Want to Give a Little Back? Donate Books to the Children’s Book Harvest!

Dear Families:

10406397_10154860533460297_3141715722970682011_nWe’ve been thinking about gratitude and giving back to the community this month in the Newton house.  See my post from last week on Giving Thanks and Practicing Kindness with Preschoolers for some great inspiration.

In this same spirit of kindness and being thankful (for our families, for our resources, for our school), Cathedral Park Preschool is joining the 2nd annual Children’s Book Harvest, a book drive for the Children’s Book Bank.

How Can You Get Involved?

A book basket will be set up and put out in the pick-up/drop-off area at school.  Please bring your gently loved OR new books that fit the following categories:

  • Baby books
  • Board books
  • Spanish books
  • Rhyming books
  • Story books
  • Alphabet and number books
  • Shape books
  • Animal books
  • Picture books
  • Chapter books
  • Nonfiction books

Our Goal & Timeline

Our starting goal (as recommended by the Children’s Book Bank based on our school size) is at least 55 books by the night of our rescheduled Parent Meeting on Thursday, December 4!  

1488753_10154860533360297_4771085662872983693_nBook Donation

The Children’s Book Harvest is part of Portland Public School’s Read Together initiative, which seeks to ensure that ALL students are reading at grade level by the end of 3rd grade.  To help every child succeed, The Children’s Book Bank has partnered with Portland Public Schools and Portland Council PTA to ask the community to donate 30,000 new or gently-used children’s books this fall.  The books will be cleaned, sorted, and delivered to low-income children throughout the Portland area.

Book Drive Thanksgiving?

I don’t know about all of you, but I like to clean out the bookshelves and the toy boxes at this time of year as a way of talking about giving back when we have extra AND as a way of making room for the new books the children will be so lucky to receive for the holidays.

Contact me at zapoura@pdx.edu if you have questions.  And think about sharing this with your family and friends.  A book drive themed Thanksgiving could be a nice twist on tradition:)

Giving Thanks and Practicing Kindness with Preschoolers: 4 Easy Activities

1391760_388471641305891_5298681911072937136_nIn November, our family is incredibly busy, and the kids seem even zanier than usual.  So, to calm us all down from all of the crazy, I’ve been planning a series of fall activities around kindness and community.  With a lot of help from friends, my favorite websites, and Pinterest (yes, Pinterest), I’ve put together a list of Four Easy Activities that will help us focus, calm down, and give back.   Consider taking on just one or two of these activities to mellow out your fall and to keep what’s important in focus!

  1. Print and Talk: Just print out this Thanksgiving Countdown Gratefulness Paper Chain and use one prompt a day to get a conversation started with the family.  My favorite so far?  A prompt about why we’re grateful for neighbors led us to bake  and deliver  carrot cake cookies to our two new neighbors to welcome them
  2. Sew and Share:   Use fabric scraps to sew a small collection of hearts to exchange with your thankfulness for each other on Thanksgiving Day using the pattern and print-out from this Thankful Hearts Activity.
  3. Read:  Here’s some great grown-up reading on the benefits of gratitude (How Gratitude Builds Character & Health and on Modeling Thank-Yous for Our Kids or Students by Thanking Them) AND a nice book list for kids (Children’s Books that Model Empathy)
  4. Build Kindness Skills: Go through some of these Scenarios for Kindness to talk through how to respond kindly in difficult situations.1386001_10153409403030297_179117266_n

My kids have really had fun with the Thanksgiving countdown, and I’m enjoying reading about kindness and implementing some learning about empathy into our daily routine.  What activities are part of your old or new Thanksgiving tradition?  How do you encourage your kids to give back and act kindly?

Baking Soda Classic

As some of you may know, I have recently joined the workforce full time. Working and having kids is still new to me, so we are drawing on some old favorite weekend activities. Today we made baking soda and vinegar art. All you need is baking soda, food coloring, vinegar, and a cookie sheet. Check it!



Sneak Peak: We Need to Talk About your TPS Reports.


I will save everyone the corny Office Space jokes this year and get right into all the great activities we have in store for the kids this November in our Office theme room.

Cubicle Space

We have desks that have been decked out with office supplies from the nostalgic to the modern era. The keyboards are great for learning the alphabet and getting acquainted with the qwerty layout and the idea of typing. Technological skills and competence are more important than ever, and this is a great opportunity to let them play with little tech devices without worrying about screen time or having your iPhone dropped. We have an old school and a new school desk set out to offer different opportunities for exploration and comparison. Use the address book to visualize alphabetizing their friend’s names, use the keyboard to type their own name, and memorize important phone numbers with the rotary and cell phones. The calculators are great for learning basic math skills. What does the calculator say you have if you add two groups of paperclips? Is the calculator right? You can check your work.

How Does it Work?

