The kids really enjoyed my Thanksgiving Joke Teller / Cootie Catcher, so I decided to create another one for Valentine’s Day. Great entertainment for their classroom celebration and perfect way to connect with friends and family over Zoom this year.
We visited Utah a couple of years ago and took a day hike with llamas at Capitol Reef Resort. Avery got paired up with Woody (the smallest and sweetest of the bunch) and absolutely FELL. IN. LOVE. She lead Woody on our hike with the confidence of a well-seasoned backpacker, and soaked up every minute of the 5 mile trek.
Since our trip, she understandably has become llama-obsessed and learned about alpacas as well. After discovering they are smaller than llamas, she concluded they are “even more adorable!” and decided alpacas are her new favorite animal – with llamas as a close second.
Avery asked if I could make llama/alpaca-themed Valentine’s Day cards for her class celebration this year, so we brainstormed some options and I showed her a few cute favor ideas from Amazon:
- Llama and Alpaca Straws
- Alpaca Pens
- Llama Bookmarks
- Llama Alpaca Stamps
- Llama Alpaca Stickers
- Alpaca Backpack Keychains
- Llama Notebooks
- Llama Alpaca Stickers
- Alpaca Rings
- Llama Alpaca Temporary Tattoos
We went with the straws and designed a Valentine to include a cheesy picnic joke.
If you love llamas and have a chance to visit Utah, I highly recommend checking out Capitol Reef Resort. Staying overnight in their covered wagons was a one-of-a-kind, unique experience. We had such a blast and walked away with memories to last a lifetime.
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As of today, schools in the state of Illinois are officially closed as a precautionary measure to slow the spread COVID-19 Coronavirus. In order to make this unprecedented time with the kids at home less stressful and more enjoyable, I definitely plan on coming up with projects to keep them occupied. For me, projects like this are not only bonding time to create fun memories with the kids, but I find them especially helpful when their abundance of energy needs to be diverted to something other than going out of their way to annoy their siblings.
For starters – With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner, I created the below Faux Stained Glass Shamrock Printable Template.
Note: This step is optional, as you can use the Printable as a coloring page as well.
After the glue dried, we used water colors to paint the image. This gave it a beautiful, uneven, glass-like effect.
Sticking with the Irish theme and in context with current world events, I also created the below Sláinte Coloring Page. As a standard way of saying “cheers” in Irish, “sláinte” [SLAHN-chə] translates to ‘Good Health’ in English – an Irish expression that derives from the Old Irish word slán, meaning “healthy” or “safe”.
Cheers to you and your family during this time of social distancing…. or should I say, “Sláinte!”
“Good luck be with you wherever you go & may your blessings outnumber the shamrocks you grow.”
As a parent, I feel it’s an essential part of my job to teach my kids how to help out around the house and learn how to become a productive member of the household. They all attended Montessori Preschool, which I feel really jumpstarted them to recognize most “chores” as “practical life skills”. Whichever term you choose to use, I’ve found that most children enjoy helping out with these daily tasks and it’s a great way to teach them responsibility, independence, and self-sufficiency.
Although my kids have been great at wanting to be involved in household duties, as they’ve gotten older it’s been more of a challenge getting them motivated for regular chores — and nearly impossible to get them enthusiastic about completing them on a daily basis.
We’ve tried a good handful of ways to motivate our kids, but the most successful has definitely been the regular use of a chore chart. It not only provides motivation, but has also begun helping us teach them financial responsibility. One key to being successful has been getting the chores organized in writing – then there’s no question about who’s responsible for what on a given day.
After quite a few trial runs and alterations, below is the Magnetic Chore Chart we now use to keep us organized and help our family life run just a bit smoother.
With the understanding that as the children grow, our household expectations may change and their chores will be reevaluated and tailored to their age level. I designed this chart so it can grow with us – easily being able to change and swap out chores as needed. In the future, perhaps adjust allowance amounts as well.
One of the most important things we are trying to teach them right now is that money comes from work, so rather than freely receiving an allowance, our kids earn their money by completing tasks. After they complete a chore, they simply move the corresponding Magnetic Pin to the jar with their name. On Sundays – payday – the kids trade in their pins for the cash they’ve earned.
They each get ONE daily task and ONE weekly task. Having three children, that has been the most realistic expectation for us, as well as not overwhelming to track (for them and myself). Since they also sometimes ask to help with additional chores, I listed those in the ‘Bonus’ section. These are not expected, but an extra way for them to earn cash.
- CLICK HERE for the above Free Printable
- You can purchase corresponding Magnetic Pins HERE
- Visit my Etsy Shop to check out my latest Chore Chart Printable.
I have to say, it has been nice to pass some responsibility over to my kids — waking up to an empty dishwasher has been glorious! Most importantly, I love seeing them learn new practical life skills and confidently contribute to the household.
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” – Denis Waitley
Two of my absolute favorite things: Children’s drawings and unfiltered kid honesty. 🙂
I created this Father’s Day printable because, as a mom, I always enjoy getting questionnaires from my kids. Whether it’s their coloring, personalized drawings or thoughtful answers – I love that their choices come straight from their little hearts. And lets be honest, some of their responses are simply hilarious!
Click HERE to download the above free printable.
Smaller kids may need help writing down answers to these questions, but all kids will enjoy coloring in the pictures and drawing dad with this fun Father’s Day printable!
I’ve always encouraged my kids to “be kind” and “use kind words” but when there was an excess of crabbiness and bickering in our household, I invested in a book called ‘Have You Filled a Bucket Today: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud‘. It literally changed our language around the concept of kindness to the point where “You are dipping in my bucket!” and “Did I fill your bucket?” have become common phrases in our house.
Using a simple metaphor and explaining kindness in a way that children can grasp immediately, this book encourages positive behavior and explains how easy and rewarding it is to express kindness, appreciation, and love on a daily basis. It’s the perfect introduction to self-awareness and feelings, and beautifully helps kids visualize how their actions and words impact others.
To immerse ourselves a bit deeper in the concept of this book, I created a worksheet for the kids to help think through and specifically list out what “fills their bucket” and “dips in their bucket”. It was fun discussing the results as a family and interesting discovering what differences they had based on their individual personalities and/or love language(s).
In an effort to encourage more “bucket filling” behavior into our daily life, as well as help visualize and reinforce the book’s concept of how “filling other people’s buckets also helps to fill our own”, I created these Gem Jars.
Supplies for DIY Gem Jars:
General rules for our Gem Jars:
- Mom or Dad rewards an individual for “bucket filling” behavior / acts of kindness with a big or small gem – at their discretion, based on the specific act.
- There is no removal of gems for bucket dipping behavior. This is meant to detour any tattling on negative behavior, as our goal is to focus on and encourage positive behavior.
- It is perfectly acceptable to perform a bucket filling act specifically to ask for a gem. However, Mom or Dad may deny the gem for any reason (you’d be surprised at some of the stuff they come up with, lol).
- Children are encouraged to inform parents of their sibling’s kind acts so the bucket filler can receive a gem.
- When a child fills their Gem Jar, they receive a reward. Reward options are provided by Mom or Dad. Example rewards include: A specific toy/book/gift we know they want, 1:1 time with Mom/Dad like going to a movie, dinner at their favorite restaurant, out for ice cream, etc.
We have been using our Gem Jars for almost a year now and I’m happy to report that there has definitely been an increase in kindness and helping behavior around these parts. While I can honestly say I saw an immediate impact on my children’s behavior after reading this book and using our gem jars, I’m not going to pretend it’s some kind of miracle fix. I am just happy that it helped them become more self-aware and realize how their behavior impacts the people around them. Sure, sometimes they go out of their way to do kind things only because they want a gem – but hey, that’s the point! To be honest, I am especially proud of those moments when I see them clearly making a conscious effort to do something kind, when otherwise they may not have done so. When they are actively trying their best to be kind, everyone is happier. By putting happiness into terms the kids can understand and use, I think it really has helped them understand the effects of their actions and words on their own well being, as well as the well being of others. I couldn’t be more proud of my little bucket fillers!
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” -Dalai Lama
Right now Avery is OBSESSED with everything unicorn. Anytime she spots something at a store with a unicorn on it, she ogles at it like it’s a lost baby kitten and is convinced it was made for her. So to no surprise, this year we decided to create Valentine’s Day cards with this mystical creature – and just the right amount of sparkle!
Since Valentines these days usually come with a fun favor attached to them, I purchased cute unicorn fans to include with Avery’s. Some other ideas if you are interested in adding a favor (which you can either tie on, attach with double sided tape, or use a fun glitter or unicorn Washi tape)…
- Unicorn Bandages – Right now Target has some adorable unicorn bandages in their $1 section, but I also came across these on Amazon.
- Unicorn Stickers (Or if you live near a Party City, they have 24 stickers for only $1.99 – call to check stock)
- Unicorn Wristbands
- Unicorn Temporary Tattoos (Or if you live near a Party City, they have similar ones available in an 8 pack for only $0.99 – call to check stock)
- Unicorn Slap Bracelets
- Create-Your-Own Unicorn Sticker Sheets
- Or if you want to splurge and be silly, Amazon apparently sells Unicorn Poop!
Based on whichever size you would like, click on the above image to download and start creating your own magical Valentines!
“Always be yourself, unless you can be a unicorn. Then always be a unicorn.”
The other day, Jacob was jamming away on his toy piano singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ – eyes closed, head bopping, slamming random keys on the key board… I loved the enthusiasm and figured the boys are probably old enough to start reading beginner sheet music, so I decided to put together a few songs for them.
I am by no means a musician, but I did play piano back in the day and remembered some of the basics. I wanted to keep it simple with what I feel is a reasonable goal for toddlers and preschoolers: Find Middle C and play a simple song with one finger (not at all insisting on proper finger placement). I’m not trying to raise Mozart – I just want them to have fun and become comfortable with the basics of sheet music while doing so.
POST UPDATE: I originally cut down circle dot labels I had on-hand (as seen in my photo below), then upgraded to these Color Coding Dot Labels which coordinated perfectly. Once we upgraded from their Fisher-Price Keyboard to an electronic piano, I created these Removable Color Coded Piano Key Labels – Now the colors coordinate exactly and I love that they have a less harsh, easily removable adhesive.
Using the color-coded labels, I created coordinating sheet music for a couple of their favorite songs. Click on below sheet music image to download a FREE printable.
For more song selections and coordinating color-coded sticker labels, please visit my Etsy Shop.
As simple as that – now my boys understand the concept of reading and playing music on the piano. With or without an accurate rhythm on the keyboard, watching their faces and sense of accomplishment after completing a song is absolutely priceless!
A couple of years ago, we had to remove most of the trees around our property due to Ash Borer. Now we hardly have leaves in our yard during Fall. Seriously, this is the leaf “pile” the kids were playing in yesterday…
The kids had a blast – but without a ton of leaves, it hasn’t felt much like fall (to me anyway). So I decided to create a fall-themed craft to set the mood for the autumn season. My boys loved the Stained Glass Sun Catcher Ornaments we made last winter, so I created a similar craft using a leaf shape… Super-easy, no-mess, and perfect for all ages!
Cut out the CENTER of the leaf shape with an X-Acto knife or scissors.
Prepare colored tissue paper by cutting them into squares.Adhere a piece of contact paper to the FRONT of your pre-cut leaf print-out, covering the entire outline. (Don’t have contact paper? Packaging tape works as a wonderful substitute!) Then lay the paper down, sticky side up.
Now it’s time for your little artist(s) to decorate their leaf… Have them select their tissue paper pieces, and press them down onto the contact paper.
When complete, seal the back with another piece of clear contact paper. Trim around the outside of the leaf shape with scissors and tape or hang your masterpiece in a window to enjoy the beautiful stained glass colors!
Related: Fall Leaf Lantern
Shortly after the boys turned 2 years old, they started finding Cory or I in the mornings and asking, “Is Dad home all day?”. If the answer was “no”, I often times had two crying kids on my hands. Understandably (in their minds), they were upset that Cory had to run off to some unknown “work” place, instead of staying home to play with them. Unfortunately for me, I had to break this news to them every Monday through Friday and they would be super angry with me – like it was MY choice which days Cory went to work.
While it was neat watching them realize the concept of days, I wanted to avoid the unnecessary tantrums and help them understand their schedules better. As a visual person myself, I decided to put together a weekly calendar *showing* them which days Dad was “home all day” (by putting a picture of Cory’s face on Saturday and Sunday). I printed out the calendar, put it in a sheet protector, and hung it on their bedroom door with a clothespin to mark the current day. Each morning, they would wake up and move the clothespin to the new day.
Both Jacob and Evan responded to the calendar extremely well, so I started adding images for almost everything – doctor’s appointments, swim class, holidays, etc. The boys quickly started understanding weekends vs. weekdays and were excited when something new would pop up on their calendar. Although our weekly events pretty much stayed the same, when I knew a holiday or special event was coming up, I would print the future week in advance and simply slide the sheet behind the current week (in the sheet protector) so that it was ready to go.
Avery is 2 years old now, and starting “toddler school” this week, so I started using the weekly calendar for her. She is loving the new responsibility of updating her marker for each day, and super excited for her 1st day of school. No more tantrums and full cooperation for the day’s activities (well, most of the time anyway). Either way, a definite WIN!
- Weekly Calendar printable with school, special occasions and holiday clipart sheet is available to purchase in my Etsy Shop.
- For sports classes such as swimming, gymnastics, tennis, etc., I recommend using images from Classroom Clipart (endless options and free!). This website also has perfect graphics to use for other activities (piano lessons, etc.) and additional holidays.
- Other products used:
– Sheet Protector
“December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?” – Dr. Seuss