Picture Books on Being Mindful and Present

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As a working parent and a teacher, I'm often pulled in a million directions, feeling frazzled and overwhelmed. I recognize the mounting and unnecessary stress this puts on my children and me. I'm attempting to be thankful for small moments, even the ones that make me feel like I’m going crazy or running in circles.  I'm not always giving thanks at 8:00 a.m. drop-off when my child dumps her lunch box out in the back seat, but I'm trying to seek out moments of gratitude with my family each day. I'm practicing modeling mindfulness and patience because, as a teacher, I see the many benefits when children are able to calm themselves and breathe in stressful moments. 

If you are in need of slowing down or resetting to gain perspective, check out the books below that will remind you how truly fortunate we are to be here and to know one another.

Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers. How we learn to grow and take in the world around us is a wonder. A book about a child's smallness in this universe, Jeffers provides some relief for parents as he points out that others will be here to take care of our children when we no longer can do so.

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Forever or a Day by Sarah Jacoby.  For any parent who is attempting to say yes more often, this book is a beautiful reminder of all the reasons we should do just that. Time is the one thing we can never get more of, and in this book, a child asks if we can stay a little longer–so maybe we should.

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Life by Cynthia Rylant and Brendan Wenzel. Cynthia Rylant does a fantastic job of keeping complex concepts simple. Life is no exception. "Life is not always easy. There will probably be a stretch of wilderness now and then. But wilderness eventually ends. And there is always a new road to take."

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All In a Day by Cynthia Rylant and Nikki McClure. Another Rylant book because when paired with McClure’s die-cut illustrations, it’s too beautiful not to mention. “A day brings hope and kindness too…a day is all it’s own.” A sentimental reminder of how much connection we can share in a single day. 

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Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems by Kate Coombs and Anna Emilia Laitinen. A Montessori teacher friend recently suggested this book. She said that she randomly grabbed it from the shelf on the last day of school when the children sit together and express their thoughts or feelings about the year. She is now using it as a yearly tradition. What a special find. "There's a quiet place in my head like an egg hidden in a nest. A place I go when the world is loud."

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Do you have any book suggestions or tips on being present with your children and family? I'm all ears. 

Simple and Effective First Steps to Take When Teaching Your Child to Read

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When you recognize that your child is interested in learning to read and ready to begin sounding out words, you might feel the need to jump into a phonics program or get out flashcards. Yet, less is often more when learning at home. You will notice that your child will start to examine words on signs and start sounding them out. Reading requires three different parts of the brain to work together to sound out words. So there's no need to force the process on a child before they are neurologically ready.

Quality over quantity

The type of instruction and words you are pointing out to your child will make more of a difference than the time you spend and the number of words your child is learning at one time. Maintaining the child's confidence and interest is the first and most important priority. Think of a time that you tried something new. Did you take up tennis, or running or learn a new software program for work? How did you learn the new skill? If you were given all of the information at one time, chances are that you didn't continue refining the skill over time. You might have quit, felt overwhelmed or lost interest. Yet, if you had a great teacher or program that introduced one concept at a time and allowed you to master each, perhaps you stuck with it.

Where to start?

So where to begin? We will keep it simple. Once a child knows all of the letter names and mostly all of the sounds (they can point out beginning sounds in words) then they can begin to decode three letter words. We call the first words that a child reads CVC words, which stands for consonant-vowel-consonant.

For a list of CVC words that you can practice, enter your email below and you will receive a download link! Enjoy! Feel free to email me with questions if I can help.

Short Vowels

Focus on short vowels and pointing out only one short vowel at a time. Practice that same vowel for about a week or two. The only thing you need to do is to recognize the letter or word as you are traveling or reading, seeing signs, and just going through everyday life. For example, a sign says, "No Dogs." You might say, "Oh look, that word has the short vowel o in it for o/octupus. D-o-g. It says dog!" You are modeling how to sound out a short vowel word. If your child is frustrated by this then back off. Most likely they just want control and might start pointing the letters out on their own after they watch you do it first.

