Books, Children, Musings

Transitioning Out of Kids

One of the biggest questions and perhaps most difficult things to navigate with your kids is how exactly to transition out of the kids section.

Most kids are ready to start reading Young Adult titles around 11 to 12 (some sooner and some a bit later) but that is still relatively young when the teen section boasts a great variety of themes like sex, suicide, mental health, war, etc.  The rest of the bookstore can be a dangerous place for young minds, or at the very least it opens doors that are better left closed for a few years.

There are a number of ways to check and see if a particular title is appropriate for your young one and I’ll list a few here now.

Common Sense Media

Is a great all around resource that gives you no nonsense reviews of books, movies, and television.  I really appreciate that they don’t simply put an age on everything but also list out the reasons for placing it in that category.  Some kids might be better with violence than other and there are some kids who have no problem with some explicit language but would rather stay away from anything to do with .  They list the themes or instances of questionable content which allow you to decide whether it is appropriate for your child.  No one knows your child like you do so be sure and click through to the full review to better understand the ins and outs of the media you choose to share with them.

Dove.org

Is another site devoted to reviewing and categorizing modern media for parents.  They don’t separate into specific ages but rather good for everyone, good for 12+ (which is perfect for your teens), and good for 18+.  If you want to browse just be sure to filter the results by their age categories.  They will also break down how they came to that rating.  Showing which particular category (sex, violence, language, etc.) pushed out of one category and into the next.  It takes a little more work to understand the minutia on this site but if you want an easier one glance rating, this site might work better for you.

Plugged In

At this point you probably have picked up the gist.  Plugged In is another site dedicated to  reviewing media aimed at kids and discussing the areas that might cause some alarm or be better for older kids.  I find this one best if you have a particular series or title in mind as browsing the site is a bit difficult for me personally but it might work better for you so I thought I would add it in here as well.  I will say that they thoroughly go through the themes and content so if you really want a well researched and explained review this sight might be better for you.  They also feel more christian oriented which could be a pro or con depending on your point of view.

I will say that these sites are great background research but will always be coming from a slightly biased stand point.  They won’t be discussing whether the book is popular or enjoyable they are simply breaking down the possible things that one might not want to introduce to their child.  For a more well rounded review there are book reviewers like myself out there talking about the content and themes in a greater capacity.  You can always talk with your local booksellers as well about which titles they enjoyed or have seen others enjoy and do the background research afterwards.

The last resort is always to either read the book together so that you can discuss any issues that come up as they come up or to read it first and then hand it over because again, you know your kid best.

I am going to be making more posts in this series where I discuss some books I suggest for kids so be sure to follow the blog in whatever way suites you best!

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7-12, Books, Children, Hi-Lo

The Keepers: The Box and The Dragonfly by Ted Sanders Review

Series: The Keepers #1
Title: The Box and the Dragonfly
Author: Ted Sanders
Publisher: Harper Collins
Page #: 544
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Even before I had finished this guy I was handing it out to kids because I knew it was great.  If you have a child that really loves Harry Potter or fantastic worlds that are set within the real world this is definitely a series to check out.  The first two books in the series have been published and it is ongoing so if they like it there will be more books in the future.

This story follows two unlikely heros who are thrust into a world they didn’t know existed and it all starts with a warehouse full of stuff.  Aisles and aisles of boxes and bins filled with doodads and thingamabobs that to the untrained eye seem kitschy and out of place.  Both our protagonists have an affinity that has laid dormant in their genes which allows them to bond with one specific item in the warehouse.  Once bonded the item changes from a paperweight into a powerful magical item.  Each item is unique and each wielder is the only one able to use that particular item.

Little do the kids know that there are very powerful creatures who want to have all of these magic items to use as they see fit.  These creatures were once the makers of such items but have since lost the ability to do so.  They are trying to round up as many as possible to fortify their own power.  The kids will have to decide which side to fight for.  The side of humans who were given these gifts, or the side of the monsters who made them.

The first book is definitely a traditional set up.  We meet the cast of characters, learn how they got their items, what their items do, and get a taste of what the bad guys can do.  What stood out to me the most was definitely the world building.  Sanders has put in time and effort to create a history for the items in his world and to create rules for his magic that helps keep it in check.  I fell in love with the world long before I started to care for the characters and their individual plights.

