1st Grade Books Perfect for Halloween Parties

If your school is like my kids sign ups for parent reading sessions are already in full swing.  Despite school only having just started teachers are already planning their schedules for parent reading schedules.  I have listed six of my most favorite, tried and true Halloween books for use.  I have used all of these books in my oldest classroom when he was younger and have even incorporated them into the Fall Party.  Think Musical Chairs with a book.

1. The Battle of the Red Hot Pepper Weenies– This is a compilation of short stories.  Some are scarier than others so read the stories first before selecting them for the classroom.

2. Hallo-wiener– Very popular because the title is super funny to little ones and the dog is cute….awwwwww

3. Big Pumpkin– It’s all about working together.  The voices that can be added to the many characters add some fun and the repetitive nature of the story allows for “kid actors” to play many of the rolls.

4. Dry Bones– This book is a little juvenile for the age group but when combined with a skeleton making craft and a bone lesson it offers fun and education.

5. Skeleton Hiccups– Another great craft and book combo.  Also it’s a great discussion starter about what cures the students hiccups.  Everyone has a different goofy cure.

6. Where the Sidewalk Ends- These poems are easy to read in a short setting and the fantastical nature of the poem stories make it a clear hit for both parents and kids alike.  This is not a Fall or Halloween book per se but the stories are odd enough they do not seem out of place.

I hope you and your children enjoy these books as much as my family has.  Happy reading!

Snacks for School Parties With Allergies

Well that time of year is here again.  The fabulous school year.  Depending on when your school year starts, mid August to early September is the best time of the year.  It is a parent’s favorite holiday for sure.  Backtoschoolaween is by far and away my favorite day.  It also means planning for classroom treats, birthday treats and party foods. 

As I was reviewing all my old party ideas I received an email from my son’s first grade teacher.  There were many food allergies in the classroom this year including, peanuts, fish and eggs.  What’s a Mom to do?  Many of my go to ideas centered around decorating cookies or cupcakes.  As I panicked I began listing in my mind all the things I thought contain eggs or gluten.  After much schizophrenic talking to myself I began the task of researching safe alternatives.  To my surprise there are many, not that expensive, options available out there.  As with anything please read every label before proceeding.  Some dips and salad dressings may contain things you would be surprised by.  Here are my top 10 ideas:

  1. Sunflower or almond butter with celery stalks-Raisins can be added for bugs on a log.  It can be fun to combine a creepy story about eating bugs while the kids are making these treats.
  2. Popcorn and candy corn hands-Assuming no corn allergies of course.  This is a great treat and craft.  You simply take non latex clear plastic gloves(powder free) and fill with popped popcorn.  The fingernails are placed first.  One candy corn pointy side down per finger.  After the bag is filled tie with a colorful string tightly and enjoy.
  3. Sliced apples and caramel dip-Read the labels carefully as some dips contain or are manufactured with eggs.
  4.  Cut fruit arranged in funny designs-This takes a little planning but can be super cute and popular.  First take a picture and enlarge it to cookie sheet size(or draw your own if your creative).  Next decide what colors work best with each part.  Next go to the store and pick fruits with colors that will work with your design.  The great thing about this is you can cut the fruit into whatever size and shape you need so color is the only limiting factor.   
  5. Yogurt with granola or fruit-Most yogurts are safe but check the labels.
  6. Jello
  7. Cut veggies and hummus
  8. Cheese and sausage-Be careful to check the labels as some sausages contain eggs or are processed in a facility with egg products.
  9. Chips a Hoy Chocolate Chip Cookies
  10. Oreo Cookie Tower-Oreo cookies come with their very own glue so the skies the limit when it comes to design.  They can be mixed and mashed(literally) together to create shapes, designs, pictures and towers.  To make a tower use small dowel rods or popsicle sticks and “glue” them together with the creamy center of the Oreos.  They will not support a ton of weight but half the fun is the destruction right?

