Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween

From all of us at RedRoko.


1 Hour : Read It : Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic

One of my favorite things to do each fall when the days get shorter and the nights turn cooler and evening seems to stretch on forever is to curl up with a good book in a cozy reading chair. And some of my favorite times doing this occurred in my childhood. As a result, many books from my childhood have a special place in my heart.

One of those special places is reserved for Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and her upside-down house. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle opened the door to a magical place where every childhood misbehavior could be solved in a crazy, zany way that just didn't happen in the real world. And Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle knew how to have fun in the process and send you home with tummy full of cookies.

In Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic you learn all sorts of cures for some very bad habits.

The Bad-Table-Manners cure involves a pig named Lester, and, in no time, a mysterious powder sprinkled in the ears cures a Thought-You-Saiders epidemic. The Waddler-I-Doers find plenty to do when Mrs. Piggle Wiggle turns a rainy day into a unforgettable top-secret indoor treasure hunt!
Just as the title implies, most of the cures in Mrs. Piggle’s Magic involve some sort of magic (whether an unusual pig or a magic powder or something called ignorance tonic). Although somewhat unlike the first book, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, in which children are cured by slightly more believable methods, this book is great fun, wonderfully imaginative, and not to be missed by fans of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and her unusual childhood cures.

So, pull up a chair, sit next to nice, toasty fire and read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic to your kids. You all will be engulfed in her fun, and who knows, your own kids might even be cured of their misbehavior. (short summaries and reviews)


Thursday, October 30, 2008

15 Minutes : Know It : Thank You (ASL)

Teaching your children sign language is a great idea. Not only is it teaching them a new way to communicate but it also helps develop attention skills.

As we are entering November and the Thanksgiving season why not teach your kids a new and fun way to express their gratitude.
Here's how you say "thank you". Try using this more around the house and out and about.

Thank You

**Remember that just because you are using sign language doesn't mean you can't say "thank you" along with it.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

1 Hour : Make It : Glow-in-the-Dark Bags

image via google

Safety during the dark night of trick-or-treating is always a concern for any parent. This year, along with basic safety instructions, we're making glow-in-the-dark bags to collect all our goodies and give us just one more advantage of being seen in the dark.

I chose to buy dollar bags at Michaels and we'll paint them with sayings, pumpkins, ghosts and bats. If you're not looking to get new bags you can easily paint over existing fabric bags or plastic tubs. While your at it, talk to your children about how important it is that other people and especially cars see them during this hallowed night.


1 Hour : Play It : Halloween Movie Night

When I was a child every year before Halloween you could find me watching my favorite Halloween cartoons over and over. Seeing those cartoons now brings back childhood memories and feelings. It's a great tradition...something that all ages can enjoy.

If you haven't yet caught one on TV create a family movie night yourself. Halloween night would be great...after you've made the rounds trick-or-treating and your trying to calm everyone of their sugar highs. I think it would be a great way to wind things down without the kiddos feeling that way.

Some of my most favorite cartoons are:

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

Donald's Scary Tales

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

Other great Halloween movies:

Mickey's House of Villians

Bed Knobs and Broomsticks


Hopus Pocus

Freaky Friday


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

1 Hour : Make It : Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe is one of my favorites come Fall time. It's also a great one to involve the kids...even the little ones. Everyone can help! There's nothing technical just opening, pouring and stirring. With only three ingredients it's hard to mess this one up.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
1-box Spice cake mix
1-15oz canned pumpkin
1/2 bag mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Spoon drop cookies on greased pan. Make 12-15 minutes or until done (depending on how big your cookies are - I like mine big).

Suggestion: Try this same recipe in a bread pan for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip bread...yum yum!


Monday, October 27, 2008

1 Hour : Play It : Leaf Painting

My kids fingerpaint at least once a week; they love it. Today, once toddler is down for a nap, we're going to do this variation that I found at

Collect different fallen leaves. Turn them over to examine the bumpier, veined side. Coat the back of the leaf with fingerpaint, and make patterns on paper. See how the "leaf stamps" make different pictures.

(General tip for fingerpainting: We sometimes paint on the back of old wrapping paper--it's slick and shiny. If I have enough, I actually tape it to the table and they paint all over it.)


1 Hour : Play It : Family "Spooky Stories" Night

Kids of all ages would LOVE to do this.

activity via Nestle

  • "Spooky" movies (available at movie rental stores)
  • Scary Halloween music (available on CD at music stores)
  • Flashlight
  • Decorated candy basket filled with 1 or more bags of The NESTLÉ Ultimate Scream Collection candy
  • NESTLÉ Hot Cocoa Mix

  • Pick an evening close to Halloween for your "Spooky Stories" Night.

  • Tell everyone to get into the mood for the evening by getting in costume.

  • Simply dressing in black is very effective!

  • Dim the lights, have the scary music playing softly in the background and invite everyone to sit in a circle.

  • Pick an older child or adult to be the Spooky Story leader.

  • They will have a filled candy basket and a flashlight in front of them.

  • It is their job to welcome the circle to... SPOOKY STORIES NIGHT! (you can turn the music up, for effect)

  • They will begin a Spooky Story Chain.


  • The first person in the story chain has the filled candy basket and places a lit flashlight und his or her chin.

  • He or she begins the Spooky Story. For example: It was a dark, stormy Halloween night. The old house on the hill had been empty for years…

  • They take a candy treat from the basket and pass it and the flashlight to the person next to them who must continue the story. The next person might continue the story by saying…Even though the house was empty, many people swore that they heard strange noises…

  • This person takes a candy treat and passes the basket and flashlight on to the next person until everyone in the circle has added to the story.

  • Remember, the last person in the circle must end the story!

  • After the last story is told, settle everyone in front of the TV with a warm mug of NESTLÉ Hot Cocoa for one of the "classics", like Frankenstein or The Mummy.

  • If you have a little one that is too young to participate in the story chain, have them sit on an older child's or adult's lap so that they can try the flashlight and have a turn dipping into the candy basket.

  • Give everyone paper and pencil and have them write down a small part of a spooky story.

  • Fold the papers up and place in a basket.

  • Begin the story chain as above, but each person thereafter will draw one of the pieces of paper out of the basket and read it.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

15 Minutes : Make It : Ghost Lollipops

This was one of my favorite Halloween activities when I was a little girl.

- Lollipops (I always used Tootsie Rolls)

- White Tissue or Napkins

- String

- Black Marker

How To:
Place the white tissue over the top of the lollipop. Gather around the base of the sucker and tie with string. Draw scary eyes and mouths with the black marker.


Friday, October 24, 2008

1 Hour : Make It : Sugar Cookies

Fall marks the beginning of sugar cookie season for me. Yup, that's right! I can not experience the month of October (Nov, Dec, or Feb) without a home made sugar cookie...preferably with sprinkles on top please. This "season" starts in October and ends with the holiday, Valentines Day! What can I say, I love sugar cookies and I love decorating them during the given holiday. I'm always looking for ideas. I find a lot of ideas from cooking ads in magazines and when I see them, I rip them out and stick them in my personal recipe binder so I will always have them. I personally am not that picky with my sugar cookies other than they have to be soft and I prefer home made frosting (ok so maybe I am picky). But when it comes to decorating I really am not picky or real fancy either. I usually make the frosting a fun color and use my creativity with different kinds of sprinkles/candies...that's it. I see lots of fancy decorated cookies around but lets be honest they may look good but the frosting rarely ever is. I would show you a picture of my Halloween sugar cookies this year but...I already ate them....oops.
Here are some great Halloween/Fall ideas I've come across that are kid involvement friendly.

Children love sprinkling on the sprinkles or sticking on a candy corn or two.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

15 Minutes : Know It : Bowling

Did you know bowling dates clear back to the Egyptians in 5200 BC? It's true, although some argue that it really originated in Germany in 300 AD. Either way, that was a really long time ago. Back then they rolled cannon balls to knock down objects called pins, and it was called "Kegelspiel". Now that's funny! It wasn't until the 1800s that it made its way to America. Now it is known as a competitive sport. And who would've thought it takes 135 muscles to play.

The sport of ten-pin bowling is performed on a straight, narrow surface known as a lane. This bowling lane is 60 feet from the foul line to the head pin (1-pin). About 15 feet from the foul line are a set of guide arrows. The lane is 41.5 inches wide and normally consists of 39 wooden boards or a synthetic material.
information via

As technology has improved, the game has only grown bigger and better throughout the years.
Without those nifty screens and computes scoring can be quite complicated.
Wikipedia has done a great job at explaining it.
And for more fun facts visit this site.


15 Minutes : Play It : Ghost Bowling

If it's starting to get chilly outside this may be a great idea to change things up a bit while in doors.

