packing tip

May 31st, 2007

This is a small tip, probably one that anyone who has a child already employs but I am nothing if not giving with my advice.

For my younger children, i.e. the ones who haven’t firmly grasped the concept of matching clothes and will likely need more clothes than days we are away because they also haven’t mastered eating neatly yet, I fold and pack their clothes into the gallon size ziploc bags.

I love ziploc bags. Keep wetness in, keep wetness out. Seriously the best invention EVER.

The added benefit is that you can get all the air out of the bag and the clothes take up less room.

I keep a change of clothes for my 2 and 4 yr olds in one ziploc bag in my diaper bag at all times. It never gets dirty in the bag, never gets wet from spilled water, and is always there when I need it. Because my diaper bag at this point in my mothering career is much more likely to contain random sticks and dirty matchbox cars than it is to contain pristine receiving blankets.

Before:

how I pack

After:

two complete outfits for two kids

Now I should probably actually pack, otherwise those will be the only two outfits my kids have to wear.

this is inspired by my lazy side

May 29th, 2007

We only drink water in our house. And by we, I mean my children. I drink a healthy supply of diet coke and coffee in addition to my water intake.

And we drink it, steady yourself now, from the faucet. If your water tastes bad, get a filter.

I could probably give a whole handful of reasons why water is better for you, CAVITIES! EXCESS CALORIES! come to mind. When I see kids carrying those huge containers of sports drinks, I can help but think that is a contributing factor to the overweight children.

Or the environmental factors, ALL THOSE PLASTIC CONTAINERS IN THE LANDFILL! This one does drive me batty when I see friends with their several recycling bins overflowing with 16oz water bottles.

Or the money, PAYING FOR WATER??? SERIOUSLY?? and those sports drinks are pricey too, especially in the single serving bottles.

We use refillable nalgene bottles. These also come in a wide mouth type that many of my children prefer. The wide mouth ones are great if you want to put regular ice cubes inside your water or want to add gatorade once in awhile. They come in all different colors so you can get a different color for each kid.

There is a huge difference between these type of bottles and the cheap plastic squirt kind you can buy at wal-mart for $1. The cheap ones are plastic and make the water taste funny, especially if they lay around in the sun. And these don’t leak so you can toss them into a bag. So while they might seem pricey, they are worth it. We have had most of ours for several years. They are virtually indestructible. We haven’t had one break yet (crossing fingers and knocking on wood).

But the real reason that I switched to a water only, refillable bottle house is my hatred of WASHING DISHES! My kids each have their own water bottle that they drink out of and that is it. No extra glasses laying around my house just waiting to spill. If we are leaving the house for a hike, or going in the car, I can tell everyone to grab their water bottles and they can do it easily and quickly. Well, as easily and quickly as children can do anything.

Parenting ideas inspired by laziness, that should be my new tagline.

A project for all those scratched CDs

May 25th, 2007

Everything needed for this project you should have in your home already.

What? You don’t have a ton of useless CDs in your house? My younger children are brutal with them.

But you can also buy a pack of cheap CDs to do this project. It would be great for a large group, or a rainy day playdate. We did it with our homeschool group.

Older kids could do it completely on their own, the younger ages needed varying degrees of help, but what is great about a project like this is that children of all ages can play with it when it is completed.

Materials Needed
:

CDs
toilet paper, paper towel, or similar tube (tin foil is nice and sturdy) –you will want to cut it to about 2/3 toilet paper roll length
thick elastic band longer than the tube
duct tape
paper clip
washer
pencil

Step 1:

Securely tape the tube to your CDs. Make sure the tape doesn’t hang over the edge of the CDs.

100_2288

Step 2:

And that the tube is centered on both CDs.

100_2289

Step 3:

Thread the rubberband through the paperclip.

100_2290

Step 4:

Pull rubberband through the CD and tube and out the other side.

100_2292

Step 5:

Tape the paperclip securely in place.

100_2291

Step 6:

Thread the rubberband through the washer.

100_2293

Step 7:

So that you have a little loop.

100_2294

Step 8:

Put the pencil inside the loop. Turn the pencil to tighten the rubberband.

100_2295

Step 9:

Place CD car on the floor and watch it go.

100_2296

Now you are ready for CD car races

Aesthetically pleasing, child friendly, and most of all practical toy storage advice

May 23rd, 2007

Chris,

I was looking at photos you posted of your family room and I don’t see toys laying everywhere. I have toys all over my house. Where do you hide the toys? Do your kids not have toys (ha-ha!)? Or do you hide everything before you take pictures?

To be honest, we don’t have a ton of toys. Especially when you take into consideration the number of children that I have. I am firmly in the camp of less is more when it come to toys.

Here are my tips:

1) Don’t let the toys take over. Decide how much area you want to toys to take up and only allow toys that will fit in that area to stay. They will take over and multiply at night while you sleep if you are not careful. Unless you like looking at toys everywhere. Ugly plastic toys that make your house look like Romper Room.

No, you may not touch the throw pillows

Our family room is child friendly, not child centered. It is a room for all of us to relax together.

The end table next to the couch hold a few board books. The baskets hold an assortment of small toys. One of the little baskets always has all the little people and accessories that go with the little people doll house, as well as a few random little characters that have been picked up here and there. The other small basket has pretend cell phones, pretend cameras, pretend cd players etc. The larger basket is a sort of catch-all of errant small toys that we find when we are cleaning up the room for the night. Every few days we will go through it and put the things where they belong.

2) Even though we have a large house, we do not have a dedicated playroom. Why? I have not met a single person whose children will go into a playroom and play. It becomes essentially a huge closet to store toys. No matter how organized it is, it becomes a mess. Kids don’t want to go somewhere separate from you to play in a room alone. They want to be with you. Make the play room a room that you enjoy spending time in.

This is a “play” area behind my couch. The bottom shelf of the bookcase has a little doll house and 3 containers of Tinker Toys. The little kitchen, with all the food stored inside of it. The train table with bins underneath holding all the Brio Builder toys. they will take the Brio Builder or the Tinker Toys and bring them into the main area of the room to play. I have no problem with that at all. But when theya re done playing, they know, and I know, that the toys have a specific place to go back to.

Toys are for looking, not playing

3)If you find the toys overwhelming, so do your children. They can not decide what to play when there are too many choices. Then they do the dump and run. Dumping out toy after toy after toy until the room is a disaster and there is no way for them to clean it up. Unless you like resorting and reorganizing toys daily.

sunroom

The tall armoire in this photo holds games, puzzles and toys with small pieces. I also keep books on CD in there. Basically anything that I don’t want small children having unsupervised access to.

The coffee table trunk hold all the Imaginext building sets that we own, which is quite possibly every set every made.

The large basket on the floor has random toys that don’t really belong anywhere. Action figures, nerf balls, plastic bows and arrows–things of that nature.

4) Organize, organize, organize. Nothing frustrates a child more than wanting to play with a toy and not being able to find all the pieces.

sunroom

This is a small sunroom that we have. All the toys in this room have a place where they belong. All the wooden blocks go on the bottom shelf. The large basket on the bottom right houses several Mr Potato Heads and all his various accessories. The basket on the top right shelf has matchbox cars. The plastic containers have beads, yarn, and some small waldorfy wooden building toys. Behind the plastic bins is a small metal lunchbox which holds a very small wooden castle block set.

When everything has a place to go cleaning up is easy and painless. If I find a Mr. Potato ear that has somehow found it’s way into my bathroom, I can hand it to anyone of my children and say, “Put this where it belongs, please.” And they know exactly where that is. There is no mystery to them what I mean by cleaning up.

5) Get rid of the toybox as the dumping ground of all toys. Think of it this way if your cellphone, coffee cup, pocketbook contents, car keys, mail, pens, paper, hairbrush, etc were all dumped into a large box that you had to root through to find anything, how annoyed would you be? And how likely would you be to put everything back in once you found the item you had been searching for? I am guessing not very likely.

If you must use a toybox, think about organizing it inside with smaller containers. The shoe box sized rubbermaid containers are great for this and they stack nicely also.

6) Don’t be afraid to get rid of toys that your children don’t play with. Pack up toys that have lost their appeal and put them in your attic or the back of your closet in a rubbermaid bin. When you bring them back out again in a couple of months your children will have a great time rediscovering them. And as an added benefit you are not buying any new toys from the toy store. When you bring out a new toy, pack up an old one.

I have several large Rubbermaid bins that I rotate down from the attic. One has Lincoln Logs, one has Duplos, etc. When I see their interest has waned in a certain toy, I’ll pack it up when they are in bed for the night and bring something else down. It’s like an unexpected Christmas.

7) Finally, be critical of the toys that you bring into your home in the first place. When you are tempted to buy the latest, greatest thing consider how it will hold up in the long run. Is it a toy that only performs a limited amount of functions? Or is it a toy that encourages imaginative play? Is it a tie in to the latest movie? Or is it timeless? I would much rather buy a generic pirate ship and pirates, than set of “Pirates in the Caribbean”. I think that very few toys should “do” things for your child. Rather the obligation should be on your child to “do.”

And that is it. Go forth and declutter and detoy your house. I think that most people would be pleasantly surprised how much better their children would play with much less toys.

Just in case you had too much free time

May 17th, 2007

My 4, 6, and 8 year olds all have Leapsters, which they love to pieces. I love them to now that I have an ac adapter and a ton of rechargeable batteries.

We all wish that they would hurry up and make more cartridges for them. I think we already own all of them. Do you hear me Leapster people?!?!

