Sunday, November 27, 2011

Melissa & Doug Cyber Monday Giveaway Event

Cyber Monday is Giveaway Monday on Melissa & Doug's Facebook Fan Page!

“LIKE” us on Facebook to be eligible to win! Answer the active giveaway’s question, to enter that giveaway. At least one random entrant will be chosen to win each giveaway.


We’ll be giving away terrific educational toys from 8am EST, right up until midnight!

Check out Melissa & Doug's Terrific Twenty Holiday Toys to see some of the great prizes we’ll be giving away!

Giveaway event ends midnight EST 11/28/11.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Homemade Gifts For The Holidays

     Over the past few years I have come across some wonderful blogs. Many blog posts are insightful while others are humorous. My favorite posts, however, are the ones that inspire me. They may suggest an activity, a book, travel tips, printable worksheets or crafts. I just love reading a post that leaves me thinking, "I can so do that!"
     Well, I've put that inspiration to good use this week. With the holidays fast approaching, I decided to pull out the craft supplies and buy a few inexpensive items to supplement my stash. I hit the web to find my favorite posts and then I just went for it. Here are a few of the Christmas gifts I have made for B so far.


     This super easy breakfast set (pancake, egg and bacon-I hope you can tell that is what these are) was inspired by the always creative Childhood 101. The entire meal cost only $0.80 to make!!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From Leaf To Man In A Child's Eyes

     Fall is such an exciting time of year. The leaves begin to change, there is a chill in the air, and it seems each day brings new surprises: festivals, catching a falling leaf, migrating birds, an early snow, etc. One of our favorite  pastimes this Fall has been our weekly story time at the local library. Mrs. C, our librarian, encourages the children to bring in Fall themed items to show the others. Often, the kids bring in pretty leaves of all shapes and sizes. B is always so excited to see the varying types of Fall foliage. So, when I came across the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert I was just thrilled!

     This sweet story follows Leaf Man as he floats through the air on the gentle breeze observing all sorts of wonderful sights. Page after page the reader is greeted by colorful leaf collages of everything from birds to fish. B was so captivated by this book I just had to extend the fun (and learning). We decide to go on a hunt for a leaf man of our very own.

     B and I headed outside to collect leaves in his handy-dandy shopping basket. As we explored our immediate environment we talked about what we saw, how various items felt, colors, and so forth. We counted leaves, tress and sticks. Okay, we also got side tracked and spent a lot of time playing with sticks- which is part of the fun!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon When You Take the North "Poll"

Melissa & Doug want you to tell them which of their educational toys you think is the best! Just click on the image below to place your vote in the North "Poll!" You'll Get a Melissa & Doug 25% Off Coupon** to use at just for voting!


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Learning Along The Way With Fun Water Play

     I've said it before, and I'll say it again (just in case you missed it the first few times). Playtime IS learning time! Late last night I came across a wonderful play time challenge, 30 DAYS TO HANDS ON PLAY hosted by Hands On: As We Grow and The Imagination Tree. The idea is to spend at least 15 minutes of uninterrupted playtime with your child each day. The fabulous ladies behind this challenge issue a daily play idea but you are encouraged to add your own touches to really make it yours. 
     I made it to the play party a bit late, but better late than never, right? The day 8 challenge is "Water Play."  Oh how little drenched B loves his mommy tonight! We took today's challenge out on the deck and experimented with colored water. 
      We filled three clear containers with red, blue and yellow water. Then I gave B plastic bottles, funnels and scoopers and told him to "Have Fun!"  He looked at me a bit skeptically at first (note to self: remember to ease up on the directed play) but then he dove right in. After he apologized for the first big spill and I said "that's okay, that's why we are doing this outside," he was all smiles and bigger spills!
     I initially just sat there next to him and talked to him while he splashed, scooped and transferred the colorful water. To my surprise he started talking about how mixing two colors made a new color. He discovered this fact quite awhile ago, but he always seems excited to experiment with color himself. After a few minutes I asked if I could play too and he eagerly handed me a scooper and told me which container to use.
     For the next 20+ minutes we splashed and talked together happily. Although the challenge is meant to  encourage a relaxed and uninterrupted, engaged play session, I was happily surprised when B brought up the idea of colors and asked "why?" nearly a hundred times. Today my little guy made playtime learning time all by himself! 

     Please check out the exciting 

Click on the following links to view these great facebook pages.


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Organize Costumes For Everyday Play

     A few weeks ago I came across a wonderful article explaining why costumed imagination play is good for children. Why Costumes Are Good for Kids by Melissa Bernstein, co-founder  and co-CEO of one of my favorite toy brands Melissa & Doug, helped me realize dress-up is actually an  IMPORTANT aspect of imagination play.

     Bernstein states "Role-play is a critical form of pretend play, and a crucial aspect of early childhood development.  It is also one of the best ways to help a child to develop an understanding of the world. When children are given the opportunity to choose a character they wish to portray, they are given the ability to explore the areas they are most interested in."

    Inspired by Berstein's ideas, I decided to better organize B's costumes. He has a number of fun dress-up options including everything from "A"stronaut to "Z"ebra and many in between. These role-play get-ups are dived into two groups, one for upstairs (our main living space) and downstairs (the playroom). I concentrated on the larger of the two groups, his playroom collection. Before the reorganization B's costumes and accessories were stored in box style containers he could easily access. However, B was not able to see the costumes without getting into the containers. I felt the easiest way to encourage his role-play was by arranging the outfits in a way he would see them daily.

     I had originally planned on getting a row of hooks to mount to the playroom wall, but during a quick trip to the local home improvement store I found the perfect hanging shelf. The shelf has a bar designed for clothes hangers and a small area we are using for hats. I was worried about B having to deal with hangers but he is doing well so far. And hopefully, before long he will be able to hang each of the costumes correctly himself (an added bonus!).

     The shelf seems very sturdy and is just the right size for our needs. It was even totally easy to install, I just said "Daddy will you hang the shelf thing up now?" and it was magically done. .... Okay so it was super simple for daddy too! In fact, it took longer to vacuum up the dust and debris from the screws going into the wall than it did to actually hang it.
    I have seen a huge jump in B's interest in role-play activities since the shelf brought his costumes out into view. So consider getting your kids role-play items out to eye level. Even if this is not a possibility in your space help encourage your little one(s) to dress up and have fun. Remember, it is more than just play, they are learning along the way!

Read Melissa Bernstein's article Why Costumes Are Good for Kids HERE.
You can find the wonderful hanging shelf HERE.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Fun With Pumpkins

     Halloween is an exciting time of year, especially for the little ones. B had an amazingly fun two weeks leading up to the big trick-or-treating day. We had trips with daddy to the zoo and aquarium, trick-or-treating at local businesses, costume contests, themed library activities and more. I wanted Halloween day to really live up to all of the excitement B was feeling. Thus, mommy came up with a pumpkin filled, educational (Shhh! Don't tell B) day.
      We began our fun with a surprise breakfast of Vanilla Pumpkin Jack-O-Lantern Pancakes. B was absolutely thrilled when I set the plate in front of him.
     After we filled our bellies, and got lots of energy, it was time to finally carve the pumpkin. This was B's first experience making a jack-o-lantern. We took the fun, and mess, outdoors onto the deck. I wanted it to be B's pumpkin so he drew the face on with a marker.

     Once our little artist was satisfied with his drawing, daddy cut the stem away so B could remove the "guts." To our surprise B didn't really care for this part at first. In fact, mommy and daddy had to repeatedly tell him how cool and fun it was to touch the squishy insides of the pumpkin. He eventually came to enjoy the process. Yay!

     We finished up the jack-o-lantern with mommy cutting out the face B had drawn. Its crocked little smile and asymmetrical eyes were so cute!
     After cleaning up the surprisingly small mess we had made, it was time for more pumpkin fun. Next up was Pumpkin Painting! B used the cut out portions of the pumpkin as paint stamps. The artwork came out cuter than I had imagined. Along with the pumpkin stamps, B used a small paint brush and of course his fingers.

     After a yummy lunch and quick nap, B was up and ready to trick-or-treat. Unfortunately, he still had a couple more hours to wait. To fill the time we decided to do one more pumpkin craft. I folded an orange piece of paper in half and cut out a pumpkin shape leaving the two sides connected at the stem. On the front of the paper I wrote "What is inside a pumpkin?" Daddy joined B again for this craft and helped him glue in some of the rinsed seeds from our jack-o-lantern and yarn (the stringy guts) to represent what one finds when cutting open a pumpkin.

           Daddy and B had a fun time working together and B was very proud of his finished project!
     Our pumpkin filled day was rounded out by lighting the candle inside the jack-o-lantern and enjoying an extremely fun, yet cold, night of costumed trick-or-treating. And after B was finally tucked in tight and headed off to dream land, mommy and daddy roasted the remaining pumpkin seeds which we have all been enjoying ever sense.

      It sure was a jam packed Halloween, but well worth the time and effort. B was able to explore his artistic side, discover what a pumpkin was made of, try new food and get plenty of exercise walking the neighborhood getting treats and interacting with other kids. Now, what to do for next year???

**Special thanks to Mom To 2 Posh Lil Divas for the inspiration for the "What's inside of a pumpkin?" craft!**

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Reading To Yourself To Help Your Child Learn

     Reading to your child every day is a wonderful way to introduce early reading skills. The child will begin to understand the correlation between the words printed on the page and the story you tell. He will begin to recognize letters and increase his vocabulary. However, this daily reading will be much more than educational. It will help your child form a life-long love of reading himself. Another wonderful (and enjoyable) way to help your child WANT to learn to read is by making sure he sees you reading to yourself. After all, if mommy likes to read why wouldn't he?
     So many new books are published each year that it would be nearly impossible not to find a book you would enjoy. Your local library and book store have so many titles to choose from. I recently decided to make a point to have B see me read to myself at least once per week. It isn't much, but at least he will begin to see that mommy likes reading for herself as much as I enjoy reading to him. I started this new experience with Invasion by Jon. S. Lewis.

          Thrill, suspense and flying motorcycles will captivate you while immersed in the pages of Invasion by Jon. S. Lewis. The first of the C.H.A.O.S. Trilogy, this exciting story delves into a world beyond our reach.
    After suffering through the traumatic loss of his parents, 16-year-old Colt McAlister is transplanted from sunny, ocean front San Diego to his childhood home of Arizona. McAlister must learn not only to live without his friends and frequent surfing trips, but with his grandfather and an amazing secret that is not his own to share with the world.
     Attending a new school, and having no car, are the challenges one would expect for McAlister to face. However, he is suddenly thrown into a life of comic book heroes, robotic assassins and shape shifting aliens. McAlister, along with a childhood friend and a new friend he hopes he can trust, must navigate a possibly fatal line between what he once considered truth and fiction. They are, after all, the only things standing between us and CHAOS.
     Somewhat reminiscent of Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis, Invasion is a wonderful story for a young science fiction fan. Although the dialogue can be a bit difficult to follow in the first few chapters, the overall flow is smooth. The constant suspense helps make this a quick and enjoyable read. 

**Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”**

A Book And A Snack

     One of B’s favorite daily activities is our story time. It doesn’t matter where we are or what we are reading. As long as we are snuggled up together with a good story B is a very happy little boy. On occasion we come across a book which inspires an activity. Recently, we read Monica Wellington’s Crepes by Suzette. 

     It is a cute story of a woman named Suzette who sells crepes from her street cart throughout the city of Paris, France. The beautiful artwork and illustrations throughout the book are reminiscent of well known paintings and sculptures. As well, many city landmarks can be spotted within the colorful pages. 
     At the conclusion of the book is Suzette’s Crepe Recipe. I very much enjoy crepes, and after reading how simple the recipe is I just had to give it a try…. Well, B gave it a try that is. I measured the ingredients with his help and read the instructions aloud. My excited little chef mixed up the batter all by himself. (He is becoming such a big boy!)

  Once the mixture was perfect, I cooked the crepes and filled them with strawberries, blueberries and apple butter. Yum! 

     We even saved some of the batter and made chocolate chip crepes for desert with daddy the following evening. B had a wonderful time being a crepe chef just like Suzette, and I enjoyed watching him get so excited. He was SO PROUD of himself, as was I. It is truly amazing how a book can sometimes inspire a child to do something that makes them feel so great.  I highly recommend this book and the crepes too!