August 31, 2012

Smooth Move Through Kindergarten

My kids are just finishing up their first week of school and I know most other schools around the country have started or will start soon. With so many of those students having their first "real" school experience as kindergarteners, I'm excited to have a guest post today from the wonderful Susan at Kindergarten & Preschool for Parents & Teachers.  Susan has years of experience in the classroom and the following advice is perfect for your new kindergartner (and your older kids too!)

You took the dramatic steps of enrolling your precious child in kindergarten. Now what? After shedding some tears, put away the tissues and realize that your child still needs you for a Smooth Move through Kindergarten. Can you say that fast? It might be rather difficult for your child to say if teeth are missing. Here are some ways you can help in the school year:
1. Focus on Your Child: When you are with your child, give him or her your undivided attention. Turn off the techno gadgets, including phones, and communicate. This special time may be before he leaves for school, while you are driving to school, playing before dinner, helping with a bath, or snuggling while reading books in bed. Ask questions about their day such as:
  • What is your favorite thing to do at school?
  • Who do you like to play with?
  • Did you eat your lunch?

2. Play outside: When your children come home from school, they need to unwind, relax and play to release stress and exercise.  

3. Communicate with the Teacher: Keep the lines of communication open with notes, email or conferences and notify the teacher of any changes in contact information or stability changes.

4. Check Your Child’s Backpack every night for notes to sign or homework to complete.

5. Volunteer a few hours a week, if possible, as a classroom helper or offer to do some projects at home. Take part in classroom parties, school fundraisers and field trips.

6. Read books.Young children should be in bed by 7:30 giving you some time to share books and talk about their day. Limit television and video games before bedtime. This may excite your child making sleep more difficult. The best way to have your child get a good night’s sleep is to spend the last part of the day with them, reading books and communicating.

7. A Good Night's Sleep and Healthy Breakfast are essential to a productive day at school.

8. Avoid Rushing by getting your child to bed early and rising early enough to have a nutritious breakfast. The backpack can be prepared the night before.

9. Encourage Responsibility and Independence: Work on tying shoes and memorization of your home address and phone number.

10. Teach Children to Respect Authority and follow the school rules. Don’t criticize the school or teacher in front of your child but arrange a conference time with the teacher should you have concerns. You may be able to solve problems by email or phone before a conference is necessary. It is best to approach the teacher first to solve problems before talking to the principal.

Many child development specialists agree that reading every night with your child is the most important activity you can do. It will promote literacy, a love of reading, bonding, emotional fulfillment and increase your child's vocabulary and reading skills. Because many children are playing less outside, I would like to emphasize that playing with your children is a close second.
If you are still fretting over whether or not to send your child to kindergarten, click Kindergarten: Enroll or Wait? There is a free on-line test that may ease your worries. I really like this free printable which can be enlarged from Growing a Jeweled Rose. Perhaps it will help you and would certainly make a nice gift for any teacher.


For a glimpse into Kindergarten see my book, a number 1 bestseller in PreK/K on Amazon Kindle:Kindergarten: Tattle-Tales, Tools, Tactics, Triumphs and Tasty Treats for Teachers and Parents   Would you like inexpensive ideas, activities, and games to teach your children through play? Mommy with Selective Memory and I wrote a number 1 bestseller in Motherhood on Amazon: The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble and Motivated to Learn .

Let Children Experience Childhood.
What other suggestions to you have for your child to have a successful kindergarten year?

{ Thanks so much, Susan!  I love the tips and even those of us with older kids can appreciate the advice for a great school year.  Speaking of having a great year, I love your recent post on Bullying ~ lots of great information.  Thanks for sharing.  ~ Laura }

August 29, 2012

Play and Learn in a homemade puppet theater

I'm excited to share my blog space this morning with a guest host from "across the pond".  I love the way Rebecca and her girls worked together to make this adorable little puppet theater from a cardboard box ~ then used it for all sorts of learning activities (disguised as fun play!).

Check it out...

Hi, I'm Rebecca.  I'm just popping over from the UK where I blog at Here Come the Girls to show you my puppet theatre and some of the things we did with it. I've been blogging for nearly a year and love to write about all the fun we get up to as a family. I have three girls a five year old and twins who have just turned two - which means two lots of toddler tantrums - great! I am currently a stay at home mum although I teach a few days a month as a cover teacher at a local school.

