everything I wish I knew before I started middle school: a letter to my rising 6th grader

what I wish I knew before middle school | teachmama.com

what I wish I knew before middle school | teachmama.com

Maddy,

I have a hard time believing it’s time to send you off to the wilds of middle school, but here we are, my friend.

It seems like just yesterday your aunts and I sat on the back porch with you, making felt flowers and blinging out your backpack for kindergarten.

Sending you into the building that first day, watching your little pink backpack bouncing down the hallway, was one of the hardest things I did up to that point.

But you were ready.

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

You were prepared for the adventure, eager to start that next chapter.

And like most everything you do, you rocked it.

Just like you’ll rock middle school.

But this time, instead of sending you off with homemade flowers, I’m sending you off with advice from some friends.  Our friends. Tons of great people we know from near and far.

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

Tons of people who have walked this walk before and who were willing to share what they wish they knew before they started middle school. So instead of hearing a boatload of advice from your boring old mom, you can take it from a bunch of other smart, cool, super-wise people.

Pretty much everything they said holds true for your dad and me, too.

So here’s what I wish I would have known before I started middle school.  (And here’s what we all want you to know):

  • You are smart and funny, caring, thoughtful, beautiful and brave. You have always been compassionate insightful and responsible. Just bring those things and everything else you have to share and you will be just fine. Middle school is big and fun and new, exciting and kind of confusing sometimes. Some big changes ahead. Lots of new friends, teachers, activities, choices. Guess what? Everyone around you is growing and changing at different paces and experiencing a lot of the same things as you, so don’t worry, you are not alone! Make new friends (but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold) that are as awesome as you and talk about what you are feeling and going through…I bet they can relate! Keep your chin up.  Three important things I learned from my three awesome older sisters before starting middle school: 1. Be kind even when those around you are not – you won’t be sorry. 2. Go with your gut; if something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not & may get you in trouble. 3. Don’t bother with boys who act like jerks even if you think they are cute. When in doubt, call an aunt. You rock, and you are so incredibly loved.  -Aunt Katie

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

  • There will be kids that make fun of other kids and try to ‘seem’ cool and try too hard to fit in — they are usually missing something in their life. Don’t change who you are for anyone. Always be true to yourself. -Uncle Will
  • I wish I hadn’t ‘ditched’ my little sister in favor of school friends during middle school. God had given me a built-in BFF! – Stacey Ferguson, JusticeFergie.com
  • There will be moments that your world may seem like it’s ending. It’s not. These years are but a blip in the awesomeness of your life that is to come. -Erin Lane, AParentingProduction.com

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

  • Kids can be mean. Stay strong and no matter what–Be Yourself. -Teri Edwards
  • I wish I had known that some of my friends would pull away from me when we got into middle school, and it was going to hurt. Alot. And sometimes middle schoolers can be just plain mean….which is especially hard when the meanness is coming from some of those former friends. I wish I had known that the meanness was more about them and not so much about me. I wish I had known that if I could just hold on, that things would be brighter and get better. And I would find new, wonderful friends…many of whom would still be my friends when I am old and gray! -Lauri Black

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

 

  • Find a passion outside of school. I didn’t have a great group of friends in middle school–they were flakey and fickle, but I did have a lot of success with sports. I didn’t put all my energy into maintaining social relationships–I worked at other things and got a sense of fulfillment from my work on the soccer field and lacrosse field. I didn’t judge my worth by what my friends thought of me. I’d like to think the current WORLD CHAMP TEAM USA GIRLS felt the same. They probably had little time for time-sucking social dynamics. Find something outside of school (could be church, music, acting, collecting fossils) that makes you feel vibrant and happy. If you wait on others to validate you and make you feel successful it could be a very, very long wait. Oh, and don’t buy shoes thinking you’ll break them in–you never will. You’ll just get blisters and miss out on the fun. -Nicole Feliciano, CEO Momtrends Media.
  • Teenage boys will say anything VERY convincingly to get what their crazy stupid hormones want. And your crazy stupid hormones will want to believe it. Don’t. – Bon Crowder, MathFour.com
  • Don’t get a radical hair cut. You will never regret standing by a friend, but you will always regret NOT doing the right thing. Remove yourself from drama, and have friends outside of school. -Rebecca Levy, KidzVuz.com

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

  • These next few years you will be faced with a lot of change; you, your friends, expectations, school, etc. The person sitting next to you will be faced with similar challenges. You are never alone. Talk with someone who will listen and be there to support you. -Christine Quinn
  • The only thing I really remember about middle school is that I was tiny, a late bloomer and had no idea what the more developed girls were talking about half of the time. I longed to be cool and taller! I only wish I would have known I would grow taller than everyone else a few years later. LOL! So maybe my input would be, no matter where you are in the girly development phase… we’re all in the same boat together soon enough. Enjoy your childhood years as long as you can! There’s nothing wrong with taking your time to grow up. Just be confident and act like you know what’s going on… even if you really don’t:-) FYI – I still take this advice. Half of the time, I don’t know what I’m doing. ha! -Amy Locurto, LivingLocurto.com

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

 

  • Be nice to your teachers! They are moms, dads, sisters and brothers who have feelings too. -Meredith Gordon Donate
  • Always remember that you’re never too old for a kiss and a hug to your mom and dad before and after school. -Audrey McClelland, MomGenerations.com
  • Be YOU! The next few years those around you in middle school will be discovering just exactly they think they are. Friends will get closer and friends will pull away sometimes even within the same day. Stay true to the person you know you are and how your parents have raised you to be. Find ways to express your talents an discover more about yourself through clubs, school projects, volunteering and activities outside of school. Always know that your Mom and Dad believe in you and think you a rockstar! -Kim Vij, The Educators’ Spin On It

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

 

