Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finding Time for Reflection

As the new year quickly approaches, I find myself a little desperate for some time to sit quietly and reflect on this past year. Finding a moment to myself, though, is very hard to come by these days. But before I begin the new year, I want to stop and think about this past year and all the challenges and blessings it has brought me. I want to think about what I want to change in the coming year, and what I want to keep the same. I want to think about what is best for my children, for me, my husband, our marriage, my friendships, and my relationships with my extended familia. I want to think about this blog, and the LBBC, Latin Baby and anything else to which I devote my time.

Mi amiga, Angelica, recently mentioned some of her goals for the coming year. This is something that I think is important to create. But setting goals, for me, is not something I can easily do without thinking about where I've been, where I am now, and where I want to be. It's also something I can't accomplish alone anymore. Since becoming una mamá, I no longer have only my own life to consider, but also two others. I know that my actions impact mis niños, because they are watching me closely everyday and modeling themselves after me.

I also feel (self-imposed) pressure to clean up the house. It's silly, really, pero at the end of the year, for some reason I feel this tremendous urge to organize and purge mi casita of all the STUFF that we don't need. All the clutter strangles me, because I always want to start the new year off clean and fresh, with a positive outlook and an open mind that is receptive to change for the good of my familia.

So here are my goals for the next two days:

1) Find 30 minutes to sit quietly and think about the past year.
2) Make a list of the good things I want to keep or develop.
3) Make a list of the challenges we've faced.
4) Create a list of goals for 2011. This list can be as complex as "train my daughter to have a positive attitude," or as simple as "paint the trim in the living room."
5) Think carefully about our homeschool schedule and format these past 4 months.
6) Create a new approach or make changes (if necessary) to our homeschool plan for the rest of this school year.
7) Make a trip to Goodwill/Salvation Army and drop off donations.
8) Decide which area of the house I most want to organize and just do it

What about you? Have you already thought about your goals for the coming year? Have you spent time thinking about this past one? Or is it hard for you to find time to just sit quietly alone to reflect?

Con mucho cariño....

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bright Hub Offers Homeschool Lesson Plans and More

Technically, we are still on our holiday vacation from schooling. But I am still keeping an eye out for great lessons, units, products, articles and more. Not only to share with you, but also for my own kids.

One of my favorite sites is Bright Hub. I am routinely surprised by some of the great information and ideas that I get from them. For example, this week I read the article, Homeschool Winter Units: Coldest Places On Earth and Winter Sports, which has some great suggestions for two unit studies, which I enjoy because they cover a broad range of subjects. And this particular article, couldn't come at a more appropriate time of year, as we continue to shovel snow outside our door.

For those of you who are taking some time off, these unit studies are an easy and fun way to keep your children learning, without worrying about following a curriculum or a strict schedule. I especially appreciate the book list and web references given.

Another great idea for holiday vacation time is using the time to explore art. Last week, Sunny Griffis published the article, Art Competitions for Homeschooled Students, which includes several ideas and contests for the artistically inclined child.

I frequently pass on articles like these on the Mommy Maestra Facebook Page, so if you aren't already following me there, you may want to think about it.

Con mucho cariño...

Monday, December 27, 2010

Nieve, Nieve Everywhere...

Whew! We've made it through the holiday weekend, and I hope you all enjoyed a beautiful holiday. Saturday was full of gifts and food, squeals and laughter, hugs and besitos. Then yesterday we awoke to this...

Gack! It actually was beautiful. And it didn't stop snowing all day. Out came the old sled that used to be my grandfather's...

And for those of you experiencing similar weather conditions, here's a little recipe that you might enjoy, too!

Snow Ice Cream II (We made this with chocolate milk!)

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Lunar Eclipse and a Last-Minute Gift

I think that this will be my last post on Mommy Maestra for this week. Things are getting terribly busy around here - especially for me as I race to finish sewing several gifts for family and friends!

But I have several things I want to mention...

FIRST, if you don't know about tonight's lunar eclipse, you should! While I know this would be a fantastic learning experience for my kids, this magnificent event takes place at 3 am our time (the peak is about 3:17 EST), and once my daughter is awake, well, you can just forget it. There's no going back to sleep afterwards! And we have a very busy day tomorrow, so my husband and I decided that we will be the only two to wake up and catch a peek of the red moon. I'm going to try and take video. I'm pretty excited, but really sad that I can't share it with my kids, or we will all be a disaster in the morning.

