Planning Playtime

Planning Playtime: January 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Home Work - Tip of the Week... Home Work Basketball!!

My 10-year-old daughter recently started playing basketball on a local rec team.  She absolutely loves it, and spends quite a bit of time in the back yard practicing with our hoop and her green and purple ball.  She's made amazing progress in her skills over such a short time because of the dedication she gives the sport, and I've wondered... what could she accomplish if she channeled that energy into her schooling?

And that is how Homework Basketball was born.  So the idea is, for whatever subject your child is loath to work on, have them answer on a sheet of paper leaving extra space around the answers.  We chose math, because that is Kylie's current nemesis, and for every problem that she answers correctly she gets to rip off that section of paper, wad it into a ball and add it to her ball pile.

At the end of homework time we set up a garbage can at a reasonable distance for her age.  The she gets a chance to throw each paper wad ball into the trash for a basket.  We keep track of the points and she tries to better her score every day.  If you wanted you could also offer a prize of some kind for a achieving a certain level of points (I am not always above bribery:)  You could also compete against your child, shot for shot, with the kids who enjoy a little bit of friendly competition.  Some of my kids love this.

So there you have it - a fun way to get your kids excited about their homework.  This can be adapted to spelling, vocabulary and other types of homework as well, and hopefully you'll have a little bit of fun while you learn!!

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Jake and the Neverland Pirates Birthday Cake

I have to say that after 3 girls in a row, my husband and I had just about given up hope of having any boys.  My mom, who is quite the ambassador for large families, would always tell my husband that if we kept trying that eventually we would have a boy, and I guess she was right because the 4th time around we got our little Jaxon.  People always say that boys are different that girls, but wow, boys are different than girls!!  From the start of my pregnancy and throughout this cute little boy's life, I keep being thrown out of my predictable, pink comfort zone.

That being said, throwing some blue and green in there every once in a while is a refreshing change of scenery.  Just when I feel like I can't watch My Little Pony one more time, my cute little boy asks for Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  It's his favorite show, and I think it's absolutely adorable.

My cake decorating is amateur at best (I've never taken a class), but I try to make something fun and personal for my kiddo's birthdays.  Of course that means a Jake and the Neverland Pirates Cake for my 3-year-old birthday boy.

Here's how I did it.

Step 1: Bake two 9 x 13 pans of chocolate cake and let them cool.  Draw the base of your ship on a piece of white paper.  Using the paper drawing as your guide, cut two bases of the ship.  Stack them on top of each other with a layer of Chocolate Buttercream frosting in between.  Then using the same drawing, cut two more pieces of the back 1/3 of the base and stack them (using the buttercream between layers) for the upper back deck of the ship.  Cut 1 piece of the front 1/3 of the base to use for the bow of the ship.

Step 2:  Apply a thin layer of Chocolate Buttercream frosting to the entire outside of the ship.  This will prevent crumbs falling off and will help you attach the fondant.

Step 3:  Roll out brown fondant into a 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut out rectangular sections to use as your planks.  If you want the wood grain design you can purchase a fondant mat with the wood grain pattern.  I didn't order one early enough so I used a knife to scratch in my own wood grain lines.  Take your fondant planks, and after applying a thin layer of buttercream to the back, tile them onto the outside of your cake.  Make sure to stagger the planks so they don't all end in the same places.

Step 4:  I wanted a bit more wood texture so I added some deeper brown color into some of the wood.  You could do this with a brown dusting powder and a paint brush, or I used a brown icing glaze.  To make the glaze just use a bit of Powdered sugar, water and brown food coloring.  You want the glaze fairly runny so that it will tint but not frost and cover your fondant.  Then using a brush I spread a thin layer over the planks and gently rubbed it in with my finger where necessary.  I loved the glazed look when I was done!

Step 5: Pipe over the corners to make for a neater edge.  For this cake I used a yellow icing to match the Jake and the Neverland Pirates boat, but if I were making a traditional pirate cake I would probably go brown or black. 

Optional:  If you want a railing you can roll fondant and attach with toothpicks to support the posts in an upright direction.  Mine looked pretty good until my son, who was helping me with his cake, grabbed a chunk of the railing and pulled it right off.  I tried to patch it, but as you can see from the picture, it was never the same:(

And there you have it - and adorable or scary Pirate cake.

Happy Baking everyone!!

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Skip Counting Songs - Multiply by 6 or 7

Here are the next songs in our Skip Counting series.  My eight-year-old 3rd grader just finished the 7's song and she can't wait to pass of her 7's times tables today.  When I say she's excited, she was actually jumping up and down at the idea of doing her math, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love these songs.

Skip Counting by 6 song 
to the tune of 
"London Bridge is Falling Down"

and then one of our new favorites...

Skip Counting by 7 song
to the tune of
"Mary Had a Little Lamb"

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Skip Counting - Fast and Easy way to Memorize your Multiplication Tables

Mother's of 3rd graders everywhere, this one's for you.  Memorizing those times tables is a killer, right??  I still remember trying to pass them off myself in school - all those hours of memorizing numbers - but with the help of my 10-year-old daughter I can share an easier way.

Introducing our Skip Counting Songs!!  I was introduced to skip counting when my oldest daughter was learning to count by 2s in school.  She also learned to skip count 5s and 10s, but that was where it ended.  The rest of the multiplication tables had to be learned the hard way.  Then one day she came home singing skip counting to nursery rhymes, and within just a few weeks she had passed off all of her multiplication charts in school.  It was magical. 

I couldn't remember all of the songs when I was trying to teach them to my next daughter -giving birth to 5 kids has wreaked havoc with my memory.  I searched for it online and couldn't find anything similar so I asked my oldest daughter to help me record and share them as one of her home school projects.  We've been learning a lot through the process, and we hope that they can work magic for your kids too.  Here are the 3's and 4's songs.  Enjoy!!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Homework: Tip of the Week - HangMan HomeWork

Homework and I do not get along, not because I don't want my children to spend time learning, but because I want them to be able to do other things too.  I have to find my happy place when the kids, after being gone to school for 7 1/2 hours, get home with hours worth of homework to do.  Whatever happened to play time, chores and piano lessons. 

So sometimes we don't do it (shhh... don't tell;) but most of the time I try to find ways to make homework double as playtime with my kids.  This week we have been playing hangman.  I never realized what a versatile game hangman was until this week, but it works for much more than just words.  We used it for math, science, spelling and sight words, and instead of just doing problem after problem of long, boring homework after a full day of sitting at a desk, you are in the middle of a game trying not to be hung.

I love that the kids can either be the hanger or the hung, because either way they have to solve the problem for the answer or know how to properly spell the word.  We switch back and forth and have a grand time, and before you know it, words are memorized, the math is done and the kiddos and I had some quality time together.  So pull out some paper, grab an extra pencil and find out just how much you remember from your elementary math.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

Play Smart - Game of the Week: Candyland Colors and in Spanish

During the holiday break my kids broke out the board games en mass, which I was totally cool with other than the fact that they never seem to get all of the pieces back in the right containers.  I hate having to hunt for dice and raid Yatzee every time the kids ask to play Monopoly, and then there is the using a button as a place marker for the lost pieces of Sorry.  So annoying!!

...But I digress.  I love board games because they so often facilitate learning opportunities, and the kids are having so much fun that they don't even notice.  The game idea we are featuring this week is that classic game you play a million times with the littles,


This is a sweet game (pun intended;) for teaching your youngest children colors and counting, but this week we are switching it up to make it a little more educational for the older kids as well.  Here's what you do... for the kids who have mastered their colors, play Candyland in Spanish, no English allowed (at least for the color and counting words.)  The visual of seeing the colors and saying the Spanish word for the color is a great combination to help them quickly memorize a bit of foreign vocabulary and may even spark their excitement to explore the language more.

Here is a list of some the the words that you might need for this game:

Red: Rojo (ro ho)
Blue: Azul (azool)
Orange: Naranja (naran ha)
Green: Verde
Yellow: Amarillo (amari yo)
Purple: Pupura (pu pura)

Good luck and ...  Divertirse!!

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