I love activities which on the surface seem merely fun but actually encourage so much sneaky learning behind the scenes. I cant help it. It makes me think of the old saying "you can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can't take the classroom out of the teacher". My poor children can't do anything without me trying to sneak in an extra teaching point or two. Probably the best activity we have done has been the cardboard box puppet theatre.

Art and design

Planning the theatre. We looked at lots of pictures on google but none really did what we wanted them to. We wanted to be able to put our hands in the side and hold the puppets. We also wanted a curtains which we could open and close. Although I had to do a lot of the cutting, decorating the theatre was a team effort.


cardboard box theatre

Here is a step by step guide to how we made this theatre.

   My daughter made a lot of puppets. These were very simple with craft foam and lollypop sticks and other small bits and pieces from our craft drawers. I let her design and make these completely unaided.


Making signs and posters for the theatre, e.g. what time it will start.  Older children could write out their play.


We didn't really explore this but you could have time  for different performances. You could also sell tickets to practice the use of money.

Speaking and listening


I was surprised by how much speaking and listening there was through the whole activity. Making something collaboratively requires a lot of skills - also social skills like turn taking and listening to other people's ideas. Once the play was set up my daughter was particularly involved in getting the audience (her dad, sisters and I) sitting nicely and listening without interrupting. This was as much a part of the performance as anything else. Then of course it was the story telling skills when she put on her performance. Although she didn't write down her play before hand she tried it out a few times and it took several changes of narrative until she performed it.



With older children you would probably give a bit more direction with the acting. I was happy to keep her staying on the same plot and I encouraged her to use different voices for the characters. The best thing about any drama activity is how it builds confidence and self esteem.

Really of course the main thing about this was that it was fun. My daughter had a great time and her little sisters enjoyed watching her. It was creative and you can focus on the parts which they are interested in. The only problem is that our puppet theatre has been knocked down by a giant rampaging toddler. Oh well I suppose we now have a great opportunity to build another one.  

If you liked this then I have a few more cardboard box activities up my sleeve. Have a look at one of my favourites: a cardboard box police car.

 { Thank you so much for sharing, Rebecca!  Cardboard boxes can be so much fun for kids ~ I love how you took your cardboard box play to the next level with that awesome puppet theater and cute police car!  Oh, and as a former teacher myself, I'm all for recognizing all the great learning that can take place where we least expect it! ~ Laura }

August 28, 2012

Back-to-School Advice and Supplies (in a Fun Gift Basket)

Yesterday was the first day of school for my kids (woo hoo!)  They'd already made these cute little pencil bouquets for their teachers (which I heard were a big hit) and I'd picked up all the necessary supplies they needed to bring in to school.  However, I wanted to give them a little something special from me to celebrate the new school year. I decided to pick up some extra supplies that they might need for here at home ~ things that weren't necessarily on their supply lists, but that might come in handy for homework assignments or projects. Knowing that extra scissors and markers aren't really a "fun" gift, I decided to put a neat little twist on my practical gift.

 Check it out...

fun gift idea for kids

Pretty clever, don't you think? (and, yes, I am patting myself on the back for this one). Incorporated in each bit of advice are key words that correspond to the various school supplies.  As the kids read the words of wisdom, they were directed to open certain numbered gifts.

Here's how I made them...

fun way to give school supplies

I simply gathered up a variety of school supplies, came up with a bunch of sayings that used related words, wrapped the supplies in tissue paper, then numbered them to go with each saying.

Here are the little bits of advice I came up with (the corresponding supplies are in blue here, but weren't listed on their actual papers)...

Some Back To School Advice

  • Let your colorful personality shine through at school and leave your special mark on everything you do. (Open gifts #1 and #2) colored pencils & markers

  • Don't cut corners! If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right the first time. (Open gift #3)  scissors

  • Remember, you can do hard things. Just stick with it, stick with it, and stick with it some more until you finally do that hard task. (Open gifts #4, #5 and #6) glue sticks, regular glue, and scotch tape

  • Make sure you are always prepared and stay sharp. When you're sharp and focused, you'll be able to do your best. (Open gift #7) package of pencils with pencil sharpener

  • Keep in mind, you will make mistakes. It's okay and it's all part of learning. Just look at what you did wrong, figure out how to correct it and move on. (Open gift #8) package of erasers

  • Before a test or important assignment, just take a deep breath and put together all that you've learned. (Open gift #9)  stapler

  • When you get home from school, I hope you take a minute to tell me the highlights of your day. We're all busy, but you and your schoolwork are important to me. (Open gift #10)  package of highlighters

  • Most of all, whether you've had a good day or a not-so-good day, I think you RULE and I'm so glad you're my kid! (Open gift #11)  ruler

Then, I simply put each kid's wrapped gifts in a little container tote I picked up from the Dollar Store.

back to school gift idea for kids

When they got home from school, they took turns reading each bit of advice and then opening their numbered gifts.  They had fun as the tissue paper went flying and they got all sorts of exciting supplies (because getting your very own stapler is a huge deal! ). 

It was fun seeing them so excited and I'm glad something practical could end up being such a big treat!

Sharing our fun new supplies at:

Avery Products and Back To School

Just a quick post this morning to let you know about a great contest hosted by Avery products.  Your child's school can win $10,000 in donated Avery Denison school supplies.  Check out some of these great products...

I love the pattern on the binder.  Isn't it pretty?  And this is obviously just a tiny sampling of the products.  Imagine how much good $10,000 worth would do for your child's school.

To enter, just go HERE to the Avery Give Back to School's site.   You can enlist the voting help of friends and family and vote once a day.

Oh, and it's not just school supplies that your school could win.  The winning school will also get 25,000 Box Tops.  I'm the former Box Top coordinator for my kids' school, so I know how important all those Box Tops are.  There are now Box Tops on all those great Avery products, plus you could win the jackpot in the contest.

I used that cute Avery binder and dividers to organize the tons of school info that my kids brought home yesterday AND I clipped those Box Tops to send in. 

You can also win great products and prizes by playing the Avery Spin the Win game through The Organization of Moms on Facebook.

I hope your kids are having a great start to their school year and I hope you have great luck with these cool contests.

Disclosure:  Avery and their partner Red Sky PR sent me the  Avery products shown above in exchange for this review; however, all ideas and opinions are my own words and my honest opinion.  

August 27, 2012

Excuses, Excuses

If you look at my blog history, you'll see that August was a very slow month here at Come Together Kids (like only two posts all month, yikes).  Now, I'm going to be realistic and assume that your lives got just as busy as mine did.  In fact, I'm willing to bet that most of you didn't even notice that I hadn't posted in nearly three weeks.

However, for those of you who have kids who weren't driving you nuts and who were eagerly awaiting a new post detailing a fun craft, recipe or trip...  I apologize!

You see, as much as I love my kids (and I do, I truly do), by this last month of summer vacation,  I was beat.  Being with them all day, every day, was exhausting.  I thought their toddler years were bad, but the volume of their whining and sibling squabbles has become even louder as they've grown older.  We still did some fun things, but by the end of the day, I was too tired to blog about it.

Of course, I'll admit, there were also days when we didn't do much of anything fun.  For my sanity (and their safety),  the only option was to make sure they each stayed in separate rooms.  There were no fun outings, there were no mommy and kid meals gathered around the table, and there were no cute or clever projects.  Instead, they watched way too much tv and spent hours playing video games.  They ate their lunches or dinners on paper plates in whatever room they were in.  Did I feel guilty?  Yup.  Am I going to let it bother me?  Not too much.  (They did do some reading and drawing on their own)

And then there's the state of my house.  You see, I've always loved quotes like the one below.  I wanted my kids to be happy and I didn't care if the house was a little messy.

However, after ten years of kids in the house, my house wasn't just a little messy, it was dirty and the clutter was overflowing.  Plus, there were many days this summer when the kids weren't happy, they were fighting like crazy AND my house was messy on top of it all!  So, I actually spent a good part of this past month decluttering.  I took three van loads of stuff to Goodwill and tried to get a handle on things.  The house is still messy, but I can open a closet now without needing a hard hat.

 So, it wasn't quite the August I had planned in my mind ~ either for the blog or for my kids.   However, we made it through the summer and my kids just got on the bus for their first day of school.  I'll be catching up here on the blog, so get ready for lots of new posts (many of them sharing the things we did this summer that I was too tired to blog about at the time!)

I'll leave you with one last quote from my Pinterest boards...

Because no matter how many things we do right and how many things we wish we were doing better,  I think we all can say that we love our children deeply!

August 8, 2012

Colorful Pencil Bouquet

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Astrobrights Papers by Neenah Paper for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

School starts here in just a few weeks and we're all excited for the new year to begin.  The kids are looking forward to seeing all their friends, meeting their new teachers and learning new subjects.  When I was recently given the challenge to "Make Something Astrobright", I knew just who I wanted to make it for ~ the kids' teachers!  As a former teacher myself, I know how demanding the job can be.  I want the kids' homeroom teachers to get a little something on the first day of school to say thanks in advance for everything they'll do this year. 

 Check out these cute and very 

colorful pencil bouquets...


Won't they look pretty on the teachers' desks?  They're bright and very colorful, but practical too!  Plus, I think it's a thoughtful little gift without seeming like an over-the-top form of bribery.

These pretty pencil flowers 

started with this colorful

 Astrobrights paper.

Astrobrights paper comes in 23 bright and vibrant colors.  You're sure to find the right color for your pencil bouquet (or any school project) and the bright colors will guarantee that your project will get noticed!

First, we did a little prep work...

I cut the Astrobrights paper into three different sizes of flower shapes and my son was in charge of pencil sharpening.  Then I wrapped the top few inches of each pencil in green duck tape so they'd look more like stems (but could still be used and sharpened).

Next, we were ready to make

 the pencil flowers 

for our bouquets...

The girls used a hole punch to make holes in the center of each flower, then layered the three different sized flower shapes onto the pencil top.  We then pinched each petal to make our flowers a little more three-dimensional and put them into a small vase (I actually used small juice glasses I'd picked up at the thrift shop).  I love how the different Astrobrights paper combinations made some really colorful and vibrant flowers!

How about you?  Are you ready for the new school year?  Astrobrights is actually running this great"Give a Brighter Year" sweepstakes where you can win $30,000 in supplies for the school of your choice (and a $500 gift card for you!).  Go check it out! 


Oh, and check out Astrobrights on Facebookfor lots of great ways you and your family can "Make Something Astrobright"

Visit Sponsor's Site

August 4, 2012

Five Fun Ideas to create some great Summer Memories

Summer is the time for memory making.  More relaxed schedules allow for the extra time to do fun things with your kids.  For five really fun ideas, check out these great activities linked up to our Summer Fun party!  They're all pretty simple to do and free or inexpensive, but they're sure to bring smiles to your kids' faces and create memories that will last a long time.

Get ready to create some fun memories.  (Click on each picture or title to get all the directions and details)

{Go Kid Yourself}

Tell me your kid wouldn't love jumping 
on this giant water-filled mat?
You can make it using some inexpensive plastic sheeting 
and duct tape and then let the kids go to town 
jumping and playing on it.

{Creative Family Moments}

I LOVE this idea (and it doesn't cost anything extra!).
Have a whole day when you do everything backwards ~
starting with a bedtime snack when you wake up
and ending with breakfast before bedtime.
Definitely check out Heather's creative ideas for 
"backwards" things to do throughout the day!

{Growing a Jeweled Rose}

 Sometimes you just have to get out the old clothes
and let the kids get dirty.
Make a whole playdate out of it and you're sure 
to create some fun memories.
Crystal let the kids do all sorts of fun mud-related activities
(and even served "dirt" as a snack! ;)  )

{East Coast Mommy}

If you can get your hands on a projector,
all you need is a plain white sheet 
for an outdoor movie screen.
Check out the post for Gina's tips 
for a successful (and memorable) movie evening!

(with printable)
{KC Edventures}

You've probably been to the playground 
a few times this summer,
but why not make it especially memorable 
by turning it into a scavenger hunt?
Head to a few different parks and see if you can find 
different kinds of slides, swings, etc.
There's even a printable in the post 
so you can check them off as you find them.

What do you think?  Pretty cool ideas, aren't they?
I can't wait to try some of them with my kids before they head back to school.   (They'd definitely have the best journal entries for the "What I did this summer" writing assignments!)
Definitely visit the sites featured above and also 
check out our Summer Fun idea Party for more than 
250 other awesome summer ideas.

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