Monday, November 15, 2010

Wizard of Oz Child's Birthday Party

Last year, Gabrielle turned 5 on November 29th and she really wanted a Wizard of Oz birthday party. She was Dorothy for Halloween and wanted her party to be the same theme. She wore her costume for the party and I dressed up as a scarecrow. I looked online for some party ideas for this theme, but there just wasn't much out there. So, I sat down and thought about it and came up with the perfect party idea! The kids will follow the Yellow Brick Road to earn a heart, brain, home and courage - just like in the movie!!!! I set up different stations/games around the house and at each one, the kids had to earn one of the things. To save money, I made most of the stuff on my own. This is what I did:

For "courage", like the Lion earned, I got plain badges at the craft store and wrote "courage" on them and spruced them up a little bit. At this station, the kids earned their "courage" by melting the witch. I had witch hats on the floor and put blocks of wood in them so the hat stood up and the kids had to throw rings around the hat to melt the witch. When they did this, their "Badge of Courage" was pinned to their shirts.

For the "heart", like Tin Man earned, I made big red hearts out of craft foam sheets. I then punched holes at the top so I could string red yard through it so they could hang around their necks, just like it happened to The Tin Man in the movie. He also had a clock on his heart so, I printed off the face of a clock and glued it on the middle of the red hearts. To earn the "heart", the kids had to stick 30 heart stickers around popsicle stick frames. (I used these frames to put a picture of the kids in for them to take home).

For the "brain", like the scarecrow earned, I made diplomas on the computer and rolled them up with some ribbon. Each one said: (Child's name) has successfully earned his/her "brain" on the Yellow Brick Road Journey at Gabrielle's 5th Birthday Party on (date). To earn their brain, they had a Wizard of Oz maze worksheet to do and they also had to guess how many Skittles were in a jar. I used Skittles because of the rainbow colors. (The winner got to take home the Skittles too).

For "home" like Dorothy wanted in the movie, this was the end of the party when it was time to go home. They got to take all their loot and things they earned back home with them.

I had some left over Halloween witch costume "stuff" (green nose, broom, hat, etc.) that I hid around the house. The kids had to be careful not to get caught by the witch, but when they saw "witch stuff" they needed to look around for a clue that would lead them to their next stop on the Yellow Brick Road.

I made her cake. I looked online for little figurines to put on her cake, but they were expensive so I printed off pictures of the characters online, laminated them and then glued them to a toothpick to stick in the cake. I frosted the entire cake green and then I used yellow fondant to create a yellow brick road. I used a toothpick to make the brick pattern in the fondant. I put little pink flowers around the rest of the cake for the flowers they fell asleep at in the movie.

I used yellow plastic tablecloths to make a yellow brick road all over the house. I taped them to the floor and drew a brick pattern on them with a black permanent marker. I also used every color of the rainbow in streamers to make a rainbow in the archway between the living room and dining room. This was my daughter's favorite thing! She loved it.

For the party favors, I got little baskets for each child. They carried these on their Yellow Brick Road journey and also to put all their goodies in from the party.

This party was a huge success and one that really stuck to the theme. I hope this helps you plan your little one's Wizard of Oz party! Happy Partying!!!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sam the Elf - My Knight and Shining Armor!

I don't know if you have gotten the "Elf on the Shelf" for your children or not, but it is one of the cutest little investments we have made for our family. The North Pole sent us our elf last year and we named him Sam. Each year, he comes to our house before Christmas to watch and see how the kids are doing. Every night, he flys back to the North Pole and reports to Santa all the good and the bad of that day. He then returns back to our house and sits in a different spot. Each morning, the first thing the kids do when they wake up is try and find where Sam is at.

Today was Sam's first day back for the season and guess what happened? Landen was helping Gabrielle with everything she needed. Gabrielle wanted Landen to play with her in her room. Landen got Gabrielle's toothbrush all ready for her. Gabrielle made a picture for Landen. The kids started making cards for Sam. They wanted me to make him a plate for dinner. We even went to Target and Landen asked if he could get Sam something! All of this, and I didn't even ask for it!!! Thank you, Sam!

