make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

make easy candy corn desserts with kids (they're not perfect and still pretty)

make easy candy corn desserts with kids (they're not perfect and still pretty)Halloween’s almost here, but candy corn and tons of sweet treats have been in the grocery stores for what seems like weeks now.

Cora and I took that Halloween spirit and ran with it, creating our own, easy candy corn desserts.

It’s always fun to experiment in the kitchen, but when you can let your kids take the lead and use their creativity a bit, it’s all the better.

We wanted to have something fun and sweet here for when Aunt Katie and Asher visited this past weekend (so fun!), and that we did. Even though I can’t say that these were perfect for a toddler (we used our tiny fancy glasses–not smart!), he sure seemed to like what his mom gave him on his spoon.

Cora was uber-proud.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Make Easy Candy Corn Desserts With Kids: Really, when I say these are easy, I’m not even joking.

And they’re so pretty.

What I love most about these is that they’re totally imperfect. So far from the images on Pinterest and all over the internet of picture-perfect holiday treats, it’s laughable.

make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

 

But we loved them.

Even though the marshmallows got really soggy and squishy on day two. But who cares?

All you need for these babies are a few things: orange jell-o, vanilla instant pudding, and marshmallows. Bam.

 

make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

We pulled out our fancy glasses–the ones we used for our Royal Wedding party way back when and the ones we used for Cora’s Frozen birthday bash.

Cora and I knew we wanted to use pudding that we had already made for our treats–pudding that was in the fridge and wasn’t moving. We made it two days before, and no one seemed to go for it like I hoped.

So we drew a tiny candy corn on a piece of paper to keep us centered and focused on the task at hand–we wanted to recreate candy corn parfait-type treats using marshmallows, jell-o, and pudding.

make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

 

Cora mixed the Jell-O, which she and I are both trying to each more frequently because our nails are total junk.

And doesn’t everyone want strong nails? We do.

 

make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

 

Making the parfaits was easy. Cora decided that in order to make the treats look most like candy corn, we had to start with marshmallows, then put in the yellowish pudding, then put in the orange Jell-O.

So that’s what we did.

And it was a wee bit tricky.

make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

What made it tough for us was our small, fancy glasses.

But I bet if you want to do these for a class party or Halloween get-together with lots of tiny kids, using a clear plastic tumbler would totally work–and then you could more easily pour in the orange Jell-O.

make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

We put them all in the fridge.

And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

 

make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

And though they all looked a little different from each other, they all looked so pretty.

We knew that Aunt Katie and Asher would love them–which they totally did.

 

make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

 

Were they picture-perfect? Nope.

Did they taste like food of the angels? Not at all.

Was every single one of them gorgeous? Oh my gosh, no.

Did we love them? Sure did.

make easy candy corn dessert with kids (not perfect and still cool)

 

Because above all, my tiniest was way proud of her work in the kitchen–her creativity, thought, and patience.

And so was I.

And really? We all need to celebrate a little more of the perfect imperfections in life. It’s not all pinteresty-perfect, friends!

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

Let me know how you’ve gotten your kiddos involved in preparing for this spooky holiday–I’d love to hear it!

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?

brain teasers for kids

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.comWe’re longtime fans of brain teasers for kids over here, in any form, at any time.

We dig brain teasers at lunchtime, brain teasers in the kitchen, brain teasers for long road trips.

Maddy went through a riddle stage last year, when every other day she shared one of a handful of riddles, and ever since then, we’ve been hooked.

So I did a bit of poking around the ‘net this past summer in an attempt to nail down any and all freebie brain teasers for kids I could find.

I hit the jackpot in a big way.

They keep asking for more. Woot.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Brain Teasers for Kids: Really, there are about 8 million books and sites about brain teasers, but I wanted something that I could print and take places with me.

I wanted something that I could use as reading material at mealtime and entertainment on the soccer sidelines.

 

 

 

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

I stumbled across Squiggly’s Playhouse which has been around FORever and which is packed with tons of fun for kids.  

And I put the brain teasers on a happy little document and printed them out on fun and fancy, colorful cardstock.  Then I printed them out, cut them up, and threw them in a sandwich bag.

I take them just about anywhere and use them any time I want the kids to be unplugged. Any time I want them to use their brains.

 

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

I created two sets of Brain Teaser Cards:

If you use them, let me know! I’d love to hear it.

If you share them, please link to this blog post, and let me know! I’ll give you a shout out of thanks!

Both are created with thanks to Squiggly’s Playhouse.

 

I originally shared both sets via our Tabletop Surprises this summer, but (gulp!) we didn’t figure them all out.
Some are pretty tough!
Most recently, we’ve been using the brain teasers at breakfast. Though there was a time in our lives when I read the newspaper with the kids in the morning, now I’m doing the am scramble.

Before the kids wake up, I work for an hour or two in the morning or try to sneak in some exercise–so when I get them out of bed, I follow them back down stairs and make lunches. It’s fine. It’s working.

We chat, plan out the day, or, as mentioned here, work through some brain teasers.

 

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

 

I just talk through the news after school now, while we debrief about school and have a snack or two.

And these are a good way to get Maddy, Owen, and Cora to do some critical thinking and stretch their minds a bit. To think outside the box.

That’s it–try it for yourself and see how it goes!

Just a little, sneaky and fun, at-home learning in the every day, when we’re able. Not as easy as it once was when my loves were little, but we’re trying!

Do you have a favorite site or book for brain teasers? I’d love to hear it~

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

get kids to read | kindle ebooks for reluctant readers teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

 

get kids to read | kindle for reluctant readers teachmama.com

These days, with school in full swing and cool ‘big guy’ neighbors across the street and a travel soccer team to keep him busy, my boy isn’t that big a fan of reading.

He’s into Pokemon (ugh). He’s wicked smart on Words With Friends.  And he spends a good amount of his free time thinking about how he can eke time out of his Screen Time Cards for Minecraft and AnimalJam.

Honestly, he’s one of the coolest kids I know. And lately, he just hasn’t been digging reading.

I get it. Often changes of schedules and shifts in season mean that my kids’ interests will ebb and flow, but Owen hasn’t deliberately reached for books for quite a few weeks.

It makes me a bit nervous, though, knowing that reading habits often change when kids hit middle school. A few short years, and he’s there.

One thing that’s helped a bit with Owen’s  little reading ‘dry spell’ is giving him a chance to read books digitally. eBooks.

It’s one way we get our kids to read–and really enjoy reading. Kindle eBooks.

And I truly think that in this day and age, a healthy mix of digital and traditional books is quite the norm–or it really should be–if we want our kids to grow as readers in the digital age.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Get Kids to Read–Kindle eBooks for Reluctant Readers:

Owen’s not the only one who is game for reading books on our Kindle.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers | teachmama.com

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

 

Maddy and Cora love it, too, so we often have to resort to figuring out whose day it is so that there’s no major battle.

I think there’s something about the simple holding of the Kindle device that I think my kids love. They love how light it is, how sleek it is, and how easy it is to navigate.

For reluctant readers, especially, Kindle eBooks are great for:

  • ease of use. Kids can find books in seconds.
  • organization.  My kids each have their own little collections.
  • convenience.  They can pick up where they last left off without worrying about finding a lost bookmark.  They can touch the corner of a page, and the bookmark is there–even able to sync to Kindle apps on all of their devices.
  • focus. Especially with chapter books, there’s not a whole lot of distracting fluff or add-ons in Kindle eBooks.
  • quality. Kids can long touch a word, and its definition appears along with the Wikipedia definition and translation option. I like this feature.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

Kindle eBooks are also great for:

  • skill-building.  Long touch a word, and kids can highlight or make notes about a word or passage. Upon finishing a book or chapter, they can look back at all of the notes they made and share them via email.
  • increased comprehension.  Many books have the option of adding professional narration to the text which helps emerging and struggling readers better understand what fluent reading should sound like.
  • online safety.  The Parental Controls on Kindles are super, and the Kindle FreeTime piece is a huge bonus.  With Kindle FreeTime, I can assign a separate user for each of my kids, put books on their shelf, and make sure that when they’re in bed reading at night, that’s really what they’re doing.
  • variety. I’m a huge fan of the Kindle Unlimited which gives you a ton of free books each month. For a small fee (cheaper if you’re a member of Amazon Prime), you can score a boatload of books for every member of the family. We’ve had it for a month now, and we’ve really been happy with it.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

 

The bottom line is that kids need a balance. They need a healthy combination of print and digital books to keep them interested and keep them savvy with both mediums.  But if a kid’s balking when it comes to reading and needs a kick-start, Kindle eBooks can do it.

As Junko Yokota and William H. Teale state, in their May 2014 article in The Reading Teacher:

Let us be clear from the start that we believe that both print and digital picture books should play central roles in early childhood literacy education.   The issue
in this instance is not one versus the other, but what works well for achieving which ends in particular situations or for particular lessons.

Junko, Yokota & William H., Teale (2014). Picture Books and the Digital WorldEducators Making Informed Choices. The Reading Teeacher, 67(8), 577–585. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1262

The article goes on to explain how important it is to choose quality eBooks but how often the ‘extras’ –music, supplementary features, add-ons, etc.–upset the integrity of the story.  It was an interesting read. Though my kids are now more reading chapter books on the Kindle and are past picture books on the devices, I did like what the authors had to say.

What’s your experience with Kindle eBooks? Have they been helpful in getting your kids reading and, more importantly, wanting to read?

Let me know–I’d love to hear it!

 

 

fyi: Staples sent our family a Kindle to help in the writing of this post, but as always, opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent.  Visit Staples.com for more on the Kindle. 

Some links are affiliate links.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

recipe reading for kids fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches MONSTER

post contains affiliate links

 
recipe reading for kids fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches MONSTER

Ever since my kids were tiny, I’ve let them play around in the kitchen.

It hasn’t always been pretty, but it’s been fun. And now, though they’re still learning, at 10, 9, and 7 years old, my kids are pretty skilled at cracking eggs, measuring ingredients, and navigating the wilds of cookie baking and meal-making.

Recently, Cora has been into some serious snack preparation.

Not only has this benefitted our bellies; what I’ve also been reminded of is how important recipe reading is for kids. 

Kids are decoding important functional, everyday words. They’re reading informational text. They’re analyzing words and phrases in a text and interpreting what it all means.

And the coolest part of the whole recipe reading for kids? They’re having fun and learning in the kitchen.

Cora rocked out some serious recipe reading and Monster-Sandwich making in our kitchen, and it was a blast for all of us.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Recipe Reading for Kids–Fun Learning in the Kitchen with Monster Sandwiches:

Cora used one of the recipe books I pulled out for our Tabletop Surprises: Favorite All-Time Recipes Silly Snacks (2004).

She flipped through the book, and she immediately declared that she was going to make each snack.  I knew she couldn’t because most of the recipes required something we didn’t have in our pantry.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

 

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

So I encouraged her to use a sticky note to bookmark the snacks she wanted to make. And she could make one snack each day.

We need to make sure we have all of the ingredients, I told her. And this is the only way. You choose what you’d like to make, and then we’ll make a grocery list. 

So she did.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

It was a weekend, so Monster Sandwiches would be our lunch.

We worked together making a grocery list, and then we hit the store.  It went surprisingly well, I think because she was focused and knew her recipe would be our lunch. She was totally psyched.

When it came to actually preparing to read the recipe, we did what every chef should do first: we read the ingredients and put them out on the counter.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

Then Cora took the lead and read through each step, starting with opening rolls and spreading them with butter.

Step two required a layering of cold cuts, tomato and cucumber slices, and then finally making the monster tongue.

Though Monster Sandwiches are basically just a cold cut sandwich, it didn’t matter.  The simple 3-step recipe had a few crazy and exciting parts, and Cora loved it.

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

 

The photo in the book helped her as well, and that’s half the fun of being a chef–comparing the photo to your masterpiece and making changes where you see fit.

Hands down, the sweet gherkin ‘horns’ and black olive eyes were a super-cool part of this recipe, and little hands needed a bit of help in securing them.

 

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

 

Recipe reading for kids is a great way of sneaking in some reading and learning in the kitchen, for so many reasons.  Here are a few of our ‘learning in the kitchen’ posts:

Just a few years ago, we realized that Maddy was not reading closely at all–she was skimming during reading–so recipe reading really helped get her back on track. You can’t glaze over steps in a recipe; you can’t glaze over ingredients, or you’ll end up with something quite unlike what you set out to make.

