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?

This post contains affiliate links.

DIY Fossil Dig

The great thing is that you probably have most, if not all, of the items you need for this project laying around your house!

What you need:


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 dinosaur 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!

Other Dino Activities

If your kids love activities that keep their hands busy, consider one of these other dinosaur-inspired options!

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

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!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

PBS KIDS Launches Two New Series

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend the PBS Annual Meeting in Austin, Texas. As a PBS KIDS Ambassador, I frequently get a chance to be the first one to share news and other resources (like free downloads) with you about upcoming shows, new episodes, and exciting content across PBS KIDS' multiple digital platforms.

As a true Tejana who lives very far from home, I can't tell you how much fun I had in Austin. Even though I was only there a day and a half, it was such a joy to be in a city where everywhere I looked, I could see the influence of my Texas and Latino culture blended together. I mean, really, as soon as I walked off the plane into the airport, I knew that I was in my home state; delicious aromas greeted my nose, I passed a beautiful display of Texas-themed quilts, and Latino art and imagery were everywhere!

After checking into my hotel, I started off getting together with all my fellow PBS KIDS VIPS (Ambassadors) in the hotel restaurant where we gobbled down ate carnitas and guacamole (made only the way Texas can make it) and queso and...well you get the idea. Afterward, we trekked over to the Moody Theater for an Austin City Limits performance (do you ever watch ACL on PBS?) where we enjoyed more awesome food, and then left to go eat dinner at La Condesa! (If you think all I did was eat at this meeting, you may be right.)

Okay, so let me focus now on all the great things I learned at the meeting.

The next morning, I was up bright and early to have breakfast and learn that this coming year, PBS KIDS is turning its attention to science with two new programs that your kids will love.

First, let me tell you about Nature Cat, a super fun new series created by brothers Adam and David Rudman. David is probably best known for being the puppeteer behind Sesame Street's Cookie Monster and Baby Bear.

David and Adam have worked together before. Do any of you remember the show Jack's Big Music Show that used to air on Noggin? Yep! They created it.

This time, they were inspired by their own childhoods of time spent outdoors. (Remember how much time you used to spend in your backyard or front yard when you were a kid? I was ALWAYS in my 'Buelita's garden.) They wanted to create a show that encouraged children to get kids outside and away from the couch and their digital devices.

In comes Nature Cat to the rescue. This animated show is designed to encourage kids to explore and develop connections with the natural world. Fred is our hero. He's your everyday house cat who dreams of going on outdoor adventures. His friends are always at his side to share his deep love of Mother Nature.

This series motivates kids to observe, ask questions and investigate the natural world in their neighborhood and beyond. It also empowers kids to be responsible stewards of the environment and to delve into conservation. For example, your child might learn how to build a butterfly garden, make bird feeders, or use the Nature Cat Scavenger Hunt app (to be released this November!) to find animal tracks outside.

David and Adam grew up loving Looney Tunes (as did I!) and their love of that series influenced the look and feel of this show. You can see that reflected in the animation style of the show. But I'll tell you the absolute best part of this show is that most of the voices behind the characters are done by cast members of Saturday Night Live!

The next big series coming out is Ready, Jet, Go! I absolutely love this series that explores space and teaches your child astronomy concepts through the adventures of Jet Propulsion, an alien from outer space who visits Earth. Together with the neighborhood kids, Jet travels the galaxy in search of answers and adventure.

The creator of the series Craig Bartlett is also the mastermind behind Dinosaur Train, and like that prehistoric show, Ready, Jet, Go! will also have a live scientist who teaches kids fascinating facts and concepts in between the animated segments. Dr. Amy Mainzer is an astronomer at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a research and development center and NASA field center located in La Cañada, Califonia. In her short video segments, she introduces kids to experts in the field of astronomy, basic physics, how things work, careers in science, and the history of our U.S. space program. Your kids will learn about the first astronauts in space, what their rocket looked like, as well as crazy cool science experiments such as how to build a comet in your kitchen!

Overall, I think parents and children both are going to love the new programs lined up for this coming year. Stay tuned to MommyMaestra for updates on these and your other favorite PBS KIDS shows!

Disclosure: I'm a PBS KIDS ambassador. I attended the PBS Annual Meeting to learn about these great new shows for our kids. All thoughts and opinions above are strictly my own.

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Latino Children's Summer Reading Program Is Open!

Dear Familia, thank you so much for staying with me this past month as I practically abandoned this blog while I concentrated my full attention on the L4LL Latino Children's Summer Reading Program. It is with the greatest relief that I announce that our new and improved program is officially open!

Check out our new English and Spanish websites. If you haven't registered yet, please do so. Your kids can win great prizes this summer such as Chromebooks, Google Play gift cards, school supplies, and books from publisher Lee & Low to help your family start a home library.

We have two (2!) FREE programs this year:

First is our basic Summer Reading Program for kids 0 - 18 years old. Yes, we absolutely know that most kids under 4 can't read very well on their own. But parents with children under 4 (yes, even newborns!) can register and pledge to read to their children over the summer (and we hope, year round). This program includes access to our 2015 Summer Reading Lists featuring Latino children's literature titles, printable and online reading logs, and many other printable materials.

I'm most excited about our Summer Reading CAMP for kids 6 - 12 years old. I've agonized over this curriculum for the past two years and this year, it includes contributions from some of my favorite Latino children's authors and illustrators. Alma Flor Ada, F. Isabel Campoy, René Colato Laínez, and Lulu Delacre have be wonderful supporters of Latinas for Latino Lit and our programs for Latino children's literacy from the very beginning. I'm looking forward to working with additional authors and illustrators in the years to come.

The CAMP has lots of fantastic reading passages, poems, and other activities to boost your child's literacy skills during this critical time in their academic life. We have crafts, drawing activities, storytelling projects, and so much more.

I really hope that all of you will take advantage of the program this summer and use it to build your children's literacy skills.

I must end this post with a sincere, heartfelt thank you to Google for believing in our program. From the very beginning two years ago, they've provided endless support to make the Latino Children's Summer Reading Program possible.

Have questions? Join us today 6/1/2015 at 12p EST Watch our quick hangout on our YouTube channel for our live program overview and new features, including this year's digitized, mobile-friendly program. Click on our Facebook or our Google+ pages to navigate to our hangout.

So what are you waiting for? Go and register today!


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