Option 1: if you already have a set of plastic bowling pins (or some other type of bowling set), take some napkins (or white scrap material), unfold it and stick it on top of each pin. The drape effect will leave it looking like a ghost. Add eyes with a black marker (or googley eyes) and if you want to get fancy tie a black ribbon around the neck.

Option 2: if you don't have any type of bowling set...don't fret, make you're own using disposable cups. Place a ball of modeling clay (or something to help weigh it down) in a cup. Invert a second cup and place it on top of the first. Then tape the rims together. Place pins in triangular formation (4>3>2>1). Any type of ball can be used for bowling ball (how about a tennis ball).
Obviously any type of cup can work (plasic or paper). If you are wanting to create the ghost effect try using transparent or clear plastic cups adding eyes with a marker or just apply Option 1 to what you have.
Perfect!!! Now you can go bowling without spending a dime or at least saving a dime or two.


Monday, October 20, 2008

15 Minutes : Know It : Tricky Treats

photo from

You just know your kid and every other kid in your neighorhood is going to get plenty of candy. If you're like me, you like to throw in the healthy treats as often as possible. Call me a Halloween humbug, but I still think kids like snack foods or other prizes as much as the candy bars. So, here is a list of non-candy items that either I have given to trick-or-treaters, or I have appreciated seeing in my kids' bags:

Fruit leather

Bagged chips (hey, Fritos are sort of healthy!)

Mini bags of microwaveble popcorn

Glow-in-the-dark bracelets

Bagged nuts or trail mix

Nickels or dimes

Small sheet of stickers

Plastic spider rings

Halloween pencils


1 Hour : Make It : Leaf Luminarias

Really not looking forward to carving pumpkins again this year but would love to have the welcoming candle light outside? Give these leaf luminarias a try....your kids will love the misting paint.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

15 Minute : Play It : Halloween Dance Moves

photo via Julie Walton Shaver

Do you have a favorite Halloween song? If not, local radio stations will be playing all kinds of spooky music (like Monster Mash) this season to get up and dance to. Kids love to dance and having a parent involved makes it even better. This year turn up the tunes and inspire your kids to do their spookiest moves...I'm sure everyone will get a good giggle.

Some ideas to inspire creative movement could be:

  • floating like a ghost
  • flying like a bat
  • walking like Frankenstein
  • squatting like a pumpkin
  • moving like a scarecrow
  • walking like a black cat


Friday, October 17, 2008

15 Minutes : Read It : It's Halloween, Peter Rabbit

photo courtesy of

A very short counting board book with darling Beatrix Potter-style illustrations. I like the vintage, non-spooky Halloween feel of it.


15 Minutes: Make It: Shake-And-Make Butter

Shake-And-Make Butter
Most mad scientists have their assistants test their mysterious concoctions, but this one is so good you'll want to try it. In a plastic jar, pour in 1/2 pint HEAVY CREAM and a pinch of SALT for flavor. Add one clean marble. Screw on the lid, and shake until the cream thickens so much that you can't hear the marble rattling inside. It will take about 15 minutes, so you and your "assistant" might want to take turns. Open the jar, and drain off the liquid (take a sip, it's buttermilk). What's left is butter. Spread it on toast, and taste how delicious! Shaking causes the fat droplets in the cream to join together, becoming the larger globules that form solid butter. The marble helps to stir it up. Store the butter in the fridge for up to one week.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

15 Minutes : Play It : Pumpkin Seed Hide 'n Seek

This activity is great for preschoolers and young school children. They are able to imagine and identify objects that they are touching, but not seeing. Pour 2-3 cups of pumpkin seeds into a paper bag. Collect about 10 small items, such as marbles, buttons, closed safety pins, hairclips, rubber bands, paper clips, etc., and put them into the bag as well. Ask your child to find all the items just by feeling. Before she pulls one out, ask her if she knows what it is without looking.

Variation: Put a combination of pumpkin seeds and dry beans into a bowl and see if your child can separate them with her eyes closed.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

1 Day : Visit It : Scarecrow Festival

All four of my kids loved the Scarecrow Festival at Thanksgiving Point last year, so I'm glad to see it's scheduled again for this month. The activities ranged from big blow-up slides and tunnels to old-fashioned fair games to a little train ride compete with engineer. Though I had expected it to feel like a cheesy carnival, I was pleasantly surprised at a quainter, autumn-y atmosphere. I recommend taking sack lunches (there is food, but you know $$$), a stroller, a camera, and sweaters.

If you don't live in my valley, find similar events at your local nurseries, farms, and family venues.

(Caveat: The tickets may seem a little pricey at $5 for adults and $10 for children, but the family pass is reasonable at $30. And the festival comes only once per year.)


1 Hour : Make it : Leaf Placemat

Materials needed:

Transparent contact paper

Go for a quick walk in your backyard, neighborhood, or park. Help your child collect an assortment of leaves--at least ten different colors and types. Look for leaves that are in good, dry condition. Once at home, have your child arrange the leaves in an area the size of the placemat you will make. Encourage her to put the leaves close together, even overlapping a bit. Next, cut two pieces of contact paper and remove backing of one piece. Carefully transfer leaves to the clear plastic; you may want to hold the sticky paper still while your child places her leaves. When all the leaves are placed, remove the backing from the second piece of contact paper and slowly smooth it over the leaf arrangement, matching edges as best as you can. Trim as needed.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

15 Minute : Know It : Why Do Leaves Change Color in the Fall?

I lived in Pennsylvania about ten years ago and the first fall I was there, I was shocked by how gorgeous the landscape looked with the changing of the leaves. Everywhere we drove and everywhere we looked it was a riot of jewel-like colors: ruby reds, deep purples, violent oranges, and mustard yellows. It seemed that overnight the entire countryside turned from a green velvet blanket to this wild assortment of lollipop colors.

I think that was when I first really wondered: what makes leaves change their color? And why do they do it every fall?

Well, in order to understand the process you have to be able to explain a few rather large words:

  • Glucose: a kind of sugar. Plants use sunlight to turn carbon dioxide and water into glucose. Glucose is food for plants. So, plants like sugar just as much as your kids do!

  • Photosynthesis: the way plants turn carbon dioxide and water into sugar.

  • Chlorophyll: a chemical that helps with photosynthesis. It also gives plants their green color.

When the days get shorter and cooler in the fall, this signals that trees to begin to get ready for winter. They will rest during winter and live off the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their food-making process, or photosynthesis, and the green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves of trees. When this bright green fades, you can begin to see orange and yellow colors appear. Those colors were always present in the leaves, but during the summer they are covered by the green of the chlorophyll.

The bright reds and purples that appear in the autumn come about because of the glucose in the leaves. Here is an quick explanation:

In some trees, like maples, glucose is trapped in the leaves after
photosynthesis stops. Sunlight and the cool nights of autumn cause the
leaves to turn this glucose into a red color. The brown color of trees like
oaks is made from wastes left in the leaves. (via

So, leaves change color because the green chlorophyll departs in the autumn. We get oranges and yellows from this event. When chlorophyll departs, photosynthesis winds down and the glucose in some leaves is turned to red. The changing colors let you know that Nature is beginning her long winter's nap.


15 Minutes : Make It : Monster Salt

Monster Salt
Transform tiny salt crystals into gigantic ones. Pour 1 cup WATER into a saucepan. Have a parent bring water to a boil, then remove from heat. Add 1/2 cup of EPSOM SALT and stir until it dissolves (we also added food coloring for fun). Keep adding salt until it no longer dissolves when stirred (1/4 to 1/2 cup more). Let cool, and pour into a glass jar. Tie a cotton string to a pencil, and tie a metal washer to the other end; string should be long enough so washer hangs no less than on inch from the bottom of jar. Set pencil on jar with washer dangling inside. Watch over the next few days (break away any crust that forms at top of the jar): As the water evaporates, the salt left behind will join together, forming large crystals. To keep your salt formation on display, remove the salt-covered string and hag it in a clean jar.


15 Minutes : Know It : Wolves

Take a moment tonight to glance up at the moon. You may notice it looks like a full moon and while it is extremely big and round Wednesday night's moon is actually the FULL MOON. One thing that comes to mind when I think of a full moon is wolves. It's actually a myth that wolves come out and howl at the full moon but here are some facts just for fun.

taken from Martha Stewart Kids: Fall 2004
Wolves may have longer noses, stronger jaws, and bigger feet, but they are a lot like the smart and social pooches that people keep as pets. Scientist believe that all dogs --- from tiny chihuahuas to giant Great Danes -- descended from wolves that humans tamed about 14,000 years ago. Wolves roam all over parts of North America, Europe, and Asia. Those who live in colder climates have snow-white fur with special air pockets which trap heat to help keep them warm. All wolves travel in packs, usually in groups of four to seven members -- about the size of a typical human family.

