school supply shopping: our NEW way to teach kids to be smart consumers

school supply shopping

school supply shopping


Every year, we try to somehow involve our kids in back-to-school shopping.

When Maddy, Owen, and Cora were emerging readers, I created easy-to-read lists that we’d take on our shopping trips.

The lists combined words and pictures so that they could more easily find what they needed.

As the kids got older, we worked together to find the best places to shop, using the coupons and sales circulars to figure out the best deals.

This year, we tried something new.

school supply shopping

I knew that the kids needed more of a reason to plan and shop, and I knew that money is always a push for them.

And, admittedly, we’ve slacked on our Gem Jars this summer.

So what we did forced our kids into becoming smart and savvy shoppers, and it also encouraged more ‘shopping at home’.

All kids agreed that they want to do our school supply shopping this way every year. So I’ll count that as a win in my book.

Here’s the skinny. . .

School Supply Shopping: Our NEW Way to Teach Kids to be Smart Consumers:

This year, I gave Maddy, Owen, and Cora a $40 budget.

And I said,

Okay, here’s the thing: I know we’ve been lax with Gem Jars this year, and I know we haven’t done anything with allowance.

Each of you has done a pretty decent job with chores, and we appreciate it.

So for school supply shopping this year, each of you has $40. And you have access to everything in our school supply drawer and everything in our house. And you have a ton of coupons and sales circulars to pick from.

school supply shopping

Use whatever you want—and use the lists I’ve printed out from the school that tell you what you need.

And figure out the best way to use your money.

Remember that cheap is not always the best and that sometimes you pay a little more for quality.

And whatever money you have left after your shopping trip, you can keep.

Owen went nuts crazy. This is his thing—playing with numbers, looking at sales, and finding the best possible price.

He needs money for the snack bar at the pool, you know, and he knows that Mom and Dad don’t provide it.

So the kids used the planning sheet I created last year, and they got to work.

It was difficult for Cora—that I must say—and she gave up quickly.

school supply shopping

school supply shopping

school supply shopping

I sat with her a bit and worked through some of the glitches, but she decided she was finished almost before she started.

Maddy and Owen worked pretty hard on theirs, Maddy roughly and Owen to the penny.

What was most awesome was that the kids shopped carefully in our house.

school supply shopping

All these supplies? Yep. Found ’em in our house.

school supply shopping

We had a few extra 3-ring binders from previous years along with a random mix of other supplies.  They pieced them together where they could, and then they were ready to  hit the stores.

We decided our first stop would be Target, so we took off late morning, each kid with his or her own shopping bag, list, and coupons.

school supply shopping 2

school supply shopping 2

I was surprised that when we got to the store, the kids went straight for the supplies and knew exactly what they were looking for.

For the most part, they stuck to their lists, though they did make some changes.

And even though Owen wanted to go to Office Depot for ten cent folders, I explained that his decision to buy plastic ones for $.47 was a wise one because they’d last much longer.

So they gathered.

And shopped.

And checked things off of their lists.


And they used supply shopping 2

school supply shopping 2

And they spent money.

And they saved money.

Only Cora had to break her second $20 bill, and they each pocketed quite a bit of money.

Then we headed to the Target Café for some lunch. And they each wanted a slushee, so they each bought one with their extra dinero. Yay!

Maddy and Cora were really into it in the end, too; in fact, they came home and had a design contest –who could arrange their school supplies in the most beautiful way.  Not sure who won, though, because I think I was pretty much beat from all of our shopping. . .

It was a great little real-life lesson and a great day!

Want to grab the printable we used and try this yourself?

Click on the image below:



Join us!

summer fun for kids |



Follow us on Instagram: @teachmama1  / #tabletopsurprises

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Want a little more math fun?

Check out:

Or follow our rockin math pinterest board:

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board math on Pinterest.


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.

7 ways to get kids writing (and cool writing prompts for kids!)

get kids writing

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get kids writing



It’s summer, and if your kids are anything like mine, they want to be outside and they want to be at the pool.

Or, okay.  They want to be on their iPads playing Minecraft or the computer playing Animal Jam.

So writing–actually putting the ole pencil to the paper–is far down on their list of fun things to do while school’s out.

But I’ve got a few ideas for you to get our kids writing again. A few fun, totally cool, ways.

Honestly, the kids and their neighbor buddies helped me put this list together. So it has to work, right?

The cool thing is that beyond this list of seven ways to get kids writing you can always pull out the cool writing topic cards. Print them out. Let your kids pick one, two, or a few, and give ’em a few new pens.

You may be surprised at what happens.

Here’s the skinny. . .

7 Ways to Get Kids Writing (and Cool Writing Prompts for Kids):

In no particular order. . .

get kids writing | name |

It amazes me what happens when you ask kids to write their names.

They love it.

They really, truly do.

And sure, it’s not high-level thinking or super creative writing; rather, it’s just writing. Just plain writing.

