Crafts and Projects · Writing Appearances

A Craft to Teach Kids Budgeting and Giving

I love teaching my daughters, which is probably a good thing considering I homeschool them.

There are definitely days that don’t go as planned and I second guess what I am doing, but I am so thankful for the opportunity to be able to homeschool my daughters. It’s amazing the amount of information I learn (or relearn) alongside them.

Earlier this year I talked about a fun craft to teach kids financial responsibility that my daughters and I had done together.

That craft was a “bank” divided into four sections: spend, save, invest, and donate.

I had mentioned these banks in an article I had written entitled How to Quickly Boost Your Child’s IQ, which had been published on A Fine Parent.

Fun craft to teach financial responsibility

I recently wrote another article that was published in The Old Schoolhouse magazine (winter 2018) entitled Hands On Math: The Hungry Jar that discusses the benefits of a simple activity which focuses on donating. My family calls it “the hungry jar”, which my daughters “feed” once a week.

Within the article, I explained how the hungry jar can teach philanthropy while instilling some important math and life skills. I discussed how this simple hungry jar gives kids the opportunity to count coins, add and subtract money, comparison shop, budget, estimate, and help others.

At the end of the article, I stated “Maybe your family would enjoy creating your own hungry jar…”, so I thought I would share with you how my daughters and I created ours.

I got the main concept of the hungry jar from a church my family once attended. During the offering time of the service, the kids walked around the sanctuary collecting coins and dollar bills from members of the congregation to insert into a large glass jar near the pulpit. The money from that jar was then donated each month to a different chosen cause.

We stopped attending that church, but we didn’t want to stop feeding a hungry jar, so we decided to create our own “hungry jar”.

Create a Hungry Jar to Teach Math

First off, our jar isn’t technically a jar. It’s actually a clean oatmeal container.

We decorated the oatmeal container with a wallpaper sample I had found at a rummage sale for free. We chose this particular wallpaper sheet because it had bears at a picnic, so we thought it fit with being “hungry”.

Create a Hungry Jar to Teach Math

We put glue on the outside of the oatmeal container, wrapped the paper (cut to fit) around the container on the glue, and taped the edges together to hold it in place.

Decorative paper or construction paper may have stuck better than the wallpaper sample, but we were able to get it to stay in place.

We have been feeding (and emptying) our hungry jar for a few years now, and it is still holding together.

Create a Hungry Jar to Teach Math

Once we had the paper wrapped around the container, I cut a hole large enough to insert large coins and folded bills in the lid of the oatmeal container. Then, I wrote “Hungry Jar” on it.

Create a Hungry Jar to Teach Math

That was it!

Each week my daughters “feed” a set amount of money to the hungry jar. After some time, they count the money, comparison shop, and purchase items for a local food shelf using only the money they had added to the hungry jar. Afterwards, they subtract the money they had spent.

Sometimes, we have the opportunity to deliver the items and help at the food shelf. Otherwise, we donate the food during local food drives/collections.

If you would like more information about how the hungry jar teaches math concepts, you may be interested in reading the article I wrote entitled Hands On Math: The Hungry Jar that was published in The Old Schoolhouse magazine (Winter 2018).

Do you have any hands-on math ideas you’d like to share?

Crafts and Projects · Writing Appearances

Creating a Thankful Chain for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is only a few days away!

Of course, we should be thankful every day of the year, but Thanksgiving can be a great reminder to focus on what we are thankful for.

Last year, I had mentioned my daughters and I decorate a Thankful Tree and hang a Thankful Chain in our house to show what we are thankful for each year around Thanksgiving.

We definitely have a lot to be thankful for!

I recently wrote a post for Hands On As We Grow entitled Make Your Own Simple Thankful Chain for Thanksgiving. You can check it out if you are interested in seeing step-by-step instructions on making a thankful chain.

Not only are these thankful chains a great way to decorate your house with what you are thankful for, but they can also promote cutting, writing, colors, and pattern making practice for the little ones.

thankful chain

How do you show what you are thankful for?

Crafts and Projects · Jobs of a Preschooler · Ramblings

Personal Pizzas Kids Can Create

I recently wrote an article that was published in the Fall 2018 edition of The Old Schoolhouse magazine entitled Meal Planning: How to Save Time and Money. In the article, I discussed ways to prepare large quantities of ground meat, chicken hindquarters, pork loins, chicken breasts, ham, and turkey when bought on sale to simplify future meals while saving some money.

One of the tips I discussed was using ground meat to prepare and freeze homemade meatballs for future use. I really like that frozen meatballs can be tossed in a slow cooker with spaghetti sauce and cooked for a few hours for an easy dinner of meatball bombers – meatballs, sauce, and mozzarella cheese on a long bun.

Meatballs on Tray

I always add more meatballs than my family will eat in one meal to the slow cooker when cooking the meatballs since there is always extra spaghetti sauce. I use the leftover meatballs and spaghetti sauce for spaghetti (just prepare some noodles), or I let my daughters make their own homemade personal pizzas. These little pizzas are so simple for kids to make!

My daughters enjoy making and eating these tasty pizzas. Although we often make them when we have leftover meatballs and spaghetti sauce, they could be made any time with ingredients you have on hand. These are the typical ingredients we use when making these personal pizzas.

  • slices of bread
  • leftover spaghetti sauce (although pizza sauce would work)
  • leftover meatballs, cut into small pieces
  • shredded cheese
  • spices/ seasonings (optional)

I put the spaghetti sauce into a small bowl and the bread on a sprayed cookie sheet. My daughters scoop and spread the sauce onto the pieces of bread using a spoon. Then, my daughters layer the bread with the shredded cheese. Next, they put the leftover meatballs across the tops. Sometimes, they will also add other seasonings such as Italian seasoning.

personal pizzas kids can make

Once the little pizzas are assembled, I place them in the oven at 350F. Since the meat had already been cooked, I only have to cook the pizzas until the cheese is melted and the bottoms are slightly browned (about 10-15 minutes).

homemade mini pizzas

They may not be fancy, but these pizzas get the little ones involved with cooking while using up leftovers. Even little ones can be chefs like the girl in the book Jobs of a Preschooler!

From book Jobs of a Preschooler...Preschooler being a chef

Do your kids like to help in the kitchen?

Crafts and Projects · Jobs of a Preschooler · Ramblings

Nature Walk: Whose Tracks Are These?

I had mentioned in a previous post that your little ones can be scientists by taking a nature walk to make some interesting discoveries.

Maybe your little ones would like to find some animal tracks in sandy, muddy, or snowy areas. Guidebooks that show animal tracks can be very beneficial to identify the animals that made the tracks. My family has found many tracks over the years. Below are a few samples of animal tracks we have found.

These are tracks we found on an island in the middle of the Mississippi River. We knew they were bird tracks, but we weren’t sure what kind of bird. We looked at the guide found here (from USGS Education), and it appears as though they are heron tracks.

bird tracks

This is another picture I took on an island in the Mississippi River. The deer who left these tracks behind would have had to swim across the river to get to this island. We explored the small island for a little bit, but we never found any deer.

deer tracks in sand

These were dog (or coyote) tracks found on the same island. It can be fun to make up stories to go along with discovered tracks. What kind of animal was it? What was it doing? We were guessing the tracks below were from a dog visiting with its family. That seemed like a nicer story than a coyote following the deer.

dog tracks in sand

There are multiple tracks in this mud we found at a Wetlands Center we visited.

tracks in mud

We have enjoyed many field trips to nature centers and parks. On one visit, the naturalist showed us multiple animal track samples and allowed the kids to create their own animal track molds.

One of my daughters molded a Canadian goose print.

canadian goose track mold

My other daughter molded a wolf print.

wolf track mold

We used rubber molds of animal tracks when we created these animal prints out of plaster of paris. If you are interested in making a mold of an animal print you find outside, you may want to read How to Make a Mold of Animal Tracks with Plaster of Paris on Frugal Fun 4 Boys or this booklet from USGS Education, which includes an animal track reference guide.

Searching for tracks may lead to a hungry kid. You could continue with the theme of tracks with these cute animal track snacks as seen on Loreen Leedy’s website.

It may be fun to discuss another animal track animals leave…scat! You may want to save this discussion for after snack time, though. A cute book to check out about animal tracks and their scat is called Track that Scat! by Lisa Morlock. (This is an affiliate link, which means I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you if you click on it and make a purchase.)

Track that Scat book

Will you find (or make) any tracks today?

Birthday Party · Crafts and Projects · Jobs of a Preschooler

Build “Sand” Castles Inside Using Brown Sugar

I have enjoyed planning numerous themed birthday parties for my daughters over the years. One of my daughters decided she wanted an underwater themed birthday party a few years ago, which I had a lot of fun planning, decorating, and hosting with her.

I wanted to incorporate something like sand castles as decoration at the under water themed party, but I didn’t want sand brought into my house. It occurred to me one day as we were baking that brown sugar packs well and looks like sand.  Brown sugar is also inexpensive and edible, so I decided to create a few brown sugar animals as decoration on one of the tables for her party.

Brown sugar instead of sand

I thought they looked cute. My daughters have since had fun making their own brown sugar castles and creations, which I wrote a post about on Hands On As We Grow. You can read it here if you would like. (I wrote the post in March when we still had snow on the ground, and it was bitterly cold. This week, it has been in the 90s all week, so I found it funny the post says “It’s still too cold where I live to build sand castles at the beach.” It’s amazing how much the weather can differ from month to month in some locations!)

Anyways, my daughters played with brown sugar while I was writing the post for Hands On As We Grow, so I could take some pictures of what I was talking about. One of my daughters made a brown sugar submarine.

brown sugar creation

My other daughter worked on building a brown sugar tower.

brown sugar creation

They worked together and created a castle with a craft stick flag and bridge.

brown sugar castle

They had fun trying to destroy their brown sugar castle with little catapults (measuring spoons) filled with cannons (packed brown sugar).

destroying brown sugar castle

I had cookie trays for them to use to try to contain all of the brown sugar. We still ended up with brown sugar on the counter, floor, and them. All of which was rather easy to clean up. The remaining brown sugar went back into a bowl for the next time they want to build brown sugar creations.

Building with brown sugar is messy, but it’s fun!