Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fun Squirrel/Fall Craft For Kids

Kids love to watch squirrels go up the trees, bury their nuts, jump from branch to branch, climb in their nests, etc. so I thought we could emulate that in a craft. The kids painted a paper towel roll brown. We then stood the roll up and punched holes all around the top of the roll with a paper hole punch. We cut brown pipe cleaners in half and then tied them in the holes to make them look like branches. The kids went out and picked up leaves and we punched holes in them too. They strung the leaves on the "branches". We then put glue around the top of the roll and set tissue paper on that to make a "nest" for the squirrel to sit in.

We made the squirrel out of a cork, cotton ball, googly eyes and brown paper. We cut tiny triangles out of brown paper for the ears. We glued the ears and the googly eyes onto one side of the cork and then put the cotton ball up the back side of the cork (for the tail). The kids took a brown marker to mark a little nose under the eyes.

The kids loved to see this craft come to life! They had their own little tree and a squirrel to put up in the tree! I am hoping we can keep these in tact so the kids can see the leaves turn brown and dry just like they do as the season changes. This will give them something really tangible to show them the changes that happen.

Happy Fall Crafting!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Frugalness" is Fabulous!

Some may call it "cheap", but I think that saving money and trying to stretch a dollar is smart and instead of cheap, I like to call it being "frugal", and in my world, being frugal is being fabulous!!!

Here are some of the ways I try and save money and/or stretch a dollar:

  • Use coupons on everything you can! I use the coupons from the weekend paper, but I also email our favorite products/brands that we use at home and most of the time, they will send me great coupons - sometimes for free products!!

  • Stop at yard sales. What someone else is getting rid of just might be that something you need. You never know what you might find at a yard sale!

  • Rent Movies. Going to the movies for a family a four can cost close to $50! We wait to see the movies when they come out to rent. We get in our PJ's and make our own snacks and watch it in the comfort of our home. Movie nights are a great way to spend with your family.

  • Eat in!!! It is nice to go out for dinner, but you can make the same meals at home for a fraction of the price! Make it fun for the entire family. Play restaurant! Have your kids make menus. They can be the "servers" at your table. They can help you plan, prepare and cook the meal. And, when you eat at home, you can afford to have a cocktail and dessert and still come out ahead of what you would have paid at a restaurant!

  • Buy ahead! After every season, plan ahead and buy your child's clothes/shoes for the following year. This can be hard for some kids, but usually, the rule of thumb is to buy one size bigger than what they are in now.

  • Clearance aisles!!!!!!! In every store I go into, I know where they put their clearance merchandise and I check them out every time I am there. Get to know when your favorite stores put things on clearance. After every holiday, I am at the stores buying for the following year. This has saved me tons of money on gifts for family, friends, teachers and birthday parties. After school starts and supplies go on clearance, I go and get the supplies that are the list for the grade my kids will be in the following year.

  • Stretch your pizza! We often get pizza from a local pizza chain. They cut their slices so big that as soon as I get the pizza home, I cut the slices thinner which doubles the number of slices in the box!

  • Maintain your car! My husband has a 1997 Honda that he always maintains and it is still getting him to and from work (2 hours of driving a day).....knock on wood!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Save, Save, Save!!! I think it is important to make it a habit to save. Have your bank take money out every two weeks and put it into an account for you. If you don't see it and don't know it is there, you won't miss it and can't spend it.

  • Don't try and keep up with the Jones'. You will always have people in your life that have the newest cars, the bigger home, the latest fashion. Who cares? Who wants those monthly bills anyway? You need to stay focused with where you want to be financially and be content with what you have.

  • Financial Goals. I think it is important for couples to have a serious talk about finances. I think couples need to have the same attitude when it comes to financial goals, spending and saving. Figure out where you want to be in five years, ten years, etc. Do you want to build up your savings, pay off your mortgage, pay off the car, travel more? Finding out these answers sets the tone for what you need to do financially.

  • Think, think, think! If you want to buy something, think about it for 24 hours. After that, ask yourself if you still want it. Do you really need it? This is a great thing to do with your kids as well. When they are in a store and say they want something, tell them to wait 24 hours and gaurenteed, they will forget about it before night's end.

  • Swapping is the new shopping! Host a "Swapping Party" with your friends! Swap anything from children's clothes to your own clothes, from magazines to jewelry, home decor to holiday decor. Who wouldn't love a night out "shopping" with the girls and getting some great stuff without spending a dime!!!

