Zoodles Blog Learn and Play Every Day

August 12, 2015

Learn to Sew!

Happy Sewing Machine Day!  Start one of these simple sewing projects with your kiddos to help strengthen their fine motor skills and encourage creativity.  No sewing machine necessary!  Get Sewing!


May 29, 2015

Compost With Your Kids!

Filed under: Family Activities,Parenting Tips,Schools and Learning — Erin @ 10:03 am

Did you know that if you composted every day, you could reduce the amount of trash you make by 25%?!  That’s a lot of trash.  Learn more about composting with your kids here:  http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/special/children/composting-ideas-for-kids.htm



May 22, 2015

Fun Summer Science Projects

Filed under: Family Activities,Schools and Learning — Erin @ 11:27 am

Well parents, it’s that time of year again!  Kids are getting ready for their long breaks, so it’s the perfect opportunity to try some new science projects.  PBS has some great tips on making fun summer science projects together: 


April 20, 2015

Math and Coloring for 7 Year Olds

Filed under: Schools and Learning — Erin @ 2:55 pm


This is a fascinating look at how one mathematician taught some important mathematical principles to 2nd graders.  There are some great and simple math-project ideas in here that you can do with your kids!  bit.ly/ZoodlesMathfor7yearOlds

August 24, 2010

Maintaining a Connection With Your Child’s Teacher


Image Courtesy of Teaching Resource Center

When I was in about third grade, I was surprised to discover that my teacher did not, in fact, live in the classroom – she actually had a house and family, and she went home every day.

A teacher is your partner in the education of your child. It’s also important to remember that your child’s teacher is a person first, and would appreciate a consistent connection with you throughout the school year!

Get Some Face Time

I have a friend who takes her kids to school each morning so that she can connect with her kids’ teachers. While I think this is great, I can barely drag myself from my bed to watch my kids at the bus stop, so this plan wouldn’t work for me.

This is fine, because I know teachers are busy people and there are other ways to get face time with your child’s teacher. Before the school year starts, take a field trip to the school with your kids and arrange to meet. This will help everyone involved feel more comfortable on the first day of school. Also, if dropping your kids off at school doesn’t work for you, what about popping in a couple of times a week to pick them up, checking in with the teacher while you’re there?

Although they don’t involve face to face interaction, here are more ways to connect with your child’s teacher on a regular basis:

  • Exchange email addresses – email is easier and faster than a phone call.
  • If you call, leave a detailed message.
  • Volunteer in the classroom on a regular basis.
  • Schedule an appointment if there’s an important issue you’d like to discuss.

Give the Best Information

Teaching is a highly demanding and stressful job, and teachers can use all the help they can get.

Sometimes the best help you can give a teacher is information. Be up front about behavioral or medical conditions, like asthma, allergies, ADHD, OCD, and Autism Spectrum disorder to name a few, along with any pertinent medications that your child must take while at school. Keep the teacher informed of family changes, like adoption, divorce or remarriage – this helps teachers watch out for any behavior changes.

Giving this information to your child’s teacher may feel uncomfortable, but it helps him/her give your child the attention he/she needs from the beginning of the school year. Teachers are also required to keep this information confidential.

Stay Involved

As a former elementary school teacher, I would give one piece of advice to parents – simply, do what you say you’re going to do. This doesn’t mean that you have to do a lot, or that you have to actually be inside the classroom to volunteer.

Here are a few ways to stay involved:

  • Complete volunteer tasks at home, like correcting spelling tests or cutting out shapes for a lesson.
  • Go to all-school or family-centered events, like Back to School night, conferences, Open House, harvest parties or carnivals.
  • Chaperone class fieldtrips.
  • Donate classroom supplies or prizes.

Show Appreciation

To teachers working on the front line, a thank you goes a long way, and there are several easy ways to show your appreciation!

  • Write a quick email once a week to share a joke, a funny story about your child, or to say thank you.
  • Give teachers and students a smile in the hallway.
  • Bring coffee – most teachers drink it and love free coffee drinks.
  • Acknowledge his/her birthday with a card from your family.
  • Observe Christmas and Teacher Appreciation Week with cards small gifts, or gift certificates to a restaurant or a book store. Have your child fill out the card.

Consistent connections with your child’s teachers will benefit them, you and your child!

Author Byline

Kelly Wilson

Kelly Wilson

Kelly Wilson is an editor with Teaching Resource Center, a Teacher Store providing teachers and classrooms with low-cost, high-quality Teacher Supplies.

August 14, 2010

Public vs. Private School


Private School Uniform

Guest blog by Alan Murray

So does sending your kids to private school give them that extra advantage or is it all a waste of money? Do state schools provide the same quality of education? 90% of all American children attend public. Private schools in the US are exempt from most educational regulations however most follow the spirit of them.

So how much would a private school cost? The National Association of Independent Schools puts their average price at $20,000 per year but this varies across the county with many schools charging $30,000 per year. These fees are not the end of the financial burden, check to see what else you will be required to pay, for example, school books, trips and other misc fees that you may not be liable for at a state school.
What factors should parents look at when considering the benefits of the two types of schools?

Class sizes

What are the ratios of children to teacher between public and private? Normally smaller class sizes produce better education for children. This of course is not the only factor but it is an important one.


This varies from school to school and applies to both private and state schools. State schools rely on funding from one resource and these funds can vary depending on tax revenues. Private schools don’t just rely on their annual fees there are development activities and grants from organizations,

Safety at school

This can be an issue with state schools. Many private schools screen students and have much better records with regards to the health and safety of your child.


Normally private schools are going to come out on top but this may not be the case 100% of the time.  Parents should take the time to look at the facilities on offer in the private of public schools because they vary. Don’t expect private to always to have better facilities because this often is not the case. You should also be looking for facilities that suit your child.


Public school teachers are on average paid more than private school teachers – does that make them better? Benefits for public school teachers are also general higher than private schools but that can vary due to location and individual resources of that school.


Personally I think you should send your kids to state school. That is my personnel opinion and parents need to make up their own minds based upon the facts. This situation may change upon the quality of state school that my kids were going to. If the reputation of the school is low then I would advise parents to investigate the school further and then if not suitable to consider private schooling.

I think both private and state schools have individual advantages over each other. I would advise parents to look beyond just hearsay about schools and get to the facts to make their judgment on whether to go private or state school.

Author Byline

alanAlan Murray is a dad of two and writes for a baby names site. This site has more than just baby names with Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and baby health.

August 9, 2010

7 Ways to Help Your Child’s Teacher

Guest Blog by Sarah Combs

back to school

Back to School Image Courtesy Pane, amore e creativita

Back-to-school is in full swing! School supply lists and school uniforms are everywhere you turn; it’s time for the lazy days of summer to come to an end and the routine of school days to begin.  Whether you’re a parent of a preschooler or a third grader, this means turning over your little ones to the capable hands of a teacher. But this doesn’t mean that you should sit back and relax! Teachers are always in need of help, and now more than ever. In almost all districts, our teachers are being asked to do more and more with less and less – budgets are tight, class size is swelling and assistants have been cut from many programs. Parents can participate in the classroom by helping with parties, recess, fundraisers, or even just everyday activities; the options are endless. Being a part of your child’s education lets them know that you’re truly interested in their success at school, and provides you with a priceless experience. Help your child’s teacher help your child! Here are seven ways that parents can actively participate at school:

  1. Basket of classroom supplies. Find out what supplies might be missing in the classroom. Ask each family to donate one or two small items: pencils, markers, glue, stickers, tissue, hand sanitizer, table wipes, etc. Ask for gift card donations from office supply and craft stores to help with classroom supplies. Parents who can’t afford to donate can participate by cutting coupons for frequented retailers.
  2. Organize a reading circle and classroom helpers. Use VolunteerSpot to coordinate volunteers -‐ each parent signs up to help once a month in the classroom — reading, helping with science experiments, and tutoring kids needing extra help.
  3. Share your special skills and traditions. Compile a list of special skills, hobbies, or family traditions that parents can share with the class throughout the year. Help organize and execute parties and class projects that highlight different aspects of each child’s culture, and introduce them to new traditions.
  4. Wish Notebook. Put together a wish notebook with teacher surveys and share it with parents. The surveys should ask teachers to list ways in which parents can help them either inside or outside of the classroom. Parents can help in the areas they feel most comfortable.
  5. Paperwork Parents. Take turns making copies, grading papers, or preparing classroom supplies after hours. Use VolunteerSpot’s online scheduling tool to coordinate the effort. If parents can help once or twice a week, that’s a tremendous time savings and welcome break for your teacher.
  6. A personal note from students. Ask each child to write a letter or note  expressing what they are looking forward to this year and why they like their teacher. Then, throughout the first semester, present the notes, one at a time.
  7. Before and After. Take a photo of 4-5 children at a time at the start of the school year. Hold on to these and take pictures of the same groupings towards the end of the year. Prepare a before-and-after flip book to share with the teacher, along with notes and remembrances from the class.

Parent participation is crucial throughout the year, make sure that classroom volunteering isn’t only a back-to-school activity, get involved and stay involved in your child’s education. For more about Room Moms and Room Dads, check out VolunteerSpot’s free eBook, Room Mom’s Survival Guide. It gives tips for class parents, and provides fun class party ideas for the school year.

Author Byline

Room Mom


Guest post by Sarah Combs of VolunteerSpot, DOING GOOD just got easier! VolunteerSpot makes back-to-school planning a snap for parents and teachers with simple online sign up sheets – quickly organize classroom volunteers, school fundraisers, tournaments, carnivals, parent-teacher conferences, soccer snacks, Scout campouts and more!  Register on VolunteerSpot before October 1,2010 with promo code ‘TeachersSave’ for a chance to win $100 in classroom supplies for your favorite teacher from ClassWish.

July 26, 2010

10 Free Phonics Techniques Blogs


26 Letters, 44 Speech Sounds, & 70 Common Spellings for those Sounds

Guest Blog by Margo Smith

Phonics is the system of relationships between letters and sounds in a language and will help your child learn to read and spell. Think of the written language as a code. If your child knows the sounds of letters and letter combinations, this will help your child decode words as s/he reads. This will also help your child know which letters to use as s/he writes words. Did you know that the  26 letters of the alphabet give us 44 English speech sounds and about 70 common spellings for these speech sounds? Our little ones have a lot to learn!

Start exposing your child to phonics at an early age.  Zoodles is a free educational resource with hundreds of fun Early Reading/Phonics Games and Decoding/Word Recognition Games for children ages 2 to 8.  Our unique child interface adapts to each child’s age and cognitive abilities, so Zoodles will grow right along with your child. For additional resources on Phonics Techniques, please review the below list of  free blogs provided by Guest Blogger, Margo Smith.

Your Friends at Zoodles

  1. Phonics resources help parents and teachers assist children to learn and love to read by the use of phonics. Make the most of all the beneficial data on this site to find the best books to read to your child to promote a love of learning and start them on the road to a lifelong love of reading. This site offers free teacher and parent resources.  You can also be inspired by the real life success stories found here to help you be motivated as you help your child learn to love books.
  2. Phonics and Teaching Decoding Skills focusing on the age range of kindergartners through third graders, this blog advocates that students in this age range who are taught explicit phonetic strategies for decoding and encoding words have a stronger basis for later literacy learning. They strongly feel that during these years children benefit the most from having precise phonetic strategies modeled for them. Such a strategy helps children to decipher word meaning and provides them with a secure basis for later literacy as they grow older and gain more reading skills.
  3. How to Help Your Struggling Reader is a very suitable site that points you to an article on how to intervene if your child is having difficulty reading, with realistic tips of parents of children who struggle with reading.
  4. Home School Blogger is a teaching blog that gives you a review of different phonics teaching methods available so that you can make a more educated decision when choosing a phonics program. Be sure to take a look over all the pertinent information you’ll find on this blog when deciding which program will best suit your needs.
  5. Phonics Reading provides help for anyone taking on the challenge of learning English as their second language. This style is an exemplary phonics based classification for demonstrating the English language. It has been in use for more than 30 years in the U.K. This procedure was implemented to help teachers explain the nuances of written English, well known for its rules and their exceptions, in a child-centered manner.
  6. Teaching Phonics targets the particular needs of parents choosing to home school their children.  Specific advice is provided for all homeschoolers.
  7. Learning to Read with Phonics examines the usefulness of phonics when learning to read. This site offers other articles on this topic. Be sure your children and loved ones have all the help they need in the area of reading.
  8. Building Blocks of Reading stresses phonemic awareness, known to be at the root of spoken English,  this site will definitely assist you as you work to help your child recognize words.  Find answers to any phonics question you may have.
  9. Phonics Kids provides you with helpful overviews of the usefulness of phonics. Get to know about various downloadable programs for your use.
  10. English Pronunciation Site offers videos detailing examples of English words and phrases. You can chose to maintain your skills by following the blog or subscribe for apps free of charge to keep up the pace with these valuable complete video segments. Be certain your English passes with flying colors by making use of this helpful site.

Author Byline

Margo Smith graduated with a B.S. degree from BYU. She enjoys writing about a wide array of topics from Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) to online classes to reading and phonics. She draws from her own education, her years in school and an author’s view on life when compiling articles.

July 16, 2010

Top 10 Sites For The Best Children’s Picture Books

Guest blog by Margo Smith

1. American Library Association (ALA) affords you all the very best picture books for over 70 years. Now that’s a lot of child_reading_arkworld_flickrbooks! The Caldecott Medal (the prize for exceptional illustrations for children’s books) was originally bestowed in 1938. Obtain all the winners here and begin building a library of incomparable art work in book form.

2. Reading Rockets Introduce yourself to recent Newberry and Caldecott medalists and over a dozen more award winning categories for children’s literature. Parents’ Choice Awards can be found here as well. Keep your children reading continually all summer long with this helpful list.

3. About.com has a compilation of noteworthy works in a state by state list. They also provide a gathered list of awards won by authors from Canada and the United Kingdom. You will find enough quality works here to delve into for quite some time.

4. Childrens Picture Books Picking just the right book for your child’s needs has never been so easy as it is with this site. Find assorted do’s and don’ts to enable you to make the most of your reading sessions with your child. And don’t forget to make reading fun! No matter whether you are a teacher or a parent, you will find applicable resources here to increase a child’s ability to learn by drawing on books of interest to the child.

5. Rif points you to a variety of significant blogs where you can become acquainted with outstanding childrens’ literature to trigger your child’s appetite for the written word. Remember, if you want to get your child to more fully participate reading, engage them in great writing games such as Sagwa’s Storymaker.

6. Kane Miller The superlative caliber of reading material reported here will furnish reading material for years to come. cute bookDiscover just how many books you and your child can learn to love from this inclusive list!

7. Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will assist you by making books easier to find by their carefully sorted categories. Selecting the best book, from A to Z has never been as easy as this. Locate book reviews here to acquaint yourself with the literature available.  One more distinguishing feature of this website is its list of any and all authors from Pittsburgh.

8. Top 10 Picture Books for Preschoolers is a fun site to use to find recommended picture books for toddlers. It will give you a traditional go-to reference to assist you in starting your valuable reading collection for your child.

9. University of Connecticut will assist you in finding that book where you can recall the author, but not the book title. It delivers a continuously revised and complete selection of authors of great children’s books. This amazing site will also direct you to other spectacular places to find children’s books.

10. Semicolon affords you an introduction to a series of books and gives ideas on how to use books in any unit being covered for children. Enjoy books this season and become familiar with the vast helps available to broaden your range of authors, books or subjects you choose to read to your child. Make sure the door to the world of reading is opened wide to your child!

Author Byline

Margo Smith currently lives and works along the Wasatch Front. She earned her B.S. degree from BYU. She reaches into her experiences as a modern day children’s governess, her venture to New England, her years in the corporate world and an author’s perspective on life when writing articles about a plethora of topics from organic food to online classes to worthwhile children’s literature.

July 15, 2010

Baby Talk: Sign Language for Infants

Guest blog written by Kyle Simpson

Have you ever felt frustrated by the fact that your child seems to be trying to cryingcommunicate with you but you have no idea what it is they want?  Chances are that they’re equally upset…you can tell because it usually leads to wailing.  Many people have made the claim that babies can communicate prior to formulating words, through the pitch or duration of their cries or in the way they move their bodies.  But until recently, nobody realized that you could teach them a better way to communicate before they ever say “mama”.

As early as six months of age, your child can begin learning American Sign Language (ASL) as a way to effectively communicate wants and needs.  You can begin by teaching them simple signs like hungry (hand rests on throat, then slides down to stomach), thirsty (index finger points to chin, then slides down throat), diaper (put hands on hips, fold ring and pinky fingers closed, and spread and bring together index and middle finger and thumb several times),  pacifier (make a closed fist with your index finger pointing out, then touch your thumbnail to your lips),  chinese signingand sleep (place open palm on face with fingers touching forehead, then draw fingers down to chin, simultaneously drawing them together to close the hand).  Modified baby sign language may differ in some respects from ASL due to the fact that your little ones are still honing their motor skills (and certain movements or combinations may be too complex for their unwieldy digits).  But babies will certainly be able to manipulate their hands before they learn to verbalize their thoughts and feelings, so sign language seems like a natural method of communication.

Although many parents look at this as a positive step towards understanding the needs of their child earlier than expected, some people have concerns.  Many wonder if it actually works.  While there will certainly be variations amongst children as to how quickly they adopt signs and their willingness to use them, most babies should be able to use sign language before they learn to speak verbally because of the way their minds and bodies develop.  Another fear that most parents face is speech delay.  If babies can simply use sign language to get what they want, will they even try to learn to talk?  The truth is, unless your child has some sort of disorder that precludes them from learning to speak (in which case teaching them sign language may be necessary anyway), they will develop just like every other child, precisely when they are ready.

So if you’re tired of spending sleepless nights listening to your baby cry and wishing you could do something to calm them, consider sign language as a viable option.  Many of the hand signsigns are easy to learn and teach and they can be modified for your child’s skill level (as long as you understand them, that’s all that matters).  You may be surprised by many of the things they can learn to say (such as pleasethank you, and I love you).  They will quickly go from simple desires like eat to more complex requests like banana, and they can even express emotional states like happy or scared.

As your child gets older, use a child-safe web browser like Zoodles to play fun, educational games and videos that teach children how to sign while learning the letters of the alphabet, as well as the signs for numbers and colors.  The thing about baby sign language is, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by implementing an additional means of communicating with your young child.  And everyone will be happier when baby gets what s/he wants!

Author Byline

Kyle Simpson

Kyle Simpson

Kyle Simpson writes for Medical Coding Certification where you can find more information about a career and training in the medical field.

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