New Year, New Organization

As I cleaned up from Christmas and tucked away the last of the decorations, gears began spinning for new organization of old spaces. I have quite a few ideas for small pockets of space which are currently under utilized.

One such spot is in our kitchen area, where Mon Cœur (MC) currently has an activity table and bookshelf. I absolutely love the bookcase because I can use totes to stash toys, stuffed animals, and dolls and I can also keep some of her books.

Originally, I was just putting books wherever, with no organization method other than French books, top right. I hated that there wasn’t much organization and that I had separated the French books just because. As I thought more and more, I decided I wanted to group toys and books into themes.

5 Reasons I grouped books by theme:

  • By grouping books and toys by theme, it allows MC to build background knowledge through repeated exposure to the same vocabulary and similar illustrations of those themes
  • Exposure to and building of vocabulary is crucial and the more exposure that MC has to the same words in a variety of contexts the better
  • It’s easier to organize and rotate books and toys in and out
  • It provides a common theme for making crafts, reading stories, and play
  • Research shows that by reading widely about one topic greatly boosts one’s vocabulary

The idea is that by hearing … words in one context again and again, students will attach deeper meaning to them and be able to use them in other contexts.

So during naps for a couple of days I completely emptied the bookshelf and began organizing books by theme: ABCs, numbers, colors, gardening, seasons, miscellaneous life, farm, forest, and underwater animals. I boxed some books to bring out later, and I started restocking the shelves.

Then I found corresponding toys or stuffed animals that went with those themes and stuffed them in the totes.

So far, it’s been amazing to watch MC grab two or three of the same theme books and bring them to me to read. She is getting the repetition without me feeling like I’ve read the same book three times and without her getting bored, because they are all different while exploring the same idea.

It also gives me good ideas for corresponding craft ideas and play – more on this later!

How do you organize your bookshelf?

Christmas 2020

What? You’re done thinking about Christmas? Everything’s packed away and you’ve eaten your last Christmas bonbon, and vacuumed the last of the Christmas tree needles sprinkled around the floor? You don’t want to think about Christmas again until Halloween next year?

Hear me out – this post is a bit delayed, I know, but I am so excited about the idea behind it, and so is Mon Cœur (MC)!

I am surprised I was able to pack the wrapped packages away before she began unwrapping them. Yes, I wrapped packages before packing them away this year.

Why? The idea behind the wrapped packages is that each day from the first day of December until Christmas, MC will have something to unwrap, allowing her to enjoy the season and destruction of wrapping paper throughout December and not just on Christmas morning.

We have never gone overboard with gifts for her, however it’s always fun to unwrap a gift. I realized this this past Christmas as I was placing gifts for our family under the tree and MC was immediately grabbing it to open.

With MC starting to understand the holiday, we have begun to collect various Christmas accoutrements. Festive items such as advent calendars, nativity scenes, stockings, cookie cutters, movies, vinyls, books…

The idea is for MC to unwrap one package a day – most days she can choose any package, however there are certain days labeled. For example, I wrapped the advent calendar and labeled that to be unwrapped December first. Stockings will go up on Saint Nicholas Day, December 6, and we’ll unwrap and read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.

Other items – jingle bell ornaments & The Polar Express, ornament kits and Christmas crafts, nativity scenes, Christmas dresses, and such will be chosen and unwrapped by MC throughout the Christmas season. It will give us something new to do each day and create a bit of novelty and anticipation for each day.

My hope by starting this tradition is that MC can experience the Christmas spirit throughout the season instead of the ritual cycle: set up tree and decorate December first; open everything Christmas; forget about it by the 26th; and then pack everything away until next year.

Mom always tells us it’s Christmas every day. I want MC to feel that, too. We should celebrate the spirit of giving, the cheer of the season, the anticipation and hope for new things to come every day.

Christmas Crafts

I have a confession – I am horrible with thinking of good gifts for people in general. The adults I usually buy for buy what they want or need when they want or need it. The kids we usually buy for already have everything they want. As a recipient, I prefer experiences to things – fond memories with good friends are the best gift I could ask for. I think all of my adult friends would agree.

Recently we have had many birthdays we helped celebrate, and Christmas is coming up, and as per the usual, I have felt very unoriginal in my gift-giving. This year I wanted to give the kids something fun, and something that would last throughout the year.

I looked into the crates and monthly subscription boxes for kids, but that adds up quickly when you have a list of kids to buy for. Even with Black Friday deals, they were coming up around ten dollars per month per kid. As awesome an idea as they are, I feel like if I spent a little time, a little money and collected some household items, I could make my own much cheaper.

I thought what else can we give that I can buy in bulk for many kids and that will be something they receive throughout the year? I looked at kid’s magazines and found one that looked very promising: Ladybug by Cricket Media. It has received many Parent’s Choice Awards over the years and both the Ladybug and Babybug editions won the Gold Award in 2018.

I liked the pictures from the previews I could see and I liked how there were lots of visuals in Babybug to interact with and visuals to reinforce the meanings of chunks of text.

In Ladybug, I liked how there were short poems that could be read in duo, parent and child – the parent can read the poem, while tracking with their finger, and as they encounter a small picture, the child can “read” it.

So I purchased subscriptions for all of our little ladybugs, but then I pondered how can I communicate to them that this was a gift from us? I decided to let Mon Cœur (MC) do the explaining, with a fun craft. We took some postcards, construction paper, and glue. I cut out the body, wings, and head and glued it together, while she took an ink pad and her fingers to make the dots. She also went rogue, with a green marker she found: “Mommy I draw face!” she declared.

On the back, I wrote a simple little greeting from MC: “Merry Christmas! I hope you enjoy your subscription to Ladybug magazine – it’s a year of adventures and stories to share!” and I slipped them in with our Christmas cards and off they went.

Do you have fun or creative gift ideas for the young darlings in your life? Share them in the comments section!

Book Review: Hedgehog Needs a Hug

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Attributed to Plato

I’m feeling a little down and out and could use a hug today, so I chose this recent library read to review…In the picture above, I did not ask Mon Cœur (MC) to pose/pout and she really was in a spectacular mood, I guess she was just channeling the hedgehog’s feelings!

There are so many reasons to love Hedgehog Needs a Hug by Jen Betton (click on this link for reviews, as well as really cute projects, craftivities, and discussion guides for the book).

  • It features all our favorite forest animals – rabbits, raccoons, turtles, foxes, and skunks.
  • There’s a sing songy alliteration describing how the animals move – the fox sly-slink-slides.
  • The story has a universal message that everyone needs a little love and kindness.
  • The illustrations are beautiful, and we love talking about what we see on each page. Every time we read, we find something new to discuss.

This book goes great with a couple of other books featuring prickly animals that we love to read:

  • Hedgehugs by Steve Wilson
  • How do You Hug a Porcupine? by Laurie Isop

Book Review: Uh Oh!

Mon Cœur (MC) recently picked out Uh-Oh! by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Patrice Barton at the library. It is the perfect picture book with minimal language, and lends itself to more dialogue between readers.

Two toddlers take a trip to the beach with their moms and as they adventure in sun and sand they experience many “uh-ohs.” It’s fun to talk about the pictures with Mon Cœur (MC) and talk about the uh-ohs – fallen sunglasses, crushed sand sculptures, wind blown hats, waves sweeping kids off their feet – and how the children react to these uh-ohs.

MC hasn’t been to the beach yet, so this is also a great book to introduce the concept of the beach: sand, waves, seagull, and reinforce vocabulary she is already familiar with: bucket, hat, crab, water.

There’s lots of laughing as we read and discuss the book and I love that the kids’ reactions to their missteps are positive. Something happens – an object falls or the kids are knocked down, and instead of a temper tantrum, the kids laugh about it and then figure out how to fix it and move on.

I continually try to reinforce this with MC – when we fall, we might get tears in our eyes and we might become upset – the important thing is to get back up though. When she gets hurt, we kiss boo boos and move on, and when the uh-oh is injury free then we find some way to laugh at the situation and move on.

Just the other day I was trying to put eyedrops in MC’s eye for her pink eye, and Chouchou, trying to assist, sat down on our old (and ready-to-collapse-any-minute) couch, and it fell right under us all. Boom, boom, boom. Uh-oh. We laughed so we wouldn’t cry and we were grateful it happened to us and not guests at Thanksgiving!

Instead of asking Chouchou to repair it, I decided to fix our uh-oh as best I could, with MC’s help of course…

She saw my hammer, saw, drill, and screwdriver, and right away she was off to find her toolbox. She promptly sat down beside me, as close as I would let her while I worked tracing, cutting, and drilling.

I was able to make a new support piece and attach it to the couch while Chouchou was at work; I had to enlist his help when he arrived home to reattach the new piece to the overall frame of the couch and to reinforce it.

It took patience, teamwork, and some laughter, and at the end of the day, we were able to put it back together before our Thanksgiving guests arrived!