Thursday, September 2, 2010

10 Great Books for Kinesthetic Kiddos

Okay...confession time.

My daughter does not like to read.

There, I've said it.

She likes to be read to at bed time while she teeters on the edge of sleep, and she loves looking at pictures in books and going to the library (more to do puppet shows and puzzles than to look at books, to be sure). I am told that she enjoys story time at school, too. But since she was very, very small she simply will not sit through an entire story.

Long before entering motherhood, I collected children's books. I loved going through the children's section in used book stores and garage sales, finding volumes that had a "good message". I imagined that my future children would sit at my knee, listening to these stories and absorbing the humane messages they presented. Reality proved to be much different, with Bess refusing to sit through even the first page of any book, and Harry only interested in books about things with wheels.

Over time, I've started to change my ideas about the purpose of children's literature. No longer did I see it as yet another opportunity to immerse my children in my values. Now I see it is a chance to expose them to the written word, to different ideas, and to visual aesthetics. Note that I do still take pains to ensure that the books we choose at least do not contain unwanted images, and I do try to find books with diverse characters - I haven't completely abandoned my ideals!

For my little kinesthetic learner I have started looking for books that encourage movement, which have been surprisingly hard to come by. Here are ten of my favorites, though:

I Ain't Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by David Catrow

This is a really cute story/song about a child who loves to paint anything and everything. Children can sing along with the book and point to the different body parts as they get painted by the mischievous little artist.

Ballerina Flying by Alexa Brandenberg

Anything ballerina is a sure winner in my house. This one is great because kids can practice the various ballet postures and steps along with the ballerina in the story. The opportunity to dress in pink frills while doing it is a plus.

Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley

This is a fun book with lots of movements for children to follow along with. The text of the book is very lyrical and easy to read.

Wiggle by Doreen Cronin, Illustrated by Scott Menchin

Love Doreen Cronin! Doesn't that cover kind of say it all? Also look for Bounce and Stretch by this author/illustrator team.

Handsigns: A Sign Language Alphabet by Kathleen Fain

This book isn't a story, but the alphabet illustrations are lovely and each one is accompanied by the sign for that letter. This is a great book for introducing children to the American Sign Language alphabet.

Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming, Illustrated by G. Brian Karas

This is a fun story about a farmer who keeps building higher and higher walls to keep the bunnies out of his garden, but of course they outsmart him in the end. Children can hop and munch with the rabbits and build with the farmer.

In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming

In this book, young readers can waddle like geese, doze like turtles, and twirl like whirligigs as they follow along with the story of the residents of a nearby pond. Also look for In the Tall, Tall Grass by the same author.

Shake My Sillies Out by Raffi, Illustrated by David Allender

How can you go wrong with a book that asks you to shake your sillies out and wiggle your waggles away?

How Can You Dance? by Rick Walton, Illustrated by Ana Lopez-Escriva

This book asks readers to use their bodies in unusual ways with questions such as: How can you dance if you can't move your knees? How can you dance when you're mad as a bee?

If You're Happy and You Know It (Jungle Edition) by James Warhola

This book by the nephew of Andy Warhol has colorful, friendly illustrations and a whole new repertoire for If You're Happy and You Know It, including stomp like and elephant, roar like a lion, and laugh like a hyena.

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in sustainable living and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website


  1. Thanks so much for this post ... My daughter is an avid reader and would sit for story after story from a very early age. My son? Not so much! He will only sit for books that involve active reader participation, and I have to admit that at times I can't shake the feeling that there's something "wrong." This is a great reminder that he simply has a very different learning style that I should honor rather than fight.

  2. Lorien, thanks for the post! I still have so much trouble with the fact that Bess doesn't like to read, and I feel a lot of guilt about it. I kept thinking that eventually it would come, but it still hasn't. Maybe one day it will - or maybe it won't, and that will have to be okay!

  3. Dear Kelly,
    I just came across your blog for the first time, and this list is fantastic! I also love Muncha! Muncha! Muncha!, but wasn't familiar with the rest on the list. I'll have to check them out!

    I also want to tell you about my current project because I think you and your readers might be interested. I recently self-published a children's book called Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice. This silly story raises questions about eating animals, and features plush doll characters that I sew.

    I am a young artist who happens to love working with children, and my intent is to make wild, funny, playful books that encourage critical thinking and compassion. I appreciate what you said about exposing your kids to written word, various ideas, visual aesthetics, etc. I'm trying to prove that you can have it all! :)

    Please visit my website,, and let me know what you think!

    All the best,
    Nathalie VanBalen