Thankfulness and Thanksgiving


My favorite holiday as a kid growing up wasn’t Christmas.  Maybe that makes me an odd kid.  But for me, it was always Thanksgiving.  The traditions our family had were precious to me, and that ritual was something I came to love, and to long for.  To this day, I don’t even have to close my eyes to be transported back to Grandma’s kitchen the morning of Thanksgiving.  It was the same every year.  Year after year, after year.

It’s those memories that make me want to establish special traditions with our own kids related to Thanksgiving.  Not just about Thanksgiving itself, but about thankfulness.  Thats why when my friend Ashley wrote this post about creating a super cute little fall prayer journal, I jumped on the idea and decided to make a similar one using Becca’s handwriting journals and turn it into a Thankfulness Journal.  (Step by step directions on how I made mine can be found at the bottom of this post.)

I think something kids today really struggle with is entitlement.  With very little to no effort on their parts, stuff just shows up.  And I started realizing recently that our kids have no idea what they have.  They have no idea what half of this city doesn’t have… and that’s where my idea for the Thankfulness Journal was born.  Each day of November, Becca will sit down and think about one THING (NOT a person!) she is thankful for.  She can draw a picture, and we’ll work together on sounding out the words, and writing what she is thankful for.  This is a great activity for your kids to work on handwriting, spelling, and phonics!  In the back half of the journal, we will talk about our family traditions (not just from Thanksgiving) we are thankful for and write and illustrate those, as well.  And to keep myself on the right mental path, I’ve downloaded Ashley’s grown up version of a Thankfulness Journal, which you can get free here!

Another activity we’ll do before Thanksgiving to talk about thankfulness is thinking about all the foods that we eat – not just at Thanksgiving, but also other times.  I will give her food magazines to cut pictures from (fine motor practice!) and she can glue them onto poster paper and work on writing labels for the foods she finds.  I will also challenge her to pick foods that she doesn’t like, that she knows other family members DO like.  Maybe she’ll find a picture of scrambled eggs.  Or a picture of bacon.  Or a picture of (Heaven forbid!) broccoli.  I want to encourage her to think about others, and what our preferences are.  This is a great way to think outside the box… and stop the spread of selfishness!!  She also needs practice thinking about balanced meals, so she can use the pictures to make posters of balanced meals… and pick a few of the foods she’d like to try someday!  (Hey, this Mommy can dream, right??)

img_3421Fall is a fabulous time to get outside and remember the beauty that God has blessed us with on this Earth.  Maybe it’s something as simple as a seed collecting and sorting activity.  Or maybe it’s getting out and doing a photo challenge in nature to find certain small creatures or plants – then print those pictures and place them into a little journal that your child can look back at to remember to thank God for the little things in nature that He has placed in our lives to remind us of his majesty.  Even if you don’t think there is much to explore in your front yard, you’d be amazed what you can find when you get down on all fours and pretend you are a beetle!


I would challenge you to have your children write thank you notes to their friends who give them treats for Halloween.  Encourage them to list out not just what the friend gave, but WHY they are thankful that child is their friend.  “I love it that you make me laugh.”  “I like how you help me when I can’t tie my shoe.”  “Thank you for always smiling at me and helping me be happy when I’m sad.”  Even if your kids are used to writing thank you notes, I bet they are probably used to saying “thanks for the _xyz toy_.” And that’s it.  Mix it up this November.  Get them thinking about WHY they are thankful for that friendship they have.  Let them use fun stickers and special pens or markers to make those friends feel really special, and to add some fun to what can seem very serious for your kids.

Now is the perfect time to plan what activities you’re going to do this November – to not let Thanksgiving get lost in the shuffle between Halloween and Christmas.  It’s a great time to think about what new family traditions you want to start, and to really center your own mind on thankfulness.  We often focus so much on the costumes we’ll wear and the gifts that we’ll buy, or even on the turkey we’ll cook… that the actual purpose of giving thanks is lost.  Hopefully these ideas will help everyone in your family remember to be thankful for the objects, foods, nature, and people around them, because Thanksgiving is so much more than just a day we eat a lot of food and hang out with family to watch a parade and some football.  This year, focus on the things and the people they are thankful for, and WHY they are thankful for them.  Let’s raise a generation that isn’t the ME generation, but the YOU generation… the THANK YOU generation.

Make your own Thankfulness Journal!

Check out how Ashley made hers here.

I don’t have any Modge Podge, and wanted to cover the book entirely… so I took 4 sheets of scrapbook paper and here’s what I came up with!  You can do the same in just about 5 minutes!



I also cut pieces to cover the insides so that the print on the front cover was not distracting.  You wouldn’t have to do that – in which case, you would only need 2 sheets of 12×12 paper.front-cover-of-journal

Pumpkin Dough


I recently had a friend share a pin with me… because she knows I’m ALL about homemade play dough.  We seriously are play dough obsessed around here!  When I saw this recipe, I immediately knew it would be a hit with my kids, and it was similar enough to my favorite recipe that I already had most of the supplies on hand in my pantry.  Becca loves colored doughs, and Gray would love the scent (y’all, it really does smell like fall!)!  I followed her recipe exactly except that I doubled it, and I only made it orange, so I mixed the color in while it was in the skillet.  Rather than list the recipe here on this post, I’d love to give credit back to the original mama who took the time to post it, so please go check out her post HERE.

In her post, she also mentioned collecting items from nature to use with the play dough.  We already had some seeds from our Seed Collecting and Sorting activity, and then I gave the kids a bunch of silk leaves that I got at the craft store.  They also used some fall shaped cookie cutters (this super cute set is similar… aff link… thank you!) that I’ve had for a while.  They both had a blast making trees, bushes, and a variety of other pretend creations with their play dough and leaves!  (Gray wasn’t allowed to use the seeds since I was afraid he would eat them, and I was trying to get the dishes done while they played.)

I love how simple this activity is, but how entertained it kept them!  Typically their play dough play is simply with dough and cutters, or possibly different toy animals or cars to make footprints/tracks.  Adding the leaves and seeds aspect was new and exciting for the kids and they loved it!  I think I want to do something similar in December perhaps with buttons they could use to decorate play dough Christmas trees…. hmmm… my wheels are turning!  ;)

What do your kids like to do with their play dough?  Do you have a favorite recipe?

Seed Study: Collecting and Sorting


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It also contains links to previous posts to give you even more ideas…
happy reading!

It’s that time!!  Fall is upon us, and here in South Texas we’ve finally had a couple days with highs below 80F!  It’s actually jacket weather in the early mornings, and it’s going to be time very soon for this gardener to get back outside and clean up my flower beds that turned to weeds in the heat of the summer.  Becca has been feeling the change in the air, too… and has been begging to get outside and explore again, which is awesome!

A few weeks back (in the heat of the summer when we spent a LOT of time in the cool of The DoSeum), I came across this book in their library and fell in love.  (A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston) I ordered it for “such a time as this” and the other day we pulled it out to read before going on a seed hunt!  Becca was so excited to see our Texas Mountain Laurel seeds on the front cover- since our property is simply covered in Mountain Laurels!  I love that the author incorporates LOTS of different plant seeds, talks about how various seeds are transferred and planted naturally, and also shows timelines of how long various seeds take to sprout and produce fruit!  The illustrations by Sylvia Long are gorgeous, and it’s definitely a page turner that Becca loved – she begged to read it again when we got back inside, and also used it as a reference guide on our walk when she had questions.  (And I can’t wait to get more of Dianna’s books – she has several that I’ve added to our wishlist!)

So what did we do exactly?  First, we read the book.  Then, we grabbed a bucket and headed outside with Daisy.  We looked everywhere for seeds.  At first, she was just seeing Mountain Laurels and acorns on the ground.  But then her eye started getting more keen and she started looking AROUND instead of just down.  And then she started looking UP!  She was amazed at all of the seeds everywhere!  We collected seeds along our way through our nature trail (we live on an acre and a half of very wooded land), and then before we came inside, I showed her that Daisy had been collecting seeds for us, too!  What a fabulous way to see how animals transfer seeds!  She was in awe.  (If you don’t have this availability on your property, take a trip to your local wooded park or along the bank of the closest stream, etc.)

So, we brought our seeds inside, and then sorted them by the seeds that were obviously just seeds, and by what looked to be seeds inside seed pods.  We talked about how the pods don’t drop their seed until just the right time, and she explored opening a couple of the pods and discovered that they didn’t all have seeds!  One had a spider web, and it appeared the spider had probably eaten the seeds early on.  Another had shriveled, tiny seeds.  And yet another had a whole, healthy seed.  It was a great way to talk about how appearances on the outside aren’t everything – all of the seed pods looked the same on the outside.  She was ready to move on to a different activity, so I didn’t dwell on the character lesson, but the seed did get planted, so to speak.😉

There was also a door left open to do more research about seeds – she wasn’t sure if the flowers that had seeds in their centers were considered seed pods or not, and she wasn’t sure about a couple of the weeds that we collected – and wants to know how their seeds get transferred.  So, there is plenty of room for more discussion and research, which we will do at the library next time.

There is also room to go back and review the sunflower life cycle unit that we did last fall – so glad I laminated everything!🙂 (not an affiliate link, just giving credit where credit is due – it’s a great unit she has set up!)

What are you doing to get your kids outside as the weather begins to turn cooler?  Here are some other fall ideas you might enjoy!

Fall Tree Activities

Leaf collection in your yard or a local park
Sorting by color/size/shape
Pressing/Leaf art
Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert   My post about Leaf Man
Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert

Apple picking at a local orchard (or even the grocery store if you don’t have an orchard close by)
Sorting by color and/or size (order largest to smallest)
Counting (put in groups to add, subtract, or even multiply or divide)
Making applesauce
Also check out my apple theme box here
And my apple activity center here
Apple Picking Day by Candice Ransom
Apples by Gail Gibbons

Pumpkin selection at a pumpkin patch
Cut one open, sort and count seeds after estimating how many are inside
Making a jack-o-lantern, talk about what facial expressions say about our emotions
The Legend of Spookley The Square Pumpkin by Joe Troiano
The Pumpkin Book by Gail Gibbons

Never can get enough books?  Me neither!  Check out more of our favorite Fall Reads here!

Busy Hands, Happy Heart


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Most of my posts here are about homeschooling Becca, but this one is all about what to do with the little ones… and highlights what I do to keep Gray occupied so Sis can learn.  (And SHHHH! he’s learning, too!)  Keeping your toddler occupied while your older child does homeschool is NOT easy!  But hopefully a few of these ideas will inspire you and be helpful on your journey!


One thing we really struggle with with Gray is that he still likes to put things in his mouth – a lot.  I can’t just give him an activity and pay total attention to Sis.  So, I have to very carefully select what he does when I’m busy with her.  He loves our pop beads set – so when I’m teaching her, I pull out only the large beads on a tray and let him sit on the bench right next to me in our family room (which doubles as our homeschool room).

-homeschool work area-

If we are doing something downstairs at the dining room table, he gets to do play dough next to me, and loves to make prints in the dough.  We have little stackers, dominoes, construction trucks, and dinosaurs that all make awesome dough stamps, not to mention our fabulous cookie cutter set.  He can stay occupied with play dough for almost an hour!  (Plus, I make my own dough, so I can make it any color I want, and he loves to take two different colors of dough and squish them together… which works on those fine AND gross motor skills all at the same time!)

Back upstairs in the family room, we have a little Duplo table (this is the one I’d like to get once we move up to only Legos) and some diaper boxes full of Duplos that Gray loves to build with.  Then we also have big wooden blocks (that my dad made for me when I was little!) with which he can build larger-scale items.  We also keep crayons and coloring books readily available so that he can color when Sis is illustrating – because nothing is more exciting and makes you feel big and important like coloring when Sis is coloring.  And he has been enjoying playing with window clings that I got from Dollar Tree!

There are so many fabulous things you can get your little ones excited about that are going to stretch them and help them grow their fine AND gross motor skills.


Pretend play is so important for little ones, and Gray is all about pretending.  He is fairly quiet with his pretend play, so he doesn’t distract Sis too much.  If you have a louder child who likes to play really loudly, you might want to skip this section and move on down to the academic ideas, leaving the pretend play for non-school times.

Gray loves our new set of felt dinosaurs.  He likes to tell little stories with the dinosaurs, and can either use the portable board with which they came, or can use the larger cork board that I covered with felt that is up in our family room.  I love that both kids can stand together at the easel and play, or he can play alone right next to me while she works.  He also loves to drive his cars and trains on the activity rug that sits on the floor next to me, and cook “meals” for us in their kitchen, which is across the room. (This link is to a similar set – ours is no longer sold.)

He also loves to grab a reusable shopping bag and pretend he’s shopping, play dress up, and play with Little People figures.  The beauty of doing school in our family room is the multiplicity of options to keep him entertained.  We do not choose to have the tv on during school time.  That is far too distracting for Becca.


Sometimes there is just no other way than to teach her with him sitting in my lap or standing right next to me.  (His love language is touch.)  For those times, I have some little academic activities that aren’t distracting to her that I can do with him while she is working independently.  We have number puzzles matching the numerals 1-10 to their values, and he can sometimes do 1-5 alone.  Sometimes he gets frustrated when they don’t fit exactly together (fine motor work!), but I can help him.

He also loves our pattern block shapes that I made out of thick colored card stock and laminated.  I use them with Sis as math manipulatives, and he also loves to sort them out and try to count them.  You can print your own here for free!

I have also laminated some little basic puzzles that have come out of magazines the kids get – he loves to put the three pieces together to make the trucks, and can put them together wrong to be silly and it’s ok, so he feels very successful with those.

I love the Target dollar section.  Sometimes I get surprised and find a $3 item that I love and just have to have, but normally I stick to the $1 stuff.  I got some really neat felt sticker numbers there (for $1), and placed one each on a set of 10 index cards so that he can actually FEEL the number, and attempts to put them in order.

He loves so much the big bin of Scrabble letter tiles at the DoSeum, so I finally bought this set so that he can play with the letters at home – and Sis can use them for spelling practice!  They are both so excited to have their own letter tiles at home now!  Sis also enjoys playing Scrabble Jr, so this now gives him letter tiles to play with, without messing up the board while we are playing!

I hope that you find these ideas helpful, and I so appreciate you purchasing via my affiliate links!  What helpful hints do you have to share?  What do you like to do with your toddler?  And which of these ideas that I’ve shared are you ready to try this week?  Let me know!  I love to hear from you!  Send me comments, and please be sure to head over to my Facebook Page to get involved in the discussion!

50 States Postcard Exchange!


It’s been several years since I was in the classroom teaching.  But one of my favorite things was doing a postcard exchange.  There’s nothing more exciting than getting mail – like real, legit snail-mail mail!  This year as Becca’s enthusiasm for geography really gets going, I wanted to provide her with that opportunity as well – to send and receive 49 post cards from the other states in the USA!

And amazingly enough, I got some immediate response when I posted on my Facebook page that I was looking for interest.  Enough that I decided it was worth it to set up a Google spreadsheet and invite the whole country (well, one person from each state) to participate!  We have some states already represented, but we’re still looking for states to join in the fun!  If you would be interested in purchasing (or making if you’re really artistic/adventurous/crazy) 49 post cards (50 if you’d like to keep one from your own state), and then mailing them out to the other 49 states, then please shoot me a comment here and let me know what state you’d be representing!  Then I can get back with you and let you know if your state has already been selected by someone.

Please note – I’ll need your email address if I’m going to include you in the exchange and send you the spreadsheet to update with your information.  So please be sure you include it when you comment.

-Buy 49 post cards that represent your state.  (price??)
—You can usually find them in the book section at Walmart, at your local zoo or aquarium or other tourist trap if you’re in a big city, or some grocery stores even carry them in the office supply section.—
-Answer questions about your state on each postcard (you can type and print on labels to save your hands!)
-Address post cards to the other participants.
-Mail 49 post cards. ($0.34 per stamp = $16.66)
-Receive 49 post cards!

Who can participate?
ANYONE who enjoys getting mail!  Classrooms, homeschool families, lonely college student who wants mail, adult who loves mail, family who wants mail, ANYONE!!!!

Comment today and I’ll let you know if your state has been covered!