Tuesday, April 15, 2014

White Clay Ornaments for Preschool

I have been wanting to try this simple clay recipe for awhile now and thought Easter would be the perfect time to whip up some fun ornaments.  Over Christmas, we made salt dough ornaments and I wanted to test out this recipe that was supposed to give a whiter, cleaner finish.  This clay can be put together relatively quickly using 2 simple ingredients from your pantry.
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For our ornaments, we used:
1 cup Cornstarch
16 oz box Baking Soda
1 cup Water
Cookie Cutter Set
Ribbon
Toothpick (optional)


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Easter Egg Play Dough Mats for Preschool

We are starting our Easter crafts late this year and have recently had a lot of fun with these Easter Egg Play Dough Mats.  We found lots of ways to explore colors, sorting, and numbers with them.  My husband actually made them for us and I love that they have the written form, numeric form, and a picture representation of each number to help the kids develop number correspondence.
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Monday, April 7, 2014

Recycled Materials Crafts and Activities for Kids

In honor of Earth Day this month, the ladies of All Things Kids Blogging Moms are bringing you lots of crafts and activities using recycled materials.

Whenever my kids want to "create" something, they head out to the recycling bins for cans, plastic containers, and cardboard boxes.  Then, they head to the bathroom for our basket of empty toilet paper rolls.  (What? Doesn't everyone have a basket of empty toilet paper rolls in their bathroom??)

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Here are some of our favorite crafts and activities with those recycled materials:

1.  Recycled Green Sea Turtles
2.  Egg Carton Spiders
3.  Egg Carton Flowers
4.  Egg Carton Bugs
5.  Recycled Music Shakers
6.  Toilet Roll Learning Activities
7.  Toilet Roll Fireworks
8.  Toilet Roll Penguins
9.  Cardboard Tube Wand
10.  Toilet Roll Flower Stamping
11.  Toilet Roll Turkey
12.  Tornado Bottles
13.  Mini Aquarium
14.  Paper Plate Ring Toss
15.  Can Toss Tumble Game
16.  Toilet Roll Ladybugs (coming this week)

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For more great activities for those Recycled Materials, check out these articles from the fabulous ladies of All Things Kids:




Thanks for stopping by!  I'd love to hear from you in the comments and have you join us back again!
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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Spark Your Child's Imagination with Pirates and Fairies


Thanks to Disney's Jake and the Neverland Pirates, my 3-year-old is hooked on all things pirate!  We recently had a pirate-themed birthday party and now I will often find the boys dressing up in bandanas and sparring with their inflatable swords.  They love to create treasure maps and sail away in our yard to uncharted destinations.  I love their creativity and sense of adventure.

In honor of Disney's All-New Tinker Bell Movie "The Pirate Fairy", we have been scouring the internet for the best fairy and pirate activities to spark my little one's imagination and capitalize on his love of pirates!
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Today, I'm sharing some of my favorite Pinterest resources with you:

1.  Disney's The Pirate Fairy - This board contains the best of all things pirates and fairies.  You'll find everything from party and snack ideas to crafts and outdoor activities.

2.  My Pirate Party - This board kept me organized as I planned every detail of my son's third birthday.  It has ideas for invitations, party food, pirate cakes, favors, and games.  Everything you need to create the perfect Pirate Party is right here!

3.  Ahoy, Matey - This board has a wealth of resources for everyday Pirate Play.  There are great ideas for sensory bins, costumes, crafts, pretend play, and learning activities. 

4.  Fairy Fun - If your child is more into Tinker Bell than Peter Pan, you'll love all the ideas on this board.  There are fairy houses, fairy gardens, fairy crafts, and fairy sensory bins.  There are tons of party ideas and great ways to upcycle household materials and create your own fairy.  I love the outdoor focus in these resources.

5.  Outdoor Activities for Kids - If you 're looking for ways that your kids can create their own outdoor adventures, this is the Pinterest resource for you!  There are literally hundreds of ideas to get your kids creating, exploring, and enjoying the great outdoors.  This is a great resource for nurturing your children's talents and love of adventure!
With warm weather just around the corner, these boards are sure to provide you with endless creative resources!  If you'd like to learn more about the All-New Tinker Bell Movie "The Pirate Fairy," you can follow them on Facebook or click here to purchase it on Blu-ray and Digital HD NOW
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Monday, March 31, 2014

Dinosaur Track Painting for Preschool

Lately, we've been sharing some of our favorite activities from our Dinosaur theme. This activity got a little messy and the kids loved it!  My kids love to paint and are thrilled any time we pull out a new material to paint with.  During this activity we worked on language skills as they discussed the different dinosaurs and created stories for where their dinosaurs were headed.  They also developed their hand muscles and coordination as they manipulated the dinosaurs and had a great time identifying and mixing colors.
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For this activity we used:
Toy Dinosaurs - I found ours at the Dollar store
Washable Paints
Large Construction Paper

To start with, we talked about the different types of dinosaurs that we've been reading about (Tyrannosaurus Rex, Triceratops, Stegosaurus...) and how paleontologists use fossils to determine what their lives might have been like.  I reminded the kids that we got to be paleontologists and dig for dinosaur bones with our Chocolate Chip Cookie Dinosaur Excavation Activity and today we were going to make dinosaur tracks and think about what the dinosaurs might have been doing.

The kids were excited to get their hands on the dinosaurs and start making tracks!  I showed them how to dip the feet in and make tracks on their paper and they were off.

 photo DSC_1186_zps955b7597.jpg They used the different dinosaurs to make paths along their papers.  They dragged the dinosaur tails through the paint and make lines on their papers.  One little boy even had the T-Rex chasing another dinosaur!
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If I had taken their papers then, we would have had some beautiful tracks to send home, but the kids weren't done exploring!  They put paint on the dinosaurs' heads and arms and used them to make prints on their papers.
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After awhile, they abandoned the dinosaurs altogether and dove in with their hands to mix the colors on their papers.  Of course, that meant that our dinosaur tracks were only captured in a few pictures, but they had a great time getting their hands messy and exploring with the paints.  My toddler and 3-year-old especially loved it!

Thanks for stopping by!  I'd love to hear from you in the comments and have you join us back again!

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Friday, March 28, 2014

How to Stop Eating Out, Save Money, and Get Out of Debt

Everyone seems to be seeking a "simpler" way of life these days.  We want a return to natural living, less stress, more time with family.  In keeping with that, I see more and more people vowing to pay off debt, joining Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace, and doing their best to save money in spite of difficult economic climates.

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 (This photo is from our recent anniversary trip to the Bahamas that we saved up for and paid off before taking.  It was wonderful and we enjoyed it more knowing it was paid for!)

A few years ago, my husband and I began paying down our debts and working on our debt snowball.  When I left teaching to stay home with our kids, I began an in-home daycare that allowed me to bring in some money, but it also meant that we had to adjust our lifestyles.  I had to start budgeting for groceries and thinking about what we were spending on clothing and entertainment.  It has been a slow climb.  We've paid off two cars, bought a new van, and paid off a couple credit cards, but we still have a ways to go.

One of our biggest challenges has always been limiting how much we eat out.  We both love to eat out and having children didn't change that.  We also love to splurge on Starbucks drinks and have a special weakness for Sweet Frog.  We were doing well with limiting our outings...until this pregnancy.  In the first trimester, I was so sick and so tired that it was just easier to order in Chinese than to attempt to cook.  My husband is a help in a lot of ways, but cooking is not one of them.  His idea of making dinner is calling for take-out.  I knew that if I wanted to get our funds back to paying off our debts I was going to have to get back to basics, so I thought I would share what has worked for us in the past and what is working for us now:

1.  Freezer Cooking - I am not a freezer-cooking guru.  I have said before that the thought of doing a month's worth of meals in one day is just overwhelming for me, but I love the idea of having a few easy meals in the freezer for those days when I just don't feel like cooking.  Whenever I make meatloaf, I double the recipe and freeze one for later.  The same thing goes for pizza pasta and enchiladas.  Whenever I make soup or chili, like my minestrone, I always freeze the leftovers in individual servings for later lunches.  The beauty of freezer cooking is that you can buy meat when it's on sale, use it in your favorite dishes, and freeze them for later.
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2.  Crock-Pot Meals - Like having meals ready in your freezer, your crock-pot can also save you from those last minute pizza calls by doing the work for you.  We are pretty picky about our crock-pot meals, though.  My husband prefers many of the meals that we've tried when they're prepared in the oven (crock-pot lasagna will never be as good as my homemade lasagna), but we still use it for soups, chili, and roasts.

3.  Make Your Menu Plan Visible - This is one of my latest additions to the kitchen and it actually saved me tonight.  I was exhausted after a day with all the kids and the last thing I wanted to do was to make one. more. meal!  My husband asked my 8-year-old what he wanted for dinner and he immediately recited what was written on our menu board.  I spent a few bucks on a white board at Target and it's already paid for itself because instead of having the Chinese take-out that we were hoping he'd ask for, my oldest actually wanted what was slated for dinner.  Talk about accountability!  It also means that I have to make my menu plan and stick with it.  I have always had a menu plan in my planner , but since no one saw it I could change it whenever I wanted to or just ignore it completely.
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The other bonus to having this menu board is that it makes it easy for EVERYONE to see what's for dinner that night.  That means when I'm sipping my decaf in the morning, I can glance over and see what I need to prep for dinner that night.  It also means that the boys (and my husband) can check the board instead of asking me "what's for dinner" a million times throughout the day.

4.  Make Your Coffee at Home - It's a little hard to justify that stop at Starbucks when you have your travel mug in hand with your favorite brew from home.  Obviously, the cheapest way to do this is to brew regular coffee at home, but even if you go the Keurig route and buy the more expensive K-cups, you're still saving several dollars a day off that grande latte. 

5.  Pack Your Lunch - Not only will you save money, but you'll also be healthier by bringing your lunch from home.  The internet is filled with ideas for creative lunches, but we find the easiest thing to do for my husband (and our kids) is to stick with leftovers and a few simple wrap options.  lInstead of buying individual snacks, we buy large bags of pretzels and portion them ourselves into reusable cloth snack bags.  I also portion out their fruits and vegetables into reusable containers on Sunday night so they're ready to go for the week.  My husband even brings his lunch on teacher workdays and takes it with him if he goes out with the other teachers.

6.  Keep Your Goals in Mind -  When it comes down to it, it's up to us to make the decision to go out or stay home for meals and really I have no one to blame but myself.  We have food in the kitchen, but I have to get over my laziness and go cook it - even when I don't feel like it!  I've found that keeping our end-goals in mind helps me do this when I'd rather just lay one the couch.  We have a family photo of us from our last trip to Disney on the fridge.  The boys know that when we pay off our last credit card, we're planning to take them back.  That picture (and the list of Disney movies we want to see before then) keeps reminding me of what we're working towards.  Saving money and getting out of debt may mean different things for you.  It might mean getting a new car or saving up for a new house.  It might mean being able to stay home with your kids or finally being able to take your dream job.  Whatever it is, find something that reminds you of that and put it where you most need to see it.  If stopping for fast food is your weakness, keep that picture posted on your dashboard.  If you're like me and you just don't want to cook, put it on your fridge and remind yourself of why you aren't going out tonight.  In the end, that dinner out just isn't worth it!

What about you?  I'd love to hear how your making changes, saving money, and getting out of debt!

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Have a Budget-Friendly Jake and the Neverland Pirates 3rd Birthday Party


For my son's third birthday, he requested a Jake and the Neverland Pirates party.  After his carnival party last year, my husband requested that we have a "simple party" this year and I was happy to oblige with both of their requests.

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I knew that we would have a small party since my son only wanted to invite his two best Daycare friends.  In fact, it worked out perfectly to do his party during the day when his Daycare friends would already be at the house.  We had an entire Pirate-themed day and my little guy loved it!
 
Decorations:
As guests arrived, there was a large chalkboard sign that read, "Ahoy, Mateys!  X marks the spot for FUN!"

Then, we decorated the kitchen with red, yellow and blue, using lots of my son's Jake and the Neverland Pirates toys and some clearance pirate paper products from Target.  Instead of using helium balloons, I tied balloons from the light fixture and tied my son's Skully parrot to the middle.  It was a huge hit with my toddler.  For the birthday banner, I re-used our Batman Banner and added some Jake and the Neverland Pirates clip-art over the batman logos. 

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Food:
For lunch, we served a pirates treasure trove with:
Bucky Hot Dog Ships
Goldfish and Cannon Balls (cheese balls)
Izzy's Strawberries with Pixie Dust (sugar)
Cubby's carrots
Jake's Juice 

The cake was a simple 2-tier that came straight from a box with some homemade icing.  My son asked for a "blue cake" so I made the bottom layer the ocean and decorated it with frosting seaweed and Sweedish Fish candies.  The top layer was a simple ship with chopsticks and paper sails.  We used a Jake figurine as a topper and removed the sails before lighting any candles.

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Activities and Favors:
Our party favors doubled as activities for the party.  The kids dressed up in their pirate costumes using bandanas and eye patches.  Then, we got started with our crafts.

To start with, the kids decorated their own treasure maps on empty rolls of wrapping paper using markers and pirate stickers .  Then, my 8-year-old led the kids on an impromptu obstacle course through the basement while I set-up the next craft.  They, "walked the plank" over pillows and crawled under furniture to search for treasure (candy and plastic jewelry).

Once they found their treasure, we returned upstairs to decorate treasure chests.  This was such a fun project for the kids.  They love to paint and these made great party favors.  I found them at Michaels for $1.39 each.  I purchased gems for the kids to add to their treasure chests and put inside for treasure.

The last party favor kept the kids entertained for the rest of the morning!  I ordered a set of 12 inflatable pirate swords from Amazon and they were a huge hit!  They held up remarkably well with my active kids and (unlike plastic swords) did not cause any casualties.

At the end of the day, the kids took home goodie bags filled with:

My little guy has since become obsessed with dressing-up in his pirate costume and watching anything related to pirates, Peter Pan, and Captain Hook.  He is particularly excited about Disney's The Pirate Fairy, the all-new Tinker Bell Movie coming out from the World of Peter Pan.  We'll be looking to buy it on Blue-Ray and Digital HD on April 1st.  I think it would make a great Easter present for our little pirate! 
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