My oldest is going into Kindergarten in just a few short weeks, and I'm simultaneously excited and devastated about it. I thought as a teacher, I'd be prepared for this milestone, but I'm just not! Watching him grow is the greatest gift, but it's also sad leaving the previous stage behind.

My first five years teaching were spent in kindergarten. It is an exciting and fun grade, but it is also the first "school" experience for a lot of kids, which can leave parents feeling stressed about how to prepare. The one thing that parents always asked me over the summer was "What should my child know going into kindergarten?"  

So here are my top 5 skill recommendations for kids to practice prior to starting kindergarten. These are purely my opinion of what will help kids feel confident and will make the transition easier. There are absolutely more skills to work on, and even skills that might be more important, but when I think about those first few weeks of school, these are what come to mind.

1. Use the Bathroom Independently. 
Y'all, while preschool teachers might be able to go into bathrooms with kids, kinder teachers are not supposed to. Kinder babies need to be able to use the bathroom independently, including buttoning their pants, wiping themselves, and washing their hands after. We also recognize that accidents happen. Just pack a spare change of clothes in their bag and the world will move on.

2. Practice Basic Cooperation Skills.  
Social skills are a huge part of kindergarten. Kids work on cooperation, kindness, sharing, interdependence, and so much more. On the first day of school, it is easy to tell which kids have had opportunities to practice these skills prior to kindergarten. These will obviously take a lifetime of practice to develop, but the more opportunities that your child can have to practice taking turns, sharing, waiting in line, listening, etc the quicker they will adapt to school social expectations, which translates into them being happier in school.

3. How to Take Care of Supplies. 
This is one that will benefit you at home too! Practice how to handle books, use scissors, putting lids back on markers and glue sticks, putting items back where they belong, and keeping a tidy area. Teachers will go over these things the first week of school as well, but having a basic understanding of how to take care of supplies is a skill that is helpful in life. Kids who struggle with disorganization in kindergarten often continue to struggle with it in older grades by losing assignments, forgetting their name, etc. It also causes disagreements with other students when a kids backpack or desk supplies spill over into others areas, or if not everyone helps clean up things like Legos when center time is done. Instilling these skills early is a great skill and will help students with independence and  relationships with peers (plus, it may help your own home feel more organized!)

4. Recite the Alphabet. 
You will find an array of "kindergarten readiness lists" that include knowing all the letters of the alphabet, including their sounds, and starting to put them into words, and I disagree. The alphabet, letter sounds, and putting them together to make words is a huge part of what is learned in kindergarten. Obviously, the more letters and sounds that kids know going into kindergarten are beneficial, but in my opinion, being able to recite the alphabet and knowing some letters is enough. At minimum, kids should know the letters of their name! If your child doesn't know every letter, don't stress, this does not mean they are behind!

5. How to Write Their Name. 
This is probably my number one "academic" skill suggestion for kids entering kindergarten. They should know how to write their name, using proper sentence case. In a class of 30 kids, this skill will make a world of difference! It will take a huge burden off your child's teacher, and will instill confidence in your son/daughter, if they can recognize and write their name prior to starting kindergarten. I have a great freebie to help kids practice writing their name, which can be found HERE.

Also, this isn't a "skill" but save your kid's teacher some sanity, and send your kid with velcro shoes for PE days! Nothing takes longer than tying 30 sets of shoes! ;) And only send them lunches and snacks that they can open independently. They often don't have much time for snack/lunch, and if they have to wait for help to open their food, it may take the majority of their time.

That's it. Y'all, kids will learn a ton in kindergarten. Arguably, it's the grade where the most is learned. If they don't know everything starting off, it's ok. You will be blown away by how much they learn in 9 months!

So you have a kindergartener! The first day of Kindergarten is exciting, scary, and everything in between.These are my top five skills that kids should know prior to entering kindergarten! Help your son or daughter feel more confidentin the transition to traditional school by practicing these skills prior to the first day of school. #Kindergarten #BackToSchool #BuildingBrilliance

Grab this First and Last Day of School Sign FREEBIE by clicking HERE (or click the photo below).
First and Last Day of School Sign FREEBIE

We're Going on a Field Trip... Ideas to help you plan, organize, and survive field trips!

*This post may contain affiliate links. All recommendations are 100% my own opinions. For more information about these, please see my disclosure statement.*

So, you're planning a field trip...

Field trip days are both the best and most exhausting days of the year, amIright?

They take an incredible amount of planning, organization, and energy to successfully pull off,  but the excitement is unparalleled! After a few years of just kind of throwing permission forms, money, chaperone lists, whatever other paper work I get into a manila file folder, I decided that I wanted to be more organized. So...I started working on a Field Trip Binder to help me keep all the things together, and save me time and energy! It's one of those things that I've had sitting on my computer, done enough for me to use, but not quite done enough to share with others, until recently, and I'm SO EXCITED to share it with you now! I genuinely hope that it helps make planning, organizing, and actually going on field trips easier for you! Of course, all of these ideas can be utilized without purchasing my binder, but if you want to save yourself some time and energy, you can find my binder by clicking HERE or the photo below (just click somewhere besides the "pin it" button).

