Friday, May 31, 2013

{Project 101} Weekly Library Challenge: Construction + Michael J. Fox...

If you follow the blog, you know all about Project 101, the Weekly Library Challenge, where I share a library book that has been a favorite of the boys from the past week and a library book that I have been reading that week. By the end of the year, 101 library books will have been featured in honor of the fact that the County of Los Angeles Public Library (our library) is celebrating its 101st birthday. 
Two weeks ago, we shared 100+ children's books related to transportation, and I cannot believe we managed to leave The Construction Crew by Lynn Metzer off the list. We have checked it out from the library before, but like it so much that we checked it out again. Of course, Wild Thing (3.5) and Caterpillar (almost 2) love seeing all the different types of trucks featured in the book, particularly the truck with the wrecking ball, and enjoy watching the construction crew build and paint. Something I appreciate about the book is the diversity of the construction works, not only ethnically but in regard to gender and age as well. I appreciate that their are female construction workers and workers with grey beards. If you have not read this book, add it to your library list. 

In terms of what I have been reading lately, in a rush at the library I grabbed A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned by Michael J. Fox, a book intended for recent high school or college grads. Even though graduation was long ago for me, I still enjoyed the book, especially the little insights into Fox's life and experiences as an actor, particularly since I am an independent filmmaker living outside of Los Angeles with friends who are actors. I appreciated his recounting of wrapping up a season of Family Ties while also shooting Back to the Future with a wife who was due to have their first baby at any moment. I completely related to this type of madness as a mom who produced SMUGGLED, our latest feature film, which my husband wrote, directed and shot, while I was 7+ months pregnant. I also had Wild Thing (then 18-19 months) by my side every step of the way. (This is how he first gained an affinity for cameras!) I connected with the reality that sometimes as an artist, you find yourself stretching the limits of possibility. However, as I see the ways our family shares the joys and struggles of life as independent filmmakers, I realize I wouldn't have it any other way.
Wild Thing on set with us during the filming of Smuggled.
My husband and I with Caterpillar (then 5 months)
+ our lead actor and his mother at the World Premiere of Smuggled.
Wild Thing and Daddy at the Big Bear International Film Festival,
one of 15 festivals Smuggled was shown at.
The whole family at the Latino Book & Family Festival recently with the film.
What are your passions? How do you share them with your children? Oh, and of course, what books did you read this week? I want to know! Please share in the comments or on Facebook.

Shared at:
Kid Lit Blog Hop

Thursday, May 30, 2013

{Kid's Co-Op} Fun Summer Learning Activities to Help Get Your Child Ready for Preschool

This time of year brings graduation photos of all types, including lots of preschool graduation photos on Facebook, which are SO CUTE!! It also, for many of us, involves enrolling our children in preschool for next year for the first time. I recently had my enrollment meeting with the supervisor of the preschool that Wild Thing will attend in August and, of course, she went over some of the things that they expect the children to be able to do -- many of these things are not academic, but rather involve a certain level of independence in the child (like getting dressed by themselves). This got me thinking -- are there things I can do this summer to get my child ready for the big day on August 12th? The answer, of course, is yes! Plus, I realize, these things can be fun or, as Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool suggests I can fill his summer with experiences that will engage him and prepare, while he has fun. (By the way, Deborah as over 25 years of early childhood education experience and a really cool blog, and if you have a child that finished preschool, Deborah has some great tips about preparing your child for Kindergarten too!)  

I asked her for some tips on preparing a child for their preschool experience and selected some posts from the Kid's Co-Op last week that I thought might be helpful. Plus, you should check out this cool post of hers on 10 ways to use pool noodles for learning and play

For every child, the preschool experience will be a little different depending on where the child is emotionally, socially, physically, and cognitively which also means 'getting ready for preschool' will be a little different for every child. As you consider ideas to help your child prepare for a successful preschool experience, consider the following tips...
1. Think in terms of "experiences" instead of "projects." They don't have to be big and elaborate experiences. Simple and fun experiences such as pouring a pitcher of water into cups can build strong skills in eye-hand coordination (aiming for the cup), fine motor control (holding and pouring at the same time), daily life skills (pouring his own juice), critical thinking (how much is too much or too little), self regulation (should I stop or keep going?) and more. (Jenni adds - I love this water pouring post from Living Montessori Now).
2. For each experience you plan, ask yourself - "In what way(s) might this experience help my child grow physically, emotionally, socially, or cognitively?"
3. Throughout the experience, be there to provide guidance or encouragement where needed but at the same time, step back and give your child some space to explore, make decisions, make mistakes, and self-adjust.
4. For every experience you share with your child, get into the practice of being an observer of your child's interests, preferences, decision-making, independence, and confidence in participating and managing those experiences.
As you help your child prepare for the journey through preschool remember that positive, fun, and open ended experiences will help to build your child's confidence and, with time, master new skills that are appropriate for his or her development.
Teach Preschool

