Planning Playtime

Planning Playtime

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Having Sick Kids Would Be Fun If...

To give this post some context, I've spent a good part of this past week sitting on the couch with two babies on my lap, closely snuggled (aka sandwiched) by an additional three kids.  Of the five, four are sick with an influenza bug.  Over the course of each day my shirt has functioned a giant, glorified Kleenex, and every few minutes, when one of them coughs, I am showered with a warm, aerosol like spray of germs.  Sound Familiar?

That being said, none of them are in any real danger, and after a recent, terrifying health scare, that is a huge relief.  As I sat there today, surrounded by these lovable disease carriers of mine, I couldn't help but think there had to be a better way to be sick.  The following are some of the ideas I came up with.

Having Sick Kids Would Be Fun If...

  1. ... McDonald's had a Well Child and a Sick Child play place.  Hey, if my pediatrician's office can separate the two, why can't the second largest food chain in America.  I mean come on, that would be big business.  We can't take them to school, church or daycare.  Just add Children's Motrin and Tylenol to the menu and you're good to go!  
  2. ... Our Doctor's Office had an Escalator.  My son can not get enough of the moving stairs.  All that going up and back down again is super magical apparently.  Between that and the free lollipop at the end of the visit, I'd be turning down teary eyed petitions to go to the doctor every day.
  3. ... I was just starting the Hunger Games Trilogy for the first time.  There should be a disclaimer on the front of that first book warning the readers that starting those books late in the day can lead to a severe lack of sleep, loss of focus and a marked indifference to the outside work until you've reached the end.  Hey, if you have to sit on the couch and watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates all day, you may as well be reading a great book.
  4. ... We owned a Japanese style Air Hockey Table.  Prepare your brackets!  I feel a tournament coming on.  The low height of the Japanese style table will allow sick children to comfortably recline on their pillows during play, and the required movement of only one arm is great for the low energy child.
  5. ... The First Four Seasons of Downtown Abbey came to Netflix.  If there were ever a time for binge watching, this is it.  Sure my sink is overflowing with dirty dishes and we can't open the door to the laundry room, but my baby won't let me set her down anyway.  I may as well be enjoying myself while I snuggle her soft cuteness.
  6. ... I didn't get sick of UNO and Candyland after the first 2 hours.  You know you can relate.  Where did this sudden attention span come from?  They can stare at the Peppermint Forrest for hours, but they can't listen to me finish a sentence?  I'm just not buying it.
  7. ... I was back in my College days when all-nighters were cool.  I grew up in a fairly strict home with an early curfew.  We considered ourselves lucky if we saw the clock strike 11:00pm on New Year's Eve.  Then I left home for college.  I remember the first time a guy tried to get me to stay up all night just for the fun of it.  He offered to cook me breakfast if I could make it.  Now I pull all-nighters on a semi-regular basis - not by choice - and then I'm the one who has to cook breakfast.  Life is so unfair.
  8. ... We Played a Drinking Game.  No, I'm not really going to get them drunk.  In fact, there is no alcohol involved.  I mean a child friendly game of, "Whenever someone coughs, we all have to down a shot of Apple Juice."  Hey, we have to keep all those feverish kids hydrated somehow.
  9. ... We all had Water Guns filled with Disinfectant Spray (Tear Free of course.)  Is there ever a bad time for a water fight, really?  You know it sounds fun.
  10. ... We Played "Snotty Tissue Basketball."  Now there is a sport that could catch on.  You'll need to start with the right equipment, a high quality tissue with the right thickness and absorbency.  Then, get the perfect blow of the nose to fill that puppy up.  Carefully wad, and then shoot for the trash can.  We'll keep score on daddy's white board.  The winner claims ownership of the remote control for the next hour. 
Okay, having sick kids is anything but fun, but they say, "Laughter is the best medicine," so hopefully you got some and are enjoying a happy, flu free day.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Harry Potter Birthday Party

 My oldest daughter would rather read than do just about anything else, and for several years we wouldn't catch her with anything other than Harry Potter.  She is our resident expert on the series and can tell us at any given time what happened where and in which book.  It became an obsession with her, and for the last several years she would rotate which Harry Potter character she wanted to be for Halloween.  We moved to a new house about a year ago, and as I finished packing up their room I found, "Harry Potter + Kylie" written on the wall in her closet.  So the theme for her birthday party was pretty much a given, and we had a lot of fun with it.

First off was the invitations.  She invited all of the members of the Harry Potter fan club she created, and a few others as well.  Then I had to think about decorations.  With a brand new baby, and 4 other kids to take care of, I don't get out to shop much so I tried to mostly use things we had around the house.

