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!


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.

On The Go Activities – Waiting Games

This time of year finds ours family going out to eat with friends and family more than ever.  Taking children to a restaurant (especially a toddler and preschooler) is sometimes very challenging.  To help pass the time while we wait for a table or for the food to arrive, I try to have activities available for the kids to keep them occupied.  Yes, I do have a tablet that we can bring, but I like to pack other non-electronic forms of entertainment.  I usually have a collection of these activities pre-packed in the car – our Take-Along Activity Kit. When we get to the restaurant or appointment, I can pull out a couple of activities to keep the kids occupied.

For most of the activities I like using pencil bags with zippers that I usually get for $1 a piece at Big Lots or Dollar Tree.   Some activities that I have pre-packed are:

  • Books – I Spy Books are always a hit.  We also like to take seasonal books.
  • Small Puzzles – Hank loves the tiny puzzles that come in the mini-tins.  They can fit easily on a table and are great for passing the time.
  • Lacing Cards – Hank and Faith both like to use the lacing cards and “sew” like Mommy.
  • Cutting & Craft Bag – I include pieces of construction paper, a pair of scissors, stickers, crayons, and art kits.  I also like to use the activity packs that you can get at the store that include an activity pad, stickers and crayons all in one.  The activity pads with an “invisible” marker that reveals the colors or pictures on each page are a big hit as well.
  • Games Bag – I have a collection of small, portable games that fit easily in a bag.  Hank received a Highlights subscription from his grandparents and they sometimes have games at the end.  We cut them out and put them in a bag for something different to play on the go.  Some free printable games that Hank really likes that are in our bag are:  Role A Monster, a free printable available from 3 Dinosaurs; the Little Game Box(a treasure hunt game and a memory game) from Dabbled; and the Travel Dice Game from The Activity Mom.
  • And More – I am always finding new activities on Pinterest or when I am out shopping.  Following are some of the activities that I have made to include in our take-along kit.

Have a Great Week!





I saw this idea and made it for Hank when he was a toddler.  He used it a lot and now Faith does as well.  It really keeps her entertained.

Pipe Cleaner Game

From Dose of Happy

Game Supplies:

  • Bottle that has a lid with holes (I used a parmesan cheese bottle, but a spice bottle would work as well).
  • Pipe cleaners (I cut sparkly pipe cleaners into different lengths to fit into the bottle).


Dump the pipe cleaners out of the bottle into a pile.  Have your child put the pipe cleaners into the bottle through the holes.  A fun and easy game that helps your child work on fine motor skills at the same time.  While she is doing the activity, we talk about the colors of the pipe cleaners as well.



Hank and Faith both love cars.  I combined the ideas from several different ones I have seen to make this kit that they both will love.

Mini Car Kit

Kit Supplies:

  • Small Cars – I found a package of 8 mini cars – 2 each of 4 different colors – at the dollar store.  I ended up getting 2 packages so we have plenty.  I wrote numbers on each car with a permanent marker.
  • Car Pattern Cards from Toddler Approved  – I printed off the pattern cards and colored them in to match the cars I found for the kit.)
  • Road Letter Tracing Book from Playdough to Plato – I put the printed pages in a small photo book.
  • Parking Lot Play Mat(idea from Little Family Fun)
  • Car Race Game (idea from Little Family Fun)  – I customized our game to match the colors of cars we have in the kit.


  1. Patterns – Have your child pick a pattern card.  Then have him take the cars and make the same pattern as on the pattern card.
  2. Letter Tracing – Have your child pick a car and trace the letters in the Road Letter Book.
  3. Number Match – Have your child find the number on each car and then drive the car to the correct parking spot in the number parking lot.
  4. Car Race Game – Put a car of each color at their starting spaces.  Then have your child draw a color card.  Whatever color is drawn, move that car forward 1 spot.  Play until 1 car reaches the finish line.



Hank loves anything Lego.  When I saw this idea, I knew that it would be a hit for a take-along-activity.

Lego Kit

Kit Supplies:

  • Plastic Pencil Box
  • Legos (list of needed pieces available through link below)
  • Lego Pattern Cards from Fun at Home With Kids


Your child picks a pattern card and builds a structure with the Lego’s that matches the card.




One of Hank’s favorite things is “I Spy”, therefore this bag is right up his ally.  I originally got this idea from Grow.  Instead of using a bottle, I put the items in a pencil bag

I Spy Bag

Bag Supplies:

  • Pencil Bag or Bottle with Lid
  • Small Assorted Toys and Items (colored pom pom, penny, paper clip, black bean,puzzle piece, stretchy worm, crayon, decorative jewel, bead, googly eye, noodle, etc.)
  • Rice
  • Find It Card of items in bag (I just took a picture of the items before I put it all together)


Look at the picture card and then find the items in the “I Spy” bag.



Hank and Faith both love playing with craft sticks – counting or building.  I combined the ideas from a couple of posts that I liked to make this kit.

Craft Stick Kit

Kit Supplies:


  1. Patterns – Have your child pick a pattern card, and then take the sticks and recreate the pattern.
  2. Counting Game – Put the sticks in a pile and roll the dice.  Take that number of sticks from the pile and put them back in the bag.
  3. Stick Pile Up – Take turns putting the sticks in a stack.  See how many can be stacked without tipping them over.



I combined ideas from 3 different blogs for this Paperclip Kit.  It is already a favorite.

Paperclip Kit

Kit Supplies:


  1. Sorting – Have your child take the paperclips and put them on the matching color circles, either just piling them up on top of the circle, or clipping them around the outside of the circle.
  2. Counting – Have your child take pick one of the Brown Bear Number Cards and put a chain of paperclips together to match the number on the card.
  3. Patterns – Have your child pick a pattern card, and then take the paperclips and make the same pattern as on the pattern card.

Outdoor Fun – Games

My favorite outdoor game as a child was hide-and-seek.  I grew up on a farm and it was a GREAT place to play hide-and-seek.  It also helped that I have many cousins who would come during the summer to visit and made the games extra fun.

Hank and Faith love to be outside as much as possible.  As they are getting older, I am always looking for quick and easy outdoor games and activities.  Below are a few ideas that require very little preparation and/or materials.  In fact, all the ideas use just 2 jump ropes and very little additional equipment.  Feel free to change the rules and/or add a personal touch.  These ideas would also work well in a child care setting, for a youth group, or a gathering of kids.

Have a Great Week!



The Hungry Octopus

To play, pick one person to be the “octopus”. Then, use 2 jump ropes to make 2 lines at least 15 feet apart.  The other players, the “fish” then line up on either line.  When the octopus shouts “hungry,” everyone tries to cross to the other side while the octopus tries to tag them.  When a fish is tagged, he becomes a tentacle and has to hold hands with the octopus, working with him to try to tag the other fish. When everyone is part of the Octopus, the last fish caught is the new octopus for the next round.  Happy swimming!


Everyone Race or Relay

Mark a starting line and a finish line. Everybody can do it at the same time or you can make it a relay race where everyone works together.  To play, everyone “moves” to the finish line in a pre-determined way:  crab walk, crawl, scooting on your bottom, bear walk, bunny hop, frog jump, hopping on one foot, buzzing like a bee, etc.  Any way you choose, but the normal walk.

You can also do other things such as: walk backwards, as slow as you can, as fast as you can, etc.  If you do a relay, try doing it with just one team and timing how long it takes to do a certain race.  Then the team can try to beat their time and go faster.  Happy racing!


Cross the Creek

Cross the Creek Game 1 – To play, put two jump ropes about a foot apart on the ground.  Next, take turns trying to jump over the creek. When everyone has jumped once, move the ropes about another foot apart.  Keep moving the ropes until no one can cross the creek without falling in-between the ropes.  Happy jumping!

Cross the Creek Game 2 – To play, put two jump ropes about 5 feet apart on the ground.  Give each child 2 “stones” (paper plates).  Have them start at one end of the “creek” and cross the creek by just stepping on the stones.  If they are struggling, you might have to show them how to place the two stones on the ground and move to the farthest stone, then pick up the stone behind you and put it in front of you to step on.  After everyone has crossed the creek, make it bigger and do it again.  Happy crossing!


Splash in the Bucket!

To play, put two jump ropes about 5 feet apart on the ground.  Then place the bucket behind the farthest rope for the “target”.   You will also need a bucket of wet splashballs*.  Have the kids stand behind the first rope and try to hit the “target” with their balls.  Play until all balls have been thrown.  Count how many balls the group got into the bucket.  Play again and see if they can get more in the bucket the second time.  Happy Splashing!

*Splashballs are a reusable alternative to water balloons.  Instructions to make DIY Splashballs to use in your home or child care.




zoom  From – Chase Games / Mind Games / Physical Games / Physical Challenges / Relay Races / Sports Games / Word Games – Ideas  to get kids active and playing.


Ulitmate Camp Resource – Hundreds of different games for endless summertime fun at

123 – Games

As you know, my family loves board games (as expressed in previous posts).  It has always been a huge part of our family life, both prior to children and even more so with children.  As I’ve stated before, playing games isn’t just for fun. When young children play board games, they practice skills, such as:

  • Using language
  • Communication
  • Reading symbols
  • Taking turns
  • Following rules
  • Planning
  • Patience, Persistence, Risk-taking
  • Fine motor development

They also practice math skills:

  • Counting with one-to-one correspondence
  • Estimation
  • Performing simple operations (e.g., dividing cards evenly, adding one more)
  • Problem-solving
  • Identifying patterns
  • Identifying attributes (colors, shapes and sizes)
  • Directionality
  • Predicting the outcome

Here are some of our family favorite board games that incorporate math into the fun.

Have a Great Week!



  • Feed the Kitty by Gamewright
  • Spot It Numbers & Shapes by Blue Orange
  • Catch the Match by Playroom Entertainment
  • Count Your Chickens by Playroom Entertainment
  • Pajaggle Rings by Pajaggle
  • Fix the Fence by Weekend Farmer
  • Zeus on the Loose by Gamewright
  • Blink by Mattel
  • Pajaggle by Pajaggle
  • Gold Digger By Out of the Box
  • Rivers, Roads & Rails By Ravensburger
  • Farming Game KIDs by Weekend Farmer 
  • Exact Change By Continuum

123 – Duck! Duck! Fun!

My two-year old loves Rubber Ducks.  In fact, she has a basket filled with ducks of different shapes and sizes.  At least once a day she has them out to play with, spread out all over the floor.  We have a couple of games that our son likes to play with the ducks called, Duck! Duck! Go! and Duck! Duck! Safari! but Faith isn’t old enough to play them yet.  So, a couple of weeks ago I put together some early math activities using the ducks just for her.


One Duck, Two Ducks, Three Ducks, More

I love the Rubber Ducky Counting Mats that I found from Line Upon Line Learning.   We use the counting mats with her basket of ducks.   Don’t have rubber ducks? NO PROBLEM.  Use this Rubber Duck Printable.  Just print a couple of copies of the ducks and cut them out.  We spread out the counting mats on the floor and talk about what number is on the card.  Faith then puts a duck on top of each duck on the card.


How Many Ducks in the Pond?

I got this idea from a post I saw from .  I found a blue bowl for us to use as a pond, or you can use our Duck Pond Printable, a large dice, and our basket of ducks.  Then Faith rolls the dice, and we count the dots together.  Then she puts that number of ducks into the “pond.”


Find the Duck

Hide 5-10 rubber ducks in a room.  Have your child go find a duck and bring it back to the pond.  As your child brings back each duck, count how many ducks are in the pond.  Continue until all ducks have been returned to the pond.


Put the Ducks in a Row

I got this idea from a post I saw from  I use the same blue bowl from our Duck Pond activity as a pond, Duck Chart Printable, and 10 ducks numbered 1-10.  If you don’t have ducks, you can make a second copy of the duck chart and cut the ducks apart.  We put all the ducks in the pond and lay the chart in front of us.  Then Faith pulls the ducks out one at a time.  We talk about what number is printed on the bottom and then find the matching number on the Duck Chart.


Duck Race

I used this idea when I taught preschool.  You will need 2 ducks, a River Race Board Printable, and a quarter.   Put your ducks on start.  Take turns flipping the quarter.  If you get a heads up, move forward 2 spaces.  If you get a tails up, move forward 1 space.  Play until everyone gets to the end of the river.  As you swim down the river, talk about the numbers you land on along the way.


Ten Little Ducks

We count out 10 ducks and put them into our pond.  Then we read our Ten Little Ducks poem and do the actions along with it.  This is also fun to do during bath time.


Have a Great Week!


Family Activity – Our Summer A to Z List

Like most parents, I look forward to spending more time with my preschool child this summer.  However, I also know that he is going to miss the activities, fun, and socialization he gets during the school year from his preschool.  To help alleviate some of the anxiety of planning activities to do for the summer by myself, together we worked on an A to Z List of things he wants to do over the summer.  Please feel free to use these ideas, along with the other resources listed below, as a starting point for your own summer activity list.

Have a Great Week!




Summer A to Z List

A – Arts & Crafts – Make a couple of art projects each week.

B – Bike – Take a family bike ride around the neighborhood.

C – Camping – Go on a family camping trip.

D – Drive-In Theater – Go to the drive in and experience watching a movie outside.

E – Exercise – Do some type of exercise each day.  Participate in the Family Fitness Challenge –  make family fitness a focus throughout the year.

F – Frisbee Golf – Go to the local park and play Frisbee Golf.

G – Geocaching – Go on a Geocaching adventure.  Geocaching is a treasure hunting game where you use a GPS to hide and seek containers with other participants in the activity.

H – Hike – Take a family walk on our local walking trail.

I –    Ice Cream – Make homemade ice cream.

J –   Just spend time together. It is alright to just unplug and spend a leisurely day together doing whatever the kids want to do – play outside, read books, go swimming, etc.

K – Keep Safe – Take a swimming class.  Hank fell in the swimming pool last summer and it really left a lasting impression.  Even though we got him in the water soon after the experience, he is still very hesitant.  I want to give him the tools he needs to feel confident in the water and feel safe in case it happens again.

L –   Library – Participate in the summer reading program at our local library.  To find your local library visit Public Libraries – Indiana

M – Museum – Visit a local museum ( i.e. Historical Society Museum – to find your local Historical Society information visit through the Indiana Historical Society website).  Visit the local Visitor’s Bureau of ideas of interesting places to go in your area – be a tourist in your own town/county.  For information on Indiana and your local visitors bureau visit

N – Neighborhood Garage Sale – Sort through toys and pick some to sell, and some to donate (i.e local preschool).

O – Obstacle Course – Set-up an obstacle course in our back yard.

P – Plant a vegetable and flower garden.

Q – Quick, Easy Fun.  Have family game night. Make popcorn and watch a favorite family movie together.  Put a puzzle together.

R – Read, Read, Read – Read books together every day.

S – Scavenger Hunt – Go on a scavenger hunt.  Check out some pre-made scavenger hunts – A Year’s Worth of Scavenger Hunts for Kids – from the Mother’s Niche Blog.

T – Trains, Trains & More Trains – Ride a train, visit a model train, and play with trains at home.  Hank enjoys riding the Little River Railroad in Michigan, but for his birthday we are taking him to Heston.  He also enjoys visiting the model train layout in Garrett.  On a daily basis you can find him in his room creating train layouts with his wooden train set.

U – Unplug – Have time where no electronics are allowed.  We are going to make a conscientious effort to turn off the TV, tablet, computer and other distractions for enjoying time together.

V – Visit the Fair – Go to the 4-H Fair or The Indiana State Fair.  Every once in a while nothing makes you happier than fair food, animals and carnival music. For 4-H Fair Dates, visit Countyfairgrounds, USA – Indiana.

W – Wonderopolis – Participate in Camp Wonderopolis, a fun, free opportunity for parents and children to learn together during the summer.

X – X-tra Special Times with Friends – Make time to see friends.  Nothing beats time with friends!  Hank enjoys seeing his school and church friends at VBS.  We also have an annual get together with a group of friends over July 4th and have “Camp” for the kids.

Y – Yard – Have fun outside in our own backyard – set up the tent, play in the sandbox, enjoy water fun, etc.

Z – Zoo – Visit a Zoo.  We enjoy the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, but there are other options available in Northern Indiana as well.  Check out the Potawatomi Zoo in South Bend, or Black Pine Animal Sanctuary in Albion.

On The Go Activities – Rest Stop Kit

Does your family have a road trip coming up this summer?  Mine is no exception.  In fact, we have a couple in the very near future.  First off, let me tell you that being cooped up with the kids in a vehicle for an extended number of hours is NOT my idea of fun.  However, it is a necessity to arrive at a desired destination.  To help keep everyone’s stress level under control and make the experience as pleasant as possible, we tend to stop every couple of hours.

In the car we always keep the following on hand for rest stops: bubbles, a couple balls, a Frisbee, sidewalk chalk, and a jump rope.  We are also packing a soccer ball this year since Hank started playing in the spring and absolutely loves it.

In planning for longer time in the car, I put together an activity kit to use when we stop along the way.  This will help everyone get the wiggles out and burn off some excess energy.  I thought it would be fun to have some additional games/activities that we can do as a family and make the rest stops more effective.

I would love to hear what you do to re-charge during a long road trip?

Have a Great Week!




  • Basket (Multi-Purpose: used in Games and also to hold everything)
  • 4 Mini Frisbees
  • 2 Jump Ropes
  • Paper Plates (at least 2 for each person)
  • Balloons
  • 8 Balls (Various Sizes)
  • 4 Rope Circles
  • 5 Mini Cones
  • Movement Dice
  • Rest Stop Exercise Cards
  • Rest Stop Game Cards







When it came time to include items in our Rest Stop Kit, my mind kept drifting back to the following two posts.  So combined both ideas and created the Movement Dice.

  • I read this blog a while ago from called Exercise … with Dice! and thought it was an interesting idea.




Since my brain usually stops working during our road trips, I wanted some printed Exercise Cards.  These cards have ideas of ways we can move our body during our rest break so we don’t have to come up with them on the fly.

  • I found some great information from Road Trip! 10 Rest Stop Activities for Kids by The Inspired Treehouse.   I used a lot of their ideas and created the printable exercise cards (activities) linked to above.  Be sure to check out their Outdoor Sensory Motor Scavenger Hunt.  I plan to use it as a stand-alone activity when my kids get older.




I created printable Game Cards so that all of the ideas would be right at my fingertips. Most of the games I previously used in another blog, but decided they fit in perfectly with our Rest Stop Kit as well.  However, the following games were inspired by other blog posts that I have recently read.

  • Ins and OutsI was reading a blog post from Organize Your Stuff Now about Outdoor Games for Kids and thought this game would be great to use as a resource for our family. 
  • Miniature Frisbee Golf – I saw a pin from Moms of All Trades and thought it would be nice as a mini take-along version.