It’s so hard to believe but the end of the school year is just weeks away. My kids had some really good teachers this year so I started looking for some easy but creative gift ideas that we could make together to show our appreciation. Here were my favorite ideas:
This Teacher’s Lunchbox for the AlltheSmallThings blog takes a little bit of time, but what an amazing gift.
Apple Caramel Cupcakes in a Jar
These Apple Caramel Cupcakes in a Jar from Cheryl at TidyMom.net are another way to unique package some food gifts. They look so tasty!
Apple Oreo Pops
These super cute Apple Oreo Pops that I saw over on the SkiptoMyLou site are a fantastic idea.
Fairy Container Garden
Finally, this Fairy Container Garden from PinkandGreenMama blog is so unique and fun to both make and give. What a fun way to give a little bit of magic.
Which one is your favorite? Have fun making these gifts that are sure to make your kids’ teachers smile!
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Unique End-of-Year Teachers Gift Ideas
Easy and Inexpensive DIY Teacher’s Gift Ideas
Thoughtful Gifts Teachers, Neighbors, and Helpers Will Love
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Earth Day is this Friday, April 22nd and we are excited to bring you ideas on how to celebrate and raise awareness with your kids. I think the best way to get the kids to care about the earth and nature is to give them an appreciation for nature. How do you do that? Go play outside! Explore all of nature’s wonders. Here are some fun ideas whether you head on out to the park or explore your backyard.
I mentioned yesterday that one of my new favorite sites is the Go Explore Nature blog. Debi, the blog’s chief explorer, has some great ideas in these posts: How to Raise Kids Who Care About the Planet, 50 Ways to Explore Nature in Your Own Backyard, and Top 10 Spring Nature Adventures.
I also love the book Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars by Sharon Lovejoy for ideas on exploring nature with kids and grandkids.
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We’re celebrating Earth Day this week so we’ll be sharing ideas on how to get the kids involved in respecting and preserving our planet, as well as simple things we can do as families to protect our environment.
Here are some ideas on how to talk and act upon the meaning of Earth Day.
Play: First and foremost, go outside and just enjoy the day. I just discovered the Go Explore Nature blog, which is a new favorite, and I love their idea and checklist for a Spring Nature Scavenger Hunt.
Another way to play and help is to purchase eco-friendly toys and support the manufacturers who are doing their part to save the environment. Some of our favorite eco-friendly toys, that we we love enough to sell at ChocolateCakeClub.com, are the Green Toys Tea Set, Green Toys Recycling Truck, and the Totem Boys and Girls Recycled Construction Sets.
We sell quite a few organic and eco-friendly toys that kids love and you’ll feel good about giving.
Plant: Head over to your local nursery and buy a perennial flower that you love. Plant it with your kids to help beautify your yard and the neighborhood. Read How to Teach Your Kids a Love of Gardening. Get your kids their very own Gardening Set so they get excited about spending time in the garden with Mom or Grandma. Teach your kids about locally grown produce with the Playful Chef’s Farmers Market Set. Here’s how to have fun with the kids on a Trip to the Farmers Market.
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It’s National Volunteer Week so I wanted to share some ideas on helping your kids develop an attitude for gratitude with ideas and resources on projects the family can do together to help others. Check out the article I wrote for Patch.com on How To Teach Your Kids the Importance of Giving Back. There are some good ideas and resources for helping protect our environment, perfect for Earth Day next week.
CoolMomPicks.com had a great post on Quick, easy ways to volunteer while the kids are young.
Also, for National Volunteer Week take the time to thank the people who volunteer in your community or in your organization. We were in the hospital for 2 days with my daughter and I just want to give a big THANK YOU to all of the wonderful and friendly people who volunteer in the pediatric wards. My family thanks you for your kindness and help!
How does your family volunteer? At what age can you get the kids involved?
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Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss! Can you believe that 107 years ago, Theodore Geisel changed the world by teaching children to read, and enjoy it, when he introduced “The Cat in the Hat.” We want to honor his memory and thank him for entertaining and educating us and our children. He has stimulated our imaginations and engaged us with fun, humor and a whole lot of goofiness. To keep his memory alive, here are 6 ways to help celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday with some family fun activities. (more…)
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Here in Chicago we are going to celebrate Groundhog Day with 12 -20 inches of snow. Yippee! (Note to self: Get gas for the snowblower today!) I don’t foresee any Groundhogs popping out in the blizzard to look for a shadow. However, since we might be trapped indoors, I went on the hunt for some Groundhog day fun for the kids.
Cook Up Some Fun
Groundhog Day Shadow Fun
Since the day is all about seeing a shadow, why not play shadow puppets? Set up a white sheet a few feet away from a wall. Place a lamp behind the sheet near the wall. Have your kids take turns going behind the sheet and casting shadow puppets. Here’s a post I found on making a Shadow Puppet Theater that looks super fun.
Here are some Groundhog Day Activities to do with the kids from the official Punxatawney Phil website. I’m all over the Groundhog ornaments to print out and hang from a chandelier or indoor tree but the Word Searches and coloring pages are cute, too.
If your kids are a little older, watch the Groundhog Day movie. My kids think it is hilarious. “Don’t drive angry!”
What do you do to celebrate Groundhog Day with your kids?
You Might Also Like:
Yummy Groundhog Day Pancakes
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Looking for some fun ideas to do with the family around Thanksgiving? Here are a few of my favorites as well as some great ideas from other Mom bloggers.
Get Active! Our town hosts a Turkey Trot 1 Mile and 5K race every Thanksgiving morning. While we usually travel out of town to visit family on Thanksgiving so we have never been in town to participate, several of our neighbors run as a family every year. It’s a great way to burn the calories before you pack in the carbs!
