Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Coffee for Kids

(27 Months)

Here's another reason to pour yourself one more cup of coffee.  Mmmmm coffee.  The kids need your coffee grinds and left over coffee.  Left over coffee?  Who has left over coffee?  Ok save a 1/2 of a cup it's for the kidabunks.  The delicious aroma that awakens the senses is just perfect for children's sensory play.  I saw coffee salt dough on Kaboose and knew we were going to do this.  I started saving our coffee grounds and within a few days we had more than enough to make a double batch of salt dough (we would have been fine with a single batch - recipe below, but with twins you never know).  This only takes minutes to make and it has a nice wheat color.  We'll definitely be doing this again.  Oh well, I guess I need to drink more coffee.  The sacrifices we make for our children.
     1 cup of used coffee grounds
     1/2 cup of cold coffee
     1 cup of flour
     1/2 cup of salt

Combine the above ingredients and then knead until it becomes a play-doh like consistency (you may need to add an extra tablespoon of flour if your grinds are too wet).  We floured our work surface, but you can alternatively tape down some wax paper.  We made blueberry pancakes, giant chocolate chip cookies, and then smushed them all together and made blueberry muffins.  We decorated our muffins with a dusting of flour (the kidabunks loved how to create a sprinkling of flour using their finger tips) and a handful of our sensory beans.  

Little Miss spent time not only placing the beans, but removing each bean and then replacing it back into the dough.  I love watching her little pincer fingers deliberately working, she's so serious while she's creating.  Then, there's Wild One who rushed through decorating his muffins, and then "borrowed" some of his sister's dough to make a giant muffin.

Your creations will only take a couple of days to harden.  We placed our muffins in our play kitchen's oven to "bake".  We're looking forward to playing with them in a few days.

Stained Glass Windows

(27 Months)

We were stuck indoors today, that's rare for where we live.  It poured on and off all-day-long.  Since we rarely get rainy days, whenever it does rain, we call it "rainy day pajama day" and stay all day in our pajamas (hence the pi's in the pictures).  We decided to do some fun indoor activities.  One of them was decorating a back door.  We have a door to our home that we've been wanting to put a curtain or blinds on for, well years.  It was never a top priority house project, so it never got done... until today!

I found this awesome looking activity on The Artful Parent.  I knew that it would be perfect for our back door.  When I unrolled the seven feet of easel paper to draw on the kidabunks started with their oohs and aaahs.  They love it when I give them a really long sheet of paper to paint or draw on.
 I love how one minute Wild One is so careful and deliberate with his drawings and the next minute he's drawing all willy nilly.

 Little Miss drew for a little while with two crayons at once, but then became more interested in peeling all of the wrappers off of the crayons.  While they were drawing I created a template of one of the panes of glass on a file folder.  During nap time, I traced outlines of the template on their finished drawing and painted each rectangle with liquid watercolor.  After it dried, I cut out each rectangle and then lightly coated each pane with vegetable oil and placed it on the window.

 Here is our final project!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Organizing the Chaos

(27 Months)

What a mess?  An absolute disaster area!  This used to be part of my bedroom.  My kiddie craft supplies ran amok, and took over my room, the kitchen and the playroom.  I had stuff everywhere.

I started researching organizing craft areas and came across several cute pictures on Pinterest.  Then after some measuring, and evaluating what type of storage will work, we headed down to Ikea to pick up our storage solutions.

When we got to "Ikea's House" (that's what the kids kept calling it, I guess because of all the rooms that look like a house), we first sat on the potty - we're potty training.  Nothing.  We went straight upstairs and went to the restroom AND Wild One peed on the potty!  Woo hoo- Wild One peed on the potty!  I knew Little Miss wouldn't have to go, she doesn't pee until we put her diaper on for nap time.  Then we shopped.  Here was our inspiration.  Isn't it beautiful?

A little over an hour later and ta-da!!!!  Everything has a home.  Plus I have room for a few more sensory bins on top of the one on the right.  A big thank you to my amazing hubby for putting the shelving units together while I organized and filled the bins - all done during nap time (the most productive 75 minutes ever).

Potty Training Update- Week Four/Three

(27 Months)

We are almost at the end of week four for Wild One and week three for Little Miss.  This week has been incredible, the only misses we've had were for poopy and just six for pee (although some of those pee misses actually brought me to tears asking "why? why?").  We're still wearing diapers for naps and night time.  Other than that, we are wearing big girl and boy underwear.

It's amazing how easily I forget the bad stuff.  Looking back over the past month, I'm already thinking "potty training wasn't so bad, they picked it up quite easily".  WHAT?  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I'm glad I'm posting not just the good, but the embarrassing (for me) also.  It helps keep everything in perspective.

Little Miss for the first time went running around the play room looking for her potty.  Her arms were half-way up in the air, and she kept repeating "potty, my potty".  She made it to the potty in time and we did our little potty song and dance together.  She was grinning from ear to ear, she was so happy.  Plus Wild One was celebrating for her also, which was so cute to see.

All in all, it was a pretty good week.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Water Bead Ice Play

(27 Months)

I've been seeing water beads on toddler blogs for awhile now.  What's the fuss all about?  It's just tiny beads, right?  Wrong!  These little gems are amazing!

OK, first a little Water Bead 101.
  • You can find water beads online, at your local craft store or Wal-Mart in the floral craft section.  The price varies with the quantity of beads.  The average price I've found is about $3 for 1.5 oz.  
  • It takes about six hours for the beads to fully swell.  If you plan on growing the beads the day before introducing them to your child(ten), the beads will be nice and fat for your sensory fun.
  • We used three 1/2 oz packages of beads (pink, blue and purple), which grew to fill our 14 qt Rubbermaid container about 1/3 of the way full.
  • You can store the beads in ziplock bags to use another day (if it's going to be longer than a week, they may need to be rehydrated).
  • Once the beads have swollen they will break apart if you apply pressure (squeezing them in between fingers, standing or dancing on them).  They then turn into a gelatinous mess.
  • They are very therapeutic.  I found myself drifting away while running my hands over the soft, wet beads.
  • The beads glisten in the sunlight.  You can fill a glass jar and set it in the sunlight to see a beautiful rainbow of color.
  • They bounce, like little rubber balls.
  • Most importantly they will bring about instant giggles!
We began exploring the water beads with just our hands.  The immediate reaction was pure joy.  The smiles, giggles and excitement were precious.  The squeals of absolute delight were so... well, perfect.  In fact, they were laughing so hard that they gave themselves the hiccups!
A great big thank you to the genius who decided to use these little beads in sensory bins and another one to all of you bloggers out there sharing your incredible ideas with us.

We added some scoopers for transferring fun.  Of course we couldn't resist putting our tootsies in the colorful bin.  

Then my son, yes- my 27 month-old son, had the brilliant idea of adding ice cubes to the sensory bin!  Which is perfect for two reasons.  It's 87 degrees at 10AM (yes, 87 degrees and it's not even noon yet) and the ice adds another dimension to the sensory bin.  

As soon as Little Miss saw the ice, she started repeating, "no ice" over and over.  Hmmm, what to do, what to do. I handed each of them a pair of tongs that we bought from the Dollar Tree (we love that place) and she set right to work using the tongs to remove each ice cube, one by one.  When she finished, Wild One came over and dumped the ice right back into the bin.  I stood back waiting for the eruption, but instead Little Miss just started taking them out again.  She then asked Wild One to "please help" and he did.  I love these little ones

After the ice melted, we added our foam letters to the sensory bin.  My plan, ha!, was to have the kidabunks remove each letter one by one and say the letter name and sound, while using a pair of tongs.  Their plan was to remove all the letters with their hands, as fast as possible and put them back in the letter bucket.

