Back to School Word Bracelets

My daughter starts 2nd grade this week and she is beyond excited to go back to school.  She can’t wait to see all of her friends and meet her new teacher.  She is full of confidence and joy and counting down the days.

But this was not the case two years ago when she started Kindergarten.  She was scared.  She was starting at a new school.  She didn’t know any of the kids in her class, and she had never been away from me for that many hours a day.  In pre-school, her teacher let her bring a stuffed animal to school that she could snuggle with if she felt sad or missed mommy, but I knew that we couldn’t expect that to be ok in Kindergarten.  That is where the “word bracelets” idea came from.

I told Karis that we would sit down and create some bracelets that she could wear to help her remember that mommy loved her and would pick her up right after school.  We talked about how when she felt sad or missed me, she could touch the bracelet and be reminded of my love.  The idea sparked more conversation about what other things she might want to remember at school, so we brainstormed other words and these are what we came up with…

  • love
  • joy
  • confidence
  • kindness
  • brave
  • peace
  • calm

These words provided great conversation for kindergarten preparation as we talked about what each word meant. I told her that she could choose one or more bracelet to wear each day depending on what she felt she needed to be reminded of.

I wish I could say that the first few weeks of school were a breeze for Karis, but it was not an easy transition for her.  Thankfully, she had a very kind teacher and sweet classmates who helped her to become comfortable at her school.  And I’m sure her word bracelets also helped to reassure her in those sad moments of missing her family.

Maybe you have a child starting a new school and you are looking for something to help them with that transition.  Or maybe there is a word that would help your child with a character trait that they are working on.  Pick up some plastic beads, letter beads, and stretchy string and spend time making bracelets with your child.  Not only with they love their creations, but they will also love the quality time spent with you.

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For another “Back to School” idea, check out my post:  DIY Visual Schedule For Kids

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DIY Visual Schedule For Kids

School starts next week and we are so not ready!  Summer seems like it has flown by and we are savoring these precious last days of sleeping in, staying in pajamas well into the afternoon, swimming, and staying up late.  This really is the first summer that all of my kids have slept in…and by sleeping in, I mean, not getting up until after 7:30.  I am a night owl, so that extra hour and a half in the morning is glorious for this mama!

The last couple of weeks, I have been taking little steps to prepare for the upcoming school year, cleaning out clothes that are too small and shopping for new clothes and shoes.  But I know that the hardest part for my kids will be the transition from lazy summer mornings to the “get up and go” school morning routine.  So this week, I created this simple and inexpensive visual schedule to help my 7 year old daughter adjust to the new norm.

Watch my tutorial to learn how to create one of your own.  I’m including the template that I used with the morning routine icons and the words that go with each.  The video gives you step by step instructions.  Here’s a list of what you will need…

  • one 12×12 piece of card stock
  • SCHOOL MORNING ICONS pdf 
  • 16  2″ squares of colored card stock
  • glue stick
  • scissors
  • pencil
  • magnets (I used magnetic tape)
  • letter stickers

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I would love to hear some of your best tips for helping your kids transition from summer to a new school year.

 

The Amazing Race Birthday Party

Birthday parties are challenging for teen boys.  The past couple of years my son Jacob has not wanted a theme or decorations, so we have just had a few friends over for movies and board games.  But this year, for his 15th birthday, we decided to do something unique.  The idea was sparked by a conversation we had about the youth group I attended as a teen and some of the fun events we got to do.  My favorite was called “The Torture Rally,” a 24 hour car rally around our city with clues to solve and challenges, definitely one of the highlights of my teen years.  I described it to Jacob as a sort of youth group Amazing Race, and the idea for pulling of a birthday party like this was birthed.  We kept the party small and just had one team…so they were essentially competing against themselves, but they had so much fun and it was well worth all the hours of prep that I put in to plan all the clues and challenges.

Here is a list of what we did for Jacob’s AMAZING RACE PARTY!

  1.  PULL 50 MARBLES OUT OF A TUB OF ICE WATER USING ONLY YOUR TOES

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2. MEMORIZE THIS POEM.  FIND THE MAN IN RED ACROSS THE PARK AND RECITE IT PERFECTLY.  IF YOU MESS UP, GO BACK AND TRY AGAIN

Spaghetti, spaghetti, all over the place, Up to my elbows – up to my face, Over the carpet and under the chairs, Into the hammock and wound round the stairs, Filling the bathtub and covering the desk, Making the sofa a mad mushy mess.  The party is ruined, I’m terribly worried, The guests have all left (unless they’re all buried).  I told them, “Bring presents.”  I said, “Throw confetti.”  I guess they heard wrong ’cause they all threw spaghetti! – Shel Silverstein 

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3.  (set up in someones front yard) MEMORIZE THE ORDER Of THESE TRIBAL PRINTED CARDS.  NOW RECREATE THIS EXACTLY IN THE BACKYARD.  YOU MAY RETURN AS MANY TIMES AS NECESSARY BUT CANNOT BRING CARDS WITH YOU.

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4.  (part 1) WEAR CRAZY PARTY HATS AND MARDI GRAS NECKLACES IN PUBLIC (WALK ACROSS THE BRIDGE) (part 2) CHALLENGE…WITH STRING TIED TO YOUR WRISTS AND CONNECTED TO A PARTNER, FIND YOUR WAY APART (it’s actually quite simple but seems very complicated)

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5.  MAKE MARSHMALLOW SHOOTERS.  NOW SHOOT MALLOWS INTO A BUCKET THAT IS HELD ON YOUR TEAMMATES HEAD (MAKE 5 MALLOWS EACH)

IMG_7421IMG_7425            6.  PLAY A GIANT GAME OF MEMORY: BOARD GAME STYLE (game made out of heavy paper plates, printed boardgame photos, and weighed down with flat marbles)

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7.  FIND THE PIECES OF THE WOODEN PUZZLE HIDDEN IN THE PLAY STRUCTURE.  NOW PUT THE PUZZLE TOGETHER. (much more challenging than it looks)

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8.  GO TO BARNES AND NOBLE AND ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS…

  1. HOW MANY BOOKS ARE THERE IN THE BIBLE?
  2. WHAT IS THE TITLE OF A BOOK WRITTEN BY OUR PRESIDENT?
  3. HOW MANY BOOKS ARE IN “THE DIARY OF A WHIMPY KID” SERIES?
  4. NAME 3 “NON-BOOK” ITEMS YOU CAN PURCHASE HERE
  5. FIND AND NAME 2 BOOKS BY THE CHILDREN’S AUTHOR ERIC CARLE 

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9.  GO TO THE MALL.  FIND THE PHOTO BOOTH.  TAKE A PHOTO WITH YOUR WHOLE TEAM IN THE BOOTH AT THE SAME TIME.

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10.  USING SIDEWALK CHALK, DRAW AN ACCURATE DIAGRAM OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM, PLACING EACH PLANET IN ORDER STARTING WITH THE SUN

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11.  DIVE INTO THE POOL AND RETRIEVE THE GOLF BALLS AT THE BOTTOM.  EACH HAS A LETTER WRITTEN ON IT.  UNSCRAMBLE THE LETTERS TO DECODE THE MESSAGE

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FINISH THE NIGHT WITH PIZZA AND CUPCAKES AND OF COURSE AN EPISODE OF THE AMAZING RACE!!!IMG_8150IMG_8223

The Amazing Race Birthday Party lasted for about 5 hours total (the race itself was 4 of those hours which included a “pit stop” for snacks about half way through).  Be sure to come prepared with bottles of water to keep everyone hydrated, especially during the summer.  For more Amazing Race Birthday Party footage check out this fun video of the highlights from Jacob’s party!

DIY Tablecloth Curtains

A couple of years ago we rented the cutest little house in an older neighborhood.  The street was lined with big trees, the neighbors were friendly, and the backyard was filled with a variety of fruit trees.  The house itself had a lot of character, including a wall covered in shiplap, a large window with a view of a train trestle, glass doorknobs, and old light fixtures.  The master bedroom, however, needed a bit of help.  Because we were renting, I didn’t want to invest a ton of money into bedroom decor, as we knew we wouldn’t be living there very long.

One afternoon my husband decided to take the kids to see a movie and he left me with a couple of glorious hours home alone.  I had purchased two rectangular tablecloths at Target a couple of days before, so I went right to work on creating some curtains to brighten up my bedroom.  The windows truly were the best feature of that room, so I wanted to highlight them.

I can’t believe how easy it was to sew these simple curtains!  By the time my family came home, I was finished and my bedroom had a completely new look.   Here’s my tutorial on how to make simple curtains out of a rectangular table cloth.

I would love to hear from you.  Leave me a comment and tell me about your favorite DIY project and of course show me a picture if you make some tablecloth curtains of your own!

 

Dr. Seuss (Cat In The Hat) Birthday Party

Dr. Seuss’ birthday is March 2nd.  When my boys were little, they LOVED Dr. Seuss books.  The Cat in the Hat was one of their favorites!  Several years in a row I made cupcakes for my oldest son’s class for Dr. Seuss’ Birthday.  Then when Jacob turned 7, he decided to have a Cat In The Hat Themed Birthday Party.

Jacob will be 15 in May.  Time sure flies!  But sometimes I look at him and I still see that sweet little 7 year old running around in his Cat in the Hat, red and white, striped hat.  Thankfully he’s still just as sweet, almost 8 years later, but we are well past the age of themed birthday parties.

So today I am taking a few minutes to reminisce.  With Dr. Seuss’ birthday  just a few weeks away, I decided that I would look through our archives of photos and share some of my memories with all of you.   The quality of photos isn’t the greatest.  I had no thought of starting a blog back then…just of keeping up with two busy little boys, but I’m sure there are some fun ideas for those of you who are thinking of hosting a Cat in the Hat Party or just looking for something fun to do on Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

For Jacob’s party, he wanted to watch some classic Dr. Seuss cartoons, so we made our house into a mini movie theater including a “red carpet” entrance made out of a red plastic table cloth.  Our snack bar included popcorn, red vines, water bottles, and m&ms.  We gave each of the kids some pretend money to “purchase” their snack items and ushered them into a curtained off room, lit only with white lights around the perimeter of the floor. We projected the movie onto a wall to make it feel like a movie theater and set up some cozy seating along the other wall.

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I decorated with a display of our own Dr. Seuss books and some cardboard cut outs that I purchased online.  For the cake, I bought a white plate and turned it upside down for the base.   I made 5 cake rounds and stacked them one on top of the other.  I frosted every other white and red and piped a bit of black frosting for the lines.

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The cupcakes featured are the ones I brought to Jacob’s class.  For the toppers, just layer white lifesavers and round cinnamon hard candies with frosting in between to “glue” them together.  Place the candy toppers in the refrigerator to harden before putting them on the cupcakes.  Frost the cupcakes blue and then add a circle of white in the middle before placing the candy hats in the center.  The white frosting becomes the base of the hat.

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I filled a basket with Dr. Seuss pencil and eraser sets for each of the kids to take home as a “thank you for attending my party” gift.  This was definitely a fun and memorable birthday party for my oldest boy!

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Turn Dad into a Snowman

Turning Dad into a snowman has become one of the most anticipated Advent activities for our children.   We started this tradition 3 years ago and it’s always sure to bring out tons of laughter and joy for all of us!  The kids squealed with delight this morning, when they opened the Advent bag and read that this was the day to make a Dad “snowman!”

The best part of this activity, besides the crazy amount of laughter, is that it is free!  Just gather what you have around the house.  We used a couple of rolls of toilet paper, some scrapes of cardstock for the eyes, coal buttons, nose, mouth, and arms.  I grabbed a scarf out of my closet and a hat out of the kid’s dress up box.  Have some scotch tape handy and you are ready to go.

Last year, by accident, my husband got some toilet paper in his mouth, which made for a hilarious few minutes of giggles for the kids.  So of course, this year, there was the expectation that he would make this happen once again.  He did not disappoint!  Make sure to watch our video to the very end to see the grand finale!

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Advent

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img_4494Every year, in the month of December, we spent time focusing on preparing our hearts to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  One tangible way we do this as a family is by doing Advent Activities.  Each day, December 1-25, our kids open the Advent Bag that corresponds with that day.  Each bag contains a card with a Bible verse and a family activity printed on it.

I’ve included a video tutorial on how I made my Advent Bags.  They are simple to make and have held up for over 5 years.  My kids get so excited when they see them hung up across a wall of our house each December.

I’ve also given you a list of the Bible verses that we use, as well as our Advent activities for this year.  Just an FYI, some of our activities may not be in the order I have posted.  I try to plan ahead, but adjust as necessary depending on how life goes.  Follow my blog this month for more detailed blog posts on some of our crafts and family activities.

ADVENT BIBLE VERSES

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:14

Give thanks to the Lord for He is good; His love endures forever.  Psalm 118:29

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.  I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  John  10:27-28

But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zecharaiah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.”  Luke 1:13

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.  Luke 1:76-77

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”  Luke 1: 30-32

And everyone went to his own town to register.  Luke 2:3

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”      Luke 1:46-47

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.  Matthew 1:21

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14

She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  Luke 2:7

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he had been conceived.  Luke 2:21

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.  Luke 2:20

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of king Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”  Matthew 2:1-2

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Matthew 2:11a

Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  Matthew 2:11b

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.  “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”  Matthew 2:13

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Might God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  1 John 5:11

And live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.  Ephesians 5:2

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

Your word is truth.  John 17:17

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

Jesus is the Son of God.  Acts 9:20

This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.   1 John 4:9

 

ADVENT ACTIVITIES 

  1. GET OUR CHRISTMAS TREE AND DECORATE IT
  2. READ THE CHRISTMAS STORY FROM THE BIBLE
  3. FAMILY GAME NIGHT
  4. TURN DAD INTO A SNOWMAN
  5. CRAFT: MAKE POPSICLE STICK SNOWFLAKES TO HANG AROUND THE HOUSE
  6. BUY GIFTS FOR CHILDREN WHO CANNOT AFFORD CHRISTMAS GIFTS
  7. READ SOME FAVORITE CHRISTMAS STORY BOOKS TOGETHER
  8. ATTEND A CHRISTMAS SHOW IN OUR TOWN
  9. STACK UP RED CUPS AND HAVE NERF WARS
  10. CRAFT: MAKE CHRISTMAS TREES OUT OF TWIGS
  11. MAKE UP A SILLY CHRISTMAS STORY TOGETHER (each person adds one sentence at at time)
  12. GO OUT INTO A FIELD OR TO A BARN AND IMAGINE WHAT  IT MUST HAVE BEEN LIKE WHEN JESUS WAS BORN
  13. WATCH THE POLAR EXPRESS AND MAKE GRAHAM CRACKER TRAINS TO EAT
  14. DO SOME FUNNY CHRISTMAS MAD LIBS
  15. GET A YUMMY TREAT AND DRIVE AROUND LOOKING AT CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
  16. DRAW CHRISTMAS PICTURES TOGETHER
  17. PLAY HIDE AND GO SEEK WITH BABY JESUS (from our nativity set)
  18. BE BELL RINGERS FOR THE SALVATION ARMY
  19. POPCORN AND MOVIE NIGHT: ELF
  20. CRAFT: MAKE CHRISTMAS TREES OUT OF SHEET MUSIC
  21. HALLWAY BOWLING AT HOME
  22. MAKE GRAHAM CRACKER GINGERBREAD HOUSES WITH FRIENDS
  23. BAKE AND DECORATE A BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR JESUS
  24. ATTEND A CHRISTMAS EVE GATHERING AND OPEN ONE GIFT BEFORE BED (always new pajamas for each of our kids)
  25. MERRY CHRISTMAS: CELEBRATE THE BIRTH OF JESUS WITH OUR FAMILY!