Category: Games to play with children

One Fun Father-Daughter Picture Book Review + 11 Parent & Child Activities.

Playtime with a child is a very special time. Being a mom, I have to remind myself from time to time that what I think is fun isn’t always my daughter’s idea of fun.

“So, Mom, wanna do something fun together when you’re done with your writing today?”

“Sure, sweetheart. How about going to the garden center and picking out some shade-loving plants for the backyard or cleaning out the laundry room?”

“Get serious, Mom.” 

“Ummm . . . I was being serious. What’s not fun about filling the trunk with plants and poking out lint, lost socks, and undies from between the washer and dryer?”

“I was hoping we could build a BIG tent in the living room and pretend we’re going camping. Max (our dog) can come, too. He could be a bear that comes to snatch our food while we’re sleeping.” 

“And then we can clean the laundry room?”

Long eye roll. “Then, we can bake cookies, curl up in the tent, tell ghost stories, and hug.”

Today’s picture book review is about a super cool dad who, despite having a daughter, is willing to subject himself to her list of girly plans for their day together (as long as they can trade off and do things on his list, too.)

Title – Hammer and Nails

Written by – Josh Bledsoe

Illustrated by – Jessica Warrick  

Published by – Flashlight Press – 2016

Suitable for ages – 3-7

Topics – Dealing with disappointment, imaginative play, and taking turns.

Opening –  Darcy crumpled up her playdate plans and plopped onto her bed. Her best friend was sick, and now Darcy’s entire day was ruined.

Daddy overheard the grumbling and knocked on Darcy’s door.

Daddy had a list of his own. “Hey, Squirt. I’ve got an idea. What about having a Darcy-Daddy Day?”

Amazon’s Review –  View it HERE. Darcy has plans. She and her friend are going to play dress up, do each other’s hair, and polish their nails. Daddy has plans, too. He’s going to read the paper, mow the lawn, and fix the fence. When Darcy’s friend cancels and she’s sure her day is ruined, Daddy suggests that they tackle their to-do lists together with a Darcy-Daddy Day. Daddy dons a tutu, and Darcy gives him a fancy hair do. They groom the lawn with Her Majesty’s Mowing Service and face off in a Daddy-directed sock battle. But will Darcy want to hammer? Will Daddy do nails? Stepping outside their comfort zones, Darcy and Daddy opt to be open-minded and even a bit daring. As Daddy says, “Sometimes things you’ve never done end up being fun!” With a gung-ho attitude, Darcy masters the hammer, and Daddy goes for it with the nails.

Why do I like this book? I seriously cannot picture my dad tugging a tutu over his work trousers and styling my hair. And I REALLY can’t picture him allowing me to style his hair, thin as it was. And if I ever came near him with a bottle of nail polish, he would have streaked out of the room and not come back until he felt I cleared that silly notion out of my noggin. But this is what makes Hammer and Nails such a fun book. Josh Bledsoe gave the illustrator, Jessica Warrick, a fantastic manuscript, allowing for much creative freedom and expression. Together, their talents create a laugh out loud picture book both parents and children will want to read again and again. Hey, it might even inspire parents and children to plan out a similar day!

Playtime ideas for parents and kids.

  1. Grab a few chairs, a stack of bed sheets, and pillows to build the biggest fort or tent. And while you’re at it, pop a batch of cookies in the oven to snack on when you’re ready to crawl into the tent. The tent is also a great place to read stories with a flashlight. And make room if your dog wants to join in on the giggly fun.
  2. Okay, so maybe heading to the garden center for some shade-loving plants doesn’t sound like a fun idea for most kids, but if you fill a pot with soil or clear a small patch in your garden, they’ll love picking out a few packets of seeds to plant their own garden.
  3. Bake cookies. I like to make a double batch of butter cookie dough my daughter and I split it in half. Clearing two counter spaces, we each have our own workspace to add whatever we please to the dough.  (Peanut butter, chocolate chips, crushed nuts, oatmeal, granola, coconut flakes, raisins, dried cranberries, cinnamon, etc…)
  4. Grab two sketch pads, a box of colored pencils, a couple cushions, a blanket, and head outside for some artistic fun. There’s always plenty to inspire a budding young artist in a backyard or at the park.
  5. Rearrange your child’s bedroom with them.
  6. Upcycle clothing in your child’s closet to add a little fun to their wardrobe. With fabric markers, they can color pictures or add borders around the neckline and sleeves of a t-shirt.
  7. Call the parents of your child’s friend(s) and arrange for a surprise playdate at the park.
  8. Cuddle together in a big chair with a stack of your child’s favorite picture books.
  9. Choose frozen fruits to mix with milk or yogurt in the blender and make popsicles.
  10. Fold a stack of paper in half, staple the seam, and trade off writing a story together.
  11. Take a little advice from Darcy and her dad in today’s picture book review. Make a list of three to  five things you each want to do and trade off doing them together

