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Posts in Fun and Games Category


Another slice of cake

Posted by Susan on August 29, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Fun and GamesPicture Books
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It's time to start our going away party here at Booklights. Time to reminisce and say goodbye. But, before we go any further, it's time to offer you a piece of cake.

One of the posts I enjoyed writing the most for Booklights, was this one about cakes based on children's books. I've searched long and hard to come up with more books good enough to eat.

I've got just the thing to start us off. Once upon a time, there was a beautiful cake.


No revolting recipes here. Look at this amazing Roald Dahl masterpiece by Cake Doctor Lise Bonin. It's five books in one cake!

Roald Dahl.jpg

Look how Lise manages to to capture the spirit and essence of The Cat and the Hat with this wonderfully chaotic cake.

Cat in the Hat cake.jpg

Lise also made this incredible, edible version of the Wonderful World of Oz, complete with a blue gingham background. (I found all three of these cakes separately, and was amazed when they turned out to all be made by the same person!)

Wonderful World of Oz.jpg

Speaking of The Wizard of Oz, here's the nicest Wicked Witch of the West I've ever seen. Check out the tutorial on the baker's website, it's amazing how much detail work went into this cake. All of that effort, and it was made for a school bake sale!

Wicked Witch cake.jpg

Here's a lovely, creative version of Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. The poor tree has given all it can, and now it's going to be eaten!

Giving Tree.jpg

I've saved the best for last. Here it is, the pièce de résistance.

Favorite Children's Book Cake.jpg

Here's a look at every angle of this unbelievable cake, made for a Children's Care Awareness Expo, and large enough to feed 300 people!

Parting is such sweet sorrow... but hopefully this post has helped make it a little bit sweeter. And remember my motto: you can have your cake and read it too.

Now, will someone make a cake for me? =)


Don't let Summer Fun Slip-Slide Away (Part 2)

Posted by Terry on August 9, 2010 at 11:30 AM in Early LiteracyFun and GamesRecommendationscreative literacy
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Summer_2010_ClipArt9_SunWearingGlasses.pngIf your house is like ours, you're quickly approaching "the wall." That place that says summer has gone by too quickly, but man, am I ready for the kids to go back to school. It is also the time when we look around and say we've had a blast, but I should have been preparing the kids for learning. Don't worry, games are here to save the day!

In selecting literacy games for preschoolers and Kindergartners, there are three things to look for - the level of fun, the amount of time it takes to play (think: attention span), and how well it disguises learning. For some kids, Scrabble Junior is a blast; for others (like my daughter) it took too long and looked too much like her spelling list.

It is also good to find entertainment that not only introduces concepts (rather than memorization), but also isn't about winning or losing or "racing" to the finish. Picture puzzles are great for that, because they help kids create a complete image from just pieces of it, they don't require any letter or spelling knowledge, and they can be done independently or with help. Here are a few other ideas.

hiss-cards.jpgGamewright Hisss Card Game With this card game, kids learn sequencing, logic, and colors. There is no spelling or letter recognition required, but it does make kids think: Does a blue head go with a red tail? Do snakes really have two heads? Where is my snake's tummy? Like Wig Out! (below) this game lasts about 15 minutes.

see-and-spell.jpgMelissa & Doug See & Spell It is hard to beat Melissa and Doug products for durability and educational value. What I love about these puzzles is that kids can create words by placing the letter on the word board, but they can also use the letters independently to create new words, too. For example, slide "bug" off the board, swap out the "b" for an "r" and they have rug ... or any other silly words they'd like to create.

wig-out.jpgWig Out! Here's a matching game that will have everyone rolling with laughter, making it perfect for mixed age players. You get a series of bald heads and your job is to play all your hairstyle cards faster than anyone else. Of all the games in the list, this is probably the most marginal for this audience. Not because of content, but because of its speed. Each game takes 10 to 15 minutes, which is good for kid with short attention spans, but it also is played quickly.

zingo-preschool.jpgThinkFun Zingo We had a blast with this game when my daughter was in Kindergarten. It is a combination of picture and word Bingo, and you can make it as easy or as complex as you want. We would also use the little plastic cards to play matching games (think Jeopardy).

Not to sound trite, but the name of the game for kids this age is developing their thinking skills. Whether it is learning to put things in order (i.e., sequencing), separating and/or categorizing things by similarities or differences, or beginning to see things spatially from just little pieces, it all contributes to their future success as readers.

So have fun ... Remember. Don't worry, be happy!

Image credit
Summer Sunglasses by PianoBrad on

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Celebrating Young Authors

Posted by Gina on August 6, 2010 at 12:57 PM in Authors and IllustratorsFun and GamesShow and Tale
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BL_writersContest.jpgIf you're looking for a masterpiece or 12, go no further than the PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contest, which just announced its national winners. These dozen stories, written and illustrated by kids in grades K-3, are online and ready for you to read aloud and share with your kids. Don't miss gems like "Desk: A Totally True Tale of Terror" or "The Adventures of Sniffy Pete and Drono."

Plus, your kids can make their own story mash-ups featuring the places, characters, objects and words taken from other Writers Contest entries. The possibilities are endless!


Don't let Summer Fun Slip-Slide Away

Posted by Terry on August 2, 2010 at 4:32 PM in Fun and GamesRecommendationscreative literacy
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With the sale pages shouting about 1c pencils and snappy new backpacks, it is hard to keep that summer frame of mind going. I'm not ready to give up the fun and games just yet, so today we're just going to play!

On Friday nights, our community pool stays open until 9pm. We parents love it because it is a nice time to let the kids run off and play while we chat and enjoy the beverage of our choice. We have also discovered it is the perfect time and place for games.

I am usually behind the times, so I know Bananagrams has been around the world and back a couple times already. I had seen it, but never played it. Now I'm addicted. Playing Bananagrams is great fun and, as it turns out, is a great modeling tool, too. I can't tell you how many times our dripping-wet kids came over to watch us play and "help" us with words.

Between rounds, we talk about other stuff, like the games we play with our kids. Not surprisingly, our favorites are the ones that have some type of educational value and can have lots of players. We talked about our own childhood favorites like Scrabble, Boggle, Pictionary, and Yahtzee, as well as the fun of these new games for our kids.

Scrabble SLAM, a card game, is a natural for kids of mixed ages. Essentially, you rebuild a four-letter word like sand by playing a cards in your hand ... changing it to hand or sane or band, etc. Speed is part of the game, so it may take young players a bit to get comfortable.

Such & Such is for up to four people or can be played in teams. The game's tag line is "the answers to the game come in twos," so players build pairs of things that go together: peanut butter and jelly, guilt and innocence, moon and stars, etc. It's about "clever pairings and witty competition."

Ticket to Ride is a good, old-fashioned board game. Each player is trying to build a cross-country railway route by making city-to-city connections from one coast to the other. There are lots of facets to the game, including geography and strategy. There are individualized versions for several continents.

These games combine fun and literacy concepts on many levels, not just letters. They require creativity, memory, problem solving, and even strategy. With the exception of Ticket to Ride, they are all also very economical investments.

Most of these games are good for kids who are in second through fourth grade. Next week I'll offer some game suggestions for preschoolers and kindergartners. Summer's not over yet ... let the games go on!

It's your move. What are your favorite games to play as a family?

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Children's Book Quilts

Posted by Susan on April 7, 2010 at 12:00 AM in Fun and GamesPicture Books
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A few months ago I got a package in the mail. Inside were two handmade quilts from my wonderful Aunt Joan. But these weren't just any quilts. These were special. They were made them from children's books.

Okay, not literal books, but she used book-inspired fabric. Take a look at this amazing Very Hungry Caterpillar quilt that she made for my son.

Very Hungry Caterpillar Quilt by Joan Scherf

Wait, there's more! Look at the back. It's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Brown Bear Brown Bear quilt close-up by Joan Scherf

It's an incredible quilt because my son feels like he's sleeping inside the books. I can't tell you how much fun it is to read these two books as we point out every detail on the quilt. And we can tell the stories without the books too.

Here's the second quilt she made. This beautiful baby quilt is for my younger son. Doesn't it just make you want to curl up under it and read books with your kids? (The lump at the top is the baby sleeping under it).

