Can You Spot It?

Damien has a new obsession: Spot It. This game, designed for ages 7+, encourages players to find matching pictures between their card and the main deck. Each card has a match, but only one match. We have the standard edition, which contains 3 simple words in addition to pictures, but which doesn’t pose too much of a challenge for my 2.5 year old. I would say it’s easy to skip the Junior version. 

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Spot It comes in may different themes, from Animals to Alphabet, and is a super small and portable game. Damien is surprisingly good at the game, though not always very fast. In his first week playing it, he would often call out matches that didn’t exist, but now he only calls out accurate matches. He seems to memorize the deck card in the process of finding the match in the other, an interesting strategy that, while sometimes time consuming, results in perfect recall of that card. For example, if I find my match first (say I had the anchor on the card below), and the next card had an eye, he would yell out ‘eye’ and hand me the card, since he remembers it would be my match, even though I’m careful to keep him from seeing my cards. 

So, it’s a funny game to play with him. It has really gone a long way to improving his memory and observational skills. He is now, quite logically, also obsessed with I Spy books for the same reason.

Charlie & the Chocolate Factory a Perfect Chapter Book Introduction

We recently read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Aiden, after which we watched the classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

At age 4, Aiden has both the interest and the attention for longer stories, so we figured we might as well graduate from some of the long but boring stories we already had into a chapter-style book. This would allow us greater freedom in choosing more interesting stories, reading them over several nights. We still read other books, but this has been a great experience so far. 

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a perfect book for the 4-year-old set, both easy to understand and exciting to read aloud. In fact, I think the book is better read aloud. It was hilariously funny, flowed really well, kept Aiden super engaged (and asking questions, which is rare for him!), and we just loved it. 

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We chose the classic movie as opposed to the remake since, well, it’s less creepy. I mean, it has its own level of creep, but it’s not so bad. There were moments that Aiden was nervous, anticipating the fate of each child, but he tends to be quite sensitive to tension in shows. Overall, I think he enjoyed the movie, though it’s not one that will be on repeat for him yet. 

If you are interested in keeping in the loop on some of the better books we’ve read, I’ve recently created a 4+ Shelf on my Goodreads account to review some of the books we read to Aiden. Considering he has well over 100 books on his shelves and we take a couple of dozen books from the library each week, I don’t anticipate I’ll be reviewing all we read, but rather just the gems or the complete busts or the books I thought would be good but weren’t. 

Children’s Train Books in Review

Aiden is obsessed with books and with trains. We have come across a number of train-related books at swaps and library sales and have supplemented our library with several other train books. Based on my research, we’ve covered pretty much every well-known train book, plus a few others.

If your toddler also loves trains, I hope you’ll find these reviews helpful!

Chugga chugga choo choo Kevin Lewis and Daniel Kirk

Chugga Chugga Choo Choo – this has been a favourite of Aiden’s for a long time. Written in a sing-song style, the book is easy to read and fun to listen to: Aiden loves to chime in on the “whoo whoo” parts. The story is of a train that needs to pick up and deliver its freight through city and country alike before the train goes to the roundhouse… using toys to build the scenery, it’s also a story of the boy who imagines the world for his trains.

When he was younger, we used to elaborate on the characters of the book and often stopped to talk about them or sing about them (such as Humpty Dumpty). Even though his reading level is much higher now, this continues to be a favourite.

Also fun by the same author is Tugga-Tugga Tugboat.

2 4 the little engine that could

The Little Engine that Could – a classic story about a train that breaks down and needs another engine to help deliver toys and food to deserving girls and boys. Several engines refuse to help before the little blue engine comes along – though she’s small, she believes in herself and the cause and makes the long ride up the hill. It’s a sweet story.

Aiden is able to recite a great deal of this book from memory and loves the pictures. He often pretends some of his trains are the characters from this book, with “shiny new engine” being his favourite character.


Busy Trains – this was our first non-story-based book about trains and we were tired of it long before Aiden was. The book itself is ‘busy’ in its complexity of detail, which toddlers seem to adore: there’s always something new to look at and talk about.

The book introduces kids to different kinds of trains and what jobs they can do. Aiden’s favourite page is the one where the engineer needs to tell the cow to get off the track. He thinks cowcatchers on trains are fascinating.


Train Song – even though our copy of this book is missing a page, and is a little worse for wear, it is nonetheless a fun read. I made up a tune that seemed to fit the ‘song’ and do actually sing the book to Aiden whenever I read it.

The story tells of a little boy eagerly awaiting the arrival of a train each day, as well as the components of the train and where it travels. The book is bright and simple but compelling from its use of rhyme.


Two Little Trains – also written in a sing-song manner, this book compares a toy train with a shiny train, both heading West. We watch as they pass through tunnels (a book tunnel for the toy train) and rain (a shower for the toy train) to head out West. It’s a fun story that shows how a little child could bring a story to life in his own home.

This is one of my favourites, even if the story is not as relatable now.

Train: Eyewitness Books – this is our first ‘encyclopedia’ for trains. Though there are many 9780679916840pages that “Aiden no like”, since they show details of train interiors rather than exteriors, this book has taught us a lot about trains. We’ve been able to impart a lot of knowledge to Aiden about how trains work and how they’ve evolved.

Aiden’s favourite activity is to read this book and tell us that “One day, Aiden will go on this train with ___ [insert chosen person}”. Perhaps one day he will.

Thomas and Friends Series: we are big fans of Thomas in this house, so it should come as no surprise that we own many Thomas books.

We have the Thomas the Tank Engine Story Collection, a huge anthology containing several dozen stories and their original artwork. While not as vibrant as most kid books, Aiden is still mesmerized by the stories of all the Thomas characters. He’s able to identify most of the trains thanks to all of these stories!

To supplement our collection, we have some of the newer stories including Thomas Goes Fishing, a fun story about Thomas’ wish to fish, Hero of the Rails, a fun story that goes along with the movie about a lost train named Hero who is found again. Our first Thomas book was the Thomas & Friends Musical Treasury: Really Useful Engines book with a built-in music box that plays the theme music. Aiden went through stages where he was obsessed with this book, though this is the first time I’ve been able to find it online to write about it. Our most recent purchase is Blue Train, Green Train, a story that incorporates the rhymes of Dr. Seuss. Though this book is very simple, I thought Aiden would enjoy it as he’s just beginning to enjoy Dr. Seuss books.

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The polar express

The Polar Express – this is a seasonal favourite of Aiden’s. Though I put away Christmas books in the off season, in part to retain my own sanity, we read this book nearly every night for 2 months. We also watched the movie dozens of times.

I definitely prefer the book over the movie and love the tradition of reading Christmas books each year. The fact that this book ties in with an adventure in Squamish means that this will be a go-to book for several years for us.


All Aboard Trains – also a recent purchase, as above. I purchased this book because the reviews indicated there was a great balance between pictures and information, allowing Aiden to grow into this book as he gets older.

I think he will probably outgrow this book before he outgrows the Eyewitness Book we have (featured above), as this one is not quite as comprehensive. That said, it did contain more information on the types of cargo cars that a train can carry, so those facts are new and appreciated.

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My Train Book – based upon some research I did online, I recently purchased this book for Aiden. The book was a little more sparse than the online reviews had indicated, which is rather a pity. He will likely outgrow this book soon.

The trains featured are varied and colourful, but the text is very limited and random. This is probably my least favourite of all train books we own at the moment.

Do you have other favourite books involving trains for your toddler or elementary school-aged child? If so, do share!

We Love Books

Aiden loves reading. He can (and has) spent hours in a row reading. Most other parents call us “lucky” for having a child who loves to read. Indeed, in many ways we are. But, until they’ve spent several hours every day reading books… well, we set limits. ;)

We have a set of shelves in our living room that organizes most of Aiden’s toys and has one shelf that can hold about 15 books. I rotate books into this shelf every few months, as these serve as Aiden’s primary reading when he’s downstairs. He would prefer to read (or watch tv) to playing with toys, so we often negotiate that he play before he reads, or he reads X number of books then has some playtime.

Aside from this unscheduled reading time, Aiden reads 1-2 books before his nap, spends about 30 mins reading after his nap (most days) and reads 4 books before bed. All of this reading is in his room where most of his books are.


As much for our own sanity as for Aiden’s benefit, we have a large collection of books. Most of our books have come from swap meets or library book sales, though many have been purchased or given new as well. We tend to be overwhelmed when we get new books, as Aiden wants to read them constantly, so I actually visit the library very infrequently. We’ll see if that changes in the future.

Aiden’s new bookshelf arrived just today – I’m SO happy with it. It definitely beats having some books up too high on his hutch, stuffed into his side table, or simply piled up on the floor. I’ve taken away a few dozen baby books, moving them to baby #2’s room, and now have a fairly organized system for his books. He has a dozen or so anthologies, which I’ve organized into his side table shelf, and the rest have a new home on the above shelving unit. Off-season books, or books he’s not ready for, are up on his hutch.

I <3 organization.