• Get the most out of your library with these tricks and save yourself thousands each year
    gift guide,  resources

    10+ of the Best Educational Gift Ideas for Elementary

    Welcome back to the second installment of my educational gift guide series!

    Today I wanted to share some of my favorite gift ideas for kids in elementary.

    Once again the things on this list are things we either own and love or are really high on my to-buy-very-soon list. I could have shared way more things on this list but I wanted to keep it small to make sure I was sharing the best of the best.

    Here’s the list of the different categories in this educational gift guide series:

    + The Best Educational Gift Ideas for Toddlers
    + The Best Educational Gift Ideas for Preschoolers
    + The Best Educational Gift Ideas for Elementary (this list!)
    + The Best Educational Gift Ideas for Middle School

     

    The Best Educational Gifts and Toys for Elementary ages 5-8

     

    EDUCATIONAL GIFTS FOR ELEMENTARY

     

    Educational Gift Guide for Kids

    Little Bits Kit

    All the Little Bits kits I’ve seen have been so cool, my kids are both pretty into Star Wars so we have the Little Bits R2D2 which is pretty fantastic, my coding boy loves it. There are a variety of other Little Bits kits available as well.

     

    Usborne Step-by-Step Drawing Book

    As a person who cannot draw very well I am ill-equipped to teach my children to draw but I love these Usborne step-by-step drawing books, I feel like they help make up for my lack of drawing abilities.

     

    Educational Gift Guide for Kids

    Snap Circuits

    I couldn’t even tell you how many hours my kids have played with Snap Circuits, they love making different circuits to make the fan go and making it play the “Happy Birthday” song. My kids have learned so much about circuits just from this alone!

     

    Rubix Cube

    Did you know that there is so much more than the original Rubix Cube? My kids love playing around with theirs and are so proud when they get a side (or two!). At this point they haven’t used YouTube to look up the algorithm to figure out the cubes completely but I’m sure that day will come soon.

     

    Microscope

    I still remember the year I got a microscope for Christmas as a child, I loved it (and I wasn’t even into science at that age)! There are so many fun things you can learn about through a microscope, my personal favorite as a child was looking at the intricacies of dragonfly wings.

     

    4 in 1 Robot Remote Control

    This is totally up my six year old’s alley, it’s a robot to built plus a remote control! I’m not sure it gets any better than that. Oh wait, yes it does because there are four different options to build!

     

    GAMES

     

    Spot It

    This is such a simple game in theory but so fun to play! It works on vision skills, reactionary skills and fine motor skills all at the same time! I like that it comes in a small tin so it is easy to take along when we go places where I know there won’t be much for the kids to do.

     

    Rush Hour

    This is a fun logic game. We own a slightly different version (Rush Hour Shift) and I prefer this one. Plus, kids can play it on their own and I find it can be hard to find games like that.

     

    Quiddler Junior

    Quiddler is a fun game to play once kids can spell, the junior cards are fun because they give word ideas on each card. Plus it comes with little point cards which have 1, 5 and 10 points and it works well for teaching kids how to make 10. So while it’s generally though of as a language arts game it works well for math too!

     

    Forbidden Island

    If you are looking for a fun game to play with your kids, Forbidden Island is a good one. The box actually says ages 10+ but we’ve played it with our (then) five year old and he totally got the game. It is a cooperative game and involves problem solving and strategic thinking.

     

    BOOKS

    Looking for some good book ideas for elementary aged kids? Check out these lists:

    + The All-Time Best Picture Books
    + The 40 Best Classic Read Aloud Novels
    + Fantasy Books for Elementary
    + Ten Funny Chapter Books

     

    What are some of your favorite educational gifts for elementary aged kids?

  • Our Favorite Games to Play - Intentional Homeschooling
    gift guide,  preschool,  resources

    10+ of the Best Educational Gift Ideas for Preschoolers

    With Christmas around the corner I’ve obviously been thinking a lot about gift ideas for the kids and one of my favorite kinds of gifts to give kids are ones that are fun but also educational.

    Of course Christmas isn’t the only time we are buying gifts for our kids (or other kids) and I wanted to have a place to share some of my favorite preschool items.

    The things on this list are things we either own and love or are really high on my to-buy-very-soon list. I could have shared way more things on this list but I wanted to keep it small to make sure I was sharing the best of the best.