Leave a bunch of writing tools on the table with a pile of blank paper, and ask kids to:

  • write their first name
  • write their full name–first, middle, last
  • write their nickname
  • write their dream name (this will surely result in giggles. . . tell them that as an example yours is ‘Queen Mom’)



get kids writing | list |

Kids love to make lists.

If you’re working on something in the kitchen, ask your child to write a quick grocery list for you as you dictate items. Tell them that spelling does not matter and to give each word their best guess.

Or get children into the habit of writing a ‘to-do’ list at the beginning of each day or every Sunday.

It’s good to have a plan.

And kids writing their plans, checking items off as completed, and keeping everything together in one notebook is a great way of chronicling progress!

get kids to write |

get kids to write |



get kids writing | journal |

Often journaling is best done when modeled.

The children I know who regularly journal have parents who also do a lot of journal writing.

That’s not to say that everyone has to go out and start spending hours a day writing in a journal, but perhaps your family could either begin each day with a journal entry or wind down each day by writing for a few minutes.

get kids to write |

Consider getting your kids into journal writing by:

  • starting a Family Journal, where everyone adds one sentence about his or her day
  • leaving a journal on the counter and using it as a way to communicate
  • giving everyone a topic at the beginning of the week, and each person takes one day to reflect upon it
  • using a journal to stay in touch with long-distance family or friends.

The possibilities are endless. Just know that there’s something really cool about keeping a ‘family record’ of sorts this way.



get kids writing | letter |

There is honestly nothing like getting an old-fashioned letter in the mail.

And no child can deny this!

Give everyone the challenge of writing one letter each week for 52 weeks. Can you imagine how much fun that could be?

Or if that’s too much, sit down together and write one letter–one teeny, tiny letter–to a family member.

The connections are invaluable.

get kids to write |



get kids writing | free |

I have always found that if kids have the correct writing utensils, they’re more inclined to write.

Really. When I was in the classroom, I kept jars of fun pens and pencils on my shelves, window sills, and desk–and they were all free for kids to use each day.

Kids had favorites, and they’d come right in, grab one, and get down to business. Then they’d return them at the end of class.

Students wrote. They completed their work. They were ready to learn.

And the more kids write, the better their ideas flow.


Seriously. Leave out a bunch of cool pens and pencils, some tablets, and notebooks. And see what happens.

You may be surprised.


get kids writing | recipa |

Sure, kids can follow a recipe by following directly from a cookbook, but how about adding in one small step?

Have them write their shopping list–the ingredients needed to create their dish–and then write down the directions?

Children are less likely to miss a step in the cooking process when they recopy the recipe, and they’re also getting some much-needed writing practice.

Try it!


get kids to write |




get kids writing | creative |


Sometimes all kids need is a little bit of a push to get their creative ideas flowing. 

You can give them that push with these Cool Daily Writing Prompts for Smart & Creative Kids.

We’ve come up with 14 pages of four cards each–so a total of 56 cool writing prompts that are bound to get your kids writing.

Topics that give them a chance to stretch their brains, think about steps, consequences, and favorites, and get their pens or pencils on the paper.

Use these cards by:

  • printing out all of the cards and leting ’em at the topics
  • picking one card each day
  • having kids choose a card for another person, then sharing stories
  • encouraging kids to keep a continued notebook of their journal responses and ideas
  • giving kids a chance to write, edit, revise, and then share their writing with friends or family.


get kids to write |

cool writing prompt cards


You can download the Cool Daily Writing Prompts for Smart & Creative Kids here: cool writing prompt cards

Please, if you share this post–and we hope you do!–link to this post instead of the card attachment page! Thank you!


Did you know that the more kids write, the better readers they become? That writing boosts confidence and sparks creativity? 

It does.

Check out what our friends from BIC are doing to save handwriting– it’s pretty cool.

bic save handwriting

Handwriting also:

  • improves cognitive development
  • builds self-confidence
  • betters school performance
  • helps reading skillspledge_thanks_20
  • sparks creativity
  • sharpens critical thinking skills

Check it out on the BIC Fight For Your Write page and sign a pledge to save handwriting and know that you can win a $1200 BIC Prize Pack.

And for everyone who takes the pledge to save handwriting, BIC will donate one pen or pencil to

It’s these little things that make a big difference in the way I support brands. If my back-to-school purchase for my kids can go an extra mile and help other kids who need it? It’s a win.




fyi: This is a sponsored post, and compensation was provided by BIC via MomTrends Media.  All opinions here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions of BIC or MomTrends Media

soap experiments: easy backyard summer fun

soap experiments

post contains affiliate links



soap experiments |


Friends–now that swim and dive season is over, we’re doing a whole lot more free bird play, lazy mornings, and long afternoons at the pool.

It’s been great, and I am so thankful.

But each and every day we try to do something where there’s some sneaky learning involved. Something a little more focused or directed.

Something that allows my crew to use their brains and let their imaginations run wild.

