Tag: kids

Too Much Stuff

Too Much Stuff

There’s no other way to say it, my kids have too much stuff. Books, stuffed animals, clothes, and electronic toys are frequently everywhere. They like to make messes, but when they get bored with what they’re playing with in five minutes they’re rarely willing to pick it up. It’s a constant source of tension for us.

I don’t think any mom wants to admit that their children might have too much stuff. We want them to have everything, right? All the fun toys, learning materials, and warm and comfy clothes and shoes are so tempting!

I was recently confronted with this issue in a way that I couldn’t ignore. On a 3 hour drive to go camping my girls cried for toys and tv for about an hour. I must admit that we discussed a portable DVD player during this time, desperate for backseat contentedness. Once we got there their moods improved only marginally–they were bored. A lot of the day was filled with complaining and testing my patience until bedtime. The next morning, however, they began to settle down. They found leaves to run around in and collect, sticks to stack, and large rocks (dinosaur bones). Madilyn found a little metal nut and labeled it “robot finger” and spent the rest of the trip doing everything, including sleeping, with her robot friend. On the trip home they played with straws, pretending that they were musical instruments, and their socks, using them as mittens, bags, and “dinosaur eggs”. There was no whining on the drive home except to express disappointment that we were going home and not back to the campsite.

How can I ignore the message here? I was disappointed in myself for even considering the DVD player, when clearly they need less media and electronics, not more! Research even demonstrates this. Kiddos need activities and experiences over objects.

We have an overabundance of loving and well meaning friends and family, myself included, that like to get new stuff for the girls on a regular basis. While it’s something that I struggle to keep up with, we generally counteract the overcrowding in a few ways:

1. Toy Tub Rotation

Sometimes I just throw toys in tubs, leave one out, and put the rest away. Once they seem bored the tub can be swapped for another one.

2. Zebra Boxes 

I haven’t done a zebra box in a while, but it’s a great motivational tool for getting children to help clean up or cooperate. You can read more about it here.

3. Toy Auction

When things just get too out of hand I will pick up everything and hold a toy auction. Little buyers get a set amount of coins–in our case they’re poker chips from a thrift store–to buy their belongings back with. I usually do about 5 book coins (although their books are kept close by anyway, because reading), 1 large toy coin, 2 or 3 small toy coins, and 1 coin for building blocks or puzzles.

4. Disappearing and Reappearing Toys

Occasionally one of my kids will ask where a certain toy that they haven’t seen in a while is. This is when I pull out what they’re missing. They usually play with it for a day or two before getting bored, and I can put it away again.

5. Sticker/stamp Chart

I’ve written about the stamp chart before. This is such a great way to get kids engaged in keeping their belongings tidy(ish) and rewarding them for helping.

6. Toy Culling

Rarely I get so overwhelmed that I qill do a culling of toys. Anything they don’t play with, refuse to pick up, or volunteer to get rid of is donated. I did this in July, and the girls were actually so overwhelmed with clutter at that time that they helped decide what to get rid of.

7. TV Time

I’m really bad with the TV. I’ll leave it on when they ask and turn it on to try and bore them to sleep. I have to have some kind of controls in place to stop myself from thos, because I have definitely noticed that the less screen time they have, the happier they are and more imaginative they play. There are soem great learning shows for kids, but I still feel interactive play and outside exploration is better.

For now, our system is that they can watch as much TV on Friday as they do worksheets/workbooks. Today it was 40 minutes. They actually got bored very quickly and left before the time was up anyway. Still a work in progress.

Primary Color Blending Sludge

Primary Color Blending Sludge

I can’t think of an eloquent word for the consistency that this creates. Paste? Slop? Sludge? It’s gooey and colorful and a little bit gross, which I think makes it perfect for young kids, always happy to stick their hands in goop.

This little activity is super simple and great entertainment for the kids. It’s messy, it’s fun, and my kids always love some good quality sensory play. As an added benefit, you can choose to do primary colors as an educational example of color blending.

A word of warning: this is an outdoor activity! Make sure that you immediately wash vinegar off of wood. I am a little embarrassed to admit that by letting my children do this inside on our table, I accidentally ruined the table by rushing them off to the bathtub rather than cleaning up first. On the bright side, it was a very old, beat up table, so now I get to learn how to fix it.

