My kids are totally obsessed with fuzzy pom-poms. You may have gathered that from my Easter post. They love to make crafts with them, count them, sort them, and now we are making games out of them. My kids do not like going outside in the winter- which I do not fuss about! So, we need to get creative with how we spend our time inside.
I should also admit that my twins are very competitive with one another. They make everything a competition to try to be the first to win a non-existent trophy. No joke. If one reaches the sink first, she will run back to her sister to snatch the invisible trophy from above her head. Then she chant’s, “I won the trophy and youuuu didn’t!” Not as charming when experienced first hand.
It isn’t any wonder that the girls really LOVE this game! They rush to see who can empty the pom pom bowl the fastest. You can make this game at home by grabbing whatever you have on hand!!
Fuzzy pom-poms (we through in some rubber spiky balls for fun)
A pair of tongs
2 empty paper towel tubes
2 empty baskets
Tape your empty tubes to the fridge, a door, or a wall. I taped ours to the fridge to keep the kids occupied while I make dinner. It was hard at first to not to play this game too. I’m kind of a winner and I like to compete. (Oh my little apples, I’m so sorry).
To play, simply use the tongs (or even tweezers) to drop the pom-poms through the tube and into the basket! The first one to fill their basket wins the game! (And gets to snatch the invisible trophy hanging above their siblings head).
This is great for developing fine motor skills. It also encourages color matching/sorting, sorting by size and counting. You’re child doesn’t have to be ready for any of those things to play this game. This is great for even the 18M + crowd. As long as you are playing with them to be sure they do not eat the pom-poms, or the tweezers, or lick the fridge. Well, that might not be so harmful.
Click the links below for more fun ways to play with pom-poms:
If you were a child in the 1980’s your birthday party might look something like this: friends, cake, ice cream and the backyard. Or, if you were really lucky, you got a party at McDonald’s.
If you are a child in the 2000’s your birthday party might look something like this: A high society ball.
We do birthdays a little different. Instead of spending several hundred dollars on a single party, we take our kids on a family vacation. Instead of entertaining them with a 4-hour party we spend the week visiting museums, aquariums, swimming, hiking and making lifelong memories. But my kids do have a specific formula for a birthday: play time, cake, presents and goody bags. In that order.
This year we did not go away because we are saving for a bigger trip next year. But, to satisfy my kids’ birthday requirements, I had a cozy play-date with cupcakes with an under the sea theme. We had a total of 10 kids and 8 adults the day of our party (down from 15 kids and 12 adults). Sadly, six kids cancelled due to ear infections and colds. A common hazard for winter parties: sick kids and snow days.
Our total budget for the party including food, cake, new birthday outfits and presents was just around $170. Here’s what it looked like:
I made these adorable shirts by simply ironing on little octopus embellishments to a tank top we already own. Paired with a 5-layer tutu and leggings, we have a complete ensemble for $15.00 each kid. Total for outfits = $30.00
After a little search on Pintrest I found I can make seaweed out of crepe paper. What? It was really easy! Just tape and twist two different colors of crepe paper together- done! I used less than 2 rolls for all our decorating. I used colorful paper plates as coral, and cut out fish shapes from glittery scrapbook paper.
Next I hung a fishnet that I found for only $3.00 at the local party store. I added seashells, pictures of my kids and little fish embellishments I found at the dollar store.
I took a little help from the party store and purchased pre-made tissue paper pom-poms. (I have attempted to make on my own and they do not look the same). I used crepe paper to look like tentacles. I hung these throughout the play room to look like sea creatures under the sea.
Total for decorations = $23.00
For activities we had a pinata (at my daughters’ request), an under the sea mystery box filled with shells we collected at our last beach outing, and the toys in our play room (totally free by the way).
I left the goody bags empty so the kids could fill them with the loot from the treasure chest. Instead of filling up the box with bags and candy, we chose fake jeweled rings, compass rings, under the sea creatures, necklaces and (chocolate) gold coins. It’s more like pirate booty and less sugar for the kids.
Making our loot bags was super easy thanks to Michael’s. I simply picked up a pack of plain white paper bags for $5.00 and attached some beach themed scrap book stickers. These adorable 3-D sea shell stickers were on clearance. I tied a pretty ocean blue ribbon on the top and done!
The mystery box contained sea shells and beach rocks we collected during our visit to the beach. We added “sea urchins” (little spiky rubber balls) and a few plastic sea creatures. Believe it or not, we already had those items on hand. The only cost for this is the wrapping paper ($1.00 at Target).
I even made a space for an under the sea photo op!
Total for activities = $45
I went really simple with the food: cheese cubes and grapes on skewers to look like coral, fish shaped peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, homemade shells and cheese, fish and chips (Goldfish crackers and potato chips) seaweed salad and sausage and peppers (I couldn’t find a clever name for that). Drinks for kids were juice boxes and for parents beer, wine and seltzer. Easy! Total food & beverages = $60.00
Our total for gifts = $10.00. I know you’re thinking, “What kind of cheapskate parents spend only $10 on birthday presents?” We bought only a handful of small gifts for the kids to open at the party. Their big gift from mommy and daddy was a ride on the polar express. (Purchased months in advance- not part of the party budget).
Since the girls’ birthday falls between Thanksgiving and Christmas we often ask guests to bring a canned good for us to take to the food pantry. This year we collected gently-used coats and warm winter clothes for children in our local foster homes. I was completely taken aback by everyone’s generosity! I hope this is one birthday tradition my kids will continue throughout life- giving back on their birthday.
After the party dust settled, the girls and I recycled some of the party decorations into thank you cards for our guests. I gave the kids some dot paints and paper, then we embellished them with the little decorations from our fish net.
The party was relaxed, the kids had fun and the moms even got a chance to sit down with a glass of wine and finish a few sentences. We didn’t break the bank for the kids to celebrate and get together with friends. I’d say that’s a formula for a successful party!
I don’t know about you but I am filled with a great determination to get organized this year! (Maybe it is just coincidence that about 1.2 million other people have this same urge?). Now that my twins are 4 I feel like I am finally coming out of survival mode. I’ve taken a look around the house and wow is it a mess! Well, not that anyone would actually see it as a mess because like everyone else I keep it all hidden in the closets! *wink*
I was hesitant to write about the dirty little secrets I keep behind closed doors. I mean who really cares about MY messes right? Well, we’re all friends here so I think it’s OK to let you take a peek. It will be like the Whatever philosophy expressed in pictures. Alright, only two pictures. I know we’re friends, but let’s not over share.
I was ridiculously overjoyed when I found these little beauties at Sam’s Club:
Yes, that IS twelve clear-plastic, empty shoe boxes for just $9.94! (I admit I have a strange addiction to storage totes and office supplies). But, where to use them? Hmmm…
How about that crazy bathroom closet I CAN NOT keep tidy?! Here we go! My bathroom closet stores all our extra supplies, the kids bath stuff, my hubby’s stuff and just a bunch of stuff. It looks like this:
Every morning I go rummaging around for my deodorant at the bottom of one of these cute baskets I employ to keep me organized. It’s always the wrong basket and I always drop something. No more!
Let there be boxes!!! Glorious see through boxes!! (I won’t tell you how many boxes are just for my products alone). Now when I do my hair I can pull out just the supplies I need without having to rummage around and carry them in my arms. I can have all my make up next to me at once instead of pulling out three different bags. Now to find pretty labels.
~ ~ FAMILY SHOW PORTION ~ ~
I did say this is a family show, so here is how I plan to bring the kiddos in on helping me keep things tidy.
Neither of my girls will stick to a chore chart. I think the longest one has lasted is three days. BUT! They are amazing helpers. Most often I cannot finish a task alone because one of my littles will ask to help. Sometimes I just want to finish MY OWN task (like tearing apart a closet). That’s where these helping hands come in!
I have a love/hate relationship with stickers (as in I hate peeling them off the floor). I was happy when the girls let the sticker charts go. NOTE: If you notice a chair or rug that seems out of place in our house, it is probably there to cover a stubborn sticker that refused to be removed. (Cue my new strange addition: Goo Gone).