Most baked  goods including crackers are out unless your willing to pop for the much higher cost of gluten free/dairy free products.  There are many out there but they can be quite pricey.  if your school is like mine baking your own is out of the questions as only prepackaged items are allowed.  With an open mind and a little creativity you can still have a fun and rewarding party.

 


 

Best Ways to Make Your Ice Cream Social Successful

Schools almost back in session.  The sun is hot, kids are excited and ice cream is in the air, or sidewalk.  Ice Cream Socials are a staple of many back to school events.  If you are in charge of yours this year let me guide you through the fun, yummy and sticky world of ice cream toppings.

The first thing to keep in mind is scale.  Are there going to be 20 people or 200 going through the line at the same time?  If there will be large numbers coming through at the same time consider 2 lines to maximize serving time.  Ice cream takes forever to scoop up and surprisingly it takes a long time to cover with toppings.  Have two dedicated ice cream scoopers to scoop ice cream into cups or cones to keep the line moving.  Next have 1 helper per 2-3 toppings.  Some toppings will not be that popular and can be handled together but others are so popular almost every person will want some.  Spread the popular toppings out so they are not organized together on the table.

Most Popular Toppings are:    

  • Chocolate syrup/sauce
  • sprinkles
  • gummy bears
  • fruit
  • M and M’s

These toppings should be placed next to less popular toppings whenever possible.  Place the napkins at the front of the line with the plates and spoons as they will get utilized more and less spills will be left for clean up both on the serving table and at the dining tables.

Remember to clearly note the presence of nuts if you choose to include them.  Place a card on the table and alert your helpers to never switch serving spoons between toppings to avoid cross contamination.

Using plastic spoons can be challenging when serving frozen icr cream so start scooping 10-15 minutes before the event.  It will allow the ice cream to soften enough to eat and help you get ahead with serving.

It is very hard to get volunteers before school has even started so ask friends and family to help you until you can recruit help.  If you don’t have as much help as you would like and some have to wait, thats ok it’s a great opportunity to get to know other parents and children and to recruit new volunteers.

Lastly do not forget to relax and eat some yourself.  The old addage “Don’t cry over spilled milk” applies to melted ice cream as well.

When Good Parties Go Bad

The day of the party is here, you are as prepared as you can be.  The games are great, the craft took plenty of time and actually looks like what it’s supposed to and the treats were gobbled up.  You look at the clock, there are only minutes left.  You are in the home stretch when Fate steps in and throws you a curve ball…

How many times after making yourself crazy, obsessively painstaking planning and hundreds of dollars, the party goes literally in the pooper.  Everything is going along great when the unthinkable happens, someone starts crying or my favorite someone throws up.  EEEEWWWWW!  Do not panic I have been there more times than I want to count.  I can help you be prepared.

The biggest tools in your arsenal are control, calmness and a game on hold.  Teachers have been through this many times so look to them to contact the custodian and approach the child.  Your job is to mitigate the damage.  Stay calm and control the situation by moving the children to another part of the classroom or even the hall if necessary.  Always have a game in your metaphoric back pocket.  I keep telephone phrases, words for jumbling and a quick game of bean bag toss if you need to move to the hall.  All of these games are cheap, easy to prepare and can be used again and again.  There are themed bean bag toss games available at Oriental Trading Company but you can just as easily buy bags from your craft store and use a bucket.  Keep in mind if you are going to use a word jumble for the real young ones it must be very easy.  Words like BOO, or TREE would be fine.

The next thing to consider is smell. I know this is really gross, but it is there so lets deal with it.  If there is an offending odor, you need to distract from it immediately.  The easiest way to do this of course is with Lysol spray but that can sometimes make the situation worse.  I suggest pulling out those markers and madly coloring.  Always keep coloring pages handy and some markers that smell.  I know, I know the markers that smell are almost always the staining kind.  You don’t need an entire packet.  Just a few markers strategically placed with each parent helper can help mask that troublesome odor.  The marker smell is powerful and not associated with sickness or cleaning so it will do the trick without the kids even being aware.

Lastly noise is essential.  I would normally never advocate a loud game but now you want to draw attention away from the poor child by creating a little pandemonium.  Start a rousing version of Row Row Row your Boat or any other song that can be sung in rounds.  This is VERY loud and the kids will easily forget what’s going on around them as they concentrate on their particular part.  This game can go on for as long or short a period as it needs to making it the ultimate flexible party activity.

Finally remember if something happens it’s no big deal and it doesn’t have to ruin the party.  As my Momma always says “Don’t sweat the small stuff”.

 

Popular Kids Party Food and Drink for Halloween

Kids can be finicky.  What one kid likes another hates.  When you add in allergies and sensitivities it can be a nightmare to pick the ideal party food and drink.  Let me guide you through what can be one of the most challenging choices to make.  These ideas below are all easy and always popular with even the most picky of eaters!

Popcorn Hands with Candy Corn Fingers

The beauty of these are that they are a twofer.  They are a delicious snack that satisfies both the salty and sweet craving and its a great time-wasting craft.  You need clear plastic gloves and yarn to tie the ends closed.

Jello with Wiggly Surprises

Make jello, any color or flavor, in a sheet cake pan.  When you pour the jello in the cake pan to firm up, add any gross edible candy you can find.  Gummy worms, eyeballs, pumpkins, or nerds.  Just about any candy will work just make sure you cool the liquid jello slightly before adding the worms or they could melt.  Bulk candy can be found at any grocery store.  I found red, green and orange jello works the best for the gross out factor.  Lastly cut the jello into squares or cookie cutter shapes like ghosts or pumpkins if your feeling ambitious!

Rice Crispi Treats with Candy Confetti

Everyone knows how to make Rice Crispi’s Treats, but if you don’t the recipe is on every box of Rice Crispi’s.  The key to Spooky Halloween treats is lots of red and orange food coloring and orange and black candy confetti.  This can be found at most large grocery stores or craft stores.  You just need candy small enough to put in the treats but large enough to be seen.  Often you can find orange marshmallows in the Fall and then you won’t need to use food coloring.  If you have to use food coloring add it after the marshmallows are melted and before you add the cereal.  These treats can also be cut into fun shapes with a cookie cutter like the jello.

Ants On a Log

These are a classic that are given a new twist to adjust for food allergies.  Celery sticks cleaned and cut into logs as usual but instead of the traditional peanut butter use cream cheese.  You can use raisins or cut up fruit of any kind.  Celery has very little taste uncooked so it is the perfect conductor for other flavors.  Cream cheese and strawberries are very pretty and quite tasty.  If you have both peanut and strawberry allergies use kiwi or banana.  Just make sure you come up with inventive names to make the kids squeal with delight or fear.  Names like boogers on a log or slimy worms on a log definitely paint a picture.  Stink bugs on a log are my oldest boy’s favorite.

Spooky Brew

This is an easy drink that can be modified to fit almost all tastes.  Grape juice mixed with pineapple juice is delicious but looks terrible.  Thats perfect.  The key to the brew is the look not taste.  If you serve it from a glass punch bowl you can freeze an ice ring with gummy worms, pumpkins, vampires teeth whatever you have.  If you use red juice like cranberry juice mix 1 liter of Sprite and add an ice ring of vampire teeth.  Punch of the Vampire is both gross and tasty!

Spiced Apple Juice

Apple juice mixed with a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg gives the perfect little kick that makes this drink special.  This drink is even better warm.  If you heat it ahead of time you can transport it in a large cooler and it will stay warm for about an hour.

All of these treats and drinks can be easily modified for different tastes, allergies and sensitivities.  With a little adjustment they can be modified for different seasons as well.  Enjoy the party!

