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Book Lists, Parenting, Parenting Resources, School Room, StudioLab

Favorite Parenting Books for Creativity and Learning

January 21, 2015


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I take a creative approach to parenting. This probably explains why I’m drawn to parenting books that encourage parents to get creative in order to evoke deep thinking in their children. We’re a very sensory and play based home. There are lots of happy messes, art projects, and various play scenes constantly being built up (or torn down) in every room of the house

In a tech heavy world, I still get most of my parenting inspiration from actual books. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Pinterest and use it frequently to get ideas for daily activities, but it’s just not the same as flipping through beautiful pages of carefully designed book on creativity. With a real book, I can feel the author’s creativity jump right off the pages and into whatever plane of existence my own creativity is pulled from; something I don’t really experience from staring at a computer screen.

When I was just starting out on my mama journey, I found You Are Your Child’s First Teacher to be incredibly influential. It helped to cement in my head just how important and special these early parenting years are. It also gave me some great ideas for play activities with a baby who was only a couple of months old at the time. Sometimes, when I’m feeling too scattered and exhausted to make another day at home count, I check out this book from the library and feel a great sense of reassurance wash over me. It’s an awesome book.

I frequently reference Seven Times the Sun for daily rhythm ideas and it was my main inspiration for putting together Mealtime Verses and a Healing Basket. I stumbled upon the book in a thrift store, and knowing exactly what kind of treasure it was I bought it as quick as I could.

Here is a list of my favorite parenting and teaching resources:

Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Experiments- Mike Adamick

You Are Your Child’s First Teacher- Rahima Baldwin Dancy

The Creative Family- Amanda Blake Soule

The Handmade Home-Amanda Blake Soule

Rhythm of Family- Amanda Blake Soule

Playful Learning- Mariah Bruehl

Festivals Family and Food- Diana Carey and Judy Large

Seven Times the Sun- Shea Darian

Tinkerlab-Rachelle Dooley

Maker Dad- Mark Frauenfelder

The Write Start- Jennifer Hallissy

The Artful Parent; Jean Van’t Hul

Baking Bread with Children- Warren Lee Cohen

Junk Drawer Physics-Bobby Mercer

Show Me A Story- Emily K. Neuburger

 Beyond the Rainbow Bridge-Barbara J. Patterson and Pamela Bradley

Art Lab for Little Kids-Susan Schwake

I usually have a combination of at least 5 of these books checked out from the library at any given time. My favorites are: Play Learning, Rhythm of Family, Tinkerlab, and The Artful Parent; with Playful Learning being my go-to reference book when I feel like I’m in a creative parenting slump or need some new ideas for play space layout. It’s a beautiful book.


Book Lists, Homeschooling, StudioLab

Reading List: October

October 7, 2014

october reading list

October is my favorite month of the year.

JBird AND Moon Baby both have birthdays, fall is in full swing, and there seems to be a whole world of picture books dedicated to (nearly) everyone’s favorite season.

Here is a list of what we currently have on our home library shelf:

Just For Fun:

Extra Yarn: Mac Barnett

Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist: Stan and Jan Berenstain

Friends: Eric Carle

If You Give A Dog A Donut: Laura Numeroff

Jelly Beans and the Big Book Bonanza: Laura Numeroff

Ponyella: Laura Numeroff

The Jelly Beans and the Big Camp Kickoff: Laura Numeroff

Curious George Saves His Pennies: Monica Perez



Every Autumn Comes the Bear: Jim Arnosky

The Apple Pie Tree: Zoe Hall

Countdown to Fall: Frank Hawk

The Apple Cake: Nienke van Hichtum

The Biggest Pumpkin Ever: Steven Kroll

Fall Ball: Peter McCarty

Fall Mixed Up: Bob Raczka

Fletcher and the Falling Leaves: Julia Rawlinson

Patty’s Pumpkin Patch: Teri Sloat

Leaves: David Ezra Stein

Mouse’s First Fall: Lauren Thompson

Pumpkin Moonshine: Tasha Tudor

Owl Babies: Martin Waddell

Leaves! Leaves! Leaves!: Nancy Elizabeth Wallace


Sid the Science Kid: Why Can’t I have Cake for Dinner?: Jodi Huelin


About Mammals: Cathryn Sill

Rabbits and Raindrops: Jim Arnosky

About Birds: Cathryn Sill

Book Lists, Homeschooling, StudioLab

Reading List: September

September 15, 2014

Booklist (1 of 1)

At the beginning of every month, I check out upwards to 50 picture books from the library. I start with seasonal books, and then add books on topics that JBird is interested in at the moment. They’re usually all science or math related but sometimes we need books about emotions and experiences to help work through “stuff” that may be going on in her little head.

Then, when we go to pick up our huge haul from the library we pick out about 10 “just for fun” books.

We try to read about 10 books every day, but sometimes if we get a chance to read 1 book a day I call that a win.

Here’s What Is On Our September Reading List:


The Berenstain Bears’ Four Seasons: Stan & Jan Berenstain

Christopher’s Harvest: Elsa Beskow

Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf: Lois Ehlert

Nuts to You!: Lois Ehlert

Leaf Trouble: Jonathan Emmett

Awesome Autumn: Bruce Goldstone

Possum’s Harvest Moon: Anne Hunter

The Apple Doll: Elisa Klevin

Apple Pie ABC: Alison Murphy

The Princess in the Forest: Sibylle von Olfers

Apple Cider Making Days: Ann Purmell


Science: (Let’s Read and Find Out series)

The Skeleton Inside you: Philip Balestrino

Air is All Around You: Franklyn M. Branley

What Makes a Shadow: Clyde Robert Bulla

Feel the Wind: Arthur Dorros

Let’s Go Rock Collecting: Roma Gans

From Caterpillar to Butterfly: Deborah Heiligman

From Seed to Pumpkin: Wendy Pfeffer

Clouds: Anne Rockwell

The Listening Walk: Paul Showers



Hetty’s Hundred Hats: Emma Dodd

Sorting Through Spring: Lizann Flatt

Counting on Fall: Lizann Flatt

Shaping Up Summer: Lizzann Flatt

Sizing Up Winter: Lizann Flatt


Just For Fun:

The Mixed Up Chameleon: Eric Carle

Chrysanthemum: Kevin Henkes

A Good Day: Kevin Henkes

Angelina’s Birthday: Katharine Holabird

Angelina and the Rag Doll: Katharine Holabird

Angelina and the Butterfly: Katharine Holabird

Angelina On Stage: Katharine Holabird

If You Give A Pig A Pancake: Laura Numeroff

If You Give A Moose A Muffin: Laura Numeroff

If You Give A Cat a Cupcake: Laura Numeroff

If You Give A Pig A Party: Laura Numeroff

The Jellybeans and the Big Dance: Laura Numeroff and Nate Evans

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? : Bill Martin

Fine Motor, StudioLab

Pony Beads and Pipe Cleaners

April 16, 2014


Sometimes I try and get really creative with activity ideas for Jbird.


I had the brilliant idea to put some assorted seeds into a jar and have her scoop and sort the seeds. (when I say it out loud, I can see how boring that probably is. BUT THE KIDS ON PINTEREST SEEMED TO LOVE IT)

Yea, that went over like a lead balloon.

She looked at it and said “Seeds?!”…then walked away totally offended.

My bad.


Then there were the marbles. Lord help me…how stupid could I be!


Look! It’s marbles! and numbers! Counting! Sorting! I’m so clever!


Nope. I was given a stare that is pretty much the toddler equivalent of flipping someone off.

Try again.


If there’s one thing parenting has taught me, it’s this: Keep It Simple.


Frustrated, I pulled out a few pipe cleaners from the closet; along with a jar of pony beads.


Here! Play with these!


…and she did. For HOURS.


Carefully choosing colors that would look nice next to each other.

Carefully threading them on to the pipe cleaner.

Then, once a pipe cleaner was totally filled with beads, it was my job to join the 2 ends and make it a proper bracelet.


I even got some new jewelry out of the deal.

Maybe one day I’ll learn.

DIY, Everyday, StudioLab

Making Ice Ornaments

January 29, 2014


Winters in Wisconsin are cold, but this year feels almost unbearably frigid (thanks, Polar Vortex).

Staying cooped up in the house because of the temperatures has begun to make us a bit stir crazy.


Luckily, we’ve been keeping busy with simple winter crafts.

One of our favorites this year is simple ice ornaments.


We assembled them in our kitchen, then placed the mold outside to freeze (since it’s colder outside than in our freezer).

Within a few hours, we have a solid ice ornament to hang in the front yard.

Even in winter, we can still connect with the natural world outside.

We chose food items for our ornaments that the squirrels and birds would enjoy: nuts, orange and lemon slices, seeds, etc


Here’s what you’ll need to make your own ice ornaments:

-a mold of some sort. We used a thrifted bundt pan. It’s small, which is perfect for this project.

-items to add to the ornament (we used oranges, lemons, and nuts. Herbs and evergreens would also be beautiful)

-water (about 2 cups)

-kitchen twine

Assemble the ornaments on a flat work surface (like the kitchen floor). Set outside (or in the freezer) for several hours; until it has frozen solid. Hang on a tree branch, preferably near a window, and enjoy the beauty.


Once the sun melts the ice, the contents will fall to the ground; feeding your neighborhood birds and squirrels. They’ll thank you.

photo 1





Everyday, Photos, StudioLab, Toddler Activities

Our Mud Pie Kitchen: The Beginnings

May 20, 2013

mud pie kitchen

My husband found this little gem on the curb last fall. We stashed it in our garage, knowing that it would become our outdoor play kitchen (aka mud pie kitchen).

mud pie kitchen

All of our mud pie kitchen play structures were found on curbs, freecycle, or salvaged from the garbage. They include: our play kitchen, toddler size picnic table, table made from  wooden spools and a piece of plywood (covered with our old camping tablecloth), and all sheltered from the sun and rain by a 8×8 garden canopy/gazebo that we scored a few years back off of freecycle. Frugal fun is where it’s at.

mud pie kitchen

mud pie kitchen

I scored some awesome mud pie kitchen finds at a local thrift store too: metal mixing bowls, old muffin tins, old pie pans, old mini tart tins, old egg beater, small metal pots, and some enamel bowls. I think I spent about $20 total.

mud pie kitchen

I’m sure my quest for more fun and unique thrift store items to use in our outdoor play kitchen will be never ending, but this is a good start.

mud pie kitchen

A deck planter filled with topsoil has been our go-to dirt pile for months now; making it a “no-brainer” addition to our mud pie kitchen too.

mud pie kitchen

I dusted off an old plastic tub (usually our camping dish sink), and filled that with soapy water too (which was promptly used to give the dog a bath).

mud pie kitchen

For something that we just threw together in an hour, I’m definitely pleased with it; and I think a little JBird is pleased with it too.

mud pie kitchenmud pie kitchenmud pie kitchenmud pie kitchenmud pie kitchenmud pie kitchen

mud pie kitchen