Friday, June 29, 2012

Learning Travel Journals

Every family needs to have time together that is really just about spending time together and having fun, (and you need a real vacation sometimes too - at least I do anyway) but especially if your family vacation is taking you to some far-off location that you probably won't visit again, you might want to take some educational advantage from the trip.  Here is a pretty easy way to ensure that will happen, your kids will have a fabulous keepsake and memoir about the journey, and you'll be glad you had them do it.  Many of these are once-daily entries that might usually be done at day's end.  If your kid is especially grumpy at night, or if you have a kid (this does not happen with ADHD kids only) whose focus wains more and more as the day grows late, simply make it a first thing in the morning activity, or complete the entries at lunch time instead.

Method #1 ARTSY:
If you have kids that are fairly good at sketching, providing a sketchbook and art pencils for the trip is probably a great idea anyway, but at the end of each day assign a sketch.  Sketch one cool thing you saw today and write a caption that would tell anyone who looked at that sketch what you learned about _______________ because of seeing the thing you choose to sketch.  Fill in the blank to fit the place you visited and your objectives for your kids.  The kinds of things you might choose for that blank could include: geographic location, history, your family, this habitat. . . Have your kids do this every day during the trip.  Older kids can do more than write a caption, perhaps they do a paragraph, or a page - you decide.  Younger kids might dictate what they'd like to say in words to you too.

Method #2 Photographic:
This method works virtually the same way as Method #1, except instead of a sketchbook, you provide a camera (disposables are easy to obtain these days).  Then, your child/children take a number of photos each day (you determine this number, based on age) that chronicle what they have learned (in addition to the fun "what I did today" photos.  The idea is that they take photos that don't need a lot of description, but at the end of the day have each child choose one photo to journal about in much the same way as described in method #1.

Method #3 The Young Blogger:
If your kids are old enough, go over internet safety with them and then set them up with their own blog.  Let your  teen/teens pretend to be travel journalists.  Each day they need to journal or review something from the day.  If the exercise is simply to keep them writing, they could review anything from the hotel you stayed in, to a vista point you visited - even the restrooms at the rest stop are fair game.  If you visited a location you specifically want him/her/them to write about, specify what they are reviewing.  If you prefer journaling to reviewing, provide relevant writing prompts in much the same way as discussed in Method #1.  Your children can write their blog entries and then you can go over those entries before they are published upon returning home.  (FYI: Some blogging programs allow you to keep posts "private" and never publish them for the larger public, Blogger is one of these.  You can also have them publish to your Facebook account and choose family and close friends as their audience)

Method #4 The Young Vlogger:
This one works the same way as the young blogger except instead of "journaling" with written words, they are journaling into a video camera.  Again, you can do some editing and reviewing at home before anything actually gets published.

You can even mix it up and have them do a little of each method if you wish.  Whatever you do, have fun with it, congratulate their work, and make sure to add lots of photos that are "just for fun" and talk about fun family memories too when you finalize the work back home.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Make the Mundane Gourmet - Peanut Butter and Jelly

This article is the second in a series of articles to come that should help to make the everyday, seem more special.  The idea is that if you do these kinds of things once in awhile they can make the normal everyday more fresh and new.  Sometimes a little tweak can make a big difference.  I hope you will find these articles turn the mundane into the a gourmet experience.

Instead of the usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich, make it a peanut butter and jelly panini.  Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and then throw it in your waffle iron (yes, it will get gooey so put the majority of the peanut butter closer to the middle).  Of course, if you have a sandwich maker, you can use that, but a waffle iron will work wonderfully as well.  Serve with his or her favorite fruit or vegetable a piece of cheese and maybe a few chips, nuts, or crackers on the side.  Use a goblet or champagne flute for the juice you serve and let your kid feel that his or her lunch is a very special, grown-up meal for the two of you.

To really make it a super special lunch, eat with your kid and only your kid.  Make it as though its a business meal, or an interview for an article you are writing for Fortune 500 magazine about your child's amazing success.  Whatever you discuss, don't check your phone, do the dishes or anything else while lunch is being eaten (Big points toward that "award" of "coolest parent").

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Music Skills for Toddlers and Older - High and Low

To teach your toddler, preschooler, Kindergartner, or Elementary Student high and low, you will first have to make sure you too, understand high and low. Again, this is not tough, but if you are also new to music, it is easy to get caught up in the volume levels and confuse volume highs and lows with tonal highs and lows.  This can all be done in one long string of activities or it can be broken into shorter sections (shorter sections surrounding each activity will most likely work best for most students).  If you break it up, you'll just need to start each new activity with a reminder of previous activities to clearly connect the activities together for your child or children.

The Soundtrack 1940 Fantasia

High is the sound a flute (or its even higher cousin, the piccolo) makes.  Think of the keys on the right hand side of the piano, canaries and whistles.  These are high sounds.

Low is the sound of a Bassoon or Tuba.  These are the sounds made by the keys on the left hand side of the keyboard, a big bass drum and the thumping from the party next door that has just gone on too long.  This is the bass.

If you read music, the high notes are actually written higher on the staff than the low notes.

Start by watching "The Soundtrack" from Fantasia 1940.  Not only does the narrator actually refer to the bassoon as low, but the vertical line is used in representing "low" and "high" as the sounds move up the scale from low to high, so too does the concentration of vibrations on the animated soundtrack.

Watch again and while you do, move your bodies higher for high sounds and lower for low sounds.  Stand on your tip toes during the very highest sounds and squat way down close to the floor for the very lowest sounds.

Try doing the same activity with a piece of music you both enjoy (suggestions for music with good "highs and lows" later).

Now try "singing" with the soundtrack.  Can your voices match the high, middle and low sounds portrayed?  After the short is over, how high can you make your voices (without being loud and just shrieking)?  How low can you make your voices (without being loud)?

Now, do some science.  You can do both the string and pipe activities or only one or the other to get the idea across.  You'll need a drum (toy drums are just fine), pipes and a string or rubber band that is stretched tightly around something.

Begin with the drum.  Explain that sound comes from the air wiggling just right so that part of the inside of your ear begins to wiggle with the air.  Now, show how making sounds requires that the drum's membrane jiggles.  Place a Lego on the center of the drum and tap the edge lightly while you watch the Lego make corresponding bounces.  If you are using speakers, you'll have to remove the screen so your child can see the movement of the inner portion while you play something on the stereo.  Let your child play with this for a little while.

The simplest way to introduce vibrating high's and lows, is to stretch a rubber band around a board tightly.  This requires a board, a rubber band and either two small legos, wadded and rolled paper, or sticks to lift the rubber band away from the board.  You can also create a homemade guitar (like the one pictured here) fairly simply. You really only need one "string" though, and for the sake of simplicity, it is easier with small children if you have only one string.  

Press down on the rubber band to make shorter or longer sections of vibrating "string".  "Play" the string by plucking it as you would a guitar string.  As you press on the rubber band in order to make it "shorter", listen carefully to how the sound changes with the length of the vibrating portion of the rubber band.  If you have a piano, guitar or other stringed instrument, look at it together and determine which strings make high sounds and which make lower sounds.  Can your child begin to see a pattern?  (Shorter strings make higher sounds than their longer counterparts)

In addition to strings, you can use air columns.  To do this, find some pipes of different lengths.  These can be from a toy xylophone where the pipes are removable, from a wind chime, or you can use PVC pipe you've cut.  Make sure one pipe is long and one is obviously shorter and they are both of the same diameter.   Play the pipes by holding onto the long portion of the pipe and banging one open end of the pipe against the palm of your hand.  Let your child give it a try.  Play both pipes together and listen carefully.  Can the child/children identify which pipe makes a high sound and which pipe makes a low sound? (again, higher = shorter)  If you know how to "buzz" through the pipe, do this too.  I can almost guarantee everyone with get a few chuckles out of some pipe "buzzing".  If you happen to have a slide whistle around, play with it and the sounds it makes too.

If you did the activity with "strings" as well as the one with pipes, connect the two activities.  Is the relationship of short to high and long to low the same with both?  (yes).  Add more pipes into the mix and let them experiment with different lengths.  On another day, give them pipes with different diameters if you wish and let them experiment with how this changes the sound too.

If you regularly reintroduce high and low by doing high/low "dancing" to a number of different songs, you'll find your budding musician, getting better and better at identifying high and low.  If you are in a classroom setting or are trying to teach music as part of your home school curricula, you might make this a brain break and simply have a CD ready with multiple songs on it that will work for high/low dancing.  Some songs that work nicely include:

  • Nightingale by Norah Jones
  • Only Shadows by Jewel
  • Everything Scientific/Children Outside Palace from the King and I by William Kidd and the Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Do, Re, Mi From the Sound of Music by Rodgers and Hammerstein
  • Dance of the Hours (La Gioconda) by Amilcare Ponchielli
  • When the Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin' Along, Carmen McRae
  • Take Me For Longing by Alison Krauss and Union Station
  • Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake
  • Hedwig's Theme from the Harry Potter Soundtrack by John Williams
  • Africa (Toto is the original artist) I like the a capella version by Straight No Chaser better for this application though.  The sounds are simpler and the kids can follow the highs and lows more easily.
For a "gourmet" variation on high/low dancing, you can give each child a balloon to hold.  Have the children show how "high" the music is, by letting the ribbon out and allowing the balloon to go higher, or by reeling in the balloon for lower sounds.

Another gourmet version for after dark (or in a room where all or most of the light can be blotted out) do the activity in the dark with glow sticks.  The higher the sounds the higher the glow sticks.

You can also try high/low coloring.  Give each kid a few "sentence strips" or long, narrow sheets of paper and have them "draw" a song by representing how high or low the sounds they are hearing are  by drawing one continuous wavy line.  You'll want to show them what you mean by doing this on the board once (or on a paper you do while they watch if you are at home and do not have a big enough board like myself).

Like I said, unless you have a highly interested child on your hands, it is likely that you'll want to break this up into a whole "unit" of study and spend some time over a month or so doing each activity (and redoing the listening activities) so your kid/kids can fully absorb high and low into their being without losing interest.  Whatever you do, make it fun and relax.  They are still young.

For Skill Numbers One and Two Click on Fast and Slow  or  Loud and Soft.

You might also like Fairytale Classics


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to Start Signing with Baby

If you are still on the fence about whether or not to use ASL with your child, I can assure you we had a wonderful time using it with Alice.  My parents still speak in awe about going to a public children's garden with her when she was barely one and seeing her sign "water" while she stuck her hand in a fountain for this purpose.  They have a photo of it too.  It really was rewarding, but I do offer up more reasons in my blarticle about, "Why Sign with Baby"

In my experience, using actual ASL is better than employing "baby sign".  Just like with spoken language, they come up with their own versions of certain words, they will automatically do the same with ASL and you will still understand if you are tuned in.  Those who choose "baby sign" tend to learn a few words and stop before they've really tapped into all the benefits there are to offer in signing with your child.

ASL is pretty easy to learn because most of the signs make sense.  Even those that don't make sense at first, usually do when you learn their origins.  The color "black" is signed by drawing your index finger across your forehead.  When it was explained that one of the few jobs a deaf person could have back when ASL was being developed, was coal miner, suddenly the idea of drawing a line across the base of the helmet wear the black color of the coal dust would end and the color of the miner's skin begin made the sign make sense.  This makes words easy to remember once you've learned them and start using those signs.  An example of an easy to understand sign is "milk" it looks a lot like the hand motion made by someone milking a cow.

If you decide to do Signing with your child while you are still pregnant you've bought yourself time to learn a few things (and teach those to other care givers and siblings) before baby comes along, but if baby is already here it is no big deal, just start as soon as possible for the most benefit.  I suggest choosing two-three signs to learn along with 5 letters of the alphabet each week after you've made the decision. This way you don't overwhelm yourself at a time in life that is pretty overwhelming anyway.

There are classes you can take your baby to in some locations that teach baby sign.  I've seen new mothers frustrated by the fact that such classes aren't available in their area, but PLEASE don't let this frustrate you.  Honestly, what new mom really needs the burden of ANOTHER item in their schedule?  Plus, waiting for when you can get to such a class and baby can participate it starts you off later than just getting going on your own will.  Start on your own with the wonderful plethora of ASL resources out there.  There are always a few ASL dictionaries available at the bookstores (and online).  Better yet is ASLpro (link below), which is free and kept up-to-date and the movies available that you can watch with your child.  At the same time, if your child is 9 months and you want to get started, there is nothing wrong with that either.  If you have a little one that is a late speaker I would still personally recommend signing as a way to help him or her have SOME way to communicate with you, but I would suggest you proceed with the knowledge of your child's speech therapist.

