Acting Out: DIY Costume Masks Perfect for Preschoolers  

Just in time for Halloween, add two favorite friends to your preschooler’s role play repertoire with our DIY Pete the Cat® and Shelby the pug mask templates! Follow the directions below and let the creative pretend play begin, OR add the optional costume pieces for trick-or-treat-ready costumes!

  1. Choose your mask—or make both!—and print it out. Click here for the downloadable Pete the Cat mask template or here for the Shelby mask template.
    PTC_Mask Shelby_Mask
  1. Use crayons and markers to color the masks.Coloring Pete Mask
  1. Cut out the template. Older kids can try this themselves, using child-safe scissors, for a bit of fine motor practice. Don’t forget to cut out the eye holes!
  1. Snip the side holes, measure a piece of elastic string to fit around your child’s head, and string the elastic through the holes, securing it with a knot.

Pete the Cat Mask

To complete your Pete the Cat costume, add:

  • A blue sweat suit or blue leggings/pants and long-sleeved blue tee
  • Red or white high top sneakers
  • Optional: yellow coat with four colorful buttons

To complete your Shelby costume, add:

  • A tan sweat suit or tan leggings/pants and a long-sleeved tan tee
  • A blue collar with faux diamond studs
  • A pin-on, curly cue pipe cleaner in tan or brown
  • Optional: white bone cut from construction paper

We’d love to see pix of your Halloween honeys in whichever costume they choose – let us know below what your kiddos plan on dressing as this year and be sure to share photos on Facebook!

Download DIY Pete the Cat Mask TemplatePTC_Mask

Download DIY Shelby Mask Template


Making the Most of Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent Teacher Conference Tips

The kids have been back in school for several weeks. The backpacks are full; new friends’ names are sprinkled in conversation; and (surprise!) lunch in the school cafeteria is a hit! The school year has been successfully launched, and now it’s time to check in with mission control in that annual fall ritual—parent-teacher conferences.

Parent-teacher conferences are scheduled two to four times a year. Think of them as a kind of academic ‘check up.’ To help you make the most of the 15 to 20 minutes usually allotted, we’ve assembled some hints below and two handy downloadable tip sheets.


  • Schedule an appointment. Arrive on time or a few minutes early. Don’t overstay your time.
  • Make childcare arrangements for younger children, if possible. They can be a distraction.
  • Be positive and open-minded. You and the teacher are on the same team—your child’s.

BE PREPARED: Your child’s teacher will prepare for the conference and so should you.

  • Review your child’s work in advance including class work, homework assignments, tests, projects or reports, and reading material.
  • Ask your child about class work and routines, what happens at lunchtime, recess, or in special classes such as art and music. Use the downloadable My Learning Report to get the conversation started.Parent Teacher Conference_Page_2
  • Gather information from family members especially if they are unable to attend the conference.

ASK QUESTIONS: That’s what school is all about, right?

  • Make a list of key questions that you want to cover with the teacher. Choose from our list to help you get the most from your appointment.  Download listParent Teacher Conference_Page_1
  • Prioritize your concerns so that you’ll be sure to cover the most important ones before your conference time is up.
  • Take notes!

FOLLOW UP: Express your appreciation and plan for the future.

  • Agree on a specific action plan for any behavioral or academic issues.
  • Determine how to best keep in touch with one another: e-mail, phone, in person, written notes.
  • Confirm how frequently contact should take place: weekly, monthly, as needed.
  • Offer your support. From volunteering in the classroom to prep work you can do at home, teachers really appreciate your involvement and help.

SHARE WITH YOUR CHILD:What did my teacher say?

  • Talk to your child about the conference as soon as possible.  He or she will likely be curious.
  • Describe the visit including observations, such as what you liked about the classroom, and what you learned.
  • Explain any plans you and the teacher made to help your child with his or her class work or behavior. Solicit your child’s feedback and any suggestions he or she might have.


Parent-teacher conferences are part of an on-going collaboration with your child’s teacher. Teachers are busy professionals, but most will welcome you as a partner in your child’s education and will appreciate your involvement.  Have a great school year!


AUTHOR BIO: Marcia Gresko leads the Product Development team at EI. She was a teacher for 15 years and has written extensively for teachers. For the last 10 years, she has volunteered in a local literacy program, working with at-risk students.

Sneak Some Learning Into That Candy Sack! Counting Candy and Other Tasty Halloween Lessons

Halloween… trick or treating, endless candy, super-cool costumes, and… math? Yes! Halloween is a great time to introduce some real-life math skills. Try the activities below on Halloween night and trick your treater into snacking on some STEM learning!

1. Elapsed Trick or Treating Time

  • For younger ghouls and goblins:If Bobby starts trick or treating at 7:35 and stays out an hour and 15 minutes what time will he be back?
  • For older spooks:If it takes 4 minutes to visit a house, and there are 6 houses on your block, how long will it take to hit each house on the block? How long to cover 3 blocks? 6?


2. Take a Guess – When you’re heading home, have your child take a peek into her candy bag and estimate the number of pieces of candy in the bag. Count them at home and see how close she was! Take it a step further by counting a small scoop and making an educated guess about how many scoops are in the entire pile. Multiply for a closer guess. Then count.


3. Sweet Candy Sort Out – Who doesn’t remember the great candy dump? Emptying your bags on the carpet to admire your haul? This is the perfect opportunity for younger kids to practice sorting, a key early math skill. Sort by color, shape, candy type – then count the contents of each pile.

Candy Dump

4. Colorful Candy Graph – Create a visual of your child’s trick or treat bounty – with a colorful candy graph! Once the candy is sorted into piles, count them and create a graph by listing the candy types across the bottom of a page and quantities in 10’s up the left side of the page. Use a different colored crayon to color in a bar representing each candy’s quantity.


 5. Candy Rainbow – Introduce some STEM vocabulary while creating a candy rainbow! Sing the rainbow song as you sort your candy into color piles – then line the pieces of each pile up end to end to create each arc of the rainbow. Use words like above, below, left, right, middle, next to, and pattern while you design. Use those leftover lemon Starbursts to make a sun! Make your rainbow even more musical with Magic Moves® Rainbow Jam™– touch Rainbow Jam to a colorful candy in each pile to hear a fun song about that color!





Fall Fun with Your Little One 5 Fun Ideas for Decorating Pumpkins with Preschoolers PLUS Free Downloadable Templates!

Wearing dress-up clothes outside? Going door to door asking for candy? Playing with your food? For the littlest trick-or-treaters, Halloween is almost too good to be true and decorating pumpkins is definitely one of the highlights of this spooky season. Check out our twisted takes on traditional pumpkin carving to get your preschooler in the (mischievous!) mood for fall fun.

  1. Paint the Town Orange! Skip the carving and paint your pumpkin instead! Outline the eyes, nose, and mouth with a Sharpie and let your younger kids fill them in with acrylic paint. Older kids can trace a Halloween template like a bat, witch, spider, or our very own Pete the Cat ® (see below) with a marker, and can paint it in themselves. Try painting in black on a white pumpkin for an especially devilish design. You could even get really creative, and re-imagine your pumpkin as a flying saucer or a burger, or a doughnut!
  1. The Eyes Have It! Your kiddos will hardly believe their eyes with this silly pumpkin hack. Instead of carving or painting, try googly eyes, home-made construction paper eyes, or magazine cut-outs for your pumpkin’s peepers! Looking for a bit of alien appeal? Glue your baby blues to small paper plates and pop them up with a coiled pipe cleaner for an especially eye-popping look!Pumpkin Eyes
  1. Try a Template! Carving is easier (and more fun) with a template and you can download our adorable Pete the Cat® template for free! Just print it, cut it out, pin it to your pumpkin, and carve along the lines to bring a favorite friend to life this fall.
    Free Pete the Cat Pumpkin Stencil

Download FREE Pete the Cat® Halloween Pumpkin Template Here
Pete the Cat Halloween Pumpkin Template_Page_2

  1. Drip Drop! Design your own drip pumpkin! Take turns squeezing streams of colorful acrylic paints onto the top of your pumpkin and watch the colors slide down the sides. Continue to layer until your entire pumpkin is covered; sprinkle glitter on the wet paint for some sinister sparkle. Dry and display.Drip Pumpkin

Snacks make everything more festive, so don’t forget to check out our Spooky Snacks Pinterest board for some fun, Halloween-themed drinks and desserts for your decorating party!


Slip Into Something a Little STEM-ier! 5 Fun, Science-Based Costume Ideas

It’s October! Time for dressing up and tricks and treats. This year, why not steer your kids towards a STEM-themed Halloween costume? Something truly science-inspired? Who knows… it just might stick (kind of like those Starburst Minis you’ll have stuck in your teeth the week after Halloween!).

Mad Scientist

Mad Scientist Costume

We’ve seen several variations of this silly, and yes—a little creepy—costume, but the basics involve a lab coat, glasses, crazy hair, and as many scientific tools as your kiddo can carry (consider gluing them to a single sheet of cardboard to make them easier to carry). Ghoulish face paint kicks this crazy costume up a notch. Gloves and tie optional.


Einstein Costume Kids

To play this fabulous physicist,you’ll need hair—and lots of it. Look for a grey or white wig with matching eyebrows and moustache. Add a collared shirt, sweater or jacket, and tie – neck or bow will do. If you do it right, you shouldn’t need the E=MC2 sign, but keep it in your back pocket, just in case.


Astronaut CostumeIf you’re looking for an out-of-this-world costume, look no further than an astronaut. You’ll need a jumpsuit – silver, white, or orange are best – and a helmet – a bike helmet works, as does a mixing bowl or utility bucket with a window cut out.

If you really want to launch this costume to the next level, add a home-made jet pack.

  1. Spray paint two empty, clean liter soda bottles silver.
  2. Cut several pieces of red and orange tissue paper or felt into “flame shapes”, line the inside of the bottle openings with glue, and insert
  3. Cut holes at the top and bottom of each side of the cardboard and insert webbing, tying under your child’s armpits to make straps.
  4. Using a hot glue gun, attach both bottles, opening down, to the sheet of cardboard.


Martian Kids Costume
Photo courtesy of – Pauline Molinari

Ok, martians aren’t exactly STEM material, but with all the recent talk of Mars exploration, who knows what we’ll find? Green is the goal, here. Green clothing, green face, maybe even green hair if you’re prepared for it to linger for a while. Once your adorable alien is green, add extra eyeballs and antennae (pipe cleaners and headbands help).

Nancy B

Nancy B's Science Club Costume

Who could forget OUR favorite scientist, Nancy B? The key to Nancy B is the lab coat, glasses, goggles, and magnifying glass. Oh, and a big smile – don’t forget that. Insider tip: Nancy only writes with purple pens—slide one into your lab coat pocket and you’ll be ultra-authentic.