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

get kids involved baby shower treats, games, and decorations

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


get kids involved baby shower treats, games, and decorations

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.


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

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.

baby shower decorations collage

baby shower collage - 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 |

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

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

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

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

baby food game _

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 _

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

baby WORD shower game _

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 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

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!


  • 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 |

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 |

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

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disneyland fun fact lunchbox notes | disney

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 |

disneyland fun fact lunchbox notes |


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 |


disneyland fun fact lunchbox notes |


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 | 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 |

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april fools pranks and jokes for kids |

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 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 |

Our many hilarious ideas include: 

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.

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chick hatching: fun for kids and families

chick hatching at home cover .png

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

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.


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 |

chick hatching |

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 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 |

chick hatching |

chick hatching |

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 |


chick hatching |

Check out all of our chick hatching photos:


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 |



chick hatching checklist

chick hatching checksheet |

download yours: chick hatching checklist |


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.


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!


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

 originally published in 2011

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candy bugs | april fools fun

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

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

Cora and my bugs–ready to trick the girls!

candy bugs | april fools fun

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

candy bugs | april fools fun

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

candy bugs | april fools fun

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

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. . .


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.

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

creativity and kids kid made modern

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creativity and kids  kid made modern

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

Today?  It’s even more exciting.

No joke.

It’s all about raising creative kids.

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


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

$150 gift card to Target. Bam.

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

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


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

Do you just adore Todd Oldham?

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

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

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


GIVEAWAY: $150 gift card to Target!

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

virtual travel: kids can explore without leaving home

virtual travel: explore without leaving home |

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virtual travel | explore without leaving home | teachmama.comSpringtime often means sunshine and warm breezes, park play dates and bike rides.

But it also means rain boots and umbrellas.  Long and lazy afternoons inside, waiting for April showers to end so May flowers can bloom.

For those times when Mother Nature keeps us in check, why not consider ‘virtual travel’ instead?  A little exploration without leaving home?

Go away. But don’t really go away.

So many of the toys around our home can inspire further exploration, a little research into the who, what, why, where, when, and how. Many of our puzzles, books, and games have sparked in our kids’ minds questions and the need for further exploration.

I’m betting it’s the same for you.

This time, when questions arise, consider taking your kids on a virtual vacation.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Virtual Travel–Explore Without Leaving Home: Some of the images on our everyday toys are just what my kids need to get their imagination going.

Did these dinosaurs really live and hunt together like in this picture? 

virtual travel: explore without leaving home |


Is there a place in the world where under the sea animals look like this? 

No way these kinds of bugs are in the rainforest–I don’t believe it!

Is this what a savannah really looks like? 

So rather than just throw Maddy, Owen, and Cora in front of the computer with ‘Google’ in front of them, I thought I’d take them on a little ‘virtual vacation’ of sorts.

When I was in the classroom, one of my favorite ways of activating schema–or even building schema–for my students was by taking them on a ‘virtual tour’ of a setting, event, or idea related to a text we would soon read. It was a great way of getting students familiar with concepts that they would encounter in a text without the hassle of setting up a field trip.

Why not do the same thing with my own children? I thought that surely the internet has a wide range of virtual trips for folks to explore these days? And I was correct.

virtual travel: explore without leaving home |

virtual travel: explore without leaving home | teachmama.comSo when kids are playing with the toys you have at home, enjoying the peace and challenge of a puzzle on one rainy afternoon, take them a bit further.

Take them on a virtual trip, and I’m  sure they’ll never look at things the same way.

    • In the African Safari: The Safari Floor Puzzle is a favorite in our house. Watching any of these live AfriCams gives you the idea of what it could be like. Live streaming in some of the most dangerous parts of Africa. Yikes.

virtual travel: explore without leaving home |


    • Run Free with Horses: The River Run Puzzle, horses running free is a hard virtual tour to find, but the closest thing to mirror that event is the Chincoteaque Pony Swim every summer in Virginia.  Ponies running free and swimming. Bam.

This spring, when weather keeps us indoors–or even if we just feel the need for a little getaway–go virtually. You’ll be so glad you did!

Where are your favorite spots to travel virtually? I’d love to hear ’em! 


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. 

affiliate links are used in this post

3 ways to kick-start your family’s health

3 ways to kick-start your family's health

I am blogging on behalf of, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Walmart’s. Shop online and save money to live better at


3 ways to kick-start your family's health |

Spring is around the corner, so it’s an ideal time to kick-start your family’s health.

And, after the brutal winter we’ve had, I know we’re all ready for it. We’re ready for a change.

We’re ready for sun. We’re ready for grass. We’re ready to see leaves on the trees.

We’re ready to start eating healthier and to start feeling better about ourselves again.

So as we close out the last few weeks of wintertime, we must start thinking about how we can prepare our family for a spring and summer filled with fitness and well-being.

I’ve got three ways to kick-start your family’s health.

Three ways that have worked for our family after the long and lazy days of winter, after we’ve eaten one too many cookies, and after one too many hot chocolates.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 3 Ways to Kick-Start Your Family’s Health: Three simple ways, because, as busy parents, that’s about all we can handle.

1. Find outdoor activities you can do as a family.  Being outside is key because in the springtime, the weather is nice and people want to be outdoors.

And, if you’re outdoors together, you’re more likely to help each other get moving.

3 ways to kickstart family health activities

What activities should you do as a family?

  • If you want to meet people in  your area, join a family recreational kickball or softball league.
  • If your family loves exploring, grab a compass or a personal GPS and try geocaching.
  • If you are a competitive family, you could train for a local 5K. Many neighborhoods offer ‘couch to 5K’ training programs, and spring is a great time to try it!
  • If you are a rockin’ and rollin’ family, try rollerskating or roller blading!
  • If it all seems too much for you, then challenge each other by seeing who can log the most steps in one day. Chart your progress on a poster in a common area of your home, and track steps with one of those cool Fitbitsicon for each family member!


2.  Eat healthy and cook as a family.  If one person’s eating healthy, the whole family can eat healthy. With food, it’s so much easier to do as a group, and you can start by swapping junk food and sweets for healthier fruits and veggies.

3 ways to kickstart family health food do you get started, making sure that all family members are on board? 

  • Take turns cooking each night. Assign ‘Dinner Duos’ or ‘Chef Partners’ and have each team plan two meals a week.
  • Visit local Farmers’ Markets or join a CSA.
  • Peruse the Produce Sections of grocery stores as a family for items that look good, smell good, and taste fresh!
  • Eat seasonally. Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season, and explore recipes that celebrate those items.


3.  Wear weather-appropriate clothes and shoes that fit comfortably.   Since spring weather fluctuates so greatly, it’s important to have clothes that work with weather conditions that come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.

3 ways to kickstart your family's health  clothes can you make sure your family is outfitted with clothes that allow them to get movin’ and groovin’ indoors or out? 

  • Start fresh. Go through drawers, removing clothes that no longer fit and making room for new items.
  • Have a clothing swap! Reach out to friends and family with the sizes of your kids’ clothes that no longer fit, and submit a gentle request for items and sizes that your family needs.
  • Dress in layers.  Layers are key for springtime; wearing a t-shirt under a sweatshirt and cute, fun raincoat allows you to remove layers as the weather warms and still stay comfortable.
  • Get fitted. Make sure everyone is wearing the correct size sneaker from the start. Having shoes and socks that fit are necessary for starting an exercise regime off on the right foot!


What are some ways your family moves back into a healthier lifestyle after a long winter?  I’d love to hear them!


fyi: I am blogging on behalf of, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Walmart’s. Affiliate links are used in this post. 




toy fair recap: melissa & doug booth 2014

toy fair recap melissa & doug

Toy Fair was last week in NYC, and it was off the hook.toy fair recap 5 fave toys from  melissa & doug

I mean it.

Totally looking forward to sharing what I learned, what I saw, and some common themes through the event, but today? I’m sharing my Toy Fair Recap from the Melissa & Doug Booth, 2014.

My top five favorites for kids and families from Melissa & Doug.

I’ve worked with Melissa & Doug for years and years now, so I’m always pumped to see what new products they create and how they’re growing as a company.

It’s been a blast to connect with all of the great people behind the company–the folks in customer service, sales, personalization, and social media.

It’s cool to chat with the real Melissa and Doug.   They all work so hard.  And they stand so firmly behind their products. It’s awesome.

So for the third year in a row, the creative and crafty Valerie of Inner Child Fun and I were able to spend time together, explore the booth, explore the fair, and meet tons of fabulous people at the Melissa & Doug Media Breakfast that we hosted one morning.

Though there are tons of new products from Melissa & Doug this year, I’ve whittled it down to my top five faves.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Toy Fair Recap–Melissa & Doug Booth 2014:

Check out my top five picks from Melissa & Doug. . .


What do you think?

What is your favorite from what I shared? What do you want to learn more about or see more of? Let me know!

Check out all of the photos from the Melissa & Doug booth:

Though not all of the new products have links on the site because they will be released this summer or fall, do check out the Melissa & Doug site and search for the item you’re interested in.

More to come! Looking forward to sharing!


melissa doug blog ambassador buttonfyi: 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. 


disney surprise scavenger hunt

disney surprise scavenger hunt

post contains affiliate links



disney surprise scavenger hunt


It’s been busy here for the last few days, with our insane weather and with FutureCity, Toy Fair, and National Center for Families Learning Summit all in the last week.

But somewhere in between all of this excitement, my husband and I surprised our kids with a super-fun, totally awesome Disney Surprise Scavenger Hunt!

That’s right–we’re heading to Disney this spring. And we’re thrilled.

We wanted to tell Maddy, Owen, and Cora in a way that made them work a bit, so we came up with a Scavenger Hunt. Nothing too crazy, but we wanted a hunt got them reading, thinking, and putting their heads (and feet!) together to figure out clues and learn about their trip.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Disney Surprise Scavenger Hunt:

You can use this scavenger hunt whether you’re going to Disney World or Disneyland; it doesn’t matter.

Our goal was to give them an idea that they were going without outright telling them.

Check out our video for a closer look at how it went:

SO funny, right?

They seemed to have a blast!

disney surprise scavenger hunt for kids |

Our Disney Scavenger Hunt can be downloaded here if you want to use it (and modify it) yourself: disney surprise scavenger hunt

Or here it is as a pdf if you like it just the way it is: disney surprise scavenger hunt (pdf)

disney surprise scavenger hunt for kids |

disney surprise scavenger hunt for kids |

Our Disney Scavenger Hunt includes things like:

  • counting pennies for the number of days until our trip;
  • doing jumping jacks and headstands;
  • putting together Mickey sock puzzles;
  • unscrambling Disney-related words: vacation, spring, suitcase, sunshine, and more;
  • watching a Disney video on YouTube.

disney surprise scavenger hunt for kids |

disney surprise scavenger hunt for kids |

We’re really excited.

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

fyi: Huge thanks to the amazing and creative Tiffany Dale of Peanut Blossom for the Disney video inspiration as part of our reveal.  Affiliate links used below.