Children’s Book Review: Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg

Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg is one of my favorite books and is definitely worth owning. In this hands-on picture book, children learn it’s okay to make mistakes, and that your mistakes can even lead to other opportunities. A fold, hole, or stain on your paper can actually inspire all kinds of creativity!

I’m inspired by one page in particular in the book- a painting on a torn piece of newspaper. I loved how the shape of the paper after being torn could actually inspire your painting. And as an added bonus, using newspaper in art is always fun and gives your finished products a unique look. (I’ve used newspaper to make snowflakes and these paper mache ornaments).

Materials for Painting on Torn Newspaper

  • Newspaper
  • Tempera paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Containers for your paint (I like ice cube trays, paper plates, or paint cups.)

Directions for Painting on Torn Newspaper 

1. Start by tearing your newspaper into different shapes. I did a bunch together, and then placed them on the floor nearby to choose from.

2. Choose one of the torn newspaper shapes and examine it. What does it remind you of? This shape reminded my students of an elephant!

3. Use tempera paint and a brush to paint your shape.

4. Let it dry, and paint some more.

Tips for Parents and Teachers

  1. Younger children (age 3), might just enjoy the sensory aspect of painting on newspaper, rather than painting an actual object.
  2. Children might simply use the torn newspaper shape as inspiration for painting patterns and designs.
  3. Allow your children or students rip their own pieces of newspaper. Students love using the shapes they had torn themselves.
  4. Try out other types of paper- maybe torn up grocery bags or fliers from the mail!

Children’s Book Review: We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury is about a family going on a hunt for a bear. On each page the family have to overcome different obstacles they come across in order to continue their hunt. As the family encounter each obstacle, they describe it by using sensory descriptions such as; long, wavy grass, a deep, cold river, thick, oozy mud, a big, dark forest, a swirling, whirling snowstorms, and a narrow, gloomy cave. By using a range of descriptive vocabulary, the reader can imagine themselves on the hunt. It’s a fantastic journey!

Within this book there is a transition between two genres. At first the genre is fiction (the family going on an adventure is plausible). However, as soon as they see the bear, the genre switches to fantasy (the family out- running the bear). By exploring two different genres in the book, Michael Rosen is allowing the reader to put the story in a real life context but also letting the reader use their imagination. ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ can be used in different contexts with different age ranges. Foundation Stage and Key Stage One children will thoroughly enjoy it as there’s lots of use of repetitive language patterns that children can join in with or re-enact. By using this language pattern and the lovely illustrations, children will love interacting with the story regardless of whether they are able to read the story themselves. The children can also interact with the story by taking part in the actions the teacher and the children come up with.

This book is ideal for younger children because the verses of the story are repeated, observations and vocabulary are age and developmentally appropriate. There are many different activities that can be created by using the book and children will love them all.

Here’s a fun binocular and map craft inspired by the popular children’s book, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt! This kids’ activity is a great way to bring the story to life for kids of all ages.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt Map & Binocular Craft~

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Map & Binoculars

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt is one of my favorite books to read to children. It’s impossible for kids to resist participating in the repetitive text, and the book lends itself to all kinds of imaginative play. I created my own maps and binoculars so I could bring the story to life right at school and home!

 Making the Binoculars

Start by decorating two empty cardboard tubes (we used toilet paper rolls). (I found a mini roll of duct tape (similar to this one) at our local craft store and used it to decorate the two tubes.)

add colorful tape to toilet paper rolls to make binoculars

To create a space between the two tubes, cut a small piece of cardboard from an empty cardboard tube you aren’t using. Fold the sides of the small piece of cardboard down.

Glue or tape each folded side to each cardboard tube to form your binoculars.

binocular craft for kids

Punch one hole into either side of your binoculars. (This is my favorite single hole punch. It easily punched a hole through the cardboard!) Tie a long piece of yarn through the holes, and you’re done!

homemade binocular craft for kids

Making the Map

This map activity is a great way to create art while retelling the events from the story. I made our map using art and craft supplies we already had at home. I’ll describe to you how we made each section, but you can easily modify the map based on supplies you have readily available to you.

