Three tools that help kids learn geography

The Mouse has been interested in US geography for a couple of years now, but as we’re wrapping up Kinder (OMG how is that possible?) it’s becoming a bigger and bigger enjoyment for him, and we take every opportunity to encourage his love of learning. Last week, we received a letter from his teacher advising that he is being considered for the school’s gifted and talented program. While he is being assessed for the program at school, they also requested that we fill out a survey at home as well, about his interests. When I really sat down to think about it, it was pretty cool to think about all the really fun things he gets excited about: US geography, state history/knowledge, US presidents, and science (specifically astronomy).

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As we continue to nurture this enjoyment of learning, we’ve found a couple of tools that have helped up encourage him in the past couple of years, and I thought I would share them here. As a disclaimer, this is not a sponsored post of any kind. I have no been compensated in any way from any of these companies. Also – while the Mouse might love him some books on geography, he’s also super into Lego Star Wars on the Wii … so please, do not for one second believe that my child is all about educational toys 24/7. We have found that these items are easy to sprinkle in to his evenings and weekends though, and that he enjoys them for their fun side, while the Husband and I appreciate that they’re also helping foster his love of learning.

Great States Junior Game:

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The Mouse received this for Christmas and we just can’t rave about it enough. The game helps with state shape recognition, what event/industry the state is known for, and the state names/spellings. It’s a very quick play (which I love), with simple instructions that even the Froggy (3 years old) can follow along with. The Mouse hasn’t even had it 6 months, and can pretty much recognize what any state is just by seeing a picture of it’s shape. Last weekend, he spent most of our afternoon walk pointing out puddles and telling me which state they looked like. He’s definitely ready for the ‘big kid’ version, which focuses on capitals as well.

National Geographic Kids United States Atlas:

national geographic kids US atlas.jpg

We picked this out at one of the Mouse’s Book Fairs this year, and he continually comes back to it as one of his favorite reads. All 50 states have 2 pages of maps, photos, trivia and history which he geeks out over. There are also short articles on the different regions of the country, and lots of really great illustrations and photos. We’re both a big fan.

Magic Tree House Book Series:

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The Mouse really enjoys reading, and in the past few months has graduated to chapter books. His favorite series of the moment is the Magic Tree House series, specifically the titles that have to do with American History or US presidents (we just finished this one). He likes them because they’re ‘mysteries’ and are way more exciting than other kids books, and I like them because they’re a great bridge from picture books to chapter books. They’re also very quick for me to read to him, and an easy level for him to practice his reading as well. There are a TON of them, although he prefers the new ‘Merlin Mission’ books (indicated by the ‘MM’ on the spine).

If your kiddos are into history or geography, I would love for you to share some of your favorite games or books – we’re always looking for new ideas! I’ll be back next week with a few things that we like to use to help him learn about astronomy!





It took three days

This past week I was traveling out of the state for work. I spent the first two days in Washington DC, and then the last in Baltimore. It was a whirlwind of a trip – lots of work, lots of talking to clients, lots of hand shaking. I lost my voice on Thursday night, but otherwise felt fine and didn’t let it slow me down. I called home and spoke to my husband a few times when I had a few minutes here or there, but for the most part I was running around so much I had no time for anything else. It was Friday afternoon when I finally seemed to pause, look up, and realize I honest-to-god hadn’t even thought of my kids in the past three days.

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Is that wrong? Am I bad mom? I know there are moms out there who can’t abide leaving their kids for even a night – and when they do call every 30 minutes and worry constantly until they’re home. But apparently, not me. I enjoyed this past week. I enjoyed a three hour airplane flight where it was just me, and my coffee, and my laptop. I enjoyed the work, the fast pace, the hustle. I enjoyed the adult-only dinners at nice restaurants. I enjoyed three and half precious days of just being … me.

Every once in a while I get an email from a reader who disagrees with my decision to work at all – let alone out of the home, in a position that requires me to travel 4 – 5 times a year. The graceful thing for me to do would be to email them back as they come in, thank them for being so concerned with my children’s welfare, assure them I’m saving money for my kids’ immanent need for therapy, and leave it at that. However, since I have absolutely no intention of wasting my very limited free time with activities of that nature, I’ll just let them find this gem of a post and draw their own conclusions about the state of my marriage and my children’s home environment.

Whatever, ladies. I’m cool with your judging. You don’t know me, you don’t know my kids, and (hopefully) you don’t know my husband. I promise you, we’re all good. I swear that no amount of 3 night business trips that help me remember that I am more than ‘mom’ or ‘hey you with the fruit snacks’ is going to cause my kids to grow up to be serial killers. I would ask that you turn the concern that you seem to have with the state of my family around and focus on issues that actually exist – like world hunger, or human rights, or even the fact that George RR Martin seems incapable of finishing a series of books that has 95% of the nerds in this world hanging by their fingernails on the edge of a cliff.

We’re good. They’re thriving, And I am happy.

Snips and snails and puppy dog tails

This past weekend was a big one, here in the Tottums household.

new lab puppy

Obviously, I have lost my fucking mind.

This all started about two months ago when a coworker of mine emailed the whole company and said, ‘my brother’s dog got knocked up – puppies!!!’ and attached the sweetest photo of seven sweet babies ever. As I turned the laptop screen around and told the husband, ‘aren’t they sweet’? he got the look. The last time I saw the look it was 2007, and we were at a friend’s wedding when someone showed up with a baby. Guess who was pregnant 2 months later?

‘Tell her we’ll take one’ he said.

To make this short, imagine me spending the next eight weeks trying to talk him out of this. The biting, the chewing, the puddles of pee, the whining, what about when we travel?

new lab mix puppy

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We can all see how my protests worked out.

In the end, the puppies needed good homes, and we have one. Also? We have two boys with high energy levels that need their own dog. We love the Pug, but let’s be honest – a) He is MY dog. He’s great with the boys, but he tolerates them. b) I use the term ‘dog’ lightly – he’s really more of a cat with a canine teeth. This puppy will be a companion for THEM. She’ll grow up with them, she’ll play with them, and she’ll love them.

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That is, if she ever stops biting on them, chewing on them, tackling them, and generally pissing them off. It’s been 3 days now, and all four of us are bruised and in some cases bleeding, from needle sharp puppy teeth. Every time she sinks those tiny puppy teeth into my toes, I glare at the Husband. To which he scoops her up and gives me the look again.

I am such a freaking sucker.

playing with lab puppy

new puppy photo

Welcome, Chewbacca. We are all already under your spell.

Well, except the Pug. He’s not so sure about you yet.

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