Children’s Christmas Books About Giving, NOT Getting

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While Thanksgiving is fast approaching, it’s not the only holiday on the horizon.  Beyond that, is Christmas. And while Thanksgiving is considered a time to give thanks, Christmas — for us — is a time to focus on the joy of giving.  Yes, for kids, it’s about getting.  Making lists for Santa.  Asking for presents.  But for our boys, we try to shift their focus to the underlying theme — the joy of giving (not getting).

So, with that in mind, I’ve created a list for you….

10 Children's Christmas Books about giving, not getting. A book list of picture books for kids.

Christmas Books About Giving, NOT Getting

Here are some Christmas books about giving, not getting.  I’ve included affiliate links to Amazon, in case you’d like to buy them for the little ones in your lives.  I’ll include a short synopsis of each story, in case you find that helpful… and a sentence or two about why this book intrigued me.

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving

Story Synopsis: As the title states, Brother and Sister learn about the joy of giving!  At first, the bear cubs are like any other kids anticipating Christmas — they are excited about the getting aspect.  But as they go through the festivities, and have bought their presents (saving as much of their money for themselves as they can) — they end up having a change of heart.  After they hear the Christmas Even pageant story, Brother and Sister end up giving their “saved” money to the poor.

Betsy’s Thoughts: My kids love everything Berenstain Bears, so this one was a no brainer for me.  Brother and Sister are relatable characters for young kids, and my boys have enjoyed learning about other holidays with books in the series (like the Valentine’s Day Blessing activity we did).

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving. By Jan + Mike Berenstain

The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving

Story Synopsis: A retelling of the story of St. Nicholas, set in modern times.  This story portraits Nicholas as a young bog who wants to help the poor.  He spends his life secretly helping poor people, giving gifts on Christmas Eve to remind others of the greatest gift of Christmas.

Betsy’s Thoughts: I loved the illustrations in this book, and how the story is set in modern times — it’s a fun retelling of the classic legend.  The last pages of the book share traditions in other countries about Father Christmas.

The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving By Dandi Daley Mackall

Howard B. Wigglebottom and the Power of Giving: A Christmas Story

Story Synopsis: A selfish little bunny ends up lost in the woods with just his toys.  while wandering, some birds mistake him for Santa — who they hope can find them a place to live.  Ultimately Howard learns that having things isn’t really that important, compared to being around loved ones.  Howard gives his toys away to the forest birds.

Betsy’s Thoughts: This story sounds great for little ones, because the emotions are ones they can relate to easily.  The bunny’s materialism (my toys” ) ultimately gives way to gratefulness and giving.  And, there’s a song too!

Howard B. Wigglebottom and the Power of Giving: A Christmas Story. By Howard Binkow

The Poky Little Puppy’s First Christmas

Story Synopsis: While the family goes out to get the Christmas tree, the poky little puppy wanders off and makes friends with a skunk.  On Christmas morning, he learns that his friend is homeless — and the poky little puppy gives up his first Christmas present to make sure his friend has a home.

Betsy’s Thoughts: My boys love this book. It helps reinforce the idea of looking out for others, and caring about the wellbeing of others more than about the stuff you have.

The Poky Little Puppy's First Christmas (Little Golden Book)

The Smallest Gift of Christmas

Story Synopsis: Roland selfishly thinks that bigger is better.  So when he gets a very small Christmas present he wishes for something bigger, bigger, and bigger.  In the end, Roland learns that it isn’t really the size of a present that matters — a skyscraper-sized gift can’t compare to the greatest gift of all — family.

Betsy’s Thoughts: Kids tend to think that bigger is better (a penny has to be worth more because it’s bigger than a dime, right? Kid logic.).  I like how this book goes to extremes of searching for a suitably bigger present, with the ultimate discovery that finding that present isn’t as valuable as spending time with family.

The Smallest Gift of Christmas. By Peter H. Reynolds

Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving

Story Synopsis: After Junior wonders what Santa has to do with the meaning of Christmas (i.e. the birth of Jesus), Bob the Tomato tells the story of St. Nicholas to the veggies.

Betsy’s Thoughts: My kids love VeggieTales, so this Christmas story about giving seemed like a sure winner.  And, I like that it has a music CD. Because, if you’re going to do VeggieTales, it has be be set to music, right?

Saint Nicholas (VeggieTales): A Story of Joyful Giving. By VeggieTales

The Wish Tree

Story Synopsis: A boy journeys through a winter forest, looking for a wish tree.  He meets animals along the way, and helps them.  Ultimately, he finds his wishing tree and ties his wish to the branch.

Betsy’s Thoughts: I like the illustrations in this book, and also that it’s not specifically a Christmas story.  The boy, even though he wants to have his own wish come true, takes time away from his journey to help others along the way.  I love stories that reinforce the importance of giving!

The Wish Tree. By Kyo Maclear

Gifts of the Heart

Story Synopsis: While on the way to see their grandkids for Christmas, Grandma and Grandpa lose all their presents in a big storm.  The grandparents, along with their grandchildren, search all over Mother Goose Land to find them.  Ultimately, they discover the best gifts of all — gifts of the heart.

Betsy’s Thoughts: I really liked the title of this story.  Because what I want my kids to focus on during Christmas is on giving.  And there is nothing better than giving out of love and generosity.

Gifts of the Heart. By Karen Boes Oman

The Mouse in the Manger

Story Synopsis: Oscar the mouse runs away from home to look for a bed with more hay.  He finds himself in the stable where Mary and Joseph have stopped.  He tries to make friends with the animals, but only succeeds in getting them to give him some hay for his bed.  When he finally has enough hay for the perfect bed, Oscar is lonely.  Mary befriends him, and helps him see the true meaning of friendship.  And in the end, Oscar gives up his hay so that the newborn baby Jesus can have a bed.  He returns home that night, with a deeper understanding and appreciation for what it means to be a friend, and to give up that which matters most to you.

Betsy’s Thoughts: This is my all time favorite Christmas story.  I remember it from when I was little, and love the mouse’s viewpoint …and how he decides to selflessly give away that one thing which he wanted most.

The Mouse in the Manger. by Rev. Gennaro L. Gentile

Mr. Getaway and the Christmas Elves

Story Synopsis: Mr. Getaway takes his class on a field trip to see Santa’s workshop.  The kids learn that work is good, and get to see the elves happily working on toys they will be giving away.

Betsy’s Thoughts: Since my kindergartner is excited about anything “field trip” related, I figured this book would be a hit. I like that it focuses on how the elves selflessly work on gifts to send to children via Santa.

Mr. Getaway and the Christmas Elves. By Sally Huss.

Title

Story Synopsis: A

Betsy’s Thoughts: I l


Winter + Holiday Children's Story Books - a book list series hosted by the Jenny EvolutionThis post is part of the Winter and Holiday book series being hosted by The Jenny Evolution!

Please check out the other book lists being shared…

There are book lists about Christmas Eve, the Nutcracker, the Nativity, Christmas tree books, books about reindeer, books about snow, Christmas coloring books, Christmas classics, books that celebrate 0winter holidays around the world, animals in the snow, Christmas songs, Christmas miracles, rhyming Christmas books, and more.

Make a Jack-O-Lantern Stamp from an Apple {Plus Two Halloween Crafts}

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Make a Jack-O-Lantern Stamp from an Apple ...plus Two Halloween Crafts!

It’s always fun to get ready for Halloween. Whether you’re pumpkin-carving, or maybe making a costume to wear when trick-or-treating, Halloween gives us the chance to be creative (like we did with this Jack-O-Lantern stamp craft!).

Did you know that carving pumpkins didn’t become popular until the celebration of Halloween was brought to North America? Originally in Ireland, people carved lanterns out of turnips. Well, in America, of course, pumpkins were very easy to come by (not to mention easier to carve!), so the tradition evolved to include pumpkin carving.

You might want to check out my post, 6 Tips for Helping Kids Carve Pumpkins; or learn how to Create Your Own Pumpkin Stencil from Better Homes and Gardens.

6 Tips for Helping Kids Carve Pumpkins - Betsy's Photography - BPhotoArt.com

Anyways, my boys were pretty excited for fall this year.  Our neighbors had a pumpkin patch, and gave us pumpkins… so we have a very well decorated front porch.  The leaves are coming down in droves, and there have been multiple requests for a leaf pile.  And, of course, reminders that we need to carve pumpkins.  Well, I wasn’t quite ready to carve pumpkins (we went overboard last year), but wanted to give the boys a chance to do something fun for Halloween.

So, we made Halloween cards! Well, they did.  And I made a garland.

You probably have most of the supplies on hand for this craft, but here are some links in case (#afflinks)

Supplies:

How to Make a Jack-o-Lantern Stamp From an Apple

While most of this craft is kid-friendly, the first step is going to depend on how old your child is, and how much you trust them to use a knife safely.  So, most likely, you, the adult, will be doing this first step… after that, let the kids loose!

The kids were excited to make jack-o-lantern stamps...
The kids were excited to make jack-o-lantern stamps…

 

Cut the apple in half.  Then carve out a chunk for the smile, and cut out two triangles for the eyes.  If you want to get fancy and cut out teeth too, go for it.  In my book, simpler is easier!

I cut the apple in half, and carved out a face in each side -- one for each of my boys.
I cut the apple in half, and carved out a face in each side — one for each of my boys.
Toby wanted to show off his jack-o-lantern apple stamp.
Toby wanted to show off his jack-o-lantern apple stamp.

Use the Jack-O-Lantern Stamp to Make a Halloween Card

Next, put some paint out for the kids. I took a kitchen plate, covered it in a plastic grocery bag, and then put the pumpkin orange paint on top.  This made for easy clean up, and allowed the kids to smear their apple stamps around to get full coverage.

Then, let them stamp to their heart’s content on the black construction paper with their thoroughly inked stamps.  My kindergardener was able to do this all by himself, while my toddler needed help placing the stamp down so the paint didn’t smear.  I didn’t think of this until after we were done with the project, but you could take a corn holder (for corn on the cob) and stick it in the skin side of the apple, creating a handle.

Oh well… hindsight is 20/20.

After the boys gleefully covered their paper cards with pumpkin stamps, I got out the white crayons.  My toddler was uninterested in crayons, and moved onto another activity, but my kindergardener sounded out and wrote an entire greeting on his Halloween card.  It’s so cute when kids start to learn to write… I love the phonetic spelling stage 🙂 🙂 …it’s so adorable!  But, I admit, it’s sometimes hard to read.  So, I did write a transcription of the message and tape it onto the card before we delivered it.

This craft took about 5 minutes for me to think up and prepare for the boys… and it occupied them for maybe a half hour.  Your mileage may vary, depending on your child’s interest and age.

Once you coat it with paint, the jack-o-lantern stamp looks a lot less like an apple, and more like a pumpkin.
Once you coat it with paint, the jack-o-lantern stamp looks a lot less like an apple, and more like a pumpkin.
Both boys diligently stamped away on their black construction paper to create lovely Halloween cards.
Both boys diligently stamped away on their black construction paper to create lovely Halloween cards.
Toby was definitely old enough to handle this craft on his own.
Toby was definitely old enough to handle this craft on his own.
The paint transferred better when we pushed really hard and went slower rather than faster.
The paint transferred better when we pushed really hard and went slower rather than faster.

 

Toby decided to personalize his Halloween card further by writing "Happy Halloween" ...among other things.
Toby decided to personalize his Halloween card further by writing “Happy Halloween” …among other things.
The apple stamps worked pretty well, I'd say. This crafting session was a success!
The apple stamps worked pretty well, I’d say. This crafting session was a success!

Use the Jack-O-Lantern Stamp Make a Halloween Garland

After the boys were done, I cut up some black construction paper into triangles and stamped them with the jack-o-lantern stamp.

Once the paint was dry, I punched holes in the corners and then had my older boy thread yarn through the holes so we could hang it up.

Voila!  Fun and easy decorations for my front door!

Mom's project while the boys made cards? cutting triangles from the construction paper so I could make a fun jack-o-lantern garland.
Mom’s project while the boys made cards? cutting triangles from the construction paper so I could make a fun jack-o-lantern garland.
I punched holes in the triangles and threaded floss through to string them together.
I punched holes in the triangles and threaded floss through to string them together.
We hung it over the sliding glass door, upon my boys' request.
We hung it over the sliding glass door, upon my boys’ request.
The boys decided it looked very spooky!
The boys decided it looked very spooky!

Use Your Imagination!

I am sure there are a million other ways you could use this cute jack-o-lantern stamp…

Do you have any other ideas for an extension activity based on this project?  Think of something else you could stamp with an apple Jack-o-lantern stamp?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Our Experience With Online Piano Lessons

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bphotoart-busy-kids-piano-lessons-2I love music. And my kids do too. But that’s not news to you, since I’ve blogged about raising kids who love music in the past, as well as why you shouldn’t give up piano.   Now, my boys haven’t really had formal lessons, as they haven’t been old enough.  But this summer, Toby, now in kindergarten, asked if he could take piano lessons.

Perfect timing!

So, I went digging through my music cabinet to see what books might be suitable for a younger piano student. I have quite a wide span of material, not surprisingly (my grandmother was an organist and a piano teacher, and I took piano lessons in grades K-12). When I inherited my grandmother’s upright piano, my mom gave me even more piano lesson books.

I found some books by Faber and Faber that I thought would be helpful (you can find lots of Faber and Faber piano books on Amazon #afflink). But I wondered if there was something else out there for the beginning pianist.  Something more modern and interactive.

busy-kids-do-piano

That’s when I discovered Busy Kids Do Piano (#afflink). When I saw this review opportunity grace my inbox, I was really excited! Busy Kids Do Piano is a complete system that includes online lesson videos and printable worksheets. Like any quality program, it’s not free.  The Busy Kids Do Piano course is $49.95, which works out to a more than reasonable fee of $2.50/lesson.

Let me digress for just a moment. You may know that learning music isn’t just about learning to play the notes. It’s also about understanding rhythm. So when you research a learning method, it’s important to evaluate how well it teaches rhythm, note length, and other basic concepts… because these are the building blocks you need to make a strong foundation for later understanding of music.

So, for me, it was important to ask myself, does Busy Moms Do Piano teach these concepts?

The answer is yes.

For the first lesson, she doesn’t even have kids use the piano — because they are learning about rhythm. Toby had fun choosing a percussion instrument from our musical instrument box — he selected two, actually.

With a tambourine and a rhythm stick in hand, Toby listened intently as he learned about the different notes, what they looked like, and how long their counts are. He practiced tapping along for the different notes, and I made sure he understood the concept of “holding” the note.

After playing the video through a couple times so that Toby could play along as instructed, he was ready to work on his worksheet.

I’m not one to force too much learning in one sitting, but when my kids are interested in a concept, I’m all for continuing!

So I pulled out the first worksheet and Toby worked his way through it. He learned how to draw a whole note, a half note, and a quarter note. We played the rhythm that was written on the page together.

Toby had fun completing the printable worksheets!
Toby had fun completing the printable worksheets!

Over the next days, Toby continued to be excited about piano, and repeatedly asked me when he could do another piano lesson.  Specifically, “the one with the video.”  Score!  I love it when my kids stay interested in something.

Looking back at our experience, I would say my child enjoyed Busy Kids Do Piano, and I did too.  The materials were clear and I was able to walk Toby through the activities without any trouble.  While I would have been comfortable teaching a more traditional lesson to my child, I think Busy Kids Do Piano is a great program for anyone who wants to familiarize their children with piano.  It’s an easy way to try out piano lessons, with the benefits of being able to go at your own pace, and being able to do the lessons anytime, anywhere.  And, as I mentioned, the fee for the material is more than economical when you consider a typical in-person music lesson might cost more like $30 for a half hour.

Can the Busy Kids Do Piano (#afflink) method replace a traditional teacher?  I think that’s hard to say…it depends on what you’re looking for, honestly.  For beginning musicians, or children you want to acclimate to music?  Sure.  For more advanced students?  Nope.  But it’s definitely a starting point for entry into the wonderful world of music!   I grew up taking music lessons, and a number of my relatives are musicians.  I think music lessons with a live teacher play an important role in shaping the musical experiences of children.  The instant feedback, the communication — you just don’t get that with a video lesson.  But these lessons are a good way to set the stage for learning music in the more traditional way, later on.

bphotoart-busy-kids-piano-lessons

Note: I received this product free in exchange for an honest evaluation and review.  The opinions and thoughts expressed are 100% my own.

5 Tips That Will Save Your Sanity

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five tips that will save your sanity - betsy's photography - bphotoart.comWhile our goal may be to keep life stress-free, you know as well as I do that that just doesn’t happen. Somehow, things always manage to complicate life, and sometimes we just want to throw in the towel.

My own search for sanity hasn’t been completely successful, but then again, I doubt it ever will be. Instead of trying to eliminate stress, I’ve found that it’s better to find activities that are relaxing — find a way to relieve stress when it comes into my busy life.  Read on for Five Tips that will Save Your Sanity!

Breathe.

Have you noticed that when you take short, quick, breaths, your body gets more tense? Well, the opposite is true too. When you’re feeling stressed, managing your breathing is an easy and effective way to relax your body and mind.

Instead of just breathing from your chest, take deeper breaths — your stomach should expand as you use your diaphragm to fill your lungs completely. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale…

Breathing slowly and deliberately will make your body relax and will clear your mind, allowing you to regain your sanity!

Exercise.

This is one of the best ways to relieve stress, anger, or frustration! By exercising, you can relieve pent-up energy and direct it towards something more beneficial (we all know it’s not good to internalize things, right?).

Plus, you’ll feel better and have more energy to do the things you love!

Of course, exercise also has the added benefit of being good for your health and maintaining weight — but think of those as “bonuses” :).

Be Flexible.

Some of the most common sources of stress could be avoided if we are willing to compromise.

Of course, there’s a time and a place to stand your ground, but sometimes there is room to give. A little flexibility can go a long way towards maintaining sanity.

Schedule “You” Time.

Yes, it’s important to help others, but you also need to help yourself. By dedicating time to your needs, you’ll be more refreshed and better prepared when it comes time to help others.

Try to spend some time each day doing something for you — it could be a getting a manicure, reading a book, or even painting a picture.

Spend some time doing what you love so that you will be able to enjoy doing things for others.

Get Enough Sleep.

Not surprisingly, sleep is important. If you’re like me, when you get too little sleep, things seem to be more frustrating and exasperating. In turn, this makes life more stressful.

While I’m not saying you need to go to bed when the kids do, it probably will make life a little less stressful if you make an effort to get to bed by your bedtime. Well, what if it’s just one of those days? Try getting a nap in, and if that doesn’t help, you can revert to your normal pick-me-up (e.g. coffee, tea, or chocolate) for the day.

So, there you have it! Five easy tips for maintaining your sanity and keeping your life as stress-free as possible! Of course, these are just suggestions; I’m sure you can think of additional activities and methods to reduce stress and keep calm. Just remember, a healthy lifestyle starts with a healthy mind. It is worth your time to unwind and relax — as you begin to focus on saving your sanity, chances are, you just might find yourself starting each day with more energy and excitement!

What Kind of Camera Should You Get?

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What Kind of Camera Should You Get? Moms weigh in on their go-to favorite camerasThe inevitable question that is asked of me, as a photographer, is this:

“I’m looking at getting a new camera, what kind should I get?”

I have to break it to you.

There is no simple answer.

Sure, I could tell you to go for the biggest and the best.  Or the most expensive.  But what good will that really do you?

Instead, my usual reply is this:

What do you want to use it for?

Then, depending on how the conversation goes, I might ask what type of bag you want to carry around if you plan to have your camera on hand always.  Do you have a purse that can fit the kitchen sink?  Yes? Well, then that entry-level DSLR might not be a bad idea.

But, on the other hand, if you’re like me, and have a small purse, or sometimes no purse at all, then you might want to think in terms of compact cameras.  The quality on today’s cameras is really phenomenal, so it depends, again, on what you’re going to use it for.

What I like about my “everyday camera” is that I can fit it in my pocket.  And I can use it with one hand.  Bonus points because it takes videos.

Actually, the HD video feature was a selling point for me.  For my personal use, I wanted a camera that could document our everyday moments. One that could record my boys as they took their first steps. A camera that would be on hand and easy to operate while I maneuvered around small children.

I didn’t want something I needed to think about. Or a camera with a lot of parts.

Changing lenses?  Not something I wanted to deal with.

But then again, I’m a professional photographer. I do this day in and day out.  I need to draw the line, find a way to experience my life rather than concentrate all my energy on documenting it.  So the compact camera was my choice.  I am still happy with my five year old Canon G12 (#afflink – I’m using Amazon affiliate links in this entire post, thanks for your support!).

When you buy a camera, make sure you’re confident in the brand.  In the five years since I purchased my G12, I’ve had to send it in for repairs twice… due to inadvertent camera drops.  Fortunately, I know Canon stands behind their product, and that the repairs they do are top notch.  Just something to consider if you look into any off brand cameras.

So, what should you do if your 10 year old camera is dying?  Have you been told it’s better to buy a new one than to repair?  Are you hoping to find recommendations for a good replacement?  What to do…

Think about what you want.

Do you want small size, portability? Do you want easy to use, easy to download, etc?  It all comes down to personal preference.

Now, let’s hear from some other people about their favorite camera.  These all happen to be moms who use their cameras on a regular basis.  Their opinions vary as much as their cameras do, but each has figured out what works best for them.

Now, as you read through these thoughts below, consider which opinions echo your own sentiments.  It may just help you get a better idea of what camera you should get.

 


Canon DSLR Bundle – Canon EOS Rebel T5 with 2 lenses #afflink
It’s easy to use, takes great pics and came with 2 lenses. It can be cumbersome to take to school events where there’s not much room in the seating area but I love it.

Peta Groth, www.greatgoogamoogas.com


iPhone + DSLR – iPhone or Nikon D3200 with 2 lenses

IPhone (does that count?) I have a lovely Nikon DSLR that takes great pictures, but my phone fits in my pocket and is always on hand. I make a point to pull out the Nikon for fun sometimes and for special trips and events, but when capturing our everyday moments I almost always use the IPhone.

Erin Buhr, www.bambinitravel.com


Canon DSLR – Canon EOS 70D kit

Canon 70D – being able to shoot in manual mode to get quality pictures is invaluable to me. I would rather carry around a nice camera bag that looks like a purse with my DSLR in it than have mediocre photos of the memories I care about. Getting used to carrying a bigger camera was pretty easy too and I am much happier with the results even though I have an awesome camera on my phone.

Kara Carrero ALLterNATIVElearning.com


 

Olympus Tough Waterproof Camera

These days my go to camera is an Olympus Tough point and shoot. Since I’m in my 40s, I cut my teeth on heavy SLR film cameras–I didn’t go digital until my first kid was 4, and I’ve had enough of carrying a giant bag for camera and baby gear. The Tough is water proof, dirt proof, drop proof and fits in my jean’s pocket. I have boys, I need to be able to keep up with them! Plus it takes blog worthy photos. (I have a Sony a100 DSLR if I feel like dragging it around.)

Denise Bertacchi, stlMotherhood.com


 

Nikon DSLR

I am always carrying around my Nikon DSLR. I hate it when I am stuck using my camera phone to capture a really great moment of my kids because the quality is not up to par. I purchased a new larger purse so my camera fits in it so I will always be prepared to snap away!

Katie Pinch www.alittlepinchofperfect.com


 

Canon Elf – Canon Powershot Elf 350

I have a simple canon elf that tucks into my purse that seems to have 9 lives. (it has been dropped, stepped on, splashed, and still works 7 years and 3 kids later!) It takes good photos and videos for it’s size and price. My kids use it often too! I also have a Canon Rebel EOS that has a much clearer image, but is bulkier, so I use a camera case when bringing it out and about. I love the clarity of the picture and couldn’t image life without it! The image is clear and I can change lenses but it doesn’t have video.

Amanda Boyarshinov www.theeducatorsspinonit.com


I hope you found this post helpful!  It’s always tough to decide on something like what camera you should get, so if this post has helped you at all, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

The Easy Way to Draw a Heart + A Photo Valentine Craft

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Last year in preschool, Toby’s teacher taught him (and me) a neat way to draw a heart.  It’s so ingenius that I had to share.  And since this trick about how to make a hear is so short and sweet, I thought I would also share an idea for making a photo Valentine’s Day card too.

But first, this trick for drawing a heart.

If your child is learning their letters, this method will be something they can do — Toby learned how to draw hearts this way at the age of three.

You need two letters to make the heart.  First you draw a big “V” — and then you put a little “m” on top of it. I’ve included a diagram below, that shows the heart with the “V” and the “m” not-quite-put-together, as well as the final heart.

bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft

Pretty simple, huh?

It’s amazing what kids gravitate towards.

So, now onto part two of this post.  The photo Valentine craft.

We usually have some holiday cards left over every year, so I let the kids turn them into photo crafts until we run out.  Last year we made photo valentines with pictures, and my toddler had fun, so I decided to make a photo Valentine’s Day card a little early so I could share the idea with you!

Toby was taking a rare nap when we created this card, so I had an 18 month old’s help putting on glue and decorating.  But hopefully this rendition will inspire you, in the very least!

bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft-5

As you can see, I cut out some heart shapes, and cut out the photo of our family in a heart shape as well.  With an older child, I would have drawn the heart outlines and handed over a pair of scissors.  Toby would’ve loved that.  But, Zack just enjoyed helping my hands open and close the scissors as I cut.  And he wanted to use the marker too, so I let him have free reign of the inside of the Valentine’s card.  We kept it pretty simple. “Happy Valentine’s Day” on the front of the card, with “love Zack” on the inside.

bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft-4 bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft-3

Then we digressed to other activities.  Zack found the paper I had gotten out, and a pen.  He had fun drawing on the paper, and wanted more hearts. So I drew him a few.

bphotoart-photo-valentine-craft-2

After tearing up some paper, grabbing the scissors, and exhausting his young attention span, we were done with our photo Valentine craft activity.  Zack is a little young to do more than help push the cut out objects onto the card, but he did really enjoy the portions of this activity where I let him help.

Do you make homemade Valentine’s Day cards?  Have you ever included photos in your Valentines?  What do you think about the “trick” for drawing a heart? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Thankfulness + Gratitude Journal

posted in: Parenting | 0

bphotoart-gratitude-thankfulness-journalSometimes it’s hard to stay positive. This life is full of heartbreak and troubles.  Something that has helped our family lately?  A gratitude journal.  Also known as a thankfulness journal.  I got the idea from a good friend who has gone through a lot.  She mentioned that this simple act of writing down five things a day that she is thankful for has helped her realize how much good there is in her life.

Starting a thankfulness journal is a step towards a change in perspective.  It helps you focus on the good.

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit

Being thankful, being grateful, about the things in your life …these small things can help cultivate a happy heart. Happiness is a choice, and the more you work on cultivating it, the more it permeates your life.

When I started my gratitude and thankfulness journal, my son, Toby, was really interested — and wanted his own thankfulness journal too.  So I found another notebook lying around the house and gave it to him.  He was thrilled.

Since Toby is just learning to read and write, his thankfulness journal looks a little different than mine.  I usually write the date for him (he’s started tracing it after I write it), and then he draws a picture on that page.  After that, we talk about his drawing, and depending on the complexity of the subject, I’ll write some notes about (porcupine and and obstacle course) it or have Toby write the words (i.e. race car, or airplane).  For him, it’s more of a focusing tool, a way to spend time drawing each day and thinking about what he is doing rather than just scribbling out a tornado (like he does sometimes with his school journal).

Some of Toby's drawings, including a bird on the left page and race car on the right page.
Some of Toby’s drawings, including a bird on the left page and race car on the right page.
Toby showing his drawing of a fishing boat on the left, and a playground in the rain on the right.
Toby showing his drawing of a fishing boat on the left, and a playground in the rain on the right.

My thankfulness journal is just words.  I end up using about a third of one page daily, by the time I write all five things I’m grateful and thankful for.  every item on my list is numbered, one through five, each day.  And I always start with “I am thankful” or “I am grateful” …just the simple act of writing those words hammers home what I am deciding to be happy about.

 

Some days, it's tough to find five "worthwhile" things to be thankful for. Other days, it is tough to stop at just five.
Some days, it’s tough to find five “worthwhile” things to be thankful for. Other days, it is tough to stop at just five.

The most consistent time for me to do my journal is right before bed, when the house is quiet and I have time to reflect on the day.  It helps me to find good, to see how I am blessed — even when I have a rough day.  Even if I can’t come up with something entirely original, I’ve never skimped on my daily list.

What have I listed?

It varies depending on the day.

Some days I’ve been thankful for the fact both boys took a nap, or that I got to take a nap myself.  Other days I’ve been grateful for miracles, both big and small.  Like a relative’s recovery from surgery complications, or that my son inexplicably found a precious earring that I had lost half a year earlier. I’ve focused on finding reasons to be thankful about my life — my husband, my boys, my pets, my home.

Toby with his thankfulness journal -- showing his drawing of a toy
Toby with his thankfulness journal — showing his drawing of a toy

There is so much in my life that I have — and all too often, I take it for granted.

This thankfulness and gratitude journal has been a way for me to change that. The best part of this method of journaling? It’s brief, succinct.  Anyone can find five minutes a day to write down five quick items.  Because in all honesty, it doesn’t take much longer than that.

Toby writing in his thankfulness journal.
Toby writing in his thankfulness journal.

And one thing I like about this journaling concept?  It focuses on the positive.  The only journals I previously knew about were ones where you chronicled daily life.  And what tends to come to the forefront?  The negative.  I don’t want to focus my life on the negative.  I don’t want to leave a written legacy that focuses on things in life that drag me down.  I want to focus on the positive. I want my written legacy to be inspiring and motivating.

And that’s why I keep this journal.  Because my days seem to go better when I make time for it.

Do you journal?  What do you write about?  Would you consider starting a thankfulness journal?  Would your kids do this with you?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Managing Toy Clutter in the Family Room

posted in: Parenting | 0

bphotoart-managing-toy-clutter-family-roomDespite the fact that we have an entire playroom on the main floor of our home, there is inevitably an exodus of toys from the playroom to the other areas of our house.  Most frequently, these toys congregate in the family room.

And while I love seeing the boys play with their toys and read books, it’s not so fun to navigate a toy minefield when making my way through the family room.

Before my most recent find, a combination bookshelf and toy bin, we’d been through several variations of toy organization for the family room.

We tried — and gave up — on insisting that all toys and books be put away in the play room.  It just wasn’t realistic.

We used two bins to hold a selection of toys, and another for books.  This worked for a little while, but the organization was lacking and Zack, being a baby, enjoyed dumping the bins.

We gave up for a while and piled toys into any mobile cart/basket toys that the boys could push around.  This was more of a “throwing in the towel” approach… it only got the clutter off the floor and didn’t make life easier for anyone.

What I like about our current solution?  It’s practical. It has multiple levels, and there is a top shelf that Zack (the baby) can’t reach, so Toby can have a little safe haven in the family room for his lego creations or other things that might get damaged by little fingers.  Plus, since there’s an enticing bin of toys within easy reach, Zack doesn’t tend to try for the other (previously enticing) items.

Refinishing this toy unit didn’t take long — I sanded and painted the entire thing while Toby was at preschool one day.  In fact, I had it in the house and the boys were putting toys away in it before my husband even realized I had refinished it!

Going forward, here are my rules for managing toy clutter in the family room:

  1. This bin is not a catch-all for toys that have been played with — we’ll still be putting dress up clothes in their bin, magnatiles in their container, etc.  But it’s nice to have a spot to store things that don’t have a set home.
  2. Books need to be put away when not being read.  Either on this bookshelf, or the playroom bookshelf. My one exception is library books.  Those live in our library book bag (which you see in the bottom left corner — it’s white canvas with red straps).
  3. When you’re done playing with something, put it away. Enough said.
  4. After dinner every night, it is time to clean up any toys that are still out. In the playroom, in the family room.  While I expect the kids to participate, I intend to help with this because sometimes it’s a big job!
  5. No toys on the couch.  Yes, this is a rule — because my boys decided it was fun to clean up the floor by piling all the toys on the couch on more than one occasion.
  6. Keep the toys on the rug.  Even if toys are being played with, we still need to have a way to get from one part of the house to another — there has to be a pathway.  This is important because we walk through our family room to get from the garage and kitchen to the bedrooms.
  7. No books on the floor.  This one is hard to follow for the boys, but I stick to it because I want to avoid any more ER visits.  (Toby got a hairline fracture in his leg by slipping on a book on our family room when he was three

Here are a few photos of the before, during, and after.

This brightly colored kids' toy unit was a great find, but I wasn't thrilled about the colors...
This brightly colored kids’ toy unit was a great find, but I wasn’t thrilled about the colors…
I had some cans of brown spray paint left over from another furniture makeover, so I lightly sanded the surface and gave it a single coating.
I had some cans of brown spray paint left over from another furniture makeover, so I lightly sanded the surface and gave it a single coating.
The finished product, at home in our family room. It blends in MUCH better and the kids have enjoyed using it.
The finished product, at home in our family room. It blends in MUCH better and the kids have enjoyed using it.

Practicing Scissor Skills with Family Photos

posted in: Parenting | 0

Practicing Scissor Skills with Family PhotosaThis is a fun little activity that I created on the fly for my four year old.  He wanted to cut things with his scissors… And I just happened to have some photos on hand.

Now, I’m not advocating you hand photographic prints to your child to have them practice their cutting skills, because we all know where that could lead.

(Yikes! It could be worse than “mom, I cut my bangs!!”)

But most printers can print out average quality photos, even on normal printer paper.  I used my color laserjet printer to print out some photos on standard printer paper — 9 images to a sheet.  This created some nice straight lines between the images, which I hoped Toby would try to follow when cutting.

It seems like I didn’t explain my idea quite well enough (or Toby had his own activity in mind) — the activity became a series of snips and cuts in seemingly random array.

Oh well.

In the very least, I provided my child with something of interest to cut.

The simple actions of cutting — scissor skills — were still being practiced:

  • holding the paper with your helping hand
  • proper scissors grip (thumb in the hole on top, fingers in the hole on bottom)
  • safety skills for using and carrying scissors

So, even though our activity didn’t turn out exactly as intended, I’m still calling it a win.

Toby got to practice his scissor skills using printouts of family pictures.

And, the icing on the cake?

My toddler got out the hand broom and dustpan, and swept up all the paper scraps …on his own accord.

Hooray for self-sufficiency!

bphotoart-scissor-skills-pictures-2170 bphotoart-scissor-skills-pictures-2163 bphotoart-scissor-skills-pictures-2160 bphotoart-scissor-skills-pictures-2172

Making the Choice: School or Home? (…9 parents share)

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Making the Choice School or Home? ...9 parents share why they chose public schools, homeschool, or hybrid called afterschooling.As we count down the days left until school starts, it’s a good a time as any to cover the ever popular topic of schooling choices.  Specifically, whether to send your kids to school or keep them out of the school system and homeschool.  Rather than trying to argue one side or the other, I figured it would be more helpful to get input from parents like you and me.  Parents, who, for various reasons, have fallen into homeschooling, or tried homeschooling and switched to traditional schooling.  I even learned about a hybrid blend of the two, called “afterschooling” — which I thought was very interesting.

As you read through the responses below, keep in mind that I asked these parents three questions:

  1. what you do and why
  2. the benefits for you in doing what you do
  3. what you find difficult about what you do

As you’ll see in the various responses, no two experiences are exactly alike.  Whether you choose traditional schooling or homeschooling, there are joys and challenges.  It’s all about what works best for your child, what works best for your specific circumstances.

I hope these parents’ experiences will help you if you’re trying to make the choice about whether to send your children to school or to educate them at home.

Some Parents Choose Public Schools

My daughter attends a public traditional school. She is bright (and quirky) and in third grade. We chose to send her to public school because there are really awesome teachers there, she has a strong quest for knowledge and I like that she has built in social time at school while building independence in a supported environment. When she gets home from school we sew, craft, bake, garden, and explore the world together.

The benefits are that she has the best of both worlds, learning at home and at public school. She is a very well rounded, thoughtful child.

It is challenging to find ways to deal with things at school that I don’t necessarily agree with. As a reading specialist, I was dissapointed that their spelling / vocabulary tests consist of the teacher reading the definitions and the students (from memory) write the word with correct spelling. My daughter is 8 and the words tested are words like surrounded (shut in on all sides: encircled, enclosed) and anxiously (uneasily: nervously). From my personal and professional opinion, these tests do not accurately measure vocabulary use and put undue pressure on kids. We have luckily found a way for my daughter to find success in these tests, whether or not I’m a fan, they still exist weekly!

Amanda Boyarshinov, The Educators Spin on It


My daughter who is also 8 goes to the third grade of a regular public school in California. Both of us work full time in technology jobs, and we don’t think that either of us could be a successful homeschool teacher even if we could “swing it” financially. Our public school is considered to be a good one in a good district.

My daughter constantly receives positive feedback from teachers and other kids respect her. This brings confidence. She learns to listen to different adults and to cooperate and compromise with her classmates. She is also learning to do what she doesn’t like to do or to be bored sometimes – I consider that to be an important skill if these “lessons” don’t happen too often.

My daughter is highly gifted, and public schools are not well equipped to support such kids. Everything depends on the teacher. Last year we had a teacher who taught to the middle, and daughter was bored more than we consider acceptable. This year after a lot of advocacy, they created a gifted cluster with a very strong teacher, but it feels rather an exception than a rule.

Natalie, Planet Smarty


I loved homeschooling my kids. But I hated the stressed-out mom I became trying to do it.

I loved that my toddler got to spend so much time with his older sibling.  But I hated neglecting him most of the day to focus on their homeschooling.

I loved that my Preschooler was excelling at Kindergarten content.  But I hated hearing her beg to go back to public school with her friends.

Now we’re loving public school, because…

My kids are learning more social skills than I was able to provide while homeschooling.  They have so many friends!

I feel like my time with them at home is more quality mama time instead of stressful “teacher/school time.”

THEY are happier.

I am happier.

Krissy, B-Inspired Mama


Most kids go to a private school (with varying expenses) in India. Education is not funded and the government schools are not really up to the mark. we spend an average of 2500$ per year for the school fees ( 5000$ and upwards if you want an international syllabus) which is a big deal when you do the conversion.

Homeschooling is an option that is picking up but we don’t have support and since we both work in technology jobs full time, its not an option for us.

Education in India is highly competitive and rote based…My daughter is 8 and is doing well in school. They have a 1:12 student to teacher ratio and that ensures she gets the attention she needs while still functioning in a group setting.

Shruti, ArtsyCraftsyMom.com


Some Parents Choose Homeschooling

We homeschool for several reasons, the easiest of which to explain is the freedom it affords us. We get to learn whatever we want, whenever we want, in whatever way works best for us.

The best benefit so far has been that my son gets to go at his own pace and learn what he is interested in. He loves math and science and is able to explore those subjects at incredible depth for his age. Many times in the morning he brings me a book that he is interested in and we spend the entire homeschool day centered on that one subject, incorporating reading, math, science, and history.

I find it difficult to find time for myself and sometimes I feel jealous of my friends who get a break while their kids are at school! I love my kids and I love to be with them, but spending 12 hours a day with them can be a little challenging sometimes!

Crystal, The Science Kiddo


We kinda fell into homeschooling, only truly it was the Lord’s plan all along for us to homeschool our girls during each of the seasons of their lives we have done so

Homeschooling is hard enough already! Truly it is often a very draining, time-consuming, even grueling at times feeling endeavor. But other days it can be wonderful, and free-ing and downright awesome! Honestly, it’s just like any other area of our lives…. can’t just about everything we experience, at times alternate between awful and awesome?

Sybil Brun, She Lives Free


We homeschool. We tried two years of public school and it was a terrible fit for my kids (both are highly gifted). We are also a military family. Our options for schools are limited to where the army sends us and how far my husband is willing to commute to the base in order to (hopefully) find a good district.

In summary, we didn’t care for the curriculum, the pace, the lack of enrichment opportunities for gifted kids, or the social aspect. They had some great teachers (I still talk to two of them), but overall, that couldn’t overcome the issues. I can elaborate if you need, but I generally do that via email because I’m not up for the argument that I’m only concerned about my kids (I am, they are the ones I’m responsible for). I’m a certified teacher myself. Just spent the last 20 minutes doing polynomials with my 12 year old, my 9 year old is exploring ungulates. Everyone is much happier.

Would I love a break? Yes. And several. And I want to go to Starbucks right now. And I’d like to have lunch with a friend and take a long hot shower at noon. But I’m not willing to put my kids into a bad situation again in order to do it. The private school I’d pick is well beyond our budget, so homeschool it is.

Shannon


We sent our oldest 2 to private school. When Eldest was in 1st and Princess was in K they began all day everyday K. My kids were gone from 7:50-4:20 each day. We no longer had the freedom to do things like trips to the zoo or playing at the park during the week. Numerous times my daughter fell asleep on the way home. I was pregnant with Big Red and knew financially having more than 2 in private school wasn’t feasible. We now have 4 and take a relaxed eclectic almost unschooling approach now. Trying to let each child follow their interests and be kids a little while longer.

Thaleia, Something 2 Offer


My life is dedicated to teaching my children, not only academics but life skills, so that they may one day be independent and successful on their own, if at all possible. I have found, for me, this much easier to do on my own, than to work with the public school system, teachers, counselors, therapists etc.

…In summary, I guess home schooling chose us, rather than we chose it.  Both my husband and I went to public schools.  We enjoyed our education.  However, that type of education is not one that will work for our children …This is our story.  It’s A LOT of work.  It’s a HUGE time commitment.  However, I love it.  I love to watch the kids faces as they see new activities on our shelves.  I love to watch them succeed.

Renae, Every Star is Different


Some Parents Supplement with Afterschooling

We do “after-schooling” which might be a made up term:). The kids do go to public school during the day. We purposely chose this school because it is extremely diverse in cultures and religions, and want our kids to learn side-by-side with kids from around the world. After school, we have fun with pursuing my kids’ interests whether it’s cooking, hands-on science experiments, animals, crafts, etc. We also love to travel and take field trips often.

Becky, Kid World Citizen


And then there are some more links I found that you might enjoy:

What are your thoughts?  Did you go through the school system?  Do you think it was a good choice for you?  Were you given a choice, or would you consider giving your kids a choice when it comes to schooling options?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.  (also, please remember this is a hot topic for some, so an extra dose of kindness won’t hurt!).

Quick & Easy: DIY Creative Gift Wrapping for Kids

posted in: Parenting | 4

quick and easy DIY creative wrapping paper for kidsEven though we save gift bags and keep a (small) stash of wrapping paper, it seems like my go-to preference is for homemade gift wrapping.  It involves the kids in the gift giving process more, and depending on what paper I am able to reuse, is eco-friendly too.

When we put together gifts for the grandparents a while back, I tried something different than my normal artwork-repurposed-into-wrapping-paper method.

We took some paper bags, traced handprints, and made a variety of quick and easy (yet creatively wrapped) gift bags.  An “I Love You” hand (sign language) graced one bag, complete with explanation.  On another, an octopus was created when two hands were traced on top of one another (christened “Avocado the Octopus”).  It was fun to give Toby, my toddler, free reign on this project.

I helped, since we used a permanent marker.  After doing the lettering and tracing the hands, I handed Toby some pencils so that he could further decorate the bags.

If you have a child who isn’t big on coloring in the lines, or who is liable to scribble over the handprints and words you’ve just created, then I have a simple solution for you.

Use a permanent marker, or dark/thick ink for the handprints and lettering.  Then, provide a variety of lighter/thinner coloring pencils, markers, or crayons for your child to use.  It won’t matter if they color over the “important” words, and you won’t have to constantly nag your child to be careful about where they decorate.

After putting the gifts in the bags, we rolled the top down a few times and stapled or taped each shut.

Pretty easy.

Pretty quick.

The recipients of these gifts loved hearing from Toby about how he decorated the bags for them.

This project could be done in five minutes or less, so if you’re short on time but want to add a personal touch to a gift, definitely consider this quick and easy DIY gift wrapping option.

bphotoart-artwork-wrapping-paper-1483So, to recap.  You’ll need:

  • paper bags
  • permanent marker
  • pencils/crayons
  • staples/tape

Oh, and a gift to put inside, I suppose.

What ways have you discovered that are fun for your kids to wrap presents?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Travel “ID” Card For Toddlers (Free Printable)

posted in: Parenting | 4

When we went on our last several “big” vacations, I made sure to have some sort of “ID” on our toddler.  One trip, it was a keychain with mom and dad’s names and cell numbers, but more recently I made up these travel ID cards for my boys because I knew Toby would get a kick out of having his own ID card.  What kid doesn’t want to have their own “grown-up” ID?

A little further on, I’ll share a printable template with you so you can make your own travel ID card for your child.  Feel free to customize it.  I did (we swapped out the allergies section for flight information).

Some travel tips for you:

  1. Teach your kid what to do if they get separated from you.  While we stressed to Toby that we weren’t going to leave him, I did talk with him a number of times about what to do if he was not with us and needed an adult’s help to find us.  Knowing your parents’ names and their cell phone numbers is a big help, so we worked on that.  And since he doesn’t have our phone numbers memorized yet, I told Toby to show the adult the phone numbers I had written on his keychain, or the ID card in his pocket.
  2. Write your number on their arm with permanent marker. I picked this tip up on a blog somewhere — the blogger kept a permanent marker in her purse and whipped it out at amusement parks, airports, and other busy places.  That way, the kid can just point to their arm (or hopefully the helpful adult can discern that the numbers are a contact number to call if lost.
  3. Make hand-holding fun. Sometimes kids are just at the cusp of being independent …but aren’t ready yet.  We were able to bridge that gap by offering our hand and asking for “help” — either in knowing where to go (i.e. “look for the gate with the numbers 45”) or maybe as an extension, asking for help with the luggage.  Many rolling suitcases are very kid-friendly!
  4. Safety information is important to review, but doesn’t have to be scary. My toddler had a blast looking at the emergency instruction sheet in the airplane.  We talked about why those instructions were there and what to do in an emergency.  Find a way to stay upbeat and positive, it doesn’t have to be scary.

Okay, and now onto the travel “ID” card.  Here is what the printable travel ID card looks like:

bphotoart-travel-id-card-printable

Get Printable ID Card JPG | PDF

After inputting all the details, and adding a picture to the card, I “laminated” the whole thing.  And I say laminated in quotes because I didn’t use an official laminating product, but simply two pieces of packing tape.  Information that I added to the card for our airport excursion?  The airline we traveled on, flight numbers, and destination cities. I figured that way any airport personnel could get my toddler to the right destination if needed.

Of course, all this will do you no good if you leave it at home. So either make two and keep one in your purse until you get to the airport, or be prepared for an excited toddler to misplace it before your trip.  Toby was so excited about the surprise I’d made for him that he took his ID card out of the backpack pocket… and once we were enroute to the airport I discovered that the newly made travel ID card was somewhere in our home.  Oh well.

Learn to Ride a Bike …how we skipped training wheels completely

posted in: Parenting | 7

Learn to Ride a Bike ...how we skipped training wheels completelyIt seems like training wheels are a right of passage.  But, recently, there’s been a trend to forgo the training wheel phase completely.  I have to admit, I was intrigued with this idea when I heard about it a few years ago.

We did end up getting a balance bike, and while I was secretly hoping that my son, Toby, would learn to ride a pedal bike without having to use training wheels, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea (yet).

When he got the balance bike, it was wintertime — we allowed Toby to coast around (carefully) in the basement.  Once spring arrived, it was time for the balance bike to head outdoors.  He spent the better part of the summer gleefully coasting around the neighborhood on his balance bike, scaring his parents with his ability to coast down the “big hill” at the top of our street.  It was pretty impressive.

I toyed with the idea of getting him on a pedal bike then.  But, at three, he was still a little small for the pedal bikes we’d received as hand-me-downs.  One even came with training wheels, but Toby hated it. He preferred the tricycle if he was going to pedal around.

So, that’s what we did.  Toby practiced balancing and gliding with his balance bike, and practiced pedaling on his tricycle.

Toby's balance bike
Toby’s balance bike

Come this spring, Toby was excited to get out the bikes again.  His preschool had a few balance bikes that were used for a few weeks in May, leading up to “bring your bike to school day.”  He took his balance bike.  Another classmate was on a pedal bike (without training wheels)… and that reminded me we should give it another shot!

So, I brought out the pedal bikes. Yes, we have two.  I took the pedals off one of them, and had Toby glide around on that bike to get the hang of steering and balancing the much heavier metal frame.  A word from the wise, if you decide to do this — bike pedals thread differently (both are NOT “righty tighty, lefty loosey”).  I made a short YouTube video (watch DIY balance bike from toddler pedal bike) if you want to see how easy it is to take the pedals off and put them back on.

Our DIY balance bike, with pedals removed

Once he got the hang of that, Toby wanted to go back to his tricyle for pedaling. He wanted nothing to do with the pedal bike that was begging to be ridden

Toby's pedal bike
Toby’s pedal bike

I promised to help him if he would try.  With some cajoling, Toby climbed onto his pedal bike, and I helped him balance by holding him at the armpits.  He got his feet on the pedals, and then started going with me doing most of the balancing.  We quickly progressed to me “helping” by holding his shirt (yes, I was literally just pinching the fabric on the back of his shirt).

The first time I let go, Toby immediately put his feet down and stopped biking…still a little unsure of pedaling and balancing all by himself.  After some reassurance that I hadn’t been doing anything and that it was all him, Toby was willing to try again.  I told him I would warn him before “letting go” this time.  He got started, I gave my warning, and let go.

It was perfect. He kept on going for a number of feet before stopping!  Steering was still iffy, and starting/stopping was shaky.  We were definitely at the mental tipping point.  Toby decided he was done for the day, and got out the tricycle again.

The next day, we went to my uncle’s auto shop for an oil change. I brought along the pedal bike on a whim.

Again, we started off with me holding onto Toby’s shirt, so he could learn to get started and figure out how to steer.  I jogged around with him, wearing his baby brother on my back, while holding Toby’s shirt. 

I added some verbal reminders at some point:

pedal, balance, steer!

I repeated those three words numerous times, and after a few minutes he was all but biking independently. Now it was time for the mental challenge. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, Toby learned to ride his bike before our oil change was done — and he learned to start, steer, and not-quite-brake to stop.

One of the first few times I let go of Toby’s shirt:

This is how we skipped training wheels. "Pedal, balance, steer"

A video posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@betsy.bphotoart) on

Within minutes, Toby was totally confident:

Wohoo! On our pedal bike! We skipped training wheels.

A video posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@betsy.bphotoart) on

fall down seven, get up eight.

We had some falls, but nothing to write home about. Over the next week, Toby was rearing to go on bike rides with me pretty much daily.  He wanted to zoom down the “big hill” in our neighborhood.

So we added another verbal reminder:

show me your “slow downs”

Before I let him go down the hill, he had to show me he could slow his bike down by braking gently — and NOT come to a complete stop.  Once that was done, we were ready to tackle the hill. I made Toby keep pace with me on the first time down, and I admit I went really slow. After several times, Toby was ready to go faster.  He zoomed ahead of me, doing great — until it came time to switch from gliding to pedaling.  When he started pedaling, the front wheel turned abruptly and Toby tumbled off the bike.

I love teaching independence, but tumble was big enough that it had my heart pounding.  Toby was scared and crying.  We talked through things, I reassured him, and reminded him he had to try the hill one more time before we called it quits for the night. No way was I letting him end on a bad note.

So we tackled the hill again. This time, I reminded him:

pedal, balance, steer, …use your slow downs!  …keep gliding, steer, and when you’re ready, gently start pedaling …gentle.

Success is so sweet.

It is worth the hard work, the tears.

Independence is hard work. It can be scary. But we made it.  Toby loves riding his pedal bike, and can now turn on a dime, and stop smoothly.  He’s learning the rules of the road as we go, too.

Am I glad we skipped training wheels? absolutely.  I’m sold on the duo of balance bike and tricycle.  It allowed us to separate two skills (balancing and pedaling) so that he could focus on each independently.  I’m glad Toby used the balance bike for a whole summer, because he got really good at balancing.  But now, I’m glad that he’s on a pedal bike.  We can go so much further on bike rides now.  He loves his independence, and I do too.

Meant to share this one yesterday. .. #latergram

A photo posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@betsy.bphotoart) on

I’d love to hear your opinions on training wheels, and any learning to ride stories you’re up for sharing in the comments below!

30 Tips for Going On a Road Trip with Kids (a parent’s survival guide)

posted in: Parenting | 5

30 Tips  for going on a road trip  with kids  a parent’s survival guideLast summer we took the boys on a multi-state road trip.  And we survived.  Surprisingly, we made good time too.  So, as we geared up to plan another road trip this summer, I thought I would share some tips with you, a road trip survival guide of sorts, for taking young kids on road trips.

This list is by no means all inclusive, but it should helpfully get you off to a good start.  And, I’ll mention, that this list is aimed more towards younger kids, but you could really adapt most of these items to older kids too.

1. Pack Lots of Snacks

We had a grocery bag full of various snacks, plus a soft-sided cooler. And don’t forget drinks too.  We intended to have most of our meals at restaurants along the way, but packed a variety of things “just in case” the kids were hungry and we needed to stop right away.

Some popular items? For protein, we brought hard boiled eggs, mixed nuts, cheese sticks, and beef jerky.  Crunchy treats included nori chips, kale chips, popcorn, and rice cakes.  We also brought along a variety of fruit – apples, bananas, raisins, and the like.  For emergency meals, we had a jar of peanut butter, canned tuna (with the pull top), avocados, and bread.  Snack bars were also a favorite.

2. Drive During Naptime

It’s like that rule for new moms, “when baby sleeps, you sleep” — but more productive.  When the kids are sleeping in their carseats, keep driving.  We drove through lunch one time, and on the way home, we pushed through and got within four hours of home so that our last day’s drive could be more leisurely.  It’s a lot easier to drive when they’re sleeping, even if you’re tired and need to get a caffeine fix in order to do so.

3. Pack a Little Potty (for emergencies)

If you have a kid who is potty training, you’ll probably already have this item on the list, but honestly, it’s a good idea to bring a little potty along for older kids too.  Depending on where you’re going, there may be long stretches between rest stops, or you might get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or the rest stop bathroom might be particularly gross.  Whatever the reason, a little potty may just be a lifesaver.

Plus, it’s better than what many of us grew up with — peeing roadside, or for boys, into an empty cup or water bottle.

4. Bring Wipes + Paper Towels

If a mess happens, you need to be able to clean it up.  Wipes can be used for potty stops, cleaning off sticky hands after a snack,… you name it.  Paper towels?  Well, if a drink gets spilled, you’ll be glad you brought a whole roll (or two) with you.  Plus, they’re more durable than napkins.

5. Let them Pack a Bag of Toys

Kids love to help pack (well, when they’re young enough, right?).  So why not put that excitement to good use and let them fill a (small) bag with some toys, books, or other items for the road trip?  It gives them a sense of ownership and a feeling of control.  They know they’ll have some familiar items with them even if the journey will be long and unknown.

6. Have a Bin of Surprise Activities

50+ Road Trip Games + Activities: Ideas to Keep Your Kids Entertained for the Long Haul - Betsy's Photography {BPhotoArt.com}Whether you call them busy bags or not, having some “mystery” activities packed in the car will be helpful.  I packed a bin with some random toys, busy bags, coloring books, and the like for the kids the night before we left.  This was in addition to the toys they’d packed on their own.  When those toys got “boring” — I was able to selectively pull out an item or two from the surprise bin, which resulted in another (hopefully) 15-20 minutes of being entertained.

Check out my post –>  50+ Road Trip Games + Activities to Keep Your Kids Entertained

7. Give Your Kid a Map

At the time of our cross-country trip, Toby was only three, and not old enough to really read a map, but he still LOVED this idea.  We gave him the map, which had our trip highlighted, and he spent countless minutes, even hours, “reading the map” and telling us where to go.  Older kids could become involved with navigating and providing directions, which also can be exciting.

8. Have them Help Pack Clothes

I have always found that kids like choices.  And getting to choose which clothes come on the trip is no exception.  I told my toddler what kind of clothes I needed from his drawers, and had him bring them to me.  We may have had a little more than we needed, but ultimately it was okay, because part of taking a trip is learning how to pack.  Did it take a little longer?  Sure.  But we had no fights about clothes while on the trip — any issues were curtailed with “well, you chose what to bring.”

9. Show Them (Often) Where You’re Going

As we counted down the days to our trip, Toby and I spend time talking about where we were headed, how long it would take to get there, and the kind of things we would see on the way (mountains).  We talked about this for days.  And on the trip, too.  Interestingly, he never asked “are we there yet?”  — but “are we to the mountains yet?”

10. Pick a Travel Buddy

Sometimes it is tough for kids to sleep in a strange place.  Having a travel buddy (i.e. stuffed animal) from home can help.  Before leaving, Toby got to pick one or two stuffed animals that would get to travel with us.  And he had fun “taking care of them” on our trip, telling them where we were going, during the drive.  When we stopped for the night, those stuffed animals gave a sense of familiarity to a strange hotel room.

11. Bring a Familiar Pillow and Blanket

As with the travel buddy, these two items proved invaluable for overnight hotel room comfort.  Toby snuggled up in his Superman fleece blanket, with the homemade toddler-sized pillow he uses regularly, and felt somewhat at ease with the new environment.  Beyond that, the pillow and blanket got used during naptime in the car, or when the air conditioning got a little too cool for comfort.

12. Pack Slippers

Whether they help keep cold feet warm, or clean feet from getting dirty, your kids may prefer to have a go-to set of slippers rather than having to keep something on their feet (like shoes or socks).  Also, having slippers can help kids make the mental transition – “we’re here for the night.”

13. Find a Hotel with a Pool

After being cooped up in a car all day, being able to splash and swim in the hotel pool will do wonders for tiring out antsy kids and use up that extra energy.  Even if there’s only time for a short swim before bed, it is worth it.  One night we changed our hotel accommodations to a neighboring hotel because the original place only had an outdoor pool (that was closed down).  Being able to swim that night made my boys so excited.

14. No Pool? Have Bath Time

No pool?  Don’t feel like venturing out to the pool?  Just let the kids play in the bathtub.  While we enjoyed swimming in the pool I just mentioned, another night we were not so fortunate.  My toddler was placated by having time to splash in the bathtub after dinner.  It wasn’t quite the same, and we didn’t have any bath toys with us, but that didn’t matter too much.

15. Plan a Picnic in the Hotel

Sometimes, when you’ve been traveling all day, it’s good to just get some food and eat in the hotel room.  You can call it a “picnic” to get the kids more excited.  We did this on one occasion when I was concerned about the wait time in the hotel restaurant (and impending toddler breaking point).  No need to be quiet or sit still in the hotel room…. grab and go is ok!

16. Keep Your Normal Bedtime Routine

Keeping some semblance of normalcy will be so helpful for your kids.  For us, it was bringing along a selection of books so that Toby could pick three books to have read to him before bed.  You might not be able to do your whole bedtime routine, but I’m sure you can probably incorporate portions of it.

17. Bring a Stepstool and Toilet Seat Insert

There’s nothing worse than losing your sense of independence, especially amidst the stress of travel.  We brought a folding stepstool for the bathroom so that my toddler could reach the sink and use the toilet without help.  He learned how to put unfold and use the folding toilet seat too — which made things much more toddler-friendly in the hotel bathroom.  Since the seat folded down compactly, we were also able to use it during any rest stops while enroute.

18. Give Kids Their Own Water Bottle

Whether you give your kids their own child-sized or adult-sized water bottle is your choice, but be aware that the smaller it is, the less it will hold before you have to stop and refill it.  We gave my toddler an adult water bottle so that he wouldn’t run of of water as quickly.  It usually lasted most of the day.

19. Leave a Light on at Night

Sure, you can bring your own night light when you travel, but then you have to remember to take it with you when you leave.  And if you’re staying just one night at each hotel, that means lots of opportunities to forget it!  What we did is leave the hotel bathroom light on and crack the door open — it usually works pretty well.  Or, if you’re one to sleep with the TV on, you can use that glow as your night light, I suppose.

20. Eat a Good Breakfast

Especially when you’re traveling, it’s important to get a good breakfast.  Whether that means eating on the road, from your assorted snacks, or stopping at the breakfast buffet, make sure to take time to get some protein in the morning.  We brought hard boiled eggs and instant oatmeal along for “just in case” …because sometimes the hotel continental breakfast is limited to bagels, bread, and other items that a gluten-free person can’t enjoy.

21. Leave What You Can in the Car

Don’t bring everything into your hotel room.  Just the essentials.  If you’re going to be on the road early the next morning, there’s no sense in bringing EVERYTHING in.  We packed some bags with items that wouldn’t be needed until our end destination, and those never came in from the car during our road trip stops.

21. Have Them Help Load/Unload the Car

In the very least, give your kids a sense of ownership and let them help by loading and unloading some of their own things.  This wasn’t a requirement — some days, the boys were so exhausted that they wanted nothing to do with the loading or unloading.  But other days, Toby was full of energy and excited to help push the luggage out to the car.  Play it by ear, and ask if they want to help… if not, no big deal.

22. Let them “Explore” The Hotel

When you first arrive to your hotel, it can be fun to let your kids help you scout out the important things: hotel pool, ice + vending machines, where breakfast will be served, etc.  This doesn’t have to be a really involved activity, but it will give you all a chance to stretch your legs after sitting in the car all day.

23. Play “I Spy” Out the Hotel Room Window

No, I’m not talking about being a peeping Tom.  Look for any city sights, mountains, or other natural monuments that you know will be nearby.  Even if it’s dark, you can still enjoy looking at the night skyline. Depending on how close to the city you are, you’ll also be able to scan the night sky for airplanes or even constellations.

24. Limit Screen Time

I know there are exceptions to this rule, and sometimes you just need to prevent a meltdown.  But, I grew up with the mindset that you go on vacation to enjoy the trip.  So, we do our best to minimize screen time, since the road trip is part of the vacation.  There are many driving games you can play that require little prep work.  If all else fails? There’s no shame in offering screen time if you know it will prevent an imminent meltdown.

25. Expect Delays + Detours

With kids, there are no guarantees.  You have to be prepared for delays, for unexpected changes to your schedule.  Part of being a parent is about learning to live with that chaos.  So don’t expect your trip to run on a military schedule… it might not go according to plan.

26 . Create a Special Music CD

We made a music CD for the car ride, with tracks that the kids enjoyed, so that we wouldn’t have to be scanning for new radio stations as we went in and out of range.  It really helped having songs that were familiar!  You may want to figure out how to fade your car’s stereo to the rear in case the songs get a little repetitive for the adults in the front seat.  I know I got tired of the songs before my boys did.

27. Be Prepared for Temperature Differences

It’s always important to bring along a variety of clothes for different weather conditions.  But, beyond that, you’ll want to be prepared for temperature differences in your sleeping areas too.  The hotel rooms we stay in tend to be much warmer than our home.  It was really helpful to have a light blanket for the kids to sleep under instead of the huge down comforter or bed spread.

28. Avoid Restroom Power Struggles

We avoided (most) potty power struggles by informing my toddler, whenever exiting the car for a break, “you will be using the bathroom before getting back in the car.” It gives them a greater sense of control, and lets them know what to expect.  It also prevented a number of “I have to go” incidents that would have occurred right after getting on the road again.

29. Be Patient

Kids will be kids. And when they get excited, they don’t listen as well.  So, if you expect their excitement to alter their ability to listen, obey, sleep, etc…. you can remind yourself to be patient with them, you know they’re not being difficult intentionally.

30. Give Your Kid a Camera

Kids love to take pictures.  While I’m not sure my toddler’s pictures were anything to write home about (many of them were of the back of the car seat), having a camera “of his own” really made Toby proud.  He would pull out his camera to take pictures of the mountains, of the cows, or other things we saw that he found interesting.  And then, when we got to the hotel, we could pull them up on the laptop and look through the pictures that were taken that day.


 

Well, what do you think? Did I miss something?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  Also, make sure to check out my related post, 50+ Road Trip Games + Activities to Keep Your Kids Entertained.

20 Questions About Mom (to Ask Your Toddler)

posted in: Parenting | 7

20 Questions About Mom (to Ask Your Toddler)I saw this list of “interview” questions to ask your kid …it was floating around on Facebook. You may have seen it too. Anyways, since I’m a sucker for things like this, I decided to see what Toby’s answers would be. It’s always fun to see what kids come up with… and my four year old is no exception.

I’ll be printing these out to put in his memory book — along with a similar set with questions about daddy (for Father’s Day …shhh!!)

1. What is something mom always says to you?
I love you

2. What makes mom happy?
*smiles and points at himself*

3. What makes mom sad?
I don’t know. Did I do something mean to you?

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
Tickle me

5. What was your mom like as a child?
That you smiled

6. How old is your mom?
10

7. How tall is your mom?
Real tall

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
Play with us

9. What does your mom do when you’re not around?
Work putting toys away

10. What is your mom really good at?
Playing soccer when you were my age

11. What is your mom not very good at?
Riding horses

12. What does your mom do for a job?
Work on the computer

13.What is your mom’s favorite food?
Pepper. Mama, pepper’s my favorite.

14.What makes you proud of your mom?
That you like to play with me

15. If your mom were a character, who would she be?
Nobody

16. What do you and your mom do together?
We play together

17. How do you know your mom loves you?
You play with me

18. What does your mom like most about your dad?
Smile

19. Where is your mom’s favorite place to go?
Ash Auto

20. How old was your Mom when you were born?
5

The original “quiz” had three extra questions that I don’t think Toby really understood.  I excluded them above, because his answer for each of them was “I don’t know”

21. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
I don’t know

22. How are you and your mom the same?
I don’t know

23. How are you and your mom different?
I don’t know


Anyways, I think this would make a cute interview do do on a yearly basis, just to see how the answers develop and change.  As I mentioned, I’ll be putting these “interview questions” into Toby’s memory box for later.  We don’t save everything — I’ll be going over what memories we save and how we do so in a future post, so make sure to sign up for weekly email updates!

101 Things Your Kid Can Do With a Cast On

posted in: Parenting | 35

101 Things your kid can do with a cast on!Honestly, I could have also titled this list “101 Laid Back Activities for Kids Who Like to be Active.”  But since I made this list when my toddler, Toby, was wearing a cast, we’ll stick with that.  Toby managed to get a hairline fracture in his leg while being silly last fall. It took three days, two trips to the ER, and several sets of x-rays to revise his injury from a sprained ankle to a fractured tibia. Let’s just say, while I was sad he broke his leg, I’m glad I listened to that mom instinct and returned to the ER for more x-rays.

We had two stressful days in a temporary splint before we were able to get in for the permanent cast. Which wasn’t a walking cast, persay. But in all honesty, who can keep a toddler from walking or standing on their cast for three weeks? Not this mom.

The loss of independence was really rough for Toby. To go from doing pretty much everything himself to having to ask for help with the simplest things is tough. It doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or an adult! I helped my husband through a similar situation when he tore his patellar tendon. It doesn’t matter if you have a caregiver who is more than happy to take care of you — it’s the loss of independence that wears you down. Not being able to walk or get around is rough. And more so for kids because they can’t verbalize their feelings.

I wracked my brain to come up with things that we could do — things that Toby would enjoy and be kept busy with while the cast remained on. Let’s just say I was really grateful that we had weekly activities on the schedule to help pass the time. Preschool, moms and tots, and the like. But the one that didn’t work? Swim lessons. Although I did find some waterproof cast covers for swimming on Amazon (#afflink) that looked really neat — this discovery came midway through our cast time and it wouldn’t have been used more than once by the time I could get it in hand.  A fellow mom shared one of her blog posts with me about her child’s cast activities: Having a Blast When Your Kid Has a Cast.

All in all, we made it through.  What did we do?  Well, a lot of things.  While I didn’t document our every adventure, I did compile a list of 101 things your kid can do with a cast.  Keep in mind some of these activities may need to be modified depending on whether you child has their leg or arm in a cast.  But hopefully these things will get you thinking of even more ways to have fun when your kid is somewhat immobilized!

101 Activities You Can Do While Wearing a Cast

  1. Read books
  2. Visit the zoo
  3. Make a sand volcano
  4. Bake bread. We like to make Irish Soda Bread (recipe)
  5. Play beanbag games (indoors)
  6. Get them thinking about helping others by making an acts of service jar
  7. Visit the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum (a local children’s museum with tons of activities to do and things to see).
  8. Make a portable tinkering kit
  9. Go to story time at the library.
  10. Learn to code (get a kano computer kit on Amazon #afflink)
  11. Visit the park and go on the swings (this could work for casted legs, arms not so much)
  12. Go see a play or musical
  13. Take a bike ride (if you have one of those pull-behind bike trailers that’s on my wishlist #afflink)
  14. Play a musical instrument (or just make noise on one)
  15. Make a toy boat from a greeting card
  16. Go to an aquarium
  17. Host a playdate (or meet up at a park).
  18. Come up with creative ways to play with Magna Tiles (we LOVE ours! Get your own Magna Tiles on Amazon #afflink)
  19. Plant some seeds and start a garden
  20. Make a foldable take along train track set
  21. Go “digging” for bugs with an excavation kit
  22. Have a movie night, with popcorn and kid-selected “toppings”
  23. Make your own mini microscope
  24. Make a camera obscura (shadow box from my ABCs of Photography for kids activity series)
  25. Make sculptures from nuts and bolts
  26. Combine learning and play with racecar math
  27. Make heat sensitive color changing slime
  28. Play with glowsticks
  29. Practice lacing with these free printable lacing cards
  30. Learn how to work (or play) with yarn
  31. Make Lego Inspired electric playdough
  32. Have a camp out, complete with tent if you have one (either outdoors, or in your living room)
  33. Color rocks with permanent magamerkers
  34. Sew a nature pouch
  35. Go to the grocery store and let your kid ride in the “fancy” car shopping cart
  36. Put together an arts + crafts busy box
  37. Make milk carton crayon ice candles
  38. Have a bonfire and make smores
  39. Play numerous indoor games with balloons
  40. Make bouncy balls from loom bands
  41. Have a sing-along party
  42. Make a play fort kit from old sheets
  43. Make raisins dance (science experiment)
  44. Play “I Spy” (with flashlights!)
  45. Make a bug house (or be lazy like us and buy a bug house on Amazon #afflink)
  46. Make a time capsule
  47. Create a new recipe (we made peanut butter jelly dip)
  48. Make trail mix (and let your kid pick what goes in it)
  49. Make popsicles and learn about diversity in the process
  50. Do a science experiment to make flowers change colors
  51. Make a buckle toy from an old carseat
  52. Make a cardboard pirate ship
  53. Play doctor and take care of a stuffed animal’s broken arm/leg
  54. Make a money bank
  55. Make ice cream in a bag
  56. Zoom (gently) around the house on a wheeled toy (we love our bumblebee wheely bug #afflink)
  57. Get a birdfeeder and go birdwatching up close
  58. Get out pipe cleaners and thread them through a strainer/colander
  59. Get a subscription to the Animal Trackers Club
  60. Make a lava lamp
  61. Make DIY seed paper (for growing seeds)
  62. Play Move and Groove, a movement-based dice game (get Move and Groove on Amazon #afflink)
  63. Make your own homemade marble runs
  64. Make Stone Soup (and read the book, of course)
  65. Play with straws (7 ways!)
  66. Sew something together
  67. Get busy coloring (90 free coloring pages for kids)
  68. Pretend to be super heroes (we got our cape at the Super Run!)
  69. Go out to eat for a lunch “date”
  70. Make your own geo board
  71. Melt frozen hands (a salt and ice activity)
  72. Play board games
  73. Make glowing bounce balls
  74. Make your own board game (check out my In A People House board game with printable)
  75. Paint with flowers
  76. Try animal yoga for kids
  77. Grow romaine lettuce from kitchen scraps
  78. Sneak around the house in “stealth mode”
  79. Make a DIY Air Fort
  80. Make a quick and easy photo memory game
  81. Learn about chemical reactions using baking soda and vinegar
  82. Order a waterproof cast cover for swimming on Amazon (#afflink) and get in the pool
  83. Turn an old toddler bed into a sandbox
  84. Play with a ball (catch, rolling the ball back and forth, bouncing it, etc)
  85. Make a peace corner
  86. Check out these 20 No-Prep Fine Motor Activites
  87. Play with kinetic sand
  88. Make a lip balm rocket
  89. Have a wheelbarrow race (hold your child’s legs, let them walk on their arms)
  90. Make a button snake (for practicing button skills)
  91. Learn math with 100 creative, hands-on math activities for kids
  92. Work in the garden together
  93. Try some stretching exercises
  94. Go for a car ride and let your kid choose which way to turn (e.g. “left or straight?”)
  95. Learn about bubble science, make your own bubble solution and bubble blower
  96. Make fizzing sidewalk paint
  97. Make a rubber band powered car
  98. Go on a photo scavenger hunt
  99. Give your child a piggyback ride
  100. Make a shape stretchie for creative movement
  101. Have tickle time (or if you need something more calming… try snuggle time)

Phew!  We made it.

Did you start skimming the list? Or give up, deciding to bookmark this (or pin it) for later?  I don’t blame you.  I needed a break after getting this list put together for you!

If you have any other ideas you’d like to add to the list, I’d love to hear from you.  Have you ever been in a cast?  What was the worst part?  Did this list get you excited?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

Make a Toy Boat from a Greeting Card

posted in: Parenting | 43

Make a toy boat from a greeting cardWe have found a lot of ways to repurpose our extra greeting cards!  We’ve made boxes, used the front of a folded card as a postcard, and now turned cards into boats.  Here’s how we did it.

For the bottom of the boat, we made a box (see this post on making greeting card boxes).

Then I used the front of the card to design a mast and sail piece.  Take a peek at the pictures below, it shows you the shape I cut out.  I cut out the shape, and then folded along the lines to create the mast (the sails automatically “fell into place”).

That’s about it.  Pretty easy, in my book.  You could also cut individual pieces and tape or glue them to a pipe cleaner if you wanted to do so.  But the method I’ve explained here worked well for us.

Toby had lots of fun playing with his boat after we attached the mast and sails to the bottom (using scotch tape).

He did move the mast around several times, and I wouldn’t count on this craft being too durable… depending on how rough your child plays with the toy it might not last long.

But that’s the beauty of repurposed crafts like this toy boat. It doesn’t matter if it falls apart, or if it doesn’t last very long.  It was made from something that would’ve otherwise been thrown away.  It gave new life to an unneeded greeting card.  It was eco-friendly, and promotes creativity rather than consumerism.

Here are a few more pictures of the toy boat… yes, Toby used Little People from the Little People Christmas set #afflink.  We’ve gotten more use out of that Christmas nativity set; I love how it ends up being used throughout the year and doesn’t have to be put away once Christmas has come and gone.


Creative-Activities-for-Kids-Monthly-Blog-Hop-300x300Creative Eco-Friendly Activities for Kids

This post is part of the Creative Activities for Kids monthly blog hop.

Potty Training – Advice from 10 Moms Who’ve Been There

posted in: Parenting | 32
Potty Training: Advice from 10 Moms Who've Been There
Photo from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

Ok, I have to admit. I’m not all that familiar with the “normal” methods of potty training. We went a little crunchy in this department — my boys started using the potty when they were less than a year old. I’ve asked some moms to share their thoughts on potty training and what worked for them, so you can get a well rounded perspective on the topic of potty training though.

Potty Training Products

Let me start by saying there are a ton of products out there. I haven’t tried them all… I just know what worked for us. So, that being said, I’ll share some potty training products that you might like before we get down to business:
Amazon #afflinks open in new window for your convenience.

In general, for kid potties, my preference is simple.  Simpler is better. Fewer loose parts, fewer things to clean (watch out for those crevices in “padded” models).

Now that you know what products worked for me…

Advice from moms who’ve been there, done that.

Let’s hear from some moms about the ins and outs of potty training and what worked for them! I’ll share my own personal experience at the end.


I waited until my boys were ready. We read lots of books about the topic and then let them decide when it was time. Then, bam they were potty trained. One was 3 1/2 and the other 2 1/2.

Jodie

Growing Book by Book (read her post on 10 potty training books)


We started EC with my middle son at 6 months old and he did well with it and “potty trained” early at 18 months. My now 2 year old is totally different and we are following his lead on training. We cannot cloth diaper him due to skin sensitivities, so he is not as aware as my other two children were of when he is wet.

Amanda

The Educators’ Spin on It


We just left them to their own devices, when they were fed up of nappies they both started using the toilet within a day. They both happened to be 3 too, although my eldest had only just turned 3 but my youngest was nearly 4 when he decided he wanted to use the toilet.

Charlotte

Raising Wild Ones


My son couldn’t grasp the concept that something was coming out of him. The brain and little boy part weren’t well connected, so we did some naked time to help him connect that the pee came out of him. After that, it took about a week or two (daytime, nighttime took years). Here is a potty training tips post that I have done.

Tanya

Therapy Fun Zone (see her post on toddler age potty training tips)


I made it “my daughter’s business” and set up a little private corner for her potty, she was fully “toilet trained” by 20 months. (I also have a post on how I toilet learn older children in my care.)

Jennifer, Study At Home Mama


I talk to them and tell them what is going on with their bodies, up until now they have never had to actually think about peeing. I put underwear on them and wait. I usually let them pee in their underwear the first time so they recognize what is going on and then it usually clicks. Also… I sit them backwards on the toilet. For boys this is great because they have to sit when they poop anyway, and if they forget to hold down their penis then it sprays the back of the toilet and not the wall in front of them. And it’s easier to balance so they can relax when they have to go and not worry about falling in.

Leah

Socks & Shoes Not Required (read her tips and tricks for potty training boys)


I potty trained our twin girls over a long period of time. We first introduced the potty, and had them sit on it at 18 months old. They were actually doing alright with it, but life happened (car accident), and it got put on the back burner for a few months. Next time we tried the potty seat in the middle of the room,, and running around without any diapers on, and bribes (a single chocolate chip). One of my daughters though could literally squeeze out a drop of pee into the toilet every like 5-10 minutes… I think because she wanted the chocolate chip, and also because I think she was just lacking some control, so we stopped pushing her as hard, and worked mostly with my other daughter at that time. She did really well, had problem getting #2 in the potty, but once she did, she was pretty much potty trained, including overnight around 2.5 years old, though we still had accidents here and there. Her sister we waited several months, and tried again, and she did much better, and followed a similar pattern as her sister, but we kept her in a pull-up at night for a long time as she would frequently have night accidents. She was mostly trained by 3 years old, right before her baby brother was born. She continued to have infrequent night accidents past her 4th birthday, but finally stopped having any about 4 months ago (at about 4.5). My best advice for parents potty training is YOU HAVE TO BE DEDICATED! It’s really easy to throw in the towel that first day when they are doing awful. But, also know your kids.

Katelyn

What’s Up Fagans?


My oldest son basically potty trained my youngest! They are 22-months apart and we told my oldest that he would get a treat whenever his brother went potty IF (and only if) he helped encourage and praise him! He asked him every 5 minutes if he needed to go potty and then whooped and hollered when his brother was successful!

Jenae

I Can Teach My Child!


Our son finally “got it” at Old Faithful at Yellowstone. He ran across the visitors’ center, screaming, “I pooped in the toilet!” It was epic.

Jennifer

Royal Little Lambs (read how her post, The Bubba Trained Me)


3 Day Potty Training Method…it only took him 2….worked great!

Amanda

Dirt and Boogers (read her story about potty training boot camp)


My Experience Potty Training (so far)

And now let me share a little about my experience. We started off cloth diapering from the get-go … first with a diaper service, and then for our second child I manned up and did the whole cleaning thing myself. When my first was about 5 months old, I learned my grandmother (who had 4 kids under 4 in the 50s) started potty training as soon as her children could sit up. The concept intrigued me. That, coupled with observing a local mom help her infant use the potty (and stay dry)… piqued my curiosity. Out of diapers before 3 years old? Tell me more.

Today’s lingo for early pottying is either “elimination communication” or “infant potty training.” It’s not cruel, there is no forcing or punishment, it’s basically learning to recognize pre-verbal signals. It is how most of the world copes with baby elimination instead of extended diapering. In short, the concept is that babies are born with a desire to stay dry (anyone victim to getting peed on during a diaper change?). So while they are not able to verbalize their need to eliminate, it is possible to read their body language for cues (getting fussy, a particular cry, eventually signing “potty,” etc). I was dubious at first. It took me 3 months to work up some initiative to give this early pottying a try. But once we tried, my older son, then about 6 mos, caught on really quickly. It wasn’t a game of trying to get him on the potty perfectly, but a process where I could help him use the potty some (or a lot) of the time. It didn’t take long before I didn’t have to change soiled diapers anymore — just wet ones. And then little by little, we transitioned to baby underwear — without any power struggles… just his natural desire to stay dry. We were out of diapers before 2 years for sure, maybe even around 1 year, but I’d have to look through the baby book to tell for sure.

Now, a couple years later, we’re doing the same thing with my second son. When we got home from the hospital, my toddler actually told me his brother needed to use the potty… I thought, “sure… but I’ll indulge.” Yup, he did. Even though this kid is a solid sleeper, he has woken up dry in the morning from time to time (other times I don’t get there soon enough so we have a wet diaper to change). But once again, my son’s natural desire is to stay dry. So he fusses before he musses the diaper, and if at all possible, avoids soiled diapers.

While diaper changing doesn’t phase me, I have to admit it is nice, not having to clean up diaper blow outs or yucky bums. The pragmatist in me loves early pottying. I know it’s not for everyone, and there is a lot of misinformation out there about elimination communication (infant potty training). But in short, I have never forced my boys …it has always been about making things more comfortable for them. I know I wouldn’t want to sit in wet or soiled material, so it only seemed natural to change that diaper right away. And if I was going to be on top of things enough to change the diaper immediately, adapting to offering the potty wasn’t that big of a deal for me.

It may sound hard core, but for me, it was just practical. I’m a realist though, I know this method of potty training (if you want to call it that) doesn’t work for everyone. And I’ve never been one to judge. Different strokes for different folks.

What about you? I’d love to know what worked (or didn’t work) for you. Share in the comments below!

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