Monday, October 29, 2012

DIY - A texture board and a picturebook

A rainy day always requires some new activities for children who otherwise quickly get bored. My little girls have recently been sick, and they are still recovering, so it is really not wise for us to go singing in the rain and jumping on the muddy puddles as our favorite TV character does . I've noticed they were also bored with the picture books we already have (which reminds me I haven't been rotating toys for a while).

It is Sunday, meaning our great library, in which we could borrow a bunch of new picture books, is closed, so we decided to create our own picture books. We had pretty much fun making them, and later by reading what we have created.

We started with a piece of cardboard on which we pasted pieces of fabrics in different colors, shapes and textures - from soft and smooth to rough and hard. Here is the result, on the photo below. If you decide to do such a thing, I recommend tighter fabrics because the thin ones tend to be transparent and you can see the glue marks, which in the end does not look very nice, as you may notice on the photo.

A long, twisted piece of cardboard which a hamster-mom, (and that would be me :) usually has in stock, was used for the educational picture book shown on the photos below. We have pasted various shapes on one side, and animals and plants on the other, according to what we found in the "old rags bag".

I was going through an old piles of magazines, thinking of how I could use them and stumbled upon a story about the cute little fellows, from The Hundred Acre Wood. So, I've simply cut out the two pages with the story and pasted them inside of the old folder. My girls and I have even "designed the cover", specifically for this occasion.

 My girls really liked what we have created, so I barely caught the time to photograph our work, since they were playing with it the entire afternoon.  

P.S. Of course I had to share the fun on these great linky parties - click on the buttons below and see some other awesome bloggers' ideas! 

PIN MEmeA Marvelous Mess

Kid Lit Blog Hop

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Halloween - celebrate it or not?

As you may have noticed, I live in SE Europe, where Halloween is not a tradition. In the past decade there have been tries, mostly by night bars and event managers, to make it a tradition, which have faced a strong resistant of the Roman Catholic community (and the majority of people in this area are Roman Catholics). 

I decided to write this post, after reading a discussion on Facebook - the author of (in my opinion) a very high-quality blog, published the photo above and in this way made it very clear to her fans that she does not celebrate Halloween because it is in the contrary to the Christian traditions and therefore, does not want to publish materials related to the aforementioned day. The entire debate can be seen here. (it is not in English)



However, I think her blog is brilliant, it is definitely one of the better ones from the Croatian-speaking area. I often visit it, I intend to do it in the future as well- she is an experienced teacher who loves her job and selflessly shares free, printable worksheets and other educational materials.

The reason for this post is the author's explanation of the above photo (I have translated it for my English speaking readers): "Dear friends, the All Saints Day is coming soon, Christians (and many others) find it to be a very serious day with a deep message, and it has nothing to do with the Halloween. This site finds our religion, culture and tradition to be very important, and Halloween is in the contrary to it, so I kindly ask my fans not to send any materials associated with "Halloween," because I will not publish them! However,
I'll gladly publish any material related the All Saints and All Souls Day! "
 As I have written, I have nothing against the author of the blog, but what bothers me is the exclusivity and close-minded attitude, not only in Christian but also in other religions, the intolerance to the new, which for me are all incompatible with the spirit of our modern time.

I understood
the author's argument (you can see it in the comments on the above link) that "she is her own boss on her blog", so she is the only one who decides what (not) to publish - after all, the most of us  started writing a blog for similar reasons, without proofreaders, editors and censors. I am also aware of the cultural aspect, it is clear why any religion does not want to adopt new practices, since by assimilating the religion would be actually gone, but I still find that such a tough and close-minded attitude is incompatible with the spirit of today's global world.

I will not carve the pumpkin on 31st October, because I don't know how, nor will I in any special way  mark the day, since it has never been a tradition in my family, nor my country, but I definitely intend to talk to my children (who I am trying to raise in a spirit of tolerance towards others)  about All Hallow's Eve, as the ancient Celtic tradition that is today a tradition in the Anglo-Saxon world and unfortunately commercialized, as well as all other holidays throughout the world. And we even may do some worksheet related to the Halloween topic. 

Happy Halloween to all of you who are celebrating it!

P.S. If you wish, take some time and look at the awesome linky party I am participating in. 

I Heart Nap Time

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Organising drawers in a more efficient way

The best tricks are always the simplest. You see them and immediately think: how come I did not think of that?

When I was buying a dresser for the nursery it didn't even cross my mind that the drawers aren't very convenient way of organizing children's clothing. I always need the item on the bottom and then I make such a mess finding it, and I am back at the beginning with the clutter. And then I saw this and organised my drawers in that way.

So, I've reordered T-shirts, they were not folded in the classical way anymore - as a pile, but I folded them vertically, or in a line, one after another. A complicated description, I know. Here's a picture so that everything would be clear to you:

Works for the pants, as well. True, so far I tested it only on the children's clothes, but I believe you can do the same with the adults clothes.

I love it, now I finally match clothes fast, even during the rush hour (meaning while we are preparing for the kindergarten). To be honest, sometimes it is difficult to add new clothes (especially for a freak like me who has an obsessive need to put new things on the end, not the beginning), but the benefits of this organization type are still higher than the disadvantages, so now I fold my clothes only in this way.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Once upon a time, there were three little pigs...

My "big" girl really likes the story on the three little pigs, ever since she got that picture book for her second birthday . I was really impressed (yes, I'm boasting with my child, I know) when at the age of 2.5 years, she could babble on the adventures of  the three little pigs to anyone willing to listen (and made an effort to translate it, since she was just starting to talk). 

She is still into the story, even these days, so when I saw this post , I knew that it was something for us, a craft to try. Unfortunately, I could not stick pigs to toilet paper rolls, and a stapler was not a good idea because the little sister puts everything in her mouth. Then I stumbled upon this idea , and that was it, the decision was made, we'll play with the piglets!
First I've printed out the pigs , pasted them on a thin cardboard and then to the wooden sticks, the ones you get along with Chinese food (thanks to my maid of honour, who is very fond of decluttering and provides us with regular supplies).

Wooden house back
Wooden house front

The wooden house was made ​​as a combination of popsicles and already mentioned Chinese food sticks. I used a special glue for wood, which was the only glue that was able to withstand the challenges of everyday play.

Not having straw, we have used grass. Anyway, it looked like straw when it withered. You can't see it very well in this picture, but the various blocks were used as bricks.

Let the game begin!

P.S. I recommend it to be an outdoor activity, unless you do not mind grass / straw sticking out of the couch.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Colorful healthy snacks

When you serve food in a fun way, it is always easier to persuade children to eat something healthy, even the picky eaters.

Food served in this way can be a real piece of art, like these I pinned on Pinterest. But to be honest, most moms have no time for such things, and need simpler solutions.
Here's what I did - I cut fruit into smaller pieces and removed the seeds - in this case bananas, nectarines and grapes. If you want, you can peel the peaches / nectarines, but since this is the nutritient rich part, I didn't do it, but my girls are "big and grown up", as they say, so if you are preparing it for a younger child (under one year, or for a child who yet does not have a lot of teeth), it might be better to peel it.

Here's how it turned out: the preparation lasted longer  than it took the girls to make all the fruit disappear from the plate, as you can see the little fingers were pulling fast for these colorful and healthy snacks.

P.S. I was featured on this amazing linky party, go and have a look!

Sumo's Sweet Stuff

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cardboard boxes as a toy cupboard

We have had a little kitchen as my girl's favorite toy for some time now, and they have accumulated a remarkable collection of dishes. Therefore, our little kitchenette became too small to store it all, so when I saw this idea , I immediately knew what will be my next craft. I made my own, simpler version. I just took the boxes in which I get groceries delivered (I have already blogged about these boxes) I pasted them with some glue and washi tape. My first result looked like this:

It turned out great for storing dishes and other kitchen-related toys, but aesthetically, it was not appealing enough. When I used scraps of gift wrapping paper, it looked much better.


And here is the final result:

I strongly recommend stiffer cardboard, because the small hands like to hang on the shelves.

Except the background, can you notice some other difference between the first and the last picture? Little hands could not wait for mom to take all her photos, so they were constantly taking dishes off shelves :)      

P.S. I was featured on "My repurposed life", I recommend you to click and take a look on some awesome projects by dear blogging colleagues. 


Monday, October 15, 2012

How to make Merida-inspired card

I've already blogged about why I like a cartoon Merida the Brave Luckily, we are not the only ones,a  one little girl, on whose birthday we were invited, is also a big fan of this new Disney heroine.
It's a bit odd, but Merida related products are not available in our local stores.
Fortunately the Barbie Merida arrived last week by a special delivery from Graz, Austria ajust in time for this very special birthday.

To make her even more surprised with the gift, we have enclosed a handmade Merida card.

And here's a tutorial!

