Growing up, I hiked a lot. I spent a lot of time in nature, exploring the woods near my grandfather’s cabin, on organized hikes with my Girl Scout Troop, and even longer day hikes with extended family members. When I had kids, I knew that instilling a love of nature and the quiet solitude of the woods in my boys needed to be an important priority in my parenting. [Read more…] about Hiking With Kids
I’m expecting a third baby soon and with every pregnancy I find myself reflecting on my parenting choices. What did I do right? What can I improve? I also know that even though I’ve done this twice, I’ve never parented a newborn with an elementary student and a preschooler before. I’ve parented a toddler and a newborn before, but now the game is different. The rules and the playing field have changed. Still, there’s one thing I won’t compromise in our bedtime routine. [Read more…] about The One Thing I Don’t Compromise in Our Bedtime Routine
It’s all over the news again. This time, a 13 year old girl murdered by college students she met on an online app called Kik. A mother’s worst nightmare. The college students painted as “good, smart kids” with everything going for them. The story brings up so many questions and makes the task of keeping our kids safe online seem virtually impossible. [Read more…] about Keeping Kids Safe Online
Kindness matters. It really does. With all of the negativity in the world and on social media, frustration with our kids driving us crazy, stress over completing a to-do list or paying the bills on time, it’s easy to forget sometimes. But kindness matters. [Read more…] about Ways to Show Kindness and Build Connection With Out of State Relatives
In my nearly six years as a mom, “Let’s Play Restaurant” stands the test of time. So it always makes my list of go-to activities for indoor play. It works for kids of multiple ages and can evolve as kids get older to incorporate more skills. There’s just so much to learn while playing restaurant. [Read more…] about Let’s Play Restaurant
I don’t know about you but my son comes home from Kindergarten famished. He wants a snack the minute he walks through the door and then continually, like a chain-snacker until I say no or put dinner on the table.This is not only annoying, but expensive and not exactly healthy. I already put in the time raising my kids to love vegetables, but lately, I stopped offering them as often as I should. [Read more…] about How To Cut Back on Pre-Dinner Snacking
Can kids learn to code before they can read or write? Absolutely! Does that sound crazy, or even a bit unnecessary to you? I admit, at first I thought it did. Then I started exploring the world of coding with my kids, instead of just dabbling around on my computer alone, and wow! We’re totally hooked. [Read more…] about Learning Code for Preschoolers Without a Computer
Before I had kids, I swore my kids would never sleep in my bed. For any reason. I just wouldn’t let them. End of story. I knew the difficulty of breaking bad habits, so I drew a line and vowed to never start it in the first place. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that getting kids to sleep in their own beds doesn’t happen easily, or overnight. So I came up with a simple trick to keep your child out of your bed and reclaim it for yourself. [Read more…] about A Simple Trick to Keep Your Child Out of Your Bed
My 3 year old actually fell asleep for nap, I had a to-do list a mile long, and my 5 year old kept begging me to play with him. Does this scenario happen in your house too? I needed to come up with an activity on the fly to keep him occupied, so I got out some paper plates, markers, and printer paper and this backyard pirate treasure hunt was born.
Pirate themed imaginative play has been a major part of our lives for as long as I can remember. I think I have just as much fun putting together a pirate theme week as my kids have playing. You can read last year’s Talk Like a Pirate Day activities here. We even made a massive cardboard pirate ship for my son’s third birthday.
This summer we attended a Pirate Expedition in Lewes, DE complete with cannons that shot water. The kids had an amazing time reading the map and looking for the landmarks so we decided to recreate it in our backyard.
Create Your Own Backyard Pirate Treasure Hunt
First, I gave my 5 year old some paper plates, markers, and a blank sheet of printer paper. I explained that he would make a map using different landmarks, like the giant squid or Blackbeard’s Tomb, just like on the pirate ship. Then he’d put them on the map so we knew what order to follow them to the treasure.
He proceeded to collect every pirate book in the house, and our Step-by-Step Drawing Book, to figure out how to draw the landmarks he wanted to use.
