Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Virtual Book Club: The Very Quiet Cricket

We are so excited to be part of the Virtual Book Club hosted by Toddler Approved and The Educators' Spin On It! The book for May was The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle.

Sadly, we couldn't find the book at any of our local libraries (they were all checked out!) and my online bookswap didn't have it. Thankfully, The Educators' Spin On It posted a youtube video of the book being read aloud with animated pictures. Perfect! I sat down and watched it with Sweet P and did some explaining.

The Farmer and I told her how only the male crickets chirp. The Farmer knows this because he teaches a lab on crickets. I know this because I was owned a tree frog who ate LIVE crickets. Guess who once bought a bag of the WRONG crickets? This gal! Yep. So I know a thing or two about crickets. Or lack of sleep due to crickets. Anyway.

We finished the video and told Sweet P we were going to play a cricket game and hunt for a cricket after bathtime. Oh boy!

She grabbed her bug kit and new flashlight (she got it for her birthday from a friend) and we headed out to the yard.

 I heard one right away, but it took a minute for her to narrow down the noises. We had her close her eyes and listen. I said, "Do you hear that?" And she said "It's a bird."

I explained that crickets make a chirping sound and did she remember the noise the cricket made in the book. She did so we set to work finding him.

Looking hard for the cricket

We found out exactly where he was, but he was hidden by grass clippings! He'd stop chirping for awhile when we got too close, but started up when we'd stop moving around.
She said "I'm looking for him like Daddy."

We couldn't find him (the Farmer really tried) so we settled on catching a firefly instead.

As we headed inside Sweet P was a bit upset that we didn't find the cricket so we did some more explaining about how crickets are great at hide and seek because of prey that eats them. She was satisfied with that and set out to find another one of our books with a cricket in it!

Sweet P also wants everything to be a girl so when I told her that the girls don't make noise she said, "I want to find the one that doesn't make noise."

Before we went in I said, "What does that cricket sound like?" and she said "Tweet! Tweet!"

This was such a fun activity and involved listening, looking and touching (the firefly). That poor firefly was probably a bit dizzy after all the shaking that went on while he was in the bug container.

Check out these other activities, crafts, songs and ideas from others who participated in the Virtual Book Club. It's not too late for you! Simply read the book, do something related to the book and link up! Please limit posts to those relate to The Very Quiet Cricket.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

50 Travel Tips & Activities

Summer is here and with it vacations! And while vacations are AWESOME, they involve a whole buncha planning and that daunting thing that gets you where you're going...TRAVEL.

In April I made a 12-hour (each way) road trip alone with both kiddos and survived! So how do we make it through our trips? With a whole lot of activities, snacks, books and a little something called patience. 

I gathered some great tips and activities from some of my favorite bloggers, threw in a few of our ideas and compiled a list of 50 Travel Tips and Activities.


Most of my tips are geared toward toddlers and preschool-aged children while road trippin'.

Snacks
1. Pack your child's favorite snacks. Now is not the time to try something new! (unless it's a fancy new snack you're sure your child will love)

2. Make a snack together for the trip. We love making Happy Trails Trail Mix for our trips and it's a fun way to connect. It's also fun to talk about how it's a special snack just for the trip.

3. Save up coupons for 100 calorie packs, which are the perfect size for little hands and mama hands! from Adventures in Mommydom.

4. Pack snacks in a fun new container like a reusable baggy from SewEco or a fun little water bottle/snack combo like this one.

5. Easy to eat and mess-free snacks are best, especially if you're traveling alone with your kids. Here are a few of our favorite travel snacks:

  • Boxed raisins
  • Trader Joe's fruit bars
  • Puffed corn
  • Chopped or whole apples
  • String cheese
  • Trail mix
  • Baby food pouches: such as Plum Organics, Happy Baby or Ella's Organics (I know I said mess-free, but these are too great to pass up)

Toys
6. Scour Michael's, Dollar Tree, Target's 1Spot and other $1 areas for fun new toys for the trip.

7. Wrap up new (and rarely played with) toys for toddlers (this could work for older kids too, but they are pretty good at opening presents by age 3!). Unwrapping the toys takes time and also makes a great sensory activity! When she was younger, Sweet P usually ended up playing with the wrapping instead of the toy! Toddler Approved recommends this for airplane travel as well!

8. Give your child a box with a latch or a backpack to fill with her favorite toys for the trip. If you are flying, remind your child that she is responsible for the backpack. This can help her decide whether to pack several light items or 2-3 heavier items.

9. Remember to pack any favorite toys or lovies! These can both calm your child during the trip and help him to fall asleep in a new place during your vacation.

Games
10. Play I Spy. This is a great game for any child who knows her colors and can be played in the car, in an airport, or while waiting in line for the restroom.

11. Count semis, cars, train cars or trucks or have your child choose a color for you to look for while driving. from Hands on: As we grow

12. 20 Questions or try "I'm thinking of something that starts with C", continue to give hints until they guess what it is.

13. The ABC game: a great game for preschoolers learning their letters. Find letters of the alphabet in alphabetical order starting with A. Moms and dads can help with tougher letters.

14. Find A...train, yellow truck, red car, motorcycle rider wearing a helmet, billboard. A great game while driving through large cities.

Music
15. I want you to stay sane on this trip, but sometimes kids music is the way to go with kids in the car. Find the CDs or fill the MP3 player with songs you all know well. Play them and belt them out at the top of your lungs! Encourage your kids to clap, dance or wave their arms to the music.

16. Check out children's CDs from your local library. from Creative Connections with Kids

17. Music from musicals like Annie and The Music Man are also fun tunes to teach your kids while driving.

Books
18. Lift-the-flap books are hours (or at least 10 minutes) of fun. Our favorites are Fisher Price Little People lift-the-flap play books. They have about 40 flaps per book and colorful pages for kids.

19. Books that play music. We reserve these for road trips and while they may get annoying after the 100th push of the elephant sound, they keep kids busy and happy.

20. Interactive books like this Elmo ActivePoint book. A friend let us borrow an Elmo and Thomas the Train ActivePoint book for our last road trip. I suggest covering the speaker with masking tape as it doesn't have volume control and is very loud.

21. Check out or bring along books on CD. from Creative Family Fun

22. Buy, borrow or check out Seek and Find books like Where's Waldo, First Look and Find book and I Spy books.

Activity Preparation
23. Put activities in a 3-ring binder for easy access for your child. Place washable markers in a zippered bag inside the binder. Paper, stickers and other flat activities will fit well inside the binder. from Creative Connections for Kids

24. Bring along a cookie sheet as a tray for activities. It give kids a place to write, draw, drive cars and eat snacks. I buy mine at Dollar Tree and they can be drawn on with a dry-erase marker and easily erased with a tissue.

25. Magnetize activities if you can. If you're using a cookie sheet as a tray this helps your child keep the activity on the tray and minimizes lost pieces.

26. Create your own or bring along a felt board for felt activities. For a DIY version check out this simple (and GENIUS!) version from MamaSmiles.

Activities
27. Stickers! Whether you buy a sticker book or just bring along a few of the 100's you have at home (you know you do), stickers are a hit in the car. Make your own sticker book or bring along a cheap notebook for sticker placement. from Creative Family Fun

28. Make a Miniature Mailbox for tiny hands. At Home With Ali made this adorable one for her toddler to play with on their trip.

29. Toy cars for racing, driving, crashing and cruising. The cookie sheet makes a great road for all kinds of cars.

30. Busy or Activity books. Make your own or purchase one from Etsy. These are sure to be a hit with any toddler or preschooler. Find examples at Inspiration Laboratories and Teach Preschool

31. Felt Dolls. You can find several templates online for simple felt dolls. Sweet P LOVED (and still loves) her felt dolls during the trip. Use a felt board to help keep felt dolls and their clothes organized. I love this version from MamaSmiles and we used this template from Smile and Wave.

