Family Field Day

Our family was in need of some fun this weekend.  Monday would have been school field day, so we decided to hold one of our own.

I made a check off list for each child to keep track of our activities.


Our first activities were for the whole group, and the parachute is always a favorite.

The parachute is always fun but it can be hard to think of ways to use it, especially outside, so I came up with a few ideas we tried out.

After the parachute the kids all held hands and passed a hula hoop around the circle without letting go of each other.

Next we set up an obstacle course through the back yard – over, under and around – they even walked the plank over a kiddie pool.

Our last group game was a sack race.  I made sacks out of old flannel lined plastic tablecloths for our sack race.

It was too windy to do the pool noodle game.  The idea was to stand in a circle, and for each child to hold a pool noodle standing on its end.  When I said GO they were supposed to let go of their noodle and run to the right to grab the next pool noodle without letting it fall.  It was too breezy for them to get the pool noodles to stand up.


After the group games the children were free to do the rest of the activities in any order they wished.  I wrote out simple directions that I posted by each activity.

Here is the master of the monster feet I printed off.  I taped them onto the driveway.



I didn’t have signs for a few activities

Bean bag toss


Squirt Gun Boat race

And bubbles!

It was a wonderful afternoon!




Word Families Book

A few years ago I shared some ideas for introducing Word Families in another post – check it out if you are interested, just type word families in the search bar.  I know there is a way to insert a link – but that is beyond my technological abilities!

Learning to read word families allows children to easily read so many more simple words.  It also gives them practice starting with the initial sound of a word and blending the other sounds.

My first plan was just to give Max a page like this:


But then I was thinking how my children always like books that have parts they can move or play with, so I thought they might like this a little more.

I used cardstock and made a copy of a house with blank windows and asked Max to cut it out.  I helped cut the windows.


Here is the master.

Then I printed off pages with the word families.

Now Max can take the house and lay it over the words so they show through the windows.

I will staple all the word family sheets on the left side with this cover.


If you fold construction paper to make a cover, and glue this on you could also tape a pocket on the inside of the cover to hold the house.

Here are the pages to print.

pdf fam rhyme book

On my first post about Family Rhymes I mentioned a great song by Dr. Jean Feldman, to the tune of the Addams Family.   It’s called Rime Time and it is on her CD “Sing and Learn.”   I’m singing it in my head right now!

What They Like and What They Need

I wish this photo was a bit more clear but my grandson, Owen, took this selfie on his Kindle and texted it to me.  I am so very grateful for technology that lets me keep in touch with them.

I also don’t think you can over-appreciate the value of playdough.  From my two year old grandson Calvin to my eleven year old grandson Owen, they all love playing with playdough.  Of course what they do with the playdough looks quite a bit different – it is a very versatile material!!

Today Owen used playdough to make a Millenium Falcon – he’s a huge Star Wars fan.


I thought it was great and asked him if he had a Star Wars mold.  He did not, and  he took the opportunity to tell me step by step how he constructed it!

First he rolled out the dough to the thickness he wanted.

He used this tool to cut it into a circle, which he traced from the playdough lid.

He sent me all these pictures – I hope I am remembering the steps correctly – he really should have his own blog!

This is how he made the compressions.

He told me he made a cylinder for the cockpit, and two triangles for the things that stick out in front (sorry Owen, I don’t remember all the terminology).  I thought it turned out great!

I think it is really important to have a good balance between allowing your child to do things he or she likes and chooses to do, along with the activities you think he or she needs to reinforce skills.  I also think it’s important to try to make those skill reinforcing activities fun too – especially when they are working at home.  (But the teacher in me would have loved to ask Owen to write a step by step HOW TO book.  I know he is a bit old for that but he was so good at breaking it down and explaining it to me!)

Sometimes you can blend the two – what they like and what they need.  For example you could bring out alphabet cookie cutters, or  a pencil to write numbers or multiplication facts in the playdough – but sometimes they just want to play.

I am trying to give my daughter ideas to help her kids in the areas they need a little practice or reinforcement.   She mentioned that although Max is doing great with sight words and sounds, he could use some practice with lower case letters.  He has been able to name upper letters for a long time, and can identify most lower case letters too.  But most books are written with primarily lower case letters so it is important that they are really confident with them.

I sent her these letter cards to print and cut apart, to play a memory game.  Some lower case letters are the same as the upper case, except for size; like s, o, x, u, z.  I knew Max was confident with those.  I also was trying to limit the number of cards for the game.  If this is still too many you could use half of them at a time – or pick the ones that are tricky for your child.

I printed all the lower case letters on these fish cards – to make a game of GO FISH.  Two or more people can play this game – you would need 2 copies of each letter.  Start with 5 or 6 cards and the first player asks if the other person has a letter that matches one in his/her hand.  If they get the match they put the pair down, if not they pick another card from the fishing pond – pile of cards!


Another idea would be to attach a paperclip to each fish.  Then make a fishing pole by tying a piece of yarn or string to a dowel and attaching a magnet to the end.  All the fish should be face down and the child uses the fishing pole to “catch” a fish.  If he or she can name the letter they keep it, if not tell them the name of the letter and it goes back into the pond.

One more idea I gave my daughter for reinforcing lower case letters was to cut apart the sight words Max is able to read.  Put each word into an envelope and ask him to put them in order to spell the word.  Then ask him to name each letter in the word.  I printed them so they are easy to cut apart.  Try to cut all the letters about the same width.

This is also a good activity to practice reading the sight words.  When the kids are writing and use one of these sight words they should be able to spell it in “book spelling” too.

The most important thing is to have fun with your kids!

Everything Counts!

Everything does count.  All the conversations, all the explorations, all the read alouds, all the explanations, all the togetherness, they all count as teaching and learning.

You might not realize you are introducing new vocabulary and different sentence structures when you answer your child’s questions.  You are teaching science concepts when they watch you pretreat laundry stains or turn juice into frozen popsicles.  You are demonstrating many math concepts when you talk to your child about time, use a measuring cup or set a timer.  If sitting down and working on worksheets or projects doesn’t work for your family you are still educating your child through all the ways you interact every day.

But there are also lots of opportunities to COUNT every day!   (Okay – so that might not have been the smoothest segue!)   Still, numbers are an important part of our lives. 


You could try asking your child how many ways they can show the number 5.  They might even think of some creative ways to show it.

Another idea would be to ask your child to count all the places in your house where there are numbers.    If they are interested, they could make a list – or even take a digital photo of the places or things in your house that have numbers.   You could print the pictures and make a simple book using sight words.   Here’s what that might look like:

Here is the blank template, print the two pages back to back, cut them in half horizontally then fold the pages together and staple.

You could print more copies of the second page if you want to make a longer book.

This recording sheet might encourage your child to go around the house and count these objects – then record the number.  They will be using a bunch of number skills!  Counting, 1:1 correspondence, numeral writing!

For kids who are ready to read and spend a little longer on this activity here is another list:

When they are done counting you might talk about which things they found the most of, which were the least amount,  or if there were the same amount of any things they counted.  If they are ready you could even ask something like “how many more spoons were there than boxes of cereal?  Ask them if they were surprised by how many or how few of the things they found.

If you are looking for a fun activity today you might like to try playing with shaving cream.  You can spray it directly on your table or counter – you will end up feeling like it is good and clean – or you can spray it on a cookie sheet or tray.

Push up your child’s sleeves and let them draw, scribble, mound it up, and have a good time!  They can even practice writing letters, numbers or sight words!  If it gets on their clothes it dissolves quickly.  I would just advise them not to slap it or clap foamy hands because it would sting if it went into their eyes.  Nora and Max had a great time!



Writing For A Reason

I used to ask my Kindergarten parents to encourage their children to write for a meaningful reason.  If the kids ask for a certain type of breakfast cereal, have them start a grocery list.  If they don’t want a sibling to knock down a Lego structure – make a label for it.  If they really really want something have them write you a note so you won’t forget about it.

Just like riding a bike or learning to snap your fingers – the more you practice anything the better at it you will become.  Reading and writing definitely follow this principle.  They also work together – when kids read more they become better writers, when they write more, it helps them decode and understand what they read.

One thing you could ask your child to do is to make a list.  Here are some ideas of things they might write about, there are endless ideas!

Of course you can make a list on any type of paper, but some children might be encouraged to write if they have a special piece of paper.

If they have more to add to their list, encourage them to problem solve.  They might ask for more paper or turn it over and write on the back.

Another fun way to start children off writing is to make All About Books.  They can pick any subject at all – flowers, colors, Star Wars, your family; anything they know something about, then write all about it!

When they first start out they might draw a picture and phonetically write one word to label it.   When they are a little more confident with sound spelling they might write a short phrase or sentence about each picture.  Here is a sample:

or another idea:

Here is the paper I used, and the simpler one line version.

Just copy these 2 pages back to back.  Cut them in half  horizontally and fold them in half, you will have 2 books.

Here is the version that has room to write a little more.

Your child might be ready to write even more.  Here is another version that has more room yet.

I sent Nora a paper with a question about leprechauns – afterward I wished I had given her a booklet to write in instead.  Here is her fun story.

Young children usually are not willing to sit and “do school stuff” for very long.  So if you are thinking of something fun and silly you could blow up some balloons – put on some music and tell the kids not to let the balloons touch the floor!  This picture was taken at our 2 year old grandson’s birthday party before quarantines.  Don’t be like these grown ups – join the kids and play too!

Learning at Home

It’s been a long time since I sat at circle time, put words in the pocket chart or led the line down the hall to music class; but I still miss Kindergarten.  I have spent these years loving and playing with grandchildren, and I am missing them so much during this time of social distancing.

My email and Facebook stream are filled today with wonderful suggestions of how parents can spend this time with their children – all the skills and types of learning that they can reinforce.  Pinterest provides an amazing wealth of tried and true lesson plans and learning materials.  But even though so much is available I decided to share some of the ideas I have been emailing to my daughter to do with Nora and Max who are 7 and 6, and at home missing out on 2nd grade and Kindergarten.

All parents are asked to keep reading to their children.  Research shows that it is the most important thing you can do.  I thought it might be helpful to share a few ways to discuss a book you read with your child, or one that your child is reading on his or her own.  It’s helpful to see how much they really understand.


Of course sometimes kids just want to hear the story.  You might want to pick out a few questions or check in with them part way through the story to see how well they are comprehending.

Another easy thing to do is to keep track of the weather.  There is no right or wrong way to do it – you could make a weather “clock” out of a paper plate with pictures of sun, snow, wind, rain, etc. around the outside.  Then cut out one or two “hands” that you can turn to the appropriate weather every day.  Fasten the hands to the middle of the plate with a brad fastener.  Or you might want to graph the weather:

There is really no such thing as a typical child in any grade.  In Kindergarten there was a huge range in the skills had when they began school.  Every classroom is also different, and although the school year is more than half over it’s impossible to guess what they are working on.  I started out by asking my daughter to do a few things to get an idea of where her Kindergartner is as far as alphabet recognition, sounds, writing, sight words, numeral recognition, etc. It’s hard for me to know what ideas I can give her until I had more of an idea what skills he is confident with.  This is true for all children, but Nora is very verbal and loves to read, so I had more of an idea where she is and what she might enjoy.

I asked my daughter to ask Max to read these lower case letters.  You can tell how confident your child is by how they read each letter.  I included 2 different types of the letters a and g.


I also asked him to write both upper and lower case letters.

To get an idea of how well he can write phonetically (sound spell) I asked him to label these animals.

Then I sent him this sheet where he could look for things around the house that begin with each letter, and draw and write in each box.

I also asked my daughter to have Max write numerals 0-20.  All of this gave me a good idea about his skills and confidence.

No matter what activities you are doing with your child they are constantly learning and growing.  Repeating activities or practicing skills they already know helps them gain confidence.  Your child will give you cues about what they enjoy working on and things they need to work on.  If you introduce something they are not ready for it is fine to stop and do something else.

After these assessment activities I started sending my daughter ideas of things to do with both children.  I will share some of these ideas soon.  I just want to encourage all of you to take a deep breath, smile at your child often, give lots of hugs and encouragement, and enjoy this gift of time.


Harry Potter Party!

We celebrated Owen, Anna and Lily’s birthdays with a Harry Potter party.

As the guests arrived we put on the Sorting Hat and sorted them into the houses.  They picked a card to tell them which house they were in.

I cut these cards apart and mixed them up.  Each card says the name of one of the houses and a characteristic of that house.

I also found this fold up cootie catcher that you could use to sort the people.

Then their wand chose them.

Each party guest decorated a cardboard Treasure Box.

After adding a lock they could choose different clipart pictures or draw their own decorations on their boxes.



Here are the tickets for the train – I ran these back to back on cardstock.

The children made their own golden Snitch by gluing wings onto a gold Christmas ball.  You could also use Ferrero Roche candies.


They also made Flying Keys.

They balanced pieces of a pool tube on their heads like Erumpent horns.

The guests made bead necklaces with the colors of their favorite house.

For the skill of Transfiguration the children wadded up foil to make creatures or animals.

Then we went outside to use the Mirror of Erised.

And of course – we played Quidditch!

I also printed off a Harry Potter I Spy that I found online.


After a pizza lunch the children enjoyed ButterBeer Fudge, a Hedwig cake or cupcakes topped with Harry Potter chocolates.



They each chose a stuffed owl to take home.  They all had lots of fun!

Star Wars Party

This week we had a Star Wars themed birthday party for three of my grandchildren, Owen turning 10, and twins Anna and Lily who just turned 8.  My assignment was to come up with a game, a craft and a birthday cake.  It’s so much fun to be included in their celebrations!

First we hid pictures of favorite Star Wars characters around the backyard.


We numbered the pictures and cut them apart, then hid them in non-conspicuous places.  Each child was given this check off sheet where they were to write the matching number by each character.

The other side of this character check off sheet contained the activities the children needed to “master” to become Jedi warriors and receive their own light saber.

The kids had lots of fun completing these activities.

They built towers taller than themselves.

They ran down the ladder, placing one foot in each square.

They stepped on wooden blocks to follow a path that ended at a play structure they climbed through.

We found some little shooters that you squeeze and shoot out small circle disks.  The kids tried to get the disks through the holes in our board.

We set up a course of cones that they had to run in and out of – like figure 8s.

They balanced a Star Wars paper plate on the end of a foam pool noodle and walked a premarked distance.  This was a little tricky because there it was a bit windy, but they had fun anyway.

Probably their favorite activity was using these foam dart guns to knock a Storm Trooper off the table.  We glued a Storm Trooper head onto a few styrofoam cups and set them up on a small table.  Again, the wind was a little problem, blowing the cups off the table, but they still loved this.  Here are the Storm Trooper images we used.

When the children were done, and the light sabers had been awarded we headed inside to make Star Wars sock puppets.

I wanted to give the kids some ideas to get started, so I printed off this sheet of different kinds of Star Wars puppets to help them think about what they wanted to make.  I provided white and black socks, adhesive felt and foam sheets, pom poms, popsicle sticks, jiggly eyes, pipe cleaners and Tacky Glue.  Children’s Fiskar scissors cut through the felt pretty easily.

I am not a cake decorating expert so I frosted it and put borders and the children’s names on the cake.  Then I gave the birthday children Lego Star Wars characters and small vehicles and they set them up on the cake.

I just realized I didn’t get any pictures of the 2 boys at the party!  They were a bit outnumbered by girls this time!  But I think they all had lots of fun.

Minion Day!

Last summer a local church advertised their Vacation Bible School with a large inflated Minion and a big sign that said MINION CAMP!  It looked like so much fun that my grandchildren asked me to make our own Minion Camp, and it was lots of fun!

Here is the list of our activities!

We started the day with group games – our group included 5 of my grandchildren ages 4-9, oh – and Papa!  The first game was actually created by 5 year old Nora.  3 of the children were Minions, 2 were Bananas and Papa was Gru – who tried to catch them as they ran from one line in the driveway to the opposite.   There were a few safety zones created by red mats.  When the children were tapped by Gru they helped try to catch the others.

Lots of running, laughing and  squealing – very fun!  Here are the pictures for the headbands.

For our next game, Marshmallow Catch, the children were paired with a partner and took turns tossing mini marshmallows into each other’s Minion Cup.

The parachute is always fun.  This time we also tried tossing Minion beanbags and a small Minion ball – and we also tried to keep them on the parachute!

The next game was Minion Hole Hula Hoop.  This was a variation on Freeze.  I played music from Despicable Me movies and the kids danced around.  I would call out various directions – like “Blue hoop – both hands!”  or “everyone into a hole!”  or “everyone in the silver hoop.”

When they all had to fit inside one hoop they had to cooperate and balance!

The last group game was Minion Math.  I wrote numerals on a large cardboard.  The kids stood around the outside of the cardboard – 2 at a time dropped a Minion beanbag on a number.  The next child made up a number sentence (equation) using those numbers.  When it was 4 year old Max’s turn we asked him to name some of the numbers instead.

I wanted to make a Minion lunch but couldn’t think of many things they would all like.  I did make Minion finger jello and found these Minion fruit snacks.


For dessert I made cupcakes that really didn’t look much like Minions.  For a birthday party a few years ago I made Twinkie Minion cupcakes that looked much better – but the kids weren’t big fans of the Twinkies.

In the afternoon the kids completed the rest of the activities in any order they chose, they each had a check off sheet to keep track.


I bought some wooden circles and squares and spray painted them blue and yellow.  Before Minion day Owen drew Minion faces on the yellow circles and bananas on the blue squares.  Then we drew a tic tac toe board on the driveway.

The kids love to play in water so we hooked up this waterboard.

I bought a Minion coloring book at Dollar Tree and cut apart all the pages.  The kids had lots of choices to color – watercolor paint, colored pencils, markers, or crayons.

I pulled out a Minnie Mouse Hopscotch rug and used the Minion beanbags that I made – but Owen decided to make it more complicated!

For Measuring Minions I made them each a Minion ruler and recording sheet.  They had to find 6 things to measure and record.

Bean bag toss is always fun!  To make the game last longer I had them graph how many they got into the basket each time for 5 turns!

My favorite activity was Make Your Own Gameboard.  I copied a few different gameboards on cardstock.  I also printed some typical game directions like – lose a turn, etc.  I got a bunch of Minion stickers from Dollar Tree and provided markers to decorate the boards.  I gave them each items for each player to move and a die.  You could also use coins or buttons.

There are many free gameboards online – I just did a search and found lots!

I also found this Minion Cootie Catcher online!

I had already spray painted some rocks and the kids decorated them with paint pens.

The rest of the activities were things I purchased for the kids to use.  I found a new (to me) website named Hollar that had a great sale (really cheap!) on Minion card games and MegaBlocks.

And at Dollar Tree I found a set of Minion Colorforms – some of the kids had never used Colorforms before!

Of course we had to have prize bags too!  I got some fun Minion toys from the Hollar site.

It was a really fun day!

Another Year, Another Kindergartner!

This little girl is starting Kindergarten!

I have been blessed to care for her while her Mommy worked for the past five years.  I know she’s ready – of course she is dazzlingly smart, brilliantly beautiful, and astoundingly kind.  She just turned five years old.

During my teaching career, the age cut off in our state was December 1, making a child with an August birthday usually in the middle of the age range of my students.  For years we fought to change the date to September 1 so all children will be five at the beginning of the year.  This was especially important when we moved to full day school with the expectation that all children will be reading by the end of the year.  Now she will be among the youngest kids in her class.  I know she is ready, I know she’ll do great.  But here is what I hope her teacher will remember – not just for Nora but for all the little ones walking through her door tomorrow…

I copied this quote from the wall of my other grandchildren’s Kindergarten classroom.   I think it is so important for all of us to remember – for children going off to school, for little ones tottering through all those early developmental stages, for teenagers making sometimes questionable decisions, for all of us growing, learning, struggling, throughout our lives.  Even for teachers who struggle to convey concepts and skills to groups of kids who have so many different levels of readiness and prior experiences.  We need to remember that it’s okay that we don’t all learn the same things at the same time.

I am praying for all five of these precious little ones, as they begin the school year; and for their teachers.  Owen is starting 3rd grade – he seems so confident and grown up!  Anna and Lily are going into 1st grade, Nora starting Kindergarten and Max going off to a few half days of preschool.  This time of year highlights how much they are growing, learning and changing – (no, I am not going to cry!)

Today I’m baking cookies for their lunches and printing off notes to be tucked into their lunch boxes.  I love to hear them giggle, so I have used jokes for their lunch box notes since Owen started school.  Sorry, I can’t give credit for the jokes because I find them all over – joke books, online, etc.  The girls are all becoming good readers, but I added clipart that might help them figure out tricky words.

Here is a link to a bunch more notes!

2017 easy lunch notes

You can find lots more on Pinterest too!

For all of you going back to school, or sending off your little ones, I hope you have a wonderful school year!  I hope Nora does too!

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