Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Best Apps for Family Fun Night


Most of the time, you will find our family playing cards, games or a team challenge for a family fun night.  Occasionally though we will grab the ipad or the iphone and start playing a group game.  Here are our favorites (this post contains affiliate links):

1.  Family Feud - great team game for old and young.  The older ones type in the answers but the younger ones can definitely shout them out.  We don't go in order we just work together to get them all.  

2.  Heads Up - best iphone group game EVER!  Kids version is the best but sometimes that gets too easy.

3.   Word Charades - try and get the group to guess the word at the top without saying the other words.  We modify this game to keep everyone involved.  Just take turns and see who can get the highest score.  For the younger ones, you are allowed to say the words at the bottom of the card.

4.  94 Seconds - Work together to see how many category words you can get correct in 94 seconds.  Again, we modify the rules by saying the category and the letter out loud so everyone can help.  One person types in everyone's answers.  

5.  Life or Monopoly - At home we absolutely play the real board game.  But in the camper with tight quarters or the car, the video game is perfect.  

What is your favorite apps for family fun night?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

6 Not So Great Things My Kids Have That I Did Not...



I was thinking the other day about how much childhood has changed since I was growing up.  I find myself more and more saying it just isn't as good as it used to be.  Perhaps I sound like a grandmother, maybe it just comes with age but here are 6 not so great things that my kids have that I did not:

1.  School Bus Transportation - In our area, even if you can see the school out your front window you are still entitled to a school bus ride.  My kids don't even have to walk to a stop - you get picked up right at the end of my driveway.

In comparison, I walked one mile to school, home and back for lunch, and home again at the end of the day for all of elementary school.  I did take a bus to high school (it was about 3 miles away) but did have to walk to a bus stop.  We had so much fun walking to and from school - a few of us would always land up meeting along the way.

2.  Chain Restaurants - There are so many restaurants to choose from today.  Everyone has a kids menu of some sort.

No matter what you tell me, when I eat out I eat more (mostly because there is waitress service so I get to sit down for an entire meal!) And, we wonder why we have an obesity problem in the USA.  Obviously, there was McDonald's, Burger King and a few more when I was a kid but not nearly as many as today.  Plus, it was a huge treat to go out to eat.  People just ate at home for the most part.

3.  Organized Sports - My children get to participate in organized sports from the age of 4 years old and up.  There is a sports team for each season and if you so chose you can play 2 sports during one season or play on 2 teams during one season.  The kids parents are there at every game cheering the participants on - hit or strike out...Good job!

I, too, had organized sports but didn't start until 4th grade, rode my bike to games and no parents came to cheer us on.  We had LOADS of fun - lots of chatting and laughs.  I can't even remember what positions I played in elementary school.  I do remember it was fun and never a chore to attend.  Oh yeah, and the seasons where only about 8 weeks long and you never played 2 sports at once or on two teams unless you were training for the Olympics. 

4.  Cell Phones - Isn't it great today - kids can get in touch with anyone at anytime and parents can check on their kids.  How wonderful!

When I was a kid, you needed to carry a dime with you in case you needed to make a phone call.  You were "out of touch" from your parents or friends hours or even days at times.  There is something to be said for quiet time.  There are certainly times now I wish I could be "out of touch" even for a few hours.

5.  Constant Safety Net - As parents, we protect our children the best we can starting in infancy.  Put them in car seats, try and eat healthy foods, wear helmets, etc.  Of course we can not think of everything but we have thought of we are on top of it.  Get a bad grade in school, don't worry kids Mom and Dad will call the school and see where the teacher went wrong.

When I was a kid, we did not have car seats (in fact one time my sister and I rode in lawn chairs.  My brother actually had a car that had milk crates for seats).  Not saying we should not use car seats just sharing a funny story.

But, we were able to play outdoors without helmets on every two seconds.  Sometimes I see my children actually playing tag with helmets on if they were just riding their bikes.  Again, I am not saying kids should not wear helmets.

Regarding school, If I did poorly, the teacher was always right and I should have done better.

6.  Internet and Cable Television - At the click of a button kids can find any information or get homework help.  Want to watch a children's television show?  Turn on your tv at anytime and you can find kids shows.

As a child, we pretty much only watched tv Saturday mornings because that was the only time kids tv was on (maybe David and Goliath on Sunday morning if you were desperate).  After school and weekends you played.  You went outside and found friends to hang out with.  If  you needed information, you went to the library and looked it up.  

Listen, don't get me wrong there are lots of conveniences that we have now as parents.  But overall, I do wish my kids sometimes were being raised during a different time.  Here is how I try to make that time:
  • limit television and video game use
  • only play sports during that season
  • eat out about 2x month 
  • let the teacher be right 99% of the time (can't seem to give up that 1%)
  • invite kids over the house for free play time
  • they do ride in car seats and wear helmets (but I do remind them to take them off when playing tag)
  • give them some independence where parents are not present
  • play outdoors 
What do you wish your kids had from when you were younger? 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sticks, Stones and Pipe Cleaners


We brought some crafting outdoors today with this sticks, stones and pipe cleaners activity.  First we collected some sticks and rocks.  We added google eyes and pipe cleaners and the kids just started creating (me too!).  It was fun and somewhat relaxing to wind the pipe cleaners around the sticks.  There was no expectation for this craft just create.   

Here is her magic wand or pretend roasted marshmallow.


Here we added some dandelions to the pipe cleaner sticks.


Our collection of creations are above.  But my all time favorite is below... the selfie stick!  Get it - haha!  That was the first thing she made.  Cracks me up every time, I look at this picture #therealselfiestick.







Sunday, May 1, 2016

Why I Let My Children (And Me...) Get a Pet


So I finally caved in and let one of my daughters get a hamster.  For years I have been saying no.  We have a dog, 2 rabbits and some fish.  I said no for years to the dog as well but caved in with him over 2 years ago.  So it was only natural for me to give in to a hamster over time.  I am not sure why I say yes but I have a few guesses:

1.  Motherhood guilt always creeps up on me.  This is usually my number one reason for saying yes to anything. What is the big deal?  It is only an animal.  They are not asking for a trip around the world.

2.  Fear of complaints when adults.  I can hear them now "You never let us have any animals".  They will forget about all the fun things we did together and just remember that they went through childhood with no pets.  Not sure why I care but I do - I know pathetic.

3.  My own childhood memories.  My mother did let us have pets.  We had a dog that I don't think I ever walked but I remember loving that dog so much.  The dog even had puppies - it was so much fun.  I am the youngest of 7 children so I think between all of us we had every pet except snakes.  We have so many fun stories and memories about the pets through the years so how could I not allow my children to make the same memories.

I keep telling myself there are benefits to the children.  They develop a sense of responsibility and a caring outlook for all creatures.  They can develop a bond with the animal that they look after, feed and love.  All sounds great if it really worked that way.  Here is what happened to us with the hamster.

At the pet store, 10 year old daughter pledges that she will care for the hamster 100% and never need any help.  They have one at school and she takes care of it all the time.

OK I agree.  We get a long informative speech from store worker (all I remember is take it out for the first time in the tub in case it escapes and we have a 14 day return policy for the animal if it is not what you expected).

She buys the hamster and the cage with her own money.  She names it Gladys which cracks me up every time we say it.  On the way home we giggle about how the hamster is chewing on the box.  We pull in the driveway and my daughter realizes it has chewed a hole so large it can almost escape!!!!  She runs in remembering to get in the tub.  We all get upstairs and close the door tight making a total of 6 people in the bathroom and one hamster.

Quickly I, the mom, sets up the cage.  Here is problem #1: within minutes of being home I am helping when I lectured in the store that I would do nothing to help.  But I do not want a loose hamster.  Finally the cage is together.  Time to put the hamster in the cage. Here comes problem #2.  My daughter is so scared of the hamster.  She is claiming that at school it is much friendlier.  So I have two choices - stick to my plan of not helping OR help and get the hamster out of the tub.  Obviously, I pick number 2.  So I put gloves on, turn into Rescue Worker mom and try to relocate the hamster.

I get close to the hamster but I can not pick up the rodent.  It is scarier than a mouse to me right then.  I take some deep breaths and finally grab the box it is climbing on and put that in the cage.  We lock it up and admire it from afar.

Now time to disinfect the tub quickly before making dinner and putting actual children in the tub (I know disgusting) - somehow I had to do quite a few things for this pet in under one hour.

Well, week one of hamster ownership continues - my daughter will hand feed it but has not attempted to pick her up yet.  Therefore, she needed help to clean out the cage (guess who helped? Yup, me again!) 

Anyway, I keep checking if my daughter wants to use the 14 day clause that allows her to return the critter but she does not.  At the end of the day, I will help because I am starting to like the little creature.  My toddler just loves talking about her and visiting her cage.  I will expect my daughter to do as much as she can and feel confident she will get to a point where she can do 99% of it.

So mission accomplished.  We have one more pet memory to add to their childhood experience..."the hamster in the tub incident".  The motherhood guilt has officially disappeared.    

UPDATE 5/1/16:  Fast forward four years.  Gladys went on to live for about 18 months (average life span of a hamster according to the pet store).  And, guess what my daughter never was able to pick Gladys up.  We cleaned around her and of course, I helped way more than I should have.  

Our bunnies died a few years ago.  Recently, one of my other daughter's bought a new bunny.  I am doing much better with a hands off approach and she is basically 100% responsible for her little bunny.  I do occasionally remind her to clean out the cage but she does a good job looking after the bunny by herself.  

My son has a fish tank which is the #1 best pet to get!  It is very calming and not as much responsibility as the bunny. He has learned a lot about maintaining the proper water, the filter and different types of fish as well.  

Do you allow your children to have pets?  Would love to hear how you do it?  Are you able to have a hands off approach or does the pet ultimately become yours?   

Friday, April 22, 2016

Pretend Play Masks

Download two free masks from the Pretend Play Masks packet.  They are in color or black and white so you choose whether to print in color or color them yourself.  Get 20+ masks, including animals, fairy tale characters, super heroes, community workers and more with the Pretend Play Masks complete download at Growing Play.  


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Kale and Apple Salad that Kids Will Actually Eat!


I can't believe it. My kids actually ate this kale and apple salad and asked for more. I like vegetables and happen to like kale but usually not raw. I adapted this recipe from Cooking at the New York Times.

Quick funny story - my kids tasted raw kale at lunch time
that I was putting on a panini. Their reaction ranged from comments about it being gross to actually spitting it out. At dinner time the same day, I made this kale and apple salad and asked them to try again.  I thought they might like it this time because the combination of the lemon juice and the parmesan cheese took the bitterness out of the raw kale. They loved it!  Some even came back for seconds.

Here is my adapted recipe.  I am lazy cooker so the least amount of dirty dishes are the best.   

Some kale ripped up small (about 4 cups - I didn't measure)
2 Chopped Apples (I didn't bother peeling)
Handful of shredded cheddar cheese

Dressing:
Squeeze one lemon
4 tbsp olive oil
Crushed garlic clove
2 tbsp parmesan cheese 

Stir it up and pour over kale. Toss the salad and serve. 

Would love to hear if your kids eat it!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sock Bean Bags from the Sensory Box


Why not take sensory play outside the box with sock bean bags?  We have so many mismatched socks around this house so this was a great upcycle project.  We have a sensory box with dried split peas and lima beans.  Have to admit not one of my favorite sensory boxes - the split peas feel so nice running through your fingers but they are very hard to clean up.  

My toddler was able to help make the bean bags.  I put some small paper cups in the bean box.  She scooped up beans and poured them into the small socks.  I used a rubber band to secure the beans inside the sock and turned the sock inside out over the sack of beans.  Voila - bean bag!  We repeated this process 4 times.


The toddler quickly grabbed the bean bags and began throwing them around the room.  There was lots of throwing, squatting, reaching and carrying of the bean bags.  It entertained her for some time.


The older kids quickly found a cure for their boredom and practiced juggling with the bean bag balls.  The baby sock bean bags were the perfect size for small hands to juggle.