Monthly Archives: March 2012

Numbers, counting, and place value with Cheerios


Sure. Kids can count. If they’ve memorized really well and “get” the pattern, they can count to a hundred! But do they know what all those numbers mean? When I realized that my son was easily reciting his numbers without the knowledge of place value (tens, hundreds, thousands) I pulled out the Cheerios (our favorite counting food) and several plastic cups.

Counting by tens

We placed a handful of Cheerios into the first cup and estimated the number of cereal pieces.

To find out how many Cheerios were in the cup, rather than straight counting, I challenged the boys. “Each cup can only hold 10 Cheerios. Let’s start by filling the first cup with 10.”

After we added 10 Cheerios to the first cup I explained that it was time to move on to cup two. We counted out another 10 and found there were 6 left over. Then we counted by tens: 10… 20… plus 6 is 26 Cheerios!

What is 100?

Of course, the boys wanted to get to 100, so we continued to add Cheerios to each cup in groups of 10. They realized as they counted by tens that we’d need 10 cups to have 100 Cheerios. Quickly they could envision “how much is 100.” They also quickly mastered counting to 100 by tens.

Moving on to bigger numbers

counting bigger numbers

Of course, they weren’t finished yet, as they next wanted to envision one thousand. Rather than putting out 100 tens cups, we counted by hundreds to 1000. Realizing that we’d need 10 more groups of 10 cups, we opted to pour all 100 Cheerios into one larger cup (in our case, a pitcher) and called that our hundreds cup. We traced the hundreds cup onto paper 10 times to show 1000 Cheerios.

Next, we added a few more Cheerios into the hundreds cup without counting! (oops!) We estimated our Cheerios again and divided them into tens cups. Because we had a few more cheerios this time, we knew we’d need more cups and added them until we found we had 142 Cheerios, needing 14 cups with 2 left over Cheerios.

There are endless ways to learn math through cereal pieces (and other small foods.) What are some ways you use food to teach and learn?

Find Us On Pinterest


Pinterest is one of the fastest growing social networks, allowing people  share their favorite images around the web. Along with beautiful crafts, home decor and fashion ideas, we’ve been enjoying the huge number of resources available to parents to help with educating their children on Pinterest.

If you are already loving Pinterest or even if you’re brand new, we’d love to swap ideas. Join us for book suggestions, children’s activities, and ideas about getting your child excited about learning.

Follow us here: Follow Me on Pinterest

Learning with Ms. Frizzle


I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the twins borrow books from their school library each week.  At least the last five books my little man has borrowed have been from The Magic School Bus series.  This is not the first sign I’ve seen of his interest in these books, both he and his sister have borrowed them on occasion before.

The first time one came home I thought for sure that the books were a little old for them, they can be quite lengthy, and delve into a variety of scientific topics.  The kids are only five years old, and more often than not are reading about trains, animals, and in my daughters case, Pinkalicious.  However I think the combination of these books being set in a fun classroom environment, and all of the wonderful adventures the children take on the school bus seem to have my kids completely enthralled.

Here are a few of The Magic School Bus books and some fun interactive learning activities you can do with your children.

The Magic School Bus Gets Planted

  • Activity: Have your child grow beans from seeds.  They will learn how to care for their new plant, as well as learning important information about what plants need to thrive.  The end reward will be them picking, preparing, and eating the beans they grow.

The Magic School Bus Sees Stars

  • Activity: On a clear evening take your children outside to lay under the stars. Print a map of the stars and let them observe that before heading outdoors, you might want to take a flashlight with you too so they can compare the map to what they are seeing above them.  Can they see the Milky Way, or a shooting star?  Have them draw or paint a picture of the night sky as they saw it.  Do they have glow-in-the-dark stars?  If they do have they may want to arrange them just like their picture.  Also, if you have a science center or planetarium in your area take the kids along so they can learn even more about the solar system, make sure to sign up for updates too, on occasion they may have night viewings led by experts.

The Magic School Bus Gets Recycled

  • Activity: Encourage your kids to recycle.  Set up a variety of bins for them to place items such as batteries, cans, bottles, paper, compostable materials, and garden waste.  Take them to visit a recycling center, and if you have curbside recycling pick-up in your area they will love watching the truck coming to collect items for recycling.  Also see if there are facilities available close by where kids can take cans and bottles and redeem them for a little pocket money.

