Thursday, December 26, 2013

Planning for New Year's Eve

For the past several years we have spent New Year's Eve at a hotel with friends.  The kids all swim, we play games, eat a ton of food and watch the ball drop.  On New Year's Day we would head to Lake George for the Polar Plunge - swimming in the icy lake!  Well, for many different reasons we are not going this year so we need to create some new traditions.  

I am starting to plan what we will do on New Year's Eve this year.  Would love to get some input, suggestions or other ideas. Here are my ideas so far (background info - 5 kids age range 3-13 years old and I am a cheapskate):
1.  Go to movies - I have a gift card!
2.  Maybe a food cook off challenge for dinner - two teams same ingredients with judges to see who make the best meal
3.  Fill out our Reflections on 2013 page (we do this every year)
4.  Board games or poker
5.  Chocolate fondue station - received it as a Christmas gift, can not wait to use it
6.  Maybe try an International tradition - race to buy lucky underwear in the mall (Italians say red brings luck, Mexicans say yellow brings happiness and Filipinos say dots to attract money) So maybe first one to find red underwear with yellow dots you win a prize!

My main goal is not to fall asleep before Midnight and to have FUN!  What are your New Year's Eve traditions or goals?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tickets Please

Looking for a cheap idea to add to your pretend play? Buy a roll of tickets from the office store. We have had rolls of these in the house through the years and the kids love them. They create some lovely open ended creative play. Here is what my kids have used them for without any adult suggestions:
1.  Admission to dance shows they put on. 
2.  Admission to art museum they created. 
3.  Pretend money. 
4.  Tickets to use at homemade spa.
5.  Tickets to redeem for prizes at homemade carnival. 
6.  Homemade raffle type games or to pick names out of a hat. 

Great "toy" to add for imaginative play for various ages. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Challenge Game

Since we are not heading out for Thanksgiving dinner until later this year, I created a simple group game for us to play in the morning to help celebrate the day.  My family loves healthy competition where we team up against each other.  Sometimes it is a game of poker, a cook off or other simple challenges, so this is a just a twist with a Thanksgiving theme.  You can print this Thanksgiving game from GrowingPlay at

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tips for Supporting Risk Taking During Childhood

Do you allow your children to explore enough?  Risk taking is so important in childhood. This generation of children is so shielded from many risks that we were allowed to overcome as we grew up.  Taking a risk and achieving your goal provides a child with a strong sense of accomplishment.  Remember back to when you were young when you climbed a tall tree or rode your bicycle down a steep hill.  It feels exhilarating that you did it by yourself.  So next time your child is trying a new skill that might be a bit risky try some of the tips before you say "stop":
  1. Observe the situation closely. See if they can do the task safely without you interfering. 
  2. If you need to interfere to ensure safety can you offer verbal suggestions instead of physical prompts?  
  3. It is the same theory when children are learning any new skill assist as little as possible. Even in situations where it may be easier for you to help in terms of speeding up the task or peace of mind. 
  4. Can someone else supervise or be the teacher for the skill?  For example, my daughter loves to climb across the top of the swing set where there are ladder rungs. It makes me terribly nervous although she can do it. It challenges her balance and coordination. She has shown me she can do it but I truly can not watch. Which is not safe. My solution...  Daddy needs to be here. Dad is much better suited to watch her and cheer her on than I am in that situation. When it comes to riding a bike though I am much more patient than he is. I can repeat the skill over and over until she gets it right. Whereas after two trials he is done. Bottom line is sometimes your child will succeed better if someone else is the teacher.
  5. Stop and make sure that you are not saying "no" due to your own fears.  I remember the first time I had my children go into a grocery store by themselves to buy a few items.  They were so excited to be allowed to do it on their own.  They did a great job and afterwards I wondered why had I waited so long to let them shop on their own?    I think I was 5-6 years old when I was allowed to go and buy candy by myself.  I think I said "no" to them shopping alone due to my own fears from things I have seen on the news of horrible things happening to children when alone.  We can not live in fear. 
What do you do to support risky exploration in your children? 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Foamy Soap Play

When I saw this activity at I knew it would be a hit. We have made foamy soap before but it was with shredded ivory soap. This recipe is much easier!  Just mix 2 tbsp Dawn dish detergent with 1/4 cup water. Turn on the mixer and whip it up. 

My little one adding the food coloring and  started mixing. She loved just stirring it up and spreading it all over her hands. She added some small toys to the mix to hide and find them. This was loads of fun and my three year old preferred it to shaving cream for sure. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Outdoor Letter Match Up

My three year old loves to play this game outdoors matching up the letter cards to the sidewalk chalk letters. This is super simple and she repeats it over and over again. 

1.  Write a few letters on index cards. One letter per card. I only use four letters at a time right now to reinforce the letters. 

2.  Draw matching letters scattered all over the driveway using sidewalk chalk. 

3.  Place the index cards on an outdoor table. 

4.  Ask the child to pick an index card, find the sidewalk chalk letter that matches and put the card next to the big letter.  Ask your child to say the letter and the sound of the letter. 

5.  Head back to the table to get the next index card. Repeat finding each letter. 

Super simple, cheap, educational and encourages physical activity. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Kid Made Grill Cheese Biscuits

The kids helped make some delicious "grilled" cheese biscuits. I found the idea on Pinterest from OhBiteIt blog

We modified the recipe though. She called for one stick of melted butter which was not needed (too many calories and too much grease for me). 

The kids basically made this entirely on their own. They opened the store bought biscuit dough, split each biscuit and then put 1-2" cubes of Velveeta cheese inside each biscuit forming it all into a ball. Into the 9" cake pan they went and we cooked them at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. 

While the kids made those I made some homemade tomato soup. This was a super simple meal to make and a nice change from traditional grill cheeses. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ghost Hunters

Here is a simple ghost game using stuff from around the house. Make some tissue ghosts - three cotton balls under tissue, twist tie close and draw eyes and mouth. 

Hide the ghosts indoors or outdoors. On go see how quickly you can find them. We made two teams and whoever found three first was the winner.   The winner hid the ghosts for the next round. 

Simple game for a wide age range. We played with 3-9 year olds.  Also, a good short burst of much needed physical activity after a long school day. 

Have fun being a ghost hunter!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Nail Polish Rocks and Leaves

I know my blog posts have been very inconsistent lately.  I think I am finally catching up on things around here so maybe, just maybe, I can start blogging again.  Today we enjoyed an outdoor nature craft using rocks, leaves and nail polish.  My little girl loves nail polish - the sparkles and the shine.  We decided to use the nail polish on some rocks and leaves we found outdoors.  The end results are quite nice.  Obviously, be careful with the nail polish and little ones.  You may want to at least put on a smock (we know this from experience of ruining a cute shirt today).

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pretend Play Architect

The kids have been playing architect for some time now.  It has been fun for all and is a great activity for older children.

Get some graph paper (if you do not have any in the house just google graph paper and you can get free printable paper).  The kids have drawn all different floor plans - 2 bedrooms - 6 bedroom homes, 1 bedroom apartments, condos, etc and describe the amenities ie pool, fenced in yard, close to shops, etc.  When the building plan is complete I was providing general prices for them based on each lay out and where it was located.  We did decide to price each unit as if they were in the same town otherwise pricing was too difficult.

Here is where the pretend play starts.  Choose someone to be a customer.  You get to create any persona you want - ie husband and wife with 6 kids, single college student, retired grandfather, etc.  You can add on extras that you are looking for ie pool, sidewalks, etc.  Now tell your price range.

Then each child picks one of their floor plans to show you.  The creator of each floor plan gives you a tour describing all the features and why it would suit your needs (based on your fake persona).  You, the customer, then chooses where you want to live.

We all had a lot of fun with this.  I have to admit it was quite fun to imagine I was shopping for a new place to live as a young 25 year old again or pretending I was transferring from some exotic place and needed certain amenities.

This was a kid created activity which I give a huge thumbs up.  It was a nice combination of quiet, creative time with pretend play.  Why not give it a try?       

Friday, April 19, 2013

Soapy Puddle - Simple Play

Here is a super simple activity we did this week that was loads of fun.  Simply put some dish soap into a puddle.  It was raining on and off which it typically does in Spring but the kids really wanted to play outside.  First it was some bubbles my youngest wanted to pour into the puddle so in it went.  Then they decided to try dish soap.  Add in a broom or some tree branches and they mixed up a soapy puddle.  No joke they played with the soapy puddle for about an hour and only stopped because it was dinner time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Problem Solving Play - Matching Dots

Problem solving can be incorporated into playful challenges for children using objects and items from around the house.  I am going to try to do a short series on some problem solving play challenges.  Here is the first one:
Match the Dots - 
1.  Materials: 4 index cards for each player, 4 stickers, matching set of objects for each player (ie wooden dowels, paintbrushes, pencils, pipe cleaners and tape).
2.  Set Up: Give each child 4 index cards that match the 4 stickers and the set of objects.  Place one set of stickers at least 2 feet away from a starting line.  In our house, we established a rule that your body had to remain on the wooden floor.  You could not touch the rug at all with your body.  We placed dot stickers anywhere from 2 feet to 5 feet away from the edge of the rug.
3.  The object of the game is to get each index card to touch anywhere on the sticker without ever touching the rug.  There is no time limit.
4.  The only instructions I gave were to match the cards and do not touch the rug. 
5.  Each child started out by just trying to use one dowel to move the card to the dot.  Very quickly they realized it was not long enough and began taping the objects together.
6.  They worked hard at creating a long stick out of 2 dowels and 3 paint brushes to be able to reach the index cards to the matching stickers.
7.  Then a lightbulb went off in one of them and they realized they could walk around the rug just not on it.  This brought them closer to one of the dots.

The kids enjoyed the activity and landed up repeating it several times moving the sticker dots each round. 

Stay tuned and next week hopefully I will post about another problem solving challenge.  Try some questions from the Creative Brain Series.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Using Apps to Make Books for Little Ones

My little one loves to make picture books with her in them.  We have cut out pictures of her and just glued them onto different scenes or just drawn some simple sketches.  Well, today we used the PhotoChop app on the iPhone to make a quick book about some imaginary adventures.

Basically you take a picture and erase everything except the person or face.  Then you can change the background.  You can upload your own background or use the ones that are right on the app.  Either print the picture directly to your wireless printer or email it to yourself and print it from the computer.

I imported the pictures into a software program and added text to her adventure book.  In total, this project took about 15 minutes.  My little one really enjoyed picking the background and helping to write the text.   

We have read the book at least 10 times since we wrote it this afternoon!