Archive for September, 2013 Hits 3 Million Members!

Monday, September 30th, 2013

3 million members square

At 8:32 am PST today,’s 3 millionth member signed up for the site. Three million! That’s a lot of people. Like proud parents, our staff is absolutely beaming, and we want to take a moment to thank each and every member for taking part in our community.

Every person who joins our site is another individual taking steps to instill a love of learning in kids, whether it be in a single child or an entire school. From all of us at, thank you for being one of those people.

For more information about what we’re up to next, check’s Facebook page.

Halloween Costume Ideas with Estella

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013


The staff at loves Halloween costumes! To get ready for All Hallow’s Eve, we interviewed the people at Estella, a children’s clothing company that sells and manufactures elegant and sustainable products, about Halloween costume ideas and more.

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1. What Halloween costumes are you most excited about this season? Tell us about popular Halloween costumes for little girls and boys.

This season we are really into reinvented classic costumes. Siaomimi Play’s costumes are truly works of art. The line’s designer Hilda Yim has a talent for taking classic costumes with unique and detailed pieces that are a treat to wear and a fun way for kids to unleash their creative sides.

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2. What are your favorite Halloween accessories for kids?

For those children who want a simple alternative to elaborate costumes, there are loads of fun masks, clever hats, and beautiful hair accessories that add the perfect amount of fantasy without requiring a full costume.

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3. What is the secret to making a good homemade Halloween costume?

The secret to making a good homemade Halloween costumes is to keep it as simple as possible! More often than not, your kids have the makings for a great costume hidden inside their closets, and they only need a few additions to construct a costume that’s unique, creative, and economical. These fast and fun DIY costume pieces are easy for you and your little one to make together, and you probably have most of the required materials in your personal craft supplies.

Thank you to the people at Estella for interviewing with us! Feeling inspired to make your own costume? Check out some great DIY Halloween costumes from below.

Printables and Activities for World Gratitude Day

Friday, September 20th, 2013

Thanksgiving may be in November, but World Gratitude Day is right around the corner.

Any time is a good time to take a moment and reflect on all the reasons you have to be grateful. So why not do it on World Gratitude Day?

Pretty Planet

Growing up, my mom made a point to constantly remind me of exactly how lucky I was. I heard some variation of “You may not have everything, but you sure have a lot,” all the time.

Thanks to my mom it’s a whole lot easier to take a metaphorical step back during times when I’m feeling down or when life isn’t going the way I planned. So if I start to feel a little blue, I try to keep my chin up and mentally chant the words of the immortal William DeVaughn: “Just be thankful.”

This Saturday, no matter how busy you are, spend a little time being grateful for everything, regardless of how much or how little you have.

Need some inspiration? Check out this article about gratitude, and here’s a slideshow of printable thank you cards for every kind of occasion and every kind of kid.

Related Content:

Write the Sight Words: “Thank”

Write a Thank You Note

Thank You Kiss

Authors We Like: James Marshall

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013

This will come as no surprise to you, but the staff reads a lot of children’s books. We’ve all got our favorites from our own childhoods, but with a constant influx of advance copies from publishers coming through the door, we’re always finding new ones we love as well. As an outlet for our enthusiasm, we’ve decided to start up a series of blog posts that pay tribute to our favorite children’s authors.

Our first featured author is James Marshall. Marshall was a prolific writer and illustrator, who contributed to over 80 children’s books in his career, both as James and under the pen name Edward Marshall. His trademark style is succinct, tastefully humorous, and smartly moral. Marshall’s books are funny for both children and adults, so they make a great addition to any family library. Here are some of our very favorite James Marshall books:

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George and Martha

George and Martha is a book of five short stories about two hippos who are best friends. With Victorian-inspired clothing, footed bathtubs, and a hot air balloon, George and Martha are oddly noble hippopotami who work through everyday problems and friendly fights. The two hippos are totally sincere and always striving to be the truest friends possible. These stories are straightforward with miniature morals on friendship, vanity, and perseverance. George and Martha is a great read for children, as it shows them how to be true friends.

