scratch off ticket valentines: candy-free and totally fun

scratch off ticket valentines:

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scratch off ticket valentines:

Every year the kids and I have a really fun time searching for cool Valentines to make for their class party Valentine exchange.

We don’t go super-crazy.

We just do something a little special that will hopefully make their friends and teachers smile.

It’s a yearly tradition–the search, the planning, the mess, the crafting, and the delivering. It’s a lot of fun, and honestly, I could weep thinking that this yera will be Maddy’s last year for a Valentine’s Day class party.

Next year, as a big sixth grader, there’s no time for parties. *Sob!*

So this year, we’re rocking it.

We made cool Scratch-Off Ticket Valentines that reminded us of the Scratch Off Tickets I gave them for New Year’s a few years back. But these Valentines are for their buddies.

Super easy, candy-free, and fun.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Scratch-Off Ticket Valentines–Candy-Free and Totally Fun:

So we knew the basic premise of how to make these–the scratch off part we did before. However, the Valentine’s messages and how we wanted to have kids scratch off was new to us.

scratch off ticket valentines:

What you’ll need to make thsese:

Here’s how:

1. Download the Scratch-Off Ticket Valentine template: scratch off ticket valentines |

 scratch off ticket valentines:  teachmama.comscratch off ticket valentines |


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2. Print the Scratch-Off Ticket Valentines onto cardstock.

There are six Valentines on each sheet, for a total of 12 Valentines on the document. So print accordingly.

scratch off ticket valentines:

3. Mix the mysterious Scratch-Off paint:

So tricky, right? Don’t sweat the mixing part. I’m sure it will be fine.

scratch off ticket valentines:

4. Cut small pieces of clear contact paper to completely cover the part you want scratched off. Easy.

scratch off ticket valentines:


scratch off ticket valentines:

scratch off ticket valentines:

I helped the kids with this one simply by cutting a size that worked and then placing it on top of each card. Then the kids peeled and pressed.

Peeling and smashing contact paper can be so much fun. Come on, you know it.


5. Paint the Scratch-Off paint onto the card.  Then let dry.


scratch off ticket valentines:


scratch off ticket valentines:


6. Stick a penny on the card. This is totally not necessary, but Maddy had some fun, fancy tape that she wanted to use, so we added the penny.

Most kids will have something in their desks that they can use to scratch off the tickets, like the edge of a ruler or something.

scratch off ticket valentines:

scratch off ticket valentines:

Practice first before you sign and send them all!


7. Sign and send!

We always try to address Valentines to each individual child. I think it’s much more personal, and I think the writing can only help our kids. I find it amazing that my kids have gone to school with these friends for years now and still don’t know how to spell many names.

scratch off ticket valentines:

scratch off ticket valentines:

So if possible, grab a class list and have your child address each card. Extra reading and writing help? Yes, please.

If not, then just have him or her write any of the following in the ‘to’ line:

  • my friend
  • my pal
  • YOU!
  • classmate
  • 2nd grader
  • buddy
  • amigo/ amiga

scratch off ticket valentines:


Easy, right?  And very cute.

I love how Maddy, Owen, and Cora helped find messages and decide on what to add to the cards. And we all agreed that it was cool how there was a lot of variety here–some were kind of question-answer Valentines, some were just Valentine-lovey, some were kind of gamey. You get it.


Need some other homemade Valentine ideas?

Check it out:


What are your favorite Valentine ideas for kids? I’d love to hear ’em!

Here are a few of ours:




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holiday traditions that make our family rock: what matters most

holiday traditions that make our family rock cover

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holiday traditions that make our family rock


One of my favorite parts of being a parent is establishing and celebrating traditions as a family.

And it’s funny because some things that we never really even intended to become traditions have become just that–expected, every year events that my kids eagerly anticipate.

Though I’ve written about them here and there over the years, this year I’m dragging them all out.

Each and every one of our holiday traditions.

All of the holiday traditions that make our family rock.

Or at least we think so.

These are traditions that make our family the unique and awesome and completely imperfect group that we are.

Because when it comes down to it, it’s all about what matters most, right?

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Holiday Traditions that Make Our Family Rock–What Matters Most:

For us, it’s family time.

holiday traditions that make our family rock 4

Time spent together, doing things that often don’t cost much money at all.

Our holiday traditions are pretty awesome:

  • Breakfast with Santa: At our church each season, we have a chance to throw back some seriously awesome pancakes and sausage, chat with friends, and support our parish.
  • Find the pickle ornament: The ole pickle hides in our tree every year, and the first kid who finds it gets a ‘special’ gift.
  • Kissing reindeer hunt: Part of our Advent Activity Calendar, the kissing reindeer hunt is always a fave of my kids.
  • Cookie-baking day: Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I take a break from life and spend the entire day–start to finish–baking, baking, and baking!
  • Make candy wreaths for schools: Our school and my husband’s school always loves this gift that we try to deliver early in the month so that there’s time to eat it! Though by the end, everyone’s fingers are way tired of tying, it’s always a really fun family project.

holiday traditions that make our family rock 4


  • Give shoebox gifts to less fortunate: Our local homeless shelter and church manage this event, which involves us filling shoeboxes with items for those less fortunate. We have organized events with our pals to make preparing, filling, and wrapping these boxes more fun and meaningful.
  • Empty Give Jars for needy:  Though we’re admittedly not as great with our Spend, Save, and Give Jars as I’d like, the kids do tend to keep a small amount in their Give Jar. We empty the contents in December and give it to a Salvation Army Collection point, near a local grocery store.
  • Homemade ornaments for family: We not only love unwrapping our homemade ornies each year, but we also really love giving our homemade ornies to friends and family.
  • Family photo album:  The kids know that each year they’ll find one fun photo album under the tree. It’s my personal deadline, and I’ve really brought it down to a science, the whole creating of the family photo books. It’s a lot easier than you think to make these, and the payoff? Huge.
  • Look at holiday lights: Usually when the kids least expect it, we’ll have them throw on their shoes (maybe even over pjs!), jump in the car, and take a gander around our ‘hood, in search of the most beautiful holiday light display.
  • Holiday cards on kitchen door: We send a ton of holiday cards, and we are truly grateful to receive a ton of holiday cards. As we receive the cards, we tape them to the kitchen door. We all love it–as the season progresses, our door becomes filled with our friends’ and family members’ smiling faces.


holiday traditions that make our family rock 4


  • Ugly Breakfast on Christmas morning: Ugly Breakfast is called so because the kids think it’s ugly. And it is. But it tastes oh. So. Delicious. More like a French Toast bake, it may be ugly, but man, it’s sinful.
  • Holiday card family assembly line: We do all of our holiday cards–well over 100–in one night. We have the family assembly line down to a science. One person adds address labels, another person stuffs envelopes. Another person adds stamps, another person adds the return address stamp, and the final person seals the envelope. Bam. There’s no actual handwriting. Don’t judge.
  • Holiday movies and hot cocoa: Our favorite way to spend an evening in December: Elf, Home Alone, or another holiday favorite and mugs of hot cocoa. Okay, or ice cream. Anything will do as long as it’s sweet.
  • Santa cookie tray and plate: Before the kid go up to bed, they put cookies on our Santa plate and Santa tray for the jolly ole guy. The we go grab our book.
  • Read The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve: We have several versions of this book, as well as a reading of it from my parents. We read through them all, savoring each and every word. We listen to my crazy fun parents read their version, and then it’s off to bed!
  • Wrap gifts and watch Love Actually with my sweetheart: One–or two–or three nights before Christmas, my husband and I turn on one of our favorite holiday films and wrap gifts until we can no longer stand to keep our eyes open or see another piece of tape and curling ribbon. Yes, there are a boatload of holiday movies, but this is our absolute fave.
  • Have kids participate in the Gospel Drama for our church: We’ve gone from the sheep in the wandering flock to angels to shepherds to Angel Gabriel over the years, and each year is better than the next.

holiday traditions that make our family rock | what matters most

New Year’s traditions I’ve talked about before:

  • Bingo bonanza: Bingo every New Year’s Eve, and it must involve tons of tiny, inexpensive wrapped gifts for winners. Start saving scraps of wrapping paper because it’s great to use for Bingo Bonanza gifts!
  • New Year’s Day fondue: A favorite of ours, we do fondue for New Year’s Day, and it gets easier and easier each year.

Want to download our happy little holiday traditions printable? You most certainly may: holiday traditions that rock poster

The coolest part of these traditions is that they’ve been taken from here, there, and everywhere. Some are ours–all ours. And others have come from my parents or my husband’s parents or from friends.

But together, they make our little, crazy family totally rock.

I’m biased, I know, but whatever.

holiday traditions | #forwhatmattersmost

This holiday, our friends at TYLENOL® are celebrating everything that makes families rock–everything. And they’re not talking about the picture-perfect family because we all know there’s no such thing. In fact, they’ve even taken a familiar, picture-perfect holiday painting, Freedom From Want, and they’re adapting it for today.

It’s pretty cool.

Take a look:


That’s Norman Rockwell’s granddaughter.  We’re huge Norman Rockwell fans over here.

And we’re huge fans of celebrating the every family, too.

The whole #ForWhatMattersMost campaign is one totally worth checking out.  I love the slider they created that literally morphs Freedom From Want into a more modern family. Very cool.

Go see for yourself, friends, and tell me:

What do you think? Yes, cool campaign, or not for you?




fyi: This is a sponsored post. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent and by my three sweet littles. I have received information about the TYLENOL® For What Matters Most™ campaign from McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc., the makers of TYLENOL®.  


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holiday traditions that make our family rock cover

april fools’ pranks and jokes for kids

april fools pranks and jokes for kids |

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april fools pranks and jokes for kids |

Seriously, April Fools’ Day is one of my favorite holidays, and I know that’s not normal.

I just think April Fools’ Day gives us a good excuse to get a little silly and throw a few laughs into your kids’–and our–day.   Because all too often, between  homework, activities, meetings, projects, and work, I don’t think we do enough silly things just to be silly.

So there.

I like April Fools’ Day.

I like good, clean April Fools’ pranks and jokes for kids, especially. I like unexpected, strange, and tricky.

I like April Fools’ pranks and jokes that make us do a double-take, ones that don’t hurt and are never super-scary.

And for as long as I can remember, googly eyes make me laugh hard–so I use them a lot.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • April Fools’ Pranks and Jokes for Kids:  I say ‘kids’ but really, these little sillies can be used for anyone with a decent sense of humor.

And as with anything you do with–and for–your kids, of course you must use your discretion. Like if your child is totally frightened of flies, don’t play a fly joke on him. Or if your spouse’s worst nightmare is to fall into a pit of snakes, then maybe you don’t pull out the fake snake.

Take a look at a quickie, three-minute look at all things April Fools’ pranks and jokes for kids:



 fyi: The 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!

april fools pranks and jokes for kids |

Our many hilarious ideas include: 

More April Fools’ Day ideas: 


Follow our board on Pinterest for more April Fools’ day ideas: 


Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board april fools’ & simple, silly tricks on Pinterest.

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how every family should celebrate martin luther king, jr day

building compassion with children through community service

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fun ways to celebrate martin luther king jr day

I love the idea of doing some sort of service project for the community to honor Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy.  Imagine how great the world would be if every family did something small for others to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

It would be amazing.

And the awesome thing is that there are dozens and dozens of fun ways that families can work together to give back and all year, but especially in January, when we mark , Dr. King’s birthday.

In 1957, Dr. King said, ‘Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’

This year, my family will very easily be able to answer that question.

Will yours?

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How Every Family Should Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Choose something. Anything. Just make sure it’s some way of serving others.

Some things that your family can do to give back:


building compassion with children through community service

building compassion with children through community service: Pink and Green Mama


Parenting Children with Grateful Hearts and Generous Spirits; Gratitude Garage Sale

parenting with grateful hearts– gratitude garage sale: Educators’ Spin on It

surprise happy day notes

Some cool crafts you can do together that will spark discussion:


Read about MLK & learn about service:


What will you and your family do? How will you mark this day and carry on MLK’s legacy of service?


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easy, homemade new year’s eve shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

homemade party shakers

Any time we can use recyclables for learning or play, it’s a win in my book.

So each year as New Year’s Eve approaches, we clean out our recycle bin and put some of those small containers to use for easy, homemade shakers!

All you need are a few containers, beads, and ribbon, and you and your kiddos will be rockin’ and rollin’, shakin; and celebrating on New Year’s Eve—or any time of the year.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Easy, Homemade New Year’s Eve Shakers:  Really, we’ve been making these for years and take them to every New Year’s Eve shindig we’re invited to.

easy homemade new years shakers

We often leave them at the party or make enough for every child to have one. Maddy, Owen, and Cora love making them because they’re simple and easy to personalize.

All you’ll need are a few things.

easy homemade new years shakers

You’ll need:

  • Clean, dry recyclables (from applesauce or fruit cups, yogurt or jell-o)
  • Beads or anything that will make sounds when shaken
  • Baubles or anything fun (small silk flowers, jewels, etc)
  • Ribbon
  • Hot glue (this is a job for adults!)

What we do first is dump out all of the containers and play match-up.  Have the kids find pairs of every container. It’s not necessary that the pieces match exactly, but it makes gluing them easier.

easy homemade new years shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

Then fill!  Add beads and baubles to one container, and have fun with it!  The container need not be totally filled. Fill only about ¼ of the way full so there’s room to shake and make some noise.

Once the kids have filled the bottom of their shaker,  it’s time to  glue!  I hot glued around the perimeter of the container and then secured the other container, rim to rim.  The hot glue should seal the edges so that when it is shaken, the beads will stay in.

easy homemade new years shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

Then add ribbon.

The kids can choose a ribbon from our ribbon box, and I add it to the middle of the shaker, where both containers meet. I secured it with hot glue.

And that’s it.

easy homemade new years shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

Make them fancy, make them plain.

Make them out of two containers or make them out of one—it doesn’t matter. Though if I do make a shaker out of another recyclable with a lid, I’m sure to hot glue the top shut so that a little guy won’t grab it, open it, and try to eat those beads.

I love giving the kids a challenge when it comes to making these. Sometimes I’ll see if they can make:

-single colored shakers

-bi-colored shakers

-black & white shakers

-flower garden shaker

-rainbow themed shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

easy homemade new years shakers

It’s fun. And if we can add a little learning to the mix, why not?

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2014 full of fun and learning!

Need some more fun New Year’s ideas?

Check out:

the polar express night: a holiday family tradition

the polar express night: a holiday family tradition

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polar express night The following guest post is written by Karen Blake. Karen is a teacher, mom of three, and aunt of many.  She’s a lover of traditions and is quite honestly one of the most creative and crafty friends I have.


Traditions are my favorite.

And Christmas traditions are the absolute BEST!

My husband, Doug, and I have  a number of fun traditions with our three little ones, Keegan (4 years old), Brigid (2) and Declan (10 months), but one of my all-time favorite traditions was started way before my little family of five was created.

That tradition is Polar Express Night, or as my nieces and nephews like to call it, P.E.N.  And this holiday tradition was put into place way before the movie came to the big screen!

  • Polar Express Night–A Holiday Family Tradition:

Here’s a little bit of history on how this night came about.  I’ll try my best to make it brief, but I want you to see how this fun family event has evolved.

I went to college to become a teacher.  It was in my children’s literature class, that I discovered Chris Van Allsburg’s  book, The Polar Express.

polar express night -

I fell in love with this story and it was on that day that I knew I would do something special with my students once I graduated and had my very own classroom.

Well, that dream came true.  Every single year, I would read The Polar Express to my students.

The students would bring blankets and sit on the floor, and I would hand out hot chocolate and cookies and then read the story.  At the end, I would give each child a bell. I called each student separately and as I put the bell around their neck, I would say to them:

polar express quote:

I always teared up when I did this, too, and I was sure my fifth graders thought I was a nut!

This classroom tradition was special to me, but it wasn’t until former students would come back to school to visit during the holidays, wearing their bells and telling me how they will never forget our Polar Express Day, that made me realize what that message really meant to them.

So, because of this, I started a Polar Express Night with my nieces and nephews (who were, and still are, the world to me!).

How Polar Express Night (P.E.N.) began:

When I started P.E.N, there were seven nieces and nephews.  This was 12 years ago.  Since then, we have gained two more nephews, one more niece and my three babies.  I was single and living on my own in my small townhouse when I invited my 7 nieces and nephews (ranging from age 2-9) over for a special story.

polar express night -

They were so cute and little and so very excited.  I did exactly what I had been doing in my classroom.

We read the story, drank hot cocoa (with lots and lots of marshmallows and whipped cream, of course) and cookies and they each received their bell.  Those were the simple days.

Oh my, how P.E.N has grown! 

My 2nd year, I decided to have them all spend the night.  It was just the best!  We all got in our jammies, ate pizza and went on with the tradition we started the year before.  I couldn’t give them bells again, so they all received a special holiday mug from me.

polar express night -

polar express night -

The whole night and the gifts just got bigger and bigger as the years went on!  This is why still today, I hold P.E.N– and even the niece and nephew that are in college can’t wait for this night.

Each P.E.N is unique and special. 

I wanted each P.E.N. to be unique and special, so in addition to the book, we would have an activity.

But of course, each year had to be different.

polar express night -

Here are some of our yearly P.E.N activities:

The year that new traditions started.

The year that The Polar Express movie came out on DVD and that really helped with “activity time”!  That’s when new traditions started.

We now start with the book and then we put the movie on and pop the popcorn (everyone has a job: marshmallow person, chocolate shaver, pour the packet of hot cocoa helper, whipped cream squirter, stirrer, server, etc).

polar express night -

We don’t drink our hot chocolate or eat our cookies until that scene of the movie comes on!  Honestly, we start the movie, hit pause when that specific train scene comes on and then we all grab our cup of yumminess and handful of cookies and we sing along to the Hot Chocolate song.

And yes, the kids have aged and they are no longer ages 2-7, they are now 12 years older and still singing and having fun.

So, for the past several years, the Polar Express Night plan has been:

  1. eat pizza,
  2. read the book,
  3. watch the movie (with all of the treats),
  4. do an activity.

Some of the activities have been:

P.E.N has a new home and continues to grow.

In 2007, I was newly married and in my new house.  I’m not sure my husband knew what he was getting into!  I was now out of my small townhouse and in my new home, which meant more room!

polar express night -

Thank goodness, because everyone was bigger and this gave P.E.N a new level of excitement.  Aunt Karen had more space to run around and we didn’t have to sleep on top of each other.

Each year that we gained a new niece or nephew, it too brought a new level of excitement.  The older kids were excited to share this special night with their new cousin.  Most of the kids didn’t start the sleepover part until they were 4 or older, but we never let them think they were missing out on anything.  They stayed until the movie ended and we just pretended it was bedtime after that!

And when Karen’s babies arrived?

I couldn’t wait to have my own children and have them be a part P.E.N too, but when my first child was due two months before Christmas I just didn’t know what I was going to do.  Do I have Polar Express Night with a two-month-old?

Silly question, Karen, of course you do!  What would Christmas be without it?

So, when you are the aunt of 9 nieces of nephews and have your newborn little son, you have Polar Express Night and you have a blast.  And when you have 10 nieces and nephews, a 2 year old and a 4 month old SUPER colicky baby girl, you still have Polar Express Night, because again, what would Christmas be without it?

And then when you have a 3 year old, 17 month old, and you’re 8 months pregnant, you STILL have P.E.N, because what would Christmas be without it?!

No regrets.  None.  I would be sad if I didn’t have those memories.  Who needs sleep anyway??!!

Polar Express Night is everyone’s favorite.

So, now we have a total of 13 beautiful people that look forward to this tradition.  My youngest, Declan, will experience his first this year, and it will be memorable for all.  Every niece and nephew finds the excitement in introducing this tradition to their little cousin.

My toughest part of the night? What creative activity and gift do I come up with?  I put that pressure on myself, because I want to make it perfect for them, but I know that isn’t the important part.

polar express night -

polar express night -

Some of the gifts I’ve given are:

  • the holiday t-shirt,
  • the mug,
  • a snowman making kit,
  • a grab bag,
  • Polar Express pillow cases,
  • gift cards to their favorite places,
  • and many more.

My favorite?  The “I survived Aunt Karen’s Polar Express Night” t-shirt!

polar express quote

The best part of that was when we all happened to go to church at the same time the day after P.E.N and all of the kids were in their t-shirt!  This sure did make me smile, and I laughed out loud when someone tapped my mother on the shoulder and said, “Who is Aunt Karen and what is Polar Express Night?”

Memories to last a lifetime.

The most important thing is that a group of boys and girls that love being together are making memories that will last a long time. Maybe they will even continue this tradition years and years down the road when I’m just “too tired”!!!  That won’t be anytime soon, though–I can guarantee that!

I love to hear the whole gang discuss the memorable moments.

polar express quote

They like to remember the laughs that they have had, the arguments on who would be the “whipped cream squirter” for the night, what team won family trivia, who had the best gingerbread house, and we always find ourselves trying to list the gifts that they received each year.  I will admit, some have been quite memorable!

What P.E.N means to me.

I’m looking forward to my 2013 P.E.N.  I’m sure that some of the teenage nieces and nephews may think they are getting a bit old for it, but I believe that deep down, they  just don’t want to miss out and truly do love it as much as I do.  Hopefully when they all wake up the next day, and I feed them their stacks of pancakes and piles of bacon (I truly feel like a diner cook), they will think, “I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on this.”

polar express night -

I recently emailed my college niece and asked her what this night means to her.  Here is her response:

“Polar express night means a lot to me. It’s not just time to spend with cousins, because we do that plenty during the year, but it really makes us appreciate each other.  We all have roles to play and we know everyone’s favorite part of both the movie and the night in general. For some, it’s the cookies, for others it trivia, and for some it’s hot chocolate.

One thing that has been pretty special is welcoming new cousins to it. When we started, Ryan didn’t sleep over, or James and last year James did for the first time. Not to mention your new babies, that adds a great addition, not just because they are cute, but because we become more responsible with them around.

We have more tolerance for each other -which is a little bit bad to say- but through those arguments/tiffs that occur every once and while we are given an opportunity to apologize and grow. polar express quote 2

Christmas day is wonderful, as is Christmas Eve, however Polar Express Night offers something extra that those other days don’t. It is a night to spend with the people that will be your friends for life, the people you can tell anything to, laugh with and cry with. They have felt the same sadness as you, and the same pride, that comes with being a member of the Collins family. I love Polar Express night and couldn’t imagine Christmas without it.”

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  And remember, believe in the magic of Christmas!

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, Karen,  for sharing this fun and meaningful holiday tradition with us!


karen blake guest post teachmama.comKaren spent 13 years in the classroom, teaching 5th grade and doing what she could to make her students’ learning meaningful and magical. Now, she’s at home raising her 4, 2, and 1 year old, tutoring students, and working for Rendi, where she captures families’ magical memories for sharing and display.  Right now, she’s most likely busy planning this year’s Polar Express party for her many little bell-ringers.

Find out more about Rendi and check out Karen’s pins on family and learning!

Looking for more wintertime activities to add to your family’s traditions? Check out:

Or check out any of teachmama’s posts on Christmas or traditions!
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holiday card stencils and balloon stamps

holiday stencils and balloon painting

holiday stencils and balloon painting cover

Thank you Dollar Tree and the Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club for making this post possible!  

This year, we’re spicing our holiday cards up a bit.

For the past few years, our cards have become super-quick assembly line of envelope-stuffing, sealing, and stamping. Even our address labels are stickers.

This time, we’re spicing our cards up a bit. Actually, some help from Dollar Tree, we’re spicing up our holiday card envelopes.  That’s right—the very first thing our friends and family will see from us, and it’s going to be totally rockstar.

We’re taking the Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club craft, Balloon Painting, to a whole new level.

We’ve made super-simple stencils from Dollar Tree posterboard and a stamper out of Dollar Tree balloons. A few swirls of poster paint and a bit of time to dry, and we have very simply added a pretty, festive, fancy touch to our holiday cards.


Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Holiday Card Stencils and Balloon Stamps:

holiday stencils balloon painting

holiday stencils balloon painting

Really, all we did was slightly modify the super-easy steps on the Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club Balloon Painting tutorial and change our colors.

This is a holiday craft that my kiddos loved because though they stuff our holiday cards every year, this year, the fun factor was a bit higher. We all had more fun looking at our blinged out envelopes compared to the plain-Jane white envelopes of holidays past.

No matter what you put inside your holiday cards this year, it’s what you put on the outside of your card that will get people talking.

holiday stencils balloon painting

You’ll need:

  • Blank envelopes
  • Poster paint
  • Balloons
  • Disposable plate and knife
  • one piece of poster board

holiday stencils balloon painting

1.  First, we created holiday-inspired stencils. We wanted small and simple, and we wanted three basic designs.  We made a tree, a star, and a package.

Want some Holiday Stencils so you can do some balloon painting? You can download the stencil template here: wintertime holiday stencils

2.  Then we cut out the shapes on the posterboard.

3.  Then we dropped paint. We put coordinating paint blobs on a disposable plate: yellow, green and blue for the tree; red, purple, and white for the package; and yellow and orange for the star.

The kids slightly, ever so gently swirled the paint on the plate with a knife to blend the colors.

holiday stencils balloon painting

4.  Next came the balloons! We partially blew up a few balloons, and this is what Maddy, Owen, and Cora loved. We talked about how the balloon needed to be just the right size so that we could hold it without slipping and so it wouldn’t pop as we stamped it.

5.  Finally, we stamped, stamped, and stamped some more!  We used the balloons as stamps, filling in the holiday stencils on the front of each envelope.

holiday stencils balloon painting

holiday stencils balloon painting


holiday stencils balloon painting

holiday stencils balloon painting

We let the envelopes dry completely.

And that’s it—so quick and so simple, but a really extra-special touch to holiday cards.

Don’t have time to balloon paint your holiday card envelopes? No problem!

holiday stencils balloon painting

Consider using Holiday Card Stencils and Balloon Stamps to:

  • make your holiday cards
  • make holiday gift tags
  • decorate holiday gift bags
  • make simple holiday ornaments

The possibilities are endless, though the craft is so simple!

holiday stencils balloon painting finished


Contest is closed as of 12/26/13. . . winner chosen by is Tara Z.

GIVEAWAY: $100 Dollar Tree gift card

Do you want to win $100 Dollar Tree gift card??!  Yes, yes you do.

  • Then leave a comment below sharing which project from the club you want to try first.


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

This giveaway ends Thursday, December 26, 2013 at midnight ET. Winner will be chosen by  and will be notified on or around 12/26/13.  Winner must respond within one (1) day of notification or forfeit the prize, in which case an alternate winner will be selected.  All Official Sweepstakes Rules apply.

fyi: This post was made possible by a partnership between Dollar Tree Value Seekers Club and The Blueprint Social.  As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and my three little holiday-crafters.


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

must have gifts for kids and families |

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers |


kids and family gift guide from


teachmama gift guide 2012



holiday gift guide |


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!

holiday cards that rock: minted

holiday cards that rock minted

holiday cards that rock minted

I have found the holy grail of holiday photo cards: minted.

Really. I love nearly every single thing about this company, because what once took me hours up on hours upon hours and a boatload of stress and anxiety now takes me minutes and is actually–dare I say–fun.

minted is a company I’ve used before for our holiday cards, and each time I use them, I’m more and more convinced that this company creates cards that rock.

But that’s not the only thing that is totally awesome about minted. minted as a company rocks. From the promotions to the blog to contests and support they offer to rising star photographers, they’re really a cool company.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Holiday Cards that Rock–minted: I wouldn’t have found minted if not for their holiday photo cards, so that’s what I love first and foremost.

I love that I can find my cards quickly.  I can upload a photo and see that photo in a ton of cards. Their Find it Fast(tm) option makes choosing my favorite card much easier.

I love that I can save my favorites. By clicking a tiny heart next to the card, all my favorites are grouped together.

I love the options.  I can see the cards I like in a variety of options–color schemes and holiday themes.

I love the sharing.  My designs can be saved or shared via social media platforms, emailed, or pinned.

holiday cards that rock minted


holiday cards that rock minted

I love the cost. There’s always some sort of super promotion running on their site–you never have to buy cards at full price.

I love that it’s personal.  Each design features the artist behind the creation and that I can click on the link to see the other work by that artist.

I love the excitement.  There’s always a cool contest going on that lets me in on the newest and most fabulous artists and designers.

I love their blog. The minted blog, julep, is simply. . . rockstar. Great ideas, photos, tutorials–all simple, timely, and worthwhile.

holiday cards that rock minted

holiday cards that rock minted


That’s it. Check them out. It’s not too late–and you’ll be glad you did.

And when your cards arrive, put your kids to work like we usually do–create a family-style holiday card assembly line!


fyi: I did receive a handful of minted holiday photo cards in exchange for sharing my love for minted with my readers, but as always, my opinions and ideas are my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent and educator and holiday-card sender.

k-cup advent calendar: make it a thoughtful, thankful holiday

kcup advent calendar

post contains affiliate links




kcup advent calendar We’re longtime fans of the advent calendar and and longtime fans of coffee.

When we stepped up our game last year and sprung for a Keurig, every day became a little more awesome, starting our day with a rockin’ cuppa java.  But those discarded k-cups?

As a longtime lover of recyclables, my guilt at adding to our world’s landfills started to grow exponentially with each tossed k-cup.

So for the past few months, I’ve been racking my brain for ways to use our empty k-cups for crafts and learning. Much like we’ve used recyclables in the past, I knew they would come in handy.


We’ve got a lot of things brewing, but most timely, is of course, our diy k-cup advent calendar.

Super-cute, inexpensive, homemade advent calendar using k-cups.  Bam.

We love how it turned out. I’m confident that this sweet calendar will help us to keep this advent season a thoughtful, thankful one for our whole family.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • K-Cup Advent Calendar–Make it a Thoughtful, Thankful Holiday:

Though it looks a little involved, you can pull this diy k-cup advent calendar together in a fraction of the time it will take you to gather 24 empty k-cups.



kcup advent calendar

Each little cup holds 3 things: a kiss, the day’s advent activity, and a little reminder to be thankful.

So start collecting.  Brew yourself a cafe mocha or a pumpkin spice coffee, and read on.  Then get crafting.

You’ll need:

Once you’ve got your supplies together, you’re ready to go.

1. Clean your k-cups: Cleaning them is a cinch.

For coffee k-cups:


kcup advent calendar cleaning kcups

For hot chocolate k-cups:kcup hot chocolate cleaning


Let them dry completely.kcup advent calendar


2. Create your advent activity calendar.  We use the same basic one each year–our advent activity calendar.  It’s a holiday-time calendar that includes tons of our favorite holiday activities, like cookie-baking, gift-making, and carol-singing while giving us ample opportunities to reflect, give back, and be thankful.

You can download our advent activity calendar 2013 here as a easy, quick printable or as an advent activity calendar 2013 word doc that you can modify and make your own.

Be sure to print out two copies–one that you can keep as a reference and the other that you can cut.  Each day of advent will have one square of the calendar tucked inside.

3. Make your tree.  Your tree is what your k-cups will rest on, and it needs to be sturdy enough to survive your kids’ handling.

kcup advent calendar tree

  • Make your cardboard tree. Each of our sides are 18″, and the bottom is 10″. Our tree trunk is midway between the bottom, and it’s 3 1/2″ long and 2 3/4″ high.
  • Cut three cardboard trees. Remember, the tree needs to be thick.

kcup advent calendar tree

  • Using the duct tape, tape your tree together.
  • Grab your ribbon and loop it then staple it to the back of the tree.

4.  Make your thankful discs. I used my Fiskars medium squeeze punch for my circles, but you could totally use anything. I cut 24 discs out of our cardstock, and then I walked over to our Thankful Graffiti Board and copied exactly what I saw there onto the circles.

kcup advent calendar grateful disc

kcup advent calendar grateful disc

kcup advent tree - 44

I wanted our family to remember what we expressed gratitude for through November into the whirlwind that sometimes is December, and I knew that after the treat was taken out and advent activity taken, we’d have a whole lot of time to stare at empty cups.  Here’s to hoping the thankful discs are a pretty, simple reminder of all of the greatness in our lives.

5. Cut tissue paper circle and number them. Trace the open end of a k-cup onto tissue paper and cut it out. Then cut 23 more circles all the same size. Number each circle from 1-24.

kcup advent calendar

kcup advent calendar

Each number represents a day in the month of December.

kcup advent calendar

kcup advent calendar

kcup advent calendar


6. Assemble your diy k-cup advent calendar!

kcup advent calendar how to

  • Use a tiny dab of hot glue to secure the thankful disc to the inside of each k-cup.
  • Using the pushpins, pin each k-cup into the tree. The rows should be: 1 k-cup; 2 k-cups; 3 k-cups; 3 k-cups; 4 k-cups; 4 k-cups; 5 k-cups; 2 k-cups. If you measured your tree the same way I did, your cups should fit tightly together.

kcup advent calendar how to


kcup advent calendar how to

kcup advent calendar how to

  • Load ’em up! Put the correct advent activity in each day along with a Hershey’s Kiss into each cup.
  • Make 5-6 tiny dots of hot glue around the circumference of each k-up and secure the tissue paper on it.

kcup advent calendar how to

kcup advent calendar how to

Hang, and you are ready to rock and roll!

 kcup advent calendar how to

 kcup advent calendar

And that’s it!

We think it’s pretty cool.

Look forward to other ideas down the road for using k-cups.  And feel free to share your own–let’s put those little guys to good use, shall we?

Happy, healthy, peaceful advent season to you!



fyi: affiliate links are used in this post


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


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

make a veggie turkey: kid-happy, thanksgiving dinner-ready

veggie turkey vegetable turkey

veggie turkey vegetable turkey It’s no secret that I have kids who usually love to be in the kitchen–whether it’s trying a new food or helping with a new recipe, my kiddos are usually game.

So when I asked for some help in ‘upping the fun factor’ of our assigned dish for an early family Thanksgiving last weekend, my kids were up for the challenge.

Well, two kiddos were. . .

Vegetables and dip? Sure we can bring it.

But how could we make it more. . . fun?  Could we rock out a veggie turkey? A vegetable tray times 10?  Forget about the ole boring plate and dip bowl, with all the vegetables circled neatly around it.

We were going to get creative.  I was going to harness the imaginations of my three kids and come up with a rockin, kid-happy, party-ready veggie turkey tray like never seen before.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Make a Veggie Turkey– Kid-Happy, Thanksgiving Dinner-Ready: Cora has been a kitchen helper lately.

Owen’s usually trying desperately to play soccer with the big boys across the street, and Maddy comes and goes.

make a veggie turkey: kid-happy, thanksgiving dinner-ready

Yes. Don’t judge us. Fresh veggies and a store-bought pumpkin pie. We can only do so much.

One day she’s all about throwing on her apron and helping, and other days, well. . . she’s got other more important things to attend to.  I get it.  She’s almost ten.

Anyway, this time, Maddy, Cora, and I put our heads together to come up with a rockin Thanksgiving dinner veggie turkey that I think we’ll add to our traditions list each year.

It was simple and fun.  Like painting but with food.

make a veggie turkey: kid-happy, thanksgiving dinner-ready

make a veggie turkey: kid-happy, thanksgiving dinner-ready

Here’s what we did:

  • turkey body: we used a quarter of a yellow pepper
  • turkey eyes: we cut slits in the pepper and shoved in mini cucumber wedges
  • turkey beak: triangle of orange pepper
  • turkey waddle: (is that what it’s even called??) red pepper
  • turkey feet: orange pepper
  • turkey feathers: carrot sticks, yellow and orange peppers, tiny cucumbers, grape tomatoes
  • turkey feet: orange peppers
  • grass: broccoli
  • flowers: peppers and tomatoes

vegetable turkey

vegetable turkey

After Maddy left the scene, Cora took over.

She was all about creating patterns in the turkey feathers with the veggies.  I was totally game and really just wanted to support what she was doing.

She was thinking creatively and using her brain.

She was having a blast.

vegetable turkey

vegetable turkey

Finished turkey sitting on grass with flowers all around him.  Obviously.

And our finished turkey? Tons of fresh vegetables and a very proud Cora.

Dip? On the side. Separate plate. Our turkey was way too big!

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

thanksgiving pinterest board

Super-simple and yes, there are probably a million ways to create a veggie turkey–which is why this was so much fun. There was really no wrong way.

Have you made one before? We’d love to see photos! Please share!

And have a super-happy Thanksgiving!