You'll need:
emerald green fabric (or paper, as long as it's in the right color)
crayons or markers for drawing a face (or some photos of Merida's face, if you are not skilled in drawing faces)
mesh bag (the one in which you buy fruits or vegetables)
glue (we used UHU Flex clean )
chalk (not on the picture, but useful for drawing the sketch of a dress before cutting) 

First draw / paste the face. Then cut the label from a red mesh bag and roll the hair into the desired shape (as larger, the better), and paste it on cardboard. Use some chalk to draw an outline of a dress on the fabric then cut it and paste on cardboard. If you are skilled with drawing, you can add arms, legs and a bow and arrow.
And that's it! This greeting card was created in less than 10 minutes!

The birthday girl knew immediately who it was, and therefore I can conclude that we done it well. :)


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Organizing and storing balls

This post will be an evidence we're not just pinning, but also doing some of the stuff we pin.
Recently, I was amazed by this great photo I've seen on Pinterest and Facebook.

I've uploaded it to my Facebook page, as a great organizing idea and a friend of mine commented: "Oh, this is an awesome idea,  I can't believe I've thrown away the identical cupboard, it would have been of a great use to me!" Luckily, it turned out her husband could not throw the cupboard, but decided to keep it in the basement. What a clever decision was that!

And here's how they did it:


I especially like these boxes in the bottom row, which are intended as a storage of small balls.

If you are interested in other cool organizational ideas see here .

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The International day of the girl child

Ever since I found out the (female) gender of my two children, I hear about how "it would be nice to have a little boy as well."

Truly the saddest part to me is the fact these comments come mainly from (older) female ladies.
Is it a sign that they were discriminated in life because of their gender, I can't tell, but those comments (in the 21st century!) are very inappropriate, and quite rude, I'd say.

I accidentally stumbled upon this post about how, for the first time this year (yes, the first time!) the world celebrates the Day of a girl child on October 11th, so I'm writing on this occasion.

I have been having numerous arguments with people around me regarding this issue (and I do live in urban area!) I even started a discussion on a local forum , in which I could see how many parents of girls also faced with such prejudices. Does it really matter, I ask you? Today, when there is no separate entrance to a school building (take a ride along Draskovic Street in Zagreb, Croatia, and you will see that anachronism on the building of a primary school). Luckily, that is left in the past.
Today, when it is a normal thing that women are highly educated, employed, drive all types of motor vehicles and even fly into space, does it really matter is it a boy or a girl?


But apparently there are individuals in whose minds the gender dimension is The thing. Just look at popular cartoons- at the beginning of Lion King 2, Timon and Pumba 2 faint when they hear that Simba had a daughter. In "Lady and the Tramp", Jim Dear jumps with delight when he finds they got a son. However, with their new cartoon, Merida the Brave, Disney definitely abandoned helpless-princesses and princes-who-rescue them philosophy.

To be clear, I'm not a feminist in a way that I have low opinion on men. I am just someone who is aware of the importance of both genders. And we should be here for each other.

Alive and healthy baby. That's only that matters.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Homemade musli

Lately I have noticed the low quality of store bought muesli - the producers tend to change the ingredients, by using the cheaper ones, and still increase their price. Unhappy with a situation like that, I decided to prepare some of my own. 

Ingredients I have used:
4 oz dried figs,
4 oz raisins
4 oz dried apricots
4 oz cashew nuts
4 oz oat flakes
4 oz hazelnuts (whole or chopped) 

Note: originally I have used 100 grams of each ingredient, since we use the metric system in Europe, but I have recalculated it for you. Here is a great calculator for doing so.  

Chop all the ingredients (by hand or in a food processor) and pour it into a jar in which you intend to keep them and stir it by spoon or after closing the lid shake the entire jar.

Of course you can change the ingredient rates, this is the one that suits me.

 And here's my result:

Of course there is a great variation of the ingredients you can use, depending on your taste, eating habits, or eventual allergies.

For example:
dried fruit - dried cranberries, prunes
nuts - walnuts, pistachio, unsalted peanuts
cereals- corn, millet, rice flakes, etc.

The possibilities are really numerous, it is just up to you to adjust them to your taste.

The ingredients mentioned above can be found in a local supermarket. You can also buy already prepared mixture of dried fruits or nuts, but in my opinion these fruits contain too much sugar.

Bon apetit!

my own labels

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How our backyard became Radiator Springs

I've promised you the photos from our Cars themed birthday party, so here they are. 

There were lots of misunderstandings with the invitations, since our little guests, mostly girls, not familiar with the Cars cartoon, massively called the day before, wondering where in Earth could a place called Radiator Springs be, they couldn't find it on GPRS :)) )))).

And here's how our backyard became similar to Radiator Springs. In one of the previous posts I wrote where I found the inspiration, and here's how I did it. I assure you everything was really easy and did not require a lot of effort or time.

