Thursday, February 24, 2011

How to Play: A Step-by-Step Guide for Grown-Ups

Lately my two boys have been staggering their naps. This unfortunately means less productive freelance work time for Mommy.  However, I have been trying to see the positive side of this, and make the most of my individual time playing with each of them.

 [While big brother naps, Toby ponders whether to play with his teething ring, or big brother's toy airplane]

This may sound funny to some, but in fact many parents have a hard time switching gears from their grown-up world and really PLAYING with their kids.  Play with your kids as much as you can, and I can almost guarantee that soon after you will...

- Smile.
- Laugh.
- Fall in love with your child all over again.
- Learn something new about your child.
- Be amazed that your child can do something you didn't even know they could do.
- Notice your little mirror reflecting the things you say and do during the day.

Here are 4 basic starting points to get you playing with your kids!

1) Lay down on the floor.  Whether you lie on your back or your belly, sometimes it really is just as simple as that.  My 1-year-old particularly loves this.  He'll crawl on me, bury his face in me, and play on and all around me with a huge perma-grin.  My 3-year-old will usually take this opportunity to instigate a wrestling session, or "doctor" me with his toy doctor kit.

 [Doctor Sammy & his assistant, Toby prescribing PLAY!]

There's just something about getting down on their level, and especially BELOW their level by letting them climb on your or making them fly like Superman on your feet.  Make them feel tall, and worth stopping your busy day for!  Also, try taking can get some great shots from down on their level!

[Just think about how awesome it is to FLY over the parents that you are normally having to strain your neck to look up to?!]

2) Say "YES."  When you have a few free moments in the day, make the decision to say "yes" to your child's questions that start with, "Mommy, wanna  ______?"  (unless of course it is illegal, would result in injuries, or contradicts your family's morals)  I am usually posed with questions like this all day long.  "Mommy, wanna play Legos with me?  Wanna play tag?  Wanna play hide and seek?  Wanna...." Most of the time I find myself saying, "Maybe later, Mommy has to _______ right now."  It's easy to get swept away with your to-do list, but if you can add "say yes to your kid's play request at least once" to your list and do this once a day, you won't regret it.

3) Play into their fantasies.  The pressure really comes off once you realize that you don't have to control or lead when it comes to play.  You don't need to achieve a list of goals, you have no time restrictions, and you don't have to follow an outline.  Relax and let your child's imagination lead you.  If your son turns the laundry basket into a boat, pretend to be the Loch Ness monster circling him.  If your daughter throws a tea party, invite yourself and share some imaginary conversation with the teddy bears and Barbie dolls.  A little imagination is good for everyone at any age! Having trouble getting some imagination going?  Put on some HATS! (or turn other stuff into hats!)

[who knew a plastic hard hat and a bendy straw could induce such smiles?!]

4) Be silly.  Sure, you may not want to practice your most realistic farting noises at a fancy restaurant, but try to let go of your inhibitions once in a while and be silly at home with your kids. While learning manners is of utmost importance to us, it's okay to teach your kids that there is a time and place for everything, including silliness!!

I get the best photos of the kids when I have my camera in hand while playing with them.  They are already naturally smiling because they are having fun, and I am able to capture some great shots of them doing what they love!  All of the photos in this post were taken yesterday while we played on the floor!

Okay, I've been typing way too long now.  Time to give in to Sammy's pleas to go play outside! (despite the below freezing temps!)  Now get down on the floor and have some FUN!

Monday, February 21, 2011


It's snowing here.  A lot.  I am really not surprised by it anymore.  After all, this is Minnesota.  I remember watching the school closings scroll across the TV screen as a little kid, eagerly waiting for the alphabetical list of schools to get to "L" and see if Lakeville was going to bless it's students with a snow day. 

Aaah, glorious, wonderful snow days!  When you're a kid, of course, you don't have any of the worries that come along with snow....slippery roads, bumper-to-bumper traffic, shoveling, snowblowing, heat bills, ice dams, and more shoveling.  Then shoveling again when the snow plow comes by.  When I lived on a cul-de-sac as a kid, we made the most awesome snow forts by hollowing out the giant pile the snow plow left!

My kids aren't in school yet, so we can pretty much have a snow day whenever we want.  Today I have a feeling most schools are either closed or had a late start.  Here's what we did this morning...

Sammy, who has no concept of winter toys vs summer toys, still wants to ride his trike every day.  I had to shovel the driveway (again) anyway so I made him some "roads" to maneuver his trike on.

Where there are giant piles of snow, it's not long before Sammy turns them into snow slides!

We also had a good snowball fight, of course!

 This photo was from last week...while playgrounds are pretty hard to use in the winter, the swings were still use-able at the playground on the end of our street. Both boys had a blast in the swings, even though it was quite the challenge just walking over to them!

Other things you can do with the kids in the snow....
- Make snow angels
- Build a snow man (we did that last week!)
- Go sledding
- Make snow ice cream

Whatever you do outside in the snow, always, always, always end your festivities with a cup of hot chocolate!!  I highly recommend using 2% or whole milk for the most awesome chocolate milk ever.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fun Friday Finds

I know, it's been forever since I've posted any Fun Friday Finds!  But, now that we're settled into our new home (which we plan to purchase as soon as our other home sells), and I finally have my laptop all set up where the kids play, I can get back to blogging more regularly!!  So, here are a few fun things to end your week...

DIY Window Clings
"Smashed Peas & Carrots" is always FULL of fantastic ideas.  This looks like such a fund and simple idea to make window clings for Valentine's day.  I know Valentine's is over, but you could so easily do this for any holiday.  We may have to try this for Easter!

Flower Building Toy
"Made by Joel" is another major favorite of mine on my blog reading list.  This is just such an adorable idea I had to re-post it!

Bright Times Votives by Studio Tord Boontje 
I just came across these really cool looking votive holders in a Real Simple magazine.  They remind me of the intricate work of 3D paper artists that I love to admire, but are made from metal.  I can only imagine what cool patterns the shadows cast on the wall when there is a lit candle inside!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fun Valentine's Day Project for the Kids!

I'm sure you all already know how much I love Family Fun magazine, so it should come to no surprise that I am posting one of their fun Valentine craft project ideas today.  This seemed like a very fun and easy thing for kids to make for Valentine's day, and also a great way to use up some left-over yarn, without having to run to the store to get any supplies.

Supplies needed:
- Corn starch
- Water
- 12" pieces of yarn (I used pink, white, and red)
- Heart shaped cookie cutters
- Parchment paper

 First, cut some yarn into pieces about 12" long.  I picked a variety of shades of pink, red and white, and also tried to mix some fun textures like zig-zag and fluffy yarns.

 Next, follow the directions on the Family Fun website to cook up your "glue."   Sammy loves to help me cook so he had fun making the glue.  It's just 1/4 C corn starch mixed with 1/2 c water, cooked on the stove top until thick and translucent.  I stepped away for a second and mine got a little chunky as you can see below, but after adding a little more water I got it smooth again...

 Lay out your cookie cutters on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.

Next, dip your yarn pieces in the glue.  Like I said, it's a little too thick here, but it worked.  Then you pull each string between two fingers to scrape off excess.

 Now, lay each piece inside the cookie cutter.  Try to make sure you have the edges fairly well covered so that it does actually look like a heart when you remove the cutter.

 Sammy did not want to get his hands dirty doing this.  So, this turned into a craft more for Mommy than him after a while.  But, if you have the same problem, I found this works well...if your glue is runny enough, you can "paint" it on with a basting brush too, after laying your yarn in the cookie cutter.

 I actually found this really helpful for pushing the yarn down into the cookie cutter, because otherwise it wanted to stick to my fingers.

 Remove the cookie cutters to see your heart shapes.

 I am impatient so I opted for the fast-drying method of placing them in the oven on "warm" for a while.  Drying time will depend on how much yarn and paste your hearts have.  When they were dry enough I peeled them up and flipped them over, and later put a stack of cookbooks on them to help keep them flat, since some wanted to curl up.

This is where Family Fun's project ends, but I modified mine a little and made it into something more...

 This is a photo of a decoration that I made in 3rd grade (I think) when my mom came to my Valentine's day party at school and lead the class in a Valentine's craft.  We sandwiched some string between these felt hearts that she had cut out, and decorated them with glitter.  I still hang this on Valentine's day and thought I'd make a similar decoration out of the yarn hearts...

 The next day they were nice and dry.  I took a tapestry needle and some string and knotted 4 hearts together in a string, with a loop on top.

 You could sandwich these and glue them along one string like my mom's decorations.  But, I like how thin and delicate just one heart looks with the light shining through.

 I had enough hearts to make three of these and I think they look pretty spinning around from the ceiling!

I think some fun variations you could try would be to sprinkle a little glitter in the glue, or on the hearts after you smoosh the yarn into the cookie cutters.  Also, it might be pretty to string some beads between them too.  I was also thinking that this could make a very cool garland if you made enough hearts!

So, whether your child likes to get his or her hands dirty, hopefully this will be a fun project for them, and turn out to be a cute decoration that you can use from years to come!


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