Tot Book Club

More Than Just a Story

Jun 2015

15 Learning Experiences from Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau

What a fun first month of Tot Book Club! I learned a lot, not just about milliners, but about blogging. You'll see some changes in my formatting and posting this month as I'm still trying to figure out the best way to organize this site. Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau was a wonderful book to use to help me learn the ropes of providing content while also playing with my tots. If you didn't get to follow along with us throughout the month, don't worry, check the archives and go at your own pace with your tots.

15 Learning Experiences from Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau
  1. Make hats
  2. Study illustrations
  3. Finish rhymes
  4. Visit to a boutique
  5. Add some French words to your vocabulary
  6. Bring someone cheer
  7. Taste test different cheeses
  8. Celebrate with sorbet
  9. Perform a folk dance
  10. Measure hats and heads
  11. Play Crow and Madame Chapeau
  12. Investigate hats from around the world
  13. Pretend to be a mime
  14. Explore the author's website
  15. Discuss if Madame Chapeau could have retrieved her hat from the crow

Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau Play Date

It's the end of June, which also brought the end of our focus on Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau. I don't doubt, that we will pick up the book again in the future, and that Tot 1 will continue to want to make hats, but it is time to move on to our next focus book. Our activities culminated in a birthday party play date for Madame Chapeau. While we donned our favorite headpieces, we read through the book, ate a French treat, and played a fun game.

Tot 1 chose to wear her hat that she modeled after Madame Chapeau's birthday hat, so we have gotten a lot of wear out of that project!

Tot 1 and her friend listened and interacted as I read the story and asked questions.

I ran by a local French bakery to grab some treats to feast on just as Madame Chapeau and her friends did. I served the tots a truffle chocolate tartlet and some pain amande. Tasty!

We had a blast playing our game of Crow and Madame Chapeau. Each tot took a turn pretending to be the crow. The "crow" would hide the hat while the other tots closed their eyes. Then, they searched the park for where the "crow" left the hat. They had a blast taking turns playing this game.

The tots went home with a little memento to get them ready for the upcoming holiday!

Sing it Saturday: Dance

By the end of Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau, everyone is dancing and celebrating Madame Chapeau's birthday. Let's use today's Sing it Saturday to do some dancing of our own!

I've made Folk Dancing playlist, so we can try to learn some moves from around the world. There is also a Singing Games playlist to try some of the basics of combining specific motions with certain music. However, if the tots are just in the move for some freestyle dancing, I've created a Dance Party playlist too. If you want a more in-depth explanation of teaching your tot folk dancing, hop over to Early Childhood News for a more information! It's time to play some music and let our tots get their groove on!


Foodie Friday: Sorbet

It's vacation time for our family, but that doesn't stop us from our adventures! Our destination provided the perfect spot for our Foodie Friday activity this week. At the end of Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau, she has the whole restaurant celebrating with her. There is mention of sorbet with fruit, so why not use that for an excuse to try some sorbet?! While we love milkshakes, ice cream, and popsicles, we don't have much experience with sorbet. Before i knew of Hammond's Gourmet Ice Cream, my plan was to take the tots and let them get a few little sample spoons of sorbet. However, at Hammond's you can order flights of their treats! Don't want a a big scoop of only one flavor? Order a flight from 2 to 32 mini scoops of their flavors! They had 4 sorbets when we went there, so we grabbed the flight of 4 in mini waffle cones! The tots tasted raspberry sorbet, pineapple orange guava, mango lychee, and pineapple lychee!


Tot 1 loved the raspberry sorbet!


Tot 2 wasn't picky and thought this was serious business!


They both were delighted to be digging in!


Think About it Thursday: Cheer

Let's take a deeper look at the little girl in Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau. For this Think About it Thursday, we will look for Madame Chapeaus in our daily lives. Other than the ladies from One of a Kind Hats that we met last Word Wednesday, we don't know any milliners (hatmakers), but I am certain that there are plenty of people who could use a little cheer. The little girl appears early in the story and follows Madame Chapeau around town. If you look closely, you'll notice that she has knitting needles and a different color of yarn in each picture. She was very observant and in the end gave the distraught milliner exactly what she needed. Even though the hat had no baubles and no bows, the squishy hat was the perfect gift to show Madame Chapeau that she wasn't alone. Thus that is our mission today. We will find a need and the Tots will come up with a thoughtful way to fulfill the need. While they may need some guidance, my goal is to go with their instincts. Though their ideas may not be what I would do, I want them to see that they can make a difference in other people's lives too.