(Don't want to reinvent the wheel? My Field Trip Binder on TpT (found HERE or by clicking outside the "pin it" button on any of the photos) includes forms for all of these and will save you TIME! I've included sample pictures of them throughout this blog post as ideas, but you could obviously make your own versions (For personal use. Don't copy mine and try to sell them. That is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, my intellectual property, plus it's just mean!) 
Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization

Save yourself time and energy by creating a template. Just change the specific details for your trip, but leave the majority of it as a standard form.
I organize mine with details including:
   -Date of trip and due date for forms/money to be returned
   -Departure and return times
   -Location and address
   -Lunch options and info
   -Special accommodations (such as clothing, shoes, meals, etc)
   -Chaperone info
   -Permission form for parents to sign

I keep a template that I make minor tweaks to information to, but keep the majority of the info for parents the same.

Honestly, I'm a sucker for cute. I want everything that I send home to be adorable, and I cringe when I see generic forms in Times New Romans. I get it, not everyone is like me, but I'm hoping that these little cuties make it easier for you to add a little cuteness to your forms. In my binder, I included (editable) forms to send home. There are over 30 permission forms with related graphics, and several options for generic forms as well. They all follow the pattern shown in the picture below. These are an editable PDF, so you can literally edit any of the text on these forms (but not the graphics) without having to resize, insert fonts, or change colors, etc. Super easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization

Checklists are beautiful things and they make it easy to quickly see what has been done, and what still needs to be done. A few things that you may need to do to prepare for a trip
-Contact the location and set a date
-Contact your busing department and confirm a bus
-Create a schedule for the field trip day
-Create a checklist to mark off which student has returned paperwork
-Note any IEP's or accomodations that will be relevant for the trip to easily inform your field trip location and chaperones
Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization

Often tools for chaperones need to be made on a trip by trip basis, because your chaperones will change, but there are a few things you can do at the beginning of the year to help you be prepared all year.
-Keep a running list of parents who have background checks completed
-Keep contact info handy for parents who regularly volunteer
-Print name tags for students and have them ready
I also keep a spreadsheet of students who may require extra assistance (allergies, inhalers, etc) ready so that I don't forget to tell the parent in charge of the group the day of the field trip.

Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization

For name tags, use string, gimp, or grab something a little more durable like these:

I love having my kids sit and write a quick reflection of their field trip when we returned. I even had my kinder babies write about their day! It was simply an easy, but meaningful, way for us to reflect on our trip and for me to see kid true feelings about it. If they hated it, let's try to find a new one for next year. If they loved it, let's make it an annual trip! Who cares if I go on the trip 30 times, it's their first time. Plus, reading their highlights usually made my heart burst and made all the time and effort feel worth it! I added in a bunch of quick and easy reflection sheets.

Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization

Grab some Astrobrights paper, print your reflection forms in September, and be ready for all the field trips for the year! Amazon always has the best deals! You can grab some here:

   or these 


Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization

Good luck on your next field trip!  

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DIY Laundry Detergent

A few years ago, I was pregnant with our first child. I was swimming in school debt, making pennies working at a private school, and looking for ways to save money wherever possible.

When I read about DIY laundry detergent and how it not only was cheap and easy to make, but also made your clothes smell super fresh, I decided it was something that I wanted to try. I found a recipe on Pinterest and haven't looked back since! I honestly love my soap. It usually takes only about 10 minutes to make, once batch lasts my family of 4 a year, and our clothes smell amazing.

I recently posted about making my own soap on Instagram, and had a ton of you asking for my recipe. I scoured my DIY board on Pinterest trying to find my original recipe and couldn't find it anywhere, so here it is. If this is your recipe, please let me know, so I can link to your blog! 

It costs about $30-$35 for all of the ingredients. Some of them, if you are a couponer, you can definitely find coupons to get them cheaper!

DIY Laundry Detergent
I have found all of the ingredients in the laundry isle at Walmart. Some of the exact quantities may be a few ounces different than what I have listed, so grab whatever is in the laundry isle. If you prefer to order off Amazon, see the links at the end of this post go grab everything there!
4  lb box of Pure Baking Soda
4 lb box of Borax
4 lb box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
3 lb box of Oxi Clean
2 bottles of Purex Crystals
2 bars Zote soap

The only hard part is that you have to grate (as in use a cheese grater) the bars of Zote soap. Then,
I literally just mix them all together in a bucket. My kids even like helping me out with it! 


That's it. When you use it, you just need a little bit with each load. Only about 2 TBSP, which means this stuff lasts forever!

I have a glass jar that I bought at TJ Maxx a few years ago that I keep on top of my wash machine, and I store the rest in the Oxi Clean containers until my class jar runs out, but you could keep it in your big bucket too. However you want to store it. 

I tried to be fancy with my jar and actually di-cut the word "laundry" and put it on the jar, but it's lost a few letters over the years, so it just looks like "dry" now. Ha! Maybe eventually I'll fix it, but #tiredmom. If I ever get around to fixing it, then I'll share a photo! ;) 

There you go! If you try making your own soap and you love it, let me know!

Grab all the ingredients off Amazon!

Engaging (and not so scary) Halloween Read Alouds

I know I'm not alone when I say that picture books are my jam! I think one of my favorite parts of teaching and parenting small children is reading aloud. Books are magic! 

In this post, I've compiled about 10 of my favorite Halloween read alouds, and a short reason why each are must reads! These are in no particular order!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. By ordering through these links, I earn a small commission. All opinions are my own. You can click to purchase any of the books on Amazon by clicking the photo on each (just click outside of the "Pin It" button in the middle). 😀

1. Bonaparte Falls Apart
My son wanted to read this book on repeat this last Halloween. I'm not kidding. He thought it was absolutely the funniest thing he had ever heard. It also has the cutest story line about friendship and celebrating your individuality. It is a perfect book to include in your classroom if you have students with disabilities, as Little Bonaparte ends up with a service dog in the end to help him keep himself together!
Grab Bonaparte Falls Apart on Amazon by clicking HERE!

2. Room on the Broom
There is always room for others on the broom. I love this sweet story about friendship, and bravery, and sticking by each other. The witch is happy to share her broom with others, and when she gets in trouble, they come to her rescue. In the end, they each contribute a piece to make a beautiful new broom. It's the perfect story for friendship, compassion, and teamwork! Follow up activities could be building brooms using recycled materials or Legos, or a writing project about where they would travel to and who they would travel with, if they had a broom.
Grab Room on the Broom on Amazon by clicking HERE!

3. Creepy Pair of Underwear
(and Creepy Carrots)
We all know kids love underwear. Just saying the word "underwear" around littles will make them laugh hysterically. So this story has the right ingredients to be a hilarious read aloud. Kids also get a kick out of how a little rabbit is scared of his underpants. He goes through great lengths to get rid of them, and they just keep coming back. Jasper is funny. Just funny.
Grab Creepy Pair of Underwear on Amazon by clicking HERE!
Grab Creepy Carrots on Amazon by clicking HERE!

4. The Ugly Pumpkin
This is a cute little story about a "pumpkin" who doesn't get chosen at Halloween and thinks there is something wrong with him, only to find out that he isn't a pumpkin after all! A great book for classifying fruits and vegetables!
Grab The Ugly Pumpkin on Amazon by clicking HERE!
5. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
This book is full of nostalgia, and that alone makes me excited to read it every year! When you are excited, your kids are excited! Plus, there are some books that are just timeless!
Grab It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on Amazon by clicking HERE! 

6. Pete the Cat Five Little Pumpkins
I don't know what it is about this Groovy Cat, but my kids are obsessed! As long as a book includes a little blue cat and rhyming, my kids are hooked. That makes this a great read aloud to hold their attention! It's a Groovy spin on the classic 5 Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate poem, and is perfect story to lead into a Jack-O-Lantern Craft!
Grab Pete the Cat Five Little Pumpkins on Amazon by clicking HERE!

7. Little Boo
This is an adorable story about being patient, waiting for what you want, and working hard to get there. As the little seed keeps trying to scare other objects, but nothing is scared. Over time, he grows and becomes a Jack O'Lantern. This book is also great for a introducing the life cycle of a pumpkin!  
Grab Little Boo on Amazon by clicking HERE!

8. There's a Monster in your Book
This book is fun because it allows kids to engage with the story. Each page has a different "task" for them to do to get the monster out of the book. A fun story to read again and again and again!
Grab There's a Monster in your Book on Amazon by clicking HERE!
9. The Hallo-Wiener
My Sister in Law bought my son this book a few years ago and it's been a favorite in our house ever since! Dav Pilkey writes a ton of funny stories (including one of our favorite, Dog Breath!) and we just can't get enough of his style. It's a sweet story about a poor wiener dog that just doesn't feel like he fits in, but low and behold (pun intended) he becomes the hero of the story and learns that he is perfect the way that he is.
Grab The Hallo-Wiener on Amazon by clicking HERE!
10. How to Catch a Monster
Okay, I miiiiiight be obsessed with this whole series! (to see all of them, click here), but it's just a cute story that shows how we can have misconceptions of others and we should never judge them by rumors or stereotypes. Plus, it's fuuuuunny! (It does have some farting in it though, so if you have kids that just can't handle that, maybe don't grab this book. ;) If you're looking for a follow up activity, have students create their own monsters and write about their characteristics.
 Grab How to Catch a Monster on Amazon by clicking HERE!

As always, I would love for you to help me spread the word about these amazing books by re-pinning the image below. 😀
Get students laughing with these engaging Halloween read alouds! Each book has it's own unique and hilarious story that are sure the keep your students engaged all October long! #Halloween #PictureBooks #GoodReads