Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Activity Books for Young Engineers

This post contains affiliate links.

Both of my kids love building things and creating things from their imagination. Here are five of our favorite activity kits from Klutz books.

by Pat Murphy and the Scientists of Klutz Labs

by Doug Stillinger

by The Editors of Klutz

by Doug Stillinger

by Ben Harper and Pat Murphy

Monday, June 29, 2015

5 Klutz Books for Young Crafters

This post contains affiliate links.

We've been pouring through activity books that come with directions and even supplies. So this week, I'm sharing some of our favorites beginning with these five Klutz books for young crafters!

by Kaitlyn Nichols

by The editors of Klutz

by The editors of Klutz

by Rachel Haab

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Travel Bingo Boards

Do you remember these? When I was a kid, I loved playing this Interstate Highway Bingo game whenever we would go on road trips.

So imagine my delight to find it in a Cracker Barrel! I saw them there a few years ago, but when I went back to buy it for an upcoming trip, they had sold out. I've been kicking myself for not buying it ever since. Well, I found them again and snatched them up as fast as I could!

Cracker Barrel has them in stock right now, but there's no telling for how long. They come in a two pack for $4.49. So head to your local store to get them while you can!

If you don't have one near you, them you might prefer to go online and download some copies. You can find links to free downloads and more on my Pinterest Travel Bingo board (I never knew there were so many available!).

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

MommyMaestra Summer of Fun: DIY Fossil Dig

Jurassic World is still going strong in this house. We went to see it on opening night and the topic is still surfacing. The other day I walked into the dining room to find my son opening a tub of plaster of Paris. Next thing I knew we were burying dinosaurs. Why? So he could dig them up again, of course!

It's actually a brilliant idea. If you have a child who is crazy about dinosaurs then the chance are good that you've got those little dinosaur skeleton figures floating around in their toy chest. So why not use them to let your child role play a paleontologist?

What you need:

  • toy dinosaur skeletons
  • a wide mouth container (yogurt cups and paper cups work great)
  • sand
  • plaster of Paris
  • water
  • mixing cup
  • toy craft stick
  • wax paper
  • excavating tools (i.e. a miniature hammer, chisel or nail, paint brush) 


First, line the container with the wax paper. You can skip this step if you use paper cups. They typically have a thin wax coating. Plus they are easy tear off if the cast sticks.

My son preferred to have several layers of rock and sand. So he first added a thin layer of sand to the bottom of the container. (This helped keep the plaster from sticking to the bottom of the container, too.)

Next, he inserted the dino skeleton into the container. (I wasn't around when my son started this project, so he wound up using a coffee can. It was a bit of a problem because of the lip at the top and we had to struggle to get the dino out of the can afterwards. That's why I recommend using yogurt cups or even just paper or plastic drinking cups.)

Following the directions on the package, we mixed up a batch of plaster of Paris then poured a layer into the container. Depending on the age of your child, you may have to help them with this. NOTE: Do not leave young children alone with Plaster of Paris! It's hazardous!) We topped it off with sand we covered the statue, leaving just a tiny bit of the skull exposed at the top for the "discovery!" My son added a fake plant to the top to make it more realistic.

With smaller skeletons, you can do half sand and half plaster. Or mix it up and try doing all sand or all plaster. Just be aware that the plaster sets hard so it is more difficult to excavate.

Once the plaster of Paris had fully set, he began by gently sweeping the sand away from the skeleton using his little paint brush. Afterward, he removed the cast from the container and began "excavating" using a miniature hammer and chisel set we had left over from another Dino Dig play set. He enjoys the challenge. The plaster can be a little hard, so I strongly recommend starting off with a small skeleton and maybe using more sand than plaster. My son used a nail to scrape away at parts of the plaster, but if you have young children, don't use a nail as they could hurt themselves.

This is a fun project that takes a good bit of time and keeps kids busy for a good chunk of time if they are keen excavators!

Monday, June 22, 2015

MommyMaestra Summer of Fun: Shrink Crafts

Did you ever play with Shrinky Dinks when you were a kid? I didn't, but I always wanted some because all the other kids had them. So imagine my response when while shopping at our local Michaels, my son stumbled upon this set.

I thought it was too pricey at first ($7.99), but if you use a 40% off coupon plus your 15% teacher's discount this is actually quite a little deal! Still, if you prefer to just try these out, they do have smaller sets of just one sheet with three super cute designs for only $1.

There were enough designs in the big set to keep both of my kids busy and happy. They were absolutely fascinated by the actual shrinking process, and we were all impressed with the end result! I like the fact that kids of virtually any age can enjoy this activity.

Tips for Success:
  • Do NOT use a microwave or gas oven to shrink the designs. I actually used a toaster oven and it worked perfectly. 
  • A single sheet of aluminum foil protects your cookie sheets.
  • If some of your pieces don't lay perfectly flat, use the blunt end of a knife or some other straight edge to push the edges down as soon as you pull it out of the oven before they cool and harden.
  • Use the final results in a variety of ways, including charm bracelets, glass markers, necklace pendants, key chains, bookmark charms, lamp chain pull, and more...

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post. I spent my own money on this set, purchasing it for my own children. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

MommyMaestra's Summer of Fun

My biggest challenge this summer is to keep my kids busy having fun....and OFF tech. Not completely, mind you, because there are a lot of super online programs happening, but I definitely want to limit the amount of time they spend this summer staring at a screen.

Because we're traveling a lot and have family coming to visit, I'm not spending a lot of money on summer camps. So that leaves me with the problem of trying to kick boredom to the curb and keeping my kids happy. I suspect that I'm not the only one with this issue. Therefore, I'm going to be sharing various activities and opportunities over the next few months to keep your kids entertained.

First, I want to be very clear that many of the activities will be based on supplies and kits I find at my local craft stores. I have not in any way been compensated (or even approached!) by these stores. I simply went to them in my search of supplies and found great bargains, activities, books, or opportunities and spent my own money/time. I'm going to spend the summer sharing them with you by posting at least three times a week. 

Okay, on to summer fun!

If you want to be super logical about it, you can begin by deciding on a budget. For example, I might say that with my two kids I'm going to spend $100 a month total on activities and/or classes. That's $50 per kid. Sounds reasonable to me. 

Next, I started scouring the web, my huge library of craft books, as well as magazines for ideas on super fun crafts. I've already started a Pinterest board that I'll be adding to daily. Feel free to follow it!

If you are participating in the L4LL Latino Children's Summer Reading CAMP, then don't forget that there is a Summer Bucket List your kids can download in English or Spanish under the Summer/Verano theme. It's got a lot of ideas and you can stick it right on your fridge for easy reference.

After starting a list of fun crafts/activities that they want to try, I had the kids put together a list of supplies that we needed to buy. We already had most of the items in our School Supply & Art cabinets, but there were a few we'd run out of or had never thought to use before.

Then we headed off to our local craft stores to stock up. 

It just so happened that we were at Michaels on the first day of their summer Passport to Imagination classes. Do you know about them? Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 - 12 pm, your kids can make crafts with a Michaels educator. The classes run for 7 weeks and each week features a different theme. This week was all about PIRATES! My kids made a pirate doubloon necklace and an eye patch. You can click here to see the themes for all of the remaining weeks. 

The classes are fairly inexpensive; $5 for one class or $12 for three. My kids had fun and wanted to go back on Wednesday, but we had other plans already. We're looking forward to going back soon, though. The good thing is that you can just pop in to whichever class is convenient for you!

While the kids crafted, I took their list and browsed the store, and went to a few others to collect all the supplies we needed and to browse for more ideas. 

We returned home with a bag full of goodies and a ton of excitement for a full summer of creativity!

Stay tuned to learn about some of our favorite crafts...

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Do You Know a Dad Who’s Doin’ Good?


DISCLAIMER: This is part of a sponsored collaboration with Minute Maid and DiMe Media.  Minute Maid will provide this prize. Minute Maid is not a sponsor, administrator or connected in any other way with the contest – and all opinions are my own. 

My oldest child is a lot like her daddy: hard working, nature loving, smart. But she’s also independent, stubborn, and outspoken - just like him. Sometimes the two of them clash, and I know that in those moments my husband wonders if he’s a good father.

I imagine that every parent has those moments of self doubt. I know I do. Those worries about whether or not I’m doing the right thing really seem to surface as we get closer to the end of the school year and I think about the end of the school year test I have to give my kids according to my state’s rules. As a homeschooling mom, I always wonder if I’m teaching them enough, if I’ve taught them the right things, if they’ve learned what they’re expected to learn in their grade.

Doin-Good-Dad2.jpgAnd then we take that silly test and they do awesome. All my fears are for nothing.

Just like me, I know my husband sometimes worries if he’s being a good dad, if he’s teaching them things they should know. He works really hard and wonders if he spends enough time with the kids.

But here’s the thing: I know he is an awesome dad. And so do our kids. Because they love the moments they spend together with him. And I see them beam when he says he’s proud of them. Those moments when they spend time just having fun, such as fishing or when we travel, are extra special.

I don’t think we’re the only parents who experience these feelings of insecurity and guilt.

As parents, we know we love our kids. But I would dare to say that every parent - moms and dads - at one point or another makes mistakes or thinks they’ve messed up and worries if they’re raising their kids the right way, or if their children know how much they are loved.

Which is why I think that other dads (and moms!) can relate to this video...

This Father’s Day, we want to celebrate the dad in your life. We want to recognize all the great things that he (or a dad you know) is doing.

Know of a dad who’s going a great job but may not realize it? Post a shout out/short story about him in the comment section below to let him know that he’s doing a better job as a parent than he may realize. With the comment, you’ll have a chance to win an awesome Minute Maid prize pack, which includes a $50 Visa gift. Use the gift card to continue “Doin’ Good” with your kids (or give it to someone you think could use it to keep Doin’ Good with his family).

A winner will be selected at random on Sunday, June 21st, and the winner will be notified via email.

Feliz día del padre.


Thanks so much to Minute Maid for creating this campaign to reassure and empower parents. To learn more, you can follow Minute Maid online, on Facebook, on Twitter.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Printable Bilingual Dinosaur Puzzle Cards

We took the kids to see Jurassic World last Friday. My son was counting down the days for it to open! It was a lot of fun, but it is definitely a movie I recommend for older kids. There are lots and lots of dinos, lots and lots of action, and lots and lots of scary. My older child spent most of the movie clutching my hand over her eyes.

Anyway, because I know that younger kids want to feel a part of the action, I thought it would be fun to create some dino-themed printables. Here's a freebie you can download today and tomorrow only. Be on the lookout for more fun dinosaur downloads in my TpT store!


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Best Buy Education: Your Education Technology Partner

It absolutely amazes me how tech-savvy children are today. Every day I read articles discussing how different technology is being used in education. From Minecraft to Wideo, there are thousands of applications, websites, and devices that are now available to make learning fun and easier. In fact, technology is so closely linked to education these days that you can find many websites dedicated only to using technology in education. Even in our own homeschool classes, technology plays a significant role.

Do you use technology in your classroom? If not, discover how the latest technology can transform your classroom. Can you imagine what it would be like if you could provide each of your students with a classroom tablet or laptop and use some of the amazing apps now available to teach your students how to read, spell, count, multiply, and English and Spanish?

Most young people today are growing up with technology and are using it in every aspect of their lives. School should be no exception.

With the right devices, students can:
  • Read, research and take notes
  • Learn at their own pace
  • Prepare and edit assignments more efficiently
  • Communicate and collaborate on projects with ease
  • Master technology skills that prepare them for future educational endeavors and careers
Best Buy Education believes every student should have access to technology. They offer a wide variety of tablets, laptops and chrome devices for classroom use, and have partnered with schools around the country to provide technology they need to succeed. They also offer on-site Geek Squad® training and support for students and faculty.

Their dedicated Account Managers will consult with you, offer knowledgeable, unbiased advice and guide you to the product and service solutions that best meet your needs and budget. Whether you are rolling out new devices in the classroom, launching a BYOD initiative, or upgrading the technology throughout your school, they can provide the products, support and protection you need.

You can enter for a chance to win $25,000 in Best Buy Credit to upgrade your classroom devices! If you could use some help with acquiring new technology to use with your students and make learning more fun, easier, and modern, don't miss this great opportunity!

If you are attending ISTE Conference and Expo on June 28 – July 1, Best Buy Education will be in booth #2262. Make sure you stop by and check out the daily demonstrations being held throughout the conference.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post with Best Buy. All thoughts and opinions are strictly my own.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Free Booklet for Vowel Recognition in Spanish

June's freebie from our sponsor, Lectura para niños is a fun booklet to strengthen your child's ability to identify vowels and sight words in Spanish.
Leah says...

Here is a “portion” of a bigger item that I have on TPT that you can get here. You will get 8 of 23 pages from this bundle.

These little books are a fun and interactive way to learn how to read and reinforce the vowels in Spanish.

This book provides opportunities to:
  • reinforce the beginning sounds of each vowel
  • correspond pictures to the correct vowel sound
  • segment words into syllables
  • learn to read sight words with automaticity

Here is a link to access all of the other little readers I have created for this series.

I use these little books weekly to increase knowledge of letter naming, sounds, blending and segmenting words. You do NOT have to use the MARAVILLAS reading series to use these little books. One pair will work on this mini reader during their small reading group. They will review these books daily before being introduced to a new letter/word in the following week. Each week gets progressively harder and reinforces the learning from the week before.

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

Monday, June 8, 2015

Summer Learning is Easy and Flexible with Brain Chase

Yesterday, I took time to update our Brain Chase dashboard. My kids can't wait to start another one of their summer learning adventures. This particular one appeals to their adventurous spirit.

We have a lot going on this summer. From camping trips to summer reading to swim, swim, swimming, we're looking forward to playing and learning together. That's why I'm loving the flexibility of the program. If we miss a day (or even a week!), my kids can go back and easily catch up on their own. 

When we registered, my kids committed to doing 5 hours of online work a week for 5 weeks. They don't mind because they know that they're on a mission to solve a mystery - one that could win them $10K in scholarship money!

At first, they were wishy-washy about the idea, but they changed their minds after watching the first video...

And then when they learned that last year's winner won a trip for his whole family to Spain to dig up a real treasure? Well, forget it. They were totally in. 

This year's challenge is to find the Sunstone of Cortés! 

To participate, your family will need a high-speed internet connection so your kids can watch the animated videos (with clues!) and complete their work. While it is best for them to use a desktop computer for any writing assignments, they can complete math, language and reading assignments on tablets. Or your kids may elect to learn a language instead of the writing assignments, like mine did. They chose Spanish, of course! And will be learning from Rosetta Stone. 

We've already received a package in the mail with items that appeal to their sense of adventure: a decoder ring, a compass, two mysterious beans... Well, my kids used the decoder ring to break the code that came in a letter with the package. They totally loved it. They planted the beans to reveal a secret message when the seedlings came up. And now the ring and the compass live in secret compartments in an old jewelry box awaiting the start of the program.

So what are you waiting for, Parents? If it sounds like Brain Chase might be the perfect summer learning adventure for your family, then visit today. There's still time to register!

Teachers! Do you know about the teacher referral reward program? Brain Chase is offering a $15 Staples gift card to teachers for each of their students they refer to Brain Chase. Registrants who hear about Brain Chase from a teacher can simply enter that teacher's name and school name at registration. The referral rewards can add up to substantial funding for classroom supplies – it's a great opportunity for a class fundraiser through the PTA or other school organizations.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are strictly my own. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Free Download: Alphabet Letters Game in Spanish

Has your child decided to learn a new language this summer? Maybe your whole family has decided to learn Spanish! If so, you're going to really enjoy this month's Spanish-learning freebie from our sponsor Spanish for You! 

If you're looking for a way to boost your Spanish spelling skills or even just simply test your knowledge of Spanish vocabulary, this is a great game for you! This Alphabet Letters Game comes with letter cards and directions for playing. (It's sort of like scrabble, but not different.) It also includes an audio file to help the players/learners with the pronunciation of the letters in Spanish.

If this is your first time here, you can find other free samples from Spanish for You! here. There are some fantastic downloads of games and activities for you and your family to enjoy.

Thanks, Spanish for You!

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