Category Archives: Theme Learning

My daughter and I love to learn about different things every couple weeks or so. We focus on one theme or subject and work with it for a while.

Groundhog Day!

Since winter is in full swing where we are (and all over the U.S. for that matter) I figured I could be a little late in posting our ground-hog day activities.

This was a really fun mini-theme because the snug was able to do almost everything by herself. Obviously I helped, but you could see how fulfilling it was for her to be able to do most everything alone.

Here are the books we read.


Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub and Kristin Sorra- this adorable little tale features an overwhelmed groundhog trying to appease the frustration felt continually from his localized weather reports. He recruits, trains, and posts more groundhogs to help create more accurate weather reports.


The Groundhog day Book of Facts and Fun by Wendie Old- This longer more in-depth book, tells all about the seasons, why they actually change, whether groundhogs are proper advocates for changing weather conditions and how this tradition came to be.

IMG_7451Who Will See Their Shadows This Year? by Jerry Pallotta and David Biedrzycki- This fun and simple book is easy enough for the beginning reader to master. Strange things happen when other animals try to see their shadow to bring about spring.

Besides books, we had a little treat for this mini-theme. Some print offs! I really like activity village for many of our holiday activity sheets.


Another super cute craft we saw floating around the internet was a ground-hog puppet. The puppet from Buzzmills was our favorite! Though she had some awesome clear directions, we made a modified version that the snug could do herself.

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The main shaft is a toilet paper tube. The snug measured and cute out the felt herself, though I did help with the shape of the groundhog and I hot glued everything, because hot glue burns are stupid. I get one every time I use a hot glue gun, without fail.

The snug sewed the groundhog by herself. I threaded the needle and tied the first and last knot and that was it. Definitely very cool.

Last was the food.


That’s a groundhog pancake, by the way. Not the prettiest, but recognizable and more importantly edible.

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Next were those adorable groundhog cupcakes that have been floating around on pinterest. The original ones look amazing. Ours look more like something you’d find on pinterest fail sites. This point of the activity and the reason I love ours is because, again, the snug did this herself. She helped make everything, but frosted the cupcakes and decorated the cookies alone. (Those round things on top are ears).


Groundhog cupcakes only a mother and child could love, right?

They were delicious by the way. Yellow cupcakes with strawberry frosting and butterscotch cookies. A mash-up of wonderful flavors. Everything was homemade, obviously.

Happy Winter!!

P.S. Did you know narwhals do have the ability to sense changes in weather??

DIY Homework Tray!


Now that we are in the thick of school, let’s talk homework!!!

I love homework! I live for homework! Homework is, in fact, my favorite!

The object of this project, was not to make my snug like homework more, but to establish a good homework routine. This tray makes it easy to do homework anywhere after school. Nice day? Let’s do homework outside! Tried? Let’s do homework in the bedroom. Any old day? Let’s do homework on the dinning room table. The point is, anywhere you do homework, with the tray all your supplies are at hand. Closer supplies = less stopping = less distractions = more play time!!


You will need a variety of things to make this exact tray, though I have seen many versions on the internet. For this you need: a tray, paint, modpodge, paint brushes, yarn, old jars, a clipboard, and any school supplies you deem necessary.


We used some old store-bought jelly jars we had in my giant stash of things I can’t yet recycle because I want to up-cycle.

First really clean the jars. The inside will be painted, so it needs to be spotless. A nice warm bath with Dawn dish soap does wonders to those labels.

While the jars are washing, or soaking, you can paint your tray!

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The snug has been super into Lalaloopsey recently. So she wanted an artsy tray, like Spot Splatter n’ Splash’s dress. For that look, paint the tray white and then using a good amount of paint on your brush, brush down your finger fast, towards the tray, to splatter the paint. It makes a big mess, so is best done outside.



It turned out very cool. Good idea snug!

Since we did the splatter look, I put a good coat of modpodge on the tray, after it was dry. So the paint wouldn’t fleck off.

Your tray is now finished! Back to those jars.


Once they are dry, grab a good amount of the paint you want to use to coat the inside.


This was my first time painting the inside of a jar, so I didn’t take too many pictures. I squeezed a lot of paint into the bottom and slowly moved it around, then I did the same for the sides. Squeeze on the sides and move it around. I had them rest upside-down on a wire drying rack with a painting placement underneath.

These take a long time to dry.


While they are drying, you might want to move the drying rack and scoop up all of the dripped paint. No need to waste it.


Once they are dry, scrap the excess dried paint off of the edges. I then did some touch ups with a small paintbrush and finished the inside with a coat of mod-podge.


After that grab your yarn and tacky glue!!

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Start gluing and wrapping. Once you are started it is easy to get the yarn good and tight.


I glued my end piece down and then with an extra piece of yarn, I wrapped it around the middle and tied a bow!


Allow to dry!


Wonderful!! All done! Now grab the tray and accessorize!!!




We also picked up a clipboard for our tray, just in case we ever do homework outside.


The clip board was mostly eco-friendly, of course!!


Now, last and most important. Find a good place out in the open where the homework try will be accessible every afternoon!!!

Happy Homework-ing!!!

Money Managment for Little Kids: The Shop.

My daughter gets allowance; she is 5. She gets allowance because she is a big contributor to the family. We settled on $3 for now.

While trying to decide on the amount of allowance to give her, I noticed a few things. Mainly that money, (U.S.A. currency), is confusing. For adults, for teenagers and especially for small children who are just mastering their numbers. First, I noticed that stores have a disappointingly fast turnover, by the time a small someone were able to save the full amount, the wished upon item would be long gone. Second, tax, here it is not added until the end of the transaction, which is difficult to explain to a small kiddo, who is just coming to terms with history. Third, all shops are extremely overstimulating, your child my want one thing but gets so caught up in all the other options that they leave with something they are later extremely unsatisfied with.

We have tried to work around all of these, letting her only save up half, just paying for the tax ourselves, or making lists and trying so hard to remember what we initially had wanted.

Not only were our solutions aggravating for everyone, they were counterproductive.

Then one day we started learning how to read and we had to practice. Practicing can be hard, it is a learned trait. So in order to get better at it, I made this:


For every ten books we read, we would go out and buy a new book to read. It worked once. Twice. Then it got boring. It wasn’t exciting enough. Which is fine. SO, I changed things around a bit. I got together a bunch of these:


and we painted them together.



Then put them in a jar, in plain sight and changed the reading log rules.


Now instead of reading ten books, we could read just five and earn a “token”. Every time the snug read a book she would get to put a sticker on one of the drawn pictures. Once a whole row of five were ‘stickered’, she could get a token. She also earns stickers by practicing other things, piano, soccer, dance, things like that.

We also made it known that tokens can be earned in different ways, through chores and thoughtfulness. In other words, through a little extra work, we created our own currency. All the tokens are worth the same, once the snug has earned 10 tokens, the shop can open.


(I did the price list in French, since, you know, it is a “cheaper by the dozen” sort of thing to do.)

There was a lot of build up about the shop. I talked it up a ton, but it still took a couple of weeks for her to earn enough tokens for the shop to open. I stocked the shop with a bunch of miscellaneous items I had collected over time that I knew she would enjoy. Some were gifts that had been tucked too far away or things I had picked up recently.



These were the items the first time we had in the shop.



Everything has a “price tag” and there is the price list for translation.



She went for the Friz and a new token box the first time. 12 tokens in all.

The next few times, she again, spent all of her tokens.



(I only add one or two new things each time the shop is open and I only offer 5-10 items, depending on stock).



Then something different started to happen.




She started to relax on her purchasing and decided to save. Today she bought a new purse and saved the rest of her tokens. She has done this the past few times saving anywhere from 2 to 4 tokens.

That is very exciting. We have been doing this all summer and it has taken some follow through, but she is excited to earn more tokens, has been helping around the house more than ever and even more important, has become more relaxed about shopping. She knows, that in my shop (La Boutique De Maman) there are no sales, or gimmicks, nothing goes anywhere or is out of stock, she can take her time and wait on things she really wants. Sometimes she even will ask if the shop can be opened for browsing. Most importantly, she is learning that not all her tokens need to be spent right away.

Another benefit. It has become very fun to pay more attention to what she sincerely likes, as oppose the “heat of the flourescent light moment”. I can get these things at my own pace, when our finances allow. There are no longer arguments in stores about buying things right now or disputes about why one toy is 20 dollars more than another, though they look exactly the same. The shop has given her a real grasp on currency, in the terms of earning, spending, saving and waiting.

We will continue to do the shop at least for the next year. Then we will reassess.

In the meantime, I am upping the game a bit. I have yet to have had anything that costs over ten tokens.


This, however, is worthy of the change.

I hope this is something that you think will help your kiddos learn about money, I will let you know in 20 years or so, if my idea was foolproof!

Happy Shopping!

Chinese New Year Theme!

We did this Chinese New Year theme last year, but due to a broken computer at the time of doing the theme, I am just getting around to posting it…erm…now. Exactly one year later! At 7:30pm the night of Chinese New Year, and we haven’t even done our activities or read our books for this year. Sigh. Tomorrow.

At least we had Chinese takeout for dinner.

Husband was on top of that.



Amazingly, I remember all of the books!

Long-Long’s new year: a story about the Chinese spring festival by Catherine Gower- This was a great book. A boy goes to the market with his grandfather to help sell their vegetables, learns about the tricks other marketers play and helps his grandfather sell and get everything they need to celebrate new year.

My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz- Cute, easy and adorable in true Karen Katz fashion. Chinese new year in the city is introduced, traditions, parade and food are outlined in bright memorable colors.

The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine- This one was our favorite! A boy trades the last of his families eggs for a battered but magical wok! The wok causes all sorts of mischief and changes the town for the better.

Happy New Year Julie by Megan McDonald- An American Girl series book, this one deals with Julie’s best friend Ivy and her families celebration of Chinese new year in China Town, San Francisco. Maybe this book started the whole American girl doll fad the snug currently has.

Food and Recipes of China (Kids in the Kitchen) by Theresa M. Beatty- Not too bad, we actually only made the egg drop soup from this book and it was amazing! For me at least it was amazing, I think this was right around the time that the snug stopped liking eggs.

Celebrating Chinese New Year by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith- This book also takes place in San Francisco and is a non-fiction telling of a boy celebrating the new year with his family.


This is the book we are reading this year. No idea what it is about though, I mean specifically, obviously I know what the general idea will be. We won’t get to it until tomorrow.



The Denver Art Museum was having an incredibly Chinese exhibit, two exhibits actually. One about a Chinese Artist “Xu Beihong: Pioneer of Modern Chinese Painting” and one about textiles “Threads of Heaven: Silken Legacy of China’s Last Dynasty.” The snug enjoyed all the horse paintings in the Xu Beihong exhibit, but we both enjoyed the textile exhibit a bit more. So many incredible designs woven into the fabric. The exhibits were amazing, so amazing that they didn’t allow photography (HA, I am not a photographer) but really they didn’t allow cameras, so I got a picture of an elevator instead.

The museum also has a children’s area, that is always applicable to the current exhibits.


They had a dress up area.


And a matching game, in which you set up plates in a big circle and matched up the designs painted on the plates. It was incredibly similar to most matching games.


Oh and tattoos.


Chinese Lanterns– These are huge in new year and many other celebrations in China, here is a super easy and reasonably sized ones to make.


All you need is construction paper, card stock paper, paper clips, tape, scissors, a ruler, glue and a pencil.


First cut a piece of construction paper in half width wise. Fold a half piece of construction paper in half and measure and mark even lines. You want to go from the fold towards the edge, but stop an inch before the edge of the paper.


Cut the lines.


Grab a piece of cardstock and cut it a couple of inches shorter than your piece of construction paper. Roll it into a tube shape, like a toilet paper roll and tape it. Wrap your cut construction paper around the roll and secure, by paper clip, tape or glue. Make a handle and secure to the top.


Repeat, until you have a desired amount.


Hang and enjoy.

Parade Dragon– These dragons are huge in size and significance during the parades for new years! They scare away any bad spirits, so the new year can start, positive, fresh and lucky! This dragon is much smaller, and easier to fly around the house.


Start with an egg carton, a cardboard type one works best. Separate the top from the bottom, cut the top portion in half and cut two egg cups out.


Grab some paint.


Pain the inside of the egg carton top. This will be the inside of the dragons mouth. Let dry.



Paint the outside. Glue together. It helps if you paper clip it temporarily while the glue dries.


Paint or color the eyes, glue them on and decorate your dragon.



Cute! I mean vicious!


Next take some large popsicle sticks and glue them together. This will be the dragons body. Grab some construction paper too.


Cut the construction paper into large squares. We did this by folding the top down to across the side. Then cutting off the bottom.



Overlap the squares and glue them onto the popsicle sticks. Once dry, forget about the project, for about a year.


Eventually the next time Chinese new year comes around, finish your dragon. Fly him around and smile at your imperfections. Also, only take blog pictures at night, with your phone, to ensure the worst quality.


Now on to the best part. We made some typical U.S. Chinese Food recipes.


Fried rice and egg drop soup. Then we made some awesome stuff.


Like Chinese character pancakes!



They are simple enough. First look up some Chinese characters and hope that they are accurate. Next grab a squeezeable condiment bottle and start cooking.


Delicious. Ridiculous. A very different way to teach Chinese characters.

Homemade Fortune Cookies-

I think we used the allrecipes fortune cookies recipe. Hard to say, here is the link to their recipe though, it looks familiar. Fortune Cookie Recipe!

The hard part isn’t the ingredients, it is what you do after they are mixed.


Spoon a super small amount of batter onto a tray and swirl into circles.


Bake but do not over bake!! While the cookies are still warm do the next step, but only do one at a time.


Grab a warm cookie and grab a fortune.


Fold the fortune in half and place it in the middle of your cookie.


fold the cookie in half.


Grab a glass and gently bend the cookie in half along the edge of the glass.


Place in an empty egg carton or muffin cup to keep shape until cool.



They are really easy, once you do the first batch. Just work fast.

Did you know fortune cookies are made in the U.S.A.? They are not from China at all and most Chinese food you get at restaurants in the U.S. are not the food you would eat if you were in China. Crazy! If you want to learn more about Chinese food, fortune cookies and a lottery mishap, I suggest reading The Fortune Cookie Chronicles by Jennifer B. Lee.

Tomorrow the snug and I read our one new years book and make a snake out of toilet paper rolls!

Happy Chinese New Year and happy themeing!



Bubble Challenging Childrens’ Books.

Here lies a compilation of childrens’ books meant to challenge the boundary of your parenting bubble. Beautiful books that are sometimes hard to read and hard to explain, but completely fulfilling. Books that show hard, bad sides of the world, but then show the beauty that always outweighs. Books that will bring you to tears while you read them out loud. Books that need to be read and remembered, books to help instill empathy in us and our children. Books that will be banned due to their challenging nature.

Books, books, books are beautiful.

10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert (gender nonconformity)


Sam’s Sister by Juliet C. Bond (Another view on adoption)


Hiroshima No Pika by Toshi Maruki


Milo and the Magical Stones by Marcus Pfister (conservation of resources)

This list will continue to grow. If you know of any challenging books you feel should be read, leave a comment below!!!

*All pictures of books are from Goodreads and pictures will directly link to the goodreads pages.


A four year old painting with light.

During Easter this past year, my mom thrilled that this was the first Easter she was getting to spend with her granddaughter, had her camera at her side and was dutifully taking many pictures. Snug was intrigued by grandma’s little camera, a Nikon coolpix, bright red in color. Snug has seen many cameras before, even this particular one, but for some reason, be it boredom, over excitement of the holiday, an ambitious feeling of discovery, Snug wanted to use the camera.

So we let her, why not? They are small enough for her to handle and it has a handy wrist strap. We gave her a quick run down, never take it off your wrist, no throwing, smashing, spinning, etc. and then we let her have full reign. The pictures turned out adorable. Though many were beyond blurry and there were over 300.

This will go down in history as the first thing she ever took a photo of. It is a pink Halloween bucket. Filled with dogs balls and a rock.

This next series is what I like to call “the journey of toes.”

Those little pigs can get in the way, as every true photographer knows.

I wish I knew what this was a picture of.

So much for the no spinning rule.

Fair warning; the letters are more clear the further you are from them.

There were about five different pictures of this stool.

And over 20 of these figurines at different angles and ranges. Sometimes it takes over 300 shots of the same thing to achieve that right look.

This is the start to my daughter’s humble photography portfolio. From small beginnings come great things. Eh?

Happy Picturing!

Letter Themes Part One: Letter U!

For our third letter, we went for U. So much for skipping around the alphabet eh?

Also, did you know, many of the words that start with the letter U are opposition words? As in unusual or unlikely? Take a peak in the dictionary, if you own one anymore (we don’t, sigh) and see how many pages ‘un’ goes on for.


Umma Ungka’s Unusual Umbrella by Barbara deRubertis- In this animal antics story, Umma unfortunately feels unusual whenever the hot sun is beating down. Her uncle helps her out by giving her an unusual umbrella, that not only protects from the sun but is decorative and musical! Not only does Umma feel much better, all her classmates love the umbrella and come back to school the next day with their own creations.

Buddy’s Summer Day The sound of Short U by Cecilia Minden- You know what is missing from the picture above? The book about the sound of long U. Oh, it is out there…somewhere. Just some genius of a mom forgot to request it from the library. It is called: Sue and the Music Show, the sound of long U, for those of you who are more organized. This simple story has one short sentence per page with an emphasis on short U words.

Play with “u” and “g” by Jane Belk Moncure- Madness happens when u and g play with some adventurous characters (b, t, r, and pl). There is also other letters shown on the last page of the book that u and g also play with, d, j, m, etc.

Unity and Uri by Pam Scheunemann- Unity and Uri help us discover more words that start with the letter U. This book starts with one word per page and moves on to using the introduced words together in simple sentences. Very nice learn to reader.


Yes, we have two underpants books…one we already had at our house, and the other well “super” is an example of a long u word and since we didn’t get the long U book…just kidding, we just really like underpants and think they are hilarious!

The Umbrella Party by Janet Lunn and Kady MacDonald Denton- When a little girl only thinks of, talks about and asks for umbrellas, umbrellas is all she gets at her birthday party. She is not upset though, she is the happiest ever. Though her friends find umbrellas boring, they find out how handy and helpful umbrellas can be when a storm comes to wreck the party.

Dinosaurs Love Underpants by Claire Freedman- Our theories on dinosaur extinction are completely off. They really all died off fighting over underpants! They were so jealous of man-kinds knickers, that they stole and rioted to get their own pairs! In the end the great briefs war was too much for them.

Charlie’s Superhero Underpants by Paul Bright- A giant gust of wind blows the laundry off the clothes line, in the laundry are some special items of Charlie’s family, included his own beloved underpants. Charlie goes on a search all over the world to find his underpants and finds them and an unlikely friend in a far off place. Adorable!

(Apparently we had forgotten to do a regular ABC book this week. Oops! Well this is why this is only part one).

For a letter U activity we went on a hunt for things we had around the house that started with U. We came up with a couple of umbrellas, a herd of unicorns (only one pictured), a ukulele and underpants (not pictured). Never thought you would be able to see so many things that start with the letter U in one place!

We also have a fun U lunch. We didn’t have any food in the house that started with U, so we went for food with the letter in them. Cucumber and bunnies. Mainly I just wanted to take a picture of the nice lunch set up. I am horrible at making lunch and fixing well balanced lunches. I was satisfied.

The Umma Ungka work pages were wonderful.

They had a long U/short U activity page, where you cut out the pictures and place them under the correct category, we also tried to list other words that we knew and wrote them in. Along with this, there was another cutting out activity. Lots of little squares had pictures, starting or containing the letter U. You cut out the squares, tape them to some string and tie them to your umbrella, to decorate it. Now you have an umbrella just like Ummas’.

For our art portion we did stickers and stamps. Pretty fancy!!

We ended the letter U with a trip to a local cafe that has umbrella in the name and an indoor/under umbrella picnic eating etouffee. (You can see our decorated umbrellas by the way).

Happy lettering!