Great Chapter Books for Kids

great chapter books for kids

As Beach Girl and I have shared our nightly reading time, we’ve enjoyed some great chapter books together. Here are the books we’ve read so far:

Winnie the Pooh & The House at Pooh Corner, both by A.A. Milne – These were our first chapter books. At first, I worried I was boring Beach Girl or that she wasn’t paying attention, but at one point, she chimed in with “Silly old bear!” right before I read Christopher Robin’s line and I knew she must be picking up more than I thought! This sweet story of a little boy and his buddies in the Hundred Acre Woods is an easy-to-understand classic, and the imaginary tales are something every kid can relate to. (We have this box set, which includes a couple poetry books as well.)

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder – The tales of Laura and Mary’s simple childhood are enchanting and easy to follow. There are times, however, when there’s a little too much detail about hunting or making cheese to hold a 3-year-old’s interest. We just skipped over that and continued on! There’s something about Ma & Pa’s parenting, as well as the simplicity of their lifestyle that is so enthralling to me and to Beach Girl. We just started Little House on the Prairie (the 2nd book in the Little House series) a few nights ago.

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White- The friendship between Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider is endearing and so much fun.  This book is another favorite. Bonus: we learned facts about pigs & spiders, as well as a few vocabulary words when Charlotte stitched them into her web.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard & Florence Atwater- This book about a penguin-loving painter who receives a gift of penguins is pure fun and I hardly had to explain any of it. We loved imagining if we owned penguins and we learned some cool penguin facts along the way.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis’ writing is beautiful. This story is an entertaining read and a lovely allegory for the way God loves us. However, I think Beach Girl wasn’t quite old enough for it. I had to explain and reword things often and she had a harder time paying attention than usual. When we finished, I asked her if we should read another Narnia book now or wait, and she told me we needed to wait until she turned 4. I agree – a 4 or 5 year old would probably enjoy this book significantly more.

Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame- This is the only book Beach Girl has fallen asleep during! The language is a bit advanced and, at times, rambling. I do think it’s helpful to read advanced words to preschoolers because their brains are primed to pick up language easily at this age, but this was too much of a stretch, I think. After many requests to find a different book, we stopped reading this book only halfway through. The story was cute and fun, just harder to follow.  We read the free Kindle book version, which doesn’t include any pictures. Illustrations probably would have made a significant difference in her understanding and enjoyment of the story, so next time we try, we’ll make sure to get a version that includes pictures!

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren- Pippi Longstocking is a little girl who lives without a mom or dad and has all sorts of silly adventures. She’s strong enough to lift up a horse or to wrestle the strongest man, and her misadventures provided us with lots of laughs.  Beach Girl’s favorite part of this book is that Pippi tells herself to go to bed… and if she doesn’t obey the first time, then she tells herself again! I chose to edit this book more than any of our other selections, but it was still a fun, worthwhile read. We skipped over a few unpleasant words here and there, and missed the entire chapter about Pippi entertaining robbers – I don’t even want to introduce the idea that robbers could come into our house!

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White- We just finished this one and decided it’s our favorite book so far. Louis the Trumpeter Swan is born unable to speak, so his (human) friend Sam Beaver helps him learn to communicate by reading and writing and his dad helps him get a trumpet, which he learns to play beautifully.  The Trumpet of the Swan is a fun read, easy to understand, and includes valuable lessons about friendship and honesty.

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What recommendations do you have for chapter books for preschoolers?

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Reading Chapter Books

Some of my sweetest memories of time with my mom and sister are of snuggling up on my mom’s bed to read chapter books with them. I’ve always hoped to carry on the tradition with my daughters, so last November, I started having special mommy-daughter reading time with Beach Girl.

At just over 3, I wasn’t sure she was old enough for chapter books, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much she enjoys them and even retains from what we’ve read. She can recite key information from some of the books we finished months ago! Although, I have to admit, there are many times when we are reading that I’m not sure she’s paying a bit of attention… But I guess that’s just how it works, right? They don’t miss a thing, especially when we think they’re not listening!

early chapter books

(I like how Beach Baby photobombed this pic)

If you’re looking to introduce this time with your own preschooler, here’s how it’s worked for us:

  • We read chapter books right before bedtime. Beach Girl – and probably every kid ever – will do almost anything to delay bedtime. So, whereas she might have had trouble sitting still for longer stories at any other time of day, if she knows it’s this or bedtime, she’ll calm down and listen.
  • We do hair while we read. This is partially selfishly motivated because I love it when she brushes my hair, but we take turns putting loads of hair clips in each other’s hair. Having something calm but still active to do helps her sit relatively still and to focus better.
  • I “rewrite” some of the stories to suit her. Sometimes it’s just by saying a sentence again with more simple words or more explanation. Other times, it’s skipping over pages like the long, detailed explanations of Pa’s hunting adventures in Little House in the Big Woods (Beach Girl was getting restless) or the chapter where Pippi Longstocking entertains robbers (we don’t need to even introduce the idea that robbers could come into our house!).
  • Each night, I base how much we read off of how interested she is. Some nights, we don’t even finish a chapter. Other nights, we read 2 or more chapters.
  • Some nights, we don’t have time/energy to read a chapter book. I was worried to introduce something that would make our bedtime routine even longer because, frankly, there are some nights when bedtime needs to happen. Right. Now. I’m glad I didn’t let those nights get in the way of this special time together. I usually try to read at least a little bit, but if we’ve been out or stayed up late already, we plan to read the next night and it’s not a big deal. I’m glad I made the choice to not let the rough nights drive our bedtime routine.

We’ve treated this time as special time, and it really is. Many days, this is the only time Beach Girl and I get alone and uninterrupted together. We’ve read some wonderful books together and often refer to what we’re reading during the day or introduce phrases from our books into our everyday talk. Our favorite phrase is “silly old bear!” from Winnie the Pooh.

Next time, I’ll share what books we’ve read and our thoughts on each.

(This post is linked to The Better Moms link-up.)

Pinterest Challenge: Preschool Busy Binder

preschool activity binder

It’s that time again! I can’t believe this is my third time joining in with Young House Love & Bower Power‘s Pinterest Challenge. My previous projects were a homemade kindle case and a magnetic message board. This time around, I Pinterest Challenge’d myself to make a dry-erase busy binder filled with fun, educational, and reusable preschool activities.

We love activity bags and this preschool busy binder seemed like a nice addition to our collection of work that Beach Girl (who’s almost 3 1/2) can do independently so she can learn and have fun, even when I’m trying to get something else done. A busy binder also seems great for waiting at a restaurant, for car trips, or for during church.

Since she’s shown a lot of interest in learning to write letters lately, I mostly chose activities that let her practice drawing lines, curves, shapes, and even letters. Each page offers some other educational (and fun) value too – like learning about animals, drawing silly faces, or discerning different sizes. But my main goal was to let her practice her fine motor skills and develop her hand muscles to get her ready for writing letters. It must be working because yesterday as she tried it out, she told me: “Man! My hand is getting tired!”

preschool activity binder

For this project, I was inspired by:

Like Family, Home, & Life recommends, I used sheet protectors to hold all of the worksheets so that I can swap them out over time (Bonus: Those are cheaper & less frustrating than laminating pages!). Here’s a pack of 25 for $5.88. I also laminated a few smaller parts, but the page protector idea saved me lots of money & frustration.

One of my friends recommended dry erase crayons because they don’t smear or stain as easily as dry erase markers. Writing with them feels just like writing with a crayon, but they erase off the page protectors/laminated sheets easily enough that Beach Girl can do it herself. My friend has tried a few brands and said these LeapFrog ones are her favorite, so I got those. We’ve been happy with them so far!

I also found some other websites that have great printables. There are so many wonderful, free printables, it seems like we could do preschool for 10 years and still not run out! I had fun searching for my favorites (it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the awesomeness though!). In case you’re interested in making a similar binder, here are the ones I chose:

  • I Spy With My Little Eye page – the page is from here, but I got the idea to print two and cut one up & laminate the little pieces here. I wish I’d written the words on each like she did. (I made this one first, so we’ve already spent a couple hours on this activity alone and Beach Girl loves it!)

preschool activity binder

  • A couple connect-the-dot pages from this this Crayola Count & Connect activity book. (I got mine at Target for $1. Keep an eye out around back-to-school time for some great activity books!)
  • Shape Detective from Super Mom Moments – Find shapes that match in each row.
  • More or Less from TLSbooks.com – “Look at the sea creatures in each box. Color the group that has more.”
  • What Do Animals Eat? from TLSbooks.com – Match each animal to the food it eats.
  • Missing Shoes from TLSbooks.com – Match each person (ballerina, fireman, etc.) with their shoes.
  • A Perfect Picnic from TLSbooks.com – Find 10 things that are different between two nearly identical pictures.
  • Can You Draw These? from Crayola – Draw a square, circle, and triangle like the ones pictured.
  • Letter Matching from Paging Supermom! – Match the uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Back and Forth Lines from Crayola – draw lines that look like the ones pictured (short & wide or long & narrow, zig zag, wavy, or wiggly)
  • Crazy, Silly, Happy Faces from Paging Supermom – Draw faces on the heads (There’s also space for writing adjectives to describe each, but we’re not ready for that yet!). This was such a cute activity! Check out “happy” and “cranky”:

preschool activity binder

  • Bear Tracing Activity from TLSbooks.com – Complete the picture of the bear.
  • All Kinds of Weather from TLSbooks.com – Match the children to the appropriate weather for what they’re wearing/doing.
  • Day and Night from TLSbooks.com – draw lines to match up the pictures of what the children are doing to whether the activities happen at day or night
  • Shape tracing – I outlined an oval, heart, star, square, rectangle, triangle, and diamond on a couple pages and labeled them
  • Count and Circle from TLSbooks.com – “Circle the correct number of objects in each row.”
  • Counting Crustaceans – “Count each group of crustaceans. Circle the number that tells how many.”
  • Marine Life Shadow Match – Match each marine animal to its shadow.
  • Draw a line to connect the matching cats (although it says they’re rabbits haha)
  • Writing skills cards (I also found this from All Our Days) – I cut these up and laminated them separately and then stuck all the sheets in a page protector in the binder.

preschool activity binder

  • Same size worksheets (vegetables, fruits, toys, & animals) – Color the items in each row that are the same size.
  • Mazes from Raising Our Kids  – I liked these because there are two on one page, but I think one bigger, simpler maze would be better for a first maze. Beach Girl keeps drawing lines through the “walls” and saying “Look! Jonah got out!” haha
  • Map of the United States from MrPrintables.com – This map is so fun. If you have a color printer, I especially like the look of the color version, but we’ve had fun drawing different road trip routes on the black & white map & coloring places we’ve lived or traveled.
  • Personalized handwriting practice page – This is the part of the book I’m most excited about (idea also from All Our Days). On this website, you can create and print a personalized handwriting sheet with your child’s name, address, etc.

These are pretty quick activities, but the page protectors let us do them over and over again (and I can easily swap them out or add more as she gets older). I’m hoping this busy binder will even last through multiple children!

If you’re visiting my blog, I’d love for you to follow me on Pinterest or to subscribe.

Please make sure to check out more posts from the Pinterest Challenge at: Young House Love, Bower Power, Decor and the Dog, and The Remodeled Life. And, if you’re interested in other activities for preschoolers, here are some of my most popular posts about preschool:

Thanks for stopping by!

*This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase through them, you’ll be helping to support my blog.

Fun with Clothespins

preschool activity

The game of the month in our house right now is “hide and go seek” with clothespins. Beach Girl invented this game herself and we’ve played it nearly every day the past few weeks. I love seeing what “games” she invents and watching her delight in them over and over again.

We simply take turns covering our eyes while the other hides clothespins around the room, sort of like an Easter egg hunt. But clothespins are extra fun because you can clip them onto all sorts of fun places and since they’re a neutral color (and our living room is inevitably covered in toys!), it’s pretty challenging to find them.

Not only is this game fun, creative, and good practice at hiding/seeking things, but it also lets kids practice their verbal skills (giving hints of where to look) and their pincer grip – that all important skill of pinching the thumb and pointer finger together that will later enable them to hold a pencil and write.

Beach Baby is still figuring out how to work the clothespins well enough to attach them, but she’s starting to be able to detach them. Beach Girl is working on the difference between giving hints and totally giving away where all of her clothespins are hidden the second I start looking. We’re getting there!

We’ve been having such a blast with this simple game and, like most of the games my kids actually enjoy most, it’s so simple but delightful. Like food storage containers, clothespins offer a bunch of ways to play. Here are some ideas:

  • Hang doll clothes on a clothesline.
  • Decorate them with markers. (This makes a great restaurant activity!)
  • Color matching with clothespins – I found this idea on Pinterest and love it!
  • Hang artwork with clothespins (Sort of like I did with my advent calendar.) It’s a great way to easily rotate art or photographs. Right now, we have foam snowflakes that we painted hanging from them. You could even have your children decorate the clothespins too.

