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

sponsored post




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

nighttime reading with elementary schoolers: make it a date

nighttime reading with elementary schoolers teachmama.com

We’re back in business. nighttime reading with elementary schoolers | teachmama.com

School’s in session, and we’re all slowly but surely trying our best to adjust to our new fall schedules.

And we’re tired.

I mean it. Tired.  Kids are tired. Parents are tired. Everyone’s tired.

I know it will get easier, but man.

There’s nothing like those first few Friday afternoons of the school year, especially a Friday after a five-day week.

It’s literally all I can do to keep my kids composed from school to home.  They’re beat. They’ll cry at the drop of a hat, and they’re quick to argue, pick, and prod.

So especially because it’s a new school year and we’re all picking up new routines and schedules, it’s uber-important for us to sit down with our kids and read with them before bed. 

Really. No matter how old our kids are. Even if they’re in elementary school or middle school.

If they want to read with us, we should be game for it.

Make it a date.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Nighttime Reading with Elementary Schoolers–Make it a Date:

Put a reading schedule on the calendar in ink, rotating the days you read with each kiddo. Or read together. Or do it according to books. Read one book with one kid and while you do so, the others can read silently in their rooms.

I know very few of us have kids the same age, with the same interests, who want to read the same books.

You’ll figure it out.

Bottom line is that a lot can go down during bedtime reading, so it’s way too important to give up.

Kids want to hang with us. They most often think we’re pretty cool. So that guaranteed time at night is a super time for them to open up about school, friends, concerns, and dreams.


3 Reasons to Read with Your Elementary Schooler Every Night:

nighttime reading with elementary schoolers | teachmama.com


Bedtime Reading Strategies: birth to independent reading:

bedtime reading strategies | scholastic

Not sure where to begin? What books to read with your crew?

No fear. Check out Maggie McGuire’s Top 100 Books that Parents Love to Read to their Kids as a start.

It can be anything. The most important thing is that you’re reading. With your littles. No matter their age.


What’s your favorite bedtime read? I’d love to hear it! Share it in the comments!

Cheers, and happy reading during this incredibly exciting journey!

learn with seashells: letters and sight words

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

Huge thanks to an extraordinary educator and parent, Kim Vij, for guest posting for us for this final Rockstar Sunday of the summer. 

Kim is a great friend of mine, and I am continually amazed by her creativity and ideas over on the blog she writes, The Educators’ Spin on It, along with her pal, the awesome Amanda Boyarshinov. 

These two ladies are rocking it over on Pinterest with 1.5 million–yes, million!–followers. 

Go find them. And then follow them. You’ll be glad you did.

Today, Kim shares with us a fun, summertime activity great for early literacy skill-building.

Or, if you want this activity to have a mathy-spin, go right ahead and throw in some numbers. The possibilities are endless.

Here’s the skinny. . .  

  • Learn with Seashells– Letters and Sight Words, by Kim Vij:

Finding playful ways to incorporate learning and fun in the summer is something parents and teachers try to provide for kids.

We look for summer camps that kids love but still look at what they will take away from the camps as far as learning new skills, too.  One focus that we want kids to keep is their language development and reading abilities.

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

Here’s a fun sight word game that is summer themed that your child will love! And it will give you a great use for all of those shells you’ve collected over the last few weeks!

(Or if you haven’t had a chance to hit the shore this year, buy your seashells on Amazon: buy seashells.)

To create, first gather some sea shells from the beach or even at your local craft store. You will need at least 26 shells for each letter.  Now it’s time to research the words our child should be working on.  Here’s a list of Dolch Words or Fry Words for each grade level from Kindergarten to Third Grade.

Use the words that your child should be working on and write them down on a sheet of paper with your child.  Here’s a blank circle template for printing.  Then attach the circles to a few funs pieces of scrapbook paper to make it colorful.

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

Next take the seashells and add all of the letters of the alphabet onto each shell.  Put the shells in a fun container.  We added ours to some colorful cloud dough we created recently.  Sand would be fun too to use in the container.

For the Summer Sight Word activity encourage your child to spell on the sight words using the shells.

It’s time to search for the letters needed to create the site words on your game board.  Create enough words so that you can switch the search around too!

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmama

Extention Ideas

To extend the activity you could have your child write down the words that they find.  Here’s a shell word printable.

For more ideas on how to work with words go check out Amy’s post on Words 3 Ways and Sticky Finger Writing

learn with seashells: letters and sight words | guest post by @educatorsspinon for @teachmamaFor more Literacy Sea Shell Activities you may enjoy:

kim vij educators spin on it


Kim Vij is an early childhood educator and mom of three. She shares her “Educator’s Spin” on parenting issues and how to make everyday moments into learning opportunities at The Educators’ Spin On It and award winning Pinterest Boards. You can find Kim on PinterestFacebookTwitterInstagram & Google +.



