Summer Reading Program

Read your world! 

This summer, take your child on a global adventure! Studies show that reading at least six books over the summer can help retain learning from the previous school year. Reading is critical for maintaining and expanding intellectual development of children of all ages.

I am offering a personalized Summer Reading Program so that I can keep my own preschooler engaged and am opening this up to local friends as well!


About the Summer Reading Program:

Who: Open to children ages 2-10 and their parents/ caregivers

Where: We will be meeting once a week in my home just outside of Holton (times/ dates TBD).

What: I will pre-select a book of the week that can be read ahead of time. When we meet we will read and discuss the book and do a craft or game that supports it. Snack will be shared on a rotating basis contributed by the joiners.


To join the Summer Reading Program:

Contact me. Once I know how many participants we have I will set some dates and times to meet. I will send out a sign-up once participants are confirmed. Join my closed Facebook group where we will discuss details, dates, times, and the books we will be sharing!

Sign up to be a part of my Summer Reading Program. This is FREE and gives you the opportunity to print your World Passport and browse the books from each continent that we will be reading.

Get your books! For the month of May, if you spend $60 (which at $10 each should get you at least 6 books for your summer reading!) you will receive the World Atlas for FREE (a $20 value). Use code GOGLOBAL when checking out to take advantage of this offer.

  • Purchasing the books is NOT mandatory to participate but is encouraged and appreciated! Monies raised from the summer reading books purchased will be put towards craft and game offerings for your children.
  • I will have copies available for loan or purchase during our meetings, as well.

The first 3 families to purchase books will be entered into a drawing to win a FREE Travel Journal! There are games, mazes, story prompts, packing lists and more to keep children occupied and amused on the road!

Travel Journal pic

Have questions or need a recommendation? As usual, just ask! (See comment/question form at the bottom of this post.)

THE BOOKS – Below is a listing of the books we will be working with. They are listed by continent. For each book (except the chapter books and the collections) there will be a separate event to join through my Facebook group. We will handle the chapter books a bit differently 🙂

I listed the age ranges for these books, but want to be clear that all ages are welcome to read any of the books! You can also have older siblings read to the younger ones. The art/craft activities will be suitable for all!

Africa — The Elephants’ Ears (Africa and India) 

Asia — The Girl with the Brave Heart (Iran)

Europe — Lola’s Fandango (Spain) 

North America — Off We Go to Mexico (Mexico)

Oceana — The Barefoot Book of Earth Tales (Australia)

South America — We’re Roaming Through the Rainforest (Amazon Basin)


DIY Nativity Advent Tree

Last Christmas, I was determined to find the perfect Advent calendar to use with Stella and, when I didn’t run across exactly what I had in mind, I gave up the hunt and used a vintage cardboard one that I purchased a few years ago, like this one:


I think  it’s adorable, and it will continue to be a part of my Christmas decor, but it just isn’t quite what I had in mind for an Advent calendar. I wanted something that would be more interesting to a young child; something that Stella would be excited to do every day. I also wanted something that told the story of Christmas.

My mom sent me a link to this Kathy’s Primitives Advent Tree on Zulily and I completely fell in love with the idea of decorating a small tree with a new ornament each day as we counted down the days to Christmas! However, this one was a little on the pricey side and didn’t tell the story of Christmas, so I set out to make my own.


I decided to hit up Hobby Lobby while all of their Christmas decorations were 50% off to stock up on my supplies. I found a small tree and tree skirt, a set of tiny nativity ornaments, bead garland, a star for the top of the tree, and some tiny presents.

24 items to countdown to Christmas! (The first day will be the tree, so there are 25 things total.)

24 items to countdown to Christmas! (The first day will be the tree, so there are 25 things total.)

Mini silver tree!

Mini silver tree!

I remembered a tutorial I saw a while back for a toilet paper tube advent calendar, and I thought it would be perfect for this. My ornaments were just the right size to fit in a toilet paper tube, plus it would be inexpensive since I already had the supplies! I happened to have almost enough empty toilet paper tubes stocked up to complete my project, but I needed a few more and didn’t want to wait.  It turns out that you can, in fact, remove the cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper while keeping the roll intact! I know you were dying to know that.

Tubeless toilet paper rolls! ;-)

Tubeless toilet paper rolls! 😉

I covered my cardboard tubes with scrapbook paper, folded the ends in to make little “pillow boxes,” attached a number with some string, and dropped the ornaments inside! Easy!

Toilet paper tube Advent calendar.

Toilet paper tube Advent calendar.

Close up of the pillow boxes.

Close up of the pillow boxes.

I haven’t decided how to store/display them yet, but I think I will do something with a picture frame like the tutorial I linked above. They would also be cute just sitting a basket.

I will probably make something more durable and permanent later, like the Kathy’s Primitives box that sparked this idea, but this project was fun, easy, inexpensive, and definitely good enough for now! I’m so excited to show this to Stella and start using it come December!

Empower Your Toddler With a Visual Schedule

Have you ever thought about the sheer lack of control toddlers have over their day?  They are typically told when and what to eat, what to wear, how to act, when they can be loud, when to be quiet, when to sleep, when to wake up…the list goes on and on and on.  We literally control every single aspect of their lives.  Is it really any wonder that toddlerhood often brings tantrums?  At this time in their life when our growing babies are yearning for ever-increasing independence, most parents are yearning for compliance.

If you have been around me at all, you’ve probably heard me utter the term “respectful caregiving.”  Respectful caregiving involves viewing babies and children differently than the mainstream and it warrants its own blog post (or many blog posts!) with details and examples.  That post is in the works!  In short, what respectful caregiving means to me is viewing children as whole people from birth.   While this includes many things, a few of them are: including them in age-appropriate decisions and day-to-day happenings, explaining everything that is going to happen to them, treating them the way you would want to be treated, and accepting and empathizing with their feelings.

One way to put respectful caregiving into action is to provide your toddler with a visual schedule of their day.  Knowing what is happening “next” helps young children make smoother transitions through the day and gives them a sense of control over their lives.  Stella thrives when she knows our plan for the day.  This is especially true if we are going to be doing something out of our normal routine, but even on the days we are staying home, she does best when we talk about what we’re going to do.  For all of these reasons, I decided to create a visual daily schedule for her.

I totally obsessed over how I wanted to do this for waaay too long instead of just getting it done so we could start using it!  I’m pretty detail-oriented (obsessed?) about certain things and that can be a blessing at times and a major pain at others!

Anyway, I used Pages to create an 11×17 document for the layout of the day.  I had it printed in Holton at Marketing Concepts — it is great quality and the price was very, very reasonable!


I used Google Image Search to find clipart, created the activity/routine cards in Pages, and  printed all of the the cards on photo paper.  I laminated everything, cut out the activity cards, and applied Velcro dots.  I laminated an extra 11×17 sheet of paper to store and display the activity cards that aren’t in use. I will probably have to use the back of it, too, because there are at least twice this many cards!


Here’s the finished product:


I forgot to print a “Breakfast” card!  Grrr!  Of all the cards I made, I forgot the one that starts our day!  Part of me wanted to use an entire sheet of photo paper and a laminator sheet for ONE card (there’s that obsessiveness!).  Don’t worry, I talked myself out of being so wasteful and decided to just wait until I have something else to print and laminate 🙂 Until then, it WILL drive me nuts!

I anticipate Stella loving this!

Painting with Textures

Today, we had fun painting with different items I found around the house — a rubber basting brush, empty toilet paper roll, loofah, and a regular paintbrush.  Stella loved this!  I offer paint pretty often, but she usually doesn’t show much interest.  If she does, it’s only for a minute or so.  She stayed engaged in this for much longer.

She was really interested in learning colors a month or so ago, picked it up pretty quickly, and has been spontaneously naming every color she sees since then.  I gave her blue and yellow paint for this activity and she began noticing excitedly that it was turning green when she mixed them.  It’s really amazing what kids can learn all on their own when you let them lead.



Her “Little Helper Stand” is coming in so handy!  She loves standing on it whenever we are in the kitchen.  Whether she’s playing, helping, or eating, it gets a lot of use!


A less messy painting option is watercolors.  I wouldn’t have thought to use watercolors with a young toddler, but my mom has been letting Stella play with them at her house and she seems to really enjoy it.  I’m going to get some for her to use at home.  My mom adds a couple of drops of water to the colors so Stella just has to dip the paintbrush in.  Oh…and if you’re picky about the watercolors getting mixed with different colors in the container…well…you might have to get over that first 🙂

Car Activities for a Young Toddler

We recently had to travel to Texas and back home again, for at total of 1,044 miles, with our 15-month old.  A couple of factors added to the already stressful experience of traveling with a young toddler — we planned to make the round trip in a total of three days, and the reason for the trip was for Stella to have her upper lip and posterior tongue ties revised via laser by a specialist.  I happen to have a pretty mellow little girl, but traveling with a little one can be exhausting, regardless, let alone one who has just endured oral surgery and is scared and in pain.

In the week leading up to our trip, I took some steps to make travel a little easier on all three of us.  In my Google and Pinterest searching, I had no problem finding car activities for older toddlers and preschoolers, but little luck finding anything I thought was suitable for a 15-month old.   So, I came up with my own based on things Stella was interested in and things I thought she might be interested in.  Hopefully this list will give you some ideas to ease your travels with your own little one.  In addition to these activities, my husband or I sat in the backseat with her for the entire trip, except when she was napping.

The whole lot:

The whole lot!

These are just pony beads in a glass spice jar.  They sound cool when you shake them and Stella loved putting them back into the jar one by one and hearing them “clink.”  Good for fine motor skills, too.

These are just pony beads in a glass spice jar.  They sound cool when you shake them and Stella loved putting them each back into the jar one by one and hearing them "clink."  Good for fine motor skills, too.

Don’t underestimate the ol’ standby of popsicle sticks and an oatmeal can 🙂  Stella played with this over and over and over again (and still does, more than two months later!).

craft sticks and can


This is an old hummus container. I cut a hole in the lid and stored some poms inside.  She loved pushing the poms through the hole.  Different sizes of poms made it more interesting.






Are you beginning to notice a theme?  Toddlers love dumping and filling, and Stella is no exception 🙂  This is an old wipes container with fabric strips and ping pong balls to put in and take out.  She definitely loved the fabric strips way more than the ping pong balls.




Wipe container


I found these wooden animal shapes at Wal-mart for less than $1 a piece.  I added magnets to the back and took a metal pan for her to stick them to.  This pan ended up not working out very well because of the size — an actual cookie sheet would probably work better.


Animal magnets


Stella was really into this zip/velcro pouch that I usually carry in my purse and she also loved to play with rocks.  So, I give you…rocks a in bag. The things that entertain toddlers, right?!


Bag of rocks


Baby dolls, of course.  We don’t go anywhere without baby dolls.


Baby dolls

One of her favorite things to do is look at pictures of people she knows, so I took a small photo book full of pictures.

photo album

These are “busy bags” that I made duplicates of when I made some for a friend’s toddler.  The velcro sticks were a hit, but the other two (flannel board and magnetic fish) didn’t interest her much.

Busy bags


I was able to fit all of the goodies into this box that fit nicely on the floor of the backseat.



She spent at least some time on all of the activities I took, but the poms and the photo album were the most popular.  We also took a lot of books to read and that was probably her favorite activity.  The trip there was much smoother than trip back, but she was a trooper, for sure!