Well, I’m off to ignore the garden, sweep the laundry room lint out of my mind, and build a BIG tent with my daughter that fills the living room.

Feel free to share in the comments any fun activities you do with your kids or activities you remember sharing with your parents when you were a child.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at Diversity and Friendship in 'My Two Blankets'

For today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, I’m looking at My Two Blankets, a book that combines diversity with friendship and understanding.

But to begin…a little story from my childhood that ties into my book review.

Having grown up with a mother who spoke only German and a father who spoke only English, I learned both at once and somehow managed to keep the two languages apart. And, in answer to your question, no matter which parent spoke to me, I always answered in English.

It wasn’t until I was four, traveling to visit my grandmother in Germany with my mother and older sister, that speaking English became a problem. The children in my grandmother’s neighborhood didn’t want to play with me because they didn’t understand English. I ran inside, miserable because I couldn’t make friends. My mother reminded me that I could understand her and therefore, must be able to speak German. “Go back out there,” she said, “and speak German with the children.”

Needless to say, the kids at the playground couldn’t understand how I learned their language so quickly. But from that moment on, the German children and I were able to share our stories and cultural differences (clothes, games, favorite meals, holidays, etc…), and friendships were quickly made.

For quite a while, I spoke only German. According to my parents, it took three months before I started speaking English again.

A language barrier can get in the way of making friends, the solution is to find a way to bridge that gap, and that is the main theme for my perfect picture book Friday review.

Title – My Two Blankets – view on Amazon HERE.

Written by – Irena Kobald

Illustrated by – Freya Blackwood

Published by – Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – 2014

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  Diversity, understanding, and friendship.

Opening – Auntie used to call me Cartwheel. Then came the war. Auntie didn’t call me Cartwheel anymore. We came to this country to be safe. Everything was strange. The people were strange. The food was strange. The animals and the plants were strange. Even the wind felt strange.

Amazon Review – Cartwheel moves to a new country with her auntie, and everything is strange: the animals, the plants—even the wind. An old blanket gives Cartwheel comfort when she’s sad—and a new blanket just might change her world.

This multicultural story of friendship is about leaving home, moving to a foreign and strange place, and finding a new friend. It’s a story for all who have experienced change. Irena Kobald’s poetic text, paired with Kate Greenaway medalist Freya Blackwood’s powerful paintings, renders an emotional and heart-warming story about two children from diverse backgrounds coming together to become new friends.
Why do I like this book? I like that the story doesn’t  begin with Cartwheel’s new life in America. Instead, the book offers readers a look at how different Cartwheel’s world was. In a double-page spread, we are greeted with a warm illustration, depicting a region where the days are all seemingly hot. This is a place where villagers in draped, cotton clothes carry pots on their heads, tend livestock, and live in sand-colored huts. Clearly, Cartwheel’s world has been turned upside down. Not understanding what people are saying, Cartwheel wraps herself in a metaphorical blanket of familiar words and sounds. One day, a girl at the park teaches Cartwheel English words, thus closing the language gap and opening up the start of a wonderful friendship. As a result, Cartwheel forms a new metaphorical blanket made from the new words and sounds in America.

Learn about Irena Kobald HERE.

Learn about Freya Blackwood HERE. Please note, this link takes you to a marvelous blog post in which the very talented illustrator talks about the pictures she created for this book.

Find more Perfect Picture Book Friday reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

Activities to do with children – With paper, colored pencils, crayons, scissors, and glue, children can make their own blanket of words and images that define them, the country they live in, and their home. Cut 4-inch squares from colored or plain paper. On each square, have children write a word or draw a picture of something meaningful: a picture of their family, the house they live in, their pets, and words that describe them and their interests. Cutting pictures out of (parentally approved) magazines and gluing them to the squares is another option. Paste the pictures to a  poster board to form a quilt.

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at City Dog, Country Frog

Perfect Picture Book Friday Looks at City dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems.

For once, I don’t have a personal story to tell you that relates to the picture book I’m reviewing. So, why am I reviewing this book, you might ask? Because it’s about friendship, and friends are precious to me.

I thought I had a lot of friends when I was a child until my mother told me what a true friend is.

“A true friend,” she said, “is someone who will always be there for you no matter what. A true friend is someone who won’t make you feel bad for your choices and will support you in your decisions.” Then Mom added, “If you think about all the people you call a friend and really look closely at the relationship you have with them, you’ll only have enough true friends to count on one hand. The rest,” she said, “are acquaintances.”

That seemed a little harsh, so I softened it by renaming the two categories: True friends and friends.

We all have at least one friend we especially like being around. That person is someone who brings out the best version of ourselves. This leads me to today’s Perfect Picture Book Friday, City Dog, Country Frog. A story of two unlikely friends who discover a great joy when they are together.

Title – City Dog, Country Frog – view on Amazon HERE.

Written by – Mo Willems

Illustrated by – Jon J Muth

Published by – Hyperion Books for Children 2010

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  Friendship and loss

Opening – Spring.

City dog didn’t stop on that first day in the country; he ran as far and as fast as he could and all without a leash!

Amazon Review – In spring, when City Dog runs free in the country for the first time, he spots Country Frog sitting on a rock, waiting for a friend. “You’ll do,” Frog says, and together they play Country Frog games. In summer, they meet again and play City Dog games. Through the seasons, whenever City Dog visits the country he runs straight for Country Frog’s rock. In winter, things change for City Dog and Country Frog. Come spring, friendship blooms again, a little different this time.

Mo Willems’ spare, poignant text and Jon J. Muth’s expressive watercolors team up to tell a story that will resonate with readers of all ages.

Why do I like this book? The reader is taken along on a friendship between two unlikely characters – a city dog and a country frog. Through words and tender, watercolor illustrations, we feel the dog’s excitement each time he bounds outside through the changing seasons to be with country frog. This is the story of a friendship, how it began, how it grew in strength, and how all this changed…ended…when winter came. When spring arrives, a new friend comes into dog’s life. Yes, this is the story of loss, and Mo Willems handles this delicate subject with great care, ending not with a feeling of sorrow, but instead, with a feeling of hopefulness.

Learn about Mo Willems HERE.

Learn about Jon J Muth HERE.

Find more picture book reviews at Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog HERE.

Activities to do with children –  Have children think of two very different animals such as the dog and frog in today’s picture book. Then, have them think up some games like hopscotch, jump rope, or twister. Ask them which animal would have the easiest time playing that game and why. Ask  what would make it challenging for the other animal and why? Maybe brainstorm ideas on what each animal could do to play that game.

Grab a glass of wine or cup of coffee and let’s have a toast to friendship.


PPBF Looks at Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs

For this Friday’s PPBF (Perfect Picture Book Friday), I would like to share with you one of my very favorite picture books, Goldilocks And The Three Dinosaurs, written by one of the most beloved authors and illustrators around–the very talented, Mo Willems.

I have a good number of books by Mo Willems on my shelf, but today’s book has an element I absolutely love…a narrator with a snarky personality. Mo Willems has taken a well-known story and given it a boost of creativity, originality, and blatant honesty. My favorite page in this book, hands down, comes when the narrator says, “Sure enough, five minutes later a poorly supervised little girl named Goldilocks came traipsing along. When I read that, I not only laughed myself off my chair, but I realized how true his statement is. Cover to cover, Mo Willems gives us a picture book reading experience that is a true treat.

Title – Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs – view on Amazon here.

Written and illustrated by – Mo Willems

Published by – Balzer + Bray, an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers, 2012

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/Theme –  Fractured Fairy Tale with loads of humor

Opening – Once upon a time, there were three Dinosaurs; Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway.

Jacket copy  – Once upon a time, there were three Dinosaurs; Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur, and some other Dinosaur who happened to be visiting from Norway.

One day–for no particular reason–they decided to tidy up their house, make the beds, and prepare pudding of varying temperatures. And then–for no particular reason–they decided to go…someplace else. The were definitely NOT setting a trap for some succulent, unsupervised little girl.

Definitely not!

This new take on a fairy-tale classic is so funny and so original–it could only come from the brilliant mind of Mo Willems.

Amazon Review – same as above. Read it here.

Why do I like this book? I love fairy tales and I also love fractured fairy tales–there are many to read, but when I need a big dose of laughter, this is a book that delivers page after page of giggles.

Visit Mo Willems here.

Playing with puppets is an activity my daughter has enjoyed for years. So when I went searching the internet for an activity to go with today’s picture book review, I was happy to find this creative craft project over at the wonderful blog, the Messy Little Monster which turns wood spoons into puppets. Head on over for instructions on how to make these fun spoon puppets. I’ll bet a set of wooden spoons could be painted to look like dinosaurs, too…

Goldilocks and the Three Bears Spoon puppets for pretend play

PPBF Looks at Marcel Marceau Master of Mime

Most of us, at one time or another, have silently acted something out. Maybe when you were a child or as an adult you pretended with friends or played charades. For most of us, this fun activity lasts only a short time, but for one man, pantomime became his life.

Title – Marcel Marceau Master of Mime – view on Amazon here.

Written by – Gloria Spielman

Illustrated by – Manon Gauthier

Published by – Kar-Ben Publishing 2011

Suitable for ages – 4-8

Topics/theme  following one’s dream

Opening – Little Marcel searched for a jacket. Father would have one. Pants, too…and shoes. A hat, and Marcel’s outfit was complete.

Jacket copy  – From the age of five, little Marcel Marceau knew he wanted to be a silent actor, just like Charlie Chaplin. World WarII came, changing Marcel’s life. But it didn’t stop his dream of becoming a mime artist and entertaining the world.

Amazon Review – From the age of five, Marcel Marceau knew he wanted to be a silent actor, just like Charlie Chaplain. When World War II intervened, he joined the resistance, helping to get young Jews to safety during this dangerous time. But Marcel never forgot his dream of being a mime artist and entertaining the world.

Why do I like this book? What I learned stunned me. Honestly, all I knew of Marcel Marceau, before reading this book, was that he was a  French mime and performed on stage in white face makeup with a striped shirt and funny hat. As it turns out, Marcel was not French at all- only his last name, which he adopted later in life, was French. When Marcel was a boy he had a big, compassionate heart. During the time of Hitler, he helped to save many children from being sent to labor camps as well as helping to bring a number of Jewish children safely to the Swiss border (a dangerous task which he creatively and successfully carried out). More than an entertaining story of one man’s life, this biography opened my eyes to what can be accomplished when you don’t lose sight of your dream.

Author – Visit the Gloria Spielman’s blog here.

Illustrator – Visit Manon Gauthier’s blog here.

Would you like to watch Marcel Marceau perform? View a video here.

Pantomiming with Children – Cut slips of paper and write animal names and activities on some: flying bird, hungry mouse, chattering monkey, stretching cat, a giraffe with an itch, etc… On other slips write activities: opening a birthday present, baking cookies, writing a letter, brushing teeth. On other slips write emotions: happy, sad, angry, confused, frustrated, and excited. Shuffle the slips of paper and each take turns drawing a slip and seeing if, through pantomime, you can get others to guess what you are pretending.

Visit Susanna Hill’s blog for more ‘Perfect Picture Book Friday’ reviews here.