Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Get Rewarded for Doing Good:

It's crazy. But I love it! Who would have ever thought you could get rewarded just for doing "good things?" I found out about at the Blogalicious conference last October. I didn't understand at first what it was all about. I mean, I was confused. Someone I don't know is going to reward me for doing small, positive acts? Seriously?

I've only just signed up and started figuring out how the system works, but I can see so much potential in this site! Especially as a mom. Which is why I want to feature them today, since this week on is all about teaching our children to do good, to be thoughtful and giving.

The website is simple. You just register, and then every day (or whever you want) you can log in and check off the good things that you did that day. Possible good actions include:

• !earthscience - Learn something about the nature of our planet
• !sendanimalfacts - Share an e-card that teaches about wildlife
• !familydinner - Sit down to dinner with your family
• !museum - Visit a museum!
• !grandparents - Spend time with your (or your kids') grandparent(s)
• !familytree - Research and create your family tree
• !donatefood - Donate to a food bank or food pantry
• !sharehistory - Share an interesting historical story with someone
• !classicalmusic - Listen to a work of classical music
• !holdthedoor - Hold the door open for someone
• !bekind - Treat others with kindness

You get the idea. The list goes on and on and on! I think the thing I like best about this site is that it makes us conscious of our daily actions. It encourages us to do good. I think I'm less excited, really, to get my "rewards" as I am to simply monitor my own behavior. And I am  thinking of creating an account that I can manage for my kids. I think they will simply love being able to click on the "stamps" and push the "I Did It" buttons, which record your good actions.

And if you are not so into redeeming your rewards, you can also choose the option to redeem a "donation reward." DailyFeats partners
with various organizations and non-profits. When you redeem one of the donation rewards, their partner makes a donation to the specified nonprofit. (There are no tax implications for our members -- it's just good karma.) This is a great way to use your points to help contribute to positive change.

So if you are looking for a pretty neat and unusual way to teach your children to be generous and charitable, try out I'd love to know what you think of it.

Con mucho cariño...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Season of Giving: Starr Readers

Starr County is one of the poorest counties in the nation. Many families often live in colonias without health care or sewer service. Schools in this area struggle to provide new materials for their students. But the librarians are smiling - thanks to Starr Readers, and the woman behind the organization, Karen Furlong.

Karen is a flight attendant for a private aviation company. But her not-so-secret passion is actually books, and for the past seven years, the Texas native has been collecting and donating books to nine libraries in Rio Grande City public schools. Last year, she bought and delivered around 4,000 books. The number of books she buys is made possible from the generous donations of caring people across the nation. This year, Karen's goal is to purchase 6,000 books and she has teamed up with the publishers Scholastic and First Book, which give her dramatic discounts and allow her to purchase from them directly. This does not include the large number of used books that she receives and which she donates to the libraries themselves. She insists, however, that each child in the school district also receives a new book of their very own to hold, read, and enjoy. 

Some of the titles she intends to deliver this year include We'll Never Forget You, Roberto Clemente and Waiting for the Biblioburro and Balloons Over Broadway. I think this would be a most lovely way to teach your children/students the spirit of giving. As a parent, I think it would be great to take your kids to your favorite bookstore and pick out a few of their favorite titles to share with the children of Starr County. Or you could simply tell your children Karen's story and get online to look at the pictures she has on the Starr Readers website. Once there, you could click on the "Donate" button and give together.

If your family would like to donate to Starr Readers, please try to do so by the end of the year. Afterwards, Karen and her mamá, Evangeline Rodriguez Marino, will make their now traditional drive down to Starr County to deliver their gifts in time for Día de los Reyes. You can donate directly on the Starr Readers website. Remember, as little as $5 can buy one or two books! Or to donate gently used books, please contact Karen through her website for more information.

All donations go directly to buying the books!

Con mucho cariño,

Build Your Own Gingerbread House with RMHC

The Ronald McDonald House Charities is one of my favorite organizations because they provide so much support for families who are experiencing difficult times. They are focused on providing for the critical needs of children. And over 50% of children seen by doctors and dentists on Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles are Hispanics. During this Season of Giving, they have the huge task of raising $550,000 by December 31.

Since we are talking this week about raising thoughtful and philanthropic children, I am excited to share the fun, simple and interactive way in which parents can educate their children on the
importance of “giving.” Families can go to their Season of Giving page 
and, for a small or
big donation, they can decorate their own virtual gingerbread houses.

The more houses you build, the more families they can host at their Ronald McDonald Houses. The donation to RMHC will help keep families together while their child is receiving critical medical care, especially during the holidays.

What a great way to teach your children about others in need! I think this is a great way to foster compassion in our children, and help them to associate good feelings with the act of giving.

Feel free to like RMHC on Facebook, and I encourage you to share their gingerbread house interactive with other families.

Con mucho cariño...

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for writing this post. I strongly support this worthy charity.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

MommyMaestra Challege: One Idea for Raising Philanthropic Children

One of the things that bothers me this time of year is the focus on materialism that seems to run amok. Everywhere we look there are commercials and ads targeting a child's (and an adult's!) selfish desires. As a parent, I think it is a really difficult time for us to avoid a bad case of the "Galloping Gimmies," as the Berenstain Bears so eloquently put it in one of their episodes.

A few years ago, I was helping out in the kitchen of one the annual Christmas plays my kids' preschool puts on. One of the other mothers was rattling on about what her children were wanting/getting for Christmas. I was nodding politely, only half listening, until she mentioned one of those giant dinosaurs that was automated or whatever. It was the "big thing" that year, and we had seen it in Target. My son had gazed up at it in awe and demanded we add it to his list. I took one look at the outlandish three digit price, and immediately dismissed it. Seriously? Why would I spend a couple hundred dollars on a toy that takes up too much space, is too loud, has no educational value, and will be forgotten in a few weeks? I was totally horrified that this mom would waste so much money...much less brag about it.

I couldn't help but think of all the other things she could buy, or the good that she could do for someone else with that money.

Lately, it seems like I spend almost every shopping trip saying "No!" to my kids' pleas for at least a dozen toys. So I have to wonder, how do parents teach their children to be satisfied with what they have? How do we teach them to think of others who are less fortunate? Even harder, how do we make charity a habit in our children's lives?

Here's my preliminary plan of attack:

Tomorrow, I'll be pulling out a box for the kids to fill with toys they no longer want/play with. Their challenge is going to be to create a gift box for other children like themselves, who don't have any toys to play with. We'll then take the box to Goodwill together.

The challenge for them? Letting go of stuff.

The challenge for me? Being willing to accept some of the (sentimental) things they want to let go of.

I also want both of them to take the time to make something with their own hands to give to someone else. So we'll be brainstorming ideas of not only what to make, but who to give it to. I'll share our list with you tomorrow.

In the meantime, here are some great books I've found online that I think have potential. I haven't read them, so if you have, I'd love to hear your feedback...

The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving by Ellen Sabin

Raising Charitable Children by Carol Weisman

How to Be an Everyday Philanthropist: 330 Ways to Make a Difference in Your Home, Community, and World - at No Cost! by Nicole Bouchard Boles

This isn't much, but it's a start. I hope to be able to make more progress after you participate in my little challenge...

The MommyMaestra Challenge:

I would like to challenge you all this week to come up with one idea or activity to help your children understand the value of giving to others. Share it with us so that we might all be able to benefit and perhaps use it with our own families.

Buena suerte!

Ken Robinson: Why We Must Nurture Creativity In School

I am a fan of TED Conversations/Talks. Perhaps after you watch this video you'll know why. I am so grateful to my friends at Children Inspire Design for sharing this video today. 

Sir Ken Robinson is an entertaining speaker, but don't let his jokes fool you. His message is loud and clear. He makes a case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. I was really moved...and it has open my eyes with regards to my own daughter's abilities and innate nature. I would love for you to watch it yourself and tell me what you think...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Top 5 Thanksgiving Myths

Graphics by Maree Truelove

Like most legends, the story of America's first Thanksgiving has changed over time to include some not-so-accurate details. Is it a big deal? Meh. To be honest, I don't think it matters really if my kids go around drawing pictures of Pilgrims wearing big hats with buckles, or Native Americans with feathered headbands.  

I do try to take the time to research what we're studying, and I try to present the whole truth - with consideration as to what is appropriate for my kids' ages. They are 5 and 7. At this stage, I'm not making them memorize dates and other cold facts. I'm simply sharing the stories so that when they study the history in greater detail later, they'll be able to proceed with confidence knowing that they already know some of the story, and that they (hopefully!) enjoyed learning about it the first time!

Here, then, are five Thanksgiving myths we were surprised to discover...

5) Sorry - no sweet potatoes or pumpkin pie! The Pilgrims didn't have a clue about sweet potatoes at this point. And since there was no sugar, pies and (cranberry) sauces were out of the question. (PS - Did you know the Spanish word for sweet potatoes is "camotes?")

4) Los peregrinos, or the Pilgrims, did not walk around in black clothes wearing hats with buckles. According to, "Buckles did not come into fashion until later in the seventeenth century and black and white were commonly worn only on Sunday and formal occasions. Women typically dressed in red, earthy green, brown, blue, violet, and gray, while men wore clothing in white, beige, black, earthy green, and brown."

