raising creative kids: target ‘kid made modern’ $150 giveaway

creativity and kids kid made modern teachmama.com.png

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creativity and kids  kid made modern  teachmama.com.png

One of the things I love about working with Target is that I have had the opportunity to meet some really great people, do some really fun things, try some cool products, and I get share it all with my awesome readers.

Today?  It’s even more exciting.

No joke.

It’s all about raising creative kids.

Raising kids who have great tools and supplies to freely create and parents who appreciate their masterpieces. I not only get to share a bit more from my chat with the amazing and talented, crazy-creative Todd Oldham, creator of Kid Made Modern line (and so much more!), but I get to give away $150 Target gift card to one teachmama.com reader.


So you can head over to Target, order a ton of Kid Made Modern crafty-crafts for  your kids, family, and friends, and you’ll be doing a little Kid Made Modern dance come spring break when you have so many fun, hands-on things to do.

$150 gift card to Target. Bam.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Raising Creative Kids–Target ‘Kid Made Modern $150 Giveaway:  I’ve shared a bit about what I love of this line around holiday time.

Holiday Party Kid Activities (that totally work for any time of the year, for any party, by the way!)


 The teachmama.com youtube channel is all about sharing quick teaching tips, reading strategies, and parenting tricks with parents and caregivers. It’s about empowering parents to be the best teachers they can be for their children. Subscribe here so you don’t miss a thing!

Do you just adore Todd Oldham?

He’s not only an author, designer, artist, and former MTV House of Style host, but he’s also just an all-around awesome guy.

I do. I love his creative, gentle spirit, and I love every. single. thing. he says.

My kids, mother-in-law, and I had the absolute best time crafting and creating in his studio, and I am thrilled that anyone can bring that same excitement home with the Kid Made Modern line.


GIVEAWAY: $150 gift card to Target!

Do you want to win $150 gift card to Target??!  Yes, yes you do.

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules. This giveaway ends Friday, March 28, 2014 at midnight ET and is open to US residents only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 03/28/14.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.  fyi: This is an unsponsored post, and my opinions, as always, are my very own, influenced only by my experience as a parent, educator, and member of Target’s Inner Circle Program.   Affiliate links are used in this post.

secret message valentines: homemade, candy-free, totally cool

secret message valentines magic and totally cool teachmama.com

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secret message valentines  magic and totally cool teachmama.com


Longtime fans of the ole homemade Valentine, I’ve had to get a little more clever and crafty as the kids get older.

But I still want them writing, reading, and thinking (come on. . . at least a little!) while they’re making them.

So when I did some Valentine searching this year, I found a ton of cool ideas.  A ton of cool ideas.

There are about a million, trillion awesome homemade Valentines out there.

But the Secret Message Valentines caught my eye. I knew Maddy, Owen, and Cora would totally love them, and they do.  They really think they’re fun.

Secret Message Valentines that are homemade, candy-free and kids still think they’re totally cool? Like a dream.

And they won’t break the bank.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Secret Message Valentines–Homemade, Candy-Free, Totally Cool:

Want to make these for this year’s rockstar Valentines? Super.

Your kids will love you.

You’ll need:

secret message valentines | teachmama.com

secret message valentines | teachmama.com


Here’s a quick video with the ‘how-to’ for making Secret Message Valentines:



Before Maddy, Owen, Cora and I started making them, we did a whole lot of ‘message brainstorming’.  I wanted them to realize that though some of the Valentines required that they only signed their name, other ones left spaces for real secret messages.

What would those messages be? 

What should they be? 

We came up with some ideas:

magic message valentines -| teachmama.com

magic message valentines -| teachmama.com

magic message valentines -| teachmama.com


Having the ideas helped, especially because messages had to be short.

And because they were writing the messages with white crayon on white paper, the messages had to be simple.


magic message valentines -| teachmama.com

magic message valentines -| teachmama.com

magic message valentines -| teachmama.com


These kind of reminded me of the Scratch-Off Tickets we made a few years ago during holiday time in the way that they carried a secret message for the kids to find.

I think I just may use them for Valentine cards next year. . . hmmmmm.

What are your favorite super-cool, candy-free Valentines for kids to make? I’d love to hear ’em!

Here are a few of ours:


HUGE and happy thanks to all the folks who came before me and made similar Valentines. Though I love this idea, I by no means invented it! I did not use one particular post as a model, but the following posts were my inspiration: SpanglishBaby Secret Message Valentines; Small + Friendly Secret Message ValentineSecret Message Valentine Mini-Edition; Spoonful Secret Message Valentines, & more! Thank you, thank you!


fyi: affiliate links are used in this post for your convenience

using iPad apps to create

using the ipad to create teachmama.com

The following guest post is written by the amazing and incredible Susan Stephenson, of The Book Chook. Susan is my Australian friend who has tons of fab ideas on children’s literacy, learning, and more.


using the ipad to create | teachmama.com

  • Using iPad Apps to Create, by Susan Stephenson

I love what the iPad offers young learners.

I’m especially excited about opportunities it gives to create their own content, whether that be in the form of text, images, video and other media, or combinations of these.

Creative thinking is incredibly important to children’s future learning, and finding opportunities for kids to create rather than consume via technology is fantastic.

Even pre-schoolers can create on the iPad, and an iPad Mini is kinder to little hands. The camera is a built-in tool that little ones love exploring with. Not only that, but parents enjoy viewing a child’s perspective on life!

Beginning writers can learn to send a picture to Grandma from the camera roll with some words that explain it. Grandma will love the contact and I just bet she’ll enjoy those invented spellings.

One app I discovered recently, ABC Spy HD by Stealth Education,  invites kids to use the iPad camera within the app. They find objects starting with each letter of the alphabet to photograph, then type the object’s name. To share with others, they make a little video within the app.

Other interesting apps where young children can use the camera are Eye Paint Monsters and Eye Paint Animals by Curious Hat.

Note: I am a firm advocate for limiting screen time for children. But I believe SOME screen time plus lots of time for stories, cuddles, chats, imaginative play and outdoor fun, makes for a balanced parenting approach.

When it’s time for screen play, think about the following apps for your preschooler or young learners:

  • Draw Along with Stella and Sam:  Based on the picture books by Marie-Louise Gay, in this app children choose shapes, decorate them and watch them come to life in very cute animation.
  • Little Fox Music Box: As well as delightful animated songs that kids can interact with and listen to, Little Fox Music Box encourages kids to record themselves singing and making music.
  • Night Zookeeper Drawing TorchThe Night Zookeeper Drawing Torch’s emphasis is on story. It encourages kids to imagine and draw creatures like spying giraffes, time-travelling elephants and singing fish.



There are hundreds, probably thousands, of apps that older kids can use. As with pre-schoolers, having them use the camera helps them to “look” at their environment from a new perspective, and become more aware of art elements like colour, pattern, texture and line.

Here are some other apps I like that I believe encourage children to create.

  • Strip Designer: Children often need to present information visually, especially if they need to show they understand something, or to explain it. Strip Designer is also a neat app for kids to use when they want to tell a digital story.
  • Moku Hanga: Image editors offer kids exciting opportunities to tweak photos they take. Moku Hanga has a “wood-block” look and it’s simple enough for older primary students to experiment with. It would make a great accompaniment for when kids try writing their own haiku.
  • Pic CollageMore than just a photography app, Pic Collage is a way for children to create a digital story. They could record a family outing, tell the tale of a lost tooth, or capture and caption their friends’ scariest Halloween costumes.
  • The Daily Monster Monster Maker: Here kids will find loads of opportunities to create by “blowing” paint, then customizing a monster and taking its pic, in-app. Incorporate literacy into the fun by encouraging kids to add speech bubbles and have their monsters “talk”. The pictures produced can be added to an app like Pic Collage, or Strip Designer (mentioned above) to tell a story.

Combining apps is a wonderful way for children to get even more from the iPad. The emphasis here is on kids thinking creatively, using apps and iPad as tools to express themselves.

By starting in one app, then continuing in another, children learn how to develop a work flow that suits their needs. The iPad is such a powerful tool for creation, offering kids many opportunities to create, communicate – and above all, have fun with it!


Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing these super iPad app ideas, Susan!! We love them!

SusanStephensonsmlCheck out The Book Chook blog  for educational tips and resources for parents, teachers and librarians. Find lots of free PDFs via www.susanstephenson.com, and follow Susan on Twitter,  Facebook,  Scholastic Parents,Google+ and ScoopIt.




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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:

valentine’s day class party ideas, 2.0

valentine's day class party ideas, 2.0 | fun ideas to get groups of kids moving and having fun | minute to win it games | free printables | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links



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


For many years now I’ve been roped into being Room Parent for my kids’ classes, and though I do love the opportunity to meet other families from the school and to get to know the kids in the class, it’s a lot of work.

More than once I’ve wished that there was a secret site that gave me all of the Valentine’s Day class party ideas I needed–the letters to send, the snacks to serve, crafts to make and the games to play.

But knowing that such a thing doesn’t exist and that each class party is different and unique, I am just sharing the love.

Whatever I’m doing as Room Parent, I’m sharing my own, gathered ’round the world Valentine’s Day class party ideas. There you have it.

I shared How to have a Rockstar Valentine’s Day class party, and now we’re back at it again.  2.0, man. 2.0.

