For Valentine’s Day I got these cute little mailboxes from the dollar bins at Target. I had great plans for using them! I still have great plans for next year… since I didn’t do all that I wanted with them this year. All I did to decorate them is put a glittery heart sticker on each of them- however they were quickly removed by my three year old. As you can see in the picture above from my phone only 2 of them has a sticker and they are barely hanging on! Maybe next year I will get names on the mailboxes. Each of us in our family has our own mailbox. I was originally planning on doing a 14-day advent type countdown to Valentine’s day- but that didn’t happen. I was going to do it like we did for December with Christmas where each day there was a valentine note/treat plus a service project and fun activity to do that day. So since I wasn’t ready to do it February 1st I thought maybe I’d do just 10 days… but I wasn’t together by then either.
So I ended up doing it a lot simpler- which made my life easier. I just did a note with a treat for every day of Valentine’s week (until Valentine’s Day- so just 5 days). I mostly just did the cheesy notes- but that’s what you do for Valentine’s Day right?! I tried not to do candy but of course my little boys love it so I did a little for 2 of the days. For example, I did “I love the way you make me snicker!” and gave them a few snicker mini’s. Another day I gave them berries and said “I love you berry much!” I think my boys favorites treats were the glow bracelets and another day glow in the dark balloons (they have a little LED light in them). My husband is anti-candy so he got nuts, berries, gum, chap stick and something else I’m forgetting.
My three year-old loved this! Of course receiving mail is always exciting! He doesn’t want me to put the mailboxes away! It was so cute because on the second day, Beckett got out paper and “wrote” everyone a note and put it in their mailbox. He then found random treats from the pantry to give everyone. He picked out a bag of coconut to give to his little brother… but it couldn’t fit in the mailbox. I still thought it was sweet of him. Each day he wanted to write a note too! We only did a few other valentines for others outside our family- maybe next year we will be better. Even though it wasn’t quite as elaborate as I planned, I think the valentine’s mailboxes were a huge hit and will be improved next year… well we will see. I’m pretty sure next year I’m not going to be any less busy!
For the elf on the shelf tradition I started out strong… I even took photos of it. But as the month went on and things got crazier- it would be 11pm and I’d be like “Crap! I still haven’t done anything with Elfie!” So I’d look through my list of planned ideas and find the easiest one to do. I’d want to shoot myself for making this tradition so difficult. Finding Elfie each morning was exciting enough! But no, I knew this would be most beneficial to have a planned service and a planned fun activity to go with it each day. Otherwise I may not have done any of these fun ideas. Also, I tried to have it all coordinate with what Elfie was doing, but I couldn’t always think of things to do that matched. And after about the first week or so I didn’t take photos either (or only a few snapshots with my cellphone)- so I will tell you what we did with our Elf on the Shelf from what I can remember… now that it is about 2 months later! So some of these may not be in the exact order we did them in. For day 1 and 2 check my earlier post on Elfie.
Day 3: Elfie in a Lego fort
Service: Build someone up today by giving compliments or writing a nice note.
Fun: Build a fort.
My boys loved our huge fort we made and of course we had to play with flashlights in it!
Day 4: Elfie making snow angel
Fun: Make snow globes.
Service: Be a secret angel to someone.
We stuck gift cards in our snow globes to city market and to amazon to give to a few people we felt deserved a little surprise. We just left them on their doorstep so we wouldn’t get caught. I hope they saw the gift card and realized it was an active one. That was my big concern that they wouldn’t realize that. I read online that they tested the gift cards after being in snow globes and worked fine as long as it hadn’t been in the water over a week! So hopefully all that wasn’t wasted!
Day 5: Elfie riding a dump truck, taking out the trash.
Fun: We used that “trash” and had an indoor paper snowball fight.
Service: Do something nice for the garbage collectors.
My three year is fascinated by the trash collectors and loves watching them in the morning so I prepared a couple goody bags to have Beckett give them in the morning. The only problem was we didn’t get up early enough to do it. I actually enjoyed a little extra sleep! So instead we gave the goody bags to our mail carrier and the Fed Ex delivery guy. I was caught off guard a few days later when we received a card from the U.S.P.S. But it was a thank you note from our mail carrier. About a month later when we saw the Fed Ex guy again… he thanked us as well. I was grateful for them taking the time to do that because it just reinforces the learning experience for my 3 year old. He was so proud! He was always so excited about doing all the things and most of which we did in secret.
Day 6: Elfie hiding in a stocking.
Fun: Candy cane hockey (played with candy cane hockey sticks and m&m hockey pucks) My 1 year old discovered m&ms and was pretty determined to eat all our pucks! He was pretty hilarious!
Service: Create a stocking full of goodies to give to friends.