In the comments or on social media, let us know if you find a Madame Chapeau in your life and how you plan to bring her cheer.


Word Wednesday: Mime

The word for today is Mime. A great activity while working with a book is to have your child dramatize the story with you. This encourages creativity, recall, and sequencing. Of course to work with the word "mime," we will look up some famous mimes on Tot 1's newfound favorite, YouTube. However, we will expand the challenge and try to mime the story of Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau. While both my kids have a decent sign language vocabulary, miming will be a big challenge trying to communicate only with their bodies. I'm certain that Tot 1 will want include the customary mime face paint in our production as well! Maybe we will discover that these tots have a natural charades talent, or maybe not. But it will be a great brain and gross motor exercise and fun either way!
Share in the comments with us how your little actors communicate the story of Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau


Take A Look Tuesday: Counting

When looking at illustrations in a book, it's often easy to forget that there is a math adventure waiting in each picture. Pay attention to the books you are reading over and over to your kids, and have them count with you. The illustrations in Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau are no exception. There are several different opportunities to count. So get out your abacus, your pen and paper, or just use your fingers, because it's time to count!

Things to count in Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau
  • Different hats
  • Pins: different colors and total
  • Beads
  • Times you see the cat, dog, mouse, and little girl
  • Frills on Madame Chapeau's birthday dress
  • Baguettes, bagels, buns, pretzels
  • People who offer her their hats
  • Head molds at the very old merchant on Rue Pompadour
  • People and hats in the crowded restaurant
  • Onlookers as Madame Chapeau analyzes her gift
  • Dancers at Chez Snooty-Patoot

Make Something Monday: Collage

An activity that is super easy but I often forget to incorporate into our routine is making a collage. Today we will look through magazines and catalogs for different hats and cut them out, then we'll glue them on a piece of construction paper. We'll discuss all the hats that we find and imagine what type of person would wear each hat. I'm hoping to find a stetson, a derby, a sombrero, and a cap so we can expand on our vocabulary and tie it directly back to Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau.

Last week, Tot 1 could not get enough of hatmaking, so I have the feeling we'll be expanding upon our collages as well. I'll draw the shape of a hat that the tots will like to decorate, and then put out craft materials like confetti, pompoms, tissue paper, jewels, etc… Once their hats are decorated, we will make up a story about who would wear the hat or what is special about the hat.

Enjoy your search for different hats!

STEM Sunday: Measuring

For our first STEM Sunday, we are going to do the science and math of milliners (hatmakers). It's time to pull out our measuring tapes and determine head sizes. We will run it a bit like an experiment though. First, I will ask the kids if they think we all have the same size head (question). Then, they will guess order of head sizes in our family from big to small (hypothesis). Next, we will collect the data by measuring the circumference and length of our heads (experiment). Finally, we will analyze the data and answer a few questions: 1) Whose head is the biggest? 2) Whose head is the smallest? 3) How do we compare to the averages provided? (analysis and conclusion). I've provided a list of average head sizes below to make your comparisons.

Depending on how excited the tots get about experimenting, we might come up with a few more questions and hypotheses about hats. 1) Could we find a hat that fits everyone in our family? 2)How does the length of our head compare to the circumferences of our heads? Have fun making discoveries about your heads!

  • Average Head Sizes (Circumference)

  • Preemie - 12 inches
  • Newborn - 14 inches
  • Baby (6mo) - 16 inches
  • Toddler (12mo) - 18 inches
  • Child or Teen - 20 inches
  • Adult - 22.5 inches

We had a blast measuring and made some discoveries. As I already knew, I have a small head coming in a whole inch and a half below average adult head size! The tots are right on track with their head sizes. Of course we couldn't just stop at measuring heads, we measured and compared lots of our body parts. The most surprising find was that Tot 2 is actually bigger around on certain body parts including his forearm and neck. It makes sense because Tot 1 is such a skinny mini, but it was fun to measure and know for a fact that little brother is measuring up to big sister! Tot 1 had so much fun measuring that she grabbed a ribbon and decided to make her own measuring tape. She's still too young to have made correct units on the ribbon on her own, but i was proud to see her initiate making her own tool. I hope your tots had fun with this activity too!

Sing it Saturday: Playlist

Music is an important learning tool, especially in early learning. Songs help children practice their listening skills, reduce stress especially during transition, and flex their memory muscles. Check out this great post about the research behind the learning with music on Community Play Things. Today I made a playlist on Spotify relating to Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau You'll find some hats songs, some french songs, and some number and color songs. It's time to dance and sing!


