Posts Tagged ‘Family Time’

Book Review: Adoption Books that Celebrate Culture

November is National Adoption Month.

Odds are pretty good that you are part of an adoptive family or know an adoptive family. According to the 2000 US Census, more than 1.6 million children under the age of 18 live with their adoptive parents, and more than 100,000 children are adopted each year.

Thanks to international adoptions, the fabric of our society has become even richer, with families celebrating the heritage and cultures their children bring with them. According to the US State Department, between 1992 and 1999, the number of children adopted from abroad more than doubled from 6,720 to 16,396.

Every year since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week, the US President issues a Presidential Proclamation that launches activities and celebrations to help build awareness of adoption throughout the nation.

Thousands of community organizations arrange and host programs, events, and activities to share positive adoption stories, challenge the myths, and draw attention to the thousands of children in foster care who are waiting for permanent families.

With adoption so integrally woven into the fabric of our nation, National Adoption Month offers us a chance to share stories that celebrate family, friendship, culture, and diversity. Three of my favorites for home and classroom are the As Simple as That series by Deb Capone and Craig Shemin.

Dumplings are Delicious
by Deb Capone; illustrated by Stan Jaskiel
As Simple as That, 2005

Rain, a six-year-old girl, loves to make jiaozi (jow-za), a Chinese dumpling, with her mom. When she takes some to school for lunch one day, she learns that all over the world, families love to create, fill, and share dumplings.

  • This is a picture book that introduces diversity by celebrating the things cultures share in common.
  • The author introduces Rain’s adoption story again so you don’t have to read any of the other titles to understand the context of this one.
  • The story is sweet, with the emphasis on each child’s curiosity and discovery about another’s culture.
  • The story is simply presented, with layers that parents and teachers can use for their own purposes (culture, geography, diversity, etc.)
  • Parents and teachers can introduce a topic and then build on it with “real life” activities. Whether it’s cooking, learning more about a culture, or role-playing, there is plenty to share.

Families are Forever
by Craig Shemin and Deb Capone; illustrated by John McCoy
As Simple As That, 2003

Rain, a six-year-old girl tells us her story of how she came from China to live with her Mom and Bo, her stuffed hippo. This is a first-person story about becoming an adoptive family.

  • The story has great universal appeal. The story emphasizes how families come to be, with adoption playing a role, but not taking center stage to the love itself.
  • Children of all ages and cultures will relate to Rain and the relationship with Bo, her hippo.
  • Because of our child’s questions, we were able to introduce a “second plot” with our own adoption story. Although this is a story of Chinese adoption, we didn’t feel limited by it in our situation (which was a domestic adoption).
  • Every family can enjoy this story. It can help young children write their own story, adopted or not. It is a great way to introduce adoption as a concept of love.

Tooth Fairy Tales
by Deb Capone; illustrated by Stan Jaskiel
As Simple as That, 2005

Rain and her classmates are losing their first teeth. When Rain loses her first tooth, she starts to wonder what the Tooth Fairy does with all of those baby teeth. That’s when she learns that there’s more than just the Tooth Fairy collecting teeth. This is a story about the ways different cultures celebrate the magic of losing your baby teeth.

  • This is a fun story to read, as there is something for everyone to learn.
  • The story is broad, allowing children to understand that losing teeth is natural, and everyone celebrates the event in their own way.
  • The illustrations are simple. The writing clarity and child’s perspective take the “fear” out of the process for kids.
  • Depending on audience age, you can talk about myths and legends, growing up, diversity, and geography, as well as contrast/compare similarities and differences among cultures.

If you’re interested in reading about other adoption-themed books this month, we have a collection at the Reading Tub. We’ve also done some research on children’s books about adoption on the Family Bookshelf.

We’d love to hear about the adoption and culturally diverse books you have on your shelves, too! So please share in the comments.

Literacy Beyond the Book: Word Games & Puzzles

I can’t believe it. It was one thing to hit September and have the 1c pencil deals replaced by pumpkins, skeletons, and apple-cinnamon scents. Now, its just October 8 and the pumpkins are marked down 40% off to make room for green, red, blue, and silver … and the aroma of pine!

That can only mean one thing: merchants are getting us ready for the holiday gift season. So before we’re bombarded with ads for other stuff, I thought I’d put in a pitch for games that make great gifts because

  1. We can do them together as a family.
  2. Are perfect additions to the classroom, especially when kids have to stay indoors for recess.
  3. Make literacy fun.

