Friday, October 31, 2014

Jamberry Professional Nail Lacquer Set {Giveaway!}

You might remember many months back when we did a giveaway for Jamberry products from Meaghan Vandeloo, an independent consultant with Jamberry Nails. Today Meaghan is back with another giveaway. You will love this!  Here is a bit about the product!

Jamberry, the DIY Nail Wrap Company, launched salon-quality nail lacquer last year and it is taking the nail polish industry by storm! This summer, Jamberry was voted to be a SELF Magazine Health Beauty Award Winner. Jamberry Professional Nail Lacquer was voted by SELF women as the Best Nail Polish!

Jamberry Professional Nail Lacquer provides rich, creamy color in the season’s chicest shades. The 5-FREE’ formula goes on smoothly for great overall coverage and optimal wearability when paired with a Jamberry base coat and top coat.

Meaghan sent me a Blush color to try. I really liked it! It went on well. I used two coats for it to look nice, which I find typical of any nail polish I use. What surprised me, and what I haven't seen advertised on any Jamberry stuff, is that it dried so quickly. Really quickly. I loved that! I don't paint my nails as often as I would like to because quite frankly, who has time to let it dry well before needing to do something for a child? It dried fast enough that I painted Brinley's fingernails and didn't need to use quick dry. 

This nail polish is also DBP Free, Formaldehyde free, Tuluene free, Formaldehyde Resin free, and Camphor free.

This nail polish stayed on my finger nails longer than any polish I have tried. I have tried a lot of the pricier polishes over the years and haven't ever found a difference between the expensive stuff and the cheap stuff so far as how long it stayed on. This polish lasts. It is definitely my favorite of any brand I have tried (and...true story, I used to paint my nails daily. Go ahead, ask my high school friends. It is pretty embarrassing for me to admit that now, but I did. I have tried a lot of nail polish).

One lucky blog follower will be able to win a gift set of the Jamberry Nail Lacquer, Chill Out, just in time for the holidays! This gift set ($54 Retail Value) includes the lacquers; Sun Kissed, Stormy Seas, Ocean Spray and the Lovestruck Top Coat. Enter below:

ENTRY RULES
  • You must enter the giveaway to have an entry.
  • You must fulfill the rules of each entry for each entry to count. If I see the entry is not valid (did not meet entry requirements), I will disqualify your entry. Trust me, I check each winning entry to make sure it was valid.
  • Entries will be accepted until 12:00 midnight November 7, 2014.
  • The winner will be randomly selected through Rafflecopter.
  • The winner will be announced sometime after the winner is chosen. I will email the winner.
  • Once the winner is announced, you will have one week to contact me or another winner will be chosen. Be sure to check back and/or check your email. The only thing worse than not winning is to win but not realize it in time.
  • I will not use your email address for any purpose other than contacting you if you are the winner (and FYI, I don't have access to the email addresses except for the winner).
  • US Shipping addresses only.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Smoothie Recipe


I typically do recipes on Fridays, but I also do giveaways on Fridays and we have a lot of great giveaways lined up. So this is a Feed Me Friday on a Thursday.

I make a smoothie pretty much daily. I like to experiment and try different things. I recently put together a smoothie that Brayden and I both really like. As I was drinking it yestesrday morning, I thought, "I need to write this down so I don't forget the ingredients. Oh! I should share it with my readers! Oh I better take a picture of it!" And so you see very little smoothie left. I was drinking faster than I was thinking :) This is a very good, autumn-y flavored smoothie. It comes in just over 300 calories per serving (half of the recipe is what I call one serving. The recipe fills two large glasses and one small one).

Ingredients:
  • 2-4 Tablespoons oatmeal (I like 2 per person when I am making a smoothie). Note this is real oatmeal--not quick oatmeal.
  • 2-4 Tablespoons flax seeds (I like 2 per person when I am making a smoothie).
  • 1 Tablespoon agave nectar (or honey works)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 banana
  • 2 apples
  • 16 ounces milk
  • 1/2-1 tsp vanilla (I just eyeball this)
  • Handful of ice
Method:
  1. I start by putting my oatmeal and flax seeds into my blender. I then pulse it several times to break it down a bit before blending it all together. I don't find this necessary for just oatmeal, but flax seeds benefit from this step.
  2. Add milk.
  3. Add peeled banana.
  4. Cut and core apples and add them.
  5. Add the cinnamon, agave/honey, and vanilla.
  6. Add ice.
  7. Mix and serve!
What is your favorite smoothie combination?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Long, Hard Hours of Being a First Time Mom


Being a first time mom was somehow simultaneously the most glorious, rewarding, taxing, lonely, and draining thing I had ever done. Most of us dreamt of being a mother. We imagined what it would be like. When I was a little girl, I spent many hours in my room with my cabbage patch dolls pretending to be a mother. I planned to have 12 children. Having a baby via doll was so fun and serene!

