Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Nutcracker Ballet Unit Study (Make your own from more that 60 free web resources)

In a few weeks, the girls will be auditioning for their parts in their ballet school's Christmas production of 'The Nutcracker.' Miss K, especially, has been excitedly reading and learning all about the characters and their dances. It seemed like great great opportunity to add a Nutcracker Ballet unit study! 

Below you will find all the links to the free web resources we will be using. I have listed them by subject rather than by the order we will be using them. Including nine study guides from different Ballet Companies all over North America might seem a bit over the top but they are all different.  Be sure to check out each guide as they all have unique suggestions for activities, puzzles and games. Each guide also outlines the theatre, cast and crew for their performance. Some of the photographs of the dancers and theatre alone are worth pouring over with your kids! We hope you have as much fun as we will studying the Nutcracker! 


The History of the Nutcracker (the tool/ornament) at

Study Guides

Language Arts Nutcracker activities
5 Nutcracker Language arts based activities from the Union City Youth Ballet

Drama, Theater and Dance activities
Comparing Smooth and Sharp movements of Dance from Lesson Planet

Math Based NutcrackerActivities
2 Math activities for Pre K - 1 from the Union City Youth Ballet
Compare Nutcrackers with a Venn Diagram printable from Teach123
Symmetrical Nutcracker Activity from A Faithful Attempt

Science Based Nutcracker Activities
4 different areas of science to explore from Union City Ballet 
Learn about Clarks's Nutcracker bird at
Hands on activity to explore different kinds of bird beaks from Utah Education Network
Hands on activity to explore Levers in everyday use (incl. worksheets) from
Make your own crystal snow flake -an experiment from Science Kids New Zealand

Social Studies & History Activities 
Ideas about studying the history of Ballet and the Country of Russia (the origin of the story)

The History of the Nutcracker (the tool/ornament) at

Learning about Tchaikovsky
Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra -An interactive online book/game from the Carnegie Hall site
Hey Kids, Meet Tchaikovsky at Making Music Fun
A great collection of Musical instrument worksheets can be found at Enchanted Learning
Free 60 Pg Musical Lapbook Printable  from
Music Coloring Pages from
Active listening and Discussion worksheet for 'Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy' at Lesson Planet

Art and Crafts

Nutcracker Paperbag Puppet Printable from Jim Gamble Puppets
Make Nutcracker & Clara puppets with this printable from Lesson Planet
Recipe for Sparkly Sugar Plums from the
Recipe for Sugar Plum Fairy Cupcakes from the Cupcake Project


Ballet Lap n Note from Homeschool share: 
Topics Incl.: Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker, history of ballet, creative writing, positions, tutu 

Preschool Nutcracker Ideas and Activities

Nutcracker Cut & Paste Activity from
Nutcracker Montessori 3 Part Card Printables from Laura's Place
Nutcracker Coloring Pages from
2 Math activities for Pre K - 1 from the Union City Youth Ballet

Free Clipart and images to add to your project

Free Dance Themed B & W GIFs at ClipArt etc
Free Theatre Themed B & W GIFS at Clipart etc
Color Nutcracker image at Phillip Martin Clipart
Male Ballet Dancer Image at Phillip Martin Clipart has a lot of ballet themed images
Candy and Gingerbread Clipart at

Free iOS Apps

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Speekee #SpanishforKids Giveaway & Review

The idea of teaching your kids to speak Spanish, when your entire knowledge of the language comes from Dora and Diego, is daunting.

Our eldest child (8.5 years) was fortunate enough to take Spanish through a Homeschool Co-op but since we moved from Texas, I have to admit it has been a struggle continuing without Ms. G.

I was thrilled to be offered the chance to review the online version of Speekee Spanish. We have checked out some of their DVDs from our local library so we are familiar with the fun videos and the cute characters: Speekee, Dino and Lupi.

Speekee Spanish

Speekee Spanish for kids is an an online program design for children between the ages of 2 and 11 years. The program is has a total immersion approach meaning that the videos your kids will be watching are all in Spanish. The activities in the videos make it clear what the kids are saying however. There is also the option to turn on the english captioning so you can watch to see that your child is saying the correct words. 

