Starting Nursery/Preschool - Books and Tips to Help with Transition

BookBairn is starting school nursery (preschool) today! And, whilst she has been going to a private nursery two mornings a week for some ...

BookBairn is starting school nursery (preschool) today! And, whilst she has been going to a private nursery two mornings a week for some time, I've been nervous about the transition for her. She is definitely an introvert, and whilst she chats a lot at home and seems confident, in unfamiliar places with people that she doesn't know so well, she becomes very shy. Like most kids. And I think she might struggle with separation anxiety. So here are some of the things that we have been doing to help her with the transition.

Going to the Transition Visits

Our nursery had three visit sessions and we went to them all. She got to see which room she would be in, and meet the adults (including her key worker) and most importantly she got to meet some of the other children in her group. As there is a big gap between these transition sessions and the actual start date due to the summer holidays, we have tried to meet up with some of the kids who will be in her group.


We found out that one of the little girls that was in a baby group with BookBairn will be in her class and, as we hadn't played often together recently, we arranged a few playdates straight away and asked along some of the other kids from her class. I know quite a few of the parents already so it has been easy to get them together to just have a play.

Walking Past the Nursery

We actually live on the same street as our nursery so we walk past it often but now as we do we talk more and more about her going there. It's helping to build the excitement and is good practise for the 'school run'.

Reading Stories

As I said, BookBairn is familiar with going to a nursery environment but I have still read a few stories with her about what nursery is like. We particularly like* Maisy Goes to Nursery by Lucy Cousins as it is bright and colourful and full of lots of things we might expect from a nursery day: starting with putting your things on your peg to doing art, having snack, listening to stories and playing outside, as well as things that might be tricky like using an unfamiliar toilet and drop off and pick up times. If you're not familiar with Maisy, it's a wonderful series of books, and for BookBairn, it has been great to see a familiar character doing what she will do. Similarly, we also enjoyed Princess Polly: I'm Starting Nursery by Amanda Li & Melanie WilliamsonThe simple text and colourful illustrations show readers what happens at nursery from visiting the nursery to look around, to all the different activities to do there, going to the loo, having lunch and making new friends. There is also a cheer button so you can cheer Princess Polly along the way (unfortunately our library copy's cheer button was broken! Oh dear!). If you prefer there is a Pirate Pete version for boys too. (We got the girls one because that's the potty training one we had, and whilst I don't feel boys and girls separate books are necessary in general, when it comes to potty training, where boys and girls do have different experiences I concede that there is a need for gender specific books and so I borrowed the princess one because Princess Polly is the character we know best.) These were just two from a whole selection that we found most useful!

*I did borrow quite a few from the library using the request system but, quite honestly, most were disappointing. So I recommend you do this too so you haven't invested good book budget in books you will only read once or twice or only need for a short amount of time. Just ask your librarian.

Potty Training

I briefly touched on this above but BookBairn is potty trained and this wasn't a huge concern for us so we have simply been reinforcing what she already knows as well as encouraging her to be even more independent. BookBairn is quite nervous about hand dryers in toilets (because of the noise) so I will make sure that we visit the nursery toilet together before I drop her off so that she is reassured that she doesn't need to worry about them.

Separation Anxiety

BookBairn has a toy lion, called Louis, that goes everywhere with her (anyone who has read more than one blog post from us will know this!) and so he will be going to nursery too. Our nursery has said they do not allow the children to bring toys - in case things get lost or broken - but they do allow transitional objects. My friend, Katie from A Friendly Affair, wrote this great post all about helping children with transitions and transitional objects which I will link here so you can see why Louis is going to be key in helping her settle:

We have also been reading Owl Babies by Martin Waddell & Patrick Benson and talking about how 'mummy always comes back'. In fact, we have used this phrase so often now that when I drop BookBairn off at private nursery she says "don't worry Mummy, I will always come back". Because she must know that I miss her as much as she misses me. This is such a great book for reassuring children that it's normal to get anxious when your parents go away but that everything will be fine and they will always come back to collect you.

At the time I took this photo we were also enjoying the French
version of the story from the library.

