5 Little Monkeys craft {with download!}

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed
One fell off and bumped his head
Mama called the doctor and the doctor said,
“For the love of all things holy I am not reading this book one more time!”

5 Little Monkeys craft process art downloadI have a love/hate relationship with the book 5 Little Monkeys. After about the sixth time of reading it, all that repetition makes me want to jump off a bed and knock myself in the head.

But the repetition is great for pre-readers: Books that have repeating sequences, like 5 Little Monkeys, strengthens a child’s neural pathways and primes them for learning to read later. For example, all that repetition helps kids add to their vocabulary faster, reports research from the University of Sussex in the UK. And the familiar rhythms of a repetitive book helps that child remember what comes next—a skill that later helps them predict or hypothesize what comes next.

I saw this all in action with Peeper and 5 Little Monkeys. I used to pass the book back to her while we were driving around. After a while, she would “read” the book to herself—including counting down the number of monkeys.

All that repetition really worked!

Turns out the repetitive motion of painting is a great parallel for this story. When I found Raising Fairies and Knights’s Monthly Crafting Book Club, I was in: I wanted to make a fun art project that went along with 5 Little Monkeys, too!

You may also know what a proponent of process art I am. So I didn’t want to create a craft that had a clear expectation of how the craft should look in the end. Instead, I created a project that let Peeper do her own thang while staying true to the spirit of the book. And with my hand-drawn download, you can, too!

5 Little Monkeys craft process art download 5 Little Monkeys craft download Read more

Toddler DIY: Coffee filter bouquets

Toddler craft coffee filter flower bouquet

Not long ago, we learned our next-door neighbor was sick. She had surgery and was recovering quickly, but I wanted to send over something to show we’d been thinking of her.

Naturally, I wanted to involve Peeper. We set to making a paper bouquet of coffee filter flowers.

Lessons in empathy

Peeper is still too young to understand why we were making the bouquet, and thank goodness. How wonderful to be unaware of things like cancer, anesthesia and prognoses. But it’s important to instill the value of doing nice things for others, so we made our own thinking-of-you package instead of buying a bouquet or card at the store.

Toddler craft coffee filter flower bouquetOne of the nice things about these coffee filter flowers is you almost definitely have the materials on hand. What’s more, it’s ridiculously easy and simple enough for even toddlers to do.

What are you waiting for? Even if you don’t know someone who’s ill, you do know someone whose day would be brightened by a hand-made flower or two. Read more

Painting birthday party: Making a group easel [tutorial!]

DIY painting easel for kids - Ten Thousand Hour MamaPeeper loves to create, so when it came to planning her second birthday party, I knew I wanted to incorporate art. Thanks to getting almost no sleep and leaving most of the party prep till the morning of, I had to scale back some of our painting plans, but one activity made the cut: the group DIY easel.

Peeper and her friends got to paint alongside each other in our front yard, and each kiddo took home a piece of art (or several!). Peeper’s painting is now hanging on our wall above the dining table.

The setup was surprisingly easy—and cheap—and we’ve left it up in our yard for now. Peeper continues to use it, and when we do decide to take it down, we’ll recycle or reuse all the pieces for projects later!

DIY painting easel for kids - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

DIY painting easel for kids - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Want to get in on the artistic action, too? Here’s how to make an easy group DIY easel for your kids to paint their own outdoor masterpieces.  Read more

Process art: A fancy name for letting kids craft whatever the eff they want

Toddler process art clay
Process art: When a honey dipping stick becomes a ceramics tool

For anyone reading this blog, it should be no surprise that Peeper loves her some art. Most of her hands-on time is very open-ended: I set her up with some paper and crayons or a paper plate full of paint, then let her go wild. (And by wild, I mostly mean speckled green, black and orange in art supplies.)

It turns out that free-spirited approach to crafts is good for kids’ creativity. “Process art is more important than end product,” writes Rachelle Doorley, artist and author of Tinkerlab: A Hands-On Guide for Little Inventors, on her blog. And focusing too much on what kids make, and especially what projects are meant to look like, is stifling.

Doorley also polled a whole slew of educators, artists and parents on what they wished they’d known about kids’ art and rolled it up into a fantastic blog post. Just about everyone agreed that art is all about the doing—not what gets done. Read more

Our favorite children’s books, illustration edition

It is National Library Week, and what better time to write another roundup of our favorite children’s books?

Especially at Peeper’s age, words are not the only important factor in a great book: Illustration is at least as equally compelling. So when I head to the board books section at my local library, I flip through the pages to see if I like the visuals as much as the topic.

If I don’t like the illustrations, I put the book down and search for another.

Here, then, are a few of our most-loved, beautifully illustrated baby books (along with a few bonus stories!).

i can do it myselfI Can Do It Myself! by Steven Krensky, illustrated by Sara Gillingham. Toddlers love the empowerment that comes from picking out their own clothes and feeding themselves, and this bright book celebrates that independence. Pop art-like illustrations (think Roy Lichtenstein) are fun, visually arresting and unlike anything else you’ll see in the children’s section. I can’t get over Gillingham’s use of contrasting patterns that are, on the one hand, potentially seizure-inducing but are whimsical and exciting on the other.

how loud is a lionHow Loud Is A Lion? illustrated and written by Clare Beaton. Readers tramp through jungle and savannah, wandering past antelopes and zorillas (what’s a zorilla? Read to find out!), and all the while a lion is hiding in the background. Beaton’s hand-stitched work is inspired by folk art, and she uses felt, ribbon, beads and vintage fabrics to create the gorgeous tableaus. Beaton has dozens of other books; we’re reading Who Are You, Baby Kangaroo? right now.

baby bearBaby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Marlin, illustrated by Eric Carle. I couldn’t get away with a list of gorgeously illustrated kids’ books without mentioning Carle, could I? The rich, saturated colors against a white backdrop are his signature, and I love that I can see how he assembles the figures in this book. It introduces us to a menagerie of animals, and I can’t help but sing the text. This book transports me back to sitting on the floor in kindergarten, singing along and staring raptly at the pages my teacher, Mrs. Weineger, turned.

I already wrote about When I Was Born in my other children’s books post, but I have to include it again because I. Love. The. Illustrations.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Peeper’s other two favorite books of the moment, even if they’re not illustrated.

dogDog, by Matthew Van Fleet. Peeper has already begun to destroy it (the latest casualty: a wagging tail), but all the interaction is well worth a few rips here and there. She knows that the poodle has a fluffy coat she can touch and that the bull dog lifts its leg to pee. When she plays by herself, she lifts the pages and opens and closes the book over and over and over and over again. She could do it for an hour!

reachReach, by Elizabeth Verdick and Marjorie Lisosvkis. Peeper laughs the minute I pick this one up. I know the rhymes by heart and could recite it any time, but she continues to be captivated by the babies who reach for their toes, milk, toys and daddy.

As a side note, I appreciate that baby faces books, including Reach, feature children of a wide range of races and ethnicities. Baby faces books are perhaps the only ones dedicated to diversity, when shelves are filled with white characters. (Of the 3,200 children’s books printed last year, fewer than 100 were about black main characters, according to this important op-ed challenging the whitewashed children’s book industry.)


What are your favorite books of the moment? What are your favorite illustrations?