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Fun and Games on the Go: Usborne Activity Cards!

Summer is here! Vacation plans, anyone?

My 3 year-old and I recently traveled to my sister’s wedding and Usborne activity cards saved my sanity more than once during the trip!

Before we left, I looked through my stash of Usborne activity cards and decided to start with 100 Things for Little Children to do on a Trip. I selected about 20 of the easier cards that I thought might engage my 3 year-old (suggested age is 6+). Then I punched holes in the corner of each card and put them on a binder ring so that they’d stay together.

The cards were my daughter’s first choice whenever we needed a distraction.

She used the dry erase marker included with the cards to draw lines between animals and their favorite foods, match shadows with the appropriate dog, find and count hidden butterflies and frogs, draw legs on a boy so he could run away from a monster, and most of all – she loved turning the large cat into a leopard (by adding spots) and a tiger (by adding stripes).

The cards easily kept her engaged for an hour at a time and although the first time through I had to tell her the instructions for each one (because she is not able to read them herself yet), the second time through she knew what to do and was able to entertain herself.

And she made up her own games with some of the cards. I think at times she had more fun erasing the marks with a tissue than drawing the marks in the first place. (Hint: Attach a small piece of felt with a hole punched in it to the binder ring for an eraser.)

I am embarrassed to admit that it took me this long to actually put these cards to use – one of my customers mentioned that the activity cards she bought were a bigger hit with her preschooler than the books so I figured I would give them a try. I am now convinced that they are a winner!

I plan to keep them with me for impromptu entertainment at restaurants, in the car, and while waiting in line.

There are several activity card sets to choose from – see the Usborne site for more details. Enjoy!

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Kids Want to Go to Space Camp? Try Smarty Pants!

Do your kids want to go to space camp, but you can’t fit it into your schedule or budget??

Are you worried about summer brain drain??

Smarty Pants Space Camps to the rescue!

Studies show that kids can lose up to 30% of their school skills over summer vacation, but Usborne’s new Space Explorer Camps will keep kids actively reading, writing and exploring up until the new school year begins and they will have FUN doing it!

These standards based programs are scaled for different age groups (pre-K through 6th grade) and include a series of challenges, missions and hands-on experiments for children to explore and solve collaboratively with friends and family.

Each camp kit includes a student lab notebook (see an excerpt) and a set of fiction and non-fiction books for reference, reading and exploration. Get the neighborhood kids together – the kits work with groups of all sizes.

It is hands-on-literacy fun that is perfect for the summer or for enrichment anytime. It is all the FUN of camp at your house!

Junior Astronaut Kit Junior Astronaut Kit (Pre K – 1st Grade) How High is the Sky?, On the Moon, Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon, First Encyclopedia of Space, Living in Space, 100 Science Experiments, Junior Astronaut Official Camp Notebook  order now »
Discovery Astronaut Camp Kit Discovery Astronaut Camp Kit (2nd – 3rd Grade) How High is the Sky?, Pelly and Mr. Harrison Visit the Moon, Space, Living in Space, What’s Physics All About?, 100 Science Experiments, Discovery Astronaut Official Camp Notebook  order now »
Apollo Astronaut Camp Kit Apollo Astronaut Camp Kit (4th – 6th Grade) Science Encyclopedia, Story of Astronomy and Space, 100 Things to Spot in the Night Sky, What’s Physics All About?, 100 Science Experiments, Apollo Astronaut Official Camp Notebook  order now »
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“Rope ‘Em” by Stacy Nyikos

Rope ‘Em by Stacy Nyikos is a fast-moving underwater western starring Scout the yellow seahorse and Virgil the purple octopus. Scout is the best herder around and Virgil is the best roper, using eight lassos at a time. You’d think they’d make a great team, but you’d be wrong. But when trouble in the shape of a bull shark arrives at the O.K. Coral, the two have to learn to work together to save the ranch and the cowfish. This is a fun book to read aloud with a cowboy twang and has lots of action to keep kids engaged – highly recommended! You can watch the trailer below.

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“Half of an Elephant” by Gusti

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, I’d like to share a Kane Miller book from Mexico that my daughter and I really enjoy. Half of an Elephant by Gusti is a fun book with illustrations made of found objects like washers and springs and rusty metal – even sliced bread!

The book begins with the world suddenly splitting in two and the front half of an elephant goes searching for his other half. Soon he realizes that many other animals are in the same predicament and the elephant attempts to join with the other animal halves he meets – unfortunately without much success. Finally he looks on the bright side and realizes there are benefits to his new situation, such as not having an itchy tail because he doesn’t have a tail.

Meanwhile, on the other half of the world, the elephant’s back half is busy joining with other animal halves in an attempt to become whole. One such mismatch involves half of a monkey, but the elephant’s rear is too heavy for the monkey to jump from tree to tree so that does not work out. Eventually the world joins back together and the two elephant halves are reunited, but not in a way you’d expect. This book celebrates differences, reinvention, and self-acceptance. We love the charming and creative illustrations and there is one page in particular that is made up of a jumble of animal halves – fun and a little challenging to try to match them!

See more reviews at Usborne Books & More. ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

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“Seasons” by Anne Crausaz

Hooray for Spring!! And Seasons by Anne Crausaz is a great way to experience the changing seasons.  Crausaz will have you and your children smelling, listening, tickling and tasting all through the spring, summer, autumn and fall. I love the simple, bold and colorful illustrations in this unique Kane Miller book from France.

Seasons

by Anne Crausaz
Recommended for ages 4 years and up (my 3 year old likes it!)

40 pp

Hardback $15.99

“With simple, poetic words and accessible, energetic images, this small, square, joyful picture book celebrates the five senses through the four seasons…The shelves of picture books about the seasons are crowded, but this one stands out for its direct invitation to children to notice and wonder about the changing natural world around them.” – Booklist Online (February 24, 2011)

“The simple, understated illustrations along with the descriptive prose give a rich, evocative earthy sense: smell the blossoms of spring and lay back in the tender young grass listening to the birds singing; in summer breathe in deeply and enjoy the aroma of fresh tomatoes on the vine and basil, pad barefoot in the rich garden soil…and so on through the seasons.” – Biblio Reads (February 24, 2011)

“ The graphically designed, flat-dimension illustrations are both attractive and subtly effective in pairing the senses with the seasons as the girl enjoys the special moments of nature year-round.” – Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2011)

“The illustrations are a style unlike I have seen before – they are simple and yet the striking contrasts in color are beautiful. What a wonderful and unique look at the seasons!” – In the Pages… (February 15, 2011)

“Seasons is my Frederick at the moment, giving me wonderful memories of each of the four seasons.” – NC Teacher Stuff (February 2, 2011)

“Exuding an overall serenity, the book should have children seeking out the sights, smells, and sounds of the passing seasons.” – Publishers Weekly (January 17, 2011)

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