I am very happy how the sign below turned out - it looks shabby, but  anyone who has seen the cartoon knows that's exactly the point. I made it by laying an old sheet on some non smooth concrete blocks and that's how the letters got this shabby look. I used edible paint (by mixing some yoghurt and food coloring), since my little girls were helping me and it was very important to me to be careful with the type of paint I use.

Welcome to Radiator Springs (originally written in Croatian)

 Besides decorative cushions, we also used these T-shirts as another, cute party decoration.
Cars T-shirts as wall decorations

The big hit was the Ramone's tattoo salon, even some adult guests wanted to get a water tattoo.

Ramone inviting the guests to his tattoo salon

Cars tattos

But the very best of all was this magnificent Lightning McQueen cake, made by our neighbour (the best neighbour in the world!). Although she claimed that it was "Lightning's evil twin brother who failed to get a role in the film," the guests were all amazed, especially the birthday girl, a great fan of his (even greater than Mia and Tia).

The Lightning McQueen cake

Painting with bubbles, originally meant to be done in this way didn't exactly turn out very well - one little boy, to his Mum's great "delight" painted his hair with it. Here I found a bunch of great ideas related to balloons and bubbles, I strongly recommend you to see it, it is really great.

Also, for the pool with the diameter of 150cm (approximately 59.1 in), I recommend you to use more than 100 balls, as I did. It just wasn't enough, because only a third of the pool was filled with the balls, the rest was empty. Luckily, the kids didn't mind and all the toddlers really enjoyed throwing the balls in and out, over and over again. As I guessed, all the moms were delighted with the fact it was filled with balls, rather than water.

I offered guests to choose their own favor among magnets, notes, pencils, erasers, and similar little things containing our favorite character. 

At the end of the day, my little birthday girl concluded that she had a "very exciting day, " and that was the most important thing to me.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

How to entertain toddlers for a while

Do you have a feeling all the interesting toys have a 3+ label? Or that kids actually do not play with real toys? I believe you are familiar with the scenario in which all the toys you posses are lying everywhere on the floor, there are tons of them, but your toddler just wants to sit in your lap and you have three chores waiting for you to do them, or an important phone call to make.

It is very interesting how toddler can be occupied with an empty egg box rather than the entire Laugh&Learn collection. In a situation like that, homemade toys are a sanity saver for me. They are simple, do not need much of your time, expensive materials, and can be made out of stuff you already have at home. I consider them to have a double use - kids and I have fun while preparing them, and they save me when I need some free time, to write a blog post, for example.

Bottle caps as an activity for kids of all ages

PET bottles' caps are a great resource for this kind of toys. The larger ones, of course, since the smaller can still be dangerous for toddlers. All you need are two bowls and lots of bottle caps and here you have half an hour of free time, and maybe even more, depending on how creative you can be.

The older kids can use bottle caps as a real educative material. Look what I have pinned about that. We haven't tried them yet, but really intend to.

I was really amazed seeing my 18months old putting the green ones in one bowl, and the blue ones in the other. It was something her older sister did a minute before, and there she was, imitating her big sister and amazing her mom.

 Fabric scraps in a tissue box

Fabric scraps in a tissue box can also be a toddler occupying activity. You can decorate the tissue box how ever you like it. I used some stickers, but as you can see from our photos, one of them has soon disappeared, since my little girl finds the unsticking of stickers very amusing as well.

Need more ideas on toddler friendly activities and games? Look here.

Birthday party theme: the Lightning McQueen and the others from Radiator Springs

I am preparing my daughter's third birthday (yes, daughter's!) She is a great fan of the Cars cartoon, so it was not very difficult to choose the party theme.

My good friend Google :) gave me lots of ideas how to turn our backyard into a small version of Radiator Springs.  

I like the following ideas since they do not require a lot of effort, time or money. If you are preparing a similar party I believe you will find these links very useful:

Activities for kids  

Coloring pages
Coloring pages no.

I have been thinking of doing this culinary creation as well, but unfortunately the local shops don't have marshmallows.

"The best neighbor in the world" will bring us the Lightning McQueen cake done by this recipe . If I manage to find enough time, I'll make cardboard cars, made ​​in this way . I'm counting on the help from one preschool teacher;), hopefully she won't mind doing some overtime work.  :) There is a simpler version available as well.

Since I expect that some of our little guests do not share our enthusiasm and joy with cars, I am also preparing some car-free activities:  

Huge bubbles 
Boats out of Styrofoam 

Pool with balls 

I also had an idea to fill the pool with water, but as I am not sure whether all the mothers will accept it well, I decided to go with a safer version and fill it with colorful small balls. I am aware the balls will end up lying everywhere around the garden, but the main point is that children have fun, isn't it?

How did it go? I'll let you know after the celebration. ;) With a bunch of photos, of course. (EDIT: see here)

P.S. Since we do not celebrate the birthday on the exact date, and in order for the special date not to pass unnoticed, I will be preparing a special birthday breakfast .

P.P.S see here for more photos and descriptions how it all turned out

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Use boxes and have an organized home

Every pregnant woman swears she will not overwhelm her home with kid's stuff, but that quickly changes when the baby comes. I remember one of the first times when the patronage nurse visited us, she looked at our living room and joked saying: " A full house of the baby! " and it was really true. The room was full of diapers, cosmetics, spare clothes, strollers have been pushed to the side, a car seat stood  under the table .... Of course, after a while you learn to organize and just when you do that, your baby outgrows what you have managed to organize.

The boxes are the key of successful organization

So I realized I should find a system that will generally apply to babies and children of all ages. After a long time, and a lot of trying, I realized that the most effective system is the one that includes boxes, preferably those that can be carried with one hand (because your baby is in the other ;)) so you can easily carry things (for example, the outdoor toys). Supermarkets and shops like a Dollar Tree offer a large selection of boxes in various sizes and with various purposes, so it's not hard to find something that would suit you best. If you're like me, and you like to recycle, use something that you already have - like a box of diapers. Personally, I mostly use the boxes in which I have my groceries delivered (ordering groceries online is a great time saving for any mom, but I'll  blog about it some other time), because they have holes on both sides and therefore are easily transmitted. If you are uncomfortable with the logo on such boxes, you can wrap it in some gift-wrapping paper (a good idea how to recycle those scraps and wrapping leftovers which you are too sentimental to waste), but I'm not doing it though because I know my kids would tear it fast, so that would be of no use to me.

They are also very useful because they don't have a lid, so in this way a child sees what's in the box, and this makes decluttering easy since you can just pop in things. Of course, the system is most effective when the child cooperates in this chore, but it depends on the child's age, so you can hope to it, some time around the third birthday.

Labels on boxes

In order to make cleaning easy for a child, the labels on the boxes are a great help, especially those with pictures, because then you can use them even with the preschoolers, who still can't read. The tags from this link have been a great help to me.

Toy boxes labels

These labels are sufficiently large and contain a large number of different toys, for the both, girls and boys, so I'm sure that everyone can use them. Of course, I am sure you do not own each type of these toys in sufficient quantity so they would need a box of their own. For example, we keep dolls and Barbies in a single box, common for this two type of toys. Cars, trains and trucks are also in one common box, which means a total of two, not five separate boxes. However, it is better to take pictures of a child's own toys, those which truly are in the boxes, so that a child, especially a younger one, could associatively link a toy and the box itself.

Boxes as a way of cleaning up .... everything!

Of course, the boxes are excellent for organizing the other things in the household, as well. My dear friends lent me some photos of their homes. Isn't it wonderful to open the drawer and immediately know exactly where each thing is? Without tangled necklaces and mismatched earrings! On the photo below you can see a great organizing solution from a friend of mine, which includes a recycled candy box for tiny pieces of jewellery.

The boxes are a great thing for the shoe storage as well. It is best if you keep them in the original box, but it is also good to write which shoes are in it. You'll save time that would otherwise be spent on finding them and cleaning the mess you made while searching. ;)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall creations

With this ongoing chestnut season, it is easy to be creative. They are not just extremely delicious, but can also be a great crafting material.  Just add toothpicks, and look what even a 3 year old can make:

Besides toothpicks, you can  also play with leaves, beads and similar materials, the possibilities are truly endless. 

Intersted in what I have pinned containing fall crafts? Look here! 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Herbarium or crafts you can make out of falling leaves

Remember those biology projects involving pressing leaves? Such a project is not necessarily just a homework, it can also be an interesting activity for kids, especially in these early fall days, with October knocking on the door and giving us plenty of material for making leaves' crafts.

It is very simple to make it - collect various leaves, in many colors and shapes, wrap it in paper (newspaper is not exactly the best option because the ink can be transferred onto the leaves) and put it under some heavy books, such as an encyclopedia and leave it to stand like that for at least a week. Children will happily await for the final result. Leaves pressed in this way are suitable for pasting into a notebook, or you can even frame it and get a fantastic fall decoration.

Look at what I have pinned, which other beautiful creations you can make out of fall leaves .
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