Back Before Elmo. A Trip Down Memory Street.



I’m old. How do I know that I’m old? Because to my mind Elmo is still an imposter on Sesame Street. Will you permit me a short rant? Ok! How on earth did Elmo get to run the whole show when there were so many better characters to feature? His voice continues to grate even after all these years. Several key characters don’t even get any stage time anymore on that show. Hello? Sherlock Hemlock, Mumford the Magician, Biff and Sully, the guy who carried Oscar around, Herry Monster and (glack!) even dear sweet enormous Snuffy  who apparently is seen by people other than Big Bird all the damn time! Ah well, I suppose we had to throw poor Bird a bone after he lost his friend Mr. Hooper. (I will take this opportunity to also strongly recommend that you do not under any circumstances google what happened to David. Just don’t do it). Deep breath. Ok. I’m ok.

Now. Let’s go back… waaaaaaay back into the vault and see what we can find. And to do this we have to go to my mom’s house since she kept so many things from our childhood! And look what comes out of the tickle trunk! Taadaaaa! The Sesame Street Library! All 15 Volumes beautifully preserved and fresh and entirely loved by my little preschooler!


Want more blasts from the past and ideas for classic reads that will entertain both you and your little one?

Check out the ROAM Curriculum at Artsy Startsy


Hey Diddle Diddle Simple Sensory Bin

Meditation is very important for little ones. The ability to just check out for about 20 minutes or so can really help re-energize your preschooler. This is where sensory bins come in. After five minutes of delving into one of these bins, you can see calm and focus descending upon your little one.

This week my preschooler sat still sorting through this bin and retelling the nursery rhyme for “Hey Diddle Diddle; The Cat and the Fiddle.” For this one I grabbed random items from our kitchen play dishes, dried goods, some craft pom poms, and various animal figures from different sets. The only splurge was on the colourful stars found at Michael’s. The simpler the better. I’ve found the fancier I try to get with these things the less the kids are interested in them. Take a peek!

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Why do we do Nursery Rhymes in the ROAM curriculum? Because – I strongly believe nursery rhymes are a great jumping off point for literacy. Their staying power alone indicates that they are culturally valuable and they continue to be excellent initiations into literacy for little ones. The rhythm and rhyming language encourage your child to think about creative subject matter within a poetic framework. Moreover, even though the historical context of these rhymes may be lost to most of us now, we recognize that these verses connect us in some way to the past and to childhood as it was in other times and places. Exposure to rhyming and tempo in verse provide an excellent opportunity to draw your child into the world of poetry and literature generally. Movement and creative activities like this sensory bin offer opportunities for your child to explore related themes or ideas and to reenact moments that will help to solidify the poem in the mind’s eye.


Why we don’t Sugar Coat the Timeless Tales

If you have decided to introduce your little one to fairy and folk tales there is no better place to start than with Paul Galdone’s collection of Folktale Classics. Galdone’s illustrations are both warming and so intensely expressive that they connect immediately to both child and parent.


In this house, we have made it a practice to take out one Galdone book from the library at each visit. His versions of the classics are consistently true to the original tellings and, unlike other abridged versions, they do not omit the scarier parts of the tales. This matters to me since I’m not a huge fan of altering the stories for the sensibilities of my little ones’ minds. Although it is true that some parts of the story are disturbing – like the fact that Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother is eaten by the wolf – I prefer her to ask questions and be exposed to the tale as it was intended to be read than to sugar coat it.

A friend and I were recently talking about the terror of nursery rhymes and the hilarity of reading them before bed since they are filled with references to drowning children and beheadings of political figures. She joked with me that perhaps parents in the middle ages tucked their children in with a kiss, a hug and a, “Good night, Sleep Tight, Hope you don’t get the plague…” I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!

But in all seriousness, I want my child to learn about different times and places and when I modernize and insert today’s values into those stories, I close the window that it could have opened for my little one to see the world as it was. Also – I really do want to re-read Little Red Riding Hood to her when she gets her period to talk to her about what many believe the “red hood” symbolizes in this story. There is so much richness and timeless messaging in the fairy tale world that I want to share with my little ones throughout their lives. But for right now, Galdone is a good place to start!

We will be coming back to his illustrations when we begin reading Eve Titus’ “Anatole” series which is an enchanting set of  first chapter books! Can’t wait! Until then next week’s Galdone selection is on hold for us on a library shelf nearby.


ROAM-ing in the Spring!

springproductToday is the day! I’m relaunching the new and improved Spring Semester of Artsy Startsy and it is entirely focused around the ROAM curriculum and the feedback I’ve received from stay-at-home parents, caregivers, working parents, and preschool instructors. ROAM stands for Readers, Outdoor Explorers, Artists and Musicians. Why these areas in particular? I truly believe that preschoolers have each of these personas inside of them and they require only a bit of time each day with their caregiver to tap into each of these areas of the liberal arts and the natural world around them.

Also, as a caregiver, I have come to recognize that more than any other time, I most enjoy the moments in our day that are spent together with books, in nature, creatively expressing ourselves with art, and listening to classical music. By bringing these joys into our home I believe that I am creating both a peaceful and adventurous environment for my child and for myself. Quality time with my children is priority number one and this curriculum allows me to focus our days around that!

If you’re like me, you like to plan ahead and get yourself prepared for the season well in advance! For this reason, I am offering a sale on the Spring ROAM curriculum from now until March 31st! I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this sale which offers 20% off the Spring Semester and includes 8 full weeks of lesson plans for you and your little one!

I hope you will join us as we ROAM around learning about all sorts of wonderful subjects this spring! Making nature bracelets as the flowers begin to bloom, listening to Vivaldi, exploring the different sounds that the rain makes, touring the acropolis, keeping track of outdoor explorations with nature journals, sculpting with soap and so much more!!!


When we are not out in the woods near our home, here is where we will be undertaking much of this exploration of the liberal arts together. Our little solarium is where so much learning and quality time together takes place. It is a sacred little space for us! I will share regular updates with you as we undertake the lessons alongside you and your little one this spring.

Spring is right around the corner. So cozy up and start planning the upcoming season with us!


Wild Winter


Oh. My. Goodness. What a wild winter we are having! My sister-in-law lives in Boston and so I am not allowed to complain about the snow and – quite frankly – I don’t really mind the stuff. (Right now the three bright red cardinals at my feeder look very fetching against the blankety white backdrop). But brrrr…. it is cold!!! And we feel a bit trapped indoors especially now that our little one arrived early. We have had about a month to get to know each other now and I will admit – he’s damn lovely! Here is our little Vincent Amos. He is named loosely after both Vince Neil and Tori Amos. Yes. I know. But – can I just say in our defense? – it was the closest my man and I could come to a good compromise that wouldn’t completely tarnish our child forever. Winter 008

So yes. A crazy wild winter so far. The stress was high in January. In the day or two surrounding Vincent’s birth our furnace broke, some truck driver ripped off my bumper while we were doing our big stock-up-before-the-baby-arrives grocery shop, I got the bloody show, Chad’s car broke down, and then I went straight into labour on January 15th with Vincent arriving on January 16th in the morning. Glaaaahhhh!!  But you know, I think about women giving birth in war torn countries and can’t bring myself to feel too sorry for myself. All my friends, family and neighbours have been blessings in my life. How does anyone do this having kids thing without an awesome mom who lives 10 minutes away? Truly. I don’t know.

Wcareere’ve been trying to keep some semblance of normal in our house and for this bookish household that means “keep on reading!” So I am finishing up My Brilliant Career as part of my ‘Reading the Classics from A-Z‘ objective. (I am at the Letter F – for Franklin). Great laid back reading and perfect for balancing my hormones out. I had started reading a book about a communist work camp and thought better of it about day 3 after having Vincent home. I just could not cry any more than I already was crying with the hormones you know? But “Career’ is about the life of Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin and her coming of age in the Australian bush lands. Absolutely worth picking up and a nice distraction from the chill.

Althea is also adjusting well to the arrival of little man (“when is he going to play with dinos though please?”) and reading is a big part of keeping us on track and bringing joy and connection into our pre-nap and bedtime rituals. Here is Althea’s “Wild Winter” book shelf!

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Celebrating a Season

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My little outdoor explorer made many valuable discoveries this beautiful Autumn season!

  1. Acorns hurt when they land on your head.
  2. Leaves are most beautiful when the sun shines through them both outdoors and in! (See our beautiful stain glass leaf window inspired by The Artful Parent above).
  3. Many pumpkins in the pumpkin patch look promising from a distance but may actually be smelly and broken when you try to pick them up.
  4. Outdoor picnics can and should continue into the fall. (Gumpy Gump recommends that you always leave your apple core for a local squirrel).
  5. Beaver dams are awesome and beavers will hide in them for a very long time despite you calling out “Helloooooo! Beeeeaaaavers!”

We did have some rare rain days here in the Gatineau Hills. Days where we focused on learning our letters and exploring sensory bins inspired by the Preschool Journey curriculum over at Teaching Mama. Favs included the “Ocean” bin with blue water beads, the “Apples and Acorns” bin and (of course) our “Clouds and Cars” bin with a smash up derby that took place in the cloud dough heavens! We also learned that these are best explored with friends where we learned to take turns, to giggle and to generally enjoy the controlled chaos. (Word to the wise mama – keep close watch on these sensory activities especially when they involve beads or jello… gah!)

Despite the occasional bouts of rain we learned to run in our rubber boots on grassy trails and that a hot cocoa and good book cannot fail to warm the spirits. Al’s Dada installed the cute picture book rails you see above and we promptly filled them with some of our fall selections from both the library and our own collection.

Top Shelf

  1. All for Pie and Pie for All
  2. If I Were an Owl
  3. Angus Lost
  4. Mouse’s First Fall

Middle Shelf

  1. Very Hairy Bear
  2. Who Loves the Fall?
  3. Autumn Leaves

Bottom Shelf

  1. Duck at the Door
  2. The Busy Little Squirrel
  3. Bear says Thanks


Books in our Basket

Poetry makes up a definite part of our lives at home. When Althea was very little I would read her Tennyson while she was finishing up lunch in her high chair. Admittedly, this was the first book on the shelf within reach and mostly I read the poems to keep myself from the supreme boredom of waiting to see if she would spit the peas or try the mashed banana. It also felt good to be reading poems again after so much time with the “What to Expect” books that formed a neat pile on my bedside table. But this was the start of poetry with my little one.

hickory-dickory-vollandIn my childhood home, nursery rhymes were a daily pleasure. I can recite many of them by rote and was surprised when my husband found that impressive since I just assumed that everyone knew these rhymes by heart. Nursery rhymes are a first introduction to poetry since they teach the valuable skills of pattern and rhyme in language and tell us stories about the world around us through the lens of a child’s eye.


The nonsensical poetry of Doctor Zuess, Al Perkins and Lewis Carroll is particularly fun as Althea gets older since it’s all about the rhythm of the words on the page and little to do with life’s lessons or even real words or worlds. Lord knows we get enough about life’s lessons at almost all times.  It’s nice to know that poetry is a space that can be free from all that on occasion, particularly in the world of children’s literature.


A year ago, I read somewhere that waking your child with poetry after a nap is a lovely and gradual way of bringing them back into their day. I’ve found this allows us to skip some of the cranky-ass behaviour I was seeing when it was just up – pee – downstairs. Now, Althea and I take a little time together as she lies in her bed to read a poem or two from one of those great old childrens’ compendiums of literature that you can find at garage sales if you dig hard enough. When I ask, “Do you want a poem?” and she nods sleepily, calls out for “orange book” and laughs at all the funny bits – I’m just so happy! Who says kids can only enjoy picture books? It’s absolutely not true! Don’t believe it for a second!

inthewildAnd now I have discovered the joys of contemporary poetry written specifically for children! Some of this has been hit and miss but I’ve got to say the beautiful combo of David Elliott’s poetry and Holly Meade’s illustration is a consistent hit around here. We have read In the Wild and On the Farm and we have now ordered In the Sea from our library. If you can find them, I absolutely recommend them. Here is a little sample from In the Wild:

Big yet moves

with grace.

Powerful, yet delicate

as lace.

As to color, plain –

an ordinary gray.

But once we start to look,

we cannot look away.

When peaceful, silent;

when angry, loud.

Who would have guessed

the Elephant

is so much like a cloud?


Books in our Basket

bearAlthea and I cut ourselves off from the world several times this winter due to colds, the blasted wind and sometimes both . Here’s the thing that sometimes happens to stay at home moms in such situations – you get accustomed to being alone with your child. Suddenly, you find you would prefer to be alone and, occasionally, you cringe when you are invited to something. You begin to focus on what would be required (energy) to actually prepare to leave the house. Always, I need a shake up to remind me to get out and about and to invite others into our space.

Althea has been reading A Visitor for Bear  by Bonny Becker. This is a lovely tale of a bear who rejects the visits of a little gray mouse to his home until he finds himself very much enjoying the mouse’s company.

The fact is, when we have friends over, Althea is always happier, whines less, is better able to amuse herself independently, and sleeps like a rock during nap time. Most importantly, I am reminded of how valuable a cup of tea by the fire, a nibble of cheese and a good laugh with an old friend can be.