6 Facts About Wolves - Amanda Genge

Most wolves in North America are considered gray wolves, though they can be black or white in color. Red wolves, which are red in color and can be found int the Southeastern united States, and Abyssinians wolves, which are reddish-brown in color and live in Ethiopia, are distinct species.

2) Packs of wolves can cover territories as great as eight hundred square miles in search of food; other animals, such as deer and bears, have limited territories of only a few square miles, If the food supply in an area is limited wolves will fiercely defend their territory from intruder packs.

3) Wolf pups weigh a pound at birth; they reach full size of eighty to one hundred pounds at about nine months old. When theyre three weeks old, they begin eating meat. To feed their young, adult wolves use the same technique some birds do: They eat a meal, and then throw up some of it into the pups' mouths.

4) Like dogs, wolves have their own individual personalities some are timid, some are aloof, and others can be quite outgoing. The different dispositions are reflected in part by the wolves' order within the pack --- higher-ranking animals are more likely to be confident, while lower-ranking ones are often cowardly and shy.

5) All wolf species are considered threatened or endangered in most areas of the United States--- in part because human development has destroyed their natural habitat. Gray wolves used to live all over the country, but their population is now concentrated in the north-central region (near Minnesota) and Alaska.

6) Wolves aren't aggressive towards humans---they often flee when confronted. No unprovoked attack have ever been reported in North America

Did You Know?...
A wolf's howl can be heard up to ten miles away.

Large paws let wolves move easily across uneven ground. When they need to get somewhere fast, wolves can sprint up to forty miles per hour, but they usually jog steadily at around six miles per hour.

A wolf's largest teeth, which he uses to grab and hold prey, are two inches in length; that's about eight times the size of human canine teeth.

Like dogs, wolves use their tails to show their mood. If a wolf is relaxed, so is his tail. If he wants to be intimidation, it will perk up and out behind him.

Wolves have a sense of smell that's about 100 times greater than humans. This helps wolves sniff out their next meal from as far as four miles away.

Wolves aren't as mean and scary as they might seem in fairy tales. In fact, they are actually quite shy. Their furry coats, which help them to easily blend into their surroundings, can be gray, brown, black, white, tan or red.

Something To Laugh About...

Q:Which day of the week is a wolf's favorite day?
A: Moonday

Q: Where do they honor the loudest wolves of all time?
A: the Howl of Fame


Monday, October 13, 2008

15 Minutes : Play It : Sink or Float

photo courtesy of

Talking about the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria might inspire you to try some water activities.

My kids already love playing with water, so it's simple to add a little science to their fun. We do this activity in a bucket outside, in the bathroom sink, or in the tub. Of course, after they test the sink/float abilities of their toys, they spend even more time just splashing around.

I've also done a more in-depth sink/float experiment for 3rd and 4th graders. In addition to making predictions, we discussed the factors that cause items to sink or float, and we tested items in different amounts of water. Some ideas for older children can be found here.

The following simple instructions are from

Tub of water or small bucket
5-10 small items that will sink or float in the water (I would have 5 that float and 5 that sink)

Talk to the children about what floating and sinking means.
Hold up one item at a time and ask the students if they think that item will sink or swim.
Then after they predict, put it in the water and see what happens.
Talk to the children about their prediction and if they were right or not.
Leave the container of water and the objects in the room and let the children play with the items in the bucket.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

15 Minutes : Read It : The Runaway Pumpkin

The catchy, rollicking rhythm of this rhyming story holds the interest of my little ones and has them giggling--and even reciting the words--by the end. The illustrations are kooky without being ridiculous, and have a warm autumn feel about them. Great for all ages because it is not a bit spooky or scary.


15 Minutes : Know It : Pumpkins

Help your kids select the best pumpkin to carve with these tips from Real Simple.

- Examine the rind. It should be firm, uniform in color, and free of cuts, bruises, and blemishes.

- Make sure that the stem doesn’t look brown and dry. And don’t use the stem as a handle, since even a healthy one can break off. Pick up a pumpkin by its base instead.

- Give the pumpkin a knock. A thumping sound means the pumpkin is solid, with no internal defects, rot, or soft spots.


Friday, October 10, 2008

15 Minutes : Know It : Scary Situations

Are your kids afraid of the dark? My little girl is only 1 1/2 but it is interesting to see her start to get frightened and scared in certain situations. If your kids are convinced there's a monster in the closet, try these possible explanations from Real Simple.

Mystery: Doors open unexpectedly.
- In the winter, the heating system evaporates moisture in the wood, making doors contract and causing them to become unlatched.
- When a door opens or closes, it can raise or lower indoor air pressure, causing another door to move.

Mystery: Banging, Scratching, Footsteps and Rat-a-Tat sounds
- Heating and cooling systems often cause floors and walls to warm up or cool down unevenly. Picture hot air traveling through a duct under your hallway floor.  The section of duct closest to the furnace will warm up slightly faster than the part a few feet farther along the hall. As that first area of duct warms, the floor above it might expand slightly, making a creak. Then the second section of duct warms, making another creak, and so on. The result? Creepy footstep sounds.
- If your radiator has air in its supply or return pipes (it shouldn’t, but that can happen, especially after plumbing work), fluctuations in water pressure can make a rat-a-tat-tat sound.


15 Minutes : Know It : Spiders

I am terrified of spiders. All insects nonetheless, but especially spiders. It really doesn't matter what size it is....I'm screamin'! Halloween spiders are a different story for me though. There something about a cute furry spider with googly eyes that doesn't seem too harmful displayed in my home. With Halloween around the corner I thought it only appropriate to learn more about this feared creature. And trust me, this is the only time I give the spider any kind of positive attention. The rest of the time I am busy smashing it with a shoe (preferably my husbands), covering it with a cup so my husband can smash it when he gets home, or paying the bug man to regularly spray.

Here are some fun and interesting facts about the creepy crawling things. And if it will make you feel better just picture the cute harmless googly eyed spider while reading.

My little guys is too young to really process all this knowledge but he sure does get it when I imitate one by briskly walking my two fingers up his leg to his neck and face. He thinks it's funny now but just wait until it's a real one :)

Spiders are NOT insects. Insects have three body parts and six legs. Spiders have eight legs and two body parts, the abdomen and the thorax.

Spiders have silk spinning glands called spinnerets, at the tip of their abdomen.

Not all spiders spin webs.

Spiders belong to the Arachnid family.

There are more than 30,000 species of spiders.

Spiders have as many as 8 eyes, but some spiders have only 6 eyes and several spiders have fewer or even none.

Most spiders have fangs, through which venom is ejected.

Spider bites can be quite painful, and a select few can be fatal.

Fear of spiders is called Arachnophobia. It is one of the most common fears among humans.

Tarantulas shed their furry skin as they grow, leaving behind what looks just like another tarantula.

Spiders eat many types of harmful insects, helping to keep your garden free of pests.

Spiders are creatures that have 8 legs, have no wings or antennae. They have 2 distinct body parts called the thorax or head and the abdomen.

Spiders have an exoskeleton, meaning that their skeleton is on the outside.

Spiders have as many as 8 eyes, but some spiders have only 6 eyes and several spiders have fewer or even none.

Most spiders are very nearsighted. To make up for this, they use the hair on their body to feel their way around and to sense when other animals are near.

Webs get dirty and torn, so lots of spiders make a new one every day. They don't waste the old one, though--they roll it up into a ball and eat it!

Young spiders resemble adults. Only their size and coloration differ.

Male spiders are usually smaller than female spiders.

Spiders are invertebrates, which means they don't have backbones. These small creatures help plants reproduce by pollinating them. They also help recycle dead trees and animals back into the earth. They are also a vital source of food for birds, fish, and small mammals.

Without invertebrates, like spiders and insects, many other living things would not survive.

Facts via

Photo via


Thursday, October 9, 2008

15 Minutes : Make It : Worm ice

Every year my mom hosts a "Spooky Halloween Dinner" for the grand kids. The food, decorations, and attire all follow the "spooky" theme quite well. She is always looking for new and fun food ideas.
I'm going to suggest this to her. Not too spooky for the younger ones but not too cheesy and cool enough for the older ones.

An added suggestion: try using the actual drink to fill the ice trays. For example, if you are using sprite or grape juice, fill the trays with that particular drink instead of just water.

via Martha Stewart Kids: Fall 2004


1 Hour : Play It : Scary Sounds

Create your very own scary soundtrack for Halloween night with these ideas from Martha Stewart. Even my 18-month old will love helping create these scary noises.

Fire: Crinkle a piece of cellophane or waxed paper to mimic a crackling flame. For large fires, use several sheets and several pairs of hands.
Ghostly Footsteps: Slowly knock the heels of leather-soled shoes together or against a wooden floor. The scariest sound is of steps coming from an attic.

