organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

organize playspaces 4 steps to awesome teachmama.com

Friends.

I’m  hoping that you’re still doing a rockstar job taking control your three things this month because, sweet mercy–you can manage to organize three things.

Whatever it is that has been bugging you, whatever it is that causes you the most stress or anxiety, start there.

That sock drawer? The coat closet? The laundry room? You can do it.

This is the year, friends. We’re taking control of our life and our time, and we are living focused.

Need the whole deal? Check out the get yourself organized post as a refresher.

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

I do understand that often it’s overwhelming if you choose something big to organize.  We often don’t know where to start or what to do after we get started. Or sometimes we just get sick of doing it in the middle and want to quit (I do, at least).

Lucky for us, I have recently joined forces with the amazing Rachel from Rachel and Company, and we have some really cool projects in the works.

For real.

Like cool ways to help you and your family get organized–and stay organized.

Like cool things just for your tween. Or just for your kids. Or just to help you organize some super-tricky parts of your life.

Can’t wait.

Until then, I have Rachel sharing some awesome tips for organizing play spaces over here for us today.

You’ll love her.

And you’ll totally love the Organizing Play Spaces Printable we’ve created.  (Scroll on down–you’ll find the link!)

Here’s the skinny. . .

Organizing Play Spaces–4 Steps to Awesome and Tips Every Parent Needs: 

Organizing Play Spaces, by Rachel Rosenthal

The holidays are over but are the new toys, games and books your kids got for the holidays taking over your home?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone! They’re taking over my home too and I do this for a living.

Now that everyone is back in school and we’re all back in somewhat of a routine, it’s time to stop tripping over that new toy fire engine when you get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. It’s also time to finally organize all this new stuff!

So, what to do?

To start, find a designated “play space” to keep everything organized, or as you know, the toys and games will take over your home.

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needsorganizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

Even if you don’t have an entire room to devote to “play”, creating a space in the corner of another room can really help contain the clutter in one area (or at least give you a starting point!).

Without a place to put something, we can’t expect our little ones–or even ourselves–to have an organized play space. And while as moms we are prone to taking on all the organizing ourselves, I am giving you permission to stop doing it all yourself.

Depending on the age of your children, I say, get them involved.

There are age-appropriate organizing tasks that your children can do, and now is the time to empower them to be involved in living an organized life.

Things might not be “perfect” or the way you want them, but that isn’t the point. We want to empower our children and ourselves in creating a space truly conducive to play.

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

organize play spaces teachmama.com 3

Below are some tips on organizing your play space that even your youngest kids can help with!

  • Put all small items like doll accessories, toy cars and even game pieces in labeled containers without a lid. This keeps similar items together and makes for easier play and clean up. Adding a label (a picture or words) helps little ones participate with the organizing.
  • Don’t try to organize your entire play space at once. Choose one category of items, like dress up clothes or board games and focus on just that before moving on. Our printable on organizing your kids can help. It lists out some of the top items that need to be organized in a play area and gives just a few easy steps for paring down what you have and getting an organizing system into place.
  • Have a “hide the clutter” basket. Keep a large empty basket or container in your play area. This can be used two ways. Just make sure that you set a time limit on how long items can stay in this basket. We recommend no more than one week.

1. A quick hide all:  if you need to get things off the floor in a flash (think unannounced guests).

2. An easy organizer:  Whether it’s you or your kids who are reorganizing the play area at the end of play time, fill the container with everything that is left out, then carry it with you to put the items away where they belong.

_____________________________

Rachel Rosenthal of Rachel and Company is an organizing extraordinaire.  Rachel uses creativity, style and a little elbow grease to help families get their homes, schedules, routines and lives in order. As a professional organizer, Rachel empowers families of all ages and sizes to live more organized, productive lives and has helped over 900 clients since starting in 2008.

Rachel works nationally with clients, is based in Bethesda, MD with her 7-year-old identical twins, and she has been featured in publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, Huffington Post, Washingtonian, The Washington Post, Parents, NBC4 and Fox5. Rachel can be reached through her website: www.rachel-company.com.rachel and company  rachel collage

_____________________________

_____________________________

Thank you, Rachel!

I love Rachel’s idea of the open containers, especially for younger kids, and I love the idea of the ‘hide the clutter’ basket–with limitations and guidelines.

So smart.

So let’s get you organized, my friends.

 

Here’s a super-cute printable that Rachel and I collaborated on. I think  you’ll dig it.

Organize Play Spaces Printable: organize play spaces teachmama.com 3

If you choose to share or link to the printable (and we hope you do!), please link to this post rather than the document itself. Thank you!

 

 

So there you have it–a really quick way to organize your child’s play space, wherever that may be!

How do you stay organized? What do you use to organize play spaces? I’d love to hear it!

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live focused 2015 teachmama.com b w collage

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ive focused in 2015 organization teachmama.com sq

#livefocused posts:

family volunteering on martin luther king, jr day

family volunteering on martin luther king, jr day teachmama.com

Last year was the very first year we volunteered as a family to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.

But it will not be the last.

Already, we’re looking for other ways we can give back to our community this year to celebrate the life of this great man.

Family volunteering on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is easy, thanks to a handful of really awesome organizations designed to make finding volunteer opportunities the easy part.

Not even kidding.

family volunteering on martin luther king, jr day

 

It takes five minutes to find a great option for your family and then register right there and then. And registering means only that you’re letting someone know you’ll be there.

No fees involved.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Family Volunteering on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: 

Friends. You will be so happy to see these resources and how organized and awesome they are.

Is one better than the next? You decide.

They’re all actually like brother and sister and cousins, so find what works for you!

Here are several starting points for family volunteering:

Points of Light | The world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service – mobilizes millions of people to take action and change the world.

 

 

family volunteering on mlk day

 

Points of Light is like the starting point. The Big Daddy. The homebase. The command center.

Everything you need is there, and the organizations below (many of them) can be found there.

—————————————————–

All for Good | All for Good is a hub for volunteerism and community service on the Internet, and a service of Points of Light.

family volunteering for mlk day

We found our volunteer activity here last year, and we’ll use it again this year.

It’s super simple to use, and you can search by area of interest (think: adult education, animals, culture, environment, schools, sports & rec, technology, seniors, etc.).

You can search by National Service Events, and you can search by dates.  Most importantly, you can search

—————————————————–

HandsOn Network | They inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world.

volunteering for families for mlk day

HandsOn Network puts people at the center of change and connects them to their power to make a difference by adhering to these values:

  • People drive change
  • Passion overcomes obstacles
  • Service bridges and bonds
  • Innovation drives results
  • Servant leadership transforms

The cool thing about this platform is that you can really share your awesome with others, too.  You can share your skills in different ways, at any time of the year.

You can join an HandsOn Action Center and help where it is most needed.

—————————————————–

Host a Sunday SupperAmerica’s Sunday Supper is a key program of Points of Light.

volunteering for families on mlk day

Inspired by Dr. King’s vision of people of diverse backgrounds interacting on personal levels, America’s Sunday Supper encourages people to share a meal and discuss issues that affect their communities, to increase racial and cultural understanding and to promote unity. 

I love it.

Will we do it? I’m not sure we’ll do it this year, but I want to.

Points of Light provides resources like talking points–conversation starters–and tons of recipes.

The goal? Inspire each of your guests to host their own Sunday Supper. I mean, what better way to have these important conversations?

—————————————————–

GenerationOnTheir mission is to inspire, equip, and mobilize youth to take action that changes the world and themselves through service. 

I am so excited to share about this site. So excited I found it!

 

volunteering for families

 

Really, allowing your kids to check out the GenerationOn site may be a super way to get them inspired for volunteering.

They’ve got videos of teens and tweens and elementary schoolers talking about why they volunteer.

They’ve got a site that is uber user-friendly.

They’ve got tons of important causes clearly outlined.

They’ve got tons of project ideas.

They’ve got a boatload of really worthwhile resources.

And I’m betting that for many kids, this will be all they need to really get psyched to make a difference–make their mark–on the world.

 

generation ON mlk day

 

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And that’s it for this year! Hopefully this will get you excited about volunteering for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day–or any day of the year.

What do you to celebrate this day? I’d love to know!

Have you used these platforms before? What was your experience?

Want a little more for MLK, Jr, Day? Check out: 

fun ways to celebrate martin luther king jr day cover

fyi: affiliate links are used below:

create a bedtime routine that works

create a bedtime routine that works teachmama.com

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create a bedtime routine that works For a long, long time I’ve talked about the importance of rest in our kids’ lives, and along with that goes routine.

We all need rest, and we all thrive on routine.

Especially our little guys.

So it’s super important that from the start we create a bedtime routine that really, truly works for our kids. 

What I’m finding is even now that my kids are older, they still need. The. Routine.

When my friends from Scholastic asked me to help create a printable for parents all about the bedtime routine, inspired by the talented Caroline Jayne Church, you bet I was game.

I was happy to do so. It’s a great reminder for the parents with bigger guys, and some of the resources I have here are super for parents of littler guys.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Create A Bedtime Routine That Works:  

1. Give your kids a gentle reminder that bedtime is around the corner. Have a little, low-sugar snack if dinner was early.

create a bedtime routine that works  teachmama.com

2. Bathtime, shower, clean those bodies.  Really. We’ve got to get our kids into the habit of staying clean, and for us that really means having a nail brush (because man their nails get dirty–especially in the summertime!), and having washcloths close by all the time.  If kids don’t need a full-fledged shower or bath, then they definitely should still clean face, hands, and feet!

3. Brush teeth. Our big guys still need help with this, especially if they’re rocking some metal in their mouths. Flossing, brushing adequately, and making sure teeth are brushed in the morning and evening is so important!

create a bedtime routine that works   read teachmama.com

4. Pajamas on!  Dirty clothes away, wet towels hung up to dry.

5. Night time clean-up. Once pj’s are on, we also stress that kid have to do a quick pick-up of their rooms. No one wants to wake up to a total mess in the morning!