One day last week, we had the pleasure of having some pals over, so we rocked out some early morning soap experiments.

So fun.

And we used materials we had around the house: soap. And some food coloring.

And–I’m willing to declare that even though there was some fun science learning involved–and even a worksheet–that the kids had a blast.

Here’s the skinny . . .

Soap Experiments–Easy Backyard Summer Fun: 

For our tabletop surprises, all I did this day was place a few things on the table.

soap experiments:

And all you’ll need for these soapy experiments are:

  • soap! (grab a few kinds: Ivory, Dial, Irish Spring, and Dove soap)
  • a plate
  • a bowl of water
  • food coloring
  • access to a microwave
  • a copy of the Soap Experiment sheet (download below)

Then let your kids at it!

This does take a bit of parental support, since heat and a microwave is involved, so be aware.

soap experiments:


What I did was begin by talking about a few things:

  1. Have kids open each bar of soap, feel it, and smell it.
  2. Talk about the weight of each: Which is heaviest? Which is lightest? Which feels hollow? Solid?
  3. Talk about how each bar of soap feels: Which is smooth? Which is more coarse? Which is more creamy? Which is sandy?
  4. Compare each bar of soap in the big bowl of water: Which floats? Which sinks? Does their behavior change over time?

soap experiments:

soap experiments:

Then because we had a big group–six kids!–we unwrapped one more bar of each soap and closely watched what happened when we placed each bar in the microwave.

And this is where it got really cool.

My kids remembered doing our soap experiment a few summers ago, when we made Soap Dough, so they had an idea about what would happen when we placed the Ivory soap in the microwave.

They were not sure, however, what would happen to the other brands of soap.

So one by one, we put a bar or soap on a plate and watched it in the microwave.


soap experiments:

soap experiments:



And when we ended with the Ivory soap, and the kids watched it blow up into a beautiful and amazing sculpture, the kids were in awe.

Each of the girls had so much fun microwaving their Ivory soap to the max and then letting it cool.

soap experiments:

soap experiments:

By now the boys had lost interest, strangely enough. I guess we couldn’t compete with a dual Minecraft building session. . .

We talked about what happened.

We walked through the why’s of this experiment, pulling the floating experiment back into the loop.  I asked them:

  • Why did the Ivory soap act the way it did?
  • How did Ivory compare in weight to the other soaps?
  • How did Ivory soap compare to the others in water?
  • What might have made Ivory behave the way it did?
  • Let’s look at the cost of each soap. Why was Ivory so much less expensive than the others?
  • How might that effect your skin?

It was a lot of fun.

soap experiments:

soap experiments:

The girls, I think, had the most fun outside, on the porch, making their Ivory into soap dough.

Just a few drops of food coloring, I said.

But they didn’t listen.

And their hands paid for it later: Red hands. Blue hands. Purple hands.

soap experiments:

soap experiments:

Quite a mess they made.

But they had fun, and you know what? Maybe they learned a little something along the way.

I know I sure did: that even big kids must be watched with food coloring.

soap experiments:

soap experiments:


soap experiments:

soap experiments:

Want to give the soap experiment a go? 

Try it. Let your kids in on it, and who cares if you get a little messy? It’s all good, clean fun right?

Take a minute and download the experiment sheet below:

soap experiments

soap dough

Soap Dough Experiment pdf: soap dough

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


soap experiments

Take a look at the original Soap Dough post:

soap dough soap molds crazy cool fun with soap

Want a few more fun summertime ideas?

What did you do that really rocked this week? We’d love to hear it!



Join us!

summer fun for kids |

Check out our summertime fun posts: 

Find something fun to do this summer by following our summertime fun board: 

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board summer fun & cool for kids on Pinterest.

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.

learn to make cookies or cupcakes: online courses from Craftsy

cupcake classes cover

learn to make cookies or cupcakes: Craftsy  |


I never would have imagined these courses could be quite so fun, but they are.

This summer, Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I have been exploring the crazy insane range of online classes that Craftsy offers. We love them. The videos are clear, they’re comprehensive, and they’re fun.

Online classes are a super idea for the summer–or any time–and the format of many of the courses really works well for upper elementary aged children.  

So one of the things I’m going to surprise the kids with next week is a bunch of fun new classes to take: we’re going to learn to make cookies or cupcakes.

Or cookies and cupcakes. Yum.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Learn to Make Cookies or Cupcakes–Online Courses from Craftsy:

My kids, at 11, 9, and 8 years old, are at a really fun age for this kind of thing.

We’re way over diapers (phew!), and naptime is a thing of the past. But the kids are also not into having to be with friends every minute of every day, and they’re still big into hanging around us here at home (phew!).

learn to make cookies or cupcakes: Craftsy  |

learn to make cookies or cupcakes: Craftsy  |

So what better way to fill long summer afternoons than with the sweet smell of cupcakes baking in the oven?

