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

creativity and kids kid made modern teachmama.com.png

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creativity and kids  kid made modern  teachmama.com.png

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 teachmama.com reader.

Seriously.

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 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!

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.

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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 | teachmama.com

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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 | teachmama.com

 

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 | teachmama.com

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 | teachmama.com

 

    • 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 teachmama.com.png

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

 

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

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  teachmama.com.png

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!

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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  teachmama.com.pngHow 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.

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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  teachmama.com.pngHow 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!

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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 Walmart.com, 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

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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 | teachmama.com

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 | teachmama.com

disney surprise scavenger hunt for kids | teachmama.com

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 | teachmama.com

disney surprise scavenger hunt for kids | teachmama.com

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.

valentine’s day class party ideas, 2.0

valentine's day class party ideas, 2.0 | fun ideas to get groups of kids moving and having fun | minute to win it games | free printables | teachmama.com

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valentine's day class party ideas, 2.0 | teachmama.com

 

For many years now I’ve been roped into being Room Parent for my kids’ classes, and though I do love the opportunity to meet other families from the school and to get to know the kids in the class, it’s a lot of work.

More than once I’ve wished that there was a secret site that gave me all of the Valentine’s Day class party ideas I needed–the letters to send, the snacks to serve, crafts to make and the games to play.

But knowing that such a thing doesn’t exist and that each class party is different and unique, I am just sharing the love.

Whatever I’m doing as Room Parent, I’m sharing my own, gathered ’round the world Valentine’s Day class party ideas. There you have it.

I shared How to have a Rockstar Valentine’s Day class party, and now we’re back at it again.  2.0, man. 2.0.

Grab what works for you, and leave what doesn’t.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Valentine’s Day Class Party Ideas, 2.0:

The real secret to success with these parties to to keep the atmosphere light and to make sure you have a handful of awesome helpers on board.

  • Parent Letter: About three weeks before the class party, chat with the teacher and ask:
    • What is the timeframe for the party?
    • Is there anything special you’d like for us to do? 
    • Do you want the kids to address each Valentine or keep them nameless?  (Nameless is often better for younger kids and allows for easier, quicker distribution.)
    • What are the food restrictions for the students? 
    • Do you know of anything that has really worked well in the past that you would recommend repeating? 

Then draft a Parent Letter (you can definitely model yours after the one I’ve used here: valentines day class party letter BLANK).  Head into school and make copies, and put one in each child’s cubby or take-home folder.

valentines day class party  | teachmama.com

If the teacher suggests that Valentines be addressed to recipients, then be sure to include a copy of the class list.

  • Prepare! Pow-wow with your Co-Room Parents or do a little research to figure out what will work for your party.

Make a shopping list and split the job up.   I usually like collecting money from other parents and then having the Room Parents purchase the items we need. Other people like to have the job split up: one parent brings cupcakes, another juice boxes, another small prizes, etc.

valentine's day class party plan  teachmama.com

  • Create the Plan: I love having the party plan out so that all of the helper parents and the teacher knows what’s going on for the event. That way, everyone’s on board.

Here’s a sample of our party plan. Feel free to use and modify for your own rockin class party: valentine party plan 2014.  Want it in word? valentine party plan 2014 — word doc

  • Rock. The. Party.

Here’s what’s on our schedule this year:

musical hearts reading, moving, & crazy-fun kid game teachmama.com

This heart-happy game can be adapted for nearly any reading level, and I love how it gets kids engaged, reading, and responding.

 

valentines day class party ideas  craft  teachmama.com

    • Stained Glass Hearts:  The kids will make these easy, super-cute, no-glue crafts which are really pretty.

Simple, sweet crafts that look so pretty in wintertime windows, no matter where you are.

valentines day class party ideas  guess the word  teachmama.com

    • Valentine Guess the Word: While they’re crafting, they can play Guess the Word.  We’ve played it for our other parties, and the kids really seem to enjoy it.

 

    • Valentine Card Delivery and Snack!  The kids’ favorite part! Break the class in half.  Let one half deliver their Valentines, while the other eats, and then have them switch.

