Christmas Treasure Box

Back in August in my post, Buried Treasure, I had made a little storage container of beans, and hidden pom poms.  She enjoyed that activity for a while, and then I recycled the beans over to her sensory table for our big Thanksgiving activity… but the idea is BACK… for Christmas!

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I was grocery shopping and on the dry goods aisle, I saw a bag of split peas, and there the idea was born. I grabbed that $0.88 bag, a $0.64 bag of rice, and I was done!  I already had at home the other items needed for this box.

Here’s what I used:
1 bag split peas
1 bag rice
Mint extract (b/c it’s what I had, you could use essential oil)
Vinegar
Red food coloring (it pretty much took the whole tiny squeeze bottle for it to not look pink, so be prepared)
A large Ziploc bag
Wax paper
A large Ziploc storage box
Treasure, a scoop, and a bowl

So to make the rice red, you’ll dump your bag of rice into your big Ziploc bag (I used a gallon storage bag), add 2 Tbsp vinegar, and then lots of red.  I think I ended up counting like 45 drops before I got it really red.  The gel food coloring supposedly works better – I haven’t tried it b/c I just always use what I have.  Thinking I’ll buy some next time.  Then, if you’d like, add a few drops of your Mint scent – you could use Essential Oils if you have them, or if you happen to have Mint extract on hand from cooking, that will work too – that’s what I used.  Shake it all up really good, and spread it out on wax paper to dry.  Once it’s really, really dry (give it several hours), you can combine the peas and the red rice in the storage box.  Then I had some little shatter proof ornaments ($1) and some cookie cutters I put in the box to be her “treasure.”  She has LOVED hiding the items under the peas and rice and then digging them out.  We even tried a candy cane ornament from the tree, as well as a bracelet.  The possibilities for treasure are endless!

The best part about this activity was it’s cost and how quickly it all came together once the rice was dry – on a day we had a ton of other stuff going on, no less!  And she loves it!  SCORE!

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Super Simple Christmas Ornaments

There seem to be a million and one Christmas ornament ideas floating around out there… So I’m sure I’m not the first person to want something SUPER SIMPLE that a 2 year old could pretty much do by herself… But I couldn’t find any ideas. So I came up with this myself.

We went to Michaels and bought ten clear plastic ornaments. (At $0.49 each!) And we bought fake snow and ribbon. And a new Christmas board book. The total of which was less than $20.

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I pulled the tops off the ornaments, and cut and tied the ribbons. Becca did the stuffing! It’s great for her fine motor skills- pushing the snow into the tiny opening. And it was tons of fun! You might want to mention to your child before starting that the “snow” will cling to their hands, and therefore to not touch their mouth, or your child could end up eating the snow and have a dramatic meltdown of tears. Just sayin… Live and learn.

But all in all, the project was really fun, she has one to give to each of her MOPS teachers, and the rest will go on our tree!! She loved playing in the snow and making “leaf piles” with it.

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The gift that keeps on giving!

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Back on August 4th, I told you about our Farmer’s Market sorting set (this one: Learning Resources Farmers Market Color Sorting Set– affiliate link, thank you!), and how much Becca enjoys it.  I talked about all the fabulous ways you could use the set for teaching math skills, etc.  It really is a fabulous set.

But today, I wanted to shine the spotlight on Mr. Grayson.  You see, he’s learning how to pick things up, and how to drop them, and how to put them in his mouth… and once again, I’m impressed with the versatility of this set!  Because it’s fabulous for him, at 5 1/2 months, just as much as it’s fabulous for his big sister at 2!

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I love that the fruits and veggies are bright colors and have a variety of textures, so he’s getting a great sensory experience while playing with them.  And I love that they are big enough to really work his motor skills as well as his hand-eye coordination – while being safe… he isn’t going to choke on any of these items.  Sister also loves to play WITH him – she will bring him the right color bucket and help him drop them in!  She is also great about picking up the ones he drops on the floor (because that happens a lot)!

The manufacturer recommends this product for 36 months- 6 years.  But I would definitely say that if you’re looking for a Christmas gift that’s gonna just keep on giving, this is it – for any age of baby, toddler, or preschooler.  Granted, he doesn’t have any teeth yet – and I don’t know what will happen once he does and tries to chew on these, but they feel firm enough that I doubt he’ll be able to really take a bite out of any of these items.  (We’ll watch him close, though, and I’d of course recommend you do the same if you have a little one who will be playing with them.)

