easy, homemade new year’s eve shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

homemade party shakers

Any time we can use recyclables for learning or play, it’s a win in my book.

So each year as New Year’s Eve approaches, we clean out our recycle bin and put some of those small containers to use for easy, homemade shakers!

All you need are a few containers, beads, and ribbon, and you and your kiddos will be rockin’ and rollin’, shakin; and celebrating on New Year’s Eve—or any time of the year.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Easy, Homemade New Year’s Eve Shakers:  Really, we’ve been making these for years and take them to every New Year’s Eve shindig we’re invited to.

easy homemade new years shakers

We often leave them at the party or make enough for every child to have one. Maddy, Owen, and Cora love making them because they’re simple and easy to personalize.

All you’ll need are a few things.

easy homemade new years shakers

You’ll need:

  • Clean, dry recyclables (from applesauce or fruit cups, yogurt or jell-o)
  • Beads or anything that will make sounds when shaken
  • Baubles or anything fun (small silk flowers, jewels, etc)
  • Ribbon
  • Hot glue (this is a job for adults!)

What we do first is dump out all of the containers and play match-up.  Have the kids find pairs of every container. It’s not necessary that the pieces match exactly, but it makes gluing them easier.

easy homemade new years shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

Then fill!  Add beads and baubles to one container, and have fun with it!  The container need not be totally filled. Fill only about ¼ of the way full so there’s room to shake and make some noise.

Once the kids have filled the bottom of their shaker,  it’s time to  glue!  I hot glued around the perimeter of the container and then secured the other container, rim to rim.  The hot glue should seal the edges so that when it is shaken, the beads will stay in.

easy homemade new years shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

Then add ribbon.

The kids can choose a ribbon from our ribbon box, and I add it to the middle of the shaker, where both containers meet. I secured it with hot glue.

And that’s it.

easy homemade new years shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

Make them fancy, make them plain.

Make them out of two containers or make them out of one—it doesn’t matter. Though if I do make a shaker out of another recyclable with a lid, I’m sure to hot glue the top shut so that a little guy won’t grab it, open it, and try to eat those beads.

I love giving the kids a challenge when it comes to making these. Sometimes I’ll see if they can make:

-single colored shakers

-bi-colored shakers

-black & white shakers

-flower garden shaker

-rainbow themed shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

It’s fun. And if we can add a little learning to the mix, why not?

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2014 full of fun and learning!

Need some more fun New Year’s ideas?

Check out:

holiday card stencils and balloon stamps

holiday stencils and balloon painting

holiday stencils and balloon painting cover

Thank you Dollar Tree and the Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club for making this post possible!  

This year, we’re spicing our holiday cards up a bit.

For the past few years, our cards have become super-quick assembly line of envelope-stuffing, sealing, and stamping. Even our address labels are stickers.

This time, we’re spicing our cards up a bit. Actually, some help from Dollar Tree, we’re spicing up our holiday card envelopes.  That’s right—the very first thing our friends and family will see from us, and it’s going to be totally rockstar.

We’re taking the Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club craft, Balloon Painting, to a whole new level.

We’ve made super-simple stencils from Dollar Tree posterboard and a stamper out of Dollar Tree balloons. A few swirls of poster paint and a bit of time to dry, and we have very simply added a pretty, festive, fancy touch to our holiday cards.


Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Holiday Card Stencils and Balloon Stamps:

holiday stencils balloon painting

holiday stencils balloon painting

Really, all we did was slightly modify the super-easy steps on the Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club Balloon Painting tutorial and change our colors.

This is a holiday craft that my kiddos loved because though they stuff our holiday cards every year, this year, the fun factor was a bit higher. We all had more fun looking at our blinged out envelopes compared to the plain-Jane white envelopes of holidays past.

No matter what you put inside your holiday cards this year, it’s what you put on the outside of your card that will get people talking.

holiday stencils balloon painting

You’ll need:

  • Blank envelopes
  • Poster paint
  • Balloons
  • Disposable plate and knife
  • one piece of poster board

holiday stencils balloon painting

1.  First, we created holiday-inspired stencils. We wanted small and simple, and we wanted three basic designs.  We made a tree, a star, and a package.

Want some Holiday Stencils so you can do some balloon painting? You can download the stencil template here: wintertime holiday stencils

2.  Then we cut out the shapes on the posterboard.

3.  Then we dropped paint. We put coordinating paint blobs on a disposable plate: yellow, green and blue for the tree; red, purple, and white for the package; and yellow and orange for the star.

The kids slightly, ever so gently swirled the paint on the plate with a knife to blend the colors.

holiday stencils balloon painting

4.  Next came the balloons! We partially blew up a few balloons, and this is what Maddy, Owen, and Cora loved. We talked about how the balloon needed to be just the right size so that we could hold it without slipping and so it wouldn’t pop as we stamped it.

5.  Finally, we stamped, stamped, and stamped some more!  We used the balloons as stamps, filling in the holiday stencils on the front of each envelope.

holiday stencils balloon painting

holiday stencils balloon painting


holiday stencils balloon painting

holiday stencils balloon painting

We let the envelopes dry completely.

And that’s it—so quick and so simple, but a really extra-special touch to holiday cards.

Don’t have time to balloon paint your holiday card envelopes? No problem!

holiday stencils balloon painting

Consider using Holiday Card Stencils and Balloon Stamps to:

  • make your holiday cards
  • make holiday gift tags
  • decorate holiday gift bags
  • make simple holiday ornaments

The possibilities are endless, though the craft is so simple!

holiday stencils balloon painting finished


Contest is closed as of 12/26/13. . . winner chosen by random.org is Tara Z.

GIVEAWAY: $100 Dollar Tree gift card

Do you want to win $100 Dollar Tree gift card??!  Yes, yes you do.

  • Then leave a comment below sharing which project from the club you want to try first.


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

This giveaway ends Thursday, December 26, 2013 at midnight ET. Winner will be chosen by  and will be notified on or around 12/26/13.  Winner must respond within one (1) day of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

fyi: This post was made possible by a partnership between Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club and The Blueprint Social.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and my three little holiday-crafters.


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


holiday party kid activities: 3 secrets to success #mykindofholiday

holiday 101 kid activities teachmama for #targetinnercircle

holiday 101 kid activities

As part of Target’s Inner Circle, a few of us are participating a super-fun holiday party series: Holiday Party 101.

We’re writing about everything from invitations to desserts, hostess gifts to playlists.

I’ve got kids’ activities covered over here today. Woot!

Actually, I’m covering holiday party kid activities and the three secrets to success you’ll want to know so that any time you’re in charge of making the party really rock for kids, you will know exactly what to do.

Every holiday party that involves families with children of mixed ages needs some special kid-happy activities. Otherwise, while the parents are chatting, eating, and sipping their fancy-schmancy holiday drinks, it won’t be all that much fun for the kids.

But because most parties have a wide range of children attending, it’s difficult to plan games or activities that fit every child’s needs.  What the best parties follow are three secrets to kid-happy, kid-activity success.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Holiday Party 101 — Kids’ Activities: Party hosts must adhere to the following guidelines in order to make kid activities totally awesome for everyone–from those littles toddling around to the tweens lost without their mobile devices.

The goal is to:

1.  Keep it simple.  Everyone likes simple.

holiday party 101 kids' activities


holiday party 101 kids' activities


  • enlisting some of the older kids to ‘take charge’ of the kid activity table;
  • keeping all the activities in one area, on one or two tables;
  • putting glue or small objects at one table for older kids and basic crayons, markers, and paper at another so that the little guys stay safe.


2.  Provide options. The ideal is to have a few open-ended activities that each child can take to his or her own level.

target kid made modern nyc

holiday party 101 kids' activities

holiday party 101 kids' activities


  • making some finished projects to display;
  • start some projects but leave them unfinished on the table so that someone can pick it up and finish;
  • having some supplies for both open-ended projects along with 1 or 2 projects that are more specific.

Putting the Stretched Canvases out along with the Watercolor Kit is great for open-ended art.


3.  Make it inviting. Creating an ‘invitation to play’ is the goal here. With an inviting spot to sit down and craft, kids of all ages will want to give it a try.

holiday party 101 kids' activities

target kid made modern nyc

holiday party 101 kids' activities


  • setting out supplies in trays or open containers so kids can see what’s available;

I love the Flourescent Pattern Pad, the Double Pointed Crazy Crayons, the Fuzzy Sticks & Beads, the Printed Tape, and the Crayon Gems.

  • having kid-happy snacks close by so everyone can refuel when necessary;
  • putting the kids’ activities in a well-lit area of the home and turning on some holiday music;

holiday party 101 kids' activities

holiday party 101 kids' activities


Last week, I had the chance to visit Todd Oldham’s studio in NYC, and I learned that much of his Kid Made Modern line for Target is absolutely perfect for just about any time but specifically for some holiday party creative crafting for young party-goers.

Check out some of our photos from the event and please look forward to more Kid Made Modern posts in the next few weeks. It’s a really smart line!


What ideas do you have for keeping kids busy during holiday parties? Let us know!


fyi: This post was created as part of my collaboration with Target, the #MyKindofHoliday campaign, and Target Inner Circle. As always, the thoughts and ideas are my own. Like some of these rockstar holiday crafts from Kid Made Modern? (So do I!) Check ’em out at your local Target store.

Please check out all of the Holiday 101 posts from other Target Inner Circle members below:

k-cup advent calendar: make it a thoughtful, thankful holiday

kcup advent calendar

post contains affiliate links




kcup advent calendar We’re longtime fans of the advent calendar and and longtime fans of coffee.

When we stepped up our game last year and sprung for a Keurig, every day became a little more awesome, starting our day with a rockin’ cuppa java.  But those discarded k-cups?

As a longtime lover of recyclables, my guilt at adding to our world’s landfills started to grow exponentially with each tossed k-cup.

So for the past few months, I’ve been racking my brain for ways to use our empty k-cups for crafts and learning. Much like we’ve used recyclables in the past, I knew they would come in handy.


We’ve got a lot of things brewing, but most timely, is of course, our diy k-cup advent calendar.

Super-cute, inexpensive, homemade advent calendar using k-cups.  Bam.

We love how it turned out. I’m confident that this sweet calendar will help us to keep this advent season a thoughtful, thankful one for our whole family.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • K-Cup Advent Calendar–Make it a Thoughtful, Thankful Holiday:

Though it looks a little involved, you can pull this diy k-cup advent calendar together in a fraction of the time it will take you to gather 24 empty k-cups.



kcup advent calendar teachmama.com

Each little cup holds 3 things: a kiss, the day’s advent activity, and a little reminder to be thankful.

So start collecting.  Brew yourself a cafe mocha or a pumpkin spice coffee, and read on.  Then get crafting.

You’ll need:

Once you’ve got your supplies together, you’re ready to go.

1. Clean your k-cups: Cleaning them is a cinch.

For coffee k-cups:


kcup advent calendar cleaning kcups

For hot chocolate k-cups:kcup hot chocolate cleaning


Let them dry completely.kcup advent calendar teachmama.com


2. Create your advent activity calendar.  We use the same basic one each year–our advent activity calendar.  It’s a holiday-time calendar that includes tons of our favorite holiday activities, like cookie-baking, gift-making, and carol-singing while giving us ample opportunities to reflect, give back, and be thankful.

You can download our advent activity calendar 2013 here as a easy, quick printable or as an advent activity calendar 2013 word doc that you can modify and make your own.

Be sure to print out two copies–one that you can keep as a reference and the other that you can cut.  Each day of advent will have one square of the calendar tucked inside.

3. Make your tree.  Your tree is what your k-cups will rest on, and it needs to be sturdy enough to survive your kids’ handling.

kcup advent calendar tree

  • Make your cardboard tree. Each of our sides are 18″, and the bottom is 10″. Our tree trunk is midway between the bottom, and it’s 3 1/2″ long and 2 3/4″ high.
  • Cut three cardboard trees. Remember, the tree needs to be thick.

kcup advent calendar tree

  • Using the duct tape, tape your tree together.
  • Grab your ribbon and loop it then staple it to the back of the tree.

4.  Make your thankful discs. I used my Fiskars medium squeeze punch for my circles, but you could totally use anything. I cut 24 discs out of our cardstock, and then I walked over to our Thankful Graffiti Board and copied exactly what I saw there onto the circles.

kcup advent calendar grateful disc

kcup advent calendar grateful disc

kcup advent tree - 44

I wanted our family to remember what we expressed gratitude for through November into the whirlwind that sometimes is December, and I knew that after the treat was taken out and advent activity taken, we’d have a whole lot of time to stare at empty cups.  Here’s to hoping the thankful discs are a pretty, simple reminder of all of the greatness in our lives.

5. Cut tissue paper circle and number them. Trace the open end of a k-cup onto tissue paper and cut it out. Then cut 23 more circles all the same size. Number each circle from 1-24.

kcup advent calendar teachmama.com

kcup advent calendar teachmama.com

Each number represents a day in the month of December.

kcup advent calendar teachmama.com

kcup advent calendar teachmama.com

kcup advent calendar teachmama.com


6. Assemble your diy k-cup advent calendar!

kcup advent calendar how to

  • Use a tiny dab of hot glue to secure the thankful disc to the inside of each k-cup.
  • Using the pushpins, pin each k-cup into the tree. The rows should be: 1 k-cup; 2 k-cups; 3 k-cups; 3 k-cups; 4 k-cups; 4 k-cups; 5 k-cups; 2 k-cups. If you measured your tree the same way I did, your cups should fit tightly together.

kcup advent calendar how to


kcup advent calendar how to

kcup advent calendar how to

  • Load ’em up! Put the correct advent activity in each day along with a Hershey’s Kiss into each cup.
  • Make 5-6 tiny dots of hot glue around the circumference of each k-up and secure the tissue paper on it.

kcup advent calendar how to

kcup advent calendar how to

Hang, and you are ready to rock and roll!

 kcup advent calendar how to

 kcup advent calendar

And that’s it!

We think it’s pretty cool.

Look forward to other ideas down the road for using k-cups.  And feel free to share your own–let’s put those little guys to good use, shall we?

Happy, healthy, peaceful advent season to you!



fyi: affiliate links are used in this post


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

best gifts for kids and families 2013: teachmama’s picks

kids and family gift guide from teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links



I’m always surprised when the holiday catalogs roll around at how many new toys hit the shelves each year. kids and family gift guide

It’s a wonder that any of us are able to make decisions when there is so much to choose from.

I am truly thankful, though, that I have the opportunity to try out some of these great toys throughout the year and actually get a insider’s look at some of the cool things on the market. It really helps me make decisions for my own kiddos, and from your feedback, it has helped you make decisions for yours.  Yay!

So here’s the official teachmama Gift Guide for Kids & Family 2013. My Maddy is 9, Owen is 8, and Cora is 6 years old.

It’s full of items we love and have used in the past few years as well as items that are on our list for this season.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • teachmama’s Gift Guide for Kids & Family 2013: these are just some of our faves and some ideas for more creative and thoughtful gifts this holiday season.

I’ve used affiliate links throughout which means that you’re linking directly to the products I’m talking about and if you choose to buy them using my link, a teeny, tiny little cut will go back to teachmama.com. (Thanks for using them!)

 teachmama gift guide game players


Gift picks for gamey game player: This year we’re still playing many of our faves from last year’s Gift Guide, but we’re loving. . .

  • Laser Maze: (for ages 8+, by ThinkFun)  Think Rush Hour times 100. Laser Maze is a logic game with mirrors, lasers, and mazes. It’s about plowing your way through a series of challenge cards, trying to set the stage for the laser to get from point a to point b. Not easy. But totally fun.
  • Spot-It: (for ages 7+, by Blue Orange Games)  Cora and her buddies who were 5 and up played this game at the pool all. Summer. Long. Actually, all of the kids played this game while waiting for swim meets, on cloudy days, or pretty much any time they needed a break from swimming. This matching game requires sharp eyes and quick reflexes, and up to 8 people can play at a time, so it’s great for groups.  Go old school Spot-It, or try Spot-It Junior Animals, Spot-It ABC, Spot-It Major League Baseball, Spot-It Educational Sets, & more.
  •  Yahtzee: (for ages 8+, by Hasbro) We love it. Absolutely love this dice game of luck, computation, and strategy. A real hit of the pool this summer, Owen got this for his birthday in August, and it’s still a fave.  Huge thanks to my friend Heather, who got us all hooked.
  • Connect Four: (for ages 6+, by Hasbro) An oldie but goodie. We have been on a major Connect Four kick over here. We even busted it out for a double family game night a few weeks back, and I’m not lying when I say that Owen almost beat everyone in the house. Go, O!
  • Chess: (for ages 5+) Chess. Our chess board is old, broken, and missing a pawn, so we’ve been using a mouse from Feed the Kitty.  Along with How to Beat Your Dad at Chess, by Murray Chandler and  this combo is going to go over big this holiday!
  • Solitare Chess: (for ages 8+, by ThinkFun) Totally cannot believe I never knew this existed until only recently. Definitely on the list for my up and coming chess players, and hopefully by the end of 2014, we’ll all have some serious chess skeeeelz.

 teachmama gift guide crafty crafters

Gift picks for crafty crafters: sticking, twisting, looming, creating

  • Fashion Fun Stencils (for ages 3+, from Melissa & Doug) Cora has had her eye on this for months now. I think it’s the perfect crafty, unplugged toy for my fashion-forward first grader.
  • Pulsar Bounce Balls (for ages 6+, from The Orb Factory)  These are so cool for kids who love to make things their own.  This set allows kids to make their own bouncy balls–some even with lights inside!
  • Original Spirograph (for ages 8+, from Kahootz) I loved these! I totally remember having these as a kid, and I am 110% positive that Maddy will love them. It’s the same basic toy that we had–drawing loops and designs like never before–but updated and more awesome.
  • DoodleArt (for ages 5+, from PlaSmartToys) Perfect for long lazy weekends, snow days, or chilling out after school, DoodleArt posters are a family fave. We have the Butterfly DoodleArt, but Cora just may find Fairies or Flowers under her Christmas tree this year.

 teachmama gift picks explorers

Gift picks for movers, thinkers, explorers: working those fine motor, gross motor, and thinking skeelz

  • Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine (for ages 6-9 years, from Goldie Blox) Definitely top of my list for Cora, these fabulous sets combine reading and engineering and encourage girls to think, predict, and love STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).  I am all for it.
  • RingStix (for 6+ years, by RingStix-System Enterprises) A totally new spin on the ole game of catch, this outside game uses sticks and rings and is a lot of fun to play. Owen loves it.
  • LEGO Friends (for ages 6-12 years, by LEGO) Maddy and Cora love these. So I’m hoping that Santa adds a set to his sleigh for each of them, maybe the pool set or Olivia’s house.
  • Remote Controlled Helicopter (for ages 8+, from Syma) Out of the blue, Maddy has asked for this. What kid doesn’t love remote-controlled toys? This one is indoor and it’s mini. Very cool.
  • Nano V2 Helix 180 (for ages 3+, from Innovation First) The O-Man loves his Hex Bugs, and this set takes those little climbing critters to a whole new level.
  • Rollerblades (for ages 5+, from Roller Derby) Maddy started the roller trend over here last year, when she asked for rollerblades for Christmas. Cora asked for roller skates for her birthday. Owen? He has been begging Maddy and Cora to use theirs all year long.  He needs his own, and bam–we’re a roller family.
  • Air Stream Machine (for ages 8+, from Thames & Kosmos) Maddy and Owen spent an afternoon constructing a hovercraft that actually worked with batteries and sailed around our bathtub. They loved it so much they put another similar set on the top of their wish lists this year. And because of the serious payoff that’s involved in reading, following directions, and learning about physics along the way.

Thinking about the Tub Experiments or Optical Illusion Set for Cora (for ages 5-7 years) and the Fingerprinting Kit, Remote Control Set, or Gyrobot (ages 8+) for Maddy and Owen.


teachmama gift guide singers dancers dreamers

 Gift picks for singers, dancers, dreamers: pretend play rocks the house, any day of the year

  • Karaoke Machine: If you’re going to do it, invest in a decent one. This karaoke machine by Singing Machine works with CDs, iPods, or the radio which is included on the device. Two microphones and a 7″ screen make this one a keeper.
  • Outdoor Basketball Hoop & Basketball: Basic, I know, but last year, we shopped around on local listserves and garage sales and forums and finally found a used hoop, in great shape.  My kids have played all year long.


gift picks for digital kids

Gift picks for tech-savvy digital kids: plug ’em in and let ’em play

  • Club Penguin Membership (ages 6+, from Club Penguin)  You can purchase gift memberships in almost any duration, from one month to twelve months, and the way my kids have jumped into their first online gaming experience is a testament to the fact that time online
  • Skylanders Swap Force (ages 7+, from Activision) This is Owen’s big ask this year; he’s been a Skylanders fan for quite some time now, and he has already memorized all of the Swap Force guys. He’s ready.  Here’s to hoping that they add some new Skylanders books to the mix now, too!
  • Intel All-in-One PC with Touch Screen (from HP) As part of the Intel AIO Blogger group, I have been so grateful to have the opportunity to use this device.  My kids love it. It’s user-friendly, small and sleek with a screen that can fold and hide away in seconds. It’s crazy cool, and if you are looking for a desktop, this is the real deal.
  • eBooks, eBooks, eBooks!  There are several on the market, and it’s best to find one that really works for you and your family’s needs.  I’m loving BookBoard which is a monthly subscription service that includes 400+ ‘unlockable’ books for kids and can be given as a gift.  Or go with the free Scholastic eBook app, Storia, where you download the app and then buy books separately from the website.  Both have great interfaces, fab selection, and serious perks–it’s a matter of preference for what works for your family.


teachmama stocking stuffer

Best gift picks for stocking stuffers:  anything small and crafty, anything mini and sweet

  • Squinkie Zinkies (ages 4+, from Squinkies) These are so tiny you need a tweezers to play with them. Maddy and Cora? Adore them. And I like them because I can barely see them and they don’t hurt if I step on them.
  • On the GO! Sets (for ages 3+, from Melissa & Doug) Love these sets because they’re small enough to fit in a purse or diaper bag and they’re full of enough activities to keep kids busy during long, unexpected waits–just about anywhere.
  • Glitzi Globes (for ages 5+, from Glitzi Globes) Teeny little snow globes that kids first make and then can wear as jewelry. Bam. My girls? Love them.
  • The Trash Pack (for ages 5+, from Moose Toys) Think: Garbage Pail Kids meets Squinkies. I know. I know. But Owen is so into them. He organizes them, keeps track of them, analyzes them, and laughs at their potty names. Whatever. One or two won’t hurt. Right?
  • Smarty Pants Sets (for ages 4- 10+, from Melissa & Doug) We love the Smarty Pants Sets. Tons of questions and challenges for every level, from preschool through fifth grade.
  • Math Dice: or Math Dice, Jr (for ages 8+ or 6+ by ThinkFun) small game, great for on-the-go and super-sneaky math fun.


Even MORE Gift Guide Inspiration:


fyi: Affiliate links are included in this post. 

We did receive some of these products from companies to try, but the large majority were purchased (or will be purchased!) by our family on our own dime.  I do work with some of the companies above, but I also work with a ton more that I didn’t mention.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experiences as a parent and educator. I’m sharing the best of the best here–our faves.


new ideas for halloween treats: alternatives to candy

new ideas for halnew ideas for halloween treatsloween treats teachmama.com
 post contains affiliate links
new ideas for halnew ideas for halloween treatsloween treats teachmama.com
Halloween is traditionally a time for sweets, sweets, and more sweets, but who says kids must eat candy from dawn till dusk just because that’s how it’s always been done?
This year, though my kids will certainly have their fair share of sweets (we are a sweet-tooth family after all), I’m really trying hard to think outside the box a bit as far as Halloween treats are concerned.
Thanks to my friends from Melissa & Doug, I’m stretching the limits of treat-giving and treat receiving, and I’m going for small, hands-on toys that encourage creative play and fun.

As a Room Parent for one of my kids’ classes, I’m not planning on handing each child yet another bag of sweets to shove in their backpacks on the very day they’ll walk the streets of their neighborhood, grabbing more candy than they can hold. Not this year.

Instead, I’m mixing it up. Thinking outside the Halloween treat box.  Thinking about some alternatives to candy.

I’m handing the kids a few new Halloween treats: bubbles, stickers, tattoos, crafts, and small toys. These are sure to be items that the kids–and parents–will be happy to see, as they won’t mean more sugar for our kids’ little bodies.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • New Ideas for Halloween Treats  — Alternatives to Candy:

Some of newish ideas for Halloween treats for home or at school. . .

new ideas for halloween treats scratch art


  • Scratch Art: I think any of the Scratch Art Classroom Kits would be a great crafty activity for Halloween at home or Halloween class parties.

In particular, the Gold and Silver Scratch Art Trading Cards are super-cool for making Jack O’ Lanterns that look like they really glow!


new ideas for halloween coll 1

Or kids could get funky, creating Scratch Art to complement their costumes!



new ideas for halloween treats

  •  Tattoos! Kids love, love, love tattoos, and the great thing about these My First Temporary Tattoos sets are that each comes with over 100 tattoos!

We easily tore apart the tattoos on each sheet–jewels, flowers, and more in the Jewelry Set and sports, trucks, animals, and more in the Blue Tattoo Set.

new ideas for halloween treats

new ideas for halloween treats

These are super for goodie bags, for handing out to the Trick-Or-Treaters, or as a ‘Tattoo Station’ at a class party.



new ideas for halloween treats

new ideas for halloween treats

new ideas for halloween treats

  • Snakes, Bugs, & Lizards:  Yes, snakes, bugs, and lizards are super fun additions to Halloween if you ask me.  As a family that prefers silly over scary, these little guys are perfect for hiding around the house and seeking for extra Halloween fun or for adding to goodie bags or baskets.

They come in packs of six (Sack of Snakes), ten (Bag of Bugs), and seven (Litter of Lizards), so they totally work as affordable Halloween goodies.



snake turtle butterfly bubbles

  • Bubbles! Kids love bubbles, and they’ll especially love these bubbles with silly animals on top. For the extra-special Trick-Or-Treaters in your life, the Mombo Snake Bubbles would be a great replacement for that larger-sized candy bar or treat!



new ideas for halloween treats

new ideas for halloween treats

  • Scratch Art Light Catchers: These totally rock.

They really do.

I think they’d be awesome as a Halloween class party activity.  No matter the shape, kids will love doing this non-messy activity (and teachers and Room Parents will, too!), and kids have a sweet end product to take home and display.

Melissa & Doug has anything from Flower Light Catchers to Dolphins, or Butterflies to Sailboats, and honestly, kids won’t care what they have. I’m willing they’ll just be excited to grab a stick, grab a sheet, and start scratching!



 That’s just what we’ve got up our sleeve this Halloween season. I’m totally thrilled.

What new ideas for Halloween treats do you have? What are your super-fab alternatives to Halloween candy? Please share!



melissa & doug BA badge 2013



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.

pulled cotton ghosts: halloween craft for little ones

easy cotton ghost: halloween craft for little ones

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pulled cotton ghost


The following guest post is written by the incredibly busy Theresa of Capri + 3.  Theresa is a mom of four toddlers, and her family’s story is an amazing blessing. Her blog chronicles their adventures.


I am stopping by from Capri + 3 to share a fun and easy Halloween craft, perfect for little hands.

I love the change in the weather, the aroma of cinnamon and pumpkins and festive fall decorations.  We have three boys and a girl who will turn three in November and they love to do arts and crafts projects.

Since Halloween is approaching, I thought it would be fun to make fluffy pulled cotton ghosts.  We have made pulled cotton ghosts before and glued them onto black paper. This year, I decided to shake things up and make them three dimensional using recycled toilet paper rolls.

That way they can ‘haunt the mantle’ or greet goblins coming to ‘trick or treat’ on Halloween night.

  • Pulled Cotton Ghosts–Halloween Craft for Little Ones:


You will need:

First, set the TP roll on edge and draw a circle larger than the roll and cut it out (or have your older child to this).

Ghost--TP Roll with paper on it

Then, cut slits around the circle and tape it on one end so that it blocks the hole in the cardboard tube.


Give your children cotton balls and have them pull them apart to make fluffy cotton.  This is a great fine motor activity and can also be very relaxing if you want to get in on the fun!

Ghost--Pulling Cotton Ryder

 Capri making her ghost

Then, add glue all around the cardboard tube and on the white paper located on the top.  Have your children glue the pulled cotton onto the ghost.   The great thing about this project is that the cotton can be layered so that it no longer resembles the shape of the cardboard tube (just add more glue).  Then, have your child glue on the eyes and mouth.

Our little ones love to look up and see their pulled cotton ghosts ‘haunting’ the mantle.’


capri plus 3Theresa and Greg struggled with infertility and were fortunate to have a happy outcome to their journey.  Theresa started Capri + 3 as a way to share their infertility success story to bring hope to other couples facing challenges in starting their families and to document their children’s childhoods.  It has morphed into a blog about parenting multiples, arts and crafts activities for children and so much more.  Capri, Grayson, Xayden and Ryder  were all born in November of 2010.

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Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Theresa,  for sharing!

Looking for more activities for ringing in Halloween (and sneaking in a little learning) with your littles?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

Or check out any of teachmama’s Halloween posts!
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halloween owl: fun fall craft for kids

halloween owl fun and easy craft for kids

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halloween owl fun fall craft for kids


The following guest post is written by Ashley Merrick-Rives of Me & Marie Learning. Ashley is a ‘mom-teacher-blogger’ and an in-home childcare provider. Her blog chronicles her adventures.


In our neck of the woods, fall has arrived.  The crisp cool air puts us in the mood for pumpkins, hot cocoa and Halloween!  Halloween is my favorite time of year, I love everything about it!

So, to get us in the Halloween spirit and create an adorable decoration, we created a Halloween Owl!

  • Halloween Owl: Fun Fall Craft for Kids:

Want to make your own Halloween Owl?

Here are the materials you need:

  • Owl cut-out (very easy to make!)

Start by cutting out a general owl outline (like a fat oval with pointy ears).

halloween owl: fun fall craft for kids

Glue on google eyes.  With the orange paper, cut a small beak by folding the paper in half and cutting a V shape.

Glue on the beak below the eyes.

Next, we added a flat cupcake liner to look like a round belly on the owl.

Then, we folded the cupcake liners in half with the printed side out.  These folded liners served as the wings.

Halloween Owl 1


We used several cupcake liners layered on top of each other to create a full set of wings.

Last, we added legs to our owl using the orange paper.

I love the Halloween spirit this little owl brings to our kitchen, he proudly displayed on the fridge!  Plus, it was an easy and fun activities for my daughter and I to do together.  Another wonderful fall memory made together!


Ashley Rives of Me & Marie LearningAshley is the owner of Me & Marie Learning, a blog all about early learning.  She has taken some time off teaching in a traditional setting to be at home with her young children. Ashley is now an in-home childcare provider, teaching her own and other children in her preschool room.  Ashley has a degree in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education with a Master’s Degree in Reading and Literacy.


Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Ashley,  for sharing!

Looking for more activities for ringing in Halloween (and sneaking in a little learning) with your littles?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

Or check out any of teachmama’s Halloween posts!
fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

the rainbow loom: 5 reasons kids need it and parents love it

rainbow loom why kids need it and parents love it

 post contains affiliate links

rainbow loom why kids need it and parents love it



We are loving–and I mean loving–the Rainbow Loom. We’re bracelet-making, ring-wearing, tiny-rubber-band toting fools. And when I say we love the Rainbow Loom, I mean we love it.

Like we want to marry it love it.

Though I could count more than a dozen reasons why your kids need the Rainbow Loom and why parents love this silly little thing, I know we’re all busy.

But more importantly? I know we’ve all got bracelets to make. And even if you don’t have THE Rainbow Loom, you can still make Rainbow Loom bracelets without the loom.

Here’s how: How to Make Rainbow Loom bracelets without the Rainbow Loom.

So why do your kids need the Rainbow Loom?

Why will you, as a parent, love it? Five reasons.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • The Rainbow Loom–5 Reasons Kids Need it and Parents Love it:

First of all, what is the Rainbow Loom?

It’s a simple plastic ‘loom’ on which people strategically place tiny rubber bands, connecting them, twisting them, and looping them into bracelets, necklaces, rings–you name it.

Secondly, how do you make Rainbow Loom bracelets? There are an insane number of ways to make bracelets without the loom and on the loom, and the RainbowLoom.com site has a boatload of instructional videos.

rainbow loom bracelets with and without loom

The cool thing is that you don’t necessarily need the Rainbow Loom to make Rainbow Loom bracelets. Cora and Owen don’t use the loom quite yet; they are perfectly content creating ‘Rainbow Loom’ bracelets and rings simply by looping and connecting them by hand. Maddy, on the other hand, loves the loom itself and can really rock it out. Why do I say kids actually need the Rainbow Loom and parents will love it? Here’s why:   rainbow loom math skill building teachmama.com 1.  Math Skill-Building. Serious, hands-on math skill-building with each and every bracelet made. We’re talking pattern-making. Two colors, three colors, whatever the number, it doesn’t matter. Kids will begin to pick up on patterns if they haven’t already. Throw a little: Heeeeey! I love this bracelet you made, Cora. The blue-green ABAB pattern is rockin’! And look at Owen’s mix-up of ABBCABBC. . . into the mix, and your kids will start to see real-life connections to what they’re learning at school. rainbow loom why kids should have it   rainbow loom why kids should have it   And there’s shape-recognition.  My kids lean heavily on the instructional videos on the Rainbow Loom site, so before I knew it, they were talking about making the ‘double rhombus’  or the ‘crossed hexagon’ bracelets. My heart skipped a beat, and I wanted to dance. We haven’t talked shapes like this since way back with our Super Sweet Shape Snacks. Woot.  Bring on ‘da math.


rainbow loom reading skill building teachmama.com 2. Reading Skill-Building.  Reading informational text is not only a component of the Common Core–it’s an integral life skill.  Whether it’s recipe-reading, map-reading, newspaper reading, or book reading, kids need to be able to read informational texts. rainbow loom why kids should have it The Rainbow Loom Instruction Manual is a super starting point for kids for doing some serious instructional reading because it’s high-interest, it’s hands-on, and it’s clearly written and formatted. Photos. Step-by-step instructions.  Great combo. Kids are reading and re-reading to gain understanding. They’re following steps and managing a task. Seriously.


rainbow loom fine motor skill building teachmama.com 3.  Fine-Motor Skill-Building. Whether your kids are making Rainbow Loom bracelets without the loom (like Cora and Owen do) or with the loom (like Maddy does), it doesn’t matter. It’s all working those teeny little muscles in arms and hands and fingers that help kiddos with all of those super-important skills like mastering the tripod grip (proper grip on pencil).   rainbow loom fine motor skill building   rainbow loom why kids should have it From the organizing of the bands to attaching, looping, and knotting, it’s all working those fine motor skills. And even those kids for whom doing it by hand is difficult, they can still rock out the little Rainbow Loom tool–it all works. It all counts.


rainbow loom relationship building teachmama.com 4.  Relationship-Building.  This weekend, the kids were in small groups all over the pool deck making Rainbow Loom bracelets. Hanging out, teaching each other how to do it, chatting, and enjoying time together. rainbow loom why kids should have it   rainbow loom why kids should have it My kids have been helping each other make bracelets. They’re forging bonds with each other and with other people in sharing what they know about making these bracelets and in sharing the bracelets themselves. But all over the pool for the last few weeks, kids have been hanging out together, teaching each other how to make different types of bracelets and really–amazing the adults.


rainbow loom confidence building teachmama.com 5.  Confidence-Building.  Maddy had to start and re-start eleven times before mastering the ‘Triple Single’ bracelet. Eleven. Times. I have yet to master any of the bracelets other than the basic loop that Owen and Cora use. It’s hard. But manageable. And it takes patience. rainbow loom why kids should have it   cora hands and bracelets   rainbow loom for learning I overheard Maddy’s girlfriends talking one night last week, and one gal said, It feels so great to be able to start and finish something that looks so good, you know? You just feel so proud of yourself after you finish one of these. And she’s right.  It’s like the old friendship bracelets of the ’80’s. But with a 21st century twist. Owen sticks with ring-making, but he loves making them. Cora was on cloud nine yesterday because one of the ‘big boys’ at the pool asked her to make one for him.  She didn’t, but she was still flattered. This weekend, kids were in groups all around our pool, teaching each other. Helping each other. It’s awesome. And for our little entrepreneurs, who knows what Rainbow Loom bracelets could lead to?

Really. That’s it. This mama digs anything that sneaks a little learning into our every day. And for me, Rainbow Loom is a big win. Five times over. What do you think? Rainbow Loom craze hit your family yet?   Ready to get started but don’t have the loom yet? Check out How to Make Rainbow Loom Bracelets Without the Loom! Already loving the Rainbow Loom but want a few cool ideas for bracelet-making? Check out 9 Band Bracelets for Kids to Make from my friends at Kids’ Activities Blog fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post, which means that if you’re into getting your kids set up with Rainbow Loom bracelets and want to use these links, awesome. We get a itsy-bitsy, teeny, tiny cut and every little bit helps!

homemade tooth fairy boxes

tooth fairy box

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tooth fairy box


originally published as ‘tooth fairy, we’re ready!’ on October 13, 2009

If you check around the internet, dozens of sites exist with perfect, beautiful tooth fairy pillows. If we had more time, I would have ordered one of them for my loose-tooth Maddy. I’m all about out-sourcing when I can.

With her first teeny-tiny baby tooth hanging on by a thread, last week we hit the craft store and bought a little box for Maddy to paint and prepare as a perfect landing spot for her tooth.

Without a sewing machine or the proper sewing skills, this mama needed a tooth fairy pillow back-up plan.

  • Tooth Fairy Box: Yes, ours is a box. But it’s star-shaped, and now it’s all glittered up, and it’s totally. . . beautiful. Maddy worked her little heart out on it.

tooth fairy box blank

It started out as an inexpensive little wooden box.
tooth fairy box blank
And with a little paint, it slowly became gooooorgeous.
tooth fairy box blank

After a few days of a high fever and feeling completely lousy, finally today Maddy said she wanted to finish decorating her Tooth Fairy Box. We flipped our -at and -an family flip books aside, and we did some old-school free crafting, all in the name of our favorite little fairy and my baby being on the mend.

tooth fairy box

We haven’t met the Tooth Fairy yet, but we know she loves sparkles.
tooth fairy box owen
Owen’s Tooth Fairy Box

Knowing that once Maddy starts losing her pearly whites, Owen won’t be too far behind, while Maddy decorated her box, I made one for Owen, who really wasn’t up for creating one on his own. Painting Tooth Fairy Boxes or playing golf, baseball, and tire swinging out back with Dad? Guess what Owen did. . .

tooth fairy boxWe’ve got Owen feeling lousy today, but once everyone’s back on their feet, we’ll hit the library for some of these Tooth Fairy book titles:

Some of my favorite Tooth Fairy Pillow spots:

  • One Crafty Place: Although this blog is no longer being updated, Chrissy did an awesome job of assembling some very cool crafts. Check out her Tooth Fairy Pillows from around the web.

soap dough, soap molds, crazy cool fun with soap

soap dough soap molds and crazy cool fun with soap

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soap dough soap molds and crazy cool fun with soap


What happens when you put a bar of Ivory soap in the microwave?

Really. Ivory soap. Plain ole sweet-smelling, plain-jane white bar o’ Ivory soap?

In the microwave.

Try it.

Your kids will think you’re a rockstar, and everyone involved will be in awe.

Do it during a playdate, and your kids’ friends will forever tell tales of your awesomeness.

Children will think you’ve lost your mind and then will be starstruck by your science fabulousity.

Your disinterested, challenging kids will begin to respond to your every word, move, and idea.

The whole family will wait with wonder to see what you have up your sleeve next.

Actually, I can’t guarantee all that. But what I can say is that my kids, my husband, and I had a blast playing with soap ‘dough’–what you get when you blast Ivory soap in the microwave.

All you need is this soap, and you’re good to go. Inexpensive soap. That’s it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Soap Dough, Soap Molds, Crazy Cool Fun With Soap: I’ll be honest. Owen wasn’t digging the soap experiment.

soap dough soap molds and crazy cool fun with soap

He was over-tired and got frustrated with Cora in the beginning of the whole thing and so he went out front and shot some hoops instead of soapin’ it up with Cora, Maddy, and me. But he did keep coming around, sneaking glances, and trying to play but not really.

So it’s simple, and it’s not perfect, but playing with Ivory soap was something I’ve wanted to do with the kids for a while now, after catching a few fab pins on Pinterest.

It’s been sitting there on our neat-o, FUN, new things for us to try board, and finally, finally? We did it.

After a busy morning and after rest and after a whole lot of free-bird summertime fun, I said, Hey! Remember we had ‘Fun Science Experiment’ on the calendar for today? Who’s up for checking out what I meant?

soap dough step 2

Maddy, Owen, and Cora found me in the kitchen, and we got rockin’ and rollin’.

I said, So we’re going to do something a little crazy today with this. And I handed them the bar of Ivory soap.

I also got out the only other things we’d need:

I got a lot of Huh? and What? and Why? and Mom?

Maddy opened the bar of soap, and we all held it and smelled it and passed it around. And talked about how it smelled so pretty like Nana’s bathroom. (Because that’s the soap she uses and has used for as long as I can remember.)

Then I placed it on a piece of wax paper, put it on a microwavable plate, and stepped back.

soap dough microwave

What do you think will happen if we put this puppy in the microwave? I asked.

It might melt?

It will explode?

It will ruin our microwave!

I’m not sure you should do that, Mom.

I told them that I’d only heard about this experiment but never did it myself, so I was a little nervous. I pressed 1:30 on the microwave, and we all stepped back.

What happened was totally crazy and completely strange.

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

We did it twice, with two bars of soap, and the ‘explosion’ looked completely different each time. It. Was. Nuts.

And though the edges were cool, the insides were HOT. Like hot, hot hot.

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

But the whole thing was light–like a cloud–when lifted. So the kids took turns holding it after it cooled. It was so totally fun.

After a bit of holding and observing, we took the fun outside.

I had read that you could break the soap apart, mix it, and form a sort of dough. Though I was not willing to throw it in our food processor or blender, I read that you could. We were going to put our kids to work and mix and mold on our own.

soap dough soap molds

We put the big lumps of soap on two trays, each covered with a piece of wax paper.

And then? We just broke it apart. We added a few drops of food coloring to each lump, blue to Maddy’s and green to Cora’s. (By this time, Owen was shooting hoops.)

We found that the warmer parts were more easily molded and moved, but with a bit of warm water, it became this awesome, smooth, soft, fragrant dough.

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

It did take some work and a bit of muscle to get it into a working ‘dough’ and we had to go really, really light on the warm water. But after we found the right combo, we were able to use the cookie cutters to make fun, brightly colored soap shapes.

soap dough soap play with blue

soap dough soap molds

The O-Man even came back to get his hands in the dough after a while.

Maddy and Cora loved it. Though Cora set her sights on creating a soap mold princess crown and was disappointed that she couldn’t make it perfectly, Maddy went simple with cookie cutter molds and was better off.

Next time, I’d only bring out basic shape cookie cutters–our soap dough was a little choppy and chunky for detailed molds.

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

So fun. So much soapy, doughy, moldable fun that we were beside ourselves.

The big question is why does Ivory soap behave this way in the microwave? I had not a clue. But my savvy-science friends do:

And that’s it. Some sneaky science and fine–motor sensory fun on a cool (thankfully!) summer afternoon.

Do you have any other cool and easy science-experiments for kids? Let me have ’em!


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