Tag Archive | educational toys

Toys I Steal From My Kids

As a teacher who is also a mom of small kids (aged 7, 4, and 10 months), I have a bad habit of “borrowing” toys from my personal children and bringing them into my classroom.  I play a game with my kids, or I watch them play with a toy, and I think, hey that would help little Johnny with ….    Unfortunately, a lot of these toys end up staying in my classroom, and then I have to buy my person kids a replacement!  If you are a fan of my Facebook Page, you have seen my posts about certain toys that I borrow/steal from my personal children.  I realized 2 things by posting this – #1 – I do this more than I realize!  #2 – Not everyone has small children at home to steal from, and might appreciate a list of toys to invest in (or to ask parents to buy you next Christmas instead of coffee mugs and teddy bears! Smile ).  So this week’s Top 10 list is the Top 10 toys I steal from my own kids.


10. Movies – Okay, maybe movies aren’t toys.  But, last week, as I was writing the Top 10 Educational Movies post, I realized that the majority of my suggestions were first used with my personal children and then taken into my classroom – so it definitely counts!  I have brought Magic School Bus, Leapfrog Videos, Little Einsteins and Sid the Science Kid from my kids’ personal collections to use in my classroom!


9. Children’s Encyclopedias – My oldest son is a science nut!  So in my house we have: a children’s science encyclopedia, a children’s dinosaur encyclopedia, a children’s space encyclopedia and a children’s animal encyclopedia.  I think I have borrowed each one at least once!


8. Map Puzzle – One of my favorite way to teach geography is for kids to put together puzzles of a map.  There’s no better way for kids to understand that Texas and Alaska are close to the same size, or that California and Maine are very far from each other.  Lucky for me, my kids have multiple map puzzles, including this great one that gives you the capitols of each state!


7. Board Games – I think I have borrowed every one of my kids’ board games at least once – and that’s saying a lot, because they have a lot of board games!  The board games that I borrowed so often I felt the need to buy one for my classroom are:  Very Silly Sentences, Monopoly Junior, Scrabble Junior, Taboo Junior and Chutes and Ladders.


6. Sleeping bag Chair – I’ve actually borrowed numerous chairs and rugs from my kids, as they have outgrown, stopped using, or changed preference on various comfy items.  However, borrowing this sleeping bag chair from my kids made my middle son so upset, that I ended up bringing it home and buying another for my classroom (even though he didn’t sit in the chair before, and he doesn’t sit in the chair now!)

5. Kids’ Picture Dictionary – One of my students’ literacy centers each week is to create a picture dictionary.  Each week we add pictures coinciding with one or two of the letters.  When I began this project with my kids, I brought in my personal children’s Picture Dictionary.  The kids loved it so much, I kept it at school.  My sons haven’t noticed it’s missing….yet.  I hope to get a little bit longer with it, since we will be working on alphabetical order soon!


4. Reading Puzzles – My kids got this cool making words puzzle awhile back, but they weren’t using it much, so I took it to my classroom, and man does it get used.  The only problem is, my sons have noticed it’s missing, so I think I’m going to have to bring it home soon!

3. Math Flashcards – I bought these addition flash cards last year for my oldest son, and he actually handed them to me and told me I could take them to my class!  He really doesn’t need them anymore, but my students do!

2. Magic Tree House Books – I borrow lots of books from my kids, but since we own almost every Magic Tree House book, and there are so many that connect science and social studies topics, these seem to be the books I borrow the most.  I will be borrowing #3 – Mummies in the Morning soon when my class studies Ancient Egypt.

1. Leap Frog Letters – My absolute FAVORITE item that I have borrowed from my kids is the Leap Frog Talking Letters.  In the beginning of this year, I had 9 students who didn’t know all of their letters (walking into 1st grade).  We worked with this product and the Leap Frog Movies every day for the first 5 weeks, and now all but 2 of those students are reading!




P.S. I write a Top 10 post every week. Here are some past Top 10 posts: Top 10 Holiday Read Alouds, Top 10 Educational Toys, Top 10 Educational Movies, and Top 10 Indoor Recess Ideas. Check back each Sunday or Monday for more Top 10 Lists.

Best Educational Movies

I recently received an email from my supervisor about the use of movies and parties in the classroom.  [It wasn’t geared just to me, it was one of those whole faculty emails that tells you that one person did something wrong, but everyone has to hear about it, just in case someone else is misbehaving and hasn’t gotten caught.]  The email talked about how movies and parties had no place in the classroom, unless they had some sort of curricular basis.  At first, I was a little put off by this email, because I show movies and have parties regularly.  However, after a step back, I realized that 99% of the movies I show have a direct curricular link, so I probably agree with the email, but just never took the time to think about it, as I don’t really have the time to show anything not related to my curriculum, due to all the standards to be covered.  I’d love to hear your take on the movies/parties in the classroom, so please feel free to leave me a comment.  In the meantime, here is a list of my Top 10 (curricular) Movies to show in your classroom, without getting in trouble from administration.  Smile


10.  Magic School Bus – Almost every science topic you cover can be touched on within a Magic School Bus video.  If you have a topic that doesn’t fit, Ms. Frizzle’s idea of “Get Messy, Ask Questions, Make Mistakes” can fit into just about any lesson on Scientific Discovery!

9.  Leapfrog Videos – I love using the phonics videos from Leapfrog to teach letter sounds and word formation, but they also have math videos for math basics!

8.  Planet Earth – Not only does this movie touch on tons of Biology topics, including animal characteristics, habitats, and animal adaptations, but it is so beautifully put together it will captivate your students.  With so many more of our students watching the Simpsons and Hannah Montana – exposure to Animal Planet is a good thing all around!

7.  Book based Movies – There are so many good kids books that now have a movie to go with them!  I like to have students do a Venn Diagram comparison or a persuasive writing on which is better after they have read the book and watched the movie.

6.  Sid the Science Kid – Here’s another great movie for the scientific process and science observations and journaling.  They also cover tons of common science topics such as: elasticity, simple machines, and change in states of matter.

5.  Little Einsteins – These fabulous movies use world famous music and art to investigate the natural world, and cover various science and social studies topics.

4.  Team Umizoomi – The characters in this movie use math problem solving to make them into superheros!  Every episode I’ve seen covers shapes, measurement, counting and logcial thinking.

3.  Super Why – More superheros!  Only these superheros are in reading.  In each episode, the characters jump into a story and use reading super powers (reading, spelling, etc.) to solve a problem they are having.  Can you say text to self connection?

2.  School House Rock – So many people grew up on School House Rock every Saturday morning.  Now, you can use those videos on DVD with your class.  “I’m Just a Bill on Capitol Hill” is one of my favorites when I teach government.

1.  Fetch with Ruff Ruffman – Reality show meets curriculum!  This show has fetchepisodes for almost every science and social studies topic I’ve ever taught.  It features real life kids and a cartoon dog who sends them on reality show challenges. 

As a mom of young children – I use lots of these with my own children too!  In fact, watching TV with them has spawned most of these suggestions!  Hope you can use some of them in your classroom.



P.S. I write a Top 10 post every week. Here are some past Top 10 posts: Top 10 Holiday Read Alouds, Top 10 Educational Toys, Top 10 Items for Your Winter Holiday Work Packet, and Top 10 Indoor Recess Ideas. Check back each Sunday or Monday for more Top 10 Lists.

What are You Buying with Those Gift Cards?

Due to the Christmas holiday, this week’s Top 10 post is a little late – sorry guys! I don’t know about you guys, but my personal children got some gift certificates for Amazon, and I am going to use them to buy some educational toys to supplement all those non-educational toys that Santa Claus brought.  So, this week’s Top 10 list is on great educational toys to fill your children with.  Lots of them would also make great center stations!


10. Science Kit – My son is absolutely obsessed with all things science.  In fact, he wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up.  So, we’ve had a bunch of science kits come through our house.  This link is to a “kiddie” one that he got last year for Christmas, which was super cool.  It helped him make a bouncy ball and a rubber worm and other goopy stuff.  But, what I liked the most was that it gave an explanation of how this was science.  I love science kits, because they are so hands on!

9. Critical Thinking Games – Problem solving does not just come to kids – it must be practiced, but it should be practiced in a fun way!  So, try getting a game like Rush Hour to have fun and build skills!


8. Word Games – I think my household owns every word game known to man: Boggle, Scrabble, Upwords, Taboo, Very Silly Sentences etc.  However, our personal favorite is You’ve Been Sentenced, where you build all these crazy sentences, trying to see how many words you can use.  We love it because we can play just kids, adults with the kids or just adults – fun either way!


7. Foreign Language Talking Toys – For those of you who don’t know – I am currently raising my kids in Morocco, with them learning French & Arabic.  So, I am a big proponent of working on foreign languages.  There are so many toys out there these days which work on other languages and I say eat them up and build that vocabulary.  Even if they never learn to speak that language, they’ll know another word which might lead to understanding a cognate or a root word later down the road!


6. 3-dimensional Puzzles – I’m a fan of all puzzles, seriously – we own tons! However, this year I really want to get my oldest some three dimensional puzzles.  He has a globe puzzle, but I think he would really do well with some of the building puzzles.  Plus, once it’s put together, he can use it for imaginary play with his soldiers and super hero toys.


5. Open Ended Building Toys – Legos, Kinex, wooden blocks, there are so many building toys out there, and they lead to great creative thinking and problem solving.  My kids even build with the Jenga blocks!


4. Arts & Crafts Supplies – Just like building, arts and crafts builds that creative thinking and problem solving.  I’m personally anti finger paint and glitter (although my husband is very pro these two for some reason), but I do always keep on hand: a bucket of crayons, scissors, glue sticks, play-doh, string & beads, etc. etc. 

3. Board Games – When we moved to Morocco, we brought more board games than books, and I love books, which should tell you something about my family!  (Don’t be too fooled, I got a Kindle before the move, so my books just took up less space!)  I love playing games with the kids.  This year I think we’re going to use gift cards to get Guess Who and Yahtzee, two oldies but goodies that we don’t have yet.

2. Museum Membership – Okay, so you can’t get a museum membership with an imageAmazon gift card, but it’s my favorite thing to do with “Christmas money”.  Not only is it educational, but it’s a great way to always have something to do on those days where you don’t really have any extra money!  (Works the same with a zoo, aquarium or aquatic center!)


1. Books, Books, Books! – Have you seen my pinterest boards?  I have an entire board devoted to kid’s books.  I LOVE children’s books, and I truly don’t believe kids can have too many.  My kids have 2 bookshelves full of books, and read every day.  So, I am very well known to bring kids books as presents!  (My oldest is currently reading Harry Potter.  My middle son is reading – with me – Magic Tree House.  The baby’s only 9 months old – but he can sit through some serious Sandra Boyton board books!)


P.S. I write a Top 10 post every week. Here are some past Top 10 posts: Top 10 Holiday Read Alouds, Top 10 Items for Your Winter Holiday Work Packet, and Top 10 Indoor Recess Ideas.  Check back each Sunday or Monday for more Top 10 Lists.

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