Tag: toddler (page 1 of 12)

What Are Ears For?

Reading can be such an interior journey, with the things we imagine all tucked away inside our minds—we sit back; we receive; if we’re being read to, we listen. But I love a hardy lift-the-flap book that invites readers to get their hands involved in the story. Back when my girls were little, those flaps were a fabulous way to encourage them to sit and listen to a whole book (one whole book!) before trying to fit a page into their mouths. These days, my girls are too old to need the flaps, but my younger daughters still enjoy opening them as though they’re doors to a secret compartment that might contain, oh, anything.

In the case of What Ears Are For?, the flaps often conceal the answer to questions just asked in the text, so those flaps give you a beat to discuss the question before revealing the answer. This series of sweet teaching books invites readers to explore why God gave us eyes, or hands, or—in this case—ears. By walking readers through some ways we can and should use our ears (and some ways we shouldn’t but often do use them), Abbey Wedgeworth gives parents and children time to discuss the beauty of God’s design for us.

But better yet, she shows us how Jesus used his ears, how we can do the same, and what we can do when we don’t quite get it right. This series doesn’t just tell readers what not to do: it engages those busy little hands while giving us a vision for what we can do, what we are made to, and what Jesus has done for us.


What Are Ears For?
Abbey Wedgeworth; Emma Randall (2024)


Though I did receive a free copy of this book for review, I am not being paid to promote it. My enthusiasm for this book is abundant and purely voluntary.

6 Easter Books for Toddlers

As part of my “Hooray! We’re launching a book!” series—which celebrates the imminent release of Wild Things & Castles in the Sky—I’m pleased to invite you over to the Square Halo blog, where I got to share about some of my favorite Easter books for toddlers. Why toddlers? Because one of the chapters I wrote for Wild Things was all about toddler books. Maybe I took the assignment because my girls are all big now and I needed an excuse to break out the Sandra Boynton books again? It’s possible.

It’s likely.

That’s exactly why I did it.

But please, join me over at Square Halo today. You’ll find that post right here. May you find some exuberant and indestructible Easter books that will bless a toddler near you!

The Adventure of Christmas

This week we had a big discussion about when exactly Advent begins, and I was certain that it started next weekend. I had looked at the schedule for Advent readings at our church—I knew what was up. I was sure.

Are you sure?” my daughter asked.

“Yes,” I answered. I was sure.

But at church the poinsettias were out, and the first candle was lit. As we sang the opening verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” I looked down the row at my daughter and sheepishly mouthed, Oops.

The Adventure of Christmas, by Ed Drew | Little Book, Big Story

We don’t start our family readings until December 1, though, so I had a few days of grace to break out the calendars and books. This year, we’re reading through Ed Drew’s new Advent book, The Adventure of Christmas. In our family, we have daughters on both sides of that curious divide between child and teen, so it’s hard to find devotionals that resonate with all four girls. But last Lent we read Drew’s Easter devotional, Meals With Jesus, and I was pleasantly surprised by how well it worked for both age groups: he offered questions written for each age level from preschooler to teen and provided enough material with each reading to allow families to customize the conversation for wherever their kids are at.

The Adventure of Christmas follows a similar format. After a short Scripture reading come questions, from which parents can pick and choose, as well as “Optional Extras” likes crafts, deeper discussion topics for older kids, and resources for parents’ own Advent studies. It’s like a buffet with a little something for everyone! I love that about this book. And I hate to admit it, but I also love how short and to-the-point the readings are—perfect for discussing over dinner on a December weeknight and unlikely to make anybody groan.

One of the things I find most intriguing about The Adventure of Christmas is the fact that we won’t encounter Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day, but somewhere in the middle of the month—which leaves room for the stories of Simeon and Anna, and allows readers to look forward to who Jesus would when he grew up. Drew doesn’t present Jesus’ birth as the climax of the Christmas story, but as an event pointing toward a still bigger event; that is, I think, what truly sets this book apart from the many, many Advent resources our family has encountered over the years. (This is evident on the Advent calendar as well, which places the manger in the center of the timeline, not at the end.)

The Adventure of Christmas, by Ed Drew | Little Book, Big Story

And, mercifully, the readings begin on December 1—but the schedule is flexible. You’re not required to read all twenty-five throughout Advent, so if you also missed the first Sunday, never fear! You, like me, still have time to catch up.


The Adventure of Christmas: A Journey Through Advent for the Whole Family
Ed Drew; Alex Webb-Peploe (2021)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review it or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.

The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible

In February I had the sort of realization I hate having: I had forgotten something. Last year swallowed up a lot of things, and as it passed, we noted and mourned a lot of those losses. But this loss bobbed to the surface one morning, as startling as a shark fin in a smooth sea: This was supposed to be Josie’s preschool year.

Preschool, in our house, is a small affair. But for each of our girls so far, this year before kindergarten has been the one where I make playdough from scratch at least once, introduce them to the alphabet, collect snails with them, read all those picture books I want to read with them, and occasionally break out the super-messy art supplies with nary a thought for our floor.

The Gospel Story Bible, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

But we were well into February by the time I thought of this. All the upheaval of starting a new school year under Covid protocols and, well, just surviving and tending to everyone’s needs—it had shunted this thought so far to the back of my mind that I’d noticed its absence, something felt off, but I hadn’t been able to name it. That morning I got out my giant binder of preschool magic, assembled a bag full of books to read together that month, and I began making lists.

I am utterly, profoundly, abundantly grateful that God brought this to mind when he did. Josie and I still had four months together to read and play and make messes in the garden while the older girls were at school; she still had hours each day when she knew she had me to herself. And every school-day lunchtime we had our routine—not, as formerly, she eats at the table while I tidy the dining room around her or something, but: we sat down together; we read a Bible story and a picture book. We took our time over them. It was delightful.

The Gospel Story Bible, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

And so Jared Kennedy’s The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible became the stem of our time together, with everything else branching off it. The readings in this book are short but honest and deep, and they ask great questions of us. Trish Mahoney’s illustrations (have I mentioned yet how much I love her illustrations?) represent some fairly abstract ideas in ways that make sense to young readers. They’re symbolic and beautiful.

A friend described this book as “The Jesus Storybook Bible for even younger readers” and I think there’s something to that. But though it works wonderfully for toddlers, it doesn’t work only for toddlers: Josie, at five, picked up on big questions and mulled them over as she finished her peanut butter and honey sandwich. As we read, I saw her putting down roots in the truths of our faith and learning to know God a little better for herself.

The Gospel Story Bible, by Jared Kennedy | Little Book, Big Story

School is out now and our house is full again with the daily bustle of sisters. But those mornings with Josie still feel like a gift—one we savored then, and one we’ll continue to savor in the years ahead.


The Beginner’s Gospel Story Bible
Jared Kennedy; Trish Mahoney (2017)

The Bright Light & the Super Scary Darkness

Last week we took a trip to a tiny fishing town on the coast of Washington. That first night in our borrowed beach house, my husband and I settled the girls into bed and, once they were asleep, reminisced a bit about the trips of our childhood: “Remember how when you’re a kid, you don’t know what any of the weird sounds in a new place are?” We laughed. “You don’t think, Oh, that’s just the refrigerator. That’s probably a branch of the apple tree against the siding.” Every sound is new and alarming. But we’re adults now; we know better.

The next night, we woke to an ominous hissing, popping, percolating sound, so loud it woke us from two rooms away. It came from the laundry room—from a gray tank in the laundry room, which looked very much like it was under pressure and could possibly, probably, at any moment explode. Had we known what the tank was or what the noise meant, we might have been dignified about it. Perfectly calm. But for about fifteen minutes, I drafted exit strategies in my head. How would I get the girls out of the house? Where was the nearest exit? Had we seen a fire station when we drove through town? Did this town even have a fire station?

The Bright Light and the Super Scary Darkness, by Dan DeWitt | Little Book, Big Story

We prayed for wisdom and, mid-prayer, the tank simmered down. And we went back to bed feeling all the unpleasant nostalgia of being a kid in a world where home appliances are hostile and every twitching shadow might belong to a mutant spider.

So much of our fear seems to spring from what we don’t know, and the night is filled with things we don’t know. In The Bright Light and the Super Scary Darkness, Dan DeWitt (The Friend Who Forgives) acknowledges that fear and explores the way that the Bible talks about light and darkness. “The whole Bible is really one big story about the light and the dark,” the young narrator explains.

The Bright Light and the Super Scary Darkness, by Dan DeWitt | Little Book, Big Story

Within that context, DeWitt shares the whole story of Scripture—the times when it seemed like the dark was winning, and the times that the light won. The book ends with a fun twist that reminds readers that though the darkness can be scary, it doesn’t have to be: after all, we know the One who is the Light of the World. Whatever darkness we face, whatever uncertainty, he has already vanquished it. And he will never leave us truly alone in the dark.


The Bright Light and the Super Scary Darkness
Dan DeWitt; Rea Zhai (2020)


Disclosure: I did receive a copy of this book for review, but I was not obligated to review this book or compensated for my review in any way. I share this book with you because I love it, not because I was paid to do so.