Start using signs consistently every time you say the word that goes with it, as soon as you know the sign that goes with the word you are using.  While you can expect a response too soon, you CAN'T start using it around baby too soon.  Babies can't sign until they are ready and a number of developmental milestones must first be met, both physical and mental.  However, you never do know when that moment will come that they will start to be able to notice, and notice patterns.  Start as early as you possibly can.  If baby is around already, he or she will see you signing and hear the words together from the moment he or she is able to notice and the association will be strongest for him or her.  Using ASL as often as you can simply gets you into the habit and makes it harder for you to NOT remember the words you are trying to learn.

This method is what worked well for us and I know to have worked for others.  Babies are driven by needs, so I suggest the first words you learn are about needs, then a couple of favorite people and toys.  Food, Milk, More, All Done, Wet, Mommy, Daddy. . .  THEN add, ball, doll, bear, blanket . . .

The reason I suggest the alphabet, is mainly for you - not so you can teach it to your little one (though it isn't a bad idea to do the signs along with the alphabet song should you sing it to your child).  Many signs use a letter as part of the sign.  Knowing the alphabet will help you to better understand and remember these signs.  For example, Family uses an F and People uses a P, but the movement of the hands is the same.

I suggest learning a few of your favorite nursery rhymes or songs in sign too.  We did "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" and "The More We Get Together", quite a bit in the beginning.  More songs came later.  As your child develops, and he or she gets "needs" words under his or her  belt, more "interest" words will follow and song can often be a great way to keep the vocabulary additions rolling along.  There is a wonderful colors song on "My Favorite Things" by Signing Times (link below).  This series also has fabulous songs for fruits and veggies, different animals and all kinds of good stuff.

Feelings are the toughest to teach as they are the most abstract.  Of these, the most useful and arguably a "need word" is the sign for pain (basically two index fingers pointing toward each-other and the area in pain while wearing a pained expression on one's face).  These words are also some of the hardest spoken words to teach kids too.  Use picture books about feelings for introducing these words and as you go about daily activities echo to your child, "are you feeling sad?" when he or she seems sad, "oh you look happy" etc. in spoken words while signing the emotion and they'll pick these words up too.

Baby Einstein has a couple of videos with ASL, but we found the "My Baby Can Talk" series (link below) much more engaging and useful for Alice.  It is structured in very much the same way as the Einstein videos, but the signs chosen were much more useful.  For example, the Einstein video gives signs for Window, refrigerator, computer, piano, and sofa while My Baby Can Talk gives the signs for cereal, crackers, please and thank you.   The Einstein video had wonderful little clips with puppets Alice really liked, but no signing was done during these sections.  We would play one video and watch it together one time each day.

When Alice got too old for these, we introduced, "Signing Time" which is much more geared for toddlers and school-aged kids with its up-beat music, humor and faster pace.  For your own learning purposes ASLpro is a wonderful free resource recommended to me by a deaf friend when Alice was about six months old.  I have referred to this site frequently.  Once Alice started speaking fluently (and we moved away from the friend that used ASL regularly), it was  difficult to keep up the ASL, however we do still remember bits of it and it does come in useful from time to time.

Monday, June 25, 2012

What Learning Looks Like To Me

While on Pinterest the other day, I saw the picture below and found myself disgusted by it. What this poster says does not jive at all with the fact that the kids pictured in this blarticle are also "Ready to Learn". Perhaps it is because I spent three years in a classroom designed for "twice exceptionals" for whom "ready to learn" is the exact opposite of what this poster says, but it made me exceedingly sad to see this pin.
The trouble is, for many, this poster prescribes the antithesis of what learning looks like.  Even for so-called "normal" kids, doing what this poster says is actually likely to diminish the learning that takes place compared to what could take place with lessons that call for a more active learning style.  For many children with behavorial disorders, using a poster like this in the classroom and insisting that this kind of behavior is what will result in learning, results in teaching the kids that they are bad and incapable of learning.  Seriously, this attitude can be a serious blow to the self-esteem of these students and is counter to their learning and well-being.  For more information on how to incorporate movement into even lessons that really do need quiet, read "Teaching Wiggle Worms".
Kids do need to learn manners and find ways to learn without creating disruptions and distractions for others, but come on, what adult convention have you ever attended where everyone is sitting criss-cross with their hands in their laps and mouths completely closed the entire time? My first reaction was, "sitting straight and tall is good posture, but what does that have to do with actual learning?" then, to the yellow commandment, "I can't sit cross-legged for twenty minutes of story time either" Then I thought, rather sarcastically, because I now know this poster is full of antiquated edicts. "I bet the teacher is in a chair or standing", so then I thought.  Even with all the training and education out there, it leaves me disheartened about the state of on-going teacher training in this country to know this poster was getting very many likes or repins at all. This poster is not written about what "ready to learn looks like",  It is written about what the teacher considers is polite while someone is speaking.  
Kids need to learn manners.  They need to learn how to listen to a speaker without being rude or disruptive.  I do think there are ways to do this that are much more realistic while respecting the child and teaching the child to respect others.

Since the poster is really about social graces, perhaps the poster should say:

  • Sitting straight and Tall is good for your back and your health.   
  • Readjust your body positions slowly, when you need to, in a way that doesn't mean you bump into others and makes an attempt not to distract others.
  • When you look at the speaker, you are giving him or her body language that says you are listening.  Glance back and forth between your doodles or fidget, the speaker, and whatever the speaker is pointing to frequently.  When people are really listening they use their Eyes, Ears, and Hearts (empathy) to really understand all of what is said.
  • If you need to play with something in order to give your fingers and hands something to do while you listen - please feel free!  Just make sure you can do this in a way that doesn't make others not able to hear and pay attention too.
  • I would love to see your hands in the air with questions or on your desk taking notes, but I do not want to see your hands in other's spaces.  I may ask you to write a question down in order to save it for later if I need to in order to keep myself on track, so be ready with paper and a pencil.  (or in a classroom for the very young, perhaps the teacher should write these kinds of questions on the board when they are asked)
  • It is important that you make sure the others around you can hear - even if you can hear and understand the speaker while you are talking, others might not be able to, and it distracts the speaker.  If you must have a little noise, pat your thigh very quietly so you can hear it, but only you can hear it.
Yes, my version is much wordier, but it is also much more real in that it is honest about what the "rules" are really about (manners toward the speaker and other listeners) as well as expectation for some kids.  The kids in the picture at the top of the page are NOT looking like they are ready to learn according to what the poster says, but guess what, they are, in fact learning.  That can be said of the kids in any of the pictures included on this page.

