cool instagram accounts for tweens and new users to follow

cool instagram accounts for tweens and new users to follow |

cool instagram accounts for tweens and new users to follow |

Oh, friends.

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

Under many, many conditions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve found a ton.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Instagram Accounts for Tweens and New Users to Follow: 

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

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

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

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

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



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

instagram accounts for tweens | kid pres




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

instagram accounts for tweens | white house


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

instagram accounts for tweens |



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

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

instagram accounts for tweens | humans of ny



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

instagram accounts for tweens |



Food 52:

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

instagram accounts for tweens |



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

instagram accounts for tweens | gopro


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

instagram accounts for tweens | gopro



Animal photos. Surprisingly human animal photos.

instagram accounts for tweens | animal planet



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

instagram accounts for tweens | mayhem



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

instagram accounts for tweens | gopro



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

instagram accounts for tweens | littlebits



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

instagram accounts for tweens | yobi



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

instagram accounts for tweens |



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

instagram accounts for tweens | maya



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

instagram accounts for tweens |




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

instagram accounts for tweens | natgeo



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

instagram accounts for tweens |



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

instagram accounts for tweens |


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

instagram accounts for tweens |


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

instagram accounts for tweens | one




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

instagram accounts for tweens | amy



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

instagram accounts for tweens |



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

instagram accounts for tweens | jessica



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

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

instagram accounts for tweens | quote

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

instagram accounts for tweens | dictionary



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

Check it out–


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

instagram accounts for tweens | teach mama

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

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

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



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

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

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

Check out our initial Instagram post for more information:

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


digital kids |



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

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

kindergarten prep summer before


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

Then this Home Study is for YOU.


kindergarten prep  summer before


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

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

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

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

So exciting, right? I know.

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

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

They’ll thank you for it!

home study kinder prep SUMMER

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


kindergarten prep home study 300

teachmama long logo home study


preparing for kindergarten summer before

3 ways to stay connected with long-distance family and friends

3 ways to stay connected to family

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3 ways to stay connected to family

I’ve shared time and time again how hard it is for me to live hours from my parents and sisters, even if it’s only a three and a half hour drive.

Sure, it’s a short enough distance that we can make it there and back in a day if need be, but it’s too long to make a quick stop for a Sunday dinner. Or to grab a last-minute babysitter. Or to have a desperately-needed girls’ night out with sisters or mom.

Luckily, though, my kids have a great relationship with their Nanny and Pap and  their PA cousins, aunts and uncles, no matter the distance. But we’ve had to be creative over the years in order to stay in touch.

We’ve got three ways to stay connected with long-distance family and friends.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Stay Connected with Long-Distance Family and Friends:

1. Power Note-Writing

3 ways to stay connected to family

Especially for my Nana who is 92, the power note writing is really helpful because Power Note Writing is just that–writing a bunch of notes at one sitting.

Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I sit down for a few hours one afternoon, and we write tons of notes at once.

3 ways to stay connected to family

3 ways to stay connected to family

We essentially catch her up on everything that’s going on in our lives. We add photos, we add stickers, we add flowers and jewels.

We get crafty and creative and have a whole lot of fun with it.

3 ways to stay connected to family

And then we sign, seal, and stamp each note but add one more important element–a sticky note with a date on it.

3 ways to stay connected to family

3 ways to stay connected to family

That date tells us when to put the letter in the mail so that Nana isn’t inundated with mail on one day; instead every few days, we grab a note and put it in the mailbox so that every few days, Nana is surprised with a fun and happy little ‘hello’ from her Maryland great-grandchildren.


2. Panasonic HomeTeam™ app

One thing that sure does make staying in touch easier is today’s technology.

3 ways to stay connected to family

I’m always willing to take a look at the latest and greatest when it comes to apps and programs that make staying in touch easier–because goodness knows that we’re being pulled in a million different directions all of the time.

I’ve found something that’s really worth checking out: the Panasonic HomeTeam™ app.


3 ways to stay connected to family

3 ways to stay connected to family

It’s an online service that connects loved ones across generations and distance. And the cool thing is that family members can read stories and play games together even when they’re far apart. And the platform is super-easy to navigate for those less than tech-savvy family members.

HomeTeam is a platform where cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents–anyone!–can connect in a safe way and spend time together.

3 ways to stay connected to family

Hundreds of stories are available, like Curious George, Martha Speaks, 5 Little Monkeys, Tuesday, Mr. Wuffles, Jumanji, Animal Sounds, and more–as well as dozens of games like chess, checkers, tic-tac-toe, and more. HomeTeam gives families something to do together that packs a powerful punch–learning and fun.

Definitely check it out.

3 ways to stay connected to family

3 ways to stay connected to family

3 ways to stay connected to family

Though it is a paid platform, you get a free 30-day trial, so it’s totally worth trying and seeing if it works for your family.

fyi: Anyone can sample the entire HomeTeam experience, including unlimited access to content and all features free of charge for 30 days. After that, a premium subscription for continued access to unlimited content is available by month ($7.99/mo) and by year ($79.99/yr).

Find more ideas for memory-making with your family thanks to Scholastic and Panasonic.

3 ways to stay connected to family


3. Weekly Check-In Calls  

I know several friends who keep a standing ‘date’ on the calendar each week for a phone call with grandparents.

3 ways to stay connected to family

They pick a day and a time that works, and they know that every week at that time, the grandkids will have a quick catch-up call.

It’s a super time for stories to be exchanged, for questions to be asked, and for connections to be made.

3 ways to stay connected to family

Some may believe that the ole phone has become obsolete, but I beg to differ. It’s easy, it’s (usually) fool-proof, and it’s quick.

Put a reminder on your phone. Set the date in pen on your calendar. It’s easier than you think!


How do you stay in touch with long-distance family and friends? I’d love to hear it!


fyi: This is a sponsored post, written as part of a partnership with Panasonic. However, as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator, trying to keep my family connected and in touch.

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

common core 101

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common core 101

Having kids in elementary school is overwhelming.

I mean really overwhelming.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

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

But here’s the super short version:

What are the Common Core State Standards?

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

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

common core 101 link

What is PARCC and Smarter Balanced?

Get ready for this. Lots of letters.

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

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


When will my child take these tests? 

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

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

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

You guys. C’mon.

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

common core 101 link

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

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

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

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

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

I wanted to know the same thing. For real.

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

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

common core 101 for parents

Now, take a minute–or two–and visit where things are explained much more clearly: website | facebook  | pinterest  |  follow the hashtag #LearningHero


Friends. . . tell me:

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

I’d love to know!


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

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

fun, authentic writing for kids: power notes to nana

fun, authentic writing for kids: power notes to nana

fun, authentic writing for kids: power notes to nana


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

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

Pretty much everyone’s been on and off sick.

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

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

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

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

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

Fun. And Authentic.

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

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

authentic writing for kids:

authentic writing for kids:

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

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

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

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

So we write notes.

authentic writing for kids:

And we write more notes.

And we write even more notes.

And we:

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

We usually begin by going through recent photos. 


authentic writing for kids:


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

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

authentic writing for kids:

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

Hi, Nana!

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

Love, Owen

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

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

authentic writing for kids:

authentic writing for kids:

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

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

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

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

authentic writing for kids:

authentic writing for kids:

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

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

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

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

authentic writing for kids:

authentic writing for kids:

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

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

authentic writing for kids:


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


authentic writing for kids:

authentic writing for kids:

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

It works.

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

This kind of writing really counts, friends. 

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

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

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

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


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

Check out:

teach kids workforce appreciation: celebrating those who make our day brighter

teach kids workforce appreciation |

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teach kids workforce appreciation |

We have always taught our kids to be thankful for each and every person who makes our day a little brighter.

And those people include family and friends, neighbors and teachers, but it also includes our newspaper deliverer, and the grocery cashier. Our dry cleaner and mail carrier and the folks who take away our recyclables and trash.

We could be pretty cranky if we had to cut the grass at our favorite playground, so we are thankful for the people who manage the grounds.

We’d be miserable if we had to cut Brady’s fur, but thanks to our groomer, we don’t have to.

When our garage door breaks? Thankfully, we have someone to call. If we need help adding a new light fixture?  The electrician can come lend a hand.

All of these people help to make our day brighter.

All of these people are part of our workforce and deserve to be celebrated.

And it’s really something that needs to be explicitly taught–or modeled–to our children.  Three easy ways, friends.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Teach Kids Workforce Appreciation–Celebrating Those Who Make Our Day Brighter: 

Here are three easy ways that parents can help instill an appreciation for all those in the workforce:

1. Model gratitude and thanks for those in the workforce.

teach kids workforce appreciation 1

This is super simple: say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ to those people who help you at checkout lines, who support you on the phone, who greet you as you walk into stores, and who perform service-related tasks.

So often I see people forgetting this simple act of kindness, acting as if the work that these folks do is not as important as it is.

Hopefully, we can change that by modeling gratitude.


2.  Teach children about all jobs so that they know how hard others work.

teach kids workforce appreciation 1

When we know better, we do better, right? Take time to really teach kids about all different types of jobs so that they learn how valued each and every job really is.

This, too, is easier than you think.

Check out the “1 in one hundred million” site–it’s a site devoted to sharing the personal stories of people who do the many important and too-often unrecognized jobs upon which we all rely.  Here, ordinary people in the workforce share their story.

I love it.

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

celebrating all jobs in the workforce 3

celebrating all jobs in the workforce 3

I love that this series profiles just one of the one hundred million, often under-appreciated, people in the workforce. Hopefully this series will help everyone to better appreciate those people who often make our day brighter.

Find out more about this cool campaign here:  |  #1in100MM |  #WorkforceStories

3.  Take some local, behind-the-scenes field trips.

teach kids workforce appreciation 1

I know this option isn’t always an option depending on where you live, but this is one of my kids’ fondest memories of growing up: take local field trips.

For years I wrote about how we took ‘behind the scenes’ tours of our local pizza place, fire station, flower shop, and recycling center. We visited so many places with our moms’ group that I truly believe it helped show my kids how important our community members really were.

Often, all you need to do is give the business a quick call beforehand, and the people there are more than excited to show a family around. Try it.


How do you help to show your kids that everyone in the workforce deserves to be appreciated? I’d love to hear it!




2547-201503241952345821fyi: This post was written as part of a partnership with Find Your Influence, and as always, ideas and opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. Find out more at 1 in one hundred million. Subscribe so you don’t miss any of their videos!


must-have conversation after taking kids to see cinderella

must-have conversation after taking your kids to see cinderella

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must-have conversation after taking your kids to see cinderella

Last Friday, we saw Cinderella.

The new and improved Cinderella from Disney.

And it was gorgeous. It was beautiful.

From start to finish, the characters were beautiful, the setting was beautiful. The dress. The dress was beautiful. The glass slippers? Beautiful.

And the end? It’s picture-perfect.

It’s a fairy tale ending, just like we all wanted.

Every little girl I know will want to see it. Over and over and over and over and over again.

Which is why I truly believe that there’s a must-have conversation every family must have after taking kids to see Cinderella.

Here’s the skinny. . .

The Must-Have Conversation Every Family Must Have After Taking Kids to See Cinderella: 

First, let me be clear: I get Cinderella.

I know the story.

I saw the animated movie.

I have shared them both with my kids well before we saw the new movie. I know it’s a fairy tale, and I know how it ends.

And I’m not expecting miracles.

But perhaps Elsa is fresh on my mind since we’re all still defrosting from Frozen fever.  Elsa was a rockstar in the way she works out her personal struggles without the help of anyone other than her sister.  And in the end, she learns to control her powers and run a country.

Maybe I just over-loved Tiana who saves pennies in a cofollows her lifelong dream to open a restaurant.  As an entrepreneur, I want my girls to know that they can do anything they set their mind to.

Brave’s Merida was so full of adventure and drive, and I loved her refusal to fit into her family’s preconceived molds.  She set out to follow her own destiny, learning some serious life lessons along the way.

Are these three Disney princess perfect? Not at all. But they’re fresh on my mind, being that they are the more recent additions to the Disney princess club.

As we were walking out of the theater last week, after hearing all of the oooooohs and ahhhhhhhs and wishful conversations among movie-goers, I wanted to remind all of the parents to talk to their daughters about a few things.  Really.

Please parents, after watching Cinderella, tell your daughters:

You are beautiful.

You. Are. Beautiful.

Your healthy body is beautiful. You have strong legs that take you everywhere, that allow you to run, jump, flip, bike, ice-skate, rollerskate, and play.  You have strong arms that you use to build structures, make forts, string bracelets, paint pictures, and design your dreams; your arms and hands allow you to write notes, type stories, do handstands and cartwheels.

God gave you one body, and you take care of it well.  You. Are. Beautiful.

must-have conversation after taking kids to see cinderella | 1

You are smart.

You. Are. Smart.

You read, you listen, and you think. You are questioning and curious. You work hard on your homework until you understand it, and you take your school work seriously. You are a coveted classmate for projects and assignments; your friends know you are a hard worker and that your creative, innovative ideas will get your project done well.

You figure things out. You follow directions. You can do things on your own, and if you can’t, you ask for help. You. Are. Smart.

You are strong.

You. Are. Strong.

You are strong whether I am with you or not, whether your dad is with you or not.

You are strong by yourself, wherever you are, whomever you are with. You are strong in or out of our house, in the summer or winter, in the spring or fall. You are strong whether you have hair or no hair, phone or no phone, toys or no toys.

You are strong no matter what you are wearing and no matter what you think. You. Are. Strong.

must-have conversation after taking kids to see cinderella | 1

You are kind.

You. Are. Kind.

You have more kindness in your pinky finger than more people have in their whole body.

You always think about other people.  You write sweet notes to friends. You wrap beautiful, homemade gifts. You take care of our pets, and you help around our house. You are giving, and you care about how people feel.  You. Are. Kind.

Now, think about the movie. Sure, Cinderella was beautiful and ‘courageous and kind’ like her mom said, but really, there are some things you need to know. 

Cinderella was wearing a corset to make her waist look super tiny.

Cinderella–along with all of the women in the movie–was wearing costumes that made her body look different.

The were wearing corsets. Or girdles. Or something like that.

A corset is something that women wore long ago to hold in their stomachs, to make them look more like an hourglass. Corsets are kind of like the top part of an ice-skate but around your waist. The laces are pulled super-super tight in the middle and a little more loose at the top and bottom so the hips and breasts look bigger. In olden days, people actually had fainting couches and fainting rooms because women were barely able to breathe wearing these corsets–often they fainted.

Can you even imagine? Think about how hard that must have been. Think about how tough it would have been for those ladies to walk down the street in a corset, let alone dance, run, jump, or play.

cinderella post |

Cinderella did not need to take that awful treatment from her stepmother or stepsisters.

I mean it. Nobody deserves to be treated that way.

It’s one thing to be courageous and kind, but it’s another to be a total pushover.

Cinderella could have said something like,

Hey, I don’t appreciate the way you’re making fun of me right in front of my face. It’s not nice, and I won’t stand for it. Or. . .

I’m sorry, but I am definitely not going up into the attic for a bedroom. If the sisters want to share my bigger bedroom, that’s fine. I’ll take the smaller one. But the attic? No way.  Or. . .

Really? Do you honestly feel good about sending me to eat alone in the kitchen? No, sorry. I’m eating at this table with you guys. So. How’s the weather?   Or. . .

Um, nope. I’m not cool with tying your shoes. I can help you loosen your corset and then you can tie your own shoes. Thankyouverymuch.  Or. . .

I don’t care what you think about this dress. It was my mom’s, and even if it is a little out-dated or not quite as poofy as yours, it means a lot to me. You’re entitled to your opinion, but I’m still going to the ball with you. Now, move over, bacon. . . 

cinderella post |

Cinderella could have left the house.

We saw her talking to a girlfriend in the market one day, right? That pal could have helped her get out. But Cinderella had some funny belief that she needed to stay in the house to ‘honor her mother and father’? I don’t believe it. No way. Her parents loved her. Bottom line.

So that means that more than anything, they’d want her happy.

Usually there’s someone who can help you–no matter what situation you’re in, no matter how bad things seem. There’s someone who can help you.  Whether it’s a parent, brother or sister, classmate, neighbor, friend, teacher, or coach–someone can be your lifeline.

Cinderella did not use her lifeline. Clearly.

Cinderella could have done something.

After an amazing, magical, awesome time at the ball, Cinderella just sat in her attic room waiting for . . . what?

What was she waiting for? What was she doing up there after the ball? Was she locked in her room? I can’t even remember.

All I know is this: at that point, Cinderella could have done a dozen other things to change her situation other than just sit there and sing. Right?


So though she was pretty lucky that the Prince’s guy was there and demanded that they check out the beautiful singing heard from above, life doesn’t always work out that way.

Sometimes–most of the time, actually–you have to take the reigns in your own hands.

And though it’s a whole lot sweeter if you’re courageous and kind, often, you have to do a little more, give a little more, risk a little more.

You’ve got to use your strength and your smarts to steer your own ship.

To plot your own course.

To find your own map.

To paint your own masterpiece.

To buy your own flowers.

To sing your own song.

But I know you can do it, and I love you.

* * * * *



fyi: I am proud to be a part of the Fandango Family Digital Network and will share a movie-related post quarterly. Parents, check out the deets on Cinderella, including information about the cast and crew, from our friends at Fandango.   Share your #fandangofamily moments for others to see, or check out the Fandango Family Facebook page for fun posts and contests.

I am proud to work with Disney as well. All of the Cinderella images are courtesy of Disney.  Thank you!

live focused: finding clarity in thoughts and actions

live focused: finding clarity in thoughts and actions |

live focused: finding clarity in thoughts and actions |


Oh friends. .  .February and March are always so glum for me.

What about you? Do you find that you fall into the winter doldrums this time of the year? If so, let’s power through it together.


This year, we’ve already done a whole lot of organizing.  YAY!

We’ve rekindled friendships and make relationships a priority. Woo-hooo!

Now is a great time to do some serious thinking and reflecting.

We’re going to figure some stuff out.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Live Focused–Finding Clarity in Thoughts and Actions: 

So often, our thoughts and actions are not aligned–we think one thing but say another.

live focused: finding clarity in thoughts and actions

We say one thing but do another.

And I truly believe that this is not always intentional. Rather, we’re so busy that we don’t give ourselves enough time to really think things through.

This month, let’s figure it out.

Let’s think about how we really feel and move forward from there, okay?

First, download the March #livefocused printable.


find clarity in thoughts and actions | #livefocused


You can find it here: live focused printable march –

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

Then find a quiet place to think. 

Pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.  And fill out the sheet.

Essentially, think about: 

What part of your household systems are working?

What needs to change?

How can you improve? 

clarity  livefocused  teachmama.comConsider the following areas: 

  • behavior — the kids’ behavior; your behavior; your spouse’s behavior; what is tolerated and not tolerated; behavior management systems
  • screen time — how much each day; monitoring; safety; sharing; care of devices
  • chores — what chores are done and by whom; rotation of chores; jobs around the house; family responsibilities
  • homework — where homework is completed; who helps with homework; rules and expectations about homework
  • activities — children activities; family activities; costs of activities; practices; child and adult responsibilities
  • communication — communication among family members, friends, and school; what is acceptable and not
  • other — think: religion, relationships; finances; health; jobs; etc.

Fill out the sheet.  And then get ready to make some changes.

This month I’ll share the resources I know of that may help in these areas; if you have others that work, I’d love for you to share them with us!


live focused in 2015 friendship sq

Are you in? Let me know, friends. I need to know I’m not walking alone on this journey!

  • share any of the photos here on your facebook page
  • share any of the photos here on your twitter or instagram page
  • share any of the photos here on your google + page or blog!

Tweet this:

  • tweet this: I am ready for some CLARITY this month! Join @teachmama and me: #livefocused
  • tweet this: I am psyched to join @teachmama in her #livefocused 2015 adventure! Join me:
  • tweet this: Do YOU want to live a more focused, intentional life this year? Join the #livefocused crew: @teachmama
  • tweet this: Make this year COUNT. Get focused. Live intentionally. #livefocused @teachmama

Check it all out video-style:

 And? If you don’t already subscribe to’s YouTube channel, you totally want to!

live focused 2015 b w collage



click below for #livefocused archives:

ive focused in 2015 organization sq

live focused in 2015 friendship sq

how to play bunco with FAMILIES

how to play bunco with FAMILIES |

post contains affiliate links



how to play bunco with FAMILIES |

On an off for years now, we’ve played Bunco with our family.

At family gatherings, after the little ones had gone to bed, the adults rocked out a little Bunco fun.

Complete with crazy prizes a la our fun Bingo bonanza, the adults laughed and rolled dice and played Bunco late into the night.

Now that Maddy, Owen, and Cora are older, though, we’ve introduced them to the fun of Bunco.

Bunco is a simple dice-rolling game that leaves little to skill and all to chance. It’s fun–and easy enough for families with mixed-age kids to play.  There’s counting and adding and a whole lot of mathy-math in the mix.

Any sneaky learning is a win in our book.

Here’s the skinny. . .

How to Play Bunco With FAMILIES:

To play Bunco, you need a few simple things. Nothing will break the bank, and the biggest thing you need is a good number of people–twelve players will make it really fun.  So grab another family or two, and you’re probably good.

To play Bunco, you need:

how to play bunco

Grab our score sheets and table cards here, and make sure that you print enough!

You’ll need the Family Score Cards which are printed two per sheet.

how to play family bunco |

 You can download the Family Bunco Score Sheets here: bunco printables _ family _

And if you choose to share–which we hope you do!–please link to this post and not the attachment page! Thank you!


And you’ll need Table Cards.

You may only need three or four tables, and our printables have you covered through six tables.

how to play family bunco |


You can download the Table Cards here: bunco table cards _ family

And if you choose to share–which we hope you do!–please link to this post and not the attachment page! Thank you!

how to play bunco with FAMILIES |

how to play bunco with FAMILIES |

how to play bunco with FAMILIES |



The best way to teach kids to play Bunco is by showing them–it gets too confusing when you try to go through the rules.

So take a minute and show them a sample table, how each person rolls and adds and scores, and then you’ll be good to go!

To play Bunco:

  1. 12 players break into 3 tables of 4 players each.
  2. Tables are numbered; table 1 is the ‘head table’; table 2 is middle; table 3 is last.
  3. Players sit across from their ‘temporary team’ member at each table.
  4. One player at head table rings bell to signal start of game.
  5. Players at each table take turns rolling 3 dice, trying to roll the same number as the round     (ex:  roll 1’s during the 1st round = points earned; 2’s during 2nd round, etc.).
  6. Players keep rolling until they score no points, after which time they hand the dice to the next player.  A table scorekeeper tallies points for both teams.
  7. When the head table earns 21 points, the bell is rung, and the round is over.
  8. Points are added.  Each table will have a winning team and a losing team. Players write their score on their personal score sheet and indicate win (W) or loss (L).
  9. Players either stay or move tables depending on whether they won or lost the round. Instructions are on the table cards.  ‘Temporary team’ members MUST switch after each game.

BUNCO = 3 of the same number rolled matches round number (ex: three 2’s during 2nd round = BUNCO!  →  BUNCO = 21 points

Baby Bunco = 3 of same number rolled does not match round number (ex: three 2’s during the 4th round) = Baby Bunco  →  Baby Bunco = 5 points



You can download our Bunco Rules Sheet here:

how to play bunco |

You can download the Bunco Rules Sheet here: bunco RULES _ family

And if you choose to share–which we hope you do!–please link to this post and not the attachment page! Thank you!

how to play bunco with FAMILIES |

how to play bunco with FAMILIES |

Remember, that the fun part about Bunco is the prizing!

Everyone pays $5 to play! And then, after all of the games are played, count the pot.  Sometimes when we play with families, we only throw in $1 or $2 per person. Kids don’t care–the more singles they win, the better!

  • 50% of total pot goes to the player with the most buncos
  • 30% of total pot goes to the player with the high score
  • 20% of total pot goes to the player with the most wins
  • $5 goes to the player with the  lowest score
  • $5 goes to the player with the most losses

Make this as simple as possible! It doesn’t have to be perfect–just divide the money, give to the winners, and the kids will be happy!

how to play bunco with FAMILIES |

how to play bunco with FAMILIES |

how to play bunco with FAMILIES |

But you cannot forget about the Bunco snacks!

Check out how we do snacks for our  games:

best bunco game night snack ideas |



The great thing about Bunco is that it’s crazy easy and that you need very little brain power to make it work. 

It’s just enough counting and chance to make it fun for players of all ages. And the simple adding of numbers makes it a cool way of sneaking a little math into the mix.

Some helpful hints for playing with families: 

  • Make sure there’s an adult at each table to help move the game along;
  • Have an adult keep score at each table;
  • Make rolling a Bunco super fun–whomever rolls one must wear a silly hat or necklace or hold a funny toy;
  • Everyone cheers for the winners as they move tables;
  • Go easy on snacks–maybe keep something healthy at the tables and keep the sweets in the kitchen!
  • Have fun!


And if you’re looking for a fun Girls’ Night Out, here’s everything you need:


how to play bunco everything you need





This post is part of our #livefocused in 2015 series; February is our month to focus on friendship. It’s been a blast.

Find out more here:

live focused in 2015: give yourself a fresh start and live with intention


ive focused in 2015 organization sq


live focused in 2015 friendship sq



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

naptime with theo & beau: pre-order special families will LOVE

naptime with theo & beau: pre-order special families will LOVE

post contains affiliate links



naptime with theo & beau: pre-order special families will LOVE



If you haven’t seen the amazing photos of Theo and Beau, taken by my sweet and talented friend, Jessica, you do not know what you’re missing.

My heart literally explodes every time I see them.

It’s the ultimate celebration of love and friendship–and the perfect way to kick off February’s friendship theme for our live focused in 2015 challenge.

This month, finally–finally!–the book will soon be hitting the shelves.

And I’ve got an awesome pre-order special that families will love.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Naptime With Theo & Beau–Pre-Order Special Families Will LOVE:

I’ve known Jessica for years now, but we really connected doing our work as part of Target’s Inner Circle. Jessica is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, and her photography has always been my fave.

naptime with theo & beau: pre-order special families will LOVE


I love how Jessica captures spontaneous bursts of beauty in the everyday.  Simple images of her children eating, sitting, or sleeping convey as much energy and love as her little ones splashing, spinning, or dancing.  

Add a little bit of fuzzy love to the mix, and it’s all you need to brighten even the darkest day.

In the last year or so, Jessica’s images of her son, Beau, and her newly adopted puppy, Theo, have gone viral. Like crazy-crazy viral. Theo and Beau were everywhere. And rightly so. They were awesome. They are awesome.

The super happy news: book deal. Theo and Beau’s sweet faces have been put into a book that will hit shelves this month. Tons of new photos that my family and I can hardly wait to see.

theo and beau

from Jessica’s Instagram feed: Theo has been busy!

So bonus for you, friends. if you pre-order this book, you get a little gift: a sweet little gift that I think you’ll love.

Pre-order Theo & Beau and receive a bookplate signed by Jessica and a special message from Theo & Beau!  For real.

All you have to do is:

So fun.

Do you even know how excited my family is about this book?

We’ve been following Theo and Beau since their very first nap, and our book was been ordered last spring!

theo and beau preorder


Think: Valentine’s Day. This is a great gift for your kids, your friends, or your loved ones.  

I cannot wait to see these new shots of Theo and Beau.  Countdown’s ON!




I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off this month, when our #livefocused theme is friendship, than by sharing this information with you.

I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead!


live focused in 2015 friendship sq


live focused in 2015: give yourself a fresh start and live with intention
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

family volunteering on martin luther king, jr day

family volunteering on martin luther king, jr day

Last year was the very first year we volunteered as a family to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.

But it will not be the last.

Already, we’re looking for other ways we can give back to our community this year to celebrate the life of this great man.

Family volunteering on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is easy, thanks to a handful of really awesome organizations designed to make finding volunteer opportunities the easy part.

Not even kidding.

family volunteering on martin luther king, jr day


It takes five minutes to find a great option for your family and then register right there and then. And registering means only that you’re letting someone know you’ll be there.

No fees involved.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Family Volunteering on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: 

Friends. You will be so happy to see these resources and how organized and awesome they are.

Is one better than the next? You decide.

They’re all actually like brother and sister and cousins, so find what works for you!

Here are several starting points for family volunteering:

Points of Light | The world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service – mobilizes millions of people to take action and change the world.



family volunteering on mlk day


Points of Light is like the starting point. The Big Daddy. The homebase. The command center.

Everything you need is there, and the organizations below (many of them) can be found there.


All for Good | All for Good is a hub for volunteerism and community service on the Internet, and a service of Points of Light.

family volunteering for mlk day

We found our volunteer activity here last year, and we’ll use it again this year.

It’s super simple to use, and you can search by area of interest (think: adult education, animals, culture, environment, schools, sports & rec, technology, seniors, etc.).

You can search by National Service Events, and you can search by dates.  Most importantly, you can search


HandsOn Network | They inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world.

volunteering for families for mlk day

HandsOn Network puts people at the center of change and connects them to their power to make a difference by adhering to these values:

  • People drive change
  • Passion overcomes obstacles
  • Service bridges and bonds
  • Innovation drives results
  • Servant leadership transforms

The cool thing about this platform is that you can really share your awesome with others, too.  You can share your skills in different ways, at any time of the year.

You can join an HandsOn Action Center and help where it is most needed.


Host a Sunday SupperAmerica’s Sunday Supper is a key program of Points of Light.

volunteering for families on mlk day

Inspired by Dr. King’s vision of people of diverse backgrounds interacting on personal levels, America’s Sunday Supper encourages people to share a meal and discuss issues that affect their communities, to increase racial and cultural understanding and to promote unity. 

I love it.

Will we do it? I’m not sure we’ll do it this year, but I want to.

Points of Light provides resources like talking points–conversation starters–and tons of recipes.

The goal? Inspire each of your guests to host their own Sunday Supper. I mean, what better way to have these important conversations?


GenerationOnTheir mission is to inspire, equip, and mobilize youth to take action that changes the world and themselves through service. 

I am so excited to share about this site. So excited I found it!


volunteering for families


Really, allowing your kids to check out the GenerationOn site may be a super way to get them inspired for volunteering.

They’ve got videos of teens and tweens and elementary schoolers talking about why they volunteer.

They’ve got a site that is uber user-friendly.

They’ve got tons of important causes clearly outlined.

They’ve got tons of project ideas.

They’ve got a boatload of really worthwhile resources.

And I’m betting that for many kids, this will be all they need to really get psyched to make a difference–make their mark–on the world.


generation ON mlk day



And that’s it for this year! Hopefully this will get you excited about volunteering for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day–or any day of the year.

What do you to celebrate this day? I’d love to know!

Have you used these platforms before? What was your experience?

Want a little more for MLK, Jr, Day? Check out: 

fun ways to celebrate martin luther king jr day cover

fyi: affiliate links are used below: