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Recycled art and found poetry

This is the perfect green activity for a rainy day. Here’s what you do.

1. Get out your recycling. Even better, save really good materials for a few weeks – egg cartons, cardboard boxes, strawberry containers, plastic lids are good.

2. Cut out words from the magazines, advertisements, or newspapers in your recycling.

3. Give the kids the words to arrange into a poem. You might want to try it yourself, it’s fun! (Think artist date a la Julia Cameron.)

There are different ways to do found poetry – another way is to look for poetry already written – on the back of a cereal box, in the newspaper – and use entire phrases.

More fun, in my opinion, is to take words and arrange, rearrange, and so forth. Create lots of poems, find your favorite and glue onto a background.

4. Decorate with your recycled materials as a border or frame. Craft your recycled materials into a lovely junk sculpture.

Keep your kids reading over the summer

Get your kids reading this summer! As a teacher, mom, and book nerd, I’m always reading something – for me or for someone slightly younger. Click here for my recommendations by age and topic.

My favorite “get your child to read trick” is (drum roll please . . . ) let them read in bed. Make it easy and fun by giving them a headlamp! Even my four year old “reads” in bed.

Don’t forget to sign your kids up for your library’s Summer Reading Programs. They’ll earn prizes and a free book!

Reading builds brain cells, develops imagination and gives kids an activity. (Subsequently giving tired parents a break. . .) It’s win-win.

If you need some grown-up book suggestions for yourself – email me or friend me on Goodreads. (Told you I was a book nerd.)

Barnes and Noble has a summer reading program.


If you’re in Colorado, here are the links to many library programs.

Denver Public Library

Douglas County Library

Arapahoe Library

Aurora Library

Boulder Public Library


Pikes Peak Library District

HELP! I can’t get my child to write . . .

We’ve all been there. Making our children sit down to WRITE seems like punishment for them and for us. Us, when they throw a fit, cry, or refuse to do it . . . sound familiar?

How about these real life writing experiences . . .

  • LISTS – make a grocery list of your favorite foods, make a list of all the toys you want, make a list of your friends, make a list of your favorite animals in order of preference, etc.
  • POSTCARDS – buy or make postcards – think of friends to write to, or family, and write a quick hello and how are you.
  • DEAR MOM – write a letter to argue for a pet or an allowance raise, make sure you list all the reasons you should get it.
  • TABLE PLACE CARDS – write down everyone’s name and make a seating arrangement for the table. (Even little ones can do this)
  • DIARY – get a new diary and write something every day — mom and dad can’t read it!
  • SUGGESTION BOX – Make a suggestion box for your family, and have family meetings to discuss.
  • MAP – Draw and label a map of your backyard, neighborhood, or park
  • ALL ABOUT BOOK – on your favorite subject (worms, ghosts, rocks, solar system, airplanes) – use the internet and books from the library
  • SURVEY – conduct a survey about favorite foods, favorite ice cream flavors, (can make into a graph later)
  • COMPUTER WORD PROCESSING -Write something on the computer and add pictures from clip art.

Does this help? Will you comment and let me know if you’ve found any that work for your child or other ideas that you’ve tried?

Helping Kids Be Bucket Fillers

Last year my daughter came home from school and told me one of her friends “locked her out” or wouldn’t let her play. It happened the next day and the next. I asked, “Do you really think she’s a good friend?”

“Yes,” she insisted.

Suddenly, my whole life flashed before me. How many times had that happened to me? I hated to see her play with girls who weren’t kind. I knew how that felt.

And then I stumbled upon a wonderful book called Have You Filled A Bucket Today? The book compares our happiness or discouragement with a full or empty bucket. It talks about how we can say nice things to others and that fills their bucket! If we say rude things, it dips out their bucket.

In turn, if others say nice things or rude things, our own buckets can be filled or emptied. It’s a sweet book with lovely examples of real life.

The book helped my daughter take responsibility for her own behavior, kind or unkind. It took the focus off of the other girl as the truth is that we can only be responsible for our own behavior.

She began hanging out with different kids. It helped to have a metaphor to discuss the way she or others acted.

I write this post thinking about going back to school, new friends, old friends and the issues that always arise. If you have preschool aged kids, Fill A Bucket is a version written especially for them.

have you filled a bucket

I hope this helps you as much as it did for our family. What has worked for you?

*image from

Take a pretend trip

Take a pretend trip around your house. Find a suitcase your child can pack with all the very important essentials of travel — favorite toys, books, and valuables – obviously, no clothes required. Mom and dad can do that.

Use chairs to make your car since your child has just learned to drive.
Don’t forget to document this trip with digital (of course) pictures of each destination. When you arrive, write postcards home.

Of course, your young traveler will be collecting souvenirs along the way. Don’t forget about that!
Imagine all the possibilities.

Have a great vacation!

Back to School Best Books

Twenty minutes a day.

It’s the standard homework assignment.  With good reason — practice makes “better.”

Only, it’s not a happy time at my house.

My daughter (A.) has not inherited my passion for books. Since I began reading, I have read for fun, pleasure, escape, and learning.  A. not so much.

And, the irritating thing is that I’ve done all the “right things” – read to her at bedtime, during the day, standing on my head, and all around town. We’ve made weekly library visits, checking out bags full of books. We have books everywhere — collected from yard sales, used book stores, and new book stores. I read myself – which is good modeling for her. Right?

But, I digress. This post is about books – and a picture books to help kids like mine who struggle with reading, or teasing, or separation anxiety.  Here are some of my (our) favorites.  Good examples are always helpful.

Hooray for Reading Day by Margery Cuyler (Jessica Worries series)

Poor Jessica, a first grader, worries about messing up when she reads out loud in class. What’s worse, she’ll have to read in front of the parents on Readers’ Theater Day. It helps to learn that her mom was slow to read. Jessica decides to practice.   She reads every day to her pet dog. It’s a wonderful story about perseverance.

Simon’s Hook; A Story About Teases and Put-Downs by Karen Gedig Burnett

This is my favorite book to help children learn specific strategies when dealing with unkindness.  Simon’s grandma uses the analogy of a fish biting a hook or not biting the hook when dealing with teasing or put-downs. The strategies for not biting include: making a joke about it, agreeing with it, ignoring it, and so forth. Simon learns the strategies and goes back to school, handles the teasing with a strategy, and feels great.

Stephanie’s Ponytail by Robert Munsch

Our heroine, Stephanie, decides to style her hair unlike the other kids – in various ponytail arrangements. Initiall , the other children make fun of her hair. But, then they copy her. This is a hilarious story about doing your own thing and what happens when you follow the group – with a surprise ending.

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

This book made me cry when I first read it. It’s a sweet story about a child’s firsts experience going to school. His mother reassures him that even though she’s not with him, he has the kiss from her right in his hand.

A Thesaurus

This is the BEST for writers. Teachers emphasize that good writers choose wonderful words. Even the best writers use a thesaurus to help find fabulous words.  It’s our best help during writing journal melt-downs.  I highly recommend it.

What other books have helped your child with school related issues?

All kids are smart. Really.

Children differ.  Does your child . . .
love animals?
like to work with others?
like to set goals?
enjoy singing?
do mental math easily?
like word games?
love maps?
excel in sports?

Everyone is smart. In some way. The examples you just read show the different ways in which children are gifted, or in other words, smart.

Parents, you know your kids are smart. But did you know that there are many ways of smart? Multiple Intelligences Theory (from research done by Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard) identifies eight different intelligences or ways of being smart – where as traditionally we think of smart as linguistic and mathematical. Gardner suggests we expand our thinking.

Thomas Armstrong, PhD paraphrases Gardner’s eight intelligences into kid language in his book, You’re Smarter Thank You Think as . . .

Word smart: reading, writing or speaking, foreign languages, story telling, spelling, & more
Music smart: music, singing, instruments, & more
Logic smart: numbers, math, patterns, science
Picture smart: visualize, like art, designing
Body smart: coordinated, athletic, like acting, crafting, repairing
People smart: interested in others, lots of friends, join groups
Self smart: understand self, journal, plan, goal oriented
Nature smart: observe, classify, enjoy outdoors, gardening, cooking

What are you?  What is your child?  Here’s an online test and a printable test.

Try this Fruit Game activity with your toddler to develop all of the intelligences.  Start out with . . . “I’m thinking of a fruit that is round, red, juicy,” sing songs about apples and show the shape of an apple with your hands or body.  See full details by clicking on the link.

Here are some activities for each of the intelligences.

Try these challenging Multiple Intelligences activities online. (for you)

Why does it matter?  What do you think?

Exercise your body — with a frisbee

Don’t you want to tell your kids to just “go outside and play, already?” Do you hear, “But, there’s nothing to do”? Well, how about some Frisbee fun then!

Getting active with kids is all about the fun. First, show your child how to turn the Frisbee into the body, and pitch it out flat. Practice that a bit.

Now you’re ready for Frisbee Action.

Grab a stick, use a tree, aim for a fence and throw. Call it what you will but I call it target practice. (Or Frisbee Golf when you get good.)

My kids favorite is one child holds a hula hoop while the other tries to get the Frisbee through the hoop. I suggest a soft Frisbee for when it hits your child in the head. Ouch. It happens.

Family Fun suggested a game with two Frisbees – basically the object is to never have the two be on the same side at once. So the players are always throwing, catching, throwing, catching. Endless. We like that at my house. Let mom read a book while you perfect that game.

If you want more Frisbee info, check out these links:
Frisbee Tricks Website

Outdoor Fun: Frisbee info and history

Homemade Frisbee Craft

M&M Math (or Chex Mix or Fruit Loops)

Sort, count, add and compare . . . with food! Okay, m&m’s aren’t very healthy – think of the motivation to snack and count at the same time. Or you could try these activities with Chex Mix, jelly beans, Fruit Loops, or trail mix. (Am I on a food kick or what?)

Grab your m&m bag and try these fun math activities.


  • Sort the m&ms into color groups.
  • Draw circles around the groups.
  • Count

First and second graders

  • Estimate how many total and in each group
  • Sort the groups
  • Compare – Greater than? Less than? Equal?
  • Add the groups together
  • Subtract one color group from the total amount

Third and up

  • Estimate total and in each group
  • Sort into groups
  • Graph
  • Divide the total into equal groups. Two groups, three groups, four groups

Related Books

M&M Counting Book

More M&M Math

Weather Window

Choose a “weather window” in your house. Label it to remind yourself and your kids. Maybe somewhere near your eating area.

Post a large thermometer outside. Put up a windsock.

Observe. Is it sunny, cloudy, partly cloudy, rainy, or snowy? (Parents, you can talk about what happens to your kids when the barometer changes. Wacko!) Talk about the weather, the temperature and the wind.
Read the newspaper for the weather forecast. Teach your child where the weather section is located. Show them how to read the 5 day forecast, the high and low, and the weather map.

Weather Picture Books:
Maisy’s Wonderful Weather Book by Lucy Cousins
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballsby Judi Barrett

Weather activities for young kids:

  • Dress your self — choose the best clothes for the weather.
  • Draw a picture of someone (you?) dressed appropriately for the weather.
  • Dress a doll or stuffed animal for the weather.
  • Online game (dress a bear)

Weather activities for older Kids: