Friday, October 31, 2008

Fun Finds

Here are some links to fun family ideas that I found around the web this week:

Directions for making homemade lick stickers from Salt and Chocolate

Very detailed instructions for making your own magic folding cubes from Thingamababy. There are even video tutorials!

Chasing Cheerios tells about the shell memory game that she made for her toddler. (This is a wonderful site, by the way.)

Bizzy Bee Creations has a picture of a fun and easy butterfly snack idea.

A post on Life with Kashion talks about how their family went trick or treating in a nursing home. This seems like a great idea for both the residents and for the kids!

The family at Today's Housewife has a wonderful tradition for making a game of opening presents at Christmas. The post has inspired me with lots of fun ideas of my own. You'll want to read it! She also shows how a bundt cake pan is just the right shape for making a pumpkin shaped spice cake!

Mommysecrets shares her family's scavenger hunt for the needy.

Growing Great Kids has a fun set of instructions for making your own grassy caterpillars!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Free Museum Admission this weekend

Bank of America is sponsoring free museum visits this weekend at over 70 museums
Click here to get more details!


My sister is adorable. Tomorrow she finds out whether she passed the bar exam, and do you know what she and her husband are going to do if she passes? Decorate for Christmas! Isn't that a fun celebratory activity?

I was thinking too, that you if have a child in sports right now maybe you could do something similar. Say if your daughter is on the volleyball team- the next time she has a game, you could tell her that if she wins, the family will decorate for Christmas. Maybe her whole team could come over to help! If they lose- oh well, just say it again the next time there is a game. Hopefully she'll win some time between now and Christmas! :-)

(Of course, you'd have to gauge your own child and know whether it would be fun or just add unneeded pressure.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

13 Ways to Pass the Time while Waiting at a Restaurant

Between getting a table, ordering, and the arrival of food, waiting can take up a large proportion of the time that your family is at a restaurant. If you can make that down time fun, it will go a long way toward making eating out a pleasant experience for the night. Here are some ideas to pass the time:

1. Ask for lemons with your water and let your kids make themselves lemonade using a couple packets of splenda on the table. They can experiment with different levels of sourness and sweetness. Ask them if they can figure out the part of their tongue that senses sourness.
2. Play hangman.

3. Have each person guess what letter your server’s name will start with. Each person could also guess a name to go with their letter. Wouldn’t it be fun if they were right some time?

4. Play “Squares.” Here are some good directions for the game. My mother used to play this with us all the time when we were little!

5. Get a copy of the game Password, and always keep a decoder and a few cards in your purse for times like these.
6. Play “If I were a _______ I’d order...” Have the kids discuss what they would order on the menu if they were a bear or a squirrel or a monster, etc.

7. Bring a deck of cards and play a card game. Rummy is particularly good for this situation because it requires very little table space; it is flexible as to number of players, and the rounds are short.
8. Have fun imagining with your children what it would be like if you were accidentally locked in the restaurant after it closed and had to spend the night there. Discuss what you would want to play with, where would be good hiding places for hide-and- go- seek and where you would like to sleep.

9. Keep a small book of trivia questions in your purse.

10. Pick out a book of short stories that your family will plan to read from aloud whenever you go to restaurants or have a long road trip.
11. Play Pictionary. Even if you don’t have any cards from the game with you, it is easy enough for one person to think of a word and whisper it to another person for him to draw while everyone else tries to guess. It’s harder to make it a fair competition that way, but it will still be fun!

12. Instruct your kids that they are to imagine themselves to be two inches tall with the powers to run, jump, and climb like video game characters. Tell them to watch themselves in their imagination exploring the restaurant in their tiny state. Whenever they get themselves into a predicament (fall into a bowl of soup, find themselves on a ledge they can’t get off of, etc. ) they are to tell the others who must then come up with a plan to rescue the tiny person in crisis. (This idea comes from my husband who admits that he sometimes still imagines himself tiny and watches himself run around the room when he is stuck in a boring situation! :-)

13. Have your kids draw imaginary hybrids of animals. For example, you could tell them to draw a mix between a leopard and a praying mantis. See what you get!

Wordless Wednesday: These are pickle jars!

Go here to see a tutorial on how to make these.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pickle Jar Lanterns

The people living in darkness have seen a great light. Matthew 4:16

In some ways maybe this craft is more suited for Christmas, but it's my way of reminding myself (and trick-or-treaters who come up our steps) on a day with a lot of focus on evil that Christ (the Light) has overcome the darkness.

Despite its somewhat subversive message, the lanterns really do fit in to the typical halloween decor with their glowing orange letters inside of jet black exteriors. Plus, they were super easy and cheap to make! I'm thinking of making some more for Christmas- perhaps with silhouetted nativity scenes.

Here's how I put these together:

1. I removed the sticky labels from 4 pickle jars and a wheat germ jar (ran out of pickle jars) using Goo-Gone.
2. Next, I wrote the verse across the jars using scrapbook lettering (actually bought the letters for 10 cents at a garage sale!).
3. I then covered the jars with black spray paint. A more patient person than me would have done this in several coats, but since they were going to be out at night, I figured no one would probably see the drips if I just did one heavy coat.
4. I also did a very light coat of spray paint on the inside of the jars to disperse the light a little with the haze. (If you accidentally make drips that distort the letters this way, you can take a knife and scrape off the dripped paint)
5. I carefully removed the scrapbook letters and touched up the letters left on the jar with my thumbnail.
6. Finally, I placed a candle inside of each and set them on our front steps.
IMPORTANT: Do not light the candles until the spray paint is completely dry- a good couple of hours at least. The fumes from spray paint are extremely flammable. If you try to light your candles when there are any lingering fumes you might set your house on fire- like I almost did!

An encouraging side note-- As some of you may have guessed, I am more of an idea person than a craft person. Translation: I am sloppy, sloppy when it comes to precise measurements, etc. If I attempt a craft and it turns out half-way decent, a normal crafter is likely to have much prettier results!

For more great ideas today head on over to Works for Me Wednesday!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Old Electronics

Have an old radio or computer that you are planning to toss? Before you do, maybe you have a son or daughter that would enjoy doing a dissection on the thing with a screwdriver. Besides keeping your child occupied for a good hour or two, you might be nurturing the mind of a future engineer!

For more good ideas visit here.

Do you have a new use for an everyday object? Please feel free to leave a link to your post on the Mr. Linky below! You don't have to link back to this site (although it would be great if you did!) The only things I ask are that your post be family-friendly and that the link go directly to the post itself and not some other page of your blog. Thanks!

Giveaway: Two Classic Children's Books

Does your child ever get tired of the wonderful words and pictures in Goodnight Moon? This week's giveaway includes a lesser-known book by classic children's author Margaret Wise Brown. The Seven Little Postmen is full of sweet pictures and a simple rhyming story. Your children are sure to love it!

Some of you like me may remember Frog and Toad are Friends as one of the first books you read by yourself as a young child. It is a Caldecott Honor Book, and is just the right mix of whimsy and simplicity.

To be entered into the giveaway, just leave a comment below and include your email address so that I will be able to contact you if you win. (feel free to write the email address out in words if you like) If you would like a second entry, you may blog about this giveaway and leave a second comment with the link.

On Monday, November 3rd the winner will be chosen through, and I will post the name late that night.

Museum Free Days

If there is a museum, zoo, or wildlife center near you that costs money, it is a good idea to call their office to ask if they have any admission-free days coming up. Often a museum will have free days or times that are not widely advertised.

I called the Austin Children's Museum, and discovered that every Wednesday evening from 5-8pm the museum is open to the community. We went last Wednesday and had a very good time. I was glad though, that we hadn't paid any money. It was worth the trip into town, but to us it would not have been worth the $6.50 a person that it normally costs.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Foot -Pedal Trash Cans

If your family has a foot-pedal trash can, then I have a fun activity idea for you! I came upon it accidentally this afternoon when I inadvertently placed one of my baby's toys on the top of our kitchen trash and then pushed the pedal to open the canister. The toy went flying across the room as if it had been flung by catapult.

Of course, I then had to experiment with different toys and different positions on the trash can. Toys were flying everywhere!

I only regret that I don't yet have children old enough to have enjoyed it with me. My husband doesn't count; he enjoyed the whole thing but only to poke fun at me (as you can see by the amused mocking expression in this picture as he sent a block flying across the dining room)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bunny Book Winner

Congratulations to this week's winner:

Briana (Comment #47)

As soon as I hear from you, Briana, with your snail mail address I will send those books right out to you!

Be sure to check back on Monday when I will have another great giveaway!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sign Language Plays

Children sure love to move! Repressing that urge, as most parents will tell you, seldom works and in fact, often backfires. Channeling the wiggly-ness is a much better option!

