halloween learning ideas — silly and scary literacy, math, and science

halloween learning

halloween learning

Halloween is in the air, and though we’ve just gotten around to decorating our house, we never do a lot of scary Halloween over here.

We always stick to the silly or tricky.

But, like any holiday, I truly believe that there are opportunities for sneaking in a little bit o’ learning during this candy-filled holiday.

A whole lot of fun—don’t get me wrong—but also a whole lot of fun learning as well.

Here’s the skinny on a few Halloween learning ideas—both silly and scary–literacy, math, and science learning for kids at a time when the world is black and gold, black and gold, nothing in between. . . when the world is black and gold, then it’s Halloween!

Really, it’s scary how much fun you can have with your kids around holiday time.  We like to start with Halloween.

Halloween Literacy Learning:

  • Halloween GHOST Bingo: Cute—not spooky—Halloween friends cover the boards and kids can practice learning the letters of “GHOST” while they use their eyes to match up the Halloween friends on cards to the ones on their boards.
  • Halloween Word Search: Perfect for emerging readers, word searches provide a super platform for really looking for letters. Add some Halloween words, and kids love playing detective!

hallowen book collage

Some of our favorite Halloween books:

  • Room on the Broom, by Julia Donaldson — the witch’s hat blows away, and while trying to find it, the witch picks up more and more friends, all who want to ride on her broom. We love the language in this book, and it’s super-silly.
  • Too Many Pumpkins, by Linda Arms White and illustrated by Megan Lloyd — a sweet story about lonely and cranky Rebecca Estelle who loathes pumpkins only to have her yard taken over by pumpkins one season. In an attempt to rid herself of these pesky gourds, she bakes tons of pumpkin goodies and draws her entire town to her house for a pumpkin party.  Read it to chat about inferring like we did; read it and love the illustrations, characters, and story
  • Arthur’s Halloween, by Marc Brown — as a mom I love the lesson in this book, no never judge a book by its cover, but with a fun Halloween theme, Arthur and D.W. don’t let us down!
  • Zen Ghosts, by Jon J. Muth — the children in this story learn from their panda friend Stillwater on Halloween–and who doesn’t need a little zen on a spooky holiday?

hallowen learning

Halloween Math Learning:

  • halloween party estimate game 2013: a perfect quick game to help kids practice number sense and estimating, it’s as easy as can be to get kids psyched about counting and numbers when candy corn or spiders are involved!
  • Leafy Grid Games: same kind of literacy and math prep but with Leafy Grid boards.
  • Blank Grid Games: use Halloween stickers or stamps as markers to continue the spooky fun.

Halloween Science Learning:

  • Candy Experiments: Use that leftover Halloween candy for some super-fun science experimenting!
  • Halloween Treat-Making: Cooking is science for kids, so get them in the kitchen and have them help you make these super cute witches’ fingers, eyeballs, boogers on a stick, and frozen ghosts.
  • Dinner in a Pumpkin:  A perfect opportunity to show kids how crazy cool food can be, a fun Halloween tradition is dinner in a pumpkin!

That’s it! Just a few fun literacy, math, and science related Halloween learning opportunities for families and kids!

And if you need some Halloween class party help, some not-so-scary Halloween tricks, or our new-and totally cool Halloween scarf. check it out, or feel free to leave links with your own fave Halloween sites.

Have something awesome I should add to the ole Halloween Pinterest Board? I’d LOVE to! Leave me the link!

Happy, happy, happy Halloween!

geocaching: what it is & why we’re hooked

geocaching park

geocaching: what it is and why we're hookedRight now, we’re 2 for 6.

That’s right–2/6. 2:6?

And today we totally thought we had one, but we didn’t.

We’ll masters by wintertime, after a fall of not worrying about poison ivy or scratched legs or sunburn.

We’ll move from ‘navigating to geocache’ to using the map or compass (on the phone, of course), and maybe the kids will even have their own Geomate.jr.

We’ll know every attribute symbol by heart.

Decrypting hints will become second-nature.  ROT13, anyone?

We’ll look for–and log–trackables or travel bugs and never alert the muggles.

Every logbook will have our initials, and we’ll know exactly how to read d/t (levels of difficulty and terrain, hello) like the back of our hand.

I’m talking ‘geocaching’ here if you haven’t already guessed, and after becoming geocachers this July, we’re hooked.  Seriously hooked.

Well, most of us are.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Geocaching–What it is & Why We’re Hooked:  So ‘geocaching’. What on earth is it, anyway?

Geocaching is a free real-world outdoor treasure hunt. Players try to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, using a smartphone or GPS and can then share their experiences online (straight from the Geocaching site, yo!).

what is geocaching?

Boys’ Life Series: Let’s Go Geocaching by John Mckinney got us interested in geocaching. . .

what is geocaching

but the search is what got us hooked!

What does ‘geocaching’ mean?

‘Geo’ refers to ‘geography’ and a ‘cache’ is a container (strange, I know, but pronounced ‘cash’), so ‘geocaching’ is simply the act of hiding–or seeking–a little container using geographical coordinates.  Or you can look at it as ‘geo’ meaning ‘earth’ and interpret ‘geocaching’ as finding a small container somewhere outdoors.  Either way works.

Before we got started, we did a little reading.

We found Boys’ Life Series: Let’s Go Geocaching by John Mckinney at the library.  We read it cover to cover and renewed it three times. No joke.  I found it extremely easy to understand and at a perfect level of difficulty for Maddy and Owen to read independently.

geocaching prep

We poked around on the geocaching site.

geocaching prep

We decoded a hint or two.  We were ready!

So what did we do next? How’d we go from reading about geocaching to becoming geocachers?

  • We visited the website: geocaching.com. And we played around, watching the video, reading about the caches close to us, and registering on the site. It’s all free unless you want to upgrade to a premium membership, which (shhhhh!) we did after our first find.
  •  Then we downloaded the app: geocaching for smartphones.  (But you do not necessarily need a smartphone to geocache!! You do need to have a GPS device or a GPS-enabled phone to navigate to the cache, though.)
  • We found the cache closest to where we wanted to begin, we read the logs, decoded the hint, and we clicked ‘navigate to cache’.
  •  Finally, we jumped in the car and headed out for our first cache!

what is geocaching

Maddy navigates to our first geocache. . .

what is geocaching

. . . and we tried and tried. . .

what is geocaching

. . . and tried some more. . .

geocaching pool - spoiler

And we FOUND IT!!

what is geocaching

This one was a micro, so no treasures–just a teeny, tiny log that we signed.

And then we danced around.

It. Was. Awesome.

We were instantly hooked.

Geocaching is like a treasure hunt outdoors. It’s a secret club that makes us look at our surroundings a little differently.

For some reason, it makes this great, big world seem a little . . .  smaller.  Like the whole world’s really a big playground.

geocaching park

Near one of our most favorite parks. . .

geocaching park

. . . we geocached up to 7 meters away from the cache but just couldn’t find it!

Every time we get in the car now, Owen asks, Can I see your phone? I want to find a closeby geocache.

So he pokes around, reads a few logs, and gets us on track to find one–when we’re running errands, when we’re at the park, when we’re on our way home, when we just need a fun diversion.

Geocaches. Are. Everywhere.

And like I said, we’re 2 for 6. We’ve found two. We tried for six.

Our record’s not great.  But we’re still hooked, and that should tell you something.

geocaching butterfly

Owen unrolls our second find–

geocaching butterfly

which was hidden near our bank, grocery, gas station–right in the center of town!

We’re lucky with micros (super, small, teeny-tiny geocaches) but not so lucky with the bigger ones.   But since most of the bigger ones are in the woods–or a little deeper out of sight, we’re going for those this fall.

I’m sure I’m missing some big geocaching pieces here, but for the recreational geocacher–especially for the family with young children–we’re enjoying it. 

And this mama believes geocaching is the ultimate sneaky-fun learning:

  • we’re looking at distances as we navigate to caches and giving the kids a sense of how far x-amount of feet or meters is from us;
  • we’re figuring out our position in relation to the cache;
  • we’re using direction–north, south, east, west–as we decide which way to walk;
  • we’re employing our critical thinking skills as we decode the hint and interpret what it means;
  • we’re reading past logs and synthesizing responses;
  • we’re getting out in nature, exploring our parks, routes, walks, and world in a way we haven’t experienced;
  • we’re looking at our surroundings with closer eyes and careful steps;
  • we’re practicing the difficult skills of patience, endurance, and handling disappointment;
  • we’re learning–each time!–and are excited to become better at our geocaching skills.

And that’s it–we’ve been geocachin’ fools for a good two months now, so we’ll just catchya in the logbooks, okay? And any advice, ideas, suggestions, or resources YOU have, I’d love to see!  We’re newbies–and we want to learn!

Some geocaching resources for the newbies:


fyi: Affiliate links are included in this unsponsored post, written by totally new geocacher (me) and influenced only by my three little geocachers and my geocaching dog.

sea shell craft: simple, sea shell salt dough pretties

seashells cover pinterest blank

seashell craft: salt dough pretties

Every time we go to the beach, we end up coming home with a boatload of shells.

And why wouldn’t we?  It’s one of our favorite things to do at the shore–collect sea shells during long walks by the water.

But at this point, we’ve done a whole lot with these little beachy guys–I was looking for something a little new and a lot different.  I knew we wanted us to keep the shells, but I also wanted the kids to be able to admire and share them.

And at this point, we have more than enough pets in the house, so Shell Pets wasn’t an option.  Though my kiddos do like a cute, good-natured, well-trained Rock Pet.  (Hey, and so do I.)

So instead of making beachy frames, instead of displaying them in a pretty glass jar or vase, and instead of using them as game pieces or counters, we made pretty keepsakes that we can share, paint, and use to remember our trip.

We tried a very simple recipe for an old-standby–salt dough–and we paired it with our seashell finds to create a really simple, really pretty, quite versatile summertime Sea Shell craft: Simple Sea Shell Salt dough pretties. 

Pretty little trinkets to display in our house or to share with our family.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Sea Shell Craft–Simple Sea Shell Salt Dough Pretties: I’ve wanted to make salt dough for some time now, so this was a great opportunity.

After our pumpkin play dough flop, I was a bit wary of any ‘play dough’ recipes, though I’m pretty convinced it was my mistake that made our play dough flop.


seashell craft: salt dough pretties

First, we cleaned our shells. . . and rocks.

sea shell craft: simple, sea shell salt dough pretties

And then we started on the salt dough.


Anyway, I remembered seeing a super-simple recipe for salt dough, so we tried it:

Salt Dough:

2 cups flour

1 cup salt

cold water–about 1/2 cup but add more if mixture’s too dry

How to: mix ingredients

My kind of recipe.

So Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I cleaned off our shells and set them out to dry.

Then we created our Salt Dough.  And it was so easy, I wanted to dance.  And it worked so well, I wanted to dance.  And the kids loved it so much, I wanted to dance.  It was a happy morning.

sea shell craft: simple, sea shell salt dough pretties

The kids added ingredients–all three of them–

seashell craft: salt dough pretties

and then they mixed and mixed and mixed. . .

sea shell craft: simple, sea shell salt dough pretties

. . . and came out with the most perfect salt dough ever.

We gathered a few recyclable items–small fruit cups, an egg carton, and an apple container from the huge discount store.  We also grabbed a few yogurt cups and butter containers.  The idea was that we’d form the dough into the containers and then decorate it with our shells.

Very simple.


sea shell craft: simple, sea shell salt dough pretties

We liked how the fruit cups had ‘fancy’ edges’ –we thought it would look cool when dried.

sea shell craft: simple, sea shell salt dough pretties

The apple carton makes a great mold for this shell craft–and so many other things!

And before we knew it, we had a boatload of fancy shells all stuck in salt dough, ready to dry.

We waited about 24 hours for them to mostly dry, and then we popped them out of their containers and set them on a drying rack out on the porch.  We let them dry completely and then. . . our Sea Shell Salt Dough Pretties were finished!

I liked how they looked plain, but Maddy and Cora thought they’d look great painted. I think we’ll squeeze in some painting–if they want to–sometime this week.  Before school starts. Boo-hoo.


sea shell craft: simple, sea shell salt dough pretties

I love how these turned out. . .

sea shell craft: simple, sea shell salt dough pretties

. . . simple, pretty. . .

sea shell craft: simple, sea shell salt dough pretties

 . . . seashell memories–perfect for a dresser, nightstand, or coffee table.

And that’s it! Sneaky, summertime crafting in the name of beachy memories. . . not a whole lot of learning but a whole lot of laughing–and hopefully smiling when we look at our Sea Shell Salt Dough Pretties and remember our awesome beach week!

And though they’re hardly perfect–and hardly fancy-schmancy, I love their simplicity and free form.  I love that the kids had a chance to re-use some recyclables, to see their sea shells added to a pretty cool craft, and that they worked together to make the super-sssschweeeeet salt dough.


Happy crafting!

beach learning: hermit crabs, horseshoe crabs, ghost crabs, sand crabs & more

beach learning hermit crabs

beach learningThe beach can be difficult vacation for families with young children, there’s no doubt about it.

Beyond even getting there–the packing, the long drive, the daily to-and-from the beach with a million trillion supplies–being there is sometimes hard, too.

Even with a ton of hands on deck, by the end of the week, the sand, the over-tired kids, the sun, the sand, the sand–everywhere!–is enough to make even the most relaxed parent a little edgy.  However, I have to say that once we passed the diaper stage, things got a lot easier.

This year, we could really have fun at the beach–jumping waves, building sand structures, and learning.

The shore is a science class at your fingertips, and for those of us who don’t get to the beach but once a year, there’s so much exploring to do, that it’s nuts.  The beach is an ideal time to really focus on raising curious kids–kids who observe, who question, who wonder, and who want to learn more.

At the Delaware beach we visited–Bethany Beach–we had the opportunity to do some serious firsthand discovering; long walks, quiet hunts, a whole lot of digging, and an equal part of being still allowed us to find some real treasures: horseshoe crabs, ghost crabs (our first!), sand crabs, and more.

And the really cool thing is that no matter what beach you hit this summer–or any time of the year–you can do the same and find treasures of your own.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Beach Learning — Horseshoe Crabs, Ghost Crabs, Sand Crabs & More: Don’t get me wrong–we didn’t make our vay-cay one long research session, that’s for sure.

We spent hours and hours in the water.  We rode waves and jumped waves and boogie boarded and floated and floated some more.  We dug and played and dug and played some more.

But what we did throughout the trip was simple:

  • We really looked at what was around us.
  • We took long walks–with a bucket–so we could save our treasures.
  • We asked questions about the things we didn’t know or didn’t understand.
  • We were really excited to share with others all of the new things we were learning.

And what we couldn’t figure out on the trip, we figured out when we got home–or on the way home.  Specifically, we learned about crazy amounts of crabs.  Horseshoe crabs, sand crabs, ghost crabs, and hermit crabs.  And we learned about manta ray egg sac and a little bit about the ocean waves and tides.

beach learning horseshoe crab

Yes, that guy was alive. And yes I wanted to scream.

Here’s what we found:

  • Sand Fleas (we’ve always called them ‘sand crabs’):But these are the little guys we dig up right where the water breaks.  Maddy, Owen, and Cora love to find them and then let them tickle the palms of their hands. You can tell where they are by the air bubbles that come up through the wet sand.
    • Sand Fleas site — everything you ever wanted to know about sand fleas and so much more. Seriously.


beach learning: curious kids

Those little holes were everywhere–lucky us to catch a glimpse of the ghost crab!

  • Ghost Crabs: These are totally new to us–I have never seen them at the beach ever–and I’ve been going to the Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey beaches my whole life.    We came across one on an afternoon when Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I were taking a long walk. Cora screamed, MOMMY!! IT’S A SPIDER!! MOOOMMMMY!!And by the time I got there, all that remained was a tiny hole in the sand.

    beach learning: manta ray egg pouch

Thanks to the Wild Kratts, Maddy and Owen knew exactly how this egg sac worked!

  • Skate or Ray Egg Sac: Seriously! Maddy found something totally strange and unusual, and she asked a lifeguard what it was.  He said it was a manta ray egg sac, and then immediately, Maddy and Owen started spewing off facts about what it was and how it worked.  Thank you, Wild Kratts!

    beach learning hermit crabs

Hermie, chillin in her condo while Maddy and I learn about how to k

  • Hermit Crabs:We’re thrilled to welcome ‘Hermione’ or  ‘Hermie’ for short, into our family! Maddy decided to use her allowance money to buy a new sister, and we’re totally excited.  But we’ve never had a hermit crab before, so we’ve had to do a bit o’ learning. . .


In Turn Your Family Vacation into a Real Education, on Mom’s Homeroom, Susan Perry, a Los Angeles-based social psychologist and author of Playing Smart: The Family Guide to Offbeat, Enriching Learning Activities for Ages 4-14, is quoted as saying that “Non-school times are wonderful for showing your child that learning happens anywhere and everywhere, and is, in fact, an integral part of life that can be fun, and can be shared.”

She goes on to say that parents shouldn’t “over-structure the learning, rather let it happen naturally.”  And I couldn’t agree more, especially on vacation.

But I can’t stress enough that it has to start early! Curiosity about the world starts with our littlest guys when they are still teeny, and we, as parents and teachers, must continue it with modeling and supported learning from here on out.  Happy beach learning!


fyi: This blog post is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom. Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.

getting kids to stop, observe and write

get kids to stop, observe, and write

how to get kids to stop, observe and writeOur Everyday Journal cards have proven to be a really incredible—and sneaky—way of getting the kids focused and thinking in a way that I’m not sure they’d be willing to do otherwise.

There’s something exciting about choosing a card, about having the topic be a surprise, and about being willing and open to trying something totally new.   And  Maddy, Owen, and Cora have each slowly discovered their favorite areas of focus with the cards—photo inspiration, nature inspiration, poem inspiration, techy inspiration, and artsy inspiration.

But one of our first topics involved nothing other than finding peace and quiet, and still it remains one of their top activities.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Getting Kids to Stop, Observe, and Write: The prompt was simple.  All it said was

Go outside and find a quiet spot.

Pick one thing that you can see and describe it the best way you know how—how does it feel, smell, taste, sound, and look?

I said, Sounds simple, doesn’t it? So you’re going to find a quiet spot—all to yourself—and then what are you going to do?

Maddy jumped in: Looks like we’re just going to sit in a spot that we choose and pick something to write about—like everything about it.

Right, I said. You’re going to use your five senses to write about what that thing looks like, how it feels, how it smells, how it tastes—if it’s safe to taste it!—and how it sounds. Cool?

Like if I were going to sit here and observe this one blade of grass, I would write something like, ‘I am green, long like a string bean, but flat.  I’m thick at the bottom and get skinnier to a point at the top.  I have tiny lines on each side of me.  I am dancing gently in the wind, moving side to side.  I’m quiet—I don’t make a sound.’  I smell fresh and crisp right after I’m cut or picked, but I don’t have a smell if I’m left alone. And how does it feel?

how to get kids to stop, observe and write

We began with a challenge–having our kids stop, observe, and write–and it got their creative juices flowin!

Some are soft and others are pokey, said Owen.

You’re right.  Very true.  But for this journal we’re picking just one—and I know it’s hard—but one object to write about. So look at this piece of grass (I pointed to the grass by our feet) and tell me how it feels.

It’s soft and bendy when you walk on it but still a little pokey at the top, he said.

Okay, so I’d write something like, ‘I’m mostly very soft and smooth and bendy when stepped on but have a gentle pokey top.’

Then for taste? Hmmmm.  How does a piece of grass taste? I asked.

It can taste grassy, said Cora.

You’re right. It tastes like grass—let’s try one. Anyone want to try to eat a piece of grass?

No one did—which surprised me—so we left that part go.how to get kids to stop, observe and write

Cora worked on her letters in her workbook–to her insistence–and that was cool with me.

So let me read what we have, and we can make sure we have all of the pieces before you go and do your own observation writing, okay? Listen closely for all of the senses—how it looks, feels, sounds, tastes, and smells–you think you have anything we should add, let me know.

I read it, and they said it sounded great and could they please please please go do theirs now?

So they did.  Off they ran to find a quiet spot in the yard to stop, observe, and write.

And though this activity was a bit above Cora’s abilities, she did want to take her letter-writing practice book out to a quiet place in the yard to practice writing her letters.  I suggested she go out and choose one object to draw—but she said she wanted to write.  And really, since this summer and it’s all about fun with some learning stuck in, I let her go for it.

Maddy and Owen took longer than I thought, but they didn’t write a whole lot—another reason that modeling is so totally important.  Once they shared their pieces, we talked about whether or not they included all of the five senses, and both kids did not. So they re-read what we wrote together, went back to their spots, found their object, and did a bit of revising.

It was fun. And they really loved it, so much so that we’ve done it several times this summer, even on days that they didn’t choose the card.

It was a matter of finding what got my kids going–and interested in writing–that helped me here. Like Jolie Stekly, writing and literature expert and former classroom teacher says in her piece on Mom’s Homeroom called, The Writing’s on the Road, it’s all about finding little gems of opportunity to give our kids reason to write and at the same time to avoid that dreaded summer slide.

She encourages parents to “in the same way we sneak greens into our kids’ other foods — like adding a few leaves of spinach into a fruit smoothie — we can do the same with writing during the summer months”  She says that “summer travel and events (vacations, road trips, camping, day outings, summer camps) provide great opportunities to put your kids’ already-acquired writing skills to use in a meaningful way” and that they’ll see the writing as fun–not work.

I like that–simple and sneaky like spinach in a smoothie. So if my kids are game to write in the backyard, quiet and carefully, I’ll take it!  Happy writing!


fyi: This blog post is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom. Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.

hot summer day fun: crayon melts!

crayon melt craft for kids

fun summer crafts for kidsIt’s been so incredibly hot here in Maryland, I’m sure you can fry an egg on the sidewalk.

At least I’m guessing you can because it’s been upwards of 100 degrees but it feels about a million.  And muggy.  And really sticky.  And buggy.

But because it’s been so hot, we’ve been taking it pretty easy—reading, doing some writing, and trying out a few (can’t wait to share them!) new-for-us things and a handful of throwback crafts.

There was one day, however, when we did get a little cra-zeee, and I used the day’s sweltering weather to teach the kids a little bit about how powerful our sun could really be—and to help them realize how lucky we really were.

All we needed were some crayons, a cookie sheet, cookie cutters, and the hot, hot sun for a crafty-science experiment that was totally easy and so much fun.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Hot Summer Day Crayon Melts:  We have always kept our crayon bits—all the way back when Owen was trying to master the ever-so-difficult tripod grip, up until now, we used them some way or another for learning or creating.

So after swim practice in the morning—after lunch and a whole lot of vegging out—and before we returned to the pool to meet up with friends and play, I said to Maddy, Owen, and Cora, It is seriously a scorcher.  It’s insanely hot today. Let’s do a quickie, crazy experiment before we head back to the pool. I think we’ll see first-hand how incredibly strong the sun is today.

fun summer craft for kids

Our crayon bit box came in handy today!

I grabbed a few things: the box of crayon bits, a cookie sheet, the aluminum foil, clear plastic wrap, and cookie cutters.

Then I said, Let’s start peeling! We’re going to melt these puppies!

All we did was peel the crayons. . .

crayon melt craft for kids

. . . then size them to the best cookie cutters.

We peeled and chatted and peeled and chatted, and as always, some crayons were easier to peel than others.  After we had a bunch peeled, we covered the tray with aluminum foil and each choose some cookie cutters to use.

Maddy said, You mean we can make cookie-shaped crayons?


We put the crayon bits inside cookie cutters. . .

crayon melt craft for kids

. . . and we were ready for melting!

I think so, I said.  It’s about 100 degrees outside. I am pretty sure that the sun will bake these crayon cookies.

We made sure to fill as many cookie cutters as we could with a variety of colors.  Some we tried to keep monochromatic—or all shades of one color, and others we tried to keep totally mixed and rainbow-beautiful.

Before we set out our tray to the driveway ‘oven’, I said, Let’s just make sure these will melt by giving it a plastic roof, like a greenhouse.   I bet if we cover it with plastic wrap, the heat will stay inside and really melt these guys.


crayon melt craft for kids

We wrapped the tray with plastic wrap,


crayon melt craft for kids

and BOY! was it hot!

We turned a plastic cup upside down on each corner of the tray, just to raise it a bit, and then we covered the tray with plastic wrap.   And then we placed the tray on the top of our black driveway, and we headed to the pool.

crayon melt craft for kids

A few hours later and a whole lot cooler, we pulled up to our house, and we checked on our ‘baked goods’.

OH MY GOSH!!! Mommy, the crayons are watery—they’re like soup!! Owen screamed.  He was the first to check out our work, and he was totally correct.

The crayons had melted to liquid in some spots while other parts of the crayons hadn’t melted at all.  It was so interesting.   We tried to figure out if the inconsistent melting was due to the location of the items on the tray or something else, but we couldn’t tell.

It did seem like some of the un-melted crayons may have been the cheaper ones—and that the good ole Crayolas were the more melty.

Because our crayons had melted too much, we had to wait to pop them out of their shapes.   We put the tray into the refrigerator to cool and had dinner.

A few hours later, the crayon cookies were cool and we could finally examine our work—and the crayon shapes were beautiful!!

Maddy, Owen, and Cora had a blast popping out the shapes and trying to color with their crayon works of art.

Crayons melted–

crayon melt craft for kids

–and after they cooled, they were awesome shapes!

We talked a bit about how hot the sun must have been to melt the crayons that quickly, and I really tried to emphasize how very lucky we were—how many people don’t have the luxuries that we have, like a cool house and a swimming pool.

And how absolutely necessary it was for us to water our plants every day and not waste water.

fun summer crayon craft for kids

 The different textures and colors were gorgeous. . .

fun summer crayon craft for kids

. . . and the super-fun part? The crayon melts worked–made coloring a bit more crazy!

If I could do it again—which I am sure we will—we’ll set up more of an experiment situation.  I’d love for the kids to see how the plastic wrap effects the melting as well as how where the tray is placed—driveway or grass—effects the melting.

Until then, we’ll do some serious coloring with our brand-new shape crayons!

Happy melting!  (And stay cool!)

chalk paint graffiti: a happy welcome home

chalk paint graffiti

chalk paint graffitiLast summer, Maddy came home from an overnight at her Aunt Mary’s house dancing and singing about how Aunt Mary taught her to use chalk.

Knowing that Aunt Mary IS all things cool to my girls, I knew that whatever they did must have been pretty awesome.  Maddy went on and on and on about how Aunt Mary let her paint with this ‘special kind of paint chalk’ and that she made footprints and handprints and it was sototallyawesome.

We kind of put it on the back burner until much later–months later, in fact–when one random day after school, Maddy started to make the ‘chalk paint’ that Aunt Mary taught her to make.

I’m not sure if it was an intentional lesson or if it happened on the spur of the moment lesson from Aunt Mary, but I watched Maddy very carefully make a thick, heavy mixture from a pile of chalkdust,  ‘Just like when I did it with Aunt Mare’, she explained.   Mom, this is going to be so cool–just wait.

And it really was.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Chalk Paint Graffiti: Really, chalk paint graffiti turned out to be chalk paint handprints on our doorstep gone craaaa-zy, and you know what?  I loved them.

I loved, loved, loved them.

Maddy and one of her buddies mixed enough chalk paint in several batches one afternoon.  Very carefully, they scribbled with chalk very hard in one spot, making a pile of chalkdust. 

chalk paint graffitiThey made me smile for days and days–and they lasted for days and days and days and days.

How pretty are these handprints?

And then they’d add water and mix it with a stick.  They’d spread the chalkdust paste-paint all over their hands, and they’d stamp their hands on the cement.

All over, in every color of the rainbow, they scribbled, mixed, spread, and stamped. Scribbled, mixed, spread, and stamped.  Until our front walk was a gorgeous, happy welcome canvas of tiny hands.

Beautiful. Gorgeous. Lovely.

Not a whole lot of sneaky learning, but there was a whole lot of free-bird creativity flowing and outdoor art happening, and I’ll take that–and a proud little artist whose hearts were full of thoughts of their awesome aunt–any day of the week.   Happy chalk painting!

how to make summer reading FUN for your kids

summer+reading cover

summer reading coverFor many children, summer reading is not a big deal.

They’re readers by nature, so the task of reading ten books–or more–is a simple pleasure.  For others, however, summer reading is second on their list of things to do only to walking on glass or poking sticks in their eyes.

So how do you make summer reading fun for kids?

How do you get them to want to read, to want to put down the Wii controller or the DS and instead pick up a book?

It’s not easy, but if you start now–if you carve out some simple patterns with summer reading early in the game–perhaps this year will be different.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll have year-round readers on your hands.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Make Summer Reading CRAZY Fun for Kids: There are a million ways to do this, mind you, but for now I’m sharing three.

Just three teeny, tiny ways of the hundreds.  Here you go:

What do you think? What are YOUR sneaky-parent ways of making summer reading more fun for your kiddos?

Do you start off with a Summer Reading Backyard Book Party like we did, or do  you rock it out some other cool way? Perhaps your kids are already bookworms?  What if one is and one is not? What’s a parent to do?

Next up: How to talk to your kids about their summer reading books (without making them run screaming from you). . . .

summer fun cards: making the most of our summer

making summer fun cards 2012 - 6

summer fun cardsOne of our most favorite parts of summer is making our Summer Fun Cards.

We’ve made them for the past three years, and each year I’m thrilled that each year the kids really seem to get into it. Summer Fun Cards are like our Christmas wish list for summer.

So when Maddy saw it on our calendar for last Friday, she asked every. Single. Day. if we could make them.

We ended up not waiting until Friday and rather doing them here and there Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Monday.  And they’re filled with ideas new–and old–and we cannot wait to get to them.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Summer Fun Cards: We don’t make these fancy.  They’re certainly not a beautiful work of art like my dear friend MaryLea’s.

But ours are pretty, and they do make a super-colorful hanging along our railing.

summer fun cards

Cora works on the roller coaster in the picture for Dutch Wonderland. . .

summer fun cards

. . . and Maddy draws a shark and a dolphin. (Huh?)

We started making them after lunch last Wednesday, much to Maddy’s prodding, and because the kids are already familiar with what they are, our Summer Fun Cards didn’t need much of an intro from me.

summer fun cards

This year, our cards included some oldies but goodies:

  • ice-cream from Jimmie Cone
  • go to the beach
  • eat crabs
  • make s’mores
  • go berry picking
  • see July 4th fireworks
  • catch lightening bugs
  • eat breakfast outside
  • sleep at Nanny & Pap’s

But they also included some new-for-us ideas, some of which are just a tad bit silly:

  • go on a ropes course
  • swim with sharks and dolphins (and live)
  • see MA (something) 4! (translation: see Madagascar 3 at the movies)
  • go to the aquarium
  • swim in a new pool
  • go geocaching


summer fun cards

Our Summer Fun Cards finished–

summer fun cards

–and hung up so we see them every day!

And that’s it! Just a quickie, fun start to the summer–a sure-fire way that we make time for all of our favorite summertime things!

Happy Summer, all!

everyday journals: creative, thoughtful daily activities for kids

everyday journals make learning fresh and fun cove

everyday journals make learning fresh and fun coveThis week, we officially began our Smart Summer 2012, a summer filled with fun learning, focused and free days, and a whole lot of flexibility–everything I think families need if they want a plan to work. We have an outline for our days.

If we get to everything, awesome; if not, that’s totally cool too.

Maddy, Owen, and Cora were totally psyched to some of their old faves on the calendar, along with some new and exciting activities as well.

They were also over the moon to learn about why these beautiful books and journals were sitting in our dining room for the last few days. Fun, inexpensive blank journals that were theirs for the choosing to use for their Everyday Journals–the happy cousin of their Everyday Name Books from years past.

So awesome.  I wanted to dance because I spent a lot of time creating them with my kids in mind–trying to come up with reading and writing activities that would be engaging and that I could adapt for Cora.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Everyday Journals: I loved the idea of having something regular to do every day that would include reading, writing, creative thinking, and all that digital literacy greatness that I’ve been reading about and trying to include for my kiddos.

I also loved doing the Everyday Name Books with the kids for the past few summers because, well, kids (and parents!) like consistency.  And it was awesome for Maddy, Owen, and Cora to have something to look back on so they could see their progress and improvement.


everyday journals

 Maddy chooses her Everyday Journal

So when I sat down to create the Everyday Journals, I had those same things in mind.  But I also knew that the kids would have to want to do the activities or the whole thing would be a bust.

And I also knew that the kids would need to have some ownership of the whole thing in order for it to work.

So Cora and I picked up a bunch of blank journals at the store the other day–ones with cool designs, jewels (for Cora), gold edges (for Maddy), and huge (for Owen).  They were totally inexpensive–from two to four dollars each–but well worth the investment.  And we brought them home, gave them some room to choose, and they did.  They love their journals.


everyday journals

The Everyday Journal Topic cards. . .

everyday journals

. . . and the way we’re organizing them–new cards and old cards.

everyday journals


But the journal itself is only a piece of the pie; the other piece is the Everyday Journal Topics–creative, thoughtful daily activities for kids.

You can download the Everyday Journal Topics here, as a pdf if you’d like.  If you use them, awesome! Please let me know what you think.
The idea is that each day, whomever’s day it is will choose a card from the Everyday Journal Topics, and during work time that day, we’ll do it!

The Everyday Journal topics include reading, writing, and thinking activities that begin with:

  • Photo Inspiration;
  • Nature Inspiration;
  • Poem Inspiration;
  • Techy Inspiration;
  • Artsy Inspiration.

And specifically, the activities involve everything from getting outside, staying inside, reading, watching, listening, computer time, you name it.

I incorporated some of my favorite websites–ones that I want my kids to start trying and experimenting with–under my watch, of course, as well as some of my favorite teaching materials and learning tools from some fabulous companies.

I am totally psyched to share our adventures each day and look forward to hearing how these work for your kiddos.

Tomorrow, I’ll share how we will organize our day–or try to!–so that we manage to fit all that we have planned. Woot!

Here’s to happy, creative, thoughtful fun with our kids!

what to do with children’s artwork

childrens artwork 5

what to do with children's artworkThis time of the year, I always seem to be drowning in my kids’ artwork.

The nifty system of organization I started in September has long expired, and piles of paper surround us. So with some quick thinking and crazy determination, a few years ago I devised a plan.

We had to reclaim our home and get out from under the piles of paper.  And surprisingly, it was much easier than I thought.

It took all of a few minutes to organize and then appropriately sort Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s year’s worth of artwork and school papers.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • What to do with Children’s Artwork (or. . . 3 Cool Ways to Use Children’s Artwork and Come Out From Under the Sea of Masterpieces from School):   Sure, putting artwork on mugs, or taking photos of each and every one and then saving them to the computer are totally cool ideas.

But the reality is that I have about five years’ worth of family photos to organize and put into photo albums, so why would I add to my mile-long to-do list?  I need quick, practical, and cheap.

Because frankly, it gets expensive to order a photo mug, t-shirt, or mouse pad for every family member at every holiday.

The here and now is that come June, we have piles of Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s artwork everywhere.


Here are the 3 cool ways we use our kids’ artwork:


And that’s that! Three ways–of many possibilities–for using our kids’ artwork in practical, keep-mom-sane kind of ways.  A Quick Trick that works for us and has for the last few years!

I’d love to hear how your family manages the art work pile-up.   I know there are a million ways, so please do share!!