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Toddler Game Review: CandyLand

candyland

Toddler Game Review: Candyland

My husband and I love to play games. Board games, video games, card games, dice games, role playing games…. you name it. My three year old has also inherited this love of gaming. Unfortunately he is too young to play most of the games we have. So we have been on a mission to find toddler friendly games. We have found a handful of games that my son is able to play. Today we will talk about his favorite game to play currently CANDYLAND. (aff)

Now unless you have been under a rock your whole life you have probably heard of this one. It came out way back in 1949. It is for 2-4 players. The only thing your child needs to know is color recognition. Which even if they don’t know their colors with your guidance it is good practice to learn them. There are color cards that are placed face down which once chosen will determine where you get to move. There are also a few special candy pictured pieces that let you go to a special spot on the board which could be near the end of the board or back towards the beginning. Those cards keep the game interesting. The object is to be the first one to get to the end of the board.

Playing games such as this help teach your toddler how to take turns and good sportsmanship. As stated earlier this particular game also works on color recognition. As for a review of this game let’s just say that the hardest part of the game is getting my son to stop playing it! That’s how much he loves it. He asks to play several times a day. It is a classic game that kids still play for a reason. If you are just introducing your kids to the joy of board games this is definitely a must have. My very competitive husband likes playing it, even though my son often beats him at it! It is a great family bonding activity. Since it has been around so long there are many variations and special edition sets. I’d love to hear what some of your favorite toddler friendly games are so leave a comment and share with us because we can never find too many games for family game night.

Pokemon Party on a Budget

pokemon

Pokemon Party on a Budget: My son just turned 3 and wanted a Pokemon Party. We are on a tight budget so we had to keep costs down. Due to the release of Pokemon Go it is hard to locate Pokemon party supplies at least where we live so we got creative. We needed 3 cheap things to make the party successful: venue, cake, and party favors.

Venue: For our venue we chose to go to our son’s favorite park/playground. It was free, we brought a folding table and some lawn chairs. We could have held it at our house but the tree in our yard seems to be home to millions of mosquitoes and the playground seemed more fun. Free is always good and all of his friends love the playground too.

Cake: For our cake we chose to make our own cupcakes and decorate them to look like pokeballs. We bought two boxed cake mixes: one funfetti, and one devil’s food. We bought two containers of white icing: cream cheese, and buttercream. Then a red and a chocolate icing that had included piping tips. We could have made the red and “black or chocolate” icings with food coloring but we were lazy. The cake mixes produced 40 cupcakes total. We iced each completely with white icing, then added the line and circle with chocolate then filled in half of the circle with red icing. We rushed the process so it looked a little sloppy but he thought they were amazing and they tasted great. Now we could have melted candy and made it nice and smooth or we could have used fondant but again we are lazy. Our finished product looked like this:
pokeball cupcakes

Party Favors: For our party favors we decided to create our own pokeballs so that each guest could have a few to play with and take home. To create them we used ping pong balls because they are light and don’t hurt when bounced off your head and don’t break items in the living room when bounced off the shelves and such. This was a trial and error process. First I tried coloring them in with Sharpie markers. I don’t know whether we bought faulty markers or the marker just didn’t like the material the balls were made out of but either way they did not look good. The marker seemed dried out and the ball looked streaky and it just wasn’t appealing so we went to plan B. We put duck tape around half of the ball leaving half exposed. We used the excess tape as a stand to hold up the balls so that we could spray paint them red.We placed them in a box prior to painting.
spraypaint pokeballs
We put two coats of paint on. Once dried we took out a bottle of black acrylic paint and hand painted the line and circle on each one. This did take some time.
handpaint pokeballs
Once the paint was fully dry they looked awesome. Again we kind of rushed and each one looked different than the next but the kids loved them.
finished pokeball
The kids ran around the playground pretending to catch each other. My son throws them all over the house and at his stuffed pokemon to catch them. They took a while to make but were a huge hit. A few kids tried stuffing their pockets with extras that they found laying around.

Stuff we used:

We kept the party simple and had our pokemon party on a budget and it was a great success. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a party. Our son had a fantastic day and so did our guests. I’d love to hear about some of your DIY parties and what themes you came up with, feel free to comment with ideas that may help others do a budget friendly party.

Potty Training

pottytraining

Potty Training

When we first decided to start training we bought a potty seat. It attached to the regular toilet. It even had handles and a button that made sound. It was CARS themed which my son loved. What he didn’t love was dangling from the big potty and it was hard for him to get on to even with the step stool. So it was practically impossible to get him on the toilet in time, let alone for him to do it himself. The reason we started with the seat instead of a potty chair was due to a recommendation from another customer at the store who said that they felt the chairs were a waste of time and it was hard to then transition them to the bigger potty it was almost like starting over… Made sense to us. But then we went a different route.

Since he loved the idea of the potty and flushing and everything we bought him a potty chair that looks exactly like a real toilet but it is child sized. He loves it. He is able to sit on it by himself. Although he still isn’t super interested in potty training and would rather just stay in diapers, he will sit on it and read books and he has gone in it already. The best part is his feel can touch the ground making it more comfortable so he will sit there longer with no fuss. So even though he isn’t potty trained just yet I do highly recommend this potty chair and it’s super cute. The top has a compartment to keep wipes in it but he likes to throw toys in there to hide. It has a flusher which makes a flushing sound followed by a giggle sound. The only thing that is missing is being able to watch the water swirl as it goes down the drain but with a kids potty there is no water so we compromise and put whatever he does into the big potty when he is done and he gets that excitement too.

Are you currently potty training or maybe you have some success stories that you would like to share? What has and hasn’t worked for you and your children during this process? I would love to know. We still have a ways to go here so any tips are always appreciated.


New book: Inside the Hole

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New Book

I wrote a children’s e-book called “Inside the Hole”. It’s about a boy who sees a hole in a tree and wonders what is inside.

I also did the illustrations!

You can click on this link to purchase my new book “Inside the Hole” to view on Kindle.

Even if you don’t own a kindle you can download the kindle app on any computer, smartphone, or tablet for free. My book is only $.99 so I’d love for you to check it out and let me know what you think! What kind of children’s books would you like to see me write in the future?

Decluttering and Organizing

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Decluttering and Organizing

Whether you are a parent, live with roommates, or even live alone organizing your living space can be very important. Having a clutter free house can improve your mood and reduce stress. Having fewer things around also means there are fewer things that can get piled up and cluttered. Both myself and my husband have a tendency to acquire a lot of stuff. We are notorious for having piles of papers laying around. Unfolded laundry can be found piled on our futon. My son scatters toys throughout the house. In an effort to help declutter and organize we read the book:The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo

She developed a method called the KonMari Method of removing clutter and organizing your things. The book was very inspiring. She says to keep only things that spark joy. If you pick something up and it doesn’t bring you joy you throw it out (with a few obvious exceptions of course.) I won’t delve too much into the book because you should totally read it for yourself. There are a lot of great tips which is I’m sure one reason it is a best selling book.

Although the book did inspire me to try and get rid of some of my things, I have a bad habit of holding sentimental value with everything or I think I may use it again some day, or I may fit in those pants again some day. I’m not always honest with myself when it comes to all of the “junk” I have. Especially if something was a gift. I have made some strides to better organize myself. They don’t necessarily fit with the books theme but I feel slightly better. I put shelves and cloth cubes in my sons room and in our living room for storage of our items. It does look nice when cleaned up. The problem is my son dumps bins at a time out and it quickly gets overwhelming. It makes me better understand where the author is coming from when she talks about a much more minimalist approach. My clutter problems are solved by sticking stuff into bins, they are just more hidden.

I do feel less stressed when my house is in order and I make excuses as to why it often isn’t. ‘My toddler will just mess up what I clean, I’m just going to mess up the bed again anyway why should I make it, the dishes are never-ending I just don’t feel like doing them right now…’ Perhaps you make similar statements.

Do you want to change? Do you want your house in order? Perhaps you and I both need to take a closer look at the KonMari method and organize in a way that will bring us joy. I’m going to try to implement some of the strategies from the book. If you have read the book and have successfully incorporated her methods I would love to hear about it. If you haven’t I urge you to read the book and let me know what you think. Now I just have to convince my toddler that he doesn’t need all of those toys 🙂

My Stroller Review

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A few friends of mine have just had babies and I found out recently that my sister is pregnant so I’ve been thinking about all the things I used with my son, who is now almost 3. I thought I would discuss the various strollers that we’ve used and let you know what I think. So here is my stroller review.

