activities for kids

Making Memories: How I Lowered My Expectations for "Fun" Mommyhood

When my twins were babies, I couldn’t wait for them to be old enough to do mommy-kid activities. I wanted to fingerpaint, cook, play Memory and Candyland, snuggle and read for hours, and make happy, rosy memories with my boys.
When they were around 2 years old, inspired by the success of my mommy friends and the parenting blogs I adored, I excitedly laid out paper and paints, prepared elaborate craft projects, bought games, and borrowed books from the library. We were going to have FUN and be happy and laugh and I would take pictures and make photo albums of my happy kids and my happy motherhood.
Here’s what really happened:
The paints were a mess. The paper got soaked and ripped. The colors were mixed into a color that resembled a really bad poopy diaper. The art project took longer to clean up than the boys spent "painting."
My boys played “Ants in My Pants” instead of moving their gingerbread men through Candyland. The colored cards flew all over the living room, joining the tiny demon-cherries from “Hi-Ho! Cherrio!” The homemade Memory cards were ripped and crumpled.
Cooking was a circus. Cups of flour were dumped on the counter instead of in the bowl. Eggs slipped and smashed on the floor. And one of my sons was so afraid of the hand-mixer that he ran screaming out of the room before it was even turned on.
There was no snuggling and reading for hours. My two year olds could barely sit still for one picture book. “Green Eggs and Ham”? WAY too long! I learned to flip through books at the library and throw back the ones that had more than 15 pages or 10 words per page.
I was discouraged, depressed even. I was failing at Mommyhood. Most days I thought, “Well, that was a fun 5 minutes. What am I going to do for the rest of the day? I guess I could start by cleaning up this mess.”
One day we made snakes with beads for 3 minutes. Then I cleaned up beads for the next 3 months. 
I wanted to make those special memories with my kids but every activity was either a failure or over before I could even snap a picture.
Plus I was going nuts and yelling things like “THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN! We are GOING to have FUN, OK???”
I was a real fun mom.
I eventually gave up. I lowered my expectations for fun mommyhood.
We didn’t do messy craft projects anymore. I threw “Hi-Ho Cherrio” and the memory cards in the trash. I made cookies while my boys napped. We read “The Foot Book” instead of “Green Eggs and Ham.”
And this was the best thing I could have ever done.
I discovered that the things I liked to do were not the things that my kids liked to do. The happy memories I had of coloring, playing board games, cooking sweets and treats, and reading on the couch with my mom for hours were not the same things that made my boys happy.
I had to accept that they loved running and wrestling, not sitting still playing board games.
I swallowed the fact that they weren’t interested in coloring or “making things.” And I realized that any craft that took longer to prepare or clean up than it did to make and play with was way overrated.
I still made them sit and read with me but we would read one board book instead of three picture books.
And when I did tackle that Pinterest Project from my “Fun Activities for Kids!” board, I learned to say “Well, that was fun!” after 3.5 minutes and really mean it.
Most importantly, I discovered that my kids are different from me and that is ok. And I learned that the best memories I could make with my children was not “doing things” together: it was seeing my boys happy, grins that lasted for seconds, not the “activities” that lasted for hours.

Summer Bucket List Ideas

My oldest daughter got out of school last week. Granted, it is preschool and a private one at that, so it was a touch early. Nonetheless, ready or not, summer is on us. Summer is always an interesting time for us. My husband works Saturdays which means we don’t have traditional weekends. Combine with that the fact that this summer we are a multifamily household and I am having a baby.  Life feels a little chaotic. Normally I just let summer be “whatever” time. (Heck, who am I kidding?  Up until now LIFE has been a “whatever” time.) This year, though, I am trying to be more scheduled to keep all of us a little more sane. Most days will try to do something that falls into one of each of these categories. *Learn something *Read to self (i.e. look at books) *Mom or Dad reads out loud. *Play outside *Rest *Free play (i.e. it’s NOT Mom’s job to entertain you) *TV time (often first thing in the morning while Mom sleeps and Dad is getting ready for work, before bed after Dad gets home, or during the heat of the day) *Something “special” My 5 year old always wants to know what we are going to DO today and often gets upset if there isn’t something “fun” on the list. To help combat that conversation I have written up a HUGE list of “fun” things to do. Some of them cross over with other categories such as “outside time” or “reading time” and some of them are stand alone and will be in the “special” category.

Outdoor Fun Sprinkler Water fun Skirt guns Water balloons Buckets of water and paint brushes Make Sponge Balls. Outdoor fun/messes Play-Dough outside (way easier to clean up) Sidewalk chalk Finger paint Bubbles Picnic Freeze tag Capture the flag Red Light, Green Light Mother May I? Tent Treasure hunt Catch fireflies Hopscotch Wake up the kids on a clear night to lay out in the front yard and look at stars.

Indoor Fun Construction paper, a magazine, and a glue stick will keep kids busy for HOURS! Glow stick bath. Pick a topic and learn everything you can about it. Finger paint in the bathtub. Make a pillow fort. Color (You can find all kinds of coloring pages on Pinterest and even paper dolls to color) Flash Cards (printable A\alphabet flash cards can be found here and numbers can be found here) Build with blocks Do a puzzle Things to make/bake Popsicles Make no bake (or preacher) cookies. Make cards to send to family. Give a kid a glue stick, some construction paper and a magazine. HOURS of fun! Icecream Color on a shirt with a Sharpie. Make Sharpie Mugs with colored pencils and your kids drawings. Save for Christmas gifts for grandparents/aunt/uncles/teachers. Make a Sharpie Plate Make Pizza Together Paper bag puppets Have your child dictate a story. Type it out for them. Let them color the pictures. Homemade rock candy Color a big cardboard box. Let them play in it as long as they want. Go somewhere Barnes and Nobles across the country have a children story hour every Wednesday at 11:00 am and Friday at 7:00 pm. Library Parks Go to the farmer’s market. Cook dinner using something you bought there. Take Daddy and his co-workers a treat at work. READ!!!! Read "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" and made cookies. Read "If You Give a Moose a Muffin" and make muffins. Read a book about Johnny Appleseed and eat apples (or color apples or something with apples). Read "Flat Stanley" and make a Flat Stanley to send to someone. A great list of books to read to your daughters (I must also add the Betsy Tacy books to this list if you haven’t read them to your little girl yet it MUST go on your summer reading list) Ten books to read to your 4-7 year old 50 Alphabet Books to read to toddlers. Check out Our Cultivated Life for a tutorial on how to make you own summer reading board game!

Make Your Summer Bucket List These are few of my favorite fill in yourself bucket lists available for printing at home to fill out with your own ideas. Bugs Bucket List Simple Bucket List Summer Schedule Ideas Color Your Own Bucket List Summer Bingo Board (Great for vacation!) Keep Track I give my girls notebooks at the start of summer. We put pictures we take from the summer in there as well as let them draw, glue, sticker during free time or “make something time.” At the end of the summer it’s a fun way to look back and see all we did.

Getting Creative on a Budget

Winter can be a tricky time of year.  The weather often dictates how we spend our time.  I often find myself searching for new, inexpensive ideas to entertain my kids and keep my sanity.  Trying to do this without television can be exponentially harder.  We try to save those special movies or cartoons for extreme scenarios, like sick days.  I also don't have an endless budget, so I have to be creative when trying to find new activities for my VERY ACTIVE boys.  

Maybe you have a child that is very content to stay with an activity for hours at a time.  Count yourself blessed.  I, on the other hand, have a toddler whose first word every single morning is "outside"!  He gets out of bed and runs to the door; while I'm left rubbing my eyes and searching for caffeine.

The internet has a multitude of sites for you to get ideas.  Unfortunately, I have very little time to spend searching through Pinterest for new ideas because of the previous child that I mentioned.  I have to think on the fly most days.  So, to you moms who have little time, here are some ideas that we use:

  1. Water play – We fill the bathtub up, and the kids play in the water at all hours of the day.  My toddler loves his bath crayons and my 9 month old loves to splash in the water.  Put food coloring in some shaving cream, give them a brush, and let them paint away.
  2. Cooking – My toddler loves to help me cook.  Simple sandwich making or cooking dinner from scratch, he enjoys it all.
  3. Bring outside inside – We bring items like acorns, pine cones, leaves and twigs inside to make “outside” sensory bins.  Lay out a big tarp or sheet, and dump all of those things out for them to explore.  Caution: This will be messy, but kids are messy and you can always clean.
  4. Painting – We paint all sorts of creations.  The key is to not do it all the time so it never gets old.  Paint your family on rocks, and then tell stories with them.
  5. Pillow pile – We pile every pillow in the house in a giant heap on the floor.  I let my toddler jump from the sofa into the pile of pillows.  He gets his energy out safely, my infant thinks he is hilarious, and I just have to monitor and laugh at him.  (Shhh, don’t tell my dad we are doing this!)
  6. Go outside – We have clothes for all sorts of weather.  Who says a snowsuit has to be worn in the snow?  Also, don’t project your temperature sensations onto your child.  They may not be as cold as you think.  Also, it helps to get rid of those germs that hang out during the winter when we get no fresh air.
  7. Read a book – Something so simple that you probably already do on a regular basis can be turned into something magical.  Build a fort, dress up and read a story about living in a castle.  Let your kids be the storyteller if they are old enough.  Role play.
  8. Sensory bins – Create new and exciting sensory bins.  Send your kids on a treasure hunt in an extra large sensory bin.  Give them all sorts of new containers to pour and scoop.
  9. Dance party – Crank up some tunes and dance until everyone falls down.  Get the babies involved by babywearing while you are dancing.  Everyone will tire, and you can burn those extra winter calories.
  10. Crafting – Pick out specific crafts that go along with holidays, birthdays, seasons or stories that you have been reading/telling.  Make sure the craft is something that is age appropriate so that your kids can really be the one crafting.
  11. Blocks – Wooden blocks are fun for kids of all ages.  Get creative.  Use those blocks to see how many blocks a room is wide.  Build a new road for their cars to drive on.
  12. Music – See what you can find in your house that makes music.  If the kids have an instrument, then have a symphony in your own living room.
  13. Cleaning – Younger kids will especially enjoy getting to “help” you clean.  A squirt bottle of water, an old toothbrush, a cleaning rag and the bathroom floor can be hours of fun.
  14. Games – Invent new games or play board games.  If your kids are too young for board games, then use things like beanbags, ropes and wooden rings to create games for them to enjoy.
  15. Playdough – Playdough is fun for kids of all ages.  This is a safe and easy thing for younger kids to learn how to use scissors on.  It is fun for the older kids because they can use their endless imagination to create all sorts of objects.

What are some ways that you guys stay entertained through the winter?