As I plan our first road trip of many, my wheels begin to turn on quiet time activities. Finding quiet activities to keep those little minds busy during long car rides is key. To make sure that boredom doesn’t turn into meltdowns, it’s best to make sure your kiddos have something to focus on. A Look & Find bottle is a great quiet toy that will keep them busy for a long stretch of time.
Onto the part you are really interested in, the how to:
First, you’ll want to find a few fun little knick knacks from around the house. Check in those junk drawers, we all have one or two, the playroom, and those hidden spots like under the couch. Once you have your items, create a checklist of everything your kiddo is going to search for. This will come in handy later on.
Next, find a little helper. Creating the Look & Find bottle is almost as fun as playing with it once it is done. Have your little one fill the bottle about half way up with rice, eyeballing is perfectly okay! You can use a funnel or a cup with a spout, whichever is easiest for your kiddo.
Add a few of your knick knacks, and then add another layer of rice, enough to cover them. Repeat this step until all of the knickknacks are used and the bottle is full. When the bottle is completely full, screw the lid on tight. To make sure the top doesn’t come off, you can add hot glue to the inside of the lid or tape around the outside.
Now, since my three year old can’t read yet, I keep the list for myself. The list allows me to ask them to search for different items and to check them off as they are found. If your child is able to read, tape the list to the outside of the bottle and have them find each item.
Just like that you have created your very own Look & Find bottle.
We would love to hear about your quiet time activities.
Last summer, my husband got a wild hair about getting a camper. With him being an avid tent camper and huge fan of roughing it, and me not, I got on board pretty quickly. This would be like glamping! We decided a used pop-up camper was the way to go, just in case it wasn’t for us we could re-sell and not be out a huge investment. My husband searched daily and found one pretty quickly. Living the military life and having two little kids (and two dogs) doesn’t make it easy to travel, so our goal with the camper was to take little adventures and make the most of our time together, while traveling affordably. We brought it home, cleaned it out, and took inventory of everything we had and what we might need. We actually lucked out and got a lot of freebies thrown in with our camper, so we decided to be ambitious and take a trip right away!
Between last summer and now, we have learned a lot. I’ll admit, there have been days where I wonder WHY in the world we thought this was a good idea and I swear we aren’t taking another trip ANYTIME soon. But then, much more often, there are days where I just feel bliss, and soak up all the memories I possibly can, watching my kids experience things and creating ways to play that they never would have at home. Last week I rocked my youngest to sleep in a hammock under the last light of day, listening to crickets and birds, in the middle of a National Forest. Just take a second to appreciate how cool that sounds! We’ve seen lighthouses, mountains, and waterfalls all just in the past 9 months. Every single time we pack up, I am so so so thankful we took the trip, no matter what tiny struggles we may have had. So, if you are thinking of camping, in a tent or camper (we have done both with two babies!), here are my words of wisdom:
Start somewhere close. When we planned our first trip in the camper, we went an hour away from home. We tried to anticipate all the things that could go wrong and decided that worst case scenario, we could drive home at any hour of the day. We also chose to go to a KOA, which as new “campers” we learned stands for Kampgrounds of America. What is great about these is the amenities, and their consistency. Almost every KOA has the same amenities and they are AMAZING for kids. Bathrooms, showers, pools, little convenience stores, dog parks, and rentals, among other things. Since we were worried about keeping little ones entertained, a KOA sounded like a great first trip! We also watched several videos on YouTube to make sure we had everything our camper might need, like proper electrical hookups for example. When we planned our first tent camping trip, my oldest was 15 months old and I was 3 months pregnant, so we also decided a local-ish trip was the way to go and picked a National Forest campground near my parent’s house. Having home close by is a good safety net and stress reliever in my opinion!
Toss expectations out the window. Coming on strong with #2 on the list, I know, but let’s just get it out of the way. Parts of this are going to be challenging. While camping with kids, at some point you will STRUGGLE. When campgrounds are by a river or covered in huge boulders and you can see that spark in their tiny toddler eyes, your brain may short-circuit for a minute while you wrap your mind around how to keep your child from seriously injuring themselves. That’s okay. Just agree up front that you are going to be as “go with the flow” as possible. This is new, and new things come with a learning curve. Our first trip, we forgot coffee. This was DETREMENTAL! The second trip we remembered coffee but forgot cream and sugar. Better, but not ideal. We had a coffee curse! But now, just having completed our last trip this past week over spring break, packing and grocery shopping came relatively quick and easy. You WILL get the hang of it, it WILL be worth it, and your kids WILL have fun (and you will too.) Don’t stress over if they are eating enough fruit or if they get unbelievably dirty, or if you forget to pack a couple things. Treat it like the vacation that it is and try to make the best of what you’ve got! One thing that helps calm my nerves when going new places is to research the campgrounds and look for photos online of what to expect. I do this by using good ol’ Google and also by searching hashtags on Instagram, either of the campground name or park name. That way I can set expectations accordingly.
Pack familiar things. Nearly everything you are about to do is going to be different. One saving grace for me was bringing a travel high chair. When my youngest daughter was 9 months old, we went to the Outer Banks. She couldn’t walk, but MAN could she crawl. And if you haven’t been inside a pop-up, crawling is a little worrisome! So being able to strap her in her seat for snacks and meals, even to play with toys while we cooked dinner, was a lifesaver. Also be sure to pack favorite stuffed animals, blankets, or whatever comfort items you would usually pack for your kiddos, because camping does bring along unfamiliar places and noises! I suggest pack-n-plays or dock-a-tots for little ones so that they can nap/play easy. Monkey Mats also come in very handy for being able to play anywhere.
Bring along layers. Packing clothing for you and your kids is a little tough, because while you want to pack light for a tight space like a tent or camper, you also want to have enough clothing. When we went camping in the mountains this past October it was our first time “dry-camping.” That means that while our camper has hookups for electricity and water, we camped on a campground without. That also means no heat or AC. The first day we were in t-shirts and long pants, loving the fall weather. The last night, we experienced 60+ MPH gusts which shook our entire soft top camper, I was convinced a huge tree was going to crush us, and the wind chill was in the teens. Sleeping under lantern light and no heat with a 2 year old and 10 month old. Insane right?! But we made it and we agree it was our best trip ever. It’s funny how challenging or uncomfortable things sometimes form the fondest memories. Make sure to pack layers, rain jackets, etc for any possible weather. And a FEW duplicate clothing items, because kids.
Keep toys simple. Time to go back to basics! Staple toys for us, no matter the destination, include a bucket and a shovel. I also have recently started including a little Tupperware container for temporary critter observation (lol). For my youngest, I like to throw in a few toys from home that keep her entertained: something to read, something that makes noise, something to chew on, and something to stack/build. At the age they are now (3 and 16 months), I include play-doh and crayons/paper for some crafting, and the iPad in case the weather is bad and we need to watch a movie until the rain passes. The iPad also doubles as a sound machine for daytime naps! When selecting what to pack to keep kiddos entertained, try to find the balance between pushing them to be creative and explore their surroundings, and you staying sane. Remember why you want to take them camping in the first place and try to be creative yourself, and make the most of your time in the wild as a family. Play can be ANYTHING.
Push yourself. Also during that aforementioned mountain trip, we arrived to our campsite at 1:30am, set up in the dark, and went to sleep around 3am. We then woke up at 5am to make a 30 minute drive and see the sunrise on Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi. Hiking up that short trail to the summit with nature completely silent around us and being alone on top of a mountain watching a new day?! Oh man. We ALL did it with smiles on our faces and it was a breathtaking experience. I’ll never forget. Camping is adventure, so make sure you bring your adventurous side. See the sights, eat the food, make the drive. We hiked to see a lighthouse and sweated through our clothes. We tent camped by a river and were eaten alive by bugs. We snuggled in one bed as freezing wind shook our surroundings. These are the stories we write together, as a family. The good laughs and fond memories come from experiences that stand apart from all the rest.