There are always very reasonable prices for the courses at Craftsy, but from August 1- August 3, the prices are going to be especially reasonable. Many of the classes on how to make cookies and cupcakes will be on sale. Wooo-hooooo.

Check it out

  • The Custom Cupcake: Make dreamy, custom-flavored cupcakes a sweet reality with new recipes and techniques! Mix and match flavors, frostings, fillings and decorations.

learn to make cookies or cupcakes: Craftsy  |


  • Decorating Essentials: Designer Cookies: Be the go-to dessert designer and make any celebration a sweet success. Use run sugar, hand-painting, brush embroidery and more to create adorable, custom cookies.

learn to make cookies or cupcakes: Craftsy  |


  • The Perfect Cupcake: Deliver heavenly cupcakes no one can resist. Combine creative cupcake flavors, fillings and frostings with gorgeous decorating for out-of-this-world treats!

learn to make cookies or cupcakes: Craftsy  |



  • Piping Cookies that Pop: Create all the cookies you can dream up using simple piping skills and vibrant colors. Use custom templates and royal icing to make original designs that will amaze any client!

learn to make cookies or cupcakes: Craftsy  |

Here’s how Craftsy works:

  1. You sign up for an account. (Super easy, right?)
  2. You buy whichever courses you want. (No joke, you’ll want to take about 50)
  3. You watch the class whenever you want. As often as you want. (Really, it’s that easy.)
  4. You wow your friends and family with our newly-acquired skills. (Wow them you will.)

cupcake classes cover

I think we’ll go for The Perfect Cupcake and Decorating Essentials: Designer Cookies

They look like they’ll be a good fit for us. I’ll let you know how they go!

What looks good to you? Have you taken a course like this before? I’d love to hear it!


Join us!

summer fun for kids |

Check out our summertime fun posts: 

Find something fun to do this summer by following our summertime fun board: 

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board summer fun & cool for kids on Pinterest.

Share it!

fun summertime learning for kids: tabletop surprises


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.

camp google: ocean, space, music and nature weeks

camp google

camp google |


I have been working with National Geographic Kids for some time now, as one of their ‘Insiders’ and honestly the coolest thing about it is that I get kind of ‘behind-the-scenes’ information that I can share with you.


Fab books, cool programs, you name it.

And this summer, National Geographic has partnered with Khan Academy, National Parks, and NASA to create some really rockstar at-home ‘camps’ for kids.

Really. It’s called ‘Camp Google’, and of course, along with our tabletop surprises, it’s going to make our summer one that my kids will never forget.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Camp Google–Ocean, Space, Music, and Nature Weeks:

Everything you need is right here–

Check out the video that tells you everything you need to know about Camp Google:

Each week will feature resources and activities led by experts.  You can do them any time you want.

When kids finish an activity, they earn a badge.

You know how kids love badges.

camp google badges |


Week One, Ocean Week:

Camp Google-


Week Two, Space Week:

camp google |


Week Three, Nature Week:

camp google


Week Four, Music Week:



camp google



I’m thrilled to be able to share this information with you as a fun summer resource for you and your kids.  Check back every week. Let me know what you think!


What did you do that really rocked this week? We’d love to hear it!




Join us!


summer fun for kids |


Find something fun to do this summer by following our summertime fun board: 

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board summer fun & cool for kids on Pinterest.

Share it!

camp google cover 2




So happy to be a National Geographic Kids Insider!


summer fun for kids: week 3 #tabletopsurprises

summer fun for kids: week 3 #tabletopsurprises

summer fun for kids: week 3 #tabletopsurprises

We have had one wild week here, friends.

Our Owen headed to his Nanny and Pap’s for baseball camp, and our Maddy and Cora were stuck here with me and were pretty darn sick.

Luckily, our girls are on the mend (finally!), and Owen is back here with us in Maryland, now determined to land himself on a baseball team. (Not sure how that’s going to happen, but you never know. . .)

Needless to say, he had a blast at camp–we knew he would!–and we managed to have some fun here, too, while he was away, though we missed him terribly.

The kids and I just wrapped up week three of tabletop surprises. This week, we made a few changes to our 2015 calendar to accommodate for our sickies and the July 4th holiday.

It’s all good.  It really doesn’t matter what you do each day as long as you’re consistently putting some cool things out for the kids. Really.

No one knows whether you’re following our freebie 10-week tabletop surprise calendar but you. So be sure to make this work for your kids!

Here’s the skinny. . .

Summer Fun– Week 3 Tabletop Surprises: 







What did you do that really rocked this week? We’d love to hear it!


Join us!

summer fun for kids |

Check out our summertime fun posts: 

Find something fun to do this summer by following our summertime fun board: 

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board summer fun & cool for kids on Pinterest.


Share it!

fun summertime learning for kids: tabletop surprises

10 cool ways to read the Percy Jackson series

10 ways to read percy jackson |

post contains affiliate links




I’m always so thrilled to share with you fun literacy-related events and celebrations, and this summer, we’ve got a big one: it’s the 10th Anniversary of the publication of The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan. WOOT!

