Week of Play: The Color Green

This week was all about the color GREEN!  It was a week full of frogs, slime, dinosaurs, and leaf hunts! Green is already becoming H’s favorite color. Most of the week he was shouting, “Green! Green! Green!”  It makes sense why he loves this color so much.  Most of his favorite things revolve around this color: gardening, trash trucks, and dinosaurs just to name a few! 

Week 4: The Color Green 

This is what our week of green looked like: 

Green Books of the Week 

Froggy Learns to Swim by Jonathan London

This book is part of a series of many other books about Froggy.  We did a lot of crafts around frogs, so this was a great book to pair with those crafts.  This particular Froggy book is also perfect if you have a little one learning how to swim!  The book shows how Froggy overcomes his fear and learns how to swim with the help from his mom. The Froggy books tend to be a bit wordier, but my almost 2-year old really enjoyed the entire story.  It can easily be shortened by just focusing on the illustrations.

Green Wilma by Tedd Arnold 

This was another childhood favorite of mine and the perfect book for green week!  This is another book about a frog, so it works well paired with frog activities.  The illustrations are fun and the storyline is compelling with a plot twist towards the end.  After just one read, H was hooked and kept saying “Wilma!” 

Arnold also has a book called Huggly’s Pizza, which H thoroughly enjoyed as well.  Huggly is a green monster that lives in a slime pit.  This is another book that works well with green week.  It is actually quite a long story, but H loved it and kept asking for it again and again.

Other Book Ideas:

  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (“in the great green room”) 

Green Sensory Bin

For this week’s color bin, we had LOTS of things that were green.  

This week’s bin consisted of: green train tracks, big lego blocks, popsicle sticks, feathers, pipe cleaners, shapes, grandpa shark puzzle piece, plate, toy peas, palm tree Duplo Lego pieces, foam blocks, balls, Percey trains, and a few other random green things.

Since we had SO many green legos, we spent some time early in our week building tall green towers!

Monday: Plant Something Green 

With this past Monday being a holiday, Memorial Day, we did not do many planned activities, but we did plant some basil!  This past week was National Children’s Gardening week, so it was a perfect way to celebrate the week.  H helped me shovel dirt in the pot, which he of course loved.  I gave him a straw to poke holes in the dirt and showed him how to carefully place the seeds in. 

We talked about how the tiny seeds are going to grow into green basil for us to eat.  I then let him use his watering can to water the freshly planted seeds.  Be sure to only fill up the watering can with however much water you would like the plant to have.  H over watered it a tad! 

Tuesday: Jumping Frog Origami Craft 

As I spent a lot of time with my grandma who was Japanese, I grew up really enjoying origami.  This jumping frog origami from Red Ted Art is really simple to fold and great for young kids.  While the folds are still too hard for H, he enjoyed watching me make the folds and explaining to him what I was doing.  To get him more involved with the process, I let him color with a green marker on the frog’s back.  I also let him help me glue the googley eyes on.  

Hudson loved playing with the final product!  He loved watching it jump around.  Even hours after we made these jumping frogs, he went back to play with them some more.  That is always a sign of a good craft!

This activity could easily be extended into a more active activity.  We didn’t have time for this, but after making these jumping frogs, you could play a “Jumping Lily Pad” game.  You could either cut out lily pads with green construction paper or draw them on the sidewalk with green chalk.  This could be a great way to teach numbers too.  You could number each lily pad and call out a number for them to jump on to! 

Wednesday: Green Slime + Dinosaurs  

We made green slime THREE TIMES this week, and if I am honest, even the final batch did not turn out great.  Next slime recipe I think I am going to try with Borax.  This is the recipe I used and even after pouring in way more water and contact solution, it was way too sticky.  So if anyone has the perfect slime recipe, let me know!  I also was hoping to make it glittery by adding green sparkles.  The sparkles would probably have showed up better with clear Elmer’s glue.  

It was still a fun process to make with H!  We threw in some of his miniature dinosaurs into the slime, which he seemed to really like.  It was fun for him to pull out the dinosaurs and see the elasticity of the slime.  Since our slime was SO sticky, I threw it all in a bag, which made for good mess-free sensory play.

Thursday Morning: Build-A-Dino Play-dough Tray 

This play-dough tray was a hit!  It was a super simple set-up with minimal materials.  For the homemade playdough, I used Must Have Mom’s green jello play-dough recipe.  It was a great recipe, but definitely needed a fair amount of flour to be added towards the end because it was still pretty sticky.  Using Jello or Kool-Aid mixes in playdough recipes is a great way to add color + smell! 

For the tray, I used a cracker and cheese platter.  I put out some googley eyes, cut up pipe cleaners, some feathers, a roller, and a few other playdough tools.  So simple and something that H keeps coming back to!  

Thursday Afternoon: Toilet Paper Roll Frog Craft

Last week’s bee toilet paper roll craft was such a hit that we did another one this week!  I had more time, so I was able to set-up this craft before he woke up and that made a big difference.  Right when he woke up, he was able to start creating!  It made it easier for the both of us.  

Materials:

  • Toilet paper roll
  • Green paint
  • Paint brush
  • 2 big googley eyes
  • Green construction paper cut into a circle (frog’s head) and two legs
  • Cut piece of red pipe cleaner (curl with finger to make it look like aa tongue) 
  • Green glitter glue (optional, but a fun way for little one to decorate the frog)

Invite your little one to paint toilet paper roll green.  H was not super interested in this part, so he mostly watched it be put together.  Towards the end, he loved squeezing green glitter glue all over the toilet paper roll.  This addition made the final product look really fun and sparkley.  

This is the perfect craft to chase your little one around with.  You can make frog noises, “ribbit, ribbit!” and practice hopping like a frog together.  We even named our frog Wilma and then read the book I mentioned above, Green Wilma. 

Friday:  Herb Watercolor Painting + Leaf Tracing 

Herb watercolor painting was a simple activity that turned out really beautiful and even smelled like rosemary!  