Looking for ways to get kids into summer reading?  Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest Boards

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:


fyi: affiliate links used in this post for seashells

teach kids game playing etiquette

teach kids game playing etiquette | teachmama.com

Originally published 12/7/09 but republished today because, well, it’s worth it–


teach kids game playing etiquette | teachmama.com

When I first started teaching, in order to make ends meet, I ran several after-school activity clubs at an elementary school near the high school where I taught.

I headed anything from Craft Club to Calligraphy Club to Board Game Club to Chess, Checkers, and Mancala.

I ended up doing about a million sessions of Chess, Checkers, and Mancala because the same group of kids signed up for every single session for three straight years.

What I learned–among many things–is these little “gamers” were skilled at the games but were not skilled at game playing etiquette.

They knew the rules, but not that they couldn’t be sore losers or no one would want to play with them next time. They could talk a good game but cried when the first guy jumped his king. All I needed was one big, unstoppable, messy, dramatic (and I mean dramatic) tear-fest with a few first, second, and third graders before I knew something needed to change.

So I organized detailed tournaments to guide their games, but I also set up two specific rules that every little player needed to follow. And that’s today’s Quick Trick.

  • Game Playing Etiquette: Since Owen and Maddy have officially moved into ‘game playing’ mode, they, too, have officially demonstrated some really frustrating sore-loser behavior. And rule stretching. And crying if one person draws a better card. And quitting if the next person completes a longer snake in Hissss, a higher card for WAR, a smarter move in checkers.

So recently, I’ve had to enlist my old ‘Chess, Checkers, and Mancala’ rules on my own little ones, and it takes a lot of practice. It’s a work in progress.

Here’s the skinny in two steps:

1. Before games begin, everyone shakes hands, looks directly into their opponent’s eyes, and says, Good luck.

2. At the end of the game, same thing: players look directly into their opponent’s eyes, and–win or lose–they say, Good game.

For my Chess, Checkers, and Mancala guys, if they forgot a step, the game was declared null and void, and an immediate re-start was in order, no matter how far they were in the game. I had to witness each handshake to make the games official. (Gosh, I was tough.)

With Maddy, Owen, and Cora, I haven’t been that hardcore, but usually someone remembers before we start.

And yes, these messages might seem cold, impersonal, and forced, but my intention was to get the players to look at each other and touch each other so that they remembered they were playing with a peer and not their parent (who might usually let them get away with this kind of behavior).

I also knew that some guys did want to cry at the end if they lost, so ‘good game’ might be the only thing they could manage to say.

It’s certainly not an instant remedy for sore losers or bratty players, but I think–hope–pray?– it may be a step in the right direction. Only time will tell. . . .

Until then, good luck!



fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

the fox and the crane: shadow puppets with printables

the fox and the crane: shadow puppets with printables | guest post by @liskarediska on teachmama.com

This week, Liska from Adventure in a Box shares a super-cool, totally new-to-teachmama.com idea.  So cool, it’s nuts.

Liska is a toymaker, a creator, a mom, an artist and a lover of books.  She is a Russian who has settled in Canada with her son and husband (and her husband just so happens to have one of the coolest jobs around!).

Today, Liska created printables for us and delivers a unique way of sharing The Fox and the Crane fable–with shadow puppets that you can print and use today. Awe-some.

Huge and happy thanks, Liska!

the fox and the crane: shadow puppets with printables | guest post by  @liskarediska on teachmama.com

  • The Fox and the Crane: Shadow Puppets with Printables, by Liska

Greetings to the readers of Teach Mama! My name is Liska, and when I do not run around, trying to keep up with my little son, I make toys and write at Adventure in a Box. Thank you, Amy, for inviting me to write here today. Teach Mama is a regular inspiration, so I am proud to be making an addition to such a fun resource.

When I was a little girl, personal computers had not made their way into most houses, and we only had two TV-channels. If I was lucky, I could catch one cartoon a day. However, we had a slide projector with a couple of cartoon-based slide shows. In my mind it is one of the dearest memories of my childhood: in the evenings someone would put a white bed sheet on the wall, and then tinker with the projector until the focus was just good enough, though never great. We would sit down, and watch the slides.

Where did that slide projector go? I do not know. However, I want for my son to have something as magical and mysterious to remember, and that’s how we came to stage shadow puppet shows, based on our favourite stories. In the evenings we dim all the lights, except for the one we place behind the parchment screen, and the shadows start moving.

Making a shadow puppet theatre can be very easy. Take a box and cut two holes in it, then stretch vellum or parchment paper across one hole. In the dark, place a direct light source behind the screen. Now try putting something between the light and the screen: it can be your hand or a toy.

The audience on the other side of the screen will see a silhouette. Usually, the closer you put the object to the screen, the crisper its silhouette will be.

the fox and the crane: shadow puppets with printables | guest post by  @liskarediska on teachmama.com

If, however, you feel like crafting and making a long-lasting project, you can also follow my tutorial on how to make a wooden puppet theatre.

For actors we sometimes use the previously-mentioned toys and hands, but our favourite ones are silhouettes, cut out of stiff black paper (80 lb or more). Held next to the screen, they give beautiful crisp shadows.

You can make elaborate performances with these card stock actors! Of course, it might be difficult to stage Alice in Wonderland right away, but most traditional fairy tales have a straightforward plot and few enough characters – they are the likeliest choices for being turned into shadow puppet shows.

the fox and the crane: shadow puppets with printables | guest post by  @liskarediska on teachmama.com

We have already made Little Red Riding Hood and Three Little Pigs, and today I would like to make one of Aesop’s fables – The Fox and the Crane. It is also known as The Fox and the Stork, and it has only two actors.

Once, the fox and the crane decided to become friends. The fox invited the crane to come over for a visit. When he came, the fox served soup in a shallow dish.

The fox could lap it up easily, but the crane could not. Nevertheless, he thanked the fox and invited her to come over the next day.

When the fox came to visit, the crane served soup in a flagon with a long narrow neck. The crane could access it, but the fox left hungry.

The moral of the story is usually presented as “if you trick someone, you might get the same treatment back”, but told with a slight change of accents, can also tell children that different households might have different traditions.

Making the designs of silhouettes is my favourite part, and I am happy to share them with you now. Please, download the silhouettes of the fox and the crane here. Transfer them onto the black paper and cut them out, using scissors for outlines and a hobby knife for small details. Alternatively, you can print the designs on a thick white paper and colour its back black, then cut the silhouettes out.

Print the silhouettes here: The-Fox-and-the-Crane-printables

the fox and the crane: shadow puppets with printables | guest post by  @liskarediska on teachmama.com


Next, you will need some bamboo skewers and scotch tape. Tape the skewers to the back of the puppets and they are ready!

Now the lights will dim, and the play will begin. “Once, the fox and the crane decided to become friends…”

the fox and the crane: shadow puppets with printables | guest post by  @liskarediska on teachmama.com

If you like having a shadow theatre, you can always take this game further.

Make a program and tickets together with children, then give them to relatives and friends, inviting them over. The shadow theatres are great because they are suitable for many different ages: even a three-month-old baby will be naturally attracted to the high-contrast figures! Older children will like choosing stories to stage and giving a new dimension to their favourite books, helping to make puppets and tell their own stories with them.

I will be happy if you share pictures of your shadow shows!

Other articles by Adventure in a Box you might enjoy:

the fox and the crane: shadow puppets with printables | guest post by  @liskarediska on teachmama.comLiska lives in Southern Ontario, Canada, where she enjoys simple adventures among the vineyards and peach orchards with her family. It consists of her husband, an armourer, and a one-and-a-half-year-old son, who is as inquisitive and mischievous as any one-and-a-half-year-old could be. When not chasing him around, Liska likes to read books and make toys. Then she writes about it in her blog Adventure in a Box: there you can find book reviews and book-related activities that can interest children of different ages, as well as tutorials on how to make toys with and for children.
You can also find Liska onFacebook | Pinterest | Instagram


 Thank you, thank you, thank you, Liska!

I have absolutely been blown away by the Rockstar Sunday posts over here.

Each week, we’ve been highlighting one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Anything from innovative reading activities to clever math crafts, from ways to teach kids shapes to ways to use gallon ziploc bags for fun and learning.  It’s awesome.  Crazy awesome.

If you’ve got an idea brewing and want to share, do let me know. You need not be a blogger or professional writer to share your piece.

Simply submit your idea to us! Easy peasy!

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors | teachmama.com

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let them play  importance of free time outdoors for kids  teachmama.com.png

It’s easy for parents to fall into the trap of thinking that summer means camps, amusement parks, pool trips, beach, camping, picnics, and activities nonstop.  Busy, busy, busy.

And when we’re not going, going, going, many of us feel guilty.

Like our kids always must be doing something.

And it’s easy for parents to fall into the trap of thinking that ‘downtime’ means ‘plugged in’ time: free play on an electronic device–a tablet, phone, iPod, computer, DS, Wii, or whatever.  Our kids are learning, right? And having fun? So it’s all good.

But what I am realizing more this summer than ever is that our kids need down time outdoors.

They need it for their mind, body, and spirit.

Like good, ole-fashioned nothing planned, nothing scheduled, just backyard, outdoor fun.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Let Kids Play–Remembering the Importance of Free Time Outdoors:  I think because my kids are getting older–10, 8, and 7–that it’s easy for me to forget that they still really need a whole lot of free play time outdoors.

Though it’s no secret that I am an advocate for parents doing what they can to sneak in some learning into their children’s days (it’s what I’ve been writing about for almost six years now–and boy, the tabletop surprises have really taken off!), I’ve also written many times about the importance of free play and time outdoors.

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

And I still often get emails and questions:

How can parents set kids up for free time outdoors? 

What do you say when you ‘unleash’ your kids in the wilds of your back yard and they mope around, complaining that they ‘don’t have anything to doooooooo’?

My kids don’t have neighbor friends like yours do. How do they play outside alone?

How do you ‘force’ your kids to play outdoors if the kids don’t really like being outside? 


let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors


I don’t know all of the answers, but I do know this: some kids need a little help. They need a little nudge. They need a little guidance in how to play and what to do when they’re handed free time on a silver platter, and here’s how parents can help:

  • Ask questions:Why do you think this bush has thorns? What do you see over there hiding in the grass? How many sounds do you hear? 
  • Make observations: I cannot believe how gorgeous that bird’s feathers are!  Look at those tiny toadstools!  Have you ever seen a leaf with so many colors?


let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors


let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors


  • Get dirty: Jump in the puddle at the end of your front staircase!  Splash in the muddy water under your swings!  Tear apart a flower that is on its last leg!
  • Be still: Lay on a blanket and look at the clouds. Just sit in the sunlight on a porch swing and enjoy the sun on your face.
  • Take risks: Put a few peanuts out on the porch and see if the squirrels come for a snack.  Buy a bag of birdseed and feed the birds. Look under a rock and see what’s there.


let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

We’re pretty sure that Cora pulled apart a walnut here. . . we think.


  • Move out of your comfort zone: If your kids aren’t comfortable outside, could it be because you’re not 100% comfortable outdoors? Think about it. Try to spend a little bit more unstructured time outdoors if you can, and drag your kids along. See if it gets easier. See if it becomes more natural as time goes on.
  • Play together: Throw a baseball with your kiddo. Kick a soccer ball. Bounce a tennis ball. Jump rope. Blow bubbles. Dig in the dirt. Plant a garden. Do anything. Just do it together.

It doesn’t matter what you do; the goal is just to get kids outside and eventually to have them enjoy it. Really!


let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors


Psychology Today ran an article in April 2014 by Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D. which explained the how the benefits of playing outdoors far outweighed the benefits of indoor play. Narvaez says:

Outdoors, a child learns on multiple levels with each new adventure . . . With all of the imaginary castles, lands, creatures, the brain develops at a much faster rate than for those who play indoors. There are numerous effects. Not only do they become better learners, and do well in school, but they are more fun to be around (i.e. they make more friends)–everyone wants to play with the kid with the active imagination! Consequently, children will be much happier because, hey, they’re smart and they have a lot of friends. All of this comes from just playing outside; you can bake many loaves in the same oven.  (Psychology Today. “What’s Better: Indoor or Outdoor Play?” April 5, 2014)

Narvaez also goes on to explain the physical effects of outdoor play on children. She explains that starting outdoor play while kids are young will have long-lasting effects: Years down the road, the child will still be more active and less likely to be overweight. If you think about this, it makes perfect sense; teach a child when they’re young to love the outdoors and they will love it forever.  The article’s really worth reading, especially if your kiddos (or you!) need more convincing. 

And really, that’s it. Just a good reminder for everyone to give our kiddos the ‘go’ to play outdoors and to just be kids. Because really? They need it.  We all do.


fyi: This post was written as part of a partnership with Mosquito Squad.  May seem totally random, I know, but it’s because of Mosquito Squad that this year our family has really been able to enjoy our yard again.  Thank GOODNESS.  

Living in the hot, muggy DC Metro area means that we have our fair share of mosquitos. Up until this year, our yard was basically unusable, awful, and painful from mid-June through mid-September; we would literally be eaten alive by mosquitos at any time of the day. This year, it’s been incredible and a totally different experience. Mosquito Squad takes care of our yard, and we are  happy campers (except thank goodness we’re not really camping–).   

As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and a parent, and of course by my three little outdoor explorers. 

find out more about Mosquito Squad | find answers to FAQ about Mosquito Squad 

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