Christmas, Solstice & Hannukah, Family life

Beloved books for December

 

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Detail from “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Tis the season for slow mornings and cozy evenings, for rich stories and deep dreaming. Here are a few of our family’s favourite books for this sweet season:

For babies, toddlers and kids up to five years old (and, of course, beyond):

Winter by Gerda Muller. Wordless, wintery wonder!

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. The beauty and curiosity of an ordinary day.

Red is Best by Kathy Stinson. Always a hit for those who like to dress themselves!

Alfie’s Christmas by Shirley Hughes. Alfie’s experiences as a three or four year-old person are told always with respect, care and attention — and this holiday story is no different.

Almost a Full Moon by Hawksley Workman. A sweet song turned into a gorgeous picture book, rich with themes of generosity, community, and sharing the harvest.

The Tale of Baboushka by Elena Pasquali. This has been Sage’s favourite for a few years running.

Night Tree by Eve Bunting. A family heads out after dark, to prepare a happy surprise in the forest. A classic.

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper and Carson Ellis. One of today’s most amazing illustrators teamed up with a classic poem by an award-winning children’s author.

Sleep Tight Farm by Eugenie Doyle. The harvest season is over and the farmers are preparing the land for its long winter’s nap. The illustrations in this one are really worth seeing.

For six years and up:

A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. A classic story of Christmas past written with the voice of a poet, here beautifully illustrated by one of the best: Trina Schart Hyman (who also illustrated the next book).

Hershel and the Hannukah Goblins by Eric Kimmel. Jasper’s forest school leader has made a tradition of reading this story in December, and every time the kids have raved about it on the carpool home. A trickster hero versus the King of Goblins on the eighth night of Hannukah? The kids are here for it.

Fireside Stories: Tales for a Winter’s Eve – a collection of stories, matched to the season from Samhain through to the start of spring, this book is full of depth and wonder.

A Small Miracle by Peter Collington. No words, just beautiful illustrations telling a story of generosity and care. This is one my kids return to over and over for some quiet moments of simply looking.

Nine Days to Christmas by Marie Hall Ets. This 1960 Caldecott Prize winner tells of a Mexican girl’s beautiful, ordinary days of excitement and anticipation leading up to her first posada. A longish book, requested over and over.

A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King. A very funny story with great illustrations that pokes fun at mall-centric celebrations, from an Indigenous perspective.

Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean Penziwol.  Dreamy, contemplative quiet. Perfect for winter nights well beyond the holiday season.

 

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22-24 months, 24-28 months, Family life

A Montessori Christmas list

merry montessori

Nicole from The Kavanaugh Report came up with a great idea: while there are lots of Montessori recommendation blog posts and roundups of great products, it’s fascinating to see what other folks actually considering for holiday gifts. Like, in real life.

We usually have a fairly low-key Christmas celebration, and the whole season is filled with lots of experiences: this year we’ll be travelling across the country to visit family in early December, we’ll host our second annual winter solstice party, and we’ll spend lots of time with family and friends locally. We’ll work to emphasize these events — and the people we spend them with — as truly valuable at this time of year.

We don’t really do much about Santa — we’ll go to the parade, but other than that, we think it’s pretty magical to give and receive gifts with the folks you actually know and love. Gifts are a little extra token of our love for each other.

All that said: I do have a Google Drive document going. Not all of these will be under the tree next month, but the list helps me to focus on and keep an idea of what Jasper (who turned two in September) might actually enjoy and use when I hit the craft fairs, stores, and um, websites. And it helps to have a collection of ideas to share with family.

montessori gift list

1. Pajamas — It’s a Christmas (eve) tradition! These blue whales are adorable, but David liked some in an owl print at the Vancouver airport that we might pick up on our next swing through.

2. New Baby Lotto — I’ve been looking at lotto games for a few months, and was thrilled to find this one at Spark, our wonderful local toy store. This game will obviously useful to have on hand this winter as we all transition to welcoming a new babe to our house.

3. Lifecycle of a Monarch set — Love this, a great hands-on application for discussions after reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and there are lots of opportunities for extensions like these cards. If you’re local, these are also available and super-affordable at Spark!

4. Wallet Cards — I’ve been eyeing these Montessori-inspired, wallet-sized cards online (and following the mom/company founder’s Instagram) for a while. Now might be the time.

5. Liquid Watercolours — We are big into art around here, and I’m definitely interested in picking up some vibrant watercolours. Christmas is a great time to re-stock the everyday art supplies stash, so these are high on the list.

6. Size and Shape Sorting Board — Sorting, shapes, colours, sizes (okay, so far we’re at “big” and “baby”); these are all big interests of Jasper’s right now. This was one featured in my Montessori toddler training, and I’ve since noticed similar materials around the web (like on Quentin’s shelves!).

7. MagnaTiles — We were recently handed down an old overhead projector, which we’ve re-purposed as a light table, and these MagnaTiles are both magnetic and translucent. What a combination. This Instagram post from @ookukioo convinced me. Available at Spark!

8. ViewThru Geometric Solids — Something else for the light table: see-through, colourful and lightweight geometric solids. A great language & math opportunity. For purists: this set doesn’t exactly mirror the traditional Montessori geometric solids, which is perhaps merciful because you won’t have to work so hard to remember to differentiate between the ovoid and the ellipsoid (or is that just me?).

9. Junior Drum Set — My husband is a musician and Jasper (and his pals) are lucky to have lots of hands on access to real instruments. He likes to drum on the bodrhan and hand-drums we have available now, so David suggested getting him a kid-sized set similar to this one that he’d seen locally. Are we insane? Possibly.

What’s on your list this year? And specifically: any book ideas to share or recommend?

For more holiday ideas, check out these Pinterest boards:
Follow Winter, Advent, Solstice on Pinterest.
Follow Montessori home on Pinterest.

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