Bake Up Memories. We have a family tradition on Thanksgiving Day. After we gorge ourselves and the boys go watch football or take a nap on the couch, the women folk go back in the kitchen and make our favorite Holiday cookies. Each person brings their favorite recipe and we bake, bake, bake. (It keeps us awake and standing so we’re burning the Turkey dinner calories, right?)
When we started this tradition it was fun to see what Grandma’s favorite cookie recipe was when she was a kid. Now that she is gone, we still make those cookies to remember her by. The other benefits of this tradition are that everyone goes home with a plate of assorted cookies. Freeze them and pull them out for your Holiday parties. If that’s not a stress-bustin’ tip, I don’t know what is.
Here’s a post I wish I had written! Check out the great A to Z Thanksgiving Family Fun Ideas from Cindy Bultema at the SheSparkles Blog.
Marie at MakeandTakes.com offers some fun ideas for Turkey Bowling and Turkey Bingo.
TheMotherHuddle.com also had some very cute ideas for Thanksgiving family activities. I love the Ornament Exchange idea!
What fun activities does your family do on or around Thanksgiving?
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This past weekend for our Halloween fun activity, we decorated cupcakes. I had seen so many incredibly cool cupcake designs on other sites that I wanted to see if we could recreate them. The goal was to make them for the kids’ school Halloween parties this Friday, but guess what? They’re gone already.
There are a million cupcake recipes out there to make the cupcakes from scratch (go ahead, Google Cupcake recipes and prepare to be overwhelmed) but we made life a little easier and just chocolate cupcakes from a mix. We were in the mood to decorate, not bake. So, how did we do?
Jack Skellington Cupcakes
I love the movie Nightmare Before Christmas so when I saw these Jack Skellington cupcakes on the Disney Family.com site, I started to drool. I thought it was easy to do and the instructions were very helpful however, my daughter got mad because she couldn’t get the face to come out right. You need fairly good icing control. Her cupcakes looked like a cool ghoul, but not exactly like Jack.
Spooky Owl Cupcakes
Owls are the “it” animal this year, as I said in my post Owls are Hot! Hoo Hoo Knew? So, my daughter, who was a big fan of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole wanted to make these cupcakes. You can find slightly different versions of these owl cupcakes on a variety of different sites (as I said, owls are hot) but we chose this photo at TheCupcakeBlog.com as inspiration.
We used, chocolate frosting, Oreos, white frosting and M&Ms. These cupcakes were super easy and my kids could put them together like pros. We frosted the cupcake. Split open Oreo cookies for the eyes and “ears.” Once the Oreos are split, take the piece without the white center and break them into “ear” shapes. Then put M&Ms on for eyeballs and an M&M turned sideways for the beak.
The only two issues we had were that the Oreos were hard to break open. I remember as a kid you could just twist them apart so I don’t know what’s in these cookies now but the centers are like super glue. These needed to be pried open with a knife or they would break in pieces. Also, when we did get them to break open cleanly, the white center part had black crumbs all over it from the other side of the cookie. It didn’t look like a nice, clean, white eyeball. So we used white frosting on the inside of the cookies which actually made it easier for the M&M eyeballs to stick. All in all, a great recipe for the kids.
Spider Web Cupcakes
Our inspiration for these easy spider web cupcakes came from Bakerella.com. We did it in reverse with white frosting on the cupcake and a black web. We also used M&Ms for the spider since we had them out anyway.
Finally, we just got out our collection of sprinkles, almond slivers, and other toppings to create our own ideas. Creating bats, cats, tarantulas, and werewolves was a pretty fun afternoon with the family.
Have you made any cool Halloween cupcakes that you’d like to share? Send me a link to your photos and I’ll post them on the blog.
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It’s Day 18 of our Summer Family Fun Challenge. Are you having fun yet?
Today’s idea is to take a trip around the world. If you can afford to that literally, then by all means, Bon Voyage. For the rest of us, pick a day, pick a country and then spend time celebrating it’s culture. For example, if you pick Italy:
- Go online and look up some fun facts about Italy.
- Go to the library and check out some Italian music or an Italian movie.
- If you know someone from Italy, invite them over for dinner and have the kids ask them questions about what it’s like to live there.
- Get some language instruction tapes and learn some words in Italian.
- If your kids like animals, learn which animals are indigenous to that country.
- Read about an Italian family tradition that sounds interesting and try it at home.
- Grab an Italian cookbook, have each family member choose a dish they would like to try. Spend the time in the kitchen cooking and experimenting together.
If you are fortunate to have an international trip coming up, then definitely use this time to learn more about the country and get the kids excited about what they might see.
Don’t know which country to pick? Research your family ancestry. Or, have everyone in the family write down ideas on a piece of paper. Throw the paper into a jar and pick. Or, hang up a world map and let someone close their eyes and point to a country. (If you don’t have a map, use our World Map Kids Placemat or World Map Sticker Set.)
Want even more help? Try our Playful Chef French Cooking Set.
This kids cooking set includes kid-sized cooking tools, recipes for popular French food, and fun information about French history, vocabulary and geography.
Which country are you going to start with?
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Happy Monday! It’s Day #17 of our 30 Day Summer Fun Challenge and our idea today is to learn something new as a family.
Is there anything you’ve always wanted to learn how to do? Speak Spanish, play guitar, play golf, tennis, take better photos, dance the tango, or cook a perfect souffle? Why not get the whole family involved and take a group lesson or start a new family hobby? (I suggested we all learn how to balance the checkbook but they “booed” my idea.)
Families that play together, stay together. Learning a new skill, hobby or sport is a fun way to spend time together and expand your mind. You’ll all be starting at the same level – newbie – and it will be interesting to see who in the family really takes to the lessons.
Find a class
Contact your local park district or community college to see the continuning education courses that they offer. If some of the classes look interesting for the whole family, sign everyone up. Look online for some local language classes or check your local health clubs, park district or YMCA for swimming, tennis, golf or even scuba diving lessons. Since you will have 3 or more “students” in the class, it might be worthwhile to find an instructor and see if you could arrange for private lessons in your home.
Now, show off your new skills
Once you’ve discovered your new skill and if everyone likes it, plan your next family vacation so you can apply this new knowledge or start a new family tradition.
- Take Spanish lessons then vacation in Mexico or Spain
- Take Cajun cooking lessons and then plan a trip to New Orleans
- Take golf lessons and then swing away in California
- Learn to scuba dive and head to the Caribbean
- Take some wildlife photography lessons and then head to Yellowstone National Park
If no one really takes to the new skill, there’s always next summer to try something else. My husband loves to golf and my kids have been taking lessons for the past two summers. I always swore I would never golf (after having waitressed in a snobby golf club in high school and swearing I would “NEVER” be like those people) however, I’m rethinking taking lessons because it would be a fun thing to do as a family or with another family. (If I’m no good, I could always lay on top of the golf cart and just get a tan. That’s quality time together, right?)
Ask around and see if another family you know loves the same skill or hobby. Invite them over to practice together. The more the merrier.
If you are going to tackle learning Spanish, we have some fun products to help practice with kids.
Spanish Flash Cards
Or if you are going to take cooking lessons, get the kids excited about the lessons with their own apron and cooking utensils, like our best selling Playful Chef Kids Cooking Kit.
Is your family taking lessons to learn something new? If not, what do you think would interest them?
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Chocolate Cake Club Family Fun Calendar
Welcome to Day #2 of our 30 Day Summer Fun Challenge, where we’re giving you 30 days of simple, creative & most importantly memorable ideas to make this the most fun summer ever for your family.
Have you ever wondered where the summer has gone? Been disappointed that you didn’t get to the Zoo, or get tickets to a popular kids concert, or get the bikes out enough to justify the space they take up in the garage? Well, last summer we started a Family Summer Hit List and it made planning and scheduling our family fun a whole lot easier. We were tired of “missing” some of the fun things we wanted to do every summer because we didn’t act fast enough, so we decided to take charge and make it a family project.
Pick a night and when you sit down for dinner, go around the table and ask everyone in the family what they would like to do for fun that summer. Have someone write down all of the ideas. Then vote on the Top 10 ideas that your family is going to do together. (If this gets too heated or causes hurt feelings amongst younger siblings, put all of the ideas into a hat and pull the first 10. While someone might still be miffed that their idea didn’t make it, at least it’s fair!)
Now, grab the family calendar and plan which days you’ll schedule each activity. If any work needs to be done ahead of time like buying tickets, making reservations, or inviting friends over, assign the responsibilities to family members so everyone is working together to have fun. You’ll get more buy-in from the kids, Mom won’t be the only one planning everything, and you won’t miss any important activities.
Your kids and grandkids grow up so fast. Don’t miss these precious summer days and nights to have fun together. (That was my mushy Moment.)
Here’s our family’s Summer Hit List around the Chicagoland area:
- Train ride downtown, eat at French Market
- Six Flags Day with fellow Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Families
- Concert at Ravinia, our outdoor concert venue
- Long bike ride along Lake Michigan – RJ Grunts for dinner
- Cubs Game
- Splash time at North Ave. Beach
- BBQ party with friends
- Hang out with neighbors at local pool
- Backyard camp-out
- Drive-in tailgate party with friends
- Trips to Austin, TX and Iowa to visit the Grandparents and cousins
TREAT: To make your planning a little easier, for every order placed today at the Chocolate Cake Club between 8 a.m. CST and midnight, we’ll throw in a FREE Mom’s Plan-it or momAgenda Family Planning Calendar. While supplies last, so get your order in now!
What’s on your Hit List for the Summer?
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Looking for something fun to do with your kids this weekend? Grab the camera, head outdoors and try a photo scavenger hunt. (With digital cameras, this is so easy and fun. You can also delete all of the pictures when you are done. No wasted film!) You can go to a specific place to do your hunt or look at your own neighborhood through a new lens. (Get it? A new lens? Oh, forget it.)
You can play individually, in teams or as a group depending on how many cameras you can get your hands on. Then choose a theme. Some examples:
- Alphabet – take a photo of something representing every letter in the alphabet.
- Numbers – Try to find groups of things representing the numbers 1 -10. 1 ball, 2 flowers, 3 weeds in Daddy’s lawn, 4 cars that your son never picked up, etc. (You get the picture.)
- Colors – Take a photo of as many colored objects as you can. Or take pictures of things that are red. See who can find the most.
- A common object - For example, dogs, flowers, toys in the yard, red cars, etc. Pick something where you’ll find quite a few examples. See who can find the most.
- Letters – Have the kids look for different letters and see if they can spell out words when you get home and print them out.
This is fun to play in your neighborhood because your kids will come back with photos of things you’ve never noticed. (Really, that’s what’s in the back of the Jones’ yard?)
We went to the Farmers Market last weekend and my daughter went on a hunt to take a picture of every dog at the market. She had a blast meeting the dogs and asking people if she could take their picture. We had a great time looking at the photos when we got home. She printed them out and created her own book, which was pretty cool and kept her busy for hours. Here’s what she saw:
Any other photo hunt ideas out there? Let us know and we’ll add them to the list.
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Tomorrow is Earth Day and Take Your Kids to Work Day. While my kids are all excited about going to Daddy’s work tomorrow, I thought we could fit in a few Earth Day activities as well. Here are some ideas on how to talk and act upon the meaning of Earth Day.