  • Drink lots of water and get into a beauty routine that involves washing your face before bed…. puberty might make your skin a hot mess for the next few years, just know you’re not alone! also…. call your AUNTS at ANY TIME of ANY DAY for ANY REASON whatsoever…. I promise we’ll be here for you. -Aunt Jenny
  • I loved elementary school.  What I didn’t realize and I wish someone had told me is that I would love the middle school years even more!
    -Grandpa
  • It’s a tough time in your life not sure what you are feeling and why. Talk to your parents about those feelings . They can help and do understand for they were once your age. Be yourself!! -Sara Collins Carlson

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

  • Later, when you talk to people about middle school, you’ll be surprised at just how many of them felt awkward and uncomfortable and like they didn’t fit in. Even the “cool kids.” You are not alone in whatever you’re feeling. -Christie Matte, QuirkyFusion.com
  • Don’t dwell on people that don’t like you, instead, remember that there’s plenty of people out there that will like you for who you are. In addition, I wish I’d participated more in school activities. And last, have a code with your parents so that you can tell them anything and you won’t get in trouble. -Jackie Silver Confrey, Amazing Life Lessons With Jackie

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

  • Don’t worry about what other people are thinking about you. They aren’t! They are only thinking about themselves. -Candice Kilpatrick, MomMostTraveled.com
  • Consider a pen pal. Perhaps a friend that moved away or a childhood friend you trust. Someone who may not go to your school but who you can be open and honest with. If not to someone, perhaps to a diary. Write about the little things that excite you or that bother you. The littlest of things may just be the biggest to you at the time. Sharing your experiences with someone you trust can help with the journey. -Liz Deery

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

  • I wish I had known what a great resource teachers could have been. My friends bonded with some of our teachers and got a lot of support, but I was always too shy. Also, don’t assume it’s going to be awful! There’s a danger of the self-fulfilling prophecy with so many people talking about how awful middle school is. (Coincidentally, I have a Maddie entering 6th grade in the fall, also!) -Kakki Reynolds Lewis, KatherineLewis.com
  • The kids who are cool in middle school are rarely the kids who are cool as grown ups. Doesn’t make it any easier I know, but your day will come!!! -Danica Kombol, Everywhere Agency
  • Try your best to be nice… Even when it feels hard …be a loyal friend… Don’t keep secrets from mom and dad and follow your heart. Fitting in isn’t as important as being yourself, although that’s hard to understand now. Being you is the best part about being you! -Jennifer Flamish Lang

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

  • 1. You are loved.
    2. You have boundaries because you are loved and we want the best for you. Experience is “a” teacher, not the “best” teacher.
    3. Choose friends wisely. It’s takes time to make “good” friends. Don’t rush it. Watch a “friends” behavior over time.
    4. Be a good friend. Stand up for what is right even when it’s not popular.
    5. Stay connected to family (including siblings).
    6. Mommy and Daddy are praying for you everyday. You are smart. You are kind. You are beautiful.  -Kinta Jones, Mom of 3 (rising 9th grader, 7th grader, and 5th grader)
  • To not worry about being in with the cool crowd- look for friends who are your friend for you and stand by you! -Melissa Northway, DandelionMoms.com
  • Yes, you will meet new friends, but it won’t be a chore. Yes, there will be be the popular crowd, which my children never strived to be in. It all comes in time! You will meet good friends. They will be friends throughout high school. – Jodi Siarkas, JodiSiarkas.com

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

  • Learn everything you can about hormones because they are about to RUN YOUR LIFE. Pray for yourself and your momma too! -Donne´ Allen
  • When you kiss someone for the first time it will be wet and awkward. Afterward, your heart will flutter a bit. It is normal. Boys and girls can be mean. Sometimes boys say mean things because they think you are cute and don’t know what to say. Girls tend to be mean because they are insecure. It is difficult to understand this when you are experiencing it, but true.-Christine Quinn

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

  • Friendships may wax and wane. Your best friends, or your whole circle, may change, or not. Don’t be afraid to reach out and make new friends, or try something new. A new school offers a great chance to do that. What seems normal for everyone else may not be normal for you. The other kids are rarely what they appear to be anyway. They just look like they have it more together from the outside. Most people have the same insecurities and just want to be liked. People will remember your kindness, and you will be rewarded for it. (Having had a child enter middle school, high school and college, this is pretty much the advice I have given and that has been acted upon. It holds for every transition.) -Suz Lipman, Slow Family Online

what I wish I knew before middle school teachmama.com

middle school advice _ teachmama.com

  • Remember that you’re a team–mom and dad are all going to Middle School for the first time. .Good friends can be males or females. Girls tend to be more wicked in MS than at any other time in their lives. Boys need a friend who’s a girl to let them know when they’re being gross. .Be nice to the caf ladies–It may mean some extra fries.. A please and thank you will go a long way! Always pack your things the night before. Even plan what you’ll be wearing the next day. Getting up in the morning is difficult enough! The last thing you will want to do is be running around looking for things in the morning! Don’t make your parents have to bring something you forgot into school! Don’t be afraid to be a leader. Sometimes, you may need to be a follower. Never, ever, ever follow, when you know you should be leading! Be nice to the custodians… They are the ones who’ll open your jammed locker. If you see a piece of paper on the floor, pick it up! Be nice to the secretaries. They will lend you lunch money if you forget your money on the kitchen table! Just be nice to everyone. Just enjoy school and your life! As it is said, ” You’ll never pass this way again.” – Carolyn Roman, Spanish teacher 38 years

Maddy, you’ve totally got this.

We’re proud of you and we love you more than you will ever know.  Always remember that no matter what, as long as the stars shine and this great, big world turns, you will have an army of friends and family and behind you, ready to catch you when you fall and give you a high five when you rock it.

You are prepared for this adventure, and we are all excited for you to start this next chapter.

Let the fun begin!

xoxo

mom & dad

 

Huge and happy thanks to my many friends and family members who helped write this post. I couldn’t have done it without you. 

Do you want to download all of this awesome advice and print it out for your little love? I don’t blame you.

You can download it here: middle school advice _ teachmama.com

And if you choose to share it–which we hope you do!–please link to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!

 

what to consider when choosing a school for your child: parent checklist

find the best school for your kids | teachmama.com

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find the best school for your kids | teachmama.com

 

Now that my kids are 11, 10, and 8 years old (gasp!), I feel like there’s a lot I wish I would have known when it came to choosing schools for my children.

Believe me, we’re not even close to the finish line, and I’m not wishing time away. But looking back, there was a whole lot I didn’t know school shopping before my own kids hit Kindergarten.

There’s really a lot to consider.

So I’ve created a quick and easy parent check sheet to make things (hopefully!) easier for folks down the road.

Here’s the skinny. . .

What to Consider When Choosing a School for Your Child–Parent Checklist:

I’ll admit it. My husband slept out in his car overnight in order to get Maddy on the list for her preschool at 2 1/2 years old.

And though we loved the school, what we didn’t know was how class enrollment would chosen the next year. And what happened was that Maddy’s name was put in a lottery, and her name was picked for the afternoon class.

find the best school for your kids | teachmama.com

With a 1 year old and another baby on the way, an afternoon start would not work for our family.

So we had to pick up and move schools. Had I known this is how enrollment for the 3’s classes was handled, would I have started there? I’m not even sure.

Here are some questions I’d suggest you look into finding answers to before your littles start school:

Location: 

  • How far is the school?
  • How long is the commute?
  • How easy is parking?
  • Does the school feel welcoming?
  • Are classrooms clean, airy, and open?

Frequency: 

  • How often will class meet?
  • How long is the class day?
  • Are there before care or aftercare options?
  • Are there ‘lunch bunch’ options?

find the best school for your kids | teachmama.com

find the best school for your kids | teachmama.com

Teachers:

  • Are the teachers state-certified educators?
  • How often do the teachers have professional development opportunities?
  • What is the teacher-student ratio?
  • Are parent volunteers permitted in the classroom?
  • What safety precautions are taken at the school?  Are all teachers and volunteers fingerprinted and given background checks?
  • Who is the director, and what is his/ her background?

Curriculum:

  • How are classes organized?  What is the daily schedule?
  • What is the school’s educational philosophy?
  • How do I feel about school’s educational philosophy?
  • Are lessons age-appropriate and developmentally appropriate?
  • Does the school take field trips?

find the best school for your kids | teachmama.com

Other:

  • Are doors locked after drop-off? What is the sign-in/ sign-out procedure?
  • How is tuition processed each month?
  • Is there a discount for paying in full, upfront?
  • What is the sibling discount?
  • What are my fundraising obligations?
  • How are snacks handled–by the school or by parents?
  • What is the school’s allergy policy?
  • How does the school handle birthdays? Holidays?
  • What is the school’s potty training policy?
  • How does the school handle hitting/ biting/ bullies?

 

Would it be easier to have these questions on a quick and easy printable?

find the best school for your kids | teachmama.com

school search checklist _ teachmama.com

 

You can download it here: school search checklist _ teachmama.com

 

Back to school time is an exciting for so many families. Making sure that you choose the right school for your child is key so that your child–and you!–walk into the new year feeling ready and revived.

 

Need a good place to start? Look for a Childtime in your area, and schedule a visit.

Childtime. Opening Minds. Unleashing Imaginations.

 

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Learning Care Group. The opinions and text are all mine.

school supply shopping: our NEW way to teach kids to be smart consumers

school supply shopping teachmama.com

school supply shopping  teachmama.com

 

Every year, we try to somehow involve our kids in back-to-school shopping.

When Maddy, Owen, and Cora were emerging readers, I created easy-to-read lists that we’d take on our shopping trips.

The lists combined words and pictures so that they could more easily find what they needed.

As the kids got older, we worked together to find the best places to shop, using the coupons and sales circulars to figure out the best deals.

This year, we tried something new.

school supply shopping  teachmama.com

I knew that the kids needed more of a reason to plan and shop, and I knew that money is always a push for them.

And, admittedly, we’ve slacked on our Gem Jars this summer.

So what we did forced our kids into becoming smart and savvy shoppers, and it also encouraged more ‘shopping at home’.

All kids agreed that they want to do our school supply shopping this way every year. So I’ll count that as a win in my book.

Here’s the skinny. . .

School Supply Shopping: Our NEW Way to Teach Kids to be Smart Consumers:

This year, I gave Maddy, Owen, and Cora a $40 budget.

And I said,

Okay, here’s the thing: I know we’ve been lax with Gem Jars this year, and I know we haven’t done anything with allowance.

Each of you has done a pretty decent job with chores, and we appreciate it.

So for school supply shopping this year, each of you has $40. And you have access to everything in our school supply drawer and everything in our house. And you have a ton of coupons and sales circulars to pick from.

school supply shopping  teachmama.com

Use whatever you want—and use the lists I’ve printed out from the school that tell you what you need.

And figure out the best way to use your money.

Remember that cheap is not always the best and that sometimes you pay a little more for quality.

And whatever money you have left after your shopping trip, you can keep.

Owen went nuts crazy. This is his thing—playing with numbers, looking at sales, and finding the best possible price.

He needs money for the snack bar at the pool, you know, and he knows that Mom and Dad don’t provide it.

So the kids used the planning sheet I created last year, and they got to work.

It was difficult for Cora—that I must say—and she gave up quickly.

school supply shopping  teachmama.com

school supply shopping  teachmama.com

school supply shopping  teachmama.com

I sat with her a bit and worked through some of the glitches, but she decided she was finished almost before she started.

Maddy and Owen worked pretty hard on theirs, Maddy roughly and Owen to the penny.

What was most awesome was that the kids shopped carefully in our house.

school supply shopping  teachmama.com

All these supplies? Yep. Found ’em in our house.

school supply shopping  teachmama.com

We had a few extra 3-ring binders from previous years along with a random mix of other supplies.  They pieced them together where they could, and then they were ready to  hit the stores.

