Planning Playtime

Planning Playtime: May 2013

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Running a 3K

Today I got to run a 3K with my girls as a fundraiser for their school library.  I have been training for a half marathon and was so excited to get the chance to run with my girls.  The goal was to push them to do their best without causing any tears.  They did great.  My 8-year-old ran ahead and didn't need a lot of encouragement from me.  I ran along side my first grader who started out fast and then wanted to walk.  I would have her hold onto the double stroller, that I was pushing with my two youngest children inside, to try to help pull her a long at a slow jog.  Once in a while she would have a burst of speed and then want to walk again.  I continued to keep gently pushing her to keep going.  We tried to keep it even and steady.
We talked about the finish line and the water that was waiting there.  They also normally have fruit so we went through a list of all of our favorite fruits and wondered which ones would be available.  The chatter helped keep her mind off of the running.  In the end they both finished in under 28 minutes, and then lined up along the finish line to clap hands with and cheer on the rest of the finishers.  I love sharing experiences like that with my kids because I hope that it builds in them a love of fitness and a desire to continue trying  new things and pushing themselves.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

30 Minute Playtime With Mom Ideas - Week 1

So one of the things that drives me crazy is sending my kids to bed when I'm grumpy. I hate feeling like the last thing they get from me before they go to face their nightmares and dreams is that mom was upset or annoyed with them. Instead I would hope they could feel love and happy as they slip into sleep.
To go along with that I have found that with all that our kids do these days, it is hard to find time to play with them. In the mornings it is a rush to eat breakfast, get dressed for school, make lunches, find shoes and get everyone out the door. They are gone to school for most of the day at which point they come home with lots of homework. Hopefully we have after school snack. Then they have their chores, their piano practice, dinner, bath time and reading time. Plus there is Gymnastics, Ballet and choir and other activities. When are we supposed to play?
I teach my kids to be independent and find activities to do on their own while I make dinner or other various housework, and they don't need me all the time to play. However, if I set aside just a little bit of time for playtime with me each day they are able to look forward to that.  Then I get to hear that I am "the bestest mom in the world" and it was their "best day ever." (Except for days at Disneyland. They always throw in that exclusion at the end:)
So to help myself remember to do our 30 minute playtime each day, and to make sure it actually happens I am compiling weekly lists of 30 minute activity ideas to do with my kids. Some take prep and others are last minute "I didn't have time to prepare, but still want to try" activities. Here is this weeks list:
Mini Pillow Fight: I love the idea of playing tag with bean bags, but when you throw them at each other they are too hard for my sensitive little girls. So instead we made our own bean bag size pillows. You just fill the bean bag with cotton stuffing instead of beans or rice. They are still small and fun to throw, but they won't hurt anyone or hopefully damage anything. We hide behind furniture, run through the kitchen and living room, occasionally jump on couches and have a ball.

Sock Wars: Each player needs two long socks on their feet. Do not pull the socks all the way on. Leave at least 4 inches of sock flopping on the floor at the end of your toes. The goal is to try to step on the other players socks and when they move their sock gets pulled off. The last person with at least one sock partially on wins. We look crazy hoping and jumping around trying to stay away from other player's feet or step on their socks first, but it is super fun and great exercise to boot.

Uno: My kids are starting to get into games, and I like this one because we can play and have fun while teaching my 4-year-old her numbers and colors.

Cartwheel Practice: All of my children have been or are currently taking Gymnastics lessons. I have not. They love showing me how to do their flips and skills and critiquing my cartwheels.

Crawl Tag: It's like regular tag, but you can only crawl. This one is particularly fun to play at our house because we have a 16-month-old baby who likes to participate. He tries to walk/run and we all crawl and he giggles like crazy.

Intstant Dance Recital:  For this one we turn on our favorite Pandora station, usually a Disney kids station or Owl City for my ballerina.  Then when a song comes on, someone gets to do an instant dance for the rest of us.  We take turns until all of us have had a chance to perform.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tron Birthday Party

My oldest daughter has gone from pretending Cinderella running down our stairs and losing her slipper to writing a book about a girl that fights with discs on another planet.  I think her book was inspired by her love of Tron.  She learned about Tron on a trip to Disneyland and it has become one of her favorite movies.  I own a princess dress store, so when my daughter tells me she wants a Tron party I was a little hesitant.  There's not a lot of pink in Tron, but we decided to go with it and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

To decorate the walls we used blue disposable table clothes and white crape paper from the dollar store.  We had a framed Tron poster so we threw that in there, and then used plates, plasticware, balloons and table clothes in blue and white.  The room felt very surreal when you walked in.


