Sunday, December 14, 2014

Create a Mommy and Me Book Club {IKEA Soft Toys for Education}

Education transforms lives. Teaching children from a young age to love learning and value education can set up them up for lifelong success.

In our home, learning happens every day as we do crafts and activities, read books together, play games, play with toys, and even when we are on the go running errands or doing chores.

As my kids grow I like to find ways to get them interacting socially while also engaging with books and using their creativity. One of the best ways we've gotten our kids to love learning and value education is through reading books and participating in a Mommy and Me Book Club with friends (and their moms).

Today I'm going to share some tips with you so you can set up your own Mommy & Me Book club! I am also going to tell you about how you can help support education for children worldwide in one simple way.

A few years ago we were introduced to the website Mommy and Me Book Club and it inspired us to start our own branch of book club where we live. We used Mommy and Me Book Club's suggestions for getting started and then adapted the book club to fit our personalities and needs.

Here are some tips for how we set up our mommy & me book club to work for us...

1. We meet once a month and choose a theme for each month. 

Usually our theme is based on holidays or seasons. Our club is for about an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half. We embed unstructured playtime and choice time into the day.

2. We choose a children's book to spotlight based on the theme of the month. 

Often we'll select a book from our Virtual Book Club for Kids book list for the year.

3. One mom leads the class each time and she assigns different moms to bring snack or craft items to donate. 

Not all moms feel comfortable being the "teacher" and leading the group, so we have moms who want to help, do that, and other moms who want to just bring stuff just come and enjoy the class with their toddler and help with set up, clean up. 

4. We keep activities and books short and include a lot of movement activities for the toddlers. 

Toddlers like to move and can't sit still for very long. We carefully select children's books that are toddler friendly and have colorful and interesting images to keep kids engaged. We will also sometimes give the kids a theme related object to hold and touch while we read to help get them engaged in the story.

5. We sing a few songs with the kids that are interactive and involve movement. 

We use instruments and fingerplays often. We try and stick to only singing 3-4 songs total, in addition to our welcome song and good-bye song.   

6. We have a pretty simple schedule that we stick to each time. 

(build a snowman name hunt)

7. We have a designated spot in our house where we have our book club circle time each time. 

Kids sit on cheap cloth placemats or carpet squares in a semi-circle near their moms when we sing and read books. We also always do snack and our movement activities in the same spots. Having consistent locations for activities helps kids feel comfortable and know what to expect. 

8. We always have playtime at the end so that kids can play with toys while moms get to catch up and chat.

We encourage moms to chat and catch up during playtime AFTER book club so that they don't interrupt kids when they are listening to stories or trying to follow directions. During book club time we ask moms to focus on helping their kids engage in the activities, have fun, and try and stay with the group (when possible).

9. When possible we try and keep the age range and group size small.

With toddlers and young preschoolers I like to have no more than 5-7 kids and I prefer to keep it so that the kids are all within a year or so of each other age wise. Structuring a class for a 4 year old and an 18 month old is harder than creating activities for either a younger group or an older group. If the majority of the group is younger and we have a preschooler or two I try and get them involved with being teacher helpers.  

Not all kids have the opportunity to participate in activities like these or have access to quality education as they grow, which is why I think it is awesome that the IKEA foundation is funding projects that include helping to improve children's education.

You can give the gift of education to kids around the globe by purchasing a soft toy at IKEA this season. Scroll down for more details.

Because I know that education has a direct impact on children's well-being, from better health to increased opportunities, I love looking for ways to support education in our home through our book club and and in our community through awesome companies like IKEA.

For every soft toy and children's book sold between November 9, 2014 and January 3, 2015, the IKEA Foundation will donate $1.00 to children's education through UNICEF and Save the Children.

IKEA believes every child has the right to a quality education. The IKEA Foundation works together with UNICEF and Save the Children to give children a better start in life. This campaign is a great opportunity to engage IKEA co-workers and customers in supporting children’s education in some of the world’s most marginalized communities.

The donations will help UNICEF and Save the Children train teachers in child-friendly teaching methods, improve child protection systems, supply educational materials in the schools, help rebuild schools, provide better water and toilet facilities, and increase school attendance rates.

In the past 12 years, more than 11 million children have been impacted through 99 projects in 46 countries and more than $90.4 million has been donated! Amazing!

I am usually quick to find fun ways to support my own kids and their education and often forget to think about the millions of children around the globe that aren't as fortunate. 

I am excited to partner with IKEA this holiday season! I invite you as you are planning for the new year and your own child's activities (whether it be creating your own book club or signing up for a new mommy & me dance class), to take a moment to learn more about what the IKEA foundation is doing for education and help if you are able. 

You can find more ideas as you are planning for your own book club here on our Children's Book Related Crafts & Activities Pinterest Board. Mommy & Me Book Club also has an awesome collection of lesson plans already put together on their website here.

Have you ever participated in a mommy and me book club?

How do you teach your kids to value education and love learning?

Have you purchased an IKEA soft toy or children's book?

Feel free to leave any additional ideas or thoughts in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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