All kinds of activities channel energy, but I think doing plays in sign language is especially great because, not only do the kids participate in structured movement, but they are learning something genuinely useful, as well as doing something that could potentially bless other people.

My brother, sister and I have a cousin who is deaf, and so, our mother taught us little bits of sign language when we were younger so that we could communicate with him. We loved it!

As we were working on this little play that we wrote my sister and I thought about how much our cousin would enjoy seeing it. It gave us something fun to work on that was about more than ourselves. That seems healthy. We learned from The Joy of Signing. Many people who have been trained in ASL will tell you that this book is overly simplistic, and is probably not a good start for someone who wants to become fluent. But for children, I think it is a wonderful tool. The pictures are easy to understand and imitate and the layout is simple. When my sister and I were very young we taught ourselves many of the signs simply by browsing on our own.

I don't know if there are good resources out there to help children who are learning sign language to meet deaf children. Maybe some of you have experience with this and could share?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Homespun Harvest Party

Have you ever considered hosting a children's harvest party in your backyard?

Monica at The Homespun Heart put together a lovely time for the children that she knows, complete with sack-racing, bobbing for apples and doughnut games. Maybe her party will give you inspiration for your own good time!

13 Everyday objects to put in a toddler's busy box

As part of my 15 month-old's daily routine, she spends twenty minutes playing alone on a blanket.

As long as she has something interesting to do there, she is very content to sit quietly (and in fact, she emerges from the time a more peaceful, happier baby than when she began).

The challenge, sometimes, is coming up with interesting things for her to explore each day. We have neither the space, money, nor inclination to keep filling the house with new toys; but I have found that there are everyday household items that can do just as well.

Here are some of the more successful everyday objects turned toddler toys:

1. Spools of thread- good for stacking and placing in and out of a container.

2. Tupperware containers- or old sour cream, yogurt containers, etc. She especially likes putting the lids on and off.

3. Water bottles half- filled with water (with lids tightly screwed on!) she loves to shake them and watch the water splash.

4. Old photographs. We have a lot of extra copies of pictures or prints that didn't turn out as well as we would have liked around the house. My baby LOVES looking at these and pointing out people she knows.

5. Dominoes-They make such a satisfying "clink" when they knock together. Great for stacking.

6. Spoons- especially if there is some sort of container for her to bang them on.

7. Stack of Paper Cups. These are great for nesting.

8. Cassette Tape holders- Fun to open and close and put little things in them.

9. Set of Playing Cards- If you have a deck that is missing a card or two, you could still get some good use out of them by giving them to your baby. My aunt and uncle had a deck like this that they covered with photographs. Whenever they played card games with friends, they would take out their baby's deck so she wouldn't be tempted to grab at the cards in their hands.

10. Measuring Cups- especially the kind that are strung together on a ring.

11. Sweet Potatoes- Truly! There is a definite "creatureliness" to their appearance, which, I guess is the reason my daughter seems to have an affection for them. She treats them like dolls and carries them around the house if I let her.

12. Clothes pins- But if they are the new kind, you might want keep an eye on your baby with them. Mine has a tendency to pinch herself and get upset.

13. Cookie cutters. If you have carpet, these are fun to press into the pile and then "erase" by rubbing at the shapes.

Even with all these options, some days I'm still at a loss for what to give my daughter during blanket time. I would love to hear about the everyday things you've turned into toys!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

An Apartment-sized Sandbox

Because we live in an apartment complex with very little yard to it, I am always scheming about creative ways to help my little one to spend more time outside.

A couple of days ago, I got an idea.

I went to Home Depot and bought a large tupperware container, filled it with play sand and put it out on our apartment balcony. It's a terrific sandbox!

It has a lid for keeping the sand dry and clean, and even when it is raining outside, we can still play in the sandbox because the balcony is sheltered by the roof. Best of all, it was really cheap!

My toddler didn't take to the sandbox right away. She has a little bit of a neatness fetish (unlike her mother who LOVES to be dirty if it's for a fun cause), but today she finally broke down and let herself get dirty and had a ball!

Booksale website

If you want to fill your house with good books without investing a fortune then garage sales and used book sales are the way to go.

Look at this great resource for finding booksales that I learned about from A High and Noble Calling. It lists all library booksales and other listed sales from around the country. Click on your state and find out what kind of sales will be in your area in the upcoming months. Happy hunting!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Homemade Baby wipes

A while back my husband's cousin Kim gave me a tip on how to save money by making my own baby wipes. I put off doing it for a long time because I thought it would be a lot of work. I just made them a couple of days ago, and I'm pleased to report that it really wasn't alot of work. And they work great- just as good as store-bought.

Here is what you need:

1 tall container (an old upright babywipes container or a tupperware)
1 strong paper towel roll (Bounty or Viva work well)
1 cup water boiled and cooled
2 Tablespoons baby shampoo
2 Tablespoons baby lotion
Vitamin E oil from 3 punctured caplets (optional- nice on baby's skin)
1 Tablespoon white vinegar (optional- to help avoid yeast and to inhibit mold in the wipes)

1. Cut the paper towels in half. I used a big serrated bread knife, but if you had an electric saw that would be even better. Don't worry about getting the cardboard center out yet.2. Whisk together the other ingredients in a bowl.3. Place half of the paper towel in the container (fringey side down).

4. Pour the solution over the wipes.

5. When the solution has penetrated the roll, pull the cardboard center out of the roll.
6. Pull wipes from the center and thread them through the opening at the top of your container. (My mother-in-law showed me that sometimes clipping the opening a little further back makes the wipes come through more easily without breaking off)

All done!

For more good ideas today, head over here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Twice the Fun Tuesday: Boxes

I have a hard time throwing boxes away.

There are so many good uses for them, and I have fun memories of playing with them as a child.

Old refrigerator boxes must, of course, be turned into little houses, complete with windows and doors. Two small children can be set afloat on the high seas of a living room carpet with the right sized boxes and a sail made of a stick and old sheets.Even smaller boxes, when plentiful, made great playthings in our house growing up because they could be stacked ceiling-high into castles like blocks. And then, (of course), they were dashed to the floor by running through them like madmen.

Go here for more great tips today.Do you have a new use for an everyday object? Please feel free to leave a link to your post on the Mr. Linky below! You don't have to link back to this site (although it would be great if you did!) The only things I ask are that your post be family-friendly and that the link go directly to the post itself and not some other page of your blog. Thanks!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Books that inspire imagination and creativity: The Complete Book of Nonsense

Some classic books don't receive much attention anymore. One of those is Edward Lear's Complete Book of Nonsense. I think that's a shame.

When I was an elementary-aged student making my weekly school library visits there were two books that I inevitably gravitated to. One was a children's book about English history (because I was obsessed with the Tutor dynasty), and the other was The Book of Nonsense.

It contains poems and silly stories, but it is the illustrations that make the book wonderful. They are often funny and always surprising. Lear mixes categories that aren't usually put together and children find it fascinating. Looking at those pictures made me feel that there were endless possibilities of delightful silliness in the world.

Two categories of nonsense in the book I think are particularly clever are the limericks and the nonsense botany. Once your children get the feel for them, they might like to try to make some of their own!

It might take some of the fun out of it though if you turned it into an assignment. This might be one of those books you just might want to keep around in your house for some child to "discover" one day and maybe come to love as much as I did.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Leftover Frosting Use

It's almost impossible to make just the right amount of frosting for decorating a cake. There is bound to be leftover frosting in just about every color. Right? time, instead of throwing it away, let your kids have a ball "drawing pictures" with your frosting on a piece of wax paper.

You might even find yourself making a little extra of each color next time because you know they'll enjoy it so much!

Just Mom and Me Having Tea

My husband's cousin Kim emailed me about a fun Bible study for mothers and daughters (ages 6-8) that she and her daughter have been doing. It is called Just Mom and Me Having Tea by Mary Murray.The chapter titles are, "God Made Me Special," "Friendship," "Family Matters," "Loving God's Word," "Getting to know Our Awesome God," and "Helping others." At the end of chapter one, the mother and daughter have a formal tea together. My cousin and daughter did the tea while her boys and husband were out at a ball game.

Doesn't this sound like a nice way to build fellowship (and a memory) with your daughter?

I know that growing up, my mother was very careful to create opportunities where we could talk privately about personal things with her (if we wanted to- she didn't press). Looking back, I am glad she was so deliberate about that.

My experience with my own mother and this special Bible study of my cousin's has got me thinking about my own daughter. In what ways will I try to facilitate closeness?

Maybe you have some experience in this area to share. Do you have traditions, special memories, or more subtle things you have done that have helped your daughter feel that she is special to you and can confide in you? I would love to hear them!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Giveaway: Two Children's Books about Bunnies

This giveaway has ended. Thanks for all who participated! To see who won this week, check here.

For this week's giveaway I have two, sweet children's books about bunnies.

The first one, I Love You, My Bunnies is a nice hardback book by Disney. I'm not usually a big fan of Disney books, but this one is really nice. The pictures are simple and show lots of tender moments between mommas and babies (and it has very little to do with any movie- which is nice).

The second book, The Bunnies Ball is colorful, fun and frolicking. Any fan of bunnies will like this book!

To be entered in the giveaway just leave a comment below along with your email address so that I have a way to contact you if you win.

If you would like to have a second entry, write about this giveaway on your site and put a link to the post on a second comment.

I will go to to get a random number for determining the winner and will post that person's name on Friday (10/24). I hope it goes to a family with a true bunny lover in it! (or at least someone who loves books! :-) )

Scientific link between family fun and safer teen lifestyles

I ran across an interesting article recently highlighting a study by Boston College that linked family fun and safer teens. The study found that families that ate together and enjoyed fun family activities were less likely to have teens who engaged in risky sexual behaviors.

Click here to read a news article and here to read the actual study published in The Journal of Adolescent Health.

Nothing here that most of us wouldn't have guessed, but it's still encouraging and motivating, isn't it?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Making your own games: Conozco

Playing with a homemade Aggravation board that my Grandpa had made

My family always enjoyed playing games growing up. It wasn't until later in my childhood, however, that we discovered that we also enjoyed making games.

The game with which we had the most success was one we called Conozco (Spanish for "I know (a person) ) Not only is it fun to play, but your family could have a very good time one evening sitting together and thinking up questions to make for it. Then, at the next get-together with friends or family you will especially enjoy playing it because it has your own special touch.

General idea: Players try to guess correctly how another person would answer a particular question about him or her self. The person reading the question only has to think about their honest answer to the question. (For each question, the person reading rotates)

Sample questions: Here are some examples that we made up. But I'm sure that every family would come up with it own unique flavor of question. (This is a great way for a group of people who already knows one another pretty well to find out facts they may never have thought to ask.)
(As you can see, we printed the questions off of the computer and pasted them to cardboard backs)

Scoring: When a question is read out loud, everyone decides for themselves how they think the person reading the question would answer about him or her/self. Each person places the letter of their answer upside down on the table in front of them.(Each player must have his own set of letters to match the multiple choice answers. We borrowed our sets from the word game PROBE. If you don't have that game, you could make your own out of cardstock).

When everyone has placed their letter, the person asking the question reveals his/her answer.

A point is then awarded to each player who placed the correct letter. (The person reading the question does not have an opportunity to win a point that round).

Play continues until one person reaches the predetermined winning score.

It's a simple game, but makes for great group bantering and conversation!

Mom and Dad Date Idea: Free Coffee and Book Browsing at B & N

My husband and I love bookstores! When we were dating we would often study for classes together in bookstore coffee shops. For breaks we would wander the store and each find a couple of books we were interested in. We met back up in the coffee shop to browse through the books and show each other fun things.

Good news: You and your husband can enjoy this date for free this month! From now until the end of October you can get free cappuccinos at Barnes and Noble Bookstores! Click here for the coupon!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tonka Truck Book Giveaway!

This week's randomly chosen number from was #37. That means that Stephenie is the winner! Please send me an email, Stephenie with your snail mail address.

Be sure to visit back this Friday for the start of another fun giveaway!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Toilet paper tubes and an old shoebox

Here's a fun use for old toilet paper tubes and a shoebox: a little photo toy house! Here's what I did:

1. Took full length pictures of everyone in our family. I re-sized the photos to what seemed to be about the right length for toilet paper tubes and printed them off, leaving plenty of blank space on both sides of the photos. I wrapped the photos around the tube and affixed them with a glue stick. I trimmed the tubes where necessary.3. Found an old picture of our living room that my mother-in-law had taken, resized it to the approximate size of the shoe box, printed it off and glued it to the inside of the shoebox.

Altogether, it took me less than 45 minutes to put it together. I wasn't terribly precise and I could have spent more time making it pretty, but really all I wanted was a fun new toy for my daughter to play with during her blanket playtime.

She loves pictures of people she knows- I think I might try to get some full-length photos of relatives over the holidays and add to the set!