And, as part of the team of bloggers who will be celebrating all summer long the awesome that is Percy Jackson and the Olympians, I’ll be writing a bit each month about why this series rocks and why you—and your kids!—should get on board.

10 ways to read percy jackson |

I’m also giving away an entire boxed set of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. For real.

And I’ll be sharing some cool deals and freebies for you.

Talk about a sweet way to ring in the summer, right?

To kick off this event, I’m sharing some ideas for you. Some cool ways for you toget your Percy Jackson read on.

Here’s the skinny. . .

10 Cool Ways to Read the Percy Jackson Series:

1. In a museum.  Because this is where The Lightning Thief opens, when Percy realizes that something is just not right.

2. Near an arcade.  In the book, people never age in the arcade. But warning: you will.

3. In bed. Not Crusty’s Water Bed Palace where ‘Crusty’ tries to trick Annabeth and Grover, but your bed. You’re much more safe in  your bed.

4.  On a bus. Percy’s bus breaks down after he sees one of the three ladies cut the yarn with golden scissors. Let’s hope your bus makes the trip!

5.  While in a cabin. Percy goes to Camp Half-Blood, a Greek demi-god training facility on Long Island. Read this book in a cabin as if you’re a camper there, too!

6.  While wearing a baseball cap. Annabelle wears her invisibility Yankee’s cap given to her mom, Athena. Your cap will most likely not make you invisible, but you can pretend.

7. Near the ocean (okay, or a pool or some water).  Percy is the demigod son of Poseidon.  Poseidon is the god of water.  Read near the water to feel a little closer to Percy.

8.  By the light of a lightning bolt (or glow stick).  Percy’s quest in The Lightning Thief is to retrieve Zeus’s stolen master bolt.  Read by the light of a glowstick to feel inspired!

9.  While eating something blue.  Percy’s favorite color is blue, and his mom, Sally, is on a constant quest for blue food.  Eat a little something blue to get in the Percy and Sally spirit.

10.  Near a campfire. Hades appears in the campfire when the quest begins. And so? Your Percy Jackson experience can begin here too!

What do you think? Sound good!



GIVEAWAY: A complete boxed set of Percy Jackson and the Olympians series!

Do you want to win your own complete boxed set of Percy Jackson and the Olympians series??!  Yes, yes you do.

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

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

This giveaway ends Tuesday, June 30, 2015 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 06/30/15.  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.


But wait. There’s more!

There’s something for everyone here!


Check out the awesome freebies below: 

  • The Lightning Thief will be discounted to $.99 across all eBook accounts for one full week (6/15-6/22)! It also includes a sneak peek chapter excerpt from Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book One: The Sword of Summer.
  • Catch a sneak peek of Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book One: The Sword of Summer — available online at!



fyi: I’m writing this post as part of a partnership with Disney-Hyperion; however, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little Percy fans.


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.

summer reading goals & reading logs: quick and easy

summer reading goals & reading logs: quick and easy

summer reading goals & reading logs: quick and easy


Woooo-hooooooo! Summer is here! Summer has arrived!

Let the party begin!!

Charge the iPads! Rev up the 3DS! Make sure there’s some juice in that phone because my kids are ready to PLUG. IN, man!

Or at least that’s what they thought.

Summer means unlimited electronic time, right?

Um. Nope and nope.

Here’s the skinny. .  .

Summer Reading Goals & Reading Logs–Quick & Easy:

So yeah. This week, this first week of summer, we’ve had to do a little ‘refreshing’ if you will.

Like everyone needed reminders that:

  • Kids use Screen Time Tickets. The End.
  • Kids do chores. The End.
  • Kids use electronics–all electronics!–on the main living area, not upstairs or downstairs. The End.
  • Kids clean up after themselves. The End.
  • Kids use their own money for the pool snack bar. The End.

summer reading goals & reading logs: quick and easy


summer reading goals & reading logs: quick and easy

Yep, just a little bit of a learning curve. But it’s been fine, and I am so happy to have my three favorite people home with me all day, every day. I really am. It’s such a blessing to have three cool kids. I am grateful every single day.

So how does this all tie into Summer Reading Goals and Summer Reading Logs? Right, well Maddy, Owen, and Cora needed some reminders and a bit of a push to complete their Summer Reading Goal Sheet.

I don’t remember us ever creating summer reading goals, but this year we did and for several reasons:

1. I want the kids to be aware of how they spend time and how much they read.

2. I wanted to do something other than straight-up reading logs.

3. I wanted to have a mid-summer check-in of sorts in case we were really trudging along.

We’ll see how it goes.

We began the week on Tuesday with a goal-setting tabletop surprise: 


A pretty easy way to start the week, right?

I set out several reading logs and a movie-book match-up sheet to get the kid’s brains moving. They really helped. We talked as the kids filled out their sheets, and then we clipped them to the magnetic board.

Here are the reading logs we have. Choose what works best for your crew!

We were ready to start the summer!

Happy reading!

Have you heard about how we’re keeping our kids’ brains moving, thinking, creating, and having fun all summer long?

Click the image below and find out more:

summer fun for kids |

summer swim team: an absolute MUST for families

summertime swim team |

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summertime swim team |

Summer swim has been a staple for our family for the last six years.

Ever since Maddy joined the pre-team the summer before Kindergarten, we’ve spent the first seven weeks of summer camped out at the pool in the mornings and have spent our Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings at swim meets and Sunday afternoons at dive meets.

We are grateful that our neighborhood pool is within walking distance from our home, and we definitely take advantage of it. But even if your family is not within walking distance to a pool, I cannot highly enough recommend that kids join a summer swim team.

It’s an absolute must for families for so many reasons. If you’re on the fence about it, I’m here to do what I can to push you in the ‘yes!’ direction.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Summer Swim Team–An Absolute Must For Families:

Our kids, 11, 9, and 8 years old, know that they’re on the swim team through middle school at the very least. But they really want to be. In fact, they’ve chosen to swim and dive, and the dive piece especially is their choice. They want to do it. They want to be there.

summertime swim team |

They are counting down the days until they can be the pre-team coaches, until they can be the ‘big kids’ and until they get recognized at the banquet for being swim and dive seniors.

I, on the other hand, am just doing what I can to savor each season as it comes, knowing that the summer days may be long but the years are short.

Thinking about summer swim for your kids?

We love it for many reasons, but here are our top ones:

Kids learn to swim.

Really, they do. Yes, kids on our team must be comfortable in the water, but they don’t necessarily need to know the strokes. That’s where the pre-team coaches come in.

Our littlest swimmers learn water safety and basic strokes, and they become more confident in the water.

summertime swim team |

Kids try new things and are challenged.

It’s not easy to walk into a pool on a cold June morning not knowing many people, but kids do it. And over time, those people on the team become good friends and playmates.

We all know how important it is for us to step out of our comfort zones every so often; joining a swim team–no matter the age–is a great way to do that.

summertime swim team |

Kids will learn:

  • the proper swim strokes
  • how far they can push their little bodies
  • how to play safely in the water
  • how to jump and dive into the pool
  • how swim meets work
  • sportsmanship
  • teamwork
  • listening skills
  • confidence
  • and more.

Older children and younger are brought together and support each other.

Swim teams consist of young swimmers, 8 years old and under, and older swimmers, up to age 18.  Swimmers are broken up into different age groups: 8 & under; 9 & 10; 11 & 12; 13 & 14; 15 & older.

summertime swim team |

All children are on the same team, but they rarely swim together. Except for the medleys and the graduated relays, where one swimmer from each age group takes a section of the race.

One thing I have loved is that our kids interact with other children from different age groups, and everyone supports each other through practices, social events, and meets. It’s awesome.

Families come together.

Our swim and dive teams pretty much create our social calendar for the summer.

Families gather to make the meets work, and they put in their time to make the swim season fun.

We eat meals together, play bingo, enjoy raft nights, support each other through losses, and celebrate our wins. We host book sales and evening events, party it up at an end-of-season banquet, and decorate homes for divisional and all-star meets.

summertime swim team |

Communities come together.

We drive all around the area for swim and dive meets, making connections all around our community.

Friends from other neighborhood pools cheer for their school buddies across lanes, and pals who only see each other during basketball season or dance class compete against each other in the water.

summertime swim team |

Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins often join in the fun. Meets become a really great way to see tons of familiar faces and connect with new ones.

It’s. Just. Plain. Fun.

It’s fun. It really, truly is.

Though it gets to feel long by week six or seven–I won’t lie–swim and dive season really is one of the most fun times of the year.

summertime swim team |

Early mornings, long afternoons, and hot and muggy evenings are overshadowed by the laughs and memories created each season. I know for a fact that when my kids look back on the highlights of their childhood, summertime swim and dive will come to mind immediately.

Every child can have a strong foundation in water safety.

Really. Even if you don’t have a pool nearby, I’m sure that somewhere near you is a YMCA with a water safety or water survival program for kids.

Thanks to people like Justina Pratt who is a Safe Start Swimming Instructor at a Florida YMCA, these programs–and the people who teach our littlest swimmers–can change lives.  Actually, they can save lives.

Check it out:

I have totally loved the workforce appreciation series over at Share them with your kids. Share them with your friends. 

Subscribe so you don’t miss a thing. They’re really cool clips, and they remind us to appreciate those people all around us every day who make our world a better place.

Check out:

teach kids workforce appreciation


teach kids to thank everyday heroes


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!


cool instagram accounts for tweens and new users to follow

cool instagram accounts for tweens and new users to follow |

cool instagram accounts for tweens and new users to follow |

Oh, friends.

How I’ve fought the hard Instagram battle with my tween this year, and finally I let in.

Under many, many conditions:

  • We signed an updated Family Media Agreement.
  • We still use Screen Time Cards.
  • Phone use is restricted to our main floor of our house (not used upstairs).
  • We approve only followers we know personally or that I approve.
  • Her account is private–not public.
  • The phone is ours–not hers–but it’s being used by her, so any time we want to check on things, we can and do.
  • I follow her friends.
  • And more, like constant conversation and an open door for questions any time.

But what I realized is that as a tween, teen, or new user, it’s hard to find cool accounts to follow, so it’s difficult to really know how to properly use Instagram.

Sure, you want your kids to be able to follow their friends, but do you know what most of their friends are doing? A whole lot of duck-faced selfies, that’s what. A whole lot of selfies. Lots. Of. Selfies.  Don’t get me wrong–selfies are fine. But all of the time? Gets a little old.

How about changing things up a bit? Showing our new, younger users cool ways to use Instagram?

Really, there are so many creative and thoughtful ways to use this platform; it’s designed to be visually appealing, creative, and memorable. The problem is that kids need models. They need good examples.

Just like when I was teaching kids how to write a strong paragraph, thesis essay, or research paper–they need models. Examples. So they know what good looks like.

So Maddy and I have been searching and searching and searching this year to find cool Instagram accounts to follow.

We’ve found a ton.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Instagram Accounts for Tweens and New Users to Follow: 

Remember, friends, this is not a perfect list. And it’s only a start.

If you and your spouse make the decision to allow your child to use Instagram, you must be aware of the Terms of Service. You must first take into consideration how the platform is used and why you need to be an active part of the use.

Our family decided that we’d allow Maddy to give it a try with a whole lot of support.

And with support comes a whole lot of great people to follow so our new user learned how to use the platform by viewing firsthand how some people were really rocking it.

Here are a few cool users to follow if you–or your child–are just starting out on Instagram:



It’s Robby the Kid President. On instagram. He’s inspiring and awesome. Everyone should follow him.

instagram accounts for tweens | kid pres




Yep. THE White House is on Instagram. Did you even know that? My thought is this: if our kids are on Instagram and the White House is on Instagram, then our kids should definitely follow the White House. At the very least they’ll know what their president is up to.

instagram accounts for tweens | white house


Online community of book lovers –a division of Scholastic.  Everything teen. Great spot to find new titles!

instagram accounts for tweens |



If you’re not following Humans of New York, you better be. It’s simply the most incredible photo journal I’ve ever encountered. Brandon Stanton is the photographer, and he basically photographs New Yorkers. And the coolest part? He shares their stories.

Buy the book. We’re obsessed. And though Maddy has asked me questions sometimes–because some of the stories are a little thought-provoking or sad–it’s a conversation worth having with your tween or teen.

instagram accounts for tweens | humans of ny



As in ‘playmobil’ and little photo scenes.  Just fun.  How cool is this? And what fun our kids could have with doing something like this themselves!

instagram accounts for tweens |



Food 52:

I like this account because the focus is to help people be smarter, happier cooks. And the photos of food are beautiful.

instagram accounts for tweens |



All photos taken with a GoPro–and if you don’t know what a GoPro is, it’s a teeny camera that mounts to just about anything, allowing for people to video very cool things. This account, as you can imagine, shares some really awesome photographs.

instagram accounts for tweens | gopro


I love the idea behind these bracelets–they contain water from Mt. Everest, the highest point on earth, and mud from the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. By wearing the bracelet, you are reminded to strive for balance in your life. The bracelets are photographed all over the world–it’s so cool to sea where they are and how people photograph them.

instagram accounts for tweens | gopro



Animal photos. Surprisingly human animal photos.

instagram accounts for tweens | animal planet



Not even joking when I say that the awesome of this profile is that Angie is mom to ‘Mayhem’–a 5 year old who literally creates runway dresses and costumes out of paper.  The outfits either come to her or she tries to replicate what the stars are wearing. Your kids–and you–will fall in love with this feed.

instagram accounts for tweens | mayhem



Gorgeous, breathtaking photos. We’re huge fans of the Discovery Channel over here, so this is a favorite.

instagram accounts for tweens | gopro



Love our littleBits sets, so this platform shares photos and videos of the littleBits at work–moving, blinking, beeping, and making magic happen, one circuit at a time.

instagram accounts for tweens | littlebits



Bright and beautiful school supplies. Everyone loves school supplies. Right? We sure do.  Have you ever seen them look so pretty?

instagram accounts for tweens | yobi



The official account for National Geographic Travel means Awesome. Photos. The. End.

instagram accounts for tweens |



Maya is a bulldog in NYC.  This profile chronicles her adventures.  I love it.

instagram accounts for tweens | maya



Pretty food. Pretty, pretty, absolutely gorgeous food.  Like food art in such a fun way.

instagram accounts for tweens |




Photos from National Geographic photographers. And stories to go with them.