5 Easy Crafts for Kindergartners

If the idea of 25 Kindergartners with glue, glitter and scissors makes you cringe and run screaming from the craft table I’m your gal.  Don’t be intimidated.  It is possible to make cute, easy, non-messy crafts with the little guys.  You simply have to plan ahead and above all else keep them busy.  I have used all five of these ideas in parties many times and know first hand they are successful.  Some of these ideas do take some fore thought however,  so start early because they are well worth it.

1) Snow Globes

You will need clean baby food jars or small jelly jars with the lids, water, small charms or toys for the bottom of the globe, glitter or snow and super glue.  The jars do not have to be the same size or shape just small, clear and clean.  I suggest sending an email to the class roster the first of October asking for jars.  Have a deadline of one week before the party so you know just how many jars you have collected and how many you still need.  Ask your family, friends and neighbors for their empty jars as well.  The charms can be purchased in bulk from many online stores.  I have purchased mine from US Toys and  Oriental Trading Company.  The day of the party you will need either a pitcher of water or a sink in the classroom, two parents to help and paper towels to dry the completed jars.  Create stations to select the charms away from the water and gluing station as this “picking” process seems to create the biggest bottleneck.  Place the charms in two baskets at a table and have the children come to the charm station two at a time.  Once their charm is picked have a parent at the glue station super glue the charm to the underside of the jar lid.  Let the charm dry completely before moving to the water and glitter station.  It typically takes about 2 minutes to dry.  Finally add the snow or glitter to the inside of the jar and fill with water.  Lastly screw the lid on tightly and dry with a paper towel.  This craft will take approximately 30 minutes based on a class size of 20-25 children.  There is a great deal of down time with this craft before the charm is picked and after the globe is completed so I suggest having the children move directly to a coloring page station to keep them occupied and quiet while they are waiting.  A variety of crayon and marker colors and paper shapes and designs will keep kids attention.  Cut strips of paper into small rectangles for book marks, larger rectangles with holes at the top for door knob hangers, medium circles with holes for tree ornaments or hearts for valentines.  Start this craft early as it can use a lot of time and every child will want a snow globe.

2.)Soup Mix and Recipe

This is a super easy craft that creates very little mess.  The teachers love this craft as the children practice their writing and measuring skills.  I suggest using this craft for the February party as the kids will have developed better writing skills and will be better able to complete this task.  You will need a soup recipe,  I have included mine below as well as find this great recipe here from IFoodTV, large Ziploc baggies or bags with rubber bands or ties for closing, notecards or paper cut into rectangles with a hole punched to attach the bean recipe, string or yarn to tie the recipe to the bag, spoons for the children to ladle the beans into the bags and the beans you are mixing.  Most bean mixes will use just about any kind of bean available and I suggest buying whatever is on sale and modifying the recipe to fit the bean.  Place the different types of beans in their own bowl, with a card sticking out and the number of spoonfuls needed, and place the bowls at a table.  You can set up multiple tables with identical bowls, bags and cards to accommodate all the children.  Place a parent helper at each table to assist the kids.  Instruct the kids to spoon the exact number of spoonfuls of beans into their bag.  Do this for each type of bean.  Finally have the children copy the recipe from the chalkboard and attach to their bag with the string provided.  Parents helpers may have to assist children with the writing, closing and attaching of the recipe.  This craft typically takes about 10 minutes.

8 spoonfuls Dry Navy Beans

6 spoonfuls Dry Black Eyed Peas

5 spoonfuls Dry Red Kidney Beans

3 spoonfuls Dry Pinto Beans

2 spoonfuls Dry Split Peas

Recipe:

5 Bean Mix

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

2 large carrots chopped

2 celery stalks including leafs chopped

1 small onion chopped

ham bone or leftover ham cubed

1 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper

1/2 tsp each garlic and celery salt

Brown celery, carrots and onions in 1 TBL olive oil over medium high heat until onions are translucent.  Add chicken stock and remaining ingredients.  Cover and reduce heat to medium.  Cook for 6-8 hours.  Stir the soup and check on fluid level every hour.  If stock gets to low add more as needed to keep at a constant level.  This recipe makes soup for 4.  Serve with bread and salad.  It can also be placed in a crock pot.

