We are officially in the fall mood over here! We have started decorating, planning trips to the farm, and crafting. Now I would love to say the North Carolina weather was on the same page, but sadly it is not. Since the leaves have not started falling, we created our own. This mess-free leaf painting activity helped curb our desire for fall.
What you will need:
Gallon ziplock bags
Paint (We used fall colors)
I went ahead and printed out a leaf template and cut it out. If you are more of an artist than I, feel free to draw your own leaf or have your kiddo draw it themselves. I used cardstock so that the leaf would keep its shape while pushing the paint around. Once you have your leaf template cut out you will want to tape it to your ziplock bag. Make sure it is secure, so it doesn’t move around while painting.
Next, pour your paint colors of choice into the bag. Have your kiddo move the colors around until the leaf template it completely filled. We continued to move the paint around and mix the colors to create new ones. We spoke about how we can create new colors by mixing two different colors together.
The kids loved moving the paint from one side to the other, making shapes, and drawing their own designs. The feeling of the paint inside the bag was also intriguing. I am not going to lie, I played with the leaves once the kiddos were done.
Once the kiddos are finished, just toss the bag in the trash and clean up is done. You can also keep it for later in the day when they want to play with it once more. It truly is an easy and mess-free project you can do using any design.
You are the youngest of three. We wished very much for you. You are the bookend to the family we started many years before this, before your siblings, before we even said “I do.” Although you are number three, you are never third. You are special. You are needed. You are the perfect addition to this chapter of our family. You are part of a whole. But there are some things you should know:
You will not get all the brand new toys. Instead you will have toys that have been very loved before you came along, that your sisters will show you how to enjoy to the fullest, sometimes against your will. You will not have many bump pictures, or a pregnancy journal. Instead you will have more hands to hold you, more hearts to love you. You won’t always have new clothes, or a baby shower in your honor. Instead you will have soft, worn t-shirts that carry many memories and a few special gifts handpicked just for you. You won’t usually have me to yourself, my time will be divided by three. Four, if your dad can get some of my attention too. But we will ALL love on you, and spend time with you, and teach you what we know. You won’t be taken to play groups every week, or to the Tiny Tots library story time. Instead your sisters will read you their stories and make you a character in whatever game they dream up. You will have to tag along with us to the playground and watch them do big kid things you’ll long to do. You’ll spend a lot of time in the car with me, as we take your older siblings to school, but think of all the things you’ll get to see along the way.
It may sound like a lot of unfortunate things come with being the youngest of three, but in many ways, you are so lucky. You are going to have two older siblings who love you and play with you endlessly. (They’ve already learned with each other, so hopefully they will take it easy on you.) They will teach you things (for better or worse) and be your biggest cheerleaders. You are going to have two dogs who are used to babies, and everything that comes with them. The accidentally-dropped snacks, the meant-to-be-sweet kisses, the gentle tugs, they are used to it and will take it on as an understanding of your love for them. You will have a TON of toys. Toys you should play with, household things that have become toys, and toys that are way too old for you. When your siblings are at school, you will have the toys (and me) all to yourself. You have a really cool backyard with all the fun things, thanks to us having a few years before you to collect fun things for you to do. You have an amazing dad, who only seems to get better with each passing year. He has the patience of an old oak tree and will take on anything you throw at him. He will take you on adventures, along with the rest of us, and encourage you to do things that might push your comfort zone a little, but I promise, as someone who has been on many adventures with him, it’s always for the best. He will pick you up when you fall, hug you when you cry, and play whatever game you ask him to.
Finally, you have me. Now I may not be as shiny and fun as your older siblings, or your dad. I am the one you will always see, morning, noon, and night. You will see me, for better or worse. You may see me cry, you may see me yell a little, but hopefully you see all my smiles, because I will smile at you with a love that runs deep. You may drive me a little crazy, but I’ve been down this road before. There is nothing you can do to make me not be there, morning, noon, and night. Not to toot my own horn, but I think I have this motherhood thing down for now, until your older siblings teach me otherwise. You may not have my undivided attention, but you have me and four other enormously big fans of yours to hold your hand and always be there. And I promise, I will hold you just as close, hug you just as tight, sing to you just as sweetly, read to you just as much, and love you just has hard little one.
So to my dearest #3, we can’t wait to meet you. We have created the perfect family for you to join. We love you. Come meet us when you are ready.
Preschool is back in session! And to kick off the school year, our preschool is hosting an Upscale Bake Sale this weekend. How fun! Being “upscale,” I had to pause for a minute. What to make?! We decided to turn to a recent family favorite that gives us all the fall feels for our bake sale submission: Crème Brûlée Cheesecake!
One of my favorite things about this upscale treat: it’s really not hard to make, but looks amazing. I made this for the first time this summer for a Father’s Day dinner, combining two of my husband’s favorite desserts. It was also my first EVER cheese cake. That’s right. I am 32 years old and my maid of honor put a springform pan on my wedding registry nine years ago, and I finally used it. A couple months ago. Now I want to make ALL the cheesecakes! Another great thing about this recipe is how much my oldest can help me make it. We’re making it for the third time and she’s got it down. They keep getting better and better. I really hope these recipes and memories stick with her, as does her love for baking.
So here it goes!
Aside from the ingredients listed, you will need a springform pan, roasting pan (or other deep pan), aluminum foil, and a torch for the crunchy sugar topping.
Addie had two favorite steps, both at the beginning. She had a blast crushing all of the graham crackers for the crust and opening the cream cheese packets. After the cake went in the oven I let her lick the cream cheese wrappers, and honestly THAT was probably her favorite part of the whole experience. Maybe even more so than eating the cheesecake! You COULD opt for boxed graham cracker crumbs for the crust, but letting your kids take over this task is so much fun AND the inconsistency of texture gives the crust a great homemade touch.
To save yourself a little time, make the crust first and then start a pot of boiling water before starting on the filling. I have an electric kettle which heats up fast and holds 1 liter of water and it’s still not QUITE enough to surround my cake pan in my roasting pan, so I opted for a big pot of boiling water this time. There’s a reason waiting for water to boil is in so many unpleasant expressions. It definitely takes a good bit of time. Once you make your filling and pour over that sweet, sweet crust…stick it in the oven and sit back and relax. For an hour and a half your home will smell like warm vanilla, and even on an August day that will get you in the mood for all the fall things soon to come.
One of the reasons I loved this recipe when I came across it was the cool/chill time. For a cheesecake, it’s a pretty quick bake! Cool for 1 hour at room temp before sticking in the fridge. It will still feel warm, and you can cool for longer, but it really isn’t necessary. After a minimum of 5 hours (or overnight if you can wait that long), remove cake from the fridge and add your topping.
When it’s time to add the classic crème brûlée crust, let your kids watch instead of assist. Sprinkle sugar (course decorating sugar or regular table sugar) evenly on top and start torching. It’s pretty fun. Make sure to keep the torch moving so you don’t scorch your cheese cake! Then dive right in, the mix of a cold cake and warm topping just adds to the autumn perfection. (Tip: Goes great with coffee!)
Try it? Love it? Do it differently? Let us know! We hope to continue to share some of the favorite recipes from our kitchens from time to time, especially as the holidays get ever closer.
These dollar pom pom balls from Target were a hit with both my one year old and three year old. They are so simple to use, mess free, and oh so versatile. This is also an amazing fine motor skill activity for both kiddos.
What you will need:
Tweezers (if your child is ready for them)
It’s pretty easy to get this sensory bin up and going. Dump all the pom poms you have into the container, put some cups inside, and you have a sensory bin. The more pom poms you have the better. You can also getting different size pom poms to add even more fun to this activity. Let your little one explore the bin.
Depending on your child’s ability, have them sort by color or just dump the pom poms from one container to another. For my oldest, I gave him some tweezers to make it just a little more challenging. He not only had to sort the poms by color, but also use his fine motor skills to transfer the poms from the container to the cups.
Each of them had a blast playing with the pom poms and this will definitely be a sensory activity we come back to! It took my oldest 10 minutes to sort his pom poms. Ten minutes of concentration, hard work, and silence. I sat there is awe watching him maneuver the tweezers and pom poms. He had so much fun and worked so hard. He was so proud of himself and I was proud of him too!
We are only a couple of weeks away from the start of school. Hard to believe! Before we know it we will be hitting up the weekend fall festivals, watching football, and carving pumpkins. That sounds pretty good right about now since the forecasted heat index is 107 degrees. But back to school seems bittersweet.
Summer is so alluring. I think we always hold a childhood view of summer, as we should. Long days, less rules, salty hair, endless sunshine. For me, I imagine playing flashlight tag in my front yard, listening to crickets as I look out for fireflies along the tree line, and feeling the salt, sand, and sunscreen dry on my skin in the sun. That feels like summer. So even though I can’t stand the thought of this heat (thus me being inside typing on my laptop), I will miss summer. I will miss what summer means. I’ll miss my girlls’ sweaty blonde curls, sitting outside with popsicles guilt-free, watching them run after seagulls in the sand. So let’s make the best of the last days of summer. Let’s make a bucket list.
Here are some fun summery things that anyone can do, no matter where you live!
Go Out for Icecream
As I mentioned, popsicles are a summer staple for us, but nothing feels more nostalgic than going out for an ice-cream cone after dinner and sitting outside trying to eat it before it melts away. Take your kids out and let them pick from the menu, then snack away while watching the sunset. Or, enjoy the atmosphere of an ice-cream shop if it’s a million degrees out. It still beats sitting around at home counting down until bedtime!
Build an Epic Sandcastle
No beach needed (although it’s preferred), just a sandbox or a visit to the playground will do. We often play in the sand on the volleyball court at our local park! Make a real sand castle and have your kids scavenge to decorate it: shells, sticks, leafs, even making toothpick flags for it at home. Snap a few photos to remember it by, and try to make an even bigger one next summer! For fairly cheap, you can buy or make a sand table and let the fun stretch into the fall.
Go for a Sunset Walk
When sunset is after 8pm, it’s pretty exciting to be able to stay up as a kid and do something, anything, when you’d usually be in bed. It’s been awhile, but I remember that feeling vividly. It makes whatever you are doing more exciting. Grab a couple flashlights and take a walk at sunset. Enjoy chatting with the family, screen-free, and talk about the sky’s colors and other things you see. Then whip out the flashlights and walk back under the moonlight. What kid doesn’t love flashlights? They’ll have a blast and be tired enough for bed!
What’s better than watching kids run and shriek with glee in the backyard? Not much. My daughter asks to do this every other day or so. Sometimes we see fireflies outside, and sometimes we don’t. But the thought of catching these little glowing bugs to serve as her nightlight makes her so happy. Definitely a great summer to-do item. If you can’t find fireflies, make some out of construction paper and have your kids look for them in the backyard with a flashlight for a little bug scavenger hunt. They’ll still have a blast!
Watch a Movie Outside
Set up a picnic blanket in the shade (or a tent if you’re feeling adventurous) and watch a family film outside. Add pizza or popcorn if you dare! Whether you use a projector, an iPad, or your phone, it’s different enough to peak your child’s interest. Plus, you could probably take a book outside and squeeze some “mom time” in! Win-win.
Visit a pool or splash pad while you can, because many of them close Labor Day weekend leaving both kids and parents a little sad! Especially when you live in a place where temps stay in the 80s through October (or November or December!) Pools can be elusive as most require memberships and guest passes are a thing of the past. See if there are any public pools (or pools where you can buy a day pass) in your area, or visit your local Parks & Rec page for your county to find public splash pads.
Last but not least, schedule a family day. You only get 18 summers with them. That means even though my oldest is 3, we are 1/6th of the way through her summers with us. SAD! We try to travel and go camping and spend as much time together as possible, but time will still fly. Find a summer festival, pack a picnic, or plan a day trip everyone can make and soak up that summertime bliss. Then daydream of all the ways you can make summer magical again in 9 short months.
How do you soak up summer? What activities should we add to our bucket list? Share in the comments below!
My little guy loves to practice his scissor skills every chance he gets. So, I put together a box of different textures for him to cut until his little heart was content. In his fine motor box was a bunch of scrap pieces of paper I had found in our art closet and drew lines for him to try and follow.
What’s in the box?
Toilet paper rolls
We started out with Melissa and Doug scissors, but they were not getting the job done. So, we switched to a pair of little scissors. After the switch, he hit the road running. If you do decide to use “real” scissors monitor your little one, so they don’t accidently cut themselves or give themselves a new hair do.
He cut through each of the items in the box. Then decided he was going to make a race car, something that never crossed my mind. I love when one of my simple ideas becomes something so much more because of his imagination.
Construction of his race car was underway. He cut out the doors, wheels, and even wrapped the toilet paper roll in blue foam.
If your little one has yet to master cutting on the lines or how to hold scissors all of those things will come with time. Fun practice activities will definitely help build those skills. As you can see we are still working on those very skills. He was on the other hand concentrating hard on what he was doing and giving it his best.
Just look at the pride on his face over something he made. It’s safe to say he this activity is Gray approved and that little car has been with him all afternoon. I have a feeling it may become his version of Sporky. (You ToyStory fans will get what I’m saying.)
We would love to see how this activity turns out for your little ones. It’s amazing to see their little minds work and their imaginations take over.
There are few things more stressful than dragging kids to a place they don’t want to be, and having to wait there. The doctor’s office, DMV, oil changes, etc. We don’t always have a choice to go solo, and we can’t make the wait any shorter. Plus, we don’t want to be there either! Even during family outings we find ourselves with downtime in which we need to keep our kiddos busy, like waiting for food at a restaurant or waiting in line for a fair ride.
Here are some tried & true ways (aside from sugar & screen time) to fun up those un-fun environments for kids:
Old School Games
Our parents used to drag us everywhere, and didn’t have tiny TVs or gameboys to hand us. Have we forgotten so easily? Sometimes when we struggle for the answer with our littles we just need to look back. In this case, look back to what our parents and grandparents did.
One of my favorite things to do with my preschooler while we are waiting somewhere is play “I Spy.” We once had to wait 3 hours in Urgent Care and the silver lining was getting to learn more about how my child’s mind works. We played “I Spy” for about 2 hours. We took turns and started with colors and then moved on to shapes and patterns. Even, “I spy something clear” or “I spy something with a dog on it” and she had a blast! I had a few laughs too at how clever her finds were. If this is too advanced for your child, simply name colors an have them point out something red, blue, green, etc.
We also like to list out animals. Animals that have a tail, animals that “roar”, animals that have fur. This isn’t as popular as “I Spy” in my household, but it gets your kids thinking and comparing. For older kids, bring out the ABC’s and tie in whatever they are into. ABC animals- aardvark, beaver, cat….ABC automobiles- airplane, boat, car…and so on.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Have your kid copy your actions. They’ll think it’s hilarious and you can keep them in line. If you are somewhere very public like a pharmacy waiting room, stick with facial expressions and hand movements. If you are confined privately to say a doctor’s exam room, break out the dance moves!
Work of Art
I always carry a few crayons and some scrap paper in my purse, but even those limited materials can be challenging to break out. One of my new favorite things for waiting rooms and car rides is Melissa & Doug’s Color Blast or Magic Wow coloring books. One mess-free marker and a neat little book is all you need, and it keeps kids busier than handing them some blank paper and a few crayons.
I know, I know, stickers can be ridiculous, but hear me out. For toddlers and preschoolers, even up to elementary school-age kids, the right sticker book can be a game changer. Hop on Amazon and search “sticker activity book” and see which strikes your fancy! My oldest loves the Sticker Dolly Dressing collection.
You can also print out our own matching game. Search online for free printables or use characters from your kid’s favorite movie to make your own. Puzzle and maze print-outs work well too! I often grab extras of these at restaurants or the public library. Here’s a website I stumbled across that has some cute activity worksheets you can print for free.
Real Life “Where’s Waldo”
This is kind of like a version of “I Spy” with people, so if you are somewhere you can people-watch, this can be pretty fun. We once had our car inspected at a building with a lot of sidewalk traffic outside, so we looked out the window and saw what we could see. I would tell my daughter, “Find someone with glasses,” or “Find the orange cat.” It’s surprisingly fun for adults too!
Re-Imagine a Favorite Book
Waiting around makes for some great reading if you ask me, but if you have little kids with you who can’t read on their own, bring a favorite book or two of theirs. I like to pack two that are full of possibilities, aka have very busy illustrations. You can use a book in so many ways. Find things in the pictures, ask your child to point out all of the letters that are in their name, make up your own story, etc.
Classic Deck of Cards
My daughter doesn’t quite understand all of her numbers yet, but loves counting and matching. While trying to keep her busy one rainy afternoon on a family beach trip we realized the magic of Crazy Eights. Ever played? If not, look up the rules! It’s the perfect card game for preschoolers. All they have to do is match the cards (same number or suit) and they can basically play unassisted. (Jumbo cards make it extra fun.)
Bring a String
Okay, call me crazy, but my daughter can entertain herself with a string for ages. She “ties knots,” drags it around, puts things on it. It sounds nuts, but sometimes simple objects bring out the most in their imagination. I have this car dash gripper for placing things in your car so they won’t roll around and she asks to play with it all the time. She pretends it’s a camera, folds it up different ways, all kinds of things. So toss a shoestring in your purse the next time you think about it and break it out when you’re waiting somewhere and let me know if your kid keeps busy too!
We hope this helps ease those unwanted waiting times. If you have any genius ideas, please share them with is! It takes a village!