Frankie’s Travel Games – Keep the Kids Entertained!

It never fails. Exactly 12 minutes into your multi-hour car (or plane) ride, a chorus of “I’m bored” echoes up from the back seat. Luckily for your sanity, you can leave boredom at home this holiday season by using this list of fun-filled travel games!

Note: If you have motion sickness-prone kids, we recommend the suggestions with an asterisk (*).

No Supplies Needed:

  • CAR-tegories*: Select a category (animals, vegetables, places, etc) then take turns coming up with a word that fits. Start with A and make your way through the whole alphabet.
  • Nosey Neighbors*: As you pass a car in another lane, take a look at the passengers and the car. Take turns adding words to create a story about your neighbors and where they are headed.
  • Don’t Grin and Bear It: With two people in the back seat, take turns trying to keep a straight face while the other makes crazy faces. Only two rules – no touching and no closing your eyes. See who can last the longest without cracking a smile.
  • Car Composers*: All you need is an ear for rhyming to create your very own theme song! Alternate creating the first line and creating a rhyming second line to complete each stanza.

Example: We’re going to visit Grandma’s house; Mom didn’t let me bring my mouse. I guess I’ll just have to play; with dear Grandma’s cat all day.

  • Crafty Characters*: Take turns brainstorming characters from your favorite books, movies, TV shows and games. Each person must choose a name that begins with the last letter of the character chosen previously.

Example: Frankie > Eleanor > Roger Rabbit > Tigger…

  • Spelling Sleuth*: Go around the car and let everyone add a letter to a word. The first person to complete a word loses! But don’t choose just any letter; if you select a strange letter your fellow riders can challenge you to find out what word you have in mind. No answer? You lose.
  • 20 Questions*: A car-ride classic! Pick anything in the world, then answer up to 20 yes/no questions from your partners as they try to figure out what you’re thinking.
  • Tree Tracker*: Pick a tree in the distance and guess how far away it is. Then, use the odometer to find out the exact distance. Closest guess wins!
  • Three-Letter Lingo*: Have one person think of a three letter word. Everyone else takes turns guessing three letter words while the person tells them how many letters correspond to their word choice.
  • Pack that Memory*: Start with the sentence “I’m on my way to ___ and I brought a ___” then fill in objects you might have packed starting with the letter A. Each person must recite the objects already named before adding their own. See who can remember the most objects without a mistake!

Example: I’m going to Kentucky and I brought an artichoke and a blanket and a creature….

Supplies Needed

  • Edible Jewelry: Use string licorice and fruit loops to make a whole new look for yourself. Plus, as an added bonus, you’ll have snacks handy for the rest of the ride!
  • Radio Stars*: Hand the kids a tape recorder and let them create their own radio variety show! Speed up or slow down the voices on playback for extra laughs.
  • A Present an Hour*: Stop by the dollar store before you hit the road and pick up a selection of small gifts for the kids. Hand them out every hour.
  • Pipe Cleaner Craze: Let kids twist the travelin’ time away with a pack of pipe cleaners. Bend them, braid them and bring to life a new animal. Or turn the back seat into the hippest beauty salon around by creating new do’s with the pipe cleaners.
  • Car Color Quest*: Cut up a variety of different colored strips of paper and place them in a paper bag. Take turns selecting a colored strip (no peeking!). First person to find a car the same color as their strip wins! For additional rounds, hunt for objects other than cars.
  • Roadside Bingo*: Print the attached bingo boards and then hunt for the objects out the window! First person to get 5 in a row wins. Consider placing the boards in plastic sheet protectors and marking with washable markers – wipe off the boards to begin another round!
  • Journey Journal: Give the kids an empty notebook, a set of crayons and a Polaroid or disposable camera and let them document your travels. You’ll get some adorable keepsakes in the process.
  • Squint n’ Squiggle: Draw a squiggle on a piece of paper, then hand it to the kids to turn into a picture. With a little imagination, that zig-zag might become a unicorn’s mane or an ocean wave – you never know what you’ll get!



Standardized Tests: Credible or Completely Unfair?

To test or not to test? In many states this is no longer the question as standardized tests have become the norm for holding schools, teachers, and students accountable for their learning. Now the real question becomes: Are mandatory standardized tests credible or completely unfair? We want to know what you think!

The History

For years standardized testing has caused controversy around the world with two sides divided over the benefits and harms of using one test to measure and compare all students. In fact, the idea of testing students stems all the way back to ancient Greece! Socrates tested his students through conversation. This concept of ‘testing’ made its way to imperial China, where government job applicants had to write essays and compose poetry as part of the application process. The invention of the printing press in Europe pioneered the evolution of written exams. By 1845, public education advocates in the United States were calling for standardized essay tests. Soon after, spelling, geography, and math tests became customary in schools across the country.

In 1957, testing took a new priority in America after the launch of Sputnik, the Soviet space satellite. The ‘space race’ increased pressures on schools to show improvement and demonstrate superiority over schools in other countries. During the decades that followed and continuing to today, the popularity of testing took off.

Today, a standardized test is a test that has one standard set of instructions, questions, testing conditions, and time allotted to answer questions. These tests are considered statistically significant to be used for comparison purposes. That means all test takers are compared to other test takers. The scores can be used to compare a student or groups of students to a larger group of students, local, state or national.

The Debate

When comparing test results across students, fairness becomes a big issue. Proponents of testing believe all students deserve to be exposed to quality teaching and given multiple opportunities to learn. They believe standardized tests will uncover schools and teachers that need to rethink teaching practices and instructional delivery. They believe these tests hold schools, teachers, and students accountable for the learning that occurs during the year.

Opponents of standardized testing point out the flaws in the reliability and validity of the test. They are concerned about the great discrepancies between schools that have access to multiple resources and those school districts that can barely maintain their buildings. Opponents are also concerned about the language gap that continues to grow between native English speakers and English language learners.

The battle of standardized testing will be a hot topic for years to come. Both sides have arguments to support their case. Students, teachers and schools need to demonstrate student learning and achievement. Does standardized testing fairly measure this growth?

What do you think? Vote above or use the link below to state your case in more detail on our discussion board.

Kids in the Kitchen – Kooky Cookies

Cook up some tasty treats and sweet memories in the kitchen this holiday season with easy recipes you and your kids can prepare together. We’ve rustled up some seasonal favorites that will leave your belly humming holiday harmonies.

Garland Goodies

You won’t be biting off more than you can chew when you let your kids loose in the kitchen to create these edible holiday wreaths!


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 cups mini marshmallows
  • 4 cups Corn Flakes cereal
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • Green food coloring
  • Small red candies, like red hots
  • Red string licorice


  1. Microwave butter and marshmallows on high for about two minutes in a microwave-safe bowl. Stir occasionally to mix marshmallows and butter and prevent clumping. When the mixture is smooth, remove from the microwave and add food coloring until you reach a green hue you enjoy.
  2. Add Corn Flakes cereal to mixture. Stir until the cereal is evenly coated with the green liquid.
  3. Divide the warm cereal mixture evenly into approximately 8-12 clumps using a 1/4 cup dry measuring cup coated with cooking spray. Using sprayed fingers, quickly shape into individual wreaths.
  4. Press the red candies in clusters of three around the wreath to act as berries. Don’t forget to add a ribbon (the string licorice tied into a bow) as a finishing touch!
  5. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Can’t Catch These Cookies!

Create a cookie community in your kitchen with gingerbread people who will add a little pizzazz and personality to the baking items in your pantry.


  • 1/2 cup butter, room-temperature
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • Gingerbread man shaped cookie-cutters
  • Pre-made gel icing for decorating
  • Assortment of candy and sprinkles for decorating


  1. With a helping hand, a large mixing bowl, and a little elbow grease, your kids can beat the butter and sugar together until it is light and fluffy. Next, add the molasses, egg and vanilla and beat well again. Make sure all ingredients are well mixed.
  2. In a separate bowl, help your kids sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Again, make sure all ingredients are well-mixed.
  3. Next, let your kids combine the two mixtures by stirring with a wooden spoon or, if you are willing to get a little messy, using their hands.
  4. Separate your dough into 3-4 pieces. Form into logs and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.
  5. When your refrigeration time is almost up, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and use a rolling pin to roll all 3-4 logs out to a thickness of approximately1/4-inch.
  7. Use cookie cutters to make gingerbread people.
  8. Bake 8-10 minutes on a greased cookie sheet. Let cool, then bring the gingerbread people to life with your kids’ creative decorating abilities.

You Cane Do It!

Even though it may taste like a standard sugar cookie, here’s a little something new you cane nibble on this holiday season.


  • 16-18 oz. package powdered sugar cookie mix (or you can use your own homemade sugar cookie dough)
  • 1/3 cup butter, room-temperature
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract
  • Red food coloring
  • 3 peppermint candy canes (optional)
  • White frosting (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Help your kids dump the cookie mix into a large mixing bowl and add the softened butter, egg, and 1 Tbsp. of flour.
  3. Kids can use their hands or if you prefer, an electric mixer, to mix the dough until it’s soft.
  4. Next, divide the dough into two equal balls. Add peppermint extract to one ball. Knead it into the dough so it’s mixed in well. If the dough is feeling a bit too sticky, add another tablespoon of flour.
  5. Add red food coloring to the other ball. Start with a few drops and add more until you get a deep pink or red color that you like. If the dough is feeling a bit too sticky, add another tablespoon of flour.
  6. Pinch off one teaspoon of pink/red dough. Roll between your palms to form a rope about 3-5 inches long. Repeat this process with one teaspoon of the white dough.
  7. Place the ropes side-by-side and curve into a candy cane shape, pinching at the ends to seal. Place your cute candy canes on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  8. Bake 7-10 minutes on a greased cookie sheet until cookies are lightly browned around the edges.
  9. To make your cane cookies extra sweet, mix crushed candy canes with white frosting and spread a thin layer across the top.

doughtwist complete plate

We’re Having A Ball!

You and your kids will have a ball with this no-bake treat that’s homemade in a hurry.


  • 1 and 1/2 cups peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter, room-temperature
  • 3 and 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 cup of oatmeal (optional)
  • 12 oz. bag of milk chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbs. shortening or Vegetable Oil


  1. Melt the peanut butter and butter in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds. Stir the mixture with a fork to prevent clumping.
  2. Add the vanilla and oatmeal (if you choose to use it) and blend the mixture again.
  3. Add the powdered sugar. The mixture should now look thick and be a good consistency to roll into balls.
  4. Your kids can help you form dough into 1-inch balls by rolling it between their hands or you can also use a cereal spoon to measure out and shape the mixture. Place the balls onto a plate or cookie sheet. Place them in the freezer to chill for about an hour.
  5. Melt the chocolate chips and oil in the microwave.
  6. Now you’re ready to coat your dough balls with chocolate. You can use toothpicks, a spoon, or other kitchen tools for dipping. You can even drizzle the chocolate over the top of the dough if you’d like.
  7. Place the finished product in the freezer to chill. Keep them there until ready to serve. This no-bake treat is quite tasty in its frozen form.

Do you have a sweet recipe you’d like to share? We’d love to add some new flavor with your signature delights. If you’d like to submit a recipe or share photos of your cookie monsters in the kitchen, please email

Has this left you needing a taste for more? Click on these links to find more recipes for getting your kids in the kitchen!

Ask a Teacher: Computer Time and Eye Protection


My 4 year old daughter loves to play computer games (educational). She sometimes spends more than 2 hours playing every day after school. What is the appropriate time spent on the computer as far as the eyes are concerned? We have a laptop but should we buy a special screen to protect her eyes? Thanks a lot – Ilana


If you are concerned about eye strain, experts recommend the following:

  • Since computer workspaces are often arranged for adults, make sure your workspace fits your child’s smaller body.
  • Recommended distance between the monitor and the eye for children is 18 – 28 inches.
  • Use proper lighting around your computer.
  • Try to minimize glare.
  • The screen should be tilted slightly downward at a 15-degree angle.
  • Limit computer and game use to 20 minutes at a time.
  • Make sure your daughter gets annual eye exams.

I am not an ophthalmologist or optometrist, so if you have a concern about your daughter’s eyes, discuss the situation with a professional.

Hope this helps!

Balancing Work and Home: Professional Juggler Wanted!

For working parents, it’s easy for every day to be packed to the brim with activities, deadlines and play dates. If the “problem areas” below look familiar, you are not alone! These issues plague working parents across the country, but we’ve got a few suggestions to help ease the stress and keep your days and family running smoothly!

The AM Rush

At night, it’s all too easy to head to bed and convince yourself that you’ll “just do it in the morning”. But when that alarm clock goes off, the sandwich bread is stale and someone’s shoe is missing, it becomes a near superhuman feat just to get everyone out the door!

Beat the rush with these simple tricks:

  • Lay out clothes for both you and the kids before heading to bed. Allow older kids to choose an outfit themselves (you can always retain veto power). Make sure any ironing, matching and finding of missing socks is complete before everyone heads to bed. Pack backpacks and prepare lunches at night so that everyone just needs to dress, eat and make it out the door in the AM.
  • Establish a morning routine so that everyone knows what to expect. One JumpStart mom recommends teaching your kids the morning ABC’s. It’ll help establish a routine and give your kids an easy way to remember what to do each morning. A=Arrange your bed, B= Brush your teeth, C= Comb Your Hair, D=Dress Yourself, E= Eat breakfast, F= Find your things, G= Get going! Or, try keeping things exciting by making a “morning mix” of your kids’ favorite songs. Make sure they know that by the time the playlist is over, they need to be standing at the front door.

Commute Crunch

Somewhere between soccer practice, ballet lessons, school carpools and your own commute to work, it may feel as though your entire life is in the car. Why not put that time behind the wheel to good use?

  • Use commute time to finish up any leftover work from the day before or to mentally prepare for the day’s meetings. With today’s technology, you can finish that conference call or check in with your employees or coworkers from just about anywhere. Just remember to be safe when talking on the road – try using a hands-free device. Save a few moments at the end of your trip for a little “me time”. Use these 5-10 minutes to mentally transition from work to home. Try tuning out the frustration of the commute with Mind Tools’ relaxation tips. By the time you pull into the driveway, you’ll have put the workday behind you and be ready to squeeze in some quality family time.
  • When your kids are in the back seat, take advantage of the chance to chat with them rather than popping in a DVD or turning on the radio. Ask about what happened at school or practice and share stories about your own day. This time is priceless to ensure your kids know you care and always have time for them.

Double Bookings

No matter how organized you are, there are bound to be days where you simply need to be in two places at once. What happens then?

  • Make a game plan. What will you do if one of your kids gets sick and is sent home in the middle of the day? What happens if the babysitter cancels last minute? If you and your spouse know who will cover what ahead of time, it will make these inevitable events less stressful. For single parents, it is important to create a network of friends, family and neighbors who would be willing to lend a hand if you need a last minute favor.
  • Reassess your workday. Is there a chance you can telecommute from home in the afternoons? Would you be able to move to an earlier schedule to match the kids’ school day? Could you shift your hours and cut down on commute time? Most employers will understand if you need to move things around a bit to keep both your family and your job up and running. You never know unless you ask!

Evening Zone-Out

Even when everyone makes it home from work, school and play, the day’s activities and chores are probably still far from done. Dinner needs to get on the table, homework needs to get done and more.

  • Invite your kids into the kitchen while you make dinner. If they are old enough, let them get involved – hand over simple tasks like washing veggies or tossing the salad. You can even consider letting your kids take the cooking reins completely with kid-friendly recipes, like these from Recipe Ladies. You’ll get dinner on the table more quickly and have some quality time with the kids while you are at it!
  • At the end of a long day, zoning out in front of the TV might seem like all you have energy left for. Instead, try turning off the TV, backing away from the computer and spending some face-time with the family. A good dinner conversation or quick board game will let everyone catch up and de-stress.

Weekend Working Blues

If you need to put in some hours at home in the evenings or on weekends, don’t despair!

  • Try starting you kids on their own projects. Choose a kid-friendly and fun activity that won’t require much supervision, for example creating a scrapbook or painting a family portrait. Then, you and your kids can sit together at the kitchen table and work quietly together! As an added bonus, you’ll be teaching your kids the importance of having a good work ethic and of working toward a goal. Your family might even get a priceless keepsake out of the process!

At the end of the day, being a full-time mom or dad and a full-time employee is a pretty impressive feat. Don’t beat yourself up over the occasional late day or sub-par lunch, instead, be proud of how much you accomplish each and every day!

Multiplying Multiple Intelligences

Theory-etically Normal

Does it drive you out of your mind when your kids give up on something before they even really give it a fair try? When this happens, take a breath, relax, and realize that this is a common phenomenon. Your kids are just helping prove Dr. Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligence.

According to Gardner, your child who had his multiplication tables down by age 6 is not necessarily more intelligent than your other child who struggled with his multiplication facts beyond the third grade. This child just might be stronger in a different type of intelligence like music, for example. This means when given the multiplication content through a different approach, like a rhythmic song, this child will most likely excel. Or perhaps, this child may even look at the process of multiplication on a whole different higher level that demonstrates true understanding instead of just rote memorization.

Gardner’s theory presumes that each of us possesses, to some degree or another, all eight intelligences. Some of them are simply more developed than others. And this is probably because learning comes easier and is more fun when it involves an area you’re good at. It’s only natural to do the things we enjoy and excel at more frequently than those activities we don’t like and aren’t good at. But, the good part about the brain is that it’s a muscle. And, just like the body, it can be toned and exercised in particular areas. This means we are all able to strengthen and improve our abilities in each of these areas of intelligence.

Tapping Into All Areas of Intelligence

In the November issue of the JumpStart Times, you were given the opportunity to put your kids to the test by asking them a series of questions to reveal their preferred learning style. Accompanying the results was a detailed learning profile. As you read the profile, you probably smiled to yourself and said, “That sure is my kid!” It’s amazing how precisely we can put ourselves and our kids into the categories. However, what about all the other learning groups that didn’t rank as their primary area of intelligence?

Don’t sweat it if your kids only seem to enjoy activities from three or four of the areas. That’s actually the way it should be. Just like anything in life, kids will show dominance in some areas and limitations in others.

More and more teachers are moving their classrooms away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach. Teachers are beginning to see the value of individualized instruction. Kids learn better and learning becomes more fun when it incorporates things you enjoy and are good at. As a teacher at the nation’s second largest middle school, kids in Ms. Hogan’s class were never doing the same project as the student sitting next to them. “Giving kids choices and allowing them to complete projects and approach problems using their preferred intelligence always leads to more learning” says Hogan. It’s also important for kids to have opportunities to experience all ways of thinking. By practicing the areas they’re less strong in, kids will be more prepared for finding success in life.

Your child may not realize what his preferred learning style is until he is exposed to it. So, that means you should be sure your kids get exposure and experiences with each of the learning styles.

Pumping Iron- Bringing Home the Learning

Growing your brain at home is simple. There are certain activities that speak to specific intelligences. By engaging your kids in these activities at home, they can begin to build up areas that need improvement and bulk up areas where they already excel.

Linguistic Intelligence (Word Smarts)

  • Telling and retelling stories, speaking, debating, presenting, reading aloud, dramatizing, making a book, reading nonfiction, researching, listening, writing, keeping a journal, writing a set of instructions, doing crossword puzzles, participating in memory games, creating and completing trivia quizzes
  • Learns Best Through: saying, hearing, seeing, and writing words.

Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smarts)

  • Planning and attending parties, peer editing and peer teaching, cooperating and working with others, sharing, group work, playing with others, forming clubs, social awareness, conflict mediation, discussion, tutoring others, being part of a study group, brainstorming, understanding others’ feelings, debating
  • Learns Best Through: cooperating, working in groups, and sharing.

Intrapersonal Intelligence (Personal Smarts)

  • Journal writing and reflecting, independent projects and study, personal goal setting, having a choice, independent reading, meditating, yoga, having their own personal space, recognizing individual strengths and weaknesses, being original
  • Learns Best Through: self reflection and working independently

Logical/Mathematical Intelligence (Number Smarts)

  • Problem solving, measuring, estimating, coding, sequencing, critical thinking, predicting, playing logic games, collecting and organizing data, experimenting, solving puzzles, classifying objects, learning and using the scientific method, manipulating money, using geometry, analyzing how something works, creating a process, devising a strategy, playing strategy games
  • Learns Best Through: analyzing, asking questions, categorizing, and working with patterns

Bodily Kinesthetic Intelligence (Body Smarts)

  • Doing hands-on experiments, activities, changing room arrangements, making up creative moves and dances, going on excursions and exploring new places, partaking in physical activities, doing crafts, acting things out/dramatizing, working with cooperative groups, juggling, getting involved in activities that involve coordination, playing charades
  • Learns Best Through: moving, touching, and doing

Musical Intelligence (Music Smarts)

  • Humming, making up songs/raps, playing background music, playing musical instruments, following and creating patterns, tapping out poetic rhythms, rhyming, singing, learning about musicians and composers, review a musical work, chanting and cheering
  • Learns Best Through: use of melodies and songs, rhythm, and rhyme

Naturalist Intelligence (Environment Smarts)

  • Being outdoors, cloud watching, identifying and classifying insects, building habitats, identifying plants, going on nature hikes, reading outside, using a microscope, dissecting things in nature, building and maintaining a garden, studying the stars, bird watching, collecting rocks, caring for animals, making bird feeders, going to the zoo
  • Learns Best Through: working outside and observing nature

Visual/Spatial Intelligence (Art Smarts)

  • Graphing, photography, painting, illustrating, building, visualizing, mapping stories, creating maps, doodling, making 3-D projects, using charts and organizers, sketching, visual puzzles, creating visual patterns, solving mazes,
  • Learns Best Through: flashcards, colors, pictures, drawings, using the mind’s eye

By giving your kids opportunities to experience all of these areas when they’re young, you’ll be helping to ‘work out’ their brains. Their brain will enjoy the exercise and your kids will be more confident in their abilities in all areas. Launch the learning at home and let the brain do some hefty lifting. Your kids will thank you in multiple intelligent forms later on!

For more great multiple intelligence activities:

Ask a Teacher: Smart but Young

Question: My son is doing well academically in kindergarten but is the youngest in class by at least 4 months. His teacher reports that he is quiet and shy in class and on the playground. I wonder if this is because he is the youngest and smallest in his class. What can I do?

There are benefits for both challenging him academically and building leadership skills. You want to keep him challenged with his schoolwork and build self-esteem so he can make decisions on his own and not always follow others. Are you thinking of holding him back? There are benefits to doing that when he is young. But if he is doing well in his class work, you don’t want him to be bored by repeating a grade. There could be other problems that arise from that!

Have you discussed this with his classroom teacher? Maybe there is a way that he can help the Kindergarten kids with reading or math so he is the “older” kid. Can he participate in extracurricular activities where he can be on the older side? For example, sometimes in sports, kids can play down an age range (depending on cut off dates).

Keep an open line of communication with your son so if problems arise in school, you can help him and support him. Make sure to keep the classroom teacher involved with any problems, too!

Hope this helps!