St. Patrick’s Day preschool activities: Rainbow curriculum

True story: Along with Radiohead’s Creep and Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Around the World, Kermit’s Rainbow Connection is one of my go-to karaoke jams.

So naturally, when it was my turn to host our co-op homeschool preschool this week, I wanted our St. Patrick’s Day lesson to include lots of activities with rainbows!

If you’re looking to infuse your fun with some St. Patrick’s Day luck, or get all rainbow-y on a regular day, here are some activities from me as well as links to additional ideas. Happy St. Patty’s Day! Read more

Our favorite children’s books: Shapes

SHAPES!Some of my earliest memories feature my great-grandmother, whom we all called Pretty Grandma and after whom Peeper is named. I sometimes watched Hollywood Squares with her—for whatever reason, she loved the trivia and cheesy banter. It was all over my head, but that’s the first thing I think of when someone says “shapes.”

Peeper, and probably your preschooler, doesn’t automatically envision a celebrity tic-tac-toe gameshow, though.

To help little ones learn about squares, triangles, circles—and even quatrefoils, add these books about shapes to your reading rotation. Read more

Our favorite children’s books: Books about being afraid

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“Too noisy!”

Peeper’s complaints about noise, and the genuine fear loud sounds inspire in her, continue unabated in these parts, and we’ve learned to adapt. I make cookie dough when she’s asleep. I look ahead to avoid loud things like lawn mowers or steam trains in our path. And we are patient when her conversations repeatedly steer back to the fact that something—a seal, tractor, Jeep—is “too noisy.”

Alas, we haven’t yet found a book that deals with fear of loud sounds, but we like these other books about being afraid. At some point, she might become afraid of the dark, or of getting sucked down the bath drain, or of vampire zombie bats living under the crib. (Who knows? She has a vivid imagination already.)

If your little one is spooked, these books about being afraid might help. At the least, they will say he’s not alone in being afraid.

Read on for a little courage—or at least encouragement!

When your child is scared, books about being afraid can lend a little courage. Ten Thousand Hour Mama Read more

Out favorite children’s books: Zoo books

Ever since we went to Zoo Lights, Peeper has been talking about the zoo. It’s a good thing we have a ton of favorite children’s books about the zoo on regular rotation!

Peeper is all zoo, all the time. When I say we’re taking Finn for a walk, she says, “Zoo!” When I buckle her into her car seat, she says, “Zoo!” When we brush our teeth, she points to the picture of the rhino in the bathroom and says, “Zoo!” (Yes, we have a photo of a rhino in the bathroom. Don’t you?)

We’ve hit up the zoo a few times since then, and she continues to talk about the otters, tiger, rhino and fish she saw there. (She’s staying mostly mum on the hippos, though, after the recorded hippo calls the zoo plays completely terrified her.)

Peeper visits the giraffes at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois during Christmas.
Peeper visits the giraffes at the Brookfield Zoo in Illinois during Christmas.

Luckily, we have a membership, but we just don’t have the time to trot over to see the animals every. single. day. So Peeper gets her zoo fix on my lap in the rocking chair during storytime (which, in our home, is pretty much all the time).

Here, then, are our favorite children’s books about the zoo. Read more

Our favorite kids’ books: Singable stories

We sat cross-legged in a circle on the classroom’s thin-carpeted floor. I leaned forward toward Mrs. Weineger, my kindergarten teacher, and her spot in front of us eager 5-year-olds. I could barely contain myself in the moments before she opened the book.

Instead of simply reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, she sang it. Later, she posted pictures of the colorful animals around the room, and we incorporated the song into our sing-alongs.

I think of Mrs. Weineger—her wide smile, the crinkly skin behind her large glasses, her fluffy orange hair (which, incidentally, made her look a lot like the teacher in Eric Carle’s book)—every time I sing this book to Peeper.

Our little bookworm loves it, and no surprise there: It combines two of her favorite things, books and song.

Here are a few of our other favorite singable stories. Clear your throat and make sure the windows are closed—you’ll want to sing these books over and over! Read more

4 ways to smile through your toddler’s cold

It seems as if Peeper *just* got over a cold, but here she is, snotty and congested and sneezy all over again.

Being sick is rotten, and I wish I could take away my munchkin’s discomfort. Since I can’t, though, I’m looking on the bright side. Here are my top four reasons to smile in spite of—or because of—Peeper’s cold.

1. Happy! She’s no Pharrell, but much of the time she apparently feels like a room without a roof, if you know what I mean. Sure, she gets cranky and clingy, but for the most part she’s like this, drippy nose or not:

Happy! from Catherine Ryan Gregory on Vimeo.

2. Story time. Peeper always loves a good book, but when she’s sick, we spend long stretches cuddling and reading. These days her favorite books are ones that have pictures of everyday objects. I name everything for her—over and over and over and over—and her pointer finger gets a real workout.

Reading and dog cuddles - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

Finn, not to be left out, joins us, too. And this week we were in luck: My aunt sent a package of books my cousins (the oldest of whom is now in college—what?!) used to read. Thanks, Aunt Anne: You’ve doomed me to page through My First Word Book a million times a day for the rest of time.

3. Laughter. When you don’t know how to blow your nose and adults are constantly swiping at the snot collecting on your face, a sense of humor definitely helps you get through the day.

Sick toddler - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

We do just about everything we can to laugh, including wearing pants-hats.

4. The outdoors. Eric’s dad abides by the philosophy that few things can’t be improved by getting outside and blowing the stink off ya, and I couldn’t agree more. Fresh air and a little exercise may not typically be prescribed for a cold, but we think it’s a pretty good Rx.

Sick toddler - Ten Thousand Hour Mama

When you look on the bright side of being sick, what do you see?