Grab what works for you, and leave what doesn’t.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Valentine’s Day Class Party Ideas, 2.0:

The real secret to success with these parties to to keep the atmosphere light and to make sure you have a handful of awesome helpers on board.

  • Parent Letter: About three weeks before the class party, chat with the teacher and ask:
    • What is the timeframe for the party?
    • Is there anything special you’d like for us to do? 
    • Do you want the kids to address each Valentine or keep them nameless?  (Nameless is often better for younger kids and allows for easier, quicker distribution.)
    • What are the food restrictions for the students? 
    • Do you know of anything that has really worked well in the past that you would recommend repeating? 

Then draft a Parent Letter (you can definitely model yours after the one I’ve used here: valentines day class party letter BLANK).  Head into school and make copies, and put one in each child’s cubby or take-home folder.

valentines day class party  | teachmama.com

If the teacher suggests that Valentines be addressed to recipients, then be sure to include a copy of the class list.

  • Prepare! Pow-wow with your Co-Room Parents or do a little research to figure out what will work for your party.

Make a shopping list and split the job up.   I usually like collecting money from other parents and then having the Room Parents purchase the items we need. Other people like to have the job split up: one parent brings cupcakes, another juice boxes, another small prizes, etc.

valentine's day class party plan  teachmama.com

  • Create the Plan: I love having the party plan out so that all of the helper parents and the teacher knows what’s going on for the event. That way, everyone’s on board.

Here’s a sample of our party plan. Feel free to use and modify for your own rockin class party: valentine party plan 2014.  Want it in word? valentine party plan 2014 — word doc

  • Rock. The. Party.

Here’s what’s on our schedule this year:

musical hearts reading, moving, & crazy-fun kid game teachmama.com

This heart-happy game can be adapted for nearly any reading level, and I love how it gets kids engaged, reading, and responding.


valentines day class party ideas  craft  teachmama.com

    • Stained Glass Hearts:  The kids will make these easy, super-cute, no-glue crafts which are really pretty.

Simple, sweet crafts that look so pretty in wintertime windows, no matter where you are.

valentines day class party ideas  guess the word  teachmama.com

    • Valentine Guess the Word: While they’re crafting, they can play Guess the Word.  We’ve played it for our other parties, and the kids really seem to enjoy it.


    • Valentine Card Delivery and Snack!  The kids’ favorite part! Break the class in half.  Let one half deliver their Valentines, while the other eats, and then have them switch.

Then give the kids some time to read their Valentines!

hint: Have the plates of food ready and set them in front of each student. It makes things move a lot more smoothly!

valentines day class party ideas  groups teachmama.com

    • Small-Group Minute-to-Win-it Games:  We’ll break the kids into three groups by having them pick a heart foam sticker out of a bag. Three groups: white hearts, red hearts, and pink hearts.  That way, we’ll have about 6-8 kids in each group.  A bit easier to manage.

We are not keeping score here with our games. It’d be too hectic, and the focus is fun, not big wins.

We’ll encourage each child to do his or her best. At the end, if everyone works hard, everyone grabs a prize!

Each ‘game station’ will host two Minute-to-Win-It games.  At the first rotation, every student will receive a small Valentine goodie bag to keep candy and supplies.

valentines day class party ideas marshmallow race teachmama.com

    • Marshmallow Race:  Simple. You can play this several ways.

1. Break the group in half and draw a line in the middle of the table. Each side uses inexpensive plastic straws to try to blow the marshmallows to the other side of the line. The team with the most after one minute wins.

2.  Each person plays individually and has one minute to blow a single marshmallow from one side of the table to the other. The person with the most at the end wins.

Straws and marshmallows, and a clean table–that’s all you need.

valentines day class party ideas marshmallow toss teachmama.com

    •  Marshmallow Toss:  Students partner up and stand across from each other, about 2-4 feet apart.  One person has a handful of marshmallows and the other has a small paper cup. Students have one minute to toss as many marshmallows into the cup as possible.

After one minute, the throwers catch and the catchers throw.

The winning team is the one with the most marshmallows in the cup!

valentines day class party ideas heart towers teachmama.com

    • Heart Towers: Students have one minute to stack as many conversation hearts as they can. It’s harder than you may think!

The winner is the person who has the highest stack after one minute.

valentines day class party ideas bracelets teachmama.com

    • One-Handed Bracelets: One minute to thread as many fruit loops onto a pipe cleaner as possible.

And then–here’s the clincher–the player has to make that pipe cleaner into a braclet. Using one hand.  So funny!

valentines day class party ideas cookie face teachmama.com

    • Cookie Face: Players have a cookie on their foreheads and have one minute to move that cookie from their forehead and into their mouth.

So hard. And so, so funny to watch!

The winner is the player who moves the most cookies from forehead to mouth in one minute’s time!

valentines day class party ideas heart chopstick race teachmama.com

    • Heart Chopstick Race:  An oldie for Valentine’s Day class parties but definitely a goodie.

Players work individually to move as many conversation hearts from a central bowl into their own plastic cups, using only a pair of chopsticks.  It’s not easy, and very quickly you’ll see which students use chopsticks on a regular basis.


valentines day class party ideas heart mitten race teachmama.com

    • Mitten Race: Kids totally love this game.

Wearing a pair of adult ski mittens, players try to unwrap a piece of candy. Small candies with tight wrappers, like Starburst or Tootsie Rolls are especially hard.

You can play this game with the kids in two lines, and as each child unwraps the candy he or she pops it in his or her mouth and passes on the mittens, going down the line, or you can play individually.  Each child wears a pair of mittens and the winner is the player who unwraps the most candy in one minute.

valentines day class party ideas heart puzzle race teachmama.com


    • Puzzle Race: I love the simplicity of this and kids love to do ‘speedy puzzles’ together.

These are really just six or seven Valentine-themed photos that I printed out on cardstock and cut into pieces.  I printed them on three different shades of paper to make it a little bit easier, but the goal is to put as many together under one minute as possible.

The Valentine’s Day puzzles are here to download if you’d like: valentines day class party PUZZLES.  

valentines day class party | puzzle race | teachmama.com

valentines day class party  | puzzle race | teachmama.com

You may want to add an extra for your school’s mascot just for kicks.

My suggestion is to flip the pieces face down on the table, start the timer, and let the kids at ’em. If they are struggling, then show them the key. Otherwise, let them have fun with it!


Want a few more fun Valentine’s Day ideas? Check out: 

how to throw a rockstar valentine's day party teachmama.com 2

valentine's day class party ideas



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

reading informational text and crafting: easy, beautiful jewelry-making

reading informational text and crafting | teachmama.com

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reading informational text and crafting | teachmama.com

One of the things that my kids love to do is crafts, so when Melissa & Doug came out with the Art Activity books, I was sold.

Combining reading and crafting? Bam.

A match made in heaven.

Sure, good ole free play and open-ended art is awesome, but some days, an Art Activity book is a super way of sneaking in some reading for kids. And the ‘art’ of reading informational text to follow directions and to use drawings and diagrams to support the reading are foundational skills in nearly every grade level of the Common Core State Standards.

Reading informational texts is something covered in some way almost every year in the English Language Arts Standards. As parents, let’s do what we can to support our kids’ learning from home.

It’s a win-win-WIN.

Maddy rocked out the informational text reading this week with the help of Melissa & Doug’s Craft and Create Mixed Metal Jewelry set. And she’s loving her new jewels.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Reading Informational Text and Crafting– Easy, Beautiful Jewelry-Making:

I knew that Maddy would love this Mixed Metal Jewelry Set, because right now she’s totally into accessories and jewelry.  And she’s also into doing things independently.

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

And she really did love it.

She took off from the start, opening the set and reading and following the directions.  She began by setting out all of the pieces. And then she started with the Layered Earrings.

We chatted along the way, checking out a few different design options and deciding on the silver-bronze-silver graduated layered discs. Love it!

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com


She made these adorable earrings!  Aren’t they to die for?

Next she moved onto the braided bracelet.

As she read, she used the photographs and diagrams to help her more clearly understand the steps.


reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

Especially when it came to the four-strand braid, she used both the diagram and text. I held one side of the bracelet as she braided, and I totally learned something new!

I have never in my life braided with four strands, but Maddy figured it out and explained it to me as she went. Super real-life application of an important reading skill–and Common Core State Standard.

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

Her bracelet turned out so awesome.

And not only did we learn how to do the four-strand braid, but we also learned some cool, new ways of tying off bracelets, combining strands, and connecting the mixed-metal washers and rings.

So fun.

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

I really think this is only the beginning.

Maddy so loved jewelry-making that we’re heading to the craft store for some mixed metal pieces this weekend.  Though the set comes with plenty of pieces, Maddy was busy and included a handful of pieces in each one she made.

It will be so awesome to see her apply her new skills to the other pieces we purchase at the store.  She felt great about what she made and looks forward to making more. Love. It.

In my opinion, there’s nothing better than this! It’s real-life and purposeful informative text reading at its finest!

melissa doug blog ambassador buttonfyi: 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.

phonemic awareness and classification with zoo magazine pictures

phonemic awareness and classification with zoo magazine pictures | guest post by @aubreyhargis on @teachmama #weteach

phonemic awareness and classification with zoo magazine pictures | guest post by @aubreyhargis on @teachmama #weteach

The following guest post is written by the amazing Aubrey of Montessori Mischief. If ever you wanted to know about Montessori education, do check her blog.It’s awesome.  And beautiful.


