parent teacher connect: parents and teachers working TOGETHER is the key to children’s success in school

parent teacher connect  teachmama.com

parent teacher connect  teachmama.com

 

We’ve got something cool brewing, my friends, and we want you to come along for the ride!

Join us over at teachmama.com: parent teacher connect— a platform where parents and teachers can ask questions, get answers, support each other, and learn how to best reach all of our children.  

Parents and teachers working TOGETHER is the key to children’s success in school. Parent Teacher Connect is a spot for parents and teachers to CONNECT. 

Everyone is welcome here–parents, teachers, administrators, classroom volunteers, you name it.

Here we can have a working, continual dialogue between parents AND teachers. I am SO excited to bring to life a platform where parents and teachers can ask questions, get answers, support each other, and learn how to best reach all of our children.

Teachers:

  • What do you wish parents knew about their children’s success in school?
  • What resources do you have that really help to reach students?
  • How best do you communicate with parents?
  • What works in your classroom?
    teachmama parent teacher connect header 3

 

Parents:

  • What do you wish teachers knew about how your child can meet with success in school?
  • What resources do you have that really help support your child?
  • How best do you communicate with teachers?
  • How do you manage homework?

We’re here for ANY and ALL questions you have, but our goal is to cover the following topics each day:

Math Monday: math will be our focus here

Techy Tuesday: tips, tricks, ideas for integrating technology at home and in the classroom

Wildcard Wednesday: anything goes!

Read to Me Thursday: books, books, books!

Foundation Friday: help for building foundations for learning at home and in the classroom

STEM Saturday: science, technology, engineering, and math

Social Sunday: share links, resources, posts, anything that you want others to read or see

Join us: teachmama.com: parent teacher connect.

Tell me, friends–what topics do you want to see covered? How can we make this group work for you?

We really want to know!

coral reefs of Palau: The Nature Conservancy free virtual field trip and learning resources

coral reefs of Palauvirtual field trip teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

coral reefs of Palauvirtual field trip  teachmama.com

Right about now a lot of us are thinking about sun, sand, and surf.

I know I am. School’s almost out, and over here, we’re all ready for summer to begin.

But before school lets out for the year, there’s still a bunch of learning to be done.

And for those of us who are heading to the shore this summer, those of us who are planning on dipping our toes in the ocean, it might be cool to learn a bit about life underwater–the interconnected city of life in the sea.

Guess what? You can take a trip to the coral reefs of Palau with the click of a button.

Not kidding.

This month, with thanks to The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works Everywhere, students can take a virtual field trip to learn about the miracle and magic of the coral reefs.

May 19th. 12pm ET.

You’re invited! You’re all invited.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Coral Reefs of Palau: The Nature Conservancy Free Virtual Field Trip and Learning Resources

For real.

Mark your calendars, share this post with your child’s teacher.

Forward this link to your school’s administration so that they can share the link with staff.

The Coral Reefs of Palau: Nature’s Amazing Underwater Cities is the latest in a series aimed to build students’ knowledge of and emotional connection to environmental issues that are at the heart of The Nature Conservancy’s mission.

Got it? Good!

Here are the details:

Who:  teachers, students, parents, anyone

What:virtual field trip! The Coral Reefs of Palau: Nature’s Amazing Underwater Cities free virtual field trip and learning resources  hosted byMarine Biologist Stephanie Wear.

Here, sharks snatch up smaller prey; decorator crabs apply bits of shell, algae, and sponge to their own backs for camouflage; and massive 2,000-pound sea cows graze. Our journey to the Coral Reefs will open students’ eyes to an amazing, interconnected ecosystem built on symbiosis and mutualism, where diverse organisms are designed to protect, clean, nourish, and even camouflage one another. In this underwater city, the coral supports its many “workers” and they, in turn, keep the coral healthy.

Called “the medicine chests of the sea,” Coral Reefs provide ingredients that are leading to new lifesaving medications. They are also an astonishingly rich source of food for many species, including humans, and provide a perfect buffer to protect shorelines from erosion. Join our expert scientist, , as we take a deep dive to learn about one of the “seven underwater wonders of the world.” May 19, 2015 at 12:00 pm (ET). Length: 40 minutes.

Why: to show students that in the Coral Reefs, everything is interconnected—and this includes people. The Coral Reefs function like an undersea city, with every organism having an important role.

Where: whatever works for you–

When: May 19th 2015 at 12 pm ET

How: sign up to take part in the virtual field trip herehttp://ow.ly/M79LK

JOIN US!

Check out Stephanie Wear as she talks about coral reefs feeding and protecting us. (Hint: Use it as a background knowledge builder for the upcoming field trip!)

 

And more: Check out these supplementary resources to really hit the ball out of the park!

The Nature Conservancy provides tons of resources that bring learning to life.

And we can experience so many cool things thanks to Nature Works Everywhere.

 

The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources: Wild Biomes-- From America's Rainforest to America's Desert

 

I have been in awe of the work that The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works Everywhere has been doing to bring learning to life.

In fact, the kids and I have been a bit obsessed ever since I wrote about the Wild Biome Virtual field trip last month. To get a sense of what these virtual field trips are like, you can check out our last post or you can find two of the past Virtual Field Trips here.

prd_026970

Clown-fish-and-coral-reef-in-Moorea-French-Polynesia-c-Jean-Philippe-Palasi_resized

Coral_and_fish

 

 

Again, huge thanks goes to great organizations like The Nature Conservancy and Nature Works Everywhere, for their work to make learning and resources hands-on, accessible, and meaningful.

Check it out!coral reefs virtual field trip  teachmama.com

 

Want to check out a past Virtual Field trip from The Nature Conservancy?

The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources: Wild Biomes-- From America's Rainforest to America's Desert

 

fyi: This post was written as part of a partnership with The Nature Conservancy and We Are Teachers; as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. 

3 ways to stay connected with long-distance family and friends

3 ways to stay connected to family teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

I’ve shared time and time again how hard it is for me to live hours from my parents and sisters, even if it’s only a three and a half hour drive.

Sure, it’s a short enough distance that we can make it there and back in a day if need be, but it’s too long to make a quick stop for a Sunday dinner. Or to grab a last-minute babysitter. Or to have a desperately-needed girls’ night out with sisters or mom.

Luckily, though, my kids have a great relationship with their Nanny and Pap and  their PA cousins, aunts and uncles, no matter the distance. But we’ve had to be creative over the years in order to stay in touch.

We’ve got three ways to stay connected with long-distance family and friends.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Stay Connected with Long-Distance Family and Friends:

1. Power Note-Writing

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

Especially for my Nana who is 92, the power note writing is really helpful because Power Note Writing is just that–writing a bunch of notes at one sitting.

Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I sit down for a few hours one afternoon, and we write tons of notes at once.

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

We essentially catch her up on everything that’s going on in our lives. We add photos, we add stickers, we add flowers and jewels.

We get crafty and creative and have a whole lot of fun with it.

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

And then we sign, seal, and stamp each note but add one more important element–a sticky note with a date on it.

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

That date tells us when to put the letter in the mail so that Nana isn’t inundated with mail on one day; instead every few days, we grab a note and put it in the mailbox so that every few days, Nana is surprised with a fun and happy little ‘hello’ from her Maryland great-grandchildren.

 

2. Panasonic HomeTeam™ app

One thing that sure does make staying in touch easier is today’s technology.

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

I’m always willing to take a look at the latest and greatest when it comes to apps and programs that make staying in touch easier–because goodness knows that we’re being pulled in a million different directions all of the time.

I’ve found something that’s really worth checking out: the Panasonic HomeTeam™ app.

 

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

It’s an online service that connects loved ones across generations and distance. And the cool thing is that family members can read stories and play games together even when they’re far apart. And the platform is super-easy to navigate for those less than tech-savvy family members.

HomeTeam is a platform where cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents–anyone!–can connect in a safe way and spend time together.

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

Hundreds of stories are available, like Curious George, Martha Speaks, 5 Little Monkeys, Tuesday, Mr. Wuffles, Jumanji, Animal Sounds, and more–as well as dozens of games like chess, checkers, tic-tac-toe, and more. HomeTeam gives families something to do together that packs a powerful punch–learning and fun.

