let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors | teachmama.com

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let them play  importance of free time outdoors for kids  teachmama.com.png

It’s easy for parents to fall into the trap of thinking that summer means camps, amusement parks, pool trips, beach, camping, picnics, and activities nonstop.  Busy, busy, busy.

And when we’re not going, going, going, many of us feel guilty.

Like our kids always must be doing something.

And it’s easy for parents to fall into the trap of thinking that ‘downtime’ means ‘plugged in’ time: free play on an electronic device–a tablet, phone, iPod, computer, DS, Wii, or whatever.  Our kids are learning, right? And having fun? So it’s all good.

But what I am realizing more this summer than ever is that our kids need down time outdoors.

They need it for their mind, body, and spirit.

Like good, ole-fashioned nothing planned, nothing scheduled, just backyard, outdoor fun.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Let Kids Play–Remembering the Importance of Free Time Outdoors:  I think because my kids are getting older–10, 8, and 7–that it’s easy for me to forget that they still really need a whole lot of free play time outdoors.

Though it’s no secret that I am an advocate for parents doing what they can to sneak in some learning into their children’s days (it’s what I’ve been writing about for almost six years now–and boy, the tabletop surprises have really taken off!), I’ve also written many times about the importance of free play and time outdoors.

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

And I still often get emails and questions:

How can parents set kids up for free time outdoors? 

What do you say when you ‘unleash’ your kids in the wilds of your back yard and they mope around, complaining that they ‘don’t have anything to doooooooo’?

My kids don’t have neighbor friends like yours do. How do they play outside alone?

How do you ‘force’ your kids to play outdoors if the kids don’t really like being outside? 

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

 

I don’t know all of the answers, but I do know this: some kids need a little help. They need a little nudge. They need a little guidance in how to play and what to do when they’re handed free time on a silver platter, and here’s how parents can help:

  • Ask questions:Why do you think this bush has thorns? What do you see over there hiding in the grass? How many sounds do you hear? 
  • Make observations: I cannot believe how gorgeous that bird’s feathers are!  Look at those tiny toadstools!  Have you ever seen a leaf with so many colors?

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

 

  • Get dirty: Jump in the puddle at the end of your front staircase!  Splash in the muddy water under your swings!  Tear apart a flower that is on its last leg!
  • Be still: Lay on a blanket and look at the clouds. Just sit in the sunlight on a porch swing and enjoy the sun on your face.
  • Take risks: Put a few peanuts out on the porch and see if the squirrels come for a snack.  Buy a bag of birdseed and feed the birds. Look under a rock and see what’s there.

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

We’re pretty sure that Cora pulled apart a walnut here. . . we think.

 

  • Move out of your comfort zone: If your kids aren’t comfortable outside, could it be because you’re not 100% comfortable outdoors? Think about it. Try to spend a little bit more unstructured time outdoors if you can, and drag your kids along. See if it gets easier. See if it becomes more natural as time goes on.
  • Play together: Throw a baseball with your kiddo. Kick a soccer ball. Bounce a tennis ball. Jump rope. Blow bubbles. Dig in the dirt. Plant a garden. Do anything. Just do it together.

It doesn’t matter what you do; the goal is just to get kids outside and eventually to have them enjoy it. Really!

 

let kids play: remembering the importance of free time outdoors

 

Psychology Today ran an article in April 2014 by Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D. which explained the how the benefits of playing outdoors far outweighed the benefits of indoor play. Narvaez says:

Outdoors, a child learns on multiple levels with each new adventure . . . With all of the imaginary castles, lands, creatures, the brain develops at a much faster rate than for those who play indoors. There are numerous effects. Not only do they become better learners, and do well in school, but they are more fun to be around (i.e. they make more friends)–everyone wants to play with the kid with the active imagination! Consequently, children will be much happier because, hey, they’re smart and they have a lot of friends. All of this comes from just playing outside; you can bake many loaves in the same oven.  (Psychology Today. “What’s Better: Indoor or Outdoor Play?” April 5, 2014)

Narvaez also goes on to explain the physical effects of outdoor play on children. She explains that starting outdoor play while kids are young will have long-lasting effects: Years down the road, the child will still be more active and less likely to be overweight. If you think about this, it makes perfect sense; teach a child when they’re young to love the outdoors and they will love it forever.  The article’s really worth reading, especially if your kiddos (or you!) need more convincing. 

And really, that’s it. Just a good reminder for everyone to give our kiddos the ‘go’ to play outdoors and to just be kids. Because really? They need it.  We all do.

 

fyi: This post was written as part of a partnership with Mosquito Squad.  May seem totally random, I know, but it’s because of Mosquito Squad that this year our family has really been able to enjoy our yard again.  Thank GOODNESS.  

Living in the hot, muggy DC Metro area means that we have our fair share of mosquitos. Up until this year, our yard was basically unusable, awful, and painful from mid-June through mid-September; we would literally be eaten alive by mosquitos at any time of the day. This year, it’s been incredible and a totally different experience. Mosquito Squad takes care of our yard, and we are  happy campers (except thank goodness we’re not really camping–).   

As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and a parent, and of course by my three little outdoor explorers. 

find out more about Mosquito Squad | find answers to FAQ about Mosquito Squad 

tweet with Mosquito Squad (find your local branch and connect from there!)

@MosquitoMDsquad   |  Facebook chat with Mosquito Squad 

MosquitoMDsquad on Pinterest  |  MD Mosquito Squad blog  |   MD Mosquito squad on g+

online virtual playground for animal and science fans

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

Admittedly, we’re a little slow on the draw when it comes giving our kids the ‘go’ on most online activities.online virtual playground for animal and science fans cover.png

I’m over-cautious and because my living is made in the social media space, I know what’s out there. And I know there are way too many kids with way to much freedom online.

And sometimes that frightens me.

So when I find something that gives my kids a little sometimes-needed space, keeps them safe, engaged, and interested, and is fun? I’d say that ‘s a huge win for us.

I’ve recently found an online virtual playground of sorts for animal and science fans. For kids who dig the outdoors, for kids who love creating their own, customized spaces, for kids who love playing games and really love learning.

It’s called Animal Jam, and right now, my kids are loving it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Online Virtual Playground for Animal and Science Fans:

Thanks to the great people of National Geographic for creating this online space for our kids with the goal of providing a fun, exciting, and safe environment for kids to play online.

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

Really.

Apparently, it’s been around for a few years now, but we just discovered it.

It’s the only ‘online virtual playground’ I’ll let my kids hang out in, and here’s why I like it:

  • It’s fun.  It’s been the ‘go-to’ game for Owen and Cora for the last two months. They want to play because they enjoy the ever-changing platform and the challenges.
  • Kids have control. They can customize their characters, name and care for pets, complete missions, attend ‘parties’, buy things, and design anything from their hut to their outfit.

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

 

  • Kids are learning.   They keep track of their adventures in their JourneyBooks, and they collect pictures for each place, a kind of chronicle of their history of the game.  When they click on a picture of an animal, plant, landform, you name it, a little bit of information comes up about that thing. It’s SO cool.
  • The Golden Rule is stressed often. Little reminders for kids about being nice and interacting kindly are prominent on the site and are shown regularly.  Nice Jammers trade, become ‘buddies’ and the idea of being a good ‘digital citizen’ is mentioned often.

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

 

  • It’s safe.  I control the levels of ‘chat’ that my kids can engage in, and I have access to all account information. Safety tips are shared, just like the Golden Rule reminders.
  • There’s tons of follow-up and extension activities. I love the Animal Jam Academy, which offers free printables, experiments, activities, videos, and more.
  • It’s totally worth the money.  You can play free, but members have access to everything on the site–more than just anyone who drops in. I rarely buy these kinds of programs and platforms, but with the added bang for my buck in terms of science learning along the way, I think it’s a no-brainer.

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

online virtual playground for animal and science fans | teachmama.com

Is it perfect? Probably not. But for us, it works–and especially during the long summer months when kids start getting antsy and need something new, this can be it.

Reading, learning, planning, and thinking. Designing, questioning, and collecting. It’s cool.

Our kids are also loving using the  Acer C720P Chromebook for the game–it’s a touchscreen meets laptop, and it’s totally fab for little hands. 

 

fyi: Though I am a new member of the National Geographic Kids Insiders group, this is an unsponsored post. All opinions are my own, as always, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator. 

fyi: I am in a partnership with Intel AIO . Through this partnership I gain access to content, product, or other forms of value. Affiliate links are used in this post.

how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways

science ways to raise kids who love it teachmama.com.png

science ways to raise kids who love it teachmama.com

The following rockstar guest post is written by Christy a former physics teacher who is now home with her three kids.  Christy writes an amazing blog: Wisdom, Knowledge, Joy.  

