10 best father’s day gifts (stuff Dad REALLY wants!)

10 fathers day gifts he really wants | teachmama.com

This post is sponsored by Walmart.

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No more ties, mugs, shaving sets, or gift cards.

No more Father’s day Coupon Books, mouse pads, t-shirts, or DVDs.

Dad’s seen them all, and he has more than enough of these kinds of gifts. This year, we’re thinking outside the box a bit.

We’re getting the dads in our life something really special for Father’s Day, something really different.

My husband is an incredible father to our children. He really is.

So when Father’s Day rolls around, I want to do my best to show him how much I appreciate him and all he does.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 10 Best Father’s Day Gifts (Stuff Dad REALLY Wants!):  We all know he says he loves the underwear and socks (and sure, he needs them. . . ) but how about something a little more exciting this year?

 10 fathers day gifts he really wants experience gifts  teachmama.com.

Experience Gifts:

1.  Ball Game: Wrap up a new baseball gloveicon or baseball hat, but surprise Dad with tickets to see his favorite team.  Professional baseball games can get expensive, so consider attending a minor league or local college game—they’re just as fun!

2.  Hiking day: Introduce your dad to the awesome art of geocaching and give him a handheld GPSicon.  Geocaching is an absolute blast, and not only will Dad be intrigued, he’ll be totally up for the challenge of finding those caches!

3.  Concert: Bring some of Dad’s music to life by finding out when his favorite group is coming to town.  Tickets to a concert may be a little pricey, but isn’t Dad worth it?

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Gifts of Knowledge:

4.  Classes: Wrap up a course book from the local community college and tell Dad that he can register for a course he’s wanted to take next semester.  Or if Dad’s not the studying type (or already has the degrees he wants!), find a class that aligns with his hobbies or interests. Consider: riding lessons, woodworking lessons, cooking lessons, or dance lessons (with Mom, of course!).

5. Training: Sometimes it’s hard for dads to admit they need help with something, so a private trainer is the answer.  Whether it’s a personal trainer at the gym, a few hours with the golf pro at the course, or solo time with a speed coach, whatever Dad loves, there’s a pro out there to help him improve.

6.  Stylist: Though he may not think he needs a personal stylist or a make-over, many dads need a little jumpstart to move them in the direction of finding their best self.  Most department stores or salons offer styling and make-overs. Believe me, Dad will love it.

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Subscription Gifts:

7.  Music Channel: Tons of music subscription channels are on the market now, so shop around and find one that suits Dad’s needs.  Wrap up a pair of headphones along with a note explaining the gift, and Dad will be a happy guy.

8.  Favorite Television Channel:  Whether Dad loves movies or sports, news or the arts, there is a premium subscription channel for him. Treat him to his favorite for a few months, and I’m betting he’ll be over the moon.

9.  Magazine Subscription:  Time, Sports Illustrated, Vibe, or National Geographic. People, Wired, Men’s Health, or Car & Driver. Though we’re in the digital age, magazines are still super fun to receive, read, and share.

10 fathers day gifts he really wants love gifts  teachmama.com.jpg.png

Gifts of Love:

10.  Really, all Dad wants for Father’s Day is to know he is loved and respected by his family, so do for him what you know he will love and appreciate.  Consider:

  • Making all the meals for the day
  • Taking over Dad’s household chores for the day
  • Treating Dad to a foot massage or back rub
  • Putting on a show or play for Dad
  • Playing music or singing a song for Dad
  • Writing a story about Dad or a poem for him

What are your favorite ways to celebrate Dad on his big day? I’d love to hear your ideas about what has worked—and what has not worked—for the Dad in your life!

Do let us know in the comments!

 

fyi: I am blogging on behalf of Walmart.com and received compensation for my time, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Walmart’s. Shop online and save money to live better at http://www.walmart.com.

summer activities for thinking, curious, and creative kids: tabletop surprises calendar

summer activities for thinking, curious, and creative kids tabletop surprises calendar

summer activities for thinking, curious, and creative kids tabletop surprises calendar promo.

I have been working and working and working and working and working on this calendar for weeks now, and I’m finally ready to share it. Woot.  No really. Woooot!

In fact, I’m so happy I’m literally dancing around the living room.

Why? I just mapped out the bones of our summer.

Ten weeks.

Ten weeks full of summer activities for thinking, curious, and creative kids.  It’s our tabletop surprises calendar, and Maddy, Owen, and Cora will totally dig it.

We’ll still start out the summer by making Summer Fun Cards so that we are sure to remember to fit in everything we love to do during the long summer months, but then we’ll rock out the #tabletopsurprises.

This year, my kids are 10, 8, and 7 years old. They’re getting older, but they still love games. They love to create. They love to play with the old standbys that we’re too busy for during the school year but that they look forward to in summer months.

They still have playdates. They still hold my hand. They still want hugs.  (Most days.)

So I’m milking this for as long as I can. Though learned the hard way last summer that because they’re getting older, we’re not all on the same schedule. Where I once used preschool mornings or rest time hours for games and learning, now we’re not on as strict a schedule.

I have an early riser and I have a night owl. And I have one kiddo whose mood is dictated by the weather, by the day of the week, or by the direction of the wind. So I’ve got to be flexible.

All I know is that what really, truly worked for us last summer was Tabletop Surprises because the activities ‘fit’ into our daily schedule. The kids headed to the table when they felt like it, sometime throughout the day.

And every day was kind of like Christmas because there was a surprise Every. Single. Day.

So we’re rockin’ them again this year.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Summer Activities for Thinking, Curious, and Creative Kids–Tabletop Surprises Calendar:

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 surprise 2014 a summer of fun and learning from teachmama.com

this year’s tabletop surprises calendar 2014 teachmama.com, ready to download

How to I get the kids to actually sit down and do the activities?  A few ways:

1. The activities are fun and they 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. 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 calendar 2014 teachmama.com

What are the ideas and what makes them so fun?

Simple. They’re 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.

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 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. 

tabletop surprise 2014 a summer of fun and learning from teachmama.com

Cool. So now what?

  1. Print out the calendar: tabletop surprises calendar 2014 teachmama.com
  2. Subscribe to teachmama.com via email. 
  3. Download the Tabletop Surprise Resource Guide (you’ll get it when you confirm your subscription, yo!). 
  4. Give your kids the skinny on Tabletop Surprises. 
  5. Start learning, playing, creating, inventing, and thinking alongside your kiddos!
  6. And? Share your #tabletopsurprises via instagram or twitter  just for fun.
  7. Have the summer of your dreams. Well. . .

tabletop surprise email promo teachmama.com

Give me a look at this stuff. 

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

Or check out some fun ideas from a our Smart Summer Challenge a few summers back.

Here’s to an awesome summer filled with fun learning and memory-making!

how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways

science ways to raise kids who love it teachmama.com.png

science ways to raise kids who love it teachmama.com

The following rockstar guest post is written by Christy a former physics teacher who is now home with her three kids.  Christy writes an amazing blog: Wisdom, Knowledge, Joy.  

Check it out for tons of ways you can incorporate science into your children’s lives. I especially love Christy’s Science Along the Way series

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  • How to Help Your Kids Love Science–Simple, Everyday Ways, by Christy McGuire
Testing season is almost over, and summer break will soon be here.
Science is a great way to fill the last weeks of the school year or to occupy your own kids during the summer months.
Here are five ways to enjoy science with your elementary learners:
how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways

 

Observe

Anyone can notice the physical world around them.  Spend time out doors, in the kitchen, or just take a few seconds to notice the physical world from right where you are.
Once you set the example, your elementary learners will soon be calling your attention to the world around them.
how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways
Experiment
To experiment, set up two (or more) scenarios in order to observe how changing a single factor affects the outcome.
Turn your observations into an experiment by observing under different circumstances or recreating the same situation in two versions.  Ask your students to record their hypothesis about what the outcome will be.
Help them develop a procedure, and perform it, and take measurements.  Talk about the data they gathered, and maybe ask them to write about what they have learned.
You can do science without experimenting, but experimenting is loads of fun and a great way to practice math and writing skills.
how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways
Engineer
Give your learners a problem and ask them to design a solution by drawing pictures and writing explanations. Then, let them try to implement it.
If their solution does not work, discuss and consider trying again!  The experience of creating a real world solution is exciting for elementary learners.
Read
There are so many great science books for kids!  Some of our favorite authors are Gail Gibbons, Joanna Cole, Jerry Palota, Jim Arnosky and Brenda Z. Guiberson.
While you are at the library, be sure to check out biographies of some famous scientists!
how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways
Model
Recreating something you have studied either first hand or in a book is a great way to cement learning.
Make it an art project by giving freedom in materials or design.  Make it a math project by requiring scale replicas.  Like experimenting and engineering, modeling is work that professional scientists often do.
Children are naturally interested in the physical world.  As you enjoy science with your elementary learners you will spark their interest in other topics, and set them up for a lifetime of learning.

Thank you, Christy! I love all that you do and share!

christy of wisdom knowledge joy
Christy McGuire taught physics to students of all levels from advanced placement to special education in the public school system.  
She now works full time at home, watching over the learning of her own children ages five, four, and two months.  
You can read her thoughts about learning, science and otherwise, at WisdomKnowledgeJoy@blogspot.com.
connect with Christy: blog  |  pinterest
Looking for more ways to get kids into science? Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

gallon ziploc bag activities for preschoolers

gallon ziplock bag activities for preschoolers

The following rockstar guest post is written by Barb of  A Life in Balance. Barb has a ton of awesome ideas, and you should totally check out her blog. 

Gallon bag activities.

Plastic bag activities. Ziploc or Ziplock or Glad or store brand, it doesn’t matter. All you need is a large-sized plastic bag with a tight seal to totally rock these activities. Your preschooler will totally heart you. We promise.

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  • Gallon Ziplock Bag Activities for Preschoolers, by Barb Hoyer.

gallon-ziplock-bag-activities-for-preschoolers

 

One of my favorite parts of homeschooling was coming up with activities in a bag to keep my young ones occupied while I was working with my oldest son.

Since I had 2 and then 3 little ones to manage while homeschooling, I kept a wide variety of Bag Activities on hand, and we rotated through them to keep the kids interested.

Some of these ideas are perfect for car trips or to bring along to a restaurant when you go out for a meal. I’ve also brought a few to the sports field like the bubble solution and notebook with stickers.

At the preschool level, the emphasis is on developing fine motor skills during play. Many preschoolers like my youngest son are not ready for heavy academics, however, they still need to learn how to handle a pencil, cut with scissors, and learn the basics of color and shapes.

The beauty of the gallon ziplock bag is that many creative play-based learning activities can fit into them for easy access and storage. Use plastic shoe boxes to organize the activities by type, days of the week, or place (car, restaurant, sports field).

Here are some ideas: 

  • Shaving cream in a closed bag used for drawing pictures and shapes
  • Shoelaces or straws and large beads for stringing and cards with patterns for imitatingPaper towel tube and car to run through it
  • Tongs, 2 bowls, and stuff to pick up with tongs; same activity can be done with tweezers
  • Texture cards – felt, fake fur, leather, sandpaper
  • Magnifying glass with a few items for examining – rock, leaf, bark, patterned fabric
  • Nuts and Bolts
  • Finger puppets
  • Shape cards for matching
  • Pom poms for sorting
  • Make Your Own Mobile kit – seasonal, interests
  • I-Spy soda bottle – shoe, key, dime, marble, lego brick, paper clip, birdseed, photos of items for searching
  • Blank book and stickers or roll of paper with shapes drawn on it for filling with stickers
  • Egg carton with items for sorting – nuts, bolts, beans, pasta, paper clips, buttons
  • Alphabet book – small booklet made of papers stapled together with a glue stick and scissors
  • Paper and scissors
  • Bubble solution and bubble blowing wands
  • Shape and object cards for matching together or matching to the environment
  • Playdough

Where to Buy Supplies:

Thrift stores and garage sales – Fabric for cutting up, seasonal items like ornaments, small plastic kitchenware, toy figures
Ikea – finger puppets, child-sized plastic dishes, utensils, cups and kitchen items
Dollar Store – Craft supplies, gallon freezer bags, kitchen items, paper goods, stickers, seasonal items, birthday treat bag items
Dollar bin at craft stores and Target – small notebooks, crayons, markers, stickers
Hardware store – nuts and bolts, small tools, measuring tape, chain

Thank you, Barb! You have fabulous ideas!!

is a mom of 5 kids who spends her day keeping track of socks, stuffed animals, library books, and a 5 year old when she isn’t writing about all the frugality, gardening, cooking, and reading she manages to fit in between the chaotic moments. She can be found at A Life in Balance.

Connect with Barb:
Pinterest | Google+ | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Blog

Looking for more ways to teach toddlers and preschoolers? Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

 

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines

keep kids busy on the sidelines teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

keep kids busy on the sidelines  teachmama.com

 

Many families spend a good chunk of time bussing kids around town, from dance class to music, from soccer to t-ball.

And though it’s awesome that our kids are busy, burning steam, and having fun with their friends, all these activities often mean that siblings are in tow, trying to stay out of trouble on the sidelines.

If their little buddies are there, that’s one thing. But if they are stuck for an hour or more just hanging around, with no park or playmates, it’s tough.

Many of us know that sideline entertaining isn’t always the easiest thing, especially for busy and tired parents.

Sure, we can all hand our kids a cell phone, iPad, or tablet to keep our kids busy, but what to do if you want to keep kids busy but unplugged during their siblings’ activities?

