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Recent blog posts

I don't know about you but I've kinda had it with winter this year -- I am ready to move on to a change of the seasons!

So here's my plan --

I think if we all think 'sunny' thoughts,

and ignore the not-so-great weather,

Mother Nature will certainly notice and Spring will be here before we know it!

Are you in?

In an effort to boost those sunny thoughts, I pulled down our Spring-themed books this week!!  Beautiful pages with illustrations of green grass, leafy trees, cute baby animals and no on in a winter jacket ;)

Kids enjoy reading about the changing of the seasons -- so join me as we ring in Spring with a fun book list that features stories about nature, weather, baby animals and fun ways to explore the season!

 

Spring books kids will love

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As parents, we all know how important it is to teach our children various life skills. 

Learning about money, healthy behaviors and other everyday tasks are just as important as all the math & reading skills the kids learn at school.

But how should we go about teaching these skills to our kids?

There are two ways that we can introduce these topics -- first, discussing the topic as it happens in real life is invaluable!  During a trip to the grocery store is the perfect time to talk to children about money.  And learning to read a map or learn your way with a compass is a wonderful vacation activity!

The second way to introduce life skills is by using a creative activity or craft -- kids learn a lot when they are able to explore while they play :)

 

Learning about Money, Maps and Healthy Activites

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My family will tell you that I'm an amateur weather buff -- I like to observe what Mother Nature dishes out to us :)

While watching the Weather Channel one morning, the forecaster was talking about the rain/snow ratio -- basically 1 inch of rain would be equivalent to 13 inches of snow.

Wow!

So I thought it would be interesting to test this during our next snow.

Wouldn't you know it -- we had to wait until mid-February for a good snow to fall!  Which I know is not the case elsewhere this year (apologies to our friends up North & back East who could probably fill up their bathtubs with snow!).

This is such a quick & easy science experiment that kids from preschool to high school will really enjoy -- only 2 minutes to set-up and some GREAT results!

 

snow science experiment

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When do you do storytime at your house?

I know most families (ours included!) choose to read right before naptime or bedtime.  The kids are winding down and it's a great opportunity to snuggle up with a story.

That's usually when we do most of our reading.

BUT -- at one time in our house, storytime also happened during breakfast.

It all started because the breakfast table was a little chaotic -- kids reaching for things to do while they were eating or jumping off their chair to play with something.  Milk spills every morning! 

I needed to find a way to get them to focus on eating -- and sitting -- so we could move on with our day.

So one morning, I innocently said "How about if I read a story while we eat?  As long as you sit and eat, I'll keep reading".

And that's all she wrote folks! 

Those wiggly, active kids sat and listened and ate -- and loved it!

Here's why this worked for us plus a few of our favorite 'breakfast' books.

 

 Best books to read at the breakfast table

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The topic for this week's Cat in the Hat's Learning Library is habitats!

This is always a wonderful learning opportunity for kids - it seems no matter what your age, watching animals is something we all enjoy.

While kids love to observe animals and usually don't give much thought about how and where an animal lives until you begin to discuss the idea of 'habitats'.

Can a camel live in a forest?

Are there sharks in our local pond?

And why is it that polar bears and penguins will never meet since they both live in icy places?

So many great questions :)

Today we'll cover 7 different habitat locations using books from the Dr. Seuss non-fiction series including more than 40 activities -- live webcams, science experiments, hands-on explorations and crafts!

 

 40 Science & Craft activities that explore habitats

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 This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #DropShopAndOil

 

This week's one of those quiet times -- not too much on the calendar.

But I know it won't last long --

We're waiting to hear about college acceptances, looking into a few new attractions and counting the days until Spring Break (less than a month away for us!) which means things are going to pick up quickly!

And I can smell a road trip somewhere in the near future.

Ahh ... I love the thought of exploring someplace new with the kids!

When it comes to taking a car trip, I'm one of those "need to plan ahead" type of people.  I don't like to get on the road and worry about whether we might have any car problems or worse yet, run out of snacks before we reach our destination (heavens no!! the kids might not last until the next stop ;)

Having what we need, taking care of car maintenance and turning the car into a 'home on wheels' makes the trip so much less stressful.

So today I'm sharing the checklist we use before heading out on our trips, whether it's a day trip or cross-country vacation -- PLUS you'll find a free printable version to help you prepare for your next trip!

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For some people, the sight of green grass or tulips popping up means Spring has arrived --

but for me, it's the sight of a seed packet.

Sometime in February, I realize that Spring is only weeks away (yea!!) and it's time to think about garden prep.

Now, I'll be the first to tell you that I am not someone who was blessed with a green thumb.  I don't have this amazing garden by any means.

However, I do love to have flowers and veggies in the yard.

And I really love to see the kids get involved in growing veggies or choosing a cool new plant.

It's pretty amazing when you can send them outside to "pick the tomatoes you grew for the salad tonight"!  Or to watch them count the number of cucumbers that are growing on a vine.

So let's ignore the winter weather and start some gardening prep today!

 

Early Gardening Activities for Kids

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I've mentioned before that we are big fans of the The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library!

This newer Dr. Seuss series makes it so easy to introduce science, geography and other real life concepts to young children --

just take one familiar and loveable book character (The Cat),

insert TONS of cool facts and details on a non-fiction topic, 

add in some kid-sized humor ;)

and you have the perfect books that transition kids from picture stories to non-fiction reading!

Today we are starting a 5-week series featuring books from The Cat in the Hat Learning Library along with crafts, science experiments, learning activities and other hands-on fun!

Since we've used them so many times, I wanted to give you a peek inside some of our favorites along with some great activities you can do at home to bring the books to life!

 

55 Science Experiments & Activities for Kids

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I'm one of those people who hates to throw things away. 

I always try to think of some way we can use up an item instead of just tossing it in the trash.

My husband is the same way -- he packs my son's sandwiches in all the old bread bags (it's a running joke at the lunch table at school now ;)

When I was cleaning out our spice cabinet during one of my recent organizing stints (I'm loving my new approach to getting organized!), I discovered a number of outdated spice containers.

Although they were way passed their prime for baking,  the spices still smelled nice.  And they HAD to be good enough to use for something, right?

So I tossed them into a basket and what do you know!  Inspiration struck a few days later -- spice-scented Valentines!

 

 Creative Valentine Ideas for Kids

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Sometimes the weather makes it difficult to connect with nature.

And the winter months present several challenges -- nature is no longer in 'full bloom' and cold weather has set in which usually means less time outside.

But I love a good challenge ;)

Whatever the weather, I think it's important to encourage the kids to learn about the world around us. 

Plus, there's all those amazing benefits toconnecting with nature whether you are inside or outside - increased creativity and problem-solving, enhanced performance at school, improved eyesight, lower stress -- we all need a bit of nature in our day. 

So today, let's take a peek inside nature with this easy INDOOR science activity.

 

Take a look inside nature

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Wouldn't it be wonderful to travel the world?  To be able to visit beautiful places and experience new cultures would be amazing!

But world travel is also expensive ... and not so easy once you have a family.

Which is why I rely on using a variety of children's literature to introduce our kids to different cultures and places around the world.  Books are a great way to explore the world with your kids!

Today, we are celebrating Multicultural Children's Book Day with bloggers and children's book publishers from around the world!

It's a day when we share some outstanding children's books, fun activities from a variety of world cultures and tips on bringing diverse literature into your home and school.

 

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We love doing simple science and every once in a while, we find a GEM of an experiment! 

So many of the activities we do are ones that I've experienced before but are new to the kids.  

But THIS ONE!  This is one of those really cool experiments that even I was impressed with (and as my husband will tell you, I'm not easily impressed ;)

I should have titled this "Make Your Own Gong Using a Spoon and Fork" -- because that's exactly what you'll get to do!

It's a simple, fun and pretty awesome activity that explores the science of sound waves and how they travel. 

 

Sound Wave Experiment for Kids

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Do you have kids who LOVE to pretend?

One day, they're a zoo keeper and the next day, playing dress-up with friends -- pretend play is a HUGE learning opportunity for kids!

It encourages them to role-play, expand their vocabulary and communication skills, practice their social skills and think about "what they might be once they grow up".

One thing that has been a big hit at our house are printable activities that can be used to enhance pretend play sessions.

For example, playing library is SO much more fun when you have library cards and check-out tabs for the books.  And according to my kids, having a 'real' ID card is a must if you're going to be a police officer or secret agent :)

So we've rounded-up some really AWESOME free printables your kids can use as they pretend to be anything under the sun!

 

Free activity ideas for pretend play

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We're starting a new monthly series on the blog today -- A Year of Simple Science!

Each month, we'll feature some fun science experiments or projects that can easily be done at home or in the classroom. 

These hands-on activities will give kids an opportunity to learn about various science concepts and practice their skills in observation, testing and scientific inquiry (yep! asking all those questions is a GOOD thing ;) 

All of our kids can use more exposure to STEM activities (science, techology, engineering & math) to peak their curiosity and keep them thinking.

January's activities are all self-contained which means LOTS of exploration with a small chance of messes.  They can be done indoors or outside and most have a very easy set-up. 

Get ready for -- Simple Science in a Jar!

 

Easy Science Experiments for Kids

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As am sure you know, we are big readers at our house. 

And as readers, do you know what's worse than dropping an ice cream cone around here?  Waiting for the next book from a much loved author or illustrator to come out!

Seriously, when you find an amazing author or an illustrator that your child LOVES, you know their books are worth their weight in gold! 

Your child will WANT to pick up the book and linger.

Authors and illustrators who capture a child's attention in this way help us to build readers -- and we adore them for it :)

This booklist is different than most of the others we share -- these books will be released in 2015 and are not yet on the shelves. 

But today, we are able to give you a 'sneak peek' at some of the AWESOME titles coming in children's literature in the coming year!

 

Sneak peek at the great kids books coming out this year!

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Have you ever needed an activity to keep the kids busy while you're out to dinner or waiting at the doctor's office?  

You know, something you could keep in your purse or car and pull out at a moments notice -- perfect, right?!

Or maybe you have a deck of cards that's missing one or two (in our house, that's a regular thing).

Now you can have 20 different activities right at your fingertips!

We have a great list of card games, learning activities, crafts and fun things to do -- perfect for traveling, passing the time while waiting or that next "I'm bored" moment ;)

 

 Card games and activities for kids

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Have you ever visited the zoo with the kids -- they look at the animals, play around, you talk to them about various things -- and then you're home for a hour or so and the questions begin...

Why do the monkeys comb each other?  

How many stripes does a zebra have?

Did you notice the baby penguin was grey and white?

All those little details that you never realized they saw during their visit. ;)

A science notebook or journal is a great way for kids to record the things they observe and learn.  It's also a wonderful way to track all those inquisitive questions and ideas that kids have based on their observations and encounters.

This is the first post in a 2-part series on Science Notebooks & Journals.  Today we'll share some tips and resources to get the kids started on their own science journal!

 

 science journals for kids

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We always seem to have great animal encounters on our outings & vacations. 

And not just ONE animal.  Nope -- we seem to see large groups of animals. 

A few years ago, we saw moose and big horn sheep on a trip to the Rockies.  Then we got an close-up look at bison & elk during our family travels to South Dakota

And this summer, we swam with sea turtles – it was awesome!

I'm working on some cool sea turtle stuff that will be coming up this Spring because they are such beautiful animals.

During one of our sea turtle encounters, it was interesting to learn that a group of sea turtles is called a bale.  And it seems the kids are always keeping me on my toes -- “What do you call more than one…?”?

Like, what do you say when you see more than one moose?

"There's a group of Meeses?"

Ah..., no.

Since inquisitive minds want to know, we did a little research and created some free printable activities featurning our favorite marine and woodland animals.

 

Groups of Animals printable worksheet

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Right now, it's 2 degrees outside and I am *wishing* for a day at the beach.

Anyone else with me?

There's nothing more fun that turning a day on its heels and just totally doing the opposite of what's around you.

Like 'visiting an island' instead of shoveling snow off the driveway :)

Not to mention, it's fun to interject a little sunlight into these long, cold winter days.

So close the shades, ignore the winter weather and host an Island Day with the kids.  We've got movies, books, activities and some fun food ideas that will have you basking in the sun in no time!

 

Island Activities for Kids

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I participated in a campaign on behalf of Influence Central for The Salvation Army. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

How many times did you drop coins into a Red Kettle this holiday season?  

It’s one of the things my kids look forward to when we visit the grocery store in December.  

Clink, clink, clink, clink!

It’s not just because the amazing volunteers who ring bells are so fun – they ALWAYS say ‘Merry Christmas’ even if we don’t have any change for the kettle, they ALWAYS smile at the kids and many of them love to ‘dress the part’ while ringing.

The kids know that the money we drop into the kettle each year will be used to help others having a happier holiday. 

Teaching kids to help others when they see a need

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