cool activities for kids all summer long: NEW tabletop surprises

cool activities for kids all summer long: NEW tabletop surprises

cool activities for kids all summer long: NEW tabletop surprises

 

It’s here! It’s here! It’s heeerrreeeee!

I’m so happy. I’m so excited.

And more than ever, I’m over the moon thrilled and elated that summer is right around the corner!

Though I work from home, and it’s always an adjustment to have all the kids home all day long, and we have a busy swim and dive schedule, and ohmygosh I have to feed three kids three meals every single day for like a million days, I have found the most awesome plan for summer fun for my kids–tabletop surprises.

This will be the third summer we’re rocking tabletop surprises, and the kids–and I–couldn’t be more ready to rock and roll!

Here’s the skinny. . .

Cool Activities for Kids All Summer Long–NEW Tabletop Surprises: 

Tabletop Surprises are what works for us because I have three different kids–11, 9, and 8 years old–each with their own personality and plans.

And Tabletop Surprises work for us all.

What are Tabletop Surprises? Tabletop Surprises are invitations to learn, play, create, invent, and think–on their own time. 

Little fun activities just waiting for someone to come along and try ‘em out.

tabletop surprises   teachmama.com 2

This year, everyone helped make the calendars. 

I brought out last year’s Tabletop Surprises calendars, and Maddy, Owen, and Cora wrote, scratched, added, and edited.

summer fun for older kids teachmama.com tabletop surprises

summer fun for older kids teachmama.com tabletop surprises

summer fun for older kids teachmama.com tabletop surprises

I want this summer to be fun for them. And I want them to have some say in what we do each day.

And though they had their own ideas about what they wanted their summer to look like (see below!), I added, adapted, and think they’ll be pretty happy with what we have planned.

Despite what it may look like, Tabletop Surprises allow for so much flexibility in our schedules. They’re short activities that can be done independently (for the most part), so if something fun comes up in our schedule, we drop and go.

That simple.

summer fun for older kids teachmama.com tabletop surprises

How to I get the kids to actually sit down and do the activities? 

A few ways:

1. The activities are fun and the kids want to do them;

2. At any given time, on any given day, I have been known to toss a few gems into the gem jars of people who have been spotted doing the activity. Not every day, but some days.

3.  I’ll join them. Really.

Kids–I truly believe–like to hang out with their parents. Especially if their parents are kinda cool or funny or at least act like they’re cool or funny. I like to hang out with my kids, so when they sit, if I can, I’ll join them.

tabletop surprises   teachmama.com 2

What are the ideas and what makes them so fun?

The activities are hands-on. They’re cool. They’re creative and crafty. They’re unusual. They’re familiar. They’re old and they’re new. They’re digital and battery-free. They’re indoors and outdoors.

It’s a mix, and that keeps them going. And it’s only ten weeks. That gives us one week for vacation and one week to totally pound out math packets and summer school assignments.

And really? I have a whole bunch of back-up this year–4 extra weeks planned out roughly. Just a whole bunch of extra cool, fun things that kids might want to do if and when we find time.

tabletop surprises calendar 2015 | teachmama.com

What do you think? Ready to give Tabletop Surprises a look? 

Awesome.

  1. Print out the calendar: tabletop surprises calendar 2015 teachmama.com
  2. Subscribe to teachmama.com via email.
  3. Download the Tabletop Surprises Resource Guide (you’ll get it when you confirm your subscription, yo!).
  4. Give your kids the skinny on Tabletop Surprises.  Tell them: This summer is totally going to rock. Each day, you’ll have a fun activity waiting right here on the table for you. All summer long. Not even kidding. You’re that lucky.
  5. Start learning, playing, creating, inventing, and thinking alongside your kiddos!
  6. And? Share your #tabletopsurprises via instagram or twitter  just for fun.  We will have a few goodies along the way for families who jump in on the fun. So start sharing and start learning.
  7. Now. Go ahead and create the summer of your dreams. Well. . .

tabletop surprises   teachmama.com 2

Wait. What’s holding you back?

My kids. They’re totally not game for anything anymore now that they’re tweens and teens.

Um. I understand. I get it. My kids have days when they just want to hole up and ignore me. And that’s fine. But there are many days when they want fun things to do.

They want an excuse to play with their old faves, to get their hands dirty, to explore and have fun.

And Tabletop Surprises let them do just that.

tabletop surprises calendar 2015 | teachmama.com

Me. I’m busy. I don’t have time for this. 

Yes. You. Do.  I’ve got every single thing you need right here. Ten weeks.  Links to resources and everything.  Just print out a few things, gather supplies the night before and set it out on your table or a small shelf or somewhere so it’s all there when the kids wake up.  They’ll do it when they’re able.

In fact, I’ve so got this covered, that if you subscribe to teachmama.com via email (only a few emails a week–full of awesome for you and your kids!) you’ll have access to every single thing you need for the entire ten weeks. Every link. Every printable. Bam.

 

Okay, well. . . I may just be convinced.

Give me a look at this stuff. 

Sure. Check out last year’s Tabletop Surprises to get an idea about what we’re doing.

tabletop surprise 2015 sign up teachmam

Or check out 2013:

Or check out our

preparing kids for Kindergarten: the summer before school starts — Home Study

kindergarten prep summer before teachmama.com

Friends!

Do you have a little one heading off to the wilds of Kindergarten this year? 

Then this Home Study is for YOU.

 

kindergarten prep  summer before  teachmama.com

 

This is just one of the many teach mama Home Studies that are short, information-packed, interactive courses designed to change your life.

Perhaps you think ‘changing your life’ is a little lofty–but it’s true.  It really can change your life–and your child’s. 

In the last 10 years, I have spoken at dozens of local and national events, sharing information about teaching, learning, and community building.  One workshop I’ve done dozens of times is about how parents can prepare their children for Kindergarten. 

Time and time again, the feedback is the same: parents have said to me that what they learned in my workshop changed the way they spent time with their children. 

So exciting, right? I know.

I love it, and because it’s something I totally love doing, I’m opening the Home Study up to a larger group for a early summer workshop.  It’ll be awesome. And I know everyone will learn a ton.

And? We’re offering the whole workshop for $20 off through May. Check it out and share this page with your friends.

They’ll thank you for it!

home study kinder prep SUMMER

Check it out to learn more, but know that spots are filling quickly: teach mama Home Study: Kindergarten Prep SUMMER

 

kindergarten prep home study  teachmama.com 300

teachmama long logo home study

 

preparing for kindergarten summer before

Disney SUPRISE: a checklist for parents who want to pull off a last-minute surprise for kids

Disney SUPRISE | teachmama.com

Disney SUPRISE | teachmama.com

Last week, we went to Disney World.

For real.

One of our most favorite places on earth and the kids’ as well.

We’ve been there before, and each time we’ve used the weeks leading up to our trip as a time to prepare with activities, to rock out some Disney word games, to earn Disney Dollars, and to build up pins for pin trading. We’ve even pulled off a rockstar Disney Surprise Scavenger Hunt.

So this time we wanted to do something different.

We wanted to pull off the last minute, SURPRISE! WE’RE GOING TO DISNEY!!! And tell Maddy, Owen, and Cora at the last possible second.

It has not been easy. I may be a bad secret-keeper.

But we did it, and we had a blast.

Here’s the skinny. .

Surprise! We’re Going to Disney–A Checklist for Parents Who Want to Pull off a Last-Minute Surprise for Kids:

Our main concern was that we didn’t want to wake the kids up in the morning and go directly to the airport; we know our kids and understand that they need a wee bit more time to process news like that.

So we decided we’d tell them the night before our flight so that they could help pack, gather their things, and be excited the whole night long.

I think that worked best.

So we did this:

Disney SUPRISE | teachmama.com

 

And we turned our surprise into a packing frenzy of sorts by sharing this:

Disney SUPRISE | teachmama.com

Disney SUPRISE | teachmama.com

 

We set out their suitcases in each of their rooms with the direction to ‘head upstairs before dinner to put clean laundry away’.

On each suitcase was:

  • the Packing Challenge Letter in an envelope
  • their super-cool bleached-out Disney shirt
  • their Magic Band
  • a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry letter rolled up in a scroll (more to come on that!)

We followed them upstairs, hanging slightly behind them, and heard this: 

  • Um, what does this mean? 
  • Where are they sending us? 
  • Why are our suitcases out here? 
  • What’s in the envelope? 
  • What’s going on with Mom and Dad?

Before we knew it, the kids had ripped open their envelopes and were jumping up and down. We’re going to Disney! We’re going to DISNEY! We’re going to Disney TOMORROW! Oh my gosh!!!

Disney SUPRISE | teachmama.com

 

And though we were up a little bit later than I’d hoped, the packing frenzy check sheet helped us tremendously. It gave Maddy, Owen, and Cora a focus for their packing, and it gave us a timeframe in which to complete the task at hand.

Here’s the packing frenzy checksheet:

Disney SUPRISE | teachmama.com

 

You can download the sheet here: packing frenzy list- disney BLANK

And, if you choose to share it, which we hope you do!, please link to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!

Disney SUPRISE | teachmama.com

 

It was awesome.

And the trip, as we knew it would be, was an absolute blast. There’s more on that coming this week!

I just got way too excited to keep filming and shooting photos. There was way too much jumping up and down, hooting and hollering to be done!

Do you want our parent checklist so that you don’t forget anything, my friends?

Disney SUPRISE | teachmama.com

Parent Checklist: parent checklist _ disney surprise teachmama.com

And, if you choose to share it, which we hope you do!, please link to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!

 

Here are a few other post about all things Disney: 

Disney SUPRISE  teachmama.com

fyi: As a participant in the 2015 Disney Social Media Moms Conference, I paid for my conference passes and was given hotel accommodations, park tickets, invitations to special park events, and some gift items.  I was not required to write about my experiences, and my opinions here are all my own, influenced only by my three little park-h0ppers and Disney-loving husband. 

teaching kids to say ‘thank you’ to everyday heroes

teach kids to thank everyday heroes teachmama.com


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teach kids to thank everyday heroes  teachmama.com

 

Too often those important people who do everyday jobs are forgotten.

Even though they work hard to make our days brighter and lives easier, many times days go by when they don’t get ample thanks. And they deserve it.

So our focus this week is to to just that–thank our everyday heroes.

We’re teaching our kids as frequently as we are able to say ‘thank you’ to the people who work hard every day, around them.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Teaching Kids to Say ‘Thank You’ to Everyday Heroes: 

Much like we did with our Surprise Notes for the Neighbors way back when, our Thank You Notes for Everyday Heroes will be the same: quick, easy cards of thanks.

 

teaching kids to say 'thank you' to everyday heroes | teachmama.com

teaching kids to say 'thank you' to everyday heroes | teachmama.com

Just simple tokens of gratitude for the people who do jobs all around us: the postal carrier, the delivery person, the newspaper deliverer, and the folks who work at our bank, dry cleaner, gas station, and grocery store.

Even though our teachers get recognized with Teacher Appreciation Week, our everyday heroes rarely get any regular thanks.

This is just one way that we, as parents, will do what we can to teach our kids workforce appreciation.

teaching kids to say 'thank you' to everyday heroes | teachmama.com

teaching kids to say 'thank you' to everyday heroes | teachmama.com

teaching kids to say 'thank you' to everyday heroes | teachmama.com

It’s simple. But it’s really powerful. Really!

 

The Thank You Notes for Everyday Heroes are here: 

teaching kids to say 'thank you' to everyday heroes | teachmama.com

You can download the pdf here: thank you brighten day notes _ teachmama.com

(Please, if you choose to share this–and we hope you do!–please link to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!)

 

teaching kids to say 'thank you' to everyday heroes | teachmama.com

We will simply put these cards in a small plastic bag, sign them with a smiley face and a first name, and hand them out as we need them. Keeping them in the car may be the best way to do it!

 

Here are a few ways to get started thinking about our everyday heroes: 

Check out the “1 in one hundred million” site–it’s a site created by Kronos that’s devoted to sharing the personal stories of people who do the many important and too-often unrecognized jobs upon which we all rely.

In these videos, ordinary people in the workforce share their stories. It’s a great resource to be used as a starting point for your kids.

teaching kids to say 'thank you' to everyday heroes | teachmama.com

teaching kids to say 'thank you' to everyday heroes | teachmama.com

teaching kids to say 'thank you' to everyday heroes | teachmama.com

Or depending on where in the world you live, the videos and resources may really give your kids a more clear sense of what kind of jobs are out there.

Each month “1 in one hundred million” site releases a new video profiling a person’s story. They’ve covered a firefighter, a trauma nurse, a produce manager at grocery store, a union electrician, a hotel front desk agent, a restaurant server, a teacher, and a baseball bat maker, who was a former MLB pitcher.

 

Want a bit more about how to teach kids workforce appreciation?

Check out:

teach kids workforce appreciation  teachmama.com

 

kronos: workforce appreciationfyi: This post was written as part of a partnership with Find Your Influence, and as always, ideas and opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. Find out more at 1 in one hundred million. Subscribe so you don’t miss any of their videos and follow #WorkforceStories and #1in100MM!

 

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

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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. 

bleached out disney t-shirts for the not-so-crafty crafter

bleached out disney tshirts teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

bleached out disney tshirts  teachmama.com black shirt

We’re all busy.

And most of us really like to get a bit crafty but don’t have the time.

This little crafty craft is for you. And it’s for me.

Because it is so easy.

It’s so quick.

And the results are really, truly awesome.

We wanted to do something to let our kids know that we’re heading to Disney World in the next few days, but I didn’t want to do a full-fledged scavenger hunt like we did before.

We didn’t want to do a Disney countdown.

We wanted to pull the ‘YAY WE’RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD TODAY!!!!’ surprise.

Kind of. We had to keep in mind that our kids do much, much better with a little bit of prep time. Even a teensy bit of prep time helps.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Bleached Out Disney T-Shirts for the Not-So Crafty Crafter

Making these was super easy.

Because my husband and I are surprising Maddy, Owen, and Cora with the trip, I needed to be able to make these t-shirts quickly and in the time that they were in school. So start to finish had to be within six hours. These took a fraction of that time.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

What you need:

What you need to do:

1. Print out the template you want to use.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

 

We used super-simple Mickey ears ones: you can download them here–mouse templates | teachmama.com

Please, if you choose to share this post–and we hope you do!–consider linking to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!)

 

2. Trace the template onto freezer paper.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

You can do this easily by placing the freezer paper on top of the printout and tracing it with a pencil.

 

3. Cut out the image from freezer paper.

I think if you have a detailed design, you could use a razor, but my design was easy, so I did it with scissors.

 

4. Iron the freezer paper stencil to the t-shirt.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

Not kidding. I didn’t know this would work, either, but one side of the freezer paper gets just a wee bit sticky when heated. Find the shiny side of the freezer paper and make sure that side touches the t-shirt.  Find the place you want the image, and place it there.

Remember that the freezer paper blocks the bleach, so wherever that stencil is will be untouched.

6. Mix your bleach solution.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

Because my t-shirts were dark colored, I knew that we wouldn’t need a lot of bleach to pull out color, so we went with a 60: 40 mix of bleach and water. I filled about 60% of the spray bottle with bleach and then added water to the remaining 40%.

If you’re doing a light grey shirt or light yellow or pink shirt, maybe you want to use all bleach, but since ours were black, bright blue, and dark grey, I was pretty confident that even if our bleach was diluted a bit, it would yield the results I wanted.

7. Place cardboard inside the shirt. 

Make sure that the cardboard covers all edges unless you want the bleach to carry over to the side a bit. We want to make sure that only the front of the shirt is bleached and that it doesn’t seep through to the back of the shirt.

 

8. Spray, baby, spray.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

Make sure that the spray nozzle is on the mist setting — test it in the sink if you need to. Then give the spray bottle a shake, and spray the shirt.

Keep the bottle about 6-12  inches from the shirt, depending on the look you want to achieve.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

You can either make sure the area around the stencil is saturated, or just spray lightly.  You can use a hairdryer to speed up the drying and bleaching process, or you can let the bleach air dry.  Again, it depends on what you want your shirt to look like.

9.  Carefully remove the stencil.  

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

After the bleach settles a bit and before the freezer paper stencil gets super soggy, take the stencil off of the t-shirt

All three of mine removed super easy, with just a gentle pull of a corner.  If you need a start to lift up the stencil, use the edge of a dull knife or scissors. The last thing you want to have happen is to make a hole because you tried lifting the stencil too quickly with a sharp knife.

10.  Let your shirt dry just a bit and then rinse and wash the shirt. 

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

 

First rinse the shirt in cold water to remove all of the bleach (See those little white dots in the top photo? That’s the bleach–it must be rinsed away. . . ).

And the finished shirt? Check it out:

bleached out disney tshirts teachmama.com

Then wring it out and wash it (or them, if you did several) in a gentle cycle wash. I dried my shirts on low, and they were fine. I needed them finished by the end of the school day, remember!

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

Some tips: 

  • Make sure you are in a well-ventilated area.  I mean it. Bleach can really smell strong.
  • Put your shirt on a hanger to let your shirt dry for a bit before you rinse out the bleach.
  • Experiment a little–use a Q-tip to try some bleachy dots on the shirt, use a paint brush, or use the freezer paper in fun, new ways.

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

Have. Fun.

Really, this trip is going to be fun, so make sure that your crafty craftiness before the trip is fun, too.

Check out a quickie video with the how-to: 

Do you subscribe to teachmama.com on YouTube? You should!! 
And really–let me know–have you tried this? What works and what doesn’t?

Looking for more Disney craft ideas?

bleached out disney t-shirts | teachmama.com

You will not believe what some of my crafty friends are doing. They totally rock.

