organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

organize playspaces 4 steps to awesome teachmama.com

Friends.

I’m  hoping that you’re still doing a rockstar job taking control your three things this month because, sweet mercy–you can manage to organize three things.

Whatever it is that has been bugging you, whatever it is that causes you the most stress or anxiety, start there.

That sock drawer? The coat closet? The laundry room? You can do it.

This is the year, friends. We’re taking control of our life and our time, and we are living focused.

Need the whole deal? Check out the get yourself organized post as a refresher.

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

I do understand that often it’s overwhelming if you choose something big to organize.  We often don’t know where to start or what to do after we get started. Or sometimes we just get sick of doing it in the middle and want to quit (I do, at least).

Lucky for us, I have recently joined forces with the amazing Rachel from Rachel and Company, and we have some really cool projects in the works.

For real.

Like cool ways to help you and your family get organized–and stay organized.

Like cool things just for your tween. Or just for your kids. Or just to help you organize some super-tricky parts of your life.

Can’t wait.

Until then, I have Rachel sharing some awesome tips for organizing play spaces over here for us today.

You’ll love her.

And you’ll totally love the Organizing Play Spaces Printable we’ve created.  (Scroll on down–you’ll find the link!)

Here’s the skinny. . .

Organizing Play Spaces–4 Steps to Awesome and Tips Every Parent Needs: 

Organizing Play Spaces, by Rachel Rosenthal

The holidays are over but are the new toys, games and books your kids got for the holidays taking over your home?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone! They’re taking over my home too and I do this for a living.

Now that everyone is back in school and we’re all back in somewhat of a routine, it’s time to stop tripping over that new toy fire engine when you get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. It’s also time to finally organize all this new stuff!

So, what to do?

To start, find a designated “play space” to keep everything organized, or as you know, the toys and games will take over your home.

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needsorganizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

Even if you don’t have an entire room to devote to “play”, creating a space in the corner of another room can really help contain the clutter in one area (or at least give you a starting point!).

Without a place to put something, we can’t expect our little ones–or even ourselves–to have an organized play space. And while as moms we are prone to taking on all the organizing ourselves, I am giving you permission to stop doing it all yourself.

Depending on the age of your children, I say, get them involved.

There are age-appropriate organizing tasks that your children can do, and now is the time to empower them to be involved in living an organized life.

Things might not be “perfect” or the way you want them, but that isn’t the point. We want to empower our children and ourselves in creating a space truly conducive to play.

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

organize play spaces teachmama.com 3

Below are some tips on organizing your play space that even your youngest kids can help with!

  • Put all small items like doll accessories, toy cars and even game pieces in labeled containers without a lid. This keeps similar items together and makes for easier play and clean up. Adding a label (a picture or words) helps little ones participate with the organizing.
  • Don’t try to organize your entire play space at once. Choose one category of items, like dress up clothes or board games and focus on just that before moving on. Our printable on organizing your kids can help. It lists out some of the top items that need to be organized in a play area and gives just a few easy steps for paring down what you have and getting an organizing system into place.
  • Have a “hide the clutter” basket. Keep a large empty basket or container in your play area. This can be used two ways. Just make sure that you set a time limit on how long items can stay in this basket. We recommend no more than one week.

1. A quick hide all:  if you need to get things off the floor in a flash (think unannounced guests).

2. An easy organizer:  Whether it’s you or your kids who are reorganizing the play area at the end of play time, fill the container with everything that is left out, then carry it with you to put the items away where they belong.

_____________________________

Rachel Rosenthal of Rachel and Company is an organizing extraordinaire.  Rachel uses creativity, style and a little elbow grease to help families get their homes, schedules, routines and lives in order. As a professional organizer, Rachel empowers families of all ages and sizes to live more organized, productive lives and has helped over 900 clients since starting in 2008.

Rachel works nationally with clients, is based in Bethesda, MD with her 7-year-old identical twins, and she has been featured in publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, Huffington Post, Washingtonian, The Washington Post, Parents, NBC4 and Fox5. Rachel can be reached through her website: www.rachel-company.com.rachel and company  rachel collage

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Thank you, Rachel!

I love Rachel’s idea of the open containers, especially for younger kids, and I love the idea of the ‘hide the clutter’ basket–with limitations and guidelines.

So smart.

So let’s get you organized, my friends.

 

Here’s a super-cute printable that Rachel and I collaborated on. I think  you’ll dig it.

