Tuesday, March 28, 2017

7 Fast and Easy Toddler Activities You Can Do Today

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Day in my life posts are my favorite blog posts to read with quick, easy kid activities posts being my second favorite. I love getting ideas of activities to do with my 1 1/2 year old and 3 year old. It's an added bonus if it takes me less than 10 minutes to set up and calls for items that I already have in my house. You can read a few of the activities posts I have already done here, here, and here if you want.

I wanted to share some of the latest and greatest activities we are doing at our house lately and why they are so popular (for me and for my kids). Each activity will take almost no time to prepare for, which is the best way to spontaneously introduce the activity at a time when you really need it:

1. Making Cards
Preparing time: 1 minute
Supplies: Scissors, glue, markers, construction paper, magazines (or random items that can be cut), stickers, etc.

This one is really great for my 3 year old who has the biggest and most giving heart. She loves to color pictures and give them (or send them) to family and friends. They almost always say, "I love you and can't wait to see you. Have a great day," in complete jibberish that contains her sentences. She "reads" them to the people she wrote them for though and this is almost always her message.

With any upcoming holiday, birthday, or just an I'm thinking of you card, Payton will sit for long periods of time and work on cards. This is a great time for her to practice scissor cutting skills and work on gluing items. I save magazines and catalogs for her to use for cutting pieces and putting on construction paper.

2. Painting Nature
Preparing Time: 5 minutes
Supplies: Paper, paint (washable), water, paint brushes, items from nature
This activity will be requested by your kids regularly after the first time you do. I typically plan this in two parts. First, we go outside to play or for a quick walk. While outside I will ask the kids to find an item or two that they would like to paint. Payton almost always picks a leaf while Riley has done a variety of items: leaves, sticks, rocks, grass.

When we come back inside I have the items placed on the counter and let my kids know they can paint them after nap time/quiet time. This has never been an issue for us, but they are ready to begin as soon as they complete that requirement.

I tape their items to a sheet of paper, hand out the painting supplies and let them go crazy! Riley only paints for about 10-15 minutes at 1 1/2 but he definitely loves this project. He runs straight to dad to show it off when he comes home from work.

Payton, our 3 year old, will paint for a much longer period of time and, after painting her piece of nature, will typically move on to painting pictures of her own design. It's a good time to let her find her creative side and do as she pleases.

3. Stamp Painting
Preparing Time: 2 minutes
Supplies: Paint, paper, cardboard from toilet paper roles or paper towel roles
As you can probably gather, we are in a phase where we love to paint! Washable paint is the best!

I have seen other moms post about taking old toilet paper rolls and letting your children stamp paint with them. One day, when putting toilet paper on the roll, I remembered this and saved the empty cardboard. I remembered the next time, too. I took one and shaped it like a heart but left the other one as a circle.

Both of my kids loved this and spent time stamping hearts and circles all over their paper. Every time we pull out paint now, my daughter asks where our stamps went. It's cheap and definitely requires focus as a child tries to put paint on the end and then stamp it just right.

4. Get Yourself Out Obstacle Course
Preparing Time: 5 minutes
Supplies: Tape (preferable painters tape)
I know I talked about this in a previous post but it is definitely worth mentioning again as we have done this many, many times. It really doesn't get old and you can change it up every single time.

As you can see, I did not use painters tape, but I have not had any issues with paint being peeled off. I take the course down as soon as we are done playing with it and haven't had any issues. Just in case though, you may want to stick with painting tape.

I just take the tape and put it in various positions between two of our walls in our hallway. It's that easy. My son is very afraid of it and fits his personality as he is very cautious. Payton has always loved doing this though and never shied away from it. She is really into completing missions and having cases to solve so this works well for her. I will sometimes put a toy or doll on one end and she has to save it without knocking any tape down. Other times, we will see how fast she can get through the course. She asks for this game frequently!

5. Kinetic Sand
Preparing Time: 1 minute
Supplies: Kinetic sand, cake pan (or other container), play utensils, cookie cutters
 A long, long time ago when I only had one child, I referred to diy sand that I tried, failed, but my child still enjoyed. Since then, my sister bought our household kinetic sand and we haven't looked back since. I put it up when we aren't using and pull it out at times when it's convenient for us (ahem, me).

We always discuss rules and how the sand needs to stay in the pan before using. This has worked well for my children keeping the mess down. For when it does leave the pan, it is easy to clean up and also vacuums up easily if needed.

6. Playmobil Sets
Preparing Time: 1 minute
Supplies: Playmobil set
My mother bought my daughter a playmobil set (here is a playmobil playground set) and at first I was pretty nervous to show her. There are so many pieces, tiny pieces, little pieces. In the end, we have found a lot of enjoyment out of this set. Warning: Plan to do this activity with your children and do not leave alone as there are many little pieces. That being said, you can have a blast helping your kids set up their play world and then watch as their imaginations run wild.

This is another activity that they don't have regular access to so when I pull it out they will focus on for the longest time. It can be very frustrating as they learn to work with the small pieces but it is good to watch as they learn about patience and increase their hand-eye coordination.

7. Coin Play
Preparing Time: 1 minute
Supplies: Coins, piggy bank, containers
I love how pictures can tell you more than our words ever could. Look at that. This is a game that my kids are both 100% into and love to play.

My husband and I put our change into a plastic jar weekly. I pull this out and grab a toy piggy bank and Payton's piggy bank and let the kids play. Both kids will work on counting coins, putting coins into containers, dumping coins out, and then repeating the whole process over again.

As a side note, money can be very dirty. You can clean the coins if you want first but I almost never do. I do explain to my children that the coins aren't the cleanest and that they need to not touch their face while playing and they will wash their hands immediately when done. I haven't had any major issues.

That give you some insight as to how we are spending some of our time these day. I hope I told you at least 1 thing you haven't done yet. Tell me, what easy activities do you do at your house? I would love to get some ideas from you!

Saturday, March 25, 2017

This Week in Review

Wow, what a fast week this has been for me. I was looking at my phone and noticed that I captured several good moments from our recent adventures so I thought I would do a quick post to share these shots.

I've said it many times but most of our adventures are dictated by the weather. The beginning of the week we saw amazing temperatures (think high 70s amazing) and were able to get outside. We played with chalk, watched bubbles fly away, and ate ice cream. Lots and lots of ice cream.
With the good weather cooling down a bit part way through the week, we still managed to make it outside frequently. The kids love sliding down the slide together currently and I watch anticipating an accident to happen. So far, so good. Also, when did my baby boy start to look so big?
With turkey hunting season approaching, we went out scouting for turkeys (above picture) one evening this week. Payton is very interested in hunting and really wants to go with her daddy this year.

Towards the end of the week we were pushed back inside and I got to watch superheros on a mission, several art projects started and completed (making Easter cards for everyone is huge right now), puppet shows, and reading in the rocking chair. I know the rocking chair picture isn't the greatest picture I've ever taken, but it does sum up my children's current relationship. This picture is exactly as I found them when I walked into Riley's room after loading the dishwasher. It's so beautiful watching your own children's relationships unfold.

Last night, we went to an annual family fun event that our local 4-h group puts on. It had about the same activities as last year but my what a difference a year makes. Take a look at last year's post and see for yourself. Both kids made cupcakes and ate them as fast as they could. They also got to see rabbits, a baby goat, and a calf. Riley was so excited to see the baby calf. He was even more intrigued when he was shown what the calf's bottle looks like.

The event also had a dress up activity where children could put clothing of their choice on over their outfit and then put on a show for everyone. Payton insisted she should do it and we had absolutely no idea how that was going to go over. Warning: this video is noisy and there is a lot of background noise so turn your volume down or prepare to be blasted!

This is a mommy proud moment. She started off with a trip but recovered greatly. I was very impressed with how big she suddenly seemed. It's bittersweet to see how much your child has grown.

The rest of the weekend will be spent at home. My hubby is already working hard on our storage room building more shelves for us.
I'm thankful he works so hard for our family. I'm also kind of ready to see projects around our house come to an end. That may be wishful thinking as we seem to move on to another project house as soon as there is any down time with diy lists. I'll continue to dream though.
Lastly, our household continues to view gorgeous sunsets. I will never get over how peaceful and good life can feel when saying goodbye to the sun for the day.

I hope you are having a great week as well! What are you up to this weekend?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Update on Potty Training Progress

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Exactly one month ago today, I started potty training our baby boy at 19 months. Since he was my second child to train I felt much more prepared for this task and wasn't nearly as overwhelmed as I was the first time around. I can't really say which child was easier as they both were awesome on some things and struggled with other parts of learning to use the potty.

My daughter potty trained at 18 months but I knew my son wasn't ready at that time. I really only trained my daughter that early because she was showing almost all the signs of being ready to potty train and was asking several times a day to sit on the toilet after a weekend of watching her cousin, who was newly potty trained. I decided to just roll with her requests and I can tell you she was a breeze to train. She basically trained herself after experiencing 1 day of multiple accidents (almost entirely on carpet, thus my overwhelming feelings).

I had absolutely no intentions of potty training my son as early. In my previous work experience, I interned during my masters degree at a child counseling center and we almost always recommended children not be potty trained until closer to 3 (when they are more cognitively developed) and also explained that research shows boys can be more challenging to potty train than girls are. I was prepared to stick with diapers for the long haul and patiently waited for my son to show the signs he was ready.