Foodie Friday: Taste Testing

A book set in France is bound to have some good food learning opportunities! Today, we will try Madame Chapeau's favorite meal; a sliver of gouda, a plum, and a scone. I also plan to put 4 different cheeses on a plate to see which they like best. If the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree, they will love all kinds of cheese!

A taste test can be a scary thing for a 4 year old, but it can also open a door to new foods for her. I'm hoping to get away with a blindfold taste test so she can't judge the food by look alone, but I am also realistic, and she could refuse to eat anything. I'm hoping that Tot 2 will play along without hesitation!

I looked up a few blogs for some tips on doing taste tests with kids. 100 Days of Real Food offers some good advice about how to handle the flat out refusal:

When a couple of the kids told me they were really apprehensive about trying these new foods (okay, in their words, “I hate all of these foods and do NOT want to eat them at all!), I told them the only way to play the game was to try the foods. I also said that trying a food they didn’t like wouldn’t hurt them (rest assured), and that they could spit it out if they wanted to. One kid in particular was still giving me push back, so I also suggested just touching the food to her tongue instead of eating it, and that worked (which is major progress for those that are super picky/limited).

i love this post on My Kids Adventures! The author provides a good reminder for us parents checking our own expectations,

It’s also important to set expectations for yourself: • Your children will not turn into gourmets in one hour. • Don’t be disappointed if they don’t like what they taste or if they find it difficult to try things. • They will not magically develop cooking skills or an affinity for all of the foods in your test. • Have patience. You learned once too. • This will make a mess. Don’t start cleaning up until after the taste test is over. Children must not feel that experimenting with food is a messy problem to you. • Keep it fun.

Let's see how this goes! Follow us on social media to see how adventurous my tots are with their taste buds! Don't forget to scroll down for Think About It Thursday and to check on the update for Word Wednesday!

Think About It Thursday

Sometimes you make a plan, but it gets thwarted by a toddler and a preschooler. Or is that just me?

Our #wordwednesday activity got pushed to today, so we are officially a day behind in our planned activities. Which brings me to a new decision for how I'll keep this blog up to date. While I love my categories for daily activities, flexibility is key when working with kids, or any age for that matter!  Although this blog isn't even a week old, here is the new format:
  1.   I will keep my daily monikers, and share about the slated activity, however, I will not force my kids to do what I want, when I want for the sake of a blog schedule :)
  2. Hopefully my children will be as excited about the activity as I am, so I will share our experiences on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag for the daily activity, e.g. #thinkaboutitthursday
  3. In the event that my children divert from the plan, I will hope that one of my followers has more accommodating kids and point you to their success!

Today was supposed to be Think About it Thursday. On Thursdays we will tackle some discussion questions and/or do some problem solving. When we read through Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau again, I'll ask my tots these questions:

  • Do you think there is a way the Madame Chapeau could have gotten her hat back from the crow? How would you get it back?
  • Who do you think gave her that hat? Let's see if there are any clues in the illustrations.
  • If you saw Madame Chapeau had lost her hat, what would you do to make her feel better?

Please share your child's answers in the comments!

Word Wednesday: Rhyming and Vocabulary

Undoubtedly, Andrea Beaty has a wonderful way with words! There is a great rhythm to Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau, and it even rhymes! Rhyming is an important pre-literacy skill that should be practiced often using real words or made up words. Did you ever wonder why you were taught nursery rhymes? It's not just because they are fun to say, but the cadence and rhyming taught you how language works by helping you notice sounds and patterns within words and phrases. Rhyming also helps children learn to predict when reading, and that's what we're going to do today. We are going to read through Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau for the third time this week, and I am going to leave out some rhyming words and have my tots fill in the blank when I pause. Do this with your child and you will be amazed how well she can start to predict patterns and word sounds.

Not only does she use rhymes, but Andrea Beaty introduces a lot of vocabulary to young readers in this story. I've made a Madame Chapeau glossary using the website Kids Wordsmyth, so take a look at all the words you can teach your tot while reading this entertaining book. And, don't worry, we'll get to all that delicious food vocabulary on Foodie Fridays!

Each Wednesday that we read Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau, we will take one or a few words and explore more. This week we're playing with boutique and merchant. Sounds like it's time to go shopping!

Word Wednesday became Word Thursday, but it was a blast! We headed over to the "boutique," One of A Kind Hats, and the "merchant" was delightfully welcoming. Most of the hats were what one would see at the Kentucky Derby, high tea, or church. Though the hats were fancy, it didn't stop the merchant from allowing my tots to have a little fun. Tot 1 pulled out the book and asked the merchant to read it to her. Not surprisingly, the merchant obliged. We ended up leaving the boutique with a glamorous headband and an "elsa blue" fascinator. This mama plans to "borrow" the fascinator! I'll share a few pictures below, but for more connect with us on social media.






Take A Look Tuesday: Spot It

Today on Take A Look Tuesday, we will look at the detailed illustrations by David Roberts, and ask our tots to find some repeated elements included in the drawings of Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau.

1) You may not have noticed the mouse that tends to follow Madame Chapeau around town, but take a look for him as you read today. He's not on every page, but when he is there, he is a fun addition.

2) The little girl who gives Madame Chapeau her birthday gift actually arrives pretty early in the story, and we see her on several pages too. Notice that she's holding yarn and knitting needles, what color is her yarn?

3) Don't forget about that rascally crow! He pops up on a lot of pages too, and he seems to be enjoying the hat he stole!

4) Do you notice any other characters that show up on more than a page or two? What are they doing in each scene?

Have fun spotting Madame Chapeau's companions! Next Tuesday we'll study the illustrations more and work with numbers! Also check out
this demo of David Roberts working his magic!



Our First Make Something Monday

It's Make Something Monday, and what else would we make with Madame Chapeau, but our own hats! Our plan for today is to read through Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau and discuss the different hats that she makes and the different hats that her community offers her. We will see what my tots are inspired by then gather resources to make our own :) Will we make a sombrero, a chef hat, a derby, or an original creation? See below for pictures of our adventure and follow me on Instagram for more pictures of our hat making pursuits! Also, if you need inspiration from a real milliner, check out this video of one of the milliners who inspired the illustrations of Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau.

After looking at the different hats in the book, and a minor meltdown that we couldn't make the "ice cream hat," as Tot 1 calls it (the purple swirling one in the beginning), we decided to make a nice hat like the one Madame Chapeau lost. Tot 1's favorite color is blue these days, so we did change the black base to blue. It was easy enough. I traced a paper plate onto foam, then cut out the circle. Next I cut halfway to across and overlapped the edges to make a beanie. Tot 1 helped secure the edges and the heart, then she put glitter on the feather and stuck it in her hat. Sounds like we need to reword Yankee Doodle for her! :)

Now that she was dressed properly in her frou-frou dress and her Madame Chapeau hat, she got to work on making special hats for Tot 2 and me. She worked for about an hour on our hats, and she even asked if she could work on them tomorrow! Even though it's Take A Look Tuesday tomorrow, I of course said yes. Who am I to stop her creativity?!

Here is my very own Madame Chapeau matching hats to her people and painstakingly attaching each bauble:


My hat was made of a black foam circle, glitter foam in purple and silver, a feather in the back with a dangling string of yellow beads on the other side, and a dangling string of blue beads in the front. Perhaps a modern take on the graduation cap?

If you would like some inspiration to make your own hats check out my Pinterest Board called Make Something Monday! And check out Andrea Beaty's post Hats! Hats! Hats! Then, share your creations on Instagram with the hashtags #makesomethingmonday , #totbookclub , #madamechapeau

Thanks for sharing in our fun!


Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau


This month, we're featuring the lovely
Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau, by Andrea Beaty, and Illustrated by David Roberts.

This author/illustrator duo has two other fantastic books, but Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau is a current favorite in our house.  We meet a lonely hatmaker, Madame Chapeau, whom we follow on her birthday as she prepares for her annual restaurant tradition but loses her hat along the way.  The charming  illustrations provide for abundant opportunities to count, to pick favorites, to identify colors, and to spot a silly mouse on several pages.  Your child will encounter numerous new vocabulary words, and there are several opportunities for springboarding into more in-depth studies.  Join my tots and me as we stroll along and celebrate with Madame Chapeau.

Check out the
Andrea Beaty's website for more information and activities with this fantastic book!


Welcome to Tot Book Club!

Welcome Tot Book Club! I will provide activities related to our Spotlight Story throughout the month. Come back June 15th for our first week, and keep your eye out for:

  • Make Something Monday
  • Take a Look Tuesday
  • Word Wednesday
  • Think About It Thursday
  • Foodie Friday
  • Sing It Saturday
  • STEM Sunday

Check out
Stay Smart and Be A Hero for information on my summer reading challenge. It is a great opportunity to encourage reading with your kids, to earn books and prizes, and to give to a local charity.

Get familiar with the site, sign up for my summer reading challenge, and join us on Monday for our first activity related to
Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau!