3 reading posts you don’t want to miss

family reading time  scholastic  pinterest


Have you even checked out the ole teachmama site lately?

We are all fancied up! Big changes for us–after more than 6 years!

Go see it–for real: teachmama.com.

But don’t get too excited yet. I’m still working out the kinks over here and plan the BIG reveal at the end of the week.

Until then, I want you to check out a few things I’ve been sharing over at Scholastic Parents’ Raise a Reader blog.  Click the photo to read the post!

Change your family’s life in 20 minutes each week:  

family reading time  scholastic  pinterest

The “Family 20″ will change your family’s reading life.



7 ways to find books your kids will really love: 

find books your kids will love  scholastic  teachmama pinterest

Giving kids books is one thing. Giving kids GREAT books is another.


Favorite books of my favorite babies: 

fave babies' fave books  pinterest  scholastic teachmama

Sometimes, the most random books make your kids’ favorite list.

And that’s it for now.  Definitely check out the other posts that Allie and I have written for the awesome Raise a Reader blog. We write there every, single week, so there is a ton of fab facts, ideas, and more for you to check out!

Do you have questions about reading or learning? Hit me with your questions–I’d love to hear them and help you out!

And? This week.

I. Cannot. Wait. to share what else we’ve got up our sleeves.


Stay tuned!

YouTube dances for kids: fun indoor moving and grooving to get the wiggles out

YouTube dances for kids: fun indoor moving and grooving to get the wiggles out

We just got another boatload of snow, so on Sunday morning, when we were snowed in and couldn’t even get out of our house to make it to mass, we got our dance on.

Because why not?

YouTube dances for kids: fun indoor moving and grooving to get the wiggles out

Turns out that Cora and Owen’s awesome teachers for the past few years had often put on short little YouTube dances for them when they need to get the wiggles out.

We found most of Cora and Owen’s faves, and we found some more.

YouTube dances for kids: fun indoor moving and grooving to get the wiggles out

YouTube dances for kids: fun indoor moving and grooving to get the wiggles out

Not only does moving mid-day help increase concentration and focus (for everyone–not just kids!), but learning and practicing these dances will mean that our kids will be rockstars on the dance floor when it comes time for weddings, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and Quinceaneras in the next few years.

Win, win, win.

Here’s the skinny. . .

YouTube Dances for Kids–Fun Indoor Moving and Grooving to get the Wiggles Out:

Here are our faves:

The Sid Shuffle:

Dino Stomp:

Shake Break:

Mario Dance:

I’m a Gummy Bear:

Awesome Rainbows:

The Wobble:


5 Little Monkeys:

Jump Up:

Exercise Songs:



Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 1.17.01 PM

HOW fun are these? Hope your crew enjoys them as much as we did.

Talk about some serious fun–and listening and moving and dancing–right in your own living room.

YouTube dances for kids: fun indoor moving and grooving to get the wiggles out

youtube header final stars


Do you subscribe to our YouTube channel? Head on over and do it!

We usually add 2-3 videos each month about something fun and crafty and learning. Join us!

naptime with theo & beau: pre-order special families will LOVE

naptime with theo & beau: pre-order special families will LOVE

post contains affiliate links



naptime with theo & beau: pre-order special families will LOVE



If you haven’t seen the amazing photos of Theo and Beau, taken by my sweet and talented friend, Jessica, you do not know what you’re missing.

My heart literally explodes every time I see them.

It’s the ultimate celebration of love and friendship–and the perfect way to kick off February’s friendship theme for our live focused in 2015 challenge.

This month, finally–finally!–the book will soon be hitting the shelves.

And I’ve got an awesome pre-order special that families will love.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Naptime With Theo & Beau–Pre-Order Special Families Will LOVE:

I’ve known Jessica for years now, but we really connected doing our work as part of Target’s Inner Circle. Jessica is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, and her photography has always been my fave.

naptime with theo & beau: pre-order special families will LOVE


I love how Jessica captures spontaneous bursts of beauty in the everyday.  Simple images of her children eating, sitting, or sleeping convey as much energy and love as her little ones splashing, spinning, or dancing.  

Add a little bit of fuzzy love to the mix, and it’s all you need to brighten even the darkest day.

In the last year or so, Jessica’s images of her son, Beau, and her newly adopted puppy, Theo, have gone viral. Like crazy-crazy viral. Theo and Beau were everywhere. And rightly so. They were awesome. They are awesome.

The super happy news: book deal. Theo and Beau’s sweet faces have been put into a book that will hit shelves this month. Tons of new photos that my family and I can hardly wait to see.

theo and beau

from Jessica’s Instagram feed: Theo has been busy!

So bonus for you, friends. if you pre-order this book, you get a little gift: a sweet little gift that I think you’ll love.

Pre-order Theo & Beau and receive a bookplate signed by Jessica and a special message from Theo & Beau!  For real.

All you have to do is:

So fun.

Do you even know how excited my family is about this book?

We’ve been following Theo and Beau since their very first nap, and our book was been ordered last spring!

theo and beau preorder


Think: Valentine’s Day. This is a great gift for your kids, your friends, or your loved ones.  

