Posted in Education, Family, fun, history, Holidays, reading, summer, teaching, toddlers, Uncategorized

Summer Learning: A lesson on pirates

I haven’t actually done any “educational” posts in awhile and my daughter asked me this morning if we could learn about pirates.

Image result for pirates gif

I’m like YES, obviously we can learn about pirates.

Little known fact about me; I used to be obsessed with pirates. I did a research paper in graduate school about Blackbeard as my example of good and bad leadership skills. Peter and Wendy was actually the first chapter book that I read out loud to my daughter. I found myself censoring a few things but I digress-

I decided since I would be looking up some things for her to learn that I would share them with you to add some education to your summer break.

(This post contains affiliate links)

Treasure hunts-

One of the first things you think of, when you think of pirates, is lost treasure. “Booty” it’s called. Coins, jewels, and other riches obtained by piracy (theft generally speaking).

Treasure hunts are easy to set up at home. You can use rocks, seashells, plastic money, or their own toys. Hide them around your backyard or in your house. The big treasure prize should marked on a “map”.

Is this historically accurate? Not really. Most pirates didn’t bury their treasure, they spent it. One of the most famous pirates who did actually have a hidden buried treasure was Captain William Kidd. His loot has since all been found (at least they think so).

 

Legends and Folklore-

One thing pirates were, were storytellers. If you think about it, all that time on the sea with little to do in between navigating, thieving, and drinking; storytelling and music were a must.

Here is some pirate folklore to share with your family. Most of the stories are ghost stories or legends in nature. Some are about actual historical figures. There are plenty of stories out there about curses and signs of impending doom. A shark following the ship for instance meant death was approaching. Fridays were a unlucky day to sail. Gold hoop earrings could bring the pirate good luck and fortune on their travels. Never change the name of your boat, unless you want to run aground.

Some of the most famous folklore to come from pirates and other sailors were those of the mermaid. Different countries have different takes on what a mermaid is or was, and different ideas on what they looked like. Some believed them to be beautiful and wanting to help sailors get to safety. Most believed mermaids were there to lure men to their deaths.

I love the “You Wouldn’t Want to be a…” series. Lucky for you they have a pirate one!

Geography- 

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Piracy took place all over the world, but during the Gold Age of Piracy (1650’s to 1720’s) most of the action was in the Caribbean. They were referred to as Buccaneers if they were Caribbean pirates. Although Pirates of the Caribbean was extremely fictional, the city of Tortuga was quite accurate. It was a high spot for pirates to refresh before hitting the high seas again. Tortuga was off the island of Hispaniola.

Why was this area so hot to trot for pirates? Spanish ships were constantly trying to get gold and jewels back to England and Spain for one. For two, most of the indigenous peoples of the area were killed off in many of the islands thanks to settlements centuries earlier. Three, there were a lot of places to hide.

It was a great time to be a pirate. But all good things come to an end and eventually England got sick of their money and ships going into the sea. The navy started to hunt down pirates in a ruthless movement to end the Golden Age and they succeeded.

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Some resources to learn the geography of the Caribbean:

Geography Lesson: The Wonderfully Diverse Caribbean!

– Map making exercise for older elementary students. Great idea!

Jamaican Games for Fine and Gross Motor Skills Really cool list of ideas 

 Making steel drums for kids

 

 

Just for fun-

Mad Libs are a fun way to practice language arts skills! {Free printable}:

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Worksheets: Treasure Island Crossword Puzzle

For any adult wanting to brush up on their pirate knowledge I highly recommend this book:

And of course the classics:

        

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Posted in Family, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

Why so serious (mom and dads)?

It’s amazing how loud pots are when they are being beaten together by little hands. It’s amazing how mud seems that much more impossible to clean when your toddler comes inside caked in it. Craft supplies can seem daunting to get out because every craft requires a mess. Every water play activity requires mopping after. Every play bath requires at least one outfit change on your part.

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Having fun and playing with your kids can sometimes lose it’s spark. You can get more concerned with the aftermath than the actual play time. My daughter asked me the other day if we could make a craft, which she loves to do, and I said “no honey I just wiped off the kitchen table”.

Wait what? We can’t craft because I wiped off a table? What kind of logic is that?

Sometimes it’s hard to drop what you’re doing and say yes! Yes we can. Screw the laundry, who needs clean plates, my pants will wear another day…probably. For me it’s even harder to not dread the aftermath, as mentioned above. But kids don’t grow up and remember having a spotless home, they grow up remembering when you played super heroes together in the backyard. They remember trips to the ice cream shop and visits to the zoo. But you can’t live in a pig sty either. Cleaning and chores kind of have to happen. Sometimes you have to be the grown up and be serious. So how do you balance it all? I honestly don’t know.

I got called a Pinterest mom the other day and at first I was insulted just because I didn’t really know what the hell that meant. But then it was explained that I do things you see on Pinterest but never actually do with your kids. Then I was flattered but I felt a little like a cheat because there is plenty I don’t do, that I should. So, how do you become a not so serious, Pinterest, fun mom? Again, I don’t really know, but here’s the best advice I can gather for that question.

Step one: stop being so serious

My daughter is that special stage of life when she knows exactly what not to say, and that she has the ability to say it whenever she wants. That age when I feel like a 13 year old is trapped in my 4 year old’s body. That oh-so-magical age where I hear “we aren’t friends anymore, you’re mean” at least four or five times a week. We just had a long discussion about what a mortgage was the other day when she decided she was going to run away. More on that later.

I find, the best way to handle a little bit of sass, is to make fun of it. I make fun of how silly she sounds when she’s having an attitude. I put my hands on my hips and shake my head and say “does this look nice to you? or does this look like someone who is not going to get what they are asking for?” I exaggerate her movements and voice enough that usually, it causes laughter. Laughter leads to happiness and happiness leads to no more attitude. At least for the time being. This is not to say that I do that or think it you should look over blatantly bad or disrespectful behaviors. Just pick and choose your battles.

It’s the picture frame argument my husband and I have. When a kid draws on the wall you can a) freak out, b) quietly find a magic eraser and start erasing, or c) frame it. I choose to frame it.

Step two: have family time

This is the step I struggle with because this is the step I want more than anything else. As a working mom I really feel like I miss out on quality time with my kids, and even my husband. We all know that complaint, but it is a valid one. Sometimes family time is also errand time. Like grocery shopping or running into town for a certain bill that needs to be paid. I try to turn these moments into family time. My daughter and I go to the farmer’s market at least twice a month together to get our produce in the spring and summer. It’s always fun to walk around and see the flowers and pick out a special treat for later.

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It’s important to make the distinction between quality time and quantity of time. Just because you might be with your kids all week if you stay home, doesn’t mean you were actually with your kids all week. You probably plopped in a movie or two or maybe three. You probably found some coloring books or crayons and pushed them into a corner somewhere. You did chores, you worked, you prepped dinner, you did things you have to do on a daily basis, which means it probably wasn’t quality time. Not saying there’s anyway around that, just make the mental note that ‘yes, I with baby girl today but we only played together for twenty minutes after lunch’. Then you can try to fit in my quality time at the end of the day or the next day.

Step three: Us Toys

Not Toys-R-Us, Us Toys have saved my relationship with my daughter in a lot of ways. Without going into her anxiety and other issues, the book Growing Up Brave is a great read for any parent that is struggling with a child with emotional problems. It is geared for anxiety but I think a lot of the tips and ideas mentioned would work for a variety of disorders.

Anyhoo, one of the things I took away from that book is “Child Led Play”. For ten minutes, everyday, you play with your child but you let them lead the playtime. Now this may sound easy and like something you already do, but I assure you if you really start listening to yourself while you’re playing, you will hear a person you didn’t know was there. During your child led play it’s good to have a box or bag filled with stuff just you two play with. Ours was a mermaid dress up game, two Barbies, a sticker book craft, and some art supplies to start. Now we usually just do a craft together because her father isn’t very “artsy” and that’s our special thing to do. They do puzzles or blocks. So you get it, you have something that’s just for you two, you pick a place where you won’t be bothered by the other parent, siblings, phone calls, anything.

