameIt’s not always easy to play games together even though we’re altogether because we have a third row in our car so someone can’t see. So many of our activities are for one person. However memory game is successful because you can pass the board back and forth and everyone can see if you’re cheating. (such a big deal for the under 5s). The BG started with hangman at 5. We played the original version and a modified version. The modified version is he uses a book to find a word. Uses the word for his hangman so he knows the word and its letters. He had to have a go at saying it too.

    Audio books

    We have a few Barefoot Books story CD’s and Scholastic book club CD’s. Both groups have paperback books that fit in the car so the kids have many ways to interact. They can follow along or listen or read independently. I love listening to them read the stories out loud, especially the MO who’s memorised the “ping” sound to turn the page. You can also make your own audio books. We love the little engine that could and have this book in our collection. For $0.99 you can get the 7 minute download of this book from Audible kids.

    Break out the post- it notes

    Create your own art gallery and stick on the glass.

    Trace on the misty glass

    With all that heavy breathing, you are sure to have foggy windows. Make shapes, feet, bunnies on the windows using your fingers. The only problem is sticky greasy fingers but for me it’s worth it to clean the glass down the line.

    Usborne find books…

    The boys love the big books of things to spot.

    How to draw books…

    They love the thumbprint books,

    Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book: Make a World and Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Animals

    What standbys to you keep in the car for your little ones?

    Photo credit: K2D2vaca

    Getting past the Superhero and Princess play

    This is a follow up on the pretend play post to yesterdays: Getting past superheros and princesses



    Superhero and pretend play is fun. When you want to introduce a different type of play. Here's some alternatives.

    What to do?

    React and get rid of all commercial pretend play dressing up clothes
    I don’t think this would teach them anything but to covet and long for these items even more.
    Limit the amount of play with commercial dressing up clothes from licensed products
    This I now do more intentionally. Those items just disappear from their boxes for a time and the drs, vets, jesters,firemen, king costumes etc that are now lurking at the bottom get an air out and play. Yes they do ask me where their other costumes have gone with worried faces. They are old enough and used to rotation of toys that they understand that they will be back. They do come back.
    Introduce pretend play ideas
    It is never too late, in my opinion to introduce fun and new ways to play. You can turn a child’s fascination and joy into another direction by showing them new ways. Now they may not want to do or continue to do what you suggest but the willingness of you to suggest and play with them  usually is enough for them to give it a try out.

    You have to get into it and really go with your best acting skills. Your child knows you so knows when you’re being half-hearted, as we know with them. Bluff and enthusiasm covers so much doubt and our feelings of inadequacy as parents. They don’t care that your voice is off key or that your costume is lame or your story making needs more structure…………we cripple ourselves with that worry. They love the interaction.

    Here’s what I am going to try

    • Note 3 books that they love in the next week that are not to do with a superhero, which shouldn’t be too difficult given that less than 3% of our books are like that.
    • Think about the characters in those stories
    • Think about what I have around the house that I could use for the characters. With these 3 rules. Everyday items, keep it simple and easy to reproduce again.
    • When we/they read those books I’ll introduce my character with a new voice. Perhaps I’ll continue the story or go before the story.
    • Now since it’s not a mum show I’ll ask lots of questions to get them into the story. “What will happen to him next?” Where should he go? How should she do that? show me where the secret house is located? Tell me what happens next…… gradually easing out of the story and letting them continue.

    Now they have a framework of a story and how to get there from a common storybook to pretend playing in costume and role. It’s not my story and neither will I say, that’s not how it goes.