Maddy and I had to have a serious ‘skimming vs reading’ conversation, and baking helped us through it.

 

recipe reading for kids: fun learning in the kitchen with monster sandwiches

 

How do you incorporate learning in the kitchen? I’d love to hear it in the comments below!

 

fyi: affiliate links used in this post–check out the books I recommend below

 

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

how to get kids to talk about school: what every parent must know

how to get kids to talk about school: what every parent must know | teachmama.com

As a paid Quaker Classroom AmbassadorI am eager to share information about Quaker Up For Classrooms.   how to get kids to talk about school: what every parent must know School is underway for us, and what I’m realizing more and more is that it’s sometimes tough to get my kids to talk about school. As a parent, I’m curious. I want to know everything:

  • Who did they sat with at lunch?
  • Who did they play with at recess?
  • How do they like their tablemates?
  • What book did they start in Guided Reading?
  • Who hosted the morning tv show?

But it’s hard. The kids are tired at 3pm, they’re even more tired at 7pm, and the last thing they want to do is talk to boring old Mom about school. So I have to get creative–and I know I’m not the only one. Hopefully these tricks for getting kids to talk about school will help you get a little more info from your little loves about what goes on in their lives, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Get Kids to Talk About School:

The most important thing here is that we really have to read our own kids, not be too pushy, and try to let the conversations evolve naturally.  And we need to listen. Seriously. I know–not always easy. So I’ve found that with my three kids, I’ve tried three different approaches: 1. direct questions; 2. group questions; 3. distracted questions. how to get kids to talk about school direct questions  teachmama.com 1.  direct questions: Most often, numero uno–direct questions–are a complete and utter fail for me. Save for those rare occasions when the stars are aligned, the odds are rarely ever in my favor for this technique. I ask questions, and I get quick, abbreviated responses that hardly make sense.  Even with open-ended questions the kids don’t want to chat this way with me.

me: How was recess? (This must be a subject they’ll want to talk about! )

kid: Fine.

me: Whadja play?

kid: Lotsa stuff.

me: What was your favorite game?

kid: Everything.

me: Who’d ya play with most?

kid: Everyone.

me: Awesome.

Never fear. Numero dos and tres have yielded better results for me. how to get kids to talk about school group questions  teachmama.com 2. group questions: Group questions often work for us. They often work especially around the dinner table and when we’ve got an audience, even if that audience is Dad. Because really? Dad’s mucho awesome. He’s not hangin’ around the house as much as me, so he’s almost extra-special something. And if we mix things up a bit, they almost always work.

  • Speed answer: Go around the dinner table and everyone gives a quick, one or two word answer to the same question.
  • Ball toss: Everyone answers the same question, though not at the same time.  The speaker holds a ball. He or she tosses the ball to the next person, and that person answers. This one is great for after school, after snack, out in the back yard.
  • Hula hello: Give kids a hula hoop and they answer as many questions as they can while hula-hooping.
  • Question train: You start with one question and choose a person to answer. That person answers and asks another question to the next person. And so on and so on.

how to get kids to talk about school distracted questions  teachmama.com 3.  distracted questions: One of my dear friends suggested that chatting with tweens and teens is best conducted this way–while you’re both doing something.

  • Snack chat:  While everyone’s eating a snack and before homework starts, chat school.
  • Kitchen helpers: Having one kid help prepare dinner has been hugely helpful in opening the door to conversation about school. While kids are cutting veggies, mixing mac and cheese, or emptying the dishwasher, they often want to talk to pass the time.
  • Travel convo: When kids are held captive in the car and as you’re schlepping everyone from soccer and piano lessons and then back again, ask questions. Though often for me, my kids really want to zone out in the car, sometimes, they’re pretty chatty. Again, depends on the day.
  • Chore chats:  Many times I remember chatting with my mom while she (or I) was ironing or folding wash. Not sure why, but maybe there’s something there for moms and daughters.
  • Game gabble: Owen is a gamer, and he always has been. So often he’s opened up most to me or my husband during games of War, Battleship, Monopoly, or Rummy. Again, it’s the busy hands and relaxed atmosphere that may help.

how to talk to kids about school | teachmama.com

print it out: how to talk to kids about school 2014 teachmama.com

Now.  What should you ask? Though I’m no expert, from what I’ve heard and read, you should do a whole lot more listening than talking. We want our kids to know that we’re listening to what they say and that our ears are open. So put the cell phones down. Close the laptop. Let that iPad rest. And when you do say something, paraphrasing is key. It’s like putting money in the bank. When you paraphrase, you’re simply putting what your child just said into your own words. When you paraphrase, it lets your kiddos know that you’re listening. And sometimes when you ask questions that count–that get them thinking or get them interested, they’re more likely to answer. Consider asking: 

  • What book are you reading?
  • What was the best part of your lunch?
  • Who was absent from class today?
  • Who was on the morning announcements?
  • What did you play in PE?
  • Will you let me guess your favorite part of the morning/ afternoon/ day?
  • If your day was a movie, what would the title be?
  • What color was your day?
  • Which Olympic medal would you give today?
  • What do you hope is different tomorrow?

And really? Cross your fingers. But first, print out this pretty little cheat cheet: how to talk to kids about school 2014 teachmama.com . . . and have an awesome year!

Do you have any secrets that work for you? I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments! Check out the other two posts that will help make this year awesome: happy first day flowers for teachers, secretaries, or principal           easy ways to support teachers: back to school #quakerup | teachmama.com

fyi: Thank you to Quaker and AdoptaClassroom.org for creating this program. I am proud to be a Quaker Classroom Ambassador.  Quaker is providing the prizes for this program at no cost to me. This program is not administered or sponsored by Quaker or its affiliates, but solely by teach mama media, llc. 

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

quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites (and $100 Visa gift card giveaway!)

quick, kid-friendly after school snack Bagel Bites teachmama.com

I can hardly believe that the new school year is almost upon us.quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites | teachmama.com

But it is.

And before I know it, our home will be a whirlwind of paper, pencils, and new backpacks. Lunch bags, homework, projects, and field trips.

And though I know how important it is to keep our kids’ lives balanced, what usually makes me crazy is the after school activities–the extra-curriculars. The running home, unpacking backpacks, speeding through snack, and heading back out the door only to return home two or three hours later.

Even though our goal is to have each child choose one after school activity, as they get older, the activities run several times a week. So where soccer or dance once was a happy Saturday morning family event, now it’s become two practices a week with games or rehearsals on the weekends.  Not always easy.

So often our kids do a lot of grabbing food on the go.  And as they get older, I’ve had to explore different options. Quicker snacks with more belly-filling potential.

Bagel Bites are a quick, kid-friendly after school snack that I’ll definitely be reaching for more this year. Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Quick, Kid-Friendly After School Snack–Bagel Bites:

I need snacks that one kid can grab and prepare on his or her own while I help the other two with their homework.

quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites | teachmama.com quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites | teachmama.com

And snacks that will get my kids through activities and to dinner when we return? Even better.

Why I’ll pick up Bagel Bites for my busy, active kiddos:

  • Bagel Bites only use real cheese – Mozzarella, Cheddar and Monterey Jack.
  • They make their own tomato sauce from scratch.
  • Bagel Bites mixes their bagel dough from scratch every day on site, using high-quality ingredients.
  • Zero grams of trans fat per serving.
  • Bagel Bites® snacks are baked, never fried.

quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites | teachmama.com quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites | teachmama.com

And? You can see all the ingredients that are part of Bagel Bites snacks, which makes me more inclined to hand them to my kids.

Bagel Bites snacks are fun, quick, easy, convenient and quality snacks that I won’t hesitate to pick up because I know they’re worth my time–and my kids’ time.  

quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites | teachmama.com

The super-cool thing?  One teachmama.com reader can now win a $100 Visa gift card to kick-off the back-to-school season!  The winner can use his or her $100 for anything–supplies, snacks, whatever. And actually, everyone’s a winner here because you can score a Bagel Bites coupon just for kicks!

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  • What is your favorite anytime snack?

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1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

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This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

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