6. Books, books, books!  I still think it’s super-important to read with your kids before bed, no matter how old they are. It doesn’t matter what kind of reading it is–magazine, children’s book, graphic novel, or chapter book–we just want them reading!

create a bedtime routine that works   read teachmama.com

7.  Quiet conversation and love. Whether it’s prayers or a quick What was the best part of your day? or What are you most looking forward to tomorrow? Closing down the day this way is a great way to wrap up the day and prepare for tomorrow.

 

Check out the entire Scholastic Parents’ Caroline Jayne Church resource page, including the Bedtime ‘Cheat’ Sheet: 7 Simple Steps to a Sweet and Cuddly Bedtime Routine.

All of Caroline Jayne Church’s books are the perfect addition to bedtime routines and are totally worth checking out!

create a bedtime routine that works | teachmama.com

 

And that’s it. That’s the routine for us. I’d love to hear the routine for you!

Or check out a few other posts that may help you develop strong and healthy habits for your family:

 

fyi: This post was written as a partnership with Scholastic. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent and by my three little loves. 

must-have gifts for kids (and families!): 2014

must-have gifts for kids (and families!): teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

must have gifts for kids and families | teachmama.com

 

Friends! It’s only the second week of November but already I’ve received two dozen emails from you asking for my gift picks for this holiday season.

What should you get for your preschool nephew?

What does your second grader absolutely need this year?

What will your tween totally love you forever if she receives?

How about your babysitter, your mother-in-law, or your sisters?

Right! I love this time of the year, and I love gift-giving.

And I’m so flattered you care about what I think.  I am so excited to share!

I’m trying and have finally assembled it all: the must-have gifts for kids and families 2014.

And though I usually can shove all of our faves into one happy post, this year? Not so much.

So yes–here are the must-have gifts for kids and families. Our holiday picks.

But we’ve also got our Must-Have Gifts that Give Back and Must-Have Books as Gifts posts, too.

So hold onto your seats.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Must-Have Gifts for Kids (and Families!)–2014:

must-have gifts for kids and families BABIES 2014

For our teeniest teenies:  (babies – first year)

  • Match & Build Soft Blocks by Melissa & Doug K’s Kids: Soft blocks with patterns, numbers, letters, and more.  Perfect for any new baby’s first holiday.

best gifts for kids family 2 to 4 | teachmama.com

For the little guys:  (ages 2-4)

  • Deluxe Pounding Bench by Melissa & Doug:  My sisters have been eyeing this set for their boys for a while now. I know that my nephews will love this.
  • Cool Rain gear: I loved having super cute rain boots, raincoats, and umbrellas for Maddy, Owen, and Cora when they were tiny.  Kidorable has sweet patterns for little ones, like the lady bugs, frogs, and fire trucks. [Use coupon code UMBFR and add a FREE umbrella to your $20.00 purchase. You need over $20 without umbrella cost. YAY!]
  • Personalized Cozy Chair: Every kiddo in my family gets his or her own personalized reading chair when they turn two. Really. And honestly, the kids love ‘their’ chair so much that often they become their ‘go-to’ cozy spot for reading, relaxing, and playing.  You don’t have to go crazy here, but you can if you’d like. Check out these chairs that I adore from The Land of Nod; they start at $99, and they’re the perfect holiday gift!
  • Personalized Story Books: We have had personalized story books for our kids for as long as I can remember. Every kiddo needs to feel like he or she is the star, and seeing a first name in print will do the trick! Love these from Frecklebox.
  • Spot-It: Super little game for kiddos with super-sharp eyes, we have had Spot-It for years and still pull it out often to play. Love. This. Game.
  • Play-Doh Fun Factory Deluxe: All kids need Play-Doh, and all kids need a play center where they can make Play-Doh spaghetti and snakes.
  • Role Play Sets: I’ve gone on and on about the benefits of pretend play, even as recently as this fall. Cora loved the Magician Role Play set, and she had a blast entertaining her pals on the soccer sidelines. I highly recommend any of the Melissa & Doug role play sets for little ones; they’re perfect for getting those imaginations going strong!

 

 

best gifts for kids and families 5 to 7 | teachmama.com

For the bigger guys:  (ages 5-7)

