Friday, March 30, 2012

Be Back Soon!

Hi Friends! I hope you'll excuse me as I take off the next week. I've got a busy week ahead of me, so to relieve myself of a bit of stress, I'm going to take a brief blogging break. I'll be back here in a week, hopefully much less stressed and much more relaxed.

If you're looking for good ideas, you can always check out my archives! Plus, the first edition of my monthly newsletter will go out on Sunday. If you haven't signed up yet, you can sign up below!

Kid's Co-op

It's Friday and you know what that means? It's time for the Kids Co-op! Link-up your favorite kid-related post and make sure and check out all the fun that has been linked up from other bloggers!

Since Easter is coming up soon, I thought I would share three of my favorite posts from the 175 posts that were linked up last week. (Yep, you heard that right 175 awesome ideas!)

B.Inspired Mama got the kids in the kitchen and made these adorable Easter Bunny Pretzel Treats. Yum!

Happy Hooligans made the cutest Easter chicks and nests from empty cardboard tubes.

Creative Connections for Kids has some great ideas for activities that use all those plastic eggs.

Now it's your turn to share! Please join up and share your favorite post. (And, we'd love you forever if you'd link back to us!) Your link will show up on all of the hosts blogs. It's time to link up, visit some new blogs, and have a lot of fun! 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

10 Ways to Keep Kids Occupied While You Cook Dinner

I know I'm not the only one who's struggled with trying to keep the kids busy so they're not underfoot while I'm making dinner. I'll admit that I've turned the TV on more times than I would like just so I wouldn't have to worry about splattering oil or sharp knives. (Why yes, I am terrified of dropping a knife on their head... probably won't happen, but it can stress me out nonetheless!)

So, for your benefit (and mine too), I've gathered 10 activities that are easy, self-directed and require little supervision (if any). Hopefully, you'll find something to make dinner prep a little less stressful!

1. Use foam shapes to make designs on a window. All it takes is a little bit of water and the foam will stick! This activity is relatively mess free and you can let the kids to work at a window near the kitchen. You can read about our experience with window art here.

2. Listen to audio books. My girls love books and have not yet learned to read. So, I'll pop in an audio book while I'm cooking and let someone else read to them. The next time you're at the library, check out their collection of audio books. We've listened to everything from the Magic Tree House books to Dr. Seuss. It's fun and a great way to wind down before dinner.

3. Let them play with quiet books. There are so many amazing quiet book ideas. If you're crafty, make one yourself. This one from Serving Pink Lemonade is wonderful and there are tons of ideas on the blog How to Make a Quiet Book. If you're not crafty, Etsy has many, many pre-made ones you could buy.

4. Play Follow the Leader. It's an easy game to play, the kids won't need your help, and they'll have tons of fun. Perfect, right! Here are some fun versions of the game we came up with.

5. Play with play dough. Bring it to the kitchen table and let the kids play while you cook dinner. Add a rolling pin and some cookie cutters and your kids will be occupied nicely the entire time you're cooking! If you're looking for play dough inspiration, check out the Let's Play Dough Free E-Book from Nurturestore.

6. Make sticker scenes. Give your kids some stickers and papers and you'll have a mess-free craft project for them to do while you cook. Plus, they'll get the added benefit of working on those fine-motor skills. To make it even more fun, Let's Explore uses landscape photos for making cool sticker scenes.

7. Play a matching game. Matching games are simple to set up and easy for the kids to work on by themselves. Our butterfly matching game using paint chips was easy to make. The Adventures of Bear has some fun letter matching games that are easy to make as well. Have a selection of matching games and you'll always have something for the kids to do while you're making dinner. 

8. Put paint in a resealable bag for mess-free art. It's mess free and fun. Mama Smiles shows you how to do it in this post.

9. Give them a dust rag. Yes, I'm serious. Have the kids clean while you cook. My girls love it when I hand them a dust rag. They'll run through the house dusting everything they find (even the cat). Wordplayhouse has a wonderful post about involving your kids in cleaning. 

