Category Archives: KIDding around

Fun activities to make and do with your children.

Mickey Mania

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We did it.

Again.

We took the kids to Disney World.

The last time we made the journey to the “Happiest Place on Earth”, Christopher was 6.  He loved it, aside from the usual meltdowns associated with not being tall enough to ride various rides, and ignoring the middle of the day meltdowns from being tired, hot and sweaty. I enjoyed it because he enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel the need to go ever again.  I figured a kid should go once, and that was enough.

But then His Majesty was born, and with a 10 year gap between him and Christopher, there was a shrinking window of when we could go and have both kids enjoy themselves without making it too miserable on my husband and myself. Don’t get me wrong, Disney World is great, but we’re not exactly “Disney people”, and running through theme parks with a toddler in a stroller isn’t exactly our idea of relaxing, but as with most things, we’re willing to do it for our kids to enjoy it.  Plus, my Grandma had never been, so that added some extra incentive on my end.  Next to watching my kids experience something new, I absolutely love taking her on new adventures.

In preparation for our trip, I took the opportunity to make His Majesty a few Mouse themed t-shirts using a freezer paper stencil method I’d pinned from Urban Pioneer Story.  You won’t believe how easy this it was.

I started with two plain cotton t-shirts that I bought at Hobby Lobby for $6.  His Majesty chose the colors– he wanted a pink and a blue.  I printed the mouse ear profile on regular paper, and cut it out with scissors, and then traced it onto the dull side of a sheet of freezer paper (which I purchased at the grocery store in a huge roll for under $5), and cut it out with a razor knife, giving me an intact stencil. Then, I ironed it, shiny side DOWN, onto the shirt, resulting in this:

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You want to leave a little extra freezer paper around your stenciled shape, to allow you to easily paint while protecting the clean part of the shirt. Next, I put a sheet of cardboard inside the shirt (I used an empty cereal box folded down to be flat), and used a round sponge paint brush to apply black fabric paint to the inside of the stencil.  At the edges I pressed down with the brush, and brushed towards the inside of the shape, to keep from moving the edges of the stencil.  I painted two coats, letting it dry for about an hour in between coats. Image

The next day, I peeled the freezer paper off, leaving me with this.

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Oh boy.  I was excited.  And so was His Majesty.

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But for the pink shirt, I decided that I wanted to try something a little different, using spray paint, gaining inspiration from Scattered Thoughts of a Crafty Mom.  So this time, I used the shape of the ears as my stencil, and painted around them with spray paint (again, be sure you put a piece of cardboard inside of the shirt, as the paint will soak through). I held my hand about 10 inches away, and sprayed a light coat of paint, keeping my arm moving the whole time to avoid blotches and drips. Image

ImageWhen I pulled the stencil off, I basically did a happy dance. Image

His Majesty was pleased as well.

ImageI liked the results of the spray paint method so much that I decided to do it on the back of his blue shirt as well. You can only use each stencil once, so I cut another one out.  It’s so easy, though, that it’s hardly a big deal.

ImageAnd that’s how I made two shirts for Disney World in a breathable fabric (helpful, given that it was 90 degrees and all kinds of humid during our trip… I was melting, MELTING!!) for a fraction of the cost we’d pay at the park. And, these are one of a kind.  I’m proud of them, and His Majesty loves them.  For the record, I offered to make some for Christopher, but he deemed himself too cool for them.  He did, however, request that I make him a shirt with The Hunger Games symbol to go with his Halloween costume– He’s going as Peeta.

This method is amenable to any shape that you want to create.  You can do words, names, whatever your heart desires.  Once you have your paint and your freezer paper, you can probably even make a shirt for everyone in your family with supplies left to spare.  Birthday shirts for your little one?  Done.  Shirts to show support for your kid’s Little League team?  Done.  Bring it on, baby.  The sky is the limit with the freezer paper stencil shirts!

I made one other cool thing for our Disney trip, and also did some preplanning for our trip that saved me a little money and gave my kids some extra fun along the way.  Stay tuned for more on that this week 🙂

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Batter Up! Another Swing at Cake Batter Dip!

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Earlier this year, I told you about how Funfetti Dip (which I learned about from Shannon at Adventures in Food, and pinned here) was a hit at a play date I hosted. Well, this past week, Christopher asked me to make some more, but I didn’t have any more funfetti mix or plain yogurt.  I did, however, have a box of yellow cake mix, and some vanilla flavored yogurt.

Cake batter is cake batter… and yogurt is yogurt… Sooo….why not change it up a bit, do a little ingredient experimentation?

I decided that there was nothing to lose by giving it a whirl with yellow cake mix and vanilla yogurt.

I used the same ratio as the Funfetti Dip:

3/4 cup dry yellow cake mix

1/2 cup vanilla flavored yogurt

1/4 cool whip

And I mixed it for about a minute on medium speed.  It was pretty thick.

I served it with animal crackers and pretzel crackers.

I let Christopher taste test it, and the results were favorable.  But really, who doesn’t like cake batter?

His Majesty certainly does.

I’m pretty sure that you can use any dry cake mix and come up with a dessert style dip.  You can mess around with different yogurts and give it your own flair.  Strawberry pound cake mix, strawberry yogurt and cool whip perhaps?  Or butter pecan mix, vanilla yogurt, and cool whip?  There are so many flavors of yogurt and cake, you could really make it interesting.

Have you made any new recipes, lately?  Or put your own twist on an old one?

Button Snakes and Beans

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No matter how much of an effort I make to spend time with my kids outside during the heat of the summer, sometimes my internal thermometer begs for some indoor activities.  North Carolina is hot, y’all.  I know there’s a heat wave all over the country right now, but the South is known for it’s brutal summers and thick humidity.  Air conditioning is my friend.

My heat intolerance isn’t problem for Christopher, who is old enough to ride his bike outside with his friends even when I’ve had enough for the day.  But for His Majesty, it can sometimes take a little creativity to keep him busy,and adequately distracted from the things he wants to do outside.  If you have the same dilemma with your own toddler, allow me to suggest two ideas that have made our indoor time simple, quiet, and enjoyable.

The first idea is playing with dried beans.  All you need is some dried beans, a kitchen funnel, a few measuring cups, bowls or containers in various sizes(empty yogurt cups, spice jars, or oatmeal containers will work great for this), and spoons.  You can make an easy funnel by cutting off the top of a plastic pop bottle if you don’t have one.

His Majesty has enjoyed this activity since he was about 18 months old. It’s a bit messy, but I just vacuum after he’s done, and all is well.  He loves pouring and scooping the beans.

When your child is ready, you can make clean up a sorting activity, and sort the different beans into similar groups.  You can count them.  You can also hide little toys (he likes when I hide little people in the beans) and have your child can dig for them, like a little sensory scavenger hunt.

His Majesty has never been the type of kid who mouths things, so I don’t really worry about him choking on these.  Plus, if he decided to eat a few (which hasn’t been a problem thus far), beans are obviously edible, so no worries there.  However, you should also be aware that some kids will stick things in their ears or nostrils, so keep an eye out if your kid is into that.

When we’re done playing with these, I put them back in a container in the pantry and they’re ready to play with the next time.  I don’t cook dried beans (I honesty don’t know how, but I do know that doing so takes a long time, so I don’t really care to learn either), so I don’t have to worry that they’ll accidentally end up served for dinner after laying on the carpet or being handled by sweaty toddler hands.

Another fun, and very easy, busy toddler activity is a button snake, like this one from The Activity Mom. All you need for this is some very basic sewing skills, a button, some ribbon or fabric trim, and felt squares in assorted colors.  I also used an elastic hair band, but that it totally optional, and I’ll tell you about that in a moment.

Start by cutting your felt into shapes that you want your toddler to “feed” the button snake.  I used squares, just because it was the easiest, but you could use triangles, stars, circles, hearts, or a combination of shapes.  Set one shape to the side to serve as the base of your button snake.

In the center of all of your shapes except for the one you reserved, cut a slit long enough for your button to fit through.  Those will be your button holes.

Take the one felt shake that you set aside and sew your ribbon (I used a squiggly trim, since it was a bit firmer) to it.  I made a few passes with my sewing machine, and I didn’t even change the thread color, I just used the pink that was already in there.  Make sure you sew it on there securely, since your toddler is going to pull on the ribbon, and you want this to stay together so that the rest of the shapes don’t slip off the ribbon.

The next step is to sew your button on the other end of your ribbon.  I hand sewed it flush with the ribbon, and I did about 40 passes, to make sure it was good and sturdy.  Toddlers are rough, after all.

Here’s where an elastic hair band came into the picture.  I sewed the hair band to the underside of the felt base. I  sewed right down the middle of the band, giving me two loops.

That makes it easy to wrap everything up and keep it together for storage.

That’s it.  Your button snake is ready to rock.  Hand it to your toddler and let him or her “feed” the button snake.

The monkey tail you see peeking out from behind him is totally optional.  He got that at his Best Friend’s monkey themed birthday bash, and he has made it part of his daily wardrobe now.

The button snake is quiet and portable enough to bring to the doctor’s office, or on car trips, making it a great addition to a busy bag.  You can also reinforce color recognition into this activity, and, if you cut your felt into different shapes, you can extend the activity to include shape recognition.  As a perk, there’s little, if any, clean up involved when the fun is over.

Having simple little activities like this on hand has been really useful if I need a few minutes to make a phone call, or to assemble lunch or to just have a few moments of quiet.  Plus, they are great for fine motor development.

What have you been doing to keep yourself or your children busy this summer? I’d love some new ideas if you care to share!

Window Dressing

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When I first saw this pin, from Janette at Style with Cents, I envisioned it in my house.

I wanted it right under this window, which faces out onto our screened porch/backyard, and I wanted it with seating for two.

The window is in the “eat in” portion of the kitchen, which we have open right now to allow for His Majesty to hoop it up with his Little Tykes basketball hoop.  He’s energetic.  Rather than fight it, we make it work.  We eat at the island, or in the formal dining room, and give him the run of the family room and all of the kitchen on one side of the island. Our kitchen table currently lives in the garage.  We’ll bring it in someday.  I’m not in a hurry.

Anyway, I thought the little shelf desk concept would work out great under this window, and my sweet husband agreed.  He went to Home Depot with the intention of getting a 48 x 12 shelf board and some shelf brackets.  He came home with shelf brackets, but no shelf board.  Because he’d found something better while he was there.

A stair tread.

A stair tread is thicker than a shelf board (1 inch thick vs. 3/4 inch thick) and the edge was already rounded, eliminating sharp corners and taking away the need to router the edges.  And it looked like a shelf board to me, so I had no complaints.

He painted the tread and brackets with three coats of the same white paint as our trim, and then got to work hanging it up.

Because he positioned the brackets underneath the windows, he was able to secure them into wall studs, increasing the sturdiness of the desk.

And then we got to work finding kiddie chairs.  We looked online at Ikea.  We looked online at Target.  We looked online on Amazon.

And then we found these plans from the amazing Ana White. She’s pretty much my hero, and her plans have enabled my husband to build me all sorts of stuff.

The next day, he built these two chairs in about 2.5 hours, at a total cost of around $20. 

Now the biggest decision we have to make is what color to paint or stain them.

I am debating whether to keep them white like the shelf, to stain them to match the cabinets, or to do them in a bold accent color.  But for now, they’re just bare wood, while I make up my mind.

His Majesty now has a place to color, eat a snack, sit with a friend, etc, that doesn’t require him to be confined to his high chair, a fact that he definitely appreciates.   If we decide to homeschool him, he will have a place to do his lessons that keeps him near me while I go about doing my work in the kitchen, and keeps Christopher from being distracted while he works up in the office.

But for now, it’s just fun, and functional.  But I need to decide on a finish for the chairs.  What do you think?  Bold accent color?  Simple white?  Matching stain?  I am going to need some help deciding.

Adorable Toddler Backpack

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I got to break out my sewing machine again this month.  And I’m pleased to say that my meager skill set is improving.

I made a backpack for His Majesty last fall (which is when the first two photos below were taken, and as I look at these, I can not believe how fast he is growing up.  It is unreal), using this amazing tutorial from Indietutes.  When I say amazing, I mean it, y’all.  I have such a pathetic resume of sewing skills right now, but last fall, I was completely clueless (My husband had to thread my machine for me… true story), and yet, I was able to not only figure this out, but do a pretty decent job.  Not perfect, but certainly passable.  My son loves it.

As soon as I presented it to him, I immediately knew I wanted to make one for His Majesty’s “Beft Fwend”  (for those of you who don’t speak toddler, that would translate to “Best Friend”), and I’ve been planning this project ever since.  As much as he adores her, I do, too.  She was the first little girl born to any of my close friends after a slew of boys, so she has always been somewhat of a novelty,  and seeing her grow and watching her adorable flirty antics just makes my day every time I see her.  She’s a one of a kind kid, so it’s only right that she receive a one of a kind backpack.

 Well, Best Friend turned two this month, which gave me the opportunity to move on my plan.  I headed to Hobby Lobby with my good old 40% off coupon and picked up some fabric, fusible interfacing (that’s a stiffer lining that you can iron on to your fabric to give it more form.  I had no idea what it was when I first sewed the backpack for His Majesty.), coordinating thread, and a sequined iron on flower patch to make it more fun for my little friend.   I chose a bright, colorful pattern for her that I felt wasn’t too girly, because bows and tutu’s aside, she is one rough and tumble princess.  Then I printed out the free pattern from Indietutes, and by simply following her tutorial, I was able to go from this:

To this.

I ironed on the flower patch after I’d cut out the pattern and ironed on the fusible interfacing, as I felt it would be easier to do that than to do it after completing the entire project.

I am so pleased with how this came out.  My skills have definitely improved since I made His Majesty’s dinosaur backpack.  Best Friend really seemed to like it, too.  She put it on as soon as she opened it, and, as expected, it looked absolutely adorable on her.  It’s the perfect size for a toddler, and, while it won’t hold a whole bunch of stuff, it will hold a snack, or a stuffed bunny, or a pink puppy.

Happy Birthday to His Majesty’s Beft Fwend.  We love you!!

Happy Trails

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We were off again last week, this time headed up north, to visit with some friends in the Wisconsin Dells, with a stop along the way to see my in laws in a neighboring state. Not exactly a kid free trip to NYC, but it was sure to be interesting, nonetheless.

One reason it was certain to be interesting is that His Majesty despises being confined in any capacity, but more so than any other form, he loathes being in the car. He literally has come to associate car trips of any length with mindlessly stuffing his face full of food, preferably in form of empty carbs. As in, we eat breakfast and immediately get in the car for a 10 minute drive to a friend’s house, and he starts squawking for “something else” (food) before I even have his car seat buckled. This makes road trips not only messy, but inherently annoying, as we collectively try to shovel food in his direction while he repeatedly barks orders at us (“I want TWO crackers!”), lest we move too slowly and he morph into a cranky tantrum-laden troll. Oh, and did I mention that he stubbornly refuses to nap in the car– that he refused such a challenge, even as a newborn baby– despite our best efforts, bribes, and begging?

Sounds like a blast, no?

At this point, we are both used to his travel challenges, and ridiculously sick of them. We travel a lot, and I wanted to read a book in the car or nap or daydream uninterrupted. Enter THIS idea, courtesy of Crazy Domestic, for travel trays.

I was pretty much willing to try anything at this point, so some chalk spray paint and dollar store cookie sheets seemed like a small investment to make in the “Travel in Peace and Quiet” fund. I found the chalkboard spray paint at Hobby Lobby, and the cookie sheets, stickers, magnetic chip clips, pencil boxes and twist crayons (hoping they won’t melt as quickly as regular crayons) at the dollar store. The chalk and magnetic letters we already had handy, and I printed some free coloring sheets. We also liberated some matchbox cars from Christopher’s room. Everything for the project cost less than $15. The chalk paint was the costliest item, but I used a 40% off coupon, saving a few bucks.

I sprayed the trays during nap time. I did 4 thin coats, letting each coat dry for about 20 minutes in between. Per the paint instructions, it is recommended that you not write on your new chalkboard for 24 hours, so leave yourself adequate time before your trip so you aren’t disappointed.

On one tray, I used chip magnets to hold coloring sheets. Unlike Crazy Domestic, I decided not to glue the pencil case onto the surface of the tray, since the cases I’d purchased would take up too much play space on the trays.

Instead, I used magnets so that they would adhere to the front of the tray, and also serve to contain everything into as compact and portable of a package as possible for transport. I used the other pouch (not shown) to carry the matchbox cars.

I filled the case with the stickers, magnets, crayons, and chalk.

On the second tray, I stuck the magnetic letters, and more magnetic clips.

The third tray, I reserved until we arrived at our cabin.  It was my “ace in the hole”, the card to play at that immiment moment when His Majesty was just about to lose it.  Like my inspiration, I drew a little road on the tray in chalk, and let my little guy drive some of Christopher’s cars around the tray.

I would like to tell you that these simple trays revolutionized our road trip, and that we drove in blissful silence the entire drive, each of us enjoying the sound of the other’s breathing, but as great as they are, we still had plenty of noisy carb loading from our resident toddler, who kept a pretty constant running commentary of nearly every item we passed on the road. He is two-years-old, after all. However, the truth is that he thoroughly enjoyed the trays, loudly squealing in delight whenever I whipped them out.  They bought us far more quiet time than we have enjoyed on any other road trip since His Majesty arrived on the scene in 2010, which is a certain return in the time and money invested in this simple project.

And, as it turns out, our chalk board trays served an additional purpose.

Our friends used one of them to leave us us a good-bye note before heading back to their own home in the wee hours of the morning, after having spent a few days with us.

When I woke up to this on the counter, it was my turn to squeal with delight.  Gotta love handwritten notes! (The pterodactyl reference is an inside joke.  Hahaha, you just had to be there.)

What are your travel tricks and tidbits?  Do you have a masterful way of packing a suitcase, or stuffing an unbelievable amount of luggage into a vehicle?  Is there something that you or your family MUST travel with?  Tricks for occupying kids on trips, long or short? Share the love, share your travel tips!