As a big fan of Suzanne Collins’s book series, I love how Sesame Street transformed Cookie Monster into Cookieness Evereat, whose goal is to survive the jungle by eating his way through the “Hungry Games.” His companions include parodies of Peeta (now an animated piece of pita), Finnick (wielding a fork instead of a trident), and Wiress (who keeps staying tick tock while holding an alarm clock). For more on the names of popular characters, check out Lisa Milbrand’s “In Name Only” blog post on why names from the Hunger Games haven’t taken off.
Even though your kids might be too young to understand the inspiration behind the latest video, they can still help Cookieness as he faces challenges related to food. Kids will learn basic pattern and shape recognition by guessing which food type comes next in an apple-banana sequence and which food shape comes next after a circle-square sequence. Parents can just laugh along at the funny antics and jokes.
Plus: Sesame Street characters Elmo and Murray recently visited our offices! Below, watch a video where they give tips on tackling picky eating. And watch Elmo and Murray give more advice on bedtime routines and getting along with siblings!
When my daughter started kindergarden, she hated reading. There I said it.
Her teacher always sent her home with books from which she was to read for at least 20 minutes every night. But whenever she sat down with a book, I’d watch her body slump and her mind wander to far away thoughts of magical moving pictures from the glorious TV in her room.
She was no stranger to reading before she started school. She had an entire library in her room that I filled with all of the classics. I’d been reading to her since she was in the womb, and she’s always loved reading hour, which we have every Saturday and Sunday after lunch. But this was different. Being in kindergarden meant that she had to decipher the strange letters on the page on her own, and that was no fun.
She once started to say “I hate rea-” to which I gasped and forbid her from ever having such thoughts. As an English major and a lover of books, this was like a punch in the stomach for me. I felt a sense of loss for all of the amazing stories she might miss out on; all of the lives she wouldn’t live if this feeling continued. Dramatic, I know, but it’s really how I felt.
So of course I did what every wise, all-knowing mother does when she encounters an obstacle: I called my mom.
“Being a mom means being a teacher,” my mom said. “Put your teaching pants on.”
Apparently moms have all kinds of pants in an invisible mom-wardrobe that we just have to whip out and pull on when called for. So I did. I pulled on my teaching pants, and they weren’t comfortable, but they fit.
After watching her read each day, I took to the chalkboard in her room and made lists of word families that I noticed gave her trouble.
Practicing “ou” brought mountains and clouds to life on the page for her. I bought books that were fun, like We Are In a Book, by Mo Willems. She cracked up reading that one and asked for more of his books. One Saturday I encouraged her to write a letter to her favorite author, and a week later she received her first piece of mail – a response from Mo Willems himself. He thanked her and promised to keep writing “Funny jokes to make her laugh.”
It took some time, but soon enough, she was reading books at home that were well beyond the reading level that her teacher was assigning.
Now as a 1st grader, new books have become rewards for completing her chores and finishing other books.
I’d be lying if I said that my daughter loves every book that she picks up. She’ll still swap a book for the TV if the story isn’t funny enough, but she’s come a long way from the days of (almost) hating to read. And I get to put the teaching pants back on the hanger during reading hour.
Parents caught up with renowned authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus just before their latest book, The First Affair, hit store shelves. Known best for their breakout novel The Nanny Diaries and its sequel Nanny Returns, Emma and Nicola have since moved from nannyhood to motherhood. Here the writing team chats all things Nanny Diaries, being moms to their 3-year-olds—a daughter for Nicola, a son for Emma—and their latest must-read for moms.
How were The Nanny Diaries born?
EM: We heard mothers who neither stayed at home nor worked complaining about their help. It was a very one-sided story because the help was never really interviewed and didn’t have a voice. We really wanted to talk about everything we had witnessed and experienced and that whole side of the conversation. We set out to write Nanny Diaries.
NK: We never imagined that it was going to create a very large career change for us or that we’d be sitting here talking to you about our seventh book 13 years later.
How did working as nannies affect your parenting style and your relationship with the people who take care of your children?
