Thursday, June 23, 2016

My Love Hate Relationship with Pinterest


Dear Pinterest,

Hello, my name is Margaret Rice and I am addicted to Pinterest.  I admit it - it is my television.  I love scanning and checking out all the activity suggestions.  I have been doing it since Pinterest started.  I have to admit though I am getting a little sick of all the perfect pictures. Can we please get realistic on Pinterest?  More and more I see these truly amazing activity ideas, with breathtaking photos of finished projects by preschoolers and toddlers.  I convince myself that this will be the activity tomorrow for my toddler.  In my delusional midnight brain, I picture my toddler sitting engaged by himself for at least 30 minutes to participate in this awesome Pinterest find.

When I awake in the morning, reality sets in.  It doesn't start off too great.  In typical fashion, I don't have all the supplies needed so I just make do with what I have.  I set it all up for my little one. The anticipation of having him occupied independently is making me feel so excited. He sits down.  I model how to do the activity.  He takes a turn.  Yeah he seems to love it.  Awesome, I will just slip away to the other side of the room and accomplish something.  The second I start the task on the other side of the room he is no longer interested in his activity.  I redirect him back to the activity.  He sits while I sit and plays.  I sneak away - he finds me.  We basically go back and forth like this for awhile until he loses interest in the activity.  I clean up and I'm usually a little grumpy since I was so pumped up he was going to just love this Pinterest idea.

Here is another scenario - I set the Pinterest activity all up (takes about 5 minutes) - he plays independently for 10 minutes - during that 10 minutes he trashes himself and the play area around him - when done I change his clothes, wash him up including his hair sometimes - I clean up area (takes about 20 minutes).  So for 10 minutes of independent play it took me 25 to set up and clean up.  You do the math, seems like I am operating in a deficit.

Now I have to be honest.  I blog and operate a website for a living.  I pin things from my blogs and website all the time. I LOVE Pinterest since it drives quite a bit of traffic to my website and I truly enjoy viewing everyone else's pins.  It is visually engaging and helps me to dream big.

But, please let's get real on Pinterest.  Can you at least show a few pictures of what went wrong?  Can you provide an estimated window of how much effort it will take me for set up and clean up versus actual kid engagement? Can you tell me how much money you spent at the craft store for all those awesome supplies?  Can you share that had supplies set aside but your kid got to them before you and used them for other purposes (ie pipe cleaners to decorate the rocking chair).  
  
    
Maybe it is my problem.  Maybe I need to be more realistic about what is worth the effort.  Maybe I need to go cold turkey and delete my Pinterest accounts (NEVER!).

OR...maybe you can help me out and not make your crafts and activities look so perfect all the time.

Sincerely,
Your Pinterest Follower  

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kitchen Puzzle


Here is a quick way to make a homemade puzzle for little ones.  This is a great activity because you can vary it so easily based on your child's ability but tracing a few shapes or more shapes.

Grab a file folder or large paper.  Trace around some objects from your kitchen i.e. cookie cutters, measuring cup, spoon or magnets.

When done, lay the objects around the border of the paper and see if your child can match up the objects to the outline.  So simple to make but reinforces a child's visual perceptual and fine motor skills.

Check out the Baby Toddler Book Pages.  This is a digital download of 10 entertaining and educational pages for baby. This set includes the following 10 themes: baby, dogs, cats, toys, animals, farm, trucks, outdoors and 2 color identification pages. 

You can print the pages on cardstock paper and laminate. If you don't want to print the pages, let your baby/toddler look and read the picture pages on a smartphone, tablet or computer.  Find out more at http://www.growingplay.com/toddlerpages.html


Monday, June 20, 2016

5 Bucket List Items for Your Family this Summer


Since today is the official first day of Summer, I thought I would share 5 of bucket list items to do as a family during the Summer.  I love all the bucket lists on Pinterest but boy are they overwhelming!  Some of them list 100+ things to do over the summer.  I would be exhausted if we did all those activities.  Here are my top five that we do every year as a family over the summer.    



1.  Go camping, rent a cabin or stay at a resort - I have posted about this before but I can not say enough about how wonderful camping is for a family. It forces you to unplug, slow down and all enjoy the outdoors.  If you hate the idea of tenting, rent a cabin or stay at a resort in the outdoors.  The whole goal is to spend time together in nature.

2.  Go on a picnic.  Might sound so simple but when was the last time you all went on a picnic somewhere?  Pack up a lunch, grab a picnic blanket and enjoy an afternoon at the park or a lake.  My kids LOVE when we do this.  

3.  Explore water.  Maybe it is swimming, maybe it is boating or maybe just splashing around in a creek.  I happen to love water anything so we do this all summer long.  

4.  Go hiking.  Take at least one hike.  I know this can seem like a daunting task if you have littles ones like we have had for the past 16 years!  Trust me you will enjoy it just don't expect that you will log thousands of steps on your Fitbit.  I usually "research" online for a simple hike of which my definition is a loop that is less than one mile.  Everyone should be able to walk the whole time except maybe the two year old.  I avoid hikes with ledges and narrow paths just because I don't want to be a "nervous Nellie" the whole time telling the kids to be careful.  You will feel like you made a huge accomplishment together!

5.  Visit your local library.  I can't say enough about libraries.  When I was a child, I have very fond memories of library story times and activities.  Now libraries have really upped their game and have so many wonderful and usually free activities.  The kids will get some entertainment and my husband and I take turns exploring the bookshelves.

What is your favorite summer time activity?

Want more family bucket list ideas?  



Check out the Family Bucket List Growing Play Cards Set. This set of cards includes 50 things to experience as a family before the kids grow up and move out.  Write down the date you complete the activity.  Have fun together as a family - they are only young once.  Find out more information GrowingPlay.com.     

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Guess How Many People You See Game


Here is a simple guessing game to print and play next time you are feeling bored or need a family challenge.  Print it in color or black and white.  Don't read the answer on page 4 if you want to take a guess yourself!

The best way to play this game is not to count but just to take a quick glance.  Try only looking at the picture for 10 seconds or less.  Take a guess and how many people you see.

The person who guesses the closest without going over is the winner!



Check out Boredom Busters for more fun ideas!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

July Fourth Party Games


July 4th happens to be one of our favorite holidays.  Ever since I was a child, we celebrate the day with a parade, barbeque and fireworks.  Some years we even squeeze in a pool party at my brother's house and then the BBQ at a friend's house.  It is a long but super fun day.  

Sometimes when my family gets together I like to create a fun game for us to play.  This July 4th Games packet includes 5 different games to print and play:

1.  Stars and Stripes Keno - a great game for large groups instead of traditional bingo.
2.  How Many Flags?  - can you submit the correct guess for how many flags are on the page?
3.  Red, White, Blue, Flag - modify this game to play with the young to old.
4.  Red, White, Boom - play this game while you learn some July 4th trivia.
5.  July 4th One Minute - can you talk about the various July 4th topics for one full minute?  It is harder than you think.


These games are available as an electronic download so they will be delivered electronically after payment.  So no worries if you need last minute group games for July 4th.

  
To purchase July 4th Games for $1.99 click on the add to cart button.  You will receive the download following payment.  

Homemade Props for Playing Doctor


Here are some simple ideas to make to add to your playing doctor and hospital kits.

Above is some homemade band-aids made out of felt. If you do not like to sew you could just glue on the different colored felts. I love felt for simple projects like this since it is very economical and soft to touch. If you want, you can add velcro so the bandages will actually close.

You can also make a basic cast out of a piece of felt. I just took one piece of felt, folded it half lengthwise, and sewed down one side. I turned it inside out and cut out a thumb hole. It fits kids up to about 9 years old. If you do not have felt and do not sew you could just cut a thumb hole in a white tube sock for the same effect.


Above is an ice pack for play. The kids will enjoy helping to make this prop. Pour Dawn soap (make sure it is Dawn) into a plastic bag. Seal it up (I added extra duct tape and put it inside another baggie just in case). Put it in the freezer. It freezes just like a gel ice pack so it is flexible. Lots of fun to wrap around an "injured" arm. Personally, makes a nice icepack for real boo-boos as well!

Need more props for playing doctor and hospital? Download the Playing Pretend ebook for Doctor and Hospital forms.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Simplicities of Childhood


I have come to a major realization that the simplicity of childhood only lasts so long.  I do not mean the innocence or the sense of wonder.  I mean the true simplicity of just enjoying a simple activity over and over again.  While observing our 6th child splash through puddles repeatedly, our almost 12 year old was following behind.  My older son enjoyed the rain for a few minutes but then he hunched over disliking the chill of the rain and diligently followed his baby brother.  My toddler played for a long time while we took refuge on the covered porch.  He just splashed in the puddles, felt the water come down the drain pipe and just ran around.  He didn't need anything but the rain and space to play.  

I began to reflect on my toddler's everyday life.  It seems as though he always just needs a few items to entertain him, mostly outdoors, and he is content.  Part of this simplicity of childhood is playing with objects that are not actually toys. Young children seem to play for hours with cardboard boxes, rocks, sticks, kitchen utensils, pots and water

Don't be impressed, for I do not mean that he entertains himself. But, if I am simply present, observing what he wants to do and just watching him play he is satisfied.  God forbid, I pick up a newspaper to read or check the computer, his satisfaction ends in under a minute.  I can not do the dishes, fold the laundry or answer the phone either. He just wants me to sit and watch.  I guess he is satisfied with his simple "toys" as long as I am doing something simple myself.  

I am trying to cherish observing these moments because I do realize that this too shall pass.  And the pressures of life start to weigh heavier on children as they get older.  With older teenagers in the house and college looming on the horizon it slaps me right in the face that as parents we need to provide time for young ones to enjoy the simplicities of childhood as long as they can.  

So the next time I rush my toddler along, I will try and just slow down to appreciate these moments where he is just savoring the simplicities of childhood.          

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

5 Games to Play with Pots and Pans


Through the years, one of the best go to toys for little ones is the kitchen pots and pans.  Here are 5 games to play with pots and pans:

1.  Lid Mix Up - separate all the pots, pans and the lids. Scatter them around a room.  See how quickly the child can find the correct lid and match it up to the pot.

2.  Musical Band - easiest and most favorite activity.  Add some wooden spoons and make some music!

3.  Water Fun - lay a large towel on the floor, pour some water in the pot and hand over a ladle.  Put another pot next to it so your little one can transfer the water from one pot to the other.

4.  Alphabet Soup - Toss some plastic letters or anything you have from around the house (ie cotton balls, cookie cutters, clothes pegs, etc) so the child can pretend to make soup.  

5.  Hide the Animal - Place the pots around the room upside down.  The child can hide his/her eyes.  Pick a small stuffed animal and hide it under one of the pots.  The child can then open up his/her eyes and search for the missing stuffed animal.


Need more entertainment for your little one?  Check out the Toddler Book Pages are a digital download of 10 entertaining and educational pages for baby.   This set includes the following 10 themes: baby, dogs, cats, toys, animals, farm, trucks, outdoors and 2 color identification pages.  Find out more at Growing Play.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Creative Brain Series Question #6 - Factory Owner?

Wake up your brain and your ideas and answer question #6 from the Creative Brain Series - Imagine you own a factory. What would you create and who would you sell it to?


This post is part of the Creative Brain Series from Growing Play on creativity, imagination, outside the box thinking, something quick to do while you are waiting or a boredom buster.  The series will include one question every couple of days to get children and adults to think on their feet. There is no right or wrong answers just try to be creative.  Spend 1-2 minutes to think or just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind to share your answer.  

My answers for question #6 would be a game factory.  I know this sounds trite considering I write a blog that mentions games all the time.  But, I love games and have sooooooooo many ideas for card games, small travel games and adventure games.  Maybe some day I will be able to pursue all my ideas.  
  
Answer Creative Brain Series Question #5

Answer Creative Brain Series Question #4
Answer Creative Brain Series Question #3
Answer Creative Brain Series Question #2
Answer Creative Brain Series Question #1

Sunday, June 5, 2016

One Simple Tip to Help Children Be Themselves


Be yourself.  Easier said than done right?  I often tell my children to make sure they stay true to themselves, their beliefs and a moral code.  In summary, be yourself.  

Every single child is so very unique and it is our job as parents, grandparents, teachers, volunteers, ministers, priests or whoever interacts with children to help them to discover their individual talents.  

One simple tip to help children be themselves is to occasionally discuss one on one with them what qualities they each have that make them so special.  For example, focus on three traits, be specific and honest such as:
1.  You are an impressive artist.  The picture you created today was beautiful.
2.  You are a good leader.  Today when we needed the yard cleaned up, you set a great example by helping without being reminded.
3.  You are a talented basketball player.  The three point shot you made was awesome today.

The most important thing is to be honest.  Don't overpraise. Give it a try.  I know sometimes I enjoy it more than the children.  It reminds me how unique each one of my children are!

So for today - Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Taken (compliments of Oscar Wilde).  


 Motivational Posters and Cards
Need more motivation?  Check out the whole collection of Motivational Posters and Cards. Try tossing a different card in your child's lunch box to motivate him/her during the school day.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

If This Then That - BEST App Ever (Especially for Bloggers)


This may be a bit off topic for the Growing Play blog but it is a super interesting app that I had to share to help organize and streamline your phone apps.  This app can do amazing things once you take some time to set up what will work for you.  I read about the If This Then That app in the Wall Street Journal yesterday if you want to read more about it.  

In a nutshell, by creating simple "recipes" this app allows you to connect apps that don't normally connect.  My suggestion is to download the IF app and just start exploring.  

Here is what I am using it for fun:

1.  get a weather report push notification everyday sent to my phone at 7:00am

2.  get an email notification of free apps released today

Here is the AMAZING recipes I am using for blogging:

1.  every time a new blog post is published from Growing Play it automatically gets pinned to a pinterest board that I selected.

2.  every time I publish a new blogpost, it gets copied into a folder in my Google Drive (how awesome is that!).  Therefore, I am automatically backing up the blog.

3.  every time I publish a new blogpost, it is tweeted

I wish you could trigger a blogpost to Instagram but you can not do that.  You can do the opposite - Instagram to blogpost.  And of course, Facebook is difficult because it only will connect my personal account not the GrowingPlay account therefore I can not automate the Facebook posts.  

My extra tip - If This Then That will also run on your computer.  I find it a little easier to navigate on the full website versus the app.  You may want to set up your recipes on the computer and download the app so that you get all the notifications to your phone.  

One more bonus tip - you could use this app to set all sorts of reminders for children who may need a little extra help with organization or staying on schedule.  You can set reminders to drink water, get some exercise and more! 

Enjoy exploring the app!  It has been a long time since I have come across such a helpful, innovative app to streamline social media. Would love to know if you already use this app or something like it.  Also, come back and let me know if you are as excited about it as I am.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Indoor Camping Party for Family Fun Night


Next time you need something super easy to entertain the kids for family fun night have an indoor camping party.  This is so easy to do and the kids LOVE it!  Now of course, I would prefer if every family actually went camping, but I know their are plenty of people that it is just not their thing.  

So why not give your children the experience of camping without leaving home?  All you need is a play tent or even better make your own fort.  My children have always preferred to make their own forts for the indoor camp out.  Using almost every chair and blanket in the house they have created large indoor tents for sleeping or just hanging out.

If you use a play tent, see if the kids can set the whole thing up themselves without any help.  

For the first part of the family fun night the kids can create the tent.  Toss a bag of clothes pins their way to help clip on the blankets and sheets to the chairs.  Next up, outfit the tent.  Grab some sleeping bags and a few pillows.  Each kid can set up their space.

Now time for some spooky stories.  Grab a flashlight and takes turns telling some good old fashioned ghost stories. 

Don't forget a "fireside" camping treat.  You could make smores without a fire.  Just assemble the ingredients and toss it in the microwave to gently heat it up.  Or wrap them in foil and put them in the toaster.  




How about a Minute to Win it themed camping activity? Walk around outside and gather a bunch of small twigs.  Put them on a tray.  Open up a bag of marshmallows and scatter them around the room.  Place a bowl on a table.  The object is to poke your stick into the marshmallow and bring it back to the table to remove it using another stick.  Place the marshmallow in the bowl.  You can not use your hands to pick up or remove the marshmallow off of the stick.  See how can get the most marshmallows in the bowl in one minute.  Don't want to toss the marshmallows around the room?  Just put them on a large tray on a different table than the bowl.  

Need more game ideas?  Read a previous blog post about games to play around the campfire that require no materials.

The younger kids will simply enjoy sleeping over on the floor in something they created themselves.

Check out more family fun night ideas.       

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.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Creative Brain Series Question #5 - New Holiday?

Here is question #5 to get your creative brain juices flowing - Every year we celebrate holidays.  If you could start a new holiday what would it be and when would you celebrate it?



This post is part of the Creative Brain Series from Growing Play on creativity, imagination, outside the box thinking, something quick to do while you are waiting or a boredom buster.  The series will include one question every couple of days to get children and adults to think on their feet. There is no right or wrong answers just try to be creative.  Spend 1-2 minutes to think or just blurt out the first thing that comes to mind to share your answer.  


My answers for question #5 would be a Family Fun Holiday. It would be a holiday that everyone plans a few, fun games, crafts or an outing to bond together as a family.  You don't have to prepare a meal or make it a huge gathering but just slow down and PLAY TOGETHER!  
  
Answer Creative Brain Series Question #4
Answer Creative Brain Series Question #3
Answer Creative Brain Series Question #2
Answer Creative Brain Series Question #1

Monday, April 18, 2016

10 Nature Challenges for Your Family


Here are 10 ideas to get your creative juices flowing to head outdoors!

1.  Go on One Hike:  Head outdoors for at least one hike.  I love hiking with the family as long as we pick appropriate trails.  I like well marked, short jaunts (maximum 2 miles round trip) that are not too hilly.  For me, I do not like any cliffs or extreme drop offs (plus I drive my husband crazy saying be careful every two seconds).   I try and plan our hikes by researching on the internet or using trail books to determine appropriate trails for the family.

2.  Start a Nature Collection:  Pick one item that you will collect this summer.  It can be anything general or specific i.e. a rock collection or maybe only white rocks, seashells or only tiny shells.



3.  Follow a Trail Map:  Children learn so much by bringing along a trail maps and trying to lead the way.  Again, research this and go for a walk where maps will be available and appropriate for children to guide you along the way.  We have found that most nature centers usually have trail maps that children can easily follow.

4.  Grow Something From Seed:  There is a nice sense of accomplishment to start something from seed.  Whatever you choose, flower, vegetable or fruit, let the children do it from start to finish.  Lettuce is sure to be successful. 

5.  One Hour, No Plan:  Head outdoors in the yard, at the park or in the forest with no plan.  Let the children guide what to do and just follow along.

6.  Go birdwatching:  Sounds boring to some but this is actually quite interesting.  Again, this is a good one to research a bit before you head out.  Maybe the kids can research what birds live where you are heading.  Print out a picture and see if you can spot that bird while hiking or enjoying a picnic. 

7.  Climb a Tree:  This one is easy but let your children climb trees.

8.  Sketch Something in Nature:  I loved this as a child.  Head outdoors with a sketch pad and a pencil.  Find a cozy spot and sit down and sketch what you see. 

9.  Find Animal Tracks:  Go walking to find any type of animal tracks and identify them.



10.  Explore a Stream: Sounds simple and maybe a little wet but my children have spent hours exploring and crossing streams.   If you are worried about their feet make sure they wear puddle boots or crocs.   Looking for crayfish, minnows and frog hunting is a super fun experience.  Half of my kids love to catch frogs and half won't touch them.  Bring along nets or wear garden gloves if children are hesitant.  We always catch and release the animals. 

Whatever challenges and goals you set for your family, everyone benefits from spending time outdoors.