Easy DIY Kids Crafts: Father’s Day Cards Made With Little Hands

Easy DIY Father’s Day Cards!

Preschool may have ended, but my students still have a present to give–adorable, easy DIY Father’s Day cards where their handprints transform into leaves on a tree. This idea is fun for preschoolers and elementary age children. I think my students’ dads will like the message, “No matter how tall I grow, I will always look up to you.” Sweet!


  • construction or cardstock paper in white and another color
  • green paint and paintbrush
  • magic markers, brown and other colors
  • scissors
  • glue or double-stick tape


  1. Using paintbrush, paint child’s palm green. Make two handprints on white paper. (Note-it may take a few tries to get a good print.) Let dry.
  2. With brown marker, draw tree trunk and branches.
  3. Add “No matter how tall I grow, I will always look up to you.” Write child’s name and year.
  4. Glue or tape white paper onto background paper.
  5. Write or print out “Happy Father’s Day!”

Angelic Voices, Precious Lives

Hon, you know I like to post happy things with occasional contemplations. But.

But my heart is heavy after yet another school shooting amidst a spate of violence in a disease that has infected the United States. Thoughts of horror in classrooms invades my mind and I tell myself to think of the ocean, the forest, the mountains and sky.

Throughout the year at the preschool, we drill for emergencies: fire, shelter-in-place, and active shooter. The morning after the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas we drilled.

My co-teacher had taken three children to the bathroom, so I was alone in the classroom with six two year-olds when we were heard “Active shooter in the building!” Should we stay in the classroom or run?

I blacked out the window on our door, bolted the door, and told my kids to get down and stay quiet. It was hard for them. Was Miss Naomi serious? She never speaks in that tone. My tone said Now! I mean it! Shhh!

As soon it seemed safer to run, we did. My toddlers are little and their wobbly legs can’t run fast without tripping and falling. I scooped up one, held hands with three, and teachers who were running with their students through my classroom scooped up the others and ran holding them.

We gathered outside. One teacher didn’t know it was a drill.

The critique from our security guard? Run much, much farther.

I posted the video of the New York City Children’s Choir singing Holy Night December 15, 2012, the day after the horrific Sandy Hook School tragedy. At the time, my youngest wanted to know if December 14 would become a national day of mourning. We’d have to add February 14 for Parkland and many more.

I can’t stop thinking about the precious children whose eyes tear up when they look at their teachers for reassurance. Is this a drill or real?

Love to Read? Share It With Kids on March 2: Read Across America

I’m on a big screen.

Full Circle Circle Time

Opportunity: Read to students as part of  LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day.

Problem: How to engage kids over Skype?

Solution: Check in with middle-grade author Darlene Beck-Johnson who shared tips from her own Skype visits.

Full Circle: Being interviewed by Marilyn Ostermiller for an article in honor of Read Across America to be posted on Darlene’s blog, GOLD FROM THE DUST: Bringing Stories to Life!

Thanks, Marilyn and Darlene!

“When people make the time to read with children, children get the message that reading is important.” NEA

Students, parents, teachers and people from many walks of life, will read to children March 2,  in recognition of “National Read Across America Day,” a program the National Education Association established 20 some years ago. 

Athletes and actors will issue reading challenges to young readers. Governors and other elected officials will recognize the role of reading with proclamations.

Naomi Gruer, a children’s writer and preschool teacher, participated in a remote event,   “World Read Aloud Day,” a few years ago.

“Reading to kids made me so happy because, in that moment, we explored the world inside the story together.”

To prepare the children for the online experience, Naomi asked them to listen for certain things as she read — a funny incident or a silly outcome or a character acting in a peculiar way. “The minute I was on Skype with the kids, everything else melted away. It was as if I was in the classroom with them,” she said.

Later, as a Microsoft Guest Educator, she was asked by several educators to read to their students. One request came from a teacher in Spain, who wanted English to be read to her classroom.

Naomi applied the same format to all her remote classroom sessions: an introduction, followed by reading (either chapters or picture books depending on the age of the students.)

“They listened actively and were ready to point out and discuss the humor. Introducing students to my dog was the ultimate ice breaker.” Naomi blogs at https://bmoreenergy.wordpress.com

What You Can Do:

There are many free and low cost ways to provide children with books in print, online, audio and video formats. For example, the “We Need Diverse Books” program provides free diverse books to schools serving low-income students around the country.

To learn more:

Visit https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/read-across-america/support-your-readers/free-materials

How to help kids develop the reading habit:

Keep books everywhere you spend time. Put them in the car, in every room of the house and tuck them in backpacks and purses.

Visit the library often. Knowing how to use the library and learning the benefits of a library fosters a love of reading as well as a genuine respect for the services libraries provide.

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time journalist and voracious reader of  children’s books.

Ceramics: Two-Year Tea Set

Teaset glazed in nutmeg and slate.
I had no idea that a tea set project would take two years!

Wheel throwing a tea set was a challenging project for many reasons. Who knew that centering and opening a ball of clay that could fit in the palm of your hands would be so hard?! In my attempt to create tea cups, it looks weeks to get six, relatively similar sizes. Some were too thin and some were too lopsided–so many throw-aways!

Then there was the teapot itself. This proved so challenging that almost all of us students needed hands-on help from our instructor (Shout out to Beatrice!) She patiently taught us how to form a vessel and spout, a lid and, much harder than it looks, a handle.

After the tea cups and tea pot were made, what about a tray? My first attempt cracked in the kiln, and that’s where the project stalled. I didn’t want to glaze the pieces until I’d made them all so, discouraged, I put the them away. I waited and waited until I was ready to hand-build another tray. Two years later, this summer, I did.

The tea pot set saga is a metaphor for my writing, though working through the disappointments and successes of pottery feels completely different. In Ceramics, I’m more interested in the process than the product. When working on a manuscript, I enjoy the process, but have a specific goal in mind–to bring my characters and stories to life.

Whereas, the clay ignites my imagination…my imagination ignites the stories.

Hon, happy creating and imagining and working and persevering.

In Memory–Aleta

A dear ceramics class friend died this week, and a large group of teachers and students at the Visual Arts Center of NJ are devastated. In a year of compromised health, Aleta contracted Covid-19. Amazingly she recovered and, at a recent ceramics class social distance picnic, she declared herself, “The luckiest girl in the world!” We were beyond thrilled she had beaten the virus. Was her heart attack related to the illness? Research shows it may have been.

Aleta was incredibly smart, becoming a lawyer and professor of law at time when women were just making inroads into those professions. She was funny, curious, creative, talented, encouraging, kind, and a joy to be around. When I tell friends that I love my ceramics class because of the people in it, and because I can make a thimble and it’s still celebrated, I think of Aleta showering us all with, “It’s beautiful! Just beautiful!”

She loved her dog Gracie, had a thing for owls, always wore a Mets baseball hat, was ecstatic about the recent purchase of a dream vacation home, asked for and received an anniversary gift of a home pottery studio, loved to travel and, after a trip to Amsterdam, created hand-built tilting houses. She dispensed jokes and funny stories, shared family lore, talked politics and policies, and always expressed how much she loved her family. Her openness to learning, studying, and practicing was an inspiration. There will be an imprint in the atmosphere surrounding her favorite wheel.

I will always remember Aleta’s smile, laugh, and how she called all of us, “Honey.” My heart is heavy and my mind swirls with memories.

Sources: The Harvard Gazette, Oregon State University’s Jack Dymond

Skype-a-Thon with Second and Fourth Graders

California Connection

Sometimes a week is just a week, and sometimes you do something awesome like Skype with second and fourth graders at Stagg Street Elementary School in the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District)!

Shout out to Vickie Waite, ITF, Instructional Technology Initiative who reached out to me through Microsoft Educator. I read chapters from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, and we discussed what makes the book fantasy. I read chapters from two The Terrible Two books by Jory John and Mac Barnett, and we discussed what makes the books humorous. The kids prepared questions, asking where I get story ideas, do I have a favorite manuscript, who is my favorite author, and what’s it like to be a writer? Then the kids met Lucy! Fun! 

According to Waite, our session was “timed for the Skype-a-Thon, which provided much-needed funding for impoverished countries calculated on the cumulative miles Skyped.”

The Microsoft Education site reported that 23,629,665 virtual miles were traveled!

“Hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and guest speakers in 102 countries gathered over Skype and in 48 hours helped raise the funds needed to educate up to 35,000 children in need in WE Villages – supporting UN Sustainable Development Goal Quality Education.

It was amazing!”

Skyping With Spain

Congratulations, Skype-a-Thon participants!

Together, we’ve connected nearly half a million students and traveled over 14,500,000 virtual miles in 48 hours! Thank you to all the teachers, speakers, and students who made this achievement possible.

New Year’s Resolutions are built on foundations laid the previous year. One of the things I did in 2017, and definitely want to do more of, was Skype with classrooms.

Thanks to Microsoft Education and the opportunity to become a Microsoft Guest Educator, I participated in a 2017 global Skype-a-Thon on November 29, 2017.

Map of Spain.

Javier Ramos Sancha, a teacher in Aguilar de Campoo, Spain, asked if I could read to his Year 1 bilingual students. Aguilar de Campoo, a northern town in the province of Palencia, is “a key point on the route of Palencia’s Romanesque heritage.”

Skype-ing with Level 1 bilingual students in Spain.

Sharing stories across an ocean!

Guess who else the students got to meet?


What fun! Thanks Javier!

Earlier in the year, I also Skyped with a classroom in Canada. French teacher Madame Diaz and I have Skyped several times. It makes me so happy to connect with her students.

Thanks, Madame Diaz, for this note: “Hi Naomi, as usual my students LOVED getting to know you.”

Thanks, also, to children’s book author Darlene Beck-Jackobson, who took time to   discuss classroom Skype-ing with me! Check out her blog, “Darlene Beck-Jacobson, Gold From The Dust: Bringing Stories to Life.

Related Post: Skype Hype

Sources: Spain.info, Wikipedia, Microsoft Education

Skype Hype

Acting out the action with kindergarteners.
Acting out the action with kindergarteners.

I’m interrupting the DIY graduation party posts to present…

Skype Hype

In February, I participated in LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day by visiting several local kindergartens. Check out Kindergarteners are Super to learn more about those school visits. Through Microsoft Educator, I connected with teachers in Pennsylvania and Canada and Skyped with their students. Not only did the kids actively listen to books or chapters, they met my adorable dog, Lucy. (Curious how adorable she is? Click here to see for yourself.)

I’m not usually one to toot my own horn, but…


…if I don’t, who will?

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 11.27.54 AM

Guess what came in the mail?

A thank you note from 4th and 5th graders. Shout out to French teacher Madame Diaz who invited me to meet her students. She said, “Thanks for the card and the Skype session Naomi! I think you were by far their favourite Skype guest this year!”

That makes me so happy.

Another big shout out to librarian Ms. Killian. She took these pics and sent me an unexpected review, “On a scale of 1-10 your lesson received a resounding 10!!”


She also said, “We had a fantastic time hearing you read the story to us, listening to your experience as a writer, and we love your dog!”

Connect with Ms. Killian on Twitter @CoLIBRAtoRY.

Shout out, also, to middle grade author Darlene Beck-Jacobson who shared Skype tips and featured me on her blog.

Hon, thanks for indulging me. I hope there are many more school visits in my future.

I'm on a big screen.
I’m on a big screen.

Skyping with students.
Skyping with students.

Love this! Ms. Killian asked the students how much they liked the lesson and they gave me 10's. Wow!
Ms. Killian asked the students how much they liked the lesson and they gave me 10’s. Wow!

Cancun Chaos

Are we headed to Cancun on Spring Break or a Girl Band named "Big Hair & Denim"?
College Girls.  Are we headed to Cancun on Spring Break or a Girl Band named “Big Hair & Denim”?

 Who can forget Spring Break?

My son and his college buddies recently returned from Spring Break in Cancun, a tourist destination known for beautiful beaches, turquoise water, and American students having a lot of fun.

When I told my college girl friends where my son vacationed, they all remembered our Spring Break in Cancun.  How could we forget it, especially our last night there?

Here’s the lowdown on the slowdown that  caused Cancun Chaos! 

Who:  Approximately 200 college students.

What:  Departure of a charter flight back to the U.S.

Where:  Cancun International Airport.

When:  8 pm (late ’80’s–could you tell from the hair?)

Why:  Good Question!

What Happened?

Shortly after arriving at Cancun International Airport, the shops brought down their gates.  Then, some airport employees left.  Then THEY ALL left!  Two hundred college kids were like, “What just happened?” and “Where’s our plane?” and “Holy Moly–we’re locked in!”

Apparently, our flight was cancelled or postponed or whatever!  So, the airline workers went home.  Guess what we didn’t have?  Cell phones (gasp!).  I remember being tired and angry.  If we’d known the flight was cancelled, we could have either stayed at our hotel another night or hung out with my childhood friend, who also happened to be in Cancun.  Ugh!

We had no way of letting anyone know we were stuck and no way of finding out when we might leave.  It was chaos!  Those who had bought Mexican blankets were in high demand.  The rest of us climbed on top of X-Ray scanner belts, pretended to be airline attendants and, basically, got delirious wondering if and when a plane would arrive.

And then?

Around 8 am, airline workers unlocked the airport doors.  They weren’t in a hurry and they didn’t apologize.  What did they care if a couple hundred American students had practically eaten their sombreros in desparation?

At 9 am, a charter plane arrived. What I don’t remember is if we all cheered upon takeoff or immediately fell asleep!

Open air market.
Open air market.

Hair and high-cut swimsuit--so Eighties!
Lots of hair and high-cut swimsuit–so Eighties!

Tanning in turquoise water.
Tanning in turquoise water.










Shout out to my childhood friend
Shout out to my childhood friend.

Hanging out on the X-Ray belt and, yes, crawling, through the machine.
Hanging out on the X-Ray scanner belt and, yes, crawling, through the machine at Cancun International Airport.

 Hon, do you have a ridiculous travel experience?  I’d love to hear about it.

Beach Blanket Bingo (Embarrassed in France)

Nice, France, 1988, I'm on the right in the black whole piece. Ilene is wearing a white t-shirt. The blonde guy in the Speedo was someone we met that day. The other three people are other student backpackers. Peter is not pictured in any of these photos.
Nice, France, 1988, I’m on the right in the black whole piece. Ilene is wearing a white t-shirt. The blonde guy in the Speedo was someone we met that day. The other three people are other student backpackers. Peter is not pictured in any of these photos.

Sunbathers in summer of 1988. Nice, France
Sunbathers in summer of 1988. Nice, France

Rating of this post:  somewhere between PG-13 and R, depending on which country you live in, what year you were born, if you are a direct descendant of Puritans, your Zodiac sign and personality traits.

Warning: If discussing the body makes you uncomfortable, you can find recipes under the category “Call Me Cook.”

Intro:  If you read about my trip to Jamaica in April, then you might remember how surprised I was when I met a couple of nudists.  After I posted “Birthday Plus Suit Equals ?, I comprised a list of my Top Ten Questions For Visitors To The “N” (as in Naked) Resort.  The whole subject reminded me of one of the most embarrassing moments in my life. Friends, if you’ve already heard this anecdote, skip it!

Back story:  In 1988, after graduating from college, a girlfriend (shout out to Ilene) and I backpacked across Europe.  We wound our way to Nice in the south of France where we planned to sunbathe and relax. For the entire backpacking trip, we asked each other one question: “Should we or should we not go topless in Nice?” We spent much emotional energy discussing this topic.

You know the whole “When in Rome” argument?  Well, a lot of French women don’t wear bathing suit tops and we wanted to be like them.  Then again, our modesty combined with skin that had never seen the light of day weighed heavily on our minds.  But, we were on an adventure (Writer friends, can you name which one of my characters is on an adventure?  But, I digress.) and were young.

Scenario:  Walking to the beach, we stopped at shops to browse.

Me:  “Look at the baskets of bikinis!”

Friend:  “There are only bottoms!  That’s it.  Let’s do it.”

Me:  “Okay, but we’re wearing whole pieces.”

Friend:  “Once we lay down, we’ll roll them down. At the same time!  Anyway who are we going to see?”

Me:  “You’re right.  Who are we going to see?”

I interrupt this story to tell you that we had met up with some other students (pictured above)  backpacking in Europe.  The girls were having the same dilemma as us and we weren’t interested in the boys “like that.”

After we set up our beach towels…

Friend:  “Tell me when you’re ready.”

Me:  “One the count of three:  one, two, three!” (Much giggling ensued!)

After awhile we got used to the exposure (pun intended) and sat up.  Then from a bunch of beach blankets away…

Peter (former football player and biggest jock in my high school):  “Naomi, is that you?  Hi!”

I lookeded in his direction and half-waved, half-covered my now burnt-to-a-crisp upper body (applying sunscreen would have been doubly mortifying so, alas, we didn’t).  I realized not only was Peter sitting a few blankets away, so were some other boys from Baltimore!

Two thoughts went through my mind:

1)  “What are the chances boys from Baltimore are sitting on the same beach I am at the same time I decide to roll down my top?!?

2)  The biggest jock from my high school, who I was never friends with, never had classes with and who I hadn’t seen since high school graduation, knew my name?  Wow!

Friend:  “You know him?”

Me:  “I can’t believe it!!”

Peter:  Waving and pointing me out to friends.

Me:  “Cover me!”

Friend:  Blocked view of me while I quickly rolled up my top.

Me:  I stayed on my towel and waved back, but I did’t go over and say hi!

Friend and I decided it was best to be occupied.  We ran to the water, grabbed a paddleboat and stayed out in the water for a long time.

That was the beginning and end of my “When in Rome” adventure!

Two more things happened after that:

1)  Peter gave me a big hug when we ran into him in Monaco the next night. (OMG!)

2)  My friend and I were in pain for a week.

Moral of the story:  Don’t roll down your top if you’re too embarrassed to apply sunblock! 

Do you have any embarrassing moments you’d like to share?  

My friend and I went paddleboating after the embarrassing incident. We stayed out in the water a long time!
My friend and I went paddleboating after the embarrassing incident. We stayed out in the water a long time!

Sexy sand sculpture!
Sexy sand sculpture!