how to help kids choose just right books

how to help kids choose just right books

how to help kids choose just right booksIt’s hard to watch a child struggle trying to read a book that is too difficult, especially when the kiddo is adamant about plowing through it.  Whether the struggles be with decoding the words on the page, with reading fluently, or with understanding what’s being read, it’s hard to watch.

Because though for many of us reading comes naturally and without thought, for others, reading is a continual struggle.  A long and laborious, difficult and painstaking process.

That’s why book choice is so important.

Muy importante.

Like really, really, really important.

Though children do need to be able to choose the books they read, if the child doesn’t choose a book that ‘fits’, it can really be downhill from there. He or she can get into a pattern of choosing books that won’t fit, making reading difficult and unpleasant.

But there are techniques and strategies that parents can employ to help guide children into choosing the ‘best fit’ books for their kids—books that match the child’s own strengths and abilities.

Nothing fancy or difficult, just a few quick reminders that your child can commit to memory that will ultimately provide him or her with skills that will make trips to the school library, media center, or book corner a whole lot more meaningful.

Here’s the skinny . . .

  • How to Help Kids Choose Just Right Books: I say it loud and clear right here. . .


And if you want the bookmarks to use for your own kiddos or classroom, please help yourself.

Best Fit Bookmarks: best fit books bookmarks

best fit bookmarks |

best fit books bookmarks |

I’d appreciate a pin, link back, tweet, or shout if you do choose to use them.  And if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear ’em!

(And if you choose to share them, which we hope you do, please link to this post instead of to the attachment page! Thank you!)

How do you help kids choose just right books? Let me know what has worked for you in the comments section below.

target school library makeovers: what they are and why you should care

target school library makeover

post contains affiliate links


target school library makeover


Maybe you’ve heard or maybe you haven’t, but Target is big on giving back to the community.

So big they’re on track to give $1 billion to education by 2015.

I’d say that’s pretty big.

And as a parent and teacher and wife of a school administrator and mother of three children who attend public school, I think it’s pretty cool that Target gives back to the community this way.  And honestly? I think more people should know about it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Target School Library Makeovers–What They Are And Why You Should Care:  Though I was able to attend a Give With Target event last spring in Baltimore and actually chat with Good Luck, Charlie star Bridgit Mendler, I had not attended a school library makeover.

So this week I did. And it was crazy. Electric. Exciting. Emotional.


Really, really cool, for so many reasons.

target school library makeover

target school library makeover

Here’s a quick vlog of my Target School Library Makeover & Meals for Minds Experience:

Did you know that:

  • Target started the school library makeover program in 2007?
  • since 2007, Target has renovated more than 150 school libraries?
  • Target donated more than 1.3 million books to schools and students?
  • more than 75,000 students have been impacted through this program but that by the end of 2013, more than 93,000 students will be impacted??

target school library makeover

target school library makeover

target school library makeover

  • Target team members have donated more than 107,000 hours to renovate libraries across the country?
  • Target partners with local food banks for Meals for Minds and that every school eligible for a library makeover have the option of receiving a Target Meals for Minds food pantry?
  • Meals for Minds gives each student and his or her family more than 22 lbs of food on a monthly basis, with 25% of the the total pounds of food to be fresh produce?

target school library makeover

target school library makeover

  • students are also given books to take home as part of this program so they can build their own at-home libraries?
  • Target gives back 5% of its profit to communities, which today equals about 4 million dollars a week?

Want more information? Check out Target’s Corporate Responsibility for Education-related giving and more information.

Take a look at all of the photos from my close-up of a Target School Library Makeover in Baltimore, Maryland:



Want to know which books each child from this school will be taking home?

I did–and you can print the list (Target School Library Makeover Take-Home Book List) or check it out below:











Sibling Books


Want to check these books out? Do it!

target inner circleOr print the list and check them out another time: (Target School Library Makeover Take-Home Book List)

As one of the Target Inner Circle members, I’ve been privy to some serious behind-the-scenes with this company, and though I’ve learned a ton, I tend to share only the stuff that I think my readers—primarily parents and teachers of school-aged children—would care about.

Here’s to hoping everyone finds this Target school library makeover and the programs Target gives back to the community as worthwhile as I.  Spreading the word about these community-based programs can help support and grow them, knowing that 5% of Target’s income will go back to these programs.  Or consider recommending schools you think would benefit from the services. It’s worth it.

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

beautiful, easy homemade flower barrettes

beautiful homemade flower barrettes

beautiful homemade flower barrettesWhile we were at the craft store this past weekend, picking up some supplies for Maddy’s after school club and for Cora’s Butterfly Birthday Playdate this weekend, we stumbled upon this AWEsome springtime craft.

Beautiful, easy homemade flower barrettes.

So beautiful. Like really, gorgeous and WOW! Beautiful.

So easy. Like made in under five minutes easy.

Maddy and Cora and I are in love with them.

And they will make the little loves in your life smile huge this Spring Break if you make ‘em. Promise.

Actually, make ’em any time and you’ll find love fast.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Beautiful, Easy Homemade Flower Barrettes: So pretty, right? I know.

You only need a few things to make these babies, and one trip to the craft store will do it.  Any craft store will have ’em but if you want to use these links, feel free:

Believe it. That’s all you need.   Maybe, if you want to get really fancy, you can add some gems and bling, but you don’t need to.

Now the whole deal, the start to finish, how-to-make-beautiful-easy-homemade-flower-barrettes is here in a quickie little vlog:

I love how beautiful these flower barrettes are but how totally simple they are to make.

I love that Maddy and Cora could ‘shop’ for their flowers and then wear them in their hair the very same day.

I love that my girls are not afraid to wear big, gorgeous, gaudy flowers in their hair to school, to the park, to anywhere.  Because it just really makes me smile.

Talk about a fun, simple, sweet springtime–or any time craft!   If your kids are old enough to help you with the glue-gun or help you with the cutting, it’s great fine motor skill work; if not, then put them to work in the choosing of flowers, arranging of leaves and petals, or blinging with some gems!

Have another idea for gorgeous barrettes? Have success adding something else totally cool to your own barrettes? Let me know! We’d love to add to our collection!


fyi: Amazon affiliate links are used in this post. Please feel free to use them–always appreciated because every little bit helps!

classic toys with an educational spin: melissa & doug at toy fair 2013

melissa doug toy fair

melissa doug toy fair I practically just walked in the door from spending several days in New York City for one of the world’s largest toy events—Toy Fair.

And though my feet are sore and my brain is swimming with buzzing, moving, brightly colored puzzles, lovies, games and more–of every shape and size–the teacher in me really spent time seeking toys that had some sort of educational or creative thinking spin.

I saw a whole lot of classic toys ramped up–a lot of classic toys 2.0–so that kids got a bit more when playing. And this mama loved the extra educational value packed into most of what I saw.

So boy did I find what I was looking for.

The majority of my time was spent hanging with the good folks from Melissa & Doug, and I’m thrilled about what they’ve got coming this year.

What I found at Melissa & Doug were about 200 fab new products, but three things in particular caught my eye: classic toys with an educational spin.  I loved the Skill Builder line, the expanded Craft & Create — line, and the new K’s Kids baby line.

M & D media breakfast

Photo bombed by Doug at the Media Breakfast: Valerie, Doug, Anna of Melissa & Doug, and me

Thrilled to share a teeny bit of the ocean of excitement from Toy Fair 2013, the Melissa & Doug highlights for this New For Us Friday.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Classic Toys With an Educational Spin–Melissa & Doug at Toy Fair 2013: Though I do look forward to taking a closer look at these products once they’re out for the public to purchase, my overview during a few days at Toy Fair did provide me with a smart look into the awesome that is sure to be 2013 and toys.

toy fair melissa & doug

Skill Builders: Tons of Melissa & Doug products could be considered ‘skill builders’ for dozens of reasons, but these new ones they’ve got coming? They made me want to dance.

Sort! Match! Attach! Nuts & Bolts Boards bring together puzzle challenge with fine-motor skill boost.  I know that kiddos will love to tackle this set for the pure fun of it, but I am sure that the sneaky learning that parents can incorporate into play will give them more bang for their buck.

toy fair melissa & doug skill builders

toy fair melissa & doug clock

toy fair melissa & doug

Clocks! Totally love the Turn & Tell Clock, which marries the analog and digital and makes learning how to tell time (so tricky!) a wee bit easier and a lot more fun for our little ones. This sturdy play clock has multicolored hands, numbers and a segmented color disk to help with ‘quarter past’ and ‘half past’ and double-sided time cards for practice. Love. It. Totallyneedtohaveit.

The Add-a-Fish Penguin Balance was also so cute–a penguin with outstretched arms who is trying desperately to keep the fish in his hands balanced and equal, I could see this used at home or in the classroom.

toy fair melissa & doug first calendar

The whole Creative Classroom line was expanded to include some really awesome pattern and sequencing cards and some storytelling sets; these come in the wooden boxes and have a similar feel to some of the wooden manipulatives, but these were a whole new ballgame.  It seemed that a lot of the media who I showed around our booth were really into these sets because the games offered not only a hands-on learning experience that children could use independently, but they also provided a world of learning in terms of storytelling, listening and speaking, sequencing, and specific skill-building: phonological awareness (even some identifying sounds in isolation games!), math, social studies, science, and more.  Very cool.

melissa talks about classic toys

My First Calendar? So want it. Similar to the layout of the Magnetic Responsibility Chart, My First Calendar is perfect for schools or home. I would love to have Maddy, Owen, and Cora update the calendar before or after we read the newspaper each morning at breakfast because it covers the month, day, year, date, weather, even today’s feelings. YES.

toy fair melissa & doug k's kids

toy fair melissa & doug k's kids

Melissa & Doug K’s Kids Toys: These toys promote skill-building in babies!  Love.  I especially adored the Pop Blocs Crocodile, but all of these products were really fabulous. This line was created to engage our tiniest ones in multi-sensory play, touch, sight, sound, and even smell.  Though they may seem like simple baby toys, but these toys actually grow with the child by providing learning and play through multiple stages of development.

toy fair melissa & doug melissa

Melissa, sharing news about the K’s Kids line

The soft Pull-Back Vehicles really pull back and zoom! The Pop Blocs Crocodile is a set of four blocks that fit inside a crocodile, and depending on the number of blocks used, the croc is either short (with no blocks) or really, really long (with all four). The Musical Pull Behive is a sweet musical pull toy–sure there are many out there, but the sweet face on this bee and the quality of the piece are really worth checking, and I can totally see my tree littles having loved the Hungry Pelican–a plush toy that you can actually ‘feed’ with smaller ones.

toy fair melissa & doug craft create

Craft & Create Line: The entire Craft & Create line has been expanded (woot!) and I’m really loving what Melissa & Doug will be sharing in 2013. totally loved these because they are sets that include an idea book and all of the supplies kids need to create a cool final product.

One of the things that Melissa explained during the week was that she always wanted to create craft sets that allowed her kids to end up with something. She wanted to provide kids with something that was engaging and fun and then have, in their hands, a final product they could be proud of.  And totally in line with her goal are the crafty products for 2013.

toy fair melissa & doug

melissa and craft lines

They’ll be sharing sets like Felt Friends Stickers, Face Painting, and Mixed Metal Jewelry among others–and I’m really looking forward to these. Love that they encourage kids to follow directions and offer choices for them to make along the way.  And the final product? What’s not to love?

More on the crafty front are Magical Masterpieces, some really awesome Peel n’ Press sets, and stickers galore.  We’re huge fans of all of the paint and stickers over here, so I look forward to sharing more as they are put out on the shelves!

 We were thrilled to host a Media Breakfast on Tuesday morning, complete with a tour given by Melissa. Please check out our photos:


media breakfast

Val, Sherry of Babypop, Silke of Mama Latina en Philly, and me

media breakfast

Val, Natalie of Twiniversity, and me

media breakfast

Lance and Matt of NYC Dads Group, lots of stuffed animals, and me

media breakfast

the whole media breakfast she-bang shoved into a teeny photo with Melissa & Doug

And that’s it–only the beginning of course, but such an incredible whirlwind of toys that are really. Worth. Our. Time.

It’s really exciting, and I’m sure that the parents and teachers in our worlds will be dancing in their classrooms (or living rooms) when these toys emerge later this year.

melissa and doug ba logo



fyi: This was written as part of the Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador program, but as always, all opinions are my own. Huge and happy thanks to Melissa & Doug for inviting me to attend Toy Fair with them and for making it a whole lot of fun to do so!

Please forgive me that many of the links here go directly to the Melissa & Doug site and not the individual products; I know it’s frustrating. However, many of the products are so new that the aren’t even up on the website yet! Will keep you updated!

susan neibur: we celebrate you

susan love

susan love


My dear friend. We miss you.

And we celebrate you, my friend. Every day.

Though we miss your sweet face.

We celebrate your amazing, encouraging words.

We celebrate your ideas and change.

We celebrate your support and action.

We celebrate your work with Women in Planetary Science.

We celebrate when we could hear you speak and watch you use your words.

We celebrate your gentle, kind spirit.

We celebrate your innovation.

We celebrate your STEM inspiration for our children.

We celebrate your reflection.

We are your forever army.

We love you.

Please join bloggers throughout the web in honoring Susan Niebur’s life and contributions with a post, and please add your link below.

partner match: cool game for questioning, thinking, chatting, moving, and more

partner match: cool game for questioning, thinking, chatting, moving, and more

partner match: cool game for questioning, thinking, chatting, moving, and moreIt’s not easy to find games that get kids up and moving, engaged, excited, and thinking, but Partner Match is a winner in our book.

And the cool thing about it is that there are a million ways of playing, depending on the number of people playing, the amount of space, and the amount of time you have to play.

We’ve played Partner Match both as a game for Valentine’s Day class parties and at home as a questioning and ‘Guess Who?’ type of game, and my kids like it either way.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Partner Match– Cool Game for Questioning, Thinking, Chatting, Moving & More: Partners come in many shapes and sizes, so I like that this game gives kids a chance to look at people who ‘go together’ in a number of different ways.

Partners can be sweethearts, friends, buddies, or pals.  They can be siblings or cousins.  In our game, partners can be real or fictional, human or not human.

They can be just about anything you need them to be. But kids get the idea of partners–they understand how some people, especially familiar faces from storybooks, films, games, and their life–just ‘go’ together.

Here’s more about how to use Partner Match in cool ways with kids:

And you can see how Partner Match can be used as part of a Valentine’s Day class party or other larger-group game.  Check out our How to Throw a Rockstar Valentine’s Day Class Party post for more.

Download valentine partner match game here, and please let me know what you think:

  • What other partners should we include?
  • How did you use the game?
  • What did your kids think?
  • What worked–or didn’t?
  • How did you use Partner Match at home? in the classroom?

partner match game |

I’d love to know!

And that’s it! Many, many thanks for reading, my friends–and happy questioning, thinking, chatting, moving, and more!

how to make silent reading more meaningful

how to make silent reading more meaningful

make silent reading more meaninfulSilent reading can–and should–be a meaningful, rich, awesome experience for kids.

And parents can–and should–be able to support their young readers at home, just by keeping a few important things in mind.

Research shows that the more kids read, the better readers they become. It makes sense.  So let’s give kids time.  And let’s support them while they’re there.

Let’s give them time to practice the skills they’re learning in the classroom.

Let’s give them time to really dive into texts, walk beside the characters, really get to know an author’s style, or follow a series from start to finish.

Let’s give them time to try out different genres, subjects, and authors.  Let’s provide our kids with time to relax, enjoy some ‘me-time’ and cozy up with a book.

Silent reading may have once been thrown to the wayside by the National Reading Panel (NRP, 2000), but, with a little guidance, teachers and parents can make silent–or independent–reading an integral part of the reading experience.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Make Silent Reading More Meaningful: I recall vividly, a day about six years ago, while doing some consulting work for a local charter school in our area, sharing the latest research on silent reading: there was no conclusive data proving the value of silent reading in the classroom (NRP, 2000).

silent reading meaningful

We can–and will–make silent reading totally rock the house.

And the teachers to whom I was speaking were in disbelief.  Really? No SSR? You mean that giving kids quiet time to read in the classroom doesn’t help kids become better readers?

There is no current research to prove that, I said.  Though we all know that people learn by doing, At this point, using precious class time in other ways will better support their literacy learning.

Though I shared what I had learned, I was always curious about it–I loved SSR as a kid. Didn’t we all?  Didn’t all kids deserve time carved out especially for silent reading?  I wondered: How could that time be used more effectively? How could we, as educators, prove the worth of independent reading? Could someone actually put real, true value on silent reading?

Check it out: How to Make Silent Reading More Meaningful.
Recent research, however, does prove that “more reading leads to better reading” (Sanden 2012), but more specifically, more and more studies are placing real value on independent reading when implemented consciously.

Sherry Sanden is an educator and author who writes about highly effective teachers who have implemented silent reading programs in their classrooms–and these programs yield real student growth, learning, and tons of potential.  Each program contains several of the same components, and Sanden shares her findings in an article in the November issue of The Reading Teacher.

I was particularly moved by her article because–woo-hoo! yaaa-hooo! yip, yip, yippppeeee! woot!–it provided that value to silent reading that I wish I would have had when speaking with those teachers. Yes, silent reading counts. Yes, it sure does.

All we have to do is beef it up a bit.  Check it out: How to Make Silent Reading More Meaningful.

And the cool thing? A lot of what Sanden shares is what many of us do naturally to support our young readers.    All the time? Nah. Every single time we see our kiddo grab a book and sit back to read? No way, Jose. Every so often? Yes, you better believe it.

What do you think? How do you make silent reading more meaningful at your house?  Let me know–I’d love to hear it!

many thanks to the following references:

teach kids the days of the week (a super-easy way!)

teach kids the days of the week

teach kids the days of the weekTeaching kids the days of the week doesn’t need to be a huge event.

Parents don’t need printables, charts, diagrams, or huge posters.

Sure, a calendar hanging on the wall helps.  But parents can help their children learn the days of the week in less than a minute each day. Really.

It’s about creating a daily rhythm, especially at home and especially when kids are young. And that’s it.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Teach Kids the Days of the Week (in a Super-Easy Way!):  Starting the day by talking about what day it is is something we’ve been doing for years and years.

And though it might not seem like rocket science, I firmly believe it has helped Maddy, Owen, and Cora understand the concept of weeks vs weekends and learn the days of the week.

Plus, it’s given us a schedule and a routine–and we all know that children, especially little guys, thrive on routine. Let’s face it–we all do.

Take a look at our latest vlog to really get the down-low on what we do over here to help our kids learn those seven important guys whom they’ll know from here on out–Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, (and our faves!) Saturday and Sunday.



Really simple, right?

teach kids the days of the week

Owen’s vitamin case. . .

teach kids the days of the week

. . . complete with his ‘C’ for wintertime and his daily.

Start now–head over to a nearby pharmacy, shell out a buck or two for a plastic pill case, and start tomorrow.

Here’s to a happy, more organized and totally amazing 2013.

It doesn’t have to be difficult–parenting is hard enough! But every parent is capable of sneaking in a little bit of meaningful learning into their children’s every day.  We can do it!

how to make a candy wreath

make a candy wreath b - 62


post contains affiliate links




how to make a candy wreath

One of my favorite challenges is finding a craft that doubles both as a fun family activity and a gift–especially during this crazy busy but totally festive time of year.

And the Candy Wreath is a serious winner in both categories.

It’s a project–several steps and takes a bit o’ quality family time and manpower.

It’s a gift–it’s beautiful when finished. And kids’ smiles upon completion are totally worth a million bucks.

For the most part, it’s inexpensive. Aside from the candy, the materials are pretty affordable–which makes it a big-time winner in my book.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Make a Fun and Fabulous Candy Wreath: The Candy Wreath is simple: it’s wrapped candy tied to a wire hanger. That’s it.

To make it, you simply need:

But it looks like a whole lot more:

how to make a candy wreath cut ribbon

Lots of cutting. . .


how to make a candy wreath tie candy

. . . and tying. . .

how to make a candy wreath candy

 . . . and candy-eating goes into making these wreaths!

 Want the real skinny?

Check out How to Make a Fun & Fabulous Candy Wreath vlog for the steps, the how-to, and a little more:


This is the very first year our family rocked out the Candy Wreath, though growing up, we made them quite often.  My grandma taught my mom, and my mom taught my three sisters and me, and many a winter night was spent watching tv, chatting, and cutting or tying, tying or cutting.


how to make a candy wreath wreath

Final wreath? So pretty. And such a fun gift to give.

I think I cried hard my first year at college when the infamous wreath arrived at my dorm–a care package that spoke more to me than to the tons of friends who came by to grab candy before or after class would ever know. I knew the hours that went into making it. I knew the fingers that tied those ribbons.  And I wondered how it was at home–that year I wasn’t there to make them with everybody else.

I remember feeling my heart ache for the changes that this year signified.  But I remember feeling really loved.

candy wreath |

So here’s to hoping that the Candy Wreaths are a from-here-on-out tradition for our family–and here’s to hoping that I don’t weep too heavily when I send that Candy Wreath off to my baby eight years from now–when my first heads off to college.

Happiest holidays to you!

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 |


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

kids baking for a cause: Shot@Life #blog4cause, week 2

kids baking for a cause: Shot@Life #blog4cause

kids baking for a cause: shot@life #blog4causeWeek three has come and gone of our #blog4cause campaign, and we couldn’t be more thrilled at our participation!

We know that as we move further into the holiday season, that our friends, neighbors, and colleagues will only continue to spread the message of giving.

This week, our family did a bit of giving in the form of baking: our kids were baking for a cause–Shot@Life.  And my kids were pretty proud.

And so was I.

It reminded me that giving can come in a variety of forms and be as simple or as complex as you choose, depending on what works best for you. And your kids.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Jessica and I are both Shot@Life ‘Champions’ which means that we are simply using our ‘voice, time, and support to stand up for childhood in developing countries.’ We’re doing what we can to take small–but meaningful–steps to reduce infant mortality rate of children under 5 by 2015.

So this week, we reached out to all of our fabulous DC Metro area bloggy friends to ask them to attend a little Shot@Life get-together, a girls’ night of sorts so we could chat, hang out, and learn a little–about the little things that we all could do that would have a big impact on helping to see that all kids got a shot at the childhood they each deserve.


kids baking for a cause: Shot@Life #blog4cause

The girls unwrapped Rollos. . .

kids baking for a cause: Shot@Life #blog4cause

. . . did a lot of measuring and mixing. . .

kids baking for a cause: Shot@Life #blog4cause

kids baking for a cause: Shot@Life #blog4cause

. . . and ended up with a lot of baked goods to share!

And though it was just for the moms, Maddy and Cora wanted to do something to help. They knew that I was planning a fundraiser, and they wanted to go.

So I suggested they use some of their incredible baking skills for the event: I let them know that though they couldn’t attend this particular event, they could bake for the cause.  So that’s what they did, and it was a really, really great start.


kids baking for a cause: Shot@Life #blog4cause

Cora made the pumpkin chocolate chip bread, and it was awesome.

kids baking for a cause: Shot@Life #blog4cause

The brownies were great. . .

kids baking for a cause: Shot@Life #blog4cause

. . . and Maddy’s Chocolate Decadence Cake was aaaah-mazing.

The girls baked brownies and breads and cakes over the weekend so the moms had some sweets while they learned about Shot@Life.  Everyone’s always a little more likely to donate a few more dollars to a great cause when there’s chocolate cake on her fork, right?

We’re hoping that the kids’ involvement this way will lead to some other ways they will want to get involved in raising funds for other causes in the upcoming days and weeks.

kids baking for a cause: Shot@Life #blog4cause

The Shot@Life folks provided information for our guests and small swag bags.

Here’s a quick video from our Shot@Life event:

Here’s our slideshow from the event:

Shot@Life is just one of many different starting points we provided for our friends and readers for our #blog4cause campaign. We’d love for you to find one cause–any cause–that you feel is a good ‘fit’ for you and jump on board.teach your children about giving: #blog4cause

It’s easy.

You can find a way that works for your family to get involved this holiday season, whether it’s hosting a fundraiser, raising money with baked goods, or just sending your ‘gently worn’ toys–or winter coats and boots–to your neighbor down the street. It doesn’t matter.

We just want our kids to be involved so they see their parents thinking about others so they know it’s cool to do so. So they, too, think about others and develop that totally difficult to develop sense of empathy as they grow.

Jess and I simply sent out an evite to our buddies, asked Shot@Life for some event-pointers, made a few appetizers (and baked goods), and enjoyed ourselves with our friends.  We encouraged everyone to bring $12 on November 12th which was World Pneumonia Day.  It took a bit of time, yes, but it was well worth it.

So please join #blog4cause and be sure to let us know how your family gives this holiday season–you will inspire others!

fyi: Huge and happy thanks to all of our local buddies who joined us this week for our Shot@Life event: Laura of Better in Bulk, Safire of Water falling Up, Stacey of Justice Fergie: Life IS the Party, Ellen of Thrift Store Mama, Cara of Land of Bean, Fadra of All Things Fadra, Elena of Ciao Mom & Just. Be. Enough., Stephanie of a belle reve, Heather, Sandy, Jamie from Shot@Life, Anastasia from UN Foundation (& of course, Dolci Gelati), and our amazing hostess, Jessica of A Parent in America & A Parent in Silver Spring.  Many thanks to Olney Beer & Fine Wine for donating drinks for the occasion! (All we did was ask–and they helped us out. Everyone wants to give–we just need to let them know how!)

how to play ‘mary had a little lamb’ on the recorder (or try to, at least)

recorder fun with kids cover blank

how to play the recorderWe tried.

Maybe a bit too hard–or maybe not hard enough–depending on how you look at it.

But we have been rockin’ the ole recorder over here for a few weeks, trying our darndest to be musical and to catch a wee tune.

When the kids play, I mean really play, they sound good.

To themselves.

And I remember that feeling quite vividly: being young and wishful and banging out what I though was a serious masterpiece as I tickled the ivories on our piano at home. To me, it sounded like a work of art, like the angels had taken over my hands and that I was sharing my gift with the world–or at least my family.

And neighbors.

But now, as a parent and watching my 0wn three littles do the very same thing, I can only wonder how my mom managed to hold onto her sanity with four girls pounding those keys like there was no tomorrow, playing Heart and Soul, Chopsticks, and our own creations.

So when I was just about ready to throw in the white flag, I decided to switch things around a bit.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Play “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on the Recorder (or try to, at least. . . ): Instead of fighting the kids’ urges to play their own little diddy every other minute, I gave them a little bit of a focus.

Don’t get me wrong–they did a whole lot of free play, solo creative music writing, walking around the house and yard and bedroom playing their songs for hours on end.


But when I felt like I needed to rein in the talent, I did some research, pulled together my own (pathetic) recorder-playing abilities, and jumped on the opportunity to sneak in a little learning into my kiddos’ little recorder-playing careers.   I thought it would be helpful for the kids to learn a familiar song on the instrument, so we started with teaching them how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb on the recorder.

It wasn’t easy, and we’re still trying.

I shared the total how-to’s over at the Melissa & Doug blog, on the Rockin’ Out With the Recorder piece. Please check it out for a close-up on the notes and a little bit more about why the recorder is a darn good stepping stone instrument for kids.

Here’s a close look at our rendition of the actual song, Mary Had a Little Lamb, for the recorder:

playing the recorder


And definitely take a look at how elementary school music teacher, Susanne Byrne, explains the connections between music and math.  She also shares some ways parents can develop their children’s music skills at home; she’s got some worthwhile ideas for sure, and it’s a super-quick video from Mom’s Homeroom.

I just feel like it’s always important to be reminded of ways we can make learning fun and build a strong foundation for learning under our own roofs, even if we’ve got to pop a Tylenol or two along the way. . .

Bring on the music! Here are some of our favorite ways to bring music into our home:


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