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5-presidents-day-activities

So far we have had a dreary couple of days of crazy winter weather. The temps have been up and down. We have had rain, snow, sleet and ice. It doesn’t feel like a really colorful time of year. Thankfully February brings some fun colorful activities into our world.  We do a lot to celebrate Valentine’s Day at home, like making gifts for our friends, but we often overlook President’s Day. It isn’t as sweet as Valentine’s Day so I am always stuck on fun things to do with my kids. This year I’m feeling (a little) more prepared.

My kids are in school and I am sure their teachers are doing a fantastic job teaching them about our country’s presidents and what it means to be the president of the United States of America. Maybe your kids aren’t in school just yet, or maybe you homeschool, or you simply want a few fun things to do on your extra day off with the kids. So here are some fun things to do!

5 fun activities to celebrate President’s Day:

Exercise your right to vote. Let your kids vote on breakfast. Pick two breakfast foods and hand out ballots to cast their votes.  Anyone who is eating breakfast gets a vote and the most popular vote wins. It is a quick and easy activity, but it gives young kids a taste of the election process. (Pun totally intended).

Help your child imagine a better world. Ask your kids to write down their answers to this question, “If I were President I would …” Not only will it be fun to hear their answers, but this can help kids imagine the good things they can do in this world.

Take a trip to the library. I know this is my go-to answer for everything. If we are bored we head to the library. But that’s because there is so much to learn and do there! If your child is old enough to read check out a couple of age appropriate books that describe the presidential process or a biography on a specific president. Check the library calendar there may even be some fun President’s Day themed activities happening right there.

Always stop for a snack. Anything you can think of that can represent the red, white and blue of the American flag is easiest. For example: a berry and yogurt parfait, or a bagel with cream cheese and fresh berries. If you are feeling ambitious make some cupcakes together, use white frosting with blue and red sprinkles. I like to use whatever we have on hand. Pull out some ingredients and let your kids get creative.

Show them the money. Take out any cash you have on hand and Google some facts about the president you see. My kids love when we get to ask the phone some questions. It is pretty amazing to me that we can speak a question into this little piece of technology and have answers in seconds. When I was the same age as my kids I’d have to walk across town, enter a building, pull open a drawer in the card catalog and find directions to a book hidden somewhere on a shelf. That was like half a day! Kids today … they don’t know how good they have it.

I like to keep things simple, yet celebratory. This isn’t one of those holidays you need to go completely elaborate with. Choosing any of these activities adds just a little fun and acknowledges the day.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

What is fine motor skills anyway? Basically fine motor functions include the muscle groups needed for handwriting and hand eye coordination. Focusing on crafts and art activities that require kids to use small and coordinated movements helps build on those skills and develop those muscles.

My kids are still young and working hard on those fine motor skills. So we tend to focus on projects that help us work those small muscle groups and flex those fingers. When I found this project I thought it looks fun and like a great way for us to work some skills without it feeling like work.

heart-collage

Materials:

Paper plates

Hole punch

String or yarn

Scissors

Exacto knife

First you will need to cut out a heart shaped template. You can cheat (like I did) and print a heart shape to cut out, or simply fold a paper in half and cut out a heart. Next you trace around the heart shape, and last use the exacto knife to score (or cut depending on how thick your plates are) the shape. I did this part for the kids, but they used the scissors to cut out. If your knife does not cut all the way through use the scissors to cut the shape out of the plate.

heart-template

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After you cut the shape, use the hole punch to punch individual holes around the outside of the heart (go through the inside of the heart).

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We taped one edge of the string to the back of the plate so we could push the other end through the holes. Zig-zag your stitches to allow for a more unique design. If the ends fray a bit, just wrap in tape to give it a sturdier end, or if you have a kid friendly sewing needle you can use that to guide the string through.

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When you are complete this will make a really unique Valentines’ day decoration, or a fun piece of art to hang in your window to admire. How easy is this? You are done in ten minutes, no mess and your kids just worked on hand eye coordination.

My kids discovered this bonus craft. Punch holes around the outside of the heart shape you cut out of the plate. Attach a piece of string to the back and use it to lace around the outside edge. Viola! A homemade lacing card! It’s amazing what your kids will think of when you get them creating!

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The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

After sharing about our wonderful experience at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art I signed up to follow along on the museum’s Facebook page. I am glad I did because I found this tutorial video on their page! How cute are these bookmarks? They are easier to make than they look!

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I very rarely make a craft I find in a viral video. I always feel mislead by the hype of an easy craft. These are pro-crafters and everything they make is going to look amazing. Besides isn’t it edited to look like anyone can do it? But I got caught up in making these because they are so different and I am a sucker for a kid made bookmark.

The first one or two tries produced some wonky results. The third time was the charm because we finally found our folding groove. Nothing has to be measured precisely, you simply trace. You do have to be sure the heart lines are cut equally for them to align nicely.

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I used the template accompanying the video. However, I did have to make a few adjustments in a photo editor to eliminate all the unnecessary previews. Colored ink is a precious resource around here and I am not wasting a drop on printing extra stuff I don’t need. Once I printed what we needed I cut it out and traced several copies to the back side of large sized scrap book paper.

After we folded where appropriate, and connected the hearts, we were able to decorate and personalize our little book marks. The template also included smaller hearts to trace and cut out. Once you glue the embellishments it will secure the bookmark and keep the hearts in place. After making a few of these I think stickers work so much easier!

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My girls are about to start a read-a-thon at school and with Valentine’s Day coming up I think these will make really unique and fun gifts for their classmates. It’s a simple enough project that we can make a few of them each day. Plus, these last a lot longer than lollipops and pink candies; and they can be recycled when no longer wanted.

What do you think? Would your little reader love making these personalized bookmarks?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

top-5-fun-activities-of-2016-fromthe-whatever-mom

Happy 2017 Everybody!

As the new year begins I like to take a look back at what worked for us during the previous year. I always wonder if there are any traditions, or fun activities we’d do again. I like to look over the photos we took on our adventures through the year and relive the fun. I also take a look over my blog posts to see where in the Hudson Valley we’ve been and what activities we’ve enjoyed the most.

My kids and I have really enjoyed our travels in the Hudson Valley and beyond. There are so many great places to see and fun things to do in our gorgeous valley. But it can been a challenge to find fun things to do when the weather keeps us inside. Somehow we always find something fun! So I gathered up my top five posts for indoor activities we enjoyed in 2016.

TOP 5 INDOOR ACTIVITIES

SENSORY PLAY– Sensory activities are always a hit for us. We discovered water beads in 2015, but have been playing with them ever since. We keep them stored in a mason jar and the kids have to wash their hands before use. We get quite a few uses out of them before we throw them away and start with a fresh set.
water-bead-scoops

COOKINGDIY Play Dough kind of counts as a cooking activity. There is no stove required, but there is measuring, mixing and pouring involved. All necessary skills for life and in the end the quiet time is so worth the mayhem of cooking with kids.play-dough-boxes2

 

BAKING– this can be stressful with kids because it can get messy and chaotic. Take a little help from the store and buy already made dough. Then the rest of the time the kids can play with the dough and make some fun DIY fossil cookiesdino-prints

 

FAMILY FUN– starting a weekly family game night is a fun way to connect with each other and unwind with some laughs. In February we decided to  Start A Family Game Night. It has been a great way to forget about the stress of the week and a makes a great kick off to the weekend!

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CRAFTS– of course we always include craft projects. The biggest hit this year was our Paper Hand Puppets. It was such a creative, fun way for the kids to use their imagination. Not only did they create each puppet on their own, but those puppets became characters in their play time.

puppet-friends

These are just a handful of the fun activities we do each week at home. Now that my kids are a little older I am hoping to do some more art themed projects. I hope 2017 brings all of us some new creativity and inspiration.

If you are like me you might like to plan fun visits ahead of time. So, next week I am sharing a review of our top favorite things to do and places to go in the Hudson Valley.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

 

5-ways-to

So this was a crazy week at my house. I had a lovely stomach bug that set me back an entire weekend and made for a crazy week of catching up. As a result I was busy rushing around, maybe a little too fast, and smashed my hand. I thought I broke my thumb, but thankfully it is just a wicked sprain. Five days later and it is still swollen and really hurts. As a crafty blogger that kind of limits what I can do with one hand. I thought about sharing five different ways to splint an injury using only a Popsicle stick, but realize that doesn’t really qualify as a craft.

I shared with you last week 7 fun things to do with bubble wrap, so I thought I’d share what to do with all those left over shipping boxes!

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We didn’t make anything this week due to the aforementioned hand injury. But, we did do a little research!

My kids and I are hooked on watching videos on Box Yourself YouTube channel. What this guy can make from a box or cardboard tube is amazing! You need extra supplies like paint and a box cutter, but if you are in a serious project mode, or have an older kid, these could be fun!

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If you have really little kids you could literally give them a box to play with and they’ll magically turn it into something fun simply using their imagination. If you want to add some color without making a mess, just give them a box of crayons or washable markers and some stickers. Prepare for some quiet entertainment.

Here are 5 ways we’ve used left over shipping boxes:

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BOX TUNNEL – every kid loves to climb into a cardboard box. It feels like a little space just for them. Tape together several large boxes end to end and allow your kid to crawl through. If you are feeling really ambitious you can poke holes in the top and push through Christmas lights. This makes a fun starry effect inside the tunnel.

AUTOMOBILES– help your kiddo transform a plain box into a car or truck. Use paper plates for the wheels, duct tape to make lines for windows and doors (if you don’t want to deal with paint). You can make a steering wheel from a paper towel tube and another paper plate, or cardboard circle. Your kid will spend hours driving this car through their imagination. Throw in a pillow and blanket, park the car in front of the TV and you have an instant indoor drive in.

DIARAMA– building small scenes inside of a box can help kids really use their preplanning skills to imagine a small world inside an ordinary box. Once your child selects a theme they can draw a scene inside the box, or glue items inside to create a 3-D effect.

CITY SCAPES– set up a row of boxes and let your child paint a different store front on each. Again, if you don’t like paint hand them markers instead. Attach signs for Bakery, Grocery, and Barber etc. Your kid can pretend to run errands with their stuffed animals in tow.

TREASURE CHEST– let the kids decorate any way they like and use to store their favorite treasures in. My kids like to pretend they are pirates discovering hidden treasure. Super easy and super fun!

Hope you are enjoying the Christmas break with the kids and remember boxes are better than any toy at any age! But if your household has outgrown the magic of finding a good box, you can always use them to pack up donations in and send off to your local Good Will, OR other favorite charity. Here’s how.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year! Here’s to much healthy and happiness in 2017!! As always thanks for reading each week!!

Oh and p.s. if you are looking for a fun way to use those paper towel tubes, check out my post from last year, Pom-Poms and Cardboard, Expensive Toys Are Overrated.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

7-fun-things-todo-with-bubble-wrap

So this is a record breaking Christmas season here at the “casa de Whatever.” Not only did my husband and I put the tree up and decorate it without a complaint, but this is also the first time in a decade he has his Christmas shopping finished the first week of December. I know… give that man a round of applause. What’s his secret? Amazon, baby! Yep, he finally caught up with the times and shopped for everything online this year and had it shipped to the house.

This may have saved him a lot of time, but now my house is filled with boxes and left over shipping supplies. And now, we have extraordinary amounts of bubble wrap! This is free entertainment! Popping it is so much, but I started to wonder what other fun I was missing out on.

Here are 7 Fun Things to Do with Bubble Wrap:

PRINTS

The bubbles on the plastic wrap make such a cool texture once you paint and print with it. You simply, lay a piece of bubble wrap flat, paint it and then flip it over to print on paper. Nope, you’re not missing a step, it really is that easy!

SHAPES 

You can cut out different shapes to paint and print with. This works great for making animal shapes, especially animals with scales like a fish, or lizard. You can also just make shapes that your little one can recognize and let them pop away for a multi-sensory learning experience.

STOMP & PAINT

Wrap your kids’ feet in plastic wrap and let them stop around to make a popping sound. If you want to level up a parenting notch, let them walk through paint and step along a sheet of paper leaving behind tracks.

ROADWAY

Tape squares of bubble wrap, or a long piece of wrap to the floor. Use blue painters tape for easy removal and tape along the edges. Let your kid drive their cars over it until they pop every last bubble.

SENSORY FUN

If you have a small piece of bubble wrap, insert it into a Zip Lock baggie and pour in a little paint. Seal it up and let the kids (or you) squish it around. This has a really cool feel!

UNIQUE GIFTS

I found this on one Pinterest. Making a stress relief pack requires bubble wrap and a label that reads, “For maximum stress relief pop 3-4 capsules several times per day.” Super cute and fun! Give out to your kids teacher, the mail man, your office partners. Anyone who could use a good laugh for stress relief.

A few years ago when the girls were just toddlers, I took them to a Little Picasso art workshop at a local library where we painted bubble wrap. The kids absolutely loved it! It was messy and noisy fun for everyone!   If you don’t want to get messy with paint, bubble wrap is totally fun on its own. Lay it on the floor and stomp on it, roll on it, go slow and pop one bubble at a time, or even roll it up and twist it. There is no wrong way to play with bubble wrap!

he Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

5-simple-crafts-for-thanksgiving-day

Back in the day when I was just an auntie and had no children of my own, Thanksgiving seemed like such a warm and carefree holiday. I loved getting up early to get our feast started. I’d peel, boil and bake my way through hours of the early morning. I’d pass the time waiting for dinner with my nieces and nephews crafting, or head outside for a scavenger hunt. Our dinner arrived at the perfect temperature and in a fluid succession of flavors.

Today’s reality looks more like me running through the house in my pajamas trying to get everyone to settle down and leave me alone in my kitchen glory. I race through the side dishes listening to kids whining about how much they HATE sweet potatoes and nearly barf at the thought of eating gravy; in between complaints about how HUNgry they are. *sigh*

I remember one Thanksgiving when I was about five, my mom helped us craft a Native American headdress from construction paper, and no joke made EACH of us a vest out of a paper grocery bag WITH FRINGE.   My mom made fringe out of a paper bag for 4 kids (man I wish I had a picture of that!).  I think we’ll go a tad simpler this year.

5 (fringe free) super easy crafts to keep the kids entertained on turkey day:

PLACE CARDS

These do not need to be fancy. Using a simple index card folded in half, or a colorful piece of construction paper works too.  If your child can write, or is learning to write, make a list of names for them to copy onto each card. They can check off the names as they go and place the cards at each place setting.

For little ones who cannot write, making thumb print turkeys can be fun! You, or another adult, will have to work with your kiddo to dip one thumb in some paint and place it on a card. This does not have to be perfect, or even resemble a turkey. It just has to be fun and out of the kitchen area.

GRATITUDE CHAIN

We love making paper chains, and I bet you have all the supplies you already need. Use whatever paper you have on hand, colorful construction paper, plain white printer paper, it doesn’t matter. Cut the paper into strips and have each kid write something they are thankful for.  Start the chain by bending the strip into a circle and stapling, or taping the ends to close up the loop. Repeat until you have made a chain. Your kids will feel proud when you hang it up near the dinner table.

COVER YOUR TABLE IN ART

I love to put out a fancy table cloth for special meals. It just feels a little more special. But kids are messy and it can be stressful watching your nice things get destroyed. So we roll out brown packaging paper and let the kids create their own table “cloth.” They trace their hands and color in to look like turkeys, practice letter writing with holiday messages and drawing whatever comes to mind. Now if they spill I’m not so annoyed. The paper gets tossed in the recycling bin and there’s no mess for me!

PAPER BAG PUPPETS

Again, using whatever you have on hand works. Raid your pantry for small paper plates, or reuse paper shopping bags. Have kids cut out feathers to glue to the back of the bag, draw a face and now you have instant puppets.

ART KITS

If you read this post before dinner starts, there is no shame in buying a ready to use kit with all the supplies inside. Get out to the dollar store or Target and pick up those play packets with stickers, a coloring book and some crayons.

I set hubby and the kids up with the supplies, show them how to get started and I quietly float away to finish off the green beans. Whether you are hosting, or traveling to visit the in-laws your kids will enjoy getting to help make decorations for the feast. Having a little quiet time to think is one more reason to give thanks. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

You may also enjoy reading Friday Favorites- Kid’s Mini Travel Activity Pouch before you travel this holiday season.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

8-thoughtful-christmas-gifts

Last week I shared my thoughts for putting less crap under the tree this year. I want to be able to manage the things we bring into our home, and still allow my kids the excitement of Christmas. First, I am taking a look at what my kids already own and how they like to spend their play time. We already have a bunch of play sets with tiny accessories that end up lost, or broken. I don’t want to add to them. With winter coming there will be more time spent inside, which means plenty of time to play with the mountain of stuff they already have. This year I am looking to give my kids thoughtful, personalized gifts that do not require me picking them up off the floor!

HERE IS WHAT MY KIDS ARE GETTING THIS YEAR

PERSONALIZED APRON

I am having a personalized apron made from one of my old dresses from childhood. I just love the print and I vowed to one day make it into something. That was 20-years ago. I discovered hand-made children’s aprons at Boudoir Baby in Saugerties. It seemed like the perfect way to re-purpose this dress, and I can have the aprons personalized with my kids’ names! The aprons will fold neatly and fit in the same drawer I keep my own apron.

KID SIZED COOKING UTENSILS

To go along with their special aprons we are giving them kid friendly utensils of their own. The set I found on curiouschef.com includes a kid safe knife. This makes me feel a little safer while teaching them cooking skills. I can easily store these items alongside our own utensils. No extra storage needed!

DIY KITS

We make a lot of fun crafts and cookies at home. So packing up the ingredients for a fun make your own sundae box, or ingredients for sugar cookies are a guaranteed hit! We use up all the ingredients and eat the cookies. There’s nothing left to store or maintain! Packing DIY craft kits or art kit means we use everything for one project and we are done. No left over materials to find a home for!

A YEAR OF DATES

I found this idea last year and I can’t wait to give it a try this year. I mentioned last week it is always a struggle to get enough one on one time with each kid. But stacking up date day coupons, gift certificates, or prepaid tickets to an event to use on those date days will really help us remember to schedule them in.  I found this post to be helpful in making this into a gift. TIP: be sure to check with your credit card companies, or bank for reward points. You can often trade in those points for gift certificates to restaurants or retail stores. You can get free gift certificates to pay for your adventures! We will have to leave the house for these adventures so there’s nothing left to clean up!

A DRESS UP STATION

We already have a bunch of dress up clothes in a bin. Everything gets mangled and pawed through. I plan on taking the time to sort through the old stuff and introducing a few new pieces (even if they are second hand) to bring new life to this area of the play room. A short book case with a tension rod quickly creates a whole new space for my kids most cherished play things. I am not even going to wrap this up. Just leave it off to the side and hang up new to them dress up sets. Since this replaces the messy bin, it doesn’t take up any extra space.

PERSONALIZED CHRISTMAS ORNAMENTS

Every year we buy a special ornament for each kid. This year I want something more personal and not the same expensive, plastic ornament every other kid has on their tree. I am in love with the classic look of silhouettes, but I can never get my girls to sit still long enough to make one myself. So, I asked Alexa of Personalized by Lexi Quinn to create a one of a kind ornament that captures my kids’ silhouettes and personalized with their name and date. These will be packed away year after year which means no stuff lingering in the toy room.

PERSONALIZED LAP DESK

These are perfect for my kids who like to read and create where ever they go. They can use them while sitting on the couch watching TV, or while sitting on the floor coloring. I asked local mom Jen Ward, from Just Round the Block, who creates personalized gifts to make these. No wrapping here either- just nice, pretty bows placed on top and leave them off to the side. My girls can fill the pockets with their favorite things they already have. This will help me round up the extra art supplies typically found around the house.

BEANIE BOO SLIPPERS

I am putting a ban on stuffed loves. If I even see another stuffed animal I might scream! Our entire home is overrun with fluffy lions and tigers and bears! Oh my! Buuuut… my kids can never pass up a Beanie Boo. In fact, their love runs so deep they make me take their pictures with all their favorites while we are out shopping. Since they are due for new slippers anyway, and I can donate the excellent condition pairs they’ve out grown, I’ll allow this mash up of Beanie Boos and useful slippers.

STOCKING STUFFERS

Enchanted Lip Balm by Three Sisters Herbal will be one of our new favorites! I love using this for myself! There are other really great products Three Sisters offers that my kids are able to enjoy since they are all natural and organic. It is a very reputable, local company which is always a win.

Krause’s Candy is another one of our favorites. Every year we get a packaged bag of Christmas foil wrapped chocolates and divvy between the stockings. My kids look forward to these every year.

Other things I put in their stockings include things they already need: tooth brushes, socks, extra gloves, a new watch, their favorite shampoo and conditioner, pocket packs of tissues, etc.  These items will replenish our supply and be used up. Ergo zero long term storage necessary!

There are 8 specially thought out gift ideas! No extra stuff to clutter up the house. No batteries required. I’m sure we will fill in the rest of the gift list with clothes they need and one special gift only Santa can bring- which we are still thinking about.  More than I want less crap at Christmas, I want my kids to understand that the real gift is in the giving. The thought we put into gifts can be greater than the actual gift.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

5-tips-for-more-thoughtful-christmas-gifts

How crazy is it that we had snow four days before Halloween? Then, the very next day it’s a typical fall day? I expected a nice dusting of snow that we could simply leave a few foot prints in on our way to school, and then it would all melt away. But noooo. I had to break out the shovels!  While my kids were helping me clear the driveway they began singing Christmas carols and asking me when Santa is coming. They forgot entirely that we didn’t even get through trick or treat yet!

But all that caroling had me thinking about Christmas and our Christmas list. In the past I have shared my $150 Christmas spending plan with tips on how to spend less to get more. This year I am going for no plastic toys and all the crap that comes along with it. We have so much stuff in our house it is almost impossible to keep up with. No more toys with tiny parts. No more Lego sets that are eventually dumped all over the floor. No more extra pieces. This is the year we say no more crappy toys for Christmas!

It isn’t just the overkill of toys that I am looking to change; I’m looking to add more thoughtfulness to our holiday.  When I was growing up there wasn’t enough money to go around, so we put a lot of thought into what we did buy and dressed it up really pretty. Or we made it a funny experience by wrapping small gifts inside of a box, wrapped inside of a box, wrapped inside of another box. Sometimes we’d have to hunt for a gift somewhere on the tree.  And sometimes we even made gifts for each other.

Today it is just too easy to lavish our families with flashy electronics, or a brand new ride on toy, or toys with lots of lights and sounds. But what happens to those toys in the long run? You can hand them off to another child eventually, but plastic things never truly go away. Once they’ve outlived their use they get tossed directly into the trash. My husband and I decided to keep eco-friendly in mind when making our purchases this year.

As I put together my shopping plan this year, here are the questions I am asking myself:

  1. WHAT DO MY KIDS PLAY WITH? My kids really enjoy special characters like the Octonauts, Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony. Instead of buying them the plastic characters and accessories (which we already have a ton of), I am keeping an eye out for plushy toys, puzzles and books and clothing sets with those characters. These are all more eco-friendly and still fun.
  2. WHAT DO WE DO FOR FUN? My kids love going to places like Fun-e-farm, Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum and eating at their favorite restaurants. Those places ALL offer gift certificates. Buying them tickets, or gift certificates for an experience to enjoy together means no toys cluttering up my house.
  3. WHAT DO MY KIDS NEED? Do they have enough warm shirts? Enough pants? Do they need shoes, or sneakers? Yes, it is the cliche mom thing to slide packages of wrapped socks under the tree in stealth like fashion. But why mess with tradition? And again, no tiny pieces to step on here!
  4. WHAT ARE MY KIDS LACKING? In our house it can be difficult to get enough time one on one with each kid. With busy work schedules, school routines and all the “adulting” we do as parents we often fall short on spending time together with just a parent and one child. I’m thinking those gift certificates will pair nicely with a calendar filled with special date days.
  5. HOW ARE MY KIDS SPENDING THEIR TIME? Right now we aren’t participating in any extra curricular activities. But my girls do like to take swim lessons during the winter to learn water safety skills as well as get some good exercise. Swim lessons or a membership to a Karate school or gymnastics school take up zero space in the home!

This year we plan to go with the less is more concept with a smaller quantity of better quality gifts. There may be a few toys in there to enjoy along side of the prepaid experiences we are putting under the tree. But with enough thoughtful planning we won’t find any plastic, cookie cutter toys among the gifts.

Stay tuned for my post next week where I share our actual gift giving list!

Do you plan your gift giving, or just wing it?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

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I really love making candied apples in the fall. But that hard shell coating can be difficult for little ones to bite through. Chocolate, or caramel dipped apples can be so much easier for little ones to eat. Except that my kids never finish an entire apple by themselves. I usually cut it into slices so they can enjoy a portioned sized amount of sweets. It never occurred to me to slice the apples before dipping!

Saturday’s weather was all day dreary. All our fun activities for the day were cancelled so that left us home. We baked and cleaned because what else do you do for long stretches of time with no plans? Just as we were finishing up chores and the kids were begging for something fun to do I remembered I have everything we need to make chocolate dipped apple pops. My kids were in heaven!

Here is what you need:

3 Large apples- any variety

Wooden craft sticks, or skewers- without stain or finish

Chocolate chips

Decorative candies or sprinkles

Begin by washing and drying your apples. Next, slice apples on each side of the core so you have circles. Then you can cut the remaining sides into wedges and secure with a skewer before you dip. (You can remove the skewer before serving the dipped wedges to kids). You can use a small, sharp knife to make a slit in the edge of the apple just deep enough to add your wooden Popsicle stick.

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Next, melt your favorite chocolate chips in the microwave, or by using the double boiler method. Bring a small amount of water to a boil in a pot, and place chips in the bowl. Set the the bowl on top of the boiling water and continue stirring until melted. An important thing to remember is you do not need a lot of water, it shouldn’t even touch the bowl. And use a bowl that fits just a bit bigger than the opening of the pot.

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Then line a baking tray, or cutting board with wax paper. Insert the Popsicle stick or wooden dowel into each apple.

Once the chocolate is fully melted you can dip your apples into the chocolate. You can use a spoon or spatula to help coat the apples evenly. Place the dipped apples onto the wax paper and let your kids have fun decorating! You can go as simple, or as fancy as you’d like. We used what we have on hand- some M&Ms and Halloween themed sprinkles. You could also use crumbled cookies, crushed pretzels, a drizzle of caramel. Or you can get really fancy and use edible candy eyes found in the candy section of most craft stores.

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Pop these into the freezer for about 10 minutes or a little longer. Once the chocolate is solid you are ready to eat! We had so much fun making them on our rainy day, but this could really make a fun Halloween activity, or after school treat.

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What toppings would add to these apple pops?

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

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