Pin It 365 TV-Free Kid Activities
365 TV-Free Kid Activities
TV-free day 192: Balance on a butterfly’s wings


How can an art project underscore the importance of finding balance in our lives? Yes, there are a lot of butterfly projects out there.  I hope this one, combined with a great book, will supply a little more TV-free discussion than normal. Butterflies are an excellent example of symmetry found in nature.  Look at pictures of actual butterflies. Then talk about the words below.

  • Balancea condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.
  • Symmetry:  similarity or exact correspondence between different things

When working on the art project, ask kids to think about what happens in our lives when things feel out of balance.

Butterfly Balance Art Project

For the project, you will need:

  1. Art paper made for painting
  2. Acrylic paint (don’t you love it when the list is so short?)

Step 1:  Fold a piece of paper in half (we used art paper able to handle a lot of paint). Free-hand a butterfly or use my template below. And of course, have the center of the butterfly on the fold…yes I put these ridiculous directions in because I did this incorrectly myself when in a hurry once…hate to admit that.


Step 2:  Unfold the butterfly and squirt paint on only one half of the butterfly.  Show your kids how one cut on a paper folded exactly in half can create symmetry. Then squirt paint on only one side of the butterfly.  You don’t need to cover the wing in color, it will get covered in a minute.


Step 3: Gently smooth the butterfly (starting in the middle) out toward the wing tips. Be sure to smooth over the entire butterfly to get maximum paint spread. This will also remove excess paint.  Careful. This is pretty messy if your kids are exuberant with the paint.image

Step 4:  Open the butterfly and examine it.  Is there symmetry? Are there some parts that are not completely perfect?  


Now, how does that balance relate to your life?  Is my butterfly different from yours?  Perhaps this could represent what is “normal” for you is different than “normal” for me and my butterfly.

In your own life, are things harder when your feelings feel too heavy?  Read the book below and talk about ways that families can work together to keep each other balanced.

Book recommendation to go with this activity: Whispering Wings by Jayne Peters (Puddle Duck Publishing 2013).

Nick’s life is out of balance as he recovers from an accident. One morning when he wakes, he discovers five caterpillars on his window. They crawl in his pocket and throughout the day they change to butterflies that seem to whisper words of encouragement when his family needs them most.  Though he is having trouble walking Nick’s abilities a discussed with dignity throughout.   The story is a great read aloud for families with small children and a good way to introduce some of the key concepts of the Virtues Project, a UN recognized program to encourage peace and mindfulness (dare I say balance and symmetry) in life.  

The last butterfly has a final word for Nick. As he works to walk and run again, despite being slightly off balance, he wobbles forward with a little Determination

Ms. Peters is a teacher and has learning projects to go along with her text on her website: The story is more of a learning text than most books, but it is a  lovely picture book which supports the Virtues Project. 

An alligator purse full of activities for homeschool, K-5 teachers and librarians
Discover New Teaching Resources

Excerpt from Attentionology blog:

Discover New Teaching Resources

Newly discovered on a teacher's journey...a picture book that wraps science lessons into a modern myth for K - 2 kids.

Newly discovered on a teacher’s journey…a delightful picture book that wraps science lessons into a modern myth for K – 2 kids.

Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!

Do you agree with me that like life itself, teaching is a journey, not a destination?

One of the joys of an educator’s journey is the discovery along the way of new and wonderful teaching resources…

…resources that catch and keep kids’ attention!

I was recently introduced to a picture book that does just that. It tells a delightful modern myth as it also delivers K – 2 science lessons on species classification and coastal habitats.

How Alligator Got His Smile Back by Jayne Moraski, illustrated by Carl Kocich (Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc.), begins “when the earth was very young and animals looked very different,” as they do today.

But how and why do animals look and live differently? The lessons begin…

…in a story that features a prehistoric Alligator who frolics in the water with his best friend, the tadpole Frog.

As Moraski tells it, “their friendship suffers when Frog changes and is able to leave the water to jump across the land. Eventually, Alligator evolves into the (smiling) form we know today, and learns a lesson in the true meaning of friendship,” when his wish is granted.

Says Moraski, “my book (also) describes the origins of frog songs, mangrove swamps, cypress knees, and of course, how

A ready-to-color illustration to pair with How Alligator Got His Smile Back by Jayne Moraski

A ready-to-color illustration to pair with How Alligator Got His Smile Back by Jayne Moraski, framed here with a green border.

alligators got their big grins.”