Completely uninterrupted playtime that they lead. Don’t interrupt them, don’t correct them, don’t even give them ideas to a certain extent. It’s their party for ten to fifteen minutes. Try it for a month and I’d be surprised to find someone it doesn’t help your bond with your kid.

Posted in Education, Family, literature, Opinion, parenting, reading, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Woodland Adventure Handbook

Review: Woodland Adventure Handbook by Adam Dove is a book I reviewed for work that I thought some of my readers might like.

It’s a little handbook about family activities to do in the woods. Adam Dove using ideals from UK “forest schools” and makes them approachable for parents and teachers. Learning through play is not a new idea by any means but it is becoming increasingly popular. TInkergarten, Montessori, and others have grown in the last decade. Why? I think the standards and pressures for what children are supposed to know when has become almost excessive. Parents are trying to find alternative ways of teaching that don’t require young children to sit at a desk 8 hours a day.
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Each section has a story, followed by how to set up for the upcoming activities, then games and things to create that go with the story. At the end is a wrap up of what was learned.

For example, section 5 is called “Magic potions and wizards’ power wands”. The story at the beginning is just explaining the ingredients needed to create the potion that can only be used to help others. It says to follow stick arrows and footprints. So, before you go out in the woods with your children you make stick arrows and footprints that lead to the things they need. They follow it, create potions, craft wands, and play a game.

It’s a really cute book with some new ideas for any parent wanting to do more outside and get more involved with your child’s education. I would think the target age range could be anywhere from 3 to 7. Possibly a little older if you make it more elusive for them.

Posted in Education, Family, Mental Health, parenting, toddlers

Sports and ADHD

 

I have been doing a lot of research on the topic of ADHD (if you can’t tell by some of the other posts) and to help kids (and parents) better cope with the disorder. It’s actually pretty fascinating how the mind works and how ADD and ADHD affect it.

School is starting soon, and that means classes and sports will also be starting. You may be wondering what’s the best sport or activity to put your child in, especially if you have noticed some hyperactivity. (Note: I don’t think every kid who is hyperactive has ADHD and I do think it’s extremely overly diagnosed. But some of this information is good for any child who needs a little extra help burning off some energy).

It has been proven that children who participate in extracurricular activities do better in school. I would be wary of doing too many activities as you don’t want to burn your child out, but getting them involved and interested in at least one thing early on can lead them into a lifelong appreciation for the activity.

What do sports teach? Teamwork, listening skills, discipline, social skills, focus, and above all, in my opinion, a sense of accomplishment. Children with ADHD and ADD tend to suffer from low self-esteem, especially as they get into elementary and middle school.

What do activities like music and art teach? Discipline, structure, a way to calm down, and again, a sense of accomplishment.

This article will focus on sports. The biggest question I keep seeing is “should I put my child in an individual sport, or a team sport?” It may seem daunting picturing your hyperactive child trying to work as a team and you may want to do an individual sport. Or, you may see this as an opportunity for them to challenge themselves and work with others. Below are options for both.

 

Martial Arts:

young children doing karateBenefits: teaches self-control, discipline, individualism, accomplishment, respect

You do not have the issue of struggling to work as team but they will need to understand how to share their time. Each student usually gets a chance to try a new skill or lesson on their own. This may be hard for a child with ADHD or ADD but something they can overcome. They will also have to learn new skills by step-by-step instruction.

 

Swimming:

Benefits: can be very physically demanding which is good for ADHD children, gets one on one with coaches, still has team to work with even though rated individually

Make sure to research swim lessons or teams in your area. In some places this may be an expensive route but there have been many success stories. Obviously, Michael Phelps being one of the most popular.

Gymnastics:

Benefits: physically demanding, physical awareness, improves focus, great for children with sensory issues as well

TImage result for gymnastic toddlerhe only downside I see to gymnastics is most children with ADHD and ADD suffer from impulse control problems and reckless behaviors. When learning difficult maneuvers, it may be something to consider and to monitor closely to lessen any injuries. Of course, most coaches and instructors know this and are trained to handle these behaviors.

 

Horse back riding:

Benefits: out in nature, learning patience and calmness, learns to respond and appreciate the animal

This may be one of the most expensive activities that you can find for children but again there have been many success stories. I would wary of horseback riding for those children with more severe ADHD as horses are animals. I love horses and horseback riding personally, but I have been thrown off of one as well and it is scary, not to mention dangerous. If your child doesn’t have a sense of how to control their impulsivity, at least a little, I would recommend working on that before trying horseback riding.

Soccer:

Benefits: team camaraderie, constant movement, little downtime between activities, sense of accomplishment

As with any team activity the biggest issue is learning to deal with losing and learning to work with others. That can be a turn off for some parents or a driving factor for others. I think just being open with your child beforehand that they may not win, but that’s it okay, will help with this so they are prepared for that. Soccer also has a very young starting age (some places as young as 2) and goes through most high schools so it’s something your child can grow with.


Baseball:

Benefits: teamwork, patience, sportsmanship, discipline

My biggest problem with baseball is that there tends to be a lot of downtime. If your child is playing outfield there may be lulls in time where they are not running or doing something active. This tends to let the mind wander and leads to boredom, which then leads to them not paying attention. Again, for especially hyperactive children, baseball may not be the best fit.

 

Basketball:

Benefits: concentration, teamwork, constant movement, sense of accomplishment

There are many mixed reviews about basketball and ADHD. For one thing, it’s a good sport because it is so high energy. On the other, it’s tough for some children because you must have serImage result for basketball elementary schoolious focus and keep the ball in sight at all times. Many ADHD students struggle with this and can get frustrated during the game. My advice is, if you want to go this route, is to explain it as a trial. Tell your child there are many other things they can try to do if basketball doesn’t seem to be fun for them. If they are struggling with paying attention to it too much then they won’t enjoy the game and that defeats the whole purpose.

 

One thing worth mentioning is (just like with school and having a great teacher) any sport can be as good or as bad as the coach you get. If you have a coach who is understanding and patient then your child is more likely to succeed at whatever it is they are doing.

 

Posted in Education, Family, parenting, toddlers

Imaginative Play

I don’t understand why LARPing isn’t a job. As an adult, it’s hard to get away with it sometimes, but that’s the beauty of having children! 

There are a lot of advantages from imaginative play for your kids. Part of early literacy education stresses the PLAY factor. Most parents don’t think of playing as a form of learning but it most definitely is.

“Systematic research has increasingly demonstrated a series of clear benefits of children’s engagement in pretend games from the ages of about two and one half through ages six or seven.”- Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph. D.
For one thing, imaginative play requires problem solving and creative thinking skills. Building things, designing a playhouse, making a blanket fort; all require your child to use their problem solving skills to make something that will actually work as a fort.

Children use role playing and dramatic play as a way to understand things they have seen. Usually, kids want to pretend to be people they have seen in real life (nurse, veterinarian, doctor, teacher, parent, etc) or people they have read about or seen on TV (knights, princesses, scientist, etc). They may also want to play by doing…what you do everyday. Cooking, cleaning, going to the grocery store, all the tasks you may think are completely mundane may actually be really fun for your child.


By pretending to be these people they are learning more about them. This teaches them flexibility and gives them an understanding of other people. They may also use this to understand things that scare them. For instance, many times you see a child playing doctor you will see them give a shot. This is because the idea of getting shots is scary to most children and they are working out the situation for themselves.

Imaginative play also helps your child to improve on their communication skills. They will be speaking about things and using words while playing that maybe they wouldn’t know otherwise. They also need to communicate their ideas and what they want to play to you or to other children.


For some parents, coming up with imaginative play ideas is easy. For others, it’s a struggle. Below are some ideas to get you started and help you bring imaginative play into your home.

 

COOKING/KITCHEN

If you don’t have fake food/kitchen tools, do yourself a favor and get some. A play kitchen can occupy a kid for hours. It’s a great learning tool too. They learn colors, vocabulary, numbers, how to sort, problem solving. There are so many cool ideas out there for creating a play kitchen too.

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You don’t have to just buy a brand new one from WalMart. My husband and I built a small lemonade stand style play kitchen for my daughter when she was one, and she still uses it.

(She was still in a big Winnie the Pooh phase so the stand says “Time for something sweet”- I know it’s adorable…okay moving on)

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DOCTOR/VET

I always thought that all kids hated going to the doctor. My daughter has since proved me wrong; however, a lot of kids do hate going but LOVE to play doctor. It’s something they Vet-Clinic-Dramatic-Play-Activity-1024x683know and something that is fun for them to pretend. Playing doctor or veterinarian can be as simple as giving a stuffed animal a check up. Or you can get dressed up and play out having the plague, the whole nine yards. This site has free printables for pretend play that I think are amazing and worth checking out.

 

 

KING/QUEEN/KNIGHT/PRINCESS

Some of the play castles I have seen online make me extremely sad my house isn’t bigger. However, even with lack of space, playing castle is pretty easy. You can find many items online on purchasing or making a play castle, most are relatively reasonable too. If you don’t want the whole castle, or don’t have the room, then just make some of the accessories.

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Some ways to play would be to save the princess (or fairy, or
king, or anything else). Have one person be the dragon and “take” the princess. The other must steal her back. Have sword fights (with paper or cardboard swords preferably.

 

 

 

SUPERHEROES 

Obviously, not just for boys anymore. Any kid likes to be a superhero. Again, this can be as easy as making a mask out of a paper plate. Creating a brand new superhero just for your child is a fun way to go about it. But if they really love a certain character than try to capture that.

Superheros may be an imaginative play game you want to take outside (you don’t have to, but flying can get iffy indoors).

 

SCHOOL
Playing school is one of my favorites because I’m a nerd. But your child may actually love to play it. Especially if they have an older sibling they see going to school. Playing school can mean your child is the teacher, and “reads” you a book. Basically they can make up a story to go with pictures in one of their books.

If you have a child chalkboard or dry erase board, then that’s a great way to play school. You can even have snack time and recess during your imaginative play time!


This is a great article with some more ideas.

 

Posted in Education, Family, health, Mental Health, Opinion, parenting, Uncategorized

Just sit still!

With summer about half way over, you may be wondering how you can get your child to actually sit and focus this year at school.shutterstock_68372572

Many children struggle with focusing and being able to concentrate on instruction. There has been a huge rise in the diagnoses of ADHD and ADD among children  preschool age to third grade. There are arguments to both sides of this issue. Some believe that the reason the rise in diagnosis has occurred is because more people are becoming aware that these issues exist and help is more readily available. Others believe that children are being too easily diagnosed because more is expected from them academically now than in the past. The age for starting Pre-K can be as low as 2 in some areas.

Either way, ADHD is something hard to target. There’s no physical or neurological testing that will show definitively if a child has some sort of hyperactive issues. Basically, a counselor or therapist (sometimes even your child’s primary care provider) will try to pinpoint certain triggers or activities that your child struggles with. If they struggle in more than one area (ie behaviorally, socially, academically) they may be apt to say there’s a problem.

With the rising demands on children to sit, be still, and focus, sometimes it’s just a matter of helping your child become comfortable with sitting still and being able to calm themselves. I have discovered the amazing world of fidget toys. Things you’ve probably seen a hundred times and never really got their purpose or thought much of them. I’ve seen them work wonders with my own daughter so I thought I would share some ideas.

 

 

Oil timers- these have been amazing with helping us learn how long to sit and also to use for “calm down” time. Watching the colors is soothing and helps distract your child from whatever was getting them amped in the first place. Since the oil doesn’t take more than a few minutes it’s a great toy to teach patience as well.

 

Fidget seat- That’s what we’ve been calling it but there’s a bunch of different names for these blow up cushions. One area we have majorly struggled is eating dinner together at the table. Sometimes sitting at the dining room table tends to take it’s toll so I decided to give one of these a try. They are designed for chairs and desks. So far I can honestly say I have seen some improvement with being able to stay in her chair for the whole meal (usually).

 

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Sensory bottles- look on Pinterest and you can find plenty of ideas on making your own sensory bottles. Or you can now purchase them. Sensory bottles and I Spy bottles basically are more for distracting than for letting the child with their fidget needs, but it does help them sit still.

 

 

 

Water tubes- Again something that helps with fidgeting and to help your child calm down. Something about the feeling of water and watching whatever is inside seems to help children get distracted in the right way.

 

 

Weighted stuffed animal- This is next on my list to try. Weighted blankets and stuffed animals tend to be expensive (the one pictured here seemed reasonable from what I’ve seen) but I’ve read great reviews. The weight and feeling of security that comes from weighted items can help calm an anxious or fidgeting child. If the restlessness seems worse at nap or bedtime then these items may be a great idea for you.

 

Sometimes just simple wood block games, putty, clay, or stress balls can help your child when they start to get restless. If you are having issues with that try sending them to school with a fidget toy for them to keep in their desk. Let the teacher know ahead of time so that they don’t get in trouble for “playing” during class.

 

 

Posted in Education, Family, parenting, summer, teaching, teen, toddlers, Uncategorized

Outdoor Education and Camping!

Tablets, smartphones, laptops, eReaders, television, game systems: There are so many reasons for your kids to stay inside and stare blankly ahead not absorbing the world around them (note: I put eReaders on the list because a lot of times I see kids using them they’re playing games, books are okay 🙂

I’ve posted a few articles about being outdoors with children and how it’s educational for them, but this weekend is our first attempt at taking our three year old camping. I am nervous and excited but it also prompted me to look up educational reasons to take your kids camping that I wanted to share. (Update: we didn’t make it through the night. We did get to do some of these things though it was fun for awhile just playing in the woods so…still worth a shot!)

1) Outdoor Education- this is an educational initiative all its own now. Many countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway come to mind) have outdoor education as part of their normal school curriculum. It consists of everything from hiking trips to playing more outside, to having several recess breaks throughout the day, to fishing trips. In the New Zealand Curriculum Framework, they state that providing outdoor education gives students “opportunities to develop personal and social skills, to become active, safe, and skilled in the outdoors, and to protect and care for the environment.”

2) Problem solving- many spur of the moment issues can arise while camping. Is that poison ivy? Is there rain coming? Taking children camping can help them better their problem solving skills and quick thinking techniques. To prep for the trip have your children be involved with packing their own supplies. Obviously, guide them to pack essentials but let them really decide what they want and what they do not.

3) Imaginative play- camping provides ample opportunities for imaginative play. Being out in nature surrounded by trees (or the ocean if you choose to camp on the beach) gives them a backdrop they aren’t used to at home. The campfire is also a great place for imaginations to take off. Take turn telling stories. If you are having trouble starting, try making up new endings to stories you already know. Like what if Little Red Riding Hood didn’t realize that the wolf was pretending to be her grandmother? What if they lived together for a while, how would the wolf act?

4) Unplug! Along the same lines as imaginative play, being outdoors and camping really gives you and your family a chance to unplug together. It may be tempting to break out the phones or bring the iPads but don’t. Spend your time together, together. You are not home so you shouldn’t be worrying about work and things that can be dealt with once camping is over.

5) Cooking in a new atmosphere- cooking is a great learning experience. Measuring, mixing, and playing with different textures and ingredients. Camping provides a completely new way to experience the learning process of cooking. Bring some pre-made items like pancake mix and let your child help with pouring it on the pan over the fire. In addition, being outside instead of in the kitchen might help you not worry so much about the mess.

Here are some activities to do with your children while camping to make the experience fun and educational!
Scavenger hunt- there are many available online if you don’t want to create one yourself
Frisbee or catch
Fishing or crabbing
Bubbles
Crafts- a lot of ideas out there on Pinterest. Here are some I really like.
Sand toys