Category Archives: Star Bloggers

Earth Day activities and lessons for young children

earth day activity water bottle recycle piggy bank preschool kindergarten

In honor of Earth Day (April 22), we’re sharing quick, easy lessons to use with young children to tie-in to your day. These lessons are suitable for children in grades pre-kindergarten through second grade.

Introduction to Litter for Young Children with The Wartville Wizard

Prior to reading about litter, I was surprised to learn that not all of the four year olds I was working with knew the word “litter.” Together, we defined the word and think of other words that may also mean litter. (Kids will likely list garbage, trash, mess, and junk.)

teaching kids litter earth day

One of our favorite stories, The Wartville Wizard, features an old man who is tired of tidying up the Earth to keep it clean. But when Mother Nature provides him with a special power, he learns he has what it takes to keep the Earth clean. This is a great read-aloud to engage children and begin a conversation about litter and picking up after yourself.

Discuss litter

Next, discuss what we think of litter. Ask the kids why litter is bad and what we can do to stop littering. We created charts with the kids’ responses.

Create Earth Day Posters

trash litter earth day activity kids

Collectively, take the information you shared and create ideas for slogans, posters and poems with the kids. Older kids can work independently or in small groups.  Younger kids can color pictures and get help from teachers and parents to write their thoughts on the paper.

litter earth day poster kids

Go on a Picnic

earth day picnic science littering

What better way to enjoy and appreciate our Earth than to spend time with it? Before Earth Day, plan a picnic with the kids. Create a list of everything you’ll need (include an extra trash bag). Older kids may be prompted to discuss the merits of plastic vs paper.

When you arrive at your picnic spot, take time to look around and identify the nearest garbage cans, reminding the children that it’s their job to clean up after themselves. The “leave no trace” campaign, reminding everyone that when you leave, there should be no trace that you were ever there. For resources, activities and more information, visit the Leave No Trace webpage.

Picnics are always a great time for games and activities, but while there, take a break and have quiet time. Let the children spread out and observe with their senses. What do they hear? See? Smell? Touch? After a few minutes of observing, gather together to discuss the kids’ observations.

Next, ask the kids to look around at the animals in nature. Who else enjoys the Earth when you do? (Look for answers such as other people, babies, birds, dogs, and squirrels.) Discuss why taking care of the Earth is important for everyone in nature and how we can help to take care of the Earth.

Before leaving, play a clean up game and make sure that you Leave No Trace of your picnic and learning time.

Art and Science Activity Using Don’t Throw That Away

recycling earth day kids preschool kindergarten first grade second

Another favorite story, Don’t Throw That Away!: A Lift-the-Flap Book about Recycling and Reusing (Little Green Books), gives us great ideas of what we can do with products that are often thrown away, and helps little minds brainstorm many recycling activities. A few days before Earth Day, ask families to collect reusable products such as cardboard boxes, egg cartons, plastic bottles, jars and containers, as well as old buttons, hair clips and nearly anything they’d usually throw away or recycle that’s clean. (Request that families clean out the bottles and jars before sending them to school.)

egg carton art preschool kindergarten elementary crafts

Just two of the cute creations made with recycled egg cartons.

Gather supplies into a box or on a table and read the book, Don’t Throw that Away! with the kids. After reading, discuss what the kids learned about recycling. Ask them about items they throw into the garbage that could be reused, then share the collection of recycled materials and allow the kids to create freely.

earth day activity water bottle recycle piggy bank preschool kindergarten

This piggy bank was created from a recycled water bottle and scraps of tissue paper.

7 More Earth Day Books for Children

Picnic image used with permission from Hillary Chybinski, My Scraps. Book cover images are publisher images. All other images from Rusty & Rosy contributor Julie Meyers Pron, Julieverse. This post contains affiliate links.

Teaching health: Discussing medicine with your child

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Between 2004 and 2005, an estimated 71,000 children (18 or younger) were seen in EDs each year because of medication overdose.”   Some vitamins and medications seem like fun – pink bubblegum flavored, gummies, fun “blister pack” packaging.  So it is very important to teach your children about medications.

