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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.
String or yarn
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.
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).
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.
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!
A few months ago we decided not to throw our kids a birthday party. I know, how horrible. Instead we took a week-long vacation in the Berkshires. I get that sounds all pretentious but I swear we are average folks. I smuggle my peanut butter jelly sandwiches into places just like every other mom. But we decided for the cost of a two hour party we could give our kids some really fun experiences they will always remember.
We visited a lot of great places and enjoyed trips to several museums where we found science, art and history exhibits. We even saw a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle exhibit which made me and hubby feel a little old. Not only do we remember the first time we watched the original movie (which was playing on a continuous loop), but we remember playing a Nintendo game unit like the one now old enough to be on display as a “classic.”
One of our favorite stops was the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. My kids loved making art in the art studio, reading and relaxing in the library and seeing art work from their favorite authors on display.
Here is what we enjoyed!
The art studio is a large sunlit room bursting with creativity. The resident artists select a craft project each day to share with visitors to the studio. All the materials and instruction are free. There are convenient drying wracks just outside the studio entrance where you can leave your creations while you tour the rest of the building. If you have kids of different ages and stages there are fun hands on play stations for your little ones to enjoy.
The galleries offer a look at original art work created by Eric Carle and other renowned picture book artists. Our favorite by far was the Brown Bear 50th Anniversary exhibit. We could see different versions of the way the animals were drawn. We immediately found the reading area which provided books and comfy brown bear cushions to cozy up to while reading. There are a variety of ways kids can interact with the art and games to help them talk about what they see. Each of the gallery rooms is minimal with plenty of room to navigate a stroller or wheel chair through. But no pictures are allowed for this exhibit.
The library was the big hit for my kids. Not only did they have access to kids’ books, but they were obsessed with the giant stuffed versions of the book characters they love. Brown Bear was carried around by just about every kid that came in. There are also lots of learning toys like latch puzzles, magnet puzzles and coloring pages. Hubby and I enjoyed getting to sit down and relax a bit while our kids had a safe place to roam. There are kids story times and other events taking place so be sure to check the schedule before you travel!
The Auditorium offers concerts and educational films. We arrived between movie viewings so we did not get to check out the auditorium. But you can check online to see what film or concert is being offered on the day you visit.
The Bookshop is filled with a lot of fun games, stuffed animals and unique gift ideas. We found some great post cards featuring art from our favorite Eric Carle books. I bought extras to frame when we return home.
Everything about this museum is designed with families in mind. You can request extra diapering supplies from the front desk, borrow a stroller or wheel chair and the coat room has individual lockers with a key to stash your diaper bag and extra stuff you don’t want to carry. There are activity kits to borrow to help your kids have a more interactive experience (I didn’t see those until we were on our way out). The museum admission price is also family friendly $22.50 covers a family of two adults and two kids.
Since our visit was in November it was a little too chilly to check out the art sprinkled along the walking trails and museum grounds. You can also find picnic tables outside to enjoy that homemade peanut butter sandwich right out in the open. Or you can stay inside and enjoy a non-smuggled lunch right in The Carle Café where they offer free coffee and organic/natural vending machine fare.
The museum is located in Amherst, MA which is approximately 2 hours from where we are in Ulster County. This is a great place to take your young art lover and little reader. It is a perfect day trip for families and especially accommodating for every age group. Older kids can read and learn details about the art exhibits, create art and there is plenty to keep their younger siblings busy and engaged.
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!
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!
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:
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Living in the Hudson Valley means we have an abundance of festivals, street fairs, art shows, car shows and places to go every weekend. There are so many things to do all year long, but when fall hits it can seem like there’s just so much more to try to fit into the weekend! I always want to make the most of what the season has to offer as well as all the local events.
To help us enjoy the season we love to be outdoors. My kids love raking leaves into piles to jump into, collecting different colored leaves and sticks for a scavenger hunt, or decorating for each holiday. There is just so much to do in our very own back yard! In fact, we were just taking a stroll down memory lane and reading some of my older blogs where I share some of our favorite fun things. Here is a quick recap of some kid friendly activities to do with your little ones at home:
This one is my absolute favorite! It is such a simple project, yet yields amazing results. You can read the step by step directions here. You can break this into two parts: gathering the acorns during a scavenger hunt, and then creating the jewels. Do it in the same day, or make it a two day event!
Make a Spooky Door
Recreate this monsterpiece to give your front door a touch of whimsy. You can find step by step details here. Using all simple supplies from the dollar store you can have the cutest door on the block for around $5.00.
If you have little ones not yet steady with the knife skills, let them wield a paint brush instead. Use washable paints and put down a plastic cloth. Or let them paint outside and not worry about your clean kitchen table. Click here to find out how to connect art with nature.
DIY Fossil Cookies
You don’t have to wait for any special season to make these. They are just fun to make! You can get your step by step guide here.
If you missed my post last week, here it is again for you to enjoy! This one is a classic fall art project. Be sure to check out the links to some cute stories to go along with this simple art project.
The fall weather seems to have arrived in one fell swoop over the weekend! It was super-hot one day and the next, just as cool and crisp as a freshly fallen apple. I admit I was lured outside by the bright blue sky, the calming breeze and sunlight. There were so many different ways to spend our Saturday, but my husband and I decided to split up with the twins and go our separate ways to give each kid their own date day. My date and I started our day at the local farmer’s market where they have a sweet art corner.
Every week there is a new, free art project to create. One week we colored and cut out bugs and glued them to a cut out paper jar. It was simple, it was easy and the kids really enjoyed it. Now they look forward to stopping by the tent every time we make a trip to our home town farmer’s market. This week was no exception. Well, except I only had one kid to help make a project with.
This week we learned to make paper hand puppets. I can’t get over how easy these are to make and there are no limits to what your imagination can bring to life. My girl decided she wanted to make a red horse, named Ham. Oh five year olds. Once we returned home she was excited to share with her sister how to make her own little puppets.
So here is how you can make your own:
8×10 sheet of paper
Extra scrap paper in a variety of colors
Crayons/Markers/Pens (which ever you have on hand)
First fold the 8×10 paper, length wise, equally into thirds.
Next, glue the long edge against the opposite long edge s to create a seam.
With the seam side facing toward you fold the paper in half.
Then fold the short edge toward the short edge on both sides.
This is the base of your puppet, or its body.
Now you are ready to embellish and get creative! You can use the remaining scrap pieces of paper to make eyes, hair, ears, a tongue, a nose and anything else you can think of! Or just use a pen, marker or crayon to draw on details. Let your kids imaginations run wild!
This is such a quick and easy project your kids can easily make an entire cast of characters for a small puppet show. It is a great activity to bring out for kid parties, rainy days or even a sick day. Or simply because it’s Tuesday and you need something fun to do with the kids. Enjoy!
Does your farmer’s market have an art tent for kids to enjoy?
My twins are officially preschool graduates and moving on to Kindergarten. I have so many mixed emotions. On the one hand I am so proud of their hard work and excited to watch their next steps, and on the other hand I am emotional about them growing up way too fast. We are now on summer break and as much as I would like to just relax we still have some work to do.
During the Kindergarten screening it was recognized my kids still need help with their hand writing. I am not surprised as they had occupational therapy for two years before I extended an extra year of preschool. Even though they continued to work on their hand writing skills through their preschool program, they still need a little help.
If it were up to me to teach them to write I might lose my mind. Despite receiving therapy to help them develop their writing skills, and physical therapy to strengthen them up, they have zero focus when writing. They like to sing and dance and tell stories between writing each letter. Writing one single word can take FOR EVER!
This morning was entirely too frustrating for all of us. My girls simply had to fill in the blank with one word and somehow one of them wound up in tears. I know this should not be stressful if I want them to be successful. I immediately contacted local mom and Occupational Therapist Heather White. She gave me some really great tips for keeping my girls focused while working on their letters.
HELP KIDS FOCUS
- Have your child sit on a yoga ball so they can wiggle while they work.
- Give them a crunchy snack to eat while writing. Pretzels and carrot sticks are great!
- Limit handwriting practice to 5 minutes a day – 10 minutes maximum. You can incorporate handwriting in other tasks throughout the day, but don’t do more than 10 minutes of super focused handwriting work.
- Let your child help you with writing tasks like writing the grocery list, addressing envelopes or writing out the schedule for the day. If they feel like their work is useful and helpful, they’re more inclined to do it. Plus it gives them a sense of responsibility and ownership.
MAKE IT FUN
- Start a local pen pal group. Round up some local kids, young cousins, grandparents or close neighbors to exchange letters with throughout the summer.
- Have your child write a letter to their favorite Disney Character, The President of The United States, or NASA requesting a return letter.
- Have your child make birthday cards for friends and help them sign their own name.
- Have your child send a thank you card for gifts.
- Have your child journal their experiences through summer. Keep it brief to one or two sentences.
You can use ergonomic pencil grips that help position your child’s fingers properly, and angled writing surfaces such as a 3 ring binder to help with writing mechanics and minimize frustrations.
Heather assures me that most kids entering Kindergarten are still learning to master their writing skills. Part of Kindergarten education is learning how to write and most kids catch up before you know it. Knowing that my kids are on par with their peers is helpful. Practicing a little bit throughout the summer will help them from back sliding before school starts; and making it fun guarantees less tears in the process.
Heather White is a Registered and Licensed Occupational Therapist and is available to help your child through the summer. Please send inquires to email@example.com for more information and rates.
Last week I shared that I am starting our own back yard summer camp as our last hoorah before Kindergarten. The girls are pretty on board with this idea and I am looking forward to saving some money. It gets expensive sending two off to camp at once. Plus, I just want to squeeze out as much time as I can from what is possibly our last summer together. We still have a few more weeks of school left, and summer hasn’t “officially” begun, but we have already started on our list of fun camp projects.
Music is one of our favorite ways to play, connect and relax. We always have the radio on, or a kid favorite CD playing (yes we actually still use those), we are singing or we are making music out of pots and spoons. Music is really everywhere and I love when my kids find ways to create music on their own. This week we discovered outdoor xylophones using glass jars. That’s it. Glass jars we already have on hand. (If you have a really tiny tot you can use various sized plastic jars, or cardboard containers, or small boxes).
I simply removed the label and took them outside!
Start by finding a level safe spot to line up your jars. We chose the rock wall in our garden. You can use as many jars as you like, but we kept it simple with just three. When you use a variety of jars with different sizes and thickness you will get a more interesting sound.
You can’t play a xylophone without a mallet (I actually knew it is called a mallet!). Help your little one find a stick, or a wooden spoon to use as your mallet. You can even bring out a variety of mallets to sample. Each one will make a different sound.
We used various sized sticks and then the girls realized perhaps their magic wands would help make an interesting sound. I love that this got the girls thinking about what they could use to create a new sound. They immediately noticed the different pitch each glass makes. And of course being the overly ambitious bunch we are, we tried to play songs we already know like “Twinkle, Twinkle.” Did not work, but it was a good effort.
Try turning the jars on their sides to hear how they make a different sound. It is definitely a heavier sound than the slight “plink” when the jars are standing.
We played for a short time for the “fairies” hiding in the garden before my girls brought out the big drums. Yes, I actually gave my kids a kid sized drum kit complete with cymbals, and a kick pedal for a nice booming bass. I am sure our neighbors know how much we love music by now.
You can change the pitch and sound of each jar by adding water, rocks, glass beads or pine cones and flowers to the jars. The desired effect is to hear how sound is changed. This is a great project for toddlers (with supervision of course) and older kids. Let your kids fill in the jars and give them space to jam away with a mallet they choose.
Trust me any kid is going to love to bang around and make some noise. This is such a minimal and simple way to engage your kids in a new way to create music. Forget those Fisher Price toys, use what you have. Much like playing with a cardboard box, kids will enjoy anything you give them to play and create!
I hope you enjoy this super easy and cheap project! I wonder what we’ll do next!?
At the beginning of every summer I try to round up a few new places to visit with the kids. Now that my kids are getting older they are outgrowing some of the play spaces we used to visit. One thing that hasn’t changed is their desire to explore.
Last month our family signed up for a free Healthy Ulster Membership at the Mohonk Preserve. The Visitor Center Trailhead is located at 3197 State Route 55, Gardiner, NY. While we were there we were encouraged to explore the visitor center which includes an interactive children’s corner. And by corner I mean an area too small for a crowd, or big group. But it is perfect for a handful of friends to gather for play.
Here is what we found during our exploration:
When you enter the center you are on the upper level. There are interactive exhibits where kids can learn about the land within the Mohonk preserve, the animals they can find and the Geoexchange system running the center. Your toddler won’t understand a whole lot of this information, but they will love getting to push the buttons and using the swipe screen to get to the next slide of information while your older child interacts on their own.
There are amazing views all around so be sure to simply take a moment to enjoy looking out the large windows at the surrounding landscape.
After you make your way through the upper level take the stairs down to the children’s corner. There is something there for kids of any young age. There are books, games and puzzles about nature. There are a few live animals to see and kids can unearth animal bones. You can even borrow a nature exploration kit and wander through the Children’s Forest right outside the center.
This is a paved trail that is perfect for strollers and for toddlers learning to walk. Simply follow the path and allow your little ones to explore the artwork, butterfly gardens and views along the way. The paved path leads into the Children’s Forest where there are fun things to play with. We found a tee pee style hut made with sticks and a whole lot of natural things to keep our exploration thinking caps busy. Allow your kid to be your guide and follow along at their pace. You will be amazed by the amount of questions they begin asking.
What got my kids the MOST excited? The little animal nook tucked away under the stairs in the children’s corner. Beyond these doors is a hidden little room where kids can sit with the many stuffed creatures and use their playtime imaginations. Moms can sit quietly on a bench and feed babies, or chat with another mom.
The visitor center is open 9 am – 5 pm daily (except holidays) all year. It is free to explore the children’s corner and the sensory trail just outside which leads to the children’s forest. Pack a snack and invite a friend for an easy morning of play, or bring your lunch for an afternoon of pint sized fun! For more information click here.
Even though my kids are no longer toddlers we enjoyed this day out together. I wish I knew about it when my kids were little and we needed a safe place to explore. It’s a great place to wear out little ones with play time adventures before nap. Older kids (I’d say up to age 8) can enjoy the activities here as well. A great little stop for moms of kids with toddlers or mixed ages.
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.