“Goodnight iPad” by Ann Droyd

In my previous post I touched upon some of the fears our children face as the first day of school approaches. In today’s post I’d like to address an issue taking sleep away from many engaged parents. I am one of those parents and I am talking about our hectic mornings-to-come and  getting everything and everyone ready on time. Mission impossible? Not exactly. I think that our morning goals can be reached, but the key to success is hidden in the night before. In other words, we all need a good night sleep to study/function well the next day. But do we? Apparently not quite. According to some recent study on the link between the quality of sleep and children’s performance at school, irregular/short sleep doesn’t affect boys as much as girls.  (?!) You’ve just won a bedtime battle with your daughter. Lucky you!  If you have a son, don’t worry, just ignore the findings.  Even if your boy doesn’t need a lot of sleep, you do. Early bedtime it is!  Of course, HOW early or late it is up to your family’s biological clock. Some of my friends turn the lights off around 7.30. We target 9pm for our night owl.  The best we could negotiate. What’s  bedTIME at your home?

But the length of sleep is one thing and its quality is another. How to help your child rest well and have sweet dreams? From my own experience, there are three things to remember:

1. Take an evening walk

It’s a wonderful way to unwind, chat about the day, plan the rest of the week/weekend. The more oxygen you breathe in, the better you sleep.

2. Drink a cup of milk (with honey)

No late night junk food. It only adds to nightmares. Dairy relaxes and helps to fall asleep.

And last but not least,

3. Avoid/limit late night stimulation: TV, video games, computer…

Today’s book is meant to help you to convince your children not to bring tablets, smart phones, and other buzzing and ringing devices to bed. An old teddy bear is a better idea.

“Goodnight iPad” is a hysterical  take on a bedtime story. A spot on rhyme for our digitalized and computerized kids.  This apparent parody of an old classic ( “Goodnight Moon” of course) is so well observed and humorously written that even your 4-year-old-iPad -maniac will enjoy it (instead of a Nook bedtime story)

“In the bright buzzing room there was an iPad…  And a new Facebook friend and texts with no end…”   It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Don’t we all know those “bings, bongs, and beeps of emails and tweets”  going off around our houses until the sleep starts calling and we have to take a break from our virtual reality.  “Goodnight pop stars, MacbookAir…”

Giggles and giggles on every page.  And you just have to see the hilarious cartoons that go with it! The old lady looks pretty determined as she tosses the gadgets through the window…

I am not going to throw our electronics away, but I think I have to take some measures and help my son part with his Netflix show.  Perhaps you need to do the same.  Have a goodnight!

“First Day of School” by Anne Rockwell

Some people like it, some people hate it, but no one can deny that the summer vacation is coming to an end. Or it has already ended, depending on the school district. Naturally, it is hard to give up the guilt-free idleness, long breakfasts and late bed times. One can easily get used to living without a schedule and a piercing sound of an alarm clock. But at the same time, there is always this inexplicable excitement at a new beginning.  With a new school year,  our children open a new chapter of their lives. ( Even if they don’t understand the above metaphor yet.) Kindergarten, 1st grade, junior high… Time flies.

Our son will become a proud kindergartner this year. He is thrilled.  All he knows is that he will meet a lot of new friends at the Big-Kid-School and that he will study science, which in his mind boils down to weird experiments. How not to be excited at such prospects! But for many children the very thought of starting or going back to school might be scary. What do you do as a parent if your child is not positive about school?  I suggest a simple trick: focus shifting. Instead of talking about a new school year, a new class, a new teacher… why not to talk about new clothes for school, a new haircut or a new pencil-case?

Nicholas gets a haircut to look sharp for the first day of school. As it turns out, many of his friends get something new before the school starts. A new backpack for Kate, a new dress for Eveline, , or a new shiny key for Evan, big enough now to stay home alone. (Almost alone, that is. With a babysitter). As children give one another updates on their preparations for the first day of school, they also reminisce about their fears and laughs from the previous years. As a result, neither Nicholas, nor his friends can wait for the school to start. And nothing would be better than being in the same class with their best friends.

A very familiar scenario, isn’t it? A humorous and reassuring story. A just-right read before the school gates open. And you still have time to arrange a  playdate for your child and his/her future class-mates.  We had ours last weekend and I must say, it is a great icebreaker, indeed.

“Madeline” by Ludwig Bemelmans

Taking city trips is like drinking good wine. Either it makes you tired or you  just want more.  What an opening for a post on children’s books, right? Appalling! Delete. Let’s start again. City trips are like ice-cream. There is always a surprising new flavor to taste. And if you are not up for experimenting and risking getting disappointed, you can always go for something tried out and familiar.  Mint-chocolate-chip anyone? I can’t have enough ice-cream and I can’t have enough city trips.  (And I’ve passed both passions on to our son, by the way.) I like seeing new towns and I don’t mind coming back to  the same places. They never look the same anyway and there is always a new hidden gem to discover. From a building or a museum to a curious boutique or a park. And the best is when I can finally put away the city map,  step away from the main tourist route and finally start to see, hear, eat… the  city the way only the locals do.

With “Madeline” everyone can feel like a local in… Paris!

Madeline was smallest out of twelve girls living in a house covered with vines. Every day, sun or rain, Miss Clavel would take the girls for a walk. They would go skating in winter or to the ZOO in the summer. At night all the girls would sleep in their twelve beds neatly arranged in two rows . One night, Madeline would just not stop crying.  It was her appendix. Madeline had to go to the hospital.   And although appendicitis is not contagious,  somehow , by the following night, all eleven girls appeared to be in excruciating pain… Go figure! 

Or rather, go ahead and read this cutely rhymed, amusing classic with your children, however far away from seeing Paris you are. The plot might appear trivial, but somehow it is quite engaging and the character so endearing. The Parisian setting adds a lot,  I must say.  Are the ink drawings purely a background to the story, or do they play the main role? Either way, they basically take the reader on a virtual city tour. You  can’t help recognizing the main landmarks, like the majestic Notre Dame, The Louvre or The Eiffel Tower.

And if you enjoyed visiting Paris with little  Madeline, you might trust her as your tour guide to another great European city. “Madeline in London” is a suitable read before you go to visit the Queen of England. Or the three generations of future kings.

“Koala Lou” by Mem Fox

We’ve been north, we’ve been south. We’ve read our way east and west. Now it’s time o swing by the Aussie Land! You might have many reasons to visit Down Under, but the unique Australian wildlife us surely one of them. Where else can you see Kangaroos  and Dingos at large and spy other curiously named creatures, like Anteaters and Wombats.  If only Australia were a bit closer to the rest of the World…  Well,  it isn’t. But  what we, those who live in the “rest of the World”, can do for now is to read about it.

“Koala Lou”  is a  wonderful way to sharpen our appetite for the Australian outback.  Pamela Loft’s illustrations are not only an outstanding visual for Mem Fox’s touching story, but also an engaging picture of the Australian flora and fauna.

Koala Lou was a lovable little girl. Everyone loved her. Emu did, Platypus did, Koala Klaws did, but the one who loved her most was her mother. “Koala Lou, I do love you,” she reminded her every day. But things changed for Koala Lou with new siblings. The busy mom had no time to verbalize her love for Koala Lou, who started doubting her mother’s feelings for her. In order to attract the parent’s attention, she decided to enter the bush olympics and win the gum tree climbing competition. Unfortunately, she came second. But it didn’t matter. What really counted was hearing again her mother’s reassuring “Koala Lou, I do love you.”

Next to greetings from Australia, the book sends a powerful message to both parents and children. Communication is important. Verbal and non-verbal. After all, actions speak louder than words.

“Polar Opposites” by Erik Brooks

August has officially started but I haven’t even been to all the continents on my July travel pages. Hence the decision to continue the theme. After all, the summer is not over yet and there is no such thing as too much traveling.

Having settled that, I was left with another dilemma. Which continent should I take your children to next?  Luckily,  I came across “Polar Opposites”. With this book we can travel to three places at once.  What a sweet deal, right?

Alex lived in the Arctic, Zina in the Antarctic.  Alex was a big bear, Zina was a small penguin. Alex liked to get up late, Zina was an early bird.  Alex played TV loud, Zina cherished quiet moments with a book. Alex was messy, Zina neat. Despite all the differences, the two were best friends.  Naturally, they went on vacation together, even though, one preferred traveling by air and the other by sea, and one liked it cold the other preferred hot climates.  How did it work for them? Well, as best friends, Alex and ZIna were always ready to meet in the middle. How about the Galapagos Islands?

A compact story but so comprehensive.  Not only is  it a great tale about friendship and how the differences don’t matter, but also, it is a wonderful tool to increase your child’s command of opposites.  And last but not least, what a relevant geography lesson on both icy continents and the Darwin’s and turtles’ beloved islands. Looking at the speed at which glaciers melt and considering that the Galapagos Isles are said to be one of the first ones to go under the water, it makes sense to go visit as long as we can.