How to keep it simple and practice at home

To practice, you might also want to put letters in the tub or magnetic letters on the fridge and practice CVC words during down times like making dinner or bath time. Make spelling and reading a part of play, and it will feel more natural to your child. You might also considering having a few decodable books around the house with short vowels. Raz-Kids is a great online resource and app.

Resources

Here are a few items that might make it easier to practice CVC words at home. The best products to teach this skill are the ones that differentiate the vowels by color. 

Wooden Alphabet with Vowels in Blue

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Back to School Books

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Whether you are a teacher, student, or parent, the first day of school brings a wide range of emotions. These books should help bring a little laughter and emotional support for first-day nerves. 

School's First Day of School by Adam Rex, Illustrated by Christian Robinson. Everyone gets nervous on the first day of school, even the school building itself. Nothing goes as planned for the building on its first day with children, but all is okay in the end and everyone wants to try it again the next day. A unique take on first-day jitters.

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The Friend Ship by Kat Yeh, Illustrated by Chuck Groenink. One of my favorite books of the year! Sometimes you are searching for true friendship or something new in life, while everything you need is right in front of you.

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The Teacher’s Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi, Illustrated by Zachariah OHara. A class bands together to help their teacher when his love for the class pet clouds his judgment. The tadpole grows into a hippo. The pet's size and needs are destroying the classroom. Kids will love the idea of knowing more than a teacher.

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The Smallest Girl In The Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts, Illustrated by Christian Robinson. This book reminds us that you can make a big impact on those around you by speaking up. Sally McCabe might be small, but she’s an observer of the world, and so one day she realizes she can make a difference despite her age or size.

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If You Ever Want To Bring an Alligator To School, Don't (Magnolia Says Don’t!) by Elise Parsley. If you don’t know the Magnolia series, this is a great one to get you started. They are very funny for both younger kids and school-aged children. Magnolia just wants to have the best show-and-tell ever and acts against her better judgment when she brings her alligator.

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Planet Kindergarten by Sue Ganz-Schmitt, Illustrated by Shane Prigmore. “What if I am not ready? What if we crash into a comet, or get sucked into a black hole, or even worse…what if my lunch floats away?” “You are well prepared,” says Dad. Planet Kindergarten is an exciting story that will help kids to picture their first day and to tackle new challenges.

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The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires. This book will resonate with perfectionists and worriers. It helps our children see the beauty in the process rather than the product. You might also want to check out The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes. 

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A Squiggly Story by Andrew Larsen, Illustrated by Mark Lowery. This book is a cute story about the power of writing and getting started. You don’t have to know how to write everything or anything to create something beautiful.

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How To Get Your Teacher Ready by Jean Reagan, Illustrated by Lee Wildish. From the author of the How to Babysit a Grandma and How to Babysit A Grandpa, this book helps kids feel confident in the things they know and what to expect at school. It's also pretty funny, so kids and parents alike will love it. 

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Kindergarten Countdown by Anna Jane Hays, Illustrated by Linda Davick. There are only seven days until the first day of kindergarten. The book helps kids count backward, learn the days of the week and also gain excitement about the big day! I've purchased it for several kindergarten classrooms in the past and everyone always enjoys it for a simple and quick read. 

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10 Winnie The Pooh Quotes To Get You Through Any Life Situation

 This beautiful quote by  design roots

This beautiful quote by design roots

Winnie the Pooh turned 90 this year! Do you remember how you felt when you watched it or read it as a child? I always had a sentimental feeling and an almost sad one. Rereading it now, I can see A.A. Milne was actually speaking to the adults who had seen more days, more happiness and more sorrow than to their children. He used the sweetest characters to get the message across in a childlike way. 

Perhaps the best piece of advice comes from Christopher Robin: "You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."Here are a few of the most moving quotes from Winnie the Pooh to get you (and your children) through almost any life situation:

"Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart." 

"Life is a journey to be experienced not a problem to be solved."

"Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart, it could hold a rather large amount of gratitude."