As a mom and literacy passionista, I am always on the lookout for entertainment that doesn’t involve a screen, has some type of educational value, and can have lots of players. I have some childhood favorites like Scrabble, Boggle, Pictionary, and Yahtzee, but also like to find new things that have the bells and whistles to grab kids of today’s generation.

Most of these games are good for kids who are in second through fourth grade and have some experience with creating and playing with words.

Word Games

I am usually behind the times, so Bananagrams had been around the world and back a couple times already before I discovered it in 2010. I had seen it, but never played it. Now I’m addicted … yes, two years later it is still one of my favorite gamges.

Playing Bananagrams is great fun and, as it turns out, is a great modeling tool, too. A bunch of us moms used to play it at the pool on summer evenings. I can’t tell you how many times our dripping-wet kids came over to watch us play and “help” us with words.


Scrabble SLAM is a card game that is a natural choice when you want something for kids of mixed ages. Essentially, you rebuild a four-letter word like sand by playing a cards in your hand … changing it to hand or sane or band, etc.

Speed is part of the game, so it may take young players a bit to get comfortable. The other option is to turn “off” the speed component or pair together in teams (e.g., parent / child).

Concepts & Strategies

Such & Such is for up to four people or can be played in teams. The game’s tag line is “the answers to the game come in twos,” so players build pairs of things that go together: peanut butter and jelly, guilt and innocence, moon and stars, etc.

This is a game about “clever pairings and witty competition.” It will be more fun for kids 10 and up, but could be hilarious to do with sibling teams of mixed ages.

Ticket to Ride is a good, old-fashioned board game. Each player is trying to build a cross-country railway route by making city-to-city connections from one coast to the other. The game is sure to expand the players’ vocabulary and understanding of geography, history, and analytical processes.

There are lots of facets to the game, including geography and strategy. There are individualized versions for several continents.

These games combine fun and literacy concepts on many levels, not just letters. They require creativity, memory, problem solving, and even strategy.
It’s your move. What are your favorite games to play as a family?


Disclosure: The hyperlinks and images take you to The Reading Tub, a 501(c)(3) public charity, uses passive fundraising like affiliate partnerships to raise funds for its mission. The Reading Tub may earn income from purchases made through those links.

Picking Books to Read As a Family


This is an updated version of a post I wrote for the PBS Parents blog Booklights. The original article appeared in August 2010. 

As I mentioned last week, reading with your kids – even when there are many years between them – can be enjoyable for everyone to share together. Sometimes it may be about the book, but every time it is an opportunity to connect with your kids and connect them with each other!

With homework looming most days, it can be very hard to find time to be together and remind the kids that reading is for enjoyment, too.  Even a ritual like reading a [insert: poem, chapter, picture book, comic strip] at the table one morning or evening a week is great. It is your tradition, so do what works for you!

In The Read Aloud Handbook (now in its Sixth Edition!) Jim Trelease emphasizes that as readers, we have a listening level and a reading level. In Hey! Listen to This! (an article on his website), he re-emphasizes this point.

ReadAloudHandbook.jpgA consistent mistake made by parents and teachers is the assumption that a child’s listening level is the same as his or her reading level. Until about eighth grade, that is far from true; early primary grade students listen many grades above their reading level. This means that early primary grade students are capable of hearing and understanding stories that are far more complicated than those they can read themselves.

What does that mean? Well, you don’t have to read only picture books with simple messages or text. Young audiences can be enticed to enjoy text-heavy picture books and chapter books alike. There are a number of genres that naturally lend themselves to reading to mixed-age audiences, including …

UMaryland.jpgNonfiction. More specifically, nonfiction picture books, also called “informational picture books.” One of the best ways to hook kids of any age on reading is to give them some nonfiction books. They may be straight-up factual books, or they may be stories that have lots of facts in them (think: historical fiction for example). The great thing about informational picture books is that they have something for everyone. These are books that invite exploring, so whether you read all of the text or just talk about the illustrations, you’re in for an enjoyable, shared read.

poetrybooks.jpgPoetry. Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein write poetry that is meant to be read aloud.

Their poems are very “graphic,” allowing readers to “see” what they describe, and they often have a nonsensical quality that strike kids’ funny bones.

Humor. Despite the dictionary description, defining “funny” is a matter of personal taste. Still, a good laugh is something we all enjoy. As a parent, you understand the types of humor your kids enjoy … and you can decide what types of things you want to share together.

roscoe-riley.jpgBooks with lots of dialogue. “Dialog books” aren’t a specific genre, but a lot of short chapter books use conversation among the characters to tell the story. There are usually only a few characters (often school-aged kids and an adult or two) so it is an opportunity for everyone to take a role and read together.

These are by no means the only genres. On her website, storyteller Mary Hamilton offers a handy checklist that describes reading interests for various ages, from preschool through high school.

When you are selecting a book the whole family can enjoy, what types of books do you pick? If you have a family – or classroom – favorite, be sure to share!


Image Credits
Mom reading with kids: Family Story Minute by Sean Dreilinger on Flicker. Copyright. Some rights reserved.

Collage of nonfiction picture books: University of Maryland News photostream on Flickr. Copyright. Some rights reserved University of Maryland Press Releases.

Bookshelf with poetry books. Thingamababy Awesome Wall photostream on Flickr. Copyright. All rights reserved.

Roscoe Riley by Katherine Applegate. Book cover image by Mr. Biggs photostream on Flickr. Copyright. All rights reserved.

The Family Read Aloud with Toddlers, Tweens, and Teens

This is an updated version of a post I wrote for the PBS Parents blog Booklights. The original article appeared in August 2010. 

Reading aloud is not only a great way to model reading, it can be lots of fun … especially when you add voices and noise and bring the story to life.

With “little kids,” reading aloud seems the natural thing to do. They can’t read the words on the page, so you do it for them. Once young readers become independent, though, we sometimes forget that they still enjoy – and can also benefit from – listening to you read. But who has time to read with each child every night? “Not I,” said the exhausted parent.

We need one book for sharing with everyone. But picking the right book can get tricky. The 9-year-old doesn’t want to hear “baby” books, and the preschooler isn’t ready for some of the subjects nor can they sit still that long! Finding books that interest your 4-year-old AND your preteen may be easier than it sounds.

bozeman public libraryDon’t give up on picture books. Librarian Pam Coughlan points out in a PBS Booklights post that sometimes those pre-teen protests are a surface reaction. See:  Reading Aloud: Picture Books Rule! (MotherReader, March 2009). After the requisite “that’s for babies” teens will still sit and listen to a picture book. They may even surprise themselves with how much they enjoy their little brother’s reactions. The secret bonus: you are modeling reading for them so they can read to their brother later!

Chapter books need pictures, too. Illustrated chapter books are helpful because young audiences often need the images which engage their interest while you read pages with a lot more text. In general, the chapters in these books are short, making it easy to read in small spurts and over consecutive nights.

Mix it up. Sometimes you have enough time – and the kids’ temperaments are in sync – to read something that each child likes, and you can share a picture book and a chapter or two from a longer story. On those days when your energy is low, just pick one. The kids will understand … and be happy not to miss the chance to spend quality time with you.

Regularly sharing a book as a family will not only let you reconnect and renew a love of stories and books. Who knows, as everyone becomes readers, maybe everyone will want a turn!


Image Credit
Toes and a book: Public photo on Copyright All rights reserved by Tina Cockburn Photography, tcockburn2002.

Picture Books in the library: Bozeman Public Library by JSemenza on Flicker. Copyright All rights reserved.

2011 Wish List: ‘The Magical Christmas Horse’

Big Universe: Celebrate Christmas with children's books!

The Mazza Museum: International Art from Picture Books in Findlay, Ohio, received an early Christmas present. They just got 150 signed copies of “The Magical Christmas Horse,” a brand-new, beautifully illustrated picture book for children.

 The holiday book is a collaboration between best-selling suspense author Mary Higgins Clark and noted artist Wendell Minor. The museum’s copies will be passed on as holiday gifts to patrons of “the world’s largest museum devoted to literacy and the art of children’s picture books.” The Mazza Museum – “where art from children’s picture books is taken seriously” – has more than 2,300 original illustrations. (The museum’s earliest piece dates from 1884.)

I love giving books as gifts too. They always have been my go-to present for birthdays, baby showers, teachers and holidays. The fact that “The Magical Christmas Horse” is wonderfully illustrated and celebrates the beauty of rural America, family time, traditions and redemption makes it a sure thing.