instagram accounts for tweens | natgeo



You guys. Food art. More of it. But different in that these photos sometimes make you forget that you’re looking at food. It’s just awesome.

instagram accounts for tweens |



My girls love this magazine, and the Instagram profile is just as beautiful.  Sure, kids posing as models all glammed up isn’t my thing, but these kids look cool. And they’re low on makeup.

instagram accounts for tweens |


Tracey shares everything Young Adult and New Adult books. She’s cool. And maybe she’ll inspire our kiddos to do some more reading.

instagram accounts for tweens |


The ONE campaign is just plain fantastic. What they do rocks. And so do all their photos. Hoping that this gets users psyched to do something, to make a change. To get involved.

instagram accounts for tweens | one




Amy Poehler and her bff Meredith Walker created Smart Girls to celebrate awesome girls–every girl. The photos are fun. And the message is stellar.

instagram accounts for tweens | amy



From Macmillan Children’s Publishing–books and more books.

instagram accounts for tweens |



My sweet friend Jessica shares her photos of her gorgeous little familia and their furry boy. First it was #TheoandBeau and then it became #TheoandEvvie. The photos are incredible, and the awesome thing is that Jessica and her family are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside.

instagram accounts for tweens | jessica



BEFORE you follow this account, check it out for yourself. Most are positive quotes. Many are happy and really what we all need. Every day.

But some? A little edgy and questionable. Just check it out.

instagram accounts for tweens | quote

That’s right. A word a day. And why not celebrate words on Instagram?

instagram accounts for tweens | dictionary



Friends. Are we following each other? Let’s.

Check it out–


Follow me for fun, quick learning ideas and activities.  In the summer, every single day I’ll post our #tabletopsurprises. And on Friday I’ll share a round-up here.

instagram accounts for tweens | teach mama

On Instagram, I tend to keep things pretty simple withphotos of some of the cool things we’re up to that don’t always make it to the blog.

But this year, I’m adding a little quickie video as well. Should be fun.

And if nothing else, I do hope it inspires you to get a little crafty and creative with your crew during the long summer months.



What are your other favorite, must-follow Instagram accounts?

I’ll let you in on a little secret–this is the first of a series of posts. I have a ton of great profiles to follow that wouldn’t fit in this one post, so do let me know who yours are, and I’ll do my best to add them!

And remember–these are not all G-rated; you must use this platform, as in all social media platforms, with your discretion.

Check out our initial Instagram post for more information:

how to talk to your kids about instagram | #digitalliteracy #digitalkids


digital kids |



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. This small percentage of money helps offset the costs of hosting this blog, which helps me keep this content free for you. 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

help kids stay in touch with friends when school’s out: autograph sheet

help kids stay in touch with friends when school's out: autograph sheet

I can’t even believe it, but school’s almost out for my kids.

Though I’m totally psyched to begin our tabletop surprises this year, I’m also always a little sad when the school year ends.

It means my kids are getting older and that time continues to move . . . quickly.

help kids stay in touch with friends when school's out: autograph sheet

This year, especially I feel like I’m having a difficult time as Maddy moves into the wilds of middle school leaving Owen and Cora behind in elementary school. It has been a true joy for me to have all three kids in one school for the last three years.

And I cannot even begin to wrap my head around the fact that I began this blog even before Maddy started Kindergarten. Insanity.

But also awesome, I know. I have so much to be thankful for–that is a fact.

So I’ll spare you the waterworks–that will surely come on Friday at her Fifth Grade Recognition Ceremony (sob!)–and instead I’ll share something that I created for all three of my little loves so that they can stay in touch with their buddies through the long summer months.

It’s pretty cool. And it’s something they’ll just shove in their binder for the last few days, pull out before and after school and maybe at lunchtime.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Help Kids Stay in Touch With Friends When School’s Out–Autograph Sheet: 

This is a super-easy and fun sheet, and the emphasis here is that kids will write their phone number or address so that they can communicate over the summer.

help kids stay in touch with friends when school's out: autograph sheet

help kids stay in touch with friends when school's out: autograph sheet

If kids are old enough and their parents permit it, then hopefully kids can write down their email address or instagram name.

Any way they want to stay in touch, they share.

help kids stay in touch with friends when school's out: autograph sheet

Download the printable and help kids stay in touch with friends when school’s out: help kids stay in touch with friends when school’s out: autograph sheet

If you choose to share this printable–and we hope you do!–please link to this page instead of the attachment page. Thank you!

It’s simple and easy.

And when I showed the kids today, they were pretty happy. And I’ll be pretty happy mid-summer when they ask for a playdate with a pal and I tell them to reach out and plan it themselves!


How do you keep kids connected with their pals over the summer? It’s not easy–so I’m open for ideas and suggestions!

Need a few ideas for summertime fun? Join us!

summer fun for kids |



Are your kids still in school?

Do you want them to do a little ‘thank you’ writing to their teachers? Definitely check out this post over on Scholastic Parents:

end of year thank you  teachmama  pinterest  scholastic