3 reading posts you don’t want to miss

family reading time  scholastic  pinterest

Friends!

Have you even checked out the ole teachmama site lately?

We are all fancied up! Big changes for us–after more than 6 years!

Go see it–for real: teachmama.com.

But don’t get too excited yet. I’m still working out the kinks over here and plan the BIG reveal at the end of the week.

Until then, I want you to check out a few things I’ve been sharing over at Scholastic Parents’ Raise a Reader blog.  Click the photo to read the post!

Change your family’s life in 20 minutes each week:  

family reading time  scholastic  pinterest

The “Family 20″ will change your family’s reading life.

 

 

7 ways to find books your kids will really love: 

find books your kids will love  scholastic  teachmama pinterest

Giving kids books is one thing. Giving kids GREAT books is another.

 

Favorite books of my favorite babies: 

fave babies' fave books  pinterest  scholastic teachmama

Sometimes, the most random books make your kids’ favorite list.

And that’s it for now.  Definitely check out the other posts that Allie and I have written for the awesome Raise a Reader blog. We write there every, single week, so there is a ton of fab facts, ideas, and more for you to check out!

Do you have questions about reading or learning? Hit me with your questions–I’d love to hear them and help you out!

And? This week.

I. Cannot. Wait. to share what else we’ve got up our sleeves.

Iabsolutelycannotwait.

Stay tuned!

YouTube dances for kids: fun indoor moving and grooving to get the wiggles out

YouTube dances for kids: fun indoor moving and grooving to get the wiggles out

We just got another boatload of snow, so on Sunday morning, when we were snowed in and couldn’t even get out of our house to make it to mass, we got our dance on.

Because why not?

YouTube dances for kids: fun indoor moving and grooving to get the wiggles out

Turns out that Cora and Owen’s awesome teachers for the past few years had often put on short little YouTube dances for them when they need to get the wiggles out.

We found most of Cora and Owen’s faves, and we found some more.

YouTube dances for kids: fun indoor moving and grooving to get the wiggles out

YouTube dances for kids: fun indoor moving and grooving to get the wiggles out

Not only does moving mid-day help increase concentration and focus (for everyone–not just kids!), but learning and practicing these dances will mean that our kids will be rockstars on the dance floor when it comes time for weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and Quinceaneras in the next few years.

Win, win, win.

Here’s the skinny. . .

YouTube Dances for Kids–Fun Indoor Moving and Grooving to get the Wiggles Out:

Here are our faves:

The Sid Shuffle:

Dino Stomp:

Shake Break:

Mario Dance:

I’m a Gummy Bear:

Awesome Rainbows:

The Wobble:

Macarena:

5 Little Monkeys:

Jump Up:

Exercise Songs:

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 1.17.01 PM


HOW fun are these? Hope your crew enjoys them as much as we did.

Talk about some serious fun–and listening and moving and dancing–right in your own living room.

YouTube dances for kids: fun indoor moving and grooving to get the wiggles out

youtube header final stars

 

Do you subscribe to our YouTube channel? Head on over and do it!

We usually add 2-3 videos each month about something fun and crafty and learning. Join us!

trace, copy, recall–learn those spelling words!

trace, copy, recall--learn those spelling words!

originally published November 8, 2010

 

trace copy recall | teachmama.com

 

 

Maddy has been so proud of her spelling and word-learning progress over the last few weeks (and so are we!).  She really is borderline excited when I print out a new list of Spelling Word Cards for each list, which makes this teacher-mama want to do a jig of joy.

Maybe it’s that we’ve upped the ‘fun factor‘ of word learning, or maybe she’s riding the high of her success; either way, I’m loving it because her spelling work is something that we’ve begun to look forward to each week.

We’ve been starting each new spelling list with the same activity–Trace, Copy, Recall–except that instead of tracing, she’s been writing the word twice.  Because until tonight, I didn’t think to make a handy-dandy little sheet so that she could trace the words.  Maddy was simply copying once from the word card, copying then from the word she wrote, and then covering both and writing the word from memory.   Poor, poor Maddy.

It only took a minute for me to whip up a little Trace, Copy, Recall sheet so that she actually could trace the word the first time, and I’m so excited because I’ll just modify the template each week for my happy little speller.  Woo-hoo!

  • Trace, Copy, Recall: As only one of the many fun ways to learn spelling words, I really think it’s worthwhile to begin with this activity because it prepares learners in a graduated way to begin committing the words to memory.

When kiddos trace the letters of the word, they’re getting their fingers ready to write the letters.  When they copy the word, they’re composing the letters for a second time and working their brains to remember the letter order.  That final recall of letters forces students to think about the letter sounds as they fit together to form the word.

 

trace copy recall | learn words | teachmama.com

Maddy’s trying to recall the spelling of one of her ‘short o’ words.

 trace copy recall | learn words | teachmama.com

I encourage Maddy to say the letters out loud, and although she sometimes loses steam by the end of the list, if she says the letters at least one time for each word, I’m happy. When kiddos say the letters as they write them, it’s one more way to ensure that the letters, sounds, and patterns make their way into the learners’ brains–the combination of  the physical writing and the vocalizing helps.

When she’s finished with the word, she checks her work with the word on the card.  Then she reads the word aloud and moves on.

It’s short, it’s worthwhile, and it seems to help build a slight foundation for the rest of the week’s Spelling Word Fun if we start with this.  So we’ll keep it up, I suppose. . .

 

In case you’re interested, here’s what we’ve been using to help support Maddy’s spelling word work:

 

Word Cards:

trace, copy, recall--learn those spelling words!

 

Trace, Copy, Recall Sheets: trace copy recall | teachmama.com

Fun Ways to Learn Spelling Words:

20 fun ways to learn spelling words

 

So, should every student in every be coming home with spelling words every single week? What’s the deal?

All recent reading research points to the fact that the ole days of  random spelling word lists should be long over and that the approach to spelling instruction should be more word learning than simply spelling memorization.   The word-learning approach is “teacher-directed yet student-centered” and when integrated into a comprehensive literacy program, this kind of instruction can most fully “help support young children’s literacy development”.  It should be systematic, organized, and individualized.

Essentially, Word Study instruction should be:

  • based on individual student’s multiple, varied assessments;
  • used with homogeneous, small-group instruction;
  • given special class time each day;
  • teaching word knowledge (about words), not just the words  themselves;
  • clearly demonstrated and used in reading and writing instruction;
  • incorporated in strategy instruction (how to read, write, and use the word);
  • used with the Word Wall;
  • involving time for ‘Word Work’ and play with the words;
  • integrated into authentic reading and writing experiences.

What does this mean for you? It means that if your child is not coming home with a spelling list each week but she is following some sort of Word Study program in school, one that contains all–or most, or even some, of the above elements–then maybe there’s no reason for a spelling list after all.

If your child is coming home with a spelling list each week, and the words aren’t grouped according to similar patterns or sounds, and the words seem totally random or disconnected, then maybe you want to talk to the teacher about the Word Study program they’re using.  Ask why they’re using it and how it supports the balanced literacy program.

For more, please see Williams, Phillips-Birdsong, Hufnangle, Hungler, Lundstrom’s article, “Word Study Instruction in the K-2 Classroom” (The Reading Teacher, April 2009).  The information and quotes in this post are taken from this article.  It amazed me how much reading research the authors integrated into this article, and I found it extremely informative.

melted bead suncatchers: celebrating ‘the artful year’

melted bead suncatchers: celebrating 'the artful year' with Jean Van't Hul's latest book

post contains affiliate links

 

 

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

One of my dear friends has just published her second book–it’s a book that is so filled with crafty awesome, it’s a must-have for all families.

My pal Jean is the author of The Artful Parent blog, and I’ve known her for years, often linking to her here on teachmama.com and always looking to her for cool ideas to use with Maddy, Owen, and Cora.

I’m thrilled to have been asked to be a part of her blog tour for this new book, called The Artful Year, and I’m totally psyched to have a copy to give away to one lucky teachmama reader.

Though we bookmarked a dozen different ideas to try and share with you, we settled on Melted Bead Suncatchers–and we turned ours into a Melted Bead Suncatcher Mobile, just like they do in the book.