See the video clip below of a two-minute interview with Ms. Higgins Clark and Mr. Minor. also is a champion of beautiful children’s picture books. This online treasure houses a growing library of digital fiction and non-fiction books in many languages, making it a valuable resource for classroom teachers, parents and homeschoolers. To date, Big Universe Learning has more than 3460 premium publisher books that have been read more than 2 million times. The number of member-created books grows daily.

The books showcase great narrative and stunning artwork, making them perfect for white board use or at computer stations in the classroom. There also are 1800-plus books that can be read on iPad, using the Safari web browser.

Here are 10 books from Big Universe with some of my favorite illustrations. The first two are Christmas books, so happy holidays!

NOTE: To learn more about “The Magical Christmas Horse,” its author and illustrator, or about Mazza Museum, read Douglas P. Clement’s very thorough article in Connecticut’s Litchfield County Times on Nov. 29. “The Magical Christmas Horse” is published by Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books and is available at your local book store or online. Click the following link to go to a page where you can listen to an excerpt read from the book.

Turkey Trivia in Time for Thanksgiving picture book offers turkey trivia just in time for Thanksgiving.

I picked up two turkeys today. One was a frozen 23-pounder from Publix, and the other was roosted nicely on

I’ll have to wait a couple of weeks for the first one, but I got to consume the other in one short sitting. The big guy will take hours to roast, but should suffice when it’s time to feed my 22 Thanksgiving dinner guests. The other one is a year-round treat – a particularly tasty morsel for the younger set just learning to read.

“Turkeys” is a Bellwether beauty, written and illustrated for K-2nd Graders (F&P GR: G   ATOS: 1.5   AR Points: 0.5.) It’s a Level 1 Blastoff! Reader with particularly crisp and colorful photographs, a handful of good vocabulary stretchers and an online reading quiz (AR Quiz: 118106). I think I will share it with a niece and nephew, whom I get to meet for the first time this Thanksgiving! Family time and reading go together like mashed potatoes and gravy.

For the older kid in all of us, I put together a turkey trivia quiz, plus a list of turkey-themed activity links. If those don’t get your gobble on, there’s always turkey bowling….frozen of course.

Turkey Trivia Quiz

1.)  What do you call a grownup male turkey?

  1. A Tom Turkey
  2. A Coattail Turkey
  3. A Turkey Cob

Answer: No tricks here! A male turkey is called a “Tom Turkey.”

2.) What is a baby turkey called?

  1. A pullet
  2. A poult
  3. A turklet

Answer: Juvenile male turkeys are sometimes called “jakes,” and juvenile females turkeys are sometimes referred to as “jennies,” but very young baby turkeys are called “poults,” so the answer is B.

3.) Male tom turkeys have these anatomical features:

  1. Spurs, beard and horn
  2. Beard, wattle and crest
  3. Snood, caruncles, spurs

Answer: Male turkeys have lots of interesting features, especially their beautiful tail plumage. They also have spike-like spurs on their heels, a beard of skinny feathers dangling from their chests, a flap of skin called a “snood,” hanging over their beaks; “caruncles” – very bumpy wart-like skin – on their “bald” heads; and floppy skin under their necks, called “wattles” or “dewlaps.” So, the best answer is C.

4.) How many turkeys were raised in the United States in 2011?

  1. 32 million
  2. 248 million
  3. 152 million

Answer: Turkey production was up 2 percent this year compared to the 2010 season. In 2011, 248 million turkeys were raised, according to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). So, the answer is B.

 5.) Which state produces the most turkeys?

  1. Arkansas
  2. New York
  3. Minnesota

Answer: The top turkey producer in the United States is Minnesota – with 46.5 million gobblers raised this year, says the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The five other top turkey-farming states are North Carolina and Arkansas (both with 30 million), Missouri (18 million), Virginia (17.5 million) and Indiana (16 million).

6.) What month is the official Turkey Lovers’ Month?

  1. November
  2. April
  3. June

Answer: Most people would assume that November is Turkey Lovers’ Month, but it’s June. Although 95 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, June is the official month to promote turkey consumption.

7.) How long does a wild hen turkey sit on a clutch of eggs before they hatch?