Later on, we decided to add some shaving cream to our water bead fun.  We just started playing with shaving cream a few weeks ago and it quickly became part of one of their favorite sensory bins.  They had more fun playing with the shaving cream than the water beads.  It was wonderfully squishy and foamy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Peanut Buttery Delicious (and healthy) Snacks

(27 Months)

My son loves peanut butter, other than milk it's really his only source of protein (for the past six months he has been very finicky about his food- it's hit or miss whether he'll eat meat, chicken or fish- some days he'll gobble it down, others he has lock jaw).  However, if it has peanut butter as the main ingredient, I know he'll gobble it up.

PB & J Greek Yogurt- Yep, that's it.  The only reason I'm blogging this is because it's such a simple way to add extra protein and calcium into their day.  I love how Greek yogurt is so thick and creamy (and full of protein).  One day, about five months ago, I had an idea that would either be unbelievably delicious or a complete disaster, Peanut Butter and Jelly Greek Yogurt.  I mixed equal parts peanut butter and Greek yogurt (we did 3/4 c of each), then added two tablespoons of organic strawberry preserves.  It is outstanding!  I usually make a double batch and then put it in individual containers, so that we have something ready in the fridge for another day.

Gluten-free Peanut Butter Balls- from Happy Healthy Mama.  The first time I made these I misread the recipe and added two tablespoons of maple syrup (instead of 2 teaspoons).  To thicken the mixture, I added 1/4 cup of unsweetened organic shredded coconut.  These were sensational.  Wild One gobbled up four of these in one sitting (that's a lot for him, both of my kids barely eat).  Between the quinoa and peanut butter, these are a protein powerhouse!

Homemade Lara Bars - again from the ever plentiful Happy Healthy Mama.  We make a double batch of these, because they'll eat the entire batch in one sitting.  I still can't believe how quick and easy it is to make these!

Banana Peanut Butter Crunchies- another delicious creation from Happy Healthy Mama.  We love these, we add dark chocolate chips to these, because well- everything tastes better with dark chocolate.  We make these at least once a month, they are so yummy (and guilt-free).

PB & J French Toast- Top French toast with PB & J, layer with another slice of French toast.  The peanut butter becomes so gooey from the heat of the French toast.

Peanut Butter and Nanner Sushi- Mash half of a ripe banana in a bowl.  Lay out a whole wheat wrap, spread peanut butter and mashed banana on the wrap.  Roll up like a sushi-roll.  Cut into six pieces. another variation - is using honey in place of the mashed banana

Peanut Butter Spread- from Healthnut Foodie.  This is excellent in a sandwich, on top of a banana bread or served with apples.

Peanut Butter and Banana Shake-  Combine the following ingredients in a blender, 1 1/2 cups of unsweetened almond milk, one cup of peanut butter, one ripe banana (we slice our ripe bananas and then freeze them in a zip bag for our smoothies), one handful of ice, and two tablespoons of chia seeds.  Blend until creamy.  Serve right away.

Peanut Butter Pong Balls- from The Diva Dish.  I have absolutely zero guilt about feeding these cookies to my twins as part of a meal (not just as a snack).  Just listen to the list of ingredients- walnuts, dates, almonds, pure maple syrup, peanut butter, old fashioned oats and unsweetened coconut flakes.  These are so peanut buttery and delicious.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fluffy Clouds

(27 Months)

Since we've been spending all day outside during potty training, I've been doing a lot of messy art with the kids.  That's right, bring out the shaving cream, water table bubbles, the finger paint, the dot markers - let's get messy.  We're not going anywhere, so let's make a mess.

I found this fun shaving cream activity at Time for Play.  It's been on my to-do list for several weeks now and I've been excited to share it with them.  For the past two weeks they mostly have been asking to paint and use dot markers (which is the reason for the lack of posts lately, we haven't really done anything new).

The kids love playing with shaving cream, we've had fun with spraying shaving cream into our water table and creating shaving cream bath paint.  I knew they'd love this one, it has two of their favorite elements of play: 1- it's messy, very messy; 2- it's mostly shaving cream (or as Little Miss calls it "white").

