The Humbug Witch - a reading and listening activity for K-2

I believe that a good teacher not only does great activities with children, but also shares these activities with others.  The following is an activity that has outlasted the printing of the book, Humbug Witch, by Lorna Balian, and has been done by many teachers for many years.  At one school, a team of first grade teachers rotates the book between classrooms as they only have one copy and all the children have a chance to create their witch.
Humbug Witch Inspired Listening Comprehension and Art Activity

A Listening Comprehension Activity

Baby Time: Snuggle Up And Read

Set aside time for reading every day with your baby — even if it's only a few minutes. 

Babies love books with bright colors, baby faces, flaps, textures or simple activities.  You might find yourself reading the same book over and over, which is normal and good, they learn from repetition.  Babies love when you add facial expressions, sound effects and voices for various characters.  My advice is to set aside a special time every day in your schedule for storytime as early as you can! 

I have a few book baskets within easy reach at our house so my baby can explore books whenever the mood strikes her.  We has a Book Basket in Baby's Room, My Room and the Family room.  I just grabbed some cheap containers at the Dollar Tree to keep them in. 

Now the question is where to get all these books?  The local library is a great resource for all kinds of book, even Board Books.  That way you don't have to invest money in a lot board books.  I just give them a quick wipe down to ensure they're clean.  We have a few fabric books too that my daughter enjoys too.  Of course having your own book collection is recommended too. We rotate books from her closet too so that she doesn't get bored of the same books. 
Karen Katz is probably one of my favorite authors.  We have collected most of her books over the years and even my 5 year old enjoys going back to them and reading them to her baby sister.  Her's her website,  There's just something special to me about her illustrations and stories that kept my daughter and me wanting more and more. 

Teacher Tip:
The benefits of reading to your baby are so important.  It helps them to build their communication, vocabulary, memory and listening skills, as well as help them learn new concepts and help their imagination grow.  It's a special bonding time with you as well focusing on emotions and expressions.  Here's a great site with Reading Advice  for babies. 

From our Readers:
I would love to hear what your Baby's Favorite Book is!  Post a Comment! 

Learning about Diwali with Kids

Happy Diwali!

Learning about the cultures our parents come from is part of a bilingual family.  My husband and I both try our best to expose our children to both our faiths, Hinduism and Christianity. My husband is from India where they celebrate Diwali along with many other festivals.  Diwali , the Festival of Lights, is one of the most significant holidays in Hinduism. 

Halloween Story Writing

Halloween Story Writing with Stickers from Kim at The Educators' Spin On It

I loved Amanda's Afterschool Express Post last week about teaching writing with beginning writers.  Her little one expresses herself so freely in writing, I love it!.  My daughter is also in Kindergarten but is more reserved with her writing and needs a little encouragement.  She really wants us to help her spell  the words and we're working on her writing independetnly by sounding it out.  I encourage her to use a little alphabet chart with sound pictures when she writes to refer to when she isn't sure about a sound a letter makes, although she knows all her sounds it's a great reference instead of an adult. 

Afterschool Express- Little Bird Tales, melted crayon pumpkins and more!

Pumpkin Patch Adventures and More Fall Activities

We started off the week with a trip to the pumpkin patch!  The kids had fun finding all sorts of pumpkins of different size, shapes, and textures.  I think next year I will make a little scavenger hunt for them!  This year we just talked about the similarities and differences of the pumpkins.

Acorn Marble Painting, Acorn Counting, Acorn Color Matching and More - Tot School

Acorn Counting and Number Recognition

This week was Acorns Everwhere.  Both my kids thought this book was funny.  They both just laugh out loud when the little squirrel cannot find his very obviously hidden acorns in the book and the of course have to point them out for him!  I made some activities to spin off this book for each kid.  We are working on counting with my 23 month old and I thought he may like to help me put acorns in these numbered muffin tins, but I guess the numbers were not important to him, because he really just wanted 1 acorn in each muffin place.  I would say, "This is the number three, so I put 3 acorns in here. 1. 2. 3."  He would say. "No no" and take 2 out.  I found it a little humorous =)

We also tried to match the caps to the acorns.  He was in a tool mood, so I asked if he would be willing to help me "fix" the acorns.  And if you haven't seen any of my past tot-school posts like this one or this one about using a sensory bin, he is a big fan of dumping.We use the sensory fin to talk about vocabulary words such as color and texture words.  As my little one loves to dump - my bin has big things like feathers, leaves, and fabric squares that are easy to pick up.

 And, since marble painting (like this one at Nurturestore  and at Mess for less ) is SO much fun.  We did it with acorns.  I've seen some posts like this one and someone made into beautiful leaf cut outs and strung in garlands

If you haven't done this one yet, I recommend heading outside and gathering up some acorns =)  It is a blast! When you are done, send us your pictures and we will post them in our From Our Readers tab!

Baby Time: Make your Own Blocks

It’s block time at our house!  One of the best investments you can make with toys is to invest in blocks for your little one.  Fabric ones are available for the youngest of babies that makes fun noises for them to enjoy.  Lighter plastic ones are a good choice as they are easy to pick up.  Then there are all sorts of Peek a Boo blocks available that are fun to stack and also to shake and rattle and look inside.  Nesting blocks are a great choice to help your little ones begin to about varying sizes.   
 By around 12 months your little one should be able to start stacking the blocks on top of each other.  Playing with blocks can help both your child’s brain and body.  It also helps foster creativity.  By playing with blocks your little one will naturally start to learn to organize, balance, and stack.  These skills help to build their hand eye coordinating and fine motor skills.   We started around the time my little one was sitting with the fabric blocks and lighter plastic blocks. 
Activities with Blocks
            Up and Down
My daughter is having so much fun right now at 10 months watching Mommy stack up blocks and then she knocks them down. 
            Fill and Dump
She also enjoys helping Mommy fills up the Bowl with blocks and then she dumps them all out
As she grows older we will start sorting them by colors and by what is inside

How to Make your own Eco Friendly Baby Blocks
My little one loves pictures of people right now so I decided to make blocks out of photos.  We had so much fun making Blocks using Magazine photos and Family Photos.  She sits and touches the pictures and talks to them, it’s so cute.  Here’s a tutorial of how to make your own baby blocks. 

Materials you will need
            Cereal boxes or cardboard
            Photos from Old Magazines or your own photos
            Glue stick
            Packaging Tape or Contact Paper
 Trace Pattern onto cereal box...I just traced a post it note, the size I wanted

Cut out the pieces, making sure to leave the tabs
Glue block all together
Select your favorite photos or themed photos from a magazine or personal photos.  Using same size that you created your squares out of.
Attach your photos with glue. 
Now cover the block with contact paper or packaging tape
to make it more durable and baby friendly.   
Now's time to have fun and play with!!!

You can create all sorts of designs with the block design. 
Here are some ideas for designs...  Family Album, Baby's First Year, Letters,  Numbers, Favorite Character, Birthday Party Themes, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, Fourth of July!  Have Fun and ENJOY!

Using this Printable create your own blocks.   
(Homemade toys are meant to be played with an adult present at all times and at your own risk)
Need more Baby Time Ideas? Check out our Baby Time Activities! We'd love to hear from you and see your own Baby Block creations.  Send us an email at

The Educators' Spin On It Activities are suggestions to play with your child with together. 
Please use at your own risk and provide adult supervision at all times. 
You know what's best for your child and are your child's first and most important teacher. 

Little Hands that Cook with Books: Let's Bake a Cake

Here's what our cooking class looked like today before the fun began...thought you might like a peek!

It was my birthday during cooking class this week so I thought it was fitting that we learned how to make a Cake.  The girls were so excited to bake their very own cake in their very own bowl and baking dish.  We read this adorable book about Max and Ruby making a cake called Bunny Cakes by Rosemary Wells. 
Once we got started we took a look at the recipe and noticed that there was lots of measuring involved in baking a cake.  Any simple cake recipe will work for this lesson. We talked about the fractions that we saw in the recipe, something that was knew to them.  I used a cupcake as an example and we broke it into half and labeled it with 1/2 on each side.  Then we cut it again and labeled it 1/4 on each piece.  Then we took another cupcake and cut it into three pieces and labeled it 1/3, we saved those pieces to make cake pops for tomorrow J.  We took about the measuring cups and spoons and labeled them so we knew which ones to use. 

The girls were in charge of their own measuring and mixing.  They even got to use the real hand mixer.  We talked about how to hold the bowl with your other hand so it stays.  During the recipe we had to mix quite a few things and we talked about how each was different in texture.  

While our cakes were baking we decorated our own cupcakes so that we could sample all our hard work.  We created our own butter frosting and then decided what colors to make it.  The girl’s chose orange, pink and purple so we had a quick science lesson on how to make those colors.  Purple of course was the big hit.  We decided to use purple frosting to learn how to pipe frosting onto our cupcakes.  We explored how to make polka dots, flowers, and swirls.  Then they had a sprinkle fest!  It’s so fun to see how each child is unique in their creativity and there is no one way to do it.   

Once the cakes were complete the girls enjoyed decorating them to share with their family.  Although a few chose to take them home to create cake pops out of then, can’t wait to how they turn out.  I see a future cooking lesson in the making. 

Our follow up activity was to create a book about how to bake a cake.  Here’s a FREE printable for you to make at home. I cut the words into sentence strips and have the kids glue it onto the pages.  That way they are working on sequences events too.  Then have them illustrate the pages to match the text.  

Hope you enjoy baking a cake with your little ones as much as I did.  What a special way to spend your birthday J A little tradition that I’ve been doing with my daughter the last few years, we bake her cake together and she gets to decorate it.  She LOVES it!  

Just for fun!  Here's my daugther's creating her cake for her 5th birthday.

What does kindergarten writing look like and how can I teach my kindergartner to write better?

Writing is an important part of early learning.  As a former kindergarten teacher, children progress rapidly throughout the year.  From pictures and stick people to 5 sentence paragraphs at the end of the year.  Here are a few kindergarten writing samples and tips for helping your child to write better.
What Does Kindergarten Writing Look Like with work samples

What 5 year old writing looks like:

Reading and writing is connected.  If we want our children to be good readers, then we must also teach and encourage good writing.  So how does writing look for a kindergartner?

Affiliate links to products in this post.

What does kindergarten writing look like and how can I teach my kindergartner to write better?

Kids in the garden - Growing Peas (Texas 40)

New this year - cow peas

Each year I challenge our family to choose a new vegetable to plant in our garden.  Someone recommended that I try Texas 40 peas.  Knowing NOTHING about them, I planted a short row. 
This Southern Style Cowpea only does well in warm weather and is drought tolerant – so if I don’t get to watering, all is still good.   They grew well, so tall in fact, that I needed to add some string support.  Then, the aphids came in droves.  I don’t use sprays on anything except fire ants, so had to resort to wiping the aphids off with a wash cloth (yuck)  I don’t think a soapy water bath would have done anything at all.  It reminded me a bit like wiping dirty diapers – was I really doing this for peas???  Then the ladybugs came to the rescue and life was better.

2 ½ months after planting, they had some peas ready to harvest and they were totally worth it!  What fun it was to open them up and eat the peas!  They are a light greed colored, mild, even sweet pea.  Even my 1 year old was eating them and begging for more!  Gardening has been such a great influence on my children’s eating habits. Check out this video if you want to see the plants and my one year old's opinion on them!
I also have a greater appreciation for all the hard work and time it takes to fill a bag of shelled southern peas.  No wonder they are so expensive at the farmers markets!
If you liked this post - please "like" and share with your FB friends and family!  Lets get some more kids out in the garden!!!!

Tot School - Make a Collage

Easy craft project for parents and kids

Does your toddler resist craft projects, but you still want to do tot time lessons with them?  When crafting or having "lessons" with toddlers, I have found that it is best to have open ended projects that allow them to practice age appropriate skills; ripping, painting, cutting, gluing and sticking.  In small doses, these lessons can be fun and add up to a cute completed project.  We may spread the project out over the entire day or several days depending on his mood! 

Baby Friendly Hotel Fun

Travel Tips with Babies for Baby Friendly Hotel Fun from The Educators' Spin On It

I thought it might be fun to share with you some tricks of the trade that I’ve learned over the years as a mother of 3.  I need to remind myself every once in a while that I need to make plans for what to do with my baby so I thought blogging about it might help both you and me become active parents with our actively learning babies. 

Spider Shirt!

Make your kids yourself a shirt for the fall.

If you haven't stopped by to see Pink and Green Mama's art projects for littles, I highly recommend it!  Her art projects are fantastic and the pictures are beautiful.  I was so inspired by her yesterday post Spider Web Halloween Shirt  that I went to work right away!

Last week I had bought some inexpensive solid color shirts for making holiday outfits, but hadn't decided what to do for October.  This looked easy, creative, and something I could make for less than $2.00! It also connected really well with this weeks cooking class at Kim's house with Spider Meatballs.   Am I going to have another unplanned amazingly connected learning week this month??? I didn't have a bleach pen like she did.  Hmmmm... would outdoor bleach work applying it with a q-tip?  It is the only thing I had available.  Sure enough, in just seconds, I could see the colors changing.  I let it sit for about a minute and rinsed it out several times with soapy water and hung it up to dry.  Then, only because when I looked at the time I realized that 7 minutes after reading her post I had a cute October shirt for my 5 year old, I just had to write a comment.  I was so excited that she responded back!

Spider Meatballs: Little Hands that Cook with Books

Spider Meatball Recipe for Kids to make for Halloween

It's October and we're getting into the Halloween spirit.  We had fun this week making Spider Meatballs in cooking class.  The girls really became interested in spiders as we were cooking.  This lesson we focused on the mixing ingredients together.  We discussed food safety with handling meat and the importance of washing hands when you touch uncooked meat.  They also got a chance to use my hand held grater to grate the carrots and zucchini for the meatballs.  We talked about how some tools in the kitchen are just for grown up such as knives, peelers and graters.  For the spider meatball recipe we focused on finding the word that matched the ingredients on our recipe.  The girls were to find and label carrot, zucchini, meat, oil, parsley, pepper and garlic salt.  As we cooked we talked about how important it was to incooperate all the ingredients together.  We also really focused on forming uniform meatballs so they would cook the same and what could happen if we didn’t.

Bilingual Babies - Environmental Print

Using Environmental Print to Teach a Second Language

Environmental print is the words children see all around them.  It is the signs and symbols that surround them and become familiar to young readers.  Children become so familiar with these words that their confidence as a reader grows.  Has your young tot spotted a giant golden arch and requested a Happy Meal?  If so, they are beginning reading!

Owl Crafts and Learning Activities

Owl Crafts and Learning Activities

We have been in an "owl" mood lately.  It doesn't help that our neighborhood owl has been rather loud in the evenings and reminding us of his presence.  Elliana helped me design, cut, and sew this owl headband after she saw the one I made for her little brother. (more info here if you want to make one too) She has made many other small projects too that I really should take pictures of as they are all designed and made by her.  We usually spend 2 or 3 afternoons sewing each week!

I had also been eyeing a set of fall rubbing plates from Oriental Trading Company, but didn't want to spend the $7.00 it would take to get them to my house.  So, we cut up a cereal box into 4 rectangles and I free handed an owl, a turkey, and acorn, and an apple.  Then, using Elmers Glue, I thickly traced my drawings.  If you want to make these, I highly recommend letting the first glue dry and apply a second layer for the best rubbings.

 Elly enjoyed this fine motor activity and didn't even know I was trying to work on her handwriting =)  She often doesn't use her "helper hand" to hold the paper when writing.  Crayon rubbings can help strengthen her fine motor skills and get her to use that helper hand all at the same time.  And she thought she was just having fun!

We also made a leaf weaving project that turned out to be such a hit, that we made 18 more in fall colors for her classmates to do at school =)  My fingers were SORE after cutting them all out with a little kids scissors because I could not find a grown up one.  I know.... the things we will do for our kids!

Gardening with Kids - Seeds vs Transplants

Helping parents decide what the best way to start their garden might be.

Ohhhh the choices of gardening!  I am so thankful that we do have choices, but it is hard to decide WHAT I want to plant and then I need to choose how to get THAT plant in the garden.  It seems that I end up with a combination split almost equally between using my own seeds that I have saved, seeds I have bought, and transplants.

The benefits of using seeds when gardening with kids is tremendous.  The kids are able to put this tiny seed into the ground and see it emerge into an amazing plant that will feed them!  A life cycle is born and kids are sucked into this process and completely fascinated by it. The kindergartners planted bush bean seeds several weeks ago and have reported their growth in inches to me daily.

They love the little flags that emerge from the ground.  It is SO amazing to see 18 -  5 year old's extremely excited about spending time out in the garden and observing their natural environment.  My words just cannot describe their joy! The virtue of patience is taught when you plant seeds. Costs are low (see the video for more info) and there are many varieties of plants to choose from when you consider seeds.

Transplants however come already started.  Kids appreciate the earlier harvest and seeing their garden look full. Some harder to grow vegetables like tomatoes and broccoli may be your best option.

As our school garden was gifted with some transplants, the children planted 3 different varieties of lettuce seed along side the transplants.  We discussed the similarities and differences between the seeds and the transplants. The students were able to come up with that they are both the same type of plant, but one has been growing for a longer time.  I buy seeds for the kids in bulk, so everyone will have opportunities to plant. Future lessons will include a comparison of different seeds and a comparison of different kids of lettuce.

Last week we focused on the characteristics of living and nonliving.  Stop by last weeks post for a free printable.  Do you want to garden with younger kids?  No problem, here is a post where I garden with my 1 year old!

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