Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Week in Review – November 1, 2014

Highlights of the Week

  • We had a birthday party for Smarty last Sunday. It was a lot of fun, but now birthday is officially over.
  • I got selected for a jury in a trial that will take more than 2 months. My holiday vacation plans are ruined, and I will have to have incredibly tough few months, since nobody can take my job responsibilities.
  • As if this was not enough, Smarty went down with high fever and sore throat on Wednesday afternoon. She had to miss her school fall party and trick-or-treating. Needless to say, she is not a happy camper.


Halloween-Boogie-Bash Smarty might have missed Halloween this year, but she did get to go to her school’s annual Halloween Monster Boogie Bash. She looks exhausted in this picture, because it was taken after we came home, and she had two hours of non-stop activities in blustery cold wind. Perhaps this is when she picked up her cold. She was kind of cranky and clingy the whole week, which we first ascribed to the aftermath of birthday parties, but now we see that she was preparing to get sick. Hopefully, she will be back to her usual cheerful self next week.

After School

Maze_BallOf course, Smarty spent some time enjoying her new presents, but not as much as I thought. She was disappointed that she didn’t get enough books, since this is all she wanted to do this week – lie down and read. Out of all new toys, her favorite was this Discovery Kids Space Mission Maze Globe (Amazon Affiliate Link)

What My Child Is Reading

Reading_Floor Smarty was delighted to receive Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods by Rick Riordan. Together we are still reading through the first book of 39 Clues, also by Rick Riordan. By herself she read all kinds of random books from our home library.

Places We Are Going

Pump-It-Up Smarty’s birthday party was in her favorite place – Pump It Up. She enjoyed spending time with her friends, and we enjoyed not having to supervise, think of activities, and clean the house afterwards. As we joke, Pump It Up birthday party is less expensive than couples’ therapy. I think though that it’s the last year of big parties, and next year she might invite special friends for a game party or something like that.

Favorite Memory of the Week

Cat-visitor Last Sunday afternoon, someone’s cat visited our backyard. As Smarty petted him and expressed her hopes that he is lost and can be our pet, I kept thinking how she herself is still such a kitten herself – gentle, cuddly, playful, and appreciating comforts of her familiar environment. I remembered my coworker telling me that her only daughter was a very cuddly child and how it all disappeared when she went to middle school. Smarty is already in the third grade, so I want to enjoy every moment of her childhood before this natural separation starts. I will miss my kitten, but I will enjoy her cuddliness while it lasts.

Post of the Week

I have to admit that most of my traffic in October was driven by Halloween Chemistry Ideas, and it was still most popular post last week. I will miss that traffic after Halloween :) But my post with Hands On Math Ideas for Older Kids did pretty well this week too.

Your Turn

How was your Halloween week?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Teaching Kids Self-Care

Yet again I am joining with the bloggers writing on the issues of giftedness and gifted in the monthly blog hop. The topic this time is gifted self-care.

What Is Self-Care?

I admit that this topic caught me by surprise. It made me ask myself a few questions, such as What is self-care? Do I teach self-care to my daughter and how? Are self-care skills for gifted kids any different than self-care for any other child? 
To me self-care really splits into caring for one’s physical needs and caring for one’s emotional needs. When our children are young, we take care of most of their physical needs and teach them to recognize their emotional needs. As they grow older, our job as parents is to shift more of physical self-care tasks to our children raising their independence and to give them the tools to manage their emotions increasing their emotional intelligence.

Physical Self-Care

As any parent, I want my child to be able to function on her own when she leaves our home. It would be sad if she were able to do advanced math but unable to balance her budget, cook, or do laundry. We make a conscious effort to teach our daughter homemaking skills. I don’t know of a better way to do that than through age-appropriate chores. This post from The Happy Housewife has a great list of age-appropriate chores for kids.
Age Appropriate Chores For Kids

Emotional Self-Care

Self Care Infographics
Emotional self-care is also something that we, as parents, continue to teach throughout our children’s lives, even sometimes without realizing that we are doing it. Children are watching us all the time learning how we deal with stress, worry, and overload. I believe that the best way to teach emotional self-care is through personal example, through explaining to our kids why we say “no” to things and why we say “yes”. But I am happy that we are not the only ones teaching the basics of emotional self-care to our daughter. Her school is participating in the Silicon Valley YMCA program called Project Cornerstone. This program is managed by terrific parent volunteers who chose to say “yes” to the task of helping all children and teens in Silicon Valley feel valued, respected and known. Parent volunteers and older children lead monthly activities in the classrooms that combine great children’s books with lessons on independence, positive self-talk and ability to manage one’s emotions.

Is Self-Care Different for Gifted Children?

I thought about it a lot, and I don’t believe that the basic principles are different. However, there are differences in the triggers that might cause emotional swings or the ways that gifted children and/or adults choose to manage their moods. I found the work that my daughter did in one of Project Cornerstone sessions both entertaining and revealing when she wrote about the things she tells herself to feel good about herself and things she does when her “bucket” is not full:
Project-Cornerstone-Self-CareWhat things could get a “gifted child” down? According to my daughter, she feels bad when she “stops thinking”. What she didn’t write about, but I start observing, is a “disconnect” between her and “the crowd”. She is still perfectly able to make friends with individual kids and has several good friends, but she dislikes group work and other group activities when she is paired up with random kids. I don’t think that she will ever be one of the “popular” kids, and sooner or later she will have to deal with the fact that she is “different”. At least she has a wide variety of ideas on how to handle negative emotions. As I expected, read topped the list, spell and do math made the list uniquely Smarty-like (she is constantly playing with numbers in her head), and eat some chocolate cracked me up. I also noticed things that are absent on her list – namely, listening to music and exercise. That gets me back to the point of parents leading by example – Smarty sees us reading, talking to each other, and, yes, eating chocolate sometimes when we are stressed, but she doesn’t see us exercising. Perhaps this will be our family resolution for 2015!

Your Turn

Do you think that you effectively lead by example when it comes to teaching your kids emotional self-care?

More About Gifted Children

Other posts about gifted and giftedness on my blog:
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Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop

This post was written as part of Hoagies Gifted Blog Hop series. Follow Hoagies Gifted on Facebook and join the conversation on self-care for gifted. Hop to the next blog in this blog hop clicking on the button below

Thursday, October 30, 2014

6 November Books for 5 Year Olds

This post is part of the series in Book Recommendations for Kids by Age and Month of the Year. It has November book recommendations for children who are 5 Years Old. Each book is paired up with additional resources that you can use to extend the story further.
November Books for 5 Year Olds with Extension Reading ActivitiesMy daughter has just turned 8, and she is a very fluent reader. Very often I hear the same question, What did you do with her when she was little? Well, we read a lot, and I maintained a diary of our reading activities in weekly What My Child Is Reading entries in my blog. I decided to make these reading diaries more useful and create a new series on my blog where I will share our best books for each month for ages 3, 4, 5, and 6. Moreover, I will pair each book with an extension activity – sometimes with ours and sometimes with activities from my creative friends from Kid Blogger Network. In this post I am featuring books that we read when Smarty just turned 5 years old.
Disclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!

1. Thelonius Turkey Lives

Thelonius Turkey A lot of Thanksgiving books are dealing with serious matters of Pilgrims fighting for their lives in a new land. Some center around Thanksgiving dinner. We certainly read a fair share of those books as well, but Thelonius Turkey Lives by Lynn Rowe Reed is a quirky fun read of Thanksgiving from a turkey’s point of view. Thelonius is a clever turkey who doesn’t want to be a "guest of honor” on Thanksgiving table. As it turns out his owner has different plans for him anyway. To find more, read this book! Any number of turkey crafts would work well with this story, but we chose “fashionable” turkey hats.

2. Pancakes, Pancakes!

I wrote about our love of Eric Carle in my November book recommendations for 4 year olds last week. Here is another favorite from the time Smarty was 5. Pancakes, Pancakes! is a classic Eric Carle book, but it also reminds me somewhat of How to Bake an Apple Pie and See the World. Red Ted Art took an extension activity for this book to the next level by making these adorable edible mini-books.

3. Stone Soup

Stone SoupI will introduce another book that has a topic of food. Stone Soup is a classic folk tale, and this version of Ann McGovern follows the classic story line faithfully, with no modifications. Interestingly, I remember a Russian version of this tale from my own childhood, only it was a “Ax Porridge”. Of course, the natural extension of this book is to make a stone soup, and this is exactly what we did at home. But I also really like the idea from Crafty Moms Share to use Stone Soup story as a library story time book and connect it to a food drive for families in need. This would be a great thing to do in early November to ensure everyone can get a Thanksgiving meal.
stone soup craft

4. Miss Rumphius

Miss Rumphius What is a flower book doing in November recommendations? Well, there are several reasons. For once, it’s comforting to read about spring and summer as the weather turns cold and rainy. Secondly, Smarty just happened to get Miss Rumphius as part of their weekly book bag program in kindergarten, and she really enjoyed it. And, lastly, fall is a great time to learn more about seeds, and do some fall planting. I love this activity from Teach Preschool where children had an opportunity to explore fall seeds from different plants on the nature table. The Wise Owl Factory also has great reading response printables for Miss Rumphius.

5. Lifesize Zoo

Lifesize Zoo
Life-Size Zoo is mostly a photo book by a Japanese photographer Toyofumi Fukuda, but the concept is fascinating. There are photos of 21 animals (or photos of their parts, all life-size), and every animal introduced with some stats and fun facts. This gorgeous book can make a great Christmas gift for animal lovers from 3 to 93. An extension fun activity would be to draw a life-size animal, and KC Edventures even drew a life-size whale.

6. Around the World with Mook

Around the World with Mouk
My last recommendation is also a book from an author from a different culture. Marc Boutavant is French, but his books are getting increasingly popular in US, and Mouk now is an animated TV show. Around the World with Mook follows a busy bear to different places around the world. Every page is a delightful visual treat with a lot of facts sprinkled in between bright drawings. I also appreciated the fact that the book doesn’t follow a very beaten path of major landmarks and takes readers to less known places, such as Finland or Burkina Faso. The book also comes with reusable stickers that kids can use to create their own adventures around the world. Or they can pick a country of their choice and do a craft from that country. No Time for Flash Cards has a great round up of crafts around the worlds that might provide extra inspiration.

More November Books Recommendations

More Booklists For Kids?

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Your Turn

Do you have a favorite geography-related book?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Space Books and Activities for Elementary School

I am joining forces again with the participants of Poppins Book Nook. The topic for October is Beyond our Planet, and today I am sharing our favorite space books and activities for elementary school.
Space Books and Activities for Elementary School AgeDisclosure: I am an Amazon associate and this post contains affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog! Clip Art for Poppins Book Nook is by Melon Headz.

Books About Space

Since my daughter was a young preschooler, she was fascinated with space. We read many books about space, both fiction and non-fiction. In this post I will share some of her recent favorites.
Zoom I do not have a lot to say about Ripley’s Believe It ot Not! Zoom! book except that Smarty keeps taking it (and it’s cousins from the same series) from the library every month and rereads them. I haven’t had a chance to read them with her, but from her comments I gathered that this is a typical trivia book that manages to make “boring facts” very exciting through engaging illustrations and outrageous comparisons.
Postcards from Pluto Postcards from Pluto by Loreen Leedy is in our home library and is read very often. I think the concept is very clever – 6 kids travel the solar system and send postcards back home, as if they are on a regular vacation. The book sits in that sweet spot between fiction and non-fiction that my daughter really enjoys. Since the text on each page is relatively short, I’d recommend this picture book for reluctant readers.
Space Station Rar

Space Station Rat by Michael Daley was a book that I specifically chose to read for this edition of Poppins Book Nook. I read it aloud to Smarty, and she immediately identified the story as a science fiction. Her rationale was that children don’t go to space. In the story a child of two scientists is “stuck” on the aging space station with his parents while a genetically modified super intelligent rat ends up there by mistake trying to escape from the science lab on Earth. An unlikely friendship forms towards the end of the book, and we are waiting for the sequel to come from another library.

Space Activities for Older Kids

1. Lego Space Play

Some time ago my husband made Smarty a space shuttle out of our extensive collection of Lego bricks, but later she received a “real” Lego City Space Shuttle as a Christmas present from one of our adult friends. Somehow the timing was never right to put it together, but eventually Smarty assembled it all by herself:

2. Go on a Space Field Trip

Well, I don’t mean “into space”, but we took Smarty to our local NASA facility – Ames Research Center a few years ago. She really enjoyed the trip, and I think we are going to go again soon now when she is 3 years older. If you are lucky to live close to NASA centers, their museums are certainly worth a trip. If not, then a visit to planetarium is a great way to get kids “up close and personal” with space topics.

3. Make a Model of a Solar System

This is a popular school project, but we happened to make ours when Smarty was still in preschool, and it was entirely child-led. We made homemade playdough for the first time, and she insisted on making a solar system in playdough.

4. Make a Space Craft

There are any number of space crafts available, but we ended up doing an open-ended space collage – it also happened in the last year of preschool when daughter was so intensely interested in space. It still hangs in her “picture gallery” in our stairwell to the second floor.

5. Launch a “Real” Rocket

The same friend who gave Smarty her Lego Shuttle gave her this “real” model Estes Silver Arrow Rocket launch kit. He also included components that are not part of the kit – recovery padding and this engine pack. I was hoping to find time this month to finally assemble and launch the rocket, but we had busy weekends with visitors and birthdays and didn’t get to it. This is something on out “to do list” for the next weekend.
Estes Silver Arrow on Amazon

More About Astronomy for Kids?

My friend Ticia from Adventures in Mommydom has a great Astronomy for Kids Pinterest board. One day I’ll make my own too!
Follow Ticia Adventures in Mommydom's board astronomy for kids on Pinterest.

Your Turn

Do your kids enjoy books about space? Fiction or non-fiction?
Space Books and Activities for Kids Age 5+

Share Your Space Activities with Poppins Book Nook

Poppins Book Nook
Here are the Poppins Book Nook participating bloggers:
Enchanted Homeschooling Mom ~ 3 Dinosaurs ~ To the Moon and Back ~ Planet Smarty Pants ~ Farm Fresh Adventures ~ Growing in God’s Grace ~ Chestnut Grove Academy ~ Learning and Growing the Piwi Way ~ The Usual Mayhem~ Preschool Powol Packets ~ Monsters Ed Homeschool Academy ~ Adventures in Mommydom~Teach Beside Me ~ Life with Moore Babies ~ Kathy’s Cluttered Mind ~ Are We There Yet? ~ Our Crafts N Things~Hopkins Homeschool ~ ABC Creative Learning ~ Joy Focused Learning ~ P is for Preschooler ~ My Bright Firefly ~A Mommy’s Adventures ~ Inspiring 2 New Hampshire Children ~ World for Learning ~ Ever After in the Woods ~Golden Grasses ~ A glimpse of our life ~ Journey to Excellence ~ Happy Little Homemaker ~ Little Homeschool Blessings ~Raventhreads ~ Tots and Me ~ As We Walk Along The Road ~ Stir the Wonder ~ For This Season ~Where Imagination Grows ~ The Canadian Homeschooler ~ School Time Snippets ~ Peakle Pie ~ A Moment in our World ~Every Bed of Roses ~ Finchnwren ~ At Home Where Life Happens ~ The Library Adventure ~ Embracing Destiny ~Day by Day in our World ~ Our Homeschool Studio ~ A “Peace” of Mind ~ Thou Shall Not Whine ~ SAHM I am  ~Simple Living Mama

Poppins Book Nook Giveaway:

Beyond Our Planet Bundle Giveaway
Beyond Our Planet Bundle Giveaway! Every month the Poppins Book Nook group will be offering readers a chance to win a brand new storybook or product that ties in with our theme for the month. This month one lucky entrant will win a bundle of fun for the theme of Beyond Our Planet.  This bundle will include a copy of the storybook The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons and a Space & Astronauts Bucket Playset.
Entrants must be 18 years or older and reside in a country that receives U.S. Postal mail. This giveaway is brought to you by the company Enchanted Homeschooling Mom who is owner and founder of the Poppins Book Nook. By entering this giveaway you are also acknowledging that you have read and agree to all of the Rafflecopter terms & conditions as well as Enchanted Homeschooling Mom’s disclosures found here.  Just enter the Rafflecopter below to win:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, October 27, 2014

Hands On Math for Kids Age 8+

When our children are young, we focus a lot on teaching basic math skills, but how can we develop their interest in math or help them with more complex concepts when they are older? This post offers several hands-on ideas for older kids.

Hands-On-Math-Age-8-Plus-Oct-2014Hands On Math on Planet Smarty Pants

As my regular readers know, my newly 8 year old has a strong aptitude for math. I shared some books that we are using at home in the post Beyond Common Core Math, but we also do a lot of hands-on math activities that involve cooking, measurement or building. Using this map as a guide, we scaled our backyard into a map of USA to see if we can fly our paper planes from San Francisco to New York without connections. I am going to share the detailed post on Bedtime Math blog, but it was very satisfying to see my daughter to be able to do on her own all the math and measurement needed to make this activity happen.  

6 Hands On Math Ideas for Older Kids

I am always on lookout for more math ideas for older kids and love to see them shared in After School link up or on my Facebook page. Here are some recent terrific ideas that I collected:

1. Pythagorean Theorem

Empowering Parents to Teach shared a great book and a visual activity to explain Pythagorean theorem to kids. I remember being fascinated by the proof when I was about 10. Looking forward to introducing this to Smarty soon!
Pythagorean Theorem

2. Multiplication Games for Kids

Learn multiplication with games – some bought and some homemade, at The Imagination Soup

3. Visualize Multiplication with Legos

…Because multiplication and any other learning is more fun with Legos, especially at Frugal Fun for Boys.

4. Practice Equivalent Fractions

Learn equivalent fractions and improve fine motor skills at once with this clever equivalent fractions pegboard from Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational.
Equivalent Fractions Pegboard Practice

5. Fractions Card Game

Practice simplifying fractions with this fast-paced fractions card game from What Do We Do All Day.

6. Explore Frozen Fractals

Frozen movie certainly made fractals popular even with people who are indifferent to math. Crafty Moms Share offers a great hands-on way to explore fractals with some great links.

sierpinski triangle More Math Activities for Kids?

Here are some popular math posts from my blog:
Follow my Pinterest board Math
Follow Natalie Planet Smarty Pants's board Math on Pinterest.

Your Turn

Do you enjoy helping your kids with math or are you dreading it?

2014 After School Link Up Hosts

After School Link Up

Share Your Learning Week

We would love to have you link up your School-Age Post (Ages 5 and up) about your after school activities with kids age 5+ including Crafts, Activities, Playtime and Adventures. When linking up, please take a moment to comment on at least one post linked up before yours and grab our after school button to include a link on your post or site! By linking up you're giving permission for us to share on our After School Pinterest Board or feature on our After School Party in the upcoming weeks! Don't forget to follow along and join our After School Enrichment Community.
Hands On Math Activities for Older Kids

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Week in Review – October 25, 2014

Highlights of the Week

  • Smarty turned 8! As always, she was super excited about her birthday. Her birthday party is this weekend.
  • I am on jury duty and in a jury selection pool for a serious criminal case. Jury selection is next week. Keeping my fingers crossed that I am not chosen, since the trial is expected to last almost 2 months.
  • My husband started a new job.
  • I am reading the first book of The Hunger Games (affiliate link), and it’s seriously interfering with my sleep!


Nothing majorly new happened in school. Kids started to learn multiplication. It’s interesting to see how stronger kids understand it and have various levels of fluency with multiplication facts while the weakest group is struggling majorly with the concept itself. In independent work, Smarty has an opportunity to work on a higher level. She had her multiplication figured out in the second grade and now has a decent fluency with multiplication facts. This work above was from an activity we did at home, and I was gratified to see that she is able to apply her knowledge of multiplication and division to practical problems. I will explain the activity itself in the upcoming post.

After School

Shimmer Smarty’s “wish for a fish” came true for her birthday. Our main present for her was a betta fish aquarium, and she came with us to Petco on Tuesday afternoon to choose her first pet. It was hard but eventually she chose this gorgeous male betta. He looks blue in the picture, but in fact he has red streaks on his fins and tails, and looks lovely. Smarty called him Shimmer. So far Shimmer is happy and fed punctually. Hopefully he will have a long betta life in our house.

What My Child Is Reading

Our birthday book for Smarty was the last installment in Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan – The Blood of Olympus (affiliate link). Smarty is finding it quite intense, so she is not reading it as fast as we thought she would. In fact, in the middle of the week she switched to books she brought from her school library – one of My Dear Dumb Diary books and  D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths. In parallel, I am reading the first book of 39 Clues to her, also incidentally by Rick Riordan.

Places We Are Going

Halloween YMCA It’s time for Halloween parties! On Thursday Smarty’s YMCA had their celebration, and on Friday her school had their annual Monster Boogie Bash. Sadly, attendance was somewhat lower than usual, probably because of The World Series. For both events Smarty went in her traditional homemade witch costume. It’s probably the last year it still fits! She will be a ghost on Halloween night.

Best Memory of the Week

Birthday 2014 I love how excited and grateful Smarty was on her birthday. We all really enjoyed the day. I also really liked that she chose to go to a birthday party for her friend on her actual birthday and she did her best to make her friend feel special. I am glad that she is growing to be not only intelligent, but also kind even though we still have a lot of work to do to teach her not to just blurt out everything she thinks.

Most Popular Post

Halloween Chemistry Ideas rules the blog for another week… Curious how it will do once Halloween is over :)

Your Turn

How was your week?

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