Our favorite books for three year olds

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When Clarissa was three, she started having opinions about which books we picked from the library. Instead of just choosing whichever book she could reach, she usually had something in mind.

She had three favorite series of books that she kept going back to.

Little Critter
I grew up reading the Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer. In fact, my mother kept several of my books for me and so Clarissa has some of my favorite books from when I was a little girl. She enjoyed Little Critter’s adventures and the funny things that he does. He is easy for little kids to relate to. “I made you a sandwich, but I got hungry so I ate it…” His responses remind me of Clarissa, so I enjoy his antics as well.

Gerald and Piggie
I had never heard of Gerald and Piggie before we started attending storytime at the library on post. Gerald is a very cautious elephant and Piggie is his best friend, a very fun pig. They are very different but have many adventures together. I like that each page is dialogue and the stories are funny. They are pretty predictable too and we read them more than once, so I have a few videos of Clarissa “reading” me these books.

God gave us series
Most of these books are about Little Cub and her parents. She has so many questions about things. I like that Mama and Papa explain things in a way that she understands. She learns about how much God loves her, how God made her just for her family, Christmas, Easter, how God made the world. She even learns about things like heaven, angels, and sleep. There is also a wolf pup who learns about being thankful and how God gives us all different families.

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.

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.

Messy Learning Review

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Panda Parents Kindy Curriculum

Clarissa was very excited to help me review Messy Learning for Preschoolers and Kindergartners by PandaParentsMessy Learning is a preschool program that will send you a digital course to complete with your child each month. Each course consists of story time, learning time, and creating time. There is a book included for each month which will focus on a specific letter and learning theme. A video will read the story to your child as well and also include some additional content that matches the story. Finally, there is a workbook of several activities that expand on the story.

We received three months of course content to review. Each course is designed to be completed in 20-30 minute segments three times per week. Clarissa enjoyed the material so much that she didn’t want to stop in 20-30 minutes per day. She wanted to do hours per day so we completed most of the materials in about two weeks (three months worth of work).

 

The first book, A Jolly Jingling Journey, was two holiday stories where they highlight the letter J. I like that the book was not written in preschool language so there was plenty of vocabulary to expose Clarissa to. There were also plenty of interactive things to do in the book like finding certain pictures or asking questions such as, “what do you think the reindeer are doing?” The video was about the letter J. The video did read the stories but also had some interactive features about the letter J so it was beneficial to watch the video in addition to reading the story. The workbook had activities like put these parts of the story in order, match the animal tracks to the picture of the animal, tracing letters, find what is different in two pictures, and counting various objects.

 

The second book was called Mommy’s Baby. It was really cute and compares several different things like mother to baby or big to small. The book also covered shapes and patterns. This video basically read the book to the child. But the workbook pages were great. There was some match the mother to the baby. I really liked that this workbook introduced new information to Clarissa about animals. She learned about different animal tails and had to match the animals to their tails. There was also work with colors and patterns as well as emotions. This book focused more on science concepts than a particular letter sound so there were several different letters to trace and write.

 

The third book we read was Scotty Skunk Hears a Scary Sound. In this book the main character, Scotty Skunk, gets scared so he keeps trying to find a new place to live. The book explores the different seasons and how the environment would change based on the weather. Scotty moved every season! The workbook actually introduces the word habitat and talks about different places that animals can live. There was plenty of tracing and matching. This workbook had more cutting and pasting which Clarissa really liked. She was able to practice matching a picture to it’s shadow. This workbook talked the most about letter sounds but really focused on the letter S.

Clarissa loved Messy Learning! I liked that she was actually excited to do some writing (because up until now it has been drudgery to get her to write letters). She is also learning some letter sounds as well. I think that she also really liked that each story was so different. She was exposed to some science concepts as well like comparing sizes and the seasons.

The monthly subscription for Messy Learning is $9.95 per month. Your child will be exposed to some great vocabulary and even some science and math concepts. If you are looking for something fun and educational to do with your preschooler, this is a great choice. But, this isn’t a program that will teach your child to read. So if that is your goal, you would need a separate program.

This is a digital product, but a printer is very helpful. We would read the story together on my kindle. Then, Clarissa would watch the video on my laptop. You could do that over two different days. The workbook is usually 30+ pages, so that takes several days to complete. I downloaded the workbook to my kindle as well and we did several pages on my kindle to save on paper and ink. But you can’t write letters or cut and paste on a kindle, so we still had to print at least half of each workbook for her to complete the work. That is another thing to keep in mind as you consider if this program would be a good fit for your family.

Messylearning For Preschoolers and Kindergartners {PandaParents Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Starfall Education Foundation Review

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Starfall

When I was a teacher, my students often used Starfall Education Foundation. Clarissa has enjoyed playing the free version of the Starfall App on her tablet for over a year so I was very excited when we were chosen to review the The Starfall Home Membership. Thirty five dollars will give you a year of access to all of the additional content on multiple devices for a full year.

Starfall

I can access my account on multiple devices so I can look at Starfall on my laptop, or Clarissa can play it on her tablet. Clarissa enjoys using the Starfall app on her tablet. She gladly plays for thirty minutes at least three days per week. I didn’t have to worry about her finding anything inappropriate in the app. She can explore and learn math concepts or work on reading skills.

She seems to really enjoy the math games. She has learned about symmetry, weight, and comparison of sizes. I was surprised that she actually understood those concepts after the lessons and games. I really liked the way Starfall explained place value. I think Clarissa actually understood the difference between tens and ones.

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There are several different levels of reading activities as well. Clarissa can choose books of different genres. I can read them to her or she can press a button that looks like an ear and the words will light up as the app reads the story to her. There are games to practice letter recognition as well as phonics lessons for individual sounds. She got used to repeating the sound after the app, so she now often repeats everything she hears because she thinks she is reading.

Clarissa enjoys playing the games, but sometimes wishes they are more customizable. For example, there is a calendar game. She learns days of week and how to read a calendar. She then gets to choose clothes to get dressed and go outside to play during the game. Because it is winter, her only choices are the current month and winter clothes. Clarissa often asks me to “switch it to summer.” But there isn’t an option to do that since it is currently winter.

I like that I can access Starfall on my computer or her tablet. The frustrating part for me is that there doesn’t seem to be any method to accomplish skills in order. There also isn’t a record of any kind. I don’t know which games or skills she has studied unless I watch her play. For example, if you go to the mouse picture, learn to read, there are 15 phonics lessons. However, it does not check them off or move you on to the next level when a lesson is completed. If you plan to really sit next to your child and tell them which things to do, then maybe that won’t bother you.

My other frustration is that Starfall Education Foundation only works with an internet connection. At home in the living room is fine, but if I want Clarissa to work on Starfall on a train or at a restaurant, I have to set up a wifi hotspot on my phone in order for it work on her tablet.

Clarissa is excited to have some tablet time to use Starfall Education Foundation. At $35 per year, I think that the The Starfall Home Membership is a worthwhile investment for preschool and kindergarten learning. There are even more advanced lessons for first and second graders. Multiple children can use Starfall as well, but they would share the same profile. There is also Parent-Teacher Center that shows a full printable curriculum to use for both preschool and kindergarten. It looks to be made for a classroom setting, but you could also follow the curriculum to use for homeschool if you wanted to. There are plenty of worksheets available as well.

The Starfall Home Membership {Starfall Education Foundation Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Preschool Update

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We started officially doing preschool this summer when we started God’s Little Explorers. We started by doing lessons once or twice per week, whenever she was excited about doing school. We had a lot of fun reading books and watching Magic School Bus. She was really excited about the human body for months. We would read books about the human body. We drew pictures about the human body. We pretended to be the digestive system on the playground. We even traced Clarissa on big paper and drew the inside of the human body.

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Then, at some point I decided that I wanted to get through the Old Testament stories so that we were ready for the baby Jesus week around Christmastime. Honestly, that got a little stressful to make sure that we did four days of lessons in a week. I wanted to make sure that Clarissa still had plenty of time to go to the playground or play with friends.

We took December off to focus on Truth in the Tinsel. But Clarissa would ask for “school” one or two days per week anyway. So we would play math games and sort or count objects. She also gets a few magazines with learning activities in them. I also bought some phonics readers, learning games, and puzzles from a friend that arrived about that time. Clarissa would play read and play for hours.

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Since Christmas, I have slowed down the pace of her lessons and we have enjoyed it more. There are four lessons per week of the curriculum. So we spend two weeks talking about a Bible story and spreading out the activities. We usually end up doing school three days per week. So we usually end up doing something different on the third day. Lately that has meant working through a healthy habits/manners curriculum I found on SchoolhouseTeachers. I am also in the process of reviewing a few learning websites so Clarissa has enjoyed that extra screen time playing those games.

Clarissa seems to really like our schedule for school. It’s not everyday so that it gets boring. But if we don’t do school for a few days, she will ask for it. I think she likes reading the Bible stories. I like that we do the same story for two weeks so that by the end of the two weeks, she can tell me the story. She also likes having some free days to be able to create things. For example, recently she read a book about a girl who made her own country. Clarissa spent the entire afternoon turing her room into “Clarissavania,” complete with a national anthem, national tower, and flag.

She still isn’t thrilled about writing. But she does it now. I write the letter of the week and the number. She will trace it four times each. She does recognize the letters that we have worked on so far. She can write longer now before she gets tired, probably because Clarissa spends time coloring most days.

Clarissa does get excited about the activities though. If I try to just get by with reading the Bible story or a book and then counting or practicing letters, she knows. She will ask “but what is the activity today?”

img_20180207_102354971114659.jpgAt this pace, we will probably finish this curriculum by the time she turns 5 in August. But really, there is no rush. The beauty of homeschooling is that we aren’t bound to a specific schedule. As a more experienced homeschool mom pointed out recently, “we’ve got 18 years…”

What we do for preschool (part 2)

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Since we have moved to Korea, I have paid more attention to when my friends get to go to conferences and conventions. I didn’t do a lot of that when we lived in Norfolk. Probably because I was either working or Clarissa was really young. But I have also discovered online conferences and conventions. Many of them are free!

In May, I spent most of the month listening to speakers from The Online Homeschool Convention while I was making dinner or doing dishes. It was pretty cool to be able to pick and choose what I wanted to listen to. And to be able to turn something off in the middle if I wasn’t really feeling it.

One thing that really resonated with me was just letting kids play when they were small. Let them learn by doing. Make learning fun. You don’t want to ruin school for them when they are small because once you lose your love of learning, it is hard to get it back.

I bought a curriculum to work on with Clarissa when she was four and for a few days, I really struggled with if I was going to do it or not. But she kept asking for school. We started God’s Little Explorers in July. The curriculum has lessons for four days per week. There is a big Bible story, theme, and letter each week. By starting in July, it gives us two weeks to do each theme so we can really take our time and have plenty of time for play.

The first week set a fun foundation to work from. We learned about the letter X. I hid all of our school supplies and put a sticky note with the letter X nearby so she could find them. She had a great time!

Clarissa has been very excited about our Bible stories. She likes that we read them multiple times and from different Bibles (The Jesus Storybook Bible and the Beginner’s Bible). She also likes that there is a theme to the books I get from the library each week. For example, when we learned about the Creation Story, our letter was G for garden so we read books about plants. There is also usually a shape to focus on and some crafts. The part Clarissa is not excited about is writing. She wrote big G just fine, but “didn’t like little g. Can I write s?” When we were talking about A for Adam and Eve, she wanted to do the letter C.

I have decided that I’m not going to push the writing at this point. She just turned four. She doesn’t have to be able to write the alphabet in order to read. So we’re just going to keep going with our curriculum since she likes most of it (and I really like it too). When she wants to write, we will. When we learned about Noah, I was able to get her to do some “rainbow letters” for C. Sometimes she will also trace words if I draw a picture first on the dry erase board.

Another component to this curriculum is learning to help around the house. Clarissa has been pretty good about bringing her dishes to the sink and putting her dirty clothes in the hamper. Since starting this curriculum she has started cutting bananas and cheese, making peanut butter sandwiches, and peeling carrots. She also wants to decorate her own pizza. I recently made a chore chart for Clarissa. She likes moving the magnets when she finishes her chore. She has actually complied with the, “you have to do these chores before you can ___” part also.

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Clarissa gets really excited to do school after dinner. Probably because she walks by where I keep all of her school stuff. So she will just pick out an activity to do. We have several dry erase books to work on letters or numbers. She has matching cards for opposites. We recently learned to play “go fish.”

Another thing I bought for her was a peel and stick dry erase world map from the px. When we read a book or watch something on tv where they talk about another place, we will walk over to the map and look for it. Sometimes the map gets pretty messy with drawings of penguins on Antarctica, Nemo near Australia, or pyramids in Egypt. And sometimes she just scribbles over it. But that’s the beauty of dry erase. And while she’s scribbling, she’s building her hand muscles so she’ll want to write more, in theory anyway…

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They offer both gymnastics and ballet on post, so I was planning to let her pick which one she wanted to do. For most of the summer, ballet was the frontrunner so she could wear her tutu. When it was time to sign up, she changed her mind. She said she wants to take classes when she’s 5. So we’ll wait on that for now. The beauty of military life is that you can register at any point during the year so we don’t have to wait until next fall if she decides she wants to take classes earlier. I did however register her for AWANA. She loves Vacation Bible School so I think she will like AWANA as well.

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you order God’s Little Explorers through this post, I will make a small commission. However, it does not add to your cost.