Monthly Archives: May 2017

Easy Ideas to Keep Your Kids Entertained All Summer

One of my favorite parts of being a teacher is having summers off. I love my job, but it’s really fun being home full time with Buddy. Now that summer is almost here, I’ve been thinking about all of the fun things we’re going to do together.

Last summer was my first summer home with Buddy (not counting my maternity leave). I was nervous about what I’d do to keep him entertained all day. After spending a long time looking, I eventually found plenty of ideas to keep both of us busy and having fun. I want to share my ideas to help out any other parents who need things to do this summer.

The best way to keep Buddy entertained is to get him out of the house. My favorite two resources are the park district and the library. The library has many fun classes and crafts available for free. Ours has story times by age level, and Buddy and I made some great friends in his reading group last summer. I also love being part of the summer reading program. Buddy had a great time earning prizes, and it was a great excuse to read a lot every day. This winter, Buddy won the grand prize in the reading program and he was so proud! Our library also has free reading and snack times once a month at the mall and Panera. We did a couple of those last summer, and they were so fun!

Buddy and his grand prize!

I also spend a lot of time looking through the park district summer catalog. Last summer, Buddy took a music class and gymnastics class through the park district. This year, we’re doing a music class, an art class, and a sports class. It’s really fun to have someone else plan activities for Buddy, and most of the classes are reasonably priced. Buddy loves the interaction with other kids his own age. He’s used to being around kids all day during the school year, and being at home with just me is a huge change for him. These classes helps with that transition. Our park district also hosts free kids concerts, summer movies, and group walks. Plus, the parks themselves are lots of fun too.

If you have older kids, there are great free or low cost classes for kids at Home Depot, Michaels, and JoAnn Fabrics. Unfortunately, Buddy is too little to take advantage of these for another few years. Barnes and Noble has free story times followed by a craft every Saturday. We also love playing with the Thomas train set when we visit Barnes and Noble.

Between the library and park district events, Buddy and I are busy and out of the house most mornings. But I still need something to keep Buddy busy during the afternoons. Last year I made a daily schedule for our summer. (Read more about it and get the free printable here.) Our days are Make Something Mondays, Time to Read Tuesdays, Water Wednesdays, Try Something New Thursdays, and Field Trip Fridays. Our classes are in the mornings, and in the afternoons we will do something related to themes. I might switch up our Thursdays and sometimes do a Throwback Thursday when we do something that we haven’t done in a long time. Once Buddy is a little older, I also like the idea of doing a Thoughtful Thursday where we do something nice for someone else.

One of our favorite Try Something New Thursdays – playing with cornstarch and water

Another possibility is doing themed weeks. When I worked at a day camp, we had a new theme every week. I loved coming up with crafts, stories, and games related to that week’s theme. My favorite week was holiday week, where we celebrated a different holiday every day. We made valentines, had an Easter Egg hunt, dressed up in costumes, and made graham cracker gingerbread house all in the same week. Other fun theme ideas are space, ocean, farm, circus, dinosaurs, water, and Olympics. Winder-Mom.com has a great list of themes and resources for doing themed weeks at home. I haven’t done any themed weeks with Buddy yet, but I might try it for a week or two this summer.

Some of the other things on our summer bucket list are:

  • Visit every park in town
  • Attend at least one baseball game
  • Go to a children’s museum
  • Play outside as much as possible
  • Go swimming often
  • Play in the sprinklers
  • Go to the zoo
  • Attend at least one outdoor concert
  • Have a picnic
  • Take nature walks
  • Go to a beach or lake (or both!)
  • Walk to the Dairy Queen and have ice cream as a family

Finally, it wouldn’t be summer break without taking at least one trip. Buddy and I will be taking a road trip later this week, and the whole family will be going to Baltimore in July. We also plan to take some short day/weekend road trip to see friends within a few hours of us. Hubby and I have always loved to travel, and summer is the perfect time for us to get in a few trips.

Hopefully some of my ideas will be helpful to you for kids of any age. I’d love to hear some suggestions for activities to do with Buddy this summer. Please leave a comment if you have a fun idea for us.

Ten Activities to Entertain a Sick Toddler

*Disclaimer – This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. If you choose to purchase an item from these links, I receive a small commission at no additional expense to you. Thanks for supporting my family.*

A few weeks ago, Buddy was sent home sick from school. Hubby stayed home with him on his first day off, and I was with him on his second day. By that time, Buddy was feeling much better, and he needed a lot of activities to keep him busy. He was still too sick to go out of the house, but he had enough energy to play. These are some of the things we did together.

  1. Read books – Buddy loves reading, and when he’s feeling a little sick, he has extra patience for sitting and reading. His favorite books are ones that have parts to move, like this  really cool version of “Wheels on the Bus”.
  2. Sing songs – Buddy is finally able to sing many of his favorite songs. He especially loves “Wheels on the Bus” and “Old MacDonald”, and we sing them all the time. We also love singing along to songs on the toddler song station on Pandora.
  3. Playdoh – Playdoh is so much fun for toddlers. We usually only pull it out on weekends when we have plenty of time at home. Buddy especially loves playing with his Thomas train playdoh set from his Thomas party and these Playdoh tools. 
  4. Play with forgotten toys – I rotate Buddy’s toys and books every month. It’s especially great for days like this where I need something “new” to distract Buddy. Buddy was excited about several of the rotated toys, but he was most excited about this Fisher Price firetruck
  5. Play with favorite toys – It’s nice when we have enough time for Buddy to play with all of his favorite toys. Right now, his favorite is his “choo choo tracks”. (We bought him a train set similar to this one for his birthday along with some Thomas trains.)  He played with these for a long time. 
  6. Box play – It’s amazing how entertaining an empty box is for kids. I gave Buddy the Thomas toss game box from his party and offered to play the toss game with him. He decided it would be more fun to put all of his trains and cars in the box and push them around. We’ve also had a lot of fun in the past coloring in a large cardboard box. (Read more about that here.) An empty box offers a lot of different entertainment options for toddlers. 
  7. Make music – Buddy has a lot of different musical instruments, and he enjoys making music with them. (We have the Horner Kid’s Band and the B. Parum Pum Pum Drum and love them both.) On this particular day, we spent some time playing our piano. We don’t do that often, so it was a lot of fun for Buddy. 
  8. Do a sort – Buddy is very interested in shapes and colors right now, so I decided to pull out my attribute links. We’ve played with these before (read about our shapes activity here and our colors activity here), but it’s been a long time. I asked Buddy what he wanted to sort first and he wanted to do a shape sort first. Then we mixed everything up again and sorted by color. Even if you don’t have attribute links, Pinterest is filled with many ideas for doing different types of sorts with shape and color.
  9. Stickers – Stickers are such an easy way to entertain a toddler. Buddy’s very into stickers right now. (We’ve even started carrying some in the diaper bag to keep him entertained when we go out to eat.) My favorite places to buy lots of cheap stickers is Party City and the dollar store. Buddy spent a lot of time putting lots of Thomas stickers on paper and making scenes of the characters. 
  10. Be artistic – Being stuck in the house is the perfect excuse for an art project. Right now, Buddy is really into his Water Wow book that he got for Easter. He can paint a picture with water, and it is really fun. We could have also drawn a picture with crayons, used his Color Wonder markers, or actually used paint. Since the Water Wow is new and easy, that’s what we did. Hopefully we are done with sick days for awhile. But I’d love to hear more ideas for sick day toddler activities if you have them.

Twelve Things I Love About Being a Mom

In honor of Mother’s Day, this week I want to reflect on my favorite things about being a mom. It’s hard work being a parent, and it’s not always fun. But the last two years that I’ve been Buddy’s mom have been my favorite years of my life. Here are a few reasons why.

  1. Unconditional love – The love I feel for Buddy is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I can’t imagine life without him.
  2. A stronger bond with my husband – I love watching Hubby and Buddy together. Hubby is a great dad, and that makes me love him even more. We also are a team who support each other as parents. Buddy brought us together as a family, and he has changed our relationship in wonderful ways.
  3. Reliving my childhood – It’s fun to be a kid. And as a parent, you get to relive a lot of the fun things again. Right now, we spend a lot of time drawing with sidewalk chalk and playing with bubbles. I didn’t do those things as a childless adult, but now I do them all the time.
  4. Lots of hugs and cuddles – We have a family hug almost every morning before Buddy and I leave the house. Buddy gives lots of hugs throughout the day. Sometimes we rock and cuddle before naps on the weekends.
  5. Being someone’s whole world – Buddy needs me. Even though there are times when I’d like a little more distance (Really? You’re going to cry because you’re playing with Daddy and I need to get something downstairs?), it’s flattering. A hug or a kiss from me can fix a boo-boo or help Buddy if he’s nervous. It’s amazing to be loved so much.
  6. Lots of music – I’ve always loved singing and music, but I never did it as much as I do now. Buddy’s on an “Old MacDonald” kick, and we sang it today going up and down the aisles of Walgreens.
  7. Reading kids books – I love reading, and it’s a lot of fun to share that love with Buddy. We sometimes reads old books from my childhood, but we also read lots of new, fun books as well.
  8. Being silly – It’s so much fun making Buddy laugh. Being a mom gives me an opportunity to be silly and playful.
  9. Making new friends – I have made a couple great new mom friends, which is so fun. Adults don’t often make new friends, and it’s exciting to have friends that I can socialize with while our kids play. If I wasn’t a mom, I wouldn’t have ever made these friendships.
  10. Creative activities – I love finding new fun activities for Buddy. We have so much fun together doing arts projects or sensory activities. I wouldn’t do nearly as many creative projects without Buddy as I do now.
  11. Spending more time with family – Hubby and I both have families that live out of state. Before we were parents, we saw our families once or twice a year. Now, we see them much more often. Buddy is a perfect excuse for us to visit or for them to visit us. I love our families, and it’s great seeing them more often.
  12. Seeing the world in a new way – There are so many things that I notice that I wouldn’t have before Buddy. He loves it when I point out trucks or construction equipment as we drive around. We spend time watching birds and people walking their dogs. There are so many exciting things in the world when you are two – it’s fun to find them.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my readers! And thanks for reading.

Move Like the Animals: A Gross Motor Skills Game

Buddy was a very late walker, and he works with a physical therapist once a week. As a result, I’m always looking for fun ways to build his gross motor skills at home. Last week, Buddy’s physical therapist mentioned that they had been imitating different animals in their session. I thought that sounded like an idea that would be fun to do at home as well.

Buddy received a set of Fisher-Price Little People Zoo Animals (affiliate link) for Easter. I thought they would be fun to incorporate into our animal movement game. To play the game, Buddy chose an animal from the tub. Then, we would try to move like that animal. Some of the animals were easier to think of movements for than others, but it was fun trying to make up movements for all of them.

When we first started, Buddy spent a lot of time looking through the animals and deciding which one to pick.

Once he picked an animal, we both got up and moved like it. For the zebra, we did high marching kicks. For the panda, we pretended to climb up bamboo. We swung around like a monkey, waddled like a penguin, hopped like a kangaroo, and snapped our arms like an alligator’s mouth. We crouched and crawled and roared for both the lion and the tiger. The seal was the weirdest one movement wise; we just waddled around and barked like a seal. Both of us had so much fun!

Marching like a zebra

Climbing bamboo like a panda

Moving like animals is so much fun!

After a little while, Buddy wanted to just play with the animals and the container, which was fine. He had a lot of fun just lining up all of the animals and then saying their names.

It was a really fun activity for both of us, and it was great for practicing some of his gross motor skills. We have played this game several times so far, and I’m sure we’ll play it again soon. If you have any other ideas for fun gross motor activities, please share in the comments.

Cooking with Kids: Easy Ham and Cheese Sliders

Buddy is very interested in trying to imitate others and being a “big kid”. As a result, I look for ways to include him in my daily routines around the house. I’ve already blogged about many of these chores in this blog post, but recently, I’m trying to include Buddy in the kitchen as well.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to try out this recipe for ham and cheese sliders. I realized that it would be easy for Buddy to help, so I let him.

I cut apart the Hawaiian rolls an put the bottom part in a glass dish. Buddy helped me put the ham and cheese on top of the rolls. Then, I put on the top part of the roll. I melted butter, and Buddy helped me brush it on the top of the Hawaiian rolls. Finally, we put the rolls in the oven at 350 degrees to bake for 20 minutes.

The ham and cheese sliders were delicious and took less than 10 minutes to put together. Buddy was so proud of himself for helping make dinner.

I’m hoping to find some other easy recipes to try with Buddy. If I find anything I’ll like, I’ll share it here. I’d love suggestions if you know of some good recipes for kids.