halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun

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

post contains affiliate links

 

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

I’m always on the hunt for fun ways to keep my kids engaged and interested and thinking creatively.

And when I find something that works, and it’s unplugged, creative fun, it’s a serious win.

Today after school, while Cora was working on homework and Maddy and Owen were recharging, I put them to work.

Why not, right? They’re young.

A few days ago, I ran across something on Pinterest that got me thinking.  Would it be possible for kids to design and build simple holiday-inspired objects out of Legos?  Could I give them just a little guidance and just a little inspiration and have them take it from there?

I was pretty impressed with what they came up with.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halloween Lego Game–Unplugged, Creative Fun:

First, I grabbed a ton of plain Lego bricks. I wanted just bricks.

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

 

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

 

No windows, flowers, wheels, or people.

Nothing fancy.

Just good, ole plain-Jane Lego bricks.

And really, this took the most time for me–separating Legos.

But I found some, and then I printed out two ‘inspiration sheets’. I grabbed one from my pal Allie’s site, on a post she wrote called Halloween Lego Challenge. The post is awesome, and I love the whole idea of building something for kids and having them do their best to build the same thing.

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

 

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

 

It’s a fantastic cognitive and fine-motor skill-builder, especially for little guys.

I also found inspiration from Geek Alerts; their Halloween Lego Set post actually shows the pieces they built from a set you can buy: Halloween Lego Set.

So I printed the sheets out and gave Maddy and Owen the challenge: build some Halloween-inspired things.

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

 

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

We talked about what those things could be–the objects on the sheets that I printed out or other things Halloween, like brooms, bats, hats, ghosts, monsters, ghouls, whatever.

And what they came up with was cute and simple.

I loved that they were using what was on the sheets as inspiration along with what we had to really come up with some cool things: a pumpkin, a ghost, a witch, candy corn, a hat, and a little Frankenstein monster.

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

 

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

 

Working with Legos in any capacity is a fabulous way for kids to get their brains moving and fine motor muscles working.  And whether they’re following instructions step by step or whether they are creating pieces on their own, it’s all good.

It all rocks.

My longer-term idea was to have this Lego challenge be a part of Cora’s class Halloween party–but that’s a whole other story coming a few days down the road.

But much like the inspiration sheets I printed and gave to Maddy and Owen to get them started, I want to do the same for the kids in Cora’s class.

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

 

If you want to print out the Halloween Lego Scramble sheets–little pictures of Halloween items that just about any kid can make with just about any regular set of Lego blocks–you can print it out here: halloween lego game _ teachmama.com

Huge and happy thanks for sharing them if you’d like, but please direct folks to this post rather than the attachment page. 

My goal is to use it as an inspiration for small groups during the Halloween class party this month.

 

Some other ideas for making Halloween Lego-building fun: 

  • add a timer and make it a timed copy and build;
  • share a card and have everyone try to make their own version of the item at the same time;
  • take turns flipping a card and building the item;
  • have kids take pictures of their own Halloween items and add them to the cards!

 

 

fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post which means that many of the links will take you to amazon, and if you purchase the item, teachmama.com will get a teeny, tiny percentage. It all helps, and we appreciate it!

Huge and happy thanks to Allie of No Time for Flashcards and to the team at Geek Alerts for sharing their Halloween Lego posts. 

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

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!

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~

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

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

Dream Car of the Day: A unique Vine campaign celebrating the 90 finalists of the 8th Toyota Dream Car Art Contest

This post is brought to you by Toyota.

 

It’s no secret that most kids are highly influenced by their peers. dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

Too often, parents forget that their children’s classmates can be a totally positive ‘push’ for our kids.  Sometimes, our children aren’t even aware of what they can do until they see one of their peers do it.

My Maddy had no clue what her body could do on the diving board until she watched a teammate flip and turn, and then she was determined to do the same.

Owen was pushed harder to excel in soccer by playing a year above his age group for the last two years.

Cora never believed she could glide smoothly across the ice until she decided to do the same as her classmates in ice-skating class last year.

So when I heard about Toyota’s Dream Car of the Day, a Vine campaign celebrating the 90 finalists of the 8th Toyota Dream Car Art Campaign, I was eager to share them with my own kids.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Dream Car of the Day–A Cool Look at the Car of the Future: Really, the creativity, thought, and innovation behind some of these designs is crazy.

For the last eight years, Toyota Sales & Marketing Corporation has hosted the Toyota Dream Car Art Contest which allows children from all regions and cultures to share ideas about the future of mobility and how cars can make the world a better place.