So there you go – a gift perfect for the little kiddos in your life – because they will never stop learning, imagining, and loving this set!

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Kindle Fire HD for Kids – Product Review

Travel Tip Tuesday

This post contains affiliate links – thank you for your participation!
Pardon my screen shots – these are NOT formal photos from Amazon – they are my own pictures taken of the screen.

This week, as promised, I’m providing a product review of the kid’s version of the new Amazon Kindle Fire.  After having used it with Becca in the car a few times now, I’m really pleased to say that it’s a wonderful product – and definitely makes it on my list of “travel must haves” for kids!  Still a few kinks we need to personally work out… but here are my thoughts for you.

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Here’s the product we purchased: Fire HD 6 Kids Edition, 6″ HD Display, Wi-Fi, 8 GB, Blue Kid-Proof Case (available in blue, green, and pink)
Here’s the link to the screen protectors we purchased (they don’t come with the Kindle, and I feel like they are really necessary): Clear Screen Protector Kit (3-Pack) for Fire HD 6 (4th Generation)
And here’s the link to the kid headphones we purchased to go with it: HeadFoams Headphones for Kids, Purple  (available in blue, orange, and purple)  Note – she doesn’t like to wear any headphones on her head yet.  Still gotta work on practicing wearing them and getting them to fit exactly right before any long drives in the car… it drives me nuts to hear songs on her Kindle mixing with my songs on the radio… But we selected THESE headphones because of their durability and the fact that they are made for kids – they have a decibel setting that doesn’t allow them to be turned too loud for kid’s ears!!!

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What we like about the Kindle so far:

  • It’s relatively easy to figure out how to set it all up – you’ll just need your Amazon log-in and password, and your wifi log-in and password.
  • With Amazon FreeTime included, it’s super easy to search through thousands of books, apps, and videos that are free to download for your kiddos.
  • It’s easy to add Kindle books you already own to the Kindle, or to purchase titles that you want for your kids that aren’t included in FreeTime
  • FreeTime includes LOTS of nonfiction books, including some nonfiction easy readers that have fabulous pictures!
  • I love how easy it is for her to use and flip between apps and such – it’s great for the car, airplane, or train because you don’t have to be available every two seconds to “fix it”!!  (Note: there IS a learning curve to it, as with anything – and we still do some “fix it” stuff when she gets stuck, but it’s nothing like the every two seconds when she would use my phone and then want to switch to a different app, and I had to worry about what else she might get into or end up buying!)IMG_9939
  • The SuperWhy app is fabulous – games that encourage lots of different alpha/reading skills, and apparently it’s easy to navigate because Becca flips around in it like it’s no big deal.

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  • I love that there are several Sandra Boynton apps for kids – where the illustrations are interactive, and the book is read to them.

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  • I can put all of the books, apps, and videos that I want her to have access to on the home screen, and that’s enough for her to do that she hasn’t even clicked on the other options where she could go and download things herself.IMG_9918
  • IF she does try to download something, it’s only something that is available for FreeTime (aka doesn’t cost anything – FreeTime is included the first year) and is kid-safe.
  • The carousel at the top shows what has been opened – in most recent order – so it’s easy for me to look and see what she’s been looking at.  It’s also easy for me to remove items from the carousel – so I if I want the carousel to just show what videos she has available, I can do that.

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  • It’s so nice to be able to read her a book in the car without having to hold onto it and flip the pages and then pick up another book – I can just hold the Kindle or rest it on the back of the driver’s seat (or Cody can if he’s the passenger and I’m driving)!
  • I LOVE LOVE LOVE the parental control options!  If we notice that she’s spending more time than we’d like just watching videos, we can turn that option off, or set a timer for it!

