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.

——————————-

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!

——————————-

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!

5 reasons families need backyard chickens (no, this is not a joke)

why families need backyard chickens cover

post contains affiliate links

 

 

We love chickens.backyard chickens for families teachmama.com

We really do.

We love backyard chickens.

As in, we love them thanks to two hens who came to us from Rent a Coop here in the DC Metro area and stayed with us for four weeks.

Kiki and Jennifer.

Though they were admittedly not the first chickens we ever knew (my close friends and family are nodding–or shaking their heads– remembering fondly the days of Peepers and Pappy), but they were the first plump, sweet, free-range feathered girls we ever really loved.

And now that they’re gone? We miss them. We talk about them often, and we laugh about the good times we had with them.  The kids do Kiki and Jennifer impressions.

Brady still mopes around our yard, wondering where his feathered sisters have gone.

Have you thought about giving backyard chickens a try? Sure you have.  And now’s your chance. Our friends from Rent a Coop are offering one teachmama.com reader the chance to have backyard chickens for four weeks, just like we did.

Or if the backyard chicken experience isn’t for you, then they’ll let you in on their chick hatching program which we’re trying for ourselves this winter.  Wetotallycannotwait.

 

backyard chickens for families teachmama.com

And we can hardly wait.  Have I said that? We can’t.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 5 Reasons Families Should Have Backyard Chickens (& How YOUR Family Can Do It):  Backyard chickens may seem crazy, silly, ridiculous to you, but I’m totally convinced that they are an awesome addition to any family.

Clarification: many families.

Sure, with any pet, you’ve got to make sure it’s the right time and that you have the time, effort, and energy to care for them. But these girls? So easy.

 

backyard chickens for families teachmama.com

 

1.  Your family will learn so, so, so much.  We all learned so much about chickens, and we’re still learning.  Our friends learned a ton about chickens.

No one in our world really knows about chickens, which is why having them in our backyard was so much fun.

We learned that chickens love treats.

backyard chickens sept

backyard chickens sept

We learned that our chickens wanted to be close to us and would never wander far.

We learned that chickens like to be held, ride on tire swings, and spend time on tricycles.

We learned that chickens like to drink water from dog bowls.

And we learned a whole lot more.

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

2.  Gathering eggs? So fun.  It’s like Christmas morning every time you run out to the coop.  It was the perk of whomever’s day it was to be the one to pick up the eggs.  So fun.

It took Kiki and Jennifer a few days to get into a schedule of laying eggs, but soon they’d each lay one egg sometime late morning.

And what we learned about eggs is that no–even if we didn’t eat the eggs and prayed hard enough they still wouldn’t hatch into chicks.

You need a rooster for that.  You’re nodding your head, right? Now you get it.  Everyone who came to see the chickens wondered the same thing–what makes the eggs hatch? It’s the rooster, yo.  Learned that for myself from the BackYard Chickens FAQs.

Also what’s cool about the eggs is that there you go–you have breakfast right there in your own backyard. Owen learned to make his very first scrambled eggs–all by himself this summer. And he got the eggs from Kiki and Jennifer. We’re like basically self-sufficient over here.

 

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

Sometimes Maddy just likes wearing Harry Potter robe around the yard. Jennifer liked it.

3.  Chickens are so easy.  Seriously.  We put their organic feed in the feed bowl and only had to refill it every few days. We did the same thing with their water.   Every week-ish we cleaned out the coop and put in new wood shavings. Voila. Done.

They do not bite, and their pecks are so gentle.

They’ll eat anything almost, and they love treats. (Check out the Chicken Eats & Treats sheet we had hanging in the kitchen for the last four weeks!)

Kiki and Jennifer let Maddy, Owen, and Cora hold them, carry them, love them, hold them, and carry them more.

They actually got along with Brady.  And by ‘got along’ I mean, Brady chased them and they let him.

 

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

backyard chickens for family fun and learning

backyard chickens for family fun and learning

4.  Chickens are hilarious.

They look really funny when they run.  And they’ll run for just about any treat.

Want a few more funny chicken videos? head to my Instagram account
They are just plain hysterical to see in a suburban backyard, in the same way that it’s funny for kids to see their teachers outside of the school building. It’s just not–the norm.

So when you are eating breakfast and your pet chicken hops up on your porch and struts by your sliding glass door, the kids will go nuts crazy laughing.

When you’re doing dishes and see your kids holding a chicken on their hips, walking around your back yard or swinging with a chicken on their laps, you’ll laugh.

When you hear your kids tell other people about your chickens? When you all watch a chicken shove its face into a watermelon, peck a tomato, or steal grapes from your hand? All funny.

 

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

backyard chickens for learning and fun teachmama.com

5.  Your kids will be so proud. They will love becoming experts on chickens.

They will be beaming as they demonstrate to their friends and neighbors how to properly hold a chicken.

They will love to be able to show family members how awesome their chickens are.

They will love to have people come by to visit and meet your chickens.

 

What you need to think about if you’re considering chickens:

  • chicken poop: Though it’s supposedly great for your grass, it is there as it is with any pet.
  • chickens peck and scratch: If your yard is 100% awesome and perfect, mulch spread out of flower beds may bug you. Our yard? We hardly noticed.
  • HOA rules: Your housing development or neighborhood or county may have rules about keeping backyard chickens.

 

Check out all of our backyard chicken photos:

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Huge thanks to Tyler from Rent a Coop for making our backyard chicken experience so easy.  He rolled on up with our coop and the two sweetest hens around, bringing everything we needed for the whole four weeks.  I had not a clue that we’d love Kiki and Jennifer as much as we did. The experience was so much fun for us all, and we really hope to do it again this spring.

Tyler quickly and patiently answered my wide range of insane texts: They’re not laying eggs! What’s wrong?  (It’s okay–it takes them a day or two to get comfortable–), and he worked around our schedule for drop-off and pick-up.

He didn’t flinch when he came to pick them up and there were 50 kids and adults in the house and yard or when Cora followed him to his van, peeking through the coop window yelling, Bye, Kiki and Jennifer!!! We love you and we will miss yooooooou!!

Cool fact: Tyler makes the coops–as in constructs them himself with recycled materials, and it’s easy to move (you’ll move it around your yard every few days), and it’s predator proof.

Check them out on their Rent a Coop site.  Follow them on their facebook page.  Follow them on twitter and instagram–and bug them like I do to share more photos of their hens.

backyard chickens sept

Let’s just pretend Owen’s wearing matching shoes. . .

backyard chickens for learning and fun 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.

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 the Official Sweepstakes Rules.

This giveaway ends Friday, October 11, 2013 at midnight ET and is open to folks here in the DC Metro only; our friends from Rent a Coop can only send their chickens so far, you know. Winner will be chosen by ‘Rafflecopter’ and will be notified on or around 10/13/13.  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 backyard 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.

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math, writing, STEM apps for kids: tabletop surprises

tabletop surprises week seven

post contains affiliate links

 

 

We’re close to the finish line here, and my heart is heavy.tabletop surprises week six c

Though my own work is piling up by the second, the fun I’ve had with the kids this summer makes it well worth drowning in my ole inbox, missing a boatload of deadlines, and feeling like I am going to collapse by 7pm each night. 

We’re on week six of our tabletop surprises, our simple ways of setting Maddy, Owen, and Cora up for fun on their own time–and really I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well most of it has worked. And how not well some of it has worked.

Really.

This week, we rocked it out with some serious math and writing fun and a few new-for-us STEM apps for kids. It was a good mix of techy and non-techy, creative and critical thinking, new and old.

Personally, this was my favorite week, but two total days were pretty much bombs for the kids.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Math, Writing, & STEM Apps for Kids– Tabletop Surprises:

math, writing, STEM apps for kids: tabletop surprises

  • Create and Play Freely with Craft Sticks: Really. So free-bird and open, the sky was the limit here.

I dumped out large colored craft sticks, regular-sized craft sticks, and grooved craft sticks on the table, and that was it.

popsicle spopsicle sticks tabletop surprises - 2ticks tabletop surprises - 2

Sometimes someone would walk by the table and make a tower with the grooved craft sticks with a roof out of the other ones, and sometimes they’d use the craft sticks as poker for the dirt and grass out front.

Free and fun. That’s all we were shooting for.

———————————————————————-

tabletop surprises day math games

  • Make Your Own Math Games: This was based on a real oldie but goodie.

When the kids were tiny, we made a handful of personalized board games for them: Cora’s Color Game, Owen’s Beginning Sound Game, Cora’s Fancy Game, and more.

They always felt extra-special when I created a game just for them–and they’d never in a million years know how easy it was for me.

 

make your own math game tabletop surprises - 4

make your own math game tabletop surprises - 4

 

Depending on what they needed some support with (articulation, phonemic awareness, reading, basics, you name it) along with what they were interested in (Cars, princesses, jewels, etc.), you can create a game for nearly every person in the universe.

My little forumla:

blank board + a current challenge + a favorite bling or embellishment + cool die or spinner + fun pawns = BIG WIN for kids

I love the size of the blank boards you can pick up at Johnnie’s Math Page (for free!) or you can grab Cora’s blank heart board if you’d like (also for free!).

How do you play these simple games?

  1. Roll the die (I wrote 1, 2, and 3 on the back of a foam cube and called it a day).  I wanted the kids to roll low numbers so they’d have to do more problems vs roll high and have to do only one or two).
  2. Move your pawn that many spaces.
  3. Do the math problem in your head. If you get it correct, you move forward; if you don’t, you stay put until your next turn.

Easy and fun. Keep it light–and give kids all the time they need for do-overs!

———————————————————————-

tabletop surprises day fun with foamies cover

  • Fun With Foamies: Much like I’ve done with other art projects, I simply laid out blank paper and several containers of Foamie stickers.

That’s it.

I put out colored construction paper, markers, and Foamies of every shape and size that I could find: sports foamies, flowers and hearts, holiday foamies, Noah’s Ark foamies, the list goes on.

fun with foamies

 

Cora got right to work on a card for her Grandma and Grandpa, and Maddy just kind of shimmied on by.

This activity did not go over well with Owen or Maddy; however, Cora loved, loved, loved it. And I’m not sure why but I do know that everyone has different tastebuds so we live and learn. And that’s the beauty of tabletop surprises! Tomorrow’s a new day.

 

fun with foamies

fun with foamies

———————————————————————-

tabletop surprises day stem celebration cover

  • New-for-Us STEM iPad Apps: Loved this one, and so did the kids.

I stumbled across a rockstar pin from my friends at Cool Mom TechThe best FREE Educational Apps for Kids–the Back to School Tech Guide 2013 which inspired this activity: Apps. New ones. Bam.

I decided to create a folder on our iPads just for today’s Tabletop Surprise Apps and I labeled it as such. That way, I could tell them that they were free to use any of the new apps in the Tabletop Surprise Folder, and they’d know exactly what I was talking about.

 

new ipad apps tabletop surprise

 

new ipad apps tabletop surprise

 

new ipad apps tabletop surprise

 

Sticking with STEM apps (science, technology, engineering, and math), I chose BrainPOP Featured Movie and BrainPop Jr Movie of the Week (from Cool Mom Tech’s recommendations). I also added the Disney Planes Adventure Album, tangram, ArithFit, and Wings: motion math.

We’re still trying them out, but at this point, they seem to be a hit with Maddy, Owen, and Cora.

 

———————————————————————-

tabletop surprises day baby photos

  • Writing About Baby Photos: This was a throwback from last summer’s Everyday Journal.

Choose a picture from one of your baby albums. Describe you in the photo. What are you wearing? What expression is on your face? What are you doing?

Not a whole lot of analyzing or creative thinking but more of a descriptive piece. And because we had been looking at baby albums last week and they loved it, I thought for sure they’d love it this week.

But they didn’t. Not a huge hit AT. ALL.

I poked and prodded, but no bites. Okay, so we move on.

———————————————————————-

The last week of our tabletop surprises will be Kid Planned.  Woot.

So the last week is upon us, and what I decided to do is give Maddy, Owen, and Cora the reins. So I created this quick and easy planning sheet, and I handed it over to the kids.

Tabletop Surprises Planning Sheet by teach mama

 

I said, Okay, you guys definitely loved some of our Tabletop Surprises, and others, well. . . they were not a big hit. I could never tell which you’d love and which you wouldn’t so this last week? YOU get to plan. You, together, plan and organize the week’s worth of Tabletop Suprises, and lucky you, you’ll be able to do pretty much whatever you think will work best, within reason of course.

So they got to work.

And I’ll get up early, just like I always do, and I will follow their plan. And I bet I’ll know who will learn the most this week. . .

And that’s it. Simple, fun. Independent learning all the way.

 

Stay on top of the Tabletop Surprises by checking out the past few weeks if you’ve missed them:

 

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

creative hands-on learning for kids: tabletop surprises

creative, hands on learning for kids | tabletop surprises

post contains affiliate links

 

creative hands-on learning for kids: tabletop surprises

 

Tabletop Surprises have been a saving grace for us this summer.

Quick and easy learning on my kids’ own time.  They’re digging it.

This week we incorporated some serious creative hands-on learning that involved critical thinking and math, science, and literacy skills. I’d say that by far our first two days were Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s fave activities hands down.

What are Tabletop Surprises? If you follow me on Instagram, you’d know what I’m talking about because each day I’ve shared a quick photo of each day’s surprise each day of the week.

Tabletop Surprises are fun learning or creative thinking opportunities for the kids on our craft room table. Just sitting there.

Waiting for someone to come along and try ‘em out.

 

This week we got creative and crafty.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Creative Hands-on Learning for Kids–Tabletop Surprises: Each day is a little different.  And honestly? This has been so much fun for me as I think of cool things for the kids to do.

tabletop surprises recyclables

  • Create & Invent With Recyclables: Really, all I did for Monday was put out a handful of random recyclables, and the kids went to work trying to design and create something that could help someone or something.

I wasn’t sure how it would go, but it was the hit of the week, by far.

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

I put a little note on a big box of recyclables—paper rolls, tubes from the toulle from our fairy skirts a while back, plastic containers, you name it. I didn’t put out every recyclable we had; rather, I tried to keep it simple while at the same time provide them with a range of objects that would be usable and cool.

I wanted to keep it open for the kids and make the sky the limit.

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

Along with the recyclables, I put a roll of duct tape and a roll, a roll of clear packing tape, and a roll of masking tape on the table.  And a few pairs of scissors.

Maddy, Owen, and Cora literally sat at the table for an hour or more. And when they finished, they took turns presenting what they created to a small  audience of each other and me.

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

Though none will end up taking first place in Invent America! this activity kept their brains moving and creativity flowing.

Maddy created what she set out to be an automatic dog feeder but that morphed into a binocular system of sorts.

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

invention with recyclables

focus: Creative thinking, fine motor, engineering, critical thinking, speaking, and presenting

Seriously? So fun.

———————————————————————-tabletop surprises flowers

  • Playing with Flowers:  We’ve done this about once a year, and the kids love it. Whenever we have older flowers that are on the outs—ready to be tossed—I let the kids pull them apart.

Because who doesn’t like to have permission to pull petals off of flowers?

On three separate trays, I put a paper plate with several flower stems.  I included a small sheet of Parts of a Flower in case they wanted to accurately identify any of the parts, but they weren’t really into it.

flowers for learn and play

learn and play with flowers

puzzles melissa and doug - 10

I also included a small life cycle of a flower book for Cora that she could color and label as well.

This activity ended up moving from our craft room table to our back porch, and it quickly transitioned from a calm, cool, indoor science lesson into an attempt to make potions and perfume.

puzzles melissa and doug - 14

puzzles melissa and doug - 15

puzzles melissa and doug - 16

Maddy, Owen, and Cora used jars for water and smashed and smushed petals, tiny pieces of stem, grass and dirt.  They added yellow pollen, tiny parts of the flower centers, and every petal they could find.

focus: Sensory discovery, fine motor, creative thinking, free play, science

———————————————————————-

tabletop surprises day learn to draw

  • Drawing Lessons:  Drawing lessons was not at all my intention today, but I stumbled across the most amazing site packed full of free resources that I had to use them.

In my opinion, this was the coolest thing we did all week.

I literally stumbled across the most amazing site by Donna Young called Donna Young’s printables and resources. On it is such a wealth of resources for at-home learning, it’s nuts.

learn to draw with donna young

drawing lessons with donna young

I put a little note on the table explaining what they needed to do, and I let ’em at it.

Though it’s difficult to sort through it all, I started with about four sheets of Drawing blocks for younger children and several of Drawing Ia.  I wanted it to be engaging without being too tough for them.

They loved it.  A few blank sheets stuck to a clip board, a handful of newly sharpened pencils, and the kids found time throughout the day to sit down, draw, and relax.

We’ll definitely return to this site, as the options seem to be endless.  Though I totally love and appreciate free play, open-space creativity, and free-form drawing, I also love that this gives kids a challenge–replicating lines and shapes and working hand-eye coordination.

focus: fine motor, hand eye coordination

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tabletop surprises day floor puzzles

No note needed, I gathered all of our big Melissa & Doug floor puzzles and put them on the table. Many we’ve picked up at yard sales over the years, many were gifted to us, and some we’ve bought ourselves.

puzzles huge and happy floor puzzles

Some, the kids can do with their eyes closed. Others, like the 100- piece and 300-piece puzzles take more time, but they’re willing to work at it.

By the end of the day, our living room floor was carpeted in a huge T-Rex and a bunch of underwater scenes, horses running, presidents, USA maps, the planets, desert, you name it.

focus: fine motor, gross motor, problem-solving

 ———————————————————————-

tabletop surprises day story starters

Essentially, Story Starters is a free site that lets users choose a theme and then helps them generate ideas For more on Scholastic Story Starters, check out the quick post I wrote about Story Starters for Scholastic Raise a Reader blog.

story starters computer

story starters computer

The kids really liked using this site, and though they did need support at the beginning, soon they could manage and navigate on their own.

The cool thing is that with every writing piece, kids can save, download, or print their final product.  Newspaper articles, journal entries, postcards, you name it.

And for activities like this, I do feel thankful that we have two tiny Asus Netbooks–great size for little hands, for sure.

story starters computer

story starters computer

story starters computer

 

And when stories are printed, they are formatted in cool ways. Kids loved this.  And they loved that they could share what they did with their dad when he got home from work.

For Cora and Owen, I let them get started with typing and then I took over as they dictated. I wanted their ideas to flow and didn’t want them to be hindered by their weak typing skills. It worked out great.  Maddy liked trying to type on her own, and I let her go.

With all free writing, I didn’t get hung up on spelling, punctuation, or the like. I wanted the kids to freely write, get all of their ideas down, and not worry about mechanics.

Again, something we’ll definitely revisit.  Totally worth it.

tabletop surprises button

And that’s it. Week four of our free-bird weeks of summer, and we’re enjoying every day.

Stay on top of the Tabletop Surprises by checking out the past few weeks if you’ve missed them:

Or check out some fun ideas from a our Smart Summer Challenge a few summers back.

 

fyi; affiliate links are included

soap dough, soap molds, crazy cool fun with soap

soap dough soap molds and crazy cool fun with soap

post contains affiliate links

 

soap dough soap molds and crazy cool fun with soap

 

What happens when you put a bar of Ivory soap in the microwave?

Really. Ivory soap. Plain ole sweet-smelling, plain-jane white bar o’ Ivory soap?

In the microwave.

Try it.

Your kids will think you’re a rockstar, and everyone involved will be in awe.

Do it during a playdate, and your kids’ friends will forever tell tales of your awesomeness.

Children will think you’ve lost your mind and then will be starstruck by your science fabulousity.

Your disinterested, challenging kids will begin to respond to your every word, move, and idea.

The whole family will wait with wonder to see what you have up your sleeve next.

Actually, I can’t guarantee all that. But what I can say is that my kids, my husband, and I had a blast playing with soap ‘dough’–what you get when you blast Ivory soap in the microwave.

All you need is this soap, and you’re good to go. Inexpensive soap. That’s it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Soap Dough, Soap Molds, Crazy Cool Fun With Soap: I’ll be honest. Owen wasn’t digging the soap experiment.

soap dough soap molds and crazy cool fun with soap

He was over-tired and got frustrated with Cora in the beginning of the whole thing and so he went out front and shot some hoops instead of soapin’ it up with Cora, Maddy, and me. But he did keep coming around, sneaking glances, and trying to play but not really.

So it’s simple, and it’s not perfect, but playing with Ivory soap was something I’ve wanted to do with the kids for a while now, after catching a few fab pins on Pinterest.

It’s been sitting there on our neat-o, FUN, new things for us to try board, and finally, finally? We did it.

After a busy morning and after rest and after a whole lot of free-bird summertime fun, I said, Hey! Remember we had ‘Fun Science Experiment’ on the calendar for today? Who’s up for checking out what I meant?

soap dough step 2

Maddy, Owen, and Cora found me in the kitchen, and we got rockin’ and rollin’.

I said, So we’re going to do something a little crazy today with this. And I handed them the bar of Ivory soap.

I also got out the only other things we’d need:

I got a lot of Huh? and What? and Why? and Mom?

Maddy opened the bar of soap, and we all held it and smelled it and passed it around. And talked about how it smelled so pretty like Nana’s bathroom. (Because that’s the soap she uses and has used for as long as I can remember.)

Then I placed it on a piece of wax paper, put it on a microwavable plate, and stepped back.

soap dough microwave

What do you think will happen if we put this puppy in the microwave? I asked.

It might melt?

It will explode?

It will ruin our microwave!

I’m not sure you should do that, Mom.

I told them that I’d only heard about this experiment but never did it myself, so I was a little nervous. I pressed 1:30 on the microwave, and we all stepped back.

What happened was totally crazy and completely strange.

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

We did it twice, with two bars of soap, and the ‘explosion’ looked completely different each time. It. Was. Nuts.

And though the edges were cool, the insides were HOT. Like hot, hot hot.

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

But the whole thing was light–like a cloud–when lifted. So the kids took turns holding it after it cooled. It was so totally fun.

After a bit of holding and observing, we took the fun outside.

I had read that you could break the soap apart, mix it, and form a sort of dough. Though I was not willing to throw it in our food processor or blender, I read that you could. We were going to put our kids to work and mix and mold on our own.

soap dough soap molds

We put the big lumps of soap on two trays, each covered with a piece of wax paper.

And then? We just broke it apart. We added a few drops of food coloring to each lump, blue to Maddy’s and green to Cora’s. (By this time, Owen was shooting hoops.)

We found that the warmer parts were more easily molded and moved, but with a bit of warm water, it became this awesome, smooth, soft, fragrant dough.

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

It did take some work and a bit of muscle to get it into a working ‘dough’ and we had to go really, really light on the warm water. But after we found the right combo, we were able to use the cookie cutters to make fun, brightly colored soap shapes.

soap dough soap play with blue

soap dough soap molds

The O-Man even came back to get his hands in the dough after a while.

Maddy and Cora loved it. Though Cora set her sights on creating a soap mold princess crown and was disappointed that she couldn’t make it perfectly, Maddy went simple with cookie cutter molds and was better off.

Next time, I’d only bring out basic shape cookie cutters–our soap dough was a little choppy and chunky for detailed molds.

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

soap dough soap molds

So fun. So much soapy, doughy, moldable fun that we were beside ourselves.

The big question is why does Ivory soap behave this way in the microwave? I had not a clue. But my savvy-science friends do:

And that’s it. Some sneaky science and fine–motor sensory fun on a cool (thankfully!) summer afternoon.

Do you have any other cool and easy science-experiments for kids? Let me have ’em!

 

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foam dough: serious rainy day indoor fun

homemade foam dough

foam dough: fun for a rainy day

I’m all about trying new and exciting things with my kids, and today’s activity is no different.

Totally strange, completely weird. Absolutely new for us.

I went on a whim and tried something that I pinned a long while back: Foam Dough.  Now? It’s all over the party Pinterest place, but the very first spot I saw it was on MomTrusted.

The greatest thing about this little ball o’ fun is that you only need two ingredients to make it work, three ingredients to make it awesome.

Foam Dough was a hit—a really fun way to pass a rainy afternoon—and Maddy, Owen, and Cora are already asking to make it again.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Foam Dough—Fun For a Rainy Day: Head to the grocery store and pick up a cheapo container of shaving cream and a cheapo box of corn starch.

That’s all you need:

  • Shaving cream
  • Corn starch
  • If you want to amp up the fun, add some liquid or gel food coloring.  Total fun.

homemade foam dough In order to make it, you need to follow a few easy, peasy directions:

homemade foam dough

homemade foam dough

1.  Mix equal parts of corn starch and shaving cream

homemade foam dough

2.  Add food coloring to reach the color you want, and you’re done.

homemade foam dough

homemade foam dough

homemade foam dough

Use hands to mix it and don’t be afraid to get messy. It’s. . . pretty messy.

The Foam Dough is a strange mix of light and fluffy play dough and soft, sandy mush.

homemade foam dough

homemade foam dough

Again, be forewarned: it made a mess.

One big, wild, white, powdery mess.

But we had three super-happy, blissful, powdery kids.

homemade foam dough

homemade foam dough

Maybe we made it wrong, maybe that’s what happens when you use cheapo ingredients—I can’t be sure.

But essentially, Maddy, Owen, and Cora mixed, made walls, made balls, made pancakes, and made cookies.  They smashed, squished, mushed, and squashed.

For a long, long time.

homemade foam dough

homemade foam dough

homemade foam dough

homemade foam dough

And that’s it. Just a fun way of passing a rainy afternoon.

A sensory gift for hands and an unusually fragrant, foamy dough.

 

Fyi: Many thanks to the folks at MomTrusted for introducing us to Foam Dough and creating a rockstar pin to go along with it.  And thanks to all the other parents out there who have tried it and shared it; I love the range of cool, easy-to-make kid-friendly doughs on Pinterest. AWEsome.