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
- Looking for a personalized or custom chore chart? I’m happy to create one for you! Visit my Etsy Shop and if I don’t already have what you are looking for, simply send a request.
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
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
Since my boys were 3 years old, this US Foam Puzzle has been a favorite go-to of theirs. At 1st it was just fun for them to put together, but as they got older it became a great learning tool. They are now familiar with most US states, their shape, general location, as well as some facts we’ve learned along the way.
Jacob has been asking about the difference between city, state, country and continent lately, so I wanted to come up with a hands-on way for him to understand the bigger picture. Since they enjoyed the other foam puzzle so much, I decided to purchase this World Map Puzzle with Flags & Capitals. Understandably due to size constraints, it doesn’t include EVERY flag in the world. If it did, I think that would be too overwhelming anyway. The puzzle has a total of 65 flags (based mainly on country size) which seems to be the perfect start.
The foam puzzle, flags and map provided are great. Unfortunately there is no ‘key’ to know where each flag goes. I was able to figure it out using the original sticker sheet, but both Jacob and Evan were at a complete loss putting the puzzle together without my help. To give them the independence of easily figuring it out on their own, I created a color-coded diagram showing all of the 65 flags and the corresponding country by continent. I also made a color-coordinating continent map for easy reference.
Click on image below for FREE Printable:
Once I gave them my diagrams (other than some adorably incorrect pronunciations) – easy peasy. Both Jacob and Evan were able to correctly identify 65 flags, place them in their corresponding country, and understand which continent they belonged to as well!
I have no doubt this puzzle will be another one of their favorites – learning more as they grow and discovering new things each time they complete it. 🙂
“Without geography, you are nowhere.”
For Valentine’s Day this year, I started by looking up some fun favors on Amazon and presenting them to the kids. Avery was super stoked about the flippy sequin bracelets I found, so we went with a Mermaid theme.
Inspired by her favorite color at the moment – GOLD, I created this super sparkly mermaid Valentine. Paired with the sequin bracelet favors and signed using my glitter pens, Avery’s definitely ready to make a splash at her school celebration!
Favor ideas to pair with this Valentine:
– Mermaid Sequin Bracelet (as shown in photo above)
– Mermaid Folding Paper Fans
– Sequin Mermaid Tail Keychains
– Mermaid Favor Assortment (Stamps, Stickers & Tattoos)
– Glitter Spiral Notepad / Pencils
– Mermaid Tattoos
Depending on your favor, you can tie it on with string, attach with double sided tape, or use a fun glitter or mermaid Washi tape.
To create your own Mermaid Valentine Printable, download here.
“Be a mermaid and make waves.”
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.”
Months ago, Jacob told me he wanted to be Kion from The Lion Guard for Halloween. To no surprise, Evan and Avery wanted to team up with him as Beshte and Ono to help defend the pride lands!
For Kion and Beshte, I used orange and grey footed pajamas from footedpajamas.com (while also scoring a 15% off coupon from Retail Me Not – deals rock!). I attached red and black craft fur that I got from Michael’s Craft store (also available online at Amazon or Walmart) for hair, and used fleece fabric to sew on ears and a tail.
For Beshte, I designed a mask and created this TEMPLATE to make it into a fabric mask using felt squares and Stitch Witchery. Seriously, this stuff is AMAZING! All you have to do is cut the Stitch Witchery to shape and iron your fabrics, bonding them together – no sewing required! (Note: I cut the eyes out after bonding all the materials together to make sure the fabric was even)
For Ono, I purchased a white leotard from Amazon and created wings and a tail, using fleece fabric (Fleece is great for this purpose since it does not fray at all). The leotard fabric and skinny arms were a bit difficult to work with, so I chose to use a combination of Velcro and sewing to attach the wings. To give the tail a more 3 dimensional look, I sewed in pipe cleaners between the two tail fabrics.
To complete their costumes, The Lion Guard needs their badge of honor – so again I used my trusty Stitch Witchery to fuse the symbol (from felt squares) to each costume’s left arm. Tip: After printing out this TEMPLATE, I cut out the shapes with an X-ACTO knife, and chalked out a mirror image as a stencil.
Now my little protectors of the pride lands are ready to roar on Halloween!
Mix It Up! by Hervé Tullet has been a long-time favorite book in our house. A truly brilliant and engaging way to introduce the idea of mixing colors. One of the best parts = The kids can mix colors, over and over again, without the actual mess of paint! Another great book to compliment this read is The Wonders of the Color Wheel, by Charles Ghigna. Similar to Mix It Up!, this book explains color combinations, but also touches upon the categorization of primary and secondary colors.
While paint seems to be the most logical activity for hands-on learning of mixing colors, I’ve found that (specifically when working with toddlers) the secondary colors never come out quite right. For example, when attempting to mix the bright green of a shamrock, we end up with more of a brownish-green that looks like rotting seaweed 😦
To make things a little easier (and more accurate), I’ve come up with a few other mediums that are great for exploring colors with kids…
1. Mixing Colored Water
I filled plastic cups with water and used food coloring to dye the cups in correspondence to this Color Math Printable. The boys then poured the 1st two cups in each row (primary colors), into the last empty cup, to create the secondary colors (green, purple & orange).
2. Play-Doh Color Wheel
Using the primary colors of Play-Doh (blue, red & yellow), the boys mashed and rolled small pieces together to create each secondary color (green, purple & orange), and place them on their Color Wheel Printable.
3. Overlaying Transparency Colors
Using the primary colors of Magnatiles, the boys held the tiles up to a window, overlapping them to discover each of the secondary colors. If you don’t have Magnatiles, any form of color transparencies can work.
“The ones who are crazy enough to think they can color the world are the ones who do”