Baby book quilt by Joan Scherf

Want to make your own? You can find the material from Andover Fabrics. Not only do they have fabric from Eric Carle's books, there's also Maisy and Olivia. If you look around, you can find fabric for Angelina Ballerina, Peter Rabbit, Paddington, the Poky Little Puppy and more.

There are many great children's books about quilts, but one of my very favorites is a book that actually is a quilt itself. Several quilts, in fact. Take a look at Anna Grossnickle Hines' beautiful book 1, 2 Buckle My Shoe. For an in depth and fascinating look at the creation process (which was far more complicated than you can imagine) head over to her website. Click on the picture of 1,2 Buckle My Shoe, and then scroll down to the link that says "see the step by step process." Her account is also an excellent description of how picture books are made. You can also find more information on her website about the other quilt books she's created.

Do you have your own picture of something you made based on a children's book? Tell me about it and e-mail a picture to It doesn't have to be a quilt... I'm fascinated by all kinds of creative things, such as cakes.

All quilts pictured above were created by Joan Scherf.


A Patchwork Quilt

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Perhaps it is because we are having one more dreary, cold, wet (yes, still snow flurries!) day in Nashville, all I want to do is what Jen has just recommended: cozy up with a good book. And I would add that I'd like to cozy up under a fabulous quilt!quilt.jpg

I will use that quilt metaphor in this month's posting. So many of the postings this past month provide great fabrics of ideas and suggestions for developing in young children a love of reading. I will try to sew some of those fabrics into a quilt of connections. Thanks to James Ransome's end pages in Under the Quilt of Night for this quilt that I would choose for wrapping myself.

Immediately upon reading Jen's post, I registered to vote in the contest Ideas for Change in America. I had not heard about this contest and was delighted to read so many great project ideas. The "Read to Kids" campaign gets my vote, of course. I particularly like what the creators have said in the description:

"By reading aloud with children, we can improve their interest in and attitudes toward reading and improve children's fundamental literacy skills, including reading comprehension, vocabulary, reading ability, listening comprehension, attention span and ability to articulate thoughts. Being read to by an adult also helps build a child's self-esteem and confidence.

A national "Read to Kids" campaign could engage national and local literacy organizations, schools, teachers, parents, authors, publishers and nearly every sector of business and society that understands that our nation's future depends on our children's literacy skills."

I join Jen in encouraging you to vote....and suggest that you send the "Read to Kids" description on to those you know in the business world as well!

Thank you, Pam, for reminding us about Goin' Someplace Special. 51pIwG2kZwL.jpgThis ranks very high on my "favorite books of all time" list. Those who share my love of this book should be sure to check out the Reading Rockets website that Gina has led us to. The writing prompts for Goin' Someplace Special are excellent. Even though the February challenge has ended, I plan to store the ideas inside a copy of the book.

NOTE to sure to check for the March prompts. One of my former students entered one of her second grader's writing in January and her student was selected for an honorable mention. What a fabulous way to validate the efforts of a young writer!

Susan got us all thinking about how we organize, shelve, and attempt to easily locate our books. As a Mac computer user, I have used a software package called Booxter for several years. The program allows me to use a scanner like they have at the grocery store to record the ISBN codes on the back of each book (you can also manually enter these). All the information I need, including a picture of the cover, immediately pops up and is added to my catalog of books.

Finally, I'll add my own "piece of fabric" to this quilt. It actually brings us back to our many conversations around this year's Caldecott Award winner, The Lion and the Mouse. The website Teaching Books includes a video of Jerry Pinkney as he talks about the creation of the book. He ends the interview by saying that this fable is truly about family and helping others.

Scroll on down the link and check out the suggestions for enriching a reading of big no no.jpgBenny and Penny in the Big No-No (this year's Geisel Award winner). The book becomes interactive when you click on the "Play" button.

Let's hope for lots of sunshine and even some days that will make us all want to take our books and young readers outside!

Happy Reading......Ann


Mixing some Red in Reading

Posted by Terry on November 24, 2009 at 11:21 AM in Fun and Games
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The malls are all decked with holiday décor, and whether we're ready or not, "toy season" is here. As you might expect, books are one of my favorite gift choices, but I also think its fun to sneak in something that doesn't look like it is related to reading.

Did you know the ABCs of learning to read doesn't begin with letters? It's true. Much of what we as adults tend to dismiss as "just playing" is really the brain's way of organizing and putting together the building blocks that kids later use for learning to read. There is a lot of science (link to Reading Online article, ©2000, International Reading Association) to support the idea that playing is a very effective way for kids to build lots of skills, reading being one of them. Trevor Cairney has additional links and some tips for encouraging simple play at Families, Literacy and Learning, too.

This week, I thought I would pull together some ideas for ways to give the gift of reading that don't require batteries, computers, flashcards, or workbooks.

early_drawing.JPGEncourage your Artist in Residence - Every toddler and preschooler I've ever met loves to play with crayons, markers, chalk, and paint. Giving kids the tools to create their masterpieces ultimately feeds into their reading. First, they can tell you fantastic, often very elaborate stories about those abstract versions of castles and dinosaurs, flowers and houses. Second, it also gives them practice in recognizing and drawing shapes. What does that have to do with reading?

Well, let's look at the letter b. It has two shapes: a line and a circle. The process of turning those early squiggles into straight lines and misshaped lumps into a circle is a precursor to being able to put the two objects together to create that "b." Before you know it those waves that mean "I love you. You're the best Mom in the world" will transform themselves into letters and lots more love notes that don't require translation!

puzzle.JPGPromote your Little Detective - Just as kids need to recognize the parts that comprise a letter, they also need to know what makes them different. When they're building a puzzle, they are looking for those types of clues ... one of the stepping stones of reading. That same stick and circle not only make a "b," but they are used for a "d" and a "p" as well. Putting together picture puzzles gives kids practice in finding shapes that fit together and pick them out from those that don't. It also lets them practice separating the "trees from the forest" and what makes sense (or doesn't). Does the tree branch really connect to the top of the sheep's head? Look for puzzles with pieces that range from 2 to 4 inches, are easy for a young child to manipulate, connect with "buttons and holes," and have just a few elements to the picture. Not the ones with 60+ pieces, varied shapes, and subtle distinctions (like 15 striped hot air balloons).

swinging.JPGAdd a Little Exercise - Studies (link to February 2008 Education Week article, PDF) show that there is a direct correlation between vigorous physical activity and learning. One of the best things to happen to my second grader this year is that she has PE before having to settle into math (a subject she struggles with). She concentrates better, she comprehends more, and she is more confident in her ability to learn. When kids get that heart pumping and use their "big muscles" - be it with jump ropes, jungle gyms, trampolines, hopscotch, basketball, soccer, or just running around - they are preparing their minds to focus. If you're looking for something to go along with your exercise ideas, Susan Stephenson of The Book Chook created a downloadable book of skipping and clapping rhymes, songs, chants, and games from her Literacy on the Playground (pdf) series. Speaking of songs ...

Mix in some Music - You can find children's music in every genre. The sillier the better ... at least from their perspective! The lyrics in kids' songs let them hear language in new ways, whether it is a made-up word or just a really big one. The rhythm, rhyme, and repetition all help with vocabulary.

These are just a few of the ideas of ways to mix in some "literacy toys" this holiday. When it comes to kids, their imagination and energy, there is no limit to where they can - and want to go! We were all born with an insatiable appetite to discover and learn, and there are so many ways we can encourage that and still meet our goals of turning our little ones into successful readers. If you've got some ideas, please add them below. I know one elf who would appreciate the help!

image sources
child's drawing and girl swinging - (c) Terry Doherty
puzzle pieces - Microsoft ClipArt, modified


Thursday Three: Reading Games

Posted by Pam on August 6, 2009 at 12:44 AM in Fun and Games
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When my kids were little, I wanted to get them ready to read in a fun way. I looked to all the right books for activities. But if I decided to have my daughter write letters in a cookie sheet covered with shaving cream, I knew that the doorbell would ring and I'd return to a overturned tray on the good carpet and a preschooler with foamy cheeks declaring herself to be Santa Claus. Not like that happened or anything.

