Our favorite books for four year olds

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Clarissa has always been a reader. I have pictures of her looking at books sprawled out on the floor before she could walk. She asks to visit the library often and requests that I read to her several times per day. If I am not available, she says “okay,” and then walks into her room, closes the door, and starts “reading” to herself. These were some of her favorites when she was four years old. Again, we have a lot of series of books on this list. Thought there were a few that were favorites by themselves.

  • At four, Clarissa was pretty much obsessed with Magic School Bus. She watched the show on netflix everyday and has several different books to read. Her favorites were Inside the Human Body and Time of the Dinosaurs. But we pretty much read any Magic School Bus book that we could find.
  • Gigi, God’s Little Princess is a wonderful series of books by Sheila Walsh. Clarissa says that Gigi “reminds her of Fancy Nancy, except that Gigi loves God.” She’s your typical five year old girl who has some crazy adventures with her best friend Frances. She has a cat named Tiara and a dog named Lord Fluffy. Gigi is also very into the color pink.
  • Usborne has several books about the human body. Clarissa really enjoys the lift the flap ones.
  • Gerald and Piggie books by Mo Willems were another favorite. Elephant Gerald and Piggie are best friends but they are so different. Piggie is fun and exciting and Gerald is a little more cautious but they have great adventures together. I also like that all of the books are written entirely in dialog.
  • Little Critter was one of my favorites when I was a little kid. Clarissa loves Little Critter and the crazy adventures that he has with his family. I like that he has a great family and that he is your typical kid. “I tried to make you lunch, but I got hungry…I didn’t forget to use soap, I just don’t like it…”
  • We bought Clarissa Lily’s Easter Party a few years ago to go with her Resurrection Eggs. She pulls the book out several times per year. I can’t put it away with the Easter things. She likes the story of friends having and Easter egg hunt. I like that she is learning more about the different parts of the Resurrection story.
  • I wrote a review about the Planet 316 Bible last year. It is Clarissa’s favorite Bible. She loves that she can use my phone to make the stories come to life. I like it because she is excited about reading Bible stories.

I need to write separate posts for Christmas and Easter because we have so many favorite books for those seasons.

Bringing Your Kids Alongside you to Serve Others

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As Clarissa grows, one of my goals is for her to have a heart that wants to serve others and not just herself. At first it seemed hard to find ways for her to serve others since she is only five. But I have found that one of the best ways to do this, is to just bring her alongside when we serve.

Some ways that we do this in everyday life:

  • Meals
    If someone we has a baby or needs surgery or something like that, there is usually some kind of meal train. We sign up and take a meal to that family. Clarissa might help me make the meal. But she always wants to make dessert. So she helps me bake something for the family and also usually comes with me to deliver the meal.
  • Babysitting
    Living in an army community overseas, there are not usually family members around to help. Friends become that family for you while you are here. If a friend has a doctor appointment or a job interview, we can watch their children. Clarissa isn’t old enough to be in charge, but she can play and share her toys with the children at our house.
  • Sunday School
    If I am teaching Sunday School, Clarissa can help me prepare. She helps me choose materials for her class. On Sunday morning, she goes with me to set up the supplies before class starts.
  • Sponsor a Child
    Once a child is three years old, they are eligible to be a sponsored child for Compassion International. On Clarissa’s third birthday, we went on their website and found a list of a three kids who were born on her birthday. I thought for sure she would choose the little girl, but she was adamant that she wanted to choose a boy. She helps me write letters and draw pictures for our sponsored child. We pray for him and his family. We talk about what the money we send does for his family. I think she is still disappointed that we have yet to meet him in person but hopefully we’ll get to do that someday.
  • Responding to Needs
    Facebook can be a helpful tool. A few times we have seen posts on our community pages that describe a specific need. For example, one time there was a woman whose brother’s house burned down and his family lost anything. She was asking for donations of clothes for the children and one was a little girl Clarissa’s size. We have more than enough so Clarissa and I went through her things and found clothes, shoes, books, and toys that we could send for the little girl.

It is getting closer to Christmas so families are often looking for ways to serve. There are plenty of holiday specific things you can do.

  • Operation Christmas Child
    In America, this is one of my favorite things to do. I collect things all year like toothbrushes, toothpaste, and small toys to put in our shoeboxes. There aren’t any drop off points in Korea, so I was sad that we would not be able to participate here. But there is an online option. For $25 per box, we can assemble a shoebox online. Clarissa and I can choose gender, age, and specific items in each category for our shoebox. We can also enclose a family picture and write a note. Then we pray for the child who will receive our shoebox. It is one of Clarissa’s favorite things to do.img_20181025_1140496001063227302204537.jpg

 

  • Angel Tree
    Angel Tree is a program that gives children with incarcerated parents gifts for Christmas. Many churches or community centers participate in this program. You can find a child’s ornament on the tree and buy gifts for that child to bring back to be distributed. Some churches do their own version of this. In Korea, the chapel did something similar with children at a nearby orphanage. Clarissa enjoyed going with me to the px to buy some clothes and toys for the child.
  • Christmas gift for Jesus
    On Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Some families do a birthday party for Jesus complete with cake. We also choose some gifts for Jesus. Several ministries send out a gift catalog in the fall. This year, Clarissa looked through the Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Catalog and spent several days deciding what we wanted to do. She wanted to give more than our budget so it was hard to choose specific items. She kept wanting to do the feeding people and medical gifts. We ended up choosing a goat since that would feed a family for a long time. She also chose sending winter coats to kids. When she is older and has an allowance, it will be interesting to see if she is willing to pay for these things herself. But for now, she is learning about the needs of others.
  • Soup kitchens
    This is really something that you can do all year, but many people only think about it during the holidays. There are several people in your community who don’t have a place to stay or enough food to eat. You can go as a family to serve them a meal.

Our Favorite Christmas Books for preschool and young elementary

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Clarissa has so many books that they don’t fit all fit on her bookshelf (side effect of your mother being a former reading teacher I suppose). There are certain books we like for each season so I rotate them out. I pull out the Christmas books about Thanksgiving time. But she knows where they are, so sometimes she will go and get them at random times during the year.

We have so many Christmas books that we really enjoy. This is our list of our favorite Christmas books for preschool and young elementary children.

  • Peek A Bible The Christmas Story by Tracy Harrast
    This is a lift the flap book that tells the Christmas story from Gabriel coming to see Mary until the wise men arrive to worship Jesus. Clarissa has always enjoyed lifting the flaps and I like that it is the true Biblical story.
  • Crystal Bowman’s Christmas board books are some of my favorites. I love the rhyme to the stories and the pictures are great. Clarissa really enjoys these as well.
    Jesus, Me, and My Christmas Tree talks about how every part of your Christmas tree (lights, the star, angels, presents, etc) points you back to Jesus, the real reason for Christmas.
    J is for Jesus talks about how a candy cane tells you Jesus’s story and gives details about the shepherds and angels at Christmas. It also talks about Jesus on the cross. Think Legend of the Candy Cane but for little ones.
    A Star for Jesus talks about how the star appeared in the sky and led the wise men to Jesus.
    My Christmas Stocking talks about St Nicholas and why we put presents in stockings today.
  • A Christmas Prayer by Amy Parker
    This rhyming book talks about being thankful for each part of the nativity set from the angel, to Mary and Joseph, the donkey, shepherds, star, and of course baby Jesus who was the best present of all.
  • God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren
    We like Little Cub in this house. In this installment, Mama takes Little Cub to go find God and see how He gave us Christmas. Little Cub is very excited that she can go and see God in things like the light, a glacier, and a star. They talk about how Jesus is the real reason for Christmas and the best gift ever.
  • The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs
    I think I need to write a blog post specifically for her books. The Pine Tree Parable is about a family who comes to a poor family who comes to a pine tree farm and the little girl wants the biggest tree there. The family who owns the pine tree farm ends up gifting the family the tree, even though she was planning to keep it for their family. A wonderful story about giving.
  • Of course the Berenstain Bears have some fun Christmas books as well
    Trim the Tree is a flap book that watches the Bear family put up their Christmas Tree.
    In The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, the cubs learn that it is better to give than to receive. They also are the camel in the Christmas Play where you can see the Nativity story.
    In The Very First Christmas, Papa Bear reads the cubs the Christmas story from the Bible. It has fun illustrations. Clarissa always thinks its funny that they are bears instead of people though.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas in Virginia by Sue Corbett
    In this story, a brother and sister are supposed to visit their aunt in Virginia but the sister gets hurt so she can’t go. The brother writes his sister every day to tell about his adventures. We’re originally from Virginia so I like that Clarissa can learn a little bit about the state she’s from.
  • Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett
    I like this story better than the original Gingerbread Boy because this one isn’t obnoxious. He just wants some friends and goes on an adventure to find them.
  • The Three Gifts of Christmas by Jennie Bishop
    This is a new favorite for me this year. In the beginning of the story, the princess is quite spoiled. So the king and queen come up with a plan. By the end of the story, the princess has given away all of her gifts and become truly gracious and kind. Clarissa is a little unsure because she thinks I am going to make her give away all of her presents though.
  • The King’s Christmas List by Eldon Johnson
    Clarissa was more excited about this new book about giving. Emma and her dog are invited to the king’s palace for his birthday party. Along the way Emma gives away all of her presents for the king. The king explains to her the verse that talks about “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.” The end of the book gives some suggestions on how your family can give a birthday present to Jesus. Clarissa immediately was like, “Let’s do that!”
  • Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer
    This book isn’t about Jesus at all. But. It has all of the usual Little Critter antics that we enjoy. He tries to get the ornaments out for mom, but the box was upside down. He wants to give her Christmas cookies but he got hungry. You get the idea…

 

As a side note, I noticed as I was linking these to Amazon, most of these books are on sale right now. They are also not new books, so some are available at your local library.

Teaching Science without textbooks

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One of Clarissa’s favorite things to do is to read. It is also one of her favorite ways to learn. If we read about it in a book (or watch a show on TV), she is more likely to remember it. She will bring up facts that we read about months ago that I have already forgotten about.

A big favorite right now is a series of chapter books about Zoey and Sassafras by Asia Citro. In these books, a young girl named Zoey and her cat Sassafras meet some magical creatures who ring a doorbell on her scientist mother’s barn office. Each creature has a problem that needs to be solved. Zoey (sometimes with help from her mom) use the scientific method to figure out what is causing the problem and how to solve the creature. There are some black and white pictures, so it is a good bridge for kids who are used to reading picture books. The story is so engaging that my five year old often makes me read the entire book (95 pages) in one sitting!

With six books in the series, each book has a different creature and a different problem. Since Clarissa is only in kindergarten, we mostly read these books for fun. But there is a website about the book series that also has printables for science and literature activities that go with each book. Those would be great for families or teachers who want to go deeper with the books.

We also really like Magic School Bus in this house as well as the Magic School Bus Rides Again. We have watched every show, but we also own many of the books. When Clarissa is excited about any science topic, I can usually find an episode or two on netflix and a few books as well. The original series has been around long enough that there are picture books, early readers, and chapter books to talk about many topics. So far I have only seen chapter books for the Magic School Bus Rides Again but they are well written and have a few pictures throughout the book.

Last year, her favorite topic was the human body. So we watched all of the body episodes on both series as well as read the books. Then we spent a lot of time drawing pictures of the different systems in our bodies.

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Another of Clarissa’s favorite topics is animals. We have watched so many episodes of Wild Kratts to learn about animals. They also have a great website with information, videos, and games for kids to explore more about any animal they choose. Our library also has a few early reader books based on the Wild Kratts series.

Our library has a great section of picture books that are both fiction and nonfiction. Whatever topic Clarissa is interested in, I can usually find both fiction and nonfiction stories to read. Recently, we borrowed My Leaf Book so that we could talk about fall. Clarissa wanted to learn more about leaves so we walked around our apartment complex one day to collect various leaves. Then we made our own book by drawing pictures of the leaves and looking them up, either in the leaf book on online, to label each leaf. She was so proud of herself.

A new favorite is our Steve Spangler Science Club. Once a month we receive a box of 4-5 experiments. We received our first box this month. The experiments are related but you can still spread them out over several days. This is something that Tim and Clarissa like to do together during daddy daughter time.

Our Favorite Thanksgiving Books

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If you’ve been around a while, you know that we love books in this house. I have special books that we only get out at certain times of year. Though Clarissa knows where they are so sometimes I have to go hunting for them. This year we found a new favorite at the library as well. There are so many books available to teach kids the history of Thanksgiving, but these are our current favorites.

  • An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving
    In this story by Louisa May Alcott, the mother and father get called away suddenly because her mother is sick. So the older daughters are left in charge for Thanksgiving. They make dinner but they don’t do it quite right. But the extended family comes home and has a wonderful evening together, complete with apple slump for dessert. The recipe was in the back of the book, so you know we had to make it. It was delicious!
  • God Gave Us Thankful Hearts
    I wrote about this book a few years ago when we first discovered Little Pup. It leads to great discussions about all the things we can be thankful for.
  • Berenstain Bears Give Thanks
    Papa makes a new table and chairs for Farmer Ben. His payment is a big turkey named Squanto. Sister Bear falls in love with Squanto and so they don’t end up eating him for Thanksgiving dinner. But Sister and the other cubs do put on a play about the first Thanksgiving.
  • The Littlest Pilgrim
    Mini is the smallest pilgrim in the village and gets frustrated because everyone says she is too small to help. This part frustrates Clarissa. But at the end she makes a friend so she likes it. I like that you get to see many of the chores during colonial times so Clarissa gets to see what life was actually like for a pilgrim girl like Mini.
  • Thank you, Sarah
    This is the story of how Thanksgiving became the national holiday that we celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November. A woman named Sarah Hale actually wrote letters for thirty eight years before Abraham Lincoln said yes to her idea of having a set day for Thanksgiving so that everyone in the country could celebrate on the same day. We like it because the book refers to her as a super hero. So she is a girl and her super power is writing. Both things are of value in this house.
  • Being Thankful
    At the beginning of the book Little Critter complains about everything. Then, he goes to visit his grandparents on their farm and learns about being thankful complete with a new thankful rock. He comes home and teaches his sister what it means to be thankful. (Clarissa painted thankful rocks for everyone in our house after reading this book…)

Our favorite books for five year old girls

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Clarissa and I read A LOT. We read as part of our school day, at bedtime, if Clarissa’s mood is out of control, or just because she wants to read. If she gets sent to her room, she just looks at books until I tell her she can come out.

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When she was younger, we could read the same book several times in a row for days at a time. Now we may repeat a book later in the week. But we have shifted to reading books in the same series instead of just reading the same title.

Some of our favorite series right now:

  • Fancy Nancy
    Fancy Nancy is hilarious. She is your typical six year old girl. Super girly and proper but still quite silly. Her idea of fancy is using big words. Clarissa loves her crazy adventures. I like that Clarissa learns new vocabulary. Nancy also comes from a great family so you see family dynamics including a good relationship with her little sister and she has some other great adults in her life.
  • Anything by Mo Willems
    Mo Willems is a wonderful children’s author and illustrator. He writes several series of books. We have been reading Gerald and Piggie for a few years. The pigeon books are growing on Clarissa as well lately. But her new favorite is his Knuffle Bunny series (pronounced k-nuffle in Dutch). The books are mostly written in short dialog which makes them funny but also great for new readers.

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  • Magic School Bus/ Magic School Bus Rides Again
    The original series has been around long enough that there are picture books, early readers, and chapter books to talk about many topics. So far I have only seen chapter books for the Magic School Bus Rides Again but they are well written and have a few pictures throughout the book. Clarissa doesn’t ask for these everyday like she used to. But we still read Magic School Bus at least once per week. Especially if she is in the mood to learn something or if we talk about something during our lessons and she remembers she has a book about it.
  • Zoey and Sassafrass
    In these books, a young girl named Zoey and her cat Sassafras meet some magical creatures who ring a doorbell on her scientist mother’s barn office. Each creature has a problem that needs to be solved. Zoey (sometimes with help from her mom) use the scientific method to figure out what is causing the problem and how to help the creature. There are some black and white pictures, so it is a good bridge for kids who are used to reading picture books. The story is so engaging that Clarissa often makes me read the entire book (95 pages) in one sitting!
  • Berenstain Bears
    I used to read Berenstain Bears as a kid. In fact, we still have some of my books in Clarissa’s bookshelf. I like that the stories come from a pretty conservative worldview. Clarissa likes that they are a family of bears and that Sister Bear wears pink. I also like that they have several Christian books now so she can read about Jesus, Christmas, Easter, and prayer while reading her favorite characters.
  • Skippyjon Jones
    Skippyjon Jones is a cat who thinks he is a chihuahua. He goes on crazy adventures in his closet where he goes to places like Mexico and outer space. He’s pretty crazy and his books are funny. But they don’t really have any moral lessons included in them.

Books that aren’t in a series that we read often:

  • Amazing You
    Last year, Clarissa was very interested in the human body. We have all of the Usborne books about the inside of the human body. This summer we spent some time talking about appropriate touch and private parts. She still asks to read this one often.
  • There are No Moose on This Island
    My aunt sent Clarissa this book for her birthday last year. A boy and his dad go on a trip to Maine and take a ferry to an island. The dad is very interested in his guide book and insists that there are not any moose on the island. But the boy definitely sees one. The moose and the boy spend most of the day trying to convince the dad that the moose is real. He finally sees them as they are on the ferry going back to the mainland.

This year I was introduced to Sarah Mackenzie who has curated book lists for just about everything.

Korean Folk Village take 2

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We did a family trip to the Korean Folk Village in Yongin when Clarissa was two. There was a homeschool field trip there last week and Clarissa and I decided to go since she didn’t remember the first trip. There were actually several things that we did this trip that we didn’t get to do the first time so I was happy about that.

We decided to pay for the full admission which includes the Folk Village and the Amusement Park as well. Full admission is 27,000 won (about $25) for adults and 20,000 won ($18) for children. If you plan to skip the rides, adults pay 18,000 won for admission to the folk village itself. Children pay only 13,000. There is parking available for 2,000 won per car or you can take public transportation available. I saw several buses that said they came from Suwon station or Incheon Airport.

We started our beautiful fall day at the amusement park. Clarissa really liked the boat ride and the train ride. She was too afraid to go on anything else but the teenagers we were with loved all of the rides available.

If you look at the boat ride, to your right is a World Folk Village Museum. Clarissa and I kind of stumbled upon it while we were looking for a bathroom. It was honestly one of the highlights of our trip. There were nine different buildings with 2-3 different countries inside. Each country showed clothes, weapons, jewelry, or housing for an indigenous people of that particular country. The signs were in Korean and English. There were longer descriptions in Korean as well but we learned plenty without being able to read the longer writings.

Clarissa and I had some great discussions about all of these countries. She recognized some of the names like United States, Japan, China, Peru, and Australia. Some were new to her: Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, and Iran. There were maps on the wall so we could see where each country was on the map. I think we have a lot of books to read now so we can continue learning about these places and cultures.

We met back up with our friends for some gelato and then headed to the Equestrian Feats show. It was great! The performers basically did gymnastics on horses. It was only about twenty minutes and our attention was focused the entire time.

After the show, Clarissa and I wondered a bit and saw some different types of houses you would find in Korea at different points in history. There were government buildings, mansions, and farm houses. There were several additional experiences that you could pay for like making a clay pot or woodworking, but they close earlier in the day so you need to do those first. Clarissa really enjoyed walking through the jail and seeing the governor’s house, sitting in the governor’s chair, and pretending to be a prisoner on trial.

I was surprised that five year old Clarissa was interested in all of the buildings and houses. She actually walked the whole day without complaining. She kept saying, “What’s that? Let’s go over there…”

The Folk Village is open 8 hours each day. You can easily spend the entire day there and not see everything. I recommend it for children and adults.