Pentominoes are a tiling puzzle used in recreational mathematics. Each of the twelve (12) pieces are made with 5 equal squares that are meant to resemble the Latin alphabet. These pieces can be put together in thousands of ways in order to fill in a variety of areas in puzzle-like ways such as: 3×3, 4×4, 5×3, 3×20, etc..
Real-World Benefits
How these Pentominoes fit into the real world is not very puzzling at all! 
They can be used to calculate: Volume, surface area, and perimeter.
Use them to practice: Symmetry and tessellations.
They build: Spacial awareness, problem-solving skills, deductive reasoning, and creative thinking skills. They also offer an introduction to elementary number theory. 
Learning Resources
Below, you will find links for information about pentominoes, activities that can be done with them, puzzles that can be played online, puzzle pieces that can be made and printed, and instructions for making your own set.
What are Pentominoes?
Wikipedia: Pentomino – Offers an explanation of what pentominoes are, how they originated, and how they are used. Pentominoes – Talks about the origins of the puzzle, benefits, and offers game ideas.

Universal Class: What are Pentominoes? – Explains what pentominoes are, their benefits in the world of geometry, how to use them, and games that can be played with them.

Activity Ideas

Math is Fun: Pentominoes – Shows the shapes used more clearly and offers a challenge as well.

Puzzler.Sourceforge: Pentominoes – Puzzle suggestions to try.

Print or Make Your Own Set

Worksheet – Pentominoes – Generate your own drawing pentomino puzzles to print out.

CutOutFoldup: Pentomino – Print out the pieces needed and follow the directions on how to use them. – 10 Stem Crafts for Kids – Scroll down for information on how to make your own set with wooden blocks.

Scholastic: Pentominoes – Colorful, printable pieces in a PDF format.

Play Online

Scholastic – Pentominoes Game– Play on line. Pentominoes – Play a few puzzles on line.


YouTube: Pentominoes PlaylistVideos talk about the pieces and show how they are used. Here’s one of the informative videos in the list…

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Holiday and Winter Origami

Holiday Origami by Fran W

We started having fun folding paper when my oldest child was about 6 years old and we’ve been finding ways to incorporate it into our lives ever since. One year we added origami presents and cranes to a Christmas tree, another we offered a bunch of holiday related folding projects for a craft program to those who wanted something different to do.  

Here are some of the other ways we have used the paper folding projects…

  • In a diorama.
  • To make a holiday scene.
  • Hang them on the tree.
  • Decorate a present.
  • Decorate the house.
Tip: Any sized paper can be used to make the projects, but make sure the paper you use is even on all sides, crooked paper will not give good results.

Note: Copy paper can be decorated with markers, stamps and crayons, wrapping paper can be used, as can pages from magazines and newspapers. Origami paper can be found in craft and retail stores and on line in a variety of designs and sizes. Origami Way offers a printable origami paper that can be *downloaded from the site. 
*Please use caution when downloading off the Internet.

I hope you find the following paper folding projects as enjoyable as we do. Unless otherwise noted, all the projects below offer illustrated instructions. Videos are also offered below.

Tree Forest by Fran W

Origami for Winter

Origami for Christmas

Site offer a variety of wreaths and garlands all with illustrated instructions.

Turn a origami balloon into a present by stamping or coloring the paper before folding, and adding a ribbon around it after it has been blown up.


Santa Hat

Santa in his Sleigh

Video instructions offered.

Christmas Tree – Variety
There are a variety of Christmas trees available to choose from.

Illustrated instruction for a dove made from a 8″ round doillie.


Origami for Hanukkah

Origami for Kwanzaa

Sweet Corn

Choose to view instructions as a diagram or as an animation.

Weaved Place Mat

Not origami, but it is a paper craft.

Drinking Cup

Use crayons or markers to color flag as desired.

Origami for All Holidays

Holiday Origami Videos

Video Name/Time

1. Santa Claus 8:20
2. Braided Star (Maria Sinayskaya) 10:59

3. How to Make a Paper Star 3:57
 4. Origami Christmas Lights 17:14
5. Origami Christmas Santa Boot Videos 3:53 
 6. Wreath and Candy Cane 9:26

7. Advent Wreath with Candle
8. Christmas Candle Stick 6:13

9. How to Make a Paper Crane 8:47
10.How To Make A Paper Santa Hat 4:23
11. How To Make a Paper Christmas Tree 3:04
12. How to fold Santa in his Sleigh 4:45
13. How to make an Origami Reindeer 7:14
14. How to Make an Easy Origami Star Box 4:30
15. Origami Box 7:21

16. Origami Chalice/Goblet/Cup HD (Intermediate Tutorial)
17. Origami Dreidel 9:29

18. How to make an Origami Star of David 15:46

19. Corn Origami 1:58

20. Origami Winter Tree Tutorial (Tim Rickman) 10:01

21. How To Make An Origami Snowman 5:21
22. How to make an Origami Snowflake 9:38
23. How to Make a Paper Balloon (Water Bomb) 8:00 
Can be used to make a present.
24. How to Make a Paper Popper! (Easy) 9:22 
Great for New Years Eve!
25. How To – Make A Paper Banger 3:22
Great for New Years Eve!

Holiday Curriculum Connection

Origami has a lot of natural benefits and fits nicely into any holiday curriculum. Origami can be recorded under math and offers people of any age an opportunity to learn how geometric shapes and angles work, while it helps to build self confidence, spacial awareness and hand-eye coordination skills. Origami requires patience and helps the learner to focus while they are creating their pieces. Plus it’s a great way to relax once you get the hang of how to make each project.
Other benefits: Following instructions, creativity, cultural awareness, is therapeutic, decreases anxiety levels, is really fun to do and many more positive things.

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Create a Scary Character

Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelley, and published in 1818, was the end result of a suggestion made by the famous poet Lord Byron!
Lord Byron suggested that he and a couple of friends write scary stories and share them when they were completed. It’s hard to imagine that someone could invent such a fearsome creatures as Frankenstein’s monster, but Mary Shelley did it! Wouldn’t it be fun to create a scary or creepy character of your own? You never know, your story may become as famous as Frankenstein someday!

You’ll need one or more of the following items to do this activity:

Paper and pencil for writing, modeling clay for sculpting, craft foam, colored pencils, crayons, or markers for drawing, materials that will help you make a 3-D figure, makeup or face paint to create a character out of yourself or someone else, or a creative way to express yourself, and a place to daydream and think.

What to do…

Choose your favorite way to create your character.

Here are a few questions to help you get started:

  • What’s your character’s name?
  • What is your character/creature?
  • What does your character look like: weird, spooky, normal, scary, creepy, etc?
  • Is it male, female, alien or something else?
  • What does your character wear?
  • Was this creature/character ever someone else, i.e. did it turn from being human or something else?
  • Does it turn into something else? For example, is it normal by day and turn into something else at night or vice versa?
  • If your character turns into something else, how does it happen? Does it need something to help it turn?
  • Is it mischievous, creepy, scary, spooky, crazy, clever, etc.
  • Where does it live?
  • Does it sleep? If so how, when and where?
  • What does it eat – if anything?
  • What is your character’s history?
  • How did it come to life or into being?
  • Does someone control it?
  • Is your character alone or does it hang out with someone/thing else like a mascot or a friend?
  • Can something hurt it; does it have a weakness?
  • What does it fear?
  • Who or what does it go after?
  • Can it be detected before it arrives?
  • Does your character possess some kind of unusual power? What is it?
  • How can it be destroyed?

Once you’ve designed your character/creature, think about…

  • Telling its story to a video camera.
  • Writing a book, a play, a movie script, or a comic featuring your creation.
  • Drawing a story board, a scene from your imagination, an illustrated story.
  • Sculpting or creating a 3-D figure of your character.
  • Making your creation come alive by turning yourself or someone else into the creature. 
  • Using a computer program to help you make your creation.
  • Use any combination of these suggestions.

After creating your character in some of the ways mentioned above, take pictures or videos of what you’ve done and consider sharing it with others.

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Make Your Own: Tic-Tac-Toe Game Board

Tic-tac-toe board by Fran W

Tic-Tac-Toe (Crosses & Naughts)

Strategy games have been around for centuries and were often made with or from natural items.

Strategy games are great for building critical thinking skills because players need to observe the game so they can block the other players and take advantage of moves in order to win the game. They’re also good for thinking ahead and deductive reasoning.

Tic-Tac-Toe is often played as a pencil and paper game, but creating a one-of-a-kind board to play on over and over can be fun to make and use. 

Tic-Tac-Toe is simple to learn how to play and can be enjoyed by any age! 

To make a tic-tac-toe board, you will need…
A 6 inch cardboard square, ruler, pencil, markers, 10 bottle caps – 5 of one color and 5 of another color. 

Optional: Two different types of coins can be used to play, as well as shapes made from cardboard.

What to do…

Using a ruler and a pencil, draw lines on the cardboard square like a number sign # as evenly as possible, then trace over them with a marker.

To play… 

This is a two player game where players take turns placing their pieces on the board. 
The object of the game is for one player to get 3 playing pieces in a row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally to win the game.

More suggestions…

Decorate the board

– Cut a construction paper square the size of the cardboard, glue it to the board, draw even lines in the middle to play the game, then decorate around the edges with markers or stickers.

– Use a picture from a magazine for a border and glue a game board to the middle.

Tic-tac-toe game board

– For an extra challenge, make a frame out of construction paper. Measure the center opening, and when you cut a piece of construction paper to fit the middle, add an extra half an inch around so it can be glued to the back of the frame. Glue the whole thing to the cardboard. Use a pencil and a ruler to make even lines for the game, then trace them with a marker. Use the picture as a guide if needed.

Game Pieces

Play Tic-tac-toe

Make game pieces out of cardboard and construction paper. Glue an envelope to the back of the game board to hold game pieces. If you use bottle caps, tape a clean, recycled zip-top bag to the back to hold them. Add stickers if desired.

Score Board

Extend the game board to include a score board and make tally markers from cardboard.

History of Tic-Tac-Toe

Tic-Tac-Toe has a very long history! Learn about it here.

Making a permanent board will allow you to take it with you when you travel. 

When you’re on vacation, and the weather is uncooperative, recycled items can help pass the time.

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Spark of the Day: Symbols of Fall: Twist Balloons

Twist balloon pumpkin by Fran W.

We enjoy decorating our home for the fall holidays each year and this year we decided to incorporate twist balloons into our holiday because they can be turned into so many creative things!

We are planning to make…

Pumpkins, ghosts, spiders, cats, turkeys, a cornucopia, and anything else we can think of at the time and want to try.

We want to make sure everyone can participate in decorating the house, so we made a very simple pumpkin with the balloons. 

If you would like to make a simple twist balloon pumpkin, you will need…

A package of twist balloons and a hand held balloon pump

Optional: A small balloon to place inside the pumpkin, and a scissor

Tip: Twist balloons can be purchased in a party store.

What to do…

If you need some basic twisting lessons, you can view the following 1:36 minute video, ‘Kids Learn Balloon Twist’.

Set up…

– Stretch 2 twist balloons. Fill the balloon you plan to use for the body full of air (I used orange), leaving some room at the tip, and then tie the end off. The second balloon, acting as the stem (I used green), 
only needs a small amount of air. 
Optional: A small regular balloon can be filled and set side. 

Pumpkin body:

– Using the orange balloon, fold it in half 
evenly, find the center, and twist the middle a few times to keep it in place. You will have two sides.

– Fold the two sides evenly in half again, find the center, and twist them together a few times to keep the fold in place. You should have 4 equal lengths of balloon.

– To form the body, bring all the sides together so that they form an oval, tie the loose ends to one another and tuck them into the folds to hide them. The tied end will act as the top of the pumpkin.

Pumpkin stem:

The stem can be attached one of two ways:

1. Twist the non-inflated part of the green balloon, closest to the filled side, around and through the top of the pumpkin body until tight, and tie it off.

2. Alternately, the long non-inflated part of the balloon can be twisted around and through the top a couple of times, brought down through the middle of the body, wrapped around the bottom of the pumpkin, and the extra length hidden in the folds, or tied off.

A small balloon can be place in the center of the pumpkin body if the middle is left open.

Tip: If the non-inflated part of the balloon stem is too long, tie it off and snip off the excess with a scissor.

Getting inspired…

When we need a little inspiration, a quick search on YouTube usually produces what we need. 

To make the following twist balloon Halloween decorations, you will need:

Twist and regular balloons, pump (optional but very helpful!), permanent marker, yarn or string for hanging, and scissors


This 4:15 minute video will show you how to make a pumpkin that is fuller than the one suggested above.


Ghost Bracelet

The video will show you how to make a cute ghost bracelet. You will need a water balloon for the head of this ghost and twist balloons for the body and connecting bracelet.

If you would like to see some of the other Halloween twist balloon videos that we found, please click here to access the YouTube playlist I made.
Thanksgiving Turkey

You will need twist balloons to make the turkey featured in the following YouTube videos:

Part 1: Turkey 9:56

Part 2: Turkey 7:46
I hope you enjoy twisting balloons into fall holiday shapes!

Inspiring People: Cardstacker

Photo by Kevin Lam from Vancouver, Canada

Guinness World Record holder, Bryan Berg is a self-taught cardstacker. He builds amazing structures out of plain old playing cards.
He doesn’t bend or fold the cards, nor does he use tape or glue to keep them together. 
You have got to see the AWESOME things he can build in order to believe it!

Visit Bryan’s official website to learn how he builds these amazing structures

It may be a good idea to have a deck or two of playing cards handy, because after watching the inspiring works of art done by this gentleman, viewers will want to recreate some of the stunning structures that they see! Some viewers may even be inspired enough to create their own amazing structures!

Tip: Have a recording device handy so that you can capture the budding cardstacker while they are creating a work of art! Take pictures and/or video footage at every stage, and even in between! Use the time-lapse option on your video camera for quicker viewing later on.

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Big-eared townsend-fledermaus from

Did you know…

The saying, “blind as a bat” is very misleading because none of the over 1200 species of bats are blind!

Activity: Sound Games

To do today’s activities you will need:

A timer that beeps for a little while after going off and a blind fold

Game 1: Where is it?

You will need a timer for this activity.

Bats use echolocation to find food. They use their ears to determine where their food is located. With this game, you will need to use your ears to dermine where the sound is coming from.

How to play:

The ‘hider’ sets a timer for 20-30 seconds and starts the timer counting down just before putting it in its hiding place.

The ‘seekers’ will need to go someplace where they can not see or hear where the timer is being placed.

Once the timer is hidden, the seekers need to be called into the room right away so they can listen for the beep. Once the timer starts to beep, the other player or players can look for it by listening to where the sound is coming from. When a player finds it, they get to hide it so the others can find it.

Younger players may need a little help.

Game 2: Sounds All Around You

Sound is made up of vibrations – echolocation creates a vibration that bounces back to the bat.
You can use a blindfold for this activity – do not allow it to slip over the ears.


This game requires 2 or more people – a sender and a receiver.
The receiver or receivers will sit or stand in one place blindfolded or with eyes closed.
The sender can move anywhere within hearing range and make sounds with any object they want.

How to play:

Two-player Game:

While the sender is making a sound, the receiver will determine where that sound is coming from and what is making that sound.
Players should decide how many correct guesses it will take before they change roles.

Multiple players:

More than one person can be a sender and/or a receiver. The receiver(s) can try to guess who made the sound, where the sound was made and what the sound was.
Players should decide how many correct guesses it will take before they change roles.

Single player game:

Sit or stand in one place and listen to the sounds around you – try to identify as many sounds as you can inside and out.

Question of the day:

How does echolocation work?

Learn more:

Are Bats Blind?

White-nose Syndrom

How Ecolocation Works

Funschooling & Recreational Learning – Bat Resource Page
Links to over 30 bat related resources including: Bat information, bat unit studies, bat crafts, puzzles, printables, cams, videos and more.

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Did you know…

There are seven game pieces used for tangram puzzles and over 5,900 patterns that can be made from them!

Activity: Make Tangram Puzzles 

You will need:

Tangram puzzle pieces
Tangram puzzle patterns
Card stock paper
Colored pencils or crayons – optional
Index cards that will fit the size of your finished puzzles

Print out or construct your puzzle pieces and color them if you want. Use card stock or thick grade paper so that the pieces can be used multiple times. 
After cutting your puzzle pieces out carefully, play around with them for a bit to see what they look like when you put the shapes together in certain ways. When you are ready, print out puzzles to solve, but don’t peek at the solutions until you are ready!

Variation #1: Homemade Puzzles: Using smaller Tangram pieces that you make yourself, design your own puzzle cards. To do this, make your puzzle on an index card and trace around your completed design with a pencil, then go over it with a dark colored crayon or marker. Put solutions on the back in pencil and then give your puzzles to someone else to solve.
Variation #2: Tangram Art Make your own designs from pieces that you make, glue them to a piece of paper, color them in and create a scene around them.

If you would rather play Tangrams online, try this site out: 
PBS Kids: Tangrams

Rules: The traditional rules to the game say that you must use all seven pieces, they must lay flat, they must touch one another, and they can not over lap.

Question of the day:

In what year did Tangrams come to America?

Learn more… Tangrams
Printable patterns and puzzles

Tangram House
Play an Tangrams online

Tangram Channel
Puzzles, solutions, history, geometry connection and more.

Squidoo: Tangrams Activities
Article about Tangrams filled with links to other sites

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Note: If this, or any other post on Funschooling and Recreational Learning, has inspired you in a positive way, or you have featured it in a blog post, please comment and link back to where it can be found! Thank you!