Saturday, October 31, 2020

Daylight Savings Activity for Children

Tonight, before we go to bed, most of us will be setting our clocks back. For some, it is a blessed extra hour of sleep...unless you have small children like me. 😭

Have you heard (or participated) in Tinkergarten's Annual Fall Lantern Walk? I just found out about this lovely tradition that is designed to help kids welcome the end of daylight saving time and shed light and positivity on an already challenged year. 

This national event is normally held in groups outdoors and led by local Leaders but will be held virtually this year, keeping families safe and allowing anyone to join from anywhere around the world! Kids are asked to create homemade “lanterns” and to make it extra special, add a positive thought or a special memory from this year. Families can sign up to receive this year’s toolkit and join in activities leading up to the event.

On their website, you can watch the how-to video so you can help your child make their own lantern using VERY simple materials.

What a lovely way to help children learn about Daylight Savings and help them adjust to the shorter days.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Día de los Muertos Workshop Series

Friends, here's a series of workshops that I absolutely do not want you to miss! 

The Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center has partnered with local museums in Fort Worth, TX, and is hosting several online Día de los Muertos Workshops. All of them will be conducted on their Facebook page via Facebook LIVE. 

NOTE: If you live in the DFW area, they will make free kits available for pickup prior to each workshop!

The first one is TOMORROW. If you have an opportunity tomorrow, Saturday, October 31st at 12 pm CT, join the virtual event that is hosted in partnership with the Amon Carter Museum, who will be showing you how to make TWO pieces of art:

  1. a José Guadalupe Posada-inspired print, and
  2. a Justin Favela-inspired piñata
The event is FREE and will be presented in both English and Spanish. Here is a list of the materials you'll need for the projects. 

Here's a peek at the instructors and the projects:

The second one is on Saturday, Nov 7th from 12pm to 1pm CT in partnership with the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. In this workshop, you'll learn all about Monarch Butterflies. They will talk about their life cycle, how to attract them to your gardens, as well as their interesting and mysterious migration. Participants will get to make a monarch glider as part of this class. Printed templets and pennies will be provided for this activity.

And the final one is on Saturday, Nov 14th from 12pm to 1pm CT. In this workshop, the Kimbell Art Museum will teach two 30-minute workshops that explore art, family ancestry, and our favorite delicious foods! They’ll begin with a storybook reading and discussion about what our names mean to us, followed by a mixed-media painting activity celebrating the story of our names!

The second session, inspired by ofrendas and family cooking, takes a closer look at tasty treats in Kimbell still life paintings with a related bookmaking activity to help you start your own collection of family recipes.

**To ensure that you don't miss any of these, click the links above to be taken to the Facebook page where you can click on "Interested" so you'll receive notification reminders.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Monarch Butterflies & Day of the Dead

Monarch butterflies are remarkable animals. Their story is unbelievable. Who would guess such a delicate creature could travel huge distances and survive the challenges they face? [UPDATE: Well, actually, they're in trouble and have just been added to the endangered species list (in 2022).] So I want to highlight the history of the Monarch butterfly as we know it.

A couple of weeks ago, my boys and I were walking on our property to a section that has a bunch of pine trees to collect some pine cones. When we arrived, I was delighted to see a Monarch butterfly flutter past my face. And then I saw another one. And another one. 

Pura alegría. 

Later that evening, we went walking again in the woods and they were everywhere. I realized that it was my very good fortune to be witnessing the Super Generation on their fall migration to Mexico. They arrive at their destination - the Oyamel fir forests of Michoacán, Mexico - right around the time of Día de los Muertos. And so, it is no surprise that these beautiful creatures are now closely associated with the folklore surrounding Day of the Dead. 

This post contains affiliate links.

A Remarkable Journey

But the Monarchs that arrive in Michoacán, are not the same ones that left it the previous spring. In fact, each year, it takes four generations for the butterflies to complete their journey from Mexico to Canada and back again. This is their cycle:

  1. In March, the butterflies leave their wintering grounds in Mexico and begin laying eggs as they make their way north into the southern United States.

  2. 1st Generation: Those eggs laid in the south hatch into caterpillars who grow into butterflies to lay more eggs as they continue their journey north. 

  3. 2nd Generation: These butterflies hatch and lay eggs in the north.

  4. 3rd Generation: These also hatch and lay eggs in the north.

  5. 4th Generation: This final generation hatches in the north and begins its long single journey to their southern wintering grounds in Mexico. If they survive the winter, they will begin their journey north and lay eggs as they pass through northern Mexico and the southern United States. 

Dr. Fred Urquhart, a Canadian biologist who together with his wife, Norah, had been studying the butterfly for more than 30 years. They had identified the migration routes of the Monarch and wondered where it was that the butterflies were migrating to. They were convinced it was somewhere in Mexico.

In 1972, he hired two naturalists - Catalina Aguado (shown above) and Kenneth C. Brugger - in Mexico to look for the Monarch's winter habitat. Three years later, they discovered it. (Read the original article here.)

There are only 12 locations where the Monarchs overwinter. The oyamel fir forests are found in the volcanic mountainsides of central and southern Mexico and western Guatemala. These high-altitude cloud forests experience cold temperatures and occasional snow... which makes them surprising overwintering grounds for these delicate creatures. 

Did you know? The Spanish name oyamel comes from the Nahuatl word oyametl: oya, "to thresh"; metl, "agave"; literally "threshing agave"). 

The habitat's future remains a concern. Especially after the death of Homero Gómez González, the former logger who became an environmental activist who was very vocal against illegal logging. He managed El Rosario butterfly reserve and was a champion for the preservation of the oyamel and the Monarchs. Homero's tortured body was found floating in a well two weeks after he'd gone missing.

The Super Generation

Monarch butterflies typically live 2 to 6 weeks... except for the fourth generation which makes the long migration from Canada to Mexico in the fall and back up to the southern U.S. in the spring. It can live as long as 8 to 9 months!

How do they do that?

And they make an incredible journey of more than 3,000 miles, sometimes flying 50 miles each day. 

How do they do that?

These fragile insects rely on their environmental temperature to warm or cool their bodies. In fact, they can't even fly if their body temperature drops below 86 degrees. And yet, they migrate not to a warm climate, but to a high-elevation forest where cold temperatures are common.

Why do they do that? Why bother to migrate if they are able to survive such a winter climate?

And finally, these butterflies make the incredible journey to return to the EXACT same place that their GREAT GREAT GRANDPARENTS overwintered the year before. 

How. Do. They. Do. That?

Day of the Dead

It's certainly no wonder why the little Monarchs are so revered by the Purépecha, an indigenous group from Michoacán, who believe the butterflies are actually the souls of their dearly departed. 

This video was produced last year and has been going around social media for a few weeks now. It's absolutely beautiful, so I decided to go ahead and share it. (Nati and her Abuelita are my favorites!)

This video takes you to El Rosario and talks about the discovery of the wintering grounds. 

Learning More...

If you want to learn more about Monarch butterflies with your children, I strongly recommend you visit the site, Journey North. There's SO MUCH INFORMATION on this website! In fact, I wrote about them 10 years ago to highlight their Symbolic Migration program, which just completed its 25th anniversary this year. (I wish I'd remembered them and shared the program with you a few months ago!)

In addition, the Texas Butterfly Ranch is hosting its 5th Annual MONARCH BUTTERFLY AND POLLINATOR FESTIVAL and has online content available through the end of this month (that means SATURDAY!). But what touches my heart the most about this place is that they tag butterflies and I read this on their website:
Monarch butterflies move through Texas each fall on their way to the Mexican mountains to arrive in time for Day of the Dead. In this year of COVID-19 and a raised awareness of social injustice, we celebrate the spiritual aspect of the migration. For centuries, perhaps millennia, the return of the butterflies to Mexico each fall has been associated with the souls of lost loved ones, as they typically arrive in the Mexican mountains in time for Day of the Dead. As a gesture of hope and healing, all 600 butterflies tagged this year as part of our Festival will be done so in the names of those lost to COVID-19, social injustice and other causes.

Go check out their site and enjoy the online videos they have posted before they are removed!

Monarch Butterfly Learning Tools

If you want to continue the learning experience with your children, here are some of my favorite Monarch-themed learning toys. 

Free Download

To wrap things up, here's a printable activity for your kids. Print the following on cardstock and help your child put together this Monarch Butterfly Life Cycle Flip Book!

Click here to download

Children's Books about Monarchs

National Geographic Readers: Great Migrations Butterflies

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Dia de los Muertos Nichos

One of the aspects of Day of the Dead that isn't talked about much is the nicho. Many people don't even include one on their ofrendas, but it is a practice that is growing in popularity. Read on to learn about the history of nichos and to find resources for making your own. And be sure to check out my post on Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead Lesson Plans and Activities.

This post contains affiliate links.

What is a nicho?

Nichos are a type of handmade shadowbox. This form of folk art finds its roots in the Roman Catholic retablos, which were brought to the New World by the Spanish. Retablos were stories in a box - usually of religious scenes or patron saints. They were beautifully painted and filled with hand-crafted figures.

Joaquin Lopez: Made by Joaquin Lopez Antay. Image © UBC Museum of Anthropology
(You can read more about retablos in this guest post on how to make a Peruvian retablo by author, Mariana Llanos.)

But here in the Americas, the indigenous people took the retablos and developed them into a different artform: the nicho. 

Nichos, in general, are display boxes, too. The subject can be anything: religious in nature, a mini shrine to famous people, or (as is the case in Día de los Muertos) a tribute to a loved one who has passed away.

Originally, they were crafted into ornately decorated tin-plate frames. But today, they may be made out of any kind of materials, but they do tend to have a few things in common: they are colorful, bold, and sometimes sparkly.

Día de los Muertos Nichos

For Day of the Dead, nichos usually have one of two themes:
  1. they display a traditional scene featuring calacas (skeletons) as the main figures, OR
  2. they are a display created in honor of the loved one who has died.
In the latter case, they will usually include a picture of the deceased and include elements that are closely related to that person, such as their hobbies, careers, passions, and/or talents. For example, the image below is of a nicho I made in honor of my abuelita, who loved singing, cooking, and gardening. She was also a devout Catholic. So I tried to include elements that represented all of her talents and passions.

For many, the act of creating a nicho to honor a person is a wonderful form of therapy to help them through the grieving process. Check out this excellent article from KQED: For Day of the Dead, Families Turn to Nicho Art to Ease Grief 



My favorite book for introducing children to this artform is Paquito y Abuelito. Unfortunately, it is hard to find, but there are a few available on Amazon (see aff link below) and you can read a review of it here.

Art Supplies for DIY Nichos

Here are some of the more common art supplies used by nicho artists (young and old!). 

Shoe boxes work great, but if you want something that will last longer and that you can display year after year, maybe these Standing Wood Nichos from BonesAndCobwebs on Etsy are more to your liking. They actually have many elaborate wooden nichos ready to be decorated that are for sale.

Of course, you need paints, like this Acrylic Paint Set with 24 Colors and 12 brushes.

I also really like these Acrylic Paint Markers and have this set at home.

This set of 25 miniature picture frames comes with gold frames, but they can easily be spray painted any color you want. 

 These Assorted Colors Mini Paper Flowers are great for decorating nichos. 

Miniature Calavera Papel Picado Banner - these are just adorable.

Other Posts You May Enjoy

Monday, October 26, 2020

New Día de los Muertos Resources

This week, my focus is completely on Day of the Dead. I'm going to start by sharing my newest printables and a digital resource available now in my TpT shop. 

Day of the Dead Reading Comprehension Boom Cards

Are you looking for digital resources to teach about Day of the Dead? Consider my Boom Cards! Also available in Spanish, these reading passages include self-grading reading comprehension questions. 

Day of the Dead Number Pages (1 - 10)

 For little ones learning their numbers from 1 to 10, check out my color-in and write number pages. 

Lotería is my favorite to teach and reinforce vocabulary. I have a whole series of Lotería printables, and this one is themed for Día de los Muertos. Includes directions for different ways to play and win, as well as 10 different game boards (5 in English and 5 in Spanish).

I have a LOT of printables themed for this holiday. Now you can purchase ALL of the printables and save big! (Boom Cards not included.)

Friday, October 23, 2020

New "Peanuts" Playlists

Did you know that "Peanuts" is 70 YEARS OLD this year?!? How crazy is that? 

October marks the 70th anniversary of Charles Schulz’ iconic “Charlie Brown” comic strip. 

Part of what makes Charlie Brown and “Peanuts” so special are the songs associated their television specials of the 1960s and '70s. Vince Guaraldi and his trio performed songs for the Peanuts TV shows which have delighted generations of people. 

Bill Melendez was Snoopy's Voice

And I recently discovered ANOTHER reason to love this show: José Cuauhtémoc "Bill" Meléndez.
He was a Mexican–American character animator, voice actor, film director and producer known for his cartoons, including Peanuts. AND Bill provided the voices of Snoopy and Woodstock. 💗💗

If you are a Snoopy-loving family, the way mine is, then you'll be excited to know that to celebrate the anniversary of “Peanuts,” Craft Recordings has released several collectible albums, music videos, and playlists. 

Earlier this month, a new animated video of “The Great Pumpkin Waltz” debuted on the official Vince Guaraldi YouTube channel. You might recognize the Vince Guaraldi Trio song from the party scene in “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” television special. And, a new animated video for the Charlie Brown "Thanksgiving Theme" is coming next month.

Two new playlists are streaming now on your favorite music platform, accessible from these links:
Peanuts' easy listening playlist

Whether you want to be energized or just to chill out, these Charlie Brown classics by the Vince Guaraldi Trio are worth streaming and sharing. They include the "Thanksgiving Theme," "Christmas Time Is Coming," the iconic "Linus and Lucy" theme and many more that will spark happy spots in your hippocampus. ;)

Here's a sample - "Linus and Lucy" - from the YouTube playlist. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Activities for Kids Celebrating Halloween at Home

Activities for kids celebrating Halloween at home

Will your Halloween be different this year? Where I live, the local government is urging people to stay home and avoid trick-or-treating this year. If you've decided to celebrate Halloween at home this year, here is a list of activities for you to consider and most require materials you have at home or can easily find at your local dollar store or Target. 

What about the TREATS?

Instead of trick-or-treating this year, here are two alternatives:

  1. Buy bags of your favorite Halloween candy at your local grocery store ahead of time. This is a win-win because you aren't stuck with candy no one likes. :)
  2. Start a new tradition and make/bake your own Halloween treats together! Check out this list of recipes:
Ghost Toss Game from Michaels


Looking for fun games and activities to distract kids and keep them busy having fun? Check out these...


Read some books! Here are some to consider...

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Freebie: Bilingual Halloween Counting Mats

I made counting mats for my 3yo this past weekend and decided to go ahead and share them with MommyMaestra readers. 

Yesterday, I mentioned the Halloween printables (bilingual) that I have in my TpT store. If you missed that post, take a look because one of my favorites is included: the Halloween Cumulative Tale

Today's freebie is a pack of counting mats with three different designs for counting 1 - 5, and an additional two designs for counting 1 - 10. 

We used orange pompoms to counting (shown above), but you can use anything or even have your kids stamp or draw their own items on the mat. The only problem with using the pompoms is that the static electricity builds up a little and they become attracted to each other which can make it a little hard to keep them in their rows.

Halloween counting mats

We also improvised a little bit and made tiny pumpkin counters using orange beads and some pieces of brown pipe cleaner for a stem...

Halloween counting mats

My 3 yo liked them, but still seemed to prefer the softness of the pompoms. However, BOTH of them were great for developing the small motor skills, namely the pincer grasp. 

Halloween counting mats

Just a reminder and word of caution: NEVER leave your young child unattended with small objects as they can be a choking hazard! If your child tends to put things in their mouth, use larger blocks (if the space allows), minifigures, or edible treats like crackers, cheese squares, goldfish, etc. (I had originally planned to use candy corn with them, but I just could never remember to buy them at the grocery store when I was there.) 

Anyway, I hope you enjoy them! Save them for Halloween if you are assembling activities for your little to do on the holiday.

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Monday, October 19, 2020

Bilingual Halloween Printables

Halloween is fast approaching! So I'm dedicating the next two posts to this holiday. This year, Halloween is shaping up to be very different for many of us. So today I want to share a few printables that are easy to do at home. 

Of course, I have a few that are available in both English and Spanish. 

Roll-a-Jack-O'Lantern Activity

Need a simple activity to keep your little one busy, learning math, and let's them develop their creativity? Check out my Roll-a-Jack Activity. Comes with two activities: simple & challenging. Give them a black marker and print the color version of the simple Design Your Own Jack O'Lantern page. Your kids just roll the dice to see what type of face to draw on their pumpkin. Also available in black-and-white so that the kids can color their own. 
The second activity is more challenging. Your kid will need one die, a pencil (or crayons/colored pencils/markers), and drawing paper. Print the key, roll the die, and draw to match the drawing key. You can come up with a new design every time!

Halloween Costume Coloring Book

Boost your Spanish- or English-learner's vocabulary with this bilingual coloring book. The pages show children in their Halloween costumes, so the student will enjoy coloring while learning the words for "bat/murciélago," "mummy/momia," "cowboy/vaquero" and more.

NOTE! This file contains THREE books:
• a bilingual book (English & Spanish)
• an English only (for ESL)
• a Spanish only (for Spanish learners)

Halloween Storybook & Cumulative Tale Lesson

This is my absolute favorite activity, but it is better suited for older children in upper elementary and middle school. This download gives younger children a printable storybook that they can color in. It is the story of a little witch's house. Short and sweet, it focuses on relationships while utilizing mainly nouns and adjectives.

THEN, the file includes an introduction to cumulative tales and provides graphic organizers that guide your children/students through the process of creating their own. 

Learn more about teaching cumulative tales here.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Beautiful Mundo: Secular Spanish Curriculum

The following is a sponsored post with Beautiful Mundo

I cannot express how excited I am about today's post. I love being surprised by new products, especially ones that are designed specifically for homeschoolers. Beautiful Mundo is a secular Spanish-immersion curriculum. And it may be used by both bilingual parents AND monolingual (English) parents who are raising bilingual children.

Name of program: Beautiful Mundo
Target age: 0 - 8+
Amount of materials: Moderate
Price: $88

What I love the most is that it is entirely literature based. When I was looking through the booklist, I discovered that I recognized most of the titles because they are considered Latino children's lit. (Most of them are by Hispanic authors, anyway, with a few translations scattered in.) In fact, I have most of them on my bookshelves. Some of the authors I spied in the list are Alma Flor Ada, Monica Brown, José-Luis Orozco, Lulu Delacre, and many others.

The good thing about this is that I believe most of these are easily found in local libraries, so you don't have to go out and buy all the titles yourself, which would be pricey. You can actually see the booklist for yourself on their website before you purchase the curriculum, which I think it really important. Because you don't want to be disappointed later if you are planning to get most of them from your library and your library doesn't have them. In fact, if you use the Library Extension for Chrome (or Firefox or Edge), any time you look at a book on Amazon, the extension will tell you if that same title is available at your local library (it's a goldmine!).   

Let's get into the curriculum.

Beautiful Mundo is only available as a PDF download. That means that when you make your online purchase, you receive instant access to the files, which you can download to your computer and begin using right away, if you so choose. The other great part is that you can print as many copies as you need (great for families with multiple children).

It all begins with the Parent Guide. It is SO helpful by providing a full background for parents on the goal of the program, the methodology, and details on how to use the curriculum. You'll find the list of books and music that are at the heart of the curriculum, and then you'll find the actual lessons themselves.

There are two pages for each week and each one has a theme or focus. They are carefully laid out with reading, activities, and crafts to complete throughout the week on your own schedule.

I love that the curriculum is so versatile allowing parents with children of different ages the opportunity to use this program. Beautiful Mundo trusts the parents to know their children best and be able to determine when their child is ready to begin the phonics, storytelling, and copywork books. 

Beautiful Mundo

The Phonics Book
gives parents the option to choose print or cursive. This workbook has been edited by native Spanish speakers in Spain and Argentina. Included are directions and notes for parents on teaching Spanish phonics, activities, and a lot of teaching techniques. It incorporates sign language with graphics showing the proper hand positions for each letter of the alphabet. And then the workbook begins by teaching first the vowels, followed by consonants in a thoughtfully chosen order. There are two pages dedicated to each letter with opportunities to practice writing the letter, words and images that begin with the letter, and a letter recognition search. The second page has a section for writing a complete word, as well as a list of words beginning with the letter.

The Storytelling Book is a supplemental resource for older children who are able to draw and write may utilize. It is comprised of simple worksheets that provide space for your child to draw and write (recount) the story you've just read. 

The Copywork Book is another supplemental book and also available in print or cursive. It's designed for older children who are learning to write, there is only one page to print each week to accompany the reading selection. It includes one quote from each book for your child to practice writing. The very back includes Spanish to English translations for parents to reference.

The program also comes with some additional printable materials, mostly flashcards of letters, number dots, shapes, emotions, etc. The letters are available in print or cursive to suit your preference.

Now, I ALWAYS tell people to DOWNLOAD THE SAMPLE PAGES of any curriculum before they purchase it to make sure it is a good fit for their family. And this is no exception. You can find sample pages of the Parent Guide and Phonics Workbook here.

Price-wise, Beautiful Mundo isn't the cheapest, but it also isn't the most expensive curriculum. It's somewhere in the middle. The complete set costs $88, and that price does not include the books. But a lot of work has gone into it and I think parents will love the digital aspect of it that allows them instant access to the download directly after purchasing it.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I received the product for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Today Only! Online Sales

 With Amazon running its Prime Day Sale yesterday and today, many other companies have jumped on the bandwagon with sales or discounts to grab our attention. Here are five different opportunities for you to take advantage of today.

Melissa & Doug sitewide sale

Melissa & Doug is having a sitewide sale with 20% off everything on their website. Just use the code: SMILE

Tynker is having a Flash Sale with 30% OFF on all new Tynker plans!

Tynker has over 600 hours of unique content for children ages 5 to 17, starting with simple block-coding and Minecraft before expanding to Python, game design and more. With Tynker's story-based platform, Nick will be having so much fun that they won't even realize they're developing critical thinking, problem-solving, and STEM skills!

Lakeshore Learning Sale

Lakeshore Learning has specific items on sale for up to 60% off! Lots of great educational items perfect for homeschooling, including Spanish/bilingual toys.

Mindware Lightning Deals

Mindware has some fantastic lightning deals available for up to 60% off. Most of these are kits to keep your creative kids busy.

Oops! Just found one more. Kids Discover is extending their Back-to-School Sale, where you can save on their Educator and Homeschool Plans. This sale will last through Oct 16th! I'm thinking about signing up. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Free Día de los Muertos Digital Classroom

In three short weeks, people all across the Americas and beyond will be celebrating Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Teachers have begun to search for resources, and families who are now homeschooling are looking for materials, too. 

So I'm delighted to share this Day of the Dead virtual classroom

You may remember me sharing a similar resource last month for Hispanic Heritage Month. This new digital site has been created by the same team of educators.

Created by a remarkable group of educators, you can find:

  • information about the culture surrounding the holiday,
  • explanations of the symbolism found in the items of the ofrenda,
  • descriptions on how the holiday is celebrated in 12 countries, 
  • tutorials for crafts, 
  • read aloud books, 
  • music online, 
  • and more.

Once again, most of the YouTube videos may be watched safely without having access to inappropriate content.  

If you're looking for free resources to celebrate Day of the Dead, this should probably be at the top of your list!

And if you are wondering...yes, you can share it with everyone.



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