virtual travel: kids can explore without leaving home

virtual travel: explore without leaving home | teachmama.com

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

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

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

Go away. But don’t really go away.

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

I’m betting it’s the same for you.

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

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

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

virtual travel: explore without leaving home | teachmama.com

 

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

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

Is this what a savannah really looks like? 

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

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

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

virtual travel: explore without leaving home | teachmama.com

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

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

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

virtual travel: explore without leaving home | teachmama.com

 

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

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

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

 

melissa doug blog ambassador button

fyi: This post was written as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program. All opinions are my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent and longtime toy lover. 

affiliate links are used in this post

toddler shapes: learn and play

toddler shapes learn and play | teachmama.com

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toddler shapes learn and play

The following guest post is written by talented and creative Australian homeschooling mom of two, Rachel Brown.

Rachel writes the blog, Racheous, where she shares Lovable Learning ideas!

____________________

  • Toddler Shapes: Learn & Play, by Rachel Brown

Learning and play go hand and hand, particularly during the toddler years!

I love watching my almost 2 year old explore the world around her – everything is new and exciting.

Similar to exploring colours with a toddler, learning about shapes begins with simple sensory explorations and play.

Then you can move forward to sorting, matching and more involved vocabulary.

 

toddler shapes: learn and play sorting | teachmama.com

 

Our favourite tools and toys for exploring shapes are:

 

toddler shapes: learn and play sorting | teachmama.com

Readers of Racheous – Lovable Learning, will know that we love DIY Montessori-inspired activities. I adapted our usual posting activities to create a shape posting game with my toddler. This is great for fun identifying and fine motor skills!

I first made a dice with a couple of our wooden blocks – one for colours and one for shapes (doubled up on each – circle, square and triangle; but you could include other shapes instead for an older toddler or preschooler!).

toddler shapes: learn and play  posting gameThen I explained to Lucy that we roll each dice and post the corresponding shape!

This was very challenging for her (she wanted to put them all in the coin box) as she is only learning her secondary colours now. This will be an activity we will revisit.

Shapes are the perfect starting point for early-mathematics. I hope you found something inspiring to do with your toddler!

————————————————

Thank you, thank you, Rachel! We appreciate your post and expertise!!

toddler shapes learn and play | teachmama.comRachel is an Australian homeschooling mama of two who shares many educational kids activities over at racheous.com.

You can connect with Rachel on PinterestGoogle+, Facebook and Twitter!

 

Looking for more ways to teach toddlers and preschoolers? 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:

how to make homemade slime: snow day sparkle slime

sparkle slime SNOW DAY teachmama.com

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sparkle slime SNOW DAY  teachmama.com

It’s been snowing a whole lot over here for the last few weeks, and in fact, this week, about 15 inches of the white stuff were dumped on us.

So this mama has had to pull out the stops when it comes to finding things to do.

Homemade slime–snow day sparkle slime–has helped save our sanity.

Not really. But kind of.

We’ve spent a boatload of time outside. We’ve watched movies. Read books. Completed puzzles. Cleaned, finished homework, Valentines, and cooked.

There’s been a lot of downtime. A lot of ‘plugged in’ time. A lot of great, blissful getting along times, and a lot of bickering.

And we tried, for the first time, to make sparkle slime.

The kids loved it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Make Homemade Slime–Snow Day Sparkle Slime:  It’s super easy.

And there are about a million different ways to do this–be forewarned.

My way is just one.

Here’s a super-quick video about how you can make sparkle slime (our snow day sanity saver!): 

 

And now you definitely need the Sparkle Slime recipe, right? Yes, yes you do.

Check it out:sparkle slime recipe.

You’ll need:

Once you have everything, you can get started!

how to make sparkle slime | owen

 homemade sparkle slime

 

homemade sparkle slime

SO fun.

Do you have any cool ideas for passing days when you’re stuck inside? Activities to keep kids interested, engaged, and unplugged? Let us know by leaving a comment!

Check out our cool and creative indoor fun board:

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board cool & creative indoor fun on Pinterest.


Or check out these popular posts:

 

fyi: affiliate links are used below 

 

I by NO MEANS invented this cool activity; in fact, I’d love to offer huge and happy thanks to the following posts for inspiration. Please check them out! thank you, ladies!

secret message valentines: homemade, candy-free, totally cool

secret message valentines magic and totally cool teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

secret message valentines  magic and totally cool teachmama.com

 

Longtime fans of the ole homemade Valentine, I’ve had to get a little more clever and crafty as the kids get older.

But I still want them writing, reading, and thinking (come on. . . at least a little!) while they’re making them.

So when I did some Valentine searching this year, I found a ton of cool ideas.  A ton of cool ideas.

There are about a million, trillion awesome homemade Valentines out there.

But the Secret Message Valentines caught my eye. I knew Maddy, Owen, and Cora would totally love them, and they do.  They really think they’re fun.

Secret Message Valentines that are homemade, candy-free and kids still think they’re totally cool? Like a dream.

And they won’t break the bank.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Secret Message Valentines–Homemade, Candy-Free, Totally Cool:

Want to make these for this year’s rockstar Valentines? Super.

Your kids will love you.

You’ll need:

secret message valentines | teachmama.com

secret message valentines | teachmama.com

 

Here’s a quick video with the ‘how-to’ for making Secret Message Valentines:

 

 

Before Maddy, Owen, Cora and I started making them, we did a whole lot of ‘message brainstorming’.  I wanted them to realize that though some of the Valentines required that they only signed their name, other ones left spaces for real secret messages.

What would those messages be? 

What should they be? 

We came up with some ideas:

magic message valentines -| teachmama.com

magic message valentines -| teachmama.com

magic message valentines -| teachmama.com

 

Having the ideas helped, especially because messages had to be short.

And because they were writing the messages with white crayon on white paper, the messages had to be simple.

 

magic message valentines -| teachmama.com

magic message valentines -| teachmama.com

magic message valentines -| teachmama.com

 

These kind of reminded me of the Scratch-Off Tickets we made a few years ago during holiday time in the way that they carried a secret message for the kids to find.

I think I just may use them for Valentine cards next year. . . hmmmmm.

What are your favorite super-cool, candy-free Valentines for kids to make? I’d love to hear ‘em!

Here are a few of ours:

 

HUGE and happy thanks to all the folks who came before me and made similar Valentines. Though I love this idea, I by no means invented it! I did not use one particular post as a model, but the following posts were my inspiration: SpanglishBaby Secret Message Valentines; Small + Friendly Secret Message ValentineSecret Message Valentine Mini-Edition; Spoonful Secret Message Valentines, & more! Thank you, thank you!

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post for your convenience

using iPad apps to create

using the ipad to create teachmama.com

The following guest post is written by the amazing and incredible Susan Stephenson, of The Book Chook. Susan is my Australian friend who has tons of fab ideas on children’s literacy, learning, and more.

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using the ipad to create | teachmama.com

  • Using iPad Apps to Create, by Susan Stephenson

I love what the iPad offers young learners.

I’m especially excited about opportunities it gives to create their own content, whether that be in the form of text, images, video and other media, or combinations of these.

Creative thinking is incredibly important to children’s future learning, and finding opportunities for kids to create rather than consume via technology is fantastic.

Even pre-schoolers can create on the iPad, and an iPad Mini is kinder to little hands. The camera is a built-in tool that little ones love exploring with. Not only that, but parents enjoy viewing a child’s perspective on life!

Beginning writers can learn to send a picture to Grandma from the camera roll with some words that explain it. Grandma will love the contact and I just bet she’ll enjoy those invented spellings.

One app I discovered recently, ABC Spy HD by Stealth Education,  invites kids to use the iPad camera within the app. They find objects starting with each letter of the alphabet to photograph, then type the object’s name. To share with others, they make a little video within the app.

Other interesting apps where young children can use the camera are Eye Paint Monsters and Eye Paint Animals by Curious Hat.

Note: I am a firm advocate for limiting screen time for children. But I believe SOME screen time plus lots of time for stories, cuddles, chats, imaginative play and outdoor fun, makes for a balanced parenting approach.

When it’s time for screen play, think about the following apps for your preschooler or young learners:

  • Draw Along with Stella and Sam:  Based on the picture books by Marie-Louise Gay, in this app children choose shapes, decorate them and watch them come to life in very cute animation.
  • Little Fox Music Box: As well as delightful animated songs that kids can interact with and listen to, Little Fox Music Box encourages kids to record themselves singing and making music.
  • Night Zookeeper Drawing TorchThe Night Zookeeper Drawing Torch’s emphasis is on story. It encourages kids to imagine and draw creatures like spying giraffes, time-travelling elephants and singing fish.

 

UsingiPadAppstoCreate

There are hundreds, probably thousands, of apps that older kids can use. As with pre-schoolers, having them use the camera helps them to “look” at their environment from a new perspective, and become more aware of art elements like colour, pattern, texture and line.

Here are some other apps I like that I believe encourage children to create.

  • Strip Designer: Children often need to present information visually, especially if they need to show they understand something, or to explain it. Strip Designer is also a neat app for kids to use when they want to tell a digital story.
  • Moku Hanga: Image editors offer kids exciting opportunities to tweak photos they take. Moku Hanga has a “wood-block” look and it’s simple enough for older primary students to experiment with. It would make a great accompaniment for when kids try writing their own haiku.
  • Pic CollageMore than just a photography app, Pic Collage is a way for children to create a digital story. They could record a family outing, tell the tale of a lost tooth, or capture and caption their friends’ scariest Halloween costumes.
  • The Daily Monster Monster Maker: Here kids will find loads of opportunities to create by “blowing” paint, then customizing a monster and taking its pic, in-app. Incorporate literacy into the fun by encouraging kids to add speech bubbles and have their monsters “talk”. The pictures produced can be added to an app like Pic Collage, or Strip Designer (mentioned above) to tell a story.

Combining apps is a wonderful way for children to get even more from the iPad. The emphasis here is on kids thinking creatively, using apps and iPad as tools to express themselves.

By starting in one app, then continuing in another, children learn how to develop a work flow that suits their needs. The iPad is such a powerful tool for creation, offering kids many opportunities to create, communicate – and above all, have fun with it!

 

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing these super iPad app ideas, Susan!! We love them!

SusanStephensonsmlCheck out The Book Chook blog  for educational tips and resources for parents, teachers and librarians. Find lots of free PDFs via www.susanstephenson.com, and follow Susan on Twitter,  Facebook,  Scholastic Parents,Google+ and ScoopIt.

 

 

 

Looking for more information about children’s learning?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards: 

 

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:

reading informational text and crafting: easy, beautiful jewelry-making

reading informational text and crafting | teachmama.com

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reading informational text and crafting | teachmama.com

One of the things that my kids love to do is crafts, so when Melissa & Doug came out with the Art Activity books, I was sold.

Combining reading and crafting? Bam.

A match made in heaven.

Sure, good ole free play and open-ended art is awesome, but some days, an Art Activity book is a super way of sneaking in some reading for kids. And the ‘art’ of reading informational text to follow directions and to use drawings and diagrams to support the reading are foundational skills in nearly every grade level of the Common Core State Standards.

Reading informational texts is something covered in some way almost every year in the English Language Arts Standards. As parents, let’s do what we can to support our kids’ learning from home.

It’s a win-win-WIN.

Maddy rocked out the informational text reading this week with the help of Melissa & Doug’s Craft and Create Mixed Metal Jewelry set. And she’s loving her new jewels.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Reading Informational Text and Crafting– Easy, Beautiful Jewelry-Making:

I knew that Maddy would love this Mixed Metal Jewelry Set, because right now she’s totally into accessories and jewelry.  And she’s also into doing things independently.

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

And she really did love it.

She took off from the start, opening the set and reading and following the directions.  She began by setting out all of the pieces. And then she started with the Layered Earrings.

We chatted along the way, checking out a few different design options and deciding on the silver-bronze-silver graduated layered discs. Love it!

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

 

She made these adorable earrings!  Aren’t they to die for?

Next she moved onto the braided bracelet.

As she read, she used the photographs and diagrams to help her more clearly understand the steps.

 

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

Especially when it came to the four-strand braid, she used both the diagram and text. I held one side of the bracelet as she braided, and I totally learned something new!

I have never in my life braided with four strands, but Maddy figured it out and explained it to me as she went. Super real-life application of an important reading skill–and Common Core State Standard.

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

Her bracelet turned out so awesome.

And not only did we learn how to do the four-strand braid, but we also learned some cool, new ways of tying off bracelets, combining strands, and connecting the mixed-metal washers and rings.

So fun.

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

reading informational text and crafting: jewelry-making | teachmama.com

I really think this is only the beginning.

Maddy so loved jewelry-making that we’re heading to the craft store for some mixed metal pieces this weekend.  Though the set comes with plenty of pieces, Maddy was busy and included a handful of pieces in each one she made.

It will be so awesome to see her apply her new skills to the other pieces we purchase at the store.  She felt great about what she made and looks forward to making more. Love. It.

In my opinion, there’s nothing better than this! It’s real-life and purposeful informative text reading at its finest!

melissa doug blog ambassador buttonfyi: 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.

phonemic awareness and classification with zoo magazine pictures

phonemic awareness and classification with zoo magazine pictures | guest post by @aubreyhargis on @teachmama #weteach

phonemic awareness and classification with zoo magazine pictures | guest post by @aubreyhargis on @teachmama #weteach

The following guest post is written by the amazing Aubrey of Montessori Mischief. If ever you wanted to know about Montessori education, do check her blog.It’s awesome.  And beautiful.

——————————

  • Phonemic Awareness and Classification with Zoo Magazine Pictures, by Aubrey Hargis

Making educational fun out of something free to us is not just part of our budget-friendly Montessori home school approach – it’s a challenge that the kids and I all embrace together.

Every day my three year old makes a jammie-clad dash for the mail out the front door. Our mail carrier is often caught in the act, and we wave madly until he gives us a thumbs up. Often it’s all bills (not fun), and sometimes advertisements (more fun), and if we’re very lucky, it’s letters written to us or glossy magazines from the zoo.

And a glossy magazine from the zoo it was that day. Out from the magazine came the staples and out from the cabinet came the scissors.

phonemic awareness and classification with zoo magazine pictures | guest post by @aubreyhargis on @teachmama #weteach

My six year old and three year old both chose favorite animals to cut out, and a stack quickly piled up on the kitchen table. What to do now?

We put our heads together. We thought hard. We stared at the animal cut-outs around on the table, and silently, like playing a Ouija board, our fingers began shifting them this way and that. Birds of a feather. Hooves together. Scales and claws. Furry paws. And by the time we finished clumping them all into groups, we were grinning.

“What are these?” I asked my three year old.

“Birds!” he shouted.

“And these?” I asked my six year old.

“Mammals!” he yelled, hands high in the air with excitement.

phonemic awareness and classification with zoo magazine pictures | guest post by @aubreyhargis on @teachmama #weteach

 

phonemic awareness and classification with zoo magazine pictures | guest post by @aubreyhargis on @teachmama #weteach

I grabbed a piece of paper and began writing down the names of our groups (classification): mammals, reptiles, birds, fish…

We discussed the characteristics we saw as we compared and contrasted our groups.

I believe it was my three year old who began naming the animals one by one and emphasizing the beginning sound (phonemic awareness): “O-O-Ostrich. B-B-Bear.” Quickly, I cut up some squares and added letters as we said the names together. You should have seen my three year old very solemnly placing each letter on each animal.

If the pieces hadn’t gotten scattered during their pretend play, it would have been nice to glue them to a big piece of posterboard, or even to back on cardstock, laminate, and adhere velcro for a felt board experience.

Suddenly, the world of junk mail has opened up a world of educational possibilities for us. No longer will I be simply tossing it all in the recycling bin. Who knows what will arrive next? We’ll be racing to the door to find out tomorrow!

——————————

Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your fun, on-the-fly learning with your kids, Aubrey! How inspiring!!

Aubrey HargisAubrey homeschools her two kiddos and writes at Montessori Mischief, where she shares parenting tips and Montessori teaching tricks. You can find her hanging out with Montessori newbies in her Montessori 101 group. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, or Google +.

 

 

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

other posts in the series:

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!

25 ways to play with puzzles

25 ways to play with puzzles | teachmama.com

Get those puzzles out, my friends!25 ways to play with puzzles | teachmama.com

It doesn’t matter if your kids are 2 or 12–puzzles are a super way of flexing those brain muscles, practicing fine motor skills, and either some spending quiet time alone or time to catch up together.

So this month, bring out the puzzles.

Especially because January is National Puzzle Month and January 29 is National Puzzle Day (oh yes it is), you really want to celebrate puzzles this month.

And because puzzles come in all shapes and sizes, you’re guaranteed to find one that fits your needs, wants, and strengths. It’s up to us to share puzzles with our kiddos so that they can find what they love to do!

Here’s the skinny. . .

Highlights for Children has created a rockin’ freebie puzzle book that anyone can print and use: Mini Puzzle Guide. LOVE it.

Check out the Puzzle Guide by Melissa & Doug

How will you be celebrating National Puzzle Day? We’d love to hear it! 

game design for kids: innovation and creativity with #intelAIO

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

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

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

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

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

On the computer.

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

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

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The possibilities are endless.

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

 

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

easy, homemade new year’s eve shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

homemade party shakers

Any time we can use recyclables for learning or play, it’s a win in my book.

So each year as New Year’s Eve approaches, we clean out our recycle bin and put some of those small containers to use for easy, homemade shakers!

All you need are a few containers, beads, and ribbon, and you and your kiddos will be rockin’ and rollin’, shakin; and celebrating on New Year’s Eve—or any time of the year.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Easy, Homemade New Year’s Eve Shakers:  Really, we’ve been making these for years and take them to every New Year’s Eve shindig we’re invited to.

easy homemade new years shakers

We often leave them at the party or make enough for every child to have one. Maddy, Owen, and Cora love making them because they’re simple and easy to personalize.

All you’ll need are a few things.

easy homemade new years shakers

You’ll need:

  • Clean, dry recyclables (from applesauce or fruit cups, yogurt or jell-o)
  • Beads or anything that will make sounds when shaken
  • Baubles or anything fun (small silk flowers, jewels, etc)
  • Ribbon
  • Hot glue (this is a job for adults!)

What we do first is dump out all of the containers and play match-up.  Have the kids find pairs of every container. It’s not necessary that the pieces match exactly, but it makes gluing them easier.

easy homemade new years shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

Then fill!  Add beads and baubles to one container, and have fun with it!  The container need not be totally filled. Fill only about ¼ of the way full so there’s room to shake and make some noise.

Once the kids have filled the bottom of their shaker,  it’s time to  glue!  I hot glued around the perimeter of the container and then secured the other container, rim to rim.  The hot glue should seal the edges so that when it is shaken, the beads will stay in.

easy homemade new years shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

Then add ribbon.

The kids can choose a ribbon from our ribbon box, and I add it to the middle of the shaker, where both containers meet. I secured it with hot glue.

And that’s it.

easy homemade new years shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

Make them fancy, make them plain.

Make them out of two containers or make them out of one—it doesn’t matter. Though if I do make a shaker out of another recyclable with a lid, I’m sure to hot glue the top shut so that a little guy won’t grab it, open it, and try to eat those beads.

I love giving the kids a challenge when it comes to making these. Sometimes I’ll see if they can make:

-single colored shakers

-bi-colored shakers

-black & white shakers

-flower garden shaker

-rainbow themed shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

It’s fun. And if we can add a little learning to the mix, why not?

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2014 full of fun and learning!

Need some more fun New Year’s ideas?

Check out:

holiday card stencils and balloon stamps

holiday stencils and balloon painting

holiday stencils and balloon painting cover

Thank you Dollar Tree and the Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club for making this post possible!  

This year, we’re spicing our holiday cards up a bit.

For the past few years, our cards have become super-quick assembly line of envelope-stuffing, sealing, and stamping. Even our address labels are stickers.

This time, we’re spicing our cards up a bit. Actually, some help from Dollar Tree, we’re spicing up our holiday card envelopes.  That’s right—the very first thing our friends and family will see from us, and it’s going to be totally rockstar.

We’re taking the Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club craft, Balloon Painting, to a whole new level.

We’ve made super-simple stencils from Dollar Tree posterboard and a stamper out of Dollar Tree balloons. A few swirls of poster paint and a bit of time to dry, and we have very simply added a pretty, festive, fancy touch to our holiday cards.

 

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Holiday Card Stencils and Balloon Stamps:

holiday stencils balloon painting

holiday stencils balloon painting

Really, all we did was slightly modify the super-easy steps on the Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club Balloon Painting tutorial and change our colors.

This is a holiday craft that my kiddos loved because though they stuff our holiday cards every year, this year, the fun factor was a bit higher. We all had more fun looking at our blinged out envelopes compared to the plain-Jane white envelopes of holidays past.

No matter what you put inside your holiday cards this year, it’s what you put on the outside of your card that will get people talking.

holiday stencils balloon painting

You’ll need:

  • Blank envelopes
  • Poster paint
  • Balloons
  • Disposable plate and knife
  • one piece of poster board

holiday stencils balloon painting

1.  First, we created holiday-inspired stencils. We wanted small and simple, and we wanted three basic designs.  We made a tree, a star, and a package.

Want some Holiday Stencils so you can do some balloon painting? You can download the stencil template here: wintertime holiday stencils

2.  Then we cut out the shapes on the posterboard.

3.  Then we dropped paint. We put coordinating paint blobs on a disposable plate: yellow, green and blue for the tree; red, purple, and white for the package; and yellow and orange for the star.

The kids slightly, ever so gently swirled the paint on the plate with a knife to blend the colors.

holiday stencils balloon painting

4.  Next came the balloons! We partially blew up a few balloons, and this is what Maddy, Owen, and Cora loved. We talked about how the balloon needed to be just the right size so that we could hold it without slipping and so it wouldn’t pop as we stamped it.

5.  Finally, we stamped, stamped, and stamped some more!  We used the balloons as stamps, filling in the holiday stencils on the front of each envelope.

holiday stencils balloon painting

holiday stencils balloon painting

 

holiday stencils balloon painting

holiday stencils balloon painting

We let the envelopes dry completely.

And that’s it—so quick and so simple, but a really extra-special touch to holiday cards.

Don’t have time to balloon paint your holiday card envelopes? No problem!

holiday stencils balloon painting

Consider using Holiday Card Stencils and Balloon Stamps to:

  • make your holiday cards
  • make holiday gift tags
  • decorate holiday gift bags
  • make simple holiday ornaments

The possibilities are endless, though the craft is so simple!

holiday stencils balloon painting finished

 __________________________

Contest is closed as of 12/26/13. . . winner chosen by random.org is Tara Z.

GIVEAWAY: $100 Dollar Tree gift card

Do you want to win $100 Dollar Tree gift card??!  Yes, yes you do.

  • Then leave a comment below sharing which project from the club you want to try first.

 __________________________

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

This giveaway ends Thursday, December 26, 2013 at midnight ET. Winner will be chosen by  and will be notified on or around 12/26/13.  Winner must respond within one (1) day of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

fyi: This post was made possible by a partnership between Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club and The Blueprint Social.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and my three little holiday-crafters.

 

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