Teaching Kids to Solve Problems

question song

When my son was two years old, he and I read the book, The Question Song by Kaethe Zemach. This book teaches kids to solve everyday problems. My son found it interesting because it contains repetition, rhythm, and rhyming words.

One Scenario in the book reads…

“My train is broken! What are we going to do? My train is broken! What are we going to do?”

“We’ll fix your train and make it strong. Then off you go, chugging along! That’s what we will do!”

The book shows a picture of a little boy holding a wheel that is detached from his train. Then the boy and his mother fix the train with a hammer and nail.

The book also addresses other problems such injuries and selfishness. As a teacher or a parent, you can incorporate these principals at home or in the classroom. Below is an example of the time I applied this concept with my son.

One day, my son spilled milk on his shirt. Instead of cleaning the milk and getting another shirt immediately, the following happened…

ME: What are we going to do?

MY SON: My shirt is wet.

ME:  Should we leave the shirt on?

MY SON: We should take it off. (We took off the shirt.)

ME: What should we do now?

MY SON: (Looks confused)

ME: Let’s go to your room and get another…

MY SON: Shirt!  (We put on the shirt and went to where the milk was spilled.)

ME: We have a problem, there is milk on the floor. What are we going to do?

MY SON:  We will clean it up!

ME: What do we need to clean the milk?

MY SON: A Towel! (We used a towel dampened with water to clean the milk up.)

This helps kids learn to think and solve problems. Next time your child or students have a problem, ask them “What are you going to do?” Allow them to think and solve the problem. The more they practice, the better they will become.

Happy Problem Solving!!!!


Bringing Life to the Alphabet

abc book


In the next few posts, we will discuss fun activities for kids based on books.  Activities related to books have many benefits. One benefit is increased comprehension skills because book related activities make the characters come alive. Also, children can use their critical thinking skills to analyze a character’s feelings, dilemmas, and resolutions.

Another benefit of book related activities for children are a connection with self. Many stories contain  problems that need to be solved. Activities can assist children in determining whether they agree with the characters’ decisions or if they would have taken another route. Furthermore, children can apply these situations in their lives because they have evaluated the resolution through books.

Our first book is called Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories For All the Letters by Oliver Jeffers. In this book, each letter has a word and short story related to it. The stories having various themes such as humor, gratefulness, and the art of thinking.  For example, my favorite story is for letter U, which stands for Underground.

In this story, Nigel the monkey wasn’t good at climbing. The other monkeys laughed at him because he needed a ladder to climb the tree. Nigel became upset and moved his ladder UNDERGROUND. Suddenly two events happen: a rain storm and a tall muscular man came to chop down the monkey’s tree. Now all the monkeys want to join Nigel UNDERGROUND and they did not laugh at him anymore.

Have students create stories similar to this book. Below is how they can execute it…

  1. Divide students into small groups.
  2. Assign each group a letter.
  3. Groups are to use a word that begins with their letter.
    • If Group 1 has the letter A, their word can be “Anteater.”
  4. Each group will write a short story about their word.
  5. You can choose a theme such as:
    • Decision- Making
    • Financial Literacy
    • Humor
    • You can also have groups choose their own themes.
  6. Have students choose how they want to present their stories to the class.
  7. Make this a weekly activity until all the alphabet is covered.

Have fun creating!

Fun Educational Activities Inspired by The Black Panther Movie

black panther 2

The movie, Black Panther, was inspirational and insightful. There were so many themes addressed in the movie ranging from race, identity, and dignity to technological advancement, service, and cooperation.

Although my son is too young to see the movie, I was inspired to share the experience with him. Therefore, we did the following interactive activities below…


We checked out two Black Panther books from our local library. The books introduced the characters and their roles. It also addressed themes such as good vs bad, courage, hard work, intelligence, instinct, loyalty, etc. One of the books identified vocabulary words and asked the reader to find them within the story. My son became excited when he saw the words in the story!

Application through Playful Literacy

Once my son and I became familiar with the characters, I purchased the action figures. We identified the characters and created stories while playing. In our story, Nakia (Black Panther’s friend), Shuri (Black Panther’s sister), and Okoye (head of armed forces) were kidnapped by Erik Killmonger (villain).  T’Challa (Black Panther) rescues them and saves the day. Killmonger was put in “time out” for kidnapping T’Challa’s friends and family.

Setting and Geography

Black Panther takes place in Wakanda which is a fictitious country in Africa. We looked on a globe and found Africa. My son loves animals so we identified some that live in Africa such as zebras, elephants, lions, rhinoceroses, and tigers. We also talked about African resources like diamonds, sugar, salt, gold, and cobalt. We were able to find diamonds, sugar, salt and gold around the house and by viewing images on the Internet. I SHOWED MY SON A SMART PHONE AND TOLD HIM MOST CONTAIN COBALT, WHICH IS PRODUCED IN CONGO. We ended this lesson by finding Congo on the globe.