We decided our first stop would be Target, so we took off late morning, each kid with his or her own shopping bag, list, and coupons.

school supply shopping  teachmama.com 2

school supply shopping teachmama.com 2

I was surprised that when we got to the store, the kids went straight for the supplies and knew exactly what they were looking for.

For the most part, they stuck to their lists, though they did make some changes.

And even though Owen wanted to go to Office Depot for ten cent folders, I explained that his decision to buy plastic ones for $.47 was a wise one because they’d last much longer.

So they gathered.

And shopped.

And checked things off of their lists.

 

And they used coupons.school supply shopping  teachmama.com 2

school supply shopping  teachmama.com 2

And they spent money.

And they saved money.

Only Cora had to break her second $20 bill, and they each pocketed quite a bit of money.

Then we headed to the Target Café for some lunch. And they each wanted a slushee, so they each bought one with their extra dinero. Yay!

Maddy and Cora were really into it in the end, too; in fact, they came home and had a design contest –who could arrange their school supplies in the most beautiful way.  Not sure who won, though, because I think I was pretty much beat from all of our shopping. . .

It was a great little real-life lesson and a great day!

Want to grab the printable we used and try this yourself?

Click on the image below:

back-to-school-shopping-get-kids-involved-teachmama.com_-671x1024

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Join us!

summer fun for kids | teachmama.com

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easy, engaging fun for kids: tabletop surprises

tabletop surprises teachmama.com 5

tabletop surprises  teachmama.com 5

This summer is literally moving at the speed of light.

I can’t even believe we’re nine weeks in. It’s insane.

And it has been so much fun–I really just don’t want it to end.

This past week was particularly fun because we were able to check off some serious back-to-school shopping, and the kids crafted and created their little hearts out.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Easy, Engaging Fun for Kids–Tabletop Surprises:

 

Monday:

Taking a new approach to the ole school supply shopping trip. Let’s see how it goes. #tabletopsurprises

A photo posted by amy mascott (@teachmama1) on

  Tuesday:

read, read, read today for #tabletopsurprises A photo posted by amy mascott (@teachmama1) on

 

Wednesday:

 

one of my favorite days for #tabletopsurprises !

A photo posted by amy mascott (@teachmama1) on

Thursday:  

I’m excited about this one! #tabletopsurprises #digitalkids A photo posted by amy mascott (@teachmama1) on

Friday:

 

STICKERS!!!! today’s #tabletopsurprises

A photo posted by amy mascott (@teachmama1) on

 

 

What did you do that really rocked this week? We’d love to hear it!

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summer fun for kids | teachmama.com

Check out our summertime fun posts: 

Find something fun to do this summer by following our summertime fun board: 

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board summer fun & cool for kids on Pinterest.

 

Share it!

fun summertime learning for kids: tabletop surprises

7 ways to get kids writing (and cool writing prompts for kids!)

get kids writing teachmama.com

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get kids writing  teachmama.com

 

Friends.

It’s summer, and if your kids are anything like mine, they want to be outside and they want to be at the pool.

Or, okay.  They want to be on their iPads playing Minecraft or the computer playing Animal Jam.

So writing–actually putting the ole pencil to the paper–is far down on their list of fun things to do while school’s out.

But I’ve got a few ideas for you to get our kids writing again. A few fun, totally cool, ways.

Honestly, the kids and their neighbor buddies helped me put this list together. So it has to work, right?

The cool thing is that beyond this list of seven ways to get kids writing you can always pull out the cool writing topic cards. Print them out. Let your kids pick one, two, or a few, and give ’em a few new pens.

You may be surprised at what happens.

Here’s the skinny. . .

7 Ways to Get Kids Writing (and Cool Writing Prompts for Kids):

In no particular order. . .

get kids writing | name | teachmama.com

It amazes me what happens when you ask kids to write their names.

They love it.

They really, truly do.

And sure, it’s not high-level thinking or super creative writing; rather, it’s just writing. Just plain writing.

Leave a bunch of writing tools on the table with a pile of blank paper, and ask kids to:

  • write their first name
  • write their full name–first, middle, last
  • write their nickname
  • write their dream name (this will surely result in giggles. . . tell them that as an example yours is ‘Queen Mom’)

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get kids writing | list | teachmama.com

Kids love to make lists.

If you’re working on something in the kitchen, ask your child to write a quick grocery list for you as you dictate items. Tell them that spelling does not matter and to give each word their best guess.

Or get children into the habit of writing a ‘to-do’ list at the beginning of each day or every Sunday.

It’s good to have a plan.

And kids writing their plans, checking items off as completed, and keeping everything together in one notebook is a great way of chronicling progress!

get kids to write | teachmama.com

get kids to write | teachmama.com

 

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get kids writing | journal | teachmama.com

Often journaling is best done when modeled.

The children I know who regularly journal have parents who also do a lot of journal writing.

That’s not to say that everyone has to go out and start spending hours a day writing in a journal, but perhaps your family could either begin each day with a journal entry or wind down each day by writing for a few minutes.

get kids to write | teachmama.com

Consider getting your kids into journal writing by:

  • starting a Family Journal, where everyone adds one sentence about his or her day
  • leaving a journal on the counter and using it as a way to communicate
  • giving everyone a topic at the beginning of the week, and each person takes one day to reflect upon it
  • using a journal to stay in touch with long-distance family or friends.

The possibilities are endless. Just know that there’s something really cool about keeping a ‘family record’ of sorts this way.

 

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get kids writing | letter | teachmama.com

There is honestly nothing like getting an old-fashioned letter in the mail.

And no child can deny this!

Give everyone the challenge of writing one letter each week for 52 weeks. Can you imagine how much fun that could be?

Or if that’s too much, sit down together and write one letter–one teeny, tiny letter–to a family member.

