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If I didn't already know how fun it is to dance and be silly and free, then having kids surely convinced me it.  We have a LOT of dance parties at our house.  I am always amazed at the creativity Yummy shows in how she moves and the new ideas she comes up with, and Dooter, well, he's just plain cute when he dances.  Some of Yummy's latest dance moves include The Bread Punching dance and the Easter Egg dance.  Both involve a lot of strong arm movements.

 
The sun is out and the birds are singing!  Here is a free printable to honour our first warm-ish spring days.
Just click on the image below and it will take you to a copy without the watermark -print away!
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It is a beautiful day and I'm spending most of it outside; it feels like forever since the sun has shone so warmly and we are all SO ready for it. The kids have buckets cups and shovels for some serious water play on the deck.  I think we've had four wardrobe changes already, but I don't care!  It's great to see them having such a wonderful time outside together.  I put up an old board across the steps so Dooter doesn't fall down; I can watch them from the kitchen window while I get supper going.
Happy weekend!  Enjoy the sun!
 
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Yummy is fascinated by ice cream cones -I'm not sure if this is a typical kid thing or if it's because she so rarely gets one.  Whatever the case, she loves them and often pretends to make them out of balled up socks, cotton handkerchiefs, etc.

 
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I saved these weird cardboard shapes from a set of dishes I got long ago, because I am a hoarder, and because I love re-using stuff to make things.  In honour of Earth Day, I gave Yummy this problem to solve:
  1. Create a basket that will hold a handful natural outdoor treasures
  2. Use the cardboard as the main medium (or material)
  3. It needs to have colour, but you can't use paint!


 
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I just ordered seeds for my garden and am looking forward to digging in the dirt once the snow all melts away.  Yummy, being a fan of anything Outdoors, is also looking forward to getting out her little watering can and putting some seeds in the ground.  To satisfy our longing for Spring yesterday, we set to work  building our own little garden, using brown play dough and sculpted vegetables.
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You Will Need:
  • Sculpey (or Fimo, or a homemade bake-able clay)
  • Acrylic paints & paintbrushes
  • Mod Podge
  • Brown play-dough (I use a recipe for no-cook play dough from The Imagination Tree -so easy!)
  • Optional: little signs made with card-stock and toothpicks to label the vegetables 

Exploring a New Medium: Sculpey / Oven-Bake Clay
I have had a big package of Sculpey in my art cabinet for ages, hoarding it for something wonderful.  Yummy was excited to try out a new material, but quickly found that it is much stiffer to work with than play dough.  I showed her how to warm a small piece up between her hands to make it more workable.  While she was exploring the clay, we talked about the different vegetables we will plant in our garden this year.  I made a list and drew a little picture for Yummy to connect the word to.  

 
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This morning Yummy and I headed outside for a fun photo scavenger hunt.  She got a Fisher Price Kid-Tough digital camera (it comes in black for boys too) for Christmas, and uses it all the time, taking photos and videos of whatever strikes her (whether that is me in the bathroom, or some other inappropriate subject).  I highly recommend a kid-tough camera if you are considering getting one for a young child -Yummy's has survived bumps down stairs, being thrown by her little brother, and it continues on.  I also like the See-Yourself feature, which allows Yummy to swivel the camera's eye back towards herself to take photos of herself.  The photos are better quality than I expected of a kids' camera, though it doesn't begin to compare to my Sony SLR!

 
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It is April 15th and it looks like mid-January at our house.  Even my girl, who doesn't mind the icy wind on her cheeks as long as she can be outside, is tired of Snow Time and is wishing it was warm out.  Our morning walk required a warm element today, to make up for the insistent snow. 

A small thermos of Caf-Lib (Yummy is one of few kids who do not like hot chocolate!), an extra thermos cup, a small container of marshmallows and a warm blanket, and we were ready to set out.  We headed over to our camp-fire spot where we enjoy fires in the summer.  




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First, we gathered wood for a pretend fire.  I showed Yummy how to build a log cabin in the fire-pit and we filled the center with imaginary paper and real little sticks.  
Check out the fun we had.  Maybe it will inspire a picnic adventure of your own, though I hope it is sunnier and warmer where you are!
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Back In The Hills: 21 easy morning activities for your kids, so you can enjoy your coffee.

I treasure quiet mornings.  I love being awake in a sleeping house, sitting on my puffy couch with a hot cup of coffee and seeing what is new and awesome on Pinterest, basking in sheer silence.  And I don't particularly like talking for an hour or two, if possible.  
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Back In The Hills
Since having children (specifically, one that gets up all on her own), those quiet mornings have been shortened, and some days they just don't happen.  Getting up at 6:30am helps, but I can't always drag myself out of bed until 7am, a mere 15 minutes before my eldest emerges.  A while ago, I came across a post on The Imagination Tree about Creating Invitations to Play -this simple idea has greatly enhanced my mornings!  By taking a few minutes in the evening to set something out on Yummy's table, I gain a few more minutes with my coffee and iPad while Yummy explores whatever activity I've set out for her.  Dooter usually sleeps in a little later than his sister, so for now I don't set anything out for him, other than the occasional board book for him to peruse.

Simple Set Up & Clean Up
My mission is to keep it simple.  It shouldn't take me more than five minutes to set something up and it shouldn't require a whole lot of clean up.  I keep a list of ideas tacked inside the art cabinet next to the little table so I don't have to think very hard about what I am doing.   I often put the activity on a cookie sheet so it is easy to bring to the sink for cleaning, if needed, or move out of the way if Dooter shouldn't be stuffing it in his mouth.

Yummy is always excited to race upstairs and see what is waiting for her on her table (no matter how simple the activity is) and I have grown to look forward to setting out a surprise activity for her each morning.  I like the chance to introduce her to a new combination of art materials, or to bring out something she hasn't looked at in a while.  Some of these activities I created beforehand, so they don't take any extra work now to get them out.  

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Here's my list of Easy Morning Activities:
*Each photo below contains a longer description, if you click on it.
  1. Paper (magazines, printed paper, newspaper, etc), scissors, glue
  2. Paper doilies & watercolour crayons (water and paintbrushes optional)
  3. Wrapping paper scrap & tape
  4. Stick Puppets from cut-out pictures
  5. Watercolour paint, glue, salt
  6. White paper, white crayon, watercolour paint
  7. Felt stick puppets with felt clothes
  8. Drinking straws & scissors (Nice to work on fine motor skills.  The straws are very satisfying to cut, and sometimes the end sticks together so Yummy can pinch it to make "poppin' sounds"
  9. Glitter glue & paper
  10. Rocks & coloured sharpies
  11. Chalkboard, chalk & wet rag (optional -water and paintbrush)
  12. Chalk, black paper, water bowls (paintbrushes optional)
  13. Dry Erase Pictures (colouring pages or play-dough mats inserted into plastic sleeves)
  14. Colouring pages (crayons/markers) (the page in the photo are from MadeByJoe)
  15. Water Painting sheets from store-bought books
  16. Stickers & sticker Book 
  17. Wipe-clean books with dry-erase markers
  18. Little figurines arranged in a new way
  19. Magnet letters on a cookie sheet
  20. Clothesline, clothespin apron (made by me), little clothes & basket (I tie the string between two chairs, and I cut the clothes out of fabric scraps.  You could also use doll clothes)
  21. Play-dough
    • play-dough mats (the ones in the photo were free printables from SparkleBox
    • various tools (plastic knife, plastic pizza cutter, rolling pin, dough cutter, etc)
    • play-dough stamps (I snagged mine at a thrift shop)
    • cookie cutters
    • natural textures (leaves, dried corn cobs, rocks, grass, sticks, shells, etc)
    • googly eyes & pipe cleaners
    • letter cookie cutters
    • potatoe head pieces
    • feathers and goggly eyes
    • cupcake play-dough (I saw this little box at Dollarama and was inspired to put together a kit with sparkly pink play-dough, muffin cups, candles, and little gems & sequins)
*Of course, know your child and what they are capable of using safely.  Scissors, pins, etc can be dangerous for young children.  Make sure they are always supervised.

**Click a photo for a description!

 
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I love sensory bins.  When my kids are cranky and finding it hard to entertain themselves, sensory play helps them calm down and focus on something other than their bad moods.  I’ve enjoyed making themed bins for my four-year-old, Yummy, for a year or more now, but have been finding it hard to find something safe and interesting for Dooter, who is almost 16 months and mouths anything he can get his hands on.  At Christmas I made a winter themed bin, using “snow-balls” I cut out from a 3-inch thick piece of foam as a filler.  The size of the balls was great since Dooter couldn’t fit them in his mouth, but the bin was a total failure.  I’m not sure what it was; it looked beautiful -all white and blue and silvery, but the kids didn’t play with it for more than five minutes.  Maybe it was the texture of the foam.  Whatever the reason, I was a bit discouraged (cutting out all those snow balls took a loooong time) and didn’t try any new ones until I saw the idea for using plain oatmeal on Train Up a Child as simple and non-toxic sensory play.
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Why is it that the simplest things are always the most entertaining?  This bin took me about 5 minutes to put together and they have since spent hours and hours playing in it.  We started out with a couple spoons and bowls for mixing and stirring but the bin soon got loaded with dishes from their play dishes basket.
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A word of warning: though super easy to make and lots of fun to play with, this has been quite messy!  I used a vinyl tablecloth underneath to lessen the spread of oats, but it seems to stick to baby feet very nicely and then brush off onto the carpet.  I’ve done a lot of vacuuming lately.
 
Last summer I had a babysitter come out to the farm every Wednesday morning to watch the kids while I disappeared into my workroom for three and a half hours of glorious, uninterrupted work.  Since December, I haven’t had the luxury of extra help, but I was reluctant to give up that time that I enjoy so very much.  Yummy is pretty good at finding something to entertain herself with, but often likes to do something similar to what I am working on, so I decided to create a couple kits for her to pull out when I want to get something accomplished in the workroom.  When I am designing and making notebooks, I have a card-making kit so Yummy can work with paper as well.  For the times I am sewing, I created a kids sewing box so she can get familiar with fabrics, pins, buttons, etc.  I also spend a lot of time art journalling, an activity that Yummy does alongside me in her own journal, but I will save that for another post.
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Here’s what I have in the card-making kit:
  • Envelopes
  • Cards (made from small pieces of folded card stock)
  • Name Labels with the names of family members so she can address her letters.  I printed these on Avery labels, but they could also be handwritten.  (Yummy can recognize most of her letters and can figure out who the label is addressed to, but I love the idea from Playful Learning of creating a “name chest” with photos of family members on little drawers with the labels inside.)
  • Coloured markers with both fine and thick tips for drawing and writing
  • Fancy pens in her favourite colours: pink and blue

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Optional:
  • Stickers: Yummy often gets out her little sticker box to add stickers to her letters or to seal her envelopes.
  • Variety: Every now and then I add different coloured cards or envelopes to spice it up, or letter-writing templates I’ve printed off with fun designs and pictures.

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Yummy’s Sewing Box includes:
  • a handmade Pincushion (with exactly 4 pins so I can always count and make sure there aren’t any laying on the floor waiting for Dooter to discover)
  • Plastic Needle
  • Embroidery thread
  • Fabric Scissors (I tried giving her kid-safe scissors, but they do not cut fabric.  These little ones are sharp so I just make sure I am always right next to her while she is working with them)
  • Ceramic Thimble, found at a thrift store
  • Buttons, different colours and shapes
  • Fabric -little squares I’ve cut from my own scraps
  • Sewing cards and stiff thread (the template for these cards is fromDandee)
  • Plastic canvas (got the idea to cut out a flower and star shape and wrap the edges from Childhood 101)

Sometimes Yummy comes up with a totally different project to keep herself busy while I work, but its nice to have these activities ready when she needs some help.

*Childhood 101 has a great example of a toddler sewing basket.