Right before turning 19 months, Riley started to show a ton of interest in the potty. He wanted to help flush and was especially curious when his sister used the potty. I'm telling you, kids like to have other children for role models. This doesn't always play well in my favor, but this time it did. To help Riley learn more, we pulled the little potty chair (<-- affiliate link) out for him and big sister explained how it would be used. He instantly wanted to try it out. We also read him several educational books (from the library).

Thus, began our new adventure. Potty training. I use the 3 day potty training method. I'm not the first to ever come up with this method and if you google it, you will find many different blog posts and articles written on this. By the end of the 3rd day, your child can be potty trained but it really means focusing on training the entire 3 day period. This means clearing your calendars, staying home, having no company, and keeping your eyes on your child like a hawk. I have found a Friday through Sunday work best for our household.

As I mentioned above, I wasn't nearly as overwhelmed this time around. I would actually describe myself as calm through most of the experience and that made a huge difference. We still live in the same house as I potty trained my daughter in and we still have mostly carpet in the house. My solution? Remove the dining room table and rug out of the dining room (which has tile) and lock us in that room for as long as possible. I brought several toys and books in there with us and rotated toys as often as possible. We made it 1 1/2 days in there. I can tell you, cleaning up accidents is much easier on tile than on carpet. Also, I was completely okay with ditching potty training at any point and waiting until he was older if needed. That really seemed to take the pressure (aka stress) off of the whole experience.

It also helped to have big sister as a cheerleader. She was so excited to help her little brother learn to use the potty. Plus, when he earned a sticker she could earn a sticker, too, for helping her brother. She loved this! I'm hoping to write more on how to utilize a big sister when potty training. Don't get me wrong, it came with its challenges, too. Like, when she became very upset that he wasn't going to potty train immediately. I had to really work to keep her interested since I had to dedicate several days to training her brother in order to be successful.

So, at one month, we are fully potty trained during the day (diapers still at night and nap time as that typically doesn't get figured out until a much later age). It's not perfect though. He is really young so I know there will be accidents. Sometimes, he gets so busy in play he doesn't want to stop to go. I continue to focus on having him go every few hours to avoid accidents.

How has potty training gone for you in the past? Or, are you going to be potty training a little one soon? I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Preschool at Home, the Park, and My Current Struggles

This post contains sponsored links from Amazon and Zaycon Fresh.

So I thought I would give a few updates as to what's been happening at our house. Since I normally feel like I ramble in my posts, I decided to switch it up with our current life under a list. This way actually works best for me as I am a perpetual list maker and love to check my lists off as I go! Here's what's going on at our house, list style for your viewing pleasure!

We did not send Payton to preschool at 3 and we chose to work with her at home instead. We are undecided still about this next year but Payton is loving the lessons I pull together for her. We got  this exact workbook set and Payton has loved it. I started with doing 1-2 numbers each day from the Mickey Mouse workbook and then I would find an online worksheet to accompany it. Check out this website for free worksheets. We are now working on the alphabet and I am following the same plan but I have also incorporated Bath time toys and Fridge Magnets throughout the day for further review, also known as lots of repetition!

The flashcards from the above set are awesome as well. We use them almost daily. I don't always just show her the card and have her tell me what it is. Sometimes, I hand her the cards and ask her to find a certain item (like a red rectangle). Other times, I pull cards out and we play the matching game and match them up. I want to get the cards laminated though as they have been fairly well used already and I want them to last for our son when the time comes for him.

Lastly, I am trying out ABC Mouse for preschool activities as well. I got a coupon from Groupon and will decide in a few months if I want to continue this or not. We don't allow Payton to have much screen time as we have found that too much technology for her can cause major behavioral issues, sometimes lasting the remainder of the day. So, that being said, she is very limited on ABC Mouse but loves it. She gets about 15 minutes at a time and only uses it a handful of days each week. 

I don't know for sure what is working but the combination (and possibly her age) seems to be working well for her at this time.  We will keep on going with this routine for the time being. 

The Park

If you have followed me for awhile (or know me personally), you know we love to be outside. We caught another break from the freezing cold of winter and were able to make a trip to the park. This always makes for a good time. The kids fed the ducks, went for a walk, and we played at the playground.
The next day we were sentenced inside again with a light snow and freezing temperatures.
Riley spent most of his winter looking like this. He has to always have a blanket on him and also loves to just randomly lay down on blankets and "rest."

This is quite a comparable difference to our little Payton, who fights bedtime, resting, and sleep like her life depends on it. Riley, though, you just need to wave a blanket over your lap and you have a cuddler headed your way.

Getting Out and About

The weather may keep us from going outside but I am still trying to get out during the week with the kids. Payton has gymnastics and Riley spends some quality time with Daddy during that time. We also visit those at the nursing home about one time each week and we are trying to make it to one story time at the library each week.

Story time is great because both kids can go and participate. It's not great that sometimes the kids will run around in opposite directions and make this trip a very trying time for me. The struggle is real when one tired momma is chasing 2 very active, young children. We took a long break from story time after a few really bad trips to the library (and a few times of getting sick from there) but the kids seems to be back on track.
While at the library, we always stock up on books (and some movies) to read. I love a change up in books from the ones we have at home.

Freezer Meals

I used to regularly do freezer meals. I have slipped horribly recently. We fell into a pattern where we were eating out regularly because I wasn't planning well for meals. I was the first one to admit it was increasing my pant size and also left me feeling horrible from all the processed foods.

So, I am trying to get back into the swing of freezer meals and meal preparation. Last week, I bought bulk chicken through Zaycon fresh and was very pleased with the chicken we got. I had very little fat to remove and the chicken breasts were huge! After the kids went to bed, we made up 12 freezer meals.

I keep it so simple. We bought several kinds of Lawry's marinades and poured them with the chicken into freezer bags (about 4 breasts to a bag). I also prepared a few batches of chicken strips and put them in the the freezer as well. When I pull the meals out, we normally grill the chicken and I throw together some rice and veggies. Viola! Dinner is served.

Over this weekend, my hubby and I made homemade runzas. These were so good and we got about 40 runzas into the freezer.
I'm slowly finding a baking/cooking groove again. It's hard to get back into the cooking habit when you fall out of it. If you freezer meal prep, share with me some of your meals you use or tips to stay motivated!


This should have honestly been titled lack of sleep. We still aren't getting much sleep at our house. My daughter is sleeping fine, with the occasional waking at night. My son, on the other hand, is sleeping worse than he did as a newborn. Some nights, he isn't even making it an hour. It's been rough here. 
Naps used to not be a struggle and our only problem area was night sleeping. That has changed recently as well. We said goodbye to the 2-3 hour naps he was taking and are finding several times a week he will sleep maybe 45 minutes. He is so tired when he gets up but I can't get him to fall back asleep except the one time in the above picture. I embraced that nap with all that I had. It had been a long while since a child randomly fell asleep on me in the living room. 

My Personal Struggles

See the above sleep section to understand my personal struggles lately. Sleep deprivation has not looked good on me lately. I am tired and there doesn't seem to be enough coffee. ever. I have also been getting horrible headaches, which I think are due to lack of sleep (or maybe the coffee, who knows). 

Between lack of sleep and poor meal planning lately, I've been riding the struggle bus a lot lately. I'm hoping things can start turning around soon, but it's so hard to know when I will start getting sleep again. Or what the right thing to do is. Or if I am even doing the right thing. So, if you could say a little prayer for me, I would be much appreciative. Until I get off the struggle bus, I am using this time to turn to my faith and find appreciation for the life I have been given. 

Happy Wednesday! We are almost through the week!

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Going Home

For absolutely no reason in particular, I decided to load the kids up and take them on a random trip to my hometown. Since I wasn't entirely sure if I would make the trip (illness and kids can happen at any time I've learned) my family only got a few hours notice that we were arriving. My kids were only told that morning as well and helped me to do a quick packing job.

Random 3 1/2 hour trips are very new for us since my kids previously didn't travel well at all. Like a 3 hour trip turns into 5 hours and kids cry the whole time kind of poor traveling trips we have endured. In the last few months though, they both seem to have transitioned into being a bit better at being harnessed into a vehicle for long periods of time. I like the think they are learning the end result is worth it. Who really knows though.

In any case, our chaotic family of three arrived in one piece. The kids had a blast seeing several aunts, uncles, cousins, great grandparents, and my parents. I love coming back to my small hometown in the middle of nowhere. I haven't lived in this town for over a decade but, yet, it still always feels like home to me. 

I loved taking walks with my children around the same block I grew up walking myself when I was their age. When I tried to explain that to my daughter she continued to tell me "I already know that and I played with you then." If only she understood she wasn't even on my radar when I was 3. 

It's amazing how fast time has gone by though. It's even more amazing that my parents live in the same house I grew up in. It gives me a lot of time for personal reflection of my own past and what I want for my children as they grow up.

We took a walk on a beautiful bridge and showed the kids the scenery my hometown has to offer. There was nothing more beautiful than soaking up the sun, taking in fresh air, viewing gorgeous scenery, and watching children bond.

We were sad to say goodbye but after a few nights, it all had to come to an end. An abrupt end to be exact. I stayed up too late with my siblings and parents and woke up too early to a child who peed the bed an another child who wanted to play long before they should have been rising. And, with that, we took our cue to exit. We left at about 7:30 in the morning and that allowed us to see many animals out on the way home, like deer, pheasants, horses, and cows. The kids were entertained by the animals outside their window.

Now, we are back adjusting to our regular routine and I'm playing catch up with the housework when I can. If you are looking for me, we'll be playing pretend birthday party, reminiscing about our recent adventure, and simultaneously having an indoor picnic.

I hope you are enjoying your week!

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