I cannot wait to see these new shots of Theo and Beau.  Countdown’s ON!




I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off this month, when our #livefocused theme is friendship, than by sharing this information with you.

I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead!


live focused in 2015 friendship teachmama.com sq


live focused in 2015: give yourself a fresh start and live with intention
fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

our easy, homemade art book: keep artwork organized!

our easy, homemade art book: keep artwork organized!

This blog post was originally published on April 11, 2010, but we’re republishing it because it’s a great addition to our #livefocused January organization theme! 

easy homemade art book  teachmama.com

My kids have been crazy about drawing and coloring and writing and doodling for as long as I can remember.

Maybe it’s because we keep our house stocked with paper and markers whenever the kids want to use them, maybe it’s because the kids each have traveling writing centers in their rooms, or maybe it’s because are constantly writing notes ourselves. . . and are often doodling on any ole paper we can find.

Whatever the case, I’m happy that my kiddos are inspired. But I am not happy with the mess of papers, marker caps, and finished–and unfinished–artwork here, there, and everywhere.

easy homemade art book  teachmama.com This was our dining room table on a good day–a good day.
easy homemade art book  teachmama.com

So yesterday, while our family decompressed from Maddy and Owen’s first-ever tee-ball practice, I went organizing nutty, and I came up with (hopefully, hopefully, hopefully!) a solution to our artwork chaos.

Let’s hope this Quick Trick does the trick:

  • Our Easy, Homemade Art Book:

    Thanks to my high-school English teaching days, I have dozens and dozens of 3-ring binders filled to the brim with all of my papers, resources, and units for everything I ever taught. From Romeo and Juliet to A Raisin in the Sun, from Lord of the Flies to Frankenstein, from poetry to thesis papers and speeches to grammar, you name it, I have it. Filed neatly in many binders.

But finally yesterday, I tucked a few lessons and units away and found a new home for the basic 3-ring binder–our Art Book.

easy homemade art book  teachmama.com

easy homemade art book  teachmama.com


All the Art Book is is a big (ugly) 3-ring binder with Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s artwork clipped inside. It’s not artwork from school or projects we do around here. It’s just the many loose sheets that have occupied our dining room table for way too long.

I hole-punched all of the sheets and shoved them in. And honestly, as ugly as the book may be from the outside, on the inside, it’s really cool.

Just like Maddy’s Drawing A Cat book or Drawing a Happy Face book, our Art Book is a snapshot of where my kids are now, at the present, as far as abilities, interests, and challenges are concerned.

easy homemade art book  teachmama.com Maddy’s drawing of Cora, next to Cora’s drawing of something.
easy homemade art book  teachmama.com
Owen’s 12th picture of race cars racing.

I considered–for a second–adding dividers to the Art Book, one for Maddy’s work, Owen’s work, and Cora’s work. I think it’d be a great way of keeping work separated, and it may be more fun for the kids when they go back to look through their book. But my kiddos are young yet, so I’m taking baby steps.

Maybe after Art Book 1 is filled, Art Book 2 will have dividers for each person’s work. But for now, I’ll just be really glad if all the dining room table masterpieces find their way into Mr. Art Book. Period.

easy homemade art book  teachmama.com

To help in the process, I added an organizer to our dining room (and it totally fits with our decor, right?) that has a spot for paper, the Art Book, and markers and crayons.

The paper in the drawer is already punched, so upon completion, the artwork needs only to be signed, and then it’s ready for landing in its permanent Art Book home–unless it’s scheduled to be sent to a doting grandparent, aunt, or uncle, of course!

So that’s it–just a quick little Quick Trick for organizing our art work. We’ll see how it goes!

live focused 2015 teachmama.com b w collage



ive focused in 2015 organization teachmama.com sq

#livefocused posts:

how to schedule power kid time into your every day

how to schedule power kid time into your every day | a weekly organizer designed to make kid time a focus

post contains affiliate links




I am not kidding with this.

You guys, the days may seem slow, but once your kids hit elementary school, life totally moves into fifth gear.

Completely. Like seriously life starts to flash by.

schedule power kid time  teachmama.com

I’ll never forget what a gal from my Moms Club said to me, when I ran into her at the grocery store one day, (she was kid-free, and I was juggling three kids under five). She said, Amy, you won’t believe this now, but it’s true: the days are slow but the years are fast. 

At the time, I remember thinking, Suuuuuure, lady. You enjoy your peace and quiet and coupon-shopping while I try to keep these kids occupied long enough for me to grab what I need for this week’s meals on top of two monster boxes of diapers and a human-sized bag o’ dog food. Awesome. Sure long days and short years. Mmmmmkay.

You know what, though? She was right. So right.

And though she didn’t pen that infamous parenting quote, it has stuck with me like glue.

I so know how so many of you feel right now–you’re so tired. You’re barely hanging on some days. You love your kids more than you ever thought possible, but you’re really filling your days with things to keep you all busy, hoping that the activities stretch you from nap time to playgroup to mealtime or tv time. Then your spouse comes home, you slap five, and you go do your work–tutoring, teaching, selling, cleaning, whatever–and he takes over.

how to schedule power kid time into your every day | teachmama.com

how to schedule power kid time into your every day | teachmama.com


Or something like that.