If you found this article intriguing, thought-provoking, or helpful, you might also be interested in my blarticles Teaching Wiggle Worms, Assessing Wiggle Worms and How to Make Your Own Fidgets for more ideas on how to honor those kids in your life that actually need to move to learn.  You might also like this blog about motivating kids to learn and using discipline that makes sense.  If you think you might have a gifted kid in school that is being under served because of an additional label such as ADHD or Aspberger's Syndrome, you may be interested in taking a look at AEGUS, The Association for the Education of the Gifted and Under-served Student.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Reasons to Sign with Baby and Keep Signing with Toddler

When Alice was a newborn, we decided to use sign language with her.  If you are considering using sign with your own child here are some pros and "cons".  If you are ready to get started, but are unsure how to make the most of ASL with your child, here is an article with ideas and resources for you.

It is fairly common to use baby signs now and there has been a lot of research done about it so here is the gist of what I found in the research I did when Alice was a "bun in the oven".

Cons (well, sort of):

  • I only ever found two cons listed one of them was, "babies who sign may have their speech delayed".  This "Con" is actually untrue.  As you read through the Pros, you will find studies have demonstrated the opposite to be the case.  It is true that in children who speak late (already well into their toddler-hood), there is some debate about whether introducing sign at this late stage is helpful or a hinderance. The research here is conflicted, but I'm talking about beginning signing with Babies here.
  • It will require work on your part to learn some signs and use them consistently for the advantages to actually come to fruition.  You'll also need to learn more than the typical, milk, more, and all done to really make it worth your while.  Many people stop at just a few words, but the benefit comes when your child can fully communicate with you before they are able to put together whole sentences in speech.  You will find, however, ASL for the level you will need, is not difficult to learn.  Here is how I went about learning ASL.
  • I don't really see this one as a con, but it is something to know in case your goal in signing with your child is to somehow make him or her have a higher IQ or something.  Many of the advantages are only advantages for the first one-three years of life.  If you are unable to do sign with your baby, there is no evidence to prove that advantages last beyond the age of three.  It may make toddler hood a lot easier for the both of you, but it has not yet been shown that kids that signed as babies are more likely to make more money, have happier lives, or be better people in any way as adults.  Long story, short:  If you can't, or don't want to do it - don't sweat it because it is the small stuff.


  • Sign Language Helps Kids Communicate Earlier:  Kids who are born to fluent ASL users, are often able to communicate through sign around six months and sometimes even as early as four months.  Kids of speaking parents who use baby sign with their children starting at about 3 months or earlier, find their kids able to begin communicating with them around 7 months and as early as 5 months.  
  • Kids that are introduced to sign before six months often (not always, but on average) speak sooner too.  Kids that have had sign language in their early lives, are more likely to start Speaking early and have a larger Spoken vocabulary than their non-signing peers at earlier ages.  Those persons who felt I was making a mistake with my child and had to express this, most commonly either asked me if I was worried about Alice speaking late because of sign, or told me this was sure to be the result (depending on how polite they were).  It was great to know the opposite to usually be the case so I could reassure those who were truly concerned.  To explain this, some scientists say signing helps get language centers in the brain firing sooner.  It is true that in studies done on one year old children, those who sign have areas of their brains lighting up that aren't lighting up in other kids.  It is possible though, that it is not the signing itself.  Parents that take the time to learn some signs to use with their kids, might just be spending more time on average doing language-related activities (speaking with their kids, pointing things out and naming them, reading books, looking at print and letters, singing rhyming songs, playing communication games etc.) with their kids in general.
  • Because they Communicate More Clearly Sooner, there is Less Crying and Fit Throwing with Kids That Sign.  The adults around these kids are more likely to understand what a child wants or needs and address that need or want sooner - before the child goes over the edge.  Alice was signing milk at about 5 months which meant I knew she was hungry before she had to cry for it.  By 8 months, she could tell me that an elephant was her favorite animal (whole sentences in the ASL grammar).  While knowing what they want does not mean they automatically get it, just the ability to acknowledge the want often staves off the fit that comes from kids simply not feeling understood. 
  • We can still use the little bits that we remember in situations where silence is usually required, or to communicate across a noisy playground - she is six.  
  • I have since met a few deaf people, and since I did not use Baby Signs, but actually employed ASL (in my beginner's way anyway) I have made a few friendships I may not have been able to make as easily without ASL in my life.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Musical Skills for Toddlers - Loud and Soft

The fact that a musical education is virtually being ignored in most schools, does not make music any lesson important.  I don't know any one that does not enjoy music of some sort.  It can have a profound impact on our moods, provide an outlet for stress for those who create music as well as those that listen and is a form of self-expression.  It has been proven that kids with early exposure to multiple genres of music and musical awareness are also more likely to learn to play an instrument and those that learn to play an instrument and read music typically do better in math.

Believe it or not, giving your kids some early musical awareness can be simple and doesn't even require that you know how to read music.

Skill number one was "Identify Tempo".

Skill number two is Identify Loud and Soft

Discuss Loud and Soft with your child. Play the "Loud and Soft Game" by grabbing any musical instrument you might have around (even a child's toy instrument can work for this) and demonstrating the concept.  Drums work particularly well.  Then have your child identify whether you are playing loud or soft a couple of times.  Make sure to give your child a turn and even see if he or she can find a "middle" volume as well.

You can also try a children's song like John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,  For this song, you do the "loud" during the "Da da da da da da da" part.  You also lead your child or group of children by example for the rest of the song singing the verse in nearly a whisper to at the top of your lungs and anywhere in between.

Of course you can also introduce musical concepts with a little help from Bert and Ernie too!

Set something on the top of a drum (yes a toy drum will work) that will bounce somewhat on the drum while you play.  A large bead, Lego, pieces of fabric. . . and then let your child experiment with loud and soft and how playing loud or soft affects the item's height on the drum.  After he/she has concluded that loudest makes the highest bounce, see if you can be loud enough to bounce the item right off the drum.  Ask your child to see if he or she can play softly enough to make it so his her item doesn't change position on the drum.

Watch "The Soundtrack" from Fantasia.

Listen to some Loud and Soft Music, create a movement to do when the music is soft and another to do when it is loud.  Dance to your song.  Revisit this part of the lesson frequently with multiple songs, genres and locations (for example, try a seated version in the car on a long road trip)

One Fabulous piece of music for this lesson (and one of Alice's favorite classical pieces) is Hadyn's Symphony No. 94, commonly referred to as the "Surprise Symphony".  Joseph Hadyn, or "Papa Jo" was a composer at the beginning of the Classical Era and actually had a hand in teaching both Mozart and Beethoven.  He was known for his wonderful sense of humor and wrote this symphony to play a joke on those concert attendees that might start to drift off to sleep while listening.  Just look it up and listen - you'll get the joke and your children will learn a little something about Loud and Soft.  After you've heard the song a couple of times, can your child begin to predict when "the surprises" will come?  If your child is particularly advanced with tempo, see if he or she can count the beats between "surprises". 

More Great songs to teach Loud and Soft:
Morning from Peer Gynt - Edvard Grieg.
This is Berk - John Powell
The Tuilleries from Pictures at an Exhibition - Mussorgsky
I am the Lion - Neil Diamond
Africa - Toto
Lightening Crashes - Live
Shout - Isley Brothers did the original but it is the version by Otis Day and the Knights you need to use for this lesson as it is the one with clear differentiation between quiet and loud.
Wade in the Water - This is a Jubilee and there are many beautiful versions out there.

I highly suggest that any song with lyrics be listened to carefully before hand - particularly if your child is likely to pay attention and remember the lyrics.  You can also choose a soft song and a loud song and have a child compare the two, but having both in the same song is somewhat more challenging and significantly more interesting.  There are plenty of songs for kids that are designed to teach about loud and soft - John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt comes to mind immediately as an example.  Using children's songs with kids teaches them a lot and the simplicity offered by these songs is helpful to training their ears to help them match tones for singing.  However, teaching with only children's music robs them of exposure to a lot of wonderful art while they are young so I suggest using a little of both.

PLEASE add to the music list! I'll love hearing your suggestions - just add a comment.

Skill Number Three is: Identify High and Low

Skill Number Four is: Learn Crescendo and Diminuendo

You might also be interested in Fairy tale Classics and Animal Action Replacement

For ideas about ways to find great music NOT for kids, click on the link.  If you play some of their favorites as well as introduce them to a variety of genres they'll get the best of both worlds.  Jazz resources for kids

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An Author Study

In an author study, a child (or teen) learns about a particular author and then writes a report about that author.  This can be done with any age as even a pre-writer can still learn something about a favorite author and then dictate what he or she has to say about that author to someone who will write it down for the child, an audio recording device, or a video camera.

Author studies are a useful exercise for kids to complete occasionally, because they often learn something about the writing process along the way as well as find books to read that they may have otherwise missed.

  1. Make sure to have as many books by the author/illustrator to be discussed available for the child/ren's perusal.  Give students a reasonable amount of time to "study" their author's work.  For a group of preschoolers you might just read three or four board books to the child or students all in one to two sittings, but for a high schooler they will need ample time to read at least two books by the same author and of course, books at their level are longer, denser and need more time for completion.
  2. Look up the author or publisher's web site.  Modern authors can often be contacted via email or snail mail and many of them will write back.  Students can "interview" these authors through this communication.  Authors are busy and have a lot of writing to do.  Especially popular authors may have a form letter they use in return mail, but one really good question might elicit an answer from an author which can be informative and really fun for the young fan that writes the letter in the first place.
  3. Have the kids compare what they've read.  Obviously, you'll want to make your questions developmentally appropriate for the age group with which you are working, but here are some ideas to get the brainstorming started.  What is similar from one book to the next?  What is this author's style?  What makes this author unique, but is common to all his/her books?  Does the author use similar characters?  What is different from book to book?  How does the author distinguish individual works within his/her repertoire?  Which one of this author's works was your favorite and why?  Would you read more by this author and why?  etc.
  4. Make sure your students also answer some biographical information on their author of choice: Where was he/she born?  When?  Is he or she still alive?  What distinguished this author's childhood from that of others?  What events took place in this author's life that might be something that has provided inspiration for that author?  (For example, with Mo Willems, obviously, his own parenting has been drawn upon in the Knuffle Bunny series.  OR Roald Dahl clearly used his experience during WWII in his writing of The Gremlins).
  5. Finally, can the child find information about the author's writing process?  Eric Carle has done interviews on his illustrative processes, so has David Wiesner (these can even be found on Youtube).  There is a whole museum dedicated to Roald Dahl and Tolkein's Son, Christopher, has written entire books using Tolkein's notes and many drafts to create a time-line of thoughts and ideas behind each of the books in the Rings Trilogy.  Many authors have their own website where this information is described as well.  This is also where writing to an author and asking, "How does writing occur for you?  Where do you get your ideas?  How long does it take to write a book?" etc. can result in pretty informative pieces of information.  Don't forget to see if they can find out what the author has to say about the editing and publishing processes.  For children that consider themselves future writers, this part of an author study can be most informative and helpful.
  6. Have your student/students write up what they've found out.  Give a format to follow that is appropriate for the age with which you are working.  An early elementary student might write answers to separate questions in more of a questionnaire format while late elementary students (4th and 5th grade) might write a paragraph or two.  A middle school student might do a one-two page report while a high schooler can do a full-blown biographical report and analysis on the author studied.
Tips for Preschool:
Start by narrowing the field of choices a little bit to fit the need of your student or students.  For a child/children that is still mostly read to, you might choose an author of board books.  For your student or students don't give a choice between more than two authors you already know to be favorites.  Offer up choices you know have fun, easy to use websites for their research and great books the kids like.  Make sure you don't choose one author that responds to fan mail and another that doesn't or no longer can.  Then make the activity a one to two session event that is mostly done through discussion.  If you need or want a record of the student's thoughts, take notes yourself or record your discussion - video or audio will work.  The author you choose needs to have written multiple books.  For this age, you may want to do an "illustrator study" instead, or give them a choice between two authors that also do all of their own illustrations.  The questions you ask would be very similar to those listed above, but would specifically apply to illustration instead of writing, or in addition to the writing.

Tips for Elementary:

For Elementary Students, I recommend giving each student a short list of authors from which to choose. Again, make sure each author listed as an option has published multiple books (or poems).  If you are working with one individual child, a choice list is less necessary because you can brainstorm the options together, but for a class full of students, having a choice list helps them have a positive experience because it allows you to know ahead of time a little bit about what resources are available for your kids to find.  You might include illustrators as well - especially for those kids in First through Third Grade.

Tips for Middle School and High School:

For these age groups, if you are in a classroom setting, you still might want to include a list of authors from which they should choose, but that list should clearly be more expansive than anything offered to younger children.  You might also offer some flexibility, perhaps you have a student that has a favorite author not on your list that is willing to write up a "proposal" in order to get permission to study some one not on the list you offer up.  In the proposal, the student would demonstrate there is enough information out there for his/her research and that the author writes books at a reading level that will be appropriate content as well as reading level for the child in question.  I also suggest specifying that the student must choose books by the same author NOT from within the same series.  A series like the Harry Potter Books, or The Hunger Games, means multiple books have been written, but each book is still really a section from the same story.  It becomes a lot more difficult to search for differences and similarities that go deeper than names of characters between different books when one is really reading the same story but a different part.  In contrast, if a child compares Roald Dahl's Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, distinct similarities between the Hero/Heroine can be determined as well as similarities between the antagonists in each book.  Similar themes can be seperated out and how the author approaches those themes with differing characters is a much more interesting topic than when the same themes are carried through a series using the same characters with the same strengths and foibles.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Star-Spangled Pie

This technique can be used on any pie that requires two crusts.

Start by rolling out your usual pie crust recipe and completing the bottom crust and filling portion of the pie as you normally would.  As usual cut your remaining crust into a circle a little larger than your pie pan's circumference.  Then cut out pie-piece shaped holes as shown in the photo.  You can have as many or as few of these "vents" as you wish.  Be sure to leave about an inch and a half border between.

Use a star-shaped cookie cutter and treat the cut-out and remaining scraps of crust as if it is cookie dough.  Create a good collection of stars (or hearts, or whatever shape you desire to "spangle" your pie).  Then paint the portion already on your pie with one egg white.  Add one more egg white to your bowl of egg whites and then add a drop of food coloring and mix.  Paint your crust with the colored "paint" you've just made.

The first egg white painted on the crust that is not cut-outs will now act like a glue to the cut-outs, decoratively place them on your pie-crust "borders", place foil around the edges and bake as usual.
I'm really sorry, but the pie got eaten before I managed to get a picture of the completed process.  I don't have a picture of the one with just the stars, however, you can also cut out strips of crust and paint half of them red using the same method as the blue described for the stars.  Here is our "flag version".

Make sure to let your child help in the process of making this pie.  Baking with you offers up lots of learning opportunities for children.  Let him or her roll dough, use the cookie cutter, paint the stars (use red if you are doing blueberry filling), and measure out ingredients.  While you bake talk about our flag and what stars, red, white and blue represent to a United States Citizen.  For more information on the symbolism in our flag, check out my blarticle, Flag Day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Drummer Hoff - Oldie but Goodie

Drummer Hoff is the Caldecott Medal Winner for 1968 for its riotously colored illustrations by Ed Emberly.  It was written by Barbara Emberly with a repetitive story structure much like the Farmer in the Dell that children love.  Seven soldiers build a cannon so Drummer Hoff can fire it off.  Each job completed, rhymes with the name of the soldier who completed the job.

Some discussions and activities that can be done in conjunction with a reading of this book:

Teamwork Theme:

Could Drummer Hoff have fired it off without Corporal Farrell and Sergeant Chowder?  Compare the firing of this cannon to another team activity with which your kids are already familiar.

Parts of Speech:

The sentence structure is repeated over and over again and is amazingly simple.  It uses no adjectives or adverbs and keeps things to the most simple use of the English language possible.  It would be a great book for an early reader to try on his or her own for this reason.  Use this story to introduce subject and predicate or nouns and verbs.  Have your child highlight a copy of the story where yellow is the predicate and another color is the subject.  You could also do one color for all the verbs and another highlighter color for all the nouns.  Each sentence also has two nouns, one being a proper noun (the pronoun "it" refers to the cannon).  Can your child sort out the types of nouns throughout the story?  


Every character's name matches the job he had through rhyme.  Make cards that have the nouns of the story and play a matching game by finding the rhymes.

Write Your Own:

Choose something else that a group of people might do that is familiar to your child.  My first thought was of baking a pie - "Auntie Pilling made the filling, Grandpa Govin placed it in the oven, but I served the pie."  You get the idea.  See what you and your young child can come up with,  or simply assign it to an older, more accomplished child and see what he or she does on his or her own.

Learn about Wood-Block Engraving from Colonial America and make a Print:

  • First, on your own; simply type "Colonial Wood Engravings" into your Google Search Bar and a few good articles will come up for you to read on the subject.  
  • Then, share the information and images you feel your child is ready for with your child.  Follow that by making your own "engraving".  
  • Roll out some clay (playdough can be used, but may be just a bit too soft) so it is a flat surface.  Gently press the bottom of a cookie sheet down onto the clay to make it smooth and level.  
  • With your child, "draw" an image of choice with  a toothpick onto the clay - make it simple and make thick and wide "lines" by drawing parallel double lines anywhere you might want a line on your eventual print.  A great place to start is by first forming a thick, bold version of the letter of your child's first name and then allow your child to carve out around the letter's shape.  More delicately he or she can also scrape designs into the letter if they are a bit older too.  The point is that where the clay is high, is what will make the picture, where as where the clay is low there will be negative space.
  • Then, using a small spatula (one for frosting cakes or designed for sculpting will work best) press in dough (or scoop out) where you do NOT want lines to show on your print.  Paint the raised portions of your engraving.  Place a large piece of paper down on your engraving and gently touch the paper to the painted areas.  Peel away and you have a record of your engraving.
  • One can do this with potatoes and make smaller engravings (the most commonly recommended version of making carved prints).  However, while it involves fewer steps for the parent or teacher, it is much harder for the kids to successfully and safely carve into a potato than into clay.

This book would also be a wonderful accompaniment to a collection of books about the revolutionary war during a unit on this part of history.  Why is Drummer Hoff in a red coat?  Why do his shoes have buttons?  Why is there a drummer?  What were they firing it off at?  . . .

Weston Woods Studios produced a movie short based on the book with its psychedelic take on Colonial American engravings and times which is still available on a DVD collection of other Caldecott Medal Winners and has additional ideas for activities that can be done with this book in its "teachers" menu option including discussion questions about comparing times of war and times of peace with young readers.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Taste the Rainbow: Teaching Colors and graphing with Candy

Teach your child his/her colors and graphing skills using your favorite bite-sized candies.

First create a "graph" without the info.  You'll need an x and y axis - at 14, ours was a little small  for a single bag of skittles, so I recommend going to 20 on your vertical axis and then list the colors along your x, or horizontal axis.

Please remember to title each axis and the whole graph.  This is something that I notice goes over-looked even in many elementary school workbooks, but to a scientist it is a little like not crossing your t's or dotting your i's.  It may seem like such a detail is relatively insignificant and in most cases it probably is, but simple things like not including titles on graphs or units of measurement can mean the difference in monies for further studies and expenses to a professional (NASA, actually spent a couple million on a mistake because of dropped units).  It can also mean the difference between life and death in medical applications.  It is just good to begin well and be a stickler about such things from the start.  If your child or children don't become doctors - ah well, they still know how to label things properly right?

As an example, think about the photo above.  I purposefully left out the units on my y axis (number of skittles).  You can grasp that piece of information from the context of the rest of the graph, but what if the graph was really about a study we did where we asked a bunch of people what their favorite color was?  Perhaps each unit really represents 10, or 100 people who feel that color is their favorite flavor.  The graph takes on a different significance and meaning with this slight alteration.  It is in the titles and units that this kind of information is made clear.  If your child is past learning colors and is really focusing on graph skills, this might be a good activity to do.  Ask every family member (even distant aunts and uncles) and friend their favorite flavor, now graph it that way and compare the two graphs.  What changes must be made clear in how the graph is made to make this difference clear to a reader that does not have that background information?

If you are working with a younger child and the purpose is to introduce graphing,
  1. Show your child the graph you've pre-made and Ask the question:  I wonder which color is found most in a ______ bag/ container.  You could use m&m's, Skittles, Starbursts, sweet tarts...
  2. Open your candies and organize the candies by color, stacking the candies on the grid as shown.  Speak about the colors as you do this repeating the color names over and over again.
  3. Count each "stack" of candies and ask the question again.
  4. Now ask your child if there was a way to tell which color had the most without counting.
  5. Allow your child to have a handful or two - and maybe eat a few yourself.  Follow up again on another day with more questions.  Does every bag of skittles have the same numbers? - test it out and then make a graph to answer that question.  Can we graph the favorite flavors of friends?  Do other candies get split by color in about the same amounts?  Be creative and have fun with it.   

Monday, June 11, 2012

Flag Day

Happy Flag Day This Week,

The first flags had 13 stripes (same as today's) as well as a 13 stars, but how those stars were arranged depended somewhat on the flag maker.  The flag commonly regarded as the "first" depicted the stars in a circle.  These represented the 13 colonies.  Discuss that as more states were formed, more stars were added.  The stars are arranged into "arrays" or patterns that are easier to count than a random smattering would be.  The current flag has 5 rows of 6 stars and 4 rows of 5 stars.  Let your 4th grade or older child calculate how many stars the current flag has using this information. The stripes still represent the original 13 colonies.  The colors represent purity (white) justice (blue) and the blood shed for our freedom (red). 

There are actually rules about how to treat our flag.  These rules include that the flag should never touch the ground and that one shouldn't "wear" the flag as clothing.  When a flag becomes torn and tattered, it is supposed to be "retired" in a ceremony that includes the burning of the flag.  Last I knew, the only non-military personal allowed to carry out this ceremony are specifically trained scouts (there is a badge that is earned along with the training).  Also the American flag is never supposed to fly lower than any other flag above American soil.   
Some things you might try:
  • Compare our flag to those of other countries then ask your child/children if they'd like to work together to design a family flag.  If you make sure each item on the flag is symbolic of something important to your family you can use this as an inroad for discussing family values.
  • If you have a kid in scouts, look into earning badges related to flag ceremonies (colors etc.)  I know in girl scouts they fall into the "legacy" category.
  • Although, as I understand it, we really don't know Betsy Ross was the first flag designer.  In fact, it was a long while before there was only one version of the flag used by the populace and many different styles were used because people generally made their own.  However, Betsy was friends with George Washington and is probably a good bet for one of the early flag designers.  Go ahead and have one of your kids (that is working on research skills) read a little more about her and share the information gleaned with the rest of the family.

  • Learn more about other symbols that were considered as parts of the flag and how the flag has evolved through our history.  
  • Check out how to make a 5 pointed star (like those on the flag) with only one slice of the scissors.  According to legend, president Washington thought the stars would have six points because they would be easier to cut out of fabric.  When Betsy heard this, she quickly amazed the president by making a few folds on some fabric and took one slice of the scissors and then unfolded the fabric to reveal a five pointed start.  This little act, supposedly won her the honor of being the one to design the flag.
  • Do a multimedia rendition of the flag by creating a collage of other symbols that merge to become a picture of the flag together.
  • There are a multitude of flag crafts one can try all you have to do is a search for "US Flag" and you'll find recipes as well as crafts that result in the depiction of the United States Flag in one way or another.  I have a few favorites "pinned" myself.

    Friday, June 8, 2012

    Music Skills for Toddlers - Introducing Tempo

    It may seem out of reach to introduce young children to more formal types of musical awareness at such an early age - especially if you don't get twitterpaited about classical music for instance. However, its actually fun and easy and you may find yourself just as engaged as your little one in no time at all. You also don't always have to use classical music.

    Skill number one - Identify Tempo.

    Small children can quickly ascertain slow and fast music. This important skill involves identifying the beat on a basic level and expressing the relative speed of that beat in some way or another.

    Some great pieces of music for "fast" and "slow" that ARE NOT CHILDREN's music in the same piece include:

    Tchiakovsky's 1812 Overture and In the Hall of the Mountain King are two of our classical favorites in this household.  For the Mountain King, you can use the classical version by an orchestra, or Trent Reznor's arrangement from Social Network (though it might be a little too dissonant for the very young).
    Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin
    Come Sail Away by Styx
    Piano Sonata No. 1, 1st movement by Beethoven
    Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
    A lot of Pink Floyd has mixed tempos

    There are also many songs that are great representations of "fast":
    Flight of the Bumblebee from the tale of Tzar Saltan
    Ella Fitzgerald's Old MacDonald
    Black Mountain Rag by Larry Creel

    And of course there are others that are great for "slow" and easy to find - any lullaby will work, many love songs, Imagine by John Lenon, Jackaroo, all would work wonderfully.

