photo books for kids and family: 15 best, coolest, most clever and creative

photo books for kids and family: 15 best, coolest, most clever and creative

post contains affiliate links
the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

 

 

I’m a hardcore fan of the photo book.

Actually, I’m a fan of any book, but photo books have a special spot in my heart because I love to make them, and I love to get them.

And? They have happily replaced the ole book o’ photos that once took me for-ev-er and a day to assemble.

Photo books are super as gifts, and they’re super as learning tools for kids.

Once you get those creative juices flowin’ you can really come up with some pretty awesome ways to use photo books, each one more cute and clever than the next.

I like the photo books on Mixbook and Shutterfly personally, but you check them out and see what works best for you.

Both very frequently have rockstar sales going on.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Photo Books for Kids & Family–15 Best, Coolest, Most Clever & Creative:

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

1. Sports Season: A super idea for a coach’s gift, a sports season is a super-cool photo book in itself.

Really. Take a few photos at each game, then add them to a folder on your computer each time you sync your photos.

Head to a few of the practices and get some shots there.

unique and cool photo book ideas  teachmama.com

Be there for team photo day, and hang out around the photographer. Most likely if you explain that you’re making a gift for the coach, he or she won’t mind if you sneak a photo of each kid on the team. Put each kid’s photo around the team photo (see above!), and the book is sure to be a win.

Don’t sweat it if you can’t remember every child’s name. You don’t even really need text to make this book a hit.

 

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

2. Holiday Decorations:  Last year, we made a ‘Christmas at Nana’s House book for my nana, and she loves it. LOVES it.

We took tons and tons pictures at Christmastime last year and saved them for a Mother’s Day book. She didn’t even really notice that as she and the kids were eating Munchkins at her kitchen table, I was snapping shots all around the house.

Because my nana is getting older and because we all know how important holiday decorating is to her, this is one book we will all cherish for many years to come, especially when she’s too tired to take her hundreds of Santas out for us all to oooh and ahhhh over.

Get your own cool, creative photo book started now at Mixbook.com!

 

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

3. Capture a Memory, a Life Event.

When Maddy was going into first grade, she had her tonsils and adenoids removed. She was crazy nervous, as was I.

But to make the experience a little lighter, I photographed every single step, from beginning to end. Together, we were making a book, I told her. And we were.

Brave Maddy is not Maddy’s favorite book now, I’ll admit it. She doesn’t like to see her tiny, worried face on the page, nor do I. But I do think that eventually we’ll be happy we have it. Sometimes–on rare occasion–I’ll catch Maddy paging through the book, explaining things to Cora or Owen. Perhaps if there are any surgeries in our future, this book may make the process easier for us.

 

click here for ‘family photo books–quick, easy, and affordable for super-busy moms

 

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

4. House Snapshot.

My nana has always said she has the prettiest house on her street, so a few summers ago, I took photos of it. In and out, up and down, I shot it all. And then I put it into a book, just like her Christmas one.

And? She loves it.

Yes, her house is beautiful when it’s all decked out for the holidays, but it’s also really gorgeous all year long.

 

 

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

 

5. Best Times With Grandparent

My mother-in-law went to New York City with us last year for a blogging event, and it was an absolute blast.

It was the kids’ first time taking the train into the city, skating at Rockefeller Plaza, and staying in a hotel at Christmastime. So we chronicled the whole trip, start to finish.

Then I put it into a book, and we gave it to my mother-in-law for Mother’s Day this year. Sure, it was a few months behind, but it didn’t matter. She still loved it. And so did we.

 

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

6. Baby’s First Year

There’s nothing like a baby’s first year, that is a fact.

So the first year is a great time for a photo book, and for those of us who’d rather not bust out the glue, tons of loose photos, and scrapbooking stuff, photo books are the way to go.

The templates make a first year baby photo book so easy, it’s nuts. And? You can even order a little baggie to go inside the book (or for goodness’ sake, stick an envelope in there if you need to!) so that you can hold onto that coveted first lock of hair.

Bam. Done and done.

 

Get your own cool, creative photo book started now at Mixbook.com!

 

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

7.  Recipe Book

I love having all of our family’s favorite foods in a photo book.

Why not?

I want my kids to be able to recreate our easy, everyday faves, even if they are simple crockpot recipes.

So start taking photos of your dinners. Take photos of the kids at the table. These everyday memories are ones to be cherished.

And how fun will it be when you can feature your child, apron and all, standing at the stove preparing meals for the next Family Recipe book? Awe-some.

 

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

 

8. Craft Collage or Art Book

My kids are pretty crafty. Well, Maddy and Cora are.

And though Owen occasionally does do some drawing, he doesn’t craft and create like the girls do.

So having a photo book dedicated to all the kids’ crafts and artwork is a super idea.

You don’t need to be a fancy photographer or have crazy complex lighting to make this work, either. Choose a time mid-day, when the sun is shining, to put your children’s work in the natural light.

Photograph close up and from a distance.

Add the photos to a folder on your computer.

Share the photos with the photo book company, and voila! Photo book in hand in no time. Your kids–especially the crafty crafters–will love you for it.

 

 

Get your own cool, creative photo book started now at Shutterfly.com

 

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

9.  LEGO Creations

Or Tinker Toys creations. Or HexBug tracks. Or block towers, Or whatever your kiddo builds, this book is all about those creations.

Play-Doh castles? Crazy-cool marble runs?

Is there a theme? Did he create the entire Ninjago set? Star Wars fighters? LEGO City? Take photos. Make a book.

She (or he!) will love you for it.

 

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

 

10.  Church, Temple, or School Event

We are part of our church’s Gospel Drama every year, and the kids love it.

Especially if you are heading up a committee like this, having a photo book as a reference for future organizers or committee chairs is a super idea.

It could be a drama production. Maybe it’s a band concert. Perhaps it’s International Night or a Math Night.  It could be the Spring Carnival or Kindergarten Orientation.

What needs to be done first? What’s second? Who is in charge of what?

Take pictures of everything you can, and then upload them to a photo book. The visuals will help in the future, and the book can even stay in the office waiting room and be a great resource to have on hand for new-to-the-school families.

 

Get your own cool, creative photo book started now at Mixbook.com!

 

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

 

11.  Cool Science Experiment (or Animal Facts!)

Last year, we had the super-awesome opportunity to hatch eggs at our home. It was one of the coolest experiences in our family’s little 11 year existence.

Throughout the entire egg incubation program, we took photos. And of course we made a book.

Kids love to learn about the process of egg hatching, and this little book will bring it all back to us, step by step.  Not only is it a chronicle of something really fun our family did, but it’s a memory maker in the process!

You can really create an animal fact book like this for any animal, at any time.

 

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

12.  Family ABC Book

From A to Z, there’s a photo for every letter. Some were more difficult than others, but we did it.

And so can you. Really, it’s not that hard.

Having kids’ faces in the book is so fun for them, as is including your own pets, toys, car, and clothes.

Want kids to get their ABCs quickly?

Make a Family ABC Book.

 

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

13.  Family Vacation

We don’t do this for every vacation, but for our ‘biggies’ we definitely create photo books!

Each time we went to Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, we created a book when we got home. And any time we have a question about the park, a ride, or something similar, we reach for one of our Disney books.

So fun.

Man I want to return. . .

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

14.  Book About Love

We create a lot of books for my nana, don’t we?

Nana’s getting old and things are much more difficult for her, but one thing has not changed: Nana loves books. She’s a lifelong reader and writer, so today is no different, even though she’s 91.

The ‘We Love Nana’ book is a simple book with little text. The main message? I love Nana.

The characters? All of us. This one took a bit more planning because I needed photos from three sisters of their five kids, but it all worked out.

A Book About Love can be a teeny book that your preschooler takes to school with him each day so that he remembers Mom is closeby.

A Book About Love can be a chance to spend one full day with one kiddo–a close-up of that one child and how much you love him or her.

It can be everything in your lives that you love, with each family member taking one or two pages to create on his or her own.

Possibilities are endless.

Get your own cool, creative photo book started now at Mixbook.com!

the best, coolest, most clever and creative  | teachmama.com

15. Home Renovation or Family Move

We tore it up in her last year, and we chronicled the entire thing.

We knew that at times though the reno took an eternity, in reality, it only took about six or seven weeks. That’s nothing.

Especially for the kids, it went by in the blink of an eye.

So having a photo book to walk us through everything from clearing out shelves to moving furniture to setting it all back up is really cool.

 

Ooooh, and for fun, make your Family Playing Cards into a photo book this year!

A great way to help your littles learn the spelling and letters of family names, right? Turn it into a photo book (super-totally easy!) and bam. Book. Family Name Book. Awesome.

 

Want a few awesome deals to snag in time for the holidays? SURE you do!

 

What photo books can you think of? Which ones make most sense for you to create? I’d love to hear it!

You know that it’s the thought that counts!

 

please pin it later!

the coolest, most creative photo books for kids and family  teachmama.com BLANK

Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? Check out:

must have gifts for kids and families | teachmama.com

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers | teachmama.com

 

kids and family gift guide from teachmama.com

 

teachmama gift guide 2012

 

 

holiday gift guide | teachmama.com

 

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

super-easy, homemade photo tiles

super-easy, homemade photo tiles: coasters and more | a last-minute crafty craft for the non-crafters out there

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

super-easy, homemade photo tiles: coasters and more | a last-minute crafty craft for the non-crafters out there I find that no matter the year, I’m always scrambling for last-minute holiday gifts for family.

Every year we love to give our family homemade ornaments for the tree–preferably ornaments with our crazy kids’ mugs on them.

It’s so much fun every year to unwrap ornaments as we’re decorating the tree and to find photos of our kids when they were younger.

A few years back, however, we thought we’d be tricky and trade the ornies in for tiles.

And they came out really, really cute.

We made sets of coasters for grandparents and tiles for the aunts and uncles.

Honestly, they were the easiest gifts to make, and Maddy, Owen, and Cora loved doing them.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Super-Easy, Homemade Photo Tiles:

When I say, ‘easy’, I mean easy.

These tiles took a bit of time to dry, but that was the most time-consuming part.

To make them, you’ll need:

Making the tiles is super-simple.

super-easy, homemade photo tiles coasters and more  a last-minute crafty craft for the non-crafters out there  collage  teachmama.comHonestly, the hardest, most time-consuming part is finding a photo you like.

I chose one photo of all three kids together for the bigger tile and the kids’ school pictures for the smaller tiles.

I personally love school photos. I think there’s something really cool, clean, and classic about them. No matter how my kids’ photos turn out, I always try to use them for something throughout the year.

super-easy, homemade photo tiles coasters and more  a last-minute crafty craft for the non-crafters out there   teachmama.com

1. Grab your Mod Podge and cover the whole tile with it.  Because Mod Podge is essentially glue, all you need to do is paint the tile with Mod Podge and place your photo on top.

super-easy, homemade photo tiles | teachmama.com

super-easy, homemade photo tiles | teachmama.com

super-easy, homemade photo tiles | teachmama.com

2. Place your photo on top, where you want it on the tile. 

I added a little ‘holiday tag’ with Maddy, Owen, & Cora 2012 on it. Let. It. Dry.

You can download the tag here, of course personalizing it for your own cutiepies: holiday gift tags 2011

I love when kids can add their writing to any masterpiece, so for the tiny coasters, I had Maddy, Owen, and Cora write their names with a sharpie.

Want to know the really hilarious thing? I made these in 2011. Gave them to aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. It was 2011. The photo was from 2011. But I wrote 2012, like a champ. Awesome, right? 

I’m trying to confuse the whole world. Then I won’t feel so crazy.

 

super-easy, homemade photo tiles | teachmama.com

3. Mod Podge again. On top. Add a coat of Mod Podge, and Let. It. Dry. 

I told you these took a bit of time only in the waiting.

super-easy, homemade photo tiles | teachmama.com

super-easy, homemade photo tiles | teachmama.com

4. Add felt to the back. 

So the coasters don’t scratch the tables they’re trying to protect, add felt. Your mother-in-law will thank you.

Just use superglue or hot glue–whatever you have. I personally love my tiny hot glue gun. I keep a bunch of the tiny hot glue refills on hand, and I probably pull this guy out 3-4 times each month to use it for something.

For the larger tile, I added felt to the entire back. Because you’d be able to see the back when it was in its holder, I thought it looked nicer.

super-easy, homemade photo tiles

super-easy, homemade photo tiles

super-easy, homemade photo tiles

super-easy, homemade photo tiles

5. Let. It. Dry. Like totally and completely. 

And really? That’s it.

super-easy, homemade photo tiles

super-easy, homemade photo tiles

So easy, and such a fun little personalized, homemade gift.

This year? Cannot wait to share what we have in the works. Cannot. Wait.

Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? Check out:

must have gifts for kids and families | teachmama.com

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers | teachmama.com

 

kids and family gift guide from teachmama.com

 

teachmama gift guide 2012

 

 

holiday gift guide | teachmama.com

 

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

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate brands | craft, experiment, and thinking subscription gifts for kids that they will totally love | gift ideas for kids

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

monthly craft gift for kids  kiwi crate  teachmama.comOften people ask me for cool gift ideas for holidays and birthdays, and though I often immediately share with them my holiday gift guide (because really, it works for any time of the year!).

But when I’m away from the computer and someone asks for a quick idea for a birthday or holiday for a child, I often recommend Kiwi Crate.

Kiwi Crate is a monthly subscription gift for kids. Crafts, making, and a whole lot of cool. 

And it’s not just for girls, and it’s not just for the teenies.

It’s for all kids.

Which is why it rocks.

And right now they have a pretty sweet Kiwi Crate Black Friday Sale going on that you totes want to jump on.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Monthy Craft Gift for Kids–Kiwi Crate:

Kiwi Crate sends monthly crafts and cool, hands-on activities to kids.

 

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

 

Products include Koala Crate (ages 3-4 years), Kiwi Crate (4-8years), Tinker Crate (9-14 years), and Doodle Crate (9-16+ years).

Subscription Services like these are SUPER awesome gifts because not only do kids love getting mail, they love to have everything–every, single thing–they need to complete a project from start to finish in one happy little kit.

We’re shhhhhhhh ordering Kiwi Crate for our nephew this year, and I’m sure he will totally love it.

 

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

Though Cora is 7, she’ll turn 8 in March, so she could really love Kiwi Crate. If you’re not sure what to do, consider starting with a 6 month subscription and then re-evaluate after that time whether your child is a good fit for Kiwi Crate or wants to move up to the Doodle Crate or Tinker Crate.

I think we’ll end up going with Doodle Crate for Cora and Tinker Crate for Maddy and Owen. 

We’ve had several boxes to try out over the years from the good folks at Kiwi Crate, but we’ve never actually had it where one of my kids could actually, truly look forward to receiving it each month.

That? I think they’d love.

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

 

Especially during this time when all kids seem to want to do is be ‘plugged in’ to electronic devices, I think Doodle Crate or Tinker Crate would be great for kids Maddy and Owen’s ages, too.

These aren’t just quickie little junk projects that kids create; each set is full of hands-on, exciting, and engaging experiments or crafts. Cool things that kids will really enjoy. Several of my friends have kids who’ve used these sets, and they love them.

Check out the comparison of the Kiwi Crate Brands

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate | teachmama.com

 

Doodle Crate (9- 16+) is focused on more DIY art projects.  Maddy would totally go for this one.

Tinker Crate (9-14 +) is focused on providing hands-on experiments each month.  Owen would love this, but I know Maddy and Cora would, too.

In order to keep some level of sanity in our house this year, I’m going to go with Tinker Crate for Owen so that Maddy can have Doodle Crate and Cora can have Kiwi Crate.

I cannot wait to see how it goes. And really? I’m almost 99% positive it’ll be a serious win.

 

And? Check out some super-rockstar deals for you for this holiday season:

  • Exclusive Kiwi Crate Black Friday Sale!
    • Starting today until 12/1/14, save 60% on your 1st month subscription to Kiwi Crate PLUS free shipping with code HOLIDAY60 at checkout.

 

Koala Crate >>
 

Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? Check out: 

 

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 favorite thanksgiving printables for BIG kids!

our favorite thanksgiving printables for BIG kids

our favorite thanksgiving printables for BIG kids!

This week is the big week for us–lots of travel, lots of family, lots of friends, and lots of food!

Officially, the fun winter holiday season is upon us, and from here until January 2nd, it’s a wild ride.

But often that wild ride means that our kids tend to be kicked off of their normal schedules.

They get tired.

We get tired.

They get cranky.

We get cranky.

And they need some down time.

We need some down time.

So we’ve gathered a few of our favorite Thanksgiving printables–ones we are printing out and bringing to Thanksgiving meals–so that the kids have some unplugged down time.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Our Favorite Thanksgiving Printables–for BIG Kids:

If you need some conversation starters for the dinner table, I like these from Written Reality.   Especially if it tends to be quiet at your holiday, these may be fun for the family. And hey–even if it’s loud at your house, these might work toward giving everyone a chance to be heard.

As for printables, my kids still love a good, ole fashioned puzzle every now and again:

Word searches still get kids’ brains moving a bit:

And BINGO! Big kids still dig bingo:

Even though my kids are getting older, they still love to sit down with a box of crayons and color every once in a while:

I think these are super cute for the big kids to put on a little Thanksgiving finger-puppet show for the little kids: 

And I’ll take it.

Happy, happy, happy Thanksgiving and safe travels, friends!

 

Want to stay on top of all of our rockin Thanksgiving ideas for kids and families? Follow our pinterest board:

thanksgiving pinterest board

 

 

Get the bigger kids involved, too, with some of the food prep!

They’ll love to help arrange this Thanksgiving veggie turkey:

thanksgiving veggie turkey

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools

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5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

Between Election Day, parent-teacher conferences, and field trips, it always seems like things get nutty in November.

The novelty of the new year has worn off, and kids—and parents—start slowly slipping into the mid-year blues or pre-holiday anxiety.

And if things are crazy for our family, I can only imagine how difficult things can be for our teachers.

So November is a great time for us all to step back and extend a bit of thanks to those teachers with whom our children spend hours and hours each day.

I’m not saying that we need to spend a million dollars on our teachers right before the winter holidays; rather, I’m suggesting that we show teachers how much we appreciate their hard work and dedication.

We can do this in a number of ways, some of which won’t cost a cent.

I’m thrilled that my friends from Staples are eager to help us in this endeavor by offering another rockstar classroom decoration prize pack so that we all can do our part!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 5 Ways Parents Can Show Thanks for Teachers and Schools:

November is a time of giving thanks. Let’s take a minute to show our children’s teachers how very much we appreciate them and their hard work.

 

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

Consider:

  1. Volunteering your time to support the teacher.

Drop the teacher a quick note or email saying that you have a few extra hours this month and would like to help him or her with anything needed in the classroom. You can copy, cut, sort, organize, or clean. Anything needed.

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

Call the teacher or drop him or her an email like the one below:

Dear [Mr. or Mrs. Teacher],

Hi! I hope you are doing well! I just wanted to take a minute to reach out and say thank you so much for all you do for our students; [child’s name] really enjoys your class and is learning so much.

I unexpectedly have 2-3 extra hours this month that I would love to ‘donate’ to the class. If you have any copying, sorting, organizing, or cleaning you need done in the classroom, I’d be more than happy to help.

Though I will do my best to come in at a time that works best for you, right now it looks like [insert date and time] will work best for me.

Please let me know if you could use my help!

Many thanks,

[your name]

All you can do is send it. If the teacher needs a hand, you better believe that he or she will be grateful for your offer!

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

  1. Volunteering your time to support the students.

Do you feel like you’re particularly good at working with students? Let the teacher know!

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

Younger students and emerging readers can always use extra reading time or math-practice time. Most likely the teacher would really appreciate having an extra ‘ear’ in the classroom to listen to students as they read and work on fluency or a support for them as they work on math facts or sight words.

Want to see if it’s an option? Use the same note as above but change the second paragraph to:

I unexpectedly have 2-3 extra hours this month that I would love to ‘donate’ to the class. If you would like for me to listen to some of your struggling readers or pull small groups for sight word or math fact practice, I’d be more than happy to help.

The kids will love having an extra ‘teacher’ in the room!

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

  1. Donate small prizes or goodies to the students. Teachers often could use small prizes or goodies for their students.

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

If you don’t have a whole lot of time—or any!—to donate but you have a few extra bucks in your pocket, consider purchasing some stickers for the classroom.

Seasonal stickers are always a hit on student work, and most likely if the teacher had them, he or she would use them! I love these sparkly fall leaves, and I don’t even think it’s too late for the pumpkins. Pumpkins are a fall fruit, right?

Thanks to my friends at Staples, I had a few of these cute fall bookmarks and pumpkin notepads, so I put one pack each in a little plastic bag, along with the fall leaf stickers and pumpkin stickers.

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

With a short note saying ‘thank you’ to Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s teachers, I think this little bag of ‘goodies’ will be truly appreciated.

When I was teaching, I kept jars of ‘crazy pens’ on my desk so that my students would be more likely to want to write. It worked! Kids came charging to the desk each day to write with the monkey pen, the crazy bubble pen, or the Disney pen.

And often parents sent in cool pens to add to our collection. It was always a fun and appreciated surprise when they did! The students loved it as much as I did.

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

  1. Decorating a classroom board or area of the classroom.

Are you a crafty crafter with an eye for decorating? Give the teacher the gift of your mad artistic skills by offering to handle a classroom bulletin board or reading corner.

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

Ask how the teacher wants to use the area or board—to display work, to celebrate holidays, to promote a project, etc—and then offer to help.

November is such a busy month.

Taking this big element off of the teacher’s plate will be hugely helpful.

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

Offer to use a holiday-themed decoration like the Colorful Owls or Moose & Friends board set.

We love that each set comes with parts that can be changed according to the holiday or season.

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

  1. Decorating a PTA or school-wide board.

Everything that the PTA does directly supports the school and teachers, so your helping hand will be appreciated no matter where you can lend it.

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

Often PTA boards are the first boards seen when people walk into a school. And often the PTA volunteers are stretched too thinly and are running a ton of different projects.

Offer to either help with one of the projects or take over the job of managing the PTA bulletin board.

Staples’ Seasonal Classroom Decorations make decorating these boards super-easy.

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I used a Fall Holiday Decoration pack to do a hallway board in my husband’s school.

It turned out awesome.

We used the Thanksgiving Bulletin Board set and the Pumpkins borders and kept the background the same as last time—simple black. A few pieces of orange and brown construction paper added some pizazz.

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools  teachmama.com

Our goal with this board was to create something fun and festive but that would also encourage viewers to give thanks, and we love how it turned out.

First, we put up the pieces that came with the set: the turkey, the pilgrims, and the Native Americans.

Then we added the ‘We Are Thankful’ sign above them and the ‘I am thankful’ cut-out leaves and acorns that came with the Thanksgiving set.

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers | teachmama.com

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers | teachmama.com

Next, I printed out two copies of our simple Give Thanks Instructions (see below):

If you’d like to download and print the Give Thanks Instructions click here: teacher thank you poster | teachmama.com

(Please, if you share this resource–which I hope you do!–link to this post rather than the printable!)

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers | teachmama.com

And then I printed out about 20 copies of our little Give Thanks notes (see below) which we cut into quarters.

If you’d like to download and print the Give Thanks notes click here: teacher thank you notes FULL PAGE

(Please, if you share this resource–which I hope you do!–link to this post rather than the printable!)

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers | teachmama.com

Then we stapled some of the turkey cut-outs to the board. We didn’t staple them flush to the board; rather, we made them like little pockets.

Finally we placed our little Thank You notes into the turkey pockets, and we were finished!

Bam.

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers | teachmama.com

An interactive thank-you board for the whole school.

And hopefully—hopefully!—one of the students will look at it while they’re walking to class and will take a minute to pull out a slip of paper, write down a quick note to a teacher or administrator, and deliver that person a little bit of thanks.

5 ways parents can show thanks for teachers and schools full board | teachmama.com

Or maybe a teacher will take the time to write a quick thank you note to a student. Or maybe an administrator will take time to say ‘thanks’ to a staff member.

Who doesn’t appreciate a little ‘thank you’ note now and again?

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

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GIVEAWAY: One classroom décor set for all seasons–and then some!–valued at $100.

Do you want to win your own classroom décor set to use either in your own classroom, to donate to your child’s teacher, or to use for your PTA, church, or homeschool??!  Yes, yes you do.  

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

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

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

This giveaway ends Monday, November 24, 2014 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the US only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 11/24/14.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

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Check out the other posts in the #staplesclassroom series:

fyi: I am proud to be a Staples partner, and this post was written as part of the #staplesclassroom campaign; however, as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little classroom decorators.

movie-inspired costume contest: win $500 and movie tickets for a year!

movie-inspired costume contest: win $500 and movie tickets for a year!

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affiliate links used in this post

 

 

movie-inspired costume contest | teachmama.comI love it when I can share things with my readers that are really, truly cool and easy.

We’re busy. We need easy.

And I know with quite a bit of certainty that many of us are gearing up for Halloween this week.

And I also know with quite a bit of certainty that many of us are dressing our kids as Minions, Elsa, Anna, Olaf, or the good ole storm troopers or Dorothy from Wizard of Oz standby.

Because we’re all connected, and we’re all snapping photos of our cutie-pies all decked out in their Halloween gear, why not share a photo with our friends from Fandango for a chance to win $500 and a full year of movie tickets for your family? 

Seriously. I’m not even kidding.

Easy peasy, and I’d love, love, love to see one of my readers win!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Movie-Inspired Costume Contest–Win $500 and Movie Tickets for A Year:

Really, this is not the kind of contest where you need to film a short testimonial (who has time for that?!) or create a killer diorama out of Peeps.

It’s easy.

So do it!

movie-inspired costume contest:

Here’s how you can rock the movie costume contest:

  • Post your picture on Instagram.  (Need a little Instagram refresher? Got you covered.)
  • Use a category hashtag:  (Just include the hashtag # and whatever category your costume fits)
    • #FandangoFamilyContestOriginal
    • #FandangoFamilyContestSpooky
    • #FandangoFamilyContestSuperHero
    • #FandangoFamilyContestAnimated
  • Follow AND tag @Fandango on Instagram.
  • Have questions? Ask me! I want you to win!

That’s it!movie-inspired costume contest: teachmama.com

Any guesses as to which awesome late ’80’s movie we were rocking at a recent 80’s fundraiser?

Want to learn more about the contest and see some current entries? Check out the Fandango Family My Movie Costume page.

What do you think? If you enter, please let me know!

 

fyi: I am proud to be a part of the Fandango Family Digital Network and will share a movie-related post quarterly. 

Affiliate links are used in this post.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills

video game for improving decision-making skills @QuandaryGame | teachmama.com

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quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

I’m always on the hunt for worthwhile ways to sneak in some fun and learning into my kids’ days.

And though I’m super careful about screen time, I’m rather impressed with a game that I’ve recently been introduced to: Quandary.

Not surprisingly, my little game-testers were eager to try this digital game that is structured to develop ethical thinking skills.

It’s interesting. It’s different.

And it really gets kids thinking.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Quandary–Video Game for Improving Decision-Making Skills:

 I, too, was a little skeptical when it came to looking at this game.

I wondered, how on earth could a video game really deal with decision-making and critical thinking and ethical issues? 

But this one really, truly does.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

Fast facts:

  • Quandary is a game that provides learning experiences that let kids practice distinguishing the difference between facts and opinions.
  • It is a game that allows kids to explore decision-making.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

  • It’s a game that gives kids a chance to learn about a problem, hear situations from various community members’ perspective, reflect on those opinions, and then decide on the best possible solution.
  • It’s a game that aims to support not learning of new content but learning of new skills.
  • And it’s a game that provides a ton of discussion between adults and kids.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

 

Designed for players ages 8 and older, there is a lot of reading with Quandary, truth be told.

Players read the scenario first to understand the problem.  The layout is similar to a comic book or graphic novel, and many kids today are quite comfortable with this genre.

The cool thing, from a Reading Specialist’s perspective, is that when players click the text, the text is read aloud.  The combination of visual and audio reading is a huge support–even for older readers.

 

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

 

Owen, my forever gamer, was big into trying this game, so one evening he, Cora, and I sat down together to look at it.

It was a lot for Cora, who is 7 years old.  It was a lot for Owen, at 9 years old, but he was in the mood for a challenge and was really willing to read through each scenario and description and make the right decision.

The first time he played, we worked together to figure out the steps and try to earn points for organizing statements of fact, opinion, and solution. We talked about the best ways to organize characters into groups of people who would agree with our decision and those who would disagree.

 

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills | teachmama.com

 

My friends, Quandary is not a game to start at 8:30 pm on a school night. It’s a game to play when your brain is sharp and your kids are in the mood for a little brain challenge.

Overall, Owen liked that:

  • the levels were fun;
  • there were different episodes to choose from;
  • the game helped him with problem-solving skills.

Owen wishes that:

  • there were more episodes (currently there are 3);
  • that it might be a little easier–it could be hard for younger kids.

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills

I liked that:

  • the game is free (yay! free is good!);
  • the game is totally different–a new and unique concept for kids;
  • the game is created to be used alongside kids–super starting point for discussion;
  • the game moved areas in the brain that are often dormant for kids.

The website covers a ton of FAQs for parents, and a very comprehensive FAQ section which I definitely had before exploring the platform. It’s also got a boatload of resources for teachers that would be super helpful for getting this game into the classroom. The possibilities are there, and I’d love to see this kind of discussion-based game be used more in that way.

Totally worth checking out. I’d love to hear what you think.

Think you’ll check it out? Let me know!

Have questions? Ask away! Or chat with the Quandary folks at @quandarygame on Twitter and or Quandary Facebook page.

 

fyi: This post reflects a collaboration with the Women Online and Quandary. All thoughts and opinions are, of course, my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my three gamers.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

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Magic is one of those things that totally intrigues kids.read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading
They want to know how the tricks work, they want to know why the tricks work, and they want to know as much as they can to trick their friends and family.
So when I saw that Melissa & Doug had a brand, new Magician Role Play Set, I knew that my kids would love it since they’re longtime fans of the other Magic Sets.
Cora learned first-hand recently how much time and effort magic takes to really get those tricks down.
But before long, she had our family–and her buddies–wondering how she was pulling that rabbit out of her hat.
Reading magic tricks gave her the chance to do some cool, fun, and totally focused reading.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Read Magic Tricks–Cool, Fun Focused Reading:

The teeny little magic instruction booklet that comes with this Magician Role Play Set is the perfect size for little hands, and the challenge of reading the text and following the instructions was just the right level for young readers.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

This kind of activity takes reading to a different level. No longer are kids reading for pleasure; rather, they’re reading to make something happen. They’re reading to follow directions and understand the actions they must take in order to trick their audience.

It’s not easy.

And we had to work a bit together to read the text, practice, and re-read to make sure we understood.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

The tricks are simple: pulling a rabbit out of the hat, making a coin disappear, and making a wand float in air.

And in that sense, I thought they were great for early readers like Cora.

After a lot of practice, she was able to perform.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

Brady and I loved the show!

And because she’s tricky like that, she was quick to take her show on the road. . .

. . . even if the road was only her brother’s soccer practice.  It didn’t matter. The kids loved it, and everyone wanted their turn with the cape, hat, and magic wand.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading | teachmama.com

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading | teachmama.com

Super cute.

The kids absolutely loved the challenge of reading the magic trick how-to book so that they can put on a magic show for others.

Huge thanks to Melissa & Doug for creating products that get our kids reading and thinking and sharing the excitement with others!

 read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

melissa doug blog ambassador button

 

fyi: I wrote this post as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program.   Melissa & Doug has long created rockstar products that nurture creativity and thought in our children, which is why I am so proud to be a part of this program.

As always, my opinions and ideas are my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator.  Affiliate links are used in this post which means that any time you click and purchase using these links, we get a teeny, tiny percentage which helps run this site and keep the content free for you.

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms  teachmama.comI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to Halloween class parties.

Haven’t these been held for years and years and years?

Right.

So why are we all searching around and surfing the internet and looking high and low for ideas?

Here’s everything you need for a rockstar Halloween class party.

All wrapped up in a pretty little package. Just click the links, add them to your cart, and it will all end up on your doorstep.

Print out the games, put on your witch hat (Come on. You better have a witch hat if you’re planning a Halloween class party for your kid!), and make your copies.

This party. Will. Rock.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halloween Party Ideas for Kids and Classrooms:

You cannot do this on your own. You need help.

Unless, of course, you are lucky enough to have a huge budget and tons of volunteers at your fingertips, you’ll need to solicit funds and help and then get this party moving on party day.

Plus, it’s tons more fun when you have other great parents helping.

Here’s everything you need to rock this party:

1. Get in touch with the teacher.  Tell him or her that you are the Room Parent and that you’re ready to rock this party. (Just kidding. . . )

But ask the teacher:

  • the timeframe for the party;
  • what he/she would like to do and when;
  • about any food allergies in the classroom;
  • to tell you anything and everything you need to know in order to plan a great party for the kids.

Then? You’re good to go.

2. Send out a class letter. Send a note introducing yourself and asking for H-E-L-P.

 

halloween party ideas for kids letter - 3

 

halloween party ideas for kids letter - 3

 

I like to have a little part on the paper where parents can cut (or rip) and send back to me telling me how they are able to help.

Or if you’re tech-savvy and want to use a service like VolunteerSpot, send the link to your event in the letter.

Feel free to use our letter–just change it for your own dates/ info: halloween party letter BLANK  or a word doc: halloween party letter BLANK

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

 

3. Send out a second class letter requesting contact information. Not even kidding.

Some parents might not return the letter because they’re not able to help with the party, and that’s cool.  This is new for me this year, but I’m hoping that it makes communication streamlined like never before.

halloween party ideas for kids letter - 3

Because teachers in my kids’ school cannot share parent emails, this is what we must do.

Even if parents aren’t into volunteering time, items, or money for the event, I want to keep them in the loop. Right?

You can download the Wanted: Contact information here: parent contact request wanted _ teachmama.com

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

 

4. Make a plan.  A party plan. Because for all of the parent helpers and the classroom teacher, they need to know what’s going on.

halloween party ideas for kids letter -| teachmama.com

Some pointers that make the party move smoothly:

  • have an easy activity that kids can do at their seats while others are getting into costumes: coloring pages, mazes, word search, or guess the word;
  • find a fun way of dividing class into smaller groups: have kids pick one of three different foamy stickers, have three different spider rings, etc;
  • make sure parents put snacks on plates while kids are on parade so that snacks are ready quickly;
  • give kids snack first because really, that’s all that most of them want;
  • provide a goodie bag at each game station that kids take from station to station;
  • have at least one group activity: freeze dance, hot pumpkin, pumpkin match, etc.

Here’s the plan we’re using this year:

halloween party ideas for kids letter -| teachmama.com

Feel free to use our party plan–just change it for your own dates/ info: halloween party plan 2014 or a word doc: halloween party plan 2014

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

 

5. Get everything you need for the party.

Delegate if you are able because some parents really want a job to do; they like to pick up water bottles, prizes, or cupcakes, so let them!

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

Here’s our shopping list with links for you to grab and have delivered to your doorstep:

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

 

6. Assign one volunteer to each game station:

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms  teachmama.com tick

 

Guess the Word: Play this while kids are eating.  It’s much like the one we did for our Valentine’s Day party last year, but this time it’s with Halloween words!

You can download Guess the Word (Halloween) here: halloween party word guess game

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

Game Stations:  (quick, 10-minute stations will keep the party movin!)

  • Stamp Games: Put the kids into pairs and let them play for this game station! Kids will grab a small Halloween stamper and use it as the pawn for the Bat Follow-the-Path game and then use it as a stamp for Tic-Tac-Toe!

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

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

Check out how we use Halloween Tic-Tac-Toe here: Halloween Printable Games

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

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

Check out how we use Bat Foll0w-the-Path here: Halloween Printable Games

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

  • Lego Match: Lego bricks and some Halloween inspiration is all you need for this one!

Check out the Halloween Lego Game post for more.

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party

  • Spider Web Craft: Paper plates, white yarn, and spiders. And crayon resist Halloween magic happens. No glue makes it super-simple, and if you encourage kids to use a little bit of water and paint on their brushes, the webs will dry fast enough to take home that day.

Check out the Spider Web Craft post for more.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com | easy halloween class party fun gets kids thinking and moving

Pumpkin Match:  Grab some pumpkin cut-outs and some black 2″ letters and numbers.

So fun and this will get kids up and moving!

We cannot wait to get this Halloween party started!!

What’s your go-to Halloween party plan for kids? What works? What do you, the kids, or the teacher love? Let me know!

Need some more ideas? Check out:

halloween-class-party-ideas-cover

 

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post, which only means that any time you purchase something using these links, we get a teeny, tiny percentage. thank you!

pumpkin match game

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

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pumpkin match game | teachmama.com | easy halloween class party fun gets kids thinking and moving

This game was surprisingly more difficult than I expected it would be for my 10, 9, and 7 year olds.

I don’t know if they were just not in the pumpkin-matching mindset or if they need more matching practice or if the pumpkin faces were just a wee bit too similar–but it took them a while to match the 24 pumpkins.

Hoping that it’s not too tough for a Halloween class party later this month because I think it would be and ideal way to get kids up and moving and thinking and interacting.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Pumpkin Match Game:

Pumpkin Match is super-simple, and it took all of several minutes to create.

I used one pack of pumpkin cut-outs, a pack of letter and number stickers, and that’s it.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

 

Though my initial plan was to create faces on the pumpkins using permanent markers, it didn’t work. The pumpkins were too glossy and the shapes got really grainy.

So instead I grabbed the letter and number stickers and went to work.

 

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

 

I used numbers for eyes and letters for mouths and cut here and there to try to make the silliest faces I possibly could. And they turned out super cute.

Then I cut the pumpkins straight down the middle. And I mixed them all up.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

Maddy, Owen, and Cora all had an absolute blast trying to find pairs in this simple Pumpkin Match Game.

I will definitely use this for future Halloween class parties, though I may mix things up a bit.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

 

Depending on class size, I may take the number of students, divide it in half and use that many pumpkins. Then I’ll give each student a pumpkin half and have them find their match.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

Whoops! This pumpkin above is not a match! 

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

Or I may:

  • give each student one piece of a pumpkin and have the other pieces hidden around the classroom to get them up and moving a bit;
  • use half of the pumpkins for round one and then introduce more pumpkins each round;
  • give each student two pieces and have them try to find the two people they ‘fit’ with;
  • take it outside and make it a pumpkin race–after they find their match, they race to put their finished pumpkin on the playground line or in a big circle: the pumpkin ‘patch’;
  • challenge the students to figure out which numbers and letters are hiding in their pumpkin’s faces;
  • place half of the pumpkins all around the playground or classroom floor and hand out the other half to the students and have them match up their pieces.

The possibilities are endless! Halloween is so much fun!!

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

fyi: I am proud to be a #staplesclassroom partner and received my pumpkin cut-outs from my friends at Staples.  This post was written as part of the #staplesclassroom campaign. Please check out my Staples post about rocking some fall classroom decorations.  

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party

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

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

Simple. Quick.

No glue. A little spider surprise. Big win.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Simple Spider Web Craft:

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

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

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

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party

So we went with paper plates and plastic spiders.

All you need for this are:

simple spider web craft perfect for Halloween class party 4

And it’s simple.

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

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

 

simple spider web craft perfect for Halloween class party 2

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

Affiliate links are used in this post.

 

 

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?