why I don’t love dr. seuss: but 3 reasons I should

why i do not love dr seuss

Confession: I don’t love Dr. Seuss.why i do not love dr seuss

I don’t, and I haven’t, and I won’t. So there. I said it.

Only a few people know my true Dr. Seuss feelings because, as a Reading Specialist and former high school English teacher, I’ve been afraid to admit it.

But now? I’m a bit more confident (maybe crazy?), and I’m a bit older and a bit wiser.  And I’m a bit more accepting, and I’m hoping that others will be the same.

We all have different tastebuds, right? We all have different favorites, and Dr. Seuss just happens to not be one of mine.

However, I have recently been thinking, contemplating, and trying to keep an open mind. I’ve found three reasons I should like Dr. Seuss in all of his Seussness.  Being that it’s Read Across America week very shortly and March is a reading-happy month, I thought I’d share.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Why I Don’t Love Dr. Seuss–But 3 Reasons I Should: First, why I don’t love Dr. Seuss.

All of this is said with full admission of the fact that I am by no means a Dr. Seuss expert, not even a little bit of a Seuss-a-holic, not even close to a Seuss-ologist. There’s a lot I don’t know and a lot I haven’t read.

But here’s why I don’t love Dr. Seuss, in no particular order:

why I don't love dr. seuss don't

1.  The nonsense.  I consider myself a relatively funny gal with a relatively decent sense of humor. But the nonsense of Dr. Seuss books? I can’t take it. Once I hit my sixth page of rhyming tongue-twisters, I just about want to scream. And the kids have lost interest. Or maybe I just think they have.

why I don't love dr. seuss

2.  The storylines (or lack thereof).  Sure, many of the classic Seuss books have storylines, and decent storylines at that. But a lot of them don’t. And I find many of them hard to read.  I find some of the characters a little –or a lot–different. Plus, I cannot be the only mom in the universe who every time she reads the story, reprimands Dick and Sally for letting a huge Cat in the Hat in their house while their mom is away. Right? Stranger safety.

why I don't love dr. seuss grinch

3. The illustrations. Are. Scary. To. Me. Andnotatallcute. And I wonder how many children really love them–I mean really enjoy looking at the pages?  And how many kids are a little bit nervous, a little bit weirded out, and a little bit frightened?  For a good long while, when I had three kids under three years and until each one was sleeping through the night, there was very little I’d put in between my kids and their sweet, sound sleep. Or between me and my interrupted, choppy, desperate attempts at sleep. Goodness knows that the last thing I wanted was for them to wake up screaming from a nightmare based on scary Dr. Seuss characters. Paranoid, I’m sure.


The 3 reasons I should care more for Dr. Seuss:

why I don't love dr. seuss should

1. The nonsense. It’s silly! It’s funny! It makes kids giggle! It’s a riot! Kids learn to read and learn the basics of word building when they play with real and nonsense words–and it’s an absolutely wonderful way to get emerging readers to play with language.  And language is fun, and all of this does help kids to become more word-conscious and word-aware. It’s good. It’s all good.

2.  The storylines (or lack thereof).  I’ve noticed, especially recently when Cora’s been trying her hand at reading some of the Dr. Seuss classics, that the lack of storylines really forces her to pay attention to the words.  There’s no real context to lean on, no synthesizing of ideas, or using the pictures when it comes to decoding words.  She’s stretching, she’s sounding out, she’s using what she knows about letters and sounds.  She’s turning back a few pages to find the word she knows she just read. And she’s not alone.  The lack of storylines should force all kids to do the same–focusing on words, decoding, and improving those phonics skills, right?

why I don't love dr. seuss should

3. The illustrations. I get it. I can’t shelter my kids from everything scary or slightly unpleasant in this big, wild world. I must cease the fast-forwarding of dying Disney mothers and firey Disney villians, just like I must open the pages of Dr. Seuss books and embrace the red eyes of the Grinch or crazy teeth of ‘HE’ biting ME and little JIM biting HIM.  Right?  And they’re not all scary. The Lorax is cute. The Cat is okay.  That poor, little dog in The Grich is . . .um, adorable.

So that’s it. I’m coming clean.

Does it feel good? A bit, especially, with Read Across America Day this week. It does.

Do I believe that Dr. Seuss is a master at his craft? Sure.

Do I believe that many of Dr. Seuss’s books have super-awesome, meaningful, and life-changing take-aways? Sure. Tons of Dr. Seuss life-lesson quotes. Grab what you’d like and celebrate!

why I don't love dr. seuss


Do I believe he changed the face of literature and reading for his time? Yes! His innovative use of language and humor–in the 1950’s–helped a nation with rapidly growing numbers of illiterate children–learn to read in new ways.  That. Is. Awesome.

Do I believe he deserves one day all for himself? Maybe, maybe not. I love the idea of celebrating Read Across America Day with texts of all shapes and sizes, from authors of all walks of life and illustrators from here, there, and everywhere.

Do I think I’m the Queen of it All and my opinion is the only one that counts? Nah. Not even a little bit.

I recognize the power of sharing a wide variety of rich literature with my children.  Books written by a range of authors and illustrators.  I also know that at this point in time, we have such an incredible pool of texts to choose from.  There’s not the need to pick the same books every year, every month, every day because we have to.  Just because we think we should.

Every single day, great publishers are finding new and upcoming authors and illustrators, and every single day, fantastic books are being put on the shelves of our libraries and bookstores. It’s just a mattwe teach #RAA twitter eventer of taking the time to find them, share them, and celebrate them.

So will I be sporting my big red and white Cat in the Hat hat this week? Absolutely. Because even though I may not totally heart Dr. Seuss, I do totally heart reading, literacy, and language. And to me, that’s what Read Across America Day–and National Reading Month–is all about.

I’ll even be tweeting with some of the big-dogs in the field of education, learning, and literacy tomorrow night in honor of Read Across America–I’m no Grinch!  (Join us–it’ll be worth your while!)

Thoughts? I’d be curious to hear ’em–feel free to share below!  Just remember that we all have different tastebuds, ‘kay?

read across america week: resources GALORE!

we teach #RAA twitter event

we teach #RAA twitter event One of the reading and literacy world’s biggest months is just around the corner, so we’re kicking it off with a fantabulous twitter event–and we want you to join us!

Read Across America Week is the first week of March, beginning with Read Across America Day on March 1.

The Leadership Team over at we teach is hosting a twitter event this Wednesday, February 27, from 8:30- 9:30pm ET, and we’re thrilled that we’ll be joined with some really incredible education rockstars. Celebrities.  Famous folk.

Think: tons of lesson plans, crafts, cooking, and learning ideas for how you can ring in Read Across America day in your home or classroom–or home classroom!! And add to that happy thought some really big guns in the education space, and you’ve got yourself a pretty hot event.

Prizes. Plus, there will be prizes. Woot!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Read Across America Week–Resources GALORE!: After some serious brainstorming about how we could get our forum members really excited about all of the awesome resources out there for reading literacy, Jacquie, our fearless Community Manager, suggested: How about a twitter event?!

And we all agreed: perfect.

So whether you have your own resources to share (super!) or you are searching for some innovative, exciting ways to celebrate Read Across America (cool!), we hope you’ll join us on Wednesday night for a little reading and literacy loooove.

And we’ll be rockin’ some awesome prizes as well!

we teach header
Join us for a twitter event with we teach members
weteach community managers  & celebrity experts

to share resources for teaching and learning on Read Across America Day!
**  follow:
#weteach #RAA  **

Who:     Parents, teachers, caregivers, expert panelists, and YOU!

Celebrity Experts:

What:    February 27th resource-sharing twitter event!
Why:     To enlighten, share, and promote awesome Read Across America Day resources, ideas, and more!
Prizes:   2 Melissa & Doug education-fun packs; 1 PBS festive Cat in the Hat prize pack; 5 $25 Storia gift cards
Where:  Twitter! (http://twitter.com) #weteach #RAA
When: Wednesday, 02.27.13 from  8:30-9:30 pm ET
  1. log onto twitter
  2. follow the hashtags #weteach #RAA
  3. tweet, re-tweet (RT), and tweet some more!
Helpful hints:
  • visit all of our celebrity experts’ sites and bring questions, comments or concerns to the event
  • make sure you are following all of the the hosts and all of the celebrity panelists so you don’t miss a beat!

We’re looking forward to seeing you there–and if you can’t make the event, we’ll have all of the resources listed on a page on the we teach forum. We’ll share the link here!

alphabet and reading on the road

alphabet and reading on the road

alphabet and reading on the roadThe kids and I spent the weekend in Pennsylvania, showering my baby sister and her husband with love for their soon-to-be baby boy.

Though we experienced a little more excitement than we had planned (more on that later!), our trip back to Maryland was totally uneventful–and we spent the 3 1/2 hour ride unplugged, chatting, kids dozing, and playing some old school roadtrip games.

We brought back some oldies but goodies and did a wee bit o’ alphabet playing and reading on the road.

Silly stuff that got Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s brains moving and eyes hunting for letters, words, numbers, and more.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Alphabet and Reading on the Road: This was a simple throwback games with a bit of a new twist.

Our goal was to find the whole alphabet, similar to the days of our Alphabet Hunt on the road, but this time when we found a letter, the person who found it had to call out the word it was a part of.

So our focus wasn’t to find a word that began with each letter of the alphabet.  Rather, it was to locate each letter of the alphabet on the environmental print we encountered on the road–street signs, billboards, trucks, buildings, etc–and to read the word in which that letter was located.

And the really funny part is that between Pennsylvania and Maryland, there are a whole lot of towns, roads, highways, and the like with names that are heavily influenced by its rich Native American history.  We encountered lots of words that were really tough to pronounce, but they forced everyone–each one of us!–to slow down and do some serious stretching of the words.

alphabet and reading on the road

Sure, along the way we heard a lot of:

  • E! I see an ‘E’ and it’s in ‘Allentown!’
  • Got it! Found the ‘O’ in ‘Road’!
  • Ooooh, I found a fancy ‘L’ and it’s in ‘Cab-el-las’ –Cabellas!
  • Oh my gosh! Double ‘X’ in ‘next exit’! Doubles!!

But there was also a lot of

  • Uh, there’s an ‘M’ and it’s in uh. .  .Kroomsvale. No, Krums. Krums-ville. Krumsville. I think that’s it.
  • Hey! I found an ‘R’ and it’s Len- Lenhart-Lenharts-Lenhartsville! Lenhartsville!

It was cool–and it was a really fun ‘next step’ for the alphabet hunts we’ve done while on the road.

What I loved most was the kids’ excitement over finding letters in the environment–we were really, truly playing with environmental print but also using it for some reading work as well.   There were no winners.  There were no losers. We were just working together, on the hunt for the alphabet and reading along the way.

Though we played about three rounds, we took breaks in between for snacks or restroom stops.  And each time, they’d be all in it to win it–to find every last letter. I think we skipped ‘Q’ the second time around, but who’s really keeping track?

Jennifer Prior and Maureen Gerard, in Environmental Print in the Classroom: Meaningful Connections for Learning to Read, (2004, International Reading Association) cite the importance of environmental print in early literacy education. Though their research and resources are more directed toward using environmental print in classrooms, their findings hold true for at-home learning.  The authors state:

Our research suggests that the adult is the key element to effectively using environmental print to teach beginning reading skills. When an adult draws attention to the letters and sounds in environmental print words, children are more likely to transfer this knowledge to decontextualized print—text without color and graphics.

I truly believe that the adult who first brings environmental print into focus for kiddos–at home or on the road–should be the parent.  It’s all about creating word conscious kids, kids who love, appreciate, and celebrate language, appreciate it, right?  

So let’s get on the alphabet hunt–and start reading along with it!


huge thanks to the following for points of reference:

Prior, J., & Gerard, M.R. (2004). Implementing an Environmental Print Curriculum. In Environmental Print in the Classroom (pp. 25-74). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

iPad apps: best apps for teaching, learning and fun

ipad apps for teaching and learning

ipad apps for teaching and learning

Here it is–the long-awaited post that I promised months ago: iPad apps for teaching, learning, and fun.

But what better day to share it than on a day when many–many!–families around the world will be ripping open a blank-slate iPad? And the cool thing is that you can find many of the same apps on any android device!

Many parents I know reach out like crazy those first few days, looking for ideas for apps–rather than spend a fortune blindly choosing apps from the App Store–many smart parents reach out to their circle of pals.

So here it is: the best iPad apps (we’ve found) for learning and fun for kids.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • iPad Apps–Best Apps for Learning and Fun for Kids: They can’t all be for learning–some can be purely for fun, right?

So don’t judge, but here are the apps on our iPad (and we’re always open for new ones, so do share your faves please!).

ipad apps literacy and language arts

Starfall ABCs, Spelling City, and Word Mover are some of our literacy faves. . .

Kids Literacy Apps:

  • Starfall ABCs: Just like the amazing website for literacy learning, Starfall ABCs app is rockstar and totally worth your kids’ time.  If you use the site, the games are familiar, so kids can jump right in and learn those uber-important ABCs!
  • SpellingCity: This app is one of my faves because of the complete ease of use–kids can play with word lists of colors, Dolche,  or customized lists.  All of the familiar SpellingCity.com games are here and ready to play!
  • Word Mover: I had a chance to work with this app for readwritethink.org, and it’s seriously fun. Think: magnetic poetry meets the iPad. Love.

ipad apps for literacy and reading

  • Wordball: Just like The Electric Company, this PBS- video in combination with word games = big fun for kids.  Many of the standard rules of language are focused on and featured in videos. A Reading Specialist’s dream.
  • Dabble:  Like Scrabble, but player tries to create a 2-, 3-, 4-, and 5- letter word on each step using the letters provided. Very fun.  Not easy at all, but a great word puzzle.
  • Storia: By Scholastic, this well-known name in the world of literacy and reading has created an app that is really top of the line.  The texts are engaging and relevant and supporting readers of all levels.  Kids can listen to the books being read or read on their own, and activities that support the text are clickable throughout.  Parents can manage books, read reading reports, and assign books to each reader’s ‘shelf’.
  • Ruckus eReader: Classics and contemporary hits, this is an interactive-text app totally worth time and money–but parents must adjust settings so kids aren’t able to purchase every book in the program.  I love how throughout the text kids can find words, answer questions, and really engage–but not all kids like that all of the time.  Parents are able to see kids’ progress by logging into the parent portal.


ipad apps math

Numbers League *  Sushi Monster * AmericanGirl Shave Ice

Kids’ Math Apps:

  • American Girl Shave Ice:  This is Maddy’s favorite. Players race to complete patterns in the shave ice orders that come through Kanani’s stand. Love. It. It’s fun to see how fast you can go and what you can unlock next, said Maddy.
  • Numbers League: This app is awesome. Fabulous super-hero graphics and an engaging and fun focus, this can be a multi-player game solo game.  It’s about seeing what numbers you get, said Owen. Then figuring out how they work together.
  • Sushi Monster: A math app from Scholastic, this one is a fave of our kids’.  Players can focus on addition or multiplication, and then they choose the sushi plates according to the sushi monster in the middle. For sushi-lovers, this is total fun.
  • Click Sushi:  Players scramble to find the number of rolls that the menu board calls for, and though players have to be able to read–in order to determine which roll is ordered–Cora likes this one if I’m sitting near her.  Perhaps because my kids actually like–and eat–sushi–this is a fave, but I’m not sure how it would go over if the player wasn’t familiar with the sushi rolls?
  • Hungry Fish: Cora likes this one, and I like how it gets her playing with numbers–and helping the fish’s bellies grow as she locates the correct numbers.  Music is tropical, graphics simple, and focus–number play!


ipad apps just for fun

Cookie Doodle * Breakfast *  Teddy London

Kids’ Just-For-Fun Apps:

  • Cookie Doodle: Kids can literally choose recipes, add ingredients in the coolest way possible tilt iPad to add drops vanilla, shake to sift flour etc. Hands down, it’s Cora’s favorite.  You can bake cookies, design them, eat them (not really!), or make a puzzle out of them, she says.
  • Fifa Soccer 12: This is Owen’s real favorite. It’s not a video and not a game–it’s both, and you can play each other. Plus it’s the real teams and the real players on those teams.  Players can actually play soccer using the real guys from real teams. 
  • American Girl Gymtastic: Another of Maddy’s favorites, this one features McKenna, the gymnast, and she twists, turns, and jumps on the balance beam through different challenges.   Great for fine motor and reflexes. Maddy says,  It’s fun to see what moves McKenna will do when she jumps and if you can beat the high score.
  • Highlights Hidden Pictures Countdown: Hidden Pictures amped up in the most amazing way. Players find hidden pictures against the clock.
  • Breakfast: Breakfast. Made on the iPad. My kids love it. Loooove it. And I wish they were really making the incredible breakfasts they created here–but in real life.
  • Teddy London: We found this one during the Olympics, and it’s pretty simple–but they all love it. They create teddy bears. With clothes, colors, accessories. Watch for the ads–they’re heavy–but the teddy making fun is crazy.


ipad apps draw create

ColorStudio HD * Draw Along * Sketchbook Express

Drawing and Creating Apps:

  • Draw Along: This is a story-video-creation tutorial, and it’s great for little guys –and bigger ones. Drawings come to life while they share a fact or two with little artists.  So cool. Perfect for preschoolers and early elementary schoolers.
  • Sketchbook Express: This is insanity as far as creation apps go–it’s totally incredible what you can do, create, and control here. It’s a lot for even Maddy and Owen, but as they get older and become more savvy, I think this is the app they will turn to for design.
  • ColorStudio HD: By Crayola, this is a top-notch app that you can even spring for a special iMarker (we haven’t gone that route yet–and the app is STILL cool!).  Kids can color animated coloring pages.  Bottom line? Awesome.
  • Kids Doodle & Kaleido: We have the free versions here, and they’re both so cool. Kids can create a picture and then they can animate it. The kaleido one is the same, but drawings look like a kaleidoscope–so fun.
  • PBS Photo Factory: Kids can make photos using the characters from their favorite PBS Kids shows. It’s simple–but fun for little PBS Kids fans.


ipad apps reference

WorldFactBook * WeirdButTrue * GeoWalk

Fun Fact Apps:

  • WorldFactBook: An encyclopedia app at your fingertips. Every country is covered here (at least I think so), and
    users can search by location, map, and comparisons.  We haven’t used this much, but I love having it on hand in case we ever do–it’s everything we need to know about the world’s countries in one spot.
  • Geo Walk: Honestly, this app may be the most beautiful I have ever seen. The graphics, photos, and layout–aaaahhhh-mazing. Users can search articles by topics–plants, animals, people, plants, history, and beautiful ‘cards’ appear with information and details. Cool.
  • WeirdButTrue: By the National Geographic Society, this award-winning app is new for us, but my family looooves it. It reminds me of days when I’d page through the stacks and stacks and stacks of my grandparents’ National Geographic magazines–but with all of the coolest facts picked out. Graphics: awesome; facts: interesting; layout: easy. You can even ‘heart’ your fave facts or share them.


ipad apps fun and games

Angry Birds * Memory Matches * Rush Hour

More just-for-fun apps:

  • Angry Birds: We like it. And beyond the physics that kids are learning (c’mon, you know they are. . . ) the characters, challenges, and focus here is totally fun for kids . . . and adults.   We have Angry Birds Rio and Angry Birds Space. I’m not sure why.
  •  Memory Matches: Memory. Who doesn’t love memory? Play alone or in tourneys, choose card size, sounds, and pictures. Best memory game app we’ve found.
  • Rush Hour: I’ve shared the Rush Hour love before, but having it on the iPad–where images are larger, graphics cleaner–is really great.  One of my kids’ faves, hands down.  We also have ChocFix, another ThinkFun app and game.
  • Spider Solitaire: Owen met Spider Solitaire thanks to my dad and sister, but Spider Solitaire is solitaire on steroids–and really, the game of solitaire is luck, sure, but also a handful of strategy and critical thinking. I’ll take it.
  • geek kids Chess: The cleanest and coolest chess game app we’ve found, this one allows players to choose an opponent, his ‘skill’ level, auto moves, analysis, move history, and tutorials. Very cool.


My kids know that this screen is their screen–and they are permitted to use anything inside.

Phew!Now how to organize all of these crazy apps? Simple: folders.  To create a folder, all you do is drag an app icon onto another. Then start grouping and label the folder.

Our folders are labeled: games; watch; play & read; games 2; draw & create; and fun facts. And everything inside is organized accordingly.

My ‘watch’ folder has Feel Electric; PBS Kids, Disney Channel, and Disney Junior, and with permission, they can watch what they want, when they’re on the Game Time Ticket clock.

And that’s it–our family’s favorite apps for teaching and learning–and fun!

A whole lot of teaching and learning and fun app talk–but what’s your fave?  Let me know–I’m sure I’m missing a ton!

fyi: This is a totally unsponsored post, but I often consult friends, family, and colleagues on their favorite apps–and many have allowed me to try out apps on freebie codes.  That in no way influenced this list; these are our faves, on our iPad right now.

pretzel patterns: learning during snacktime

pretzel patterns learning during snacktime

pretzel patterns learning during snacktimeIt’s been crazy over here for the past few weeks, with nutty, awful weather, with colds and stomach bugs, lots of late meetings, and lots of end-of-season hurrahs.

So our learning has had to be really–really!–sneaky in order to keep my kiddos engaged and interested. And that’s fine by me.

After the kids came home from school and we all finally sat down at the kitchen table for a snack, we got a little pattern happy.

Pattern work is a fun and hands-on math skill that is often overlooked–and it’s something that you can take just about anywhere, any time. Even in the kitchen.

And our family? We love when our learning involves food.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Pretzel Patterns– Learning During Snacktime: Simple. That’s what this was, but it allowed our little Cora to share some of her recent pattern-knowledge at home, at our kitchen table.

It started out really with three kids muching and crunching on pretzel sticks, and it morphed into a chat about pattern making, which is a foundation of Kindergarten math curriculum.

Cora placed several sticks in a row and said, Hey Mom! Look, it’s an AAAB pattern. With pretzel sticks!

I said, Oh my gosh–you’re right.  What other patters have you learned this year? Hmmmm. The ABAB pattern?  Can you make that one with pretzels?

pretzel patterns learning during snacktime

Owen tries hard to make THE most difficult pretzel pattern ever created. . .

pretzel patterns learning during snacktime

. . . but I think there’s nothing wrong with a little ABAB.


She started biting and nibbling (sure she could have broken them, but eating is so much more fun!).  And then she said, YAY! ABAB pattern with pretzels–big-little-big-little-big-little.

At this point, Owen and Maddy were trying to wow us with their crazy patterns–ABCD or AABC or ABBD–like big first graders and third graders can do. But I was really just so thrilled that Cora started this game, so I wanted to have her run with it.

We chatted about simple patterns: ABAB, ABCABC. And we chatted about Maddy and Owen’s more difficult patterns.  And we decided that the only thing a pattern needed was to repeat in an organized way.  

Easy. And so fun.

And before we knew it, pretzels were gone, snacktime was over, homework was being done, kids were getting changed for gymnastics, and we were all in the car, moving onto the very next thing.

pretzel patterns learning during snacktime colors

When Cora needed help with colors, we leaned on the ole pretzel sticks and goldfish: Fishing for Colors. Woot.

And that’s it–just a really quick, super-on-the-fly, way of sneaking in some fun learning–to reinforce school learning–during 10 minutes of snacktime.

It reminded me that we have done a whole lot of learning with food over the years–a whole lot of learning with food.

And you know what? I think that’s pretty cool.

Check out just two of our many, many previous Learning With Food posts if you please:

. . . and if you have other fun ways to practice patterns, or playing with food, please let me know!

Hidden Pictures: lunchbox notes

hidden pictures lunchbox notes

hidden pictures lunchbox notes

Halloween is over, so our joke notes are pushed to the wayside.

Our wordless riddles are taking a break, and the troops are ready for some serious lunchtime fun before the holidays hit.

When I asked Maddy, Owen, and Cora what they were up for as far as their next lunchbox notes are concerned, I got a lot of:

  • games!
  • candy! (huh?)
  • some fun quizzes!
  • put a pencil in the bag!
  • hidden pictures!
  • YES! notes where we find hidden things!
  • oh YEAH! like in Highlights and High Five!

Lucky for us, I had just spent a great deal of time with my friends over at Highlights and High Five this month, so I got the ‘go-ahead’ to create just that–Hidden Pictures® Lunchbox Notes for my three favorite people in the whole wide world.

These lunchbox love notes totally rock the house.

They make me–and the kids–really, really happy.

Here’s the skinny . . .

  • Hidden Pictures– Lunchbox Notes: I think, for us, our Hidden Pictures® Lunchbox Notes takes the lunchtime love to a whole new level.

hidden pictures lunchbox notes

These lunchbox love notes stemmed from my kids’ love of . . . Hidden Pictures®!

These guys are simple but fun. And yes, I’m a sucker for a good ole lunchbox note, so maybe I’m a bit biased.

But I think taking something my kids enjoy and turning it into a little lunchtime hug is . . . well, satisfying.  Maybe it gives them a tiny bit of quiet time they have to themselves as they unpack their food.   Maybe it’s a conversation starter with a pal at the lunch table.

Maybe it’s ignored or thrown to the bottom of the bag.

hidden pictures lunchbox notes

From the magazine. . .

hidden pictures lunchbox notes

. . . to the lunchbox. Love it.

But I feel better just knowing it’s there.  Just in case Maddy, Owen, or Cora is having a tough day and they need a reminder that they’re loved and that their mama’s thinking about them.hidden pictures lunchbox notes

So Hidden Pictures® Lunchbox Notes it was–and is–for my kiddos for the next few weeks.

Love. Them.

And knowing that Cora’s working on mastering some tough Kindergarten sight words, I tried to use the same few phrases on each card:

  • Look for the . . .
  • Can you see the. . .
  • Find the. . .

Though she might not be able to read the words that identify the objects she needs to find, I did put the word in bold so that if she couldn’t read the word, she could at least search the picture for a hidden object and then go back to the word to try to figure it out.

And I also know that Owen’s in her lunch period and he usually sits across the aisle from her, so he can always read it if need be.  And knowing the two of them, he very well may read them to her every other day.

I created three pages of notes with 5-6 messages on each page.  Each note has a wee bit of space on the side so I could write a short little message.

Here’s the document if you care to download them for your own little ones’ lunchboxes: hidden pictures lunchbox notes

hidden pictures: lunchbox notes for kids | teachmama.com

hidden pictures lunchbox notes

And that’s it–just a quick little note for lunchboxes–or any time.  Maybe they’d even work thrown in your purse or diaperbag for those unplanned waits in the car pickup line, doctor’s office, or grocery store checkout.