NK: As a nanny I ran a very tight ship. If you sort of establish what the rules are day one then you never have to do it again because they know their boundaries and kids find that very comforting. As a parent, it’s a disaster. Sophie runs roughshod over me all the time. We always sensed that being a parent and being a nanny are not the same things at all, but G-d they are not the same things at all. The other great thing that I feel like I got from being a nanny, why I would recommend it to anyone for at least a year as a twenty-something job, is that I really viscerally understand how fast this is going to go in a way that I don’t think you can unless you’ve raised kids. I don’t sweat a lot of things. I just know that it’s going to be fine. A lot of people say raise your first like your fourth. And she was my fourth. She was my 31st in many ways.
Does your experience as a nanny have an affect on the way you treat your babysitter when she comes over?
EM: It’s always at the very front of my mind. I am constantly aware of her perspective in this and that she never becomes part of the woodwork to me. I think something that really shocked me as a nanny were parents who sort of assumed the worst from the get-go. People who didn’t accept the benefit of the doubt. I see through her eyes. Also, I’m so touched and humbled by the effort that she makes, the level of good thinking that she does for my child.
NK: I’m so appreciative. When I come to pickup at the end of the day I just want to hand them a flask of whiskey. I’m like “Oh my G-d, you’ve been with twelve 3.5 year-olds all day. Are you ok?”
EM: I would walk in with a beer if I could.
Do you think your books—from Nanny Diaries all the way through The First Affair—appeal to moms?
NK: I hope so.
EM: I think just because you’re a mom it doesn’t negate, if anything you’re probably more enhanced, that you’re a woman trying to find your place in the world.
NK: We try to write the kinds of stories that we like to find the time to read now. They have to be a page-turner because you are just too tired for anything where you don’t have a question that’s keeping you going. We like to write stories about some aspect about being a woman that hopefully resonates with everybody. I think our moms are our most loyal group. I also think moms don’t really want to read about being moms when they get some down time.
EM: I don’t. I don’t want to read anything.
NK: When you go to a fiction place, that’s not my escapism.
EM: Maybe that changes when you have like an 18-year-old.
I’ll check back then. What initially drove you to write The First Affair?
NK: I think certainly when the most memorable occurrence happened in recent history it was something that really struck us because we are the exact same age and because we made so many mistakes in our early 20s. We were so lucky to come of age before the internet when those mistakes didn’t follow us into our first job interviews. They didn’t follow us even into our next relationships.
EM: To us, this story was a fascinating place to spend some time. The tremendous thrill of being in a secret like that and the paralyzing burden of being in a secret like that, especially when your sense of yourself is just beginning to be form…. Then for a mom, your sexuality, your relationship, it does tend to get pushed to the side. You’re just trying to get through the next five minutes. And to take yourself back to a time when this paradox is a 360 [from life now], it was everything you were in. We have the reader ask for herself, would I have chosen that? Would I have followed him? Would I have kissed him? Would I have called him back? For us, certainly, as mothers writing it, it was a great place to spend five hours a day. For a mother reading it, it’s just a totally different problem sequence than what you’re in for your day-to-day life.
With all of these public scandals that have exploded in the media recently, how do you feel about raising children, specifically a daughter, in a place where not only this is happening, but it’s happening for the world to see? How do you navigate that?
NK: I get overwhelmed by a lot of things. There are things that I get overwhelmed by before I even get to that place. Sexting I get overwhelmed by. The internet. The fact that the average age of first porn exposure is now 8. Even if you have netnanny on your computer, they’ll go to someone’s house who doesn’t. I think we’re a generation who is going to have to relinquish a lot of control and try to give our children the best context that we can for the information they’re going to get bombarded with and hope for the best.
There is a great line in Tina Fey’s BossyPants in the prayer for her daughter when she says may her daughter avoid the eyes of the creepy soccer coach because it’s not the beauty that draws him but the damage—which is incredibly astute. So my first and foremost goal is to create a child who doesn’t have a gaping hole in her soul. So I’m hoping that Sophie is not wounded. That chocolate cake will just be chocolate cake. That her married boss will just be her married boss. That none of these things are going to hold the power and the magnetism because she won’t be trying to work through some childhood trauma. That’s my job.
On the flip side, coming up as a man in this world, how do you go about raising maybe a respectful child or a child who is aware?
EM: I was thinking Tina Fey is exactly the quote. I think we have to aim to just keep—and not moreso with a young man than a young woman—but to just [let them] know how loved they are and to have love be a clean, balanced part of their lives.
NK: Sophie just discovered this book that I’m obsessed with. It’s called Visitor for Bear. It’s about a bear who has a sign on his door saying no visitors allowed and this little mouse just wants to hang out. It is the cutest story and now I need to get her the rest of the series. It’s really funny. Sophie walks around the house going “No visitors allowed!” “Vamoose!” “This is insufferable” “Intolerable!”
EM: My son is going through, as they all do, a huge vehicle phase. Mostly it’s about looking at vehicles and choosing our favorites and me being told what my favorite is when it’s not. The Richard Scarry books, like Things That Go, anything with tons of pictures. We recently got into a series called Fly Guy by Tedd Arnold. If I could give a shoutout to anything in the childhood world I have to say Daniel Tiger. I want to write a love letter to everyone on that staff. It is so perfectly thoughtfully lovingly done. And as a parent it is the one thing out of everything that we dip in to that really helps.
Watch this video to hear more from Emma and Nicola about their journey from Nanny til now.
Lego Duplo’s “Read! Build! Play!” initiative strives to develop early literacy and strengthen learning through their Read and Build series of simple story books paired with easy construction activities.
Last year, Lego Duplo and the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) partnered to create resources that combined reading and play. “Through play, young children learn about their world. With this knowledge, they can understand books and stories once they begin to read,” says Starr Latronica, Vice President/President-Elect of the Association for Library Service to Children.
This summer, Lego and ALSC have created the first Summer Reading Lists/Activity Guides for toddlers and preschoolers. Two free guides (one for Ages 1-3, one for Ages 3-5) pairs 10 already-published books with Lego projects designed specifically for each one. The books, easily available at local libraries, were chosen by ALSC’s Early Childhood Programs and Services committee. A Parent Activity Guide is also available for free, to explain the importance of play and to offer advice on how to interact with kids.
Parents can preview a list of the chosen books below and click on the jump to see a photo of the suggested activity for Meeow and the Pots and Pans by Sebastian Braun. Visit ReadBuildPlay.com to download the entire activity guides (which includes the full lists of Lego projects with instructions, plus coloring pages).
We loved meeting Momastery blogger and brand-new author Glennon Doyle Melton when she dropped by Parents’s offices recently to talk about her new book, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed, which went on sale today, and to tell us more about her online fundraising mission Monkee See — Monkee Do.
Just as appealing in person as she is online, Glennon’s like your favorite girlfriend: game to talk about anything, unafraid to take chances, and refreshingly honest about her past and present struggles. Plus while Glennon’s a blog-world rock star, she’s still a busy, multitasking mom like the rest of us. (Via her cellphone from New York, she was helping husband Craig find the girls’ leotards back home for gymnastics.) Among the many reasons we were instantly smitten:
1. She’s refreshingly unselfconscious: ”There are tons of things I do that I’m horrible at, like dancing. I mean, painfully bad. Singing? Horrific! But they make me happy. These are things we’re just made to do, and telling our stories, even if we don’t think of ourselves as writers, is one of them.”
2. She’s a great listener: ”I spend half my day reading stories from women—I get tons every day. People just have amazingly complicated and beautiful lives. And that’s one of my favorite parts of my job: reading other people’s stories. That’s my safe place, my adventure place, and where I get to know other people.”
3. She’s wise about toxic people: “I was reading some of my criticism recently, which I’m not allowed to do—my sister even sneaked into my computer to block some of the websites that criticize me!—but I do anyway. And there was this website and they said, ‘She was a total drunk, and she’s overly dramatic, and she only got married because she was pregnant.’ And I called my sister to complain and she said, ‘But that’s all true.’ And I said… ‘You’re right! I should not be upset about this!’ My sister says everyone comes to a party to have a good time or to fight. There are going to be people who come to your party to fight.”
4. She says things others won’t: “When I began Momastery, I was feeling very isolated at the time, and I wanted to see if others were feeling the same things I was feeling. We think it’s safer to stay on the surface of things, to talk about our jobs or our husbands or our kids’ temperaments—we think those things are safe, but I think those things actually isolate us more, because those surface things are different for everyone, and can make you feel alone. But the deeper things we talk about, like our fears and joys: Those things are universal. When we do go to those places, we end up feeling less alone.”
5. She’s classy: (Glennon and Craig recently separated.) ”Talking about separation doesn’t have to be trashy. It doesn’t have to be one person pitted against another.”
6. She totally inspires us: “Just a few weeks ago we did a ‘love flash mob.’ Do you remember a few years ago when everyone was doing flash mobs? I love those. I know it’s over, I know it’s like three-years-ago, but I still watch those, because it’s so…metaphor! One person starts dancing, then everyone starts dancing! That’s what I decided to do on the Internet and is the idea behind Monkee See — Monkee Do: I’m just going to start dancing, and then everyone else will start dancing. What I do is find a need in the community—usually it’s someone who’s reached out to me, and it takes us a long time to vet it and plan it—so recently when my book went to #4 in pre-orders on Amazon, I wanted to do something to express my gratitude. A woman in Indianapolis who ran a nonprofit for teen mothers had written me and essentially said: “We don’t have any money, and there’s no reason you’d help us, but these teenage moms having babies need help.” So we forged a relationship and they had some extra space in their home for another girl to come in, and had a teenage girl with a 4-month-old baby on the waiting list, but they didn’t have the state funding to have her. They needed $83,000. I asked if we raised it would she be able to move in, and the answer was yes. So we started a ‘love flash mob’ online: The rule is no one’s allowed to donate more than $25, because I want the single mom who is working her butt off and has just four extra dollars to feel as good about contributing as someone who can easily donate 25 dollars. In this case, five hours later we had $83,000—the average donation was 17 dollars, and there were tons of women giving five or six dollars.”
March may be National Reading Month, but it’s important to focus on reading every month of the year. In addition to setting aside time to read regularly during the day (or night) or visiting your local library and bookstore, consider subscribing to the Book of the Month service offered by GiftLit.com.
Founded by two moms, GiftLit allows parents to choose age-appropriate books (all curated by librarians, editors, and other book experts) to be mailed on a monthly basis. Each book arrives with a personalized card and bookplates, and GiftLit also donates 10% of their profits to schools, libraries, and literary organizations.
Happy New Year! We’ll help you get off to a happy start by giving away 11 new baby books for your child’s library. I feel like I can never have enough books for my two kids; they want a story (or two, or three) a night and it gets tough being the narrator if you have to keep going over the same tales.
We like to compare favorite books here in the office. Our executive editor tipped me off to Little Fur Family, which is by the classic children’s author Margaret Wise Brown. She wrote Goodnight Moon and one of my other favorites, Big Red Barn. Her books are sweet and poetic and make you want to drift off alongside your baby! But the book that became my goodnight song to my kids is If You Were My Bunny. My 10- and 7-year-old still go to sleep only after I recite the whole thing in song!
The eleven books we’re giving away are all new, recent titles, and include both board books and paper pages. Maybe one will become a favorite! In total they’re worth about $110. To be entered to win, leave a comment below between now and the end of the day on Wednesday, January 9. For the full rules, read here. Goody luck!
Looking to buy your kids some new books for Christmas? You may want to check out the publishing company’s environmental policies before you purchase.
Last week, the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) accused HarperCollins publishing company of using fiber from Indonesia’s endangered rainforests for some of their children’s books, including one of their bestsellers, Fancy Nancy’s Splendiferous Christmas. RAN is calling on HarperCollins to boycott the Indonesian paper firms that supply them with these materials. But HarperCollins is firing back, saying that they stopped using the fiber last February. RAN however, doesn’t believe the publisher: “This is the second time that HarperCollins has claimed it has stopped using controversial Indonesian fiber,” says Robin Averbeck, a Forest Campaigner with RAN. “While RAN is encouraged by HarperCollins’ latest public statement, we see it as a statement of intention without the teeth of verification and transparency that a truly robust policy requires to credibly ensure controversial fiber is no longer entering its supply chains.” While RAN’s campaign just focused on the top ten U.S. children’s book publishers, it is also possible that other smaller publishers printing overseas may be using the fiber as well.
So what should you do if your daughter loves Fancy Nancy? RAN recommends contacting HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray to tell him you don’t want books linked to rainforest destruction. In addition, kids and parents can write to their favorite authors and urge them to advocate directly with HarperCollins. “I am sure that no author wants paper from rainforest destruction in their book, and authors, encouraged by their readers, can help by becoming internal advocates with HarperCollins,” Averbeck says. And if you aren’t sure what materials went into making a book by a smaller publishing company, you can ask publishers if they have an environmentally-friendly paper policy in place (and if they don’t, encourage them to adopt one!).