Don’t forget to take them on a fun bus ride too.


Have you done any fun activities based on The Magic School Bus books?

Having Fun with Math and Jewelery Making


Jewelery making is a great way to help our little ones refine and master their fine motor skills.  It’s also a good way to introduce them to the concepts of measurement and estimation.  Both boys and girls will enjoy making jewelry.  In addition to the educational component, making jewelery allows children to express themselves creatively.  When they are all finished with their special piece, they can wear it with pride or give the jewelery as a special gift to someone.

We first started making our own jewelery when my daughter turned four.  It was her fourth birthday party and she wanted a princess themed party.  What better craft to do at a tea party full of princesses?  The girls all had a great time and they were able to take their pieces home with them.

Now at age seven, my daughter and her brothers still enjoy making their own jewelry. It’s perfect for a rainy day or to break up the same old routine.  Since we first started making our jewelery, I have also incorporated some educational fun into the craft.   The children don’t even realize they are working on math while having fun. If you haven’t tried jewelry making with your kids yet, below are a few tips you may want to incorporate and the supplies you’ll need.

How to make jewelery with children and incorporate some math fun into the project:

Supplies: Most craft stores will have kits available for sale.  You could also piece together your own kit for a fraction of the cost.  Either way, here is what you’ll need.

  • Durable elastic
  • Scissors
  • Beads of various sizes and color. Be careful the holes aren’t too small as this can cause frustration when the bead doesn’t go into the elastic easily.
  • Small containers for the beads.  Tupperware, egg cartons, or baby food jars work great. I would suggest removing the beads from their bags as they can easily spill all over the place and that’s no fun.

Math Fun While Jewelery Making

  • Measuring – measure the elastic with a ruler.
  • Discuss patterns – “Did you do a pattern?” “What’s your pattern?” (Note: Your child may decide not to do a pattern which is also fine. Encourage creativity and their own vision for the project.)
  • Estimate how long or how many -  “How many more beads until we are done?”
  • Counting- “Let’s count the number of red beads we used.”
  • Compare- “Let’s compare how long the elastic for the bracelet and the necklace are.”

Do you kids enjoy making jewelery? Share your experiences and ideas!


I Don’t Always Realize they are Learning


Does this happen to you? You are going about your day – cleaning, preparing dinner, buying groceries – and your child surprises you with what they know?

The other day my nearly 3 year old son did this. He sang the alphabet and then spelled his sister’s name. He did this all without me even prompting him, just because he wanted to. I tried to remember if I ever taught him this. I don’t think I did. And he isn’t in preschool; he is with me all day.

Don’t get me wrong – I am always trying to incorporate learning into every little thing we do. But it amazes me how every little thing we do is teaching them and they grasp concepts without a “formal” lesson.

There are 6 early literacy skills that help a child learn to read. According to the Multnomah County Library:

Phonological Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the smaller sounds in words. Phonological awareness includes the ability to hear and create rhymes, to say words with sounds or chunks left out and the ability to put two word chunks together to make a word. Most children who have difficulty in reading have trouble in phonological awareness.

In other words, when I am playing with my kids, making up silly words and laughing at how they rhyme, they are learning something vitally important to reading. In fact, difficulty rhyming might be an early sign of dyslexia.

One of the other early literacy skills is narration. Telling stories. We do this all day without even realizing it. As David plays with his trains he goes from one action to the next and in this role playing he is building blocks for reading skills.  4 year old Lizzie  is always telling me stories about her day – what happened at preschool, who made her mad and why she got a surprise.

How do you discover your kids learning “on the fly?” Do you discover with great surprise that your kids know more than you ever taught them?

Squeezing in Extra Quality Time


Time is a premium these days; especially when you have working parents, multiple kids in multiple activities, extended family with obligations and responsibilities at home. Trying to squeeze in quality family time can sometimes be its own struggle. Finding a balance can be tricky but isn’t impossible. Rearranging some schedules or allowing some “cheats” can be just the trick your family.

