Friday, May 31, 2019

Learning Toys for Toddlers

The World Health Organization recommends that children between the ages of 2 and 4 spend no more than one hour staring at a screen each day (newborns up to age 2 should have NONE). But that's super hard for parents in today's technology-driven society. Screens are everywhere! And it is especially difficult for those of us with older children or nieces and nephews who whip out their phones when they come to visit.

This post contains affiliate links. 

There are two ways that I personally battle this. The first is to spend a LOT of time reading. We have books everywhere in the house. And my 21-month-old constantly brings me books to read. I try really hard to stop what I'm doing and read to him when I can. Or I make one of my older kids read to him.

The second way is by providing my kid with plenty of non-electronic toys. I try to focus on toys that inspire imaginative play or that develop important fine-motor skills. With two older kids, we still have tons of leftover action figures, animals, blocks, and vehicles.

But I also am building up my collection of wooden puzzles and learning toys. Two of my favorites are the bilingual wood puzzles shown at the top of this post from Begin Again. The chameleon puzzle is still a little hard for him to put together, but he loves playing with the pieces and watching me put it together. I use it to teach him colors and take my time showing him how the pieces connect together. I also love that it has the words and numbers printed in English and Spanish on the individual pieces, which helps me raise him in a print-rich environment.

The other is a gear stacker. It's super fun and an important toy for developing his fine-motor skills through stacking (a very important activity for toddlers). It also has the colors printed in English and Spanish on the gears.

He plays with both of these on a daily basis and I'm always having to hunt down pieces that he's carried off. I love that he loves them.

Recently, I bought a lacing apple for quiet play in church. I used it for the first time last Sunday and it was a success! Sorry, I left it at church, so I can't take a picture. But it is the same one in the middle of the image below.

You can find these and many others on my Learning Toys for Toddlers Idea Page on Amazon. Here's just a peek at some of the toys I recommend because I already have them or I want to buy them. Check out the little robots! Those are next on my list to purchase.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Summer Reads & Giveaway: Carmen Sandiego

Last week, I shared on the MommyMaestra Facebook page that I had actually won a giveaway for a change. Usually, I am the one giving stuff away. And the reason I won is that I was sharing the giveaway because I knew how much you all would love it.

So, I was thrilled but surprised to get the news I had won! My oldest kids who grew up watching the Carmen Sandiego series with Rita Moreno and who have already watched the new series on Netflix were crazy happy about the books. And here's why...

My older son is a graphic novel lover. I usually don't buy him that many because I want him reading books with more text and less distraction. But every now and then we get a few just as a treat and to reward his reading. So the first book that we received is Carmen Sandiego: The Sticky Rice Caper. And, yes, it's a graphic novel. In this book, Carmen is headed to Indonesia to stop VILE in the capital city of Jakarta. It's pretty action-packed. So, naturally, my son is all over it.

The second book, Who in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, is what really piqued my girl's curiosity (and intrigued me, too, I'll admit) because in it Carmen shares her own backstory for the first time. I also loved that Gina Rodriguez wrote the foreword. Neither one of us has read it yet, but it's on my girl's list for the summer.

Several of you asked me on the Facebook post about where to get the books. I looked it up and found them both on Amazon here and here, as well as at Target. You can even order them online from Target and have them shipped for free to your nearby store.

Oh! And, yes, I found a Spanish edition on Amazon.


As you can see from the top picture, I received several copies of Who in the World is Carmen Sandiego? So you know I want to share them with you. If you have a Carmen lover in your house, this would be a fun read for summer!

I'm giving away a copy of Who in the World is Carmen Sandiego? to two (2) lucky MommyMaestra readers. NOTE: These copies are in ENGLISH ONLY.

To enter to win your copy, just use the Rafflecopter below.

¡Buena suerte!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 27, 2019

Bilingual Children's Book Series on Eating Healthy

The following is a sponsored post in collaboration with All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post does contain affiliate links.

Discover this bilingual children's book series on eating healthy to motivate your kids to think about what they are eating and make wise food choices.

Summertime is a great time for kids to work on forming healthy habits to last them through the school year. Eating healthy and being physically active are two examples of this.

But it is still really hard to convince kids to trade sugary treats for fruits and veggies. Probably because they don't really know HOW certain foods benefit their bodies.

How to Teach Children to Make Wise Food Choices

Teaching children to make wise food choices is important for their long-term health and well-being. Here are some tips to help children learn about healthy eating:

  • Start by being a role model 
    Children often learn by watching their parents and caregivers. Be sure to model healthy eating habits and make healthy food choices yourself.

  • Involve children in meal planning
    Encourage children to be a part of meal planning, grocery shopping, and food preparation. This can help them learn about the different food groups and the importance of balanced meals.

  • Make healthy options available
    Keep a variety of healthy foods on hand and make them easily accessible for children. This can include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein sources, and low-fat dairy products.

  • Teach portion control
    Teach children about portion sizes and the importance of eating in moderation. Encourage them to listen to their bodies and stop eating when they feel full.

  • Avoid labeling foods as "good" or "bad"
    Instead of labeling foods as "good" or "bad", teach children about balance and moderation. All foods can fit into a healthy diet, but some should be eaten in moderation.

  • Encourage water consumption
    Encourage children to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Avoid sugary drinks like soda and juice, as they can be high in calories and contribute to weight gain.

  • Make mealtime enjoyable
    Create a positive and enjoyable mealtime environment. This can include turning off screens, sitting down together, and engaging in conversation.

By following these tips, you can help children learn about healthy eating habits and make wise food choices that will benefit them for years to come.

A Bilingual Picture Book Series for Healthy Choices

Enter! This website is dedicated to fighting childhood obesity due to poor nutrition and the lack of strenuous physical activity among our youth. They've started a series of books to help kids make wiser choices for healthier lifestyles.

And what makes them special and unique is that these books are available in English OR Spanish! You choose which language works best for your family or classroom.

The creators say: 
"The phrase "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" is as relevant today as it was when Hippocrates first said it. The purpose of this humorously-illustrated book is to encourage the consumption of fruits and vegetables through recognizing the visual similarities and nutritional value that exists between some foods and specific body organs. Our goal is to encourage little ones to learn healthy eating habits, as well as to try foods that otherwise they wouldn't even touch. When creating this book, we had a specific belief in mind: perhaps, given the opportunity to learn in this manner, we would not be living in a country with a high childhood obesity rate."

Silvana Sánchez Lira is one of the company's two co-founders. She's also the author of some of the books, including Eat This, Try That / Come esto, prueba aquello. It's a picture book that tells the story of how certain foods look like specific body organs, and how these foods benefit the organs nutritionally. For instance, walnuts provide your brain with healthy fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin B. And a walnut looks a lot like a tiny brain, too! It really is very clever!

This particular book is available in hardback, as an eBook, and as a coloring book. I think these would be great to go with physical fitness, PE, or sports summer camps.

The other book that Sánchez Lira has written is Junk Invasion: The Great Battle / Invasión chatarra: la gran batalla. This picture book teaches kids about good eating habits and what a healthy diet looks like. Body organs are characters in the storyline, as are junk foods and fruits and veggies. They are all fighting a battle for control of your body. It's a fun and educational read. And at the end are some activities for kids to complete that support healthy eating choices.

This series is super entertaining and the illustrations are excellent. I think young readers will love the action-packed storylines.

If you're looking for a way to sneak in some learning this summer that reinforces healthy habits that will hopefully last a lifetime, check out these books! You can buy them directly from their website.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

Friday, May 24, 2019

3 Apps to Nurture Little Engineers

Kids and tech. 

This summer, many parents will be fighting this combination as best as they can. But keeping children off tech devices complete is unreasonable and unlikely...but very likely to result in a lot of resentment from both parties. 

So instead of trying to keep kids off of tech, it's better two take a 2-step approach by... 

  1. limiting their time, 
  2. and managing the content to which they have access.
(You can do both of these with a little help from Circle.)

Part of managing their content has to do with introducing your kids to fun and engaging games and apps that are also educational. At least that way you know that that there is some sort of redeeming value in what they are staring at for ages.

As part of my Summer Prep series, I'll be sharing apps and games that you can trust and that have educational benefits. But I want to be clear: These are for children ages 5 and older. I do not believe children younger than this should have screentime! And the older ones should be carefully monitored and limited, too.

That said, I want to share three games/apps that will nurture your child's engineering interest and skills. Take a look for yourself...

Name: Jet's Bot Builder
Brief Description: An interactive app for kids in which they design and build a robot and travel through space with Jet and friends. 
Price: FREE 
Language: English
Ages: 5 and up
Device App Store, Amazon and Google Play

Jet’s Bot Builder is one of the latest apps created by PBS KIDS. As with all of their products, learning is at the heart. According to them, this app is an adaptive gaming experience that’s uniquely designed to cater to children’s individual learning progress, providing scaffolding where they might need it and leveling up to match learning pace. Kids add new parts to their robots in order to get through obstacles as they go from Earth to the moon to Mars and beyond. Each planet has a new challenge for the robot. Kids can build new parts and swap them around to find the best way to solve each level, learning critical thinking and problem-solving skills as they do.

Features include:

  • Core engineering practices to foster flexible and problem-solving skills
  • 5 fictional planets to discover
  • 45 levels + 5 unique challenge modes that provide endless level exploration
  • 12 robot parts to craft, with endless color variations
  • Closed captioning support
I trust PBS KIDS products because I know that they are focused on children's well being and education. So that's why this fun game makes the list. I also love that it can be played on a desktop and not just on a phone or tablet.

Name: Inventioneers
Subject(s): physics, engineering, critical thinking
Brief Description: An awesome app that introduces children to learning about real-time physics and the science behind different features like air, fire, magnetism and jumping bunnies. 
Price: FREE (Sample version) $4.99 (Full version)
Language: English
Ages: 6 and up
Device App Store, Amazon, and Google Play

I love this app! And, more importantly, so does my kid. It is totally worth the $4.99 for the full version. In this game, you can create your own crazy, fun inventions! With the help of the Inventioneers - tiny helpers with unique characteristics - you can invent fun, creative and often quite weird inventions. A lot of inventions are included in the game, the more you solve the more parts you receive for your own inventions. Along the way, your child will learn about physics concepts such as force, push, pull, swing, launch, bounce, drop, and more...

FYI - My kid is 13 and still loves the challenge of this app. 

Name: Tami's Tower
Subject(s): engineering, problem solving, critical thinking
Brief Description: An awesome app that introduces children to learning about real-time physics and the science behind different features like air, fire, magnetism and jumping bunnies. 
Price: FREE (Sample version) $4.99 (Full version)
Language: English & Spanish!
Ages: 5 and up
Device:  ENGLISH: App Store, Amazon, and Google Play   SPANISH: App Store, Amazon, and Google Play

New from the Smithsonian Science Education Center, Tami’s Tower: Let’s Think About Engineering is an educational engineering design game that will help teach your student how to design a solution to a problem using basic engineering design principles.
Features include:

• Aligned to educational science standards for kindergarten through second grade
• Designed for emergent readers
• Grounded in educational psychology research
• Metacognitive prompts provide students an opportunity to monitor and assess their own confidence
•  Teachers can assess student responses to metacognitive prompts through an in-game 
summary screen
•  In-game tutorial to teach students how to play
• Introduces students to engineering design principles
• Students will learn how the shape of an object can help it function as needed to solve a problem
•  Students can reflect on previous attempts to improve the design
•  Students can design a level in Sandbox mode
•  Designed to be used in the classroom or at home

And I think MM readers will love that it is also available in Spanish!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The 2019 L4LL Latino Children's Summer Reading Program

The 2019 L4LL Summer Reading Program is now live and available in the L4LL TpT store

If you're looking for a summer reading program created by Latinas for Latino children, this one really is remarkable. It has undergone a lot of changes as we have strived to find the best way to make the program accessible to families and educators.

The program includes tons of printable materials and culturally-based activities for your children to do on a variety of themes. Take a look...

Our free BASIC Summer Reading Program 

This consists of printable resources to help your kids have fun reading in English or Spanish during the summer. It contains:

• Our 2019 Summer Reading Lists
• Reading passport
• Reading logs
• Bookmarks
• Postcards
• Pledges
• Certificate of completion

You pick the materials that best suit your family’s/student’s needs.

Each year, we update our Summer Reading Lists to include new titles. You’ll only find Latino children’s literature on our lists as we strive to highlight this small – but important! – genre by Hispanic authors and illustrators. Choose books from our suggested 2019 reading lists of Latino children’s literature, or pick your own. Our program is easy, flexible, and fun!

ALL of the activity pages are available in English and Spanish.

Our Summer Reading CAMP 

This is a 10-week DIY Summer Reading Camp with culturally-based activities to develop reading and writing skills. It is for children ages 6 to 12 years old and includes more than 100 activity sheets designed to boost literacy skills over the summer break, as well as additional tools for educators and students. The program also includes original reading passages and illustrations by Latino children’s authors Alma Flor Ada, F. Isabel Campoy, René Colato Laínez, and Lulu Delacre.

Each week covers a different theme:
  1. Art/Arte
  2. Family/Familia
  3. Folklore/Folclore
  4. Food/Comida
  5. Immigration & Heritage/Inmigración y herencia
  6. Music/Música
  7. Nature/Naturaleza
  8. Poetry/Poesía
  9. Sports/Deportes
  10. Summer/Verano

You can now buy the individual themes or save 10% when you buy the complete CAMP!

Again, all the activities are available in English and Spanish.

Happy reading!

Monday, May 20, 2019

José Hernández Lesson Plans, Books, Activities & More

Time for my next pick for MommyMaestra's Summer Reads list! (Last week, I shared the first title.)

I'm also pretty excited about today's book recommendation because it is an autobiography of someone whose story I've been following for several years.

This post contains affiliate links.  

A Children's Biography 

The Boy Who Touched the Stars, El niño que alcanzó las estrellas (aff) is the true story of José Moreno Hernández, an American engineer and former NASA astronaut. Read about his childhood when he worked alongside his parents as a migrant farmworker and his fascination with space. Your child/student will learn about the important role his 2nd-grade teacher played in his life, encouraging his parents to stay in one place so that José could focus on his education, and how she nurtured his love of astronomy, books, and learning. 

José eventually became an electrical engineer, and together with a colleague, developed the first full-field digital mammography imaging system. He continued to pursue his dream of becoming an astronaut. Even though his NASA application was rejected 11 times, he kept applying until he was finally chosen to become an astronaut as a flight engineer on the Space Shuttle Discovery and flew to the International Space Station.

Read this inspirational book to learn what his parents' recipe was for helping him to achieve his dream!

This book is SO well written and presented in a very organized manner. And the fact that it is presented with full text in both English and Spanish is awesome!!

Oh, and the illustrations are excellent, too! Take a look...

Overall, this bilingual picture book should be getting an award. I'm so happy to have read it. I love it. Love it!  

The Boy Who Touched the Stars Activities & Crafts

I tried looking up activities created for this book and couldn't find any. So here are a few ideas for activities related to astronauts and space that would be great to do before or after reading this picture book. Or spread the activities out over 5-7 days and make it a space-themed week! I've tried to separate them by age. 

Rocket Puppet Craft by Simple Everyday Mom

PreK through 3rd:

Constellation Worksheets & Lesson by Woo Jr.

Grades 4 through 6:

Spanish Resources:

Craft Kits and Toys

Extend the learning with these space-themed learning toys. 

Space Play Dough Kit from PlayAndGrowShop on Etsy

This looks like such a fun set for little hands to play with and a great way to develop fine motor skills!

Solar System Felt Planets from MyLittleFishCo on Etsy

What a great addition to any home school room! When my teens were little we decorated by hanging the planets from our school room ceiling. But I think being able to handle and manipulate them would be even better.

Space Sensory Kit from EllaRoosAcademy on Etsy

Oh my gosh! So much fun! Sensory kits provide hours of fun for little kids. There are so many great space=themed sensory kits, but this may be my favorite one.

Other Posts You May Enjoy

Friday, May 17, 2019

Project-Based Learning Ideas for Summer

I have a love/hate relationship with summer because I love that my kids don't always have something scheduled to keep them busy, but I also hate that they sometimes are just lazy and complain about being bored. 😝

I've already talked about BOCA, my guide for summer learning. And on Wednesday, I shared my first book recommendation.

Well, today's recommendations fall under the "Activities" section.

Project-based learning (PBL) is one of the best ways to engage kids and sneak in some learning. Personally, I think there has to be a lot of thinking going on, physical activity in some form or fashion, and a satisfying end result.

In practice, PBL nurtures specific skills, including planning, critical thinking, reasoning, and creativity, visualizing and decision making, and knowing how and when to use technology, and choosing the most appropriate tool for the task.

Generally, in classrooms, PBL is a joint effort because students work in teams to complete the project. But parents can use PBL at home, too, with multiple children or just one.

Where do I start? 

Fortunately, there are quite a few companies out there creating project kits that you can purchase and give to your kids. National Geographic, Thames & Kosmos, and Discovery are just a few examples.

To get you started, I've put together a PBL Idea List and added it to my Amazon shop. Currently, there are 30 45+ different kits on the list, and I'll be adding more as I find them. Here is a peek at some of my favorites...

Ages 14+

Ages 8+

20+ Build and Play Games!!
Ages 7+

Ages 8+

Ages 8+

You can find these and so many more by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Summer Reads: Luca's Bridge, El puente de Luca

Today, I'm kicking off my Summer Reads series, which features awesome new titles for your kids to read over the summer.

The first title is a new book by Mariana Llanos titled Luca's Bridge/El puente de Luca. (aff)

It is the story of Luca, a young boy forced to leave his native country - the United States, where he was born - because his parents are undocumented immigrants and have been told to voluntarily deport themselves. Luca struggles with the change because he has to leave his friends behind - his school behind - and travel to Mexico when he doesn't even speak Spanish.

But Luca finds solace in his trumpet. And finds a way to transport himself back using his musical talent.

In our current political climate, stories like this one are SO IMPORTANT. It is a story that needs to be written, read, and shared. So many children are often separated from their parents when the latter are deported from the U.S. Some, like Luca's family, choose to stay together even though it means uprooting their children from the only life they've ever known. And these books shine a spotlight on the desperate need for better immigration laws in our country.

Mariana is such a talented writer. (Several of her books have been featured here on MommyMaestra already, and she's even contributed a fantastic tutorial on how to create your own Peruvian retablo!) What I love about this book is that it comes with complete text in both English and Spanish, making it accessible to bilingual families and classrooms alike.

And oh the illustrations! Anna López Real is the artist and she does such a remarkable job. I love how she uses color sparingly to make the illustrations pop and to express the emotion of the storyline.

Best suited for children ages 4 to 9 years old.

Teachers, this is a wonderful book for summer camps, assigned for summer reading, or to be used next school year. It works well for studying and discussing themes of immigration, deportation, family separation, music, bridges (metaphorical), childhood, and more.

You can purchase your copy here on Amazon.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Prepping for Summer with MommyMaestra

Summer is coming! Summer is coming!

So that means that it's time to get serious and start some planning on my part in order to keep my kids entertained, busy, and learning. I always use the following guide for planning summers:
  • Outdoors
  • Camps
  • Activities
Sticking to this guide really helps me out when everyone is at a loss or complaining about "being bored."


Read, read, read! I make my kids read. This means regular trips to the library and bookstores. I try to stock up ahead of time, but it's mainly activity books because really, this is their time to just relax and read what they want. If I stock up ahead of time, it's mostly because sometimes my oldest son needs some encouragement when it comes to branching out and trying new authors or series. 

(If you have a reluctant reader, you should consider using films to encourage them! This was how I was finally able to coax my oldest son into becoming a reader. Read how I did it with him and see a list of 25 movies and their books here.)

And so, of course, this means that starting this week, I'll be sharing a LOT of titles here over the next few weeks and throughout the summer. 


I'm not raising a bunch of couch potatoes. We try to spend a lot of time outside. But most of their lives have been spent in North Carolina, where the weather was mild and when it wasn't we were at our local pool.

Over the years we've come up with a LOT of great ideas. Check out these posts on outdoor activities to keep your kids busy outside! 


Camps are a must for those with social butterflies. But I love them because so many places (museums, libraries, churches, community centers, stores, etc.) really go all out to create camps that are fun, safe, and educational. So far, my kids will be doing basketball, lego, and taekwondo camps over the summer. But I'm sure there will be more opportunities that pop up.

Summer is also the perfect time to reinforce (or begin learning) a second language (Spanish!). There are so many wonderful bilingual/Spanish camps happening.

I'll share some of the camps that I know are happening across the country, maybe even in your own neighborhood!

But remember, not all camps have to cost an arm and a leg. In fact, there have been several years when we just couldn't afford to send our kids to summer camps. So I created my own! Download my free Summer Camp @ Home Calendars for children ages 6 to 10ish.


This means crafts, activity books, chores, art, projects, Legos, etc. If they can play it, build it, sing it, draw it, create it, then it is awesome in my opinion.

You can find tons of ideas in my Summer of Fun category. Over the years, it has built up quite a lot of ideas for keeping kids busy during those hot summer months, often using stuff you've already got at home.

I hope by the end of this month, you'll be feeling positive about the summer and prepared with activities and products that will make the time fly...because they're having fun!

I hope you'll share all of your fantastic ideas with me, too!

Other Posts You May Enjoy

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

My Summer Reading List & Giveaway

Summer is coming and I am so looking forward to relaxing moments of just sitting and doing nothing but reading (in between chasing kids, anyway).

I have three books on my list of must-reads. I'm not even sure in what order I'll start, but I'm excited about all three of them! I thought I would share them with you, and then, in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, offer a giveaway of one of them.

What will you be reading?

This post contains affiliate links.

by Michelle Obama

by Susan Page

by Rita Moreno

Okay, I know I said 3 books, but IF I make it through all three this summer, and still have time, this one is next:

by Sonia Sotomayor

I'm excited for me, aren't you?!? 

Okay, that said, let's move on to the giveaway!

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I'm giving away three hardback copies of Rita Moreno's autobiography. To enter to win, just use the Rafflecopter below.

¡Buena suerte!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Free Download: Numbers 21-40 Connect 4 Game

The end of the year is near and I just know that you're looking for sanity-saving activities to keep your kids/students busy during downtime. If they are acting restless, check out this super fun download from MommyMaestra sponsor, Spanish for You! Connect 4 may have been around when I was a kid, but it still is just as much fun today as it was back then!

Help your kids practice counting those higher numbers using this printable game board based on the famous Connect 4 game! The three-page download includes one page of directions and two different game boards. It also comes with an audio file to help kids learn the proper pronunciation. 

Remember! Spanish for You!'s program is geared for middle schoolers and is the perfect choice for homeschoolers and afterschoolers alike because their concepts are carefully divided up into manageable bundles that are available for immediate download from their website.

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. If you enjoy this activity, be sure to visit the Spanish for You! website where you'll find tons of additional resources for you to help your young Spanish learner!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Free Thank Your Writing Pages for Teacher Appreciation Week

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Lots of goodness coming your way this week, starting with these free thank-you-themed writing pages to share with your children. Teachers love hand-written notes from their students, so why not have your kids write a little thank you to their teachers for all the hard work they do?

There are eight different designs, each in two different styles (for beginner or advanced spellers). And, yes, they are all in English and Spanish. You can download them here in my TpT store. Or if you are signed up for the MommyMaestra newsletter, look for them in your inbox soon!

IN ADDITION: Don't forget that tomorrow, TpT's sitewide Teacher Appreciation Sale begins! Get up to 25% off my entire store. What a great time to stock up on those items you have on your wishlists! Or get ready for summer with educational - but super fun! - downloads, like these...



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