Teaching Kids to Program with the Sphero SPRK+ Robot

There are a lot of robots available today that target grade school children with the intent of getting them excited about programming. Having worked in the past with low-level hardware (motors, switches, LCD Displays, and even thermal printers to name a few) it is really cool to see these kits simplify the pain I had to endure trying to wire up and troubleshoot components. These kits let you focus on the fun stuff right away. It is very gratifying once you get your program figured out and see it all working.

As part of a sponsored partnership with Best Buy, we tested out Sphero SPRK+ robot. The robot is a waterproof ball with no exposed components to damage. We started out by downloading their app onto an Android tablet. While it was downloading we set the robot on its charging cradle. The cradle is cool as it charges without physically plugging anything in (remember it is waterproof). The robot feels pretty solid and tough/durable. It has a clear body so you can see the motors and circuit board.

With the app installed we attempted to connect to the robot. We stumbled here as there are multiple robots that the app supports. Two of the robots listed visually look the same, but do have different names. After trying to connect for a whole day unsuccessfully we finally figured out that we were choosing the wrong robot! 

With that figured out the app and the robot were connected. Our first time in the app was also a bit confusing. After a while we finally kind of figured out how to walk through the program tutorials. Before we figured the tutorials out we tried driving the robot around manually using a joystick like user interface on the app. This was mildly satisfying, but proved hard to control. Because the robot is a ball it is easy to get disoriented. For example when you want to go straight ahead you might not be pushing up on the control as the ball/bot was facing a different direction causing it to go to your right. The kids however loved adjusting its LED light color hue. It has a color picker control that lets you set just about any color you want.

The robot really shines with its programming abilities. We walked through the first tutorial which had us program a path the robot should follow. When creating the program it gave us three ways to write the program: Draw with our finger, drag and drop function blocks, or write with a traditional programming language (Typescript). The drawing method was great for our kindergartner. The drag and drop method was well suited to our second grader. 

Finally, the programming via “text” method was advanced enough for me, but I found the drawing method the most fun and instantly gratifying. We simply used our finger to trace out a route the robot should follow and then hit start. A moment later the robot was following the path of a heart, a spiral, and a triangle from several different program runs.

To facilitate writing programs that would have the robot navigate a maze or around obstacles the robot kit came with a roll of tape (similar to a tape measure) that you can use to calculate distance. You would use this, for example, to tell the robot to roll forward 10 centimeters. A protractor was also included to aim the robot and assist in calculating turns. These tools would come in handy while in the classroom setting where we would ask the kids to think about the procedure or steps the robot should execute to navigate through and obstacle course. This kind of thinking will have them on their way to programming.

The Sphero SPRK+ strikes a good balance of fun and education. We had some fun with paint as the robot rolled through a puddle of green poster paint and proceeded to leave tracks all over the paper. If we had a pool I am sure we would have built the robot some water wings and zipped around. Overall once we figured out the app we really enjoyed using Sphero SPRK+.

Are your kids interested in learning how to program? 

If you are looking for a robot that’s perfect for teaching robotics and programming, Sphero SKRK+ is for you. This is a great STEM-based learning tool that kids 6-12 would love to get their hands on!

You can purchase Sphero SPRK+ at your local Best Buy or online at BestBuy.com

DIY Bird Feeder for Kids inspired by Americano

This DIY Bird Feeder for Kids is a fun and easy craft for kids to make. Once they hang it up they can enjoy the birds who come to eat from it and explore nature up close.

My kids love to be outside. Whether it be taking a walk, playing in the front yard or visiting the local wildlife trails, they are always able to spot the wildlife before me and enjoy pointing out the different birds and animals we have living around us.

For the past few mornings, we’ve been awoken by the wonderful sound of a neighborhood woodpecker. Upon discovering his location my son wakes up and asked if we could track him down. On our adventure to see what phone pole the woodpecker was pecking we started talking about birds. 

After hearing all the fun and wonderful things birds like to do and eat my son asked if we could make a bird feeder. So while I was at the local pet supply store picking up dog food later that day I grabbed a pound of bird feed and we got to work. It ended up being simpler than any of the crafts we’ve attempted so far.

Plus, it was the perfect tie-in to teaching the kids about the wildlife around us. Since all of my children are animal lovers, I knew they’d love the new movie Americanocoming out on DVD and Digital HD on June 13th. We were invited to the San Diego Zoo for a fun outing to meet the filmakers behind the movie and hear a little bit about how the movie came to life on the big screen. The kids got to meet some animals up close and explored the zoo to learn other fun facts.

Americano is an animated film about a Mexican parrot named Cuco (voice of Rico Rodriguez) who gets bored with his family’s bird circus and tries to change things up. But when Cuco’s acrobat father, Gayo, gets hurt, rival bully bird Martin swoops in to take over the show. So, Cuco does what he has to do and heads for Hollywood, hoping to learn daring action stunts from his favorite TV star, El Americano. 

My kids enjoyed the film and connected with Cuco’s story and his quest to meet his hero in person. They were so inspired that they asked to make some bird feeders so they could see their own local birds up close in our back yard. We used the same method we did years ago when the two oldest were little. Such a fun and easy craft! 

DIY Bird Feeder

What you’ll need:

  • bird seed 
  • canister or paper roll 
  • peanut butter 
  • string/twine 
  • sharp pointed tool 

What you do: 

1. Remove paper from canister to expose the cardboard. Remove lid and discard. Using sharp pointed tool, poke a hole in the bottom of the canister.

2. Cut about a yard of twine and string twine through canister. Tie off at the top.

3. Set out the peanut butter and seeds so that it’s easy for your child to assemble the bird feeder. Grab a plastic knife or spreader for the peanut butter and place the bird seed into a container or on a paper plate.

4. Let your child spread the peanut butter all over the canister sides. Be careful not to get covered in peanut butter by holding onto the inside of the canister on the open top.

5. Once the peanut butter is covering all of the canister, roll the canister into the seed. Place your (or your child’s) hand into the container to apply pressure. This will maximize the amount of seed that adheres to the canister.

6. Hang the bird feeder up on a sturdy hook or post and wait for some feathered friends!

Do your kids love to pick out the fun birds they see? 

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This craft was originally published on Apr 3, 2012

DIY Cereal Gift Box

This DIY cereal gift box idea sponsored by Cheerios is a great way to wrap up any gift AND upcycle those cereal boxes you have laying around!

Father’s Day is right around the corner and the kids are happily making fun gifts for my husband at school. But since I know my husband, and know he needs more than just the cute gifts, I decided to pick up a few other necessities for him as well. Including his favorite Cheerios cereal and a polo shirt (his signature look). 

Since my husband does so much for us at home, I thought that we could shower him with a little more love all wrapped in a DIY cereal gift box we upcycled from our cereal boxes. Plus, in addition to making gift boxes out of our empty cereal boxes, we can also give back even more with the help of Cheerios

 

Making these gift boxes are easy! And with a few simple supplies found around the house, you can make a few up yourself in no time. Plus, you won’t have to worry about pulling down the big storage bin of wrapping supplies to gift wrap. Easy peasy! Here’s how! 

DIY Cereal Gift Box

What you’ll need: 

  • empty Cheerios cereal box
  • sharpie or pen
  • box cutter
  • scissors
  • colorful duct tape
  • twine

What you do: 

1. Using the straight edge of one box, line where your gift box opening will be on the top of the box. We measured around 1-2 inches from the shorter side of the box in. Then make a line at a 90 degree angle on the long side of the box from the top edge to the bottom edge inwards. Repeat on the other side. (see video below for details)

2. Using the lines you just drew as guides, carefully use a box cutter to score the lines. Then go over them again once more to cut all of the way through. Open up the lid to make sure it works properly. 

3. Using tape, seal the top of the box where you open to remove the cereal. 

4. Continue to tape box until outer shell of box is covered. 

5. Line box with tissue paper and place present inside. Cover with more tissue paper and tie lid down with twine. Add a card and give your gift! 