I get it. I was there. And I still am there in so many ways.

Though my babies are all in school now, I struggle to find carve out power time with them each day.  Time that counts, whether it’s because it’s quality snuggle time, time to just listen, or time to help them develop a solid foundation for learning.

This month, because we’re kicking off our #livefocused year, I thought I’d share something that could help during those crazy times–something that can actually help you no matter where you are with child raising to schedule power kid time into your every day.

No, it’s not a nanny, and it’s not a babysitter, housecleaner, or cook. So sorry.

It’s something that really may give your days, your weeks, and your months more focus.

It’s a super-simple sheet that really does nothing more than give you the place to schedule a little power time with your kids into your every day.

Power time with each of your children.  Whatever ‘power time’ may look like to you.


how to schedule power kid time into your every day

Sure, we’re with our kids a million hours each week. We’re with them every single day, for hours. And it’s awesome.

But are we really with them–listening to them, learning from them, supporting them in the best way we are able?

Because if we don’t spend power time with them now, before we know it, our kids may not want to even entertain the idea of spending time with us at all.

Here’s the skinny. . .

How to Schedule Power Kid Time into Your Every Day:

Believe me when I tell you that I never used anything like this when Maddy, Owen, and Cora were little.

But I truly believe that had I used it, it would have helped keep me a little more sane, allowed me to let a little bit go if I could have had it on paper each week.

Instead, I kept all of my power time plans in my head: Okay, Maddy needs some help with her d’s and b’s, so let me do a little of that with her this week; Owen’s grip is totally crazy, so I’m going to do some fine motor activities with him; and Cora is still calling every color ‘pink’ so we need to do a little work so the gal learns those colors


And along the way, let me do the grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning.  Dog walking, clothes shopping, and meal preparing. And I’ll schedule a few playdates, make sure the kids are getting to doctor appointments, clean the guinea pig cage, and do what I can to make sure we’re all happy and having fun. Oh, and let me help them learn their letters and numbers and colors and all that good stuff.

It’s a lot.

I feel grateful that my head was always filled with fun ways that my kids could learn those foundational skills, so it wasn’t hard for me to come up with ideas. The activities were usually based on research, on the stuff I was reading for my grad classes, the activities I had done when teaching, and the methods I was using for my tutoring students.  Or they came from parenting magazines, friends, or blogs I was reading.

I just grabbed a few things I had around the house that supported what we needed that day, and I used them during that quiet time before nap or rotated rooms during their rest time.

But I truly think that these little weekly plan sheets can help every parent get a little more organized this year–help parents deliberately plan power time for their kids each day or week.  

Power time does not need to be elaborate, crazy lesson plans. Just ideas, friends.


schedule kid time each each | teachmama.com

 weekly planner _ teachmama.com

If you’d like to download our weekly power time planner, here it is: weekly planner _ teachmama.com

(Remember, if you’re interested in sharing, great! Please consider linking to this post rather than the attachment page, please!)

And punch holes in each page, add them all to a 3-ring binder.  Include some dividers with folders, and you have a sweet, simple little planner.

Or, if you don’t want to go that route and you don’t want to punch holes, get a skinny report cover clip, and that can be your calendar planner.  Either way, remember we have the 2015 calendar because we love you that much.


I have the planner. I downloaded and printed. Now what?

Jot down ideas. Just so you remember to grab the puzzles from the basement when you go down or so that you remember to print out a few mazes or alphabet cards or find a few pennies for cleaning or pick up cheerios or pretzel sticks from the grocery store.

Sit back with a cuppa at the beginning of the week, look roughly ahead at your weekly schedule, and figure out a few things you want to do with your kids. What kind of power time you want to spend with them.

Visit our FAQ page to find out where you should start or to find ideas that work for your kids. Or check out the navigation bar to find other topics. I’ll have another post coming soon filled with places to go from here if you’re stuck.

On top of doing all that other parenting stuff.

Use the ‘to do’ lines to jot down some general things you must accomplish each day.


schedule kid time each each | teachmama.com

schedule kid time each each | teachmama.com

  • Use the boxes to schedule three things you want to do during kid time. Remember with little ones, you may have full days at home. Full morning. Full afternoon. Fill ’em up, friends.  And think: movement, mind, and me time. Each and every day.

movement: Kids need to move each day, both fine motor and gross motor.

mind: Kids need to stretch their mind each day, in some way, shape, or form.

me: Kids need to have alone time each day, playing by themselves, doing something independently.

schedule kid time each each | teachmama.com

schedule kid time each each | teachmama.com


  • If you have more than one child, use the ‘to do’ lines the same as above, but use one box for each child. Most likely, you’ll be doing a bunch of things together, which is totally cool. Just try to fit in at least one focused activity with each kiddo each day.

You want to shoot for one activity that packs some kind of punch.


schedule power kid time | teachmama.com

schedule power kid time | teachmama.com

  • If you have older, school-aged kids, just using the sheets to make sure that you are adding time for each child each day–no matter what. Maybe you’re not sitting down together each and every day to craft or play like you could when they were younger, but any time together, even if it’s having a child help you with dinner or helping him organize his Pokemon cards (gah!) counts.
  • Make these sheets work for you and your family. There’s no wrong way.

And that’s it.

Just a little somethin’ to keep in your back pocket, my friends.

What do you think? Yay? Nay?

How else can I help?

live focused 2015 teachmama.com b w collage



ive focused in 2015 organization teachmama.com sq

#livefocused posts:

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

best books as gifts for kids and family

best books as gifts for kids and family | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links




I am so embarrassed about this, but I’ve talked about doing a post like this for years.best books as gifts for family  teachmama.com cover

I think I’ve even promised one the week after each of my 2012 gift guide and 2013 gift guide but never did it.


But this year, finding books for Maddy, Owen, and Cora has been so, so, so much fun.

I’m not sure why.

Maybe because they all can read now?

Maybe because the book choices we have at our fingertips for our kids–and even extended family–are spectacular?

Maybe because

So I’m thrilled to share which books we have loved this year, which books are on our holiday wish lists, and which books will definitely be under our tree this year.

I’ll organize it just like I organized the Gift Guide for Kids and Family–by age.

That might be the most manageable.

So exciting.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Best Books as Gifts for Kids and Family:

best books as gifts for family  teachmama.com littlest guys


For our littlest guys:

  • Ten Tiny Toes, by Carolyn Jayne Church: babies love the sweet illustrations in these books, and so do parents.  And? there’s counting.  Try Here Comes Christmas for the holidays.
  • Flora and the Flamingo, by Molly Schaar. A wordless picture book, this story shows how Flora and the Flamingo become friends without saying a word. Cool way to talk about body language with kids.  Pair it with a sweet flamingo stuffed animal for a really cute gift.
  • Locomotive, by Brian Floca.  It’s a Caldecott Medal winner which means that this book totally rocks. I love the way this book brings to life the summer of 1869 when the first transcontinental railroad takes its journey from coast to coast.

best books as gifts  kids and family  teachmama.com

  • The Book With No Pictures, B.J. Novak. 
    Remember Ryan Howard from The Office? Ever-changing dark haired young guy? He wrote this book, and it’s really fun and unique. It plays with language in a way that is engaging, exciting, and new.
  • Blizzard, by John Rocco.  Rocco shares his own memories woven in a story that teaches the important lessons of helping others and celebrating the little things. Based on his experience in the Blizzard of 1978, which some of us may actually remember.
  • Unspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad, by Henry Cole.  I cannot speak highly enough about this beautiful, wordless picture book. A farm girl helps a young, runaway slave who hides in her barn.
  • Exclamation Mark, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld.  This book tells the story of Exclamation Mark, who never really felt like he fit in with all of the periods and commas out there. It’s so fun and a great way to play with language and life lessons.
  • Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson.  I love everything that Kadir Nelson writes, but this Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner is inspiring and enlightening.
  • The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdös, by Deborah Heiligman and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. This book is an interesting reminder that we all are born with different strengths and that one is no better than the next. For math lovers and non-lovers alike, kids will find this book incredibly intriguing.



best books as gifts for family  teachmama.com bigger guys

For the bigger guys:

  • Geronimo Stilton: Lost Treasure of the Emerald Eye, by Geronimo Stilton. Geronimo books have been around for a while now, but Cora has recently discovered them and has fallen hard. She laughs out loud at these. Owen does, too. Told by Geronimo, a witty and brave mouse, these stories always involve a mystery, and the engaging print and fonts makes them accessible for younger readers especially.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, by Jeff Kinney. It’s the Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Kids love this series.  Greg Heffley is every child. He says what’s on his mind, and he’s funny. And life doesn’t always work out in his favor. This book shares his family’s road trip, and it’s a riot. Want a chunk of the series? Get your young reader a Diary of a Wimpy Kid gift set.
  • Fantasy League, by Mike Lupica. Owen is pretty much obsessed with fantasy football lately, so when we discovered this book by talented sports writer, Mike Lupica, it opened up a world of reading for him. Lupica rocks when it comes to writing books that speak to young athletes. Love this.

best books as gifts  kids and family  teachmama.com

best books as gifts  kids and family  teachmama.com

  • Smile and Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier. And Drama. These award-winning graphic novels are written in Raina’s honest, funny, and engaging voice, are faves of my girls. They’re (shhhhh!) getting Drama this holiday.
  • The 39 Clues series, by Rick Riordan & co. This book series is still a fave of Maddy’s. The books are quick and clever, and they’re full of history. We listen to a 39 Clues audio book just about every time we drive to Pennsylvania.
  • The Spirit Animals series, by Brandon Mull & co. Maddy and Owen have really loved this series. And the cool thing is that there’s a ton of online gaming, support and extensions for each book.
  • The Hunger Games series, by Suzanne Collins. I’ve waited a bit to hand these to Maddy because the content is a bit mature; the Hunger Games are not the kind of game you ever really want your kids to play. It’s about survival and doing anything you can to come out on top in a dystopian society with a totally corrupt government. But Maddy asked and asked, and when I allowed her to read them, she literally read the entire three books in three nights. I’m not sure she slept much, and I had to literally pry the book out of her hands and turn off her lights so she’d rest. It’s a fantastic series if you haven’t read it, and it does allow for a ton of interesting discussion if you can read them alongside your tween.


best books as gifts for family  teachmama.com family

Every family must-haves:

  • Humans of New York, by Brandon Stanton. I have literally gifted this book to almost every adult family member, so of course I needed to add one to our list, too. I am obsessed with Humans of New York. Looking at the photos of everyday people and reading their stories helps me keep things in perspective. I love it, and I’m hoping that it becomes a good eye-opener for Maddy, Owen, and Cora.
  • Little Humans, by Brandon Stanton.  Same as above. But all kids. All kids. Love times a million.


best books as gifts  kids and family  teachmama.com



best books as gifts for family  teachmama.com cool books they love

Other cool books that kids love:

  • National Geographic Kids Almanac 2015. This should be a must-purchase for families every single  year. It’s one of those books that once you pick it up, you cannot put it down. Full of fun facts from food to animals to planets, it’s awesome. It’s beautiful.
  • 5,000 AWESOME Facts (About Everything!) 2, by National Geographic Kids. Not even kidding. There are 5,000 facts in this book. And each is cooler and more interesting than the next. The photos, layout, and topics? Super cool.

best books as gifts for family  teachmama.com final cover



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

must have gifts for kids and families | teachmama.com

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


kids and family gift guide from teachmama.com


teachmama gift guide 2012



holiday gift guide | teachmama.com


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

gifts that give back: ideas for kids and family

gifts that give back: ideas for kids and family | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links




Did you celebrate Giving Tuesday?gifts that give back  teachmama.com

It’s a really simple concept: give.

Any way you are able, to anyone. Give.

The concept of giving is especially important at this time of the year, and lucky for us, many organizations have made it super easy–and so meaningful!–to give at holiday time.

Looking at my kids’ bedrooms and our playroom, I see we need very little.

So I’m encouraging all of our family members to do something this year that packs a bit more of a punch: buying gifts that give a little more than the norm.

Though there are thousands of ways to do it–something for every family.

These are the organizations that we will be supporting this year.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Gifts That Give Back–Ideas for Kids and Family:

Though I’m sharing this during holiday time, these gifts can obviously be given at any time of the year, for any occasion.

I encourage you to bookmark this, save it, whatever, and pull it out again for birthdays or other special occasions.

Seriously. Give something life-changing to a family in need. A goat. Some chicks. Some seeds. An education. Clean water.

gifts that give back: ideas for kids and family

And give it in the name of one of your kids: Choose a meaningful gift to give a loved one and help children and families around the world receive training and animal gifts that help them become self-reliant. 

The Heifer International Gift Catalog online is super easy to understand and navigate.

You can purchase a share or whole animal for a family: goat, heifer, water buffalo, honeybees.

Giving an animal is like giving someone a small business, providing wool, milk, eggs and more. Animal donations can provide families a hand up, increasing access to medicine, school, food and a sustainable livelihood.

gifts that give back: ideas for kids and family Or you can support women’s empowerment:

If women farmers had access to the same resources as men, more than 150 million additional people would have enough food to eat. We aim to make that a reality. Your gift will provide support for women’s groups, training in gender equality and the means to send girls to school. Help empower women around the world to reach their full potential.

heifer international

Talk to your kids about the fact that so many of these people lack clean water. Can you imagine? Clean water.

And explain how clean water could totally, completely change their lives:

Millions of people around the world still lack access to clean drinking water. In the impoverished communities where Heifer is working, many of the homes lack running water, and some families do not even have a well nearby. Instead, they must spend each day fetching water. This is often a chore left to the children — especially girls — leaving no time for school.


gifts that give back | teachmama.com


Each gift you choose comes with a little card that you can give to the recipient, an Honor Card.  But more than the card is the impact of the gift on the recipient family.

These gifts are literally changing lives–turning life completely around for people. Equipping them with the tools they need to thrive.




gifts that give back | teachmama.com


I met the creator of To the Market, Jane Mosbacher Morris, at the AYA Summit this year. She’s awesome.

The premise of To The Market is to combine the powers of commerce and storytelling to empower the world’s most courageous survivor populations, in the belief that resilience is more powerful than suffering.  How can you not love it?

You can shop in a number of different ways: by goods, by country, by cause, or by local partners. So you can literally find something for everyone, something that really meets your needs.

gifts that give back TTM ideas for kids and family

I love the Eva Necklace, the Sabrina Sparkle Earrings, and the Bernadette Earrings, both from the Starfish Project.

The Starfish Project is a fair trade jewelry company that cares for and employs exploited women in Asia. Each woman that enters into Starfish has a story of abuse and pain. At Starfish they are employed in legitimate, meaningful work where they start to reclaim the truth that they are capable; through counseling, shelter, education and health care they know they are safe; and through the Starfish community they know they are loved.

I also love the Punjammies–all of them. These are ‘lounge pants’ which I honestly think you could wear for any occasion because they are that beautiful.

PUNJAMMIES™ mission is to create pathways to freedom for women escaping the ravages of sex slavery to achieve lives of hope and dignity; each woman learns a trade (sewing) and practices refining her craftsmanship by producing quality sleep & loungewear called PUNJAMMIES™. The finished product is then exported to the US and sold online to countries all over the world with proceeds coming back to benefit each of the sewing centers.


Almost all of my scarves are from fashionABLEfashionABLE‘s mission is:

to create sustainable business for Africans so they aren’t dependent upon charity, but instead earn the dignity of a job. We offer opportunity to everyone, with a primary focus on empowering women. When we invest in a woman, statistics demonstrate that she will have a life-changing impact on her family and community… and herself.

 I love it.

gifts that give back ideas  fashionABLE
Some products I really love?

  • the Mamuye Tote because it is the perfect size for my laptop and the leather is simply beautiful
  • the Tizita Bracelet which is so affordable and cool–a set of three bracelets (two pewter and one antique gold) crafted from beads repurposed from bullet casings and scrap metal found by farmers in the Entoto mountains.  The Entoto community is a place of healing for those affected by HIV/AIDS, treating them with dignity + respect, and providing a fair opportunity to support their families. Under $30.
  • the Selam Scarf and the Gebeyew Scarf both which I have and both which I have gifted to friends and family numerous times.


St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is driven by the mission to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of our founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family’s ability to pay.

gifts that give back  st jude

Everyone is welcome. Everyone. My heart.

Every purchase made from the St. Jude Gift Shop helps St. Jude because 100% of proceeds after all related expenses benefit St. Jude.

They’ve got a ton of celebrity gifts that younger kids especially would love, from their Celebrity Friend Collection: ornaments, jewelry, iPhone cases.

gifts that give back | experience gifts st. jude

You can donate event-based gifts for patients like ‘no mo chemo parties’, holiday parties, and more.

You can donate a things the patients would love, like red wagon (because that’s how little ones move through the hospital–no wheelchairs!), or you can donate art supplies or video games.  Toys, books, or meals for families.

You can donate treatments for the patients. You know they need them. This will help.

It’s an incredible organization, and it’s a great way to give back.


It’s a lot, I know.

But hey–it’s a great place to start.

My suggestion? Either make a decision yourself over here, or bring the kids over, look at the options with you, and let them decide.

I’m betting they’d love to say, Grandma! We bought some kids a goat in your and Grandpa’s name this year!!

How will you give? What will your family choose this year? 

Let me know! I love more ideas!

gifts that give back teachmama.com

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


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

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers

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

post contains affiliate links



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the skinny:

  • Gifts for Sunday School Teachers or CCD Teachers:

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

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers

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



gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers

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


gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

something has to change and it must start here–with you and with me

if we want change to happen it must start here | teachmama.com


I rarely write posts like this.  And this one took me much longer than I’d like to admit.

But yesterday I realized something. Something big.

It’s this: if I want change to happen, it has to start here.

I’m a mother of three kids, 10, 9, and 7 years old, and if I want change to happen, it must. Start. Here.

With me.

With my family.

Because I know that though I am only one person, my voice makes a difference.

And so does yours.

Yes, you.  No matter whether you are sitting there reading this your running car in the driveway while your baby sleeps in the back, or whether you are reading this at the counter when you should be cleaning up after dinner, it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this at your desk during your lunch break or standing at the copy machine after your students leave the building. It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this in line at the grocery store or in line at your kids’ pick-up.

It doesn’t matter if you’re reading this on the treadmill or at the park or at work or at a lunch with your girlfriends. It doesn’t matter if you work outside the home or you work inside the home.

It doesn’t matter if you work or don’t work. It doesn’t matter if you have kids or if you don’t have kids, whether you’re married or not married.

It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or skinny, tall or short, gay or straight, Muslim or Christian or atheist or Jewish.

It doesn’t matter if you breastfed or bottle fed your kids, whether you stick with organics or couldn’t care less.

It doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you are reading this.

And if you are reading this, then know this: you have a voice. And it’s time to use it.

Because if we don’t start using our voices to let others know that prejudice is not okay, that it’s not acceptable, and that it’s not to be tolerated, unacceptable things like this will continue to happen:

Seven white girls are accompanied by seven black men at a formal school dance.

And a school administrator retweeted this tweet:  @OrNahhTweets: Every white girls’ father’s worst nightmare Or Nah?

A school administrator. Retweeted. That. Tweet.

this must end


And this?

Check out these photos on Politicus Sports, in an articled titled White Students at St. Louis High School Wear Blackface During Football Game, by Justin Baragona:



 photos courtesy of http://sports.politicususa.com/ . . . please read the entire article at Sports.PoliticusUsa.com

 A powderpuff football team. Wearing blackface. At a school event. November of 2014.


Do these things make you feel ill? They should.

I’m not here to debate either story or situation; I’m not here to discuss details of any of the photos.  Because if it’s not these photos, it’s something else. You know it as well as I do.

What I’m here to say is that I’m tired of it.

