Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cookies and Milk, and Yellow Balloons

The kids learned a song from their Aunt Brandi in which they sing quite frequently. The words go " when I grow up, I want to be a Mother, and have a family, one little, two little, three little babies in my home....(later in the song)...and I will give them cookies and milk, and yellow balloons" One day Braelynn was singing the song and paused in the middle of it and says "Mom, your not a real mom because you never give up yellow balloons and cookies and milk."
SO, I had planned to do this for them for quite a while and decided to surprise them after school with a ton of yellow balloons and cookies and milk. It was fun. I have decided that I will have "YELLOW BALLOON DAY" at least once a year to remind them that I AM a real Mom!

But to get simple, just buy a few balloons one day and I promise you will have happy kids and some free time while they are occupied!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

frozen grape pops!

Heres a fun idea from makeandtakes.
A fun way to get some fruit!
Just put grapes on bamboo skewers and freeze!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Getting your child ready to read!

30 Simple Ways to Get Your Child Ready to Read
October 16, 2008

Sara is a literacy junkie who longs to run away with Pigeon to drive buses and stay up late. She also discusses the art of simple living at On Simplicity, where she’s slowly learning how to have less and enjoy more.

Getting your little ones ready to read is a huge, complicated undertaking.

Or maybe not.

According to ALA-supported research, if your child has just six early literacy skills mastered by the time they enter kindergarten, then their chances of becoming successful readers rise substantially.

The best part?

These skills are incredibly simple to incorporate into everyday activities. In fact, you’re probably using some of these tactics already.

Ready to give your child the tools they need to be ready to read? Try these 30 simple tactics that are all free and fun!

Print Motivation:
Does your child think reading is fun? If so, you’ve laid the foundation for a lifetime of reading. To boost print motivation, you can:

1. Smile as you read a book together.
2. Choose funny stories, or topics that your child loves.
3. Let your child choose what books you’ll read together.
4. Use reading time as a reward, never a punishment.
5. You read on your own. Your child models their behavior on you, so if they see you reading, they’ll grow up thinking it’s normal to read for entertainment.

Print Awareness:
Does your child know what a book is? Does your child know how to turn pages and recognize what letters are? Print awareness is just ensuring that your munchkin understands that reading correlates to words on a page.

6. Let your child turn the pages as you read.
7. Use your finger to follow the print as you read together.

Photo by full*instrumental

8. Let your baby chew on board books. I promise that this counts as a literacy experience!
9. Point out writing as you go on walks or trips. Print is everywhere when you start looking!
10. Hold the book upside down every once in a while and let your child correct you.

Letter Recognition:
Has your child learned their ABCs? Letter recognition is a key component of reading readiness.
11. Keep a set of alphabet magnets on the fridge.
12. Point out the first letter of your child’s name anywhere you see it (cereal boxes, billboards, store signage, etc.)
13. Sing the alphabet song. Try it backwards, too, or with a funky beat!
14. Read alphabet books that have large, clear print.
15. Draw letters together. Use unique or exciting art supplies to keep it fun.

Narrative Skills:
Can your child tell a story? Can they describe events or explain what’s happening? Being able to understand and tell a story is part of learning to read, and it’s important to overall reading comprehension.

16. After you finish a story or TV show, ask your child to retell you what happened.
17. Ask, “What do you think is going to happen next?” as you read a book or watch a movie.
18. Ask your child to tell you a story as you cook dinner.
19. Tell a story while you take a walk. Classics like the Three Little Pigs and Little Red Riding Hood are great ways to show kids that stories can be told in different words and still mean the same thing.
20. Re-read books. (I told you that you were probably already doing some of these!) Hearing the stories again and again (and again) helps children understand the plot and recognize the pattern of a story.

Photo by Woof Nanny

Phonological Awareness:
Can your child hear the smaller sounds that make up words? (For instance, “apple” breaks down to “a” and “pull.”) Do they recognize rhyming words like “cat” and “bat”?

21. Sing songs together. In songs, each syllable is naturally assigned a different note, so it’s super-easy for kids to figure out the different components of words.
22. Play rhyming games. Take turns coming up with nonsense rhyming words.
23. Sing nursery rhymes together.
24. Discover words together that start with the same letter as his or her first name.
25. Clap out syllables to words, like bal-loon or um-brel-la. This is fun to do when you read board books that have one word on each page.

Does your child have a big enough word bank to help them recognize and use words they see in print?

26. Take a discovery walk, where you identify items you see.
27. Offer the name of an item when your child points to something or asks for the “thing.”
28. Read the words on a page as they are. Don’t replace big or challenging words with easier ones. They’ll have an easier time recognizing those words when they do start reading if they’ve heard them a few times before.
29. Ask follow-up questions and add details to their responses. (”It’s a bird.” “Yes, it’s a bird with blue feathers.”)
30. Just talk to each other. Talk about your days, your feelings, what you’re doing (”Now I’m stirring up the batter. Do you think it will taste good?”) Use the same words as you would when talking to a friend.

Frugal Fun for summer!

14 Fun, Frugal Summer Activities by

Day 1. See a “one dollar” movie at the theater. Many theater chains around the country offer summer movie programs for kids where they offer a “one dollar” movie every day for a week, or on a particular day of the week all summer.

Day 2. Sprinkler day. Delay your sprinklers for one day so they come a little later in the morning. This way everyone can get on their bathing suits and have fun jumping through the sprinklers on a hot day. But not for too long! This is a good time to teach them about conserving water, reducing utility costs, etc.

Day 3. Attend “story time” at your local library. My kids love to check out books on all kinds of subjects. My son currently has three library books on swimming, pirates and going to the dentist (quite a diverse reader, huh?). Many libraries also have a story time to encourage a summer reading program. Stories are read out loud and the kids have a chance to interact with the story-teller and answer questions about the book.

Day 4. Set up a lemonade stand. This is probably my favorite idea because of the lessons in entrepreneurship involved. Loan your kids $10 as “seed money” for supplies, or better yet, let them use their own money from savings. This way they don’t get used to the idea that borrowing leads to prosperity. Take the kids along to the grocery store one morning and let them pick up the lemons, sugar, cups, and a couple bags of ice to keep in a cooler. Yes, Crystal Light lemonade works, too, but is less authentic and more expensive. This is a great way for neighborhood kids to work together, as they can divide into teams to man the lemonade stand, make the lemonade, handle the money, etc. Please remember that an adult needs to be with the kids at all times, both inside and outside the house, so have a neighbor help.

Day 5. Teach your kids to fly a kite. Check your 10-day forecast and look for a windy day in the coming week. Pick up an expensive kite for the kids. I even recommend springing for the extra spool of kite string on a roller because the string and handles that come with the kites are lousy.

Day 6. Make homemade play-doh. I haven’t run a cost analysis on this recipe to determine it’s “frugalness,” but I can tell you it is a lot of fun! I suppose the next best option would be to pick up some commercial Play-Doh on sale, but what fun would that be?

Day 7. Bake a cake. I remember having a ball helping my mom bake something when I was young. And not all the fun came at the end when I got to lick the icing from the bowl! Let your kids help bake a cake, and surprise mom or dad when they arrive home that afternoon.

Plenty of teachable moments here with opportunities to teach fractions (four 1/4 cups equals one cup, etc.). By the way, my wife made this pirate birthday cake for my son’s birthday last week. Arrrgghhh!

Day 8. Build a “fort” in the living room. When my son was smaller he got the biggest kick out of playing in giant cardboard boxes. We would color them, and cut “windows” out for him to look through. A living room “fort” could be as simple as a few kitchen chairs gathered in a circle with a large bed sheet thrown across them and draped to the floor. The kids can hide from mom and dad, read books, or pretend they are camping out in the living room.

Day 9. Go bowling. My grandfather and I spent many hot, summer afternoons bowling a couple games at the local bowling alley. These days, bowling can be an expensive activity. Call the lanes ahead of time and ask if they have any summer specials (certain days may be cheaper). Also check those coupon mailer packs for coupons for free games. To keep costs down, just let the kids bowl - you can work on your game another time.

Day 10. Declare a “bored” game day. I learned to play chess, checkers, backgammon, and poker (my mom wasn’t thrilled with that) one summer while staying with my grandparents. Few kids today don’t realize you can play games without a computer. Most of these old board games are inexpensive in their basic form - skip the “deluxe” edition to save even more.

Day 11. Have a water balloon fight. My son attended a birthday party recently and the parents had filled several dozen mini balloons with water. The kids participated in games like a water balloon toss - they start close together, but take a step back with each toss to increase the distance. The last one to break the balloon is out. With that was left, the kids had an all-out water balloon battle. Lots of fun, but be sure to pick up the balloon remains, especially if you have very little ones or pets as they could be a choking hazard.

Day 12. Create a “mini-me.” Find a piece of large poster board, or large heavy-duty paper (such as a butcher paper) wide enough for your kids to lay down on. Use a dull pencil (less chance for boo-boos) to trace their entire body to the paper from head to toe. Now let the kids decorate the kids to look like themselves in the same clothes they are wearing, same color eyes, hair, etc. When they are finished, help them cut out their mini-me for proud display.

Day 13. Pajama day. I feel like having these days as an adult! Stay in your pajamas all day long. Make pancakes in the morning, bake a pizza for lunch, and lounge around watching movies. Use your Netflix subscription to have a couple kid-friendly movies on hand.

Day 14. Spend a day volunteering your time. A good way to wrap up your two-week blitz of summertime fun is to allow your kids to donate their time to a worthy cause. Contact a few local charities and find out which ones will allow kids to volunteer some time over the summer (under your supervision). My daughter has worked with Project Linus in the past - an organization that makes blankets for children who’ve suffered a traumatic experience.

So there you have it; fourteen days of frugal summer fun! I’d love to hear your ideas as well.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mom and Dad Ideas!

Do you ever feel like life gets so busy taking care of children and all the household responsibilities, that there seems to be no energy left for the most important role we have... as a wife! I know I do, and its always good to be reminded that you and hubby can have fun and make time for eachother, without breaking the bank! Here are some ideas of things you can do together, with out the kids...

Low on cash? Date like you’re still in high school and enjoy these fun ideas together.
1. Have a dance party in your living room and dance to your favorite songs from high school.

2. Borrow a movie from the library or find a movie on Hulu and make homemade stovetop popcorn while watching the classics.

3. Pack some cheese, crackers, and grapes and your favorite old quilt and have a picnic on the lawn.

4. Sit on the roof and watch the sunset together.

5. Get dressed up in your most formal clothes and go to the coffee shop as if you’ve just been to a gala.

6. Sit on a sidewalk bench and people watch, making up fake names and stories about the people you see.

7. Play board games and see who is the ultimate Hungry, Hungry Hippos champion.

8. Go on a hike.

9. Bring your camera and take photos together at the tourist spots around town.

10. Make s’mores over candlelight.

11. Visit the museum on free admission night.

12. Go to the book store and look at travel books, and then plan your dream vacation.

13. Go to the farmers market and buy a new fruit that you’ve never tried.

14. Carry along a loaf of old bread and feed the ducks at the lake.

15. Go to a new restaurant and split a decadent dessert.

16. Fly a kite at the park.

17. Cuddle on the couch and reminisce about “remember when”, telling your favorite stories of when you first started dating.

18. Go to the botanic gardens and hold hands while you stroll.

19. Get a pint of ice cream, hang up twinkle lights on the patio, and enjoy your ice cream outside together in the evening.

20. Go swimming without the kids.

What are some of your ideas for inexpensive date ideas? Leave a comment and share!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Homemade Bubbles

Recipe for Homemade Bubbles:

4 cups Water
1 cup Dish Soap - we had Palmolive, but I’ve seen Ajax, Joy, Dawn used.
1/4 cup Corn Syrup
container - plastic tub, gallon jug
Pour and mix all of the ingredients into a bowl or jug. I suggest using a funnel to help with the pouring if you’re using a plastic jug container. Using a jug is great so you can shake it up really good, but you could whisk it all together in a bowl too. Let the solution settle a little, then pour it into a flat container, like a plastic tub. This way it’s easier to dip your items into the solution.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Learning colors

Color Cards

Construction paper
Black marker
Clear contact paper

Make up two sets of cards from construction paper.
Start with only a few colors, working your way up to the nine basic colors (red, green, blue, brown, yellow, orange, purple, black, and white).
If you like, write the names of each color on the card.
Cover the cards with clear contact paper.
Spread the cards out on a table and begin by picking up one of the cards and saying, "I have a red card. Can you hand me the other red card?"
After a while, your child will enjoy matching the cards all by herself.
Store the cards in a small Ziploc bag when not in use.

Paper Fish Necklace

This makes a great seasonal activity, too. Instead of fish, cut holiday shapes such as hearts or shamrocks.


Uncooked tube-shaped pasta, dyed or painted in bright colors
Construction paper
Hole punch
Shoelace (18 inches or longer)

Cut 3- to 4-inch-long fish shapes from various colors of construction paper; punch a hole for an eye in each fish.
Show your child how to string the painted or dyed pasta alternately with the fish shapes onto the shoelace; tie the ends together to make a necklace. (Instead of using tube-shaped pasta, you can use straws cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths, but these will be more difficult for toddlers to string.)

Salad spinner art

Salad Spinner Art
This is a good activity for older toddlers. You may want to donate your salad spinner to the craft box after you do this activity.


Salad spinner
Paper plate

Remove the plastic insert from the salad spinner and place a small paper plate in the bottom.
Replace the insert on top of the paper plate.
Dribble a little paint into the spinner, put the lid on, and spin.
If you like, add another color or two and spin some more for a nice effect.

Popcorn Pictures


Popped popcorn
Glue stick or white glue
Construction paper
Brown paper bag (optional)
Tempera paint powder (optional)

Rub the glue stick on a piece of construction paper or spread white glue with a brush.
Stick popped popcorn onto the construction paper to make a collage.
For a winter scene, use plain white popcorn.
For spring blossoms, shake the popcorn in a brown paper bag with powdered tempera paint, then glue the popcorn onto a flower shape cut from construction paper.
For variety, try using Cheerios or puffed rice cereal instead.

Paper Bag Faces

Some toddlers may lose interest in this activity once the paper bag is stuffed. That's okay, because the real value of this activity for the toddler is in the tearing of paper.


Newspaper or old magazines for tearing
Paper bag
Rubber band
Crayon, marker, or paint

Tear up old newspapers or magazines.
Crumple up the pieces and stuff them in a paper bag.
When the bag is full, seal the end with a rubber band.
Then draw or paint a big happy face on the paper bag.
This item will work well as a large, lightweight object for your toddler to lift, carry, or throw.

Foot Loop Craft

Froot Loop Sand

Froot Loops cereal
Food processor or rolling pin
Construction paper
Glue stick

Make Froot Loop Sand by crushing Froot Loops cereal in a food processor or with a rolling pin.
Rub the glue stick onto a piece of construction paper, then sprinkle the Froot Loop sand onto it.
If your child dumps the sand onto the picture all at once, that's okay; just tip the picture onto another piece of paper and the excess will slide off.
For variety, try using a clean, empty spice container to shake the Froot Loop sand onto the glue.

Chalk Crafts

Chalk Fun
There was a time that chalk was just for chalkboards and sidewalks. Now inexpensive chalk is available in a variety of colors and thicknesses, and you can use it creatively in many different art endeavors. The following ideas will help you use chalk in ways you may not have considered before.


Hair spray (optional)
Water (optional)
Sponge (optional)
Liquid starch and/or buttermilk (optional)
Paintbrush (optional)
Sugar (optional)
Cotton balls (optional)

Draw with chalk on a piece of plain paper or construction paper. Spray with hair spray to set the chalk.
Wet your paper with a damp sponge and draw on the wet paper with chalk.
Paint a piece of paper with liquid starch. While it's still wet, make designs with colored chalk.
Brush buttermilk over the surface of your paper, then use chalk to draw on it.

Toddler Mural

Toddlers love to color and will usually color on anything and everything if you let them. Try this idea if you have a runaway artist in your home.


Large sheet of drawing paper
Art easel
Fat crayons

Tape a large sheet of drawing paper to the easel.
Cut several pieces of yarn about 2 feet in length.
Cut a small notch at one end of each crayon and wrap and tie a length of yarn around it.
Tie the other end of the yarn to the top of the easel. (Be sure to cut the yarn long enough to reach the paper, but not so long that it poses a choking hazard.)
Now your toddler can scribble any time she wants without waiting for you to set out the crayons and paper.
If you don't have an art easel but do have an empty wall in the basement or playroom, use that instead. Tape a large sheet of paper to the wall. Above the paper, hammer in a few nails and attach the yarn and crayons to the nails.

Foot Tracing

Foot Tracing

Drawing paper
Crayons, markers, or paints

Have your child stand on a piece of paper while you trace around her feet with a pen or crayon.
Then trace your own feet and compare sizes.
Color the feet with crayons, markers, or paints.
Older children may want to use crayons, markers, or paint to add nail polish and funny rings to the toes.