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  • You can also set up profiles for other family members, with other parental control options – or just use it as a regular Kindle Fire – all through a parental control password that you self-select.  So, you can set it up for your kids, but also use it yourself… and not need to buy a separate one for everyone in the family!  Set those educational goals for the day, and when they have been met, it will tell your child on the screen… and it won’t work again until they give it to you to pass it on to the next child to meet their own goals under their profile.
  • I also love how much we can be interactive with her while she’s using it.  Not only can we use it to read books to her (in the car or anywhere), we can also play the games with her, or sit and watch the videos just like we would sit and watch tv together.  It is super fun to snuggle up together with the Kindle!  Here she is, snuggled up with Daddy – playing in the Super Why app:

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  • The key factor in us deciding to buy it was not only the price (it’s a steal at $149), but also the fact that in the first two years, it doesn’t matter WHAT she does to it… if it breaks, they replace it – NO QUESTIONS ASKED!

What we don’t like about the Kindle so far:

  • Videos don’t work without a wifi connection… making them impossible on long road trips.  We are still trying to figure out a way around this – like setting up a wifi hot spot or something like that.  It also seems that some apps don’t work without wifi…
  • The screen touch/click isn’t as sensitive as my Apple products… so I tend (and Becca tends) to get a little frustrated when I touch something but not precisely on the right spot, so it doesn’t respond.  We’ll just have to get used to this.
  • I’m discovering that most of the FreeTime books are for tv characters or more comic-type books, and didn’t find any of our favorite titles available for “free”.
  • Several of the books make it hard to get back to the home screen, and/or are hard for her to “turn the page” because the place to grab and swipe is right on the edge of the screen… but, it’s working on her fine motor skills, and soon she’ll be able to do it without a problem, I’m sure!
  • The battery goes down MUCH faster than my regular Kindle Reader (but then, it makes sense that it would since it’s doing a WHOLE lot more than my Kindle Reader).
  • UPDATE 11-10: The most frustrating small thing we’ve found is that each app/book has it’s own way to get back to the home screen.  So either you have to pull down from the top to get the house to appear on the right, or you pull from the right to get the house to appear.  This may not seem like a big deal – and it wouldn’t be for an older child, but when Becca switches apps, sometimes it’s because she’s frustrated that she hasn’t won the game or been able to do all the activities to the precision she would like.  So she’s already frustrated, and then she can’t get out of the app.  It would be so nice if it just had a home button like our Apple products!!!

So yes, there are a few downfalls – the wifi being the biggest one – but overall, it’s a fabulous learning resource, and will be FABULOUS on trips so we don’t need to haul a bazillion books with us.  Our car is still, of course, loaded down with those mini Chick-fil-a books, and a ton of Highlights Hello Magazines.  That won’t change.  We have a MagnaDoodle too.  That won’t be going away.  Our intent isn’t to take the Fire with us everywhere – in town, it stays at home.  It’s just for those trips that are over an hour long… or can also be used to entice our hard headed child into the car when we need to go somewhere… and then not come back out on the way home…lots of parenting flexibility.  Becca loves to look out the window and watch the traffic lights and such, so I don’t see it becoming something that she is so glued to 24/7 that she begins to miss the world around her, but I could see how that could be an issue for some kids because it is a very enthralling product.  That’s why I think it’s so great that the parental controls will truly TURN OFF THE KINDLE when you want your child to be done with it.  And I think it’s awesome that you can set different rules for weekdays vs weekends – for those kiddos who are school aged and need a lot more restrictions during the week to ensure they are getting to bed on time/getting their homework done/etc.

Definitely a fabulous product, and I highly recommend it.

Order yours today – using the easy links above!  Or, comment with your questions – I’m happy to answer anything I can about this product!

Traveling Art

So, in a continuing effort to give you some more fabulous travel ideas, this is an easy one you can make with stuff you might already have at home, or it could be a fun excuse to head to Target… 😉

You’ll just need a plastic wipes container, a notepad, and a box of crayons!  (Oh, and a little bit of adhesive.)

Open the wipes container.

Attach the notepad back to the top of the container.

Dump the crayons in…

and WAH-LAH!  Traveling Art box.  Great for the car, (if you trust your little with crayons around the car seat…) or great for a restaurant while you’re waiting for your meal (though many restaurants have kid’s menus that can be colored, lots don’t, and it’s small enough to easily throw in the diaper bag!).

Total time to make = about 2 minutes. 🙂 My kind of project!

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Ideally, you’d have a blank notepad without lines.  I’m still in search of one I like.  You could also use sticky notes, but I’d rather use a cheap notepad than spend my precious sticky notes… and also, sticky note stacks start out too fat for this particular wipes container.  I love that an entire box of crayons fits, though!! 🙂