A Writer's Playground

Monthly Activities for Kids by Linda Martin Andersen

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Archive for April, 2014

May Days and My Blog’s 2nd Birthday

Posted by lindamartinandersen on April 30, 2014

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“May Days and My Blog’s 2nd Birthday” by Linda Martin Andersen

A Writer's Playground Fotosearch_u17996074 “A Writer’s Playground”–A place to find wordplay, writing, and monthly calendar activities for kids and those young at heart.

Blow the horns, sing the verses, it’s time for “A Writer’s Playground” to celebrate its second birthday.  But before the candles could be blown out or a slice of cake could be cut, my internal critic said, “Beware the Terrible Twos.”  I am choosing to ignore that warning.  Instead of fearing growing pains, I’ve decided to embrace the number “two” in a special way…

For my blog’s second birthday, I’m giving away a book about twin girls who share many things.  It’s an easy reader by Grace Lin called Ling and Ting Share a Birthday.  cover_ltbirthday[1] Copyright Alexandre Ferron

Register for the giveaway by posting the name of a book with twin characters or a book written or illustrated by a twin.  The birthday blog drawing will be May 22 (two twos) and the winner will be announced on or before the June 1 post.  Thanks for celebrating A Writer’s Playground’s second birthday with me.

Other Things May bring…

ALS Awareness Month   (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease)  Who was Lou Gehrig?  Have you ever known someone with this disease?  What are some of the symptoms?  What is  the treatment?  Research to learn more.

American Wetlands Month  Where are wetlands in your area?  If none, research to learn about this ecosystem.  What wildlife lives there?   

Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month Do you know a child or young person with this disease?  What are some of the symptoms?  What is the treatment?  What is the life expectancy?    Research to learn more. 

Fibromyalgia Education and Awareness Month  Do you know anyone with this disease?  What are some of the symptoms?  What is the treatment?  Research and tell someone what you learned. 

Get Caught Reading Month  What are you reading at this time?  Read something for pleasure.  Read a different genre.  Tell someone about a favorite.   

Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection & Prevention Month  Have you ever known someone with this disease?  What are some of the symptoms?  What is the treatment?  Research to learn more.

Allergy/Asthma Awareness Month  Have you ever known someone with these diseases?  What is the difference between them?  Which is more serious?  Why?  What are the symptoms?  What is the treatment?   

National Inventors Month What does it mean to invent something?  What would you like to invent?  Research to learn inventions kids have made. 

(World) Lyme Disease Awareness Month  How do you contact Lyme disease?  Where might you get it?  What can you do to prevent it, if anything?  What are the symptoms of the disease?  What is the treatment? 

National Smile Month How many different ways can you smile?  Big smile, slight smile, showing teeth, showing no teeth, etc.  Try each one.  Ask someone to play along. 

National Stroke Awareness Month 6/16)  What is a stroke?  Do you know anyone who had one?  Did it cause any permanent damage?  Describe the damage.  What other damage can a stroke cause?  What are the signs that a person is having a stroke?  Research for more information. 


Special Weeks in May..

 Be Kind To Animals Week: 4-10 Do you have pets?  Brainstorm ways to be kind to them.  Place a check beside all the kind things you do. 

National Family Week: 4-10 How many are in your family?  Brainstorm things your family likes to do together.  What is one thing you could do from your list without spending any money?

National Post Card Week: 4-10 Have you ever sent someone a postcard?  Were you on vacation, at camp, or somewhere else?  Did the postcard arrive before or after you returned home?  Share a postcard memory with someone.

Teacher Appreciation Week: 4-10  Brainstorm a list of things students give teachers.  Write a poem naming at least three of these.  Write a note to your favorite teacher or share your poem.

National Transportation Week: 11-17 Name your most unusual mode of transportation.  Where were you going?  How did you get there?

National Etiquette Week: 12-16 Brainstorm etiquette rules used by families today.  What are some Victorian etiquette rules?  Which are more strict?  Tell why.

National Tourism Week: 12-17 What tourist locations would you suggest to someone visiting your town?  Have you been to them?  Which was your favorite and why?

National Stuttering Awareness Week: 13-19  Do you know someone who stutters?  Is this a child or an adult?  Research this disease, its symptoms, and how to treat it.

National New Friends, Old Friends Week: 18-24     Name old friends you have and name new friends made this year.  Where did you make new friends?  What did you do together?

National Backyard Games Week: 19-26 Do you and your friends play outdoor games?  Teach your friends games you know and ask them to teach you games they know.  Have a lot of fun playing outdoors.

Hurricane Preparedness Week: 25-31 Do you have hurricanes near where you live?  Do you know where you can get a hurricane tracking map?  Where can you get a list of emergency supplies to have on hand?

Special Days in May…

Mother Goose Day: 1 Who is your favorite Mother Goose character?  What is your favorite nursery rhyme?

International Space Day: What space events have you seen?  Which ones would you liked to have participated in?  What space events do you think will happen in your lifetime?

National Two Different Colored Shoes Day: 3 What color shoes could you match for this day?  What do you wish you could wear? Why?

World Laughter Day: 4 Can you recognize someone’s laughter from another room?  Whose laughter do you recognize?  Can you recognize some actors’ laughter?  Whose?  How do you spell the sound of laughter in stories?  What other ways sound like laughter?

National Babysitters Day: 10 Have you ever had babysitters?  Can you name all of them?  What is your favorite game to play with a babysitter?  Do you have a favorite book you ask to have read? 

National Miniature Golf Day: 10 Do you know how to play miniature golf?  Do you have a favorite shot?  Describe it.

National Train Day: 10 What’s your favorite movie with a train, book with a train, song with a train?  Do you have a favorite train photo?  See steam trains in pen and ink by Tim Livingston at The Forester Artist blog:  http://theforesterartist.com/pen-and-ink/

National Windmill Day: 10 Do you know the name Don Quixote?  Why is he mentioned with windmills?  http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/donquixote/summary.html

Do you know the meaning of “tilting at windmills?”  http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/tilting-at-windmills.html

Eat What You Want Day: 11  Make a list of what you’d like to eat today, if you could have anything.  Predict how you’d feel at the end of the day if you ate as much as you wanted of these foods?  Have you ever done something similar to this?  Tell about it.

Mother’s Day: 11 Do you buy your mom a card or make one for her?  Are there other traditions you do for this day?  Tell about one of them. 

Limerick Day: 12  What is a limerick?  Where can they be found?  Read a limerick and then read it to someone else.  Can you write a limerick of your own?

Frog Jumping Day: 13  Do you like to watch frogs jump?  Where can you do this?  Who can you get to join you?  Will you and your friend(s) jump too?

National Chocolate Chip Day: 15  Have you ever eaten white chocolate chips?  Which type chocolate do you prefer?  My son likes to make white chocolate chip pancakes with fresh strawberries.  Sweet!

Straw Hat Day: 15  What does a straw hat remind you of?  Do you have one?  Where have you worn it?

Bats Day: 16-18 How many words can you rhyme with “bats?”  How many words can you rhyme with “day.”  Research bats.  Make statements about bats.  Ask friends if they are facts or myths.  Be sure you can explain the answers. 

NASCAR Day: 16 Have you ever been to a NASCAR race?  A NASCAR museum?  Have you ever met one of the drivers, someone from the pit crew?  Research NASCAR.  Pass on trivia you learn.

International Museum Day: 18  Visit a nearby museum.  Ask about special events coming up.  Subscribe to the museum’s newsletter or mailings.  What are three things you learned on your last museum tour?  Tell someone else about them.  

International Jazz Day: 24  Research famous jazz musicians.  Name as many jazz musicians as you can.  Listen to jazz.  Read picture books about jazz.  Research the history of jazz. 

International Tiara Day: 24 Do you know anyone who won a tiara?  How?  Have you ever entered a contest that gave away tiaras?  Where might you see someone wear a tiara?  Name a book character who has a tiara.  How do you think it would feel to wear one in a parade? 

Morse Code Day: 24 Research Morse Code.  Send a message to someone.  Give them the code to translate their message.  Have them send you a message so you can translate it too.

Cookie Monster’s Birthday: 25  Research Cookie Monster.  How old is he?  Why do you think he loves cookies?  What food  are you crazy about?  What would you do for some?

National Tap Dance Day: 25 Name someone who is famous for tap dancing.  Watch an old movie, a You Tube video, or other information about tap dancing.  Do you know a child who takes lessons?  Have him or her share with you.

Memorial Day: 26  When is Memorial Day observed?  Why is it observed?  Who can you honor on this day?  Why? 

*Thank you Brownie Locks.com for May celebration information.  For more, check out: http://www.brownielocks.com/may.html

Let’s talk:  Choose one or more of the conversation starters above and leave a comment.  Don’t forget to enter the contest by naming a book by a twin author or illustrator or naming a book with twin characters.  Thank you for visiting “A Writer’s Playground.”  Please come again soon.  Bring a friend.

Children 13 years old or older may leave a comment.  Read more about the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. (COPPA)  See:  http://www.coppa.org/coppa.htm

Copyright © 2014 Linda Martin Andersen

Posted in Calendar Events, Careers, Character Traits, Games, Interviews, Math, Monthly Activities, Reading, Science, Social Studies, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

Our Zookeeper Friend Returns

Posted by lindamartinandersen on April 25, 2014

“Our Zookeeper Friend Returns” by Linda Martin Andersen

A Writer's Playground Fotosearch_u17996074 “A Writer’s Playground”–A place to find wordplay, writing, and monthly calendar activities for kids and those young at heart.

April 26, 2014 is Amphibian Awareness Day at the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro–

an annual event held in conjunction with

Save the Frogs Day

that occurs around the world.  Visit here to learn more:  http://www.savethefrogs.com/

Melissa Barr, the zookeeper pictured below, is here to tell us about Amphibian Awareness Day. She works with the alligators, cougars, waterfowl, as well as a variety of other reptiles and amphibians in the Cypress Swamp section of the North Carolina Zoological Park in Asheboro.  Anyone with this kind of courage deserves our attention and respect! 

You’ll also want to meet Melissa’s friend, the special frog mascot of the day. 

Zookeeper, Melissa Barr, with the Frog Mascot

Zookeeper, Melissa Barr, with the Frog Mascot


Amphibian Awareness Activities and presentations are scheduled from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and are free of charge.  Cypress Swamp will host the trivia wheel game.  Kid Zone will include activities such as face painting and crafts. 

Zookeeper, Lane Bactot, with Spin the Wheel Amphibian Trivia Game.

Zookeeper, Lane Batot, with Spin the Wheel Amphibian Trivia Game.



Poison Dart Frog Exhibit

Poison Dart Frog Exhibit

What are amphibians? Amphibians consist of  frogs, toads,  newts, salamanders, and caecilians.  Most people are familiar with frogs and toads as they are the “hoppers.”  Salamanders are amphibians that have four legs, a long and slender body and a long tail.  On a side note, North Carolina has more salamander species than any other state due to the diverse geography from mountains to coastal swamps.  Caecilians are a rarely seen amphibian that lacks limbs. 

Why Amphibians? 

Amphibian populations around the world are declining at an alarming rate. Almost 1/3 of all amphibians are in decline.  If something is affecting these animals, we should be concerned as well.  They are an indicator species as they have permeable skin that is sensitive to environmental hazards.  And of course, frogs are just awesome and we don’t want to lose such beautiful animals! 

What is cause of decline in amphibians?

Pollution, infectious diseases, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change, and over-harvesting for the pet and food trades.
What can people do to help? 

A lot of the things that people can do to help amphibians also help other animals as well.  When possible, try to recycle or buy items that are made of recycled materials.  Use less water when taking a shower or turn off the water when brushing your teeth.  Keep pollution out of all waterways, including using pesticides and herbicides responsibly is used at all.  Don’t remove amphibians from the wild, but observe and enjoy them when you see them.  Learn as much as possible about amphibians and educate others!

How do amphibians benefit humans?

They eat lots of insects!  They are part of the food chain.  Tadpoles keep waterways clean by feeding on algae.  Frogs are an important food source for many animals.  Frogs are studied for use in medicinal research that benefits humans.

To read earlier posts by Melissa Barr, check these sites: 



To learn more about the North Carolina Zoological Park, check here: 

nczoo.org (NC Zoo website)

nczoo.com (NC Zoo Society website)

Let’s thank Melissa Barr for sharing her zookeeping experiences with us. Melissa, please tell all the animals in your area “Hello” from us.

Readers, please leave a question or a comment.  I encourage you to visit a zoo in your area.  And be sure to visit “A Writer’s Playground” again soon.  Bring a friend. Copyright © 2013 Linda Martin Andersen

Children 13 years old or older may leave a comment–Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. (COPPA)  See:  http://www.coppa.org/coppa.htm

Copyright © 2014 Linda Martin Andersen

Posted in Careers, Character Traits, Games, Interviews, Math, Monthly Activities, Reading, Science, Social Studies, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

The Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C. Remind Me of…

Posted by lindamartinandersen on April 9, 2014


“The Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C. Remind Me of…” by Linda Martin Andersen

A Writer's Playground Fotosearch_u17996074 “A Writer’s Playground”–A place to find wordplay, writing, and monthly calendar activities for kids and those young at heart.

March 20, 2014–April 13, 2014 is National Cherry Blossom Week.

The Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C. Remind Me of… A Family Vacation There.

