The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: August 2012

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

10 Rainy Day Activities

As the summer draws to a close for most kids, they may have gotten bored with the same old indoor activities on rainy or sweltering days.  Here are some new ones provided by my friends at, which is a wonderful website for college students looking for summer nanny jobs in exotic locations!

  1. Create bubble fun in the sink (or tub!). Pull up a chair or a step stool to the sink for little ones to reach. Fill the sink half full with room temperature water and soap suds. Bring in spoons, cups, funnels, egg beaters, whisks, and other water friendly toys. The kids will enjoy playing in the water with all of the bubbles. If you are worried about her getting wet just throw on an apron or cut some holes in a garbage bag and put that over her clothes to protect them. Splashing in the bubbles is good, clean fun.
  2. Fashion a sand box with rice instead of sand. Gather some toys that would work well for sifting and sorting. Throw in measuring spoons and measuring cups as well. Take a large plastic storage container and fill it about 1/3 full of rice. Most grocery stores sell the giant bags of rice for a few dollars. When the kids are done playing just snap the lid on and put it in the closet for the next rainy day.
  3. Go on a treasure hunt. No matter what stage your kids are in they can enjoy a good treasure hunt. Use pictures for little ones who can’t read clues, clues for those kids that can read, and riddles for those kids that are older. This will take a little planning, but while the kids are watching a movie or playing a board game you can be creating the treasure hunt.
  4. Play indoor Ping-Pong using paper fans instead of paddles. Blow up a small balloon and after the kids have created their own paddles out of a paper fan they can start blowing the balloon back and forth to their opponent. Make up rules like the first person to get the balloon past their opponent’s head gets a point. Players must only use the wind of the fan to move the balloon. No hands can touch the balloon or you lose a point.
  5. Create a robot out of recycled materials. Using only items found around the house have the kids build their own robot. Have a contest to see who has the biggest robot, who has the most complicated robot, and whose robot does the coolest stuff. Print out certificates for these honors while the kids are making the robots. Once the robots are done encourage the kids to sit down and write a store about their robot and how it works and see if they can come up with a whole world where other robots live as well.
  6. Play an indoor game of horse using wads of paper and a trash container. Just like in real horse the players each get a chance to shoot a basket from around the room. The youngest kid goes first and the older ones have to make the exact same shot if she makes her first shot. House rules can apply and the little kids can get two tries at the shot before getting a letter. If you miss a shot you get one letter and ultimately the person who spells H-O-R-S-E first loses. The last person in is the winner.
  7. Roll out the marble is a game of speed and skill. Grab some paper towel or wrapping paper tubes and cut them in half. Make sure that everyone that is playing the game has an equal sized track. Line up the players in a line and give the first person in the line a marble. The object is to roll the marble down the track without touching it and pass it to the next person in line. Next, that player passes it on until the last person has to pass it on to the first person in line. If you drop the marble you are out and play starts at the beginning again.
  8. Building a fort in the living room can keep the kids busy for hours. By using sofa cushions, blankets, sheets, chairs, and other items from around the house you can challenge your kids to build a fort in the living room. Fill the fort with cushy pillows and once the fort is complete you can climb in with them and read them a story.
  9. Bake a batch of cookies or brownies with your kids. Kids enjoy spending time with you, and who doesn’t love a nice warm cookie and some milk on a cold rainy day? Use baking as a chance to talk about measurements and proportions, and cleanliness. Use your favorite recipe, and if you have a big kid ask them to read the recipe to the rest of you.
  10. Turn up the music and have a dance party. Active kids will get a little restless if they can’t go outside to play. Here’s the solution: crank up some music and let everyone dance and sing until they have gotten their wiggles out.
Happy parenting!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Top Five Ways Teachers Can Save Money for Classroom Resources

You are already familiar with requesting freebees from local companies that are happy to help the schools. And you probably save a variety of items from egg cartons to L’eggs containers for craft projects. But in today’s economy, it becomes even more important to find other ways to save money so you can have more resources for your classroom. Here is the Letterman-style countdown:
5. Design group projects. When I was teaching, this was my favorite way to save time and materials while encouraging students to cooperate and arrange an order of values. With a group of three working together, you use 1/3 the materials and take 1/3 the time to grade their projects. (Note: I never used a group of four because in that situation, inevitably one student always ends up sitting back and watching the project unfold.)
4. Find retired or retiring teachers. Many times, the retirees are looking to downsize or clean their supply cabinets. Approach the retiree with the thought that their materials will live on through the next generation of students. I’m sure that teacher will be very glad to share what she has stockpiled over twenty or thirty years. (After she has retired, feel free to discard unusable materials and save what you need!)
3. Post a teacher’s wish list on your website. You do have a website, right? Where you post assignments and extra credit offerings? If not, start one. Then let parents know that the homework will be there for their review every night. You’ll be more likely to get finished homework in the next day. Part of your website should be a wish list with a deadline if you have one. Suppose you need 40 toilet paper rolls by February 4. Post that request on January 20 and watch the donations come in. Remember to post a thank you when you reach your quota. Don’t be afraid to ask for things that cost money. Maybe you need two dozen black sharpies and three packs of construction paper for a map project. Let your parents know what you need, how many, the deadline, and what the materials will be used for. Remember to post pictures of the finished products.
2. Write a grant. In my 25 years of teaching, I brought in over $25,000 for my classroom from assorted grants. The money is out there for special projects. Look at the government site: . Then click on Innovative Approaches to Literacy Program. This program deadline for 2012 has passed, but is available every year. You might apply for classroom sets of books for use in your classroom because they fill the need to provide hi-lo reading material for your reluctant readers. Grantmakers love this stuff! See how many creative grants you can write to gain materials.  
1. And the number one way for teachers to save money is: Combine curricula. You could get a book on rainbows to use during the science block, another one on responsibility because you find a number of your students lack this quality, and a third on suffixes for your literacy corner. Visit my new company, to see how we have combined STEM topics with character education in a literacy platform for K-5 students.
Happy Teaching!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Crock Pot Meals for Families

During the busy school year, working moms like to make dinner in the morning and let it cook all day long in the slow cooker.  These links to yummy recipes come from my friends at

  1. Freebies 2 Deals You can find more than kid-friendly Crock-pot recipes on this blog. You’ll also learn a method to freeze the meals ahead of time so that all you have to do is get up in the morning and dump a bag into the Crock-pot before leaving for work.
  2. Justfindit4u This blog posts new kid-friendly Crock-pot recipes every Wednesday.
  3. Crockpot 365 Blogger Stephanie is cooking in her Crock-pot every day for a year. There are tons of recipes on this blog that appeal to families who have kids to please when it comes to meal time. She has 3 kids and will tell you what her kids thought of each recipe and you can choose which ones to try from there.
  4. Cookingwithmykid Great recipes abound on this site, not all for the Crock-pot, but still well worth a look.
  5. Mommyskitchen An awesome blog written by a mom who uses her Crock-pot a lot in summer and winter alike. Check out the many recipes found on this blog and get some ideas from her month of menus.
  6. Just a pinch There are tons of recipes on this blog, and it’s got a great search feature on the side that allows you to search for kid-friendly recipes, Crock-pot recipes, chicken recipes and more.
  7. Semi Homemade Mom Taking a little help from the store while still using her Crock-pot, this blogger has tons of great recipes with the family in mind.
  8. The Farm Girl Great recipes and stories from this Idaho mom of 4. She has lots of Crock-pot recipes – just do a search for them on her blog.
  9. A Busy Mom’s Slow Cooker Adventures This working mom found that she didn’t have time to get dinner on the table with all of the things she was involved in. So she turned to her Crock-pot for the answer and she is blogging about it.
  10. Living a Changed Life You can eat healthy while cooking meals in the Crock-pot. Check out this blog from a lady who lost 90 pounds!
  11. Ring Around the Rosies From the freezer to the Crock-pot, this blogger shows you how to make up 12 meals for the freezer during only a 2 hour naptime. Lots of ideas to save you time and money making healthy meals for your family.
  12. Get off Your Butt and Bake Tons of recipes for the Crock-pot, just do a Crock-pot search to pull them up. Lots of other yummy recipes as well.
  13. Get Crocked Did you think that Crock-pots were just for cooking dinner? Here is a blogger that not only has lots of dinner recipes, but she has lots of breakfast Crock-pot recipes too. How about Crock-pot cinnamon rolls? Mmmmm.
  14. Moms with Crock-pots Find a recipe for green eggs and ham for the Crock-pot on this blog. Plus tons of cheesy Crock-pot potato recipes, as well as many others.
  15. Family Fresh Meals Crock-pot recipes for everything from vegetarian stuffed peppers to Mexican Lasagna on this blog.
  16. Crockin Girls These bloggers have even written and published their own cookbook! The blog is great because you can find recipes by main ingredient. If you’ve got some chicken you need to use up just click on chicken to pull up those recipes.
  17. Six Sisters Stuff Just as you’d expect, there are 6 sisters writing this blog, and together they share Crock-pot recipes, kid’s crafts, and much more.
  18. Crock-a-doodle-do This working mom with two kids tells other working moms how she gets dinner on the table every night using her Crock-pot. You can serve up dinner each night too with her help.
  19. Chef in Training There are many interesting recipes on this blog, starting with soup and ending with Honey Sesame Chicken. Give them all a try.
  20. Plain Chicken Not all of the recipes on this blog are Crock-pot recipes, but quite a few are, and the others are pretty delicious looking too. It’s worth a gander.
  21. Weight Watchers Crock-pot Recipes Trying to get back your girlish figure after having kids? These recipes offer the perfect combination of both delicious and nutritious. And as an added bonus, they’re all simple to make too.
  22. Tasty Planner This is a great place not only to find Crock-pot recipes, but also to put together menus and create grocery lists.
  23. The Lady 8 Home An insightful blog about home life, chores, and Crock-pot recipes.
  24. Practical-stewardship This blogger has a slow cooker Saturday routine so there are plenty of recipes to choose from on this site. There’s also little bits of other interesting stuff too.
  25. Crystal and Co. The mommy resource is what this blogger claims to be. She has a killer recipe for Crock-pot mac and cheese that the kids will love, plus many others you can try.
  26. The Mom Initiative 10 Sanity Saving Crock-pot recipes on this blog. Many other mom tips are here as well.
  27. Blessed Beyond a Doubt This site has several Crock-pot recipes posted by this homeschooling mom. All recipes have been taste-tested by her kids and were favorites.
  28. Lynn’s Kitchen Adventures Lynn shares recipes for Crock-pots meals that her family loves. She also has an allergy section if you need help with cooking for people with allergies.
  29. Jamie Cooks it Up This blogger has posted more than a dozen different family-friendly Crock-pot recipes as well as other healthy recipes.
  30. Crock-pot Ladies This isn’t just any site about Crock-pot recipes. There’s a recipe for making sweet tomato butter in the Crock-pot, Peach vanilla butter, blueberry angel food cake and many other sweet treats. If you are looking for unique recipes for your Crock-pot, this is the place to go.
Happy parenting!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

PowerPoint presentations on your web page

So, you have your web page set up and ready to go for the new school year.  You might have a space where you can post your daily homework.  Or you could have started a blog where parents and students can post comments to your questions.  But what about those PowerPoint programs you use in class to present a new topic or review for the test?  Why not post them, as well?  It is SO easy and you already have the PowerPoint, so what's stopping you?  Here is all you need to post to your web page:

Go to for the complete, detailed explanation.

If you want the cheap and easy explanation, simply save your PowerPoint presentation to a SkyDrive (free from Microsoft - all you have to do is sign up).  To do that, in your PowerPoint program, go to your Save and Send menu, click Save to Web, sign in with your SkyDrive account and click the line item with the name of your PowerPoint on it.  On the right, click Embed.  That will give you a code (shorter than you'd expect!) you can use at your website.  Instead of cutting and pasting like you would a picture, you need to go to the HTML format of your web page (usually another tab).  Simply copy the embedded code there, save and switch to your normal view, and VOILA! your PowerPoint magically appears for students who want a review or who might have been absent.

Add this link to your web page for those students who don't have MS Office: It's a free download for a powerpoint viewer only.

SO much fun for you and your students :-) 

Happy teaching!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

QR Code Readers for Homework

You know your students love to play with their phones, so why not give them something real to do?  Create a QR code like the one at the bottom of this post.  Link it to your universal homework blog where you post each night's homework.  VOILA!  You have a record of all homework assignments that your students can instantly access by clicking the QR reader on their "smart" phones and photographing the image.  Naturally, this will only work in districts where your students are from families that can afford a phone for their children, but I daresay most kids do have a cell phone, if only for parental peace of mind! 

So, set up the system now using a simple, free, blog like the one I use. Then each afternoon before you leave school, post the homework or a personal message for your students.  What fun!  Here is a link to a free QR code creator:  You can even set up the blog so your students can comment back and ask questions (or not!).  Post the image of this QR code by your door and distribute the image on a homework info page on the first day of school. Tell your students to list this website then as a "favorite" so they can return each night without scanning the code again, but I bet they will want to use the system frequently! Think of the kudos from your administration for letting technology work for you!  Relish in the respect you'll get from parents on back-to-school night!

Try the system: Use your smart phone or tablet to take a picture of this image and you'll be instantly linked to my other website (NOTE: you have to download the QR reader software if it is not already loaded onto your phone - also free!):


Happy teaching!  And enjoy the upcoming school year :-)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Hidden Dangers of Piercings

While my ears are pierced, and so are the ears of my daughters, there are some dangers involved with piercing a hole into body parts!  The information below comes from my friends at

Many parents like to pierce their child’s ears while they’re still babies so that it’s out of the way while the child is too young to remember the pain, but that may not be the best option for your kids. Before you take your little one in to get her ears pierced, you may want to consider some of the dangers associated with ear piercing.

For parents eager to get their baby’s ears pierced, the first place they may consider getting them done is at the mall. However, parents should use caution when visiting such a piercing site. Although the person piercing ears at the mall may have minimal piercing training, she is likely not a medical expert and the piercing conditions may be less sterile than desired.

Another common option for piercings is a tattoo parlor. While many tattoo parlors specialize in piercing, not all states regulate piercings in tattoo parlors. You’ll want to check the licensing requirements of your state prior to visiting a tattoo parlor for a piercing.

Some pediatrician’s will pierce infants’ ears as part of their practice offerings. For parents considering piercing their baby’s ears, this is often the most hygienic place to have it done.
Regardless of where your baby gets her ears pierced, warnings should be given before the procedure and care instructions should be given after the procedure is completed. You’ll want to make sure that everything is sterile, that the piercer washes their hands before the procedure, and that they wear gloves. If you have any concerns about the piercer or the place, don’t hesitate to go someplace else. It’s not worth the risk. If the instruments are not sterilized blood could transfer from one person to the other and HIV could be contracted.

Like adults, babies can get infections from pierced ears. Babies can also be allergic to the metal that the earring is made of which could result in a rash, and they tend to explore their world with their hands, which could result in her grabbing at her ears. This could introduce bacteria to the piercing site. Ear piercings, when infected, can disrupt your child’s sleep because it’s hard to find a comfortable place to lay her head. Infection can also cause fevers. To prevent infection, parents should make sure to clean the earring and piercing site as directed.

When young children wish to get their ears pierced, timing should also be considered. Many sporting teams will not allow earrings to be worn on the field because they become a risk for the player with the piercing as well as other players. Timing the piercing for a time when your child will have 4 weeks to leave the earrings in can avoid disruptions in athletic endeavors and reduce the risk of piercing problems. Taking earrings out before the recommended time can cause the hole to close, infection, and pain when the earrings go back in, among other things.

Some adolescents and teenagers may dream of getting the upper part of their ears pierced. Piercing the upper cartilage of the ear hurts more than piercing the lobe. The chance for infection in that area is higher than with an ear lobe piercing, and infections in the upper ear can result in nasty smelling puss being discharged, redness, and swelling. The swelling can actually deform the ear permanently. This infection is also typically harder to treat.

One of the most difficult piercing ideas for parents to swallow is the idea of piercing around and in the mouth. While tongue piercing seems to be popular among teens, there are some safety concerns regarding tongue piercings. According to Dr. Hendry, complications of tongue piercing can include broken or chipped teeth, gum surgery, swallowing the bar which can result in the need for surgery, infection, long term pain, and possibly death. Lip piercing is somewhat safer than tongue piercing because there is less blood loss, but the back of the stud rubs on the gums, which can necessitate surgery in order to prevent tooth loss. These are serious complications that are worthy of in-depth discussion prior to a tongue or lip piercing decision being made.

For teens considering nose piercings, they should be well informed of the dangers associated with them. Nose piercings are dangerous because the nose’s primary function is to filter out germs and bacteria. According to the AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) infection is the leading risk in nose piercings. According to a study done at Rutgers and Texas Tech 46% of college students that got a body piercing had some problems with infection. That’s almost 1 out of every 2 people so the odds are very high that those with nose piercings will encounter medical complications.
All body piercings come with risk for Hepatitis C, skin, blood, and bone infections, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This staph infection is resistant to antibiotics and very hard to treat. If any pain, drainage, or swelling occurs seek medical attention as soon as possible. There are some conditions that can be easily treated if caught early enough.

So, the bottom line is that when your child asks to get something pierced, discuss with her the risks involved.  Let your child then make her own decisions about whether the risk of infection outweighs the peer factor.  If after much consideration, she decides to go ahead with the piercing, encourage and support her so that she goes to a sterile location, not a chop shop riddled with germs.  If you forbid the piercing, she will likely go somewhere less reputable.  (I used the generic she in this ariticle, but young boys are just as at risk for infection as young girls.)

After all, safety should be your number one priority when raising your children!

Happy parenting!
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