  • Phonemic Awareness and Classification with Zoo Magazine Pictures, by Aubrey Hargis

Making educational fun out of something free to us is not just part of our budget-friendly Montessori home school approach – it’s a challenge that the kids and I all embrace together.

Every day my three year old makes a jammie-clad dash for the mail out the front door. Our mail carrier is often caught in the act, and we wave madly until he gives us a thumbs up. Often it’s all bills (not fun), and sometimes advertisements (more fun), and if we’re very lucky, it’s letters written to us or glossy magazines from the zoo.

And a glossy magazine from the zoo it was that day. Out from the magazine came the staples and out from the cabinet came the scissors.

phonemic awareness and classification with zoo magazine pictures | guest post by @aubreyhargis on @teachmama #weteach

My six year old and three year old both chose favorite animals to cut out, and a stack quickly piled up on the kitchen table. What to do now?

We put our heads together. We thought hard. We stared at the animal cut-outs around on the table, and silently, like playing a Ouija board, our fingers began shifting them this way and that. Birds of a feather. Hooves together. Scales and claws. Furry paws. And by the time we finished clumping them all into groups, we were grinning.

“What are these?” I asked my three year old.

“Birds!” he shouted.

“And these?” I asked my six year old.

“Mammals!” he yelled, hands high in the air with excitement.

phonemic awareness and classification with zoo magazine pictures | guest post by @aubreyhargis on @teachmama #weteach


phonemic awareness and classification with zoo magazine pictures | guest post by @aubreyhargis on @teachmama #weteach

I grabbed a piece of paper and began writing down the names of our groups (classification): mammals, reptiles, birds, fish…

We discussed the characteristics we saw as we compared and contrasted our groups.

I believe it was my three year old who began naming the animals one by one and emphasizing the beginning sound (phonemic awareness): “O-O-Ostrich. B-B-Bear.” Quickly, I cut up some squares and added letters as we said the names together. You should have seen my three year old very solemnly placing each letter on each animal.

If the pieces hadn’t gotten scattered during their pretend play, it would have been nice to glue them to a big piece of posterboard, or even to back on cardstock, laminate, and adhere velcro for a felt board experience.

Suddenly, the world of junk mail has opened up a world of educational possibilities for us. No longer will I be simply tossing it all in the recycling bin. Who knows what will arrive next? We’ll be racing to the door to find out tomorrow!


Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your fun, on-the-fly learning with your kids, Aubrey! How inspiring!!

Aubrey HargisAubrey homeschools her two kiddos and writes at Montessori Mischief, where she shares parenting tips and Montessori teaching tricks. You can find her hanging out with Montessori newbies in her Montessori 101 group. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, or Google +.



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

other posts in the series:

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!

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain

kid-happy poetry writing haiku and cinquain

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We’ve been dumped on.

Big time.kid-happy poetry writing haiku and cinquain

Tons of snow has kept us indoors for the last few days, save from the few hours we’ve spent freezing our tails off in the white fluffy stuff.

So we’ve had more than enough time to do some kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing. And we’re not messing around.

We’re going big-time here, rockin the haiku and cinquain.


We all listened, supported, and gave Maddy feedback on her entry into Pets Add Life’s 6th Annual Pet Poetry Contest.


And after paging through the entries, my Maddy decided that in order to set her poems apart from the rest, she was going to have her poems follow a slightly different format, a format that she’s recently learned in fourth grade and one that she really loves writing.

She couldn’t decide between the haiku or the cinquain, so she did both.

One stanza is haiku and the other is cinquain, and together they make her rockin entry into the contest. I mean, how can a person decide between those two options? They’re both awesome, right?

So we brainstormed, refreshed her memory about the specifics of the haiku and cinquain, and did some kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Kid-Happy, Pet-Inspired Poetry Writing — Haiku and Cinquain:  Really, now that she’s in fourth grade, Maddy led the show with this.

She knew she wanted to write about our birds because she thought they would be a unique pet and that not that many kids would be doing the same.

She also knew the basics of haiku and cinquain format but wanted me to double check for her.

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain | teachmama.com

So she and I searched ‘haiku writing for kids’ and ‘cinquain writing for kids’ and came up with two really easy-to-follow resources:

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain | teachmama.com

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain

A quick refresher:

  • Haiku is all about syllables. It’s a three-line poem, with 5 syllables in first line, 7 syllables in second, and 5 syllables in the third.
  • Cinquain (pronounced sin-kane) is a five-line poem with a pretty specific formula:

    a one-word title, a noun
    two adjectives
    three -ing participles
    a phrase
    a synonym for your title, another noun

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain

She grabbed a piece of paper and started jotting down some brainstorming notes, starting with the cinquain and then moving onto the haiku.

When questions arose about word choice, she asked.  I need some help thinking of -ing words about the birds.  What sounds better: ‘budgie’ or ‘parakeet’? 

Owen and Cora were nearby, and though they are too young to enter the contest (boo-hoo!), they were on hand to help their sister.  And after a few drafts and several revisions, her poems were finished.

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain

kid-happy, pet-inspired poetry writing: haiku and cinquain

Though she loved writing her poem, I am willing to bet that Maddy’s favorite part was entering it on the computer, on the PAL website.  My kids love using the computer, any time of the day.

And after she finished, she and Owen re-read the entries, trying to narrow down her competition.

Talk about some fun reading–they laughed at the funny ones and got teary at the sad ones.  Some of those poems, written by kids are pretty darn good.  Gulp.

Really, kids can write haiku, cinquain, or any sort of free-verse or rhyme poem inspired by their pets any day of the year. Pets are a super topic because kids often have seriously strong feelings about their fuzzy, scaly, feathery, slimy brothers and sisters.

Find a funny pet photo or recall a silly memory of a pet’s naughty behavior, and you have ideal pet poem content!



But now is a particularly awesome time to get your kids writing in the name of their pets because the PAL Children’s Poetry contest has some pretty great prizes.  Kids in grades 3-8 may enter, and prizes are a $250 gift card for each age group and $1000 for the winners’ classes!

And aside from the prizes, kids feel awesome when their writing has a real purpose.  A real-life application. But the deadline is January 31, 2014, so you have to act quickly.

Check it out.  Share this blog post or the Calling All Creative Kids! post with your friends and your kids’ school.

Or just share the Children’s Poetry Contest site with them, and you’ll still be good.

fyi: This is a sponsored post; I was asked to share information about this contest by my friends at PAL, and I gladly obliged knowing it’s a serious win-win!

pet poetry contest: calling all creative kids!

pal pet poetry contest

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pet poetry contest | @PetsAddLife

As a longtime friend of PAL, Pets Add Life, I’m happy to share news about a cool opportunity for our students, teachers, and parents.

Now through January 31, 2014, Pets Add Life invites students in grades 3 – 8 to enter the 6th Annual Pets Add Life Children’s Poetry Contest and write a poem about their pets.   So fun.

All entrants have a chance at winning a $250 gift card and a byline in a national publication or online outlet.  But there’s more.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Pet Poetry Contest–Calling All Creative Kids:  Pets Add Life is a nonprofit campaign established by the American Pet Products Association.

And I love that PAL does this every year to not only get kids writing (yay!) but to celebrate our furry, feathery, scaly, fuzzy friends.

Love pets? Your creative student could win $250 plus $1,000 for their classroom!

That’s right.  Each winning student’s classroom will receive $1,000 to spend on pet-related education!

pal pet poetry contest

Teachers are encouraged to submit students’ poems in one entry on behalf of their classrooms. For more information or to submit poems, visit www.PetsAddLife.org.

PAL_logo_hiYou can enter the contest here: PAL Pet Poetry Contest.

Thinking about entering? We are too! Please stay in touch and let us know if your kiddo–or student–is a winner!

fyi: This is a sponsored post; I was asked to share information about this contest by my friends at PAL, and I gladly obliged knowing it’s a serious win-win!

mandarin orange paper dolls: dress up your food

let kids play with food halos paper dolls

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let kids play with food halos paper dolls


It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of making mealtime more fun for my kids.  And if we can sneak in some sort of learning along the way, even better.

So whether I’m having them do some note-reading, cooking, baking, shopping, trying new foods, or taste-testing, it all counts.

But this is a little different.  Lately, on top of the holiday hustle and bustle, I’ve been busy making some super-silly paper dolls for lunchboxes.  But these are not your average paper dolls.

No way.

These paper dolls are made to dress up our food a bit.  Namely, those sweet and tiny, unsuspecting mandarin oranges.  Halos mandarins.

I’m almost positive that dressing up your kid’s tiny oranges will yield some serious snacktime laughs.  Life is too short for our kids not to play with their food. Right? Let’s get ’em started now.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halos Mandarin Orange Paper Dolls–Dress Up Your Food: I laugh every time I look at these.

Halos are easy enough for kids–seedless, easy to peel, and totally sweet.  So they really don’t need much as far as dressing up is concerned.

let kids play with food halos paper dolls

let kids play with food halos paper dolls

But because I send my kids to school with lunchbox love notes every day, I wanted to somehow incorporate something fun along with one of their favorite lunchtime foods.

So I took some basic measurements of the Halos, knowing that they’d vary slightly from fruit to fruit.

I put that number into a very basic design using PicMonkey.  I knew that I wanted an open circle in each character’s design so that the Halo could shine through.

make lunchtime fun halos paper dolls collage

Because Halos’ season runs through winter, I wanted some winter-themed paper dolls. I made a Santa, a gingerbread boy, a penguin, reindeer, and two elves–a girl and a boy.

All I did was cut out around the basic shape and cut out the hole in the center.

make lunchtime fun halos paper dolls

make lunchtime fun halos paper dolls

In order to make sure that the Halos fit in the center, I had to cut little slits at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock areas of the circle.

No biggie.

Still fun.

make lunchtime fun halos paper dolls

Halos Mandarin Orange Paper Dolls–the snacktime funny faces and friends

And the super fun part? Adding faces–eyes, nose, mouth–with a permanent marker once the little mandarin is in place.

Want to download the Halos Mandarin Orange Paper Dolls–the snacktime funny faces and friends –so that your kiddos can play with their food? Sure you do!

make lunchtime fun halos paper dolls

make lunchtime fun halos paper dolls

Honestly, they make me crack up.

Maybe I need a little pre-holiday vay-cay. Or maybe I just really like playing with food. . .

Either way, what do you think? Will you use them? Will your kids totally heart them?

Shhhhh. . . I’ve already made a second and third set.  Monsters, aliens, and funny guys and then some really fun flowers and more.  I need a break.

Fruit is fun! Get your family excited about fresh foods with sweet, healthy reminders all year long and activities they’ll love. Check out the FREE HalosFun kids’ app on Android or iPhone for more ways to get them cheering about pure goodness. You can learn more about Wonderful Halos on Facebook, Twitter or HalosFun.

fyi: This is a sponsored post, written for Halos. As always, my opinions and ideas are all my own.

our cookie baking day: favorite family annual holiday tradition

holiday baking day cookies

Every year, one of our advent calendar activities reads: Cookie Baking Day!  annual cookie baking day

And what that means is that no matter the day–it’s always a surprise!–the kids and I ditch everything (and I mean, everything. . . ahem. . . ), don our aprons, and bake.

All. Day. Long.

My mom did this for us when we were growing up, and it’s one of my most fond childhood memories. It was special. It was crazy. It was busy and fun.

I knew that when I had children I’d do the same. It’s not hard. And when the kids are really young, baking one or two kinds of cookies is all we did.

As they get older, their roles in the day become bigger, and they become responsible for a bit more.

It’s a favorite family annual tradition.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Our Cookie Baking Day–Favorite Family Annual Holiday Tradition: Our Cookie Baking Day is a day we all look forward to.

It’s a lot of work, but in the end, we have dozens and dozens of cookies that we take to holiday parties and give to our neighbors as gifts.

Kiss Cookie Recipe 2013 Teachmama

Kiss Cookie Recipe 2013 Teachmama

The teacher in me looks at the day as an opportunity for some real-life reading, math, and science learning. The parent in me knows that the day is an opportunity for the kids to spend one special, unexpected day together, making memories and working hard at something that is important to each one of us.

Do the days always go picture-perfect? Um, no.

Do the cookies always look beautiful, taste scrumptious, and look bakery-fab? No, no, and no.

holiday baking day cookies -

holiday baking day cookies

holiday baking day cookies

Do the kids get along harmoniously, taking perfect turns and following instructions top to bottom? No and no.

Does the kitchen get totally rocked by the end of the day, like a small bomb exploded in our house? Absolutely.

holiday baking day cookies

holiday baking day cookies

There was the time that Maddy slid across the counter and sent the salt shaker splattering into our dough.

The many times, while the kids were learning to crack eggs, that eggs exploded like fireworks in tiny hands.

We’ve had milk spilled, cookies fall, and ingredients forgotten.

We’ve spilled bags of chocolate chips.

We’ve seen Brady steal aprons and oven mitts; we’ve experienced burns and power outages.

holiday baking day cookies

Some years are easier than others.

How we schedule our day:

  • Light planning: Before our Cookie Baking Day, Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I talk about what kinds of cookies we’ll bake that year.  Some years we try new kinds, and other years, we stick to old faves.
  • Big shopping: I take their suggestions into account and do the shopping for ingredients. Because the day is a surprise for them, I make the general cookie-baking plan. I hide the ingredients so no one notices.


holiday baking day cookies

holiday baking day cookies

holiday baking day cookies


  • Big surprising.  The kids wake and get ready for the day as normal. Then whomever’s day it is opens the Advent Calendar and reads that day’s Advent Activity: It’s Cookie Baking Day! Let’s bake, bake, BAKE!!
  • Serious baking. We start before breakfast, making one dough and refrigerating it. We make another dough and send the first tray into the oven. We continue all day long, through dinner.


holiday baking day cookies


holiday baking day cookies


holiday baking day cookies


holiday baking day cookies


  • Some eating. We break for meals while cookies bake.   Of course we test the cookies along the way. Come ON.
  • Light resting.  Really, the kids only rest for one show after lunch, and even then, somebody takes a turn to stay with me in the kitchen. When I say we work all day, we really do work all day.


holiday baking day cookies


holiday baking day cookies


holiday baking day cookies


  • Big sharing. We put many of our cookies away in tins, but one thing we really look forward to is assembling small packages of cookies for our neighbors. Not everyone–that would be crazy–but for a handful of close neighbors, we put an arrangement of our cookie-creations together in a pretty tin or container, and we deliver our sweets one day that week.  So fun.

Do you want to give the Annual Cookie Baking Day a try at your house? Sure you do! It’s totally not too late!

You can follow the recipe below for some kid-friendly recipe reading:


Hershey Kiss Cookie Recipe: kid-friendly recipe from teachmama by teach mama


And if you like this, check out our whole Holiday Baking with Kids eBook!  15 recipes your family will love.

holiday baking with kids eBook

Or check out some other fun recipes from our friends at Target–some new twists on classic faves.

How do you handle holiday baking? I’d love to hear:

  • what are your fave holiday treats to bake?
  • do your kids help in the kitchen?
  • who do you share your sweets with?


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.  Target sent us a Ninja Gingerbread Cookie Set among other baking, decorating, and sharing supplies because they totally, 110% support our #mykindofholiday @target traditions!

make a veggie turkey: kid-happy, thanksgiving dinner-ready

veggie turkey vegetable turkey

veggie turkey vegetable turkey It’s no secret that I have kids who usually love to be in the kitchen–whether it’s trying a new food or helping with a new recipe, my kiddos are usually game.

So when I asked for some help in ‘upping the fun factor’ of our assigned dish for an early family Thanksgiving last weekend, my kids were up for the challenge.

Well, two kiddos were. . .

Vegetables and dip? Sure we can bring it.

But how could we make it more. . . fun?  Could we rock out a veggie turkey? A vegetable tray times 10?  Forget about the ole boring plate and dip bowl, with all the vegetables circled neatly around it.

We were going to get creative.  I was going to harness the imaginations of my three kids and come up with a rockin, kid-happy, party-ready veggie turkey tray like never seen before.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Make a Veggie Turkey– Kid-Happy, Thanksgiving Dinner-Ready: Cora has been a kitchen helper lately.

Owen’s usually trying desperately to play soccer with the big boys across the street, and Maddy comes and goes.

make a veggie turkey: kid-happy, thanksgiving dinner-ready

Yes. Don’t judge us. Fresh veggies and a store-bought pumpkin pie. We can only do so much.

One day she’s all about throwing on her apron and helping, and other days, well. . . she’s got other more important things to attend to.  I get it.  She’s almost ten.

Anyway, this time, Maddy, Cora, and I put our heads together to come up with a rockin Thanksgiving dinner veggie turkey that I think we’ll add to our traditions list each year.

It was simple and fun.  Like painting but with food.

make a veggie turkey: kid-happy, thanksgiving dinner-ready

make a veggie turkey: kid-happy, thanksgiving dinner-ready

Here’s what we did:

  • turkey body: we used a quarter of a yellow pepper
  • turkey eyes: we cut slits in the pepper and shoved in mini cucumber wedges
  • turkey beak: triangle of orange pepper
  • turkey waddle: (is that what it’s even called??) red pepper
  • turkey feet: orange pepper
  • turkey feathers: carrot sticks, yellow and orange peppers, tiny cucumbers, grape tomatoes
  • turkey feet: orange peppers
  • grass: broccoli
  • flowers: peppers and tomatoes

vegetable turkey

vegetable turkey

After Maddy left the scene, Cora took over.

She was all about creating patterns in the turkey feathers with the veggies.  I was totally game and really just wanted to support what she was doing.

She was thinking creatively and using her brain.

She was having a blast.

vegetable turkey

vegetable turkey

Finished turkey sitting on grass with flowers all around him.  Obviously.

And our finished turkey? Tons of fresh vegetables and a very proud Cora.

Dip? On the side. Separate plate. Our turkey was way too big!

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

thanksgiving pinterest board

Super-simple and yes, there are probably a million ways to create a veggie turkey–which is why this was so much fun. There was really no wrong way.

Have you made one before? We’d love to see photos! Please share!

And have a super-happy Thanksgiving!