Friday, December 23, 2011

Spreading Holiday Cheer

This year, we decided to give extra holiday cheer to our neighbors as we delivered our family Christmas card. After dinner one evening, we put on our warm winter coats and headed out into the cold up and down our street. At each house we rang the bell, and when our neighbors answered, our 3 kids did their best to deliver a Christmas Carol "We Wish You a Merry Christmas". At the end of the song, they handed over our Christmas card and candy canes for all the kids in the house. It was an impromptu idea that turned out to be so much FUN!
Here are some other fun links for activities to do with your kids when they're home from school over this holiday vacation:
Kaboose: Christmas Crafts
Enchanted Learning Christmas Crafts and Printable Activities
Family Fun: A Homemade Christmas
DLTK's Christmas Crafts
Amazing Moms Christmas Crafts

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kindergarten Ready or Not

A friend of mine recently asked for my advice on whether or not he would put his son in kindergarten this year or give him one more year of preschool. He and his wife have decided that they definitely want their son to be older in kindergarten. However, they wondered if there would be a benefit to starting him in kindergarten this year with the intention of having him repeat it again next year. His reasons were that it would save a considerable amount of money by not having to pay for preschool. Also, it would give him one year of practice in kindergarten and then he could do it again next year as the real deal.
I remember my son being quite a bit younger than the other kids in his class and I wondered about putting him into kindergarten for 2 years or giving him one more year of preschool and making him a year older before he began. So, I could relate to this logic.
But, here are some things that I recommend for people who are considering putting their child in kindergarten before the child is ready to take it seriously. Kindergarten is rather rigorous now, not like it was when we were kids. There is a very high expectation for behavior and achievement. A child that is not mature enough will feel like they are not able to keep up with the other kids. This could result in being labeled by the teacher as immature and possibly being labeled by peers as well. He may also develop self-confidence issues when trying to compare himself to other kids that are older and more mature. Once a child has experienced an entire school year, whether or not they were ready, they have experienced all of its special moments. When they repeat the same grade level, none of those special moments are a surprise. The year may seem a little less magical and for a child, may even seem boring and predictable.
So, here are some alternatives that parents may want to consider when waiting for one extra year to start kindergarten. Some preschools offer a pre-K program that is a transitional year between preschool and kindergarten. Parents may also choose to increase the days that their child goes to preschool. Kindergarten is five days a week. For older kids, preschool can be an opportunity to begin getting into that routine.
But I definitely do not recommend using kindergarten as a dress rehearsal, or a training camp. It is something that should be taken seriously the first time through.
Here are some other articles to read about kindergarten readiness:

Friday, August 19, 2011

Countdown to the End of Summer Vacation

For schools that follow a traditional calendar, August marks the end of summer vacation. And the end of summer vacation means headed back to school. Here are some things you can be doing this month at home to help kids ease back into the routine of school.
1) Resume an early bed time. Often times in summer we let the kids stay up late at night and sleep in each morning. Use the month of August to work back up to whatever time it is that you need to wake up during the school year. Waiting until the last minute will result in tired children showing up for the first day of school. Not a good impression for the student or the teacher.
2) Try to simulate an eating schedule that will be similar to the schedule your child will be on at school. Often times kids are rushed in the morning and forget to eat breakfast or are used to eating breakfast later during the summer. But, missing their opportunity to have breakfast at home before school can sometimes mean that they will not be able to eat until lunch time. Kids have a hard time concentrating in class when they are hungry.
3) Give a refresher course for the brain. If you haven't done so already, pick up a summer workbook from your local bookstore or online and have your child work in it for a predetermined amount of time each day. There are so many workbooks out there to choose from. We recommend Summer Bridge Activities, but there are others out there that are similar and will accomplish the same goal.
4) Rediscover reading. If your child read all summer, good for you...and good for your child. If your child was not so consistent with summer reading, head off to the library, the bookstore, or an online bookstore and pick out a couple new books. Actually, because summer should be about reading for enjoyment, let your child select his/her own book(s). Though, even after your child selects a book, you should check it to make sure the content is appropriate and that it is a good reading level.
5) Get organized. Start clearing out a work space that you will use when homework starts. Gather supplies in a pencil box or another container to keep close by.
6) Finally, enjoy the last days of summer!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer Family Fun Nights

Last summer my neighbors and I threw around so many fun ideas for summer vacation. And at the end of the summer, we had followed up on very few of them. This summer, I thought of the saying from the movie Field of Dreams "If you build it they will come". I had the idea to take the month of July, find one day of the week and plan a different dinner time activity for each week. I sent out an email to some neighbors who I'm close with. I told them the four ideas and said for each week, come if you can, don't feel bad if you can't. The activities were as follows:
1) Picnic in the park
2) Weenie Roast at the Beach
3) Lemonade Stand Dinner
4) Driveway Progressive Dinner
Each week was so much fun! Here are the details if you'd like to try them yourself.
Summer Family Fun Nights- Part I
Picnic in the Park
I sent out an email with a sign up sheet for Bread, Salad, Cut Fruit, Bottled Waters, and Adult Beverages. I designated myself as bringing the main course, for which I chose Penne with Meat Sauce. I also brought paper plates, napkins, cups, and plastic utensils.
I am happy to say the Picnic in the Park was a HUGE success. The kids were tickled to have dinner with friends at the park. And once we were done, we moved over to the soccer field where the kids played until the sun went down.


Summer Family Fun Nights- Part II
Weenie Roast at the Beach

I sent out an email for sign-ups for chips, fruit, fixings for s'mores, kid bevs, and adult bevs. I admitted that I knew nothing about having a fire at the beach, so if some dad was willing to take the lead on that it would be greatly appreciated, and of course a great dad rose to the occasion. I brought hot dogs, buns, condiments, and paper goods. Don't be discouraged if you don't live close to the beach. Any bbq pit at your local park will do. Just for fun, I created a scavenger hunt for the kids to do while we made dinner. I took some brown paper bags and wrote several items on the outside for the kids to find such as: dry sand, wet sand, dry rock, wet rock, seaweed, leaf, piece of trash, seashell, etc. The night was so much fun.
Summer Family Fun Nights- Part III
Lemonade Stand Dinner
This was certainly my favorite night of all. I always feel so bad for the kids I see in my neighborhood having a lemonade stand. They try so hard, but I'm never carrying cash when I see them, nor have the time to go back when I do. So, I came up with this idea. What if we could create a lemonade stand and promise customers will come. A Lemonade Stand Dinner! So, kids were assigned a stand for each of the following: lemonade, chips, fruit, bottled water, dessert. My stand was pizza (I went cheap from Costco). The rule was everything you sold cost 10cents. The point of it all was not really to make money, but to simulate a customer-merchant transaction. The kids worked their stands, while the adults purchased their dinners. Then, the adults relieved the kids so that they could go through the line themselves. The cutest thing was that the kids chose not to eat on the grass picnic-style like the parents did. They went back to their stands for anyone who came back for seconds.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Making Reading Fun at Home

Reading during the summer is especially important. It is a time to strengthen comprehension skills and a time to learn to love reading for pleasure. For kids in the primary grades who are still learning how to read, it is important that they do not lose the skills they gained over the past year. Kids in upper grades have gone from learning to read to reading to learn. Much of the information they will be expected to learn going forward in school will be obtained through their own reading. So it is best to keep those comprehension skills sharp. OF COURSE, I have some links from to find great ideas for making reading fun at home.
Kindergarten Reading at Home
First Grade Reading at Home
Second Grade Reading at Home
Third Grade Reading at Home
Fourth Grade Reading at Home
Fifth Grade Reading at Home

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Making Science Fun at Home is always my first stop on an Internet hunt when looking for fun and educational activities to do at home with my kids. Their ideas are easy and creative and my kids love them! Science is always a big hit in and out of the classroom. Its hands-on and that's what kids enjoy most. Here is a list of links from that separates science experiments by grade level.
Kindergarten Science At Home
First Grade Science At Home
Second Grade Science At Home
Third Grade Science At Home
Fourth Grade Science At Home
Fifth Grade Science At Home

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Making Math Fun at Home

Take the opportunity this summer to show your kids that math doesn't have to just be pages in workbooks. Not that there is anything wrong with pages in workbooks. I love I subscribe to their newsletter and I always find the best idea of ways to have fun learning at home. Here are some links to math activities to do at home from that are broken down by grade level! Just point, click, and learn. Easy!
Kindergarten Math at Home
First Grade Math at Home
Second Grade Math at Home
Third Grade Math at Home
Fourth Grade Math at Home
Fifth Grade Math at Home

Monday, July 11, 2011

How to Get Kids to do their Homework

Is it difficult to get your child to sit down after school or over the summer and work on homework or enrichment materials? Do they put up resistance, maybe to the point you give in and give up  trying to make them work? Here is one of the best tools to keep children on track when doing school work at home.

What? A timer? Yes, a timer will make a world of difference when kids are working on school work at home. A common mistake that parents make during homework time is that they expect their kids to sit down for too long of a period of time. And kids automatically think that homework will take a long time and they won't be able to play with friends or watch television afterward. But, research has given us a guideline as to how much time kids should be expected to work on homework each night after school. The rule is 10 multiplied by the grade they are in. For example, a second grader should come home to 20 minutes of homework, a third grader to thirty minutes and so on.
Using a timer during your homework routine reinforces to children that this work is not going to last forever, like they are imagining. In fact, 20 minutes goes by quite fast, and they can keep checking the timer and seeing how much time is left. We've shown you a picture of one of our favorite timers, mainly because it is easy for kids to set themselves and it counts down.
Other helpful hints are to make sure that children have used the restroom and quenched their thirst before the timer starts. When the timer is counting down, they should be seated and working. Also, they should have enough materials to be able to work until the timer beeps. If your child works quickly, make sure they have a journal or a silent reading book that they can transition into if there is any time left after their work is complete.

Friday, July 1, 2011

How to Avoid Summer Learning Loss

Smart Parents Say No to Summer Learning Loss! 
What exactly is summer learning loss? Research shows that children lose between one and three months of learning while on summer vacation from school. In the fall, teachers spend an average of five weeks reviewing material from the previous grade level.
What can you do to ensure that your child retains the skills and information they learned in school last year?
Plan a routine for summer vacation that includes:
1) reviewing concepts from the past year
2) regular visits to your local library or book store, to encourage reading for fun
3) finding teachable moments in everyday activities 

Avoid Summer Learning Loss!
What is summer learning loss? Read more
What are experts saying about it? Read more 

Visit for more ideas on how to avoid summer learning loss.

How to Set Up a Summer Study Routine for Kids

Getting Ready for Fall!
Wondering how to help your child study this summer? Confused about how to set up study time? Make the most of your child's time away from school this summer with the help of the Summer Sack. The Summer Sack is an all-in-one kit  specific to each grade level, preschool through 5th grade. Each kit comes with  tools that teach kids time management, organization, and independence. All these important tools come in an easy to carry pouch that makes summer study time portable for on-the-go summer schedules. This effective program will maximize summer learning, strengthen homework habits when the school year begins, and begin to shift learning into a part of life rather than just a part of school.
 Learn more about the Summer Sack at

Tip Junkie handmade projects

How to Throw a 4th of July Block Party

In years past, our neighborhood has lacked a community Fourth of July tradition. This year, my neighbor Stephanie decided to change that. She has called for a Fourth of July Block Party. The whole street is buzzing. We can't wait. We had a meeting to make sure that all of our bases were covered and that the party would be a real hit. I enlisted my "keep it simple" system that has guided me through many a grand events such as this one.

1. Pick a date. Fourth of July? Done.

2. Send out your invitations. Steph used evite. But since we didn't know all the email addresses for the people on our street, we also printed it out and delivered it in mailboxes. She included the sign up option through evite to have people bring cut fruit, side dishes, desserts and drinks.

4. Get some friends to help out. The cost of this shindig was going to add up quickly. So, we asked for everyone participating to throw in $10. That helped out with the cost of the bounce house, rentals for tables and chairs, and burgers and hot dogs for lunch.

5. Pick a craft. How cute is this? To get the kids excited for our Fourth of July Block Party, we asked them to decorate their bikes and we'll be kicking off the party with a kids parade. I also planned a couple activities to do during the party. I'll be making these adorable cupcakes I found and the kids will be decorating them with red, white and blue candies and fruits. And the teacher in me just melted over this awesome craft from one of my favorite blogs ( We'll be graphing Fourth of July Goldfish and marshmallows.

6. Designate a set up crew. We're all sending our hubbies up 2 hours before the party starts to get it all ready. Thanks in advance hubbies!

7. Show time. I'll keep you posted on how it all turns out. I'm thinking: friends, kids, bounce house, and a day off work? How can you go wrong.

 We couldn't resist renting a snow cone machine to combat the brutal heat

The neighborhood kids all decorated their bikes for a bike parade

Patriotic decorations and costumes made the day that much more fun

Thursday, June 30, 2011

How to Throw an Egg Hunt

This tradition has been a huge hit in my neighborhood for years. I've simplified it to the point that I ALMOST just show up myself. :) Well, maybe that's a little exaggeration. But, I've made it pretty easy. Here's how I do it.
1. Pick a date. I always choose the day before Easter. Many people go to church on Easter Sunday or spend the day with family. You could also choose the week before.

2. Find a bunny. Shhhh...don't tell my kids, but Grandpa Mike volunteers every year. He shows up for coffee and doughnuts and with all the excitement, no one notices that he disappears for the egg hunt. Just to make sure, I ask him in front of some of the older kids if he'll run to the store for cream for the coffee. I invested in a bunny costume that hides all year long in an unmarked box in the garage. The costume can be a little pricey, but you can price hunt online and share it among friends or a local organization that might use it as well.

3. Send out your invitations. I use evite. I tend to misplace paper these days. I like online systems that I can check regularly. You can print it up for friends that might not have email, but you can't be my friend if you don't have email. Its my main way to communicate.

4. Get some friends to help out. I have a friend who runs out to pick up doughnut holes for our breakfast. My friends love to help. So, I ask someone to bring a couple cases of bottled water, someone to bring creamer, sugar packets and stir sticks, someone to bring napkins and little paper plates, some years I feel like having cut up fruit. You get the picture. I'm the organizer, I offer up my house, I don't feel obligated to do ALL the work.

5. Pick a craft. Okay. This part is the most work for me. And while I'm up all hours of the night one night getting it done, I'm a little grumpy. But, when we deliver them and the kids are so excited to get them, I forget all about the work involved. And when the egg hunt is going on and these adorable crafts surround my yard, it brings a smile to everyone's face.

6. Designate a set up crew. Don't do it yourself! Some moms on my street send the hubby's up to help set up tables and clear out my yard while they get the kids ready.

7. Show time. It runs a little something like this:
9:30-10:00 Guests arrive and we eat doughnuts.
10:15 Bunny waves from a balcony that overlooks our courtyard. The kids are giddy with excitement. We do the egg drop. Dads are around the back scattering eggs.
10:30 I go over a few guidelines with the kids, we walk around the corner, they see the eggs scattered, we line up around the grass. I let the youngest go first. Its over in about 5 mintes. :) All that work! Then, the kids sit around open their eggs and enjoy. I have a friend that I designate as a photographer and she takes pictures of all the families with the bunny.

It's one of my favorite days of the year!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Teacher Gifts- Teacher Appreciation

I sat down to do a post about teacher appreciation gifts and right before I started I browsed through some of my favorite blogs. I found the CUTEST post about teacher appreciations gifts and I'm not even going to try my own. Check out these creative, simple, thoughtful gifts. I will be using them every year! They even give you the printables! Thank you, thank you, thank you Nothing But Country for these adorable ideas. I've listed some of my favorites below. Click the link to see the actual project.

Other great sites for ideas:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Neighborhood Traditions

Breakfast with Bunny
Traditions are such a big part of growing up and many traditions we have belong to our families. But, neighborhood traditions are a great way to form life long friends for both kids and parents. We moved into our neighborhood as one of the original owners. The first year we were here, there was a community egg hunt and we decided to take our son, who was a year and a half old at the time. It was so incredibly crowded that when the finally counted down and sounded the signal to begin hunting for eggs, it was over in a matter seconds and our son never got a single egg. So, the next year, we started our own neighborhood tradition. We bought an Easter Bunny costume and my dad has been the good sport every year to wear it. We invited most of our neighborhood (as many as our yard could hold). We put out an Evite for an event we named Breakfast with Bunny. We served coffee, water, and doughnut holes which are an incredibly inexpensive way to feed a large group of people. I bought supplies for a craft that I deliver to the kids a couple days in advance to get them excited about the egg hunt and to have them help me decorate the yard. The craft is a foam egg with the letters for their name and some other foam stickers. They make it and drop it off in my mailbox the night before. I glue a stick behind it and they border the yard around the hunt. Last year we also added an egg drop because the kids are getting older and I wanted a little challenge for them. Surprisingly the parents were just as into it as the kids were. The morning of the hunt, we mingle while people arrive, eat some doughnut holes, and then hunt for eggs. All the parents that attend bring 1-2 dozen eggs and I throw in a ton myself. I know its one of those things my kids look forward to all year and I'm pretty sure the rest of the kids on the block feel the same.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Teacher Gifts- End of the year

We have 2 teachers this year, so I was looking for something new that was easy to make twice. I came across the cutest idea on this blog I found:

I used her poem (below) and put my own little spin on it. I filled a can from Michael's with any kind of mint candy I could find, attached the poem in the inside, and hung a gift card on the back. I loved that it was filled with sweets to carry around in her purse. I loved the creative poem, and who doesn't love a little shopping spree over summer vacation?

Thanks for your commit-"mint" to help me learn.
Thanks for your encourage-"mint" to always do my best.
Thanks for your involve-"mint" in my life.
Thanks for your invest-"mint" of time and energy
to make school such a great place to be.
Thanks for making each day an enjoy-"mint".
Thanks for helping to create a nice environ-"mint"
for me to learn and grow.
Everything you have done this year
    has really “mint” a lot to me!!!

                                                   (poem from

Friday, June 17, 2011

Teacher Gifts- Birthdays

Candy bar cards were a huge hit in my son's kindergarten class this year. I thought they'd be fun for the kids to see since my son doesn't think that gift cards are any fun to get for your birthday. So, I figured the kids would love to see the candy, and the teacher will like the gift card at the end.

The first card I made, I learned that you can spend a fortune on candy bars and not even use half of the ones that you buy. I went to Walmart and the grocery store and initially just bought any candy bar that had a name I thought I could work with. As I sat down to write, I realized I had WAY more than I needed and some of the names that I thought were so clever, sounded a little weird for a birthday card to a kindergarten teacher (Butterfinger, Big Hunk).

 Both teachers were so excited to get their candy bar card. And on my way out the door after presenting the second card, 3 different students came up to ask me if they invited my son to their birthday party, would I make them a candy bar card, too. I had no idea this little project would make my son so   popular!