Thursday, December 31, 2009

Make a Monster Felt Game (and Children's Books About Monsters)

The Infant Bibliophile loves playing this Make-A-Monster game on the Sesame Street website, so this morning I decided to make him a felt version.

Supplies: felt, fabric scissors, craft glue (optional - I just used it on the eyes)

Cut out assorted eyes, noses, mouths, hats, and heads.  Lay out a piece of felt, and make some monsters!

For some reason, each time he made a monster, my son explained to me that it was a "happy monster."   (Despite all of the upside down mouths). 

Children's Books About Monsters

The Monster at the End of this Book (Big Little Golden Book)The Monster at the End of this Book (our review is here, but you are probably sick of us mentioning this book if you read the blog regularly.  I couldn't NOT list it, though).

Another Monster at the End of This Book (Jellybean Books(R))

Another Monster at the End of this Book (our review is here)

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster (Ala Notable Children's Books. Younger Readers (Awards))

Leonardo, the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems (we haven't read this one yet, but I keep meaning to!  Natasha at Mawbooks offers a cute glimpse inside the book as she reads it to her kids here.)

Feel free to share your favorite monster books in the comments!

Also, what are you child's favorite free online games?  The largest selections of games that our son enjoys so far are on the Sesame Street site (too many that he enjoys there to name them all), the Nickelodeon site (he particularly likes some of the Max and Ruby and Diego games), and the Curious George games on  We would love other suggestions of fun games.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Learn How to Button Felt Quilt Craft (and Space/Fish Books for Children)

I am so excited about this craft, which is perfect for teaching young kids how to button!  So excited that when my son fell asleep tonight, I snuck back into my sewing room to make another one.  I think this is the fastest that I have ever read about an idea, thought "hmmm, I can do that," came up with a plan, created it, tested it on the Infant Bibliophile, and blogged about it.  All in 12 hours!   Thank you to Tired, Need Sleep for inspiring the idea with her button board craft, and to The Activity Mom who recently posted about it.  I decided to make mine into a little quilt instead of a board, because 1) I love quilts, and 2) I thought it might be more portable (for taking on airplanes, in stroller, etc.).

First, I made this fish one.

Then tonight I made this other, space-themed one:

I haven't sewn down the planet rings yet.  I took the photo on my iphone at night, so the clarity isn't very good, but you get the idea.  I love that I only need to do 5 or 10 minutes of felt cutting to create a whole new scene for him. 

Here is how I made mine.  Sorry for the lack of photos.  I always figure everything is self explanatory until I go to type it up.

1)  Make a mini quilt (note: you could just use a piece of felt and skip this step entirely).  Cut two pieces of fabric and a piece of batting, all the same size.  Mine is approximately 8 x 15 inches.  When cutting, add an inch or so to what you'd like the finished quilt to be (so I would cut 9 x 16 inches) for seam allowances.  Place the pieces in this order: one piece of fabric (the backing fabric) WRONG side up, then another piece of fabric (the front fabric) RIGHT side up, then the piece of batting.  Place this quilt "sandwich" on your sewing machine, with the batting side up, and sew all the way around, leave an opening of 3 or 4 inches (lock stitch at the beginning and end of the opening).  Turn the quilt sandwich inside out through the hole.  Hand stitch the opening shut (or just topstitch over it if, like me, you don't mind it showing).  Tip: start your sewing machine stitch midway on a side, not at a corner, because otherwise you'll leave your opening at the corner, and it will be more messy to close it up.  I make this mistake about 75% of the time.  If you don't want to worry about the batting shifting later, you can make some straight quilting lines at this point, or do some decorative ones later.  I just realized I will probably add this tomorrow.

3)  Cut felt shapes.  Make a little snip in the center of each (easiest to just fold it in half and make a small snip).

4) Figure out where you'd like your buttons.  Mark with a pen.  Sew on buttons by hand.  (Yawn.  7 buttons definitely was enough for me).

5) Enjoy!

