advent activity calendar: fun, festive family holiday time

advent activity calendar teachmama.com

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advent activity calendar | teachmama.comIt’s that time of year again–time for our Advent Activity Calendar!

Our Advent Activity Calendar is something we’ve been doing for the last four years, where we very simply plan a fun, festive, family holiday activity for each day of December.

Nothing fancy, crazy, or over-the-top–these are simple, small holiday pleasures that we pencil into this very busy month so that we don’t pass them by.

Giving activities, family activities, indoor and outdoor activities.  Solo activities and group activities.  Messy and not-so-messy activities.

Activities that need prep–and many that don’t.

Our focus is simple: to enjoy every possible minute of our favorite month of the year.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  •  Advent Activity Calendar: Fun, Festive Family Holiday Time:  We kept a lot of our old faves, and we added a few new activities.

 But essentially our Advent Activity Calendar is just that–ours, and it incorporates what our family values and appreciates during the holidays:

  • baking cookies
  • helping others
  • decorating
  • singing, dancing
  • Christmas specials
  • family time
  • making memories and remembering past holidays.

advent activity calendar: fun, festive family holiday time

Pick out our Christmas tree and decorate it!

Printing out two copies makes remembering activities a tad bit easier!

advent activity calendar

advent activity calendar

advent activity calendar

advent activity calendar

I print out a copy of the calendar to keep on hand for myself, and then I cut each of the squares out of the calendar and place them in our felt Christmas tree–something I picked up at the store years ago but something that you can find just about anywhere.  

(Check the bottom of the post for some ideas!)

You could make your own or do what several of my friends have done.  They’ve cut apart the squares of each calendar day and

  • put each square in a numbered envelope that their children decorate;
  • wrapped each in a tiny box that kiddos can unwrap each day;
  • hidden the square under a place mat at breakfast;
  • taped the square on the bathroom mirror;
  • used the chocolate Advent calendar and stuck the squares in each of the windows so kids get chocolate and an activity.

Either way, here’s the calendar to download either as we have it here, or feel free to adjust as you see fit:

Advent Activity Calendar, download as a pdf here: advent activity calendar 2014

Advent Activity Calendar, download as a word doc here: advent activity calendar 2014

Please, if you choose to share, link to this post instead of the calendar attachment! Thank you!

advent activity calendar | teachmama.com
advent activity calendar 2014

 

Here’s to a happy Advent season and to really appreciating this exciting and joyful time with family!

 

Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? 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’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 favorite thanksgiving printables for BIG kids!

our favorite thanksgiving printables for BIG kids

our favorite thanksgiving printables for BIG kids!

This week is the big week for us–lots of travel, lots of family, lots of friends, and lots of food!

Officially, the fun winter holiday season is upon us, and from here until January 2nd, it’s a wild ride.

But often that wild ride means that our kids tend to be kicked off of their normal schedules.

They get tired.

We get tired.

They get cranky.

We get cranky.

And they need some down time.

We need some down time.

So we’ve gathered a few of our favorite Thanksgiving printables–ones we are printing out and bringing to Thanksgiving meals–so that the kids have some unplugged down time.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Our Favorite Thanksgiving Printables–for BIG Kids:

If you need some conversation starters for the dinner table, I like these from Written Reality.   Especially if it tends to be quiet at your holiday, these may be fun for the family. And hey–even if it’s loud at your house, these might work toward giving everyone a chance to be heard.

As for printables, my kids still love a good, ole fashioned puzzle every now and again:

Word searches still get kids’ brains moving a bit:

And BINGO! Big kids still dig bingo:

Even though my kids are getting older, they still love to sit down with a box of crayons and color every once in a while:

I think these are super cute for the big kids to put on a little Thanksgiving finger-puppet show for the little kids: 

And I’ll take it.

Happy, happy, happy Thanksgiving and safe travels, friends!

 

Want to stay on top of all of our rockin Thanksgiving ideas for kids and families? Follow our pinterest board:

thanksgiving pinterest board

 

 

Get the bigger kids involved, too, with some of the food prep!

They’ll love to help arrange this Thanksgiving veggie turkey:

thanksgiving veggie turkey

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: 

 

 


fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

 

 

holiday baking with kids: eBook

holiday baking ebook for kids teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

holiday baking ebook for kids teachmama.com

 

This time last year I was scrambling around doing what I could to finish our holiday baking with kids eBook in time for the actual holidays. 

This year? Done and done.

