Archives For Learning at Home

Favorite Children's Books

We love reading.

Our children love having books read to them and all three enjoy looking at books. Our homeschool curriculum is literature based. We even keep a selection of books in our van for them to ‘read’ while they’re riding.

Of course, not all children’s books are the same. There are many books out there that are considered ‘twaddle’. We prefer quality, classic children’s books that inspire and spark imaginative play!

Here’s a list of our favorite books for baby, toddlers and preschoolers as well as a few of my favorite parenting books.
Baby Books

Baby

For babies, we like simple board books with bright pictures. We really like Bright Baby books, they’re simple with big pictures for chubby little hands to point at and learn basic words. We also like books that are interactive (like touchy-feely books).

Toddler Books

Toddler

The best books for toddlers are books with bright, colorful pictures and not too much text per page. Our toddlers have all loved animals and trains so we have several of those type books on this list.

Preschool Books

Preschooler

As children grow, their attention spans begin to increase and you can start reading them books with more text per page. Of course, they’re still young children so illustrations are still very important!

 

Parenting Books

Favorite Parenting Books

While these aren’t children’s books, they all have been inspiring to me as a parent of young children and I wanted to share my favorites!

What are your favorite children’s books? (I love book recommendations!) Are some of your favorites on this list?

Disclosure – This post contains affiliate links.

Here’s a glimpse into a day in my life as a stay at home mama of two (with one on the way!) on January 30, 2014:

Good Morning Boys

8:00 :: I’ve been lying quietly awake in bed for a few minutes and our boys come in our room right at 8:00. (This was one of the rare nights that we didn’t have one or both of them in the bed with us!) They wake up ready to go while their daddy and I aren’t quite as enthusiastic about starting our day. They crawl in bed with us for a few minutes before going to play. I read a little before they come back in the room ready to eat. We spend a few minutes talking to baby who is going crazy in my belly before I get out of bed to head to the kitchen to make smoothies.

Morning Smoothie

9:00 :: I’m finishing up my yummy strawberry mango smoothie while fixing eggs for breakfast and unloading the dishwasher. After making more eggs for Paxton, I finally make myself an omelet and sit down and eat it while the boys start playing. Hubby leaves for work around 9:30 (Thursday’s are his late day so he typically leaves later on Thursday mornings.) I go make beds and start a load of laundry before heading back to the kitchen to clean up.

Washing Dishes

10:00 :: Back in the kitchen washing breakfast dishes. Once the dishes are washed, my morning routine is finished! The boys are independently playing together so I head to my computer to check e-mail and write a little.

Brothers Playing

11:00 :: The boys are still happily playing together! I peek in on them and make sure everything is okay and nothing has been destroyed. They want to keep on playing so I take some time to look over finances and write out a to do list for my day. About 30 minutes after this peaceful photo was taken, an argument happened and both boys come running to me crying. I decide cuddling up and reading is the best way to calm everybody down.

Reading

12:00 :: We’re finishing up our chapter in Farmer Boy. We’ve been reading this book over the past few weeks and the boys really are enjoying it – especially Paxton. They’ve been pretending they’re Royal and Almanzo the past few days – it’s adorable. Once we finish up this chapter, I head to the kitchen to start heating up lunch and then pop outside to move laundry from the washer to the dryer. We sit down and eat our lunch – leftovers beans and cornbread – Paxton eats 3 servings of beans and was so excited we had beans for lunch!

Reading Milly Molly Mandy

1:00 :: Lunch is finished and we’re sitting down to read a chapter in The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook. We received this book from Nannie last week and they’re really enjoying this one too! We end up reading two chapters before rest time. At 1:30, Paxton heads to the playroom with a stack of books and Weston heads to their room with a book, his barn and a few animals. Weston reads and plays before coming out around 1:55 saying “I not tired” which really means, “I’m tired, mama rock me.” We sit down and start rocking.

Napping Boy

2:00 :: Weston is sleeping. We’ve been trying over the past few weeks to get him to nap on his own. We’ve had a few successes but most days I end up rocking him. (Hopefully he’ll start napping on his own within the next month!) With Weston sleeping and Paxton quietly playing, I sit down to start working on our meal plan for the next few weeks.

Meal Planning3:00 :: Meal planning and looking for some new recipes. Paxton finishes his rest time at 3:30 and joins me in my room. He colors while I continue working on the meal plan. (And, the amount of time it is taking makes me want to start using a bi-weekly meal plan again!) Weston wakes up around 3:50. He’s cranky and wants to be held so I hold him.

Snack Time4:00 :: Both boys are hungry so I fix them a snack of homemade bread with apple butter. They received a package in the mail from their Mimi which was a loaf of bread! (Paxton was FaceTiming with her the other day while she was baking bread and asked for some, so she sent him a loaf!) He was so, so excited to open his package of bread! We FaceTime with Mimi while they’re snacking. Once we say goodbye to Mimi, we start the process of bundling up to head outside to play in the snow (which is mostly gone by now.)

Playing Outside5:00 :: The boys are having a blast outside in the ‘snow’. They don’t want to come in. We take off all their layers and then I start supper. Since John David works late on Thursdays, we often do snack suppers. Tonight the boys had bread, cheese, apple and orange slices and cubed avocado while I made nachos out of leftover pinto beans, cheese and avocado.

Remains of Dinner6:00 :: Dinner time is over and the area is a disaster! I decide to make a strawberry sorbet as a little dessert and we eat and enjoy that. Then I start cleaning up in the dining room and kitchen – sweeping, washing dishes and putting things away.

Clean Kitchen

7:00 :: The kitchen is tidy and it’s time to pick up in the living room and playroom to complete our evening routine. Once we finish tidying, it’s time to take our FCLO (fermented cod liver oil), brush teeth, put on pajamas, read bedtime stories, say prayers and go to bed. We follow this routine every night and they don’t let us skip a step! Tonight we read about Noah in The Jesus Storybook Bible and our last chapter in The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook. I leave and the boys fall asleep easily tonight. (Always a blessing on daddy’s late night!)

Sleeping Boys

8:00 :: Two sleeping boys! I finally finish my meal plan, make out my grocery list and start writing this blog post while waiting for my hubby to get home.

So, that’s how I spent 8 am to 8 pm in January 2014. Other than my husband working late, today was a pretty typical weekday for us. Monday-Thursdays are pretty much the same with Friday, Saturday and Sunday being a bit less structured due to daddy being off and going to church.

A Day in My Life Posts from previous years:

January 2012

January 2013

*As I was scrolling through these posts from the last two years, I noticed that I happen to be wearing the same flannel shirt this year as I was last year! (Proof of my minimal wardrobe!) I love this shirt…it’s almost too small for me thanks to my growing belly but it’s so comfortable. And, Weston wore the same pants that Paxton wore in the 2012 post…yay for hand-me-downs!

Linked to A Day in the Life of… at Simply Rebekah

*This post contains affiliate links.

Gifts to Encourage Creativity

With Christmas quickly approaching, many parents and grandparents are thinking about gifts for the children in their lives.

Many toys that are given to children at Christmas are quickly forgotten, but some gifts have staying power. Classic, open ended toys encourage creativity in young children and are played with for months and often times years.

Here are some of our favorite toys:

Blocks

Blocks

You really can’t go wrong with blocks. A nice set of blocks is a simple toy that will be used over and over for so many different things from towers to bridges to play food. We gave our older son a set of Uncle Goose Alphabet Blocks for his first Christmas and they’re still being played with almost 3 years later. We added to that original set when our younger son was given a set of Uncle Goose Number Blocks last Christmas.

In addition to our wooden blocks, we also enjoy the sets of foam building blocks and Building Blocks (like Mega Bloks or Duplos) that we have.

Dress Up

Dress Up Clothes

My boys love dressing up. We have a small collection of dress up items like train hats, superhero capes and a pirate outfit. They really enjoy pulling out the dress up bin and engaging in pretend play. One of the favorites is the Melissa & Doug Pirate Costume, it’s a high quality dress up set that has been played with countless times over the past year and will used for many years to come.

Wooden Train Tracks

Wooden Train Sets

When our older son started showing an interest in trains, we chose wooden train tracks over plastic. We felt the wooden tracks were more open ended and encouraged creativity more than the plastic ones (especially electric trains) available.

You can purchase inexpensive wooden train tracks at various places but we chose to go with the Thomas Wooden Railway. It is expensive but we started out with a Starter Set which included 2 trains and a caboose, he received a track expansion pack and 3 engines as gifts last Christmas from grandparents and another engine for his birthday. Over a year has passed since the initial train set purchase and both boys are still playing with the track and engines and that’s what he wants again this Christmas.

In addition to the creative train play, building the track requires engineering. He’s so proud of the different track set ups he creates and I’m often blown away by what he has created.

We forsee playing with these train tracks for years to come. And, trains aren’t just for boys! Most little girls love trains too – so don’t buy into the gender stereotypes!

Art Supplies

Art Supplies

Art supplies definitely encourage creativity – and big messes! We don’t have a ton of art supplies but big pad of construction paper, colored pencils, fingerpaints, paint and paint brushes goes a long way in helping kids embrace their inner artist. Both of our boys love doing ‘art stuff’. And, art supplies are a consumable gift!

Musical Instruments

Musical Instruments

Our older son loves music. He received his first drum and guitar on his second Christmas and those two toys are still being played with and providing music for our family jam sessions! We added a small wooden drum for little brother last Christmas. Other favorites include the child size child drum kit and our xylophone.

Puzzles

Puzzles

For toddlers, Melissa & Doug Chunky Puzzles are wonderful. The large pieces are easy for little hands to maneuver plus they make fun toys too. We also like Melissa & Doug Wooden Puzzles and have a few Thomas The Tank Engine Wooden Puzzles. The wooden puzzles hold up much better than cardboard puzzles – especially if a younger sibling decides to chew on them!

Books

Books

While books aren’t exactly toys, they certainly inspire creativity and can be the starting point for inspiring creative play. My boys will role play favorite characters and act out their favorite stories.

A few of our very favorite books:

If you’re still looking for gifts for young children, hopefully this list helps you find a wonderful gift to encourage creativity!

*This post contains affiliate links.

Grocery Shopping with Little Ones

When I was expecting my first baby, I often thought about how I would manage running errands and grocery shopping by myself with a baby.

Once my first son was several weeks old, I finally worked up the courage to go grocery shopping by myself. It wasn’t necessarily easy but it wasn’t as big of a deal as I had made it out to be.

Now, grocery shopping involves two little ones (soon to be three) and I’ve learned a few tricks along the way.

Tips for Grocery Shopping with Baby:

  • Invest in a comfortable baby carrier. Wearing your baby is the easiest way to grocery shop. This frees up all the space in your cart for groceries. (My favorite carriers: Baby K’tan for small babies and Boba Classic Baby Carrierfor larger infants and toddlers.)
  • Park near a cart return. If you prefer keeping your baby in their infant seat, you can grab a cart before going in so you don’t have to lug that heavy seat all the way in the store! When you are done shopping, you can quickly return the cart and stay close to your vehicle.
  • Avoid taking in the entire diaper bag. A bulky diaper bag takes up valuable grocery space in your cart. I carry a small backpack as my purse so I’ll stash a burp cloth and a diaper, wipes and wet bag in there instead of the entire diaper bag.
  • Have realistic expectations. You are shopping with a tiny person in tow so grocery shopping is not as simple as it was before baby.
  • Use every inch of your grocery cart. If you do leave baby in the infant seat, it really is amazing how much you can fit in the cart around your baby. The bottom of the cart has tons of room and small items can fit around the sides of the carrier!
  • Be organized. Write your grocery list out with thought to where items were in the store, it makes your trip through the store more efficient and eliminates back tracking.

Tips for Grocery Shopping with Toddlers/Preschoolers:

  • Use the car carts. These carts are fabulous! Yes, they seem to weigh a ton (especially when loaded down with 60 pounds of children) and are difficult to push but they make grocery shopping fun for little ones and easier for mama.
  • Teach your preschooler to walk along side you. There are stores where car carts and 2 seater carts are not available. In these situations, my 3-year-old walks alongside me. He ‘helps’ me push the cart and assists in putting things into the cart. I started teaching him to walk alongside me when he was a little over 2 and while it’s definitely not the easiest way to shop with little ones, it’s also not a nightmare!
  • Give yourself plenty of time. Grocery shopping with little ones just takes longer than shopping without. The worst thing is trying to do all the shopping in a short amount of time.
  • Be flexible. Almost every trip to the grocery stores involves someone saying “I have to pee pee” about halfway through. Or brothers fighting in the car cart and needing to be separated. The key is to expect that these things are going to happen and be flexible when they do!
  • Don’t give in to requests. My kids sometimes ask for things but I simply tell them no and it doesn’t involve a tantrum because I never started the habit of purchasing treats and other things they want.
Be Flexible

Grocery trips frequently involve reminding my children to keep their hands and feet inside of the cart! Remember – be flexible!

These tips are what works for me when it comes to grocery shopping with my children. I don’t get stressed out about bringing them along and for the most part, they behave quite well and grocery shopping isn’t a task that I dread.

What are your tips for shopping with little ones?

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