Either way, Happy hidden picture-hunting!


fyi: Huge and happy thanks to my friends at Highlights for permission to use pieces of their Hidden Pictures® puzzles in our lunchbox love notes.  These puzzles actually came from a Hidden Pictures® Magazine–the entire thing filled with the pictures we love!

If you want the real-deal Hidden Pictures® (which I’m sure you do!) be sure to visit the Highlights website, where you can grab your favorite kiddo a subscription to the Highlights Magazine, High Five Magazine, or any of their other fab, just-for-kids periodicals, including the Hidden Pictures® ones!


Want a look at all of our lunchbox looooove notes? Here they are:

how every family can start the school year off right

successful school year know teachers

how to start the school year off right

Several years ago, I wrote about how to make the school year a smashing success, or. . . actually how to make the school year as successful as humanly possible.

It included 10 easy steps that any family could follow in order to start the school year off on the right foot. 

I just looked back at it, and I decided it’s totally worth sharing again, because, well, with a little prep and a little thought, every family can start the school year off on a positive note.

Every one of us wants the school year to be successful for our children–and us–so here’s a few simple ‘tricks of the trade’ coming from not only a parent of three elementary schoolers but also an educator who has been ‘on the other side’.

And sure, my husband–also an educator and school administrator–added his two cents’ so we’ve really got it covered here.  Now we just have to make sure we’re doing these 10 simple things–

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How Every Family Can Start the School Year Off Right: Here they are–successful new-school-year survival tips, in no particular order, so that we all start the school year off in the best way (humanly) possible:


1. Make early and frequent contact with your child’s teacher. Don’t be afraid to send an email if you have a question or concern, or just send a note to say ‘hi’ and introduce yourself. Ask how you can support classroom learning at home, and ask how you can help the teacher–by classroom volunteering or doing what you can at home.

Have your child write a Hello Teacher Note before school starts or even during the first week or month of school so that she feels a special connection with her teacher. It helps!

successful school year know friends


2. Know your child’s friends. Plan a weekend play date, even if it’s only for an hour or two, and don’t let the kids hide away downstairs or up in your kiddo’s room. Make a snack together, play a game together, or pull out a craft to do together.

Get to know these little friends now, and listen to how everyone interacts. If necessary, jump in if you don’t like what you’re hearing and talk about how kind friends speak to each other, how to share. or how to take turns. Ignoring behavior we’re not comfortable with is just like saying it’s okay.


successful school year know friends


3. Eat at least two dinners together each week. It’s hard. Verrrry hard, I know, with soccer practices, lessons, and late work days. But sitting down to dinner as a family has been proven to lead to healthier kids, happier families, and stronger family relationships.

It’s a great time to talk about the day, make sure your kids are chewing with their mouths closed (really!), and to actually sit down and look at your cute kids before they run off and turn into 20-year-olds tomorrow night. And the meal? Doesn’t have to be fancy. Just has to be something on the table that you eat together.

successful school year home for everything


4. Make a home for everything. When your kiddo walks in the door, shoes make a beeline for the shoe shelf, lunchbox gets emptied then heads to his landing pad on the counter, backpack drops in the box. No questions asked.

Then when you get a second, unload the take-home folder and recycle (yes–recycle immediately!) the papers you know you won’t need, hang up one ‘super-star’ assignment on the fridge, file the important papers in your file folder, and put the night’s homework on the table where your child does homework. Done. Check. Move onto the next thing.

successful school year homework


5. Create a structured time and place for homework. For some, it works to get homework completed immediately after walking in the door and finishing snack; for others, homework’s best saved for after dinner. It doesn’t matter when you choose–just make a choice and stick with it. Everyone fares better with routine, so start one for homework asap.


successful school year school

6. Become a familiar face at school. If you walk to school, introduce yourself to the administrators (and don’t be afraid!) while they’re out on bus duty and say hello each time you see him or her. Say hello to the secretaries and be extra nice to them because their job is not easy, either. Don’t expect these busy people to remember your name right away, but use their names when addressing them if you can.

If you are able, join the PTA or PTO, but don’t sweat it if you can’t–you can still help in other ways. Consider asking the PTO President or School Director how you can help–from home. I’m sure she’ll come up with something.


successful school year ask and listen

7. Ask your child questions and listen to the answers.

Yes:Hi, Honey, so happy to see you! What did you do in P.E. today? OR What book did you read in Reading Group? OR What was your favorite part of your lunch? OR Did you like about the assembly today?

No:Hi, Honey! Did you have a good day?

Shoot for specific, open-ended questions and go with whatever he wants to talk about. Close-ended questions (that result in a yes or no answer) stop conversation before it begins. And rapid-fire questions about what you want to know but what he’s not ready to share are enough to make a kid want to turn around and run back to the bus for safety.

So make sure you breathe–and let your child breathe, too. And what isn’t covered on the walk home can be covered during dinner or at bedtime.


successful school year extra curricular

8. Get your kids involved in at least one extra-curricular activity. Even if it’s one little thing that gives them a chance to interact with other kids and burn some steam, it counts.

Whether it’s a community sport, a craft club, a scouting group, or a youth group, it doesn’t matter. Kiddos need some little something to call their own when they’re young. And even if an extra-curricular is not in the budget, make it a goal to attend a free event at the library, church, or in the community several times a month.


successful school year meet parents

9. Meet parents. Respond to the Room Parent’s plea for help, and remember her name when you see her at Back-to-School night or at the class party.

Get to know the moms, dads, grandparents, and sitters who walk their kids to school or the bus stop. Ask parents–especially the seasoned ones–questions, and learn a little from them if you can. Learn which kids belong to which parents. Exchange contact information so that you can text someone to give you a hand if you’re running late one afternoon, or meet up at the playground after school.

successful school year thankful

10. Be thankful. Be supportive. Be grateful. Teachers’ jobs are seriously more difficult than most people can imagine. The amount of work that they do–during the week and on the weekends–to prepare lessons, ready their classroom, research best practices, work with specialists, grade schoolwork, respond to parents, attend meetings, and (for many) continue their own education–is insane.

So we need to be thankful for their hard work–today and every day–not just Teacher Appreciation Week or at the end of the year. Sign your emails with a sincere, ‘thank you for all you do‘ and mean it. Ask what you can do to support them, and follow through.

Say ‘thanks’ to the administration, the para-educators, the specialists, the custodians, and the lunchroom workers because they’re all working towards creating a safe environment for your child to meet with success and have the best year possible. So why wouldn’t you want to be thankful for, supportive of, and grateful for this school community?

And there you have it-just 10 quickie ways that you can start the school year off on the right foot. 