Wind: Fold a sheet of waxed paper over a comb. Hum, or blow softly with your lips against the paper-covered teeth for a howling wind.
Gurgling Bog: Use a drinking straw to blow bubbles at the surface of a glass of water. Vary the rhythm of the bubbles to bring the slimy bog eerily to life.

Rain: Pour dry, uncooked rice into a metal tray or baking pan. Vary the speed for realistic-sounding rain, and accompany with thunder.

Thunder: Grasp one side of a sheet of poster board; shake hard to make a thunderclap, and then taper off for distant, echoing rumbles.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

15 minutes : Know It : The Moon

The Moon
The moon is the brightest object in the night sky -- a natural night-light. People once believed that water on it's surface made it shine. Now we know that the moon's glow is reflected sunlight. A full moon may make you think of howling wolves. But wolves don't really howl at the moon. They just hunt more actively on night that are clearly lit.

Moon Shapes
Why does the moon appear to change it's shape every few days? it's circling Earth, and as it moves, it reflects sunlight, creating the shapes (or phases) that we see. At first the moon is not visible (a new moon). Then it "grows" (or waxes). After the full moon, it "shrinks" (wanes). Tonight, see what phase the moon is in.

Something to laugh about...
Q: What should you say to a blue moon?
A: put on a happy phase.

Q: How come the moon always looks so shiny?
A: because every few weeks there's a new one.

Q: Why was there a waiting list for astronauts to land on the moon?
A: it was full.

Also a little history....
Long ago Native Americans kept track of the seasons by naming each month's full moon based on what was common to see or happen that month. For example, April's full moon was called the Pink Moon because that was the month when on of spring's first flowers, the moss pink, bloomed. (If there are two full moons in any month, we call the second one a blue moon.) Hear are the nicknames for each month's full moon:
January - Wolf
February - Snow
March - Worm
April - Pink
May - Flower
June - Strawberry
July - Buck
August -Sturgeon
September - Harvest
October - Hunters
November - Beaver
December - Cold

From Martha Stewart Kids: Fall 2004


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

1 Hour : Make It : Halloween Hang-Ups

This year for our family/kid friendly decoration we'll be doing these....marvelous.


1 Hour : Play It : Magic Goo

During this season of mystery and magic, create a batch of Magic Goo for you and your kids to play with. I first made a batch of this mysterious conconction when I was in grade school, but this activity is even suitable for kids 18 months and older. I can't wait to try it with my little girl.

From Family Fun:
Is this mystifying blend of cornstarch and water a liquid? A solid? Truth be told, it's both! When kids apply pressure -- as when rolling it into a ball -- the mixture magically firms up. But release that pressure, and it will dribble right back out through their fingers. Here's how to easily whip up a batch of your own, because in this case, feeling really is believing.

To Make the Mix: Pour 1 cup of cornstarch into a shallow bowl or pan. Add 3/4 cup of water a little at a time, stirring as you go.

To Play: Show your toddler how to scoop some of the mixture into her hands and then roll it into a ball, much as you would roll a handful of cookie dough. The consistency is key here, so if your magic goo doesn't firm up when you roll it, add a little more cornstarch. Likewise, if it doesn't melt back out of your hands when you release the pressure, add some water, about 1/2 teaspoon at a time.

To Store It: When your child is done playing, leave the mixture sitting out for several hours. Once it's dry, crumble it into a sealed container. Just add water to play again another day.


15 Minutes : Know It : Candy Corn

My little girl can't get enough of this candy right now - mostly because her mom, me, can't seem to stop buying bags and bags of it. While I still may feel guilty when she's stuffing her little mouth, I can now at least inform her of some interesting facts about the candy. And maybe together we'll reconsider how much one more handful is really worth it.

Candy corn has been made with the same recipe — containing sugar, corn syrup, and marshmallow — by the Jelly Belly Candy Company since around 1900. One serving (about 30 pieces) has 140 calories, the equivalent of three miniature Hershey bars. The National Confectioners Association reports that more than 35 million pounds were manufactured in 2005, amounting to almost 9 billion kernels.

*facts from Real Simple.


Monday, October 6, 2008

1 Hour : Make It : Painted Pumpkin

Last year our garden pumpkin was gargantuan (they don’t label them “prize winning” for nothing). It was so large that I knew there was no way I was going to carve it so instead I painted a fall message on it. The result was exactly what I wanted for my front porch and the best part was it lasted all the way through Thanksgiving.