The night Brayden was born, it was serene. Labor had been hard (though I didn't necessarily realize that then--I know now). Despite the efforts of the day, I could not sleep that night after he was born. I could only watch him sleep. What a miracle! Those new hours with a baby are such a miraculous time and you feel very close to heaven (not so much if the baby is whisked away to the NICU--I have had that experience, also). 

Time went on and the hours for sleeping came and went over the weeks with me being unable to use very many of them. The reality of motherhood set in. It was hard. While it was a fulfillment of my dreams and I loved it, my reality turned out to be much harder than my dreams were. I went from basically being able to do what I wanted when I wanted to having my life revolve around a baby. If I was super tired and the baby was up, too bad for me. A surprising difficulty for me was the loneliness. I am an extrovert and being home alone taking care of a baby who didn't even smile much less speak was socially isolating. Oh I loved him. I loved that baby. I loved being a mother. I loved holding that little miracle. But I still felt very alone.

To put it bluntly and non-eloquently, sometimes days just sucked.

I write this to let you young mothers know, it is perfectly normal to find motherhood hard and lonely. It is perfectly normal to watch the clock slowly tick by. The years fly by, but the minutes drag. I remember watching the clock closely. If Nate had to be home later than expected, even fifteen minutes, it was enough to send me to tears. 

That aspect of motherhood does get easier. These days, when Nate walks in the door, I typically think, "Wow! It is time already?" I enjoyed the newborn days of Kaitlyn much more than I did Brayden because I had this little two year old who would talk to me all day long. I also had less monotony. I wasn't just doing eat, play, sleep, repeat...I had a two year old to keep things varied and interesting. I also had gotten into the grove of being a mom and being home all day long and had a million ways in my mind to fill my time. 

I know how hard those beginning months of motherhood are. Keep in mind as you are there that you are doing God's work. The difficulty of it all can really turn you to the Lord like little else. It is a growing time for you spiritually. You will come out more kind, empathetic, loving, patient, selfless, and much, much more. 

Hang in there. You will look back soon and find certain aspects of what it was to be a first time mom quite desirable. You will long for time to just be at home with no where else to be. You will fondly remember those quiet hours at home with just you and your babe. As in any stage of life, try to focus on the good aspects before you. There are always good and bad to each situation and walk of life. Focus on the good of what it is and you will make it through happier and more content. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Brinley Toddler Summary: 26.5 Months Old


This is a summary for Brinley from 26-26.5 months old.

SLEEPING
Sleeping has been great! 

One night, I was putting Brinley in bed and thought, "She might wake up tonight because I don't think she is dressed warm enough." Sure enough, she woke up crying in the night. My husband said, "I think she wasn't warm enough." It is that time of year! Nights get a lot colder and until your child sleeps with covers on, they really can wake up from being too cold.

She still will at times play in bed. I love having a monitor that I can talk to her with. I just speak into it, tell her to go to sleep, and she immediately does. 

EATING
Brinley had a big change--no more booster seat at the counter! She loves sitting like a big girl. She is too short to do that at the table, so she still has a booster there, but she can do the counter. The only thing is she won't sit on her knees, so she is a little shorter than ideal, but it works.

Brinley started back up the "when I am done eating, I will throw food on the floor" thing. My husband told her to put her hands above her head when she is done. This works well. She throws the food on the floor because she is impatient and knows that gets her immediate attention. The reality is that with three other siblings, she often needs to be able to wait. Putting the hands up helps her to focus on something other than throwing food. See this post if you are having similar issues: 

Throwing/Dropping Food off of the Tray


PLAYING
Playing is going well. She was so pleasant during this two week period. She was quite obedient and quite content. 

