August 13, 2015

Back to School Countdown

Summer ends much too quickly and once again it's time for the kids to head back to school. I started doing a "back to school countdown" when my daughter was transitioning from homeschool to public school for the first time in 4th grade. I wanted to share advice with her in a way she would remember and came up with this idea.

create a Back to School Countdown - give your kids advice and school supplies at the same time.  clever!

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Occasionally when I talk to my kids they zone out for some reason. It could because my friendly advice just comes out as a long list of dos and don'ts that are hard to keep track of. In order to help my kids remember the things I would like them to remember as they head back to school, I came up with this back to school countdown. 

Each day they would receive an item that is supposed to help them remember a piece of advice along with a note of explanation. Since we are a Christian family, a lot of what I had to say to them was concerned with remembering our values and the behavior God expects from us all. She loved finding something new outside her door each day! 

Here are some ideas of things I've used over the past several years:

Pencils - you are writing the story of your life with the choices you make every day. Make it a good one!
Erasers - It's okay to make mistakes. Just erase and try again. 
Hand Sanitizer - When you sin, remember that repentance makes you clean again.
Kleenex - Sometimes you will feel sad, and you can always turn to us and God for comfort.
Markers or colored pencils - The world is full of diversity. Appreciate the people around you for the things they contribute and find your own way to improve the world.
Glue or Tape - Stick to the things you know are right to help guide your choices.
Chapstick - Just like lip balm soothes chapped lips, prayer will be a balm to the wounded soul. When times get hard, pray. 
Lotion - soften your heart. Be humble and teachable. 
Ruler - measure your life by God's standards, not the world's. 
Highlighter - focus on the positive, count your blessings
Bookmark - seek learning out of the best books!
Scissors - cut out the negative influences in your life
Pencil Sharpener - sharpen your skills by studying hard
100 Grand - Remember your worth is great
Smarties - We are all smart in different ways. 
Nerds - study hard
Snickers - it's good to just laugh at yourself sometimes
Life Savers - prayer can be a life saver
Hershey's Hugs and Kisses - remember you are greatly loved
M&Ms - you are Marvelous and Magnificent!
Now and Later - the choices you make will effect you now and later

My letters of advice were lengthier than these snippets, but you get the gist of what I was saying with each item. 

I didn't use all the ideas the same year, and some are more appropriate for older kids than younger. Choose the ideas you like and make a fun back to school countdown for your kids! You are already buying them new school supplies anyway, so this way you can at least give them some advice along with the supplies. And you can include as much or as little candy as you like. I always try to buy the fun size. 

Another option is to bundle it all together in a pencil box and hand it out as a "Back To School Survival Kit". At church, I plan activities for girls aged 8-11 and that's what I did for them. They loved it! I attached this cute handout along with it so they could remember what each thing represented. 

create a Back to School survival kit- give your kids advice and school supplies at the same time.  clever!

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July 16, 2015

Kids in the Kitchen - Easy Meals Kids Can Make

As my kids have aged, they have taken on more responsibility in the kitchen. During these summer months when they have extra time I try to help them learn to make meals on their own. Joshua especially has loved being in charge of meal times. Maren mostly likes to make cookies. Ha. But I love being able to watch them take on more responsibility and take pride in the skills they have gained.

Ideas for meals that kids can make on their own when they're first learning to cook

Why should kids cook on their own?
 - They feel proud!
 - It's a valuable life skill.
 - It helps the family.

When should you let kids cook on their own?
That will depend on the child. Joshua has been cooking and he is 10, but I know kids younger who make breakfast for their families. I, however, still do not trust my 8 year old to be cooking in the kitchen without me. You know your child best and if they will be safe around hot surfaces and sharp things.

How do you teach them to cook on their own?
Before you let them be totally independent, make sure they have a firm understanding of the recipe.
I always:
1. Let them watch and help a little the first time we make a meal together.
2. Let them be in charge with me watching and guiding as needed.
3. Let them make it on their own with me in another room. They can come ask for help if they need it but this helps them feel responsible and proud that they could do it on their own.

What can kids cook on their own?
My kids first meal to master has always been breakfast, specifically scrambled eggs. I love this because then they get up before I do and make breakfast for their siblings. It's great. Sometimes the meals don't turn out as planned but it's a good learning experience for the kids. We've had some very salty scrambled eggs.

Our favorite easy foods for kids to make (these are ones that require cooking):

Scrambled Eggs
Grilled Cheese
Macaroni and Cheese

Foods they make that don't require cooking:

parfaits (yogurt and cut fruit layered in a cup)
sandwiches of all varieties
peeled and sliced vegetables (carrots, cucumbers)
Fruit salad made of bananas, grapes, strawberries (I don't have them cut melons yet)
Green Salads

By combining these things my kids can come up with family meals that everyone will like. Are they gourmet meals? No, but that's okay. They're learning the basics and are proud of their accomplishments.

What kinds of foods do your kids like to make? What would you add to this list?

This post is part of "31 days of Kids' kitchen activities". Go over to Study at Home Mama to see more great ideas for getting kids involved in the kitchen!

kids' kitchen activities

June 25, 2015

Using Bread Tags as Math Manipulatives

Math can be made fun by using everyday objects as manipulatives.

Make math fun by using bread tags as a cheap math manipulative!

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Hey all! So do you ever just collect things for no reason and then think "what should I do with these?" Um, me neither? Oh fine. I do. And one thing I kept for no reason were these little plastic tags from packages of bread and rolls and things. I found that they make great, cheap math manipulatives.

So what can you do with them?

Sort! Give a pile to your preschooler and let them sort. Sort by color! Sort by size! Sort by shape! Sort by date on the tag! You get the idea.

Plus if you let them sort into a muffin tin, these make a very satisfying "plink!" noise.

Make math fun by using bread tags as a cheap math manipulative!

And they can be used for fine motor work. Here I strung up a shoelace between two chairs and Nathan clipped them on. He decided to make a pattern too.

Make math fun by using bread tags as a cheap math manipulative!

These are also great for counting, adding, subtracting, making patterns etc . . .

So start collecting some plastic tags for a cheap math manipulative at home or in your classroom.

And be sure to explore the other fun math games we've done.

Some of our other favorite math manipulatives which we use on a regular basis (that are not free, haha):


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This post is part of the "Math Made Fun" series over on Schooltime Snippets. Be sure to check out the other ways you can use everyday items for math!

math made fun