It turned out so beautiful and festive for Valentine’s Day, that I wish we would have done it years ago.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Melted Bead Suncatcher: 

We wanted to make something for the upcoming Valentine holiday, but the cool thing with this craft is that you could adapt it for any time of the year.

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

In order to create the Melted Bead Suncatcher, you need: 

  • translucent plastic pony beads
  • old metal baking dishes, old metal cookie cutters
  • grill or toaster oven
  • power drill or metal grommets
  • string

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

The details for how to make these are outlined clearly in The Artful Year but essentially, you follow these basic instructions:

1. Choose the cookie cutter shapes that you want to use. We chose four heart shapes for Valentine’s Day.

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

2. Place the cookie cutters on the metal baking pan. We used an old 8′ x 8″ metal baking pan and lined it with aluminum foil.

3. Arrange the beads in a single layer in the old metal baking dishes.

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

4. Place the pan on the grill and close the grill cover.  Check on the beads, but keep an eye on them. Ours took about 5-8 minutes to melt.

5. Remove the pan from the grill and let cool completely.

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

 

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

6. Pop the melted shape out of the cookie cutter and drill a small hole at the top, where you want the string to hang.

We connected ours, and it turned out super cute.

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com  melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

 

We love, love, love how these turned out.

And as an educator, I love how parents can really sneak in some learning opportunities here.

  • Let your child sort the colors into the cookie cutter shapes. Color sorting is a great skill!
  • Using a small pair or tweezers or prongs to pinch the beads is great fine motor work for little hands!
  • Let your child work through the best way to string together multiple suncatcher shapes so that it hangs properly.

So many possibilities.

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

melted bead suncatcher  the artful year  teachmama.com

The Artful Year is filled with dozens of seasonal and holiday crafts and recipes.

This Melted Bead Suncatcher Mobile is just one of many, and we cannot wait to get our craft on for the rest of this year.

 

The-Artful-Year-Book-Cover-|

 

One of the cool things about this book is that it’s not only crafts–it’s also filled with tons of seasonal recipes, too, which is one of our favorite ways of spending time together as a family–crafting, eating, and cooking!

Jean does an incredible job of dividing activities into categories:

  • activities for all seasons;
  • activities for spring;
  • activities for summer;
  • activities for autumn;
  • activities for winter.

The-Artful-Year-Book-Summer-Recipes

 

The-Artful-Year-Book-Spring-and-Easter-Crafts

 

And each section is filled with beautiful images of Jean and her girls, the crafts, and recipes.  And each and every entry is concise, manageable to create, and engaging. I can hear Jean’s sweet and patient voice behind each word. I love it.

Tons of my talented bloggy friends are supporting Jean through her book launch, doing book giveaways and celebrating this work of art.

Check them out:
The-Artful-Year-Blog-Tour-

I’m proud to be a part of this mix and do hope you grab a copy of this book, friends.

*************************************

 

GIVEAWAY: Your very own copy of The Artful Year, by Jean Van’t Hul.

Do you want to win your own copy of The Artful Year??!  Yes, yes you do.  

Two chances to win, friends:

1. Leave a comment here,  letting us know why YOU need a copy of this book!

2. Subscribe to teachmama.com via email or newsletter.  We’ll be giving away a second copy of this book to email subscribers only! So get your name in the mix now!

——————————-

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

This giveaway ends Saturday, February 28, 2015 at midnight ET and is open to residents of US, UK, Australia, and Canada. Winner will be chosen by ‘random.org’ and will be notified on or around 02/28/15.  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: 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’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

valentine’s day class party ideas: cool activities to get kids moving and creating

valentine's day class party ideas teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

valentine's day class party ideas teachmama.com

Let’s face it: classroom parties are difficult to throw.

Scratch that.  Class parties easy to throw but difficult to throw well.

And what I’ve found over time–and by being a classroom parent for five years–is that certain things work and certain things don’t.

Having three kids in elementary school has helped me tremendously to be a better planner, organizer, and facilitator of THE class party.

So this Valentine’s Day, I’m mixing things up a bit.

We’ve got some really cool activities to get kids moving and creating, and I’m confident it will be awesome.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Valentine’s Day Class Party Ideas–Cool Activities to Get Kids Moving and Creating: 

Definitely check out Valentine’s Day Class Parties, 2.0 so you can grab a copy of the parent letter.  You need that because you need help and support of other parents if you want to make this party rock!

After connecting with the classroom teacher about times, activities, and details, I came up with the following plan for this year’s party:

Class Party Plan: Every party needs a plan.

valentine's day class party ideas: cool activities to get kids moving and creating

You want the parents to know what’s going on, and you want the teacher to know what’s going on.

And it’s never perfect; sometimes you’re ahead and sometimes you’re behind, but you need a guide. You need a game plan.

This year’s Class Party Plan is here to download if you’d like to use it: valentine party plan 2015

(And as with all of the printables on this site, if you do choose to share it–and we hope you do!–please link to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!)

3 15-minute stations:

valentine's day class party ideas teachmama.com bags

You always need a quick and easy way to divide the class into smaller groups. I like using heart foamies or stickers that the kids put right on their shirts or hands. Use any of the stickers mentioned here–the
Melissa and Doug Sweets & Treats Stickers Pad
have so many you can try.  Maybe have a cherry group, a candy group, and a gum ball group. Or a flower candy, kiss candy, and gumdrop candy group.

Just remember to cut out the stickers before the party, put them in a hat or small bag and have the students pick one at the beginning of the party. Voila! Your groups are created!

 

1. Decorate Valentine Mail Bags: 

valentine's day class party ideas: cool activities to get kids moving and creating

This is the first time that we’ve ever added this into the party mix, so it was really fun for me to hunt down something that would work for our class.

The key here is to be quick, but fun and engaging.

I love what we came up with, and you can find all of the details here: Valentine Mail Bags.

 

2. Art Station: 

I wanted activities that would be cool for the kids but that they could take home, stress free immediately after the party. So that eliminates any gluey projects.

Thankfully, my friends at Melissa & Doug have a few fabulous options for us.

  • Sand Art

valentine's day class party ideas: sand art | teachmama.com

Really. Sand Art at a class party is doable. It’s quick. It’s way cool. And you can make it relatively mess-free.

The Melissa and Doug Sand Art Bottles Craft Kit come three to a pack, but they’re affordable. It makes so much more sense to use your class donations for something like this rather than those teeny, junky prizes kids will throw away when they get home.

valentine's day class party ideas teachmama.com

valentine's day class party ideas teachmama.com

valentine's day class party ideas teachmama.com

valentine's day class party ideas teachmama.com

So to do the Sand Art, you’ll definitely need to save your take-out containers–the lids will work perfectly as little bases for the plastic containers.

valentine's day class party ideas teachmama.com

Bring a roll of duct tape and make a big tape roll so that the container stays still on the plastic lid. That way, when kids are pouring sand in, they won’t wiggle and wobble.

valentine's day class party ideas teachmama.com

valentine's day class party ideas teachmama.com

——————————————

  • Scratch Art

We’ve used Scratch Art before for both our Valentine parties and Valentine cards. Kids really like them.

We will use Scratch Art Stickers, Scratch Art Keychains, and Scratch Art Fashion this year. I think kids will dig the choices.

valentine's day class party ideas scratch art  teachmama.comScratch Art Stickers come two sheets per pack, so I plan to tear them in half and then in half again for four sheets per pack. We used
Melissa and Doug Scratch Art® Animal Friends Stickers
.

Scratch Art Keychains come six per party pack, and I had several packs left over from a birthday party a while back, so I thought I’d add them to the Scratch Art table.  Love these:  Melissa and Doug Scratch Art® Party Pack – Key Chains.

Scratch Art Fashion (Melissa and Doug Scratch Art® Party Pack – Fashion) come twelve per pack, and we used these way back when Maddy turned 9 (her Golden Birthday!), so I added a few packs of these to the mix.

I am not forcing all kids to do all art here; rather, I figured that since the projects are super quick, that they could do two in the 15 minute rotation. Or if they finish quickly and want to do three, that’s fine, too. Or if they’re meticulous and only finish Sand Art, great. That’s their take-away.

——————————————

3. Action Games:

Kids need to move. Big time. Great parties have a mix of movement and craft, so here’s our ‘get up and move’ portion.  I think since we have 15 minutes for this, we’ll walk through each activity together, one by one.

Best bet for these? Go out in the hallway so you have the most room.

  • Frisbee Race

valentine's day class party ideas frisbee  teachmama.com

Be the team to have the most hearts on the Flying Disk by the end of the game!  The little Melissa and Doug Tootle Turtle Flying Disk are adorable and perfect for this game, and all you need are a bunch of small  tissue paper and construction paper hearts on top.

valentines day class party 2015 | teachmama.com

valentines day class party 2015 | teachmama.com

1. Divide the small group in half.  Put students in two lines at one end of the hallway.

2. Tape two hearts on the floor at the opposite end of the hall, one for each team.

3. Give the first person one flying disc with about 20 hearts on top of it.

4. That person moves as quickly to the end of the hallway, touches the heart on the floor, and walks back to his or her team.  Depending on the age of the kids, make this one-handed or two-handed.

5. As carefully as possible, the student hands the disc to the next person, and the next person does the same thing.

6. The winning team has the most hearts at the end of the race!

——————————————-

  • Love Bugs Cleanup

valentine's day class party ideas: love bugs | teachmama.com

Be the team to move the most love bugs from the big pile to the small container!  All you need are shovels (I like the
Melissa and Doug Clicker Crab Shovel
), small plastic container (we used takeout containers) and a bunch of plastic bugs. We used
Melissa and Doug Bag of Bugs
.

valentines day class party 2015 | teachmama.com

valentines day class party 2015 | teachmama.com

valentines day class party 2015 | teachmama.com

1. Students are divided into two teams, just like before.

2. Dump all of the love bugs in a pile at the other end of the hallway.

3. The first person in each line takes the plastic shovel, runs to the love bug pile, and tries to scoop up as many love bugs as possible.

4. He or she then transfers those bugs to the small plastic container at the opposite end of the hallway.

5. The team that transfers the most love bugs at the end wins!

 ———————————————–

  • Heart Target

This is super-simple and the only thing that makes it Valentines-y is the fact that there are hearts around the cute little target. Whatever.  It’s hand-eye coordination. It’s numbers. It’s sneaky math, friends! It’s a win.

For this game, you need a target. We used the Melissa and Doug Tootle Turtle Target Game.

1. Two teams stand about 5 feet away from the target.

2. At the same time (we need to up the fun factor here, folks), players toss a beanbag at the target.  They get two beanbags to throw.

3. The parent facilitator writes down the score on the score sheet: heart target score sheet

4. The team with the highest score at the end wins!

valentines class party ideas | teachmamacom

heart target score sheet

Make it fun by having the score posted on the wall and encourage the kids to keep score as you go.

Please note: Class parties should be fun, easy, and low-stress for all kids. If you have sensitive kids in the class or think that keeping score may be stressful, don’t do it! Maybe instead give one point for every beanbag that hits the target.

Keep it light!

 ——————————————

Valentine Delivery:

Everyone’s favorite part of the party, right? Move kids back to their seats.

Snack and Valentine Delivery will happen simultaneously, because the kids can’t possibly all deliver their Valentines and the same exact moment.

valentines day class party 2015 | teachmama.com

So have kids sit down, and have parents pass out the plates of food.

Then call each group up at a time to get their Valentines and deliver them to their classmates.  While one group is delivering, two groups are eating.

Try to keep it level.

Snack

Our school only allows store-bought treats at this point because they’re trying to keep all allergies under control. I get it. It makes it so much easier and so much safer for those families for whom allergies are an every day fear.

For Valentine’s Day class parties, I’ll have:

  • small water bottles
  • Valentine cupcakes from the store
  • Individually wrapped goldfish snacks or pretzel snacks
  • individually wrapped fruit–apples or small fruit cups

That’s it. Call me crazy, but I don’t think kids need a mad sugar overload here. A little sweet treat and a little healthy treat, and we’re done. Bam.

valentine's day class party ideas teachmama.com bags

Extra time?

It’s doubtful that if you follow this schedule you’ll have extra time, but if you do, an oldie but goodie: Freeze Dance!  Turn on the music, and let kids jam it out while it plays.

When the music stops, everybody freezes.

Easy and fun.

Plus, the kids love to show off their moves.

And if kids don’t want to play, no biggie! Let them open up their Valentines!

 ———————————————-

valentine's day class party ideas, 2.0 | teachmama.com

valentine's day party ideas

I love sharing what we do at our class parties so that it’s easier for other parents to throw their own class parties.

This shouldn’t be difficult. It’s been done for years and years now, so there are a boatload of ideas out there.
What are your favorite Valentine ideas for kids? I’d love to hear ’em!

Here are a few of ours:

 

I wr2015-BlogAmbassador-Iconote this post as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program.   I’ve worked with Melissa & Doug for years and years now, and am always raving about their products for fun and learning. Read theMelissa & Doug blog to get the skinny! 

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’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

scratch off ticket valentines: candy-free and totally fun

scratch off ticket valentines: teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

Every year the kids and I have a really fun time searching for cool Valentines to make for their class party Valentine exchange.

We don’t go super-crazy.

We just do something a little special that will hopefully make their friends and teachers smile.

It’s a yearly tradition–the search, the planning, the mess, the crafting, and the delivering. It’s a lot of fun, and honestly, I could weep thinking that this yera will be Maddy’s last year for a Valentine’s Day class party.

Next year, as a big sixth grader, there’s no time for parties. *Sob!*

So this year, we’re rocking it.

We made cool Scratch-Off Ticket Valentines that reminded us of the Scratch Off Tickets I gave them for New Year’s a few years back. But these Valentines are for their buddies.

Super easy, candy-free, and fun.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Scratch-Off Ticket Valentines–Candy-Free and Totally Fun:

So we knew the basic premise of how to make these–the scratch off part we did before. However, the Valentine’s messages and how we wanted to have kids scratch off was new to us.

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

What you’ll need to make thsese:

Here’s how:

1. Download the Scratch-Off Ticket Valentine template: scratch off ticket valentines | teachmama.com

 scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.comscratch off ticket valentines | teachmama.com

 

(Please, if you share this post–and we hope you do!–consider linking to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!)

 

2. Print the Scratch-Off Ticket Valentines onto cardstock.

There are six Valentines on each sheet, for a total of 12 Valentines on the document. So print accordingly.

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

3. Mix the mysterious Scratch-Off paint:

So tricky, right? Don’t sweat the mixing part. I’m sure it will be fine.

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

4. Cut small pieces of clear contact paper to completely cover the part you want scratched off. Easy.

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

 

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

I helped the kids with this one simply by cutting a size that worked and then placing it on top of each card. Then the kids peeled and pressed.

Peeling and smashing contact paper can be so much fun. Come on, you know it.

 

5. Paint the Scratch-Off paint onto the card.  Then let dry.

 

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

 

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

 

6. Stick a penny on the card. This is totally not necessary, but Maddy had some fun, fancy tape that she wanted to use, so we added the penny.

Most kids will have something in their desks that they can use to scratch off the tickets, like the edge of a ruler or something.

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

Practice first before you sign and send them all!

 

7. Sign and send!

We always try to address Valentines to each individual child. I think it’s much more personal, and I think the writing can only help our kids. I find it amazing that my kids have gone to school with these friends for years now and still don’t know how to spell many names.

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

So if possible, grab a class list and have your child address each card. Extra reading and writing help? Yes, please.

If not, then just have him or her write any of the following in the ‘to’ line:

  • my friend
  • my pal
  • YOU!
  • classmate
  • 2nd grader
  • buddy
  • amigo/ amiga

scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.com

 

Easy, right?  And very cute.

I love how Maddy, Owen, and Cora helped find messages and decide on what to add to the cards. And we all agreed that it was cool how there was a lot of variety here–some were kind of question-answer Valentines, some were just Valentine-lovey, some were kind of gamey. You get it.

 

Need some other homemade Valentine ideas?

Check it out:

 

What are your favorite Valentine ideas for kids? I’d love to hear ’em!

Here are a few of ours:

 

 

 

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’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering

be nicer than necessary notes teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com

We’re in a mad winter funk over here.

A serious winter funk.