Here’s his final map:
They filled an old wooden box with toys and treasures, then we took turns hiding it around the yard and placing the paper plate landmarks. We’ve been reading Pirate Stories from Usborne’s Illustrated Pirate Stories and it amazes me that my boys pick up and use the pirate vocabulary and language they heard in the stories.
They gathered the patio furniture cushions in the middle of the yard to make a ship and even ate tomatoes out of the garden so they wouldn’t get scurvy. Then they buried the treasure chest in the mulch.
This activity was so much fun, it will probably become a regular part of our play.
Read some of our favorite books about Pirates:
Click on the links to gather more great ideas to treasure with PIRATES!
• Make Your Own Pirate Treasure – The Gingerbread House
• DIY Pirate Vest & Patch – Play Dough & Popsicles
• Toilet paper roll pirates – Just Another Mom
• Set Sail with this DIY Pirate Boat – The Resourceful Mama
• It’s a Pirate’s Life for Me – Study at Home Mama
• Pirates Love Underpants Sensory Bin – Adventures of Adam
• Free Pirate Play Dough Mats Numbers 1-10 – Life Over C’s
• Pirate Science: Fool’s Gold, Parrots and Shipwrecks! – Share it! Science News
• Pirate Colouring Pages – In The Playroom
• Pirate Books for Kids of All Ages – Superheroes and Teacups
• Treasure Chest Craft– Messy Little Monster
• How Did Pirates Navigate? How to Read a Map – Schooling a Monkey
• Pirate Sensory Bin – Life with Moore Babies
• Pirate Preschool Printable – Living Life and Learning
• How to Make Some Great Pirate Flags – Witty Hoots
• Perfect Parrot Masks for Pirate Day Fun – Peakle Pie
• Pirate Perler Bead Patterns – Brain Power Boy
• Going on a Pirate Treasure Hunt – Play & Learn Everyday
• DIY Pirate Ship and Pirate Movie Night -CraftCreateCalm
• Pirate Treasure Math Printables – Kidz Activities
• Treasure Alphabet Match – The Kindergarten Connection
• Make Your Own Pirate Map – My Little Poppies
• Treasure Map Grid Activity – My Little Poppies
• Make Your Own Map and Treasure Hunt – My Little Poppies
• Create a FLOATING Pirate Ship! – Milk and Cuddles
• Pirate Puppet Craft -Sugar Aunts
• Hidden Treasure Cupcakes – Emmy’s Mummy
• Non Scary Pirate Books and Movies – Edventures with Kids
• Gold Nuggets – Kelly’s Classroom
• Fizzing Pirate Treasure Adventure – Preschool Powol Packets
More Pirate Fun You’ll Enjoy:
Looking for an easy math lesson that your kids will love? Try this Penny Candy Store to teach kids the value of money. It’s a fun and really easy way to work math into your every day conversation. Candy is one of my favorite tools for math and we’ve done several activities that involve using candy for counting and sorting.
There’s so much nostalgia for the decade I grew up in. Everyone’s lamenting how we had it so much better in our youth. In some ways, we did, but there’s so much opportunity and potential for my kids now that didn’t exist back then.
I spend a lot of time reflecting on what made me who I am and how I developed strong character traits. I can trace a lot of it to overcoming adversity, which I might write about someday. I like to think though, that there are things I can do now, to help my kids develop the same skills without shuffling them between parents and leaving them to their own devices.
I have fond childhood memories of buying bags of sour patch kids from the drug store for a penny each every time my Mom went to the chiropractor and brought us along. So I decided to make my own penny candy store for the kids. It’s a great way to have fun with candy while working in little everyday math lessons.
How to Make Your Own Penny Candy Store
Making the penny candy store wasn’t difficult, however, actually implementing it effectively has brought up a few snags. I’ll share tips for those later in this post.
First Buy some Jars to Hold the Candy
Making a Penny Candy Store is so simple. I used a few glass vases I had sitting around and covered them with plastic wrap when not in use. You could get these adorable Anchor Hocking Glass Cookie/Candy Jars and these little ice scoopers too. So cute!
Or even this really cute Penny Candy Jar.
Next, Fill them with Candy
Make an Open/Closed Sign
I admit, I didn’t actually make the sign yet. If I think they’ve had too much candy I just arbitrarily tell them the store is closed. You could use a chalkboard- like this DIY magnetic chalk tray.
Tips for Making the Penny Candy Store Work
When my kids want some candy, they get their little sandwich baggie and bring me some change. We happen to have change all over our house because they broke into their piggy banks awhile ago. I don’t suggest this unlimited supply of change approach though. Maybe you could give them $1.00 worth of change in various types. Make sure to include pennies, dimes, nickels, and quarters.
This activity can be really simple and on the fly. You don’t actually have to sit down and have a lesson about the money, although you could. You could show them each type, explain it’s name and how many pennies make each one. Then tell them that each piece of candy costs one penny. I just bring it up in conversation and ask them what they are giving me each time.
Getting this concept takes a lot of repetition so be patient and make it fun. When they hand you a dime, don’t just dish out 10 pieces. Ask them how many pieces they would like to buy. If they don’t know you can prompt them by saying, “What type of money is this?”
￼My 3 year old always answers Nickel. Ha! It’s so cute. I just remind him of the correct answer and then he helps me count the candy into his bag.
Use this Penny Candy Store Activity to Practice Limit Setting
This activity is also really good for practicing limit setting too. Yes- your kids may eat 10 tootsie rolls and leave the wrappers all over the floor. But, the novelty of having an unlimited supply of candy will wear off. It’s like Halloween when you gorge yourself on the first day and then the interest in the candy wanes. If they bought candy 2 or 3 times in a day already and still haven’t eaten all of the candy in their bag, I tell them the store is closed. It’s been a few days now and they haven’t asked to buy more yet. When they do, we’ll practice the counting and math lessons.
Of all of the places I’ve taken the kids in the last 5 years, water parks rank at the top for the most stressful. It’s like they were invented to give moms anxiety. When I was a kid, nothing was better than going to an amusement park in my bathing suit and playing in the water all day long at the water park section. Now, not so much. [Read more…] about A Fun Day at the Water Park Tips and Tricks
Kids find everything about camping fun and exciting, even chores! My kids are non-stop on our heels the minute we pull into the camping spot asking a million questions and that’s the perfect opportunity to put them to work. [Read more…] about Fun Jobs and Chores for Kids at the Campsite
Looking for a way to keep kids busy and cool this summer? Try this ice excavation activity. It just takes a little prep to freeze the Lego Mini figures completely. I’ve seen this activity online many times, with various different types of toys inside the ice. [Read more…] about Rescue the Lego Men: Ice Excavation Activity
A lot of people tell me they get overwhelmed by the amount of planning and preparation that goes into a family camping trip. While a little prep does go a long way, I want you to know you don’t have to go all out, over the top crazy with the planning to have a fun and memorable trip. [Read more…] about Entertaining Kids While Camping With Simple Play Ideas
Engineering and technology fascinates me. I pin a lot of articles about Tinkering on my Science Pinterest board and I’m enthralled by the Maker Movement. I see tons of different experiments and engineering challenges and I really wish I could come up with them on my own to share with my kids. Sadly, engineering is not one of my core strengths. [Read more…] about Inspire Future Engineers With MakerStudio Engineering Toys
In my last post, I explained why you would want to have a Master Spreadsheet, and 4 other spreadsheets you’ll want to set up for your blog right away. You don’t want to miss it, so click here to read it. Then come back here for instructions on how to set it up. [Read more…] about How to Set Up a Master Spreadsheet Using IFTTT
This weekend we went camping and I started teaching my kids some easy card games. Except, for a 3 & 5 year old, holding a massive hand of cards, like you need to do in Go Fish, is no easy task. So, I put on my thinking cap and came up with this dirt cheap and ridiculously easy DIY. [Read more…] about Make a DIY Card Holder for Kids
Does the mere thought of trying to get out of the house on time make you want to pull out your hair? Or maybe you’re perpetually late every time you need to be somewhere with the kids?
I get it. That used to be me too.
Last fall, my oldest started preschool and I need to leave the house at 9 am every day to drop him off. I’m telling you, just having somewhere to be on a regular basis made a world of difference. This summer, I’m going to try to stick to the same time schedule to help us keep the groove going.
How I Knew Our Morning Routine Needed Help
I was tired of waking up angry at my kids for waking me up, exhausted because I stayed up too late. Growing up, we were always late for everything. I was following the same path and I didn’t want that to continue. It took me forever to get both kids out of the house. I wanted that to change.
I’m constantly tweaking our routine, but it’s safe to say that the morning routine took the longest to set and perfect. First, I had to admit that, while I’ve always thought of myself as a night owl, I really do get my best work done in the morning. Then I had to be intentional about making the changes I wanted.
Change Starts With You
Mastering my morning routine, and actually the entire routine in general with the kids is a subject that’s always on my mind. Intentionally setting and tweaking the routine gives me a little control in this crazy world and helps me know what comes next.
Before I had kids, I always considered myself a fairly flexible, easy going person. I never really felt the need to try to control anything or anyone. I just did my thing. Despite this, my life always fell into definite routines and patterns. They just weren’t intentional. I got myself ready in the same order every day and walked to class the same way every day. You could find me at the same table in the student center every day at the same time… I could go on and on.
Fast forward to life with kids and my realization that I thrive on routines.
I’ll write more about how we initially established our routines and how they changed over time in a few other posts. Today, I especially want to share our current morning routine because I think it really sets us up for a successful day. I’ll also share tips about how you can make your own routine work for you.
Tips To Master Your Morning Routine and Get Out the Door With Kids in Tow
I think the biggest thing that helped was having somewhere to go at the same time every day. If you don’t have something like school drop-off driving you, make something up. Commit to going out to the yard, the park, or the library every day at the same time.
Make sure everyone gets to bed early enough that they’re getting plenty of sleep without you needed to wake them up. This includes you. The kids go to sleep between 8 and 9 but this will be a little earlier once naps stop. I go to bed at 9:30 or 10:00. Sometimes it makes me feel old, but I’m also ready to get up in the morning and that feels great!
Set an alarm and commit to waking up for your life, not waking up to your life. (Read this inspiring post on the Art of Simple.) Even getting up 5 minutes before my kids makes a big difference in my mood. I know this one is really really hard. It took me awhile to get it right because sometimes my kids are up at 5:00 or 5:30 am. Keep trying. Try not to get frustrated when you don’t get hours of uninterrupted time in the morning and eventually they’ll sleep later and you’ll get more. Patience grasshopper. (It’s my weakest skill.)
Pay attention to the order you naturally do things and the rhythm your morning takes. Figure out how long it actually takes you to get everything done to get out the door, completely undistracted by your phone or computer.
Have a quick, low maintance hair and makeup and skincare routine. A shower takes me 15 minutes. Then it only takes me another 5-10 to get dressed, pull my hair up, put on moisturizer, foundation and mascara.
Set yourself up for success the night before by finding shoes and putting them by the door, laying out clothes for the kids, packing lunch. Where are your keys? If you notice you’re getting snagged on the same things every time you try to leave the house, eliminate the problem. Then you won’t be running through the house yelling “Find your shoes, NOW” like a crazy person or searching frantically for your keys when it’s time to walk out the door.
Give yourself built in time buffers. I can get ready in 30 minutes, but my “must be in the shower” deadline is an hour before we have to leave. Sometimes the buffer only needs to be a few minutes. Get out the door at 8:55 instead of 9:00 so kids can get in the car at their own pace, not yours. It takes me 40 minutes to drive somewhere, I try to give myself an hour. Then when I stop for coffee, or I hit traffic, I’m not ridiculously late. (Most of the time.)
Have a Plan B
Since I want this post to be useful to you, I’ll be honest that it doesn’t always go this smoothly. I can’t tell you how many posts I read telling me to get up before the kids and I just couldn’t make it happen. For 4 years, actually. I had a million excuses why. Mostly I was just exhausted and tried to hang on to every last minute of time with my eyes shut.
The important part is to have a back up plan when things go wrong.
These past two weeks my 3 year old has been getting up before the sun. Every day it’s earlier and earlier. Getting angry doesn’t help. I have to recognize that I’m angry and move past it as quickly as possible. Having a back up plan helps. That’s why I suggest paying attention to rhythms (yours and your kids) and to do things in a general order instead of relying on a strict time schedule.
If I’m up and in the hallway before he says “Let’s go downstairs”, it’s a win. Take your little victories when you can. At first it doesn’t need to be hours of uninterrupted time in the morning
We have gotten in such a groove here that we can just go through the motions of our routine without really looking at the clock. I can take a deep breath and know it will all get done because we do it in the same order every day. As long as I’m not stressing out about it, I can pick up the pace and get out the door quicker without them even knowing it.
What tips and tricks do you have to master your morning routine? I’d love to hear them. If you know a friend who needs this, please share.
So you want to start a blogging business, or maybe even turn your current hobby blog into a full-time income? First you’ll need to get organized. Even if you’re not Type A, there are a few key spreadsheets that will make your blogging life easier and there’s no better time than now to set them up. [Read more…] about 5 Spreadsheets to Set Up When You Start Your Blog
Motherhood can be really lonely, especially if you’re in a town that’s not originally your home. You want to get out and make friends, but the thought of finding your way around as this new “mommy” person you’ve become can be overwhelming. Plus the logistics of taking the kids and all their stuff along… phew! I’m tired just thinking about it.
I’ve been there.
I’ll be writing a more detailed guide soon about all of the types of places you can go, and the logistics of getting out alone with the kids, but I have to credit the fact that I did those things to having a fun group of moms and kids to explore those places with.
I live in New Jersey, but I’m not originally from here. When my oldest turned one, I started looking for play groups. I ended up finding an awesome one on Meetup, for moms that don’t have family nearby. It was a genius concept for a group, because we can relate to the unique challenges of visiting family out of state and taking care of kids without being able to rely on family as built in babysitters. Plus, there are a lot of moms in New Jersey that aren’t from here originally, looking for other moms to connect with.
After the group organizer split up the group, we continued to keep in touch through Facebook and now it feels like a little community. Like a slice of home.
Find “Your People” in a Mom Group
As I’m thinking about how I not only survived, but thrived at different stages of motherhood in the first five years, having a group of moms to hang out with, definitely played a major role.
I could probably elaborate on this in a separate post, but start by looking for groups on Meetup, by searching Facebook, or looking through more formal group directories likeMOPS (Moms of Preschoolers). We also have a lot of “twin” moms in our group who are also involved in Moms of Multiples Clubs that have local chapters and national organizations you can sometimes find on Google.
If you can’t find one, start your own.
Do Your Research
Another way I learned a lot about my area was through internet research.
- Look up your area on Google Maps and make a note of large green areas (parks) to check out. Then work your way through to find the ones you like best.
- Also, visit the town website or the state parks and recreation departments. A lot of these are out of date, so get what you can from them and then think about picking up the phone and calling to clarify things you still need more information on.
- Use Google to find out where people with kids hang out. Look for indoor play places, parks, and even restaurants like Chick-fil-A that do events or have a playground.
- Visit the tourist bureau or visitor’s center for your town and ask about family friendly places there. Then go check them out for yourself.
- The library is your best friend! Most offer story times and events that parents bring kids to. You can also ask there about other places to check out or clubs they might know about.
- Bookstores, like Barnes and Noble, also host story times.
- Google or look for classes too, like those at Little Gym, My Gym, Gymboree, or Music Together and at least take advantage of the free trial classes.
- Look for kids clubs too. We have one at our mall and also at both Lowes and Home Depot. Toys R Us also offers Lego Clubs and Michael’s has Make and Take Workshops. You can find out about all of these by visiting the company websites or calling your individual store.
- Another place to find great information is from a “hyper-local” blog site that lists free and low cost events for families.
If you find yourself in a new place, here are some more ways to make it feel like home:
Give your town a chance.
- I used to travel 30-45 minutes away because I thought that there was nothing to do in my town. When I made a conscious effort to look for things to do, I found plenty of opportunity right in my own backyard.
- Go for a drive and get lost. Really. Give yourself some time to drive around and get lost. This is a fun way to get your bearings and it’s usually pretty hard to get completely lost these days. You can always check Google Maps or turn your GPS back on if it gets hopeless. Just make sure you have a full tank of gas and if the kids are with you, plenty of snacks. Knowing the back roads is a sure sign of being a local, so figure them out as soon as possible.
- Make a habit of smiling and saying hello to people you see everyday. When I first moved here, we lived next to a small store I went to every morning for coffee. If you go to the same place everyday, the employees will start to recognize you and maybe even start making your order as you walk in the door. The same thing happens to my husband when he goes to Wawa before work every day.
- The same thing goes for smiling and saying hello at the park. Ask open ended questions to encourage conversation.
- If you hit it off with someone, make sure to get either
- get their phone number
- connect on Facebook
- or make plans to hang out again before you leave the park.
It might feel strange asking, but no one has said no yet. Maybe they are trying to get up the courage to ask you the same. Just do it. The worst they can say is no.
- Ask people you meet at story times and the park if they are in, or know of any local groups, and they might be able to point you to a wonderful way to get involved in your community and meet new people.
The more you get out and do in your community the more you will start to feel like you belong there. Keep your eyes open for people you can connect with who might be new too and explore together, or show them the ropes.
I hope these tips inspire you to feel at home where you are, instead of wishing you were someplace else.
Do you have any tips to share about making a new place feel like home? Come share them with me on Facebook or Twitter! I might even include them in a follow up post.
Last month the preschool hosted a science night and I took my oldest son to the library for the first annual New Jersey Maker’s Day. I’ve always been a DIY girl at heart and I can hardly contain my excitement for the “maker movement.” Have you heard of it? It’s basically DIY with a technology twist. Our town is even getting a maker space, where you’ll be able to pay a membership fee to use the 3D printers, woodworking machines, and more! There’s even a digital recording studio. To say I’m pumped about the possibilities for my kids here is definitely an understatement. [Read more…] about Nurturing My Children’s Love of Science and the Maker Movement
You’ve just made it through the witching hour and there’s one last step to get through before your kids are sleeping peacefully all snug in their beds. Bedtime. You’re exhausted. Burnt out. The last thing you want to do is read the same story you’ve already read a gazillion times. [Read more…] about Silly Books by Sandra Boynton Make Reading Fun for Everyone
This post is part of a blog hop to kick of the launch of Dirt and Boogers new website, Nurturing the Seasons of Motherhood. I encourage you to visit the site and check out the other posts from real moms sharing their stories. [Read more…] about Baby Stage Limbo: Am I Ready to Be Done With the “Baby Stage” Forever?
This week I’ll be getting ready for the new year by co-hosting a new recipe linky party each day. Menu planning is not my strongest homemaking skill and definitely something I want to improve in the new year. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to do it is to use the freezer and make meals ahead. [Read more…] about Make Ahead Breakfast Ideas
It’s Christmas time, so I got out a few basic supplies and I put together a quick, easy, educational Christmas tree math activity for my boys. This started out as an activity for candy corn, but it’s really easy to modify it to fit other holidays. You can read our Halloween version here.
What you need for the Christmas Tree Math Activity:
- Green construction paper
- a Sharpie or black marker
I cut cute little Christmas tree shapes out of the construction paper and then numbered the trees 1-10. To make it easier for my youngest, I also added dots to correspond with the number written on each tree. If you have a laminator, get that out to make the trees a little more sturdy.
How to do the Christmas Tree Math Activity:
Give the kids a pile of M&M’s and ask them to put the correct amount of M&M’s on the tree to match the number. It’s that easy.
You can also use red trees and then have them sort the M&M’s by color, matching them up with the correct tree. Did you know sorting is a pre-math skill?
Who said learning had to be hard or boring? I hope you enjoyed this activity and will share it with your friends who might like it too.