  • Order’s Up! Diner Play Set or School Time! Play Set: We had a chance to try both of these sets this year, and they are totally and completely adore them both. Both sets are like little treasure boxes of fun. Everything that kids need to play a full game of diner–from cooking to serving and eating the goodies–and everything kids need to play school–from lesson planning to learning to grade reporting–is included.
  • National Geographic 24 in 1 Space:  There’s a Dinosaur set with this collection, too, and both are awesome. Kids build things that actually light up, and each set has a ton of different objects to build, so kids aren’t limited to a once-and-done thing.
  • Personalized Bean Bag Chair: Though my kids’ aren’t personalized (poor kids!) they do have beanbag chairs and love them. Owen plops down on his while playing video games, and everyone uses the bean bag chair in our book nook.
  • PlusPlus Building Blocks: These? So cool. Picture tiny little plus signs made out of plastic. They come in a zillion colors, and kids simply use them to build 2D or 3D objects. Very cool. Popular in Denmark, I think, but may be tricky for little ones who aren’t super savvy with their fine motor skills.
  • Deluxe Roominate: I actually met the gals behind this product at both Toy Fair and at a Radio Shack event this summer, and honestly? They’re awesome–the inventors and the products. Created by two women, an electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer, who wanted better toys for girls, this whole line is geared toward bringing girls into engineering. The Roominate products are a blend of hands-on building and circuits. So totally awesome.

best gifts for kids and family 8 to 11 | teachmama.com

For the biggest guys and gals: (ages 8-11)

  • GoldieBlox and the Builder’s Survival Kit: We’ve written about our love of GoldieBlox, but I seriously continue to share the GoldieBlox love to anyone who will listen. We love this set, and it’s a super gift for our tween girls.
  • littleBits Electronics Kits: I was introduced to these kits at a Radio Shack event our family attended this summer, and my kids absolutely were in awe of them, as were my husband and I. There are several options here, but each one of the kits involves kids actually playing with light, sound, sensors, and energy–without the hazard of soldering.  Young ‘makers’ could do a ton with the Base Kit, but I’d probably think about getting the littleBits Electronics Deluxe Kit for all three kids to share.
  • Zing Bow and Arrow Set: Owen received two of these sets for his August birthday and loves them. He and the neighborhood kids play with them for hours. The only problem is that they come only with three arrows.  For Christmas, we’re getting Owen the target and extra arrows.
  • Gravity Maze: My kids have totally loved playing with this new game from ThinkFun that is literally a marble run and logic puzzle all in one. So cool.
  • Skallops: From E & M Labs, these are crazy little wood clips that actually hold playing cards together so that you can build structures with playing cards. Remember Marcia and Greg’s card tower from way back when? Our lucky kids have it so easy. No dangling bracelet will knock this tower down!
  • Crayola Virtual Design Pro-Fashion Set: This would be a huge hit for Maddy and Cora, I know. I saw it at Toy Fair this year, and I was in awe of how absolutely awesome it was. Combines traditional coloring with graphic design, and then it all comes to life in an app. Sounds involved, but it’s not. Simple and so cool.

 

best gifts for kids and family  stockings  teachmama.com

For stockings:

  • Fandango Gift Cards: Going to the movies is such fun for kids, but it does get expensive after you add it all up. We’re huge Fandango fans over here, so gift cards will definitely be stocking stuffers for my three, okay, Santa?
  • Amazon Gift Cards: My kids are becoming savvy shoppers, so Amazon gift cards are a big win for them, since they can find just about anything their little hearts desire over there.  Even Aero for Maddy, Game Stop for Owen, and Charming Charlie for Cora would be a huge win.
  • Tenzie: It’s a fast frenzie. . . it’s TENZIE! One of our most favorite summertime games, Tenzie is a dice game. With a million, trillion options for play.   Pair it with the 77 Ways to Play Tenzie book, and it’s a perfectly awesome game for kids of all ages.
  • Word-A-Round: Love this game from ThinkFun. Word-A-Round is a little tricky, but basically it’s words in a circle and you have to figure out what the word is. Fun for everyone. It’s my personal fave because (cough) it’s the only game I’m able to beat Owen in at this point.
  • Create super-cute custom bracelets, necklaces, and rings for your kids at My Bling Place: LOVE these and they’re surprisingly affordable!
  • Tooth brushes: Not sure why, but we always had tooth brushes in our stockings. And so do my kids.

For families:

  • Trampoline: I can barely believe I’m sharing this, but our kids have begged and pleaded for a trampoline in our back yard for so many years, that I finally think we might cave. I think we might cave. I know they’d love it. But I’m not sure I will be able to handle it.   The Skywalker 15 ft round trampoline comes with very high reviews, as does the much smaller Skywalker 8 ft round trampoline. I secretly with my kids were small enough to fit the Little Tykes 3 ft trampoline, but that one would be a better match for our tiny nephews.
  • Tumble Trak: My kids have wanted a mat like this–one they can practice their flips on–for months and months. It is a super gift for kids in gym, cheer, or tumble classes!
  • Subscription Services:
    • Kiwi Crate sends monthly crafts and cool, hands-on activities to kids. Packages include Koala Crate (ages 3-4 years), Kiwi Crate (4-8 years), Tinker Crate (9-14 years), and Doodle Crate (9-16+ years). Subscription Services like these are SUPER awesome gifts because kids are thinking, moving, and creating. They love these.
  • Little Passports is another fun subscription service, and this one focuses more on teaching kids about the world around them. Early Explorers (ages 3-5 years), World Edition, (5-10 years), and USA Edition, (7-12 years) has something for just about every kid on your list!
  • Playstation 4 Destiny Bundle or XBox OneOur kids have played our Wii long and hard for the past five years. Five years. So we’re thinking it’s time to move on since at this point there are no new games being made for the Wii. I’m keeping my eyes open for a good deal on the Playstation 4 or an Xbox One.  Any advice? I’d love to hear it!