However, if you'd like to read more about this fascinating phenomenon, check out the following links.

Solstice Lunar Eclipse - Nasa Science 

5 Things You Need To Know About Lunar Eclipses

Shadow & Substance

Catch the Total Lunar Eclipse Tonight


If you suddenly find yourself in need of a last-minute gift for a child (yours or someone else's), check out This beautiful site has some wonderful paper toys that you can make yourself. Or download, print, and wrap so that you can present it to your favorite niño o niña and let them make it themselves! Marilyn has so many beautiful toys available for download, many of them free (please consider a donation), and she also has some books available for purchase. Here's a short video she's made for The Toymaker's Christmas:

"No School" Doesn't Mean "No Learning"

We have officially caved in and declared a holiday vacation from homeschool. But just because we are on vacation, doesn't mean that there isn't a little bit of learning still going on! Here are some of our activities that I consider to be enriching learning experiences even though they are not a part of our official curriculum...

Grammar & Spelling

For the past week, my daughter has been writing out her holiday cards. This is her first time to do so. She wanted to do them after she saw me writing out mine. So I picked up a couple packets of festive Mary Engelbreit note cards ($1 at Michaels) and then helped her write out her message on a dry erase board, which she then uses for reference as she writes out her 10 cards. This also has provided me with the opportunity to teach her how to address a letter with both a mailing and return address.


Earlier this year, we enrolled in Pizza Hut's Book It! reading program. Each month, we set a goal as far as how many books to read, or how many minutes each day, and if my daughter completes the goal, I give her one of the coupons that Pizza Hut sent me, which entitles her to one free personal pan pizza. She did great the first month (goal: she reads 12 books, and I read her 5 harder, longer books), so we made the second month a little harder (she reads 20 books, and I still read her 5). We squeaked by, so this month we kept that same goal. I ordered some new readers from Scholastic, and to ensure her participation, I am having her read one to me every night before bed (because our days have been disjointed and off schedule!). So far, this is working out great. In fact, tonight she redeemed her second pizza, as we decided to have a family night out. She takes great pride in her accomplisment and insists on personally handing the cashier her Book It! certificate/coupon.  


Baking, baking, and more baking! Learning how to measure is never as much fun as when you actually create something edible and yummy. On our list this week: blueberry bread, lemon cake, gingerbread cookies, and my special homemade fudge for gift giving!

We're also planning to work on patterns (recognition and creating) as we assemble some cranberry/popcorn garlands for our little feathered friends, who have been extremely busy at our feeders the last several days during our snowy weather.


Project Feeder Watch is in full swing. The observation table is set up next to the dining room windows, and it includes binoculars, field guide, pencils and data sheet. We've also been conducting a little science experiment by growing lima beans in plastic bags (wet vs. dry vs. cold vs. warm) and then carefully recording the data. I'm thinking we might try some of this with a few of the seeds from our bird feeder and see what kind of results we get.

Arts & Crafts....and Character Building

Some of the other homeschooling parents in the area were receptive to the idea of a gift exchange among the kids. So I assigned each child a number and then used to draw names. Each child is responsible for giving another child a gift. Our only rules? Each gift must be handmade, using household items or materials that cost $5 or less. The goal is to promote creativity, thoughtfulness, consideration, and a giving heart. I'll post soon about what gifts my children have chosen to create for their friend.

How are you encouraging your children to learn during the holiday break?

Con mucho cariño...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Weekend Links: Bilingual Books to Villancicos

Bilingual Books for Navidad :: Latin Baby Book Club

Winter-Themed Picture Books Perfect for Snuggling by the Fire :: Homeschool Classroom

25 Gifts Kids Can Make! :: The Crafty Crow

Holiday Rice Krispies Trees {Giveaway} :: Modern Mami

Am I a Bad Homeschool Mom if I Don’t Use Hands-on Projects? :: Jimmie’s Collage

Huerto Casero / Home Garden :: 2 Pequeños Traviesos

The Gift of Slow :: Simple Homeschool

Building a Family Culture Through Holiday Traditions :: Simple Homeschool

Ice Lanterns :: Ordinary Life Magic (For those of you attending or hosting posadas, this may be a lovely handmade decoration!)

La Música de Navidad :: YouTube (Everyone give Ana from Spanglish Baby a big round of applause for finding and sharing this amazing YouTube channel that features villancicos navideños!!)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Handmade Gifts from La Cocina!

Photo by D'Arcy Norman
When you make a gift, it shows how much you care about a person. You invest time, energy, and maybe un poco de dinero.
Here are some regalitos deliciosos that you can make together with your nenes. Straight from la cocina Latina!

• Why not give the dry ingredients to make Mexican Hot Chocolate using this recipe by Clementina over at A Little Cup of Mexican Hot Chocolate? I think it would be great to put chocolate shavings into a decorative tin or jar and add a little pouch with the other dry ingredients. Attach a pretty recipe card and away you go!

• Maybe you can make some buñuelos with your children and then deliver them fresh to friends and family? Wrap them in a pretty cloth napkin and a gift basket y ya! Although an adult will have to fry the buñuelos, children can help knead the dough and form the balls. Check out this delicious recipe for Buñuelos Colombianos from Erica over at My Colombian Recipes. It is mouth-watering!

• Erica also has a great recipe for alfajores with dulce de leche. Warning: If you decide to make these yummy cookies as a gift, they might mysteriously disappear before you can even make it out of your casa!! But I think these would look lovely in a decorative tin or even a holiday-themed Chinese take-out box.

• Natilla is originally a Spanish custard that quickly spread throughout Latin America and evolved into a variety of versions depending on the country. Personally, I love this recipe, found at I think these could be made in advance and delivered fresh!

• Don't miss Elizabeth Belkind's Mexican "Hot" Chocolate Sandwich Cookie recipe on LAWeekly's blog, where they are in the middle of a 12 Days of Cookies series.

• For the most creative families, consider a little marzipan fun! Here is a simple recipe. Have your children create holiday-themed marzipan pieces and place in decorative tins, boxes lined with colored foil, or recycled candy boxes.

• And my homeschooling friend, Marta, over at the Tiki Tiki, has graciously shared recipe links and free downloads for some super yummy dulce de leche (and crema de vie!) and packaging ideas.

Con mucho cariño...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Taking the Day Off...

Queridos Amigos,

Tomorrow - Wednesday - my son performs a solo in his preschool's Christmas play. This is my son's last year in school before we start his homeschooling, and I am grateful he's had this opportunity. Anyhow, I am sure in the morning my daughter and I will be busy getting ready to go and cheer him on, and then I will dedicate the rest of the day to them. And now as I write this, the Theraflu I have just taken, is making it difficult for me to stay awake. (I do not have the flu, just a rotten cold that picked the wrong time to visit.)

So I will be back Thursday with algo un poquito mas interesante.

Un abrazo a todos!


Handmade Gifts for Your Kids to Make

My 'Buelita was a master gardener. Not officially (this was back before they had such titles and programs!), but she loved to garden. Her backyard was lush and green, and lovingly tended. I remember spending hours out there digging, watering, planting, playing, and daydreaming. I can remember the gloriously giant roses she grew along her back fence, the rows of corn that grew tall in the summer, the bird-of-paradise flowers that bloomed so strangely in pots on her back porch, and succulents out the ying-yang. And she would often trade plants with her friends and family.

This is the first thought that came to my mind when I read Lucia's post, Gifts from Nature: Gifts of Green, over on The Magnifying Glass blog. I have been a devoted reader since it's inception, and for those of you looking for nature-themed gifts that your children can create on their own, be sure to head over there and take a look at their Gifts from Nature series. They have a lot of simple, but beautiful, ideas, including:

• kindling bundles for papi or abuelo
• cinnamon scented pinecones for 'buelita
• sand and shell candles for las tías!
• and much, much more!

Con mucho cariño...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Foreign Language Friends: A Unique and Educational Gift for Children

Are you still looking for a unique, educational gift to give your child? Or maybe you need a last minute present for a niece or nephew? Stop and take a look at this!

Over the last few months I had the opportunity to review a new website for children. Foreign Language Friends is an interactive site that promotes Spanish learning and is a great supplement for a child’s Spanish studies. It is a tool to introduce and/or reinforce language learning and should be used in conjunction with a full Spanish curriculum. Designed to encourage full immersion learning at home in a fun and inexpensive way, FLF allows children to methodically work their way through basic concepts and vocabulary.

The site is theme-based, and covers topics such as colors, shapes, numbers, body parts, transportation, and many more. Each theme is then covered in great detail with seven activities including a vocabulary builder, matching game, Spanish-only animation, sing-along, a unique game, spelling, and printable activities/worksheets.

I think that families will love how the site can be used by a single child or multiple children, who create their own ID so that they can login and then work at their own pace. One of the best parts of the site is the Progress Tracker, which not only remembers where the child stopped working so that he or she can begin at the same spot the next time they log on, but also allows parents to see what their children have learned. Parents can simply enter the child’s name and then review their progress.

It is no surprise that most of Foreign Language Friends users are homeschooling families that want to start integrating foreign language into their curriculum while their children are still young. But I think that even parents with children in public or private school, would greatly benefit from sharing this with their children. And Spanish teachers might also consider recommending this site to their students - or using it in class to supplement their lessons.

Parents who are not fluent in Spanish can use FLF to help their children practice their pronunciation at home. In fact, families are encouraged to work together, learning together while having fun. Although, children can also use the program on their own.

FLF can also play a big roll helping overcome the problem of children who refuse to speak Spanish at home with their parents. This learning tool can easily be added to a child’s routine and reinforce what they are learning in a fun and interactive way.

Kultural Kids owner, Denise Leitch, and her husband created FLF after three years of research and failing to find a similar site available. They have worked very hard to bring it to life: Denise created the content and curriculum, while her husband developed the web design and technical side of it.

Denise states, “With Foreign Language Friends, we also try to make every activity interactive and welcoming, fun and challenging, so that the child can feel accomplished and wants to learn more.”

She says that active learning is the key, and passive learning will not work 100%. INTERACTION is a necessary part of the learning process.

A subscription to Foreign Language Friends would be a really fun gift for children (my daughter really loves this site!), and parents can appreciate its educational value. Individuals and families can purchase a monthly subscription for $9, or a yearly one for $99. This plan allows up to 3 computers to be logged in at the same time. School plans are also available. ALL the plans come with a 7 day free trial. MommyMaestra readers can enjoy an additional 25% discount if they use the promo code: LATINBABY

Con mucho cariño...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Weekend Links: Music to the World's First Mariachi Opera

10 Quick Music Enrichment Ideas :: Heart of the Matter (Love this post!!)

How to Bake Bread (Teaching Life Skills in the Kitchen) :: Five J’s

Ornament Advent Day 6: Stained Glass Poinsettias! :: Crafty Crow

How to Make Yarn Dolls :: Living Creating Believing (Very neat idea. I think my 'Buelita made me one once...)

Desert Lesson Plan for Preschool and Homeschool Students:: Associated Content (Sort of the wrong time of year, but hey, the desert is always there! Save it for later.)

Transitioning into the Big Kid Years :: Simple Homeschool

School Week 11 and 12 :: Montessori Spanish

• And don't miss the winter edition of Rhythm of the Home, a digital magazine featuring "a huge gathering of projects, reflections, traditions and good food for every family to share." It is wonderful and also delves into the Waldorf tradition, so those of you considering this method of homeschooling, especially, should check it out.

And here are just a few more giveaways this week…

Latin Baby Book Club

Spanglish Baby

Last, but not least!

A Trumpet's Note of Hope in a Mariachi Opera :: Houston Chronicle (Story behind the world's first mariachi opera. A moving story and a must read!)

Con mucho cariño...

More Educational Gifts for Christmas

My list is still growing and I have been shopping. Here are some more of my favorite gifts for this season....

3-D Solar System

Today I bought these glow-in-the-dark planets for my daughter's room. She is a space fanatic and already has the stars that glow all over her ceiling. Both my kids, actually, enjoyed learning about the planets last year, and continue to ask questions about the cosmos. I recently found out about the astronomer's club that meets every month at our local museum, so I'm hoping to introduce my family to this fantastic opportunity later next year when the nights get warmer!  Available from $7.99 here.

And on a similar note...

I think this may be one of the coolest astronomy products for little kids out there right now! This moon night light turns your child's room into an authentically detailed 3-D lunar landscape. After your child is all tucked in for the night, Moon in My Room creates a peaceful, glowing effect for a night full of sweet dreams.  It hangs on your wall and includes an automatic or annual function that shows 12 main phases of the moon, auto shut-off, and an infared remote control. This product also comes with a 15-minute audio CD that provides a guided tour to the moon!  Available from $14.99 here.

Playmobil has this fun portable theater that comes with 6 characters, 20 props and 2 interchangeable backdrops. It also includes a mini sound machine that plays background music, audience/children's laughter and applause! I think this would be a great toy for developing your child's imagination and storytelling skills Children can use almost any characters (or make more puppets) with this theater, thus expanding the creativity and longevity of this piece. Available from $39.00 here.
This complete set features over 100 pieces to assemble and decorate your very own dollhouse of your dreams! The dollhouse is made form recycled cardboard and even the box it comes in features a play mat on the inside! Decorate each room with the accessories provided but don't forget to add your own personal touches. This kit contains 1 sturdy cardboard dollhouse (Assembled measures 21" x 17-1/4" x 9"), 1 color-in playmate printed on inside of box, four sheets of creative color-in cut outs. Decorative papers, three sheets of punch-out and put together furniture, (1) glue stick, adhesive foam squares, more than forty stickers, 12 washable markers in assorted colors, and instruction/idea booklet. Recommended for ages 4 and up. Available from $22.50 here.
Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More Bilingual Gifts on my List

Slowly there are more bilingual products showing up on the market, but I'm pretty picky. I want something that is good quality, creative, educational, and fun. Here then, are a few other toys that I am considering, or that I highly recommend to bilingual familias...

As a company, I have loved Ingenio Toys for a long time. They have really thought about their products and are dedicated to creating toys and games that reflect the qualities I listed above. I have been salavating over their Smart Projector for a while, because both of my kids could (and sometimes do) spend hours each day drawing and I know they would flip for this projector. It teaches how to trace and write the alphabet and numbers - perfect for my son - and also allows them to trace and draw 24 animals and write their names in English/Spanish, which is exactly what m'ija will love. In addition, the size of the image can be adjusted depending on the drawing surface.

I think these blocks are a must-have for families with toddlers. They are perfect for building, which developes hand-to-eye coordination and creativity. And they grow with the child, providing a manipulative that parents can use when teaching letter/number recognition, reading, spelling, etc. This is a classic toy that all bilingual families should have in their home.

Older children will appreciate this kit and parents will, too. It comes with over 200 double-sided magnets that display Spanish words on one side, and English on the other. A great way for increasing vocabulary in Spanish- and English-learners. Children can also explore sentence structure, rhyming, and grammar with the help of a teacher.


When my daughter was two, someone gave her this doll. Four years and one battery change later, we still have it and it is still beloved. Baby Tita (pictured above), like the five other dolls created by Baby Abuelita, sings snippets of traditional lullabies and folksongs from Latin America when you squeeze her hand.

There is just something about the power of music and nursery rhymes that captures the heart of children all over the world. And I have to admit, that this doll is one of my favorites, too, because she looks like my daughter, and also because I am so happy to be able to share these songs from my own childhood with my children.

Con mucho cariño...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bilingual Products for Holiday Gifts

UPDATE: Sadly, this line is no longer available in stores.

Bilingual toys and products are, as usual, high on our gift list, so I am always looking out for new companies that cater to this market. And this year, I discovered Witty Planet, which is the first company in the United States to carry Línea Descubriendo, a line of educational products created in Argentina by Primeros Pasos Argentina, professionals in childhood development. In fact, the line has been embraced by many Latin American countries, similar to the way in which the American lines, Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby, have been here in the States. But Línea Descubriendo is even better, with original songs and content that creates a richer, more effective product.

The whole line centers around a cast of puppets, including its mascot, the adorable monkey named Bubba (pronounced BOO-bah) depicted in the logo above. Both my children love him. And it's no wonder considering that all of the puppets were developed by puppetmaster Roberto Docampo, Director of the Puppetry School at the San Martin Theater, in Argentina.

Descubriendo's DVDs and CDs invite children to learn through play, song, and dance - a combination that my children (and probably yours, too!) can't resist. You can read my review of their DVD, Descubriendo Mi Cuerpo, over on the LBBC.

But they also offer a series of flashcards, which I have incorporated into our classtime. We have the alphabet cards, El A B C de Bubba, which have turned out to be a great teaching tool. I am, of course, using them to introduce the Spanish alphabet to my kids. The cards are big - approximately 4 1/2 in. x 7 1/2 in. - and come on a very sturdy board background...perfect for little hands. And they are designed really well to provide you with a lot of information for each letter.

I love how on the front of each card there is:

• a picture of one of the Línea Descubriendo puppets next to the letter of the alphabet,
• the puppet is making a statement that begins with the letter,
• and there is an example of the upper case and lower case letter in the corner.

And on the back of each card there is:

• a riddle (the answer begins with the main letter),
• a picture of an object beginning with the main letter,
• another picture of an object beginning with the letter and it includes an adjective that also begins with the main letter, (example: barco bonito)
and an image of the upper case and lower case letters with guide marks (arrows) to show how the letter is formed.

I've been using the cards to reinforce the letters that my daughter is learning in her Spanish curriculum, so I started out by pulling out all the vowels first, and reading them to her. Then I would give her the sound the letter makes and ask her to point to the letter that matches the sound. I've also had her pick out the cards to spell her name. But there are many other games you can play with your kids, and in fact, the box comes with a suggested list of 12 games.

Now these cards are written completely in Spanish, so the riddles and the statements on the front may be a little difficult for beginning Spanish learners, but for those of you who are raising your children in Spanish, this should not be a problem. And even if your children don't understand every word, remember that it doesn't take them long to learn. It's also very important to train their ears to hear the language, including pronunciation, inflection, etc.

I love how the cards are so versatile and can be used to increase vocabulary, discuss nouns and adjectives, color recognition, develop critical thinking skills (the riddles), and develop literacy skills at different stages (i.e., preschoolers: letter recognition, beginning to write, beginning to spell; and elementary: beginning and advanced readers).

To extend this product even further, your familia can visit the adorable, interactive site, El Mundo de Bubba, for additional games, art, and much, much more. (This site really is incredible. Go there now - you'll LOVE it!)

And to be one of the first families to experience these products in America, you can visit Witty Planet's website and order any of their DVDs, CDs, or flash cards. Their website is available in both English and Spanish. 

Con mucho cariño...

Disclosure: This post is part of a paid campaign. However, the opinions expressed in this post are sincere and true. Mommy Maestra WILL NOT endorse products that it does not approve of or that we feel will not interest our readers.

Monday, December 6, 2010

What's On Our Gift List: Educational Products

This year, I have made a resolution: No more frivolous toys that have no real redeeming value. This is not to say that my kids probably won't get some of these; I can't control what others give them - though especially obnoxious toys immediately find their way into the donation box! But I can, however, decide what I will be spending my money on and what I will be giving my kids.

This year, I want to give gifts that will help my kids develop their literacy and skills, inspire their creativity, and boost their critical thinking abilities. I think that many people think the following:

Education Product = BORING

But they are SO wrong! And over the next few weeks I will be highlighting some of the products that I think are not only educational, but also FUN! Here are some of the ones that have made it to my list this year. Some of these have already been purchased, and others are under consideration, or awaiting my next shopping trip (minus children)...

I am not a fan of video games. In fact, I think many people waste way too much time on such nonsense, but I do think that if you monitor the amount of time your children spend on such things (30 mins or less a day, 4-5 times a week max!) AND you control the software (no violence, gracias), then there is a place for some of these products.

I have chosen the Leapster 2 because for months now, my daughter and son have made a bee-line for the sample unit on display at Target every time we go into the store. I've watched them play with it and have paid careful attention to the games they are playing. LeapFrog in general, I think, seems to have quality products. And the Leapster 2 has 40+ games available to purchase geared for children at different levels. They also cover a variety of subjects. I also like the fact that they allow parents connect online to the LeapFrog® Learning Path which allows us to see exactly what our kids are learning.

I love Legos. I think they are such a valuable tool in the classroom because they encourage creativity, ingenuity, and help to develop engineering skills and spacial concepts. I started incorporating legos into our class time last year, and I haven't regretted it. It goes such a long way towards reinforcing concepts and even helps to explain new ones. So I am VERY interested in this game, where players roll the dice to select a category (vehicles, buildings, nature or things), take a care with real pictures, and then build the item that they select while the other players try to guess what the object is. There are three levels of difficulty, so both young and old can play happily. I haven't bought this yet, but it is high on my list!

Learning Resources has so many products that I love, but I've singled this one out because right now, my kids are big on science experiements. And this set allows my kids to role-play, while performing easy experiments. It comes with all those fun science tools, plus 10 double-sided activity cards and an activity guide.

Magic Set

My daughter is currently obsessed with performing magic tricks in front of an audience. Fortunately for her, my son is the best audience (he's two years younger) and is completely amazed by her tricks - even when it is very obvious where that card appeared from! But she is getting a bit frustrated by her limited ability to think up tricks, or her lack of equipment. So I've been looking at magic sets and have found several that I am investigating:

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Magic Set - Amazing multi-piece sets feature amusing illusions and crafty slight-of-hand tricks for the young magician to practice and perform. These easy-to-learn tricks are the same ones used by professional magicians: disappearing objects; multiplying coins; magic boxes; prediction tricks; a secret change bag and more. And the wooden storage chest magically transforms into a performance table¿with a secret compartment!

Deluxe 100 Trick Magic Suitcase w/ Instructional DVD - Calling all junior houdinis! Get set to wow your audiences and amaze even yourself when you perform incredible magic tricks. Packed in this suitcase is 100 tricks that will get you started on your way to becoming a one-man show. The set includes a magic hat, magician's table, plus an easy to follow how to perform all of the magic tricks as well as written instructions. Also included are famous tricks like the cups and balls, disappearing dice, special magician's magic deck, magic drawer trick and many more. (Shown above)

You can find all of these and more over at La Librería. Just click on Educational Gifts.

Tomorrow: Bilingual and Spanish products!

Con mucho cariño...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Weekend Links: Christmas Break to Holiday Giveaways

Christmas Break :: Homeschool Classroom

Jose Luis Orozco Sings in Spanish for You :: Spanglish Baby

Homeschool is Cool Resources for November :: Nature Moms

9 Great Places to Find Educational Gifts for the Holidays :: Montessori for Everyone

Advent Calendar Round-Up! :: The Crafty Crow

Stocking Stuffers for the Creative Child :: Simple Homeschool

Fambook - like Facebook... but not :: My Big Fat Cuban Family (Mi amiga, Marta, shares two great ideas for gift giving in large familias!)

Everywhere I look, blogs are having a week to 12 days of extraordinary giveaways. Here are a few that I love, some of which mis amigas are hosting!

The Crafty Crow

Simple Homeschool

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Free Math Lessons in Spanish and English

Oops! I just realized that I haven't written very much about math programs in Spanish or English. Probably because this is a subject that I am not very happy with so far - mostly due to the fact that I feel like I haven't found a really good program yet. I have been using the one that comes with my curriculum, and I just feel like it is a little too slow for my daughter. She loves math and I'm not sure our lessons are pushing her enough. I also try really hard to make it fun because I want her to love the subject and excel at it. 

Anyway, while doing some research I discovered that the National Education Association actually offers interactive math lessons and games for free online. But even better is the fact that they offer them in English AND Spanish! The Spanish version even allows you to choose the system of measurement that you prefer (such as U.S. standard of measurement or the Latin American one). You can also purchase all the lessons on a CD in either language.

The site allows you to narrow your focus by grade level and provides ideas for hands-on activities. And each grade is divided into sections covering the concepts that are required for each level. I think the games could be made a little more visually pleasing and fun for children. But the basics are covered in a simple way.

Anyway, I think this is a good site for supplementing your lesson plans and the games are good for reinforcing concepts. They also offer lessons in other areas like spelling and geography. So stop over there and test it out for yourself!

Con mucho cariño...

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Las Posadas Lesson Plans, Crafts, Activities, and Music

Photo by: Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation

Las Posadas is a nine-day celebration that remembers the story of Mary and Joseph as they look and ask for shelter in Bethlehem. The evening celebrations begin on December 16th and end on Christmas Eve. It's celebrated through much of Latin America and in many Latino communities in the United States. Because it is becoming more popular here and more schools are teaching about Las Posadas, I've put together this list of Las Posadas lesson plans, crafts, books, and more.

This post contains affiliate links. 

A Quick Personal Note

Growing up, I attended countless posadas. Some were hosted by my family, and the rest by friends. Even now, some 20 (30?!?!) years later, I can still remember the excitement and the anticipation that each one created within me. I always chose to be a part of the outside group, one of the “peregrinos” asking for shelter. Standing outside in the cold with my boots pinching my feet, I would shiver and watch my breath floating away on the frigid air. Sometimes I would stand with a candle clutched in my hand or maybe holding the peregrinos that my grandmother fiercely guarded all year long, stored carefully in a box, only to be taken out and lovingly prepared for their important role in our yearly celebrations. 

It grieves me that I cannot share this tradition with my own children now. Distance and circumstance can be bitter bedfellows. But I can still share my own childhood experiences with them through stories and in other ways that I piece together. I hope you enjoy this collection of lesson plans, activities and crafts that I have discovered or that others have shared with me. This page will continue to be updated as I stumble upon new ideas or projects, so check back often. And I do hope that you will not hesitate to share your own discoveries or creative activities with us, as well.

First of all, be sure to check out my Pinterest Board on Las Posadas for some great ideas!

History and Lesson Plans

• Las Posadas A nice description and history with links to various sites related to las posadas.

• Christmas in Mexico: Navidad en Mexico, a Mexican holiday resource page. Lots of links!

• Celebrate La Posada in Mexico! Scholastic’s lesson plan 

• La Posada: A Christmas Skit An English version. Too bad they don’t have a Spanish version, but I think that most teachers could rewrite the lines for their Spanish classes.


• In my TpT shop, I have a Las Posadas Minibook that is an introduction for young children. It includes coloring pages of the elements most closely associated with the holiday, as well as brief descriptions of each one.

• I also have this set of Las Posadas Bilingual Book of Words for children in Pre-K through 2nd grade.

• You may also love my Posada Countdown Calendar! It's great for home or classroom use.

• My Do-It-Yourself Posada Kit has all the resources you'll need for hosting your own posada at home or school. 

 • See my entire Las Posadas collection here.


• Here's a delicious Champurrado recipe from Muy Bueno Cookbook. And you may also want to look at her Atole de Vainilla.

Sweet Life has this great post for Celebrating Las Posadas with Galletas de Atole, as well as one for Pan de Polvo.

Ponche Navideño on Experience San Miguel de Allende One recipe for the traditional Mexican Christmastime drink.

• Feliz Navidad - Christmas Eve Mexican Style - Las Posadas by also has some super yummy recipes.


Mexconnect’s Mexican Tradition - Pidiendo Posada Probably the best source of lyrics with English and Spanish versions. They also have a sheet music version.

The Mexican Posada Song on Experience San Miguel de Allende


• Don't miss this EXCELLENT tutorial on making your own traveling nacimiento by Sabor a Cajeta.

• BeforeAndAfterTV has this great video with instructions on making a star piñata.

• How to make your own star piñata ornaments.

• Teacher’s Discovery has a mini star piñata kit that comes with the materials to make 30 mini star piñata ornaments. They also carry a glittery poinsettia kit that makes 90(wow!) 3-dimensional flowers.

• Here are directions for making your own farolitos, or luminary craft. (Remember that to reduce the risk of fire, please use battery-powered votive candles.)

Tin Can Luminary Craft Good instructions for creating a tin can luminary.

• has a lesson plan/crafts for poinsettias in English.

• Here's how to make a fast and easy papel picado banner.

• But my favorite poinsettia craft is this one from First Palette.

• Here is a coloring page not of the posada, but of the children hitting the piñata and scrambling for candies.

• Crayola has these luminary templates that are fun and easy to do.


• Not too many videos out on posadas, but I really like this one by The Other Side of the Tortilla.

And don't miss this one...


• Amazon has a nice list of downloadable posada songs, but here are my top three favorite ones.


Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

Carlos, Light the Farolito by Jean Ciavonne and Donna Clair

Las Posadas: A Christmas Musical for Children from the Mexican Tradition by Albert Zabel, Deborah Somuano

Las Posadas: An Hispanic Christmas Celebration by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith

Las Posadas (Fiestas Con Velas) (Spanish Edition) by Jennifer Blizin Gillis

Uno, Dos, Tres, Posada! by Virginia Kroll 

This article was last updated on 12/4/2022


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