I am telling you, if you have not made this investment, you should seriously consider it. When the season gets a little hectic and crazy and your kids are driving you nuts about anything and everything, pull out your elf and watch the changes instantly! Our Sam is my knight and shining armor each year! He brings a lot of love, peace and joy to our house and the kids absolutely fall head over heels for this little magical guy.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Functional Art - Turn Your Child's Art into Refrigerator Magnets!

One thing I love to do with some of the smaller art projects and pictures that my kids make is to glue a magnet on the back of them and use them as refrigerator magnets! It is easy to get overwhelmed with all the little projects they do and there is never enough storage to keep them all and throwing them out carries too much guilt so I thought: "Why not turn what I can into something I can use"! You can always change them out easily when new projects arrive (just tear the magnet off the old one and put it on the new project). My kids love seeing their creations displayed this way because it is out where anyone visiting can see it!

Coupons For Your Favorite Products

I am a huge saver! One thing I always do to save at the grocery store, is to cut coupons. I get coupons online and also in the paper, but a lot of times, they don't have coupons for my favorite brands! One thing I have learned is that when I email these companies and tell them that I love their product, and also love to save money, but that I never see any coupons or other offers for them, they will send me coupons in the mail! Score! They are usually great coupons too. So, if you are like me; like to save, have certain brands you love to use and buy, but are having a hard time finding coupons or offers, take some time to shoot them an email and see what they send you in the mail!! Make sure to include your name and address in the email.

I would love to hear what shows up in your mailbox when you try this!

Halloween Word Find

My son is in first grade and he has been bringing home word finds that he has done and he also has spelling tests every week. When I was asked to come up with some games for his classroom Halloween party, one of them that I thought would be fun, and appropriate, was a "Halloween Word Find". I used my Cricut to cut out the letters to "Happy Halloween". I glued them onto square sheets of paper. I laminated them as well so they would hold up and could be used over and over. When I got to the classroom, I hid these square, letter cards all around the room. The kids had to find all the letters and work together to put the "saying" together. Out of all the games we played, this was the most popular. Kids love to find things and then it was even fun to work as a team to get the words together. They were all sounding out the letters and working together to get the task done. They asked if we could do it again after they finished it. This game could be adapted to any party, any theme, any holiday! Have fun!

Witches Hat Project

My 4 year old daughter and I were home one October morning and she wanted to do a project, but I didn't have anything planned so I decided to take a look through the recycling bin and see what we could come up with. I had some really thin cardboard-like paper in there so we put it to use. With the first piece of paper, I rolled it to make a cone and then had her paint that black. Next, I cut a ring out of the other one to fit the base of the cone. I had her paint the ring black as well. When they were dry, I set the cone inside the ring and piped some hot glue to hold them together. On top of the hot glue, I wrapped pipe cleaners around it so it kind of "disguised" the seam. We went through our foam stickers and we found some ones that would look perfect on the witches hat. It turned out so cute. She was really proud of it. She wanted to wear it, but it wasn't big enough so when we make one again next year, I will be sure to make it big enough to fit her head. We used the witch hat as a centerpiece at our Halloween party and I also used it for one of the games. I made rings out of pipe cleaners and the kids had to try and throw the ring on to the cone of the hat! They loved it! Our "spur of the moment" project turned out to be one of the better ones we have ever done! Cheap too! : )

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Have you ever been Boo'd at Halloween?

Tis' the season to "Boo" your family, friends and neighbors! Whenever I say that to people in October, they all ask me, "What does being 'boo'd' mean?" I want to put the question to rest and let everyone know what it means to "Boo" someone.

Being "Boo'd" is basically spreading Halloween cheer to your neighbors, family and friends. You take a little token (whatever you want that to be - you can make it as simple or as elaborate as you want) to your family, friend's and neighbor's homes. You put whatever it is you brought on their doorstep, knock on the door and RUN! You don't want to be caught because they aren't suppose to know who left the treats. If you know what May Day baskets are all about, then this is the same concept, just a different season and holiday!