Here’s how Helping Hands work:
Trace your child’s hand on a colorful piece of paper. Allow your child to decorate with (cringe) stickers, or jewels, or just color with a crayon.
Write a chore or helpful task on a Popsicle/craft stick.
Glue the decorated hands to the sticks and allow to dry.
Display upright in a pretty vase or jar, or you can stack them in a … clear plastic storage box? [har har]
When my kids want to help, but I need space to do what I need to get done, I ask them, “you know what would really be helpful? Can you pull out a helping hand?” Maybe my kids are weird (Hello apple? Meet tree.), but they really love a good task!
Now, it’s your turn to share a pic of that secret cluttered mess!
The girls have the entire Thanksgiving week off from school. We have been busy decorating, baking and making the house a giant mess. I am actually thankful for the toys scattered about the house. It means I have two amazingly creative kids who get lost in their imaginations. It’s not fun cleaning it all up again, but one day those little messes won’t be there to organize. Before I know it both my kids will be off to college and ready to start life on their own. Every now and then it hits me that having twins means they both leave at the same time. Such a scary thought. Until then I’ll try to remain thankful for the messes, the chaos and the perfectly imperfect days we share.
Here’s a round up of our week:
We started off by making a Thankful Tree. I used brown craft paper for our tree, but you can easily use a brown paper grocery bag. I traced and cut out leaves to write our thankful things on. Then we it all taped to the wall. The girls decided to pick out pictures of things they are thankful for. We pulled out some family pics I had taken through out the year, but you can easily use pictures cut from a magazine. Both of the girls kept calling it the Giving Tree. That would be a great story to read along with this project if you have it! If not you can get animated versions on Youtube. I found a copy of the original 1973 movie version narrated by Shell Silverstein!
I rolled out brown craft paper the entire length of the table so the girls could create their own pictures. We traced our hands to look like turkeys. The girls enjoyed making mama turkeys and baby turkeys. Again, you can easily recycle brown grocery bags for this project. Let the kids get creative!
I made these counting turkeys a few weeks ago which the girls really enjoy using. I just used materials we have on hand. Yes, I always have clothes pins and googly eyes on hand! Find instructions HERE.
Thanksgiving Eve packets!! I set these activities out the night before to surprise the girls with in the morning. This will keep us busy for a while! If you are following The Whatever Mom on Facebook you already know where to find these turkey printables!
We had our first winter storm yesterday. The snowy morning really put me in the mood for some good, warm comfort food. I made us some coconut, carrot french toast. It is inspired by the french toast I am in love with at one of my favorite restaurants (Love Bites). Not as good as theirs, but still a good way for me to sneak in some veggies and protein!
4 slices of favorite bread
1 small carrot (finely grated)
3 Tablespoons coconut flakes
1/3 cup milk (any kind)
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 Tablespoons butter
Melt butter in skillet on medium heat. Whisk the eggs and milk together. Then add in rest of ingredients and whisk until combined. Dip bread into mixture and be sure to cover both sides. Place in heated pan. Cook both sides until golden brown.
We didn’t have maple syrup so I sprinkled with powdered sugar. A snow breakfast for a snowy day!
Whatever you do today enjoy your time with family and friends. If you plan to celebrate the day alone, I hope you still have plenty to be thankful for!
So… after a rough week with the kiddos I took my Whatever philosophy to heart and gave myself the night off. Which meant I didn’t get my Friday Facebook Roundup to you. At least you’ll have fun reading this morning!
Put the kids in front of the cartoons and check out these links!
October is here! We can officially get excited about pumpkins and Halloween! I LOVE decorating for Fall!!! (Can never have too many exclamation points when sharing my excitement for Fall!!!). Gone are the days I can display my intricately designed, hand crafted grown up tablescapes. The delicate ensembles of thin glass hurricane lamps and the hand carved gourd tea light holders could never hold their own against the power of two Tasmanian toddlers. So, I put away anything glass, all my large ceramic pumpkins and delicate wreaths (you know all the stuff you don’t want kids touching!) for now and found some more kid friendly materials to decorate with.
Here are our favorite ways to decorate for Fall and Halloween.
Make a Monster Impression:
This is simple, inexpensive and the kids can help! You can find everything in your dollar store.
Large poster board
Large round paper plates (any solid color)
Small round, black paper plates
Small square paper plates (white)
Cut poster board in half. Then cut small triangles out of one side of paper to form a hair line. Depending on your door width you may need one, or both pieces of poster board.
Next, make eyes by taping the small black plate to the large colored paper plate and attach to the door.
Last, make a toothy grin using the square white paper plates.
Feel free to embellish with glittery bats, or other Halloween shapes. We decided to go with a girl monster this year and gave “Henrietta” some sparkly bat barrettes. My girls enjoyed posing with their monster afterward for our annual Fall pic!
One of our favorite things to do in the Fall is to collect acorns that fall off the Oak tree in our back yard. This year I found a fun project that is easy and super cheap. We saved all our acorn caps in a cup and I pulled them out on a rainy day we needed something to do.
Acorn tops (must be dry, clean and free from cracks)
Gems, or stones
Start with a layer of rocks, or gems on your tray. These will secure acorn tops in place.
Next, color the inside of the tops with a marker. It will look rough, but that’s ok!
Then pour Elmer’s school glue into each top and fill to the rim. Leave over night to dry and you won’t believe the effect!
Have the kids check back to watch the colorful transformation.
What you have left are smooth, colorful jewels! I leave these in a basket of decorative pumpkins for easy access for the kids to play with.
Pumpkins, Pumpkins and more Pumpkins!
You simply cannot have enough pumpkins this time of year! We eat them, drink them and decorate with them! We have baskets filled with little decorative pumpkins, we color pumpkins, paint pumpkins and even carve our pumpkins.
Paint brushes -OR-
Our carving tradition is spearheaded by my hubby. He helps the girls select just the right family of pumpkins. Then they pour over different pumpkin design ideas before making the first cut. My girls are not squeamish at all about digging right in and squishing the pumpkin guts through their fingers.
Here are last year’s creations:
Confession: we made a trip to a pumpkin farm for the whole experience of seeing a real pumpkin patch, but I purchased our carving pumpkins for $2.88 each at Aldi’s. Whatever my kids have no idea…and by not spending $20 for one pumpkin (our above grand total for our cute monster, colorful acorn jewels and 3 carving pumpkins is $14.68) I purchased a few extra pumpkin lattes, pumpkin fritters, pumpkin muffins and pumpkin flavored pumpkins. Did I mention we like pumpkin?
For little ones not yet trustworthy with knives, give them a paint brush and some paints and let them paint their pumpkins!
All these crafts are fun for kids, easy to make and indestructible! Happy Fall Ya’ll!
What would your toddler think of a front door monster?
Every week for nearly the last four years I have proclaimed, “THIS is the week I get organized!” I really mean it when I say this. But, the reality of taking care of the other humans in my home leaves me little time to organize like Martha (as in Stewart). I admit it is disappointing to open the closet to find things spilling out, or open the dresser drawers and see all the mangled clothes. I always feel pressed for time as we race through our mornings before to leaving for school, or getting to a play date. But, Martha doesn’t live here so it’s up to me to make things orderly and accessible.
So, how does a busy twin mom without a moment to spare get organized? Well, first I had to throw away my vision of what organized looks like and really think about what it feels like. Being organized feels less rushed and less like I am behind on tasks. It feels less stressed. So, what stresses me out the most? Snacks, mealtimes and getting my kids dressed. I often forget to give myself a snack, or suddenly a child is melting down because I forgot to feed them. It is stressful pulling out one shirt after another until my kid finds THE ONE she likes. Suddenly it’s 4:30 in the afternoon and I forgot I have to make dinner! Ack!
Here is my “Master plan” to feeling organized:
SNACK TIME PREP
I divided our snacks into kid friendly portions by using Ziploc snack bags. I measured according to serving size, filled bags then I piled them into a clear plastic box and left on a shelf in a cupboard the girls can reach.
Next, I set up a shelf in the fridge with squeezable yogurts, carrot sticks, apple slices and drinks they can just grab and go. This alleviates my stress of preparing snacks on demand and gives my girls a bit more independence.
Don’t forget snacks for the car! This is my back up in case I forget to grab the snack bag!
Total prep time = 20 minutes (maybe 30 if you let the kids help). Time saved = 1.5 hours of prepping or chopping snacks on demand while the kids complain they didn’t want “thaaaat snack.”
DINNER TIME PREP
I have collected over a months worth of freezer crock pot meals my family will actually eat. I make my menu for the week, buy all my groceries and return home to assemble into Ziploc bags and freeze.
Total prep time = 1 hour. Total time saved = 6 hours.
My kids will not pick out their clothes the night before and stick to wearing that outfit by morning. By simply adding one more fold line to our shirts and pants I save a whole lot of space AND my kids can see all their options at once. For shirts I use a modified ‘Gap fold’ (it’s a real thing Google it!) and then I fold in half one more time. THAT’S IT!
This saves me the time (and torture) of watching my kids pull out one shirt at a time to get to the one they want.
Total prep time = mere seconds added to folding time. Total time saved = 40 minutes a week!
So, if you like math here are the numbers: Total Prep Time = 1 hour 20 minutes Total Time Saved = 8 hours 30 minutes
Feeling organized and saving hours of stress = PRICELESS!
What are your time saving secrets to keeping your family organized?
I had this fantasy that I was going to home school my children. It sounded like fun at the time, but then the reality of being out numbered by two feisty little divas quickly changed my mind. But, I did want to teach them some basics like letters and numbers. So I started on a journey to teach my kids their ABC’s and 123’s. I am not a certified teacher so I have no idea how to formally teach, but I do know how to have fun and that my kids really like learning. I introduced our ABC’s and 123’s in some pretty fun ways and with repetition. You don’t need flash cards or need to spend hours teaching your child. Just incorporate teachable moments into some every day activities and make it fun! I started introducing letters and numbers when my girls were around 18 months. By the time they were 26 months they had mastered ABC’s and could count to 20.
Here are 10 fun ways to introduce letters and numbers to your toddler:
EAT YOUR ALPHABET
Cookies– use your favorite sugar cookie recipe. We simply roll out a tube of store bought sugar cookie dough and press out letter shapes. You can go simple and stick to one letter per week, or go all out and help spell words with your cookies. Either way your kiddo will love the end result and it will be a fun experience.
Pretzels– use store bought pizza or bread dough to make pretzels. Start by pulling off a small piece and rolling into a snake (kids love this part) and help kids form a letter.
Alphabet soup– can’t get any easier than that. Pop a can top and pour, or make from scratch. Whatever works for you!
Sandwiches – use letter cutters to cut shapes out of bread and let your kid slather on the PB&J.
Pancakes – use a squeeze bottle to mix and squirt pancake batter onto hot griddle. Cook and enjoy!
Play dough– cut letters out of play dough for an interactive alphabet experience.
Shaving cream– spray shaving cream (or whipped cream, yogurt, pudding) onto a tray and show your kids how to make letters using their finger tips. If you worry about the mess your little one will make, squirt shaving cream into a plastic baggie and let the air out. They can trace a letter on the bag and the shape will remain.
Letter hunt– print out letters (or write on index cards) and hide for you kid to find in your yard or around your house. Take the hunt to the streets and point out letters you see while driving through your neighborhood, or while you are at the store.
CREATE YOUR ABC’s
Stamp it out– use colorful letter stamps to create an alphabet gallery.
Letter collage– help kids find letters in old magazines to cut out and paste on paper to make a collage.
Dot paints or bingo daubers – on do-a-dot sheets. I printed these out from http://www.dltk-teach.com/alphabuddies/daubers/
Whatever you do to help your toddler learn make sure it is fun! Never put any pressure to perform or learn quicker than they are ready. Kids all learn at their own pace.
What are some of your favorite fun toddler activities?