32. Lacing cards. Ours fit in our 3-ring binder with the laces in a plastic baggy.

33. Usborne Books Sticker Dressing books. We have the "Fancy Dress" book and it was hands down Sweet P's favorite activity on the drive. It's also a great church activity. Sweet P got it as a Christmas gift this year and we'd never played with it so it was new to her. Usborne's sticker books are awesome and reusable, we also have the Soccer version.

34. Our Making Face Magnets were a big hit on our drive as well. These are super simple and cost almost nothing if you have magnets on hand. Don't want to make them? Check out Melissa and Doug's Make-A-Face Sticker pads or other make-a-face stickers. Also a favorite and it's hilarious to see where your toddler/preschooler puts the magnets/stickers.

35. Fill a bag with baby toys and keep it in the front seat with you. As your baby throws or drops toys, hand him a new one. When the bag is empty, it's time for a pit stop. Refill the bag and start over! This worked well for Baby Blue for most of the drive.

36. File folder games. We used Confessions of a Homeschooler's Paint Brush matching printables and our folder fit snugly in our 3-ring binder.

37. Mustache Match game or other magnetic match games or puzzles. Again, magnetizing the games makes them easy to play without dropping pieces in hard to reach spots in the car.

38. Empty notebooks or coloring books for coloring, writing or drawing.

39. Pipe cleaner creations. These bendable craft supplies can be used to make just about anything, including houses, glasses and people. from Let Kids Create

40. Clothes pin activities. I made Sweet P a clothes pin/paint chip color matching game, but there are several other clothes pin activities like this clothes pin number match from Confessions of a Homeschooler.

41. I Spy or sensory bottles or bags. A great activity for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. Make your own for simple fun for your kiddos.

Organization
42. Put items you need for pit stops in a separate bag (diapers, wipes, diaper pad, wallet, etc). from Dirt and Boogers

43. Use a simple organizer for things you need easy access to while driving: wipes, sippy cup, activity binder, snacks, etc. from Creative Connections for Kids

Pit Stops
44. If you have a potty-training or recently potty-trained child, bring along a portable potty on a road trip just in case. You never know when a fear of public potties, automatic flushers or dirty bathrooms will arise.

45. Bring post-its or stickers for automatic flushers. Stick the post-it over the sensor to keep the toilet from flushing while little ones take care of business. Forgot the stickers? Put a wet piece of toilet paper over the sensor.

46. Pack a lunch and stop at a playground or park you've scouted ahead of time.

47. If you're traveling through lunch and dinner, stop at a nice restaurant (not McDonald's) for one of the meals. Call ahead of time to place your order so the food is ready when you get there. A tasty meal without the long wait. Brilliant idea from my friend Beth.

Don't Forget
48. Blankets and pillows. These are great in the car, in hotels and while bunking with family or friends. And if you're like my child, you won't sleep well without blankie.

49. An extra change of clothes and underwear for EVERY family member in a carry-on or easily accessible bag because you NEVER know.

50. To relax. Road tripping or flying with kids doesn't have to be stressful. Remember to have fun, play games and sing along!



For more travel tips, activities and ideas visit my Travel Tips/Ideas Pinterest Board.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Muffin Tin Monday: Letter P

Happy Memorial Day! 

Last week we learned about letter P so we had a letter P muffin tin on Saturday night! She was SUPER excited about this because we rarely have pretzels around and popcorn is a big treat at our house!

From top left: Pretzels, Pickle juice Popsicle (exactly what you think it is!), Pineapple, air-popped Popcorn, Parsley (from the garden-she LOVES it!), Snow Peas (also from the garden), Peanut butter

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Flag Craft

This craft can be done for any patriotic holiday (July 4th, Flag Day, etc.), but I set it up for Sweet P to do for Memorial Day.

We talked a little about Memorial Day and I explained that it was a day to remember those who fought in the military to protect the USA. She kept asking me when it was so I'm not sure what she's expecting on Monday!
dancing around with our flag

We live very close to a cemetery and the community places American flags on many of the graves on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. It is an awesome sight to see. We watched people place the flags on the graves on Saturday morning and I sang the Star Spangled Banner at the top of my lungs (Baby Blue was the only one impressed).

Here is the flag craft Sweet P made:

The Craft: American Flag

What you need:

  • Blue cardstock
  • Red and white construction paper
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Star hole punch (or regular hole punch)
Cut strips out of the red and white construction paper for the stripes. Leave a small space of blue fro the blue portion of the flag. Hole punch stars out of white construction paper. Glue all pieces to resemble the American flag. 

I cut out the strips for Sweet P and explained that some were shorter than others while showing her our flag. After showing her the flag she started with the longer strips and began gluing them to the blue cardstock. 
We talked about patterning and I'd ask "Which color comes next?" and she'd say "Red!" or "White!" She counted the long stripes and short stripes while she was gluing and then counted all 13 when she was finished.

She hole punched the stars out of white construction paper and then glued them to the blue portion (she obviously didn't do 50). 
love that look of determination!

When she was finished we compared it to our flag and then she wanted to hang it up! 

Did you do any activities to celebrate Memorial Day?

Friday, May 25, 2012

{Fresh Produce} Clothing Review


Fresh Produce is a mom-owned and run company that offers comfortable, easy-to-wear clothing and decorative scarves. The vibrant colors of the clothing are inspired by the coast, and the special dye process creates trademark colors unique to the garment. This means each item of clothing is one of a kind! One of my favorite things about the company is that the majority of the products are made in the U.S.A.
I received the Standing Ovation Cardigan in truffle and was a bit nervous about the length when I opened the package and held it up. But let me just say that I love the length! I can wrap myself up in the cardigan when it's chilly (almost like a blanket!) and tuck the sides in so it resembles a wrap around shirt. It's also large enough to wrap around both Baby Blue and me on cooler mornings when I have him in the baby carrier!
The cardigan is 100% linen jersey and super duper soft. Because it's been so hot I was worried I wouldn't get much use out of it, but it's so light weight that it's perfect for chilly mornings and evenings. It's also easy to pack in the diaper bag in case it's cool in a store or restaurant. I think I'll also take it along when we go to the pool to use as a cover-up after we swim.
The drape of the fabric makes is casual enough for jeans, but dressy enough for a dress or skirt. The solid color also looks great paired with a solid or patterned shirt underneath. I haven't tried it yet, but I also think belting the cardigan would create a completely different look!

Although the price range of Fresh Produce clothing is a bit higher than I usually spend on clothing for myself, the items are made of quality material and (I'll mention again) made in the U.S.A. The Standing Ovation Cardigan is priced at $74 US dollars and is versatile enough to be worn most, if not every day of the week! I love the tagline on the tag of the cardigan as well. One side read: "live life. enjoy color." And the other side says "smile, it's contagious."

Be sure to check the sizing chart before ordering. I ordered a M/L in the cardigan because I thought I'd need a bigger size since I'm tall, however, I think the S/M would have fit a bit closer to the body.

Fresh Produce carries items perfect for everyday, vacation clothing and resort wear. The women's cardigans are great for layering for any time of year, but I also love their line of dresses! The products are sold in many beach locations, but the company also ships within the U.S. and to 200 other countries.

***FTC Disclosure: I received this product free of charge from Fresh Produce Clothing in order to conduct an honest review. I was not compensated in any other manner to review this product. The thoughts and opinions in this post are my own and may differ from other users of this product. Photos and images in this post are owned by me or provided by Fresh Produce Clothing.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

{Weekly Kids' Co-Op} Link Up & DIY Light Table

In lieu of features and in honor of my 600th post!!!, this week I'm posting about our DIY light table. It's something we've been meaning to do for a LONG time and finally got around to it.

The Farmer and his helpers

Like others I've seen we started with Christmas lights, realized they had lead in them and went back to the drawing board.

We decided on touch lights and I bought a few, but we ended up using some we already had (that I didn't remember we had).

We used a blue tub and I really like the effect it has. It almost looks like pool water, which I think is pretty neat!

The Farmer lined the lid with foil and the top with wax paper to make it brighter, but we still think it needs a few more touch lights.

This project cost us $0 because we already had everything! Ok, except the $3 dollars I spent on cheap batteries at the $ Tree.


Once we had it, we had to wait until it was dark enough to use it because believe it or not every room in our house has a window (and we don't have walk-in closets...much to my dismay). We set it up in the basement since that gets dark fastest.

I found glow in the dark animals at $ Tree and Gammie has these super cool glass rocks at her house (in the craft closet unused) so I took them home when we there last.

After simply moving the animals and rocks around, we played a matching game. I played, too and even tried to trip her up by putting an animal on the wrong color, but she's too smart for that (and she switched it for me when she was checking my work).

She really liked putting the animals under the rocks and then started going to find more things to put on the light table. We are really excited to do this again!


More DIY Light Tables

The Weekly Kid's Co-op

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

{Sweet P's} Monster Birthday Party

A few weeks ago we celebrated Sweet P's 3rd birthday! How is she 3? I mean, seriously? I feel like she was born yesterday.
I wasn't sure what to do for her 3rd birthday and then I had a genius idea. Why not ask her? We were at Target and I was trying to explain what a "birthday theme" meant when she said, "How about monsters?" Monsters? Okay! So away we went with a girly monster theme.

Thanks to Auntie Rosita we had some awesome invites, favor tags, cupcake toppers, banner, birthday hat and monster mouths. Good thing we have her because monster stuff is hard to find! I finally found some monster stickers at Wal-Mart 2 nights before the party!

The party was a hit and Sweet P had an awesome time. Her main concern? Cupcakes! We kept telling her she had to wait until the guest arrived...her first statement when they got there? "It's time for cupcakes!" Forget presents. That girl was all about the sugar.

But enough chatter, here's what we did:
NOTE: You're about to witness just how much Auntie Rosita loves Sweet P.

Invites by Auntie Rosita:
Calling All Monsters!
It's a Monster Mash Birthday Bash!
Our little monster is turning 3!

Birthday Banner made and assembled by Auntie Rosita:

Sweet P's Party Hat by Auntie Rosita:

Party favors: Make a Monster kit with homemade playdough, googly eyes and pipe cleaners; monster stickers from Wal-Mart and monster mouths (courtesy of Auntie Rosita). Tags said "Eye hope you had fun!"

Cupcakes: Trader Joe's yellow cake mix and white frosting mix, toppers by Auntie Rosita

Food: fruit, peanut butter filled pretzels, veggie straws, crackers and hummus (from Trader Joe's)

Centerpieces: galvanized buckets from Target's 1Spot, shredded paper filling, monster mouths, googly eyes and puzzle pieces from a wooden monster puzzle (also from Target's 1Spot...not sure when).

Pin the Eye on the Monster: Auntie Rosita created the monster and we had it printed at Costco. Eyes were created using a Cricut and large circle punch.

Monster mouths: Love that we got a pic of all the kiddos and even the mamas joined the fun!



For your own custom birthday designs pop on over and visit RositaDesigns.
For more birthday ideas, check out last year's Owl Birthday Extravaganza.
Special thanks to Auntie Rosita for letting me use some of her post's pictures!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Make A Monster Playdough Party Favors

Although these crayon rolls were my first choice in party favors for Sweet P's birthday party, the Make A Monster Playdough Favors were a big hit. If you read that post you'll remember that I asked Sweet P which she'd rather have and she said playdough so I figured she knew her guests better than me!

We had one friend send us a photo via phone of their monsters and another text about the fun her kids had with the playdough, so I'm glad we went that route! 

I set out to find a playdough recipe and found an awesome stove top version at The Mommies Made Me Do It. I made 4 batches/colors in less than an hour and it was super simple! Please visit The Mommies Made Me Do It for the recipe.

After searching high and low for Neon food coloring (it was like a week after Easter!), I finally found the LAST box at a Wal-Mart in Plano, TX. (All of our birthday preparations were done while visiting Gammie in Texas!)

I also searched EVERYWHERE for monster stickers! Apparently monsters are not hot right now. Again, Wal-Mart came to the rescue (2 nights before the party!). 

Auntie Rosita created and printed our favor tags "Eye hope you had fun!" to go with the monster theme. 

Here's what went in the favor bags:
  • 3 colors of playdough (hot pink, turquoise, lime green)
  • googly eyes (small and large)
  • pipe cleaners in 3 colors
  • monster stickers 

Some of Sweet P's creations from leftover favors

Read about the rest of Sweet P's Monster Party Here!

For more playdough party favor ideas visit Growing a Jeweled Rose for a Make Your Own Elmo favor and Come Together Kids for Magical Playdoh mix!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Easy White Beans & Greens Recipe

Looking for an easy recipe for dinner tonight? Here it is! Quick, simple and healthy for the whole family.

NOTE: We don't use canned beans so dry beans do take preparation that will make cook time longer.

The Recipe: Easy White Beans & Greens
What you need:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic

1/2 marinated or fresh red bell pepper, chopped
2-3 c fresh spinach, chopped
3 1/2 c of cooked white beans OR 2 15 oz. cans of white beans
1/2 vegetable bouillon cube
1 c of boiling water
1/2 c water
1/4 c Trader Joe's shaved Parmesan, Romano and Asiago cheese (or shredded parm)

Dissolve bouillon cube in 1 cup boiling water and set aside. Heat oil on medium heat in a large skillet. Add minced garlic, cook for 2 minutes, then add red bell pepper. Saute for 2 minutes. Pour in beans, spinach, vegetable bouillon and 1/2 c water. Bring water to a boil and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Serve in bowls and to with shaved Parmesan, Romano and Asiago cheese.

These beans are also great leftover in a burrito!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Build-Your-Own Nest Activity


As I said in our Muffin Tin Monday post, last week we learned about letter N and talked a lot about nests. I was trying to think of a way to make a nest when I came up with the idea to create one out of things we found outside. I thought we might glue the pieces on a piece of paper, but then realized if it looked like a real nest it'd be a whole lot more fun!

I found a small box, told Sweet P what we were going to do with it and we set out to collect supplies in the backyard. Sweet P wasn't too interested in collecting items (she was too busy eating parsley and sage flowers from the garden) so I led her around the yard asking "Do you think we need this for our nest?" Some items made it into the nest while others were deemed unworthy for nest building. We ended up with a lot of grass, yellow flowers (from weeds), a few sticks and some leaves.
It was close to naptime when we finished collecting supplies so we put nest building off until she woke up. Sadly, the yellow flowers closed!

Sweet P lined the box with glue, but I realized we didn't really need glue since it was a box and the stuff would have sat neatly inside. Oh well. She loved squeezing the glue into the box and spreading it around with her finger.
After it was finished she asked me if we had any birds for it. We did, but they were in the Easter decorations so she waited patiently while I dug through our holiday stuff to find 2 tiny Easter eggs and 2 fluffy birds. I was excited (and so was she) to find that the birds fit perfectly into the eggs. I put them in before I came back to the table so she could "hatch" them.
Sweet P named them Anna and Chickadee and in true Sweet P fashion, they are both girls.

She also decided we needed to feed the birds and since we just so happened to be having spaghetti we had the perfect worms for them! She fed them and I threw out the spaghetti when she went to bed. In the morning, she asked me where the worms went and I said, "They ate them," but Sweet P's too smart for that. She was a little annoyed that I threw them away until I explained that spaghetti gets hard when you leave it out.
She loves to check on her little birds (and often asks to stall when I ask her to do something!). Have you ever made a nest? Please share yours in the comment section!