One of the cartridges that they have is School House Rock, America! Which has the famous I Am a Bill, video, that most of us who grew up in the 70’s can probably remember clearly.

I was telling my children about the schoolhouse rock videos and how we would watch them during our weekend morning cartoons. I swear sometimes it is like we aren’t speaking the same language.

“What? Cartoons were only on during the weekends?”

“Why didn’t you tape them?”

“If you didn’t have a dvr couldn’t you just have tivo’d it?”

“What do you mean your telephone had a cord and you had to stand up while talking on the phone? How did you bring it in your car?”

Oh boy, and we thought our parents generation was living in the Dark Ages with their radio shows and lack of MTV. Funny how it turns out we grew up just a short sidestep from that backward era. So quaint. So simple. So fashion challenged.

I browsed through youtube and found a bunch of the Schoolhouse Rock videos that teach the multiplication tables, something we are desperately trying to memorize right now.

The Threes:

The Fives:

The Sevens:

The Eights:

Have fun. Enjoy the stroll down memory lane. Don’t forget your cane.

Water play

May 10th, 2007

A bucket and a large paint brush go a long way on a hot day.

Painting with water

Something about playing with water appeals to children of all ages. If you have children you know of their ability to find a microscopic puddle of water hidden in a 2 acre backyard.

Painting with water

My little kids also love to “paint” the house and the cars. It’s almost like cleaning, right?

You can also incorporate this into a rudimentary science lesson dealing with evaporation and the water cycle.

The Dangerous Book for Boys

May 8th, 2007

As soon as this book arrived in the mail my sons ran off with it. They poured over every page and always had some new fun fact that they had learned by reading this book.

A Dangerous Boy

They already own the American Boy’s Handy Book: What to Do and How to Do It. This was a book that was originally published in 1882, so much of the book is also a history lesson in the way things used to be done, like making arsenical soap, blow guns, or doing taxidermy in your home. NOT! Think of it as a book that Tom Sawyer might have had in his pocket.

I was intrigued to find out how The Dangerous Book For Boys would stack up to this book that is so well loved in my house. I am happy to report that is almost like a more practical and updated version of this 1882 classic.

One of the criticism’s that I have read about this book is the title and the fact that it is geared for Boys rather than Boys and Girls. My initial response was disbelief. Is there something inherently wrong with having things exclusively marketed to one sex or the other? I really don’t think so. I think we do a disservice to our children when we don’t allow them to embrace their boy-ness or girl-ness as something special and unique.

If they were smart they would now come out with a second book, The Dangerous Book for Girls. Most of the information contained in the book could be the same, but with some exclusively “girl” sections.

The American Girl Doll Company is not called the American Girl and Boy Doll Company, though I am sure that there are boys who would like to read the stories and play with the dolls. (Personally, I would love to see an American Boy Doll Company. My sons would love stories about American boys from history, though they dolls would have to be more action figure size to appeal to them.)

I loved the vintage feel and tone of the book. It’s like you are being taken back to an older more innocent time when you read the book. You believe that you have stumbled upon this treasure in your grandparents attic. The book is chock full of information, cool facts, interesting projects. Want to know how to tie a knot? Build a tree house? Skip stones? It’s all in there.

I told my eight year old that I was writing a review of the book. I explained that a review was telling what you liked about the book and whether you thought the book was worth buying.

“What do you think about the book?” I had asked.

“I like the book. It isn’t worth dying for, but I’d pay $10,000 for it.” he answered.

Alrighty then. Luckily it is selling on amazon for just $15.

They even have a website where you can get additional information about the two brothers who authored the book, download badges, peek inside the book before you buy it.

The cheesy grin

May 2nd, 2007

Sarah had a great question in the comments of the last post. What do you do when your children either mug for the camera or turn away completely and refuse to look at you.

I think all kids go through these stages at some point. And the are both so annoying.

I have a few suggestions.

1) Don’t call their attention to the camera. Don’t say look at me, or smile, or anything else. Try to sneakily take photos of them being themselves. Even if the shot would be perfect if they would just look over at you with a smile, resist saying it. Yes, I know how difficult this is.

the face that happens when you say, "smile!"

See, sometimes I can not resist the urge to say, “Smile!”

2) Shoot from the hip. Meaning, don’t bring the camera up to your face. Just hold it somewhere else. Pretend you are just cleaning it or playing with it. Pretend it is just sitting there on your lap or on a table. ANYTHING other than taking their picture with it. This is where the automatic focus is so nice. You may not get a lot of good photos, but again, that is the beauty of digital– the ability to delete. I have quite a few nice photos that I got using this technique. Sometimes it is just the unique perspective that makes them interesting.

3) Have your camera out all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. They will eventually get used to it and think nothing of you taking photos if you are always doing it.