Friday, May 29, 2009

Summer Learning Calendar


Appropriate for ages: 5 - 11

Helps with: Summer Learning

Review: This is a calendar of small things to do every day for seven weeks of summer vacation. The calendar is designed to accommodate all elementary age children. Most of the activities are very simple and short. Quite often they are fun things that kids will enjoy doing. The activities are varied and cover reading, teaching, learning, culture, and even college.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Little Nature Trip

Many areas have orchards where you can go to pick strawberries, blueberries, etc. with your kids. Often they will let you eat as much as you want while you pick berries. Many places will let you buy the packages of berries that you pick at reduced prices. Or, if you don't want to keep them, some places will keep your berries and pay you for picking them.

This can be a great outing with your kids. They will get to see a farm/orchard in action. It is nice for kids to realize how we get our food. It is not as simple as going to the store. They will see how food is grown and picked. Also, it is a nice way to spend a day as a family, and kids will enjoy getting to eat as many berries as they want in the process.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Book Review ~ Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia

Title: Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia

Author: Barbara O'Connor

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 4 (worth 3 points)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 9 - 12

Movie Version Available: No

Review: This is a cute book about a friendship between two kids that both feel a little out of place. They bond while preparing for a Spelling Bee. The story starts a little slow, but I really enjoyed it. I read it to a class of fourth graders. They enjoyed the story as well. It is a nice little story about family, friends, trying to fit in, and hopes and dreams.

Also by Barbara O'Connor

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Easy "Painted" Artwork

Kids love to paint, but what a mess! This is an easy and simple way to make "painted" artwork without the mess. You will need coffee filters and markers. I think you need washable markers, but the other ones may work. Let your kids color the coffee filters so that the entire filter is covered. Usually you are going more for colors then an actual picture. Then, run water over the filter. The colors will bleed just a little to give a painted look to the artwork.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Website Review ~ Coloring Pages


Appropriate for ages: 8 and under

Helps with: Coloring

Review: There are many websites where you can get coloring pages. This is one of my favorites. There are quite a lot of different kinds of coloring pages. They are nice large patterns that are fun and easy to color. I also like how the site is pretty well organized. It is easy to find what you want.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Educational Leaf Art

One summer, while on a camping trip, I made some leaf art that was quite fun. We used muslin fabric (cheap off-white fabric) and put the leaves between two layers of muslin. The leaves need to be fresh green leaves. Then use a rubber mallet to hit the muslin (with the leaves in between.) The chlorophyll will come out leaving the imprint of the leaf on the muslin. It is a very pretty art project, and it also helps to show children what chlorophyll is.

I have not tried this with construction paper, but it MAY work as a substitute for the muslin.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book Review ~ The Westing Game

Title: The Westing Game

Author: Ellen Raskin

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 5 (worth 8 points)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 10 - adult

Movie Version Available: no

Review: This book took me a few chapters to get really in to it, but when I did, I couldn't put it down. It is a mystery, but it is feels more like a regular story than a mystery. The clues are given so that a young person could figure out parts of the mystery, yet even an advanced mystery reader will probably still find parts of the end surprising. I am not usually a big mystery fan, but I really liked this book. I think you will find it fun to read. The plot is full of exciting twists and turns.

Also by Ellen Raskin

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Flower Art

What you need: Construction paper, crayons, muffin liners, pipe cleaners, cereal like fruit loops.

Glue a pipe cleaner to a sheet of construction paper (at the bottom.) Then glue the muffin liner at the top of the pipe cleaner to make a flower. Then let kids decorate with crayons and glue down fruit loops to the muffin liner to finish the flower.

Via I love that Teaching Idea.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Website Review ~ Family Fun


Appropriate for ages: 5-13

Helps with: Traveling

Review: This is a great site for more fun things to do in the car. You can print puzzles like mazes, word searches, find the differences, etc. Everything is really pretty and eye catching, but it may eat up some of your color ink in the process. Over all, I think it would be worth it.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Since we are focusing on more laid back topics for summer time, I thought I would write some character teaching ideas too. Any teacher can tell you that children who cannot be kind and respectful are almost impossible to teach. Learning basic character qualities will prove to be very helpful in the classroom for your child, not to mention help solve many friend issues that they may come upon.

Kids need to learn how to respect each other. We have all met a lot of adults who never learned this important quality. They are hard to be around, aren't they? Talk to your kids about how everyone is different, but still valuable. To help them understand here are a few ideas:
  • Think about the human body. Feet may not be your favorite part of your body, but try going without them. Even if your foot is just injured, it greatly impacts your whole body! Or maybe you don't really like the look of your ears or nose. Now try to think of what life would be like without one or both of them. People are the same. We are all different. We act different, we do different things, but every part is very important and all people deserve kindness and respect. If we were all the same it would be like having a whole body of just hands or eyes. It would not work!
  • Build a basic block house out of legos or building blocks. What if you took out a few bricks? The heat or cold would get in. It would not be a nice place to live. If you see a brick on the side of the road, it would not look too important, but imagine that was a brick from your house. You'd want it back! People are like that. You may look at one person and not see them as very important, but everyone is important. If they are not there the world would not be the same.
  • You can think of several other examples based on your kid's interests. Some could be: a sports team that is missing a member, a favorite toy with dead batteries, etc.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Book Review ~ Princess Academy

Title: Princess Academy

Author: Shannon Hale

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 6 (worth 10 points)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 10-13

Movie Version Available: no

Review: This is a cute book that girls will enjoy. It is about a poor neglected area in a kingdom. The next princess will be chosen from their area. Classes begin to train the girls how to become a fitting princess. Then the prince will choose a bride. Miri soon learns of plots that will endanger them. She must organize a way to save everyone. The story is cute, and I liked the ending. I think many young girls will enjoy this story.

Also by Shannon Hale

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Web Art

Spiders are not my favorite creatures, but spider webs can be a fun art project. Show your children some pictures of spider webs. Then give them some black construction paper and some Elmer's squeeze glue (not stick glue.) Let them create some spider webs of their own. You can even stick some plastic spiders in the glue webs as they dry to help with the effect. (Also good at keeping them out of your bed and shoes as practical jokes if they are stuck to art projects!) If you have learned about spiders in science class, let them write some facts about spiders on their art projects.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Website Review ~ String Figures


Appropriate for ages: 7-13

Helps with: Following Directions

Review: This is a site that teaches kids how to make shapes with string like Jacob's ladder, cup and saucer, crow's feet, etc. It also teaches how to play Cat's Cradle. I like this website because the illustrations are clear and simple to follow. I have seen many kids (girls especially) get so excited when they learn a new string trick. This may be a great activity to work on during a long road trip.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Get your kids excited about learning about the world around them by inventing. Here are some ideas:
  • Read Mistakes that Worked about how some mistakes have turned into our favorite inventions and creations.
  • Invent a new food. Start with something small like a new sandwich, cookie, or pizza. Maybe you could even try to make it!
  • Try to invent a new machine. Don't worry so much about the mechanics of it. Just try to get the imagination and creativity to come out. Have them draw a picture of their new invention.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Book Review ~ Notes From a Liar and Her Dog

Title: Notes From a Liar and Her Dog

Author: Gennifer Choldenko

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 3 (worth 7 points)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 9-14

Movie Version Available: no

Review: This book is about a girl named Ant who does not feel like she belongs in her family. She believes that her parents only love her two sisters and not her. She can only confide in her dog and her best friend Harrison. In the book she makes friends with her art teacher who is a bit meddlesome, but also somewhat helpful. Ant must face all of her lies and try to work with her family to find a place to belong. Overall I liked the plot of this book, however, a word of caution, Ant lies a lot and is often disrespectful to her parents. There are lessons learned about this, but in the book her parents are written to be as much as fault as she is. I didn't really appreciate that her attitude was not cast in a more negative light.

Also by Gennifer Choldenko

Friday, May 8, 2009

Think it Through

Summer is a great time to work on critical thinking. It's a life skill that comes in very handy in school, but it doesn't feel like school work. Here are some ideas:
  • Get your kids involved in puzzles. They are great for car rides, waiting at doctor appointments, or something to do at a house with no toys when you visit someone.
  • Puzzles that require logic are especially helpful. Let your kids try them. They may really like them.
  • Ask your kids to explain things to you. Ask them questions that can't be answered with a yes or no answer. If they make a value judgment (like choosing the park over a museum) ask why they chose that way. Keep trying to get them to think deeper on topics of interest.
  • Explain things to your kids. Kids are known for asking why. Instead of brushing them off, give them an opportunity to learn.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Website Review ~ Car Games

Website: Mom's Minivan Printable Games

Appropriate for ages: 5-14

Helps with: Traveling

This is a great site for finding games to play in the car. I am going to post the links to several printable games.

The Dot Game (Where you take turns drawing a line to make squares)

Tic Tac Toe

Car scavenger hunt for big kids

Car scavenger hunt for little kids

Battleship (with instructions)

Battleship (with more game boards instead of instructions)

List of states (to mark off which license plates you see)

Silly song lyrics

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Nature Walk

Most likely your kids are still in school, and they are probably having some severe cases of cabin fever from having to stay inside all day. Get out and take a walk with your kids! You'll enjoy it, and they will let out some cooped up energy. To make your walk a little more Scientific, turn it into a nature scavenger hunt. You can make up your own list if you want, but I am going to include some links to websites that have lists already prepared. (Scroll to the bottom) This is a really good one! It includes all of your senses by giving things to listen for, smell, etc! This one is a little more involved. It has activities and things to photograph as well. It would really be good to save for a camping trip.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Book Review ~ Pish Posh

Title: Pish Posh

Author: Ellen Potter

Accelerated Reader (AR) Level: 5 (worth 6 points)

Ages that Will Enjoy the Book: 9-12

Movie Version Available: no

Review: At first I was not impressed with this book because the main character is a little girl who is entirely too stuck up. I stuck with it, however, and it was worth it. There was a nice sprinkling of humor throughout the book as well as a few much needed lessons. I think that young girls will enjoy this book because they can imagine living the dream life of Clara Frankofile. She gets to meet all kinds of rich and famous people, has quite possibly the coolest house in the history of the world, and gets to solve a light mystery to boot. Moms will like it because of the lesson that all people are of equal importance.

Also by Ellen Potter

Monday, May 4, 2009

Declutter the Fridge

Kid's artwork and school work can cover a refrigerator in no time. Here is a neat idea for an art project that will also help you to keep your fridge organized.

You will need:

A poster board



A Gallon size Ziploc Bag

Magnets (If you do not have any, you can use the ones people give you as a magnetic business card, etc. You will just have to cut them and hot glue them on.)

Decorating materials (crayons, stickers, glitter, etc.)


Have adults help with cutting, and hot gluing (if required.) Cut the poster board into 4 strips. The strips need to be cut so that they will make a frame around the gallon Ziploc bag (that will become the "glass" in your frame.) Once the poster board is cut, glue the corners together, and then tape the bag to the back side so that you do NOT see the Ziploc part at the top. (This will not need to be zipped so it is fine to tape it down.) Now you should have a frame made of poster board around "glass" that is made of a Ziploc bag. Let your child decorate the "frame." Then, stick magnets on the back. Now the frame is ready to go on the refrigerator. Tell your child that they can pick one thing to display in the frame. A few other favorites can be stored behind the one on display so the child can switch them out. The Ziploc frame should hold a standard size sheet of paper. Kids like it because the frame is a piece of their artwork, but it also helps them to understand that only one piece at a time can be displayed. Giving them the choice over what goes on display makes them feel like they have some control over it. They are less likely to be upset about not having ALL of their work up at the same time if they know they can have a piece framed and switch it whenever they want.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Just for Fun

During the months of May and June I will be focusing on activities, websites, and tips that are mostly just for fun. Some of them may be educational as well, but I would like to take a more relaxed approach as most people are off for the summer. Starting in July I will focus on back to school topics since many people start to buy supplies, meet the teacher, etc. in the end of July. If you have hints or tips to share please feel free to write me using the "Contact Us" area, or write it in the comment section of any post if it applies to that topic.

Website Review ~ Car Bingo

Website: Roadside Bingo
Car Bingo

Appropriate for ages: 5-14

Helps with: Traveling

I used these Bingo boards with teens on a 10 hour trip last summer. I think that they can be fun for all ages who want to play. The links include 2 kinds of bingo boards. The first one is things that you would see on the side of the road. The other is different kinds of vehicles you may see as you travel. It is a mess to use bingo chips, pennies, etc. to mark what you have found. I suggest you just print off enough that you can mark things off with a pencil or pen instead of trying to reuse boards.

Obviously, you don't want everyone to have identical boards. Each of these games comes with 4 kinds of boards. I have included the links to the first ones. When you open them, look way up at the top and you will see an arrow that says "Next Card" by it. Click there to find the other 3 boards. Make sure you print a variety. If you have more than 4 players, you can work as teams or give a couple people matching boards. Chances are they won't see things exactly the same way so it will not be a problem.