Want all of these reminders in a happy little printable?

how to start the school year right | teachmama.com

how every family can start the school year right _ teachmama.com



We can do this–I know it!

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wordless riddles: silly lunchbox notes

wordless riddles: silly lunchbox notes

wordless riddles: silly lunchbox notesWhen I asked Maddy, Owen, and Cora what they liked best for their lunchbox notes, I got three different answers.

From Maddy: I want more jokes–not joke, jokes like knock-knocks but more like the riddle jokes. Like the ones that are kind of like a story and you guess what they’re talking about. Like the riddle ones.

From Owen: I like the ones with problems–like math problems.  Or yeah, okay the joke ones.  Or fact ones.

From Cora: I want just like the regular notes, like ‘Have a good day, Cora’ or ‘I love you Cora’ on them. Like just like that. The regular ones.

So I gathered from Cora’s response that she wanted ones she could read–ones with only a few words–and I gathered from Maddy and Owen’s responses that they were up for more of an interactive laugh or challenge, so I thought for a bit.

And then I thought some more.

And I tried to think of something that would fit Maddy, Owen, and Cora while at the same time, try to help Cora feel ‘at home’ in her new school.

So I came up with something new for us–something that so far, the kids–and my husband–really, really love.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Wordless Riddles— Silly Lunchbox Notes: That’s what they are–wordless riddles.

They’re a combination of an ‘I Spy’ game and ‘A Closer Look’, and they really love them.

wordless lunchbox riddles

 Our finished sheet of Wordless Riddle Lunchbox Notes

All I did was create a simple template with two phrases:

Take a closer look!    and

What am I?

I wanted to use two repeated phrases that Cora could learn with ease and that included a few sight words.

wordless riddle lunchbox notes

Can YOU tell what this object is?

 wordless riddle lunchbox notes

Or maybe this one’s a bit easier?

And then I went around the house, taking super close-up pictures of items familiar to the kids: Brady’s nose, the Wii steering remote, the garage door buttons, door handles, the milk carton, homework stool, you name it.

On each note, I embedded one close-up photo, and we were ready to roll.  I printed three copies of the document on cardstock–six photos each for a total of 18 notes!–cut ’em out, and that’s it!


wordless riddle lunchbox notes

Cora’s lunch: Day 2 — Wordless Riddle ready to go!

The first day I added them to lunchboxes (day two of school!), we chatted on the way home about the day, their friends, recess, and–of course–lunch. 

No one could figure out the picture, so we talked through it as we walked, and together they got it! With Maddy’s idea and Owen’s idea and Cora’s idea, it all came together. It was awesome. It was a super ice-breaker and a great way to move into natural conversation about the day.

The following day, Owen ran out of the building and the very first thing he said to me was Brady’s nose!! It was Brady’s nose!

It took a minute, but then it hit me–he figured it out, and he was psyched. Yay!

A Closer Look Lunchbox Notes : wordless riddle notes (ours)

And that’s it–just a quickie way to show my sweets that I’m thinking of them throughout the day and to (shhhhh!) sneak in a little bit o’ learning and thinking along the way. I have already taken photos for Wordless Riddle Lunchbox Notes, 2.0 — it’s been so crazy fun.

Do you want to try your hand at Wordless Riddle Lunchbox Notes? Feel free to download our own Wordless Riddle Lunchbox Notes (with our photos) or download the Wordless Riddle Lunchbox Notes Blank Version and create your own–either by adding your own photos to the word doc or by cutting photos and gluing them on! Either way–super fun!

Please, please PUH-lease let me know if you try this and how it works! And I’d LOVE to see yours–feel free to share your own photos on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/teachmama). Many thanks and happy lunchbox noting!

our super-special Kindergarten lunchbox love notes

kindergarten love note necklace

special kindergarten lunchbox love noteOne of my first, most distinct happy, happy memories was when I was six years old.

I was eating my very first lunch out of my very first lunchbox, in my first-ever time in the cafeteria, on my very first day of first grade.

And I don’t remember much from that lunch aside from the fact that the most beautiful, most amazing, most fancy and  most special hair comb that I had ever seen in my life was in my very own lunchbox. 

I remember feeling nervous and excited and worried.  I pulled it out of my lunchbox.  The comb was a translucent pink, and hanging from it were three or four incredibly delicate, soft, small feathers.  And there were beads–white and pink beads.  They all hung from a pinkish leather string, all attached to the comb.

I loved it.

I remember reading the simple card from my mom–I think it was an index card–that said something simple, nothing that I remember verbatim but something that conveyed to me that my mom was thinking of me–and that she loved me very much.

I’ll never forget it.

I had the comb for years and years and years and years and every time I saw it, I thought of that day–that day when I felt so grown up and proud, yet so small and sad, at the same time.

Perhaps that’s why I’m all lunchbox-note crazy, but I just know for a fact that the way that note and that very simple gift made me feel I wanted to share with others–especially my own little loves.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Our Super-Special Kindergarten Lunchbox Love Notes: So yes, I’ve always done my best to send Maddy, Owen, and Cora off to school with some sort of lunchbox love note, but when each of the kids headed off to the wild world of Kindergarten, I sent them with a little something extra special.


kindergarten love note necklace

For Maddy, it was a fancy ribbon barrette.  

I’m sure I was thinking of the one my mom gave me.

For Owen, it was a small license plate with his name on it.

He loves seeing his name on things.

For Cora, it was a simple necklace on a long pink chain.  She isn’t always up for things in her hair–but jewelry?  She’ll take it just about any day.


kindergarten love note necklace


And really, along with a very simple, easy-to-read happy first day note, that’s what I put in my new Kindergartner’s lunchboxes.

It’s not about giving the kids gifts–it’s about a little surprise to celebrate this big and exciting step.  And to let them know I’m thinking of them.

That’s it–just a little, under the radar tradition for our family–our super-special Kindergarten lunchbox love notes–started by my most amazing, totally incredible, always thoughtful, and absolutely fabulous mom.

Here’s to hoping I can do a half as good of a job raising Maddy, Owen, and Cora as my mama did my sisters and me.

hello teacher notes: let kids connect with teachers

hello teacher notes

hello teacher notes

Another one of our fave back-to-school traditions involves a little bit of writing, some decorating, and a wee bit of walking.

Not much walking, really.  Just to the mailbox or up to the school, depending on where you live.

But for the last few years, we’ve rocked Hello, Teacher Notes to ease the transition from summer break to school year just a tiny bit easier for Maddy, Owen, and Cora.  Okay, and me.

We sent them:

And we sent them again this year, with Maddy going to 3rd grade, Owen going to 1st, and Cora (waaaah!) going to Kindergarten.

Each note is slightly different to account for age differences in the kids, but essentially, they’re similar in their purpose–to give the kids a chance to say ‘hello’ to their teachers before that sometimes-stressful first day.


Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Hello Teacher Notes– Let Kids Connect With Teachers: Take a look. . .


Want to send your own Hello Teacher Notes?  Download and print our templates:

Though we’ve used the notes before school began, I’ve had many, many people email me and say that they used them any time during that first month of school–or for kids who moved, switched teachers, or something similar.  Just knowing that they’re working for other kids makes us so happy.

So really, it doesn’t know how your child connects with his or her teacher–it’s just important that it happens early in the game.



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how to prepare your child for kindergarten — summertime prep

wordo sight words

how to get your child ready for kindergarten: summertime prepThis time last summer, we were gearing up to send off my sweet boy to Kindergarten, and this year, it’s my baby’s turn.

Cora will walk into those elementary school doors this time, and then it will just be me.  I’ll walk home by myself, to an empty house, with a happy dog, until the kids’ day ends at 3 o’clock.

I can’t even begin to think about it, or I swear I’ll bawl my eyes out.

But what’s been keeping me focused this summer, along with our crazy swim and dive schedules, trip to the beach, and visits with family, has been the idea that my job as a parent is to do all I can to prepare my littlest for her big Kindergarten year.

So rather than reinvent the wheel, I turned to my archives a bit to see what we did last summer to get the O-man ready for his big Kindergarten year.  I made some adjustments, changes, and adaptations for Cora.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Prepare Your Child for Kindergarten:  We’ve been doing a lot of these things with Cora for quite some time now, but like I’ve said before, she’s my trickiest.  Sometimes she’s feelin’ it, and sometimes she’s not.

So I’ve had to be flexible, and so has she.  She’s had to do a lot of waiting as I’ve supported Owen and Maddy along the way.

But the great thing is that even if you haven’t done much up to this point, you can start now (yes, right now, like immediately after you read this–) to get your child ready for kindergarten, even in the last few weeks before school begins. . .

everyday name book

The Everyday Name books are just one way we celebrate–and practice!–names around here.

  • Practicing name writing: Kids should be able to write their names by the time they get to kindergarten. Really. Kids are 5 or 6 by the time they hit elementary school, and many have been in preschool or daycare for a year or two before that.  That’s a lot of time for practicing the few letters that make up a child’s name.

The writing doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be legible. Most likely on day one, kiddos are going to be asked to write their names, and what a confidence boost for a nervous child if he’s able to do it!

Do this by: Starting an Everyday Name Book; playing with names, playing with family names; finding any and every excuse to write names!  Practicing and practicing and playing games with family names.


  • Talking about letters–and identifying them and knowing their sounds: There are tons of ways of playing with the letters of the alphabet, and by kindergarten, children should be able to identify most–if not all–of both uppercase and lowercase letters.

Sure, they’ll learn all about letters throughout the kindergarten year, but it’s important to make sure that children are able to identify of most of the letters so that they can focus on learning the sounds they make–often this is the more tricky part.  But we can help them learn letters, and we can do it in really fun, sneaky ways.

Do this by: Checking out 10 fun ways of helping kids learn their ABC’sdoing ABC Hunts; playing clothespin games with letters; putting letters on lids, play alphabingo; playing some alphabet board games; exercising with ABC’s; going on a backyard alphabet hunt; doing an on-the-road (or at the grocery store or anywhere) alphabet hunt.

wordo sight words

WORDO! is a super-awesome game for playing with words, reading and writing.

  • Rockin’ some sight words: Many school districts suggest that parents even start some sight word practice with their rising kindergartners before school starts, and I think it’s a really great idea. Most children know that when they go to kindergarten, they’ll learn to read. And learning sight words–the words that are best learned by memorizing because they need to be recognized quickly and automatically (and because many don’t follow phonics rules!)–can be a confidence booster just like learning how to write names can be.

But the days of standing in front of a child flipping flashcards and making them read them for you are over. There are a ton of cool ways that kids can start practicing–and learning–these words that trump the ole ‘drill-and-kill’ methods.

Do this by:  Playing Words Three Ways; taking out the magnetic letters and using them for building sight words; using sight-word word searches; making wiggly words; writing sticky finger words; playing sight word Go Fish! or Memory; playing WORDO!; or check out a ton of other cool ways to play with sight words.

number chart 3

Number Boxes are a great way for kids to connect numerals with quantities.


  • Playing with numbers: We will do a lot of number-playing this summer, in card games, in street sign games, and in simple pool-snack-bar addition, but it’s really important for our kids to be exposed to math concepts and have a general number sense before kindergarten.newspaper weather math

Counting during walks, lining up Lego guys and counting them as you add them to the bridge you just built, or something as simple as timing how quickly ice-cubes melt in the sunshine all helps build a solid mathematics foundation in our kiddos.

Do this by: Including math in your everyday activities or newspaper reading; counting money and skip counting; playing with numbers and number words; pulling out the ole grid games; reading some math-poetry; playing with number boxes.  Creating fun ways of remembering how to write number 5.


  • Reading, reading, reading:  We really cannot read too much to our kids. We can’t. Reading can–and should–be done throughout the day, in a number of ways and not just reserved for before bedtime when everyone’s beat and you can hardly keep your eyes open.

We–as parents–need to show our kiddos that we don’t only read our friends’ and family members’ Facebook updates; it’s our job to demonstrate to kiddos that we read instructions so we can put together that bookshelf from Ikea, we read the newspaper so we know what’s going on in the world, and we read recipes so we know how to make Nanny’s awesome zucchini bread.  And probably most importantly–we need to show our kids that we read for pleasure. We read to relax, we read for enjoyment.

We want them to get psyched for kindergarten and learning to read because then. . . then the world is open to them and they can learn about anything and everything they want!

Do this by: Reading, reading, reading. Reading about back to school. Reading the newspaper. Reading street signs, reading cereal boxes, reading the words on their Wii games. Making reading fun. Talking about words and celebrating words.  Throwing in easy, natural reading strategies during read-alouds.

shoelace box

The Shoelace Box–or Ribbon Rows–no matter what you call it, it works.


  • Tying shoes (and zipping and buttoning): Yep. Kids should start learning how to tie shoes, zip zippers, and button buttons. and though most are wearing flip-flops or crocs right about now, they’ll be wearing sneaks soon–and they’ll feel great if they can tie those pups themselves.

It was Owen’s goal last summer–but it only happened recently, and with a lot of practice–that he learned how to tie his shoes on his own. It’s not easy for many kids, and it takes practice. But it may be a great summer rainy-day activity in the next few weeks. . .

Do this by: Making a shoelace box.  Though Maddy taught herself on her dolls’ clothes and by wearing dress-ups, Owen used the shoelace box for about four weeks this winter and spring, and he finally got it. His ties aren’t perfect, but he can (almost) do it on his own.   When it comes to zippering or buttoning, have your child practice by zippering or buttoning the sweatshirt that you’re wearing so she sees how it works more clearly than when she tries to zipper or button the one wearing the sweatshirt herself.  Yours is bigger, too, so that sometimes helps.

me on the map

Me on the Map may help kiddos learn their stats.


