Releaf: An Activity to Brighten Up Any Dreary Fall Day

Where I live, the ground this time of year is a mosaic of gold, red, brown, burgundy, and orange. So many pretty fall colors, so many fun leaf shapes. I wish I could keep autumn forever.


Viola! My wish is my command!


Fall Leaves ActivityThis was my favorite craft when I was a kid, and one of my favorite crafts to do with my kids now that I’m all grown up. It’s easy to do and the result is awesome. And the best part is that it involves going outside with your kids and paying attention to the world around you. Bring a bucket, bag, or even a wagon and collect the prettiest, most vibrant fall leaves you find.


  • Pick the prettiest autumn leaves and press them in a heavy book for a few days.
  • Place the pressed leaf in between two pieces of wax paper.
  • Run a warm iron over the wax paper for a few seconds.
  • Once the paper is cool, trim the waxed paper around the shape of the leaf
  • Add a hole for string, and hang it in your window.

The colors of the leaves will stay nice and vibrant, and if you hang a few of them, when the sun comes through, it looks like fall leaf stained glass.


If you want to get even more crafty, you can add some crayon shavings around the leaf before you iron it to add a tie dye effect in the background of the leaf. Try a couple of different crayon colors that would look nice with the leaf.


As fall starts to come to an end and the bleakness of winter approaches, it’s important to celebrate the beauty of nature anywhere you can find it.


[Editor’s Note: Cricket family magazines such as LADYBUG and SPIDER frequently contain innovative and easily doable crafts related to holidays, seasons, and just because. Don’t miss any of these amazing activities by subscribing to your favorite magazine today.]


Cricket Media Mama can’t wait for this year to pass after a polarizing election period, abject social injustice, the passing of some amazing musical talents, and an abysmal fantasy football season. The collage of hanging fall leaves in her window reminds her to hold on to the beauty of the world when she can because it, too, passes.

Kyngdom: Puzzled Yet?

Amazing puzzle solving is happening on our Kyngdom forum. If your child likes to solve word problems, puzzles, riddles, codes, or just loves fantasy fiction, writing, or the chance to be part of something really cool, you need to have them head over to the Chatterbox and check it out.


So what’s going on over there? Our editors are posting a puzzle a day for the kids to solve. Here’s the first one so you can get a taste of the intrigue and drama that is accompanying the daily posts. (Don’t worry, I’m not giving anything away…the kids have already solved this puzzle.)


Labyrinth Tunnels Code 1


Charlie W. and Little Crow here! Long time no see. For the past few weeks we’ve been collecting scrolls and maps from libraries around Southwest Kyngdom. We collected a few hundred and holed ourselves up in a Sprocketville bunker, trying to make sense of them all. We’ll spare you the details and get right to the big news:


We believe we’ve located a unknown tunnel system in the Labyrinth Lands. At the northern end of the largest Labyrinth plateau, we found a strange locked door with some carvings above it. An old scroll we found suggested that this door is 1) the entrance to a cave or tunnel system of some kind and 2) enchanted or engineered somehow to be resistant to any kind of magic or brute force.


Unfortunately, before we could photograph the scroll, the ancient dust made me (Charlie) sneeze, and the whole thing disintegrated in my hands. I felt like such a fool. Next time I go reading old scrolls, I’ll find a professional archaeologist first…


Anyway, we traveled out to the Labyrinth Lands, and we found the door.


While we were studying it, a very old badger lumbered around the corner. We couldn’t make sense of his mumblings, although every few minutes he’d say, “Seventeen will leave, nine left over.” Eventually, he gestured for us to join him in a little cave, where he heated up some water over a fire. He poured the water into little cups, dropped one shiny green stone into each cup, and then mimed a drinking motion. We looked at each other suspiciously and took tiny sips. (It was actually pretty good—tasted a little like rosemary.) When the sun started setting, we said goodbye, and he just repeated, “Seventeen will leave, nine left over” and handed us a piece of bark with these letters written on it:




Strange. Also, on the way home, we snapped some pictures. This code is carved on some stones near the doorway:


Kyngdom - Cricket Magazine

Kyngdom - Cricket Magazine

Kyngdom - Cricket Media

Kyngdom - Cricket Media

Kyngdom - Cricket Media


Can anyone help us decode the message? It looks like we have to enter some letters into the combination lock, too. 


Also, we’re looking for animals and humans who would like to return to this door with us, try to get it open, and see what we can learn from the weird old badger. We’ve started organizing an expedition group, and so far we’ve attracted F.A.F.A. members Silverpaw, Who, and Flying Sqirl—you might remember meeting them back in the first F.A.F.A. meeting


We believe this tunnel or cave system may have something to do with the poor badger Guardian and the Power of Claw. Maybe they will help us discover the badger’s secrets, since he couldn’t tell them to us himself. Or maybe they will help us defeat the great clawed serpent summoned by the Power.


So…can you solve the puzzle above? Chances are your kids can. And once they do, they can try the next puzzle and the next and the one after that.  There will be 17 puzzles in all and the kids who are already involved in it are eating it up. As we head into the long holiday weekend, here’s an activity that can fill in the times between barbeques, pool time, and your local Memorial Day celebration.  We hope you enjoy all the joys the holiday weekend has to offer.

10 Gift Ideas That Are Better Than Toys

Am I the only one with a child under the age of 10 who doesn’t need to head to Toys R Us this year? In fact, I didn’t need to head there last year either. It seems strange to admit this, but my daughter doesn’t really play with toys any more.

If you are in the same boat, I encourage you to think beyond the shopping cart to experiences that will feed your child’s interests and ignite his or her passions. Think about what your child loves and discover ways to support them in increasing their knowledge and skills. While you may have fewer boxes under your tree or around your menorah, you’ll create memories that will last much longer than that time it takes to rip open the packages. (And you can always write up a description of your upcoming adventure, put it in a box and have the child open it so that you—and they—get the same pleasure from opening a present.) In the end you’ll have less junk to give away after 5 minutes of play time, and more memories that will last a lifetime.

Toys: No. Experiences: Yes, Please.

Here are a list of 10 ideas to get your family away from screens, out of the house, and engaged in an activity that will up their happiness quotient.

Cricket Magazine cover from December 2005

A trip to theater is a great gift alternative to toys and could be a trip your child remembers forever.
(Cricket Magazine cover from December 2005. Art by Jada Rowland.)

  1. Head to the (Live Action) Theater. Does your child love to act? Do you catch her shaking her booty and tapping her toes? Is he always singing in the shower? Head to the theater! This is the time of year to see The Nutcracker, of course, but there are tons of other ballets, plays, and musical shows you can go to as well. Usually there is a local ballet doing the Nutcracker somewhere nearby (and these are generally fairly inexpensive) but for the complete experience (amazing dancers, costumes, and sets) try the big ballet company in your major city. There are also touring productions of Broadways shows for kids (Matilda and Annie are both making their way around the country right now) and local productions where you might even see a performance from someone you know.
  2. Museums rock. If you take the wrong kid to the wrong museum (think a kid who loves history to the science museum or vice versa), it can be a disaster. But matching a kid’s interests to the right museum: pay dirt! From museums that celebrate fashion, to those that highlight dinosaurs, to collections of Star Wars artifacts, whatever your child is in to, there is someone who has put together a museum dedicated to just that topic. There are even kid-friendly museums aimed at the smallest museum-goers so don’t worry about gifting this adventure to kids as young as 2.
  3. Jump to it at the trampoline park. Your child is one of those kids who just never stops moving. He won’t sit through a show, she hates museums, he needs to be doing something. Let him or her move to their hearts content at the new indoor playgrounds that seem to be popping up everywhere. Trips to trampoline parks, bounce places, ropes courses, indoor swimming pools and water parks, circus schools (yes, they exist!), and sports clubs are the perfect gift for the kids who just want to “do something”.
  4. Check out history. I doubt anyplace in the USA is more than 100 miles away from some sort of local, regional, or national historical site. If your child is a history buff, pique their curiosity for your local history or expose them to a major historical event. Whatever you choose—a battlefield, a house a president used to live in, a local monument—will be absorbed into your child’s growing knowledge of American history and will serve them well through the many history and social studies courses they are bound to take over the years.
  5. Take a city tour. It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived in the city your entire life, I guarantee there is so much to see, do, explore, and discover in whatever city you live in or near that you won’t know what to do first.

    Cricket Magazine cover from July/August 2013

    The best gift for your animal lover could be a tour through a national park where you might get to see some animals in their very own habitats. (Cricket Magazine cover from July/August 2013. Art by Jennifer Hewitson.)

  7. Excite your animal lover. Zoos and aquariums are obvious choices, but sometimes a trip to Pet Smart to see the birds, hamsters, lizards, and fish they have on display is enough to satisfy a little kid. You can also head to your local cage-free cat shelter (they often love to have people come in and play with the cats), adopt some caterpillars and let your children watch them grow into butterflies you can release in the spring (I’ve used Insectlore in the past), or take a hike to see the squirrels, bunnies, deer, and other animals in the woods near you.
  8. Take in a concert. Pop, rock, classical, jazz, kidsbop, whatever music your children enjoy, you will likely find a concert to attend that will be music to their ears (sorry, couldn’t resist). Remember it doesn’t have to be Taylor Swift to be a concert they will remember forever.

    Cricket Magazine cover from March 2009. Art by Christopher O’Leary.

    How about a trip to the drive-in theater as a Christmas gift this year. That Star Wars film will be even better if you see it under the stars! (Cricket Magazine cover from March 2009. Art by Christopher O’Leary.)

  10. Lessons in whatever…Maybe your child is the type of kid who likes to try new things. Gift them with a series of lesson instead of a toy and let them pick the type of lesson they want to try. Lately my daughter claimed she wants to try (of all things) ventriloquism. Normally, I wouldn’t even consider lessons in ventriloquism, if they even exist, but in lieu of a gift that will probably just sit around and collect dust, I’m happy to explore it. Other suggestions for out of the ordinary lessons include: chess, arts & crafts, fencing, trapeze, Lego-building, rock climbing, and writing.
  11. Restaurant reviews. Even if your family eats out a lot, a trip to a special restaurant can be a fun experience and increase your holiday festivities. Look around for Breakfast with Santa events, tea parties, and other specialty dining activities that could feel much different than the regular meal out.
  12. Time to subscribe. If your child is inundated with gifts during December (I’m looking at you, December babies!), subscription boxes can be the perfect answer to the year-long present drought that comes after the onslaught. There are tons of subscription boxes to choose from (check out My Subscription Addiction for a complete list), but for an extra special treat, I recommend the Wonderful Objects kids box from Wonder and Co. and Cricket Media. This box is a Make-Your-Own-Story Adventure unlike anything you’ve seen, bringing together the best of children’s storytelling and the best of hands-on story-making to make your child the agent of their own imagination. If your child loves to read or write, if he excels at making up stories, if she sometimes pretends to be a character in a book she is reading, then this gift will fire their imaginations for a lot longer than your decorations stay up.

No matter what your child does in your adventure together, you can support his or her interests through a subscription to one of the Cricket Media family of magazines. For your story-maker, try our literary magazines: Babybug (6 month to 3 years), Ladybug (3 to 6 years), Spider (6 to 9 years), Cricket (9 to 14 years), and Cicada (14 and up). For your history-buff, try Cobblestone (9 to 14 years). Travelers and geography buffs will warm up to Faces (9 to 14 years). And if your child loves the sciences and arts, Click (3 to 6 years), Ask (6 to 9 years), Muse (9 to 14 years), and Dig (9 to 14 years) will be the perfect complement to their favorite subjects.

Thankfulness, A Family Value

When I was a kid, I remember having a penpal (or two) and I would wait eagerly for the letters and small packages that would occasionally arrive from faraway places. I guess that’s why I love the idea of those subscription boxes that seem to be everywhere these days. Scheduling something to come every month may not be as spontaneous as a penpal, but I figured it would still has the same net happiness effect.