Another book that is really great for helping with separation anxiety is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, Ruth E Harper & Nancy M. Leak. We haven't read this as much because the text is a bit wordier and it is aimed at children starting school. It's a story about a little raccoon who is starting school and his mother, to ease his anxiety, kisses his hand so that whenever he opens his hand the kiss will jump off and give him warm thoughts. It's an incredibly sweet and reassuring tale and I will be happy to give BookBairn lots of kisses to hold in her hands if it helps ease any anxiety.

New School Goodies

We picked up a new backpack for big girl nursery and have sorted her clothes into a separate drawer for nursery so that she can choose what to wear. Now I just need to label it all! (Perhaps I should have done that already?)

If you have any other tips for helping her settle into a new nursery and a new routine please send me a message or get in touch on social media! And if you're little one is starting nursery too, I hope they have a smooth transition!

Fingers crossed!
Mummy and BookBairn

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Books Every Classroom Should Have

There are some books that, when I read them, I just think we need a copy of this in every classroom ! So I thought I'd share a short...

There are some books that, when I read them, I just think we need a copy of this in every classroom! So I thought I'd share a short (as short as I could make it because we all know school budgets are super tight in the current climate) list of brand new releases that I think every classroom should have! This list of books is aimed at primary school classrooms and one lucky classroom teacher in the UK could win copies of my top three!

Under the Same Sky by Britta Teckentrup

We all live under the same sky and we experience many of the same hopes and dreams and emotions wherever we are. We feel the same love. We face the same storms. In this beautiful lyrical text, Britta Teckentrup celebrates and cherishes all that we have and share. Despite different colours, environments and experiences as depicted in her stunning illustrations of animal families all around the world. This is a magical story that will help you feel close as you read together and should help your class develop their empathy skills. It's a beautiful message about community, togetherness and empathy.

Feelings by Libby Walden & Richard Jones

This is a stunning exploration into emotional literacy for young children. Full to the brim of delightful illustrations and with a brilliant use of colour, this book is a beautifully poetic look into a wide range of emotions ranging from ‘happy’ to ‘angry’ to ‘alone’ and ‘calm’. Centering on a little boy wearing a blue coat and a red hat, who, in fact, is only illustrated on the final page with a die-cut out showing him experiencing emotions on each page, stands still and firm as the background illustrations change around him to represent his changing feelings. Each beautiful illustration is accompanied by an enchanting poetic couplet introducing children to how that emotion might feel inside you. It is truly magical to read and will help your class explore a variety of emotions extending the emotional vocabulary of younger readers as well as creating the opportunity for discussions with older ones. 

Everybody's Welcome by Patricia Hegarty & Greg Abbott

This story promotes the ideals of refuge, inclusivity and friendship at a level even the littlest readers will understand. Mouse is building a house in the middle of the wood. When Frog's pond dries up and he has no where to live, Mouse suggests that they build a home together:

"Everybody's welcome,
no matter who they are, 
Wherever they may come from,
whether near or far."

Accompanied by beautiful illustrations that children will love to pore over, spotting all her favourite creatures, this magical book really teaches readers about acceptance, generosity and to empathise with others. Whilst the characters may appeal to the youngest pupils, older classes will learn a lot from unpicking the story to find the message hidden within!

And two more books that are ideal for the very youngest classes ideal for nursery and early years pupils.

The Worry Box by Suzanne Chiew & Sean Julian

Recent research by mental health charity Place2Be revealed that almost two thirds of children worry "all the time" so it's become even more important that we find tools to encourage children to open up and share their feelings and worries. This new title stars Murray Bear who has a lot of worries. So many, in fact, that it's stopping him from exploring and going on adventures with his friends. With the help of his sister, Milly, Murray makes a special box to keep all his worries in and sets out to explore, adventure and make new friends. With soft illustrations and adorable characters that children will relate to, this is a brilliant story to encourage children to talk about their worries and fears. A much-needed book for classroom and school libraries!

Mind Your Manners by Nicola Edwards & Feronia Parker-Thomas

Welcome to the jungle! Or so many teachers might feel with a new class of monkeys to teach and enjoy over the next year. This is a perfect back-to-school first day of term book. It's full of misbehaving animals who need to learn some manners. With quirky and memorable rhymes alongside adorable animal illustrations, children will enjoy this fun introduction to manners and the importance of being polite! The illustrations are packed full of humour which makes the lesson light-hearted and enjoyable for readers. One of the best things to establish in your class is how to treat one and other with respect, kindness and good manners and this book is just perfect for that!