  1. 60 days 
  2. 43 days
  3. 26 days

Answer: The average incubation period is between three and four weeks, or 26 days, but may range from 25-29 days, according to the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game. This depends on the number of eggs in the clutch, how long it took the hen turkey to lay her eggs, and when she decides to abandon her nest after her first eggs hatch.

8.) Which of the following statements is false?

  1. Wild turkeys are too heavy to fly.
  2. Wild turkeys can fly as fast as cars on a highway.
  3. Wild turkeys can fly by the time they are 10 days old.

Answer: Wild turkeys prefer to run when startled, but learn to fly into trees to roost when just over a week old. They are best at gliding downhill, but can fly up to a mile when necessary. So, Answer A is false. Even though some adults reach 25 pounds at their heaviest, they can fly 50-60 miles per hour over short distances. Domestic turkeys, however, no longer have the capacity to fly.

9.) The turkey’s natural eating habits make it a/an:

  1. Vegetarian
  2. Carnivore
  3. Omnivore

Answer: The wild turkey loves to eat seeds, insects, acorns, salamanders and grasses, making it an “omnivore,” so Answer 3 is the best choice.

10.) How long does it take to thaw a 12-pound frozen turkey in the refrigerator?

  1. Overnight
  2. 3 days
  3. 6 days

Answer: Your frozen turkey should go in the refrigerator on Monday, three days before it goes in the oven. The Butterball Company recommends that you “allow one day of thawing for each 4 pounds of turkey. (12 divided by 4 is 3.) A thawed turkey may remain in the refrigerator for four days before cooking.”  (This means my 23-pound turkey needs to come out of the freezer and go into my refrigerator about six days before Thanksgiving.)

Bon appétit.

Thanksgiving Activities for Kids

  1. Lined Writing Paper Template for Thanksgiving
  2. Happy Turkey Day Card Template (coloring/writing)
  3. Happy Thanksgiving Turkey Card Template (coloring/writing)
  4. Easy Turkey Pin Craft
  5. Pine Cone Pipe Cleaner Turkey Craft (video). Cute!
  6. Clothes Pin Turkey Craft
  7. Turkey Maze: Counting By 2s
  8. Turkey Dinner Maze
  9. Turkey Coloring Sheet
  10. Colorful Thanksgiving Alphabet (reading)

‘The Friendly Beasts’ a Beautiful Christmas Book

Reading Christmas books is as much a part of the season’s traditions as hanging ornaments, baking cookies and getting new pajamas on Christmas Eve. So, I am always looking for new ones to add to our family library. None can rival the original Christmas story, but they do add to the festivities and enhance family time.

Illustrator Tara Larsen Chang brings a traditional 12th-century French Christmas song to life in her inviting rendition of “The Friendly Beasts,” a children’s picture book featured on the Big Universe website. Although the text is old, the pictures are charming and bring the words to life. In this tender story, a donkey, cow, sheep and camel bring gifts to a special baby, expressing the art of giving in their own unique way.

Ms. Chang is a gifted artist, sharing a creative bent that has been with her since childhood. “From my earliest memories I’ve been captivated by the illustrations in fairy tales and children’s books,” she says on her website. “And (I) couldn’t think of anything else I’d rather do when I was grown up than create my own.”

 (You can see additional samples of her work on her website.)

Burl Ives sang the words in this book on his 1952 album “Christmas Day in the Morning.” Other singers have recorded the song, including Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash, Sufjan Stevens and Garth Brooks.

Twin Sisters Productions also offers the following Christmas stories/songs on Big Universe:

 Merry Christmas. May there be many books under your tree this year!

5 Easy Ways to Create a Learning Environment for your Toddler.

My son, age 2.

My 2 year old learner :)

This year my son graduated from 8th grade. He is headed to high school with a strong educational foundation and a genuine love of reading. I began to reminisce about his toddler years and the things that we would do together. It’s true that parents are the first teachers. Back then, I had no knowledge of child psychology, developmental theory, or popular teaching strategies.  All I had was a deep love for my child and a strong belief that he could do anything. In hindsight, I did some things that set him up for academic success. You can do it too! Here are 5 ways to create a learning environment for your own toddler:

1. Become a narrator. When you are walking around the house, verbalize your actions. Ex. “Let’s get ready to go see Granny! The first thing we need to do is put on our shoes. Now where are those shoes?” This is a natural way to expose your child to wide variety of vocabulary words and sentence structure.