That’s why, when my daughter received her first surprise from Sock Panda, I expected her to be pretty excited about it. I brought it in from the mailbox, announced, “You’ve got mail!” and expected her to come running. She didn’t. I brought the package in to her. She glanced at it. “What is it?” she asked, barely looking up from the game she was playing on her computer. “I don’t know,” I lied. “Open it up.”

She opened it and pulled out a note and 2 pairs of socks. She read the note (which claimed the socks came from the “Sock Fairy”), looked at the cute socks for less than 5 seconds, and went back to her game. No excitement, no wondering who the Sock Fairy might be, no real interest at all.


Raising Entitled Kids

This incident got me thinking about entitlement and how so many kids just think they deserve all the world has to offer (and therefore don’t get excited about special treats) while there are other children out there (in our own communities and across the world) who just hope to have a decent meal and a safe place to live. It’s not fair.

So the question became, what should I do about it? I considered cancelling the subscription but actually my daughter really does need socks. I thought about sitting down and having a conversation with her about being grateful, but it wasn’t her fault she didn’t get excited about the gift. She didn’t ask for it. (And, yes, I know it’s socks…but they are cute socks.) So in the end, I decided we needed to give back to our community—to those other kids who have a real need in their lives. Toward that end, we (both my daughter and I) will be doing a good deed for another child for each of the subscription boxes that arrive in our mailbox. We are starting this month by creating packages for Comfort Cases. This awesome charity makes packages that are given to children in the foster care system, ensuring that when they arrive at their new foster home they at least have the basics they need to be comfortable for their first day. It’s a small gesture but one I hope will instill in her (and remind me) of all the need in the world and all we have to be thankful for.

A few days after she received the package from “the Sock Fairy”, my daughter pulled on one of the pairs of socks. “I love these socks,” she declared. “Thanks, Mom, I know you sent them. I appreciate it.”

Try This Real Life Scavenger Hunt in Honor of the United Nations

Tomorrow, October 24th, is the birthday of the United Nations. To celebrate 70 years of the organization’s work helping to promote world peace and encourage global economic development, more than 200 iconic monuments, buildings, statues, bridges, and other landmarks in nearly 60 countries across the globe will be lit up blue.

If you live near a landmark such as New York’s Empire State Building, San Francisco’s City Hall, Washington D.C.’s John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Sydney Opera House, the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy, Diana The Huntress Fountain in Mexico, the Hermitage in Russia, or Edinburgh Castle and Central Hall Westminster in the UK, your family can join in the fun by visiting the site and sharing an image of it all lit up in blue using the hashtag #UN70 and #UNBlue. We’d also love it if you could share an image here on our blog.

Even if you don’t live near any iconic landmarks, your family can still be part of this real life scavenger hunt as you check out social media throughout the day for images and videos of the lighted structures. Thanks to the wonder of time zones, you should be able to follow the blue tide as it spreads across the world with the sunset. Cool right? Here’s a link to all the structures that will be blue so you can check them all out.

Since we are on the subject of the United Nations, how about checking out 70 Ways the UN Makes a Difference. I hadn’t realized how far the scope of the UN reaches, how much work they do in the field, and all the great programs they are behind. The UN website has a wealth of information and resources, and it’s a great place to start showing your children (and, if you’re anything like me, introducing yourself) exactly what it is the UN does. More importantly, it can teach them why it matters to consider the world around them.

For more stories with a global perspective, check out Faces magazine, including this back issue all about the United Nations.

Cricket Media Mama was wondering if her own house qualified as a worldwide iconic landmark and decided to just go ahead and light it up blue just in case.

Get Out There and BOO Someone!

All around my neighborhood, kids are getting BOOed. Don’t worry, this isn’t the kind of BOOing that ends in tears or hurt feelings. This type of BOOing is actually a good thing. In this case BOOing is when one family leaves an anonymous treat for another family in their neighborhood and directs that family to leave an anonymous treat for someone else who directs that family to leave a treat for someone who…well, you get the picture I’m sure. Before long the BOO has traveled across that neighborhood creating a treat train of goodwill and happy kids.


It’s easy to start the BOO rolling where you live. All you need to do is create a small package to leave for your neighbors. The package generally consists of a treat of some kind, a cute poem telling the family they’ve been BOOed, a sign to hang on their front door to let other people in the neighborhood know that they’ve already been BOOed, and a note directing them to get out and BOO someone else. You can find a printable note and other materials at this website. Then you let your kids sneak up to your neighbor’s door, leave the treat, and run.

I have been booed flyer

For the treat portion most people use either candy or trinkets. Cute pencils or spider rings or other inexpensive Halloween toys are common, although one family once left my family a 6 pack of Halloween themed doughnuts from Krispy Kreme and I have to tell you, that family was our heroes.


BOOing has become one of my favorite parts of Halloween. There is something so exciting to my family about making someone happy anonymously. My daughter loves to ring the doorbell and then hide and secretly see her friends’ reaction when they find the package. The kids in my neighborhood never want to admit to each other who BOOed who and it is exciting to see the “We’ve Been BOOed” signs go up throughout your neighborhood.

We've been booed

Have I convinced you to try it? I sure hope so. If you are looking for some other tricks for enhancing your family’s Halloween experience, be sure to check out the October issues of Babybug, Ladybug, Spider, and, each of which have Halloween themed stories sure to delight the young readers in your family.

Games to Conquer the “I’m Bored” Monster

Around this time each summer, the joys of no school start to fade into the cries of “I’m bored.” I’m not sure there is another phrase emerging from my child’s mouth that annoys me more than the ubiquitous “I’m bored.” I always try to tell her to think before using it because it is inevitably going to lead to suggestions to clean up her room or practice for her music lesson. This is obviously a personal choice, but I try not to give her too many suggestions for how to alieve her boredom. I want her to come up with some ways to fill her days based on her interests, imagination, and the toys currently strewn across the playroom floor.


However, I do like the idea of introducing my daughter and her friends to a whole new crop of games, and I don’t mean the electronic kind. Remember tag? Hide and seek? Spud? I don’t really see that many kids playing those types of games these days and it makes me kind of sad. Websites like Kidspot have a nice list of outdoor games, but if you’ve ever tried to make suggestions to your child for things to do, you’ve probably also noticed that if the suggestion is not the exotic side, it tends to be discounted as “boring.”


Luckily I have a suggestion for bringing a little international flair to your child’s playtime. Check out the article below which appeared in Ladybug a few months ago to find some wonderful (and simple!) outdoor games for kids from places like Chile, South Africa, and Spain. If you have some other suggestions that have satisfied your child’s cries of “I’m bored!” please share them with us in the comments below. And for more great articles like these, be sure to subscribe to Ladybug.


Children’s Games Around the World

By Tori Telfer
Art by Felicia Hoshino



Sebastián and Diego are playing Cielo, Luna, Mar—or Sky, Moon, Sea—on their front steps. Sebastian draws a cloud on the top step and a moon on the next step. He lets Diego draw waves for the sea on the bottom step. Diego is great at drawing wiggly lines.


Sebastián calls, “Cielo!” and Diego jumps onto the Sky step. Perfect!


“Mar!” yells Sebastián.


Oops! Diego jumps onto the Moon step. Where was Diego supposed to jump?


South Africa



Tefo, Palesa, and Mosa gather pebbles to play Dithwai. First they memorize the colors and shapes of their pebbles. They are pretending that their pebbles are cows, which they must guard carefully in their pens. They must remember what their cows look like in case anyone steals them. Whoever has the most pebbles at the end wins!


Mosa found mostly pink pebbles, and thinks that this will make them easy to remember. While she closes her eyes, Tefo and Palesa each hide one of her pebbles in their own pebble pens.


“We capture your cows!” Palesa and Tefo yell. Mosa opens her eyes. She must find her pebbles to get them back.


“There’s one of my cows,” she says, taking her pink pebble from Palesa’s pile, “but where’s the other one?”





Carlos and his friends play tag in his front yard. Their game is called La Luna y las Estrellas de la Mañana, which means “the moon and the morning stars.”


