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:


fyi: This blog post is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom. Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats. 

Thank you so much for considering the affiliate links that are included in this post.  

target supports education: grants & programs that ROCK (+ giveaway!)


givewithtarget-eventWe all love Target.

That’s nothing new, right?

The sales rock. The clothes for kids–and adults!–rock. The Dollar Bins rock. The grocery items rock. Those cute brown boots I got last year rock. The toy section rocks.  The household items rock. Their diapers rock. Their little cafe rocks.  Just about everything about Target rocks.

As an local influencer and a mama who’s all up in education, I was recently invited to spend a morning with some friends from Target to get a first-hand look at why another side of Target rocks–the giving, philanthropic side of Target that not everyone knows about.

I had a chance to chat with them about why Target really is all that when it comes to supporting everything reading, education, and our kids.

Target loves education so much that they’re throwing in a sweet $150 gift card for one lucky reader–and we all know that $150 at Target can come in handy, either as a donation to your school or as a way to make the holidays a bit easier for your family.

And yes, that IS Bridget Mendler of Good Luck Charlie and that IS the Target Bullseye Bus and that IS me standing with them both. Woot!

Here’s the skinny, and here’s why we should all totally heart Target. . .

  •  Target Supports Education: Grants & Programs that ROCK: Sure, do remember seeing Target at the National Book Festival last year, with a huge area set aside for families and reading.

And I did write about Target’s Read With Me program a few years back. But since then, I have to admit (gulp!) I don’t recall hearing much about Target, which is why it’s so exciting to share these cool programs with you:

  • Give With Target: $2.5 million to 100 in-need schools–$25,000 to each school.   $2.5 million to schools through a Facebook vote.  That’s $5 million to schools and students.  That’s a lot of cash. That’s a lot of hope.

That’s incredible. Unbelievable. Fabulous and fantastic.

And I was lucky enough to be there at one school in Baltimore on the morning the principal received her $25,000 check.  It was awesome–the children, the staff, the parents, everyone was alive with excitement for education and the promise of success in the year to come.

target supporst education

The morning of the Baltimore #GiveWithTarget event was electric!


Jill talks about this program in the video piece above, and it’s something I am really into. I had no idea that for every purchase you make on your Target REDcard, Target will donate 1% to the eligible school of your choice. That really adds up after time.

In fact, my kids’ school has already received over $6000 from Target, and I had no idea. It’s awesome. It’s like free money, so why wouldn’t you enroll in the program?  $324 million donated since 1997 and $26 million in the most recent payout.

Get. Your. School. Enrolled.

And if you don’t have a child in  school, register your local school, your grandchild’s school, or a school in a low-income area. Why not?

new to me: each Target store can award 3 field trip grants

  • Field Trip Grants: Since 2007, Target has donated $16 million in grants, sending 2 million students on 22,500 field trips.

Each Target store will award three Target Field Trip Grants to K—12 schools nationwide—enabling one in 25 schools throughout the U.S. to send a classroom on a field trip. Each grant is valued up to $700.

Each. Target. Store. Awards. THREE. Field. Trip. Grants.

All teachers have to do is apply.

There’s even a snazzy button, banner, poster, and email that can be used to promote a super field trip spot. Awesome.

Apply in March & April for a September grant notification, so you do need a bit of planning here, but it will be well worth it!

And I didn’t know that Target also supported local art & culture in a ton of cities around the country by providing discounted museum admission or free shows.  Find a free or reduced-price event near you!

  •  Early Childhood Reading Grants: Also $2000 with applications in March & April but with an August notification, these grants are geared toward schools, libraries and nonprofit organizations to support programs such as after-school reading events and weekend book clubs.

Target’s all about fostering a love of reading and encouraging children to read with their families, and I think it’s awesome.


  • Target School Library Makeovers: I had heard that Target was re-doing some school libraries in a major way, but I had no idea that the make0ver included 2,000 new books, new computers, furniture and other things.

I also didn’t know that each student was given a set of books to take home so the whole family can share in the experience. I love it.


Kids must be fed–and healthy–to learn!

  • Meals for Minds: This is totally new-to-me program, but it’s one that I think is so, so, so very important. It’s important because it really shows that we’re talking about the whole child.

It’s education at the most basic level, feeding a child’s physical well-being. In partnership with Feeding America, the Meals for Minds campaign is one that especially hits home this month, September, the Go Orange for Hunger Action Month.  Get involved!

jane o'connor national book festival

Jane O’Connor at last year’s National Book Festival (LOVE her!)

Want more photos from the event? Check out flickr & YouTube!

  • Book Festivals:  I spent a boatload of time last year in Target’s Family Storytelling Stage at the National Book Festival on the Mall here in DC, but I didn’t realize that they were book festival happy.Like happy in a way that they hit book festivals all overthe country kind of happy.Check out the stage lineup and materials for this year’s Family Storytelling Stage at the National Book Festival, and be sure to check out events local to you as well. And don’t despair if you’re not close to a festival; there are tons of materials for you to use and download from home.

Target really is a book festival happy company!

It doesn’t seem to stop with education, either; Target participates in social service programs, crisis relief programs, and military & veteran support programs, and you can also sign up to volunteer with Target as well.  It’s really enough to make me want to dance.

Thanks, Target, for all you do to support education, learning, and families!


this contest is closed, as of 9/21/12. . . many thanks to all who entered and congrats to Elisabeth for her win!

GIVEAWAY: $150 Target gift card

Do you want to win a $150 Target gift card?!  SURE you do!!


All you have to do is leave a comment here telling me which of Target’s programs you think is the most awesome!

For extra entries, get creative!!:

  • Tweet this: 
  • Win a $150 @Target gift card on @teachmama #GiveWithTarget #weteach #giveaway
  • Learn how @Target supports #education on @teachmama #GiveWithTarget
  • Celebrate #backtoschool  win $150 @Target giftcard for your school  #GiveWithTarget
  • Share this poston your Facebook page–very easy!
  • Share this post with a friend (just tell me who you shared it with!)
  • Pin this post on Pinterest! (Use ‘pin it!’ button below post!)
  • G+  this post on Google+  (Use the G+ button below post!)

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

This giveaway ends Friday, September 21, 2012 at midnight ET. Winner will be chosen by ‘And the Winner is. . .’ and will be notified on or around 9/21/12.  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.  As a member of Target’s Inner Circle Program, I was invited to participate in the #GiveWithTarget event and received four backpacks for my school along with a $150 Target gift card to give to one of my readers.  My opinions here are all my own, influenced only by my experience as a parent, educator, and longtime fan of Target.  Some affiliate links are included.

2 tricks to an organized school year

3 hands on math games pinterest cover

tricks to an organized school year cover

How do you stay organized during the school year?

What do you do to not get lost in the sea of papers your kids bring home from school each day?

Where do important papers go?

What ‘tricks’ have kept your family organized during this busy back-to-school time?

The very funny thing about this ‘2 Tricks to an Organized School Year’ is that I started the video for it right after I sent How Every Family Can Start the School Year Off Right live.

And I was all proud of the video piece, and I was all smilin’ from the great feedback and emails I received from readers about the blog post, and I was all feelin’ good about how organized our life was.  Everything was well and good.

Then I walked up to school and picked up Maddy, Owen, Cora, and two of their friends.

They played at the park for a while, ate some snacks, played some more, and we then came on home.  I did not–and I repeat–did not follow my own advice that I share in today’s video because, well, it was Friday.

And it was a double playdate.

And it was a long weekend.

And we were planning on heading out for one last hurrah at the pool.

And, well, it was Friday.

And what we realized–on Sunday!–was that we didn’t have Owen’s backpack with us.

Backpack. Gone. Missing. Nada. Zip. Zero on the O-Man’s backpack.

We were so totally organized, and we were so totally starting the school year off right that we lost our kid’s backpack the first week of school.

Somehow, I managed to bring home five lunchboxes, a few extra bags, a few water bottles, five kids, and four backpacks.  Four.

The good news was that on Monday, we packed Owen’s soccer backback, we all walked up to school, and we all hit the good ole Lost and Found.  And lo an behold, sitting right there, in the center of the stage in the All Purpose Room (because it was, after all, day six of school so the Lost and Found box wasn’t even out yet), was Owen’s backpack.

Sitting there, all lonely through the long weekend, waiting for us to find it.

Owen and his backpack were reunited. Woot!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 2 Tricks to an Organized School Year: Take ’em or leave ’em, but know that even as hard as I try, I’m totally far from perfect.  I’m just doing what I can to get by with a smile on my face, keeping the family smiling and sneaking in a little learning–for all of us–along the way.


Hopefully you can find the humor in the lost backpack experience, considering the fact that in this video I’m all about staying organized, and I mention more than once that organization is an every day, every hour, all-the-time job.

Maybe I should stay more on top of things, huh?

What are YOUR tricks for staying organized through the school year? Is there something you’ve done that’s really worked? Do tell!

daniel tiger’s neighborhood: quality programming for preschoolers

daniel tiger pinterest cover

daniel tigers neighborhoodWhen something seems bad, turn it around. . .
                          . . . and find something good.

I like it.

And I know my kids would love it too–and even if they didn’t like it, it would be so engrained in their memories after watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, that most likely it would come to mind when they really needed to ‘find something good’ in a bad situation.

Right? I think so.

That’s the cool thing about Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and why I’m so thrilled about this program; it’s a new animated series for children ages 2-4, produced by the Fred Rogers Company.

It’s a new-for-us program that my kiddos totally enjoyed, though they are (wah!) past the preschool age.

I’ve got a lot to say about the awesomeness that is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and I even have a cool giveaway thanks to our friends at PBS Kids!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood–Quality Programming for Preschoolers: I had the pleasure of learning all about Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood when I attended the PBS Annual Meeting in Denver last May, so I’m thrilled to share what I know.

Take a quick look:

I’m in awe of the resources available on PBS Kids that support the program, and I’m sure most other parents and teachers will be also.

Be sure to check out:

A few fun facts about Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood:

  • the show premiers September 3–Labor Day–with two back-to-back episodes;
  • the series will air daily after the premier.  Find out when you can see the show: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood schedule.
  • The show supports what Fred Rogers believed: ‘social and emotional competencies are the building blocks of doing well in life’.
  • Each show will feature two stories that center on a common early learning theme.
  • Catchy, musical ‘strategies’ will reinforce that theme.
  • Every story has an ‘imagination moment’ where Daniel uses his imagination to better understand a situation.
  • Angela Santomero, of Blue’s Clues & SuperWHY!, and Kevin Morrison, of The Fred Rogers Company, are executive producers of the show.
  • Online resources will be available for parents and teachers to complement each episode (and they’re fabulous!):

Look for:

  • Daniel’s red sweater! (It’s just like Mr. Rogers’ sweater!).
  • Daniel Tiger’s friends–they’re the next generation of characters from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood:
    • Daniel’s best friend? O the Owl who lives with his Uncle X;
    • Katerina Kittycat is the daughter of Henrietta Pussycat;
    • Prince Wednesday is the son of King Friday!
  • The red trolley is STILL truckin’ along!

And just for kicks, here’s a few photos of the PBS Annual Meeting in Denver: 


Giveaway is closed! Many thanks for your interest–but we are ALL winners because everyone can catch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood on PBS!

GIVEAWAY: A Daniel Tiger fun pack (Daniel Tiger luggage tag, crayons, Daniel Tiger printables, backpack and crayons, pencils, stickers, etc.)

Do you want to win a Daniel Tiger fun pack?!  SURE you do!!

  • All you have to do is leave a comment here telling me what you remember most–and loved–about Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood!

daniel tiger's trolleyFor extra entries, get creative!!:

  • Tweet this: 
  • Win a #DanielTigerPBS Fun Pack on @teachmama @PBSKids #weteach #giveaway
  • Getting psyched for #DanielTigerPBS on @PBSKids — learn more from @teachmama #giveaway
  • Celebrate #backtoschool with #DanielTigerPBS –win a Family Fun Pack  @teachmama
  • Share this post on your Facebook page–very easy!
  • Share this post with a friend (just tell me who you shared it with!)
  • Pin this post on Pinterest! (Use ‘pin it!’ button below post!)
  • G+  this post on Google+  (Use the G+ button below post!)

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

This giveaway ends Friday, September 7, 2012 at midnight ET. Winner will be chosen by ‘And the Winner is. . .’ and will be notified on or around 9/7/12.  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, which I wrote as an advocate of worthwhile programming for kids.  I’m also all for finding fabulous–free!–resources for parents and teachers.  I am a PBS Kids VIP and did attend the PBS Annual Meeting on behalf of PBS; many thanks to PBS for covering travel and lodging.

hello teacher notes: let kids connect with teachers

hello teacher notes

hello teacher notes

Another one of our fave back-to-school traditions involves a little bit of writing, some decorating, and a wee bit of walking.

Not much walking, really.  Just to the mailbox or up to the school, depending on where you live.

But for the last few years, we’ve rocked Hello, Teacher Notes to ease the transition from summer break to school year just a tiny bit easier for Maddy, Owen, and Cora.  Okay, and me.

We sent them:

And we sent them again this year, with Maddy going to 3rd grade, Owen going to 1st, and Cora (waaaah!) going to Kindergarten.

Each note is slightly different to account for age differences in the kids, but essentially, they’re similar in their purpose–to give the kids a chance to say ‘hello’ to their teachers before that sometimes-stressful first day.


Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Hello Teacher Notes– Let Kids Connect With Teachers: Take a look. . .


Want to send your own Hello Teacher Notes?  Download and print our templates:

Though we’ve used the notes before school began, I’ve had many, many people email me and say that they used them any time during that first month of school–or for kids who moved, switched teachers, or something similar.  Just knowing that they’re working for other kids makes us so happy.

So really, it doesn’t know how your child connects with his or her teacher–it’s just important that it happens early in the game.



Want a little more back-to-school fun? A few more rockstar resources?


Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board lunchbox love notes on Pinterest.

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board school & teacher appreciation on Pinterest.
amy @teachmama

3 ways to talk to your kids about books

read and talk with your kids

read and talk with your kidsI remember a time, not so long ago, when Maddy, Owen, and Cora would talk to me for (what seemed to be) hours upon end about things. Just anything.  Books, ideas, dolls, bugs, colors, toys, you name it.

And some days they still do.  Some days, they’re hit with something and they’ll go on and on and on and on about. . .  you name it.  Anything.  Just like the old days.

But now, as they get older, as they want more playdates with buddies (which I know are important), more sports and classes (also important), more time with electronics (also important, in smaller doses), and more time to themselves (also very important), the time we spend actually talking about things seems to be waning.

Which makes me nervous.

I know that it’s more important than ever for me to keep the lines of communication open for Maddy, Owen, and Cora from here on out.  I also know that if I continue to play a role in their education now–their learning, reading, homework, and games–that it will be easier for me to do so down the road, when school gets more challenging and when they may really need support.

Getting most kids to talk about things that genuinely interest them is easy–or easier than getting them to talk about less interesting things, perhaps–but getting kids to talk about other things, like books they’re reading–isn’t always so easy.

So after some considerable thought and research on the topic, I’ve come up with three ways that any parent can use to get their children to talk to them about the books they’re reading.  They’re things that I’ve used with my kids for some time, and they’re things that should give you a foot in the door.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 3 Ways to Talk to Your Kids About Books:  We want our kids to read. And we want them to choose books that are a good fit for their abilities.  And if we can talk to our kiddos about the books they read, it’s a total win-win.

Take a look:


And that’s it. . . just three simple ways to get your kids to talk to you about what they’re reading.  Three ways that will (hopefully) open the door for more regular conversation between you and your children about books and three ways for your children to see that you recognize the importance of their reading and you want to learn more.

When kids talk about what they read, they’re more likely to remember what they read, to continue reading, and to think more deeply about the topic. So go ahead, start the conversation!

And if you have another great way of getting kids to talk about the books they’re reading, share it in the comments!  Want more read-aloud  learning ideas, be sure to check out my other posts on Learning During Read-Alouds.

what are YOUR favorite iPad apps for teaching and learning?

ebay green screen shot

ipad apps for teaching and learningI am totally and completely thrilled to be the proud new owner of an iPad, thanks to Evo and eBay green!

An iPad was certainly not in our budget, though both my husband and I, as educators, do recognize the value in the device for our kids, for teaching and learning.  (And heck, let’s face it, for ourselves, too–for reading, shopping, organizing, gaming, and all that good stuff!)

So while I was at Evo Conference last week, speaking on a community-building panel with my pals Allison McDonald and Thien-Kim Lam, I jumped at the opportunity to win one of these rockin’ devices.  And to my complete and utter surprise, I won!

But now?

I’m a bit baffled.

I have this brand-new, totally amazing, state-of-the-art device, a tabula rasa.  And an overwhelming app store packed with games and resources for kids–sneaky teaching and learning at its best.  But I don’t know where to begin.

I need YOUR help!

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Favorite iPad Apps for Teaching and Learning: Check out the latest piece on the channel for ways that YOU can help me–and many other parents out there!–in this iPad app search!


Huge thanks to eBay green–a component of eBay that encourages people to buy green, sell green, and think green every day.  eBay green was a sponsor of Evo and hosted a contest that encouraged us to create our own pinboards with earth-friendly elements.  I owe and incredible thanks to all of my pinterest followers, facebook fans, we teach facebook fans, and twitter followers for pinning, repinning, liking, and retweeting my totally cute pinboard. 

improve fluency: slow down speedy readers

how to slow down speedy readers

how to slow down speedy readersI’ve said before that one of the things that you never want to say to a reader is Slow down! You’re reading too fast! or. . .

. . . You’re reading waaaaay too slow. C’mon, pick up the pace so we can get through this, Honey.

It’s just not helpful, and no one feels great saying these things or hearing them.  And I think we all know that though those suggestions may be short-term, if kids are slow–or speedy–readers, any time they read aloud, they’re not reading fluently.

The awesome news there are a few other really worthwhile, constructive ways of helping children as you ‘coach’ them into more fluent reading.   Everyone wants to be a fluent reader–especially our younger, newer readers.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Learning During Read-Alouds–Improve Fluency by Slowing Down Speedy Readers:  Fluency is a whole lot more than reading at an ‘easy-to-understand’ pace.

According to Timothy V. Rasinski in the May issue of The Reading Teacher, fluency should be HOT!  In an article titled just that–and no, I’m not joking–Rasinski says that [his] conception of fluency puts it at the center of authentic reading instruction in which the aim of students’ reading is comprehension (Rasinski, T. V. (2012), Why Reading Fluency Should Be Hot!. The Reading Teacher, 65: 516–522).

He goes on to say that fluency is a critical component of reading instruction and that its two components, automaticity and prosody, are essential to its makeup.  No need to freak out about these two ‘biggie’ reading terms, my friends.

Here’s a quickie clip sharing one way I helped Maddy slow down her super-fast reading this year–improving her prosidy by forcing her to slow at end punctuation marks:

‘Automaticity’ just means that readers can recognize words automatically and without effort, which is why we need to practice those sight words and design balance literacy programs that include word work!  ‘Prosity’ just means that the reading demonstrates the natural rhythm and intonation of language.  Together, automaticity and prosidy make up fluency, so it only makes sense that in order to read fluently, the reader must understand the text.

I’m looking forward to sharing more tips to improve fluency as the year unfolds, but until then, I hope that this little ‘slow down’ trick helps a speedy reader in your life.

What methods do you use to slow down speedy readers? Please share!

2 crazy cool ways to use shoeboxes

shoebox cover

two ways to use shoeboxesLet’s face it, times are tough for a lot of us, so it’s due time that we really begin to use what we have in clever and creative ways.

How about shoeboxes? Many families buy about two pair of shoes for each child every single year, so that amounts in a whole lot of shoeboxes for families.  Let’s use ’em!

With all of our kids’ toys and crafting supplies, it makes sense to put shoeboxes to use; many of the boxes are so sturdy, they rival the plastic storage bins, and hey–these puppies won’t end up clogging up our landfills once we’re long gone.  So they’re handy and green.  Sweet!

This Quick Trick I’m sharing two crazy-cool ways to use shoeboxes–one for teaching kids an important life skill, and the other for keeping your crafts a little more organized.  Quick. Easy.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 2 Crazy-Cool Ways to Use Shoeboxes: Kids need to start learning how to tie their shoes before they walk through those doors to Kindergarten.  Many won’t have mastered it by then, but they all should have at least tried.

The Shoelace Box has proven to be a life-saver for teaching my sweet Owen how to tie his shoes, and we’re starting Shoelace Box practice with Cora this summer.

And because this has been the summer for retro crafts (more on that later!) we’ve needed to find ways to organize our ribbon.  Welcome to our world, Maddy’s Ribbon Box.

Take a look. . .


Want a little more information on teaching kids how to tie their shoes?  Check out our original post on the Shoelace Box.

Want more information on retro crafts? Coming soon!

How do YOU use shoeboxes for learning and fun? 

what to do with children’s artwork

childrens artwork 5

what to do with children's artworkThis time of the year, I always seem to be drowning in my kids’ artwork.

The nifty system of organization I started in September has long expired, and piles of paper surround us. So with some quick thinking and crazy determination, a few years ago I devised a plan.

We had to reclaim our home and get out from under the piles of paper.  And surprisingly, it was much easier than I thought.

It took all of a few minutes to organize and then appropriately sort Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s year’s worth of artwork and school papers.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • What to do with Children’s Artwork (or. . . 3 Cool Ways to Use Children’s Artwork and Come Out From Under the Sea of Masterpieces from School):   Sure, putting artwork on mugs, or taking photos of each and every one and then saving them to the computer are totally cool ideas.

But the reality is that I have about five years’ worth of family photos to organize and put into photo albums, so why would I add to my mile-long to-do list?  I need quick, practical, and cheap.

Because frankly, it gets expensive to order a photo mug, t-shirt, or mouse pad for every family member at every holiday.

The here and now is that come June, we have piles of Maddy, Owen, and Cora’s artwork everywhere.


Here are the 3 cool ways we use our kids’ artwork:


And that’s that! Three ways–of many possibilities–for using our kids’ artwork in practical, keep-mom-sane kind of ways.  A Quick Trick that works for us and has for the last few years!

I’d love to hear how your family manages the art work pile-up.   I know there are a million ways, so please do share!!

new for us friday: fine motor FUN with stamp markers

disney social media moms:  - 011

fine motor FUN with stamp markersEver since Owen was teeny and couldn’t manage to figure out the tripod grip (the fancy name for the proper way to hold a pencil or pen), I’ve been on a perpetual search for ways to work on all of my kids’ fine motor skills.

We tried everything: hole punching, beading, nuts and bolts (oh yes we did!), pop beads, chopsticks, playdough, sewing,  you name it.

Painting, cutting, coloring, stringing snacks, pointing, playing, and wiggling.

I did a whole lot of reading on the subject of the tripod grip only to learn that it needs to be directly taught because to many children, it is not at all natural.  And children need to be corrected early so that mistakes don’t become bad habits.

And though I am fully aware of the fact that the writing that our kids will do in their lives will most likely be a fraction of what we have done–because of the technology at their fingertips–I do know that every child does need to be able to properly hold a writing utensil.  They must write their names on all of their papers and sign their works of art.  That will never change.

But I do know that every child’s abilities develop at different speeds.

Family and parenting expert Joanna Nesbit states, ‘. . . putting pencil to paper is a complicated developmental task for youngsters, and everyone progresses at her own rate based on a variety of factors, including the development of fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination and cognitive abilities’ “Handwriting Help for Kids“. 

So I’m all for trying to work on what I can, while I am able.

Here’s the skinny. . .

These are stamp sets-meet-markers-meet puzzles-meet-activity pads.

I love them. My kids love them.


Cora rocks her Stamp Markers on the plane on the way to Disney!

We’ve taken them on road trips, on plane rides (to Disney!), doctors’ offices.  Cora uses hers on the occasions when she’s had to sit through meetings with me or wait in the car pick-up line.  Simple fun.  With no mess. 

Blue Stamp Marker Set and Pink Stamp Marker Set, we have them both, and we love them both.  And at about 5 bucks a piece, it’s a great price if you ask me.

Again, from expert Joanna Nesbit, ‘Fine-motor skills — the ability to use fingers, hands and wrists for small, controlled movements — are essential for kids to be able to write letters and words legibly. Children typically develop their fine motor skills in a natural progression throughout early childhood, but these skills come easier for some than for others. Parents can help. . . ‘

Yes. Parents can help–and I’m betting they all would with the right bits of direction.  Happy fine-motor-skill tuning!


fyi: This blog post is part of an incentivized online influencer network for Mom’s Homeroom. Mom’s Homeroom is brought to you by Frosted Mini-Wheats.

As a Melissa & Doug Blog Ambassador, I did receive this product as part of the Blog Ambassador program; affiliate links are included in this post, so if you click on them and choose to buy the product, awesome–I’d appreciate it tremendously!