Author: Jessica O'Connor

Trick Tuesday – Three Pile Card Trick

Our family loves to play cards, and since we are missing that family connection right now, we thought it would be exciting to learn a card trick each week and perform it over Duo or Zoom!  I remembered doing a card trick when I was younger with piles so I searched around YouTube and ended up finding this!  It wasn’t the trick I was looking for, but it is actually easier, and G and C picked it up very quickly!

For this trick, you need 21 cards.

Call up your audience members through your favorite face-to-face app and show them the fronts and backs of the cards, then shuffle.  Once they agree you have shuffled enough, select one card and show it to them with out looking.  Say “this is your card”.

Now one at a time place the cards face up in three rows.

Point to each row and ask if their card is in that row.  Whichever row they tell you, pick that pile up second, so that pile is sandwiched between the other two.

Repeat this two more times.

Now, as you lay the cards into piles for the fourth time, their card will be the eleventh card!  Every time!  So when you get to the eleventh card, say this is your card!  And they will be amazed!!

Categories: Home from School

Pillow Sandwich

You can see from our posts lately, that we have been taking advantage of this time at home for some fun family activities.  But as fun as it has been, it has still been stressful and emotional for the kids given the fear and uncertainty.  We have seen some quick changes in mood and stronger emotions over the past month.  My go-to for regulation is always DEEP PRESSURE, you can learn more about why HERE.

So today when emotions were very high, I broke out my favorite trick – the PILLOW SANDWICH!

First, I put one pillow down – for the bread.  Then have the kiddo lay on top.

Next I give some joint compressions, by pushing and pulling at fingers, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles, and pushing down lightly on shoulders and head.  If you are not comfortable or sure how to give joint compressions, you can give a nice massage to provide the deep pressure.

Now we talk about toppings!  What does your kiddo want on their sandwich – mayo, mustard, bologna, tomatoes, cheese, etc.  Let them pick.  Today we actually went for an ice cream sandwich!  So instead of bread – we used cookies, then G was chocolate ice cream, and we added peanut butter cups and hot fudge!  She sure sounded delicious!

Then I topped her off with the last cookie, and squished the sandwich together.  First with pressure from hands, and with permission, more pressure.

And then of course, I tried to eat her, and it had us both laughing and quickly forgetting about what it was that was so upsetting in the first place.

C came in and joined the sandwich fun, and they came up with some pretty creative sandwiches!

Yes C is in that sandwich!

After we finished, G asked if we could do this again tomorrow!  So definitely sandwich success!

Let me know how it works for you, and what toppings your family comes up with.



Glow Bath Party

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I have been saving glow sticks for a long time to do a glow bath with the kids!  They put their bathing suits/shorts on so they could sit/stand in the tub last evening and we had a blast!  I filled the tub with warm water and bubbles and we put the glow sticks at the bottom.  They were amazed to see how much it glowed.  We splashed around a bit and put on some music to dance and shake the glow sticks.  It was a great sensory experience to feel the warm water and watch the rhythmic movement and glow of the sticks.

We then started to play some games in the bath with the glow sticks.  We encouraged them to come up with some games and they were very creative!

Ring Pass – we each held one stick and saw how quickly we could pass a glow bracelet around our circle without dropping it

Ring Toss – we tossed a bracelet in the air and tried to catch it with our stick

Fishing – we put the bracelets at the bottom of the tub and used our glow sticks to try to pick them up

Everyone dried off and changed into pj’s for some more glow game!

Grab the Bracelet – all but one of us had on a glow bracelet.  We played a tag game where the person who was not wearing a bracelet had to chase the others and steal their bracelet.  This ended up being really fun and had us on the floor laughing!

Glow Hide and Seek – we kept the lights off in the house and played dark hide and seek.  The glow bracelet was the clue to finding someone.  This was a bit more challenging and the kids did turn on the lights to find us, but it was fun and slowed us down a bit after Grab the Bracelet

We had so much fun that we went on amazon and bought more glow sticks for next time!

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See what fun glow games you can come up with as a family!

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.



Teaching Kids Why Breathing Works!

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For Day 3 of Coping Skills, we focused on learning why the breaths are so important and actually work.

I gave them a simple image of the brain that highlighted the important parts (for today): the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.

I explained how the amygdala decides what to do with any new information coming into the brain.  I gave some examples, such as if the information coming in is that your hand is on a hot stove, the amygdala would quickly alert your brain and you would remove your hand.  In this example, the amygdala does not talk to the prefrontal cortex – it makes a quick decision to keep you safe.

In another example, the information coming in is that you see a box of cookies sitting on the counter.  In this example, your amygdala would share this information with the prefrontal cortex.  The prefrontal cortex is the decision making center of your brain.  So in this situation, the prefrontal cortex would help you come up with the best plan – like asking a parent for a cookie!

When we are under stress, the amygdala, reacts quickly – sending us into fight, fright, or freeze, instead of talking to our prefrontal cortex to problem solve.  When we deep breathe, we help the amygdala to calm down and make the best decision.

We talked about some examples recently where if we stopped and breathed, we might have been able to help our amygdala make a better decision.  Not naming names 😉 but recently one kiddo got upset while playing a game and threw a game piece across the room.  This individual now understand that if he or she took a deep breath in that moment, perhaps his or her prefrontal cortex could have helped to make a better decision. O also gave an example of how he might go into “flight” if he hears the Zombies 2 Soundtrack for the fifth time in a row.  (Some other parents may be experiencing something like this right around now…)


I had the kids draw pictures and name their amygdala and prefrontal cortex.  This way they could visualize themselves calming their amygdala so it can talk with the prefrontal cortex.  This was very cute!  And now, we have been able to give them cues and ask them how “amygdalette” or “head and the heart” are feeling and if they are able to talk to “fluffy” and “ten”.  These cues have helped to diffuse a few minor incidents here!

Hope it helps for you too!



Categories: Home from School

Breathing Practice

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There has been a lot of stress here in this household with the fear of the coronavirus and the uncertainty of how long we will be quarantined, so G has requested a coping skills curriculum.  Day One, we reviewed all of our favorite breathing exercises.

Here are our top 8:

You can download these breathing cards for free HERE

We practiced each of these and then shared which were our favorite.  We talked about what would be a safe space in the house for each of them to use to calm down.  They each picked a spot, G her room, C the recycling closet 😉  I had them go to their space to practice their favorite breath.

To make it more individualized, for our Day Two curriculum, I folded a piece of paper into 4’s and had them draw their top breaths they remembered from the day before. I was really happy to see that they did remember them and could show me how to do them.

Here is C, breathing in deeply with his hands on his stomach to fill his “balloon”

As they remembered their favorites, I had them draw a picture for each.

Then the cut them out and taped them up in their safe space!

I hope some of these breaths might work for your kiddos!  This is an important time to help them feel safe and calm and breathing might just be that tool!





Categories: Home from School

Science with G – Lava Lamp

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Got some alka-seltzer tabs hanging around?  There are so many experiments that you can do with them.  And Alka-seltzer actually has a page on their website for experiments –

Here is our first of many experiments with alka-seltzer (this one is not listed on their website)

The Lava Lamp

Materials needed – water, cooking oil (we used vegetable), food coloring, alka-seltzer tab  (this project could still be cool without the alka-seltzer)

We filled our bottle about 1/4 full of water

Then added vegetable oil, almost to the top.  Just leave some room for food coloring and the reaction to occur (so it doesn’t overflow)

Next put in about 10 drops of food coloring.  Wait for the food coloring to settle through to the oil and into the water at the bottom.

Here is a great opportunity to talk about water and oil.  Ask questions about why do you think they do not mix?  Do you think water or oil is heavier?  What do you think would happen if we shook the bottle?  You can even have them record their predictions!

Now, that the food coloring has settled, comes the fun!  Add the alka-seltzer tab and watch in amazement!

We played with the bottle for the whole day, letting is settle then adding in more food coloring or alka-seltzer.  It was fun to make predictions and see what happened.  We definitely overflowed the bottle when we added two alka-seltzer tabs at once 🙂

If you do not have alka-seltzer.  Let them have fun shaking up the bottle and turning the bottle on its side to see what happens!





Girl Scout Cookie Taste Test!

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We love taste tests here in our household, and with G completing her first year as a Girl Scout,she wanted to order one box of each to improve her entrepreneur skills!  Secretly, I was excited about having one of each box in the house, 1. of course, because they are delicious, but 2. because I thought this would make for an excellent taste taste!  This was their first time trying most of the cookies!

So we printed out our taste test chart – this gives an opportunity to practice mindful eating by really focusing on all the tastes and texture of each piece.  Then they get to right down their guess and rate each item they ate.  You can download my taste test chart for free HERE.

I lined up all of our choices, no Samoas 🙁 those are my favorite!

Then I cut each in half and had them close their eyes, as they tasted.

They each filled out a sheet, talking about tastes and textures, then looking at the form to help make their best guess.  The ratings went a little crazy, starting at 1 – 10, and ending with some cookies at 1,000,000,000!

Then they got to pick their favorite to have in the end.

C selected the Toffee-tastic, which ended up being my favorite too!  And G after much deliberating decided on the Trefoil.

If you want to try another taste test – here is another idea

Happy Tasting!  If you try this, comment and share and let us know how it went!

Categories: Home from School

Math Practice Through Yahtzee

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C is in charge of planning our game curriculum and one of his favorite games is Yahtzee.  Yahtzee is a game with five dice where you roll for certain things such as four of a kind, or a straight, or a YAHTZEE – five of the same number!  He just happens to be super lucky and rolls at least once Yahtzee every game.  This is a favorite game of our extended family, especially to play on the beach.

So now that we have been home, C want to play it quite a bit and we found it to be a great way to work on addition and multiplication!  After our three rolls, we have C or G add the total of the

dice, or give us the multiplication fact.  For example, if I rolled 3 5’s and want to put this as my score of 5’s, I can ask what is 3 x 5.  When we roll for a three of a kind, the total of all five dice needs to be added, so then they can add all five dice (5 + 5 + 5 + 6 +1), or use multiplication and addition to come up with the total (3 x 5 + 6 + 1)

It has been really great for them!  G was so proud of all the math she completed on the scorecard that she hung it in her room!  It also had her most invested in the game to be in charge of the scorepad, since it is inevitable that C will win.  and so far he has!  It is no wonder that he has Yahtzee on the lesson plan so often!


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This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.

Categories: Home from School

Balanced and Barefoot

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I recently read this book that I am totally obsessed with, Balanced and Barefoot, written by a very inspiring occupational therapist, Angela Hanscom.









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This is a great read to get parents excited about sending their kids outdoors.  It reminds us of how we used to play from morning until night outside and how valuable that was!  I used this book most recently to teach occupational therapy students about the benefits of outdoor play and decided that our Home from School time is the perfect time to put this into practice for our family.  We totally love outside time already, but now we can fully embrace the wonderful learning opportunities offered in the great outdoors!

Here are just a few benefits, from just one activity we started this week – Fort Making!

Executive Functioning – (planning, problem solving)

For a few weeks, G has been begging to build a fort.  I wanted to empower her to come up with the idea on her own, so with some “help” from C, they drew up a plan.  I worked with their elaborate drawing to explain what I could do to help.  We modified the plan to finding at least 10 big sticks and tying them together at the top, then it was up to them to add all of their details.

Gross Motor

So today we set out to find the “10 big sticks”.  We have this awesome pile of branches just beyond our fence, so I climbed over and passed them to the kiddos.  They lugged them from one side of the yard to the other.  We raked the area to make it clear for the fort.  We then began to lean the sticks against one another, and the other trees in the space we selected.

Fine Motor

We grabbed some twine began to wrap and tie the branches in place, this is where we stopped for the day.

Self Esteem

But the kids were so proud to see there vision starting to come to life!


Being outside altogether provides neutral calming and regulating sensations for the body –

Auditory – breeze, birds chirping, yells of triumph as we found the perfect sticks!

Visual – neutral, calming colors of green, blue and brown.  Our pile of gathered sticks turning into a creation!

Muscle work – gathering, climbing, lifting, carrying, raking

the beginning of our fort, stay tuned for our progress!


Outdoor recess is our favorite and we have it scheduled for 2 hours today.  Our second recess actually ended up going for about two hours and continued on even as it rain!  Adding another exciting sensory element.  I will continue to share more about the wonderful benefits of being outdoors!

This site contains affiliate links to products. I may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, but only share items that I have personally tried and approve.




States Quizzes

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Perhaps you have one of these awesome United States puzzles?  (If not, see below for an alternative to make your own United States puzzle.)

We had G and C put this puzzle together, talking about each state as they put it in.  We told them to play close attention to the states from New England and we were going to “quiz” them after.  We talked about things for each of the New England states to help them remember – beach vacation in Maine, smallest state – Rhode Island, trees in VT, etc.

Then we googled New England states coloring sheet and printed two out, one for each kid.

For the quiz, we gave them instructions such as choose your favorite color and fill Massachusetts, draw a beach scene on Maine, put stripes on New Hampshire.  G was able to do this on her own, and C had an “open book” keeping the puzzle in view.

We are going to do this once a week and choose a different part of the country for each quiz!

If you do not have a US map puzzle, you can print a page with the whole United State and have them color it, cut it up, and make their own puzzle!  We will definitely be making our own puzzles at some point, so we can share directions for this activity when we come to it!

Categories: Home from School