Award-winning trilingual children’s author, Nicole Weaver, describes How Alligator Got His Smile Back as “a fresh twist on the African folktale about the bragging crocodile.”

Kocich’s colorful and beautifully detailed illustrations frame the story characters and action with tile-like borders that would suit the most decorative aquarium wall.

Moraski has tied this book directly to K – 3 pacing guides and Florida curriculum standards, but take note…

How Alligator Got His Smile Back is consistent with current Common Core recommendations (for the US). In my view, the book presents basic environmental education in a way that teachers anywhere can adapt for their curriculum.

Moraski points out that the book also explains coastal habitats and has a habitat activity.” Backmatter activities ask students to compare and contrast the two species in the book using textual clues to discern information.

Specifically, the book invites children to:

  • complete a species classification activity.
  • draw a Venn diagram that shows how alligators and frogs are alike and different.
  • create a habitat collage (a teacher’s or parent’s assistance with vocabulary may be needed).

Classroom-tested resources are a joy to discover on a teacher’s journey.

How Alligator Got His Smile Back fills the bill…

Help Alligator Find Tadpole Frog, framed here with a yellow border, challenges young readers.

Help Alligator Find Tadpole Frog, a maze framed here with a yellow border, challenges young readers.

“The book’s non-fiction activities were developed,” explains Moraski, “through discussions with K – 3 teachers in two separate school systems, and tested in classrooms with positive teacher feedback.”

An ample non-fiction bibliography at the end of How Alligator Got His Smile Back encourages teachers and students to continue

Jayne Moraski, author of How Alligator Got His Smile Back, a modern myth with a science twist.

Jayne Moraski, author of How Alligator Got His Smile Back, a modern myth with a science twist.

journeying to discover more new and wonderful teaching and learning resources.

Supplementary activities, like a Helping Alligator Find Tadpole Frog maze, are available to download on Moraski’s website.

Jayne Moraski’s professional background places her in a scientific setting today.

In addition to pursuing writing, she works on a diabetes research project at the University of Florida (US).

Living in Gainesville for the past twelve years, Moraski has “evolved herself” into a huge gator fan. To clarify (for those needing a sports update), the gator is the mascot of the University of Florida.

Moraski has written public relations and travel articles for the Florida tourism industry, academic publications in non-profit management, and several children’s magazines, including Highlights.

One of the highlights of How Alligator Got His Smile Back is the book’s treatment of bragging. The theme underlies this modern myth with a science twist.

Dealing with bragging is a part of Character Education in many school systems. Moraski’s character, Frog, is a guilty party, and kids who get to enjoy this delightful story will get the picture!

Have you produced or discovered a new and wonderful resource on your teaching journey? If you’d like me to profile work, please send a comment.

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in any instructional setting!

Talk with you again soon,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

Day 191: See you later alligator art project by Ms. K

Very fun art teacher’s blog from Ms. K and “Please Don’t Eat the Artwork”

See You Later Alligators

May 16, 2013

One of my goals as an art teacher is to foster creativity in my students. It is extremely important to me that their projects are not cookie-cutter-carbon-copies, rather they are as individual as the individuals who made them. The last unit of art curriculum for the county denotes that crafting is involved. I type crafting with a grimace and a shudder because in my humble opinion crafting is a cheap way to do mass-produced art.

I was bored to tears by weaving with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders because really, how much creativity is involved in manipulating some yarn? Sure they can choose their colors but in the end all the projects basically look the same. Weaving with paper allows for a little more creative freedom. These woven alligators were inspired by several pins on Pinterest as well as from Art With Ms. Gram

I wanted to make sure that they did not all look the same so I made tried to give students as many choices as possible. They chose which shade of green construction paper they would use for the body and  the way they made painted paper. They came up with their ownthe symbols which were painted in metallic tempera. Students designed their own  eyes and teeth, and the shapes for features such as arms, legs, and tails. I think these look wild and fun and ended up really reflecting the spirit of first (soon to be second!) graders.

We began by mixing primary colors to create secondary colors for painted paper.


Students used their painted paper to weave into a piece of green construction paper for the alligator’s body.


Some alligator bodies on the drying rack:


Then heads and tails were added with more green paper.


First graders cut eyes and teeth out of white paper:


Details and symbols were painted on with shiny metallic tempera:


The display is a farewell to first grade:

013 (2)

Some alligator close ups:


Jayne’s book recommendations to go with this art project: Alligators and Crocodiles by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House 2010). I like Gail  Gibbons non-fiction animal  books and this is no exception.  She discusses how to tell the difference between alligators and crocodiles and provides interesting facts for kids K-3. And of course, you could always read How Alligator Got His Smile Back (Guardian Angel Publishing 2014)

TV-free activities day 190: Scribble dinner

Why should we eat dinner together more often?
Most American families are starved for time to spend together, and dinner may be the only time of the day when we can reconnect, leaving behind our individual pursuits like playing video games, emailing and doing homework. Dinner is a time to relax, recharge, laugh, tell stories and catch up on the day’s ups and downs, while developing a sense of who we are as a family. - Dr. Anne Fisher “The Family Dinner Project”

So how can we linger at the table?  We made our table a scribble pad and it sparked conversation and a few more TV-free moments.

I like to suggest easy projects that working parents can actually achieve. I hope this is easy for your family too. 

You will need:  a roll of butcher paper, or brown mailing paper and colored pencils That’s it

We used two long pieces to make our table cloth. Set out colored pencils and asked everybody to doodle something that happened to them or make up a story.  This one was at breakfast…the toast was terrified of the toaster. 

Jayne’s book recommendation for this activity:

Scribble by Deborah Freedman (Random House 2007) seems like the perfect book for tonight’s bedtime story.  The imaginative story won lots of awards and is a fun look sibling rivalry.

Review from Publishers Weekly

In this unpredictable blend of comic strip and children’s drawings, two short-tempered siblings compare their magic marker artwork. Proud older sister Emma shows off her picture of a sleeping princess on bubblegum-pink poster paper. Defensive younger sister Lucie, less practiced with her pen, chooses mustard-gold paper and draws “a kitty” with a crude teardrop-shaped head and sticklike limbs. “It looks like a scribble,” Emma tells her. Indignant, Lucie grabs a pen and scratches tangled loops, like twisted vines, all over Emma’s Sleeping Beauty. This sibling squabble takes an unexpected turn, however, when Lucie’s scrawled kitty, christened Scribble, decides to rescue the damsel. He leaps onto the pink page with Lucie and her actual pet kitten in hot pursuit. But “before Lucie could stop him, Scribble scrambled into a Giant Thicket, where deep within he discovered the Princess Aurora, who had been asleep for One Hundred Years.” Scribble unravels the inky loops and finds an unlikely true love, a la Norton Juster’s The Dot and the Line. Freedman, in her picture book debut, pictures the dueling sisters and their white kitten semi-naturalistically in pen, ink and watercolor, depicting their showdown in tidy comic panels with voice bubble dialogue. She creates their drawings in the naïve style of Lauren Child, and when Scribble comes to life, this anarchic, digitally enhanced art fills the pages and breaks the frames. The juxtaposition of realistic portraits and more playful designs results in often chaotic spreads, but Freedman’s willingness to color outside the lines pays off-she’s created a clever gem of a book. Ages 3-6. (May)

TV-Free Day 189: Apple Alligator Smiles


Yes we seem to play with our food a bit more than normal families. When I saw a smile made with red apple slices and marshmallows, I knew I had to modify it to make a green gator smile. 

You will need:

  • Green apples (Golden delicious actually tasted best)
  • Flavored cream cheese (We tested the apple smiles and found the original recipe that called for peanut butter made our marshmallow teeth look like they needed to be brushed. Ick…cream cheese to the rescue!)
  • Raisins
  • Mini marshmallows
  • toothpick (optional)


  1. Cut a medium to large green apple in 8 slices about 3/4 inch thick each.[You’ll need thicker slices for the top of the gator head, and thinner slices for his lower jaw.] 
  2. Follow the pattern shown here or free hand it on your own.


  1. Cut another apple slice to slightly less than a ½ inch thick. 


  1. Cut a small hole in the spot where the gator’s eye would be.


  1. Have the kids Insert a raisin in the small eye hole, and add a dab of cream cheese to create a sparkle in his eye, if you’d like.
  2. Spread the cream cheese on the “teeth” side of the alligator’s head, and on one side of his lower jaw.  Put 3 marshmallows in between the gator jaws, using the cream cheese to hold the marshmallows in =place. If you plan on moving your gator around a lot, you may need to stick a half of a toothpick into each side to hold it together.  Otherwise, you can set it on your kids plates and watch them grin right back.

Book to go with this activity:  I looked at folktales from around the world and couldn’t find one that described how alligators got their smiles, so I made up my own story.  How Alligator Got His Smile Back, by Jayne Moraski and illustrated Carl Kocich (Guardian Angel Publishing 2014).  Here’s a link to a review by Barbara Bockman

How Alligator Got His Smile Back


After our whirlwind spring in Kiev, we are so happy to be back home.  I’m excited to announce that my debut picture book is now available through Guardian Angel Publishing.

How Alligator Got His Smile Back is tied directly to K-3 pacing guides and Florida curriculum standards, which are consistent with current Common Core recommendations. Specifically, the backmatter activities ask students to compare and contrast the two species in the book using textual clues to discern information. The book also explains coastal habitats and has a habitat activity. The non-fiction activities were developed through discussions with K-3 teachers in two separate school systems, and tested in classrooms with postiive teacher feedback.

But don’t just take my word for it, here are some of the reviews so far:

“Frogs croak all night, but alligators don’t have to make noise to feel important. A charming story, beautifully illustrated, with something to think about for all those frantically pursuing their 15 minutes of fame”.~Caldecott Honor Medal winner Eric Kimmel

“Jayne Moraski’s original tale, How Alligator Got His Smile Back, has all the charm and heart of Kipling’s beloved Just So Stories and deserves a spot on the same shelf. A classic in the making by this new writing talent.”~C L Clickard

“Ms. Moraski’s  well penned story between an alligator and a frog overflows with vital information about coastal habitat, and species classifications, making  How Alligator Got His Smile Back a must have in all science classrooms. The story is a fresh twist on the African folktale about the bragging crocodile. The illustrations by award-winning illustrator, Carl Kocich, grab and hold of your attention as you move through each page.”~Nicole Weaver: Award winning trilingual children’s author, a Literary Classics Gold Award and Seal of Approval-

I forgot how to play

Here’s a cool list of games for small groups of kids, in case your kids say they forgot how to play.


flower-candlesHeat up a spoon, and press the flowers on the candle - very simple, very pretty.♥


Heat up a spoon, and press the flowers on the candle - very simple, very pretty.

TV-free day 188: EGGS-periment with the chemistry of dyeing Easter eggs


Turn your holiday decorating into a science project with this cool article on the chemistry of dyeing eggs from

Problem:  How does vinegar change the egg dyeing process?

Will the eggs in the vinegar get darker or lighter than the eggs in the water, or will they all be the same?


  • 3 cups of distilled water
  • 3 teaspoons vinegar
  • Teaspoon
  • Spoon
  • 3 white eggs
  • Food coloring
  • 3 cups
  • Old towel


  1. Get three containers and fill each one with a cup (250 mL) of distilled water.
  2. Label one container “1 teaspoon vinegar”, the next “2 teaspoons vinegar”, and the last “control”.
  3. Add several drops of food coloring to each container (adding the same amount to each).
  4. Add a teaspoon of vinegar to the first container and two teaspoons to the second.
  5. Using a spoon, place a white egg into each container.
  6. Wait for a few minutes, and then remove the eggs, placing each one on a towel to dry.
  7. Look at the eggs. Which one is the brightest? Which one is the lightest? Why do you think this happened?


The egg that was immersed in the most vinegar is the brightest.



Food coloring is an acid dye. It bonds using hydrogen, and this chemical process only works in an acidic environment.

Distilled water is usually neutral, with a pH of 7. This means that it is not acidic and not basic. Vinegar is acidic and contains around 3% acetic acid. When you add vinegar to water, it creates ideal conditions for food coloring to dye the egg. Since eggs are made out of calcium carbonate, this calcium in the shell reacts with the acid in the vinegar to make carbon dioxide. If you place an egg in vinegar and water, you can often see that chemical reaction taking place as bubbles of carbon dioxide form in the liquid.

Going Further

What would happen if you tried boiling an egg with red cabbage, beets, or turmeric powder? What colors would you get, and how intense would they be? How would adding vinegar affect the absorption natural dyes? What about if you colored the eggs with Kool-Aid?

What would happen if you tried boiling each egg with the dye and the vinegar in the same amount of water? Compare an egg that’s been boiled with vinegar and dye to an egg that has not been boiled, and figure out whether warmer water temperatures help in dye absorption.

Our TV-Free Side note on chemical bonds: We also talked briefly about how color bonds to the egg, and that led to a discussion of atoms and chemical bonds. Here are some good sites for introducing this concept:
Dogs teaching chemistry: Short and hillarious video that introduces the concept of atoms bonding by illustrating the notion with cute dogs. has a great intro about atoms being stable and “happy.”


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