Play: First and foremost, go outside and just enjoy the day. If you want to get your kids some eco-friendly toys, we suggest the Green Toys Tea Set, Planet Pixie Dolls, Green Toys Recycling Truck, Tool Set and the Totem Boys Recycled Construction Set. We sell quite a few eco-friendly toys that kids love and you’ll feel good about giving.
Plant: Head over to your local nursery and buy a perennial flower that you love. Plant it with your kids to help beautify your yard and the neighborhood. Teach your kids about locally grown produce with the Playful Chef’s Farmers Market Set.
Talk & Teach: Give your kids an introdcution in respecting the Earth with the Respect the Earth Flash Cards we sell at www.ChocolateCakeClub.com. Don’t just use them on Earth Day. Pick a card every night at dinner and talk about the tips on how to take care of our planet.
Read: My favorite Dr. Seuss book – The Lorax. How could you not want to save the Truffula Trees?
Watch: Some of our favorite kids movies with a conservationist theme are Happy Feet, Fern Gully, and Wall-E. There are plenty more but we like these. (We love Robin Williams as the bat in Fern Gully. He also makes a darn cute penguin in Happy Feet.)
Help: Take a walk around your neighborhood and pick up any trash that you see. We all have a responsibility to make our planet healthy.
Happy Earth Day! How do you teach your kids to be responsible in conserving our planet?
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Continuing our ideas of how to have fun in the hospital with a sick child, arts & crafts are a fun way to spend time together. You then have the craft to remind you of your stay in the hospital.
This is the perfect time to draw, create, make a comic book, or in our case learn how to sew. At my store, www.ChocolateCakeClub.com, we have a My First Sewing Kit that my daughter had seen and had been asking me about for weeks. When I asked her what she wanted to do in the hospital the first day she said she wanted to learn to sew. I brought in the kit and together we made a felt elephant. This is her “hospital” friend. I like that I started to teach her a skill and that she and I made something together that will remind us of our hospital stay.
There are so many arts & craft kits out there so you are sure to find some that relate to your child’s interests and skill level. Here are some of the ones that we carry that I think would work well for a hospital room because the kits have everything you need, they don’t take a lot of room, and there is relatively little mess:
All That Glitters Wristlet
My First Sewing Kit
Felt Sweets Sewing Kit
Friend 2 Friend Bracelet Kit
Decorate Your Own Princess Mirror
Heart Keepsake Box
Spiffy Spa Kit
Fairy Princess Magic Crayon T-shirt
My Crafty Cars Kit
Paint Your Own Garden Gnome
Paint Your Own Pirate Chest
Decorate Your Own Wooden Racecar
Decorate Your Own Wooden Train
Design Your Own Chef’s Hat and Apron
We don’t carry this item but my 10 year old son just had a blast doing this art kit on Easter – RoseArt Color Blanks.
Our Kids Art-to Go Folios are also great for keeping kids amused by drawing or having paper handy to play hang man or other games. Or, the My Giant Busy Box has ideas and supplies on fun things to make that will keep your kids amused for days.
Do you have any craft ideas to do with sick kids?
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My son and I loved watching the Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe competition the other night. Shaun White is just amazing. I can’t believe how high in the air he went on his first pass. If you didn’t see it, you can see the video of Shaun White’s victory run here. Of course, my son thought it was cool that Shaun was playing a little air guitar during the national anthem when he was on the medal podium, but hey, that’s boys for ya.
Being a fellow Chicago suburbs denizen, way to go Evan! My husband could actually watch Evan’s performance last night without making some reference to Blaze of Glory. That’s saying something. (I’m not sure what but I felt the need to point it out.)
To keep the Olympic Winter Games fun rolling, we’ve found another fun idea. We just stumbled across the instructions for making a Mini-Luge Run with your kids at the education.com site. It seems pretty simple and lots of fun, so we wanted to share. If you make one, please send us a photo and we’ll post it on the site.
* Photo from the vancouver2010.com site.
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A few weeks ago I was on NBC 5 Chicago News talking about ways to keep kids busy during the Holiday Break, with some sanity saver ideas and cool products. While the Holiday Break may be over, check out the clip and use the ideas to have fun with your kids, especially on snow days or the upcoming Presidents Day Holiday weekend. Leave me a comment if you like the segment and check out some of my other videos on my YouTube Channel (the content is good, even if my head is cut off in some of them.)
Video on How to Amuse Kids During Holiday Break.
As a personal aside, I want to throw out a big thank you to Nesita Kwan and the morning news crew at NBC 5 Chicago for making me feel so welcome and at ease while I was in the studios. It was a pleasure! Thank you as well for allowing us to post the video clip.
Would you be interested in seeing some of our tips and ideas on Family Fun in video form?
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My kids have both today and tomorrow off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day It’s 10 a.m. and they are bored already. So, I came up with a list of 10 things we could do today together or they could do by themselves while I work for a few hours. I’m going to let them pick their activities but thought I would share my list with you. I hope it helps!
1. Make Valentine’s Day Cards. Everyone loves a handmade Valentine’s Day Card, especially Grandma and Grandpa. Give them kids some construction paper, lace, glitter, stickers and whatever else inspires them to create a masterpiece of love. If you still need ideas, check out these from Family Fun Magazine, Kaboose, or Amazing Moms
2. Movie Marathon. Let the kids stay in their pajamas and pick a theme for a movie marathon. Let each member of the family pick a movie and then make popcorn, bake cookies, or set up an ice cream sundae bar for some extra special movie treats.
3. Go Sledding. If you can round up enough kids in the neighborhood, throw a sledding party.
4. Make a Holiday Scrapbook. Take all of those Christmas or Hanukkah pictures you just took and have each child decorate a page to be put in a scrapbook. Everyone will love looking at it next Holiday season.
5. Stage a Wii Olympics Tournament. If you have a Wii, this is a fun way to get the kids interested in the upcoming Winter Olympics. Play Wii Ski, Snowboard, or Mario vs. Sonic Winter Olympics Games. If you don’t have them, go rent them at your local video store.
6. Melt some Crayons, Make some Art. We recently came across this craft idea at the From Dates to Diapers blog. Looks like fun.
7. Bake Cookies. Let each child choose their favorite cookie recipe and have fun in the kitchen baking together. My kids love Peanut Butter Blossoms. This isn’t a cookie but these Hot Chocolate Mug Cakes are easy and fun to make on a cold day.
8. Host a Tea Party. Get out your pretty hats, scarves, jewelry, tea set, pretty napkins, and invite your child’s friends or stuffed animal friends to join you for a spot of tea. Have your kids decorate the table and serve cookies and “tea” aka root beer for the kids.
9. Have an Indoor Snowball Fight. Create “snowball” ammunition out of white tissue paper or cotton balls wrapped with saran wrap. Give each team an equal amount. Let ‘em fight it out in the basement or other kid-friendly area of the house. Of course, you can do this outside with real snowballs but if the kids are too cold or the snow isn’t “snowball friendly”, then this is a fun way to bring an outdoor activity inside.
10. Puzzles, Games, or Art Kits. This is the perfect day to “rediscover” some games, puzzles, or art or model kits that have been sitting in the closet ignored. Clear a space for the kids at a table and bring out these forgotten items which will seem like new gifts to the kids.
If the kids are still bored, tell them that they are old enough to learn to clean the bathroom, so let’s get started. I’m sure you will see a renewed interest in the other ideas.
Have any cool ideas for how to amuse the kids on days when they are home from school? Please share!
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Another Holiday tradition that we do every year with the kids is decorate a Gingerbread House. We buy the kit where the pieces are already made and all we have to do is decorate. (Saves a huge amount of time!) We have even used old Halloween candy as additional decorations for the house as a way to get rid of the “less than desirable” candy that the kids never ate.
If you are looking for recipes to make the gingerbread pieces yourself, kits or tips on how to best tackle a gingerbread house barn raising, try the Fork & Bottle site.
One year we branched out and made a gingerbread stable since my daughter loves horses. We’ve also made a gingerbread train. You can find the gingerbread train kit here. We even found a Gingerbread Hannukah Cottage online. If you know of any other cool gingerbread kits out there, let us know. We’re always game for trying a new twist on a favorite family activity.
However, if you want to avoid the sticky mess and try something new this year, we found this great idea on the Alpha Mom site to build a cardboard Gingerbread House. Very cute!
Here’s a question for you. Does your family eat the gingerbread house after you have made it? We don’t. We let it sit out for a few days as decoration but we don’t eat it. (No, not the gum drop buttons!) However, we want to know if you do.
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Looking for some inspiration on Halloween crafts or activities to have fun with the kids this weekend? We’ve got a few ideas for you. First, how about making some mummies?
Mummy vase Halloween decoration
Cut some muslin cloth (or an old white pillowcase) into 1” strips and wrap it around objects in your house to make them look like a mummies. Use double sided tape to secure the ends. Vases, tall candlesticks, and plant bases are all great objects to wrap. Have the kids add googly eyes or draw eyes with a marker and it’s a wrap! (Corny yes, but made you smile.)
You can also cut a mask out of black construction paper, attach a string or elastic thread to the two sides and tie it around a pillar candle to make it look like there are bandits or evil spirits in the house.
Decorate a Witches Hat
Think Bling, yo! Check the discount or craft stores for some inexpensive witches hats or make them out of black construction paper. We like these instructions on how to make a witches hat, if you want to do it yourself. For little kids, give them neon markers and foam sticky shapes to decorate and customize their hat. For older kids, give them glitter, feathers, jewels, pom pom balls, and beads. (Actually whatever you can find between the couch cushions would be good as well. Cleaning and decorating, bonus!) This is a great activity and party favor to take home if you are throwing a kids Halloween party.
Here’s a cool idea from our Cub Scout Master for a Hairy Spider. Take a Black Knee High and fill it will potting soil and grass seed. Tie the end to make as close to a ball shape as you can. Glue on some googly eyes and stick in pipe cleaners for legs and antennas. Place your spider on a pie tin or glass dish, water it, set in sun and eventually you’ll have a Hairy Spider. Start this weekend and you might have some “hair” by Halloween.
This skeleton is so cute! Robert Mahar from the Junior Society Blog was recently on the Martha Stewart show demonstrating how to make this very funny skeleton out of an old athletic sock. You can download the template and watch the video on the Martha Stewart site. My daughter and I will be attempting to make one this weekend.
Do you have any ideas for some fun family Halloween activities?
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I have found the best way to make sure you and your family have fun is to actually plan it. I don’t know about you, but for me, if it’s not on the calendar it won’t happen. What works for our family is to sit down together and list out all of the fun things we want to do for the month or season. Then we grab a calendar and pick some dates. Once we all have it on the calendar, we can generate our list of any “to-dos” to finalize our plans – making reservations, buying tickets, or inviting other people to have fun with us.
Here are some of our ideas for having more family fun this Fall. We will be adding more blog posts to give you additional creative tips on how to make these activities even more fun. If you are looking for more ideas check your local park districts, libraries, YMCAs, and Children’s Museums for fall events.