That’s not even it.  I’m on such a roll and I know there are like a million awesome things that I’m forgetting.

 

Want a few rockstar deals on some of these products and more?

subscriber thank you long newsletter | teachmama.com

 Subscribe to teachmama.com and have access to our super-special holiday deals page. So fun.

 

Also check out: 

gifts that give back  teachmama.com

 

must have book gifts for the whole family  teachmama.com

 

Need a bit more inspiration?

Check out our gift guides of years past. Though the dates have changed, the suggestions are still some of our faves.

Click on the picture for the link:

teach mama gift guide 2013

 

gift guide teach mama

Want a few more holiday-inspired learning ideas? Check out: 

 

 

 

fyi: We did receive some of these products from companies to try, but the large majority were purchased (or will be purchased!) by our family on our own dime.  I do work with some of the companies above, but I also work with a ton more that I didn’t mention.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experiences as a parent and educator. I’m sharing the best of the best here–our faves.

 

must have gifts for kids and family teachmama.com 2

 

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

a must-read for raising confident kids: ‘God Made Light’

a must read for raising confident kids | God Made Light | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

As parents, one of the things that we want most for our kids is that they grow to be happy, healthy, and confident adults.

And one simple way that we can do that is to spend quality time with our kids, reminding them daily that they are special and that they are loved.

Reminding them, too, that God loves them and that through them, His light shines is another super-important piece to remember.

Recently one of my friends published a book that focuses on just this fact. The book is called, ‘God Made Light‘, and it’s beautiful and important and moving.

It’s something that every child should have on his or her bookshelf and a perfect addition to bedtime–or any time–reading.

You’ll love it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

I’ve known that my pal Jessica and her husband were working on this book for quite some time, so when it finally arrived at my door, I was over the moon.

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

And it was even more amazing than I imagined it to be.

The message of God Made Light is simple: that God made light and that light shines within all people. And that it’s our job to share the light with others.

I love it.

So even when times are tough for our kids, when they are having a tough day or are afraid of the shadows or when the sun sets, that need to remember that they are important and special and loved. a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

One of my favorite passages from the book is:

‘Cause you’re just like the sun

and the moon in the sky. . .

You’re as lustrous as twinkles that dazzle the eye.

You’re as splendid as lightening,

when it flashes so bright.

’cause on the day you were born,

God said, ‘Let there be light!’ 

Written by Matthew Paul Turner and illustrated by Matthew Paul Mewhorter, this book is the perfect combination of engaging, rhythmic language, a meaningful message, and engaging illustrations.

 

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

My kids love it. Cora has asked for it every night for the past few weeks. And without question, I’ll read it.

And to carry on the message of love and light and confidence, I’ve also been sending the kids to school with the God Made Light Encouragement Notes for Kids: 32 reminders that God’s light shines in you.

Love, love, love them.

Along with our Positive affirmation notes for kids, it’s a rockstar combination. And the fact that the notes carry on the same messaging as this special book? Rockstar.

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

 

My feeling is this: the more that we talk about the fact that each one of us–including our children–carry God’s love with us everywhere, all day long and all through the night, the better.

I’m hoping that knowing they are not alone as they walk into these crazy tween years will make it that much easier for them.

 

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

 

I’ll give this book to my nieces and nephews for Christmas, and I’ll give it as gifts for Baptisms and First Communions.  I love it.

And I do believe it’s the perfect thing for all families to find under the tree this season.

 

 

There are a few ways to buy God Made Light and the related products.  I’m doing what I can to grab the best deals possible for you:

Tons of great resources on the God Made Light website. Definitely check them out: http://godmadelight.com/

god made light freebies

 

It’s heartbreaking for us as parents to watch our little loves go through the inevitably difficult pre-tween, tween, and teen years. Let’s do what we can to make them as seamless and enjoyable and meaningful as we are able.

 

fyi: Though I did receive my copy of God Made Light from my friends Jessica and Matthew Paul Turner, my opinions here are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator.  Affiliate links are used in this post

halloween printable games for kids

halloween printable games for kids

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

Need two quickie Halloween games for your kids?halloween printable games  teachmama.com

Maybe for a Halloween class party or for some after school fun?

Want to up the fun factor of a playdate or just get a little more into the Halloween spirit?

Here are two Halloween printable games for kids that my kids liked and that we’ll be using for class parties this year.

Simple but fun. Tic-tac-toe and Halloween Follow-the-Path.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halloween Printable Games for Kids:

Half the battle of sneaking in some fun learning for our kids is knowing where to look for things.

And that goes for class parties and church parties and playgroup parties as well.