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

Hundreds of thousands of children from across the globe have submitted original artworks depicting their “dream car”, but the coolest part of this contest, in my opinion, is what they’ve done for the 90 finalists.

This  year, Toyota is highlighting the contest online through a first-of-its-kind Vine campaign, Dream Car of the Day.

Each of the 90 children who have been selected as finalists have been spotlighted as the hero for a day, and their dreams will be made into reality for all to see through animation: 

To bring the artists’ imaginations to life, Toyota has partnered with creative agency Saatchi & Saatchi Fallon Tokyo for the Dream Car of the Day campaign to transform 2D drawings into 2D and 3D animations, capturing each dream car in action with a 6 second Vine video.


These videos, like the one above, are incredibly cool. The 90 finalists seriously must feel like superstars.

What is amazing is the work that went into animating these dream car designs so that the integrity of the masterpiece wasn’t compromised.   Honestly one of the coolest things ever. 

 

 

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

 

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

 

But it gets even more cool: the 31 best finalists have been sent on a 5 day trip to Japan for the awards ceremony, where they also receive the opportunity to tour the Toyota factory and experience Japanese culture. (How crazy is that??!)

The kids and their families are in Tokyo now and will gather to hear the winners announced this Tuesday (Wednesday in Japan). Curious to find out the winner? Check the Dream Car Twitter page for the big reveal!

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

 

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

 

Maddy, Owen, and Cora each sat mesmerized at the screen as they scrolled through the entries.

They. Are. Incredible.

Here are some of our favorites, though they are all cool:  

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

************************
Personally, I’ll take the Multi-Tasking Fun Car, thankyouverymuch:

************************
And even though the contest is over, and they’re no longer accepting entries for this year’s contest, Maddy still felt the need to get her drawing and designing on.

She checked out dozens of cars on the Dream Car of the Day site, and then she grabbed some paper and some pencils. 

I’m pretty sure she’s counting down the days until the next Toyota Dream Car Art Contest. . .

 

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

dream car of the day: cool look at the car of the future

I have a feeling that it’s something she’ll be working on for a while. . .

. . . Japan, here we come! (We can dream, right?)

Want to stay on top of next year’s Dream Car Art Contest?  Entries open soon! Stay updated at Toyota Dream Car Art Contest.

 

I’m curious. What would your dream car have or do?

Mine? It’d have to be able to self-clean.  Man, does Vanny McVannerson get dirty quickly with three kids in and out all of the time!

 

fyi: This is a sponsored post. I was asked by Toyota to share information about the Dream Car of the Day, and I gladly did. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my three little dream-car designers.

sleepover at the national archives: 3 reasons your family will love it

national archives sleepover teachmama.com

We did it.national archives sleepover  teachmama.com

We slept at the National Archives.

The National Archives Museum in Washington, DC.

Slept. In the museum. All night long.

With sleeping bags and pillows all bundled up in the famous rotunda.  Snoozing near the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

So crazy, right? So fun.

The super-cool thing is that there will be more sleepovers at the National Archives in the next few months, and you can go.

And? I’ve got a discount for you for you to use at the National Archives store if a sleepover’s not your thing.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Sleepover at the National Archives–3 Reasons Your Family Will Love It:

The National Archives Museum Sleepover was the perfect amount of time: 6:30pm -8:30am.

national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

Our schedule Saturday:

7:15 — orientation

7:45-9:15 –activity stations and snacks (activities included a scavenger hunt, crafts, games, dancing, learning about explorers, and more)

9:20-10:10 — interview an explorer

10:15-10:45 — storytime and movies

10:15-10:45 — get ready for bed

11:00 — lights out!

*****

Our schedule Sunday:

7:15-8:30 — breakfast

7:30-9:00 — historic chocolate demonstration

8:00-8:30 — trivia game

9:00 — departure

national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

It was an evenly timed event. Just enough activity mixed with just enough time to move at our own pace and enjoy the event.

Here are three reasons I’m betting your family will love the event, too:

 national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

1. You will learn a few cool things about our country’s history.

The focus of our sleepover was Heroes, History, & Treasures, so we learned a bunch about Matthew Henson, Meriwether Lewis, and Louise Arner Boyd-three heroes of exploration–along with others and their contributions to our country.

Throughout the night, all of our activities in some way reflected the Heroes, History, & Treasures theme.  Adventurers and explorers, and all the cool stuff they find.

national archives sleepover |photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover |photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

You know I love life when things are organized like this in a pretty little package.

