Monday, February 25, 2013

Fairy Garden

Having only boys, I get a little excited when we have a girl's birthday party to go to. This is my big chance to do something girly! For our last girl-friend's party we brought this Fairy Garden set. It was really fun to put together and hopefully will be lots of fun to play with. I like to give kids gifts that encourage them to be creative.  

I started at Hobby Lobby of course (if it's not food or clothing I probably got it at Hobby Lobby). I found the fairies near the toy model section, with the army guys, and zoo animals. That's when the idea was born. Then in the spring section I found some accessories. I bought the garden fence, but they had an arch and a swing as well. 

I added some fun extras I had from my stash: mini tiles, silk flowers, glass stones, and some pixie dust. 

I included some natural stuff too: sheet moss, reindeer moss, miniature pinecones, and a tiny terra cotta pot.

I put it all together in a box with a see-thru top. I would have loved to get this as a little girl. Did you ever see the movie Fairy Tale: A True Story? I did, and my sister and I were sure that garden fairies were real after that. ; ) I'm sure every fairy would appreciate these garden accessories. Hopefully a little girl will have fun with them as well.

All you need is faith and trust and a little bit of pixie dust! Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Cabin Fever Recap

Howdy! Here's a quick recap of the boredom busters I shared over the last few weeks.

1. Floating Lanterns
2. Mini Folder Books
3. Make Your Own Floam
4. Paint Chip Memory
5. Mess-Free Finger Paint
6. Bean Sensory Bin
7. Indoor Basketball
8. Glow-in-the-dark Bath

I hope you found something fun that you hadn't tried. It's snowing here now, so I guess we'll be pulling one of these goodies out tomorrow. I'm planning to slow the pace here on the blog so I can try to keep up with my offline life. I enjoy posting so much, but I just can't seem to steal enough hours in a day for everything.  I'll be here when I can, and I'll be living life, making crafts, chasing boys and baking food when I'm not. See ya around! : )

Thanks for reading. 
- Haley

Friday, February 15, 2013

Glow in the Dark Bath

I'd like to wrap up the Cabin fever series today with one last indoor fun post. This is one that you get to do at night, so it's great to pull out when you feel like you want to salvage a rough day and end on a good note.  All you need is a pack or two of glow sticks. I don't know why it seemed glow sticks were so rare when I was growing up. The only time we saw them were at parades or fireworks shows it seems like. Perhaps they have found a huge new cache in the glow stick mines that now allows them to be sold at the dollar store, or bargain bins. Whatever the case, they are cheap, available and thrilling to kids of all ages. We have started letting our boys have a glow in the dark bath every once in a while now and they LOVE it. It's one of those things that makes me feel like a cool parent : )

I've seen on Pinterest that some people are cutting glow sticks and pouring them in the bath. I would never feel comfortable letting my kids swim in probably toxic water, let alone that they could swallow some! No, we just activate a bunch of glow sticks and throw them in the water, turn off the lights and let the boys pretend they are light-sabors or whatever.  It's hard to get a good picture, but it does light up the water and the room pretty well. 

To continue the coolness, don't turn on the lights when the bath is over, but do everything by flashlight or glow stick. Make a sheet tent and read a story by flashlight. Use glow-in-the-dark paint to make a tic-tac-tow set, and play glow-in-the-dark games. It's a novelty to just do things differently sometimes. I hope you'll give it a try, it makes for a terrific family fun night when you're all stuck inside.

That's it for my Cabin Fever posts. I may do a round-up of all the Cabin fever ideas next week, so you can have them all in one place.  I hope you are all surviving the winter months, spring is right around the corner, so hang in there!
Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Love Letter

In light of Valentine's Day I'm taking a quick break from the Cabin Fever series. It's been a while since I did a Make a Difference post so I wanted to share some love today, that I hope will help you do the same. I posted about the Child Sponsorship Program with Compassion International last year, and today I want to give you some tips for writing and sending stuff to your child. Compassion has a blog where I found this list of fun things that you can send to your sponsored child, including this mini paper folder book. Basically if it's paper and it's small, you can staple it to your letter, so this little booklet is perfect. I have a stash of scrapbook paper so I got carried away and made a few extra.

You can check out the tutorial from October Afternoon that I followed, for the smaller rectangle ones. Here's a recap of how mine came together. I glued all my pages to create pockets before sewing the book together. I also cut some pages on both sides to create different angles and page shapes. Below you can see two different page styles. 

Then I sewed the books together. Most of mine had three or four pages, which turns out to be six or eight pockets. Whenever I sew on paper I use binder clips to hold pages together and keep everything from slipping apart.

Here's the books I made for our sponsored children, Ruth and Emerson. I personalized them because kids love having something with their name on it, and I figure it's possible they don't have anything like that. I went over the sticker letters with packing tape later, because I read that in some countries (I'm guessing Guatamala may be one of them), the humidity causes tape and stickers to come un-stuck, and I didn't want their names falling off.

Inside I used some more stickers to decorate and personalize. I put some little things in the pockets too, I cut out some of the little family pictures from our Christmas card and tucked those in, and Thing One drew a picture for each of them. I also made Ruth a little paper book mark. I tried to keep everything paper though because I didn't want them getting sent back because of something that was unacceptable.  I also reinforced the back page with packing tape so I could staple the booklet to a letter I wrote to each of them. Be sure to also write the child's name and number on the back to be sure they get it.

I think having a special place to stash meaningful bits of paper and pictures will be fun for them. Plus they know that someone was thinking about them specifically, enough to put their name on something.

Here's a few other ideas of things that you can attach to your letter to your child. Again visit the Compassion blog here for lots of ideas for approved items to send.

  • Photos
  • Coloring pages
  • Stickers
  • Mini Calendars
  • Streamers
  • Musical cards (I can't wait to do this one!)
  • Kids Valentines Cards (I sent Ruth a bunch back in early January so she could give them to her friends from her).

Over and over again Compassion emphasizes the importance of writing your sponsored child to let them know that you care about them. I love Compassion's program because it's not just about sending money to help kids and families in need, it's about connecting with kids who need to know that someone believes in them. It's about making a kid's day with a sheet of stickers and an encouraging verse, that reminds them they are not alone, not forgotten. It's about reading the words of a child's letter to me, "I pray for you and your family every day." Can I be really honest here? Sometimes I feel awfully good about myself, knowing that I am helping to meet some of the daily needs of our sponsored kids, and praying for them each night. But, I have probably never been so humbled and so grateful as when I realized that a child who's family is sick and struggling spends time every day covering me in prayer, asking God to watch out for me and my family. What a powerful reminder that it is not just the poor who need to be covered in prayer. I can only imagine the things I have been spared because this little girl has pleaded with God to watch over us. Oh, how we need that covering. I am grateful and struck by the fact that even a six year old girl realizes that not money, or stature, or even living in America will keep families from facing hardship, grief, sickness and loss. I pray that every one of us would be so blessed as to be covered with the prayers of a faithful little girl. If at six years old Ruth already knows who it is that takes care of, and rescues people, she is richer than she knows. May we all be so rich.

Visit the Compassion International website to learn more about sponsoring a child. Hundreds of children have been waiting nearly a year for a sponsor to choose them. This is love.

"If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.  If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing."
I Corinthians 13:1-3 NLT

Happy Valentine's Day dear friends. You are so loved! 
- Haley

Floating Lanterns

I think I mentioned that we are big fans of the movie Tangled. Thing One's favorite scene is when they launch all the lanterns. So I thought he would like to make and hang some of our own. 

First, Thing One just colored all the construction paper. For the ones above I folded them all "hamburger" style and cut about every 1/2 to 1 inches to within an inch of the edge. Then roll it "hot dog" style and tape the edges together to form a tube. For a taller lantern cut as I just said, if you want it to be fatter and shorter just switch the hamburger and hotdog orientation (like below).

If you really want it to be a lantern, you will want to add a light. These battery powered tea lights are perfect. I've seen these even at the dollar store.

I taped the lid of a frozen juice concentrate to the bottom and set the tea light in there. you can also use jar lids.

Then we taped fishing line to the top to hang them up, so it looked like they were floating. At night they really look like floating lights.

Make a day of it:  watch Tangled together, make lanterns, make little pom pom Pascales, and then play Where's Pascale. Here's to getting tangled in fun : )

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mess-Free Painting

Hi there! Today I wanted to share a fun activity that's quick, easy, cheap and provides days of intermittent entertainment. It's mess-free finger painting! All you need is a gallon size ziplock bag, finger paint, and packing tape. Lay the bag flat and open it up. Squirt a generous amount of paint in each of the two bottom corners. If you want this project to also teach kids about mixing colors use two  primary colors so they can make a fun new color together. Carefully press all the air out of the bag working from the bottom and spreading the paint as you go. Once the whole bag is covered with a thin layer of paint all the air should also be pressed out. Make sure there's no air bubbles. Seal the bag and tape over one whole side with packing tape.

You can then tape the edges of the bag down to a table or to a glass window. I like using a window because then light shines through to make it easier to see drawings and designs.

If you make sure to push out all the air from the bag, then the paint stays kind of vacuum sealed in there and doesn't ever really sink to the bottom. The packing tape keeps kids from snagging the bag or puncturing it, making this activity last for days or weeks rather than hours.  : )

The paint bags are great for drawing, or practicing writing letters or spelling words. I love this activity because although I also let my kids make a mess with real finger paint, it is sort of a bummer to throw out so much paint 10 minutes later. Not to mention it takes longer to clean them up than they spend painting.

These bags are fun to play with lots of times. Even better, if you want, when they are done using it on the window, open up the bag and squeeze out the paint and let the kids paint with it on paper. Now that's getting your money's worth! Happy painting/drawing/writing!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sensory Bins

The local museum in our town does a kid craft class a few times a week. In addition to craft stations where kids can follow the directions to complete the craft, there are also some free play stations; usually a play dough table and a sensory bin. When I started taking Thing One his favorite part was the sensory  bin. Since he liked it so much I made him a few at home. For a while we had multicolored rice which is very easy to make, just mix a couple of cups of rice with a few drops of food coloring and stir 'til you get the color you want, then mix all the colors together. I let it sit for a day, so that I was sure it was all dry before Thing One played in it. Thing Two's favorite sensory bin has been beans. I didn't really think I made it big enough for him to play in the bin, but he seems to think there's plenty of room to sit in there.

I bought a cheap plastic bin and filled it about one inch thick with dry black, navy, and pinto beans. This color combo seemed like the perfect habitat for dinosaurs, so we threw in a bunch of plastic dinos and a few cups for pouring. 

The lid snaps on, so the boys can't get into it without asking, and it's small enough to slide under our kitchen island cart, so we don't have to tote it around. It's been great in the winter, because our sandbox is more often soggy than not (even if it's warm enough to play outside). This gives the boys a fun sensory activity and it's not that big of a mess even it spills over, a quick sweep and we are good to go.

Sensory bins are so easy to make and could be made with anything. I posted about making one with "cloud dough" before. Colored rice, pasta, oatmeal, water, shaving cream... there are so many fun options you could do. I really like the beans though because they are durable (they don't get crushed like pasta), they last a long time (unlike shaving cream), and they're not difficult to clean up (like oatmeal and rice). If you have a Sam's membership you could probably get a good deal on the beans, or you can always pick up a bunch of bags at the $1 store. 

Have a great weekend! I'll be back with one more week of Cain Fever Cures. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

10 Little Rubber Ducks Memory Game

Remember when we did the Eric Carle day last year? Well later on I came up with a fun activity to go with the book 10 Little Rubber Ducks

Since the book is about 10 rubber ducks lost at sea I thought we'd do an activity with ducks and finding numbers, so we made paint chip memory. You could do 10, but I actually did 12 because I wanted to be able to make 3 even rows. We collected several different shades of yellow, making sure to get at least 3 of each. 

Then I just searched for and printed out a duck shape. I cut him out and traced him on all the paper paint chips.

Then I wrote a numeral on half and spelled out the number on the other half. This way Thing One has to practice reading and recognizing the words in order to match them to the numbers. If you wanted this to look nicer you could use sticker letter and numbers on the back. I don't take my free crafts too seriously, so I just scratched it on there with a marker. : )

 Then you turn them all over...

...and try to find a match.

Easy, fun, cheap and good preschool practice, especially when combined with a fun book. By the way I just discovered that there's an Eric Carle Museum, and a fun blog that goes with it. Check it out for more fun Carle inspired art ideas. 

Thanks for reading!
- Haley

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Indoor Basketball

One of the things we miss most when it's too cold to play outside is sports. One cold day I braved the elements all the way to the shed and found the pool noodle rings we made last summer, and an idea was born: indoor basketball! 

If you haven't made noodle rings, here's the quick low down: 

[Slit a toilet paper tube along the side and roll it tighter to fit inside the noodle, slipping each end over half of it. Then use duct tape to secure the noodle ends together. The TP tube just helps give it stability and not come apart so easily. For this large one I used two noodles, and used packing tape on the one side (which is why you can't see both connections).]

Since I already had some single noodle rings along with the double I decided it would be even more fun to put them all up and make multiple targets. 

For in-the-house-play a beach ball is my weapon of choice for the boys. It worked perfectly for the big one. It's a tighter fit for the single hoops, but we found a light weight foam ball for those. With multiple players we needed multiple balls any way. To keep the duct tape from peeling off the wall, I suggest going over the part where it's taped with another couple perpendicular pieces. I did that on the larger one.

Then we experimented with other ways to play.

Up, down and sideways, it was a great way for the boys to use up some energy and do something active in the house.

I want to say this activity is a slam dunk, but I don't want to be cheesy like that so I won't : ) ...but your kids really will love it! I took the hoops down at the end of the day and didn't have any trouble with the tape sticking to the doors. If you leave it up longer that could be a problem.

Hope you are having fun today even if you're stuck inside.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

How to Make Floam™

Hello! I thought I'd start Cabin Fever off with a cool science activity. There's some things I see a lot of Pinterest, but I actually hadn't really seen this one, so maybe it's something you haven't tried yet. 

Floam™ was popular when I was a kid, about the same year I asked for moon boots for my birthday I think. It's like Gak! except it has tiny foam balls in it. I found this tutorial at E is for Explore, which has a lot of fun tutorials and activities for kids. (And they found it originally at Beyond to whom credit it due). I bought a box of borax an eternity ago and when you use it a few teaspoons at a time it lasts a while. We had the tiny foam balls left over from the snow globe ornaments.

Recipe for Floam™

2 tsp. borax
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup elmer's glue
food coloring
ziploc bag
5/3 cups of polystyrene beads.

1. Mix borax and 1/2 cup of water.
2. In another bowl, mix glue and 1/4 cup of water. Add food coloring.
3. Pour the glue solution into the bag. Then, add 3 tbsp of the borax solution, do not mix.
4. Add the polystyrene beads.
5. Seal bag and knead by hand until mixed. Let the bag stand for 15 minutes. Then knead for a few more minutes.

Be sure not to mix until you've added the foam beads. My only other suggestion is that you might want to use slightly less beads. 

Once you've really kneaded that gak into the beads it should look something like this.

It feels so cool between little fingers (or big ones for that matter). Store in the ziplock bag. Don't be alarmed when the gak part sinks to the bottom while storing, you can just knead it back together before getting it out to play with.

How's that for a boredom buster? Your kids are going to think you are so cool! You are.
Have a great Monday!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Winter Mini Series 2013: Cabin Fever

Hi friends. How's everyone doing? Is the cold weather getting to you yet? It doesn't seem to take long for us to start going stir crazy in the winter. With two energetic boys here we have to get creative and think of ways to keep everyone busy and happy when we can't get the wiggles out outdoors. That's why I'm really excited about my next little mini series. 

I'll be sharing some of my ideas for crafts, games and activities to keep kids busy and having fun indoors (without destroying the house) during the long winter months. See you next week!

Have a great weekend!
- Haley
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