true holiday spirit notes for kids: remembering the meaning of the season

true holiday spirit notes for kids: remembering the meaning of the season

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

December is here. true holiday spirit notes for kids: remembering the meaning of the season

I can hardly believe it.

So this season I’m trying a little something different.

Rather than focus on the receiving part of the season, this year, I’m really trying to focus on the giving component. 

The being a good person component.

The remembering the holiday spirit component.

And I’m starting with an Advent Season challenge for my family: to try to incorporate the true holiday spirit into our every day of December.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • True Holiday Spirit Notes for Kids–Remembering the Meaning of the Season:

All month long.

http://teachmama.com/?attachment_id=19938

http://teachmama.com/?attachment_id=19938

We’ll open our Advent Activity Calendar in the morning like we have for the past few years, but at lunchtime, the kids will have a challenge.

A simple but meaningful challenge.

Twenty-five days of incorporating the true holiday spirit into our every day. I’m excited about it and think the kids are, too.

Though Owen is home sick with me today, I introduced the ‘challenge’ to Maddy, Owen, and Cora today at breakfast.

 

http://teachmama.com/?attachment_id=19938

 

I said, Okay, so you know that for the last few years we’ve done our Advent Activity Calendars–the one on the tree and our cool k-cup advent calendar from last year, right? 

This year, we’re doing something a little different. We’re going to continue to do our Advent Activities like we have in the past. That way we remember to fit in all of the fun things we love to do each holiday season. 

But we’re all going to try a new type of holiday Advent Activity too. A challenge. Just something super small that will help us remember the true meaning of the busy holiday season. 

http://teachmama.com/?attachment_id=19938

http://teachmama.com/?attachment_id=19938

We’ll talk about what we do each evening, but the cool thing about it is that it’s kind of a secret. Like today’s is ‘be extra nice to one person’. 

You’ll be extra nice to one person, but you won’t make a huge, weird deal about it. You’ll decide on who to be nice to, and you’ll do it. 

Maddy asked, Won’t some of our other friends feel left out if they’re not being treated extra nicely? 

http://teachmama.com/?attachment_id=19938

I said, No, not really. Because hopefully you’ll be nice to everyone–you’ll just be extra nice to someone else. 

And then we’ll share our challenge answers at home each night. Does that make sense? Kind of a secret thing that we’ll share as a family.

The kids got it. And they dug it.

 

Here’s our True Holiday Spirit Challenge sheet: true holiday spirit challenge notes teachmama.com

(If you decide to share, please share this post instead of the attachment page. I truly appreciate it!)

true holiday spirit lunchbox notes | teachmama.com

 

true holiday spirit challenge notes teachmama.com

I created the challenge to work as lunchbox notes because my kids love them and look forward to them. I wanted the notes to be small enough that they could read them inside their lunchbox, and I wanted there to be one note for each day of Advent, one for each day of the holiday season.

The notes are numbered–very lightly–from 1-25. And they include things like:

  • be extra inclusive at recess;
  • say ‘thank you’ to someone–and mean it;
  • ask a quiet classmate how he or she is doing;
  • hold the door for someone today;
  • and more.

So we’ll see how it goes.

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

advent activity calendar: fun, festive family holiday time

advent activity calendar teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

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

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

advent activity calendar: fun, festive family holiday time

Pick out our Christmas tree and decorate it!

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

advent activity calendar

advent activity calendar

advent activity calendar

advent activity calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

advent activity calendar | teachmama.com
advent activity calendar 2014

 

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

 

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

 

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

support small business saturday: teachmama faves

small business saturday | teachmama.com

I have always been a huge fan of small businesses, supporting them whenever I possibly can.small business saturday | teachmama.com

It’s a person’s dream. It’s a risk. It’s hard. And often, these smaller businesses are hidden gems.

Really.

Friends, if you are able, it’s so worth heading into your neighborhood Mom & Pop shop to support them during this time of the year.

There’s nothing like walking into a store with your kids and talking to them about all that goes into opening your own toy store or jewelry store or yarn shop or pet store–how rewarding and challenging it can be.

As parents, we have to show our kids that anything is within their reach.

And sure, we all want rockstar deals, but deals are seriously everywhere–even in small businesses.

And sure, we are crazy busy and sometimes it’s easier to order online from the comfort of our homes

So do it.

There are tons of small online business, so this Saturday check ‘em out give em a chance.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Support Small Business Saturday– For Your Kids:

Over the years, Etsy has been one of my go-to’s for finding sweet and meaningful gifts, and I’ve come across a bunch of small businesses that I definitely want to share.

Etsy is a super place to start when you have a talent or totally rock a craft; we want our kids to know that if they have talents, they can follow them and even make money from them.

Start with Etsy.

support small business saturday--for your kids

Love To Create Stamps

I am a huge fan of the self-inking return address stamp.

I grabbed the return address label stamp that I use all of the time, modeled after the one below, from Todd of Love To Create Stamps.

small business saturday | teachmama.com

The cool thing? He’s giving teachmama.com readers a 15% discount to his shop. Use LOVETOSAVE .

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support small business saturday | teachmama faves

Studio Jewel, by The Bead Girl

Years and years ago I met Lisa at a blog conference, and immediately I fell for her simple, cool designs.

She worked with me to create my favorite initial necklace for my kids. I still wear it often and always I get complements on it when I do.

Check out her stacking mothers bangle bracelets. Love, love, love them.

support small business saturday--start here

Lisa is offering a 20% discount to teachmama.com readers with the code: TEACHMAMA20

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small business saturday | teachmama.com

Little Lady Bug Press | Christy Allison design

I have dreamed of having a holiday return address stamp for years, and this year? Well I treated myself to one like the one above. I literally danced around the kitchen when it arrived last week, in a sweet little burlap drawstring bag and looking exactly how I wanted it to. Woot!

Cannot wait to get those cards started this year!

small business saturday | teachmama.com

 

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small business saturday | teachmama.com

Cookin Cute:

I love Liz’s designs. I worked with cookincute to design the most beautiful apron for Maddy ever. I absolutely love it.

I knew what I wanted but didn’t see it in her shop.

So via email, we found a great pattern, the perfect color, and Maddy reaches for this apron any time she’s baking or cooking in the kitchen.  She also threw in a matching apron for her American Girl doll! Super fun.

 

small business saturday | teachmama

 

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small business saturday | teachmama.com

Uniquely Ordinary 

Last year, when Cora was on a ‘personalization’ kick, I ordered a bunch from this store.

Cindi created fabulous plastic straw cup with ‘Cora’ on it from this shop, and she loves it.   All I explained was, ‘I have a 5 yo girl who loves all girly things: hearts, stars, jewels, flowers.  If you could do it in pinks and maybe some black and white to up the cool factor, that’d be awesome. And the 16 oz tumbler we received was perfecto!

small business saturday | teachmama.com

 

 

small business saturday | teachmama.com

 

I also ordered a super cute personalized cake carrier for Maddy from this shop, and every time we use it, Maddy smiles.  This isn’t the one; we ordered a standard, rectangular cake saver that we love.

The cool thing? Cindi’s giving teachmama.com readers a 10% discount to her shop through the end of January. Use the code: blogger. Woot!

 

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small business saturday | teachmama.com

saffron and saege

Loraleigh creates the most fun pieces of jewelry—necklaces with anything you want, including sweet starfish, initials, animals, and more.

I ordered a gold hashtag necklace for myself this summer. I love it so much that I ordered one for my sister, who helps me so much with work. For anyone—blogger, virtual assistant, or hashtag maven, these are perfect and fun.

I love, love the prices here and variety–I think they’re great for just about anyone but know that Maddy and Cora would love anything from this shop!

small business saturday | teachmama.com

 

 

small business saturday | teachmama.com

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small business saturday | teachmama.com

Home of Gem

I love this shop’s simplicity and beauty–and I love the fact that Gem brings ‘old junk back to life’.  Every piece has a story, which is so awesome and fun.

All of the items here are completely unique, which I think always make super gifts and conversation pieces. Great gifts for weddings, anniversaries, and holidays. Birthdays and any day. Indoors and outdoors.

small business saturday | teachmama.com

small business saturday | teachmama.com

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small business saturday | teachmama.com

 

Baby Elephant

Need an adorable knit hat for your tiny ones? My sister turned me on to this shop which is run by one of my high school friends.

Colleen is one of the coolest gals I know. You will die for any of the things in her shop. The neat thing is that I vividly remember her mom knitting when we were young.  Love it.

small business saturday | teachmama.com

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small business saturday | teachmama.com

 

My sister is in love with Greyson + Cole for baby moccasins:

I want to eat my niece Ruby’s little legs. Especially with these teeny shoes.

small business saturday | greyson and cole small business saturday | teachmama.com

 

 

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And she also loves Sweet Lucy Jack for baby moccasins and headbands and cute hats:

 

small business saturday | teachmama.com

 

sweet lucy  teachmama.com

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What is your favorite small business? I’d love to hear it!

Many thanks for supporting these great businesses!

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

 

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

the only black friday deals you need for kids and family

the only black friday deals you need for kids and family

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

Friends.the only black friday deals you need for kids and family

I’m not sure if you’re a wild and crazy Black Friday shopper or not, but in case you are, happy holidays!

Here are a few biggie sales that I’m taking advantage of and that you could, too, so that you are less stressed, closer to being finished with your gift-buying, and securing some pretty decent deals this holiday.

Just a few.

A few deals that will help you and will help me.

Bam.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • The ONLY Black Friday Deals You Need for Kids and Families:

These are the only deals you really need to grab.

So grab them, and then eat all the turkey leftovers your little heart desires.

For kids:

Kiwi Crate, Kiwi Crate Black Friday Offer 
Doodle Crate >>

LOOK at the deals I just scored:

kiwi crate DEALS teachmama.com

 

Little Passports, Little Passports USA Edition: 1 year at $10.95/month

Little Passports, Little Passports World Edition: 1 year at $10.95/month

 

ISeeMe.com, Buy 3 Save $15 and get FREE SHIPPING! Use Code BUY3

ISeeMe.com, Black Friday Offers – Buy 2 Save $10. Use code BUY2

ISeeMe.com, Black Friday Offers – Buy 1 Save $5. Use code BUY1

My Night Before Christmas from ISeeMe

ISEEME personalized Children's Books
 

 The Land of Nod, Nod Chair: Originally $129 Now Only $99

The Land of Nod, Save $56 on The Land of Nod’s High Kids Adjustable Activity Table with Bins and Paper Roller!

The Land of Nod, design for kids and people that used to be kids
 

 

For tweens:

Zazzle, Up to 60% off on Zazzle.com – Use Code: ZWEEKOFDEALS

Customize iPhone cases, puzzles, bags, totes, waterbottles, and more.

Up to 60% off on Zazzle.com

For you (or me):

 

 Craftsy, Pre-Black Friday Sale: Enjoy Big Savings on Yarn, Fabric & Kits

thread art online quilting class at craftsy.com
 

Love With Food, Black Friday Sale
 

Mod Cloth, NEW arrivals at 50% off!
ModCloth
 

Snow Day Welcome Box Offer

For fun:

 Fanatics, Happy Fans-Giving Sale – 25% off plus free shipping on orders over $50

Huge Black Friday Savings at Fanatics.com
 

Cents of Style, Colored Tights $7.98 – 2 Pack Tights $5.58 & FREE SHIPPING

 

Do you subscribe to teachmama.com via email or newsletter?

You should! Often we do have fun perks for our subscribers like free printables and goodies.

subscriber thank you long newsletter | teachmama.com

This month? We’re trying something different: an only-for-teachmama.com-readers curated page full of super-special holiday deals page. 

NO joke.   Subscribe.  Because I love ya.  Subscribe to teachmama.com now

 

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

 

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

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate brands | craft, experiment, and thinking subscription gifts for kids that they will totally love | gift ideas for kids

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

monthly craft gift for kids  kiwi crate  teachmama.comOften people ask me for cool gift ideas for holidays and birthdays, and though I often immediately share with them my holiday gift guide (because really, it works for any time of the year!).

But when I’m away from the computer and someone asks for a quick idea for a birthday or holiday for a child, I often recommend Kiwi Crate.

Kiwi Crate is a monthly subscription gift for kids. Crafts, making, and a whole lot of cool. 

And it’s not just for girls, and it’s not just for the teenies.

It’s for all kids.

Which is why it rocks.

And right now they have a pretty sweet Kiwi Crate Black Friday Sale going on that you totes want to jump on.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Monthy Craft Gift for Kids–Kiwi Crate:

Kiwi Crate sends monthly crafts and cool, hands-on activities to kids.

 

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

 

Products include Koala Crate (ages 3-4 years), Kiwi Crate (4-8years), Tinker Crate (9-14 years), and Doodle Crate (9-16+ years).

Subscription Services like these are SUPER awesome gifts because not only do kids love getting mail, they love to have everything–every, single thing–they need to complete a project from start to finish in one happy little kit.

We’re shhhhhhhh ordering Kiwi Crate for our nephew this year, and I’m sure he will totally love it.

 

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

Though Cora is 7, she’ll turn 8 in March, so she could really love Kiwi Crate. If you’re not sure what to do, consider starting with a 6 month subscription and then re-evaluate after that time whether your child is a good fit for Kiwi Crate or wants to move up to the Doodle Crate or Tinker Crate.

I think we’ll end up going with Doodle Crate for Cora and Tinker Crate for Maddy and Owen. 

We’ve had several boxes to try out over the years from the good folks at Kiwi Crate, but we’ve never actually had it where one of my kids could actually, truly look forward to receiving it each month.

That? I think they’d love.

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate

 

Especially during this time when all kids seem to want to do is be ‘plugged in’ to electronic devices, I think Doodle Crate or Tinker Crate would be great for kids Maddy and Owen’s ages, too.

These aren’t just quickie little junk projects that kids create; each set is full of hands-on, exciting, and engaging experiments or crafts. Cool things that kids will really enjoy. Several of my friends have kids who’ve used these sets, and they love them.

Check out the comparison of the Kiwi Crate Brands

monthly craft gift for kids: kiwi crate | teachmama.com

 

Doodle Crate (9- 16+) is focused on more DIY art projects.  Maddy would totally go for this one.

Tinker Crate (9-14 +) is focused on providing hands-on experiments each month.  Owen would love this, but I know Maddy and Cora would, too.

In order to keep some level of sanity in our house this year, I’m going to go with Tinker Crate for Owen so that Maddy can have Doodle Crate and Cora can have Kiwi Crate.

I cannot wait to see how it goes. And really? I’m almost 99% positive it’ll be a serious win.

 

And? Check out some super-rockstar deals for you for this holiday season:

  • Exclusive Kiwi Crate Black Friday Sale!
    • Starting today until 12/1/14, save 60% on your 1st month subscription to Kiwi Crate PLUS free shipping with code HOLIDAY60 at checkout.

 

Koala Crate >>
 

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

 

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

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers, School of Religion Teachers, & Christian preschool teachers

post contains affiliate links

 

 

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

My kids have gone to SOR (School of Religion for our church and which we grew up calling CCD), for years now.

Every single week since Kindergarten, they’ve spent an hour with good people who take the time out of their lives to teach my kids what many other kids learn in Sunday School.

I’m truly thankful for these great people because I know it’s hard enough for me to teach Children’s Liturgy with a group of women on a rotating basis.

It would be a lot more work to teach a weekly religion class–that I know for sure.

But what I have just come to realize is that every year, we tend to think of those rockstar teachers last on the gift list.

I found a few things that I think our CCD, or SOR teachers will really, truly, love, and I have my friends at DaySpring to thank for making simple, sweet, and affordable products.

DaySpring has great deals for you that you will not want to miss, and honestly, if you aren’t familiar with DaySpring, you want to be.

Anything in their selection would be appreciated by Sunday School teachers, CCD teachers, or anyone you know who works in your church. Really pretty pieces.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Gifts for Sunday School Teachers or CCD Teachers:

Everything at DaySpring is really beautiful, but this year, I went with these products:

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers

  • Lord Bless You 3″ Cross Keepsake Box: Originally $12.99, I got three of these for $3.99. I love the saying on the side, The Lord bless you and keep you.  Lined with felt, I think this will be an appreciated gift for the kids’ teachers.

 

 

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers

  • Jesus is the Gift, metal tray: 7″ x 7″, I think this little tray, with ‘Jesus is the gift’ engraved on it, will be perfect for small wrapped candy or jewelry. I’m betting the teachers will love it.  Originally $14.99, I grabbed three of these for $5.99 each.

 

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers

 

I also got a few extra things while on the site. I have to be honest.

I’m not sharing who they are for–I can’t guarantee who is reading this post and who’s not. . . but I will say that I got them at a great deal and I absolutely love both sets.

 

gifts for sunday school teachersI went with the Redeemed Grace Cuff, the Redeemed Everything Beautiful Earrings, the Redeemed Treasured Fashion Bracelet, and the Redeemed Grace Fashion Earrings.

All of these items were on Early Black Friday specials, so the prices were super-slashed. I couldn’t pass them up.

I know that everyone who is on the receiving end will love them.

 

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

 

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy. 

our favorite thanksgiving printables for BIG kids!

our favorite thanksgiving printables for BIG kids

our favorite thanksgiving printables for BIG kids!

This week is the big week for us–lots of travel, lots of family, lots of friends, and lots of food!

Officially, the fun winter holiday season is upon us, and from here until January 2nd, it’s a wild ride.

But often that wild ride means that our kids tend to be kicked off of their normal schedules.

They get tired.

We get tired.

They get cranky.

We get cranky.

And they need some down time.

We need some down time.

So we’ve gathered a few of our favorite Thanksgiving printables–ones we are printing out and bringing to Thanksgiving meals–so that the kids have some unplugged down time.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Our Favorite Thanksgiving Printables–for BIG Kids:

If you need some conversation starters for the dinner table, I like these from Written Reality.   Especially if it tends to be quiet at your holiday, these may be fun for the family. And hey–even if it’s loud at your house, these might work toward giving everyone a chance to be heard.

As for printables, my kids still love a good, ole fashioned puzzle every now and again:

Word searches still get kids’ brains moving a bit:

And BINGO! Big kids still dig bingo:

Even though my kids are getting older, they still love to sit down with a box of crayons and color every once in a while:

I think these are super cute for the big kids to put on a little Thanksgiving finger-puppet show for the little kids: 

And I’ll take it.

Happy, happy, happy Thanksgiving and safe travels, friends!

 

Want to stay on top of all of our rockin Thanksgiving ideas for kids and families? Follow our pinterest board:

thanksgiving pinterest board

 

 

Get the bigger kids involved, too, with some of the food prep!

They’ll love to help arrange this Thanksgiving veggie turkey:

thanksgiving veggie turkey

family holiday cards: how to get the kids involved

family holiday cards: how to get the kids involved | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links
get kids involved in choosing holiday cards | teachmama.com

 

This year, ordering family holiday cards was totally different for us.

This year, our family agreed on the photos.

Each and every one.

And this year, we agreed on the card.

We agreed on the message, and we agreed on the language.

From start to finish, ordering holiday cards was a family affair, and this year, every single one of us was happy.

Mom and Dad were happy.

My tween was happy.

My third and second grader were happy.

No tears. Only a happy family, all five of us.

Thank goodness we were all happy, because last year was a total nightmare.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Family Holiday Cards–How to Get Kids Involved:

Last year, we sent out holiday cards that I loved.

I mean, I loved them. I loved the photos, I loved the way they were arranged, and I loved how everything looked once they were finished.

I thought they looked really great.

family holiday cards: how to get the kids involved

The photos were natural–the kids were outside in our yard, splashing and playing on a sunny-rainy-rainbow day, and they looked beautiful.

And my husband thought so too.

But my kids? Not so much.

Mom. These are awful.

I can’t believe you would choose these pictures. We look crazy.

Moooooom! I look like a baby. I am so embarrassed.

These are the worst photos ever, and I can’t believe we’re sending them to all of our friends and family.

Right. Three out of five people in our family–over half of us–didn’t dig them. At all.

And though I felt awful, they were already ordered. And they had already arrived at our house.

So I apologized sincerely and promised them that next year would be different. That I’d never, ever order photo cards without a family vote and that they would definitely have a say next year if I could just have their blessing to send them out this year.

That was the deal.

So here we are.

This year was different, from start to finish.

family holiday cards: how to get the kids involved

 

Here’s how this year was different:

1. We began by choosing a few holiday card designs from four different styles.  The idea is that by trying a few different styles, you’re introducing a variety of ideas to your kids.

I know that there are some styles that my husband would absolutely not entertain. So I kept our styles simple, choosing mostly from

The styles we tried were

family holiday cards: how to get the kids involved

 

2.  Upload 3-10 agreed-upon photos to the holiday card website. 

Do whatever is easiest: save a handful of photos to your desktop, create a special ‘holiday card’ folder, or flag a few dozen photos in your photo program on your computer.

Whatever you decide, you want to narrow down the photos to about 3-10 that everyone in your family is okay including in the holiday photos.

Then upload those photos to the website you choose.

 

family holiday photos  teachmama.com

3. Choose four holiday card designs

Save each design as you go, and title the designs ‘holiday cards 2014 1, holiday cards 2014 2, holiday cards 2014 3, and holiday cards 2014 4.

And then when you have saved four designs, click on ‘compare designs’. Then you will be able to see each design on the screen. This makes discussion about the designs much easier.

 

family holiday photos  teachmama.com

4. Take a silent family vote.

We numbered ours clockwise from 1-4, and we each wrote down the number of our choice on a piece of paper.

Then we tallied the votes.

Because Owen admitted that when he wrote down ‘1’ he really meant ‘2’, we had a vote that worked: 3:2. It was close, but we talked through the decision and figured out a way to make it work for all of us.

 

family holiday photos  teachmama.com

 

 5.  Make final adjustments in layout and language. 

Here’s where you make the card work for everyone. We did some adjusting with ours, in both layout and language.

And finally, we found something that worked for all of us.

 

Super-duper important: before you order, remember to apply. Those. Coupons.

Right now, they’ve got a few seriously good holiday card deals going on.

Try:

Tiny Prints Cyber Monday
Really, remember that I shared a ton of coupons for photo books on our family photo book post, and many of those same companies sell rockstar holiday cards, too.

When you subscribe to teachmama.com via email or newsletter, you get access to some rockstar, super-special holiday deals. Check it out!

And that’s it.

When the photos arrive, we’ll create our family assembly line of addressing, stuffing, stamping, and sealing the cards–one of our favorite holiday traditions!  On the night of doing holiday cards, we make hot chocolate, put our pj’s on, and chat together while we prepare our cards.

Bringing out the old boxes of holiday cards is super-fun, too!

The more simple we can make the holidays, the better. . . and the more family time and simple gift-giving, the best!
Want a few more holiday-inspired learning ideas? Check out: 

 

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy. 

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

post contains affiliate links

 

 

busy mom trick for making yearly photo books | teachmama.com

Growing up, I loved more than anything looking at our family’s photo albums, listening to stories and recalling vacations, events, and milestones.

I vowed at a very young age that I was going to do the same for my own kids.

But man.

Maaaaaan.

Between school, work, activities, and events, I’ve found it’s really, really difficult to do anything in terms of chronicling my kids’ lives much beyond uploading photos to Facebook now and again.  

It’s awful.

And embarrassing.

But it’s probably more the norm than I think, right?

And poor Cora?  Typical third child blank baby book. At least Owen has a few pictures and that one lock of baby hair taped to the inside cover.

So here it is. I have a way that makes keeping track of things easier for me and awesome for my family. One busy mom trick that will make you wanna dance.

Kind of.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Family Photo Books–Easy, Quick, and Affordable for Super-Busy Moms:

For me, it’s all about maintaining.

So my one superstar trick is this: start NOW for next year. And use the folders in your photo program. busy mom trick for making yearly photo books | teachmama.com

Here’s what I mean:

Create a folder called ‘family snapshot 2014′ and then month by month as you upload photos, drag one or two photos from each event into the folder. 

And then, around holiday time, when awesome photo services start rolling out awesome deals, all you have to do is upload the entire folder to the site, let the photos auto-populate in a photo book, and order it.

You’re finished.family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

 

Remember, even if you’re super far behind, be kind to yourself.  Unless we take an entire weekend to catch up on something like this, you’ll never get totally caught up. Be good with it.

  • So create a folder for this year–no matter what year you’re in–and then go back to the beginning of that year and start dragging photos over to the folder. Set a timer. Give yourself 30 minutes.
  • And upload that folder to the site.
  • Let the photos auto propagate. That means, let the photos auto-arrange into a book.  It’ll be fine. Let. It. Go. Let it gooooooo.
  • Make a few changes–like the covers–and then add maybe one or two captions.  Repeat after me: all you need are the photos. It’s fine.
  • Then order it.
  • Order one for each set of grandparents. They’d appreciate it.
  • And bam. You’re a star.

(Or you will be one when they open it and love you for it.)

 

Tiny Prints Black Friday
 

I try to have one book for the kids to open at Christmas full of the previous year’s events. So each year kind of starts around holiday time from the last year and goes through about early fall or Thanksgiving, depending on when I get my act together.

It’s all good. They don’t have to be totally perfect and flawless. Nothing really is, anyway.

 

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms
family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms
 

It honestly takes all of one hour–max–and I mean maximum if you keep it up.

Sure, you may want to run through the folder first and delete any photos that you don’t want included, but that’s easy. Super easy.

And do the same for all of your other events, too.  Family goes to Disney? Create a folder. Drag all of the awesome photos into the folder, and then it’s ready for a photo book come holiday season.

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

 

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

 

Do the same for the beach, a house renovation, a special event, fundraiser, or school event.

I’ve created photo books for just about everything I can over the past few years, and not only do they make rockstar fabulous gifts, they help to chronicle our family’s little life. They love it, and I love it.

We keep all of the photo books under our coffee table in the living room, and we actually look at them. They’re pulled out, opened, and enjoyed more often than not. I love it. And the great thing is that if something happens to them, they’re all stored in one happy cloud on the site that I purchased them from, ready for a re-order if need be.

 

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

 

family photo books: easy, quick, and affordable for super-busy moms

 

Here are some super awesome deals that I’m taking advantage of and you can, too:

 

Tiny Prints - Holiday Offer
 

Shutterfly Photo Books 300x600

 

Shop Personalized Holiday Cards
Though I’m not totally, 100% caught up with chronicling my kids’ lives, I have figured out that this trick helps me to kind of maintain memories for my family.

One super-simple way that, thanks to modern technology and some great websites and coupons, has made it easy, quick, and affordable for me to create family photo books.

And you can do it, too.

What works for you? I’d love to know how you keep track of photos for your family! 

 

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’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

must-have gifts for kids (and families!): 2014

must-have gifts for kids (and families!): teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

must have gifts for kids and families | teachmama.com

 

Friends! It’s only the second week of November but already I’ve received two dozen emails from you asking for my gift picks for this holiday season.

What should you get for your preschool nephew?

What does your second grader absolutely need this year?

What will your tween totally love you forever if she receives?

How about your babysitter, your mother-in-law, or your sisters?

Right! I love this time of the year, and I love gift-giving.

And I’m so flattered you care about what I think.  I am so excited to share!

I’m trying and have finally assembled it all: the must-have gifts for kids and families 2014.

And though I usually can shove all of our faves into one happy post, this year? Not so much.

So yes–here are the must-have gifts for kids and families. Our holiday picks.

But we’ve also got our Must-Have Gifts that Give Back and Must-Have Books as Gifts posts, too.

So hold onto your seats.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Must-Have Gifts for Kids (and Families!)–2014:

must-have gifts for kids and families BABIES 2014

For our teeniest teenies:  (babies – first year)

  • Match & Build Soft Blocks by Melissa & Doug K’s Kids: Soft blocks with patterns, numbers, letters, and more.  Perfect for any new baby’s first holiday.

best gifts for kids family 2 to 4 | teachmama.com

For the little guys:  (ages 2-4)

  • Deluxe Pounding Bench by Melissa & Doug:  My sisters have been eyeing this set for their boys for a while now. I know that my nephews will love this.
  • Cool Rain gear: I loved having super cute rain boots, raincoats, and umbrellas for Maddy, Owen, and Cora when they were tiny.  Kidorable has sweet patterns for little ones, like the lady bugs, frogs, and fire trucks. [Use coupon code UMBFR and add a FREE umbrella to your $20.00 purchase. You need over $20 without umbrella cost. YAY!]
  • Personalized Cozy Chair: Every kiddo in my family gets his or her own personalized reading chair when they turn two. Really. And honestly, the kids love ‘their’ chair so much that often they become their ‘go-to’ cozy spot for reading, relaxing, and playing.  You don’t have to go crazy here, but you can if you’d like. Check out these chairs that I adore from The Land of Nod; they start at $99, and they’re the perfect holiday gift!
  • Personalized Story Books: We have had personalized story books for our kids for as long as I can remember. Every kiddo needs to feel like he or she is the star, and seeing a first name in print will do the trick! Love these from Frecklebox.
  • Spot-It: Super little game for kiddos with super-sharp eyes, we have had Spot-It for years and still pull it out often to play. Love. This. Game.
  • Play-Doh Fun Factory Deluxe: All kids need Play-Doh, and all kids need a play center where they can make Play-Doh spaghetti and snakes.
  • Role Play Sets: I’ve gone on and on about the benefits of pretend play, even as recently as this fall. Cora loved the Magician Role Play set, and she had a blast entertaining her pals on the soccer sidelines. I highly recommend any of the Melissa & Doug role play sets for little ones; they’re perfect for getting those imaginations going strong!

 

 

best gifts for kids and families 5 to 7 | teachmama.com

For the bigger guys:  (ages 5-7)

  • Order’s Up! Diner Play Set or School Time! Play Set: We had a chance to try both of these sets this year, and they are totally and completely adore them both. Both sets are like little treasure boxes of fun. Everything that kids need to play a full game of diner–from cooking to serving and eating the goodies–and everything kids need to play school–from lesson planning to learning to grade reporting–is included.
  • National Geographic 24 in 1 Space:  There’s a Dinosaur set with this collection, too, and both are awesome. Kids build things that actually light up, and each set has a ton of different objects to build, so kids aren’t limited to a once-and-done thing.
  • Personalized Bean Bag Chair: Though my kids’ aren’t personalized (poor kids!) they do have beanbag chairs and love them. Owen plops down on his while playing video games, and everyone uses the bean bag chair in our book nook.
  • PlusPlus Building Blocks: These? So cool. Picture tiny little plus signs made out of plastic. They come in a zillion colors, and kids simply use them to build 2D or 3D objects. Very cool. Popular in Denmark, I think, but may be tricky for little ones who aren’t super savvy with their fine motor skills.
  • Deluxe Roominate: I actually met the gals behind this product at both Toy Fair and at a Radio Shack event this summer, and honestly? They’re awesome–the inventors and the products. Created by two women, an electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer, who wanted better toys for girls, this whole line is geared toward bringing girls into engineering. The Roominate products are a blend of hands-on building and circuits. So totally awesome.

best gifts for kids and family 8 to 11 | teachmama.com

For the biggest guys and gals: (ages 8-11)

  • GoldieBlox and the Builder’s Survival Kit: We’ve written about our love of GoldieBlox, but I seriously continue to share the GoldieBlox love to anyone who will listen. We love this set, and it’s a super gift for our tween girls.
  • littleBits Electronics Kits: I was introduced to these kits at a Radio Shack event our family attended this summer, and my kids absolutely were in awe of them, as were my husband and I. There are several options here, but each one of the kits involves kids actually playing with light, sound, sensors, and energy–without the hazard of soldering.  Young ‘makers’ could do a ton with the Base Kit, but I’d probably think about getting the littleBits Electronics Deluxe Kit for all three kids to share.
  • Zing Bow and Arrow Set: Owen received two of these sets for his August birthday and loves them. He and the neighborhood kids play with them for hours. The only problem is that they come only with three arrows.  For Christmas, we’re getting Owen the target and extra arrows.
  • Gravity Maze: My kids have totally loved playing with this new game from ThinkFun that is literally a marble run and logic puzzle all in one. So cool.
  • Skallops: From E & M Labs, these are crazy little wood clips that actually hold playing cards together so that you can build structures with playing cards. Remember Marcia and Greg’s card tower from way back when? Our lucky kids have it so easy. No dangling bracelet will knock this tower down!
  • Crayola Virtual Design Pro-Fashion Set: This would be a huge hit for Maddy and Cora, I know. I saw it at Toy Fair this year, and I was in awe of how absolutely awesome it was. Combines traditional coloring with graphic design, and then it all comes to life in an app. Sounds involved, but it’s not. Simple and so cool.

 

best gifts for kids and family  stockings  teachmama.com

For stockings:

  • Fandango Gift Cards: Going to the movies is such fun for kids, but it does get expensive after you add it all up. We’re huge Fandango fans over here, so gift cards will definitely be stocking stuffers for my three, okay, Santa?
  • Amazon Gift Cards: My kids are becoming savvy shoppers, so Amazon gift cards are a big win for them, since they can find just about anything their little hearts desire over there.  Even Aero for Maddy, Game Stop for Owen, and Charming Charlie for Cora would be a huge win.
  • Tenzie: It’s a fast frenzie. . . it’s TENZIE! One of our most favorite summertime games, Tenzie is a dice game. With a million, trillion options for play.   Pair it with the 77 Ways to Play Tenzie book, and it’s a perfectly awesome game for kids of all ages.
  • Word-A-Round: Love this game from ThinkFun. Word-A-Round is a little tricky, but basically it’s words in a circle and you have to figure out what the word is. Fun for everyone. It’s my personal fave because (cough) it’s the only game I’m able to beat Owen in at this point.
  • Create super-cute custom bracelets, necklaces, and rings for your kids at My Bling Place: LOVE these and they’re surprisingly affordable!
  • Tooth brushes: Not sure why, but we always had tooth brushes in our stockings. And so do my kids.

For families:

  • Trampoline: I can barely believe I’m sharing this, but our kids have begged and pleaded for a trampoline in our back yard for so many years, that I finally think we might cave. I think we might cave. I know they’d love it. But I’m not sure I will be able to handle it.   The Skywalker 15 ft round trampoline comes with very high reviews, as does the much smaller Skywalker 8 ft round trampoline. I secretly with my kids were small enough to fit the Little Tykes 3 ft trampoline, but that one would be a better match for our tiny nephews.
  • Tumble Trak: My kids have wanted a mat like this–one they can practice their flips on–for months and months. It is a super gift for kids in gym, cheer, or tumble classes!
  • Subscription Services:
    • Kiwi Crate sends monthly crafts and cool, hands-on activities to kids. Packages include Koala Crate (ages 3-4 years), Kiwi Crate (4-8 years), Tinker Crate (9-14 years), and Doodle Crate (9-16+ years). Subscription Services like these are SUPER awesome gifts because kids are thinking, moving, and creating. They love these.
  • Little Passports is another fun subscription service, and this one focuses more on teaching kids about the world around them. Early Explorers (ages 3-5 years), World Edition, (5-10 years), and USA Edition, (7-12 years) has something for just about every kid on your list!
  • Playstation 4 Destiny Bundle or XBox OneOur kids have played our Wii long and hard for the past five years. Five years. So we’re thinking it’s time to move on since at this point there are no new games being made for the Wii. I’m keeping my eyes open for a good deal on the Playstation 4 or an Xbox One.  Any advice? I’d love to hear it!

That’s not even it.  I’m on such a roll and I know there are like a million awesome things that I’m forgetting.

 

Want a few rockstar deals on some of these products and more?

subscriber thank you long newsletter | teachmama.com

 Subscribe to teachmama.com and have access to our super-special holiday deals page. So fun.

 

Also check out: 

gifts that give back  teachmama.com

 

must have book gifts for the whole family  teachmama.com

 

Need a bit more inspiration?

Check out our gift guides of years past. Though the dates have changed, the suggestions are still some of our faves.

Click on the picture for the link:

teach mama gift guide 2013

 

gift guide teach mama

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

 

 

 

fyi: We did receive some of these products from companies to try, but the large majority were purchased (or will be purchased!) by our family on our own dime.  I do work with some of the companies above, but I also work with a ton more that I didn’t mention.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experiences as a parent and educator. I’m sharing the best of the best here–our faves.

 

must have gifts for kids and family teachmama.com 2

 

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’s16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

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