Educational Apps

If you follow my blog you know I really try to avoid screen time.  For over a year my kids were screen free 99% of the time and it was really great for their play, imagination, behaviour and development.  Lately I’ve allowed a little in for a few reasons.  One is mostly selfish – mommy is stressed and needs a break.  Another reason is that I’m finding it hard to cover all the areas I want to in homeschool without getting very overwhelmed and a third is that Pumpkin 1 has been difficult lately and resistant to doing anything or will say she wants to do something and then put no effort or thought into it and mostly lay around or act silly.  It seems this is common at age 4.  And so I now have 2 apps on my tablet which I really love.

The first is a tracing app.  I really like it because it’s simple and not flashy and you can even turn off sounds and animation to make it really basic.  It gives a lot of options to set up the program how you want.  You can see a demo below.


The other one is a coding app for kindergarten.  It’s also simple, cute, with limited animation and really develops thinking and prediction skills.  It’s just the right challenge level for Pumpkin 1.  She can do it but she really has to think.


Pumpkin 1 wants to be an astronaut and likes the watch the videos make by Chris Hadfield and has learned things from them that can’t really be taught from books.  She even wrote him a letter and got a reply.  I also allow some Hindi or French language shows as that gives them an ear for the correct pronunciation that I can’t give them.

My goal is to still be mostly screen free.  But I’m always evaluating how I’m doing things and making changes as needed.  Whenever I see any screen time is affecting them negatively I cut it out for a while again. I wish I could be completely screen free forever but that isn’t likely and I’m not supermom.


100 Sticker Chart

I’ve been working on counting to 100 with Pumpkin 1.  She’s pretty good but struggles with the teen numbers.  We have a magnetic 100 chart but she wasn’t too interested in it.  She does however LOVE stickers.  Like really loves stickers and will chose new stickers over a new toy.  I had an inspiration to do a 100 sticker chart.  I found these on amazon but I didn’t really want to order anything else right now (on a strict budget) and didn’t want to pay shipping.  I was at Walmart and found coloured blank circle stickers which were perfect to make my own.  With a marker and a blank 100 chart I printed off I was all set.

It was a big hit.  Even Pumpkin 2 wanted his own.  It’s also great work for fine motor skills


The sticker set did have over 300 stickers and we used them all in one sitting between my kids and my daycare child.  I’ll probably pick up some more to do this again.  I was thinking of maybe a fill in the missing number 100 chart or having the numbers all mixed up rather than in order.

Great Sounding Parenting Advice That I Hate

Because it doesn’t work!

There’s just soooo much parenting advice out there.  It can be overwhelming.  Some of it is just plan dumb, some of it is great and much falls in the middle – it sounds good but doesn’t work on your kids.


Give your child choices to get them to do something.  Sounds great.  Trick them into thinking they’re in charge.  Too bad they know what you’re up to and will NEVER chose out of the options you give them.  Even if they like the options.  They will pick whatever it is they can’t have.  Every.Single.Time.  Followed by a kicking screaming tantrum for said item.

Don’t get into power struggles.  This can actually be good advice in certain situations where you can’t win.  Like toileting.  But my children can turn breathing into a power struggle.  It’s like their pass-time, seeing how many things in their life they can make a struggle for supreme power.  Like just the basics of life.  Walking?  Power struggle.  Sleeping?  Power struggle.  Eating?  Power struggle.  Talking?  Power struggle.  Everything must be a power struggle.

Don’t frame things with yes or no answers so that they can’t say no.  My kids don’t care how you frame your question.  The answer is still no.  “Do you want to put away your stuffies first or your doll?”  “Nothing!”  “Do you want to wear your red jammies or blue?”  “No”  “No what?  No red?”  “No jammies!”

Don’t tell your kids “no” but tell him yes within a different scenario.  In other words don’t say, “No you can’t jump on the couch” but say, “the couch is not for jumping you may jump on the trampoline”.  Honestly, my kids look at me like I must think they are dumb.  They know that whole long sentence is the same as saying no.  They now throw a fit because they want to jump on the couch and not the trampoline.  I try saying the magic sentence again and again but they scream harder and finally I’m spewing, “NO! NO! you can’t jump on the couch!”.

Don’t punish your kids but give them boundaries.  Really?  What does that even mean?  How do you even enforce a “boundary” without a consequence?  Oh?  you drew all over the wall after I told you not to?  You broke the boundary but taking away all your crayons is a punishment so I’m just going to say nicely, “it’s not nice to draw on mommy’s walls” and my child will never draw on the walls again.  I actually have learned that “punishment” is a bad word.  But if you use the word “consequence” that’s ok.  So just remember that you don’t use punishments, you use “consequences” and everyone will think you’re a great mom.  That ties in with the next one.

Don’t tell your kids they need to obey.  Like how dare you expect your children to obey.  Don’t you know that will make them vulnerable to predictors?  If you teach your child to obey you’re practically setting them up to be molested.  Only defiant children are safe.  It’s ok to use the word “listen” though.  You can tell your children they need to listen, when what you really mean is obey, but because you used a different word it’s all good.  Then you can get upset after because they only listened to you and didn’t actually obey because they were confused by your wording.  And did you know predators never will tell your child that they need to listen?  They only use the word obey.  That’s how you can tell who they are.

Never force your child to do anything they don’t want to do.  See above.  This makes them vulnerable to predators.  It makes them passive and unresistant if you force them to brush their teeth.  Or if you pick them up when they don’t want to be.  You must reason and convince your child to do what it is they need to do and if they don’t then you must let them have their way.  You don’t want them to become passive and get molested do you?  ‘Cos child molesters will always use force and will never charm and bribe your child into doing things.   (yes, I’ve actually had this conversation with someone in real life about how forcing your child to brush their teeth means they will be molested one day).

Sympathise with them so they feel you understand and connect with them.  I do do this but every time my kids think it means I’m going to give in to them and then they flip out more when they realise that it doesn’t.

Let kids work things out themselves and don’t get involved except to stop someone getting hurt.  I’ll just save you the time right now.  If you don’t get involved, it always ends up in someone getting hurt.

Sleep when the baby sleeps.   Sure, because my kids sleep.  And because we don’t need to eat dinner or have clean dishes or clean clothes to wear and because my other kids can take care of themselves while I sleep and because my baby sleeps longer than 20 mins at a time.  Sleep is overrated anyway.

Don’t bribe your kids or they won’t be intrinsically motivated.  This may be true but I don’t think my kids will ever be intrinsically motivated to eat their vegetables, to clean up their room or to do anything they don’t want to do.  They only start doing these things on their own when they want to; when they start wanting a clean room or they start liking vegetables.  I mean, do you clean because you’re intrinsically motivated or because company is coming over and you don’t want to look like a slob?  Or you like having a clean house?  Do you eat your dinner because of your motivation or because you like your food?  There’s always a benefit to us for the things we do.  We’re motivated by the rewards we get though they’re not always visible rewards.  You can’t force those internal rewards (which I guess is intrinsic motivation), they come with maturity.  So until my kids start enjoying eating because I’ve made them taste food they’re insisting is yuck though they have never ate it before, or they realise they feel more relaxed in a clean room and can find their things, or realise their little brother is bigger than them and it’s better not to bite him, I’ll resort to bribery.

So how do you parent your kids?  What does work?  I’m not sure.  I’ll let you know if I ever figure it out.  And if I do my kids are too smart and will probably figure out a way to make it not work anymore.


I Sea 10 Game

It seems we’re really into games lately.  Maybe it’s the age.  I’ve heard age 4 can be unfocused and distracted and that seems to be where we’re at.  So games go over well.  This one I highly recommend.  I’m planning to eventually teach my children to do calculations on the Japanese abacus.  This requires them to know their sums up to 10.  So I got this game.

I paired it up with the Montessori addition strip board.

I set up the board with all the pairs that add up to 10 for reference.


Then we turn all the numbers over so the fish are up.  To play we turn over one fish.  Then we see what number it pairs with to make ten.  We scan those that are turned over and if we find a match we take them out.  If we don’t, that number is left turned over and the next person goes.


Today we played twice and Pumpkin 1 was starting to memorize pairs that go together.


There are also sharks for the game but I removed them because right now Pumpkin 1 gets too upset about having to put things back.  We combine our pairs together as she doesn’t do well with competitive games at the moment.  It’s much more fun to play cooperatively right now.

Farm Vocabulary Game for Any Language

I’ve been teaching my children a little Hindi.  Pumpkin 1 is hopefully starting Hindi classes in the fall so I need to step up my game.  I came up with this fun way to learn numbers and farm animal names in any language.


There’s two ways to play.  There’s a cooperative version, which is great when your kids are still little and get upset about winning and losing.  And there’s a competitive version for those kids who thrive on competition.  The game can be played in any language, provided you know the vocabulary to teach your kids.

The animals have escaped and are all around the farm.  You need to go around the board and collect them back.  The dice and counting spaces is a great way to instil numbers in your chosen language.  The animals must be “called” in order to collect them.  In the cooperative version you must work together to get the animals back to the barn before the sun sets.  Whenever you roll a 3 or 6 the sun moves a square on the number strip.  In the competitive version for up to 4 players, there are multiple animals tokens.  A player must collect one of each and get back to the barn before the others.


The PDF includes a game board printable, animal tokens, a sun token, a number strip in English, Devanagari, Urdu, Hebrew, Japanese, Thai and Tamil as well as a blank strip. The download also includes instructions for both versions of the game.

Download, print, laminate, add a dice and playing pieces and you’re ready to have loads of fun!

You can purchase your PDF copy at my etsy store:

I Am An Artist

My daughter said these beautiful words today.  She has always struggled with trying to do things perfectly and melting down when she makes one little mistake.  This would cause her to not try to paint or draw something because she couldn’t make it perfect.  When she was only two she’d freak out if she coloured outside of the lines.  She’d never been told to colour in the lines.  I had to take away all the colouring books.  Finally, in desperation, I got her a second hand copy of this book.

It’s great because it shows all different styles and types of art while talking about famous artists and showing their work.  It opened her eyes to the idea that art doesn’t have to look or be a certain way.  It doesn’t have to meet a criteria of perfect.

Today they made their own art inspired by Matisse’s work “The Snail”.


While working on her art work she said, “I am an artist”.  It made my heart sing.  I hope she feels more free now to create what is in her heart without restrictions.




Free Sight Word Board Game Printable

I’ve been trying to find some ways to make learning sight words more fun and came up with this game.  I must say it’s quite fun.  I used a board game template from here and added to it.  This game teaches sight words along with counting and turn taking.  IMG_1452

What you need:
Board game printed and laminated :Sight word board game
Box to use as the “treasure chest”
Glass gems
Playing pieces, we used Lego men
Cards with sight words written on them.  (I purchased blank playing cards from Amazon)

How to play:
The object of the game is to collect the most gems by saying the secret password to open the treasure chest.
Put the gems in the chest and the cards face down.  The first person puts their player on the first square and draws a card and reads it.  If they read it correctly they can open the chest and take out one gem.  If they read it incorrectly it goes back in the pile and they don’t get a gem.  They keep the correctly read card beside them.  The next person repeats this processes.  After everyone is on the first square the first person rolls the dice and moves the number of spaces indicated.  They then draw a card and read the magic word to collect a gem.  (Make sure everyone sees the card being read to check that it’s read correctly and to help the others learn the word).
If a player lands on a star they may take 2 gems if they read the magic word correctly.  If the player lands on a lightening bolt they may take a card from another player and read it and steal one of their gems.  If a player lands on a crossed circle then they miss their turn and do not get to pick up a card.  When a player lands at the finish they may pick one final card and collect one final gem.  After everyone has reached the finished the gems are counted and the one with the most wins.


Follow me on pinterest for more sight word ideas.

Bringing Montessori Outside Part 2

I already feel like winter is looming and it’s only June.  That ominous, “Winter is Coming”.  I know the next few months will fly by and I want my kids to soak up as much of beauty and nature and sun and warmth they can.  Official school activities are not priority right now, gross motor play is.  We recently started going to a new park the kids love.  No one is there during the day yet so my kids have the park to themselves.  The other parks we go to are frustrating because a school or daycare will show up with 30-40 kids and just take over the place and my shy kids fell overwhelmed or they’re older kids who are too rough and use bad words and so we leave.  Anyway, we’re trying to do school outside as often as we can.  Here are some more ideas for bringing Montessori out into the sunshine.

This DIY spindle box is so simple.  The container is from the Dollar Store.  It’s a tackle or hardware box.  I use these a lot for storing things.  And popsicle sticks, also available at the Dollar Store.  Often I change up the “spindles” for other things – straws, sticks, counting bugs, etc…


In fact you can use nature for counting.  These are pine cones the kids collected.  The numbers are regular magnetic ones.


Toobs are great to bring outside or any other small plastic animals.  This is Vertebrate and Invertebrate sorting.

We recently got a Backyard Birds Toob from Michael’s.  We already had the bird book.  The kids like to find the birds in the book. They also are painting pictures of the birds to make their own bird book.


This is a sight word game from Amazon.  It’s a way to make learning sight words more fun.

This is so simple to do but it takes dexterity for the kids.  They have to remember to weave in and out.  It was too hard for Pumpkin 2 and a challenge for Pumpkin 1.  The tidy part you see was me showing her how.  It’s really great for crossing the midline and spacial reasoning.

We tried out a ball run with cut pool noodles and Boomerings (and you thought Boomerings were a baby toy).  The balls kept getting lost in the cut grass so then we did water.

Next we’re going to try building something with trough.  I need to get some more Boomerings though.  They’re super strong and sturdy.

I have lots more ideas in my head for outdoor learning I can’t wait to share with you.


Follow my Pinterest board for lots more Montessori ideas.



DIY Mirror Table

As a homeschooling mother I’m always adapting, always learning, always trying to improve.  Lately I’ve been incorporation more Reggio into our lives.  I find it has many similarities with Montessori but allows more open-ended exploration and more of the arts.

Mirrors are used a lot in Reggio.  They allow the child to view themselves and to view their work from different angles.  They promote exploration with reflections and symmetry.  We had this little table in our room and I thought it’d make a great mirror table.  A trip to the dollar store later it was all set up.


The table is this one from Walmart.  It’s only $15 CAD.

The mirrors are from the Dollar Store.  They’re $2 each and are about 9 3/4″ squares.  I also got some command strips for hanging pictures frames.

The mirrors fit perfectly on the table leaving a little ledge for the standing up ones.

What I did was attach 4 to the table with the command strips so that I could later remove them without damaging the table.  I put them on to one side so that there was a rim of the table to balance the standing up ones on.  For those I put two at a 90% angle and taped them and then taped one on either end.  I put them up on the table and taped the backs to the table.  Two strategically placed pieces of tape on the front two end pieces keep them from sliding back.

And now the exploration can begin.  The first thing Pumpkin 1 said was, “Mommy I made a star!”


Follow my Pinterest Board for more Reggio homeschooling ideas: