Nowadays, kids are stuck with their smartphones and tablets. Get them to be active no matter the season (not just spring or summer) with these games and other activities that will guarantee hours of fun and learning! Plus, they’re not so hard to set up.

1) Water balloon games
Fill up several balloons with water and tie up the ends. Perfect for water balloon throwing challenge, balloon stomp, blindfold water balloon toss game, laundry basket catch, relay games, water balloon darts, water ballon pinatas and several other fun games that you can ever think of! The only limit is your imagination.

2) “Simon Says”
It involves of a participant named “Simon” who tells the other players what to do by saying the phrase “Simon Says.” If “Simon” says something that doesn’t have that phrase and the player does what he says, they’re out of the game. This popular and classic game also helps in building your child’s listening and attentive skills.

3) Scavenger hunts
Gather some items that are easily found at the park or even at your own backyard – flowers, pebbles and leaves, etc. Affix those items with names and have the kids to start looking for them!

4) Making “mud pies”
For a kid, nothing compares to the feeling of mud squishing between their hands and turning it into “mud pies.” It’s time to get down and dirty with this simple but fun nature activity! It also espouses your kid’s creativity.

5) Sand games
If you live on a sandy beach, you are quite lucky! The beach and the sea are your vast playground. Aside from the usual water activities, you can also get your kids into playing with sand. There are different types of fun activities using sand, such as making sand castles, sand drawings, making a “sand angel,” building a sandman and lots more!

6) Making art pieces and décor using natural materials
Exploring nature doesn’t have to be done in a faraway forest – it can be done at your front yard or at a nearby park dotted with lush plants. You can make arts and crafts using natural materials that you’ve gathered from your nature walks, such as painting using different kinds of leaves or a collage using fallen acorn nuts. Have fun making Christmas decors using fallen pine cones that you’ve just collected from the nearest park, and sprinkle them with silver-colored glitter or polystyrene powder for the “snow.” These are the perfect activities especially during fall or winter.

7) Winter activities
Most kids get so excited whenever they encounter the first snowfall – and that means it’s going to be a winter wonderland for them! There are many fun outdoor activities during the winter season: building a snowman, making a “snow angel,” snowball fight games, ice skating, sledding, building snow forts, making igloos, creating ice art, and so much more!

Having fun with kids doesn’t have to be high-tech or costly. Some of these classic outdoor games and activities have proven, time and again, to be a hit even with kids in this generation.

There are lots of benefits your children can get from doing outdoor activities such as getting lots of exercise, developing their creativity and promoting their social skills, among other things.

Some outdoor activities, like nature walks, also ignite your children’s curious nature and their desire to explore more new things.

Cooking is a basic survival skill, which is true. But it doesn’t always have to be a chore. As you can see, there are lots of people – whether professional chefs or home cooks – who find joy in cooking. That’s why it’s better to impart this notion of cooking and preparing food to your own children while they’re still young – that it is not just a job, it can also be really fun! It’s always enjoyable to make things from scratch. Cooking also helps you to bond closer to your kids as well.

The following are a few good recipe suggestions for your kids to start. Since cooking works with heat, you should closely supervise your children in the kitchen, but eventually, they will be able to cook on their own. Who knows, they will become chefs in the making!

It’s also a good idea to find kid-safe cooking tools on department stores or online to minimize the likelihood of injuries.

1) No-Bake Peanut Butter Treats
It requires the most accessible ingredients: 1/3 cup of chunky peanut butter, ¼ cup of honey, a half teaspoon of vanilla extract, 1/3 dry milk powder (preferably nonfat), a 1/3 cup of instant oats and two tablespoons of graham cracker crumbs.

Mix the wet ingredients first (peanut butter, honey and vanilla extract). Mix them together until combined well. Add in the rest of the ingredients, mix well and shape them into small balls – that’s the most fun part! Cover and keep them in the fridge. Now they’re ready to eat!

2) Bread roll pizzas
Most kids love pizzas, and we’re sure they will be thrilled to make their own! Split the rolls in half to form the “dough” and let your kids customize their own toppings – pizza sauce, pepperoni, many kinds of cheeses, ham, bacon, pineapple – it’s up to them! Pop the pizzas into the oven and wait until they’re warm and cooked well.

3) Easy Fruit Pops
They’re basically just Jello and Kool Aid. But kids will definitely enjoy making them – and eating them as well. Plus, Kool-Aid comes in a variety of colors and flavors to choose from, so that adds the fun part of making them.

Ingredients include a packet of Jello, a packet of Kool-Aid, ¾ cup sugar, two cups of boiling water and two cups of cold water. Combine all the ingredients, except the cold water, and stir until the dissolved. Then add the cold water and pour into popsicle molds. Freeze for at least four hours until set and solid.

4) Easy Nutella Brownies
Who doesn’t like Nutella, especially the kids? Now your little ones will be able to enjoy Nutella more by making these easy and chewy three-ingredient brownies!

This recipe just calls for: 1 ¼ cup Nutella, two large eggs and ½ cups of flour.

Combine all the ingredients and mix them together until the batter becomes smooth. Pour the batter into a greased baking pan. Have the oven pre-heated at 350 degrees Fahrenheit before popping the pan into the oven. Make sure that the brownies won’t get overbaked (otherwise they will become dry and won’t be fudgy).

5) Mini Lasagna Cups
This is an easy and fun twist on a classic Italian dish! Use won ton wraps and put them into a cupcake and muffin pan. Add the ingredients normally found in a lasagna such as marinara sauce and ground beef. Kids would love to add lots of cheese on these cups! Bake these mini lasagna cups into a pre-heated oven and wait until the cheese begins to melt.

Crafting sessions with children are always fun! Check out these three easy, engaging and fun arts and crafts ideas suitable for kids (and also kids at heart!) and for all occasions. The great news is that these arts and crafts ideas use anything that you can find – household items, recycled materials and things you can find from nature. Not only they are fun, but they will also tap your kids’ imagination and creativity. Some of these crafts even serve a practical purpose!

DIY Nebular Jar
A nebula is an interstellar cloud of gas and dust in outer space, which can be seen at night by the naked eye. If your kid is a fan of astronomy and anything about outer space, they will surely love this “intergalactic” craft project!

What you need:
1) A piece of newspaper to keep your works pace clean
2) A clear jar with a lid
3) Paint (preferable tempera paint)
4) Cotton Balls
5) Glitter
6) Water

How to make it:
1) Fill up about one-third of the jar with water.
2) Add a few drops of paint.
3) Mix paint and water together until the paint is thoroughly dissolved.
4) Put some cotton balls into the combined paint and water, and push them down until they are filled with the mixture.
5) Add glitter.
6) Repeat the procedures No. 1 to No. 5 until the jar is full.

Desk Organizer from Recycled Materials
This craft does not only engender your kids’ creativity and imagination, it also helps promote resourcefulness and care for the environment.

What you need:
1) Newspaper (to keep the work space clean)
2) Three empty toilet paper rolls
3) Paint
4) Paintbrush
5) Glue stick
7) Glue gun

(Reminder: please supervise your children while they are using the glue gun, as it can burn their skin)

How to make it:
1) Coat the three empty paper rolls with paint (the colors are up to you!) and set them aside to dry.
2) Load the glue stick into the glue gun and plug it into a nearby electrical outlet, and wait until the glue stick heats up and starts to melt.
2) Use a hot glue gun to stick all the three painted toilet rolls together, forming a pyramid.
3) Make sure that the edges are even so that it stands well. Your desk organizer is done and ready to use!

Sponge Bath Toy
Bath time for kids will be more fun with this googly little friend! It’s easy to make, too.

What you need:
1) Bath sponge
2) Scissors
3) Glue stick
4) Glue gun
5) Bendable straw or a pipe cleaner (preferably red)
6) Googly eyes (preferably big ones)

(Reminder: please supervise your children while they are using the glue gun, as it can burn their skin)

How to make it:
1) Using scissors, cut one edge of the bath sponge into a curved and round shape.
2) Using scissors again, cut slits in the bottom to create “tentacles.”
3) Load the glue stick into the glue gun and plug it into a nearby electrical outlet, and wait until the glue stick heats up and starts to melt.
4) Glue on the googly eyes on the sponge.
5) For the lips, cut a small strip of the bendable straw or pipe cleaner and glue it to the sponge.
6) Voila! It’s ready to play!

Looking for more fun arts and crafts ideas? How about picture frames? There are many wonderful DIY picture frame tutorials and this is one of them: DIY Picture Frame Ideas. They’re not only ideal to place you snapshots, but also any  piece of arts and crafts (whether portraits, landscapes, your kids’ art or calligraphy art which is quite popular nowadays).

I’ve been more mindful of the future recently, and the fact that we need to start planning for the kids. I want them to go to college, and this means saving for a college fund.

I also realised that I need to cut down on my spending and start putting aside some savings. On a mission, my first step was to assess what I actually spend my money on. I’m not a huge spender, mind you. As I’m a stay at home mom I depend on my husbands modest income, and we do get by. Even so, looking through my bank statements was a bit of a slap in the face.

I realised I spend about $5 a day on Starbucks – and this has been happening for the last few years at least. Strangely enough, it correlates with me becoming a Mom – coincidence!? I calculated that if I can somehow forgo this, I can save at least $1,800 per year! A crazy amount, and more than enough to start a healthy college fund for the kids.

I didn’t want to forgo this daily treat – just the cost associated with it. Luckily, I then read about online surveys at Paid Surveys Fanatic and found that some of these sites were paying up to $10 per survey! Granted, this sites lists the paid survey Australia opportunities, but many of them are applicable for those of us here in the US. With a potential solution to my problem, I gave it a try… and it was a success!

I’ve since signed up to loads of these sites and receive at least one survey offer a day that can pay anywhere from $1 to $10, which evens out nicely to cover my coffee bill. They’re also super easy to complete. I can do a survey on my smartphone or tablet from anywhere, at anytime. Usually I just do them while sitting on the toilet. The glamorous life of a stay at home mom!

While I accept that they’ll never make me rich, they have certainly done a lot to alleviate any guilt associated with my one-a-day Starbucks habit. I’d suggest giving paid surveys a try to any stay at home mom that wants to earn a few extra dollars. There really is nothing to lose!

I don’t know how it’s happened but somehow my biggest little baby has started school!

They say time flies and it really is true. Just the other day I was holding her for the first time and now she’s started one of the biggest adventures of all – school!

I knew it would be a big deal for me as well, but I didn’t realize how big of a deal. I knew that I would miss her and I would have to let a piece of her go and that would be hard, but I didn’t realize that there would also be a learning curve for me.

For one, I had never had to make school lunches before. I’ve had my babies at home with me or in part time child care where food is provided. I thought it would be more simple that it was. Everything seems to be fancier and more full on with many more rules than when I was a kid, from what’s allowed to be taken to school to how it’s presented.

starting school

I also didn’t realize how much they would have sport and we didn’t have enough suitable clothing. It’s only been a few weeks and I am also surprised how many clothes she is wearing out already! And shoes. The special school shoes I bought her have not held up either.

Speaking of shoes, I also mucked up with sports shoes. She has one with laces but since she can’t do them up herself yet, they are not allowed so I had to buy some others.

We’ve also had to get used to homework and just fitting everything into a day. I can’t believe how fast the day goes for me with school to split the day up.

It’s also not as fun at home without big sister to keep everyone entertained.

There are many up sides though. She is just loving school and she is growing up so much right in front of my eyes. She has made many new friends and her confidence has grown a lot. She is also reading and writing better. All up, I’m very proud of her and it’s been exciting sharing this new journey.

 

Travelling with kids

If you are like me then the idea of traveling with your kids is terrifying. A long car ride, or worse, a flight, with young kids sends shivers down your spine.

At least that’s what I used to think – then I gave it a go!

It turns out that traveling with kids isn’t anywhere near as bad as I imagined. In fact, it’s fun!

Travelling with kids

We have taken a few trips with our kids and next month we plan to travel all the way to Italy with them. This is something I never would have dreamed that I would do!

Our vacations so far have been within California or to neighboring states. We also flew down to Mexico last summer. I was initially worried about that but we had the best time. It was so good to have two weeks of quality family time where all our energy went on each other instead of being taken up with work, cleaning and cooking. We were able to just have fun and it was great for my husband to get so much time with the kids.

I had worried so much about silly things – like the kids screaming all the flight and all the time we were away or the kids not eating anything, us getting all sick and other silly worries. I found this article good for helping me feel better about it all and better prepared. The reality was that none of these things happened. We just had a good time.

Some things I do find essential for a great family vacation are staying in great accommodation, working around the kids nap times and being well prepared. The first time we went away, we stayed in a tiny hotel room and it did not work out that well. The next time we stayed in apartment style accommodation and that was so much better – we need our own space. We also need great facilities with plenty of space around the resort so the kids can run around. We especially like a big pool and room service comes in handy for when we can’t be bothered going out.

Nap times are also important. I have found as long as the kids are well rested, things go well – just like at home! If they get cranky and over tired, things stop being fun. I actually quite like having nap time every day. We all chill out for awhile and it’s nice.

I can't wait to go to Florence!!

I can’t wait to go to Florence!!

Going to Italy will be more challenging as there is just so much I want to do! I hope I am not aiming too high. I have never been before and it’s a life long dream so hopefully it goes well. Wish us luck!

Why I love toddlers

Toddlers seem to get a bad rap. There is so much talk of the terrible twos, toddler tantrums and other such things that it seems like all the positives of toddlers get ignored. And there are lots of positives.

I actually love toddlers. They have their challenges but I think there are more good points than bad points (like saying goodbye to breast feeding). Here’s why!

Why I love toddlers

1. They are super cute.

Toddlers are super cute. They are such little things with such big personalities. From the way they dress to the way they play to the way they draw, they are super cute to watch and enjoy.

2. Their amazement in the world is beautiful to watch.

My favorite part of toddlerdom is the amazement they have in the world. It doesn’t take much for their faces to beam and their interest to be heightened. It is a great age to explore and discover as you can see them lapping it all up. It doesn’t have to be far afield exploring either – they love the little things, like a walk to the park. It’s fun!

3. They love cuddles.

No other age group seems to lap up cuddles like a toddler. They love many many cuddles and aren’t shy about launching themselves in your direction to get one. The amount of love that they show is priceless.

4. They nap.

As much as I love toddlers, I also love that they generally sleep well at night time by this point and also have a decent day time nap. I love the downtime in the middle of the day giving us both a chance to rest.

5. They don’t talk much.

If you have had a preschooler, you will know why this is good! They can say enough to get their point across but don’t have a million questions and the constant chit chat of older kids which helps stop my own brain from exploding!

6. Even when they have a tantrum, they are still small enough to handle.

Tantrums are never fun but toddler tantrums can at least be cute! And they are still small enough that you can pick them up and remove them from a situation if you have to. You also don’t get as many judgmental looks as what happens if your preschooler has a tantrum.

7. It doesn’t take much to make them happy.

Toddlers are super easy to please. Just give them a tutu or a snack or some blocks or anything at all really and you are likely to see a big smile and have them happily play for awhile. It’s great!

There are many more reasons why I love toddlers – these are just the main ones! Do you love toddlers?

I have to admit, I was nervous about using a convertible car seat. Before I purchased one, I read a lot of reviews. I saw a few of them at parenting.com before reading more reviews. My main concern was safety. I had read previously that convertible car seats were not as safe as infant car seats and this made me nervous, as it would any mom.

In recent years their safety profile has definitely improved. I finally settled on the Britax USA Advocate. I settled on this for one major reason – it looked the safest! It looks so well cushioned and comfortable and I definitely found this to be the truth.

Installation was very simple. Actually, I found it simpler than most infant car seats I have used in the past. But the real test would be on the road. I strapped my daughter in and she seemed very comfortable! It was a hot day too and the fabric seemed to breathe quite well.

Asleep in her seat. (Obviously we were parked!)

Asleep in her seat. (Obviously we were parked!)

My son is older than my daughter so I was excited to see how it would fit him. My daughter is young enough to have the seat sitting rear facing (the way I prefer), but my son now requires a forward facing car seat. Switching it over was sooooo simple and he told me that he was very comfortable!

I seem to have also found the solution to sleep time. For some reason, both of my kids that tried this car seat fell asleep within about 10 minutes… that was weird.

So, would I recommend a convertible car seat?

Without a doubt. Previously I would have agreed with the worry about their safety profile, but they are now better than ever. I am considering purchasing a second one. And apparently you get ones that sit three across. My bank balance better watch out 🙂

Apparently this has been floating around the internet for a bit. But I’ve just come across it, thanks to some of my friends sharing it around. I’m talking about the Babocush. Someone sent me to this great video on facebook and so I had to check it out some more.

The video makes it pretty clearly but if for some reason you’re allergic to facebook the Babocush is like a rocker for a baby where they lie on their stomach and not their back, held in place by a harness and then rocked to sleep. It seems so obvious…once I’ve seen it.

This video shows it in a little bit more detail:

It looks to be a great idea and part of me is just a tiny bit sad that my own kids are too big to use one: its’ really for kids that are under 6 months.

It’d be fun to try and see if it really could rock a baby to sleep so easily. It makes a lot of sense to have a baby securely on their tummy instead of their back. After all, that’s a natural preference for really young kids. Having the harness cuts out any rusk of sudden infant death syndrome (I would thing but I am not an expert).

I’ve liked walks for calming down children but this would work well in the home.

Medicinal Benefits

The Babocush website claims – or perhaps just suggests – that the Babocush helps babies with colic or reflux calm down and relax. It’s hard to say if that’d be true, especially as I don’t know much about either condition.

I’ve been lucky in that I have no experience with reflux or colic with our two kids. I don’t know if this product would help or not. I would be interested in anyone’s feedback if they want to send it to me.

Winding a baby is meant to be made easier with the babocush as well. That’s what that video was about above, if you didn’t watch it. That I have less trouble believing.

Just to be clear: I am not affiliated with Babocush and did not receive anything for writing this. 

After my last article, and having written about breastfeeding previously, I was accused of being too in favour of breastfeeding and wasn’t being balanced enough. My friend, in a good natured way, pointed out I don’t talk about alternatives or the downsides of breastfeeding.

I wasn’t sure how t respond. I mean, firstly this is a private bog and not some professional or official source of information like a newspaper or a government agency. There is no requirement for me to be anything at all – as a private citizen I can be as biased as I like.  If I want to root for Donald Trump and advocate  for a 100 foot high, electrified, border crossing proof fence along the Rio Grande I can (but I won’t because that would be silly).

Secondly I did try and point out I’m not all out in favour of breastfeeding as much as I advocate it. I don’t want to be one of those people who will implicitly or explicitly  criticise the choice of other mothers who don’t breastfeed or do whatever it is they believe in.

So What Do I Think?

So here’s a balanced perspective, in a nutshell.

Firstly, I like breastfeeding and I like writing and talking about it. Now I don’t do it anymore I miss it.

Breastfeeding has well researched and documented advantages over other forms of feeding a baby. Breastmilk is perfectly suited for your baby and their digestive system and needs. Nothing else is as good for your baby.

I'm trying to balance here....!

I’m trying to balance here….!

That said, there are plenty of reasons why breastfeeding is impossible or hard and it shouldn’t be looked down upon as a failure when a mother does not breastfeed. It can hurt, your baby might never get the hang of it, a mother might not be able to make enough milk and it can drain your energy and make you really tired – on that I can speak from some experience.

In the end it is a choice for each and every mother to make specific to their circumstances. Sometimes that “choice” is dictated by those circumstances so the choice isn’t a choice at all.

The Bottom Line

So while I enjoy and encourage breastfeeding I think that as long as a mom makes the decision that ensures the best outcome for her and her child then scaremongers and everyone else should butt out. The important elements in any “formula” (pardon the pun) is making sure the baby gets what they need from mom without affecting mom’s health and wellbeing.

So there, I hope that adds a bit of balance and perspective to this blog and – if anyone ever reads this – the wider perennial debate.

Oh, and it seems like post-weaning depression is a thing after all. For anyone who was interested.