  • Have a yard sale! Get rid of things that you aren't using and in the process, make some extra cash! We do this every year and the extra cash has come in handy for our summer vacations!

These are just some of the things that I do. I hope you find some of these tips helpful!

Happy Saving!

Your "Baby" Enters Kindergarten

My "baby" has started kindergarten and as heart wrenching as it is for me, she is handling it pretty well. The teachers really want the kindergartners to be independent and self sufficient when walking into school at the beginning of the day. Getting their bags and coats on their hooks, washing their hands, etc., but Gabrielle still wants me to take her in every day. I help her hang up her coat and bag and then the lovin' begins. This is the only time of the day that I get 27 kisses and 36 hugs (I know she is trying to hold me there as long as possible and of course, her plan works every time). I understand why the teachers want her to be independent, but I still want her to be a little dependent and it is nice to know that I am still needed a little bit. It took Landen a few months to be "independent" and since then, he can't wait to get out of the car to see his friends. Gabrielle is not there yet, and frankly, neither am I. I am happy to take her in as long as she will have me! I know this will soon fade and that I am not going to be "needed" much longer. So, right now, let me be "needed" and let her be "dependent" just a little bit longer.

Priceless Birthday Gift That Keeps on Giving

I started a tradition each year on Landen and Gabrielle's birthdays. I sit down and write a letter to each child. I write things that happened that year, things they are doing at that age (crawling, playing soccer, first sleep over, etc.), friends they play with, favorite toys, funny things they say, etc. Anything that would tell them a little bit about what they were like at that age. I started this because when I would ask my mom questions about what I was like (especially after I had my own kids) or what I did at a certain age, she would have a hard time remembering (who wouldn't after all these years). So, I thought this was a great solution and thank goodness because my kids are already asking me things like: When I was a baby, did I cry a lot? What did I play with when I was two? Who were my friends? How big was I?
These letters are an extra special gift (that costs nothing, but is worth so much) that I think they will cherish when they get older and especially when they start having their own kids.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Family Fall Fun

It is finally fall! My favorite time of year! I love the cool air, the colors, the football games, smores, campfires, hayrack rides, pumpkins.... I love it all! This year, I want the family to really get out and enjoy the season and all its glory! I have thought of some fun and creative ideas that will do just that. This weekend, we are heading out for a scavenger hunt in the park!

This is what I did to plan for the day:

I took white bags with handles and wrote the "scavenger list" on both sides of the bags. I tried to come up with things that we would have to "hunt" for and use our imagination for; things that would take us some time to find and make us see the entire park. Some things that made the list were: triangle shaped rock, spotted leaf, apple colored leaf, 12" stick, acorn, and tracks.

Inside the bags, I put a ruler, magnifying glass, paper, pencil and crayons (for nature rubbings and drawings). When the kids found something on the list, they put it in their bag. If they found something on the list that was too big for the bag, we took a picture of it. We also took pictures of other "cool stuff" we found along the way (the kids found a dead mouse and they thought that was the coolest thing ever......... gross!).

To make this an extra special fall day, I packed a picnic lunch. After our hunt, we ate in the park! This outing was a huge success. My family loved it! We got to enjoy the weather and we found some pretty cool things along the way! My kids can't wait to get the pictures developed and they keep asking me when the next "hunt" is!

......Mission complete!

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Basics of Making a Homemade Pinata

Making a homemade pinata is easy, fun and cheap and you can make exactly what you want!!!!

Supplies Needed:

  • Newspaper (cut into 2" wide strips)

  • Flour

  • Water

  • Balloon

  • Fishing line

  • Goodies to fill the pinata

  • Packaging tape

What to do:

  • Cover your work surface with plastic or newspapers - it is going to get messy!!!

  • To make the "glue" for the pinata, mix flour and water together in a bowl until you get a glue/paste consistency. The amount you need depends on the size of balloon you are covering.

  • Blow up your balloon and tie it.

  • Now, take your newspaper strips and dip them in the "glue". You want the entire piece covered in "glue". You will wipe off any excess glue with your fingers, but you want the entire paper wet with glue. Lay the strip on the balloon as flat as you can get it. You will keep doing this until the entire balloon is covered with the newspaper. *Leave a portion of the balloon uncovered by the tie - this is where you will fill your pinata. Once you get your first layer on, continue to add more strips until you have at least three layers on. This will make it that much stronger and sturdier when it comes time to fill it and hang it.

  • Once you have the three layers on, let it dry. I hang mine from the laundry line I have in the basement by clipping a clothespin to the tie of the balloon (so it is hanging upside down) onto the laundry line. The drying process can take a couple days because your balloon should be pretty saturated with the glue.

  • Once it is dry, pop your balloon with a pin. The balloon will shrink up inside the cavity of the pinata and you can get it out easily. Now, you can paint it, cover it with crepe paper, Modge Podge it, etc. to make it whatever you want it to be! Once it is painted, use a pin to punch two holes on the top and use fishing line through each hole and this is what you will use to hang it up with. Now, you are ready to fill the pinata with all your goodies! I use packaging tape to cover the hole on the bottom.

This post was just for "pinata basics". I have made many pinatas over the years - from Mammoths to ghosts. It is a lot of fun! Get your hands messy and see what you can come up with! Good luck!

DIY Halloween Decorations

My husband and I were out shopping this past weekend. We went into a greeting card store to look at their Halloween decorations they had for sale. I loved this "Boo" sign made up of three separate wood blocks! I checked the price and about died when I saw they were asking $30 for it! I told my husband that I would make my own the next day.

My husband cut pieces of wood (that we had left over from another project) at different heights. I painted each piece black and used a stencil for the letters (you could hand write it too). I used a white paint marker to paint the letters on. This is how my sign turned out! It is as cute as the one in the store, loads cheaper and more meaningful because we made it! The possibilities with this project are endless! You can do it for any holiday and use any words you want!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Teaching Your Child Colors, Shapes, Letters and Numbers

How Do I Teach My Child Colors/Shapes/Letters/Numbers?

At the age of two, I started teaching my kids these things. I started off just introducing them to these things, but before I knew it, they were picking up on it and telling me their colors and letters on their own! As I have said many times before, I am a huge believer in consistency and doing things over and over with your child until it is clear to them. I am also an advocate for trying out new things and making learning fun for kids. Mix things up! Get creative! Get them involved in a game and/or a project where these things are being used. This creates a situation where your child is learning and having fun at the same time !

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Go outside! What colors and shapes can you find in nature? Collect sticks and put them together to form letters, numbers and shapes.

  • Field Trip! In the grocery store, how many different apple colors are there? What different shapes are in the aisles?

  • Flowers! Try and find all the colors of the rainbow in the flowers?

  • Reading a book to your child: What colors are on the pages? What shapes are in the pictures?

  • Getting your child dressed in the morning: Talk about what colors he/she has on.

  • In the car: Look at the passing vehicles - what color are they? What shapes are on the buildings? Can you find an "A"?

  • Cooking: Talk about the color in the foods you are preparing. Cut the vegetables into shapes. Making pancakes? Make them into shapes and letters. Add food coloring to batters to come up with new colors.
Projects and crafts are another great way to get your kids having fun while learning!

Here are some ideas:

  • Have your kids paint different letters, numbers, shapes - let them experiment and get messy!

  • Have them cut out different shapes (great for scissor skills too) and put them together to make a picture.

  • Have your kids mix paints together to see what colors they can make.

  • Use letter, number and shape cookie cutters as stencils.

  • Stickers are a lot of fun for kids. Make a sticker album out of a notebook and the kids can put the letters on the corresponding page.

  • Use alphabet cereal to make words. Spell their name.
The project possibilities are endless! You just need to find out what your child enjoys doing and run with it!!

In every thing you do, try and attach a color/shape/letter/number to it. That way, you are making it fun and interesting and not such a bore to learn. As with anything, don't do it so much that your kids' ears start ringing when they hear you mention a "circle" or the color "blue". At first, it will seem like your child is not even paying attention and that he/she is not retaining anything you are going over, but then one day you will be somewhere and your child will say, "Look mom, that truck is green!" Sweet success!

One thing about teaching a child something new, repetition and making it fun are two main components to them catching on. Repeating colors and talking about colors over and over is the perfect way for your child to understand and get the colors down. Making it fun The main thing is do it over and over and over again. You can teach colors wherever you are: grocery store, looking at flowers, reading books, flashcards, in the car, outside, etc. You just have to go over it all the time and soon, your child will be in the car someday and say that is a green truck! AAHHH - satisfaction.