Sunday, December 12, 2010

Favorite Books for Preschoolers

Lets talk about some favorite preschool books this week that you might consider when buying Christmas presents for that special preschooler. A few of my modern favorites are Owl Babies, Mouse Paint, and Mouse Count. Blueberries for Sal, Make Way for Ducklings, Mrs. Tittlemouse, and Goodnight Moon, are some of my favorites from the era before the flashy colors. They were beautiful books either with line drawings or simple color. You can find all of these in our library, at bookstores, or online.

There is an entire series of soft cover books devoted to Clifford the Big Red Dog. There is also a series with an endearing character called Little Critter. Being a grandmother, my favorite of the Little Critter series is Just Grandma and Me where the grandma critter and the little child critter spend a day at the beach. However my husband is partial to Just Grandpa and Me where the two critters go shopping for some new clothes. Another soft cover series follows the antics of a family of bears, the Berenstein Bears.

In addition I have found some CDs or DVDs from Amazon Book Store online that are for a computer. The program reads the story and let your children play related games inside the story. While I was teaching I had one of these for the computer in my classroom. It was the Grandma and Me with great animations that the children enjoyed.

Our very own ‘Friends of the Library Booktique’ has many wonderful children’s books that you can buy for almost a song and give to some of your special preschoolers. I hope you will find some treasures there that you will enjoy giving.


Hat, whiskers, belt, and boots,

Belt, and Boots.

Hat, whiskers, belt, and boots,

Belt, and Boots.

Twinkling eyes and a little cherry nose

Hat, whiskers, belt, and boots,

Belt, and Boots.

Tune: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Have fun exercising to this tune!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas gifts for young children

Merry Christmas! As you read today's column, you may be in the midst of deciding on the best gift to give the children you love.

When the little ones in your family open gifts take some time to observe what grabs their immediate attention. After the Christmas season is over, observe what toys and activities have long lasting play and learn value. These observations will help you the next time you shop for a child's gift.

Today, I would like to share my thoughts about gifts that have long lasting value. Some presents are appealing to young children because they have seen advertisements on television. We all know how seductive television advertising is for children and adults. However, when the shiny, colorful package has been ripped off and added to the landfill, what remains behind is sometimes a toy with limited creative or educational value. These kinds of gifts will soon join their packaging material in the trash or live in the back of a closet until the young child grows up and moves out of their room.

The toys that will stick around and are always out on the living room floor are the ones that help children imagine and create their own play. They are the books that are read and read again until they are outgrown. If they are stored, they will be handed down as precious treasures to the next generation. They are the blocks that can be stacked and lined up to create bridges and buildings and forts. They are the puzzles that challenge children to solve the picture faster and faster. They are the one doll or one teddy bear that is present at all the tea parties and is cuddled into bed or stuffed in the backpack as your child goes to school or day care.

What gift is your child playing with over and over again in the months following Christmas? Knowing the answer and understanding how children grow and learn will help you make a good choice the next time.


We’re Santa’s little elves,

Working at the North Pole,*

Santas little elves,

Working at the North Pole,*

Making all the Christmas Toys**

For Santa to bring to the girls and boys.***

Oh were Santas little elves,

Working at the North Pole

Busy, busy elves.

Wrapping all the gifts,*

Wrapping them up with ribbons and bows*,*

For Santa to take them when he goes.***

Loading up the sleigh,*

With cars and trucks and dolls and bears,**

The sleigh is now ready to fly in the air.***

Tune: Little White Duck

Monday, November 29, 2010

Favorite Books for Preschoolers

Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a grandparent, you are now thinking about what your special little ones would like for Christmas. Those of you who have been following Bringing Up Baby for a few years know of my interest in supporting literacy growth in young children. You know that I support books as gifts for children.

Last week I shopped for Christmas gifts for my little grandsons--books of course! In a large bookstore, I was overwhelmed by the choices and wondered if readers here in our community could help me out by sending me a short paragraph describing preschoolers’ favorite books.

Here is what I would like you to do. If you are a parent, teacher, child-care provider, or grandparent please write a preschool book review and bring it to the news office. This should include the title of the book, the author, your name, and your preschooler’s first name. Tell me in a few sentences what your preschooler seems to love about the book—what tickles the funny bone or catches the eye. Please give me permission to use your name and portions of your ‘book review’ in the next few columns before Christmas.

The news office will have a musical wooden toad and the Toad Song for you as a Christmas stocking stuffer. But please don’t wait! I will need all book reviews before Friday, December 10th. Thank-you for helping choose books for children.


ABC, See my teacher

1,2,3 Teaching me

Reading stories,

Painting pictures,

Eating healthy,

Making Friends

ABC, See my teacher

1,2,3 Teaching me

Rock gently from side to side. Pantomime or use sign language for the letters A,B, and C. and 1, 2, and 3.

This is an original song from my teaching career. The picture was created by my friend, Steven Baye. You can learn this song on the website.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Toddlers #4

Somewhere after your child’s third birthday, you will realize your chubby toddler is gone forever, replace by an ever busy, ever questioning preschooler. He has learned that he is capable of conducting his own life and he is his own person. Give him the space to learn and make his own decisions about those aspects of his life that you do not need to control. Your reward for giving him this power is that he will be more amenable to listening to your reasons for things that you need him to do. Those days of “me and mine” are replaced with the desire to please you. Three year olds love to do the right thing.

If your child is in a child care or preschool program, the teacher will hear a pretty close approximation of your conversations about rules, “My mommy (or daddy) says…..” When he comes home from school you will have the fun of hearing your child’s teacher’s voice about school rules.

Today’s Twinkletime song can give your toddler or preschooler more practice in imitating your gestures or sign language. is the online sign language dictionary I suggested last week for you to learn simple signs.


I’m thankful for mama

I’m thankful for papa

I’m thankful for family

I’m thankful for me.

I’m thankful for my grandma

I’m thankful for my puppy

I’m thankful for my nice toys

I’m thankful for me.

This lovely little song is augmented with the use of sign language for the word thankful, mama, papa, family, and me. In the second verse use children’s choices of what they are thankful for. Being thankful is a difficult concept for preschoolers. Using this song and having moms and dads and grandparents say “I love you and I am so thankful you are my child,” is one way of giving meaning to this difficult concept. Another wonderful way is for parents and grandparents to tell their little ones “thank-you” when the child tries to please by doing what the parent asks or by showing kindness.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Toddlers #3

From one to two years our toddler is refining his fine motor skills. He works hard at building his block tower even though at one year of age the tower might be just two blocks high--but what an accomplishment! He has integrated his vision and hand control in order to grasp the block. Then his whole body gets into the act, balancing himself in sitting position while he sets one block on top of another. When he accomplishes this feat he looks up at you with unabashed pride. “I did it!” is written all over his face. As I said, you’ve just got to love toddlers.

He will continue to practice his block building ability and probably be able to stack five blocks by the time he is two years old. He will also be working on other equally fascinating activities such as marking a piece of paper with a crayon and scribbling as if writing his own grocery list.

Between these two birthdays he will also start to turn pages of books one at a time. He knows, if you have been reading to him that books are not for eating, but for a different meaningful exchange with his parent. By age two, you can have safety scissors available. He has the skills because he can now use his fingers and thumb to grasp. However, you need to monitor the use of the scissors because he is not safe with them. It would be very easy for him to poke his eye or experiment with cutting his hair or books.

The Twinkletime song in today’s column can give your toddler practice in refining his fine motor skills by imitating your gestures or sign language for some of the words. One sign language dictionary you can access online is


Thank-you for the world so sweet

Thank-you for the food we eat

Thank-you for the birds that sing

Thank-you, for everything.

Pair the words ‘thank-you’, ‘world’, ‘eat’, ‘sing’, and ‘everything’ with simple sign language. This is a lovely song to sing each day before meal times.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Toddlers #2

Let’s explore how toddlers gain control over the fine movements of hands and fingers in today’s column. The newborn is able to put his fist into his mouth and sometimes his thumb. The six-month-old fists food into his mouth and at about one year of age, the baby can begin to rake or roll cheerios into the palm of his hand from his highchair when he wants to feed himself.

Soon after this, the index finger will start poking into the holes of the cheerios or pushing into pieces of cheese. Whatever sticks goes into his mouth. Whatever falls off he will try again and again to rake the pi

eces into his hand or roll the pieces into his palm. He does not yet have the fine control to use what we call the pincer grasp. That will come in time with practice.

When you give your toddler safe opportunities to practice rolling small objects with the side of his thumb and forefinger, he will gain control and refine his grasp. Either hand is working. Hand dominance comes in much later, in the kindergarten or first grade year.

One important role of the fine movements of our hands and fingers is to be able to feed oneself. Our brains are wired to do this. This is why safety is extremely important at this age. Babies and young toddlers are going to put everything they pick up into their mouths! A word to the wise is sufficient.

When you make little fingerpuppets for today’s song, you will provide the opportunity for older toddlers and preschoolers to practice fine motor control. Directions and fingerpuppets to print are available at

Song (tune of Five Little Ducks)

Five little turkeys hid in a tree

Quiet, quiet as can be

Mama turkey said, “Gobble, gobble, gobble

Four little turkeys went waddle, waddle, waddle.

Repeat for four, three, two, and one

After no little turkeys went waddle, waddle, waddle, then sing,

Papa turkey said “Gobble, Gobble, Gobble.

Five little turkeys went waddle, waddle, waddle.

It is fun to have fingerpuppets available to use for this song. Laminate paper turkeys and cut a hole or slit so children can put two fingers under the little feet. Then they can make their turkeys walk and waddle.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Toddlers 1

You’ve just got to love toddlers! That age from a little over a year to about three years of age is great. The behavioral goals at that age are so transparent and easy to understand, that is, if you don’t let the behaviors throw you, it is one of the most endearing times in years before school.

One of the main goals for toddlers is control. They are learning to control their bodies and their environment. With the wonders of the internet and digital movies, I was able to watch my youngest grandson work at mastering both.

He and his preschool age brother have a sturdy child-sized table and chairs. While the preschooler explored the activity before him on the table, the toddler explored the chair and the table. Just barely out of the crawling stage, he crawled onto the chair and using the back of the chair for balance he stood up. Once in standing he did a bit of bouncing. Bouncing helps the body receive messages from the joints to the brain. Bouncing helps the body learn how to control balance. After a bit of standing freely without using the back of the chair he turned his attention to the table and bending over, explored the drum qualities of the table with his hands, adding vocal accompaniment to his drumming.

In that short video, I watched my little one learn control over his body in climbing and balancing. In the next few weeks we will explore control over the fine movements of the hands and fingers (and of course over us!) In the meantime give the toddler in your life a hug and a kiss—and let him know how smart and wonderful he is.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Challenging Behavior #13

I think I’ve finally finished the topic of challenging behaviors—at least for 2010! Today I would like to summarize the most important points from our many months of discussion. If you feel you’d like to review any of the information presented, you can fire up your computer’s internet connection and point your browser to Here are some of the topics we covered:

Back in August we explored behaviors that may have seemed like challenges to us but were really developmentally appropriate. A teething baby needs to bite to sooth his gums. This should not be seen as a challenging behavior but rather a stage of development. However, how we respond to his biting may push the biting stage into an age where it is not appropriate, where he bites to get attention or bites to control a peer. To review these two columns in the blog, see Challenging Behavior #1 and #2.

Bedtime routines and the challenges that parents face in establishing good bedtime routines were covered in #3 and #4. The difference in being proactive and reactive when faced with challenging behaviors was covered in #5 and #6. We discussed adjusting family routines to best manage behavior challenges in #7.

Various behaviors of toddlers and understanding the world from a toddler’s viewpoint was covered in #8, #9, and #10. I think many of the challenges parents have with preschoolers and beyond have their beginnings in the toddler years from 18 months to 3 years.

The two most powerful tools that parents and preschool teachers use were covered in # 11 and #12—ignoring and paying attention—but we learned that using these tools effectively takes careful analysis and lots of practice.

I dearly love toddlers. Their behavioral goals are so transparent and if you don’t let the behaviors throw you, it is one of the most endearing times in the preschool years. Next week we will explore some of the motor skills of the toddler stage and how these little ones work at control. Thank-you for following along this journey in child development!

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Challenging Behavior #12

Last time we explored ‘ignoring’ and ‘paying attention’ to further our understanding of reinforcement theory. Remember, any behavior you ignore will diminish and any behavior you pay attention to will increase. Let’s see how this works with a challenging behavior.

Robbie is a four year old who has been a pretty good little kid, happy and smart. Recently, like many four year olds he has become very interested in using ‘bathroom talk’. He says things like “poopy” and “pee-pee” and then laugh hysterically at his own joke. This is very disconcerting to his mother, especially when they are out in public. His mother tries to shush him and bribe him – “If you don’t say any naughty words you can have some gum.” Sometimes she takes him by the shoulder and says, “Robbie, STOP that! I mean it,” and for a little while it seems to help, but only for a moment. She is becoming concerned that he is learning those words at preschool. The other children must be very bad examples for her good little boy, she thinks.

Robbie’s preschool teacher is undaunted by the bathroom talk of the four year olds. She knows that this is a phase, a fascination with the forbidden and she pays no attention to it. “Can’t you do something to stop this?” Robbie’s mother, like so many mothers of four year olds ask.

Robbie’s teacher is doing something about it. She is using a powerful tool, ignoring inappropriate behavior. She actively notices and spends time with the children who are behaving well. They are the ones who pass out the cookies and are dismissed for outdoor time first. She might give them a compliment; “I really like the way you are talking with each other about all the fun times you had today.”

And when Robbie is behaving appropriately, she notices him, asks him about the tower he is building, and gives him a turn to pass out milk and cookies to his friends. Slowly Robbie’s behavior at school changes and we hear less and less of the bathroom talk—because she is ignoring it.

The same thing can happen at home. Our challenge as parents is to find a way of ignoring behavior that is not harmful, but just irritating or embarrassing.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Monday, October 4, 2010

Challenging Behavior #11

I seem to be challenged by this topic of challenging behavior! Although I spend the week thinking about other interesting child development topics to share with readers, the moment I sit at the computer, the writing focuses on behavior.

This week we will explore two ways of reacting to behaviors and learn about the underlying science behind how our reaction affects our children’s behavior. For some time I have been talking about proactive and reactive responses to behavior. Now I would like to talk with you about ‘ignoring’ and ‘paying attention’.

One way of looking at how we learn is called reinforcement theory and on the surface, it is not a difficult theory to understand. The difficulty with this theory is to understand its complexity and to consistently implement what we know.

Here is how it goes—any behavior that we want to see increase we reinforce and any behavior we want to see diminish, we ignore. This is where the words ‘ignoring’ and ‘paying attention’ become important to our understanding of how the theory works.

I’ll give you one example this week. Johnny is a toddler with the typical toddler toys in his living room. He has a lot of puzzles and he has a lot of books—both great things to have in a home for a toddler to promote learning. The puzzles help Johnny’s brain develop its spatial relationships—a precursor to math. The books help Johnny’s brain develop its auditory skills, a precursor to language and reading. And of course, Johnny was born with his own, built in set of genes and thus a predisposition for the language or the math side of the brain. Will Johnny more often choose the puzzles or the books? If his parents come and play with him whenever he chooses puzzles and never when he chooses books; what will he usually play with?

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Challenging Behavior #10

Last week we wondered about how to best react when a toddler bites a preschooler. If you would like to read last week’s column again, you can put the following address into your browser:

Our scenario is a living room floor. The toddler sees a car and the preschooler, having finished his garage, reaches for the same car to put inside the garage. The toddler grabs also, but falls short of the mark. He has no words to express his frustration, but he does have a set of teeth and he sinks them into his brother’s arm. Here are some possible parent reactions:
Reach for the toddler and tell him in a loud angry voice, “NO, Don’t you ever bite your brother again! Shame on you! Bad Boy!”
Physically and emotionally comfort the preschooler with your empathy for the preschooler’s distress, “Oh ouchie, that hurt! You both wanted the same car and your brother didn’t do a good job of telling you that he wanted it.”
Ignore the crying preschooler and punish the toddler by taking away his toys (or worse).
Tell the preschooler that he should have let his brother have the car.
Take away all the offending toys and hope that will fix the problem.
No parent will come out with an A-plus grade in this highly charged emotional episode. Because it is so emotional for us (seeing our children hurt one another), we may not react as we would like. However, thinking and talking about it will help us be better prepared for other similar challenges. Being better prepared is important because something like this will happen again. Try to think about what you are teaching both children by your own behavior and know that you are modeling the behavior that your own children will probably resort to when they are parents. Do you really want to model power and punishment?

In the meantime, be proactive. Hedge your bets for better outcomes in the future by modeling love, kindness, and caring in your relationships with your spouse and your children.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Challenging Behavior #9

Some new questions have come from readers concerning biting. For those of you who would like to see what was said about biting during infancy, please revisit and review the August archive, Challenging Behavior #2.

Let’s think about a scenario with a younger and older sibling, a toddler and a preschooler. First, let’s look at life from the toddler’s point of view. With not a lot of verbal skills to describe what is on his mind, a toddler relies on a few of his tried and true behaviors that get what he needs. Developmentally, a toddler is at the stage of “If I have it, it’s mine; if I see it, it’s mine; if you have it and I want it, …” I think you get the picture. They are trying their best to figure out how to get what they want—immediately.

Now let’s look at life from a preschooler’s viewpoint. With lots a verbal skills in place the preschooler has learned that he can verbalize what he needs. He can use his verbal skills to negotiate with parents who understand him. He also has a longer attention span and he uses his thinking skills to build wonderfully imaginative structures that require lots of parts. However, he is still a child and unable to take another person’s point of view.

Imagine now a living room floor in the home of a toddler and preschooler. For a brief moment, we have a scene of blissful sibling parallel play. The blocks are randomly scattered with toy figures and vehicles. The preschooler is creating a garage and the toddler is scuttling about picking up one block and then another.

However, in the next moment the toddler sees a car and the preschooler, having finished his garage, reaches for the same car to put inside. The toddler grabs also, but falls short of the mark. He has no words to express his frustration, but he does have a set of teeth and he sinks them into his brother’s arm.

There is no option for a parent but to react. The screaming preschooler is hurt, the toddler is startled. How we react to this and the many similar episodes that are certain to follow will teach both children a great deal about the concepts of love, kindness, caring, power and punishment. The big question is what do we want to teach our children?

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Challenging Behavior #8

Some challenging behaviors can be prevented by understanding and working with the child’s needs at various developmental levels. For instance, as babies grow into the toddler stage they have a need to be in control. Our role is to give them the control that they can handle and is safe and appropriate for their age. By doing this, you foster the long range growth of independence (and what parent wishes to have a 25 year old child still dependent upon them!)

Here is today’s example: Billy’s parents and Joey’s parents are both concerned about good nutrition. They have been careful about offering new foods and expanding their children’s diet. However, now that the little boys are 2 ½ Joey’s parents are running into difficulty. When Joey balks at trying a food that is offered, his parents first try to offer healthy substitutes.

“Joey, would you like green beans instead of broccoli?”

We all know the toddler’s response to a yes-no question—“NO!”

So Joey’s parents offer other foods, even going so far as to fix different foods at a meal. By the end of suppertime, they are exhausted and discouraged. Sometimes, they try other tactics with equally poor results. “No dessert for Joey until he eats his broccoli.”

Billy’s family tries a different strategy. They show Billy two bowls. “Would you like broccoli or green beans today?” What they have given Billy is control. He is in charge of making the decision, whatever Billy’s choice, his parents follow through and offer the food he has chosen.

