create a bedtime routine that works

create a bedtime routine that works

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create a bedtime routine that works For a long, long time I’ve talked about the importance of rest in our kids’ lives, and along with that goes routine.

We all need rest, and we all thrive on routine.

Especially our little guys.

So it’s super important that from the start we create a bedtime routine that really, truly works for our kids. 

What I’m finding is even now that my kids are older, they still need. The. Routine.

When my friends from Scholastic asked me to help create a printable for parents all about the bedtime routine, inspired by the talented Caroline Jayne Church, you bet I was game.

I was happy to do so. It’s a great reminder for the parents with bigger guys, and some of the resources I have here are super for parents of littler guys.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Create A Bedtime Routine That Works:  

1. Give your kids a gentle reminder that bedtime is around the corner. Have a little, low-sugar snack if dinner was early.

create a bedtime routine that works

2. Bathtime, shower, clean those bodies.  Really. We’ve got to get our kids into the habit of staying clean, and for us that really means having a nail brush (because man their nails get dirty–especially in the summertime!), and having washcloths close by all the time.  If kids don’t need a full-fledged shower or bath, then they definitely should still clean face, hands, and feet!

3. Brush teeth. Our big guys still need help with this, especially if they’re rocking some metal in their mouths. Flossing, brushing adequately, and making sure teeth are brushed in the morning and evening is so important!

create a bedtime routine that works   read

4. Pajamas on!  Dirty clothes away, wet towels hung up to dry.

5. Night time clean-up. Once pj’s are on, we also stress that kid have to do a quick pick-up of their rooms. No one wants to wake up to a total mess in the morning!

6. Books, books, books!  I still think it’s super-important to read with your kids before bed, no matter how old they are. It doesn’t matter what kind of reading it is–magazine, children’s book, graphic novel, or chapter book–we just want them reading!

create a bedtime routine that works   read

7.  Quiet conversation and love. Whether it’s prayers or a quick What was the best part of your day? or What are you most looking forward to tomorrow? Closing down the day this way is a great way to wrap up the day and prepare for tomorrow.


Check out the entire Scholastic Parents’ Caroline Jayne Church resource page, including the Bedtime ‘Cheat’ Sheet: 7 Simple Steps to a Sweet and Cuddly Bedtime Routine.

All of Caroline Jayne Church’s books are the perfect addition to bedtime routines and are totally worth checking out!

create a bedtime routine that works |


And that’s it. That’s the routine for us. I’d love to hear the routine for you!

Or check out a few other posts that may help you develop strong and healthy habits for your family:


fyi: This post was written as a partnership with Scholastic. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent and by my three little loves. 

multi-year magazine subscriptions | CRAZY deal for families

multi-year magazine subscriptions | CRAZY deal for families

post contains affiliate links




multi year magazine subscription | best holiday deal


I am in awe of the deals this week, and as I buy them, I’m sharing them.

Because why reinvent the wheel, right?

So remember when I shared that I scored some awesome deals on magazines on Cyber Monday?


Well? I totally had my cart filled but Never. Made. The. Purchase. GAH!

So bummed. So frustrated.

So sad.

So when I saw this deal–the multi-year magazine deal–I jumped on it. For realz.

Before anything, I threw some mags in my cart and clicked buy now.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Multi-Year Magazine Subscriptions | CRAZY deal for families: 
Magazines make super-awesome gifts, and here’s why:
  • Ordering is easy & hassle free!
  • 1000+ titles means that you can find something for everyone on your list!
  • No tax + no shipping fees = no extra charges!
  • No gift wrap needed!
  • Magazines are the gift that gives all year round!
  • Send email notifications to each recipient making the process simple and quick!
  • Convenient gift for out of town family and friends.
  • High perceived value but you pay a fraction of the cover price.
  • Magazine subscriptions make great last-minute gifts!

And? You’re getting your loved ones READING–and that’s a serious, totally awesome WIN!

There are magazines for everyone on your list here. Check out some of the more popular ones below, or search for your faves: DiscountMags Multi-Year Sale.

 magazines for whole family

  Here are some super deals you might dig: 


  • Men’s Category
    • Maxim (1yrs: $4.50, 2yrs: $8.50, 3yrs: $12.50, 4yrs: $16.50)
    • GQ (1yrs: $4.99, 2yrs: $8.99, 3yrs: $12.99)
    • Men’s Journal (1yrs: $4.50, 2yrs: $8.50, 3yrs: $12.50, 4yrs: $16.50)
  • Women’s Category
    • Glamour (1yrs: $4.99, 2yrs: $8.99, 3yrs: $12.99, 4yrs: $16.99)
    • Self (1yrs: $4.50, 2yrs: $8.50, 3yrs: $12.50)
    • Lucky (1yrs: $4.50, 2yrs: $8.50)
    • Allure (1yrs: $4.50, 2yrs: $8.50, 3yrs: $12.50)
    • Vogue (1yrs: $7.99, 2yrs: $12.99, 3yrs: $14.99)
    • Teen Vogue (1yrs: $4.50, 2yrs: $8.50)
    • W (1yrs: $4.50, 2yrs: $6.50)


Friends, this sale ends Sunday, December 7, 2014 at midnight ET.

No coupon code needed! WOOT!

Purchase the magazines for yourself, renew subscriptions, or purchase as gifts for others. They’ll even send a scheduled email card to the recipient to let him or her know to look for the gift!

multi-year magazine subscriptions | CRAZY deal for families

If these magazines don’t interest you, you can use coupon code: TEACHMAMA to get 20% off of most other titles at DiscountMags!

multi year magazine subscription | best holiday deal



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

advent activity calendar: fun, festive family holiday time

advent activity calendar

post contains affiliate links




advent activity calendar | teachmama.comIt’s that time of year again–time for our Advent Activity Calendar!

Our Advent Activity Calendar is something we’ve been doing for the last four years, where we very simply plan a fun, festive, family holiday activity for each day of December.

Nothing fancy, crazy, or over-the-top–these are simple, small holiday pleasures that we pencil into this very busy month so that we don’t pass them by.

Giving activities, family activities, indoor and outdoor activities.  Solo activities and group activities.  Messy and not-so-messy activities.

Activities that need prep–and many that don’t.

Our focus is simple: to enjoy every possible minute of our favorite month of the year.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  •  Advent Activity Calendar: Fun, Festive Family Holiday Time:  We kept a lot of our old faves, and we added a few new activities.

 But essentially our Advent Activity Calendar is just that–ours, and it incorporates what our family values and appreciates during the holidays:

  • baking cookies
  • helping others
  • decorating
  • singing, dancing
  • Christmas specials
  • family time
  • making memories and remembering past holidays.

advent activity calendar: fun, festive family holiday time

Pick out our Christmas tree and decorate it!

Printing out two copies makes remembering activities a tad bit easier!

advent activity calendar

advent activity calendar

advent activity calendar

advent activity calendar

I print out a copy of the calendar to keep on hand for myself, and then I cut each of the squares out of the calendar and place them in our felt Christmas tree–something I picked up at the store years ago but something that you can find just about anywhere.  

(Check the bottom of the post for some ideas!)

You could make your own or do what several of my friends have done.  They’ve cut apart the squares of each calendar day and

  • put each square in a numbered envelope that their children decorate;
  • wrapped each in a tiny box that kiddos can unwrap each day;
  • hidden the square under a place mat at breakfast;
  • taped the square on the bathroom mirror;
  • used the chocolate Advent calendar and stuck the squares in each of the windows so kids get chocolate and an activity.

Either way, here’s the calendar to download either as we have it here, or feel free to adjust as you see fit:

Advent Activity Calendar, download as a pdf here: advent activity calendar 2014

Advent Activity Calendar, download as a word doc here: advent activity calendar 2014

Please, if you choose to share, link to this post instead of the calendar attachment! Thank you!

advent activity calendar |
advent activity calendar 2014


Here’s to a happy Advent season and to really appreciating this exciting and joyful time with family!


Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? Check out: 


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

a must-read for raising confident kids: ‘God Made Light’

a must read for raising confident kids | God Made Light |

post contains affiliate links




a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

As parents, one of the things that we want most for our kids is that they grow to be happy, healthy, and confident adults.

And one simple way that we can do that is to spend quality time with our kids, reminding them daily that they are special and that they are loved.

Reminding them, too, that God loves them and that through them, His light shines is another super-important piece to remember.

Recently one of my friends published a book that focuses on just this fact. The book is called, ‘God Made Light‘, and it’s beautiful and important and moving.

It’s something that every child should have on his or her bookshelf and a perfect addition to bedtime–or any time–reading.

You’ll love it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

I’ve known that my pal Jessica and her husband were working on this book for quite some time, so when it finally arrived at my door, I was over the moon.

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

And it was even more amazing than I imagined it to be.

The message of God Made Light is simple: that God made light and that light shines within all people. And that it’s our job to share the light with others.

I love it.

So even when times are tough for our kids, when they are having a tough day or are afraid of the shadows or when the sun sets, that need to remember that they are important and special and loved. a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

One of my favorite passages from the book is:

‘Cause you’re just like the sun

and the moon in the sky. . .

You’re as lustrous as twinkles that dazzle the eye.

You’re as splendid as lightening,

when it flashes so bright.

’cause on the day you were born,

God said, ‘Let there be light!’ 

Written by Matthew Paul Turner and illustrated by Matthew Paul Mewhorter, this book is the perfect combination of engaging, rhythmic language, a meaningful message, and engaging illustrations.


a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'

My kids love it. Cora has asked for it every night for the past few weeks. And without question, I’ll read it.

And to carry on the message of love and light and confidence, I’ve also been sending the kids to school with the God Made Light Encouragement Notes for Kids: 32 reminders that God’s light shines in you.

Love, love, love them.

Along with our Positive affirmation notes for kids, it’s a rockstar combination. And the fact that the notes carry on the same messaging as this special book? Rockstar.

a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'


My feeling is this: the more that we talk about the fact that each one of us–including our children–carry God’s love with us everywhere, all day long and all through the night, the better.

I’m hoping that knowing they are not alone as they walk into these crazy tween years will make it that much easier for them.


a must-read for raising confident kids: 'God Made Light'


I’ll give this book to my nieces and nephews for Christmas, and I’ll give it as gifts for Baptisms and First Communions.  I love it.

And I do believe it’s the perfect thing for all families to find under the tree this season.



There are a few ways to buy God Made Light and the related products.  I’m doing what I can to grab the best deals possible for you:

Tons of great resources on the God Made Light website. Definitely check them out:

god made light freebies


It’s heartbreaking for us as parents to watch our little loves go through the inevitably difficult pre-tween, tween, and teen years. Let’s do what we can to make them as seamless and enjoyable and meaningful as we are able.


fyi: Though I did receive my copy of God Made Light from my friends Jessica and Matthew Paul Turner, my opinions here are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator.  Affiliate links are used in this post

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

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Magic is one of those things that totally intrigues magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading
They want to know how the tricks work, they want to know why the tricks work, and they want to know as much as they can to trick their friends and family.
So when I saw that Melissa & Doug had a brand, new Magician Role Play Set, I knew that my kids would love it since they’re longtime fans of the other Magic Sets.
Cora learned first-hand recently how much time and effort magic takes to really get those tricks down.
But before long, she had our family–and her buddies–wondering how she was pulling that rabbit out of her hat.
Reading magic tricks gave her the chance to do some cool, fun, and totally focused reading.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Read Magic Tricks–Cool, Fun Focused Reading:

The teeny little magic instruction booklet that comes with this Magician Role Play Set is the perfect size for little hands, and the challenge of reading the text and following the instructions was just the right level for young readers.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

This kind of activity takes reading to a different level. No longer are kids reading for pleasure; rather, they’re reading to make something happen. They’re reading to follow directions and understand the actions they must take in order to trick their audience.

It’s not easy.

And we had to work a bit together to read the text, practice, and re-read to make sure we understood.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

The tricks are simple: pulling a rabbit out of the hat, making a coin disappear, and making a wand float in air.

And in that sense, I thought they were great for early readers like Cora.

After a lot of practice, she was able to perform.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

Brady and I loved the show!

And because she’s tricky like that, she was quick to take her show on the road. . .

. . . even if the road was only her brother’s soccer practice.  It didn’t matter. The kids loved it, and everyone wanted their turn with the cape, hat, and magic wand.

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading |

read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading |

Super cute.

The kids absolutely loved the challenge of reading the magic trick how-to book so that they can put on a magic show for others.

Huge thanks to Melissa & Doug for creating products that get our kids reading and thinking and sharing the excitement with others!

 read magic tricks: cool, fun focused reading

melissa doug blog ambassador button


fyi: I wrote this post as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program.   Melissa & Doug has long created rockstar products that nurture creativity and thought in our children, which is why I am so proud to be a part of this program.

As always, my opinions and ideas are my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator.  Affiliate links are used in this post which means that any time you click and purchase using these links, we get a teeny, tiny percentage which helps run this site and keep the content free for you.

fire safety connects with learning at

fire safety connects with learning at

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fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse

Fire safety and learning? Right.

Fire safety is one of those topics that seem to only come up either at a school assembly or when something awful and scary happens in the news.

But it’s a topic–like many difficult topics–that I truly believe should be a frequent, familiar conversation for families.

So when I was asked to take a look at a new app from, you better believe I was game.

It’s an app that does, truly combine important information about fire safety along with fun learning.

I’m thrilled to see the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) doing what they can to be present, ‘in the mix’ of today’s many apps on the market.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Very simply, this is an app you want on your iPad, tablet, or phone. Any mobile device you use, throw it on there.

fire safety connects with learning at


fire safety connects with learning at

Because really? It’s got what every parent wants in the complete app package: reading, games, and learning in an easy-to-use platform.

Kids will want to use it because there’s variety, and parents dig it because it all counts. 

I’ve caught Maddy, Owen, and Cora all using the app on separate occasions even after I introduced it to them a few weeks ago. And for me, that’s a serious win.

Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms is an app and story experience–one of those cool ways that learning and games are integrated into a story. The plus? It’s really well done.


fire safety connects with learning at


fire safety connects with learning at


Be forewarned, though: ‘What’s that sound?’ song will be stuck in your head for days on end. But maybe it will remind parents to change the batteries in their smoke alarms?

Overall, the kids and I liked the following elements of Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms:

  • the game. Players help Sparky collect smoke alarms around town and collect batteries as well–because he does have to recharge, after all.
  • the graphics. Simple and clear but not too babyish.
  • the learning. After each section, kids were doing math problems to unlock the next level! Owen totally loved this part.
  • the story. Engaging enough for older readers, with words that are highlighted as they’re read–which is always something parents should look for.
  • the video. Funny. And catchy. And cool.
  • the resources. Tons of resources–printables which include reading, math, word problems. Lesson plans for teachers. Simple, printable games to use as extensions if you have a family discussion about fire safety.

fire safety connects with learning at

Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms is an app created by NFPA, a nonprofit dedicated to spreading the word about fire safety, and it’s been around for years and years. I know I totally remember Sparky the Fire Dog from way back when I was in school, so it’s cool to see him back in action, rocking and rolling in apps that work for today’s kids, too.

Check out the site and Sparky and the Case of the Missing Smoke Alarms app! iTunes  |  Google Play

What do you think? I’d love to hear  your thoughts on this app!


fyi: This post is written as part of a partnership with NFPA. All opinions are my own, as always, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. 

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

get kids to read | kindle ebooks for reluctant readers

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get kids to read | kindle for reluctant readers

These days, with school in full swing and cool ‘big guy’ neighbors across the street and a travel soccer team to keep him busy, my boy isn’t that big a fan of reading.

He’s into Pokemon (ugh). He’s wicked smart on Words With Friends.  And he spends a good amount of his free time thinking about how he can eke time out of his Screen Time Cards for Minecraft and AnimalJam.

Honestly, he’s one of the coolest kids I know. And lately, he just hasn’t been digging reading.

I get it. Often changes of schedules and shifts in season mean that my kids’ interests will ebb and flow, but Owen hasn’t deliberately reached for books for quite a few weeks.

It makes me a bit nervous, though, knowing that reading habits often change when kids hit middle school. A few short years, and he’s there.

One thing that’s helped a bit with Owen’s  little reading ‘dry spell’ is giving him a chance to read books digitally. eBooks.

It’s one way we get our kids to read–and really enjoy reading. Kindle eBooks.

And I truly think that in this day and age, a healthy mix of digital and traditional books is quite the norm–or it really should be–if we want our kids to grow as readers in the digital age.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Get Kids to Read–Kindle eBooks for Reluctant Readers:

Owen’s not the only one who is game for reading books on our Kindle.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers |

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers


Maddy and Cora love it, too, so we often have to resort to figuring out whose day it is so that there’s no major battle.

I think there’s something about the simple holding of the Kindle device that I think my kids love. They love how light it is, how sleek it is, and how easy it is to navigate.

For reluctant readers, especially, Kindle eBooks are great for:

  • ease of use. Kids can find books in seconds.
  • organization.  My kids each have their own little collections.
  • convenience.  They can pick up where they last left off without worrying about finding a lost bookmark.  They can touch the corner of a page, and the bookmark is there–even able to sync to Kindle apps on all of their devices.
  • focus. Especially with chapter books, there’s not a whole lot of distracting fluff or add-ons in Kindle eBooks.
  • quality. Kids can long touch a word, and its definition appears along with the Wikipedia definition and translation option. I like this feature.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers

Kindle eBooks are also great for:

  • skill-building.  Long touch a word, and kids can highlight or make notes about a word or passage. Upon finishing a book or chapter, they can look back at all of the notes they made and share them via email.
  • increased comprehension.  Many books have the option of adding professional narration to the text which helps emerging and struggling readers better understand what fluent reading should sound like.
  • online safety.  The Parental Controls on Kindles are super, and the Kindle FreeTime piece is a huge bonus.  With Kindle FreeTime, I can assign a separate user for each of my kids, put books on their shelf, and make sure that when they’re in bed reading at night, that’s really what they’re doing.
  • variety. I’m a huge fan of the Kindle Unlimited which gives you a ton of free books each month. For a small fee (cheaper if you’re a member of Amazon Prime), you can score a boatload of books for every member of the family. We’ve had it for a month now, and we’ve really been happy with it.

get kids to read: Kindle eBooks for reluctant readers


The bottom line is that kids need a balance. They need a healthy combination of print and digital books to keep them interested and keep them savvy with both mediums.  But if a kid’s balking when it comes to reading and needs a kick-start, Kindle eBooks can do it.

As Junko Yokota and William H. Teale state, in their May 2014 article in The Reading Teacher:

Let us be clear from the start that we believe that both print and digital picture books should play central roles in early childhood literacy education.   The issue
in this instance is not one versus the other, but what works well for achieving which ends in particular situations or for particular lessons.

Junko, Yokota & William H., Teale (2014). Picture Books and the Digital WorldEducators Making Informed Choices. The Reading Teeacher, 67(8), 577–585. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1262

The article goes on to explain how important it is to choose quality eBooks but how often the ‘extras’ –music, supplementary features, add-ons, etc.–upset the integrity of the story.  It was an interesting read. Though my kids are now more reading chapter books on the Kindle and are past picture books on the devices, I did like what the authors had to say.

What’s your experience with Kindle eBooks? Have they been helpful in getting your kids reading and, more importantly, wanting to read?

Let me know–I’d love to hear it!



fyi: Staples sent our family a Kindle to help in the writing of this post, but as always, opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent.  Visit for more on the Kindle. 

Some links are affiliate links.

quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites (and $100 Visa gift card giveaway!)

quick, kid-friendly after school snack Bagel Bites

I can hardly believe that the new school year is almost upon us.quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites |

But it is.

And before I know it, our home will be a whirlwind of paper, pencils, and new backpacks. Lunch bags, homework, projects, and field trips.

And though I know how important it is to keep our kids’ lives balanced, what usually makes me crazy is the after school activities–the extra-curriculars. The running home, unpacking backpacks, speeding through snack, and heading back out the door only to return home two or three hours later.

Even though our goal is to have each child choose one after school activity, as they get older, the activities run several times a week. So where soccer or dance once was a happy Saturday morning family event, now it’s become two practices a week with games or rehearsals on the weekends.  Not always easy.

So often our kids do a lot of grabbing food on the go.  And as they get older, I’ve had to explore different options. Quicker snacks with more belly-filling potential.

Bagel Bites are a quick, kid-friendly after school snack that I’ll definitely be reaching for more this year. Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Quick, Kid-Friendly After School Snack–Bagel Bites:

I need snacks that one kid can grab and prepare on his or her own while I help the other two with their homework.

quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites | quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites |

And snacks that will get my kids through activities and to dinner when we return? Even better.

Why I’ll pick up Bagel Bites for my busy, active kiddos:

  • Bagel Bites only use real cheese – Mozzarella, Cheddar and Monterey Jack.
  • They make their own tomato sauce from scratch.
  • Bagel Bites mixes their bagel dough from scratch every day on site, using high-quality ingredients.
  • Zero grams of trans fat per serving.
  • Bagel Bites® snacks are baked, never fried.

quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites | quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites |

And? You can see all the ingredients that are part of Bagel Bites snacks, which makes me more inclined to hand them to my kids.

Bagel Bites snacks are fun, quick, easy, convenient and quality snacks that I won’t hesitate to pick up because I know they’re worth my time–and my kids’ time.  

quick, kid-friendly after school snack: Bagel Bites |

The super-cool thing?  One reader can now win a $100 Visa gift card to kick-off the back-to-school season!  The winner can use his or her $100 for anything–supplies, snacks, whatever. And actually, everyone’s a winner here because you can score a Bagel Bites coupon just for kicks!


GIVEAWAY:  $100 Visa gift card Provided by Bagel Bites. Do you want a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card just in time for the new school year??!  Yes, yes you do.


To enter to win, please leave a comment below sharing your answer:

  • What is your favorite anytime snack?

Sweepstakes Rules:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 8/25-9/28.

Be sure to visit the Bagel Bites brand page on where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

happy first day flowers for teachers, secretaries, or principal (& giveaway!)

happy first day teacher flowers

As a paid Quaker Classroom Ambassador, I am eager to share information about Quaker Up For Classrooms.


Back to school time is here.happy first day flowers for teachers, secretaries, or principal

And for many teachers and school employees, that means this is the busiest time of the year.  Busiest.

And with busy often comes stress.

For us, flowers often make a lot of that stress disappear.  Or. . . okay. If not disappear, then at least lessen.  A little.

So we share our de-stressors with those people with whom our kids will be spending the greater part of their little lives for the next 180 days: teachers.  

We love to share happy first day flowers with our new teachers, secretaries, or principal that first week of school–as a way to say thank you, welcome back, and let’s make it a rockstar year.

Though it may seem like this is a huge expense for us, it’s not. We’ve got some secrets to share.

And? I’ve got a super-fun, huge and awesome gift pack to give away to de-stress your life.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Happy First Day Flowers for Teachers, Secretaries, or Principal:

Whether your kiddos bring flowers for their teachers or the office staff, it doesn’t matter.

The idea is that we’re giving great people big thanks for doing hard work.  If your kids are hesitant to bring flowers for their teachers on the first day, it’s cool.


happy first day flowers for teachers, secretaries, or principal

happy first day flowers for teachers, secretaries, or principal |


First, we hit our local thrift store.

You got it. The under-used, often forgotten little gem that yields more surprises than you’d ever think. We love our thrift store, and we’re lucky that we’ve got a great one very close to us.

We buy enough small flower vases to cover everyone we need. Sometimes we’ve done just teachers. Some years we’ve done just office staff. It’s always different.

Often the vases are $. 25 to $ .50! And sometimes? They’re half price!

Serious deal.


happy first day flowers for teachers, secretaries, or principal |


happy first day flowers for teachers, secretaries, or principal |


Then we hit the grocery stores.

We buy several bouquets of flowers–whatever is on sale.

I’m betting that if money is tight for you and you hit a local florist and explain what you’re doing, they’d be quick to offer you some donations. Everyone loves teachers, and most people are thrilled to say thank you to them.


happy first day flowers for teachers, secretaries, or principal |


happy first day flowers for teachers, secretaries, or principal |

And then? The fun part–the part that my kids love: filling the vases.

We do a mix of monochromatic and mixed arrangements, and really? They all look beautiful. How could they not?

We finish them off with a pretty ribbon, and they’re ready to go.

Our Happy First Day Flowers put a smile not only on our faces–but they put smiles on the recipients’ as well.  


These little ‘Happy First Day Flowers’ can be used any time of the year–and honestly, if they’re for no occasion, the better.

Everyone loves to get flowers. Everyone.

Especially surprise flowers.



GIVEAWAY: Here’s what our Quaker gift pack looked like–yours will be similar!

 [comments are closed! Alicia C chosen winner by]

GIVEAWAY: a ROCKSTAR Quaker Gift Pack that includes a variety of back-to-school items and Quaker products, including:

  • An LED Light-up Alarm Clock featuring a color-changing display, dual alarm clock perfect for busy families and music player compatible with any music-playing device
  • A Travel Oatmeal Bowl & Spoon Set for breakfast on-the-go
  • A Collapsible Lunch Container ideal for packing school snacks and lunches in one
  • A $25 Visa gift card to create your very own teacher appreciation gifts
  • A variety of specially-marked Quaker products, including Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Life Cereal and Quaker Oatmeal Squares
  • Total giveaway value is approximately $92.00

Do you want to win a Quaker Gift pack? YES! Yes, you do!


All you have to do is leave a comment here telling me the name of your favorite teacher and why you loved him or her.


For extra entries, get creative, yo!!:

  • Share this post on your Facebook page–very easy!
  • Share this post with a friend (just tell me who you shared it with!)
  • Pin this post on Pinterest! (Use ‘pin it!’ button below post!)
  • G+  this post on Google+  (Use the G+ button below post!)


By entering this super-quick giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

HURRY! This giveaway ends Friday, September 5, 2014 at midnight ET. Winner will be chosen by ‘And the Winner is. . .’ and will be notified on or around 9/05/14.  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: Thank you to Quaker and for creating this program. I am proud to be a Quaker Classroom Ambassador.  Quaker is providing the prizes for this program at no cost to me. This program is not administered or sponsored by Quaker or its affiliates, but solely by teach mama media, llc. 


summer fun for older kids: tabletop surprises

summer fun for older kids: tabletop surprises

summer fun for older kids: tabletop surprises

I say it’s ‘summer fun for older kids’ only because my kids are no longer toddlers or preschoolers–they’re big-time elementary schoolers.

They know what they want, and they’ve been totally digging our tabletop surprises.

It’s hard for me to believe that my kids are really ‘big kids’, but they really are.  Maddy is a rising 5th grader, Owen’s a rising 3rd grader, and Cora is (gasp!) starting 2nd grade in the fall. 

No more babies, toddlers, or preschoolers. No more Kindergarten anxiety. Now we’re all into chapter books, writing stories, and mastering math facts.

We’re also now moving quickly toward school-mode and even did our back-to-school shopping on Monday, after the kids and I shopped, charted, and searched for the best prices around.  And though our week this week was broken by a trip to Nanny and Pap’s house, we did manage to keep up with our tabletop surprises, even if we rocked some mazes in the car en route.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Summer Fun for Older Kids–Tabletop Surprises:

A quickie re-cap of the week. Be sure to follow us on instagram as we share our daily adventures!


back-to-school shopping! having the kids figure out the BEST place for deals and steals = real-world math at its finest! #tabletopsurprises #summer #timeisflying #backtoschool


art! and playing with some of the coolest museum websites around! #tabletopsurprises #summer #familyfun #art




mazes, mazes, mazes! #tabletopsuprises #summer #familyfun




a free ticket to get dirty in the summer #tabletopsuprises #summer #freeplay #play




slow start to our day but we’re getting there. . .rainy, gray day will hopefully be brighter with our own watercolor rainbows #tabletopsuprises #summer #creativekids #momsofinstagram #familyfun


Check out all the fun we’re having this summer! 

Follow along on Instagram and leave YOUR user name in the comments so we can follow YOUR #tabletopsurprises adventures!


Want the skinny on #tabletopsurprises? Wonder what in the world I’m talking about?

Check it out:

tabletop surprise email promo 400



what to say when kids make reading mistakes

what to say when kids make reading mistakes

originally published on 8/5/10 but sharing again because we all need these refreshers. . . 


what to say when kids make reading mistakes teachmama.comSo what should you say when a child makes mistake during reading?

I’ve been asked this question so many times by my friends, by parents of students I tutor, and by many, many readers of this blog.

And because we’ve run into this situation most recently this week after our trip to the library for fish books, I thought I’d share some ways that parents–and teachers–can handle those tough, uncomfortable times when kids make reading mistakes.

These are ways that I handle times when Maddy makes mistakes, these are the things I said when I listened to her classmates read when I volunteered at her school, and these are things I say when I’m tutoring and working with students.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • What to Say When Kids Make Reading Mistakes: Sure, our first inclination is to just give kiddos the word–especially if we’re in a time crunch or if the child is an especially slow reader.

Child: Something must be wr-wr wh-whh. Wrrroooo. Wruu. I don’t know.

Parent: It’s ‘wrong’. ‘Wrong.’ ‘Something must be wrong with. . .’

Child: Oh. ‘Something must be wrong with the sun to-today.’

The kiddo gets off easy and will soon learn that all he has to do is make some feeble attempts at sounding out a word in order to get Mom or Dad–or teacher–to throw him the rope.

We’ve all done it, but it sure isn’t a great habit.


When kids blindly choose a book to read,they may run into some reading problemos. Teach them to choose just right books.

There are ways we can use these exciting and (sometimes) trying times during emerging reader read-alouds as jumping off points for learning. If we just keep a few phrases in our back pockets, our kids really might start to become stronger readers before our eyes. . .

When kids won’t even try to sound out a word or they won’t budge, say:

  • Think about the letters you recognize and the sounds they make. What sound does this letter make (point to first letter)? Let me hear you make the sound. Now what sound does this letter make (point to second letter)? Let’s put the sounds together. . .
  • Look at the letters you know in the word and the picture on the page. The picture is here to help you. Think about the sound this letter makes (point to first letter of word) and what you see in the picture. . .

what to say when kids make reading mistakes

  • Think about what’s going on in this story. You just read, (read previous line). Look at the picture, look at the word, and think about what might happen next.
  • Skip the word you don’t know and move to the next word you can read.
  • You might not recognize this word, but I know you know this word (cover the first letter and let him read the part he knows—at from ‘bat’). Think about the sound that ‘b’ makes, put the sounds together, and you’ll have it!
  • You just read this word on the previous page, and you read it correctly. Use your detective eyes, find the word on the other page, and see if that helps.

what to say when kids make reading mistakes

When a child makes an error on a page and moves right on by like nothing happened, even if what she read makes no sense: Let her go! Don’t interrupt mid-reading; instead consider saying at the end of the sentence, phrase, or paragraph:

  • Are you correct?
  • Read it again and check closely.
  • Can you find the tricky part?
  • It’s in this line.
  • I’ll point it out and help you find it.

Use this prompt occasionally even when your child reads the words correctly!

That way she’ll get in the habit of self-monitoring while she’s reading solo.

Remember also to use the above prompts in order–that way beginning with a general question (Are you correct?) will have her go back and check her work without your help and specific direction!

what to say when kids make reading mistakes

what to say when kids make reading mistakes |

If you’d like to have these prompts as a pdf, you may download what to say when kids make reading mistakes.  It has a little more explanation and information and will hopefully be something worthwhile to keep on hand!

Cheers, and happy reading during this incredibly exciting journey!