birthday books to read with your preschooler

Juliet turned 3 last week and I have been busy with birthday preparations (she requested a mermaid birthday party–more on that later, I promise!)

My friend Julie (of pancake fame) told me about a tradition she has with her daughter–a birthday book box. They have a box of birthday-themed books that she brings out especially for the month of her daughter’s birthday. They read these books all throughout the month and then when it is over, they put them away until the next year. (By the way, she recently started a new blog called Anyways–check it out!)
I thought this was a fun and special way to use books to celebrate a child’s birthday. We do the same thing with our Christmas books (bring them out every December and then pack them away until next year), so I thought this would work really well.
I didn’t have time to search for special birthday books for our box this year, but I did go through our collection and pulled ten that feature a birthday scene in them (you know, cake, party hats, candles, etc.)
So here are our top ten birthday books scenes from some of our favorite books:

1. Charlotte and the White Horse by Ruth Krauss, Illustrated by Maurice Sendak
Okay, so this is not one of our favorite books as far as stories go, but I do LOVE the illustrations. (Maurice Sendak never disappoints.) Why is the horse crying? Because it’s his party and he can cry if he wants to.

2. A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats
I love Peter and this picture of him blowing out his candles with his dog Willie. Have you read The Snowy Day and A Whistle for Willieyet?

3. Never Tease a Weasel by Jean Condor Soule, Illustrated by Denman Hampson
How many times can I mention this book on my blog? Apparently, not enough! Here it is again…sorry for the overkill, but this party-ready duck is too cute to resist.

4. Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman
This dog party is one of our all-time favorite parties. For a long time I was hoping to recreate this as her party theme. But then she requested mermaids, so I had to set it aside. Maybe next year we can have a dog party.

5. Are You My Mother? by P. D. Eastman
Do hatch-days count? I think they do. This tiny bird has quite the adventure on his first hatch-day. This is one that I remember reading with my mother when I was a little girl.

This is one of those vintage Hallmark books that I picked up at goodwill. I know nothing about it except that it is really beautiful and Juliet adores it. It really is about a birthday party (unlike most of the other books in this list that just feature a party in them.) Do you see the clock hands? They really turn. This is part of the appeal.

7. Wee Mouses Peekaboo House by Jean Hirashima
This is a board book that we loved to read together when Juliet was a one-year old. I dug it out of storage because we love this birthday party image so much. Little Marty is having a party. I remember spending lots of time pouring over all the details of the party with my little Juliet. Her favorite part was the big bowl of blueberries.

8. The Little Kitten by Judy Dunn
Did you read these books as a kid? I had the one about a duck. I kept looking and looking for it when Juliet was first born and could never find it. I did find all the other versions, the goat, the rabbit, the kitty…finally, my mom discovered my old copy in her attic, so now I have that one, too. This one features Pickle the kitten who gets into trouble at Jenny’s birthday party. I love the 70s/80s party gear. I think I sported that knee-high/jumper look at my birthday parties, too.

9. A New Dress for Maya by Malorie Blackman
I love the images in this book–the watercolor is beautiful. Maya wants a store-bought dress, but has to “settle” for one her mother makes. This is a nice reminder that not getting what you want may not always be a bad thing.

10. Little Bear’s Friend by Else Holmelund Minarik, Illustrated by Maurice Sendak
We’ll start and end with Sendak. Little Bear is one of Juliet’s all time favorites and this party at owl’s is one we read about often.
Do you have any favorite birthday books? What would you put in your birthday box?
I’m linking up to OhAmanda for Top Ten Tuesday! Check out her site for more great top ten lists!

how to make a car out of a cardboard box

I saw a really fun idea on Fantastic Find a few weeks ago that became a last minute Christmas Eve project and gift for Juliet.
The post title was A Big Box is Fun! and it featured an ad from a Family Fun Magazine for Jim Henson’s Possibility Shop. The image of the “car you can wear” looked like just the thing Juliet would love.
So, since we had a spare box in our garage, Ben and I sent to work to transform this…
Into this!

We wrapped a box in pink wrapping paper, wrapped some bowls and wrapping paper tubes in foil, and hot glued them on. This is the front.

And this is the back. There are two ribbons (not pictured) that work as straps. Juliet puts the car “on” and “rides” around the house.
She loves it, but at this point, a week or so later, it is pretty much in shambles and missing 1 wheel, all taillights and headlights, the bumper, front grill, and the pink paper is ripping in several spots! (Maybe hot glue was not the best adhesive option?)
At any rate, we have had fun with it and I will be moving it to the recycle box soon. I love toys that you can get rid of guilt-free!

zoo-themed tea party activity idea

May I Bring a Friend? by Beatrice Schenk De Regniers, Illustrated by Beni Montresor, published 1964

This was a fabulous vintage find for us this week! We were sort of rushing to get out of the library (we were meeting friends at the park afterwards and needed to hurry), so I just grabbed a few books off the shelves without really looking inside of them. I did pull several duds, but this one more than makes up for the losers of the bunch.
A little boy is invited to tea at the castle on Sunday by the King and Queen. He brings a friend (this lovely giraffe).

The royal couple

Aren’t they charming? So in love as kings and queens ought to be.

The boy keeps being invited to the castle and he keeps bringing his animal friends.

Here are the lions. (It’s Halloween, so they are wearing masks!)

Aren’t the illustrations amazing? I love every page.

On the final day of the week, the king and queen join the boy and his friends for tea at the city zoo. It’s fun and very captivating to a child–tea with a king and queen and animals to go with it? Heaven!
After reading this book, we couldn’t help but have our own tea party with our zoo animals! Anyone have any good tea party books to share?

handmade felt christmas tree with removable ornaments

This is a vintage book that I picked up this summer at Goodwill. It has really fun illustrations and beautiful ornaments.

The Christmas Tree Book by Joe Kaufman

“Just before Christmas evergreen trees are cut down and brought into town.”

“It’s important to pick the right tree.”

“All the decorations are ready for the tree. We saved them from last year.”

“Everyone can help hang things on the tree.”

I saw the most beautiful handmade felt Christmas tree on Ruffles and Stuff the other day. The moment I saw it, I knew I had to make one for Juliet. It’s the kind of thing she would LOVE.
So, I studied hers and then rummaged through my fabric box to see what I could find. I managed to piece together a smaller tree using an old curtain and some purple flannel left over from another project.I cut out the tree shape and sewed it together with a piece of batting in between. I made the ornaments out of felt and sewed ribbon and buttons to embellish them. I attached velcro to the backs and to the front of the tree so Juliet could move the ornaments around as she wished.
Here’s a close up of the star. It’s two pieces of felt–I tried to make a starburst and messed up twice, so I just layered them to make the mistakes less noticeable and then sewed the large button in the middle.
Juliet loves it! She carried it around all evening and currently has it in her bed with her. Usually, it lives on her bedroom door.
[Disney, the creative genius of Ruffles and Stuff, was so sweet to feature my version of her tree on her site! Check out her ‘You tried it!” section to see it!]

12 days of christmas homemade ornament (five gold rings)

On the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…five gold rings!
(illustration from Brian Wildsmith’s 12 Days of Christmas)
This is Juliet’s favorite part of the song. In fact, she usually just goes around singing this line over and over again. So, I was excited for her to make these ornaments today.
These were really simple–perfect after four days of complicated bird ornaments. I just cut a paper towel roll into five rings.

I set out some glitter glue and some jewels for Juliet to use to decorate the rings.
She jumped right into this task with renewed vigor. (It had waned over the past few days.) Glitter was smeared everywhere and jewels were picked out to make just the right looks.

We let the glue dry and then I tied some ribbon on to make the hangers.

We hung them on the tree and admired our work.
My goal is to make these projects a little more “preschooler friendly”–no more crazy juice bottle bird cages!

12 days of christmas homemade ornament (four colly birds)

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…four colly birds!
(image from Brian Wildsmith’s 12 Days of Christmas)
Continuing on our 12 days of Christmas ornament adventure…It’s day 4 and Juliet’s enthusiasm is waning BIG TIME. I had saved a juice bottle for this ornament and wanted to recreate the cage in the picture from the book.
I knew that I would have to do most of the prep beforehand and get it to the point where Juliet could just help decorate it since it involved a lot of cutting with an x-acto knife.

First, I made the birds. Just cut them out of some scraps of scrapbooking paper I had leftover from another project. I fashioned a perch out of a starbucks straw. To get the birds to stay on the perch, I cut a slit in the straw and then put some glue in there to hold them tight.

After cutting some large holes in the lower sides (to make it cage-like) and two small holes in the upper portion (for the perch), I slipped the birds and perch inside. This was kind of difficult because my hand was a lot bigger than the holes I had to work with, but eventually, I got them in.
At this point, Juliet joined me to decorate the cage. We glued a colorful circle cut from a magazine page to the bottom of the cage. Then we glued jewels all over it to make it sparkle. I placed the glue dots and Juliet placed the gems.
I tied a pink ribbon to the top (for hanging purposes) and Juliet picked out a nice big gem to go on top.
And then we hung it on the tree! Surprisingly, she did not call these birds pigeons once! I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s project because it is much simpler and is also Juliet’s favorite part of the song: FIVE GOLDEN RINGS!
Has anyone made any fun recycled crafts lately or Christmas ornaments? I’d love to hear about them!

12 days of christmas homemade ornament (three french hens)

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me… three French hens (illustration from Brian Wildsmith’s 12 days of Christmas.)

Once again, I was completely inspired by this illustration. I photo copied the page from the book, cut out the hen shapes from my copy and used them as a template to make my hens.

I cut them out of the tidy cats litter container. This was not as easy as the turtledoves cut from the milk jug yesterday. This plastic is much thicker, so it was actually somewhat difficult. If I had to do it again, I would use a larger milk jug. But this is all I had in the recycle box, so we had to go with it.
I punched holes in the hens before decorating…
We raided the craft box again for feathers (colored ones this time) and I think Juliet glued on ONE whole feather before she quit…but I was able to lure her back to the craft table with the promise of JEWELS!
She was very excited to get her hands on these and had fun gluing them down onto her “chickens” (Close enough.)

Here are a few close ups…very French, no?

Maybe I should have given them berets or little wine glasses, but I was just glad to get this one over with as Juliet was not very into the making of these. I tied the hens together so they are one unit to hang on the tree.
We let them dry overnight and the next day, she hung her ornament on the tree. Surprisingly, she was VERY into this part and was very proud of her three French hens.
Anyone have any good chicken books, French books, songbooks, or ornament ideas to share?

how to make glass marble magnets (easy homemade christmas presents)

This is what my kitchen table has looked like for the past three weeks–a mess of glass tiles, shredded magazines, and an craft knife.

I’ve been working on some Christmas/birthday gifts that turned out surprisingly well. I’ve seen a bunch of tutorials for these on the internet–you probably have seen them already, too, but I wanted to share them anyways.

Start with some of these clear glass mosaic tiles. I found these at the dollar store–you get a really big bag of them for just $1. These are the larger size, but the smaller size are nice, too.
You need some old magazines that you don’t mind cutting up for the images. I used a Pottery Barn Kids catalog to make some cute Cat in the Hat magnets for Juliet. (I can’t stand the thought of cutting up a kids book, but you could do it if you really wanted those images.)
Place the stone on the image you want, and trace around it with the knife. If your blade is sharp, it will cut very easily and you can punch the piece out. Cut as many images as magnets you would like to make.
Next, take some mosaic tile glue (I’ve had this bottle for about 10 years) and glue the image to the bottom of the tile. Make sure your get glue that dries clear! It will look cloudy when the glue is wet, but once it dries, you can’t see it. I used a paint brush to spread the glue thinly and evenly over the tile.
After the image has dried, take a round magnet and glue it to the back. I found these at Wal-Mart that were peel and stick, so I didn’t need to use any glue. It was easy and fast, but a little more expensive than plain magnets.

Place the magnet on the back and let it dry for a day before hanging it on your fridge.

Here’s an example of a finished one. I made this one for myself.

Here are the Dr. Seuss ones. Juliet was really excited when she saw these. I was kind of surprised actually. It turns out she really likes hanging her artwork on the fridge herself now that she has these fun ones to use. You can see the different sized tiles that I used.
Next time I run across some other children’s book images in a magazine, I will make her some more. I still have a ton of tiles and magnets left over!
Obviously, these are not a good toy for younger children, but if your child is old enough to not put things in her mouth, they are quite entertaining.
Have you made these before? Leave a comment or link and let me know!

12 days of christmas homemade ornament projects for kids

Juliet and I are doing a 12 Days of Christmas homemade ornament project this December. Each day, we make an ornament to represent one of the 12 days of Christmas (as inspired by the song and from Brian Wildsmith’s book The 12 Days of Christmas.)

Our goal is first to have fun together and make some holiday memories, and secondly, to be as resourceful and “green” as we can. We are using our recycle box as our main resource for supplies and supplementing with craft supplies we already have in our craft box.
Here is what we came up with: (Click on the links under each picture to see more pics and learn how we made it and what we made it out of! Trash never looked so good!)