Kid-friendly Ant Spot Killer

We have visitors again – those pesky tiny ants that collect around any drop of food in our kitchen (it doesn’t help that we live in a woodsy area and the kids eat right by the deck door).  Anyway, I have tried those little ant house trap things, not overly impressed, but I am sure it works.  But I wanted a way to exterminate them on the spot.  So, I poured plain, white vinegar into a small spray bottle and added about 10 drops of lavender essential oil (for a more pleasant smell) 🙂  IT WORKS AWESOME!

I don’t know if it works on every kind of ant, but it is worth a try since you probably already have vinegar in your pantry.  Good luck!

Before the Spray
After the spray – they all curled up and died…a bit sad.

 

Tips…from a tired but grateful Mama

Sometimes we just need a hand.  Everyone has times when they are strong for others…and then they need someone to be strong for them.  I see it like a roller coaster.  We are all on a roller coaster ride called “life.”  Maybe your life is more calm than mine…it’s actually very possible.  But everyone likes to know they can help someone and then also feel that help from others when they need it most.

So, here’s my random post about ways you can bring some relief to those around you (from the view-point of a stay-at-home-mom with small children):

– Going to the grocery store?  Text a few friends who live nearby (especially stay-at-homers who might be dreading the trip to the store for a gallon of milk) to see if they need anything.
– Offer to plan a playdate with a friends’s kids so they can just have some time alone.
– Making a dinner that is easy to double or triple?  Make a few extra batches to deliver to friends.
– Going through the Starbucks drive-through for a much-needed caffeine boost?  See if you can bring a drink to a nearby friend.  (THIS IS HUGE – for me, thanks to a dear, sanity-saving, friend on many occasions!)
– In need of a date but don’t have a budget for a babysitter on-top of the date activity?  Arrange a date-swap with a friend…put your kids to bed, the friend comes over, have a snack and glass of something delicious and return the favor!
– Spring is almost here – a walk or run in the fresh air does wonders!  Have a playdate and take turns going for a walk or run alone while the kids play.

Above all, I want to encourage you to have a good attitude.  Our attitude is everything.  If we let ourselves have pity-parties in times of trial, it can only lead to a downward spiral.  Pray for strength to look up, take a deep breath, put on the armor of God and LOVE.  I try to challenge myself to think of others when I might be wanting to think of myself.  Who could use a hand?  Or a cup of coffee?

Press on…your kids are watching you.  Bless you.

Play Date Swaps

Play Date Swaps…”what is that?” you might be wondering.  Well, it’s something that has truly been a delight to participate in with fellow stay-at-home-moms and their kids.  The idea is rather simple…and once you have a good routine down, it is AWESOME.  Both Sarah and I have enjoyed it and would highly recommend finding a way to make it work!

I will explain how we have done it and you can decide what would work best for you and your “people.” 🙂

– I have 4 kids…one goes to all day school now.  So, the 3 remaining kids and I have gotten together with 1 and/or 2 other moms and their kids.
– This all depends on how many kids you have, how old they are, and how well they get along.  It can be spectacular if the kids enjoy each other and play nicely.  There are bound to be moments of chaos, but it’s just moments.
– We have always done it in the morning hours, with a lunch, and then everyone goes home for naps…so, roughly 9:30 to 12:30.
– The BEST part is, while the 1 or 2 moms are taking care of the group of kids, that other mom gets to go and do whatever she pleases!!!  Grocery shop without kiddies, have coffee alone, go for a run, clean the house, read, study, shoe shop, haha, whatever she wants!
– Actually, the best part is having your kids enjoy this time with others…growing, learning, exploring, socializing and respecting another adult while you are away.

