Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Making of Candy Canes

If you've been following the curriculum, we have a few candy cane activities for your kids. My kids were very curious about how candy canes are made, so I supplemented with these 2 videos. The first one (above) is about handmade candy canes. The second one, below, is about factory made candy canes. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Motivation and Frustration

If you spend any amount of time trying to teach your children from home, you are bound to be faced with frustration. Frustration can come from many different sources, but today I'm going to talk about one in specific.

Let me start by explaining our situation. My oldest is very good at math; she also has a tendency to be lazy towards school. My middle child struggles ferociously with math; she also has a tendency to cry and shut down. My third is great at math; he tends to not care at all about school and I often find him having turned his crayons into tiny toys and making them talk. Granted, he's 5. But still.

When one of my children was struggling with a particular math skill, we taught it, reviewed it, practiced it, drilled it. We made flash cards, we practiced in the car. Yet, she still had difficulty. Finally the tears (and this is my non-crier).

So I started thinking about what motivates her and her siblings. It's different for each one of them. When I have an activity I need to complete, motivation makes all the difference. Sometimes we need an external motivator, especially when our internal motivation in nowhere to be found (folding laundry, anyone?)

When your child is working and you run into difficulty that is not attitude related, stop and think about what motivates them. (Although I will say, attitude can turn up because of frustration and discouragement. But I'm talking about difficulty that is not simply attitude related).

For my oldest, competition is the key. She doesn't even have to be competing with anyone other than herself. So, we made learning the skill a timed competition with herself. She's trying to get her best score. That was the game-changer. For another child, she is food motivated. I could put a timer on, have her complete a page of math (or whatever she's working on) and for each correct answer, she gets 1 chocolate chip. Now she's motivated to get as many right in a short amount of time as possible. My youngest is motivated by play.

So, here's a list of ideas to help motivate your children when it's getting tough. In our house, having a good attitude is a given. There's no 'prize' for a bad attitude, so this is unlike bribery. This is taking a challenging skill (learning XYZ) and motivating them to work towards it.

  • Food (ex: one chocolate chip, marshmallow, grape, raisin, for each item completed in a certain time frame)
  • Food (I will set the timer for X amount of time. After you've ______ diligently for X minutes, we can have a snack).
  • Time together (When you are finished with X, we can play a board game, read a book, etc).
  • Competition (Compete against a sibling, you, or even themselves)
  • Make the learning fun (Teach a skill and then have them teach their dolls. Make a racetrack and let them drive cars on it, making a sound they are learning at each stop. Sing a song.)
  • Use toys as props. 
  • Have them teach YOU!
There are so many things you can do to help your children love to learn. When one child was not quite understanding measurements using fractions, we made cookies. And I let her make them wrong on purpose. (FYI, 2 1/4 cups is NOT the same as 1/4 cup 2 times). But guess who is now making cookies independently (among other recipes)? My 7 year old. But the idea of being allowed to make cookies by herself, from scratch, was a huge motivator for her to correctly learn fractions. 

So, when you hit a wall, start thinking about motivation. What motivates your child? Let us know! We'd love your feedback.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Jack-O-Lantern Color Clip Cards

I made these cards for Brinley's playgroup this month. You print them off, cut them out each page is cut into four pieces--cut off the title and the footer).

You can print them on cardstock or laminate them to make them more sturdy.

Then you give the cards to the child along with some clothes pins. The child takes a clothes pin and pins it to the circle that matches the Jack-O-Lantern's mouth.

This activity works color skills, shape skills, and fine motor skills.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Do-A-Dot Pumpkin Letter P Page

Here is a pumpkin do a dot letter P page for your little one. You give your child a Do-a-Dot marker and have him mark each P. If you do not have Do-a-Dots, first add them to your Christmas list, then use a crayon or marker instead. Click below to print your own free copy!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Bat Counting Sheet Free Printable

I made this fun page for Brinley's playgroup this month. Click to get your copy--you can get a blank one or one filled mostly in. It is all free! Happy Halloween!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Summer Wrap Up!

Summer is winding down (though you wouldn't know it by the temperature!) and for many of us, if you haven't already, it'll be back to the normal routine. Before we start back with school, preschool, or homeschooling, let's have a little more summer fun!

Here are a few more ideas to get you through the end of the summer!

Paint Free Painting
Painting can be fun, but messy! If you have a sidewalk, a fence, or a deck, this is an easy outdoor activity for your kiddos. Just fill a bowl or cup with water, give them some painting utensils, and paint away! It dries quickly and leaves a clean canvas behind.

Pouring a Drink
My kids have always loved trying to pour with a pitcher. The dollar store has super cheap containers, too. Even the smallest kids will be able to try this without fear of a giant indoor mess to clean up if they spill. Try mixing in ice, too. While your kids are playing outside, let them try to pour themselves a drink on a hot day. It's excellent for their motor skills, and great practice for life. To encourage my kiddos to practice this skill without any cleaning on my part AND to help keep them hydrated on those oh-so-hot summer days, I fill up (yes, completely, otherwise you'll make multiple trips to fill up the pitcher) a pitcher with ice water and bring out one plastic cup per child. I just set it out and told them to pour themselves a drink if they got thirsty. My three year old said, "By myself?" (Insert happy face here). Their faces lit up and they poured drink after drink....and drank it all. Well, whatever managed to get in the cup. 

Outdoor Bubble Bath

Pretty self explanatory, but fill up a swimming pool with water and bubbles. Dawn dish soap works great, but doesn't agree with my kids' skin. We used Seventh Generation and it worked great.

You-Pick Farms

We're about picked out here, but if you have any farms near you still offering You-Pick, try it out! We picked strawberries and blueberries and our apples will be in soon here on the east coast. 


I found the cutest activity in Disney's Family Fun Magazine (April 2008)It's so hot here today...and it's supposed to get worse as the week goes on. I've been waiting for a way-too-hot spell to try it, and this is the week!

S'mores are probably my favorite summer treat, with or without the campfire. I make them in the oven, you can grill 'em, but this new way is completely safe for the munchkins. Introducing....

Here's what you'll need:
  • Pizza Box
  • Pencil and ruler
  • Craft Knife
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • Black Construction Paper
  • Clear plastic packing tape
  • Clear plastic (like sheet protectors, laminating paper, etc)
  • Graham Crackers, chocolate bars, marshmallows
  • Stick or dowel
  1. Adults: On the top of the pizza box, draw a square that is an inch smaller than the lid all the way around. Use the craft knife to cut through the cardboard along three sides, as shown, and then fold the cardboard up along the uncut line to form a flap.
  1. Kids can help: Glue aluminum foil, shiny side out, to the bottom of the flap, keeping it as wrinkle free as you can.
  2. Glue another piece of foil to the inside bottom of the box and then tape black paper on the top of the foil.
  3. Tape clear plastic to the underside of the lid to seal the opening created by the flap. For the best results, the seal should be as airtight as possible.
  4. Place your "oven" outdoors in direct sunlight with the flap opened toward the sum, For each s'more, center two graham crackers on the constructionpaper. Top one with chocolate and the other with a marshmallow. Close the box and then use a stick or dowel to prop the flap open at the angle that reflects the most sunlight into the box (check periodically to adjust the angle). Within an hour (or sooner if it's a really hot day), the chocolate squares and marshmallows should melt enough to assemble into s'mores.
If you try it, let me know how it goes. It's also a good excuse to order out pizza for dinner. :)

Monday, March 28, 2016

Kitchen Skills and Tools

Don't ever let anyone tell you that learning is just ABC's and 123's; it's not! I've noticed a huge confidence boost in my kids when that acquire skills that they are used to seeing adults use. Letting my kids help at every meal can be overwhelming for me, so I choose a meal of the day to let someone help. Today it was lunch and my little helper was my recently-turned-5 little man. 

I'm going to share with you my newest kid-friendly addition to the kitchen, too.

We cut fruit today and made smoothies for lunch. So where did the learning occur? 

1. Identifying fruit and how to properly peel (if necessary). For us, we sliced strawberries and he learned how to remove the prickly skin and inner core of a pineapple. 

2. He learned how to properly hold a knife and the food being cut (even though the possibility of him injuring himself with this knife is extremely low). He is still required to use it as though it could chop a finger.

3. We used measuring cups for the liquid and so he learned about where and how high to fill, how to hold it level, and to identify the labels for measuring.

4. Lastly, he counted pieces of fruit----math! For example, I told him, "Add 17 pieces of pineapple." 

And now, to tell you about these knives!! If you haven't seen them already, they are AMAZING! They have a ton of great reviews on Amazon, there are 3 in a pack, and they are sharp enough to cut fruit and veggies, but safe for the kids. I really like them. Right now they are $8.95 for a 3 count (3 different sizes included).  I saw these when we were at a friend's house and I am so glad we got them. 

How about you? Any great kid + kitchen tips? Feel free to share!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Early mornings, Sleepy Children

Sometimes mornings can be torture tough. Especially weekends when you need to be somewhere early.
I have one early, chirpy riser. She wakes up happy and has no trouble functioning in the morning. My other two...well, let's just say mornings could be more pleasant.
I thought and thought about setting the right mood in the morning. Finally I tried music! I took a playlist that starts my day out right and turned on the music rather than the overhead light. I opened the curtains for some natural light (if there is any at this time of the year!) and let the music roll.

Not only did my kids wake up happy, get moving quickly, and seem generally more easy-going....but so did I. It was great. So, simple tips from a mom with grumpies in the morning.

How about you? What do you do to get moving on the right foot in the morning?