Materials: 

  • Rosemary or other herbs 
  • White paper
  • Watercolors (we mostly just used the different shades of green) 
  • Cup of water 

Simply, dip rosemary into water and then watercolor, and stamp it all over the paper.  The rosemary made a really interesting pattern that a typical paintbrush cannot. 

For the leaf tracing, we first went on a leaf hunt right outside our front door.  I gave H a set of binoculars and a basket to collect the leaves.  Since he is so into gardening, he really enjoyed finding and pulling leaves off  bushes and trees in our front yard. 

Materials: 

  • Leaves
  • White Paper
  • Green crayons
  • Green glitter glue (optional) 

For the leaf tracing, simply place the leaves under the white paper and color with crayon on the paper.  The shape and lines of the leaf will appear.  It looked really pretty to use different shades of green.  

Like most crafts, H’s favorite part was squeezing glitter glue everywhere.  If you have a child that like mine that is not super into crafts, finding the one element they do enjoy is a great way to get them more involved.  For H that is squeezing glue everywhere! 

Saturday: Green Collage Activity 

At the end of each color week we make a collage with items of that particular color.  Once we finish this color unit, I will bind each collage into a book for H to flip through.  

For this collage we used the following green materials: feathers, popsicle sticks, crayons, pipe cleaners, foam shapes.  

Like I say every week, at this stage, the collage is very much a team effort.  H needs help with gluing, but he likes to point where he would like the item to be placed.  

Green week was a lot of fun! Now, on to the color blue! I will have a full week of blue-inspired activities next week!

Themed Week of Play: The Color Red

This past week was ROUGH. There is no way to sugarcoat it. It was a combination of things: the news, my hormones, the broken laptop screen.  

I don’t want to get into the details, but let’s just say I had a minute left on my workout video playing from my laptop and Hudson decided he needed a way to fully get mommy’s attention.  And it worked. I lost my mind on him. And we both were crying hysterically.  A very low moment of my week.  Not solely because of the laptop.  Definitely not ideal and an expensive mistake, but that moment was ultimately a low because I felt so terrible at how quickly I lost my cool with sweet Hudson.  Not my best mom moment.  But, it was humbling. It was the first moment I ever needed to really ask my son for forgiveness.  I know this will absolutely be the first of many and my continued prayer is that God will continue to give me the grace and humility to openly admit to my children when I am wrong. 

With that said, it was not just the laptop incident.  It was an overall feeling that seemed to not leave me all week.  Simply put, it was not my week. I was not my best self.  

In this week of weakness, one of the things that pulled me through and kept me focused was the color RED.

That might sound strange, but let me explain. 

Why Themed Weeks of Play?

Pinterest overwhelms me.  Like big time.  Quite frankly, it makes me feel frozen.  All at once I am flooded with thousands of brilliant toddler activities and crafts, and I don’t even know where to start. So I pin a bunch of things and never do any of it. 

I had an epiphany this week and realized I needed to be more focused when I went to Pinterest. If I go to Pinterest to find an activity to do with Hudson and search “toddler indoor activities” I will become frozen with comparison and doubt.  If I search: “simple toddler ladybug craft” I will quickly become inspired and make it happen that afternoon.  See the difference?

This concept of being more focused and choosing themed weeks for play-based learning was all inspired by an amazing blog I found, Mrs. Plemon’s Kindergarten.  Her blog is beautiful and full of amazing curriculum ideas at home for babies to big kids.  I happened to discover her blog in one of my many overwhelmed moments on Pinterest.  It was through her website that I realized I just needed greater focus when it comes to planning activities and crafts for H. 

This has been a game-changer.  It will be a rhythm I will definitely keep post-quarantine.

At first glance this might seem like a lot of extra work that only really creative and organized moms do, but I am convinced that is just not true. It is actually quite simple and literally has been saving my sanity. On Sunday, I quickly jotted down one red-themed activity for each day.  I made adjustments as the week got going. It was flexible, simple, and a helpful tool to really focus on one specific color with H.  He still mostly just says everything is “blue,” but I noticed towards the end of the week, even the way he said “red” was becoming more clear.  

Week 1: The Color Red

This is what our week of RED looked like:

Red books of the week 

  1. Firebears The Rescue Team!  by Rhonda Gowler Greene
  2. Llama, Llama Red Pajama  by Anna Dewdney 

Monday: Red Sensory Bin + Red Scavenger Walk 

For the bin, I took an aluminum food tray from Costco and literally just went around the playroom gathering everything that was red.  This took me minutes to complete and it was a bin I had had out for him to play with all week.  It is a great way for his eyes to really focus on the color and play with certain toys he usually doesn’t touch. 

Our red bin consisted of: Elmo, lots of fire trucks, red letters, big red legos, red cars, red shapes, red balls, a red monkey, red pegs, toy apple, and a few other random red things.  

We go on morning walks every day with our dog. On our first walk of the week, we went on a “red scavenger walk” and together tried to point out as many red things as possible. A lot of it is still me showing him the flowers, cars, and stop signs that are red, but I think this type of dialogue is important.

Tuesday: Red Tower Building + Red Line 

We used the same bin set-up from Monday.  Using the red legos, we built towers together!  After some tower-building fun, I brought out one of our favorite books, The Line-Up Book by Marisabina Russo.  This was a favorite book from my childhood and thankfully my mom kept it! It is not only a perfect book for toddlers who love lining things up, it is also a great book to pair with a follow-up activity.  After reading this book, we created our own line with the different red objects from the bin.

Wednesday: Ladybug Thumbprint Craft + Red Picnic 

For this week’s craft, we made these cute ladybugs (inspired by the blog, I Heart Crafty Things). We used his thumbprints to make the spots! They turned out really cute and would be the perfect idea for a card. In all honestly, crafting with Hudson is a bit of a challenge. The process for this craft would have been a lot easier if I precut the shapes and set out all materials before he woke up from his nap.

Materials: white card stock; black construction paper cut into small circles (head), larger circle (body), and thin rectangles (antennas); 2 googly eyes; red construction paper or origami paper cut into two semi-circles (wings;, green construction or origami paper leaf (option for child to decorate leaf with crayons); glue stick; and black paint for thumbprints.

Hudson is really into picnics right now.  Each week of our color-themed week, I plan to have an outdoor picnic will feature foods of that color.  This week, we simply cut up strawberries together and ate those.  In future weeks, I hope to get creative with some of the foods of that color.  This could be a good opportunity to introduce little ones to different kinds of food. 

Thursday: Paint the Red Lines on Baseballs + Red Water Play

Hudson is obsessed with baseballs.  I thought it would be fun for him to paint red lines onto circles I drew on card stock.  I drew lines for him to trace with his paintbrush, but developmentally this would be a better project for 3-4 year-olds. He still had fun wildly painting the “baseballs” red.  

In an aluminum tray, I created a red pouring station. I simply used a red color tablet we use during bath time and brought out cups and bottles for him to pour with. 

Friday: Red Collage 

As inspired by Mrs. Plemon’s Kindergarten blog, we will be making a color collage at the end of every week.  Once we have gone through all the colors, I will bind it into a simple book for him to flip through!  This will be a fun keepsake and a great learning tool to practice color recognition.  

For this collage activity, I set it up as he was napping, which did help make it a smoother process.  I simply gathered all the red art supplies we had (most of which is found from the Dollar Store).  

Materials: White card stock paper, feathers, popsicle sticks, red aloha shirt card, foam shapes, pom poms, cupcake liners, and pipe cleaners.

TIP: If you have a toddler, like mine, that is not so into arts + crafts, keep materials out on an accessible table for them to come to work on when they feel like it.  Hudson really cannot be pushed when it comes to doing art. 

There you go. Our RED week! It kept our week fun and full with activities that were all done with materials we had around the house (minus a few of the collage materials- I had to do a quick Dollar Tree run for those).

If you are considering doing themed weeks with your little ones, I hope this gets you inspired! Don’t feel like you have to do everything the same. It has been a really great creative outlet for me to think of that particular color and things that Hudson has interest in, such as firetrucks + the stitches on a baseball. Tailor activities that match with the interests of your child! It will definitely increase engagement. It might not be Pinterest-perfect, but it will be the perfect thing for your unique child and that is what matters.

Lessons My 22-Month-Old Is Teaching Me

This week Hudson turned 22-months!  How has it already been 2 months since I wrote his 20-month update?  In that same amount of time we will have a 2-year old!  

In the two months since last I gave an update, Hudson’s language has really developed.  I am daily amazed with the words that he can say. Some of his favorites include: ball, bowl (when being given a snack, he always requests it in a bowl), bat, glove, catch, Dodgers (grandpa can be thanked for that one), pool man, gardener, lawnmower, boom (fav book), pout-pout (another fav book), more, please, mimi (kitty), ala (nala-our dog), treat (which he says every night after dinner), straw, car, choo choo (train), roar, baby, bear. 

Of all the random words he can say, like lawnmower, he still has trouble saying his own name! And another word he does not say is NO, which I am thankful for! Instead of saying it, he just shakes his head wildly to indicate “no, don’t want to.” Personally, I prefer the head shake over hearing NO, NO, NO! But hey, I am sure that is coming. For now, I’ll enjoy these silent, head shaking no’s.

Along with all the words, Hudson has become even more accustomed to a very specific routine.  He is a creature of habit. This mostly shows up in his nighttime routine. First he gathers all of his closest friends (beary is his first priority, then slothy, then bear, then another blankie, and his Buzz Lightyear pillow.  Once all of this is taken out of his crib and put in our reading corner, the reading of his favorite books begins.

I cannot tell you how many times Lance and I have shouted “BOOM!” from Stormy Night or read the line: “I am a pout-pout fish, with a pout-pout face, so I spread the dreary wearies all over the place.”  Once we read the classic line up of books, without fail, as daddy gets up to leave the room, he asks for a “nana” (banana).  He usually just wants to hold it as we read Good Night, Gorilla because there are bananas all over the pages of that book.  

Once he is put in his crib, his quest for routine and comfort continue.  He points to his feet for fresh socks. He then holds up each of his stuffed animal friends and wants me to kiss each one.  So I do. Slothy always seems to get an extra kiss. And then I say good night, love you and he is ready to drift off. In some ways this process seems excessive.  There are quite a lot of complex layers in this nighttime routine, but it never really feels like a burden. I mean come on, kissing stuffed animals for your baby boy because he wants them to feel loved and comforted right before bed? Does it get any sweeter?

I write all this out not because I think you necessarily care, but because I do not want to forget it.  I want to look back in ten years and remember our precious 22-month baby boy and the things his heart needed and clinged to.  This time is so sweet. Yes, the tantrums are wild and listening is a lesson we work on daily, but as a whole, these are the days.

One thought I have not been able to shake the past few days is how much Hudson teaches me.  I am not just saying it because it sounds cute. I truly mean it. When I watch the way my 22-month old baby boy lives out his simple days, I am drawn closer and closer to the Father.  Let me explain. 

Lesson #1: Pray for the Pool Man 

Every night as we pray at the dinner table, Hudson immediately says with a sense of urgency: pool man, gardener.  Not sometimes, but every single night, without fail. His eyes get big and he pulls on Lance’s arms and he keeps repeating their names until Lance prays for them.  This whole process is then repeated with bedtime prayers. At first, it started as something that was just cute, but it has become such a consistent rhythm that it has actually really ministered to my own heart and prayer life.  I desire to pray more like my 22-month old.  I hate to admit it, but Hudson is more consistent in praying for the people on his heart than his mother.  Talk about learning from our children.  

My prayer life can be so inconsistent.  My prayer life can also be very me-centric.  Hudson is teaching me daily the power in consistency and to pray for the people we might not know well, but that we interact with in our daily lives.  Hudson loves our neighbor, Howard. He loves the lady that works at Trader Joe’s. He loves the pool man, the gardener, the trash man, and any truck driver, for that matter.  He loves the people that we might not know intimately as family or friends, but he loves the people in our local community well and I have a lot to learn from him in that area.

