A New Year Resolution for Preschoolers

‘Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.’

These are the words of Emilie Buchwald, an award-winning author of children’s novels. I couldn’t agree more with her words. A simple ritual like reading out bedtime stories to your kids from colorful picture books to help them relate to the story better can go a long way in inculcating the joys of reading in them at a later age.

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Learning” by PublicDomainPictures is licensed under CC by 2.0

Speaking from personal experience, here are 2 wonderful books for preschoolers. These may not be figured as classics in any list but they are ideal to introduce your kids to the world of books.

Lost and Found (by Oliver Jeffers): A lost penguin shows up at a little boy’s door. Now the little boy must help by taking the penguin on a journey back to its home at the South Pole. On the way, there are delightful stories to be told. A warm tale of friendship narrated in the form of a picture book.

My Teacher is a Monster! No, I am not. (by Peter Brown): Teachers are actually normal people and not monsters. But kids seem to think otherwise at times. Bobby is also one such child who considers his teacher to be a monster. But he changes his mind when he runs into his teacher outside of school.

So why not make a New Year resolution on behalf of your preschoolers and read aloud a story to them every night before tucking them into bed? After all, it’s never too early to make a reading resolution.

Happy New Year!

3 Fun Things to Do With Your Preschooler This Christmas

Though there is no dearth of Christmas activities, crafts and games that can prove to be enjoyable for kids, holiday season calls for something that can be done ‘together’ – together as a family. Because that’s how the joy of the festive season multiplies manifold, doesn’t it? This article from The Queensland Times seems to be talking about precisely that.

Here are 3 fun things you can do together with your preschooler as a family this Christmas.

Sing Christmas Carols together

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Jingle Bells” by geralt is licensed under CC by 2.0

Happy, upbeat and simple Christmas songs that have a musical lilt to them will be a hit with preschoolers. Here are some extremely popular ones which are tried-and-tested with kids the preschool age: Frosty the Snowman about how a bunch of young kids bring their cheerful old snowman to life (the ‘thumpety thump, thumpety thump’ part is especially enjoyable for children), then there’s the traditional carol handed down to us since time immemorial that goes I Wish You A Merry Christmas followed by wishes for a Happy New Year (it has repetition of lines in the stanzas and talks about milk and cookies too, easily relatable to young minds) and last but not the least how can we not talk about the all-time favorite and most melodious Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle All The Way!

Play Christmas-themed Games together

Naughty or nice… Christmas games add the much needed spice!

Christmas time means family time and playing games themed around Christmas is the best way to spend some quality time as a family together. In fact, it would be a good idea if kids look forward to the entire week starting from Christmas up to the New Year as a holiday, with each evening devoted to a new game altogether. If you’re expecting some of your kids’ friends to come over from the neighborhood too, then a good idea would be something along the lines of Pin the Nose on the Reindeer with red circles cut out for the cardboard reindeer, similar to Pin the Tail on the Donkey. If your child is someone who loves tinkering on the laptop and tablet, then virtual games like these can be pretty entertaining with special Santa suit gift box mystery capsules on offer. Or else, simply bake a large number of whole wheat cookies in the days leading up to Christmas and New Year and have a fun yet messy time decorating them together with colorful toppings.

Decorate the Christmas tree together

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Christmas Decorations” by markusspiske is licensed under CC by 2.0

The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!

The baubles on a Christmas tree are what make it look all the more special. What better way to add a touch of original flair to your tree than by making handmade ornaments for it that glitter in the firelight! It’s an easy enough activity even for preschool hands, provided you keep away the scissors part of it and of course, forbid anything at all to be put into the mouth. Get hold of assorted beads lying around the house, or better still, cover polystyrene balls with glittery wrapping paper and add string loops to them to be hung on to the tree. Allow your kids to give wings to their ideas and let their creative juices flow – the more colorful the Xmas tree, the better it will turn out to be! The best part about this activity? Your tree will have more decorations every successive year, if you start storing them away in a yearly marked box. After all, this is what memories are made of!

Spread the happiness all around you… It’s Christmas! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

The Festive Season

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Thanksgiving” by Archbob is licensed under CC by 2.0

We were just clearing the remains of our Thanksgiving feast from the table once family and friends left and hadn’t even taken down the decorations put up on the walls yet when my little one loudly exclaimed: “Now it’s time for Christmas! Let’s get the Christmas tree out and do it up!

Me and the wife stared at each other in disbelief for a moment. Alright, in a way the little tyke was right; November and December are meant to be holiday season for this precise reason that Thanksgiving and Christmas come one after the other. But then, when you’re literally bursting at the seams with perfectly roasted turkey and sweet potato casserole, corn pudding and pumpkin pie, it does become very difficult to conjure up visions of cold ham and roast chicken, Christmas cake and gingerbread. (Please don’t ask me why I relate any and every festival with food. I have no clue.)

So it was a firm ‘No’ for the disappointed boy. We will do up the Christmas tree in a couple of days from now, but not at the moment. No way. For right now, all I need is a siesta for a few hours after the exquisite food on the occasion.

Festive times at their best!

Mickey Mouse turns 88

Just last month we talked about our favorite cartoon pair Tom and Jerry turning 76 years old. It seems to be the season of birthdays since the much-loved official mascot of The Walt Disney Company – Mickey Mouse – also turned 88 this November 18! His cheerful countenance doesn’t look a tad older than it did 88 years ago, does it?

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Mickey” by Skitterphoto is licensed under CC by 2.0

What would you think of Mortimer Mouse as a name? Because Walt Disney had initially decided on this name for his creation, that is before his wife stepped in and suggested Mickey Mouse that ‘sounded more fun’.  The immense popularity of this fun guy can easily be gauged from the fact that he can boast of his very own star on the prestigious Hollywood Walk of Fame.

The little mouse which is believed to ‘represent the world of animation’ has a fascinating story to tell of its initial years – greater than 10,000 drawings which took almost up to two years to complete made up a Mickey Mouse cartoon back when it started, and that too for a short seven and a half minute of film screen time! What’s more, I was very surprised to learn that Charlie Chaplin acted as an inspiration for the character of the jolly mouse. In Walt Disney’s own words:

“We wanted something appealing, and we thought of a tiny bit of a mouse that would have something of the wistfulness of Chaplin… a little fellow trying to do the best he could.”

And thus our dashing and heroic little mouse was born, and how!

3 Fun Homemade Halloween Costume Ideas for Kids

What makes Halloween super exciting for kids is undoubtedly their Halloween costumes. Right from dressing up as a pizza delivery guy to a firefighter, an ambulance to a garbage man, the possibilities are endless and hence kids (as well as their parents!) usually end up having a particularly baffling time coming up with the perfect costume.

Here are 3 fun Halloween costume ideas for young kids which are easy to make yourself at home.

Viking costume

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Image courtesy: Celebrations

This one can have quite a dramatic effect! My son is a die-hard fan of the Vikings and dragon games based on the How to Train Your Dragon movie series and hence has decided to become a grand Viking this Halloween. Here’s what we plan to do. We have a nice brown furry towel at home which can be used as a poncho of sorts – a slit in the middle for the head – resting on the shoulders, with the bottom part cut into a border with ragged edges. Any light plain color full-sleeved t-shirt would do under that. For the helmet, two strips of cardboard taped together into a ring about one inch larger than the size of his head would be the beginning. For the dome part, similar cardboard strips curved over to the opposite side at right angles – around 3-4 such – should do the trick. We will then cover this entire dome with tin foil and tape cardboard horns colored a dark red to the sides. The helmet is done! A tin foil cardboard shield and sword plus knee-length wellington boots will transform the son into a true-blue, sword-wielding Viking!

Chocolate chip cookie costume

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Image courtesy: Etsy

One of the best things in life – chocolate chip cookies straight out of the oven! Needless to say, both kids as well as adults will readily vouch for this. So why not dress up your little tyke as a scrumptious chocolate chip cookie this Halloween? Here’s what you need: 4 pieces of cardboard (just big enough to cover the torso of your child), cotton to be used as filling, glue, light brown fabric (for the cookie part) and dark brown fabric (to denote the chocolate chips in the cookie). Start by cutting out four circles from the cardboard, to cover the trunk part of the costume. Now cut out four equal shapes of the light brown fabric and stick it onto the four pieces of cardboard. Next, stuff small bits of cotton filling into the dark fabric to stick on as chocolate chips in a random manner, both for the front and back. Finally, use some of the fabric itself to make two straps for the shoulders and you’re done with your DIY chocolate chip cookie costume!

Bat costume

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Image courtesy: Pinterest

This one is especially useful if you’re short on time and need a last-minute Halloween costume that is as good as any other. If your kid has a black leotard, nothing like it; if not, a full-sleeved black t-shirt and black tights will work equally well. Get hold of a black umbrella and carefully remove the entire handle and all the spokes in it. Cut a triangle (the shape between two spokes) up to the center from one side and then cut another one in a similar fashion right opposite to it. Tape the ends after removing all the spines on the outer end and then use some cotton wool for extra padding at the corners. Watch this tutorial to get a better idea of the sequence of steps. Some black paint on the nose and chin would add the final touch to your spooky bat ready to swoop down on unsuspecting victims!

Have a spooky and fun Halloween, with your little ghosts!

Happy 76th Birthday, Tom & Jerry!

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Image courtesy: Twitter

Sounds hard to believe, but yes, it has been a whole 76 years since our favorite cartoon character pair – Tom and Jerry – came into being. Created by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera on February 10, 1940, this hilarious duo has formed an unforgettable part of most of our childhood memories.

Here are four fun facts about the indomitable pair which most of us may not be aware of.

  • The twosome wasn’t always known as Tom and Jerry. ‘Puss gets the boots’ was the name of the cartoon when it was created initially. Moreover, Tom was called Jasper and Jerry was called Jinx. In 1941, the cartoon was nominated for ‘Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons of 1941’. Thereafter, it gained popularity as Tom and Jerry.
  • In the 1990s, a prequel series was made in which Tom and Jerry were depicted as much younger versions of themselves.
  • Tom and Jerry were both silent characters’ – is nothing but a myth. Time and again, they uttered various lines in different episodes; an unforgettable example being Tom’s haunting proclamation after being involved in a nuclear explosion: “Don’t you believe it?”
  • The well-known Hanna-Barbera partnership did not give us just Tom and Jerry They need to be given credits for the studio that gave us The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, The Smurfs, Scooby-Doo and many more evergreen names.

Long live Tom and Jerry!

The 10 Best Story Books for Preschoolers

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Still Life” by Oldiefan is licensed under CC by 2.0

The Very Hungry Caterpillar (by Eric Carle): A fascinating story of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, eating a humongous amount in the process.

Just Me and My Dad (by Mercer Mayer): A father and son go camping and bond together in the midst of nature.

Strega Nona (by Tomie de Paola): The title translates into ‘Grandma Witch’. The story is about a woman who has magical healing powers and cures the people residing in her town of various ailments.

Madeline (by Ludwig Bemelmans): A classic, humorous tale of the protagonist’s bravery when she gets appendicitis and needs to get her appendix removed at the hospital.

The Dot (by Peter H Reynolds): Beautifully illustrated, this self-discovery story of a young school artist who is convinced that she cannot draw will teach your preschooler the secret behind converting an ‘I can’t’ into an ‘I can’.

The Snowy Day (by Ezra Jack Keats): Every page holds something new in this tale where a little boy goes through an exciting day filled with footprints in the snow, a snowball as well as snow angels.

Petey’s Listening Ears (by L R Knost): Petey and his stuffed friend, Beans, are having a difficult day. His mommy and daddy help him to make the right choices and feel better.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (by Laura Numeroff): If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk. When you give him the milk, he’s going to ask you for a straw. Then a napkin… and so on.

Me and My Dragon (by David Biedrzycki): A little boy wants a fire-breathing dragon for a pet and talks about how he would take care of it.

Beautiful Oops! (by Barney Saltzberg): Flaps, tears and splotches aren’t all that bad…After all, a torn piece of paper may just be the beginning to something much bigger!

Pirate-themed Birthday Party Ideas for Preschoolers

What could preschoolers and pirates have in common? Well, actually nothing, except perhaps for the fact that both the terms begin with the letter ‘p’. And so we had thought. But when my little one got an invitation to a pirate-themed birthday party from one of his friends in the neighborhood last week, there was a flurry of activity at home; me and the little tyke’s mum were all excited in dressing up our young little pirate, for a start.

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Pirate” by ArtsyBee is licensed under CC by 2.0

And that’s how I decided to gather a couple of ideas which may come in handy if you’re planning a pirate-themed birthday party for your kids anytime in the future (trust me, it can turn out to be pretty exciting, as we eventually found out in the above mentioned case). Here goes.

The right pirate costume

First and foremost, your little one needs to be dressed like a pirate for it to be a fun affair. Get your hands on any old white t-shirt which is a tad too big for him, cut off the sleeves and bottom in a ragged zig-zag fashion and let your preschooler unleash his or her artistic skills on it – the end result? The gaudier the better; hence, bright stripes in colors such as blue or red work best (got the idea from the pirate costumes in these pet games which I enjoy playing). An absolute essential is the black patch for the eye. It can easily be made out of a piece of lightweight cardboard painted black and secured using elastic behind the head.

Musical chairs aka ‘islands’

No points for guessing what this game is all about. It’s the same as our traditional musical chairs except for one simple fact – there are no chairs. Instead, you could cut out haphazardly random shaped pieces of cardboard (big enough for a child to sit on) and scatter them on the floor, in no particular order or row. The only thing that needs to be taken into account is that the number of ‘islands’ should at any point of time be one less than the total number of children playing the game. The music is turned on, the kids are made to run around – or better still, prance around the room – and once it stops, they need to ‘assert their supremacy’ over a particular island by sitting on it. The person found sitting on the last island at the end is declared the ‘Ultimate Pirate of All’!

Find the buried treasure

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Chest” by OpenClipart-Vectors is licensed under CC by 2.0

This one is fun when there is a relatively large group of kids involved. Divide them into two teams. You need to get two boxes filled with sand ready, in which you have buried fun ‘treasure’ – their favorite small superhero action figures, colorful pieces of lego, dinky cars and the like. Let each team be in charge of one sandbox and provide them with a plastic bucket and shovel set. Let them dig for all they are worth within a particular frame of time and fill in their buckets with the ‘found treasures’. The team which has collected the maximum booty at the end of the stipulated time period wins.

Talking of pirates, did you know that September 19 was ‘International Talk like a Pirate Day’? Well then… “Ahoy matey! Heave ho! Walk the plank ye scallywag!” 😀

3 Ways to Get Your Child Ready for Preschool

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Preschool” by MiluCernochova is licensed under CC by 2.0

I am in Preschool.

I was not built to sit still,

Keep my hands to myself,

Take turns,

Be patient,

Stand in line,

Or keep quiet,

All of the time.

I need:

Motion,

Novelty,

Adventure,

And to engage the world with my whole body.

Let Me Play

(Trust me I’m learning!)

If preschoolers could actually put their thoughts into words, the aforementioned lines are probably how they would have expressed themselves. Getting ready for their Big Day – first day at preschool – is a milestone both for the parents as well as for the child too. Here are three things to keep in mind as you prep your little one for D-day.

Read aloud together

Maisy Goes to Preschool: A Maisy First Experiences Book by Lucy Cousins talks about how going to preschool is equivalent to having fun – you can paint in your favorite colors, listen to exciting stories, play in the sand with friends and dance to music. Allow your child to explore the wonders of the new world he is about to step into with the bright and cheerful illustrations of this book denoting a typical day at preschool. What to Expect at Preschool by Heidi Murkoff is another good option. In a question-answer form, it will address all your child’s queries – what exactly is preschool, what are preschoolers expected to do, why and how it is such an enjoyable place and so on. The key is to ease your child’s transition into this new, unknown world. Here is a list of books which will make for good reads pre-preschool.

Use imaginative play

This is something fun you could do with your child at home, several days prior to their first day at school. Make it a game of sorts – one could have you acting as the teacher and your kid the student, or vice versa. Help them get a feel of what a typical classroom setting can be like (even if it’s just playschool or preschool). Visit the preschool in advance to know what their normal routine is like and act it out at home; right from saying goodbye when you drop them at school, to singing nursery rhymes, playing hopscotch, having snacks, and even taking short naps if it’s a part of the routine. The idea is to make your child comfortable in his or her new surroundings. Explain to her that there’ll be lots of other kids in school and she can make friends and have fun. Building a sense of anticipation in the child’s mind will go a long way in making the first day at preschool a success.

Be more social

Simply visiting kids of similar ages who are about to go to school or even those who are already in preschool and getting them to interact with your child can do wonders. One of the first things your child is about to learn in preschool is how to make friends, how to get along with others his own age. It is best if he has some experience in spending time with other children beforehand or else on the first day of preschool, he might find himself lost in a bunch of loud kids! Set aside a fixed time every evening when your child can go out to play with other kids her age, invite the neighborhood friends she makes over to your place for chocolate chip cookies and fun virtual games on the tablet, or discuss with their parents and enroll the kids together in a music class, or swimming class, or skating class. Spending time together with other kids will give a child a sense of what to expect in the coming preschool days.

And yes, as parents we do tend to get a bit emotional at times such as this, when our little one takes her first steps into the big, big world. Just make sure you cheerily wave a goodbye when you drop her to school and rest assured, she’s going to come back home with all sorts of amusing tales to regale you!