Top Ten Books About the Moon For Young Readers

One of my favorite units to teach in second grade was an integrated Language Arts and Science unit on the moon. We studied legends and folktales about the moon from around the world and learned about the Native American names for all the full moons. We tracked the moon visually over the course of the month and learned the names for the phases. My second graders were voracious word-collectors and loved the sounds of waxing, waning and gibbous.
In honor of this week’s Supermoon and full lunar eclipse event, I invite you to explore some of my favorite book resources on the moon. Both fiction and non-fiction are on the list below…but even the fiction books have quite a bit factual content about our closest celestial neighbor!

Best Moon Books For Kids

Simple Crafts to Celebrate Autumn (Even If Your Leaves Don't Change Color)

A roundup of simple leaf crafts for southern folks -- colorful leaves not required!

I always feel bad for the folks down south when fall arrives. Come winter I wish I lived there where it's warmer, but autumn is glorious in the Northeastern US. Judging by what's popular on Pinterest, it seems everyone wants to welcome the season with pumpkins, Indian corn and colored leaves in tones of red, orange and gold. Here's how to do just that when you don't have colorful fall leaves of your own to work with:

Autumn Leaf Banner with Coffee Filters and Liquid Watercolors

Leaf Mobile with Wax Paper and Crayon Shavings

Autumn Trivets with Tissue Paper, Mod-Podge and Porcelain Tiles

and finally because all leaves are beautiful, no matter their size or propensity to change color:

Leaf Creatures Inspired by Look What I Made With a Leaf by Morteza Sohi


Countdown to Supermoon!

Finally! A space event we can see in our neck of the woods (or portion of the hemisphere). With the eclipse starting at 8:11, even littles can enjoy the fascinating sight as the LARGEST moon of the year is covered in shadow. We're going space themed all week because I love the topic and there's so many amazing things to share. Here's a little perspective for today, a scale model of the solar system. At seven miles, it's very impressive. Earth is literally the blue marble in the model!


Read My Interview at "Artful Parent!"


JEAN:  Why do you believe creativity is important to foster in our children?
REGINA:  Wow. This is a loaded question!
You’d think that as someone with a computer science degree I’d say, it’s not. We’re living in an information driven society, why do we need colored pencils, paint or music in our classrooms — shouldn’t we just focus on building competent computer and information literacy skills?
I feel just the opposite. Even if you push aside the joy, pleasure the intrinsic “humanness” that results from creating something with your hands, above all art fosters creative thinking. Approaching a problem with an open mind and finding creative solutions is a required skill set for ANY job. Even a computer programmer could benefit from “outside the box” thinking skills.
So many academic programs today are focused on the end goal of standardized testing and the classroom experience reflects that. Worksheet after worksheet does not a happy child make! I was lucky to teach in a school where art was not only taught but celebrated throughout the curriculum.
Confidence is built when you share something all your own with your classmates. Having it respectfully received is a result of a great art appreciation curriculum which I think should go hand in hand with art class. You don’t have to like every genre of art (or dance, music, ect) but appreciating and respecting the creativity and technique that went into it is a must. Now THAT is a lesson that can carry over into every content area and character development goal.


Bing! Bang! Boom! Homemade Instruments and Noisemakers

I know I'm one lucky lady -- I can work around the house or in the garden by myself for a while and Claire happily entertains herself building contraptions and musical instruments. I'm very, VERY thankful for such an independent kid.

One morning, I was weeding my neglected garden and heard some serious banging coming from the family room. I peeked around the corner to find Claire happy as can be, banging away on a homemade drum set.

She had taken apart her stool for the top cymbal and dumped a series of blocks and legos out of the metal bins for some nice crisp sounding drums. Her mallets are made of tinker toys. What an inventive little girl.

A few weeks after her birthday she dressed herself (rather festively) and serenaded me during breakfast looking like this. Unfortunately, you can't tell in this picture, but she's wearing another purple dress underneath the sweater. How I wish I captured a video of her humming through the birthday hat while strumming along on the other!

I wanted to share a few homemade instruments from around the web, we've made a variety of these ourselves and I can say that there is not much that satisfies a kid more than making some good, loud noise. Invite the neighbors over and have a marching band or perform an impromptu concert in your pajamas one morning. Just make sure the video camera is ready!



If you're looking to slip a little musical magic under the tree this year, I HIGHLY recommend Melissa and Doug's band in a box set. There's a little bit of everything inside: harmonica, castanets, kazoo, jingle stick and xylophone...what more could you ask for? Keep an eye out for CyberMonday sales, The set retails around $15 bucks and will likely be on sale even cheaper soon! Happy Music-Making!

I've got a few more musical ideas shared over at Pinterest.
Come check out the board called Noisemakers & Homemade Instruments!


Do eagle chicks chirp and peep?

You too can spend your morning gawking at your computer screen, ooohing and aaahhhhing as mama eagle feeds her chicks.

The amazing webcam has been set up by Pennsylvania Game Commission's website. This is the eagle who was all over the news a few weeks ago, thousands tuned in to watch her stoically sit on her eggs while the snow rose higher and higher.

The things we do for our kids ;-)

Here is the link

And the brave Mama:



Valentine's Morning: Strawberry Heart Surprise Pancakes

It's Valentine's Day, but these pancakes are a sweet surprise for any morning! 

Pour your batter onto griddle and press a strawberry into the "raw" side before flipping, wait a few seconds and press again. The more the strawberry is embedded in the pancake, the more it will look like a heart.

Bon Appetit!


Marbled Paper Valentine's Cards

I am so delighted by these process-oriented Valentine's cards created for Claire's beloved classmates! We made some marbled paper with shaving cream and liquid watercolors, Claire wrote sweet notes on scrap paper and then together, we folded the whole thing into a simple origami heart envelope.  

Simple, sweet and perfect for little hands.

There are so many tutorials for making marbled paper, we tried the liquid starch method without much luck but had AMAZING results with shaving cream and liquid watercolors. For a little pizazz, we added gold glitter paint added to the mix and I think the shimmery results speak for themselves:

Here's the video for folding the envelope. Don't be intimidated by the length of the video, this is not a complex project and aside from the "squash fold" on the top of the heart, Claire was able to make these herself. I went with this particular envelope because it uses a regular 81/2 x 11 sheet of paper, no cutting needed!


Valentine's Day Activity Round Up

Looking for some unique ways to celebrate Valentine's day?  I've rounded up my favorites from the archives, enough to celebrate through the entire month of February with your little sweeties - go on, make memories!


{1} Spray Painted Valentines
{2} DIY Heart Stampers Made with Building Blocks
{3} Tissue Paper Heart Collage on our Glass Back Door
{4} Hanging Yarn Heart Ornaments
{5} Tissue Paper and Watercolor Heart Wreath
{6} Crunchy Baked Apple Chips with Heart Cutouts Spray Painted Valentine's Cards

One of my  personal favorites are the "batik" hearts we made last year. Liquid watercolors, salt and blue school gel - my artistic trio of choice!


DIY Suet Cakes

Note: This post was originally published back in 2011. With the temperatures beginning to dip and lots of migratory birds making their way to winter homes it is the perfect time to cook up something for our feathered friends! I am working on a peanut free recipe so those with nut allergies can participate!

We just read "The Big Snow" by Elmer Hader and (if possible) Claire has become even more obsessed with birds. Having lots of wintry weather here like in the story, it was the perfect time to provide some sustenance to our feathered friends. Claire said I looked just like the old lady in the story when I through the remnants of the suet cakes in the, thanks sweetie.

I house all sorts of experiments in my fridge (both intentional and unintentional, green shrimp, anyone?) but this hodgepodge of lard, peanut butter, sunflower seeds, cheese and bird seed was a success, both in "cutifying" our backyard and keeping my three year old occupied. If birds could talk I'm sure they would be raving about this recipe, our feeding stations were swarming with visitors and the birdie cakes were the hottest thing there.