The videos teach everyday words like parts of the body, food, colors and things that you might see at the park. For younger children Speekee has a Fast Track Program which gives you 40 weeks of Lesson plans and links to download free worksheets and flash cards.

For children over 7 years there is the Speekee Spanish Challenge. In this program Spanish is taught through over 40 videos and and game play. There is also the option to interact safely with other Speekee Members. As an added bonus Speekee tracks your child's progress and sends you reports by email.

When we first logged on, I have to admit I was a bit confused as to which track to take.  I settled on the Fast Track program so we could all do it together. It took a few videos for our 4.5 year old to get that the songs and dialogue were in Spanish. Once she understood this she got into the swing of it and began interacting more.  Try as I might our 8.5 year old just didn't want to engage with the program until she realized that little sister was picking up words she didn't know yet. I didn't push the issue and after a few days she was joining us in the lessons. She began to explore the Speekee Map too. 

Speekee Spanish makes learning Spanish simple and fun. A basic account is free so give it a try! Login and click on the gold bell and you will be given your first activity.

If you go to the bottom of the Speekee Homepage you can print some of the flash cards to try and view the Fast track lesson plans. I would recommend this program to all parents looking to teach their children spanish as a second (or third) language. 

A paid membership gives your children access to all of the videos, games and locations to explore and unlock.  Try out the free trial today and I'm sure you'll agree it is worth the affordable membership fee.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Affordable Eyeglasses for kids -Review and Giveaway

I received a JCPenney gift card for the purpose of this review. 
This post was made possible by Mom Spark Media. Thoughts are my own.

Last Summer our oldest daughter spent a lot of time with her nose in a Percy Jackson book. She was also complaining about the headaches she was getting from reading. A quick trip to the Optometrist determined that she needed reading glasses to support her developing eye muscles.

Fast forward to this year and Miss K was due for another checkup. My husband and I were a little concerned about the cost because we no longer have optical coverage on our health insurance policy.

Thankfully JCPenny Optical is offering an awesome Back to School promotion.

Get a Complete pair of Kids’ designer eyeglasses for $29.99!

The offer runs through Sept 15 2014 and includes: 

  • Any kids frame up to $120
  • FREE impact and 1scratch-resistant polycarbonate lenses
  • FREE UV protection
  • FREE eyeglass protection plan for any school-aged child 16 & under

This price does not include the price of an eye exam. Without Optical insurance, you will pay $40 for the exam. This half the amount several other Opticians in my area had quoted me when I called around. If you have Optical coverage then check with your local JCPenny Optical, to see if you have one of the thousand of plans, they accept.

As far as the exam went I only have positive things to say! Dr W is clearly very experienced with kids' eye exams. He was very encouraging and made Miss K feel at ease right away. I hadn't intended on having our 4-year-old checked, but Dr W took the time to examine her eyes too. Mini Piwi was super excited to get to sit in the 'astronaut seat' just like her big sis!

After the exam, the kids were itching to try on frames! Mini Piwi didn't need glasses this year, but she wanted to try on a pair (or five). Miss K eventually found the 'perfect' pair.

If your children need some new glasses then remember to take advantage of this promotion before September 15. You can your nearest JCPenny Optical branch near you with their store locator.

Now onto the giveaway! Thanks to JCPenny one lucky reader will win $30 JCPenny gift card. Simply enter on the Giveaway too below.

I received a JCPenney gift card for the purpose of this review. 
This post was made possible by Mom Spark Media. Thoughts are my own.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fantasy Tween Series: The Heroes Sword books by M.E Sutton

Learning and Growing the Piwi Way is part of the Mother Daughter Book Reviews book blast for the YA series 'Hero's Sword' by M.E. Sutton.

About the books: Book 1: Power Play

Power Play - Heros Sword - Book 1 by M.E. Sutton

Published: November 20, 2012  by Delabarre Publishing, LLC  Recommended age: 8 to12

Summary: All Jaycee Hiller wants to do is survive eighth grade. Mostly that means hanging with her friend, Stu, avoiding the cheerleading squad, secretly crushing on Nate Fletcher, and playing her favorite video game, Hero’s Sword.
When she receives a new video game controller, Jaycee finds herself magically transported into the Hero's Sword video game world. Survival takes on a whole new meaning. No longer battling with a plastic joystick, Jaycee picks up a real sword and bow and arrow and readies herself for battle. Can she save Lady Starla's rule in Mallory, keep herself in one piece, and maybe even learn something about surviving middle school? Kids will love this fast-paced adventure novel and will cheer along with Jaycee's thrilling adventures. What kid hasn't dreamed of actually fighting and battling the villains in their favorite video games? Jaycee finds out if she has what it takes - and what she learns in the fantasy realm of Mallory impacts her mundane, middle school life in unexpected ways.


Amazon * Barnes and Noble * Kobo * iBookstore * Goodreads


Book 2: Storm Clouds

Storm Clouds - Heros Sword - Book 2 by M.E. Sutton

Published: November 7, 2013 by Delabarre Publishing, LLC |  Recommended age: 8 to 12

Summary: Eighth-grader Jaycee Hiller is beginning to fear she only imagined her trip to Mallory. But when a rainy afternoon leaves her with hours of playing Hero's Sword, her favorite video game, she finds herself drawn back into the game - literally.
STORM CLOUDS is the exciting second volume of the HERO'S SWORD saga - chronicling Jaycee Hiller's trials in eight grade, and her exciting adventures in Mallory, the setting of her favorite video game. Jaycee enters the video game realm via a special controller and is caught up in the action of this fantasy realm. In STORM CLOUDS, a valuable jewel belonging to the neighboring estate of Devin, the Sapphire Star, is missing, stolen at the Spring Consortium. Lady Starla stands accused of the theft. Devin's demands are clear: return the Star or they will take it back by force. Now it's up to Lyla Stormbringer to find the Star and the thief. before Mallory finds itself at war. 


Amazon * Barnes and Noble * Kobo

iBookstore * Createspace * Goodreads


Book 3: Wedding Bliss

Wedding Bliss - Heros Sword - Book 3 by M.E. Sutton

Published: July 17, 2014 by Delabarre Publishing, LLC  Recommended age: 9 to 12

Summary: Jaycee Hiller (aka Lyle Stormbringer) has long sensed that Roger and Lady Starla belong together. When handsome and noble Perry Goodhaven shows up and wins Lady Starla's affection, at first glance it seems a more fitting match.
However, those close to Lady Starla notice alarming changes after Perry's arrival - Starla sleeps more often, is often lethargic when she is awake, and begins to defer important decisions to Perry. With Roger falsely imprisoned, it's up to Lyla Stormbringer to uncover the truth about the man positioning himself to rule Mallory with an iron fist. WEDDING BLISS is the exciting third adventure of the HERO'S SWORD saga - chronicling Jaycee Hiller's trials in eighth grade, and her exciting adventures in Mallory, the setting of her favorite video game. 

Purchase: Amazon

The Buzz About the Books

Book 1: "Power Play: Hero’s Sword (Vol. 1) features a relatable main character, fast-paced action, devious enemies, and an exciting plot that will absolutely capture the intended audience’s imagination. I think (and my daughter fully agrees!) that M.E. Sutton has hit on a winning series. I highly recommend Power Play: Hero’s Sword to all tweens, but to reluctant readers in particular, due to the ease of language, the video game setting, and the fast pace and physical length of the book at 64 pages." ~ Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews
Book 1: "This is a fantastic read to inspire kids against giving up as well as keep their imaginations going because I totally see my son imagining this happening to him as he runs through the house with his sword (could be anything from wrapping paper roll to a stick) noises like he is in a sword fight. I can't wait to finish reading it with him & continuing the series." ~ Cassandra Lost in Books
Book 1: "This is a quick and fun read. The language is simple, so it is perfect for the intended audience of a middle grade child. It is full of action and I think kids will love the concept of falling into their favorite video game and living out the fantasy. "~ Bookworm Lisa
Book 2: "This second installment is even better than the first. The storyline has more depth, and more imagery to go along with this tale of adventure, drama, and even a little bit of fairy tale romance. I became more fascinated by the main cast of characters, cementing my interest in this awesome series. The writing style is spot-on for a middle grade adventure, and there is enough action, suspense, and mystery to keep the reader flipping the pages to find out what happens next. I highly recommend this series to fans of middle grade fantasy and video games. I definitely look forward to reading more by this author. " ~ Toni @ My Book Addiction
Book 2: "This is such a fun series! My ten year old and I thoroughly enjoyed reading these together. I think it’s really special when you can find something worthwhile to read together. " ~ Brooke Blogs
Book 2: "I think many middle grade kids will enjoy reading about a kid their age falling into their favorite video game and living out the fantasy. It is perfect for kids who enjoy using their imaginations to escape the real world at times (and better to read about video games than to spend all day playing them!)" ~ Susan @ Mom Loves 2 Read

About the Author: M.E. Sutton

Mary SuttonMary Sutton has been making up stories, and creating her own endings for other people's stories, for as long as she can remember. After ten years, she decided that making things up was far more satisfying than writing software manuals, and took the jump into fiction. She writes the HERO'S SWORD middle-grade fantasy series as M.E. Sutton and finds a lot of inspiration in the lives of her own kids. A lifelong mystery fan, she also writes crime fiction, including THE LAUREL HIGHLANDS MYSTERIES, under the pen name Liz Milliron. Her short fiction has been published at, (Fall 2013), and in LUCKY CHARMS: 12 CRIME TALES (December 2013).  

Website * Blog * Twitter * Facebook * Goodreads * Google+


* $25 Book Blast Giveaway *

Amazon 25 gift card

Prize: $25 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest ends: August 29, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. The winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If a winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Mary Sutton and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway MDBR Book Promotion Services

Monday, July 28, 2014

Pirate themed Summer Fun for Kids for the Poppins Book Nook

This month we are sharing a great collection of books by one of our favorite New Zealand authors and the Pirate activities that have been keeping us cool this month. Margaret Mahy wrote over a 100 hundred children's books and pirates were clearly one of her favorite characters!

The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate is a about a shy man with an office job takes two weeks leave  to help his Mother relive her youth -as a Pirate!
It is a bright and fun book full of characters that try to put him off setting sail. You'll have to check this one out to see if he finds his sea legs!

The Great Piratical Rumbustification is a treat because it is also illustrated by Quentin Blake who also illustrated many of Roald Dahl's books. Pirate turned Babysitter, Orpheus Clinkermanages to turn his latest sitting job into an all out pirate party. Be sure to read this one out loud because it is one of the best examples of Ms. Mahy's fun alliteration that kids love.

The Horrendous Hullabaloo switches the pirate theme up to show that not all pirates behave badly! Peregrine Pirate has left his aunt and parrot at home for the last time. He never takes them to his parties so Polly and his Aunt decide to through their own Parrot Pirate Party at homes. Oh no!

Our pirate fun this month continued with two cool projects: Frozen Gold Doubloons treats and Pirate Bath Treasure.

This a very simple treat the kids were able to make themselves. We mixed together:
  • 4 Oz Container of Vanilla flavored Greek Yogurt
  • 1 Mashed ripe banana
  • 1 Tablespoon of Peanut or Almond Butter
Spoon the mixture into a ice cube tray and freeze until solid (approx 2-4 hrs). We love the Fred and Friends Have an Ice Day Icetray.

The bath time treasures I made for my little pirates can be used as body and hair wash!

Here's what you need!

1 Packet of Gelatin (2 1/2 teaspoons)

1/2 cup hot water

1/2 c kids’ shampoo and body wash (we used Sauve Kids Wash)

1/2 teaspoon cooking oil

Mixing bowl and spoon

Square plastic container to use as a mold

Plastic knife


1. Prepare the mold by greasing it with the vegetable oil
2. Pour the hot water into the mixing bowl and add the gelatin.
3. Whip the mixture quickly until the gelatin has dissolved.
4. Add the shampoo and mix until completely combined.
5. Pour the mixture into a container and place in the refrigerator for 4-5 hours.
6. When the jelly is set, turn out onto a paper napkin and cut into a 1 inch cubes
7. Store the cubes in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them.

I hope we inspired you to grab a pirate book or two and have some fun! Please take some time to look at all the other creative posts from the rest of the Poppins Book Nook bloggers this month!