It was fast paced and I didn’t mind that most of the book was learning about the world since it was such an interesting world to inhabit.  I definitely see the potential for these books to be great and I went and grabbed a copy of the second book and it is on my TBR for this year.  If you have a little one that likes action and adventure this is definitely a little known series to take a look at.  If they enjoy fantastic elements in a more believable and realistic world it is also a good one, as not everyone wants to deal with an entirely new world.

I will say that the bad guys here are a bit scary so it might be best to wait to read it until you are 10+, but it was not particularly challenging so if you have a brave 8 year old they would definitely be able to understand the book.  Perhaps it is one to read together, so that any scary moments can be discussed and snuggles can be used to build comfort.

The protagonists are both genders which I always appreciate.  While the main POV character is male (as is common for the genre) I actually felt the girl had more character to her.  She definitely had a bigger personality and it was their friendship that really held the story line together.  I believed that they trusted each other, while it started as simply discussing this weird thing they had in common, I saw their friendship grow and bloom over the course of the book.  It wasn’t instant friendship and I really appreciated that.

The other big thing that I loved was that they have families!  These weren’t orphans being signed up for a magic war with no one to miss or worry about them, they had parents who loved and cared for them siblings that counted on them.  Of course the very things they loved could also be used against them.  I hope that their families become a bigger part of the stories the more this series continues.  There is a lot that a family can do in the same way that freedom from the constraints of traditional family structures allows certain things, there is great power in having generations available as a resource.

This was one of the more interesting Middle Grade books I read last year, even though it took me the whole year to finish it.  I kept putting it down to read other pressing things (like books for my book club) but it was always by my bedside and I would read a bit here and there because it was so captivating.  I couldn’t just put it down and forget about it.

Do you guys have any suggestions for books that are similar to this one?  If so please leave them down below so that I can get myself a copy and read it to add to my repertoire of great Middle Grade Fantasy.  Along those lines, are there any stories you particularly want to hear me talk about?  I am always open to suggestions for things to look into.

0-2, 2-5, 3-6, Books, Children, Musings

Best Bedtime Picturebooks

As someone who has the joy and the challenge of a two and a half year old I will be the first to tell you that nap time and bed time are two of the most stressful times of the day … despite being necessary reprieves.

If you, like me, need some help with the bed time routine it might be a good idea to grab one of these books and make it part of the routine.  It might be boring for you to read the same story over and over but it helps with relaxation, pattern creation, and eventually will help lead to reading as memorization allows for word recognition allows for a continued understanding of letters, sounds, and grammar patterns… but we were talking about bed time.

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This one is my personal favorite and it is a newer one.  I do also have a young boy who is fascinated with trucks and construction vehicles so it may just be a personal thing.  I feel like the particular cadence of this one lends itself to a good wind down activity.  It just seems to slowly loose steam, which in a bed time story is a good thing.  You want it to help bring the energy down a little bit.  If your kid falls in love with it.  A sequel has come out that is all about sharing and asking for help and that is really great as well.

6557873This next one is great to read alongside or just before the bed time routine.  It follows Little Pookie (a beloved character of mine from childhood, how about you?) while he goes through his bedtime routine.  There is a little bit of open interaction in it so I would definitely recommend this one earlier rather than latter because it stimulates the brain a bit too much to lull a child to sleep, but it definitely has its own benefits.  Helps create routines which again… important for young children.

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Goodnight Moon is maybe the quintessential bedtime story.  I think we all remember it from childhood and there is a reason.  Don’t fix what isn’t broken.  If you haven’t tried incorporating this one into your nightly routine it might be a time to revisit it.  There are board book and picture book versions so it can grow with your child.  Margaret Wise Brown is one of the staples of picture books and all of her books are worth adding to your child’s library.  She has a similar quality to Goodnight-Goodnight Construction site in that the cadence of the story helps wind down after a long day, so it would be good in bed.

122125Jane Yolen is one of the upcoming names in children’s books.  Her series about Dinosaurs is well worth the read and this one is great for parents of kids who try and talk their way out of bed time, or throw tantrums.  It shows several ways one should not act at bedtime, and discusses the proper way.  No shouting, no tantrums, no bargaining just a kiss and a sigh and a great rest.  I know lots of kids who are obsessed with Dinos and this one is great to stimulate their imagination because the parents in the story are human, and the child becomes the dinosaur.  One typically would think the Dino’s would be very rambunctious when in fact they go straight to sleep calmly.  It doesn’t rile kids up and has a great teaching element.  Well worth the read.
835495I’m ending this list on another classic and this one is one that worked well for my mother getting me to sleep when I was a baby.  I really loved animals and this one teaches baby animal names as well as winds down for the night.  Its just a sweet book that rhymes and uses repetition to lull a sense of calm into the child.  If you haven’t read it, I would recommend grabbing a copy.  It definitely helps wind down at the end of the day.

 

So whether you needed some suggestions of books that slowly bring a kid into bed time or books to teach the bedtime routine here are a few to try and add to your library both new and old, tried and true.

What are your favorite bedtime stories?  I would love to hear in the comments section below and maybe I will make another list like this one in the future.

Books, Children, Musings

Reading: Empathy Training

One of the greatest complaints I have heard from parents, grandparents, and the general public concerning children is a simple question?

Why don’t kids understand that what they say has repercussion.

Kids are cruel and seem to say the one thing that cuts deepest without even a nanosecond of hesitation.  Part of this is something learned over time.  Part of it has to do with the development of the brain and an understand of consequence but most of it has to do with empathy.

                 em·pa·thy
                ˈempəTHē/
                    noun
                          1. the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Some people think that everyone learns empathy while growing up and once our brains are completely grown it is cemented.  This leads to vast disparaties in adults from people with over empathetic tendencies who are crippled by the imagined, projected emotions of others and sociopaths who cannot relate to anyone and believe that emotions are just an act.
However, there has been copious amounts of research in empathy training and the only way that has been proven to improve empathy in children and adults alike: reading fiction.
Fiction opens up our imagination to other points of view.  It literally places us in someone else’s shoes and forces us to experience something outside ourselves.
If your kids are struggling with empathy it might be a good time to encourage reading some fiction.  If you find yourself struggling to connect with others it might be time to pick up a new fiction book.
It is important that it is fiction and not nonfiction or other forms of writings as nonfiction is always from the perspective of the other.  It is set in the real world with other people you will always be removed, however fiction requires more suspension of disbelief, it forces the imagination to stretch to allow one to accept the reality presented even if only for a little while.
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I am by no means an expert.  I only recently learned about this but I wanted to pass along the knowledge that reading can do something that literally no other activity out there can.
If this interests you there are plenty of scholarly articles that discuss the studies done on this and the extent to which one can train their empathy I have linked a few of my favorites below:
Books are powerful and they need to be emphasized in kids lives.  Whether you make a commitment to read every day, once a week, or as much as you can it needs to be a part of lives.  It will give your kids the skills they need to navigate the world as adults.
5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

Top 5 Middlegrade Books of 2017

The new year is beginning so I figured I would wrap up a couple of the books that I read last year that I think should be more popular than they currently are.

Now this book was originally published in 2016 but it came out in paperback last spring and is a really ambitious novel written through poetry.  I would say it is written in verse, but its more like a collection of poetry with a plot.  If you have a child who is interested in Japanese culture or who is mixed race, a child who feels very different from their peers or just one who likes stories set in the real world with real children, this is definitely worth picking up.  I did a full review of this book last year that you can look to for more thoughts on it.

I think for sure that this one was my favorite of the bunch but I’m not going to put these in any particular order because they are all worth picking up.  If you have a kid who loved Wonder and is looking for something similar, if you have a kid who is adopted, a kid with special needs, a kid who needs to learn a bit about differences then this is one to pick up.  I have been singing this books praises since long before it actually was released in September and of course I did a full review of it if you want to know more.  I think it should be a staple book in libraries and schools and definitely worth reading together as I loved it as an adult.

This guy technically came out in 2014 but the series is still ongoing and there was a new addition last year.  I was surprised that more kids haven’t been reading it.  It is slightly on the horror side for kids fiction as the plot revolves around ghosts and ghost hunters but the protagonists are the ones with the power.  Sure the ghosts are scary but the kids are trained to find them and stop them so they end up empowered.  If you are nervous about it I would give it a read yourself because I read it to my best friend and we both loved it.  Of course there is a full review to check out if it seems interesting to you or you think your kid might like it.

This guy might be the most well known of the bunch as it did receive the Newberry Honor and therefor is pretty prominently displayed in many book stores.  I want to point out though that this is a great book for all kids.  It would be a great story to read aloud as it is written similar to The Canterbury Tales where each chapter is told by a different character who happens to be sitting in the same inn.  There is really great young humor (A dragon who can’t stop farting fire) and some really poignant messages of acceptance and tolerance.  Worth the read, and if you can pick up a physical copy to look at you will be sure to appreciate how beautiful the art work is, as the book is fully illuminated.  Full review is right here if you want to know more.

I listened to this one through the audio book and loved it.  If you have a little one who struggles with reading, or you are looking for a great book to listen to on a long car ride this winter then I definitely recommend picking this one up.  This one will go out to anyone who is a fan of historical pieces like Anne of Green Gables or Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books as well as folks who like books about boarding school (although mundane ones).  This is a story of a group of friends whose headmistress passes away and they wish to solve the crime of her murder while hiding the fact that she was murdered in order not to be split up and sent back to their various homes.  There was a lot of really great banter in this one and is worth looking into.  This is the only one I haven’t done a full review of.  If you would like to know more about it then feel free to leave a comment below or to reach out to me on social media!

I wish a good year to all of you and your little ones.  I hope that we all read some really great books in 2018.

What were some of your kids favorite books of last year?  I don’t mind reading through back log so it doesn’t need to be new releases.

5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

Reading Resolutions and Reading Challenges

The new year is just getting started and many of us feel that it is a great place to restart.  I am definitely an organize obsessed person, the sheer amount of color codes and systems in my weekly planner and bullet journals are a by product of that.

I am definitely one of those people who look at my reading and try and see if there are things I want to do differently, do more of, do less of, etc.  I usually set myself certain goals at the beginning of the year.  Most bookish people will use Goodreads which has a built in challenge where you simply choose a particular number of books to try and read in the year.  I have friends who use excel spreadsheets to track metrics like genre, author gender, author ethnicity, country of origin and a whole bunch more so you can make it as simple or complex as you want.  When it comes to kids though I find that they need a bit more structure.

I am a believer that resolutions and challenges when it comes to reading can be very helpful in diversifying reading and pushing your own boundaries.  Whether you have a voracious reader or a reluctant one gamifying reading by creating goals, adding friendly competition, and/or providing some structure to the books for the year to come can be an interesting way to change up the way your children read.

I personally use the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge and have for the past few years.  As an adult it helps me pick books to read both from my existing TBR that I might otherwise overlook again and again for something else as well as pushing me to read outside of my comfort zone.  If you read it might be a fun game to play together or put siblings up against each other.  Read together, read separately, have physical rewards or create an artistic display of the books you read.  It makes reading fun, builds good patterns and adds incentive.

In case you missed it, I did also post a summer reading challenge post which is a great resource of different challenges that you can use or adapt to be yearly challenges and worth the look.

f I’ve been tempted to make my own challenge but I am not entirely sure I could create such a beautiful thing as the many that you can on Pinterest.  I don’t have the necessary computer programs.

Have you tried reading challenges, or do you prefer to just read on your own unhindered with restrictions.

2-5, 3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children, Musings

January 2018 Book Releases for Children

I’ve been working on a way to share the books that are coming out each month for kids with you guys and it has been hard to find a system that I like, I am going to keep playing around with it but for me, browsing the cover art is helpful since they tell you a lot about a book and also lets you know whether your kids will be interested in it.

This month I tried making a Pinterest Board that would allow you to scroll through the covers and click on something interesting.  The link brings you right to the Goodreads pages for the titles which include the release dates, reviews, genre denominations and links to buy the books.  Let me know if this works for you guys because aesthetically I do think that it is a great idea.

As far as new releases go, there were significantly fewer this month.  Which makes sense as most people don’t want to spend money after Christmas, they did all their shopping the last few months and are backing up, but there are a few books coming out that are worth looking at.

Again, let me know how you feel about this format of release round up and any other commentary, suggestions, or critiques are welcome as well.

Happy New Year!

 

7-12, Books, Children, YA (Young Adult)

Books for the Budding Environmentalist

I have spent the last month or so trying to decide how best to structure the blog going forward.  I have always known that I wanted to post Mon/Wed/Fri but I wasn’t sure what to do to help stream line my content.

I work best in some sort of structure and I think that what I will be doing moving forward is making each day have a theme.  Friday’s theme will focus on Young Readers.  This is a wide theme, it could include Middle grade book reviews, lists of content that best suits the young reader genre, or anything that for children who have learned to read on their own and are expected to do so for school.

Starting it off this month I wanted to talk a bit about some middlegrade books that I recommend for parents who want their kids to be ecologically conscious.

Some folks may have heard of this one, but I was surprised to find that Carl Hiaasen is not as well known.  I read this one when I was a child (and if you need some quality early 2000s film then the movie adaptation is pretty great as well) but all of Hiaasen’s books have some element of animal activism.  This one involves a group of kids who are attempting to save endangered owls from losing their habitat when a popular breakfast joint wants to expand and build a parking lot.  It discusses why it is important to protect animal rights and the “evils” of big business … a.k.a. greed.  I really enjoyed the book and there are a number that he has written so if this particular plot doesn’t work then just looking at his back catalog is definitely worth while.

If you have a more mature tween or a teen who is interested in environmental post apocalypse situations then this one is definitely worth a look.  There is a bit of high tension between humans and some violence so I would definitely reserve it for the older kids but it is still a great look at the issues that fossil fuels have on our water.  The story follows one girl in a world where all of the water has become poisoned and humans are fighting to survive as their crops are destroyed and the drinkable water is difficult to find and controlled by a few very powerful individuals.  The protagonist was lucky enough to have a safe place to hole up but there are strangers moving toward her and she fears what that might mean.

This is another older book so it may difficult to find in main stream stores but it was one that I really enjoyed.  The protagonist of this story volunteers his time at a veterinarian’s who takes in birds of prey injured by the wildfires that have been threatening the local forests.  It involves discussions on the forestry industry, community service with animals, and the tension between business and nature in a rural Montana community.  If you can get your hands on a used copy then it is definitely a worthwhile book for animal lovers, prospective vets, or folks who want to learn more about the dangers of forest fires to natural habitats.

If your kid is interested in renewable resources and the depletion of fossil fuels then this dystopia might be one that they enjoy.  It takes place just ten years in the future when all oil and gas has been used up.  It follows how the world copes with the sudden loss of energy in a not so great way.   It is another one that has more interpersonal violence and would be better for more mature young readers and teens but is worth a read for anyone looking for a more realistic dystopia, no offense to The Hunger Games.  There is also an element of climate change and extreme weather caused by the over use of fossil fuels so it would also be good to look at if you wanted to discuss more sustainable practices in the home environment.

This last one is definitely the oldest book on this list (being younger than I am but not by much) but it is one for any kids who prefer mysteries to science fiction.  This particular Joe Bass Adventure revolves around an old boat maker whose daughter was found drowned after raising awareness of the dangers of DDT being sprayed on the crops in her area.  This would be a good choice to discuss the use of chemicals and pesticides which has greatly fallen to the way side.  If you want to discuss why organic food is healthier or why it is important to always wash your fruits and vegetables the environmental aspect of this.  It is also good to discuss the danger that comes with being the face of a movement.

This was definitely an interesting collection to pull together.  If you guys have any other good suggestions for books that discuss issues with the environment for young readers I would love to hear your suggestions.  There were a fair number of young adult books but finding some that were appropriate for younger readers was a bit difficult.  I don’t think I was as interested into them when I was that age, I was definitely more of a fantasy reader though so that isn’t super surprising.

If you have any suggestions for collections I should pull together in the future or books I should check out then also feel free to pass it along.

5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

5 Great Spooky Middlegrade Books/Series

These are the recommendations I have been waiting for.  As a child I couldn’t get enough of the horror genre … and that may have pervaded into my adulthood as well.  I want to talk about some hidden gems in the kids section that are on the scary side but definitely worth picking up around this time of year.  Whether it is just meant to be a good spooky tale or an outside reading project any of these books are worth a look.

It has been a long time since I saw a horror book in the kids section that doesn’t try to tamp down the scare factor and mix in some adventure … at least as far as the cover is concerned.  Took has one of the simplest … spookiest covers out there at the moment.  It is befitting a ghost story … or is it a witch story … both?  This story involves the very real fear of being a new kid in town alongside some scary local legends.  When the protagonist’s little sister starts acting strange, talking to her doll more than the real people around her, and finally disappearing into the woods he realizes that the stories kids have been telling him, might not be hazing pranks but may actually be true.  This is perhaps the scariest story on this list … at least in its simplicity.  It is the basic ghost story that you will find in the adult section as well.  This one is definitely meant for the horror buff, or for the brave kids who want to try something a bit more real.

 

I have posts where I discuss this new series by D. J. MacHale.  He was one of my favorite children’s writers growing up and he also wrote for and produced some of my favorite spooky television shows including Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Ghostwriter.  Am I dating myself here?  You might see this one in bookstores as Surrender the Key instead of Curse of the Boggin, they are the same book, there was just a title change between the hardcover and paperback editions.  This one is about a young boy who inherits a key, and a monster who can take the form of anything it chooses that sorely wants it.  How does a young boy outsmart a centuries old baddie who can better be described as simple bad luck.  Give it a try, and step into The Library where all sorts of mysteries throughout time are begging to be solved.

Yes, this might seem like a bit of a throw away recommendation.  Goosebumps have been a staple of the children’s section for more than 20 years at this point, but I want to throw out there the particular brand of Goosebumps books that took a page out of Choose Your Own Adventure novels.  Rather than a happy go lucky romp into space here you must choose between saving your best friends or investigating the weird man who took your backpack.  This particular one stuck with me as a kid, I still remember the scenes where the protagonist was seperated into all of its component pieces but maintained sentience enough to register that their eyes were in seperate jars from their mouth, their hands, and their feet.  A great adventure than can last from a few page turns to a good while if you play your cards right.  Just Beware because any mundane choice you make could be THE END!

We all know how terrifying the monsters our brains come up with in our sleep can be.  This story follows a young boy who cannot remember having a restful night’s sleep.  However, the real nightmare begins when the monsters that plague his dreamscape somehow finds its way into the real world.  This on top of a new stepmother he is pretty sure is a witch, a new house he is pretty sure is haunted, and the usual growing pains that a young boy suffers it is definitely a book worth a little bit of a shiver.  Just don’t read before bed, or you might give yourself Nightmares!

 

Growing up is hard, it is even harder when the end of the world has come via zombie hordes.  This was a new release when I started working in the kids section and it had hit the ground running.  The other really interesting thing about this one, it is a graphic novel.  As you would think, zombies and the fight against the inevitable is definitely stuck right in the middle of the horror genre.  How does a rag tag team composed of your average-joe, the nerdy best friend, a reformed bully, and the token love interest fair during the zombi-pocalypse.

3-6, 5-7, 7-12, Books, Children

5 Halloween Craft and STEM Books for Kids!

I really want to talk about some great books that include all sorts of crafts, activities, and science experiments and what better time than just before Halloween.  If I could get my hands on all of these and had all the time in the world, you know that I would be making all sorts of crazy crafts, interesting meals, and just all out fun science.

So Harry Potter in itself is not necessarily very spooky.  It may contain witches and wizards but unless your fear is existential (which tbh everyone’s is from time to time) then it isn’t your first thought for Halloween … or maybe it is.  In any case, this guy is a great cookbook if you want to cook up some witchey treats for a Halloween party, or just to pack into lunch boxes throughout the upcoming week.  Plus, its fun to do with the kids themselves.  They can get dressed up and pretend they are playing with some sort of gross experiment foods.  All around good time for everyone involved.  If you love HP then you should check out some of the other books with crafts or some hard core science based on the HP world.

As a quick transition, I want to put out a good kit if you have a science oriented kid without wasting all of the ingredients.  Science experiments you can eat is a great book for a parent who wants to let their kids explore scientific theories but doesn’t want to throw out half of their pantry every other day.  Dress up as a zombie chef who wants to elevate the flavor profile of the zombie hordes and throw some chemistry knowledge down.  You might learn a thing or two as well (like how to make mayonnaise from scratch).

Along the same lines here is a great book with every day science experiments that are easy and fun to do.  Rather than being food oriented these are more of your traditional learning experiences.  Make some goop, learn about electricity, or throw together some chemical reactions while having fun and making a mess.  This is a great book for some mad scientist parties.  I remember doing experiments like this in elementary school and even in high school the flashiest chemistry experiments were the best.  You learn the most when you are having fun, mad fun.

If your kid is less interested in science but you still want to make things together this is a great option for crafting.  Help them decorate the house with spooky ghosts, or make gifts for their friends to bring to school!  I was definitely a crafty, artsy kid and I would have loved making these cute little nick-knacks.  Plus, it is free.  If you really like what is in here then pinterest is a great resource where parents and teachers alike bring you some of their favorite spooky crafts.

Now I admit that the last one is not as Halloween themed as the rest.  I just really recommend this book.  The autumn is a time to enjoy the last remaining bits of temperate weather before playing outside becomes miserable.  This book has a lot of really great learning tips and fun ideas for parents who want to take advantage of that.  It has tips for all seasons and while some seem pretty straight forward, sometimes just having a list of the options in front of you is a great way to jump start some fun.  Go on a ghost hunt outside and learn about hibernation, the leaves changing colors, migration and countless other natural phenomena specific to this time of year.  Then read up on great experiences that you yourself might want to take part in before you grow up.