And they, too, will be at Disney Social Media Moms Celebration next week. So do follow along with the fun at #DisneySMMC or on Instagram.

disney crafts round up numbered

Definitely check out what they’ve done:

  1. Little Mermaid Ears, by Vanessa of See Vanessa Craft
  2. DIY Disney Jewelry with Free Printable, by Jen of 100 Directions
  3. DIY BB-8 Shirt, by Karen of Desert Chica
  4. DIY Disney Autograph and Activity Book, by Sara of Clever Pink Pirate
  5. Disney Trip Countdown – DIY Washi Tape Chalkboard, by Sara of Mom Endeavors
  6. Disney Drawstring Backpack, by Laura of Pink Cake Plate
  7. bleached out disney t-shirts for the not-so-crafty crafter, by Amy of teach mama
  8. Disney Sticker Story Starters, by Marie of Make and Takes
  9. Disney Princess Duct Tape Hand Mirror, by Heather of Dollar Store Crafts
  10. Custom Toy Story Shorts and Shirts, by Kelly of Eclectic Momsense

 

 

Here are a few other ways to countdown or celebrate your own Disney vacation: 

haircare stress and kids: eliminate the stress with these three tips

stress free haircare for kids | teachmama.com

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stress free haircare for kids | teachmama.com

I have always been a fan of short hair on little girls.

Always.

I just think it’s super cute and easy and fun. I kept Maddy and Cora’s hair short with little bangs for years and years, which is why now, they insist on having long, long, forever long hair.

They always want long hair. Always want to wear it down. Always takes 20 extra minutes in the morning to get the perfect pony or perfect braid, and it causes a boatload of stress.

Thankfully we’ve got a few ways that can help eliminate–or control–haircare stress.

Three tips that I really, truly think will help your familia.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Haircare Stress and Kids– Eliminate Stress with These 3 Tips:

Now, be aware that eliminating is a strong word and that it may take a little bit of time, effort, and energy on everyone’s part before the stress of haircare is totally eliminated. But know that with a few little ‘tweaks’, haircare stress can at least be controlled.

1.  The Fancy Brush.  

haircare stress and kids: teachmama.com

haircare stress and kids |teachmama.com

You can read all about the Fancy Brush here.

Though we’ve graduated from the Fancy Brush to the Wet Brush, both girls have one of their own, and they both do take good care of them.

 

2.  The Products.

haircare stress and kids | teachmama.com socozy

We have only been introduced to this line of products recently, but we have fallen hard for them: SoCozy haircare for kids.

The SoCozy line is a line of haircare products for kids created by Cozy Friedman, the owner of Cozy’s Cuts for Kids, which is a premier children’s hair salon in New York.  Fancy, right? The thing is, they’re actually solid products that really work.

According to Cora, the combination of Cinch and Behave makes the perfect pony. She’s been using the combo herself for the last few days.

haircare stress and kids | teachmama.com socozy

haircare stress and kids | teachmama.com socozy

Haircare products not your thing? It’s cool. I get it.

Then at least check out SoCozy Boo! Boo! is lice prevention shampoo, and the description is a riot: scares away lice. . . naturally. I’ll take it. Sign me up.

Can there be a rule that every kid in school must use SoCozy Boo!?  Please?

Take a quick look at a professional stylist telling me how she made Cora’s perfect ballerina bun:

We had the chance to hang out with the Cozy Friedman at a local event last week at Make Meaning in Bethesda.

It was a ton of fun.

stress free haircare for kids | teach mama

stress free haircare for kids | teach mama

stress free haircare for kids | teach mama

stress free haircare for kids | teach mama

stress free haircare for kids | teach mama

Check out all of the photos from our event:

Cozy Friedman first opened Cozy’s Cuts For Kids, a premiere children’s hair salon aimed at redefining the entire children’s haircut experience, in 1992.

Now, 20 years and multiple salons later, Friedman introduces SoCozy salon formulas for kids – the first ever premium line of hair care products made with the finest ingredients gentle enough for kids. Offering non-toxic products with no parabens, sulfates, phthalates, synthetic color, propylene glycol and free of gluten, wheat and nuts that perform at a salon level with packaging that appeals to kids and parents alike.

SoCozy celebrates all hair types and solves a range of common hair care problems faced by children. For more info visit www.SoCozy.com.

 

3. The Nighttime Ponytail.

haircare stress and kids | teachmama.com pony

 

Really, this is the most simple tip ever: have your kids sleep in ponytails at night.

It’s amazing how much it helps eliminate hair chaos in the mornings. Fewer tangles.  Hair manageable.  Happier kids.  Happier parents.

And? If the girls want to get a little crazy, make it a braid at night with damp hair. The waves will make just about any Disney Channel star green with envy.

 

How do you manage haircare stress for your kids? What works, and what doesn’t? I’d love to know!

Do you want to see if SoCozy and the crew are making your way to an event in your town?

Check out the SoCozy blog | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Instagram  | Pinterest

 

fyi: This is a sponsored post, written as a partnership with SoCozy and Target. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and a mom whose had her fair share of haircare stress–with kids who are only 11, 9, 8 years old. 

common core 101: everything parents need to know to prep their kids and to stay sane

common core 101 teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

common core 101  teachmama.com

Having kids in elementary school is overwhelming.

I mean really overwhelming.

Even with the best organizational strategies in place–for homework, papers, and family time–it’s hard to remember it all.

Add one or two extra kids in the mix, and that means that you can multiply the amount of fliers, homework, projects, permission slips, forms, and extra-curricular activities exponentially.

So when the Common Core State Standards arrived hand in hand with PARCC assessments and a whole lot of other changes, I can only assume that the large majority of the parents out there did what I chose to do: skim papers, follow along a little, and hold on for the ride.

That was fine for the moment, but now that we all have had a bit more time to breathe, it’s time to get out of the fog.

We, as parents, need to know what the Common Core State Standards mean, why they matter, and how we can help our kids meet with success on these assessments.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Common Core 101–Everything Parents Need to Know to Prepare Their Kids and to Stay Sane:

common core 101  teachmama.com link
If you’d rather skip my quick and dirty info and find out everything–and I mean everything!–you need to head over to BeALearningHero.org stat.

But here’s the super short version:

What are the Common Core State Standards?

Common Core State Standards set clear, consistent guidelines for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level in math and English language arts.

Often you’ll see it written as CCSS–Common Core State Standards.

common core 101  teachmama.com link

What is PARCC and Smarter Balanced?

Get ready for this. Lots of letters.

Two groups – the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) – worked closely with educators to develop new, computer-based assessments aligned to the Common Core.

Many states have chosen to administer either PARCC or Smarter Balanced assessments in the 2014-15 school year, and others are using assessments specific to their state.

 

When will my child take these tests? 

The new assessments will replace existing end-of-year state assessments in math and English language arts.

And? They will provide a more accurate picture of what your child really knows instead of those old tests where kids were asked to pick the right answer from a multiple-choice question.

Why do I, as a parent, need to know this? 

You guys. C’mon.

Parental support is critical to a child’s school success.  You need to know this so that you can walk alongside your child for this journey. You got this! Really.

common core 101  teachmama.com link
 

Who or what is Be A Learning Hero and why is Amy all over it today?

Ha. I love you guys. Really, I do.

Be A Learning Hero is a website for parents. It’s designed to provide straight answers and helpful resources on the Common Core State Standards.  And it provides information on Common Core-aligned assessments like PARCC and Smarter Balanced. Everything on Be A Learning Hero help parents understand the new standards and assessments and support their children’s education at home.

And you know that I’m all about parents supporting their children’s education at home. Right? Right.

Who is behind Be A Learning Hero and how is it funded? 

I wanted to know the same thing. For real.

Be A Learning Hero is a group of parents, educators, community leaders and members of the media who are dedicated to providing parents with the information and resources they need to support their children’s learning. The partner organizations supporting Be A Learning Hero include: Common Sense Media; Council of Great City Schools; Great Schools; National PTA; National Council of Teachers of Mathematics; and National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC).

Be A Learning Hero is a project of the New Venture Fund and is funded by a group of philanthropies who are investing in education, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Schusterman Foundation. The project also receives in-kind donations and support from other organizations working on a range of education issues, including: The Collaborative for Student Success; The College Board; The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO); Nickelodeon; Scholastic; The Teaching Channel; and The US Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

common core 101 for parents teachmama.com.png

Now, take a minute–or two–and visit BeALearningHero.org where things are explained much more clearly: 

BeALearningHero.org website |  BeALearningHero.org facebook  |  BeALearningHero.org pinterest  |  follow the hashtag #LearningHero

 

Friends. . . tell me:

  • What questions do you have?
  • What experiences have you had?
  • What resources (videos, articles, etc.) have you seen that helped you better understand your state’s new test?

I’d love to know!

 

fyi: This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Be a Learning Hero. As always, the opinions and ideas are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Be a Learning Hero. The opinions and text are all mine.

fun, authentic writing for kids: power notes to nana

fun, authentic writing for kids: power notes to nana

fun, authentic writing for kids: power notes to nana

 

Oh, boy the last few weeks have been funny for us.

And by ‘funny’ I mean not really laughing funny but funny in a tricky kind of way.

Pretty much everyone’s been on and off sick.

My husband and Maddy have been suffering from allergies like whut.

Maddy had it for a good week, then I was out for an entire weekend, and now Cora has it.  I’m crossing my fingers that the rest of us steer clear of it.  Because friends, it’s not pretty.

However, in the midst of it all, we were able to do a bunch of fun things and spend time together.