My husband had recently purchase this beautiful old chest for me from the classifieds.  It is an antique, and I absolutely love the old leather bindings and papered insides.  I decided to pair that with a stuffed owl that I had purchased for the nursery and our favorite books with magic titles.  I had another smaller chest that looked like it could hold a quiditch set so we set that out too with a fun ball on top.

We wanted cupcakes that fit with the theme so we made witch hat cupcakes.  The witch hat cupcakes were made by placing and unwrapped Hershey's kiss on the bottom side of a chocolate cookie.  We then placed those on top of the frosted, chocolate cupcakes.  We called them Sorting Hats, and the kids all raved about them.

The candy selection was picked out by my daughter, and she included Bertie and Bott's Every Flavored Beans and Lemon drops in honor of Albus Dumbledore.  The chocolate frogs almost happened, but the time I did brave the store they were out:(  We did manage to get Butter Beer - which we served with whip cream on top - and chocolate cookie wands.

One of the biggest hits at the party was the Broom Party Favors made from paper bags and branches from our back yard.  They were filled with treats and a Quiditch cup, and each child got to fly one home.

The last piece came together when my mother-in-law surprised the birthday girl with a brown chocolate cake, decorated in green icing that said Happy Birthday Kylie.  I hadn't realized the significance until Kylie started jumping up and down, telling us that it was Harry's cake.  Sure enough, we checked, and the cake Hagrid brought Harry on his 11th birthday was chocolate, decorated in green icing, with the words, "Happy Birthday Harry."  Who knew?

The children had a great time play quiditch in the back yard and Harry Potter Trivia afterwards.  They all ate way to much candy, and laughed uncontrollably while drinking butter beer on the back deck.  Then the crowning moment occurred when Kylie opened one of her gifts, a picture from the Harry Potter trailer, and just stared at it for a minute or two.  Then her eyes lit up in disbelief and excitement as she realized that she was in the photo.  A sweet friend had worked some photo shop magic to create a one-of-a-kind keepsake for my little girl.  Amazing!!

It was a great party, and my cute little 10-year-old couldn't be happier (unless we took her to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter of course, but that will have to wait until next least!!)

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Home Work - Tip of the Week... Home Work Basketball!!

My 10-year-old daughter recently started playing basketball on a local rec team.  She absolutely loves it, and spends quite a bit of time in the back yard practicing with our hoop and her green and purple ball.  She's made amazing progress in her skills over such a short time because of the dedication she gives the sport, and I've wondered... what could she accomplish if she channeled that energy into her schooling?

And that is how Homework Basketball was born.  So the idea is, for whatever subject your child is loath to work on, have them answer on a sheet of paper leaving extra space around the answers.  We chose math, because that is Kylie's current nemesis, and for every problem that she answers correctly she gets to rip off that section of paper, wad it into a ball and add it to her ball pile.

At the end of homework time we set up a garbage can at a reasonable distance for her age.  The she gets a chance to throw each paper wad ball into the trash for a basket.  We keep track of the points and she tries to better her score every day.  If you wanted you could also offer a prize of some kind for a achieving a certain level of points (I am not always above bribery:)  You could also compete against your child, shot for shot, with the kids who enjoy a little bit of friendly competition.  Some of my kids love this.

So there you have it - a fun way to get your kids excited about their homework.  This can be adapted to spelling, vocabulary and other types of homework as well, and hopefully you'll have a little bit of fun while you learn!!

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Jake and the Neverland Pirates Birthday Cake

I have to say that after 3 girls in a row, my husband and I had just about given up hope of having any boys.  My mom, who is quite the ambassador for large families, would always tell my husband that if we kept trying that eventually we would have a boy, and I guess she was right because the 4th time around we got our little Jaxon.  People always say that boys are different that girls, but wow, boys are different than girls!!  From the start of my pregnancy and throughout this cute little boy's life, I keep being thrown out of my predictable, pink comfort zone.

That being said, throwing some blue and green in there every once in a while is a refreshing change of scenery.  Just when I feel like I can't watch My Little Pony one more time, my cute little boy asks for Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  It's his favorite show, and I think it's absolutely adorable.

My cake decorating is amateur at best (I've never taken a class), but I try to make something fun and personal for my kiddo's birthdays.  Of course that means a Jake and the Neverland Pirates Cake for my 3-year-old birthday boy.

Here's how I did it.

Step 1: Bake two 9 x 13 pans of chocolate cake and let them cool.  Draw the base of your ship on a piece of white paper.  Using the paper drawing as your guide, cut two bases of the ship.  Stack them on top of each other with a layer of Chocolate Buttercream frosting in between.  Then using the same drawing, cut two more pieces of the back 1/3 of the base and stack them (using the buttercream between layers) for the upper back deck of the ship.  Cut 1 piece of the front 1/3 of the base to use for the bow of the ship.

Step 2:  Apply a thin layer of Chocolate Buttercream frosting to the entire outside of the ship.  This will prevent crumbs falling off and will help you attach the fondant.

Step 3:  Roll out brown fondant into a 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut out rectangular sections to use as your planks.  If you want the wood grain design you can purchase a fondant mat with the wood grain pattern.  I didn't order one early enough so I used a knife to scratch in my own wood grain lines.  Take your fondant planks, and after applying a thin layer of buttercream to the back, tile them onto the outside of your cake.  Make sure to stagger the planks so they don't all end in the same places.

Step 4:  I wanted a bit more wood texture so I added some deeper brown color into some of the wood.  You could do this with a brown dusting powder and a paint brush, or I used a brown icing glaze.  To make the glaze just use a bit of Powdered sugar, water and brown food coloring.  You want the glaze fairly runny so that it will tint but not frost and cover your fondant.  Then using a brush I spread a thin layer over the planks and gently rubbed it in with my finger where necessary.  I loved the glazed look when I was done!

Step 5: Pipe over the corners to make for a neater edge.  For this cake I used a yellow icing to match the Jake and the Neverland Pirates boat, but if I were making a traditional pirate cake I would probably go brown or black. 

Optional:  If you want a railing you can roll fondant and attach with toothpicks to support the posts in an upright direction.  Mine looked pretty good until my son, who was helping me with his cake, grabbed a chunk of the railing and pulled it right off.  I tried to patch it, but as you can see from the picture, it was never the same:(

And there you have it - and adorable or scary Pirate cake.

Happy Baking everyone!!

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Skip Counting Songs - Multiply by 6 or 7

Here are the next songs in our Skip Counting series.  My eight-year-old 3rd grader just finished the 7's song and she can't wait to pass of her 7's times tables today.  When I say she's excited, she was actually jumping up and down at the idea of doing her math, and that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love these songs.

Skip Counting by 6 song 
to the tune of 
"London Bridge is Falling Down"

and then one of our new favorites...

Skip Counting by 7 song
to the tune of
"Mary Had a Little Lamb"

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Skip Counting - Fast and Easy way to Memorize your Multiplication Tables

Mother's of 3rd graders everywhere, this one's for you.  Memorizing those times tables is a killer, right??  I still remember trying to pass them off myself in school - all those hours of memorizing numbers - but with the help of my 10-year-old daughter I can share an easier way.

Introducing our Skip Counting Songs!!  I was introduced to skip counting when my oldest daughter was learning to count by 2s in school.  She also learned to skip count 5s and 10s, but that was where it ended.  The rest of the multiplication tables had to be learned the hard way.  Then one day she came home singing skip counting to nursery rhymes, and within just a few weeks she had passed off all of her multiplication charts in school.  It was magical. 

I couldn't remember all of the songs when I was trying to teach them to my next daughter -giving birth to 5 kids has wreaked havoc with my memory.  I searched for it online and couldn't find anything similar so I asked my oldest daughter to help me record and share them as one of her home school projects.  We've been learning a lot through the process, and we hope that they can work magic for your kids too.  Here are the 3's and 4's songs.  Enjoy!!

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Homework: Tip of the Week - HangMan HomeWork

Homework and I do not get along, not because I don't want my children to spend time learning, but because I want them to be able to do other things too.  I have to find my happy place when the kids, after being gone to school for 7 1/2 hours, get home with hours worth of homework to do.  Whatever happened to play time, chores and piano lessons. 

So sometimes we don't do it (shhh... don't tell;) but most of the time I try to find ways to make homework double as playtime with my kids.  This week we have been playing hangman.  I never realized what a versatile game hangman was until this week, but it works for much more than just words.  We used it for math, science, spelling and sight words, and instead of just doing problem after problem of long, boring homework after a full day of sitting at a desk, you are in the middle of a game trying not to be hung.

I love that the kids can either be the hanger or the hung, because either way they have to solve the problem for the answer or know how to properly spell the word.  We switch back and forth and have a grand time, and before you know it, words are memorized, the math is done and the kiddos and I had some quality time together.  So pull out some paper, grab an extra pencil and find out just how much you remember from your elementary math.

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