    I am planning on making this an education gift guide series, here’s the list of the different categories I want to share:

    + The Best Educational Gift Ideas for Toddlers
    + The Best Educational Gift Ideas for Preschoolers (this list)
    + The Best Educational Gift Ideas for Elementary
    + The Best Educational Gift Ideas for Middle School

     

    The Best Educational Gifts and Toys for Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten kids

     

    The Best Educational Gifts and Toys for Preschool and Pre-Kindergarten

     

    Wooden Blocks

    I would highly suggest a pack or two of wooden blocks, they have endless hours of use. My kids love to build towers, houses, bridges for their cars to drive through and so many other things. I love the creativity they come up with when using wooden blocks.

     

    MAGNET BOARD

    We have had this magnet board for years and the kids have gotten so much use out of it. There are a number of similar types of magnet boards out there. They are great for learning shapes and figuring out how to create the different pictures. It’s perfect for those pre-math skills.

     

    Explorer Kit

    An explorer kit is a fun gift for this age. You can buy all the items separately to create your own kit or buy a pre-made one. Then you can go out exploring and give your child certain things to find.

     

    Reusable Sticker Pad

    Stickers are fun for kids but reusable stickers are even better! We love the Melissa and Doug ones that include different scenes. They also have habitat and vehicle versions.

     

    Reusable Water Pad

    These are another great reusable activity. My kids have all loved these water booklets and once they dry they can use them all over again! We’ve found some at dollar stores and Melissa and Doug have some as well.

     

    Floor Puzzle

    Preschool is the perfect time for puzzles and I love the idea of a map puzzle, lots of learning in one item!

     

    Robot Engineer

    If you have a builder this kit looks amazing. It comes with a story and is a build-along adventure where you can build the different machines they talk about in the story.

     

    Our Favorite Games to Play - Intentional Homeschooling

     

    GAMES

    We love to play games in our house, here are some of our favorites for the preschool age.

     

    Outfoxed

    This is by far the most played game in our house. My daughter got it for Christmas years ago and we played it more than thirty times in the first week! When we have preschooled aged kids over we pull this game out frequently and it is always a hit. In the game you are a detective (a chicken) that is looking for clues to find out who stole the pot pie! It’s so cute and works on kids’ deductive reasoning.

     

    Robot Turtles

    Another well used preschool game that we have, in this one kids learn basic coding concepts as they use their turtle to move, turn, push boxes and laser beam icicles all to find the diamond.

     

    PitchCar

    PitchCar is a good game for dexterity and motor control. Kids have to take turns flicking their car across the track without flying off.

     

    Castle Logix

    This is a fabulous looking puzzle game where kids are presented different castle building challenges. This one is really high on my to-buy list.

     

    BOOKS

    Need some book ideas for preschool? You can check this list of my favorite books that preschoolers love.

     

    What are some of your favorite educational gifts for preschoolers?

  • Our Homeschool Week in Review - what we did and resources we used with a toddler, preschooler, first grader and fourth grader
    real homeschool stories,  week in review

    Homeschool Week in Review – Volume Four

    A few words I would use to describe our homeschool this week: worn out, uninspired and boring.

    Ha! Sounds too good to pass up, doesn’t it? Don’t worry, not every week is like this one!

    Most of the reason for the feeling worn out was due to our two foster boys, I was just plain out overwhelmed this week and that feeling just flowed over into our homeschool.

    Since we are Canadian I can’t even blame our lack of academics this week on Thanksgiving like my American friends can . . . 😉

    Even though it feels like we didn’t do a whole lot this week I still like to review the week here.

     

    Our Homeschool Week in Review - what we did and resources we used with a toddler, preschooler, first grader and fourth grader

     

    OUR HOMESCHOOL WEEK IN REVIEW

     

    For reference, here’s the low down on all the kids:

    The Daughter – she’s 9 and in grade 4
    The Son – he’s 6 and in grade 1
    The Preschooler – he’s 3
    The Toddler – he’s 1 (almost 2)

     

    Here’s a recap of our week:

     

    + On Monday my husband had his EDO so he took the six year old to a local free homeschool skating. In the past we’ve gone almost every week in the winter but now with two littles without skates we hadn’t gone at all. Hopefully the two of them can go a few times throughout the winter.

    + The preschooler seemed to really be lacking in sleep this week and he didn’t do a whole lot of work. That being said, I introduced him to the Starfall app and he spent some time going through some of the letters of the alphabet on there.

     

    Our Homeschool Week in Review - what we did and resources we used with a toddler, preschooler, first grader and fourth grader

     

    + Playdough is always a good toddler distractor when we are trying to get things done. I have a super simple gluten free recipe that I use though after it’s been in the bag for awhile it needs some more corn starch added (thus all the white powder in the photo).

    + I’ve been attending a weekly women’s Bible study that wrapped up this week. The kids like it because there are some other homeschooled kids that are there so they get to hang out together each week.

    + My son did a decent amount of reading this week. We worked a little bit out of TYCTR but mostly he read out of Little Bear.

     

    Our Homeschool Week in Review - what we did and resources we used with a toddler, preschooler, first grader and fourth grader

     

    + One of the books my daughter is currently reading (not for the first time, I have no idea how many times she’s read it) is Hugo Cabret. It is one of the few books she considers a five star book and if you’ve never seen inside of it you need to get your hands on it, it is over 500 pages long and alternates between written chapters and pages of pictures.

    + If you’re interested in what we read each week, I share a monthly reading wrap up over on my personal blog and you can also sign up for my book-ish newsletter.

    + My daughter has been writing in the journal she started a couple of weeks ago nearly every day, it’s good writing practice and it seems to be good for her mentally to get some of the thoughts out of her head (just like her mother . . .).

     

    Our Homeschool Week in Review - what we did and resources we used with a toddler, preschooler, first grader and fourth grader

     

    INTENTIONS FOR NEXT WEEK

    I pretty much failed at last week’s intentions, let’s hope I can do better this week. My over all goal for the month of December is pretty much to focus on Advent/Christmas.

    + I got Danger on a Silent Night at my library in the used book section and am planning on getting my daughter to read it this month (it will probably only take her a day or two).

    + We’ll be reading through one story a day from The Jesus Storybook Bible and I may get the kids to do some Bible journaling as we do so.

     

    How was your homeschool week? Do you have any good resources you think we should check out in the upcoming weeks?

  • book lists,  elementary,  picture books

    The Best Children’s Books for December

    Here we are at the end of monthly book lists! I can’t believe how fast this year went by!

    For this month’s book list I wanted to stick with the reason behind this season and focus on books that prepare us for the Christmas season.

    I am always looking for more great Christmas books that keep Christ at the center so if you have some that aren’t on this list let me know so I can check them out!

    If you are looking for Advent resources you can find some here.

    You can also check out a similar themed list (with almost completely different books) I wrote three years ago!

     

    The Best Children's Books for December

     

    The Children’s Books for December

     

    The Jesus Storybook Bible

    I think this (the Bible) is the best place to start in December. It was apparently unintentional but it just so happens that they are 24 readings leading up to the Christmas story! This is my favorite children’s Bible, I found it so impactful reading it an an adult.

    While other Kids’ Bibles contain stories from the Old and New Testaments, The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the Story beneath all the stories in the Bible, pointing to Jesus as our Savior. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, as the Story unfolds, children will clearly see that Jesus is at the center of God’s great story of salvation—and at the center of their story too.

     

    Jotham’s Journey

    I’ve heard about this series for so many years I am glad to finally read this one this year!

    In this widely popular, exciting story for the advent season, readers follow ten-year-old Jotham across Israel as he searches for his family. Though he faces thieves, robbers, and kidnappers, Jotham also encounters the wise men, shepherds, and innkeepers until at last he finds his way to the Savior born in Bethlehem.

     

    Song of the Stars

    An another amazing work by Sally Lloyd Jones, such a good book for this season!

    The skies shouted it to the seas that thundered it to the waves that roared it to the great white whales that sang it to the starfish in the deep. And tiny sandpipers danced it on shining sands… “It’s time! It’s time!” On one quiet night, creation whispered a secret. Grass and bees, robins and trees all spread the word. Sheep told their young while angels sang the song to the shepherds. Hushed news of a miracle echoed to the ends of the earth. The moment had come. The long-awaited child had arrived! Creation cried out in celebration, but only a few people heard. Only a few joined nature’s chorus, a song in praise of the newborn King.

     

    THE CRIPPLED LAMB

    This one is so sweet, I loved it when I was younger and I love reading it now!

    In this timeless bestseller, readers experience the tender love God has for those who feel alone and different. Joshua was a lamb with a crippled leg who felt left out because he couldn’t run and play like the other lambs. But God had a very special plan for Joshua’s life, as He does for all who feel alone. Readers can expect a gentle tug on their hearts as the little lamb’s prayers are answered in an amazing way. Original oil-painting illustrations by Liz Bonham brilliantly capture the beauty and warmth of this endearing story.

     

    The Littlest Watchman: Watching and Waiting for the Very First Christmas

    Benjamin is a Watchman. It’s his job to watch for the sign that all God’s promises are coming true. It’s his job to watch a stump.

    Trouble is, it’s hard just waiting. And one night, Benjamin finally gives in and stops watching. But that same night, as he sits outside Bethlehem, he gets to watch something wonderful.

    A Very Noisy Christmas

    Some think that Christmas was a “”Silent Night””. Far from it. It was filled with shouting, singing and screaming! It was as noisy as any of our Christmas celebrations.

    This fun and fresh retelling of the Christmas story comes with sound effects so that children can join in as parents read to them. But it also shows children that at the heart of the Christmas story is something we should all be quiet and see: God’s son Jesus was born, so that we can be friends with God forever. Now that’s something worth shouting about!

     

    From Eden to Bethlehem

    Your family will love this unique board book! Using colorful, engaging artwork, From Eden to Bethlehem introduces little ones to the coming messiah – from fall to prophecy to Incarnation – using the animals of the Bible to tell the story.

    Children will delight in the beautiful illustrations and learning about key animals in the Old and New Testaments. The creatures featured in From Eden to Bethlehem follow the narrative arc of Scripture and help children understand Jesus’s coming as the central story of the Bible.

    You will appreciate the artistic design, theologically sound content, and helping your little one gain a greater understanding of the animal kingdom, as well as the coming/establishing of God’s kingdom on earth.

     

    The Christmas Promise

    A captivating retelling of the Christmas story showing how God kept His promise to send a new King. Superb illustrations by Catalina Echeverri and faithful, Bible-centered story-telling by Alison Mitchell combine to make this a book that both parents and children will love.

    A long, long time ago so long that it’s hard to imagine God promised a new King. He wasn’t any ordinary king, like the ones we see on TV or in books. He would be different. He would be a new King; a rescuing King; a forever King!

     

    The Silent Noisy Night

    The night Jesus was born is frequently referred to as a silent night. But how could it possibly have been silent if Jesus was born in a manger, with cows and sheep and donkeys and probably chickens and mice and birds all celebrating His birth? How could these creatures keep quiet?

    The Silent Noisy Night takes on a new twist to the Christmas story by exploring what the night may have been like if all the creatures and people celebrated the birth of Jesus in their own God-given, special ways. With cows mooing and donkeys braying, it may have been a very noisy night.

     

    What are you favorite children’s Christmas books?

  • The Best Advent Activities and Resources for Families and Parents
    resources

    Advent Resources for Families

    One of my goals for December is to put most of our emphasis on Advent and the Reason for the Christmas season.

    I asked on Instagram last week if my followers had any good Advent resources to share and I’ve been doing some research myself and I wanted to share some of the resources I came across.

    Many of these I have not used myself yet but they have been recommended by trusted sources or come from reputable sites so I feel confident in sharing them.

     

    The Best Advent Resources for Families and Parents

     

    FOR THE FAMILY

     

     

    JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE READING PLAN

    This is so easy and one of the things I plan on doing; the Jesus Storybook Bible (one of our favorite children’s Bibles) has the perfect reading plan for Advent (there are also some printables and a song playlist!). If you read a story a day starting on December 1st you will end up at Jesus’ birth on the 24th! I love how Sally Lloyd Jones made such an emphasis on showing how every story in the Bible is all part of the bigger story and points to Jesus.

     

     

    JOTHAM’S JOURNEY

    Okay, here’s where I am kicking myself. I knew I wanted to start this series by Arnold Ytreeide this year and I didn’t order it in time for it to arrive for Advent (since I’m in Canada and it ships from the US). I have heard such good things about these books! There are four of them and you do one a year starting with Jotham’s Journey and then it goes into Bartholomew’s Passage, Tabitha’s Travels and then Ishtar’s Odyssey.

    Oh, nevermind, I just realized that Jotham’s Journey is available on audio on Scribd! That means we still can do it for this year! *insert happy dance* I am really excited about this and plan on ordering the second book well in advance for next Advent! (There is also an Easter story but I had read that you need to have read Jotham’s Journey in order to read that one.)

     

    OWLEGORIES

    I have never watched Owlegories before but I have heard good things about their Christmas episode and we have access to the show thanks to Right Now Media (we have a subscription through our church) so I want to check this out with the kids. I’m assuming it is more geared towards the younger kids but I’m sure the older ones will want to watch it too.

     

    Ten Christmas Books the keep Christ at the Center. Ten Christian Christmas Books.

     

    CHRISTMAS PICTURE BOOKS

    If you are looking for some Christmas picture books to read that keep Christ at the center you can check out this book list I created a few years ago.

     

    FOR THE PARENTS

    In addition to being intentional about Advent with my kids I also want to do some reading and observing of the days myself. Here is what I plan on doing:

     

    Advent Scripture Writing Challenge

     

    ADVENT SCRIPTURE WRITING CHALLENGE

    I have been creating Scripture Writing Challenges for the last few months for myself (and anyone who wants to join in) and this month’s theme is Advent!

     

     

    HIDDEN CHRISTMAS

    I saw this book on a friend’s coffee table a few weeks ago and knew I needed to check it out. I was glad to find that Scribd has it on audio and I actually just finished listening to it and can highly recommend it.

     

    God Rest Ye Merry

     

    GOD REST YE MERRY

    This is a book that a friend recommended to me so I once again turned to Scribd and they also have this one on audio! I have it all queued up and ready to go next.

     

    SHE READS TRUTH

    I know She Reads Truth has an Advent devotional book (which I was also too late to order) but they usually have a free Advent devotional on their site and I’m assuming they will again this year and I think I will try to read along.

     

    I know there are a ton of other Advent resources out there but I wanted to keep this list on the simple side and tried to stay away from too many bells and whistles to keep the focus where it should be (on Christ). If you have an awesome Advent resource that you think I should add to this list let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!

  • Our Homeschool Week in Review - what we did and resources we used with a toddler, preschooler, first grader and fourth grader
    real homeschool stories,  week in review

    Homeschool Week in Review – Volume Three

    I think we are slowly getting into a bit of a home and homeschool routine with a preschooler and toddler in the mix!

    Thankfully we all got more sleep this week than last week so that obviously makes a big difference in our homeschool.

     

    Our Homeschool Week in Review - what we did and resources we used with a toddler, preschooler, first grader and fourth grader

     

    OUR HOMESCHOOL WEEK IN REVIEW

     

    For reference, here’s the low down on all the kids:

    The Daughter – she’s 9 and in grade 4
    The Son – he’s 6 and in grade 1
    The Preschooler – he’s 3
    The Toddler – he’s 1 (almost 2)

     

    + My son did multiple TYCTR lessons this week and even did two in one day!

    + We got the flu shot at the beginning of the week so I tried to find some videos on YouTube about vaccinations and we watched a couple but I couldn’t find anything that was really that great.

     

    Our Homeschool Week in Review - what we did and resources we used with a toddler, preschooler, first grader and fourth grader

     

    + The preschooler learned about the letter B and did a few activities with the letter in his preschool journal including putting simple dot stickers around the letter. (Also, I love that he is obsessed with our Iron Man mask and wears it around up on his head, not over his eyes, almost all the time.) He has been really into the letter B and is pointing it out wherever he finds in. (#winning!)

    + The other highlight of the preschoolers week is still our Usborne Maze book that I got about eight years ago that they no longer sell . . .

     

    Homeschool Myth: Homeschoolers are Socially Awkward - tackling the issue of homeschooling and socialization

     

    + My older two each had a friend over one afternoon. Homeschooling socialization for the win!

    + I got my daughter started with a “daily” journal (just in a composition notebook). I thought this would be both good writing practice and a good way of processing the day for her. I did give her a few different general journal prompt ideas to help her out on days that she gets stuck, like:

    • what you did today (or yesterday)
    • something you are looking forward to
    • something you want to tell me
    • the best part of your day
    • the hardest part of your day
    • something you are afraid of.

     

    Our Homeschool Week in Review - what we did and resources we used with a toddler, preschooler, first grader and fourth grader

     

    + The toddler was around for most of our schooling this week, one day I taped a piece of paper to the table (so he couldn’t keep knocking it off) and gave him some stickers and a stamp and he was surprisingly entertained for quite some time! Next time I might use our big Ikea paper roll to give him an even bigger space.

    + My daughter also finished her Vienna report from last week, she made it on Canva and had a cover page and a few different facts. It was something out of the norm from what we’ve done in the past and I think it was a nice change.

     

    Our Homeschool Week in Review - what we did and resources we used with a toddler, preschooler, first grader and fourth grader

     

    + My daughter did division for most of the week in math but there was one day where our math got pushed into the evening and she just wasn’t in the mood for something “hard” so I pulled out this Usborne wipe clean multiplication book I have.

    + Speaking of math, my son really struggled with math this week. Honestly, I think it was more of a mental struggle, I know that he knows the stuff he was working on but he was convinced he didn’t know it. So we left that behind and worked on some measurement instead and it seemed to help his mindset.

     

    INTENTIONS FOR NEXT WEEK

    + Get back into our Bible journaling, it’s been awhile . . .

    + Do some drawing, it’s something we haven’t done for the last week or two.

    + Learn about the letter C with the preschooler.

    + Play some games! This was a goal for this last week and I forgot about it so we didn’t play any. (These are some of our favorites if you need some ideas.)

     

    And that’s another wrap up! Things have definitely been harder with a toddler and preschooler and so I’ve slowly been trying to add a subject back in each week and we’re getting closer to where I want to be. I’m looking forward to next week!