Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Boredom Busters

Hey everyone!

As you know, there is no way to plan every second of every day during the summer holidays. There will be down-time, especially when mom has to work (I cannot afford to not write all summer!). And so, we've created a Boredom Busters jar!



What is it?

Well, it's a little jar (actually a Nutella-knock-off from Shoprite), all decorated with fun papers and filled with lots and lots of great little ideas.

The plan - whenever my kids tell me they're bored, they'll have to dig into the Boredom Busters jar and pull out an activity that they can do by themselves, right away.

What is important is that if you have one, you set rules about using it, otherwise your kids could end up pulling the thing apart looking for what they like, rather than trying new things or doing 'chores' they might pull.

One way to set it up is that when they say they're bored, they HAVE to do the first thing they pull. Another way would be to let them pull, say three, and then they have to choose one of those three.

What should the little slips say?

Really, that is entirely up to you, but be sure to take into account your children - their ages, abilities, likes - when you create your list. Something that might be in my jar may not work for your kids. Likewise, things I've found on other lists I've found across the internet won't work for us. For example, we don't have a backyard, so lots of those kinds of things are really out for us.

To create my slips, I typed my list of suggestions in Word (well, actually, I use Open Office, which is FREE and does most of what MS Office does), then I changed it to double-spacing and printed. The double spacing made it much easier to cut the little slips up. For smaller children (or a bigger jar) you may want to make them much bigger than the tiny slips I used. You could even use coloured index cards.

Decorating the jar?

I cleaned out my jar and then ran it through the dishwasher. Once it was completely dry, I simply took strips of paper and wrapped them around using double-sided tape.

If you're not sure what size strips, take a measuring tape and wrap it around the jar to determine the length, and then measure the width. My jar had indentations 'built-in' which framed the original label, so I used that spacing for the width of the strips. I also cut a circle to fit into the lid and used some scrapbooking stickers to finish of the label.

The list?

There would be no point to this blog post if I didn't share this list with you! Of course, my list reflects the ages, likes and abilities of my two sons (aged 10 and 6-1/2). I've also included things that I wouldn't mind seeing them do, like memorize a Bible verse or a poem, and even chores around the house.

You will notice in the list that somethings are duplicated (like "Do a Chore of Mom's Choice"). I've left these duplications in, so that if you decide to just copy and paste, they're already there for you.

Play a board game
Build a fort
Draw a map of the neighbourhood
Copy a famous painting
Bake cookies
Perform a random act of kindness
Make leaf rubbings
Make a book
Write a letter for a family member
Make a puzzle
Blow bubbles
Make a movie
Make a time capsule
Read a chapter book together
Paper airplane contest
Picnic on the front porch
Make home-made play-doh
Trace your hand then turn it into something else
Have an indoor treasure hunt
Skype a friend
Take a nap
Make your bed
Laundry hunt
Dirty dishes hunt
Make a door knob hanger
Make a collage
Make a puppet
Write a story
Draw a picture
Make a comic book or comic strip
Make a joke book
Put on some music and dance
Find shapes in the clouds
Plan a treasure hunt with clues
Write down 10 things you love about each member of your family
Write in your journal
Organize your room
Create a play
Make popsicles
Memorize a Bible verse
Memorize a poem
Draw a picture of a desert island with all the things you want on it
Create your own board game
Make a list of things you can do without a grown-up
Mix liquid hand soap, cornstarch and food colouring and paint the bathtub
Do a chore of mom's choice
Do a chore of mom's choice
Do a chore of mom's choice
Do a chore of mom's choice
Interview a family member
Collect the trash
Find 5 toys to donate
Read for 15 minutes
Play hopscotch
Look at a photo album
Play with sidewalk chalk
Watch a movie
Organize your toys
Go for a walk
Play hide & seek
Plan a family activity
Plan dinner
Have a photo shoot

Thanks again for looking!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Setting up for the Summer Holidays

Summer vacation starts in just one week, and my boys can't wait. But being on a budget, and me working from home, leads to a new set of issues during the summer.

It's a challenge to keep myself organized to keep writing through the summer months - I'm now working for three different publications - as well as keep the boys happy and occupied. On top of that, there's the added difficulty of preventing summer brain drain.

I've been looking at lots and lots of websites and blogs (Thanks Pinterest!), for ideas to not only get organized, but also things for the kids to do, including craft activities, science experiments and recipes.

Over my next few posts, I'll begin to show you some of the things I've done, so far, to prep for summer vacation.

While I have had inspiration from stacks of web pages, I must put in a plug for Susan Heid, aka The Confident Mom. She's put together a really awesome, visually enticing Summer Survival Guide, which has really inspired me. It includes lots and lots of ideas and web links, as well as sheets to print and help you plan everything from your daily schedule, meal planning and even establishing a Summer Standard Operating Procedure! The Summer Survival Calender & Action Guide can be purchased for $9.

Two other really good downloadable/printable guides are the "100 Days of Summertime" by Jennifer Tankersley from ListPlanit.com ($5), as well as the "Summer Survival Guide" from Life As Mom, $9.

Now on to my hard work!

After going through Susan's guide, I sat down with my kids and figured out some of the fun things they want to do, as well as some of the things they need to do every day. After all, even though it is summer vacation, everyone still needs to bathe, brush teeth and dress every day and summer doesn't mean the chores disappear, either. And of course, I want to make sure that my boys don't lose what they learned in school this year (especially math!), so we came up with our list of daily requirements.

Before anything fun can be done, my boys will have to 'earn' their fun time. They're daily list includes:
* Getting ready for the day
* 15 minutes of Math
* 20 minutes of Reading
* Chores

Of course, for my boys anyway, the reading is really easy, but getting them to do math every day is going to be a bit of a challenge. That's why I'm looking at signing up with an online math website that will generate quizzes and keep records of how your kids are doing - IXL.com.

You may want to find a way to reward your kids for doing the school stuff during the summer, as it will help motivate them when they really don't want to be doing school!

My boys will also be doing the Summer Reading Programme at the Bermuda National Youth Library, which themselves give out prizes for reading throughout the summer. It begins on July 2, and they keep the details a tight secret until launch day!

The other thing I've done is plan the different days of the week. I'm not saying I know exactly what we're going to be doing every day during the summer, but I've designated different days for different things.

I've even created this great little chart to print and put on the fridge ("Summer Splash" digi scrapping kit by Sweet Digi Scrap, currently a freebie on her Facebook page!)

Mange Mondays
My oldest is 10, and I think it's high time he at least started to learn his way around the kitchen. He's already excited about learning to plan meals and cook this summer. His younger brother likes to bake, too, so we're planning these fun in-house events for Monday afternoons.

Tour-Guide Tuesdays
Tuesdays are when we're planning on going out and pretend to be tourists. After all, we live in Bermuda - one of the most beautiful places in the world - and so we might as well take advantage of it. I'm sure we'll make lots of visits to the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo, where we have a family membership, but we're also looking to see if we can do tours of places like a local farm or even the printing presses at the newspaper where I publish.

Library Wednesday
Every Wednesday during the summer, they're showing kid's movies at the Youth Library. The cost is a mere $3 per child, to cover the cost of drinks and popcorn. At the same time, we can re-load our bag of books, and read our way through the Summer Reading Programme. On TOP of that, where I go to Zumba is around the corner, too!

Crafty Thursdays
My boys LOVE to make things, especially my 6 year old. Thursdays are when we'll make all kinds of fun things. We're even thinking about customizing our school supplies for September!

Lazy Day Fridays & Family Picnic
It is not summer holidays without a few lie-in days, so Fridays are for chillin' (and giving mom a chance to play catch up with the other stuff!) It'll also give us time to prepare for an evening family picnic when dad gets off work, whether at a park or the beach. Either way, we'll enjoy family time in the outdoors without quite the heat of mid-day.

Thanks so much for reading along! 
Next post? Boredom Busters!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An Angry Birds Surprise Party

My oldest turned 10 yesterday - besides the emotions THAT brings (double-digits, "Tween", mom & dad are getting old!), I thought I'd share some of the bits from his birthday party.

Dad had given him the option - rent a boat and go fishing with his aunties, visiting from the UK, or a party. My boy, who LOVES fishing, opted for the first, which left us the room for a SURPRISE!

He loves Angry Birds, too - doesn't really play the game much (we don't have an iPad or anything like that), but loves the birds, especially the Red Bird, so I thought it'd be a great party theme.

The plan:
His closest friends (aged 9-12) from school and church would get together to play a wet & wild live version of Angry Birds on our church field!

The ingredients:
Water guns, which the boys could take home instead of all that stupid junk usually in party bags
Water balloons & launcher
Cardboard boxes

The food:
Ice cream

The goodies:
In addition to the water guns, the boys would get some homemade goodies to enjoy!

Empty boxes from the grocery store to build their own forts to be knocked down with water balloons.

When my oldest arrived with dad and little bro, his friends attacked him with water guns!

The boys (and aunties) all had an absolute ball throwing them at each other, so much so that only a few got shot at the boxes!

These lovely confetti cupcakes were decorated with red and white icing, white coconut M&Ms (marked with the black dot using a food pen), cuts of Candy Corn for the beaks, and slices of black Twizzlers for the eyebrows.

Tip - I decorated my cupcakes the day before out of necessity, but the M&Ms didn't seem to like being in the fridge overnight. However, the icing was nice and firm (especially for a hot day), so everything stayed on nicely without sliding off when the kids tried to eat them.

Baked in my cake pop maker, they were dipped in green candy melts. The eyes are Wilton candy eyes and the noses were green coconut M&Ms. Again, because of the humidity, they were sweating in the fridge, and so needed to go in the freezer, which discoloured everything a little...

These were so easy! Stick in the big marshmallows and dipped into yellow candy melts. Stuck on Wilton candy eyes and slices of Candy Corn for the beaks. Yummy too!