Tag: kids

FROZEN Play Time: Make Melted Olaf Dip and Build Elsa’s Ice Castles

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#FROZENFun-#shop-#cbias-melted-olaf-dip-disney

Is your family singing “Let It Go” nonstop these days? You’re not the only ones. I created a FROZEN play date for my kids and their cousins recently and it was a huge hit. The big kids were singing as they built Elsa’s Ice Castles and everyone got a kick out of my Melted Olaf Dip perfect for Eggo Frozen Waffles and fresh fruit. I picked up a few choice Walmart toys to share among the kids and set up snacking and building stations and we had a blast. Best of all, my recipes are healthy and activities are super easy to recreate. We are so pumped for the release of the FROZEN DVD on March 18th, and the discount price drop from $16.96 to $14.96 at Walmart. Grab a $5 off offer on special marked packages of Eggo Waffles and get an even better deal on the FROZEN DVD. Now for the #FROZENFun …

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Our #DisneySide Play Date and 25 Amazing Disney Party Ideas

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I’ve had a lifelong love affair with all things Disney, so when I was given the opportunity to host my own #DisneySide celebration I couldn’t pass it up. Disney sent our family a fun package full of goodies to help kick of the festivities, and we had an amazing day filled with Disney fun. I’m sharing our ideas as well as some fabulous Disney party ideas from other creative bloggers to help you with your next birthday party, play date, or whatever excuse you find to show off your own Disney side.

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Tips for Taking a Baby to Disney World

 I love Disney and was blessed to go three times through my former job with Young Life.  Jed asked me to marry him in front of Cinderella’s Castle in 2008 and we were able to take the Bear with us on our last trip.  We are big fans.  I’m hoping and planning to go back when the kids are little bigger, but I want you to know it is possible to take a baby and enjoy it.  The Bear was 8 months old on our last trip, and still nursing.  We did some things right, learned from our mistakes, and had a fabulous time.
Five Tips for Taking  Baby to Disney World
1) Don’t try to do too much.
This was our biggest mistake.  We had a park hopper pass and tried to do 2 parks in one day.  It caused unnecessary stress and it would have been much better to spread the parks out.  Take time to relax and don’t skip out on nap and rest time for your little one.
2) Take your baby on some rides and ride swap on others.
It might sound crazy, but we took the Bear on some rides.  He LOVED It’s a Small World and the Haunted Mansion.  He had no idea the mansion was supposed to be scary and loved all the lights and the gently turning ride.  For more intense rides, ride swap is available.  One parent rides while the other waits with a cast member and the baby, then the parents switch out.
3) Plan ahead for meals. (for everyone)
This was our other big mistake.  We didn’t realize reservations were required months in advance and were laughed at by a haughty hostess at Epcot.  The walk up places are still fine, but we will get reservations next time.  We did bring baby food with us and planned our routes around when Bear would need to nurse.  There are baby care centers at all the parks and they are lovely.  I nursed Bear throughout the day in the baby centers and it was such a nice, quiet break for both of us.  They have everything you need there and the staff are amazing.  One of my favorite things about Disney Parks is how much each cast member seems to love their job.  These ladies were no exception.
4) Pack that stroller like you mean it.
Think through everything your baby might need and then double it.  Extra clothes all around, extra diapers, a blanket, a rain jacket for everyone, everything you might need.  The two best things we brought were a dark rain jacket to cover the stroller for naps and our iPhone with a sound machine app on it.  We turned on the white noise, covered the stroller, and the Bear napped three times and nearly slept through the fireworks.  I highly recommend bringing a sling or Ergo to carry your babe around in so they can have a change of scenery and get out of the stroller.
5) Know when to fold ’em.
You may have to go back to your resort in the middle of the day for a nap.  It is okay.  You may not get to see the fireworks every night of your trip.  Still okay.  Sometimes your baby can be pushed to stay up, nap in the stroller or in the carrier, and go with the flow.  Other times they will bend you to their will like a tiny tyrant.  Flexibility is the name of the game.  Relax and enjoy, but don’t stress out about missing out on the Dumbo ride because your sweet babe was done for the day.

Have you been to Disney World? What would your dream Disney vacation include?
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Frugal Friday: Our Top 3 Cheap Babysitting Solutions

As parents on a tight budget, we are always looking for a cheap babysitting solutions so we can have date nights, go to social events, and spend time with friends.  We don’t have any family near us, so that’s not an option.  In Dallas the going rate for babysitting one child is around $10-15 per hour.  PER HOUR, people.  That means if we want to go out to dinner and a movie we are shelling out an additional $40 to the babysitter, minimum.  There is no room in our budget for that kind of expense, unfortunately.  Our whole dining out and entertainment budget for an entire month is $95.  Yep, that’s it.  We are on one income and prioritize saving for retirement and other things above dining out and entertainment.  So, we’ve had to get creative when it comes to babysitting solutions.  We’ve found a few things that work well, and one we really want to try.

Cheap Babysitting Solutions:
1) Parents’ Night Out – Several churches and local kid businesses (YMCA, etc) host Parents’ Night Out evenings a few times a year.  We sign up for every one we come across.  In our area these are typically a 4-5 hour window where you drop your child off and pay a fee to help the church youth group raise money.  Most churches are well equipped to care for children because they do it on a regular basis, and we feel good about helping out a local church.  Usually you don’t have to be a member, and most in our area charge $10 for the first child for the whole time slot, and $5 for each additional child.  This is a steal!  To find a Parents’ Night Out in your area, just do a google search or call local churches or kid friendly organizations.