Carlos stands under a big oak tree. He is the moon, and isn’t allowed to leave the tree’s shadow. His friends are the stars. They have to run in and out of the shadow without being tagged.


“I’m a shooting star!” yells his friend Célia. She races through the tree’s shadow. But Carlos is a speedy moon! He dashes to the very edge of the shadow, stretches out his arm, and tags her!


South Korea



It’s recess! The boys and girls from Mrs. Du’s class form two teams for a Flower Relay Race. Each child gets a paper flower with a long string tied to the stem. There are two small trees on the playground. The teams line up facing the trees.


“One, two, three—GO!” says Mrs. Du. The first two children race to their trees and tie their flowers to a branch. Then they run back as fast as they can to tag the next friend in line. When the game is finished, both trees will be covered with beautiful flowers.

Favorite First Lines to Keep Your Kids Reading

A story is only as good as its first sentence. That’s probably why some authors spend as much time crafting the perfect first sentence as they spend writing the rest of the book. If you can’t reel your audience in with the opening line, what’s going to motivate them to stick around for any line after it? And especially when it is a child doing the reading, grabbing his or her attention right away becomes even more important if you want them to stick with the story and earn that “I read for 20 minutes” stamp for their reading logs.


That’s why one of my favorite features in Cricket is “Favorite First Sentences”. This is a prime example of authors who really nailed that first sentence in a way that is so memorable it is worthy of recognition. Consider this line, featured in the July/August edition of Cricket from the book Savvy by author Ingrid Law:


When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’d caused it.


This raises so many questions! Inland of what? Which state do they live in? Which hurricane are they talking about? Why is the narrator’s brother named Fish? And, of course, how in the world did HE cause a hurricane?


Must. Read. More. My daughter and I went out and got Savvy the weekend after we read this first line in the July/August issue of Cricket. We read the book together and loved it. The first line is a sublime introduction to a fascinating story. I think the sweetness of reading this book was made even sweeter by the fact that this is a book we never would have picked up if we hadn’t read that first line in Cricket.
If you are wondering how Cricket complies these first lines, you should know that it is usually kids who submit them. When kids remember the first sentence of a book, and care enough to take the time to send it in to their favorite magazine, you know it’s a story that resonated with them, one that is well-worth checking out.


In honor of National Book Lovers Day, below you’ll find the other “Favorite First Sentences” from the July / August issue of Cricket. We hope you’ll show your love of books by picking up one of these wonderful stories or another that strikes your fancy and spend some quality time sharing it with your family. And if you or your child have a favorite first line of your own, please tell us about them in the comments section below.



Favorite First Sentences


“Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt.”

THREE TIMES LUCKY by Shelia Turnage
submitted by Sydney Brooks of Hopewell, NJ


“My father is always talking about how a dog can be very educational for a boy.”
IT’S LIKE THIS, CAT by Emily Cheney Neville
submitted by Rebecca C. of Bloomfield, NE


“Kansas is not easily impressed.”
DANDELION FIRE (The 100 Cupboards, Book 2) by N. D. Wilson
submitted by Corinne K. of Arlington Heights, IL


“I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one.”
ENDER’S GAME (The Ender Quintet, Book 1) by Orson Scott C
submitted by Max Elinson of Brooklyn, NY


“When my brother Fish turned thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he’d caused it.”
SAVVY by Ingrid Law
submitted by Grace L. Talley of Oakland, CA


“If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.”
THE BAD BEGINNING: OR, ORPHANS! (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 1) by Lemony Snicket
submitted by Victoria K. of Greeneville, TN


“Where’s Papa going with that ax?’ said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”
submitted by Emmy Udry of Upper Nyack, NY


“The end of the world started when a Pegasus landed on the hood of my car.”
THE LAST OLYMPIAN (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5) by Rick Riordan
submitted by Corina H. via email and Katie H. via email



Looking for other tips to get or keep your kids reading? Sign up for Motivational Monday to get great suggestions mailed right to your inbox every week. And to see all the “Favorite First Lines” be sure to subscribe to Cricket.