Monday, February 23, 2015

Wild Kratts: DIY Field Case

Thing One is a big Wild Kratts fan.  For his birthday he got a couple of toy sets that came with animal action figures, the brothers, and creature power discs. I love that these sets are small and don't take up much space, but since they are so small they are easily lost! So, when we were taking apart the box the toys came in, I had an idea: we could use the box to make a Wild Kratts suit case to keep everyone safe.  It seems like lots of toys are packaged this way, so I'm sharing our toy-packaging-turned-suit-case so that maybe you too will be able to wrangle small toys by simply repurposing the box they came in. 

On the right is the original box (we had two of these sets), inside was the clear plastic tray in front, which was lined with the blue cardboard on the case. So we had two plastic trays and two pieces of blue cardboard that fit exactly over them. To make the case you just need one of the plastic trays and both pieces of blue cardboard. Flip one plastic tray over and fold one cardboard over it hot gluing it to all the edges. This makes the bottom of the case.



To make the handle, I used an Exacto knife to slice two slits into the plastic. I slid some ribbon through and hot glued the ends to the inside. 


Then we just glued the bottom of the other piece of cardboard into the inside of the box to be the top that will open. I had to trim a little cardboard off of the top of each side flap so that it closes easily. 


Then you can tuck the side flaps in and fold the top piece over the bottom. To keep the case closed we hot glued small velcro tabs to the top.



On the inside of the case I hot glued a plastic pencil bag that I had saved from an old planner. You can cut these to any size, just make sure to make a hot glue "stopper"at the end so the zipper doesn't zip right off. Then I hot glued around three sides and covered up my messy glue with wash tape. You could probably make this out of even a zip-top sandwich bag, or a cheap pencil case. This pouch is perfect for the small creature power discs. We also cut out a few Wild Kratts logos and such from the toy package and glued them in there.



I made Thing One and Thing Two their own creature power suits about a year ago (you can buy them also of course, here) and Thing One has been making his own power discs ever since. I cut out a bunch of white circles that fit in his suit so he can make a disc whenever he wants (and it's not an emergency for me to cut one out during the first two minutes of the show). Sometimes he wants me to draw the animal. I will not claim which of these are mine, except to say that his artwork is far better than mine. He knows it now too. He doesn't even ask anymore. : )


We also cut out some power discs from a cereal box once (below right). The new field case will be great for storing the many homemade power discs as well. 


It's fun to have a few "real" Wild Kratts toys, but I also love that he can be imaginative and make up his own stuff to go with the show. Wild Kratt lovers can also print out some things for free at the PBS website (printable are available at the parents site, here). We printed this  adventure passport and these bookmarks, which would be great for a Wild Kratts party.


I both teach and volunteer in our public schools, and when I hear about some of the stuff the young(!) kids are watching, it makes me so thankful for PBS kids. This is the only station we let our kids watch, and I'm really thankful for the educational and age appropriate programing they provide.

To find free PBS kids activities visit the kids site for online games, etc., here
and visit the PBS kids for parents site here, for printable and hands on activities you can do with your kids. Just click on the show you want for more activities to go with that show.

WHAT IF! watching TV could be a great connecting point because we did it with our kids and talked about what they are watching and then took it further into real life activities, problem solving, and research? I think it can be.

Here's to imagination, favorite shows and repurposing! Let me know if you are able to reusing packing creatively like this, I'd love to see what you made!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Make a Difference: Keeping Up With Our Compassion Kids

Hi friends! It's Valentine's week, so everyone is thinking of those they love! A couple little people that we love are the kiddos we sponsor through Compassion. Ruth and Emerson both live in Guatemala. There's so much I wish I could give them, to show them how much we care about them, but there are pretty strict rules for what you are allowed to send with your letters. (Check out all the stuff you can and can't send your sponsored child, here.)

So although I'm trying to be more creative in what we send, I also think the best thing we can give them is consistency. Compassion makes it really easy to stay in touch with your sponsored child, because you can even just write to them online and attach a quick photo. We do this, but I also really like to send them stuff. This year I'm getting more organized and trying to send them some more interesting things. Often the thing that keeps me from getting letters in the mail is that I want to include something fun, but I don't make time to wrangle up some stickers, or print out something. So the letter sits there waiting for me to get around to the extra stuff. This year, I decided I would take a day to pick out and prepare lots of extras so they are ready to just get stapled to a letter and get on their way. Now I have a pile of fun stuff waiting in the wings and I know I will be better about getting those letters in the mail consistently. Here's some of the fun stuff we are sending with our letters:

Seek and find pages. Our kids got a subscription to Highlights magazine for Christmas, so we now have lots of fun pages to share with our sponsored kids (you can't send a whole magazine, but you can send a few pages at a time). These are great because language really isn't a barrier. I did write a little note in Spanish: "Busca estas cosas en la imagen." But if your kids speak another language, I'm sure they would still figure it out. 


Stickers. All kids like stickers, right? I especially like these real life photo stickers.



Coloring pages. I made a couple of sets of coloring pages and stickers that go with them.


Valentines and Cards. Thing One wanted to include a valentine like he will give to his classmates. Although it probably won't get there until May or June, it's still fun. One of the other fun things we've sent is the musical greeting cards, yep those are allowed!


Animal pictures. Sometimes I have a hard time knowing what to write. This time wedecided to tell them about the wildlife that can be found where we live. We included a few of the animal photo stickers to show the kids what these animals look like, and asked what kind of wild animals live near them. You could also get postcards from a local tourist spot or just take pictures of animals and nature where you live. 


How to draw. I used to like those step by step how to draw books. I just did a search on Pinterest and found a lot of simple how to draw pages here.


Since we have been getting letters from Ruth and Emerson for a few years now, and I also have a stack of stuff ready to send to the kids, I needed to get organized. This summer I put together a binder for each of them.


We keep our stickers/coloring pages/magazine pages/how to draw sheets in the front pocket, ready to send.


We hole-punch their letters to us and put them in the binder. This is also nice because when we want to write a letter we can look back at their most recent letter to us and remember what they said or asked.


Whenever you receive a letter from your child, Compassion also includes a blank letter and envelope for you to send to them. We keep these in the back pocket.



Hopefully being organized and thinking ahead a little bit will help us to consistently show Ruth and Emerson that we care about them and they are loved.

So are you!

Happy Valentines week!

Can you show a child that someone cares about them? Click below to visit Compassion and sponsor a child today. Some of these kids have been waiting nearly a year for someone to choose them. Maybe it's YOU they've been waiting for! : )


Monday, February 2, 2015

Book Review: More Than Happy

This is my first time being a parent, and I'm still trying to get the hang of it. We've read our fair share of parenting books, always looking for helpful ideas and advice from "the experts." So when Howard Books told me about a new book they had coming out about Amish parenting, I was definitely interested. I read my first Amish fiction book last year, when I reviewed Serena Miller's Fearless Hope.  As Miller did her research in Holmes County, Ohio for the Amish fiction stories she writes, she began to notice that all the Amish children she'd observed were well-behaved and seemed very happy. This lead her to do a little more research and write her new book, More Than Happy: the Wisdom of Amish Parenting. 

"Despite having no modern toys and conveniences, the Amish children she saw were joyful, serene, calm, and respectful--not to mention able to whip up full meals and drive buggies before most of us will allow our children to walk to school alone. But when she started asking questions abut what Amish parents were doing differently, she was startled to learn that happiness is not a goal the Amish strive for at all--and yet it's the end result."

Miller takes a good look at how Amish parenting differs from typical "Englisch" parenting. One of the things I like about this book is that Miller is exploring and asking questions of her Amish friends throughout. It's refreshing to read a book about parenting in which the author is not claiming to have it all figured out, rather she's discovering something that's working well  for many families and researching why that is. 

Miller talks about community, education, faith, discipline, and how each plays into raising these happy children. Here's a few lines that I loved:

"I quickly realized that Amish parenting is not a "method"; it is the culmination of many beliefs deeply held by the entire community."
"In addition to a paycheck, we long for some validation in the form of prestige or identity, or at least some purpose....On the other hand, Amish people seldom equate their identity with their work. To the Amish, a job is a job."
"Amish families worship God and God alone, and that helps them keep their children centered and balanced. Amish children are loved and they are given plenty of attention, but they learn early on that they are not the center of the universe."

This book really gave me a lot of things to ponder. And I love the things it made me examine in my own parenting. I wish I had read it sooner. I would highly recommend it to any other amateur parents out there, like myself. : )

You can order it here, or look for it this week in bookstores.

Happy reading, and happy parenting!


Just so you know...
I received a free copy of More Than Happy from Howard Books for my honest review. The opinions I write here are mine, because it's my blog.


Friday, January 23, 2015

A Gruffalo Play Day



It's been a while since we had a play day theme. Since it's winter, we are looking for a little indoor fun. We like to have play days with a few friends with food and crafts themed around a children's book. This time we did The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. This "modern classic" came out in 1999, but I'm ashamed to say I'd never read it until we watched the (Oscar nominated) animated movie on Netflix recently. There is also a sequel called The Gruffalo's Child. Both are just the cutest stories, perfect for the ages my boys are now. I am absolutely in love with the animated movies. (you can watch a scene  here on YouTube).

The authors also have a fabulous website (visit Gruffalo.com here) with tons of free activities you can print out for your favorite kiddos. We did this play day entirely with things we had on hand, so it was totally free--my favorite. 

We started by watching the movie, most of the kids hadn't seen/read the story. It really held the attention of our 5 and under crowd. Then we feasted on Gruffalo eyes (cheese balls), scrambled snake (as seen below--linguini with pesto alfredo, and swiss cheese eyes with peppercorn pupils--which we told them not to eat!),  a slice of bread (toasted ciabatta) and fruit from the forest. 


For dessert there were acorns (posted previously here) and owl ice cream, of course. : )


Then we had some crafts to choose from. All the printed pages came from Gruffalo.com. We had coloring pages, 



this mask page, which we used to make brown bag puppets. We had purple prickles to glue on and a poisonous wart to add to his nose.



The kids also made their own Gruffalo forest dioramas to go with the finger or stick puppets we made. The day before, the boys and I gathered up a bin of nature stuff from the back yard. Even in the winter you can find pretty cool stuff out there. 



We sorted it and put it out with some sheet and reindeer moss (yes we had this, if you don't, you can find it at Hobby Lobby or even Walmart), tacky glue, and hot glue (for grown ups to help with).



The kids colored and cut out their puppets and then put the theater (or Gruffalo house, as they liked to call it) and puppets together. (We also used our burlap trees (posted here) as a decoration.)


I love how they came out...


...each one was so unique and fun.


I hope you enjoy the Gruffalo story, movie, and web site as much as we do. Stories are even more fun with friends!

To see other book themed parties and play days we've had, check out
Strega Nona
Stone Soup
Eric Carle Books
Dr. Seuss Stories
Curious George
The Lorax (Earth Day)


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

2015 Reading Plans

Well, it's the beginning of the year so I'm making my list of books that I want to read this year. Last year I had a goal to read one book a month. I think I came close. Here's some of what I read last year:




So those were the ones I talked about, but I also read: 

I think I read a couple others, but I can't remember them now. Anyway that's nine, so I'm pretty happy with that. I actually listened to Mere Christianity, which I absolutely recommend. I love CS Lewis so much, but sometimes I feel like I need to read sections  of his writing over and over to let it sink in. Listening to it really helped me feel like I was understanding it the first time. Our local library has a lot of books on CD, so we just borrowed it for free. 

When I looked back and my "books I'm going to read in 2014" picture, I realize that four of the books I put on my 2015 shelf are still on the "to read" list. I really am going to read these, plus I've added a few: 
Fly a Little Higher (I'm reading this now--prepare to cry and have a huge dose of perspective in the area of families dealing with childhood cancer. So good though.)
What Alice Forgot - my friend has recommend this author, and I'm trying to add a little fiction to the mix. 


I think I'll do better this year, because I now have a couple of book buddies, so now I can set some timeline of when we want to finish a book so we can talk about it. Yay, mini book club!

I love reading, because it's a hobby that doesn't have to cost you anything. Several of these books are borrowed from friends, and others were from the library. Can I say a few words about how I have discovered the e-library? You have probably been using it forever, but it's new to me and I love it! I don't have a tablet, Kindle, or an iPad--nor do I need one, but I have a smart phone and Kindle has a free app that allows you to read ebooks from the library, Amazon, etc., so you can just use your phone or an iPod with wifi. I've gotten several books for free, as authors, bloggers, publishers sometimes run a 24 hr deal to download their book for free. I will promise to share these deals with you this year, my friends, because free is awesome. But you do have to snatch it up right away, because then it goes back to the regular price. 

The library app I use is called OverDrive. It has been great! Thing One loves reading through chapter book series, but that's a problem when the library has The Absent Author and The Canary Caper, but not The Bald Bandit. With OverDrive, I can download The Bald Bandit and we can get books "A, C, D & E" in paperback, and we don't have to wait for "B" to come in, or make an extra trip to the library, just so he can continue the series. I don't like him to read all the time on my phone, but one book here and there has been great. Plus I love having a book with me all the time. I can read for a few minutes in the school pick up line, and I actually make progress on these books. Because a lot of days there is no time. OverDrive is like a real library in some ways, there are still waiting lists sometimes; I'm currently 39th in line for What Alice Forgot. But when it becomes available I'll have it with me right away. 

Here's to a great year of reading! Any books I should add to my list?


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