And ready for you to use at Thanksgiving! Woo-hooooo.

And though it’s called ‘Holiday Baking with Kids’ I can’t tell you how many times through the year Maddy, Owen, Cora, or I reached for the book so that we could make our favorite muffins, cookies, and sweet treats.

A lot.

So grab it while it’s hot.

What better way of kicking off this exciting and joyous, sweet-filled season than by bringing our kids into the kitchen for some serious holiday baking?

The Holiday Baking with Kids eBook is here to save the day.

holiday baking with kids

 

Here’s the skinny. . .

Really. It’s pretty cool.

  • 15 kid-friendly recipes.  Fifteen.  Many never before shared on teachmama.com.

holiday baking with kids eBook teachmama.com

teachmama holiday baking with kids ebook

  • Favorites.  Like Kiss Cookies and Chocolate Chip and Sugar Cookies.  And Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookies and Death by Chocolate and Lemon Squares.  And? Our Christmas Morning Ugly Breakfast recipe.

holiday baking with kids ebook from teachmama

  • Made kid-friendly with large, clear font.  Created with attention to what early readers need as they learn and expand their reading skills, the font is large so kids can read it even the recipe book is on the counter and they are standing on a stool.

holiday baking with kids ebook ingredients

teachmama holiday baking with kids ebook

  • Layout that works.  Kid-tested for the last five years, this layout really works.

Recipe step-by-step instructions are large and are accompanied by a relevant photo to clarify instructions.  Kids can check off ingredients as they gather them, and if the paper is in a plastic sheet protector, a crayon or dry erase marker will easily wipe clean when finished.  Photos for every ingredient and recipe step.

holiday baking with kids ebook ingredients

  • Consistent format. Actions are in bold. Ingredients are underlined. Photos for almost everything.  The format is consistent. Kids especially thrive on consistency.

See? I’m looking out for you. We’re in this together. I got your back. Always.

holiday baking with kids eBook teachmama.com

teachmama holiday baking with kids ebook

Sure, it’s hard when kids are involved sometimes because the mess may be bigger, or we may be crunched for time, or we may just want to enjoy some peace while kids are watching tv and we can prepare dinner, but as parents, we must jump on these prime opportunities for learning and fun with our kids.

holilday baking with kids ebook print - 1

 

holilday baking with kids ebook print - 2

 

holilday baking with kids ebook print - 3

 

holilday baking with kids ebook print - 4

teachmama holiday baking with kids ebook

Ready? Let’s do it.

My friends, the Holiday Baking with Kids eBook is a sweet $4.25 through November 2014.  Then it’s all the way back up to $8.50.

You can print it as many times as you need, so really, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Mostly because my readers are rockstar and always read their email from me first thing. So I wanted to offer you guys a little gift.

The Holiday Baking with Kids eBook is quite the holiday deal.  Buy it now for only $7.97.

HUGE and happy thanks to my awesome mama for always inviting us into the kitchen with her when we were little. I would never be so welcoming into my own kitchen if I hadn’t learned from her as an excellent example.  Big *hugs!* to you, Mom!  Love you!

What about you?  How do you feel about kids in the kitchen?  Is there a favorite recipe I need to add to the next one? Let me know!

holiday baking with kids eBook on teachmama.com
http://holidaybakingwithkids

fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post.

halloween printable games for kids

halloween printable games for kids

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

Need two quickie Halloween games for your kids?halloween printable games  teachmama.com

Maybe for a Halloween class party or for some after school fun?

Want to up the fun factor of a playdate or just get a little more into the Halloween spirit?

Here are two Halloween printable games for kids that my kids liked and that we’ll be using for class parties this year.

Simple but fun. Tic-tac-toe and Halloween Follow-the-Path.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halloween Printable Games for Kids:

Half the battle of sneaking in some fun learning for our kids is knowing where to look for things.

And that goes for class parties and church parties and playgroup parties as well.

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

So when I became a room parent for the 6580987420 millionth time this year, I decided I was just going to share anything and everything I make. Because really? No need to reinvent the wheel.

And no need to make things difficult for good people who really just want to make things fun for their kids.

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

Two games. Super simple.

  • Bat Follow-the-Path Game: Players begin at the upper lefthand block and take turns rolling the dice to see how far they go on each turn. Winner gets bat to his family first!

Download our Bat Follow-the-Path Game here: follow the path game halloween

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

  • Tic-Tac-Toe:  Just like the game we all know and love, but this one uses Halloween stamps!