Deadly Discs:  I purchase several packages of the very small, lightweight frisbies from the dollar store.  Everyone had one frisbie to start and they chose places to stand across the yard we were playing in.  When I said go they tried to throw their frisbies at each other.  They were only allowed to hit below the shoulders.  Because the frisbies were so light it didn't hurt if you got hit.  If someone tagged you with their frisbee you were frozen until the person who tagged you got hit.  Once they were hit you were free to run and play again.  If you caught a frisbee being thrown at you the person who threw it was frozen.  The children had a fabulous time.

Glowing Disc Toss:  We purchase a can of glow sticks and let the children each choose 2 to connect together to make a circle.  This was their glowing disc.  We set out hula hoops at different locations on the lawn.  They would try to toss their glowing disc and land it inside one of hula hoop circles. 

Dessert:  or dessert we had cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream frosting and Blue Raspberry Snow Cones.

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Monday, May 20, 2013

Mother's Day Printable

I get to work with a lot of children because of the volunteer work I do.  This Mother's day we had all of the Dad's come in and help their children make cards for their Moms.  If you're a mom like me you get tons of cards and drawings from your kids all the time, but they usually don't say a whole lot.  I made this card because it had a picture and some questions for the kids to answer about their moms.  I found out from my 6-year-old daughter that my favorite food was peanut butter cups and my favorite place to go was Yogurt Land.  It's fun to see what they think about you.  Here is a link to the free printable.  Enjoy!

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Friday, May 17, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownie Bites

It's no secret.  I have a serious obsession with brownies.  The are so gooey, so chocolatey so good.  The only way to make them better is to top them with your favorite frosting and some sprinkles.  This recipe combines two of my favorite yummy treats, Brownies and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.  Yum!!  We could hardly wait to eat these.
Your favorite Brownie Mix
Vegetable Oil
Cookie Dough Frosting:
3/4 cup butter, softened
4 oz cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-3 cups powdered sugar

Mini Chocolate Chips
Brown Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare brownie mix as directed.  Use a non-stick spray to coat each hole in mini muffin tin.  This will help them come out without sticking.  Fill the cups to about 3/4 of the way full and bake for about 12 minutes.  I like mine still gooey on the inside so if you like them done you may want to add 2-3 minutes.  Set them out to cool.  In order to get the brownie bites out of the tin without them sticking, place the cooled brownie pan into the freezer for 30 minutes.  
While the brownies are cooling combine the butter, cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and beat until smooth.  Then add the salt, flour and vanilla.  Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time until frosting reaches the consistency that you like.
Once the brownies bites are starting to harden pull them out of the freezer and remove them from the muffin tin.  Then pipe the frosting onto your brownie bites.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and mini chocolate chips.  Enjoy

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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Let Them Pick Flowers

My children have all the enthusiasm in the world for gardening.  They beg to have their own garden spot every year.  The problem is that they only want to plant what they want to plant, and I can't convince them that cucumbers are better than the flower seed packets that they see in displays everywhere.  Don't get me wrong.  I love flowers.  We planted hundereds of flower bulbs and seeds in the flower beds this year, but I reserve the raised garden beds I worked so hard to build for the fruits and veggies.
There are a couple of veggies that they are willing to plant.  Strawberries are exciting because everyone knows they like to eat those.  They also love the pumpkins because they know they will get to pick one out to carve for Halloween.  After that they begin to lose enthusiasm over food plants.  There is no fighting over the spinach seed packet or the zucchini squash.  I can't even get them excited about the peas which I always loved when I was little.  It's not that they don't like to eat veggies.  Veggie plants are just not as pretty as flowers.
So when I went to the store to pick out flowers for my well planned flower pot arrangements I decided to let my 4-year-old daughter pick out whichever flower she wanted to go in one of the pots.  Of course she picked something completely out of the color/flower scheme I had planned, but it meant a lot to her so we went with it.  Now when you come up to my front porch you will see 4 pots with coordinating red and white Geranium, Petunia and Lilly arrangements.  Then right by the front door there is a lovely pot of bright blue pansies.  The funny thing is, it is that pot of pansies that is going to make me smile the most this summer.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

The Things He Puts In His Mouth

Welcome to today's addition of, "What I took out of his mouth."  So here is a partial list.

In addition to feeling like a terrible parent I am going crazy.  I feel like I pick up and sweep constantly, I faithfully leave all bathroom doors closed but I worry constantly about what he might be choking on, or like today, what he is cutting his mouth on.  My last child just sucked her thumb, and that was all she needed.  How do you get a 1-year-old to suck his thumb?  I would even be happy with him taking a binki.  No such luck.

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Exercise - When you can't do it without them

 I recently began training for my first half marathon, but I'm finding it difficult to get my training in.  I don't have a good double jogging stroller, I'm way to tired and night, and mornings are complicated too.  I decided to just get up super early so I could exercise before anyone woke up.  I assumed that 5:30am would do it, but no.  As soon as I started getting up at 5:30 they started getting up at 6-6:15, not enough time for me to make my husband's lunch and run 5-10 miles.  Why can't things go according to plan?
I'm constantly coming up with new strategies.  If they wake up and come downstairs I have them sit next to the treadmill and watch a cartoon or read a book in bed.  I invite them to do video workouts with me.  I even let them have turns on the treadmill, but when it just doesn't work out I've started biking.  My two oldest are in school so I buckle the younger two in the bike trailer and off we go.  They've done really well for the first several miles.  I normally go when my baby is starting to get drowsy, and as long as I don't stop or hit too many potholes he lays back and zones out or falls asleep.  The 4-year-old gets bored after a couple of miles, and starts whining which of course brings the baby out of his happy place and he starts to cry.
I realized while riding one day that there is a park about halfway through one of my popular routes, so today I offered to let her go to the park for 15 minutes in the middle of the ride.  Of course she couldn't wait to go, and the only slightly whiny type sound that I heard from her was an, "Are we there yet," when we were about a block away.  We got to try out a new park and go down the giant, yellow twisty slide, and she was convinced that the baby would love the little, tiny, pink slide.  After that exertion the ride home was quiet and peaceful, other than the traffic, and I consider it a complete success.  What I learned?  My kids are not motivated by the, "Mom is trying to maintain her girlish figure," goal that drives me.  I have to help them find something in it for them. 

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Recording Kid Funnies

The moment I walked into my oldest daughter's first parent teacher conference in her kindergarten class, her teacher said, "Oh I have something I have to show you."  She pulled out a spiral notebook where she kept a list of some of the funny things that the kids in her class would say and gave us a list of the funny things Kylie said in class.
At first I was so amazed that she would take the time to write those things down, and then I thought, "Why am I not doing this."  I had written down a few things in journals, but that night I went home and put a magnet notepad on the fridge so that I could easily jot something down before I forgot it.  The sayings are now treasures.  The kids love to see the funny things they said when they were little, you know like a whole year ago:)  Occasionally I'll post a few of our favorites.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Duck, Duck Goose - Learning about Bugs and Insects Variation

Does anyone else become bored at the thought of playing Duck, Duck, Goose?  I’ll sit down with excellent intentions of a fun half-hour of the game only to find my interest is gone at about 1 turn per person.  At that point I try to point out who hasn’t had a turn so that I can stay under the radar, and in my seat.  Don’t get me wrong!  I love games, and I love playing with my kids.  I've just played this one too many times.   So I thought, why not change it up a bit?  The world is filled with animals besides ducks and geese, and maybe we can learn something while we are at it.

My kids love bugs, and they always want to know who eats who.  So I've compiled a list of some of our favorite bugs and their hunters for our Duck, Duck Goose games.  You call out the first animal until you are ready to be chased and then you call out the predator.  It is different, you learn something while you play and it is fun.  I love it!

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I Spy Colors - A game to pass the time

A couple of years ago we were taking our 1 and 3-year-olds on a trip to Disneyland with my husband’s family.  His family loves to go in January when the park isn’t as busy which works beautifully except that we have to get there and back in winter weather.  We got stuck in our smallish airport for hours waiting for a storm to pass, and the batteries started to run out on their movie player.  We walked up and down the terminal several times, we ate, we looked out the window at the snowflakes and airplanes, but we still couldn’t leave.
Finally, we were sent to a large, circular, crowded boarding area where hundreds of people were sitting on every part the floor waiting to get on their flights.  Then we waited another 1-2 hours, and this time there was no space to walk.  So we played ‘I Spy.’  It was a bit tricky at first for my 3-year-old.  She had a hard time guessing and I wasn’t sure she was really thinking of something while I was guessing.  I decided to tell her what color the item was that I was spying.  “I spy something Red.”  Instantly she would look around the room for anything red.  If she happened to guess something that was not red, I would teasingly remind her that the item was not red and encourage her to guess again.

