Tag Archives: kids

State of the Union, 2014

28 Jan

As we make our way through a steady stream of school cancellations and the brains of our students slowly turn to mush, I’m looking forward to tonight’s opportunity to sharpen our pencils and get out the clipboards. We’re really excited to watch the State of the Union Address, or as Martin will likely call it, “Another Thing You Make Me Watch”.

To help keep our focus, we’ve created the Unofficial State of the Union Worksheet. Using this sheet, we’re going to track the usage of the terms we think are likely to be included in the speech. We’re going to keep it very simple, leaving tally marks each time we hear a phrase used. Now in our second year of SOTU Worksheets, we’ve done through a major reorg. For the 2014 edition, we’re grouping terms under topics that are likely to be covered. We’re hopeful that this will make it easier to track as the President is speaking on each subject.

And, as a bonus, we’ve created a new section – SOTU BUZZ. This section is left blank and can be filled out in any way you’d like. Here are some ideas we’re considering:
– Track the number of times the camera shows The First Lady
– Add buzz words that are used A LOT
– Track how long it takes for the first person at our house to fall asleep
– Track the number of times that individual citizens are named and shown by the camera

State of the Union Worksheet 2014

As always, I have explained to my children that watching the State of the Union is required by all U.S. Citizens that have access to the address.  So, if you see them tomorrow, please don’t tell them otherwise.  And if you play along, show them your completed worksheet.  It will reinforce the other thing I’ve been telling them, which is that I am a woman of GREAT INFLUENCE.

Print it: State of the Union Worksheet 2014

Prefer last year’s edition?  Go ahead and use it!  Fortunately for me, the terms on last year’s list are likely contenders for this one as well.

Lunch Log, 2nd Edition

4 Apr

A few years ago, after a conversation between Sophie and her cousin Grace, we realized that when it comes to lunch, someone else’s always looks better.  To help the girls keep track of what they liked about their own lunch, and what they spied in someone else’s lunch that looked particularly tasty, we created The Lunch Log.  Like every great worksheet project, they used it for awhile until it lost its luster.  Over the past two years, we’ve pulled it out and used it occasionally, usually when the lunch whining became particularly strong.

Recently, we’ve been talking about tracking food again, but this time for a different purpose.  For quite some time, Sophie has had stomachaches, and we can’t quite figure out what is causing her trouble.  We’ve tried adding more of certain foods into her diet, cut back on other things, and encouraged her to drink lots of water.  Some days are definitely better than others, but we’re not seeing consistent results.  In conversations with friends, I know that there are lots of families who are having similar experiences.  It’s easy to spot the connection between what you eat and how you feel, but identifying foods that are causing trouble takes some time and diligence.  It is a slow and tedious process.

Fact: There may be a direct connection between stomachache reduction and worksheet completion.*

*Totally not a fact.

While no worksheet has been scientifically proven to cure stomachaches, tracking what you eat and noting how you feel after doing so can certainly help to make the connections between food and the way your body feels.  By writing it all down, we’re reducing some of the mystery and giving us the tools we’ll need to pay attention and find patterns.

Tracking is easy – simply complete the worksheet after each meal.  If your child is a pretty good reader and writer, let them do the writing and add details as needed.  At the end of the day, use the Recap section as a way to identify whether there was enough variety in the foods consumed to provide the nutrients needed for wellness and growth.  Overall, the goal is to create an awareness between what you eat and how you feel, so don’t worry too much about 100% accuracy.  Unless 100% accuracy is very important to you, in which case I apologize that I’m using LUNCH to represent ALL FOOD CONSUMED REGARDLESS OF THE TIME OF DAY.

lunch log_diagram_v2_Page_2

Items you will need:
• Mini binder (holds 5.5” x 8.5” sized pages)
• Adjustable 3-hole punch or hand-held paper punch
• Scissors or paper cutter
• Pencil
• Colored pencils, markers, or crayons
• Printed cover and inside pages (see links below)

Print it:
Lunch Log, 2nd Edition – Lunch Log Cover, Instructions, Inside Pages
Lunch Log, 2nd Edition – Inside Pages Only

State of the Union, THE WORKSHEET

11 Feb

I think it’s pretty well documented that around here, we love a good worksheet.  Debates, Super Bowl Bingo, Lunch Log – we’re not picky.  Give us a crisp worksheet, a clipboard, and a sharp #2 Dixon Ticonderoga, and we’re happy.  At least 66% of our household is happy.

So, tomorrow night, Sophie and I will be sitting in front of the laptop with clipboards in hand while Martin moans with the unfairness of it all, as we watch the State of the Union.

To keep everybody’s attention, we’ve created the Unofficial State of the Union Worksheet.  Using this sheet, we’re going to track the usage of the terms we think are likely to be included in the speech.  We’re going to keep it very simple, leaving tally marks each time we hear a phrase used.  We’re not going to worry about total accuracy and there’s no way to win.  Unless of course, you count a night with clipboards and your children as a win.  WHICH I DO.

State of the Union Worksheet


Want to join us?  Print your own!

Print it: State of the Union Worksheet

Listen, Learn, Decide: 2012 Presidential Debate

3 Oct

It doesn’t happen very often that I declare absolute control over what we watch on TV, usually opting not to watch at all while the kids get their fill of all things DISNEY/NICK/CARTOON NETWORK.  But every once in awhile, there are events that I want to watch, requiring that I take temporary charge of the remote control.  When this happens, I’ve found that there are two things that make this abrupt change in behavior much more acceptable:

1. Snack trays.
2. Worksheets.

Tonight’s Presidential Debate is one of those TV watching occasions that I really don’t want to miss.  Taking a page from my experience with the Oscars and the Super Bowl, I’ve created a worksheet for the kids to use during the debate.  Armed with a pencil and clipboard, the worksheet will help to keep the kids engaged and listening as the debate happens.

Depending on their age and how much they understand, this may only last for a few minutes, but it gives me the chance to hear the candidates and the kids to start to understand the basics of civic responsibility.  As second and fourth graders, I don’t expect that they will fully grasp the content of the debate or the positions of the candidates, but by watching the process they can start to understand that it is the responsibility of every voter to LISTEN, LEARN and DECIDE.

In each of the worksheet fields, I’ll ask the kids to write a few words or sentences to capture their thoughts – what they heard, what they liked about it, and what they’d like to learn more about.  Lastly, I’ll ask them to make a decision based on what they know.  I’d like the kids to understand that it is equally important to be INFORMED and TO TAKE ACTION.

Want to join us?  Sharpen your pencil, grab a clipboard, and print your own chart below.

Print it: Debate Chart_2012

Lunchbox Trivia

16 Jul

We’re at the halfway point in the summer and I swear, when I look at the kids I can practically see their brains starting to turn to mush.  The enthusiasm for my summer reading challenge has waned, interest in math games is lukewarm at best, and they’re onto my efforts to trick them into writing and spelling.  The standard response to the suggestion of any activity is to squint and look me square in the eyes, trying to determine whether there might be any subversive learning lurking behind the activity.

Guess what?  There is.

To combat the mid-summer learning slump, I decided to make up a new game that relies heavily on two facts:

  1. If there is a LAFFY TAFFY JOKE or FORTUNE COOKIE around, a kid will read it.  Even when they don’t quite get the jokes or when the fortune is too confusing, they’ll still read it.  They read it to themselves, share it with me, and run off to show it to another kid.  Every. Single. Time.  So if short bits of information in a sharable way is what they like?  We can do that.
  2. Kids love a scratch-off game.  There’s a tiny thrill in that moment before the reveal.  Very tiny, but still, it’s there.

This week we’re combining both of those facts into scratch-off trivia cards.  Each morning, the kids will choose a trivia card to place in their lunchbox.  At lunchtime, they can scratch the top of the card to reveal the question, then the bottom half to discover the answer.  In order to qualify for a new card the next day, they need to bring the card home to read it to me.  Simple idea and not very hard to make, I think the kids are going to like them.  Even if they don’t find all of the facts interesting or don’t know many of the answers, I can guarantee that they will like scratching off the ticket each day to reveal that day’s questions and answers.

To make your own lunchbox trivia cards, you’ll need:

  • A list of questions and answers
  • Lunchbox Trivia Cards Printable sheet
  • Colored cardstock (cut into 2.25″ x 3.75″ rectangles)
  • Clear packing tape
  • Pen
  • Acrylic metallic paint
  • Dish soap
  • Paintbrush

To start, I made a list of questions that I thought would be age-appropriate, that would interest my kids, or that I thought they should know.  Not every card will hit the mark perfectly, but that’s the beauty of providing info in this way.  Don’t care who invented the cotton gin?  Try again tomorrow!

Once you have a list of questions and answers, print the trivia card sheet and add your own information.  Cut out each card and adhere it to the construction paper rectangles using packing tape.  Most packing tape is just under 2″ wide which will cover the entire surface of the trivia card, with enough room to adhere it onto the colored backing.  Center it if you can and smooth out any wrinkles with your fingernail.

According to Martha Stewart, to create perfect scratch-off paint, mix 2 parts metallic paint with 1 part dish soap.  Not one to argue, I did exactly that and it worked out fine.  Apply the paint mixture over the question and answer on each card.  I applied 2 coats on each one, letting it dry between each layer (about 30-45 minutes drying time with each layer).  I tried both thick and thin layers and found that it didn’t matter much.  You’ll need to keep applying layers or paint until the words are covered, so give each a try and do whatever works best for you.

Print it: Lunchbox Trivia Cards (15 per sheet)

P.S. If you decide to make these cards and find that about halfway through you feel like you are a chump for doing the project and I am a double-chump for suggesting it, try watching an episode of The Vampire Diaries while you complete the project.  It helps, trust me.

Healthy Summer Challenge

12 Jun

As an adult, the connection between food (what and how much) and exercise (how much and how often) and how I feel is something that I can clearly see.  The more I eat and the less I move, the worse I feel.  Sometimes those feelings are physical like an upset stomach or discomfort in clothing that does not fit as well as it used to.  Other times, those feelings come in the form about how I feel about myself.  It seems like common sense that by eating the right amounts of good foods and exercising regularly, you are giving yourself the best possible chances for feeling healthy, strong, and comfortable in your own body.  And while it is common sense, it doesn’t always come easily and it rarely happens without thought and effort.

As a parent, I struggle with how to talk to my kids about health and nutrition in a way that is both age appropriate and positive.  We started last year by using the Lunch Log as a way to help illustrate the different factors that go into a making and eating a healthy meal.  In a worksheet format, the Lunch Log can help a kid to make sure they are eating something from each of the major food groups and getting some variety along the way.  In our family, tracking meals helped the kids to understand that while they like apples and it is a healthy choice, mixing up the kids of foods and vegetables that you choose helps to give your body different nutrients.  Full disclosure: they were more interested in eating something from each of the color groups so that they could use more  markers, than they were with the nutrients that those foods provided.  And you know what?  I’m okay with that.  At this age, seeking and consuming variety is a lot more important than understanding the nutritional value that each option provides.

Lately I’ve noticed that we’ve gotten into a bit of a food rut, and this led to some interesting discussion about making healthy choices.  The more we talked about health and wellness, the more I realized that two of the hardest parts about living a healthy life are AWARENESS and CONSISTENCY.  While it is not that hard to plan out a healthy lunch, it is just one part of a day that is just one part of a week and so on.  And of course, when you start to look at the big picture, the focus moves off of just food and onto the other stuff you do for yourself that helps you to feel good.

To help us to take a look at what we’re doing to help ourselves be healthy and feel good, we’re putting into action the:

Healthy Summer Challenge

And because we’re nothing if not competitive, we’re making it into a game with prizes.  Here’s how it works:

  1. Fill out a Healthy Summer Challenge Form (example below, printable page at the bottom).
  2. Write down the basic information in each category to show what you ate, what you did for exercise, and how much water you consumed.
  3. Give each category a rating from 1-10 (10 is high) to show how you think you did that day.  Making pretty good food choices for a day could give you a 8 or a 9.  Eating a bunch of junk would warrant a low number.  These ratings are subjective.
  4. Add any Notes for Tomorrow to help you to identify things you might like to do differently.  This gives each person the chance to reflect on the day and determine if there is a positive change to make for the next day.
  5. Add the date and the person’s name to the bottom, then drop it in a bucket.
  6. Once a week, draw a slip from the bucket to select a winner.
  7. The winner gets to select a prize from the Healthy Summer Challenge Prize Pack.
  8. All remaining slips stay in the bucket, earning more chances to win.
  9. One entry per person, per day.

For our Prize Pack, I selected a few things that would encourage activities, stuff they’ve been begging for, and items I knew would catch their attention.  Also, I made an effort to choose items that did not use food or inactivity as the reward (except for the Mad Libs, they are on the sedentary side).

We’re one week into the Challenge and so far, they’re doing great.  I’ve set the Prize Pack up like a display so that they can stare down the options while they decide whether or not it is worth it to fill out the form.  And once they have the form in hand, they want to make choices that will give them a higher rating.  And although I won’t tell them, my plan to get them to be more aware of their choices is working.

As the summer progresses, I anticipate that their interest in filling out the slips will wane.  As that happens, I may throw bonus options into the mix:

  1. Bonus form for the person who has the most activity in a single week
  2. Bonus form for the person who plans and makes a healthy meal
  3. Super prize, like an afternoon at the water park
  4. Double-prize award

Want to have a Challenge at your house?  Download and print the form below.  Each sheet includes four slips – print and cut the sheet into quarters.

Print it: healthy summer challenge slips

If you participate, let us know!  We’d love to hear your ideas for bonus options, prizes, and how it works at your house.

Papa Murphy’s: The Mini Murph

26 Apr

Mini Murph. So cute to say, even cuter in the box.  Last night we picked up a few of the take-and-bake pizza kits from Papa Murphy’s.  Designed for kids, each kit is filled with everything they need to build their very own pizza including crust, sauce, cheese, pepperoni (optional), and a temporary tattoo.  Because nothing says “I’m a chef” like a tattoo.  The crust and sauce at Papa Murphy’s are non-dairy, so the kit is perfect for our house because it means that just by adding a little non-dairy cheese of our own, Sophie can have THE SAME as everybody else.  And when you’re seven, sometimes THE SAME is a big deal.

The kids took charge of the assembly, carefully reading the instructions.

Armed with rice mozzarella shreds, Sophie topped her pizza, stealing a few slices of pepperoni from Martin’s kit.  Martin consented, only because Sophie gave him the cheese from her kit and agreed that he could have FIVE slices of pepperoni to her FOUR.  If I had let her, I think she would have used a protractor and a scalpel to EXACTLY AND EVENLY divide that extra slice of pepperoni.  If left to their own devices, kids would use pepperoni as currency.

While the pizzas baked, the kids made some art.  I think its super important that kids learn to express themselves visually, so we do this every night before dinner.  KIDDING.  I tricked them into thinking that it was a required part of the Mini Murph’s that you do some drawing and writing while the pizza bakes.  I figure this will be good for maybe one or two more times before the jig is up.

Martin’s Mini Murph practically DARES you to eat him.

Sophie has a very big interest in title pages, therefore her title content makes up half of her story.  I know, a kid who likes title pages.  I wish that she’d been around when the card catalog was still a big piece of furniture filled with long drawers and tons of cards.  She’d have loved that old-fashioned thing.

Back to the pizza.  By the time they were done writing and drawing, the pizzas were ready.  They loved them.  I don’t know this for sure, but I think there may be a dash of MIRACLES in the ingredient list because the kids ate the whole thing – including the crust.  Which has never happened before.  EVER.

We loved the Mini Murph’s, and we’ll definitely have them again.  Thanks to Papa Murphy’s for the gift cards and for suggesting we give them a try!  We’re hooked.

Shelf Markers

28 Jun

We’ve been very lucky over the years to amass quite a collection of books.  It seems like everywhere we turn, there are stacks and piles on counters, in bags, and next to beds.  After collecting books from all kinds of places and attempting to organize them on shelves, it occurred to me just how many books have been going unread.  Books that used to be old favorites have been replaced by new ones, some that we’ve read a few times were set aside in favor of books from the library.  And while I’m not too particular about WHAT the kids are reading, and am mostly just glad that they ARE reading, I felt like we’ve been neglecting a pretty good collection. 

“Bet you couldn’t read every book on these shelves this summer,” I said.

“Bet I could,” answered Sophie.

And that bet turned into our own summer reading program – Shelf Markers. 

We made a deal – read an entire shelf of books, and I’ll pay $10.00.  They could organize the books in any way they wanted, as long as all the books in our collection were placed on one of three shelves.  After much discussion, they settled on placing the longest books all on one shelf, and split the rest of the books so that there would be subjects of interest to both kids on each of the two remaining shelves.  They determined the best strategy would be to try to fully complete one shelf at a time in order to maximize the payout. 

To track our progress, we made Shelf Markers.  As each book is finished, it is placed to the left of the Shelf Marker and the name of the book is written on the back.  This allows us to get a quick visual for how far we’ve come, and the names on the back eliminate the temptation to try to trick me into thinking we’ve read more than we actually have.

The kids and I all take turns reading the books, mostly depending on how tired we are.  So far, we’re only issuing credit for those books we’re reading aloud, but that could change as the summer progresses.  I’m all about following the rules, even when they are self-imposed and new ones are created frequently.

An artistic note: we made our Shelf Markers using manilla folders, crayons, pencils, and markers.  We chose to make them into the shape of arms because we wanted them to be long enough to stand out past the books on the shelves, and once we got started, they just looked armlike, so we added hands.  I’m sure lots of great art is created that way.

Art Cards

10 Jun

Now that the school year is over, let me say this: Kindergarten students bring home massive amounts of papers every day.  I am glad to see the work, love to watch progress being made, but without some regular upkeep the pile of take-home papers can become a Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout re-enactment.

Early in the year we developed a method of sorting, keeping, and recycling the worksheets, but that still left us with a good-sized stack of art.  I love kid art and wanted a way to share the love in a way other than the Upstairs Gallery (aka The Fridge). Turning art into useable note cards is a great solution.  I love having fun stationary and cards to use for myself, and a set of 10 with envelopes makes an excellent gift. 

Project: Art Cards

Get Started: Take a photo of the artwork.  Natural light works best.  Try to zoom in as close as you can to the work while still keeping all of the elements in the frame.

Prepare for Print: If you like the way the photo looks straight out of the camera, you are all set and ready to upload for printing.  For this card, I used two photos and removed the background using a graphics program, then added some text. 

Go to Print:  There are lots of places to print folded or flat notecards.  Art cards are wonderful for personal use, but also make terrific gifts, so order loads.  I’ve used the following sites for printing, but any place that offers this service would work well.  Be sure to check each site for their printing requirements for size or format.
Overnight Prints