    Other things to encourage a range of role playing pretend play ideas I wish I had done at the beginning

    • Added sheets, pillow cases and lengths of material to their boxes. Shown them how the green duvet is grass today and magic carpet tomorrow.
    • Bought some ends of materials with various textures or visited the charity shops for sheets, curtains, ropes.
    • Visit the charity shops and allowed them to browse with story telling in mind. That funny shaped cup could have held a secret. Bought unusual things to add to their box.
    • Discovered Sarah’s Silks
    • Encouraged any of the places we visited like the Parent coop and preschool to encourage dressing up as characters from stories. The only dress ups actively encouraged was Halloween. Kids did come all the time dressed up in wellies or other costumes but there wasn’t a special day like World book day or a specific broad theme, like the nativity that you couldn’t sneak a superhero costume in. Although I’m sure there were a few princess costumes doubling as angel costumes.
    • Read The Case for Make Believe: Saving Play in a Commercialized World

    I do worry about their story telling abilities if they are left to play superheroes and princesses all the time.

    As parents and carers we need to be active encouraging a range of play opportunities. I’m looking for ideas. How would you and how do you deal with the Superhero/Princess invasion into their pretend play.

     

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    Getting past superhero play and princess play

    Getting past superheros and princesses

    Imaginary play, dramatic play, dressing up, dress ups, pretend play so many different names for almost the same thing.

    Do your children like to dress up?

     

    Finding time for good pretend play over at Play Activities

     

    We were lucky enough to be visiting extended family in the UK when we bought our first dressing up costume fully made.

    Before then we just pretended.
    Seeing such obvious pleasure we started receiving dressing up clothes for birthdays and Christmas with the same zeal. And so their dressing up chests began.

    But what if we had started with the basic pieces, I wonder would we be in the same situation now?

    Let me backtrack a little.

    Living in a play void

    It’s not an excuse I felt I lived in a play void.  At the time I didn’t have influencers as I do now or people who would hold me accountable for this or that style of play.

    The play around me was of the electronic kind heavy with passivity. This was the new shiny toy for everyone.

    I was new to the area and didn’t have the connections to ‘my people’ you know the ones you always find that are just like you in a new area. We were all trying our best and flitting from one thing to another.

    We take for granted what we have around us like good friends and influences but I  missed having a book section to browse. We had a great library but without books already there how do you know which books to browse if you don’t know the section or the section is empty.  So like countless mothers and women before me and since, I do the best I can with what I have, my memories and thoughts.

    Way to encourage pretend play

    • Not having much else to do . We instead read books a lot because they weren’t in short supply.
    • We liked to do voices and  act out sections by saying, ” show me how the elephant was moving through the jungle?”
    • We used everyday items as we saw them to be something. We would often hear and still hear in our house. “Hey look at this, guess what I am?/this is?” as we would have a long sleeve not yet on dangling from our nose, stooped back ( elephant)

    So we liked to fool around and pretend play.

    We didn’t however get into grabbing everyday clothes from our wardrobes.

    The kids did when they were at the grandparents house because they have amazing wardrobes that go back decades and you can find some really interesting things hidden in there. ( I still remember the platform shoes from my childhood. I used to wear. Still around for my boys)

    What changed?

    We jumped from the imaginary play that used pure imagination to costumes pretty quickly and here is where I think we missed the foundations.

    We were good at using toys to fuel our imagination and books. We played restaurants and car wash but not really characters or people. So when the costumes arrived this void was filled with superheroes in our case.

    Is this type of pretend play bad?

    Clearly they love their superheroes but their play stagnates. The superhero always wins out and saves some helpless person. While I let my sons play this, I don’t think I would be able to stop them frankly or want to, I do think this is what they crave but I do draw the line at how often they play.

    Even with the countless books we have read together and now have around them this fixed pretend play isn’t pretend play at all but rehashes of programs they have watched. In a household were TV is limited I still note how pervasive TV and marketing has taken hold in our household.

    The question is what to do next? What do you do to keep your play real? Do you actively influence the pretend play in your home? Is too much play really a bad thing?

    I’m looking for ideas. ……… one place I’ll start is with the Simple Kids post this week.

     

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    Pretend play with Superheroes and Princesses. Do they only play superheroes? There's a few things we can do to encourage other things too

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