Have you ever been to the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C.?  Over thirty years ago, my family took a vacation there.  We arrived when the blossoms were at their peak.  We waited in line for a couple of hours.  Our sons passed the time by playing Frisbee on the lawn.  Then we climbed to the top of the Washington Monument. (897 steps)  Our younger son said that the view was the best part of our trip and that it was worth the wait.  Music to a mother’s ears.  I hope you’ll be able to see this view of cherry blossoms one day too.  Due to increased national security, no one is allowed to climb to the top today.  Instead, you may ride a glass-walled elevator to the top.  Hope that won’t disappoint you.  😉  Check this link for more information


Time for some Cherry Tree Trivia…

1.  Who was Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore?

2.  What was the Cherry Tree Rebellion?

3.  Name the places where cherry trees are planted in Washington, D.C.?

To answer these trivia questions,  check the sites below: 

Write your own trivia questions.  Please share them in the comment section.









The Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C. Also Remind Me of…Kathy Burkinshaw. 


Kathy Burkinshaw is a  friend I met in Charlotte, North Carolina.  She writes for children.  I’m so glad I’ve gotten to know her and I’d like for you to get to know her too.  After reading this interview, see if you can tell why I associate Kathy with cherry trees in Washington, D.C.  Please share your comments below.

Kathy, thank you very much for agreeing to speak with us at “A Writer’s Playground.”  Let’s start with an ice breaker:

Tell us three things  you like to write about.  Why?

Thank you Linda for inviting me to be your blog guest! 

Three things I like to write about:  History, Mystery, and Japan.  I have always been drawn to books that have a plot line one  could relate to with a splash of suspense.  And if it takes place in the midst of a historic event – that is a novel trifecta for me!  I love to research, in fact I am probably OCD about researching a topic or setting.  I am half Japanese so I love learning about traditions in my culture so that I can share it with my daughter. 

Why do you write for children?

I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to teach Christian youth classes to preschoolers and first graders, as well as being my daughter’s Brownie troop leader.   I love working with or presenting to students.

Please tell us about the writing contest you won.

I would be happy to!!  I was in blissful shock when I found out last July that I had won first place in the YA/MG Novel category of the SCBWI Carolinas 4th Annual Art and Writing Contest!

What is the topic of your winning manuscript?

My manuscript gives a non political manuscript glimpse into a 12 year old’s daily life in Hiroshima during the last year of World War II.  A shocking family secret is revealed and as she gets closer to the truth, a bright flash of light on a clear August day threatens to destroy her sense of what she cherishes most.

What can you share about the tentative title of your manuscript?

It is THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM.  One of my mother’s favorite memories is celebrating the cherry blossom festival with her Papa and her family.  Also, scientists originally said nothing would grow again on Hiroshima soil for many years.  Yet the cherry blossoms bloomed again the following spring.  The cherry blossoms endured much like the spirit of the people affected by the bombing in Hiroshima.

Who or what planted the seed for your manuscript?

THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM is my mother’s story.  When my daughter was in 7th grade, she had asked me to come in and tell my mother’s story about the people under that famous mushroom cloud.  I was encouraged to write The Last Cherry Blossom when teachers inquired if I had a book to complement my discussion, one they could add to the class reading list.  I wanted to write this book not just to honor my mother and her family, but to honor all the people that suffered or died from the effects of the atomic bomb.

Recently, you were interviewed by your local newspaper.  Please tell about that.

A contributing writer to the Charlotte Observer, read about my award on my husband’s Facebook page.  I was thrilled and nervous when she asked to interview me about my mother’s story that lead to writing the manuscript.

I understand that you are represented by a literary agent.  Who is it?  How did you find representation?

In September I was signed by Anna Olswanger of the Liza Dawson Agency in New York!  She did a long distance critique of the first 20 pages of my manuscript at the 2012 SCBWI Carolinas conference.  In February 2013 I sent my revised manuscript to her.  We worked on several revisions and that September she offered to represent me.  I am not ashamed to admit that I yelped a “woohoo” and did a happy dance!

What are you writing about now?

I am in my research phase of a couple of historic scenarios for my next story.

What else would you like to share?

I have been presenting my mother’s story to middle school students for the past 4 years and love it. Also, I am so glad to have met you at the 2012 SCBWI Carolinas conference!

And I’m glad I met you too!  Thanks again for agreeing to this interview.  I wish you much future writing success.  You know I’m a big fan!

Readers, can you guess why Kathy Burkinshaw reminds me of cherry blossoms?  Please leave your answer in the comment section.  Thank you for visiting “A Writer’s Playground.”  Please come again soon.  Bring a friend.

Children 13 years old or older may leave a comment–Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. (COPPA)  See:  http://www.coppa.org/coppa.htm

Copyright © 2014 Linda Martin Andersen

Posted in Careers, Character Traits, Games, Interviews, Math, Monthly Activities, Reading, Science, Social Studies, Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

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