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UNION

With the warmer temps beginning this week I am looking forward to getting outside! However, it can be a challenge to get my kids outside. Once they are outside they will play, but I typically have to set the stage for them first. As a mom I am totally baffled by this. When I was a kid you could not keep me inside the house. I was happiest sitting outside under a big tree watching the clouds going by, or racing up and down the neighborhood street. Not sure how I ended up with two kids who need to be prompted to be outside.

I have discovered if I set a craft up outside they are more motivated to join me in the back yard and will likely stay outside longer. It can be a simple craft, or an entire project, but it helps transition to spending time outside.

By now you all know the benefits to getting kids outside. But just in case, here are 5 more reasons:

  1. Kids who interact with nature tend to engage their imaginations more and invent their own games. This involves critical thinking and observation of what’s in their environment.
  2. When kids are more physically active they are building gross motor and fine motor skills.
  3. Kids who spend time outside more tend to develop a lifelong love of nature and see the need to preserve it.
  4. Kids tend to develop more visual and spacial skills when learning to navigate natural environments.
  5. Anyone who spends time outside feels less stressed.

You may have heard the benefits of kids crafting. I like to be thorough so again, here are 5 more benefits:

  1. Crafting benefits executive functioning. Having to plan a project or craft and lining up each step helps kids with focus and memory skills.
  2. Develops fine motor skills. This helps with handwriting and coordination.
  3. Helps kids recognize patterns and sequence recognition.
  4. Crafting builds on long term academic skills like math and reading.
  5. Teaches social interactions like learning to share and use manners when sharing.

Why not combine these benefits and craft outside? The bonus is you can make a mess outside and not worry about having to clean it up right away, or any of the materials staining your nice dining set.

Outside crafts to do with your kids

If you are tired of the old standby of bubbles and sidewalk chalk try these 5 things to amp up your outdoor craft time.

Make colorful bubble art. Simply pour some bubble mix into a shallow bowl and add food coloring. Mix well and use the bubble wand to soak up the mixture. Blow bubbles right in front of the paper or canvas to be sure they land and splatter on the surface. This will make a really unique print for your house. Or turn the paper into personalized stationary.

Paint some rocks. You can paint rocks to add some color to your back yard, or create a fun tick tack toe set by painting three similar rocks to look like lady bugs, and another three rocks a solid color. If you really want to make a fun project sign up to paint some Kindness Rocks to leave around your community, or for friends and family to find in your back yard.

Make your own fossils. This was fun when we did it with cookie dough, now I can’t wait to try it with baker’s clay. Simply roll a small piece of dough into a ball and press flat between your hands. Then press a leaf, or pine cone, or blades of grass into the clay to create a fossil imprint.

Design a paint brush from nature. Simply dip flowers into paint and press flat against your paper to make a pretty print. You can also dip leaves, feathers, a bundle of pine needles or stems into paint and use them like a paint brush.

Re-imagine your water table. When my kids were really little we used the water table for more than just water fun. We filled it with things like shaving cream, a bubble bath for dinosaurs and cornstarch with water (it creates a really fun solid that melts into your hand).

Crafting outside has long term benefits for kids, and the combined benefits create life long skills sets. You don’t need to wait for summer vacation to give any of these ideas a try. As soon as the weather is nice enough to be outside skip the chalk and do something a little different! Your kids will always remember the fun you have together, no matter the craft.

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. 

In part two of our No Gym Required series, we’ll be doing push-ups on the stairs. This is an ideal way to work our way up to “regular” floor push-ups. Doing this move on the stairs allows us get a full range of motion that may not be possible on the floor depending on your strength level. Even if you never get to the floor push-up, you can still strengthen and shape your upper body with this move.

Be sure your shoulders are above your hands, your body straight and core engaged as you lift and lower yourself. Try to get your ribcage as close to the stairs as possible. Do ten reps of this move several times a week, and you’ll reap these benefits:

  • increased core strength
  • toned arms
  • sculpted shoulders
  • overall upper body conditioning

MORGANS

As the mountains of snow start to melt, it is finally starting to feel more like spring. This is the time of year we get outside more and watch everything spring to life again. Including winged creatures. Some are beautiful and some are down right annoying when they go buzzing by. But I bet everyone can agree that spotting a butterfly is a magical experience.

Magic wings bfly collage

That’s why we love our trips to the Magic Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens in South Deerfield, MA. No matter what the weather, there is a tropical greenhouse waiting just two and half hours away from Northern Ulster County. It is easily a fun day trip your family will enjoy. Magic Wings is a tranquil 8,000 square foot greenhouse filled with tropical plants, a Japanese Koi pond and water features and of course butterflies. In fact, hundreds of them. Once we paid our admission we were ready for our self guided tour of the green house.

magic wings collage

The exhibit and display area before entering the greenhouse offers educational videos, the history of the butterfly and a whole bunch of tropical creatures. Spoiler alert there are some of the biggest cockroaches you will ever see on display. But no worries, they are all behind glass. My kids loved the tree frogs, snakes and other reptilian beasts.

Upon entering the green house there are large fans blowing and little kids might find them noisy. This is simply to keep the butterflies from hitching a ride out on someone’s back. The rest of the tour is calm and pretty serene with classical music playing and the sounds of the waterfalls.

magic wings lizard

My kids were mesmerized by the packs of fluttering wings and spent hours trailing them and watching them. All the employees are well trained in the different types of animals living in the green house. They can easily rattle of details about the lizards, birds, fish and insects from what they eat, to what their usual habitat looks like.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

There is a community coat closet big enough to park a stroller (not permitted in the green house), or to leave bulky diaper bags and your family’s coats. The gift shop has a wide range of gift items and kids toys. Some are more expensive, but definitely some affordable fun things for family budgets. You enter through the gift shop before the tour begins, so we let the kids shop a little without purchasing so they would know what they wanted when we came back through.

Bring your camera because there are a few little fun photo op spots to take family photos. Not to mention you will really want to capture some beautiful shots of the lush greenery and colorful butterflies.

The cost for a family of four (two parents, two kids) is $52 and kids under 3 are free. You can save on meals by packing your own lunch instead of buying in the cafe, or restaurant. There is a covered out door picnic area available in the summer, and there are tables in the lobby near the fire place in the winter. Overall, you are going to pay less for this day trip filled with educational opportunities and hours of exploring than probably getting your family into a movie theater for two hours of entertainment. We love it so much we always leave planning our next trip back!

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. 

When people find out I teach fitness classes, they often exclaim, “I wish I had time to exercise!” Parents often feel guilty about taking time to work out when we have so much to do between taking care of home, family and career. Fortunately, we have everything we need for a full-body workout right here at home.

This vlog begins a five-part series of exercises you can do on the stairs. One reason these moves are so great is that you only need a minute to do each one. This is doable between loads of laundry, picking up the living room or putting away groceries. If you have more time, spend more time, but even grabbing one minute of each of these moves a couple times a day will help you get strong, firm and healthy.

We start with lunges. This move targets butt & legs and burns a lot of calories. If you can keep it up for 20 minutes, you’ll gain cardiovascular benefits as well. Next time you pass by the stairs, take the opportunity to strengthen your legs and burn some calories.

DIY let It Go Dough

Today we experienced the craziest snowstorm in our children’s lives! They watched out of the window for almost an hour with stunned looks on their faces as the snow fell. “Wow. Look at all that snow!” That hour gave me a little time to prep some fun things to do since we are now home-bound during the blizzard of 2017!

Last year I shared with you our favorite DIY Play Dough recipe. It is super simple to make and we make it smell great and get some really cool colors with Kool Aide. Well, this year we have discovered that our kids cannot tolerate artificial food coloring. Even though they aren’t eating the play dough (that I am aware of) the dye can still get in through the skin.

I see all of these amazing recipes for colorful play dough and we just can’t create them at home, and the all natural food dyes you buy in the store are very expensive. Making our own dyes is an option, but it is too time consuming. I still can’t get some of the beautiful pastel colors from making dyes at home. So, I had to find some way to make our newest batch of play dough fun and pretty.

The Recipe (as found on Hello Giggles):

1 Cup Flour

½ Cup Salt

3 TBSP Cream of Tartar

1 TBSP Oil (canola, coconut or sunflower)

10-20 Drops Essential Oil

½ Cup Boiling Water

Add all dry ingredients to the bowl, add all oil ingredients and then add hot water and mix until solid.

If we skip the food coloring the dough doesn’t look so special. But I thought I’d mix a batch anyway so we have something fun to play with. Maybe I’ll add a little essential oil to jazz it up. At least if it doesn’t smell like homemade dough made from flour it won’t be so bland.

EO Dough 3

After I mixed it up in the bowl it sat there boring and blah. Until one of my daughters said to me, “Wow it’s white just like Elsa’s hair.” BINGO!! We have a winner!

EO Dough 2

I decided to add in my favorite essential oil blend called “stress less” to help us let it go, let it go (ha! My friends who love puns will enjoy that one). Then my girl remembered we have some, “frosty blue glitter like Elsa’s dress.” And of course we dumped in as much as we could! My girls are ALL-IN when it comes to glitter.

There ya go! Dye free and sparkly play dough that keeps the kids feeling stress free! Store it in a zip lock bag, or air tight container. Now if only cleaning up all this snow was as easy and stress free.

EO Dough 1

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. 

Our Kid’s Yoga Pose Series ends with Snake Pose. This backbend feels great to kids and adults alike, but you need to follow good form to avoid compressing the discs in  your spine. Many people immediately straighten their arms because the abdominal stretch feels so good, but then they experience sharp pain in the lower back. To do this pose correctly, follow these steps:

  1. Lie belly down, and place your hands beside your chest.
  2. Lift your kneecaps off the ground slightly.
  3. Pull your hands back towards your feet to create length in the front of the body.
  4. As you pull your hands back, shimmy side to side and slowly lift your chest off the ground.
  5. Come up as high as is comfortable without straightening your arms.

Snake Pose offers many benefits:

  • improves posture
  • increases spinal mobility
  • stretches chest, lungs, shoulders and abdominals
  • firms glutes and back muscles
  • soothes digestive organs

40 Days of Change

The Internet is abuzz with different challenges you can do with your family during the 40 Days of Lent. There is the de-cluttering challenge to eliminate 40 bags of stuff in 40 days. The 40 Acts challenge to do 40 random acts of kindness in 40 days. And the challenge to just give up something you love for 40 days straight- whether it is chocolate, or wine, or even social media. The point is people are preparing to give up something for 40 days as a way to honor their traditions.

But what if you do not celebrate Lent? How can you participate in the giving part without participating in the religious aspect? Well, all it takes is 40 days and a plan!  I am introducing 40 Days of Change in our house this week.  We are literally using our spare change to help make a change. My kids get paid a quarter for certain chores each day and we will let them decide how much of their earnings they would like to contribute to our cause.

Here is what you’ll need:

A jar or box

Spare change

Calendar

A charity to donate to

Start by selecting a clean jar, or box to collect your spare change in. Keep it in a location you pass every day when you come home. You simply empty your pocket change (or change from the bottom of your purse, or the few coins in your wallet) into this container. Random single dollar bills count too, and so does the quarter in the couch or the pile of pennies in your car console.

Next, open your calendar. Mark the day you start collecting your spare change and count out 40 days. That will be your official end date. Take whatever you collect in that 40 day time period to your bank or local Coin Star machine. Once you have counted and cashed in all your loose change you are ready to make your donation. It doesn’t matter how big, or small your contribution is. Every single penny counts!

Last, pick your charity of choice. My family’s passions are pediatric cancer, and feeding programs in our local community. Here are some suggestions if you need them:

St. Baldrick’s Foundation

St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital

A Moment of Magic

Make a Wish

Give Kids the World

Ronald McDonald’s House

Angel Food East

People’s Place Kingston

Caring Hands Soup Kitchen

The SPCA (You can search for your local shelter, or for local animal rescues).

Hudson Valley Hero Project

You can get a little creative and use the money you collect to pay off lunches at your kid’s school, or prepay someone’s coffee at your local coffee house. Perhaps you prefer purchasing gift cards from a local grocery store and handing them out to families standing in line at check out. Earlier this year my girls and I were on the receiving end of a random act of kindness. A lovely woman realized she had a handful of gift cards for the movie concession stand she wasn’t going to use. So, she stood by the ticket booth and handed them out to families that were on their way in. She selected us and it was truly touching to be on the receiving end of such generosity. It also allowed me to splurge on treats for my kids.

There are no rules to 40 Days of Change. We can pick a charity every 40 days if we like, or just stick to doing it once a year. I hope my family will enjoy a new 40 day challenge at least three times a year. Even if we only raise a few dollars each time, the value lies in giving back routinely. Helping my kids connect the entire process of planning, and saving to giveaway, will help them recognize a need and find a way to fill it. They can see that every action matters and through action we can make a difference in our own community.

Related post: Family Savings Jar: Dimes for Disney Charity Starts at Home 7 Ways to Give Back With Little Ones in Tow Give a Kid the Gift of Swag Charitable Giving is A Christmas Tradition

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. 

This pose works very well with young children who like to “flap their wings” and tell me what color butterfly they are. But young or older, everyone will find relief from tight inner thighs with this seated posture. Do Butterfly Pose on your floor, couch or bed, and enjoy these benefits:

  • stretches inner thighs
  • opens hips
  • improves posture
  • relieves back pain
  • increases lower-body flexibility

springfield-museums-easy-day-trip

If you are looking for something fun to do during the kids spring break then check out Springfield Museums in Springfield, MA. Located approximately two hours from Northern Ulster County it is an easy day trip for families with little ones.

One admission price grants access to all four museums on campus. Each museum and discovery center celebrates art, history, science and discovery. Located in the center of it all is the Dr. Seuss National Memorial sculpture garden.  During our visit we were delighted by hands on learning experiences and opportunities to soak in some extraordinary art work. The grounds offer a large area for picnics and room for kids to run. Although you cannot climb, or play on the sculptures in the garden there are benches painted in fun themes and some interactive pieces in front of the museums.

There is so much to do and see here that we spent an entire day exploring and playing.  I’ll just share with you the highlights.

SPRINGFIELD SCIENCE MUSEUM

The science building has hands on exploration of rocks and minerals, space, live animals, the African Hall and Dinosaur Hall. There are three floors in this building alone and we spent over an hour investigating everything. We even doubled back around to the African Hall so we could push all the animal sound buttons again. There is a planetarium, but we arrived in between show times.

springfield-museum-space

GEORGE WALTER VINCENT SMITH ART MUSEUM

springfield-museum-asian

We found the most wonderful exhibits for everyone in my family. My kids favorite by far is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle exhibit (until September 3, 2017). It includes original comic book art and incorporates replicas of the shields and weapons the TMNT used in their stories. My kids’ were super excited to play the original TMNT on Nintendo. Yep, I am so old I remember the original Nintendo which is now old enough to be an exhibit in a museum.  My husband enjoyed reliving his glory days by schooling the kids with his video game codes. The building houses a collection of Japanese arms & armor, Asian art, Islamic art, Tiffany windows and more.

springfield-art-discovery

The children’s art discovery center is the most amazing kid’s area we’ve ever played in! The discovery center is decorated in colorful Buddhist, Asian and Chinese Zodiac art. There is a simple craft left out for kids to partake, a puppet theater, dress up area, a wishing tree, reading area and so much gorgeous art work to drink in. My kids stayed in this sunny bright spot for an hour exploring every nook and cranny.

MICHELE AND DONALD D’AMOUR MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS

springfield-art

There are several different galleries on both floors of this museum. Each gallery contains a comprehensive collection of art work from Impressionist art, French & Dutch art, and American art to the Currier and Ives collection. In the upstairs gallery there is a kid’s art area that is perfectly placed in location to the other gallery rooms. The Cat in the Hat exhibit (through April 30, 2017) includes fun dress up hats and cute little stuffed kittens kids can arrange to make their own exhibit. We found it easy for one parent to stay with the kids in the kids area while the other parent took their own guided tour of the galleries. I studied many of the works and painters in these collections, so it was a thrill to walk through alone and see some of my favorites up close.

LYMAN AND MERRIE WOOD MUSEUM OF SPRINGFIELD

springfield-gameland

This building houses a great collection of Indian motorcycles and classic cars, local Springfield history and the Hasbro Game Land (our favorite). We spent the least amount of time in this museum since the staff was setting up for an event and some parts were closed off. But the larger than life sized game pieces were our favorites.

DR. SEUSS NATIONAL MEMORIAL SCULPTURE GARDEN

springfield-horton

During our picnic lunch on the quad we enjoyed the Dr. Seuss sculpture garden. The grassy quad is big enough to let kids roam and there are plenty of benches to sit down to eat. Thankfully, the parking lot isn’t far so you can leave your cooler in the car while you check out the exhibits, and retrieve it for your lunch break. There is a cafe right  next to the museum main entrance if you’d prefer. It was hard to keep the kids from climbing on the sculpture, but it was really fun to see their faces light up at the life sized characters they love!

By purchasing a membership you get free admission to a host of other museums across the country (including the Mid Hudson Children’s Museum, the MiSi Museum in Schenectady and the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space museum to name a few).  Imagine the trips you could plan! They also deduct the price you pay for your family admission from the membership price which makes it really affordable, and pays for future adventures.

Spending the day at the museums is a great getaway from the usual routine of things. It’s an easy day trip and if you plan it just right you can be there in time to see the newest addition of the Dr. Seuss museum coming in June! I know we can’t wait to go back!

Would you travel two hours to see works of art?

You might also enjoy some of our other adventures: Howe’s Caverns, Lake George, Mystic Aquarium and The Eric Carle Museum of Story Book Art.

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. 

Sitting at a desk at school most of the day can result in tight hip flexors and rounded shoulders. This can lead to poor posture, muscular imbalance and lower back pain. Luckily, Unicorn Pose is very effective in stretching the hip flexors along with the whole front of the  body, and it’s fun for kids (and adults) to do. Try this pose once a day with your kids. If it bothers your back knee, try doing the pose on a thick blanket or towel.

Unicorn Pose offers many benefits:

  • improves postures
  • relieves back pain
  • opens front of body
  • develops focus
  • increases balance

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