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

So when I became a room parent for the 6580987420 millionth time this year, I decided I was just going to share anything and everything I make. Because really? No need to reinvent the wheel.

And no need to make things difficult for good people who really just want to make things fun for their kids.

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

Two games. Super simple.

  • Bat Follow-the-Path Game: Players begin at the upper lefthand block and take turns rolling the dice to see how far they go on each turn. Winner gets bat to his family first!

Download our Bat Follow-the-Path Game here: follow the path game halloween

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

  • Tic-Tac-Toe:  Just like the game we all know and love, but this one uses Halloween stamps!

We’ve long played Tic-Tac-Toe in our own way with our own flare–this time, we’re rocking it out with a little Halloween fun.

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

Download our Tic-Tac-Toe boards here: tictactoe board | teachmama.com

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

 And that’s it!

Super-simple, totally fun games that you can print on regular paper or cardstock, use, and enjoy.

Need some more? Got a couple Halloween class parties planned for you here:  

 (No joke. . . you can thank me later! Just click the picture!)

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

 

 

halloween class party ideas

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

 

fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post, which means that every time you purchase something using one of our links, we get at teeny, tiny percentage of the sale. so. . . thank you for using them, friends!

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

 

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class partyI love this simple and sweet spider web craft. Love it.

And I think it’ll be perfect for a Halloween class party or playdate activity.

No matter the children’s age, kids would totally dig it because anything crayon resist is super-fun.  And way spooky.

Simple. Quick.

No glue. A little spider surprise. Big win.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Simple Spider Web Craft:

I saw this spider web art project first on my pal Zina’s site, Let’s Lasso The Moon.  It was a guest post by the crazy creative Jean of The Artful Parent.

But you’ve probably seen it before in other spots, as have I. Jean, however, rocked it in her blog post. So beautiful.

With Halloween class party on the brain, I tried to think of a way to adapt the spooky spider web craft for a class party.  Cora’s class party.

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party

So we went with paper plates and plastic spiders.

All you need for this are:

simple spider web craft perfect for Halloween class party 4

And it’s simple.

We talked about what spider webs looked like before we got drawing on the paper plates. We drew a few on paper, making an X with another X through it, and then we connected each of the lines with a curved inside line.

It was a little tough to draw the spider web on a white plate with a white crayon, but you can do it. The practice helps.

 

simple spider web craft perfect for Halloween class party 2

 

Once you draw the web, you grab your watercolors and paint over the web. It magically appears! 

I cut a teeny slit at the end of the web and added a small piece of white yarn, about 6 inches. I taped the back so it would stay put.

Then we tied a small spider to the dangling part of the web–and there you have it–a spooky, simple spider web craft!

 

What I like about this for a class party activity is:

  • that it will take only about 5-10 minutes to complete from start to finish;
  • that there’s no glue to dry;
  • that a light, almost dry coat of water colors will make the web pop and the color will be brighter;
  • that kids can make their web as elaborate as they’d like;
  • that they can take the craft with them that very day-just stick it in their folder!

Will it work for you? For your kids? Your class party? Let me know!

 

 

fyi: Huge and happy thanks to Zina of Let’s Lasso the Moon and to Jean of The Artful Parent, for sharing their awesome ideas!  

Affiliate links are used in this post.

 

 

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts combines physical learning and digital learning | teachmama.com & @tigglykids

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iPad toy? Right.ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

When I heard about it, I thought the same exact thing.

We’re inundated with toys, and my kids are lucky to even have an iPad. Why do we need anything else? And how on earth could there be a toy for the iPad?

I’m honestly in awe.

This iPad toy is actually so cool. And the way it incorporates hands-on learning with digital learning blew my mind.

Tiggly Counts.  It’s an award-winning blend of physical play and digital play.

You want it. Stat.

And I not only have a sweet coupon code for you (30% off!–woot!) but I also have two Tiggly Counts sets to give away–just in time for the holidays! Read on.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • iPad Toy for Early Math Skills–Tiggly Counts: I’m a really tough critic when it comes to apps for my kids.

Especially because we have a close watch on the kids’ screen time and because there are about a gazillion apps on the market, I think we, as parents, should be super-choosy about who and what we’re letting into our lives.

So when I was asked by my friends at Tiggly to check out their new Tiggly Counts, I was curious to say the least.

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

 

Essentially, Tiggly Counts is an iPad toy that combines physical learning with digital learning. And it’s all about math. And it’s for our little guys–our preschoolers. 

I love it.

Kids ages three and older would especially like this toy, but always use your own judgement. I know my Owen would have totally dug this at 2 or 2 1/2, and I know that at 7 and 9, Cora and Owen really liked trying it out. Just worth noting.

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

Tiggly Counts comes with rods–these five rods that are durable and easy to manipulate for little hands–and they were actually inspired by the Cuisenaire rods used in Montessori education.  I know all our Montessori fans are dancing over this one.

The rods are used with the iPad apps. And for a mom who’s always careful about screen time, I love the combination of hands-on and digital learning, especially for basic skills like counting and number recognition.

Three apps were designed for this set each focus on math but cover slightly different areas: 

  • Tiggly Chef: covers numbers and early addition concepts,  math symbols, following instructions and thinking flexibly
  • Tiggly Adventures: introduces kids to number line concepts, number sense, and counting skills
  • Tiggly Cardtoons: basic math skills like one-to-one matching, counting, and equal sets

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly countsBy far my kids loved Tiggly Chef the most, maybe because of the chef’s voice, maybe because of the silly creations, maybe it was more their speed, or maybe because of all the cooking they do over here. Whatever it was, they laughed out loud while playing this game. Super cute.

I wish, wish, wish I had this app when my kids were younger because it would have really helped build a foundation for strong math skills at an early age. I love the combination of saying the number, seeing the number, and seeing that number of objects. 

Overall, I love:

  • the combination of counting on the screen and then within the rods–because the rods’ windows are large enough to see the objects inside;
  • the wait time that this app allows. It moves slowly–but not too slow;
  • the graphics: simple, sweet, and cool;
  • the concepts: kids get these apps. They really do. They’re intuitive and designed for today’s digital kids;
  • the whole idea of bringing together physical play and digital play. It’s just. . . awesome.

 

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

 

Here’s the deal with this app, if you’re confused–anyone can grab the three apps in the iTunes store for free; however, the rods–the counting toys–come with the set. And these rods are what make Tiggly Counts super cool.

With the rods, kids are really interacting with the apps. They’re holding, physically counting, and moving objects on the screen.

Check out our video close-up:

 

Tiggly Counts isn’t even out on the shelves yet, but it will be very soon. It will be available in November, but folks are pre-ordering it now.

And I have a 30% coupon for you to use! Yaaaa-hoooooo. Just in time for the holidays.

 

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

 

All you have to do is visit the Tiggly Counts site (http://get.tiggly.com/counts) enter the code ILOVETIGGLY  for 30% off of your order.

This code is good through the end of October 2014.

However, I am giving away two Tiggly Counts sets to one lucky teachmama.com reader.  That way, you get to keep one for your kids and give one as a gift to a nephew, niece, friend, or relative. So fun, right?

————————————————————-

GIVEAWAY: Two sets of Tiggly Counts.

Do you want to win TWO sets of the new and amazing Tiggly Counts??!  Yes, yes you do.  

[PLEASE NOTE: prizes will not be delivered until mid-December 2014, so plan accordingly!]

——————————-

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Friday, October 17, 2014 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the US only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 10/17/14.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

——————————-

 

fyi: This is a sponsored post; however, as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little digital kids.

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

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fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse  teachmama.com

Fire safety and learning? Right.

Fire safety is one of those topics that seem to only come up either at a school assembly or when something awful and scary happens in the news.

But it’s a topic–like many difficult topics–that I truly believe should be a frequent, familiar conversation for families.

So when I was asked to take a look at a new app from sparkyschoolhouse.org, you better believe I was game.

It’s an app that does, truly combine important information about fire safety along with fun learning.

I’m thrilled to see the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) doing what they can to be present, ‘in the mix’ of today’s many apps on the market.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Very simply, this is an app you want on your iPad, tablet, or phone. Any mobile device you use, throw it on there.

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

 

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

Because really? It’s got what every parent wants in the complete app package: reading, games, and learning in an easy-to-use platform.

Kids will want to use it because there’s variety, and parents dig it because it all counts. 

I’ve caught Maddy, Owen, and Cora all using the app on separate occasions even after I introduced it to them a few weeks ago. And for me, that’s a serious win.

Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms is an app and story experience–one of those cool ways that learning and games are integrated into a story. The plus? It’s really well done.

 

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

 

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

 

Be forewarned, though: ‘What’s that sound?’ song will be stuck in your head for days on end. But maybe it will remind parents to change the batteries in their smoke alarms?

Overall, the kids and I liked the following elements of Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms:

  • the game. Players help Sparky collect smoke alarms around town and collect batteries as well–because he does have to recharge, after all.
  • the graphics. Simple and clear but not too babyish.
  • the learning. After each section, kids were doing math problems to unlock the next level! Owen totally loved this part.
  • the story. Engaging enough for older readers, with words that are highlighted as they’re read–which is always something parents should look for.
  • the video. Funny. And catchy. And cool.
  • the resources. Tons of resources–printables which include reading, math, word problems. Lesson plans for teachers. Simple, printable games to use as extensions if you have a family discussion about fire safety.

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms is an app created by NFPA, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading the word about fire safety, and it’s been around for years and years. I know I totally remember Sparky the Fire Dog from way back when I was in school, so it’s cool to see him back in action, rocking and rolling in apps that work for today’s kids, too.

Check out the site and Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms app! iTunes  |  Google Play

What do you think? I’d love to hear  your thoughts on this app!

 

fyi: This post is written as part of a partnership with NFPA. All opinions are my own, as always, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. 

halloween word search

halloween word search teachmama.com

originally published 10/26/11 but republished today for you!

 

halloween word search  teachmama.com

Homework time over here this week and last has been a little spooky.

Just a bit.

Cora and Owen have been rockin the Halloween Word Search, which I made last year for Owen when he was on his crazy word search kick and which I made not a single change to this year.

Owen is much more into the ole word search halloween, but Cora did give it a go twice, never actually finding all of the words–or even caring that she didn’t. She did, however, love the idea that she had ‘work’ to do just like Maddy and Owen at homework time.

So while they worked, she worked. . .

Here’s the skinny:

  • Halloween Word Search: I didn’t get a chance to edit the document and that was actually fine because, like I said, Cora gave it a go for a bit but wasn’t in love with it.

It could be that it was too much for her–too many small letters all jumbled together–or that word searches just aren’t her game.  Perhaps a bit of both.

 

halloween word search  teachmama.com

halloween word search  teachmama.com

She was very excited at first, when I sat down next to her and read through each of the words she had to find.  I drew tiny pictures of each, right next to the word to help her remember each.

We talked about strategies for hunting for each word, like:

  • going line by line and searching for the first letter, then looking for the second letter once you find the first;
  • using a piece of paper to help guide you as you look at each line of letters;
  • saying the first letter over and over in your head so you remember; and
  • looking for double letters.

halloween word search  teachmama.com

word search halloween

We talked about different ways of identifying each word, like:

  • using a highlighter to highlight the word;
  • using a different color to highlight each word;
  • using water colors to paint each word;
  • circling each letter of the word;
  • circling the whole word.

She searched a bit, choosing to use her Hello Kitty pen o’many colors, but when Maddy and Owen were finished with their work, she was finished with hers.  She asked to finish her word search the next day, but she decided that coloring her tiny Mickey Mouse coloring pages was what she needed to do instead.

I bet if there were jewels in the word search, or sparkles or glitter, she’d be more game. . .

And that’s it–just a little bit of literacy-focused Halloween Word Search fun during homework time.  Happy Searching!

Want a few more fun halloween ideas?

noticing your kids: little observations mean a lot from parents

noticing your kids: little observations mean a lot from parents

originally published 9/17/09 but republishing now because it’s worth it–

 

Lately, I’ve felt overwhelmed by Cora’s ‘two-year-old-ness’. noticing your kids  observations mean a lot from parents  teachmama.com

Her fiery temper; her constant movement; her unceasing energy; her smiles, hugs, songs, and cuddles; her high high’s, and her low low’s. Some days we enjoy this roller coaster ride, and others, we all want off.

But what I’ve also realized is that as a parent, I’m more experienced than I was when Maddy was two, but I’m not in the fog of fatigue that I muddled through when Owen was the same age. I’m in a different place, and although I sometimes wish that Cora already knew the correct ways of behaving, I seem to have forgotten that those behaviors have to be taught.

So last week, I needed to revisit my old, trusty parenting books for a quick refresher. I didn’t like that I had begun to sound like a broken record, ordering everyone around, raising my voice, and being a reactive parent instead of a proactive parent.

I needed to stop, breathe, and really start to notice the behaviors I wanted her to continue. And then I needed to share with her what I noticed.

It’s all about “shining your light” where you indicate value:

  • Noticing Behaviors: The goal with noticing is to state an observation rather than make a judgement.

NoGood job, Cora.

Yes!Cora, you put your toys in the bin and your clothes in the drawers. You cleaned your room so you can find things when you want them.

Wordy, yes. Takes thought, yes. But it does make sense, especially for our little guys.

Here’s the skinny

  • Start your sentence with the child’s name or the pronoun ‘you’. Look at you!, or I noticed. . .
  • Describe what you see. You found her blanket and gave it to her. That was helpful!
  • End your description with a ‘tag’. Tags describe attributes of your child or values you admire, like that took determination; you sure are organized; that was helpful; that was thoughtful.

Some examples

  • Look at you! You’re eating with your spoon!
  • You did it! You went potty on the big potty. Good for you!
  • Owen, you held the door for Cora. That was helpful.
  • Cora, you offered Maddy a french fry when hers were all gone. That was so thoughtful.
  • Maddy, you picked up all of the doll clothes without being asked. That was super helpful.

Becky Bailey believes that if you accentuate your child’s strengths, you teach them their abilities. If you encourage their contribution, you teach them how important it is that they share their gifts.

It’s hard. It’s so hard. But positive behaviors have to be taught–which is much easier said than done sometimes.

And if we spotlight the behaviors that we want repeated (think: Special Plate), then most likely those behaviors will be repeated.

This Quick Trick is another one from Becky Bailey’s Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline (2000), which has helped me to become more conscious in my disciplining. (When I am disciplined enough to use it!)

I’m far from an expert, hardly the perfect parent, and by nature am quick-tempered and fiery myself (hmmmm, where does sweet Cora get it?), but I am always, always looking for quick tricks to keep in my back pocket. Do share yours!

 

 


 

fyi: affiliate links used in this post