Monday, March 30, 2020

One for Fun - Make Your Own Puzzle

Hope you are all managing okay, where ever you are! I came across this fun (and easy) activity today and thought I'd pass it along. 


1.Cut the front off of a cereal box or cracker box.

2. Cut the box front into pieces - 8 to 10 pieces for an easier puzzle, more for a harder puzzle. You can cut basic random shapes (triangles, rectangles) or shapes with trickier notches or angles. 

Variations: You can also use an old family photo glued onto thin cardboard or cardstock, or have your child draw a picture. Just wait until the glue is dry before trying to make your puzzle. 

Tip: Encourage your child to cut their own pieces so they can make a puzzle for you!

Area of Development: fine motor skill, problem-solving, mathematical thinking 


Cereal Box Puzzles:

Other Puzzle Ideas:

Thanks also to educator Deanna Pecaski McLennan, author of Spring Math Walk and an FDK educator in Southern Ontario, for the idea.

Friday, March 27, 2020

One for Fun – an art activity for bored young children and overwhelmed parents

Here’s an easy art activity to try:
1. On a blank sheet of paper, draw a big doodle with straight and curved lines that cross each other in many places.
2. Colour in the spaces between the lines using paint, crayons or coloured pencils.
Can you make a happy doodle? A sad one? 
Tip: You can play this as a game by drawing with a partner and taking turns, adding lines and colours. You could also assign a colour to each dice roll (e.g., 1 = red, 2= blue, 3=green, 4=yellow, 5=black, 6= purple).

For another take on this activity, check out Happy Hooligans HomemadeDoodle Art!
Area of Development: creativity, problem-solving, self-confidence, emotional learning
Happy creating!

HENRY & BEA by Jessixa Bagley – a story about sadness and loss

I liked this story, a good one for generating discussion about sadness. I read a hard copy I had signed out from the public library, but it is also available on Epic. If you're looking for my daily One for Fun learning activity, the post will be up later today.

Summary from the publisher:

Henry and Bea are inseparable, but one day Henry suddenly stops talking to his best friend. Bea knows there’s something Henry’s not telling her, but what could it be?

Henry and Bea have always been inseparable…until one day Henry suddenly stops talking to Bea. He won’t chat with her in class, and he won’t sit with her at lunch. Bea can tell something’s going on, and she’s determined to find out what it is.

When their teacher announces that the class is taking a field trip to a farm, Bea hopes that this might be her chance to reconnect with Henry. When Henry finds an old cat collar at the farm and starts to cry, he finally reveals his secret to Bea: his cat Buddy died last week.

And even though it’s hard for them both, Bea knows that she’ll be there for Henry, as his best friend, no matter what.

Henry and Bea was written and illustrated by Jessixa Bagley. It was published in 2019 by Holiday House.


It’s always lucky to find someone who understands you,
and that’s why Henry and Bea were the best of friends.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

This story about the loss of a pet was a little different in that it showed how sadness affected the character during their everyday life. It was really interesting how his friend tried to figure out what was wrong when he didn’t feel like talking. A good example for writers for how to include some interiority from a character.

The soft-toned illustrations capture a lovely, quiet mood for this story. I enjoyed how the details on the clothing and the character expressions make them seem so real.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

This is a quieter story about emotions and sadness. Although this story is about dealing with the loss of a pet, it could be used for discussion about any kind of loss or sadness.

Ages: 4-7

Grades: K – 2

Themes: sadness, loss, friendship


Discuss:  What is your favourite page in the story? Explain why.

Draw & Write: What do you do when you feel sad? Draw a picture of something you like to hold or a place you go to be by yourself. Write sentence: I feel sad when…

Fun at home: With a grown-up, find a cookie recipe and bake some cookies! [Baking is a great opportunity for learning about measuring.]

For more picture book reviews and activities, visit Susanna Leonard Hill's blog  on Fridays.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Day 3: Fun Ideas for Bored Kids & Overwhelmed Parents - Math with LEGO® Bricks

Although people often think of worksheets when they think of math, there are lots of fun games and hands on activities to try with young children.

Some ideas for using LEGO® bricks to build math skills in a fun way:

Measuring: Build a measuring stick of 10 or 20 LEGO® bricks. Search around your house or yard for things that are taller or shorter than your measuring stick. Can you find something exactly the same length?

Patterning:  Use your LEGO® to create patterns. You can make patterns with colours, different sized bricks, different brick many ways to try it! Challenge other people in your family to create patterns too!

Addition game: Play a tower (or other structure) building game with your family members. Roll one or two dice to see how many pieces to add. Keep going until you reach 25 (or other agreed upon number). You can also play this as a subtraction game, by starting with a tower (or structure) of 25 pieces and taking away bricks, to see who can completely lose their structure first.

Area of Development: mathematics behaviours, measuring, comparing, counting, patterning, problem solving

More LEGO® math ideas for kindergarten and preschool:

Wondering why I'm posting math activities on my reading & writing blog? Read my post here to find out. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Day 2: Ideas for Bored Kids and Overwhelmed Adults - I'm Bored Read Aloud & a STEAM challenge

Give yourselves a pat on the back for making it through another day! My goals for each day are:

  • be active -- I've been enjoying Yoga with Adriene onYouTube and long walks with my dog
  • be creative -- I write everyday, and draw something most days
  • learn something new --  I read about new learning activities and writing techniques
  • do something relaxing -- read a good book, play a game, watch a funny show

In case you're wondering why I'm posting about this, check out my blog post here.

Today's Learning Link:  A funny read aloud from Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi 

Area of Development: literacy

Extra STEAM activity:  The main character in the story created a pirate ship. Create your own vehicle to help a bored potato travel! Or build an imaginative, indoor playground where a bored potato could play.

Area of Development: problem-solving

How are you coping? Do you set any goals for yourself?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Daily Ideas for Bored Young Children and Overwhelmed Parents - Literacy

One of the things I’ve noticed is the huge number of read alouds, construction challenges, games and drawing lessons popping up everywhere on the internet. I don’t know about you, but I’m experiencing a bit of overwhelm.

As I’ve seen in many places, good advice to remember is that parents are not teachers. As a parent, first and foremost you need to cherish, love and keep your kids happy and healthy. You do what you need to do to during these challenging times. Please stay safe and follow recommended social distancing measures.

At the same time, I know it’s challenging to keep children busy all day long. So I’m going to be posting a fun learning idea or link with resources as I can (hopefully daily but we’ll see how that goes). 

Since I have the knowledge and learning from my background as a kindergarten teacher in Ontario, I’ll include information about the related areas of development and learning (for parents who are worried that their children are missing their learning). Please note that I’m doing this as a good samaritan, drawing on my expertise to be helpful, rather than as part of my employment as a teacher. 

Parents of young children can also visit

Be well & have fun!


Today's fun resource:  KidLit TV

Area of Development: literacy

This resource has been around for a while. It has a library of read alouds by authors and book-related activities. I especially love Ready, Set, Draw! Here's an example:

Have fun exploring!

Monday, March 23, 2020


Coping with the unusual is definitely something that's on my mind these days. All the mysterious happenings in this story kept me hooked.

Description from the publisher:

SoHo, 1981. Twelve-year-old Olympia is an artist--and in her neighborhood, that's normal. Her dad and his business partner Apollo bring antique paintings back to life, while her mother makes intricate sculptures in a corner of their loft, leaving Ollie to roam the streets of New York with her best friends Richard and Alex, drawing everything that catches her eye.

Then everything falls apart. Ollie's dad disappears in the middle of the night, leaving her only a cryptic note and instructions to destroy it. Her mom has gone to bed, and she's not getting up. Apollo is hiding something, Alex is acting strange, and Richard has questions about the mysterious stranger he saw outside. And someone keeps calling, looking for a missing piece of art. . . .

Olympia knows her dad is the key--but first, she has to find him, and time is running out.

All the Grey’s on Greene Street by Laura Tucker was published by Viking, an imprint of Penguin Random House, in 2019.

Why you want to read this book…
All the aspects of the art studio, the artist loft and Ollie’s lifestyle were intriguing, but what really tugged at my heart was the predicament Ollie was put in. Reading about how Ollie tried to cope with her father leaving and her mother’s depression made for a strong, emotional experience.  I also really enjoyed all the details about art!

May Day is the first day of May.

“Mayday” is a radio signal used by ships and aircraft in distress.

This spring, May Day was the first day that my mom didn’t get out of bed.

If you’re a writer…

You might be interested in the way the author left space for the reader to interpret and think about what is going on. The way the author described the art techniques put me right there in the moment. This is a good book to study to see how different threads of plot are wound up and tied together at the end.

I hate charcoal. You’d think I’d like it because there’s no color involved, but I hate the horrible scratching sound it makes against the paper and the smudgy mess of it.

If you’re an educator or parent…

A great story for a read aloud to open up discussions about feelings, different kinds of families, and coping with family troubles. The art and the mystery give the story lots of ways to interest readers.
If you’re looking for another great list of middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Greg Pattridge's blog.

Friday, March 20, 2020

SATURDAY by Oge Mora – a story about coping with disappointment, and the strength of family

I really loved this story! A wonderful tribute to the simple moments spent with family. I read a hard copy from my local library, but I noticed they also have it as an e-bool.

Summary from the publisher:

In this heartfelt and universal story, a mother and daughter look forward to their special Saturday routine together every single week. But this Saturday, one thing after another goes wrong–ruining storytime, salon time, picnic time, and the puppet show they’d been looking forward to going to all week. Mom is nearing a meltdown…until her loving daughter reminds her that being together is the most important thing of all.

Saturday was written and illustrated by Oge Mora. It was published in 2019 by Little Brown & Company.


This morning Ave and her mother were all smiles.
Because Ava’s mother worked
and Friday,
Saturday was the day they cherished.

My Thoughts as a Writer:

I really love the way the author created a tone and voice with a very limited number of words. The opening wonderfully gets across the mood of excitement for their special day.

The bright, creative illustrations are eye-catching! So many interesting details to explore.

My Thoughts as an Educator:

This is a lovely story about family togetherness and about coping with disappointment when things don’t turn out the way you’d like. It would be so much fun to use these illustrations to inspire mixed media art. 

Ages: 3-7

Grades: PreK – 2

Themes: family, coping with disappointment, days of the week

Activities to Try:

Invent a comic: Think about something special you look forward to. Make a three or four frame comic. Here are some tips: Frame 1 - show how you prepare for your special experience  Frame 2 - create a disaster that might ruin your plans. Frame 3: How can you save the day?  Be creative!

Draw & Write: What is your favourite day of the week? Draw a picture and write a "because" sentence to explain why. For example, "I like Monday becuase...."

STEAM Challenge: Create a piece of art using paper scraps and paint. Can you create a scene from your own neighborhood? How about some art that shows you and your family?

I also really love this idea for puppet-making from the Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library. 

Here's a link to an interview with Oge Mora from We Need Diverse Books.

For more links to wonderful picture books with activities to try, check out the links at Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Book Friday blog.

Monday, March 2, 2020

DOG DRIVEN by Terry Lynn Johnson

I’m always drawn to stories about outdoor adventures and this is a great one with a female main character! Bonus points that it’s also a story about dogs and takes place in Northern Ontario.

Description from the publisher:

McKenna Barney is trying to hide her worsening eyesight and has been isolating herself for the last year. But at the request of her little sister, she signs up for a commemorative mail run race in the Canadian wilderness—a race she doesn’t know if she can even see to run.

Winning would mean getting her disease—and her sister’s—national media coverage, but it would also pit McKenna and her team of eight sled dogs against racers from across the globe for three days of shifting lake ice, sudden owl attacks, snow squalls, and bitterly cold nights.

 A page-turning adventure about living with disability and surviving the wilderness, Dog Driven is the story of one girl’s self-determination and the courage it takes to trust in others.

Dog Driven by Terry Lynn Johnson Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2019.

Why you want to read this book...
It’s a fast-paced read with a strong main character that has to make challenging choices. I learned a lot about Stargardt disease, as well as dog sledding, but mainly I  was in it for the exciting adventure of the dog sled race. I loved how McKenna fought through her deteriorating vision, snow and ice for her sister, her dogs and her friends. And she ended up learning something about herself, too.


Whoever’s behind me is coming fast.
I peek over my shoulder and see a blurry line of shapes bearing down. Mustard glances back too, then faces forward and digs in.

If you’re a writer…

You might be interested in how the author weaves in the backstory about Stargardt disease and the details of the medical issues without dragging the pace and taking away from the action. It was interesting how she created fully rounded characters and showed their different reactions to the challenges of the disease and the dog sled race.

If you’re an educator…

This is a great book to have on hand for kids who enjoy wilderness survival stories like Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, but with a more modern take. For more stories about sled dogs, try Terry Lynn Johnson's Ice Dogs (see my review here).

If you’re looking for another great list of middle grade books to read, check out Marvelous Middle Grade Monday on Greg Pattridge's blog.