Lesson #2: Feel Sad for the Pout-Pout Fish 

As I mentioned in his list of words, “pout-pout” is one of them.  The Pout-Pout Fish is one of his very favorite books and is read at least 3 times every day.  And here is the thing, we all know the ending of the story. Things end well, but this does not stop Hudson from truly being concerned for the fish in all the pages when he looks sad.  He points and makes a sad face. He actually almost begins to cry. He feels deeply for Mr. Pout-Pout. A few pages in when the fish is on his back and still has his pout face, Hudson just about loses it.  He points again with urgency and his breathing picks up. He mourns the sadness and despair of the fish every single time. He knows the ending, but this does not keep him from feeling real, genuine sadness.  

I am the opposite.  I want to skip over the sad, the hard, the painful, and move on to the joy.  I tend to ignore or not allow myself to fully feel the parts of a story or life that are in fact sad.  Hudson is changing this for me. He is reminding me that even when we know how the story ends, we should still feel the emotions along the way.  In a lot of ways, it makes the joy at the end of the story that much sweeter because we felt the sorrow first.

There is a page towards the end of the story where there is a big picture of the fish smiling because he realized he was actually a kiss-kiss fish.  Every time we turn to this page, Hudson’s whole face lights up and he literally kisses the pages of the book. He does this every time. He cannot contain his joy!  

Taking this all outside of the context of the pout-pout fish, makes me think about the time period we are in today: in-between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.  A large part of my personality wants to just rush to the joy of the empty tomb. The Lord, through my little emotional boy, is teaching me the importance in sitting at the cross.  He is teaching me to feel the pain, the sadness, the sacrifice. And in the same way that Hudson kisses the fish at the end with such joy, I can thank the Father with an even greater joy and gratitude for all He has done for me.

Lesson #3: Worship Freely 

Hudson is also reminding me that worship is not confined to a church service.  We should be constantly living in a state of worship to our loving Father. Ever since church service became solely online, H has been obsessed with worshipping on the couch together.  He wants to sing and put his hands up all the time: on the couch, at the dinner table, when he is playing baseball. It doesn’t matter where he is or what he is doing, if he feels the urge to look up and thank God, he will.  

And let me tell you, it is humbling to say the least, when you see your not-yet-2-year old worshipping in a more authentic and real way than you.  I have a terrible singing voice, so I tend to sing pretty softly in church. Throwing my hands up has never been comfortable to me, so I usually keep them glued to my sides. But you see, Hudson does not care.  He dances wildly, he sings off-key, he waves his hands in the air, and he asks for more and more and more. Oh, how I desire to worship, like that of a child.  

Lesson #4: Pursue Passions 

Back to our prayer time, after Hudson says pool man, gardener, he usually will pretend to swing a bat.  Sometimes he even says “Dodgers,” so we aren’t exactly sure what the prayer request is. Dodgers to win the World Series? For him to be on the Dodgers? Or for God to help him be a good baseball player? We are not certain, but one thing is clear: Hudson is passionate about baseball and soccer and really anything involving balls. 

He practices his swing in the living room every day. He does pretend practice pitches. He wakes up in the morning saying, “catch?” He raises his hand and yells “corner” when he is about to kick a soccer ball. This kid is all in when it comes to ball-related sports. Who knows what it will look like for him in his life, but I feel pretty confident that he will pursue some type of sport or sports with a great passion. 

As I have been watching this obsession develop over the last couple months, I can’t help but be inspired.  The way he watches the ball so intently before he swings it. The way he claps when he does a big hit or surprises himself and actually catches the ball in his glove.  The way he pursues his passion when he doesn’t even know what that means, inspires me to be more forward with the passions I tend to bury down and not boldly proclaim.

I want to wake up like Hudson and proclaim the things I am most passionate about: Jesus, family, raising little ones, running, writing.  Just like he rises and asks who wants to play catch, I hope to become more of a woman that rises with all the things I love most flowing from my words and actions.  

It sounds cute to say my 22-month old is teaching me these things, but the bigger truth is that the Lord is teaching and maturing my heart of these lessons THROUGH my little boy.  I sometimes want to pull out my hair because as sweet and precious as our Hudson Boy is, he can be a real challenge. He is bold, stubborn, wild. And I know with certainty, the Lord placed him as our first son to do some major heart work and teach us valuable lessons in our faith.  So, really, these are lessons from the Lord, but he has been gracious enough to use a sweet and hilarious little boy to teach me them.  


Happy 22-months, Hudson Boy! We love you! 

8 Favorite Easter Books for Toddlers

I know the world feels quite different right now, but one of the things that is helping me stay sane with a toddler at home and no park time and no playdates is…books. We always read a lot of books over here and make our weekly Wednesday library trip, but now more than ever, Hudson and I both are dependent on the comfort and joy these repeated stories bring to our days. 

With Easter right around the corner, I wanted to share some of the Easter books we are reading right now at home and some that we don’t currently have on our shelves, but want to! We actually are pretty stocked up on Easter books right now because I checked out a big haul of them from the library in early March, little did I know we wouldn’t be back to the library for a bit. If you don’t have a ton of Easter books, now is a good time to order a couple new favorites to add to your permanent collection! As I write about often, books make the perfect gift and any of these would work perfectly in an Easter basket.

Some of these books on this list are purely fun and the sole purpose of them is in the colorful eggs and the chocolate bunnies.  I also did intentionally choose a few favorites that I personally think do a beautiful job delivering the true reason we celebrate Easter: He Is Risen!  

1. Jesus Rose For Me by Jared Kennedy 

This is the book we are putting in Hudson’s basket this year.  This is a really nice board book with beautiful images. The thing I love most about this book is the amount of details that are included about Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection.  Jesus Rose for Me is absolutely delivering the gospel, but doing it in such a way that little ears can better comprehend. I am all about delivering truth to our kids at a very young age and this book is a beautiful tool to use.  It even includes Bible verses with each story, so this is a great way to incorporate scripture with your little ones. The book is a bit wordier for Hudson’s attention span currently, but I know it will be the perfect gospel-centric book that he will absolutely grow into within the next year.

2. God Gave Us Easter by Lisa Tawn Bergren 

This was the book we put in his Easter basket last year!  I LOVE the God Gave Us series of books.  Again, the stories still are a bit longer for his attention span even now, but I know this will become a favorite.  Through beautiful illustrations and the real curiosity of a little cub, papa cub through natural imagery explains where the true joy of Easter comes from. 

Like so many of Bergren’s books, this book is a wonderful answer to how to teach kids that the cultural elements of these holidays (eggs, Easter bunny, gifts) are fun and good, but they should never overshadow the true meaning.  Easter baskets and egg hunts point to only a small glimmer of the joy that is found in true relationship with Christ. This book helps reveal this truth and for that I am really thankful. 

3. The Easter Egg by Jan Brett

I discovered this classic book at the library and I am slightly obsessed with the storyline.  This is not a religious Easter book, but the story is heartwarming. It teaches little ones on the importance of small acts of kindness.  The bunny, Hoppi is so concerned with making the most beautiful egg and is inspired by all the beautiful eggs his bunny neighbors are creating.  While trying to figure out how he will decorate his own egg, he ends up helping Mother Robin keep her egg warm. This is how he spends his time and at the end only has the cracked and empty egg shell. Can you guess whose egg was chosen as the winner? Hoppi!

I love how well the storyline shows it is not always about the product we produce, but the intention of our hearts. Love this story, love the illustrations, love Jan Brett. We checked out the hardcover version, but Amazon also has a board book I linked to that is perfect for toddlers! 

4. Happy Easter, Mouse!  by Laura Numeroff

Each holiday, we collect another Mouse book because Hudson is such a fan.  I will admit, the Easter one is not as good as the It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse!, but it is still a good Easter one for toddlers.  It is a very simple story, so probably best for 2-3 year-olds.  We are currently working on our colors. This is a great book to practice naming each color of egg Mouse finds.  This is an easy book to pair with a small activity or craft revolved around colors and eggs! 

5. A Very Happy Easter Prayer by Bonnie Rickner Jensen

Now more than ever, we need to count our blessings and thank God for the gifts of flowers budding and new life being created. Hudson and I read this book before his nap and it brought me a lot of peace. The words are simple. The illustrations are full of colorful flowers and cute bunnies. During these weird and anxious times, my heart settled as I read these simple words thanking God for all the simple blessings.

6. Happy Easter, Country Bunny by DuBose Heyward

The Country Bunny was my favorite Easter book as a young girl. I can still remember how I felt when my mom would read it to us. I loved it then, and now connect to it on an even deeper level. It is such a timely and relatable story for the modern woman. It is a beautiful picture of balancing motherhood with the dreams of your heart. Mother Cottontail continues to inspire me, and it is the perfect story to share with our little ones to inspire them. I would put the original story here, but since this list is geared towards toddlers, this board book is the better option for toddler-aged kiddos.

7. The Great Easter Race

This is a fun book with all the Sesame Street character partaking in a race on Easter morning. The bunny that joins the race leaves baskets full of each character’s favorite things and in the end, the slow turtle wins the race. The illustrations are colorful with all the recognizable Sesame Street friends. The story also contains more substance than typical stories geared towards toddlers, which I appreciate! If you have a Sesame Street lover, this is a fun book to read together this Easter season.

8. An Easter Egg Hunt for Jesus by Susan Jones

This is a sweet story full of cute forest animals and a valuable lesson that Easter is much more than just an Easter egg hunt. It is about Jesus. Through beautiful illustrations and a sweet storyline, Jones delivers the important message that this time of year is a celebration for Jesus!

The Hope of Easter

Again, I know there are much bigger world issues going on right now, and Easter books are likely not on the top of your list. I get that, but in these uncertain and uneasy time, I am finding a lot of comfort in reading books with H and looking ahead to the hope of Easter (even though it is likely to look quite different this year). These books I selected are the perfect stories to read to our little ones this year to point them to the fact that Easter is not dependent on Easter egg hunts and baskets full of chocolate bunnies. Those are fun, but Easter is much more. As papa polar bear puts it in God Gave Us Easter:

“On Easter, we remember we get to be with Jesus forever.”

And that alone is reason to celebrate.

So, let’s read more books, pray more, and cling more than ever to the hope and promise we know for certain will come Easter morning. In all this uncertainty, the sure promise of Jesus is pulling me through.

Happy reading, friends.

Easy St. Patrick’s Day Activities with a Toddler

With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, I wanted to share a few very simple activities you could do at home with toddlers!  I must admit, I have never been a big St. Patrick’s Day fan.  It is definitely not a holiday I get super excited about or even decorate the home for, but Easter feels a bit far off and our son is in fact more Irish than he is Japanese, so I wanted to do a couple fun and easy activities.

1. Shamrock Marble Art 

If you have read my blog even a bit, you know that Hudson is the definition of a crazy, wild, and active boy.  Art projects are NOT his thing. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to do a simple shamrock art project that we could give to family.  One of the reasons I love all the different holidays is that it allows for an opportunity to give a few words of thanks to those we love. I know St. Paddy’s Day might seem like not an obvious holiday for that kind of thing, but I think it is!

Last year, we did a shamrock footprint project with H’s little, baby feet.  Lance had a race on the 17th, so it made a cute gift to wish him good luck for his race.  This year, I decided to do marble art shamrocks. It seemed like the perfect art project for my active and ball-obsessed toddler.  

TOO much paint. TOO many marbles.

It is so simple.  I just cut out shamrock shapes using a shamrock he had made in his toddler class as my stencil.  We bought a bag of marbles (be very careful to not let your toddler play with these), a tube of green pain, and green glitter glue all at the Dollar Store. That is it!  $3. There are many reasons I love the dollar store, but it it the best spot for kid craft supplies. I used to spend a billion dollars at Michael’s.  There is a time and place for these type of craft stores, but when we are just doing fun, little art projects at home, the Dollar Store is my place.

All you have to do for this project is get a big container, put the paper shamrock in, and add a few drops of paint and the marbles.  I learned my lesson from the first one and put WAY too much paint and WAY too many marbles. The best ones were the ones with minimal drops of paint and just 4-5 marbles.  

They turned out really fun.  I love how each one is so unique.  They will make the perfect cards to give to our family!  

In terms of Hudson’s experience, he still was not super into it.  He had more fun standing on the big container and throwing his stuffed “peas” at me.  But hey, this is just my kid. I think most toddler-aged kids would love this project.  It is a fun one for them to get some energy out!  

2. Read St. Patrick’s Themed Books

I love checking out a ton of holiday-themed library books.  I could literally only find one book on St. Patrick’s Day at our local library: The Night Before St. Patrick’s Day by Natasha Wing.  It is a fun one that uses the familiar rhyming of ‘Twas the  Night Before Christmas.  Again, I just don’t get too excited over leprechauns and the color green and corned beef hash, but this one book is a fun way to read a themed-holiday book for the month of March.  

3. Sensory Play with Lucky Charms 

Hudson is super into helping me cook in the kitchen.  He loves pouring things into different containers and he also loves to sort.  While obviously not the most nutritious cereal choice, I thought it would be fun to give him some cups, spoons, and containers to play with Lucky Charms.  We are currently working on our colors, so I used construction paper colors to help work on sorting the different marshmallows by color. Again, super simple, but a fun activity to do after nap time when you have some time to kill before dinner.

Reality check: depending on the age of toddler, this might look more like them excitedly eating marshmallows as you sort by color. Activities like these can feel pointless when it seems like your toddler is not quite ready to follow directions and fully participate; however, I fully believe talking to them about the colors and modeling how to sort as they stuff their faces with rainbows is still better than not. Right?!

4. Find a Local St. Patrick’s Day Parade or Event 

I grew up in Hermosa Beach and for as long as I can remember, we would go to our local St. Patrick’s Day parade.  I have no idea if this is a thing in other cities, but it is in Hermosa. It has been a few years since I have been, but we are planning on bringing Hudson down to it this year.  If you are local, here is the event’s information. 

Okay that is all I got!  Super simple, easy things to do with toddlers and really any-aged kid this St. Patrick’s Day that are budget-friendly and not a ton of extra work for you.  I will say, the art project was a bit more messy than I like for a typical Thursday afternoon, but hey we got beautiful shamrocks out of it. Worth the mess.

10 Favorite Valentine’s Day Books

It is no secret that I am a lover of children’s books.  I also love love, so it only makes sense that I share a few of my favorite Valentine’s Day books to read and give to your little ones this year!  

Over here in the Capel home, we are starting a new tradition of giving a new book for Valentine’s Day instead of the classic candy and stuffed animal option.  Our sugar-obsessed toddler definitely does not need anymore chocolate in his life and his room is already overflowing with lots of stuffed animal friends.

Candy is eaten, stuffed animals are played with and tossed in the basket, but books, those just keep giving.  Hudson’s book shelves can always use more company, we will never reach full-capacity when it comes to books, so it really is the perfect way to say “I love you…let’s read together.” 

10 favorite Valentine's Day books for toddlers, kids, preschoolers, babies

There are SO many cute books, specifically designed for Valentine’s Day, these are just my 10 favorite!  I put some classic ones that you probably have already seen on the shelves of Target in their Valentine’s Day book display, but I also put some that more intentionally share about God’s love.

  I have no problem with fun and cute books about the more cultural elements of giving cards and chocolates, but I always like balancing out the collection with more meaningful books that point little ones to larger truths, like the great care and love of God. This list is designed specifically for baby though preschool-aged little ones!

  1. Happy Valentine’s Day, Mouse! By Laura Numeroff 

For our fall collection of books, we checked out, It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse! at the library and that quickly became Hudson’s favorite book.  “EEK! It’s a scary pumpkin!” became the line Lance and I would constantly say to get Hudson excited.  When I saw this Valentine’s Day version at Target, I quickly snatched it, knowing it would make the perfect gift for Hudson.  I love that it is a board book. I love the illustrations and how each page is dedicated to something lovely about each of Mouse’s friends.  This will definitely be a hit for Hudson, and I have a feeling this will become the new favorite that is read again and again and again.  

  1. The Biggest Valentine Ever 

This is another great classic Valentine’s Day book, also involving a mouse, actually involving mice!  I love this book because it feels like there is more of a substance to it as the story helps teach little ones the beauty in collaboration and working together to make something even bigger and better.

  1. Happy Love Day, Daniel Tiger!: A Lift-the-Flap Book by Becky Friedman 

This book is a win-win: Daniel Tiger + flaps.  Two things my toddler absolutely loves. I always love books that he can interact with. This book has flaps he can pull to reveal how the Daniel Tiger characters show their love for each other.  And like I said, it is Daniel Tiger, so it automatically is a hit.

  1. Love from the Very Hungry Catepillar by Eric Carle

We are big fans of Eric Carle, so this book needed to make the list!  Unlike most of his books, this one does not have much of a storyline. However, I like it for the beautiful images that are familiar in the eyes of my hungry caterpillar-obsessed toddler. The book contains tons of cute phrases, like “You are the cherry on my cake” and “The apple of my eye.” With these beautiful images and short lines, this is a great one for babies and toddlers.

  1. Llama, Llama, I Love You by Anna Dew

Hudson loves the Lllama, Llama books, so this one has also been a hit.  Again, not a super intriguing storyline as it is mostly about llama making Valentine’s Day cards and loving his mama llama. Hudson loves it and asks for it every night, so naturally it had to make the list!

  1. The Berenstain Bears Love One Another by Mike Berenstain

I have always loved the Berenstain Bear books, but especially love them now as a lot of them point little readers to the love of God.  Typically, the books are too wordy and long for my toddler, but this board book is short and sweet. It is the perfect Valentine book that teaches about true love (not chocolate and cards), but God’s love.

  1. God Gave Us Love by Lisa T. Bergren

I love the God Gave Us… series of books.  This is the perfect book choice to give for Valentine’s Day that will help point your little one to the bigger picture of this holiday all about love.  It shows different types of love and explains how we are ultimately showing His love everytime we show love to the people in our lives. This is a book that is great for the holiday, but also can stay on the shelf all year long!

  1. Let’s Play I Spy Valentine

This is a great interactive book with a Valentine’s Day theme that is also educational!  Amongst the hearts and red and pink hues, there are letters, counting, and colors. A perfect way to celebrate the day, while also working on early learning skills!

  1. Snuggle Puppy! by Sandra Boynton

Okay, so over the course of becoming a mom, I have grown to have a slight obsession for everything Sandra Boynton. Her books provide entertainment for both Hudson and myself. I am always blown away with the silliness, creativity, and thoughtfulness that is packed within just a few pages of a board book. One of these days, I am going to create a post with all of my very favorite Boynton books, but for now let’s talk about Snuggle Puppy! This is a sweet book for Valentine’s Day, but also a great one to keep in your night time story rotation all year long! It is a fun one to sing and the last page of course ends with a kiss!

  1. The Valentine Bears by Eve Bunting 

To me, the sign of a really excellent children’s book is one where the adult can also connect and be moved by the story.  This book is one of those books. It is a beautiful picture of marriage and a wife that still desires to make this little holiday a special day for her husband Mr. Bear.  Nothing says I love you quite like your husband’s favorite bowl of honey mixed with only the best dried up beetles. Right? I also love this book because even in Mrs. Bear’s best efforts, things don’t go quite as planned, and for this reason, it really strikes a cord.  They might be bears, but this story sure paints a lovely and genuine depiction of marriage.  

There you go! 10 lovely books that would make a great Valentine’s Day  gift for your kiddos and would all be excellent additions to your at-home library.  If you don’t feel like buying more books, take a visit to your library and see if they have any of these books or other Valentine/love books.  I always check out a bunch of holiday books to keep at our house for a few weeks and then return them! Then I know the ones Hudson really enjoyed and can buy those for our permanent collection.  

Do you have a favorite Valentine’s Day Book in your family? Let me know below!

Christmas Books that Bring Family Together + Hearts Centered on Jesus

This mama is a fan of children’s books. I believe the books we read to our little ones are more than just books. They are teaching our children what we believe, value, and love. For this reason, I am pretty picky with the books I choose to read to Hudson.

Especially when it comes to Christmas books, there are soooo many options, but there also are a lot that tell more of our culture’s version of Christmas and fail to include Jesus and instead focus on Santa, reindeer, and gingerbread men. Nothing inherently wrong with these elements, but I love finding books that help show the fun in these things, but ultimately draw our attention to Jesus and family and love.

I spent a ton of time sifting through our own Christmas collection, scrolling through library catalogs, and researching through all the books on Amazon, to bring to you my 10 Favorite Christmas books. This is a good mix of secular and Christian books. There are some classics you should recognize, and there are likely a few you have never heard of.

If you are anything like me, and still in the midst of Christmas shopping, one or more of these books would make a great gift for the little ones in your life!

Top 10 Favorite Christmas Books

1. Santa’s Prayer by Tom Roberts

This season, I have been very much feeling the tension between how our culture celebrates Christmas and the true reason for this special season: Jesus.  As a new parent, I am trying to navigate the role Santa will have in our family. I do not necesarrily wish to steal away all the fun that comes with traditions of Santa and putting out cookies for him and carrots for his reindeer, but I certainly do not want my children to miss the point. 

This book is a beautiful answer to some of this tension I have been struggling with. There is a Santa in this book, but it is a Santa that is a humble servant of Christ. It is a Santa that kneels and prayers and asks for God’s wisdom to help guide the children to understand the true joy of Christmas.  This is the type of book that I know I will read over and over again to all of my kiddos.  

2. The Way to the Manger: A Family Advent Devotional

This book very much aligns with much of what I discussed last week.  This is the perfect book to help bring your family together around Christ this Christmas season.  This book is the perfect element to a family tradition around advent. It gives you and your family a devotion for each day of December before Christmas.  Not only can this be the perfect family evening routine together, it will feed the whole family with the Word of God and keep everyone centered during this very busy time of year.  

3. Christmas Is Coming: An Advent Book

This is another great book that functions as an Advent calendar.  The illustrations are darling! This book would be the perfect coffee table book to have out during the holidays! It also very much connects to all my thoughts from last week’s post and gives a new recipe, activity, song, game or craft to try each day as a family.  There is something about books that can really bring a family together and I love how this book so intentionally gives fun, holiday ideas to help get your family to enjoy time together.  

4. Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht 

This is the perfect book to make part of your Christmas tree traditions. I just discovered it, but next year, we are definitely going to make reading this book apart of our Friday-after Thanksgiving tree tradition!  It is the perfect tradition-type of book as the book itself holds the traditions a family has around their own Christmas tree. I love how this book is so centered around family and the importance of tradition. Not to mention, it is a rhyming book so perfect for the little ears in your family!

5. God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren 

I am a fan of the God Gave Us series of books. This is another beautifully written and illustrated story that helps your little ones understand that Christmas is in fact about much more than the tree and the presents.  I love these books because the author so beautifully captures the curious, question-asking mind of a child. The answers from the mama bear, even minister to me as a parent, as I glean wisdom on how to discuss some of these bigger topics with kids as they begin to get older. 

6. Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell

There are so many wonderful books that beautifully depict the birth of Jesus that are geared for young children.  Of all that I sifted through and researched, Room for a Little One, stands out.  For one, I love that the story is told from the perspective of animals. Hudson is animal obsessed right now, so this retelling of the story is especially interesting to him. There is also something very charming about getting an animal’s perspective of the night of Jesus’s birth.  

7. Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle 

My mom got Hudson this book last Christmas and it is one of our favorites.  The whole Little Blue Truck series is so endearing and perfect for my little guy who is becoming more and more truck obsessed with each passing day.  I love this book in particular because it allows us to work on counting as we get to count the number of trees that are left in in Little Blue Truck. It is also fun because the last page has flashing lights on the final Christmas tree! 

8. Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares 

Hudson is currently loving birds.  We also just visited New York City this summer as a family.  For these two reasons, this book feels like the perfect addition to our Christmas library.  Again, this book’s illustrations are stunning. I love the beautiful images of NYC at Christmas time.  Red and Lulu are birds that get separated, but eventually are reunited by the story’s end. This heartwarming story combines some of our favorite things: birds, NYC, and love.  It is a bit wordy for Hudson’s attention span, but I look forward to enjoying this story with him next Christmas and for now, we will just enjoy the beautiful illustrations.

9. The Story of Christmas by Patricia A. Pingry 

This is another well-written book that helps young children understand the real point of Christmas and how things like gift giving is ultimately connected to showing love, like the love God showed us through Jesus.  I particularly enjoy the last two pages: “We give gifts at Christmas to show our love. And we say, ‘Happy Birthday, Baby Jesus’” (Pingry 19-22). The language in this book is super simple, the words are nice and big, making it again the perfect Christmas story for the little ones in your home.

10. The Night Before Christmas Recordable Book by Clement C. Moore 

Hudson got this as a gift last year from his nanny and poppy.  This makes such a great gift! Hudson loves opening this book and hearing the voices of his nanny and poppy.  This is such a classic book and we have multiple copies of The Night Before Christmas, but Hudson definitely prefers the version that is personalized with voices he can recognize! 

What are some of you family’s favorite Christmas books? I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below.

 

To Read

This mama needs to read.  I think a lot of people can relate to this feeling of not feeling like they have time to read.  For me, reading can sometimes feel indulgent.  The act of just sitting down to read a book that is just for enjoyment can sometimes feel too much like vacation mode.  Isn’t it interesting that it is totally fine to read a book for fun on vacation, but when it comes to every day life it feels harder to justify? This is definitely true for me!  It is much easier for me to read a book that feels more practical, like a book on sleep training your baby or a book on church, but those fun memoirs and fiction books feel like the books I need to wait for until I am on vacation.  I have a feeling this is not just me.  I think especially as women, we can feel guilty for taking the time to do the things that fill us up when we know there is plenty of things that need to be done.  I am writing this because my own heart needs to hear it! This is such a lie and we need to take the time to just sit and read a book that is just for fun.  It does not always need to be a practical one or one that is very heavy on theology.  In the past month I have been learning to fall back in love with the act of reading just to read.  As I have mentioned in a previous post, I used to adore reading.  I would stay up past my bed time, reading with my little reading lamp under the covers.  Reading was my thing and it was something I actively thought about during my day.  I looked forward to time alone with a good book.  Since then, life has changed quite a bit.  I am much more tired than I used to be.  My mind is much more busy and anxious.  My to-do list much longer and more complicated.  A lot has changed, but the one thing that hasn’t changed is my desire and love for words.  For a while, I have ignored it, only picking up books when I had to.  I was really only reading the books we were studying in the classes I taught.  Who has time to read books for pure pleasure?  Not me! I am busy! I have more important things to do.  This was my false logic at the time.  I did not realize that by denying this desire to read that has always been there, I was really missing out on something that helps calm my spirit and gives me clarity and creativity.  It was not until this new year that I finally began to really read again.  Since then, I have finished three books that were purely for fun.  How did I do it?  I deleted Instagram.  I truly believe this one act has allowed me to get so much more reading done.  Now, instead of constantly checking my phone, I am opening up pages.  This act is such a small difference, but it has completely shifted my mindset and perspective.  Instead of mindlessly scrolling and feeling jealous and comparative as I see the pretty lives of others, I am giving my mind rejuvenation as I fill it with inspiring stories and words.  I almost always walked away from Instragram feeling down, but when I put down my book, I feel calm and rested and productive.  It is a small change, but it really is changing a lot for me.  For some, Instagram and social media is not an issue, but for me it absolutely is.  I cannot handle it well.  I over-consume it.  For me, it is better to just have it deleted.  For some, books are not the things that fill them up and give them rest, but whatever that act is, I think it is so important to identify that for you and replace it with whatever is tearing you down.

Reading is becoming even more important with a little one in our home.  I know how quickly kids learn to imitate others and I want to do my very best to model being more interested in words and stories found in books, rather than the stories my friends post on social media.  I think one of the best ways to show this to him is by reading as much as we can together.  Even in these early months, I have enjoyed reading books with Hudson.  When was the last time you read a children’s book?  Or The Jesus Storybook Bible?  Even if you don’t have kids, you should really pick one up.  It is amazing how much I learn in children’s books and how touched I am by them.  They get at my heart in a way that adult books don’t.  One of our favorite books to read is a Veggie Tales Book called, God Made You Special.  I so resonate with the pages in that book.  Especially the ones on feeling down and not liking a certain trait of oneself.  This is me basically every day.  Recently, I have been faced with really questioning God as to why he made my personality so shy and unsure at times.  For as long as I can remember, I have always been one of the quieter ones in the room.  I still get nervous to share in group settings.  My heart races when I feel like everyone is looking at me.  I over think before saying a word that by the time I do speak, my words are fragmented and shaky.  I have recently been wondering why God made me this way.  I often look at other people that do not struggle in this area.  I admire their confidence, boldness and outgoing nature.  It is so easy to wish we were made differently.  I know I do.  But this book, this book for children reminds me the truth that my heart so desperately needs to hear: God made you special.  My point in sharing this is to point to the fact that you don’t need to be reading Shakespeare or Hemingway or Austen to be deeply moved.  Sometimes all it takes is some Veggie Tales.  If you are anything like me, you could use less screens and more pages and words and chapters.  So, instead of thinking of it as an indulgent act that you will do if there is time, I would suggest pausing and taking the time to pick up a good book right now.  The dishes can wait.  Reading is more important.