Delicious Diversions for Donut Day

National Donut Day takes place each year on the first Friday in June. Unlike many of the quirky food “holidays,” this one has a long history going back to World War I.  The Salvation Army donut girls distributed the tasty treats to soldiers during the war to lift their spirits. You can learn more about the tradition from facts shared by the Savannah, GA Salvation Army.
Lots of national and local donut shops mark the day by giving discounted or free donuts to customers, but even if you missed the official event, you do-nut need to miss out on the fun!
You can start by joining me in telling corny donut jokes with these free printable donut jokes from Nestling Design.

Next you can read a donut story!

The Donut Chef by Bob Staake is a fun and beautifully illustrated story of a donut shop that gets caught up in a frenzy of competition with another trendy bakery before returning to its roots making simple and delicious pastries.
For more great donut stories, check out
The Hole Story of the Doughnut by Pat Miller
If You Give a Dog a Donut by Laura Numeroff
Arnie, the Doughnut by Laurie Keller

After reading, let kids practice writing skills with some donut postcards from Mad in Crafts.

Next try some donut shop pretend play. Kids will have minutes of fun (let’s be real) taking orders, decorating pastries, filling plates, and serving snacks. We got the Melissa and Doug doughnut set shown above at a resale shop, and you might be able to find a used set too. Since it’s not being made anymore, you could also get this similar Bee Smart — Wooden Cakes and Wooden Biscuits Set to set up your donut shop.

Kids can also decorate their own donuts using this adorable Donut coloring page From 100 Directions.

If you feel like taking a field trip, be sure to visit a donut shop where kids can see the doughnuts being made.
Krispy Kreme stores have giant windows into the kitchen so guests can watch the conveyor belt of donuts move through a fountain of glaze before circling around to be boxed up for customers.

Perhaps most importantly, you can make your own homemade donuts.
This is a perfect opportunity to practice measuring and kitchen safety. Make sure to get a donut pan. We chose the inexpensive and well-reviewed HEHALI 2pcs Silicone Donut Baking Pan set. Then select a recipe. Since you’re making your own, you get to control what goes in, so why not make your treats delicious AND healthy with one of these recipes:
Whole Wheat Chocolate Baked Donuts (We made these & substituted coconut sugar for cane sugar. We used chocolate-hazelnut spread and peanut butter for frostings, and they were super tasty!)
Apple Spice Baked Vegan Donuts
Classic Vegan Chocolate Glazed Donuts

After eating donuts from the shop or from home, get active by hula hooping with giant “donuts” or make your own donut ring toss with supplies right out of your recycling bin. The original post at My Fab Land is gone, but you can figure out how to create your own set just by looking at the pictures.


Books & Tools for Children Experiencing Grief and Loss

When children experience grief and loss, we, as adults, can feel helpless to ease their pain and provide reassurance.  Nearly every parent and teacher will go through this as the passing of grandparents is normal and unavoidable.  Even worse is the discomfort when a child loses a loved-one who is young or when the death is an unexpected and/or tragic loss.

Experts recommend speaking honestly to children in a developmentally appropriate way.  To understand more about how various age groups of children process deaths, I encourage you to read "Childhood Grief: The Influence of Age on Understanding" published by the mental health professionals behind the What's Your Grief website.

When words fail, stories can be helpful.  The following are picture books you can share with children to help them process their loss.

Pet Loss and Plants & Animals as Symbols of Loss in General:
The Goodbye Book, by Todd Parr
The Dead Bird, by Margaret Wise Brown
Big Cat, Little Cat, by Elisha Cooper
Bug in a Vacuum, by Melanie Watt
Always Remember, by Cece Meng
When Dinosaurs Die: a Guide to Understanding Death, by Laurie Krasny Brown
The Dandelion's Tale, by Kevin Sheehan
Ida Always, by Caron Levis

Stories about the Deaths of Human Loved Ones:
The Memory String, by Eve Bunting
Where Do They Go, by Julia Alvarez
Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs, by Tomie dePaola
The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst

Activity Books for Processing Grief:
Scrapbooking: Keep Your Special Memories, by Deborah Hufford
The Invisible String Workbook: Creative Activities to Comfort, Calm, and Connect, by Patrice Karst & Dana Wyss

You can find more art activities to help kids process grief in "15 Art Therapy Activities, Exercises & Ideas for Children and Adults" from the Positive Psychology Program website.

Sesame Street also had some resources available for adults helping children through a loss including "Helping Kids Grieve" and the Sesame Street Grief Toolkit.


What’s for Lunch: Finish the Year Strong with Healthy Lunch Ideas

The last few weeks of school can feel like such a chore, but it’s no time to slack off on packing healthy lunches for yourself and your littles. Boring lunchboxes make boring attitudes, and all the sugar and chemicals in processed packaged food will lead to crankiness. So, here are a few simple ideas to keep lunch-packing under control.

Sandwich Swaps
Switch up the sandwich routine with some easy substitutions. Try nut butters other than peanut, such as almond butter, sunbutter, or chocolate hazelnut spread. Instead of jelly, try apple butter or thinly sliced fruit like bananas or strawberries.

Make peanut butter banana bites by spreading a wheat tortilla with peanut butter and rolling a whole banana inside. You can serve it whole or slice little sushi-sized rounds for finger food fun.

Quesadillas are a yummy sandwich alternative, and it’s easy to sneak tiny shreds of spinach or other greens, diced mushrooms or tomatoes, corn or really any veggie inside. A side of salsa or guacamole for dipping adds another vegetable to the meal.
Hot dogs or veggie dogs can become several different tasty lunches. Wrap half links in biscuit dough for pigs in a blanket or yummy mummy dogs. 
 Try making quick homemade beanie-wienies by slicing a few hot dogs into a can of pinto beans with BBQ sauce. Or make a tray of corn dog bites by dropping slices of hot dog into a pan of cornbread before baking.

Why not serve pie for lunch? Grab a pre-made pie crust or whip up a homemade whole wheat one. Use a drinking glass to cut out circles. Then fill each circle with a teaspoon or two of preserves, a few thin slices of apple, or a savory filling like cheese (or dairy-free cheese) and veggies.  Fold the circles in half to cover the filling and crimp edges closed with a fork.  Bake until brown and serve throughout the week.

Breakfast for Lunch
Make a double batch of whole wheat pancakes or waffles on Saturday. Then pack these weekend favorites for lunch during the week. Both waffles and pancakes can be made without any sugar and served later with yummy, healthy toppings like fresh fruit slices and nut butter. Waffles are best if you toast them before packing if they’ve been in the refrigerator. 

Scrambled eggs cut into sticks are a quick and easy main course that can be prepared ahead or made extra during breakfast. 

Extra brown rice is filling and healthy. Add some thawed frozen mixed veggies and chickpeas or hummus to round it out. 

Gluten free pasta is a kid-pleasing meal that won’t lead to a post-starch crash like regular noodles. Make a batch with Italian dressing and mixed vegetables for a pasta salad or mix with red sauce and melted cheese. 

Pizza! Let the kids help make pizza for a weekend or evening meal and serve cold slices for lunch during the week. In a pinch, try my total cheaters approach, by slicing a pita bread in half, topping with sauce & cheese and broiling for a couple of minutes.

What are your favorite lunchbox meals?

Check out these fun and useful lunchboxes or print adorable lunch stickers to jazz up your paper sack.  If you're feeling really industrious, learn how to make a reusable sandwich carrier from a milk jug.


Celebrate Diverse Books this Read Across America Day

As we approach Read Across America Day, I've collected some helpful resources for analyzing the traditions of the event and planning your own celebration.
This year's Read Across America theme is "Celebrating a Nation of Diverse Readers."  Their website includes some diverse book suggestions for elementary readers.  The Tutu Teacher shared a more complete plan for celebrating all week including lots of book recommendations for exploring America's diversity
At last year's national RAA kickoff event, author Gene Leun Yang suggested that students try his Reading Without Walls Challenge:
Did you know that the National Education Agency, the organizer of Read Across America, shifted the event's theme away from Dr. Seuss before last year's celebration in response to growing concern about racist content in Dr. Seuss' work including his children's books? ("Is Dr. Seuss Racist? Read Across America Shifts Away from Dr. Seuss and Toward Diverse Books," School Library Journal, Sept. 12, 2017). 

In fact, a new study of 50 Dr. Seuss children's books found concerning trends. The entire 51-page article, "The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss's Children's Books" is available to download from the Research on Diversity in Youth Literature journal website.  To see an extremely brief but shocking sample of anti-black, misogynist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Native American work by Dr. Seuss, see The Conscious Kid's Instagram story on the topic.  Please do not view the previous link in the presence of children!

With these ideas in mind, how will you and your students celebrate diversity as you Read Across America this year?


Sun Bread: A Warm Story for the Winter Season

Last weekend, I discovered a beautiful wintertime read-aloud that I had somehow never noticed before.

Sun Bread is Elisa Kleven's 2004 picture book about a community of animals left sorrowful when the winter sun went away.  With cold and gray all around, the animals can be seen pouting and bickering inside their homes as they wish for the sun to return.  Amid all the gloom, the town baker decides to create his own cheer and warmth by baking a loaf of sun bread.  The resulting giant loaf is shared by the community of animals and eventually by the sun as well who agrees to return each morning for breakfast. The final page offers a recipe to make homemade sun bread.

This story makes a wonderful read-aloud, with its brief, charming rhymes and descriptive language.  The book's detailed illustrations also make it fun to slowly peruse and discover.  My 2-year-old has been referring to Kleven's book as "the animal book," and she enjoys studying and pointing out features of each scene.

After reading the text and spending some time enjoying the illustrations, who could resist attempting to bake your own sun bread.  Kleven includes a simple-to-follow recipe on the last page of the book.
The sun bread recipe can also be found and printed from her website.  Children will relish the opportunity to assist with mixing and measuring ingredients, a perfect opportunity to sneak in lots of mathematical reasoning and vocabulary.  You'll also have no problem getting little hands to help with kneading.  My 3-year-old was thrilled to help knead real dough after lots of practice using the interactive dough-kneading page in Pizza!: An Interactive Recipe Book.

When the beautiful loaf finally emerges from the oven, your little readers will be about as thrilled as the sun-starved animals in Sun Bread.  After selecting a perfect piece to eat, little hands can get fine motor skill practice by buttering their own bread.

While everyone enjoys their snack, you can discuss or read about what really causes the seasons and when to expect warmer days in your area.


Gift Guide: Best Board Books for Babies and Toddlers

As a school librarian / mother of two back-to-back toddlers, I get a lot of questions about what kinds of books work well for the littlest readers.  Babies and toddlers benefit enormously from being read to and having access to books.  Of course, their limited motor skills and pre-literate approach to "reading" mean that books with thin paper pages and elaborate, written stories just won't work.  Below, you'll find two big categories of board books that I find to be perfect for the tiny tikes on your shopping list.

Inspirational - Books in this category will leave you and your little listener feeling empowered and ready to face the world.
I Am So Brave! by Stephen Krensky is a short, colorful reminder that big challenges will get easier with practice and time.  My kids and I have read this book hundreds of times, and it remains an enjoying read.

My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith is a sweet reminder that little moments spent dancing or sharing meals with loved ones are the keys to happiness.

Interactive - Books on this list have interactive elements that allow toddlers to play with the book while reading.

Chengdu Could Not, Would Not, Fall Asleep by Barney Saltzberg is a cute bedtime story about a restless panda searching for the perfect place to get some rest.  About halfway through this silly story is a series of partial pages that are fun for little hands to turn as the panda progresses toward sleep.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is a classic book that never gets old.  This book also contains a set of partial pages depicting the growing caterpillars meals throughout the week.  Littles love turning the colorful mini pages to see what he will eat next, so the board book version of this timeless tale is definitely the best choice.

Pancakes!: An Interactive Recipe Book is part of the Cook in a Book series by Lotta Nieminen.  Books in this series present a simple recipe and allow the reader to help make the food.  In Pancakes!, tiny hands can pull tabs and turn wheels to stir the ingredients, flip the pancakes, and more.  At my house, this book has been read every day for the month and half since we bought it.  Next, we plan to purchase Pizza!

Night Creatures: A Lift-the-Flap Book Lovers of Peppa Pig will especially enjoy this book in which nocturnal creatures are hiding behind flaps throughout the story.  The book also includes a tiny flashlight perfect for searching out all the after-dark animals and then for making bat shadows on the wall with the cutouts on the last page.  Toddlers will love this and any other books that come with a tiny flashlight.

This Is Not A Book by Jean Jullien encourages readers to use their imagination as each spread transforms the story into a toolbox, a laptop, and more.

Before & After is another adorable book by Jean Jullien.  In this story the author uses clever, comical illustrations to demonstration changes such as melting ice cream and growing families.  This book doesn't have any elements for children to physically manipulate, but the images alone provide a sense of exciting transformation.

What are your favorite books for the tiniest readers in your life?