Summer Reading, Earn a FREE Book

One of my favorite Summer Reading Programs is through Barnes and Noble.  The program is for children in grades 1-6 and is a wonderful time to encourage your children to read to earn the reward of a FREE book.

This has been a consistent summer event for my children which they have enjoyed over the years.  Sadly, my oldest will age out this year so although it is bitter-sweet, we are very happy with the selections of books we have been rewarded with throughout the years.

I encourage each of you to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.  To get started, click here –> Barnes and Noble Summer Reading .

Happy Reading!

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Our Favorite Educational Learning Toys | Cute Beltz

Are you looking for some good ideas for high quality and fun educational learning toys? Here are some of our top picks.

Alphabet Abacus
Ages: 3 years+

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The perfect way for little ones to learn their letters! Inspired by the abacus, this educational learning toy is more about ABC than 123. The colorful letters flip over to reveal an illustration of something beginning with the letter on the front.

This engaging learning toy is safe and healthy, made with solid wood and water-based paint.

Tie-Up Practice Shoe
Ages: 3 years+

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Practice makes perfect, and now your child can master the art of shoe-tying with this fun wooden shoe model. Incredible value and superior craftsmanship make this item a top seller and childhood favorite. Brightly colored, smooth-sanded pieces help build early shape, color and size differentiation skills. Wooden, high-top sneaker helps kids learn to lace and tie over and over again!

Art Time Easel

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Ready-to-Assemble Young Time 2 Station Art Center. Inspire young artists with this double-sided art center. Ample storage space below helps keep art supplies handy. Lifetime warranty. CPSIA and CARB compliant. GREENGUARD Children & Schools indoor air quality certified. Made in the USA. Young Time is for budget-minded buyers seeking to get the most for their classroom furniture dollar. Young Time offers affordable, American-made early learning furniture designed with a focus on the functionality you need most! With features like rounded corners, a durable laminated surface and thermo-fused edge banding, which helps seal out moisture its designed to satisfy and priced to please. All products are safety tested and certified and come with a full lifetime guarantee!

Mini Orchestra
Ages: 6 months+

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Make happy noises with the Mini Orchestra, a set of four fun musical toys that can be played one at a time, or all together! Includes a clip-clap, jingle bells, bead tumbler, and baby-safe tambourine.

These toys are a great way to develop rhythm skills, and the variety helps keep kids engaged.

Baby Blocks Walker
Ages: 10 months+

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Right after first steps come next steps, and this walker will help keep your toddler moving right along. This educational learning toy provides stability for little ones and has an adjustable handle for optimum support. And when it’s time to stop and play, it has 24 blocks they can arrange and rearrange.

Made from replenishable wood, this toy is safe, sturdy, nontoxic, and environmentally friendly.

Stacking Wooden Ring Set
Ages: 2 years+

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This classic children’s toy is done one better: includes 25 durable; solid-wood pieces to match and stack. Great for building early shape; color and size differentiation skills!

Get busy stacking all different shapes, colors and sizes. This fun Geometric Stacker comes with 25 durable pieces to match and stack on a solid base. Perfect for building shape, color and size differentiation skills. Pieces made of solid wood. One of the great classics of educational learning toys!

Creative Peg Puzzle
Ages: 18 months+

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This fun and colorful toy has lots of ways to play! A twist on the classic stacking toy, it encourages problem solving with its unusually notched posts that only allow certain pieces in certain places. A multi-dimensional puzzle they’ll love!

What’s your child’s favorite educational learning toy? – Cute Beltz

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Choosing the Right Books for Your Child from Birth to Preschool

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Studies show that kids with active exposure to language have social and educational advantages over their peers, and reading is one of the best exposures to language.  Reading with children at an early age sets the foundation for later independent reading.  But how do you know which books are the right ones to bring into your home or to check out of the library? This guide offers tips and strategies to help you and your child learn how to choose good books together.

Infants: Birth to 6 Months

  • Content. Choose books with large pictures or bright and bold illustrations set against a contrasting background. Look for books that have simple pictures, one per page.
  • Language. Infants will enjoy looking through wordless picture books, or books that have just a single word along with a big picture. But also try books that contain phrases or short sentences. It’s important for infants to hear language. Nursery rhymes and verse books are good for this age, too.
  • Design. Books for infants should be interesting and appealing to look at. Try stiff cardboard books, books with fold-out pages that create colorful panels, cloth or soft vinyl books, and books with handles.
  • Reading Aloud. Infants want your full attention, so try reciting rhymes and songs that you remember by heart. Also, try reading to your infant while she has a toy to hold. Reading at bedtime is always a nice way to end the day!

Infants: 7 to 12 Months

  • Content. Children this age will enjoy books with medium to large photos and bright, bold illustrations. Look for books that have simple drawings of familiar things, actions and events.
  • Language. Children begin to key into content and can relate pictures to their world. While they still enjoy picture books, try some books with simple stories that have one line of text per page.
  • Design. Infants this age like to handle cloth and vinyl books and cardboard books with stiff, thick pages.
  • Reading Aloud. As your baby gets older, try this four-part interaction sequence: 1) Get your baby’s attention by pointing out something in a book. (“Look!”). 2) Ask a labeling question. (“What’s that?”). 3) Wait for your baby to respond, verbally or non-verbally. If necessary, provide the answer yourself. (“That’s a monkey!”). 4) Acknowledge your baby’s response. (“Yes”) or repeat your baby’s word.) If your baby mislabels the picture, correct him in a positive manner. (“Yes, it’s brown like a dog, but it’s a monkey.”). Keep in mind that you may not get through a whole book in one reading. As your child starts to explore books, support her progress by watching, listening and acknowledging.

Infants: 12 to 18 months

  • Content. For children this age, try books with pictures of familiar characters, like animals, children, TV characters or adults in familiar roles. Look for books that have action pictures – your baby is starting to be able to enjoy pictures with more details.
  • Language. This is a great age to try books with songs and repetitive verses. Books that have a simple story line that relates to your child’s own experiences will also have appeal. You might also look for theme books that show a series of related pictures and a few words. These books follow a progression of simple activities, but don’t try to introduce a plot or complex storyline.
  • Design. Even though your baby is growing fast, she’ll still enjoy playing with books with handles and books with stiff, thick pages. And she’ll still like having these books read to her. Books with thinner pages that are plastic-coated are also a good choice for this age.
  • Reading Aloud. Your infant will probably still enjoy reading with you as he sits on your lap or close to you in a comfortable chair. This helps your baby associate reading with feeling secure. Connecting sounds with the pictures he sees in the books will make reading together even more fun. Make your own sounds, and don’t be surprised if your baby joins in! You may also notice your child looking through the book alone and making noises (sometimes called “book babble”).

Toddlers: 19 to 30 Months

  • Content. Toddlers will continue to enjoy books with familiar characters, but they also will begin to take interest in pictures filled with information, action and detail. Try some short stories, cause and effect stories, and fictional books that describe a problem or circumstance to overcome.
  • Language. Try predictable books with repeated text, words that rhyme, and pictures that correspond to the text. Books with songs and repetitive verses are still a good choice for this age.
  • Design. Toddlers can enjoy books with paper pages-but will still like books with a picture on every page and just a little bit of text.
  • Reading Aloud. Let your toddler decide if she wants to sit on your lap while you read, or next to you on the couch or floor. Follow her cues. Talk about the characters and events in the story, relating them to your child’s own experiences. Pause when you read aloud to let your child fill in a word or phrase. This works great with rhyming and repetitive books.

For preschoolers

Choose Stories about things or activities that are familiar to them (a trip to the zoo, a birthday party, etc.)

  • Picture vocabulary books and alphabet books – they love to learn new words and recite their letters.
  • Books about animals and adventures.
  • Funny books with riddles or jokes.
  • Books with rhymes and repetition which they will often memorize and recite along with you.
  • Simple factual books, particularly for those children who have very specific interests like trucks, trains, dinosaurs, fire engines or fish.
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