What We Used for Our Maps

  • Large sheet of paper (For one map we cut up a brown grocery bag!)
  • Construction paper in green and brown
  • Shiny blue paper
  • Brown tempera paint
  • Small bit of sand
  • 4 Mini popscicle sticks
  • Cotton balls
  • White, iridescent glitter
  • Glue
  • Crayons
  • Black marker

How We Made Our Maps

1. You’ll be making six little pictures on your map. Older children can probably visualize where to put the pictures, but I found it was easier for my 3 year old to already have the paper divided into six sections. To make the six sections, I folded the paper in half horizontally and then folded each side in to create thirds. When you unfold it you have 6 spaces.

how to fold paper into six sections

2. In the first space we created the “long, wavy grass”. To create my grass, I cut out a small rectangle from green construction paper. I then cut lots of tiny slits to create the grass and glued it onto my paper.


3. Next I made the “deep, cold river”. I had a sheet of shiny, blue scrapbooking paper that was perfect. I cut our rivers out of the paper and glued them onto our maps.


4. The “thick, oozy mud” was the kids’ favorite part of the map! We dipped our fingers into some brown tempera paint and used our fingers to paint mud onto our maps. I then sprinkled some sand onto the wet paint to really make it look muddy!

map craft for We're Going on a Bear Hunt

5. Up next was the “big, dark forest”. I used mini popsicle sticks and green construction paper to make our forests. (I pre-cut the treetops for Theo.)


6. To make the “swirling, whirling snowstorm” we pulled apart cotton balls and glued them down as snow. I also drew snowflakes with liquid glue and sprinkled some snow-like glitter onto the glue. (Younger children will find it easier to make snowflake dots with the glue rather than draw snowflakes.)


7. The last section of the map is the “narrow, gloomy cave”. I cut out our caves from brown construction paper and cut a door into the caves that can open and close.

map craft

8. For the finishing touch, I used a black Sharpie to create a path on our maps.

Map Craft Activity for Kids Inspired by We're Going on a Bear Hunt

Here you can see my three year old’s map. I used crinkled paper for the grass and made glue dots rather than flakes for the snow.

preschool map craft

Bringing the Story to Life

Prior to making our maps and binoculars, I had read We’re Going on a Bear Hunt over and over during the previous few weeks.

After becoming familiar with the story and having acted it out, I took our maps and binoculars outside and went on our own bear hunts in the backyard!

When we were done going on our bear hunts, we put our maps and binoculars (along with the book) in a basket right by our backyard to be enjoyed again and again!

Children’s Book Review: Freight Train by Donald Crews

Freight Train — one of Crews’  most famous books and a Caldecott Medal winner was the one we chose for our project this month.  My child LOVED this book when he was younger.  The colors are so bright and he would memorize the few words on each page so that he could read the book to himself when he was very young.

Create Your Own Freight Train & Color Matching Activity

Make Your Own Freight Train

I used tissue boxes and shoe boxes to create our own freight train.



Choose brightly colored construction paper in each of the colors of the train cars.  Wrap and tape the paper around each of the tissue boxes leaving it open at the top so you can easily slip items into the box.

Create Your Own Freight Train & Color Matching Activity

I decided to draw details on each of our train boxes.  You can use the book to design your own train cars – the kids will really enjoy this part of the activity.

Create Your Own Freight Train & Color Matching Activity

For the train engine, I used white chalk on black paper for our design.

Make Your Own Train Engine

Once you have each of the train cars created, read the story and have the kids put the train cars in the correct order.  If you’d like, you can also connect them together with pieces of string.  Then they can drag them around the room and ‘drive’ their train.

Create Your Own Freight Train & Color Matching Activity

Practice Color Matching

Now that you have train cars created for each color, look around the house for brightly colored items.  I chose some crayons, small toys and knick-knacks that would easily fit in our boxes.


Create Your Own Freight Train & Color Matching Activity

Jumble the items together and then have your child choose one item and place it in the train car with the corresponding color.  Make sure to name the color of the item and the train car as they sort the items.  This activity is great for developing small motor skills and learning/reinforcing colors.

Children’s Book Review: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

This simple Chicka Chicka Boom Boom play set is a fun hands-on way to explore the alphabet and retell this popular children’s book! I’ve also included directions for kids to make their own mini play set.

Make Your Own Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Play Set

Back when I was a classroom teacher, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom was always a class favorite! The kids loved reading it over and over.

The repetition and rhyme of the text encourages the children to say the story right along with you, and it’s a great story to use when practicing letter recognition.

My students and clients have always loved this story. To build off their excitement for the book, I created a super simple play set to go along with it. It’s so easy to make and inspires all kinds of creative play, while also incorporating hands-on learning with letters of the alphabet.

Later on in the post, you’ll find directions for kids or students to make their own Chicka Chicka Boom Boom mini play set using toilet paper rolls!