Organize Play Spaces Printable: organize play spaces teachmama.com 3

If you choose to share or link to the printable (and we hope you do!), please link to this post rather than the document itself. Thank you!

 

 

So there you have it–a really quick way to organize your child’s play space, wherever that may be!

How do you stay organized? What do you use to organize play spaces? I’d love to hear it!

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live focused 2015 teachmama.com b w collage

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ive focused in 2015 organization teachmama.com sq

#livefocused posts:

get your life organized: the plan sheet is quick, simple, and NOT going to freak you out

get your life organized: the plan sheet is quick, simple, and NOT going to freak you out

Here we go, friends.

We’re ready to rock and roll and live focused in 2015.

January is going to begin with some serious organization because we can’t really focus on other important parts of our life if we’re muddled down by stressful, messy, chaos.

As a little bit o’ love for you, I’ve created a January || Organization Plan Sheet that is quick, simple, and not going to freak you out.

 

get organized the plan sheet  teachmama.com

I am all about writing down goals and intentions, but I am often overwhelmed by blank pages and millions and millions of questions.

I want simple. I want quick. I want concise.

So here’s the skinny. . .

Get Your Life Organized — The Plan Sheet is Quick, Simple, and NOT Going to Freak You Out:

I actually created the plan sheet last week, and I’ve already started on it.

Believe me, I’m not trying to be braggy–I was desperate.

Our house was basically insanity after we got back from celebrating Christmas in Pennsylvania, so I went (gulp) a bit nuts.  

I mean it. There were things everywhere.

Owen couldn’t put his clothes away because he had 6 Ts still hanging around. (He’s now wearing size 8.).

Laundry baskets full of clean clothes were being mistaken for dirty clothes, so we were double washing. (Unbelievable.).

I was unable to open drawers in the kitchen because there were too many papers and old receipts. (Frustrating.)

The laundry room, which is right off of our garage, had become a graveyard for shoes, coats, and books, and the tipping point was when I found an old piece of Halloween candy shoved in a shoe that no one would claim. (Right? Gross.)

I was overwhelmed at how much needed to be done.

get organized the plan sheet  teachmama.com

I didn’t know where to start.

All I wanted was my mom to come over and help me.  She’s so good at organizing, so patient and awesome, and there were times when the kids were young that I would have lost my mind had she not sat with me and helped me to turn the kids’ drawers.

Figuring out what to do with the clothes that didn’t fit–or kind of fit–and where to put them and how to find the unlabeled bins of Maddy’s 4T clothes which I’d just thrown in in a hurry so that Cora had something to wear was very hard for me. It still is.  But I’m getting better.

Often, when I’m overwhelmed, I just don’t do anything.

I freeze.

So the mess sits and sits. And the chaos builds. And I start to freak out inside. And then I freak out on the outside. And then the whole house freaks out because I freaked out. And then everyone and everything’s all messed up.

This month, however, I’m taking back control.

I created the January || Organization Plan Sheet, and it really, truly helped me figure out where to begin.

Here it is: live focused printable jan teachmama.com

get organized the plan sheet | teachmama.com

 live focused printable jan teachmama.com

Download. Save it. Print it. Use it. 

(If you do share it, though–which I hope you do!, please share this post instead of the attachment page!)

It consists of five steps:

  1. step back and look around
  2. write it down
  3. pick three
  4. make a plan
  5. be happy

My favorite? Be happy. Because I’m encouraging some sort of reward–something that is healthy and happy and perfect for you.  For me, it was giving myself time to read. Something I really, truly love to do but rarely allow during the day. I always read before bed, when I’m super tired. Too tired to really enjoy the book.

I wanted to keep it all manageable, so there are only three things you really need to organize. 

Three things. You can totally do that.

get organized the plan sheet  teachmama.com

get organized the plan sheet  teachmama.com

get organized the plan sheet  teachmama.com

I chose:

  • Owen’s drawers because he had been asking for help for weeks, and I’d been too busy;
  • our laundry room because, well, it was just gross;
  • and our kitchen drawers because I literally open it five times each day, and every single time, I got more angry and more cranky;
  • I also added a fourth–my work finances–because I’ve tried for years now to find a system that works, and nothing really seems to do it for me.

I filled out my little sheet, and I got started.

I was ready–determined–to do this, so the physical organizing happened quickly for me, and it was also done over holiday break when my husband was home from work most days.

The finance piece? I’m giving myself all month to figure it out.

And when you’re finished with it, feel proud.

Take a photo. Share it on our facebook page or instagram, and tag it #livefocused.

That way, we’ll all see that we’re in this together and though it may be my laundry room or kitchen drawers that need organizing, it may be your pots and pans or your pantry.

 

 

heaven help me #organizing #books #newyear #startingfresh

A photo posted by amy mascott (@teachmama1) on

 

 

 

I am thrilled to really embrace 2015. Watch out world, crazy things can happen when a bunch of smart women (and men!) are a little more focused!

Here. We. GO!

Are you in? Let me know, friends. I need to know I’m not walking alone on this journey!

  • share any of the photos here on your facebook page
  • share any of the photos here on your twitter or instagram page
  • share any of the photos here on your google + page or blog!

Tweet this:

live focused 2015 teachmama.com b w collage

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ive focused in 2015 organization teachmama.com sq

#livefocused posts:

movie-inspired costume contest: win $500 and movie tickets for a year!

movie-inspired costume contest: win $500 and movie tickets for a year!

sponsored post

 

 

affiliate links used in this post

 

 

movie-inspired costume contest | teachmama.comI love it when I can share things with my readers that are really, truly cool and easy.

We’re busy. We need easy.

And I know with quite a bit of certainty that many of us are gearing up for Halloween this week.

And I also know with quite a bit of certainty that many of us are dressing our kids as Minions, Elsa, Anna, Olaf, or the good ole storm troopers or Dorothy from Wizard of Oz standby.

Because we’re all connected, and we’re all snapping photos of our cutie-pies all decked out in their Halloween gear, why not share a photo with our friends from Fandango for a chance to win $500 and a full year of movie tickets for your family? 

Seriously. I’m not even kidding.

Easy peasy, and I’d love, love, love to see one of my readers win!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Movie-Inspired Costume Contest–Win $500 and Movie Tickets for A Year:

Really, this is not the kind of contest where you need to film a short testimonial (who has time for that?!) or create a killer diorama out of Peeps.

It’s easy.

So do it!

movie-inspired costume contest:

Here’s how you can rock the movie costume contest:

  • Post your picture on Instagram.  (Need a little Instagram refresher? Got you covered.)
  • Use a category hashtag:  (Just include the hashtag # and whatever category your costume fits)
    • #FandangoFamilyContestOriginal
    • #FandangoFamilyContestSpooky
    • #FandangoFamilyContestSuperHero
    • #FandangoFamilyContestAnimated
  • Follow AND tag @Fandango on Instagram.
  • Have questions? Ask me! I want you to win!

That’s it!movie-inspired costume contest: teachmama.com

Any guesses as to which awesome late ’80’s movie we were rocking at a recent 80’s fundraiser?

Want to learn more about the contest and see some current entries? Check out the Fandango Family My Movie Costume page.

What do you think? If you enter, please let me know!

 

fyi: I am proud to be a part of the Fandango Family Digital Network and will share a movie-related post quarterly. 

Affiliate links are used in this post.

GoldieBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn

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

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

And they were late for cheer practice last evening.

And they were late for school again today.

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

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

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

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

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

We are totally impressed with GoldieBlox.

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

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Straight from the FAQ page:

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

Pretty cool.

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

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

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

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

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

We tried two of the newer GoldieBlox sets:

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

It’s all good. I didn’t, either.

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

Sounds crazy but you’ll get it.

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

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

Check it out:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She liked:

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

She wished:

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

GoldiBlox for smart girls: read, create, and learn

As a parent, overall, I really liked:

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

 

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

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

I do wish that:

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

 

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

 

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

————————————————————-

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

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

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

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

——————————-

 

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

 

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.  

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun

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

post contains affiliate links

 

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

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

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

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

Why not, right? They’re young.

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

I was pretty impressed with what they came up with.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halloween Lego Game–Unplugged, Creative Fun:

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

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

 

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

 

No windows, flowers, wheels, or people.

Nothing fancy.

Just good, ole plain-Jane Lego bricks.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

And what they came up with was cute and simple.

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

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

 

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

 

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

It all rocks.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Some other ideas for making Halloween Lego-building fun: 

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

 

 

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

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

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

brain teasers for kids

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.comWe’re longtime fans of brain teasers for kids over here, in any form, at any time.

We dig brain teasers at lunchtime, brain teasers in the kitchen, brain teasers for long road trips.

