Stocking Stuffer Ideas 2014

Here are some of my favorite stocking stuffers!  They’re inexpensive, gender-neutral, and lots of fun!  These choices are aimed for the preschool- early elementary crowd.

1) Fun Flavored Lip Balms!  There are lots of great flavors out there, and what better way to keep your kids’ lips moisturized during the winter?  I recommend buying a large pack and diving them up between all the stockings.

Hershey’s 7-pack of Lip Balms, $14.99

2) Travel Games!  Small-sized games are great for playing in the car or taking on trips.

Travel Guess Who? $11.94

3) Milk Straws- Drink through these straws to make your plain milk more fun and tasty!

Milk Magic Straws, $13.49 for 24 straws in 4 flavors

4) Novelty Pens- I used to use all sorts of weird pens when I was a server back in college.  So. Much. Fun.

Gummy Bear Pen, $5.02

5)  A Creative Pencil Sharpener– for making homework time a little bit cooler

Nose Pencil Sharpener, $3.80

6) Temporary Tattoos–  Because they’re fun, that’s why!

Despicable Me Temporary Tattoos, 24 tattoos for $1.49

7) Simple Magic Tricks– This one is for the slightly older crowd.  Magic tricks give kids a chance to take pride in learning a “secret” that they can amaze people with.  They really take pride in being able to do something others can’t figure out!  Magic tricks are a fun learning experience!

Stop Lights Card Trick, $4.00

8) A Classic Kaleidoscope- They’re relaxing and inspiring.  I love kaleidoscopes.

Classic Tin Kaleidoscope, $7.91

9) Jelly Belly Jelly Beans – My mom still puts these in my stocking stuffers every year, and I always look forward to them.

Jelly Belly, 7 oz bag $5.55

10)  Pretend Dinosaur Fossil– After you find all the pieces, you have to figure out how they go together, then you can display the dinosaur bones wherever you like!  This is a great intro to archeology, and would be super fun for kids.

Dinosaur Fossil, $9.99

That’s all for now!  Enjoy!!!

Teachable Moments! Your Doll’s Body

I had a perfect opportunity for a teachable moment today!  I go to the library in the mornings once a week while the two kiddos are in school. Before I go, I ask them what kind of books they especially would like.  Today, Miss 4 said she wants a book about what’s inside our bodies.  I thought that was awesome!  I found two- one that has lots of awesome microscopic photos and images of the different systems and parts of our bodies, and a Dr. Seuss book about our bodies that we could read out loud.

We looked through the first book and read the second one before her nap.  After we did that, I noticed that she had her new Monster High doll in bed with her. I am NOT a fan of those dolls- their body shape is even thinner than Barbie’s!  However, she likes them.  So I took this opportunity to say, “Good thing your Monster High doll isn’t a real person!  Even if she was as big as a person, there wouldn’t be room inside her chest for lungs!  And look at her arms! She wouldn’t have room for muscles in those tiny things, so she wouldn’t be able to move them!  And see how tiny her tummy is?  All of the intestines that we have inside us DEFINITELY wouldn’t in there, so she wouldn’t be able to eat properly.  And her head is so big that she wouldn’t even be able to lift it!” At some point, Miss 4 started contributing as well- “Good thing she’s just a pretend monster!  Her legs couldn’t even run because she can’t fit muscles in there!”  I said, “If she were a real person, her body would have to be a lot thicker to have space for all the important things that make our bodies work.”  Miss 4 agreed, “Good thing she’s just a doll!”  It was a wonderful little conversation that made me feel much better about her playing with toys like that.  I’m going to continue to reinforce those ideas for her in hopes that she doesn’t see her Barbie and Monster High dolls as body shapes that she should one day try to have.

