fun summertime learning for kids: tabletop surprises

fun summertime learning for kids: tabletop surprises

summer fun learning for kids  teachmama.com Week two of tabletop surprises is in the books, and it was a blast!

Because my crew was busy fighting off some pretty awful summertime colds, we did a bit of re-arranging with our tabletop surprises calendar this week.

But you know what? That’s the awesome thing about it: you can do what you want. When you want.

And the freebie 10 week resource guide includes a whole bunch of awesome extra ideas to use if one day doesn’t work for you. 

This week, we drew, built, wrote, and more.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Fun Summertime Learning for Kids–Tabletop Surprises:

Monday:

Tuesday:  

Wednesday:

Thursday:  


Friday:

 

What did you do that really rocked this week? We’d love to hear it!

______________________

Join us!

summer fun for kids | teachmama.com

Check out our summertime fun posts: 

 

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fun summertime learning for kids: tabletop surprises

egg dying 101: making egg dying as mess-free, easy, and FUN as possible for families

egg dying 101 teachmama.com cover

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egg dying 101  teachmama.com cover

Many parents rank egg dying up there with pumpkin carving: a highly-anticipated activity that often results in a huge mess, complete with crying kids and frustrated parents.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. At all.

In fact, I have a few tricks for you that will make egg dying as mess-free, easy, and fun as possible for families.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Egg-Dying 101–Making Egg-Dying as Mess-Free, Easy, and FUN as Possible for Families:

It’s not rocket science, friends. In fact, these few steps will make

1. Have your tools and workspace ready.

egg dying 101 | teachmama.com

egg dying 101 | teachmama.com

You’ll need the following:

  • eggs! (We usually shoot for 6-10 eggs per child.)
  • egg dye tablets
  • plastic tablecloth
  • water
  • color cups
  • vinegar
  • whisk
  • PAAS egg dipper
  • paper towels
  • wire drying rack and/or egg dying box (did you know it doubles as a drying rack?)

Set up your work space.

egg dying 101  teachmama.com1. To determine which dye tablet belongs in which color cup, gently rub the tablet on a damp paper towel. SUPER cool tip, right?

2. Then place the proper tablet in its matching egg cup: blue tablet in blue cup, yellow in yellow cup, etc.

3. Dissolve the dye tablets by adding 1 Tablespoon of vinegar to each egg cup–EXCEPT THE PINK CUP!  The pink dye is more vibrant without vinegar–who knew?  And? Your welcome for that second really cool tip.egg dying 101  teachmama.com

4. Once the dye tablet is dissolved, fill each color cup with water up to the line midway (about 1/2 cup).  Now the egg dyes are ready to go!

5. Dye eggs by dipping them one at a time into the egg dye and moving the egg around a bit with the egg dipper. The longer the egg sits in the dye, the more vibrant the color.

6. When eggs are the desired color, remove the egg from the dye and blot the excess with a paper towel.

7. Place on the drying rack and allow egg to dry completely!

 

2.  Make it easy for kids. 

A few tips for making egg-dying easy for kids:

Model for kids how to properly dye eggs so that we’re setting them up for egg-dying success!

egg dying 101  teachmama.com

Show kids how to use the egg dipper–the smaller, skinnier end of the egg goes into the hole!  It does require balance, but it’s a great way to work on this skill!

egg dying 101  teachmama.com

Let kids use a whisk to dip eggs into the dye if the egg dipper is too challenging.

Surprisingly enough, the egg can go in and out of the whisk very easily!

 

egg dying 101  teachmama.com

Make sure kids have a sturdy spot to hold the eggs while decorating.

Whether it’s the egg stands that come in the decorating kit or whether you make your own–see below–the idea is that the eggs are still while kids are creating. This removes a ton of stress for our little ones!

Remember, too, that if the whole-egg dying is too much, that parents can dye eggs first and allow children to decorate them–kind of like letting kids put the icing a cake!

egg dying 101  teachmama.com

Try using PAAS Monogram stickers to personalize eggs and to celebrate kids’ initials.  Consider even giving each person in the family another person for whom they should decorate an egg.

For example, I might decorate an egg for Owen; Owen would do one for Maddy; Maddy would do one for Cora; Cora would do one for her dad, and her dad would do one for me. Or something like that.

The only rule is that the person’s egg must be clearly theirs. So you could put the person’s name on it, initials on it, in some way personalizing the egg for the other person.

egg dying 101 | teachmama.com

egg dying 101 | teachmama.com

Or use the PAAS Color Sticks for super-easy and vibrant decorating with the snap of a stick!

Seriously, you just snap these little sticks up where you see the line, and then you let the dye run to the opposite end.

And then? The decorating fun begins–vibrant, rich colors via a tool that makes writing, drawing, doodling, and creating– easy!

egg dying 101  teachmama.com

egg dying 101  teachmama.com

egg dying 101  teachmama.com

egg dying 101  teachmama.com

egg dying 101  teachmama.com

3.  Make it fun. 

Above all, egg-dying should be fun!

So remember:

egg dying 101  teachmama.com

egg dying 101 | teachmama.com

Use the often-forgotten ‘magic’ crayon!

That little wax crayon is used to draw on eggs before they get dunked in the dye. When they come out of the dye, the wax has created a resist, so whatever was drawn will not be dyed.

The ‘magic crayon’ is a great tool to use to practice writing letters, shapes, numbers, and names!

egg dying 101  teachmama.com cover

Play with color blending! Encourage kids to mix colors, experiment with color shading, and try new things!

Use stickers!  Most egg dying sets come with stickers. Use them to decorate already painted eggs, or use them to block off color before you dye the eggs for a different type of color resist.

egg dying 101 | teachmama.com

Remember that your eggs will not be–and do not have to be–perfect!

Especially when you add a few kids to the mix, egg dying is perfectly imperfect, friends. The good news is that with the help of some great quality egg dying products, your eggs will look great no matter what!

egg dying 101 | teachmama.com

egg dying 101 | teachmama.com

Other fun PAAS egg-dying facts:

  • PAAS turns 135 in 2015!
  • PAAS was established in 1880 by William Townley in his New Jersey drug store. He sold packets of egg dye to neighbors and the company grew from
    there.
  • Townley named the company PAAS after the Dutch word for Easter, Pasan.   So PAAS literally means Easter!

Check out a quick PAAS video on egg dying:

 

Hope this helps, friends, and hope it makes egg dying as mess-free, easy, and fun as possible!

What are your tips for egg dying? I’d love to hear them!

Do you have questions about egg dying or the PAAS products? They’ve been around for 135 years. They know egg dying!

Connect with them and learn more: PAAS website | PAAS YouTube channel | PAAS Facebook page

 

 

fyi: I was asked by the good people at PAAS to share a bit about egg decorating with my readers, and I was happy to do so. I cannot remember an Easter that I didn’t use PAAS egg dyes on my Easter eggs, so of course it was a natural fit. PAAS egg dying kits are as much a part of Easter for my family as are daffodils and jellybeans. Though I was given PAAS products to try, as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and lifetime user of PAAS products! 

how to do a family fondue night: special occasion dinner

how to do a family fondue night: special occasion dinner

post contains affiliate links

 

 

family fondue night  teachmama.com 2

 

Our family has longtime been a fan of the fondue night.

It’s a tradition for us to make this dinner on New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day, and often the kids will choose to have fondue for their birthday dinner as well.

Fondue is a lot of fun, but I must be clear: it’s not just a dinner–it’s an event.

It takes time to shop for fondue, prep fondue, and slowly enjoy fondue. And one huge plus is that although it sounds fancy, it’s really pretty simple.

We often rock it out with a 3-course dinner: cheese fondue, broth fondue, and chocolate fondue.

Yum, yum, and yum.

Here’s the skinny. . .

How to Do a Family Fondue Night–Special Occasion Dinner:  

First things first.

You need a fondue set to make this happen. 

And you could go super simple and electric where the heating element is plugged in:

(Below is the Cuisinart Electric Fondue Maker.)

how to do a family fondue night: special occasion dinner

Or you could go super simple and stay traditional, where the heating source is a fire gel or something similar:

(Like the ExcelSteel Fondue Set below.)

family fondue night  teachmama.com traditional pot

And depending on the size of your family, you may want to get two sets so that you all can cook simultaneously.

Because think about it: two fondue forks each, times a family of five, equals ten fondue forks. All in one pot. That’s a lot of forks.

family fondue night  teachmama.com many pots

Pictured above:

Anything you choose, you want to make sure that you have a decent fondue pot and fondue forks.  I got lucky one year and found a pot at our local thrift shop, so it’s worth checking out.

Once you have the proper equipment, then you can decide on the menu.

One thing I love about fondue is that everyone can help with just about every step in some way, shape or form. 

Get the kids involved! 

Have them:

  • help you plan the menu;
  • help create the shopping list;
  • set the table;

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.comhow to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

  • design table cards;
  • break the bread (can be hand torn if kids are too small to cut);
  • cut the vegetables, fruit, or bread;
  • decide on a fun sparkly drink (we like Shirley Temples in fancy glasses for the kids!);
  • organize the forks (everyone must be assigned a color!); or
  • design the layout of dipping sauces.

The possibilities are endless.

Then start cooking!

We usually go with a 3-course fondue event: cheese, broth, and chocolate.

There are a million ways to make fondue, but we’ve created super-super simple recipes with mild flavors that really suit our children’s increasingly adventurous palates.

The cool thing about fondue is that you can really kick up the flavors in simple ways.

Want a little more edgy cheese fondue? Choose sharper cheeses, add some cooking wine or hot sauce.

Want your meets to have more of a kick? Consider dipping the cooked pieces in fun and crazy sauces. Our standbys are barbecue, teriyaki, steak, and cocktail sauce.

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

Course 1: cheese fondue

Ingredients

2 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese

2 cups shredded Swiss or Gruyere cheese

½ cup beer (really–the alcohol will cook off!) or white cooking wine

salt & pepper to taste

For dipping: French bread, apple slices, pre-cooked carrots or broccoli

Directions

1.     Start pot on stovetop. Mix ingredients over med-low heat until melted. Move to fondue stand.

2.     Dip the chosen dippers into the melted cheese.

3.     Enjoy!

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

Course 2: broth fondue

Ingredients

4-8 cups of chicken broth (usually buy two 32oz packages)

1 T Tastefully Simple Spinach and Herb Mix or other seasoned mix

salt and pepper to taste

For dipping: raw shrimp (peeled, de-veined), chicken, beef, salmon, potatoes, veggies cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces

Sauces for dipping: barbecue, teriyaki, steak, cocktail sauce, Ranch, etc.

Directions

1.     Start pot on stovetop. Mix broth and seasoning over medium heat until 375 degrees (just below boiling). Move to fondue stand.

2.     Put meat or veggie on skewer and dip into broth.  Meat and veggies will cook in this broth, so it’s imperative that you pay attention to cooking times.

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

Some helpful fondue-making hints:

  • Keep all raw foods on the same plate;
  • Color coordinate fondue forks so that no one gets mixed up;
  • Move cooked food directly to your own plate, take it off of the fondue fork, and eat with your own regular fork;
  • If you have super-hungry kids, make a quick side dish for them to munch on while foods cook;
  • Be over cautious–over-cook vs under cook foods;
  • Pre-cook veggies to speed up cooking time.

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

family fondue night | teachmama.com cooking times

Want to check out the coolest fondue cooking timer ever? This is a riot: The Melting Pot Fondue Timer.

We’ll totally pull it out on our iPad next time we’re making fondue!

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

Course 3: chocolate fondue

Ingredients

1 bag semi-sweet milk chocolate chips

1 bag milk chocolate chips

½ cup warm heavy cream

½ cup peanut butter

For dipping: strawberries, banana, marshmallows, pound cake, cheesecake cut into bite-sized pieces

Directions

1.     Start pot on stovetop. Mix ingredients over medium heat until melted. Move to fondue stand.

2.     Dip strawberries, banana, marshmallows, pound cake, cheesecake, cookies cut into bite-sized pieces into chocolate and enjoy!

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

 

Fondue is a super-fun, memory building event for families.

It’s one of our family traditions. It’s special.

There’s no reason to be fearful of fondue because you can really take it as small–or as large–as you’d like. If you don’t want to go nuts with three courses, cleaning up and washing the pots in between, then just do the cheese fondue as a side for a regular dinner.

Or do the broth fondue as your main course and rice or noodles as a side.

The chocolate fondue is always a super idea for a special dessert, for any occasion.

 

how to do a family fondue night: teachmama.com

 

Do you want our recipes?

Know that they are not perfect, but they work for us. Season and adjust to your liking.

family fondue night | teachmama.com recipes

You can download our Family Fondue Night Recipes here as a pdf: fondue dinner recipe _ teachmama.com

(If you choose to share this post–and we hope you do!– please link to this post and not the attachment page! Thank you!)

 

Because there’s so much cutting involved in fondue prep, if you think you or your kids need a little refresher on proper knife techniques, try this: Complete Knife Skills, with Brendan McDermott (FREE mini-course!)

We’re giving it a go for Valentine’s Day, though we’re going for the Complete Knife Skills with Brendan McDermott

It’s better than candy in our family!

And that’s it–a family favorite, for sure!

 

 

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

enjoy the holiday: gingerbread houses & giving back at Make Meaning Bethesda Row

enjoy the holiday: teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

 

The holiday season is busy–busy.enjoy the holiday: gingerbread houses & giving back at Make Meaning Bethesda Row

But it’s so important that we take time every so often to breathe.

I mean really, truly breathe.

Enjoy time with friends.

Enjoy time with family.

And enjoy time spent doing holiday activities that we love.

Who cares if the laundry’s piled up, the house is a wreck, and dinner’s cold by the time everyone’s at the table?

Not I! (Not this month, at least. . . )

This week, I had the opportunity to enjoy the holiday a bit with some local friends, and it reminded me of how important it is to carve time out of our busy schedules to do just that–enjoy time together.

I’m betting that there are tons of holiday crafty-fun options no matter where you are; calling the local recreation department or library is a great place to start.

Even if you just invite a friend or two over for hot cocoa while you address holiday cards? It’s something. It’s still time together.

If you’re local to the DC Metro area, though, I have a great option for you. It’s totally affordable, super-sweet, and it packs a powerful punch.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Enjoy the Holiday–Gingerbread Houses and Giving Back at Make Meaning Bethesda Row:

Make Meaning is an entertainment and events destination focused on fun with creativity. They offer a ton of hands-on activities including cake decorating ,glass making, soap making, jewelry making, candle making, ceramics and book making for kids and adults of all ages.

enjoy the holiday: gingerbread houses & giving back

 

enjoy the holiday: gingerbread houses & giving back

enjoy the holiday: gingerbread houses & giving back

 

When we visited Make Meaning in Bethesda this week, we decorated Gingerbread Houses.

The kids (and adults!) loved it. We had an absolute blast, and I cannot wait to return.

Check out some Instagram shots of our night:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And? The insane thing is that they’re running a super promo: from December 15-24th, you can decorate one Gingerbread House for $9.99 (regularly $49.99).

So really, that’s a great deal. Remember, it’s about carving out time for you.

It’s taking time out of your schedule to be with friends and family and to enjoy time together–no matter what you decide to do.

enjoy the holiday: gingerbread houses & giving back

 

enjoy the holiday: gingerbread houses & giving back

The deets on the Make Meaning Bethesda Row Gingerbread House deal:

  • Limit one per person and while supplies last. Space is limited. First come, first served. No reservation necessary.
  • Valid weekdays only. Monday 10a-5p, Tuesday-Friday 10a-7p
  • This promo is special only for our readers, but you can share the coupon with others. SO YAY! (You won’t find info on the Make Meaning website.)
  • Here’s the coupon. Download and print: Make Meaning Bethesda Gingerbread House Special

 

make meaning bethesda

And?

When a Make Meaning activity is purchased during the weekdays between 12/8-24, an activity is also provided to a child at The Children’s Inn at NIH.

I love, love, love that.

So you’re enjoying time with friends and family, crafting and creating, and then Make Meaning donates an activity to children who are out of their element, far from home, and most likely not feeling too well.

It’s the very least we can do.

 

http://www.childrensinn.org/

 

So that’s it–just a really nice evening spent away from work, school, and everyday chaos, enjoying time with family and friends.

How will you enjoy the holiday? Do you have time set aside this month for family? Friends? Would love to know because the more we talk about stepping away and doing things that make us happy, the better!

 

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

must have gifts for kids and families | teachmama.com

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers | teachmama.com

 

kids and family gift guide from teachmama.com

 

teachmama gift guide 2012

 

 

holiday gift guide | teachmama.com

 

fyi: This is a sponsored post, on behalf of One 2 One Network and Make Meaning, Bethesda Row. 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

I am thankful for our friends at Make Meaning, Bethesda Row and to One 2 One Network for including me in this exciting campaign!

holiday note gift idea for families: unique, thoughtful, and FREE

holiday note gift idea for families: unique, thoughtful, free | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

Post originally published on 11/24/09 but republishing because I think it’s worth it.  

 

 

holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.comIt’s so easy for our little ones (and even adults sometimes!) to lose sight of what the holiday season is all about.

So last year, when I saw this idea on a late-night, dvr’d Oprah, I knew I wanted to use it. With a little prompting, my family tried out Holiday Notes with both sides of the family.

Even though some interpreted the exchange a little differently, it was a success overall. Most have said they want to do it again, and with a little tweaking, hopefully it will become a worthwhile and cherished holiday tradition.

This Quick Trick is far from quick, but it’s something that seemed to work well for us, so I thought I’d share.

  • Holiday Notes: The idea behind Holiday Notes is that everyone takes a small amount of time to complete one of three different note cards for each member of the family. Over the holiday season–or at a holiday gathering–the notes are then delivered to each person’s special box, envelope, or bag and is read at another time.

Since our immediate family presented both sides of our extended family with the idea, we made special Holiday Note Card boxes for each person–as our small gift.

holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.com

I picked up the small wooden favor bags at the craft store, and each maybe cost a dollar. Then over the course of two or three weeks, Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I worked on the bags.

First we painted all of them. Then we glitzed, beautified, and decorated. We added bows, glitter (glitter glue is easiest!), sparkles, ribbon, sequins, feathers, and anything we wanted, trying to make each one special for every person in our family.

After everything was dried, we added appropriate name tags.

 

Then we sat down together and wrote short messages. And I mean short. The three Holiday Note Cards each begin a sentence, and the note cards are tiny.

All our personal messages do is complete the sentence. One note begins, What I love about you. . . The other is My holiday wish for you. . . , and the last one is Thank you for. . .

The Holiday Note Cards can be downloaded here if you’d like: holiday note cards

(Please, if you choose to share them, link to this post instead of the attachment page! Thank you!)

Sure, some notes were longer than others. Some messages turned out to be completely hysterical, and others were more sentimental. Some were really long, and others were just one sentence.

holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.commore note bags

Maddy and Owen (as a 4 and 3-year-old) were very excited about what we were doing. As we worked on the bags, I’d ask them what they wanted to thank their Nanny for or what they wished for their sweet cousin.

I was often surprised at what they remembered (Maddy wanted to thank her Great Grandma for letting her “ice” her own bagels with cream cheese, and Owen loved his Great Grandma’s great big loud laugh and wished that his Nana’s cats weren’t always hiding around her house).

We wrote Cora’s for her because she was so young, but no one was too young to appreciate reading the notes that were written to them. We read them over and over and over. My husband and I both read and re-read our own notes from family members.

Sometimes even a short note–one or two sentences–can mean so much.

holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.com

 

We’ll do these notes every year as an immediate family, and maybe the tradition will continue for a few years with our extended family–or maybe this will be the last year. It can become a lot to do when there are many people involved.

But for us, the act of sitting down together, really thinking about what we are thankful for, what we wish for for our loved ones, and what we love about them is what the holidays are all about.

Toys will come and go, but these notes–and the bonds they will help to create–we hope will last for years and years and years and years. Happy Holidays!

Want a few more holiday-inspired learning ideas? Check out: 

 

 


fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

 

 

GoldieBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com for @goldibloxinc

sponsored post

 

 

 

Yesterday, my girls were late for school.GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

And they were late for cheer practice last evening.

And they were late for school again today.

It wasn’t because they were sleeping in or taking too long to pick out their clothes.

It wasn’t because they were poking around or moving slowly.

They were building. They were reading; they were creating.

My smart girls were busy tinkering with their GoldieBlox sets, and this mama was fine with it.

Sure, we need to teach our kids to be punctual and to make it to school on time. But we have the rest of the week to work on that, don’t we?

We are totally impressed with GoldieBlox.

And I’m thrilled to have a GoldieBlox gift set to give away to one lucky teachmama.com reader.  Just in time for the holidays. Woo-hoooo.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • GoldieBlox for Smart Girls–Read, Create, and Learn:

GoldieBlox is one of those products that you’re happy to buy because it packs a crazy powerful punch. Your money goes far because our girls are reading, thinking, and creating.

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

And along the way, they’re learning spacial skills, engineering skills, and confidence in problem-solving.

They’re learning about wheels and axles, hinges and levers, pulleys, gears, animation and more.

GoldieBlox gets girls building through the context of a narrative.  That is, each set comes with a book that girls read, and the pieces that they build somehow hinge on what happens in the text.

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

Their research has shown that girls in particular connect with a story.

I wanted to know why GoldieBlox was only for girls.  What made GoldieBlox special? 

Straight from the FAQ page:

Our founder, Debbie, spent a year researching gender differences to develop a construction toy that went deeper than just “making it pink” to appeal to girls. She read countless articles on the female brain, cognitive development and children’s play patterns. She interviewed parents, educators, neuroscientists and STEM experts. Most importantly, she played with hundreds of kids. Her big “aha”? Girls have strong verbal skills. They love stories and characters. They aren’t as interested in building for the sake of building; they want to know why. GoldieBlox stories replace the 1-2-3 instruction manual and provide narrative-based building, centered around a role model character who solves problems by building machines. Goldie’s stories relate to girls’ lives, have a sense of humor and make engineering fun.  

Pretty cool.

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

And though the sets are geared more for girls, I’m here to attest to the fact that boys dig ’em, too.

I got one. And he was wow’ed by Maddy and Cora’s creations. Big time.

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

We tried two of the newer GoldieBlox sets:

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

 

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

 

GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine: Teaches kids how to make movies. Not even kidding.  When I first saw it, I was totally skeptical. But I read the book alongside Cora, and together we read about the bad news: The film festival was going to be cancelled because the projector was broken.

Goldie, the mechanical engineer of the group, calls her friends for some help. Valentina (the electrical engineer), Li (the token guy and environmental scientist), Ruby (the coding expert), Nacho (the dog), and Benjamin Cranklin (the cat), all work together to build a zoetrope.

Right. You don’t know what a zoetrope is, do you?

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

It’s all good. I didn’t, either.

A ‘zoetrope’ (pronounced just how it looks: zoey-trope), is the world’s first moving picture machine, friends.  You’ll learn all of this when you get the set, but in 1834 the zoetrope was born. It’s basically a cylinder on a spinning platform.  The cylinder has slits cut into it, and it has long strips of paper on its inside.  When the cylinder moves, it looks like the objects on the papers are moving due to the Persistence of Vision principle.

Sounds crazy but you’ll get it.

And when the zoetrope is built and after your child tries each of the movies (she can even make one of her own!), she can check out the GoldieBlox and the Movie Machine app (free from the iTunes store).

Cora and I haven’t even had a chance to scratch the surface of the app, but essentially, you can create short, animaged GIFs over there using their digital creation tools. You can save them and upload them to Bloxtown for others to see (coming soon!), or you can print them and put them into your brand, new zoetrope. So fun. So totally cool.

Check it out:

 **************************************

GoldieBlox and the Builder’s Survival Kit: Maddy dove right into this set, which is bigger and geared more toward a slightly older age group.  Maddy loved this because of the freedom it afforded her.

She could basically flip through Goldie’s Diary of Inventions and build anything she wanted. The Diary seems just like a diary–scribbles, doodles, pictures, you name it. And information on her friends and family–just like a personal journal.

Who doesn’t like to have permission to read someone’s diary?

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

Instructions for building a Derby Racer, a drum set, a dog house, an ice-cream truck, and a tea cup ride (for real!) are followed by a few drawings of other inventions to create.

Maddy was quick to give me her official feedback which was:

She liked:

  • the many choices to build;
  • the diary to read;
  • that it was a really good pastime.

She wished:

  • that there was a little more detail in the pieces;
  • there was a little more detail in instructions.

 

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

 

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

However, it is worth noting that when Maddy stepped back, laid out all of the necessary pieces for the item she wanted to build, and took the time necessary to read and understand the given instructions, she was successful.

She had a tough time building the ice-cream truck at first, but when she started fresh with the tea cup ride, following all instructions and making sure to identify all of the necessary pieces before she began building, she met with success.

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

 

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn

As a parent, overall, I really liked:

  • the combination of reading and creating–I totally see why girls especially would love this;
  • the quality of materials--the parts are sturdy, the book is solid, and you can just tell that these are high-quality pieces;
  • that there are little action figures with the sets–not like big, fighting guys–but little sweet animals that can fit in the creations;
  • the design and layout–I love the concept, I love the design, and I love the look of everything;
  • the music videos, the cartoons, and the graphics on the app;
  • the extensions: the Bloxtown site, the Movie Machine app, the games, and fun for kids;
  • the message--that girls are ‘more than just another princess’ and that it’s cool to use their brains;
  • that Goldie has a melting pot of pals--really, her pals look a lot like my girls’ groups of friends, and I love it.

 

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn | teachmama.com

I do wish that:

  • some of the teeny, cardboard, interlocking tabs were a little easier for my girls to manage;
  • ‘GoldieBlox’ was spelled correctly–because I have a hard time with ‘x’ instead of ‘cks’ or ‘ks’.

 

And that’s it. Really, truly my new favorite go-to for birthday gifts and something I do look forward to exploring as the line evolves and grows over the next few years.  Six sets now, but growing, growing!

 

And just for kicks–check out the coolest video ever. Show your kids. They’ll be totally hooked:

————————————————————-

GIVEAWAY: One GoldieBlox gift pack–valued at $100.

Do you want to win your own GoldieBlox gift pack just in time for the holidays??!  Yes, yes you do.  

——————————-

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

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

This giveaway ends Friday, November 7, 2014 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the US only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 11/07/14.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

——————————-

 

fyi: This post is written as part of a paid partnership with GoldieBlox; however, as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little classroom engineers.  Affiliate links are used above. 

 

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 
halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

I’m always on the hunt for fun ways to keep my kids engaged and interested and thinking creatively.

And when I find something that works, and it’s unplugged, creative fun, it’s a serious win.

Today after school, while Cora was working on homework and Maddy and Owen were recharging, I put them to work.

Why not, right? They’re young.

A few days ago, I ran across something on Pinterest that got me thinking.  Would it be possible for kids to design and build simple holiday-inspired objects out of Legos?  Could I give them just a little guidance and just a little inspiration and have them take it from there?

I was pretty impressed with what they came up with.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halloween Lego Game–Unplugged, Creative Fun:

First, I grabbed a ton of plain Lego bricks. I wanted just bricks.

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

No windows, flowers, wheels, or people.

Nothing fancy.

Just good, ole plain-Jane Lego bricks.

And really, this took the most time for me–separating Legos.

But I found some, and then I printed out two ‘inspiration sheets’. I grabbed one from my pal Allie’s site, on a post she wrote called Halloween Lego Challenge. The post is awesome, and I love the whole idea of building something for kids and having them do their best to build the same thing.

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

It’s a fantastic cognitive and fine-motor skill-builder, especially for little guys.

I also found inspiration from Geek Alerts; their Halloween Lego Set post actually shows the pieces they built from a set you can buy: Halloween Lego Set.

So I printed the sheets out and gave Maddy and Owen the challenge: build some Halloween-inspired things.

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

We talked about what those things could be–the objects on the sheets that I printed out or other things Halloween, like brooms, bats, hats, ghosts, monsters, ghouls, whatever.

And what they came up with was cute and simple.

I loved that they were using what was on the sheets as inspiration along with what we had to really come up with some cool things: a pumpkin, a ghost, a witch, candy corn, a hat, and a little Frankenstein monster.

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

Working with Legos in any capacity is a fabulous way for kids to get their brains moving and fine motor muscles working.  And whether they’re following instructions step by step or whether they are creating pieces on their own, it’s all good.

It all rocks.

My longer-term idea was to have this Lego challenge be a part of Cora’s class Halloween party–but that’s a whole other story coming a few days down the road.

But much like the inspiration sheets I printed and gave to Maddy and Owen to get them started, I want to do the same for the kids in Cora’s class.

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

If you want to print out the Halloween Lego Scramble sheets–little pictures of Halloween items that just about any kid can make with just about any regular set of Lego blocks–you can print it out here: halloween lego game _ teachmama.com

Huge and happy thanks for sharing them if you’d like, but please direct folks to this post rather than the attachment page. 

My goal is to use it as an inspiration for small groups during the Halloween class party this month.

 

Some other ideas for making Halloween Lego-building fun: 

  • add a timer and make it a timed copy and build;
  • share a card and have everyone try to make their own version of the item at the same time;
  • take turns flipping a card and building the item;
  • have kids take pictures of their own Halloween items and add them to the cards!

 

 

fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post which means that many of the links will take you to amazon, and if you purchase the item, teachmama.com will get a teeny, tiny percentage. It all helps, and we appreciate it!

Huge and happy thanks to Allie of No Time for Flashcards and to the team at Geek Alerts for sharing their Halloween Lego posts. 

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts combines physical learning and digital learning | teachmama.com & @tigglykids

sponsored post

 

 

 

iPad toy? Right.ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

When I heard about it, I thought the same exact thing.

We’re inundated with toys, and my kids are lucky to even have an iPad. Why do we need anything else? And how on earth could there be a toy for the iPad?

I’m honestly in awe.

This iPad toy is actually so cool. And the way it incorporates hands-on learning with digital learning blew my mind.

Tiggly Counts.  It’s an award-winning blend of physical play and digital play.

You want it. Stat.

And I not only have a sweet coupon code for you (30% off!–woot!) but I also have two Tiggly Counts sets to give away–just in time for the holidays! Read on.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • iPad Toy for Early Math Skills–Tiggly Counts: I’m a really tough critic when it comes to apps for my kids.

Especially because we have a close watch on the kids’ screen time and because there are about a gazillion apps on the market, I think we, as parents, should be super-choosy about who and what we’re letting into our lives.

So when I was asked by my friends at Tiggly to check out their new Tiggly Counts, I was curious to say the least.

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

 

Essentially, Tiggly Counts is an iPad toy that combines physical learning with digital learning. And it’s all about math. And it’s for our little guys–our preschoolers. 

I love it.

Kids ages three and older would especially like this toy, but always use your own judgement. I know my Owen would have totally dug this at 2 or 2 1/2, and I know that at 7 and 9, Cora and Owen really liked trying it out. Just worth noting.

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

Tiggly Counts comes with rods–these five rods that are durable and easy to manipulate for little hands–and they were actually inspired by the Cuisenaire rods used in Montessori education.  I know all our Montessori fans are dancing over this one.

The rods are used with the iPad apps. And for a mom who’s always careful about screen time, I love the combination of hands-on and digital learning, especially for basic skills like counting and number recognition.

Three apps were designed for this set each focus on math but cover slightly different areas: 

  • Tiggly Chef: covers numbers and early addition concepts,  math symbols, following instructions and thinking flexibly
  • Tiggly Adventures: introduces kids to number line concepts, number sense, and counting skills
  • Tiggly Cardtoons: basic math skills like one-to-one matching, counting, and equal sets

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly countsBy far my kids loved Tiggly Chef the most, maybe because of the chef’s voice, maybe because of the silly creations, maybe it was more their speed, or maybe because of all the cooking they do over here. Whatever it was, they laughed out loud while playing this game. Super cute.

I wish, wish, wish I had this app when my kids were younger because it would have really helped build a foundation for strong math skills at an early age. I love the combination of saying the number, seeing the number, and seeing that number of objects. 

Overall, I love:

  • the combination of counting on the screen and then within the rods–because the rods’ windows are large enough to see the objects inside;
  • the wait time that this app allows. It moves slowly–but not too slow;
  • the graphics: simple, sweet, and cool;
  • the concepts: kids get these apps. They really do. They’re intuitive and designed for today’s digital kids;
  • the whole idea of bringing together physical play and digital play. It’s just. . . awesome.

 

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

 

Here’s the deal with this app, if you’re confused–anyone can grab the three apps in the iTunes store for free; however, the rods–the counting toys–come with the set. And these rods are what make Tiggly Counts super cool.

With the rods, kids are really interacting with the apps. They’re holding, physically counting, and moving objects on the screen.

Check out our video close-up:

 

Tiggly Counts isn’t even out on the shelves yet, but it will be very soon. It will be available in November, but folks are pre-ordering it now.

And I have a 30% coupon for you to use! Yaaaa-hoooooo. Just in time for the holidays.

 

ipad toy for early math skills: tiggly counts

 

All you have to do is visit the Tiggly Counts site (http://get.tiggly.com/counts) enter the code ILOVETIGGLY  for 30% off of your order.

This code is good through the end of October 2014.

However, I am giving away two Tiggly Counts sets to one lucky teachmama.com reader.  That way, you get to keep one for your kids and give one as a gift to a nephew, niece, friend, or relative. So fun, right?

————————————————————-

GIVEAWAY: Two sets of Tiggly Counts.

Do you want to win TWO sets of the new and amazing Tiggly Counts??!  Yes, yes you do.  

[PLEASE NOTE: prizes will not be delivered until mid-December 2014, so plan accordingly!]

——————————-

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

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

This giveaway ends Friday, October 17, 2014 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the US only. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 10/17/14.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

——————————-

 

fyi: This is a sponsored post; however, as always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little digital kids.

let kids learn on their own time: tabletop surprises

let kids learn on their own time: #tabletopsurprises | teachmama.com

let kids learn on their own time tabletop surprises  teachmama.com

We just finished week number six of our ten week tabletop surprises — a simple but clever way we encourage our kids to learn on their own time.

Tabletop Surprises are just that: invitations to learn, play, create, invent, and think–on their own time. 

Little fun activities just waiting for someone to come along and try ‘em out.

Here’s what we did this week.  A little bit o’ math, a little bit of reading, a little bit of writing, and a bit of critical thinking.

Pretty fun.  But next week? Even better.

No kidding.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Let Kids Learn on Their Own Time–Tabletop Surprises:

 

monday:


magnets + pipe cleaners + paper clips + vases = FUN #tabletopsurprises #summer #familyfun #science #keepthembusy #momsofinstagram

 

 

tuesday:

my crew will love this one! ( and the parents win on Thursday night!) #kidsinthekitchen #cooking #foodiefamily #food #tabletopsurprises #summer

 

wednesday:

back by popular demand: brain teasers. want ’em? head to the blog. click on #tabletopsurprises #summer #brainteasers #brainy #sofun #teachmama #printables #familyfun

 

thursday:

poem reading. poem writing. offline. online. #tabletopsurprises #summer #familyfun #writing #readingrocks

 

 

friday:

math challenge problemos about baseball and chocolate, thanks to @nctm #tabletopsurprises #summer #math #smart #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 teachmama.com.png

 

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

best summer learning idea for kids: tabletop surprises

the best summer learning idea for kids teachmama.com

the best summer learning idea for kids | teachmama.com

We’re continuing to rock it out with our tabletop surprises–simple, meaningful, and fun ‘surprises’ on our kitchen table every day.

Whenever Maddy, Owen, and Cora feel inclined to hit the table, they do.

It’s really worked, and I’m thrilled. Some days, obviously, are better than others. But for the most part, the tabletop surprises have been the best summer learning idea for our kids.

Letting them use their brains on their own time. In their own way.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Best Summer Learning Idea for Kids–Tabletop Surprises:

Keeping their brains moving . . . week four.

 

monday:

sudoku! online and offline so that everyone is happy. . . #tabletopsurprises #summer #math #smart #hard #brainy #brainteasers

tuesday:

engineering. #tabletopsurprises #creative #summer #familyfun #keepthembusy

 

wednesday:

awwwwwh. bringing back the faves. find a favorite children’s book. read it. then learn about the author online. luckily there are a ton of fabulous sites with lists of author websites and luckily we have them all listed on teachmama.com….add an Author Hunt sheet to the mix, and you have a winner! !

 

thursday:

story starters! SO sad, @storycubes could NOT find my story cubes so using @thinkfun last letter cards and imagery lesson resources from the classroom …it works! 

 

friday:

letters to family members! (with an example letter explaining the day’s #tabletopsurprises )

 

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 teachmama.com.png

play with letters or numbers: cool summer learning for kids

play with letters or numbers: cool summer learning for kids | birute from @playtivities guest posting on teachmama.com

The following Rockstar Sunday guest post is written by a woman whose third language is English and who has two little ones and two rockstar blogs.  

Birute Efe writes Playtivities which is full of fun toy-making, learning, and creative parenting ideas, and she writes Attach From Scratch, a blog full of attachment parenting, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and all that fun stuff.

Pretty impressive, I know.

Today, Birute is sharing a quick and fun way that you can help your kiddos learn a little during the hot summer months.

————————-

  • Play with Letters or Numbers–Cool Summer Learning for Kids, by Birute Efe

fun summer activity for learning letters and numbersSummer is for fun. Fortunately learning can be fun and full of laughter too. It’s all how we present it to the kids.

If you are trying to teach your little one letters, sight words, numbers, beginners math this playful educational activity will be a hit in your house for sure.

Things you will need:

  • Plastic Ice cube tray. (the more you have the more letters and numbers you will be able to write on). You can get them really cheap at flea markets or garage sales.
  • some letter, number stickers or markers
  • marbles

What to do:

It’s so simple.

Depending on how many ice cube trays you have and what you want to teach your child just stick stickers in/on/near every ice cube holes.

You could also use markers.

The rules (they can be very customizable):

Kids learn faster through songs. I have noticed it a lot. So encourage them to sing or pick some kind of rhyme while they are dropping marbles in the ice cube tray holes.

  • Name the letter/sight word/number you just dropped marble in.
  • Name the word that starts with the letter you just threw marble on.
  • Find a rhyming word for the letter you just dropped marble on. (e.g. A – I may, Z – just like a bee, etc)
  • Try juggling few marbles.

play with letters or numbers: cool summer learning for kids

play with letters or numbers: cool summer learning for kids

Just a thought

You could try using real ice cubes for this activity. Make sure to write on the ice cube holes with permanent marker. Those splashes from melting ice cubes will make learning cool for sure.

Things kids will practice:

  • motion coordination
  • letters, numbers, rhyming and singing

I hope I got you inspired to help your children learn through a fun activity.

For more fun DIY Toys that encourage child’s creativity and promotes fun learning follow my Pinterest Board Playtivities. So you won’t miss a thing.



birute of playtivities.com/Birute Efe has daily fun at her kids activities blog Playtivities and the farm where she lives with her family. She loves creating activities and toys for her 2 kiddos by up-cycling household items. She she will never walk pass by a big cardboard box or a pile of old magazines. She believes the best learning comes from exploring and creating.

Looking for more fun ways to sneak in some literacy or math learning into your day? Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

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

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

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

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

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

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

other posts in the series: