Tuesday, January 27, 2015

5 Ways to Save Money on Disney Souvenirs

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For our 3rd anniversary, I dragged my husband on our first trip to Disney World. He would never admit it now, but before that trip he was actually anti-Disney (gasp!).  Now, seven years later, we have made several trips to the "happiest place on Earth" and even spent our 10th anniversary on a Disney Cruise. Needless to say, my husband is a Disney-convert and thoroughly enjoys planning every detail of our Disney trips.

It's no secret that a Disney vacation isn't cheap.  After returning from our first family trip, I wrote an article on "Why Your Child Doesn't Need a Disney Trip" where I shared some of the darker sides of our trip.  Traveling to Disney with four small children is no small feat and no small expense!

We have found many ways, though, to save on our Disney trips. The one I have the most influence on is our Disney Souvenirs.  With some advance effort and planning, we are able to save quite a bit and STILL have magical memories for our children.
5 Ways to Save on Disney Souvenirs - Saving this for our next trip!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Marshmallow Snowball Fine-Motor Math Activities for Toddlers and Preschool

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You know those days where you have a ton of things to do and the kids are just dying for a new activity? Today was one of those days. We are planning a birthday party for two of the boys this weekend, which means I am in party planning overdrive, so I needed an activity that would keep the kids occupied long enough for me to work on some projects of my own.  This was perfect for my 18-month-old, 2 and 3-year-old AND it worked on some basic math and fine motor skills!  Score!!
What we used: (affiliate links are in included for your convenience)
Plastic Bin
Marshmallows (mini and large)
Fine Motor Tool Set
Plastic Cups (2 large and 10 small)
Sharpie
Post-It notes


I have to admit that this was one of those activities that I literally tossed together using items I already had at home.  It evolved as I kept finding ways to keep the kids engaged and ended up keeping them happily entertained and working for almost 45 minutes.

I started with a basic plastic bin that I keep on-hand for sensory bins.  Ours was 9"x13" but really any size will do.  Then, I dumped in a bag of large marshmallows and half a bag of mini-marshmallows.  My kids are obsessed with marshmallows and love to paint with them and create everything from marshmallow snowflakes to igloos with them so we always have a few bags on hand.  I tossed in a few items from the Fine Motor Tool Set that my 2-year-old got for Christmas and a few plastic cups and let the kids have fun exploring and transferring the marshmallows from bin to cup and back.  I told the kids that they would be allowed to eat a few marshmallows after we were done playing and they were surprisingly willing to wait and just use them for exploring.


After simply playing, squishing, and scooping them for awhile, I added in 2 large cups.  On one cup, I used a sharpie to write "Big" and draw a large square to represent the big marshmallows.  On the other cup, I wrote "Small" and drew a small square.  Then, I demonstrated how to sort the marshmallows.  My 2 and 3-year-old took to this right away.  My 18-month-old kept happily scooping and dumping while the older boys worked on some sorting math skills.

After a few rounds of that, I added in 10 small cups numbered from 1-10 and let the kids work with those.  First, we identified each number and put them in order.  Then, my 3-year-old started grabbing cups and filling them with the correct number of marshmallows.  
I just loved the thinking that went on during this play.  While trying to fill the "10" cup, my 3-year-old kept up a running dialog about why he couldn't use the big marshmallows with the big numbers because they wouldn't fit and he could only use the big marshmallows with the small numbers.  He's a big fan of the big marshmallows.


Then, I grabbed some post-it notes (which I LOVE for everything from keeping me organized to making activities for the kids) and drew some simple shapes on them.  The kids identifies each of the shapes and then used the marshmallows to create the shapes on each post-it.


The best thing about this was how easy it was to put together and how much fun the kids had.  They had no idea how many different math concepts they were using.  When my husband came home, my 3-year-old ran up to him and said, "Daddy, we played with marshmallows today!".  For him, he was just playing and that's EXACTLY how learning should be!


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Snowball Marshmallow Names - Mamas Like Me

 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Printable Winter Snowfall Game for Preschool

I've been creating some of my own activities lately to do with the kids and this sorting and counting game was a huge hit with my 3 and 4-year-olds. They loved making it "snow" and creating their own patterns with the cards.
Printable Winter Snowfall Game for Preschool - My little one would love this!
For this activity, we used:
Printable Game Cards and Sorting Mat
Construction Paper
Paper Cutter
Glue Stick
Jar or Cup

Monday, January 5, 2015

B is for Bean Day Activities for Preschool

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January 6th is Bean Day and we're celebrating with some simple bean activities for kids.

As part of our celebration, we made a simple B is for Bean Craft.
For our craft, we used:
Black Beans
Blue Poster Board (card stock would also work)
Pencil
Scissors
Sponge Brushes
Homemade Mod Podge (basically a mixture of half glue and half water shaken well)Preschool Bean Activities for Bean Day! - I didn't know there was a Bean Day, but now we need to celebrate!!
We started by searching the bag of black beans for the letter "B".  The kids were amazed by how many beans came in a bag and wanted to start counting them!!  "There are like a million gajillion!"
 Preschool Bean Activities for Bean Day! - I didn't know there was a Bean Day, but now we need to celebrate!! 
I drew a simple 'B' for each child on the poster board and cut it out for them.   We practiced tracing the 'B' together as I told them how to make it..."Straight line dooowwwn, arrrooound, and arrooound".  Stretching out the words while we form the letters really helps them to focus on how each letter is formed.Preschool Bean Activities for Bean Day! - I didn't know there was a Bean Day, but now we need to celebrate!! Then, we got to work painting our letters with glue.  I find that painting the glue on is easier for the younger kids than squeezing glue bottles and it gives them a great surface for placing as many beans as they want.
Most of the kids chose to put their beans on one at a time.  Some of them took handfuls and dropped them onto their letter.  You could even turn the letters over on a plate of beans to cover the entire surface.  

Preschool Bean Activities for Bean Day! - I didn't know there was a Bean Day, but now we need to celebrate!!
I think these would be so fun to do with the kids' initials for a wall hanging!

Other Bean Activities
Seed Sensory Play Number Hunt
 
Bean Seed Dissection - Finding the Teachable Moments
Lavender Scented Beans - And Next Comes L
Calming sensory play for kids: lavender scented & dyed beans from And Next Comes L

Beans in Sensory Play:
Bean Soup Sensory Play
Community Helpers Bin
Farm Book Bins
Hey Diddle Diddle Sensory Bin
The Mixed-Up Chameleon Bin
Forest Animal Bin

Books for Bean Day
A classic version of Jack and the Beanstalk with bright colorful pictures and simple text for preschoolers.

  Bean Thirteen - This book is great introduction to division and would be perfect to use with bean manipulatives!

One Bean - This is a great first book for science exploration!


Happy Bean Day, everyone!  
For more Bean and Gardening activities check out our Spring Pinterest Board!
 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Recycled Snowman Winter Craft for Kids

We took a little break with the Christmas holidays, but I'm diving right back in with some new winter crafts!  The kids just loved these sweet recycled snowmen.  My boys are using them to store up their change for our Disney Trip this summer!
 Recycled Snowman Craft - What a great way to reuse those old containers! 
My husband lovingly refers to me as a "Pinterest Hoarder".  If there's a chance that I can use something for a craft, I can't bring myself to toss it.  We go through A LOT of these peanut containers in our house because it's one of the few proteins that two of my boys will eat.  If you're doing this with a class, make sure that you don't have any peanut allergies.  I do, actually, have a child with a peanut allergy, but she was able to do this craft without any issues because the bottles were washed well and her allergy is not severe.  As always, though, you know your child and whether using a different container (instant coffee, coffee creamer, etc.) might work better.  I just loved the shape of these and how the tops made a perfect little snowman head! photo DSC_0547_zpsafd86577.jpg After the labels were removed and the bottles were washed, we painted the bottles on the outside using acrylic white paint.  I put white undershirts on the little kids to help protect their clothes.Recycled Snowman Craft - What a great way to reuse those old containers! We let the bottles dry overnight.  The next day, we got to work decorating them with lots of materials from our craft supplies:  (A special thanks to craftprojectideas.com for providing so many of them!)
Tacky Glue
Glitter Bouquet Foam Stickers
Felt in various colors
Wiggly Eyes
Orange foam sheet
Plastic Craft Buttons
Fabric scissors
Glue Gun and glue
Recycled Snowman Craft - What a great way to reuse those old containers! The kids each chose their favorite color for the scarves.  I cut a strip along the longer edge of an 8 1/2'' by 11'' sheet of felt.  Be sure to use the longer edge so your felt will wrap around the snowman.  My scarves were about an inch thick and 11 inches long.Recycled Snowman Craft - What a great way to reuse those old containers! For the rest of the details, the kids sorted through the craft supplies choosing their favorite buttons and flower stickers.  We also cut orange triangles out of the orange foam.Recycled Snowman Craft - What a great way to reuse those old containers! The kids used the tacky glue to attach the eyes, foam carrot noses, and buttons to their bottles.  I used hot glue to attach the scarves so they would dry immediately.Recycled Snowman Craft - What a great way to reuse those old containers! This craft was filled with lots of fine motor skill practice as the kids manipulated the different craft supplies and removed the backings from the foam stickers.  I loved how colorful and festive these turned out to be! Recycled Snowman Craft - What a great way to reuse those old containers! They are working great as Snowman Banks and would be cute to fill with beans and rice for noise makers, or to fill with candy as a gift!
 Recycled Snowman Craft - What a great way to reuse those old containers! 
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Sunday, December 28, 2014

31 Days of Decluttering - Free Printable Checklist

Check us out on Instagram to join the #31daysofdecluttering Challenge!

Tis' the season to declutter the house and make room for all the new things we got from the holidays.  Even though we agreed not to buy adult gifts this year, and even though we vowed to limit how many gifts we bought for the kids, we still ended up with so many new things after Christmas.  I discovered long ago that no matter how much I try to "gently" limit the grandparents, they are going to buy what they're going to buy.  I love that they love my kids and this is just one of the many ways that they show it.  Plus, it gives me an extra nudge to start decluttering and get the new year started off right.
31 Days of Decluttering Challenge - I could do this EVERY month!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Name Practice Shape Christmas Tree for Kids

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We've been doing more sensory play than crafts lately, but I had to share this fun Christmas tree craft with you. It was a big hit with my 3 and 4-year-olds and gave them a chance to practice with their names and shapes.
 photo NamePracticeShapeChristmasTrees_zps654c3a98.jpg