With our old rotary phone, and cellphone’s to play with, this is a great opportunity to ask questions about how sound can travel and how people communicate across distances. Talk about the phone and power lines you can see that go into houses on your street. I predict a future blog post about sound wave experiments for you to try out, so keep an eye out for that. You can take a look inside the printer and talk about how an ink printer transfers letters onto paper, and examine all the manual office supplies, too. How does the stapler work? What about hole punches?

Engineering, Art, and Fine Motor Skills

Our sensory tables are overflowing with fun this month! We have a table filled with bright paper, hole punches, and scissors for the kids to explore and practice their fine motor skills. The other sensory table is filled with engineering blocks. Put them together so that if you spin one wheel, all the other wheels on your creation also spin. Why does that work? Create building challenges for the kids by asking them to make a structure with at least four moving wheels. The regular blocks have been moved to make a quiet, secluded corner for building. Hopefully this will keep the mess from our avid builders from spreading throughout the entire theme room.

DSC_0063 DSC_0081

For our creative dressers we have an assortment of ties, scarves, shoes, hats, and purses so that they can dress up just like mommy or daddy at the office. Imitating their parents and creative role playing games are very important to the kids and can help them process their feelings about the adult world of work. As an anecdote, the office theme room last year really helped my daughter to deal with some rough emotions about her dad’s work schedule. So you can use this opportunity to ease some concerns, or just to have a lot of fun! We even have a break room, for anyone who is having a case of the Mondays.

Coffee Filters and Food Coloring

So, you went to the store for coffee filters, but you aren’t the one who makes the morning pot and ended up with the wrong size. You have a hundred useless coffee filters just taking up room in your pantry now. What do you do? Art and science of course! The only other supply you need to find is food coloring and you are set to make tie dye sun catchers and experiment with “walking” water.

These tie dye coffee filters were always one of my favorite crafts as a kid. Thanks mom! As usual, I like to do this project in a pan to manage the mess, but some newspaper or paper bags would work just as well. You can substitute paper towels if you don’t have coffee filters.

Fold your coffee filter circles in half, then fold it in half two more times.IMG_0363
Drip food coloring drops directly onto one (or both) sides of the coffee filter. You can’t go wrong.IMG_0365
Viola! They catch the light nicely if you hang them in a window. The filters are about the same size as most dixie style paper plates, and if you cut out the inside circle of a paper plate, you can attach your favorite coffee filter designs with a little tape. Then punch some holes in the paper plate ring and let your kids thread string or yarn through with sticks or leaves (or whatever) tied to the bottom. A hodge-podge preschool version of a dream catcher!

Next up, we learn a little bit about capillary action. This actually works faster with paper towels, but I like to make my kids wait a little bit for results. It is also fun to try the experiment with paper towels and coffee filter strips at the same time. Ask your kids which material they think will work better, and then talk about why. You can never start systematically testing hypotheses too early I say. Another experiment that you can do to demonstrate capillary action at the same time is to put a few sticks of celery into different colored cups of water and see what happens overnight.

So, first, you will want to cut out a few strips of paper towel or coffee filter. Then fill one cup  with red colored water, and another with blue. Put a third empty cup in between the other two.IMG_0368
Now, put the end of a strip of paper into the red cup of water and fold the other end into the empty cup. Do the same for the blue water. Watch the colored water slowly creep up the paper and fill the empty jar. This takes a few minutes with paper towels and a few hours with coffee filters. The water will keep moving until the water level in all three cups is equal!IMG_0374

Make a Little Mess Everyday

Rainy days can drive me crazy. I believe in getting some outside playtime for my kids every day, rain or shine. There are days though where the rain feels more like a river and your brand new rain boots split open, and you are out of pants anyways. There is only so much tv your kids can watch, and tv makes your kids bounce of the walls even more. If my kids miss their outside time, things can go downhill quickly and the house soon resembles a film set for Hoarders, The Movie.

How to keep the kids occupied and the house clean? Let them make a mess! That is, let them make a mess you want them to make. We have a bunch of deep disposable aluminum roasting pans to catch (most of) the mess when we do messy art and science experiments. I plan a project that seems messy, but is actually pretty quick to clean up.

Don’t be afraid to make the same kind of mess again, and again. My kids will never tire of variations of baking soda and vinegar or anything that involves shaving cream. They get so into it that I can actually get some cleaning done! And as a bonus, when you wipe it up, the floor underneath is clean. There may be a mess, a “big” one even, but it is contained in one corner of the house. Let them feel like it is something they are getting away with.

A baking sheet filled with baking soda, vinegar with food coloring drops, eye droppers. The rest of my house is clean. Science + Art = Fun

Apple Tasting


We went to the Portland Nursery’s 27th annual apple tasting event last weekend. The event will continue this weekend, and it is a really great event for preschoolers. There are delicious candy apples, fresh pressed cider demonstrations, pumpkin painting, face painting, games, and about 60 different varieties of apple and pear to taste! You can buy many of the tasting varieties for only $0.99 per pound. We bought about 8 pounds of Newtown Pippin apples and made apfel kuchen and baked apples. We might even be going again this weekend. Hope to run into you there!