Definitely check it out.

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

Though it is a paid platform, you get a free 30-day trial, so it’s totally worth trying and seeing if it works for your family.

fyi: Anyone can sample the entire HomeTeam experience, including unlimited access to content and all features free of charge for 30 days. After that, a premium subscription for continued access to unlimited content is available by month ($7.99/mo) and by year ($79.99/yr).

Find more ideas for memory-making with your family thanks to Scholastic and Panasonic.

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

 

3. Weekly Check-In Calls  

I know several friends who keep a standing ‘date’ on the calendar each week for a phone call with grandparents.

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

They pick a day and a time that works, and they know that every week at that time, the grandkids will have a quick catch-up call.

It’s a super time for stories to be exchanged, for questions to be asked, and for connections to be made.

3 ways to stay connected to family  teachmama.com

Some may believe that the ole phone has become obsolete, but I beg to differ. It’s easy, it’s (usually) fool-proof, and it’s quick.

Put a reminder on your phone. Set the date in pen on your calendar. It’s easier than you think!

 

How do you stay in touch with long-distance family and friends? I’d love to hear it!

 

fyi: This is a sponsored post, written as part of a partnership with Panasonic. However, as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator, trying to keep my family connected and in touch.

The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources: Wild Biomes– From America’s Rainforest to America’s Desert

The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources: Wild Biomes-- From America's Rainforest to America's Desert

sponsored post

 

 

The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources: Wild Biomes-- From America's Rainforest to America's Desert

 

Any time that parents and teachers can bring learning to life–really make it hands on and real–I think they should totally go for it.

And though years ago, the only way for students to step outside the classroom required an old yellow school bus, permission slips, and countless hours planning and organizing, things today are quite different.

Virtual field trips can happen with the click of a button.

Seriously? SO. Cool.

And this month, thanks to The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works Everywhere, students can take a virtual field trip to learn how nature and water work with people.

April 8th. 12pm ET. (But if you missed it, NO WORRIES! The video is embedded below!)

You’re invited! You’re all invited.

Here’s the skinny. . .

The Nature Conservancy Virtual Field Trip and Learning Resources: Wild Biomes– From America’s Rainforest to America’s Desert

For real.

Mark your calendars, share this post with your child’s teacher.

Forward this link to your school’s administration so that they can share the link with staff.

Wild Biomes–From America’s Rainforest to America’s Desert is the latest in a series aimed to build students’ knowledge of and emotional connection to environmental issues that are at the heart of The Nature Conservancy’s mission.

Don’t remember what a ‘biome’ is? Don’t worry. It’s all good. A ‘biome’ is just an area of the planet that can be classified by the plants and animals that live there. Like for this virtual field trip, you’ll be looking at the rainy area of the Olympic Peninsula and the dry, desert landscape of Arizona.

Got it? Good!

Here are the details:

Wild Biomes-- From America's Rainforest to America's Desert

Who:  teachers, students, parents, anyone

What:virtual field trip!  Wild Biomes: From America’s Rainforest to America’s Desert   hosted by Tyler DeWitt and featuring Kari Vigerstol, senior hydrologist on The Nature Conservancy’s Global Water team

Two wildly different ecosystems, both dependent on the same precious resource: water.  On this virtual field trip, we’ll first travel to the lush, rain-soaked splendor of the Olympic Peninsula and explore the urban watershed of Seattle.  The abundant rainfall here provides plenty of water, but keeping it clean and safe can be a challenge.  Next, we’ll head to Arizona’s dry, desert landscape and take a tour down the Verde River, one source of water that nourishes this parched land. Here, people and other living things must adapt to a limited water supply, yet sudden and violent storms can dump seven inches of rain in a single night! Tune in for our live Google hangout at 12pm ET on April 8, 2015, to find out how geography, people, and water interact in two of America’s ‘wildly’ unique biomes. (40 minutes)

Why: to show students that nature and water work with people

Where: whatever works for you

When: April 8, 2015 at 12 pm ET

How: sign up to take part in the virtual field trip herehttp://ow.ly/K9hIi

UPDATE: Below is the Wild Biomes Virtual Field Trip. Enjoy!

And more: Check out these supplementary resources to really hit the ball out of the park!

The Nature Conservancy provides tons of resources that bring learning to life.

And we can experience so many cool things thanks to Nature Works Everywhere.

 

The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources: Wild Biomes-- From America's Rainforest to America's Desert

 

I have been in awe of the work that The Nature Conservancy’s Nature Works Everywhere has been doing to bring learning to life.

In fact, the kids and I did a lot of exploring and watched two whole past field trips this weekend. You can find two of the past Virtual Field Trips here.

The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources:

Friends, we are so lucky.

Learning is so much different now, thanks to technology.

Learning is so much more fun now, thanks to technology.

Learning is so much cooler now, thanks to technology.

And thanks to great organizations like The Nature Conservancy and Nature Works Everywhere, we are doubly lucky because they make learning and resources hands-on, accessible, and meaningful.

Check it out!

The Nature Conservancy virtual field trip and learning resources: Wild Biomes-- From America's Rainforest to America's Desert

fyi: This post was written as part of a partnership with The Nature Conservancy and We Are Teachers; as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. 

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime  teachmama.com

 

We are so lucky now that our kids can literally have the world at their fingertips. With technology today and well-designed educational apps, kids can basically explore the world from the comfort of their own home.

Virtual travel is something that our family has enjoyed for years now–through food especially.

Recently we had a chance to do a little exploration of sorts–enjoying a meal at a nearby Belgian restaurant and then challenging ourselves to make the same recipe at home.

It was a blast.

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

And along the way, we researched and experimented and learned a ton.

Your at-home cultural adventure need not be focused on Belgian mussels; you can do whatever exploring suits your own family. But here’s how we did it.

And read on to find out how you can even win a chance at a $25,000 Trip of a Lifetime for your family.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Belgian Mussels With Kids–A Cultural Adventure at Home:

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

When we started brainstorming how we wanted to explore another culture at home, we started first by looking around us.

  • What ethnic restaurants were nearby?
  • Which cultures did we want to explore?
  • What foods did we want to try?
  • What could we do with little financial strain?
  • Which recipes could we then try at home?
  • What interested my kids most? 

We really didn’t have to look too far. With a top-rated Belgian restaurant named Mannekin-Pis within an hour’s driving distance, I knew we had a winner.

A little research into the background of the restaurant–and the reason for its name–was enough to get Maddy, Owen, and Cora more than interested.

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

I simply copied a bit of information about the real Mannekin-Pis in Brussels, Belgium, and I left it on the breakfast table.

And the minute the kids caught sight of the small boy statue, relieving himself into a fountain, they went nuts.

What the whaaaa?  Look at what that guy is doing!

He’s peeing in a fountain! Mom! Why’d you leave this here? 

Why is he in all those different costumes? Who’s dressing him up?

 

Then Maddy, Owen, and Cora read the articles, and they found some answers.

We talked a little about what they learned: who the statue was, some of the legends, where he was located, and why he was all dressed up.

I said, So we’re actually going to go to a restaurant not too far from us that is called Mannekin-Pis, and we’re going to try some new Belgian foods. How’s that sound?

They were psyched. Psyched.

At the restaurant, we explored a ton of new foods: traditional Belgian mussels, seafood stew, potato-leek soup, pork, trout, and of course, Belgian chocolates for dessert.

We were thrilled to try to replicate one of the recipes on our own, and we decided that the mussels would be the most fun to try.

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

Owen stepped up as the main chef for our mussels dinner. We searched and searched and found a recipe that most reminded us of the pot of mussels we had only a few nights before: Mussels in Saffron and White Wine Broth.

We made our shopping list, assembled our ingredients, and started cooking.

Our recipe had us trying saffron, a new-for-us spice, and preparing a food we had never previously attempted.

If you’d like to grab our recipe, you can download it here as a pdf: belgian mussels _ teachmama.com

belgian mussels with kids | teachmama.combelgian mussels _ teachmama.com

(If you choose to share the recipe–and we hope you do!–please link to this post instead of the attachment page! Thank you!)

Owen really took charge of this recipe. It was a riot.

He did everything from chopping the vegetables for the broth to cutting bread to cleaning the mussels, and he was uber proud when he finished.

 

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

The mussels were a complete success!

But even more important than making a new for us food was showing Maddy, Owen, and Cora that with a little bit of time, effort, and energy, they could bring a totally new culture to our very own home.

I love it when kids do some serious learning in the kitchen!

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

You could do just about anything like we did–experience a new food at a restaurant and then try to bring it home.

It’s a fantastic learning experience for the whole family.

And it doesn’t have to stop with food; consider learning a new culture through crafts, dances, songs, or language.

 

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

 

MWorld Educational App:

Or, if you’re not sure where to begin, know that bringing cool cultural experiences into our homes is easier than ever thanks to technology.

We’ve been playing with a new app for the past few weeks called MWorld.

mworld app

MWorld is an educational app that lets kids celebrate the world in all its glory.

The MWorld app allows users to explore, create their own worlds, and discover new and exciting adventures.

 

belgian mussels with kids: a cultural adventure at home & trip of a lifetime

mworld app collage | teachmama.com

 

Created by an incredible team of educators and developers from Monash University, this app packs an incredible amount of fun and creative learning into one platform. 

Maddy, Owen, and Cora are only just beginning to scratch the surface of all that MWorld has to offer. And they’re learning a ton and enjoying the ride.

It’s a must-see.

I have 100, 20-credit MWorld codes to give to 100 teachmama.com readers valued at over $25 each!

Here’s how:

  1. Head over to MWorld site, discoverMWorld.com, and create an account.
  2. Enter this special code: amymwjtujg
  3. Log into your account and redeem your 20 MWorld credits!

Please note:  This offer is only valid with purchase and can only be redeemed once per account. All MWorld purchases are subject to the terms and conditions available atdiscovermworld.com/terms-conditions.

Trip of a Lifetime: 

mworld trip of a lifetime | teachmama.com

Free codes for 100 teachmama.com readers? Really.

And a chance to win a Trip of a Lifetime? Yes. Really.

Do you want to go on the trip of a lifetime? To celebrate the global launch of MWorld, Monash is offering an adventurous family the opportunity to travel the world with a AUD $25,000 (over USD $20,000) travel voucher.

Head to the Trip of a Lifetime site to find out more and to share what you would do on your ‘trip of a lifetime’

Who knows? You may win your trip around the world, iPads, GoPros, and more!  If you win, let me know!!

 

 

fyi: This post is part of my work with the MWorld Trip of a Lifetime program.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little world travelers.

homemade ornaments for digital kids

homemade ornaments for digital kids

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

My kids are getting older.homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

At 11, 9, and 7, they needed a little something different this year in order to get them excited about ornament-making.

And I think I found it.

In all things they do they’re like most kids.

They want to have control.

They want freedom.

They want to know I have faith in their ability.

So I created ornaments for digital kids–ornaments that any ‘digital kid’ would totally dig because they combine their tech-savviness and some hands-on, old-school crafting.

I’m sure all of the aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents will love them.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Homemade Ornaments for Digital Kids:

I love school pictures. I don’t care how ugly or funny they are, I just love them.

I think they’re classic in a nerdy and silly way, so I often try to use them for holiday gifts for family.

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

 

Sure, I love the natural, outdoor, casual shots of family, too, but there’s something about school pictures that have always made me laugh a little.

Plus I think they’re even more fun to edit than other shots.

So for ornament-making for digital kids, what you’ll need is:

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

 

And because Maddy, Owen, and Cora knew from the Advent Activity Calendar that today was the day to finish up holiday gifts for family, they knew from the start that they’d be crafting in some way, shape, or form today.

So when I said, Hey guys, let’s meet in the kitchen in five minutes to get our craft on, they were cool.

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com collage

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

(This one did not pass the ‘okay for family’ test)

I said, So today we’re going to start–and finish–our photo ornaments for aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents. But we’re not just going to slap some glitter on the ornaments and call it a day.

Instead, you guys are going to do some serious digital creating. You are going to be the ones to put together your photos in any way you’d like. All I ask is that you make it so that we can clearly see your faces on each one. And each ornament needs to have all three of you on them, okay?

The kids had worked with PicMonkey before, so they were pretty psyched.

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

Like I said, it always seems that my kids are game to do things like this when I give them control, freedom, and my faith in them.

So all I did was load PicMonkey on each computer–my laptop, the chromebook, and my husband’s computer. And I put all three of the kids’ photos on a zip drive, then I loaded them into each computer.

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

On PicMonkey, very simply, I set the kids up for success. I didn’t want them to frustrate, I just wanted them to have fun creating. To get them started, I:

  1. Went to ‘Design’
  2. Chose the square
  3. Made the background white
  4. Clicked on the butterfly (for overlays) on the left sidebar
  5. Clicked ‘Your Own’ to add my own overlay
  6. Added each of the kids’ school photos to the blank square
  7. Let. Them. At. It!

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

I taught the kids how to use PicMonkey for their ornaments.

They simply went to the little snowflake for Themes and some highlights of each Theme. I showed them how to add Santa beards, hats, and snowflakes.

I showed them how combining elements (clicking the little stack of papers with the arrow pointing down, right next to the gear on the top right of the screen) allows you to use Touch-Ups (click the lipstick), Effects (click the wand), or Frames (click the frame).

They figured out how to add text and change color, font, and size.  They figured out how to add elements, change the background, and do more than I probably know, even after two years of using the platform.

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

 

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

 

Owen really got comfortable using the Halloween-inspired overlays.

He begged me to let him make an ornament of his face all morphed and crazy, but I told him that he’d most definitely give his grandparents a heart attack and make his little cousins have nightmares for years.

PicMonkey is super-easy to use, and though you don’t need the ‘royal’ features, I use it often enough that the royal features are way worth it for me. And now that the kids are more fluid in it, they can use it for school projects, invitations, or fun. I love it.

After the kids finished, I saved their ornaments onto the zip drives and moved them onto my computer. Then I added each of them to one word document. I made two columns and resized each ornament to 2.1″ x 2.1″.  Our ornaments were tiny, but I wanted the whole thing to fit.

 

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

 

We printed their creations on white card stock and then we got to the crafty-crafty part.

We grabbed our blank ornaments, divvied up the family members who we needed to create for, and got working.

 

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

Creating the ornament was super-simple. 

1.  We mod podged one whole coat on the blank ornaments.

2. We added the photo and all of the sequins and bling we wanted.

3.  We let them dry.

4.  We mod podged over top of everything.   Sparkle mod podge added a bit more bling, so some went that route.

5.  We wrote ‘Maddy, Owen, and Cora 2014′ on the back with black sharpie and mod podged over the whole back.

6. We added a fancy ribbon, and we were finished!

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

 

homemade ornaments for digital kids | teachmama.com

 

And that’s it.

Super cute, super exciting for the kids, and super-beautiful when finished!

The most important thing? Maddy, Owen, and Cora were honing their ‘digital kid’ photo editing skills at the same time they were making something really cool for family members.

It makes gift-giving all the more fun and meaningful when kids are excited to share this way.

 

 

 

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

 

must have gifts for kids and families | teachmama.com

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

 

kids and family gift guide from teachmama.com

 

teachmama gift guide 2012

 

 

holiday gift guide | teachmama.com

 

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

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

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

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

 

 

I’m a hardcore fan of the photo book.

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

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

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

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

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

Both very frequently have rockstar sales going on.

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

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

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

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

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

unique and cool photo book ideas  teachmama.com

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

3. Capture a Memory, a Life Event.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

4. House Snapshot.

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

And? She loves it.

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

 

 

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

 

5. Best Times With Grandparent

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

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

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

 

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

6. Baby’s First Year

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

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

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

Bam. Done and done.

 

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

 

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

7.  Recipe Book

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

Why not?

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

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

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

 

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

 

8. Craft Collage or Art Book

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

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

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

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

Photograph close up and from a distance.

Add the photos to a folder on your computer.

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

 

 

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

 

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

9.  LEGO Creations

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

Play-Doh castles? Crazy-cool marble runs?

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

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

 

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

 

10.  Church, Temple, or School Event

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

11.  Cool Science Experiment (or Animal Facts!)

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

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

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

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

 

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

12.  Family ABC Book

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

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

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

Want kids to get their ABCs quickly?

Make a Family ABC Book.

 

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

13.  Family Vacation

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

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

So fun.

Man I want to return. . .

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

14.  Book About Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Possibilities are endless.

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

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

15. Home Renovation or Family Move

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

You know that it’s the thought that counts!

 

please pin it later!

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

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

must have gifts for kids and families | teachmama.com

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

 

kids and family gift guide from teachmama.com

 

teachmama gift guide 2012

 

 

holiday gift guide | teachmama.com

 

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills

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

sponsored post

 

 

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

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

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

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

It’s interesting. It’s different.

And it really gets kids thinking.

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

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

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

But this one really, truly does.

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

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

Fast facts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Overall, Owen liked that:

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

Owen wishes that:

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

quandary: video game for improving decision-making skills

I liked that:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts combines physical learning and digital learning | teachmama.com & @tigglykids

sponsored post

 

 

 

iPad toy? Right.ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

When I heard about it, I thought the same exact thing.

We’re inundated with toys, and my kids are lucky to even have an iPad. Why do we need anything else? And how on earth could there be a toy for the iPad?

I’m honestly in awe.

This iPad toy is actually so cool. And the way it incorporates hands-on learning with digital learning blew my mind.

Tiggly Counts.  It’s an award-winning blend of physical play and digital play.

You want it. Stat.

And I not only have a sweet coupon code for you (30% off!–woot!) but I also have two Tiggly Counts sets to give away–just in time for the holidays! Read on.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • iPad Toy for Early Math Skills–Tiggly Counts: I’m a really tough critic when it comes to apps for my kids.

Especially because we have a close watch on the kids’ screen time and because there are about a gazillion apps on the market, I think we, as parents, should be super-choosy about who and what we’re letting into our lives.

So when I was asked by my friends at Tiggly to check out their new Tiggly Counts, I was curious to say the least.

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

 

Essentially, Tiggly Counts is an iPad toy that combines physical learning with digital learning. And it’s all about math. And it’s for our little guys–our preschoolers. 

I love it.

Kids ages three and older would especially like this toy, but always use your own judgement. I know my Owen would have totally dug this at 2 or 2 1/2, and I know that at 7 and 9, Cora and Owen really liked trying it out. Just worth noting.

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

Tiggly Counts comes with rods–these five rods that are durable and easy to manipulate for little hands–and they were actually inspired by the Cuisenaire rods used in Montessori education.  I know all our Montessori fans are dancing over this one.

The rods are used with the iPad apps. And for a mom who’s always careful about screen time, I love the combination of hands-on and digital learning, especially for basic skills like counting and number recognition.

Three apps were designed for this set each focus on math but cover slightly different areas: 

  • Tiggly Chef: covers numbers and early addition concepts,  math symbols, following instructions and thinking flexibly
  • Tiggly Adventures: introduces kids to number line concepts, number sense, and counting skills
  • Tiggly Cardtoons: basic math skills like one-to-one matching, counting, and equal sets

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly countsBy far my kids loved Tiggly Chef the most, maybe because of the chef’s voice, maybe because of the silly creations, maybe it was more their speed, or maybe because of all the cooking they do over here. Whatever it was, they laughed out loud while playing this game. Super cute.

I wish, wish, wish I had this app when my kids were younger because it would have really helped build a foundation for strong math skills at an early age. I love the combination of saying the number, seeing the number, and seeing that number of objects. 

Overall, I love:

  • the combination of counting on the screen and then within the rods–because the rods’ windows are large enough to see the objects inside;
  • the wait time that this app allows. It moves slowly–but not too slow;
  • the graphics: simple, sweet, and cool;
  • the concepts: kids get these apps. They really do. They’re intuitive and designed for today’s digital kids;
  • the whole idea of bringing together physical play and digital play. It’s just. . . awesome.

 

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

 

Here’s the deal with this app, if you’re confused–anyone can grab the three apps in the iTunes store for free; however, the rods–the counting toys–come with the set. And these rods are what make Tiggly Counts super cool.

With the rods, kids are really interacting with the apps. They’re holding, physically counting, and moving objects on the screen.

Check out our video close-up:

 

Tiggly Counts isn’t even out on the shelves yet, but it will be very soon. It will be available in November, but folks are pre-ordering it now.

And I have a 30% coupon for you to use! Yaaaa-hoooooo. Just in time for the holidays.

 

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

 

All you have to do is visit the Tiggly Counts site (http://get.tiggly.com/counts) enter the code ILOVETIGGLY  for 30% off of your order.

This code is good through the end of October 2014.

However, I am giving away two Tiggly Counts sets to one lucky teachmama.com reader.  That way, you get to keep one for your kids and give one as a gift to a nephew, niece, friend, or relative. So fun, right?

————————————————————-

GIVEAWAY: Two sets of Tiggly Counts.

Do you want to win TWO sets of the new and amazing Tiggly Counts??!  Yes, yes you do.  

[PLEASE NOTE: prizes will not be delivered until mid-December 2014, so plan accordingly!]

——————————-

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, October 17, 2014 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the US only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 10/17/14.  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 a sponsored post; however, as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little digital kids.

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

sponsored post

 

 

 

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse  teachmama.com

Fire safety and learning? Right.

Fire safety is one of those topics that seem to only come up either at a school assembly or when something awful and scary happens in the news.

But it’s a topic–like many difficult topics–that I truly believe should be a frequent, familiar conversation for families.

So when I was asked to take a look at a new app from sparkyschoolhouse.org, you better believe I was game.

It’s an app that does, truly combine important information about fire safety along with fun learning.

I’m thrilled to see the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) doing what they can to be present, ‘in the mix’ of today’s many apps on the market.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Very simply, this is an app you want on your iPad, tablet, or phone. Any mobile device you use, throw it on there.

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

 

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

Because really? It’s got what every parent wants in the complete app package: reading, games, and learning in an easy-to-use platform.

Kids will want to use it because there’s variety, and parents dig it because it all counts. 

I’ve caught Maddy, Owen, and Cora all using the app on separate occasions even after I introduced it to them a few weeks ago. And for me, that’s a serious win.

Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms is an app and story experience–one of those cool ways that learning and games are integrated into a story. The plus? It’s really well done.

 

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

 

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

 

Be forewarned, though: ‘What’s that sound?’ song will be stuck in your head for days on end. But maybe it will remind parents to change the batteries in their smoke alarms?

Overall, the kids and I liked the following elements of Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms:

  • the game. Players help Sparky collect smoke alarms around town and collect batteries as well–because he does have to recharge, after all.
  • the graphics. Simple and clear but not too babyish.
  • the learning. After each section, kids were doing math problems to unlock the next level! Owen totally loved this part.
  • the story. Engaging enough for older readers, with words that are highlighted as they’re read–which is always something parents should look for.
  • the video. Funny. And catchy. And cool.
  • the resources. Tons of resources–printables which include reading, math, word problems. Lesson plans for teachers. Simple, printable games to use as extensions if you have a family discussion about fire safety.

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms is an app created by NFPA, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading the word about fire safety, and it’s been around for years and years. I know I totally remember Sparky the Fire Dog from way back when I was in school, so it’s cool to see him back in action, rocking and rolling in apps that work for today’s kids, too.

Check out the site and Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms app! iTunes  |  Google Play

What do you think? I’d love to hear  your thoughts on this app!

 

fyi: This post is written as part of a partnership with NFPA. All opinions are my own, as always, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. 

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

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

sponsored post

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

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

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

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

 

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

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

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

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

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

Kindle eBooks are also great for:

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

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me know–I’d love to hear it!

 

 

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

Some links are affiliate links.