Supplies:

Baking soda

Water

Food coloring or watercolors (food coloring may stain hands)

Bowls and utensils for mixing

(Optional) squirt bottles with vinegar water–careful where you do this!

Steps:

1. In your bowls, add a cup or so of baking soda. You may use as many bowls/colors as you like.

2. Add water until it turns into a pasty consistency and stir together.

3. Add food coloring and stir.

4. Separate colors into containers. I did some stripes of color in a large Tupperware container for each kid.

 

5. Give them their squirt bottles and watch them have fun.

Stamp Chart Reward System

Stamp Chart Reward System

Sometimes it can be really difficult to get kids to cooperate when you need them to. Believe me, I know. My kids can be as stubborn and ornery as their mom and dad.

One of the best ways that I’ve come up with to get the kids to help out is a stamp chart. It looks like this:

Stamps could easily be exchanged for stickers, but we use stickers elsewhere and my girls really enjoy the process of getting to ink the stamp and press it on paper, so it’s more rewarding for them.

The kids can earn a stamp in a few different ways:

1. Picking up their own messes/cleaning up toys

2. Eating like a civilized person and not throwing stuff

3. Not whining or hitting, aka trying to express emotions with words

4. A day without TV

5. Filling a row on the potty sticker chart

The rewards on the chart are usually a fun trip or activity that the kids enjoy. We try to keep the cheap, easy rewards towards the top and more expensive rewards for the end of the chart. This requires quite a bit of help from the girls to actually get to go do something like go out to eat or go to the riverwalk. The chart ends on the last day of the month, so it’s possible to reach the end without acquiring every reward–and that’s okay, too. It’s okay to not get everything. I want them to see that sometimes you don’t win, and working harder improves your odds. Right now when one of them earns a stamp they both get it, but that will change soon.

This is intended as an active, exciting way to engage them in the process of learning how to help out and pick up after themselves. It’s also a precursor to earning an allowance, or “salary.”

Having said all of this, sometimes it doesn’t work. One kid is almost 3 and the other is going on 2, so they often know better than mom and dad or just want to be bratty (as indicated by the accompanying smirk they give), but it’s alright. Some kind of system is better and more successful than no system at all.

SA Outdoor Adventures for Kids

SA Outdoor Adventures for Kids

Hey, hey, hey! Today, as with many August days here in San Antonio, it’s nice and sweltering. Sure, it may get down to 90, but you’d never know it with the humidity. Of course, the heat keeps us indoors in an attempt to avoid it a lot of the time, but it’s still important to get out and go somewhere. I’m a serious believer in the importance of exposure to nature for so many reasons, so we always try to go out and explore outside a couple of times a week.

Here’s my personal list of what makes something a great day (morning or afternoon) destination:

$$$–is it cheap, or even better, free?

Will my small children be happy there?

Safety, weather, and you know, preparedness things

We moved back in February, so I have certainly not scoped out the hottest mom spots in San Antonio by any means, but here’s our favorite spots to kill some time outside with the kid monsters!

1. Guadalupe River State Park

Okay, so not in the city, I know. But hear me out! This beautiful state park is easy to get to, just a drive up Blanco Road to 46. In addition it’s extremely family friendly: they have camping, hiking, a playground (currently closed, boo), a children’s discovery center, a ton of picnic tables, and of course, swimming. There’s deeper water for parents and older kids, but for smaller children there’s also a wonderful section of shallow water. My water-timid 3 year old gets to play and splash around without being worried here. We like to take a big mat and lounge in the shade. Hands down my favorite spot to cool off.

$$$–We have a state parks pass so it’s worth it for us to go. If you don’t, you will have to pay a day use fee.

Happy kids? Very. Always have a hard time leaving.

Preparation–sunscreen (please use a non-toxic kind!), swimsuits, shade, water, snacks, water shoes (don’t underestimate how painful river rocks can be on bare feet), and whatever water safety devices you feel appropriate.

