Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Feathered Turkey Play

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This simple feathered turkey contact paper play is a perfect last minute Thanksgiving activity. If you need some time for final preparations and are looking for something fun to occupy your little one, give this a try! All you need is colored construction paper (or you could draw the turkey shape onto a piece of white paper), contact paper, tape, and feathers (which could also be made out of paper). 

To make this fun activity for Skyler, I cut the turkey pieces out of construction paper, quickly used a glue stick to put him together and taped him straight onto our glass door. Then I taped the non-stick side of a small piece of contact paper over him, peeled off the backing to reveal the sticky side, and we were ready to play in just a few minutes!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids (Plus a Giveaway!)

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Between the snow that started earlier this week (and the extremely cold temps we will be having in Minnesota for the next several months) and the upcoming arrival of baby boy #2 any day now, I am more concerned about keeping Skyler well entertained and not plopping him down in front of a screen to pass the time. We love the occasional episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and some educational iPad apps, but I want to make sure that I am still providing Skyler with a variety of learning activities at a time where we will be cooped up at home and with a new baby that will require a lot of attention. The timing could not be more perfect for the book I am reviewing today!

When I found out that Asia of Fun at Home with Kids was working on her first book, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it!! I have been a huge fan of Asia and her incredible blog since she started and have been so happy to get to know her since starting Minne-Mama. Her simple hands-on activities are appealing to kids of all ages and every single thing she posts is SO fun! Skyler and I frequently do the activities and crafts that she posts, and I have many of her other posts on my must-try list (my Pinterest is proof of that!) Well, the wait is over, the book is out and it is AMAZING!

Many of the activities I have been dying to try are included such as Moonsand, Baked Cotton Balls, Crystallizing Watercolors, Soap Foam, Dirt and Worms, and every single small world activity. You have got to check them all out - the coolest! 

Skyler and I have happily been going through and trying some activities from the book. I had everything for the following activities at home already which is one of my favorite things about this book. You can buy almost everything at the grocery store or superstore that you are probably stopping at at least once a week (if you don't have it stocked in your pantry already!)

We did two activities from the book on Monday when we had our first snowfall. We started with the recipe for Magic Expanding Paint and it was a HUGE hit with Skyler. He started off by making small dots, but after I mentioned the word "squeeze" he filled page after page with awesome puddles of paint. His favorite way to create was by making a circle with one color, filling the center with another color, and switching off until his page was full.

Seriously, this recipe was so quick to put together and we spent the next half hour talking, laughing, and creating some beautiful pieces of art! This activity is going to become very popular at our house - just look at the joy on Skyler's face!

We also tried Oobleck for the first time! Going along with our snowy morning, we kept with the Plain Oobleck from the book, and then Skyler added snowflake sequins to play with. I wasn't sure how this would go since Skyler is not really into slimy sensory play.

At first he touched it and said "I don't like this!" I sat and played with it, talking about how cool it was (seriously this stuff is incredible to touch - I have never felt anything like it!)

With some manipulation, the sequins started dropping down into the Oobleck, so I told Skyler we had to play peek-a-boo for them. That caught his attention, and my little man who is not a fan of gooey stuff was on a mission to find snowflakes! He still didn't love it, but it was a start. There were smiles :) I will definitely continue to use this activity with Skyler.

We also made the PomPom Shooter from the book which was a ton of fun! The next two up for us are the Flax Goo from the slimes section and the Banana Playdough. Both things we have all the ingredients for at home and I think Skyler will love them both!

I am planning on buying a stockpile of 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kidsto give as Christmas, birthday, and 'just because' gifts for everyone I know that has a child baby to school-aged. For an extra special gift to give, check out Asia's post for including the book with this DIY sensory kit!

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I could keep gushing about the book - how great it describes ways to manage messy play (something I thought I would avoid as a mom because I hate to make a mess!), how clearly labeled each activity is with any potential allergens, or the huge amount of variations included - but really, you have to check it out for yourself!

150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kidsis available worldwide and can be purchased through the following links. If you don't see a link for your country, email Asia at and she will be able to help you track one down! (

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
Barnes and Noble
From your local US bookstore
Book Depository
Fishpond AU

Asia has a super fun giveaway going on and you can enter here to win a handmade activity from the book (made by the author herself)! I would be thrilled to win any of her amazing creations!! Enter to win below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was asked by Asia to be a part of her online book tour and was given a copy of the book 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Toddler Decorated Care Package

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Care package two was successfully shipped and received! We found out that Joe got approved for leave and will be home for Thanksgiving before returning to his stateside training. I chose to do a Thanksgiving theme and had a lot of fun making this package.

I wanted to include Skyler in the decorating of the package as much as possible. We had a lot of fun making sticker turkeys, hand print turkeys, and a big feathered turkey to decorate the inside, flaps, and top of Joe's care package. Skyler loved feeling involved not only in making the care package, but helping me pick out the things that went inside of it. 

Similar to our last package, I mostly just sent snacks for Joe (with plenty to share!) since he didn't really need anything yet. I also included a letter, and on the morning I was going to send it, Joe asked me to send the arm band for his phone, so luckily I was able to send it to him that day!

My main goal with this care package was trying out mason jar pies. Joe's dad has a recipe he loves at Thanksgiving for sweet potato pecan pie. Following their recipe for the pie filling and modifying the cooking temp and time using a canned pie recipe I looked up, I ended up with three little pies that can be shipped safely because of the canning process! The recipe usually has the nuts on top, but I found a candied pecan recipe and sent them separately instead. Joe said they were amazing and I can't wait to try this method out for all sorts of baked goods!

I included tons of snacks and treats like jelly cranberries (Joe loves them - sticking with the Thanksgiving theme), almonds and trail mix, granola bars, chips and salsa, candy corn and M&M's, beef jerky, and flavored pretzels. We'll see if they can actually finish it all before Thanksgiving - I went a little overboard!

Skyler's favorite part was decorating this feathered turkey for Joe. Skyler put on the eyes, beak, and feet of the turkey on his own, colored the turkey a little bit and then we turned it over and added the feathers. I handed Skyler pieces of tape and we worked together to fill the back of the turkey. He talked about sending daddy that turkey for days and was excited to find out that Joe has it hanging by his bed.

The final product - so much fun to put together and send! Now time to prepare his next package :) 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Garbage Truck Play

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This garbage truck play was a spur of the moment activity that ended up filling our entire morning! We were spending some time playing in the living room and after watching Skyler quietly make several laps around the room with his toy recycling truck, I asked him if he wanted to make a road for his truck. He looked at me like it was the best idea ever, so we quickly got out the black tape and started making a curvy road for his truck. Every time I ripped off a new piece of tape Skyler would giggle and say "Oh! Good one, Mama!" He had a great time helping me place the tape around the carpet to complete the road.

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I grabbed a few small toys to act as the 'garbage' for his truck. We had been listening to his Kindermusik CD earlier in the morning and had to pull out all of his shaker eggs after the song "shake your eggs" came on. In addition to his eggs, I got some balls from his ball ramp and fabric block set, and we had plenty of garbage to set up around on the side of the road!

This activity was such a hit with Skyler! He drove his two trucks around and around (this recycling truck from Green Toys is one of Skyler's absolute favorite toys!), stopping to fill the trucks with toys and then setting the garbage back up just to do it again. Every time Skyler looked at me he flashed me this huge smile. His very cheesiest - I love it!!

Over a week later, his black tape road is still going strong on the carpet! He just loves it!! This was our first time making a tape road, and I know it will not be the last. It is such a simple way to extend play time with his vehicles, which are Skyler's absolute favorite toys. The size of the road doesn't matter at all either. He likes it just as much with his small construction vehicles and wooden trains, or with his big riding train too.

Such a fun morning with this sweet boy!

Taking a break from his busy job!

Watching Skyler carefully open his garbage truck and fill it with the toys was a lot of fun to watch. It is always exciting to set up an activity that makes him so happy. Especially when it was completely unplanned! Makes you feel like Supermom :)

It couldn't have been a more perfect day to do this activity either. It was garbage AND recycling day, so we took breaks from playing with our garbage truck track to watch the real trucks do their job. Once the truck was done doing both sides of our street (Skyler's favorite part is when it has to back up to get out to the main road - the beeping is just so fun for a two-year-old!) he would quickly turn around and start playing with his track again! Skyler told me for days after playing this that he was going to drive a garbage truck like a garbage truck man!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Care Packages and Coping

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Going into this month, I didn't know if I would write about this, but I started Minne-Mama not just for the crafts and activities I do with Skyler, but as a place to show what we do as a family. The military has been, and especially right now is, a huge part of who we are and how we live. We had to say goodbye to my amazing husband this month in preparation for his deployment. It was a hard week away from home as we went to going away ceremonies, and in the week he has been gone, we have just been trying to get into our new routine for the next several months. He is gone a lot, so Skyler and I are used to being at home just the two of us, but I am trying hard to make life feel normal for us before the baby arrives and our lives change drastically again. 

My husband is my best friend, and has been for over ten years since we met in high school. I like to think of myself as pretty independent, but being without my person still sucks. We were apart for four months when he went to basic training, but that was before we were married, before we had Skyler. Not only will this be a longer time away, but now Skyler and baby E are a part of the mix. I have been using most of my extra energy to prepare myself and our children for Joe to be away.

...and then I started looking up care packages, how to best send them, packaging baked goods...and I stumbled across care packages on Pinterest and realized how fun they can be! People decorate the inside of the boxes and do all sorts of amazing things with them. It has become my biggest distraction and is the one thing I feel like I can control with the deployment. I can send Joe a piece of home and show him how much we miss him in the care packages I send him. I am hooked!! Even though he just left, I made sure he had a package to open when he first got to his stateside training.

Since I knew he wouldn't need a lot for his stateside training, the majority of the box space was stuffing the Halloween-themed box with his favorite candy. I also bought him a calendar to use as a countdown and journal, and I had a lot of fun going through and leaving him messages on important days or just at random.

For my first care package, I went simple with the inside of the box - just using black, orange, and striped paper to write out "Boo! We miss you!" and "Happy Halloween" for him to find on the bottom when all of the contents of the box are emptied (I sent a lot of candy, knowing that Joe will not be the only one eating it!) On top of the candy went the calendar and Little Pumpkin Craft Skyler made for him, and I covered the top with spider web and plastic spiders (and used the leftover to make our spider web sensory bin). 

I have already started working on the next care package, and will probably create a side tab for them in the future, not keeping them in the main part of the blog.

Other ways I have been preparing for the deployment have been mostly for Skyler. The night we got home after watching Joe head to the airport by bus, I set up Skyler's deployment wall that I have been piecing together for months. 

His little red table has become our deployment zone and other than the lettering of "We Love Daddy" that I made, it includes two clocks for our time and daddy's time (more for me when the time different is greater, but Skyler is always saying "I like my clocks!") and "Army Bear" which was a gift that Joe brought back after a recent training.

The bin includes a variety of books on deployment and separation that I researched for months. We have read a few and I may do a later post of our favorites. The specifically deployment book we read the most is "Over There" which was given out at a family briefing I went to and it is great for a toddler! Skyler  loves the version of "Guess How Much I Love You" which is a recordable book from Hallmark that Joe did before he left (I also took some videos of Joe reading some of Skyler's favorite books for him to watch when he wants to hear a book from daddy).

The little book in the front that says "Skyler and Daddy" is filled with pictures of the two of them and is Skyler's favorite part of the deployment table! He is always carrying his picture book around and talking about what him and daddy are doing together in the pictures.

The shelf above Skyler's table has calendars (that I made and decorated the backgrounds of) for all of the months Joe will be gone. I planned on putting them all up on the wall to the left of his table, but am not ready to see the empty calendars yet. When we fill a few, I will probably put them up. Skyler puts a sticker on every night. This picture was taken a week ago, we are caught up :)

We are also sticking with our countdown tradition, with a monthly countdown. The only change I am making is when I take off a link I write the date and a note to Joe on the back. I am going to save all of them and give them to him when he comes home. The little picture of him sticking out of the cup is a "flat daddy" that Skyler made at one of the going away meetings. He is on a little Popsicle stick and we are supposed to bring him with us and take pictures with him. Skyler and I are already talking about all the places we want to take flat daddy while Joe is away!

The biggest way that Skyler has coped with Joe being gone is with "Bear." We went to build-a-bear a few weeks before Joe left and he recorded his voice for both Skyler and baby E and Skyler made the bears. He talks about putting in the hearts and stepping on the pedal ALL the time! Skyler takes Bear with him almost everywhere and sleeps with him. It has been so helpful since Skyler hasn't been able to talk to Joe at all since he left. He loves to press the foot and hear daddy talk about how much he loves and misses him. Skyler will be bringing the camouflage bear that he made for his brother to the hospital when he meets him!

I swear the camo shirt was completely accidental!

I am hoping these coping techniques will help Skyler through this time, but honestly I have no idea how to help a two year old understand how long it will be before his daddy comes home. We are just going to take it one day at a time.