getting started with a kids book advent calendar tradition - tips, tricks, and book picks

One of the holiday traditions that I get super excited and all squealy about is our children’s book advent calendar. Since we’re big-time book lovers, it made perfect sense for us to turn our “calendar” into a basket overflowing with books. We do the whole cheap chocolate thing too, but the girls and I absolutely love the excitement of opening up a book each and every night leading up to Christmas, getting under a cozy blanket, and reading by Christmas tree light.

Before I give you a peek at some of the books that are included in our tradition, I thought it might be helpful to give you a few tips. This does not have to be an expensive tradition! I am the Queen of Cheap. I would not run to the nearest bookstore and shell out hundreds of dollars on books that we’ll only read once a year.

How to build a children’s book advent calendar library without going broke

our children's book advent calendar basket

1) Be flexible. The books don’t all have to be about Christmas. I include any wintry books that make us all holly jolly. If there’s snow involved, it can be considered! This makes it much easier to do the next step.

2) Shop your personal library. Comb through your children’s book collection and make a great big pile of books that could work. You might be surprised at what you already have. Depending on how many books you own, you might not even need to go out and purchase more.

3) Get thrifty. If you do need to fill in (we did), don’t head straight to the bookstore. Hit up tag sales, consignment stores, and library sales first. You’d be amazed at how many used books you can grab for a dollar.

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On our bookshelf - October reads - picture books, beginnger chapter books, kids lit, children's books

We are always looking for books to add to our To Be Read list over here. We look for books of all levels: picture books, beginner chapter books, middle-grade fiction, and books that busy moms can enjoy. Figuring I can’t possibly be the only one out there who is hunting for good reads for a variety of age levels, I’ve decided to try something new.

Once a month I’ll put together a list of all of the books we’ve been reading with some of our thoughts on them. Sometimes they’ll be gushy and glowy. Other times they’ll be lukewarm. Either way, we’ll let you know if we think they’re worth your time.

Skim through and see what looks good—for you, for your kids, for a gift. And let us know what you’ve been reading!

On Our Bookshelf | October 2017

On our bookshelf - October reads - middle grade fiction, kids lit, children's books

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Getting kids excited about science - bath fizzies with DK's Maker Lab by Smithsonian

An award-winning kids science book that will foster a love for science while having hands-on fun.

Step into my house and you’ll find surfaces littered with Ziplock bags open just enough to let the day’s latest slime creation ooze out, bottles filled with unidentifiable concoctions that contain some kind of plant matter, and everyday objects “scented” with copious layers of lotion. My girls love science. They love to experiment with different ingredients to see how they react and to proudly create their own “essential” recipes.

Sometimes, I’m all for this scientific exploration.

Other times, I wonder how long I’m expected to let something sit (bacteria multiplying by the second) while we “wait” for the reaction.

When DK offered to send us a complimentary copy of Smithsonian’s Maker Lab, an award-winning book that encourages kids to build, invent, create and discover through 28 DIY science experiments, I jumped at the chance. Crafty science projects that will work and teach the girls a little bit about the science behind them? What could be cooler?

Getting kids excited about science - bath fizzies with DK's Maker Lab by Smithsonian - kids science book with cool projects and experiments

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Kids Books About Outdoor Adventures - Ladybug Girl

Have you ever read a book that makes you want to go on an adventure? I’m sure you have. Maybe you wanted to hop over to England after reading Harry Potter, wander around Italy after reading Eat, Pray, Love or explore the Pacific Crest Trail after finishing Wild.

But have you ever stopped to think about the idea that children’s books can do the same thing to your kids?

After reading Ladybug Girl (more on that in a second) with my littlest, she suddenly got very into ladybugs. She wanted to go everywhere in her ladybug rain boots—and, sometimes, the matching rain jacket and umbrella (no matter what the weather). She wanted to stomp in the biggest puddles and conquer the world one polka-dotted step at a time.

It got me thinking about other books we’ve read that inspire outdoor adventures…

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Children's Books with Strong Female Characters

I love a good, strong, female character—and I love her even more when she’s the main draw to a story that my daughters want to read again and again and again. Since I know plenty of moms who audibly groan every time their kid grabs one of those licensed character books at bedtime, I thought I’d put together a selection of my favorite books with bad ass girl characters. Some of them are princesses, others are seemingly average girls with fantastically fierce personalities.

Warning: reading these stories regularly may result in raising strong-willed, opinionated girls who are feisty as hell and not so easy to raise. But they’ll grow into girls who will stand up for what they believe in and who will refuse to be pushed around. And I’m totally ok with that.

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