Then give the kids some time to read their Valentines!

hint: Have the plates of food ready and set them in front of each student. It makes things move a lot more smoothly!

valentines day class party ideas  groups teachmama.com

    • Small-Group Minute-to-Win-it Games:  We’ll break the kids into three groups by having them pick a heart foam sticker out of a bag. Three groups: white hearts, red hearts, and pink hearts.  That way, we’ll have about 6-8 kids in each group.  A bit easier to manage.

We are not keeping score here with our games. It’d be too hectic, and the focus is fun, not big wins.

We’ll encourage each child to do his or her best. At the end, if everyone works hard, everyone grabs a prize!

Each ‘game station’ will host two Minute-to-Win-It games.  At the first rotation, every student will receive a small Valentine goodie bag to keep candy and supplies.

valentines day class party ideas marshmallow race teachmama.com

    • Marshmallow Race:  Simple. You can play this several ways.

1. Break the group in half and draw a line in the middle of the table. Each side uses inexpensive plastic straws to try to blow the marshmallows to the other side of the line. The team with the most after one minute wins.

2.  Each person plays individually and has one minute to blow a single marshmallow from one side of the table to the other. The person with the most at the end wins.

Straws and marshmallows, and a clean table–that’s all you need.

valentines day class party ideas marshmallow toss teachmama.com

    •  Marshmallow Toss:  Students partner up and stand across from each other, about 2-4 feet apart.  One person has a handful of marshmallows and the other has a small paper cup. Students have one minute to toss as many marshmallows into the cup as possible.

After one minute, the throwers catch and the catchers throw.

The winning team is the one with the most marshmallows in the cup!

valentines day class party ideas heart towers teachmama.com

    • Heart Towers: Students have one minute to stack as many conversation hearts as they can. It’s harder than you may think!

The winner is the person who has the highest stack after one minute.

valentines day class party ideas bracelets teachmama.com

    • One-Handed Bracelets: One minute to thread as many fruit loops onto a pipe cleaner as possible.

And then–here’s the clincher–the player has to make that pipe cleaner into a braclet. Using one hand.  So funny!

valentines day class party ideas cookie face teachmama.com

    • Cookie Face: Players have a cookie on their foreheads and have one minute to move that cookie from their forehead and into their mouth.

So hard. And so, so funny to watch!

The winner is the player who moves the most cookies from forehead to mouth in one minute’s time!

valentines day class party ideas heart chopstick race teachmama.com

    • Heart Chopstick Race:  An oldie for Valentine’s Day class parties but definitely a goodie.

Players work individually to move as many conversation hearts from a central bowl into their own plastic cups, using only a pair of chopsticks.  It’s not easy, and very quickly you’ll see which students use chopsticks on a regular basis.

 

valentines day class party ideas heart mitten race teachmama.com

    • Mitten Race: Kids totally love this game.

Wearing a pair of adult ski mittens, players try to unwrap a piece of candy. Small candies with tight wrappers, like Starburst or Tootsie Rolls are especially hard.

You can play this game with the kids in two lines, and as each child unwraps the candy he or she pops it in his or her mouth and passes on the mittens, going down the line, or you can play individually.  Each child wears a pair of mittens and the winner is the player who unwraps the most candy in one minute.

valentines day class party ideas heart puzzle race teachmama.com

 

    • Puzzle Race: I love the simplicity of this and kids love to do ‘speedy puzzles’ together.

These are really just six or seven Valentine-themed photos that I printed out on cardstock and cut into pieces.  I printed them on three different shades of paper to make it a little bit easier, but the goal is to put as many together under one minute as possible.

The Valentine’s Day puzzles are here to download if you’d like: valentines day class party PUZZLES.  

valentines day class party | puzzle race | teachmama.com

valentines day class party  | puzzle race | teachmama.com

You may want to add an extra for your school’s mascot just for kicks.

My suggestion is to flip the pieces face down on the table, start the timer, and let the kids at ‘em. If they are struggling, then show them the key. Otherwise, let them have fun with it!

 

Want a few more fun Valentine’s Day ideas? Check out: 

how to throw a rockstar valentine's day party teachmama.com 2

valentine's day class party ideas

 

 

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

musical hearts: reading, moving, & crazy-fun kid game

musical hearts reading, moving, & crazy-fun kid game teachmama.com

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musical hearts reading, moving, & crazy-fun kid game  teachmama.comThe snow and freezing cold temps has cause my three kids to be on energy overload lately.

They need to burn steam.

They need to run, jump, skip, hop, spin, and then do it all again.

They need to loosen up, wiggle out those wiggles, laugh hard, and be super silly.

So when I was looking for some cool indoor games for us to play in the down time between school and homework, I stumbled upon my dear friend Allie’s Musical Hearts game.  And like everything she does, it’s awesome.

When the girls and I were at the craft store this week, you better believe I added big foam hearts to our cart so that I could make Musical Hearts work for us and hold up for more than one game.

And it sure did.

I turned Musical Hearts into a reading game, a moving game, and a crazy-fun after school, burn-some-serious-steam game.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Musical Hearts– Reading, Moving, and Crazy-Fun Kid Game:

musical hearts reading, moving, & crazy-fun kid game teachmama.com

musical hearts | reading, moving, crazy fun game for kids - 03
I wrote my actions on the fly, thinking about what I both wanted my kids to read and what I wanted them to do. I wanted simple but fun. And I wanted Cora, Owen, and Maddy to be able to play.

My list of Musical Hearts Actions is here for you to check out, print, and use as inspiration: valentine musical hearts game.

It includes 30+ ideas, like:

  • Hula dance.
  • Do 5 jumping jacks.
  • Spin on one foot five times then spin on the other.
  • Do 5 pushups.
  • Hop on one foot 10 times.
  • Hug the person on your right.
  • Plank for 10 seconds.
  • Jump as high as you can—8 times.

musical hearts reading, moving, & crazy-fun kid game teachmama.com

 

It took virtually no persuading for the kids to try out this game.

I said, Hey, you guys, after your snack I’d like for you to try out something that I found online that I think will be a lot of fun. I know you haven’t had recess outside lately, so this will get us up and moving.  Who’s game?

musical hearts reading, moving, & crazy-fun kid game teachmama.comMaddy’s nose was buried in a book, so she sat this one out–for a bit.Literally Cora and Owen dropped their snacks, jumped down from their stools at the snack bar, and found me in the kitchen.

Okay, so here’s the deal: We flip these hearts upside down and put them in a huge circle.

And then I blast some Frozen soundtrack and we play just like Musical Chairs–except this is called Musical Hearts. And there are no chairs. Instead, there are hearts with little messages underneath. When the music stops, you flip your heart and do what’s on the other side. Get it?

They did.

musical hearts reading, moving, & crazy-fun kid game teachmama.com

 

musical hearts reading, moving, & crazy-fun kid game teachmama.com

We played and played and played.

And laughed and laughed and laughed.

Music on, kids walking on the hearts. Music off. Hearts flipped. Kids jumping, planking, spinning, and singing. Music on. Kids up. . . 

Maddy even ditched the book and joined us, and before I knew it, they were all overheated and burning some much-needed energy.

It got hilarious. And surprisingly, they didn’t want to stop.

musical hearts reading, moving, & crazy-fun kid game  teachmama.com

But after the millionth time, when I looked at the clock and realized that OHMYGOSH! we needed to do homework–ack! homework!–before we took Maddy to gymnastics, we had to wrap up the game.

But I’m betting they’ll ask to play tomorrow. . .

 

And really, that was that.

Just a really fun, super-cool way to get kids up, reading, and moving–and laughing!–on a freezing cold, grey winter afternoon.

Love this idea and cannot thank Allie enough for sharing.  The possibilities for adapting Musical Hearts are endless:

 

Want a few more fun Valentine’s Day ideas? Check out: 

how to throw a rockstar valentine's day party teachmama.com 2

 

valentine's day class party ideas, 2.0 | teachmama.com

 

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

pet poetry contest: calling all creative kids!

pal pet poetry contest

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pet poetry contest | @PetsAddLife

As a longtime friend of PAL, Pets Add Life, I’m happy to share news about a cool opportunity for our students, teachers, and parents.

Now through January 31, 2014, Pets Add Life invites students in grades 3 – 8 to enter the 6th Annual Pets Add Life Children’s Poetry Contest and write a poem about their pets.   So fun.

All entrants have a chance at winning a $250 gift card and a byline in a national publication or online outlet.  But there’s more.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Pet Poetry Contest–Calling All Creative Kids:  Pets Add Life is a nonprofit campaign established by the American Pet Products Association.

And I love that PAL does this every year to not only get kids writing (yay!) but to celebrate our furry, feathery, scaly, fuzzy friends.

Love pets? Your creative student could win $250 plus $1,000 for their classroom!

That’s right.  Each winning student’s classroom will receive $1,000 to spend on pet-related education!

pal pet poetry contest

Teachers are encouraged to submit students’ poems in one entry on behalf of their classrooms. For more information or to submit poems, visit www.PetsAddLife.org.

PAL_logo_hiYou can enter the contest here: PAL Pet Poetry Contest.

Thinking about entering? We are too! Please stay in touch and let us know if your kiddo–or student–is a winner!

fyi: This is a sponsored post; I was asked to share information about this contest by my friends at PAL, and I gladly obliged knowing it’s a serious win-win!

game design for kids: innovation and creativity with #intelAIO

game design for kids innovation and creativity with #intelAIO teachmama.com

game design for kids innovation and creativity with #intelAIO teachmama.com

My kids have long been interested in electronics and technology, but only recently have they been interested in trying their hand at game design.

Right. As in my kids, 10, 8, and 6 years old, designing their own games.

Thinking about, planning, and creating games.  Plotting challenges, goals, and objectives. Making levels, sub-levels, and clues.  Trying to trick each other and be the one who designs the best of the best, the hardest of the hardest games.

On the computer.

Actually, on our Intel All-in-One PC. The one we’ve had the opportunity to explore and discover for the last few months.

As an Intel Partner, I’ve shared my experiences, when we first got the device and why I was thankful for it. And often on twitter and instagram I’ve shared shots of my digital kids doing their digital thing on our rad IntelAIO.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Game Design for Kids–Innovation and Creativity with #IntelAIO:  Maddy, Owen, and Cora have fallen hard for our Intel AIO, and it’s no wonder–it’s easy to use, and its touch screen mirrors the mobile devices they use every day.

But the AIO has really fostered innovation and creativity in my kids in new and exciting ways–the game design is just one. Their familiarity and comfort in using the device makes exploring new content online easier.

At Digital Family Summit this year, my kids participated in a totally fab Game Design Workshop, and I really think that it was here that the seed was planted for their interest in exploring this new side of technology: the creation side.

This workshop introduced Maddy, Owen, and Cora to Gamestar Mechanic.  Brian Alspach of E-Line Media and the creator of Gamestar Mechanic facilitated this hands-on workshop, and my kids were hooked from the beginning.

game design for kids: innovation and creativity with #intelAIO | teachmama.com

Gamestar Mechanic is simply “a game and community designed to teach kids the principles of game design and systems thinking in a highly engaging environment . . . it is designed for 7- to 14-year-olds but is open to everyone” (from the Gamestar Mechanic site).  You’ve got to check it out.

Kids can play, take courses (NO joke! It’s my summer plan for the kids. . . ), make games, and join a community of game creators. I love, though, that in order to publish your game and have others play it, kids must complete the course on game creation. So smart.

game design for kids: innovation and creativity with #intelAIO | teachmama.com
According to Owen, “Gamestar Mechanic is that site where you can make games yourself or play the ones they have.  It’s cool because I’m in charge.”

Game design requires innovation, creativity, and a new way of thinking.  My kids are stretching their brains like never before, doing things I never imagined they’d be interested in doing.

But the really fab thing is that what they learned at Digital Family, they could bring home thanks to our IntelAIO PC.

The possibilities are endless.

 Three cheers for our Digital Kids and for friends at Intel All-in-One PC for giving us the opportunity to explore this  rockin device.

 

#spon: I am in a partnership with Intel. Through this partnership I gain access to content, product, or other forms of value.

how to keep your family sane during a kitchen renovation

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno

post contains affiliate links

 

 

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno

It’s been pretty quiet on the blog for the last few weeks, but it’s been insanely busy on the home front.

We’re undergoing a major kitchen renovation.

Combining the dining room, craft room (sob!), and kitchen.  Breaking down some walls.  Opening up the place.

Letting some light in, and trying something new.

I’ll be the first to admit that it hasn’t been all that pretty. But there are a few things we’ve been doing to try to keep our family sane. We’re still not finished, but we’re getting there. We can see the light.

For our family, it’s been absolutely insane.  But fun. Kind of.

Three weeks without appliances. All of our worldly possessions from three rooms shoved into our living room. It’s dusty. It’s a mess. It brings cray-cray to a whole new level.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Keep Your Family Sane During a Kitchen Renovation:  I think any time the kitchen is involved with a renovation, it’s time to pull out all the stops.

The kitchen is the command center of the home. It’s where all the action begins and where it usually ends.

And when the kitchen’s all torn up, life can get a little nutty to say the least.  Though I have not handled this experience as gracefully as I wish I have, I’m doing what I can to maintain my sanity.

Here are my feeble suggestions for others who may soon experience the joy of having their kitchen gutted. . .

 

how to keep family sane during home renovation

1.  Go with it.  Accept the chaos.

Really. My pal who is always on top of things–the one who cleans up after the cleaners, who is always on time for everything, and in whose home we follow the ‘no shoes’ rule–gave me this advice: Go with it. Accept the chaos.

Go with it.

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | go with it | teachmama.com

See me? Don’t I look totally happy just ‘going with it’?

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | go with it | teachmama.com

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | keep kids involved | teachmama.com

But that advice, coming from my friend, really stuck.

Amy, you have to just go with it. Don’t fight it. Accept the chaos and you’ll be fine. You can’t clean. There’s dust everywhere. Just go with it.

I have repeated that phrase over in my head more times than I care to admit: Just go with it. Go with it. Go with it. 

It’s been my mantra.  When my kids see me, the Joe-Cool Mom, just ‘going with it’ and embracing the chaos and ignoring the dust and mess, they are more likely going to be able to ‘go with it’ too.

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5 ways to keep family sane during home reno let it go  teachmama.com

2. Let a lot go.  Let a lot go.

The first few days, I tried to remind the kids to eat over their paper plates and to grab a napkin before they sat in front of the tv to eat their dinner (gasp!), but after a day or two, I let. It. Go. I. Let it go.

You want to walk around the ripped-up kitchen floor, eating potato chips out of the bag? Sure. Go for it.

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | go with it | teachmama.com

There’s Brady. Letting it go.

Cereal for an after school snack? Absolutely. And you want to walk around, bowl in one hand and spoon in the other? Awesome.

No appliances for another weekend, thanks to bad weather? No problem.  ¿Como se dice ‘take-out’?

Maddy, Owen, and Cora, who are allowed to buy lunch one day each week, bought lunch every day for three weeks. While I convinced myself that it was fine, they acted like they won the lottery.  See? It really was fun.

 ————————————————————

ways to keep family sane during home reno stick to routine  teachmama.com

3.  Try to stick to the routine.

Because our renovation started a few weeks before winter break and stretched to few weeks after, our routine was pretty much crazy from the start. December is nutty. Always.

But while the kids were in school, I homework in one spot–even if it was the coffee table in the basement.

Through the entire renovation, I kept out a sweet pot of pretty white cyclamen given to me for the holidays from a neighbor. We usually have flowers of some sort out in containers or tiny bud vases, so I really wanted to keep something beautiful around through the ugly parts of the reno.

It helped.

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | stick to routine | teachmama.com

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | stick to routine | teachmama.com

We ate dinner as a family, even if it was Chinese take-out.  And it was take-out quite a bit because we don’t have a laundry sink so doing dishes was difficult in the tiny bathroom sink.

Though we totally lost track of whose day it was, I kept our daily schedule up and rolling every day.

And when everything was packed away and I couldn’t find the dry erase markers, I printed out our schedule from our family google calendar on a one-pager and taped it to the tile.

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5 ways to keep family sane during home reno- chronicle the adventure - teachmama

4. Chronicle the adventure.

And in the vein of ‘going with it’, we’ve been chronicling the whole renovation adventure.

Taking pictures every single day and talking about the progress each night.

keep your family sane during a home reno | chronicle adventure | teachmama.com

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | keep kids involved | teachmama.com

keep your family sane during a home reno | chronicle adventure | teachmama.com
When we’re finished, I’ll put it all together in a photo book–the good, bad, and the ugly.

And for a few weeks, a whole lot of it was ugly.

 ————————————————————

 

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno keep kids involved  teachmama.com

 5.  Keep the kids involved.

We have tried to keep the kids involved in every aspect of the process, from beginning to end.

Since this is their house, we wanted them involved in the adventure.  This has meant that we asked for their opinions in all choices we had to make: from cabinet color to countertop, from drawer organization to paint colors.

This isn’t always easy, and some decisions were made even before we asked for opinions (we knew we wanted white cabinets and dark countertops), even inviting the kids to the conversation is important.

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | keep kids involved | teachmama.com

 

Figuring out where to put each item and what drawers made the most sense for us was a hugely fun part for the kids.

I wrote all of the drawers and cabinets we needed on small sticky notes. And we all worked together to figure out where we should put each item.

And then? We all worked together to put the items in the proper places.

Some kids wiped out drawers while others loaded. It made the process move much more quickly, and everyone was a part of it.

5 ways to keep family sane during home reno | keep kids involved | teachmama.com

keep your family sane during a home reno | keep kids involved | teachmama.com

 ————————————————————

These five tips should be prefaced by a biggie: Say YES! to offers of meals and help.

We are hugely thankful to my husband’s parents for generously providing us with invites to dinner, with warm, cooked meals, and for support through this.

Huge thanks to many of our friends who invited us over for lunch or dinner or threw a gift card our way to offset the growing cost of eating out each night.

Though it has not been easy and Owen cried hard at the thought of the renovation (But I loooove the kitchen the way it is. I don’t want it to change. We don’t need it to chaaaange.), now that we’re close to the end, everyone is loving the new kitchen and big, open new room.

Have you done this before? What were your secrets to success–and sanity-savers?  Do tell! 

 

fyi: affilliate links are used below

new year’s eve bingo bonanza

new years bingo bonanza

post contains affiliate links

 

 

new years bingo bonanza

Every  New Year’s Eve that we join forces with a few other families, we make Bingo our go-to game for the kids.

And the kids—and parents–love it.

But it’s not just any Bingo game.  We’re not just busting out the ole Bingo roller and Bingo cards and calling it a day.

Noooooo way.

It’s a Bingo Bonanza—marathon Bingo played! And the kids not only have no idea about how much the game helps them to recognize and name numbers and letters (hey, even B-I-N-G-O counts in my book!), but they’re also learning patience, taking turns, and practicing respectable game-playing skills.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • New Year’s Eve Bingo Bonanza:

We seriously come prepared for New Year’s Bingo Bonanza. Sure, we make our obligatory stop at the state store for the parents and make appetizers and sweets, but Bingo Bonanza is where the real fun begins.

new years bingo bonanza

new years bingo bonanza

Each family brings tiny wrapped gifts as Bingo prizes. We don’t make a special trip to the store for prizes. This isn’t anything super fancy.

We wrap what we have around the house. And the kids love it.  Because everything is awesome when it’s wrapped up all pretty with a fancy ribbon and bow.

bingo bonanza new years party

We wrap:

You name it, we wrap it.  Some are fun gifts—prizey prizes—and others are more joke gifts.   But that’s what makes it really fun—wining on Bingo and taking a risk, grabbing any of the prizes on the table.

new years bingo bonanza

new years bingo bonanza

And we also mix up the Bingo games.

We play:

    • Four Corners: one square on each corner covered
    • Straight Bingo: a line of five in any direction
    • Letters: ‘L’, ‘T’, ‘X’ or ‘O’
    • Blackout: full board covered
    • Small Square or Double Small Square: a 2×2 square covered

If the kids are young, then an adult or two will hang out and facilitate the game, but if there are older kids who are responsible enough to manage things, then we let those kids take the lead.

bingo bonanza new years party

bingo bonanza new years party

It’s awesome to see how no matter the age, kids love a good, ole-fashioned game of Bingo every so often. And then they see the big box of prizes unveiled, they’re even more excited.

Just a quickie idea and fun way for kids to play with numbers and letters—and they won’t even realize they’re learning along the way!

Here’s to a happy, healthy New Year, filled with tons of games with family and friends!

Need some more fun New Year’s ideas?

Check out:

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post