Our Favorite Educational Apps {part 1}

My husband gave me an ipad for Mother's Day.  That's an over-the-top kind of gift at our house.  But as a mother, I can't think of many gifts that have helped at our house more than {this little} gadget! 
I don't think either of us knew how perfect this gift would be for a homeschooling mother expecting baby number 4, and now as a mother of a newborn!  

I know how useful it can be to have help sorting through all of the apps available, so I want to share some of our favorites with you!
Where available I will include links for android as well.

We originally thought about getting an ipad because we just have a laptop and in the evenings when the kids are finally in bed and my hubby and I both have our hands free we seemed to both need the computer at the same time.  The same thing would happen during the day when I needed to do something and I Jay needed to use it for school work.
I love the portability of the laptop.  I love being able to take it and edit photos or respond to email while I'm helping my kids practice the piano.   The idea of having so many apps to assist with learning and being able to use it on-the-go meant that it was the perfect meld for our homeschool family that really doesn't stay home everyday for school. 

But I couldn't stand the thought of having the kids carry the ipad around, knowing it could be dropped anytime.  So I added this cover to it:
I love the Gumdrop Case (above) because it's not sleek.  The ipad alone is sleek and this cover changes that which is WHY it is perfect for kids.  This case makes the ipad easy to hold onto, it doesn't slide anywhere and it's heavy duty.  I don't think our ipad has ever been dropped (if it has the kids didn't tell me!) but either way, it has worked great and I love that the screen cover is so easy to wipe clean!  My {little} Ellie is 2 and I trust her with the ipad in this case.
Now onto some of our favorite apps!  
There are plenty of games on our ipad, but most of them are educational.  I don't know if an app or "game" can ever replace a more "hands on" learning approach.  But using these apps in addition to our other learning work has been great and keeps the kids very excited about many subjects!
This list is certainly only a few of our favorites.  I will definitely need to do a part 2 or part 3 as well!  But this list includes our first favorites--and they were perfect for when this tired mommy needed a {little} snooze too :)
Word Bingo is perfect for reading practice and has many levels and games within it.  I use this with Kay for sight word practice.  It says a word and she looks for it and taps it when she finds it.  When she gets a row she gets a Bingo Bug.  It's a favorite for us.  It used to be free, but is now 99 cents.
This game is also available on this website (for free!)
Junior Bingo is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.  Ellie is 2 and loves this one.  It says a letter, number, or shape and she looks for it and taps it when she finds it.  When she gets a row she gets a Bingo Bug. Also 99 cents.
Math Bingo
Math Bingo is perfect for elementary math.  It has addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems.  Jay (6) and Kay (4) both love it.  You tap the answer to the equation and when there is a row you get a Bingo Bug.  
Android App here.
Sprout's Doodle Dots
Sprout's Doodledots was one of Ellie's first ipad apps.  It is perfect for toddlers.  It has settings for colors, shapes, numbers, and fruits and as you touch the one it asks for it creates a pictures--a dot-to-dot of sorts.
Stack the Countries Lite

Stack the Countries is one of Jay's favorites.  It's a great way to learn geography!
Stack the Countries Lite
Stack the States is another long-standing favorite.  
I've been amazed at how much fun they have answering geography questions with this app!
    Chirp! is the neatest app about birds all over the country--including where each species lives, what it's call is, and more.  A favorite, though only part of it is in game format.

    Presidents vs. Aliens (lite) is a game I thought was going to be way dumb.  But it's been great.  After the kids answer the questions about presidents they get to go after the aliens...dumb, but good! 
    Jay gets such a kick out of it ;)
    I love seeing the kids curled up with a good book....

    But I've been surprised at how much learning can happen in ways I never experienced as a kid.

    And I love it when they work together at it! 


    I will also say that I have to really monitor the ipad/iphone use.  They would play all day so we have  a password on both and the kids know they can't even ask for a turn until their other responsibilities are done....which actually makes for some good motivation on some days!

    I started on this post quite a few months ago and of course we've found more learning fun in the meantime....so look for {part 2} soon!


    Valentine Candy Math {part 1}

    The secret to learning at our house is to keep the kiddos excited.  And they always get excited when there is candy involved!  Their Valentine's Day loot is perfect for lots of math learning.

    With Valentine's Day coming up I've been thinking about what games we will play this year.  I never take photos ahead of time, just during the real deal so these are some of our games from last year (in 2 separate posts)!

    Greater than/Less than with Hearts: (an example with coins)

    I love the idea of an alligator mouth wanting to eat the biggest number to show greatest.
    It's the way I learned when I was {little} and so I play these kinds of games with my {littles} now.  And a heart is the perfect shape for it!

    Depending on the age you are working with, you can change the greater/less than game up.  I did simple coins with Kay, more complex with Jay, and used groups of candy as well.  The kids turned the heart with the jaws to eat the one with more.  They loved it!

     Color matching/sorting with candy hearts.  We always graph these as well.

    Sizing: small, medium, large:
    This is great for toddlers and preschoolers. 
    After you sort all the candy you can graph it too!

    Any {little} project with a treat is extra fun!

    Here are some of our other {little} candy math projects:
    Valentine Math 2010
    Halloween Math 2012
    100th Day of the Year /Easter 2009

    Look for part 2 of our Valentine Math soon!

    Homemade Honey Whole Wheat Bread - {A Journey}

    I'm celebrating a goal accomplished at this Resolutions time of year! 
    The goal last year: to not purchase sandwich bread at the store for a year. 

    Instead I made homemade
     Honey Whole Wheat Bread
    for a whole year!

    And to celebrate I want to share my favorite recipe 
    and a {little} story :)

    My mother-in-law gave us This L'EQUIP Nutrimill Grain Mill awesome wheat grinder as a Christmas gift.  And since I had made bread almost every weekend for years as a kid (that's the story coming up) I thought I should put the grinder to good use!  That's right, this bread is made {little} Red Hen style: grinding my own wheat and everything (but no, I didn't grow the wheat--I'll tell you where to get some below :) 

    So I decided that I would make all of our own loaf bread for a year.
    I didn't make all our bread--not hamburger buns, bagels, etc.  Just loaf bread.  We go through about 4 loaves a week, give or take.

     And now that it's been 16 months of homemade bread (OVER 250 loaves!) I have to say that this really is a {little project}.  Making bread isn't really that hard.  It's like most things: it takes practice and patience.  It might not turn out perfect every time.  But bread is forgiving.  And it's yummy too!

    The best is that my {little} 4 and 6 year old tell me how much better homemade bread is than the bread from the store.  Talk about motivation :)

    Now for the story:  This past year I have used the same recipe every time.  It's the recipe I grew up with.  My mom has a friend named Orva.  Orva made her own YUMMY bread and my mom starting making it too.  Now, Orva is one of those amazing people that has 7 or 8 kids and makes her own bread.  And now that I'm a mother too, I can appreciate that!  My mom was just that same kind of woman.  In fact, she tasted the bread and thought that others would like it too.  So what did she do?  She put her entrepreneurial skills in motion and got her kids learning how to make bread!

    You know how hard it is to find "real work" for your kids to do--especially when they don't grow up on a farm and aren't 16 yet?  Well, 12 year olds and 10 year olds can make bread too.  How do I know this?  Because me and all of my siblings made bread and sold it to our neighbors!  

    My mom's brilliant idea worked:  Our neighbors loved having hot-from-the-oven Honey Whole wheat Bread delivered right to their door on Saturdays.  We had a regular route of people every week.  Which means we had a regular responsibility!  And we also had a regular income which we, as kids, loved!

    So, whether you want to enjoy the bread for yourself and family, or put your kids to work, 
    here is the recipe and some {little} tips too!

    Here are some {little} bread-making tips:

    First, making bread isn't hard.  It just takes a little practice.  Bread is quite forgiving.  The main things you need to make bread are: time (I try to do it on a day I'm home a lot because it has to rise) and a willingness to try again if it doesn't work out as well as you liked.  I've had bread with bubbles (holes through the middle) and undercooked bread and overcooked bread.  But the more you do it, the better you get!  Really!

    I have a fun red Kitchenaid that was a wedding gift and I love it, except for making bread.   

    If you are considering a purchasing mixer and want to make bread, you want to get this Bosch instead:

    The reason is that the bread dough can wind right up the mixing head of the Kitchenaid up to the motor, which can be a big pain.

    So when I make bread I mix it in 2 halves (so only 2 loaves worth is in the mixer at a time.  This is also easier on the motor (another reason the Bosch is better for bread making) and then the whole batch (4 loaves since I mix 2 of the recipe above ) is still rising and cooking at the same time.

    Whole wheat flour and white flour are different enough that you have to be pretty true to the recipe, using what either calls for.  This recipe is a whole wheat recipe and doesn't work with regular white flour.

    Notice in the recipe that the first half of the recipe needs to sit for at least an hour.  That is important.  It's called "sponging" and it helps the bread to be softer.

    Also, the knead time of 10 minutes at the end of the recipe is also important to the texture of the bread.  I stay close by during that time, checking the consistency of the dough and adding more flour as needed.  The dough should pull away from the side of the bowl as it mixes and not be too wet.  

    It's best to add that flour a {little} at a time.  It's easier to add flour to wet dough than to add water to a dough that is too dry--because the water doesn't mix in as well!

    If you haven't kneaded dough by hand before, don't worry!  It's not that hard.  Ask a friend who knows or look for a good video of how to do it on youtube :)  You just do that at the end to form the dough into 2 loaves for the pans.


    One great thing about making your own bread is that you know just what is in it.  And this bread is healthy goodness that I can feel really great about feeding my family.

    Not only that, but it's soooo yummy!  There's no treat like hot bread from the oven!
    If you haven't made bread before I hope you will give it a try!

    You may also be interested in our (easy) Favorite Breadsticks!

    Jay's Angry Birds Birthday Party

    Jay told me he wanted to invite some friends over for an Angry Birds birthday party this year.  He told me this months ago and I was grateful for the warning because we would have a newborn when his birthday came around!

    I tried to think ahead but I knew I would have to keep it simple.  And simple turned out to be perfect.  We had a ton of fun and baby M slept through the whole thing--perfect!

    I wanted to have a fun game for the kids to play while we were waiting for the guests to arrive.  I made a Sling Shot Game and it was the perfect activity and it kept everyone busy and having a great time.

    I had all kinds of blocks available for the kids to build structures with.  They built their structure and then they placed the green pom poms in them for the piggies.

    I had a variety of sling shots and Angry Birds available to fling at their structures.  They loved it!

    After the kids had fun knocking down their structures we went on a {little} Treasure Hunt --one with secret codes!

    The treasure they were looking for was this nest of eggs (the eggs the green pigs stole!)

    I filled the eggs up with Angry Birds Fruit Snacks.

    I prepared enough Treasure Hunt clues for each guest.  
    But they were in a secret code.  
    This clue took them to the playroom. 

    I used white 3x5 cards and wrote the clues out with a white crayon so they couldn't see the clue. I numbered the clues on the other side so I would remember what order they went when I placed them.

    Then I gave each child a washable marker.  As they went around from one clue to the next each guest had a turn to "decode" the clue by coloring their marker over the card to show what it said. 
    So easy!
    And they LOVED it!

    One of our favorite traditions is reusable gift wrap.  For each birthday I make a birthday shirt (see below for that) and I also make a gift bag that matches the theme of their birthday or goes along with something they like that year. It's fun to use the bags from the past and remember the fun years we've had and the celebrations we've had together of our special birthday boy!


    I happened upon some clearance Angry Birds t-shirts and made one into a bag for this year.  The space bags worked perfectly with it too!

      I used one of my clearance shirts that I found for Jay's Birthday Shirt this year, and just added the 7 to the bottom right of the shirt.  I love {little} projects like that! 
    (You might recognize the "7" fabric from other upcycled projects this winter ;)

      Jay wants to wear his birthday shirt everyday. I'm not kidding. 
     He loves it :)

    I happened upon some sling shots at a garage sale this summer (perfect!) but here are some other places to find them:

     Oriental Trading
     Pinned Image

    Etsy: Bird Sling Shot Party Favors

    One of our family's favorite games is "Don't Eat Pete."  So I made an Angry Birds version (you can print it out below.)

    The kids LOVED this {little} game!  And it's so easy to play and prepare!  The candy in the bowl was our "bird seed" and we used it to cover up each Angry Bird on the paper.

    Then we went around the circle and each child had a turn being the one choosing the bird that "doesn't want to be eaten" and his neighbor went out of the room while it was being chosen.
    Then he came back in and took a candy off each Angry Bird until he got to the one that had been "chosen."  When that happened everyone yelled, "Don't eat the bird!" and his turn was over.  The goal is to get as many treats as they can--what's not to love about that kind of game ;)

    It was a hit! 
    Here's a copy for you to enjoy (but not to sell.)

    Angry Birds Game

    I used this [free!!!] printable Angry Birds party kit for setting up a lot of the rest of the party.

    It made putting the rest together truly a {little project}.

    Free Printable Bithday Kit | Angry Birds

    Here's what I used the Party Kit for:

    Jay's Party invite: sample included on left in photo above.  I imported it to My Memories Suite --which I love! (use code: STMMMS60806 to save $10)
    Using this software it was easy to customize it. 
    The Angry Birds font is even included in the party kit!

    I made cupcake toppers with toothpicks and a little glue.  I {heart} cupcakes so these were perfect and simple.  The colored sprinkles were enough to fancy them up!

    The printable birthday banner--super simple and fun!
    The kit comes with empty banner pieces to write the birthday boy's name in too!
    And the Party Favors: 
    I found the Angry Birds activity books at Joann Fabrics in the $1 book bins.

    I had Angry Birds Fruit Snacks and and Angry Birds Cheese Nips in {little} baggies with the bag topper that is included in the kit.
    Angry Birds Fruit Snacks 42 Pouch Assortment Variety BoxProduct Details
    The Angry Birds Honey Grahams are also a perfect snack!
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