ABC and 123: A Learning Collaborative: 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

Top 10 Universal Studios Inspired Halloween Costumes for Kids

 Despicable Me

Image Credit: Costume Works

There are so many adorable options for dressing your little ones up as minions if they are your  Despicable Me favorites.  This year I am loving the idea of three little ladies dressed up to look like Gru's adorable daughters.  This is an especially fun family dress up option.

The Simpsons

The Simpsons would be another interesting family costume idea.  Who can resist this adorable Baby Maggie!

Curious George
Image Credit: The Chirping Mom

Curious George and The Man with the Yellow Hat are dress up classics.  The Chriping Moms put together a simple, yet adorable version of this famous duo.  If you don't have two little ones to dress opt for the Man with the Yellow Hat and carry a favorite stuffed monkey.

Dora the Explorer
Image Credit: The MomBot

Dora and Boots are preschool favorites.
Image Credit: Crafty Bitch

While visiting Universal last summer we were able to introduce our four young children to Popeye and his best gal Olive Oil.  This little sailor is the most precious Popeye ever!

Dr. Seuss
Image Credit: Moms Best Nest

Each year at Halloween we greet several Thing 1 and Thing 2 pairs at our doorstep.  Dr. Seuss fans looking for something different might want to dress up like Sam I Am.

Image Credit: The Truthful Mom

At Universal Orlando Shrek and Fiona are the fairy tale favorites.  This little hat totally makes this costume

Image Credit: I Want Some Fun

Older children might not appreciate this Elliot costume for how awesome it is, but it certainly brings back childhood memories for mom and dad.  The ET Adventure at Universal Orlando is our kid's favorite ride, making this costume a top contender on my four year old's dress up list.

Image Credit: Costume Works

One of the most intimidating attractions at Universal Orlando is The Hulk, yet somehow every little boy is drawn to it - if only to stand beneath it and listen to the roar.  I suppose that's pretty true to form for Hulk - loud and intimidating, but irresistible!


Image Credit: Dollar Store Crafts

This construction is seriously amazing.  My six year old is scheming to figure out who he could get to create this for him.  He is also very curious how this friend got out of the costume when he was done.

What costumes are you lining up for this Halloween?  
Does your family try to all dress according to a theme? 
Do you focus on book characters?  Movie Characters?  Animals?  
We would love to hear from you!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ideas for Throwing a Three Billy Goats Gruff Fairy Tale Birthday Party

Since grandma read the book when he was very little my youngest son has had an interesting fascination with The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  At first, he was terrified of the story.  Everyone did their best to alleviate his fears by showing him video clips of adorable little billy goats, singing goat rhymes, reading parodies of the famous tale, and driving miles off our typical course to find farms with "nice" real life goats.  All of our efforts proved successful when his fear turned into a giant toddler obsession. 
His extreme interest aside, I never quite imagined when offered Thomas the Train, Olaf, Bob the Builder, Doc McStuffins, or I Stink the garbage truck as themes for his 4th birthday celebration my son would "choose his own adventure"... The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  We knew right away the local party store wasn't going to be able to provide much for inspiration or decorations. With a little creativity, a bit of lesson plan adaptation, and some Pinterest inspiration our older children were able to help me put together a small party our littlest billy goat gruff found perfectly exciting.  
It couldn't hurt to share a few details here in case anyone finds themselves in a similar situation with an obscure preschool party request.  You never know, you might thank me someday (wink!).

To decorate the table we created napkin ring goats using paper towel rolls cut into quarters.  Other materials include: a quarter of a cotton ball, scraps of brown and black construction paper, glue stick, Sharpie marker, and brown raffia.  Since the kids did a lot of the assembly each goat had a look and expression of its own.
Construction paper goats in three different sizes became an inexpensive way to inspire story telling even with favor bags.

We always love to have a big pile of books available at parties for kids to check out during transition times. In addition to many versions of the classic fairy tale, there are many fun picture book spin offs on the Three Billy Goats theme.  Here are a few of our favorite titles. 
Three Silly Billies by Margie Palatini
Three Billy Goats Fluff by Rachael Mortimer
Three Billy Goats' Stuff! by Bob Hartman
Just a Friendly Old Troll (Another Point of View) by Alvin Granowski
Older children worked together using Legos and goat figurines to build the story's setting while waiting for all the guests to arrive.  Their finished sculpture ended up being a great decoration for the gift table.

During the party the kids enjoyed creating Pet Trolls like this colorful example we found on ScrumDillyDo.  Supply each child with a lump of clay, very little instruction, and piles of googly eyes, pipe cleaners, and pom poms.  Sit back and watch their imaginations run wild!

  Use your favorite trail mix and a bag of white chocolate chips to create this sweet, troll-ish treat.
  There are likely many recipes for melted chocolate bark, but here is a quick and easy run down:
  • Line a cookie sheet with foil
  • Melt chocolate in a double boiler
  • Spread on cookie sheet
  • Evenly distribute trail mix through chocolate
  • Let cool before breaking into bite size pieces

  •  A grassy mountain seemed to be a most appropriate scene from the story to display on the cake.  This mountain was built using 2 heart shaped cake pans, chocolate frosting, and a little bit of leftover white chocolate "snow."
    If building a mountain cake is too time consuming, stack various sized cupcakes to create mountains and valleys. Our family hosts two separate parties to accommodate two sides of the family.  We brainstormed this "mountains and valleys" scene as a quicker option for keeping the dessert thematic for a second celebration.  Arrange chocolate cupcakes of various sizes and  top them with sprigs of frosting grass and toothpicks to prop the goats in their sweet habitat.

    Do you use any Three Billy Goats Gruff activities in your class that could be adapted for use at a birthday party?


    Monday, April 28, 2014

    Elephant & Piggie Book Extension Activity

    I Am Invited to a Party! 

    (An Elephant and Piggie Book) 

    by Mo Willems

    Our kids LOVE the Elephant & Piggie books by Mo Willems.  The text is easy enough for our youngest reader, but still laughable for our older kids.  The character illustrations say so much with very few words and offer plenty of opportunity to practice inferencing. 

    During our many re-reads of these books our family began to brainstorm ways to bring Elephant and Piggie into our playtime too.  In the coming days we hope to share several Mo Willems extension activities for your early childhood kiddos to enjoy.

    The Basics:
    After reading the book together pull out your dress up collection for some party primping.  Print a stack of invites (see below) and brainstorm goofy party possibilities.  Begin by handing each child an invite and letting them get creative about their costuming. Once they are getting in to the game let them choose their own cards and have you, or their friends, try to guess what type of party they have been invited to.  This simple game brings new life to the costume box and LOTS of giggles!

    Before filling out the cards you may want to take inventory of your classroom (or home) dress up collection to be sure there are sufficient props to prep for the appropriate parties.  Here are a few silly examples of the parties our family was invited to:  Kitchen Owl Party, Construction Monkey Party, Clown Doctor Party, Star Wars Dog Party, Pirate Tea Party, Princess Pool Party, Ghost Baseball Party.  If is also fun to leave some cards blank. As the kids get into the silliness of inventing wardrobes they will come up with great combinations of their own to add to the blank cards.


    For more extension activities check out our Mo Willems board on Pinterest!

    Wednesday, April 23, 2014

    The Ultimate Library for Creating & Nurturing a Home that Thrives

    Teachers, homeschool families, and parents of young children love a great library. We spend lots of time researching the best resources, reading book reviews, and browsing the aisles in our favorite book stores.  In the summer months we spend hours catching up on the newest techniques, tips, and strategies for teaching and learning.    Books are kind of our thing. 
    We truly love a great library!
    Today we wouldn't want to miss the opportunity to share an opportunity to build the ultimate library of homemaking resources with our book loving readers. While not every book in this collection may make its way to your classroom, the material included in this library is sure to simplify many other aspects of your busy life.  
    Here is a small glimpse at some of the titles that are available, by clicking through the picture you can see the titles and descriptions of each book as well as the book's individual value.  The books are all listed by category and you will soon discover that the deal seems too good to be true.  
    I am especial excited to check out 101 Activities for Toddlers and Preschools, The Preschool Jouney, and two different variations on Homeschool Planners.  I think it will also be fun to spend some time with Monkey See, Monkey Do: A Guide to Using PicMonkey to make pictures look professional.  There are so many amazing titles included in this library.
    On top of the fantastic collection of Kindle or PDF titles, this bundle includes over $200 worth of free products and subscriptions for you to sample.  We are looking forward to experimenting with the free eco-friendly laundry detergent, which in itself holds the value of this whole bundle.
    The Ultimate Homemaking Bundle is available for 5 days only.  Check it out today and when summer reading season hits we should meet back here and chat about the tips and tricks you are most excited to add to next year's lessons for life plan!

    Saturday, March 29, 2014

    Inspiration for Educators: Just Call It Good Teaching

    What do you think?  What quotes really stood out to you or challenged you?

    Wednesday, March 5, 2014

    Tools for Building Vocabulary

    Are you looking for simple, fun ways to build your students' vocabulary? 
    We have collected a few suggestions to help you out!

    As a classroom teacher, one of my favorite vocabulary building tools was the Vocabulary Anchor.  We used a large laminated poster of a sail boat and anchor, set up as the illustration below, without the words on it.  Each day the class would work together to fill in the chart using the new word of the day.  As a quick way to review, during short transition times, I would call out past vocabulary words and they would respond with the anchor words.
    With young students it is fun to build basic vocabulary with a game we called "Name It."  On small slips of paper create Name It cards with simple prompts such as: an article of clothing, a body part, a state, a fruit, etc.  With the children in a line or a row have the first child pick a card.  The teacher says, "A fruit, name it!"  The first 3-5 children each think of one word that fits the category.  Each word must be different from the person before them.  After 3-5 students, have someone pick a new category and continue listing new words.
    What's My Word, from Classroom Game Nook, is an interactive way for students to really get to know a new vocabulary word while recording their new learning.

    On our Pinterest board, titled Vocabulary Building, we have collected links to several other favorite Vocabulary Building Games you may be interested in trying with your students.

    Multimedia Vocabulary Tools
    To encourage interaction with technology while studying vocabulary, the following sites are fantastic.

    EGlossary provides interactive definitions that are read aloud to students and provide animated graphics.

    VocabAhead offers an email subscription for a Word a Day as well as a great vocabulary guessing app that is available online.


    Science Glossary, Geography Glossary, and Math Glossary offer online alternatives to practicing content vocabulary.

    Listing synonyms and antonyms for a new vocabulary term becomes a creative outlet if you use Tagul or Tagxedo.

    What are your tips and tricks for making vocabulary instruction entertaining and effective?

    Disclosure: None of the links above are sponsored.

    Sunday, March 2, 2014

    Throwing a #Frozen Olaf Party

    Disney has once again become the inspiration for our family's winter birthday girl.  The huge success of Frozen, as well as our ridiculously frozen winter here in Michigan, made an Olaf party on obvious choice this year. Not sure if I was thinking clearly when I agreed to letting my 8 year old invite her class to a pool party at our local aquatic center, but it made for the perfect setting for her friends to do "what frozen things do in summer!"


     frozen ice cap jello

     Olaf donut faces, Rice Krispie treat ice chunks, and snowman string cheese

    Snowman accessories: buttons, noses, and arms
    The kids used these to turn their donuts into snowmen

     thank you notes


    We created this game board as a variation on one of our silly family favorites, Don't Eat Pete. Put one marshmallow on each square of the game board.  One child is sent from the room while the other children choose which Olaf must not be eaten.  The first child returns and beings eating the marshmallows one at a time.  If/When the child tries to eat the piece on the chosen Olaf, the rest of the kids yell, "Don't Eat Olaf!"  The kids count how many they were able to eat before they tried to eat the Olaf, then refill the board for the next player.

                                     a game board and pieces for each child to take home

    snowman stacks

    Set the timer for 1 minute.  Everyone works by themselves to build as many snowman stacks on their mat before the timer rings.  Each stack must have at least 3 marshmallow.


     snow dough packaged with button beads, clay noses, and twigs

    fleece scarves rolled and wrapped with a note

    My daughter spent many hours of a snow day happily cutting and knotting these for her guests.  The scarves were a perfect way to cozy up after chillin' in the pool, changing out of suits, and heading home.


    Saturday, January 18, 2014

    Classroom Valentines

    disclosure: affiliate links included below

    As a child, and now as a mom and educator, my favorite holiday has always been Valentine's Day.  I love all things friendship, hearts, frilly, flowers, pink, red, purple, chocolate and more.  All the things Valentine's Day brings. In our house we begin putting together classroom Valentines early in January in anticipation.  Here are a few ideas we tried last year and those in the top running for this year.  It sure is fun to collect clever ideas from other bloggers and we would love to see what you have in the works for February 14th!

    original idea from Design Mom
    original idea from Paging Supermom
    original idea from Living Locutro
    Although we used candy hearts last year we especially love the options that include a treat that isn't sweet.  This year our oldest wants to pass out toy soldiers, my daughter has made piles of freindship bracelets to attach to her notes, and our preschooler is handing out adorable Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Bag of Bugs.  Our inspiration for this year's, yet to be assembled, Valentines comes from these clever bloggers:

    What are you creating for classroom Valentine's this year?