Monthly Archives: April 2013

California Black Bear Facts, and How Little Bear Broke Into Our House!


Greetings junior Sequoia bear!  In this photo, the little guy is in the pine tree right outside our cabin.

They have 5 toes, each with a well-developed claw.  The adults weigh between 100-350 pounds, and they are, well, as cute as teddy bears. Hello California black bears!  Some say they are dangerous (but aren’t all wild animals?) and in some areas, especially near, or in, the national parks and forests, they have been known to break into restaurants and houses, causing many upsets. I know it is inconvenient, to say the least, but, I must ask, isn’t this their forest and park?  Do humans not leave food and trash out to tempt them?  Have we humans not greatly harassed their habitats?

I live with my family in a remote cabin in Sequoia National Forest, where bears, bobcats, rattlesnakes, and even mountain lions are our neighbors. Last summer when the little bear in the photo above broke into our cabin, we were not offended, in fact, we were amazed that he was able to squeeze through our (large) dog door.  Afterward, we took measures to secure the trash bags that had drawn him in.

California black bears vary in color from tan or brown, to black.  Typically, they are dark brown, and occasionally have a small white chest patch, just like Little Bear.  Years ago, K and I saw a gigantic bear out on a hillside that was red.  It was a rare and magnificent sighting!


Bueller, the labrador, protecting the cabin from Little Bear, who was still in the tree.

Before Little Bear came visiting inside the cabin, we awoke one morning last June to a quiet, gorgeous, Sierra morning. I walked outside with K to greet the day when I saw a flash of black on the side of the cabin. Bueller went nuts. It was a little bear!  He scampered across the “yard” to an 80 foot pine tree and loped right up.  We were able to take a good look at him before we called the dogs back and waited patiently for him to feel comfortable enough to climb down and run off.  It was exciting, but we also knew that we would interrupt both the bear’s, and our, natural systems of living if we didn’t take steps to be sure that bears were not drawn too close to our home.

A few nights later we came driving up to the cabin and surprised Little Bear, who had decided to go through the dog door and investigate the cabin kitchen.  I opened the front door and was confused. There was liquid on the floor, right inside the door, and it had a bunch of dried pasta in it.  It dawned on me what was happening when I smelled the husky, earthy scent of wild animal.

BEAR!” I yelled to my husband, who popped Captain immediately back into the truck and shut the doors.  It was dark and eerily quiet in the house.  We carefully looked around and found the house clear. The screen door in the living room was open and there were paw prints so we knew that we had surprised Little Bear when we drove up, and he broke out and was gone. Now that things were safe, we brought in the very excited Captain, who ran around looking at everything with moon eyes. K and I got the kitchen cleaned up; Little Bear hadn’t been in our house long, thank goodness.  He had pawed around the kitchen a bit, but everything else looked okay.  We make our own power at the cabin and at night have little gas lamps to see by. It was pretty dark, and it was late, so we all climbed into a bed out on the deck, under the stars, and went to sleep….


Little Bear’s perfect paw print on my pillowcase!!!  I have kept this pillowcase and might even stretch and frame it…

The next morning, my brother-in-law, Ryder, and I did some more looking around in the cabin and were surprised by what we found!  We were able to trace Little Bear’s exact steps through the house.  He had entered through the dog door and barely started pawing through the kitchen (there were some broken jars of molasses, a bag of pasta etc) when we must have driven up and surprised him.  He probably panicked to get out and ran straight into my bedroom, which is right off the kitchen. He scrambled over the top of my bed, and my pillow!, down and over a giant stuffed teddy bear of Captain’s (!) and up on top of the piano, which is up against a wall with a window above it.  There were sticky paw prints on the piano and nose prints all over the window behind it.  He couldn’t get out there, so he scrambled back through my room, past the kitchen, into the living room where he made it to the screened window and jumped out, probably as I was opening the front door.  Wow!

Now this was an exciting event, but we do not want it to happen again, for both the safety of our family and home, but also for Little Bear. We don’t want his natural ways to be interrupted by getting used to humans and their habitats. California Black Bears eat both plant and animal matter, and tend to eat whatever is around that seems edible to them. This includes human food and trash. They eat a lot of ants and other insects in summer, and in the fall prefer nuts, especially acorns, and eat tons of manzanita berries. They are mostly plant eaters, but will take down young deer fawns, or other animals, if they are hungry.  Our Little Bear broke into our house because we live in his home of Sequoia National Forest, AND because we had some bags of trash penned up outside.  We take full responsibility for this event and have taken steps to greatly reduce the chances of it happening again.  Basically, we took care of the trash pile!

Cool California Black Bear Facts!

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California black bear population has increased over the past 25 years.  In 1982 the statewide bear population was estimated to be between 10,000-15,000.  A current, conservative, estimate is 25,000-30,000!  Hoo-yeah! That is such great news!!  40% of the statewide black bear population inhabits the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Bears mate in June and July.  Reproductive success is directly related to the abundance of high quality summer and fall foods.  You see, if bears eat a lot of human food and trash, it doesn’t really count as “high quality” foods, and effects their reproductive success.  We must keep our trash and human food out of their faces!!!

Wild female black bears have a very remarkable trait called “delayed implantation“, whereas an adult female will carry a fertilized egg in her womb for many months.  This allows the mama to time the birth of her cubs so that they are not born too early or too late.  If food is scarce, she will not have enough body fat and the egg won’t attach.  The females reproduce at about 4 1/2 years old and generally breed every other year, and produce 2-4 cubs per litter.  The young are born around the 1st of February while Mama is “hibernating”.  The little cubs weigh less than 1 pound at birth, nurse in the den (ahhh!), and emerge in April or May at about 5-7 pounds.  They will stay with Mama for up to 2 years, following, and learning all about being a bear from her.  Go Mama Bear!

Bears “hibernate” for 3-4 months, but it isn’t really a true hibernation!  It is called that, for convenience sake, but it is, in truth, something called “seasonal lethargy”.  Bears keep their body temperatures at 88 degrees and live off of their own fat. By contrast, the body temperature of smaller hibernators such as marmots, chipmunks, and ground squirrels may drop below 40°F. These smaller creatures are known as the “true hibernators”. Bears can go on sleeping because of their ability to retain body heat. They can wake if disturbed, although they require a few minutes to awaken.

One last fascinating fact:  Bears have the ability to regenerate and repair bones by a mysterious mechanism during hibernation!  Cool! Scientists are investigating this automatic regeneration to try to find out how it works.

You can click here for a free, printable “Keep Me Wild” bear poster, courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Seeing first hand the beauty of the California black bear is truly a remarkable experience.  I hope that my family and I can be of help to these majestic creatures.  Thank you so much for reading, and please let us know your thoughts, or ideas, here on kartwheels.

Good thoughts, Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

A Wonderful & Safe Medium For Young Artists: Painting With Kool-Aid Rocks!


Captain at 22 months painting with kool-aid outside on a sunny day

Want a better use for cheap packets of kool-aid than mixing it with a ton of sugar and drinking it?  Mix it up as safe watercolors for your little ones!  I couldn’t believe how simple and easy it was to do, and it really works well.  Kids really love to explore art at very early ages by drawing and coloring.  Why not give them a chance to paint too?  Before Captain turned two, she had already done a lot of coloring and drawing, playing with clay, and finger painting.  She saw me use paintbrushes when she was about 20 months old and wanted them for herself.  I couldn’t deny her!  I searched the house for something she could paint with that wouldn’t hurt her if she suddenly popped the brush into her mouth or got it into her eyes.  I found some old packets of kool-aid (the ones that don’t have the sugar already added) in grape, lemon, orange and raspberry. I mixed them up with just enough water to make “watercolors”. They smelled good to her, but I told her that they were not to eat and she NEVER tried to eat the paint.  I used the plastic tray from a box of crackers for a little “palette”. I taped down two pieces of paper at a time onto a table that was low enough that she could stand at it. I don’t think first time painting should be in a chair.  I could see how much she wanted to move around the table and be up over the top of it.  It’s exciting! Another cool thing to do is to tape paper to a post, or outdoor wall, so that kids can stand up and paint “easel-style”.  It just adds more to the ever-evolving experience of art, in my opinion. Keep a glass of water nearby for rinsing the brushes and a rag for little wipe-ups.

