Posts Tagged ‘kids’

Betty’s Bookshelf: Our Favorite Story Books

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

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Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved stories. She loved the stories about sheep, the one with dinosaurs, the one with monkeys and especially the one with a family of bears whose home is burglarized and vandalized by a sneaky, sleepy golden-haired girl. This smart little girl and her mom loved to read together, so they went to the library where they got lots and lots of fantastic books and they read happily ever after.

Reading with kids lays a foundation for a lifetime of learning. Story time is a great time to snuggle and bond and the stories can spark important conversations. My daughter Betty and I are excited to share some of our favorite books so you can enjoy them with the special kids in your life.

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Little Blue Truck – This short story follows a kind and friendly Little Blue Truck who depends on his neighbors when he gets stuck in a bit of trouble. Reading this is a great way to start conversation about the importance of friendship and community.

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All of Baby, Nose to Toes – A rhythmic rhyming story about loving every part of your sweet baby. Who loves this book? Me! I do!

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Farmer Brown Shears His Sheep: A Yarn About Wool – As a knitter, I was thrilled when we received this book as a baby shower gift from Elizabeth’s godmother, Emily. When Farmer Brown shears his sheep, they feel too cold so they decide to take matters into their own hooves with very funny results. In the process, we learn how wool becomes yarn. I don’t think this book is in print anymore, but there are used copies online and it is available in some libraries.

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Eating the Alphabet – Beautifully illustrated images of fruits and veggies adorn the pages of this basic ABC book. This one is great for practicing the alphabet and generating interest in trying new fruits and veggies. We sometimes use the colorful pages of this book for a game of I-Spy.

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Caps for Sale – Elizabeth’s Auntie Christina loved this Reading Rainbow book as a girl. A fun tale of a peddler who runs into some mischievous monkeys, this story is a great one for acting out and doing voices. Children catch on quick and are delighted to help “read” the monkeys’ lines.

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Dinosaur Roar – If you’re pregnant and we’re friends, SPOILER ALERT, you will get a copy of this book as a shower gift. This was Elizabeth’s first favorite.  As a 3 month old she was spellbound by the pictures and the way I did the voices. As a one-year old she anticipated her favorite pages and now, at two and a half she’s “reading” the story to me. This one will be a favorite for years to come and when she outgrows it, I’ll tuck it away for my grandbabies.

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Sheep in a Jeep – My cousin Austin gave this book to Elizabeth. He is a Jeeper, which means he loves climbing hills, crawling over rocks and slinging mud in his red jeep – just like the sheep in this fun rhyme. The story provides opportunities for parents and kids to talk about teamwork, cause and effect and helpfulness.

The Perfect Nest – Jack the cat has a master plan to get the perfect egg for the perfect omelette by building a perfect nest to attract a chicken. His plan works a little too well and hijinx ensue. There are great opportunities to do fun voices and accents when reading this story aloud and kids will enjoy the beautiful, bright illustrations.

What are some of your favorite children’s books? Do you have any from childhood that you saved for your own kids? Please tell us about the best books in your kids’ library so we can add them to our library wish list.

Upcycled Toys

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Living a more eco-conscious life means looking for opportunities to use what you have more often and buy new stuff less often. Upcycling, or “making stuff” as our grandparents called it, is a great way to use what you might otherwise discard and create a new, better thing from the materials. In my view, to count as a successful upcycle, an item needs to use something that would otherwise be waste and the end product should be different and better/cuter/more useful than the components it is made from.

I scoured Pinterest for cool upcycled toy projects and found mixed results. Some projects were super basic – give your kid a big box and tell her it is a rocket ship. Give her an empty oatmeal canister to use as a drum. That’s cool, but it’s not upcycling. Kids need to play with empty boxes, build forts out of bed sheets, and ward off foes and fiery dragons with nothing more than their courage, a cereal box shield and a wrapping paper-roll-turned-broadsword. Imaginative, unscripted play is vital to the development of a child’s imagination. So, while I 100% support reusing things, for this collection I disqualified pins I don’t see as true upcycles.

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Sumo Bowling Pins — These little guys, made by Leslie at Pink Stripey Socks rock my world. I’m searching fervently for the little aquapod bottles so I can make a set for my daughter. I realize it is technically cheating to buy a product just to upcycle the packaging but these guys are so cute that I can’t resist. I mean look at them! Can you blame me?

DIY TV Toy — This crafty upcycle has amazing DIY instructions to turn a tissue box into a toy TV with customized “channels” for your kiddo to change or create. Playing with this toy is a great way to switch off the electronics and use imagination instead.

DIY I-Spy Bottle — I saw my first I-Spy bottle about a year ago and I thought it was such fun. It was the kind you buy from the store with the little beads and wee plastic tchotchskies inside. Where was this invention when I was a kid on car trips? This version uses stuff you find around the house and in the dreaded junk drawer. It’s made with found materials and if you buy your rice in bulk, this toy will cost just pennies to make.

Super Hero Bracelets — These power cuffs a la Wonder Woman are made from spent toilet tissue rolls, glitter and Mod Podge. The tutorial is high quality and includes some pro-tips from the creator’s experience. Just last week my two-year-old appeared from her room dressed in a Yo Gabba Gabba tee-shirt paired with her Hello Kitty tutu and Darth Vader mask. My husband was never more proud. This is a child in desperate need of Bracelets of Victory to complete her look.

Recycle Sort Game — This is maybe the easiest to make of all of the toys and games I found. I love it for being a practical, customizable teaching tool. Want your kids to understand what goes in the trash and what goes in the recycle bin? Make a game of it – literally.

Do you have some favorite upcycled toy ideas? How about fond memories of playing with a sweet cardboard box? We got a brand new avocado green dishwasher in ’81 and I probably got 100 hours of fun out of that carton. The Wilderness Girls love hearing your thoughts so please share them in the comments below.

Advent Calendars

Monday, November 18th, 2013

The tradition of Advent means different things for different people.  For some, an advent calendar is just a countdown to Christmas and there is nothing wrong with that, but for me Advent is much more. This is the time of year time when Lutheran Christians excitedly await the arrival of the Christ Child on Christmas morning.  In addition, Advent is the beginning of our liturgical year (the church calendar). Since we now have a daughter, it feels like time to upgrade the cheap-o snowman themed countdown calendar Jacob and I have used for a decade in favor of something more.

December 1st is fast upon us so I turned to the only place a person in this situation can turn: the Internet. Specifically, Pinterest. In my search, I found several types of advent calendars from super simple to over-the-top.  I prefer the simple crafty calendars made with natural or recyclable materials. I was particularly fond of those designed for re-use year after year.  I love the sustainable aspect of that, but, even more so, I love the element of tradition that exists in bringing out the family advent calendar each year.

Here are a few of my favorites organized by material type:

Recyclable Materials (diverted from landfill)

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Design and photo by Morning Creativity

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Design by Nadine Reeves Photography by Ryan Brook/TC Media for Canadian Living

Reusable Fabric Bags

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Design and photo by SevernHomemade on Etsy

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Design and photo by womaninreallife.com

Paper-free “Paper” Chains

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Design and photo by lovestitches

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Design and photo by humbleBea on Etsy

Now to make a decision and get crafting. Which of these do you like best? Have you checked out the plethora of advent calendar options on Pinterest? Share your ideas in the comments below.

Trick-or-Treat

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

One week from today the streets will crawl with over 41 million little ghouls and goblins, trick-or-treat pails in hand, seeking confectionary fortune and nougat-glory.

Forty one million trick-or-treaters equals a heck of a lot of these guys:

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Jack-o-lantern treat bucket
Photo credit: Dollartree.com

With a price tag of $1 this really is a single-use item. In the ten to twelve year span that your children will trick-or-treat, you will spend at least that many dollars but likely more on single use pumpkin pails that will inevitably become lost/broken/un-cool and end up in landfill before the next year. Instead of buying one of these jovial plastic fellows each year, why not create a lasting Halloween Trick-or-Treat bag? It will be a special part of your Halloween tradition that will also hold up to years of treasure hunting for golden caramel goodness in fun size packs.

The Trick-or-Treat bag is a simple project. Novice sewers could consider this as a first project and a low-risk way to build skill. Those with basic skills will find that it is easy to put together in just about a half hour. Advanced sewers can customize and get fancy with linings, notions and appliqués.

Successful Sewing Projects Start Here
Thinking back to my post You Can Sew Your Own Way I shared my top five tips for successful sewing which you will want to use with this and every sewing project.

1. Success begins at the fabric shop
2. You must pre wash
3. Prep your gear
4. Iron out the wrinkles
5. Measure twice, cut once

Shopping List

1/2 yard Halloween fabric
1 yard lightweight iron-on interfacing, enough to cover the whole piece of fabric. (I used Pellon ® single sided fusible sheerweight interfacing)
Multi-purpose thread in a coordinating color

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Sewing Instructions

Prep the Fabric
* Wash & dry your fabric.
* Trim any loose strings from the edges.
* Iron interfacing to the back of the fabric. Really this is optional but I strongly recommend it because I feel like it reinforces the fabric and makes it a little stiffer. Use interfacing to create a finished product that opens nicely and isn’t too floppy.

Body of Bag
* Fold your fabric over 16 inches, making sure the corners are clean 90 degree angles.
* Cut a 16” x 18” rectangle for the body of the bag.
* With the “right” (pretty) sides of fabric together sew a 1/2” seam around the sides and bottom of the bag, leaving the top unfinished.
* Press open the side seams so they’re flat for a few inches. This is just to make it easy to sew your top hem.
* The top hem is a two-part fold. First, fold the ragged edge down 1/2”, secure with a few pins and press into place. Remove the pins and fold the top edge down again, this time by 1”. This hides the ragged edge and makes the top hem more substantial. Press into place and secure by pins.
* Sew around the top hem of the bag being careful to hold the bag open so you don’t snag a part you didn’t intend to sew together. (I’ve done it before and it is no fun.)

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Handles
From the remaining fabric, cut two strips 3 1/2” wide x 18” long for the handles.
* Fold the handles lengthwise with “right” (pretty) sides of fabric together and lightly press so they’re easy to sew.
* At the sewing machine, re-open the pressed handles and lay them flat. Turn under the short end by 1/2”. Stitch across to finish short edge then re-fold lengthwise and stitch long side of each handle piece using a 1/2” seam allowance.
* Turn handles right side out and set aside.
* Back at the ironing board press your handle pieces so that they lay flat.
* To attach the handles turn the main part of the bag inside out and fold it in half lengthwise. From the center fold measure 2 1/2”and secure the handle using two straight pins. Turn the folded bag over and secure the other end of the handle in the same way. Follow with the other side of the bag.
* With right side facing down, sew the handle to the inside hem. Ever the optimist, I expect this baby will have to bear the weight of a mighty Halloween stash so I opted to reinforce by sewing across the top edge where the handle meets the hem and creating a rectangle by sewing up the sides of the strap as well.

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Congratulations! You are now the proud owner and creator of a trick-or-treat treasure bag that will last for years as part of your kiddo’s Halloween costumes and live forever in her memory as something special you made just for her or him. Do you have crafty ideas for Trick-or-Treat bags or other spooky Halloween crafts? If so, The Wilderness Girls want to hear about them. Please share in the comments below or on Pinterest.