There are lots of tutorials for DIY bird suet on the web but I liked this one for two reasons, I had the ingredients on hand and the recipe came from reputed wildlife organization so I figured we wouldn't accidentally harm any wildlife.

The cast of characters, do NOT melt the lard. 

There are no ingredient ratios, so I randomly lopped everything into the bowl. The basic goal is to get everything to gel together in a firm enough package to mold, the freezer will take care of the rest. I wasn't sure how birds felt about Parmesan cheese so there's only a bit of that.

This is a kid friendly recipe, nothing to heat. I highly recommend limiting the distance from jar to bowl, or pouring the seed in. I was trying to make this project take up time on a cold morning and while Claire is very careful, there was still scattered seed from her scooping the seed little by little. Nothing intentional, but those little seeds kept rolling right off the spoon...maybe a scoop would work better?

 We tried a few different mixing options, of course hands won out. I had to dig in and help at this point because I intentionally left the lard pretty firm. We packed (squished might be a better description) the suet into cookie cutters, mini muffin tins and tupperware containers then froze for about 3 hours. I brought the tray of mini muffin bird cakes outsides and set them right in the snow with a cover to protect them from the squirrels. Easy peasy.

I know everyone else who blogged this project put little straws in to allow string to be passed through a hole after the were frozen. I found it just as effective to load a bit of the suet into the container and then have Claire put some yarn (birds love pink, it's a fact) in the center before loading the rest of the suet in. It might not be as cute, but we liked it just fine. The final product:


Thinking about BIG numbers with little kids

How Much? How long? How many? Answering ONE MILLION questions is par for the course with a 5 year old.

The questions come quickly, especially in the car, where I’m captive and nothing seems to make Claire happier than rambling on about all those things she wonders about.  

Claire: How long until I start Kindergarten?

Me: In September. It’s about 3 months away.

Claire: When will that be?

Me: About 90 days. 90 sleeps.

Claire: Ok.

[she counts to 90 methodically, seeming to count 14 twice because the “th” sound is a challenging one. The thirties are another interesting bump along the way; I work hard not to smile…]

I want to do it faster Mommy. How can I count it faster?

Me: Count to ten 9 times.

Claire: [racing through 1-10 in an unintelligible blur, but one that seems to satisfy her]. What about how many minutes and hours? Can you add them all up? Would it be like a million? Or more? What IS a million? 

Good of you to ask young grasshopper.

As luck would have it, I had checked out a book from the library about just that.

How Many Jelly Beans? By Andrew Menotti
Check it out on Amazon 

There are lots of counting books available for children, but many stop at 10 or 20 or even 100. Estimation, especially visual estimation is so valued in mathematics curriculums but it’s hard to find concrete examples of the larger numbers. Thank you Andrea Menotti bequeathing kids this book of BIG numbers. The story was sweet, the illustrations fantastic and the concept perfect for a math-curious kid.

Each page has simple line drawing of the main characters, but it is the brightly drawn jellybeans that take center stage as siblings Emma and Aiden decide just how many jellybeans is too many. 10? 20? 10,000? On and on to ONE MILLION.

Hoarder tendencies aside, my daughter claimed about 1,000 would be great, roughly three a day.

Seeing one million of something was impressive to even us adults. I mean, think about it. How much IS one million? Have you actually seen one million of anything? Claire poured over the illustrations wondering if there were indeed one million jellybeans on the huge gatefold conclusion page.

And my final answer, the one that seemed to satisfy my ever questioning 5 year old in regards to when Kindergarten is starting?

Corn. That’s right. Corn.

I showed her the cornfield at the end of our road and sounding quite wise, I informed her that the corn would be ready for harvest when she is ready for Kindergarten. Considering my daughter is going to be starting school about 33 minutes from downtown NYC I find this answer equal parts hilarious and sage-like.

I love finding math and literature connections - share favorite picture books related to math, number sense and counting in the comments.