GREAT AGE
This is a pretty pleasant age--at least in my experience. Brinley is great about helping to clean. She is great about saying, "Yes Mommy, I coming!" when I call her. She tests limits, but she quickly gives up when I am consistent about expectations.

SCHEDULE

8:45 AM--Wake up/Breakfast
9:15 AM--Get ready
9:30 AM--Walk
10:30 AM--Outside Time
11:00 AM--Independent Playtime
12:15 PM--Lunch
12:45 PM--Learning Activity
1:00 PM--Sibling play with McKenna
1:30 PM--Nap
5:00 PM--Free Playtime
5:30 PM--Dinner
6:00 PM--Family Time
7:30 PM--Get Ready for Bed
8:00 PM--Bedtime


RELATED POSTS/BLOG LABELS:

Monday, October 27, 2014

To Dress Up or Not to Dress Up for Halloween


I recently asked readers on Facebook if they had any requests for posts that are "Fall" related. One reader suggested a post on whether or not to dress up for Halloween.

The short answer to this consideration is if you are okay with celebrating Halloween, then absolutely do dress up! I know many of you do not celebrate Halloween at all. I know many of you do, but want to keep it "good." I wrote a post on Having a Happy and Wholesome Halloween last year with this in mind.

You will see in that post that we really like Halloween at our house. We keep it clean and wholesome. One of our favorite parts is dressing up. Even my husband and I dress up. In fact, on top of dressing up for Halloween day, we host a grown-up Halloween party at our house every year where our friends come in costume. Luckily, we live somewhere where the grown ups don't use it as an excuse to wear nothing. I know that isn't always the case. 

Sidebar, when I was in college, they had a big Halloween dance every year where people dressed up. Our church has an Institute of Religion right by the campus, and they also had a dance that night each year. I was surprised they would compete (yes, I can be naive at times). Imagine my little freshman shock when I went to the school dance and saw girls wearing literally nothing but saran wrap. Literally. So yes, I do know that in some instances, costumes are not a wholesome, fun, innocent activity. Okay back on track. 

We have always picked a family theme and dressed up along that line (you can see pics in that post). Dressing up as a family is a fun way to build family unity and tradition. There is nothing wrong with dressing up as individuals, however. Don't feel like you need to be themed. Don't feel like you need to dress up, either, as parents, though I can promise you that your children will think it is totally awesome if you do. 

A conundrum you might face if you do not celebrate Halloween is what do you do about dress up days at school on Halloween day? This is my advice to you. Treat it as a dress up day and let your child dress up as something to go to school. 

If you do not want your child exposed to costumes at school, then I would just keep your child home that day. 

In the end, you know your area and you know what things will turn into. You know what you feel is right for your family and what isn't. It is great to get opinions from others around you, especially parents you respect and have similar values with. In the end, do what you think is preferable for your family. Dressing up is not inherently bad. Kids love to play dress up. If you want to have fun with it, you can. 

Do you dress up? Do your children? What is it like where you live?

Friday, October 24, 2014

National Geographic Kids Cookbook {Giveaway}


Today's giveaway is for a copy of National Geographic Kids Cookbook: A Year-Round Fun Food Adventure. This is a fun cookbook! This cookbook takes you through the year and has recipe ideas based on the events going on in each month. It has tips for healthy eating and food facts as well. My kids love to cook and were very excited to find this book at our home. I like that it has ideas for foods that are kid-friendly to make.

Today I am giving away two copies of this book, so there will be two winners! Enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

ENTRY RULES
  • You must enter the giveaway to have an entry.
  • You must fulfill the rules of each entry for each entry to count. If I see the entry is not valid (did not meet entry requirements), I will disqualify your entry. Trust me, I check each winning entry to make sure it was valid.
  • Entries will be accepted until 12:00 midnight October 31, 2014.
  • The winner will be randomly selected through Rafflecopter.
  • The winner will be announced sometime after the winner is chosen. I will email the winner.
  • Once the winner is announced, you will have one week to contact me or another winner will be chosen. Be sure to check back and/or check your email. The only thing worse than not winning is to win but not realize it in time.
  • I will not use your email address for any purpose other than contacting you if you are the winner (and FYI, I don't have access to the email addresses except for the winner).
  • US Shipping addresses only.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Organizing Gifts for Children


I have come to realize over the years that I love giving gifts. Let me be more specific. I love giving meaningful gifts. I love thinking of gifts that will be of use, worth, and value to the person I am giving it to. I am not the type to grab any old random thing to give to someone. I put a lot of time and thought into the gifts I choose.

When it comes to giving gifts to children, it can be very overwhelming. Very. When I sit back and think about it, I am always amazed at the sheer number of choices in toys there are out there. There are so many toys you can get! How do you possibly figure out where to spend your money. Many years ago, I wrote a post on How I Choose Gifts. I wanted to build on that information today with the specific process I use to organize the gifts we get for our kids. 

Start with a Wish List
I love, love, super love my Amazon Wish List. If you don't have an Amazon Wish List, go set one up and try it out. You go to Amazon.com, log in, and click on the Wish List menu on the right side of the page. I have a wish list for each person I get gifts for. You can make them public or private. 

On the wish list, I add anything and everything I think the child or person might possibly like. I add it all. This is my first spot to gather my brainstormed ideas. If I know, for example, that Brayden would love a Lego set for Christmas, I peruse the Lego sets and add any I think he will like to his wish list. 

You could also create a wish list on Pinterest. You could create a private board and add gift ideas on it. I do have a private board on Pinterest as well for things not sold on Amazon that I think would make good gifts. 

List it Out on Paper
A few years ago, I made a gift organizer printable (free) to organize my ideas. I sit down with Amazon and my paper. I then write down my favorite ideas from my wish list onto the organizer. The organizer has categories, so I put the item in its respective category. This is still a brainstorming list. It isn't final. This step narrows down from Amazon and is more selective than my Amazon list. I also write down the price next to each item.



Set Boundaries
Some people do a budget. Some people do a certain number of gifts. I do in between. I have a budget for each child and I rarely go over that budget. I also have a number of gifts I shoot for per child. I do this so that I don't feel like I must use the budget all the way up. When you have a baby or toddler, it is harder to fill that budget up than it is with a preteen. I don't want to buy things for the sake of buying things. This way, if my gift list for Brinley is at 50% of her budget but 100% of the nymbers, I don't feel like I need to buy more things. 

Keeping it to a certain number also makes it so I hone in and pick the best of the best when I get to narrowing down. There are so many options out there as I mentioned earlier. We don't need everything there is. Having a certain number makes it so I really am intentional in which gifts I choose.

An idea a lot of people like is getting gifts along these lines: "Something you asked for, something you need. Something you want and something to read." You could change up the catchy saying to fit categories you want to fulfill.

Narrow Down Ideas
Now that I have my list of favorite ideas and I know my boundaries, I start to select the gifts I want to give at the holiday. I like to choose gifts from various categories. I like to get a variety of types of toys. So I will pick my favorite item from the list of games, for example. Then I move on to another category and pick my favorite item from that list. 

When I choose toys, I like to choose toys that are of high quality. Cheap toys break quickly and end up in the garbage. I would rather own fewer high quality toys than tons of cheap toys. 

Also remember, you don't need to go overboard. Your child doesn't need every cool toy out there. Also remember that you will be getting stuff every Christmas and birthday (and perhaps more) until your child moves out. Stuff takes space. The more stuff you buy, the less space you have, and the more cluttered things get and the harder it is to clean.

Move to App
Last year, I decided to get an app to organize Christmas gifts. I loved it! I got the Better Christmas List app. I can't remember if it costs money or not. It doesn't rate the best of all of the apps out there, so you might want to look at the other apps and see which one might appeal to you. I really like it, though. Something I love about it is that it is password protected, so no one can snoop! With this app, I input the final decision list of gifts I want to get. I can organize them by person and input the cost of each item. It then takes me through the steps of buying the gifts, wrapping the gifts, and shipping if necessary. 

If you don't do apps, you could do the same thing with the good old fashioned pen and paper. 

That is it! These are the steps I take to make the gifts meaningful, purposeful, and to prevent them from overtaking our home.

Speaking of gifts, here is a fun giveaway for you to win something to give as a gift:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Do you have any tips you love? Check out the other ladies in the BFBN today for more tips and ideas on Christmas gifts!


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Poll Discussion: Sleep Totals for 12-15 Months Old


Today's poll is on sleep totals. Parents often find themselves wondering if the amount of sleep their child is getting is in a normal range. This poll is specifically for children in the 12-15 month age range. 

1-What was your child's optimal waketime length for 12-15 months old?
2-What time was your child's morning waketime (what time did he/she get up) at 12-15 months?
3-What time was your child's bedtime at 12-15 months?
4-How many hours did your child usually sleep at night at 12-15 months?
5-How many naps did your child take a day at 12-15 months?
6-How long was each nap usually at 12-15 months?
7-Looking at all of the sleep as a whole, do you think your child was getting the sleep that was ideal for your child at that age range?
8-Other comments if desired.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kaitlyn Child Summary: 7.5 Years Old

This is a summary for Kaitlyn from 7.25-7.5 years old.

EATING
Eating went well during this time period. Kaitlyn does at times have texture issues with her food. If I push her to eat something, she might throw up. So I am careful about requirements. I made Chicken and Dumpling soup one night. She loves bread, so I thought dumplings would be an obvious love for her. She was not loving it. In fact, it was grossing her out in a texture way. I was requiring her to eat it when she just about puked it all up.

SLEEPING
Sleeping is great. All is well.

EXTRA CURRICULAR
Kaitlyn did gymnastics during this time for part of it. 

She also continued her swimming lessons. Kaitlyn has one skill to pass off (dives) before she is all done with swim lessons. Pretty exciting!

Kaitlyn did fall soccer during this time. My husband was her coach and she loved it. 

She also started piano lessons back up.

And the main event, Kaitlyn started dance. The last time I reported on Kaitlyn, I told you about her super mean dance teacher. Kaitlyn was ready to quit dance and never go back. I don't mind if she wants to stop dancing, but I did mind her ending on a bad note. I also minded that before last year, she loved dance. And she was good at it. I told her she needed to try it one more year and promised we would move studios so she would have no chance at getting the mean teacher again.

Kaitlyn chose a hip-hop class. She wanted nothing that looked like her old experience. When I was choosing the new studio, I talked with the owners of each studio and frankly explained what the previous experience had been like so that I could get a feel from them what their reaction was to it. I also prayed about it.

Kaitlyn has loved dance this year. She asked me if she could sign up for another dance class that the studio has (a ballet/tap class). That is how much she likes it. I am so glad! I don't know what she will want to do at the end of this year, but even if she decides she wants to be done with dance, I am glad we will have ended on a positive note and experience. I think it has been a good learning experience for her. 

CRUSHES
Kaitlyn has informed me that she no longer has a crush on anyone. Whew! ;)

SISTER
Kaitlyn is a great sister. She is naturally very maternal and loves to help people. She is super thoughtful and is always willing to help Brinley wherever she needs it.

SCHOOL YEAR
She hasn't had much school yet, but so far second grade is going well. She loves her teacher. She is doing well in class. Her teacher is looking for ways to challenge her. Kaitlyn loves to read and really has a hard time deciding what to read, so she literally has ten different books with bookmarks in them next to her bed. I was letting that go for a while, but a couple of weeks ago I told her she needs to whittle the number down. I get having a few books you are reading at a time, but ten seems like too many to keep track of (I think; who knows, maybe she has an amazing memory and can track it all). 

WORKING ON...
You might be wondering what there is for Kaitlyn to be working on. She has always been a very sweet and easy child. She is obedient without trying to be, if that makes sense. There is an area that she needs to work on, and that is potty humor. She pretty much finds a way to work "fart" into the conversation at every meal. I know some people find that funny, but for us, it isn't a mealtime conversation. That is our main focus right now.

SCHEDULE
This period was pretty equally over summer and school. Last time, I shared our summer schedule so I will do school.

7:00--wake up. Eat breakfast. Get Ready, practice piano, chores, then sibling play.
8:45--school
4:00--back home. Snack if needed and homework. Then free play.
5:30--dinner
6:00--Family time
7:30--get ready for bed
8:30--bedtime

GOOD BOOKS

RELATED POSTS/BLOG LABELS

Monday, October 20, 2014

Room Time Setup


I had a reader with a great idea for a blog post. She wanted to know how I had Brinley's room set up for room time. I took some pictures to give you an idea of what she has access to and sees when she does room time.

Remember I am not huge on "baby proofing"--I am a "house proofing the baby" type. With that said, I like to remove real dangers from the room since she is in there unsupervised. What I don't do is remove inconveniences for me. That means there have been days I have gone in to get her and found she has strewn the wet wipes around the room. Not fun. But it is a good learning moment for her. I have also gone in to find clothes all over the floor. Again, not fun. But it is a moment to say, "Brinley, we don't make a big mess when we play in our rooms" and have her clean it up. 

Conversely, I have walked in her room to find her in the middle of picking up her toys because they get a sense of time and can tell when it is about over. Brayden did this about daily. Kaitlyn and McKenna were never much into cleaning up without being prompted. On to the photos:


Here we have the closet. There are many toys she can reach in the closet. There are also a few up on the shelf out of her reach. You can see that better in the photo below.


The toys being on the shelf are an easy way for me to do a mini toy rotation with her toys. Rotating toys is a great way to keep kids interested in their toys. Rotating toys down is like having a birthday or Christmas. New toys they forgot about suddenly in reach.

You can also see that she can reach her shorts and pants that are folded up on the shelves in her closet. This has been a problem a couple of times, but that is it. It really is an easy way to work on teaching your child to not ransack rooms when playing. 


This is a view a little removed from the closet. She has her changing table there. The bottom of the changing table has toys for her to play with. The middle shelf has two baskets. One is her hamper. The other is a basket with wet wipes and diapers. Again, there have been a couple of times she has gotten into those, but not often and it has been a good learning opportunity for her.

The top of the changing table has some diaper ointment, gas drops, sometimes Tylenol...once she was tall enough to reach those things, I have to move them at Independent Playtime (room time). I don't mind her learning on shorts or wet wipes, but I don't want her learning on medicine of any sort. I keep those things out of her reach.

If you turn around at the closet, you will see her crib and reading corner. Under her crib, I have stored some more toys. This is another good "toy rotation" storage solution. I get those toys out every so often for a fun new toy time.

I only keep books that are baby safe in her room during room time. Well, I only keep books that are baby safe at all times because I don't want to forget one in there. You never know when a toddler will decide to experiement with ripping pages out of books. I am willing to refold laundry or put wet wipes back in the container, but I am not willing to destroy books. The books are a favorite thing for Brinley during Independent Playtime.


Each day at room time, I put the ottoman you see in Brinley's crib. I don't want her accidentally pinching her fingers on it. So that goes up for safety. The dresser was never a problem with McKenna, Kaitlyn, nor Brayden. Brinley has recently started opening the bottom two drawers to explore contents. That is our new thing to work on not doing during Independent Play.

For more on Independent Play, see:


Friday, October 17, 2014

Fall Break 2014!

We are having fall break here, so I am taking the day off! Have a great weekend.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Musical Activities for Toddlers {Guest Post}

by Claire 

This past summer I accepted a small position teaching a few music classes at a playschool each week.  Although I have experience with children from 1st grade all the way up to seniors in high school, teaching music to 2-4 year olds was going to be a new challenge!

I wanted to compile a small list of a few specific ideas for those of you that are at home and would like to involve music into your toddler's life.  Simply singing together is great, but it may be helpful to have some additional ideas as well.

1.  Sing books.  Some of my favorites are The Wheels on the Bus, Snuggle Puppy, The Fox, A-Hunting We Will Go, and The Three Little Kittens.  We even add melodies to books that aren't technically supposed to sung.  Children love hearing our voices. 

2.  Play instruments.  Purchase some cheapy instruments (jingle bells, shakers, rhythm sticks, sandblocks, etc.) or just make your own.  Turn on some music and let your toddler go to town.  If you want to do something more focused with it, then try keeping a steady beat with the instrument.  Or play different instruments with different sections of the song.  This can be as non-structured or as structured as you want it to be.

3.  Sing songs with movements.  Add movements to the songs you're already singing to your child.  A specific kind of movement you can do would be to mimic the instruments that you hear.  If you hear a violin, then play your pretend violin.  Or just focus on the songs that have built-in movements already - If You're Happy and You Know It, Hokey Pokey, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Deep and Wide, etc.  It's a great skill for them to be able to sing and move.  

4.  Play games with songs.  Turn on some music, have your child move/run around, and when you pause the music, have them freeze.  Toddlers love this kind of activity.  (And it burns off some energy for naptime, which we're all fans of!)  Find some songs that vary in tempo (fast and slow) or dynamics (soft and loud) and assign different movements to each one.  For example, run when it's fast, walk when it's slow, stand tall when it's loud, sit down when it's soft, etc.

The only goal is to encourage your toddler to enjoy music.  If you're having fun, they will too!

Claire is a mom of two and blogs at My Devising.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Poll Results: Blanket Time


This is the results for the Blanket Time poll. There were very few responders, so not a lot of data!  But here it is.
  1. Did you do blanket time with your child?
    Yes: 3
    No: 1
  2. If you did blanket time, what age did you start?
    From Birth: 1
    9 Months: 1
    11 Months: 1
  3. Did your child ever fight blanket time?
    Yes: 2
    No: 1
  4. If yes to 3, what age? How did you approach it? And how long did it last?
    Took a break, tried later: 1
    Took a break, still on break: 1
  5. What length of time did you start with for blanket time?
    5-10 minutes: 2
    30 minutes: 1
  6. What length of time did you ultimately stick with for blanket time?
    30 minutes: 1
    20 minutes: 1
  7. What time of day did you do blanket time?
    After lunch/before nap: 1
    Randomly: 1
  8. Any blanket time testimonies or tips?

    "Switch out the toys, leave the dogs out if they are behaved, mine loves to play with the dogs on the blanket along with her toys!"

    "
    I think it's an awesome tool and teaches skills that they don't learn with roomtime only (staying within boundaries that are not as defined as walls). My little girl is so busy and runs around the house constantly, from one activity to the next. Surprisingly, she LOVES blanket time and I think it is because she can actually focus on a couple toys. One tip I would have is to use a kitchen timer - both for her sake and mine (so I don't forget to get her off in good time). Also, use special toys that aren't available at other times of the day. "
Feel free to add comments in the comment section below!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Planning a Successful Class Party


The class party time is upon us! Class parties can be a lot of fun, but they can also be a lot of work. I have been involved in class parties since Brayden (now in fourth grade) was in Kindergarten. Here are some tips to help you have a successful class party. You might want to mix up the order of steps, but consider each step in your planning process.

1-Remember Kids Have Low Expectations
While you have known about the game of tic-tac-toe for about the last 30 years, these children are just discovering it. We often make things bigger and grander than they need to be for children. Children are okay with simple. They enjoy simple. 

I look at this as a "good, better, best" situation. Is it best to make your first graders class party have an appearance worthy of Pinterest, or are there other things you can be doing with that time that are actually "best"? Children are thrilled with the simple, so don't make it harder than it has to be (and this really applies to pretty much anything you plan for kids, from family vacations to birthday parties to daily summer activities). 

2-Divide the Time
The first thing to find out is how much time does the teacher want you to take for the party. Most teachers at our school like us to take one hour (one I have had goes longer). With one hour, I plan for 3-4 activities (usually 3). We divide the class into 3 groups and have each group be about 20 minutes long. How many groups you can do will depend on how much help you have. You will want an adult running each station, so if you have 4 helpers, you can have 4 stations. 3 means 3 stations. 

Once you know the time and how long each station will be, you know how long each activity needs to take. This will help guide you in choosing activities. 

3-Gather Help
The next thing you will want to find out is how much help you will have. Ask the teacher if she would like to be over a center or if she would like to roam the room. I have had teachers go both ways, though I would say even the teacher willing to do a center loves to be able to go all around the room and observe the party as a whole. Consider how much time you have, how many students you have, and how many centers you want to have. I like to have 3-4 groups, so that means there needs to be 3-4 moms there helping.

I find as a general rule, parents are more eager and willing to help in younger grades than in older grades. In a child's Kindergarten class, there will easily be 6 moms there to help. In the third grade class, it can be work to scrape together 3 moms. And some of my kids classes just have more people willing to help than others. For example, last year, Kaitlyn's first grade class had a lot of moms who wanted to help, while another first grade class at the same school literally had one mom doing every party. 

4-Gather Ideas
Now that you know how much time you have and how much help you will have, you can gather ideas. Sometimes I gather ideas before getting help. For example, this year I knew that in McKenna's Kindergarten class, I would have no trouble getting help for the party. I gathered my ideas and chose the activities before asking for help. That way, when I asked someone to help, I could say, "Would you be willing to run the painting pumpkins station?" Some people are happy to help but intimidated by planning the activity.

There is no better resource than Pinterest for finding fun ideas. Trust me, I have done these parties before and after Pinterest and Pinterest makes it a ton easier. Search "Halloween games" or "Christmas craft" or "Thanksgiving treat" and you will find a lot of ideas. There are also blogs dedicated to class party plans. Room Mom 101 is a great resource. You can find ideas I have pinned on these boards:
5-Choose Activities
I like to break the activities up into categories. I go for a craft activity, a game, and a treat the children can assemble. You can also do another game or craft and just have a treat for them to eat at the end. 

There are some things you want to keep in mind when choosing activities. One is paint. Paint takes time to dry. If you are doing the party at the end of the day, you might want to have all of the children do the painting portion at the same time at the beginning and then break up into stations so the paint can dry while before it is time to go home. Another option is to talk to the teacher ahead of time and plan to let the project stay over night and the children bring it home the next day. Glue is similar--it takes time to dry. 

Just be sure the activity you plan can be accomplished in the time you have. 

You also want to be sure the activity is in general age-appropriate for the class. I have at times prepared an activity before hand and taken it to the teacher to see if she thought it would work for the class. I mostly have had this uncertainty with Brayden since he is my oldest and I am not as familiar with what children of that age in general are capable of.

5-Prepare Activities
Once you have activities chosen, make sure you give yourself enough time to prep the activity. Have everything for the activity read to go. If you need copies, most teachers are willing to do the copies for you or will allow you to go to the workroom to make them yourself. 

Bring everything you need to set up the activity, do the activity, and clean up after the activity. Will you need napkins, wet wipes, soap, etc?

Another thing to plan for is a way for kids to get these things from the party home if needed. Not all will eat the treat. Some will want to take it home. Baggies can be good for that. Grocery sacks can be good for taking home painted or glued project without getting it all over the inside of the backpack.

6-Bring Books
Sometimes the activity you plan will go faster than you think it will. I always bring about 3 books per station so I can read a book to them if there is extra time. I bring books that go with the theme of the party, so Halloween books for Halloween party.

7-Go a Bit Early
You know the party is from 2-3. Find out what time to go to set up. You don't want to show up at 2. You want to be ready to party at 2.

8-Be a Sport
Get involved and have fun with the party. This is a party! I always dress up for Halloween parties. I try to be festive and have fun with the kids. 

Do you have any questions, comments, or ideas for class parties?

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Hand that Rocks the Cradle is the Hand that Rules the World {Quotable Mondays}


William Ross Wallace wrote a beautiful poem that outlines the significance of the role of a mother titled The Hand that Rocks the Cradle Is the Hand that Rules the World. The title of the poem says it all. Mothers have a significant positive impact on the world. Not just our individual children, but the world. 

While this is a sentiment dear to our hearts as humans and perhaps even something we will quote with warm fuzzies, how much is it truly believed by society as a whole?

When I was a senior in college, I had some professors who really were encouraging me to go on to get a Master's Degree. Let me say, this is without a doubt a dream of mine. I love school. I love learning. I thrived in a university setting. I was named the most outstanding graduate in my department. 

While one professor was very encouraging and respectful of my decisions, another one completely scoffed at me.You see, my goal was to be a stay at home mom. My professor made it clear that she thought I would be completely wasting my talents and abilities to "only" be a stay at home mom. 

But I believe, as Wallace did, that the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world. And frankly, even if I thought I would only impact my children and no one else, I would have no problem being a stay at home mom. When I say that, I in no way am trying to put down mothers who work, I am simply saying that I do not feel I wasted my time, talents, abilities, or education by being a stay at home mom.

We mothers have enormous capability to impact the world by our influence on our children. I have heard countless stories from people in their biographies of the mother being a supreme influence in the life that person. I imagine that all people, if they were to write a biography, could pinpoint significant moments from their mothers that brought them to where they are today. 

The next time you are feeling like your role as a mother is insignificant, remember this poem. You are influencing the world. Make it a good one.

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