10. Get out the Legos. Despite their young ages (2 & 4), my girls will play for a long time with our Duplos. Give the kids some free play time with their Legos and you'll have some peace and quiet to make dinner. Or, you can challenge them with this fun Lego Challenge game from Quirky Momma Kids Activities Blog.

*Bonus activity: Let the kids help! Instead of sending the kids away, get them involved. They can stir, pour ingredients, or even cut some vegetables or herbs (like scallions) with kitchen shears or a vegetable peeler. I know not every meal is a good one for kids to help with. But, when you can, involve them. Help them take ownership over the food you're eating.

Do you have any good tips for keeping the kids occupied while you cook dinner?

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Owl Masks

While learning about birds, there was no way we could forget the owl. Plus, the girls love just about any excuse to run around the house "hoo-hooing" at the top of their lungs. To encourage a bit of owl play, we got out our supply of paper plates and made a couple of owl masks.

I cut the initial shape and the eye holes. We opted for the horned owl look, but you could certainly leave the paper plate round as many owls have rounded faces. We looked at several owl pictures for inspiration and picked out a few paint colors that were best suited to the owl. After cutting out the shapes, I stepped back and let the girls work on their own.  

The girls looked at pictures and got lost in the painting for awhile. Lizzie had found a picture of a great-horned owl and was attempting to replicate the look on her mask. I love the white circles she made around the eye holes!

AJ added a bit of yellow to her owl. She loves yellow and wants to add that color to just about everything she does! She had a lot of fun just experimenting with her paint.

When the paint was dry, we drew on beaks, punched holes in the side, and added string to tie around the girls head. Then they ran around the house "hoo-hooing" at the top of their lungs!

What animal does your kid like to pretend to be?
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Linking up to Kids Get Crafty  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Daily Buzz Moms 9x9 Spring Fever!

I'm thrilled to be writing this post as part of the Daily Buzz Moms 9x9: Spring Fever. When I think of spring I think of flowers, birds, warm breezes and new warmth. Lizzie and I set out to capture that feeling by creating our own indoor garden. Not only did we want to create a beautiful garden, we also planned on making it all from items that were in our recycle bin.

To create the base, we found a small cardboard box and cut off all the side flaps. We wanted a clean and sturdy base. They, we raided our supply of cardboard tubes and arranged them until they fit inside. This was for our grassy area. We planned on sticking our flowers in between two tubes. Since empty cardboard tubes are quite squishable, it's easy to fit them inside most cardboard boxes. After we had an arrangement we liked, we glued them into the box. Make sure you only put glue on the bottom because you will need to slide things in between the tubes.

By this time, AJ wanted to join in on the fun, so I gave her the green paint and she started painting the grass. Meanwhile, Lizzie and I set to work on the flowers. We took an empty egg carton and separated it into single cups. I trimmed off the ragged edges and Lizzie picked out painted colors. We planned on turning these into tulips, our favorite spring flower.

Lizzie was in charge of the colors, so she chose red and purple. She opted to do one color on the inside and the other color on the outside of our egg cups. We wanted to paint both the inside and the outside so that our garden would be colorful no matter what angle you were looking. While the paint was drying, we worked on the hummingbird for our garden. This was Lizzie's idea. She thought a hummingbird would be a great addition to our garden and she was right. We looked through our pile of bird books from the library and found a simple picture of a hummingbird. I drew the hummingbird on a scrap piece of cardboard and Lizzie colored it with her markers. 

Once the paint was dry, attached it to our craft sticks. We already had a package of colored craft sticks in our art supplies, so we opted to used those instead of something from the recycle bin. If you don't have colored craft sticks, you could paint plain craft sticks, use strips of stiff cardboard, or anything else you can find to provide a stiff base for your flowers (and hummingbird). I cut a slit in the bottom of the egg cups, so we could slide the craft sticks in. We glued the craft stick on the back of the hummingbird. 

Now it was time to arrange our garden. After we were satisfied with our arrangement, we put glue at the bottom of each craft stick for stability, stepped back, then let it dry. I loved our collaboration and I love the way our project turned out! We now have a beautiful spring centerpiece for our table... at least when it isn't being played with!

Stayed tuned on Thursday, when this post along with 8 others will be featured on the Daily Buzz Moms 9x9.  I can't wait to see the other posts!
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Textured Eagles

During our bird week, we wanted to make sure we talked about one of our favorite and one of the most impressive birds, the bald eagle. We found a wonderful book about eagles at our library, Soaring with the Wind: The Bald Eagle by Gail Gibbons. After learning all we could about the bald eagle, we decided to make a couple of our own. 

The first thing we needed to do for our eagles was to make our white paper look textured and mimic the look of feathers. I looked all over our house trying to figure out what would work best. Finally, I hit up our collection of empty cardboard tubes. I flattened a couple of tubes and cut strips partially up the tubes. We used white paint on top of white paper and painted our texture all over. This was by far the most fun part of the whole project!

After our paint dried, I drew a simple eagle head shape on the white paper. I kept it simple so that the girls to cut it out. I drew the shape on the back of the paper so we wouldn't have to worry about the pencil lines showing up on our project. We also cut out a simple eye and beak from yellow paper. The girls glued these pieces on a sheet of blue construction paper.

Finally it was time for the finishing touches. We used markers and pencils to add any additional detail that were needed. Lizzie's wonderful creation is the top pictures and AJ's is below. Note that AJ's eagle is going to have a bit of trouble eating. It's a good thing he's so cute!

Our bird fun hasn't ended. We're going to keep on learning about them and doing projects for the next week (or two)! We are having too much fun learning about, crafting and exploring the world of birds.

If you are interested in learning more about eagles, you should definitely check out the Decorah  live eagle cam. It's an amazing peek into the life of the bald eagle!

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Weekends: How to Sew a Button

After having the book How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew by Erin Bried on my "To Read" list for over a year, I decided it was finally time to pick it up. I do know how to sew a button, but I knew there are many bits of wisdom that our grandmothers knew that have been forgotten in these modern days. After realizing she was losing her ability to take care of herself, Erin Bried turned to 10 women from all over the United States. Through this interview process, Erin compiled over 100 bits of wisdom from how to carve a roasted bird to how to wear red lipstick. The information is useful and told with a humor sure to appeal to our modern times.

I picked up the book hoping to learn something and I didn't come away disappointed. I learned the best way to hone a knife, how to clean anything with vinegar or baking soda, how to dry apples, how to scent my home without candles, how to delegate chores, how to barter, how to host a potluck dinner party, how to introduce people, and many other things. I also came to the realization that knowing how to do many of these simple things went a long way in helping you save money, save time, and live greener. 

Is this a book worth reading? Absolutely! Everyone should find something useful between the covers.

Erin Bried has also written How to Build a Fire: And Other Handy Things Your Grandfather Knew and How to Rock Your Baby: And Other Timeless Tips for Modern Moms (which will be released  on April 3, 2012). I plan on adding both of these books to my "To Read" list.

Is there any old skill that you don't know but hope to learn? 

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Friday, March 23, 2012

Kid's Co-op

It's Friday and you know what that means? It's time for the Kids Co-op! Link-up your favorite kid-related post and make sure and check out all the fun that has been linked up from other bloggers!

Here are a few of my favorite posts from last week. Make sure and pay them a visit!

Growing Play made these awesome sock blocks. Wouldn't they be the perfect play toy?

I love these colorful spring wind chimes from Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas. They would be so pretty hanging in the garden.

We done potato stamping before, but never anything as cool as these rainbows from Pen Pals & Picture Books. It's time to carve up the potatoes again!

Now it's your turn to share! Please join up and share your favorite post. (And, we'd love you forever if you'd link back to us!) Your link will show up on all of the hosts blogs. It's time to link up, visit some new blogs, and have a lot of fun! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

10 Ways to Learn About Birds

We've been enjoying our time learning about birds this week. Birds are all around and fun to learn about. They're fascinating and so different from me or you, or even the family dog. If your kids are interested in birds, I've compiled 10 fun ways to help your kids learn about birds.

1. Observe birds. We are fortunate to have been able to visit the National Eagle Center and observe eagles up close. Through observation, we've learned size, color, sound and the impressive wing span of an eagle. Unfortunately, it's not always practical to be able to observe birds at a location devoted to them. Luckily, birds are everywhere! Take a trip to a local lake, river, or hiking trail. Or, even better, just walk out into your own backyard. Having Fun at Home shares a creative way to observe and keep track of the birds that visit their backyard.

2. Listen to birds. While you're observing, use your ears. What do birds sound like? Can you identify a bird by it's call? has an amazing collection of bird calls that you can listen to for free. Listen to all the different calls. Amazing, isn't it?

3. Feed the birds. Learn about the different food that birds eat and create a bird-friendly yard. We made Cheerio bird feeders and Glittering Muffins made simple bird feeders out of cardboard tubes. You could also use this recipe for bird cakes from Red Ted Arts. (I found many, many wonderful ways to feed birds. Please check my Birds Pinterest Board for all the great ideas!)

4. Read a book about birds. There are many books written for kids about birds. You should be able to find one at any age level. We've enjoyed A Nest Full of Eggs by Priscilla Belz JenkinsThe Bird Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta, and About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill. Your local library is sure to have a collection of bird books for children.

5. Learn about nests. We were recently able to study a real bird's nest. But, if you don't have one, you can make your own! Sun Hats and Wellie Boots made nests from mud and twigs. Mommy & Me Book Club made large nests from branches and twigs. Get hands on and learn how a nest is put together.

6. Help a bird build a nest. While you won't actually be able to work side-by-side with a bird, you can provide them with materials to help build their nests. Paint Cut Paste shows you how to make fun nest zests and Inner Child Fun shows you how to make colorful bird nesters. Learn about the materials used to build a nest and help the birds at the same time.

7. Learn about feathers. If you can, find a feather to examine. Feel how light it is. Fun your fingers along the side and feel the texture. Have some fun with the feathers and paint with them like this example from Mommy and Me Book Club. You can also try your hand at creating feathers, like we did with these peacock feathers or our feather stencils

8. Learn to identify birds. What characteristics do you need to observe in order to determine the type of bird. Find a good bird book and learn about all the different types of birds that live around you. Inner Child Fun created this simple backyard field guide for an inexpensive, child-friendly option.

9. Get active! Learn about birds through active play. Flap your arms like a bird. Can you feel the breeze it makes? Pretend to glide through the air or land on a branch. Help your kids learn about birds and burn off some energy at the same time.

10. Do a bird craft. Do a quick search for birds on Pinterest and you're sure to find many ideas. We made these cute collage owls. Toddler Approved made cute chicks using tape. Dilly-Dali Art made fun light bulb birds. Creativity My Passion made colorful birds from recycled tissue boxes. And this is just the tip of the iceberg or fun bird crafts! (Again, you can check my Birds Pinterest Board for more fun bird crafts.)

*Bonus Activity: You're never to young to learn about birds! The Educators' Spin On It shares some wonderful ways to introduce babies to the natural world and the wonders of birds.

What is your favorite way to learn about birds?

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Linking up to The Sunday Showcase and It's Playtime  

If it is your first time visiting Creative Family Fun, and you like what you have found, please follow the fun via our Facebook page.  You'll find even more fun ideas and great conversation!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Art Lessons: Creating Feathers

Since we are learning about birds this week, I thought it would be fun to make some pretty artwork with feathers. Feathers are both beautiful and easy to draw, so I hoped the girls would have a fun experience creating them.

In order to help them out, I cut stencils from an empty cereal box. I cut basic feather shapes in several different sizes, so they could cover their paper with unique feathers. We used oil pastels on black construction paper. But, if you don't have oil pastels, crayons would also work well. (I would use a lighter color of paper if using crayons.)

I showed the girls how to use the stencils and instead of instructing, I worked alongside them. AJ used her stencils and scribbled a few lines inside each, which is how she does all her artwork. She creates scribbles in as many colors as possible! 

Lizzie watched me carefully and noticed that instead of coloring my feathers all one color, I was using different colors. The more she worked, the more creative she got. I love her multicolored feathers!

This was an easy project to set up and a nice way to create a beautiful picture!
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If it is your first time visiting Creative Family Fun, and you like what you have found, please follow the fun via our Facebook page.  You'll find even more fun ideas and great conversation!