Right now you can give the gift of Cheerios by participating in the buy a box, give a box promotion. Simply purchase a specially marked package of your favorite variety of Cheerios, enter the code found inside here, and send a coupon for a free box of Cheerios to someone you love! 

Now, not only can Dad get a delicious box of Cheerios with his gift, he can also choose to gift Cheerios to someone else. Spreading the love, one box at a time. 

Who would you share a box of Cheerio’s with?

Love this idea? Check out these other great gift ideas: 

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How to Teach Kids To Be SMART Savers + an easy DIY Save Spend Give Piggy Bank

We’re sharing how to teach kids to be SMART savers plus an easy DIY Save Spend Give Piggy Bank for them to make for their earnings.

Do your kids always want to spend everything they get? Or are they more cautious with how they use the money they receive? Whether it’s a weekly allowance, money from birthdays, or money they earn selling lemonade on the corner, kids are never too young to start learning about how to be smart savers. 

With three kids at home, we knew we needed to come up with a simple plan that each of them could understand. From our 2-year-old to our 8-year-old, we use the same system. And it’s broken down into the simplest form for them to grasp. We’ve come up with 3 categories for them and it all has to deal with three simple words: save, spend, give. 

3 Categories of a Budget

Step 1: Save money of your own, 

Step 2: Spend your money wisely by determining what you need versus what you want, 

Step 3: Give your money, time, or things with people who need it.

How to be a SMART Saver

Once you have that broken down, it’s time to start thinking of what or why you want to save. There are 5 steps to putting together a smart savings goal:

1.     Specific: What exactly do you want to accomplish?

2.     Measurable: How will you know you met your goal?

3.     Attainable: Can you really achieve your goal?

4.     Relevant: Why is this goal important to you?

5.     Timely: How much time do you need to accomplish the goal?

Try to talk with your kids about these goals and see if they can come up with their own! 

Get Started! 

Let the kids construct their own Save Spend Give Piggy Banks by gathering 3 containers, decorating them as you prefer, and labeling each one of the following – “Save, Spend, Give.” Put your money in the appropriate bank as you receive it and watch it add up.

We simply grabbed some containers and labels from the dollar store and kept it simple! But you can get as creative as you’d like. To see how we made ours, watch the video below: 

video here

Are your kids learning to manage the money they’re receiving? 

Love this project? Read more! 

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Why Crafting Breaks Are Necessary plus a Mother’s Day Gift Idea for Grandma

Need a Mother’s Day gift idea for Grandma? Look no further! These adorable bouquets are sure to put a smile on her face just as finding the time to craft alone will put a smile on yours. 

Last week I took some time for myself to get my hair done. Not only did I get my hair cut, I gave in and got it colored, too. At first, I wanted to go a bit crazy. It was the first time I’ve ever colored my hair so I wanted to have some fun with a dusty rose or lavender color. But then after talking with my hairdresser, I decided on a more subtle change for the first time. 

I got to thinking why I wanted to change things up. Change of pace? Wanting a break from the same old, same old? Or was it something else? 

Finally, after much thinking, I came to a conclusion. I needed to do something for me. While I love being a wife, a mother, an employee, most of the decisions I make are based on thinking of others first. So, in partnership with Cafe Breaks, I decided to take a bit more time for myself  (and think of myself first) to take a craft break.

Most of the time while I craft, I’m doing it with the kids. Something fun and exciting for them to create with me. Now, sure I get enjoyment from crafting with them, but I forgot how much I love crafting for myself. Or, in this case, crafting for my MIL. I was able to create a fun gift for her out of a few simple supplies we had in the craft room. And I now want to make a few more with the 

While I enjoyed my crafting break, I also took the time to indulge a bit in a Cafe Breaks pudding. The mocha latte is so delicious! Crafting AND a snack all for myself? Yes, please! 

If you haven’t taken a moment or two for yourself lately, take a step back and think about what would bring you joy or happiness! It doesn’t have to be something expensive. It could be as simple as heading to Walmart and picking up a pack of Cafe Breaks pudding packs from the pudding aisle to enjoy without someone else asking for a bite. 

Mother’s Day Gift Idea for Grandma

DIY Photo Flower Bouquet

What you’ll need:

  • flower vase
  • twine
  • silk flowers
  • 1 piece of foam (similar shade to flowers)
  • wooden dowel
  • ribbon
  • chalkboard sticker with message
  • scissors
  • glue gun
  • photos of kids

What you do: 

1. Wrap twine around vase and secure in place with glue gun. Repeat, securing the twine every few rows, until the vase is completely covered. 

2. Add ribbon to the vase with glue gun. Cover seam with chalkboard sticker. 

3. Arrange flowers in vase, set aside. 

4. Cut kids photo around their faces in a circle. 

5. Using the photos as a template, cut a flower out of the foam sheet with the photo in the center. 

6. Glue photo to center of flower then glue flower onto wooden dowel. 

7. Add flower photos to the silk flowers in the vase and gift away! 

Check out the video we put together for this project: 

Need a break? Enter to win one of 3 Mother’s Day Sweepstakes prizes including a $500 Spafinder gift card + a case of Café Breaks or a $100 Visa gift cards + a case of Café Breaks! 

Details are below:

Café Breaks Spa Weekend with Mom

What are the kids making Grandma for Mother’s Day? 

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DIY Bouncing Ball

Make DIY bouncing balls with your kids and share the fun of science in the process!

Have you ever wanted to make your own toys? See your creation unfold from idea to reality? My kids absolutely love balls. They always ask to buy more and our front yard is filled with them. So when I saw this tutorial on About.com on how to make polymer balls I had to give it a try.

Result? A pretty fun experiment and toy all in one! And while the ball doesn’t bounce quite as high as the ones you buy from the machine outside of the grocery store it still provides hours of entertainment for children and adults alike. Whether you are looking to teach your kids about a little chemistry or just ready to make a fun toy, this is the perfect craft for a lazy afternoon. 

This post contains affiliate links.


DIY Bouncing Balls

What You’ll Need:

  • borax (found in the laundry section of the store)
  • cornstarch (found in the baking section of the store)
  • white glue (makes an opaque ball) or blue or clear school glue (makes a translucent ball)
  • warm water
  • food coloring (optional)
  • measuring spoons
  • spoon or craft stick to stir the mixture
  • 2 small plastic cups or other containers for mixing
  • marking pen
  • watch with a second hand
  • ruler
  • ziploc bag

[Read more…]

Smurfette’s Secret Succulent Fairy Garden

This secret succulent fairy garden would make a perfect gift for Mother’s Day or any other special occasion. Plus, it’s super easy to put together when you have the right tools!

A few weeks ago we were invited to a screening of Smurfs The Lost Village and boy did my kids love it! The movie took us through the story of Smurfette’s creation and her struggle with finding her unique talent. Since she was made out of clay and different from the other Smurfs, she grew sad and frustrated with her lack of being able to master one skill. 

As the story unfolds, she and a few Smurf friends head off on an adventure that brings her to realize who she really is and the power she holds inside. 

Well… my kids were quite inspired by the movie because as soon as we got home they wanted to create their own Smurf village in the back yard! The fun plants that came alive and the various creatures found along Smurfette’s journey were all they could talk about. 

So I pitched a fairy garden but instead of fairies, we used Smurfs! And how perfect did it turn out? Plus? It was so easy for the kids to make! 

Watch the video at the end of this post for more details! 

[Read more…]

3 Ways to Dye Easter Eggs with Toddlers and Preschoolers

These 3 Ways to Dye Easter Eggs with Toddlers and Preschoolers will make egg dying fun for the whole family! 

Easy Ways to Dye Easter Eggs with Toddlers and Preschoolers

This year our toddler is ready to jump in with both hands and really have fun dying Easter eggs. So we did a few experiments of our own to find 3 ways to dye easter eggs with toddlers and preschoolers that are not only fun but easy too! And as an added bonus, you probably have all of these things in your home right now. How’s that for awesome? 