What if we want our kids to (gasp!) be unplugged while their siblings are having their activity?  I have some ideas. Tried, tested, and true.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Creative Ways to Keep Kids Busy on the Sidelines:

When you’re heading out to practice or a game or the dance studio and you know you will have kids in tow, grab a bag and throw in a few essentials.

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines: teachmama.com

You always should have a blanket, a bag of snacks, and some paper and a few pencils or crayons. Always. With only paper and a pencil, you can play:

  • Tic-tac-toe: Mix it up by using letters, numbers, or simple pictures as your markers. So fun. And so old school but so great for early writing and thinking skills!
  • Guess the picture: One person draws a picture and the other person guesses what it is. Challenge yourselves by setting a timer or allowing only a handful of steps in drawing the picture.
  • Silent conversations: Super-simple conversations composed on paper, with no talking permitted. This game is great for quiet hallways during music lessons.

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines: teachmama.com

  • Strike it out: Fun math game that builds skills and requires no set-up or space. Critical thinking along with computation skills are practiced and kids have no idea!
  • Keep score: Teach your kiddos how to use tally marks by keeping track of each team’s score. Or keep track of the number of blue cars to red cars in the parking lot or the number of moms to dads on the sidelines.

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines: teachmama.com

Or grab these few items to make your sideline entertainment even more fun:

  • Melissa and Doug Sticker Collection – Fashion: The amount of hours Maddy and Cora have spent with this set is unbelievable.  They’ve made fast friends on the soccer sidelines with these sets; a few sticker sets, a big picnic blanket, and a bunch of kids make an hour long practice zip by.

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines: teachmama.com

  • Pinball Arcade – ON the GO Travel Activity: My kids love this. Yes, it’s a little loud with the bouncing ball and the snaps of the pinball handles, but with a background that can change and the math fun that can happen if you challenge your kids to keep score, Pinball Arcade is a winner.

The possibilities for sideline fun is endless, and really–unplugging isn’t as difficult as you may think!

What are your favorite ways to entertain your little loves while big sisters or brothers are at practice? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

melissa doug blog ambassador button

 

fyi: This post was written as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program. All opinions are my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent and longtime toy lover. Huge and happy thanks to Melissa & Doug for their willingness to work with bloggers in this way and for always creating awesome, meaningful products. 

Affiliate links are used in this post. 

baby shower decorations, treats, & games: 3 ways to get your kids to help

get kids involved baby shower treats, games, and decorations teachmama.com.png

I am blogging on behalf of Walmart.com, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Walmart’s.

 

get kids involved baby shower treats, games, and decorations  teachmama.com.png

My three kids were the first grandchildren on both sides of our family, so for five years, they were pretty much the stars of the show.  They had lots of doting aunts and uncles and grandparents. But no cousins.  Until now.

Five years after our first child was born, we have experienced a baby explosion of sorts: seven new babies have joined our extended family in the last four years.

Seven!

That’s a lot of babies.

We are thankful, grateful, and blessed.

It also means that my kids, as the older cousins, have been able to help out with the planning, organizing, and hosting of baby showers. As Maddy, Owen, and Cora have become older and experienced new cousins arriving, having their hands on board to help throw baby shower parties has been a lot of fun.

However, Maddy and Cora have admittedly been more a part of the events, and Owen has enjoyed some serious ‘guy time’ with Dad and Pap during baby showers. I get it.

All in all, my kids have wholeheartedly loved to help with the super fun parts of baby showers: decorations, treats, and games.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Baby Shower Decorations, Treats, & Games– 3 Ways to Get Your Kids to Help:

baby shower decorations  get kids to help teachmama.com.png.png

1. Kids can help with decorations.   We have planned two baby boy showers and one baby girl shower, and each time, we’ve stayed with a monochromatic color scheme. Greens and blues for the boys, pinks and oranges for the girl.

Choosing a color scheme right from the start has helped us narrow down decorations and accessories.

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baby shower collage - teachmama.com 2

Any time you’re looking for ways kids can help with baby shower decorations, consider giving them easy, repetitive jobs.

Easy is good and repetitive is even better.

baby shower collage decorations | teachmama.com

Kids can:

  • Add flowers to vases
  • Puff up tissue paper pom-poms
  • Tie ribbons onto balloons
  • Sprinkle confetti on tables
  • Create welcome banners or flag buntings
  • Help arrange gifts on table and bring gifts to mom-to-be

 

baby shower treats  get kids to help teachmama.com.png

2.  Kids love to help with baby shower treats.  Though each of our showers has been slightly different—some were catered and some were not—we did throw one where we made the majority of the food.

Maddy and Cora love to help with the mixing of ingredients for dips like spinach or artichoke crab dip. They love dipping strawberries in chocolate or drizzling chocolate on pretzels.   They love adding candy to bowls (and sneaking a few along the way!).

baby shower treats collage  teachmama.com.png

Kids are expert sprinkle-sprinklers, and they’re great at adding toppers to cupcakes.   One thing we have often done for showers is ordered plain cupcakes from the local bakery and then decorated them ourselves with personalized toppers and sprinkles to match our color scheme.

Arranged on a simple cupcake treat towericon, they looked professional and fancy.

baby shower games  get kids to help teachmama.com.png

3.  Kids love to prepare and run baby shower games Only one of my sisters has approved baby shower games, so we kept it pretty simple for her.

We played ‘Baby Food Challenge’, where our baby shower guests had to look closely at ten different baby food jars and guess the food inside.  We simply used a white mailing sticker to cover the label on the jar and numbered the jars 1-10.

baby shower baby food game  teachmama.com

baby food game _ teachmama.com

Maddy and Cora were super psyched to help with this game. They picked out the jars of baby foods, and we tried to choose a range of colors, textures, and sizes. At the shower, they had a blast handing out our Baby Food Challenge sheets to guests and walking around with the tray of baby food jars for each person to see.

You can download Baby Food Challenge here for your own shower: baby food game _ teachmama.com

The winner of Baby Food Challenge was the person who guessed the most baby foods correctly. Easy, quick, and lots of fun!

Other great ideas for baby shower games are:

Or here’s one last one: Bring out BABY!

baby shower game  teachmama.com

baby WORD shower game _ teachmama.com

Though our baby shower planning days may be over, we are certainly looking forward to hearing other ways that families have included kids in the baby shower planning and partying!

What worked for you? How did you get your kids involved in this special event? Do let us know in the comments!

fyi: HUGE and happy thanks to my incredible, amazing, and crazy-crafty mom and sisters–Jenny, Mary, and Katie–each who helped do just about everything for all of the showers above and who threw me the world’s best shower ever–way back when. In most cases, my mom and sisters researched, planned, and organized the showers from start to finish; Maddy, Cora, and I just filled in as necessary and did what they told us. Thank you, girls! xoxoxo

I am blogging on behalf of Walmart.com and received compensation for my time, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Walmart’s. Shop online and save money to live better at http://www.walmart.com.

fractions with FOOD: hands-on math

fractions with food

fractions with food cover

This post about fun with food and fractions is written by Jen of Beyond Traditional Math.

Hopefully after reading it, you’ll never look at food quite the same! Thank you, Jen, for your time, effort, and expertise!

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  • Fractions with Our Favorite Thing…Food! by Jen

Before you first meet me, I should tell you that I am certifiably nuts about being anti-worksheets right now, so I am going to try to dial it back a bit to write this post.

This past school year, we adopted a new math series that is very heavy on worksheets and giving tons of practice problems. When we piloted the series, we knew that we’d need to supplement and scale back as needed.

It is difficult for me to expect children to work out between 30 and 50 problems a day.

I particularly struggle with this style of teaching when the concept is very abstract.  Right now, our team is introducing fractions, and I can’t tell you how difficult this is for third graders.

The idea of shading in boxes and naming fractions of symbols was so abstract that students had nothing to connect it to. It was actually making me crazy. The idea of doing it with 30 problems on a worksheet made me even crazier!

So I came up with a series of activities that would allow them to explore fractions with one of their favorite things: Food! (OK, I will admit it is my favorite thing, too.)

This change has made ALL the difference.  By cutting an apple in half, we could explore the definition of a fraction.  Then, we discovered the concepts of equal parts, numerators and denominators with a pan of brownies.

But my favorite activity that I believe was most effective is graham cracker fractions.  Instead of randomly coloring in boxes to show fractions, we laid a graham cracker down on a piece of paper and drew a symbol of it below.

fractions with food | teachmama.com

Now when it came time to shade in ¼ of the box, it made sense, because they had broken their graham cracker into four equal parts. When we eat a quarter of it, we can shade it in.

To extend this the next day, we took a graham cracker and transferred what we did the previous day to a number line.  This was the easiest it has ever been to teach fractions on a number line.  Again, since number lines represent counting, we simply counted by quarters instead of by whole numbers.

The best part was that when the graham cracker disappeared, they could still plot the numbers on the line!

fractions with food | teachmama.com

All things in math must absolutely be connected to the real world for students right from the start.

So often we jump right to symbols and numbers without giving them proper background knowledge needed.  This is truly a disservice to kids.  Helping them connect to real life (especially yummy snacks) will make us all successful!

 Thank you, thank you, THANK you, Jen, for sharing your math expertise–and totally cool idea!– with us!

Screen Shot 2013-08-15 at 9.29.25 PM
Jen is a third grade teacher with 8 years of experience teaching elementary students. Her passion is teaching math with a focus on conceptual knowledge through real world projects and rigorous problem solving. You can find more teaching tips and resources (and hear about how much she has learned from her mistakes) at her blog: Beyond Traditional Math. You can also connect with her on PinterestTpTTwitter, and Facebook.

 

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards, filled with more fab sneaky learning ideas:

Or check out the following math-happy posts:

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

disneyland fun facts: lunchbox notes

disneyland fun fact lunchbox notes | get kids ready for the trip | from teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

disneyland fun fact lunchbox notes | disney teachmama.com

We are gearing up for a Disneyland adventure, and to prepare our family, we’re rocking some Disneyland fun fact lunchbox notes.

Actually, these little fun facts are perfect not only for lunchboxes–but they work just about anywhere!

I’m a firm believer in the power of a re-read.  Repeated readings help with fluency and comprehension, right?  Right.  And especially if the content is high-interest, the possibility of a kid sharing facts or actually reading the info to a friend is highly likely.

I’ll take it.

So I am throwing these Disneyland fun facts in lunchboxes, in school planners, on the shoes, in coat pockets, you name it.

And you can too.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Disneyland Fun Facts– Lunchbox Notes:   Really, these came out of the fact that I know nothing about Disneyland.

As in nada. Zip. Zilch. Nothing. Zero.

A few nights ago, I asked my husband, who had been planning our little getaway, So I know Disneyland is smaller than Disney World, but does it have the same rides, or is it totally different?

disneyland fun fact lunchbox notes | teachmama.com

disneyland fun fact lunchbox notes | teachmama.com

 

He looked at me like I was crazy, so I asked, Do you know? What’s the big difference? Same park, two locations? Or is Disneyland something extra-special? Will we see things there that we’ve never seen in Orlando? I mean. . . 

He knew a bit–but admitted that he wasn’t 100% sure of all the Disney deets. So I did a little research.

And? I printed a few fun facts for him, too.

 

disneyland fun fact lunchbox notes | teachmama.com

 

disneyland fun fact lunchbox notes | teachmama.com

 

There are seven facts on each sheet and two sheets. The topics cover anything from Walt Disney’s inspiration, focus, and favorite president to Disneyland rides, lands, and rules.  Quick, short, and cool, from several different sources, all outlined on the sheet.

I learned a ton. And I’m hoping that my kids do, too.

print them here: disneyland fun fact lunchbox notes

disneyland fun fact luncbox notes | teachmama.com screener

 

Don’t get me wrong–I’m not expecting to create little Disneyland experts here; rather, I want to give my kids a little bit o’ prep for what they’ll see so that they enjoy our little vay-cay to its fullest. I’m providing them with little bits of schema–or information–that they can store away and pull out in just a few weeks.

We’ve activated schema time and time again: before we watched Brave, before our last trip to Disney World, when we hit local museums, you name it.  Really. It works.

* new *

Want a little more to prepare your kiddos for the trip? I just added a Disneyland Word Search to our Disney Word Search post.  All of these activities help to activate schema and get kids ready–and excited!–for their Disney vacation!

 

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

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

april fools’ pranks and jokes for kids

april fools pranks and jokes for kids | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

april fools pranks and jokes for kids | teachmama.com

Seriously, April Fools’ Day is one of my favorite holidays, and I know that’s not normal.

I just think April Fools’ Day gives us a good excuse to get a little silly and throw a few laughs into your kids’–and our–day.   Because all too often, between  homework, activities, meetings, projects, and work, I don’t think we do enough silly things just to be silly.

So there.

I like April Fools’ Day.

I like good, clean April Fools’ pranks and jokes for kids, especially. I like unexpected, strange, and tricky.

I like April Fools’ pranks and jokes that make us do a double-take, ones that don’t hurt and are never super-scary.

And for as long as I can remember, googly eyes make me laugh hard–so I use them a lot.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • April Fools’ Pranks and Jokes for Kids:  I say ‘kids’ but really, these little sillies can be used for anyone with a decent sense of humor.

And as with anything you do with–and for–your kids, of course you must use your discretion. Like if your child is totally frightened of flies, don’t play a fly joke on him. Or if your spouse’s worst nightmare is to fall into a pit of snakes, then maybe you don’t pull out the fake snake.

Take a look at a quickie, three-minute look at all things April Fools’ pranks and jokes for kids:

 

 

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

april fools pranks and jokes for kids | teachmama.com

Our many hilarious ideas include: 

More April Fools’ Day ideas: 

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Follow our board on Pinterest for more April Fools’ day ideas: 

 

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board april fools’ & simple, silly tricks on Pinterest.

fyi: affilliate links used in this post

chick hatching: fun for kids and families

chick hatching at home teachmama.com cover .png

I’ve said it before, and I’l say it again:chick hatching at home  teachmama.com

We. Love. Chickens.

Really, we do.

Not only do we love backyard chickens, but we also love the teeniest of tiny chickens.

We love chickens even before they’re for real ‘chickens’ and while they’re hanging out inside the ole eggy-egg.  Chick hatching.

We love chick hatching.

Chick hatching is super-fun for kids and families, and there’s a local business here in the DC Metro area that allows you to bring chick hatching to your home, school, daycare, wherever.

Seriously.

The very same company who brought us our backyard chickens last summer brought us a chick hatching program this winter: Rent a Coop.  (And they’re giving one teachmama reader a free chick hatching or backyard chicken experience and a BIG discount for everyone else. Yay!)

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Chick Hatching–Fun for Kids and Families:  Really, when I say the chick hatching experience was fun, I mean it.

It was so much fun, it was nuts.

chick hatching | teachmama.com

chick hatching | teachmama.com

Maybe because this winter was the longest, coldest, most difficult one in a long time, or maybe because my kids are at a really great age (10, 8, & 6).  Maybe because we haven’t all seen chicks hatch for years (or ever!), or maybe because chick hatching is just plain cool.

Whatever the reason, we loved chick hatching.

Here’s a quick video with three reasons why your family should consider a chick hatching program: 

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

chick hatching | teachmama.com

chick hatching | teachmama.com

chick hatching | teachmama.com

Fun facts about our chick hatching experience:

  • We lost power during our four weeks, and in order to keep our egg incubator at 99.5º F, we had to take our eggs to a neighbor’s house and then drive them to another friend’s house after the first neighbor lost power.
  • Our eggs’ temperature dropped to 80ºF but all seven eggs hatched!
  • One chick died shortly after hatching, which sometimes happens.
  • We hatched two Copper Marans, Rhode Island Reds, and White Rocks chickens. They were all beautiful.

chick hatching | teachmama.com

 

chick hatching | teachmama.com

Check out all of our chick hatching photos:

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Huge thanks to Tyler from Rent a Coop for making our chick hatching experience so easy.  He rolled on up with our brooder, two baby chicks, and our seven precious eggs, along with everything we needed for the whole four weeks.

The experience was so much fun for us all. I’d honestly do it every year.

Just like before, Tyler quickly and patiently answered my wide range of insane texts: 

amy tyler text

He celebrated with me when they began to hatch, and he calmed my nerves when one chick died (sob!).   He’s great.

Check them out on their Rent a Coop site Follow them on their facebook page.  Follow them on twitter and instagram–and tag them on your own pictures of chick hatching or backyard chickens.

 

chick hatching | teachmama.com

 

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chick hatching checklist

chick hatching checksheet | teachmama.com

download yours: chick hatching checklist | teachmama.com

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GIVEAWAY: One 4-week backyard chicken/ coop rental from Rent a Coop OR participation in the chick hatching program for your home or school.

Do you want to win your own 4-week backyard chicken/ coop rental from Rent a Coop OR participation in the chick hatching program for your home or school??!  Yes, yes you do.

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PLEASE NOTE: Everyone wins here. Rent a Coop is offering great discount for teachmama readers: $10 off a 4-week program. WOW!  Just use the promo code teachmama14.  It will be valid until May 1, 2014, and you can use it on either chick hatching or backyard chickens.

And. . . you can purchase your program before May 1, 2014 but can actually participate in your program at any time–summer, fall, winter. So go book yours now!

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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 theOfficial Sweepstakes Rules.

 

This giveaway ends Friday, April 4, 2014 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the DC Metro only; our friends from Rent a Coop can only bring eggs or send their chickens so far, you know. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 04/04/14.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

 

fyi: This is an unsponsored post, but our family was given the opportunity to try our hand at raising baby chicks and hatching chickens for four weeks in exchange for sharing a bit about Rent a Coop.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little chicken-loving littles.

Affiliate links are used below.

april fools’ candy bugs: funny trick for families

candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.com

 originally published in 2011

post contains affiliate links

 

 

candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.com

April Fools’ Day is practically upon us, and I thought that before I served the kids jell-o in their juice cups tomorrow (seriously, how funny is that?!), I knew I wanted todo something that would top last year’s April Fools’ win.

So I thought and though and thought some more and came up with fake bugs–what’s better than a good bug scare, right?

I knew Maddy had a play date planned for this morning, so my idea was this: serve Maddy and her pals their snack but (bam!) the fake bugs

would be in the snack bowls. And (eeee!) instead of killing the ‘bugs’, I would run over, grab one, and put it in my mouth, chew it, and swallow it. Smiling.

Woot! April Fools’ jackpot!

It didn’t go quite as planned. But it was still really funny (probably more for me) but the girls had a fun time playing with candy–eating the candy–and trying their hardest to make bugs that would scare the pants off of their brothers, sisters, and parents.

Here’s how it went:

  • April Fools’ Candy Bugs– Funny Trick for Families: When I say I thought about this, I’m not joking. I talked to my sister about how I could make candy bugs for much longer than I would care to admit. I tried and tried and tried to master the art of candy-stink-bug-making, only to fail miserably.

Yesterday, Cora and I really tried to make stink bugs on two separate occasions, until finally she said, Mommy, let’s just do another bug. She was right.

We needed to move forward. So we did.

candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.comour bug-making supplies

I used a black icing mixed into a marzipan candy dough I found at the grocery store, but I just couldn’t get it flat enough, I couldn’t make legs or antenna that were skinny or strong enough, and I couldn’t make it textured enough.

It did create a mean millipede, a teeny, skinny wormish guy, but that was it.

candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.com

I moved onto bigger and I probably could have stuck with Tootsie Rollsthe flavored kind–for everything that we ended up doing.

It was fine for creating little made-up bugs–teeny green bugs with white (marzipan) wings and eyes.

 candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.com

Cora and my bugs–ready to trick the girls!

candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.com

To ‘spook’ Maddy and her friends, Cora (the kiddo who just can’t whisper and is probably the worst at secret-keeping) and I made:

  • Tiny Green Bugs: using a green Tootsie Roll, plain (uncolored) marzipan wings, and blackish marzipan eyes
  • Flat White Bugs (called a stink bug to my utter joy by one of Maddy’s buddies): using a white Tootsie Roll, brown M & M, teeny slivers of purple Twizzler for legs and tiny specs of chocolate chip for eyes
  • Flying Jumbo Ant: using black marzipan for segmented body, yellow Tootsie Roll for wings, and white marzipan for eyes

candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.com

candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.com

I poured some Goldfish, snack of every playdate, into bowls, and called the girls to the table.

Cora was sooo calm and cool, and I’m sure she wasn’t staring into each kid’s bowl.

One of Maddy’s friends dug in and paused.  I said, Are you okay, honey?

She said, Um, yeah, but can I eat this?

 

candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.com

candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.com

What, you mean the goldfish? Sure. I was so busy putting away dishes, I hardly noticed the poor kid.

Uh, no–um, this. . . uh. . .

I walked over and it was over: OH MY GOSH ARE YOU KIDDING ME? There’s a bug in there? Oh NO!! What do I– How did that–

By then the other kids came in and were pondering their bugs. Maddy was a cucumber: Mom, really? Is this candy or something? You’d think she was like 25.

Fine. They’re candy. But I really tried to get you and you are all way too smart for me. So how about when you’re done with your fish, we can put our heads together and make some totally awesome, absolutely terrifying bugs that will scare the pants off of your family? Tomorrow’s April Fool’s Day–you have to trick someone. . .

candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.com

Maddy rolls her marzipan with red food coloring to make the most realistic ladybugs evah.

 

Really, the girls needed no arm-twisting.  They were totally into it before we even started.  I laid out a spread of candy bug options, but they figured everything out quickly.

I stressed the importance of tiny–teeny, teeny, teeny–for the bugs to even look a bit real, but they didn’t worry. We rolled, cut, twisted, stretched and ate more candy than I’ll ever admit to their moms (who are my great friends and who will love me anyway).

 

candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.comMaddy’s bug. So real, it’s frightening.

They added antenna, made legs, and added color; they chatted about this and that, about what bugs we like–and don’t–and who they wanted to scare tomorrow.  They added wings to this and that, made bodies long and short, used everything on the table.

They put their bugs in bags and when they left, they said they’d hide it and use it tomorrow. We’ll see. . .

By the time Owen returned from his playdate, we were ready to give him a scare. I put his snack in a bowl and when he grabbed it, he popped the fly right in his mouth like he does it every day.

Seriously, Owen, it didn’t scare you even a little bit? C’mon–

Mom, no way.

I tried.

Just wait till they try drinking their Jello-O juice tomorrow at breakfast. . .

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More April Fools’ Day ideas: 

 

Follow our board on Pinterest for more April Fools’ day ideas: 

 

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board april fools’ & simple, silly tricks on Pinterest.

fyi: affilliate links used in this post