Materials for Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Play Set

  • Empty paper towel roll
  • Construction paper (I used two different shades of green.)
  • Scissors
  • Liquid glue
  • Paper bowl (We used 12 oz. Target brand paper bowls similar to these.)
  • Tempera paint in brown and green
  • Paintbrush
  • Wooden letters (like these) or magnetic letters

Directions for Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Play SetChicka Chicka Boom Boom Play Set

1. To start you’ll need an empty paper towel roll and a paper bowl.

Paint the paper towel roll brown for the trunk and paint the paper bowl green for the top of the tree.

 2. Once the paint has dried, it’s time to glue them together. Make a few snips around the top of the paper towel roll and fold the resulting tabs down.
Place glue on the tabs and glue the paper towel roll to the bottom of the paper bowl.  Set it aside to dry.
3. Cut out various leaf shapes from your green construction paper using scissors.
4. Glue them around the outside of the paper bowl. Set it aside to dry.

Once it’s dry you’re ready to play!

You’ll need letters to use with this play set. I painted some wooden letters (similar to these) from my local craft store. You could also use any plastic, magnetic, or felt letters you already have at home.  (If you’re able to find lowercase letters to use with the set, that would be best so it goes more closely with the story. I was unable to find lowercase letters, so we used uppercase letters.)

Later I added homemade playdough to the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom play set. It was fun to see how they incorporated the playdough into their creative play.homemade playdough

Children’s Book Review: Books by Robert Munsch

I love Robert Munsch books, in large part because they grab kids attention. I have had so many students who were circle time fidgets freeze, listen and enjoy story time when it was one of this author’s books. The way that some authors get kids emotions, Robert Munsch simply gets kids, he understands what will keep their attention , and more so what will make them laugh. I have reviewed many of Munsch’s works below, and they are my favorites.

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch is perhaps the classic tear jerking picture book. I read this for years and years to children and had no problem getting choked up, it never bothered me, then I gave birth and I can’t read it without sobbing. The premise is simple, a mom sings this simple song to her son as he grows ” I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as you’re living , my baby you’ll be.” until she can’t sing it anymore and it’s his turn. For days after I read this I tear up as I lay my son in his crib.

Children’s Book Review: Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis

Title: Kindergarten ROCKS!

Author/Illustrator: Katie Davis

Publisher: New York: Harcourt, 2005.

Genre: Picture book, fiction

Audience Age: 4-7 (but especially kindergartners and their families!)

Themes/Topics: kindergarten, overcoming fears, new experiences

Opening Sentences: I am Dexter Dugan and I know everything about kindergarten. This is because I am actually going to be a kindergartner. Very soon.

Synopsis: Dexter’s not scared about kindergarten. Not at all. Nope. Nosirreebob. Not scared. But his stuffed dog, Rufus, is worried about a LOT of things. What if he gets lost? What if the kids are mean? What if the bus driver doesn’t know the way to the school? What if…?

Dexter’s sister, Jessica, who was a kindergartner a long, long, long, long, long time ago (she’s now in third grade) tries to reassure him, but it’s not easy. She finally suggests that if Rufus gets scared, Dexter should give him a hug. (Brilliant, Jessica!)

Things are going even better than Dexter could have imagined (even if he’d let himself imagine anything other than disaster) until Rufus gets lost! Calamity! Where is Rufus? Will Dexter (or Rufus) find out that really, truly, without a doubt, Kindergarten really ROCKS?

What I like about this book: Besides everything, that is… It is so true to a kid’s experience of wanting to appear brave, but of having all kinds of fears about the first day of kindergarten, or the first day of camp, or anything they’re experiencing for the first time.

I don’t remember my first day of first grade (we didn’t have kindergarten), but I remember the first day of second grade. A little one-room schoolhouse had been hauled into the school yard for the first and second graders (the school was overcrowded because the high school had burned down, and so extra grades were crammed into the elementary school). I was sure we were supposed to go to the little school – but what if I was wrong? I remember standing in the middle of the sidewalk between the big gateposts, not wanting to move in case I made a mistake – then my friend Frances, who wasn’t afraid of anything as far as I could tell, swooped down on me, grabbed my hand, and dragged me over to the little school, where our teacher was waiting.

Katie Davis captures this fear of the unknown perfectly – as well as the fun of finding out that once you get past the fear, the experience ROCKS. Her art is simple, giving the effect of having been colored with wax crayons, and perfectly illustrates the text.

Because the book is from 2005, it is longer than picture books usually are these days, but kids will enjoy every word, I am quite sure.

Activities/Resources: A great way to get the feel of kindergarten or preschool is to play school. Set up a play center, a story center, an art center, a small table and chairs, get some friends over, and practice what school will be like – be sure to make it fun!

Katie Davis has a counting printable for Kindergarten ROCKS! at her website.

Children’s Book Review: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Goodnight Moon is the perfect bedtime story with vibrant illustrations. The illustrations are very detailed and jump off the page.

Goodnight Moon calms the busy toddler at nap time, bed time, or anytime. Goodnight Moon is the perfect
book to take along everywhere you go to occupy your toddler’s mind. Goodnight Moon will diffuse even the most stressful situation even while standing in long lines at the grocery store.
Goodnight Moon lulls a child into a peaceful and less fearful sleep. By saying goodnight to everything in the room (including the air), children’s fears are put to rest. The first half of the book describes the bedroom of a young rabbit, and then “goodnight” is said to everything from the room decor to the rabbit’s caregiver who is described as the little old lady whispering “hush.”
Goodnight Moon is short enough for even the shortest of attention spans. Goodnight Moon is simple enough for toddlers to understand and an excellent choice for a first reader. Goodnight Moon’s rhymes flow right off the page and children’s tongues. A child of any age will finishing the sentences. Goodnight Moon is an excellent tool to use for teaching lessons in colors, rhymes, reading comprehension, making general observations, and how fear can be caused from our imagination.
Goodnight Moon is one of my son’s favorite stories, and I’m sure yours will love it also.

Children’s Book Review: Ready, Steady, Jump! by Jeanne Willis

Ready, Steady, Jump! is a lovely picture book which celebrates individuality. Meet Elephant who, desperately wants to be the same as the other baby animals. Why can’t he jump like they can? He sets out to prove the others wrong, but alas, no matter how hard he tries, he just can’t jump. Then, one day, he discovers there is something he can do which none of the others can!

This is a beautifully told story, ideal for Foundation Stage and Key Stage 1 as a read aloud story. It illustrates the very important message that everyone has a gift or talent and is good at something. Ready, Steady, Jump! would provide the perfect stimulus for a topic on difference and individuality. Children in Key Stage 1 could explore Elephant’s feelings throughout the story. This could readily be done through the use of thought bubbles or hot-seating.
Adrian Reynolds’ bright illustrations bring each of the characters to life. Children and adults alike will find all the baby animals lovable. The facial expressions are superb. We have the determined concentration of baby Elephant (tongue sticking out as children often do), amusement of the other baby animals, puzzlement, concern, joy and on Monkey’s face, bewilderment (which I think is my favorite).

Children’s Book Review: Actual Size by Steve Jenkins

This outstanding nonfiction title is another of many wonderful books by Steve Jenkins. His torn paper illustrations created with handmade papers are exquisite and very engaging. In this title animals or parts of animals are shown life size. The eye of a giant squid fills a page and, believe it or not, is beautifully rendered with textured papers.

There are 18 animals (or parts of animals) here. The head of a 23 foot crocodile, the one ounce mouse lemur and the mouse eating Goliath frog. From the gargantuan to the miniscule they will all amaze.

What a fun way to start the selection process for kids needing to pick out an animal to research. This is also perfectly suited for the math curriculum with its many measurement opportunities. Be sure to add this to your offerings.

Children’s Book Review: Draw! by Raul Colon

In this wordless book, a boy is stuck in bed with asthma. He has a book about Africa and a sketchbook. We follow along as he imagines that he is in Africa drawing the animals.

Starting with a sedate artist-at-his-easel pose in front of an elephant, the illustrations become less and less predictable as he rides on the elephant to find a herd of zebras to draw, poses for a portrait drawn by a baboon, and narrowly escapes a charging rhinoceros. As the day ends the boy sadly leaves the elephant. In the final spread we see the boy, back at school, sharing his now fully painted drawings.

This book is based on Colón’s childhood when he was often confined to bed, sometimes for weeks, with asthma. He has said, “We didn’t have an X-box, so I drew?

This is a wonderful, inspired work on the power of the imagination and art to engage us and transport us.


  • Imagination, Creativity: Where would you like to go on an imaginary trip? Take a stack of paper and a pencil and quickly sketch out what you see there. Choose one of your sketches to finish with colored pencils and experiment with scratching through the layers of pencil as Colón does.
  • Geography, Science and Zoology:Where do the animals in this book run wild? Find out more about the places and animals.