P.S.-  On the same note, I got my Lammily doll in the mail yesterday!  I helped fund the project when it was new, and am super excited about it!  Lammily is around the size of a Barbie, but has the proportions of a healthy 19 year old.  She has super soft hair, adorable toes, flat feet, and no make-up.  She’s wonderful.  I’m going to try to create some awesome clothes for her, and then I may get one for Miss 4 for her 5th birthday in the spring.  🙂  I’ll leave you with a Lammily/Barbie comparison:

My Hanukkah gift to my Nanny Family!

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, so it was time to give my big gift of the year!  I have been really anxious to give it to them, since I’ve worked so hard on it.  They were thrilled!

It’s a wall hanging with a hand-embroidered menorah.  I made little flaps that cover the flames and can be velcro-ed up for each night. The pockets also have velcro to keep them shut. I’m hoping it will be something they’ll treasure for years to come!

DSCN6240

Here’s a detail shot of the embroidered menorah. I used chain stitch for everything but the flame. I thought it felt more “heirloom” that way. 😛

DSCN6238

I loved picking out the little gifts. Some of the pockets have little treats- gourmet lollipops or some tasty cararmel-covered marshmallows. I put character socks in one and Hanukkah notepads in another. I had so much fun making custom Lego mini-figures to go in a pocket. Another pocket has little collectible character dog tags.  My favorite, though, is the last day, with something else I made- tiny little teddy bears!

DSCN6244

They’re about 3 inches tall with jointed arms and legs, hand stitched together with felt.  My first stuffed toys!  They were fun.  They’re not perfect, but I think they’re still cute. 🙂

Time to start planning their gift for next year!!!  I had so much fun with this one!

Christmas Crafts!

I currently work for a Jewish family, so I haven’t done Christmas crafts in years!  But that doesn’t mean I can’t pick out some good ones for you guys to do.  Here’s some fun ideas for you to try with your kiddos at any age!

For the Little Bitties (Baby or Toddler):

Handprint Christmas Tree –  Do this with one kid, or with all of them on the same tree for a “family tree”!  If you’re working with a kid who’s not great at putting his handprints where they need to go, have him do them wherever (as long as they’re not touching each other), then cut them out and paste them into a tree.  Paint on hands is always fun! Fingerprint lights are a bonus!

Dot Sticker Tree or Wreath – Ok, so babies can’t do this one, but it’s great fine motor practice for toddlers!  To make it a little easier, peel the background section of the sticker sheet off so that only the dots are left on the sheet to peel off.  If you have other kinds of stickers, use those, too!  Just make sure they’re not too hard for your kiddo’s little hands.

For the Less Littles (Preschool age):

Beaded Candy Cane Ornaments – Large beads are great for fine motor development at this age, and they’re fun, too!

Window Clings made with DIY Doodle Paint –  Squeezing bottles strengthens hands, and window clings are fun and decorative!  This link talks about how to make your “doodle paint” scented, too!

For the Not So Littles (school age):

Paper Stars – These look a lot more difficult than they are.  Kids may need some help, depending on their age, but it’s really just cutting straight lines, taping, and stapling.  When finished, they are an awesome decoration!

DIY Photo Snow Globes –  Most people know how to make a snow globe out of a jar, but I love the idea of printing out photos of your kiddo, then laminating it to put inside the snow globe!  So cool, right? Right?

Have fun!!!

Gifts the kids can make!

I’ve been meaning to update, but I’ve been so busy!  It’s the gift-giving time of the year, and I make a lot of my gifts, so I’ve been sewing, embroidering, beading, and all sorts of other things!

Each year, I help Miss 4 and Mr. 7 make little gifts for anyone and everyone they want to make things for. They typically have very long lists that include family, friends, neighbors, and classmates.  Choosing the right gift for them to make it tough. It needs to be something they can make a lot of without getting tired of making, and it can’t cost too much to make.

This year, Mr. 7 is making hot chocolate stir spoons.  He’s been enjoying the process!  We’ve made them with crushed candy cane and tiny marshmallow pieces so far, and want to also make some with silver sprinkles.

Miss 4 had her own idea this year!  She wanted to make coffee filter flowers for everyone, which sounded perfect to me!  We’ve made these in the past by coloring on the coffee filters with washable markers, then spraying them with water, but I thought we’d try a different method this time that would be less time consuming and would create much more vibrant colors.  So I used this blog post to get the general idea.  I changed it up a little bit.  I cut out the petal shape and place it on paper towels covered with wax paper.  Miss 4 sprays it with a water bottle to get the filter all wet, then drops food coloring onto the filter and watches the color spread around beautifully!  When there’s enough color all over, we let it dry completely before I attach the flower to a green piper cleaner.  The biggest trick I’ve learned is letting the filter dry on wax paper instead of just paper towels.  The paper towels soak up a lot of color, leaving the flower less vibrant.  The wax paper doesn’t!

Need more ideas for gifts that kids can make (and enjoy making)?

1.  More bookmark ideas!  Bookmarks are always a crowd pleaser!

2.  Felt fortune cookies (make them in whatever colors fit the holiday!)

3.  Artwork transferred onto inexpensive candles Super duper cool.

4.  Art Magnets (perfect for younger kids)

5.  Bird seed hearts (what a great way to give back to wildlife, too!)

The First Snow Day of the Season??? Already?

Yes indeed.  Overnight and this morning, we got somewhere between 3-5 inches of snow, and Columbus and the surrounding areas simply weren’t ready for it.  It didn’t help that we got rain before the snow, so there was ice involved as well.  Many of the schools in the area closed for the day.  When I got up to get ready for work, Mr. 7’s school was reporting a delay, not a closure, so I wasn’t prepared, either.  It all worked out, though, and it turned out to be a fun day that flew by!

After dropping off Miss 4 at school (her school didn’t close), and letting Mr. 7 watch a couple of extra TV shows as a little treat, we bundled up and went sledding!  There’s a local sledding hill just minutes from his house.  He went at it for about 45 minutes before being ready to go home.  He had a blast, and I was happy that he could burn off some extra energy and enjoy the first snow of the season. We went home and changed into dry clothes. Then Mr. 7 thought of a fun idea!  He wanted to create a sledding hill for his little stuffed animals!  But he wasn’t sure how.  So we brainstormed together and started putting together pillows covered with white blankets, and little plastic containers for sleds.  Then it was time for us to pick up Miss 4. We had lunch at Noodles and Co. (love that place!) and I was proud of the kiddos for doing a great job ordering their own food politely and precisely. 🙂

At home, I let them have some independent play (Mr. 7 wanted to show his sister the awesome play snow hill!) before Miss 4 had to go to her room for her nap.

While her sister slept, Mr. 7 played with his stuffed animal sleds some more, made a beautiful shrinky dink pendant for his cousin’s birthday (we’ll create the chain for it tomorrow), and wrote on some leaves for the thankful tree.  He got his sister up from her nap, and we had a little snack.

Then it was time for more snow fun!  While Mr. 7 had been coloring his shrinky dink, I was researching ideas!  We filled water balloons with colored water to put outside. By tomorrow, the water should freeze so that I can cut away the balloon and reveal ice marble thingies

We also painted our snow using water squirter things and more water colored with food coloring. You can use squirt bottles (which are great for strengthening hands), but we only had one, so I went to the summer water fun box and got out the squirters instead!  The gel food coloring I used seemed to be more vibrant, but maybe I just used more of it? Also, if you use red, be sure to let parents/spouses/family visitors that nothing died a horrible death in the snow. It’s just food coloring.  🙂

And who says that sand box toys are just for summer?  I took out shovels, molds, etc from the beach/sand box supplies and let them just have fun! And they did!  They were busy little bees, going around and using their hands and shovels to clear the snow off of chairs, a table, and the swing set!

I’ll post more fun snow ideas that I found later. Maybe after thanksgiving, when snow usually comes. 😛