One day my son, Cory, was watching television and saw some kids eating snow cones. He asked me if I ever had a snow cone and my reply was “yes.” Then he wanted to know if it was good. I told him it was “tasty” especially on a hot summer day. Cory then asked if we can buy one and taste it.
The next weekend, I went to an ice cream shop hoping they would have a snow cone. The only item they served was ice cream. This was the case for the next ice cream shop we visited three weeks later. Cory finally said “Where can we get a snow cone?” I paused trying to think of an answer to his question. Then he said, “Can we make one on our own. I said, “I will research some recipes.”
Miraculously two days later, a former co-worker who often sends me fun hands-on activities for kids via Facebook, sent me a recipe for homemade snow cones. I thanked and told her Cory wanted to try snow cones for the past month.
After a week, we viewed the recipe and found that we had MOST of what was needed to make our own snow cones. Instead of buying new ingredients from the grocery store, we used what we had at home. Cory was so excited to make and taste his first snow cone.
Great Lesson In Making Snow Cones
Making homemade snow cones is an excellent lesson in science and cooking chemistry for kids. It provides a great opportunity to teach kids about irreversible change, which are things that cannot be changed back. During this process new materials are always formed. Irreversible change while cooking can mean heating various ingredients to create a new meal. You cannot change it back to its original state.
How To Make Homemade Snow Cones for Kids
My son and I will show you how to make homemade snow cones in the video below. It is an easy and fun process for kids to do with their parents.
My family and I recently went on a much needed vacation. We visited amusement parks, saw a musical, and became one with nature. There were days where we relaxed and explored the local area. On some relaxed mornings and evenings, my son and I would either play with a toy, read, watch television, go to the pool or playground.
One of our traditions when traveling is to cook so we don’t have to eat out for every meal. This means we go to the grocery store and also purchase household items from a retail store like Wal-Mart. While in Wal-Mart, my son and I picked up one container of Play-Doh. The next morning I saw him playing with it. He looked at me and asked if I wanted to play as well. Of course my answer was, “Sure.”
We began our playtime with making various shapes and objects. Then my son said let’s play a game with the Play-Doh. We put on our thinking caps to make up a Play-Doh game. After conversing and adding on to each other’s ideas, we came up with the Play-Doh Challenges.
These challenges were fun and caused the morning to go by really fast. I will share the challenges with you below.
Let’s Get Started!
Enjoy Our Play-Doh Creations Below!
The first challenge is called Guess What I’m Making.
Guess What I’m Making
Each person takes Play-Doh and makes something with it.
You may either give each other a time limit to make something or simply wait until you all are done creating.
Next guess what the other person made.
You may give clues if the other person is struggling to guess the correct answer.
If the person guesses correctly, they receive a point.
Please note: You don’t have to play with points as it will make the game more competitive.
The next challenge is Name that Category.
Name that Category
Each person takes Play-Doh.
One person names a category.
Creators will have to make something within that category with Play-Doh.
The other creators will guess what you made.
My son named the category “Toys.”
As a result, we both made toys.
The next challenge is Create the Word
Create the Word
I want to give you some background on this game. My son has been learning to write in cursive. He really likes practicing the curves, twists, and turns in cursive writing. If you follow my posts, you will know that we like to do hands-on activities with what we learn. This is one of those activities.
Each person take Play-Doh.
Have each person name a word.
The other player will have to create a word said by the another player.
For example, my son said the word “yell” and I made it with Play-Doh.
I said the word “cat” and he made it with Play-Doh.
If your child is not writing yet, another option is to make letters or numbers with them
This is a great activity for number and alphabet recognition.
About three weeks ago, my family and I went to Orlando, Florida for a fun vacation! We went to Disney Land and Sea World. The tickets included musical shows you can enjoy with your family. One show that was “epic,” in my son’s opinion, was Finding Nemo.
Below is what we saw before the show started.
We wanted to ensure we sat near the front, so we got to the theatre early. My family had to wait about 45 minutes before the show started. I usually keep activities in my backpack in case we have to wait for long periods of time. These activities include crayons, paper, Boogie board, playing cards, coloring books, and activity books. However, I took these items out of my backpack while walking around Disney Land. It was too much for me to carry all day.
I needed to think of games to play without my activity book, paper, and crayons. I wanted to make the time go faster while waiting for the show to start. Therefore, my son and I played four waiting games. We enjoyed playing the games and I wanted to share them with you.
Let’s Get Started
Rock Paper Scissors
You are most likely familiar with this game. The best thing about Rock, Paper, Scissors is all you need is your hands. You need two players for this game. We play this game in a tournament style. Below are the directions and how we played.
Each player uses their hand to represent the three items in the game: Rock, Paper, and Scissors.
The hand signals are as follows…
Rock = Balled Fist
Scissors = holding your pointer and middle finger to the side (similar to making the peace sign with your hands)
Paper = holding all five of your fingers out flat
Each player will say Rock! Paper! Scissors!” and then do one of the three hand signals towards their opponent.
The winner of a round is determined by three simple rules:
Rock wins against scissors.
Scissors wins against paper.
Paper wins against rock.
In our game, the first person to win 10 rounds won the game.
We played this way twice.
My son won one game and I was the victor in the other.
Try this game while you are waiting!
The time will go by faster.
Seek the Alphabet
My son and I love to play Alphabet Hunt Games at home. However, since we were at the Finding Nemo show, we played the Alphabet Seeking Game in the theatre. Below is how we played…
The object of this game to is find letters A-Z in the room where you are located.
The letters could be anywhere in the room like on clothing, books, pictures, magazines etc.
We found letters on our clothing, in the musical’s program, and on the theater’s backdrop
If you can’t find a letter in the room, you may either…
Say a word that starts with a particular letter
Find an object in the room that starts with a particular letter
We could not find the letter X, so my son said “x-ray” and moved on to Y.
Keep finding letters until you reach Z
There is no winner in the game.
The game participants are working together to find all the letters in the alphabet.
In this game, you are identifying words in a certain category in alphabetical order. This game will make you think.
Choose the categories you want to use in the game.
Ideas for categories are…
We chose food as our category.
Take turns saying words in alphabetical order until you get to Z.
The first person may say “A is for Apple
The second player may state ” B is for Banana.”
If a person gets stumped on a letter, the other players can assist them.
Once you have completed one category, choose another one.
This is a great listening game for players. It will help players practice their active listening skills. This game can be played with two or more people.
One player will pick an item in the room.
The same player will give clues to the other person(s) about the item in the room.
The other players’ job is to guess the item based on the clues given.
Once an item has been guessed, then another player will pick an item and give clues to others.
This is how we make waiting for long periods of time fun! It is a great alternative to having kids on a smart phone or tablet.
About a year ago, my son and I went outside and played in the snow. We took our snow sled and joined the other kids in the neighborhood to slide down the hill. Afterwards, we had a fun snow ball fight, made snow angels, and created snow mountains. We had a blast!
A couple days later, the sun melted the snow. We were happy to see the sun but a little disappointed because we could not have fun in the snow. Spring was making itself known in our city.
We didn’t want to let go of the fun we had with snow, so we decided to make our own. My son and I did this activity a little over a year ago and I forgot about it.
It wasn’t until my best friend, Donna, asked me if we had ever made our own snow. I told her “yes” but forgot to share it with others through this blog.
I live in an area where we get snow every year. However, Donna’s children hardly see snow, so this was the perfect activity for them.
About two days later, Donna sent me pictures of her son and daughter making snow. She said this activity kept them busy for two hours!!!!
Making your own snow is a great hands-on activity for kids. I will show you how below. All you need is two ingredients that you most likely have in your home.
Let’s Get Started
White Conditioner (some people use shaving cream as an alternative)
Container or Pan to make and play with snow
Action Figures (optional)
Cookie Cutter (optional)
Start mixing 1/2 cup of conditioner and 3 cups or baking soda.
We did not measure when we did this activity.
We kept adding more baking soda and conditioner until we got the consistency we liked
Make play time more fun by doing pretend play with action figures in the snow
Donna gave her kids cookie cutters to make various shapes in the snow.
Have your kids create artwork in the snow with sticks from outside.
Below are pictures of the fun our kids had making snow!
Toys that encourage creativity are a big part of childhood. My son used them to play, problem solve, build, and even to learn to read and write. However, not all toys are equal. There are some that will encourage your child to use their creativity and others that are limited in this area.
Toys where children are required to push a button are called closed-ended toys. They are fun but limit the child’s creativity and problem solving skills. A toy that plays a song after a child pushes a button teaches them cause and effect. This type of play is simple and straightforward.
However, if a child plays with blocks, they can build a tower, ramp, road, house, etc. It can also be used as an instrument or put together to formulate letters and numbers. Blocks can also be incorporated in pretend play. For instance, my son and I built a hospital and did a role play where he was the doctor and his stuffed animals were the patients.
Creativity and imagination are important in children’s lives because it will help them grow socially, intellectually, physically, and emotionally. It also aids them in expressing their thoughts, feelings, and ideas. I have observed children planning and conversing with each other on how they will play with open-ended toys such as puppets and Play-Doh.
I have also noticed that open-ended toys are cost-effective. We tend to keep these toys for longer periods of times because they grow with the child. When my son was younger, he made simple towers with blocks. Now that he is older, his towers are taller and more complex.
So, if you want to encourage your child to be creative and keep them busy in a positive way, try these toys below.
I have always admired people, young and old, who can play the game of Chess. Throughout my life, I have heard the many benefits of playing this strategic game. Also, people who play Chess seem intelligent to me.
Honestly, I have tried three times to learn chess and failed. It was the time and energy it took to learn the name of the pieces and how they moved. I would read or watch online videos about the game and eventually become bored.
The idea of tackling Chess again came from my mother. One of her gifts for my son’s third Christmas was a Chess game. It was the same cycle again.
I read the book that came with the game she gave my son and I got bored. Additionally, I thought my son was too young to learn the game. However, in the back of my mind, I knew Chess would be a game that he would like because it challenges the brain.
My Bright Idea
My decision was to wait until he got a little older to introduce him to the game.
My future plan was to take him to some type of community program that would teach him how to play Chess. Then, maybe I would learn through him. This was a win-win situation!
It wasn’t until one night while skimming Facebook, I saw an advertisement for Story Time Chess.After seeing the advertisement’s picture of young kids playing chess with their parents, I wanted to learn more. On the website, I saw these words, “A revolutionary new game that lets you teach your child how to play chess as young as the age of 3!”
It is revolutionary because it teaches kids to play through fun stories with colorful diverse characters instead of rules. Each piece has a story about how it moves. Each piece holds a character’s picture from their story which allows children to visually connect it to the chess board and understand how to play.
Another helpful aspect of Story Time Chessis each story is concluded with a mini game that reinforces how the pieces move.
We love it! My four-year-old son and I learned how to play chess within a week and a half of opening the game! He was highly motivated to learn because of the engaging stories and pieces in the game. We currently play almost daily. Sometimes, he wins and other times I am the victor.
Watch the two videos below of my son and I playing chess. The first video is footage of us playing a game. The second one shows my son winning against me in the game of Chess.
Below I will answer frequently asked questions parents have about Chess. It will be through the lens of our experience.
What age can a child learn chess?
The programs that I have researched in my local area start teaching kids chess at the age of seven. However, I have seen kids learn chess as young as five-years-old. My son learned how to play through Story Time Chess as a four-year-old. However, if I’d known about this game earlier, our starting age would have been three.
If your kids love fun engaging stories with colorful characters, they can learn at an early age.
What is the easiest way to play chess?
Of course you know the easiest way for us to play chess was to learn through Story Time Chess. We learned how the pieces moved in this order: king, pawns, knights, rooks, bishops, and queen. There were mini games at the end of each story that gave us a hands-on perspective on how each piece moved.
The best way to learn is be consistent with playing. It is important to learn the basic steps first and then take it a step further by learning various strategies.
We play daily which helps to hone our skills and learn new strategies.
What Chess teaches?
Chess teaches children so many important skills. I will concentrate on three skills below.
Chess teaches kids problem solving skills. During our games, my son spends time concentrating on how to keep his king safe while capturing mine. I can see him thinking about and planning his next move.
It also increases your child’s creatively. There is one piece my son loves to use when capturing my king. When I take that piece away from him, he has to be creative and think outside the box to win the game.
Chess has improved my son’s memory and observation skills. I use a particular strategy to win games against him. One day, I noticed he began to remember my first three moves while playing. He told me what the moves were and asked why I always did that. Then he developed some strategy to counter my moves. Amazing!
Today I challenged my son to find something creative to do while I cooked dinner. He spent some time blowing up a balloon then watched it fly through the air after releasing it. He played with his cash register and a DIY water gun we made earlier that day.
Next he saw the book, Draw Alphabeasts by Steve Harpster laying on the table. He decided to view it while he ate a snack. This book teaches you step-by-step how to make over 130 monsters, aliens, and robots from letters and numbers.
I checked this book out from the library about a year ago. We enjoyed drawing the characters so much, that I purchased it from Amazon.
This month is October and I thought his book choice was great because Halloween is soon approaching.
My son, Cory, skimmed the book and decided to draw a monster named Zeep starting with the number 4. After drawing, he showed me his picture and I was very impressed.
Cory then asked if I was almost done with cooking. My reply to him was “yes.” He wanted to pick a character for me draw. He chose a character named Freddy Bones, who resembles a skeleton and robot simultaneously. Again, it was the perfect picture for Halloween.
Below is a picture of our drawings, along with the step-by-step instructions we followed from the book. This book is perfect for beginning artists and for those who just want to be creative.
Try these out. There are characters drawn from numbers 1-20 and the alphabet in this book. Buy this book if you want to draw more characters! I highly recommend it!
I have parents approach me asking how to keep their child focused when learning something new or doing school work. This is something that we all face from time to time as parents.
Children can lose their focus for a number of reasons including…
they are not interested in the task
they are distracted
the task is too hard for them
they would rather be doing something else
Below are some tips that have helped in our household. Please share your tips in the comments below.
Breaking Up the Tasks
Our brains start to lose optimal focus after 25 minutes. Therefore in order to have optimal concentration, try to break tasks into 25 minutes of focused blocks of time. This is also called the Pomodoro Technique and will help your child focus on the task at hand. After 25 minutes has ended, have your child take a break. After the break, they can come back to the task for another 25 minutes.
Create More Beginnings and Endings
When reading a book, we tend to remember the beginning and ending for longer periods of time. Also, when we watch movies, it seems like the start and end of the story sticks in our brain. The proper terms for these occurrences are the primacy and recency effect. Primacy Effect is when you remember things at the beginning of the list because it happened first. The Recency Effect is when you remember the end of the list or an occurrence.
Remember we said the brain starts to lose optimal focus after 25 minutes. When you combine your knowledge of the Pomodoro Technique, Primacy, and Recency Effects, it makes sense to create more beginnings and endings. You may accomplish this by taking more breaks. Your child will remember more because there are more “firsts and lasts” bits of information that will stick in their brain.
Many of us want to put ALL the blame on our children for NOT having better focus when it comes to school or learning something new. However, I think we have to look at our role in the matter as well.
For example, I wanted my son to have better focus in the morning while getting dressed for school. We were always rushing to get ready for school. The problem was I often got out of bed late causing him to rush. He is the type of child that gets the tasks done but likes to takes his time to do it.
Once I started getting up earlier in the morning, he seems to have more focus.
As far as studying, it is effective to make the information more relevant to your child and break it up into smaller tasks. We will talk about this in the next point.
Sometimes children find a task so daunting that it is difficult for them to sit for 25 minutes. This is where Shaping can help save the day. Shaping is a technique many counselors use to teach kids new behaviors. It allows you to build a desired behavior in children using small steps. Once the child has mastered a step then you move to the next one.
If it is difficult for your child to focus for 10 minutes, have them try five minutes. If they are successful next time, add one or two minutes to the next session. Keep doing this until you have reached the desired 25 minutes. Also, give your child small rewards for completing a task. It will help keep them motivated.
Have Children Take Charge of Their Learning
I remember being in school thinking to myself, “Why do I have to learn this?” Some of the information we learned as children have never been used in our adult lives. However, learning something new strengthens your brain and puts you in better mental shape to be creative and work on your passion. When your child does not see the point in what they are learning, request that they be creative and make it relevant by using theChain Linking technique. Chain linking is a memory technique that allows your child to use their imagination and creativity to link facts to pictures and stories.
Chain linking is a great way for your child to take charge of their learning because they are creating the factual links to pictures and stories. When they create ways to remember information, they have more of connection to it. It also helps them learn information faster in a fun way.
Jim uses this technique to remember people’s names, speeches, and lists. He also emphasizes thinking and learning like kids because they are the fastest learners. I truly agree with him.
He encouraged his audience to practice the association story technique with another person. I decided to practice with my four-year-old son. He loved every minute of it and said “This is fun!” Below I will tell you how we did it.
Let’s Get Started!
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I gave my son nine colors to remember in order. The colors were…
I started by telling my son a story that included the colors.
The story went like this…
Mommy and Cory went out to play in the green grass. All of a sudden, they saw a huge orange and beside it was a purple eggplant. Both of these foods together looked like the number ten. Then we looked in the sky and saw a Blue Jay bird flying in the sky. The Blue Jay landed on a large white flower and beside it came a black fly. Then we heard a pink pig running and he happened to be hungry. The pig found and then ate a brown chocolate bar. Afterwards he became thirsty and drank yellow lemonade.
After I told my son this story I asked him to tell me the colors in order.
I encouraged him to use the story to remember the colors.
He was able to name all the colors in order.
He also remembered the colors in reverse order by telling the story backwards.
We were amazed at his ability.
Please note: He is using crayons as a visual for the video; however, he was able to remember the colors without the crayons.
Watch this video of my son remembering the colors…
Watch this video of my son remembering the words backwards.
This technique will also improve your child’s listening skills and focus.
I encourage you to try this activity while you are in waiting rooms, restaurants or even long road trips. My son and I did it during dinner time and had a great time.
Also, use this game to help your child remember important facts for school. Help your child make up a silly story with the facts as characters or items in the setting. This method works great when your child is learning…
The United States
The Presidents of the United States
Elements on the Periodic Table
Any facts your child needs to learn
Here are pointers for your story…
The sillier the story the better.
Ensure to use rich images while telling your story.
If your child can’t think of pictures for a certain word then have them use the “Sound Like” method.
Instead of saying the state, Alabama, use the phrase “Ala Bams on the A.” This will trigger the mind to think of Alabama.
Instead of saying the element (on the periodic table), Actinium, use the phrase Acting Up. This will help trigger the mind to think of Actinium.
Make up your own silly words, and it will help you remember facts faster.