"Some people care too much, I think it's called love."

"How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."

 I asked  SusieCakes  to make something for the occasion and they more than delivered. honey bee cupcukes, yes please!

I asked SusieCakes to make something for the occasion and they more than delivered. honey bee cupcukes, yes please!

"You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes."

"When you see someone putting on his Big Boots, you can be pretty sure that an Adventure is going to happen."

"It wasn't much good having anything exciting like floods, if you couldn't share them with somebody."

"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?" 

Well Happy Birthday, Winnie the Pooh! Thank you for sharing your wisdom with the world.

Books for Moms

Sometimes the best gift for a mom is an easy bedtime with a sentimental story or just actually having time to order a family portrait or jot down some notes about this stage of parenting before it changes again. Gifting one of these sweet books for mother's day, a baby shower, or her birthday could help create a meaningful memory.

If I Had a Little Dream by Nina Laden, Illustrated by Melissa Castrillon. This book is stunningly beautiful with intricate illustrations that resemble die-cut prints. The words are poetic and the story touches on the tiny treasures that make up our world, which children value and adults often overlook. Speaking of die-cuts, I must remember to ask for one of these amazing family portrait prints for mother's day next year! So cool, right?

 

Mom's One Line A Day: A Five-Year Memory Book by Chronicle Books. As someone who is still working on their oldest child's baby book (four years later), I find this memory book to be very refreshing. I don't keep up with it every single day, but it's easy enough to jot down thoughts each week and it warms my heart to look back and see some of the funny things my daughter was saying when she was only two years old. It's simple, very pretty and comes in either pink or blue. Perfect for moms who want to take the pressure off. 

Someday by Alison McGhee, Illustrated by Peter H. Reynold. Fair warning: read it beforehand or bring tissues to bedtime. This book is a tear-jerker. What I love most about this book is it brings everything full circle and helps us gain perspective when we can often get lost in the tiresome day-to-day. The author even shares the perspective of a parent thinking about his or her own childhood. McGhee writes, "Someday you will look at this house and wonder how something that feels so big can look so small."  

 

Love Is by Diane Adams, Illustrated by Claire Keane. We all thought we would be strolling through the park with an iced-coffee and a cute stroller, yet parenting looks a little messier now. While this book isn't about a traditional mother-child relationship, it touches on the realness of parenthood and reminds us to laugh through it. The little girl in the story takes care of her duck and realizes that "Love is tidying up, Love is messy baths." 

 

The Wonderful Things You Will Be by Emily Winfield Martin. With modern illustrations of hip families who decorate with zebra wallpaper and dress their kids in cool vintage wear, this book is perfect for a new parent. It captures the thoughts of mothers who are truly in awe with their child's uniqueness. "When you were too small to tell me hello, I knew you were someone I wanted to know."

 

If I Could Keep You Little by Marianne Richmond. Of all the books I've come across about parenthood, this one speaks to my heart in a specific way. Letting your children go is difficult for every parent, and this book reminds us that we aren't alone in the feeling, yet it's just part of the job. Richmond writes, "If I could keep you little, I'd push your ducky float. But then I'd miss you feeling the wind behind a summer's boat." "If I could keep you little we'd nap in our fort midday. But then I'd miss you sharing adventures from camp away."

How to Raise a Mom and How to Babysit A Grandma by Jean Reagan, Illustrated by Lee Wildish. This book is very funny and will make any preschooler or grade-school child laugh out loud. It's written from the perspective of two siblings setting out to make sure their mother gets proper exercise, a well-balanced diet and some rest time in her day. And for the grandmothers in your life, check out How To Babysit a Grandma

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How To Celebrate Everything by Jenny Rosenstrach. I added this to the list even though it isn't a picture book because it's simply heartwarming and can remind today's busy mom how to enjoy the little things of parenthood that make it all worth it. This book is highly sentimental and acts just as much as a parenting guide as it does cook-book. When I gift it to like-minded moms who read a little more than we cook, I always suggest reading the last page first.