Hands-On Math Games for Counting to 1,000

Hooray for the day when the kiddos are ready to count to 1,000!  We had a 100’s chart, so why not a 1,000’s chart? This turned out to be a great hands-on learning experience. Hands On Math: Thousands Chart

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Harry Potter Party in the Forbidden Forest–On a Budget (free printables)

Invitations from Minerva McGonagall on Hogwarts stationary, a trip to the Forbidden Forest and Quidditch Broom Cakes made for one super fun birthday party for my eight year old, avid Harry Potter Fan. And, here’s the best part– it cost about sixty dollars.  That’s good news in our family, where Spring birthdays abound.

Our invitations:  An acceptance letter from Hogwarts, with the Hogwarts crest at the top and signed by the deputy headmistress.

You can download the full text in a pdf document here and change the wording to whatever suits your party. I printed it on parchment paper  and used Hogwarts stamps printed on plain paper and lightly glued to close the letter. The Hogwarts crest for the top of the letter can be found here.

We also wrote a letter “To The Muggle Parents” of each party guest, detailing other pertinent party details (address of the party, where to meet in the park, etc.). It is contained in the pdf document above.

Firefly (the birthday boy) received his own Hogwart’s acceptance letter, which was delivered via owl.
 I then announced we were going on a trip to Diagon Alley (our foyer) to purchase his supplies. There, Firefly was presented  with a HP robe, glasses and wand (found at a consignment sale for $9). The packages were wrapped with white butcher paper, with Madame Malkin’s and Ollivander’s logos printed on parchment paper and affixed to each box. You can download them in a pdf file here, along with the Honeyduke’s logo for the party favor bags.

Boxes wrapped in plain white butcher paper. Labels printed on parchment.

The party was held at a local public park, which is heavily wooded with hiking trails.  The guests were invited to wear “dress robes” (all of these boys are avid HP fans, so some own a dress-up HP costume) or “Muggle attire”.

Upon arrival, they were presented with their very own wand, handed out by the birthday boy, from the “Olivander’s Wand Shop” box shown above. These were plain wooden dowel rods that Firefly painted with brown paint. I then streaked them with thin marks of black paint and sprayed them with clear coat so the paint wouldn’t rub off, since it was washable paint. Probably not necessary with permanent paint.

My son brought along an old witch’s hat from our costume collection and the kids performed a sorting ceremony. All the boys got to speak for the hat and call out their own house. They all chose Gryffindor, naturally.
 Once the guests were sorted, we ventured into the Forbidden Forest. I advised them all to travel with their wands at the ready, in case we ran into any unfriendly magical creatures. They are 7 and 8 year old boys, so wands drawn, they quite enjoyed running and spinning and jumping through the forest, battling imaginary creatures and each other.

Searching the "Hogwarts Lake" for the giant squid.

We stopped to take some photos and then we returned to the starting point, on the edge of the forest, to have cake. The single-serving cakes were concealed inside Quidditch brooms, based on the tutorial found here, although I used pretzel sticks for the broomstick. Inside the brooms was a serving of cake for each guest, packed in a mason jar. I wanted something easy to transport, easy to serve and something that wouldn’t be sitting out in the open, attracting bugs and other critters at the park while we were in the Forest.
Drinks were pumpkin juice (really orange juice) or water, served in goblets.  The goblets are plastic wine glasses, which I had on hand from some long ago party.

I baked thin cupcakes, putting about half the amount of cake batter into each cupcake pan.

Once baked, the flat cupcakes slipped easily into an 8 oz. jelly jar.  I layered cake and piped-in icing until the jar was full, added a few sprinkles on top and the cakes were ready to pack into the brooms.


After our hike in the forest and cake, the boys just ran around and played in the park. I purposefully didn’t plan any other activities because I knew they would just be happy to run around, explore, and cast spells on each other.  I had a couple of ideas as a back-up, in case the kids would’ve gotten bored, such as letting the birthday boy open presents and taking a hike on another path through the woods.  None of this was necessary, however. They made their own fun. They practiced spells, found a gate that they designated Azkaban, the famous wizard prison, and they tried out their Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans.

 I found the Bertie Botts’ at the grocery store around Easter time, but you can order them from Jelly Belly. I put them all in a paper bag with a “Honeyduke’s Sweet Shop” label and my son handed them out. The boys all sat down to read and laugh at the descriptions on the back of the box (ear wax, vomit, grass, sausage–blech!). They spit a lot of them out. Gross? Yup. That means we had a successful party, in the eyes of five boys, ages 7 and 8.

Cost Breakdown:
Parchment paper: $9
Paper bags: $2
Jelly jars: $8
Spoons: $2
Napkins: $3
Cake mix and frosting: $7
Bertie Botts (5): $15
Wooden dowels for wands: $2
Costume (2nd hand): $9
Juice: $3
Goblets: FREE

TOTAL:   $60
(note: my prices may differ a bit from the links included in this post, as I was able to find some of my items in local stores)

We kept the party small because it’s less stressful for kids and parents that way, but it also keeps the cost down.

And look at the adorable gift wrapping job my friend, Stephanie, did for Firefly’s present:

You can see more great Harry Potter party ideas on my Harry Potter Obsession Pinterest board.

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Linky parties I participate in.

Easter Egg Phonics for Beginning Readers with Printables

Do you have an emerging reader who knows all the beginning sounds that words make? Are they ready to focus on the middle and ending sounds of words? Or beginning to read consonant-vowel-consonant words?  

phonics activity for beginning readers easter activity

I made this egg game with simple clip art photos (courtesy of Microsoft Clip Art) and letters tucked inside the eggs, then hid them all over the house and gave her an Easter basket to go and find them.  When she returned with a full basket, we put them on the tray and got to work, putting the letters in the correct order and sounding out each one to make a word.

You can download my printables for this activity hereThey can be printed on cardstock for more durability.  They could also be laminated.

Modifications for kids of all ages:

Toddlers: Fill the eggs with  small  animals they are learning the names of (like from Toobs), foam or paper circles/squares/triangles to learn shapes, pieces of colored paper to learn colors, magnetic letters and numbers, etc.  Hiding and finding the eggs also helped my little guy understand what an Easter egg hunt is all about, so he is ready for the Easter Bunny.

Early elementary students: Put the letters of their spelling words in each egg.  Also can be used for words they need more practice with reading. Who doesn’t love an egg hunt?  My first grader loved putting together his challenging reading words for the week.

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