The Cut-ups
The Cut-Ups

Spud Jenkins and Joe Turner are the kids that every child aspires to be in their naughtiest dreams: mischievous, clever pranksters, also known as ‘cut-ups.’ Spud and Joe star in a miniature series of picture books, in which they play tricks on local adults and attempt to impress their new fancy friend, Mary Frances. Kids adore reading about the hilarious and wicked antics that the Cut-ups get into at school, at camp, and at ballroom dance class. In true Marshall fashion, each book presents a subtle moral for the reader.

Hansel and Gretel
Hansel and Gretel

Marshall wrote and illustrated several fairy tales, and Hansel and Gretel is among the best of the group. This is a great retelling of the classic story, with simple and relatable characters for kids. While many children’s retellings of Grimm fairy tales are gutted to exclude some of the more complex elements of the stories, Marshall’s Hansel and Gretel is expertly told with simple dialogue and detailed pictures. The illustrations fill in the descriptive and symbolic gaps from the original story, while clearly depicting characters’ moods for young readers.

Wings A Tale of Two Chickens
Wings: A Tale of Two Chickens

As the title suggests, this is another Marshall book about friendship between two animals. Harriet, a well-read and sensible hen, attempts to save her wide-eyed friend Winnie from the Mr. Johnson, a rogue fox in disguise. Through costumes, chases, and clever tricks, Winnie narrowly escapes Mr. Johnson’s fricassee pot. We love this story’s message that reading and working to be bright will keep you from being eaten by a fox (hey, we’ve all been there…).

Miss Nelson Is Missing
Miss Nelson is Missing!

Written in conjunction with Harry Allard, Miss Nelson is Missing! is one of Marshall’s most famous books. Through stark illustrations with muted colors, Marshall and Allard tell the story of the world’s worst substitute teacher, Miss Viola Swamp. This book showcases Marshall’s tendency towards satirical story telling, with the characters subtly poking fun at kids’ dramatic imaginations. This is a great book for classroom read-alouds, as it contains vivid characters, and also teaches the reader a lesson about the importance of good classroom behavior.

Freelancer Spotlight: Brian Chang, Illustrator

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

While the Redwood City office is our official HQ, also employs a large team of freelance writers, designers, artists and photographers from all over the country. In our Freelancer Spotlight series, we pay tribute to our many beloved freelancers. 

Brian Chang

Brian Chang‘s name is known far and wide around the offices. Brian started out adding his vivid, pop-off-the-page illustrations to our worksheets, but when we began production on Brainzy, his addition to the art team there was a — pardon the pun — no-brainer. Brian’s illustrations are almost tangible: bright and beautiful and filled with fantasy, but always with a whiff of the very real past.

Name: Brian Chang

I’m a: freelance illustrator hoping to have my own series of children’s books one day.

I live in: I am originally from San Carlos, California, but am currently living in Cleveland with my wonderful wife.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a (fill in the blank) when I grew up. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a professional baseball player. Unfortunately my best baseball days peaked in Little League. I knew it was time to hang up the cleats when I managed to hit four batters in one game!

Get Ready for a Solar Magnetic Field Reversal

Friday, September 6th, 2013

In a matter of months, the sun’s magnetic field will completely invert itself, an event that will create ripple effects throughout the entire solar system. Don’t freak out! Solar magnetic field reversalsSolar Magnetic Field Flip are relatively common occurrences in our cosmic neighborhood (they happen once about every 11 years or so).

Our planet’s polar regions change, too—they just do it very slowly. Then again, the earth isn’t a humongous churning ball of burning gas that’s constantly rearranging its matter, so count on your compasses continuing to point north until scientists say otherwise. Right now, however, our sun’s north pole has already switched its sign, and the south pole is racing to catch up.

Because the orientation of the sun’s magnetic field is constantly in flux, it induces a small electrical current in all matter in the solar system (that’s right—all matter in the solar system, including stuff beyond Pluto!). The inverse is also true—the flow of electricity induces its own magnetic field, giving objects with an electrical current the ability to attract and repel other magnets. See this for yourself by checking out this great science fair project where kids build their own working electric motors.

To further honor this relatively obscure (but pretty darn cool!) cosmic event, check out these sun-related science fair projects that will have kids doing everything from testing the optimal angle for solar cells to learning how to cook hot dogs with parabolic mirrors.

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Solar Hot Dog Cooker

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