2. Phil Hardberger Park

If you’ve never been to Hardberger Park with your kids it’s definitely worth a trip. This place is huge and even has two entrances, one on Blanco Rd and one on Military. There are dog parks and playgrounds on each side near the parking lots. In addition, the hiking trails just can’t be beat. There’s a large picnic area on each side, benches on some of the trails, and even a large overlook. We go hiking here a couple of times a week and always have a great time. Sometimes we do nature scavenger hunts here while hiking to engage the kids.

$$$–free

Happy kids? Usually. Sometimes a kid gets mad that she has to walk or ride in the stroller instead of being carried.

Preparation–sunscreen (or sun hat and sleeves), water

3. San Antonio Zoo + Brackenridge Park

We purchased zoo memberships as soon as we moved. It was a no brainer for us, we went to the LA Zoo all the time in California, and it wasn’t even particularly close! The girls absolutely love it. And with all the fun enclosures (sorry, animals) and features I can’t blame them. Plus, summer animatronic dinosaurs! You can take a (very short) ride on the carousel, see the pigs and goats at the petting zoo or ride the train. You could spend hours in the splashpad area. There’s all sorts of outdoor things over in the kid’s area, including adorable mini benches. There’s even a small discovery center for the kiddos. If that’s not enough (and let’s be real, you might be beat, but the munchkins have some magical reserve of energy just for moments like this) Brackenridge park is right outside!

$$$–just buy a membership. If you go twice it’s worth it.

Happiness factor? Kids always enjoy it. Even Matt and I are usually glad we went. Exhausted, but glad.

Preparation–sun protection, water

4. Eisenhower Park

I really enjoy this place. There are more difficult hiking trails if that’s what you’re looking for, easy paved trails if you need something simpler. There are nice, wooded trails, too. I like taking the double stroller here. There’s a nice little playground and a large climbing wall for older kids.

$$$–free

Fun level–decent. My kids are always happy if they get to play on a playground.

Preparation–sun protection, water

5. Orsinger Park

Now you should have a very good idea of where I live! This is our basic time-killing place. It’s got a large pavillion for events, bathrooms, a sandbox, and a very large, nice playground. Karissa is obsessed with the sandbox, but Madilyn always has to be coaxed into playing in the sand. There’s lots of lovely cedar elms and picnic tables scattered throughout the grove behind the play equipment. We always go for a little walk through the trails, too.

$$$–free (ca-ching!)

Happy? Oh, so very happy.

Preparation–a diligent parent might bring hydration? I usually don’t…eek. It’s okay, though, because water fountains.

Big Kid Bonus: Tom Slick Park

I’ve only been here once, but the playground was awesome. It was definitely better for older kids, but the play equipment was shaded and I was impressed. There’s a lake with a nice, easy trail to walk, exercise equipment, and what I’m pretty sure was a baseball diamond. This one is on the west side but was a really fun adventure.

$$$–free

Happiness–thumbs up

Preparation–sun protection, water

 

Simple Activity Schedule

Simple Activity Schedule

I’m not good at sticking to complicated things. I like to have the freedom to go spend the day out and about without feeling like I need to rush home. Sometimes when we’re at home, though, the kids get restless, and I feel like the day is easier if I have a schedule to fall back on.

This is the activity schedule that we’ve been (loosely) following lately. If they don’t want to do something on the schedule I don’t force them, this is just designed to make the day flow a little easier and make all of us a little happier.

Disclosure: some of the supplies linked are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you use this link to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Morning Music

Before I’ve had time to wake up and become less of a grouchypants, we start by singing a few little songs. It puts me in a good mood (usually) and encourages that patient mom part of me. I also think that it helps them with their patience a little bit, too. Plus, I just think that music is a very important skill to encourage.

If I find that I just really don’t have it in me I’ll set out some instruments instead–they have a keyboard and xylophone that they really enjoy.

We sing lots of Little Baby Bum songs and songs from these children’s music CDs that we use as car music.

Breakfast

Next is breakfast, also known around here as morning monster feeding! Karissa will usually start saying that she wants food and little sister mimics this. Half of the time they repeat it enough to drive me crazy, and the other half of the time they must notice that I’m already crazy because they leave it alone. Sometimes I’ll give them something to do at the table while they wait. This usually helps but depending on the activity can also lead to more mess to clean up.

Skill Building 

After food it’s time to clear the table and do some activities that require thinking! This is when we get out the puzzles, do pom pom color sorting, counting exercises, or lacing. Madilyn isn’t super into the puzzles, but I like watching Karissa do them. She will try for a while and then if she can’t get it she will start to get frustrated, but just ask for help.

Outside Time 

I think that it’s important to get a little Vitamin D  every day, preferably without toxic sunscreen involved. Our backyard has a huge shade tree in it, so we don’t have to worry about too much sun when we’re back there. There’s a 95% chance that the kids want to play in water when we go outside, and only about 5% chance that I get out of it.

Snack

Quick, simple snack (hopefully). Lately it’s been leftovers, slices of things like peppers, carrots, cucumbers, cheese or meat.

Nap/Rest

Madi still absolutely NEEDS a nap every day. Her mood this afternoon indicates that she didn’t sleep enough. Karissa likes to skip naps to hang out with dad instead, but can get pretty grouchy in the afternoons if I let her skip. Naps are usually my favorite part of the day, because if both of them are sleepy then I get to nap and snuggle both kids. Mommies need naps, too!

Afternoon Art

After we take a nap, we’re all recharged and ready to go. This is the time for creativity and fun at the table! Sometimes it’s as simple as water painting (I love these Melissa and Doug water pads), practicing using scissors, or stringing beads into a necklace.

Focused Reading

We’re participating in the Half Price Book summer reading program. To be completely honest, this is mostly to motivate mommy and daddy to read to the kids more. They’ve both been showing lots of desire to read, and Karissa is constantly sitting with books in her lap trying to read by herself, reciting the story, or telling a story based on the pictures on the pages. This is very exciting for me, so I really want to help encourage that desire!

Karissa’s (older) current favorites: Go Dog Go, One Fish Two Fish, The Gruffalo, Barnyard Dance, Blue Hat Green Hat

Madilyn’s (younger) current favorites: Hand Hand Fingers Thumb, Little Yellow Bee, Moo Baa La La La, The Belly Button Book, any Karen Katz lift the flap book

My current favorites: Dinosaur Dance, The Gruffalo, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, But Not The Hippopotamus

Dinner

By the time dinner rolls around we’re all ready to sit down and eat together. Usually this is some kind of meat pan fried with vegetables thrown in, sometimes an easy crockpot concoction, or leftovers. Occasionally my husband makes a fantastic brisket that I can whip up veggies for, and usually they last us a week. Of course, after the first two or three days I start to dice it up and throw it in stir frys to make it less briskety.

Tidy Up

After dinner we try to get the kids to help us tidy up, I usually try to clean the kitchen and ask them to pick up toys and books. This is met with mixed success, but is infinitely more successful thanks to a work/reward system that I will be writing about soon.

Bedtime Routine

Baths, toothbrushes, diapers, pajamas, and bed!

By this time I’m thankful for some peace and quiet and ready to finish up what I need to get done and hit the hay myself.

Obviously some of our routines will be different than others, but this simple framework works great for our family.

Low Carb Gummies

Low Carb Gummies

One thing that’s easy to miss when you go low carb or sugar free is candy. There’s something uniquely satisfying about biting into a chewy, soft gummy bear that doesn’t compare to much else.

The good news is that these treats are easy to make at home and can pack quite a nutritional punch! These are great treats to keep in your fridge for summer when you or the kids might want a quick sweet treat that is healthy.

 

Low Carb Gummies

Author Kristy

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup gelatin I like Great Lakes orange label
  • 1/4 tsp Himalayan salt
  • pinch cream of tartar
  • 20 drops liquid stevia
  • Flavoring I used Tazo passion tea and some lemon juice
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup cold water

Instructions

  1. Steep herbal tea in hot water. In a separate cup, pour gelatin, salt, and cream of tartar. Add cold water to gelatin mix and whisk with fork until evenly dissolved. The mixture should start to bloom, becoming a gooey mass. 

  2. Once your tea is steeped, remove the tea bags. Pour into the cup with gelatin mixture and whisk with fork. It will take a minute or two for it to dissolve. Add liquid stevia. Taste to make sure you like the flavor (otherwise you won’t want to eat them!)

  3. Place your silicone molds on a flat tray. Carefully fill your molds with a spoon or dropper. I filled six whole molds with mine, but the kids ate the gummy bears before I got a chance to take pictures. Once your molds are full, place them in the refrigerator. If you don’t have silicone molds, you can simply pour into a Tupperware or Pyrex dish and let set.

  4. Remove from the fridge and take out of the molds or, if you used a dish, cut into small squares. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for 1-2 weeks. 

I originally posted this on Instructables:

https://www.instructables.com/id/Low-Carb-Gummies/

Fun Summer Hats

Fun Summer Hats

Well it’s pretty hot here. I’m really not used to the Texas heat, so I’m just staying inside most of the time, which is a bummer. This means lots of indoor activities and crafts.

Today we made fun, colorful summer hats by repurposing old hats whose decorations had fallen (read: were pulled) off.

This was a lot of fun to do with the girls.

Supplies: Disclosure: some of the supplies linked are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you use this link to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

An old or cheap hat (these and these both look like great starters to me!)

Decorations: ribbon, bows, feathers, flowers, butterflies, pom poms

A hot glue gun (for adult use only)

 

Steps:

1. Place ribbon around brim. Glue in place.

2. Add some flowers or butterflies. Hot glue them in place. I used butterflies because I’m not sure where all my flowers are, and really like how it turned out.

3. Glue some feathers down on the “front.” You can add more flowers and such on top of the feathers. It starts to look really cute here.

4. We also put pom poms on the brim for a fun and silly addition.

Happy kids, happy life.

 

 

Bird Seed Sensory Play

Bird Seed Sensory Play

Well, sometimes it’s hard to keep your kiddos actively engaged, isn’t it? My younger daughter loves cups and pouring, usually with water, but sometimes I don’t want to deal with 2 soaking wet girls when it’s all over.

HEB had a coupon for a free bag of bird seed, which is just perfect for playing with! We can go sit outside and play as long as we like with it, then just sweep it into the yard when we’re done. No worries.

Supplies:

Bird seed

Buckets, cups, spoons, shovels, whatever else you think might be fun to play with

Kids

Steps:

Kind of a no brainer here. Just divide up your bird seed into small tubs or buckets and distribute play equipment. Being outside is a good idea. My older daughter doesn’t share well, so I have to split everything evenly.

Have fun with this relatively messless sensory activity!

Educational Nature Scavenger Hunt

Educational Nature Scavenger Hunt

Learning about nature and understanding the outdoors is an important and often underestimated component of a well rounded education. My children love to be outside, but on the rare occasion that they need a little bit of motivation to get moving, this is what we use!

A nature scavenger hunt is an ideal way to get kids outdoors, moving, and engaged in the world around them. It encourages development of motor skills, spatial awareness, and identification skills. I am always astonished at their ability to identify and remember information about plants and animals that we do this with.

My girls are 1 1/2 and 2 1/2, so short and simple works best for us right now. If your children are older a longer list will work better.

You will need:

Paper (I use standard 8 1/2 x 11)
Colored pencils, clip art, or printed pictures

Google for some quick facts

Pen or dry erase marker

(Optional) Laminator or water protective sheet cover and tape

Making the List:

Choose the objects, plants, or animals to be found. I enjoy doing plant hunts, so a plant themed list for us might look like this:

Acorn

Catbriar

Elm leaf

Oak leaf

Dewberry leaf

Wood sorrel

A mixed list might look something like this:

Squirrel

Cactus pad

Sunflower

Flint

Cardinal

Butterfly

Have fun and be creative. The more fun you have the more they will enjoy it, too.
Hand draw, insert clip art, or print pictures and place them on a sheet of paper as a visual guideline. I like to hand draw, even though I’m not the best at it, because it helps demonstrate that what you’re looking for will not always look the same and encourage critical thinking. Print the name of the object next to the image.

On the back it’s great to include some information about the things that you’re looking for. Hit up google or Wikipedia for two or three interesting tidbits. I find that engaging in conversation about the hunt really excites my 2 1/2 year old and stimulates her curiosity much more than just telling her what to look for. So, for example, I might put:

Acorn: Nuts of oak trees. Can be processed to make flour.

Catbriar: climbing vine with tendrils and thorns. Soft tips can be eaten.

Elm: Grow very tall. mistletoe likes to grow on elm trees.

Oak: Oak trees grow acorns. Wood is used for building.

Dewberry: small, thorny shrub. Relative of blackberries. White flowers turn into edible berries.

Wood sorrel: commonly mistaken for clover. Has heart shaped leaves. Leaves and flowers taste like lemon.

Laminate:

Laminate the scavenger hunt page if you have access to a laminator so that you can check the list off with a dry erase marker as you go. You can forego laminating if you want to use a plastic sheet protector and tape the top. I like to reuse these, and they can be customized appropriately for your location. In California, for example, we found pine cones and sweet gum seed pods, but in central Texas those things are notably absent, so they’ve been replaced with local flora.

I skipped this step because I do not have a laminator and can’t find my sheet protectors.

The Hunt:

Take your (hopefully) eager participant out into the great outdoors and turn them loose.

If you are on private property it’s really fun to collect the items that are collectible as you go. Afterwards we set the page down, lay the objects on top over the pictures, and talk about everything we found. This is a great way to engage in active learning with the kids–lots of times I’m learning along with them!

If you’re in a state park or other similar location, however, you may have to simply check your list off as you go and take pictures if you can. My daughters really love talking about everything we saw on our walks, so I highly encourage you to review afterwards.

Safety Tips:

I do think that a list of things to be cautious of is very important to cover at some point. Snakes, scorpions, ticks, wasps, and centipedes are obvious dangers, but some inconspicuous aggressors may lurk in the underbrush. Plants that might be listed include poison ivy, oak, or sumac, cactuses, agave, giant hogweed, and hemlock. Things like lilies, oleander, datura, and azaleas are commonly used in landscaping and are lovely, but toxic. Children as well as adults should be aware of this.

Use caution with any kind of foraging/edible information with kids. I’ve had problems with my older girl wanting to eat stuff outside when I’m not looking, so I’ve been withholding that kind of stuff for now or only under supervised situations.

It’s always a good idea to have a safe word for when you’re out and about. We use “hot” as an all-encompassing signal for danger. (This was a tip from Merriwether at http://www.foragingtexas.com/)

Happy Hunting!

Originally written as an Instructable: https://www.instructables.com/id/Educational-Nature-Scavenger-Hunt/

Bubble Painting

Bubble Painting

I wrote an instructable for paper flower bouquet last week. This project creates my preferred paper to use in those bouquets–bubble painted paper. I used to do this even before I had the kids just because it’s so much fun.

This is, however, my first attempt with the girls. I’m sure it’s going to be a bit messy. Heck, my kids are always messy, so it doesn’t matter much. Just be prepared for the cleanup. On the bright side, it’s soap! Cleanup is always better when what you’re cleaning up is soap.

Let’s do this!

Supplies:

white paper (8 1/2 x 11 printer paper is what we used)

Cups or bowls

straws

soap and water or bubble solution

water

food coloring

 

Steps:

 

1. Pour soap and water or bubble solution into bowls. Add a few drops of food coloring (adjust according to how bold you would like your colors to be). Give the cups or bowls a little swirl to distribute the color.
2. Distribute straws, bubble mix, and paper among all involved adults and kids. I had a 2 1/2 year old and an 18 month old participating. I quickly found out that the bubble mixture was inappropriate for my younger daughter, who tried to drink it. We then substituted her solution for colored almond milk, which she painted with and drank happily.

3. Blow bubbles onto your paper. They should cascade across your paper, clinging to it, creating fun marbling effects, and splattering color everywhere! It’s delightful.

 

4. Set aside to dry.

Once dry, these papers make lovely origami bases. I do suggest trying out a Paper Tulip Bouquet, which is fun and beautiful. Next week maybe we’ll do another related project!