All About Dinosaurs!

dinosaurs

I have a dinosaur obsessed little boy. It all started when he discovered Dinosaur Train on PBS. He loved watching and naming the dinosaurs, so I started brainstorming hands-on ways I could teach him more.

I started off by buying him a few things from Amazon.

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I love, love, love the National Geographic Kids line of products. They are so well made, easy to understand, and very educational products. I purchased the National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs. The text is very easy to read (beginning readers could read to themselves) and is written in a way that even the youngest readers can understand.

51dxaxoaNVLI also purchased the Animal Planet Big Tub of Dinosaurs. It’s a 40 piece set that comes in a storage tub. It contains a variety of dinosaurs, a printed mat, trees, rocks, and volcanoes.

Cooper was really happy with this, as you can see!

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IMG_5821After reading some reviews, I also ordered the My First Dino Kit.

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This kit encourages hand and eye coordination and observation skills as kids become paleontologists. It comes with a fossil block and excavation tools. I also loved that it came with a booklet of discussion questions and activities.

After we got these items and started to play with them, it dawned on me that I could make my own All About Dinosaurs! DIY Dino Dig at home.

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You’ll need the following supplies:

  • 3 boxes of cornstarch ($1 per box at the grocery store)
  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Plastic dinosaurs (I used the Assorted Dinosaur Fossil Skeleton from Amazon but after I ordered them I discovered dinosaur fossils at The Dollar Tree) (Cost = $3-$8) (If buying at The Dollar Tree, you will need multiple packages)
  • Plastic container ($1 at The Dollar Tree)
  • Excavation supplies – I used a paintbrush, magnifying glass, and a Popsicle stick

dinodigDirections:

  1. Pour the three boxes of cornstarch into your container. Add an 2.5 cups of water and stir vigorously to remove clumps. Add more water as needed until the cornstarch is a smooth, thin consistency.
  2. Add in your dinosaur fossils.
  3. Set it outside to dry (or in your garage if you are expecting rain). It will take 24-48 hours to fully dry.
  4. As the cornstarch dries, it will shrink, and water will pool at the top. Check the container every 8 hours or so and pour off any excess water.

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When your DIY Dino Dig is fully dry, you are ready to excavate! I did this outside as it is super messy. I laid down paper on our outdoor table and carefully popped the block out of the container. I laid out a few supplies – a paintbrush, a Popsicle stick, and a magnifying glass. Then I told Cooper to go to town. He broke up the block with the wooden stick and then started chipping away at the dinosaur fossils. Once they were free, he brushed them off with the paintbrush.

This was a fun activity for a dinosaur loving child!

I would say this activity is best for ages 3-7. The younger the child, the more assistance they will need in this project.

Patriotic Crafts for Kids

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Yesterday Cooper followed me around the house for the better part of an hour while I was cleaning. “I’m bored!” he chanted over and over. Bored? The kid has a playroom full of toys, for pete’s sake! While the baby was napping, I quickly consulted Pinterest and came up with some patriotic crafts we could do before lunch. Both of these are quick, easy, and you probably have most of the materials on hand.

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Cooper is still too young to take part in our annual fireworks explosion on the 4th of July. I thought these Fireworks in a Bottle were a cute substitute. He and Sullivan can shake them to their hearts content while the adults handle the explosives!

Directions: Remove the label from an empty water bottle. Fill the bottle with whatever red, white, and blue you have on hand. I used curling ribbon, red and white glitter, and buttons. You can also use pom poms, pipe cleaners, beans, rocks… be creative and see what you have on hand! Fill the bottle with water and secure the top with hot glue. You could also use baby oil (which will help the glitter stay suspended longer than the water will) but to me that was just a disaster waiting to happen.

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For the next craft, I taped down some craft paper and let Cooper paint some blue construction paper with red and white paint.

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Once the paint dried, I secured the paper into a cylinder shape with adhesive. I used streamers on the bottom, and the loop to secure the windsock is made from streamers as well. This Patriotic Wind Sock was super easy and my son was super excited to see it blowing in the wind all day!

Have you been doing any patriotic crafts to prepare for the 4th of July?

Playroom Tour & Organization

When we moved into our home three years ago, we decided we wanted to keep all the bedrooms upstairs. We have three bedrooms upstairs. At the time we only had one child, so one was the master bedroom, one was my son’s nursery, and one was a guest room. When I become pregnant with Sullivan, we turned the spare bedroom into Cooper’s “big boy” room and we moved Sullivan into the nursery.

We had one bedroom downstairs that we decided to use as a playroom. I don’t really care to have toys in the kids’ bedrooms. Cooper does have a few toys in his room, and I have two wicker baskets in the living room that are Sullivan’s toys, but in general all the toys stay in the playroom. When we first moved in, this room was a mess. We had several plastic storage bins just filled with toys and we kind of let Cooper do what he wanted as long as the toys stayed in the playroom. As a result this room was always a mess. It got to the point where Cooper couldn’t find anything to play with because everything was in such a chaotic jumble.

When I got pregnant with Sullivan, I went on a mad house organization and decorating binge. We had been in our house for two years at that point and had not painted anything other than Cooper’s nursery – but when nesting mode hit, I insisted we paint Cooper’s (new) room, the downstairs bathroom, the dining room, the kitchen, the living room, the hallway, and the playroom. And when I say “we” I really mean my husband.

Luckily my husband is a trooper and always makes my crazy ideas come to life!

We left this project until the last minute… as in, this was done just a few weeks before I gave birth. I picked up stuff for the room here and there throughout the summer, and we threw it together last August. In the almost year since we decorated and organized, I have to say the system we came up with is working quite well!

Without further adieu…

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Here’s the view of the left side of the room from the doorway. I love statement walls, and I decided to go big or go home in this room. I know a lot of people hate chevron, but I love it. I told my husband I wanted to do multi-color chevrons and he made it happen. The base of the wall is white, and I used blue (the blue of the other three walls in the room), pink, yellow and red for the chevrons. My husband says that painting the chevrons is not as hard as it seems, but it is very time consuming. It involves a lot of measuring and taping.

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Here’s a close up on the storage cubbies you see in the picture above. The two storage cubbies and the bench cubby are from Target. I also purchased the red fabric drawers from Target as well.

When I decided on a cubby system, I knew I wanted to label the drawers in a way that my son could easily view and understand what went into each bin. I sat down and sorted all his toys into categories to decide how many bins I would need. Then I made labels with scrapbook paper and cardstock. I searched for clip art for each category of toy, and then I pasted it into a Word document. I printed on heavy cardstock, cut, mounted each square on scrapbook paper, cut, and then laminated each square. I initially used velcro to attach the labels but those did not work long term. I ended up hot gluing velcro to the fabric drawer – it still detaches easily if I need to change out the content and the label.

One I had the fabric drawers labeled, I asked my son to help me put everything in the correct bin. I explained the system as we went, and the first few times he cleaned up I helped him, explaining what went where. From that point on he could do it himself.

Here are some of the labels I created:

  • Angry Birds
  • Super Heroes
  • Legos
  • Little People (this includes random figurines)
  • Castle
  • Toy Story
  • Mr. Potato

The bookshelf holds his books and some puzzles.

Above the bookshelf I have a shelf with hooks where his dress up clothes hang.

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This is the view of the center and the right side of the room. In the center of the room there is a children’s table with a tabletop easel. Directly behind the table is the train table, and beyond that is the art desk.

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We use the easel for our learning time. I print whatever letters we are working on that week, and my son uses the chalkboard on the back to practice. He also loves using the cups and paintbrushes to paint.

IMG_5851Here is what we call the Creation Station. (A very corny name for where I store art & educational supplies, and where we have Cooper’s art desk.)

IMG_5846The art desk itself stores markers, crayons, colored pens, and paint. The bins to the right and left hold stickers, educational supplies, chalk, paint, play dough, etc. The three drawer bins are from Target and I created the labels the same way I did for the fabric drawers. I repurposed some old plastic bins to hold coloring books and construction paper, and created labels for them as well.

I have to tell you – my friends think I am insane for putting the art supplies out. However, my husband and I had a serious talk with Cooper when we put together the desk. We told him he needed to always ask before using his art supplies, and that if he wanted to paint he needed to have his dad or I supervise. He’s done really well! We have had two accidents with the paint but it is washable so luckily it came up out of the carpet easily.

Here’s some of the art I created for the room.

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I purchased two plaster, open backed frames from Hobby Lobby at 40% off. I painted them red with the same paint we used on the walls. My husband (carefully, since they are plaster) screwed in hooks on the back, and I used twine to make racks where I could pin photos. In between the two frames, we screwed hooks directly into the wall and strung twine between the hooks. I purchased small hangers from Hobby Lobby and printed off Instagram pictures for the frames and the wall.

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I purchased wooden letters from Hobby Lobby and painted them to match the different color chevrons. These letters hang above the closet in the room.

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On our last trip to Disney World, I purchased a book of all the different Disney characters. Every time we saw a character or a character spot, I would stop and have the character autograph his or her page. I pulled out some of our favorite pages and framed them for the wall.

This was my least favorite project in the room. I got the frames from Ikea, super cheap, but they were black. I primed them with spray paint primer meant for plastic, and then I attempted to paint them with the red paint I used on the chevron wall. Even though I had primed, the paint would not stick. It took me about 10 coats, and there are still places where if you get close enough you can see the paint did not adhere.

I do want to point out that the playroom will likely change as Sullivan gets more mobile. We have already went in and pulled out anything that has tiny pieces the baby could choke on. We moved those toys upstairs into Cooper’s room. I am sure as Sullivan gets more mobile that they art supplies will move to a locked closet.

There you have it! I hope you enjoyed the Playroom Tour & Organization!

Note: you may see color differences in each photo. This room is very dark and is hard to photograph because of that. I had to go in and lighten each picture, so if the paint colors look different room to room, that is why.

Welcome to Summer! Fun Ideas for the Kids

Preschool ended for my three year old last Thursday, and if you are like me you are both excited and nervous regarding summer break. I’m excited that we don’t have a set schedule. We don’t have anywhere we absolutely must go and no time we must be there by. I’m looking forward to days at the pool, going for walks, picnics, and playtime outside.

However, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t the tiniest bit apprehensive about keeping my preschooler out of trouble. Cooper does not do downtime well. If he isn’t engaged, he’s getting himself into trouble. In fact, as I write this I am attempting to calm myself after finding that he decided to “experiment” and see what would happen when he poured nail polish remover on my hope chest. Deep breaths, deep breaths…. In case you are wondering the results of that experiment: nail polish eats away at the varnish on your furniture, leaving your treasured future hand-me-down in desperate need of refinishing.

Deep breaths, deep breaths….

Before all this happened, I decided to put together a “Welcome to Summer” basket for my boy. (I will be holding on to this basket until his behavior improves.) It is no secret that I love celebrations, and what better way to welcome summer than with a gift basket? I scoured dollar spots and clearance aisles for some fun summer gifts.

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The basket is from the Target Dollar Spot ($3), as are the shovels, water gun, water balloon, Jake & the Neverland Pirates puzzle, squishy critter, Crazy 8 card game, bath finger paints, and bug magnifying glass. I also purchased a beach towel, a pool toy (the Mickey weeble wobble thingamajig), and the Spiderman sprinkler.

If you decide to put together a basket, here are some other ideas of things you can include:

  • Water shoes
  • A new bathing suit or coverup
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses or a hat
  • Floaties or a life jacket
  • Pool toys, floats, or noodles
  • Water balloons
  • Water guns
  • Football or frisbee
  • Croquet set
  • Sand toys
  • Beach ball

One thing that I do for birthdays that would also be perfect for celebrating summer vacation is door streamers! How fun would it be for your child to wake up and see this when he or she opens their door?

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My child loves balloons – how about sneaking in their room with some helium balloons? You could also greet them at the car line or bus stop with a character balloon!

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My friend Rebecca from R We There Yet Mom? greets her kids with a special surprise when they get off the bus on the last day of school. One year it was a water gun fight, another a water balloon fight… Click on the picture to see Rebecca’s other ideas on how to welcome summer!

Welcome Summer

How do you celebrate the end of the school year and the beginning of summer?

Cinco de Mayo Fun!

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Can you guys believe it is already May? I sure can’t! This year has absolutely flown by. Yesterday my baby turned 8 months old! Gosh, if you want evidence that time passes quickly you just need to raise a baby, am I right?!

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Back to Cinco de Mayo. My friends will tell you that I’m a little holiday crazy. I will use any excuse to decorate my house and throw a quick impromptu fiesta. Cinco de Mayo is no exception! My son has gotten in on the fun and he gets so excited when he comes downstairs and sees our kitchen table all decked out. He knows it means we’re doing something fun that day, and I know it means he will be on his best behavior – even if it is only for the day!

I picked up most of my supplies from the Dollar Store and Hobby Lobby. The pinatas, hats, and maracas came from Hobby Lobby. The plastic tablecloth and plates came from the Dollar Store. I do keep my party supplies and reuse them year after year – so you really get your money’s worth. (Even the pinatas – around here we play “shake the pinata” instead of “hit the pinata”.)

I always like to try and include an educational aspect to our celebrations, so we’ll be reading Mexico ABCs by Sarah Heiman. This book discusses the culture of Mexico, including people, geography, animal, plants, and history.

Then we’ll be making homemade maracas! I know we all have the supplies for this on hand. All you need is plastic eggs, plastic spoons, popcorn kernels, and tape! More instructions can be found HERE.

For dinner I’m going to try my hand at creating this Chicken Enchilada Ring. I’m sure mine won’t turn out as pretty, but it is how it tastes that counts! Find there recipe HERE.

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As a special treat for the husband and I, I think I might just whip up a batch of my Blackberry Sangria! I made this for our Easter party and it was a big hit.

Blackberry Sangria

Ingredients:

1 bottle Moscato
1.5 cups Raspberry Vodka
1 small container of pineapple juice (or the juice from one can of pineapple slices)
3.5 cups blackberries
1 cup raspberries
1 large lemon
1 green apple
1/2 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. You’ll want to start by creating your simple syrup. Combine the sugar, 2 cups of blackberries, and 1/4 cup of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for several minutes. Turn off the heat and smash the blackberries with a potato masher. Let this sit until it cools, and then strain the liquid into a container. I smash the blackberries against my colander as I drain; this helps you to really get all the “juice” out of the mixture.
  2. Refrigerate your mixture several hours or overnight.
  3. Prepare your fruit. Cut up your lemon and core and slice your apple. Wash the raspberries and blackberries.
  4. Add the wine, vodka, and fruit to a pitcher.
  5. Let sit for 2-3 hours.
  6. Serve!

*Next time I make this I plan to omit the vodka. The husband and I aren’t huge drinkers and this was SUPER strong.

Are you doing anything special to celebrate Cinco de Mayo?