Lots of snow days and delays grey skies and dreary days and indoor recess at school means that there’s been a lot of grumpy, grouchy kids at our house.

And parents.

No matter what we do to mix things up, it seems like we’ve all been doing more arguing and bickering than I care to admit.  And it’s not just the kids–sure, of course, it’s the kids.  But it’s also my husband and me. The dog. The birds and fish.

We’re all a little cranky.

And I’m chalking it up to the winter blues.

So instead of allowing it to totally take over our lives this month, this month of luuuurve and friendship, we decided to focus on being nicer.

Our #livefocused challenge has us focusing on friendship over here, and because being nice is a really big part of friendship, we’re trying to be nicer than necessary this month.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Be Nicer Than Necessary Notes–Lunchbox Love to Help Us Stop Bickering:

Right.

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com

Because  Maddy, Owen, and Cora all really dug our True Holiday Spirit Notes during Advent this year, I fashioned the Be Nicer than Necessary Notes after them.  The kids liked how these notes were simple and small.

Today, at breakfast, when I introduced the idea to them, I said,

You guys. This past month has been a little crazy over here. There’s been a whole lot more arguing, bickering, and yelling than I care to admit. And it’s not just you.

Daddy and I have been arguing. Brady has been cranky. The birds and fish have been nasty.

We have all been super-cranky, and something has to change.

 

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com

 

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com

 

 

We talked about how hard the winter is and how much more time we spend stuck indoors and how hard that can be, but they agreed: something has to change, or we’re all going to go insane.

I said, We’re going to do what Maddy and I read about in the book, Wonder–we’re going to channel our inner Summer (a character from the book) and focus on being nicer than necessary. 

Owen said, Oh Mom, that’s not at all catchy: ‘Nicer than necessary notes’? Can’t you think of something better? 

I explained that the name isn’t as important as what we’d be doing but if he wanted to think of a newer, better, and more catchy name that he totally could.

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com

 

I said that each day, I’ll share a note in their lunchbox and that we’ll talk about what we did–or didn’t do–that night at dinner.

No pressure. Just a quick little reminder each day to be nicer than necessary. To be kinder than expected. To give a little more and to bring a little more sunshine into other people’s days.

Do you want the Be Nicer than Necessary Notes to download and throw in your kids’ lunches this month?

Here they are: nicer than necessary lunchbox notes teachmama.com

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com nicer than necessary lunchbox notes teachmama.com

 

(Please, if you choose to share–and we hope you do!–consider linking to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!)

Really, what I do is print out three sheets of notes (one for each child), and then I cut them as one page then clip them together.

That way, Maddy, Owen, and Cora will each get the same note every single day.

And is it a big deal that there are 25 notes here and 28 days in February? Nope. I figured that between snow days and weekends, we’d do fine with 25 reminders to be nicer than necessary. It’s all good.

It’s not about perfection. It’s about trying to live more intentionally, to be more focused in our every day, to smile more and worry less. Right?  Right.

And that’s it–just one little way we’re trying to move from being the Cranky McCrankerson family to a family that’s oozing with kindness. Or something like that.

 

Would it work for your family? How do you get your kids, spouse, and self out of the winter rut?
live focused in 2015 friendship teachmama.com sq

 

I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off this month, when our #livefocused theme is friendship, than by sharing this information with you, your kids, students, and families.

I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead!

 

live focused in 2015: give yourself a fresh start and live with intention

 

 

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’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

our easy, homemade art book: keep artwork organized!

our easy, homemade art book: keep artwork organized!

This blog post was originally published on April 11, 2010, but we’re republishing it because it’s a great addition to our #livefocused January organization theme! 

easy homemade art book  teachmama.com

My kids have been crazy about drawing and coloring and writing and doodling for as long as I can remember.

Maybe it’s because we keep our house stocked with paper and markers whenever the kids want to use them, maybe it’s because the kids each have traveling writing centers in their rooms, or maybe it’s because are constantly writing notes ourselves. . . and are often doodling on any ole paper we can find.

