Lessons with Your Shell Collection

My daughter is a collector. We find dried leaf crumbs scattered about the car in the fall, rocks in jacket pockets in the winter, and piles of dandelions in the garage in the spring. So come beach time, it’s no surprise that she’s all about some shell collecting. Her shell collection looks nothing like those bags of pristine shells shrink-wrapped in plastic and tied with a straw bow like the ones that line the shelves at the craft store. Oh no. We are talking about a collection of asymmetrical, broken, sandy pieces of shell. Perhaps you are familiar, yes?

I am not going to judge this perfectly imperfect collection of hers. For whatever reason, those shells were special enough to be a part of her treasure. We may not be using them in our home decor, but there are some ways to incorporate a few lessons with your shell collection.Shell Collection

Write in the sand.

Write names, letters, or sight words in the sand and see if your child can identify/read it before the waves wash it away. Try different shells to see if they make different kinds of lines in the sand.sight words

Turn them into math counters.

Arrange five shells in a line or position them like a 5 on a dice. Practice automatic recognition of what numbers look like. For example, just by looking at the arrangement of shells, can you tell how many there are? What if we moved the shells around? Now how many? How many if we add 1 more shell? Can your child count on 1 more or do they need to start from the beginning? There is not a right way; this is all part of building number sense. If they do need to start from the beginning, let them. They will get there. They need the experience and practice.Math games with shells

Create number problems.

Try This: Have your child make a group of 2 shells and a group of 3 shells. How many all together? Would it be the same answer to get 3 and 2? Ask: How do you know?

We call this flexible thinking. In order to truly understand the concept of addition, children need to understand that it does not matter which order you add numbers; you’ll still get the same answer! This basic property of addition (called the commutative property- from the word “commute”) is necessary to build the foundation of a child’s understanding of numbers. The rules change for subtraction, so explore that too!

You can also extend this activity by asking, what would 1 more be? What would 10 more be? What would 1 less be (and so on)? Challenge their thinking and help problem solve together.

Notice different attributes.

An attribute is characteristic of something or someone. It describes qualities that make it unique. Are they rough or smooth? Shiny or dull? Do they have rounded edges or sharp ones? What makes them different? Compare and contrast the different shells in your collection. You can also sort the shells into different categories based on their attributes. There are many ways to sort- by color, shape, type, etc. See if your little one can make up their own rule to sort their collection. Don’t be afraid to use the word attribute with young children while they’re curious little sponges. I think sometimes they are more capable than we give them credit for.

Discuss how a shell is an animal’s home.

As you take a look at your collection, let this lead into a conversation about where the shells came from and who or what lived in that shell. Create your own story with a basic beginning, middle, and end.A shell is an animal's homeHere are some great books to further your discussion (contains affiliate links):

There’s so much to discover in this bucket of treasures! Which kind of shells to you hunt for your collection?Lessons with Your {Imperfect} Shell Collection

How One Simple Book Can Encourage Your Child to Write

Around here, summer is in full swing– swimming, grilling, traveling, and finding ways to beat the heat. Summer=fun. With all the fun to be had, I think those parents with school-age children sometimes look for a balance of the summer freedom and working in a little school work. We want kids to keep reading but not push too hard. We want them to work on their writing skills but not feel they are being drilled with workbooks. There can be a fine line of how much to push or even how to push, encourage, coax, or even bribe our kids to keep up with their work.

Even with the challenges, if children aren’t doing something over the summer (minimum: reading), then they are at a higher risk of losing some of the critical skills they have learned the previous school year, and they may face some setbacks come the start of school.

What if I told you that one simple book can encourage your child to write?  If you dread the idea of working with your child on their writing, know you are not alone. I get it! Being a former classroom teacher, I can also say that it has been more challenging teaching my own child than other people’s children (I know that sounds really awful.).

Reading and writing are life skills. We need to be proficient readers and writers to be successful in this world.

Summer Journal

Keeping a summer journal is a simple way to work on a variety of writing skills and also work on math or content-area skills like science, history, or geography, if you so choose. And perhaps best of all– you’ll be helping your child create a record of their summer. You don’t need a fancy workbook- just a plain composition book (they hold up wonderfully) or another blank bound/spiral notebook.  You can write every day, every other day, or when the time strikes (like when something exciting happens that you want to document!)

Tips to get started:

Meet your child where they are.

If your child is just starting out as a writer, focus on a word (like labeling a picture). Or focus on one sentence- they talk, you write. Talk about the letters and sounds in the word. Talk about how you need spaces between each new word. Talk about how a sentence has a capital letter at the beginning and a period (or exclamation point or question mark) at the end to show you are finished with the idea. Work slowly and talk out what you do in your head. If your child is ready, they can write the beginning sound of each word or whatever they are comfortable doing. I would try to let go and let your child take the lead. For more proficient writers, you may want to set an expectation like they need to write __ many sentences.

For this entry, my daughter told me what she wanted to write, and I wrote each word in a scrambled order. Then I drew lines on her side to mark each word. Her job was to copy the words in the correct order. She crossed out the word as she used it.

Writing with my child

Idea: Label this ____’s Summer Journal. You can keep it for years, really. Stash it away after this summer, and when you bring it out next summer, your child can see what a difference a year makes! Then just pick up where you left off to document the summer’s events.

Commit to working together.

Utilize the left side of the notebook (the back of each page) as a work space for you. Have your child write on the right side. This way you can commit to working together or model writing for them. You can show them an example of how you write a sentence and talk out loud as you sound words out or say something like, “I need a capital letter for ‘Daddy’ because he has a special name.” Or, “I hear ‘ing’ at the end of jumping. Did you know i-n-g makes the sound ‘ing?'” You can model how you draw a picture to match the story. (Or in this case- a very, rough sketch. Hopefully this “illustration” did not give my child nightmares. I am not proud.)

Modeled writing

For more proficient writers, you could brainstorm their topic ahead of time and create a personal “word wall” there with themed words. For example, if they want to write about the beach, they may want to know how to spell related words (ocean, dolphin, castle, etc.) You don’t have to give EVERY word. Make them work a little bit. If they can spell and, they can spell sand!

Keep it positive.

Teaching writing and learning how to write can be tricky! Do not feel the need to teach it all in one sitting or correct every mistake to make it perfect. Hone in on one thing– like putting spaces between words, writing the letter e correctly, or adding some describing words. Applaud effort, offer encouragement, and don’t let it become stressful. If they want to write with a purple pen, let them (this is my opinion- they will learn what happens, right?). You have so much influence in showing your child the value of writing. Show them how it can be fun way to show who they are.

Make it meaningful.

Children will be more motivated to write when they are free to write about what they want to write about. If it’s too difficult to choose a topic, you can help brainstorm ideas. Young children are also very self-centered. (I promise I’m not being mean– you may know this is a developmental trait.) They are very focused on their own world. So have them write about something that’s IN their world– their soccer team, a camp counselor, how they learned to swim, the best part of their day, a trip to Grandma’s house, their favorite book or movie, etc. They will be encouraged to write when it’s meaningful.

What do you do to encourage your child’s writing in your house?


Planning a Summer Routine That Works

As care givers, we hear the word “routine,” for many situations. We may have routines for meal times and clean up, morning routines and bedtime routines. After taking in the first few days of summer freedom, I start feeling the urge to start planning a summer routine for everyone’s sake. The days can literally feel SO long if we don’t get into some kind of rhythm. We no longer have rides to catch, lunches to pack, and homework to complete. I welcome this change, but it can also be a LOT of pressure! I also don’t want to spend everyday watching the clock and counting down the minutes until Daddy gets home. I have tried the schedule where Mondays we bake, Tuesdays we plan a special outing, and Wednesdays have a special craft, but the reality is that sometimes I forget to pick up flour over the weekend or it rains on a Tuesday, and then it all seems to fall apart. So my solution is planning a summer routine that works and is flexible in 5 simple steps.

Who’s with me?planning for summer


  • Pencil
  • Calendar (phone app, family calendar, whatever you use most)
  • Blank paper
  • Paper info sheets like magazines/fliers with any town/county events, handouts about camps, birthday party invites, etc. that you already have on your radar
  • Access to any calendars/schedules you follow through social media

The Plan:

Step 1: Write in non-negotiable calendar events

These include dates and times of events like vacations with travel info, camps, parties, ongoing classes, visits from family and friends, doctor’s appointments, swim lessons, etc. Write down the first day of school for the following school year and any back-to-school events you know about. Then toss the paper!

Step 2: Add potential calendar events

While your calendar is handy, pencil in local events of interest. These may include concerts, fairs, firework shows, food truck or balloon festivals, etc. Explore surrounding cities too– think of places within a reasonable drive that you love or have wanted to go but haven’t and check out their event calendars online. If you get them as potential events on your calendar now, you can decide later if it’s something you want to work in your schedule.

Step 3: If you like, make a reasonable summer “bucket list” of goals you want to accomplish

Use the blank sheet of paper to brainstorm a list of activities or outings to do this summer. Everyone has a say. What do your kids want to do? What do you think would be fun or what goals do you have for your children? What goals do they have? There are tons of ideas out there on Pinterest for making a summer Bucket List. I also love this list of 50 Activities for the Summer from Kids Activities Blog- easy and unique!

Some ideas you as the parent/caregiver may want to put on there (life skills, academic goals). Maybe you have a goal for your child to learn to tie their shoes, ride their two-wheeler, or learn how to use the microwave. I think children should definitely have a voice, but it’s also our job to help encourage their growth.

bucket listStep 4: Post a list of details of the hot spots from your “bucket list”

Based on your bucket list, gather the details now of info that you don’t have memorized. Again, it will be easier to plan later. Hang it by your calendar. You may consider writing a list of times (or seasonal dates) for:

  • Library story times
  • Farms for fruit picking or dairy farms
  • Park or pool hours
  • Movie Theater specials ($1 movies)
  • Splash pads/spray grounds
  • Craft or Art classes
  • Exercise/Kid Yoga classes
  • Museums

ooutingsStep 5: Set your daily routine outline that works for you

For my kids and I, we don’t stick to a strict schedule that 8:00-8:30 is breakfast time and 8:30-9:00 is getting ready time. We do, however, have a general flow throughout the day. The important thing is to make a realistic routine that works for you depending on your children’s ages, capabilities, and how long you have them in your care. I will also say that I do not believe that it is not my job to entertain my children all summer. We will have fun and adventurous days and we will have days when they will probably be bored, and that’s okay. We are fostering creativity here.

Here are some ideas you could work into the structure of your day:daily routine

  • Outdoor play– bikes, roller skating, water or bubble play, nature walks, sports, playground
  • Indoor play– pretend play, games, puzzles, cooking/baking, reading, coloring, building with blocks/Legos
  • Organized indoor play time/Quiet time– more supervised activities like crafts, science experiments, sensory bins, playdough, or summer journals (more on this coming soon!). Depending on the age(s) of your children, you’ll know what they can do independently vs. needing help.
  • TV/screen time. You may want consider setting limits ahead of time. My daughter would watch TV all day long (and honestly there may be days we change our mind about and have a movie marathon), but if I can say, the rule is 30 minutes (or whatever) of screen time is the rule, or we have a rule that there’s no screen time unless x.y. and z are finished, then I can blame the rule and it’s not all on me!
  • Chores: put on some dancing music and get your kids involved with the clean up. When they are at home more than they’re at school that means there is often more toys to clean up, crumbs on the floor, and dishes to clean. Make a list of chores that your child is capable of completing and make it part of the summer routine. If it works for you, you could assign a small chore to several days of the week. For example, Mondays we do laundry and Thursdays we vacuum. This is all part of teaching teamwork and responsibility as well.
  • This is a rough outline of what our day looks like:
    • Breakfast/get ready
    • Indoor or outdoor play (depending on weather)
    • Outings or errands
    • Lunch and clean up
    • Nap/Quiet time
    • Organized indoor play/Chores
    • Outdoor play
    • Dinner prep/Dinner
    • Baths/ bedtime

What do you work into your summer routine? Don’t forget to enjoy the moments and capture them so they’ll have memories to enjoy! My friend Beryl Ayn Young has some awesome photography tips including this post on Your Must Capture Moments Made Easy.



3 Easy Lessons for the Strawberry Patch

Hello, strawberry picking season! Every year our family puts this outing on our spring agenda. And every year, I find myself in the same situation- I get totally addicted! You find one that’s the perfect shade of red, and then you find more in the exact same hue. They are obviously begging you to pick them. If you are planning to go pick your own collection of those red, ripe berries with your little ones (as you try to prevent them from completely dying their clothes in that bright red juice), there are some easy lessons to work in.

Part of my goal at It Takes a Whole Village is to show you that classroom objectives do not have to be intimidating. YOU are an important teacher in your child’s life whether you are a parent, caregiver, family member, or friend. We can all sneak learning into our everyday family outings and make it natural. Teachers work SO hard, but when we can plant some of the vocabulary and conversations early on, it lightens their load just a bit and gives your child a greater sense of confidence when they are in the classroom. Yay for strawberry picking- fun, memorable, and educational!

Here are 3 easy (curriculum-based) lessons you can teach your kids at the strawberry patch:

Science of Strawberries: Parts of a Plant and Plant Needs

Stages of a strawberry plant  As you find your spot for picking, observe the strawberry plants and how they are in different stages. You can go on a “hunt” for any or all of the following:

  • Roots
  • Stem
  • Leaves
  • Strawberry flower
  • Flower turning into a strawberry
  • Green/white strawberries
  • Red strawberries in different shades (bright red=ripe)
  • Strawberry seeds (those dots on the outside of the strawberries)

You can talk about plant cycle and that each strawberry started as a seed (and then grows roots, a stem, leaves, etc.)!

Plant NeedsPlants also have four needs- sun, air, water, and soil. We were able to find all four of them. The sun was shining, and the warm breeze was blowing. We looked at how the farm had different tools for helping the beautiful berries to grow- mounds of soil were under the plastic that protected the plants, and they had an irrigation system so the plants could get enough water. We also noticed machines on the farm for harvesting.

Strawberry Math: Comparing and Measuring

Strawberries obviously grow in different shapes and were different sizes. My daughter loved finding the ones with unique shapes. It’s sort of like a lesson in life, don’t you think? They may look different, but they are all beautifully delicious. Once you took your berries home, you could sort them into categories based on size or another attribute (characteristic).

When we were finished, we put our baskets of strawberries on a scale to measure how many pounds of berries we picked. The farmers did not want to know how long the strawberries were when we lined them all up or how many we picked. They measured the weight or how heavy the buckets of strawberries were to give us our price.

Strawberry MathLet’s Talk about Strawberries (Oral Language): “I notice…”

You can simply talk about all the new things you see and wonder about at the strawberry patch. For example:

  • I noticed some a strawberry that had little holes in it. How do you think they got there?
  • I noticed some had juice oozing out of them. What do you think happened?
  • I noticed the greenish ones didn’t taste so great. Why not?!

My thought is that we can be open with our kids about the why behind what they think. They don’t have to be correct all the time! The point is just getting them to think about a logical or likely answer…or at least prompt them towards one that could make sense.

Strawberry PickingAs always, please do not feel like you would have to do all of these activities with your child (that would be stimulation overload!). You want this to be natural and organic. Let your child take the reins while you navigate. Children are curious. Play into their interests and their burning questions. The first question my daughter asked when we settled in the car was, “How many strawberries did we pick, Mom?” I wasn’t thinking about that, but we ran with it. I asked her how many she thought. and we guessed/estimated how many by looking at the tray. Then when we arrived at home we could count them and see how our predictions measured up.

What lesson would you incorporate in your next trip to the strawberry patch?3 Easy Lessons for the Strawberry Patch

Why to Involve Your Kids in Your Yard Sale

There is something about spring that gives me the urge to purge. I will be honest with you. I will never ever win an award for the cleanest house on the block. I would love to say I’d be a contender, but in reality, it just doesn’t work out for me. Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed by the stuff– kid stuff, craft stuff, school stuff, stuff to give away, stuff to file, stuff, stuff, stuff!

Perhaps you can relate to the problem of stuff– outgrown clothes or toys, things you no longer have a need for with a growing family, piles of paper, and so on. Part of me wants to let it go, but there is another part that starts to feel suffocated by it all. I mean, is it too much to ask that for just ONCE, could all of the dishes, laundry, books, and toys be put in their rightful place? Could our house be sparkling clean and clear of clutter like the pictures I see on Pinterest? I don’t mean all the time– I just mean for five minutes. That’s all I ask. It’s a dream…

Thankfully, our community yard sale came to help rescue me from some of the stuff problem. Yard sales are a perfect opportunity to cut down on the clutter and provide some meaningful learning opportunities for your kids.

Yard Sale

Start to involve your kids in your yard sale by getting them to help with the advertising, the decisions on what things they want to sell, pricing, and sorting like items. Since our daughter loves to bake, we also set up a really simple bake sale so shoppers could buy a snack. Make it fun for your kids and delegate the jobs so they will want to participate.

There are also some practical economics lessons you can squeeze in:

We use money to buy things.

In this case, when other people wanted to buy our junk (I mean, our things), then they trade money for those things. People also may try to barter with us to get a better price for what they want.

Since my husband and I use our credit card for most purchases, this was also a practical, hands-on experience with money- identifying coins and bills, counting money, and showing our daughter how to take care of it (please keep track of your change purse with all of your money in it). The more opportunities you can give your children with managing money in its physical form, the more this money concept will become familiar. Trying to explain to a young child about credit cards is very abstract.

We need a job to earn money.

On this day, we could argue that running this yard sale IS our job. Without our regular jobs, however, we do not have money to pay for things like groceries, bills, our house, our car, etc.

Today our yard sale is our business, so we follow business etiquette (manners).

  • Greet your customers with a smile and say, “hello” or ” good morning.”
  • Help people when they ask.
  • Thank people for their business.
  • Look people in the eye when you speak to them.

We need to know there is a difference between needs and wants.

We do not need many of the things we possess. People really have four basic needs- water, food, shelter, and clothing. Of course this concept can be challenging to reason with young children about because they think they NEED toys and their favorite blankie. However, this is one of those life lessons we can show them early on.

We have to make choices in life.

We all have wants, but we cannot have everything we want. I know, I know, this comes as a shock to you. We can, however, teach our children that we have to make choices to buy the more important items in life (and we may have to save for those things). Simple.

Four happy children with moneybox savings isolated over white

We do three things with the money we earned: save, spend, and give.

Many of us live by this same standard. It’s just a matter of sharing it with our children– some money goes into our piggy bank. Sometimes accidents happen (and if you are like me, it’s inevitable), so we talked about the value of saving your money to have if something broke or something unexpected happen. We told our daughter she could spend some of her earnings or she could continue to save for a more expensive item. We also showed her how we give some of our earnings to our church, school, or a cause that serves others.

In the end, our yard sale proved to be a fun, memorable, and educational experience. It was a rarity for our family to work in such a way, and it was definitely a team effort. Plus we made a little extra cash!

P.S. The de-cluttering is a work-in-progress for us. I am loving this inspiring resource on 31 Days of Less & More from the blog, Living Well Spending Less. It is something I am striving for. What are your best solutions for cutting the clutter in your life?Why to Involve Your Kids in Your Yard Sale