Fun Stuff for Kids

Games We Play

Did you know that there are conventions dedicated to playing games? Furthermore, did you know that one happens every year in Indianapolis?  To tell you the truth, I didn’t either until I met my husband.  While we were dating, he took me to Gen Con  for the first time.  Gen Con is the original, longest-running, best-attended gaming convention in the world!  Featuring hundreds of game companies, costumed attendees, more than 10,000 events, a Family Fun Pavilion, and the debut of exciting new games, Gen Con truly isThe Best Four Days in Gaming™!  Since that first excursion, I have trekked with him several more times.

While I was packing for last year’s convention, I reflected on the games that I really like to play.  While I really enjoy cooperative games (where everyone works together for a common goal), my husband enjoys more strategy and competitive games, so we play them all.  Lucky for him, I grew up in a family that liked to play games (i.e. Clue, Euchre).  I wish that he could have met my Grandma Hirschy.  She would have given him a run for his money in Scrabble.

Depending on the game, we sometimes have our own “House Rule.”  For example, I don’t necessarily like to play with a traitor in some of the games, so when we play the game, we do not play with a traitor.  If it is a necessary part of the game, we play that role together.  Therefore, it is our twist on the original rules, thus our House Rule.  You can make your own twists as well. As long as everyone agrees to the rule change before play begins, where is the harm?  My thought is if it makes the game more enjoyable, have fun with it.  However, at the convention this weekend, everything is strictly by the rules.

Previously I shared a list of games that our 5-year-old loves to play.  Today,  I am sharing some favorites that my husband and I like to play together, with older kids, or with other adults.  A surprising number of the games on the list were discovered at the convention in years past. Maybe I’ll come home with some new favorites this year.  I’ll let you know.

Have a Great Week!


Loot, by Gamewright – The Plundering Pirate Card Game. Yo-Ho-Ho and a barrel of fun! Set sail for an exciting adventure of strategy and skullduggery in this captivating card game. Storm your opponents’ merchant ships and seize valuable treasure. But watch your back, matey — plundering pirates are out to capture your ships as well. The player with the most loot rules the high seas. Note: This is a fun game to play with a group of people.


We Didn’t Playtest This At All, by Asmadi Games – The most aptly named game ever. In this exceptionally silly and awesome game, your objective is to win. Simple enough. Sadly, all of your opponents have the same simple goal, and they are trying to make you lose. Between rock paper scissors battles, being eaten by a random dragon, or saved by a kitten ambush, there are many hazards to avoid. Note: Some rounds can last 10 minutes, others last only 30 seconds.  A game that is more fun the more people that play.


Sitting Ducks, by Playroom Entertainment – No duck is safe in Sitting Ducks Gallery where the object is to maneuver your ducks down the row and avoid getting in the line of fire! Get your ducks out of the water before feathers start flying because cards can target, shoot, or move the line in various ways! If your birds of a feather can stick together and keep from getting hit, you could be the last Sitting Duck in the lake!  Note: We have sooo much fun playing this game.  In fact, my sister-in-law and nieces request this game when they visit from Virginia.


10 Days in the USA, by Out Of The Box – Start your engines.  It’s time to hit the road for a fun-filled journey across the USA. You have 10 Days in the USA – travel the country by jet, car, and on foot. Plan your trip from start to finish using destination and transportation tiles. With a little luck and clever planning, you just might outwit your fellow travelers. The first traveler to make connections for their ten-day journey wins the game.  Note: If you like this version, you will want to check out the multitude of other versions available, i.e. 10 Days in Africa, etc.


FLUXX, by Looney Labs – A card game where the cards themselves determine the current rules of the game. By playing cards, you change numerous aspects of the game: how to draw cards, how to play cards, and even how to win. There are many editions, themed siblings, and promo cards available.  Note: A game that is always changing, but very fun to play.


Aquarius, by Looney Labs – Kids love the colorful design, fast play, and familiar matching strategy. Adults love the game’s competitive edge. It’s the perfect family card game. The player with the longest hair goes first connecting element cards to complete a secret goal. Deal the cards and plan your move, but don’t get too comfortable — you may get zapped!  Note: Fun even as a player game, but better with four.


Pastiche, by Fred Distribution – A World of Beautiful Colors comes alive as players choose commission cards picturing 34 of the finest European art works of the past six centuries. Players score their commissions by mixing primary colors through clever tile placement and recreating the palette of colors used by the masters who created these works. Explore the paintings’ palettes and pasts of the artists in this unique and challenging game for the whole family. While placing hexagonal pieces to gain palette (color) cards, players become familiar with the different color combinations that produce the many hues of an artist’s palette… all listed on the Player Reference Card. Players also learn to recognize many great artists and their works as they complete commissions.  Note: I love this game.  Takes a lot of time to play, but it is well worth it.


Survive Escape From Atlantis, by Stronghold Games – In this game, you try to lead your people from the sinking central island of Atlantis to the safety of one of four islands nearby. Your people can get there quickly by boat (if they find one) or more slowly by swimming. But it will be a perilous journey as they must avoid Sea Serpents, Whales, and Sharks. When the volcano on Atlantis explodes, the game is over. The player with the most survivor points wins.  Note:  So much fun.  You never know until the end who is going to win.


The Downfall of Pompei,i by MayFair Games – Can you escape the inferno?  The rich, beautiful Roman city of Pompeii sits at the foot of majestic Mount Vesuvius. Renowned for exotic, easy and ample luxury, the wealthy town attracts the best of Rome’s proud citizens. But a terrible secret lies deep beneath the slopes of the mighty mountain. A primeval secret is about to unleash unspeakable horrors on this fateful afternoon. The mountain, so very long asleep, is finally reawakening. Come to beautiful Pompeii. Use your cards to attract your Roman friends and relatives to visit select sites. But beware. The dreaded Vesuvius card means the mountain is awake, spewing fiery lava onto the unsuspecting city. Now you must struggle to get your compatriots out of the doomed town before they are engulfed. Rushing to avoid lava flows, your people must flee before Vesuvius explodes and ash seals their fate. Lead the most survivors to safety and win.  Note: There is just something about throwing other people’s tokens in the volcano.  Always have a great time when we play this one.


Ticket to Ride, by Days of Wonder – Ticket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure game. Players collect train cards that enable them to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout North America. The longer the routes, the more points they earn.   Note: This is one of our five-year-old’s favorite games as well.  He doesn’t usually make it through the whole game, but he is getting better.  This is one where we play house rules so that all the lines are open all of the time.  That way it isn’t so cutthroat.


Pig Pile, by R&R Games – Howdy Pawdners! No mud slinging allowed in this fun, fast-paced family game where players compete to corral the most pigs. Get rid of your cards first and be awarded the prime pile of pigs. Sounds easy, but pigs can be slippery! The more cards you have, the better your chances of calling out “Hog Wash!” and clearing away the deck! But don’t hog the cards too long or you’ll get stuck. Dump your cards the fastest to build the highest heap of hogs! The player with the largest Pig Pile wins!  Note: This is one that we play all the time with my parents.  Everyone has a great time and it can accommodate six people.



Cooperative Games:


Pandemic, by Z-Man Games – Four diseases have broken out in the world, and it is up to a team of specialists in various fields to find cures for these diseases before mankind is wiped out. Players must work together playing to their characters’ strengths and planning their strategy of eradication before the diseases overwhelm the world with ever-increasing outbreaks. But the diseases are breaking out fast, and time is running out: the team must try to stem the tide of infection in diseased areas while also finding cures. A truly cooperative game where you all win or you all lose.  Note: I can’t tell you how much I love this game.  If we don’t win a round, my husband and I usually stay up late to make sure that we end on a winning note.


Forbidden Island, by Gamewright – You and your team can be the first to breach the borders of the Archeans’ ancient mystical empire in the collaborative card game, Forbidden Island, by Gamewright. In this game, teamwork proves essential to locate the Earth Stone, the Statue of the Wind, the Crystal of Fire, and the Ocean’s Chalice as the Island floods beneath your feet. Adventure… if you dare!  If you like this game there is a second game by the same designer called Forbidden Desert.    Note: Great cooperative game!  Love that you can change the difficulty level to make it more challenging, if you want.


Shadows Over Camelot, by Days of Wonder – Shadows Over Camelot is a unique collaborative game featuring a malevolent twist. As the incarnation of the Knights of the Round Table, players work together to defeat the forces closing in on Camelot. But beware, players must be vigilant for a traitor in their midst who is biding his time-secretly sowing the seeds of havoc and destruction. Yet too much suspicion will undermine the knight’s efforts to protect the kingdom. These are dangerous times indeed. Many memorable game nights await in this Days of Wonder game.  Note: One of my husband’s favorites.  Always a go-to game with a group of teens.


Castle Panic, by Fireside Games – In Castle Panic players must work together to defend their castle in the center of the board from monsters that attack out of the forest at the edges of the board. Players trade cards, hit and slay monsters, and plan strategies together to keep their castle towers intact. The players either win or lose together, but only the player with the most victory points is declared the Master Slayer.  Note: We found this at the convention a couple of years ago and what a keeper!  They have an expansion pack that keeps it very challenging and fun.


Flash Point Fire Rescue, by Indie Boards & Cards – Flash Point: Fire Rescue is a fully cooperative game; everyone plays on the same firefighting team – win or lose together. Every turn is filled with the tension of having to fight the fire back rescuing victims or investigating points of interest. Players can ride the ambulance to safety or fire the engine’s deck gun in a desperate attempt to control the blaze.  Note: One of the newer games in our collection.  Always a hit with a group of kids or adults.

ABC – ABC Basket

Like most moms, I am always looking for ways to reinforce concepts that my child is learning in school or at child care.  Since Hank is now in the Pre-K class at preschool, a large focus is on school readiness and early literacy skills.  To help bridge the gap between school and home, I put together Our ABC Basket.  Now, whenever we have some down time and need an activity, we can pull one out and have fun learning in the process.  We can also continue to add to the basket throughout the year to reinforce other concepts as well (i.e. math, science, etc.).  The most important thing for me is for Hank to have fun while learning, and the more active I can get him in the activity, the better.  If the activity isn’t fun any longer, we just put it back in the basket and grab something else.

Have a Great Week!



Alphabet Match

A couple of weeks ago while looking for fall activities, I ran across a blog post from Toddler Approved called Fall Leaf Alphabet Movement Activity.  This post inspired me to create my own version of the alphabet games to use throughout the year with my son.  I printed out 2 sets of Alphabet cards (one set to use on the floor with painters tape and another set for the letter cards).   I found some alphabet cards from Homeschool Creations that I liked because it had actual pictures along with both the upper and lower case letter.  I show Hank a card at random and see if he can identify the letter.  Then I hand him the letter card and say, “Can you put the B on the ball?” He then looks around on the floor to find the picture of the card with a picture of a ball on it and places the letter card on top to match.  When he is ready, we can incorporate letter sounds, i.e. “What sound does it make?”  You can also play without the extra letter cards, but just the ones on the floor.  I tell Hank to walk around on the letter cards and following different directions, i.e. “Put your nose on the dog,” “Sit on the apple,” “Hop on the cat,” “Can you put your elbow on the picture that starts with the sound ‘h’?”, “Can you hop to the letter that makes the ‘s’ sound?” etc.


ABC Movement Cards

I loved this idea I saw a couple of weeks ago.   The 26 ways to Exercise through the ABC’sblog from Kids Activities blog. Presenting a list of movement suggestions of exercising/moving to each letter. While the list is great, I really wanted to have a set of cards that I could print out with the letter and exercise on it that I could use for the activity.  So I searched some more and found a set of Exercise ABC Cards from The Home Teacher.   Most people would have stopped there, but I went further.  I decided to make my own set ABC Movement Cards specifically for my kids with inspiration from both ideas.  Whether you use the list from the Kids Activities Blog, the cards from The Home Teacher blog, or my movement cards, it doesn’t matter.  The point is to get your kids moving and learning about the alphabet at the same time.


Feed The Alphabet Frog

I was already collecting bottle caps for an art project when I came across an alphabet activity from I Can Teach My Child called Feed the Alphabet Monster.   I love reusing items that we would normally throw out into something usable.  Hank is a little recycler, so he was very excited to help collect the caps.  Hank wanted to Feed a Frog instead of a Monster, so we modified the activity.  I used an old kid’s meal bucket (the plastic ones that they have around Halloween) instead of the baby wipe container.  I then printed out some Fly Stickers using Avery 5160 labels to put on the top of each cap.  Then under each lid, I used scrapbooking stickers so that I didn’t have to manually write the letters on each cap.  I decided to use both upper and lower case letters, so I used 52 lids in all.  We placed the frog on the floor and then made a pile of all of the lids about 5 ft. away.  Then Hank picked out a lid, told me the letter, and then got to “feed” the lid to the frog by tossing it into the “frog’s” mouth.


Alphabet Tunnels

They are going to have so much fun with this activity.  Hank and Faith both love to play with cars.  So what better way to incorporate literacy into their play than with letter tunnels inspired from Toddler Approved.   Instead of hand printing the letters on the tunnels, I designed a Tunnel Template so that I could print the tunnels with my printer.  As a bonus, I added number tunnels as well.  I also made a couple of “Road Trip” maps for both Hank and Faith (since she has to do everything that big brother does) to follow and “drive through” the tunnels in a specific order.  On the maps I used letters and numbers that actually look like roads that came from Making Learning Fun .  You could even use the letters by themselves as roads scattered on the floor to drive on between the tunnels.  After I got all materials ready, I put them in the bag along with some painters tape to attach them to the floor.  I can also see Hank wanting to use the tunnels with his wooden train set, and if so, that will be fun as well.


Target The Letters

After seeing this idea on the More Mom Time blog, I decided to do our own version.  Instead of using a shower curtain and using markers to draw circles and print the letters on it, I wanted to make Letter Targets to just print out and scatter out on the floor. I then printed a set of the Letter Target Cards.  To play, we put the letter targets on the floor and put the cards in a pile.  Hank picks a letter card and tells me what letter is on the card.   Then he takes a beanbag and tries to hit the matching letter target.  Lots of fun!


The Alphabet Mystery

We have a Leapfrog magnet alphabet set that a friend gave us for the refrigerator.  I thought it would be fun to hide the letters and have Hank go on a “mission.”  His mission (if he should choose to accept it) is to find the missing letters that have disappeared from the fridge.  I have previously used this Alphabet Word Game printable that has the capital letter listed, but it also has a blank box next to the letter in which to put the corresponding letter magnet. We will just tape it to the fridge.   I then give him a magnifying glass and send him on his mission.  After he finds a letter, he will run back to the fridge, and we can discuss what letter it is.  We then put the magnet in the player to see if he’s correct and learn about what the letter sounds like as well.  Then he can put it on the chart and see what letters are left to find.  You could also play this with the magnet letters that can be purchased at WalMart, the Dollar Store, etc.

Family Activity – Cleaning House

My house usually looks like a whirlwind has blown from one room to the next and left utter destruction in the wake.  Toys have made their way from the kids’ bedrooms to the living room or kitchen, and everything seems to be all over the floor.  The books are out of the bookshelf, and every video we have is piled up by the chair.  With a 5-year-old and an 18-month-old, that is exactly what happens on a daily basis.  Don’t get me wrong; the kids will help pick up if I am right there beside them, but my poor husband usually comes home to utter devastation.

A couple of months ago I came across something on Pinterest (The House Game) that has helped our family clean our house.  This simple tool gets us working together in the evenings or on the weekends to get the house clean.

It is a simple concept:

  1. Roll a number.
  2. Visit that room of the house as a team and clean.  Or do the assigned task on the chart.  Mom and Dad assign tasks to the kids, and everyone works together to accomplish the goal.
  3. Repeat until all tasks are completed.

The site has the printable available with either 9 rooms or 12 rooms.  I downloaded the 12 room printable and then customized it for our family.  I wrote in all of the areas of our home, or tasks that we can do together, i.e. Kitchen & Dining Room, Living Room, Laundry, Hank’s Room, Faith’s Room, Mom & Dad’s Room, Bathrooms, and Dusting/Sweeping/Mopping.  I also filled in the leftover numbers with some kind of physical activity, i.e. Jump up and down 10 times, Walk around the house backwards, Hugs all around, Hop like a bunny around the house.  I put our game board in a picture frame and we use a dry-erase marker to check off the numbers as we complete our tasks.  But you don’t have to go through all that work.  Just use a scrap piece of paper and write down the numbers.  Then as you complete each task, use a crayon or pencil to color the numbers that are done.  To make sure we hit all of the rooms/tasks, we roll only one dice until we get the first 6 numbers checked off.  Then we add the 2nd dice and play until the end.

The kids (and my husband) love it.  We go from room to room and really work together.  Hank loves to race back to the board and roll for the next job.  We get so much more done when we play the game rather than just try to “clean the house.”   So if you are looking for a nice change of pace with cleaning the house, I would recommend trying a variation of The House Game.

What ideas do you have to get your kids involved with helping around the house?

Have a Great Week!


Family Activity – Fun Throughout the Year

Looking for ideas to do with your kids?  If you’re like me, I am always on the hunt for quick, simple activities to do throughout the year.  During the holiday season, we always have an activity a day to do together that is a lot of fun.  This year I want to try to do more hands-on activities with my kids throughout the entire year.  I want to make it as simple as possible, so we are using activity calendars, bucket lists, and fun lists that others have already created.  Then I can pick and choose the activities from the various calendars to keep us busy every month of the year.

It is my goal to have at least one fun family activity each week.  Won’t you join me in spending more time with our kids?

Here some of my favorite resources to draw inspiration from for activities – ideas for play, movement activities, reading ideas, and healthy eating, and more.  My favorite resources are activity calendars that have one idea for each day, or a list of ideas for the month or season.

  • An Activity A Week – 52 fun, simple indoor and outdoor activities to do with kids.  I created this resource as my starting point to make my goal a reality.  Whether we do the activities one-on-one during the day or during family time in the evenings or on weekends, it really doesn’t matter.  The point is to start doing more things with the kids.  It is a compilation of some of my favorite activities listed in the resources below.  Enjoy!
  • 10 Ways to Play, by Let’s Explore – Each month has simple, creative play inspiration. Print it out, hang it up, and have fun!  The 10 activities each month don’t require a lot of special supplies or preparation and can be enjoyed by a wide variety of ages.
  • Reading Activity Calendar –Wondering what to do with your child today? Whether you’re at home, at school, or out running errands, use the Reading Activity Calendar to find fun, simple ways to make reading a part of your everyday life. Flip through the calendar above for ideas, activities, and silly holidays to celebrate together.
  • Healthy Calendars from Nourish Interactive – Calendars are a great way to remind children of healthy actions they can take each day to promote general wellness. A variety of calendars that you can print to post in classrooms or after school activity programs, hand out to children to follow individually or as part of a family project.

Do you have a favorite activity resource?  Please share!


Have a Great Week!


ABC – Our Favorite ABC Books

Alphabet books are a wonderful way to introduce children to letters and foster a love of reading.  If you are looking for alphabet books, you don’t have to search very far.  Favorite characters like Clifford, the Berenstein Bears, and Thomas have alphabet books available as well as favorite authors like Dr. Seuss, Eric Carle, Sandra Boynton, etc. There are also ABC books about almost any topic that your kids enjoy, such as construction, trains, the farm, beach, etc.  The choices seem endless.

Several years ago I taught preschool, and I saved a large collection of books that I now read and share with my children.  This collection includes our 10 favorite alphabet books that we included in Our ABC Basket (from last week). However, I have many more that are still in the closet waiting to be discovered.

What is your favorite alphabet book?

Have a Great Week!





Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault

In this lively alphabet rhyme, all the letters of the alphabet race each other up the coconut tree. Will there be enough room? Oh, no — Chicka Chicka Boom Boom!

Note:  I loved this book as a teacher, and I love this book as a parent as well.  After reading it, my kids like to go around the house chanting Chicka Chicka Boom Boom over and over again, so be prepared!


I Stink by Kate & Jim McMullan

Know what I do at night while you’re asleep? Eat your trash, that’s what! See those bags? I smell breakfast!  With ten wide tires, one really big appetite, and an even bigger smell, this truck’s got it all. His job? Eating your garbage and loving every stinky second of it!  And you thought nighttime was just for sleeping.

Note:  One of Hank’s favorites.  He loves the Alphabet Soup Recipe


The Little Engine That Could ABC Time by Watty Piper

The Little Blue Engine chug-chug-chugs through the countryside, and puff-puff-puffs through the alphabet as she goes. Come along and help her find some apples for A, butterflies for B, and other objects and animals from A to Z.

Note:  My son is train crazy.  He likes everything to do with trains.  As a child, I loved “The Little Engine That Could,” and now I enjoy sharing her with my kids.  This is always a favorite.


The Three Bears ABC – An Alphabet Book by Grace MacCarone

“F is for Forest. While their porridge cooled, the bears walked in the forest, where they sniffed fragrant flowers.” The classic tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears meets the alphabet in this fairy-tale-meets-concept-book story.

Note:  I love this book.  It still tells the story of the three bears, but in a clever way.  Fun read for everyone.


LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

From A to Z—and Acrobat Peas to Zoologist Peas—every letter is exciting!  Get ready to roll through the alphabet with a jaunty cast of extremely cute and busy little peas. This fresh and fun alphabet book features bright colors, bouncy rhyming text, and silly pea characters who highlight the wide variety of interests, hobbies, and careers that make the world such a colorful place!

Note:  Great way to introduce not only the alphabet, but all of the things that people can do as well.


Alphabet Adventure & Alphabet Mystery by Audrey & Bruce Wood

In Alphabet Adventure – After working hard all summer with their teacher, “Capital T,” the lower case letters of the alphabet are on their way to the first day of school. But they’re held up when the letter “i” loses her dot. The letters come up with a plan, and race around to find a substitute for Little “i” to wear: “s” offers a star, “h” a heart but at the last moment the mischievous dot returns (anxious about being replaced).  While in Alphabet Mystery – Little “x” has left, upset he’s hardly used, and the other letters set out to find him. They find “x” playing the castle xylophone for the mysterious Master, capital “M,” who threatens to turn them into alphabet soup! Some quick thinking by Little “x” saves the day, and soon they are all on their way home–just in time to make Mom’s birthday surprise: a cake with Little “x” all over. He’s the only one who stands for kisses!

Note:  My mom got these for Hank last Christmas.  He loves reading one right after the other, so they are basically one book – part 1 and part 2.


Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten

and other Miss Bindergarten books by Joseph Slate

In Gets Ready for Kindergarten it’s the first day of kindergarten, and Miss Bindergarten is hard at work getting the classroom ready for her twenty-six new students. Meanwhile, Adam Krupp wakes up, Brenda Heath brushes her teeth, and Christopher Beaker finds his sneaker. Miss Bindergarten puts the finishing touches on the room just in time, and the students arrive. Now the fun can begin! This rhyming, brightly illustrated book is the perfect way to practice the alphabet and to introduce young children to kindergarten.  Other books in the series include: Stays Home from Kindergarten, Has a Wild Day in Kindergarten, Celebrates the 100th Day of Kindergarten, Takes a Field Trip with Kindergarten, Celebrates the Last Day of Kindergarten, Plans a Circus with Kindergarten.

Note:  My mom was a kindergarten teacher for years, and this always reminds me of her when I read it to the kids.  All of the books in the series are equally fun and interesting to read.


Q is for Duck – An Alphabet Guessing Game by Mary Elting & Michael Folsom

This is no ordinary alphabet book. Why is “Q” for “Duck”? Because a duck quacks, of course. Even the youngest readers will delight in the riddle-like text and lively, humorous illustrations.

Note:  What a great book!  Unexpected alphabet book that really keeps you guessing and engaged.


The Handmade Alphabet by Laura Rankin

Presents the handshape for each letter of the American manual alphabet accompanied by an object whose name begins with that letter.

Note:  One of my best friends teaches deaf education.  While in college I took a course in sign language and fell in love.  I love the beautiful pictures in this book, and the kids love to try to make the letters with their hands as well.


Animalia by Graeme Base

Animalia is more than A is for Apple.  As you travel from A to Z, each scene reveals is filled with a wealth of hidden objects and on each new page the details discovered begin with the letter for that page.  It is an incredible imaginary world that will intrigue youngsters of all ages, whether or not they know their ABCs.

Note:  We literally spend a half hour or more on this book each time we read it.  Sometimes we don’t even get through the entire book.  Hank loves to help find as many things as he can in the illustrations that start with each letter.  However, that is no surprise since it is somewhat similar to “I Spy” books.

No School – Winter Break Fun

Can you believe that the holiday break is right around the corner?  Whether you are a parent or a child care provider, you are about to get inundated with school-age children.    To help you prepare, I have invited a guest blogger to share some holiday fun ideas.

Child Care Providers, are you prepared for the upcoming days out-of-school? If your school-agers get bored easily during a full day in your care, schedule an onsite technical assistance visit with Karin Gilbert, our School-Age Specialist. Together you’ll customize a diverse and dynamic full day schedule that’ll keep your SA’gers engaged and wanting more.  Contact Karin at 574-360-3070 or

Have a Great Week!




From Karin Gilbert

Like it or not, winter is now upon us! There’s no need to get the winter blues when there are so many wonderful outdoor activities to enjoy with your school-agers during the wintertime. Remember to think safety, first. Kids and adults alike should dress in warm layers. Don’t forget your hat, gloves, scarf, boots, snow pants and winter coat. Here is a winter wonderland of cures for cabin fever:

  • Sledding-There’s nothing better than gliding through the cool air on a sled. Find a good hill and grab your tube, toboggan, saucer, or even a piece of cardboard for hours of entertainment. For a more challenging adventure, build hills and ramps.  Bundle in layers to stay warm and to cushion tumbles.
  • Make Snow Angels-Fluffy snow? Check. Snow suit? Check. That’s all the gear you need to lie down and create a snow angel.  (Lie in the snow and make a jumping jack motion.) Make this simple activity extra fun by using materials to decorate your angel, such as food coloring to draw on a face, and old clothes and accessories to dress it up. Why should snowmen have all the fun?
  • Build a Snowman-After stacking a few big snowballs to make the body, kids can use their imagination to find fruits, vegetables, sticks, berries, clothes, and other materials to bring their snowman to life. For a bigger adventure, encourage school-agers to use their imagination and build other snow figures, characters, or animals.
  • Build an Igloo or Snow Fort-School-agers who have graduated from building snowmen can spend hours constructing an igloo or snow fort. Use a shovel, bucket, or tote to help build and construct one of these arctic domes or fortresses. Use a food coloring/water mixture in a spray bottle to color your creation.
  • Ice Skating-This slippery activity will be tricky for newcomers. But once they get the hang of it, they might get addicted. For advanced skaters, try speed skating, ice dancing, figure skating, or hockey.
  • Skiing-School-agers are now more coordinated and less afraid of falling, which makes downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding great active activities during the winter months. Beginner downhill skiers can hit the bunny slopes or green circle trails but should have an adult with them. Lessons can help your child learn the ropes. It’s wise to invest in a helmet in case of falls or collisions.
  • Snowboarding- Snowboarding is a popular winter sport. School-agers now have more strength and skills to stay upright and try more tricks. Lessons and safety gear, including a helmet, knee pads, wrist guards, and hip pads, are recommended because snowboarders of all ages have their share of spills.
  • Winter Picnic-Take blankets, snacks, warm hot cocoa or soup in a thermos and enjoy an outdoor picnic! Be sure to dress warm!
  • Outdoor Photo Expedition-School-agers love to take pictures! Dress warm and head outside with disposable cameras for a photo expedition.  Take pictures of the wintry landscape, animals in their winter habitats, or snowmen in your neighborhood. Then, create a photo collage or poster.  For a group challenge, create a photo scavenger hunt!  For a quick resource, download this Winter Scavenger Hunt List
  • Outdoor Obstacle Course-Set up an obstacle course in the yard with jumps, tunnels, and other challenges.
  • Snow Painting/Snow Graffiti-Simply add food coloring to water in a spray bottle; then go out and decorate the white canvas in your yard.
  • Ice Bubbles- When the temperature drops below 32 degrees, blow bubbles and watch them freeze on the wand. Challenge your friends and see who can create the biggest ice bubble.
  • Snow Tic-Tac-Toe-Two players go for the championship in this classic game. Use crisscrossed sticks and pinecones as game pieces.
  • Frosty Toss-Have a snowball-throwing contest! Make a target by creating a bright circle in the snow with colored water in a squirt bottle.
  • Miniature Golf Snow Course-Make a golf course by packing down a section of snow every few feet. Bury tin cans halfway down in the snow to create holes, and mark them with mini flagsticks.
  • Pin the Nose on the Snowman-Pass out carrots, then blindfold each child and let him try to get the nose in place.
  • Practice Your Pitch-Paint a bull’s-eye target on a piece of cardboard, giving each colored ring a point value. Attach it to a tree, and keep score as the kids try to hit the target with snowballs.


Karin Gilbert is ECA’s School-Age Specialist, serving Allen, DeKalb, Elkhart, Kosciusko, LaGrange, Marshall, Noble, St. Joseph, Steuben, Whitley Counties.  Karin has a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University-South Bend and an Indiana Youth Development Credential.  She has 15 years of experience in school-age youth work.  Karin provides support for providers of SA programs to increase the quality of SA care.



Whether you spend time outdoors or indoors during the winter break, here are some additional ideas to keep your school-age kids busy.

Tell Me A Story Tuesday – Growing Vegetable Soup

Fall is the time of year where we harvest food. Once the weather starts to cool down, it’s natural to grab a sweater and start up a pot of soup for warmth. Growing Vegetable Soup,by Lois Ehlert, presents the perfect opportunity to talk about the things that we naturally do at this time of year. Children benefit by learning from relevant events in their lives. Read this book with your child. There are SO MANY ways that you can extend this book into so much more than it is alone. You can develop vocabulary by talking about the names of vegetables, develop taste buds by sampling different kinds of vegetables, develop narrative skills and numeracy skills by making a pot of soup, and so on.

Here is an activity you can do with this book:


From the Garden to Soup 

  • Create vegetables using craft foam.
  • Place vegetables in some dirt you may have left over from your garden. You can also use a blanket to simulate earth.
  • Invite one child to be a “sounder” and another to be a “matcher.” Have the sounder secretly choose an item from the “dirt” and say the first sound of the item. For example, say “C-c-c” for carrot. Depending on your children’s ability level, you should be the sounder for the first few times that you model the game.
  • Once the sound has been heard, the matcher finds an item in the “dirt” that starts with the same sound. If that item is not the item the sounder has chosen, you can help the matcher by giving clues. Continue until the matcher holds up the correct item. When the matcher selects the correct item, he can put it into a soup pot. Play again using another set of children as a sounder and a matcher.
  • This activity can help younger children label things that grow in a garden. If you are working with younger children, you could ask them to find colors, “Can you please find me the white onion, orange carrot, red tomato….
  • You could also add some foam alphabet letters to the soup to work on letter recognition. Say, “Can anyone find a letter ‘A’ and or the letter that starts with the sound /a/ to add to our soup?”



Different Ways to “Tell the Story” with children.


Retell the Story, Create a Recipe

  • Recall the story with the children and write down the recipe for making vegetable soup
  • Attach pictures to each step in the recipe
  • With the children, follow the recipe and make vegetable soup


Flannel Board or Story Bag

  • Retell the story with a flannel board or Story Bag.
  • Place the object on the flannel board or in the bag and solicit vocabulary and story from children
  • Pass out pieces to children and as you retell the story, invite the children to place the pieces on the flannel board on the story bag
  • Place the flannel board or story bag in the reading area for children to recreate their own stories

Watch (or Make) a You Tube Video

  • Watch the video
  • Compare/Contrast the book to the video
    • pictures VS drawn pictures
  • Create your own video
    • Assign children jobs to create video
      • Cook
      • Narrator
      • Camera man
      • Props

What else would you do with this book?



Vegetable Finds

MATERIALS (Needed per child and adult):

  • paper plates
  • small paper cups
  • large bowl
  • safety knives
  • small cutting board
  • 2 whole vegetables  (don’t have to be the same for each child – have 6 types for variety)


Willie the Worm crawled into the vegetable bowl. Inch your forefinger along the table. “Which vegetable should I eat first?” he asked. Name the vegetables with the children. “His sharp teeth bit into the soft skin of a round, red tomato. He wondered what it was like inside of the tomato. Willie crawled in, and what do you think he found?” Cut the tomato, give each child a small piece and discuss their observations. Put extra pieces in the large bowl. “Willie ate ‘til he was so full he fell asleep. He didn’t try any other vegetables. But our stomachs are bigger so we can try them all and make a vegetable salad!”  Distribute materials, and say, “I wonder what we’ll discover about our vegetables.” Remind children to use their own cup and only put untasted pieces in the large bowl to share later.

Encourage children to use all five senses as they explore the vegetables. Describe and encourage them to describe visual characteristics, sound, texture, smell and taste. Ask what the attributes remind them of.  Encourage children to predict what a vegetable will look like or feel like inside and verify predictions when they cut open the vegetables.


Survey vegetables the children liked best and create a chart. Use information from survey to create a recipe. Send home the recipe with the children to re-create salad with their families. Encourage the children to represent the vegetable they cut up (draw or print). Create a book from their representations.



What’s For Snack?

MATERIALS (Needed per child):

  • Small paper bag (lunch bag) with
  • 1-2 vegetables per bag and stapled shut
  • Paper
  • Drawing materials (crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc.)


Hand each child the paper bag. I made a snack for each of us last night that I thought we could enjoy today. I stapled the bags shut so the snack would not fall out as I brought them to school. But now I have forgotten what I put in the bags for our snack. Do you think you could figure out what is in your bag without looking?

Encourage the children to feel the bags. What is the shape of the item(s)? Encourage children to use descriptive words such as round, hard, soft, rough, smooth, oval, oblong, large and small. For those children who are struggling, open up the bags and invite the children to touch the object, without looking. What do they feel now?


Encourage the children to draw what they think the item(s) is in their bag. Open the bag. Were their predictions correct? Draw what was actually in the bag. Ask the children for suggestions as to what to do with the vegetables.



Where’s The Potato?


  • 10 cups or pots numbered 1-10
  • a potato


Hank was making vegetable soup in the kitchen, and he had a mess. He had pots, spoons, bowls and vegetables all over the kitchen. He needed the potato, but could not find it. There were 10 pots in the kitchen upside down and he thought the potato might be under one of the pots. Do you think you can help me find the potato for Hank so he can finish his soup? Invite the children, one at a time, to guess a number.

If a child chooses 3, emphasize that the child chose the third cup and that the 3 is in between 2 and 4. If the potato is not under that pot, offer a clue. For example, if the potato is under the 7, provide the clue: the potato is not under the 3.  The potato is under a pot after the 3 but before the 8. Continue to use these clues, emphasizing before, after and between; what number the potato is not under; and using ordinal numbers to restate the child’s choice.


Place the game on a table for the children to play on their own at choice time. You could use colors, shapes, letters, symbols, or vocabulary pictures on the pots to reinforce concepts.


Weigh In


  • Scale
  • Corn seeds, beans seeds, pea seeds, sunflower seeds
  • 2×2 inch cards with pictures of seeds
  • Large bar graph
  • 1 cup measuring cups


Introduce the scale to the group. Ask if anyone knows what the scale is and what they would do with the scale. Take a measuring cup and scoop one cup of corn seeds on one side of the scale. Ask the children, What do you think will happen when I put this cup of  bean seeds into the other side of the scale? Take one cup of bean seeds in the other side. Ask, “What happened? Why is one side lower than the other?”   As children respond, restate their responses, emphasizing vocabulary that pertains to weight and measurement.   “I have 4 different kinds of seeds – corn seeds, bean seeds, pea seeds and sunflower seeds. I wonder which seed is heavier?” Ask the children to guess which seed they think is heaviest. Ask the children to place a picture of the seed that they think is heaviest on the chart.

“How do you think we can do that? What would we do first to find out which seed weighs the most?” Write down the process for answering the question, “Which seed is heaviest?” Carry out the procedure with the children.


Invite the children to draw the steps they took to find out which seed was heaviest.  Compare their prediction to their results. Discuss if and why their predictions did not match their results.  Place other materials in the science area for the children to experiment with weight.



How to Make Vegetable Soup


  • Broccoli, onion, carrots, potato, green beans, cabbage, tomatoes, green pepper, zucchini, ear of corn, pot, spoons, safety knives, cutting boards, water, peas, seasonings (parsley, marjoram, salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf)
  • chart paper
  • markers
  • stove
  • hot pads
  • bowls
  • spoons
  • napkins


Ask the children to recall how vegetable soup was made in the book. “What happened first? What ingredients do we need? What kitchen utensils do we need? What do we need to do to prepare the vegetables for the soup? What do we need to do to be safe in the kitchen?”  Use the information to create a recipe with the children. Draw/Add pictures to the different steps in the recipe to help children “read” the recipe. Using the recipe, make vegetable soup.

While following the recipe, invite children to take turns reading the recipe and directing the class/group as to what to do next. Encourage children to talk about what they are doing, using vocabulary from the story.


Take pictures of process and create a book, documenting how children made vegetable soup. Solicit pictures from children of their favorite part of the process and include in the book. Include children’s comments in book. Send copies of the book home to parents or invite parents to come in and make vegetable soup with their children. Take a survey of the class – Did you like the vegetable soup? Yes or no? Graph their responses.



Veggie People


  • Whole carrot
  • Various vegetables cut into different sizes and shapes
  • toothpicks


Lay out a whole carrot (with leaves, stem and roots still intact). Discuss with the children the different parts of the carrot, naming the parts of the plant. Now, take the carrot and cut the carrot and clean the carrot. Lay out other various vegetables cut into various sizes. Invite the children to use the pieces to create a veggie person.

As they create their veggie people, encourage the children to describe their creations and how they are attaching pieces and what size, vegetable and shape they are using. Ask questions such as “who has a veggie person that has a round head?” or “does anyone have a person with a body made from a triangle shaped root?”


Display or take pictures of their creations. Invite children to dictate how they created their person – what pieces did they use, what shapes are the pieces, what parts of the plant were used?


Close-up mid section of woman holding seedling --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Close-up mid section of woman holding seedling — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis


Growing Plants


  • Recording of calming music


Ask the children, “Where does a plant come from?” As the children come up with seed, invite the children to pretend to be a seed. “What would that look like?” (put your hand into a fist or your body into a ball) “What happens next? The seed sends out root into ground below. Can you show me how a seed sends out its roots?” (put fingers out or stretch out legs) “Then the sprouts begin to push their way through the ground” (move your fingers or arms upward). “What does the plant need to grow?”  (sun, water) Then the warm sun hits the plant, the rain sprinkles down, and it begins to stretch upward.”  (reach your hands and arms up) “Then the breeze comes along and the branches of the plant are blown gently” (sway your hands and arms above your head)  “Now we are ripe and ready to be picked.”


Encourage the children to make their own drawings of a plant growing from a seed to a plant. Place sequencing cards of a plant’s life cycle in the science area and invite the children to place the cards in sequential order.


I created an Activity Handout with a printable version of the listed activities

Want more ideas? I also created a handout with Other_Fruits_and_Vegetable_Activities.
Have a Great Week!


Kacey Deverell is the Mentor Supervisor at Early Childhood Alliance. She coordinates the mentoring team as well as provides mentoring and technical assistance for Paths to QUALITY programs. She has a Master’s degree in education from Ball State University. You can email or contact her at 800-423-1498 extension 2483.

Indoor Fun – Snow Day

Some days it’s just too cold to go outside and play, or the weather doesn’t cooperate in another way.  Whatever the weather, I have a special day planned for the kids – an indoor snow day.  I have come up with a list of some games, activities, and treats that we can pick and choose to do throughout the day.  This would also be fun as a family activity anytime of the year.

Have a Great Week!




Snowball Games are Minute to Win it Style games.  I found this list a couple of years ago, and Hank looks forward to doing them every year – especially the indoor snowball fight.  This year we are going to start out the games by hiding all of the “snowballs” around the house and have a scavenger hunt.

Also, to go along with the games we already have, we are adding a couple of new ideas.




The kids both love craft time, and here a couple of projects that I know they will enjoy.


Who doesn’t love a good book?  Here are a couple of resources with a variety of snow or winter books.  A couple of our favorites are Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton, and If It’s Snowy and You Know It, Clap Your Paws! by Kim Norman.

Here are a couple of math-related activities that we will incorporate into the day.

We love experiments, so here is a great resource with ideas.



from Inspiration Laboratories


We kept a couple of the larger boxes from Christmas to use for our snow bricks activity (see below).  I also saved white tissue paper and collected snowflake stickers.



from Things to Share and Remember

  • Snow Bricks (boxes covered in white paper and snowflakes) to build a snow fort or Igloo
  • Or make a fort or igloo with blankets and a table

Here is a list of props to use with this snowy dramatic play activity:

  • Ear Muffs and Hats
  • Scarves
  • Jackets and Snow Suits
  • Sweaters
  • Boots
  • Long Underwear
  • Buckets and Shovels
  • Snow (cotton balls, styrofoam)
  • Thermos and Cups
  • Snowman Blocks (see below)
  • Let your imagination go wild!

Idea:  Try putting your dramatic play and block play materials together.  See what happens?



from No Time for Flashcards

We have saved quite a few spice jars to use for our snowman “blocks” idea from No Time for Flashcards.  We also saved small Pringles cans to use as a larger version of these blocks as well.



I thought it would be fun to incorporate themed snacks into our day of fun!  Here are a couple of quick, simple ideas that we are going to try.

We are going to continue the fun through dinner.  The kids are going to help prepare 2 “Pizza Snowmen”  – one with mushrooms for eyes, mouth & buttons, and one with black olives instead so each child has his/her favorite topping.


Snowman Pizza from Delia Creates


On The Go Activities – Thanksgiving Kit

If your family is like mine, we are on the road visiting family for Thanksgiving.  Since there are usually no, or few, other kids to play with, I take along an activity bag to keep the kids entertained.  Here are some of the new ideas that I have added for this year’s trip.



Turkey Hunt from Bloom



Don’t Eat Tom Turkey from Happy Home Fairy 



Games in a Jar from Lost Button Studio



Drumstick Hunt from Parents



Turkey Egg-Tivities from Parents 


From my family to yours – Happy Thanksgiving!

Have a Great Week!


Take A Walk

What is your favorite season?  Mine is fall.  I love everything about it – the cooler weather, the leaves changing color, football, the local street fair, etc.  On one of these beautiful fall days the kids and I are going to go on a walk around the neighborhood.  Here are some ideas I have for before, along the way, and after we get back home.  I can’t wait!


Have a Great Week!





Before we go on our walk we are going to make a snack to take with us.  I found a recipe from for a snack mix that I can make in the crockpot, and modified the recipe to make our own NatureWalkSnackMix

I have all of the stuff I need in the pantry so whenever the day comes for our walk, I will be all set.  If it is a day that Hank is in preschool, Faith and I will make it up while he is gone.  If it happens to be a Friday when he is off, we can all do it together.   We will then put the snack mix in snack bags to take along with us.  I will also take along some water bottles for everyone.


We are going to play our I Spy Nature game for a fun activity.  I printed all of the Nature I Spy cards from Spell Outloud onto cardstock. Then I put them on an “o” ring in for usability.  A quick, easy activity that is ready to go.


We are going to be collecting items (leaves, acorns, pinecones, sticks, etc.) to make a Fall Wreath inspired by a My Kids Adventures post.  I went to the craft store and bought a bare wreath to decorate.  While there I also found little bags for the kids to fill with the treasures they find.  When we get home from the walk, we will glue the treasures onto the wreath with a glue gun.  Then we can hang it on the door as a fall decoration.


We are also going to collect acorns and loose acorn tops to use after the walk for some math activities inspired by Living Montessori Now’s post about Outdoor Acorn Math Activities.  I made a template for the Acorn Number Cards, the Acorn Size Cards, and the Venn Diagram.  This way we can do the activities again inside even after our outside time is over.


After our walk we are also going to drink cider and read books about fall.  One of our favorites is Clifford’s First Autumn, by Norman Bridwell.  Clifford has been a favorite of mine since I was in kindergarten, and my kids love the stories as well.  Besides, Bridwell has Indiana (Kokomo) roots, and I love exposing my kids to Hoosier connections.