2) The Swap – Trade babysitting nights with another family.  We’ve done this a few times and hope to schedule more in the future.  Most kids Bear’s age go to bed around 7 pm like he does, so we put him to bed and then have 1 parent from another family come over and watch tv, read in peace, etc on our couch while we go out for a few hours.  Then one of us goes over to that family’s house on another night to relax and watch the baby monitor while they go out.  Everybody wins.  This doesn’t work as well for single parents unless you can take your child to the other house and put them to bed there, then transport them home when the parents return.

3) The Co-op – My parents were part of a babysitting co-op in our neighborhood growing up, and my mom has encouraged me to start one here with our friends.  A babysitting co-op is a group of families who organize themselves to trade off babysitting using a point or voucher system.  You earn points by babysitting for others, and then cash them in when you need a sitter.  I haven’t gotten around to starting or joining one, but hope to soon.

What’s your best cheap babysitting solution?  

 

Frugal Friday: Cheap Toddler Entertainment

On a recent grocery store trip I accidentally purchased the wrong kind of dried beans.  I was going for kidney but came home with pinto.  I meant to return them but kept forgetting.  Best $2 I ever accidentally spent.  I didn’t get the red beans and rice dish I was craving, but I did create a fresh way to entertain Bear.
We took half the bag of beans and poured them into Bear’s sand pail and got out the rest of his sand toys as well as a few plastic cups.  Every afternoon we go outside and sift, pour, and dump the beans til his little heart is content.
He LOVES them.  I love them because they are super easy to scoop back into the bucket and there is no harm done if a few end up in the grass.  All that scooping and sifting is great for his motor skill development, and keeps him completely entertained.
I’ve seen lots of sensory trays on Pinterest and have wanted to make one for a long time.  Instead we have a cheap sensory bucket.  Yay for cheap entertainment!
How do you keep your kids or yourself entertained on the cheap?

Frugal Friday – Our Top 8 Frugal Family Travel Tips

Here’s our little family high atop the continental divide near Cottonwood Pass in Colorado.  We took an incredible 8 week road trip this summer and spent as little money as possible.  We mulled over what we did right and how we screwed up and decided to share the good with you first.  Drumroll please…
1. Bring your own food for the road.
2. Grocery shop and cook at “home.”
3. Find FREE entertainment wherever you are.
4. Make the trip the thing, not souvenirs.
5. Ask for favors.
6. Utilize local resources.
7. Find travel deals online.
8. Piggyback on a work trip.
Let’s dig a little deeper.
1. Bring your own food for the road.
We packed lunches for driving days, kept an ice chest full of drinks and snacks, and brought reusable water bottles.  If we hadn’t prepared we would have spend an average of $5 per stop on snacks and drinks and $15-20 on lunches.  That adds up really quickly.  The bonus to this tip is that you can make the snacks and meals as healthy as you choose and not be bound by whatever fast food you can find.  If you do order fast food, order a bigger meal for yourself and share it with your child (if they are small enough), rather than ordering a kid’s meal.
2. Grocery shop and cook at “home”.
Stay in places with kitchens or kitchenettes whenever possible.  You will save so much money cooking at home.  Grocery stores in tourist towns can be pricier than at home, but most chains are interconnected so you can use your saver cards from home.  We meal planned throughout our time so that we wouldn’t waste food and wouldn’t be caught by surprise when dinner time came around.  We did go out to eat several times, but we used online menus to check out the restaurants beforehand.
3. Find FREE entertainment wherever you are.
Hiking, biking, exploring, window shopping, cruising around, and seeing the sights are all usually free.  Pick one activity that costs money and try to make the rest of your fun free.  We paid for one activity the whole trip (riding the ski lift at Red River) and it was well worth it.  Look for local entertainment guides that often contain coupons for activities.
4. Make the trip the thing, not souvenirs.
It is incredibly tempting, especially when traveling with kids, to become convinced that you must buy that t-shirt/stuffed animal/taxidermied jackalope/etc.  You don’t need it.  The trip is what you came for, not the junk.  You took your child on an amazing vacation.  They don’t need anything but memories to prove it.  If you love souvenirs, pick one thing that will remind you of your vacation to take home.  I like shells found on the beach, river rocks, and other found objects.  I also love a good Christmas ornament.  Magnets and coffee mugs are good, cheap reminders of your trip that you will actually use daily.
5. Ask for favors.
We asked our friends for help, and they responded generously.  What do I mean?  We ask to borrow houses, stay on couches, and get “friends and family” rates on vacation rentals.  A friend’s guest room is way better than a hotel any day of the week.  You would do the same for them.
6. Utilize local resources.
Ask locals for help with recommendations, must do activities, restaurants, etc.  They will usually be excited to help you.  We also found the welcome centers and Chambers of Commerce to be helpful in several towns.  Become a pamphlet reader.  Look for local blogs.  Do your research.
7. Find travel deals online.
We used Travelocity‘s Secret Hotel deal, Priceline’s Name Your Own Price app, and the GasBuddy app, several times.  We used VRBO to find rentals.  Read reviews online and listen to them.  We got burned by ignoring bad reviews of a hotel.  There are tons of great online resources for couch surfing and house swapping as well.  Again, do your research.
8. Piggyback on a work trip.
I know this may seem random or complicated, but it worked really well for us.  I had to be in Colorado for a month for work, so we planned our crazy road trip around my work trip, because my company paid for our mileage there and back.  This won’t work unless you travel for work, but might be easier than you think.  Our friends the Mitchells took their family to Disney World and got their mileage and most of their hotel paid for by his work because he decided to drive to Orlando for a conference instead of flying by himself.  Genius.
There you go friends, our top 8 travel tips for now.  We’ll be back later with our top blunders and screw ups.
What’s your best frugal family travel tip?

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