Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Storytelling

One of my favorite moments from our extended family Christmas get-together this year happened during our annual Christmas Eve Journey to Bethlehem dinner. After we had finished eating, one member of our family started telling M and G the true story of Christmas. After about 3 or 4 sentences that person stopped, and the next person picked up where they left off. We continued this way around the table until we had finished the story.

I think it was easier for M to pay attention when the story was told by multiple storytellers, and it was an opportunity for all of us to really focus on what we were celebrating. Hearing my brothers and sister (who do not yet have their own children of their own) simplify the story down to a 3-year-old level was an especially unusual treat!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ways to Involve Little Ones in Christmas Gift-Giving

I'm always trying to think of ways to include my girls in the gift- giving side of things (the receiving end is all too easy :-)

These are some ideas I've used for past and present years.  (I'd love to hear more ideas!)

1.  Make an edible gift and involve the preschooler or toddler in the process.  This year, we made peppermint bark, and M helped me open the peppermint candies, crush and sprinkle them.

2.  Involve the child in the gift-wrapping process.  Let them use stickers to decorate an already- wrapped present, color a white sheet of wrapping paper with markers, or use paint to make hand or foot print wrapping paper.  Use a little craft that they've done as the "bow."

3.  Help the child memorize a little poem for the recipient.  Here is a cute one for grandparents.

Grandparents Are Nice

Grandmas and Grandpas are everything nice. 
Like presents and candy and raspberry ice. 

And chocolate fudge sundaes, with cherries on top. 
And popcorn and peanuts and grape soda pop. 

In winter or summer, in rain or in sun, 
Grandmas and Grandpas are wonderful fun!!!

4.  Make a coupon book full of coupons to be redeemed for hugs and kisses from the child.

5.  Help the child make a little jar full of things that they like about the person.

6.  Have the child do little chores around the house for money to buy a small gift.

7.  If the recipient is long distance, make a video of the child doing some of their favorite things and include a personal message from your child to the recipient at the end.

Hmmmm, that's all I can think of right now...any other thoughts?  Also...if you know me, pretend you didn't read this post come Christmas day :-)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Daddy Daughter Christmas Date

For M's main gift this year she got to go on a little date with her Daddy. They went to dinner and then to a store to pick out a Christmas dress together. I just had to smile when M told her father that day, "Daddy, we're going on a date tonight, and I've never BEEN on a date!"

R's cousin does this every year with his daughter as a tradition at Christmastime, and we thought it seemed like a neat idea. We're like the thought that the sweet memory from this time will hopefully outlast the enjoyment from many of her toys.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Animal Print Sticker Backs

Don't these sticker backgrounds looks surprisingly like giraffe animal print? M thought so (and thankfully, with no hair on her arms and legs yet, it didn't hurt coming off!)

Giveaway Winner: Bughouse Playtent

Congratulations to Apryl at Christian Clippers- winner of the Bughouse Playtent giveaway!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Clothes Pins in a Water Bottle

My 15 month old really enjoys dropping the old fashioned clothes pins into an empty water bottle and then shaking them out again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Hot Rock Coloring

Today M and I found a big rock in the backyard and heated it in the oven. When it was nice and toasty I took it out, and we began (carefully) coloring on it with crayons. The effect was really unique. The crayon tips melted instantly, and suddenly it was like painting with hot wax.

M and I just kept saying "This is so interesting!" to one another as we tried different colors. After we painted the rock, we tried an old plant pot. That worked nicely too; you can see that when the colors mixed together it created a nice marbling effect. Unfortunately, the marbling effect became less pronounced as some of the wax got absorbed into the dark pot.

I was only willing to do this activity with M because she is an especially cautious little three year old and I could trust her not to touch the rock. It was hot! Also, next time I will make sure we all wear painting clothing. The sleeves on M's shirt don't look so good, and I don't think it's going to come out...oops.
It's Playtime!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Toddler Bath Toy: Turkey Baster

If you're like me and hardly ever use the turkey baster but feel compelled to keep it around for the sake of Thanksgiving, you might be pleased (like I was) to discover that it makes a pretty good bath toy! It was a little tricky for M to get the hang of sucking up the water and squirting it out, but she definitely was fascinated.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fun Giveaway: Bughouse Play Tent

Giveways are so much fun at Christmas time! CSN (a company of online stores that is currently promoting sling backpacks) will be giving away another fun product to one of you just in time for holiday gift-giving.

The Bazoongi Kids Special Edition Bughouse Play Tent is unique and looks like lots of fun. It can be used indoors or outdoors and looks to be a perfect hideaway for little "bugs." I can just imagine the fun M and G would have crawling through it, peeking through the windows, and pretending to be bumblebees. :-)

To enter the giveaway simply leave a comment on this post (and make sure to leave an email address so that I can contact you if you win!).

For additional entries: (1 each)

1. Subscribe to the RSS for this blog
2. Become a friend of Havingfunathome through Google friend follower.
If you are already a subscriber or a friend through friend connect that counts too! Just make sure to leave an additional comment for each entry!

This giveaway ends at midnight on December 13th when I will choose a comment using and email the winner!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Smelly Socks Matching Game

In the course of two baby girls, our house has accumulated a mountain of unmatched baby socks.   The other day, I had a big show down with all of them (spread them all over the living room floor and hunted for pairs).

 After finding a match or two, I was left with quite a slew of little orphan socks, and unsure of what to do with them all.  (Hard to throw them away- after all, they're just so tiny and cute and once housed such little treasures!) I decided to use some of them for a smelling game that Chasing Cheerios talked about a while ago.  
After deciding on some distinctive smells (vinegar, almond extract, my hand lotion, etc).  I covered two cotton balls with each scent, stuffed the cotton into two random baby socks, and tied up the tops.  M's job was to smell the socks and find smelling pairs.  I worried at first that maybe the different appearances of the socks would distract, but it didn't seem too.  She successfully matched the smells, and then we were able to have a quick little chat about our favorite smells.

After that one last use, I didn't feel as badly laying the socks to rest in the trash can.  I do have quite a few more though.  Anyone have any ideas of what to do with them?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Homemade Almond Milk

This is a recipe that my husband had found in a magazine a long time ago and mentioned that he would like me to try sometime. I was surprised at first because I didn't know he liked almond milk, but I'm glad he did because it turned out to be a fun project.

1. Soak raw almonds in water overnight so they'll be nice and soft when you process them. Use 3 cups of water for every one cup of almonds.

2. Use a blender or food processor to blend the almonds with all of the water. (I used a food processor, and itworked fine).

3. When the almonds are finely processed, place a dish towel over a large bowl and rubber-band it into place. Strain the almond milk through the towel. (I ended up having to strain the milk twice because I accidentally plopped some of the pulp into the milk at the end.)4. Once most of the liquid has strained through, gather up the corners of the towel and squeeze the rest out.5. Add a couple of pinches of salt, and some vanilla and honey to taste to make it extra delicious!

6. Don't throw away the almond pulp!! That stuff is useful! Spread it out on a cookie sheet and bake at 275 degrees until it is dried out and a little roasted. This almond meal can be used for all kinds of things; you can bake with it to make pie crusts or muffins, or use it like bread crumbs (maybe coat some kind of white fish in it for a tasty breading).

The Birthday Wreath is on our Door Today!

Happy Birthday to the wonderful husband and father who gives our home so much stability and fun !

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Ghost of Christmases Past

To celebrate the first day of December (which here in Texas is appropriately COOOOLD!) I'm reposting some of the December and Christmas ideas that my family and extended family have done in the past. 

And...for some reason I'm particularly excited about Christmas this year so look for lots of Christmas-themed posts in the next few weeks.  (Hopefully I'll find time for posting them!)

Advent Log with candles, Scripture reading and singing (If you would like me to send you a copy of the list of Scripture passages, symbols, and corresponding hymns we sing each night please feel free to email me at kmagill1212 at gmail dot com)

 Sugared Cranberries

Journey to Bethlehem Dinner
Christmas Present Store

Aromatic Christmas Counters

Hand and Footprint Wrapping Paper

Monday, November 29, 2010

Fall Leaves Slide

If you still have some leaves scattered around your yard, why not pile them up underneath the kiddie slide and let the little ones whooosh into them? Or, take a rake to a local park and do the same there? (I'll bet you'd draw a crowd!)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Wax Paper Candle holders

Did you know that wax paper makes a very pretty "frosted" covering for a glass candle holder? It does! This Thanksgiving candle holder came together in under an hour and cost very little.

One afternoon, M and I gathered colorful fall leaves from around the neighborhood. (I think the ginko and aspen tree leaves have an especially pretty shape) We pressed them in an old book so that they would have a chance to thoroughly dry out and to flatten.
A couple of days later, I cut a strip of wax paper to fit this large glass vase ($5 at Walmart). On one side I scattered the pressed fall leaves and covered them with mod podge. Once they were dry, I sponged mod podge all over the vase and pressed the wax paper onto it. Once I pressed the air bubbles out of the paper, it was finished.It was such an easy craft and made such a pretty effect that I think I'll have to experiment with some variations. Maybe a nativity silhouette scene for Christmas?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you have a wonderfully joyful time with your family today!

(This year's nature Thanksgiving banner is simpler than last year or the year before because I'm scrambling a bit for time. We took our first family camping trip at the beginning of this week, and my laundry room is overflowing with heaps of dirty clothes right now!)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Alphabet Animal Sounds

This may be one of those things that I've just discovered that lots of people already do naturally, but I've been tickled lately to meet with good success teaching my 15 month-old alphabet letter sounds by treating them like animal noises. Everybody knows that toddlers can't get enough of lions roaring, and monkeys chattering, but it never occurred to me until now that she would love it just as much if I threw in a letter here and there instead of an animal.

Now I ask her, "G, what does a pig say?" then "What does the letter A say?" etc. We also get practice in at mealtime, alternating between "Here comes the piggy," as I oink loudly with the spoonful of peas entering her mouth and "Here comes the letter C!" as I "Cu-cu-ca" with the next spoonful.

Has anyone else found this to be a good trick or had success with similar ideas?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thanksgiving Place Mat Craft

M likes using this placemat everytime she eats these days.  As a plus, it helps remind her where everything goes when she sets the table!

 Materials Needed:
11 x 17 piece of construction paper
2 or more sheets of Autumn or Thanksgiving Scrapbook paper
Laminating paper or contact paper

1.  Trace around a plate, glass, knife, fork, and spoon with a pencil on pieces of scrapbook paper.
2.  Cut out each piece.
3.  Have your preschooler cover the backs with a gluestick.
4.  Show the child where to put glue each piece (maybe taking the opportunity to talk about where items belong at a place setting)
5.  Laminate or cover with contact paper.  (Make sure the lamination extends a couple of centimeters beyond the construction paper because you don't want to risk the construction paper getting wet)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Giveaway Winner: Melissa and Doug Blocks generated the number 38 for this giveaway which means that Katrina (ykatrina at hotmail dot com) is the winner! Congratulations, Katrina! Thanks to all who entered.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jesse Tree Family Resources

For a long time I have been intrigued by the Jesse Tree tradition that a lot of families and churches participate in during Advent. It seems like a neat way not only to focus on Christ in anticipation of Christmas, but to also remember what His birth means in the context of the rest of the Biblical story.

If you are interested in possibly starting this tradition in your family, you might take a look at these blog posts from families who have done the Jesse Tree in their homes. I think it's really interesting to see how each family has tailored the basic idea to fit their family's personality.

Also, at the end of this post you will find a collection of resources (printables, devotions, etc) for help in making your own Jesse tree.
As We Walk. Tired, Need Sleep (also has free Jesse Tree printables)
Other Resources:
A list of Scripture readings and description of the tradition from CRI
Devotions for Children with corresponding questions from the Reformed Church in America
Patterns for the Symbols and directions for making the tree also from the RCA
Coloring Pages
Ready to Print and hang ornaments
Calendar with suggested additional activities

Friday, November 12, 2010

Magnet Paths

If you get a strong enough magnet, you can use it to move a paperclip around on top of a thick piece of cardstock.

This morning I let M draw colored pencil paths between a cluster of flowers, a bee hive, and a pot of honey. I drew a quick sketch of a bee, cut it out and taped it to a paper clip. Then I held the cardstock while M moved the magnet under the bee from place to place and made up her own little stories about the honey-making process.

Keeping the paper clip moving along the right path takes a certain kind of hand/eye coordination. I think just letting your preschooler draw curvy paths on a piece of cardstock and then letting them try to keep the paperclip on the paths would be a fun little challenge in itself.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Christmas is coming...

We planted an amaryllis bulb today on the window sill of the playroom.  I'm hoping it will bloom by Christmas, but I may be cutting it a little close.
 At least we will have the anticipation of it's bright bloom all during advent.  I've been trying to find new ways for our family to revel in the symbolism of the anticipation of Christ's coming.  It is such a rich time, and after Christmas, I often feel as if I have not really taken the time or initiative to ponder it enough.

Do you have any simple advent traditions that you have found meaningful for your family at this time that you'd be willing to share?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Inventor's Box

I love the spirit behind this idea in the book More Mudpies: 101 Alternatives to Television (great book, by the way)

"There is an Inventor's Box in our garage filled with the kind of junk most people love to get rid of. Two coffee cans, a bicycle chain, an old eggbeater, and a broken thermostat from the newly repaired furnace are the latest additions. The box is used year-round and has generated everything from doll furniture to intricate contraptions that magnetically close doors.

You may have similar inventions ingredients (disguised as junk) in drawers and under beds but not collected together and called an "Inventor's Box." That's the secret. By placing the items into our box, the rules of function are eliminated and the bits can be reinvented into something new. Children, with their unburdened perspective, are naturally equipped to discover new uses for familiar objects.

When you clean out the garage and junk drawers to create your Inventor's Box, keep in mind that almost everything has potential for invention. Grand ideas are hidden in the pieces of an old game, the innards of small appliances, cat food cans, and rubber bands...

The act of creating cultivates creativity in children, not the creation itself. Our spirited four year old reminds me of this often. He thinks invention and adventure are the same word. "This is for my wire adventure," he declares one day, holding up a trio of rusty coils. And, of course, he is right."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fun Giveaway: Melissa and Doug Wooden Blocks

Just in time for Christmas, CSN (a company of online stores that is currently running a special on dining chairs) will be giving away to one of the readers here a 100ct box of Melissa and Doug wooden blocks.

We have this set at our house and really like it. The blocks are just the right weight and size (small enough for little hands but big enough to build nice, tall towers quickly). These would make a great gift; even a good gift for a family that already has a set (two sets mean even MORE creative potential :-)

To enter the giveaway simply leave a comment at the end of this post. Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you win!

For additional entries:

1. Subscribe to the RSS feed here and leave an extra comment to that effect.
2. Become a follower with Google friend connect, and leave an extra comment to that effect.

The giveaway will end on Tuesday, November 16th at midnight.
This giveaway is open to all US and Canadian entrants.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

5 More Yes/No Riddles

One of the most popular posts ever on Having Fun at Home is a list of yes/no riddles (otherwise known as lateral thinking puzzles) that I put together about a year and a half ago. Since then, I've encountered a few more and thought I would share them.

If you are not sure how a yes/no riddle works, be sure to check out the explanation here.

The solutions are listed at the end; so if you want to be on the guessing end of these sometime be sure not to peek!

1. Tom and Mary are thirsty for some peach juice. Mary says that she wants two glasses of juice, and Tom wants just one. When the waiter comes, Tom orders five glasses of peach juice. Tom takes the three glasses off of the waiter’s tray and tells him to take the others back; he doesn’t want them. Why did he order five glasses?

2. A black dog walked down a black road in a town painted black with streetlights that were broken because of a recent power outage. A car came by driving 45 miles an hour whose headlights were both broken; it swerved and narrowly missed the dog. How did the car avoid hitting the dog under such conditions?

3. It is the middle of July. Detectives arrive on the scene in the middle of a park in Miami, Florida where there is a dead man lying in a slight depression in the grass. The medical examiner said that the man froze to death. How did the man die? And how did he get there?

4. He was lying there, in a puddle of blood, shattered glass all around him, curled up in the too small space, a bucket of water standing outside. He was obviously very dead.What happened to him? Where is he? And why the bucket?

5. The two victims, father and son, were rushed into the ER. The attending physician pronounced the father DOA. The son, however, was obviously still alive. He was rushed to the operating room. The surgeon came in, and prepared to save the young man's life. But when his face came into view, the surgeon started, and announced: "I can't operate! He's my son!" How can that be?


1. Tom has a speech impediment. He can’t pronounce the letter “r.” He orders five glasses because it does not require him to say the letter “r.”

2. It was daytime.

3. He had attempted to smuggle himself into the States by stowing away in the wheel bay of an airplane. Unfortunately, those bays area not heated, so he froze to death at 30,000 feet. When the landing gear unfolded over the park in Miami, he fell out.

4. The man was in a phone booth, calling his wife after a morning fishing. The bucket with his catch is outside. Bragging about his enormous catch, he spread his arms wide, accidentally smashing through the glass in his enthusiasm and cutting his wrists.

5. The surgeon was the boy's MOTHER!