Tag Archives: Games

10 Ways to Fight the Summer Slide, Part II

This is Part II in a two-part series on keeping skills sharp during the summer. In Part I, Kristen Thompson shared five stellar (and easy to apply!) ideas. Here are five more that are sure to make keep your child happy…and learning. 

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card!

Five More Ways to Fight the Summer Slide

by Kristen Thompson

Tips one through five were shared here. Here are five more ways to keep your student on their toes (and lovin’ it) during the next couple months.

  1. Utilize Summer Programs. Take your children to summer library and bookstore programs. Most will post them online, but you can also request a calendar of events. Many libraries really crank it up a notch during the summer and hold fabulous, free activities and book clubs for students.
  2.  Be Choosy about Summer Camps. Consider registering your child for summer camps that encourage kids to use their minds on science projects, exploration, creative writing, music and art.
  3. Train the Brain. Use the summer to strengthen your student’s cognitive skills through one-on-one brain training to improve memory, visual and auditory processing, attention, and logic and reasoning. A core of strong brain skills will help them head back to school with the tools to succeed at learning in any subject. Unlike tutoring, which focuses on academics, brain-training addresses the root causes of any learning struggles. (For more information on brain training, see www.learningrx.com.)
  4. Get Musical or Lingual. Encourage your child to learn an instrument or another language. Studies have shown a strong correlation between “Arts” and “smarts.”
  5. Pick the Right Books. Learn how to choose age-appropriate books for children and teens. Reading is Fundamental has a great brochure that offers basic tips on what to look for. Your local librarian can also help you select books for your child’s interest and reading level. According to Scholastic Parents Online, reading just six books during the summer break can be enough to keep a struggling reader from falling behind.

A Final Note of Wisdom

Research shows that ALL young people experience learning losses when they don’t engage in educational activities during the summer.

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” says Dr. Ken Gibson, author of Unlock the Einstein Inside: Applying New Brain Science to Wake Up the Smart in your Child (www.unlocktheeinsteininside.com). “Think of it like this: The brain is like the body. If you exercise it, you improve it, but if you let it sit idle, it’s going to lose ability.”

To avoid the summer slide, Gibson recommends brain games and exercises that build cognitive skills, the underlying skills needed to learn.

And don’t assume that your kids will roll their eyes when you suggest ideas to keep their brain skills strong all summer. More than half of students surveyed say they want to be involved in a summer program that helps them keep up with schoolwork or prepare them for the next grade. Besides, unlike abdominal crunches, exercise for your brain is actually FUN!

Kristen Thompson is a parent, former teacher, and also the director at LearningRx Kennesaw, a center that specializes in helping learners of all ages and stages reach their full potential. LearningRx is located at 3420 Acworth Due West Road, Suite B, Kennesaw, GA 30144. 

Parents can request a free five-page Summer Slide Guide from LearningRx that includes dozens of brain-building games and exercises, as well as tips on how to incorporate brain building into daily activities. For the free Summer Slide Guide, simply call the Kennesaw LearningRx center at 770-529-4800 or the Atlanta-Buckhead LearningRx at 404-252-7246.


Filed under Academic Success, Art, Games, Music, Summer Learning

Toys that Teach: Christmas Gifts that Go the Distance

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card…just in time for Christmas! 

I recently sat down with my 4-year-old son to craft a Christmas wish list. Two hours and about 40 items later, we were done. And he’s only 4!! I didn’t even know he knew half those toys existed!

As his mom, I obviously have a more realistic idea of the toys he will actually play with beyond Christmas afternoon. My job is to sort through his list and pick the items that won’t be quick to become toy box fodder. To help me (and hopefully you) find toys whose impact and interest will last longer than the egg nog, I consulted with Chris Persson, mom of two, former teacher, and co-owner of The School Box along with her husband Dave.

“The best gifts,” says Chris,”are those that blend fun with learning. The toys we carry at The School Box are highly engaging, but allow kids to learn while they’re playing–often without even realizing it!” It’s like sneaking applesauce into the brownie mix: something good for your kids, incognito.

Here, Chris shares her top picks (and The School Box’s top sellers) for holiday gifts.  

1. Hands-On Science Kits, $14.99-$26.99

What child (or adult) wouldn’t want to build a robot out of an empty soda can? Or make their own slime laboratory? Or create a doorbell from electromagnets? As gifts, these kits are just plain cool.

What Kids Learn: “These kits bring science to life while reinforcing critical thinking skills,” says Chris.

 2. Games Galore, $10.99-$29.99

The School Box’s unmatched game selection is the perfect red herring for undercover learning. my new fave: Cartoon It!, a fast-paced memory game with an artistic twist. Younger kids will love Maze Madness, where they guide a ball through a twisty-turny maze. Game on!

What Kids Learn: “Games promote memory, strategy, fine motor skills, fair play and more. Plus, they’re fun!” Chris asserts.

 3. Froggy Ecosystem, Price: $19.99

This funky gift is an annual best-seller. It’s two little frogs in a plant-filled, self-sustaining ecosystem: no cleaning required. Much lower maintenance than a puppy on Christmas morning!

What Kids Learn: “They learn all about habitat and lifecycles,” says Chris, who notes that these fly off the shelves during the holidays.

These gifts have me thinking that The School Box may be as sly as those applesauce-laden brownies. Perhaps they should really call themselves The School and Toy Box: where your kids will learn without even knowing it. And, as for my son’s list, I think there may still be room to add a froggy or two.

 Need more gift ideas? Visit www.schoolbox.com to order online or find a location near you. Or stop by any School Box location for Super Saturdays, where kids make a (free) craft! Second and fourth Saturdays each month, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

This article was adapted from Little Black Dress|Little Red Wagon Magazine. 

Comments Off on Toys that Teach: Christmas Gifts that Go the Distance

Filed under Critical Thinking, Games, Holidays, School Readiness, Science

Mystery Bags: A Fun Idea for Learning Letters!

by Kelli Lewis, M. Ed.

Comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card!

This fun, small-group activity can be done in one day and works easily in a preschool or early elementary classroom or at home with your own young children.

Assemble Your Mystery Bags

You will need one bag per student (solid colored party favor bags or brown lunch bags work well).

Prior to the activity, secretly place three items inside of each bag. All of the items will begin with the same letter. Since food is such a hit with any activity, I try to put at least one food item in each bag! Here are some examples to help you get started:

  • M= marshmallows, marker, M&M’s
  • C= chocolate chips, car (small toy or picture of one), Captain Crunch
  • G= gum, gummies, goat (small toy or picture of one)
  • P= popcorn, pencil, pizza (a pizza gummy or just picture of one)
  • B= bear (small toy or picture of one), bouncy ball, brownie
  • S= sunglasses, sucker, snake (rubber toy)

Each student will then take a turn selecting which mystery bag they want, without seeing what’s inside, of course. There shouldn’t be any visible clues about the contents or the related letter.

Let the Guessing Begin!

Next, the students will take everything out of their bags, one-by-one, taking turns so that everyone sees the items in their bag. When they see their items, they will have to determine the common beginning letter. When it is guessed, everyone else will determine if they agree or not by giving a thumbs up.

When everyone has had a turn (but not before!), the students will be allowed to eat their edible items!


  • Allow students to create their own mystery bags! Have them go around the room and find items that could belong in their bag, along with the items they have already received for that particular letter.
  • Have the students decorate the outside of their bags by writing their letter in different colors all over the bag.
  • For a fun way to bridge from letter recognition to early reading skills, check out 101 Ways to Make Your Students Better Decoders and Readers. A great resource!

 Kelli Lewis, M. Ed. recently received her masters degree from The University of Georgia and is currently staying busy setting up her third-grade classroom!


Filed under Games, Phonics, Reading, Writing

Empire: a Great Game for the Last Week of School!

by Kelli Lewis

Comment on this post to be entered to win a $20 School Box Gift Card! Winners are chosen each month.

Here’s a game your class will enjoy during the last week of school! It’s a great way to celebrate the community you’ve built throughout the year and get to know. The whole class can play: the more people you have, the better. And it will work well in many grades: upper elementary, middle and high.

Game Name: Empire

Roles: Guessers (unlimited number!) and Reader (1 person, preferably the teacher)

Materials: You don’t need much! You only need one slip of paper and any type of writing utensil per Guesser.

How to get started: Guessers will write a name on a piece of paper. The name should be of a person that everyone would/could know–such as the name of a well-known famous person, a person from history (this could be a requirement if you’re playing this during history class), cartoon characters, movie characters, etc. Students should keep their name slip a secret and not tell or show anyone.

Goal of the Game: Guessers will try to match the famous names with the correct classmate who wrote each name. This will show how well they know each other!

What to do next: The “reader” will then collect all of the names and read each name aloud. Read all the names aloud a total of three times through. Everyone else should listen and try their best to remember as many names as possible.

Let the guessing begin! Decide who should go first; the student with the birthday closest to today’s date is always a good way to decide. One student will go first and try to guess who wrote a particular name. Each student’s turn after the first will be determined by the game’s outcomes. The first student’s turn will consist of them guessing who wrote a particular name. For instance, Guesser #1 may ask, “Sally, did you write Johnny Appleseed?” Sally will then have to answer to that Guesser whether or not she wrote “Johnny Appleseed” on her slip.

Guessing RIGHT: If Sally did write “Johnny Appleseed,” Sally then becomes a part of Guesser One’s empire/team. Guesser One then gets another guess, in which Sally can assist, since they have now become a team. Each time a student guesses correctly, the student they guessed (as well as anyone else in their empire with them) becomes a part of the correct guesser’s empire/team.

Guessing WRONG: If Sally did not write “Johnny Appleseed,” then it becomes Sally’s turn to guess and ask who wrote a particular name. Each time a student guesses incorrectly, the student they guessed incorrectly then gets a turn to guess someone.

This continues throughout the entire game until one person has every single player on their team (a winning empire). That student is the Emperor!!

Remembering the Names: If students have trouble remembering the list of names you read at the beginning, you can have them write down as many as they remember on a piece of paper, which they can refer to as they play. To further simplify the game for younger players, the Reader could also write all of the names on the whiteboard after collecting the slips of paper.

Happy End of the School Year, Everyone!

For more games, check out these awesome (educational) options from The School Box.

Kelli Lewis is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a frequent contributor to A Learning Experience.


Filed under Classroom Community, Games, History

Count ’em one, two, three…!

Getting the Best Out of Your Bears

by Rachel Stepp

Comment on this post to win a $20 School Box gift card. Winners are chosen each month!

It is not unusual to see a set or two of counting bears in an elementary school classroom. If you haven’t ever seen a set, they are small, colored bears that come in different sizes and colors. They are used to promote sorting, counting, patterns, and much more! But it is easy to let them become dust collectors if you are not careful! So, here are a few ideas about how you can use these colorful plastic critters in your classroom.


To promote sorting in your classroom, you can give each child a handful of bears. Ask the children to sort the bears in the following w

ays: by size (big and small), by color (blue, red, green, yellow), and by size and color. You can also use color coordinated bowls or plates to sort the bears. For example, ask your students to put all of the red bears in the red bowl.


Since the bears vary in sizes and colors, you can use them to make patterns. If you are working on AB patterns, you can let your students create many different patterns based on colors or size. Ask students to pair up and make patterns. Then have students work with their partners to guess the different patterns or continue the patterns.


If your students are beginning to count and explore numbers, have them count the number of bears in a bowl and then record the number. You can have several bowls set up around your classroom with different numbers of bears in them. Have students walk around the room and “collect data” from the bear bowls. Students can practice counting and writing numbers. Have students compare their answers with others and recount the bears if necessary.

Book Connection:

One of my favorite books to use with the bears is Teddy Bear Counting by Barbara Barbieri McGrath because it depicts most of these aspects into a picture book. You can work with this book as a whole group or individually. You can have students at their own desks with an assortment of bears so that they can follow along with you as you read. Have students create the same pattern that is shown throughout the book. This will incorporate following directions, listening and comprehension skills. The book is available at The School Box for less than $10!

Now it’s time to go find your favorite little bear friends and put them to work!

Looking for a good set of counting bears? Check out these cuties from The School Box: Three Bear Family Counting Bears.

For more counting games and activities, click here.

To toss your name in the hat to win a $20 School Box gift card (which would pay for those cute counting bears), comment on this post below!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at The University of Georgia and a regular contributor to A Learning Experience (lucky us!).


Filed under Centers, Math, Reading, Uncategorized

Educator’s Day!!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Okay, so you just have to know about this event: This Saturday, January 29, is the biggest sale at The School Box all year. Did you hear that? ALL YEAR, ladies and gents. I am more than a little excited.

But, wait, don’t tune out if you’re not a teacher. The School Box is also the PERFECT place to get craft supplies, kiddie room decor and furniture, the best book titles for all ages, tutoring & extra practice materials for home…and (my personal fave) birthday and baby shower gifts. Have you seen their awesome toy and game aisles? Quality stuff sans the lead paint (like Melissa & Doug). And now it’ll all be ON SALE!!! “Stock up” is the golden rule for a balanced birthday budget.

The Details:

Date: January 29, 2011

Where: At *every* School Box location. To find one near you, check out www.schoolbox.com.

Discounts: Available for parents, teachers, home-schoolers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, third cousins twice removed…everyone! Draw an apple at checkout, and the apple will determine the discount on your total purchase (10%, 20%, 30%, 40%).

Oh Goody Goody: The first 40 customers will receive special goody bags.  Drawings will also be done for $50 prizes, and one lucky duck will win a $250 Gift Certificate!!!

This is one of the best (and most fun!) sales for quality children’s games, supplies and the like. Just thought you should know about it!

1 Comment

Filed under Activities, Classroom Community, Classroom Decor, Critical Thinking, Free Stuff!, Games, Geography, History, Holidays, Parenting, Phonics, Reading, Science, Study Skills, Teacher Inspiration

BINGO! A New Twist for a Classic Classroom Game

Want to know a simple twist for Bingo that can be used to reinforce phonological awareness? I call it Rhyming Bingo.

How the Game Works:

  1. In Rhyming Bingo, students are given prepared 4×4 square Bingo cards that contain pictures such as a cat, a bone, and a sock. These pictures can be found in clip art from the Internet or on word processing software (or hand-drawn if you’re crafty!).
  2. Then, the teacher calls out cards that contain rhyming words that would match with the students’ boards such as “bat,” “phone,” and “rock.”
  3. The students then put down a Bingo chip (which can be found at supply stores such as The School Box) on the corresponding rhyming word. For example, the teacher might say, “sail.” Then, the student would respond by putting a Bingo chip on the picture of “mail.”
  4. The students would continue to play until someone covers their entire board. There is so much critical thinking involved in this game, and students LOVE it!

Make it More Challenging:

You can vary this activity for advanced students by choosing words that are difficult or uncommon. You can also add the spelling of the words on the Bingo cards to help students.

Make it More Creative:

  1. Students can draw their own pictures on their Bingo cards according to a preset word list created by the teacher. By doing this, the teacher already knows that he/she has call out cards that will rhyme with the students’ drawings, and he/she knows what the students have drawn on their cards.
  2. Students can draw their own pictures on their Bingo cards based on their own rhyming words. For example, the teacher would give the students a list of words that she will use as call out cards. Then the students would think of words that rhyme with the call out words and draw their pictures based on their new words. This gives the students responsibility and challenges them to think more.

By bringing these ideas into your classroom, the students feel more accomplished, and there will be more variety in the classroom. This game can work in whole class settings and with small groups. It is a great way to mix fun with phonics!

Rachel Stepp is a graduate student at the University of Georgia, currently working on a Masters in Early Childhood Education.

1 Comment

Filed under Academic Success, Games, Phonics

Our Fave Mommy-and-Me Beach Reads!

by Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

There you sit, sand between your toes, enjoying the sun, the surf…and the fact that you can finally crack a book! To help you achieve beach Zen this summer, here are our favorite lit. picks—as well as award-winning books and activities to keep your kids engaged (and learning!) long enough for you to get past the first chapter.

Mommy Lit.

Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin

The basic plot seems trite: Girl steals best friend’s fiancé. But, with Giffin’s witty narration and relatable characters, you’ll actually root for the cheaters!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Told through letters written by a cluster of characters in 1946, this enchanting novel shares the story of Guernsey Island’s Nazi occupation.

Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

The latest from Kinsella (Confessions of a Shopaholic), this is the tale of Lara, a girl who is visited by a fun-loving ghost from the 1920s. Kinsella-style hilarity ensues.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

An uplifting and compassionate tale about a Mississippi town in 1962, whose racial tensions are blown wide open when Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan publishes the stories of the town’s mistreated black maids. Soon to be a major motion picture from DreamWorks.

Kiddie Lit. (and Activities)

Summer Express, $14.99*
Give children a head start in school! Each workbook includes 100 ready-to-go, fun-filled math and literacy activity pages.

Hot Dots Flash Cards, $9.99*
These electronic, self-checking cards are great for reviewing math facts. And they’re (gasp!) lots of fun, too.

Carole Marsh Mysteries, $7.99*
Each adventure mystery in this series is set in a historical place, making history and geography really cool for kids.

Science Kits, $9.99*
These award-winning kits bring science to life with exciting, educational projects that have amazing results!

*Featured products are available at The School Box.

This article appeared in the spring issue of Little Black Dress/Little Red Wagon Magazine, page 26. Click here to see the original article, along with a printable coupon for 20% off one regular-priced item! (Coupon good through July 1, 2010).

Comments Off on Our Fave Mommy-and-Me Beach Reads!

Filed under comprehension, Games, Parenting, Reading, Science, Summer Learning

Start the New Year with a Bang! Games and Activities to Inspire and Excite

Write a little comment on this post, and you could win one of several $20 School Box gift cards this month!

By Sandra Jacoby

The presents have been opened, fireworks have welcomed the new year and kids have gotten used to being home for two weeks! Now it is time for back-to-school, the winter version. How do we, as teachers, get our students back into the swing of class? Instead of jumping head-first into the pool of knowledge (that is more than likely frozen over), you have to break the ice. Hold off on the piles of homework and start slow. Find something that will get their gears going without the stress.

Primary/Elementary Levels:

Games and hands-on activities are a great way to review the previous semester and ignite students’ excitement to be back in class. A scavenger hunt on the playground or in the classroom, for example, is sure to grab their attention! Students can find five rocks (to work on counting) or things that starts with a certain letter or sound (such as /b/). A scavenger hunt can be adjusted to any subject and any grade…and it doesn’t take a lot of preparation.

Junior High/High School:

Stretch students’ brains and get them talking with optical illusions. Just search “optical illusions” on Google Images, and you’ll find plenty. Students can write about what they see and discuss their different perspectives.

Students, Come on Down!

Another option to get children of any age tuned in to the new semester is to take previous tests and quizzes and use them as questions in a game show. You can break students into groups to play (students are generally more motivated when they’re working with their peers), and you might choose to award the winners with five extra credit points on the next test or a dismissal from a homework assignment.

Starting the new semester with a game or activity will inspire your students to even greater heights during the second-half of the year!

Sandra Jacoby graduated from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in December, 2008, with a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies. She currently teaches pre-kindergarten in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Comments Off on Start the New Year with a Bang! Games and Activities to Inspire and Excite

Filed under Classroom Community, Cooperative Learning, Games, Writing

Teachable Moments…in the Tub!

Comment on this post and be entered to win one of several $20 School Box gift cards this month!

Wanna know a great place to teach your young child? In the bathtub! Talk about a captive audience…it’s perfect!

Recently, my toddler and I have embarked on a series of color lessons via the tub. We started with foam letters and numbers in a variety of colors, and now we’ve graduated to food color. A drop or two of liquid food color turns the water all sorts of fun colors. It’s amazing how much more fun bath time is with green water!

Another favorite  bath time color activity is painting. We start by putting a dollop of hypoallergenic, fragrance-free shaving cream in four cups. Then, my son and I talk about the colors we could make by adding a drop or two of food color to each cup. We often start with the primary colors: add a drop to the shaving cream and use a large paint brush to mix it up. Then, we’ll mix a drop of blue and yellow to make green, or blue and red to make purple. The large paint brush is the perfect instrument for adorning the tub’s walls with our shaving cream “paint.” And then, when my son rivals a California Raisin, we pour water on the walls and our paint magically disappears. Easy clean up!

What are your tricks for finding teachable moments during the day? Comment below and you could win one of several $20 School Box gift cards this month!

submitted by Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.


Filed under Motivation, Parenting, Writing