This early art-experience was such a cool foundation for so much more painting, and more mediums, to come!  She got to brush up (hello pun!) against methods, tools, and ideas, that artists of every age use, like a palette, real brushes, imperfections (there are spills sometimes, paper can get too wet etc.) and it made her feel very proud of herself. Okay, here is something else cool about kool-aid painting: You can make scratch-n-sniff works of art!!!!  Yes, the fruity smells do wear off after a couple of weeks, but it is fun to make simple shapes, like a sun, and then scratch them to sniff the lemony sweetness!  The thicker you mix the kool-aid paint, the more scent your “scratch-n-sniff” artwork will have.  Fun!


Tape the paper down onto the table to avoid frustrating paper-slippage 


Oh, it is fun Mom!



She called this one her “Bird on a Branch” 


Captain got used to painting with the kool aid and then quickly moved on to washable kids’ paints.  It wasn’t very long before she tried her first acrylics!


Kids love to see their artwork displayed, no matter what age they are.  This was our first “wall of art”.  We used to regularly switch out the pieces for new ones.  I’m so glad I took this photo to remember the beginnings of so many wonderful works of art!

I highly recommend purchasing an artist’s smock for children.  An oversized tee-shirt works okay, but my kiddo tends to dive right in with paints and other materials, and I like to protect her clothing.  We had a Young Artist Smock, which sells for $7.78 on Amazon. I liked this smock better than the “apron style” because it has long sleeves (for messy art!), slips on easily, and has a loose back, with a strip of velcro to close it quickly.  These smocks come in only one size, which fit most preschoolers, and I only wish that they made them in the next size up!

I hope you enjoy this style of painting with your little ones.  If you do any kool-aid painting, I would love to hear about it here on kartwheels!

Cheers and fruity goodness to all,


Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Captain: “Mom, take my picture! I just drew on my face with markers and became a lion!” Me: You look great, but did you use permanent markers?” Captain: “I don’t know. Let’s find out!”


A happy Saturday to all from Sequoia National Forest!


Categories: Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

Make Easy Recycled Rings of Power!


Using the seal from a 1/2 gallon of milk, a piece of a cereal box and some pretties, we made ourselves a couple of power rings! 


This is a cool project that Captain and I did yesterday, in only a few minutes, and it was fun!  We discovered that the seal from a 1/2 gallon cardboard milk, or juice, container was a perfect ring.  It fits almost any sized finger because the top flap holds it on comfortably, and can have just about anything glued on to it!

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Save your tops for rings of power!!  We want to figure out how to put dragons on them next 🙂

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The little seals fit both of us nicely…


We used a pink cap and a stone for Captain’s ring.  I used a hot glue gun to attach the pink cap and then glued the stone inside.  We finished it off by gluing the edge with sparkly red ribbon.  For my ring, I used a piece of cereal box, which we cut out into a pentagon shape.  I liked the orange side of the cardboard so I left that and glued a red, ruby jewel onto it and attached it with the hot glue.


I just wanted to share our simple idea for using stuff around the house. No need to buy anything when you have a hot glue gun, a creative moment, and a desire to make something out of what’s around.

Cheers!  Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Babies Communicate! The Importance of the “Stop Hand”


Sweet baby Captain telling me very clearly that I was being too loud.

When my husband and I discovered we were pregnant back in 2007, we were thrilled and appropriately nervous.  How could two people who had been living alone in a remote cabin in the forest, miles from town or other people, who had absolutely NO experience with kids, have a baby and raise it together in a healthy, happy and safe way? We had the most basic components: love, healthy relationships and excitement to welcome a new life into our family, but there were so many things to learn!  I would like to share one of the things that was very clear, easy to respond to, and helped us tremendously to listen to our baby, before she was able to use words, or other gestures, to tell us what was going on.  We called it the “stop hand”.

I spent a lot of my pregnancy in the mountains, without a lot of interaction with other people, while my husband was working during the days.  I was not alone however!  I was in the good company of 4 dogs, 2 cats, a load of chickens, and 2 beautiful geese named Ping and Vail.  The male goose, Ping, was my constant companion, as I sat in camp chairs outside reading.  He would honk at my big tummy and try to get my attention as I poured through birth and baby books.  Someone had given me a copy of Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child by Katie Allison Granju, Betsy Kennedy and William Sears, for which I will always be grateful.  The ideas presented really rang true for me, and just seemed like the right thing to do.  Co-sleeping, baby wearing, breastfeeding and elimination communication, among other things, were not hard practices to want to do.  Every parent makes different choices and these were just ones that struck an instant chord for us.  I plan to share our personal experience in elimination communication, and other natural parenting choices we made, at a different time.

Listening to our baby’s cues and doing our best in general helped us through a far from ideal birth experience, both mine and my husband’s postpartum depression, and endless sleepless nights.  What I want to focus on in this post is a specific cue that our daughter gave us as a baby, without words, to communicate that something was bothering her, before she started to fuss and cry.  It was the “stop hand”.  As you can see in the photo, Captain had her hand, palm out, open and nestled against her cheek. She was telling us “please stop”.  She would do this while awake, or asleep, to tell us if a noise was too loud, a movement or environment was making her uncomfortable, she didn’t want to be touched a certain way, or if she generally just wanted something to stop.  If we acknowledged this cue and stopped whatever it was that she didn’t like immediately, she was fine and would continue to sleep or go about her baby business.  If not, she would crinkle up like a piece of pink tissue paper and cry.

My husband and I started noticing the “stop hand” being used by other babies on our trips to town.  Once, we were picking up Grandma from the airport and saw a family with a tiny, brand new baby in a car seat carrier. The baby’s parents were hugging the grandparents, and we could see how hard it was for them all to say goodbye. The baby started to fuss in his sleep.  His mom suddenly reached for the straps and quickly lifted his still sleeping body from the carrier to hold him up to everyone for one last look. The stop hand immediately shot to his little cheek and stayed there for quite a while, as though trying to ward off the ooohs and ahhhs, before he crinkled up and wailed in misery.  I remember my husband whispering to me, “Oh look at the stop hand over there!”  We weren’t judging the parents at all as they were sadly saying goodby to loved ones, but we noticed how clear it was that the baby did not want to be touched while sleeping peacefully.

One other time that comes to mind was when I was in a Costco one day. Costco, with its bright lights and warehouse shopping vibe, probably isn’t very comfy for a babe anyways, but I saw a mom talking with a friend and all the while she was pushing the tiny baby back and forth rhythmically in the stroller to “soothe” him.  Each time she pushed and pulled the stroller, she would stop it with her foot and it would go bump, whooosh, bump , whoosh….  The women were admiring the baby, who had a stop hand pressed to his cheek like a little shield. He was sleeping, but starting to wake and really wasn’t ready yet.  I heard his mom say, “I wonder why he always puts his hand on his face like that?” and, 30 seconds later he was screaming.  Again, no judgement here, it is just something we noticed!

The “stop hand” baby cue seems to be fairly common and it helped us soooo much with Captain to recognize it!  It is a wonderful thing to respond to some of the things that babies are “saying”.  Reading their cues helps keep them happier and feeling secure. I would love to hear more about the cues we can experience with babies from any parents who care to share.  I am happy to say that Captain is 5 now and healthy, happy and doing great.  It is funny that still, on occasion, we see the stop hand pop out while she is sleeping.  It just happened the other night when she fell asleep in the car and I picked her up to carry her into the house.  Ohhhh little stop hand! It just fills my heart with the love and tenderness that I have felt toward her for all these years to see that little hand on her cheek!

I wish gentle love to all babies out there, and health and happiness to the children they become.

Good thoughts, Karen

Categories: Positive Parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Calling all K’ARTwheels Kids: Make a Fabulous Color Wheel Gecko!


Captain’s Gecko turned out great…. Turn the color wheel (poking out on the left hand side) and the gecko changes color!!!

Once in awhile, when working with kids, we come across a project or idea that is truly remarkable.  When a project really lights a kid up and makes them want to create something special, and they are willing to see it through to the end, it is a keeper.  This project has it all! Captain has been working on a science project involving geckos and wanted to add an art piece to it, so I looked around online and found this fabulous color wheel gecko conceived by Gail Bartel of  that artist woman.  Her site is incredible!!!  She is a terrific artist, and educator, and we will certainly be visiting regularly as there are so many great projects.

I want to share photos, the materials list, and a general idea of how we put this project together.  If you decide to try this, PLEASE use the link above to visit Gail and see the original project and photos. You won’t regret it.  The moving color wheel-in-a-painting concept could be adapted in so many creative ways.  The opportunities are endless! From this project, your child will gain an understanding of the basic color wheel, as they create one themselves, and understand how different components can come together to create an interactive piece that will wow family and friends.  I want to add that we did this project in several sessions.  This is not a super quick process, and I followed Captain’s lead as to how much we did each day, so you’ll want to plan accordingly.  There were times that she was ready to keep going but the paint had to dry!  Now, lets take a little peek!

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After the circle was cut out, Captain painted her color wheel first.  

Materials you will need:  

Tempera or watercolor paint (we used watercolor)

2 sheets of watercolor paper (we used a larger size: 11×15)

Fine sharpie

Template: click here to use Gail’s, or make your own.  I looked at Gail’s drawing and sketched one for Captain

Scissors, pencil, eraser

Paper fastener


Transparency sheet, optional but WORTH IT! (I found an old, clear report cover that worked great.) It just has to fit the gecko cutout.


Captain’s dad cut out the gecko template for her.  Gail shows a way on her site that students can do this step themselves without using an exacto knife, which can be dangerous.


Once the gecko was cut out, Captain sketched her background using Gail’s example on that artist woman as inspiration.  When she was done, we got out the watercolors!


She painted the sky in the background last and was really excited!


This photo shows the gecko painting upside down on the counter with both the fastener and transparency taped in place.  Time to add the color wheel!


She lined it up and got the fastener up through the hole.  This is the point when she realized why we put the color wheel “off center”.


This is a super fun step.  After everything was attached, she turned it over and got to add the gecko’s details right onto the the transparency with the sharpie.  Cute!!


Turn the wheel (showing on the left) and the gecko changes color!  She took her piece to one of her classes to let her friends see it and turn the wheel.

Yay!  This a terrific project and I want to thank Gail Bartel again for the inspiration.  If you decide to do this project, we would LOVE to see the results!

Cheers and colorful-friendlieness to all!


Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

Dandelions Rock! Dandelion Flower Cookies, Fairy Crowns, Crafts, Coloring Pages and Good Health!


Ooh, I want to be a tiny creature rolling around in the sunny yellow softness of Taraxacum Officinale!

Did the people of Atlantis really use the dandelion for food and to make exotic elixirs?  I don’t know for sure, but what a cool part of the legendary story!  Springtime bursts with these little beauties in fields and lawns, and every year they bring to my mind the memory of childhood.  I can close my eyes and still feel the grass between my toes as I took flight, with energy and madness, toward the swing set, the cool heads of dandelion clusters cushioning my toes…. my sisters and I rubbing each others’ noses with the silky yellow dust…. They are cherished in many countries for their health benefits and tastiness. Here in the US, dandelions sometimes get a bad rap as a “weed” or a “nuisance”, but as long as they haven’t been sprayed by weed-killers, they are delightful and nutritious!

The word “dandelion” comes from the French Dent de Lion, which means “lion’s teeth”.  All parts of the plant have been used for various things, such as the roots, which can be dried and ground for a coffee-type beverage. Dandelion greens were steeped by pioneers for a healthy spring tonic to replenish vitamins after the long winter. The blossoms are good for your heart, and dandelions have substantial amounts of calcium, potassium, Vitamin C and Vitamin A.  The best edible dandelions should be picked where the grasses grow tall and free as “yard dandelions” that have been cut are more bitter.  Be sure to gather the leaves before the flowers bloom for the best flavor.  The oil of the Dandelion is very good for massage.  As we are always looking for creative ways to paint, we are going to try painting with dandelion flowers as paintbrushes too. Cool!

4 Steps To A Beautiful Day With Children:

1. Find and pick some dandelions and make fairy crowns!  Simple make a small slit in the stem and poke another stem through it.  Continue on until a chain is made.  Or, take 3 flowers and braid the stems.  When one stem gets too short, add another one, and so on.  

2.  Dance in the sun!!  “Grow” up from the ground like a flower and sway in the breeze…

3.  Gather enough flower heads to strip the yellow parts into 2 cups.

4.  When it is time to go inside, make Dandelion Flower Cookies!  (Recipe to follow).


Dandelion Flower Cookie Recipe:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup honey

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup unbleached flour

1 cup dry oatmeal

1/2 cup dandelion flowers

Be sure to remove the yellow flower parts from the green parts (compost the green parts). Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix oil & honey, then beat in the 2 eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, oatmeal and dandelion flowers.  Drop batter by tablespoons onto oiled cookie sheets.  Bake 10-15 minutes.  Cool and enjoy!

Thank you Kimberly Gallagher for this wonderful cookie recipe found at  I highly recommend this site for lots of great herbal ideas, remedies and free stuff. Also, have you ever wished that waaaay back when you were, say 5, that someone had taught you about plants, herbs and natural remedies?  Check out LearningHerb’s kids book series: Herb Fairies A Magical Tale of Plants & Their Remedies!  I can’t wait to get them for Captain.

For a fabulous online source of natural dandelion supplies and information, bulk herbs, and sooo much more, please visit one of my favorite stores on Earth:  Mountain Rose Herbs!

Click here for a free printable dandelion coloring page.

Find a cute dandelion flower craft, using card stock, shaving cream, cotton swabs and green paper, here at House of Baby Piranha!


From all the way up here in Sequoia National Forest, we are wishing you a beautiful springtime.  As they say in the song, “These are the good old days!”

Cheers!  Karen

Categories: Foodarella, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

A Child’s Art Inspiration: Make a Recycled Clay & Dried Flower Sculpture


“All The Love In My Heart For Mom” ~ clay, dried flowers, feather & cardboard box sculpture, made by Captain when she was 3.

This is a sculpture that Captain made as a gift for me a couple of years ago.  She had been in the habit of picking flowers from a large Rose of Sharon bush and then drying them in baskets.  One day she decided to use a little white box to stuff all of the leftover bits of clay (the parts where all of the colors are mashed together) and, very privately, went to work. She stuffed the box with the clay very tightly and then carefully (yes, I do mean carefully!  Even though she was 3 she was very intent on her art projects!) placed the dried roses and pushed them in.  She was so proud to give it to me as a present, and I cherish it to this day!  It is gorgeous, and all of her own creation.  Originally, the sculpture didn’t have a feather in the top corner but she was bothered for a couple of months when she looked at it because she said that it was “not finished yet”.  She was pleased (and relieved) when she finally found what was missing and placed the feather in the top right corner.  I keep this sculpture on the mantel in our living room.

This sculpture is an awesome (we think!) use of all of the leftover bits of clay (do you have a baggie full?) dried flowers, or any other bits of found nature, feathers, beads, trinkets, well, just about anything that can be pressed into the clay.  She used a small 4 x 3″ white box, the kind that a little necklace would come in, but just finding a tiny box of any sort would work.  This is, afterall, a work of recycled art, and kids love that!


There is a gentle old-fashionedness to this piece that strikes such love in my heart!

I recommend first explaining the project and having the clay on hand. Then have an art “treasure hunt”, whereby the child searches for a suitable box and goes outside to gather found bits of nature.  This is a Captain-recommended project for kids and we truly hope you will try it, just in time for April Earth Month.  I am going to post a photo of this sculpture in the k’ARTwheels art gallery, and if your child makes one, feel free to contact me to show their recycled clay sculpture in the gallery, if they like!

We would love to hear your thoughts, or how this project worked for your family.

Cheers!  Karen

Categories: Art Rocks For Kids!, Homeschooling Projects | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

YAHTZEE! Early Education Dice-Play Really Helps Kids With Math!


There is just something about little dotted cubes that stimulate young minds toward math-related concepts in a really fun way.  Kids learn best when they have a tactile experience that is fun!  I’m writing this post because I have seen first-hand how certain teaching concepts really work with a simple set of dice.

We are a family that plays Yahtzee together.  Captain has been around this particular game often throughout her life, especially when Grandma and Grandpa are visiting, and the Yahtzee games turn into full-fledged tournaments. In fact, Captain actually sat down with her Grandpa a few months ago and played for 2 hours.  It was her first time actually playing her own game.  In the beginning, Grandpa had to keep her on track and kept patiently explaining how she had three rolls to try to come up with a suitable combination.  Midway through, she was making her own decisions and doing everything except adding them up.  It was amazing!


Here she is getting her very first Yahtzee (5 of the same number)

It isn’t just the game of Yahtzee that works.  Playing with the dice with little ones in itself is a terrific stimulator, and then slowly working up from there, as time goes on, does wonders.  Here are some suggestions for simple early education games to teach kids with dice:

  1. Roll a dice.  What number comes before? After?
  2. Is the number even or odd?
  3. Have a piece of paper and pencil handy.  Write the numbers in a different way.  For example, if the child rolls a “6”, have them write the number “6” on the paper etc.
  4. Roll a dice.  What number is ten more?  One less?
  5. Write the numbers 1-6 on small pieces of paper (or use flashcards).  Have the child roll a die and match it to the written number.
  6. Play “Add ‘Em Up”:  Set a goal of 100.  Have the child roll dice to start the game.  The parent will add the numbers as the game goes on.  As the child keeps rolling, point to each dot on the die while counting and add it to your total.  You don’t have to count super slowly, or even make sure that they understand every addition!  It about the stimulation and fun.  It all “goes in there” somewhere and adds to the natural learning process.
  7. If you have a lot of dice around, at least 10 or more, play “Dice Explosion!”  Simply have the child shake all of the dice around and let them “explode” onto the floor.  Then the scramble is on to try to sort them into like groups.  This could be a good release of tension, if there is no pressure to do it too fast…
  8. Play games like “Yahtzee”.  It might be too much for little kids, but I have seen it help kids, teenagers and even adults with their basic adding skills.  Let them try!

There are lots of resources available online for games for older kids and for more advanced concepts.  Just keep those dice rolling!  Definitely check out Shannon Dipple’s article entitled Math Games Using Dice on Primary Education Oasis.  She rocks!

Thanks for reading!  Karen

Categories: Homeschooling Projects, Math Rocks For Kids! | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Look What I Keep In My Mama-Car-Pack! …What’s in Yours?


From safety kit & spare toothbrush to change o’ clothes & coloring book, it may look like a heap, but it fits neatly into a little bag!

It was a vomit explosion! Yes, we were bumping down the road and, with no warning, my little girl went “braaahhhh” all over herself, the seat, the floor… well, you get the idea. Poor thing. She was okay, be we still had about 40 minutes of driving left and a big mess to clean up. I was never so grateful for my mom’s car-pack than at that moment. I was able to give her a piece of ginger gum, wipe her down and get her into clean clothes. I also had a towel and the wipes came in handy as well. All the messy stuff went into the plastic bag, she had some water and we were on our way.

I want to share what I keep in my personal “Mom-Car-Pack”. It has changed over the years, as she has grown, and this is what we feel we need to get down the road with a 5 year old. Any parents out there who care to share what they find useful for their pack, please write in here as we would love to hear new ideas!

Here are our essentials, which pack nicely into one of those thin “book bags” that we often get at events, but don’t really have a use for!

1. Safety kit including: Scooby Doo bandaids, neosporin, thermometer, Arnica cream, sunscreen stick, nail clippers, tweezers, Hyland’s bumps ‘n bruises ointment, ginger gum (for upset tummies), spare toothbrush & travel toothpaste.

2. Change of clothes, including undies, socks, pants, t-shirt & sweater.

3. Towel, rolled up tightly and secured with 2 rubber bands (never know when you’ll need a rubber band!).

4. Sani-wipes.

5. Activities (In case of car trouble, or other delay): Brand new coloring book, 2 packs of stickers, small packs of crayons & markers.

6. 4 travel tissue packs.

7. A small bowl with lid, spork & knife and a couple of “emergency” snacks like little cracker packets & raisins

8. FLASHLIGHT with hand-crank and/or spare batteries

9. Swiss army knife (can’t leave home without that!)

10. Couple of plastic bags


I drive a Volvo so my little bag fits right in behind the seat. I should note that if you live in a hot climate (like California!) you should be careful about storing food, creams and other heat-sensitive items. I never keep water in plastic bottles in the car because of heat and just bring it fresh when I head out the door.

So what do you keep in your car when you’re on the go? C’mon, you want to tell us!! 🙂

Happy travels, Karen

Categories: Mom's Junk Trunk | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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