Being in control is all-important for toddlers. When we give them the power to make the choice and when we abide by their choice, we will be fostering a positive outcome.

Now some of you observant readers will notice that I did not go into whether Billy actually eats the food he has chosen! That, of course, is another story. However, if Billy’s parents trust that if they offer Billy healthy food choices and monitor when he snacks and what he snacks on, Billy will grow to learn to make good choices at mealtimes.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Challenging Behavior #7

Adjusting the family routines can prevent some challenging behaviors. Here is an example:

Sara is the youngest child in our imaginary family. She has just started preschool and goes half days in the afternoon. She is developing some unhealthy eating habits. It’s cookies or chips or nothing for supper. Her parents think it may be the influence of the other children in school. She was never like this as a three year old! When the family sits down to eat together, she misbehaves, whines, and eventually makes a mess and is sent away from the table. However, when everyone is having a snack while watching TV, Sara is right there eating her fair share. She is also hungry right away after school and helps herself to the cookie jar a number of times even before supper is cooking.

After trying all the things that don’t work (sending her away from the table, fight with her about trying a bite of supper, scolding her for her misbehavior), her parents notice the snacking that is going on the hour prior to supper. They change their own behavior. The cookie jar disappears and when Sara gets home, some apple slices and milk are on the table for her. The first few days, her behavior is worse and Sara has no snack. She still doesn’t eat supper. On day three her mother changes her own behavior again. She sits down with the apples and milk and invites Sara to join her. “I’m thinking about what to cook for supper. Sara, do you have any ideas?” Together they eat the apples, talk about Sara’s day at school and mom gives Sara a task to do to help prepare the potatoes for supper. That night Sara seems to forget to misbehave, chatting away about her role in helping prepare the potatoes.

This approach to preventing a challenging behavior is one of the seven principles of good discipline. Change the environment, not the child. The environment in Sara’s home was changed by the removal of the very accessible cookie jar. The apples and the milk on the table replaced the cookies and Sara’s parents took a proactive approach by sitting with her after school as she ate a ‘controlled’ portion snack and they enlisted her help in cooking supper.

Did they change her behavior? No, they changed their own behavior and the outcome was a change in Sara’s behavior.

Challenging Behavior #6

Here he is, our once sweet little three year old, just turning four. His parents are enrolling him in preschool and with some trepidation. Josh has been caught hitting his younger sister, more than once. Josh’s parents have tried yelling, spanking, time-out, and taking away privileges. Yesterday he sneakily hit her again.

We could spend some time backtracking with Josh and his family. The sweet 2 year old kissing his newborn sister is just a faded memory. The three year old in tears, telling mommy that Carlie broke his block tower is a long way from the four-year-old terror who takes matters into his own hands when two year old Carlie runs off with a favorite car. Carlie seems to get the brunt of Josh’s anger, yet she continues to challenge him—and do you think she might be enjoying the combat?

Their parents are functioning in a purely reactive mode. They are catching Josh as much as possible when he is naughty in their effort to protect Carlie. When Carlie screams, they come running.

What could they do instead, right now about this challenging behavior that would be proactive? First and foremost, they need to understand and trust in the truth of the matter. They cannot change Josh’s or Carlie’s behavior without changing their own behavior first. We can all change our own behavior. It is very difficult and we may find all sorts of excuses, but unless we are proactive in changing our own behavior, we will have no positive effect upon changing the behavior of our children.

Here is what this mom and dad need to change: they need to sit down with their children and play with them. Previously they have hoped that good behavior would occur magically by providing nice toys. Josh isn’t a bad little kid but he needs a role model, a way to behave with Carlie even when he is frustrated. He needs to experience mom and dad saying, “Oh well, I guess Carlie made off with that car. I think I can find another one.” And for her part, Carlie needs to see that she does not instigate a game of chase when she makes off with the infamous car.

This proactive approach is very different from sitting with the children and telling them what they should or should not do. This approach is about one of the major principles of good discipline, -- speak and act only in ways you would like your children to speak and act.

Toad House Publishing

Twinkletime Rhymes to Print