I’m tired of what I’m seeing. I’m tired of what I’m hearing. I’m tired of what is happening, here, in our country and around the world, in 2014.

And you should be, too.

If we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

And though it’s easy to tsk, shake your head, and ‘like’ someone’s angry comment when they share this kind of thing on facebook, that’s not enough anymore. Because you know what? It’s not working.

We need to do more.

Clearly we need to do more if acts of prejudice like this are still occurring in and around schools in 2014. Someone, somewhere is not getting a pretty important message.

So I’m presenting a challenge to you, and I’m taking it on myself. And I’m hoping–actually, I’m praying–that it begins to make a difference.

It’ll take all of us. And goodness knows we’ll need a little luck.

change to happen | teachmama.com

But this is the thing: if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

Here’s what we need to do and here’s how we can use our voice:

1. Speak up.  In any way you are able. It doesn’t matter how. Just speak up.

Speaking up may look different to all of us, depending on where we are and where we’re coming from.

And I know it’s not easy. But it’s time we start to use our voice, even if it begins with a whisper.

  • Comment on a friend’s facebook status if he or she shares an article or a link about something that feels unjust.
  • Share your own findings–articles or facts or statements that express racial prejudice or injustice–via twitter or facebook or pinterest.
  • Shake your head ‘no’ and walk away when a friend or colleague starts to share his or her prejudiced ideas. Make it clear that you do not share his or her opinions.
  • Excuse yourself from conversations where prejudiced ideas or topics are being discussed. Explain that you do not share the same feelings and that you are not comfortable with the direction the conversation is going.
  • Don’t allow racial jokes in or around your home. If neighbors, extended family, or colleagues joke this way, politely ask them to stop.

This is the thing: if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

And so we will also. . .

2.Talk about tough topics. With your friends, with your kids, with your spouse.

There’s plenty of material out there, my friends.

Start with our history books.  Watch today’s news.

Talk about slavery.  But talk about how far we all have come to abolish it and to bring our country to a better place. Talk about the awful and the ugly, but talk about the bravery. Talk about power in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words. Talk about the beauty of people taking risks to support their brothers and sisters, no matter the color of their skin.

Talk about why things like the powderpuff team wearing blackface is not okay and how hurtful and careless and demeaning it is.

Talk about what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri, and talk about the verdict once it’s shared.

Need a starting point? Black History Month Resources for Families last year. If it’s too overwhelming, just pick up Unspoken, by Henry Cole. It’s a wordless picture book about a little farm girl and a little boy, a runaway slave.  And though it doesn’t answer all questions, it can begin the dialogue for you and your children about this period in our nation’s history and how things are different today.

Talk about race with your friends. Openly and honestly. Talk about what’s happening in the news and how they feel about it. We must have the dialogue, my friends. We must open up the conversation.

And if you’re not completely comfortable with it, it’s okay.  Just be honest. Explain how you’re feeling, and as long as you’re honest and you’re coming from a peaceful place, you will be fine.

Remember that this is the thing: if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

We will also come together and . . .

3. Celebrate differences.  Celebrate the fact that your children go to school with tons of different people, from all walks of life, with unique hair, skin, and eye colors.   Talk about how cool it is that some kids are preparing for their First Communions while others go to Hebrew school.  Talk about why some of them don’t celebrate their birthdays, while others get to go to Disney World each year for theirs.

Talk about how glasses help Bella see better in the same way that extra reading lessons help Alex read better.

Talk about why some kids buy lunch every day or eat breakfast at school while others bring lunch each day.

Talk about the fact that even though Carly zips through her Mad Minutes in no time flat, Mark can whistle like nobody’s business, and Maddy can do a back handspring on her own.  Lauren can recite an entire poem by heart, and Vincent can write with both hands. Everyone has different strengths; one is not better than another. They’re just different.

Talk about the fact that yes, Nina has a hard time sitting still in class, but she still deserves to learn at your school with your talented teachers.

Talk about the fact that Cole might need the teacher’s help more than the other students, but maybe that’s because his mom was busy working two jobs to put food on the table so she wasn’t able to help him with his ABCs before he got to Kindergarten.

Discuss the fact that some kids’ parents are divorced, some have two moms (or dads), some have one parent, and some are being raised by grandparents. Talk about why some kids live in a one-room apartment while others could land a small plane in their back yards, why some kids’ parents are able to help out in the classroom while others cannot.

Talk about how hard it must be for some families to attend Math Night–because English is not their first language–but how awesome it is that they came anyway. Talk about why your school must have an International Night every single year, even if it’s a homogeneous mix of students.  Make your kids read every single display there and walk around with them, talking about what you see and conversing with each family.

Fill your house with books that celebrate diversity. Read them. Share them. Read them again. Share them again.

Do all of this because really, if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

Step back a bit, my friends, and . . .