We haven't really had too much practice with the eye droppers.  Each time we try to use them we wind up pouring out the entire content of the dropper in one squeeze.  I thought now would be a good time to practice doing a drip here and a drip there, but when they saw the can of shaving cream they were too excited to drip and drop.
I love the look of awe on Little Miss's
face when she sees the cornstarch change from white to blue.

We poured out a box of cornstarch into our bucket (I foolishly thought to use a bucket with a lid, so that we can play with ti again another day).  Next we filled the droppers with liquid water color (pink and blue), but when we added the shaving cream the colors were just too diluted and it barely changed the color of the fluff.

Then, we added the can of shaving cream and started to mix the cornstarch with the shaving cream.  It only took a few minutes of squishing and squeezing before the fluff formed.  It feels like damp flour, soft and light, yet moldable when you apply pressure.  They both loved making little snow balls and then breaking them apart. The compound is so delicate, just the slightest amount of pressure will break the ball apart.

They rolled the balls back and forth through the fluff.  They made really big balls and teeny tiny balls.   They tried stacking the balls on top of one another (but they kept crumbling).

Then we decided to make "muffins".  We first took out their big muffin tins from the ever plentiful Dollar Store.  This was a big hit!  They really enjoyed spooning the fluff into the muffin tins and patting the fluff down.

Then we decided to make "mini muffins" which really made Little Miss giddy.  "Teeny, tiny muffins!"

We made a huge mess.  This was all over the place!  I should have put an old sheet down first before we started playing.  The bulk of the mess came from when they would hold one of the muffins or meatballs outside of the box and they would crumble all over the table and floor.  At first I was trying to contain the mess and then I succumbed to the chaos.  We're not going to have much left over to play with anyway, we already made to big of a mess.  Plus that's what vacuums and hoses are for anyway!

The next time we do this, we're going to add giant marbles and toy cars (we can practice washing them in the bucket when we're done playing) to the bucket.  We'll also try first spraying the shaving cream, then adding the color and combine those two first before mixing in the cornstarch.  That's the beauty of two, they didn't know it was supposed to be pink and blue, then purple.  They just wanted to play with the "white".

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Our Favorite Toys

(27 Months)

We love playing.  I love watching them play.  I was a child in the 70's, back then there was no Internet, texting, involved computer games (well, there was Pong before the huge Atari explosion), and all we had were the basic TV channels with a turn dial.  If we wanted to play, we played.  We didn't have toys that played for us, while we just sat back and soaked it all in.  We didn't sit in front of a DVR filled with children's programs (VHS anyone?).  We played.  I loved that about our childhood and wanted to do my best to replicate that in the year 2012.

Right now, their favorite toys are reflective of that.  Here is a quick list of their favorite toys.  When you glance through the list, you'll probably nod your head in agreement that most of them were YOUR favorite toys as well.  Tried and true toys stand the test of time.

  • Baby (Little Miss's doll) and other random stuffed animals
  • Books
  • Blocks, Mega Blocks and Legos
  • Balls
  • Bicycles (tricycles, big wheels)
  • Crayons, markers, finger paints, water color paint, sidewalk chalk
  • Play-Doh and clay
  • Play house, slide and kitchen (tea set, pots and pans, play food, measuring cups/spoons, random items borrowed from the kitchen)
  • Magna Doodle and Aqua Doodle
  • Water table, filled with plain water, bubbles, shaving cream (back then it was the big plastic kiddie swimming pools)
  • Wooden puzzles
  • Homemade toys- let's face it, our parents knew us best and they always could make the best toys
  • Musical instruments
  • Music (back then it was on the radio or LPs or 45s)  
  • Trains and train set, cars and trucks
It's amazing isn't it, they are the same toys.  I wonder now, if the moms and dads back then knew that generations later there would be books written about the importance of imaginative play, how to integrate fine and gross motor skills into daily activities, the value of sensory play, the correlation of exercise and improved brain function?  Without all of the research, the Internet, they knew that those toys were good toys to aid their children's development and prepare them for school.  Yet, when was the last time you bought a random toy without first looking up reviews about it?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Potty Training Little Miss (Days Four and Five)- Those aren't raisins!

(27 Months)

I called the pediatrician today to find out if we should be attempting something different with Little Miss's lack of drinking (and consequently few pees).  We were recommended to continue offering her drinks throughout the day, limit salty foods (salt will retain water in the body), give her drying foods (like peanut butter), offer her high-water content foods (watermelon, grapes, apples...), and smoothies.  That's what we've been doing and it hasn't worked.  She said not to worry then.  OK, no worrying- check!

Wild One is still being timed, every half hour I put him on the potty (sometimes with a tantrum and on those blissful other times without a tantrum).  He's still mostly like clockwork, except for poop.  That happens at random times throughout the day, there's no pattern it's completely sporadic.  He's still insistent that he doesn't have to pee, while he's actually peeing.

Little Miss keeps trying to make it to the potty in time, but seems to fall short by a few feet.  Most of the time when she reacts to an urge to pee, she winds up peeing within a couple of seconds.  She's trying so hard though.  I wish I could help her get to the potty in time, but it never fails, she always pees when I'm in the process of helping Wild One with something.

It would be so helpful if they would just tell me, preferably at least a minute or two notice, that they have to pee.  Of course it would also be helpful if they wouldn't make such a huge mess at meal/snack times.  Does anyone else's kids get food on their bums while eating?  It would be really helpful if they would nap longer than an hour (as I'm typing this Wild One still hasn't fallen asleep, and he's supposed to wake up soon).

Today (day five), we had our first outing in big boy and big girl underwear.  On Fridays we have a standing play date with a good friend and her incredible little girl.  This week it was my friend's turn to host at her house.  My stress level rose, the kids are going to pee and poop everywhere, I just know it.  When we arrived, she put me at ease.  My friend has an easy-going, calming effect.  Everything started out fine.  Wild One went on the potty at the half hour mark and peed (whew!).  I knew Little Miss wouldn't pee, and she didn't.  Then about 40 minutes into the visit, I noticed big raisins on the floor.  That's odd.  I went to go pick them up when I realized those aren't raisins!  I quickly scooped Little Miss up and put her on the potty.  Grabbed some wipes and started grabbing the trail that led to the potty, while my very sweet friend kept telling me not to worry about it and to take care of Little Miss (she grabbed some wipes and started wiping down the areas where the pellets fell).  I cleaned up Little Miss, her potty, changed her into clean underwear, washed our hands and - uh oh, where's Wild One?

You know don't you?  Well, let's just say we had a repeat of the above except with the boy this time.  Aaagghh.  This time, there was no poop trail though.  Cleaned up the boy, the potty, changed into clean underwear, washed our hands and the remaining hour went smoothly.  Wild One had another timed pee.  My friend and I got to chat and catch up, while watching the little ones play.  The three kiddos had a fun time playing together, especially in the pantry.  They are so funny.  There is a house full of toys, full, and they are playing with groceries in the pantry.  Those three have vivid imaginations.  I love our play dates.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Painting on Aluminum Foil

(27 Months)

The kidabunks love painting.  We do a lot of painting (fingers, hands, feet, various types of brushes, sponges, pom poms). We paint on the easel, on our table, on large six-foot sheets of butcher paper on the floor, on three-foot sections of butcher paper taped to the sliding glass doors, and now on aluminum foil.

Picklebums did an adorable post about painting on aluminum foil.  We've got to try this!  I didn't have any cardboard to tape the aluminum foil to, so I used heavy duty aluminum foil and taped it to the sliding glass door.  This was a hit before we even started painting.

We start almost every painting project the same way.  We pour out little pools of primary colors on a plate and one with two primary colors on top of one another.  Then we name the colors, and guess at what color the two primaries will make.  I love the way they get so excited when the two primaries are completely mixed, it's always "wow, it turned (green)".

With the first dab of paint onto the foil, they stopped and looked at me.  "Noisy" Wild One said.  They liked hearing the crinkle, crinkle as they painted.  After they were done using their brushes, they dabbed the paint onto their hands and began smacking the foil.  Wild One's eyes lit up, "noisy!" Little Miss quickly started adding paint to her hands and also started smearing hand prints onto the foil.

The next time we do this, we're going to roll the foil into a ball and then carefully unroll it so that they paint on a textured surface.  I'll have one sheet of crinkled foil and one sheet of plain foil taped to the sliding glass door, so that we can do a little comparing and contrasting (of course also add a new dimension to sensory play as well).


Rainbow Shaving Cream Paint

(27 Months)

I saw this on Pinterest and knew we had to try it, especially after they loved playing with the plain white shaving cream.  Right before bath time, I got out the few ingredients needed- a muffin tin with deep wells, liquid food coloring, shaving cream, and paint brushes (we used silicone basting brushes from the Dollar store).  This couldn't be easier, plus it only took about ten minutes to prepare.  Squirt the shaving cream into each muffin tin (pile it higher than the rim of the tin, it deflates as you mix the coloring into the cream).  I filled it to the height of baked cupcakes.  Then add four or five drops of coloring, mix with wooden chopsticks (or whatever you have on hand), and have fun!

While I was mixing this together, they thought it was birthday cupcakes and began singing "Happy Birthday" to themselves.  So cute.

They loved this!  I'm glad I used a deep well muffin tin, because the paint went fast.  They started painting the tub, then the walls, then each other, and of course then us.  They loved squishing it through their fingers and watching it float and disappear in the water.  This was such a big hit that, I still received a thank you this morning from last night's bath.

Potty Training Little Miss (Day Three)

(27 Months)

Today was the day that made me 

ask the question, "Why am I doing this?"

Seriously.  There has to be a better way.  Today was one of those days that some of you, unfortunately, can empathize with.  I have a massive shooting pain running through my neck and down my back from today.

Potty training Wild One has been wonderful at times and downright frustrating at times.  Today was filled with the latter.  I've been putting Wild One on the potty every half hour, even if he resists, because he has to pee (even though he adamantly says he doesn't have to pee, even while he's peeing he'll say he doesn't have to pee).  The books say by day three he'll recognize when he has to pee.  The books say this!  We're on day ten!

Where we live we can see the rain coming in sheets.  It's been unusually hot and humid (which makes it perfect easy-to-aggravate-Mommy weather).  Then all of a sudden we saw across the pond the dark clouds, the wind pick up, the sun take cover behind the clouds.  Uh oh, quick get everything (potty related) into the house.  Wouldn't you know it by the time I got everything and both kids into the house it was pee time?!

Within minutes, Wild One peed across the foam tiles lining our playroom. The rage builds (I'm not proud, but it's true). While I cleaned up the mess and his potty, he peed AGAIN on the foam tiles!  Now, I'm in full blown crazy mode.  I'm actually furious with a two-year old for peeing on the floor (which sounds ludicrous now as I type this, but the stress pains in my face and back are still rampant).  Wait, there's more.  Now, Little Miss starts having a HUGE pee on the floor.  I pick her up and fly her straight to the potty, pee flowing the entire way.  I'm livid, I'm fuming.  I'm a crazy mom.  Now, here's the kicker!  While I'm cleaning the third pee in less than five minutes, the sun starts shining again.  The sun starts shining!  We could have waited this out outside!

The rest of the day consisted of misses and forced catches (meaning we only caught them because I put them on the potty).  I'm not proud of myself today.  I need to handle this better.  Why doesn't someone write a book about the real adventures of potty training?  Not this garbage of - oh, I potty trained my son in a day.  It only took me two days and we were through with diapers.  Or my favorite, one day he just decided that he wanted to go on the potty and we were done with diapers.