I planned this activity for this day intentionally because it was St. Nicholas day. If you know anything about him and how our stocking tradition came about… I thought it would be appropriate. We also tried to do this one in secret. So first we assembled all the different goodies into all the stockings and then we left them at their doorsteps. I planned to do it when a couple of the families would be picking their kids up from school that way no one would be home to see us but I knew they would be there to receive the stocking in a few minutes. Beckett was just so excited about this he kept talking about it for days and so when he saw one of the families a few days later, that was the first thing out of his mouth! Little stinker! Three year olds aren’t the best secret keepers.
Day 7: Elfie going fishing. (excuse the ugly mirror!)
Fun: Christmas music Freeze dance
Service: People are fishing for compliments, so be sure to dish them out today.
Day 8: Elfie on the vacuum cleaner
Fun: Make a reindeer sandwich
Day 9: Photog Elfie taking photos with a camera
Fun: Dan’s Work Christmas Party
Service: Make a gift for someone using photos
We made a few different kinds of jewelry for a couple different people. We used beads but we also used the plastic shrinky dink for the photos and some other beads. I had Beckett color a sheet of shrinky dink then I cut circles out and we made beads to use for some other jewelry. We made one necklace for one of Beckett’s friends birthdays and some others for his aunt.
Day 10: Elfie making paper snowflakes
Fun: Made paper snowflakes and tortilla snowflakes for lunch.
Service: Make something to give to someone… we made our own bath salts/ sand art. We made about 10 of these jars! Beckett keeps asking to make some more for us this time!
Day 11: Elfie reading books to little people.
Fun: Church Christmas Party
Service: Do something nice for the library people. Since we are always bringing treats to Dan’s library we decided to bring cookies to the Rifle library and Administration staff.
Day 12: Elfie riding a fire truck.
Fun: Visit Santa Clause at the library
Service: Bring treats to the firefighters (Beckett’s other favorite people!) He still talks about this every time we drive past the fire station. “Remember when we took cookies to the firefighters!”
Day 13: Elfie with mini easel making an artwork
Fun and Service: Make an artwork for someone. ( I cheated this time and counted it as both)
Other things we did were make gifts for your teachers, bring a meal to someone (cheated and did this with grandma when we were in Denver), and other things I have forgotten and many others I never did that we will save for next year! That last week while we were out of town I didn’t do much besides hide Elfie… it was a bit too crazy!
Anyways! I know this post is super long. But I hope it helps give you some ideas for Elf on the Shelf, service, Christmas or winter activities you can do with your kids! And maybe next year I will be better at it! It sure was fun! My three year loved it!
This was from back in September… I was starting to get pretty busy with my photography and being out of town- so this month’s theme was slightly abbreviated. I didn’t get a fire themed playdate together but I am counting the one I did for Beckett’s birthday a month or 2 earlier! And October was totally forgotten… I was planning a cute Monster theme and a Halloween playdate that never came to pass… maybe next year! Anyways! My little boys loves fire! He is always talking about fires and firefighters! Maybe it’s because of this past hot summer and all the fires we had here! Most of these pics are from my cell phone. The best camera is the one you have with you! And I didn’t really take any photos from Beckett’s fireman birthday party… so here’s what I could dig up. The main event was a fireman wet obstacle course it included:
a balance beam
a tunnel to crawl through
things to weave in and out of
they had to carry a cup of water on their head as they walked over pool noodles
there was a swimming pool filled with soapy water and little toy lizards (I looked for people or animals… but I could only find those)
They had to save a lizard from all the “smoke” that they couldn’t see through.
They had to put the “fire” (chalk drawing on sidewalk) out by squirting with a squirt gun
They then had to hop over the toy fire truck a few times
They had to do a mini bucket brigade and fill up a bucket by ringing out a wet sponge
And of course a slip n’slide
The grand finale of a water fight with water balloons and squirt guns
A few other ideas I was planning on doing but forgot or ran out of time were:
A hula hoop ring of fire (with streamers) that they had to go through
A table with a ton of balloons taped/tied under it so it’s like a thick tunnel of smoke they have to crawl through
Stop drop and roll… have fake flames on their clothes that they have to roll off
And many others…
For the food I just had a fire theme where it was red, orange and yellow food… with a fire cake. So I had layered red, orange and yellow jello, chips and salsa and queso, peppers, tomatoes, fruit kababs all in red, orange and yellow of course! I also had made these pretzel matches but this is a snapshot of them after they had been sitting in the sun for a few hours!
So for our monthly theme I found a few free preschool fireman learning packs online that I did with Beckett. They have all sorts of different learning activities in them. You can find one of the packs at http://homeschoolcreations.com/FiremanPrintables.html
One of the art projects I did with Beckett was I gave him cups of watered down red, yellow, and orange paint, as well as a syringe. He would then suck up the paint and squirt it on the watercolor paper… creating the appearance of flames. For another project we then painted tissue paper and tore it into pieces and glued it into a flame collage.
Our edible firetrucks were made out of graham crackers, pretztels, and oreos.
We also read lots of books on firemen and did a large floor firetruck puzzle.
Of course it is always fun to dress up and role play! And it was perfect timing because the local fire station was holding their annual open house/ touch a truck event. So we definitely hit that up! Beckett was in heaven he still talks about it every time we drive past the fire station. His favorite part was watching real fires and real firemen putting them out! Can’t really get cooler than that!
If you’re on Pinterest, I’m sure you’ve seen photos of this tradition floating around. I saw it and knew my little boy would love this tradition, but last year I couldn’t find it in any stores nearby. My sweet mother-in-law tracked one down for me and so we started this fun tradition this year. We are only one day in but my three year old is so excited! Our elf was spotted this morning outside caught in one of our trees. He must have parachuted from Santa’s sleigh to get to our home, but his parachute got stuck! Your first task is to give the elf a name. My little boy, Beckett, wanted to name the elf Santa- but I thought that might be a little confusing. His second choice was to name the elf Beckett… also potentially confusing. So with a little help he was named the very uncreative name of “Elfie”.
Now I have some thoughts on some of the photos I’ve seen floating around. There’s a lot of funny ideas out there where the elves play pranks and make messes. They look pretty funny and I’m sure my three year old would get a kick out of them. However, I feel that is counterproductive. The purpose of the elf is to keep watch and make sure the children are being good. So I feel the elf should lead by example… so each day “Elfie” will be doing good activities.
I’ve also seen a product that is almost identical to the Elf on the Shelf- but it is supposedly more Christ-centered because it is an angel. Each day the angel leaves messages in the special dust of good things to do. I like their whole idea… but still prefer the elf. I was planning on doing 2 advent calendars this year: one of service and one of fun activities. So my goal is each day Elfie’s new placement will tie into those things for the day. Elfie will leave a little note of a good deed to remember to do that day and a fun activity. We will see how it goes!
So for day #2 as you see in the photograph above, Beckett will find Elfie playing Uno Moo with puppy. Elfie has left a little note that says, “Remember to play nice with others and share your toys. Today have a family game night!” So this one is a simple reminder more than a specific task as some of the future ones will be… But this is a reminder Beckett needs, especially with his little brother and probably as he goes to church tomorrow! Gotta love this Christmas magic! I will embrace any extra help I can get to get a more cooperative three year old!
Here are some random things we did this summer. We did many other things… especially on our trips. But here is a little sampling. This first experiment pictured above- I don’t remember much about it except that it didn’t really work too well. I think this was oil and food coloring and the different colors weren’t supposed to mix- but they did because I did not use black! This second experiment was to get a bouncy egg… if I remember you just let it soak in the vinegar. The vinegar eats away the shell leaving it all squishy… I thought I heard you could even bounce it so maybe I didn’t do it right because our egg popped and made a big mess!
I saw this idea online where you make a fort frame out of a bunch of rolled newspaper. I got so tired of rolling newspaper and so we made a mini fort with only about 15 rolls. Plus Beckett just couldn’t help but knock it down all the time or use the rolls as swords or go fishing with them as pictured below. So the activity was still a success- he loved playing with the newspaper rolls even the original idea wasn’t super successful.
The air show! He loved this and still asks if we can go back! He loved seeing the parachuters! Riding gondolas… to do more biking! Funny Face pancakes… I’m not sure we call them this because the pancake looks funny or because your face looks funny after you eat them.And finally I organized an Olympics play date to celebrate it’s finale. As always I had a million ideas but didn’t do most… and I have no photos of the event but I think I counted about 50 people there so it was a good turn out. I had different events set up for the kids to go through and then we finished off with a handful of relay races. Fun times- the kids were able to get their energy out even on a rainy day! (we had to move it indoors at the last minute). Anyways! These are some of the events we had:
the long jump
the discus throw
swimming- lay on tummy on a skateboard and push yourself across the gym
hurdles- pool noodles laid across chairs parallel to the floor
soccer shoot out- with mini ball and goal
javelin throw- throw a pool noodle through a hula hoop
Here’s one of my friends photos that she posted to Facebook. Thanks Tawny for taking some photos! And that’s all I can remember… maybe that was it! I also was going to have them decorate cookies into the Olympic rings with colored candies and sprinkles but that didn’t happen either.
So I’m the type of mom that needs structured activities planned in order to play with my little boys. I don’t last very long playing cars for example. So in order for me to be a better mom and want to play with my boys I decided to have a monthly theme (since I like planning things based around a theme) that I provide different activities based on. I really would want a weekly theme but I knew I better start with a monthly or quarterly theme and see how it goes. I wanted to try to do activities from all the different subjects. My boys are 3 and 10 months so a lot of my ideas are a little advanced for them (really I’m only doing this with my 3 year old). But Beckett still loves doing projects with me even if it doesn’t turn out the way mine does. For those that don’t know my degree is in art education- so we of course have to do lots of art projects. I love to do activities that allow creative thinking versus cookie cutter projects- but with such young kids that is hard to do- so I try to find a good balance. I am a big Pinterest fan- so you can go check out my boards where I have collected many of these ideas and more!
This first project was right up Beckett’s alley! He loved blowing bubbles in the paint with a straw to make a beautiful water background for our fish drawings! My husband, Dan, drew the top two fish pictures. Dan also has a degree in art so I like to make him do some of the projects with us! When I was teaching art- I would get him to make samples for me! Beckett drew his own fish too- but I didn’t attach his pictures- sorry!
Here’s another project we did that Beckett loved. We used oven baked clay and shaped it into a rainbow fish and then stuck sequins in it to make the pretty scales. I wasn’t sure how the sequins would do in the oven- but it seemed to work. They just started to curl a little. After the fish cooled down we colored it. You can use colored pencils, permanent markers or paint. You can also glue a magnet on the back and hang it on your fridge.
There were quite a few fish songs and finger plays we did. We made this clothes pin shark to go with one of Beckett’s favorite songs: “5 little Fish” (there were a few different songs we did with that title). This one goes:
“Five little fishes swimming in the sea
teasing Mr. Shark
you can’t catch me you can’t catch me!
Well along came Mr. Shark as quiet as can be
SNAPPED that fish right out of the sea…”
I made a fishing pole and some felt fish Dr.Seuss’ style. You can get the template and instructions on Martha Stewart’s website. Sorry I don’t have all the links this time- but I can get them for you if you want. I didn’t just do just red fish and blue fish- I made fish with all the main colors- a couple of them aren’t shown above. While I was cutting out all the fish I had Beckett practice cutting with scissors. I drew a line on paper for him to follow. I tried teaching him the correct way to hold the scissors. We will keep practicing! I also cut out shapes and glued them on it’s complementary (color) fish. I would also later do numbers and letters on the fish. Then I had Beckett go fishing so a certain color or shape.
We then did a bunch of different learning activities. I found a lot of these templates online as well. We used goldfish to sort, count, and make patterns. I used fish stickers for him to find the matching fish and to organize from smallest to biggest.
We played out in the backyard in the little pool and went fishing with a net! My little one loved eating the fish and splash in the water!
We had all sorts of fish food as well as you can see above. We had some friends over and decorated fish brownies. I tried making a fish aquarium with jello, jellybeans and a Swedish fish and it did as I expected. The candies started to melt (that’s not the right word)- so it didn’t look real good. We also went fishing for goldfish with pretzels or celery fishing poles dipped in peanut butter.
I had a fish themed playdate where the main activity was a water blob which is a folded tarp taped together and filled with water. I put a little blue food coloring and glitter in it and a bunch of little foam fish. However all my efforts were for nothing because apparently I did not get a strong enough tarp- so the kids feet sink right through! They all still had fun splashing and stomping in the water, using it as a slip n’ slide and collecting all the fish! We also had the kids be fishes and catch the gummy worm bait from a string. I was planning on playing the shark in the water game- that is kinda like musical chairs- but we didn’t have time!
For each theme I’d like to do some sort of field trip. So for this one Beckett went fishing! I also wanted to go to the aquarium or the fish hatchery but we didn’t this time.
We love to read so we read a ton fish books! I like to read to Beckett lots of different books for my sanity- but I have read that the kids benefit more if you read the same book at least 5 x in the same week or so. Plus kids love repetition! Some our favorite books that we read were:
Dr. Seuss “1 fish 2 fish”
The three little fish and the big bad shark by Geist, Ken.
And the lastly we were potty training Beckett- so we of course had to use goldfish (crackers) in the toilet bowl to help him practice his aim! I know I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that- but he thought it was a blast! I had a lot of other ideas that we will have to do next time we do this theme. Let me know if you have any great fish ideas or if you want to know more specifics on any of the projects.
So for father’s day I created this photo book for Dan. It includes photos of him, me, and his boys along with quotes about being a dad, drawings, and best of all interviews about Daddy from my almost three-year old. Also for many of the photos I dressed my boys up in Dan’s clothes, pretending to be daddy! I think it’s too cute! And of course the interviews about Daddy are pretty funny!
We then did a similar thing for my dad and father-in-law… only it was more in the form of an e-card. Again I interviewed my little boy about each of his Grandpas. Gotta love the minds of little kids! So fun!
Don’t forget I do a similar thing as this with any Grow with Me book as I think it is a treasured keepsake, documenting your child from year to year to see how they change!