Here's my Kid's Co-Op picks: Simple & Easy Ideas for Building Toddler Self-Help Skills from A Simple PlannerLessons Learnt Journal's Rainbow Writing, which I want to try with Wild Thing because I think it will build his confidence as he sometimes fears messing up and will not try writing because of this. 

I also know many parents that worry about little ones knowing their numbers and letters, so I thought I would share these fun number and letter learning activities from last week as well: Counting and Numbers Games from KZ and MELetter Learning Activities from fun-a-day and The Kavanaugh Report - Tot School Letter L.

Sharing at: Sharing SaturdayStress-Free Sunday, The Sunday Showcase, Tuesday Tots, Mom's Library.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

{Project 101} Weekly Library Challenge: 5 Beach Books for Mamas (and perhaps some Papas too)

Recently, I fell behind with Project 101, the Weekly Library Challenge, where I share a favorite book that the boys have been reading from the library that week and one book that I have been reading too. First, it was Screen Free Week so I didn't post, then travel to Chicago  for a family get-together, and then my laptop died. This meant that for three weeks I did not share any books. I began the process of making up for it a week ago when I shared 100 of our favorite transportation books for the boys. Now to get caught up on what I have been reading from the library, I am sharing five of my recent library favorites as beach reads (or everyday books) that I think parents would enjoy and appreciate - each book, in its own way, underscores the importance and joy that comes from embracing the time we have with our families -- a perfect thing to be reminded of as summer approaches and the days are longer, school is out and family time can be savored. Here's 5 picks (4 of which I read recently):

Gumy, Otters, Autism, and Love from His Extraordinary Son by Tom Fields-Meyer is a great book for all parents, not just parents of a child with autism, though in it the author lovingly chronicles 10 years of his son Ezra's life, and Ezra is autistic. What attracted me to this book at the library was the front cover, but what hooked me was the description on the back over. The father is told by a therapist that he should grieve for the child his son didn’t turn out to be. However, Fields-Meyer’s response was quite the opposite, as the back cover states, his response was to “love the child Ezra was, a quirky boy with a fascinating and complex mind.” It shows how the family (and Ezra himself) learns to celebrate the positive aspects of autism, like Ezra’s superhuman memory and zest for life. It reminds me to celebrate all that my boys are. As a parent, I appreciate the message that rings clear in the book of the importance of embracing and loving our children as they are -- now that does not mean we do not nurture them, guide them and discipline them when necessary -- but the book demonstrates the importance of letting children be who they are, rather than weighing them down with our own hopes and dreams as their parents. I was lovingly reminded to follow my children through each childhood obsession and to nurture them as develop hopes and dreams of their own. 

I always value peeks into another parent’s world. It reminds me of both the familiar aspects of parenthood that we all experience and of the uniqueness of parenthood as every child and family is truly different. I am reminded that every parent feels overwhelmed and lost at times as well as fully in control and at the top of their game, embarrassed by their child’s behavior at some point and extremely proud in another, which reminds me to refrain from judging other parents. That moment when a child is throwing a tantrum is simple that, a moment. It tells me nothing about that parent or that family. For all of these reasons and many more, I hope you add Following Ezra to your reading list. This book tenderly and beautifully reminded me to embrace my own little Wild Thing and Caterpillar. (P.S. Following Ezra is the book I finished most recently, thus the longer write-up and review!) 

Amy Krouse Rosenthal also gives us a peek into her life as a parent. You are probably more familiar with Amy Krouse Rosenthal through her children's books, like Duck! Rabbit!, a favorite of ours. However, she also writes books for adults and The Mother's Guide to the Meaning of Life is an easy read that I like because you can pick it up and read it in spurts and sections enjoying the little gems and joys, struggles and challenges of motherhood that she shares, which I am sure you will relate to just as I did. This book also helped me to let go and accept myself a bit more as a mama. Not surprisingly, since mother's tend to be champion multi-taskers, multi-tasking comes up a lot in the book, and while I do my fair share of it, I did decide at the beginning of 2013 to try and limit multi-tasking, instead slowing down to make sure I am focusing on one thing at a time, as much as possible, to improve ability to be present to my family and life.

The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons by Amanda Blake Soule of Soule Mama ( written with Stephen Soule, her husband, is a book that helps exactly with that goal -- slowing down, savoring each season, each moment and each experience with our families as she provides different activities that families can do and items families can make for each month of the year. May focuses on flower activities, and this book got a previous Project 101 shout out

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver is another book that encourages a focus on family time and slowing down to savor the seasons and moments of our lives together. For the Kingsolver family this happens through food, which I completely relate to as someone who loves to cook. In November, our family made a commitment to family dinner unplugged, and we love it. With warm weather and summer approaching, this often means dinner outside that is cooked on the grill with the boys playing the backyard as we eat. The book always inspires me to cook more and to work harder to eat seasonally and locally. Though I have read it before, I found revisiting it now quite beneficial. Summer is a perfect time to start a habit of eating seasonally and of sharing unplugged meals together as a family, since seasonal summer fruits and vegetables are plentiful and delicious almost anywhere that you live.

To round out what I have been reading lately as part of the Weekly Library Challenge I am sharing a book that took me back to my own childhood: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Mervyn Peake with introductions by Will Self and Zadie Smith. (You can read any version you like, but I did appreciate the introductions offered in this version and that both Alice stories were combined in one book). 

It amazed me how much my memory was full of the movies, rather than the book, except for Jabberwocky, the playful poem in Through The Looking Glass that I so vividly remembered reading as a child. What Carroll does so well in these stories is capture the essence of childhood -- full of imagination, playfulness and larger than life make-believe. Remembering that and celebrating it through this book renews my own sense of wonder and helps me join my sons in their spirited and imaginative explorations of the world around them. Pick up any childhood chapter book that you loved and take it with you to the beach this summer. Or,  depending on the age of your child, read it aloud together. 

Lastly, of course, I do have to share a book that the boys have been enjoying lately. Leo Leonni was the May author of the Virtual Book Club for Kids, and we shared various activities we did with Little Blue and Little Yellow.  Another Leonni book the boys have been enjoying is A Color of His Own about a chameleon who desperately wants a color of his own. To go with this book, I really love the water color painting and color matching activity that Stir The Wonder shared as part of the Virtual Book Club for Kids link-up this month. 

And, just in case you missed it, we shared a Summer Reading List for little ones on the blog recently too. 

Do you have a book I should add to my library list? How about a suggestion for a great beach book for me this summer or your favorite childhood chapter book? Please share! 

{The Weekly Kid's Co-Op} Summer Reading List

Last week, The Weekly Kid's Co-Op was full of great book lists and book-related activities. I have been adding many new books to our library list to get ready for summer reading. So, I have rounded up some of the best book list/activities posts from last week to help you build your summer reading list too. I find that having "new" books on hand in the summer is a big hit, especially for reading at the park, on car trips or even on a blanket in the backyard.

Children's Book Choice Awards shared by Pragmatic Mom provides top books in several age ranges. Her site is a great resource for compiling a summer reading list for your child.

Happy Birthday Author shared a number of Adam Rex books, which I am definitely adding to our library list as well as a cool way to extend Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, and his site is another great resource for children's books.

JDaniel4's Mom shared 18 of their favorite books and related activities. Her site is a major go-to for me when looking for creative ways to extend books and for new books for our library list. On her list, Eating the Alphabet: Fruits and Vegetables from A-Z by Lois Ehlers is a great book to use this summer if you have a little one beginning to learn their letters. I love that it includes upper and lower case letters and have found that both of my boys engaged really well with the book. 

Jenny Evolution shared a round-up of Caldecott Children's Book Award Winners and Honor Recipients for the past 12 years (2000-2012). The list includes many of our favorites like Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity by Mo Willems, Gone Wild by David McLimas, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus also by Mo Willems (in fact he has 3 on the list, so when in doubt, get a Mo Willems book!) and Olivia by Ian Falconer (we are fans of Olivia books around here). I actually recently added Flotsam to my list when KC Edventures shared it has the Picture Book of the Day

Under God's Might Hand shared 5 Favorite Goodnight Picture Books, including two books by Sandra Boynton who we recently discovered at our house and love. Our favorite goodnight book by her is The Going To Bed Book

And Next Comes L shared a cool activity she did with Chicka Chicka 123 by Bill Martin Jr., Michael Sampson and Lois Ehlert. Not only does the activity look great, but this books definitely needs to be added to our library list for summer reading.

Fun A Day shared many classic and new to us books as she featured What We're Reading Now for Children's Book Week. From her list, we especially like Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert, Elmer by David McKee, and Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site.

KC Edventures shared books that connect with real life with many book suggestions focused on sea life, which are perfect for summer beach trips! Plus, she also shared a round-up of Summer Reading Programs.

Fantastic Fun and Learning shared Leo Lionni Books and Resources as Lionni was the featured author of the Virtual Book Club for Kids this month. The VBCK is a great way to discover new authors and books and get ideas for extending books for young readers. We have loved being part of it. Our favorite Lionni books we've been reading this month are Little Blue and Little Yellow and A Color of His Own.

Buggy and Buddy shared 3 Books to Inspire Confidence and Creativity: Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg, Not A Box by Antoinette Portis, and Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. All three are at the top of our reading list!

Sunlit Pages shared 3 books her 4 year-old loves right now: Doodleday by Ross Collins, Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman and When A Dragon Moves In

This should give you a good head-start with your summer reading list for your little one. Plus, we shared 100+ Transportation Books last week so check it out if you missed it for even more great books to add to your list. We are heavy library users and share what we are reading weekly each Saturday as part of Project 101: Weekly Library Challenge

I keep track of my reading list through my Library List Pinterest board, so make sure you are following that Pinboard for great book recommendations. I also often discover many new books at The Children's Bookshelf and the Kid Lit Blog Hop. What Do We Do All Day, a co-host of The Children's Bookshelf, is another go-to blog for me for books and activities.

Sharing at: Share It Saturday!  The Sunday Showcase, Mom's Library, Tuesday TotsRead.Explore.Learn, and Kid Lit Blog Hop.         

Happy Reading! I would love to know what your child's favorite book is right now -- please share!! (Leave a note in the comments or pop over to The Good Long Road on FB.) 

Monday, May 20, 2013

{Virtual Book Club for Kids} My Little Boys with Little Blue and Little Yellow - Move, Eat, Draw and Learn with Leo Leonni

With all of our Virtual Book Club for Kids posts, we like to move, eat, draw and learn with our selected book. Check out all the fun we had with little blue and little yellow by Leo Lionni. 

1. Move - This book provides lots of movement play inspiration and ideas -- perfect for a playdate where your little one and their best friend wear blue and yellow. Like the friends in the book, kids can play Hide-and-Seek, Ring-a-Ring-O'Roses, tag or even climb a mountain. 

2. Eat - We made a yellow, green and blue fruit salad (pineapple, honeydew and blueberries). But the big hit, of course, were our little blue and little yellow cookies inspired by various pages of the book: the 1st page with little blue only, then (a few pages later) little blue and little yellow together, then the Ring-a-Ring-O'Roses page, and the colors running and plying after school followed by (skipping to the end) yellow and blue making green and then just green (the last page). We also had a cookie of green chasing orange, but Wild Thing ate that one straight away. When I asked him to get the candies for the cookies, I would ask him for the color that I needed in Spanish to practice our Spanish vocabulary. He thought our book-inspired cookie making activity was so much fun!

3. Draw - We did ice painting using blue and yellow ice cubes. The boys loved the sensory component. Of course,as the two colors merged their ice art experiments turned green.

4. Learn - We also did some primary color learning through fun water play - perfect for siblings or a play date. I gave Wild Thing a bottle with blue colored water and Caterpillar a bottle with yellow colored water with some bubbles mixed in. The boys would squirt their colored bubble water into a tray, and as they played together, of course, they got green. Beyond learning about colors, they are also learning the value of sharing, growing and playing together -- this is the wonderful message present in this book: that even though individuals can be quite different and unique from one another, together they can often create something cool and wonderful (like a new color).

BONUS LEARN + PLAY ACTIVITIES: a sensory bin and a Spanish language learning adventure in the making... 

We have an evolving sensory bin, which we started at Christmas, then transformed for St. Patrick's Day, Easter, and (now) little blue and little yellow. Many of our green buttons and green "grass" (green dyed pasta) has been depleted by so much play (and a recent travel adventure in which we brought the bin along in a plastic baggie), but I had enough green buttons and such left to make it work. I removed most of the non-green items and added in some blue circles (milk caps) and yellow circles I cut out from yellow mini muffin liners.I also added some yellow and blue paper shreds that came in our Easter package from grandma. Wild Thing uses these items to retell much of the story (the shreds become the yellow and blue tears that little green cries). He also likes to pull out a blue circle, then a yellow circle. Then, he will stack them together and cover them with a large green button to represent their transformation. With Caterpillar, I use the bin to reinforce his colors and for shape learning. (Wild Thing is 3.5 and Caterpillar is almost 2).

Finally, together Wild Thing, Daddy and I are making a Spanish version of the book (an abbreviated version). It is helping Wild Thing and I learn new Spanish vocabulary words. I liked the idea of using this book since it builds upon our knowledge of the colors in Spanish, which Wild Thing now knows quite well. Plus, Wild Thing will be creating the art for the book. I think we will finish the book by the end of the week, and we will be sure to share it!

Are you a Leo Lionni fan? What is your favorite book of his? Or, do you have a favorite color mixing activity? I would love it if you shared it! 

Shared at: The Children's Bookshelf, Mom's Library, Montessori Monday, It's Playtime! Artsy Play Wednesday, Share It Saturday!, The Sunday ShowcaseRead.Explore.Learn and Eco-Kid Tuesday, Stress-Free Sunday                 


Friday, May 17, 2013

{2 for 1} Kid's Co-Op & Weekly Library Challenge: 100+ Children's Book Featuring Things That Go + Transportation Play Ideas

In this post, I am hoping/trying to make up for being so absentee. It started with Screen Free Week at the end of April and beginning of May, which was followed by a trip to Chicago for a week for a family get-together during which time my laptop went completely bonkers!! (I have had it for 6 years, but still...) My new one will arrive on Wednesday, and I am lucky enough to be able to use a work laptop that is currently not needed for any of our youth programs. In short, though, this leaves me 3 weeks behind with The Weekly Library Challenge! Yikes!! So, I am sharing way more than three library books the boys have been reading in order to make up for it. I am sharing 100 of our favorite transportation books, plus some great transportation play and learning ideas from The Kid's Co-Op last week. This means, that next week, I will share 4 library books that I have been reading to get caught up. Hoping I can do it. 

For the transportation books, there are two authors in particular whose books we get at the library quite often: Leo Timmers and Byron Barton. Both have many great transportation books, such as: Vroom! Toot! and Who's Driving by Timmers and Planes, My Car, Boats, Trucks, Trains, and Machines at Work by Barton. The Timmers books are the ones we have been reading lately, and we are not the only ones who are Barton fans. Theresa of Capri+3 also loves Barton and shared this great post about Trucks. (With those 2 authors we already have 9 books shared). And Next Comes L also loves Barton. Another transportation book that is favorite or hers is Dragon in a Wagon by Jane Bell Moncure. (That makes 10)

Now to get specific: we love trains at our house, so let's get into all of the wonderful children's book that highlight trains: Freight Trains by Donald Crews (which is also great for color sorting activities). Carolyn of The Pleasantest Thing shares our love for this book. Of course, there is also The Little Engine That Could, a classic from Watty Piper, I'm Fast by Kate and Jim McMullen, Tootle by Gertrude Crampton, All Aboard the Dinotrain by Deb Lund, Trainstop by Barbara Lehman and Go Train Go! and Stop Train Stop!, which are both Thomas the Tank Engine Beginner Books. Jessica from Play-Trains is always sharing great train books and says that The Train to Glasgow is one of her favorite read-aloud train books. We shared many of these books and play, learning, snack time and other fun train ideas in our popular Things That Go Series - Trains Edition. (19 books and counting).

If you have a truck lover, we have got you covered there as well: The Little  Blue Truck is loved by many (Stir the Wonder reminded me of this wonderful book), Trucks Roll, My Big Truck Book,You Can Name 100 Trucks, Diggers and Dumpers, Truck by Donald Crew, Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, and Snow Sounds are all books that my boys love. School Time Snippets recommends the classic Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (that makes 24). Of course, fire trucks get a mention all their own and our Ten for Tuesday post we did for Fire Prevention Week remains the most popular on my blog. In the post, we share 10 fire truck books. We also love Alphabet Rescue by Audrey Wood. Plus, we link to No Time for Flashcards who has a list of 20 wonderful firefighter books. (This brings us to 59 books -- I figured we need to speed this list up a bit...)

Now for water and air - boats and planes: T is for Tugboat, Dinosoaring and Dinosailing by Deb Lund The Little Airplane by Lois Lenski (whose books I love), Flight 1-2-3, Angela's Airplane, Airplane Flight, The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont, A Plane Goes Ka-Zoom, and I'm Here by Peter H. Reynolds. Rachel of Nate and Rachel recommends Richard Scarry's A Day At the Airport, which I remember from my own childhood. Plus, Fly High! and The Hallelujah Flight are great for sharing the history of flight with your kids, and  Pragmatic Mom has a great list of the Best Books for Girls focused on Girls who Dare to Fly. (This brings us to 86 when I include her 14 books...almost there...) 

No Things That Go book list would be complete without Cars and Buses! Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (of course) by Mo Willems, The Bus Stop by Janet Morgan Stoeke, School Bus (another fabulous Donald Crews book), Bus Stops by Taro Gomi, and Royal Baloo has some other great bus books and activities. These make 92, and we still have some more favorite car books to share: Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, another Richard Scarry classic, Cars (Little Golden Book edition), Meet the Cars (Disney/Pixar book that we recently got from the library that tells you about every car in the Cars franchise - Wild Thing loved it, but it wore me out!), and Go Dog Go! by P.D. Eastman make 96. We will round it out to well over 100 with 9 books about Things That Go in Space! Whew! Please say all of these book suggestions make up for 2 absentee weeks from Project 101: Weekly Library Challenge. Now for some transportation fun from The Kid's Co-Op. 

These 10 activities caught my eye:

Plus, you will find lots of transportation activities through our Things That Go Series!

Shared this post at: The Children's Bookshelf, Mom's Library              

Now, enjoy The Kid's Co-op: Link Up and Play! 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Sibling Play: Sandbox!

Things have been quiet on the blog lately because of Screen Free Week last week and travel and extended family time this week. Knowing that I would have less time for the blog I asked Maryann from Mama Smiles if she would be interested in writing a guest post on sibling play, since I always find such great sibling moments, play ideas and activities on her wonderful blog. I am happy to share her post on siblings and sand play! 

My kids are pretty good friends, but they get along best when we are outdoors - and getting them set up at the sandbox is one of the easiest ways to initiate outside play time! 

Sandboxes are pretty amazing - they can entertain babies through any age, so long as you are willing to let yourself play. After all, who doesn't love the beach - nature's most beautiful sandbox!

You don't need much to build a sandbox. We found our current one for free at the curb, but before that we used an underbed storage bin - it's a great size for a couple of toddlers, and the lid closes securely! You can also use two-by-fours to build one, if you are handy. My parents once dug a sandbox into the yard, and lined it with concrete blocks for one of our homes; another time they built a sandbox around the base of a large oak tree using stones and concrete. We loved playing among the roots of the tree, shaded generously by its leaves! When the leaves fell off the tree in the fall, we simply incorporated them into our play!

My kids don't have a tree above their sandbox, but that doesn't stop them from adding in sticks, grass, and leaves! They also like to bring small plastic mini figures into the sandbox for all sorts of adventures. Fairies, knights, dragons, dinosaurs - there is plenty of room for everyone when it comes to pretend play! Adding water to the sandbox adds to the possibilities!

How do your kids play together in the sandbox? Do they add things to the sand, or keep it simple?

MaryAnne lives near Boston, Massachusetts with her husband Mike and their four children. She has degrees in Education, Medicine and Music, and she’s taught everything from piano lessons and French to research methodology and ethics courses. Before starting her family she spent most of her time teaching and learning. Now, as a stay-at-home mother, she enjoys the learning, creativity, and play that happen naturally in a young child's everyday life, which she shares on her blog, For creative inspiration, follow her on Pinterest and Twitter at @MamaSmiles.

Sharing at: Mom's Library, It's Playtime! After-School Link-Up              

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