Some of our must-take prodcuts: Cutter All Family wipes are amazing, and probably worked the best for us! We snagged these Para’kito wrist bands and clip for the babies from Walmart. They are baby safe (all natural ingredients/essential oils) and work well as a back-up, but wouldn’t recommend them being your only insect repellent. We also use Thermacell repellants and citronella candles around the campsite if it’s really bad. Coppertone Water Babies works best for us, we love the whipped sunscreen, but Babyganics makes great products too.
My packing list for the kids: -sunscreen -bug control -thermometer & baby tylenol, along with first aid kid -hats -For warmer months: light jacket or rain jacket, for colder months: layered clothing up to a heavy jacket -basic toys -iPad (sound machine or a bad weather day) -diapers, wipes, potty -plastic grocery bags for dirty diapers, wet clothes, etc. -towels & baby shampoo -kid-safe antibacterial hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes -pillows & stuffed animal -bedtime story -baby carrier (I bring my Tula and my WildBird sling) -bathing suit, water shoes, and foldable pool for warmer months -Monkey Mat
Remember, camping doesn’t have to be roughing it. One of the reasons we got a camper was to ultimately save cost on vacations. Many theme parks, national landmarks, and other attractions have designated camping areas (even Disney!) where you can stay and sight-see. We haven’t been able to do this yet, but it’s on our bucket list. Since getting our camper, we have slowly added upgrades to make traveling further more attainable, such as a composting toilet, outdoor canopy, and gated fence for our dogs (and kids, lol). We love dreaming up all the places we will go!
Now, start planning your adventure! Feel free to comment if you want to know anymore about our camp life!
This easy Earth Day craft is the perfect activity for kids of any age. All you will need is a coffee filter, green and blue washable markers, and a spray bottle filled with water. You don’t have to just create the Earth, let your imagination go wild and use a variety of different colors.
What you will need:
Washable markers (blue and green)
A spray bottle
A baking sheet (optional)
1. Color the coffee filter with the blue and green marker. As we picked out the markers, we talked about how the Earth is made up of land and water. I let him color all over the coffee filter, no neat lines or structure. He used his imagination to create his own “land” forms and oceans.
2. For this step, we went outside to decrease the mess! We sprayed the coffee filter with water, on top of a baking sheet to keep the dirt off. If you do not have a baking sheet handy, that’s alright, the ground works just as well! We sprayed the coffee filter until the colors began to spread and combine.
3. Last, but not least, lay the coffee filter out to dry!
And just like that, your kiddo has created their own version of the planet Earth!
We hope you enjoy and would love to see your Earth Coffee Filter creations!
When you become pregnant with your first child, you will swear your child will eat whatever you eat. You will never make a meal just for them. Your child will eat whatever is put in front of them. You swear that your child will love vegetables.
Everything is going exactly as you predicted, so far so good, then your child turns one. They get their first bite of cake and just like that your plan of healthy toddler meals goes out the window and all the delicious food you cook ends up on the floor for the dog.
Girl (and guy), I can completely relate. In fact, I am going through this very stage right now, times two! So here are a few tips and tricks that I am currently trying with both of my children. These have helped make meal time a bit less stressful, and the kiddos are slowly starting to come around. I call that a win-win!
Stay Consistent with Offering Healthy Foods!
Finding healthy meals that your toddlers will actually eat is hard work. It’s even harder to make meal after meal just to watch it be spat out. This can be frustrating, but take comfort knowing that consistently offering healthy foods can have a positive effect on their eating habits as your little(s) grow older.
Has your little one ever refused a certain food and then all the sudden they can’t get enough of it? Well, that’s because as your baby grows and develops, their taste buds change as well. So, keep offering a variety of healthy food to your little ones and eventually they will come around!
Hide Those Veggies!