Action verbs

We incorporated action verbs within our play. During our story, my son made the action figures flip, jump, run, spin, sleep, and fly in the air. As my son played, I identified the action verb in which he made the characters move. For example, if Okoye and T’Challa hit the pillow and bounced off, I shouted “Whoa look at them ricochet off the pillow!”


In Black Panther books and movie, Shuri is a technological genius of Wakanda. She invented beads that could stop a truck full of kidnappers. She also invented Black Panther’s suit which absorbs attacks during  fights. The gadgets Shuri creates have super abilities to protect Wakanda.

During play, my son and I pretended balls and blocks were gadgets. They were used to save Black Panther’s friends and family from Erik Kilmonger. We also talked about gadgets around the home that keeps us safe such as the security camera, motion sensing lights, and alarm system.

My son enjoyed the activities and continues to find new ways to create more stories with his action figures!

Tell us in the comments how a Superhero has inspired activities in your household and classroom.

Happy Learning!




Field Trip to the Future for Kids

kid scientist

Have you ever asked a kid what they wanted to be when they grow up? A typical answer to this question may be a veterinarian, fireman, doctor, or astronaut. How about asking a kid to share their ideas for new inventions or ways to solve problems? A child may have an idea to make their chores easier by inventing an automatic bathroom cleaner.

When a child answers these questions, why not take a FIELD TRIP TO THE FUTURE! For the child who is interested in animals, schedule a field trip to the zoo and meet a zoologist. Ask your local veterinarian if your child can visit with them for a moment. Another idea is to take a nature walk and make observations about animals.

The child who wants to invent the automatic bathroom cleaner will have to work in smaller steps. They may begin by observing the janitor at their school. Cleaning a bathroom can be a big task, so maybe they can start by creating the automatic toilet cleaner. The next step may be for the child to draw their invention on paper and decide what materials are needed. Afterwards, take the child to a hardware store to decide, view, and purchase materials needed to make a prototype of their idea.

Another way to stimulate a child’s imagination is to visit the local library to read about someone who shares your child’s interest. An Internet search is also very helpful!

The point is to expose your child to real life examples that match their interests! It can be fun and is a way to keep your child’s brain active.

Happy Learning!


Insightful Black History Lesson While Walking with your Kids – Part 3

black family walking

The contributions of black people are everywhere. Please view this interview of Dr. Ben Carson explaining how to give your kids a Black History lesson just by walking down the street.  This video was recorded while Dr. Carson was the Director of Pediatric Surgery at John Hopkins Medical Institutions.

Take this idea further and incorporate other cultural histories on walks with your family, classmates, peers, and co-workers.

Have Fun Learning!

Game/Activity for Kids that Supplement Black History Facts – Part 2

light bulb

My toddler is fascinated with turning the lights on and off when we enter and exit a room. We sometimes go around the house searching for light sources such as the lamp or lights on his toys. Because we have so much fun with light, I decided to teach my son about Lewis Latimer.

Lewis Latimer improved the making of carbon filaments (electric light with a wire filament heated so high that it glows), used in light bulbs to help them last longer. His invention made the light bulb less expensive and made it possible for electric lighting to be put in homes and on the street. Before Mr. Latimer’s improvement, the light bulb only lasted a few days.

One way I help my son understand the importance of Mr. Latimer’s invention is to play the game, Lights Out.

In this game, my son closes his eyes and counts to ten. I then hide one of his toys and my son tries to find it.  After my son searches 15 seconds for the toy, I turn off the lights. The 15 seconds represents the short time light bulbs lasted before Mr. Latimer’s invention.

The fun part of this game is to find the toy before the lights go out. My son loves game! I love it too because it teaches the importance of Mr. Latimer’s invention which is longevity of the light bulb!

Have Fun Learning!

Game/Activity for Kids that Supplement Black History Facts – Part 1

traffic light

When I am driving the car and my toddler is the passenger, he loves to use the traffic light signal to tell me when to go and stop. “Go mommy! Green light!” he says. Since February is Black History month, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to teach my son the contributions of black people.

I began by telling my son about Garrett Morgan and why he invented the three-position traffic light signal.

One day, Mr. Morgan was driving and saw a car accident. The accident happened because the traffic light signal switched back and forth between Stop and Go with no warning of slowing down. Mr. Morgan designed the warning signal, which today is the yellow light. The warning signal gives drivers a chance to slow down before stopping. This has decreased many car accidents.

I decided to supplement the lesson with a fun childhood game called Red Light Green Light.

In this game, one person is chosen to be the traffic cop. The other children stand in a line while the traffic cop has his/her back to them. When the cop says “Green Light” the children try to run to the finish line. When the cop calls “Red Light” he/she turns to face the children and the players have to stop.

I explain to my son that this is how people drove their cars before Mr. Morgan’s invention.

We THEN play Red Light, Green Light, Yellow Light. This game includes Mr. Morgan’s warning signal (yellow light). My son realizes it is much easier to stop if there’s a warning signal.

We also play both games with his toy cars. Instead of running, we race the cars around the house.

Have fun learning!


Teaching Kids Market Research on the Go!


In our “Start ‘Em Up Business” Program, we teach students about Market Research. One form of Market Research is getting people’s opinions about your product. Typically, research is conducted on potential customers who may buy your product in the future.

If you view the “Start ‘Em Up Business” video on our website, you will see students who have created a t-shirt business. One part of the process was to conduct market research at the local library.  We held our class and sold the t-shirts at the library as well. These students made $130 and took home $13 each!

Your after-school program students can do a similar activity. You can enhance this activity by making a field trip out of it.

Take your students on a field trip where there are potential customers. For example, if your youth decide to create a jewelry business, take them places where people dress up like a theater (where plays are performed) or outside a business district.

Below is how to execute this activity:

  1. Have students create a product for the class business.
  2. Based on the product, decide where Market Research should be held.
  3. Prepare Market Research questions such as:
    • What do you like about our product?
    • What do you dislike about our product?
    • Do you have color preferences?
    • How can this product be improved?
    • What would you be willing to pay for this product?
  4. Go on the field trip.
  5. Group students in pairs to conduct research.
  6. Discuss what was found during research.
  7. Adjust the product accordingly.

Note: If you can’t take a field trip, you can always conduct research at your after-school site with teachers, parents, and the nearby community.

Happy researching!

Dining Etiquette Field Trip for Kids

dining etiquette

I remember the summer before my freshman year of college, I went to a Scholarship Dinner. I was excited about the dinner until I saw multiple forks, knives, plates, and spoons. I remember thinking to myself, “Why do I have so many utensils in front of me?”

Thank goodness for my older brother! He secretly guided me through which utensils to use at the appropriate time.

It was then, that I made a decision to teach my children or any group of kids I work with, about dining etiquette.  A field trip to a restaurant is a wonderful way to teach this concept.

I took a group of children to a restaurant to learn about dining etiquette and the American vs. European table settings. I had a volunteer consultant come to teach the class. If you can’t find a consultant, below is how you can execute this task!

  1. Plan a trip to a restaurant.
  2. Call ahead and tell them you would like your students to learn dining etiquette.
    • Call to inquire about the restaurant setting up an American or European table setting.
    • If not, you can educate your students about the table settings before and after they have eaten.
    • You can search images of the American vs. European table settings on the Internet.
  3. Before eating, review basic dining etiquette rules such as…
    • If dining out, place your napkin in your lap.
    • Keep the napkin in your lap until you are finished eating.
    • If dining out, wait until everyone in the group has been served before picking up your utensils.
    • With American and European table settings, start with the utensils that’s farthest from your plate and work your way inside.
    • Dishes should be passed counter-clockwise.
    • Please do not reach across the table for anything.
    • Do not use a toothpick or floss at the table.
    • Keep elbows off the table.
    • Do not talk with food in your mouth.
  4. After the meal, debrief with students…
    • What did you think of the dining etiquette rules?
    • Do you practice any of these rules in your home?
    • Which rule was the most difficult to follow?
    • Why do you think Dining Etiquette is important?


Field Trip Teaching Kids to Have Effective Meetings

boy meeting

Adults usually attend many meetings in the workplace and/or in the community. We have meetings to solve problems, to plan events, to get an update, etc. Sometimes meetings can be too long and unnecessary. Some supervisors in the workplace have meetings at the same day and time each week. These meetings can occur even if there is nothing on the agenda.

Meetings can occur in various places such as in the office, at someone’s home, or in a restaurant.

Why not teach our students how to have “EFFECTIVE” meetings that actually get things done? Try this activity below and see if your students can accomplish their goals in a meeting.

  1. Plan a field trip to a restaurant where students can hold their meeting.
    • This activity can also be done in a classroom.
  2. If easier, you can divide students into small groups.
  3. Give your students a task to accomplish in their meeting.
    • It could be planning a class field trip or picnic
    • Solving a class or school problem
  4. Give students the following tips to conduct an effective meeting.
    • Have an agenda set before the meeting.
    • Send agenda to attendees at least 30 minutes before meeting.
    • Have action items already outlined in agenda.
    • Give those who want to speak a time limit. (optional)
    • Set a time for the meeting (don’t go over meeting time).
  5. Observe and debrief how students conducted themselves in the meeting.
    • Did students accomplish their meeting goals?
    • Did everyone who spoke add value to the meeting?
    • Did students find the meeting helpful?
    • Did students find being in a restaurant distracting?
    • What did students learn during this activity?