Maddy went through a riddle stage last year, when every other day she shared one of a handful of riddles, and ever since then, we’ve been hooked.

So I did a bit of poking around the ‘net this past summer in an attempt to nail down any and all freebie brain teasers for kids I could find.

I hit the jackpot in a big way.

They keep asking for more. Woot.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Brain Teasers for Kids: Really, there are about 8 million books and sites about brain teasers, but I wanted something that I could print and take places with me.

I wanted something that I could use as reading material at mealtime and entertainment on the soccer sidelines.

 

 

 

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

I stumbled across Squiggly’s Playhouse which has been around FORever and which is packed with tons of fun for kids.  

And I put the brain teasers on a happy little document and printed them out on fun and fancy, colorful cardstock.  Then I printed them out, cut them up, and threw them in a sandwich bag.

I take them just about anywhere and use them any time I want the kids to be unplugged. Any time I want them to use their brains.

 

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

I created two sets of Brain Teaser Cards:

If you use them, let me know! I’d love to hear it.

If you share them, please link to this blog post, and let me know! I’ll give you a shout out of thanks!

Both are created with thanks to Squiggly’s Playhouse.

 

I originally shared both sets via our Tabletop Surprises this summer, but (gulp!) we didn’t figure them all out.
Some are pretty tough!
Most recently, we’ve been using the brain teasers at breakfast. Though there was a time in our lives when I read the newspaper with the kids in the morning, now I’m doing the am scramble.

Before the kids wake up, I work for an hour or two in the morning or try to sneak in some exercise–so when I get them out of bed, I follow them back down stairs and make lunches. It’s fine. It’s working.

We chat, plan out the day, or, as mentioned here, work through some brain teasers.

 

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

 

I just talk through the news after school now, while we debrief about school and have a snack or two.

And these are a good way to get Maddy, Owen, and Cora to do some critical thinking and stretch their minds a bit. To think outside the box.

That’s it–try it for yourself and see how it goes!

Just a little, sneaky and fun, at-home learning in the every day, when we’re able. Not as easy as it once was when my loves were little, but we’re trying!

Do you have a favorite site or book for brain teasers? I’d love to hear it~

26 triangles: tricky, fun math game

26 triangles: tricky, fun math game

26 triangles: tricky, fun math game

We’re winding down summer over here, but not before my kids finish up their math and reading assignments from school.

Yes, we just started them this week. But whatever. We’re getting there and doing what we can.

One of the activities I thought was particularly cool was one of the days in Owen’s math calendar.

Simple.  Challenging. Tricky and fun.

It was a 26 triangle math puzzle, and it had us stumped for a long, long time.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 26 Triangles–Tricky, Fun Math Game:

26 triangles: tricky, fun math game

26 triangles: tricky, fun math game

We adapted this to make it easier to work through, basically moving the triangles from a 1 inch by 1 inch square to a looseleaf piece of paper with number cards.

The premise is simple: use the numbers 1-12 and place them in each circle of the triangle so that each side totals 26.

Seems easy, right? But it’s not.

26 triangles: tricky, fun math game

 

It took us a long, long time. Longer than I’d care to admit.

It reminded us of other math games we’ve played in the past, but this one was all big and bad for third graders.

Want to try it yourself? Print it here: 26 math game teachmama

26 triangles: tricky, fun math game

26 math game teachmama

I like the kind of game that you can print out, use, and not worry about–like this one.

Or you could print it out, laminate it, and save it for your home or classroom. I’ve folded ours up, threw it in an envelope, and will keep it in my purse for long waits in dance studios or sidelines.

What do you think? Can you solve 26: the tricky math puzzle?

Looking for more super-fun, sneaky math activities?

Or check out the following math-happy posts:

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

sleepover at the national archives: 3 reasons your family will love it

national archives sleepover teachmama.com

We did it.national archives sleepover  teachmama.com

We slept at the National Archives.

The National Archives Museum in Washington, DC.

Slept. In the museum. All night long.

With sleeping bags and pillows all bundled up in the famous rotunda.  Snoozing near the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

So crazy, right? So fun.

The super-cool thing is that there will be more sleepovers at the National Archives in the next few months, and you can go.

And? I’ve got a discount for you for you to use at the National Archives store if a sleepover’s not your thing.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Sleepover at the National Archives–3 Reasons Your Family Will Love It:

The National Archives Museum Sleepover was the perfect amount of time: 6:30pm -8:30am.

national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

Our schedule Saturday:

7:15 — orientation

7:45-9:15 –activity stations and snacks (activities included a scavenger hunt, crafts, games, dancing, learning about explorers, and more)

9:20-10:10 — interview an explorer

10:15-10:45 — storytime and movies

10:15-10:45 — get ready for bed

11:00 — lights out!

*****

Our schedule Sunday:

7:15-8:30 — breakfast

7:30-9:00 — historic chocolate demonstration

8:00-8:30 — trivia game

9:00 — departure

national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

It was an evenly timed event. Just enough activity mixed with just enough time to move at our own pace and enjoy the event.

Here are three reasons I’m betting your family will love the event, too:

 national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

1. You will learn a few cool things about our country’s history.

The focus of our sleepover was Heroes, History, & Treasures, so we learned a bunch about Matthew Henson, Meriwether Lewis, and Louise Arner Boyd-three heroes of exploration–along with others and their contributions to our country.

Throughout the night, all of our activities in some way reflected the Heroes, History, & Treasures theme.  Adventurers and explorers, and all the cool stuff they find.

national archives sleepover |photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover |photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

You know I love life when things are organized like this in a pretty little package.

We spent time in the Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures exhibit, and our scavenger hunt took place here. It was a fun and interactive way to experience it.

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

national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

2. You will find activities that speak to each person in your family.

As an educator, I’m always aware of the fact that each person has different learning needs, and those needs can vary greatly within families.

One person learns best by doing; another learns best by listening. Others may learn best by reading or watching. We’re all different that way.

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

national archives sleepover |photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

So the music and singing, the dancing, the hands-on games and drama, mixed with the reading and watching that we did was the ideal recipe for learning and fun.

Some individual activities and some group activities. It was a great mix.

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

national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

3.  You will have a truly unforgettable experience.  

Undoubtedly, a sleepover at the National Archives is something your family will never forget.

From the anticipation leading up to the event to the event itself, your kids will feel connected to one of the most important buildings in our Nation’s Capital.

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

The small group–100 participants total–really allows you to feel like you’re an integral part of the event. Any time we had a question, there were at least two or three Archives workers there to assist us.

I loved having so many hands in the kitchen; it made me feel like there were a lot of eyes on our kids–which made me feel so much more at ease.

And having all children be between the ages of 8-12 years old means that for the most part, all of the kids were on the same playing field.

 

national archives sleepover |photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

We met a bunch of great people from–surprisingly–all around our country.  Most families were from the DC Metro area, but some came as far north as Maine or as far west as California!

It was a really cool experience.

national archives sleepover | photo from u.s. national archives

national archives sleepover | photo from us national archives

 

The Archivist of the United States, Honorable David S. Ferriero, made pancakes for us in the morning!

He had some help, but to be honest, his chocolate chip pancakes were fabulous! (And you want to know why I really like the AOTUS? He writes a blog!)

 

archives sleepover AOTUS pancakes

 

 

Check out more photos from the National Archives sleepover (August 2014): 

 

What would I suggest that families do if they’re planning on attending? 

  • Definitely read the information from the National Archives about what to bring for the sleepover. And bring what they suggest!
  • Have some easy way of transporting your sleeping bag, pillow, overnight bag. Whether a loved one drops  you off at the building and then picks you up in the morning or if you simply arrange all of your gear in a simple way, do it. The hardest part for Maddy, Owen, and me was the walk from the parking garage to the Archives and then from the Archives to the parking garage in the morning.

 

national archives sleepover | photo from u.s. national archives

 

  • Look for an overnight garage. We also didn’t plan this part well, so we had to do a little city driving and searching before the event. We ended up using LAZ parking at 616 E St. for about $45, but definitely check best parking to find what will be best for you.
  • Consider bringing earplugs. Seriously. I can sleep anywhere, any time. But lighter sleepers may need these.
  • Bring books or something for the kids to read before bed. I totally forgot these, and though I can fall asleep anywhere, any time, Maddy and Owen needed their books. #momfail
  • Prepare your kids. Even if it’s just a little bit. I printed out a bunch from the National Archives website, and we simply had it around to read and talk about in the days leading up to the event. I wanted the kids to have an idea about why this building was important and what we’d see when we were there.

national archives sleepover | teachmama.com

 

And now? If you’re interested in attending the next sleepover, visit the National Archives Sleepover page.  The next one is scheduled for October 18, 2014.

If the sleepover isn’t your thing, then do some shopping! Check out the National Archives store– myarchivesstore.org –and use the code 14SLEEP14 for a 15% discount on your purchases until 8/15/14. Enjoy!

The feather pen in the picture above? My kids have been rockin’ them for the last few days, doing what they can to make their mark. Grab one at the Archives store!

Pretty cool if you ask me!

 

Stay connected:

What questions do you have? I’d love to help! 

 

fyi: I was given three tickets to the National Archives August sleepover in exchange for sharing my honest opinions in a blog post and via social media. As always, opinions are my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and by my two little explorers.  

History, Heroes & Treasures is supported by the Foundation for the National Archives; John Hancock Financial; Ridgewells Catering; Control Video; American Heritage Chocolate; Mars, Incorporated; The Coca-Cola Company; Minute Maid; and DASANI.

Many of the photos (most unwatermarked) in this post are from the National Archives and are in the public domain. 

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

what to do with swim ribbons  teachmama.com.pngOur swim and dive season has been over now for two weeks, but we’ve done more post-season celebrating this year than ever before.

Usually, as soon as we wrap up the banquet, swim ribbons get shoved in a drawer, meet caps get put away, and trophies are given a home on the bedroom shelf.

And then we move quickly into part two of our summer: everything after swim and dive.

Swim and dive season comes and goes–just like that.  Fast and furious and then bam. Over.

But this year, we decided to carry on the celebration a little longer by parading the awesome throughout our house.

Instead of piling up those ribbons and finding them a home on a shelf or in a drawer, we created a gorgeous swim ribbon garland.

It’s beautiful. And it’s simple, and it’s the story of the kids’ swim and dive season.

Here’s the skinny. .  .

  • Swim Ribbon Garland–What to do with Summer Swim Ribbons: I do need to clarify something.

 

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

 

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

 

The Swim Ribbon Garland was not created to brag.

It was not created to be competitive or bratty or nasty.

It was created to celebrate our kids’ accomplishments throughout the season and to remind them that hard work pays off.

That’s it.

 

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

 

And though it was super-simple to make, it turned out really, really pretty.

And it’s been the focus of many conversations that are totally worth having:

  • Can you believe how much you improved over the season?
  • Remember how nervous you were for your first IM but how proud you felt after finishing?
  • This was the meet you surprised everyone–including you!–and came in first place!
  • That was the longest afternoon ever, but you worked hard and got through it!
  • Even though you disqualified in this event, you still shook everyone’s hand after the race.
  • [Another swimmer friend] beat you in this race by less than a second; I know you were disappointed to lose, but you never once acted like a sore loser. 

 

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

 

To make the swim ribbon garland, we simply grabbed a large needle and some embroidery thread (the kind we use to make friendship bracelets). The needle was large enough to fit the thread through but small enough to fit under the tiny top of the ribbons.

I asked Maddy, Owen, and Cora if they wanted their ribbons arranged in any particular way–by color, date, award, etc. Only Cora had an order preference, so she put hers in order, and I strung them from her direction.

 

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

swim ribbon garland: what to do with summer swim ribbons

 

Because Cora had significantly fewer ribbons this year compared to Maddy and Owen, we added some of her ribbons from last year. Not a big deal.

She knew where they were, she grabbed them, and we added them. Done and done.

Thinking about the possibilities for ‘sideline’ learning with the swim ribbon garland has me nearly nutty. We can talk about:

  • total number of first, second, third, etc. awards;
  • total number of awards;
  • which person has more of each color;
  • who has the most (and least) amount of (color, score, etc.);
  • total time in each event;
  • amount of time gained/ lost throughout season;
  • so many ideas!

 

And really? That’s it. Just a quickie, fun, no-sew way to remind your child of how special he is.

What do YOU do with your kids’ ribbons? Let us know! Happy sewing and stringing those ribbons!

 

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

 

 

summer fun for older kids: tabletop surprises

summer fun for older kids: tabletop surprises

summer fun for older kids: teachmama.com tabletop surprises

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Summer Fun for Older Kids–Tabletop Surprises:

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

monday:

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

tuesday:

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

 

 

wednesday:

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

 

 

thursday:

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

 

 

friday:

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

 

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

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

 

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

Check it out:

tabletop surprise email promo 400 teachmama.com.png