Friday, June 29, 2012

Fun Sites for Gardening Games and Activities

Here are some fun online gardening activities and games. Enjoy!

How to Make a Seed Bomb from KidsGardening
Spread seeds!

This site has a long list of activities.

Gardening for Families, Friends & Fun from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln 
Bean tower, gourd birdhouses, scavenger hunt…

Gardening Activities from
There are 2 pages with lots of activities.

Garden Crafts from Disney Family Fun
There are lots of crafting ideas here.  

Mary McKenna Siddals, the author of Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth (see Monday's post) 

Bean's Vegetable Garden from Sprout Online

Bloomin’ Gardens from Learn4Good

Dora’s Magical Garden from Nick Jr.

Garden Swappers from Kidzpage

Fun in the Garden from Kaboose 

Have fun with these!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Guest Post by George Pessin: School Garden Summer Reading

Today’s guest post is by George Pessin of School Garden WeeklyGeorge is a  Los Angeles County Certified Master Gardener. School Garden Weekly was created to allow students, teachers, parents, and volunteers the information necessary to start and maintain a successful school garden.

School Garden Summer Reading
by George Pessin

School’s out. Gardens are growing. During the summer you’ll want to inspire your children to stay active both physically and mentally. Reading and gardening both are excellent activities especially when the reading involves garden themes.

Multi-award winner, Dawn Publications of Nevada City, CA specializes in quality children’s books about nature. I have had the pleasure of reading two of their latest publications, Molly’s Organic Farm (ages 4-10) and Jo MacDonald Had a Garden (ages 3-8).

What I loved about these books besides the well-told stories and beautiful illustrations are the curriculum components at the back of each book. These can range from topics of discussion such as crop rotation and beneficial insects to indoor activities and garden tips.

If you go to the Dawn Publications website, you can also download activity ideas relating to the different books. For example, when looking through the pages of All Around Me I See by Laya Steinberg you can find animals, insects and birds hiding in their habitat. In the downloadable activity, Classroom Camouflage, students will discuss how camouflage helps keep animals safe from predators.

See downloadable activities by book here Gardening with your kids and reading with your kids about gardening will make for an enjoyable summer for both you and your kids.

Thank you, George, for sharing your summer reading tips with us!
Looking for more ways to garden with your kids? Visit School Garden Weekly  for lots more ideas. My current favorite is Edible Activities – One Bite Lessons Such a good idea!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Grow Garden Grow! Gardening Books for Kids

Do you have a garden? Would you like to start one? Here is a bunch of books to get you started.

 The Curious Garden by Peter Brown
This is a wonderful book! Liam finds a scraggly garden growing on some unused train tracks. He isn’t much of a gardener but he learns after a while. When the garden grows curious, it spreads to other areas, wherever it feels like. There is real magic in this book.

 Jack’s Garden by Henry Cole
This story is like the story The House That Jack Built. It starts with This is the garden that Jack planted. It continues with the soil, the seeds, rain, plants and continues until the garden is fully grown. The illustrations are wonderful and need to be studied carefully to catch all the details.

 How Does My Garden Grow? by DK Publishing
This book has lots to offer gardeners. It has a collection of gardening activities, scientific experiments, art projects, cooking ideas and magic tricks. The photo illustrations are very clear. Other gardening books by DK:
Grow It, Cook It
Wildlife Gardening
Ready, Set Grow!

Compost! Growing Gardens from Your Garbage by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Anca Hariton [sorry, no link]
Although this just looks like a pretty picture book, it also gives directions how to build and care for a compost bin. In the end there is a section with more information.

 Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals, illustrated by Ashley Wolff
This book starts with Apple cores; Bananasbruised and Coffee grounds with filters, used. It then goes through the alphabet, ending with Zinnia heads from flower beds whose blooming days are through. By the book’s end, you have a pretty good idea of all the things that can go into a compost pile.

 101 Kid-Friendly Plants by Cindy Krezel
Not sure what to plant? Looking for ideas? This book has LOTS of them! Each plant has a photograph, a description of it and plant care directions. At the end of the book, there are several projects for using the plants, such as native plant gardens and water gardens.

 Growing Plants: Leaves, Roots, and Shoots by Jim Pipe
This book is mostly about the science of gardening. It talks about the parts of plants and what plants need to grow. It’s a Science Starters Level 3 book.

 Kid’s First Gardening Book by Jenny Hendy
This book is huge! It has 256 pages and more than 120 projects. Each project is rated as Easy as ABC, Give it a Try, or Nice and Challenging. Chapters include Hands on Gardening, Flower Power, Wildlife Gardening and others.

Growing a Garden by Mari Schuh [sorry, no link]
This book is for the youngest gardeners. The text is very simple and the photos are clear. Other books in this series:
All Kinds of Gardens
Animals in the Garden
Tools for the Garden

 A Kid’s Guide to Perennial Gardens by Tamra Orr
A perennial flower is one that grows year after year. It’s inactive in the winter and then grows again in the spring. I’m a big fan of perennial flowers because they seem to take much less work than annual plants, which have to be planted year after year. This book tells how to plan your garden, prepare the soil, plant the seeds and other information. Other books in this series:
A Backyard Flower Garden for Kids
A Backyard Vegetable Garden for Kids
Design Your Own Butterfly Garden
Design Your Own Pond and Water Garden
A Kid’s Guide to Landscape Design

 First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew by Robbin Gourley
This book gives a short history of the White House Gardens. It tells about Michelle Obama's kitchen garden, which was planted with help from some fifth graders from a local school. (Wouldn’t that be amazing?) It also includes recipes and gardening ideas.

  Grow Your Own Monsters by Nicola Davies and Simon Hickmott, illustrated by Scoular Anderson
So what kind of monster plants are they talking about? How about Venus Fly Trap (eats flies), Voodoo Lily (looks like a snake and smells like a corpse), Giant Echium (20 feet tall) and others. Careful directions are given.

 Butterflies in the Garden by Carol Lerner
This book has illustrations of more than three dozen butterflies. It shows you how to lure them into your garden. It also explains how butterflies grow from caterpillars into full-grown fliers.

I hope this is a wonderful gardening summer!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Websites for Cool Summer Drama

Here are 4 sites that provide scripts for your summer drama fun. Check Monday’s post for books with scripts.

I’m a big fan of Margie Palatini books (The Web Files, Piggie Pie…) and so I'm delighted to see her website has Reader’s Theater scripts.

This site has a bunch of scripts. There’s a large variety in the stories: fables, retelling of kids’ books, fairy tales. Lots of the scripts are for just a few actors. 

This site also has a lot of scripts. Some of them are the same as from the previous 2 sites, some are different.

This site has scripts, plus many have a copy of the original story.

So how were your plays and Reader’s Theater productions? Tell about them in the Comments Box!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Activities for Super Summer Reading

There are lots of fun summer activities that have reading built right in. Here are a few.

  • Act out books! Okay, many of us adults don’t like dramatics but go ahead, give it a try. Acting out stories helps kids experience story structure. This works best with shorter picture books but it also works with scenes from longer books. Fairy tales work really well.
  • Readers Theater As a teacher, I found short plays to be just the thing to get some kids reading. Take a look at Monday’s post for ideas. Try writing some plays yourself!
  • Summer Crafts Check out this post for crafting ideas.
  • Invent something – This may be a little more than you have in mind, but what an inspiration! Caine’s Arcade
  • Create your own August holiday Did you ever notice that August has no major holiday? Take this as an opportunity to create your own! Pick a day, choose a focus (National ____ Day), plan decorations, food, throw a party!
  • Make your own audio book Choose a book that is comfortable to read, practice a bit, record and enjoy!
  • Learn a new skill Juggling, knitting, magic tricks, animal tracking…
  • Summer scrapbook Brochures, stuff found, pictures, crafts…
  • Fresh Air Ideas  These aren’t exactly reading ideas but they look like lots of fun so I had to include them.

Resources used to compile this list:

Check out this post, Several Super Summer Reading Tips for more ideas. What are some of your ideas for summer fun? Write them in the Comments Box!  

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer Drama: Put on a Play!

Looking for things to do this summer? Put on plays! You can write your own or check out these books for ideas. Last summer's post, 9 Books for Summer Drama Funhas other books you can look at.

Some of the books give scripts for Reader's Theater. A happy thing about Reader's Theater: you don't need to remember your lines! Everyone reads from the script, doing all the acting with their voices. I've never liked remembering lines, so I love Reader's Theater!

 Show Time by Lisa Bany-Winters
Looking for ways to become a better singer, dancer or actor? This book has lots of ideas. Musicals, plays with singing and dancing, are always popular. No doubt you’ve seen lots of them – Annie, Lion King, The Wizard of Oz – all musicals. This book will give you ideas for creating your own musicals.

 Funny Bones: Comedy Games and Activities for Kids by Lisa Bany-Winters
Do you think you are funny? Would you like to be funnier? This book has lots of ideas for making people laugh. It talks about choosing material, punch lines and props. It has games, activities and short scripts. Laugh your way through summer!

 Songs and Rhymes Readers Theatre for Beginning Readers by Anthony D. Fredericks
This is a good book for the young set. It takes familiar nursery rhymes and turns them into plays or musical activities. There are suggestions for props, musical instruments and tunes.

 Fractured Frogs and Other Frankly Fractured Folktales for Readers Theatre by Anthony D. Fredericks
The plays in this book have longer dialog than the other books. You’d definitely want to do these plays as Readers Theater unless you really like memorizing lines! To give you an idea of what the plays are like, here are some titles:  Little Miss Muffet Smashes a Spider to Smithereens, Don’t Kiss Sleeping Beauty, She’s Got Really Bad Breath, Rapunzel Gets a Really Bad Hairdo.

 Readers Theatre for Beginning Readers by Suzanne I. Barchers, illustrated by Joan Garner
This book has lots of short (2-4 pages) plays based on fairy tales. Each play has suggestions for props and tips for the actors. Some of the titles: Jack and the Beanstalk, The Little Boy Who Went to the North Wind, The Emperor’s New Clothes.

 Scary Readers Theatre by Suzanne I. Barchers, illustrated by Joan Garner
The plays in this book range from silly to downright frightening. Each play includes suggestions for the actors and helpful props.

 Once Upon a Time by Judy Freeman
I wasn’t going to include this book at first because it seemed mostly for teachers. But I did include it because it’s so full of great books to act out. Just skip over the teacher stuff. [If you’re a teacher – this book is great]. My favorite parts are the lists of books that are just right for acting out.

 Folktales on Stage by Aaron Shepard
This book has 16 scripts – each script is a folktale from a different country. The number of characters in each play range from 6-19 characters. If you have fewer actors, just double up on the parts. Then you get to try out different voices!

 Stories on Stage by Aaron Shepard
This book has 22 scripts. Some of them have been adapted from kids’ books, like Sideways Stories from Wayside School and The Twits. The number of characters in each play range from 4-22 characters.

I hope you will give drama a try this summer. You'll have fun and so will your adoring audiences!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fun Cooking Sites for Young Chefs

Here are 7 sites for all you kid chefs. Some are good sources for recipes and cooking tips. Others are for games – 3 of them even show you how to cook stuff!

This is the website for the book The Spatulatta Cookbook.
Once you choose a recipe, the list of kinds of recipes shows. Be sure to check out the kitty litter cake!

Games involving eggs
Harder than it looks!

The rest of the sites have games that show you how to make recipes!

These games look pretty fun to me. Which ones did you like? Write about them in the Comments Box!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Guest Post: Cooking with Kids Bolsters Literacy

Today's post is from Stephanie Gallagher. She writes for's Guide to Cooking for Kids. Through her work, she's learned first-hand how cooking with kids can help promote literacy. Not only does it build reading skills, it provides undisputable proof that learning math (especially fractions!) is an important life skill :)

Cooking with Kids Bolsters Literacy
By Stephanie Gallagher's Guide to Cooking for Kids
Recipes reprinted with permission.
One of the best ways to improve kids' literacy is by cooking. It's also fun, builds self esteem and helps them develop an important life skill.
The key is to make sure the recipes you choose are age-appropriate. If a recipe is too hard for kids to master, they will lose interest.
Check out these recipes for kids, sorted by age level:

For Preschoolers
No preschooler can resist the idea of eating dirt. Here's how to serve it to them in style! You will have to help with this recipe.
1 clear medium-sized flower pot and plastic wrap (optional - you can make this cake in a pan if you like)
1 box chocolate sandwich cookies, such as Oreos
2 3.9 oz. packages instant chocolate pudding
3-1/2 cups milk
8 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 8-10 oz. containers frozen whipped topping, such as Cool Whip, thawed
a few gummy worms
1. Wash and dry the flower pot. Line with plastic wrap. Place the flower pot on a clean dish (this keeps the contents of the dirt cake from leaking).
2. Place the chocolate sandwich cookies in a food processor, and pulse until coarse crumbs form.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the pudding and milk until the mixture becomes thick. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the cream cheese mixture.
4. Make the cream cheese mixture: Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in 1 container of the thawed whipped topping. Stir into the chocolate pudding mixture until smooth.
5. Place a layer of the cookie crumbs in the bottom of the flower pot. Top with a layer of the chocolate pudding mixture. Continue making layers until there is about 1 inch left at the top. Important: Be sure to leave plenty of cookie crumbs for the top!
6. Spread the remaining container of thawed whipped topping over the last layer. Sprinkle the remaining cookie crumbs on top, covering the whipped topping completely. Decorate with gummy worms.
7. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For Grade Schoolers
If the kids can open a can, they can make these chili dogs.
4 hot dogs (beef, turkey, chicken or even veggie dogs)
1 14 oz. can chili beans
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 Tbsp. relish
4 hot dog buns
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1. Cut slits crosswise in each hot dog to prevent them from exploding in the microwave. This can be done with a dinner knife - no need to use a sharp paring knife or chef's knife.
2. Place the hot dogs in a single layer in a microwave-safe glass dish with a lid. Pour the chili beans over the hot dogs. Add the onions, mustard and relish. Stir well.
3. Cover with the lid sitting slightly askew, so that one corner is exposed. This allows the hot dogs to vent. Heat on high for 3 minutes. Stir and continue heating in 1-minute increments until the chili dogs are heated through.
4. Transfer the hot dogs to hot dog buns. Top with chili mixture and cheddar cheese.
Note: The cooking time will vary, depending on the size and wattage of your microwave oven. Always check the temperature of the food before serving.

For Teens
Who doesn't love tacos? This recipe is a cinch to prepare.
1-1/2 lbs. ground beef
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 cup thousand island salad dressing
7 oz. tortilla chips
1-1/2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend or shredded cheddar cheese
1. Place the ground beef and chili powder in a large skillet. Cook, stirring to break up the beef, until browned. Remove from the heat, and drain off the fat.
2. Add the thousand island dressing, and stir to mix well.
3. Place the tortilla chips in a large salad bowl or on 4 individual plates to serve. Top with the ground beef mixture and the cheese.
Click here for more recipes for teens.

Thank you, Stephanie for your fun and easy recipes. I personally recommend the Dirt Cake recipe. When I made it for a family gathering, it was the adults who raved about it! For fun, I added dollar store daisies :)

Looking for more cooking ideas? Check Monday's post for lots of cookbooks written for young chefs.

Monday, June 11, 2012

17 Cookbooks for Kids

One of the things your family can do this summer is to cook together. Be adventuresome and try some new foods! Here are lots of cookbooks to get you started.

 Kids Cook 1-2-3 by Rozanne Gold
There is a lot to love about a cookbook in which each recipe has only 3 ingredients. I love to cook but I steer away from recipes with a long list of ingredients. I found lots of recipes here to try out. This book includes a bit of everything: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and deserts.

 The Secret Life of Food by Clare Crespo
This is an amazing book! Look at the cover - what do you see? NOT really a pair of flip-flops - those are baked potato slices with green beans! Clever, huh? There are all sorts of other neat recipes: Pretzel Butterflies, Monster Head Potatoes, Sushi Cupcakes, Monkey Pops and lots of others.

 Super Sandwiches by Rose Dunnington
Are you into sandwiches? I am, but I get bored with the same old choices. This cookbook has lots of new ideas. You're bound to find ones you like.

 Children’s Quick and Easy Cookbookby Angela Wilkes
The recipes in this cookbook have clear photographs of each step. They include snacks, meals, desserts and treats. I particularly like how the table of contents includes pictures of every recipe included. In the end, there is a picture glossary of cooking terms and techniques.

 Sam Stern’s Cooking up a Storm: the Teen Survival Cookbook by Sam Stern
Sam Stern is a British high school student who is really into cooking. He presents cooking tips and recipes for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, desserts, snacks and parties. He even has tips for eating well to be ready for big exams. This isn’t a beginner book but the recipes aren’t complicated. The photo illustrations are clear and lively. (Note: Sam Stern isn't a high school student anymore, but he's still into cooking.)

 Spatulatta Cookbook by Isabella and Olivia Gerasole
This book is described as having recipes for kids and by kids. It has a nice layout with easy-to-wipe-off pages and a spiral binding so it lays flat when you open it. It's organized by seasons, plus it has vegetarian and snacks sections. The photo illustrations are really nice. It's linked to the Spatulatta website.

 The Boxcar Children Cookbook by Diane Blain
Are you a Boxcar Children fan? Then this is a perfect cookbook for you! Each dish is one mentioned in the books. Before a recipe starts, there is a quote from whatever book the dish is found. There are drinks, breads, breakfast, sandwiches, main dishes, campfire cooking and lots of other types of foods.

 Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes by Roald Dahl
This is NOT a cookbook for young kids – the recipes definitely need adult supervision. But it IS delightful and would be good for creating outrageous food that families can enjoy eating together. I enjoyed reading through the recipes and I especially enjoyed the illustrations.

 Addy’s Cook Book: a Peek at Dining in the Past with Meals You Can Cook Today by Rebecca Sample Bernstein
This is from The American Girls Collection. Addy’s Cook Book ties in with the books about Addy and her mother, who escaped from slavery in the 1860s. Fans of the Addy books and fans of history in general will enjoy the information and history included. This is part of an American Girls Cookbook series.


A Pirate Cookbook by Sarah L. Schuette
This is a terrific cookbook for beginning cooks. The recipes are simple and the photo illustrations are clear. The recipes aren’t all that original but look quite tasty. Each has a fun pirate tie-in (a celery and tuna snack is called Sea Swords). Other titles in the series:
An Astronaut Cookbook
A Monster Cookbook
A Princess Cookbook

 Easy Breakfasts from Around the World by Sheila Griffin Llanas
This cookbook has recipes from 11 countries (Turkey, Egypt, Australia…). Each recipe is clearly written but several will need a fair amount of adult help. Other titles in the series:
Easy Lunches from Around the World
Easy Main Dishes from Around the World
Easy Snacks from Around the World
Easy Vegetarian Foods from Around the World

 Puffy Popovers and Other Get-Out-of-Bed Breakfasts by Nick Fauchald, illustrated by Rick Peterson
These recipes are rated as easy (smoothies), intermediate (microwave scrambled eggs) or advanced (granola). Many of them will need some adult assistance but all seem like foods that a kid or adult would enjoy eating. The directions are clearly written and illustrated. Other titles in the series:
Chocolate Chill-Out Cake and Other Yummy Desserts
Holy Guacamole! and Other Scrumptious Snacks
Indoor S’mores and Other Tasty Treats for Special Occasions
Keep on Rollin’ Meatballs and Other Delicious Dinners
Chocolate Chill-Out Cake and Other Yummy Desserts
Walk-Around Tacos and Other Likeable Lunches

 Cool Creepy Food Art by Nancy Tuminelly
This book has great ideas for downright creepy-looking food: Severed Finger Pizza, Eyeball Spaghetti, Bloody Hand Punch… Who thinks up this stuff! These recipes would be perfect for a Halloween party… Other titles in the series:
Cool Cake and Cupcake Food Art
Cool Fruit and Veggie Food Art
Cool Holiday Food Art
Cool Sandwich Food Art
Cool Snack Food Art

 Cool Sweets and Treats to Eat by Lisa Wagner
This cookbook has only 8 recipes but several of them have variations that help you come up with more. They are clearly written and use only a few ingredients. I’m looking forward to trying the No-Bake Energy Bars. Other titles in the series:
Cool Cuisine for Super Sleepovers
Cool Lunches to Make & Take
Cool Meals to Start Your Wheels
Cool Pizza to Make and Bake
Cool Foods for Fun Fiestas

Vegetarian Cooking Around the World by Alison Behnke
This is an excellent cookbook for kids who have some experience with cooking. It starts with information about vegetarianism around the world and gives some cooking introduction tips. The recipes cover breads, main dishes, desserts and holiday food. If you are looking to learn about new foods, this is a good book to check out. The other books in the series (there are 24) cover cooking from specific countries. Some of the titles include:
Cooking the Caribbean Way
Cooking the French Way
Cooking the Japanese Way
Cooking the Norwegian Way
Cooking the West African Way

Artful Snacks by Marilyn LaPenta [sorry, no link available]
This cookbook has some good looking recipes. I’m looking forward to trying the Quick Peanut Butter Bars – no cooking! Other titles in the series:
Super ‘Wiches
Cool Cookies
Way Cool Drinks

 Make and Eat: Sandwiches and Snacks by Susannah Blake
This cookbook has simple recipes and clear pictures in the directions. Other titles in the series:
Make and Eat: Bread and Pizzas
Make and Eat: Cookies and Cakes
Make and Eat: Vegetarian Food

I hope these books inspire you to cook this summer. Why not try out some recipes and write about your cooking adventures in the Comments Box?