It was a fabulous game.  She was searching for colors, choosing colors, and getting an instant response on whether she was correct on her color guess and she was enjoying it.  Before long I noticed the a little girl from the family sitting next to us watching us.  I could see that she wanted to play so I invited her to spy along with us.  Her mother told me later when we were leaving to board our plane that her daughter had whispered to her, ” I wish I had a mom like that.”  Of course I was flattered, but it also deepened my appreciation of ‘I Spy.’  Any game that could make me look like an enviable mother, after getting up way too early in the morning and spending 4+ hours in the airport trying to keep 2 little children happy, was a good game!
A couple of other variations we play: Big or Small and Tall or Short.

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Friday, May 3, 2013

Someone told me about it, and now I’m telling you.  Get out and spread the word, because LeapFrog has created something amazing.  Letter Factory is a 35 minute miracle.  Here’s the story.  Tad and his family visit the Letter factory where Professor Quigley is teaching the letters their sounds preparing them to go in a talking alphabet book.  Guess what!  The letters learn their sounds and so do your kids.
After a cousin told me about the DVD I bought it for $10, and let my 2-year-old daughter watch it while I showered.  It was perfect length because I hated to start her watching a full length movie when I only needed a half hour.  My daughter was already really smart.  She knew all of the names of the letters before she turned two, but I hadn’t made the effort to teach her their sounds.  I was sure I could wait until she was 3 before teaching her to read.
It took less than a week for her to be able to tell me the sounds of nearly ever letter in the alphabet.  No kidding!  I couldn’t believe it.  I would have spent endless hours teaching her those sounds, but instead, a couple of showers later my barely 2-year-old was starting to read.  I've used it with my next two children with similar results.  It works people!  To hear from more mother's that love this DVD check out the over 1200 five star reviews this DVD has on Amazon.  I’m spreading the word as fast as I can, because every time I hear about this DVD it’s from a very happy mother.
You can buy this DVD at your local Wal-mart or Toys R Us if it’s in stock, or just pick it up on  It normally runs around $10.00.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Free Printable: Learning Shapes and Colors Game for Preschoolers

I started this game with my first daughter when she was about 18-months-old.  It worked so quickly that I was shocked, but hey when you do something right, be excited.  We got complements constantly for what a smart child we had, and of course we could only agree.  I will share my secret with you so that your small child can impress too with their knowledge of shapes and colors.

Print your game pieces here:  Color or Black & White

Shapes and Colors Game Instructions

First, print out the 6 sets of shapes for this game.  If you are printing the black and white you will need to make sure that you color the shapes so that both copies of each shape are the same color.  I typically print them out on card stock or cut them out of construction paper.

Then, set your child down and put one of each of the shapes on the floor in front of them.  You will keep the other set.  Sit in front of your child, pull out a shape from your set (for our example the green circle,) show it to the child and then say find me the green circle.  Their job is to look at their shapes, find the one that looks like yours and hand it to you.  At first, particularly if they are very young, they may choose the wrong one.  If they pick up the blue square you say, "Not that one.  That is the blue square.  Can you find the green circle?"  Then show them the green circle again and continue until they figure out what you are asking them to do.  Praise them when they do it correctly so they will want to continue.  I also let them keep the matched set in a pile next to them so that they feel like they are earning something by doing it correctly.

Once they have this basic step down make it harder by not showing them your set.  Just ask them to find the shape you want them to find.

To make it easier, start out by just asking them to find the shape.  "Can you find the heart?"  They love the heart.  Then when you feel that they are getting the shapes down, add the color into the question.  "Can you find the red heart?"  At some point you can change the cards so that the colors are different if you want to make it harder.  You can also just ask for the color and not the shape.

I typically can play this game through 2-3 times in a sitting before they start to get a little bored.

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Point System for Wii Time - Harry Potter "House Points"

We gave our kids a Wii for Christmas several years ago, and until recently it really hadn't been that much of a problem.  They would play a little bit here and there, maybe more so if they just got a new game.  Then, this past year my 8-year-old discovered Harry Potter.  We allowed her to read the first three books, and she just can't stop talking about it.  She's read each of the books several times and has become a walking encyclopedia of Harry Potter facts.  She even has our three-year-old running around the house yelling "Expelliarmus" while waiving her fake wand.
So being the fabulous parents that we are, we bought her the Harry Potter Wii game for Christmas.  Bad Idea!!  The obsession has now escalated, if that is possible, and she would play that game every day all of the time if we allowed it.
Our first move was to only allow Wii time on weekends after the chores were done.  You have no idea how fast an 8-year-old can clean a bathroom, (code for "it wasn't really cleaned.")  By 9am on Saturday she was ready for her Wii time which would then last all day because, "Mom, it's the weekend."  Clearly this wasn't working.
On to plan two.  My sister-in-law told me about their Wii rules where the children had to earn their Wii time, and she and my brother would keep track of their time which they could use after chores and homework were done.  I loved it, so I came home and made our own Wii time chart.  Now of course, being the Harry Potter obsessed household that we are, our Wii chart consists of the Hogwart's houses, and the children have each been assigned a house.  Then, as they are doing their chores, helping each other or doing something extra special I can call out, "Five points to Gryffindor," and the child assigned to that house gets to add 5 minutes to their Wii time for that week.  They can also lose time as a disciplinary action.

It was a huge hit.  So much so that they didn't even seem to notice that we were severely cutting down their actual Wii time from all day Saturday to whatever was on their chart.  We typically start them out with 1 free hour of time each week, and they add to that as they earn "house points."  We have added that if they turn in a completed Piano Practice Chart for the week, finish all of their homework or we if don't have to remind them to feed the dog then they can get points for that as well.  Our Wii time is now at an acceptable level, and the children have a sense of control over it.  It was a win win.  Thank you Harry Potter!

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We have to go shopping? Noooo!!

Summer is coming soon which means strawberries in the garden, water fights in the backyard and horrible grocery store trips.  Shopping excursions with all four of my kids are awful, and I don't completely understand why.  Most of them are girls.  Shopping is supposed to be fun and addicting right?  No.  Instead my oldest complains that shopping is boring and she would rather be home reading a book.  My second child cries if I don't let her buy whatever she asks for, and my third child cries if we go to any store but the one that gives out free Smarties at the checkout counter.  The baby is honestly the best shopper as long as he hasn't found a way to climb out of the shopping cart yet.  It's a disaster, and I inevitably get the sympathetic, "You sure have your hands full, don't you," comment from passers by.
So my options, Go to the store when the kids are in bed (my only by-myself-time), or find a way to make shopping fun.  Thinking about it logically, I determined that grocery shopping really is an important skill to teach children.
 First of all, grocery shopping is a major family expense.  What better way to teach your children to budget than to show them how you do it at the grocery store?  For example, when my kids ask if we can get that bag of candy I respond, "We could, but then we don't have money for something we want more."  My kids are obsessed with going to Disneyland so they know that if we want to save up money to go to Disneyland then we have to be careful what else we are spending money on.  We also talk about how we can pay for gymnastics and ballet lessons because they are more important to us than more toys and candy.  I don't like the phrase, "We don't have money for that," because I don't want them to stress about us not having enough money to take care of our family, and, on the other hand, I don't want them to feel that if they have money they can just spend it.  Instead I want to teach them how make better decisions with their money.
Second, the grocery store is where healthy eating habits are born.  If you fill your house with healthy food, then that is what you are more likely to eat.  During the summer I allow my three oldest children to plan a meal each week which I will help them prepare.  They are responsible for the health and well being of our family for that meal, and they love the responsibility.  They plan their menu, which has to be passed off my mom, and then when we go to the store they have a budget and can select the items they need for their meal.  They are required to have healthy items as a part of their meal, and their budget is usually around $5 for the meal.  While they are picking out their fruits and vegetables I teach them about how to pick the freshest ones, and they are so proud of themselves if they pick out a good orange or tomato out of the bin.  During the winter, when they don't have as much time to plan and prepare a meal, I let them each pick one fruit or vegetable of their choice for us to take home and try out.  It is a fun way to have them invested in healthy eating and expanding their tastes.
Another strategy I've used to make shopping more fun for the kids is to do something else on shopping day that they love and remember. One of our favorite "Special Shopping Day" activities is to go out to lunch.  Now normally I we go out to eat almost never, but our local library has a fun summer reading program where the children win coupons and vouchers for their reading logs.  Last summer my kids were getting lunch coupons every week to various restaurants in our city, and since they each had one, I would take them to lunch, and I only had to pay for myself.  They couldn't wait for Wednesdays because that was lunch and shopping day.
I still have annoying trips to the grocery store, but as a whole, we have greatly improved our shopping trips.  The children have more ownership in them, and something to do while we are there or right after.  I don't have to bribe them with treats to be good, and they are learning life skills that I hope will stick with them long after this summer.

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