Not only can your instructions protect them from accidental overdose, but it can help them learn about biology and early chemistry.

How you speak to your child about medicines will depend on their age and maturity. Below are just a few ideas for each age group. Please share in the comments how you educate your child about OTC drugs.

1-3 years old

Keep it super simple and serious with young minds. “Only mommy and daddy give you medicine. If you do it, it can hurt your tummy.” At this age they are learning basic cause and effect, to reinforce that with a serious tone.

4-6 years old

At this age they are starting to ask “why” and learn basic critical thinking skills.

A great activity for young children is to pull out a few different medicine bottles from your cabinet and discuss what they are, what they treat, and the side effects.

Knowledge will help your child understand and prevent them from trying to figure it out on their own. Answer all their questions about each medicine. And of course always restate how we rely on pharmacists and doctors to prescribe the amount for our bodies and we cannot take more or we will get sick.

6-10 years old

Depending on your child’s interest level, begin researching what is in your medications and how it reacts to our bodies. Teach them to read the labels.

This is also an excellent age to discuss the importance of following a doctor’s prescription exactly. Ask, “do you know what tolerance is?” and discuss how our body can start making antibiotics ineffective if we don’t take them as prescribed.

The key is communication and knowledge

The less fear and taboo you put on medications and the more knowledge you provide about the effects (good and bad) the more you arm your children with responsibility.

How do you help your children learn about medications? 

Easter Egg Fun

I am a mom of 6 (soon to be 7) and I realized the other day I was a much more fun mom to my preschoolers and toddlers for my first three kids.  My first three girls are each 18 months apart so they kind of did everything together. I did lots of fun learning activities and crafts with them because they could all do it.  Now that my kids range in age from 11 to 1 my toddler and preschooler miss out on all those fun activities.  Life gets busy homeschooling all the big kids! Well, I have decided no more! I am going to do a fun book activity with my toddler and preschooler each week.  The funny thing is the big kids are super excited about it and totally do the activities right alongside the little ones!

My first activity is a painted Easter egg. We began by reading a book of course! All fun activities have to start with a book.We read two books Here Comes Peter Cottontail by: Steve Nelson and Jack Rollins (warning: this one sings and will get stuck in your head for forever) and The Happy Easter Book by: Josie Jones. Any Easter book would work.

 

Then we painted Easter eggs.

 

The supplies we used are:

  • Watercolor paper
  • Watercolor paints
  • Painters tape
  • Scissors

 

Directions:

Start by cutting out an egg shape out of paper. Then using the painters tape make designs on the egg.  The big kids got really detailed, while my three year old was not as detailed.

 

Next, paint away!

 

When they are all dry, remove the tape.

 

Enjoy your creations.

 

My kids had a blast with this and it has really reinforced how kids of all ages love a good picture book and a fun craft activity. I can’t wait to do more and share all the fun!

What are your favorite Easter Crafts?

 

Discipline Tips for Children

Effective Discipline Tips for Children

Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Each decision we make as parents comes with its own set of costs that we might have to pay for at a later date. As you toddler plays in the dog’s water bowl we let out a giggle and let the behavior go as “cute”. As that child gets older and starts swatting at the dog’s tail we can no longer look away with a smile.

Introducing boundaries and restrictions to your children has to become second nature. Living a life of complete freedom may sound magnificent but how would we know accountability and responsibility for our actions.

Disciplining our children can be one of the hardest things we do. We don’t want to be seen as the bad guy but we know we have to guide our children to be truthful, inspired and kind. Following our own hearts is usually the best way but we often get caught up in some traps.

Never threaten bad behavior with empty threats. You child WILL catch on that you won’t follow through. Taking away toys or electronics for a month is excessive and we’ll often cave just after a few days. Stick with a punishment that “fits the crime” and that you’ll really follow through with.

Develop a way to minimize the whining and talking back. Sending children away to another room until the complaining is over is what works best for me. Children know how the best ways to get their parents to cave and getting under our skin often works. Find a way to keep that behavior away from your especially when you’re upset.

Negotiation skills are extremely important and are definitely something we want to develop within our children but not when it comes to setting rules and doling out punishments. Discuss the offending behavior, determine your child’s consequence and then it’s end of discussion. Stay unwavering, they’ll start to realize that you mean business.

Lay down family rules first. If your children don’t know it’s not OK to dig in the garden then it’s not fair to punish them for it the 1st time it’s done. Once it’s been discussed then an appropriate consequence should be upheld. Make the rules clear for everyone and talk about it often so they aren’t conveniently forgotten.

Bribing your baby to crawl by offering a new toy is a great incentive but it’s not the best practice for children who understand right from wrong. Rewarding good behavior with treats, stickers, money and quality time spent together will work much better than disingenuous behavior in the beginning.

Parenting is often about trial and error. We can turn in any direction and fin a new resource that tells us what is best. We have to make our own decisions that make sense for our families. These aren’t rules on how to discipline your children but instead guidelines on how to take the best approach to maintaining a respectful and organized home. Work with your own child’s ages, abilities and awareness to bring out the best in them.

Teach the Joy of Giving Year Round

Every now and then we have the ME, ME, ME Monster creep into our house. This can happen any time of the year, but it seems more common around a big holiday. When this happens, I love to turn to a book for help.

We recently used the book, “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, to help remind everyone that when we give and share with others we can all be happy. You can, of course, twist this around to adapt for any upcoming holiday like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, etc. The more we talked about it, the more I realized how important it was for us to remember and practice these principles year round. Sometimes we just need a little reminder.

How Can You Teach Love and Giving In Your Home?

Here are some of the ideas my children came up with after our discussion of the “Giving Tree”. Another benefit is that many of these ideas allow them to practice their reading and math skills without it being “work”!

 

Write a Special Note

A little note has a lot of power and can go a long way! Encourage your children to write positive notes to friends and family. It will not only make everyone feel good, but it is a great way to practice their writing skills.  I know I have a box of notes that I kept from over the years from loved ones and it has become very special to me. As I go through my kiddos drawers,  I have discovered they keep their notes, too!

 

Bake Treats Often to Share With Others

Who does not feel all warm and fuzzy getting a treat from a neighbor?  And I think that feeling is equally shared with the giver. Teach this love of giving to your children.

My children love to help me bake and they really enjoy delivering them to neighbors. It is a great way to practice math and reading skills, too. Who says you giving and loving can’t be educational?!?!

 

Take Opportunities To Provide Acts of Service

Providing acts of service is another way to grow and share your love. We have been practicing sharing our “Love Bug” (kind of like a Service Bug) in our house and you can always tell which child has just passed on the Love Bug. They are beaming and giddy. I love it!

Alphabet Nature Walk

How to find letters in Nature Activity

We have all taken alphabet nature walks with our kids looking for things that begin with the letter A (apple tree), B (bird), C (cactus), D (dandelion) etc.  We did a little twist on this the last time we went on a walk and we went looking for letters. We didn’t look at signs or license plates but looked at architecture and nature to find things that looked like letters.

This was a little hard at first because you have to think out of the box a little bit but once they got the hang of it, it was super fun.  I let each of the kids take pictures of the letters they found.

They love using my good camera so I think this was their favorite part. We had a little lesson on how to take good photos before we started.  We practiced centering the letter in the picture and zooming.  This activity kept all of my kids ages 10 and under busy for quite awhile.  My three year old even loved it. She found a lot of the letter “O”. It was fun doing an activity that they all got into.

Here are some of our favorite letters….

 

 

My girls have decided that they want to make an alphabet book with all the letters we have found.  We are planning a trip to a historic park soon to see if we can finish our alphabet.

You can also put them together to spell words for signs. If you get the whole alphabet, you can practice writing spelling words and simple sentences. The possibilities are endless!!!

I would love to hear your ideas on what you do with your nature alphabet!!

Want to get the most out of a family trip? Ask questions

among goals on our trip last year: a day on the lake to do nothing but play.

We spend so much time each winter, planning our year ahead. It usually starts with a Saturday afternoon lunch date, where my husband and I relax by a fireplace, tablets in hand and opened to our electronic calendars, discussing open weeks for vacation and family events.

We share what we want to do for our vacation time, what our goals are and how we can do as much as we can. We brainstorm for a bit. We vaguely look at prices and budgets.

And then I go home to research and, in time, bring it all back to the table to discuss progress and planning. Finally, we book our travel time, and I begin dreaming of all the fun we’ll have as a family. Usually, it works.

But we’ve learned to do it a little differently. We’ve learned to listen. Last year, on our road trip to our family vacation in Maine, we asked the kids to each make a list of ten things they wanted to do on our trip. As luck had it, most of their lists overlapped and, through the 10-day trip, we accomplished 9 of ten things on that trip. A success!

But on the way home, something unexpected happened. Our sons (ages seven and nine at the time), sat in the back of the minivan with a map, plotting out a future road-trip. When we arrived home, they transferred their vacation ideas to a dry-erase USA map that hangs on their walls. Unbeknownst to us, the boys had planned an elaborate trip, flying in to Las Vegas, renting an RV that would take us to Carson City for a night, then travel east through Idaho and North to Montana for a few nights to explore. The trip would then move south to Wyoming, with a visit to Old Faithful (which one of the kids learned about while reading). Next, we’d visit family and friends while exploring Colorado and finish the trip in Zion National Park before returning the RV to Las Vegas.

Their rationale for such a trip? Besides Nevada, no one in our immediate family has ever been to any of the mentioned states, and they wanted to change that. In addition, many of these states had been mentioned in the Percy Jackson series, so they were also plotting stops along the way that matched with the explorations of the demigod. Carson City made the list because Big tells everyone he’s named for it and we were traveling in an RV because Middle has always wanted to.

While they truly wanted to extend the trip and also travel to California, Oregon and Washington, it was agreed that a vacation of six states was easier to plan than nine, and that we could do the coastal range on another trip.

This year, as my husband and I consider vacations, we’re smiling at the boys’ elaborate plans. While we were dreaming of vacationing ocean-side in an all-inclusive in the Caribbean, we’re taking into account the boys’ wishes. They have big dreams, those dreams might tell us a few things about our kids and what will make our future vacations enjoyable.

Popcorn Art – Springtime Celebration

Popcorn Art - Celebrate Spring with Some Art

I cannot think of springtime without thinking of all the trees that look like they have popcorn on them as they bloom. Now that spring has officially come, I thought it would be fun to do a fun craft with popcorn. Add some fun spring themed songs and poems and we created an easy project to put together that the kiddos loved. With friends over, we had ages ranging from 3 all the way to 8 and they all were able to enjoy it together.

What You Need:

  • Construction paper in a variety of colors
  • Card stock or other stiff paper for the back
  • Glue
  • Popcorn – plain and already popped
  • Fun spring themed songs and poems

Directions:

Step 1: Have a quick discussion about springtime and the construction of a tree (trunk, limbs, etc.). My kiddos weren’t quite sure what we were doing and this helped them get some direction.

Step 2: Create ripped art trees using construction paper. Basically, create a tree by tearing strips of colored paper. We unfortunately did not have brown so the kiddos got creative with their color choices. We ended up only needing about 1/3 a sheet for a basic tree.

Step 3: Glue the strips of paper to the card stock.

Step 4: For sanity’s sake, we prepped our trees with dots of glue of where they wanted to blossoms (aka popcorn) to go and quickly moved to step 5 before our glue dried.

 

Step 5: Now it is time for the fun! It’s time to sing or recite our poems! Pick a few springtime words for the kiddos to listen for and when they hear them, they add a piece of popcorn to a dot of glue on their tree. You can see in the pic below that they are singing along, too!

For example, our first song we did was “Popcorn Popping” and we picked the word “pop” and “spring” to add the popcorn to the tree. You can make it as hard or as easy as you want. But since we were singing it, two words were perfect!

Here are the lyrics I found in a children’s song book (they will play it for you on the right sidebar if you need it) and if you look up the title on youtube, you can find plenty of videos, too:

POPCORN POPPING

I looked out the window, and what did I see?

Popcorn popping on the apricot tree!

Spring had brought me such a nice surprise,
Blossoms popping right before my eyes.
I could take an armful and make a treat,
A popcorn ball that would smell so sweet.
It wasn’t really so, but it seemed to be
Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.

 

Step 6: Enjoy your Spring trees! They were all pretty excited about their trees even though we did not fill them up all the way.

Skills practiced during this activity:

  • ripping skills
  • listening (for the key words)
  • practice fine motor gluing/attaching the popcorn
  • practice control and pressure when using the glue
  • recognizing different textures -between the rough/bumpy feel of popcorn and smooth texture of the paper

 

What is your favorite Springtime song or poem?

Handmade Alphabet Letters

Alphabet Letters

As you know, handmade gifts are the best but educational handmade gifts are the cherry on the top! My 5th daughter is about to turn 3 and I made her these fabulous fabric alphabet letters. They are really easy to make and are sure to be well loved.

How To Make

I saw a picture on good ole Pinterest that did not go anywhere and thought, “I can make those!”

Supplies needed:

  • Letter stencil (print out letters on card stock and cut them out to create a homemade paper stencil)
  • Flanel – scrap fabric is the best!
  • Scissors
  • Fusible fleece (optional)
  • Pen
  • Sewing machine

Directions:

I have a bubble set of letter stencils that I used, but you could use any font. I wanted them thick and soft, so I put fusible fleece inside and used flannel scraps for the outside.

You can learn from my mistakes and do not trace around your stencils with pen. Oops!

Once they are traced, put the fabric together and sew both sides together. Then I cut them out with pinking shears. I will admit cutting them out with the pinking shears was a little challenging because I used so much fusible fleece. I used had two layers of fusible fleece inside.  I think next time I will only use one layer to save my poor hand the pain!

5 Fun Letter Activities

Once you have them all finished, there are a million things you can do with them! But for now, here are my favorite 5 things:

1. Lay them out and call out a color, sound or letter and have your children race to see who can find it first. This works with one or more than one child.

2. Put them all in a bag and have a child reach in and pull one out. When they pull one out have them name the letter or sound.

3. Have your child put them in alphabetical order.

4. You can use them to spell simple words.

5. They are just fun to play with and chew on if you are 1! I guess I should make him some boy ones.

7 Tips for Helping Children to Be A Good Sport

Winning or losing, sports should be a fun experience for children. Some children play to play, others, like my son, play to win. Even though my 8 year-old has been participating in organized sports since he was five, he still struggles with losing.

Here are a few ways parents or coaches can help develop good sportsmanship in children.

  1. Before a child starts a game, remind him or her to focus on fun, and not just winning. Also discuss examples of good sportsmanship and consequences if someone doesn’t follow the guidelines. It helps teach the important lesson of having fun, rather than playing just to win.
  2. Wish the other team “good luck.” On the field, off the field and in the parking lot, wish everyone from players to parents and coaches “good luck.”
  3. Good sportsmanship begins with good leaders. Every player has a chance to be a good leader before, during and after the game. Children should be reminded to foster an encouraging attitude with teammates and the opposing team when winning or losing.
  4. Trying your best is more important than being the best. All players deserve to play in an environment that is not intimidating or stressful. Before your child or the team gets out on the field, remind them that all you ask is that they try their best that day. This helps calm the nerves of children who are worried about their performance and/or those that focus only on winning. 
  5. Don’t mock or make fun of the losing team or teammates that don’t perform well that day. It may be easy for children to laugh or smirk when someone’s not having good game day. Discourage children from laughing or gloating at another person’s losses or shortfalls.
  6. Parents and coaches should lead by example. Adults should be nice to the other team, avoid arguing with the referee, and root for the whole team, not just one player. 
  7. End it with a handshake. Win or lose, ask players to end the game by shaking hands or a nice high-five with the other team. 

Participating in sports provides an opportunity for fun, learning new skills, exercise and active play. It also helps teach children the importance of working as a team. If you can help your child with coping with losing and being a good sport then everyone’s a sure winner!

How do you teach your kids to be a good sport?