Anyway, there were tons of great ideas to introduce reading concepts, but I didn't need great ideas - I needed easy ideas. I have all sorts of respect for the moms who take Junior around photographing items to make a personalized alphabet book with a laminated cover. However, I was a bit energy-challenged, that is to say, lazy, and these are some games that worked for me.

1. Easy ABC's Maybe the shaving cream thing seems a bit involved, but there are many easy opportunities to learn the alphabet. Going to the beach? Take turns drawing letters in the sand and watch the waves wash them away. Need to get outside? Grab a big paintbrush and a bucket of water and "paint" letters on the sidewalk. Stuck coloring again? Draw multicolored letters for your preschooler to name or decorate. Since my three year old niece has been crazy about erasing things, I write letters lightly in pencil and let her erase them after she names them. She also likes scissors, so I draw words for her to cut out. Look for little chances to toss in some ABC's.

2. Storytelling 101 "How was your day, dear?" sounds cliche, but not to a preschooler. Take time to talk about the day's events. What did we do today? Then what did we do? Help your child find the words to describe his day and tell his story. Of course, you can also add some fun elements of your own. A phrase like "Is that when the dancing elephants came in?" can take the story in a whole new direction. Sometimes it can even thwart an oncoming case of the grumps. I've seen it happen.

3. Rhyme Time Even with my daughters in fifth and eighth grades, we still like to make up silly rhyming songs. We're just better at it now. But preschoolers won't judge your imperfect rhymes. In fact, the sillier, the better! Work together to think of the next line as you drive to the grocery store. Giggling is encouraged. While you're checking out, you can try my other favorite rhyme game. Pick a word and figure out which words rhyme with it. You can let them come to you, or you can go through the alphabet sounding out each letter. So, rose leads us to explore b-b-bows and d-d-does. This little time-killer works with phonics and stores up some rhyming pairs for your next silly song session.

Look for many more quick tips at PBS Parents and share some favorite games of your own in the comments.


Thursday Three: On the Road

Posted by Pam on July 16, 2009 at 8:33 AM in Fun and GamesRecommendations
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For me, summer means car trips and lots of them. Our family has gone the portable DVD player route at times, but the kids generally listen to music, read their books, or play Nintendo. But since they were little, we've always had some different kinds of books at hand for when traffic takes its toll or the batteries die.

1) Audiobooks are great for passing the time in the car and feeling like you got some book reading accomplished. I've found that the ones that hold our attention are either funny, adventurous, or familiar. With younger kids in the car, it can be difficult to find the book that works for everybody, so compromise must be employed. Junie.jpgPersonally, we've had the most success with the Junie B. Jones series. The books are funny, the reader is great, and the stories are familiar. It's also helpful that each book is only about thirty minutes of listening time, so they are perfect for that last hour of a trip when everyone is getting cranky. For older kids, I'd also recommend A Series of Unfortunate Events, read by Tim Curry. Again, these work best when you already know the story as it makes it easier for everyone to follow along.

2) Question books can turn a long car ride into a wonderful opportunity to share stories and memories. Not sure what a question book is? Well, I may be making up the genre as I'm only aware of two such titles for kids, but both are excellent. AskMe.jpgAsk Me features an interesting photograph or illustration on one page and a question on the other. Questions like, "What do you wish you could do really well?" and "Where do you like to hide?" Another title, Could You? Would you?, by Trudy White features whimsical drawings along with the questions. Sometimes the questions are offered alone, like "Would you like to dance with animals or look at plants?" But many times include follow-up questions or a few ideas to start you off. So, "What makes you smile?" lists pineapple and big goldfish in a pond. Both books are wonderful to start you talking to each other.

3) Find It books are very popular anyway if my library requests are any indication, but a car trip is the perfect place for them. You may buy yourself a reasonably quiet hour only punctuated by an occasional "Found it!" Waldo.jpgWhere's Waldo? series is famous, and the I Spy series by Jean Marzollo isn't far behind. I've also seen these types of books for TV shows and movies, ocean life and museums. I keep one in the car at all times, because you never know when a trip across town can go terribly wrong.

What books have made your car trips bearable?