    I highly suggest that any song with lyrics be listened to carefully before hand - particularly if your child is likely to pay attention and remember the lyrics.  Three of the rock songs listed here have themes with death for example.  It is possible to get many songs (particularly older songs) lyric free - there is even a lullaby rendition of Stairway to Heaven available.

    You can also just take multiple songs together for this activity but having one song gives the activity a clear beginning and a clear ending which can be nice. I'm sure there are a million more songs out there with multiple tempos- please add a comment if you think of another I haven't listed here.

    There are also plenty of songs that are designed for children with this in mind. For example Jim Along Josie. I actually recommend doing this activity many times with many different pieces of music.  Make sure that some of the time you are using something NOT intended for kids for this activity as it simply helps to expand their music vocabulary to be introduced to a variety of genres of music. For ideas about ways to find great music NOT for kids, click on the link.  If you play some of their favorites as well as introduce them to a variety of genres they'll get the best of both worlds.

    STEP 1:
    Discuss fast and slow with your child. Perhaps even read the tortoise and the hair or a similar story beforehand.

    STEP 2
    Then play the piece of music you have chosen with multiple tempos. Simply move to the music. You might move like you are in water or stuck in mud (Slow motion) during slow parts and run or speed up the action during fast parts.

    STEP 3
    Change things up, walking and running, slow hops and fast hops, jumping etc. make it a little bit like follow the leader and let your kids lead, or you be leader and make them laugh after they've gotten the point by going slow during a fast part and let them correct your movements. Make a game out of it in these ways and your kids will think you are the funnest, most hysterical person in their world and they'll be learning something too.

    PLEASE add to the music list! I'll love hearing your suggestions.

    For Skills Number Two and Three, Please Click on Loud and Soft  or  High and Low

    You might also like:
    Jazz resources for kids
    Fairy Tale Music Classics
    Classics for Kids to Know: Flight of the Bumblebee
    Animal Action Replacement: Carnival of the Animals

    And more to come!  Use the Tab at the top of the screen and scroll to  "School-aged" and "humanities" to find a listing of other music articles for kids.

    Saturday, June 2, 2012

    Puppet Theater

    To make your own puppet theater, all you need are some lengths of PVC pipe, PVC joints, fabric, creativity and some puppets.

    Materials: These Materials will make a puppet theater that measures approximately
    3ft across, 5 ft tall and 1ft in depth.  It is possible to deconstruct this theater for easier storage.
    • PVC pipes -  7, 3 ft lengths, 4, 2ft lenghts, 4, 1 ft lengths and 2, 6(or so)  inch lengths.  Of course you can alter the lengths, if you want something bigger (or smaller), but you'll need to maintain the ratios.  Be careful about getting too muc bigger, because you'll need to add more cross pieces if it gets too much larger for more support.
    • 4 PVC 3 way corner connectors.
    • 8 PVC 3 way T connectors.
    • 2 PVC end caps
    • 3 Yards of "curtain fabric" - something like velvet and dark so it is difficult to see through.  A little simple sewing will be required, or pre-made curtain panels (buy the 36 inch size).
    • PVC Glue
    • 1 square yard of fabric for the "backdrop".  Or more pre-sewn curtain panels.  I recommend white which you can then paint with scenery or just leave white and the kids can use their own imaginations.
    Start by assembling all your materials in one place.  I suggest building the whole thing before using any glue and then adding the glue at the end when you know all is well.  I only glued the pieces to make the rectangles for the sides, because I wanted it to come apart into flat pieces (as shown below) so it can be stored more easily and I can remove or change the curtain panels as I need.  This video should show you what each of the parts actually looks like as well as how to get it lined up and put together. 

    Link to Instructional Video #1

     You'll need to repeat the process for the second side in such a way that you wind up with two sides that are mirror images of each-other.  You will have three remaining pipes that are each three foot lengths that can connect the two sides.  These three remaining pipes are the parts on which you'll want to hang your curtains.  This series of pictures should give you an idea of what the finished product should look like.

    These are the two sides completed and laying side by side. 

    Notice the T-joints facing toward the pavement in the center of the photo.

    The side at the bottom of the photo has been turned over and the cross-pipes added.
    Now the whole thing is put together and is laying on its side.  We are viewing the theater from the top here.  Add curtains and your puppet theater is complete.

    Link to Instructional Video #2

    I bought all my curtains on clearance.  Any store that sells curtains eventually gets to a point where they will have valences made from one kind of fabric left over without any of its matching curtain panels and/or left over curtain panels without any more of their matching partners to sell.  You can get really good deals if you look for these kinds of clearance items.  The fabrics and textures are different, but the color red is the same and it works well. You could also use old kids blankets and flop them over the bars, but they are more likely to fall and be a hassel this way.

    For Puppets:

    There are many ways to use puppets, you have marionettes with strings, hand puppets, sock puppets, finger puppets - you name it.  A quick search online will yield lots of make - your - own patterns and ideas.  Many times all you need is a paperbag and a few craft supplies.  However, if you want puppets that will last, you'll need to be a skilled seamstress or purchase.  My favorite pre-made puppet company is Mellisa and Doug (link below).  Actually, I've never had a toy from this company with which I have  been unhappy. 

    For script ideas you can try these websites:
    • Legends and Lore: this online puppet store is selling its final puppets, hopefully the scripts will remain available and you can still find some good deals.
    • The Creativity Institute: scripts and puppets to purchase.
    • Puppet Resources:  Huge list and great variety.  Fairytales, Comedy, Biblical, you name it!. . .

    We also have two script books from scholastic one is pretty funny cracked fairy tales, but both have a variety of fairytales in them because those are Alice's favorites.  Alice also makes up her own stories or at least retells stories from her history and literature lessons using her puppets.

    Links to Puppets and Puppet Sets to purchase:
    Melissa And Doug Make Your Own Monster Puppet Set
         We also LOVE the Make Your Own Princess Set Alice's Aunt Sent for her Birthday.
    Melissa And Doug Firefighter Puppet
          If you'll be doing lots of fairy tales, make sure to find the Knight in Shining Armor!