The process is simple:

  1. Have your kids help you choose a design or saying and print it off your computer.

  2. Tape the paper to the pumpkin and trace over it with a pen or pencil – this is a great step for grade school age.

  3. Use a paint pen (from any craft store) in your desired color and paint over your traced design.

  4. Use any all-purpose sealer and sponge brush to seal in your handy work so the weather can’t wash it away.


15 Minutes : Read It : Pumpkin Faces

This book is fun because it not only teaches kids opposites, but it glows in the dark!


Saturday, October 4, 2008

15 Minutes : Read It : The Witches' Spell

Who can think of Halloween without thinking of witches? Their black hats, broomsticks and wicked spells are hallmarks in spooky stories for this time of year. But even before we had our traditions of modern-day witchery, William Shakespeare had captured the power, potions and magic that make witches so scary.

So at this time of year, don't forget to read his words out loud to give your family a taste of Halloween fright. And read it with your best scratchy, witch voice too!

The Witches' Spell

Act IV, Scene 1 from Macbeth (1606) by William Shakespeare

A dark Cave. In the middle, a Caldron boiling. Thunder.
Enter the three Witches.

1 WITCH: Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
2 WITCH: Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
3 WITCH: Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
1 WITCH: Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
ALL: Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH: Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
ALL: Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
3 WITCH: Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg’d i the dark;
Liver of blaspheming Jew;
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Sliver’d in the moon’s eclipse;
Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips;
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,—
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingrediants of our caldron.
ALL: Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
2 WITCH: Cool it with a baboon’s blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.


1 Hour : Make It : Spider

My little guy is 14 months so for the last several months we have been singing "Eensy Weensy Spider" (or Itsy Bitsy, which ever you prefer). He loves the song and is slowly catching on the actions. He is also at the age where he is in to EVERYTHING and EVERYTHING intrigues him (you know that phase).

I'm going to make these little spiders and I am 99.9% sure he is going to LOVE them. Unfortunately he won't be much help in making these and because I will be using a hot glue gun (remember, he's into and intrigued by EVERYTHING that's a problem with a hot glue gun) I think I will put him in his high chair so he can just watch me.

I chose this particular spider because I happen to have an empty egg carton but if you don't, it would be just as easy to use a black pom-pom or something similar.

Egg Carton Arachnids
Empty egg carton
Black paint
Black pipe cleaners
Googly eyes
Push pin or paper clip

1. Cut the cups off an empty egg carton and place them on newspaper. Paint the cups, inside and out, with a coat of black acrylic paint.

2. Use the end of a paper clip or a pushpin to poke four holes along the bottom edge on one side of the cup. Poke matching holes on the opposite side of the cup.

3. To make fuzzy legs, cut four black pipe cleaners into 7-inch lengths. Thread a pipe cleaner through one of the holes, into the cup, and out the corresponding hole on the other side. Make sure the ends protrude an equal length from both sides of the cup and bend them upward at the base of the spider's body. Fold in the opposite direction midway down the legs to create knees and bend the tips to make feet.

4. Finally, glue on googly eyes.

Craft via


Friday, October 3, 2008

15 Minutes : Play It : Word Search


Option 1:

Print the word Halloween on the top of a sheet of paper. Give each child a sheet and give them 5, 10 or 15 minutes to create as many words from Halloween as they can like hall, hallow, well, how, hen...

Option 2:

Use die cut letters or magnetic alphabet letters. Give your child the letters to spell Halloween. Let them arrange the letters into as many words as possible.


1 hour : Make It : Pasta Skeletons

This is a fun activity for the older kids.

First, show them different pictures of skeletons
Second, have plenty of dried pastas, with lot of variety (some pasta may even need to be cut in half, like the lasagna noodles)
Third, let their imaginations go.

I especially love that they used alphabet soup noodles to name their creations.

via Martha Stewart Kids: Fall 2004


Thursday, October 2, 2008

1 Hour : Make It : Candy Creatures

These candy creatures from Martha Stewart are a great project to make with your kids. Make them as creative or scary as you like. Wrap them in cellophane to give as Halloween gifts or place in a vase (try a small hollowed out pumpkin) to use as a fun decorative display your kids will enjoy all during the month of October.


15 Minutes : Read It : Ox-Cart Man

While not specifically an autumn-themed book, I tend to think of Ox-Cart Man when apples and pumpkins are for sale at the local markets. The story revolves around harvest and family work. I love the old-fashioned, folk-art feel of the illustrations, as well as the simple, descriptive words that bring the story full circle.