Friday, February 28, 2014

Family Newsletter!

I am super excited to do this one with my daughter and husband. It's kind of like sending out Christmas letters, but could include a lot more. You could essentially use any program from Word, to Open Office, or an actual Newsletter construction program.

Here are a few suggestions (I have not tried them personally, so use discretion when you choose one)

Word (Click this link for instructions)
Publisher (LINK)
Word Draw (LINK)
Smile Templates (LINK)

And now here's the hard part. You may be like me and want to share your news with family and friends all the time, in newsletter form, because somehow, it makes you feel important. Well I'm going to put the kabash on that idea right away! Who has time to write newsletters constantly? May I suggest that you stick to Easter  and Christmas? Or perhaps for each person's birthday? (This is an EXCELLENT way to start a family history book, btw). The choice is yours, but from personal experience, I would say to be careful not to take on too much. It's easier to start small, and do more newsletters later than to attempt a lot all at once. And now for the second hardest thing. Choosing what to include....

Choosing what to include will have a large bias depending on how many people you have in your family. If you and your husband have 5 kids, you might want to forgo drawings by the kids, whereas if you have one child, you will likely have space to include it. The choice is yours, but here are some ideas.

Recent pictures (any snapshot is fine)
Upcoming dates of importance (Dance Recitals, Graduation, Birthday Party, etc)
Current Address and Phone number (especially important if you recently moved like we did)
Family News (Graduations, births, etc)
Special successes (Aced a test, job promotion, etc)
New house (Or apartment, condo, garden, etc)
Family History/Genealogy story
Stories written by the kids
Pictures drawn by the kids
Family Vacation Summary (with pictures)
Favorites (Family Recipe, Game, Book, Activity, etc. You could also do this for birthday newsletters)

The options are limitless. And if you feel overwhelmed, just think what you would tell someone that you hadn't seen in years, and you were catching up over lunch. Start with that, and build from there.

Good luck with everything! Don't worry about it being perfect, especially in the beginning. My daughter's birthday is coming up, so I'm going to make a newsletter for her to send to family and close friends. What kind of newsletter would you try?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A special gift to the new addition

At some point, you may be wondering how to help your first child adjust to the idea of a new child coming along the way, or getting the older to do something nice for the younger. Here is an idea that will allow you to spend special time with the older child, while still doing something for the younger child. Let's take a 5 year old and a 2 year old for an example.

The point of this activity is to give the younger child a special ABC book that was made by the older child.

Buy a blank notebook for the 5 year old. Have an adult write each letter of the alphabet (one letter per page, or every 2 pages). Then, with the help of the 5 year old, think about what things start with each letter. For example, A is for apple, ape, antelope, avocado, etc.  You could also draw family members like Amy, or Aunt Agatha, or whatever it may be. Then draw the pictures on the correct page with the corresponding letters. When finished, have the 5 year old show the book to the 2 year old, and let them learn and study together. Your 5 year old will be proud of the book they made, and it will bring the two children together in a fun and learning environment.

You could also skip buying the notebook, and instead use large blank note cards, and then laminate (or use contact paper) them, whole punch them, and tie the cards together with ribbon or yarn.

Pennies for your thoughts!

Here is a simple little activity to help your children learn how to do word problems, and how to work with money. Here's how it works:

Simply search your purse for loose change (pennies would be preferred). Then create a word problem such as "if I give you 5 pennies, and you give 2 back to me, how many pennies do you have left?"

You could also get more complex and say "Max works for 3 days. He earns 5 pennies on the first day, 3 pennies on the second day, and 8 pennies on the third day. How much money did Max have after 3 days? After two days?"

Easy as that! All it takes is a little time and creativity, and only a temporary use of money.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Activity: All About Me

This is a fun activity that can help the children figure out their likes and dislikes, do a craft project that is centered around them, and learn to take the initiative with only a little help from an adult (in the form of cutting and gluing).

Here is what you need:

Magazines (particularly kids ones)
Old Catalogs (kid or toy centered)
Old books
Family pictures
Colored paper

Now you can let the children cut out the things that they like and glue them to pieces of paper. These papers will become a book, so you may want to cut them in half or in quarters first. As it looks like the kids are starting to finish up, serve some sort of healthy snack (you can find ideas here and here) and allow the glue to finish drying. once dry, staple the pages together and you have a book all about what your child likes and/or dislikes. As a genealogist, I think it would be awesome to do with every year close to the child's birthday. But of course what I wish I could do and what I actually do don't always seem to match up, but we shall see.

What do you think? Have you tried anything like this?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Activity: Going on a WORD picnic

This activity is an excellent option for those that want to help their kids learn vocabulary, rhyming, sounding, etc., without putting too much pressure on them. And the best part is that all you need to do is set up a picnic....

Spread out the blanket, put the food in a basket or on trays, and get ready to be creative. If you pull a sandwich out of the basket, have your child think of another word that starts with the same sound as sandwich. The child will need to realize that sandwich starts with an S sound, and then think of another word that begins with S. You could also do a rhyming variation and pull out BREAD, and have your child think of a rhyme (dread, bed, dead, Fred, read, red, etc).

An activity like this could also be used outdoors in the summer to keep ideas fresh in the children's minds, even though they aren't in school. So what do you think? Have you played a game like this? How did it go?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Activity: (SAFE) High Wire Circus Act

I know that the name sounds confusing. A safe activity on a high wire for kids? Trust me. The kids won't even get off the ground but they will still be able to practice their coordination and balance.  Here's how it works:

You will need:

Masking Tape (or chalk if doing it outside)
Adequate clean space

All you need to do is make a "high wire" or "tight rope" using the tape or chalk by making a straight line on the carpet/sidewalk. For the younger kids, they will have fun just trying to walk in a straight line without falling over. You will likely need to demonstrate how to do this, since they might not be consciously doing it yet. And don't forget to teach them to put their hands out to the sides!

Preschoolers could even try to walk backwards, or on their tip toes, or both! And if your child is particularly acrobatic, try and have them do a hand stand, and then "walk" along the line.

That's all there is to this activity. Do you have any other variations to try?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Activity: I Spy Variations

I spy with my little eyes something... Red! Blue? Green? Plaid?

Instead of playing the regular eye spy where you spy colors, how about trying something else like this...:

I spy with my little eye something that is a triangle....
I spy with my little eye something dark....
I spy with my little eye something that moves....
I spy with my little eye an animal....

And if you are at a crowded place like a McDonald's Play Place, the mall, etc. try some of these:

I spy with my little eye someone who is dancing....
I spy... someone who is sleeping....
I spy... someone talking on their cell phone....

In any case, you can be as creative as you want with this game. You could even do it between rain showers when the clouds are all puffy. Whichever way you do it, have fun!

Have you done a game like this? What variations did you do?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Activity: Letter of the day

This activity is very simple and can be done any way you like. Simple choose a letter (Let's start at the very's a very good place to start....), and focus on that letter throughout the day. You could also choose to focus on a number instead. As an example, let's choose the letter A.

1. Eat apples, avocados, artichokes, etc. for a snack.
2. Read books about Johnny Appleseed, Anne of Green Gables, Alice in Wonderland, etc.
3. Be an Acrobat for the day
4. Eat at Arby's for dinner
5. Learn about Anteaters, aardvarks, etc. at your local zoo
6. As you drive around town, look for the letter A on different signs or restaurants.
7. Look for the letter A at the grocery store
8. Make A shaped pancakes or biscuits, and drink apple juice with dinner.
9. Learn about Airplanes and what makes them fly. If possible, find an airplane graveyard or somewhere close to the airport where you can watch planes take off and land.
10. And any other activities you can think of beginning with the letter of the day.

For more alphabet ideas, check out this website that I found by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Activity: Music and Movement

Kids love music. They also love to move and wiggle, and best of all, dance! And of course it is easier to dance along with music, than without music. Here are some fun variations that you can do, instead of just normal dancing.

1. If you have a full length mirror, bring it out to where the dancing is, and let your child watch themselves dance. They will love making the person that they see move, even if they don't quite understand that it is themselves yet.

2. When I was a kid, we had a cassette tape (remember those?) that had all sorts of music activities on them. It would tell us to dance like an elephant, very slow and deliberate, and there was even a song that was very fast and we would run around in circles until we fell to the floor laughing. Try something like playing "Flight of the Bumble Bee" and have you kids pretend to be Bumble Bees. Better yet, turn on Fantasia (the original) or Fantasia 2000 and have the kids dance along with the animals/people/etc. that they see. The whale song should be interesting - better get the camera out ahead of time!

3. Dress up like princesses, gypsies, belly dancers, etc. and find some music fit to dance to!

As always, there's really no limit to what you can do, imagine, or create. What type of dancing/movement activities have you done with your children?

Activity: Cardboard cooking

I haven't actually done this yet, but it is definitely on my to do list. And it would work perfectly with all of Mia's pots and pans and things she got for Christmas. Plus, it will save you $200 or more dollars on buying the same thing at ToysRUs. Here's how it works:

You will need a bunch of cardboard boxes, duct tape, markers, and anything else you want to do to be creative. Here are some pictures to help you with your construction.

You can actually make things as simple or complex as you want. The white oven is one of the more simple, yet still awesome ones.

This brown one is slightly more complex, but still fairly easy.

Again, more complex than the first two, but still looking good!
This one is my favorite. I didn't make it, and don't know if I will ever be creative enough to replicate it, but I sure can enjoy looking at the picture!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Activity: I want to be like Mommy!

I've noticed that as Mia gets closer to turning 2, she wants to be mommy's helper more and more. That means that I'm constantly on the lookout for things she can do to help and feel "big and strong". If any of you are experiencing the same thing, you might find some good ideas on the following list:

Help pick up items at the grocery store and put them in the cart
Wipe up spills (Especially their own - this will help them learn responsibility)
Tear up lettuce, spinach, etc. for salad
Clean up toys (Mia has a little space on a shelf where she knows her books go, but she doesn't yet put them there on her own. We have to remind her.)
Water the garden (Mia's loved this since she was 15 months old!)
Help make cookies (Have them add the flour, chocolate chips, oats etc. - Even if they are really young, let them help with the poring)
Let them work along side you (Use a play tool set if Daddy is working with tools, give them their own gardening tools (play ones), etc.)
Sorting the laundry (Have your child find all of the socks, etc.)

I know that there are a lot of other great ideas out there. Just be sure to complement your child for trying, even when they make mistakes. And make sure that the activity is more about fun than about doing it perfectly.

What activities do you let your child help with?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Make It Yourself: Finger Paint

Here are multiple different ways to make your own finger paint:

Cornstarch - Water - Glycerine
Mix 1/2 cup of cornstarch with 1/4 cup cold water until there are no lumps. Cook over low heat until it begins to boil. Remove from the heat and then add another 1/2 cup cold water and 1 TBSP of glycerine. Mix together and then add food coloring if you want. That's all it takes!

Cornstarch-Gelatin (You will need 2 small pots and one bowl to make this recipe)
In the first pot, mix 1/2 cup of cornstarch with 3/4 cup of cold water to a smooth paste in a saucepan. In a separate bowl, mix together 1 envelope of unflavored gelatin with 1/4 cup of water. In the second pot, bring  2 cups of water to a boil. once the water is boiling, add it to the first pot and stir as your pour. Bring it to a boil again, and the mixture is clear. Remove from the heat and add the gelatin mixture (from the bowl). Then just add food coloring if you want to, and let it cool!

Cornstarch - Basic
Mix together a 1/4 cup cornstarch, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 1/2 TBSP sugar, and 1 cup cold water in a pot. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. The mixture starts out thin, but will thicken as it cooks. After it thickens, remove from heat and let it cool. Once it's cool, divide into small containers and add a few drops of food coloring. Now you are ready to paint!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Activity: Cardboard Kazoo

I'm super excited to try this one. Anything that kids Mia a new musical instrument without spending tons of money is awesome in my book! This one is super easy to do, too.

You will need:
Toilet Paper tubes (I always save these regardless of what activity we are planning to do. That way they will always be available when I need them).
Wax paper
Rubber Bands
Hole punch

Cut the wax paper into a circle about 5 inches in diameter. Then attach it to the type with the rubber band. By the opposite opening, punch a hole (see video for clarification). Then you get to start playing!

What other musical instrument can you make with items from around the house? Do you have a link for a video or instructions?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Activity: Indoor Bowling

Here's a great activity if your family drinks a lot of soda from either 2 liter bottles, or regular cans. And it's probably one of the simplest activities you will ever do.

All you need is a soft ball (a ball that is soft, not a soft ball like a baseball), and EMPTY soda bottles or cans.

Now set up the cans/bottles to be like bowling pins, and voila! You are ready to start bowling! I find that the best place to do it is in a long hallway, since the walls kind of act like "bumpers" for bumper bowling. This helps the smaller kids do better and enjoy it more when playing with big kids. Here's a few ideas if you want to "jazz" up the "pins". And of course the kids would have lots of fun doing this too, and it would make the activity longer! Who doesn't love that?

Perfect for Halloween!

What a great way to keep patriotism in your home even when it's cold outside!

In case you don't know, these are supposed to be Minions from Despicable Me, and Despicable Me 2.

Snowmen, just in time for Christmas!

Another twist you can do is to use a small pumpkin instead of a ball. It makes the game a lot more difficult since the pumpkin doesn't roll straight at all.

Have you done this before? how did it go? Did you take any pictures?

Activity: Familiar Faces

Not really living close to my side of family, I've been trying to figure out a way for Mia to remember who certain people are, and I think I finally found one. What you need to do is make a picture book of any family or friends that call your house or cell regularly. You can buy little photo albums for a dollar at the dollar store, and then just slide in the pictures. This when, when someone calls, you can show the picture to your little one, and they will be able to match a face with a voice. Of course Skype helps this along too, but we're not always by the computer, or able to sit down for a long conversation. You can also use the pictures to practice for a family reunion (so your kids won't be afraid of the people that are excited to see them, and might hug them), preschool, playgroup, etc.And since children like things to be predictable, this idea is a great way to prepare a shy child for what is coming in the future that will be new to them.

Have you done something like this? Did it help? What event/task/etc did you use it for?

Snack Time: Let's make pizza!

I don't know about you, but I always seem to have leftover pasta/pizza sauce after making pizza/spaghetti, and I don't know what to do with it. So it sits in my fridge, eventually gets moldy, and I throw it out. Very disappointing, and a waste of money. So I thought back to my childhood and decided to share this idea with you. Here is what you need:

Bread (just normal sandwich bread works well)
Pizza/pasta sauce
Shredded cheese (Mozzarella)
Pizza toppings (olives, pepperoni, etc)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

All you need to do is take a slice of bread, spoon a little sauce onto it, and then add you desired pizza toppings. Next, put it in your oven/toaster oven, and bake just until the cheese melts. At this point, you can leave it in longer for more golden/toasted cheese, or turn on the broiler, for just another 2-3 minutes, making sure to watch it closely.

This is a particularly great snack when you have multiple kids that are picky about what they want on their pizza.

Activity: Dance/Move like animals

One of my favorite things to do with kids that are just too wiggly and don't want to settle down, is actually to keep them moving, but with direction. Instead of letting them just run around wild, I have them move like animal. This is a great idea to tire them out quickly, as they will be moving fast, and up and down a lot. Here are some example to get you thinking:

Hop like bunnies
Run like cheetahs (really fast)
Crawl and bark/meow like dogs/cats
Waddle like penguins
Fly like birds
Swim like fish
Walk like an elephant (use your arm to create a long nose)
Crawl and oink like a pig

The only limits in this game are what you can come up with. I have no idea what sound an armadillo makes, so I'm not going to suggest it. As the kids get older, you can have them swim like whales, but also make whale sounds (think finding Nemo) or just watch the following video.

This is sure to bring lots of giggles. Have you tried anything like this? What's you favorite animal to imitate?

Activity: Toilet paper tube slide

In our bedroom, I have a stack of empty toilet paper tubes that previous had no purpose. Well now they have a purpose! I'm going to have my husband Jacob design and build a toilet paper tube slide that the kids can drop ping pong balls (or anything smaller than that) into it, and watch them come down at the bottom. It's kind of like a  water slide, but with toilet paper tubes, indoor, and no water.
And if you have a child that really loves to build things (future engineer?), then they can help too!

Here's how it works:

Items needed:
Toilet paper tubes (or paper towel/wrapping paper tubes)
Tape (something sturdy like duct tape)
Any other decorating materials (colored paper, stickers, etc.)
Ping Pong Balls


Figure out if you want an "open" tube where the kids can watch the ball the whole time, or a closed tube, where they will hear it rattling around. You will also need to figure out if you want it to have any twists or turns. Then begin taping it together, remembering that it will need to be taped to the fridge or something where the "top" of the tube slide starts. After it is decorated and assembled, you can then begin the fun by putting things down it. Be aware that if it is an open tube, it will be MUCH easier to keep things from getting stuck inside, whereas a closed tube you might have to take apart or put a stick or cooking utensil down it to dislodge objects.

Here is another idea for a "style"

Have you done anything like this with your kids? How did it go? Do you have any pictures?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Activity: When you are at the Grocery Store

I am happy to say that this activity can go MANY different ways for MANY different ages. You can teach kids anything from colors (apples are red, grapes are purple, etc), organization (milk go here, flour goes there...), meal planning (I want to make spaghetti - do I have what I need?) and even as far as cost analysis (How do I get the best value for my money? How can I stay on budget?). I studied many aspects of food and budgeting in college and actually still use a lot of my old assignments in real life. With all this in mind, let me share with you some fun ideas of things that I have done in the store with kids.

I have asked them to...

Find things that are a certain color
Find a specific food (cucumbers, apples, etc. - Mia is learning how to do this).
Count how many jars of peanut butter they see
Help me pick out the biggest (or smallest, prettiest, etc.) piece of food
If you have $1.00 and a donut costs $0.50, can you afford it? Will you have any money left over?
I have $10.00 and need to get these 4 things. Can you find the best price?

 There are lots of  other things that you can do, and as always, the questions you ask will depend on the age and understanding of the child. In our family, I want to have Mia involved in all sorts of things, from cooking, to planning, to shopping, and even storing food (canning, drying, freezing, etc.). I'm hoping that by the time she is 10, she can at least make Spaghetti all by herself (she may need help lifting the pot full of water and noodles), and by the time she's 14 (if not earlier) I want her to be able to plan a week long menu of dinners, and make a grocery list. When she's 16, I want her to understand how to find the best value at the grocery store. This kind of knowledge will help her a lot in college, as well as in her adult life. She will be able to use these skills as well as her budgeting skills to be able to save money and live well below her means.

Have any of you done something like this? At what age did you start? What activities or concepts with you focus on?