My two year old had a blast dying Easter eggs with me this past week and can’t wait to show her brother and sister what fun they have in store for them next weekend. Since we dye Easter eggs the Saturday before Easter, she has a leg up from her siblings and will be a pro when it’s time to actually dye the eggs. 

3 Ways to Dye Easter Eggs with Toddlers and Preschoolers

With small children, it’s hard to use the ready-made kits on store shelves. Their little hands just aren’t ready for holding those thin wire holders and spoons can sometimes be harder to control. So we set the spoons aside and let the kids have fun with these few suggestions!  [Read more…]

Star Wars Rogue One Perler Bead Templates: Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire

Use these Rogue One Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire Perler Bead Templates to show the world if you’re on the dark side or the light side and see if your true Jedi comes out! 

May the 4th… er… April the 4th be with you. 

Today’s the day!! Did you preorder your copy of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story? If not, get on it! It comes out on Blu-ray/DVD today and is the perfect addition to your ever-growing collection of Star Wars movies. 

The fact that it is being released on my husband’s birthday did not escape me. How perfect is it to have one of your favorite movie franchises release a movie ON your birthday? Kismet! In celebration of my husband’s birthday and the release of Rogue One on store shelves, my daughter and I got to crafting to make the perfect birthday gift for dad: Star Wars Perler Bead creations! 

My daughter has been obsessed with her Perler beads since receiving them for Christmas this past year so when she was thinking of what to make her dad for a birthday gift, she immediately went and grabbed her Perler bead kit. But she couldn’t figure out what to make.  [Read more…]

20 Beautiful Butterfly Crafts for Kids

In celebration of spring, we’ve put together a list of 20 butterfly crafts for kids that will be perfect for celebrating spring with the littles! Try one or try them all and add some springtime fun to your day with the kids.

Springtime is my favorite time of the year! I get back into gardening, enjoying the birds in the back yards making nests and eating from our bird feeders, and the gorgeous butterflies flying around our yard. 

Spring also begins on my birthday most years so it holds a special place in my heart. There’s something about getting outside and soaking in the sunshine after a few weeks of rain. And one of my favorite things to do is to go outside with a blanket and lay down in the grass with the kids as we look up and watch nature around us. 

The kids are always amazed at how much they can see once they sit still and silence themselves for a few moments. I ask each of them to try and find one new thing they didn’t notice when we first came outside and I love hearing what they discover. Yesterday Ethan discovered that the bird who nests at our house every year has finally returned. So we can expect some babies soon!! Molly is on the hunt for caterpillars so we can see if we can watch them turn to chrysalises.

If you want some hands-on inspiration for your butterfly crafts, try creating a butterfly garden in the yard so you can attract butterflies in your yard for the kids to check out. 

Butterfly Crafts for Kids

1. Coffee Filter Butterfly | Crafts by Amanda
2. Oil Pastel Butterflies | My Bored Toddler
3. Toilet Paper Roll Butterfly Craft | Life Over C’s
4. DIY Butterfly Magnets | Mom Endeavors
5. Bright & Beautiful Butterfly Craft | Mom on Timeout
6. Butterfly Finger Puppets | Twig & Toadstool
7. DIY Butterfly Window Clings | Gym Craft Laundry
8. Washi Tape Butterflies | Artsy Momma
9. Tissue Paper Butterflies | J-Man & Miller Bug
10. Bow Tie Noodle Butterfly | Craft Morning
11. Paint Splat Butterflies | Glued to my Crafts
12. Colorful Butterfly Symmetry Painting | Artsy Momma
13. Fluttering Butterfly Wand | The Simple Parent
14. Paper Doily Butterflies | Crafts by Amanda
15. Sun Catcher Butterflies | Parenting Chaos
16. Butterfly Ribbon Dancer Craft | Simple at Home
17. Handprint Butterfly Craft | Glued to my Crafts
18. Egg Carton Butterfly | Craftulate
19. Foam Cup Butterfly Craft | I Heart Crafty Things
20. Watercolor Butterfly Craft | About a Mom

Do your kids love butterflies? 

Love these ideas? Here are a few more! 

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