Terrific Tricky Tongue Twisters

Posted by Susan on June 17, 2009 at 12:00 AM in Fun and GamesPoetryRecommendations
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Try saying the words "Peggy Babcock" five times fast. Can you do it?

Don't feel bad if the answer is no. Peggy Babcock is one of the hardest combinations of words to say in the English language.

I've been having a lot of fun with tongue twisters lately. They're great to read aloud with kids. Here's a recent favorite of mine from Orangutan Tongs by Jon Agee. I was amazed that I was able to mesmerize several 5th grade classes merely by saying the words below out loud (very, very fast).

Orangutan Tongs.jpgWalter Witter called a waiter: "Waiter, over here!
I want some water, waiter. Water, waiter! Is that clear?
The waiter brought some water. Walter Witter shouted: "WRONG!
This water's really watered-down! I like my water strong
The waiter brought more water. Walter Witter was upset.
"This water's dry!" said Walter. "I like my water wet!
Bring me wetter water, waiter!" Walter Witter said.
The waiter brought a pitcherful and poured it on his head."

Did you find that one difficult? It's just a warm-up for Bubble Trouble, a terrific tongue twisting poem by Margaret Mahy. Bubble Trouble.jpg It was recently released as a picture book with illustrations by Polly Dunbar and it's probably the hardest book I've ever tried to read aloud. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, here's a sample:

"Little Mabel blew a bubble, and it caused a lot of trouble...
Such a lot of bubble trouble in a bibble-bobble way.
For it broke away from Mabel as it bobbed across the table,
where it bobbled over Baby and it wafted him away."

And that's just the first page!

For more great tongue twisters, look no further than the good doctor. Seuss, that is. Open up Fox in Socks to one of my all time favorites, and "let's have a little talk about tweetle beetles:"

"When beetles fight these battles
in a bottle with their paddles and
the bottle's on a poodle and
the poodle's eating noodles...
they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle bottle paddle battle."

If you've mastered Fox in Socks, you can graduate to Dr. Seuss' Oh Say Can you Say? Amazingly, it's got even harder tongue twisters:

"Fritz needs Fred and Fred needs Fritz.
Fritz feeds Fred and Fred feeds Fritz.
Fred feeds Fritz with ritzy Fred food.
Fritz feeds Fred with ritzy Fritz food.
And Fritz, when fed, has often said,
"I'm a Fred-fed Fritz. Fred's a Fritz-fed Fred."

For the true classics, try Alvin Schwartz's book: A Twister of Twists, A Tangler of Tongues. (It's out of print, but you can find it in a library.) In addition to lots of fun tongue twisters, he also provides great notes and folklore history. I love the great tidbits of information he's uncovered. For example, Peter Piper originally appeared in an undated pamphlet called Peter Piper's Practical Principles of Plain and Perfect Pronunciation. Here's the one from that pamphlet that we all know (there have been some slight variations over the years):

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper.
A peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper picked.
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper,
Where is the peck of pickled pepper that Peter Piper picked?

Each tongue twister in the pamphlet was about an unusual occupation and began with the a different letter . Here's the entry for Q. It's done in the exact same format as Peter Piper.

"Questing Quidnunc quizzed a queerish question.
Did Questing Quidnunc quiz a queerish question?
If Questing Quidnunc quizzed a queering queerish question,
what's the queerish question Questing Quidnunc quizzed?

I don't know about you, but I'm kind of grateful that Peter became more famous than Quidnunc.

Schwartz also provides a sample of one of the earliest known written tongue twisters, published in 1674, in Grammatica Linguae Anglicanae by John Wallis:

"When a Twister, a twisting, will twist him a twist
For the twisting of his twist, he three times doth intwist.
But, if one of the twists of the twist do untwist,
The twine that untwisteth, untwisted the twist."

For some great tongue twisty additions to well known classics and nursery rhymes, take a look at Ira Trapani's Rufus and Friends: Rhyme Time. Here's a new stanza for Peter Piper:

"Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,
But Patty Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers quicker.
Into a pickled pepper pot she packed the pack of peppers,
For Patty was a quicker pickled pepper packer-picker."

Enjoy tangling your tongue! And in the words of Dr. Seuss:

"Now is your tongue numb?"

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