5 Wait-Time Children’s Games for Crowd Control

LSU’s Mike the Tiger came to my son’s school the other day for a surprise birthday visit!

It was such a memorable experience for ALL of the children.

But, it actually could have been CRAZY and chaotic if I didn’t “think fast” and come prepared with a few ideas to keep the kids somewhat calm.

It could’ve turned into a bunch of injured kids or an injured Mike, but I always keep a few tricks up my sleeve.

Any time I am in front of a big group of kids, I always try to get them to do something along WITH me.  So, here are my 5 top picks to fill wait -time or keep crowd control when you have a group of kids to organize.

1) “Silly Says” – Today we played “Mike Says” and everything he did, we had to do.  I play this with kids a lot and I just play “Silly Says” – whatever silly thing I do, you do.

2) “Going on a Bear Hunt”  – I was at the park once trying to keep the kids away from the sandbox and this chant did the trick!

3) “I Spy” – The classic game – I usually play it in a variety of ways. “I spy something shaped like…. I spy something that starts with….   I spy something the color….  I spy something that sounds like…. I spy something that rhymes with…”  You get the picture.

4) “Mirror Fingers” – hold up the same number of fingers that I hold up in a different way.

5) “Imitate my Clap”  – this is an old teacher-tactic where the kids simply have to listen and follow the beat that the leader makes.

A couple other easy ones:

1) Coordinate “Little Sally Walker” – you may have to YouTube it if you aren’t sure what that is.

2) Play “Man in the middle.” One person stands in the middle of a circle and throws the ball to someone on the outside (who can’t move their feet).  Whoever catches it and follows the rules becomes the man in the middle.

3) Play “Duck, Duck, Goose!”

4) Sing  “If you are Happy and You know it” – I always come up with lots of things to add to the song like “wag your tail, hop like a frog, roar like a lion, etc”  STRETCH IT OUT! 🙂


5 Tools to Make Reading Fun!

Let’s face it, learning how to read isn’t always the most exciting thing in the world, especially when you are practicing fluency with words that do not even exist (a common practice to gauge phonemic awareness and blending sounds).

James’ teacher sent home a new fluency folder that includes lists of non-sensical (made-up) CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant), sight and high-frequency words. Reading these lists can be absolutely BO-RING for both the reader (your child) and the listener (most often, you, Mommy Teacher).  It’s also super easy to get overwhelmed by unfamiliar words in these early reading stages, so, how can we make reading fun and enjoyable???

Here are 5 inexpensive and cheap tools that you can use:

1.  TRACKING FINGERS:  My son’s fluency folder came equipped with a rubber witch’s finger to use to follow the words left-right, top-bottom.  (I specifically wrote this post right before Halloween so that you can go pick some up at your local dollar store before the 31st!  You’re welcome!)  As soon as James hopped in the car from carpool he was pulling out his new fluency folder and showing us how to use his tracking finger… and now my 4-year old wants one too!



2.  PUNCTUATION SWITCH:  Take a popsicle stick and draw an exclamation point on one end, switch it around and draw a question mark on the other end.  Read the story (or even just a list of words) by adding different emphases at the end of phrases.  A simple change in intonation can make for an interesting read with even the most boring of texts – or it can make a silly book even sillier! (A twist on this is to sing the text… one of my son’s favorites that I catch him doing even when he doesn’t have an audience listening.)



3.  CATERPILLAR CHART:  When I was teaching, I used a caterpillar chart to keep track of how many books we read throughout the year.  I wrote the title and author of each book we read on a different circular body segment of the caterpillar.  By the end of the year, our caterpillar’s body went half way around the classroom!

You can use a similar, smaller version at home by using stickers.  Start off by using a sticker for every word your child can read by him/herself, and then move up to simple books.  With your younger child, you can just keep track of the number of books you read to him/her.  Set a number goal of number of words or books you need to reach before your caterpillar can turn into a butterfly!


“To help my caterpillar grow and grow,

I must read at least 1 book (or new word) a day.

Once he gets to be 10 stickers long,

He will grow wings and fly away.”

4.  WHISPER PHONES:  I am pretty sure Jessica has written a post about these before, but it’s always a fun reminder for next time you are at your local home improvement store.  Grab a PVC pipe and some 90 degree elbow fittings, cut it down to about 6 inches, and you have a great reading tool!  Teachers use these in classrooms all the time for young readers to hear themselves read out loud without making a lot of noise.  With these phones, even the quietest whisper is audible to only the reader.


5.  MAGNIFYING GLASS/GLASSES:  Grab some goofy glasses or a magnifying glass and all of a sudden reading became a game!  Much like the tracking finger and whisper phones from above, this reading tool just makes reading a little more fun… well, to your pre-schooler or school-aged child… I, personally, don’t get it 😉  If you have some old sunglasses, punch out the lenses so your child can have some new, funky eyewear while being studious!


What tools do you use to make reading fun for your child?  Share with us on Facebook or comment below!


Teaching Number Sense Using Your Child’s Age

I have been so excited to see my son associate amounts with numbers lately.  He is starting to understand that a number is not just a bunch of shapes (one looks like a line, zero looks like a circle, etc) but he is starting to have Number Sense.

Sean Patrick's first attempt to make "three" with his fingers

Sean Patrick’s first attempt to make “three” with his fingers

Sean Patrick is 3 and a half  and I realized we have used his age in association for almost everything we do:

  •  Three minutes in time out
  • Three treats as rewards
  • Three bedtime stories
  • Three minutes on the timer in preparation for bedtime or leaving the house
  • Three crayons out at a time while he is coloring
  • Three kids in our family! (Number three is three months now but I loved this pic)

1-2-3 babies

  • You get the picture 🙂

Because there is so much consistency and exposure to the AMOUNT three, Sean Patrick knows every combination that makes up three:

I was JUST upstairs telling him bedtime stories before his nap and after the first one I told him, he held up one finger and said “That was one, two more please.”

My husband has done a great job playing “How many fingers am I holding up?” with him because he will play it fast and fun and if Sean Patrick messes up then they count to see how many he is really holding up.  (That is a common core standard by the way- recognizing that the last the last number said when counting is the number that represents the group counted!)

So, if you haven’t tried this yet, start making a habit of associating as much as you can with your child’s age.  This year Sean Patrick will learn ALL the ins and outs of “what makes three” and even if I introduce him to “what makes four” and “what makes five” when he is ready, he will really have fluency to compose and decompose these familiar numbers!

Who is causing the Problem… my preschool boy or the coveted toy? Or Both?

Sean Patrick started his new school year today, and being the procrastinator that I am, I stayed up last night making a Toy Time Out Box for his teacher:

Toy Time Out Box Label

How To Make This Toy Time Out Box:

1) I printed the following labels onto regular computer paper (you can use card stock) using the print option “Multiple” to print them the size that I needed.

[purchase_link id=”3975″ style=”button” color=”green” text=”Toy Time Out Box Labels”]

2) I laminated them with my cheap laminator  Scotch Thermal Laminator Combo Pack, Includes 20 Letter-Size Laminating Pouches, Holds Sheets up to 8.5" x 11(TL902VP)  that I love and use for everything!

3) I cut them out and then hot glued them onto my $12 crate from Hobby Lobby that I found on the “Wood” Aisle in the craft section.

Assembling  Toy Time Out Labels

Why I Made This Toy Time Out Box:

I got the inspiration to make the labels for this toy time out box from Casey (who co-writes here at TMT) because she has one that her son helped her paint:

Toy Time Out Box

How I Use A Toy Time Out:

When my kids (or their friends) are fighting over a toy:

1) I walk CALMLY over to them, get on their level, look them in the eyes, say their names, and then calmly say “There is a problem so stop just a minute so we can figure it out.  This toy is causing y’all to fight – each take a turn to tell me why.”  (wait and listen)

2) Okay Well ___ was playing with it so you can either wait and find a new toy while you wait, or you can see if your friend wants to find a way to play WITH you with the toy.

3) And to the Friend who had the toy, can you find a way to share the toy or do you need me to set a timer and he can play with it when the timer goes off?

4) I warn them that if neither child is willing to wait or to share then I tell them the toy will have to go to time out until they can come up with a solution to play with it together or to take turns.

5) I try to follow through.  If they are both willing to make it work then I take it back out.  If not, the toy stays there.  It is that simple.

However, you can also use this box as a place where toys are held until a chore is done or a certain change of attitude takes place.  It can be used in more ways than just the example I provided.

If you come up with a use for it then please share your thoughts in a comment 🙂

What Is Your Favorite Coloring / Activity Book? Share in a comment!

The other day a friend instagrammed a picture of her and her son coloring as she drank her cup of coffee.  It made me think of my mother-in-law because she is so great about sitting down and participating with my kids as they color or as they play with play dough and many other simple tasks that she makes the most of.

You can purpose tons of learning sitting down with a coloring book…. one page at a time.

You are teaching color recognition, but you are also helping to build your little one’s vocabulary by discussing the pictures.  And activity books have lots of little problem solving opportunities to teach with mazes and categorizing (which one does not belong?

Here is one great activity book that teaches the ABC’s and some other problem solving strategies as well…

ABC Animals (Dora the Explorer) (Color Plus Card Stock)

There are MILLIONS of books like this but I want to share this one to share a FEW quick  IDEAS that can apply to most activity books…

1) Trace over black with white ….

Tracing with white crayon

Make use of your WHITE crayon!

2) Color inside of bubble letters (not just on pages like this one that are made for them)… I ask “What letter do you want mommy to color?”  Then I talk through the formation of the letter “climb down the ladder, frog jump up to the monkey bars, hop across, climb up and down on the other side to make an H” or whatever silly way you want to say it.  Then I say…. “Your turn… what letter do you want to color?”


3) For little writers you could draw speech bubbles on your color pages and make your characters talk to each other.

Speech bubble on color page

4) Count how many times you see the same object on a page (like the balloons in the next picture)…

Count the balloons

Share your favorite coloring or activity books in a comment below and share any tips that you may have for us.

Here or on Facebook

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