Winter Challenge Box

A Winter Vocabulary Challenge Box for Primary-aged Children



My friend and colleague, Patti, designs creative activities to challenge and motivate primary-aged children.  One of her well-liked creations is the Scavenger Hunt Challenge Box.  The purpose of the Challenge Box is to increase vocabulary and to encourage higher-level thinking.

Enjoy the following winter Challenge Box activity adapted from her idea.

Winter Vocabulary Challenge.pdf
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Chronicles of Creativity: Altered Books


Did you know books can be "altered" into beautiful works of art?  They can be drawn in, bedazzled, and painted.  Pages can be folded, sculpted, cut, woven, quilted, and rubber stamped.  Personal narratives, poems, photographs, and quotes can be added.  The possibilities are endless. 

My friend Susan (and her elementary school students) have created a variety of altered books/visual journals that are imaginative, inspirational, and poignant works of art.  I learned some of Susan's techniques at a recent class at the Muse in Frederick, Maryland, where she taught us how to explore "the connection between visual art and the written word."



We examined different types of art, then each participant selected a used book (giving it new life) and an individual theme. Our book could be used "to reflect on life or to connect with family members and friends" or for any other reason. 


We also learned how to make pockets and fold out pages.  Access to many supplies such as paints, crayons, fabric, decorative paper, gesso, markers, ribbon, and buttons was definitely inspiring.  All we needed to provide was imagination.


Best of all, I can continue adding to my book over time, so it becomes a chronicle of creativity. 

Thank you Susan - Thank you Muse.

Holiday Choice Bookmark




Are there times when your children have "nothing to do?"  If the answer is yes, here are a few holiday-themed activities to encourage creativity. They vary by interests, so there are options for everyone (grades 3-5).  Creativity is the ultimate boredom buster. 

Holiday Choice Bookmark
Winter Holiday Bookmark.pdf
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Visual Arts: Texture





Rough, soft, sharp, dull, fuzzy, smooth - textures are all around us to serve as inspiration.  They can be man-made or found in nature. 

Textured objects can generate beautiful, unique patterns.  Place a piece of paper over the object, and rub the surface of the paper with the side of a crayon. 





Start a texture rubbings collection to create collages, journals, drawings, wrapping paper, scrapbooks, or whatever you want.  The possibilities are endless. 


Get started with The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art's Texture Rubbings Project - an activity designed for all ages. 

Piggy Bank Math Challenge



My piggy bank is overflowing, so I have been sorting coins for the past few days. I only save quarters (25¢), dimes (10¢), and nickels (5¢).  As you can see from the photo, I have LOTS more quarters than dimes and more dimes than nickels.  That got me thinking about the least amount of coins required (using only quarters, dimes, and nickels - no pennies) to make change from 5 cents to 95 cents. 


The following possible combinations illustrate why I have more quarters than dimes and more dimes than nickels.  In short, there are 8 ways to receive a nickel as change, 16 ways to receive a dime, and 30 ways to receive a quarter.  However, there are numerous ways to extend this math problem.  What math activities can you create with my piggy bank challenge?


Write a Letter





Letter writing is fast becoming a lost art, but who doesn't love getting a handwritten letter in the mail?  Use the following letter writing ideas to promote writing skills and to support creative expression. 

Write a Letter
write a letter.pdf
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Animation Magic

Museum Monday

During a recent visit to the Witte Museum, I was reminded of an animation unit I used to teach. The Witte currently has an exhibit of magic lanterns (through June 2014) which are the predecessors of slide and movie projectors.  They were an extremely popular form of entertainment - especially during the second half of the 19th century.  There were even toy lanterns for children.  The exhibit features many different types of magic lanterns, slides, and captivating lantern shows.


You can learn how to make one at PIE (Playfully Inventing & Exploring with Digital & Other Stuff), a website that integrates art, science, music and engineering. 


Thaumatropes, phenakistoscopes, zoetropes, and flip books are other "persistence of vision" toys children can make while learning about the history of animation.  To learn how, click here.

Learn even more with The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry's Animation Teacher's Guide that includes the history of animation and a zoetrope template. Additionally, the V&A Museum of Childhood website has a thaumatrope template and other fascinating things to create for children of all ages. Needless to say, once children learn how to make these toys, it's amazing what they produce.



10 Song Starters

For Children with a Passion for Music and Words

Song Starters
song starters.pdf
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Perspective Matters

Everyone has unique perspectives.  Our differing backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences shape how we react to situations, problems, and conversations.  Gifted children possess many strengths, including the ability to view things differently - a perspective that is occasionally unappreciated. 