2. Invest in food coloring. During bath time, place a few drops of food coloring into the bath water. Act excited about the color by saying, “Wow, look at that beautiful GREEN water!” Your toddler will recognize all of the colors in no time. Plus its a fun bath time surprise that your toddler will grow to love.

3. Choose a letter of the week. Buy letters and systematically introduce the alphabet to your child. I had foam letters for the bath and large wooden letters for the high chair tray. I began with the first letter of my son’s name and jumped around the alphabet from there. During bath time, stick a foam letter to the wall and every now and then point to it and say something like, “Look at the letter I!”, then trace it with your fingers (using the same motion you would if you were to write the letter).  At dinner time, use the wooden letters. Place the same letter on the high chair tray or table. Again, mention the letter a few times during the meal. By the time my son was 3, he knew all of the letters in the alphabet.

4. Visit the library OFTEN. Make your local library the first place you look for free reading material and free entertainment. They offer special programming for toddlers and during the summer there are a ton of shows, craft opportunities, and presentations. My son still has fond memories of carting a milk crate to the library and coming home with 20-30 books for me to read to him during the week. Make sure to get board books so your child can explore them alone, and choose a few of your own favorites to share. The reading bug is easy to catch. Make sure your child catches it early.

5. Limit or Eliminate Television. Hold off from allowing your child to watch television for as long as possible. You want the strongest influence in their life to be you, not the cartoon character on TV. You want them to emulate the way you speak, not the way SpongeBob speaks. If you do allow your toddler to watch television, choose educational programming produced on the PBS channel, the Discovery Network, or even better, rent educational videos from your local library.

Keisa Williams (aka Ms. K) is a mother & a K-5 School Librarian at Monarch Academy, a public charter school in Oakland, CA. She is certified in secondary and elementary education (MLIS and MEd) and loves collaborating with teachers and integrating technology into her library lessons. She considers herself a “Technology Diva” and “Gadget Junkie”.

The ABCs of Car Games: Part Three

“This is June, the month of grass and leaves . . . and a new summer is offered me.”

 – Henry David Thoreau

There’s something magical about summertime: new adventures, freedom and beauty that one can almost sip from a straw.

Summer clips the tethers that hold us tight the rest of the year. We stay outside longer, we stop for impromptu ice cream cones, and we get up early on Saturday morning and consider it fun because we are headed to the farmers’ market.

And then, there are the vacations! Off we go to the beach, the lake, the amusement park or to the mountains to camp.

Unfortunately there’s usually some significant travel time involved on vacations, and that can be tricky with little ones in tow. But, that’s part of life, so early on I decided to embrace the inevitable car rides, seeing them as opportunities – rather than something one step above rubbing sunscreen in my eyes.

So, I came up with a kid-friendly strategy that made trips both fun and educational. In my two previous blogs I detailed tips to make long trips easier, including a packing list and some car game suggestions to make the time go faster and to exercise brain cells.

Here are a few more car games to boost your children’s language skills and minimize irritability and whining.

Who Am I?

One child says, “Who am I?” The second child asks, “Are you a person, place or thing?” The first child answers, and then the question-answer volley proceeds until the mystery item or person is guessed. (Are you smaller than a car? Do you make noise? Can you be eaten? Are you scary? Are you soft? This models conversation patterns, teaches critical thinking skills and sharpens listening aptitude.

License Plate Game

If you have a long road trip planned, print copies listing the 50 states. As your child spies license plates from different states, have him check the state off his list. Or, give him some crayons and a black and white map of the United States and let him color in each state that he sees. Reading, geography and small motor skills wrapped into one.

Rhyme Time

Language is made of sounds, and making rhymes is an early literacy milestone. This game involves parent-child interaction, which builds communication bridges as well as a wide vocabulary base. Some of the rhymes will be silly or nonsensical, but that’s OK. Language has its serious side, but words can be a delight, too.

Give a noun in a phrase, pausing so your child can fill in the blank. Start by example:

   The dog and a  ___. (hog, log, frog)

   A star with a  ___.(car, jar, or a nonsense word like “dar”)

   Jack Sprat and his ___. (cat, rat, mat, bat)

Fortunately, Unfortunately

Older kids will love this word play game. It encourages the imagination and a sense of humor. One person starts a scenario by say, “Fortunately…” The second person responds by saying, “Unfortunately…” You alternate between fortunate and unfortunate things. It’ll get the laughter going. For example:

   “Fortunately, we are stopping for lunch soon.”

   “Unfortunately, Mom left your sandwich at home.”

   “Fortunately, I have a bag of peanuts in my pocket.”

   “Unfortunately, the park we are going to is infested with aggressive squirrels.”

   “Fortunately, I speak ‘squirrel’ fluently and will be able to talk my way out of trouble.”

   “Unfortunately, the park is a wildlife refuge and kids aren’t allowed to speak out loud there.”


And so on.

Would You Rather?

This game is as simple as they come. Start by example, then let the kids have a turn.

   “Would you rather go to the pool or go to the zoo?

   “Would you rather eat lima beans or eat spinach?”

   “Would you rather pet a bear or pet a lion?

   “Would you rather have 12 toes or 12 fingers?”

These are just a few of the many games that can be played in the car. I shared “Horse on Wheels” in my first blog in this series and three other car games in my second posting: “The Great Race from A to Z,” “Sack on My Back” and “Name Game.” They foster communication, build literacy skills and boost family bonding. Check them out.

I’d love to hear about some of the word games your family plays in the car to pass the time. Feel free to post a comment.

Have a great summer.

***NOTE: If you are taking a laptop with you on your road trip and have a 3G Internet card or have Internet hookup at your vacation lodging, Big Universe provides a portable library for children at your fingertips. With thousands of beautiful picture books available 24/7, there is no reason for your kids to experience “summer setback” in reading. Maintain or even improve their literacy skills with a wide assortment of fiction and non-fiction stories.

The ABCs of Car Games: Part Two

In my last blog, I talked about summer vacation, traveling in a car and how important it is to prepare carefully when carrying young passengers. If you are going to confine small people in small spaces for hours on end, it’s best to have a plan. “Prepare or perish” were my exact words.

Car games are a good way to pass the time on a long trip, along with a pile of books, a new toy and some snacks. Car games are literacy builders, too – whether players look for letters on billboards, build an expanding story based on the ABCs and memory skills, or sing silly songs with changing sounds.

I shared a new but simple game called “Horse on Wheels” in my previous blog. Here are three more games to foster communication, build literacy skills and boost family bonding while putting some mileage on your car.

The Great Race from A to Z

Have your children look for each letter in the alphabet, using billboards and signs on businesses. See how many times they can get through the alphabet before getting to Aunt Carolyn’s house. Or, use a stopwatch to time the race from A to Z. It can be a group effort or kids can compete, depending on the squabble factor. Add a notebook and pencil to the equation if your children need practice with penmanship.

Sack on My Back

This is a memory game and tongue twister all packed into one! Each player takes a turn reciting the game prompt: “In a sack on my back, I think I’ll pack…” He or she adds a noun each time, starting with A, then B, and so on. Each player will need to listen closely, so he doesn’t leave anything off the list. “In a sack on my back, I think I’ll pack an apple, a basketball, a camera and my dachshund.”

Name Game

This rhyming car game takes some practice, but the kids love it. I never quite mastered it, but children have a special knack to pick up on the playful sound switcheroos, especially when names are involved. You can play it with other words, too. Learn one line; then add another. Here are several examples:

Darby, Darby, Bo-barby

Banana, Fanna, Fo-farby

Fee, Fie, Mo-marby



Tom, Tom, Bo-bom

Banana, Fanna, Fo-fom

Fee, Fie, Mo-mom



Maddie, Maddie, Bo-baddie

Banana, Fanna, Fo-faddie

Fee, Fie, Mo-maddie



Dave, Dave, Bo-bave

Banana, Fanna, Fo-fave

Fee, Fie, Mo-mave


(Clue: Note the rhyming pattern. Pick a name. Say it twice, then drop the first letter of the name and substitute the silly consonants and sounds.)

*** NOTE: See more car games in my next post, and read the first in this three-part series:

***  NOTE: If you are taking a laptop with you on your trip and have a 3G Internet card or have Internet hookup at your vacation lodging, Big Universe provides a portable library for children at your fingertips. With thousands of beautiful picture books available 24/7, there is no reason for your kids to experience “summer setback” in reading. Maintain or even improve their literacy skills with a wide assortment of fiction and non-fiction stories.



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