  • Memorizing their info–full name, phone number, and address:  Kids should know their stuff by elementary school.  If they don’t know their whole name–first, middle, and last–then start on that pronto! They don’t need to spell the whole thing (that would be nice . . . ) but your child needs to know that he’s Travis J, or Travis Johnson, not to be confused with Travis K, Travis O, or Travis W.

Okay, so the phone number and address are a little more difficult, and admittedly, I’m not sure that Maddy knew ours when she went to kindergarten. But Cora will know his, because I’m now a much older and wiser parent (not really).

Do this by: A good friend of mine taught her girls to memorize their phone number with this song, set to the tune of preparing kids for kindergartenFrere Jacques (Are you sleeping, are you sleeping? Brother John. . . ):

1-2-3, [Insert your own phone number for these–]






Call any time. [I can’t remember if these are the words she used, but these are the words our family uses.]

Call any time.

The address? The only thing we’ve done is the Me on the Map activity, but aside from that, I don’t have a trick for learning addresses. But I know that we talk more about it than we did with Maddy, and even if Cora doesn’t know our exact number, she at least knows our street name.


  • Talking about stranger safety: Ugh. I totally despise this ‘life lesson’ but it has to be taught–over and over and over.

Do this by: Watching The Safeside: Stranger Safety DVD with the kids and being informed myself was all we did, have done, and plan to do with Cora. It’s a great reminder for all of my kids–Maddy, Owen, and Cora.


  • Eating lunch out of a lunchbox: Many kids do this at preschool before they hit the big K-year, and Cora’s preschool included. But when her new lunchbox arrives, I’ll pack it–just like I will for the first day–and we’ll have a picnic somewhere.

Do this by: Packing his lunch in his brand-new, just-for-kindergarten lunchbox and picnicking somewhere!

shrinky dink backpack

  • Blingin’ her backpack:  I have read that it’s not wise to get backpacks monogrammed with kids’ names because then it’s easier for a stranger to call their name and lure them way.  I don’t remember where I read it, and don’t mark my words.

So rather than make a huge, fancy name-plate for new Kindergartners, I do think it’s important to personalize their bags a bit.

Do this by:  Making something simple and fancilicioius, like the felt flower pins we made for Maddy, or make it a little more subdued.  Last year for Owen, we blinged his backpack with personalized Shrinky Dinks, and we have plans for Cora in the works!


  • Saying ‘Hello’ to her teacher: We’ve done this every year since Maddy started Kindergarten, and the kids love it–and I think the teachers do, too.  We even made adaptations in our Hello Teacher Notes last year for Maddy, since she’s a bit older.

It’s just a quick introduction–nothing fancy or involved–between student and teacher before Open House, Back-to-School picnic, whatever.

Do this by: Sending Hello Teacher Notes to the new teacher.  We’ll find out Cora’s teacher pretty soon, so once we do, she will write his letter which tells the teacher a little bit about her, and she’ll send a blank one to the teacher. She will complete the letter (some quick one-word answers–I know teachers need a summer break!), and she will use the stamped envelope we provide to send the response back to us.


kindergarten prep

Let them play, let them play, let them play. With new friends and old.


  • Hanging with friends: It’s so important for kids to have at least one familiar face when they walk into the building, but I am well aware that that is not always possible.  I do know though, that at this point in time, so many communities have online message boards that help with the organization of a summertime playdate.  So take a second, sit down at the computer, and do a little research!

Do this by:  Post a park playdate event on a community message board, something along the lines of: Let’s get the Bayside Elementary School 2011 rising kindergartners together!  Plan to meet at [this park] on [this date] at [this time].  Bring snacks! Bring outside toys! Siblings welcome!!  Any questions, please contact [your email].

And be sure to stop by the grocery store for some cheap freeze pops if you can and bring paper and a pen so you can gather everyone’s contact information for the next park playdate. preparing kids for kindergarten

Or post a sign at your community pool or the library or wherever.  You can meet at the library, or just meet with some of the parents the first time, or send a note to your MOMS Club or church or even the counselor at the school could possibly help connect you to a person who may be able to help you.


  • Giving her jobs:   Having kids listen to verbal directions–and then follow them–is super-important for success in school.   I have no secrets as to how we get our kids to follow directions (they don’t always, believe me), and my husband and I are perpetual students in this parenting gig–learning every single day.

For us, Gem Jars (and now Gem Jars 2.0) have worked and Game Time Tickets have worked as incentives for listening and being respectful. But it’s uber important to give kids specific tasks with clear directions so they practice those listening skills.  Maybe it’s not always a ‘Get in there and clean your room‘, ‘Hang up those wet towels!!’ or a ‘Please turn off the light‘– maybe if we occasionally throw in a ‘Please make yourself–and me–a huge bowl of ice-cream‘ or a ‘Will you please teach me how to play Mario Kart?‘ they’ll listen more closely. . .


  • Giving her space:  It’s hard, but free time is important. I’m not talking about setting our kids free to roam the ‘hood with the instructions to return at dinnertime. I’m talking about taking a break from our helicopter tendencies, from our incessant worrying, from our need to fill space and time, from our perpetual ‘where-is-she-and-what-is-she-doing?’

Kindergarten’s a big step.  And our kids need to know that we have confidence in their success.

Thanks to a good friend of mine, I recently read an article in the July/ August 2011 The Atlantic, How to Land Your Kid in Therapy.  Interesting stuff. Gave me a ton to think about and is totally worth reading.


  • Giving them love: I’ll never stop hugging and kissing on my kids. I can’t keep my hands off of their sun-tanned shoulders and bleach-blonde heads.  I love the feel of Owen’s calloused, monkey-bar hands; I adore Cora’s crooked, self-cut bangs, and my heart sings when Maddy hugs me with her whole body–her long legs included.  Their hoots and hollers crack me up and the sparkle in each of their blue eyes is enough to bring me to tears.

But I have come to realize that love comes in so many different forms–and that a hard part of demonstrating love for my children involves me letting go, even if it’s just a little.  I’m working on showing them my love for them by letting them fall and get themselves back up.  Letting them run to me with a skinned knee instead of me running to them, waving a band-aid and Neosporin and a face full of worry.  Allowing them to explain to their coaches why they were late for swim practice rather than me doing the explaining. Not bringing back-up goggles when they lose their second pair in two days.

Showing my sweets that I trust in them and believe in their ability to bounce back.

It’s not easy–but I’m trying.


And so it goes. . . my second-to-last summer before my baby is off to Kindergarten.  Let’s do what we can to enjoy the journey!kindergarten prep | teachmama.com