A few more things that seemed to work well for us in the past:
– Take turns hosting…come up with a rotation.
– Whomever hosts stays while the other mom gets time away.
– Whomever hosts makes the main course of the lunch.
– Whomever is the “visitor” brings a snack and fruits/veggies.
– We usually do easy meals like PB&J, mac n’ cheese, pasta with veggies sauce, or quesadillas…something that everyone in that crowd likes.
– It’s also kind of nice to have a special “mommy lunch” but not necessary…it’s not like the moms get to sit down and leisurely eat 🙂
– A craft is nice to have planned, but free play is great too.
– Scholastic videos are awesome to pop in while the hosting mom is making lunch!
– If there’s a mom with a newborn, she can have some quality alone time with her baby…which might be rare if she has other children.
– If you are doing this with more than 1 mom, you can even break up the time frame, so 1 mom gets away for 1 1/2 hours and the next mom gets away for the last 1 1/2 hours…or whatever your time frame is.

One of our larger-sized groups…10 kids this time!

One of the challenges (for me at least with 4 kids) is I feel like my kids catch an illness so often and out of respect for the other kids (not spreading germs) I have to cancel.  That’s such a bummer when it’s the other mom’s turn to get time away.  If that happens, you can always work to find another day to make it up, but it’s just a bummer.

Another TWIST to this arrangement…naptime swaps.  I have 2 kids who still nap and 1 who doesn’t, but isn’t in school yet.  So, one of my friends and I have just started randomly taking turns hosting that non-napper for a couple of hours so that just one of our homes has total quiet time.  Those non-nappers participate in “quiet” activities and even “rest” for a 30-45 minute movie.  Just another idea for you!

Chalkboard Paint Ideas

I know there are already TONS of ideas out there for chalkboard paint and your creativity can really run wild with this awesome stuff!  But, I thought I would share just a few simple ways my family has used it.  Your local home improvement store should carry it, along with other colored versions too!  I have purchased “raspberry” and “original black” and have loved both of them.

Idea Number One:

Chalkboard wall in the boys room

Paint an entire wall or half wall for the kids to draw on.  We simply purchased some wood trim, primed and painted it, nailed it in place and painted the area below it with chalkboard paint.  The project only took a few hours!

Idea Number Two:

Chalkboard paint over a mirror-shelf in the girls room

I had a cute shelf that had a mirror on it but the mirror had one crack in it.  So, I painted it with pink chalkboard paint and turned it into a place for the girls to draw or write notes.

Chalkboard on closet doors in the workout room



Idea Number Three:
Tape off an area (frame) and paint the inside for a space to write notes, activities, or in this case, workouts in my workout room!

Chalkboard Art Display Board

Idea Number Four:
Paint a board with clips attached, for an art display board that they can write on.  For more ideas on making your own art display boards, check out this post

Idea Number Five:
This was for a shower I threw for a friend of mine…we painted cardboard on the inside of frames to label the foods we had at the shower.

Chalkboard frames add a fun touch as labels

Weekly Chore Chart Idea for Kids

This blog is NOT about perfection and this photo is a perfect example of that!  But the idea could be helpful for people, so I think it’s worth a post 🙂

I have looked at tons of charts for keeping track of chores for the kids.  Our kids are all pretty young still, but at least the 7, 5, and 3 year olds can start to have some duties in our home.  I will also add that my husband and I might have a different view on allowance than others…and I respect other people’s take.  Our hope is that the kids don’t just do their “chores” with the one sole purpose of making some money.  We try to emphasize that we are a team, we live in this home together, and we want to take care of it together.  Of course it is great to teach them how to “make an earning” as well.  But the little jobs we ask them to do expand beyond what is listed on their chore chart.

First, I created my own Word document with a table for each child old enough for chores.  You can put whatever you want on that.  But I liked the idea of keeping the rows empty so I could actually write in what the jobs were – some weeks are different AND each child has different chores.

Second, I found an 8X10 inch frame, an ugly one with paint chipping off currently, and put the paper inside.  The dry-erase markers are handy and whatever you write can be wiped off in a jiffy!

Third, I hung it in a random spot in our kitchen.  I actually am thinking of making each child their own now and hanging it in their rooms.  They really like to draw the little dot in when they complete a chore.

Let your creative juices flow with this – you could really make a nice frame with a shelf for the marker and everything!

Road Trip Meal Ideas

Our drive to Florida was adventurous and part of the fun is definitely eating at places along the way.  However, we did want to be careful with our time and money and did the best with could with packing meals.  PLUS, we noticed that after a greasy fast-food meal, we felt so sluggish.  Here are some ideas that worked well…

I prepared all of this the night before and when we left early the next morning, I took everything out of the fridge and packed it into a cooler for the car.

Storage/Supplies

Tupperware: I kept all of the snacks (that didn’t need to be cold) in a tupperware bin that had a nice cover on it – that way, the things that might get crunched would be protected and I could find it in the car easily.

Cups: Target had a great little set of disposable cups with covers and straws that was helpful – I brought and bought drinks that they kids split so the cups were so handy.

Baggies: Target also had colorful ziplock baggies so I designated a color to each child so I knew who got their snacks along the way.
Putting pretzels, crackers, fruit and veggies into these small baggies is so helpful because then you can just throw the baggies to each child and they had a nice portion and didn’t spill all over the car.

Cooler: Obviously a cooler is necessary for things you would like to keep cold.  We loved using a large soft-bag kind this last trip because when we didn’t need it, we could easily fold it up (whereas the hard box kind would just take up space).

Driver Snacks: This is something I did differently this trip and was so glad I did.  I packed a separate bag of snacks for my hubby and I because I wanted them easily accessible for us while we were driving.  A few of our favorites: sunflower seeds, celery and carrot sticks, and hard candies all are munchies that keep us attentive 🙂

Breakfast

  • Frozen yogurt sticks – defrosted by the time we were ready to eat them.
  • Toasted bagels ahead of time, then spread them with cream cheese.
  • Juice boxes (froze half of them so that the ones that the kids would have for lunch would keep the other food cold and defrost by the time we needed them)
  • Grapes – already washed and cut in half and put into baggies for each person.

Lunch

  • Tuna pasta salad – my kids aren’t crazy about this, but my husband and I love it.  I usually make mine with pasta, tuna, celery, a little mayo, and my favorite: lemon-pepper seasoning.
  • Pita pocket sandwiches – work well to keep the meat and cheese (or whatever you have) from falling out as you eat it in the car.
  • String cheese
  • Oranges and/or apples

Snacks

  • Carrots and celery
  • Lindsey’s Energy Bites – awesome for their sweetness and protein
  • Applesauce pouches – those ones with the twist off top are so easy and convenient for travel!
  • String cheese
  • Any other snacks your family likes, but the key here is packing them into baggies ahead of time.

Road Trip Activities for Kids

Road trips are an adventure in themselves, but with kids?  It’s a whole new kind of adventure!  We have taken several LONG ones and would like to share, in hopes someone will benefit from some of them.  The following ideas are for various ages, but mainly toddlers to elementary school-aged kids.  For Road Trip Meal Ideas, check out THIS POST.

I felt a little silly when I packed for this 27-hour road trip, because I was spending so much time preparing activities – well, let me tell you, being “over prepared” was a good thing.  One thing to remember, it’s great to have variety because some of the things I thought they would spend lots of time on, they didn’t and other things I wasn’t sure they’d even like, they ended up loving.  

Each child had their own 3-ring-binder, which they chose the color for ahead of time.  Inside, I put things that were specifically for them.  Most activities were inside of a clear sleeve so they could use a dry-erase marker on it and wipe things off.  On the front cover, they had a map of the country so they could follow the route if they were interested.  This is a good idea because they had a visual when they asked how much longer we had to drive!  They had a pouch inside that held writing tools (including dry-erase markers, washable markers, pencils, pens, etc.)  The 7, 5, and 3 year old all had varying Car-BINGO sheets so they could play together along the way.  The older two had Sudoku (kid-versions), Tic-Tac-Toe sheets, math problems, word searches, and mazes. There were coloring sheets in the pocket so they could color – they picked out what they wanted ahead of time.  The younger two love stickers so I made sure I had a large variety of those (start collecting those free address labels you get in the mail!)   I packed each child a backpack with their things inside…they did not get to look inside until we hit the road!

