Friday, January 31, 2014

Make it yourself: Table Top Easel

Photo courtesy of:

Instead of buying an easel at the store for more money than you would like, why not make your own? Here's how:

Find a sturdy box and cut out one entire side. Tape the remaining 3 sides together, forming a triangle. It might help if you then taped the box on it's side to the table so it doesn't slid around. Then you just need to tape paper to the front of it for the child to draw/paint on.

Activity: A New Kind of Old McDonald

I found a really cute idea the other day to change the words of Old McDonald. You can use it for a lot of topics too. Here are some examples:

Old McDonald had a cold, EIEIO, and with his cold he had a cough, EIEIO.... etc.
Old McDonald had a house....
...Pet store...
...Candy store...

So basically, you just sing Old McDonald, but you change the words depending on what you want to sing about. Easy as that! My husband and I like to talk about the family. Here's how we do it....

Old McDonald had a family, E-I-E-I-O
And in that family he had a mommy, E-I-E-I-O
With an I love you, and an I love you,
Here an I, there an I, everywhere an I love you!
Old McDonald had a family, E-I-E-I-O.

As you can see, you can really change the words many different ways. Have you ever tried anything like this? What words, topics, or phrases did you use?

Activity: Imaginary friend

Let you child create imaginary creatures using paper cups and art supplies. Here's how it works:

Photo courtesy of:
Cut out a small circle on the side of the cup (big enough for your finger to fit partially through (to make a nose)). Then let the child draw on the eyes, ears, hair, mouth, etc. Now you can turn the cup into a puppet by putting your finger through the hole for the nose, and making it talk. For older kids, you could have them make the same creatures, but then have them help the little kids put on a puppet show. As far as decorating materials go, you can use pens, markers, crayons, colored pencils, glitter, yarn (for the hair), pipe cleaners (hair or arms, legs, etc). Pretty much the sky is the limit. If you have extra scraps of fabric, you can let the kids make clothes. But of course, the difficulty of the activity will be based on the child's age and understanding.
This photo courtesy of:

Have you ever created imaginary creatures using sups? Something else?

Photo courtesy of:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Activity: Indoor Treasure Hunt

Let's say that you want to make cookies on a rainy day, but you also need an activity to keep the kids entertained. So how about you put both together? Here's what to do....

Send the kids on a treasure hunt for the items that you need for the cookies. Have them find the cookie sheets, chocolate chips, flour, etc. You can either keep them in their normal places, or put them in new places for an even longer treasure hunt. If you put them in interesting new places, give your kids clues for them to follow. For example, if the chocolate chips are under the pillow in the bedroom, give them a clue like "where I rest my head when I'm tired". Then they will run to the bedroom and find it. Of course the clues can be easier or more complex as the child's age suggests.

For younger children, perhaps pictures would be better than written out clues. I also don't think it would be a good idea to hide the eggs and butter/oil for the cookies, just in case you can't find them again or forget about them.

Have any of you tried something like this? What did you have the child search for?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Activity: Charades

I happen to love Charades. I've played it as a kid, at birthday parties, college parties, etc., and I still love it. And the best part about it, is that it is very adaptable to various age groups and situations. All you need to do is have a list of things that the kids can act out. I like putting the items on slips of paper, so that the kids can draw one out of a hat. Here are some categories that might work well for kids:

Animals (farm, circus, jungle, etc.)
Things in Nature (leaves, trees, raindrops, etc)
People (pretend to be each other)
Action words (jump, run, skip, roll, etc.)
Vehicles (Car, train, airplane, etc.)
Body Parts (just have them point to their body parts and have people guess)
Facial Expressions (happy, sad, mad, bored, etc.)

There are of course many other categories that you can come up with. And you may need to allow kids to make noise, instead of remaining silent like we do as adults.

Mia, as an almost two year old would do really well at pointing to body parts, but she's not quite ready for the other categories. So as you plan the game, make sure that the options are appropriate for the age group.

Have you tried this with your kids? What words or categories did you use?

Activity: Hot or Cold

This is a super easy game that I am sure many of us played when we were younger. Here's what to do in case you aren't familiar with it.

Take an object and hide it, when the "Seeker" closes their eyes or leaves the room. When they open their eyes, have them search for the object, while you tell them if the are "hot", "warm", or "cold". Hot means that you are very close to the object, warm means you are getting closer, and cold me that you are not close to it. Make sure that you take turns and allow the kids the change to give the directions as well.

Have you played this game? How did it work with different ages?

Snack Time: Peanut Butter Energy Balls

[This post and recipe courtesy of For more information on this website and it's authors, please visit this link].

Here's an awesome recipe for peanut butter energy balls! Kids love it because of the peanut butter and cookie like taste. Parent's love it because of the nutritious elements. Sounds like a good combination to me!

Photo taken from

No-Bake Energy Bites

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Yield: About 3 dozen



Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.
Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (Mine were about 1" in diameter.) Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Makes about 20-25 balls.

Activity: A new kind of hide and seek

Hide and seek is always fun for kids, but as an adult, I either get bored quickly, or worry that the kids are going to hide somewhere crazy or dangerous, and then fall asleep and I won't know where to find them. Needless to say that I was thrilled when I heard about a "NEW kind of hide and seek". Here's how it works:

You take an object (toy car, doll, boat, action figure, etc). and while the person who is "it" closes their eyes, you hide it somewhere in the room. (This next part of the description comes straight from the website

"Give simple but very specific directions to guide your child in finding the object. A typical game might include: "Walk three steps forward." "Turn toward the window." "Walk five steps forward." "Walk two more steps forward." Or throw in some colors, like "look next to something red." At first, allow the child to complete a direction before giving them another one."

You can of course make the direction easier, or more complex depending on the age and understanding of the child. And then after the child has found the object a few times, allow them to hide it and you to seek it!

We tried this today with Mia and her cousins. It was a lot of fun for her 5 year old cousin Brooklyn, although Mia and Jenna didn't quite understand what was going on. So this activity would probably be better for kids 2 1/2 and up. But of course, that's just a generalization.

Have any of you tried this activity or one similar to it? How did it go?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Snack Time: Easy Home Made Ice Cream

[This idea and recipe is courtesy of "365 Games Toddlers Play: Creative Time To Imagine, Grow and Learn" by Sheila Ellison].

Ingredients and Materials
5 c. crushed ice
3 T. salt
1/2 c. whole milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Gallon-sized sealable plastic bag
1 Quart-sized sealable plastic bag
1 T sugar

Put the ice into the large plastic bag and sprinkle it with salt. Add the milk, sugar, and vanilla into the small plastic bag. Seal it well, removing as much air as possible. Place the small bag into the large ice-filled bag, making sure it is completely surrounded by ice. Seal the large bag and shake vigorously, or better yet, go outside with it and play "catch", but only throw it a few feet or the bags might get holes in them (You could of course do this in the house, but I would suggest only on hard floors in case it does break open). After about 5 minutes, take the small bag from the ice, open it, and then add any addition flavors (mint, chocolate chips, strawberries, etc.). Mix in the extra flavors and then get ready to eat!

Sheila Ellison suggests the following flavors and measurements:
Strawberry jam (1 Tbsp)
Chocolate Syrup (1 Tbsp)

I think that this would be a great activity on super hot days, or even cold days. Any day to eat ice cream is a good day to me. And if you have enough bags and other supplies, then each child/adult could make their desired flavor.

Activity: Matching Counting, and Colors

My friend Tara was recently able to get two infants down for a nap at the same time, thus allowing her one-on-one time with her 3 year old (Emma). Together, they got out craft box to do some, as she puts it, "big girl" stuff. When I saw this activity on her blog, I saw immediately how awesome it was, and decided that it needed to be shared. I asked her and she officially said that I could copy her post and share it with you all. Here's what Tara says:

I cut up some pipe cleaners so they were all different lengths. Then I traced them onto a piece of paper and numbered each one. Emma matched each stick to the correct one on the paper.

 After she matched them up, I taped down the top and got out the beads.

I helped Emma count the correct number of beads for each pipe cleaner. She then strung the beads onto them.

She loves to sort and match colors, so when she had finished stringing on the beads, we took them off and she sorted them into little bowls.

If you don't have pipe cleaner, you could use string, or straws might be thin enough to string the beads on as well. The advantage of pipe cleaner is the beads stay where they are placed instead of falling off. Makes it easier and less frustrating for those little hands and fingers.

Next time we do this, I will probably put down a cookie sheet first. Not too many beads fell off the table, but it would have kept them from rolling so far.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Helping: Helping in the Kitchen

I love to cook, bake, decorate, create, and anything else you can think of in the kitchen (except for cleaning up. I don't think that I will ever enjoy that). Happily, we noticed early on that Mia was always wanting to know what was going on in the kitchen. Quickly, it became too much to hold her and try to prepare food, especially when trying to cut up vegetables or raw meat. So this past Christmas, we thought that we would get her her own little pretend food, pots and pans, and a little chef outfit. Oh, and a shopping cart to carry it all. Now when we cook, she can "cook" with us, but not be in our arms. Of course, this concept only worked for a few weeks, and we had to think of something else.

I thought that maybe if she could see what we were doing while sitting in a chair, then perhaps that would help. I was on the right track, except for the fact that I was using a sharp knife and Mia has small and curious fingers. But then I realized that I still had cilantro leaves that needed to be pulled off the stems. I gave some of the leaves with stems to Mia, and then showed her how to pull off the leaves. This was perfect! She understood it right away and had lots of fun. She was engaged in her task, and I was able to do everything else I needed without worrying about where her fingers were.

Now of course when you do this with your own children, you will need to decide what they can do based on age and skill. For example, I wouldn't give Mia a knife since she's not even two years old yet. But I can give her tasks like pulling grapes off the stems, tearing lettuce leaves for a salad, or adding pepperoni to the pizza. Mia is also learning to put plates and forks on the table. Have you tried something like this with your own children? How old are they and what task did you give them?

Snack Time: Green Smoothie

Sometimes it can be really hard to get your kids to eat...well...anything healthy. Mia is usually a good eat, but there are still things that she won't touch. Like milk, if it's not in a bottle, or spinach or any other type of leafy green. So to help out myself and others with this all too often battle of nutrition with out kids, my friend Susie has shared with us her recipe for Green Smoothies!

This is Susie's daughter Emily, drinking her green smoothie!
2 cups spinach, rinsed
Half avocado
1/2 c grapes (any color)
1/2 c strawberries (fresh or frozen)
1 frozen banana
1 cup of milk (can substitute almond milk, rice milk, etc)

Then just put it all in a blender and blend. Easy as that! My mom made a similar drink when we were younger and we loved it when she added pineapple to it. Just some "food" for thought....

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Activity: Up Down Up!

Let's face it. Kids young and old like Winnie the Pooh (myself included). Who can forget the cute "Little Black Rain Cloud" song, or better still Winnie the Pooh's "stoutness exercises"? If you are unfamiliar with these songs, take a look at these.

"I'm just a little black rain cloud"

"Stoutness Exercise (Up, Down, Up!)"

Now seeing as I am currently overweight, I figure that any way I can make exercise fun for me as well as my daughter is a good idea. So lately, Mia and I have been turning on "Toddler" radio stations using Pandora and then we begin dancing, twirling, jumping, skipping, running, kicking, and just about every other movement you can think of. It helps her to get out her wiggles before bedtime (always a good thing), gets her exercising, helps her learn to move her body and also work on her balance and coordination skills. Not to mention that it's more fun for me to exercise with her than attempt to run in 30 degree weather (I'm not a runner by any means, but I do walk in 5k's occasionally).

If only exercising was as perfectly easy for people as it is for Winnie the Pooh. But for now, I think that 20-30 minutes a day (sometimes we break it up in to 10-15 minute chunks) is a great start! Especially if you can't go outdoors because it's too cold or too hot.

What kinds of exercise activities to you do with your kids when stuck indoors? Do you have any outdoor activities that can easily be transferred inside?

Friday, January 24, 2014

TV Time

In case anyone was wondering, I'm not completely anti-TV/media. I just want my kids to grow up with balance, or rather lopsided balance. And by that I mean, some TV, but mostly physical activity play, rather than sitting at the computer or in front of the TV all day. I myself don't remember watching all that much TV before I was 10. My siblings and I spent our time reading books, playing games, and running around outside. After a visit to the library (Wednesday is library day!),  I came across a super cute idea to give your kids some TV time, but not to much. This idea comes courtesy of 365 Games Toddlers Play: Creative Time to Imagine, Grow and Learn, by Sheila Ellison.

Recommended age group: 30 months and up

* Give your child daily tickets that she can turn in to you if she wants to watch a show. Each ticket is worth 30 minutes, but you get to decide how many total tickets she gets each day. (Mia's not quite old enough to understand this concept yet, but I plan to do it the future. Right now, we watch shows on Netflix when mommy isn't feeling good, or she's working on something like the bills, or taxes, and needs to have limited distractions. Otherwise I try to keep it off.).

* Tape a piece of your child's artwork over the TV when it's not in use. That way you will stop and think before turning on the TV again.

*Sit down with your child and watch the shows with them. That way you can talk about what is being learned, and then practice the words, letters, shapes, etc. that they saw on the show that day. (This is also a good concept for older kids, especially that sensitive pre-teen age when they want to watch teenage oriented shows, but aren't necessarily mature enough. My mom and I used to watch Gilmore Girls together with my sister.  We still love it to this day and talk about it all the time (except for the "Logan Huntsburger" time period. Not a fan.).

So anyway, those are just some ideas courtesy of Sheila Ellison (learn more about Sheila by clicking here), with my side notes of course. I hope that this helps you and your family. Do you have any other ideas about TV time?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Activity: Beads and Cups and Things

Let's face it. Kids like to make noise! As parents, we hope that the noise won't be too loud or annoying. Fortunately this activity is neither loud nor annoying, which is always an A+ in my book! We started by getting out Mia's stacking cups (or any other cups or buckets that you would like to use). We also got out her bead necklaces and some little paper cups (the kind kids use in the bathroom). And then we just let Mia be creative! Here's what to do:

Items Needed:
Stacking cups or buckets
Paper or plastic cups
Beads (you could also use corn, rice, cereal, etc. but make sure that you stay at the kitchen table or outside for that).
Remember to look for my final review at the bottom of the post!
Stacking cups? Check!

Sit on the floor? Check!

Beads? Check!

Paper cups? Check!

One last smile before "intensive" creative thinking? Check!

Let the games begin!

Mia had a lot of fun with this activity. I think she continued to play with it for more than 30 minutes, which for a toddler is super impressive. I think she actually loved the paper cups the most though. As for the older kids, I am not sure if they would enjoy the same setup as Mia had, so here are some other ideas.

1. Get a package of "pompoms" (those little puffy fluffy balls you can find at a craft store). Any size will be fine. Then you can have the child practice their color knowledge by having them place the correct pompom color in the correct cup. Perhaps you could draw on the up so that they know what color is expected. Or you could write the words if the child is learning how to read.

2. Have older children try stacking a castle of cups using the paper cups. See how high they can stack things. Or if you have a TON of cups, see how high they can make a tower before it falls over.

That's all that I can think of at the moment, but I'm sure that you can come up with other ideas too. Would you care to share?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Silliness: Mustache Mania!

There are plenty of things that you can find at the dollar store to keep you entertained. Some of them are great and others not so great. Fake mustaches fall among the GREATS! And you can use the mustaches for all sorts of activities! Pretend that you are a notorious bad guy going to rob a bank, and let your child save the day. Or add them to your birthday party theme along with other dress up clothes. Or have a contest to see who can be the most creative with their mustache placement. The possibly activities are endless. Here's what we did....

Items Needed:
Dollar Store fake mustaches (I have seen the same ones at ToysRUs and I think even Walmart)
They came in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Here is Mia before we started playing.

Mia was a little nervous about having things on her face, so mommy went first.

If I remember correctly, I was actually holding Mia's hands down in order to take this picture. She kept trying to pull off the mustache.

Next it was Daddy's turn.


This is my attempt to raise a single eyebrow. Although it felt like it worked, it obviously didn't.

We put a mustache on Kitty to help Mia enjoy mustache time, but not force her to wear them.

Here's Papa!

Kitty up close!

Momo's turn!

I don't even know what face I was trying to make here.

Winnie the Pooh! My, how you have aged!

Alright, so I admit that I got this packet of mustaches for Mia, but when all was said and done, I had WAY more fun than anyone else. It's probably evident based on on the fact that there are more pictures of me in mustache glory, rather than other people.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Activity: Dance Party!

As the name of this post suggests, we had a dance party today! Mia's cousins, Brooklyn and Jenna, came for visit and asked me to put on some music. So then we all started dancing! It was a great way to get out some wiggles. Most of the kids tuckered out after about 10 minutes. Here's more of the details....

Items Needed:
Music (I vote for kids music, or whatever you feel is appropriate for their age)
Music Player (iPod/iPad, DVD player, CD player, Computer/tablet (for using Pandora), etc.
Your Voice (in case the power is out and you want to create music anyway)

Here's how it went:

I turned on the music and the girls just started dancing!

This activity was a lot of fun. And adults can do it too if they want. Mostly the girls just stomped their feet, twirled, and jumped with their arms in the air. 

Helping: Clean up, Clean up, Everybody, Everywhere!

I've noticed lately that Mia has been copying a lot of what she sees people doing. If you dance, she dances. If you read, she reads. If you clean, she cleans. So for Christmas, I thought she would enjoy a little play cleaning set (I found hers at ToysRUs). Here is what we did:

Items needed
If you don't have a toy cleaning set, get out some extra wash cloths, scrub brushes, or Clorox wipes (depending on the age of your kid).
Vinegar (or some other all natural cleaning products that is safe for kids)
Music (if you want)

 I had Mia help clean the side of the fridge, since that's where we do a lot of things with magnets.
Mia also helped clean off the chairs, since she had gotten finger prints all of them. Even after I stopped cleaning them, she kept going. It was very cute.

For at least light cleaning, I think it works very well. Especially for all those little tiny cleaning projects that you've been meaning to do for months and months. Just remember to make it fun, and not worry so much about correcting their cleaning. They can learn to clean better as they get older.