Top 10 Ideas for Fall Family Fun
1. Apple Orchard/ Making Caramel Apples
2. Fall Foliage Drive
3. Visit a Pumpkin Farm
4. Leaf Pile Forts, Mazes & Piles
5. Hiking/ Photo Scavenger Hunt in your local Forest Preserve
6. Creating & Decorating for Halloween
7. Throw a Halloween Party – for kids or adults
8. Organize a Neighborhood Trick or Treat Procession
9. Neighborhood Flag Football Party
10. Flashlight Corn Maze Adventures
I hope this list has inspired you to get out your calendar and start some planning. Check back for more ideas and tips on how to have more family fun this fall season. I’d love to hear what you love to do with your family, so please share.
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This Sunday is Grandparent’s Day, so what are you going to do to have fun? I’ve seen some posts lately about ways to honor your grandparents by videotaping their stories about growing up or tagging old pictures together, which are all nice activities, but shouldn’t Grandparent’s Day be about having fun and making new “Chocolate Cake Moment” memories with the grandkids. As my Grandmother used to say, “All that talk about the past makes me feel old. What fun is that?” So, here are some ideas on how the grandkids and grandparents can have some fun and create new memories. Parents, it’s up to you whether you tag along or just let the Grandparents and Grandkids go on their own. But this day is about the Grand Connection between them.
Brunch – Everyone loves Brunch. It’s not just for Mother’s Day, anymore. Take Grandma and Grandpa out for a big stack of flapjacks and get extra whip cream on the side.
Movie time – Pick a family friendly movie and go see it together. Go for ice cream afterwards. Or, ask your Grandma or Grandpa what their favorite movie is. Go rent it and set up your family room like a movie theater. Your kids could make tickets, usher Grandma and Grandpa to their “seats” and serve them popcorn.
Cook Together – Invite Grandma and Grandpa over to show the kids how to bake their favorite meal or something they loved as kids. Everyone will spend time in the kitchen “tasting” and sharing stories. Or, have everyone bake their favorite cookies and then share them for an assortment of sweet treats.
Share Their Hobby – If your grandparents have a big hobby – ours is photography – plan a day to share it with them. Give the kids disposable cameras or have them bring their own and go out and shoot photos of the grandparents and kids together in fun locations – local Museum, botanical garden, or forest preserve. If they like gardening, plan a visit to the local Arboretum, park, or Botanical Garden. If they like to travel, pick a nearby destination for a day trip. If they like to cook, see if you can take a cooking class together. If they love to read, find a unique, independent bookstore to explore. Share the day together doing something that Grandma and Grandpa are passionate about. They’ll love sharing that passion with the kids.
Craft time! – Get everyone to work on a craft together. Make a scrapbook of last Christmas together with everyone designing a page, build birdhouses to put in Grandma’s garden, or create coupon books where the kids make coupons for hugs, kisses, chores, or day trips with Grandma and Grandpa, while they make coupons for the kids to redeem for lunch outings, movie nights, or other fun activities together.
Still at a loss for ideas? Go to www.grandparents.com and download their free report on “100 Free Things to Do with Your Grandkids.”
If you have any other ideas we’d love to hear them. Please share with us how you plan to have fun on Grandparent’s Day.
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Nothing says summer like cool, refreshing lemonade. OK, maybe watermelon does, but I want to talk about lemonade. My daugher was bored the other day so she asked if she and her friend could make a lemonade stand. Why not? It reminded me of my childhood and seemed like some nice, old-fashioned fun.
We got our plastic pitcher, our lemonade mix, and some cups. I set up a card table on the front sidewalk and my daughter the artist made a sign. Before they could even finish setting up our neighbors were over. The girls were so thrilled that the neighbors would stop by and give them some money that they were out there for hours. Other than coming in for more lemonade or sugar every now and then, they were completely occupied. They set up their shade umbrellas, had the boom box playing Kids Bop, and they were happy as could be.
Here’s the cool part. When they were done and I asked them what they were going to do with all of their money, they said they were giving it to charity. Unprompted! So we took the change and I mailed the equivalent amount in a check to a charity that my daughter chose.
We also had a nice discussion about business and how it works. Now, whether a 7-year-old really understood the idea of profit margin or not, she did get how you have to pay a certain amount for your ingredients and then you subtract that from the coins collected to see if you can buy more lemonade ingredients or have money left over to spend or give. As an entrepreneur, it was inspiring to talk the girls about how you make money as a business and how you can use your money to help others. Go future women entrepreneurs!
Need a little help putting your lemonade stand together? Check out these Mini Lemonade Stand Kits which include a paper hat, wooden spoon, lemonade mix, lemonade stand banner, cookie cutter, lemon cookie mix, and a price sheet.
So, if you are looking for a fun way to amuse the kids this summer, don’t forget the old-fashioned Lemonade Stand. It’s hours of low-cost fun. If you are interested in getting your kids more involved with charity projects, read our post on Teach Your Kids the Importance of Giving Back.
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We recently found a great site Mom it Forward where they believe that Moms can make a difference and change the world for the better. They have kicked off a pretty cool contest this summer called the Summer of Service (SOS) Challenge. Each week they will post tips on how to make a meaningful difference. Do one of their suggested tips, tell them, and you could win some great prizes. Check out the Challenge here and show your kids how you walk the talk and give back. Even if you don’t participate in the Challenge, we think this is an awesome way to pick up some tips on how to get your kids and your family thinking about giving.
My husband and I talk to the kids about giving back but we always need to do more. We do some things as a family like every year we buy a Christmas gift for a needy child from our YMCA Giving Tree. We also donate money to the World Wildlife Fund every Christmas so the kids can get a cool, endangered stuffed animal. We donate our used toys and clothes to charity. By doing these things consistently, they have become a giving tradition in our family. The kids actually ask about when they are coming up.
Our kids also love one of our Church fundraisers for a local Women’s Shelter. They hand out plastic baby bottles and ask people to fill them with all loose change around the house. Our kids love searching the house for coins to put in the bottle.
Some of the activities that we are involved in offer some great opportunities to give back to the community. With our son’s Cub Scouts troop we have packed care packages for our troops with Operation Yellow Ribbon. Both of our kids take piano lessons and every year their teacher has the kids perform a Halloween concert at a local nursing home. The residents love to see the kids in their costumes playing music. We have helped to clean up the local forest preserve with my daughter’s Adventure Guides group.
If you have a hard time thinking of ways to give back, definitely look to see what your Church or kids groups have planned for the summer. Definitely check out the Mom It Forward challenge. What we love about the Mom It Forward suggestions is that they remind us that we should all be practicing more random acts of kindness at home. It’s important to help strangers, but it is also important and really easy to help those we love.
What do you and your family do to give back to the community. Please share your ideas with us since we are always looking for more.
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Kids can have green thumbs, too!
Gardening for me is a great way to relax, de-clutter my busy mind, and reconnect with nature. I get a good workout, plenty of sunshine, a pretty yard, and plenty of basil for my summer bruchetta. But mostly I do it because we entertain a lot in the summer – neighborhood fire pit parties or BBQs – and we want the house to look smashing.
When my kids expressed an interest in gardening – or rather, when I discovered my daughter attempting to transfer a pretty yellow flower (aka dandelion) into my bed of begonias – I decided to create a designated “Kids Only” garden where they could cultivate their budding green thumbs safely away from my begonias and rose bushes. They get to pick what they want to plant, which makes it exciting for them. (Although when we went to the local nursery to get flowers, my son only seemed to want to buy the container of preying mantises. Hmm!)
If you want to share your love of gardening with your kids, teach them about how plants grow. You can find some great advice on Kids Gardening here. Or, if you simply want to get them out of the house for a few hours, here are some great gardening tools for kids – so you won’t have to hand over your own trowel and spade.
Kids Gardening Kit by Sassafras Enterprises includes a nylon gardening bag, three garden tools, two brightly-colored, plastic flower pots, a sprayer, and their very own apron and gardening gloves. This kit has everything you need to get started this summer. It was the winner of MomCentral.com’s Best Gardening Toys for Kids.
The Ladybug Garden Apron Set is super cute! Your little girl will love digging alongside you in the garden with her out gardening “outfit” and tools. It includes an embroidered ladybug apron, a pair of embroidered garden gloves, and two wooden handled, painted garden tools. See the review of this set on Droolicious!
For rainy days, or those without the yard space, there’s the Paint Your Own Flower Pot Kids Craft Kit and Paint Your Own Garden Gnome Kit. (For your kids who are more into art than gardening, this is a great way for them to contribute to the outdoor decorating.) After they’ve created their own flower pot or garden gnome, they can plant a flower or pick out a perfect spot in the garden or the patio for the gnome. I am a firm believer in the fact that every garden needs a gnome.
All of these gardening and garden-inspired craft kits are great for having fun at Grandma and Grandpa’s house as well.
What are your kids planting this year?
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Part Two – Gift IdeasWhen it comes to a great Father’s Day gift, keep it simple and from the heart. Sure, you can get him ties, chocolate, golf balls, or we found the coolest Stormtrooper Cuff Links, but these really don’t mean anything special. No matter how macho the guy, every Dad has some sentimental bones in his body. Help your kids put together a Daddy-and-Me scrapbook of their favorite memories or create personalized picture frames. (You can find plain cardboard frames and craft supplies at any craft store). Tell Dad to go out golfing or to the hardware store and while he’s gone for hours, work on the scrapbook with the kids.
Inspired Generations has a really cool product along these lines. Their ABC’s of Life Wooden PhotoBlocks are a cute gift that Dad can put on his desk at work or in the home office. These PhotoBlocks have words on each side so the kids can leave messages for Dad while showcasing photos of the kids. If you are really ambitious, create a slide show on the computer and set it to Dad’s favorite tunes. My daugher and I are creating a show in ProShow Gold that features photos of Daddy and Daughter. We are using Dad’s favorite Ralph’s World song – Bedtime Girl - about a Daddy saying goodnight to his little girl.
A friend told me that her kids made a book of coupons that Dad could redeem for chores, favors, and hugs. It was a huge hit because it allowed her husband to get “gifts” from the kids long after Father’s Day. (Psst: Remind your kids that they need to honor the chore coupons. My kids seem to have a problem with the redemption part.)
For new and expecting Dads, think practical. How about a diaper bag that doesn’t compromise his masculinity. (Dads do have an image to uphold, after all.) The Fleurville DJ Diaper Bag is a manly, yet functional diaper bag designed specifically for Dads. It’s available in ballistic black or khaki camo. How’s that for testosterone marketing?
On the cheekier side, check out “The GoodFather” line of t-shirts, or “The GoodFather” gift CD-Rom by Dr. Moz that features humorous, gangster-inspired interactive lessons that will have new Dad smiling (and learning) in no time. The CD-Rom is funny. Dad can plug it into the computer on those nights when he has the midnight feeding. Feed baby and learn at the same time, what more could a modern multi-tasking Dad ask for these days?
What are you and your kids getting Dad this year? Tell us what gift your Dad appreciated most?
Make Father’s Day a Piece of (Chocolate) Cake – Planning Activities
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We were cruising through some Mom blog sites and found this fun posting on Creating Your Own Family Holiday. The ladies over at RookieMoms.com have challenged and inspired us to make up some special days that mean something to our family.
Think about it. Creating your own Holiday! How fun is that!?! And, what a great opportunity to use your imagination and creativity. Here’s our take on the idea – Why not let each person in the family come up with an idea and you can vote on it. Or, put the ideas in a hat each January 1st and draw one idea to be celebrated that year. If you love celebrations and silliness, why not let each person in the family get their own Holiday?
If all of your family birthdays seem to come at the same time of year, this is a perfect opportunity to spread out your family celebrations. Here are some of my ideas for a family Holiday:
1. Enchanted Fairy or Troll Day. On the first really nice day in Spring, declare it Fairy or Troll day. Then the whole family can spend the day outside building a fairy or troll house so that the little creatures have a place to stay at your house all summer. Your kids will love building the houses out of sticks, leaves, and any other creative materials. You can put out Fairy food for them (I heard they love pink sprinkles) or Troll food (black licorice ropes and reeses peanut butter cups.) Don’t ask me why they eat that. I asked my kids and that’s what they said they eat. Everyone in the family can write a letter to the creatures asking for good luck for the season. Then before bed, read your favorite fairy or troll books.
2. Family Movie Festival. In the fall on a yucky Saturday or Sunday, pick a day for a family movie festival. Everyone in the family get to pick their favorite movie to watch. Lounge the day away in your pajamas and watch these classic movies with plenty of snacks. End the day by watching some of your favorite home movies or ask Grandma and Grandpa to come over with movies of you when you were a kid. The kids will love it!
3. Curl Up With a Good Book Day. I love to read and there is nothing greater than finding a good book that you can’t put down. However, I always feel guilty when I sit down and just read during the middle of the day. I always feel like I should be doing something else. So, I would love a day where everyone gets a book, finds a comfy nook, and spends the day reading. We love to encourage our kids to read so this would help them discover the joy of reading. At the end of the day we can each talk about what we read.
4. Eat the Salsa in the Refrigerator Day. OK, this one is hardly worthy of a Holiday but I was going through the fridge last week and found 5 open jars of salsa in the fridge. How does this happen? Wouldn’t it be great if one day we just ate salsa all day and FREED UP SPACE IN THE FRIDGE? Sigh. A Mom can dream can’t she?
What are some of your ideas for a Holiday? I hope they involve Chocolate. We’d love to hear them so please share!
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We saw a great article on the Today’s Mama site by Emily Falconbridge called Capturing the Little Things. We had to share this fun idea to help you get past the frustrations you may have about how cluttered your house looks or how you wish you had new furniture. Read it and see how she easily creates a photo book of the everyday beauty in her house that most of us don’t take the time to see and appreciate. She also create a fun book for her daughter with photos of her favorite things. See the photo below. Check out the article and let us know what you think. I’m going to work on one this weekend.
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Another idea we have used at home to help our kids conquer their fear of the dark is to create Dream Cards. (You can see that fear of the dark and failure to fall asleep is a big issue in our house. I’ll try anything to get these kids to GO TO BED!) So here’s the thing … Wouldn’t it be cool if you could pick your dream ahead of time? Well, we used that thought as a springboard for our Dream Card ideas. One night we sat down and cut out playing card-sized pieces of thick paper. Everyone in the family then drew pictures of some dreams they wished they would have. Our daughter’s cards involved a lot of horses, picking roses in the clouds, and animals at tea parties. Our son’s cards seemed to have a lot of Star Wars, skiing, and pirates in them. He seems to find chaos and destruction calming before bedtime. Go figure.
When our deck of cards were made, we placed them next to our beds and every night before we went to bed, our kids would choose whichever dream they wanted. They put the card under their pillows and went to sleep imagining their dream. (One of my dream cards involved sleeping through the whole night without my kids waking me up. Ah! Bliss. The kids didn’t find it very amusing. My other dream card involved having my own cabana boy who would make me margaritas, but that’s not important. )
This worked for about a week but again, we had a blast one night spending time together as a family talking about our desired dreams and creating our Dream Cards. Try it one night and let me know how it works at your house.
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This Easter we decided not to travel and see family but stay home and relax. We invited some friends over for a non-traditional Easter dinner of Beef Tenderloin with Blue Cheese Breadcrumb Crust and Red Wine Sauce. If you read our post on 5 Easter Family Traditions to Start This Year you’ll know that one of our traditions is to try something new. No ham for us this year.
I asked my daughter, the artist in residence, if she would decorate the table for Easter. She loves to do this and since my mother, who is the master in table decorating, taught her how to do it well, she was thrilled. Did I mention that she is 6 and can decorate a dinner table better than I can? Anyway, she decided that we needed to make birds’ nests to complete her vision for the table. We found an idea in Family Fun Magazine.
Our blue Easter egg nest was very easy to make although neither of ours turned out looking as good as the magazine’s version. The suggested modeling clay wasn’t that great. I would probably use playdoh or some other softer modeling clay to get the shape right. The crayola stuff was not that pliable. We had plenty of sticks in the yards so I just used our gardening clippers to cut them down to size. The craft instructions say to use blue yarn inside the nest but we found a bag of blue feathers that worked better. Here is how our nests and the decorated table turned out. Click on the photos to see them larger.
My daughter and I had a lot of fun working together to make our nests. It had all the right ingredients for success – simple project, didn’t take a lot of time, only had to buy two materials, and we had a goal – decorate the Easter dinner table. Our colored eggs were displayed fabulously in our blue birds nests.
Tip: If you have cats, don’t put the nests out until right before dinner. Our indoor-only cats were extremely interested in the “live” twigs and proceeded to lay their fat down on top of our nests to be closer to nature, I guess. They also started chewing the twigs and pulling them out of the clay. Bad kitties!
Did you do any craft projects with your kids this Easter? If so, leave us a comment and please share!
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