Storing Christmas Lights & Decorations

It’s time for us to put away our Christmas lights and decorations – maybe you have a genius way of storing them so they are easy to find and don’t get tangled. Here’s my way…random but it’s worked great for the last few years so I thought I’d share it.  This year, I discovered a great item to recycle and use for decorations – plastic apple carton! 

For the Lights: Rip or cut off a medium to large piece of cardboard from the many boxes you may have from gift packages. Make two cuts – one on the left side and one of the right side. Insert the end of the string of lights in one of the slits, begin wrapping around the cardboard. Keep wrapping until the end of the string. Tuck the end into another slit at the top. I like to label what the lights were used for so we can just use the same ones again. Again, this is random and maybe you have a better way, but I just thought I’d share!

How-To Time

This summer, I started thinking about a few things that I wanted my kids to learn how to do…but some of them seemed like “heavy” topics to just bring up.  So, I thought of designating a special time called, “How-To Time.”  It is not every single day, but I started making a list of things that we could do for this.  I am sure you can make your own list, but here are some of my ideas.  And the kids get PUMPED when I tell them we are going to have “How-To Time!”

– How to call the police
– How to wiggle your ears
– How to blow a bubble with bubble gum
– How to get out of a locked car
– How to tie your shoe
– How to get out of the house in a fire
– How to do the crab walk
– How to do a summersault
– How to floss
– How to find your pulse
– How to address a letter
– How to set the table
– How to whistle
– How to use chop sticks (which my 18 month old LOVES to do, and loves my veggie sushi!)

Those are just a few ideas!  I hope it can be something fun and helpful for you and your family.

Random Acts of Kindness Day

The kids and I were reflecting over our fun summer recently, and I was realizing that my kids have gotten too used to just doing one fun activity after another for their own enjoyment.  Of course fun activities are a great way to spend our summer, but I wanted to encourage my kids to think of others.  To actually go out of their way to bring joy to someone else.  And this shouldn’t always include a big smile or thank you or hug from the recipient…that just imagining someone receiving something special from them is meaningful.  So, we spent a morning doing “random acts of kindness.”  I am positive that all of you can think of MANY more ideas…these are just a few.  Please, if you choose to partake in something like this, share with us what you did and how your kids felt about the experience.  My hope is that it’s not just a designated day for this, but that our children incorporate thinking of others every day. 




What we did this first time:
– We made little tags that said different things like, “Enjoy this random act of kindness” or “thank you for all you do” 
– Baked cookies and packaged them into small boxes to deliver to neighbors and friends
– Bought a ton of roses and delivered them to: the receptionists at our doctor’s office, grandma, a special friend, the parks and recreation office
– Left random (new!) diapers and wipes in public restrooms
– The kids each hid dollars in the toy section of the Dollar Store (in hopes another child finds it!)
– Picked up garbage wherever we went
– Left spare change in vending machines for a lucky recipient
– Bought food to donate to the food shelf

I am not sharing this idea to give myself a pat on the back for doing something nice.  I want to encourage others to take a few moments to think of some good ideas of how to care for others and take your kids on an adventure to brighten someone’s day. This was our first experience in designating a whole day with the kids for doing random acts of kindness.  I hope to continue these activities often, and encourage you to give it a try!

The Fun Hose

Confession: I mowed over one of our hoses.  But I like to add more information to that story…it was a blazing hot day, my husband was at work, I was trying my best to get the whole lawn done WHILE checking on dinner cooking inside, and changing over loads of laundry AND all of the kids were playing along-side me during the entire process.  We don’t have a gas-powered mower…we use an awesome Fiskers clipper – an updated version of the old-fashioned clipping mower, or whatever they are called 🙂  Anyway, I kept telling myself, “slow down and move the hose” but kept thinking, I can just move around it.  Well, low and behold, I cut it.  I was frustrated with myself but figured maybe we could patch it up with something some day.  

Today, my husband saw the nice gash when the kids turned the hose on to do slip n’ slide.  He laughed and then we said, it could just be called “the fun hose” and enjoy the water squirting out of the huge cuts.  Then, he had an even better idea: drill holes all over it and turn it into a really fun hose!  

I highly recommend this – we’ve enjoyed it on the ground, in a circle, hanging from trees, along the slip n’ slide…it’s all a blast!  We will even set it up sometime by our garden for some easy watering of our vegetables!  

ENJOY!  This along with the Wacky Sponges makes for great water fun! Also enjoy interesting games with kids outdoor houses!

How Legos Are Made Video

This is for all lovers of Lego.  My dad, (a.k.a. Pappy at our house) sent us a great video that we have watched again and again because it is just that fascinating.  So we share it with you…

One of the coolest facts I learned is that the word “Lego” comes from the Danish phrase “leg godt”, which means “play well”.   Play well, friends…
an original Police Station
And for those who are handy and need a new lego challenge, my friend, Sarah sent me this inspiring link for building a Lego Tray:  http://thatsmyletter.blogspot.com/2012/06/l-is-for-lego-tray-2.html.  I have a feeling we might be building these soon!

Homemade Craft Smock

I decided to make my nephew a little craft smock for his birthday this year and it was so easy that I wanted to share it. I am NOT a sewer – I can only do basic things. So, do not be intimidated by this project – you can make it probably way better than I did – it’s just a starting point.

 
Supplies:
Apron: Fabric – roughly 20 inches long by 12 inches wide, extra for pocket if desired
Apron Ties around waist: Fabric OR ribbon – roughly 20 inches long
Apron Ties around neck: Fabric OR ribbon – roughly 20 inches long
Thread to match
Puffy Paint for writing, if desired
 
Directions:
Measure approximately 13 inches up from the bottom edge of the apron. This is where you can cut a curve to create the arm area on both sides. Mine curved in about 2 inches in from the edge, at most. Stitch all edges of the fabric to look nice (sorry for not using sewing lingo here!) Cut out a pocket if desired and stitch those edges to look finished. Stitch that onto the apron, wherever you want. Stitch the ties to the sides of the apron, right at the bottom of the arm area. Attach the neck ties to the top of the apron. Write their name or whatever with puffy paint…decorate as desired!

Easy Plans for DIY Kid-Sized Picnic Table

My husband built this while I was grocery shopping one Saturday morning not too long ago.  We eat most meals on our deck now anytime it’s not raining…it’s awesome!  He got his plans off Ana White’s website right here:

http://ana-white.com/2010/04/plans-bigger-kids-picnic-table.html
I realize this post is for woodworkers, but if you are so inclined to wield a power saw, this project is a cinch.

 

Supplies:
2 – 2×6 boards, 8′ Long
6 – 2×4 boards, 8′ Long
2 1/2” screws or bolts (bolts should be at least 3” long and will require washers and nuts)
2 1/2” pocket hole screws
measuring tape
square
pencil
hammer
safety glasses
hearing protection
Kreg Jig
drill
sander
What to do:
  1. Make your cuts and follow the diagrams according to Ana White (see link above).  
  2. Serve up breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the table.  
  3. Hose down the stickies.  
  4. Party on.

>> Also check reviews on best picnic tables at here!

Spring Outdoor Fun!

Here’s one idea for a nice outdoor activity for children of all ages! So far this spring, the kids have spent HOURS playing with this, so I thought I’d share it.

Last summer, we got a water table – it provided WEEKS of fun on the deck. It was designed and sold as a “sand and water table,” but I just wasn’t pumped about mixing sand and water with so many little kids around. However, now that the sun is shining and it’s so wonderful outside, I pulled it out of storage, set it up on the deck and poured two bags of colored sand into both compartments. It will now be a sand-only table. They play with cars, toys, tools, etc. in it. When summer hits and the kids need some cooling off, we will turn it back into a water-only table.
 

This is not a novel idea, but a little tip that works well for us; have it on top of a large tarp, so that when the sand spills out, it can be put back in at the end of the day with a broom and dustpan. We also cover it each night with a giant tarp so that if it rains or animals get curious, the sand stays protected and clean.

 
There are lots of options – but here’s a basic one on Amazon for about $40. Just a side note: If you order things through our site on Amazon, we earn a couple of pennies!
>> By the way, if you are rising a cat, let’s check the best outdoor cat house and shelter reviews!

Simple Gardening Ideas

Tis the season to start thinking about gardening outside again! I have some very random ideas to share (budget-friendly and earth-friendly). These ideas all involve reusing things (again, teaching our kids to recycle!)

 

Toilet Paper Rolls used as seed starters:
Again, I am encouraging you to keep a stash of these nifty tubes and pull them out when you are ready to plant some seeds. The awesome thing about them is that once the seedling has sprouted and it’s warm enough outside, you can keep everything right in the tube and plant it right into the ground! The cardboard will decompose!
  • toilet paper rolls
  • scissors
  • dirt
  • seeds
Cut about 5 equally-spaced 1.5 inch lines on one side of the roll to make tabs…(see image). Next, fold the tabs inward to close the bottom of the

tube. Don’t worry about sealing it up, it’s just meant to create a base for the planter and will decompose more easily later. Spoon dirt into the “planter” so that it’s about 2/3 full…plant a seed or two! I used cardboard recycled pasta boxes to store these little tube planters in, so they don’t fall over and you can move them around the house so they are in the sun. Hopefully once they sprout and look strong, you can plant them into pots or the ground and have some success!

 
Plastic Pudding (or fruit) Cups as seed starters:
This is a little less involved – but we had a bunch of pudding and fruit cups that I kept and so I am attempting to grow some seeds in these as well. I poked a few holds in the bottom with a sharp
knife (adults only!) and have them all stored in a larger plastic container so that I can move them around the house or outside as well. We shall see how successful these are in a few weeks!
 
Juice Carton as seed starters:
Another experiment – I cut the top off of the juice cartons, poked a few holes in the bottom with a knife, and filled it halfway with dirt and will attempt to grow some herbs in there. I LOVE cilantro and want to have loads of it for summer tacos!
 
 
Plastic Milk Jug as watering can:
The kids get the biggest kick out of watering the plants but my watering can is heavy without any water even in it! So, I decided to poke some holes in an empty 1 gallon milk jug right below the cap (keep the cap) and they can water the plants much more easily! Plus, it’s a craft in itself to decorate (with permanent markers, if you allow it). Have fun with this one!

                                                      ******************************
Personal Raised Beds:
If you have the space in your yard, giving the kids their own bit of earth is another idea.  Last summer I gave my 4- and 5-year-olds each their own 3′ x 5′ raised beds.  They planted snap peas, lettuce, and corn.  It was a great lesson in responsibility and stewardship.  All you need is some old scrap wood to screw together the perimeter of whatever shape and area you need.  We added a brick tile in the middle so the kids could weed without stepping on their plants.  It’s also easy to sit by the edge for weeding when the bed is raised.  I plan on raking out new beds for them again soon for them to plant all their seeds that have sprouted from the toilet paper rolls!

One more idea…using egg cartons as seed starters: click here

Multipurpose Scrub (“Coco-OO”)

There’s something magical about this solution…I mixed it up on a whim only about a week ago and I am shocked at the things it can do! So, coconut oil can do lots of things…I have only just begun to learn more about it and use it. I decided to make a mixture of coconut oil, olive oil and sugar to have around for various things. I call it “Coco-Oo” for fun (Coconut and Olive Oil). So far, here’s what I have used it for:

 
  • Hand scrub – grab a dollop, scrub your hands (over the sink) for a few minutes and the sugar acts as an exfoliator while the oils moisturize and soften your skin. Wash it off with a little bit of soap and enjoy the sensation of soft hands!
  • Remover – I say just “remover” because it has removed really weird things:
  1. The first example is when my almost-three-year-old son got a hold of super glue (this kid is kind of a mix between Curious George, Dennis the Menace and Albert Einstein…mainly because his curiosity leads him to do wacky experiments and his hair has resembled the latter two). Anyway, I caught him in the act of taking the cap off the super glue with his mouth – yes, I kind of freaked out when I saw this for many reasons! Anyway, just a drop got on the outside corner of his lips and I immediately grabbed this new coconut oil mixture and scrubbed some on the spot. It seriously removed the glue!
  2. The second instance of this being a “remover,” involved a hot burner on the stove and my husband making toast for the kids. He didn’t realize the burner was still warm and he put the bag of bread on that same spot. Well, the plastic obviously got melted onto the stovetop. This has happened before and I had a really tough time removing it – scrubbed and picked and washed and scrubbed some more. Well, not this time! Once it was completely cool, I grabbed a dollop of the “magic mix” and lightly scrubbed…it wiped right off, like magic!
  3. Third example was a bottle that had a sticky label that I wanted to remove…I don’t have any “goo-gone” so I used this and it was BETTER than “goo-gone!” Plus, no smell on your hands and way less greasy!
  4. One last example…my daughter was blowing giant bubbles with her bubble gum and alas, a blob got stuck in her eyebrow. I forgot to work on removing it for several days since it just looked darker blonde in that spot. Well, I finally remembered to work on that and used some of this and it was amazing!
 
I am so thrilled about this solution and I hope you find many great uses for it too 🙂
 
How to make it?
  • 1 part Olive Oil
  • 1 part Coconut Oil
  • 1 part sugar
Mix up and keep in an airtight container…let us know what amazing uses you find for it!

Basic Craft Supplies

I have been asked many times about craft supplies and what is best to have around for “craft time” with your kids at home. If I had a limitless budget and lots more time, my suggestions might be different. But, here are some of the things that we always have on tap and the kids seem to really enjoy.

 
Painting Supplies
 
– I got the plastic carrier at IKEA (called Samla) and it works great because there’s just enough space for all of the painting supplies…plus a handle in the middle for easy transporting.

– Paint…washable tempura paints, finger paints, watercolor paints
– Brushes…various sizes have been collected over the years – it’s nice to have a choice for different projects.
– Water Cup…recycled yogurt and cottage cheese plastic containers work perfectly!
– Paint Dish/Palette…we use the lids from recycled yogurt and cottage cheese containers to put the paint on AND recycled tin pie pans work great too.
– Craft smocks

 

 
Random Small Items

The blue container (called Glis) is also from IKEA – it has separators that can be taken out to fit something of a larger size.
It’s perfect for storing things like pom poms, google eyes, foam stickers, craft beads, cotton balls, anything small that you might use in a craft.
 
Play Doh
 
Over the years, we have purchased and been given lots of play doh – it’s such a great activity to pull out for 5 minutes or much longer…toddlers and school-aged kids always seem to enjoy
it…it’s always on-hand at my house. It took me a few years to figure out it’s best stored in an airtight, large container – we have so many play doh tools and accessories that it’s nice to just throw everything together when it’s time to clean up.
 
 
Mr. Potato Head
This is just a decorated, recycled ice cream bucket but it works great for all of Mr. or Mrs. Potato Head’s pieces! Complete with a handle, even my 15 month old can carry it around or help clean it up!
 
Markers and Crayons
 
 
I have been told that I am a little bold to allow my 2 year old access to markers. However, with the exception of just recently, he has respected the use of these fun crafting tools. I find that if the kids can get their own utensils for drawing and coloring, they spend a lot of quality time creating and imagining and growing in their fine motor skills. This nifty double drawer is either from Target or IKEA – nothing fancy but it does look somewhat pleasing to the eye since it’s black. I actually keep it on a shelf in the dining room right above our drawing paper – both within reach for anyone 2 and older. You know your kids and if this doesn’t seem like a wise decision, then find a better option…but it seems to work really well in our home.
 
 
Glue, Glitter Glue, Tape and Fancy Scissors
These items are stored in this recycled pretzel-rod plastic container (yummy things from Costco). It has a nice lid that can be taken off by most preschoolers but not the toddlers. I keep this bin on a higher shelf and only allow the “big” kids access to it. Enough said, right?
 
Easel
 
We love our Mala IKEA easel – in fact, we have two now. Kids have spent so much time drawing

on the white board and/or chalk board (it has both on this easel). Again, you’d have to decide what to do with the markers because there have been many times that the caps are left off or someone decides to test the waters and venture to places such as the wall nearby…but, I have used those are teachable moments. Side note: a sock works great for erasing!

Lego Organization

My 4 year old has officially joined the Lego-building-all-the-time club (if there is one). Thanks to the numerous relatives who gifted him some pretty awesome sets for Christmas. Also, thanks to my husband (and his mom for saving them all these years!) we have Legos from roughly a quarter of a century ago. My home hasn’t felt very “kid-friendly” since I am fearful of one of those itty-bitty pieces being choked on by my little Julia (and her 1-year old friends who come to play). So, we HAD to do something with all these Legos. I can bet many people have come up with better ways to organize them, but here’s what we did. Please, share your ideas if you feel moved!

 
Supplies:
  • Large dresser with drawers that are not super easy to open (HA! This sounds silly, but I mean it…the 4 year old can open them fine but the curious 1 year olds can’t!)
  • Ikea storage bins (we fit 3 bins in each drawer, making it 15 bins in total)
  • Labels attached by clear packing tape (nice and strong and can’t be picked off easily). I just drew a Lego on colored paper and wrote the color’s name.

Plan of Attack:
We have sorted the Legos according to color. But then, we have bins for “specialty parts” and “Lego People” and even “Instructions”. My husband’s thought process was that if the kids want to build something, they grab an empty bin and the instructions (if they are following something) and then they dig out all of the pieces they need and put them into the bin. Then, move to the “Lego building table” nearby and start their work. So far, it seems to be going well. I really don’t know how long they will stay sorted like this, but if things change, I will do a follow-up entry. Again, please share your ideas and thoughts if you’d like!

Independent Time, “Siesta”

During my six years of parenting so far, I have found myself discussing “the magical hour” of 4:00 – 5:00 pm with many of my other mom friends. I call it “the magical hour” because once the clock strikes 4:00, things seem to get hairy! For some reason, my kids just seem extra fussy, easily annoyed by each other, and extra whiney. Maybe it’s because they are hungry for dinner or maybe it’s because we fill up our mornings with playing, crafts, and projects and they just have ants in their pants! I decided to bring some structure into the equation (at least for the 3 to 6 year olds).

 
We have a new routine that we began calling, “Independent Time.” Most days, at 4:00 pm, we turn on some music and each child chooses an activity or project that cannot require any assistance from anyone else. The other rule is that they have to have their own space – no bothering anyone else. This felt strange at first because I am usually always involved in everything they work on…they can obviously ask for help if they need it, but it can’t be a project

that I do with them. They embraced it right away! After we started this, I read about a similar idea in a parenting book and they call it, “Siesta” – the idea that it is a restful, quiet time, so that everyone feels recharged by the time it is dinner and/or evening activities. It also helps me get a start on dinner preparations!

 
Some “Siesta” Ideas:
  • Quiet play, building things, puzzles
  • Very often, the littlest one fills her time as you can see to the right here ———> Fine by me!
  • Coloring, drawing, cutting, stickers
  • Looking at books (Where’s Waldo is a good one for this!)
  • Play-Dough
  • Legos
  • Listen to books on tape/CD
  • Tell them to create a “surprise” for someone
  • If needed, set a timer so they can visually see how this is a structured time frame for independent play
Music Ideas: We go to the library often and get different children’s CD’s to listen to. Some of our favorites include:
  • James Hersch, website here
  • Instrumental Music is awesome – a family friend: Kyle Pederson is a very talented local artist. Find his CD here.
  • The Wiggles
  • Veggie Tales
  • Winnie-the-Pooh or other Disney music
The bottom line is to find something that helps bring a little sanity back to that time frame when you MIGHT feel like you are losing it 🙂