  • If a family dinner doesn’t fit into the schedule for a night switch it to family breakfast. Make it simple with cereal or make it a late morning for all with something more elaborate, just make it count.
  • Take one day off from work, activities, and chores and keep it free for fun. Our families deserve our undivided attention so try to keep one weekend day open for each other. Of course there are going to be some unavoidable responsibilities but try to keep them as family-centric as possible.
  • Turn off the electronics in between errands or as you drive back and forth from soccer, scouts, band or whatever turn off the radio, iPod, gaming system and smartphone; talk to each other and find out what is going on in your child’s personal life.
  • Take up a hobby that everyone can enjoy. Is there an arsenal of bikes in the garage? Jump on and kill two birds with one stone: exercise and bonding time.
  • Divide and conquer with your spouse/partner. The busy days are inevitable but make the most by splitting up the duties to get them done more efficiently and quickly. Activities may take you in opposite directions but try to meet at the end to wind-down together.
  • Volunteer as a group. Since many employers and schools enforce a volunteer minimum why not do it together. Strengthen your own family dynamic while doing good for others. Putting in a few hours at a local food back or animal shelter does more than help those in need; it can help build a passion for a field or cause that could later turn into a career choice for a child.

Whether you  take a few moments at bedtime to read a book with your little one or indulge in some video games with the teen, stealing time away from other things is worth it just to spend some time with your family.

Feature photo courtesy of

Welcoming Spring with Indoor Gardening


We’re officially welcoming spring today and nothing celebrates spring better than seeing new seedlings grow! Starting seeds is a great first step in creating an outdoor garden that can help teach your kids about how plants grow and where their food comes from. Although it is still too cold outside for most plants, it isn’t too early to start your garden indoors.

You might want to provide each of your children a section in the garden to take care of all summer, or let them choose to grow their own favorite vegetables.  No matter what you choose to grow, starting seeds inside is a great way to kick off the season.

What you’ll need:

  • empty egg cartons
  • houseplant potting soil
  • seeds for your favorite vegetables (I used tomatoes, arugula, spinach, peas, broccoli, peppers, basil, and kale)
  • spray bottle full of water
  • plastic wrap

Getting Started:

First, poke holes in the bottom of your egg cartons for easy drainage. A thumbtack works perfectly for this step. Then, fill your egg cartons with as much soil as they can easily hold.  Provide your kids with an old household spoon which makes a perfect tiny shovel. If  the weather is nice, this step is best done outside for easy cleanup!

Read the seed packets to find out how deep the seeds should be planted and explain to your kids how to sow them accordingly.  Have your older kids practice reading and following the directions independently.  Spend some time as you plant noticing the different sizes and shapes of each seed and talk with your children about what plant each seed will grow. Keep an eye out to make sure the seeds are not being buried deeper than is necessary.

Provide the kids a spray bottle full of water to keep the plants moist especially until they germinate.  Place the seeds in a well lit, warm area of your home and wait for seeds to sprout.  The cartons can be wrapped in plastic wrap to hold in heat if you suspect they might not be staying warm enough to germinate.

Charge your children with keeping the soil moist and keeping an eye out for new sprouts.  As the plants grow, you will need to transfer them into larger pots or plant them outdoors where they have room to grow. Make sure the seedlings stay indoors until they last danger of frost has passed!


Learning How To Read With Music


A few weeks ago, I had an itch for some new music for the kiddos. The Rusty and Rosy software is constantly using music to teach and so I went to iTunes to see if they had anything available. I do not know why I have never checked to see if they had music available until now! After debating over which album I should try first I finally picked the Beginning Reading Songs.

This was my first official iTunes music purchase and with 20+ tracks and over 10 music videos, I feel I got a lot for my money. Plus, all of this music is educational and easy on the ears. With our current move and all our books and CDs going into boxes, it has been a fun alternative to turn to the Rusty and Rosy music on the computer. The music has a variety of styles and tempos making it enjoyable for the adults in the house to listen to, as well.

I learned long ago the magic of learning for music. It seems like every week my 6 year old son comes home with a new song that is helping him learn something new. The tune of the song is sometimes the same, but because of this simple tune he is grasping the topic of the song a lot quicker than without music. For instance,he learned a song to count by tens to hundreds and recently I heard him using the same tune to count on numbers. It constantly surprises me what he can recall if it is put to music. And an added bonus is that what he comes home singing is often soaked up by his 4 year old sister.

My 4 year old daughter’s favorite song is the ABC Show and Tell Sounds (click the link to see a preview of it. It’s cute!). I love how it is teaching her the alphabet and the sounds of each letter, something that she did seem ready to learn until she started watching/hearing this song.

