Archive for January, 2012

Our new mudroom…

Our dining room has a closet which we have always called our “coat closet,”  but it has always really just been a mish-mash of all sorts of crud that we don’t know where to put anywhere else.  There were art supplies, a file cabinet, all of this stuff that used to be in our desk, when we had a desk, all sorts of bags and back packs, etc.  To say the least, it was stuffed to the gills and almost completely unusable.  Add to that the fact that we have no where to put coats easily and the girls’ coats are comepletely inaccessible to them when they are in there and it was clear to us that we needed to overhaul this closet.  My mom found the most brilliant idea in her copy of Better Homes and Gardens (which I unfortunately can’t seem to find to link here) to make a coat closet into a mud room.  Below is our version.

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We have about 10 hooks all along the wall which is plenty for all of us to hang everything we need on a daily basis. Below the bench we have three bins with boots, grocery shopping bags, and backpacks in them. The bench is plywood that has been painted and then I covered a foam pad with outdoor canvas fabric for the seat. You can’t see it, but on the right side we put a cute little green bug light from Ikea up to illuminate the whole place. There are wicker baskets on the shelf above the hooks (which you can’t see in this picture, labelled with our first initials, and that is where we store our hats, mittens, scarves, etc. Then, you also can’t see this, but there is another shelf above that that has bins of all of our office supplies and our files on it.

We love our new “mudroom!” Clara loves to play in it and call it her cottage. The bench frequently is covered with books that she is “reading” to her babies. So cute!

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More Busy Bags

Now that I’ve started coming up with ideas for busy bags, it seems that I can’t stop!  They are so easy to think of once you start thinking about what you could slip into a Ziplock and throw in your purse.  I posted my first batch of busy bags here, and since then I’ve come up with a few more ideas.

Weaving CD

I set up a little weaving CD (idea from this site) with all sorts of different yarn from my stash and a plastic yarn needle. I think that if Clara likes making one this may show up in our summer art this year.
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Sorting and Beading
This is just a little bag of beads, a piece of egg carton to sort colors, and some pipe cleaners.
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Playmobil People
This bag is just a few little Playmobil people from our growing collection and a little car for them to drive. I may add a few more accessories if they fit.
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Story Stones
The story stones that I made last fall are perfect of busy bags! I think they would be especially good for creating stories when waiting for food at a restaurant.
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Car Caddy
I don’t know if I ever posted about this, but I made a few of these last Christmas for my nephews and Clara and they are the perfect “busy bag” for kiddos who like matchbox cars.

Butterfly Valentines

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This year Clara helped me decide what kind of valentines she would make.  There was much talk about the possiblity of flower valentines, and I found some cute ideas, but in the end, on a day that Clara was sick, these were what we had the supplies to make, so butterflies it was!  I found this idea here.
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The hardest part of these was getting Clara to write her name on all twenty.  I think I only ended up having to write it for her on two.  That’s pretty successful since Clara really hates being forced to write (at least by me… she doesn’t seem to mind for her teachers)!
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Valentines are coming…

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Clara and I have been loving making these Heart Flakes that we found in a Family Fun booklet out of origami paper and also the inside of security envelopes. They got me thinking that Valentine’s day will be upon us soon!  Enjoy those as well as these Valentine’s blasts from the past!

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Busy Bag Swap

In December I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Modern Parents, Messy Kids, and found the best idea!  She proposed a busy bag swap– a group of moms who come together, each making a one set self-contained, portable activities that keeps kids engaged independently, and then switch so that each mom gets one of each activity to take home with her.  I put together a group of parents who wanted to do this and sent out an email with a few links to busy bag ideas (this one and this one were my favorites).

Then, a week ago, we got together, let the kids play, and set up a table with all of the busy bags on it.  When our kids were busy playing (and not getting in trouble), we all went to the table and made sure that we put one of each activity into our bag to take home.  Fun!  So, here is the bounty that I now have!  Thanks ladies for humoring me with this!
Button Snake
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Magnetic Pom Poms
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Color Shade Matching
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Contact Paper Collage Kit
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Robot Drawing Notebook
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Counting/ Math Cards
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Button Shape Matching
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Lacing Cards
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All of these activities are fantastic and Clara has been aching to use them all week. I’m trying to keep them out of reach for a while because I would like to take them with us when we fly to Maui in a couple of weeks. To round out our busy bag stash (and to give me more choices when I’m packing) I added a few bags that I made myself.
Tongue Depresser Puzzle
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Paint with Water Sheets
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Finger Puppets
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Giant Beading Set
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I will update if I come up with any other fantastic ideas before we leave on the airplane. Also, my brilliant sister, who isn’t flying anywhere right away, but did just wait for two hours with both her kids at a doctor’s office has decided that she may leave her box of busy bags in the car so she can grab one and go in just those situations.

Paint with water

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I’ve been a little bit obsessive lately about portable projects, games, and puzzles for the kids.  Things to take to places like restaurants and doctor’s appointments.  Things to keep them busy on airplanes flying to Maui.  So I have organized a busy bag swap  and I’ll let you know all about that later, but I found this fantastic idea well after I had already planned all of the busy bags that I made, so I get to share it separately.  I found this idea from Creative with Kids via Not Just Cute (a fabulous parenting blog).

These little watercolor sheets are super portable and just need a tiny bit of water to get them started.  I think that they would be fabulous for dinner out where you have to wait for your food.  I bought a ten sheet pack of watercolor paper for $2.99 and a set of water color paints in tubes for $12 with a 40% off coupon (so a little over $7).  I cut the paper into fourths so I’ll end up getting 40 little painting sheets and the paints are going to last a super long time, so I think this is a very good value.  I plan to make little sets of these with a paintbrush tied on for all of the upcoming birthdays this year.  I can’t think of any kids who wouldn’t like these.

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Anyway, after I cut the paper into fourths, I dabbed a little tiny dot of paint from six different colors onto the paper and let them dry.  When you’re ready to paint, all you have to do is add a tiny bit of water to each dot, and you have a little palate to paint with.  Clara loved it and made four paintings right off the bat.

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Button Cars

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Because of another project (coming soon), I had a surplus of assorted buttons around the house.  When I had an entire Saturday morning to kill and four kids and a Moo and Pa to amuse, I found this project.  It was so fun and easy!  I had everything we needed around the house:  clothespins, buttons, straws, twist ties, and a bit of masking tape.

First we found four same-size buttons.
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Next, we put the first button on a twist tie (in one hole, down through the other and twisted it to keep the button on tight). Then we put a piece of straw on (about and inch and a half). Then the next button and threaded the twist tie back through the other hole to keep the button on and twisted that one tight.
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We did that a second time with two more buttons, a straw piece, and a twist tie. Then we put one of these wheels and axles through the hole in the clothespin and the other up by the spring and secured that with a bit of tape around the clothespin.
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Finally, we got busy driving them…on the floor…
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Lying down…
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On the table…
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On a ramp…
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Flying through the air…
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And on Moo’s head!!
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