Does your kiddo like smoothies? Smoothies are one of the easiest ways to include veggies into your child’s diet. Add some kale, carrots, or even beets! The sweetness of the fruit and yogurt will mask those veggies. There are a ton of easy and tasty recipes out there to try, or just make up your own. I also like to hide veggies in pasta sauce. My children love spaghetti and never notice when I add some zucchini, carrots, or cauliflower into our sauce.
Make Their Food Fun!
Who doesn’t like a plate of pretty food? Let’s be honest when we go out to eat and are handed a gorgeous plate, we are even more excited to chow down, after taking a picture, of course. So, why not create a fun and playful display of their food for your kiddos? It is worth the extra time it takes just to see how excited they get! The few bites they take may be icing on the cake, because let’s face it, a few bites are better than no bites at all!
One super fun and simple idea is turning apple slices into animals by using peanut butter and raisins. You are only limited by your imagination, create dinosaurs, butterflies, or whatever animal you kiddo enjoys. You can also make different bugs out of veggies! Get creative, do a little Pinterest search and even include your child in the decision and creation!
Change the Shape.
The texture of different foods can be a huge turn off to kids. Sometimes, something as simple as cutting the food up in a different way can make all the difference. Try cutting veggies into smaller pieces, shapes, or strips. My son loves carrots, but only if I cut them into strips julienne style (he’s a diva, I know) or buy baby carrots. Why? I have no clue, but if all I have to do is cut them differently to entice him to eat them, I am all in! Watermelon was the same way. When I cut them into cubes, neither child would touch it. But let them eat it directly off the rind and the watermelon was gone in minutes.
Always Have Something They Like on the Table.
I always have at least one thing on the table that I know my children will eat. That way I don’t have to worry about them being hungry five minutes after they leave the table. I let them know that they can choose what you would like to eat on your plate. I do not expect them to eat everything, but when it happens it is a pleasant surprise!
Having a food they enjoy, reduces the stress of both parent and child. When your child is relaxed, it is also more likely that they will try something new. Just imagine someone forcing you to try something you really weren’t too keen on. Do you think that would create a positive association with that specific food, or even with dinner? I think not. So, don’t force your child to finish everything on their plate. Encourage them to at least take a bite and praise them when they do. Creating positive associations between food and your child will help broaden their pallet.
I hope these tricks come in handy for you and your kiddos. If you have any other tips, comment below! We would love to hear how you get your kiddos to eat healthy!
We LOVE sensory bins, so we created one just for Easter!
Have you done an Easter Egg hunt yet this year? We have had a ton of Easter events around our town, so the kiddos are now professionals. Because of their new found skills, we brought the Easter egg hunt into our home with this fun Matching Easter Eggs sensory bin. Not only is the sensory bin a blast, but it is a great fine-motor skill activity.
What you will need:
Matching Egg Sheet (Below)
Bowl for Eggs
Clear Velcro Dots (optional)
Of course, the decorations for the sensory bin are totally optional. Make it your own and feel free to use whatever you have on hand. You can also get your kids involved in finding items to add the bin.
I created green rice by simply putting rice in a galloon bag, squeezing in some green dye, and shaking it all about. This is also a fun activity for your toddler to help you with. If you don’t have rice or green dye, you can also you the green crinkle grass.
You don’t need those exact items for the bin to be a success! Make it your own!
Print the Matching Egg Sheets below, and cut out the Easter Egg squares on page 1. Attach the clear side of a set of clear velcro dots to each of the Easter Eggs on the matching mat.
Once your sheets and bin is ready, “hide” the Easter Egg squares throughout the sensory bin and have your child find the matching pairs.
To add an additional fine motor activity, have your little one attach and pull off the velcor eggs.
I also added some plastic Easter Eggs for an additional matching activity. I gave him a spoon to scoop the eggs out! We even made simple patterns with the plastic eggs. Let them explore, create, and imagine all the possibilities within the sensory bin.
I hope you and your little own enjoy this activity!
I am what I would consider a “non-cleaner”. I was not born (or raised) with the skilled ability to clean. I didn’t grow up scrubbing baseboards. These were not the chores I had. In fact, I’m not even sure our first house had baseboards. My childhood home was not the tidiest, and neither was my mom’s childhood home. It must be in our genes. But I don’t really remember those details when recalling early memories. I had the BEST childhood. I grew up outside, spending my time getting as tan as my shins were bruised. I ran around barefoot, playing at the pool, on the playground, in the woods. I didn’t have daily or weekly chores that ever ran on a schedule. I cleaned my room as well as any kid would, which is to say not really doing much cleaning but instead finding ANYTHING else to do instead. When I got older my chores included putting dishes away, irregular vacuuming, and my favorite…dusting. OH dusting, how I hate thee. We had a lot of intricately carved antique furniture with decorative glass and figurines, and in my teenage mind, that was the worst thing I could be expected to do. Please, ask me to do anything else. After years and years, I am realizing I am just not a very skilled cleaner. What does that even mean? Is my house in a constant state of disarray? Does FEMA need to provide some disaster relief? NO. But it means that I missed out on a very useful education that some of you had, and I work a little harder and stress a little more over cleaning-related things that I am not good at or consistent with. My (mostly) Type B personality doesn’t mind if something gets skipped, and while I have failed to make myself run on schedule, I do love organization and clean spaces. I think I am a Type B person with a Type A brain. I am always enthralled when people have their cleaning routine down to a science while I feel like I am always cleaning but never done. If you can relate, read on, and maybe this post will help a little!
One of my newer goals for myself is to always have my house what I would consider “houseguest ready.” Not perfect, but put together enough to where I feel comfortable having someone drop in at any moment. This may sound really silly to some, but it has always been a source of anxiety to me! I want my home to be welcoming and organized for so many reasons, and sometimes life (and my habits) just get in the way. I mean first off, two kids and two white dogs. Hello. Occasional piles of laundry to be folded on the couch, boxes to go out to recycling by the front door, last night’s dishes on the counter, etc. It’s not really how I would prefer my house to be on any given day. So here are some changes I have adopted that have made a big difference in the nightly and morning routines, as well as my overall peace of mind:
Clean a little throughout the day. Again, if you are “a cleaner”, this is probably the most obvious statement ever. But for those non-cleaners, let me explain. I once came across and article about things all neat & tidy people have in common, and the biggest one was that they cleaned throughout the day. It said, “you can’t expect to be a slob all day and then find time to clean everything up at once.” I realized that I very frequently made poor, lazy choices under the premise if “I’ll get to it later” because the kids were pulling me in one direction or another at the moment. I mean slob seems harsh, but yeah, maybe I was being a slob! For example, putting my plate on the counter instead of in the sink or dishwasher. Wiping toddler faces and putting the paper towel on the table instead of immediately in the trash. Folding laundry and leaving it in clean stacks on the floor to put away later. All of those little things have to be dealt with at some point. Maybe the end of the day, or maybe you’ll leave it for “tomorrow.” Mmm hmm. Just forcing myself not be lazy in those aspects has helped my nightly routine straightening up SO MUCH. Doing those things consistently have changed my habits which I have had for YEARS and make life more simple.
Daily laundry and dishes. For whatever reason, I always had “laundry days.” I separated out all of the laundry for all 4 of us and did load after load, then folded it all, and put it away. This was intense. I don’t know why that made sense to me, but I found another pearl of wisdom among some other cleaning article I got lost in and it mentioned the importance of daily laundry. Instead of 5 huge loads one day a week, I bought some Shout Color Catcher and at the end of each day I wash everyone’s things together. Towels, toddler clothes, work out clothes, etc. The color catchers work wonderfully at keeping colors and whites bright and the laundry loads are small and manageable. Folding and putting them away is easy! Same with dishes. Dirty dishes go immediately in the dishwasher and are washed each night, so every morning we put dishes away and start all over. Making my husband and toddler do the same is…a work in progress…but even if they don’t, it’s less mess for mama. Here’s my kitchen on a normal day now:
Have a “goodbye” spot. This is a place in your house where things can go before they are put out to pasture. Have it be tucked away, but not totally inconvenient or totally out of site. Mine is in a certain part of our garage. Having a designated place for things to be stored until you have enough to run to Goodwill, host a yardsale, etc. is great for lessening your household junk. It lets you think about whether you are ready to part with it, and it’s out of sight so it doesn’t bug you, but not hidden so you forget about it. Plus, in somewhere like the garage I can just load up the car and drop everything off when I’m ready. Easy peasy. If you find it hard to Marie Kondo things, try this method first. It’s like Marie Kondo with a safety net.
Clear couches, comforters, & counters. CCC. One of my ultimate pet peeves is having things where I want to sit. My husband has this bad habit of emptying his pockets on the back of our couch, or spreading his things out on the couch beside him if he’s working on his laptop. If I come into a room with two couches and a chair and nowhere clear to sit down, I loose it. Keeping seating areas clear, as well as beds and tables, it a great goal to have. A clean kitchen counter is my happy place. This keeps your down time relaxing, and opens up space for starting new tasks.
Make it a game. Encouraging little kids to help is great on so many levels. Toddlers LOVE lifestyle play. That’s why Melissa & Doug toys are genius! Instead of getting something where they can only pretend to clean, let them help out a little! Wipe windows, unload the silverware from the dishwasher, sweep the kitchen. Lately my 3 year old LOVES folding laundry, and I taught her to fold shirts. She’s pretty good at it! Win-win! She’ll also take a mower ride whenever she can get it.
Phone a friend. There is no shame in not enjoying cleaning, or not being good at it. I know several moms who pay someone to clean weekly or deep clean monthly. If you can do that- go for it! But if you’d rather improve your cleaning skills and efficiency yourself, ask a friend what they do. I asked Kate this very thing, which led to the inspiration for this blog and the one to follow (so stay tuned!) Kate is a cleaner. She has a routine, which keeps her household running like clockwork. I asked her for her weekly schedule she sets for herself. Other friends have found genius Pinterest hacks which save time too, so don’t be afraid to ask how your friends clean!
Give yourself time. If you have a tendency to be messy, don’t expect to become a neat-freak overnight. You can’t change a lifetime of habits overnight. (And if you can, please write a blog!) Set achievable goals, take it one day at a time, and strive for consistency. Try to make each day better than the last. Slowly you will find yourself with less work to do each day, which means you can dive into another project or start organizing those drawers or closets you never find time to get to.
When Kate and I started this blog, one of our primary goals was to be honest, not shiny. We are not perfect and neither are our houses. Just like (almost) everyone else. So, I say all of that to say it is OKAY if your house is always always always a mess. It really is. Even the cleanest of people, I’m sure, wishes things were a little more clean and tidy. Just think, when your kids are grown and the opportunities to make memories with little people has come and gone, your house can be clean. I would rather my house be messy and my kids be happy. When I’m 90 years old and recalling my greatest memories, I can ASSURE YOU I will not be picturing my clean house. So find a balance between messy & clean, don’t stress over the opinions of people who don’t live there, and be happy.
Any quick cleaning tips or habits hat have made a difference for you? Please don’t keep them to yourself! Share below!
Here is a fun and tasty twist on Easter Eggs. Today we brought all four kiddos together to dye Easter eggs. We tried both the traditional kits and cool whip. The cool whip seemed to be a huge hit and less of a mess!
Hard boiled eggs
If you decide to use vinegar, it brightens the colors, soak the eggs for about 2 or 3 minutes. Do not forget your eggs in the vinegar.
Spread your cool whip all over your cooking tray, I lined ours with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Drop dots of food coloring all over the cool whip and use a spoon to gently swirl the food dye around. Do not over mix or you will end up with brown eggs. Roll the eggs around in the cool whip mixture and let them sit for about 10 minutes. Rinse and dry them off and they are done!
It was a fun way to dye eggs without the worry of the babies eating something they shouldn’t. The eggs turned out gorgeous as well.