For me, one of the main reasons I chose this album over the others was for the tracks on language concepts like verbs, pronouns, adverbs, prepositions and quite a few more. I somehow missed learning these concepts in elementary school and did not learn them until I had the 7th grade English teacher assign groups in class to each perform songs focusing on these concepts. It finally clicked for me. I wish I would have had the guts back then to ask to borrow the other tapes to learn all the basic language concepts. Not completely understanding them affected my understanding and writing ability for years including my ability to learn foreign languages. I got lucky and usually did it right, but I never truly understood what I was doing. I still struggle with it and I am excited to have a way for my kiddos to learn them now. I do not want them missing out on knowing those basic language concepts and I hope these songs stick with them for many many years.

Using Playdough in Learning


As forever the parent who forgets to bring the distractions to activities, I was grateful last week when the mom sitting next to me at Big’s basketball game had a few extra canisters of playdough in her bag. While I focused on Big shooting, dribbling, and stealing, I noticed Middle (age 6) and Little (age 2) began to create their own games.

While Little pressed out shapes, balls, and worms, Middle began practicing creating letters. As I glanced over to him, I noticed he was perfecting upper- and lowercases to look correct. Shortly thereafter those letters became small words, and he began teaching his little sister how to make letters.

5 Ways to Use Playdough in Learning

Letter Creation

Children’s hands aren’t always comfortable gripping a writing utensil so playdough offers a great opportunity to exercise the hand muscles and still create letter formation. Practice upper- and lowercase together and “quiz” each other. After your child is skilled you can begin a race to create the letter.

Cursive Writing

As older children learn cursive, you’ll find their hands may cramp more often. Work out that muscle tension with a ball of playdough, but don’t stop the learning. Manipulate playdough letters to connect properly to form connecting cursive letters.

Small Rhyming Words: Phonics

Start with a word like “cat” molded in playdough and show that the first letter can be changed to create a new word again and again and again. Roll up the “c” and make it a “b”, “m” and “r.” Then switch the word to “sit”, change the first letter to “b”, and more. Change the game a bit by switching the last letter instead of the first. Or the vowel.

Story Telling

Give your child a container of playdoh and ask him to create a scene or a character. Then ask questions about the creation: What is the character doing? What will happen next? Why did you create this scene? How does the character feel? Once your child has brainstormed a bit, ask him to tell you the story he created.

Have a Conversation

Someimes kids don’t want to talk, but they’re happy to work with their hands. During these times, give your child some playdough and ask a simple question, requiring your child to answer with a word, in playdough. No talking allowed. This game will likely change the attitude of your child; he’ll be far more willing to cooperate when he thinks he’s won the silent game! All along, you’re teaching listening skills, letter formation, reading, writing, and conversation.

How do you use playdough to teach your children?

A Green St. Patrick’s Day


St. Patrick’s Day is this Saturday, and that means green day—a day all about green. For younger children who are learning colors, this is a great day to have fun with the color green.

What can you do with the color green? Here are just a few ideas:

Make green food: You can make green eggs and ham for breakfast (and maybe read the book a little later). You can also color lunchmeat green with food coloring or make green meatloaf for dinner. Or, for a simple green meal, make a green salad.

Color in only greens: Find all the different shades of green you can and color or draw—create a picture. You can use crayons, paints, markers, glitter, etc.

Find the green: It’s like “Where’s Waldo.” Go throughout the house with your child and have your child find all the greens—anything that is the color green. This is a great way to make sure your child understands the concept of this color. You can even have a prize for finding so many “greens.”

Play color-matching game: Like memory. You can make a color-matching game with just an even number of cards and some crayons. Color the back of the cards using the crayons. Make sure each color is on two cards. Flip all the cards over and see if your child can match the right colors. Also have your child say the name of the color to practice the concept of matching the word with the object.

Read books with the color green in illustrations: As you read the book with your child, you can point out the colors on each page. You can also play “Find the Green” and point out all the green colors on a page.

This St. Patrick’s Day is full of learning opportunities, besides teaching your young child about the color green. Put on you creative hats and have fun.

Do you have any fun educational plans for this St. Patrick’s Day?

Feature image courtesy of digitalart /