Saturday, June 14, 2014

Family Summer Camp Week 2: Recap!

THEME: Art & Creation

ADVENTURE: Painting Ceramics!

CRAFTS: DIY Lanterns, Homemade Paintbrushes, Paper Plate Jellyfish (We did not actually do any of these crafts this week!  I had a sick kid and that took up two days, so not much crafting off this list for us!)


BOOKS: Harold & the Purple Crayon, The Day the Crayons Quit, Jeremy's Monster, Touch the Art Books, The Noisy Paint Box, and Mouse Paint.  (You probably have some great books about art or making things in your home library already!)

OTHER: summer reading sign-up, shop for Father's Day! :)

BONUS: Rainy Day Painting, Dice Day, Coloring, Jewelry Making (Things we didn't plan on, but did anyway and made our week GREAT!)

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

M&M Counting

I tried to include a simple counting activity for each week of Family Summer Camp.  This week I used some simple and very clear flashcards for my kids to work on counting. 

Side Note: These cards were mixed in with every other dang toy in the house.  It took me a year, but they are all in one place now.  That is the only reason this activity was possible!

For whatever reason, I cannot find the link to these original cards.  However, you can download similar cards for freeGet them laminated!  It's worth it!

The M&M counting activity is simple:

For older kids: Using a card with a number on it, count out the number of m&ms that equal that number.  My daughter did great with this.  It also gave us an opportunity to talk about how to count things.  Sometimes you easily lose your place when counting.  Putting all the objects in a line might be easier!

For younger kids: My two year old was able to put an m&m on each dot of these flashcards and then count them out loud with me.  She was probably more interested in eating the m&ms than counting, but I was impressed that she could point to each one and count to five!  She is still learning that one to one correspondence, which is critical for math skills.

This is a silly, simple activity.  It took no more than 15 minutes in our day.  It was fun and tasty.  Plus, everyone came to the table when I said, "It involves chocolate!"

Other items you may consider using for counting activities include pom poms, balls of playdough, tiny characters or animals, legos, and small rocks. 

Dice Day

We ended up having nothing specific to do today and nowhere specific to go.  This is very rare for our busy summer days.  I knew that it would probably rain, so I needed a plan to keep my kids from going crazy.  So, I invented Dice Day.

Dice Day is a simple, yet fun way to complete your daily activities and achieve a house jobs/kid needs balance.  I made a list of 20 activities that needed to be done today.  Ten of them were things around the house that MUST be done to keep the house functioning.  Ten of them were fun kid activities and things that we could do together.  Some were short and some were long.  I didn't pay much attention to the length of each thing.  I figured that we wouldn't get to all of them.

Make of list of 20 activities/house jobs and have the kids take turns rolling a 20 sided die to decide which activity to do next!

This went over GREAT with the kids who really enjoyed the M&M counting activity and rain painting.  They were not so happy about making beds or matching socks!  TIP: When the timer goes off - if it is a timed event - just move on to the next roll.  Don't get too caught up in one room or one activity.

Here's my Dice Day Twenty!

1. Make Beds
2. 4 Minute Dance Party!
3. Clean up a 5 minute Hot Spot (Entryway for us)
4. Counting fun with M&Ms
5. Laundry/kids can match socks!
6. Make our own paintbrushes - didn't get to this one
7. Change Bathroom lightbulb - I did do this, but since this house is like a FUNHOUSE my lights are totally not normal and completing this task will require at least one trip to Home Depot.
8. Give Tokens (our reward system) and make new charts
9. Mom: Dishes/Kids: Watch Something 
10. Flashcards
11. Take care of some mail (Mom)
12. Write in Summer Journals - My daughter wanted to skip this one.  I think that I need to make these journals more exciting because she shows NO INTEREST in them.
13. Clean up a 5 minute Hot Spot (Master Bedroom for us)
14. Legos for 15 minutes - we never rolled this!
15. Clean up a 5 minute Hot Spot (Dad's Office for us)
16. Make a video for Aunt Gracie - sorry Auntie Gracie, we never rolled #16
17. Paint Toe Nails!!!
18. Write a letter to a cousin - never rolled this one either!
19. Fold Laundry while kids read new books
20. Sidewalk Chalk OR (if raining) Watercolor Rain Painting 

As you can see, we finished a good number of these and had lots of fun.  We never rolled a few numbers and a few got skipped.  Surprisingly, the only things left that we didn't do were fun things!  I had enough time at the end of the day to make dinner and sneak in an extra load of laundry.

I love Dice Day because it keeps me going and I don't get too bogged down in one thing or one room.  I really wanted to be sure that in the midst of tidying up and straightening things, that the kids got my full attention at some point.  I think that we are all better for it!

Use this list or make your own!  I think that you will find that having fun and getting things done can both happen in the same day!

I would love to hear from YOU!  Do you do anything like this?  Would this work for you?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Family Summer Camp: Week 2

Weekly Theme: Art & Creation

Weekly Adventure: Ceramics at The Bee's Knees!

This week is all about art and creation. There are many directions to take this, but I chose to stick with art and artists. 

For this week we are using the awesome Touch the Art books to see and explore different kinds of art. 

We are also reading some silly books and some more educational books. 

Mouse Paint is a favorite with my kids. Three mice teach about simple color mixing. 

The Noisy Paint Box tells the story of Kandinsky, the father of abstract art. I love the illustrations in this book!

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, Jeremy's Monster, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and The Day the Crayons Quit are a few others that you might already have on your bookshelf!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

How to Plan Your Summer - Step 1: Adventure!

Or, How to Survive with all the Kids at Home!

Having all the kids home for summer can be a terrifying thought!  For the last week we have been living the good summer life and it has been AWESOME!

This week, I'll share my secrets for summer planning with kids--in 5 steps!  Today, I'll just let you know about Step 1, since it might take a little bit of planning to achieve it.

SUMMER SURVIVAL: STEP 1: Count up all your weeks of Summer Vacation.  Pick one "adventure" destination for each week of the summer.  I'm sure that you can come up with a few places right away!

This plan grew out of my newborn baby + older sister survival a few years ago.  I felt bad that my two-year-old didn't get to go to the park or do fun things that kids do because I was at home with a baby and very very tired.  So, I enacted "FRIDAY FUN DAYS" and I picked a place for us to go.  I would pack up the two kids and all the things you need for an infant (yikes!  That list is so long!) and head out on one adventure.  I didn't feel so bad if we stayed home all week because I knew on Friday we would have adventure!

We shared some sweet, sweet moments together on these wonderful Friday Fun Days.  It is a lot easier to pack up two kids (they can both put their own shoes on!) and head off on an adventure now, so I can expand my list of destinations!

One caveat: Your weekly adventure should not limit your adventuring.  Maybe your kids love to go to the park and need a trip there every day.  I try to stop at the park on the way home from anywhere, especially errands, even if only for 15 minutes, to give the kids time to run!  Your weekly adventure is merely a guarantee that you are going some place fun!

Here are the twelve places we are discovering this Summer in Southeast Michigan.  I'm sure that you have some of these places, or something like it, near you!

Summer Adventures in Southeast Michigan

(1) Hike in Maybury Park - Michigan has beautiful state and county parks.  They provide such wonderful places to explore and walk and be together.  My girls love walking among the tall tall trees!

(2) The Bee's Knees - Ceramic Painting!  This can get pricey, but is worth at least one trip in the summer.  They will glaze your items for you and put them in the kiln!  You pick them up later and they are fabulous!

(3) The Scrap Box - One of the best finds EVER!  This recycling center has strange and wonderful leftovers from businesses and craft projects.  Sticky back foam shapes, bottle tops, cardboard tubes, gems, and shells are just some of the items you can put in a pay-one-price and fill-it-up bulk bag!  Items are great for letting kids be creative, sensory bins, and a loose parts table (check these out on Pinterest).  If you are not local you can purchase a mail order box for about $50 or send me a really sweet email and maybe I will send you a small box of things for yourself!

(4) Splash Pad at McClumpha Park - Better and safer than a pool, the kids are happy to run around and through the sprayers and water showers.  TIP: Wear your bathing suit too, even if you don't plan on getting in the water.  You will still get wet!

(5) Toledo Zoo - I love zoos and I know that kids do too!  We will visit three different zoos this summer.  They all have something different to offer.  This zoo has a train ride, a savanna with free roaming animals, a small aquarium building, and an amazing elephant exhibit.  TIP: Don't be afraid of a day trip on your adventures - just make sure your kids can make it that far in a car!  Our current limit is one hour!

(6) Maybury Farm - This local farm is so local it is only 5 minutes from my house.  My kids have never been to a farm, so I thought that they needed to see a real one!  This farm is small, easy to see everything, and has a little play area!

(7) Michigan Flower Farm - You can pick your own flowers!!!  I have not been here yet, but I am really excited about it!

(8) Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum - A children's museum that has an excellent preschool room with dozens of, as the name implies, hands-on activities for the kids.  TIP: If your kids are small, try to get out the door early to places like this and arrive right at opening.  Things get busy about an hour after open.  Those early morning hours will be calmer and much more enjoyable.

(9) Lansing Zoo/Camp Out Weekend/Lake Swimming - Here is another zoo that we are going to visit.  This one is easy to walk, small, and you can get very close up to the animals.  We are stopping here on the way to a Camping Weekend where we will be able to swim in a lake and have fun at a sandy shore!

(9) Tollgate Farm - I have not been here yet, but it is a nearby farm with fields of flowers and lots of old beautiful trees.  I am thankful that my children appreciate a walk in nature.  I'm hoping to get some beautiful pictures of them here.

(10) Detroit Zoo - This is our "home" zoo and it has a great arctic exhibit.  My girls love spending time in the penguin exhibit, the butterfly house, and playing in the play area.  This picturesque zoo has plenty of great photo ops, especially some nice close up views at a natural preserve for local birds.

(11) Carrousel Acres - A local farm with lots of interesting animals for petting (kangaroo anyone?) and pony rides!

(12) World of Discovery Reptile Zoo - I recently found out about this place!  It has a specific focus on reptiles and invertebrates.  They even have a few birds.  I have never been here, so this will be a new and exciting adventure for us!

That is our list!  Twelve weeks, twelve fun adventures.  You can see that they are a little more involved and require more time than a quick trip to the park!  I am excited that my kids are old enough to go and enjoy these places.  However, I believe that all children should be exposed to these things as early as possible!  No matter how young your children are you should find a few adventures to share together.  I promise that they will be blessed memories!

Here are a few ideas if you are not a Michigan native: farm, park, beach, lake, mountain hike, zoos, aquarium, painting, craft shop events, library events, and local festivals/fairs.

Where will you be going this summer?  Do you make plans like this?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Clean Eating Challenge Week!

My sister-in-law has given her life a total makeover!  In the process she has become an inspiration and coach for others who want to change their eating habits, exercise lifestyle, and take control of their own destiny.

This week she offered a free challenge group on Clean Eating!  I have been interested in this concept for a while. I try to eat, and especially serve to my kids, food as close to its natural state as possible.   I was pleased to see that her recipes and shopping list included many of the things that we eat and that I already had in the fridge. 

Today is DAY 1 and includes 2 snacks + 3 meals.  We are living the delicious life with our guacamole and peppers for snack!  Even my toddler enjoys these snacks!

I will report back on how I am doing tomorrow, but I have already dropped some chicken in the crock pot with some salsa for tomorrow's chicken salsa lunch!

You can find Katie's inspirational page at and learn more about what she can do for you!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DIY Your Magic Bands

We are headed to Disney in a few weeks. As is now required by all hotel guests, we have received these magic bands, which replace your park pass, hotel key, and basically becomes your identifier for your whole trip!  They have some interesting things in the works for this new technology. 

In the meantime, I thought I would make our previously solid colored bands a little more "Disney friendly."

All you need is a little imagination and a paint pen or a sharpie. I have been using paint pens for the last few months on a few different projects and just love them!!!

The orange band is done with a black sharpie and the others with a white paint pen. I do not recommend the fine tip sharpie paint pens for this. They do not seem to work well. However, the Painters brand paint pens are perfect, especially for making tiny Mickeys!

Tomorrow I'll share another Disney project you can make using your paint pens!  I hope I've inspired you!!!