Monday, March 31, 2014

5 Fantastic Learning Tools For Preschoolers

Disclosure:This post contains affiliate links, all opinions are 100% my own.

learning tools for preschoolers
Little minds are like sponges, soaking up everything they see and hear. It’s really important to give your child learning tools that are also fun. You don’t want your child to hate learning, but you also want to take advantage of these years when their minds are so impressionable.

I’m amazed all the time the things I hear and see my boys pick up. They are just so cool! I get asked all the time if I have been homeschooling my oldest or what I’ve done to help him advance so much so I’m writing up this post with a few of the things we’ve used and loved for them.

I love LeapFrog! I love all the DVDs they have put out and we own a bunch of them. We started with Letter Factory and grew our collection from there. Letter Factory is a fun story of Leap learning his letters and letter sounds. It’s really basic, but the tunes/songs they use are really catchy and I have found myself singing the letter sounds while washing dishes or something else. haha.

Andrew caught on really quick and within a couple weeks he knew all his letters and letter sounds. He didn’t watch it all day everyday, just a couple times a week starting when he was about 18 months or so. Ben isn’t as clear of a talker as Andrew was at that age, but he knows all his letters and most of their sounds and sometimes will spot them on a sign or in a book and will make the sound. It’s very cool how they’ve caught on.

We also own: Sing and Learn With Us!, Math Adventure to the Moon, The Amazing Alphabet Amusement Park, Math Circus, Numbers Ahoy, Phonics Farm, Word Caper, Storybook Factory, and Talking Words Factory. Like I said, we love LeapFrog and pick up a new one when we see them in the store or see a new one pop up on Amazon.

These are fun books. They have a variety of questions to help kids learn relationships, shapes, colors, word skills, and more. These are really good for times you need to be quiet, like in church or other meetings. There are several different levels and even workbooks from this brand. Andrew really likes them and got so good at them we had to create our own questions to change things up.

We love! It is awesome. Andrew has learned soooo much since starting. He was playing with his toys a few days ago and started telling me about Jupiter and how it’s the biggest planet…seriously! He has learned how to use a computer mouse and can play/learn independently. I usually have something he needs to do before he gets to play, like clean up toys or put away laundry and he’s happy to do it. Then I’ll just set a timer and let him decide what he would like to do. I ask him to do at least one lesson during that time and he does. The best part is you can have up to 3 kids on one account so Ben gets to enjoy it too.
There are games, coloring, songs, lessons, and lots of other fun activities to encourage learning, creativity, and curiosity. We just discovered earlier this year and have been loving it since day 1 !  Be sure to check it out… - Over 3,000 Educational Activities - First Month Free - Click here!

We actually don’t own these, but grandma brings them with her when she comes to visit and they are great. Andrew was reading them to grandma this most recent visit. They are simple and fun. It’s a really great place to start for not only reading but also comprehension. They definitely get kids started on reading and loving it! There are several different sets depending on your child’s level.

We have sooo many puzzles. You really can’t go wrong…well, I suppose you could if you got something too hard and it was frustrating. We started with simple ones like Melissa & Doug First Shapes Jumbo and worked up from there. We have really enjoyed the Melissa & Doug puzzles because they are sturdy wood and well made. Both boys really enjoy this Construction Puzzle Set

Andrew would do them over and over and over again when we first got it and Ben is starting to as well. We have a United States puzzle that has been really helpful in explaining to the boys where grandparents live, where daddy is going on a trip, or where we are going on vacation. Puzzles really help children develop fine motor skills, coordination, and problem solving. Plus they help to keep a child’s attention and keep them focused on one task, a skill that will help when they get to school.

So there you go, those are my favorite learning tools that I’ve been using for my kids. The boys love learning and I credit these tools for making it fun for all of us.

What are some of your favorite learning tools?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Family Birthday Board

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I’m excited to share this project with you and kind of ashamed at the same time. See I put this together for a group of ladies for ‘craft club’ in January and I’m just now posting about it…AND this isn’t even my finished project – it’s the one I made for my mom. See, when I put these craft clubs together and I teach them, I almost NEVER finish. They just exhaust me. But here’s how I made my mom’s birthday board. :)

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Here’s what you’ll need:
-1”x6” board cut down to 18”. This was just the size that looked the best to me. 24” just looked a little to long and anything narrower/wider wasn’t quite right to me, so that’s just what I did.
-paint and paint brush
-1.5” wood circles
-12 cup hooks
-8mm jump rings
-picture hangers
-permanent marker
-something for your words: stencil, vinyl, wood words, etc

Paint the board. I chose to leave the paint light enough that the wood grain showed through.

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Once the paint is dry, I used a stencil to trace the word family on and then painted it in. Then applied the ‘birthday’ and letters for the months on in vinyl that my neighbor cut. If you don’t have a vinyl cutter I saw TONS of options on etsy.

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Depending on the circles that you find you will probably need to drill holes in each side of your circle. I did find some on ebay that were predrilled, but more expensive.

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You can find a pack of 100 HERE on Amazon that are pretty similar to mine. I had to order a TON so I went straight to the wholesaler. However, there is a minimum order from them so unless you’re doing a ton of these I recommend Amazon or Michaels, although the one’s I’ve seen at Michael’s aren’t as solid.

Anyway, drill two holes with a 1/16” drill bit.
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Use pliers to open a jump ring and through the holes and use the pliers to close the jump ring. Repeat as you need.
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Back on your board. I actually measured the spacing before applying the letters for the months. Sorry if that’s confusing.
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Anyway at the marks, screw in the cup hooks. I turned these ones backwards so they weren’t easily taken off by little hands.
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Attach the picture hangers to the back and hang.

Then just finish it off by writing the person’s name and day of their birthday on each circle and hanging that circle under the month of their birth.
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So there you have it – the project that took me 2 months to post about and I haven’t even finished started one for myself, haha.

I do intend on making mine because I love being able to look at the year and seeing where people’s birthdays fall and when to be ready. I am trying to be more organized this year and I feel like this would help.

How do you keep track of family birthdays?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Family Pleasing Ritz and Rosemary Chicken

Ritz and Rosemary Chicken
Do you have one of those go-to recipes that you know everyone (or almost everyone – 2 year olds don’t count) will love?
This is one of mine. Oddly enough I haven’t made it in a while and when I was meal planning the other day, I came across it and was excited to make it again. And the best part is that it is soooo easy and it’s yummy.
Ritz and Rosemary Chicken
-4-6 Chicken breasts
-1 tube of Ritz crackers
-about 4 Tablespoons of butter
-dried Rosemary
First, melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl.
In another bowl, crush the crackers pretty finely.
Dip each chicken breast in the butter then in the crackers.
Place in a baking dish and sprinkle with rosemary to your liking
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

What is your go-to dish?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Behind the Scenes Look

I’m sure most of you know what Pinterest is and use it regularly. Even if you don’t, we all live in a very visual world. So many images of beautiful things surround us each day. And if you’re like me sometimes you visit a blog or see something on Pinterest and think ‘wow, how perfect’ or ‘I wish my house looked like that’, etc.
The reality is that most of us don’t have perfectly kept houses or beautifully styled food everyday (or at all). A bunch of us bloggers decided we wanted to give you a behind the scenes look at what our homes/lives look like.
Remember this recent post for the No Sew Tutu Crib Skirt? Here’s a little behind the scenes from that project…
Exhibit A
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Reality…notice the clean laundry waiting to be put away, cute baby hanging out, and blankets all over the place.
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Toys strewn all over the place and more laundry.
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Mischievous 2 year old pretending the mobile arm is a shovel and clean cloth diaper laundry just outside the door.
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I really try and keep it real, but I also realize that beautiful pictures get more attention so it’s a fine balance. Just know that my house is never perfect. With 2 kids running around and one that’s starting to army crawl it is a small miracle if I can get showered without the entire toy room being relocated to my bathroom.

Check out some of the other blogger’s behind the scenes or link up your own below.

Have a great weekend!
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Easy No Sew Tutu Crib Skirt

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Hooray for crossing things off my to-do list! I’ve had this one on my list for about 5 months now. Since we didn’t find out the gender before Cadence was born, the nursery didn’t really get any love until she was born. I took the inspiration for her room from the fabric I chose to recover the glider, if you missed that check it out HERE. I’m not really trying to do ‘rainbow’ as much as I just want to use bright, happy, colors, not just pink. I’m not much of a pink girl.

Anyway, here’s how I did it.
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Using a thrifted crib sheet, I laid it over the frame.

Then I marked where the openings between the slats were. I made sure the marks were at least at the innermost edge of the frame.
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Then I cut on those lines. Going back they probably should have been a little farther apart.
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Now for the tulle. I got this stash of tulle on such an amazing sale at Hancock Fabrics right around Halloween. I think it was like $0.75/yard or something like that.
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I folded it in half (hot dog style?) and cut it in 5 inch strips.
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After counting the marks around the crib sheet I figured out how many I needed and did all my cutting at once.
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Then I simply just looped the tulle through the holes I had cut. I didn’t cut the tulle down any, just fed the folded edge down and through the hole.
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Continue all the way around and the crib skirt is done just like that!
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I love how it turned out and that it matches the glider so well. Now to get some things up on the wall and maybe a rug in here or something.
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I think she likes it too! lol
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oh and look he wanted in on the photo shoot. Mr.Ben is a ham in front of the camera saying, “Cheeeese” haha.
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