Baby Trend Expedition Travel System

Type: Jogging Stroller, all terrain
Steering: The best steering stroller I have ever used. You can seriously steer this thing with one finger. It is awesome. It takes corners very well. Just make sure if you are going to run that you lock the front wheel otherwise it becomes a pretty bumpy ride that is impossible to control.
Size: A little large because it is made so that a carseat can be attached. It also has the large wheels.
Portability:It is easy to fold up and throw into the trunk of the car however if your car is small you may have a hard time fitting it in or at least anything else other than it. We actually took it car shopping with us so we knew it would fit. We also took it to the airport with us which was a lifesaver when going from one terminal to another. It did well being thrown into cargo.
Comfort:Due to the ability to lay back or sit up and the fact that my son took several naps in the stroller I would guess it is pretty comfortable.
Accessories: The stroller came with a carseat as we got the whole travel system. You can buy it without though. The carseat could snap right into the stroller which was super handy when my son was a baby. It made getting him and any shopping items into the house a lot easier. It has nice big real tires instead of plastic ones. This however can be a downfall as they need pumped with air and there were a few times we would have to pump them up before going for a walk. One of the tires currently needs a tube changed. I do believe the big wheels definitely help in the handling. It had a shade cover with a see through window but I wish it were a little bigger. It has four decent sized cup holders and a small storage compartment near the handlebar and a decent storage net underneath the seat.
Price:With the carseat it will run around $200 which we felt was reasonable for a two in one. Just the stroller itself will run around $100.
Recommendation:We absolutely loved this stroller. I have a love hate relationship with the tires and getting a flat but other than that I would 100% buy this kind of stroller again!

We are currently using a Britax B Agile.

Type: Jogging
Steering: The steering is definitely not as nice as the baby trend. It has small rubber tires. It takes both hands to steer this one. The handling isn’t too great either and feels like it could easily flip if you aren’t careful on corners.
Size: It is a little smaller than the baby trend but still decently big.
Portability:It folds up fairly easy but you need to press a button and pull a strap to do it. It does take up a lot of trunk space but overall it is fairly portable without too much hassle and isn’t too heavy.
Comfort: It is well made and the restraint system is strong. My son seems to be very comfortable in it.
Accessories:It has a very large sun shade that is absolutely awesome. It only has one small cupholder where the child sits but it has an accessory bag attached that can hold pretty much any sized drink. (both of those accessories are sold separately and do not come in the box) I do like the bag alot. It has a small net storage also underneath the seat.
Price:This one costs a little over $200 for just the stroller, they also sell the travel kit with carseat for between $320-$350.
Recommendation:It is a nice stroller but for someone on a budget it isn’t worth the extra money.

 

Next We used a Babies R Us Easylite Convenience stroller

No Picture Available

Type: convenience,standard
Steering: the steering isn’t as nice as a jogger but works well enough for a walk or some shopping
Size:small only slightly bigger than an umbrella stroller
Portability:this stroller folds up nicely by pulling on a strap. It easily fits into the trunk. And is very light.
Comfort:Not as padded and my son is able to stop the wheels from moving by putting his feet under the foot rest. He has however napped several times in it.
Accessories:It has cup holders but they are pretty much worthless they don’t fit many drinks even some sippy cups are too big. It has a small sun shade and a small net storage area under the seat but it doesn’t fit much and my son puts his feet there so anything you put in there will get stepped on.
Price:$60 so more budget friendly than a jogger
Recommendation: We wanted to upgrade our umbrella stroller with something that would be easy to throw in the car and use it in stores and such without hauling around the big jogger. It does work for this but one reason for the upgrade was for storage and cup holders which could be improved upon in this model. If you don’t care about those things then it is a okay buy but personally I would pass on it next time.

 

Umbrella Stroller

Type: convenience, standard
Steering: the wheels can get a little loose making steering wonky but it is so light that for the most part it is easy to steer
Size:small
Portability:As portable as it gets. Easy fold up and fits most anywhere.Not super durable though.
Comfort:Bucket seating so kind of like sitting in a hammock. Not much support but my son has napped in it.
Accessories: none come with the basic umbrella stroller some fancier models have a small sunshade or a bag to hold your stuff in.
Price:$30
Recommendation:If you just want to put your kid in a stroller and won’t be walking through grass or anything and don’t need storage or cup holders then this budget friendly stroller is the way to go. It has many colors and patterns to choose from and if it does get a wobble in the wheel or bent up a little it is easy to replace.

 

Double Strollers

When my son was small my friend and I went in on a Graco Ready2Grow Double stroller

Type: double stroller, standard (similar to a sit n stand)
Steering: I have a horrible time steering this. It is heavy and I’m always kicking it while walking which is annoying. Turning is tricky for sure but to be somewhat expected with a double.
Size:pretty big even for a double.
Portability:It folds up but sometimes not very easily. It is big and bulky.
Comfort:you can attach two carseats which is nice for twin babies. The seats face opposite directions which doesn’t allow any socialization between children which may or may not be a good thing. It is similar to a sit n stand stroller and you can remove the one seat to reveal a hard plastic seat underneath. The plastic seat does not have a back to it and although we never used it, it does not look remotely comfortable but if you are a toddler that just needs a rest for a minute I guess you probably aren’t picky.
Accessories:it has two sunshades but they are super small and pretty much worthless. It has a net storage area in the bottom that is fairly large, we were able to throw in two diaper bags. It has a few small cup holders. And with a place to stand it technically has 12 riding options.
Price:about $200
Recommendation:it sounds good in theory but I feel there are better options out there.

Recently I got to use a Double BOB stroller

Type:jogging, luxury
Steering: steers great especially for a double stroller. Has real tires so some pumping up or tube replacement may have to be done.
Size:fairly large
Portability:it does fold up and is supposed to be good for hiking
Comfort:super comfortable bucket seats. Could definitely get some naps in this one.
Accessories:large net storage area. Two separate sunshades. Other accessories like handlebar storage and cup holders are sold separately.
Price:$500-$800+
Recommendation:I only got to use this on a walk and don’t have enough use to give an opinion but it was very nice. I have a tight budget but reviews from friends that have one are always positive. If funding is available I believe the Double BOB will not disappoint. It does have the seats side by side which makes it pretty wide which would be tricky for shopping trips in tight aisles. But for a jog or some offroading it would be amazing. There are single BOB strollers as well I just never used one.

There are many other options out there but these are the ones I have experience with. I’d love to hear your opinion on these or any other strollers that you love or hate.

 

How to Make Chores Fun

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How to make chores fun:

If there’s one thing in our house that we don’t like to do its chores. This generally holds true whether you’re single, have roommates, are married, or have a family. This is something that my husband and I struggle with daily. So we were searching out a way to make these jobs more fun.

I stumbled upon a website called “chore wars“. What this site does is allow you to play a role playing game of sorts. Each chore is an adventure and worth experience points, gold, and even treasure. You will even run into the occasional monster and have to defeat them. You have your own character and you can have a party. Although the rewards cannot be spent in game you can come up with ways to spend them outside of the game for fun. Your party can even have NPC’s which could be children that are too young to participate in the game but you can fill in the chores for them. This can be a great incentive for getting things done around the house. Also if you are competitive like my husband and I it’ll make you want to do chores more. My husband and I both love to play games and this is one way to gamify something that we dislike doing. So far we’ve only done this for a few days but it has made our house look better and improved our attitude towards doing chores. Even unwanted chores such as changing the toddler’s diaper or taking out the trash has become easier knowing that you get points for it.

There are some chores listed that you can choose from and you may also add your own and create the experience points and rewards for those chores yourself. You can create one-time quests and you can also have daily things listed. Now we just need to figure out what we can spend our rewards on in real life for fun such as a massage or a night where you don’t have to cook or time alone or whatever sounds most fun. You can make this into a competition where the winner gets a prize at the end of the week or the end of the month the winner can be determined by their experience points and gold. If you dislike chores but love playing games this is definitely something you should try. I recommend going to www.chorewars.com and making an account. You can participate for free or if you want long term records of what was done you can pay a one time subscription fee. I have no affiliation with this website whatsoever I just thought it was pretty cool and worth mentioning. So go out my friends and turn your unwanted duties into a game.


Literacy Strategies

Reading comprehension can be a struggle for many students.  As a Reading Specialist I’ve come across many books about reading.  I’ve also come across several strategies that can help students to read better, understand what they read, and also to write better. For example KWL charts and Venn diagrams. I plan to start a series of blog posts on different literacy strategies that I have used with my students, while teaching, that I have found effective.  One book that I highly recommend that has been a great resource for me is “50 Literacy Strategies” by Gail Tompkins

I personally have a copy of the first and second editions of this book.  It is now in its fourth edition.  It is a great resource for teachers to quickly locate strategies. Further posts in the series will focus on just one or two strategies and I will delve into specifics of how a strategy works and some examples of it in use. So keep checking back for strategies that can help you and your students to be successful!