One Megacoolmama…

…with fun and healthy ideas for kids!

Bringing in a new elf!

It’s that time of year again when Christmas decorations go up and elf magic is in the air!  Yes, I am one of “those” families who participates in the beloved “Elf on the Shelf” shenanigans.  😉  My kids seem to be a little more vigilant of their behavior because our elf is watching, and I can’t help but notice they are a bit more joyful as well.  My two older children love finding their elf, Buddy, every morning in a different spot, sometimes playing a little trick on them or bringing them a little surprise.

The tradition in our household is that our elf comes the day after Thanksgiving, and my kids count down to this day starting the day after Halloween.  This is the third  year that Buddy has made his appearance in our house, and the excitement of his impending arrival hasn’t wanted not even a bit! My husband and I decided that it was time that Buddy got a companion this year since he has been on his own for a while.  Also, we felt that a sisterly companion would be appropriate since we do have a little girl in our household!

So, this year, Buddy showed up with a sister elf .  Obviously, we didn’t just stick her out there and confuse the kids by making them guess as to why another elf was invading our space.  I tried to come up with a creative way to introduce her, and I ended up writing them a poem from Buddy.  The poem explains that she is now part of our family and that the kids will have to name her as well.  Take a look for yourself at what I came up with:

elf on the shelf intro

 

The kids were ecstatic and surprised to find their beloved Buddy with a new elf!  Of course, we had to give her a name, and the two older kids decided on “Annie Sunshine”- I think it has a nice ring to it!  Traditionally, our elf brings the kids a little surprise the first night he is in the home for the season, and this year was no different.  The elf duo gifted each child with a chocolate advent calendar, a special candy (no candy for the little guy- still too small!), and the movie “Home” for the family to watch.  The kids are looking forward to a month full of little surprises and fun with their brother and sister elf, and I don’t think my daughter stopped talking about how much she loved Annie all day!  Totally worth it!

Check out some pics of our elves’ first night arrival and of our little ones enjoying them the morning after!

Buddy, our elf, with candy, calendars, a movie, and a letter for the kiddos!

Buddy, our elf, with candy, calendars, a movie, and a letter for the kiddos!

 

Annie Sunshine, our sister elf, hiding behind the advent calendars to surprise the kids in the morning!

Annie Sunshine, our sister elf, hiding behind the advent calendars to surprise the kids in the morning!

 

The kiddos with their elves and their loot!

The kiddos with their elves and their loot!

 

Do you have an elf at home?  What are some traditions you do with yours?  I would love to hear from you!

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“Little Monster” first birthday party

 

The birthday boy enjoying his first taste of cake!

The birthday boy enjoying his first taste of cake!

My little guy recently turned one, and I wanted to focus his party on a theme that had not been overdone. Also, his birthday is on Valentine’s Day, so I wanted to make sure that I was making a clear separation between the holiday and his birthday.

The “Little Monster” theme came to mind when searching through Pinterest, (of course, where else?).  I wanted to try and do as much as I could myself in the way of decorations and to use as many scrap materials around the house as possible when doing it.

After a while, I was starting to drive myself crazy with all of the cute Pinterest-y things I was finding, hoping that I would find the time to do everything…yeah, didn’t happen!  However, I think we still pulled off a pretty cute Little Monster Party, and I did it by just focusing on a couple of main things instead of trying to make every single little detail perfect.  And, guess what?  I got lots of “Great party!” comments on the way out!  I would say that is a success!

I am sharing with you a few of the activities, foods and decorations that I did for the Little Monster party.  Feel free to use any of the ideas for your own Little Monsters!

 

DECORATIONS

-Tissue poms with pasted on eyes.  We hung a few and stuffed a few into buckets for centerpieces for the tables.

 

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tissue pom decoration

-Homemade birthday banner.  I used scraps of card stock that I had leftover from my scrapbooking days, and went with the colors I had most of- blue, orange, green, purple and yellow….those ended up being the main colors of the party!  I drew and cut out the letters and just pasted everything with Elmer’s glue.  I used a paper hole punch, strung some yarn through, and voila!  I plan on using this banner in years to come and just switching out the “1” with a different number!

photo (22)

-Big wall monsters.  I used big butcher block paper and colored paper plates for the eyes and claws/teeth.  I cut out the shapes, colored where necessary and taped to the walls and doors!

door monster

 

 

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wall monster

wall monster

-Hanging monsters.  These little inflatables I bought from Amazon and were a cute touch.  I hung them from the light fixtures in the kitchen and dining room and had another one just floating between tables.  Super cute and lasted the entire party!

