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The little book with BIG resources!

A Visit to the KC Patch in Gardner, KS

KC Pumpkin Patch in Gardner KS

By Keri Nichol

Fall time is upon us, and that means lots of fun at the pumpkin patches. This past weekend we loaded up the kids and headed out to Gardner, KS to the KC Pumpkin Patch. Normal admission is $9/person with kids 2 and under free. That gets you into the patch and allows you to participate in many free activities. My kids had fun watching the shows, going through the haunted barn, having duck races and racing kids on the pedal cars. Then we dug out a little change and went to feed the goats and the pigs. They are free to pet but the feed is a quarter if you want to do that.

 Next on the list were a couple of the activities that were a little extra. My 7 year old went in the spinning ball for $2 and my 9 year old who was super scared of the ball decided she would shoot the gourds for $1. After that little adventure we had some more of the free fun and went down the giant slide in potato sacks.

We were all a little worn out from all the fun and posing for pictures so we thought we would take a tractor ride out to the pumpkin patch to pick out our pumpkins. Pumpkins at the patch are .60/lb. and gourds are $1 each. The kids all picked out their own pumpkin. Bigger seemed to be better until they got tired of packing them around so they traded in for something a little more manageable. We decided not to participate in the corn maze although lots of people appeared to be having a great time. On the way back from the patch on the tractor ride we got to see the area where the Fear Farm takes place at night and boy did it look scary.

We found a wagon when we got off the tractor and loaded up our pumpkins, got some kettle corn and shopped in the country store. Then we looked at all the giant pumpkins and decided it was time to head out.  We made a day of the KC Pumpkin Patch and had a terrific time out in nature. I think we will be returning again next year to pick out our pumpkins.


Wonderful, Smart, Educational! Zoodles is a must have app!

Parents this is a “must have” app if you have young children!  I cannot say enough good things about Zoodles.  I downloaded this app on my android; so that my daughter could listen to books, watch educational videos, play age appropriate games, and even paint. Two years later we are using it more than ever to do video recording of book readings together!  This app is fully equipped with a kid mode and parent dashboard that can be personalized in many ways!  Check out the website; www.zoodles.com !

Very impressive, super educational, Zoodles is the interactive app that encourages reading together with your child.  The bonus is your youngster can go into his or her library and listen to the stories that you recorded together anytime!   My five year old gives this really fun app a five star rating.  Just a few of her favorite stories thus far are Rapunzel, The Country Mouse and the City Mouse, and The Three Little Pigs!

I have not seen any app like this.  Zoodles sends parents a weekly email, showing every book, game, video and even the artwork created by your child.  It goes even further by generating a pie chart showing her choices and how much time was spent using cognitive, creative, math, science, reading, Soc. Studies, and life skills.  After reviewing her weekly emails, I know what skills my daughter is strongest in and what she needs to work on.

Cannot say enough good things about this.  The book choices are wonderful and that you can read and record them with your little one is special.  Zoodles suggests having grandparents, distant relatives, and even older siblings read together for more exceptional interactive reading time.  Zoodles received the “Parents Choice Award” and I am pretty sure if there was a “Kids Choice Award” they would have that too!

-Shari Jacobs

Accelerated Reader Tools in Schools and Home

For the past couple of years my kids have been tested at school on their reading ability and comprehension. Through this special test that they are given the teachers are able to give them what is called an AR (Accelerated Reader) rating. “For example, when you see an AR rating of 4.5, that indicates that the book is considered appropriate reading level for a reader in the fourth grade at the fifth month of schooling.  Please keep in mind that these are simply guidelines.  There will be children you are capable of reading books above their level, as well as those who will only be able to tackle books below their assigned reading level.  Every child is an individual and develops at different rates” (The Reader’s Polaris, 2013). This rating can be used by the children and the parents to choose books that are appropriate for their child’s reading level. Normally the kids are tested at the beginning of the school year and then again at the end of school. There is also a website that allows the children to enter their AR rating and their book interests and the search engine will find books that meet those specific criteria. This site can be found at http://www.arbookfind.com/UserType.aspx. If you are interested in testing your own child you can find the quiz and other info here:  http://www.renlearn.com/ar/takeaquiz.aspx.

References: The Readers Polaris. Retrieved on 9/4/2013 from http://readerspolaris.wordpress.com/what-are-ar-ratings/.

– Keri Nichol www.newfrugalmomma.wordpress.com

How Safe Are Our School Buses?

Here it is the first weeks of school and we are already seeing tragedy in the news. Recently I have seen reports of another shooter in one of our schools and then right here in our area there was a bus wreck. Now both of these incidents ended better than I thought they would but it is no less scary for the parents or the children that see the reports, let alone live it.

This bus accident just hit too close to home. When I saw the breaking news come in I held my breath praying, and please forgive me, but I was praying it wasn’t my child’s bus. As awful as that sounds it is the truth and my heart breaks for those families and what they are going through but my first reaction is fear for my own children. I walk them to that bus stop every morning putting my faith in that bus driver to get them to school safely and I am there waiting every evening for their safe arrival home.

I heard an eye witness on the news say that they thought the bus driver was driving too fast and that that was the possible cause for the accident yesterday in Bonner Springs. I don’t envy bus drivers. When I was a lead teacher for a local daycare I got licensed to drive the daycare bus. It was a smaller bus but I would pick up children from the elementary schools and bring them to the daycare for after school care. My bus normally had approx. 10 children on it and it got very loud. When you are behind that wheel you don’t have a lot of control over what goes on on the back of that bus. Every time you have to look in your mirror or hear children tattling and screaming you are being distracted from that road. I can’t imagine taking the number of the kids that I drove and multiplying it by 3 or 4.

Now I am not sure what the difference is between the normal school buses and the daycare bus like I drove in regard for laws on seat belts but my bus had them. When I picked up children I went to the back of the bus and made sure they were all buckled in. Seeing how that bus rolled over yesterday, I would assume that seat belts would be necessary for keeping our kids safe. I am sure that unbuckled belts in empty seats could cause harm but not if they were to remain buckled at all times with or without a child in the seat. I would like to know what parents out their think about seat belts on buses and if they think we should have them.

Furthermore, I think there should always be a bus attendant. Now I understand this is a budgeting issue but I am a tax payer too and I would pay a little more to see that my child was a little safer on the buses I trust them to. I feel like an attendant would be able to keep kids in order and deal with the drama on the back of the bus so that the bus driver can drive.

Last year there was a bus accident that got people talking about the seat belt issue and it got a lot of media. I am not entirely sure where that subject ended or if it just fell out of the spot light and was therefore forgot but I would love to here what Kansas City parents think about the issue of bus safety.

Below is a link about the bus accident in Bonner Springs:


-Keri Nichol


The Adventures of Captain Underpants Series By Dav Pilkey

The Captain Underpants Series is a popular read for children in grades 3-5. Many libraries carry several copies that they say fly off the shelves. Although hugely popular with the boys, my fourth grade daughter loves that the series is written in a comic book form and the change in format makes it that much more appealing. The series doesn’t have to be read in order but it does have several books that appeal to children by relating to events that are happening to them and turning them into comedy and a fun read. It touches on home life, school life and friends. We normally buy the books from Barnes and Noble on our Nook where they range from approx. $5-$9 depending on how big the book is and how new it is. The shorter books are only about 17 pages while other books extend over several chapters. Lots of options are available with The Adventures of Captain Underpants.

Keri Nichol- www.newfrugalmomma.wordpress.com

Play Dates 101

 Play Dates 101

Every school year is a new adventure.  The way most schools are set up it’s very difficult to stay in the classroom with the same friends each year.  So my kids tend to freak out a little bit when their best buddies are in the classroom across the hall and they do not know anyone in their classroom.  Making new friends is part of the social learning that takes place in school. Not only are the kids making new friends, but the parents are as well. Being in a classroom different from your best friend doesn’t mean that you can’t maintain their friendship and even continue to have play dates. In fact, it gives kids the opportunity to add someone new to the group.

My daughter once came home and told me a story about her new friend’s step dad that wasn’t so impressive; in fact it was a little creepy. She asked me if she could have a play date with this girl a few days later. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to shake the shocking story about the father, so every time the girl’s name is mentioned I try to get an idea as to how close my daughters relationship is to her. As a parent I feel it’s my job to meet and get to know the friends parents a few times before play dates can begin.   I can’t wait to have an opportunity to meet her family and decide for myself if I should let her go to her friend’s house. As for now I am not comfortable with my daughter going to her new and very sweet friends house.  I would be more than happy though, to have her new pal over to our house for a play date.  Having her friend over makes everyone happy, so it’s a good thing.  Remember to not leave last years friends out of the play dates, I usually send the parents an email or text to get the process rolling.


Keep these tips in mind when planning play dates: 

1. Try to remind your children it’s okay and even exciting to be in a class without their best friends- they will make new ones! 

2. Explain to them that just because they aren’t in the same class as their old friends doesn’t mean they can’t maintain relationships with them.

3. Meet your children’s parents a few times before you set up a play date so you fell comfortable leaving your child in their care. Your comfort is just as important as their fun!

4. As your kids make new friends, don’t forget to include old friends in play dates as well! Then everyone can get to know each other!


-Shari Jacobs, Mom Squad Blogger