You can find "Boo Kits" in stores sometimes, but they can be pricey. You can make your own at home for a fraction of the cost! I basically decorate a bag and then put Halloween candy or trinkets in the bag and then type up a note for the outside of the bag. Something like:

"A bag of treats - but what's it mean? That you've been boo'd for Halloween. When all your yummy treats are gone, just fill this bag and pass it on!" (I got this saying from a bag given to us).
Then your family or friends are suppose to fill up the bag with their own treats and pass it on to someone else. This tradition we started a few years ago has caught on to our group of friends we "boo", but I would love to see more and more people get involved each year! It is a lot of fun and it is my kid's favorite thing about Halloween. They would much rather "Boo" our family and friends then go trick-or-treating!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Trash to Treasure

Look what a little paint, hardware and elbow grease can do to something that was doomed for trash! This is my new buffet that I got for free! My mom's neighbor was setting this piece down at the end of the street for garbage and I asked her if I could take it. It had all the hardware with it, but it wasn't pretty. I had a vision for it though. I sanded it down, spray painted the hardware (I got 3 new knobs for the drawers), painted the whole thing in a creamy white color and then I sanded down the edges to give it that "worn" look and WAHLA........ new buffet!
I love pieces that have drawers and doors on it because not only do they look pretty, they are functional too! One of my favorite things to do is finding new uses for things that people are throwing away. It is the best way to recycle and keep things out of our landfill! Instead of going and buying something new, see if you can repurpose something in your house or ask family and friends if they have anything they want to get rid of. With a little creativity and elbow grease, you can come up with very cool, custom pieces for next to nothing!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Apples, Apples, Apples!

Today we took the kids to the Apple Orchard and they got to pick apples! They had a blast and we had an abundance of apples. We came home and I decided to make our Mini Apple Pies. I had the kids help me which of course was a lot of fun for them.
I cut all the skin off the apples and then cut away from the core. Then the kids were in charge of cutting those pieces into little "squares". They use their Pampered Chef child knives. They absolutely love to be able to cook and bake in the kitchen with me. It is a great way to make memories and all kinds of different creations! No matter what you are doing in the kitchen, if you can get the kids involved, do. You'll be glad you did.

Here is our recipe for Mini Apple Pies:

  • Refrigerated Pie Crust
  • 7 Apples (any kind will work really)
  • 2 Tbs. Cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp. Almond Extract (you can use vanilla extract)
  • 4 Tbs. Butter
  • 1/3 c Water
  • 2 tsp Flour

Take the skin off the apples and then cut the apples into little bite size pieces. Put 4 Tbs. butter into a pan on medium low until melted. Add the flour and stir until flour is dissolved. Add the apples and stir. Add the water and stir until the mixture thickens (about 3-5 minutes). Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together. Once the mixture is thoroughly combined and the apples are soft, you can take it off the heat or leave it on low while you prepare your pie crust.
For the pie crust, I use a pizza cutter to cut them in half. I lay them down on the counter and then I take the apple mixture and fill one side of the crust with the mixture, making sure I leave a "lip" at the edge of the crust. Don't put the mixture all the way to the edge of the crust because then you won't be able to seal it properly. Once the mixture is one, fold the other half of the crust on top of the apple mixture and seal the crust together all the way around so none of the filling oozes out. I use a fork to make a press into the seam to make it look pretty. On the top, I brush on either melted butter or one beaten egg with water. Then I sprinkle the top with sugar. I baked them at 350-375 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until the crust has browned a little. They are wonderful warm out of the oven with vanilla ice cream or whipped topping! YUMMY! Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Under the Sea Birthday Birthday Party!

Planning a Little Mermaid or Under the Sea Party? Here are some ideas:

  • Have a jar of goldfish crackers or shells sitting out and have the children and/or adults guess how many are in the jar. The one who comes the closest, wins the jar of goodies!

  • Serve goldfish crackers in small fish bowls. Serve cheese with a fish cookie cutter and serve with boats (crackers).

  • Make blue jello in clear plastic cups and when it is almost ready to set, stick a gummy fish in it and then put it back in the fridge to set the rest of the way.

  • Party favors: Tackle Box: Use small plastic containers with lids for the box. Print labels that read "Tackle Box" to stick on the box. Fill with your party favors. A few ideas for party favors: water balloons, beach balls, individual packets of Goldfish crackers, water guns, fish stickers.

  • Decorations: Put blue table cloths on the tables. Put sand and seashells in the middle of the tables. Use blue utensils, cups, plates and napkins. Use clear helium filled balloons to look like bubbles. Blue and green streamers look like seaweed. Rummage through your summer/beach toys and use all of that for decorations/games/table decor, etc.

  • Food: Make PB & J/turkey/tuna fish sandwiches and cut them with a fish cookie cutter or splurge and buy the fish shaped bread.

  • Pinata: Make your own pinata! Pinatas can be so expensive! I have been making my own since my kids were little. This way, I am always guaranteed to have a pinata to fit my theme! Making your own pinata saves you money and it is also a fun project that the entire family can get involved with. It is messy, but fun! For an Under the Sea party, I would make either a beach ball or an octopus! Get a "round" balloon for the beach ball or a regular balloon for the octopus. (I will post a step by step on how to make your own pinata). The basic supplies you need to make a pinata are: balloons, newspaper (cut into long strips) and flour and water. Blow up the balloon to the size you want and tie it. Then, mix flour and water to make a glue-like consistency. Then, take your newspaper strips one at a time and dip them in the flour/water mixture, take off any excess "glue" and then wrap in on the balloon (make sure you leave a small space at the "tie" of the balloon, without any newspaper, so you can fill the pinata there). You keep doing this until your balloon is fully covered. Once it is covered, let it dry and then repeat the same thing for at least 2 layers so it is sturdy enough to hold the goodies. (To dry it, I hang the balloon upside down on the laundry line with a clothes pin). It will take a few days to dry so make sure you are doing this ahead of time. Once it is dry, pop the balloon. It will shrivel up inside and then just take it out. Now, you can paint the outside whatever you want. For the beach ball, paint it with the beach ball pattern and for the octopus, paint it brown or gray and add eyes. For the tentacles, glue streamers at the base. To hang the pinata, make two small holes at the top and thread through string, fishing line or whatever else you have. When the paint is all dry, fill the pinata. Patch up the hole with tape or a piece of construction paper the same color of the pinata (I like to use clear packaging tape for this). Making your own pinata takes a little time and makes a bit of a mess, but the money you save and the memories you make doing it, is more than worth it!

  • Games: Fishing Game - paint an appliance box blue and add some sea creatures on it. Have someone sit inside the box and have the kids throw their fishing pole over the box and catch a surprise. To make a fishing pole, just get a stick and tie some string and a clothes pin to the end so the surprise can be pinned on to it.

These are just some things we have done at our parties that I thought would be great to share with anyone else out there trying to throw a special party without breaking the bank!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Monkey Munch Game!

This game was a huge hit with my kids this summer and it was so simple to make! I wanted to come up with a fun game that incorporated letter sounds and "Monkey Munch" is what I came up with. To make the monkey, I took an empty cereal box and wrapped it with brown construction paper. I cut out a half circle at the bottom of the box for his mouth. I used a lighter brown paper for the eyes, ears and bottom portion of the monkey's face. For the ears, I cut out the circular part of the ears, but I left a longer "tab" at the base of the ear so I could use that to glue to the side of the box. This enabled the ears to stick out. The eyes are just 2 circles - a bigger circle cut from the lighter brown paper and then a smaller one cut from white paper is glued on that. Then, I just colored in the black pupils. I glued all of these pieces on using a hot glue gun. The nose of the monkey was not glued because that gave me the perfect place to set my alphabet flashcard (see the top picture).
How to Play "Monkey Munch": Each day, put a different letter flashcard on the monkey's nose and then say, "Monkey Munch Time!" The kids see what letter is on the monkey and then they have to go around the house and find things that start with that letter. Once they find something, they put it in the monkey's mouth (so he can munch on them). If the item was too big, I just had the kids set it next to the monkey. So, for instance, if "F" is the letter, they could feed the monkey a frog, food, fruit, flower, fox, etc. Once they were done looking, we would all sit down and I would take each thing out of his mouth and the kids would tell me what they were. I would repeat what they said with emphasis on the letter sound at the beginning of each word.
There was not one day this summer that my kids didn't ask me, "When are we doing 'Monkey Munch'?" or "What letter will be on 'Monkey Munch'?" I loved this game because they were learning the entire time, but had no idea because they were having so much fun! A win-win situation!