The connections are invaluable.

get kids to write | teachmama.com

 

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get kids writing | free | teachmama.com

I have always found that if kids have the correct writing utensils, they’re more inclined to write.

Really. When I was in the classroom, I kept jars of fun pens and pencils on my shelves, window sills, and desk–and they were all free for kids to use each day.

Kids had favorites, and they’d come right in, grab one, and get down to business. Then they’d return them at the end of class.

Students wrote. They completed their work. They were ready to learn.

And the more kids write, the better their ideas flow.

 

Seriously. Leave out a bunch of cool pens and pencils, some tablets, and notebooks. And see what happens.

You may be surprised.

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get kids writing | recipa | teachmama.com

Sure, kids can follow a recipe by following directly from a cookbook, but how about adding in one small step?

Have them write their shopping list–the ingredients needed to create their dish–and then write down the directions?

Children are less likely to miss a step in the cooking process when they recopy the recipe, and they’re also getting some much-needed writing practice.

Try it!

 

get kids to write | teachmama.com

 

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get kids writing | creative | teachmama.com

 

Sometimes all kids need is a little bit of a push to get their creative ideas flowing. 

You can give them that push with these Cool Daily Writing Prompts for Smart & Creative Kids.

We’ve come up with 14 pages of four cards each–so a total of 56 cool writing prompts that are bound to get your kids writing.

Topics that give them a chance to stretch their brains, think about steps, consequences, and favorites, and get their pens or pencils on the paper.

Use these cards by:

  • printing out all of the cards and leting ’em at the topics
  • picking one card each day
  • having kids choose a card for another person, then sharing stories
  • encouraging kids to keep a continued notebook of their journal responses and ideas
  • giving kids a chance to write, edit, revise, and then share their writing with friends or family.

 

get kids to write | teachmama.com

cool writing prompt cards teachmama.com

 

You can download the Cool Daily Writing Prompts for Smart & Creative Kids here: cool writing prompt cards teachmama.com

Please, if you share this post–and we hope you do!–link to this post instead of the card attachment page! Thank you!

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

Did you know that the more kids write, the better readers they become? That writing boosts confidence and sparks creativity? 

It does.

Check out what our friends from BIC are doing to save handwriting– it’s pretty cool.

bic save handwriting

Handwriting also:

  • improves cognitive development
  • builds self-confidence
  • betters school performance
  • helps reading skillspledge_thanks_20
  • sparks creativity
  • sharpens critical thinking skills

Check it out on the BIC Fight For Your Write page and sign a pledge to save handwriting and know that you can win a $1200 BIC Prize Pack.

And for everyone who takes the pledge to save handwriting, BIC will donate one pen or pencil to AdoptAClassroom.org.

It’s these little things that make a big difference in the way I support brands. If my back-to-school purchase for my kids can go an extra mile and help other kids who need it? It’s a win.

 

 

 

fyi: This is a sponsored post, and compensation was provided by BIC via MomTrends Media.  All opinions here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions of BIC or MomTrends Media

soap experiments: easy backyard summer fun

soap experiments teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

soap experiments | teachmama.com

 

Friends–now that swim and dive season is over, we’re doing a whole lot more free bird play, lazy mornings, and long afternoons at the pool.

It’s been great, and I am so thankful.

But each and every day we try to do something where there’s some sneaky learning involved. Something a little more focused or directed.

Something that allows my crew to use their brains and let their imaginations run wild.

One day last week, we had the pleasure of having some pals over, so we rocked out some early morning soap experiments.

So fun.

And we used materials we had around the house: soap. And some food coloring.

And–I’m willing to declare that even though there was some fun science learning involved–and even a worksheet–that the kids had a blast.

Here’s the skinny . . .

Soap Experiments–Easy Backyard Summer Fun: 

For our tabletop surprises, all I did this day was place a few things on the table.

soap experiments: teachmama.com

And all you’ll need for these soapy experiments are:

  • soap! (grab a few kinds: Ivory, Dial, Irish Spring, and Dove soap)
  • a plate
  • a bowl of water
  • food coloring
  • access to a microwave
  • a copy of the Soap Experiment sheet (download below)

Then let your kids at it!

This does take a bit of parental support, since heat and a microwave is involved, so be aware.

soap experiments: teachmama.com

 

What I did was begin by talking about a few things:

  1. Have kids open each bar of soap, feel it, and smell it.
  2. Talk about the weight of each: Which is heaviest? Which is lightest? Which feels hollow? Solid?
  3. Talk about how each bar of soap feels: Which is smooth? Which is more coarse? Which is more creamy? Which is sandy?
  4. Compare each bar of soap in the big bowl of water: Which floats? Which sinks? Does their behavior change over time?

soap experiments: teachmama.com

soap experiments: teachmama.com

Then because we had a big group–six kids!–we unwrapped one more bar of each soap and closely watched what happened when we placed each bar in the microwave.

And this is where it got really cool.

My kids remembered doing our soap experiment a few summers ago, when we made Soap Dough, so they had an idea about what would happen when we placed the Ivory soap in the microwave.

They were not sure, however, what would happen to the other brands of soap.

So one by one, we put a bar or soap on a plate and watched it in the microwave.

One.

soap experiments: teachmama.com

soap experiments: teachmama.com

By.

One.

And when we ended with the Ivory soap, and the kids watched it blow up into a beautiful and amazing sculpture, the kids were in awe.

Each of the girls had so much fun microwaving their Ivory soap to the max and then letting it cool.

soap experiments: teachmama.com

soap experiments: teachmama.com

By now the boys had lost interest, strangely enough. I guess we couldn’t compete with a dual Minecraft building session. . .

We talked about what happened.

We walked through the why’s of this experiment, pulling the floating experiment back into the loop.  I asked them:

  • Why did the Ivory soap act the way it did?
  • How did Ivory compare in weight to the other soaps?
  • How did Ivory soap compare to the others in water?
  • What might have made Ivory behave the way it did?
  • Let’s look at the cost of each soap. Why was Ivory so much less expensive than the others?
  • How might that effect your skin?

It was a lot of fun.

soap experiments: teachmama.com

soap experiments: teachmama.com

The girls, I think, had the most fun outside, on the porch, making their Ivory into soap dough.

Just a few drops of food coloring, I said.

But they didn’t listen.

And their hands paid for it later: Red hands. Blue hands. Purple hands.

soap experiments: teachmama.com

soap experiments: teachmama.com

Quite a mess they made.

But they had fun, and you know what? Maybe they learned a little something along the way.

I know I sure did: that even big kids must be watched with food coloring.

soap experiments: teachmama.com

soap experiments: teachmama.com

 

soap experiments: teachmama.com

soap experiments: teachmama.com

Want to give the soap experiment a go? 

Try it. Let your kids in on it, and who cares if you get a little messy? It’s all good, clean fun right?

Take a minute and download the experiment sheet below:

soap experiments teachmama.com

soap dough teachmama.com

Soap Dough Experiment pdf: soap dough teachmama.com

If you choose to share this (and we hope you do!) please link to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!

 

soap experiments teachmama.com

Take a look at the original Soap Dough post:

soap dough soap molds crazy cool fun with soap

Want a few more fun summertime ideas?

What did you do that really rocked this week? We’d love to hear it!

 

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Join us!

summer fun for kids | teachmama.com

Check out our summertime fun posts: 

Find something fun to do this summer by following our summertime fun board: 

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board summer fun & cool for kids on Pinterest.
 

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.

birdwatching math puzzles: super challenging and tricky

birdwatching math puzzles: super challenging and tricky

birdwatching math puzzles: super challenging and tricky

This summer as we usually do, I’m trying each week to include some new and exciting math fun.

In the form of puzzles or chocolate challenges or number games or just a new spin on old school problem-solving, any way we can pull in

Especially this year we’ve loved the challenging puzzles created by Erich Friedman.

These puzzles, you guys, are tough.

This week we tried the Birdwatching Puzzles.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Birdwatching Math Puzzles–Super Challenging and Tricky: 

The goal with these mazey puzzles is to move from the left side of the puzzle to the right, ‘visiting’ each color bird the same amount of times.

The ‘birds’ are actually colored dots, though, and it’s not as easy as it sounds.

 

birdwatching math puzzles: super challenging and tricky

 

birdwatching math puzzles: super challenging and tricky

 

Though Maddy and Cora didn’t even give these puzzles a go, Owen did.

He sat down at some point in the day–I never actually saw him do it–but the evidence was there.

 

birdwatching math puzzles: super challenging and tricky

He tried.

He stopped.

He doodled.

He tried again.

He did it.

birdwatching math puzzles: super challenging and tricky

He graded himself.

He moved on.

That’s summer, y’all.

birdwatching math puzzles: super challenging and tricky

birdwatching puzzles teachmama.com

 

Do you want to download the Birdwatching Puzzle sheet? birdwatching puzzles teachmama.com

Remember, I did not make these up or design them; I am the furthest thing from a tricky puzzle creator.  These are from Erich Friedman’s site, which you can visit here: Erich’s Puzzle Palace.

All I did was find the site, love it, and create easy-to-print puzzle pages for our tabletop surprises.

Thank you, Erich, for sharing your puzzle awesome with us!

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Join us!

summer fun for kids | teachmama.com

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Follow us on Instagram: @teachmama1  / #tabletopsurprises

teachmama on instagram

 

Want a little more math fun?

Check out:

Or follow our rockin math pinterest board:

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board math on Pinterest.

 

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.

talk with kids about emotions: ‘inside out’ mini-book and card game

talk with kids about emotions: | teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

talk with kids about emotions: | teachmama.com

With an 11, 9, and 8 year old, you’d think that we would be over talking about and identifying emotions over here, but we’re not.

In fact, after watching the Disney*Pixar film, Inside Out with my family this summer–and getting a sneak peek of the movie at the Disney Social Media Moms Conference–I realized that as we move swiftly toward the teen years, understanding and talking about emotions is more important than ever.

So I created this cute little Inside Out Mini-Book and card game.

It features the five characters from Inside Out with some space to add some new ones. No, you guys, I’m not asking you to invent new characters for the movie.

Rather, I’m talking about adding other faces for emotions that weren’t included in the movie–emotions that your kids are experiencing.

It’s all about using the movie as a teaching tool. Let’s not just watch the movie and be done with it.

Let’s watch it with our kids and use it as a continued, constant anchor for conversations about emotions.

For real.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Talk With Kids About Emotions–‘Inside Out’ Mini Book and Card Game: 

I’ve shared in the past how important it is to talk with kids about their emotions because when kids can pinpoint how they’re feeling–and share it with their parents–precious time and energy is spared.

And we, as parents, can better support our little loves.

However, identifying emotions is a lot easier for some kids than others–which is no surprise for any parent reading this, I’m sure.  Identifying emotions is sometimes difficult for adults, too, right?

So here’s what we’re doing–

1. First of all, we watched Inside Out.

If you haven’t heard, Inside Out is kind of an interesting, unusual movie. It takes place in the ‘command center’ of 11-year-old Riley’s mind. Rile deals with all of the things that most tweens deal with on top of a big move from her home in the midwest to San Francisco.

With each step and decision, Riley’s emotions–Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust–play important roles.  It’s so unique, it’s unbelievable. We loved this movie, and not just because we have an 11-year-old girl under our roof. This movie rocks.

Check out the trailer below, or head to the theater if you haven’t already seen it.

Like it and want a bit more?

2. We created the Inside Out Mini-Book.

The mini-book isn’t something we’ve taken out every single day and read through; it’s not like that.

talk with kids about emotions: | teachmama.com

talk with kids about emotions: | teachmama.com

It’s really just a little, quick flip book with each character–Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust–each on a page.  I kept it small because my kids love tiny things and because I want it to be small enough to fit in my purse, a backpack, or a desk drawer.

I also left a few pages blank aside from an open circle. Here, I figured we could draw in faces of emotions that we want to include.

talk with kids about emotions: | teachmama.com

talk with kids about emotions: | teachmama.com

 

You can download the Inside Out Mini-Book here: mini emotion cards _ teachmama.com

inside out mini book

mini emotion cards _ teachmama.com

 

If you choose to share this document–and we hope you do!–please consider sharing this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!

And the cool thing is that if you’re not into the Inside Out Mini-Book, then you can totally print out the cards and play Inside Out Memory with them instead.

Just print out the pages on cardstock so you can’t see through them and play.

talk with kids about emotions: | teachmama.com

talk with kids about emotions: | teachmama.com

talk with kids about emotions: | teachmama.com

Really. Super-simple.

And a great way to use what you’ve seen in a top-notch movie for continued learning at home.

It doesn’t matter what you play or how you play it. Just keep the cards–or book–out and the conversation flowing.

 

3. We will continue the conversation. 

Really, emotions are something to talk about continually with kids. And it’s important to stress that no emotions are wrong–that it’s okay to feel sad one day and joyful the next, that it’s normal to feel angry one minute and fearful another.

It’s about learning how to deal with those emotions when they arrive on the scene that’s the hard part.

pixar producer inside out | teachmama.com

The cool thing is that the producers of Inside Out really, truly put so much more time, effort, and energy into developing this movie than you’ll ever know. 

At the Disney Social Media Moms Conference, we had the chance to hear first-hand from the producer about how much time they put into its development.

Did you know that the whole movie began because of the changes that writer Pete Docter noticed in his own 11-year old daughter? Really. He wanted to figure out what was going on in her brain and what sparked the changes he was noticing.

Check out the photos below of producer Jonas Rivera explaining the background of Inside Out:

pixar producer inside out | teachmama.com

pixar producer inside out | teachmama.com

pixar producer inside out | teachmama.com

pixar producer inside out | teachmama.com

pixar producer inside out | teachmama.com

. . . and here he talks about the development and creation of characters:

pixar producer inside out | teachmama.com

pixar producer inside out | teachmama.com

pixar producer inside out | teachmama.com

pixar producer inside out | teachmama.com

pixar producer inside out | teachmama.com

pixar producer inside out | teachmama.com

 

It’s a movie well worth seeing, friends. But even more than that, it’s worth using as a continued opportunity to chat with our kids about emotions!

 

fyi: I am proud to be a part of the Fandango Family Digital Network and will share a movie-related post quarterly. Parents, check out the deets on Cinderella, including information about the cast and crew, from our friends at Fandango.   Share your #fandangofamily moments for others to see, or check out the Fandango Family Facebook page for fun posts and contests.

I am proud to work with Disney as well. All of the Cinderella images are courtesy of Disney.  Thank you!

chocolate math: age by chocolate

chocolate math: age by chocolate | teachmama.com

 

chocolate math: age by chocolate | teachmama.com

Our tabletop surprises are rocking and rolling this summer, but one thing that really, truly got the kids’ attention was our first (we have another planned!) chocolate day.

The whole focus was chocolate, and friends, it was pretty sweet if I do say so myself.

Who wouldn’t like to talk math and chocolate?

Here’s the skinny. . .

Chocolate Math–Age by Chocolate:

The premise of this day’s activity was twofold–1. figure out their age by chocolate; and 2. watch the multiplying chocolate video and try to figure it out themselves.

chocolate math: age by chocolate | teachmama.com

chocolate math: age by chocolate | teachmama.com

Figuring out Age by Chocolate is tricky but fun.

Some of the math was a bit difficult for Cora, but we walked her through it, and I’m pretty sure it helped. She hasn’t done big multiplication yet, but she will this year in grade three.

Age by math was simply completing this little printable where no matter what number you choose first, as the number of times that you each chocolate each week, your age should come out in the end.

chocolate math: age by chocolate | teachmama.com

age by chocolate _ teachmama.com

Age by chocolate printable: age by chocolate _ teachmama.com

Please, if you choose to share this printable–and we hope you do!–please link to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!

 

chocolate math: age by chocolate | teachmama.com

chocolate math: age by chocolate | teachmama.com

Pretty cool, right?

I think so, too! And Maddy, Owen, and Cora were also impressed.

But they were really, really impressed with the multiplying chocolate videos. Don’t we all wish that this could be true? That we could make chocolate appear simply by cutting and moving candy pieces a certain way?

I sure do!

Multiplying Chocolate is super cool to watch.

Here it is as a .gif: 

DR57onF

And here’s the video: 

 

Both are really interesting–and relaxing–to watch.

Leave some chocolate bars on the table, and see what your kids can do. (Of course, be careful with knives, friends. . . ).

We tried it but couldn’t get the chocolate to cut straight enough–so we broke the chocolate and ate it.

I mean. Come on. It’s summer.

 

I simply placed the following on the table and let the kids go–

chocolate math: age by chocolate | teachmama.com

 

chocolate math: age by chocolate | teachmama.com

It was a hit as far as tabletop surprises go, and I’m thrilled that we have another chocolate day coming up soon. 

It’ll be all about fractions using chocolate bars, and though I can’t wait for the kids to try it, I am already sad just thinking that summer will be ending soon (sob!).  How can we really be on week six of ten of our 2015 tabletop surprises?

Unbelievable.

So there you have it–just a fun and sneaky way to get the kids doing a little bit of mathy math in the middle of summer and thinking about things in a little different kind of way.

Pretty neat, right?

Have you tried this before? Has it worked? Do share!

 

 

fyi: Huge and happy thanks to Murderous Maths for sharing the Age by Chocolate formula. I am not even going to pretend to be a math whiz, friends, and many of  you know it. I am doing the best I can with what I have. Also thanks to this site for the chocolate bar illustration

color puzzles: fun math and logic for kids

color puzzles teachmama.com

color puzzles  teachmama.com

 

Sometimes it’s hard for me to find cool ways of sneaking some math into our day, but recently we’ve been on a puzzle kick.

Puzzles are a super way of getting your brain moving in clever and creative ways, allowing you to stretch those critical thinking skills.

Math is so much more than just number recognition and basic facts. Math is actually the study of numbers, equations, functions, and geometric shapes and their relationships. And there’s a whole lot when it comes to their relationships.

Puzzles help us bring to life those those relationships.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Color Puzzles–Fun Math and Logic for Kids: 

Actually, these color puzzles are fun for kids of all ages. In fact, I’ve done so many of the puzzles I’ve found on this site, that some days an hour will pass and it feels like a heartbeat to me.

color puzzles  teachmama.com

And I’m not really a puzzle person.

It’s just that I find these addicting.

color puzzles  teachmama.com

These are the four color puzzles from Erich Friedman, the puzzle king. 

Erich created every single one of these puzzles, friends; it’s amazing. It’s incredible. Honestly, he must be brilliant.

All I did was make these puzzles accessible to my kids for their summertime tabletop surprises. I wanted to be able to print them out, have the kids work on them whenever they could and not have to be plugged into a device.

So it has worked out well.

color puzzles  teachmama.com`

And if you want to try these awesome four-color puzzles, check out Erich’s site:

Or if you want to download the printable, you may do so here: color puzzles teachmama.com

color puzzles: fun math and logic for kids

color puzzles teachmama.com

If you choose to share this printable, which we hope you do, please first link to Erich’s site, and then share this post. Thank you!

 

Do you know that when Maddy was young, I totally forgot about puzzles?

It’s true.

When she was two, I had a girlfriend and her two children over for a playdate. My pal was explaining how her son, who was also two at the time, couldn’t sit still for television programs but could always sit still to work on a puzzle.

I felt like the earth stopped moving. I was holding Owen at the time, and I remember nearly dropping him. He was about six months old, and he was wiggling out of my arms, and at the same time, I felt dizzy and nauseous.

Puzzles?

OH MY GOSH! HOW I FORGOT ABOUT PUZZLES?!

How will Maddy ever succeed in life, having never even seen a puzzle until she was 26 months old?!

Right.

So as soon as I could politely usher my friend out of the house and get my kids strapped into the car, you better believe I beelined for the toy store.

I grabbed an alphabet puzzle and a number puzzle–two chunky Melissa & Doug classics–and we used them for years and years since.

I’m sure I overreacted. Maddy did not need a puzzle right there and then, but my point is that puzzles are important, friends.

Our little ones–and we as adults–need puzzles for many reasons.

In fact, a University of Chicago study found that

Children who play with puzzles between ages 2 and 4 later develop better spatial skills . . . Puzzle play was found to be a significant predictor of spatial skill after controlling for differences in parents’ income, education and the overall amount of parent language input.

In examining video recordings of parents interacting with children during everyday activities at home, researchers found children who play with puzzles between 26 and 46 months of age have better spatial skills when assessed at 54 months of age.        

“The children who played with puzzles performed better than those who did not, on tasks that assessed their ability to rotate and translate shapes,” said psychologist Susan Levine, a leading expert on mathematics development in young children.

Read more here: http://news.uchicago.edu/article/2012/02/15/puzzle-play-helps-boost-learning-important-math-related-skills#sthash.4iDTDIbD.dpuf

Cool, right?

And it’s no secret that puzzles are said to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.  The Fischer Center for Alzheimers recently wrote about a study from the University of California, Berkeley with these findings:

Reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles and solving challenging puzzles may be linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Now a new study shows how mental stimulation may protect the brain. . . . 

“We report a direct association between cognitive activity and Pittsburgh compound B uptake, suggesting that lifestyle factors found in individuals with high cognitive engagement may prevent or slow deposition of beta-amyloid, perhaps influencing the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease,” the researchers write.

Read more here: https://www.alzinfo.org/articles/crossword-puzzles-alzheimers/

So? Get those puzzles out, friends. No matter how old your little ones are, puzzles are for everyone.

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Join us!

summer fun for kids | teachmama.com

______________________

______________________

Follow us on Instagram: @teachmama1  / #tabletopsurprises

teachmama on instagram

 

Want a little more math fun?

Check out:

Or follow our rockin math pinterest board:

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board math on Pinterest.

 

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.

fun summertime learning for kids: tabletop surprises

summer fun for kids tabletop surprises wk 1 teachmama

summer fun for kids tabletop surprises wk 1 teachmama

 

Every weekday in the summertime, I start the day by sharing a #tabletopsurprises post.

Just one quick picture of what’s in store for Maddy, Owen, and Cora for their tabletop surprise that day.

Are you on Instagram? If so, I’d love to follow you.

And if you’re joining us in our tabletop surprises this summer, I’d love, love, love for you to share your photos tagged with #tabletopsurprises — it’s so cool to see what everyone is doing!  Use #tabletopsurprises on your photo, and I’ll follow you back.

So here’s the skinny for this week. . .

We started on a Tuesday because the kids’ last day of school was Monday. 

Fun Summertime Learning for Kids– #tabletopsurprises week 1:

Tuesday:

  Wednesday:

Matchstick Math! #tabletopsurprises #math #familyfun #kids #summerfun #ontheblog

A photo posted by amy mascott (@teachmama1) on

 

Thursday:

  Friday:

Good, ole fashioned Play-Doh day! #tabletopsurprises #Iloveplaydoh #freeplay #summerfun #photooftheday

A photo posted by amy mascott (@teachmama1) on

 

______________________

Join us!

summer fun for kids | teachmama.com