Wednesday, November 25, 2015

L4LL's Remarkable Latino Children's Books of 2015

As we head into one of my favorite holidays tomorrow, I just wanted to share with you all this year's list of Remarkable Latino Children's Literature by Latinas for Latino Lit.

I'm certainly thankful for all the inspirational Latino authors and illustrators who work so hard to make sure that our children's can see their own families and lives reflected in the books they read. I have so many books sitting here by my desk awaiting reviews. And the diversity that they portray is astounding.

This holiday season, I hope that you will consider giving a child in your life, one of these remarkable books. This list is just a starting point as there are many titles that were published not only this year, but over the last 15 or so that are worth sharing with our children. You can download the entire list here.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

PBS KIDS Premieres New Series & Wild Kratts Special {Giveaway}

Tomorrow is a big day on PBS KIDS and you aren't going to want to miss it! My son's favorite show - WILD KRATTS - is premiering their first hour-long holiday special, “Creature Christmas.” He's been counting down the days and making sure that we don't have anything on our schedule because he doesn't want to miss the show.

In it, the Kratt brothers take a break from their fearless questing for creatures to celebrate Christmas. But when they receive an alert that their favorite critters are disappearing around the globe, their holiday celebration quickly turns into a rescue mission. Chris Kratt says, “In WILD KRATTS: A CREATURE CHRISTMAS, we showcase a variety of creature powers, helping our viewers discover that animals can help them explore many different science concepts.”

Then, following the debut of “Creature Christmas,” viewers will be introduced to a brand-new action-adventure series! You may remember me telling you about NATURE CAT earlier this year. It stars an ordinary housecat named Fred who becomes his alter-ego “Nature Cat” – backyard nature explorer – when his family leaves for the day. This series motivates kids to observe, ask questions and investigate the natural world in their neighborhood and beyond. It also empowers kids to be responsible stewards of the environment and to delve into conservation.

The Giveaway!

To celebrate the new shows, I'm giving away a Creature Holiday Kit! it comes with winter coloring pages for kids, a jumbo animal coloring pad, crayons, non-toxic instant snow, animal-shaped cookie cutters, and some holiday activities featuring your favorite PBS KIDS characters, such as color your own wrapping paper, gift tags, and a DIY Wild Kratts ornament.

To enter to win, just use the Rafflecopter below.

Good luck!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Star Wars Workbooks for First Grade

If you've followed me for some time now, then you know we are Star Wars fans. We are probably counting down the days to the movie more than we are counting down the days to Christmas. And, yes, we've already bought tickets. So today's giveaway should come as no surprise.

Last year I was so thrilled to see these Star Wars Workbooks published. But I was was so disappointed when I saw that they only went up to the 2nd grade. (My son was starting 3rd grade!)

However, just because we couldn't use them doesn't mean that someone else can't!

If you have a house full of little Star Wars lovers, then perhaps this giveaway is for you?

One MommyMaestra reader will win a set of workbooks for 1st grade. These two books focus on Math and Reading. The books come from the creators of the Brain Quest series - one of my favorites. I've used Brain Quest workbooks every year with my kids because they are a fun and engaging way to teach children important concepts.

In math, your child will learn important concepts such as their numbers up to 120 by counting Ewoks and other characters, addition & subtraction with Jedi Addition, and word problems by reading about Tatooine.

In reading, your child will learn to read and write and phonics concepts, such as short and long "a" and ""sh," or basic grammar skills such as identifying nouns, verbs, and adjectives. The reading passages are cute and include fill-in-the-blank sentences to develop comprehension. It includes spelling and vocabulary lists, too.

Both books are aligned with Common Core State Standards (which is a negative in my book, but maybe not for you).

If you have a 1st or 2nd grader, these books are an excellent, fun way to practice those basic skills. If you have a kindergartner or preschooler, then you should get these books and just save them until your child is ready to use them. OR you can go buy the books for pre-k and kindergarten here (aff link).

To enter to win the two books shown above, simply use the Rafflecopter below.

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Give the Gift of Spanish this Holiday Season! {GIVEAWAY}

MommyMaestra's holiday gifting series continues with a Spanish curriculum for your family! There are only a few weeks left in the first half of the school year. We'll have the holidays hitting us at the end of next month and then it will be time to start a new year and a new semester. What better way to start off the new year than by learning a new language?

We have been so lucky to have Spanish for You! as a MommyMaestra sponsor for the last few years. This excellent Spanish-learning program for middle-school students has shared many free downloads with MM readers during this time. From lessons and worksheets to games and activities, you can find samples by clicking on the Spanish for You! label at the bottom of this blog post.

To celebrate the holidays, they are offering a chance for THREE (3!) MommyMaestra readers to win one of the following Spanish-learning products from their program:

3 Spanish for You! Themed Packages

Created for HOME USE, three readers will win one of the following packages in the theme of their choice:
  1. 3rd - 4th grade 
  2. 5th - 6th grade 
  3. 7th - 8th grade 

Each package comes with:
  • A themed textbook 
  • A lesson guide 
  • Worksheets 
  • Games & activities 
  • Flash-card pictures 
  • Audio of the textbook 
  • Bonus audio of native speaker

To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter below.

¡Buena suerte!

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Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Holiday Classic and Giveaway from Maestro Classics

I'm pretty excited because next month, we'll be seeing my parents for a quick visit. The reason we're going is because my mother wants to take the kids to see The Nutcracker. It will be the first time they've seen it. I remember going to the ballet with my mother when I was little. The experience still stands out in my mind.

My kids have read the story of the Nutcracker before. But I was thrilled to learn that one of my favorite companies that introduce classical music to children - Maestro Classics - has a new brilliant adaptation of this hypnotizing story. It's the perfect way to get my kids excited about attending the performance.

It is narrated by Jim Weiss, one of the most well known read-aloud advocates.  The music itself is played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  So naturally, this is an incredible introduction for children... and adults, too! My kids loved the fact, they listened to it last night before bed.

You can listen to an audio sample here on the Maestro Classics website.

It is available on CD for $17 and as a MP3 download for $10.

As with all the albums, this one comes with an activity booklet that has information on the history of ballet, a short bio on Tchaikovsky, information about the harp, and various activities.

I also visited the Maestro Classics website to get the curriculum guide. I think that all of their albums have a free homeschool curriculum for various subjects that you can download. We are now studying about the history of nutcrackers in History, simple machines and levers in Science, fairy tales in Language Arts, and Nutcracker-themed word problems for Math.

And you know what? There is a music only version, too, for adults! But it is only available as a MP3 download.

In my opinion, Maestro Classics is one of the best resources for introducing children to the world of classical music. The narrated pieces capture a child's imagination and brings the music to life. After listening to several of these albums, then children can be challenged to imagine what story other classical pieces are telling. And I find that there is a greater appreciation for this type of music with my children after listening to one of these albums.

Both of my children take piano lessons, and listening to classical music motivates them to try harder and nurtures their interest in making music.

You can purchase your copy of The Nutcracker and other wonderful albums here.

Now for the giveaway!

If you've been following along for some time, then you may remember my first review three years ago of Maestro Classics. The album I featured was Juanita, the Spanish Lobster. My kids have listened to this album repeatedly since we downloaded the MP3.

Well, Maestro Classics has graciously offered a copy of their Spanish version, Juanita, la langosta española, to one MommyMaestra reader. Wouldn't that be a great stocking stuffer?

This isn't your traditional Spanish translation, either. Oh, no, this is top notch! My favorite translator Yanitzia Canetti was used, and Rosi Amador is the narrator. I know that your family will totally love this album.

To enter to win this most awesome stocking stuffer, just use the Rafflecopter below!

Buena suerte!

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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Elo Pillow {GIVEAWAY}

Research shows that there is a direct link between the amount of sleep a child gets each night and their performance in school. Children who don't get enough sleep often have trouble concentrating in class, learning new concepts, and sitting still. In fact, children who don't get enough sleep at night, sometimes exhibit ADD symptoms and may be misdiagnosed.

Unfortunately, not all children have good sleep habits. And one of the most challenging moments parents frequently face is getting their children to stay in bed after they tuck them in at night.

When my children were little, my husband and I made it a priority to read them a book every night before bed. For my husband, it was his way of connecting with our children after a long day at work. For me, it was a way to nurture their love of reading. We all treasured the opportunity to share a special story just between us.

Today, a solid bedroom routine is still critical for developing good sleep habits in our children. Reading to your child remains, in my opinion, the best way to transition your child from the business of the day to the healing, regenerating sleep he or she needs. But I understand that all families are different and sometimes parents can't read to their child(ren) every night.

Maybe you have to work late some nights, or you must travel and leave your child with another caregiver. Or maybe you are simply looking for something to use after your bedtime story. Whatever the reason, sometimes it is important to have a tool at your disposal.

So when I was contacted by Elo Pillow to do a review, I said yes.

What is Elo Pillow?

Elo is a bedtime system for children 2 - 9 years old that is centered around storytelling. It was developed by two moms who were struggling to keep their kids in bed. One wished she had a magic pillow that would stop storytime every time her child left the bed, and the other mom decided to give it a try. When it worked, Elo Pillow was born.

The pillow has a storytelling device inside. When you first receive it, you simply register (for free) on the Elo website. The pillow comes preloaded with one free SleepList (story), but you can purchase additional stories from the Elo shop. They are a bit pricey at $7, but if you were to buy 3 or 4, you could keep them on separate SleepLists and alternate playing each one on the nights you aren't able to read to your child or after you've already read to him. The SleepLists are around 20 to 30 minutes long. The SleepLists can be purchased from the Elo Store online, where you'll manage your account, select which story should play, and adjust the volume.

Sometime before bed, you'll need to sync the pillow and download all the books/the playlist you want them to hear at bedtime. While the pillow comes with instructions, the Elo Pillow website also has a page with videos to show you how to use it. I was grateful because it was a little tricky to connect the pillow to the Wi-Fi and watching the video made it easier.

Now I want to be clear right now that the pillow's Wi-Fi is not activated when your child's head is on it. (I wouldn't recommend this product if your child's head was in the direct path of the Wi-Fi.) You simply use the Wi-Fi to download the stories and then you can turn it off.  The stories themselves are activated when you turn the pillow on and your child lays his or her head down on the pillow. If your child picks up her head, then the stories stop and they are encouraged to lay their head back down. The story starts back up again when their head is on the pillow and turns off when the SleepList has finished playing. It is simply powered by 6 AA batteries. But if you are still not totally comfortable with leaving it in bed with your child, you can just switch it out.

My son tried out the pillow. I'm not even sure he heard the end of the story before he fell asleep! I don't think he moved once he put his head down except once at the beginning when he told me he couldn't hear it very well. I deliberately left the volume low so that he would have to be quiet to hear the story. He's a bit of a chatterbox.

The only thing I wish Elo offered was bilingual and/or Spanish books. At this time, all I saw in their Elo Store was English titles.

Overall, I would recommend this product if you are looking for a way to supplement your bedtime routine to develop healthy sleep habits in your child.

The Giveaway

And because they are so nice, one MommyMaestra reader will receive an Elo Pillow! Wouldn't this be a great regalito this holiday?

To enter, just use the Rafflecopter below.

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Disclosure: I was sent this product for a review. All thoughts and opinions are mine.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I Like to Read Books

For the most part, the real key to teaching children to read is to get them to want to read. And the best way to do that is to give them a good story.

Children - and adults! - are naturally fascinated by a well-told tale. But most children are also visual learners. So picture books are a must because they engage the child visually, enticing them to read the words on the page that explain or give additional details about what is happening in the story.

It's also important to give your child books that aren't too hard for them to read, but that allow them to practice what they've learned and even challenge them just a bit. Frustration, however, is the fastest way to kill any interest and motivation your child has to read.

When I was teaching my kids to read, I had them read for about 10 - 15 minutes a day. Somedays they found the reading more difficult than others, and on those days I didn't push them too hard because I knew their brains were absorbing the information but needed time to make sense of it.

Put all this together and you can see the need for fun, short picture books that focus on new sound combinations.

Holiday House has a series of books called I Like to Read® that feature exactly what I've described above. I used them with my kids when I was teaching them to learn how to read and these books made the experience fun so that my kids wanted to read more and had a good attitude when it came to reading.

The stories are short, funny, and boldly illustrated. My personal favorite is Mice on Ice by Rebecca and Ed Emberley. It's so cute and the story is simple. My son loved The Fly Flew In because of the sheer havoc the fly creates when it flies into a building full of people. And I think that my daughter loved Pig Has a Plan because she loves animals.

These were some of our beloved favorites a few years ago when I was teaching my two to read. And I want to share them with you. So the first giveaway in my holiday gifting series is a set of books because I know that your child's entire academic success isn't possible if he or she hasn't developed their literacy skills.

If you have little ones learning to read, don't miss today's giveaway! After all, there is no better gift than a book this holiday season.

Buena suerte!

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Monday, November 16, 2015

The 2015 MommyMaestra Holiday Gift Guide

Happy Holidays!!

I'm super excited about the next few weeks because it is time for my annual holiday gifting series! You know what that means, right? Over the next few weeks, I'll be sharing reviews and giveaways of some of my favorite educational products that I recommend for your children.

As a parent, I need help deciding on great gifts to give each holiday. I scour gift guides both online and in print. So today, I'm starting off by sharing my 2015 MommyMaestra Holiday Gift Guide! You can flip through it below.

This year, I decided to focus heavily on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) products because WE NEED MORE LATINO STUDENTS TO PURSUE STEAM CAREERS!! (You can find my gift guides from the last two years here because they are still awesome, too!)

So the gift guide is here and FULL of educational (some bilingual!) goodies for children. From babies to teens, there is something in this gift guide for all the kids in your life. Just click on the links in the guide to learn more and purchase any of the items. When you click on the guide below, it will open up in a full-screen view. To exit, just type the escape button ("Esc") on your keyboard.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

We’re Doin' Good as We End the Year


DISCLAIMER: This is part of a sponsored collaboration with Minute Maid and DiMe Media. All opinions are my own.

It’s so hard for me to believe that November is already here and that the new year is just over a month away. Two thousand and fifteen has flown by for me, and even though I am not - and have never been - a fan of winter, I’m grateful for the slower pace to come. It gives me time to breathe, to live in the moment, and recharge.

I’m especially looking forward to the upcoming holiday because I’m so thankful for this past year. I’ve been fortunate to travel with my family, launch a new digitized online reading program, and work on some renovations to my home. Although it has been very busy, I feel as though it has been very productive. It is time to reflect and be thankful.

Upon deeper reflection, I’m most grateful for the family of my childhood, who taught me so much; everything from the importance of hard work to the blessings of loved ones and spending time together as a family.

I remember those holidays together better than most of the other times in my childhood because my mother and grandparents worked hard to make sure that those moments would be special. We ate delicious food, wore our best clothes, and enjoyed quality time together. My parents set such a fine example of how to celebrate life and family.

Parents all over the world struggle with insecurities and wonder if they're doing a good job raising their kids. Many are doing a great job. Check out this video.


And now that I am grown with children of my own, I strive to recreate those special moments. In these last days of the year, we make extra efforts to do activities together that help us relax and have fun. My children make decorations so that they feel they are contributing to our holiday festivities. 

They also work hard on piano pieces in preparation for entertaining visitors. We take memorable field trips specific to the season. We spend the holidays with our family and friends, relaxing and enjoying each other’s company. And on those days, I know my children are storing away memories to last them their lifetime. I know we’re Doin’ Good as a family.

How about you? What are you thankful for this year?


Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Early Light Books: Science for Kids

This post uses affiliate links. 

There are so many books piled up next to my desk awaiting review that I've decided to focus on sharing them with you between now and the end of the year. I'm hoping to share a book review at least once a week.

I never fail to be amazed by the incredible children's books that are on the market today. And the collection I'm featuring today is no exception. Early Light Books is a small company that publishes books for children (and adults) that show how fun science can be. (Psst! I just saw a Spanish book - Colores de animales - on their site.)

I read not long ago about how important it is for children to grow up with a connection to nature. It has so many benefits for them personally, but perhaps the most critical reason is that if kids lose their connection to nature, they won't fight for it.

For most children, I'm betting their first (and sometimes only) introduction with animals is through nursery rhymes and picture books. But chances are these interactions don't exactly teach the kids too much about the animals themselves. That's why I love these special books highlighting the animal world from Early Light Books.

Some of you may know that years ago I used to be a zookeeper and my husband currently runs the largest bird park in the country. So you can only imagine how many books on animals have found homes on the bookshelves in our house. This set is really very well done and a wonderful introduction for younger children.

Animal Fights and Animal Naps  (aff links) are both written by Catherine Ham. She's a former school teacher and it shows. Her books feature different animals and each one has its own rhyming poem that shares fascinating facts and sometimes asks engaging questions. My kids enjoyed learning about sleep and sleep-related behaviors in exotic animals from around the world, as well as how they fight for territory in the wild.

Animal Tails (aff) by Beth Fielding is equally enjoyable. But instead of writing in verse, her book has engaging informational text. She talks about the different types of tails in the animal kingdom and how they benefit different animals.

But perhaps my absolute favorite title so far from Early Light Books is Caterpillars (aff) by Marilyn Singer. The photographs are stunning. We could flip through the pages just looking at the pictures over and over again. But that would be a shame because this book is FULL of information about caterpillars, moths, and butterflies. Singer even includes a bunch of resources at the back of the book, such as a pop quiz, a matching game, anatomy information about caterpillars, a glossary, scientific & common names, and books and websites for more information on these fascinating animals.

Overall, if you are looking to begin or supplement your elementary student's science lessons, I strongly recommend these books from Early Light Books!

Disclosure: I was sent these books for review purposes. I do not endorse/review books that I don't like or feel aren't good for my readers. All thoughts and opinions are my own!

Monday, November 9, 2015

6 Tips for Growing Healthy Habits with Your Kids

Happy Monday, Familia! Did you know that a new season of CYBERCHASE premieres TODAY on PBS stations across the country? This is their 10th season and once again, your kids will have fun going on educational adventures with the CYBERCHASE characters. The show is all about math, health, and the environment – encouraging kids to be active and eat well, to teaching kids about reducing waste and growing gardens, all while caring for the health of their community. My kids love this series because it is challenging and fun.

Eating healthy meals and being active every day is essential for human health, and how you achieve your goals can have a big impact on the health of the planet. The show's producer THIRTEEN has partnered with ChildObesity180 at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy to develop CYBERCHASE: STEP IT UP, a program that inspires kids and educators to find opportunities to work more steps into their regular day while learning related concepts in math. Across the country, approximately 6,000 children will participate in the program, pursuing a collective goal of adding 30 million extra steps. Are your kids participating?

I'm lucky to have Cyberchase Season 10 Health Advisor Kristie Hubbard here today to provide 6 tips to help families develop the same healthy habits at home.


6 Tips for Growing Healthy Habits with Your Kids
By Kristie Hubbard, PhD, MPH, RD, Cyberchase Health Advisor

1.    Plan ahead and track your progress.
Key strategies for improving eating habits and increasing physical activity are planning ahead and tracking progress. Plan meals and snacks ahead of time and ask for your child’s input. Provide structured choices: Would you like broccoli or salad for your vegetable tonight? Ask your child to create a family dinner and physical activity calendar. Use a chart or graph to keep track of family meals and minutes spent being active (toward the goal of at least 60 minutes a day).

2.    Make cooking a family event.
Designate at least one day each week to prepare a family meal. Involve your child with the prep work – from meal planning based on the five MyPlate food groups all the way through clean-up. Spend some quality time with your child while teaching her about healthy eating. Depending on your child’s skill level, try these fun and child-friendly tasks: 
·        Creating the menu based on MyPlate
·        Searching for recipes
·        Writing the shopping list
·        Cleaning fruits and vegetables
·        Measuring and adding ingredients

3.    Rethink your drink.
Sugar-sweetened drinks are the top source of added sugar in children’s diets. Encourage your child to drink water instead of sugary drinks when she’s thirsty. Ask your child to guess how many teaspoons of sugar are in her favorite drinks. To build math skills, read the nutrition facts panel and help your child calculate how many teaspoons of sugar are in one serving of her favorite beverage, using the 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon conversion.

4.    Chores count!
Chores to do? Involve your child in active chores around the house and make it fun. Indoor chores like sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming can also get your child’s heart pumping. Make it upbeat by cleaning the house to your child’s favorite music playlist. Be sure to count these activities toward your child’s goal of at least 60 minutes each day!

5.    Hit the “off” button.
Hitting the “off” button on almost any electronic device is a surefire way for finding more family time for physical activity. Dance indoors, play catch outside, or do yoga after dinner. If your child doesn’t want to miss her favorite show, get up and moving while you watch! Have a contest and count how many jumping jacks she can do during the opening credits, a song or another scene.

6.    Be a food detective.
A healthy meal starts with more vegetables and fruits and smaller portions of protein, grains, and dairy. Create an individualized meal plan for your child based on her age and activity level at Ask your child to estimate how many ounces of liquid fit in your glasses at home and how many cups of cereal fit in your bowls. If your usual dishes are leading to portion distortion, switch to smaller glasses, bowls and plates to help with portion control.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Free Homework Book for Spanish Readers: Phonics Center

A large number of MommyMaestra readers are parents who are raising bilingual children or have a child in a dual immersion program. Does this sound like you? If so, then you are no doubt giant fans of our sponsor Lectura para niños, whose materials are an invaluable resource for parents of Spanish readers. Today's free download is no exception.

Leah says...

This freebie matches my beginning sounds phonics center, but is in black and white. I send these pages home for homework when we are practicing deciphering beginning sounds.  I copy off the letters we are working on and we practice in class and they can color them, then they cut them apart and take them home.  Since the students have already practiced them in COLOR, they know how to play these games.  These are a great way to get the parents involved in their students' learning.

Here is the Full Phonics Center & Homework versions in color and black-and-white:

For more awesome Spanish materials, especially those that teach children to read in Spanish, check out Lectura para niños on FacebookTeachers Pay TeachersBlog, and Pinterest.

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