3) The Pilgrims first landed at Plymouth Rock. Actually, they first landed at Cape Cod. But they didn't like the area, so they kept looking until they found a good harbor, land, and a freshwater river.

2) The Native Americans lived in teepees. The Wampanoags actually lived in wetus ("WEE-toos"), rounded structures covered with woven grasses.

1) America's first true Thanksgiving actually occurred 56 years prior to Plymouth Rock, in the town of St. Augustine, Florida. (I mean, it makes sense, no? Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492. You'd think someone would have had a feast of thanksgiving in the 100+ years that followed, wouldn't you?) The event in St. Augustine took place between a group of Spanish conquistadores - led by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés - and the Timucua Indians. The preferred language at the historic event was actually Spanish, not English! And the main dish? Why frijoles, of course!

From the MommyMaestra family to yours...may you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Un abrazo fuerte,

Bilingual Fall/Otoño Activity Pack {PRINTABLE}

For those of you who need a little distraction today to keep the nenes busy while you are in the kitchen - a gift from MommyMaestra. A 20-page, fall-themed, activity pack for kids PreK-1st.  Includes 20 pages of educational goodness:
  • Number recognition (1-10)
  • Finish the pattern
  • Find the difference
  • Size sequencing
  • Montessori nomenclature cards (English & Spanish)
  • Beginning sound recognition (Bilingual)
  • Graphing
  • Alphabet (English & Spanish)
  • Bingo cards
  • Reading recommendations
  • And more...
This fall activity pack is now available in my TpT shop.

This is my first zip file. I always welcome feedback, so please let me know if you experience any difficulties or find any mistakes so I can correct them for everyone.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Spicy Chocolate Bark, A Recipe

Today, I am overjoyed to introduce to you another new and amazing contributor to MommyMaestra. Angelica is a 12-year-old homeschooler from Texas who dreams are filled with pastries and chocolate. She has agreed to contribute to MommyMaestra once a month, thereby fulfilling her writing requirements in a fun and creative way. The photo, article, and recipe below are her own original work.

I love baking, cooking, and creating recipes with chocolate. I cannot imagine walking into the kitchen to bake and not have access to chocolate. Chocolate makes everything sweeter. Ask any kid. I have never met any kid or adult that would turn down a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie, steaming cup of hot chocolate, or chocolate covered strawberry.

We recently researched chocolate as part of my baking curriculum and what I learned really changed my outlook on this amazing ingredient. We all know of how chocolate was brought to Europe by the conquistadores. The Aztecs idolized chocolate. Chocolatl derived from the Nahuatl word Xocolatl was served during important ceremonies and was given to the soldiers to improve their stamina, helping to fight off fatigue. What I wanted to find out is how chocolate found its way into our kitchen.

Chocolatl derived from the Nahuatl word "xocolatl" made up from the words "xococ" meaning sour or bitter, and "atl" meaning water or drink. 

What I learned is that between Central Mexico and western Honduras cacao was taken to another level for cooking. At the time the only part of the cacao that was eaten was the white pulp. Not wanting to waste any part of pod, the seeds were treated as they would treat all produce. The pumpkin seeds, chiles, and extra corn left from harvest were left in the sun to dry, and then roasted on a comal to grind for cooking. A technique used for produce transformed cacao from a bitter taste to sweet paste. The heat from the sun and the roasting on the comal released the natural oil from the beans. Grinding the beans with its oil created a sweet paste that was formed into little balls to dry for later use. This development opened the window for experimenting with chocolate. Herbs, flowers, spices, and honey were added to create new flavors of chocolate. This method is still used today in Mexico.

How lucky we are to have this gift from our past. For our past to give us a wonderful treasure to enjoy daily makes me treasure chocolate even more. I wanted to share a simple recipe that highlights the flavors of that day when cacao was first laid to dry in the sun next to pumpkin seeds and chiles.

Spicy Chocolate Bark

12 ounces dark chocolate or semi sweet chocolate
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¾ teaspoon Mexican cinnamon, grated with a zester
¾ teaspoon ancho chile powder, plus more for garnish
½ cup pumpkin seeds

On a baking sheet toast pumpkin seeds at 350 degrees for 4 minutes. Cool.

Melt chocolate. Add spices and more than half of the pumpkin seeds.

Stir to incorporate the spices. Spread chocolate on wax paper. Lightly press the left over pumpkin seeds and sprinkle ancho chile for color.

Freeze for 5 minutes or until chocolate sets. Break into pieces. Serve.

Store in fridge.


Angelica ~ A 12yr old homeschooler with dreams of becoming a pastry chef. 
Addicted to comics, food network, and carnival rides, Angelica loves taking over her mom's kitchen. She is currently working on perfecting her pie crust while her family reaps the benefits. You can find her sharing her baking skills over at Sweet Life.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Learning About Chocolate with Willy Wonka

I'm thrilled to introduce a new contributor to MommyMaestra. Latina mom and blogger, Marta Verdes Darby, knows a lot about homeschooling. She's been doing it for 10 years! And I am so happy to be able to include her stories and experience on this blog. Please welcome her... and enjoy her informative articles.

Yay! It’s Chocolate Week!

Is there anything better than celebrating chocolate?

A few years ago my son, Jonathan, was chosen to play Willy Wonka in his middle school production of Willy Wonka Jr. Because we were so busy with the business of memorizing lines, rehearsing, painting sets, and making costumes, I chose to create lessons based on the show.

We began by first watching the 1971 film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, and just treated it like we would any other form of literature.

First, we discussed the plot as it was described in the International Movie Database:

The world is astounded when Willy Wonka, for years a recluse in his factory, announces that five lucky people will be given a tour of the factory, shown all the secrets of his amazing candy, and one will win a lifetime supply of Wonka chocolate. Nobody wants the prize more than young Charlie, but as his family is so poor that buying even one bar of chocolate is a treat, buying enough bars to find one of the five golden tickets is unlikely in the extreme. But in Movieland, magic can happen. Charlie, along with four somewhat odious other children, get the chance of a lifetime and a tour of the factory. Along the way, mild disasters befall each of the odious children, but can Charlie beat the odds and grab the brass ring?

We contrasted the dirty, ordinary drabness of Charlie’s life and home with the amazing colors, smells, and general magical feel of the chocolate factory. (The beginning chocolate sequence was filmed at the Tobler Chocolate Factory in Switzerland.)

Besides Charlie, there are four other kids who find golden tickets, which win them the opportunity to enter into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. So we wrote a diary entry from each character based on what we knew about how they felt about finding the golden ticket, and then getting the opportunity to go into the factory. This exercise moved us through each character’s point of view.
The kids are:

Charlie Bucket
Mike Teevee
Veruca Salt
Violet Beauregarde
Augustus Gloop

And let’s not forget the Oompa Loompa’s! We discussed a generally made up history for them and their plight. This, of course, is covered in Roald Dahl’s book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but we were focusing on what information we got from just the film.
Movie trivia:

Did you know the Chocolate River was made of real chocolate, water, and cream? It ended up getting very stinky fairly quickly.

Literary quotes:

Willy Wonka quotes throughout the movie were from various forms of literature:

"We are the music-makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams," is from Arthur O'Shaughnessy's Ode, which also gave us the phrase, "movers and shakers."

Wonka also quotes Shakespeare and Keats.

My personal favorite, though, is "The suspense is terrible. I hope it will last," from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

Additional Activities:
Finally, we set up a Chocolate Bar - it works on two levels, get it? We lined up different types of chocolate bars and did a blind taste test. It turns out that Lindt chocolate was the winner by a long shot.

Spending time in Willy Wonka’s magical world was quite a wonderful experience for us as a homeschooling family. Many of our dinner conversations were spent discussing what it would be like to live in a chocolate factory and how we’d run it. And of course, that’s the beauty of educating our kids at home: There’s no on-and-off switch for when learning happens.

If you and your kids are interested in putting on your own performance of Willy Wonka Jr., check out this page on MTI Broadway Jr. Collection, which offers 30 and 60 minute shows for young performers.

Finally, here’s my 12-year-old Jonathan as Mr. Willy Wonka...

Mami cries every time.


Marta Darby is an avid blogger, business owner, Cuban cook, graphic designer, scrapbooker, photographer and homemaker. She was born in Havana and left Cuba with her family when she was 5 years old. She likes to tell anecdotes and stories about her family (all 40 of them!), her passions (dulce de leche and red lipstick), and eecially being Cuban. She is happily married to her fabulous gringo husband, Eric, and lives with him and their four children in a tiny house with a white picket fence. You can read more from Marta on her blog, My Big Fat Cuban Family

Monday, November 21, 2011

Make Your Own Chocolate Kit {GIVEAWAY}

My kids and I have had the absolute best time studying about chocolate. It was hard for me to remember not to get too detailed for my kids, who are only 5 and 7 years old. But I was really pleased with the mini-unit study that I created for them.

In our exploration of the world of chocolate, we started off with the book, Smart About Chocolate: A Sweet History by Sandra Markle. This book is written for children and was perfect for my two. It covers everything from the characteristics of the cacao beans (bitterness, color, etc.) to its historical roots in Central America with engaging stories about the Maya and Aztecs. I loved how the books shared brief stories about Montezuma (Did you know he drank more than 50 cups of chocolate a day?!?), Prince Philip of Spain, and Milton Hershey.The book also discusses when - and how - milk chocolate was formed.

Smart About Chocolate also includes a fun recipe, surprising facts, a book list, and even an experiment for little scientists. The illustrations are funny and engaging and had my kids giggling from the very beginning. I totally recommend this book.

After reading this short book, we spent some time online at the Field Museum's website going through the interactives. I also used some of the activity/coloring pages on chocolate from this website (they're in English).

But the best part of our study was making chocolate ourselves. While researching my lesson online, I found a Make Your Own Chocolate Kit from Glee Gum. I purchased it from Amazon. The kit comes with the ingredients shown in the picture above. This includes organic cocoa butter, cocoa powder, confectioner's sugar, starter crystals, a temperature indicator, two cacao beans, and paper candy liners. 

The instructions were easy to follow - but you have to follow them exactly! Making chocolate is not a simple process. While we were waiting for the chocolate to cool, we nibbled on the beans and immediately spit them out complaining about the taste. I thought this was a simple, but effective way of showing how important the process is of adding the other ingredients to combat the bitterness of the bean.

They also allow time in the process for adding extra ingredients such as marshmallows, nuts, etc. We chose to add peanut butter to 1/3 of our candies. And afterwards we had a "taste test." The girls loved the peanut butter chocolate combo, while my son preferred the straight chocolate.
Not only was the kit fun and educational, it's also all-natural and eco-friendly. Although the kit comes with the story of chocolate, you can also find an educator's guide and sample lesson plan on their site.

We really had the best time doing this!

If you'd like to find a store in your area that sells this, or any of the Glee Gum kits, check their online store locator.


After we had so much fun with this project, I wanted to share. So I contacted Glee Gum and asked if they'd be willing to offer a kit or two as a giveaway. They graciously agreed and are offering one Make Your Own Chocolate Kit to a MommyMaestra reader.

To enter, simply leave a comment below.

The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Wednesday, November 30th. The winner will be chosen using and contacted via email - so be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment!
And to increase your chances of winning, you can:

1.) Blog about this giveaway and include the link to your post in the comments below.

2.) Follow me on Twitter and tweet the following: Win a Make Your Own Chocolate Kit from MommyMaestra! @LatinMami #chocolate #homeschool #giveaway

Don't forget to let me know by posting a separate comment for each entry!
By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

¡Buena suerte!

Disclosure: This giveaway is offered in collaboration with Glee Gum. I have not been compensated in any way for offering this giveaway, and it results from my contacting them and asking for a contribution to our Chocolate series.

Teacher Resource for Chocolate: The Field Museum

By far, one of my favorite resources for studying chocolate is the Field Museum website. Their current exhibit, Chocolate Around the World, will be on display through January 8th, 2012. If you happen to live in Chicago, you should definitely try to swing by there, or plan a trip for your class. They still have several weekend activities planned between now and the end of the year. In fact, this Friday and Saturday (Nov 25th & 26th), artist Rebecca Moy will be painting an original chocolate masterpiece. The following weekend on Dec 3rd, Rhonda Morkes will be creating chocolate gingerbread houses, and during the last week of December, Pastry Chef Omar Martinez, from Food for Thought, will be creating a miniature version of the Field Museum - out of chocolate!

But aside from these fun events, the museum's website is full of information. The Educators' Resources area offers six lessons on the relationship between chocolate and the environment, and another six lessons between chocolate and culture for teachers to download. You can also find Fascinating Facts, Chocolate Quotations, Recipes, and Book and Movie Lists, to name a few. In the All About Chocolate section is another page with activities Just for Kids.

In addition, the site offers three interactives. Manufacturing Chocolate takes the visitor through the process of making chocolate from growing the trees to pouring them into molds. My kids love this interactive because it lets them cut the beans with a machete, pack them into bags, start the various machines and much more.

The Chocolate Challenge takes you on a journey around the world - but only by answering questions about chocolate can you advance on your journey! Again, more fun for the kids, but mine were a little too young. Best suited for children ages 9 (10?) and up.

Cacao Farm helps you discover the connections between cacao and its environment by using your virtual binoculars or microscope to study the differences between cacao farms and rain forests.

So if you're looking for a fun - but educational - distraction for the kids this holiday weekend, this website is a great place to start!

Con mucho cariño...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

This Week on MommyMaestra: CHOCOLATE

As I mentioned last Friday, this entire week is going to be dedicated to the real Latin American gold: CHOCOLATE. This is actually a really rich topic (pun intended), and I'm having trouble narrowing it down to just one week, so I suspect that you will see another week of chocolatey goodness make an appearance after the New Year.

I have some awesome new contributors to MommyMaestra, who will be sharing their own experiences from time to time, and I hope you will embrace them with all the warmth and enthusiasm that you have shown me.

And now...on with the learning!


Bilingual Thanksgiving Mobile {Printable}

Technically, this week is dedicated to CHOCOLATE (Yay!), but I am going to sneak in a few Thanksgiving printables that I've created for my kids and thought you might enjoy as well.

The first is a bilingual mobile that we created as a Thanksgiving decoration. It includes six Thanksgiving/Fall-themed images in both English and Spanish. It is a simple mobile, a good activity for small hands. You can download it by clicking on the image below.

Feliz Día de acción de gracias!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How Do We Teach Our Kids About Oral Health?

Did you read this article that I shared a couple of weeks ago? Hmmm. Well, that was me trying to make the most of the candy situation. Halloween tends to be one of my least favorite holidays (along with Valentines and Easter) thanks the ridiculous amounts of candy that somehow make their way into my home. I wind up throwing away as many of the caramelos, lollipops, and other sticky candies that I can, while allowing the rest to go into a communal candy jar. I typically allow my kids to choose one piece of candy for dessert after dinner...knowing they'll be brushing their teeth before bed anyway. I'm sort of obsessive about sugary foods and making sure my kids don't get very many (just ask my friends).

So you can imagine my distress when I recently discovered that my daughter has a cavity! Aaargh! One of the molars on the bottom left side of her mouth. I'll spare you the picture.

All this went through my head when I was contacted and asked to write about dental health for Latino families. And since next week, MommyMaestra will be dedicated to CHOCOLATE, I thought, absolutely! 

As I was going through the information, I was surprised. Did you know that there is a Hispanic Dental Association (HDA)? I sure didn't. But I was happy to learn that there was one. Anyway, they sent me the results of a national survey that they recently conducted in conjunction with Crest® and Oral-B®. It examined the perceptions and attitudes of U.S. Hispanics regarding oral health care.

Their mini-report is available online for you to read, and I did actually think it was interesting. It basically says that the majority of Latinos are often under misconceptions about oral health or do not have easy access to a dentist. For example, 30% of Hispanics believe that cavities will go away on their own if you brush regularly, and 46% didn't know that poor oral health may be linked to other health complications, including stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

I did find it a no-brainer that around 60% believed that having more (Spanish-speaking) Hispanic dentists/hygienists in their community would go a long way toward helping them achieve and maintain better oral health.

So after reading the survey results I started wondering how exactly we can help educate ourselves and other Latino parents about oral health. As far as my own family is concerned, we have a pretty set routine and are careful to brush our teeth twice a day, but I know there are a lot of things I probably should be doing or teaching my kids that I'm not. Hopefully, I'll be able to find out what exactly after our next dental appointment.

But I thought that since many of you are teachers or Hispanic parents, MommyMaestra is a great place to start the conversation and share some resources.

I did visit the HDA's website and I was happy to find this guide with tips for parents on their child's oral health care.

But you know what surprised me? The fact that I didn't see any fun (bilingual) worksheets or coloring pages that teach children (and their parents) some of the basic practices for oral health. I think they are really missing the boat here! They could maybe even have Ratón Perez as their "mascot" helping children to learn about the importance of brushing their teeth, how often, what foods to avoid, etc. It think that could be a really effective campaign, because by incorporating this Latin American cultural figure, I think they would catch the eye and gain the trust of a lot of Spanish-speaking families.

The site does, however, offer a bilingual Guide to Dental Health for H¡spanic Americans, called ¡Sonrisa! for parents. It's available as a download, and after looking at it, I think this is the best resource that I can share with you. Teachers, won't you consider sharing it with your students' parents?

Also, Crest® and Oral-B® have a fabulous site with a Dental Education Program that offers free resources (lesson plans, activities, reading list) for 1st grade teachers. It includes bilingual downloads like brushing charts and posters, as well as a video featuring the Dental Defenders (see picture). 

To learn more about the survey, you can visit this page on Crest's website. You can also download a bilingual brochure and test your own oral health care knowledge!

Do you actively teach your kids to take care for their teeth? Does your family do anything special? Do you have any awesome resources (English or Spanish) that you use and could share with us?

Con mucho cariño...

Disclosure: I wrote this post while participating in a compensated campaign with Procter & Gamble and Latina Mom Bloggers. However, all opinions expressed are my own.

Spanish Thanksgiving Books {GIVEAWAY}

Today's giveaway is part of MommyMaestra's collaboration with authors Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy.

For Spanish-speaking families and classrooms, we have two amazing books on the subject of Thanksgiving: Celebra el Día de Acción de Gracias con Beto y Gaby by Ada and Campoy, and ¿Pavo para el Cena de Gracias? -¡No, gracias! written by Ada and illustrated by Vivi Escrivá.

I want to thank Santillana publishing company, as they have graciously offered a copy of each book as a giveaway for MommyMaestra readers.

Celebra el Día de Acción de Gracias con Beto y Gaby is part of the authors' Cuentos para celebrar collection. It is the story of Beto and Gaby who are disappointed when their family members begin calling to say they can't make it to Thanksgiving dinner because of a snow storm. But Abuelita has an idea...You can read a more detailed description here.

¿Pavo para el Cena de Gracias? -¡No, gracias! is an excellent companion book to Charlotte's Web. This book follows the story of a turkey who is worried about being Thanksgiving supper and the spider who sets out to save him. You can see/read a few sample pages here.

Teachers and parents who are looking for Spanish-language children's literature for the upcoming holiday will appreciate these books.


One lucky MommyMaestra reader will win both books.
To enter, simply leave a comment below.
The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Sunday, November 20th. The winner will be chosen using and contacted via email - so be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment! Open to United States residents only.

And to increase your chances of winning, you can:

1.) Blog about this giveaway and include the link to your post in the comments below.

2.) Follow me on Twitter and tweet the following: Win 2 Spanish-language children's books about Thanksgiving! @LatinMami Spanish #reading #giveaway

Don't forget to let me know by posting a separate comment for each entry!
By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.

¡Buena suerte!

Disclosure: This giveaway is offered in collaboration with the authors. I have not been compensated in any way for offering this giveaway, and it results from my contacting them and asking for a contribution to our Music in Education series.

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Panamama!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Muppets' Road Trip Game {PRINTABLE}

Are you headed out of town for Thanksgiving? We're not, but I'm doing a lot of shopping this next week which means a lot of time in the car and stores with my kids. And I thought, well, since we ALL KNOW what's coming out exactly one week from today, maybe I'd go ahead and share the following printables that Disney sent me (and if you've seen them before, then you are apparently reading the same blogs I do! Lol.). Simply click on the pictures below to download each activity.

The funniest one, I think, is the Muppets' Road Trip Game, which includes hilarious challenges to keep the kids busy, such as seeing if they can spot:

  • 1 Person who looks like a relative of Gonzo’s?
  • 4 Miss Piggy fans (people singing to themselves, fixing their hair in a mirror, etc..)
  • The letters of Disney’s "The Muppets" in license plates

You can also print up a couple of 3D Kermit and Fozzie Bear papercrafts.

Are you planning to go and see the new Muppet movie when it comes out? I am a die hard Muppet fan. I grew up watching the characters and I even have the series on MY Christmas wish list.

When Jim Henson died, I felt such an incredible sadness for the whole world. I guess that was because I felt like he had had such a profound impact on my childhood that who knows how many other children found comfort and friendship in his beloved characters. As a child I fell in love with all of the Muppets, and I mourned the loss of such creativity and comedic genius.

It makes mi corazón so happy to know that his legacy will continue and that children today (especially my own!) will have a chance to come to know and love and laugh with the same special characters - Kermit, Miss Piggy, Foz, Gonzo, and so many more - as I did.

I want to make sure you all know that I received Disney promotional material all the time, but I'm pretty selective about what I share. Mostly, I choose those things that I know my own children will love. I am not paid to talk about the films, but I simply share the activities and photos that I think may interest you all. And I am grateful to Disney for providing me the opportunity to offer these materials on MommyMaestra.

Wishing you all the happiest of weeks! (Thanksgiving is almost here - YAY!!!)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thomas Suarez: 6th Grade App Developer

What's that? You have a great idea for an app, but don't know how to get started? Maybe 6th grader, Thomas Suarez, can give you some ideas...

Guau! Is this kid the next Latino Steve Jobs? 

Thomas even has his own online store: Personally, if I had a way to run an app, I'd buy the Bustin Jieber one.  

This, my firends, is what STEM subjects are all about.

Con mucho cariño...

Bilingual Resources for Thanksgiving - Lesson Plans, Activities, & More

Looking for bilingual resources for Thanksgiving? Here's a list of lesson plans, activities, and videos - some in English and some in Spanish for you to use at home or in the classroom.

UPDATE: The last few years have seen more and more bilingual resources being published to the web. I've been keeping track and here's an updated list for teachers and parents to use with their kids.





Here is a list of my bilingual printables for Thanksgiving. They are for a variety of ages and come in both English and Spanish.

You may also enjoy these Free Día de Acción de Gracias Printables for Elementary 

Don't forget that our sponsor Spanish for You! offers a sampling of their wonderful program with these free downloads that you can find here on MommyMaestra:

Audio & Video

We also really enjoyed listening to the following:

Monday, November 14, 2011

MommyMaestra's Thanksgiving Week

Welcome to Thanksgiving Week on MommyMaestra. I have some wonderful bilingual resources lined up for you and another giveaway, so be sure to check back often (and share MM with your amigos!). 

There are already so many incredible activities, decorations, and crafts described on the internet. My Pinterest Thanksgiving board is filling up! If you haven't been following it, feel free to go and take a look and see if you find something wonderful to do with your kids.

Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday of the year because all I have to do is do a little cooking, show up, and eat.

But most importantly, I love the reminder to be thankful. I spend these few weeks reflecting on and remembering what it is I hold closest to my heart. I think about my family and I take time to think about the things I love most about them.

I also wonder how it is I can help teach my children about being thankful and how can I help them learn to express that gratitude. I've been trying to think of some sort of action or gift we can create ourselves to give to those we appreciate. Something we can easily do each year.

Does your family have a special tradition that you reserve for this time of year?

Friday, November 11, 2011

6 Simple Tips for Helping Your Child Choose a Musical Instrument

Photo by Jorge Girarte

The following is a guest post by my friend, Angelica Perez, the publisher of New Latina, as part of a series on Music in Education.

At the age of 8, I distinctly remember being completely drawn to the sounds and look of the guitar. While my young friends were asking for the latest toys for the holidays, I insisted on getting a "real" guitar. I recall the day my guitar arrived by mail, in a long, triangular carton box. It was the happiest day of my childhood.

Raising my children with a deep love for music is something I've always wanted for them. The benefits of playing an instrument are numerous, ranging from enhancing cognitive skills to boosting self-esteem. What I personally enjoy the most is having our children play their instrument during a family get-together over the holidays or at a birthday celebration.

If you're considering introducing your child to an instrument. Here are some simple ways to help you help your child choose the right musical instrument.

1. Simply observe.

Some children are naturally musically inclined. Their little bodies move easily to the beat of a song, they can't help it. I remember once when my 3 year old was crying, frustrated at something she couldn't have, but moving to the beat of a song on the radio -- awesome!

Observing your child's reaction to music and musical sounds can give you great hints as to which instruments they naturally respond to and enjoy. Is he drawn to the soft musical sounds of the flute? Does she like the beat of drums? Or the crisp sounds of the guitar? When dancing, to which musical instrument are they mostly dancing to? Does she like loud sounds or quieter ones? Is their an inclination for a particular tempo?

2. Visit a music store.

Taking your kids to a music store can feel like going to a toy store. Let your children browse through the various instruments. Encourage them to touch and hold them. Let them try them out. Notice where they go and with which instrument they spend most of their time.

3. Consider your child's characteristics.

Consider your child's age, size, personality, temperament, and readiness. Some instruments may be difficult to play for a beginner musician, while other instruments may simply be too big in size. Consider also any health or physical conditions your child may have. The horn, for instance, may not be the best choice for a child with asthma.

4. Take your children to live music events.

There is nothing better than live music -- the pounding of live drums resonating all over your body, or the peaceful sounds of chamber music relaxing your inner soul. Live musical events allow children to see and appreciate how instruments come together, and the end result of practice, practice, practice.

5. Don't push a particular instrument just because you like it.

Allow your child to figure it out by himself. We may have in mind a particular instrument for our child because we believe we know them well. Or, we may favor (or not) an instrument because we have certain judgments about it. Stepping back and letting your child naturally gravitate towards an instrument of choice is best.

6. Rent before you buy.

Choosing an instrument does not have to be a final decision. The first few months should be considered an exploratory phase, a time for your child to get to know the instrument and see if it's a good fit. For that reason, renting and instrument in the beginning may be best, especially if a new instrument could be costly (e.g., a viola or piano). In fact, the promise of purchasing a new instrument can serve as the perfect prize for the child who has shown enthusiasm, enjoyment, and commitment to a chosen musical instrument!

What musical instrument(s) do your children play? How did you help them choose?


Angelica Perez, PHD, is the creative force behind New Latina, an empowering lifestyle online destination.


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