 One way to foster valuing different perspectives is through art.  The following symmetry painting activity is an opportunity for children to understand how we see things differently.


Children make the paintings by putting a few drops of paint on paper, folding the paper in half, and then rubbing the paper to spread the drops. Once opened, the paper yields interesting shapes.


Next, the children rotate their finished symmetry paintings to share different views.  With every rotation, the children see different creative things, which promotes a lively discussion about recognizing and appreciating different perspectives. 

If your children enjoy art and creative thinking, they will appreciate the book, Inkblot by Margaret Peot. 

“… Upbeat, practical, and nearly irresistible, this may just be the go-to book on inkblot art.”

–       Booklist (American Library Association)      


Visit her website too - It's filled with creative inspiration for all ages. 


Symmetry Paintings (grades 3-4)                                                           What do you see?


What Time Is It In . . . ?


Do you know someone who loves geography, maps, and unusual time zone trivia?  If so, she will enjoy the following challenge.  The exercise also introduces children (grades 4-6) to time zones, the World Clock, the International Dateline, the Prime Meridian, daylight saving time, and much more.  There are many internet resources (or apps) for instruction including, World Time Zone, World Atlas, and also helps answer the question:  Why do we have all these time zones?



What Time Is It In . . . ?
What Time Is It__.pdf
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What Time is it In . . . ?

Name That Artist!

The following clue card activity is a great introduction to six artists, and you can never go wrong when sharing art with children.  Experiences in the arts are essential to learning.  Additional geography, art terms, and cultural history clues serve as springboards for enrichment in other areas of study.  

Like my previous activity, Name That Building, it is a fun way to lead children on a research hunt.
Clue cards can also be used as assessment tools after museum field trips or independent projects to determine how much children learned (or to assess how much children know prior to introducing a new topic.)

If you enjoyed "Name That Artist," let me know, and I will create similar challenges.  


Name That Artist.pdf
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Autumn Arithmetic

The mental math problems below are both fun and challenging.  Children must listen, combine the information, remember the information, and perform the operation.  It is a playful way to reinforce facts and offers an alternative to rote memorization. 


This set is appropriate for children in grades 3-4, depending on their math levels, but you can alter the operations or content to differentiate for individual needs.


After you complete these problems, have the children create their own.  Encourage them to use groups of items that are familiar to everyone.  (It may be helpful to brainstorm ideas and themes together.) 


You may also like Adding Up Summertime.


Autumn Arithmetic
autumn arithmetic.pdf
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autumn arithmetic answers.pdf
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Celebrate Punctuation Day!


National Punctuation Day

Celebrate proper punctuation on Tuesday, September 24, 2013.  Use the resources below to plan your own punctuation party.

The three hilarious punctuation books written by Lynne Truss and illustrated by Bonnie Timmons are fun for ages 6 and up:

Books about Punctuation



Punctuation Celebration written by Elsa Knight Bruno and illustrated by Jenny Whitehead features playful punctuation poems for ages 6 and up.


For more mature writers, no punctuation party would be complete without The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.   If you like books about the craft of writing, Stephen King's On Writing:  A Memoir of the Craft is a must!


The following punctuation challenge is for upper elementary aged children:

Correct the punctuation in the following book passages. (Use quotation marks for dialogue only.)  Try to guess the book title that each passage comes from. 

Punctuation Day Challenge
punctuation day.pdf
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Punctuation Day Answers
punctuation day answers.pdf
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Summer's End Logic

Engage your child's thinking skills with this "Summer's End Logic" deductive thinking puzzle.

In addition to building thinking skills, logic puzzles also help children learn patience.  The children must put together many pieces of information to find the correct answer.


This puzzle is appropriate for children in grades 3-5, depending on their levels.

If you get stuck and need a hint, please contact me, or leave a comment below. 


Summer's End Logic
summer's end logic .pdf
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Name That Food


This is the best time of year to support our local farmers' markets and enjoy locally grown food.  The following activity, Name That Food, complements a visit to your favorite local market. The clues serve as springboards for vocabulary development and healthy eating for primary aged elementary children. 

After completing the activity, introduce your children to a few new foods at the market to enjoy at home.  They will learn why fresh foods make healthy bodies.  


Name That Food:  An Activity to Introduce New Foods to Children
Farmers: The People Who Feed the World
Name That Food.pdf
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Name That Building!





Because they come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials, buildings are a source of fascination for many children.  The following activity, Name That Building, is a fun way to introduce upper elementary aged children to six of the world’s most famous buildings.



Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris

The clues lead children on a research hunt to determine the name and location of each “mystery building.”  They contain architectural terms, historical events, mythology, etc. that serve as springboards for vocabulary development and other areas of study.  


Clue cards can also be used as assessment tools after museum fieldtrips or independent projects to determine how much children learned (or to assess how much children know prior to introducing a new topic.)


If you enjoyed this “mystery” activity, let me know, and I will make more.

Name That Building
Name That Building.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 98.7 KB


  • 13 Buildings Children Should Know introduces children to 13 famous buildings.
  • Appropriate for ages 8+
  • Other books in this series include 13 Paintings Children Should Know and 13 Sculptures Children Should Know.

Summer Vocabulary Challenge



My friend and colleague Patti designs creative activities to challenge and motivate primary-aged children.  One of her well-liked creations is the Scavenger Hunt Challenge Box.  The purpose of the Challenge Box is to increase vocabulary and to encourage higher-level thinking.  


Here’s a summer Challenge Box activity based on her idea.

If you enjoy the activity, please let me know, and I will make more.

Have fun!

Summer Vocabulary Challenge.pdf
Adobe Acrobat Document 56.9 KB

Virtual Fieldtrip




Wow!   Gain access to fascinating online experiments, exhibitions, and hands-on activities through this virtual museum fieldtrip.  Explore the science of baseball and skateboarding, interact with optical illusions, build your own spectroscope, even visit the extensive archived area to dissect a cow’s eye – you will need your own cow’s eye!




Adding Up Summertime

I always disliked tedious math fact drills, but the mental math problems below are both fun and challenging.  Children must listen, combine the information, remember the information, and add.  It is a playful way to reinforce basic addition facts and offers an alternative to rote memorization. 


This addition set is appropriate for children in grades 2-4, depending on their math levels.


When you complete this set of problems, have the children create their own.  Encourage them to use groups of items that are familiar to everyone.  (It may be helpful to brainstorm ideas and themes together.) 

Adding Up Summertime
adding up summer.pdf
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Not a Box






Playtime and summertime go together, and play is important in children's development and learning.

It develops creativity and imagination, and allows children to make their own choices.  Play-based learning takes children on adventures of their own choosing.


Play is why young children love the book, Not a Box by Antoinette Portis.  This simple, yet endearing book illustrates the adventures children experience while playing with a cardboard box.  Yes, you read that correctly – a cardboard box.  It’s a perfect springboard for imagination and creativity.  (In fact, the cardboard box was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2005.) 













After reading the book, recycle a cardboard box into a plaything.  You could even have a few other supplies on hand such as glitter glue, pipe cleaners, crayons, markers, string, toilet paper tubes, etc. 


Ten Things to Make From a Cardboard Box

4-sided billboard

Grandfather clock


Launch pad

Puppet stage

Cavern or cave

Big drum




Not a Box is appropriate for preschool – first graders.  With older children, you may want to enhance the book with a discussion about the nature of imagination at the website, Teaching Children Philosophy.  Their “Not a Box” page contains excellent philosophical questions to correspond with the book.


If you’re in the Rochester NY region this summer, visit The National Toy Hall of Fame, which is part of The Strong® a wonderful “interactive, collections-based educational institution devoted to the study and exploration of play.” In addition to the National Toy Hall of Fame, the Strong also includes The National Museum of Play, the International Center for the History of Electronic Games, the Brian Sutton-Smith Library and Archives of Play, and the American Journal of Play.


Creative Questions Cube


What is Cubing?


Cubing is an educational strategy that is great for children who like to play games - and what child doesn't like to play games? It makes use of an instructional cube, which is a 6-sided figure that has a different activity or question on each side (face) of the cube.  Children roll the cube and complete the activity that lands face up. 


The cube below has a “twist” because instead of having children answer a question, they must supply an answer.  For example, the cube may land on the answer, “Only when I have to.”  The child (or group of children) must brainstorm questions that have that answer, such as, “When do I make my bed?”


This "twist" encourages flexible thinking and is lots of fun because of the creative outcomes.  Once children get the hang of it, they can make their own Creative Questions Cubes. This is a great activity for ages 8+. 


Creative Questions Cube Instructions


1.  Cut out the diagram.  


2.  Fold and glue on the lines to form a cube.


3.  Roll the cube.


4.  Read the answer on the face of the cube.


5.  Brainstorm questions for the answer.   


Example:  Answer:  Only when I have to.  


Question:  When do I make my bed?


6.  After using this cube, make your own with different answers.                                           

Creative Questions Cube
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Math Fact Practice




If you are looking for math resources for your child, especially math fact reinforcement, visit the website The game room section includes math facts concentration which is a challenge for younger students because the player has to know the math facts and remember the placement of the cards.  

Contact Information

Debra Lemieux

If Then Creativity


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