We’ve been doing something for the last few months that has been a whole lot of fun for us all: we’ve been writing power notes to Nana.

Power notes are nothing that crazy–it’s simply fun, authentic writing for kids.  Tons of notes written in one sitting. Power writing power notes. Get it?

Fun. And Authentic.

And really, fun and authentic are the keys when it comes to getting kids to write.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Fun, Authentic Writing for Kids–Power Notes to Nana: 

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

These ‘power notes’ are simply written all in one bunch–all in one sitting.

Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I find a time when we can sit down for an hour or two, and then we each write 4-6 notes to Nana.

Nana is 92, and she’s had a long, rough winter. Getting old is tough, and it’s made even more difficult when you add ice and snow to the mix–because then visitors are less frequent, and outings are more difficult.

And because we live three and a half hours away from her, there’s very little we can do to entertain our amazing 92-year old Nana.

So we write notes.

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

And we write more notes.

And we write even more notes.

And we:

  • decorate,
  • embellish,
  • add photos,
  • tell stories,
  • include games,
  • draw pictures,
  • add stickers,
  • make puzzles,
  • print crosswords,
  • add newspaper articles,
  • ask questions,
  • decorate envelopes,
  • and do just about anything and everything we can to make the letters fun for Nana.

We usually begin by going through recent photos. 

 

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

 

I flag about 8-10 of them, and I print them out. And then Maddy, Owen, or Cora will use the photo as a starting point for a letter.

He or she will simply write a few sentence about the photo: what’s going on? who’s in it? what did we do that day? why is it important/silly/funny/ etc.?

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

It’s very easy to have letters to elderly family members all be the same ole, same ole:

Hi, Nana!

I hope you are doing well. School is fine, and soccer is fun! I am ready for summer. Hope to see you very soon.

Love, Owen

But using photos as starters helps break up that mold. It helps liven things up a bit. And Nana loves seeing her great-grandchildren!

Other times, we’ll use puzzles as a starting point. 

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

Puzzles are a super activity for Nana. We print out mazes or sudoku, or word searches.  We even make puzzles for her.

Puzzles can be a short, quick inspiration for a letter, and they give her something fun to do for a few hours the day she receives her letter.

But really, the important thing is that these power notes are a chance for my kids and me to just write

We write about anything that comes to mind because Nana wants to hear it all.

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

If Owen wants to write about soccer, he writes all he wants about soccer.

If Cora wants to write about her cheer competition or the book she’s reading, then she writes about her cheer competition or the book she’s reading.

If Maddy wants to write about her 5th grade graduation or her latest school project, she writes about graduation or her school project.

The key is that everyone’s writing about things that interest them.

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

And they’re writing for a real, live audience.

And their notes are meaningful, and they’re going somewhere.

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

 

And when we’re done, we get them ready for the mail.

 

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

authentic writing for kids: teachmama.com

We address them all, seal them and stamp them, and we put sticky notes on them indicating the day we want them to go out in the mail. So in the end, we have a pile of notes in a basket on the counter, ready to grab and put in the mailbox every 2-3 days.

It works.

And because we cannot stop by for a visit like we wish we could–because nothing replaces that in-person hangout time!–these letters help. Even if just a teeny, tiny bit.

This kind of writing really counts, friends. 

The cool thing is that research shows that the most successful writing activities are for real audiences and authentic purposes:

The teachers in one study reported ‘that students came alive when they realized they were writing to real people for real reasons or reading real-life texts for their own purposes. . . . more authentic literacy activities are related to greater growth in the ability to read and write new genres.

Duke, N.K., Purcell-Gates, V., Hall, L.A., & Tower, C. (2006). The Reading Teacher, 60, (4), 344-355.

It makes sense, right? When people are doing something for a purpose–a real, true purpose–for someone else, they’re likely to want to do it and want to do it well. So they push themselves a bit, maybe learn a little something, and they grow as writers. Bam. Super exciting!

 

Need a few more ideas to get your kids writing for fun and meaningful purposes?

Check out:

kings dominion: family-friendly amusement park in the dc metro area

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

We did it.

We took the leap.

We visited Kings Dominion with our kids this weekend.

And? It was awesome.

My husband and I hadn’t been there in years, so we weren’t sure what to expect.  But we were pleasantly surprised.

Not only was Kings Dominion clean and totally beautiful, it was seriously more family-friendly than we expected. There was something for everyone, and my kids (11, 9, and 8 years old) are raring for a return visit–already.

Need a few reasons to take the trip to Doswell, Virgina–20 miles north of Richmond and 75 miles south of DC–to experience it for yourself?

Here’s the skinny. . .

Kings Dominion– Family-Friendly Amusement Park in the DC Metro Area

Here are my top 5 reasons families should take a trip to Kings Dominion this season:

 

1. It’s beautiful and clean.  

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

Really. Gorgeous flowers. Green grass everywhere. Fountains, shops, restaurants– and restrooms!– all super clean.

It was something that my husband and I noted multiple times–we’d look at each other and comment about how beautiful the park was.

And I don’t even think it was that we were so grateful to be outdoors on a perfect spring day; the park really, truly is beautiful.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

2. The color band bracelets make ride decisions easier.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

The minute we arrived, we walked into a Height Guide station almost immediately, and this sweet gal was handing out bracelets to kids based on their height.

I loved it–it made deciding which rides Maddy, Owen, and Cora were permitted to ride much, much easier.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

Turns out that our kids were able to ride just about everything they wanted, which made the whole day totally stress-free.

The height guide is available on the website, so you can even measure your kids at home and plan accordingly.

 

3. Super-fun concert and event series. 

We were thrilled that the day we went to the park, Debby Ryan (think: Jessie, from Disney channel) and her band, The Never Ending, was playing.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

Our friends at Kings Dominion arranged for us to even meet her, which was an absolute treat for Maddy, Owen, and Cora.

They met Debby Ryan! And Debby Ryan was delightful. So sweet. So kind. So great with the kids.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

We had a blast watching the show, and it was a huge highlight of our family’s spring break.

And honestly, the concert was free with park admission. So it was cool–everyone kind of moseyed on over around 5:30 for the 6pm concert. Great outdoor venue. So fun.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

But this concert is just the beginning of the fun during the Spring Bloom Festival at the park; there’s a ton of other things planned this season:

  • Choo Choo Soul – For the younger ones, Choo Choo Soul is a children’s entertainment act featuring a hip-hop train conductor and her partner, a dancer and beatboxer dressed as a railroad engineer. The concert is free with park admission. Seating is limited and available on a first come, first served basis. Choo Choo Soul will perform at the Peanut’s Showplace Theater on Sunday, April 19 at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Spring Bloom: An International Culinary Celebration – Take a culinary trip around the world with Kings Dominion’s Executive Chef! New food stations and restaurants will feature international food items from Switzerland, Italy, Jamaica, and many more! These delicious delicacies will be created using fresh spring ingredients from local Virginia farms.
  • Live Entertainment – Strap on your dancing shoes and enjoy toe-tapping entertainment from local Country and Bluegrass bands every weekend!
  • Happy Birthday KD! – Kings Dominion opened over the course of two years, with the official grand opening on May 3, 1975. Time to cut the cake and blow out the candles as the park officially turns 40 on May 3, 2015. The day will be filled with surprises, entertainment and more!

I love that there are things other than just rides to explore here.

4. Activities for all ages. 

It’s no secret that Cora is not a fan of big roller coasters. She, like her mama, prefers the lazy river type of rides. So when we discovered Planet Snoopy, we were both in heaven.family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

 

Planet Snoopy is a PEANUTS™ happy area filled with 18 rides designed for entire families to enjoy together. These aren’t all ‘baby rides’ mind you; a few were rated ‘moderate thrill’ level 3, and I thought they were a little crazy.  The whole area was well-organized, and I liked that after a while we started seeing the same faces of kids and parents. It gave this big park a ‘small park’ feel.

Maddy, Owen, and their dad enjoyed some crazy fast and furious rides while Cora and I were rolling more slowly, and they loved every second of it.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

They rode just about every big coaster they could, and after a while all the names started to sound the same to me. All I know is that they proudly survived the Intimidator 305, the ‘tallest, fastest, and most thrilling roller coaster on the East Coast’.  All I can say is thank goodness I wasn’t standing there watching them.

5. Great food choices. 

Food is huge for our family. We love food.

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

family friendly kings dominion | teachmama.com

And especially when we’re out and about, we like to have great food choices to keep us going.

Huge surprise to us was that Chick-fil-A® was there. Panda Express® and Rita’s® was there. Starbucks® and Subway® was there. There were a ton of really great options, and this is just the start–there were some super spots for sweet treats and sit-down meals as well.

Check out all of our photos from the day:

Do you want to get in on the fun, even if you’re far away?

Overall, we were impressed. It was an awesome, awesome day at Kings Dominion.

Have you been there? Have you tried it? Anything in particular that you loved or didn’t love? I’d love to hear it!

 

fyi: Huge and happy thanks to the team at Kings Dominion for extending an invitation to the park and the Debby Ryan Meet & Greet to our family and then asking me to write about the experience. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator.