I’m baaaaaack!

Well, it’s been a few months, so welcome back to the blog! I hope to be bringing new content on a more regular basis. At least more regular than every three months or so! I’ve taken the summer off because I’m pregnant again (yay!) but have been feeling really sick (boo!) and tired (double boo!). I’ve been going to bed ridiculously early, which is probably good for me and the baby, but between that and chasing after a todder all day, I haven’t had a lot of time to read. However, I did manage to sneak a book in here and there over the summer, in between sweating and moaning about how hot it was, and I hope you’ll enjoy what I’ve got lined up for the next few weeks.

To kick things off, I’m recommending my favorite pregnancy book: Expecting 411 (Amazon, Barnes and Noble). I found this while pregnant with my first, and I really liked it. It’s conversational without being annoying, and informative without being alarmist. I like the paper version better than the e-book version, since it’s easier to flip through when you have a specific question. I found it a helpful guide to pregnancy, and keep meaning to get the others in the series, particularly Toddler 411 (Amazon, Barnes and Noble), but I’ve been too busy chasing after said toddler to actually sit down, buy it, and read it! The toddler years are fun, but they sure are exhausting!

What are your favorite pregnancy/parenting books?

 

Family Fridays – the Non-Weirdo’s Guide to Cloth Diapering

Well, it was earth day this week, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about poop. I’m coming out of the closet and taking a stand: I cloth diaper my baby! I thought I’d write up the Cloth Diapering for Non-Weirdos guide to hopefully give a little nudge to any parents who might be on the fence about trying it out.  Why non-weirdos? Well, I’m not really sure, to be honest. There’s a stigma that people who cloth diaper are weird – it’s the strange choice, the not-normal thing to do. My favorite conversation about cloth diapering happened with a man, who when told we were cloth diapering, just stared at me and went, “why?” in a tone of voice implying I’d somehow taken leave of my senses.

This might seem like a fairly rational response (it’s certainly not uncommon), but what makes this interaction particularly hilarious is that this man was, at the time, living in a Winnebago heated by a wood stove (he’d hacked out part of the shell for the chimney to fit), on the other side of a river that had to be either forded or kayaked across (no road/bridge), growing his own crops, raising and slaughtering his own meat, and using an outdoor composting toilet with a door but no walls. It says something about where society is when this kind of man thinks cloth diapering is weird. (His wife informed him that they would be cloth diapering when they had kids.)

So – why DO I cloth diaper my son? I’m not really a crunchy granola hippie type, but I do try to conserve where I can. When those areas also save me money, I get especially excited. So I do it because it saves us money, it’s better for the environment (it takes a lot of water to wash the diapers, but I believe this is better overall than importing from halfway across the world, then putting into landfills, every single time I change a diaper. In our global economy, people forget that India and China are actually quite far away, and that big container ships are really, really bad for the environment), there’s no weird chemicals or artificial scents pressed right up against his man parts, and they’re really, really cute. Also, I’ve found that they leak less. We’re not hardcore about it – when travelling or when he goes to mother’s day out we put him in disposables and don’t worry about it. I think parenting should be a realistic mix of idealistic goals and practicality. Strive for your ideals, but do what works best for your family and move on.

Here’s our current cloth diaper setup. We have 19 BumGenius 4.0 Snap Pocket Diapers, 2 PlanetWise Large Hanging Wetbags, 24 Thirsties Hemp Inserts, and 12 Thirsties Fab Cloth Wipes (if we have another kid, I’m buying a whole bunch of these and throwing out all my other baby washcloths. They’re SO SOFT.)

IMG_1799Why, yes, that is a nerdy math diaper. Squee!

I really love the website Kelly’s Closet (all the links above are to them), and buy most of our cloth diapering supplies from them. They have fabulous customer service, a great rewards program, and a big enough selection to find what you want, but not too big that it’s overwhelming. You could buy all of these supplies there for full price for about $500, and that does not include sales or rewards or volume discounts. I haven’t found that our utilities went up when we started cloth diapering, so that hasn’t been much of a cost for us. We do buy special cloth diaper detergent, and I think we’ve bought maybe 3 bags of that over the last year, for an additional $48. So all told, you could spend $550 for the first year of diapering your child, plus the second year will be free except for laundry and detergent costs. And the diapers will also last through multiple children.

We’d tried Fuzzibunz (yes, everything in the cloth diapering industry has a ridiculous name) previously, and found they just didn’t fit our son very well, so we switched to BumGenius when he was around 4 months, and they’ve worked fantastically (he’s currently 15 months). The BumGenius diapers are a “one-size” which means that theoretically you can use them from birth (though you’d have to have a pretty big newborn) to potty-training. You start with them on the smallest setting and the “newborn” insert (the inserts go in a slot/pocket in the diaper which is why they’re called pocket diapers), then as your baby grows, you change the snaps to a bigger size, and as he starts to pee more, you can change out the newborn for the regular insert, then you end up using both inserts together. We just had to buy the Thirsties inserts because he was starting to saturate and leak out of his diapers, but these inserts (coupled with the BG regular insert) will give us more time before he outgrows the diaper capacity (oh, and we use a regular insert plus two Thirsties inserts for overnight – no more wet baby in the morning!).

So a typical (wet) diaper change is as follows, take off wet diaper, and remove the wet inserts, then toss the whole shebang in the PlanetWise wetbag that’s hanging nearby. Then use either a disposable wipe or a cloth wipe wet with some water, or water/soap mixture (I keep an old handsoap dispenser by the changing table for this purpose) and clean him up. Toss disposable wipe in trash or toss cloth wipe in the wetbag. Snap a new diaper on the baby, either using or not using a disposable liner, and you’re good to go! If there’s only wet diapers in the diaper bag, I typically don’t zip it up, but if there’s a poopy one in there, you WILL want to zip it up. (Side note, these wet bags are awesome. I have a medium sized one I use as a laundry bag when we’re travelling and they do an awesome job of holding in leaks and smells and the usual gross baby stuff.)

One of the things that scares parents off of cloth diapering is the poop. Yes, poop is gross. Babies in general are pretty gross. Yes, you will end up touching poop no matter how you diaper your child, which is the common response from the cloth diaperers. However, I’ll be honest with you – it is more gross to deal with a poopy cloth diaper than a poopy disposable. But not that much grosser. With a poopy disposable, you just toss it in the trash (which, by the way, you’re not supposed to do, and yes, I know that everyone does it). With a poopy cloth diaper, you generally want to remove as much poop as possible from the diaper before putting it through your washer. (If you have a baby, there will be poop and pee going through your washer anyways, I promise you that.) You can use disposable liners, some of which are flushable, or some people use diaper sprayers or scrapers to put the poop in the toilet. Sometimes I just swipe at it with a disposable wipe to get the bulk off. Then you remove the inserts and dump everything in the laundry bag. Occasionally my son will go through phases where he’s pooping on a schedule, which is awesome, because then we’ll just use a disposable diaper for the poopy time. However, if he’s not on a schedule, we typically use the disposable liners in the morning (higher probability poop times), and just the plain cloth diapers later in the day, dealing with the consequences as necessary. As I said, it’s grosser, but not really that much grosser.

When it comes time for laundry, I unsnap the bag from the door handle, and invert over the washing machine, dumping everything in, including the bag. (You don’t have to touch anything gross at this point). I run a cold wash, no soap, no extra rinse, then soak it overnight. Then the next day I run a hot wash, with cloth diaper detergent (Rockin Green), and an extra rinse cycle. When that’s done, I’ll either hang up the inserts or dry them in the dryer, and I always hang up the shells (the colored part of the diaper). Since we’ve been using the hemp inserts, it takes two dry cycles to get them dry (they hold a LOT of water!), or some combination of hanging and drying. While this is happening, I’m using the second wetbag as our diaper pail. Once everything’s dry, I’ll assemble the diapers – some for day, some for night (with the extra inserts), and carry them up to his room, where they sit in neat, adorably colored stacks. Once a month, I throw in some bleach as per the BumGenius guidelines, and twice now (over a year) I’ve “stripped” the diapers – there was starting to be a build-up of smells, so you wash the diapers with Dawn dishwashing liquid and then do a bunch of rinses and the diapers are as good as new.

IMG_1797A good overall picture of our cloth diapering setup. I hang the nighttime stuffed diapers off the edge of the basket so it’s very clear which ones are which.

If you hate laundry, cloth diapering is not for you. Laundry happens to be about the only chore that I don’t hate – I mean, really, you put nasty, dirty things in a magic box, go away, and when you come back, they’re clean! Awesome! Also, I have a SpeedQueen washer and dryer, which I love more than words can express. The whole process does take a lot of time, it’s true. BUT – not much of that is hands on time. I’m a stay at home mom, so for me to walk downstairs a couple of times to hit buttons on the washer is not a strain. I’d say it takes maybe 3 minutes to set up the initial wash cycle (this gets rid of any solids and washes away a lot of the pee), another 2 minutes to go down and start the soak cycle, go to sleep, wake up the next morning and spend 2 minutes closing the lid so the soak cycle drains, then 3 minutes to go down and set up the hot wash cycle with detergent. Maybe 7 minutes to separate out the shells, inserts, and wipes,  and hang some and put some in the dryer, then another 2-5  minutes to go down and either restart the dryer or hang up the inserts to finish drying. It takes maybe 10-15 to assemble the diapers (mostly depending on how distracted you are while doing it) and bring them back upstairs. So I’d say, generously,  it’s an active 37 minutes every two days. Most of that is me walking up and down the stairs – our main living areas are upstairs and laundry is downstairs.

So that’s our routine. I find it to be totally worth the initial monetary investment and the continuing time investment. An added perk for me at least is that I have a very sensitive nose, and the artificial scents in disposable diapers can give me a massive headache. Plus, cloth diapers are really, really cute*.

IMG_1801*I told you they were cute. In my defense, I do normally put pants on him.

One last bit of advice for those of you thinking of trying cloth diapering is that you can’t really dip your toe in the water with it. You don’t really know if it’s going to work for you unless you have a full day’s worth of diapers and can test out your washing routine. So I recommend using a store that offers (like Kelly’s Closet)  a 30 day trial period, where you can buy all the diapers you need, and try it for a couple of full cycles (there is a bit of a learning curve) to see if it’s going to work for your family. If you hate it, or it feels like too much extra work, send them back in and get your money back. Life is too short to do things you hate.

Have you cloth diapered? Would you ever consider it for your kids?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

Family Fridays – The Best Souvenirs for Children

Well, duh – I’m going to say “books”. I absolutely love getting travel and regional books to commemorate trips taken, a part of your heritage, or just as a snapshot of your hometown. One of the great joys of travel is wandering around in new bookstores and coming out with a treasure (or two!). On our last trip, my son and I travelled to Las Cruces, New Mexico to meet up with family and enjoy some wonderful Mexican food (an area in which Colorado is sadly lacking). We ate at La Posta (a family tradition), then ambled around the historic plaza while trying to digest the last bits of sopapilla (dairy free! this is my version of heaven).

The Mesilla Book Center on the plaza had a great selection of regional children’s books, and the hard part was deciding what to leave behind, not what to take home. I finally settled on the fun “Guess Who’s in the Desert” by Charline Profiri and Susan Swan – the combination of illustrations, facts and desert animals made it a winner for us. We can enjoy it now, and it will grow with my son as he gets older.

Wherever you go, there will be a place to find regional children’s books, and I highly recommend them as a souvenir. Beautiful, practical, and a great way to remember a place, you can’t go wrong with these.

What are your favorite regional books for kids?

Family Fridays – The Going to Bed Post

Book: The Going to Bed Book (1982) by Sandra Boynton

Category/Age: Picture Book (Younger), Board Book

Blurb:

This classic bedtime story is just right for winding down the day as a joyful, silly group of animals scrub scrub scrub in the tub, brush and brush and brush their teeth, and finally rock and rock and rock to sleep.

Review:

In our house, this really is The Going To Bed Book. Our bedtime routine with our (one year old) son is to read him a couple of books, then pull this one out. When he sees The Going To Bed Book, he knows the end is near and depending on how tired he is, will either start yawning, crying, or just immediately assume the sleep position (he curls all his limbs underneath him and rolls onto his stomach, which is hilarious when he attempts this while in your lap). Then we’ll turn out the light, sing a song, and put him down. Whereupon he usually screams himself to sleep. This boy does not go gently into that good nap.

Anyways, having a bedtime (and nap) routine has really made the process much easier for all concerned (yes, it’s much better than it used to be – the screaming period is much shorter, and is often just crying), because everyone knows exactly what’s happening, and what will come next. Originally we were just reading him any books, then continuing on, but that meant he started to associate ALL books with being put down in his crib, so whenever you’d pull out a book he’d start to cry. Naturally, I don’t want my son to associate reading with bad things, so we stopped doing any sort of routine for a while. When we started up again a few months later, using The Going To Bed Book as the piece de résistance every time, he quickly learned that books are good, it’s just this book that means he’s going to go to sleep.

Obviously you could pick any book to be your “sleep is coming for you, my friend” signal, but I love this one. It’s short, has a soothing rhythm to read, depicts cute animals getting ready for bed, I can read it 2-3 times per day and not going insane, and most importantly, it’s a board book, which means if your child is trying to escape, it’s in less danger of being damaged.

The bottom line here: consider both bedtime routines and The Going to Bed Book highly recommended.

Do you or your children have bedtime routines? Did you have any books you used as you bedtime books?

Get it: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

 

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Happy Saint Nick’s Day!

Today is Saint Nicholas’s Day, which is celebrated in various ways across the world. Because nothing makes me happier than the idea of observing a full month of Christmas (Dec 6 to Jan 6 – Epiphany), I’ve decided to start observing this day with my family.

My plan is to just do something small to mark the day – we’ll have a special breakfast (read: not Cheerios, or at least not just Cheerios), and do some small stockings.

In our stockings today, for example, Saint Nick left everyone Christmas pajamas (these  adorable ones for the baby) and a Christmas book to share (Merry Christmas, Ernest and Celestine).

I’m hoping to use this day to talk about the real Saint Nicholas as my baby gets older, and why we give presents at Christmas, but also just for fun. This post by one of my favorite bloggers has a good overview of St. Nick’s day and why they’ve decided to start celebrating it.

What do you think? Do you celebrate St. Nicholas Day? If so, how?

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P.S. If the stockings in the photo look lumpy, it is most definitely something wrong with the camera, and NOT because I crocheted them myself without using a pattern. I call this style of crochet “Janie-rigged”. Actually, this style applies to all of my crafting attempts.

Family Fridays – Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd

Book: Goodnight iPad (2011)

Genre: Babies & Toddlers, Children’s General, and Parenting.

Ages: Babies & Toddlers up through parents and grandparents

Blurb:

In a bright buzzing room, in the glow of the moon-and iPhones and Androids and Blackberries too-it is time to say goodnight…

Modern life is abuzz. There are huge LCD WiFi HD TVs and Facebook requests and thumbs tapping texts and new viral clips of cats doing flips. Wouldn’t it be nice to say goodnight to all that? Like the rest of us who cannot resist just a few more scrolls and clicks, you may find yourself ready for bed while still clinging to your electronics long after dark. This book, which is made of paper, is a reminder for the child in all of us to power down at the end of the day. This hilarious parody not only pokes loving fun at the bygone quiet of the original classic, but also at our modern plugged-in lives. It will make you laugh, and it will also help you put yourself and your machines to sleep. Don’t worry, though. Your gadgets will be waiting for you, fully charged, in the morning.

Review:

Last Christmas when I was four days away from giving birth, my younger brother gave me Darth Vader and Son, and my older brother gave me Goodnight iPad. It was a truly awesome Christmas. This book is absolutely hilarious. I wouldn’t say it’s a mockery of the original, Goodnight Moon, I’d say it’s more a mockery of modern life and a tribute to Goodnight Moon. This is a perfect gift for plugged in parents, or parents with plugged in children who are fed up with all the craziness that is our world. How strange to think that my son was born into a world of cellphones, touch screens, and internet capable everythings.

Anyways, this book is great. It keeps the cadence of the original while thoroughly skewering all the signs of our times. Ironically, it’s available in e-reader form as well. Consider it highly recommended – but please, buy the paperback edition. Consider it your first step towards a less electronic life. 🙂

Get it! Amazon, Barnes & Noble.

Side Note: This parody is gentle in tone – it is NOT like the Go the **** to Sleep book that was trendy a year or so back.

Have you read the book? How many electronic, internet capable devices are in YOUR bedroom when you’re trying to sleep? (We generally only have two – my husband’s iPhone and my Kindle.)

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

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Family Fridays – Books as Nursery Decor

Warning: this is mostly a vanity post and has not much to do with literature.

I will freely admit that I’m not much of a decorator. My husband jokes (“states” might be a better term) that my decorating style is all right angles and nothing on the walls. I just don’t like my spaces to feel cluttered; it makes it difficult for me to think. And I never knew what to put up on the walls anyways. We finally agreed on antique maps (posters of antique maps, at least! We’re on a budget!) he’s a history guy, I like the order in them, and we both love to travel, so that’s pretty much our decorating “style”. When it came time to decorate the nursery, I knew I didn’t want to do a usual baby type theme and thought something travel related would be fun. To narrow it down a little, I decided on a London/British Isles theme as I already had several items that would fit in. I had spent a few years of my childhood there, and my husband and I had visited together on our honeymoon. Plus, my Mom had given me this adorable Paddington Bear board book and plush toy when I was newly pregnant so it seemed like a winner. It’s not a strict theme, the nursery is full of stuff I just happened to love, too. Book Wall

Anyways, you’re probably wondering what the point of all this rambling is. Most of my decorating items are books. The wonderful thing about baby’s and children’s books is that they are practical and useful, but they are also beautiful. So, books plus these four dollar Ikea spice racks give us a really happy nursery full of beautiful and practical things. Please forgive the bad quality iPad photos. And if you haven’t checked out the This Is series, it is really, really wonderful. Also, I’m already super excited about changing out the books for Christmas books when we get closer!

I had planned to make my Bookshelfbookshelf contain more outward facing books for more of the “pretty” factor, but somehow they keep accumulating and so I can’t fit them! The thing on the wall is a history of our last name that I got my then-boyfriend-now-husband in college when my family went to Ireland, the “Little Toot on the Thames” was my mother’s when she was a little girl, and the double picture frame has a shot me and my two brothers around ages 9,7, and 5 in front of a red phone booth, and my husband in front of a different one (aged 20-ish?). I love my nursery because it is full of things I love, and that I hope to introduce my son to for him to love also. My favorite nurseries and children’s rooms are those that are full of things with meaning to the child and family, not necessarily those that are color coordinated and matched down to a t.

How do you decorate your children’s rooms? How was yours decorated as a child? Did you ever have books featured prominently?

*If you use these links to make a purchase, Lector’s Books may receive a small commission. This will not affect your price or purchasing experience in any way.

P.S. I also have this map on his wall, because I fell in love with it while pregnant and HAD to have it. Also, what is any room in the house without a map on the wall?

Family Fridays – Bringing Literature to Life

Howdy! I’m on vacation in Brazil for most of September, so I turned the tables on my readers and opened up the blog for guests posts while I’m gone. Today’s guest post comes from Debi Morton. She wrote and sent this to me before I had posted the gift giving guide, and I think it’s a perfect illustration of what I meant by the “experiences” section!

One of the best things about being a grandmother, as almost everyone knows, is reading to your grandchildren.  I love hearing them say, “just one more book, please!” or “will you read our goodnight books to us tonight?” when I am at their house or they are at mine.  We try to buy them books for every occasion, whether Christmas or birthdays, and often just for fun.  One of our favorite outings when they are with us is to the bookstore, where we spend time playing and reading,  and then, of course, buying at least one book for everyone.  And a couple of months ago when my husband and I stayed with one of the families while their parents were out of town, we even went to the library in their town on a rainy afternoon, where we spent about an hour joyfully reading books out loud, and then left with armloads of books for everyone.  I found the 3-year-old sitting up in bed that night, after he was supposed to be going to sleep, happily looking at his “new” books.  We are fortunate that all of their parents love books, so they are read to out loud often, even the 8-year-olds, which is delightful.

One of the joys I have had with the grandchildren is bringing literature to life in many ways.  We live in a large metropolitan area, so there are several theater groups in our city.  We have taken the children to see several theater productions of some of the wonderful books they have read.  We enjoy one particular small theater troop that has a wonderful children’s theater and have seen their productions of “Charlotte’s Web,” “The Velveteen Rabbit,” “Jungle Book,” and just last week I took my two oldest granddaughters to see “Anne of Avonlea.”  The fun thing is that, with the exception of “Jungle Book,” they had read all of these books before we went.  One of the 8-year-olds had not yet read the “Anne” books, but when her mom heard we were going to see the play, she bought her “Anne of Green Gables” and she was reading it when we went.

One of my sons has been reading the “Little House on the Prairie” series to his daughters and when the oldest was about five, they asked us to buy her the TV series on DVD.  This was another fun way to bring the books to life for her.  Their whole family loves to watch the episodes and see what life was like for the Ingles.  It richly enhances the books.

Another fun way we brought the “Little House” series to life for my granddaughter occurred when she was 6-years-old.  The house where the “Little House” books were written and a museum dedicated to the series and to the Ingles’ family are in Mansfield, Missouri.  When my granddaughter was six, she and her daddy and I flew to Springfield, MO, and drove to Mansfield to see the house and museum.  She was mesmerized.  It totally brought what she had read to life for her as she saw dresses Laura had worn, beds she had slept in and the house she had lived in.  Now her little sister is reading the books with her dad and is 5-years-old.  She is asking when it will be her turn to go to Missouri and is anxiously waiting to go.  I am as excited as she is to take her!

One last example I would use is a bit backwards.  My daughter-in-law and I started taking my oldest granddaughter to see “The Nutcracker” ballet about three years ago and then added her little sister to our outing a couple of years later.  Of course, “The Nutcracker” started as a ballet, but since then several beautiful books have been written about the story.  My daughter-in-law bought a lovely book for the girls to read before going to the production.  It was a great way for them to understand the story and what they would be seeing.  I highly recommend doing this if you are going to take your children to see any ballet or concert.

If you want to give your children or grandchildren some experiences with to bring their literature alive, but don’t live in a large city, don’t despair.  Your public library probably has a children’s department that may do puppet shows.  And, as I mentioned above, DVD’s of movies and TV shows can be used.  And my grandchildren even like to act out the books themselves.  One of my granddaughters even had a “Little House” birthday party, where her mom taught the girls how to make their own butter.  You can find directions for the whole party experience online. 

Enhancing literature with experiences brings another dimension to reading that children enjoy.  If it is done to enrich the experience of reading and not to replace it, it can be a joy and I highly recommend it.

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Family Fridays – Gifts to Encourage Children to Read (Part 2 of 2)

So to recap, I’m doing a two part series of gifts to encourage children to read, and this is the second part. Last week I talked about time and books, this week I’m going to round out with experiences and tangible tie ins.

Experiences

I think there is this awesome positive feedback loop that is created when someone discovers a new passion, then reads more about that subject, then explores it more in person, then reads more, and on and on. I was able to visit the ancient city of Ephesus (as in the book of Ephesians in the Bible) and walk where Paul and the ancient Romans had walked. To visit a place I had heard and read about for years was unbelievably exciting. More recently, I was reading the Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan, and one of the entrances to the underworld turned out to be this teeny-tiny obscure museum that happened to be across the street from where my brother was living at the time. I might have squeed out loud. (ok, I did).

When you can tie real life experience to what you’re reading it creates more excitement and connections that enhance both aspects. So, what kind of experiences can you give? Go to the zoo, visit a museum, give music or art classes, give a horseback riding lesson, go hiking, volunteer at an animal shelter, go to a sporting event  or an airshow, take a day trip somewhere, visit a national park. The possibilities are literally endless and many of these things can be done for free if you’re on a budget (including the zoos, museums, hiking, national parks – many have free days throughout the year).

Present-wise this could lead to some really fun presentations (ha!): Give a book about animals and a promise to go to the zoo. Give a book about Jackie Robinson and an afternoon watching your local high school or college team play ball. Give The Little House on the Prairie books and a visit to a living history museum. You are only limited by your imagination. Should you be lacking in the imagination department, Google it.

Tangible Tie-ins

This could be anything from a movie adaptation (I’d recommend previewing it to make sure a) it’s not terrible and b) it’s age appropriate) to a character toy from a series (a plush Goodnight Moon bunny, a truck for Little Blue Truck, a Dora the Explorer anything, etc.). You could give a stuffed animal that’s even remotely related to a story or experience, it doesn’t have to be officially licensed to be loved. You could give dress-up clothes for stories about pirates or princesses or whatever. Obviously this will depend on the child’s age and interests, but believe me, in today’s merchandise obsessed culture, you WILL find something. When I went through my horse phase (does every girl go through a horse phase?) I started collecting these beautiful toy plastic horses, and still remember getting one for my birthday one year. Actually, I think I still have it.

So those are my top recommendations for gifts to encourage reading. I will say as a caveat that if you are planning on something on the more expensive side (a zoo membership, say, or something like that),  it is probably a good idea to check with the parents first. They may love it, or if you are going to be spending that amount, they may actually prefer you give a smaller present and contribute to the college fund (or diaper fund, if things are particularly tight).

What gifts have you used to encourage reading? What do you think would have encouraged you to read more as a child? What are your top suggestions for gifts to encourage reading?

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Family Fridays – Gifts to Encourage Children to Read (Part 1 of 2)

Even before my son was born, I put a lot of thought into this question: “how can I encourage him to be a reader?”  I only have one child, and he is (as of press time) not yet eight months old. Since he is currently more interested in trying to eat his books than read them, I certainly can’t claim to be an expert, but since we’re in the birthday season (September and August seem to have a higher number of birthdays than other months – all those Christmas babies) I thought I’d share my thoughts with you and get feedback from you, my awesome readers. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on gifts to encourage reading in children.

Your time. Parents, this goes especially for you (and me!). Take the time to read to your children, and as they get older, let them see/know that you choose to spend some of your free time reading for pleasure. Let them read to you. Ask them to read to their younger siblings.  And I know how hard it is to find the time to read to your kids and for yourself. But what we spend our time on is what shows our true priorities, so if cultivating a love of reading in your children is important to you, then the laundry can wait. Facebook can wait. Reading to your children cannot wait, and modeling to them your own love of reading is just as important.

Extended family and friends, you can have a huge impact here as well. You can read to them, too. You can also talk to them about what they’re reading. What are their favorite books? Who are their favorite characters? What do they like about them? One of my special memories from my childhood was when my grandparents recorded themselves (on a cassette tape, so this was back in the dark ages) reading stories out loud. Since we lived on the other side of the world, this was especially meaningful. With the technology that exists nowadays, this would be extremely easy to do and share.

Books. Well, duh. You knew this was coming. I’m actually not going to give any specific recommendations here, because I think the best book for a child is one that is age appropriate, and on a subject/theme that he or she is excited about. I don’t know what will make your kids’ hearts sing, but you probably do. You can also browse some of my past recommendations by going to the sidebar on the right and clicking on the Family Fridays category, or narrowing down by age group. You could also give gift cards to bookstores, or take the recipient out for ice cream and a trip to a local store to pick out their own book.

Stay tuned for another exciting installment next week – I’ll be covering experiences and tangible tie-ins.

Update: See part two here.