Pre-Kindergarten Reading List


Kindergarten is a big step! It can be a little frightening and overwhelming for young kids. There are several great books that can help ease the transition. With school starting soon for most Minnesota families, I’ve put together a pre-kindergarten reading list:

Froggy Goes to School
Froggy Goes to School does a nice job of laying out a new school routine kids can relate to: riding the school bus, sitting at a desk, circle time and, of course, recess. Froggy has a little trouble adjusting to his new school, but it’s all in good fun. The Froggy series is fun to read; kids love the fun sound effects and finding out what situation Froggy gets himself into that turns him more red in the face than green.

The Night Before Kindergarten
The Night Before series is written in the same format as The Night Before Christmas, with a similar cadence and rhymes. Kids really get into the poem and they’re quick to memorize it. The book addresses some of the biggest changes when going to kindergarten: saying goodbye to Mom and Dad and no naps!

My New Teacher and Me
You get just what you’d expect in a book authored by Al Yankovic – yes, Weird Al. In this book, Billy, the child with a wild imagination, meets his new teacher, the strict, rule-following Mr. Booth. This book stretches kids’ imaginations with wild tales and exciting adventures. Spoiler alert: Billy and Mr. Booth reach an understanding for a happy ending.

The Pout Pout Fish Goes to School
Fact One: We are smart!
Fact Two: We can get it!
Fact Three: We Belong!
Fact Four: We Won’t forget it!
The Pout Pout Fish Goes to School is very encouraging for kids heading off to school. This is the tale of Mr. Fish, who got lost and ended up in the wrong classroom. But once he finds the right room, he fits right in and enjoys learning. This is an easy read, so it may not be long before kindergartners are reading it by themselves!

The Kissing Hand
Warning: Even the toughest parents have shed a tear or two while reading The Kissing Hand with their kiddos. In the story, Chester Raccoon is sad to leave his mother, so she tells him the secret of the kissing hand and that her love will stay with him all day long. This is a must-read for kids (and parents) who are struggling with their upcoming separation.


Tips to Survive the State Fair with Kids

Fairs and festivals with little kids can be tons of fun, but parents know the next meltdown may be moments away. I talked with KARE 11 News about ways to make a day at the fair fun for the whole family.

Click here to watch the interview.

8.29.16 MVC at the Fair

Fairs, Festivals & Fun – Oh my!

Summer is winding down, and that means families will try to squeeze in as much fun as we can before the school year starts again. Heading out to a fair or festival should be a fun way to get in some family time. But parents who’ve experienced more tantrums than tilt-a-whirls know it’s important to be prepared.

I present to you the Minivan Commuter’s list of Festival Dos and Don’ts:

DO Map It Out
So, you’re standing in line for the ferris wheel, and suddenly one of the kids is doing the potty dance. This is not the time to be looking around for a map. They’re not only handy during bathroom emergencies, taking a look at a map can save you and your kids precious steps throughout the day. You’ll spend less time wandering and have more time for food, rides and shows!

DON’T Get Burned
Sunscreen is a must for any outdoor summer event. What you may not know is that you should apply it a half-hour before you’re exposed to the sun to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin. You should reapply every two hours or more often if you get wet or sweat a lot.

DO Seek Out Free Fun
So many fairs and festivals have free areas to play and explore. If the fair has a website, check it out before your trip. You can also ask the ticket taker when you arrive. If all else fails, look for other moms and dads and ask them if they know where there’s some free fun.

DO Eat At Home
I know I don’t have to remind you to feed your kids, but you may be tempted to go to a fair or festival hungry. You can save some cash (and some calories) by eating before you leave. If and when you do get a snack, get something the whole family can share. That way, you can sample several things rather than committing to one food.

DON’T Forget To Hydrate
Water, water, water! Most places will let you bring in water bottles for the whole family. Don’t forget to use them! A lot of kids won’t take the initiative on their own, so make sure you remind them throughout the day.

DO Establish Ground Rules
If the rides take tickets, buy a set number of tickets and let the kids know you will not be buying any more. You should also set rules for what snacks you will buy and what time you want to leave. By setting expectations up front, you’ll cut down on the whining, begging and pleading that can come with a trip to the fair.

DON’T Give In
Just don’t do it!!

DO Have Fun!
Let’s face it – if it’s hot outside, if the kids have to walk instead of being carried, if the lines are long, there will be whining. Just do your best to relax and take it all in stride. You won’t remember the frustration; you’ll remember the joy of spending time together as a family.


Education on a Stick: Take The Fair Home With You!

The Great Minnesota Get Together will be over and done with before we know it! But parents can bring some fun of the fair and the learning lessons home with them. Click below to learn more about some of the ideas I shared with FOX9. Click here to watch the interview. 

Cow Milking Demo
Corn Flashcards
Apple Browning Experiment
Animals On A Stick


Olympic Excitement!

The summer Olympics only happen once every four years. Don’t just watch the Games with your kids, take the opportunity to get them interested and excited! There are so many ways to teach kids about the history, patriotism, work ethic and sportsmanship of the Olympics. You could organize your own backyard Olympics games or host a viewing party. You can also engage their brains and their little fingers with some Olympic-themed crafts!

Here are a few ideas:

IMG_4228Olympic Rings

There are several ways for kids to make their own version of the Olympic rings! You could use pipe cleaners or Fruit Loops; you could even cut a pool noodle and dip the sections into paint. We went a little simpler by tracing the top of a paper cup in pencil and painting over it. Talk about the history with your kids. The Olympic rings were created in 1912. The six colors (blue, yellow, black, green, red and white) represent the colors of the flags of every country that participated in the games that year. It’s an international symbol of sportsmanship.


IMG_4227Olive Wreath

The olive wreath is fun to make. We used a paper plate as our base and cut the leaves from green construction paper. This one is easy to put together and the kiddos can actually wear it! In the ancient Olympic Games in Greece, there were no gold, silver or bronze medals. There was only one winner per event and he was crowned with an olive wreath made from leaves from a sacred tree.


IMG_4230Olympic Torch

We made an Olympic torch by painting a paper towel tube and adding a cupcake wrapper and colored tissue paper. You could even include a battery-operated flameless tealight to give the illusion of a flame. Once the torch is lit, it never goes out until it is extinguished at the end of the Olympics. The person who looks after the torch is called the Keeper of the Flame.


IMG_4229Medal Tracker

Nothing gets kids into the spirit of the Olympics like keeping a medal count! You can download and print the medal tracker we created by clicking here. Having the kids mark off the gold, silver and bronze medals for Team U.S.A. will give you an opportunity to discuss each sport, from soccer and swimming to beach volleyball and badminton. It also gives them a sense of pride in their country!