Infant Bibliophile's Reaction: He walked around the house holding the fish scene happily, and we sat down to work on it together.  He couldn't get the shapes onto the buttons (which I was sort of happy about - didn't want it to be so easy it was useless), so we did it twice with me sort of holding the button as he worked it on.  Then the next time, he did them all himself, and the next time all himself as well.  Awesome!  I was so happy with this project.  He had a bit of trouble getting them off, and I feared he might tear the felt, but I realized that if you just pull them off slowly, they slip off; once I explained that, he got the concept and pull them off easily.  He didn't have any interest after those two times.  I think his fingers got tired, but I am going to pull it out again tomorrow with the space scene.  I think it is great practice for his hand muscles and dexterity.

Note: I hope you appreciate how I left those pieces of paper on the floor, so that you won't feel bad about your own need to vacuum. 

Now, onto the books:

Two on the space theme:

I Want to Be an AstronautI Want to Be an Astronaut by Byron Barton.  Byron Barton is a name many will recognize.  We have a read a number of his books about transportation and generally enjoy them.  The text in this one is short (4 or 5 words per page), and narrated by a child. I think young space enthusiasts would enjoy it.  The reading level is ages 4-8, but I think it would be quite simplistic for a child that old, unless they're using it to learn to read.  The reading level may be 4-8 (it does use longish words/phrases like "zero gravity" and "satellite"), but the interest level is probably more like 2-4 years old. The cartoon illustration style is fun, with thick black outlines around the images, and different genders and skin colors of astronauts.
"I want to be an astronaut, / a member of the crew, / and fly on the shuttle"
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 1 month: He sat through the whole thing happily, but I'm not sure he really understood it.

The Berenstain Bears on the Moon (Bright and Early Books)The Berenstain Bears on the Moon (Bright and Early Books), by Stan and Jan Berenstain.  The little Berenstain bears take a trip to the moon, sans parents, but with "one little pup."  Fun rhyming text describes their adventure.


"Safe back on the earth.  They step out of their ship.  'Wow!' say the bears.  'That was quite a trip!'"

Bookworm's Interest at 2 years, 1 month: He enjoys it.  Not a favorite, but he'll sit through the whole thing, and enjoys pointing to the puppy, and doing the 10-9-8-7... countdown to blastoff.

Parent's Peeve: My husband and I both nitpicked that the bears experience zero gravity as they appear to still be accelerating toward the moon, but perhaps we can use our imagination and assume they cut the engines for a few minutes.  Also, at the end, they talk about going up to a star one day, which doesn't really seem possible, if by going up to you mean visiting, as in setting foot on.  But, hey, it's the Berenstain Bears.  And I LOVED them when younger, so I can overlook these things.

Or, if you prefer the fish theme, one we all enjoy is:

Curious George at the Aquarium
Curious George at the Aquarium, by Margret & H.A. Rey.  We have had this since the little guy was about 6 months old, when we bought it at a trip to an aquarium.  He has always enjoyed it, as have we.  It is in his room with him now, where he is fast asleep, so pardon the lack of a full review.

You can check out all of our previous reviews of children's books about fish here.

Questions for Comment:
What are your favorite crafts with felt?  I just got 4 yards of it and we have been having a lot of fun with it the last couple of days making felt play scenes.  I'm looking forward to trying out some other ideas that I have read about and starred in my reader or tucked away in my mind for some later date. I also got a laminater and fancy little label maker (thank you, G!), so it looks like the preschoolish crafts will be on the up and up around here soon.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Review: Look-Alikes (Books for I-spy Loving Children)

The books below were suggested to me quite some time ago by "Mom Unplugged" of Unplug Your Kids, and I thought they would be perfect for entertaining the little guy on a (then) upcoming flight.  I never got around to picking them up until last week.  I am so glad we hunted them down.

Look-Alikes: The More You Look, the More You See! (Hardcover), by Joan Steiner. This book is a great twist on the classic I-spy books. The pages feature amazingly detailed scenes which are made up entirely of tiny objects, repurposed for other use - a piece of bread becomes a bench, a pencil becomes a fencepost, dominoes become steps, etc.  Fun rhyming text highlights one of the items on each page, but the real fun is in staring and staring at the pictures to see what else you can find.  Kidney bean cobblestones, scissor spokes on a ferris wheel, a nacho dress... The back of the book contains extra challenges, as well as a list of all of the "look-alikes" in each scene. There are from 78 to 207 different types of objects in each scene!
"Come along! Jump aboard! Grab hold of my hand. We're crossing the border into Look-Alike Land. Everything's changing! Believe it or not, It looks like this engine's a huge COFFEEPOT!
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 1 month: We mainly look at this together and play i-spy with it, with me calling out objects.  It is a little difficult for him, but he likes it nonetheless, with a bit of help. (The I-spy A to Z book he is used to has a picture of the item you are meant to find at the bottom of the page, so he is used to the ease of that system). He'll grow to like it even more, I'm sure.

Look-Alikes Jr. : Find More Than 700 Hidden Everyday Objects (Hardcover), by Joan Steiner.  Like the original Look-Alikes, this Look-Alikes Jr. contains photographs of amazing 3-d structures built from everyday objects.  The Jr. version features larger, simpler text and fewer items per scene (48 to 94 different items). All in all, 700 different objects hide throughout the book.
"Here's the bedroom and the bathroom as well.  The sink in the bathroom looks like a shell."
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 1 month: He particularly enjoys the page from the excerpt above.  We play I-spy, quizzing him to find the broccoli tree, dollar bill table, shower curtain made out of flags, etc.  He often needs help finding something the first time, but remembers it for subsequent readings.

Activity Idea

Create your own 3-d scene, photograph it, and play I-spy!

Another I-spyish idea I had recently that I might try next year: My son loves unpacking and hanging the Christmas ornaments, and, like most of us, I tend to have a lot of memories or stories associated with our ornaments.  I thought it would be really fun to take photos of each of my favorite ornaments and create a photo book with a sentence or two about where it came from or its significance.  Then, I could let him play with using the photo book to hunt for the ornaments on the tree.  Or, instead of a photo book, maybe just do the photos of the ornaments and laminate each, with the description on the reverse side. Can you tell someone got a laminator for Christmas?


Have you read these?  What do you think of them?  Do your kids love I-spy as much as ours?  We play it while we stroll outside all the time.  He also just got the I-spy Christmas book, which belongs in this post, but we haven't read it enough yet to give it a full review.  So you can expect to read about that one here sometime soon.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Here Comes Santa Claus (and A Lot of Snow)

We picked up two more books about the winter/holiday season today:

Here Comes Santa Claus (Hardcover), by Bruce Whatley (Illustrations).  The lyrics to Here Comes Santa Clause (by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman) fill the pages of this beautifully illustrated modern Christmas classic.  We scored a $3 copy at the library's sale section.  The illustrations tell a story of their own; a puppy accompanies Santa in the first part of the book, and as we encounter a small family and their little boy, we see that he has left a note for Santa.  "Dear Santa, I know I already asked for a real genuine cowboy hat but what I really want for Christmas is a puppy."  You can imagine the rest.  I'm a sucker for these books in which the only text is the lyrics to a popular song.  Maybe I just like the freedom to be able to break into song in the middle of a session of reading.
"Here comes Santa Claus!  Here comes Santa Claus!  Right down Santa Claus Lane!  He's got a bag that is filled with toys for the boys and girls again."
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 1 month: He enjoys it very much.  He LOVES Christmas carols, and hadn't really heard this one, so it was fun to teach him a new one.
Parent's Peeve: Not a peeve (afterall, my favorite Christmas carols are Away in a Manger, Silent Night, and Oh Holy Night), but I profess I hadn't realized how religious the song was until I read through to the end.  "Peace on Earth will come to all if we just follow the light. / Let's give thanks to the Lord above, 'Cause Santa Claus comes tonight!"

EyeLike Nature: Snow (Board book), by Play Bac.  This is a really cute board book about playing in the snow.  It would be perfect for an infant, up to at least my son's current age (2).  It is filled with photographs of toddlers engaging in various forms of wintery fun.  Short, bold text describes the scenes.
"Snow is for making tracks. / and angels. / Snow is for digging, / and snow is for shoveling."
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 1 month: He loved it, making me read it multiple times at the library and again at home.

You can see all of our winter/Christmas reviews here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Few More Christmas Crafts

I have been wanting a greeting card holder for awhile now, but wanted to make, rather than buy one. I thought this Rudolph craft on Katie's Nesting Spot was adorable, and that my son would enjoy making it. I considered making it into a pocket project to hold Christmas cards. As I pondered the options, I came across a box that had been sent to us recently. It is a double fold box, with two edge folds that meet in the middle. (No before photo, sorry). I decided that with a little glitter glue, paint, cotton balls, and construction paper, we could make it into a Santa pocket Christmas card holder. I still hope to make a quilted holder one of these days, but until then, I'm liking our temporary one.

We also had a great time using Crayola Model Magic for the first time to make holiday ornaments.  (I have been meaning to try it for awhile, after learning about it as an alternative to Play-doh, which the little guy is allergic to.)  This great post on Frugal Family Fun gave me the idea to try it with ornaments).  We decided to paint and glitter glue ours, mainly because it spread out the craft for a few more days.  Here are a couple of them; I particularly love the handprint.

I posted recently about the little guy's fascination with my button collection.  Just after I posted that, I came across this great idea on Little Family Fun to thread buttons on pipe cleaners to make candy canes.  We only did it for a short while, but he enjoyed it.

Companion Books

I was going to link up to all of the posts in my Google Reader that have reviewed children's books about the holiday season, but the number of posts is a bit overwhelming. So, if you have recently posted reviews of Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, or other winter-themed books, feel free to leave a comment with a link to your post(s)!

Here are some of our favorite winter and Christmas books this year (you can find the full reviews, along with other books we've reviewed about winter and Christmas, here):

Sing-along Christmas Carols

Slinky Malinki's Christmas Crackers

Away in a Manger
The Snowy Day

Dream Snow

The Christmas Magic

Review: Machines Go To Work (Favorite Children's Books About Cars and Trucks)

It has been awhile since we have read or reviewed a new children's book about cars and trucks around here.  But thanks to a friend who sent this birthday gift a few weeks ago, we have a new one for our shelves (that is, if we ever stop reading it long enough to put it there). 

Machines Go To Work (Hardcover), by William Low. Various work machines - a helicopter, cement mixer, fire engine, and container ship, among others - perform their tasks. Simple text describes the roles of the various vehicles in a child-pleasing fold out flap format. The vibrant illustrations are nicely detailed without being overly busy.
"When the drawbridge opens, this container ship may pass. Will it fit through the narrow gap? / The traffic has stopped. The bridge sections go up. / Carefully, the tugboat pulls the container ship along."
Bookworm's interest at 2 years, 1 month: He loves it. He likes counting the train cars, but enjoys the whole book. It was also apparently a favorite of the little boy who bought it for us - the best kind of recommendation, in our opinion!

Parent's Peeve: The "flaps" are not small "lift the flaps", but rather whole page fold outs. This style is fun, but I wish publishers would size the fold out pages an inch shorter, because I think the process of folding the flap in and turning the page neatly is a little difficult. It wouldn't stop me from buying it, though, and we haven't had any page scrunching yet.

As long-time readers of our blog know, transportation books are among the Infant Bibliophile's favorites.  You can find all of our reviews of children's books about cars and trucks here.   We also guest posted awhile back on Playing by the Book about this topic.

Here are links to 10 of our little guy's favorite children's books about transportation (LOVING the new Amazon tool in blogger, but it wasn't easy to pick only 10):

Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks from A to Z (A Chunky Book(R))

Cars and Trucks and Things That Go (Giant Little Golden Book)

Construction Countdown

Truck Stuck

My Truck is Stuck!

Trucks Go

I'm Your Bus

Cars & Trucks (Scholastic First Discovery)

Surprise, Thomas! (A Chunky Book(R))

Slide and Find - Trucks

What other transportation books would make your top 10 list?