quick and easy halloween ghost cookies

sweet spooky chocolate cookie ghosts

sweet spooky chocolate cookie ghosts

October has been an incredibly busy month for us, with me finishing up two classes on top of all of my other normal work.

However, our crazy schedule isn’t stopping us from having a whole lot of Halloween fun over here.

Our Halloween Banana Ghosts were a big hit way back when, so rather than stay healthy, I thought I’d mix it up a bit and really ‘up’ our sweet and fat intake and make Sweet, Spooky Halloween Cookie Ghosts.

White chocolate. Nutter Butters. Chocolate chips. Bam.

Actually, in all honesty, I wanted a quick and easy seasonal treat and I was craving Nutter Butters.  So that’s why we made them.

And because these cookies only need a handful of ingredients, there really is no recipe reading involved. But there’s a lot of basic sequencing with the repeated steps, so that is what I emphasized.

Cora was my helper, and by the time we were finished, yes we were covered in white chocolate, but we also had a full tray of fun ‘homemade’ cookies to share for Grandma’s birthday dinner that night.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Sweet, Spooky Halloween Cookie Ghosts:

Little hands are big helpers with these chocolatey treats, so be sure to gather your small helpers.

halloween cookie ghosts

You will need:

  • White chocolate chips
  • Mini milk chocolate chips
  • Regular sized milk chocolate chips
  • Nutter Butter cookies (or Vienna Fingers—any long oval cookie will work)
  • Cookie sheets lined with wax paper

spooky halloween cookies collage

1.  Prepare your cookie sheets by lining them with the wax paper.

Explain to your helper that you will need a spot to drop these sweet and spooky ghosts after they’re dipped, so you are thinking a head and preparing a spot for them.   The worst thing would be to have a drippy cookie with no place to put him to cool.

 

 spooky halloween cookies collage

2.  Melt the white chocolate chips.

I explained to Cora that when melting chocolate, it is really important to do it slowly and carefully. We didn’t want to place them in the microwave on high for five minutes or the chocolate would burn and get crusty.

spooky halloween cookies collage

Rather, we put the bowl in the microwave for 45 seconds, took it out and mixed it.

We put it in the microwave again for 45 seconds, mixed and repeated until the chocolate was totally smooth and melted.

 

She loved mixing the chocolate with the spatula and watching it become more and more smooth.

spooky halloween cookies collage

3.  Dip a cookie in the chocolate.

Easy as that.  Dip, twist to make sure it’s covered on the front and back, and place on the wax paper.

 

spooky halloween cookies collage

 

spooky halloween cookies collage

4.  Place the chocolate chip eyes and mouth onto the ghost.

We used mini chips for the eyes and regular-sized ones for the ‘BOO!’ mouth.

Cora did this job almost entirely by herself because her tiny fingers were better for the job. And of course I let her know that.

spooky halloween cookies collage

spooky halloween cookies collage

As we built our ghost cookies, I was careful to use sequential words like first, second, third, next, after, and last.

I tried to use words like before and after, left and right, top and bottom. Easy words I know she knows and covered in pre-k and Kindergarten but that I want her to use and remember.

halloween cookie ghosts

 

halloween cookie ghosts

 

I wanted to squeeze in as much meaningful everyday math vocabulary as I could, not only because it’s important for Cora to learn, but also because it’s great for her to use these words ‘in action’.  And really? It’s great for kids to have as much at-home practice of their at-school learning as possible.

For our family, some of the most fun and memorable learning has been done in our kitchen–over sweets.

Anyway, perfect no matter how much time you have to prep, these Sweet, Spooky Halloween Cookie Ghosts will sure to be a hit with kids of all ages.

 

Want a few more fall-inspired learning ideas?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

Or check out these popular Halloween posts:

paper plate puzzles: fun number learning for kids

paper plate math puzzles

paper plate puzzles: fun number learning for kids

The following guest post is written by mom of five, Annette of Tips From a Typical Mom.   Annette covers everything under the sun on her blog, and it’s all done well.  Check it out.

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Hi Everyone!  I’m so excited to be doing a guest post for Teach Mama.

I am a preschool teacher, and one of the hardest things for me to find are manipulatives that have to do with learning numbers.  So I decided I’d make my own.

  • Paper Plate Puzzles–Fun Number Learning for Kids:

These cute paper plate puzzles are so inexpensive and easy to make, and your kids will love to play with them.  I have made them in black and white, so you can either leave them that way or color them.

You can print them with a colored background for easier matching.

My 2 1/2 year old son is just learning his numbers, so I colored around the outside of the printable so he could match the pieces easier.  He knows all the yellows go together!

Then I count the dots, tally marks and pictures with him and help him trace the number with his finger.

These are so easy to make!

All you need are:

  • the cheap flimsy paper plates,
  • glue,
  • scissors and
  • the printables.

Just print, glue, and cut.  You’re done!

 

 


Do you want to make Paper Plate Puzzles for your little ones?

 

Annette is a blogging mother of 5 over at Tips From a Typical Mom.

She is also a preschool teacher, photographer, soccer mom and loves her Paragliding Hubby!  She loves to share freebies, recipes, parenting tips, and household tips on her blog.

You can find her on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Annette  for sharing this cute and clever activity!

Looking for more activities that make math hands-on, fun, and engaging for your little ones?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards, filled with more fab sneaky learning ideas:

Or check out the following math-happy posts:

What’s your favorite, hands-on way of helping kiddos learn numbers? Please share!

lily pad number game: get kids up, moving, and counting!

lily pad number game | get kids up, moving, and counting!

lily pad number gameThe following guest post is written by Emma Craig. Emma writes P is for Preschooler blog which is totally worth checking out if you have a little one at home!

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It recently came to my attention recently that Kay does not know what numbers mean. Sure, she can count, but she doesn’t get that “8” means eight things. I believe the fancy name is 1:1 correspondence. Whatever the case, it’s something we need to work on.
So when I saw this Lily Pad Hop from Toddler Approved, I wanted to give it a try.

  • Lily Pad Number Game:

Kay isn’t usually one to just sit and work on numbers or letters – in fact, if it has the slightest whiff of being educational, she tunes out.

But this involved jumping! I cut out some rudimentary lily pads from heavy paper, numbered them 1-9 and bought new stickers for the occasion.

At first she started putting one sticker on each lily pad, but then I reminded her that “This lily pad needs 5 stickers. Can we do it?” Of course! She carefully counted and recounted until all the stickers were on.
Now, the fun part.

lily pad number game | get kids up, moving, and counting!

 

We placed them on the floor in the sun room. I’d ask her, “Can you get me the 6 and 7?” and she’d run to the table to bring them to me.

I heard her counting the stickers when she didn’t know what the number was, and I had to smile.

 

lily pad number game | get kids up, moving, and counting!

 

Finally they were all set out and – hopping time!

lily pad number game | get kids up, moving, and counting!

 

This was undoubtedly her favorite part, and I joined in too.

I do wonder what people walking by our house at the time thought when they kept hearing, “Ribbit, ribbit!” over and over again!

I think our neighbors are starting to expect strange things from us anyway!How do you and your children play with numbers?

****Looking for more super-fun, sneaky math activities?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards, filled with indoor fun ideas:

Or check out the following math-happy posts:

 

p is for preschool Emma Craig is a stay-at-home mom to 4-year-old Kay. They keep busy through the day, all while sneaking in a little learning along the way. You can read more at: http://pisforpreschooler.weebly.com/p-is-for-preschooler-blog.html

lego baseball: creative math game for kids, by kids

lego baseball | sneaky, creative math fun

post contains affiliate links

 

lego baseball | super sneaky totally creative math fun

 

The following guest post is written by Heather Kauffman. Heather is a teacher and mom of three boys, a longtime we teach member, one of my dearest, closest pals.

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I am the mother of three super-duper boys.  Boys who like to wrestle, play with light sabers, and generally participate in any activity that involves yelling and sweat.  My kids work up a sweat playing the Wii in the basement.

They get hot and sweaty playing the LEGO Baseball game they invented because they jump around and get excited when their “player” gets a home run or makes a diving catch.

What’s that, you say?  LEGO Baseball?  I am quite proud of my creative kids who invented a game using their baseball cards, a pair of dice, and their imagination.  The game can also be played with LEGO minifigures (or guys, as we call them) instead of baseball cards.

I will explain the basic rules for the game with baseball cards and how to also play the game with LEGOS.

My kids have their baseball cards organized in these simple notebooks.

I got the card protectors from Amazon.com and the notebooks from our dusty closet.  Once they have their cards sorted (mine sort by team) they go through and pick out the players they want for their game.

lego baseball | sneaky math funPlayers can be from any team but usually only one per position. Here are the nine positions you need for baseball:  catcher, pitcher, 1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base, short stop, right field, center field, left field.  Sometimes the boys will pick out an extra pitcher as a “reliever” or an extra batter for a Designated Hitter.  That’s optional.

Once each kid has their nine players, they prep for the game.  Flip a coin to see who is the home team.  The home team will pitch first.  They have created paper bases and a paper pitching mound.  The cards for the home team are placed on the field in the spots they are filling.  For example, put the first baseman’s card next to first base.

The away team makes their batting lineup.

lego baseball | sneaky math fun

Once the defensive players have been placed in the correct spots and the batters are ready, it’s time to start the game.  Grab the two dice and the sheet that shows the plays you can roll.

Roll the dice and add them together.  In this example, a 4 was rolled.  That means the batter gets a single.  Use the dice as the ball and the batter “hits” the dice and heads to first base.

lego baseball | sneaky math fun

lego baseball | sneaky math fun

Play until one team gets 3 outs.  Then switch.

It’s amazing how many times the boys have adjusted which play is assigned to each sum of the dice.  They quickly discovered that the rare plays in baseball, like a triple, should have a sum that doesn’t show up that often.

More common plays, like a single or an out, correlate to a sum that will appear more often.  Sounds like a lesson in probability, right?  I am pretty sure they didn’t think they were doing math problems and playing baseball at the same time, but they were!

My kids are baseball players.  When they play this game, they REALLY act it out. In fact, when the youngest (who is 5) wanted to play the older two instructed him he had to act it out really well to be able to play.  If your player makes a diving catch, you pick up that card and make it look real!  Not only do they line up their batters in a strategic order, theyalso have an on-deck circle.

To play with LEGOS, the rules are the same.  Pick out nine of your favorite LEGO dudes along with various weapons that can be used as bats (light sabers, axes, swords).

 

lego baseball | sneaky math fun

Set out LEGO bases and a pitching mound.

lego baseball | sneaky math fun

My kids have also created “fans” who are watching the game.

lego baseball | sneaky math fun

lego baseball | sneaky math fun

Check out the pitcher. . . lego baseball | sneaky math fun

 

. . . and the batter getting ready to use his light saber!

lego baseball | sneaky math fun

They use the scoreboard from their box of Baseball Guys.

lego baseball | sneaky math fun

And don’t forget the cameraman!

lego baseball | sneaky math fun

 

These are just two ways to play the game.  Your kids might want to adjust the value of the dice after they play a few times.

No matter how you play, LEGOS + Baseball=fun!

Want a printable version of rules and score sheet?

Lego Baseball Rules | sneaky, creative math fun by teach mama

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Heather and Seth and Matthew for sharing!

Heather Kauffman is the mother of three boys and is a former elementary & Gifted/ Talented teacher. She’s active in her kids’ school, teaches Sunday School, loves reading, and she basically chases her three Wii-loving, Star Wars and Lego-playing, baseball and basketball-playing, pool-crazed boys around all year long.

****

Looking for more super-fun, sneaky math activities?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

Or check out the following math-happy posts:

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

math and writing: ten apples up on top

ten apples up on top

post contains affiliate links

 

ten apples up on top

 

The following guest post is written by Jackie Higgins, of Ready-Set-Read. Jackie is a great friend and longtime we teach member, now a member of the we teach advisory board.

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I’m Jackie, an early literacy blogger, reading specialist, and mom of preschoolers. I’m also a book-a-holic. According to my husband, I have too many children’s books. Is there such a thing?

In our house, I use books to teach basic preschool concepts as well as connect to our experiences. This fall my boys have experienced visiting an apple orchard. We’ve read books about apples and done much of our learning at home based on apples. I prepared for our thematic unit by finding many wonderful picture books about apples at my local library.

You can view my complete list of apple books in my apple unit.

After I found the books my boys loved, I created activities using math, science, and language objectives. As Amy would say it was a great way to “sneak” learning into our day.

Plus, research shows that using thematic units helps kids to connect to what they are learning in a meaningful way.  I’m so thrilled to be here today on Teach Mama to share one of our faves from our apple unit, Ten Apples Up on Top by Dr. Seuss.

Ten Apples up on Top Book Review

Ten Apples up on Top by Dr. Seuss is a rhyming counting book. In the story, a lion, a dog, and a bear compete to see who can balance the most apples on top of their heads. Most kids think this story is so funny. It has a loud, crazy ending. Your kids will join right in with the “kaboom!”

This is a great book for helping kids learn to count objects to 10.  The rhyming text and use of high frequency words makes it a great choice for beginning readers as well.

 

Book Activity for Ten Apples up on Top

apple unit math activity

 

After reading the book, Ten Apples up on Top, we decided to challenge ourselves to see how many apples we could stack on top of our heads. I created apple bean bags for this activity. I cut red felt in circles, stuffed it with beans, and sewed around the circle. The beanbags were pretty easy to make with basic sewing skills. With a little imagination, any size or color of bean bag can be an “apple” up on top, though.  There’s no need to create apple bean bags unless you really want to.

We even created a few “challenges” similar to the book. We tried balancing our apples while hopping, while walking, and while dancing.

After a few tries, the boys recorded the number of apples they were able to balance. We used those in our counting and writing activity.

 

Math and Writing with Ten Apples up on Top

 

apple unit math activity

After our balancing apples challenge, we created a math craft. The boys glued apple clip art on top of a boy face. They carefully counted out the apples to match their score from the game above. Then, they practiced writing numbers.

They are preschool and kindergarten aged so I provided a print out of the sentence. “______ had ___ apples up on top.”  I helped my youngest fill in the blanks with his name and number, but my kindergartener was able to practice writing his name and practice number formation.  My preschooler really wants a beard, so he added that as well! More advanced children could practice writing a complete math sentence to describe their pictures.

I provided my kids with faces to color for their project, but many kids would be able to draw themselves with apples up on top. If you are interested, all of the clip art is included in my apple unit.

 

Extending the activity

The week after we completed this project at home, my son’s kindergarten class read Ten apples up on Top and did a similar activity.  His class was learning to compare numbers. They chose how many apples to put up on top. Then they compared that with a partner. This would be a fun way to introduce math terms such as greater than, less than, equal/same.

Fall is a great time to explore apple themed books and activities. Books can simply be enjoyed together or parents and teachers can work in learning activities to extend the learning. We loved learning about apples and learning basic concepts through our apple unit. Next month we are off to the pumpkin patch, so I guess I better head back to the library. After all, you can never have too many great children’s books!

****

Looking for more book activities?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

 

ready set read buttonCome visit with Jackie at Ready-Set-Read for more ways to engage your children with books. You can also find Jackie busily pinning on Pinterest, tweeting on twitter, and chatting about the best Children’s literature on facebook and Google+.

 

Huge and happy thanks to the amazing Jackie Higgins for sharing her expertise with us! Please check out her blog, follow her, friend her, and favorite her–you’ll be glad you did!

 

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

street signs for early literacy and math skill building

signs for early literacy learning

signs for early literacy learning

I’ve shared time and again the importance of using what is around you–environmental print–for early literacy and math skill-building.

Signs are everywhere, and they’re free.

And they can really help our little ones to become excited about reading.

Don’t believe me?

Try it.

I’m over at Scholastic Raise a Reader chatting about some ways you can use signs for your own little ones’ early literacy learning.  Check it out: Signs–Easiest Reading Your Kids Should Ever Do.

Want a little more?

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Street Signs For Early Literacy and Math Skill Building:

Check out these few posts about the same subject.

 

alphabet and reading on the roadAlphabet & Reading on the Road

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street signs for learningSigns, Signs, Everywhere are Signs

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street sign mathStreet Sign Math

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Happy street sign reading!!

math, writing, STEM apps for kids: tabletop surprises

tabletop surprises week seven

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We’re close to the finish line here, and my heart is heavy.tabletop surprises week six c

Though my own work is piling up by the second, the fun I’ve had with the kids this summer makes it well worth drowning in my ole inbox, missing a boatload of deadlines, and feeling like I am going to collapse by 7pm each night. 

We’re on week six of our tabletop surprises, our simple ways of setting Maddy, Owen, and Cora up for fun on their own time–and really I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well most of it has worked. And how not well some of it has worked.

Really.

This week, we rocked it out with some serious math and writing fun and a few new-for-us STEM apps for kids. It was a good mix of techy and non-techy, creative and critical thinking, new and old.

Personally, this was my favorite week, but two total days were pretty much bombs for the kids.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Math, Writing, & STEM Apps for Kids– Tabletop Surprises:

math, writing, STEM apps for kids: tabletop surprises

  • Create and Play Freely with Craft Sticks: Really. So free-bird and open, the sky was the limit here.

I dumped out large colored craft sticks, regular-sized craft sticks, and grooved craft sticks on the table, and that was it.

popsicle spopsicle sticks tabletop surprises - 2ticks tabletop surprises - 2

Sometimes someone would walk by the table and make a tower with the grooved craft sticks with a roof out of the other ones, and sometimes they’d use the craft sticks as poker for the dirt and grass out front.

Free and fun. That’s all we were shooting for.

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tabletop surprises day math games

  • Make Your Own Math Games: This was based on a real oldie but goodie.

When the kids were tiny, we made a handful of personalized board games for them: Cora’s Color Game, Owen’s Beginning Sound Game, Cora’s Fancy Game, and more.

They always felt extra-special when I created a game just for them–and they’d never in a million years know how easy it was for me.

 

make your own math game tabletop surprises - 4

make your own math game tabletop surprises - 4

 

Depending on what they needed some support with (articulation, phonemic awareness, reading, basics, you name it) along with what they were interested in (Cars, princesses, jewels, etc.), you can create a game for nearly every person in the universe.

My little forumla:

blank board + a current challenge + a favorite bling or embellishment + cool die or spinner + fun pawns = BIG WIN for kids

I love the size of the blank boards you can pick up at Johnnie’s Math Page (for free!) or you can grab Cora’s blank heart board if you’d like (also for free!).

How do you play these simple games?

  1. Roll the die (I wrote 1, 2, and 3 on the back of a foam cube and called it a day).  I wanted the kids to roll low numbers so they’d have to do more problems vs roll high and have to do only one or two).
  2. Move your pawn that many spaces.
  3. Do the math problem in your head. If you get it correct, you move forward; if you don’t, you stay put until your next turn.

Easy and fun. Keep it light–and give kids all the time they need for do-overs!

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tabletop surprises day fun with foamies cover

  • Fun With Foamies: Much like I’ve done with other art projects, I simply laid out blank paper and several containers of Foamie stickers.

That’s it.

I put out colored construction paper, markers, and Foamies of every shape and size that I could find: sports foamies, flowers and hearts, holiday foamies, Noah’s Ark foamies, the list goes on.

fun with foamies

 

Cora got right to work on a card for her Grandma and Grandpa, and Maddy just kind of shimmied on by.

This activity did not go over well with Owen or Maddy; however, Cora loved, loved, loved it. And I’m not sure why but I do know that everyone has different tastebuds so we live and learn. And that’s the beauty of tabletop surprises! Tomorrow’s a new day.

 

fun with foamies

fun with foamies

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tabletop surprises day stem celebration cover

  • New-for-Us STEM iPad Apps: Loved this one, and so did the kids.

I stumbled across a rockstar pin from my friends at Cool Mom TechThe best FREE Educational Apps for Kids–the Back to School Tech Guide 2013 which inspired this activity: Apps. New ones. Bam.

I decided to create a folder on our iPads just for today’s Tabletop Surprise Apps and I labeled it as such. That way, I could tell them that they were free to use any of the new apps in the Tabletop Surprise Folder, and they’d know exactly what I was talking about.

 

new ipad apps tabletop surprise

 

new ipad apps tabletop surprise

 

new ipad apps tabletop surprise

 

Sticking with STEM apps (science, technology, engineering, and math), I chose BrainPOP Featured Movie and BrainPop Jr Movie of the Week (from Cool Mom Tech’s recommendations). I also added the Disney Planes Adventure Album, tangram, ArithFit, and Wings: motion math.

We’re still trying them out, but at this point, they seem to be a hit with Maddy, Owen, and Cora.

 

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tabletop surprises day baby photos

  • Writing About Baby Photos: This was a throwback from last summer’s Everyday Journal.

Choose a picture from one of your baby albums. Describe you in the photo. What are you wearing? What expression is on your face? What are you doing?

Not a whole lot of analyzing or creative thinking but more of a descriptive piece. And because we had been looking at baby albums last week and they loved it, I thought for sure they’d love it this week.

But they didn’t. Not a huge hit AT. ALL.

I poked and prodded, but no bites. Okay, so we move on.

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The last week of our tabletop surprises will be Kid Planned.  Woot.

So the last week is upon us, and what I decided to do is give Maddy, Owen, and Cora the reins. So I created this quick and easy planning sheet, and I handed it over to the kids.

Tabletop Surprises Planning Sheet by teach mama

 

I said, Okay, you guys definitely loved some of our Tabletop Surprises, and others, well. . . they were not a big hit. I could never tell which you’d love and which you wouldn’t so this last week? YOU get to plan. You, together, plan and organize the week’s worth of Tabletop Suprises, and lucky you, you’ll be able to do pretty much whatever you think will work best, within reason of course.

So they got to work.

And I’ll get up early, just like I always do, and I will follow their plan. And I bet I’ll know who will learn the most this week. . .

And that’s it. Simple, fun. Independent learning all the way.

 

Stay on top of the Tabletop Surprises by checking out the past few weeks if you’ve missed them:

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

independent learning, poetry and play: tabletop surprises

tabletop surprises week 5

post contains affiliate links

 

 

learn and play independently tabletop surprises
The greatest thing about tabletop surprises is that they afford my kids the opportunity for some seriously fun independent learning in cool and creative ways.

Because learning–especially in the summer–should be fun, right?

Right.

This week, we traveled a bit to hang with our familia in the Keystone State, so we only rocked our tabletop surprises four days this week.  And Friday? Our boy celebrated his big numero ocho cumpleanos. So we made our tabletop surprise especially for Owen.

We added a little bit of math, a little bit of reading, a little bit of critical thinking, and a whole lot of on-their-own-time kinda fun.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Independent Learning, Poetry, and Play– Tabletop Surprises:

tabletop surprises mealtime math madness

  • Mealtime Math Madness with Melissa & Doug Math Fact Placemats: This tabletop surprise moved from the work room table to our kitchen table–and it stayed there pretty much all week long.

I’ve always been a fan of mealtime learning, placemat parties, and using the many hours spent at the breakfast table for newspaper reading, sneaky learning, personal discovery, and more.

learning fun placemats tabletop surprise

learning fun placemats tabletop surprise

So when I found this sweet line of fun, wipe-off placemats from Melissa & Doug, I wanted to dance.   Really. Like running man al kinda dance.

We have tried the Alphabet & Numbers set, the Advanced Skills set, the Basic Skills set, and the Math Skills set. We haven’t tried the Fun Skills set (my poor, poor kids).

What I love about these sets is that though the problems are not mixed randomly, my hope is that kids will see patterns in the answers that will help them down the road. I don’t know. I can hope though.

learning fun placemats tabletop surprise

Love the wipe off crayons that are super easy to write with and bright enough to see. Love that there’s one mat each for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division and the answers are on the back of each. So if the kids aren’t up for writing, then at least they can eat and stare at the answers. Maybe the answers will sear into their brains if they look at them long enough. . .

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tabletop surprises day poems

  • Poems–Memorizing & Reciting:  I love poems for so many reasons, but for kids, poems can be a super way of working on reading skills.

Check out how we rocked some serious poetry this week: Reading, Reciting, and Memorizing Poems

Fluency, memorization, and recitation are three big open doors when it comes to poetry, not to mention the creativity, writing skills, language play, critical thinking, and comprehension strategies you can practice.

 

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tabletop surprises day shopping

  • Back-t0-School Shopping & Lists: Our family totally digs Back-to-School shopping, and it’s a tradition to kinda ‘do it up’ every year.

We’ve had the kids use their own school supply shopping lists from day one, and each year I do a little something to support Maddy, Owen, and Cora in their reading and management of their personal lists.

This year, I put them to work even before we arrived at the store.

back to school price shopping tabletop surprise

back to school price shopping tabletop surprise

 

I printed out supply lists from the school website, and I let them go.

Owen in particular had a great time trying to figure out the best places to buy Skylanders most inexpensively, and once he figured that out, he spent a few minutes plowing through his list.

The challenge was having them incorporate the coupons I had on the table–that involved some serious math practice.

Though this tabletop surprise required more support than I had anticipated, it was worth it. Now we have our back-to-school shopping plan outline for the weekend.

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tabletop surprises day free electronics

  • Free Electronics:  Really, for Owen’s birthday, all he wanted was a free day for electronics.

So that’s what we gave him.

Free reign of the Wii, the Nintendo DS, the LeapFrog LeapPad, the LeapFrog GS, the iPad, and the iPad mini, and my boy was in hog heaven. The best gift I could have given him, he said.

No Game Time Tickets. No timers. Nothin’.

I had to do a lot of deep breathing to ease my anxiety over my kids’ brain cells being zapped by the second, but surprisingly, they didn’t spend all day on electronics. tabletop surprises buttonJust a whole lot of it.   Gulp.

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Stay on top of the Tabletop Surprises by checking out the past few weeks if you’ve missed them:

Or check out some fun ideas from a our Smart Summer Challenge a few summers back.

 

fyi: affiliate links included in this post

creative hands-on learning for kids: tabletop surprises

creative, hands on learning for kids | tabletop surprises

post contains affiliate links

 

creative hands-on learning for kids: tabletop surprises

 

Tabletop Surprises have been a saving grace for us this summer.

Quick and easy learning on my kids’ own time.  They’re digging it.

This week we incorporated some serious creative hands-on learning that involved critical thinking and math, science, and literacy skills. I’d say that by far our first two days were Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s fave activities hands down.

What are Tabletop Surprises? If you follow me on Instagram, you’d know what I’m talking about because each day I’ve shared a quick photo of each day’s surprise each day of the week.

Tabletop Surprises are fun learning or creative thinking opportunities for the kids on our craft room table. Just sitting there.

Waiting for someone to come along and try ‘em out.

 

This week we got creative and crafty.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Creative Hands-on Learning for Kids–Tabletop Surprises: Each day is a little different.  And honestly? This has been so much fun for me as I think of cool things for the kids to do.

tabletop surprises recyclables

  • Create & Invent With Recyclables: Really, all I did for Monday was put out a handful of random recyclables, and the kids went to work trying to design and create something that could help someone or something.

I wasn’t sure how it would go, but it was the hit of the week, by far.

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

I put a little note on a big box of recyclables—paper rolls, tubes from the toulle from our fairy skirts a while back, plastic containers, you name it. I didn’t put out every recyclable we had; rather, I tried to keep it simple while at the same time provide them with a range of objects that would be usable and cool.

I wanted to keep it open for the kids and make the sky the limit.

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

Along with the recyclables, I put a roll of duct tape and a roll, a roll of clear packing tape, and a roll of masking tape on the table.  And a few pairs of scissors.

Maddy, Owen, and Cora literally sat at the table for an hour or more. And when they finished, they took turns presenting what they created to a small  audience of each other and me.

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

Though none will end up taking first place in Invent America! this activity kept their brains moving and creativity flowing.

Maddy created what she set out to be an automatic dog feeder but that morphed into a binocular system of sorts.

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

focus: Creative thinking, fine motor, engineering, critical thinking, speaking, and presenting

Seriously? So fun.

———————————————————————-tabletop surprises flowers

  • Playing with Flowers:  We’ve done this about once a year, and the kids love it. Whenever we have older flowers that are on the outs—ready to be tossed—I let the kids pull them apart.

Because who doesn’t like to have permission to pull petals off of flowers?

On three separate trays, I put a paper plate with several flower stems.  I included a small sheet of Parts of a Flower in case they wanted to accurately identify any of the parts, but they weren’t really into it.

flowers for learn and play

learn and play with flowers

puzzles melissa and doug - 10

I also included a small life cycle of a flower book for Cora that she could color and label as well.

This activity ended up moving from our craft room table to our back porch, and it quickly transitioned from a calm, cool, indoor science lesson into an attempt to make potions and perfume.

puzzles melissa and doug - 14

puzzles melissa and doug - 15

puzzles melissa and doug - 16

Maddy, Owen, and Cora used jars for water and smashed and smushed petals, tiny pieces of stem, grass and dirt.  They added yellow pollen, tiny parts of the flower centers, and every petal they could find.

focus: Sensory discovery, fine motor, creative thinking, free play, science

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tabletop surprises day learn to draw

  • Drawing Lessons:  Drawing lessons was not at all my intention today, but I stumbled across the most amazing site packed full of free resources that I had to use them.

In my opinion, this was the coolest thing we did all week.

I literally stumbled across the most amazing site by Donna Young called Donna Young’s printables and resources. On it is such a wealth of resources for at-home learning, it’s nuts.

learn to draw with donna young

drawing lessons with donna young

I put a little note on the table explaining what they needed to do, and I let ‘em at it.

Though it’s difficult to sort through it all, I started with about four sheets of Drawing blocks for younger children and several of Drawing Ia.  I wanted it to be engaging without being too tough for them.

They loved it.  A few blank sheets stuck to a clip board, a handful of newly sharpened pencils, and the kids found time throughout the day to sit down, draw, and relax.

We’ll definitely return to this site, as the options seem to be endless.  Though I totally love and appreciate free play, open-space creativity, and free-form drawing, I also love that this gives kids a challenge–replicating lines and shapes and working hand-eye coordination.

focus: fine motor, hand eye coordination

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tabletop surprises day floor puzzles

No note needed, I gathered all of our big Melissa & Doug floor puzzles and put them on the table. Many we’ve picked up at yard sales over the years, many were gifted to us, and some we’ve bought ourselves.

puzzles huge and happy floor puzzles

Some, the kids can do with their eyes closed. Others, like the 100- piece and 300-piece puzzles take more time, but they’re willing to work at it.

By the end of the day, our living room floor was carpeted in a huge T-Rex and a bunch of underwater scenes, horses running, presidents, USA maps, the planets, desert, you name it.

focus: fine motor, gross motor, problem-solving

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tabletop surprises day story starters

Essentially, Story Starters is a free site that lets users choose a theme and then helps them generate ideas For more on Scholastic Story Starters, check out the quick post I wrote about Story Starters for Scholastic Raise a Reader blog.

story starters computer

story starters computer

The kids really liked using this site, and though they did need support at the beginning, soon they could manage and navigate on their own.

The cool thing is that with every writing piece, kids can save, download, or print their final product.  Newspaper articles, journal entries, postcards, you name it.

And for activities like this, I do feel thankful that we have two tiny Asus Netbooks–great size for little hands, for sure.

story starters computer

story starters computer

story starters computer

 

And when stories are printed, they are formatted in cool ways. Kids loved this.  And they loved that they could share what they did with their dad when he got home from work.

For Cora and Owen, I let them get started with typing and then I took over as they dictated. I wanted their ideas to flow and didn’t want them to be hindered by their weak typing skills. It worked out great.  Maddy liked trying to type on her own, and I let her go.

With all free writing, I didn’t get hung up on spelling, punctuation, or the like. I wanted the kids to freely write, get all of their ideas down, and not worry about mechanics.

Again, something we’ll definitely revisit.  Totally worth it.

tabletop surprises button

And that’s it. Week four of our free-bird weeks of summer, and we’re enjoying every day.

Stay on top of the Tabletop Surprises by checking out the past few weeks if you’ve missed them:

Or check out some fun ideas from a our Smart Summer Challenge a few summers back.

 

fyi; affiliate links are included

math, literacy, and creative summer learning: tabletop surprises

math, literacy, and creative summer learning: tabletop surprises

math, literacy, and creative summer learning: tabletop surprises

We’re week three into our tabletop surprises, and this week, we rocked some sneaky math, literacy, and creative thinking.

The kids woke up to some easy activities and ones that required more thinking—and two that required more movement. Sign language was one of the week’s activities.

The basis for tabletop surprises is just to let Maddy, Owen, and Cora find their own time to do these little activities that sneak in a little bit o’ learning and fun into their days.

They take all of five seconds to set up and prepare, and it’s a whole lot of pulling from resources that are around the house—from our own focused learning at home, or from my previous classroom teaching experience.

Fun stuff.

Here’s the skinny . . .

  • Math, Literacy, And Creative Summer Learning– Tabletop Surprises:   Set up and then go. That’s it.

We’re three weeks in. Here we go!

tabletop surprises sudoku

  • Sudoku: That’s right. Sudoku is hard. Number sense and critical thinking and logic all wrapped up into one pretty, griddy package.

Sudoku puzzles are logic-based number puzzles.

I found mine on KrazyDad, where I found the mazes a few weeks back.  Free. Tons of them. So worth checking out. I totally heart KrazyDad.

sudoku  tabletop surprises

sudoku  tabletop surprises

I printed some Easy ones for Monday’s tabletop surprises.   Even some of  Easy level ones were tough for the kids.

I’ll definitely throw Sudoku  in the mix again before the end of the summer because the puzzles were that hard for the kids. I’m not sure how we hadn’t tried them before, but Sudoku was on my mind from the cool outdoor Sudoku on this year’s we teach: summertime learning eBook.

Maddy, Owen, and Cora solved the Kid ones quickly—and they should have. They were super easy. But the Easy ones really challenged them. I think I need to learn more about how to solve them, some of the tricks and logic strategies myself, and then I’ll give them the skinny before trying this activity again.

My plan? To read up on the Sudoku Space site which has a pretty detailed explanation behind the puzzles.

tabletop surprises sign language cover

  • Learning With Sign language: I got these great sign language cards from a friend who moved a few years ago, and every so often I pull them out for the kids.

For our tabletop surprise on Tuesday, I simply gave them the following challenge:

1. Put the cards in ABC order.

2. Learn your name in sign language.

3. Learn two more words of your choice in sign language.

4. Show me what you’ve learned!

sign language cards  tabletop surprises

sign language cards  tabletop surprises

Owen ran with it and impressed Maddy, Cora, and I while we ate breakfast. He’s my early bird and usually gets his tabletop challenges finished before the girls finish breakfast.

Maddy and Cora move a little later, usually tackling the challenge after lunch or late afternoon.

Consensus was they liked this one.

Want to give it a go? Download and print one of the free sign language cards from the ASL site or these little sign language alphabet printables from abcteach.

tabletop surprises day money

I think the problem was that I didn’t have a lot of money out for them to play with—we didn’t have a ton of coins to actually play with or fill the coin wrappers. I get it. It’d be hard to spend time counting coins and then not actually have $2 in nickels to fill a wrapper completely.

Anyway, it was out on Wednesday, and they enjoyed sorting the coins from the non-coins (Chuck-E-Cheese tokens, foreign coins, random small, coin-like objects).  I think you can grab coin wrappers at any bank (at least you could a while back), or you can find them very inexpensive on Amazon.

tabletop surprises letter writing

  • Letter Writing: The other day, Cora received a little ‘hello’ note from one of her classmates, and it reminded me of how much kids—mine, especially—enjoy getting mail.

So on Thursday, I put out some note paper, pens, and envelopes and a little note that said:

Send a little ‘hello’ to

-Nana! -Cousins! -Grandparents!  -Friends!

tabletop surprises letter writing

tabletop surprises letter writing

letter writing tabletop surprises - 4

What got them stuck was the envelope and how to address it properly.  I made a little sample, and it helped a bit.  Spelling their cousins’ names? Also tough.

Clearly we need to do more practice here or at least I should update our Family Playing cards.  I’ll add it to my list.

I just liked how this got Maddy, Owen, and Cora thinking, writing, and sending a little love.  We need to do it more often, for sure.

tabletop surprises descriptive writing

  • Descriptive Writing: Inspired by our Stop, Observe, and Write activity from last summer’s Everyday Journals, I threw a card from the Everyday Journals on a clipboard along with some journals and notebooks.

We had breakfast out on the back porch, and then the kids took some time to find a quiet spot and write.

descriptive writing tabletop surprises -

descriptive writing tabletop surprises -

It was quick, it was easy, and my hope was that they would be able to tune into what they saw, heard, smelled, felt, and maybe even tasted as they sat, listened, and wrote.

The key? Modeling. You sit and write with them, sharing what you wrote so that they hear what descriptive writing sounds like.

And that’s it. Just an average, thoughtful, summer week.  And along with some trips to the pool and nearby parks, some errands and chores, it was a pretty sweet week.  Though it’s crazy, and I’m behind on all of my work, emails, and cleaning, I am thankful and blessed.

Stay on top of the Tabletop Surprises by checking out the past few weeks if you’ve missed them:

Or check out some fun ideas from a our Smart Summer Challenge a few summers back.

learn and play independently: tabletop surprises week 2

tabletop surprises week two

post contains affiliate links

 

tabletop surprises week two

 

One rockin thing about tabletop surprises is that kids can learn and play independently. On their own time, when they’re up for it.

And that flexibility has been huge for us since our summer swim and dive schedule has been totally crazy for the last few weeks.

Another cool thing about creating these open invitations for exploration is that tabletop surprises allow: one day something free and crafty, another day something that is a little more thought-provoking and complex, an activity that requires a bit more time.

Survey says that these are a big win for us so far.

If the kids are game, I’m game.

This week, we used some math and reading skills, played with water and worked those fine motor skills.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Learn and Play Independently–Tabletop Surprises Week 2:

tabletop surprises button

Quick refresher: Tabletop Surprises are fun learning or creative thinking opportunities for the kids on our craft room table. Just sitting there.  Waiting for someone to come along and try ‘em out.  Open invitations to play.

Here’s what we did this week. . .

tabletop surprises mad minute math

math facts fun pens tabletop surprises -

  • Mad Minute Math Facts with Crazy Pens:  I am a huge fan of crazy pens. Added to anything, any sort of work, crazy pens up the fun factor by like a million percent. At least in my book.

So Mad Minute Math facts, paired with crazy pens– our bumblebee pens, some fun flip flop ones, and other crazy pens, were a pretty decent hit for the kids this week.

math facts fun pens tabletop surprises -

math facts fun pens tabletop surprises - 2

I use Mad Practice Sheet –a free website where you can put in any parameters you want, and the mad minute practice sheet is ready for you to print immediately. Love. It.

I printed several double-digit addition sheets, some single digit addition and subtraction, some multiplication, and some money problems. All free.

tabletop surprises day water fun

tabletop surprises day water

  • Indoor Water Fun:  My kids love playing with water, so all I did today was set up a few trays with–you got it–water.

I raided our small recycle bin and added some recyclables–small yogurt cups, play-doh ones, spice containers, and tiny glasses–that were clean and were waiting for a fun opportunity like this to arise.

I brought out some syringes that we’ve used before, and we were good to go. Ready to roll.

Added them to the tray, poured a little h2o in the big container, and that was it.  The novelty of playing with water in the house–in the craft room–where we normally have a no snacks, no drink rule made this activity especially fun for the kids.

tabletop surprises day magazine hunt cover

  • Magazine Reading & Magazine Hunt: Magazines are a great way to sneak in some meaningful reading time when you don’t have a whole lot of time to spare.

So I put out a bunch of magazines we had around the house–ones that my kids subscribe to or that we picked up along the way.

Along with the magazines, I had the Magazine Hunt cards out so that Maddy, Owen, and Cora could grab a card, hunt for what it asked for, and be on their merry way.  I think Maddy just grabbed a magazine and hit the couch.  Owen and Cora might have tried a card or two. Either way? Fun.

abletop surprises day puzzles

puzzle morning tabletop surprises

  • Puzzles, puzzles, puzzles: Simple. We were running crazy on Thursday, so three puzzles did the trick.

Only three: a 100 piece dinosaur puzzle, Melissa & Doug Construction Puzzle Set, and the Alphabet Giraffe puzzle.

puzzle morning tabletop surprises

puzzle morning tabletop surprises

puzzle morning tabletop surprises

These are puzzles that were small enough to fit on the table and were ones that we’ve had for a while. Old favorites.

Though the 100-piece didn’t get finished, the other ones were done and re-done throughout the day.

I think we found the Alphabet Giraffe puzzle at a yard sale years ago; the best $1.00 I ever spent because Maddy, Owen, and Cora have played with this for years and years and years.

 tabletop surprises day stencils

  • Stencils: We haven’t used stencils in forEVER.

So when I put these out on the table, I thought that either the kids would love them or totally ignore them.  They really did both.  Owen and Cora loved them and Maddy ignored them.

But I’m leaving them out over the weekend in case they feel stencil-inclined on Saturday or Sunday.

tabletop surprises day stencils
tabletop surprises day stencils

What I think drove the kids to the table, maybe even more than the stencils, was the cool paper I sent the stencils out with: frame paper from Melissa & Doug. Very fun–big sheets with a different frame on each page so that a masterpiece looks like a framed work of art even if it’s a simple stencil drawing.

That’s it–just a fun bit o’ learning for the week. . . got lots of cool stuff in store for the upcoming week because swim and dive are over!

fyi: Affilliate links are used in this post for your convenience. Use them and a teeny, tiny, super-small part goes to us–and we thank you!