3.) Cookie Decorating

This craft can be done very easily and many parents will volunteer to buy the plain sugar cookies or supplies as this is an easy way for them to help.  To keep messes contained place plastic table cloths on and under each table being used for easy clean up later.  You will need plain baked sugar cookies, icing, sprinkles or candies and spoons.  It is also helpful to have small plates handy for kids to place their cookies.  Have several different colors of icing and colors of sprinkles, candies and edible decorations.  All of these things can be found easily at any grocery store.  Place the supplies and spoons at the table and let the kids go at it.  You will need to keep an eye on the children however, as some  invariably will try to eat the icing or decorate themselves.  This craft will take about 10 minutes.

4.)Create Your Own Tote

These bags are hugely popular.  If they are to be used in the Fall call them candy bags and for the Winter call them gift bags or totes.  I received many phone calls and emails from parents thanking me as they had forgotten candy bags for Halloween and this was a huge time saver for them.  These bags can be purchased at Oriental Trading Company or any large craft store.  They can be decorated with as much or as little as you would like.  Use scraps of leftover material, fabric markers, glitter, foam board, cotton balls.  Just about anything you can glue to the bag can be used.  Place the bags and supplies at each table needed and let the kids loose.  This craft will take about 10-15 minutes.

5.)Flower pots

You can choose to decorate the pots with stickers and glitter before planting the seeds.  If you decorate the pots let the ink or glue dry before planting the seeds.  I suggest decorating the pots first, playing games and then planting the seeds.  You will need a small pot for each child, dirt to fill the pot, a pitcher of water and seeds for planting.  Pots can be purchased at any large craft store or online in bulk.  This craft works best for the Spring parties.  Have the children spoon dirt into their pot until it is 3/4 full.  Sprinkle several seeds on top and cover with dirt.  Pour a small amount of water over the dirt.  These pots can be placed into plastic bags to take home.  Both flowers and fruits are hugely popular with the children.  Having a variety of seeds is best.  This craft will take approximately 10-20 minutes depending on if the pots are decorated.

All five of these crafts have worked very well and I have used them multiple times.  Most of the crafts are not going to break the bank either as other volunteers will be willing to contribute items.  The key to a good party is planning, planning and more planning.

Top Five Kindergarten Party Game Hits

Games seem to be the hardest.  What to do that the kids will enjoy, won’t create to big a mess, will be age appropriate and proven winners.  The question I get asked the most is what games to play for the little ones.  Kindergartners are arguably the easiest and toughest to plan for.  They are enthusiastic and excited about everything but they can be easily distracted and wild.  Any game needs to be quick moving, involve large groups of people and not to messy.  At this point I know everyone has visions of trying to herd cats, but trust me it can be done.  You can engage these very sweet and energetic kids without creating pandemonium.

1.)The popcorn relay

This one can be done with any number of different items to run, popcorn, jelly beans, cotton balls to name a few.  You need several small trash cans or buckets, several large spoons and the item to be transferred.  Popcorn is fun and cheap but can be quite messy.  I found jelly beans or other small candies work just as well and are not nearly as difficult to pick up afterwards.  The staff will definitely appreciate the use of candy versus popcorn come clean up time.  Simply divide the class into several equal teams.  I found about 4-6 people per team works best.  Each team will get a full bucket of candy and an empty bucket.  They will also be given one large spoon.  The race starts as one member of each team puts as many candies as they can on each spoon and runs it to the empty bucket at the other end of the classroom.  The child runs back and tags the next child in line.  The relay continues until the once full bucket is now empty.  If the buckets are large this game will typically take 10 minutes to complete.

