Wednesday, July 30, 2008


I would like to recommend the Leap Frog Fridge Phonics Magnetic Set. It's a great tool for young children learning the alphabet. My kids loved playing with these magnets when they were 2 and 3 years old. When they were 3 1/2, they received the Leap Frog Word Whammer and it has been an equally enjoyable learning toy that they still use at 4 years old. My children love to spell words and the Word Whammer has been great at assisting them. I also purchased the Leap Frog Letter Factory DVD for my kids when they were 2 1/2 years old. It's a perfect compliment to the refrigerator magnets and helps children learn letter sounds quickly. If you are working on the alphabet or thinking about introducing the alphabet to your children, any of these products would be a great choice.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Choose Something New (Challenge)

Do you bring your children grocery shopping with you? My children almost always go grocery shopping with me and one of the things they look forward to is choosing a food item. Sometimes I let them look around in the produce section and I encourage them to pick out a new fruit or vegetable because trying new things can be a lot of fun. Letting your children pick out a new food item is a great way to encourage trying new things and healthy eating.

Weekly Challenge: Before you go shopping, have a discussion about new foods that might be fun to try. Look through the grocery store ads and ask your children to name the fruits and vegetables. Take your children grocery shopping with you the next time you go. Let them look around and choose a new fruit or vegetable to try. When you are ready to try the fruit or vegetable at home, let you child help prepare it in some way if at all possible (washing, peeling, cutting, etc).

I would love you to leave a comment and let me know what your kids ended up trying and whether or not they enjoyed the experience. You may want to give it a try every time they go grocery shopping with you.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pumpkin and a Cake Mix

Not long ago I heard about a lower fat chocolate muffin recipe that is super easy to make. I love chocolate so I went looking for the recipe. I discovered the Hungry Girl website and found the recipe. All you need is a boxed cake mix and a 15oz can of solid pack pumpkin. I used a Betty Crocker chocolate fudge cake mix and one 15 oz can of all natural solid pack pure pumpkin. Don't add any other ingredients. Mix the pumpkin and cake mix together and then separate it into muffin tins. I used an ice cream scoop as the mixture is very thick. It says to bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes but I found that 20 minutes was a bit to long in my oven so I would advise checking them after 15 minutes.

If you want to make this recipe with your children, they can help pour the cake mix and spoon out the pumpkin but stirring will be difficult for little kids as the mixture is very thick. You could let your kids help scoop the mixture into the muffin tins when finished. My kids thought the best part of this recipe was getting to lick the spoon and ice cream scoop at the end. I don't usually let my kids lick the spoon for muffins and cakes because of the raw eggs but since this recipe didn't need any eggs or oil, they were able to lick the spoons clean. These muffins received a thumbs up from my kids.

I don't know if you have already heard of or tried these muffins but since they are so easy and turned out well, I wanted to share. I also read that you can use any flavor of cake mix with the can of pumpkin to change the muffin flavor.


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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Go Clean your Room

I expect my children to tidy their own bedroom and playroom. They've been helping clean up since they were old enough to walk. By the time they were 2 years old, they were doing a pretty good job and by 3 years old, I was feeling really good about the wonderful little cleaners they had become. My children are 4 years old now and although they have the ability to do a good job, I've noticed that they haven't been very motivated to pick up and organize their belongings lately. I will tell them to clean up and when I check in on them 10 minutes later, not only has the cleaning process not started but their room is often more of a mess. Sometimes the room will appear clean but when I look under the bed or in the closet, I discover the short-cuts. I guess I've gotten a little spoiled because they used to clean up so well and they actually enjoyed it. I knew that might change someday but I didn't expect it to be now. When I was teaching preschool outside the home, I was more creative with motivating my students to clean up and also gave more specific directions. Lately, I've simply been telling my own kids to "go clean your room" and then feel frustrated when they don't. I think in addition to getting distracted, they often get overwhelmed by their messes. Although we have a good organization system and everything has a place, it can be daunting to put everything in it's place when it's all been dumped on the floor.

I realized that I needed to come up with some new ways to motivate my kids instead of just feeling frustrated with their cleaning set-backs. I've tried a variety of things. I give them advance warning before clean-up time. I've tried to make it more fun by playing music to see if they can clean up before the song ends. I've tried setting a timer to see if they can race to beat the time. I've sent one to the bedroom and one to the playroom and challenged them to a race. Sometimes we sing a special clean-up song together. I make sure to give them positive reinforcement. I've also had to play the role of the "mean mommy"and bagged up all of the toys that were left on the floor. All of these methods work some of the time but it seems that the only sure bet at our house these days is to be very specific about what they need to do to help them stay on task. Today I sat on the floor in their bedroom and gave specific step by step instructions such as telling one child to pick up all of the dress up clothes and put them in the treasure chest while the other child picked up all of the ponies and put them in the pony basket. Next, books on the bookshelf and then stuffed animals in the animal basket. As soon as each task was complete, I would give another job. They didn't complain or whine and actually stayed on task (I'm sure it helped that I was sitting there watching). I didn't do any of the tidying and before they knew it, the whole room was clean.

Do your children have a hard time tidying their room or do they enjoy it? Do you have to get creative or help motivate them to get them to pick up their toys? Do you use a job chart?

Leave a comment or send me an email to share what works at your house or school. I would love to read some of your ideas.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Weekly Challenge: Kids make lunch

I've been so busy this week. We've been remodeling our kitchen and I decided to tackle the kitchen cabinets on my own to save money. After 3 days and nights of sanding, priming and painting, I'm almost finished. My cabinet doors still need installed and I'm waiting for my husband to get some time to work on that with me. Since I don't have to paint tomorrow, I thought it would be fun to take the kids to the park for a picnic. The weather is hot and there is a park nearby with a splash pad that we've been wanting to try out. To add to the fun, I thought that I would ask my kids to pack their own picnic lunch tomorrow. I've done this several times before and my kids loved having the responsibility. I give them a few lunch food options to choose from and then I let them prepare their own lunch while I watch. My kids usually choose to make their own PB & J sandwiches because that one of their favorites.

My Weekly Challenge for you is to choose a day this week and let your kids make their own lunch. You could let him/her pack it up for a picnic or eat at home. I usually offer a variety of sandwich makings (turkey and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, etc) to choose from and some fruit that is easily prepared (grapes are a favorite here, wash and pluck). Bon Appetit!

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Weekly Challenge : Be Present in Play

I don't know about you but I love doing projects with my children, going on outings and keeping busy. I have always enjoyed planning all sorts of fun activities. My children love keeping busy and get very excited about projects, activities, experiments and outings but sometimes they have no interest in doing anything other than just playing at home. Yesterday, as my kids were content playing, I realized that it has actually been awhile since I got down on the floor in the playroom, ignored everything else around me and just concentrated on playing with my kids. I'm a stay-at-home mom and my life basically revolves around my kids. We read books, do arts and crafts, experiments, projects, play outside, play games, go on outings, etc. I play with my kids everyday but when I started thinking about simple child directed free play, I realized that all too often, I start to play but then after several minutes I get distracted by something or someone. I usually take the opportunity to get a few things done when my children are busy with their own free play which is completely okay and healthy for everyone. I decided that while I do have a lot to do, I would like to make more of an effort to join in with their free play more often.

I walked into the playroom and asked my children if I could play with them. They eagerly said "yes mom" and immediately brought me into their creative play world where I stayed for about an hour before we cleaned up and went outside for a picnic lunch. We all had a really good time just playing whatever they wanted to play. I didn't direct or plan anything, I didn't give any suggestions, I just followed their lead and played without letting myself get distracted. We had a lot of fun together. There is definitely a lot of value in just sitting on the floor with no agenda and just playing whatever your child chooses. I know that my kids can detect whether or not I am living in the moment with no distractions or interruptions and they love it when I am focused on just playing and listening.

Weekly Challenge: Make time in your schedule to just play with your child. Don't plan anything in particular, just take his/her lead and don't give in to other distractions. Be present, in the moment and just play.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Natural Sunscreen and Bug Repellent

I've been trying to make the switch to all natural products. I haven't switched over to natural sunscreen or bug spray yet. Over the holiday weekend I tried some all natural bug spray on me and the kids and the smell was extremely offensive. I was literally feeling ill after just a few minutes and had to go inside, shower and change my clothes. I didn't want to make my children go inside, take a bath and miss out on Fourth of July fun but I did encourage them to run through the sprinkler hoping the water would rinse off some of the foul bug spray odor. The bug spray was a citronella base and the stuff didn't even keep the mosquitoes away. It didn't repel bugs but it did repel people. We all ended up using some Deep Woods Cutter to repel the bugs. I would still like to find something natural but I'm unsure of what really works and obviously, I need to stay clear of the citronella stuff.

The other topic on my mind is natural sunscreen. I've heard of California Baby, Jason's Natural and Burt's Bees. Has anyone tried these or others? Today I found a recipe for "Make Your Own Natural Sunscreen". I haven't had the chance to price the ingredients but the store bought natural sunscreen is between $12.00 to $15.00 per tube at the stores near me.

I would love to hear from anyone who has tried natural sunscreens and/or insect repellents that work, whether homemade or store bought. Please leave me a comment or email me at to let me know what works for you and your family.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Celebrate America: Fourth of July Children's Books

Our theme this week is "Celebrate America". In addition to making patriotic artwork, crafts, foods and of course, gearing up for fireworks and cookouts, I also brought out several of my America themed books to read to my kids. I thought you might want to look for a few of the following books in your local library this week. If you're looking ahead to next year and want to purchase the books inexpensively (some for as low as .01 plus shipping) you can click on the links to go directly to Happy Reading!

Red, White, and Blue:The Story of the American Flag. (By John Herman)

Across America, I Love You. (By Christine Loomis)

America The Beautiful. A collection of photographs published by Scholastic Inc. This books combines photography with the words of the song.

Celebrate the 50 States! (By Loreen Leedy)

The Flag We Love. (By Pam Munoz Ryan)

I Am America. (By Charles R Smith) This is one of my personal favorites. It really shows off America's diversity.

Happy 4th of July, Jenny Sweeney. (By Leslie Kimmelman)

Hurray for the Fourth of July. (Wendy Watson)

Yankee Doodle. (By Patti Goodnow) This book contains pictures going along with the silly song.

Fourth of July Mice! (Bethany Roberts)

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Patriotic Weekly Challenge

As we are gearing up for the Fourth of July here in the USA, this challenge is for those who want to pass along some patriotism to your child. In celebration of Independence Day, I want to encourage you to recite The Pledge of Allegiance with your child everyday this week.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

I also wanted to share this Historic Documents site for your own educational enjoyment.

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