Do you have any ideas for playing with clothespins or games that your children have invented?

 

 

Lid Matching

toddler activitiesI have been sorting through photos from 2012 and came across these photos from October that reminded me I haven’t shared this fun and easy activity yet.  We pull this out every couple weeks and it’s one of those rare activities that both my girls can do and enjoy. It takes absolutely no planning or preparation and hardly any supervision, which makes it a great toddler/preschool activity for while you’re trying to get something done.

Simply set them up with an assortment of food storage containers and corresponding lids and let your children match them up.

preschool activities

Here are some other ways we play with food storage containers:

  • Vary the way the lids attach (like lids that latch, snap on, or screw on).
  • Build towers once the containers and lids are attached.
  • Nest similar containers to explore scale and talk about big-bigger-biggest.
  • Sort them according to size, shape, or color.

My girls have had a lot of fun with this and it lets me get dinner made while they are practicing their sorting skills and honing their fine motor skills. Win-win!

An Easy “Gingerbread” House

easy gingerbread house

Yesterday, I posted about our delicious unbaked cookies.  In other sugar-related news, we also decorated a gingerbread house this week.

Every Friday, we get together with our neighbors for an at-home preschool and this week, we decided a gingerbread house would be fun.

I’m not a fan of gingerbread and making a house out of it seemed like a lot of work, so we brainstormed about different alternatives. We considered using a cardboard box, but decided to try hot gluing graham crackers together.

My neighbor did the work to build the house itself, but she said it was actually really easy. And, it turned out surprisingly strong.  Our house ended up being tall and skinny, which is perfect, because it’s just like the houses in downtown Charleston!

graham cracker house

I made the icing (which was my buttercream frosting) and spread it all over the house. We stuck the house on a sheet of cardboard, added frosting lines for a sidewalk and a few dots of frosting for “landscaping” and let the kids have at it.

Check out this spread of sweets! We used all of our leftover Halloween candy, which gave us plenty of variety to decorate the gingerbread house. I also bought some candy corn & jelly beans from the bulk candy bins at the grocery store.

easy gingerbread house

There may have been a tremendous amount of sampling while decorating (and a tremendous sugar rush and crash to follow…).

easy gingerbread house

We had so much fun and I love how it turned out! If you’re looking for an easy Christmasy craft to do next week, I’d highly recommend this way of doing “gingerbread” houses.  I’m not gonna lie… I sorta wish we had more candy so we could make another one.

easy gingerbread house
I’m linking up to: Naptime Crafters & Five Days Five Ways.

Clay Play

Once a week for two years in elementary school, I finished school and headed to the art room for “Clay Play”, a time to make all sorts of things out of clay.  I made pinch pots, coil pots, a mask, and even a castle out of clay and I absolutely loved it.  Clay is the only art medium I’ve ever really loved and I’ve been excited to introduce Beach Girl to it, so when I saw this air dry clay on back to school clearance at Target, I snatched it up.

air dry clay projects

For our first project, I taught her how to make a pinch pot and I think she might be a clay-enthusiast in the making.  She made 3 pinch pots – one for us and two to give as Christmas presents – and seemed to enjoy it as much as I do!

To teach her, I made my own pinch pot next to her and she watched each step and then did it on her own clay.

To make a pinch pot:

Roll the clay into a ball

Stick your thumb into the center and wiggle it down to almost touch the bottom.

air dry clay projects

Pinch around the edges until your pot takes shape.  Try to keep the sides thick enough that they’ll be fairly sturdy when they dry. If you pinch too much and get a hole, don’t worry. You can just smooth the clay together again, getting your hands a little bit wet if you need to.

The sweet little 3-year-old-sized finger prints that are left behind are my favorite part.

art activities for preschool

Let the pinch pot dry for a few days until it is rock hard throughout.  (We set ours on parchment paper to keep it from drying stuck to the counter.)

Once it’s dry, you can paint it with tempera, acrylic, or watercolor paints.  While it’s still wet, you could decorate it with stamps, beads, sequins, glitter, and more.

air dry clay projects

I think this will be a cute way to store hair clips, coins, or other miscellaneous little things that always end up on the dresser… and it makes a fun grandparent gift! (By the way, next week’s installment of Give Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget is gifts for grandparents.  Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out!)

air dry clay projects