4. Listen to what you say.  I mean really, truly listen to what you say.

  • Are you using derogatory racial terms but don’t even realize it? Think.  Really think hard.
  • Do you use the terms ‘gay’, ‘retarded’ or ‘ghetto’ to describe negative situations or events?
  • Are you singing songs that convey racial–or gender or any type–of stereotypes?
  • Do the programs or games in your home support stereotypes?
  • Do you express prejudice in what you say or do? In the way you interact with those around you?
  • Are you perpetuating the cycle of gossip and toxicity by contributing to negative conversations with friends and colleagues?
  • Do you welcome new people or groups to your clubs and organizations?
  • How do you respond to new ideas, to change, to revisiting old systems and processes?
  • Do you openly proclaim your faith but act in ways that are contrary to those beliefs?
  • Do your expectations for your children vary? Do you demand more from one and less from another?  Are those expectations just?
  • Do you treat your students, colleagues, or friends differently based on their race or gender? 

Just think about it. Be aware, and be brave.

Remember, if we want change to happen, it must start here.

With you. And with me.

Because we all have a voice and it’s time we used it.

Even if it starts as a whisper.


Thanks for hanging in with me. I know this is long, and I know it might be a lot. But you know what? I took a risk and used my voice.

Because really, something has to change, my friends. Something has to change.



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

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

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

post contains affiliate links



must have gifts for kids and families | teachmama.com


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

What should you get for your preschool nephew?

What does your second grader absolutely need this year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So hold onto your seats.

Here’s the skinny. . .

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

must-have gifts for kids and families BABIES 2014

For our teeniest teenies:  (babies – first year)

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

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

For the little guys:  (ages 2-4)

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



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

For the bigger guys:  (ages 5-7)

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

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

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

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


best gifts for kids and family  stockings  teachmama.com

For stockings:

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

For families:

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

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


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

subscriber thank you long newsletter | teachmama.com

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


Also check out: 

gifts that give back  teachmama.com


must have book gifts for the whole family  teachmama.com


Need a bit more inspiration?

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

Click on the picture for the link:

teach mama gift guide 2013


gift guide teach mama

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




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


must have gifts for kids and family teachmama.com 2


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

holiday note gift idea for families: unique, thoughtful, and FREE

holiday note gift idea for families: unique, thoughtful, free | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links



Post originally published on 11/24/09 but republishing because I think it’s worth it.  



holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.comIt’s so easy for our little ones (and even adults sometimes!) to lose sight of what the holiday season is all about.

So last year, when I saw this idea on a late-night, dvr’d Oprah, I knew I wanted to use it. With a little prompting, my family tried out Holiday Notes with both sides of the family.

Even though some interpreted the exchange a little differently, it was a success overall. Most have said they want to do it again, and with a little tweaking, hopefully it will become a worthwhile and cherished holiday tradition.

This Quick Trick is far from quick, but it’s something that seemed to work well for us, so I thought I’d share.

  • Holiday Notes: The idea behind Holiday Notes is that everyone takes a small amount of time to complete one of three different note cards for each member of the family. Over the holiday season–or at a holiday gathering–the notes are then delivered to each person’s special box, envelope, or bag and is read at another time.

Since our immediate family presented both sides of our extended family with the idea, we made special Holiday Note Card boxes for each person–as our small gift.

holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.com

I picked up the small wooden favor bags at the craft store, and each maybe cost a dollar. Then over the course of two or three weeks, Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I worked on the bags.

First we painted all of them. Then we glitzed, beautified, and decorated. We added bows, glitter (glitter glue is easiest!), sparkles, ribbon, sequins, feathers, and anything we wanted, trying to make each one special for every person in our family.

After everything was dried, we added appropriate name tags.


Then we sat down together and wrote short messages. And I mean short. The three Holiday Note Cards each begin a sentence, and the note cards are tiny.

All our personal messages do is complete the sentence. One note begins, What I love about you. . . The other is My holiday wish for you. . . , and the last one is Thank you for. . .

The Holiday Note Cards can be downloaded here if you’d like: holiday note cards

(Please, if you choose to share them, link to this post instead of the attachment page! Thank you!)

Sure, some notes were longer than others. Some messages turned out to be completely hysterical, and others were more sentimental. Some were really long, and others were just one sentence.

holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.commore note bags

Maddy and Owen (as a 4 and 3-year-old) were very excited about what we were doing. As we worked on the bags, I’d ask them what they wanted to thank their Nanny for or what they wished for their sweet cousin.

I was often surprised at what they remembered (Maddy wanted to thank her Great Grandma for letting her “ice” her own bagels with cream cheese, and Owen loved his Great Grandma’s great big loud laugh and wished that his Nana’s cats weren’t always hiding around her house).

We wrote Cora’s for her because she was so young, but no one was too young to appreciate reading the notes that were written to them. We read them over and over and over. My husband and I both read and re-read our own notes from family members.

Sometimes even a short note–one or two sentences–can mean so much.

holiday note gift idea for families | teachmama.com


We’ll do these notes every year as an immediate family, and maybe the tradition will continue for a few years with our extended family–or maybe this will be the last year. It can become a lot to do when there are many people involved.

But for us, the act of sitting down together, really thinking about what we are thankful for, what we wish for for our loved ones, and what we love about them is what the holidays are all about.

Toys will come and go, but these notes–and the bonds they will help to create–we hope will last for years and years and years and years. Happy Holidays!

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



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