Check it out for tons of ways you can incorporate science into your children’s lives. I especially love Christy’s Science Along the Way series

____________________

  • How to Help Your Kids Love Science–Simple, Everyday Ways, by Christy McGuire
Testing season is almost over, and summer break will soon be here.
Science is a great way to fill the last weeks of the school year or to occupy your own kids during the summer months.
Here are five ways to enjoy science with your elementary learners:
how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways

 

Observe

Anyone can notice the physical world around them.  Spend time out doors, in the kitchen, or just take a few seconds to notice the physical world from right where you are.
Once you set the example, your elementary learners will soon be calling your attention to the world around them.
how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways
Experiment
To experiment, set up two (or more) scenarios in order to observe how changing a single factor affects the outcome.
Turn your observations into an experiment by observing under different circumstances or recreating the same situation in two versions.  Ask your students to record their hypothesis about what the outcome will be.
Help them develop a procedure, and perform it, and take measurements.  Talk about the data they gathered, and maybe ask them to write about what they have learned.
You can do science without experimenting, but experimenting is loads of fun and a great way to practice math and writing skills.
how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways
Engineer
Give your learners a problem and ask them to design a solution by drawing pictures and writing explanations. Then, let them try to implement it.
If their solution does not work, discuss and consider trying again!  The experience of creating a real world solution is exciting for elementary learners.
Read
There are so many great science books for kids!  Some of our favorite authors are Gail Gibbons, Joanna Cole, Jerry Palota, Jim Arnosky and Brenda Z. Guiberson.
While you are at the library, be sure to check out biographies of some famous scientists!
how to help your kids love science: simple, everyday ways
Model
Recreating something you have studied either first hand or in a book is a great way to cement learning.
Make it an art project by giving freedom in materials or design.  Make it a math project by requiring scale replicas.  Like experimenting and engineering, modeling is work that professional scientists often do.
Children are naturally interested in the physical world.  As you enjoy science with your elementary learners you will spark their interest in other topics, and set them up for a lifetime of learning.

Thank you, Christy! I love all that you do and share!

christy of wisdom knowledge joy
Christy McGuire taught physics to students of all levels from advanced placement to special education in the public school system.  
She now works full time at home, watching over the learning of her own children ages five, four, and two months.  
You can read her thoughts about learning, science and otherwise, at WisdomKnowledgeJoy@blogspot.com.
connect with Christy: blog  |  pinterest
Looking for more ways to get kids into science? Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

 rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

25+ playful preschool activities eBook

playful preschool activities ebook | teachmama.com

25+ playful preschool activities ebook | teachmama.com

For many families, preschool ends this week or next, which means that 3-5 year olds will be home, hanging around, and looking for some fun.

Preschool’s almost out.  Seriously.

And it means that moms and dads will need things to do with their kiddos.

Parents need activities that can keep those preschoolers’ brains moving, hands drawing, and creativity flowing. Activities that are easy and fun to prepare. Activities that count.

Parents need activities that will get those kiddos ready for the next year of preschool, maybe even kindergarten in the fall.

Woot. I have just the thing–and it totally won’t break the bank.

It’s an eBook filled with over 25 playful activities that your kids will love: The Playful Preschool Activities eBook, and it’s one thing that’s kept me busy this spring.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 25+ Playful Preschool Activities eBook: It’s awesome, and I’m honored to be a part of it.

It’s a super-amazing resource.

Tons of hands-on, play-based learning ideas all in one happy little place.

playful activities ebook

playful preschool activities ebook | buy now

The Playful Preschool Activities eBook features:

  • over 25 ideas for preschoolers;
  • great range of activities: hands-on, learning through play, math, language, literacy, science, art and play;
  • printable resources (including city scape play scene, My First Journal pages, recipe card, numbers game, weather chart printables, and more!);

25+ playful preschool activities eBook | teachmama.com

 

The Playful Preschool Activities eBook also features:

  • printable alphabet play mats, unique hand-drawn art pages, conversation cards, block building challenge cards;
  • reading comprehension bookmarks–so that you know how to make the most of your read-alouds!
  • additional links to over 50 more activities;
  • it’s only $8.99–so buy now!!

playful preschool activities ebook

playful preschool activities ebook | buy now

Some important bots o’ info for you: 

– You can buy the book anywhere in the world, and that Paypal will take care of the currency conversion.

– You can buy it now, on any device, and then download it when you are ready.

– Depending on the apps you have installed and your operating system you might be able to go ahead and download the book on your mobile device, but if you have any doubts or problems, I recommend you use a computer to download the book and then share it to your mobile devices.

– You. Will. Love. It.

The amazing Cathy James–who is the mastermind behind this eBook–even made a trailer for it:

 

Check it out.

And really, I’m betting you’ll be super-happy you did.

It’s yours for a cool $8.99 (the cost of just one coffee and scone!). . . okay, or close to it! Either way, it’s a great deal for all the awesome you’re getting. 

And that’s it–just a little something I’m thrilled about and think you will be too! 

Any questions? I’d love to hear ’em!

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge

Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge | teachmama.com

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Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge | teachmama.com

When I was teaching, I always had a bulletin board full of opportunities for my students to win contests, write essays, submit poems, and receive accolades outside the classroom.

It’s so important for kids–and parents!–to realize that there are hundreds of cool contests running all the time.

Hundreds of dollars waiting to be won. Fab prizes and cool travel opportunities if kids just take some time to share their smarts with the world around them.

And so many of our kids are crazy smart, devising solutions to age-old problems that burden many and even working hard now to design answers to issues that may arise down the road.

Do you have a young tinker–belle or beau–on your hands?

A smartypants middle-schooler who may need a little something to get him through spring break?

A creative, outside-the-box thinker who may have found the solution to an environmental issue in your neighborhood?

A kid who may find a good way to put $25,000 to use if he or she wins?

I’ve got just the thing:  Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge:

Here’s what you need to know. . .

Who:  Contest is open to middle school students

What:The Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge is the nation’s premier science competition for middle school students.

Why: It targets students in the years when research indicates their interest in science begins to fade and encourages them to explore scientific concepts and creatively communicate their findings.

Where:Young Scientist Challenge site

When:  Deadline for applications is April 22, 2014.

How:  Middle school students are create a 1-2 min video communicating the science behind a possible solution for an everyday problem. Based on the video entry, 10 finalists are chosen to work with a 3M scientist during a summer mentorship to create an innovation that will be presented to a panel of judges at the final competition at the 3M Innovation Center in St. Paul, Minnesota in October. WOW, right?

 

 

Check out the video for a bit more about the contest, and do pass this post on to friends, family, and schools. I know that so many kids would enter–if they only knew about it.

And how cool is this: past challenge winners have gone on to speak in front of members of Congress! Winners have also worked with the nation’s top scientists, participated in the White House Science Fair, met the President and pursued academic careers in the sciences. I love it.

Read through the complete rules and details on the competition website.

Chat with the competition folks over on their Facebook page or tweet with them on twitter:

And if your super-smart, totally cool middle schooler enters?  Let me know!! 

 

fyi: This is a sponsored post. Many thanks to my friends at Discovery Education for asking me to share news of this important and totally cool contest; as always, my opinions are my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and a parent. 

earth month programming for kids: resources from PBS Kids

earth month programming for kids teachmama.com.png

earth month programming for kids  teachmama.com.png

My friends at PBS Kids are totally ready for some fun, Earth-happy on-air programming, and my own kids are thrilled.

PBS Kids and the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) have partnered again to create the Explore the Outdoors! series.  It’s a series full o’ Earth-month love.

Programming that teaches kids how to celebrate and respect the world around them?  

Programming that is so fun and familiar that kids have no clue they’re learning?

Programming that is cool enough that kids talk about it even way after the show is over?

A huge win in my book.

For the last few days, we’ve been screening some of PBS Kids’  new outdoor-themed specials, and each and every one has been watched and re-watched. Tons of our fave pals, like WordGirl and Wild Kratts, and Arthur and Martha, have been getting outdoors, doing what they can to make Mother Nature smile.

And this mama sure is smiling.

All this awesome starts Monday April 7th. Seriously. So set your DVRs!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Earth Month Programming for Kids–Resources from PBS Kids:  To ring in earth month programming, we did what we can to get our seeds started.

Easy as pie, in a soup can for larger plants, or in small cupcake holders that you can just drop into the earth, seed starting is easy. It gets kids psyched for gardening when the weather’s not yet warm enough to start backyard gardens.

planting gardening with kids - 11

planting gardening with kids - 11

We’ve been doing this for years. My kids love it.

But as for PBS Kids programming that you don’t want to miss:

  • Wild Kratts: Hermit Shell Crab Exchange
  • Wild Kratts: Bugging Out
  • Martha Speaks: Martha Says it with Flowers
  • Arthur: The Good Sport
  • Dinosaur Train Nature Trackers Adventure Camp

All great choices! Check out the PBS Kids station finder for tv times for your area.

Want a little more to really bring these episodes to life?

  • Check out Plum Landing, a platform created by PBS Kids and Boston’s WGBH where kids can access videos, games, and an entire site dedicated to learning about the great oudoors!  Y.E.S!!!
  • Visit PBS Parents/outdoors for articles, resources, and ideas.
  • Check out tons of cool games and activities for kids.
  • Follow #PBSExplore for the latest!

What do you think your kids will like best–the shows or the websites? Would love to know!

 

fyi: I work with PBS Kids via the PBS Kids VIP group of bloggers. Though I received a box of screeners and planting items, this is an unsponsored posts; all opinions, as always, are my very own.

springtime easter sensory bin: egg hunt and count

Spring Easter Sesnory Bin Egg Hunt and Count

springtime easter sensory bin: egg hunt and count

Huge thanks to Lauren, of Tutus & Tea Parties, for writing this smart and totally cool springtime craft post.  Lauren is a certified elementary educator, and she writes about the cool and crafty ways she spends time with her daughter.

Check it out–there’s a ton of clever, hands-on learning ideas for the little loves in your life!

____________________

  •  Springtime Easter Sensory Bin– Egg Hunt and Count, by Lauren Frank

Spring is finally here, and I am so excited to be sharing with all of you Teach Mama readers.

We love using sensory experiences in our play, and our recent sensory bin for spring (or Easter!) was super fun!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • white rice
  • rubbing alcohol
  • green food coloring
  • candy eggs (we got whopper eggs, but jelly beans or those chocolate eggs wrapped in foil would work just as well)
  • egg carton
  • pipe cleaners
  • Sharpie
  • basin (we grabbed ours at Dollar Tree), water table, sensory table, etc

springtime easter sensory bin: egg hunt and count

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

1.  To dye the rice green, put your white rice into a large zip top bag. Add rubbing alcohol and food coloring. Securely close the bad and shake to distribute. Dry on a cookie sheet overnight.

2.  To create your baskets, cut out sections of the egg carton. Poke a hole in each side and poke your pipe cleaner through (I just folded the end on the inside to keep it attached). Write the numbers 1-5 on the front of each basket.

springtime easter sensory bin: egg hunt and count

3.  Place your green rice in your sensory bin and bury 15 egg candies.

springtime easter sensory bin: egg hunt and count

4.  Have your child dig to find the eggs and fill each basket with the number of eggs as the number shown on the basket.

springtime easter sensory bin: egg hunt and count

springtime easter sensory bin: egg hunt and count

springtime easter sensory bin: egg hunt and count

 

5.  Let your child continue to explore and play! You can even add some bunnies and chicks.

We have a couple of spring animal wind up toys that we added to the bin after a few days to change things up a bit.

springtime easter sensory bin: egg hunt and count

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Thank you, thank you, Lauren! You rock, and this activity is perfect for so many families!

Looking for more sensory fun? Check out the links below!

tutus and tea partiesLauren is the writer and creator of Tutus & Tea Parties where she shares ways to connect with children and teach through play. She has a degree in Elementary Education and is a mother to a very energetic 4 year old girl.

Connect with Lauren: Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Instagram | Pinterest

 

Looking for more at-home learning fun? Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

This post is part of our new Rockstar Sunday posts.  Each week, I will highlight one ‘rockstar’ in the parenting and education field.  These posts? Seriously awesome.

Have something you’d like to share that in some way relates to fun learning, school, technology, education, or parenting? For a short time we’ll be accepting Rockstar Sunday guest posts.

rockstar sunday promo teachmama

The response to our Rockstar Sunday feature has been overwhelming. I am in awe of the ideas, submissions, and shares!

Having been in the blogging space for 5+ years, we know for sure that our readers are always up for fresh and fun ideas on literacy, math, technology, parenting, and learning in the every day. They love crafts, hands-on teaching ideas, printables, cooking with kids, and anything that makes their job as parents easier, better, and more fun.

You don’t have to have a blog of your own–just cool ideas to share! We look forward to hearing from you!

other posts in the series:

chick hatching: fun for kids and families

chick hatching at home teachmama.com cover .png

I’ve said it before, and I’l say it again:chick hatching at home  teachmama.com

We. Love. Chickens.

Really, we do.

Not only do we love backyard chickens, but we also love the teeniest of tiny chickens.

We love chickens even before they’re for real ‘chickens’ and while they’re hanging out inside the ole eggy-egg.  Chick hatching.

We love chick hatching.

Chick hatching is super-fun for kids and families, and there’s a local business here in the DC Metro area that allows you to bring chick hatching to your home, school, daycare, wherever.

Seriously.

The very same company who brought us our backyard chickens last summer brought us a chick hatching program this winter: Rent a Coop.  (And they’re giving one teachmama reader a free chick hatching or backyard chicken experience and a BIG discount for everyone else. Yay!)

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Chick Hatching–Fun for Kids and Families:  Really, when I say the chick hatching experience was fun, I mean it.

It was so much fun, it was nuts.

chick hatching | teachmama.com

chick hatching | teachmama.com

Maybe because this winter was the longest, coldest, most difficult one in a long time, or maybe because my kids are at a really great age (10, 8, & 6).  Maybe because we haven’t all seen chicks hatch for years (or ever!), or maybe because chick hatching is just plain cool.

Whatever the reason, we loved chick hatching.

Here’s a quick video with three reasons why your family should consider a chick hatching program: 

 fyi: The teachmama.com youtube channel is all about sharing quick teaching tips, reading strategies, and parenting tricks with parents and caregivers. It’s about empowering parents to be the best teachers they can be for their children. Subscribe here so you don’t miss a thing!

chick hatching | teachmama.com

chick hatching | teachmama.com

chick hatching | teachmama.com

Fun facts about our chick hatching experience:

  • We lost power during our four weeks, and in order to keep our egg incubator at 99.5º F, we had to take our eggs to a neighbor’s house and then drive them to another friend’s house after the first neighbor lost power.
  • Our eggs’ temperature dropped to 80ºF but all seven eggs hatched!
  • One chick died shortly after hatching, which sometimes happens.
  • We hatched two Copper Marans, Rhode Island Reds, and White Rocks chickens. They were all beautiful.

chick hatching | teachmama.com

 

chick hatching | teachmama.com

Check out all of our chick hatching photos:

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Huge thanks to Tyler from Rent a Coop for making our chick hatching experience so easy.  He rolled on up with our brooder, two baby chicks, and our seven precious eggs, along with everything we needed for the whole four weeks.

The experience was so much fun for us all. I’d honestly do it every year.

Just like before, Tyler quickly and patiently answered my wide range of insane texts: 

amy tyler text

He celebrated with me when they began to hatch, and he calmed my nerves when one chick died (sob!).   He’s great.

Check them out on their Rent a Coop site Follow them on their facebook page.  Follow them on twitter and instagram–and tag them on your own pictures of chick hatching or backyard chickens.

 

chick hatching | teachmama.com

 

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chick hatching checklist

chick hatching checksheet | teachmama.com

download yours: chick hatching checklist | teachmama.com

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GIVEAWAY: One 4-week backyard chicken/ coop rental from Rent a Coop OR participation in the chick hatching program for your home or school.

Do you want to win your own 4-week backyard chicken/ coop rental from Rent a Coop OR participation in the chick hatching program for your home or school??!  Yes, yes you do.

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PLEASE NOTE: Everyone wins here. Rent a Coop is offering great discount for teachmama readers: $10 off a 4-week program. WOW!  Just use the promo code teachmama14.  It will be valid until May 1, 2014, and you can use it on either chick hatching or backyard chickens.

And. . . you can purchase your program before May 1, 2014 but can actually participate in your program at any time–summer, fall, winter. So go book yours now!

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Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to throw your name in the hat:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 

By entering this giveaway, you are demonstrating your understanding of and compliance with theOfficial Sweepstakes Rules.

 

This giveaway ends Friday, April 4, 2014 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the DC Metro only; our friends from Rent a Coop can only bring eggs or send their chickens so far, you know. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 04/04/14.  Winner must respond within three (3) days of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

 

fyi: This is an unsponsored post, but our family was given the opportunity to try our hand at raising baby chicks and hatching chickens for four weeks in exchange for sharing a bit about Rent a Coop.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my personal experience as a parent and educator–and, of course, my three little chicken-loving littles.

Affiliate links are used below.

how to make homemade slime: snow day sparkle slime

sparkle slime SNOW DAY teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 


sparkle slime SNOW DAY  teachmama.com

It’s been snowing a whole lot over here for the last few weeks, and in fact, this week, about 15 inches of the white stuff were dumped on us.

So this mama has had to pull out the stops when it comes to finding things to do.

Homemade slime–snow day sparkle slime–has helped save our sanity.

Not really. But kind of.

We’ve spent a boatload of time outside. We’ve watched movies. Read books. Completed puzzles. Cleaned, finished homework, Valentines, and cooked.

There’s been a lot of downtime. A lot of ‘plugged in’ time. A lot of great, blissful getting along times, and a lot of bickering.

And we tried, for the first time, to make sparkle slime.

The kids loved it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Make Homemade Slime–Snow Day Sparkle Slime:  It’s super easy.

And there are about a million different ways to do this–be forewarned.

My way is just one.

Here’s a super-quick video about how you can make sparkle slime (our snow day sanity saver!): 

 

And now you definitely need the Sparkle Slime recipe, right? Yes, yes you do.

Check it out:sparkle slime recipe.

You’ll need:

Once you have everything, you can get started!

how to make sparkle slime | owen

 homemade sparkle slime

 

homemade sparkle slime

SO fun.

Do you have any cool ideas for passing days when you’re stuck inside? Activities to keep kids interested, engaged, and unplugged? Let us know by leaving a comment!

Check out our cool and creative indoor fun board:

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board cool & creative indoor fun on Pinterest.


Or check out these popular posts:

 

fyi: affiliate links are used below 

 

I by NO MEANS invented this cool activity; in fact, I’d love to offer huge and happy thanks to the following posts for inspiration. Please check them out! thank you, ladies!

game design for kids: innovation and creativity with #intelAIO

game design for kids innovation and creativity with #intelAIO teachmama.com

game design for kids innovation and creativity with #intelAIO teachmama.com

My kids have long been interested in electronics and technology, but only recently have they been interested in trying their hand at game design.

Right. As in my kids, 10, 8, and 6 years old, designing their own games.

Thinking about, planning, and creating games.  Plotting challenges, goals, and objectives. Making levels, sub-levels, and clues.  Trying to trick each other and be the one who designs the best of the best, the hardest of the hardest games.

On the computer.

Actually, on our Intel All-in-One PC. The one we’ve had the opportunity to explore and discover for the last few months.

As an Intel Partner, I’ve shared my experiences, when we first got the device and why I was thankful for it. And often on twitter and instagram I’ve shared shots of my digital kids doing their digital thing on our rad IntelAIO.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Game Design for Kids–Innovation and Creativity with #IntelAIO:  Maddy, Owen, and Cora have fallen hard for our Intel AIO, and it’s no wonder–it’s easy to use, and its touch screen mirrors the mobile devices they use every day.

But the AIO has really fostered innovation and creativity in my kids in new and exciting ways–the game design is just one. Their familiarity and comfort in using the device makes exploring new content online easier.

At Digital Family Summit this year, my kids participated in a totally fab Game Design Workshop, and I really think that it was here that the seed was planted for their interest in exploring this new side of technology: the creation side.

This workshop introduced Maddy, Owen, and Cora to Gamestar Mechanic.  Brian Alspach of E-Line Media and the creator of Gamestar Mechanic facilitated this hands-on workshop, and my kids were hooked from the beginning.

game design for kids: innovation and creativity with #intelAIO | teachmama.com

Gamestar Mechanic is simply “a game and community designed to teach kids the principles of game design and systems thinking in a highly engaging environment . . . it is designed for 7- to 14-year-olds but is open to everyone” (from the Gamestar Mechanic site).  You’ve got to check it out.

Kids can play, take courses (NO joke! It’s my summer plan for the kids. . . ), make games, and join a community of game creators. I love, though, that in order to publish your game and have others play it, kids must complete the course on game creation. So smart.

game design for kids: innovation and creativity with #intelAIO | teachmama.com
According to Owen, “Gamestar Mechanic is that site where you can make games yourself or play the ones they have.  It’s cool because I’m in charge.”

Game design requires innovation, creativity, and a new way of thinking.  My kids are stretching their brains like never before, doing things I never imagined they’d be interested in doing.

But the really fab thing is that what they learned at Digital Family, they could bring home thanks to our IntelAIO PC.

The possibilities are endless.

 Three cheers for our Digital Kids and for friends at Intel All-in-One PC for giving us the opportunity to explore this  rockin device.

 

#spon: I am in a partnership with Intel. Through this partnership I gain access to content, product, or other forms of value.

our cookie baking day: favorite family annual holiday tradition

holiday baking day cookies

Every year, one of our advent calendar activities reads: Cookie Baking Day!  annual cookie baking day

And what that means is that no matter the day–it’s always a surprise!–the kids and I ditch everything (and I mean, everything. . . ahem. . . ), don our aprons, and bake.

All. Day. Long.

My mom did this for us when we were growing up, and it’s one of my most fond childhood memories. It was special. It was crazy. It was busy and fun.

I knew that when I had children I’d do the same. It’s not hard. And when the kids are really young, baking one or two kinds of cookies is all we did.

As they get older, their roles in the day become bigger, and they become responsible for a bit more.

It’s a favorite family annual tradition.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Our Cookie Baking Day–Favorite Family Annual Holiday Tradition: Our Cookie Baking Day is a day we all look forward to.

It’s a lot of work, but in the end, we have dozens and dozens of cookies that we take to holiday parties and give to our neighbors as gifts.

Kiss Cookie Recipe 2013 Teachmama

Kiss Cookie Recipe 2013 Teachmama

The teacher in me looks at the day as an opportunity for some real-life reading, math, and science learning. The parent in me knows that the day is an opportunity for the kids to spend one special, unexpected day together, making memories and working hard at something that is important to each one of us.

Do the days always go picture-perfect? Um, no.

Do the cookies always look beautiful, taste scrumptious, and look bakery-fab? No, no, and no.

holiday baking day cookies -

holiday baking day cookies

holiday baking day cookies

Do the kids get along harmoniously, taking perfect turns and following instructions top to bottom? No and no.

Does the kitchen get totally rocked by the end of the day, like a small bomb exploded in our house? Absolutely.

holiday baking day cookies

holiday baking day cookies

There was the time that Maddy slid across the counter and sent the salt shaker splattering into our dough.

The many times, while the kids were learning to crack eggs, that eggs exploded like fireworks in tiny hands.

We’ve had milk spilled, cookies fall, and ingredients forgotten.

We’ve spilled bags of chocolate chips.

We’ve seen Brady steal aprons and oven mitts; we’ve experienced burns and power outages.

holiday baking day cookies

Some years are easier than others.

How we schedule our day:

  • Light planning: Before our Cookie Baking Day, Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I talk about what kinds of cookies we’ll bake that year.  Some years we try new kinds, and other years, we stick to old faves.
  • Big shopping: I take their suggestions into account and do the shopping for ingredients. Because the day is a surprise for them, I make the general cookie-baking plan. I hide the ingredients so no one notices.

 

holiday baking day cookies

holiday baking day cookies

holiday baking day cookies

 

  • Big surprising.  The kids wake and get ready for the day as normal. Then whomever’s day it is opens the Advent Calendar and reads that day’s Advent Activity: It’s Cookie Baking Day! Let’s bake, bake, BAKE!!
  • Serious baking. We start before breakfast, making one dough and refrigerating it. We make another dough and send the first tray into the oven. We continue all day long, through dinner.

 

holiday baking day cookies

 

holiday baking day cookies

 

holiday baking day cookies

 

holiday baking day cookies

 

  • Some eating. We break for meals while cookies bake.   Of course we test the cookies along the way. Come ON.
  • Light resting.  Really, the kids only rest for one show after lunch, and even then, somebody takes a turn to stay with me in the kitchen. When I say we work all day, we really do work all day.

 

holiday baking day cookies

 

holiday baking day cookies

 

holiday baking day cookies

 

  • Big sharing. We put many of our cookies away in tins, but one thing we really look forward to is assembling small packages of cookies for our neighbors. Not everyone–that would be crazy–but for a handful of close neighbors, we put an arrangement of our cookie-creations together in a pretty tin or container, and we deliver our sweets one day that week.  So fun.

Do you want to give the Annual Cookie Baking Day a try at your house? Sure you do! It’s totally not too late!

You can follow the recipe below for some kid-friendly recipe reading:

 

Hershey Kiss Cookie Recipe: kid-friendly recipe from teachmama by teach mama

 

And if you like this, check out our whole Holiday Baking with Kids eBook!  15 recipes your family will love.

holiday baking with kids eBook

Or check out some other fun recipes from our friends at Target–some new twists on classic faves.

How do you handle holiday baking? I’d love to hear:

  • what are your fave holiday treats to bake?
  • do your kids help in the kitchen?
  • who do you share your sweets with?

 

fyi: This post was created as part of my collaboration with Target, the #MyKindofHoliday campaign, and Target Inner Circle. As always, the thoughts and ideas are my own.  Target sent us a Ninja Gingerbread Cookie Set among other baking, decorating, and sharing supplies because they totally, 110% support our #mykindofholiday @target traditions!