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Fun Fall Books and Activities for Kids!

School is back in session, there is a chill in the air, pumpkin spice lattes are back and I even had a fire in the fireplace for the first time in over five months… Fall has arrived!

As an educator and mom, I love the combination of reading books followed by an “extension activity”. Extension activities have lots of benefits such as getting children excited to read and teaching them how to connect a book to real life. Activities give a child a chance to use the language from the book in a new way and of course, you have more positive parent-child interaction! Extension activities take reading to a whole new and exciting level and don’t need to be time consuming or cost money.

This summer I fell in love with Usborne books after a friend of mine introduced them to me. There are a unique company that makes books for all ages that include fiction, non-fiction, activity books, pop up books and more! I ordered a bunch of them this summer for birthday gifts as they are typically a bit harder to find so I don’t have to worry about kids already owning the book. The best news about these books is that they can be found right here at any of the Denver Public Libraries. Just enter the titles and place a hold at your closest library.

Since I’m excited that Fall has arrived I wanted to share a few of our favorite Fall books and an extension activity for each as well. Happy Fall!taleoftwobeasts

  1. A Tale of Two Beasts” by Fiona Roberton- When a little girl rescues a strange beast from the woods, she takes him home. But for some reason, the little beast is not happy! There are two sides to every story, and this funny and charming tale is no exception. Fiona Roberton offers both points of view in this discussion-starting tale of the importance of seeing the world in different ways

Extension Activity:

a) Have your child create their own story with two perspectives. Older children could write their story themselves, younger children could verbalize it to the adult.

b) Ask a child to think of a situation in their own life that presented a problematic encounter with a friend or adult. Encourage them to share the situation that made them feel unhappy, mad, embarrassed etc.. Try and have them see both sides of the event from each persons perspective (just like in the book). This is a wonderful way to teach empathy, understanding and problem solving.


  1. Secrets of the Apple Tree, Shine-A-Light Book” by Kane Millersecretsofappletree

Explore a tree up close and you will find a small world filled with great surprises! From worms wriggling among the roots, to birds nesting high in the branches, the hidden wonders of this amazing habitat are revealed when the page is held up to a light.

Extension Activity:

a) Do your own apple picking at a near by apple orchard! Look and touch the tree- the leaves, bark and fruit. Here are a few favorite around Denver: YaYa Farm & Orchard 6914 Ute Hwy Longmont, CO 80503; Happy Apple Farm 1190 1st Street, Penrose, CO 81240

b) Head to the grocery store and let your child pick out their own apple for a healthy snack. Talk to them about the different colors, textures and flavors. Have a taste test with a few different types of apples. Finally, cut open the apple horizontally across the middle and you will see a star with the seeds. There is a story you can share about the star here.

farmc) “ 1001 Things to Spot on the Farm” Usborne – This charming picture book shows scenes from farms around the world, and on every page, there are dozens of things to spot. The detailed pictures provide hours of looking and talking, and dedicated spotters will be unable to put the book down until they have found all the water buffaloes in the rice fields, the cocoa pods on the tropical farm, or eight lambs on the sheep farm. Counting sheep has never been so much fun!

Extension Activity:

  1. Bring the book with you in the car and have you child find what they “spot in the book” out the window! They will be amazed how many things from the book they find within their own world.
  2. Create your own Things to Spot. Use a sheet of paper and crayons or markers and have your child create their own Things to Spot page or book! Suggest they draw their house, playroom, or favorite place to play like a park or zoo and place special things to spot in their picture.



Elissa Sungar is the Co-Creator of If Not You, Who?  a free website that offers easy and fun in-home educational activities that help prepare children for kindergarten and life!  Her passion for early childhood education grew out of her experience as a pre-school teacher at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School. Elissa loves spending time with her family and 1 year old son, hiking, running, tennis, yoga, cute workout clothes, good cheese, great baked goods and exploring Denver!   Twitter: @ElissaINYW




Could delaying kindergarten be a detriment to your child?

Last year, I wrote about the kindergarten dilemma. Mainly, whether I should enroll my son on time or hold him back a year so he would be one of the oldest vs. youngest in class. It was one of our most highly-debated posts ever.

In the end, I enrolled him.

I have not regretted my decision. While it is still early in the school year, I am thrilled with how well he has adapted. He enjoys his peers, is reading at an advanced level and his writing/fine motor skills are growing leaps and bounds every day (which was my main concern). Much to my relief, I feel confident I made the correct decision for him because he is thriving.

I always felt unsettled about holding him back because his preschool teachers confirmed what I already knew: he was socially, emotionally and academically ready. While I understand parents wanting their child to be the oldest, biggest and smartest, for me it felt like an unfair (and unnecessary) advantage and that I would be doing him a disservice by delaying him a year.

Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt published an article at The New York Times alleging this strategy of “redshirting” (delaying school) is actually counterproductive.

The Open Enrollment Game: Where to Register for School?

Next week, I get to register Claire for Kindergarten! It’s hard to believe, but districts all over the Denver Metro Area are holding their Kindergarten Registrations in January!

(Stock photo credit: igoghost.)

So, next week, I’ll be standing in line at our neighborhood school…whether or not I want her to go there. If I was satisfied with our neighborhood school, my task wouldn’t be so daunting. I have to gather all of our proof of residency requirements, birth certificate, immunization records, and the other items. (The Eye of Newt was surprisingly easy to find, and I may have a good lead on the Unicorn Whisker.)

But that’s not the tricky part.

The problem lies in the fact that our neighborhood school is not our first choice for Claire. It’s not even our second or third.

Thankfully, we do have other first choices:

Next Stop: Kindergarten (and how to enjoy the ride)

Is it just me, or does anyone else hate buying back-to-school items?  I’ve tried to get a little here and there, taking my 12-page list each time I head out to Target.  We may have to look into donating our plasma (blood, not TV) this month in order to make ends meet in order to get all the “must haves” on our list.

School supplies aren’t the only reason I’m in a bad mood about school starting.  First of all, after a few months of “chillin’ with my crew” I have to start studying again.  This fall I’m taking a nutrition class, and I’m pretty sure they’re gonna get all up in my grill about how bad Little Debbie snack cakes are for the kids.   Secondly, when the kids go back to school, it means winter is on her angry way, and displaying my cute feet will once again will have to take a back seat to staying warm.  Thirdly, when my three children walk out the front door this year on their first day, my whole identity will forever be changed.

I’m about to transition from “mother of young children” to “mother of school-aged children.”  I think my new title sounds so stupid and I hate it.  It’s not that I want to go back to diapers and sleepless nights, but having three kids in school just seems so permanent and lonely. Sending

The Kindergarten Dilemma–To Enroll or to Hold Back?

With summer break on the horizon next week, I can almost say I survived my daughter’s first year of kindergarten.

And am fretting about my son’s entrance into it.

Why would I do such a thing when he is only 3? The reason is simple: I already feel pressured to make major decisions on his behalf. When he was born in July of 2006, I figured he was well within the range for the mid-September cut-off for when he could attend school. I enrolled him in our local preschool last September and he has loved it. He has learned all the sounds of the alphabet and is at the top of his class of 3 to 5-year-olds in math.

It’s a good thing, too because I am counting on him doing our taxes in a few years.

He still has one year left of preschool and then I planned to enroll him in kindergarten the following year. Until the peer pressure began.

“Do you really want him to be the youngest in his class?”
“He will be at a huge disadvantage if you don’t hold him back.”
“I held my child back and have never regretted it for an instant.”

At first, I was puzzled. Why would I hold him back when he is

Your Opinion: Kindergarten Woes in Jefferson County

My daughter will start kindergarten next Monday. I dreamed of this day during those sleepless nights with my colicky newborn. I envisioned how I would drop her off with a hug and a kiss each morning and spend my day pretending to be human again.

I thought I might even take a shower to celebrate.

I registered Hadley a few weeks ago and my reaction was very different from what I had imagined: I was annoyed.

I’m not perturbed with her or the school but rather the entire system. I had originally enrolled her in full-day classes. Those children have all the benefits of extended learning designed to further their young minds both creatively and academically.

But then the recession hit and the financial fall-out ensued. My husband and I started our own web development business during it all and we decided we could not justify the extra cost incurred with full-day kindergarten, along with paying for our son’s preschool.

Our situation frustrates me. Why, in what is professed to be the public school system, are we paying for these services?