halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links




halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms  teachmama.comI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to Halloween class parties.

Haven’t these been held for years and years and years?


So why are we all searching around and surfing the internet and looking high and low for ideas?

Here’s everything you need for a rockstar Halloween class party.

All wrapped up in a pretty little package. Just click the links, add them to your cart, and it will all end up on your doorstep.

Print out the games, put on your witch hat (Come on. You better have a witch hat if you’re planning a Halloween class party for your kid!), and make your copies.

This party. Will. Rock.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halloween Party Ideas for Kids and Classrooms:

You cannot do this on your own. You need help.

Unless, of course, you are lucky enough to have a huge budget and tons of volunteers at your fingertips, you’ll need to solicit funds and help and then get this party moving on party day.

Plus, it’s tons more fun when you have other great parents helping.

Here’s everything you need to rock this party:

1. Get in touch with the teacher.  Tell him or her that you are the Room Parent and that you’re ready to rock this party. (Just kidding. . . )

But ask the teacher:

  • the timeframe for the party;
  • what he/she would like to do and when;
  • about any food allergies in the classroom;
  • to tell you anything and everything you need to know in order to plan a great party for the kids.

Then? You’re good to go.

2. Send out a class letter. Send a note introducing yourself and asking for H-E-L-P.


halloween party ideas for kids letter - 3


halloween party ideas for kids letter - 3


I like to have a little part on the paper where parents can cut (or rip) and send back to me telling me how they are able to help.

Or if you’re tech-savvy and want to use a service like VolunteerSpot, send the link to your event in the letter.

Feel free to use our letter–just change it for your own dates/ info: halloween party letter BLANK  or a word doc: halloween party letter BLANK

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)


3. Send out a second class letter requesting contact information. Not even kidding.

Some parents might not return the letter because they’re not able to help with the party, and that’s cool.  This is new for me this year, but I’m hoping that it makes communication streamlined like never before.

halloween party ideas for kids letter - 3

Because teachers in my kids’ school cannot share parent emails, this is what we must do.

Even if parents aren’t into volunteering time, items, or money for the event, I want to keep them in the loop. Right?

You can download the Wanted: Contact information here: parent contact request wanted _ teachmama.com

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)


4. Make a plan.  A party plan. Because for all of the parent helpers and the classroom teacher, they need to know what’s going on.

halloween party ideas for kids letter -| teachmama.com

Some pointers that make the party move smoothly:

  • have an easy activity that kids can do at their seats while others are getting into costumes: coloring pages, mazes, word search, or guess the word;
  • find a fun way of dividing class into smaller groups: have kids pick one of three different foamy stickers, have three different spider rings, etc;
  • make sure parents put snacks on plates while kids are on parade so that snacks are ready quickly;
  • give kids snack first because really, that’s all that most of them want;
  • provide a goodie bag at each game station that kids take from station to station;
  • have at least one group activity: freeze dance, hot pumpkin, pumpkin match, etc.

Here’s the plan we’re using this year:

halloween party ideas for kids letter -| teachmama.com

Feel free to use our party plan–just change it for your own dates/ info: halloween party plan 2014 or a word doc: halloween party plan 2014

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)


5. Get everything you need for the party.

Delegate if you are able because some parents really want a job to do; they like to pick up water bottles, prizes, or cupcakes, so let them!

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms


halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

Here’s our shopping list with links for you to grab and have delivered to your doorstep:

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com


6. Assign one volunteer to each game station:


halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms  teachmama.com tick


Guess the Word: Play this while kids are eating.  It’s much like the one we did for our Valentine’s Day party last year, but this time it’s with Halloween words!

You can download Guess the Word (Halloween) here: halloween party word guess game

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

Game Stations:  (quick, 10-minute stations will keep the party movin!)

  • Stamp Games: Put the kids into pairs and let them play for this game station! Kids will grab a small Halloween stamper and use it as the pawn for the Bat Follow-the-Path game and then use it as a stamp for Tic-Tac-Toe!


halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

  • Tic-Tac-Toe: Just like the game we all know and love, but this one uses Halloween stamps!

Check out how we use Halloween Tic-Tac-Toe here: Halloween Printable Games

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

  • Bat Follow-the-Path Game: Players begin at the upper lefthand block and take turns rolling the dice to see how far they go on each turn. Winner gets bat to his family first!

Check out how we use Bat Foll0w-the-Path here: Halloween Printable Games

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

  • Lego Match: Lego bricks and some Halloween inspiration is all you need for this one!

Check out the Halloween Lego Game post for more.

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party

  • Spider Web Craft: Paper plates, white yarn, and spiders. And crayon resist Halloween magic happens. No glue makes it super-simple, and if you encourage kids to use a little bit of water and paint on their brushes, the webs will dry fast enough to take home that day.

Check out the Spider Web Craft post for more.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com | easy halloween class party fun gets kids thinking and moving

Pumpkin Match:  Grab some pumpkin cut-outs and some black 2″ letters and numbers.

So fun and this will get kids up and moving!

We cannot wait to get this Halloween party started!!

What’s your go-to Halloween party plan for kids? What works? What do you, the kids, or the teacher love? Let me know!

Need some more ideas? Check out:



Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?



fyi: affiliate links are used in this post, which only means that any time you purchase something using these links, we get a teeny, tiny percentage. thank you!

pumpkin match game

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

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pumpkin match game | teachmama.com | easy halloween class party fun gets kids thinking and moving

This game was surprisingly more difficult than I expected it would be for my 10, 9, and 7 year olds.

I don’t know if they were just not in the pumpkin-matching mindset or if they need more matching practice or if the pumpkin faces were just a wee bit too similar–but it took them a while to match the 24 pumpkins.

Hoping that it’s not too tough for a Halloween class party later this month because I think it would be and ideal way to get kids up and moving and thinking and interacting.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Pumpkin Match Game:

Pumpkin Match is super-simple, and it took all of several minutes to create.

I used one pack of pumpkin cut-outs, a pack of letter and number stickers, and that’s it.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com


Though my initial plan was to create faces on the pumpkins using permanent markers, it didn’t work. The pumpkins were too glossy and the shapes got really grainy.

So instead I grabbed the letter and number stickers and went to work.


pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com


I used numbers for eyes and letters for mouths and cut here and there to try to make the silliest faces I possibly could. And they turned out super cute.

Then I cut the pumpkins straight down the middle. And I mixed them all up.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

Maddy, Owen, and Cora all had an absolute blast trying to find pairs in this simple Pumpkin Match Game.

I will definitely use this for future Halloween class parties, though I may mix things up a bit.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com


Depending on class size, I may take the number of students, divide it in half and use that many pumpkins. Then I’ll give each student a pumpkin half and have them find their match.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

Whoops! This pumpkin above is not a match! 

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

Or I may:

  • give each student one piece of a pumpkin and have the other pieces hidden around the classroom to get them up and moving a bit;
  • use half of the pumpkins for round one and then introduce more pumpkins each round;
  • give each student two pieces and have them try to find the two people they ‘fit’ with;
  • take it outside and make it a pumpkin race–after they find their match, they race to put their finished pumpkin on the playground line or in a big circle: the pumpkin ‘patch';
  • challenge the students to figure out which numbers and letters are hiding in their pumpkin’s faces;
  • place half of the pumpkins all around the playground or classroom floor and hand out the other half to the students and have them match up their pieces.

The possibilities are endless! Halloween is so much fun!!

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?


fyi: I am proud to be a #staplesclassroom partner and received my pumpkin cut-outs from my friends at Staples.  This post was written as part of the #staplesclassroom campaign. Please check out my Staples post about rocking some fall classroom decorations.  

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links





simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class partyI love this simple and sweet spider web craft. Love it.

And I think it’ll be perfect for a Halloween class party or playdate activity.

No matter the children’s age, kids would totally dig it because anything crayon resist is super-fun.  And way spooky.

Simple. Quick.

No glue. A little spider surprise. Big win.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Simple Spider Web Craft:

I saw this spider web art project first on my pal Zina’s site, Let’s Lasso The Moon.  It was a guest post by the crazy creative Jean of The Artful Parent.

But you’ve probably seen it before in other spots, as have I. Jean, however, rocked it in her blog post. So beautiful.

With Halloween class party on the brain, I tried to think of a way to adapt the spooky spider web craft for a class party.  Cora’s class party.

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party

So we went with paper plates and plastic spiders.

All you need for this are:

simple spider web craft perfect for Halloween class party 4

And it’s simple.

We talked about what spider webs looked like before we got drawing on the paper plates. We drew a few on paper, making an X with another X through it, and then we connected each of the lines with a curved inside line.

It was a little tough to draw the spider web on a white plate with a white crayon, but you can do it. The practice helps.


simple spider web craft perfect for Halloween class party 2


Once you draw the web, you grab your watercolors and paint over the web. It magically appears! 

I cut a teeny slit at the end of the web and added a small piece of white yarn, about 6 inches. I taped the back so it would stay put.

Then we tied a small spider to the dangling part of the web–and there you have it–a spooky, simple spider web craft!


What I like about this for a class party activity is:

  • that it will take only about 5-10 minutes to complete from start to finish;
  • that there’s no glue to dry;
  • that a light, almost dry coat of water colors will make the web pop and the color will be brighter;
  • that kids can make their web as elaborate as they’d like;
  • that they can take the craft with them that very day-just stick it in their folder!

Will it work for you? For your kids? Your class party? Let me know!



fyi: Huge and happy thanks to Zina of Let’s Lasso the Moon and to Jean of The Artful Parent, for sharing their awesome ideas!  

Affiliate links are used in this post.



Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?


fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

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fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse  teachmama.com

Fire safety and learning? Right.

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org


fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

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

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

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

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


fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org


fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org


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

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

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

fire safety connects with learning at sparkyschoolhouse.org

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

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

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


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

how to get kids to talk about school: what every parent must know

how to get kids to talk about school: what every parent must know | teachmama.com

As a paid Quaker Classroom AmbassadorI am eager to share information about Quaker Up For Classrooms.   how to get kids to talk about school: what every parent must know School is underway for us, and what I’m realizing more and more is that it’s sometimes tough to get my kids to talk about school. As a parent, I’m curious. I want to know everything:

  • Who did they sat with at lunch?
  • Who did they play with at recess?
  • How do they like their tablemates?
  • What book did they start in Guided Reading?
  • Who hosted the morning tv show?

But it’s hard. The kids are tired at 3pm, they’re even more tired at 7pm, and the last thing they want to do is talk to boring old Mom about school. So I have to get creative–and I know I’m not the only one. Hopefully these tricks for getting kids to talk about school will help you get a little more info from your little loves about what goes on in their lives, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Get Kids to Talk About School:

The most important thing here is that we really have to read our own kids, not be too pushy, and try to let the conversations evolve naturally.  And we need to listen. Seriously. I know–not always easy. So I’ve found that with my three kids, I’ve tried three different approaches: 1. direct questions; 2. group questions; 3. distracted questions. how to get kids to talk about school direct questions  teachmama.com 1.  direct questions: Most often, numero uno–direct questions–are a complete and utter fail for me. Save for those rare occasions when the stars are aligned, the odds are rarely ever in my favor for this technique. I ask questions, and I get quick, abbreviated responses that hardly make sense.  Even with open-ended questions the kids don’t want to chat this way with me.

me: How was recess? (This must be a subject they’ll want to talk about! )

kid: Fine.

me: Whadja play?

kid: Lotsa stuff.

me: What was your favorite game?

kid: Everything.

me: Who’d ya play with most?

kid: Everyone.

me: Awesome.

Never fear. Numero dos and tres have yielded better results for me. how to get kids to talk about school group questions  teachmama.com 2. group questions: Group questions often work for us. They often work especially around the dinner table and when we’ve got an audience, even if that audience is Dad. Because really? Dad’s mucho awesome. He’s not hangin’ around the house as much as me, so he’s almost extra-special something. And if we mix things up a bit, they almost always work.

  • Speed answer: Go around the dinner table and everyone gives a quick, one or two word answer to the same question.
  • Ball toss: Everyone answers the same question, though not at the same time.  The speaker holds a ball. He or she tosses the ball to the next person, and that person answers. This one is great for after school, after snack, out in the back yard.
  • Hula hello: Give kids a hula hoop and they answer as many questions as they can while hula-hooping.
  • Question train: You start with one question and choose a person to answer. That person answers and asks another question to the next person. And so on and so on.

how to get kids to talk about school distracted questions  teachmama.com 3.  distracted questions: One of my dear friends suggested that chatting with tweens and teens is best conducted this way–while you’re both doing something.

  • Snack chat:  While everyone’s eating a snack and before homework starts, chat school.
  • Kitchen helpers: Having one kid help prepare dinner has been hugely helpful in opening the door to conversation about school. While kids are cutting veggies, mixing mac and cheese, or emptying the dishwasher, they often want to talk to pass the time.
  • Travel convo: When kids are held captive in the car and as you’re schlepping everyone from soccer and piano lessons and then back again, ask questions. Though often for me, my kids really want to zone out in the car, sometimes, they’re pretty chatty. Again, depends on the day.
  • Chore chats:  Many times I remember chatting with my mom while she (or I) was ironing or folding wash. Not sure why, but maybe there’s something there for moms and daughters.
  • Game gabble: Owen is a gamer, and he always has been. So often he’s opened up most to me or my husband during games of War, Battleship, Monopoly, or Rummy. Again, it’s the busy hands and relaxed atmosphere that may help.

how to talk to kids about school | teachmama.com

print it out: how to talk to kids about school 2014 teachmama.com

Now.  What should you ask? Though I’m no expert, from what I’ve heard and read, you should do a whole lot more listening than talking. We want our kids to know that we’re listening to what they say and that our ears are open. So put the cell phones down. Close the laptop. Let that iPad rest. And when you do say something, paraphrasing is key. It’s like putting money in the bank. When you paraphrase, you’re simply putting what your child just said into your own words. When you paraphrase, it lets your kiddos know that you’re listening. And sometimes when you ask questions that count–that get them thinking or get them interested, they’re more likely to answer. Consider asking: 

  • What book are you reading?
  • What was the best part of your lunch?
  • Who was absent from class today?
  • Who was on the morning announcements?
  • What did you play in PE?
  • Will you let me guess your favorite part of the morning/ afternoon/ day?
  • If your day was a movie, what would the title be?
  • What color was your day?
  • Which Olympic medal would you give today?
  • What do you hope is different tomorrow?

And really? Cross your fingers. But first, print out this pretty little cheat cheet: how to talk to kids about school 2014 teachmama.com . . . and have an awesome year!

Do you have any secrets that work for you? I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments! Check out the other two posts that will help make this year awesome: happy first day flowers for teachers, secretaries, or principal           easy ways to support teachers: back to school #quakerup | teachmama.com

fyi: Thank you to Quaker and AdoptaClassroom.org for creating this program. I am proud to be a Quaker Classroom Ambassador.  Quaker is providing the prizes for this program at no cost to me. This program is not administered or sponsored by Quaker or its affiliates, but solely by teach mama media, llc. 

teach kids game playing etiquette

teach kids game playing etiquette | teachmama.com

Originally published 12/7/09 but republished today because, well, it’s worth it–


teach kids game playing etiquette | teachmama.com

When I first started teaching, in order to make ends meet, I ran several after-school activity clubs at an elementary school near the high school where I taught.

I headed anything from Craft Club to Calligraphy Club to Board Game Club to Chess, Checkers, and Mancala.

I ended up doing about a million sessions of Chess, Checkers, and Mancala because the same group of kids signed up for every single session for three straight years.

What I learned–among many things–is these little “gamers” were skilled at the games but were not skilled at game playing etiquette.

They knew the rules, but not that they couldn’t be sore losers or no one would want to play with them next time. They could talk a good game but cried when the first guy jumped his king. All I needed was one big, unstoppable, messy, dramatic (and I mean dramatic) tear-fest with a few first, second, and third graders before I knew something needed to change.

So I organized detailed tournaments to guide their games, but I also set up two specific rules that every little player needed to follow. And that’s today’s Quick Trick.

  • Game Playing Etiquette: Since Owen and Maddy have officially moved into ‘game playing’ mode, they, too, have officially demonstrated some really frustrating sore-loser behavior. And rule stretching. And crying if one person draws a better card. And quitting if the next person completes a longer snake in Hissss, a higher card for WAR, a smarter move in checkers.

So recently, I’ve had to enlist my old ‘Chess, Checkers, and Mancala’ rules on my own little ones, and it takes a lot of practice. It’s a work in progress.

Here’s the skinny in two steps:

1. Before games begin, everyone shakes hands, looks directly into their opponent’s eyes, and says, Good luck.

2. At the end of the game, same thing: players look directly into their opponent’s eyes, and–win or lose–they say, Good game.

For my Chess, Checkers, and Mancala guys, if they forgot a step, the game was declared null and void, and an immediate re-start was in order, no matter how far they were in the game. I had to witness each handshake to make the games official. (Gosh, I was tough.)

With Maddy, Owen, and Cora, I haven’t been that hardcore, but usually someone remembers before we start.

And yes, these messages might seem cold, impersonal, and forced, but my intention was to get the players to look at each other and touch each other so that they remembered they were playing with a peer and not their parent (who might usually let them get away with this kind of behavior).

I also knew that some guys did want to cry at the end if they lost, so ‘good game’ might be the only thing they could manage to say.

It’s certainly not an instant remedy for sore losers or bratty players, but I think–hope–pray?— it may be a step in the right direction. Only time will tell. . . .

Until then, good luck!



fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

backyard chopped challenge: creative outdoor fun

back yard chopped challenge teachmama.com

Many of my longtime readers will think I’ve officially lost my marbles after reading this post, and maybe I have.back yard chopped challeng

I just think it’s worth sharing because though there isn’t any serious learning going on, my kids were sure using their brains for this one.  And their creative juices were a’ flowin’.   And their bodies were moving. And there was a whole lot of laughing.

And they were outdoors, unplugged, and doing just what they wanted.

And really? It was so much fun.

It’s just a quickie reminder to get those kiddos outside and to see what happens. Because this afternoon? We were all totally surprised at where the day took us.

We had a backyard ‘Chopped’ challenge. As in, Chopped, the Food Network show, in our backyard.

Except where on Chopped the chefs compete using food, in our Backyard Chopped Challenge, the kids competed using plants, sticks, and flowers as food.

For realz.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Backyard ‘Chopped’ Challenge–Creative Outdoor Fun:

My kids are huge, huge fans of  The Food Network and will watch just about any show they run.

back yard chopped challeng

back yard chopped challeng

Chopped is a fave; Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is top of our list, as is Guy’s Grocery Games and Cupcake Wars and Cutthroat Kitchen.

Every single summer, we make the Next Food Network Star a fixture and the highlight of our Sunday evenings. We’re hooked.

And when Rachel v. Guy: Kids Cook-off was on, we were literally glued to the screen and watched each episode too many times to count.

I like most of these cooking shows because quite often, my kids want to cook. They want to try new foods, new recipes, and new dishes in the kitchen.

back yard chopped challeng

back yard chopped challenge  teachmama.com.png


A few days ago Maddy, Cora, and their neighbor pal were just hanging around out back while Owen was at basketball camp. The kids were just poking around the plants, playing with bugs and making designs.

I brought out a few recyclables for them to use—some popsicle sticks, plastic takeout containers, jars and yogurt containers.

I gave them a challenge: use anything in our yard to make a pizza.

They immediately got to work. They ran. They scrambled. They collaborated (Cora and our neighbor) while Maddy rolled solo. They wanted me to time them, and when they were finished, they wanted me to judge them.

back yard chopped challeng

So? I said, Okay. Let’s make it official. We’re doing a Backyard Chopped Challenge, then. Who’s in? 

They were.

So everyone decided to work individually, and they wanted some guidelines. They wanted five minutes for each round, and they wanted three rounds. And they wanted separate work spaces. (Clearly they’ve watched too much Chopped. . . ).

Anyway, that’s what we did. And I was amazed. Blown away. Totally surprised and excited by their dishes.

back yard chopped challeng

back yard chopped challeng

(from the pizza round)

We played three rounds:

  • kid lunch
  • fancy dinner
  • dessert


back yard chopped challeng


back yard chopped challeng


back yard chopped challeng


I judged not after each round but at the end. I knew I wanted each child to win one round. (Come on. You know I’m like that. . . )

The focus was both on their dishes and on their description. They had to convince me that their dish was the best and use clear and colorful words to describe what they made.


back yard chopped challeng


Cora won the first round. Her sandwich was incredible, and she included a chocolate chip cookie! She had to win!

Maddy won the fancy dinner round. Her meal was a spin on a Thanksgiving dinner, complete with chicken (easy to forget.. . ) and cranberry sauce!

Our neighbor pal won the dessert round. His Hawaiian cookies actually had purple flowers on them! They were gorgeous!


It was fun. Seriously fun.

And the coolest thing? They’ve played it several times since then.

Woot! Three cheers for bringing the cool to the back yard and for crazy creative kids.

Now I’m off to figure out what to make for dinner tonight. . . 

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.



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


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



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! !



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! 



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:

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frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kids

frozen birthday party games, crafts, and more  teachmama.com.png

post contains affiliate links




frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kidsI’m singing ‘Let it gooooo, let it gooooooo. . . ‘ now, as I realize that this post was to have gone live three months ago, and it’s just happening now.

After our rockstar Frozen birthday for Cora, well. . . life got in the way. So here it is.

The companion post to our Frozen snowball tower post, here’s our Frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kids.

It’s everything else we did for Cora’s Frozen birthday–the crafts we made, the activities, and everything that made it awesome.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Frozen Birthday Party–Best Ideas for Crafty Kids:

Cora knew what she wanted to do from the start–she wanted to have a Frozen birthday and watch the movie with her friends.

But I knew that we needed a little bit more than just the movie for her party.

Cora knew from the start that she wanted to watch the movie Frozen, so that was one of the main activities she wanted. But she also wanted to do crafts. Big kid crafts because really? Her friends were seven after all.

We came up with a two craft party plan: 1. make-your-own cozy fleece blanket; and 2. Frozen sparkly bracelets.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Make-Your-Own Cozy Fleece Blanket: We thought these would be fun so that the girls could get all comfy while they watched the movie, and they’d have a usable gift to take home after the event.

frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kids | teachmama.com


Plus, Owen made a fleece pillow at one of his buddy’s parties a few months back, and I loved, loved the idea.

My amazing mother-in-law helped me a ton with the fleece blanket part of this party because she’s not only a crafty crafter, but she’s a math whiz.

For our blankets, because we were using them as party favors, we really did want to keep cost in mind.  Fleece comes in different weights or thicknesses and can vary greatly in price. We wanted ours to be nice but we knew we didn’t need super-high end here.

frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kids | teachmama.com

frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kids | teachmama.com

We bought 7 yards of solid fabric and 7 yards of print fabric.  The solid fabric was less expensive, at $3/ yard and the heavier weight print was on sale for $6/ yard.

We made two blankets/ 2 yards with each blanket using a total of two different pieces of fleece—a top and bottom, a solid and a print.

frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kids | teachmama.com

frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kids | teachmama.com

frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kids | teachmama.com

If you want to print out the instructions for making our fleece blankets, you can do so here: fleece blanket – frozen party _ teachmama.com

You’ll need:

1.  We cut each yard in half to make two 30x 36” blankets per yard of fabric.

To cut the fabrics, lay out the fabrics together, one on top of the other, with the ‘good’ sides both facing out.

2.  Trim the outside edges slightly to make them even, and then cut down the middle.  You’ll have two complete blankets, each about 30” x 36”.

3.  Next, with two fabrics still together, cut a 3” square from each corner.

4.  Then cut strips of 1” x 3” along each side to be knotted together.  The idea is that the kids can tie the pieces together as an activity during the party.

5.  Tie several knots at each corner and one knot along each side to make it easier for the kids.

6. Iron on the letters following package directions and place wherever children would like!

7. Get cozy, pop some popcorn, and enjoy your fleece blanket!

frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kids | teachmama.com

frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kids | teachmama.com

The second part of the party activities involved having the kids make super-awesome, sparkly Frozen bracelets.


Brace yourself. These were goooooorgeous.

frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kids | teachmama.com

frozen birthday party: best ideas for crafty kids | teachmama.com



[Read more…]

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines

keep kids busy on the sidelines teachmama.com

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keep kids busy on the sidelines  teachmama.com


Many families spend a good chunk of time bussing kids around town, from dance class to music, from soccer to t-ball.

And though it’s awesome that our kids are busy, burning steam, and having fun with their friends, all these activities often mean that siblings are in tow, trying to stay out of trouble on the sidelines.

If their little buddies are there, that’s one thing. But if they are stuck for an hour or more just hanging around, with no park or playmates, it’s tough.

Many of us know that sideline entertaining isn’t always the easiest thing, especially for busy and tired parents.

Sure, we can all hand our kids a cell phone, iPad, or tablet to keep our kids busy, but what to do if you want to keep kids busy but unplugged during their siblings’ activities?

What if we want our kids to (gasp!) be unplugged while their siblings are having their activity?  I have some ideas. Tried, tested, and true.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Creative Ways to Keep Kids Busy on the Sidelines:

When you’re heading out to practice or a game or the dance studio and you know you will have kids in tow, grab a bag and throw in a few essentials.

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines: teachmama.com

You always should have a blanket, a bag of snacks, and some paper and a few pencils or crayons. Always. With only paper and a pencil, you can play:

  • Tic-tac-toe: Mix it up by using letters, numbers, or simple pictures as your markers. So fun. And so old school but so great for early writing and thinking skills!
  • Guess the picture: One person draws a picture and the other person guesses what it is. Challenge yourselves by setting a timer or allowing only a handful of steps in drawing the picture.
  • Silent conversations: Super-simple conversations composed on paper, with no talking permitted. This game is great for quiet hallways during music lessons.

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines: teachmama.com

  • Strike it out: Fun math game that builds skills and requires no set-up or space. Critical thinking along with computation skills are practiced and kids have no idea!
  • Keep score: Teach your kiddos how to use tally marks by keeping track of each team’s score. Or keep track of the number of blue cars to red cars in the parking lot or the number of moms to dads on the sidelines.

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines: teachmama.com

Or grab these few items to make your sideline entertainment even more fun:

  • Melissa and Doug Sticker Collection – Fashion: The amount of hours Maddy and Cora have spent with this set is unbelievable.  They’ve made fast friends on the soccer sidelines with these sets; a few sticker sets, a big picnic blanket, and a bunch of kids make an hour long practice zip by.

creative ways to keep kids busy on sidelines: teachmama.com

  • Pinball Arcade – ON the GO Travel Activity: My kids love this. Yes, it’s a little loud with the bouncing ball and the snaps of the pinball handles, but with a background that can change and the math fun that can happen if you challenge your kids to keep score, Pinball Arcade is a winner.

The possibilities for sideline fun is endless, and really–unplugging isn’t as difficult as you may think!

What are your favorite ways to entertain your little loves while big sisters or brothers are at practice? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!

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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. Huge and happy thanks to Melissa & Doug for their willingness to work with bloggers in this way and for always creating awesome, meaningful products. 

Affiliate links are used in this post. 

baby shower decorations, treats, & games: 3 ways to get your kids to help

get kids involved baby shower treats, games, and decorations teachmama.com.png

I am blogging on behalf of Walmart.com, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Walmart’s.


get kids involved baby shower treats, games, and decorations  teachmama.com.png

My three kids were the first grandchildren on both sides of our family, so for five years, they were pretty much the stars of the show.  They had lots of doting aunts and uncles and grandparents. But no cousins.  Until now.

Five years after our first child was born, we have experienced a baby explosion of sorts: seven new babies have joined our extended family in the last four years.


That’s a lot of babies.

We are thankful, grateful, and blessed.

It also means that my kids, as the older cousins, have been able to help out with the planning, organizing, and hosting of baby showers. As Maddy, Owen, and Cora have become older and experienced new cousins arriving, having their hands on board to help throw baby shower parties has been a lot of fun.

However, Maddy and Cora have admittedly been more a part of the events, and Owen has enjoyed some serious ‘guy time’ with Dad and Pap during baby showers. I get it.

All in all, my kids have wholeheartedly loved to help with the super fun parts of baby showers: decorations, treats, and games.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Baby Shower Decorations, Treats, & Games– 3 Ways to Get Your Kids to Help:

baby shower decorations  get kids to help teachmama.com.png.png

1. Kids can help with decorations.   We have planned two baby boy showers and one baby girl shower, and each time, we’ve stayed with a monochromatic color scheme. Greens and blues for the boys, pinks and oranges for the girl.

Choosing a color scheme right from the start has helped us narrow down decorations and accessories.

baby shower decorations collage  teachmama.com.png

baby shower collage - teachmama.com 2

Any time you’re looking for ways kids can help with baby shower decorations, consider giving them easy, repetitive jobs.

Easy is good and repetitive is even better.

baby shower collage decorations | teachmama.com

Kids can:

  • Add flowers to vases
  • Puff up tissue paper pom-poms
  • Tie ribbons onto balloons
  • Sprinkle confetti on tables
  • Create welcome banners or flag buntings
  • Help arrange gifts on table and bring gifts to mom-to-be


baby shower treats  get kids to help teachmama.com.png

2.  Kids love to help with baby shower treats.  Though each of our showers has been slightly different—some were catered and some were not—we did throw one where we made the majority of the food.

Maddy and Cora love to help with the mixing of ingredients for dips like spinach or artichoke crab dip. They love dipping strawberries in chocolate or drizzling chocolate on pretzels.   They love adding candy to bowls (and sneaking a few along the way!).

baby shower treats collage  teachmama.com.png

Kids are expert sprinkle-sprinklers, and they’re great at adding toppers to cupcakes.   One thing we have often done for showers is ordered plain cupcakes from the local bakery and then decorated them ourselves with personalized toppers and sprinkles to match our color scheme.

Arranged on a simple cupcake treat towericon, they looked professional and fancy.

baby shower games  get kids to help teachmama.com.png

3.  Kids love to prepare and run baby shower games Only one of my sisters has approved baby shower games, so we kept it pretty simple for her.

We played ‘Baby Food Challenge’, where our baby shower guests had to look closely at ten different baby food jars and guess the food inside.  We simply used a white mailing sticker to cover the label on the jar and numbered the jars 1-10.

baby shower baby food game  teachmama.com

baby food game _ teachmama.com

Maddy and Cora were super psyched to help with this game. They picked out the jars of baby foods, and we tried to choose a range of colors, textures, and sizes. At the shower, they had a blast handing out our Baby Food Challenge sheets to guests and walking around with the tray of baby food jars for each person to see.

You can download Baby Food Challenge here for your own shower: baby food game _ teachmama.com

The winner of Baby Food Challenge was the person who guessed the most baby foods correctly. Easy, quick, and lots of fun!

Other great ideas for baby shower games are:

Or here’s one last one: Bring out BABY!

baby shower game  teachmama.com

baby WORD shower game _ teachmama.com

Though our baby shower planning days may be over, we are certainly looking forward to hearing other ways that families have included kids in the baby shower planning and partying!

What worked for you? How did you get your kids involved in this special event? Do let us know in the comments!

fyi: HUGE and happy thanks to my incredible, amazing, and crazy-crafty mom and sisters–Jenny, Mary, and Katie–each who helped do just about everything for all of the showers above and who threw me the world’s best shower ever–way back when. In most cases, my mom and sisters researched, planned, and organized the showers from start to finish; Maddy, Cora, and I just filled in as necessary and did what they told us. Thank you, girls! xoxoxo

I am blogging on behalf of Walmart.com and received compensation for my time, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Walmart’s. Shop online and save money to live better at http://www.walmart.com.