We spent time in the Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures exhibit, and our scavenger hunt took place here. It was a fun and interactive way to experience it.

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

national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

2. You will find activities that speak to each person in your family.

As an educator, I’m always aware of the fact that each person has different learning needs, and those needs can vary greatly within families.

One person learns best by doing; another learns best by listening. Others may learn best by reading or watching. We’re all different that way.

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

national archives sleepover |photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

So the music and singing, the dancing, the hands-on games and drama, mixed with the reading and watching that we did was the ideal recipe for learning and fun.

Some individual activities and some group activities. It was a great mix.

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

national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

3.  You will have a truly unforgettable experience.  

Undoubtedly, a sleepover at the National Archives is something your family will never forget.

From the anticipation leading up to the event to the event itself, your kids will feel connected to one of the most important buildings in our Nation’s Capital.

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

The small group–100 participants total–really allows you to feel like you’re an integral part of the event. Any time we had a question, there were at least two or three Archives workers there to assist us.

I loved having so many hands in the kitchen; it made me feel like there were a lot of eyes on our kids–which made me feel so much more at ease.

And having all children be between the ages of 8-12 years old means that for the most part, all of the kids were on the same playing field.

 

national archives sleepover |photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

We met a bunch of great people from–surprisingly–all around our country.  Most families were from the DC Metro area, but some came as far north as Maine or as far west as California!

It was a really cool experience.

national archives sleepover | photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

 

The Archivist of the United States, Honorable David S. Ferriero, made pancakes for us in the morning!

He had some help, but to be honest, his chocolate chip pancakes were fabulous! (And you want to know why I really like the AOTUS? He writes a blog!)

 

archives sleepover AOTUS pancakes

 

 

Check out more photos from the National Archives sleepover (August 2014): 

 

What would I suggest that families do if they’re planning on attending? 

  • Definitely read the information from the National Archives about what to bring for the sleepover. And bring what they suggest!
  • Have some easy way of transporting your sleeping bag, pillow, overnight bag. Whether a loved one drops  you off at the building and then picks you up in the morning or if you simply arrange all of your gear in a simple way, do it. The hardest part for Maddy, Owen, and me was the walk from the parking garage to the Archives and then from the Archives to the parking garage in the morning.

 

national archives sleepover | photo from u.s. national archives

 

  • Look for an overnight garage. We also didn’t plan this part well, so we had to do a little city driving and searching before the event. We ended up using LAZ parking at 616 E St. for about $45, but definitely check best parking to find what will be best for you.
  • Consider bringing earplugs. Seriously. I can sleep anywhere, any time. But lighter sleepers may need these.
  • Bring books or something for the kids to read before bed. I totally forgot these, and though I can fall asleep anywhere, any time, Maddy and Owen needed their books. #momfail
  • Prepare your kids. Even if it’s just a little bit. I printed out a bunch from the National Archives website, and we simply had it around to read and talk about in the days leading up to the event. I wanted the kids to have an idea about why this building was important and what we’d see when we were there.

national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

 

And now? If you’re interested in attending the next sleepover, visit the National Archives Sleepover page.  The next one is scheduled for October 18, 2014.

If the sleepover isn’t your thing, then do some shopping! Check out the National Archives store– myarchivesstore.org –and use the code 14SLEEP14 for a 15% discount on your purchases until 8/15/14. Enjoy!

The feather pen in the picture above? My kids have been rockin’ them for the last few days, doing what they can to make their mark. Grab one at the Archives store!

Pretty cool if you ask me!

 

Stay connected:

What questions do you have? I’d love to help! 

 

fyi: I was given three tickets to the National Archives August sleepover in exchange for sharing my honest opinions in a blog post and via social media. As always, opinions are my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my two little explorers.  

History, Heroes & Treasures is supported by the Foundation for the National Archives; John Hancock Financial; Ridgewells Catering; Control Video; American Heritage Chocolate; Mars, Incorporated; The Coca-Cola Company; Minute Maid; and DASANI.

Many of the photos (most unwatermarked) in this post are from the National Archives and are in the public domain. 

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

what to do with swim ribbons  teachmama.com.pngOur swim and dive season has been over now for two weeks, but we’ve done more post-season celebrating this year than ever before.

Usually, as soon as we wrap up the banquet, swim ribbons get shoved in a drawer, meet caps get put away, and trophies are given a home on the bedroom shelf.

And then we move quickly into part two of our summer: everything after swim and dive.

Swim and dive season comes and goes–just like that.  Fast and furious and then bam. Over.

But this year, we decided to carry on the celebration a little longer by parading the awesome throughout our house.

Instead of piling up those ribbons and finding them a home on a shelf or in a drawer, we created a gorgeous swim ribbon garland.

It’s beautiful. And it’s simple, and it’s the story of the kids’ swim and dive season.

Here’s the skinny. .  .

  • Swim Ribbon Garland–What to do with Summer Swim Ribbons: I do need to clarify something.

 

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

 

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

 

The Swim Ribbon Garland was not created to brag.

It was not created to be competitive or bratty or nasty.

It was created to celebrate our kids’ accomplishments throughout the season and to remind them that hard work pays off.

That’s it.

 

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

 

And though it was super-simple to make, it turned out really, really pretty.

And it’s been the focus of many conversations that are totally worth having:

  • Can you believe how much you improved over the season?
  • Remember how nervous you were for your first IM but how proud you felt after finishing?
  • This was the meet you surprised everyone–including you!–and came in first place!
  • That was the longest afternoon ever, but you worked hard and got through it!
  • Even though you disqualified in this event, you still shook everyone’s hand after the race.
  • [Another swimmer friend] beat you in this race by less than a second; I know you were disappointed to lose, but you never once acted like a sore loser. 

 

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

 

To make the swim ribbon garland, we simply grabbed a large needle and some embroidery thread (the kind we use to make friendship bracelets). The needle was large enough to fit the thread through but small enough to fit under the tiny top of the ribbons.

I asked Maddy, Owen, and Cora if they wanted their ribbons arranged in any particular way–by color, date, award, etc. Only Cora had an order preference, so she put hers in order, and I strung them from her direction.

 

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

 

Because Cora had significantly fewer ribbons this year compared to Maddy and Owen, we added some of her ribbons from last year. Not a big deal.

She knew where they were, she grabbed them, and we added them. Done and done.

Thinking about the possibilities for ‘sideline’ learning with the swim ribbon garland has me nearly nutty. We can talk about:

  • total number of first, second, third, etc. awards;
  • total number of awards;
  • which person has more of each color;
  • who has the most (and least) amount of (color, score, etc.);
  • total time in each event;
  • amount of time gained/ lost throughout season;
  • so many ideas!

 

And really? That’s it. Just a quickie, fun, no-sew way to remind your child of how special he is.

What do YOU do with your kids’ ribbons? Let us know! Happy sewing and stringing those ribbons!

 

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

 

 

summer fun for older kids: tabletop surprises

summer fun for older kids: tabletop surprises

summer fun for older kids: teachmama.com tabletop surprises

I say it’s ‘summer fun for older kids’ only because my kids are no longer toddlers or preschoolers–they’re big-time elementary schoolers.

They know what they want, and they’ve been totally digging our tabletop surprises.

It’s hard for me to believe that my kids are really ‘big kids’, but they really are.  Maddy is a rising 5th grader, Owen’s a rising 3rd grader, and Cora is (gasp!) starting 2nd grade in the fall. 

No more babies, toddlers, or preschoolers. No more Kindergarten anxiety. Now we’re all into chapter books, writing stories, and mastering math facts.

We’re also now moving quickly toward school-mode and even did our back-to-school shopping on Monday, after the kids and I shopped, charted, and searched for the best prices around.  And though our week this week was broken by a trip to Nanny and Pap’s house, we did manage to keep up with our tabletop surprises, even if we rocked some mazes in the car en route.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Summer Fun for Older Kids–Tabletop Surprises:

A quickie re-cap of the week. Be sure to follow us on instagram as we share our daily adventures!

monday:

back-to-school shopping! having the kids figure out the BEST place for deals and steals = real-world math at its finest! #tabletopsurprises #summer #timeisflying #backtoschool

tuesday:

art! and playing with some of the coolest museum websites around! #tabletopsurprises #summer #familyfun #art

 

 

wednesday:

mazes, mazes, mazes! #tabletopsuprises #summer #familyfun

 

 

thursday:

a free ticket to get dirty in the summer #tabletopsuprises #summer #freeplay #play

 

 

friday:

slow start to our day but we’re getting there. . .rainy, gray day will hopefully be brighter with our own watercolor rainbows #tabletopsuprises #summer #creativekids #momsofinstagram #familyfun

 

Check out all the fun we’re having this summer! 

Follow along on Instagram and leave YOUR user name in the comments so we can follow YOUR #tabletopsurprises adventures!

 

Want the skinny on #tabletopsurprises? Wonder what in the world I’m talking about?

Check it out:

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backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

reading under the stars  teachmama.com.png

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reading under the stars | teachmama.comSummer is in full swing, and what better way to really rock it out in the summertime than by camping?

Not for real camping, my friends–I’m talking backyard camping.

In my book, backyard camping counts. Especially if you’re not all that much of an outdoorsy family.

We have been talking about backyard camping for awhile now, so I decided to surprise the kids with a tent.  Not a huge tent, but a 6-person, easy-to-assemble, totally affordable tent.

Because we really rocked it out with our spring break trip to Disneyland, we are laying low this summer, and no biggie beach trip means that we’ve got to be creative with our summertime fun.

So creative we were.

We set up the tent, made some s’mores, and did some reading under the stars until we . . . decided to come back in the house and sleep in our beds.

It’s hard really roughing it with backyard camping.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Backyard Camping and Reading Under the Stars–Summer Reading at its Best:

We invited some friends over during the afternoon for a playdate and a tent set-up. They loved it. Playing in the tent was a huge hit for the whole neighborhood crew.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

The afternoon was spent playing in the tent, so really the kids spent the greater part of the day excited about our ‘camp out’.

They played campout. They had snacks in the tent. They played games in the tent. After dinner, at about 6:30pm, Maddy, Owen, and Cora brought sleeping bags and pillows into the tent along with their EVEREADY® flashlights, lovies and books.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

They knew that part of the reason we were doing our serious backyard campout was because we wanted to have a chance to read under the stars, just like the Scholastic Read Under the Stars summer reading challenge they were doing.

Really, the reading’s been happening all summer. It was the camping that was totally new.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

We had s’mores. We danced a little. We were ready for a campout.

We were all cozy in the tent, teeth brushed, dirty feet tucked into sleeping bags, listening to the crickets and the owls and the distant barking dogs when all heck broke loose.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

The chaos began.

The storm had arrived.

The tides were a’ changing.

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

Cora started crying because the Maddy was too close to her and because the window panel was hanging down by her arm and it wouldn’t stay tucked into the wall.

And then Maddy started getting angry because Cora was not being nice.  And so when Cora yelled, I WANT TO GO SLEEP IN MY BEEEEEDDDDD! Maddy said she wanted to sleep in her own bed, too.

And then Owen said, I want to go inside to sleep too. I don’t want to sleep out here anymore.

 

backyard camping and reading under the stars: summer reading at its best

 

And so yep.

At 9pm, right after my husband had put his feet up and settled comfortably into a show and a snack, thinking his family was out back sleeping peacefully and that he had a quiet house to himself, the troops came marching in.

Sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, flashlights, and books in tow, and a lonely tent out back.

Poor confused Brady was happy to have his family in the house again.  Cora was happy, Maddy was happy, Owen was happy, and I was happy. Back in the cool air conditioning, dirty feet in their own beds, flashlights on and open books in hands.

And? The kids spent the entire next day in the tent.

And what I realized is that we’re not failures or big losers for trying the backyard camping thing and not actually following through; we are winners for trying it. Right? I mean, we came close, didn’t we? We kind of had the experience and maybe we’ll try it again?

I don’t know. The cool thing? The kids were reading. Books and summer reading was a natural part of our attempted backyard campout, so that’s what counts.

reading under the stars

Logo

 

Huge and happy thanks to Scholastic for always coming up with cool themes and ideas for their Summer Reading Challenge and for partnering with us for this post series. This year’s Summer Reading theme is Reading Under the Stars, and is powered by EVEREADY®, the maker of batteries and flashlights, to encourage families to discover new and fun ways to explore reading outside this summer.

 

 

fyi: I am happy to share my experience with our backyard campout as part of a sponsored campaign.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my three little kinda-campers and summertime readers.

Affiliate links are used within.

the fox and the crane: shadow puppets with printables

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

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

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

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

Huge and happy thanks, Liska!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The-Fox-and-the-Crane-printables

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other articles by Adventure in a Box you might enjoy:

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

 

 Thank you, thank you, thank you, Liska!

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

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

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

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

Simply submit your idea to us! Easy peasy!

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

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

other posts in the series:

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

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

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

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

Like our kids always must be doing something.

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

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

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

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

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

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

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

And I still often get emails and questions:

How can parents set kids up for free time outdoors? 

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

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

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

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

 

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

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

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

 

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

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

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

 

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

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

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

tweet with Mosquito Squad (find your local branch and connect from there!)

@MosquitoMDsquad   |  Facebook chat with Mosquito Squad 

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