Thursday, December 22, 2011

Santa Claus is coming

If your house celebrates Christmas, have you discovered the Portable North Pole yet? This is a great free service that offers videos that you customize.

You type in your child's name, country, state, age and a few other things. When you have completed the form, Santa sends a video to your child. It is completely magical for kids, as it also includes pictures of the children.

We have done this each year with our son and he always gets very excited to see the movie from Santa.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Snowmen

Cold weather is here and as much as I already miss summer, I love snowmen. Real snowmen or fake snowmen, I love them all.

Enjoy some of the great snowmen that I found online.

First, we have The Frugal Teacher with a great expiriment documenting the lifecycle of a snowman! I think this is an amazing idea and as soon as I can clear out some space in my freezer, we are doing this.

The Idea Room made the cutest snowmen out of powdered sugar donuts. This would be adorable on the table when the kids wake up. Imagine how excited they would be, especially if school was called for a snow day too!

This is Olympia, the world's tallest snow woman. She was built in Bethel, Maine, she is 122 feet and 1 inch tall and was built in 2008. When they built Olympia, they beat thier own record of tallest snowman. They had built one in 1999 that had previously held the record. Olymia's eyelashes are skis, her lipstick mouth is made of tires that are painted red, her arms are actual trees and her scarf is 100 feet long.

Do you know what these are? They are bread ties that have been painted to look like snowmen. Get all the details at Crafts by Amanda.

Now, I love a big snowman, but there is nothing cuter than a snowman in miniature. These are from Martha Stewart and are 8 - 12 inches tall. We usually make mini snowmen to sit on the garden wall in our yard. They look cute all lined up and each scarf is a different color.

Stay warm, but make some snowmen soon!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Death of Preschool?

Isn't that a catchy title? I recently read an article that was entitled that on Waldorf Today. The article was written by a man named Paul Tullis and appeared on Scientific American's website.

I, like many of you are very interested in early education, so this caught my eye. I immediately thought to myself that I assumed preschool rates were at an all time high, was I wrong?

I started reading the article and quickly realized that this had nothing to do with enrollment and everything to do with the form of instruction in preschool classrooms. The article began by replaying a conversation between some wealthy parents that are sending their children to a high priced preschool, that contains desks and chairs for each child and the children sit and learn versus a typical preschool where there are shared tables and more free learning and instruction.

One of these parents actually says "You go in there (his child's preschool), and they are sitting down, learning something. At other preschools, they are just playing." The author goes on to talk about how many preschools are turning to direct instruction instead of letting the child's natural curiosity and eagerness lead them in learning.

I have to say that I lean more towards the play is vital to learning camp, but I can see some perspectives of direct instruction. As a matter of fact, the National Institute for Direct Instruction defines direct instruction as "a model of teaching that emphasizes well-developed and carefully planned lessons designed around small learning increments and clearly defined and prescribed teaching tasks".

I agree that all teachers, even preschool teachers, should have well-developed and carefully planned lessons. A teacher should be prepared to teach for the day. The teacher should have the lesson plan completed and all necessary supplies at his disposal. Do not come into class and just "wing it" and hope all goes well. The other side of that coin for me, is that a teacher should not be so focused on her lesson plan that she misses an opportunity to teach a child. If you are teaching a farm theme in your preschool class and  one or two of your preschoolers are not ready to move on to horses instead of cows, what is the harm of teaching them more? Always be prepared! Typical preschoolers do not have a long attention span, if you have their attention and they are focused on your activities, continue that theme. Do not change gears just because your lesson plan says that it is time to move on.

The article also talks about how the children at the "direct instruction preschool" are studying great artists. They specifically talk about how the children are learning about Pablo Picasso and Pointillism. I think that the study of great artists should be included in any learning environment. It encourages creativity and problem solving in a child and those are skills that need to be nurtured. There are a great line of books geared towards young children. They are called Touch the Art and they are a great resource for a teacher or a parent to show great works of arts to children.

A problem that I see with this course of full-time direct instruction is that you are setting up many of these children for failure. If you say that a child has to read by 5 and know all of the states and capitols by 6; what do you do with the kids that can not do that? Do you start holding children back in kindergarten or in preschool? How does a child recover from that? Will there be psychological damage when a child realizes he has failed and all of his friends have moved on without him? I think 5 years of age is a little young for a child to give up on school. She has barely started her education and you are already pigeonholing her as a failure.

Allow kids to be kids. Let them play, with a bit of instruction thrown in. If you hand a child a toy, let them play with it before you show them "the correct way to play with it". Do not stifle a preschoolers natural curiosity, instead try to look through their eyes at the world.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Family Traditions

With winter getting near and the New Year running up on us, it is a great time to look back and reflect on things that have happened in your family.

What are some winter traditions you have in your family? I am not just talking about Christmas traditions, what else do you do?

Here are some ideas of fun family traditions:

1) First real snow of the year? Have fun baking and decorating gingerbread men/women while sipping hot chocolate.
2) Have a snowman party and invite over the friends and family. Play pin the nose on the snowman, craft some snowman (real or fake) and play snowman games.
3) We always Elf ourselves at Elf Yourself by Office Max. This is always a huge hit! It is simple, silly and some of our favorite free fun!
4) We put on pajamas and go for a drive to look at Christmas lights.
5) Have a pajama party, invite over friends and family, watch movies and eat snacks.
6) Have a few times that you eat dessert first.The kids will be excited and you will feel just like a kid again.
7) Put on a family wide talent show. Everyone has a talent for doing something. After all of the performances, everyone gets a vote.
8) Have a picnic! Who needs the ants? Spread a blanket on the floor and serve traditional picnic food. Bonus points if you also build a tent/fort!
9) Have a cupcake decorating contest. Everyone is given three cupcakes to decorate any way they want. They can only submit one cupcake for the contest though.
10) Last but not least, build a gingerbread house or village.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Monday, December 5, 2011

December Family Fun Calendar

Monday Meanderings - Winter Fun

We are past Thanksgiving and Winter is well on the way. Here are some great activities that I found online that really encourage a happy Winter.

First we have Art. Paper. Scissors. Glue. with a great bubble print snowman. I love this activity, it is a great texture to create snowmen.

Do you have a white refrigerator? Surprise the kids by turning it into a giant snowman! Got to "Crafting" my talents for all the details. If you want to spend a little more time and money, attach the pieces to magnets and the kids can do it over and over again.

Going to a baby shower this winter? Anyone can bring a diaper cake, why not bring a diaper snowman? Check out Blowout Party for the details. I love this!

Planning on building gingerbread houses this winter? Want a genius idea for the kids? Put enough supplies in muffin tins and each child gets a muffin tin to build from. No more arguing over supplies, everyone is happy!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Kids Matter would like to take a moment and wish all of you a great Thanksgiving. Take time to be with family and friends. Take time to enjoy one another and to give thanks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday Teachings - Being Thankful

As Thanksgiving approaches, we naturally turn to images of Pilgrims and Native Americans. As adults, we usually know the true meaning of Thanksgiving, but children can receive mixed messages. If they only see turkeys for the holiday, how do they know what it means to be thankful?

There are several ways to accomplish the lesson on being thankful, but I would like to high light a few.
This is a "Thankful Tree" from Family Fun Magazine. I like this, as the leaves are different colors and very fall centered. I would recommend leaving the leaves out each day though and allowing people to fill them out numerous times. Once you have a few filled out, take time to read them aloud as a family. As you read them aloud, discuss ways to be thankful and to spread the joy on to others. If a child is thankful for a special toy, maybe they would like to make a donation to a toy drive. If they are thankful for a pet, maybe they would like to volunteer at the animal shelter or drop off donations to the shelter.

Consider a family service project for the holidays, but be sure to remind your kids that they should be thankful and ready to assist someone at all times, not just the holidays.

If you are outside raking your leaves, maybe you could also rake for a neighbor that just had a baby or maybe has been sick. Teach your children to treat others as they would like to be treated. Once you have finished, leave a little note with your kid's hand prints and names and write something cute on it like "These Hands were Happy to Help".

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Thanksgiving

Well, Thanksgiving is only 3 more days away! It is time to get serious about things. Here are some great ideas for your family.

First, we have the Mostly Food and Crafts Blog with one of my favorite traditions. The "Thankful Tablecloth". You just purchase a plain tablecloth and some fabric markers and everyone writes what they are thankful for and the year beside it. What a great family memento!

Fiskars has adorable "Kid's Table" decor and directions. They may prefer the kid's table this year! I personally love the pie tin snack.

How about an Apple Turkey Snack? What a great way to get kids to eat a healthy snack! Check out Mom Endeavors for all of the details.

I love these turkey & Pilgrim bean bags from Almost Unschoolers. What a great way for the kids to work off a little energy.

We hope everyone has an amazing Thanksgiving!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Halloween Snacks

With Halloween fast approaching, I went on a hunt for some great snacks to prepare.
Here are some of my favorites.

First we have Taste of Home with these adorable Marshmallow Witches. They look quick and easy and may be great for kids to put together.

Our Best Bites made these cute Mummy Dogs and Monster Jaws.

Cute As A Fox made these very cute, er I mean scary, Monster Rods. I love these!!

Have a great Halloween!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Jack O Lantern Paper Cut Story

As I was looking around online, I came across a great pumpkin paper cut story on Dr. Jean's website. I thought this would be a great story to recreate with kids and gave it a try on my own son.

I changed her story a little bit to make it more relevant to my son's activities. Please go to Dr. Jean's website for the original story, but ours went like this.

Once there was this funny little lady that lived in an orange house. Her house was different because it was shaped like a half circle and the sidewalk came straight out of the bottom of the house.

Now this funny little lady wanted to go outside and sweep her sidewalk but she had trouble getting her broom out the door so she had a long door cut for her broom handle. Now she can go outside and sweep any time she wants.

Now this funny little lady had a new problem. She liked to wear a tall pointed hat whenever she went outside to sweep but her hat kept getting knocked off when she tried to go out the door. She decided to have a special door cut just for her hat to fit through. Now she can wear her tall, pointed hat anytime she wants to go outside and sweep.

Later, she wanted to get some pet bats, but they could not get inside the house. She decided to cut out a special window for her bats to fly in and out of. Now the bats can come and go as they please.

So on Halloween, the neighborhood kids went over to the funny little lady's house and knocked on the door. She came to the door and said "I have a surprise for you! Now close your eyes!"

The house is a Jack O Lantern and inside the house is the funny little lady and she is wearing a witch costume and playing with her pet bats! I then let my son decorate the Jack O Lantern with witch and bat stickers and it is now hanging proudly on our door.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday Teachings - Fall Counting

We have been trying to work on our counting skills lately and there is no better time than Fall! There is a vast selection of items to count and make patterns with.

We started with a package of Halloween rings that I purchased for $1.00. Our rings included spiders, bugs, skulls and bats. We worked on several things with these rings: Counting all of the rings, sorting the rings by colors, sorting the rings by shapes and then patterning. For the patterns, I would either use colors to show the pattern or I would draw the shape. My son would then have to figure out which rings matched my drawn patterns and put them all in order.

The next thing we worked on counting was acorns. There is a huge abundance of acorns available right now, so we might as well put them to use. We counted acorns, we poured acorns from one container to another and we used a spoon to scoop acorns from one container to another.

The last thing we counted was leaves. We went outside and collected a variety of leaves from trees, shrubs and plants. Once we were back inside, we counted all of the leaves and then we sorted them by size from smallest to largest. Next, we sorted them by colors and worked on our patterns.

It can be inexpensive and fun to work on counting when you just take the time to look around you and see the abundance of items available. Go on a nature hike and then go home and count your bounty!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Halloween Costumes

Here are some more great Halloween costumes!

This pink flamingo costume is one of my favorites! It is made by Tangled and True. She does not post directions but it looks pretty clear cut. Pink shirt and pants, pink tutu, pink hat and pink feathers. The eyes could be Styrofoam balls and the bill, a stuffed sock with black felt on the end.

Here is a great owl tutorial from Pure Joy Events. This costume begins with a regular hoodie and is no sew! It doesn't have to be pink, it can be any color.

Parents Magazine has a great tutorial for an adorable Little Lamb. It is no sew and easy to put together.

This Lego costume cracks me up every time I look at. We can thank Family Fun Magazine for the specifics on how to put this together.

Okay, I have not looked for these balloons so I am not sure if they are affordable or not, but this was too cute not to post. Coolest Homemade Costumes has this Paratrooper on their page and I want to be this!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lima Bean Ghost

In honor of Halloween, we made some ghosts today with nothing but a permanent marker and some large dried Lima beans. I think they turned out adorable. Once we played with them a bit, I went back and made identicals and we turned them into a game of memory.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tuesday Teachings - Candy Corn Learning

I love Fall and especially Halloween! It is my favorite time of the year as the colors are beautiful and there are lots of opportunities for learning.

I put together a little Candy Corn math puzzle for us to use this week. It was easy to make. I just drew a pattern on a piece of card stock. It was just a triangle with rounded edges, anyone can draw that. Next I cut my pattern into three sections.

The bottom section was traced onto Orange paper and cut out. The middle section was traced onto yellow paper and the top section was traced onto white paper. Once these were all cut out, I decided to use mine for number skills. I wrote the number word on the orange sections, the number on the yellow sections and then drew number dots on the white sections.

Next I set these out for my son to put together the puzzles. My son is only 4, so I only put out 5 full candy corn pieces at a time. Keep in mind that each puzzle is three pieces so it may be intimidating to a child to see lots of pieces on the table.

There are several other examples online of people making candy corn puzzles for education. Here are just a few:

Mrs. Freshwater's Class (free printable, letter recognition)

Mrs. Schmelzer's 1st Grade (Consonant-Vowel-Consonant words)

Have fun learning with your Candy Corn activities!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Halloween Costumes

With Halloween fast approaching, I thought it would be a good time to post some homemade Halloween costumes that you can make inexpensively!

First we have Mom Inc Daily with an adorable Octopus Costume that she was able to whip together in no time. Not to mention, the supplies were cheap.

This next costume is on my list of possibilities! Geek Mom did an amazing job of turning her son into a tractor. Wonder if I can talk my son into being a tractor?

On Coolest Homemade Costumes they have this adorable Oompa Loompa costume that would be easy to recreate.

I will be back next week with some more great homemade costumes!

Friday, October 7, 2011

October Family Fun Calendar

For some reason, Blogger deleted my October Family Fun Calendar prior to posting it live. Here it is though!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tueday Teachings - Combating the High Costs of Food

As families struggle to make ends meet, the deck seems to be stacked against us. If your household is anything like mine, you are shocked each time you walk into a grocery store. Most budgeting programs advise you to spend 10% of your annual income on food, but most Americans average spending a little over 20%.

Every household wants to cut costs and save money, but that can be hard to do when your paycheck is stretched tight for just the "essentials". I have found some websites that I hope can help. As you are looking at these websites and trying to save money, get the kids involved. Let them figure out the cost per serving of your food, how much you can spend at the grocery to use only 10% of your income. Which item is really more affordable, the smaller package or the larger package?

First, the Iowa State University Extension Office has a great website called Spend Smart, Eat Smart. There is great information on here about how to save money. There is a section that shows you how much you should be spending at the grocery. How to find the best deals in the store and then there is a recipe section with the cost per recipe and the cost per serving broken down for you. I know what you are thinking: "I can not cook from scratch, I need convenience foods!" We all need some level of convenience in our lives, I understand this. I have a family and a full time job too, but I also want to spend my money on experiences for my family, not just food.

For recipes, I love Food Hero! They have some great and economical recipes on their website, as well as some food storage hints and tips. I personally can not wait to make the Chicken and Dumpling Casserole. My family loves Chicken and Dumplings, which is already an inexpensive meal, but this I can make during the week after work. This website is a product of Oregon State University and it has lots of recipes. You can get a free membership and save your favorites in your own recipe box.

Another great website for inexpensive recipes and general frugal ideas is Cheap, Healthy, Good. They do whole foods as often as possible but are not ashamed to use some convenience items also. I have made a few recipes from their website and I highly recommend them! In addition to the great recipes, the blog is very funny to read. It is written by 3-4 ladies with a great sense of humor and a large desire to help people.

What are some of the things you are doing to save money?
Menu Planning?
All homemade?

Share your ideas with us.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Meanderings - Columbus Day

I have searched high and low for some great Columbus Day ideas! With Columbus Day one week away, this should give you time to get everything ready!

First we have Jonah Lisa Dyer with some great cork boats that they set sail. I know for a fact that if you call a store that does wine tasting or even a restaurant that serves wine, they will often time just give you corks. Ask nicely and be sure to thank them!

Next is Hallee the Homemaker with a great New World map to make with the kids. You can discuss the length of the journey and relate it to the kids. How do they feel when they have to go someplace new? When they do not know anyone? How do you think the explorers felt?

I love paper mache and this globe from The Crafty Classroom is perfect.

Every holiday needs a snack or two!

Milk Allergy Mom has an easy apple boat.

While Super Mom Moments made her snacks for a "Tangled" party, they could work just as easily for Columbus Day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday Teachings - Name Rockets

We did a great activity this week to clarify the letters in our name and also the difference between upper and lowercase letters.

My son's name has 5 letters in it so I cut 10 small squares of construction paper. One square for each upper and lowercase letter of his name. I used two colors so that we could also get in a little pattern sequence. If he got stuck picking a letter, I asked him which color came next in the pattern.

In addition to the squares, I cut out two triangles to be the top of our rocket ships. The letters were written in the squares and then I sorted the squares by color. He did a great job and we currently have it framed and hanging on his bedroom door.

Since we wanted to hang this up, once he had shown me how to spell his name on both the uppercase rocket and the lowercase rocket, we glued down all of the pieces.