 

FOOD

-Monster fruit.  I drew faces on some clementines and bananas, and then I used a chip tray to arrange green grapes and blueberries with a big eye in the center.  I used, once again, a paper plate and marker for the eye.

monster fruit tray

monster fruit tray 2

-Monster pretzels.  My sister helped me out here!  We took rod pretzels, dipped them in white chocolate, covered with colorful sprinkles and then stuck an edible eyeball on them.  So cute and a nice sweet/salty treat!

monster pretzels

-Monster mix.  For the sweet table, I had two buckets of Monster Mix (as seen in the far right and left buckets in the picture above).  One was a bucket full of colorful jelly/sugar candies, like gummy Jolly Ranchers and LifeSavers, jelly beans, and gummy SweetTarts.  The other bucket was full of M&M’s.  I had little striped cupcake paper wrappers out for the little ones to fill with candy.  The sweet table was a big hit, especially with the option to fill the cupcake wrappers from the buckets!

-Monster lollipops.  Yep, ordered these from Amazon, too!  Something simple, but added just the right touch to our little sweet table.

ACTIVITIES

-Adopt-a-Monster.  The goodie bag for the kids at the end of the party was a little monster that they could adopt.  I ordered a couple of bags of cute little monster dolls from Amazon and created an Official Monster Adoption Certificate that each child could fill out and take home with the monster of their choosing.  The kids loved being able to adopt a monster; as a matter of fact, I think my niece snagged three! 🙂

-Make your own Monster.  All I did here was make copies of a monster body parts template that I found here.  The kids cut out body parts, colored them and pasted them on their monster bodies.  It kept kids busy and creative at the same time!

-Monster labels.  I just printed these out, cut them, and left them on the table for the kids to do as they pleased with them.  Some used them as labels for their adopted monsters, others used them to give monster names to themselves, and others stuck them on their cups.  Just something a little extra to go with the theme.  🙂

 

We had a great time celebrating my little guy’s first birthday, but all of these ideas were just a fun addition to what made the party the most special– the people, of course!  We are blessed with amazing family and friends, and were are grateful to be able to celebrate our children’s milestones with the people we love most!

first birthday

Oh, and CAKE!  Lol…I almost forgot the cake!  To serve the guests, we just ordered a blank sheet cake from Costco, and I decorate it myself–not too shabby, eh?  And, the special birthday boy’s smash cake was ordered from a bakery by my house.  Loved it! (and, yes, those are Monster cookies you see in the background!)

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monster cake

 

 

Thanks for reading!  Hope you can use some of my ideas…I would love to hear some of yours in the comments below! 🙂

 

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“One-derful” first birthday gifts

first birthday gifts

 

In our family, we LOVE a good party!  Lately, there have been a lot, especially with all of these babies turning one!  Next up on the list is my little guy, who will be turning one very soon– oh, where does the time go?

Recently, we had the pleasure of attending our nephew’s first birthday party, and I knew right away what I wanted to gift him.  Since I have had three kids, I know what we have enjoyed receiving, and I know what things have made their way to the basement after a few days.  It occurred to me that not everyone knows right away to give to a one year old.  They are in a weird stage where they are too old for rattles, but too young for some of the more popular toys.  And if you don’t have kids or it has been a while since you have had one that small, it may be difficult finding just the right gift.

The list below is sure to make any one year old (and their parents) happy.  Of course, only you know the personality, beliefs and background of the family, but I have either personally received for my children or given all of the gifts below, and they were a hit!

 

1. LeapFrog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Letter Set

We have owned a set of these for 8 years now (the same one)!  Having one for that long and having it still work is something to attest to its durability.  This has been one of our favorites because it keeps the baby close to me in the kitchen since it goes on the fridge, and I am ALWAYS in the kitchen.  Also, toddlers and preschoolers are reminded of the sounds that go with each letter.  One of my favorite all-time gifts, EVER!

 

2. VTech Sit-to-Stand Learning Walker

This walker was my oldest son’s first birthday gift from my aunt and uncle and has remained a favorite for all three of my children!  I love the versatility of it- it can be used as a walker or the front can be taken off and put on the ground as a floor toy.  Lots of activities to keep them busy, too!

 

3. Cloth blocks

I LOVE big cloth blocks!!  The little ones love stacking, but really love knocking things down!  These Melissa and Doug blocks are perfect for stacking, knocking down, throwing, chewing, and learning something in between!  Obviously, a big plus here is that there are no sharp edges or heavy blocks to hurt the little ones while they play.

 

4. Big chunky puzzle

Little hands love big pieces!  And this one is adorable!  Three chunky pieces with big knobs is perfect for the one year old.  And the bright colors are catchy!  Make this even more educational by practicing the sounds and names of the animals as your little one places them in the puzzle.

 

5. Forward facing car seat

Right between the ages of one and two is when most parents start transitioning their children to forward facing car seats.  This Graco one (shown above) is one of the highest rated ones and would make an excellent gift for parents (especially first-time parents who don’t already own car seats from previous kids).  I would love to get one of these for my kid’s first birthday!  Check out my post on the best and highest rated forward facing car seats on the market.

 

6. Play kitchen

This Step 2 Play Kitchen is one that we have owned for four years now.  My kids starting playing with it from about 1 1/2 years of age, and they are still playing with it at 7 and 5.  The baby, who will be one very soon, even joins in on the fun!  He loves the sounds that the stovetop makes (frying and bubbling) and all of the doors and compartments.  My older two love pretending that they are working in a restaurant, frequently serving up bread, veggie soup, and sandwiches of all sorts!

 

7. A Radio Flyer Wagon

During the spring and summer months, a wagon is a very nice piece of equipment to have, especially if you want to frequent any outdoor places like zoos and parks.  This Radio Flyer wagon is FIVE stars on Amazon, and with good reason.  It provides shade for your toddler, comfortable seating, and storage space.  Everything you need for a nice ride with your toddler!

 

8. Little Tikes Junior Play Slide

This is probably one of the best investments we have ever made in a toy– no joke!  We have had this miniature slide for going on eight years now, and it is still going strong!  As a matter of fact, it has endured the elements of all seasons, and we can just wipe it clean in the spring and be ready to use it!  This provides tons of fun for your little one, obviously VERY supervised and on a softer surface (grass worked just fine for us!).

 

9. Water table

A water play table is sure to provide hours of fun for your little one.  I am not sure what it is about the simple fact of putting water out to play, but little ones love it!  And this table makes water play a much more interactive experience, with all of the twists, turns, and loops that the water could take.  This has been useful as a hot-day toy, filled up with the hose outside.

 

10.  Gift card

Amazon Gift Card in a Tin

Everyone loves Amazon because there is just SO MUCH selection!  If you know that the person is an online shopper, an Amazon gift card is the way to go.  And, they have so many cute little tins that you can choose from to hold the card, too!

Etsy gift card

This is one that I got for my sister-in-law, the trendsetter!  She loves everything small business and custom-made and purchases tons of clothes and accessories for her baby on Etsy.  With an Etsy gift card she can find something unique and that she really loves.

 

11.  Subscription box service

I have used the subscription box service for BluumBox, and I have absolutely loved it!  All of the items I received in the box were awesome quality and unique (Some items I have received– a cute tuxedo bib, a keyring/board book for infants, full size Playtex bottle, dishwasher rack for bottle parts, pacifiers, soft washcloths, etc).  There was such variety, and I loved being introduced to products that I may not have discovered otherwise.  This is the perfect gift for any parent/toddler, especially ones that enjoy discovering new things but just don’t have the time to go searching around for the newest and best of everything!

 

Hopefully, you can find at least one option of the above that will make your special one year old (and their parents!) happy.  Happy shopping!

 

 

 

 

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No-mess water bag toy

I just thought I would share a super simple, frugal idea for a no-mess water toy for toddlers.  I got the idea from a friend after seeing a pic of her little guy playing with this on her Facebook.

All you need to make it is a large Ziploc bag, water, and duct tape.  Optional are oil, food coloring and small non-pointy items, like beads or buttons.

 

no mess water bag toy

My little guy playing with his water bag on the patio door window!

 

I filled the Ziploc bag with about 2-3 inches of water and added a bit of oil to add some interest to the plain water.  You will want to hold the bag over the sink once you have a bit of water in it to make sure there are no little holes that could spring a big leak!

Also, I had some old container of cupcake sprinkles that were in the shape of hearts and stars that I threw in there so the baby could see something moving around when he touched the bag.  Finally, I made sure the Ziploc bag was good and shut and then duct taped it to the window, right about the height of his head.

He spent a good 10-15 minutes just pounding on the bag, watching the water move around!  However, we did have to move the bag up a couple inches right after taking the above pictures since he decided that he wanted to try and eat the bottom corner of the bag!

I have left the bag taped to the window so that he has something else to pound on when he plays in his little area, and I will probably leave it there for the next few days or so…it seems to have withstood the pounding he gave it today pretty well, so I’m hoping it will survive a few more days!

Do you have any ideas for frugal, simple toys for your kids?

 

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Family time fun!

family time fun

We all know the importance of spending time together as a family, and at the end of the work week, the thing I want most is to come home and spend some quality time with my own.  Some time ago, I realized that the time I was spending with my kids seemed always to be occupied by other things that moms have to do- cook, clean, prepare lunches for the week, check homework, pay bills, and so on.  Yes, I was doing valuable work that needed to be done in order to keep the household running, but that guilty feeling kept creeping up every time I had to tell the kids “Just a second” or “Let me finish this” when they asked for me to play.

My husband and I talked and decided that we needed to change that.  At the time, our kids were six and four; the baby had not been born yet.  We came up with the solution of instituting “family time.”  Yep, it was that simple.  All we did was make a conscious effort  to spend 30 minutes together  as a family every night doing an activity that one member of the family picked, taking turns.

Before we knew it, “family time” became such an integral part of our routine every evening that the kids expected and asked for it.  We were so happy that all it took was a little change and focused effort; our kids felt so valued, and we all looked forward to having our turn at deciding the activity!

Read on for some of our favorite picks for family time…

1.  Play a board game.  Our favorites:

Operation— Fun to hear the buzzer if you hit the metal, and they come in different versions now!  We play the classic (but updated version).  Most appropriate for ages 5 and up.

 

Candyland— Been playing this one since the kids were old enough to move the little game pieces!  Still a favorite for the kids…of course, they love fantasizing that they are gobbling up all the sweets along the way!

 

Monopoly Jr. Party version— Lots of fun and a more appropriate version for the little ones.  Sometimes we make up our own rules for the Party Box (we pay the box instead of the bank when someone buys a party), and we take turns between myself, my hubby and my seven year old with being the banker.  Great math practice!

 

Time Will Tell game— Awesome game to help kids tell time!  We have been using this since my son was six and in the first grade.  I would recommend waiting until your child is old enough to understand the concept of time before playing this, otherwise tears and frustration may ensue!  (I learned this the hard way!


Kids Games: Kids Learn to Tell Time Game – Time Well Tell Game – $16.95

from: The Land of Nod

 

Zingo!— My five year old daughter LOVES this game, and I love it too since she is practicing sight words and patterns!  The kids love the card dispenser, and I love that the pieces are sturdy enough (made of a harder plastic) to withstand lots of play time!

Cat in the Hat, I Can do That— All-time favorite of the entire family!  Comes with cards and props.  You draw three cards from the bunch and have to complete the action that the cards describe. We have had some funny combinations, like “Walk backwards around the Trick-a-ma-stick three times while holding the boat under your left arm”.  Definitely a test of coordination skills, and it keeps the kids guessing what combination will come next!

2.  Have a dance party.  We either put on the iPad and rock out to our songs downloaded on iTunes or use the Pandora music stations on our tv.  Sometimes the dance parties get so intense that we go into dance-off mode!  This is one of my daughter’s favorite activities for family time! (See her take on dance parties in this video.)  The baby has definitely joined in on more than one occasion, too!  (Watch his first dance moves here!)

 

3.  Build something together.  We LOVE the Melissa and Doug Suspend game!  The idea is to build a tower of sorts with these long wire pieces that are kinda bent at different angles.  The object is to see if you can get all of the pieces to stay on the base together, obviously without having it fall.  This is such a fun, intense, and surprising game which practices strategic thinking !

Another building idea is to partner up and give each group the same amount of Legos or K’nex.  Then see who can come up with the best/most creative construction!  Of course, you may want to come up with some criteria ahead of time, like what you are building, time limits, etc.

 

4.  Have a puzzle competition.  We like to partner up (one of us per kid) and go against the other team to see who can put together a puzzle
the fastest.  Once again, this gets really intense, and we all really get into it!

 

5.  Play Transformers Hide n Seek.  Or My Little Pony, or whatever toy!  My little guy invented this game for one of his Family Time activities.  Check out the video we made explaining how to play!

 

6. Make something creative.  Cheerios, popcorn and pasta have all been victim to necklace accessories in this household!  It is also fun to just throw a bunch of stuff in a bowl (old craft stuff, dry pasta, little trinkets that kids receive from birthday parties, etc.) and see which group can come up with the most interesting creation!

 

The most important thing of all is to do what is fun and meaningful to your family.  I have shared what works for us– use if you wish, or use my ideas as a starting point for something totally unique!

If you already incorporate family time into your routine, how is it done in your household?

 

 

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Fun with foil: a simple kids’ craft

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I am constantly looking for something new to keep my kids busy and off of technology for at least a good part of the day.  I see some really cool ideas on Pinterest, but, most of the time, I don’t have the materials I need to even begin the project!  In my desperation to combat the dreaded “I’m bored” coming from my son’s mouth, I came up with this activity for him to do.  Honestly, I was cooking in the kitchen when he came up to me with the “I don’t know what to do” complaint.  I walked into the pantry to grab something, saw the aluminum foil, and “voilá!”, this idea was born!

All you need for this simple craft is aluminum foil.  Nothing else!  Just rip or cut it into strips, and let your kids’ creativity do the rest!

aluminum foil craft step 1

Step 1:  Take a out a piece of aluminum foil, about a foot out of the box.  Tear little starting “tabs” at the top of the foil piece (about an inch apart), like shown in the photo above.

 

aluminum foil step 2

Step 2:  Tear the aluminum foil sheet into (more or less) even strips.  You can cut, too, if you feel like your ripping skills are subpar. 🙂

 

aluminum foil step 3

 

aluminum foil 3b

Step 3:  Squeeze and pinch the aluminum foil strips so that they form pliable “wire-like” pieces.

 

aluminum foil step 4

Step 4:  Start pinching and pushing the pieces together to form different figures–let your kids get creative here!  In this picture, Devin is making a snowflake.  My daughter decided to break the pieces apart and try to make her name.

 

aluminum foil 5

Step 5:  Show off your creations!  Devin ended up making a mini tv set!

The kids had fun and stayed entertained for a good 30 minutes with this.  And, they really enjoyed crumpling all of the little aluminum foil pieces into a big ball when they were done.  I know this activity is SUPER simple, but sometimes simplicity = creativity, which is always a good thing in my book!

Did you try this activity with your kids?  Do you do something similar?  I’d love your feedback in the comments!

Land Of Nod: Design for Kids and People That Used to be Kids

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Simple ideas to reconnect with your kids

RECONNECT WITH YOUR KIDS

 

I know as a working mom that every once in a while I just need to take time to sit down and reconnect with my kids.  I am very lucky to be able to have the weekends at home with them and most evenings as well.  However, most of my time at home is spent doing meal prep, taking care of the baby, grading or preparing for classes, cleaning, and just simply trying to keep up with the chaos!

I try to take special time every week at some point to do at least one of the activities mentioned below with each one of my kids.  There are times when I know my oldest son need more of an “invisible string” kind of day (see below).  Maybe another day my daughter will prefer to listen to her birth story and read.  No matter the activity, as long as I am taking time to simply “be” with them and do nothing else for that short amount of time, they are happy.  And, that genuine happiness that comes from a place of just wanting to spend time with mommy is priceless.

Below are some things that I do to reconnect with my own children. Take these ideas and copy them, make them yours, twist them completely until they fit your lifestyle and your kids’ personalities.  The point is to spend uninterrupted time with your child doing something that makes them feel important.

1.  Read two books with your child- one he/she chooses and one you choose.  Both of you explain why you chose the book you did and share your favorite parts after reading.   Click on the images to check out a few of our favorite books.

            

 

2.  Tell them their birth story*.  And, no, I’m not talking about the gory details.  We are going to focus on the parts that won’t give your child nightmares here!  Narrate to your child how you felt when he/she was born and what the first thing was that you noticed when they were placed in your arms.  For my oldest son, it was his big, brown eyes.  For my daughter, it was her head full of black hair.  And, for my baby boy, it was his perfect little nose.  Tell about how you felt at that time and how in love you were with that little bundle of joy! I also like to include how we prepared at home for their arrival and who was there when we brought them home for the first time.  I tell them all of the details, down to the outfit they were wearing! My kids LOVE listening to their birth stories; I feel like it gives them a sense of knowing that they always have been wanted, important, and loved, even from before the time they were born.

 

3.  Create an “invisible string”.  I always tell my kids that there is an invisible string that connects our hearts no matter what.  In order to “recharge” the string, we have to hug for 20 seconds (the amount of time that a hug should last in order to get the “feel-good” boost of oxytocin hormone going).  That string then can never be broken, no matter where any of us may be, so we are always connected.  This tactic always helps if my son has had a particularly rough day.  This is great for those parents who have to send their kids to daycare or who are away from their kids for an extended amount of time.

 

4.  Go through old family photos together.  Kids love looking at pictures and start to become more interested in their family history around age six or seven.  As you go through the pictures, be sure to include any funny and pertinent stories in order to make the people in the pictures more real for your children.  They also may find they have a special connection with a certain relative!  This activity has been especially important with my children since all of my grandparents and a couple of my favorite uncles all passed away before my children were born.  It’s such a great way to keep the family history alive and provide your children with those roots.

 

5.  Cook together. Give your child the choice between a couple of recipes that are easy to prepare and yummy favorites for them.  Let your child measure out the ingredients and do some simple preparation, such as washing fruits and vegetables and putting ingredients in a bowls or blender.  Make a vow NOT to the let the mess bother you just this one time, and ask your child to help clean up afterward.  Serve your family your kitchen creation.

           

How fun would these plates be for serving dinner?

 

Whichever activity you choose, enjoy it and relish the time spent with your little ones.  They grow up way too fast!

 

*I fully realize that not everyone’s birth story will be a positive experience and in no way intend to make light of serious physical and emotional issues that arise for many parents.  I simply included this because my own experiences have been very positive ones.

 

 

 

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Make your own baby food: easy cinnamon apples

 

My baby after his cinnamon apples are gone!

My baby after his cinnamon apples are gone!

I will admit that when I was a first time mom, I bought into (quite literally) the pre-made baby food in the supermarket, since that is what I thought babies were “supposed” to eat.  I never realized how simple and how much healthier making my own baby food could be until I started experimenting with my second child.  Currently, with my third child, I rarely buy any packaged puréed baby food in the supermarket, with the exception of some Plum Organics pouches that I will mix in with some homemade organic quinoa or oats to give it more texture.  He enjoys the foods that we eat as a family, only in smaller, more manageable pieces for his little hands.  Not only is making his baby food fun for me, but I feel good knowing exactly what is in it and where it came from.  I started preparing this easy cinnamon apple recipe a couple months ago when he was nine months old.  He already had six teeth by then, so I felt safe giving it to him.  My baby loves it, and I hope yours does too!

Ingredients:

-one small to medium organic apple (I used the Gala variety)

organic ground cinnamon

 

Directions:cutting the apple

1.  Wash and slice about half of an apple into wedges.

apple wedges

 2.  Cut the peel off of the apple wedges.

apples in microwave

3.  Microwave the wedges for about 30 seconds on high.  Test when they come out to see if they have softened up enough.  If not, put them back in at 10-15 second intervals until they come out how you want them.  They should look like this:

soft cinnamon apples

apples with cinnamon

4.  Next, coat the softened apples with cinnamon and toss them with your hands to coat all of the pieces evenly. Note:  You will want to wait about five minutes, until they have cooled.

cutting cinnamon apples

5.  Chop the cinnamon-coated soft apple wedges into little chunks.  I make them about 1/2 inch, but you should decide what size is best for your baby to manage.

storing cinnamon apples

6.  Store chopped cinnamon apples in glass storage containers.  These will keep well in the refrigerator for about three days.  Freeze leftover apples.

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Create a reading niche for your kids

My own little ones' reading niche!

My own little ones’ reading niche!

Reading is a crucial part of learning and brain development for our growing little ones.  We all know that reading just 20 minutes a day has been linked to significant increases in achievement in kids as well.  Reading is pretty darn important, so it is necessary to give reading the respect it deserves, especially when dealing with somewhat reluctant readers (like my second-grade son).  By treating the act of reading as a special event and giving it an attractive “home”, I have seen that my kids are more likely to pick up a book on their own without me even having to ask them!  Thus, the idea of the “reading niche” was born.

How do you create a reading niche?  Basically, I included components that I felt would make my kids want to stay in the “reading niche.”  I wanted it to be comfy, colorful and full of light.  Here is what I chose (refer to pic above for image):

1.   Comfy seating.  This is a necessity.  If there is nowhere comfortable to sit, the kids won’t stay there very long.  The point is to entice them to relax.  So, don’t be afraid to invest some $$ in some seating that will do the trick.  I chose the ones in the picture from Land of Nod.  They are personalized so there is never any fighting over who gets which seat!  Also, I like that the cover to the seat is washable.

2.  Kid-friendly book storage.  This is absolutely necessary when creating a reading niche.  You will want to make sure that the place where the books are stored is accessible at all levels and safe for the kids.  I like the one we use since it has soft canvas pouches that hold the books, and it is the perfect height for all of my kids!

3.  A good reading light.  Once the daylight has gone, you will want to have a nice floor lamp that can be adjusted in order to give light to the little ones if they decide to read at night.  I like the one we have since it has three different lights, and I have the ability to turn one on or turn all three lights on at once!  I have placed the floor lamp behind the bookcase so that cords are out of reach.

4.  Natural light.  If at all possible, you will want your reading niche’s central location to be by a source of natural light.  My toy room is perfect for this because we have a little bump-out with the window that created the perfect spot to put our reading niche.  You don’t have to have yours right by a window, but somewhere near one is preferable since natural light is just better overall for kids. 🙂

5.  Basket of stuffed animals and blankets.  I decided to include this for two main reasons:  First, kids like to cuddle.  By placing their favorite stuffed animals and a few snuggly blankets in a basket, I am encouraging them to make themselves comfortable and stay a while.  Secondly, my daughter loves reading to her dolls, so I thought throwing a few of those in the basket would be fun. 🙂

And, finally, I thought I would share a few of my kids’ favorite books that have taken up residence in our reading niche.

–>Favorite books/magazines of my seven year old boy:

Pop-up Facts Human Body

Scholastic Wild Weather Pack

–>Favorite books of my five year old girl:

Pinkalicious

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes

–>Favorite books of my 11 month old baby boy:

Disney Baby Einstein Amazing Animals Play-a-sound

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

–>Magazines my kids love:


Highlights for Children


Disney Princess Magazine

 

 

Do you have a reading niche in your home?  What are your children’s favorite books?  I would love to hear about what you do in the comments!

 

 

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Our “cold day” indoor activities

Here are some snippets from our “cold day” home from school.  These activities could be done on any day your kiddos have to be stuck inside.  Though these activities were so simple, we had so much fun!  Feel free to share below if you like!

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Camden is at his limit with “cold day” fun!

We used these fun tattoos from Land of Nod to do hand puppet shows…they were Christmas-related, but the kids didn’t care!

hand tattoos

Fun hand tattoos from Land of Nod

 

We got the idea for “wax paper skating” from one of my good friends on Facebook, who got it from here.  I even joined in on the fun– it was an awesome workout!  Especially on the bamboo floors!  🙂

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Skating fun with wax paper!

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More wax paper skating– works great on wood floors!

 

And, finally, we did our scavenger hunt!  I have done this numerous times with the kids and they never get tired of it!  Included in their treasure bags:  a tiny goodie bag with some dark chocolate chips, a hand tatoo, a small sticker book, a plastic Easter egg with a piece of gum in it, a wooden spinning top, and one big “Super Estrella” sticker (what can I say?  I’m a Spanish teacher!).

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Finding their “treasures” at the end of the scavenger hunt!

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Reading a clue during their scavenger hunt

Do you have any fun indoor activities that you do with your kids?  Comment below to possibly be featured on my blog!

 

*All images are property of Megacoolmama and may not be reproduced without my permission.*

 

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