So there you are! Some great books to get your class engaged in quality storytime as well as opening up discussions of wider issues or supporting children develop their own empathy and emotional literacy skills. 

And the good news... we've got copies of Everybody's Welcome, Feelings and Under the Same Sky to giveaway to any classroom teacher in the UK!* Pop over to my Twitter or Instagram pages (you'll find us under the username BookBairn or you can click the social media icons at the top of this page) to find out how to enter.

Good luck in the new school year! 
Kim (teacher at large!)

*I was sent these three books by the publisher to celebrate their paperback release but as I already had hardback copies I wanted to give them to a classroom of kids to enjoy them. 

DISCLAIMER I was sent all these books free for review by the publishers. Words and opinions are my own. And I specifically chose these five because I really think they are the best. We get sent a lot of books and there are many that could have made the list but I wanted to keep it to the essentials so they are specifically selected because I think they are the best.

Dinosaur Adventures Blog Tour

Are there any kids out there who don't love a dinosaur story? We seem to borrow endless numbers from the library and each one is di...

Are there any kids out there who don't love a dinosaur story? We seem to borrow endless numbers from the library and each one is different from the last! So when a new story comes along it has to roar pretty loud and stop it's dino-feet to be noticed. And this new series, from Miles Kelly Publishing, 'Dinosaur Adventures' by Fran Bromage with a variety of illustrators had certainly roared loud enough to get BookBairn's attention. With four in the series and each on focussed on a different dinosaur - T-Rex, Diplodocus, Velociraptor and Ankylosaurus - there's a dino friend for everyone.

As part of the Dinosaur Adventures Blog Tour - we have been sent the 'Ankylosaurus' book but if you want to check out your kids favourite dinosaur, you can check out the other blogs on the tour, which I have linked at the bottom.

'Dinosaur Adventures: Ankylosaurus' by Fran Bromage and illustrated by Tom Heard tells the story of Archie the Ankylosaurus who has a huge club at the end of his tail. Archie is a very tough-looking dinosaur but he has a really soft core making him super shy. But he's also very clumsy, which is pretty tricky when you have a huge club at the end of your tail, especially when it seems to do the exact opposite of what he wanted it to do! He destroys things just by walking past them. He knocks out and trips up his dinosaur friends and spends a lot of his time saying sorry. And the other dinosaurs, quite frankly are fed up of getting tripped up by Archie's club. So he often gets left out of games and is left watching as the other dinosaurs as they play. During a game of hide-and-seek, Archie spots a T-Rex heading right their way, and warning all his dino-friends they head for the cave where all his friends were hiding and just as they get to the cave a volcano starts to erupt. As the sky fills with smoke and the fiery balls of lava shot into the air, there is a huge rockfall and Archie hasn't reached the cave.With his friends trapped inside the cave, and a T-Rex on his tail, what can Archie do? Use his club of course!

A lovely story about self-pride and overcoming obstacles, it's a great one to read aloud to little readers. The dinosaurs are adorably brought to life in a variety of colours, your little one will want to join the gang! And if you check out our social media you'll see that we have three whole sets of four books to give away!

We were also lucky enough to get to ask some questions to the illustrator as part of the blog tour as well as get an exclusive how to drawing guide of Archie and some printable colouring in sheets!

So first our questions:

Mummy's Questions:

How did you find illustrating the dinosaurs? With so much speculation and research as to what they actually looked like were you tempted to give them feathers?

I’ve had so much fun illustrating dinosaurs for this book! At first, it took some time to capture each dinosaurs’ characteristics and their were numerous versions before I decided upon my final character designs. I was never really tempted to add feathers, this I believe was partly due to reflecting on the illustrations within my own dinosaur books as a child.

In BookBairn’s room we have a ‘Favourites Shelf’ of her favourite stories, which picture books would you  have on your Favourites Shelf at the moment?

Far too many to name them all! I’ve recently enjoyed Quick, Barney, Run! by Pip Jones and Laura Hughes and some of my favourites include The Bear and the Piano, (David Litchfield) and The Lost Thing, (Shaun Tan).

I’m sure there illustrators who have inspired you, can you tell us a few that you like the most?

Oliver Jeffers, Yasmeen Ismail, Chris Riddell, and Benji Davies.

If you could choose any book to create new illustrations for, which would you choose?

What a difficult question to answer! I think it would be Matilda by Roald Dahl, a book I’ve read countless times and the characters would be good fun to illustrate!

BookBairn's questions: 

"My favourite dinosaur is a triceratops. Which dinosaur do you like best?"

My favourite dinosaur is a T-Rex they are huuuge!

“Orange is my colour. What’s your best colour?”

My best colour is blue after the greatest football team in the world – Birmingham City!

“I like a lion best. What’s your favourite animal?”

My favourite animal is a dog, after my pet Labrador – Buster.

“I like to draw shapes just now. What are you drawing?”

I’m currently drawing pirates, ships and lots of treasure!

And here is the awesome drawing guide some you can create your very own Archie:

BookBairn isn't really at the drawing stage yet - though she can do a very good impressionist style picture of me (where all my limbs come out of my head!). But we had so much fun using the colouring-in sheets. I coloured Archie and she coloured two of the other characters from the story and she concentrated really well on the task. She was pretty determind to choose her own colours for the characters and not just copy them. She chatted away as we worked side by side and I'm definitely going to do more side by side colouring and artwork with her. If you would like to get your hands on your own colouring sheets to match the characters in the story simply click on the images below to find them.

And just one last goodie for you today! We are giving away three gift bags - each with the four Dinosaur Adventures book, a colouring book and a puzzle as well as this irresistible dino bag! So pop over to any of our social media - Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as we will be giving away one bag on each platform! 

To find out more about the series check out the rest of the blog tour below or pop over to Miles Kelly Publishing. There are so many great goodies as part of the blog tour so well worth checking out the other bloggers social media accounts for more freebies and giveaways!

What an exciting blog tour this has been!

Happy reading, drawing, colouring, winning and dino-stomping!!
Kim and BookBairn xx

DISCLAIMER We were sent our copy of Ankylosaurus and have been promised a goodie bag of our own in exchange for taking part in the blog tour. As well as being provided with the goodie bags to give to you! Words and opinions are our own.

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The Garden of Hope Blog Tour

Every once and a while, amongst the towers of books we collect, there is a book that really stands out as beautiful and poignant as well a...

Every once and a while, amongst the towers of books we collect, there is a book that really stands out as beautiful and poignant as well as being a lovely story to read. Often these sorts of books appeal to me as much as they do to the bairns showing the great power of fabulous storytelling. The Garden of Hope by Isabel Otter and Kate Rewse is just such a picture book and we are delighted to take part in the blog tour this week.

This book really is an incredibly powerful picture book with a simple message of hope. After Maya has lost her mum, (though it's not made clear whether her mum has left or passed away allowing for the interpretation of the reader), she struggles with worries and anxiety finding the gap in her life to be a gaping black hole of confusion, anger, grief and heartache. Fortunately for Maya she has a wonderfully supportive father who understands and tries to help her find ways to cope with her emotions (despite his own obvious grief and sadness).

Her dad tells her a story about how her mum planted seeds in the garden when she was worried and as she watched them grow her worries faded. So Maya sets out to reclaim the garden from the weeds and plant seeds of hope of her own. The garden is very overgrown and it takes huge amounts of dedication from Maya, with the help of her father, to clear the weeds, plant the seeds and to lovingly care for the garden as it grows. By the end of the story, Maya's garden is beautiful and has attracted bees, butterflies, ladybirds, hedgehogs and rabbits (amongst others). Maya had transformed the garden into a place of beauty, budding with life. And her mum (and dad) had been right. As Maya planted the seeds she had forgotten her worries and provided something she needed most: hope. 

This is such an enchanting tale that deals with subjects of loss (or absenteeism) and anxiety. With incredibly beautiful illustrations of a garden blooming back to life this is a truly beautiful book. The illustrations in this book are beautifully soft and subtle and show the small changes in the garden, and in Maya, over the passage of time. The incredible blooming of the garden is spectacularly captured and it has given us inspiration to plant a garden of our own.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

In the last year we have been spending lots and lots more time in our garden, and that's thanks, in part, to a legacy left to me by my grandfather when he passed away last year. He spent a lot of time and took a lot of pride in his garden and I felt it fitting that we use some of my inheritance to revamp our garden to make it more family friendly. We bought our house from an older couple who had put a rockery and a large trellis in the middle of the lawn, both of which were potential dangers for the kids as well as a very uneven patio and three large sheds. So, with the help of some brilliant landscapers, we had the sheds all moved and painted, the rockery and trellis removed, a deck put in place of the patio and a large piece of play equipment installed on a patch of artificial grass (we still have lots of actual grass but we felt it was easier to maintain for the play equipment). So all that remains is for me to get some green fingers and get to grips with the plants in the garden. 

I find gardening quite daunting as I don't know very much at all! But with the help of Papa BookBairn we planted some seeds together and BookBairn now has her own little patch! As well as some sunflowers which are almost as tall as her. We planted the seeds back in May as well as planting out some small bedding plants (BookBairn and her Papa did most of the work because I had my arm in a sling still) as well as the sunflower seeds. And BookBairn has loved seeing her garden grow. Every time we go out to the garden she wants to check and water her plants as well as see how tall her sunflowers are growing. The excitement of watching things grow has really brought her a lot of joy! 

But you don't need much space for your kids to enjoy the excitement of watching their own garden grow. The first thing we planted together were cress seeds as I knew they would grow quickly so BookBairn would see results when she was feeling impatient for her other plants to grow. But actually I was surprised by how patient she has been, most days she says "my sunflowers are growing tall but they still don't have flowers yet" - it's like she checks in with them daily but already understands that they need more time. 

And like Maya's garden, our garden has attracted lots of fascinating wildlife. BookBairn loves seeing all the wildlife, in particular bees and butterflies, who visit the garden.  We have a huge lavender patch which, daily, is covered in dozens of bees and butterflies! We also have bird feeders and she enjoys looking for the garden birds, comparing them with a bird book that we have. We also have a rabbit, though I can't claim it's true wildlife as he lives in a hutch on our patio and is loved dearly! 

Growing a garden with children is a wonderful experience and, even for those who are not very green-fingered like me, you will find it's not as hard as you think. And maybe if you plant your worries along with the seeds, you too will find that your stresses and anxieties become replaced with hope.

Happy reading and planting,
Mummy and BookBairn

To check out more of the blog tour for this book you can follow #TheGardenofHope on Twitter.

Disclaimer: I was sent this book free for review purposes and was asked to join the blog tour after having enjoyed the book. Words and opinions are, always my own.

#Lit Chat 4

So tonight's #litchatter question comes from the Where the Wild Things Are card (as you selected on my Insta Stories yesterday - I ...

So tonight's #litchatter question comes from the Where the Wild Things Are card (as you selected on my Insta Stories yesterday - I should have guessed picture book fans would choose that one) and I'm going to pop the questions here and I'll leave my answers, as I hope you will too, in the comments section. Sorry I didn't get this posted on Sunday evening but I was just too busy this weekend having family fun!

Do you have a favourite book picture book? What do you love most about it?

Choosing just one favourite picture book would be impossible for me because, as you know, we love so many. A while back on Instagram my friend asked me to share my top five favourite picture books and I managed to choose just five. I wonder if any of our long time readers can guess them? I think I mostly chose these books because of the experiences I had reading them and not necessarily because they are the most beautiful or magical (though they are that too!). But those choices were more about how much I enjoyed reading them with BookBairn (as The Wee Page Turner was still too little to respond to stories, even though we did actually read with him, we didn't get the reaction that gives you joy as a parent!). I wonder if I should do another post like this? But I'm not sure I will be able to choose just five!!

Do you still read books meant for children or young adults? Why or why not?

This is pretty obvious what my answer is going to be because I have a whole Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and blog dedicated to not just my children’s love of picture books but my own love of picture books. I also really enjoy reading YA and MG picture books for pleasure. In fact, starting next week, when our schools go back in Scotland, for the first month I’m going to read purely MG books.

What do you think? Please share your opinions in the comments below - or I'll link to the Instagram discussion too!

What about you? Do you still read children's books? And do you have a favourite picture book?

Happy Lit Chat!