March 24, 2010

Bloggy inspiration - games and printables

I've been getting a lot of inspiration from other people's blogs lately. There are so many creative ideas out there! Here are a few of my recent favourites (some are spring and Easter themed):
I'm also trying to create a good stash of printable activities to have on hand for when I'm exhausted from the new baby, but want to teach C with some fun new activities (or have someone else teach her while I'm napping!). Here are a few samples:
Feel free to link up your favourites in the comments - I love seeing what's on everyone else's radar!

March 23, 2010

Simple St. Patrick's Day fun

We celebrated St. Patrick's Day a day late this year, but it seemed a shame to let the holiday go by without commemoration!

We listened to Irish and Irish/Newfoundland music all day, and learned about the history of St. Patrick's Day through this cartoon on YouTube (Oh, how I love YouTube).

We ate green snacks: leftover sugar cookies from the freezer, spread with icing and topped with green sprinkles, and green Jell-o later in the day.

We had a colour hunt, which C waned to do again. I think we'll try this another time with a different colour! I hid (in plain sight) a few green items to get her started, and we walked around the house collecting more items and putting them inside a green canvas bag. Afterward, we took an inventory!

Later in the day, we did some very simple artwork using different shades of green.

I hope you all had a fun day!

March 19, 2010

Easter books for children

For this week's edition of Feed Me Books Friday, everyone is sharing their favourite Easter books. Come join in, whether you prefer religious or secular books!

The Best Easter Prize by Kristina Evans

My daughter received this book as a gift recently, and we both really like it! It's pretty simple, but I like that it (briefly) shows a family attending church on Easter Sunday, and then the kids go on an Easter egg hunt after the service. We don't do the Easter Bunny thing, so I like that the hunt isn't related to that. The little girl in the book shares her eggs with a friend who didn't find any eggs, and learns that sharing is the best Easter prize.

Journey, Easter Journey by Dandi Daley Mackall

This is an Easter book that C has had on her shelf all year long. The rhyming verses are catchy, and they tell the Easter story in simple language for children, with captivating illustrations. The pictures are a bit spooky at times, but there's not really another way to illustrate the crucifixion! It doesn't seem to bother my daughter at all.

The Berenstain Bears and the Real Easter Eggs by Stan and Jan Berenstain

While this isn't the best Berenstain Bears book out there, I like that it shows that Easter isn't all about chocolate, but about celebrating new life (Brother and Sister Bear see birds hatch while they're on their Easter egg hunt, which is also a non-Easter Bunny hunt, by the way). This book is also a hit with my daughter, although she talks about jellybeans a lot now, and keeps asking if the bears could eat the eggs in the nest, or just the eggs in their basket - yikes!

The Flowering Cross by Beth Ryan

This is a lovely story about a little girl who warms the heart of an old man who lives next door, and they begin a tradition of sharing their faith together.

March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day confession

I totally forgot that today was St. Patrick's Day until the day was half over! I also forgot that it was Wednesday, so I didn't to take C to her playgroup this morning. Oops! I think we might celebrate tomorrow instead. I didn't have anything major planned, but it seems a shame to let the holiday pass by, especially with so much great Celtic music in my CD rack!

Hope you had a fun day!

March 12, 2010

More pre-baby books for children

The clock is ticking, and Baby #2 will be here in a little over a month! It looks like Baby will probably arrive early, so we're hustling to get things ready! It's funny how prepared you can be for your first child, and how late you leave the preparations with your second! We bought paint the other day, after I had an appointment with my obstetrician. Lots of work to do this weekend - yikes!

So with babies on the brain, I thought I'd share a few more books to prepare children for a new baby. Check out my first list here.

Usborne First Experiences: The New Baby by Anne Civardi

The Usborne first experience books are great. The baby one talks about the Bunn family planning for their new addition, getting the room ready, going to the hospital, the older children being cared for by grandparents, and bringing the baby home. It shows an illustration of the mother in the hospital, and also an illustration of breastfeeding. A neat thing about this series of books is that you can read a short version or a long version. Basic text is at the top of each page, and you can just read that, or for more elaboration of the story, you can also read the text at the bottom of the page. I'm not sure how well I've explained that, but click here to see an example from the "Going on a Plane" book.

Franklin's Baby Sister by Paulette Bourgeois

I'm not a huge fan of the Franklin books, but I really like this one. Franklin is so excited for the new baby to come that he can't wait for spring to arrive, and it seems like he has to wait a really long time. When his baby sister is born, he helps to name her, and tells her how happy he is to finally meet her. It deals with pre-baby waiting, as the story ends in the hospital.

The Berenstain Bears' New Baby by Stan and Jan Berenstain

A classic! Not very educational, but it's a cute story that most of us remember from our childhood. Small Bear grows out of his little bed just in time for a new baby to arrive - that very day, in fact! Personally, I think Mama & Papa waited a bit too long to tell Small Bear the news!!

The Berenstain Bears and Baby Makes Five by Stan and Jan Berenstain

This one is much better. It deals with Sister Bear's jealousy when her new baby sister Honey is born. She feels like Honey gets all of the attention, but she eventually learns that babies need lots of care, just like she did when she was a baby. My daughter finds it hilarious when Sister Bear calls honey a "stink bug" because of how many diapers she goes through!

The New Baby by Mercer Mayer

Short, sweet and simple. Little Critter is excited to play games and read books with his baby sister, and learns that although he can't do those things with the baby yet, there are a lot of things they can do together.

March 10, 2010

Planning a Frugal Birthday Party for Kids

My daughter just turned 3 years old, and although I know many parents go all out for birthday parties, I'm fairly low key. My key words are fun, low stress and inexpensive! Here are a few of my tips for hosting a frugal birthday party.

Don't plan the party around mealtime unless absolutely necessary
9:30 - 11:30am, 1-3pm or 2-4pm are ideal times, depending on children's naptimes. Not having to plan and serve a meal cuts down on a lot of the planning and stress of making sure everything is ready on time, providing extra chairs, booster seats, etc. Munchies give everyone the opportunity to eat if they're hungry, but everyone saves room for cake, and you don't have to worry about the "no dessert if you don't eat your lunch" dilemma. I like to keep kid-friendly snacks on low tables, and everything else out of reach of little fingers so they have to ask their parents before taking a handful!

Limit the guest list
Sure, your child may have 6 friends that they see on a regular basis, but if you add in parents, siblings, and any extended family that you want to invite, the guest list can snowball quickly! Case in point: we only invited 3 of C's friends this year, but the total number of people at the party was 15. If you want to limit your numbers, consider holding the party mid-week. Once children get old enough, they can attend without their parents.

Plan simple activities, but go with the flow
Have a few planned activities to whip out if there is a lull in the activity, but don't interrupt kids having a good time just so you can play a game at 2:15 like you scheduled! Be patient and understanding if kids aren't interested in playing what you've suggested, and don't spend a lot of money on an activity, in case you don't get to it. For toddlers and preschoolers, no activities are really needed, and it's hard to get them to follow directions anyways! A play dough or craft table is always a hit, and lets kids come and go as they please. If you have a bunch of a particular kind of toy, set up a couple of play stations (we've had Little People at one table and trains at another). My favourite play dough recipe is here.

Create ambiance with music
Play some kid (and adult) friendly music in the background to create a party mood when your first guests are arriving. Several kids in a room will get noisy pretty quickly, so you may want to turn it off after several guests have arrived. I've downloaded some fantastic (inexpensive and legal) children's music from Some of my favourite upbeat musicians for the preschool set are Justin Roberts, Rhythm Child, Dan Zanes, and Bari Koral. The children's album by the Barenaked Ladies (Snack Time), and the Jazz for Kids CD are both pretty great, too. Click here to see a few of our favourite kid-friendly adult songs.

Make homemade decorations
While the dollar store has tons of inexpensive party decorations, think about using what you have already before buying too much. My daughter's birthday is on Valentine's Day, so we cut out and coloured construction paper hearts to tape to the windows. We filled up wine glasses with candy, and I sewed scrapbook paper circles together and hung them from the ceiling interspersed with dollar store shiny heart garland.

Make homemade food

It's cheaper to assemble your own fruit and veggie tray, provided you have the time to to the chopping. Ditto for the cake, whether from a mix or from scratch. Icing the cake can be tricky though! This year I made a "kitty cake", as requested by the birthday girl. When she saw a photo online, she chose it as the design. Now I know I can draw freehand with icing!

Homemade loot bags are easy too!

Last year I sewed felt loot bags. This year I made bags from envelopes, melted chocolate into candy molds, and sewed felt covers for barrettes. I added in books, stickers, toys and cookie cutters, depending on the age of the recipient (we had 3 year olds with 1 year old siblings). The loot bag images were royalty-free and provided by many talented bloggers who share their artwork (check out this link for some). I printed the Valentines on cardstock using images from Vintage Holiday Crafts.

Loot bags for big kids... and little kids

Have an at-home birthday party
Why rent out a hall, bowling alley or pizza parlor unless you have to? (Granted, this is easier when your children are young and don't care where the party is!) Winter parties can be tricky if you have limited space, but for warm weather babies, backyard parties are always fun. There's also the option of having the party at a nearby park.

Don't use disposable dishes
Yes, you read that right, I said don't. Some of this is the eco-minded part of me. I hate the thought of all those paper plates and plastic cups going into the garbage. But there's also the cost. Why would I spend money on dishes when I already have a cupboard of them at home, where the party will be? Glass for the parents, plastic for the kids. It's pretty easy to throw in a load of dishes after cake is served. You'll have half a dozen adults asking if they can help with the clean-up anyways. And paper napkins seem like a total waste to me - they're not absorbent enough for spills, and they rip apart when wiping sticky faces and hands. I'm a cloth napkin convert, and for little kids, I just keep a stack of baby washcloths around that can be wet and used to scrub sticky faces. I can just toss them in with my laundry after people leave. Even paper towels do a better job than fancy paper napkins. Kids don't care whether they wipe their hands on something plain or something with a cartoon character printed on it. Save your money.

What are your tips for having a frugal birthday party?

This post is part of Works-For-Me-Wednesday at We Are THAT Family, hosted by Rocks In My Dryer this week.
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