2.)Mummy Wrap/Gift Wrap

This one requires very little in the way of supplies.  You can use toilet paper for the fall or leftover gift wrap for winter.  Include bows, yarn, spiders, candy corn, whatever would be fun to add to the wrapped child.  If you are making a “mummy” use plastic spiders, candy corn or glow sticks.  If you are wrapping a “gift” use bows, yarn, confetti, christmas ornaments or tinsel.  This is a great use of leftover Christmas paper and wrapping materials.  Divide the class into teams, 4-6 per team works best.  If you have any more than that there are to many kids wrapping and wildness ensues.  One child is selected as the “mummy or gift” and the others are the wrappers.  The goal of the game is to use all the wrapping supplies before the other teams.  A fun variation of this game is to find a kids Winter or Fall rap CD and play it during the wrapping process.  When the music stops whichever team is the furthest along is the winner.  This game takes typically 5-10 minutes to explain and complete depending on the amount of supplies used.

3.)Guess How Many

A time tested game for sure.  You simply need a large clear glass bowl, vase and enough candies, buttons or beads to fill it.  Fill the vase with whatever items are appropriate to the season.  Candy corns or small pumpkin candies for the fall, candy hearts or red hots for February and silver, red, gold balls or Hersey kisses for the winter.  The kids simply need to guess how many items are in the bowl.  Make sure you count the candies as you place them in the bowl the night before.  Have a parent record each child’s guess.  The child closest to the actual number wins.  This is a good game to use as a station game, meaning it can be used at the same time as other crafts or activities.  This game usually takes the whole party to cycle kids through but does not take much of each individual child’s time.  Teachers like this game as well as it introduces the children to estimation.

4.)Telephone

Who hasn’t played this game.  This is great because you can play as many rounds as needed, it doesn’t require any set up or materials and the kids love it.  Make sure you have many phrases pre-made however as this age group has a tendency to be quite silly if left to pick their own phrases.  You will get a large number of bodily function jokes.  I use phrases such as “The Silly snowman slid down the hideous hill on his way home.”  Rhyming phrases and phrases with similar sounding words and lots of consonance make for the best telephone phrases.  The children should sit in a circle and the first child should be whispered the phrase by the adult leader.  The child then leans to his neighbor and whispers the phrase as they heard it.  The game continues until the last child is whispered the phrase.  They then say out loud what they heard.  This game is great because it is a real time waster.  Use this game at the end of parties to use the last couple of party minutes up.  It can be used for as short or as long a period of time as needed depending on number of phrases used.

5.)Bingo

Everyone loves a good Bingo game.  You can make your own Bingo cards for the season or holiday or buy them pre-made.  I have done both.  The pre-made ones  are usually not expensive and definitely will save you time.  Here is a site I have used before to purchase pre-made cards and tokens.  You can make your own however as long as you have a computer, printer and a whole lot of patience.  Remember if you make you own you need to also make tokens or balls to pull out to announce the next letter and object.  Kindergartners are a tricky bunch as some can read and others can not.  Use cards that have more letters or more pictures depending on how advanced the class is and where in the school year this game will be used.  If you use this game in the Fall I would use pictures only except for the top word which could be CANDY or GHOST.  This game takes a lot of time and is relatively quiet in the classroom but you will need lots of parent help.  You will need a parent to draw the Bingo tokens, and about 1 parent per 4 children.  Teachers like this game as it reinforces what they are already learning, does not create any mess and is very quiet.  This game typically takes 10-15 minutes to play.

Game winners can win small trinkets like themed pencils, markers or erasers, candy, or glow bracelets, necklaces or pins.  These can be purchased in bulk cheaply from and stored for the next party.

There are hundreds of sites out there with great information.  I have included a few below.  The five games listed above I have used myself with my oldest and plan to use again with my little one.  These games are for sure winners which do not require a great deal of money to set up and are flexible on time.  The key to this grade is stay flexible and have a Plan B, C and D as necessary.  Keep the party moving and the kids active and it will be a huge success.

Awesome Kids Parties

EHow Mom

Family Fun