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Easy Easter Basket Ideas

It’s that time of year where everyone wants to know what’s in everyone else’s Easter basket. Moms wonder if they are giving enough, or too much, and what items are age appropriate. Some families celebrate with big gifts and some celebrate with just a few chocolate eggs. However you decide to celebrate is totally up to you!

When I was a little kid, my three siblings and I each received our own baskets. They were usually stocked with the same candies year after year. But that’s OK because we knew what to look forward to every year. We could count on each of us getting our own coveted Cadbury egg. By the time we were teenagers my mom focused on one family basket instead of four individual baskets. I think it was easier for her, but I also think she just wanted in on the candy haul without having to bargain with each of us for it. She filled one giant basket with all our favorite candies and no gifts. She also added in real eggs that had been dyed, and individual loaves of Italian Easter bread made from scratch. If you have not had Italian Easter bread Google it now and get to baking! Or find a bakery near you that makes them! So delicious!

For my kids, we have done something different every year. We usually include “gifts” in their baskets simply because kids never stop needing things. We use this as a great excuse to include whatever items they need at the moment, like a new pair of spring pajamas, swim gear, art supplies and rain gear. The kids think it’s the most amazing thing ever that the Easter Bunny knew they were running out of underwear. I didn’t say these were all extravagant gifts, but gifts none-the-less.

This year they have all the swim suits and underwear they need. So what’s next? Well, this Easter season has us smack dab in the middle of a new lifestyle challenge in our house. We are working hard to eliminate as much unnecessary plastic and packaging as we can. And let’s face it, every holiday comes prepackaged these days. I had to really think about this to find something new the girls will find exciting!

Here is what will be in our Easter baskets this year:

Rain boots- my kids are coincidentally in need of new rubber rain boots. These are something we need as we simply cannot pass up a good puddle to jump around in.

Chocolates- I know real original. But, we buy from a local store where we can get individual favorites packaged together in a recyclable paper box, and chocolate bunnies in a paper bag. Due to food allergies we can’t have Cadbury eggs in our house. But that means we get spoiled with some really good chocolate!

Gift Cards- This is my new favorite item to give for every holiday! So much less packaging and nothing left to clutter up my house! It’s also like prepaying for our fun! We are adding gift cards to the local ice cream shop, Target, museum passes, even our favorite salon. Yes, I said salon. Kids need hair cuts and it’s like a fun day out for us girls!

T-shirts- not just any t-shirts! We bought the T-shirts from their favorite bounce place which will give us $4 off every return trip. You bundle that with a gift card to the ice cream shop and you have a really fun day out!

Summer shoes- They have also outgrown their summer shoes. Even though it is practical and it’s something I would have bought them anyway, I am turning it into a gifting opportunity. Also, I got them on a really great clearance sale last year. Ha!

Other fun things we’ve included in the past:

  • New umbrella decorated with their favorite character
  • Art supplies
  • Garden tools with matching apron and gloves
  • Bubbles and sidewalk chalk
  • Beach towels
  • Bikes (only because we got them free with credit card points and they arrived two days before Easter)
  • Bike helmets
  • Beach toys
  • Books
  • Swim suit and goggles
  • Summer pajamas

Now I know, most people eschew actual gift giving at Easter. However, I’ve never been one to really care what other people do with their money or holidays. I just try to stay in my own lane. So, whether throwing some candy in a basket and leaving on the kitchen table is more your thing, or hand stitching bunny costumes for every member of your family, no one here will be judging. Or nosing around your basket sneaking Cadbury eggs.

What’s in your Easter basket?

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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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. 

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. 

basten-house

Did you know about this adorable, family friendly Teddy Bear museum in Marbletown? During a fall open house, my family and I visited the Den which is set back from the road on 209. The Den of Marbletown is simply adorable and perfect for any teddy bear fanatic! There are a ton of different bears displayed and opportunities to learn the history of the teddy bear, the Steiff Company and the museum location.

The Basten family farm house was converted to a bed and breakfast and has expanded to include a teddy bear collection museum. The original collection belongs to the owner’s mother and many of the temporary exhibits include her personal favorites.

The Steiff Company has been around since 1880 and has been delighting children and adults of all ages and stages with stuffed animals. From plush baby safe cuddle blankets to luxurious fiber collectible bears for adults.

When we arrived my girls could hardly contain their excitement. They were surrounded by thousands of stuffed loves all in need of a good hug (according to the six year olds, not the store staff). After touring the gift shop we took the self-guided tour to learn more about the history of the museum and the teddy bear. We wound our way through each room filled with displays of adorably staged stuffed animals.  And just when we thought we were at the end we found the upstairs portion of this old Farm House was also converted to hold exhibits. Each room in The Den has a theme and is filled with adorable dioramas of teddy bear hijinks.

diorama-bears

There is an overload of teddy bears and stuffed animals throughout the museum, but in a small converted closet in one upstairs room there are plenty of old school Barbie Dolls and Madame Alexander Dolls. Across the hall from that exhibit, there is a special room called the, “Mama Bear Lounge.” This room was designed with working moms in mind. Moms are encourage to grab a coffee and their lap top and let the little ones play. Or, meet up with other moms for play dates. There is a toy box filled with blocks and other toys and a soft carpeted area for kids to play. There is free Wi-Fi where moms can get a little work done, or take a break and scroll through Facebook. The small room behind the mama bear lounge is the “kids cub cave.” It’s a small room where the kids can climb in and out of a faux cave, or grab a game or coloring page from the shelves to play at the table.

the-den-collection-room

mama-bear-den

One unique feature we did not experience is renting a guest room to spend a night at the museum. This would be an incredible birthday experience for any kid age 6 or older to sleep that close to so many squeezable bears. There is also a café and snack area inside, as well as picnic area just outside. The website boasts a picnics to go service, local fresh baked goods and a marvelous closet filled with extra amenities.

You can tell the folks in charge really put a lot of thought into the details. This museum is perfect for your teddy bear enthusiast age six and older. There are many exhibits behind glass, or under display boxes, but still many places they can hold a stuffed animal.  More active kids will love the mama bear lounge area.

Keep an eye on the Den News section on the website to check out some of the fun events planned at the house. Some previous events include a teddy bear tea, cookie decorating, jewelry making and art workshops.  The admission price to the museum is really affordable at $2.00 per adult, and $1.00 for kids to age 17 (under 1 are free) and a family rate of just $5.00. Pack a lunch and make this an affordable fun day out learning a little history and enjoying the bears!

Photo credit: The Den of Marbletown website.

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-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. 

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. 

 

christmas-wishes

Last week I shared with you 8 No Crap Christmas Gift Ideas that will leave you with very little to take care of after the wrapping hits the floor. Actually, I leaked that post one week earlier than planned. I was leaving for vacation and technology was not my friend when I tried to schedule my post to arrive while I was away. Whoops! Oh well, you know how I roll without perfection these days.

This week I want to introduce you to a really fantastic local charity that is helping families all over Ulster County receive their Christmas wishes. This non-profit organization was created in 2014 by Melissa Banks who was looking for a simple way to pay it forward. Melissa had just come through some difficulties as a single mom and had just finished up her degree. She really wanted to share her gratitude by helping someone else. Melissa posted a request for families looking for help in a local moms Facebook group. The response she received was phenomenal since she was only expecting one or two names. As the list grew she began asking for help making these Christmas wishes come true. Before she knew it Christmas Wishes Ulster County was created.

christmas-wishes-uc

Melissa doesn’t receive any direct funding for gift purchases, or supplies. She relies solely on the generous support of volunteers; all funds raised goes directly to serving local families.  What began as a do-good deed for around 70 families has grown to serve over 600 families in 2016. It takes a lot of donations and volunteers to help sort and wrap the donated gifts. It also takes a lot of time to vet and cross check each application with other local agencies offering holiday help.  This year Melissa and her team are moving to a larger location to accommodate the amount of gifts, approximately 3-4 per child, needed to help so many families.

christmas-wishes-uc-gifts

Christmas may be Melissa’s favorite time of year to help families, but she actually helps collect, pack and deliver back packs and school supplies for the new school year; and Thanksgiving dinners to families in need. She also hosts fund raising events at Easter, Valentine’s Day, Halloween and holds a birthday raffle for one family per month.  When I asked Melissa what has kept her reaching beyond the original families she began helping she shares, “I do it for the end result. One year we had a mom with cancer and we were able to help her get gifts for her children. She was so grateful. People’s reactions can be deeply touching.”

christmas-wishes-school-supplies

Melissa also shares how much her son is learning and growing by participating in her altruistic venture. If you would like to help contribute to Melissa’s vision of making Christmas wishes come true, or bring your young child to volunteer, please contact her at christmaswishesuc@gmail, 845-853-0496 or like the Christmas Wishes Ulster County page on Facebook for updates and details. All toy donations must be in by December 5th to allow for enough time to disperse the gifts to families on December 10th. Any financial contributions made will receive a letter for tax deduction.

If you are looking for additional local organizations to donate to this year please find my Hudson Valley Charitable Giving Guide. You can print it out to make your charitable planning even easier.

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. 

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:

Acorn Jewels

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!

blog-acorn-jewels-011

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.

spooky-door

Pumpkin Painting

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.

pumpkin-painting

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.

diy-fossil-cookies

Apple Painting

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.

apple-print

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. 

At the beginning of summer I shared with all of you a list of cool places to get free fun mail for your kids. I hope you and the kids are enjoying all your fun freebies. I know we are! In fact one fun package in particular helped inspire our seed bomb project.

I signed us up to receive a free packet of pollinator wildflower seeds at feedabee.com. Wildflowers attract bees and help feed the population of pollinating insects. You can read more about why this is important by clicking here. Our little packet of about 200 seeds will cover approximately 10 sq. feet. Now we could easily toss these seeds around the back yard and wait, or we could launch them with a sling shot. Why not?

I was flipping through the pages of one of our new kid magazines when I found this unique little project. It is perfect for kids age 6 or older. In just a few simple steps you can create a handful of seed bombs to toss out into the yard, or while out on a hike.

seed bombs materials 1

Materials:

4 pages of construction paper

1 packet of pollinator wildflower seed mix

1/2 cup of warm water per sheet of paper

Kitchen Blender

seed bomb tears 1

Start by tearing each sheet of paper into tiny pieces and place in separate bowls. Next, pour 1/2 cup of warm water over the pieces. Allow paper to soak for 5 minutes before running through the blender.

seed bomb strainer 1

Pour mixture into  strainer and squish the paper with the back of a spoon to get most of the liquid out. You want the paper to be pasty, but not completely dry. Discard water and put paper pulp into bowl and add a palm sized amount of seeds. Roll into 1/2 inch sized balls and place on wax paper to dry.

According to my kids the straining step is the most, “boring part” of the project. If you have kids always in a hurry to move on to the next step, perhaps offering a wildflower coloring page, or a list of facts about honey bees to read, will help them while they wait.

seed bombs 1

Allow your finished product to sit for 48 hours to dry completely. While the bombs dry you can help your kiddos create a sling shot if you don’t already have one. You can find a Y shaped stick in the yard and place a rubber band around the branches. Viola! Instant launcher!

Tips:

  • The recipe I found makes more bombs. I cut it in half to accommodate our limited supplies, so we only have six seed bombs to distribute. Which is perfectly even for two kids always assuring me, “she got more than me!” Using three sheets of paper and one seed packet yields approximately two bombs per page.
  • You may need to add just a bit more water to the blender when whirling the paper. This will keep the paper from bunching up around the blade. If you add a little too much water that’s OK, you will remove all the extra in the straining step.

When you are ready to launch, find a nice open plain field to fling the bombs into. Maybe a nice open space in your yard, or take a hike and launch into a flowerless area of a field. The bees will thank you for 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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