Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Our Favorite Children's Books (Ages Birth to Three)

(For books for older kids, check out my favorite children's books for ages 4-8.)

As I already have my book list  for grown-ups, I wanted to start a list of our favorite children's books (so far). Kids grow through book stages so quickly that it's hard to even remember what they like at different ages if we don't keep track. The age listed is the youngest age at which my kids have liked these books. Of course, they continue to enjoy many of them well past these suggested ages.

I will continue adding books as I remember them, or as readers suggest them in the comments, so please let us know what your favorites are!

For babies (birth to 12 months):

Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden. We have already gone through two copies of this and need a new one. Even the youngest babies love it, and my almost-3-year-old loves to "read" it to his baby sister.
Who Loves You, Baby? by Nina Laden
Ready, Set, Go! by Nina Laden
Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt

All the Indestructible books are wonderful for babies who still just want to crinkle and chew. I disagreed with the decision to portray broccoli as "yucky" in Baby Faces, but otherwise, they are great.

For 1- to 2-Year-Olds:

Tip Tip Dig Dig by Emma Garcia
Tap Tap Bang Bang  by Emma Garcia
Trucks by Byron Barton
Really, anything by Byron Barton. I confess that his writing style (simple, direct sentences) annoyed me a bit at first, but toddlers love it, and it has grown on me.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Barnyard Banter by Denise Fleming (the link is to the board book, but we've found the full-size picture book at our local library)
Read-Aloud Rhymes for the Very Young edited by Jack Prelutsky
Word books from DK Publishing like My First Words.

For 2- to 3-Year-Olds:

Freight Train by Donald Crews (again, the link is to the board book, but we have read the picture book).
Other books by Donald Crews, such as School Bus, Carousel, and Bicycle Race, were favorites with the child but not always with the adults who have to read them repeatedly.
All the Mouse's First and Little Quack books by Lauren Thompson.
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by James Dean. The other Pete the Cat books are wonderful too, but this remains the favorite.
Whose Mouse are You?  by Robert Kraus
Bear on a Bike and the other Bear books by Stella Blackstone. 
Wheels on the Bus (Raffi Songs to Read). There are obviously other versions of "Wheels on the Bus" to read and sing, but I love the French town portrayed in this book.
Extra Yarn  by Mac Barnett. Yes, the knitting is nice, but the story is warm, lovely, and intriguing to both kids and adults, and the illustrations by Jon Klassen are rich and beautiful.
This Place in the Snow by Rebecca Bond. Poetic without the silly rhyming typical of children's books, this book captures the enchantment and majesty of winter.
Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood
The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper. We love this edition with luscious illustrations by Loren Long.
Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A Walk for All Weathers

This month has thrown every kind of weather at us, from snow to driving rain, from some beautiful sunshine and temperatures in the high 40s and 50s (downright balmy for Spokane in November and December) to beautiful sunshine and temperatures in the teens. And we have been walking, and biking, and playing through all of it. As much as possible, I have been trying to spend time outside, at least a little bit, every day, and to maintain our previously scheduled activities no matter the weather. By doing this, I'm hoping to acclimate us gradually to the winter weather, and, I think more importantly, to toughen myself mentally for the winter weather.

Because really, the hardest part of living without a car in the winter is the inertia that sets in and stops us from walking out the door. We look; we think, "Ugh, it's cold/raining/snowing/windy," and we prefer the idea of staying warm and dry inside rather than bundling up our kids and ourselves for the outdoors. But getting ready really is the hardest part. Once everyone is bundled and we get outside, it is almost inevitably warmer and drier than I had anticipated. What's more, the outdoors and the exercise is almost invariably uplifting and soul-warming. By spending time outside, we end up fearing the winter less, and enjoying it more, than we see our neighbors with cars doing.

On the morning of our first real snow a few weeks ago, we had a monthly moms' group to attend about 1.5 miles away. We easily could have skipped it: it's not a necessity, and many of the other moms opted to stay home rather than brave the roads. But honestly, I thought, "If I start skipping things in November, what am I going to do in December? January? February? Will I be housebound for four months, just because of the weather?" And so I braved it, and I was so glad I did! It was a truly beautiful morning, with a gently falling snow, just perfect, and the exercise gave me such a boost that I felt amazing by the time I got there - energized and giddy. I realized I need some better snow boots, but other than that, I was warm and dry, and the kids were snug in their Burley. I felt somewhat guilty bragging to anyone who would listen about the beautiful walk, particularly when many had horror stories about their drives.

We've walked to library story time (our Thursday institution) in driving rain one week and below-freezing temperatures the next. It was only in the mid-30s when I rode my bike to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey last week, and another customer commented, "Ooh, it's cold to be on a bike!" Warm as I was from my ride, I was baffled. It might have been cold for a bike ride had I insisted on wearing a bikini and not actually pedaling the bike, but properly dressed (including a balaclava, my new favorite cold weather accessory) and exerting myself, I was beyond comfortable.

The battle with winter weather is largely mental. I confess that it is still a challenge for me to get out the door some days. I envy the ducks in our local park, who seem completely unfazed by the fact that their pond has almost completely frozen over. They have down and oils to keep them warm and dry... but I remind myself that we have large brains to help us figure out what clothes to wear to keep ourselves warm (often the same down and wool that animals have!). We should get out there and have fun - it's so liberating not to be controlled by the weather.