Whatever the case, I’m happy that my kiddos are inspired. But I am not happy with the mess of papers, marker caps, and finished–and unfinished–artwork here, there, and everywhere.

easy homemade art book  teachmama.com This was our dining room table on a good day–a good day.
easy homemade art book  teachmama.com

So yesterday, while our family decompressed from Maddy and Owen’s first-ever tee-ball practice, I went organizing nutty, and I came up with (hopefully, hopefully, hopefully!) a solution to our artwork chaos.

Let’s hope this Quick Trick does the trick:

  • Our Easy, Homemade Art Book:

    Thanks to my high-school English teaching days, I have dozens and dozens of 3-ring binders filled to the brim with all of my papers, resources, and units for everything I ever taught. From Romeo and Juliet to A Raisin in the Sun, from Lord of the Flies to Frankenstein, from poetry to thesis papers and speeches to grammar, you name it, I have it. Filed neatly in many binders.

But finally yesterday, I tucked a few lessons and units away and found a new home for the basic 3-ring binder–our Art Book.

easy homemade art book  teachmama.com

easy homemade art book  teachmama.com

 

All the Art Book is is a big (ugly) 3-ring binder with Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s artwork clipped inside. It’s not artwork from school or projects we do around here. It’s just the many loose sheets that have occupied our dining room table for way too long.

I hole-punched all of the sheets and shoved them in. And honestly, as ugly as the book may be from the outside, on the inside, it’s really cool.

Just like Maddy’s Drawing A Cat book or Drawing a Happy Face book, our Art Book is a snapshot of where my kids are now, at the present, as far as abilities, interests, and challenges are concerned.

easy homemade art book  teachmama.com Maddy’s drawing of Cora, next to Cora’s drawing of something.
easy homemade art book  teachmama.com
Owen’s 12th picture of race cars racing.

I considered–for a second–adding dividers to the Art Book, one for Maddy’s work, Owen’s work, and Cora’s work. I think it’d be a great way of keeping work separated, and it may be more fun for the kids when they go back to look through their book. But my kiddos are young yet, so I’m taking baby steps.

Maybe after Art Book 1 is filled, Art Book 2 will have dividers for each person’s work. But for now, I’ll just be really glad if all the dining room table masterpieces find their way into Mr. Art Book. Period.

easy homemade art book  teachmama.com

To help in the process, I added an organizer to our dining room (and it totally fits with our decor, right?) that has a spot for paper, the Art Book, and markers and crayons.

The paper in the drawer is already punched, so upon completion, the artwork needs only to be signed, and then it’s ready for landing in its permanent Art Book home–unless it’s scheduled to be sent to a doting grandparent, aunt, or uncle, of course!

So that’s it–just a quick little Quick Trick for organizing our art work. We’ll see how it goes!

live focused 2015 teachmama.com b w collage

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ive focused in 2015 organization teachmama.com sq

#livefocused posts:

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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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?

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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:

new years eve guess the word game

new years guess the word game teachmama.com

new years eve guess the word game

Much like our Christmas Guess the Word Game, the New Year’s Eve Guess the Word Game totally rocks.

Okay.

There you have it.

Plain and simple.

Rocks. 

The kids loved playing our holiday version on the way to see their Pennsylvania family this week, so I made another version.

Actually, I made both versions on the same day.

And actually, the kids helped brainstorm words for both.

So fun.

Here’s the skinny. .  .

  • New Year’s Eve Guess the Word Game:

The premise is the same for both games, and it’s super-simple.

One person holds up a card with a word on it and tries to guess what it is.

Easy.

new years eve guess the word game

new years eve guess the word game

Remember, though, that the card holder does not look at the word.

And everyone else gives one-word clues to help the person guess it.

We often play in a few variations:

  • the fewer words it takes to guess, the better;
  • the person who can guess the most words in row wins;
  • for a challenge: all of the clues must begin with the same letter; or
  • all of the clues must rhyme with the word on the card;
  • add a timer.

new years eve guess the word game

new years party word guess game

Want to download the cards?

The New Year’s Eve Guess the Word Game is here to download as a pdf if you’d like: new years party word guess game

The last page is blank so you can add your own!

(If you choose to share this post, super! Please just link to this post instead of the attachment page, though! Thank you!)

Keep it simple.

And have fun with it.

And if you change things up a bit, let me know!

Want a few more cool New Year’s Eve activities?