We’ve long played Tic-Tac-Toe in our own way with our own flare–this time, we’re rocking it out with a little Halloween fun.

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

halloween printable games | teachmama.com

Download our Tic-Tac-Toe boards here: tictactoe board | teachmama.com

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

 And that’s it!

Super-simple, totally fun games that you can print on regular paper or cardstock, use, and enjoy.

Need some more? Got a couple Halloween class parties planned for you here:  

 (No joke. . . you can thank me later! Just click the picture!)

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

 

 

halloween class party ideas

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

 

fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post, which means that every time you purchase something using one of our links, we get at teeny, tiny percentage of the sale. so. . . thank you for using them, friends!

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms  teachmama.comI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we shouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to Halloween class parties.

Haven’t these been held for years and years and years?

Right.

So why are we all searching around and surfing the internet and looking high and low for ideas?

Here’s everything you need for a rockstar Halloween class party.

All wrapped up in a pretty little package. Just click the links, add them to your cart, and it will all end up on your doorstep.

Print out the games, put on your witch hat (Come on. You better have a witch hat if you’re planning a Halloween class party for your kid!), and make your copies.

This party. Will. Rock.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halloween Party Ideas for Kids and Classrooms:

You cannot do this on your own. You need help.

Unless, of course, you are lucky enough to have a huge budget and tons of volunteers at your fingertips, you’ll need to solicit funds and help and then get this party moving on party day.

Plus, it’s tons more fun when you have other great parents helping.

Here’s everything you need to rock this party:

1. Get in touch with the teacher.  Tell him or her that you are the Room Parent and that you’re ready to rock this party. (Just kidding. . . )

But ask the teacher:

  • the timeframe for the party;
  • what he/she would like to do and when;
  • about any food allergies in the classroom;
  • to tell you anything and everything you need to know in order to plan a great party for the kids.

Then? You’re good to go.

2. Send out a class letter. Send a note introducing yourself and asking for H-E-L-P.

 

halloween party ideas for kids letter - 3

 

halloween party ideas for kids letter - 3

 

I like to have a little part on the paper where parents can cut (or rip) and send back to me telling me how they are able to help.

Or if you’re tech-savvy and want to use a service like VolunteerSpot, send the link to your event in the letter.

Feel free to use our letter–just change it for your own dates/ info: halloween party letter BLANK  or a word doc: halloween party letter BLANK

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

 

3. Send out a second class letter requesting contact information. Not even kidding.

Some parents might not return the letter because they’re not able to help with the party, and that’s cool.  This is new for me this year, but I’m hoping that it makes communication streamlined like never before.

halloween party ideas for kids letter - 3

Because teachers in my kids’ school cannot share parent emails, this is what we must do.

Even if parents aren’t into volunteering time, items, or money for the event, I want to keep them in the loop. Right?

You can download the Wanted: Contact information here: parent contact request wanted _ teachmama.com

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

 

4. Make a plan.  A party plan. Because for all of the parent helpers and the classroom teacher, they need to know what’s going on.

halloween party ideas for kids letter -| teachmama.com

Some pointers that make the party move smoothly:

  • have an easy activity that kids can do at their seats while others are getting into costumes: coloring pages, mazes, word search, or guess the word;
  • find a fun way of dividing class into smaller groups: have kids pick one of three different foamy stickers, have three different spider rings, etc;
  • make sure parents put snacks on plates while kids are on parade so that snacks are ready quickly;
  • give kids snack first because really, that’s all that most of them want;
  • provide a goodie bag at each game station that kids take from station to station;
  • have at least one group activity: freeze dance, hot pumpkin, pumpkin match, etc.

Here’s the plan we’re using this year:

halloween party ideas for kids letter -| teachmama.com

Feel free to use our party plan–just change it for your own dates/ info: halloween party plan 2014 or a word doc: halloween party plan 2014

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

 

5. Get everything you need for the party.

Delegate if you are able because some parents really want a job to do; they like to pick up water bottles, prizes, or cupcakes, so let them!

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

Here’s our shopping list with links for you to grab and have delivered to your doorstep:

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

 

6. Assign one volunteer to each game station:

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms  teachmama.com tick

 

Guess the Word: Play this while kids are eating.  It’s much like the one we did for our Valentine’s Day party last year, but this time it’s with Halloween words!

You can download Guess the Word (Halloween) here: halloween party word guess game

(Please, if you decide to share, share this post and not the attachment page!)

Game Stations:  (quick, 10-minute stations will keep the party movin!)

  • Stamp Games: Put the kids into pairs and let them play for this game station! Kids will grab a small Halloween stamper and use it as the pawn for the Bat Follow-the-Path game and then use it as a stamp for Tic-Tac-Toe!

 

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

  • Tic-Tac-Toe: Just like the game we all know and love, but this one uses Halloween stamps!

Check out how we use Halloween Tic-Tac-Toe here: Halloween Printable Games

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

halloween party ideas for kids and classrooms | teachmama.com

  • Bat Follow-the-Path Game: Players begin at the upper lefthand block and take turns rolling the dice to see how far they go on each turn. Winner gets bat to his family first!

Check out how we use Bat Foll0w-the-Path here: Halloween Printable Games

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

  • Lego Match: Lego bricks and some Halloween inspiration is all you need for this one!

Check out the Halloween Lego Game post for more.

simple spider web craft: perfect for Halloween class party

  • Spider Web Craft: Paper plates, white yarn, and spiders. And crayon resist Halloween magic happens. No glue makes it super-simple, and if you encourage kids to use a little bit of water and paint on their brushes, the webs will dry fast enough to take home that day.

Check out the Spider Web Craft post for more.

pumpkin match game | teachmama.com | easy halloween class party fun gets kids thinking and moving

Pumpkin Match:  Grab some pumpkin cut-outs and some black 2″ letters and numbers.

So fun and this will get kids up and moving!

We cannot wait to get this Halloween party started!!

What’s your go-to Halloween party plan for kids? What works? What do you, the kids, or the teacher love? Let me know!

Need some more ideas? Check out:

halloween-class-party-ideas-cover

 

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post, which only means that any time you purchase something using these links, we get a teeny, tiny percentage. thank you!

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 
halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

I’m always on the hunt for fun ways to keep my kids engaged and interested and thinking creatively.

And when I find something that works, and it’s unplugged, creative fun, it’s a serious win.

Today after school, while Cora was working on homework and Maddy and Owen were recharging, I put them to work.

Why not, right? They’re young.

A few days ago, I ran across something on Pinterest that got me thinking.  Would it be possible for kids to design and build simple holiday-inspired objects out of Legos?  Could I give them just a little guidance and just a little inspiration and have them take it from there?

I was pretty impressed with what they came up with.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halloween Lego Game–Unplugged, Creative Fun:

First, I grabbed a ton of plain Lego bricks. I wanted just bricks.

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

No windows, flowers, wheels, or people.

Nothing fancy.

Just good, ole plain-Jane Lego bricks.

And really, this took the most time for me–separating Legos.

But I found some, and then I printed out two ‘inspiration sheets’. I grabbed one from my pal Allie’s site, on a post she wrote called Halloween Lego Challenge. The post is awesome, and I love the whole idea of building something for kids and having them do their best to build the same thing.

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

It’s a fantastic cognitive and fine-motor skill-builder, especially for little guys.

I also found inspiration from Geek Alerts; their Halloween Lego Set post actually shows the pieces they built from a set you can buy: Halloween Lego Set.

So I printed the sheets out and gave Maddy and Owen the challenge: build some Halloween-inspired things.

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

We talked about what those things could be–the objects on the sheets that I printed out or other things Halloween, like brooms, bats, hats, ghosts, monsters, ghouls, whatever.

And what they came up with was cute and simple.

I loved that they were using what was on the sheets as inspiration along with what we had to really come up with some cool things: a pumpkin, a ghost, a witch, candy corn, a hat, and a little Frankenstein monster.

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

Working with Legos in any capacity is a fabulous way for kids to get their brains moving and fine motor muscles working.  And whether they’re following instructions step by step or whether they are creating pieces on their own, it’s all good.

It all rocks.

My longer-term idea was to have this Lego challenge be a part of Cora’s class Halloween party–but that’s a whole other story coming a few days down the road.

But much like the inspiration sheets I printed and gave to Maddy and Owen to get them started, I want to do the same for the kids in Cora’s class.

halloween lego game: unplugged, creative fun | teachmama.com

 

If you want to print out the Halloween Lego Scramble sheets–little pictures of Halloween items that just about any kid can make with just about any regular set of Lego blocks–you can print it out here: halloween lego game _ teachmama.com

Huge and happy thanks for sharing them if you’d like, but please direct folks to this post rather than the attachment page. 

My goal is to use it as an inspiration for small groups during the Halloween class party this month.

 

Some other ideas for making Halloween Lego-building fun: 

  • add a timer and make it a timed copy and build;
  • share a card and have everyone try to make their own version of the item at the same time;
  • take turns flipping a card and building the item;
  • have kids take pictures of their own Halloween items and add them to the cards!

 

 

fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post which means that many of the links will take you to amazon, and if you purchase the item, teachmama.com will get a teeny, tiny percentage. It all helps, and we appreciate it!

Huge and happy thanks to Allie of No Time for Flashcards and to the team at Geek Alerts for sharing their Halloween Lego posts. 

Want a few more fun halloween party ideas?

 

halloween word search

halloween word search teachmama.com

originally published 10/26/11 but republished today for you!

 

halloween word search  teachmama.com

Homework time over here this week and last has been a little spooky.

Just a bit.

Cora and Owen have been rockin the Halloween Word Search, which I made last year for Owen when he was on his crazy word search kick and which I made not a single change to this year.

Owen is much more into the ole word search halloween, but Cora did give it a go twice, never actually finding all of the words–or even caring that she didn’t. She did, however, love the idea that she had ‘work’ to do just like Maddy and Owen at homework time.

So while they worked, she worked. . .

Here’s the skinny:

  • Halloween Word Search: I didn’t get a chance to edit the document and that was actually fine because, like I said, Cora gave it a go for a bit but wasn’t in love with it.

It could be that it was too much for her–too many small letters all jumbled together–or that word searches just aren’t her game.  Perhaps a bit of both.

 

halloween word search  teachmama.com

halloween word search  teachmama.com

She was very excited at first, when I sat down next to her and read through each of the words she had to find.  I drew tiny pictures of each, right next to the word to help her remember each.

We talked about strategies for hunting for each word, like:

  • going line by line and searching for the first letter, then looking for the second letter once you find the first;
  • using a piece of paper to help guide you as you look at each line of letters;
  • saying the first letter over and over in your head so you remember; and
  • looking for double letters.

halloween word search  teachmama.com

word search halloween

We talked about different ways of identifying each word, like:

  • using a highlighter to highlight the word;
  • using a different color to highlight each word;
  • using water colors to paint each word;
  • circling each letter of the word;
  • circling the whole word.

She searched a bit, choosing to use her Hello Kitty pen o’many colors, but when Maddy and Owen were finished with their work, she was finished with hers.  She asked to finish her word search the next day, but she decided that coloring her tiny Mickey Mouse coloring pages was what she needed to do instead.

I bet if there were jewels in the word search, or sparkles or glitter, she’d be more game. . .

And that’s it–just a little bit of literacy-focused Halloween Word Search fun during homework time.  Happy Searching!

Want a few more fun halloween ideas?

brain teasers for kids

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.comWe’re longtime fans of brain teasers for kids over here, in any form, at any time.

We dig brain teasers at lunchtime, brain teasers in the kitchen, brain teasers for long road trips.

Maddy went through a riddle stage last year, when every other day she shared one of a handful of riddles, and ever since then, we’ve been hooked.

So I did a bit of poking around the ‘net this past summer in an attempt to nail down any and all freebie brain teasers for kids I could find.

I hit the jackpot in a big way.

They keep asking for more. Woot.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Brain Teasers for Kids: Really, there are about 8 million books and sites about brain teasers, but I wanted something that I could print and take places with me.

I wanted something that I could use as reading material at mealtime and entertainment on the soccer sidelines.

 

 

 

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

I stumbled across Squiggly’s Playhouse which has been around FORever and which is packed with tons of fun for kids.  

And I put the brain teasers on a happy little document and printed them out on fun and fancy, colorful cardstock.  Then I printed them out, cut them up, and threw them in a sandwich bag.

I take them just about anywhere and use them any time I want the kids to be unplugged. Any time I want them to use their brains.

 

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

I created two sets of Brain Teaser Cards:

If you use them, let me know! I’d love to hear it.

If you share them, please link to this blog post, and let me know! I’ll give you a shout out of thanks!

Both are created with thanks to Squiggly’s Playhouse.

 

I originally shared both sets via our Tabletop Surprises this summer, but (gulp!) we didn’t figure them all out.
Some are pretty tough!
Most recently, we’ve been using the brain teasers at breakfast. Though there was a time in our lives when I read the newspaper with the kids in the morning, now I’m doing the am scramble.

Before the kids wake up, I work for an hour or two in the morning or try to sneak in some exercise–so when I get them out of bed, I follow them back down stairs and make lunches. It’s fine. It’s working.

We chat, plan out the day, or, as mentioned here, work through some brain teasers.

 

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

brain teasers for kids | teachmama.com

 

I just talk through the news after school now, while we debrief about school and have a snack or two.

And these are a good way to get Maddy, Owen, and Cora to do some critical thinking and stretch their minds a bit. To think outside the box.

That’s it–try it for yourself and see how it goes!

Just a little, sneaky and fun, at-home learning in the every day, when we’re able. Not as easy as it once was when my loves were little, but we’re trying!

Do you have a favorite site or book for brain teasers? I’d love to hear it~

how to get kids to talk about school: what every parent must know

how to get kids to talk about school: what every parent must know | teachmama.com

As a paid Quaker Classroom AmbassadorI am eager to share information about Quaker Up For Classrooms.   how to get kids to talk about school: what every parent must know School is underway for us, and what I’m realizing more and more is that it’s sometimes tough to get my kids to talk about school. As a parent, I’m curious. I want to know everything:

  • Who did they sat with at lunch?
  • Who did they play with at recess?
  • How do they like their tablemates?
  • What book did they start in Guided Reading?
  • Who hosted the morning tv show?

But it’s hard. The kids are tired at 3pm, they’re even more tired at 7pm, and the last thing they want to do is talk to boring old Mom about school. So I have to get creative–and I know I’m not the only one. Hopefully these tricks for getting kids to talk about school will help you get a little more info from your little loves about what goes on in their lives, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Get Kids to Talk About School:

The most important thing here is that we really have to read our own kids, not be too pushy, and try to let the conversations evolve naturally.  And we need to listen. Seriously. I know–not always easy. So I’ve found that with my three kids, I’ve tried three different approaches: 1. direct questions; 2. group questions; 3. distracted questions. how to get kids to talk about school direct questions  teachmama.com 1.  direct questions: Most often, numero uno–direct questions–are a complete and utter fail for me. Save for those rare occasions when the stars are aligned, the odds are rarely ever in my favor for this technique. I ask questions, and I get quick, abbreviated responses that hardly make sense.  Even with open-ended questions the kids don’t want to chat this way with me.

me: How was recess? (This must be a subject they’ll want to talk about! )

kid: Fine.

me: Whadja play?

kid: Lotsa stuff.

me: What was your favorite game?

kid: Everything.

me: Who’d ya play with most?

kid: Everyone.

me: Awesome.

Never fear. Numero dos and tres have yielded better results for me. how to get kids to talk about school group questions  teachmama.com 2. group questions: Group questions often work for us. They often work especially around the dinner table and when we’ve got an audience, even if that audience is Dad. Because really? Dad’s mucho awesome. He’s not hangin’ around the house as much as me, so he’s almost extra-special something. And if we mix things up a bit, they almost always work.

  • Speed answer: Go around the dinner table and everyone gives a quick, one or two word answer to the same question.
  • Ball toss: Everyone answers the same question, though not at the same time.  The speaker holds a ball. He or she tosses the ball to the next person, and that person answers. This one is great for after school, after snack, out in the back yard.
  • Hula hello: Give kids a hula hoop and they answer as many questions as they can while hula-hooping.
  • Question train: You start with one question and choose a person to answer. That person answers and asks another question to the next person. And so on and so on.

how to get kids to talk about school distracted questions  teachmama.com 3.  distracted questions: One of my dear friends suggested that chatting with tweens and teens is best conducted this way–while you’re both doing something.

  • Snack chat:  While everyone’s eating a snack and before homework starts, chat school.
  • Kitchen helpers: Having one kid help prepare dinner has been hugely helpful in opening the door to conversation about school. While kids are cutting veggies, mixing mac and cheese, or emptying the dishwasher, they often want to talk to pass the time.
  • Travel convo: When kids are held captive in the car and as you’re schlepping everyone from soccer and piano lessons and then back again, ask questions. Though often for me, my kids really want to zone out in the car, sometimes, they’re pretty chatty. Again, depends on the day.
  • Chore chats:  Many times I remember chatting with my mom while she (or I) was ironing or folding wash. Not sure why, but maybe there’s something there for moms and daughters.
  • Game gabble: Owen is a gamer, and he always has been. So often he’s opened up most to me or my husband during games of War, Battleship, Monopoly, or Rummy. Again, it’s the busy hands and relaxed atmosphere that may help.

how to talk to kids about school | teachmama.com

print it out: how to talk to kids about school 2014 teachmama.com

Now.  What should you ask? Though I’m no expert, from what I’ve heard and read, you should do a whole lot more listening than talking. We want our kids to know that we’re listening to what they say and that our ears are open. So put the cell phones down. Close the laptop. Let that iPad rest. And when you do say something, paraphrasing is key. It’s like putting money in the bank. When you paraphrase, you’re simply putting what your child just said into your own words. When you paraphrase, it lets your kiddos know that you’re listening. And sometimes when you ask questions that count–that get them thinking or get them interested, they’re more likely to answer. Consider asking: 

  • What book are you reading?
  • What was the best part of your lunch?
  • Who was absent from class today?
  • Who was on the morning announcements?
  • What did you play in PE?
  • Will you let me guess your favorite part of the morning/ afternoon/ day?
  • If your day was a movie, what would the title be?
  • What color was your day?
  • Which Olympic medal would you give today?
  • What do you hope is different tomorrow?

And really? Cross your fingers. But first, print out this pretty little cheat cheet: how to talk to kids about school 2014 teachmama.com . . . and have an awesome year!

Do you have any secrets that work for you? I’d love to hear them! Leave them in the comments! Check out the other two posts that will help make this year awesome: happy first day flowers for teachers, secretaries, or principal           easy ways to support teachers: back to school #quakerup | teachmama.com

fyi: Thank you to Quaker and AdoptaClassroom.org for creating this program. I am proud to be a Quaker Classroom Ambassador.  Quaker is providing the prizes for this program at no cost to me. This program is not administered or sponsored by Quaker or its affiliates, but solely by teach mama media, llc. 

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

positive affirmation notes for kids teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

Countdown’s on for the new school year, so I’ve been at work making a new set of lunchbox love notes.

In the past, we’ve covered joke notes, we’ve covered puzzle notes, fun fact notes, and travel inspired notes. We did a closer look notesKindergarten notes, and more jokes.

But this time I really wanted to so something that I think might help the kids in a different way as they move into the new year: positive affirmations for kids.

My girls have seen something similar when we made our Awesome Me boxes a while back, but Owen hasn’t.

And really, boys and girls both can stand to have some reminders of how awesome they are.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Positive Affirmation Notes for Kids–Lunchbox Love:

When I hear the words ‘positive affirmations’ I still can’t help but call to mind the old corny Saturday Night Live skits of Stuart Smalley’s I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”

Nerdy. Silly. And soooooo funny.

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

 

But as funny as I found–and still find–Stuart Smalley, I still believe that all that positive talk does help.

It really does.

Claude Steele back in the 1980’s focused on the effects of self-affirmation, and research today, though a bit mixed, votes predominantly in favor of the power of positive self-talk.

All kids can benefit from a little dose of positive self-talk.

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

Especially as my oldest moves from a tween to a teen, I know she needs to hear that she’s awesome.

As my boy moves from a little guy to a tween (oooooh maaaay gosh. . . ), I know he needs to hear that he’s awesome.

And as my baby moves from a little fish to a bigger fish in the elementary school pond, I know she needs to hear that she’s awesome.

And they all need reminders about how to treat people and how to let others treat them.

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

 

So I’m  hoping these Positive Affirmation Notes do just that–for each of them.

I printed three copies of each of the sheets, and there are 24 little notes on two sheets and one blank sheet so I can write in my own.

Though with our other notes, I usually give them all the same note on the same day, with these, I will mix it up–give each kiddo a specific note when it seems they need it most.

And it won’t be an everyday thing–I’ll add some of the jokes here and there, the holiday ones, and ones I write in as we go. The last thing I want them to be is annoyed with them. positive affirmation notes for kids: lunchbox love

lunchbox love- positive affirmations for kids _ teachmama.com

 

Here’s the pdf to download and use as you’d like: lunchbox love- positive affirmations for kids _ teachmama.com

Feel free to share.

The more kids who get these in their lunch, in their binders, or on their pillows at night, the better. Right?

 

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

Need more awesome Back-to-School lunchy ideas? Definitely check out:

Here’s to a rockstar 2013-2014 school year and many more to come!

fyi: feel free to use the affiliate links below to make your kids’ lunches awesome