Telestrations is a fun family game! Here are some easy adaptations to allow early readers and writers to play too.

Adapting Telestrations for Early Readers & Writers

I recently picked up the game Telestrations at Goodwill. Thankfully, all the pieces were there, and it was ready to play.

For this game, you start with a word and draw it in your sketch book. Then the next person looks at what you drew, and writes down what they think you drew. You continue taking turns guessing and drawing, passing the sketch book to the left each time.

Here’s what it looks like (affiliate link…):

It’s a fun game, but does require a bit of adaptation to play with younger children. Here’s how I make it work for my family.

The Youngest Is Teamed Up

When my four-year-old wants to play, she and I team up. I tackle the reading and writing, and let her do the drawing. That’s her favorite part.

I also pass the two toddlers each a dry erase marker and a sketch book. That keeps them entertained while the rest of us play!

Pick Any Word on the Card

The original rules in Telestrations call for rolling the die to see which number word on the card you draw. This causes a problem when you’re playing with early readers. They might not be able to read that particular word.

Here's how we adapt the rules of Telestrations to make it accessible to early readers and writers. So we allow each player to pick any word, from either side of his or her card. If a young reader can’t read any of the words, we let them draw again.

Everyone loves being able to pick the word. My teenager likes it, because she can pick something she actually would like to draw. The early readers like it because they get to be in control of deciding which word they can read. It’s a win win!

Use Invented Spelling

When my younger players write down what they think someone else wrote, they aren’t allowed to ask anyone how to spell a word. They have to say the word, and just do the best they can.

This keeps the game going more smoothly, and makes them practice listening to each letter. It’s a fun way to practice!

You Can Ask for Reading Help

Because of the invented spelling, we’ve had a few instances where we just can’t figure out what was written. There are also cases when an older player wrote something as a guess that an early reader can’t read.

So when we play, you can ask the person sitting next to you to help you read. You just have to ask politely and not shout.

We Don’t Keep Score

There are directions for scoring in Telestrations, but we don’t worry about keeping score. Right now, we’re playing for fun. We typically play two or three rounds and call it good. It’s fun for everyone, even without a “winner!”

We All Share

Once we reach the end of a round, everyone takes turns sharing the pages in their sketchbooks. This lets everyone practice their speaking skills, and we all get a good laugh out of the way the word changed through words and pictures.

Have You Played Telestrations?

I love board games, and I was happy to add this one to our collection. It’s one we’ll get a lot of use out of. Have you ever played this one? I’d love to hear your family rules and adaptations in the comments.



Who says teaching nutrition has to be boring? Here are five activities to help your child learn to make wise food choices.

5 Activities for Teaching Nutrition

Teaching nutrition to our kids is essential. There’s so much junk food on the market today, and it’s easy to access.

To balance this out, our kids need us to help them build a solid nutritional understanding. They need to know that not all foods are created equally, and that treats aren’t meant to be eaten all the time.

But, teaching nutrition doesn’t have to be boring. Here are some of the activities I use to reinforce nutrition concepts with my kids.

Food Group Sort

Materials Needed:

Newspaper ads from the grocery store


Glue stick



By cutting out a variety of food and then sorting them by type, your child will gain a better understanding of the food groups.

Have your child cut out several kinds of food from the ads.

Then, ask her to sort them into groups that make sense. When she’s done, have her explain the groupings to you.

Tell your child that now you’re going to sort them. Break the food into the following categories:

  • Protein
  • Grain
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Dairy
  • Treats

Talk to your child about the way you sorted them, and explain that these are the food groups. Our bodies need some from each category to grow well.

Have your child glue the pictures from each category onto a piece of paper.

Drawing a Balanced Meal

Materials needed:

Drawing paper

A dinner plate


Crayons/Colored Pencils


This game is all about creating a balanced meal. To start, ask your child to trace the dinner plate onto his paper.

Put the plate away.

Ask your child to draw a balanced meal that he’d love to eat. It has to include:

  • A protein
  • A fruit
  • A veggie
  • A source of dairy
  • Some grain

Then let their imaginations run wild. My kids have created some crazy combinations, like this one my seven year old came up with:

  • Hot dogs
  • Bananas
  • Carrot sticks
  • Chocolate milk
  • Mashed potatoes

While it’s balanced, it’s definitely not a combination that I’d normally make to go together. But that’s okay–I really wanted to make sure he knew what the components of a balanced meal were, and could name something from each category.

Fruit & Vegetable Alphabet Game

Materials Needed:



This game is an alphabet game–your goal is to work as a team to name a fruit or vegetable for each letter of the alphabet.

Thinking of this variety will help expose your child to several different kinds of produce.

One person starts by saying a fruit or vegetable that starts with the letter A. The next person does B. Continue until you reach Z.

Nutrition & The Farm: Where Our Food Comes From

Materials Needed:

The ingredients you’re using to prepare dinner


Invite your child into the kitchen to help you cook. As you prepare the meal, talk about where each ingredient came from.

If you’re using milk, cheese, and hamburger, you can talk about how these all came from a cow.

Eggs come from chickens.

Fruits and vegetables are grown in a garden.

These conversations are simple, and important. It’s essential that consumers know where their food comes from. Make sure your children know–food comes from farms!

How What You Drink Affects Your Teeth

Teeth and eggshells are composed of similar material. This experiment will help your child see the impact that what they drink has on their teeth.

Materials Needed:

2 eggs

4 clear plastic glasses

Enough soda to fill a glass

Enough water to fill a glass

Enough juice to fill a glass

Enough energy drink to fill a glass


Carefully crack the eggs in half and preserve the shell halves. Use the eggs as you’d like and rinse the shells.

Have your child help place one half egg shell in each plastic glass.

Let your child pour water into a glass over the eggshell.

Repeat with the other drinks.

Each day for a week, carefully remove the eggshell and observe any changes. Look for changes in:

  • Color
  • Texture
  • Strength
  • Shape

After a week, dispose of the egg shells and discuss what you saw. Some beverages are really hard on our teeth!

Experiment inspired by this one.

What activities do you use for teaching nutrition?

I’d love to hear how you teach nutrition in a fun way. Please share in the comment section below.

5 Expert Tips for Making TV Time More Educational. Who says TV time always has to be brain numbing? Click over to discover five fresh ways to wake up your brain during tube time.

5 Expert Tips to Make TV Time More Educational

We’ve been sick lately. Hacking up a lung, bronchitis kind of sick. We’re pretty miserable. And that means the TV has been on a whole lot more lately.

But excessive TV time isn’t good either. I was running out of ideas for making it more educational, so I turned to my family for help.

Teaching runs in the family, and my mom and my older sister are both teachers. They provided just the spark of inspiration I needed, and I wanted to share their ideas with you.

Keep reading for five tips for getting more out of TV time delivered straight from two expert teachers: Elementary Title Teacher and Special Education Director Sheryl Templeton, M.Ed, and high-school English teacher Mindy Jones.

The best part? None of these tips are complicated; they’re all simple! Which is just what my sick, foggy feeling brain needed.

Add Some Conversation

Both of the experts agree that talking to your kids about what they’re watching is essential. I concur.

The easiest way to make this happen is to know what they watch. I try to make sure I’ve seen at least one episode of each show they enjoy. That way we share a common vocabulary, and I at least have an idea of what they’re talking about.

Here are some questions the teachers suggested you try:

  • Who is your favorite character?
  • What did that character do in this episode?
  • Why did the writer decide the character should do that?
  • What might have happened if that character did something else instead?
  • Does that character remind you of anyone else?
  • What would you have done if you were that character?
  • Where does this show take place?
  • What would happen if it took place somewhere else?
  • What’s something that happened that couldn’t happen in real life?
  • What’s something that happened that could happen in real life?

The kids loved talking about their favorite shows. The younger kids struggled a bit with the idea that a writer had written the show, but it was a great introduction to that concept.

Sequence Events

Events happen in a particular sequence. My mom, Sheryl suggested having the kids pay attention to the sequence of events.

This strategy is also a good way to practice the concept of cause and effect. As we were talking about the show, I took a few minutes to ask some sequencing questions.

These got them thinking about the order of events.

  • What happened first?
  • What happened next?
  • What happened right before the commercial break?
  • What do you think will happen next?

These questions will help your child better understand the plot of the show. Just like in books, plots are an important part of television shows.

educational tv time

Analyze the Commercials

Don’t just fast forward those ads! Mindy suggested using commercial breaks to your advantage by having the kids analyze the content. Just a few pointed questions got everyone’s mind rolling:

  • What are they trying to sell?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • How do you know?
  • What appeals did they use?

Teaching kids to be aware of commercials—and the purpose behind them will help them be more-informed consumers in the future. Looking at commercials through an educational lens also increases critical thinking skills.

Listening for Specific Words

Sheryl recommends having kids listen for certain words during the show to keep their mind focused. Having a task to think about prevents the brain from passively watching. Your child will have a job to do, and will be listening closely for those words.

Having knowledge of the show is important for this activity. That way you give your child a word that’s more likely to be said.

For older children, you can give them even more listening challenges. Try listening for words that start with a certain letter. Or words that rhyme. They could listen for opposites.

Since I have two early readers, I created a Bingo style board for them to listen to while watching. They had to cross out each word on their board. When they were finished, they received a small treat. It was a fun way to practice their reading while they were sick.

Learn About the Craft of Film

Each scene in the show happens for a reason. The writers and directors put everything there for a particular purpose. Challenge your children to pay attention to angle of the shots, the composition of the scene, and how everything works together.

Mindy noted that children can, “start searching for product placement and basic framing.” Older kids can, “look at more advanced framing, camera angles, and editing.” They can analyze the show, which helps them pay attention to detail.

Jayme, my oldest, had the most fun with this one. She’s created mini-movies on her laptop before, and really got into the analysis process.

To Increase Learning, Don’t Just Watch TV

By using these expert tips, you’ll help keep your child’s brain turned on during tube time. They won’t be passively staring at the screen, but rather actively engaging their brain.

What tips do you have for making television time more educational? Since I’m beginning to think by the time we all make our way through this illness summer will be here, I’d love to try some more things.

Please share your tips in the comment section below, or connect with me on Twitter. You can find me @lisatannerwrite.


Gardening across the curriculum: learning activities for kids.

Gardening Across the Curriculum: What Kids Learn By Getting Their Hands Dirty

My plan is to wrap our official homeschooling up by the end of May. Our learning though, never ends. I’m a huge fan of learning through experience.

This year, we’re going to try to finally figure this gardening thing out.

You see, even though I live on a large homestead and raise my own animals, plants are another story. My thumbs are definitely not green.

I’ve tried in the past. Many times. But I’ve always tried to go too big. This year is different. This year I’m shrinking my gardening plans into something more manageable.

And planning on the kids helping a lot more. After all–gardening is a great way to learn. Here’s a look at gardening across the curriculum, what getting their hands dirty can teach kids.


Math is everywhere in life. In our gardening time, my kids will be:

  • Counting seeds
  • Measuring depth for measuring
  • Measuring space between plants
  • Marking the growing season on a calendar so we know when to expect a harvest
  • Measuring rain
  • Estimating the height of plants
  • Comparing plant sizes
  • Sorting flowers by color
  • Sorting seeds by size


Nature is naturally scientific. While gardening, the kids will specifically study:

  • Botany (plant identification)
  • Classification of plants and bugs
  • Insect studies
  • Learn about good garden insects and pests
  • Observe and name parts of plants
  • Differentiate between weeds and plants
  • Weather studies
  • Water cycle
  • Composting–the cycle of life
  • Nutrition

Language Arts

We’ll be reading and writing a lot about our garden! Here’s what I’m planning:

  • Reading seed packets
  • Identifying letters on seed packets (for my non-readers)
  • Research square foot gardening via internet and books (for my oldest)
  • Read these books from the library (aff. links):

As we read each book, we’ll talk about the plot, the characters, and write down what we learned about gardening.

  • Writing our own gardening stories
  • Making science journals and writing in them about our plants

Social Studies

Gardening across the curriculum means all subjects are covered! Here’s how we’ll tackle social studies:

  • Checking out zone maps to determine what zone we’re in
  • Visiting the local farmer’s market to learn more about our community
  • Learning about George Washington Carver & his work in agriculture
  • Studying ag around the world
  • Comparing food eaten in different parts of the country
  • Organic vs. conventional growing systems


Gardening is so colorful! We’ll be doing some fun art projects:

  • Making a seed collage
  • Sketching the parts of plants
  • Making a stepping stone path
  • Color inspiration picture (pick one color from the garden and then use shades of that color to create a picture)
  • Create plant markers


  • Building a trellis playhouse with Daddy
  • Building raised beds


  • Weeding the garden
  • Learning about the importance of water for plants and people
  • Nutrition studies
  • Washing hands
  • Washing produce before eating it

I’m so excited to dive into our garden studies. I’m hoping for a great harvest. But even if we just grow a bunch of weeds, I know the kids will learn so much by getting their hands dirty.

Do you garden? What other examples can you share of gardening across the curriculum? I know I didn’t cover it all!

5 Simple ABC Games with homemade letter cards. A video post!

5 Simple ABC Games with Homemade Letter Cards

We love playing learning games! Today I have a special treat for you. My six-year old daughter, Ellie helped me create my very first video post.

She demonstrates five simple ABC games that use our homemade letter cards. Click below to see the video.

In case you have a lousy internet connection (like I do…), or don’t have time to watch the video, here’s a written version. It has all the directions you need to play these simple ABC games.

5 Simple ABC Games with Homemade Letter Cards

How to Make Homemade Letter Cards

Our letter cards are simple. They’re inexpensive, and fairly durable. You’ll need:

26 Index Cards

1 marker (like a Sharpie)

To make the cards, just write one large letter on the unlined side of each card.

Game 1: Alphabet Soup

You’ll need:

Your letter cards

A large soup pot

A spoon

To Play:

Spread the letter cards around the room. Have your child run over and grab one, and say what letter it is.

Ask your child to add the letter to the pot.

Continue adding letters until they’re all in.

Then sing the ABC song and give the letters a stir!

2. ABC Toss

You’ll Need:

Your letter cards

A ball of crumpled aluminum foil

To Play:

Spread a few letters out on a desk or table. Hand your child the ball of foil, and have her take a few steps backwards.

Your child tosses the ball of aluminum foil onto the cards. Ask her what letter the foil landed on (or landed near).

Flip that card over, and toss the ball again. Continue until all cards are flipped over.

3. A Basket Full of Letters

You’ll Need:

Your letter cards

A basket

A chair

To Play:
Set the basket on the chair. Hand your child the stack of letter cards, and ask her to stand a few feet back.

Ask your child what card is on top. Once she says the letter, have her toss it into the basket.

When all the cards are tossed, have your child pick up any misses. They can take a step closer, and try again.

4. Flip the Sound

You’ll Need:

Your letter cards

To Play:

Shuffle the letter cards and place them in a stack face down.

Have your child flip the top card over.

Ask your child to say the name of the letter, and the sound the letter makes. Have your child say a word that starts with that sound.

Continue for each letter.

5. Driving for Letters

You’ll Need:

Your letter cards

A toy vehicle

To Play:

Set the letter cards in order on the floor in a path around the room. They should be face up.

Have your child start with the vehicle at the letter A. Ask her to either put the letters in the vehicle (if it’s big enough) or drive over the letter.

She should sing the ABC song, driving from one letter to the next.

Will you give any of these simple ABC games a try? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Photo by Amador Loureiro via Unsplash