Category: kids

Play Time Guest Post: Eight Fun and Frugal Ways to Bring Music Home

The benefits of early music education have long been touted, but signing up for mommy and me music appreciation groups or finding instructors to teach private lessons can cost a lot. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to provide your kids with exposure to music at home and on a budget, from crafting your own instruments to taking online music classes. Here are some easy but effective ways to give your children experience with music which can positively aid their growth and development.

1. Sing and Dance

While it might feel a little foolish as an adult, engage in singing and dancing time with your children. Put on some fun music and get goofy. Most little ones already love dancing and singing along. Join them and encourage this free method of participating in music and art.

2. Instrument Craft Time

For creative and crafty families, try making your own instruments from recycled materials around the house. Paper towel roles and empty tins and paint cans can quickly be decorated and transformed into a drum set. Without any mess, musical glasses can be simply set up with different amounts of water in each. For more ambitious creators, cardboard guitars or rubber band harps can be devised.

3. Play With Percussion

Once you have made a band of recycled instruments, spend some time playing them. Though clapping along with a song sounds simple, it is often a skill which you can impart to your children as you show them how to follow the rhythm and come in on the beat. And if your cardboard and paint cans don’t hold up, it might be a good idea to invest in a set of toy percussion instruments such as a tambourine or set of maracas.

4.  Hear Live Music

Most children will sit spellbound by live music as they watch the musicians’ movements and hear the loud full sound. While a night at the symphony might sound expensive, many colleges present free or less expensive musical programs and even professional symphonies often host children’s concerts.

5. Learn at the Local Library

Your community library most likely hosts weekly musical programs geared for an audience of young children. This is a wonderful, free way to connect with other kids and moms in your area while enjoying live music and stories.

6. Read About Classical Composers

While you’re at your library, pick up a few books on Mozart or Handel. The children’s section boasts tons of material on famous composers as well as recordings of all types of music. Many recordings also blend story with song such as “Peter and the Wolf,” a story narrated with the help of the symphony.

7. Write Your Own Songs

One blogging mother cleverly suggests taking a simple children’s song such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and asking your “children to parody this tune” with their own lyrics. This is a fun and simple way to give your children a chance to compose their own words into songs.

8. Begin Music Theory

One final tip is introducing your children to music theory as they mature. While it might sound complicated and scary at first, many sheet music companies publish beginning music theory courses. Purchasing an elementary workbook can introduce your children to some of the more technical aspects of music and open up a subject which they may later choose to pursue.

With these fun yet affordable ideas, you and your family are set to enjoy the wonder of music without spending an uncomfortable sum.

Guest Post author Abby Evans is a freelance journalist and mom currently reviewing health options for her family.  
Thanks for sharing your tips, Abby.  We love to listen to Pandora and dance, and Jed plays the guitar for the kids.  The Bear loves playing with our keyboard as well as turning anything and everything into a percussion instrument.  How do you bring music into your home?

Family Fun in DFW: Beat the Heat at the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park

We are in the seriously-too-hot-to-live phase of Texas weather, and constantly trying to find ways to keep cool and entertain our family without spending too much or staying glued to the tv.  If you follow me on Instagram, you know that recently we visited the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park in Dallas and had an absolute blast.  We received free passes in exchange for this review, but all opinions are strictly my own.  We love exploring the city we call home and enriching the lives of our wee ones on the way.  The Aquarium has been around for a long time, but was recently completely redesigned as a Children’s Aquarium.  EVERYTHING is on a child’s level, completely accessible, and perfectly placed to grab their attention.  Bear was enthralled.  He has been talking about the alligator we saw for over a week now.  
Isn’t this jelly fish amazing?
There are two sides to the main aquarium, salt water and fresh, as well as a touch pool, shark tank, and stingray touch pool.  Everything is included in the admission price except for stingray food (if you want to feed them) for and extra $2.  Bear was a little intimidated by the stingrays, so we didn’t try feeding them.  

Spike wants to bite your toes.  Thankfully thick glass protects you from this 190 pound 75 old year old titan snapping turtle.

The jelly fish were truly beautiful to watch.  They float so gracefully like aquatic ballerinas.  It almost made me hate them a little less.  I’ve been stung one too many times.  

The touch pool is surrounded by a step rock formation to make it the perfect height for every kid.  The staff guide was so patient with Bear and showed him shells and sea urchins, helping him touch them gently.

The outdoor shark and stingray tanks were fabulous.  There are several different vantage points to watch the sharks, but this was my favorite as well as Bear’s.  He waited for each shark to swim by and chased it down the glass.  I couldn’t get a non-blurry photo, but it was such a fun memory I had to share.  
If you are a fan of the tv show New Girl, you probably recognize the lion fish.  These beauties were so incredible to watch. 

In my opinion, the best thing about the Children’s Aquarium is the price.  Admission is only $8 for adults, and $6 for kids 3-11 and seniors.  If you have a membership to the Dallas Zoo you get $2 off admission.  An even better deal is the annual membership.  For $20 ($15 for zoo members) you can buy an annual membership and visit any time.  If you’ve checked out the prices on any of the other aquariums in town you know that price is unbeatable.

**Holiday Gift Idea** A season pass would make a perfect gift for the fish loving child in your life.  People (children included) remember experiences far more than material things.  Do you remember what toy you got for Christmas at age 6? Probably not.  But I bet you remember a favorite visit to the zoo, aquarium, or special museum.

I would highly recommend the Children’s Aquarium for families with kids 1 and up.  A visit takes 1-2 hours, depending on your child’s attention span.  The Children’s Aquarium also hosts groups, birthday parties, overnight guests, and summer camps for kids from pre-k through 5th grade.  
Visit the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park any day of the week from 9 am to 4:30 pm, except for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.  Click here to visit the Children’s Aquarium website for more information.  For more information about the Dallas Zoo visit their website here.  You can also follow the Zoo and Aquarium on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.    
What is your favorite species to see at the aquarium?

The State Fair of Texas Summer Adventure at Fair Park Rocks!


 
Did you know you can get a Fletcher’s Corny Dog in the summer?  Until last week, I had no idea.  I thought the illusive fried goodness only happened during the State Fair.  This summer for the first time, The State Fair of Texas Summer Adventure opened the fairgrounds up for the public all summer long.  It’s not too late to visit, as tickets are half price and the gates are open daily until August 18th.  This is not in any way a sponsored post.  We just visited the Summer Adventure and thought it rocked, so I’m sharing it with you.   

For one price you get all the rides you can squeeze in, and there are NO LINES.  Seriously, we had the place to ourselves which was awesome.  It opens at 10 am, so you can get there before the heat really sets in.  For $14.95 you get a admission, a pass to ride everything as many times as you want, a bottle of water, AND admission to the Children’s Aquarium and the Texas Discovery Garden.  That, my friends, is a ridiculous deal.  

I’m not sure how I missed this at the beginning of the summer, but I’m so glad we went.  If they offer season passes next year, we are so in.  The Bear had a blast.  He rode his first ever fair ride, and loved it.

See what I mean?  No one else was there.  It was AWESOME.  The thing I don’t like about the actual State Fair is the crowds.  We rode the carousel over and over, and were the only ones on it.  I felt bad for the staff, but I’m sure it will get better next year.

The Bear was able to ride quite a few of the attractions, but most of the kiddie rides have a 36 inch height requirement and our little shorty is 35.5 inches tall.  Next year he will be the perfect age for all the kiddie rides.  There are plenty of options for big kids and adults as well.

Not only do they have all the usual fair rides, they also have splash pads set up and a stationary surf wave you can ride if you want to get wet.  They have shows going on all day as well, all included in the admission price.  Jed and Bear loved the BMX bike show.

Because of the notorious Texas heat, there are lots of indoor, air-conditioned options.  The building below is filled with gorgeous plants and a train exhibit that kept the Bear enthralled for over half an hour.  That’s years in toddler time.  It rivaled the Trains at Northpark and was seriously like a magical fairy land.  I nursed the Pearl Girl while Bear chased the trains around.  There is also a building dedicated to Lego building with tables for the kids and lots of seating for adults.  We spent some time cooling off in there as well.

If you want to win the parent of the year award and end your summer with a bang, head to Fair Park.  You can buy tickets online here and find more information.  

Play Time: Stress Free Finger Painting

Does the idea of letting your preschooler play with paints make you cringe and give you the beginnings of a headache?  No worries.  We’ve been painting like crazy all summer and the Bear and I have it down to a science.  Yes, it’s messy, but it is also fun and can be stress free.  Here’s how we do it.

What You Need:
washable non-toxic paint
paper (really any kind will do, but we prefer cardstock or construction paper)
a 20-30 minute time slot
a hose or kiddie pool
an outside work space


Make It Happen:
We set up on the picnic table my husband made for the kids.  He’s working on a tutorial if you’re interested.  Use one sheet of paper as your child’s palette.  Let them pick 2-3 colors to start with and put a dollop of each color on the palette.  Take off your child’s shirt.  Show them how to dip their fingers in the paint and use their finger as a paint brush.  We also read a book about Curious George mixing paint before we painted for the first time to help with the concept.    


Step back and let them create.  Resist the urge to correct.  Let them mix and swirl and get messy.


Every few minutes bring in a new sheet of paper.  Show them how to make hand prints, a useful skill for grandparent gifts later.  Take some photos and enjoy the flowing creativity.

After about 20 minutes, ask if they are ready to be done (if they haven’t stopped already).  Grab your hose (and possibly and inflatable kiddie pool) and strip them down to wash off.  This might be as fun (or more) than the actual painting.  Give them 2 cups to fill up or and help facilitate a little rinsing.  While they are rinsing, lay out the masterpieces to dry and pick up the paints.  Give your table a wipe down, then dry off your now clean child.  You’re done, and you both survived with your sanity in tact and you get the fun mom of the year award.  Everybody wins!

What’s your favorite preschool art idea?

Let’s Make an Easter Basket – A Tutorial

I love the joy of Easter and the new life it brings.  You can read some of my other Easter posts here.  Last year I looked long and hard to find the perfect Easter basket for the Bear, but all the options I loved were too pricey.  I had paint and ribbon on hand and decided to make a frugal, durable, cute Easter basket. I purchased a peck size basket at Hobby Lobby for about $4.  Here’s a crappy image of a peck basket from Amazon so you can see what it looked like before.  I totally forgot to take before pics.

I painted the basket using Rustoleum Painter’s Touch Satin in Heritage White and a sponge brush.  It took two coats to really cover the wood.

I used my glue gun to line the inside and outside with satin ribbon leftover from our wedding.  Yes, we’ve been married almost 5 years.  Yes, I probably over bought on wedding ribbon.  Oh well.  The ribbon serves two purposes.  It looks super cute and covers up the rough edges and staples that hold the peck basket together.

I tied satin ribbon into bows on each handle and glued them in place.  I’m sure these will have to be replaced someday but they are holding up well so far.

I painted the Bear’s name onto the basket using a navy blue paint pen.  I am not skilled in the handwriting department so it took a few tries and a few wipe off/repaints.  I finally went with dot letters because they are very forgiving and look super cute.  I highly recommend this method if you struggle with paint pen writing like I do.

We use ribbon as Easter grass after seeing the idea on Young House Love and not wanting to find the plastic stuff everywhere.  My dad hates the plastic Easter grass with a passion (4 kids = a ton of Easter grass clean up over the years) and loves this idea.  I used two rolls of green ribbon from the dollar store and just unrolled them completely and put them in the basket.  The clean up is incredibly easy.  You just pick up each long piece of ribbon and throw it back into the basket.  We’ve made a game out of tossing the ribbon and eggs back into the basket after Bear inevitably dumps them out.

The Bear loves his basket even more this year.  He has carried it all over the house and loves playing with the ribbon and plastic eggs.

What’s your favorite Easter candy?
I’m obsessed with Cadbury eggs.

 

 

Frugal Friday: Shopping Big Consignment Sales

 Have you ever shopped a BIG consignment sale?  We are thrift store regulars, but have fallen in love with the world of big consignment sales.  This time around I’m consigning at the upcoming Rhea Lana sale in Frisco and hoping to make money.  I’m also planning to shop.  When you consign you get to shop early, and let me tell you that these sales get competitive.  I’m hoping to find a birthday present for Bear, as well as summer clothes for both kiddos.  To see details about the Rhea Lana Frisco sale or find a RL sale near you check out the website here.

 So, you might be thinking that the big sale atmosphere is a little intimidating.  The first time around is, but you get the hang of it.  Everything is marked down to at least 70% off retail, so the prices are fantastic. I also feel good about helping other families to clear out their stash and make money, all while saving money myself.  We all win.   These sales are especially great for pregnant mamas because you can find maternity clothes AND tons of newborn to 6 months clothes because they wear them for such a brief period of time.  I’ll give you a few tips to succeed at a big sale like Rhea Lana.
1) Arrive early.  Do your research and find out if you can get an early shopping pass.  Most sales have these available online for pregnant or expectant adopting mamas.  You can also volunteer or consign at the sale and get to shop REALLY early.  Whatever your time slot is, get there before it starts because there will be a line.
2) Bring a collapsible laundry hamper.  Trust me on this.  You want a lightweight carrier for all your finds.  That way you can toss everything you like into the basket and sort through it while you are in line.
3) Bring a list of everything you are looking for so you don’t get confused or forget something important.  I would break it down like this: big items to look for first (strollers, ride on toys, playhouses,etc); small toys; clothes by age/gender/season.  For instance, I’ll be looking for a tricycle, board books, summer shoes in size 6 & 7, 0-6 and 6-12 month soft leather girl shoes, and 3T summer clothes for Bear.  I will have a list of everything detailed and in my purse, so my pregnant brain doesn’t have to concentrate too hard.
4) Come back for the Half Price Sale.  Most big sales have several half price time slots at the end of the sale, so again check online and find the time slot for you.  Everything will drop from 30% of the retail price (70% off) down to 15% of the retail price.  Heck yes.

Have you ever shopped a BIG consignment sale like Rhea Lana?
What is your favorite big consignment sale?


Frugal Friday: Reusable Swim Diapers for Your Wee One

If you are anything like us, you are so over this whole winter thing and ready for summer.  Our new neighborhood has 5 community pools we can use for the whole summer for $60!  So excited…  For this week’s Frugal Friday edition I’m sharing one of my favorite summer money savers, the reusable swim diaper.  No, I’m not talking about reusing the Little Swimmers or Splashers.  That would be nasty and impossible.  I’m talking about using cloth swim diapers that are made to be worn all summer long.  We’ve actually used the same Bummis swim diaper the last two summers because of the wide weight range.  It will probably work again this year.  I also have 2 teeny tiny i-play swim diapers lined up for Mini Bear to wear.  Yay for water babies!  
How much can you really save by using cloth swim diapers? About 90%.  I did a little research, and the cheapest I could find disposable swim diapers for was $11.13 for an 18 count pack of diapers ($.62 each).  For the price of one pack of disposables (or less) you can buy a reusable swim diaper that will last all summer.  You can find a ton of sales right now on many great brands like Bummis, i play, Imse Vimse, My Swim Baby, and Apple Cheeks.  If you are at the pool or beach all summer going through one pack of disposables per week you could spend as much as $156 per kid on swim diapers.  Yikes.  
How do cloth swim diapers work?  Just like disposable swim diapers.  They hold in the poop and let out the pee.  Once they are soiled you just rinse them out (like you would a swim suit) after dumping the solids in the toilet, then hang them up to dry for tomorrow.  Easy.     
Why should I think about swim diapers right now?  They are on sale!!!  Buying off season is a fabulous way to save even more money on seasonal items.  

If you are interested in shopping for reusable swim diapers, I’d love for you to use my affiliate links below to find deals at Kelly’s Closet and Amazon. If not, check out your local cloth diaper shop where swim diapers are probably in the off season sale section right now.  Thanks!
– Swim Diapers from several brands starting at $9.95
Amazon links are below to my two favorite brands of swim diapers.

Do you use cloth or disposable swim diapers?  On a scale from one to “get me to a beach before I hurt someone”, how ready are you for summer?  I’m at a strong 8 right now.

Frugal Christmas: A Toddler Friendly Mini Tree

 I LOVE decorating for Christmas.  I long for a touch of Christmas cheer in every room of the house.  The Bear’s room is a special challenge because he is now 18 months old and into EVERYTHING.  He can reach to grab things off his shelves and has a special gift for taking things apart.  I decided the answer was a toddler friendly mini tree, but my budget was only $5.

I found this mini tree in the dollar section at Target years ago, along with the hat topper and mini tree skirt.  They cost $2 total.  Target has mini tinsel trees right now, and all of their Christmas stuff will go on sale soon if it isn’t already. 

                                 

 I looked at mini tree ornaments at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and Target, but most of what I found was either breakable or a choking hazard.  Yikes.  I remembered seeing a fun idea using plastic animals on Young House Love last year, but I couldn’t find the post and got frustrated.  After strolling the aisles of Hobby Lobby I came across a big container of large red jingle bells on sale for $3.50.  Jingle bells are festive, give a pop of color on my little silver tree, aren’t breakable, and are too big to be a choking hazard.  Hooray!  I bought white grosgrain ribbon on sale for $1 and pieces through each bell.

 The Bear had a fabulous time playing with the bells and was able to help me decorate his tree.  Hello, fine motor skill development!  I love the simplicity and festiveness of his tree, and the fact that he can’t break it or hurt himself on it.  Let’s call it a Christmas Mini Tree Miracle.

Here’s the toddler eye view.  Shiny!
Do you decorate your kid’s rooms for Christmas? How do you make it kid proof?

Cute Cousins

 My siblings and I are all spread out all over the country, so when we get together we have to get a picture of the kids all together.  As you might imagine, getting 3 kids age 3 and under to sit still and pose is nearly impossible.  Sweet Luke hadn’t quite mastered the whole sitting up thing, which made it even trickier.  There was a small scuffle over the little blue fish in the middle, but we persevered.  Two more cute cousins will be added to this side of the family in April and June.

How do you get kids to sit still for a photo?

A Big Brother T-Shirt to Announce Our Pregnancy

When we found out we were expecting our 2nd wee one, I tried to come up with a sweet way of announcing the pregnancy to our friends here in Dallas, our family far away, and my bloggy folks.  I decided to hand embroider the announcement on to a t-shirt for The Bear to wear.  My hand embroidery skills are… not strong.  But hey, what’s life without a little imperfection?  

 I shot a few pics of The Bear in his t-shirt after I finished it, and sent them out to friends and family that live far away, with the caption, “The Bear has an announcement.”

 It took some of our friends and family a bit to figure out they had to read the shirt to get the announcement.

 Later we put the shirt back on The Bear to go see some of our friends at our regular Taco Thursday dinner. Such great reactions.

 The Bear also wore his shirt to my Young Life “retirement” party to share the good news with all our YL friends.

 Finally, I used the the pics to announce the pregnancy here on the blog.

 To make the shirt, I used a plain navy blue shirt that was already a part of The Bear’s wardrobe.  I have a collection of vintage felt and embroidery floss from and estate sale purchase years ago.  I used orange felt and navy blue floss and an embroidery needle that was waaaaay too big to stitch the design.  I fastened the felt into an embroidery hoop and stitched away after drawing the words with an disappearing ink pen.  I used the hoop as a guide to cut out the circle, and then stitched the circle onto the shirt.  Done.

How did you announce your pregnancy? 

I’m sharing this design over at Prudent Baby’s Embroidery Contest and at some other fun craft parties.