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

June 1, 2015

Summer Reading Scratch-off Boards

Kids love this fun scratch-off game that encourages summer reading!

Great idea! Scratch off boards as a summer reading incentive. The kids scratch off a square to reveal a prize after they have read a book! So fun!

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Every summer I like to do some kind of summer reading incentive at home. We also participate in the library's program, and maybe a bookstore program or two, but the kids always love the one we do at home.

This year I made myself laugh by coming up with a devious plan to ruin their fun. I was going to offer them a dime for every book they read OR they could trade it in for a chance at the "risk board", kind of like that "Let's Make a Deal" game show. The risk board would have some really cool fun stuff on it, but also some chores or punishments. I thought it was a hilarious plan. My 12 year old thought it sounded awful. I decided against it in the long run but instead came up with an idea for a scratch-off board which so far they have loved.

Every time they read a book (or two, depending on how long/hard the books are) they write the title on our summer reading book lists and put the book away. That's an important step or we end up with books all over the house. Then they scratch off a square on our scratch-off boards and get whatever prize they reveal. The prizes I included were 25 cents, 50 cents, a dollar, ice cream (I keep drumsticks ice cream cones in our freezer for this prize), a prize from our prize basket (which contains candy, gum, bubbles, and other small things), or a free media day (where they can play on electronic devices or watch shows as long as they want once their morning work is done).

Great idea! Scratch off boards as a summer reading incentive. The kids scratch off a square to reveal a prize after they have read a book! So fun!

Here's how to make your own Summer Reading Scratch-Off boards:


foam brushes
dark colored paint
dish soap
laminator, or contact paper, or packing tape
Summer Reading Scratch-Off Boards (I have included the 4 different versions I used for my 4 kids plus a blank one you can fill in with your own prizes.  The kids were pretty disappointed when they learned not all the boards were the same and they couldn't figure out where things were by looking at what their siblings had scratched off. Hahahahaha)


Print out your Scratch-Off Boards onto card stock. Now you need to cover the boxes with something clear and slippery. I first tried just covering the bottom part with Con-tact paper but found it wasn't great. I ended up running the whole page through my laminator (which I love) and it worked great. Plus I can reuse the boards! I've also read that some people just cover the spots with packing tape and that works.

Next mix up your scratch-off paint. You use 2 parts paint and one part dishwashing soap. I did not measure. I just put two dabs of paint on a paper plate and then guestimated a dab of soap that was half that size. It worked. Don't mix them together too vigorously or you will get lots of bubbles.

Then, using your foam brush, paint over your boxes and let them dry. Reapply as many coats as you need in order to hide the prize. If I had thought it through, I would have printed out the prize in lighter color ink instead of black so they were easier to cover up. If you handwrite them in with a pencil that will also be easier to cover. It took 3 coats of the blue and green paints to cover the prize, and about 7 of the pink paint. Seriously. It was painful. Use dark colored paint.

I had taken a penny and scratched around the boxes to make them look nice and neat since I was taking pictures for the blog, but really don't worry too much about staying perfectly in the lines. Kids won't care.

I hope you enjoyed this idea! I have lots of other summer reading incentive ideas on the blog you might like looking at. And I'd love for you to join my newsletter or follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for stopping by!

Some things that might be helpful for this project:


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May 15, 2015

New Book Spotlight: Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage

I'm happy to participate today in a cover reveal for a new book coming out in September, "Fires of Invention" by J. Scott Savage. 

fires of invention by J. Scott Savage

This is a fun start to a new middle grade series. A bit about the book from the publisher: 

"STEAMPUNK! Plus Dragons!
Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and "invention" is a curse word. Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, whose father died in an explosion-an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity.

Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlikely anything they've ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on-and quite possibly their very lives."

The book reminded me a lot of City of Ember in the beginning, but the book soon began to take it's own twists and turns. And although I'm usually pretty good at predicting the way a story will go, I was pretty surprised at some of the secrets revealed. Here's a note from the author about what inspired him to write this story: 

J. Scott Savage, Fires of Invention

"Like many of my books, the inspiration for my new series Fires of Invention came from the collision of two ideas. The first time the story occurred to me was while I was watching the musical Wicked with my wife. The moment I walked into the theater and saw the huge mechanical dragon above the stage, I thought, Wow! I have to write a story about that! A few weeks later, I was talking with my nephew, who is probably the most creative kid I know, but whose inventiveness often gets him into trouble, and I thought, What if a kid who had the talents of my nephew lived in a world where creativity was against the law? What if the kids were building . . . a steam-powered dragon? Bam! I had my story.

Powered by great feedback from my agent, Michael Bourret, my good friend and author James Dashner, my publisher, Chris Schoebinger, and the song “Warriors” by Imagine Dragons, I wrote the entire first draft of the first volume in the series, Mysteries of Cove in four weeks. This book is unlike anything I have ever written. There are elements of City of Ember, Dragon Riders, and Hugo in it all mashed up together in a world I fell in love with from the moment I started writing.

I think what’s most exciting to me about this book is that it’s about giving yourself the freedom to imagine. To take chances. Too often we limit ourselves by only trying things we’re confident we can succeed at when what we need to do is give ourselves permission to fail. Often it is when we attempt things with no idea of how we can possibly pull them off that we achieve our greatest successes."

Sounds pretty good, eh? Unfortunately the book doesn't come out until the end of September, but you can always preorder. Your kids will love this exciting start to a new series! 

*I was provided with a free copy of the book to review. All opinions are my own.