Looking for an easy and fun activity for your next holiday party? Try doing gingerbread houses, everyone loves them and they’re so fun to decorate. We used muffin tins to sort out all the candies and made our gingerbread houses out of graham crackers (which are easier for little hands to manipulate). If you’re feeling adventurous you could make gingerbread houses from scratch, or buy pre-made kits from a shop. Gingerbread houses are a great way to keep your guests entertained – turn it into a contest with prizes and everyone will want to play!
The big guy in red came a little earlier this year than normal but that means our guests have no excuses for not getting their holiday cards out on time! It was a fun filled day with lots of crafts and treats. A couple tips if you’re going to be hosting a Christmas party, a very simple craft for the kids is to make a card/write a letter to dear ol’ St.Nick. Another easy decorating tip that will take your cupcakes to the next level, use a doily as the wrapper. We used wrapping paper for the backdrop for our sweet table – which would work for any dessert or appetizer station.
Maybe, you’ve decided to host a last minute Halloween Party – cause either you like a challenge or you’re just plain crazy. On the topic of last minute decision making, if you’ve forgotten it’s Halloween altogether, check out our collaborative post on Rebel Mama for quick and easy costume ideas! We’ve hosted quite a few halloween events this past month, with our biggest yet to come, here are our tips:
- Have a plan – or a schedule and keep on top of it, bored children pumped fill of sugar are a terrible combination.
- pick a couple halloween games the kids can play (Anna Luther from myLifeandKids has soooooo many great ones)
- have an easy (non-messy) craft, the dollar store sells great halloween foamies (which come with stickers) so no need to worry about glue. You could pre-cut orange pumpkins and have the kids decorate them. If you’re throwing a party for older kids and don’t mind a little mess – check out HGTV for a whole gallery of ideas.
- Cookie decorating is a great activity for halloween but does come along with lots of mess – so use your discretion. For little hands, I recommend keeping the icing in bowls and giving them spatulas to spread it with. For medium size hands, you can fill squeeze bottles with icing and for the bigger hands go all out with icing bags.
- Don’t go crazy, keep it simple (as long as you’ve got candy most kids are happy with that).
To be honest, I had never heard of shopkins until recently (I have a 4 year old boy, ask me anything about superheroes and ninja turtles – I’ve got all the answers). Now that I’m a veteran in the world of shopkins I think it’s safe to say if I was a little girl today I would be all over this craze. At first I didn’t quite get it, now that I’ve thrown a shopkins birthday, I most certainly understand the obsession with these little, adorable toys.
If you’re throwing a shopkins birthday, here are three helpful tips.
- All you need is pink and purple decorations, then visit Party City or your local dollar store to add some shopkins bling.
- Making necklaces/bracelets are the perfect craft, use big wooden beads if you’re hosting a party for wee little hands as they’re easier to manipulate.
- If you want to throw in a baking activity and don’t want the mess, you could buy chocolate chip cookies, get some candy googly eyes and make kooky cookie! We made ours out of fondant (also an option).
We are officially a big kid now. We survived our baby stage, terrible twos, threenagers & F’n Fours and have made it all the way to 5! A very big thank you to all those that came out and celebrated our big day with us and a very big thank you to all of you who have come through our doors over the past 5 years.
Written by: Emma Rohmann from Green at Home
How to Pack a Waste-Free Lunch
By now, hopefully you’re in the groove of packing lunches for the kiddos. Did you head into the first week of school with dread about what to pack, how to pack it, and whether they would actually eat it? It can be tempting to stick with pre-packaged, single-serving size items, thinking that it saves you time and thinking. But all this waste won’t get recycled, and doesn’t send a very positive message to the kids about the importance of reducing waste. To help you move away from the plastic sandwich bags and single-serve packaged items, here are a few ways to pack a waste-free lunch with ease.
- Don’t use Pinterest.
I might be biased because I don’t use Pinterest for anything, but specifically for packed lunches I think it’s enough to make anybody want to throw in the towel before even getting started. Unless you really get kicks from making your kids’ lunch a serious work of art, don’t search for visual inspiration. Save your energy and focus on packing healthy food instead.
- Use a Bento Box.
I used to use individual containers, but when I wanted to switch from plastic I invested in a couple metal bento boxes. One of the benefits is that you just have one dish to wash instead of 4 separate ones which saves time and/or dishwasher space. We use LunchBots, but I’ve also heard great things about PlanetBox, which has some fully sealed options.
- Have small leak-proof containers.
For kids who like yogurt, hummus, apple sauce, soups, etc., have some leak-proof containers on-hand. It really doesn’t take long to pour from a larger container, and you’re saving a tonne of waste. If you have those little Baby Bullet containers (and don’t mind using plastic), they work great for hummus and dips. You can also find small insulated containers for soups and stews.
- Pack cutlery and a cloth napkin.
Put cutlery and cloth right in their lunch bag so they don’t have to ask the lunch supervisor for disposable ones. I send my baby cutlery with my kindergartener – the handles are easy to put a name on, and it’s no be deal if they don’t come home. Get them their own napkins as well, either cute printed cloth, or even cloth baby wipes, and remind them to use them instead of paper towel. Just make sure to wash or rinse it at the end of the day!
- Pack leftovers.
Save time by reusing what you’re having for dinner. You can either pack straight leftovers, or cut up some extra fruit and veg as you’re prepping to go into lunch. You can also pre-cut many veggies and some fruits (like melon) at the start of each week. This will help you save time while packing a healthier lunch and avoiding those single-serve packages.
Packing lunches doesn’t have to be stressful. Be prepared with the right set up, and you’ll get into a groove in no time. Don’t make it more complicated than you want it to be so you don’t slide into old habits – I’ve been known to successfully pack a lunch in less than 5 minutes and if you have a dishwasher, the additional dishes aren’t even noticeable. Happy lunch packing!
I’m finding it very hard to believe that my big brother is 40 years old. I mean that seems so old, I still think of him as this kid with scraped knees and braces, chasing me around but he’s a grown up, a real grown man. So we celebrated his birthday in style this year, it was a pretty big year for him and so a big party was the only way to go. We did a black and white theme, which is so easy for guests because who doesn’t own a piece of clothing that isn’t either black or white. Everyone looked so great and the sweet table was pretty easy to create as I only had to incorporate two colours (or shades if you want to be technical). Here are some pics from this weekend festivities.
Here are the details: we took our 4 year old son (Ollie) and our 15 month old daughter (Jaime) to Europe for two weeks. We flew from Toronto to Paris to Stockholm, stayed for a week and then flew from Stockholm to Paris, to Bordeaux. Yes, there are hundreds of posts out there about “the truth” about traveling with kids, so I’ll do my best to not be repetitive and really just lay out the facts. If you want the cole’s notes, read right below, if you want the long version, keep reading.
- Don’t expect anything.
- Give up on following any kind of routine.
- Even the crappy moments have silver lining.
Don’t Expect Anything
Prior to leaving I had all these silly expectations about how I would keep my children on Canadian time, we could go out for late dinners, not be on the bedtime clock, blah, blah. You just can’t have any expectations about what it will be like, not one. There were moments when I thought what are we doing? Traveling around Europe with small children could actually be used as a form of torture. They could really start doing that. Putting people on an 8 hour plane ride with a bunch of toddlers, people would start talking fast. Trying to get my hyper-active 4 year old to stop kicking the seat in front of him is like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.
Having any expectations that you’ll tour around castles and see historic sites is just silly. I tried to take Ollie to an old castle in France, first of all it was a guided tour, second of all it was in French and third (most importantly) you were not meant to touch anything. Truth was, I had no idea about any of this until we were on the tour, we lasted 10 minutes of a 3 hour tour, not bad, not bad at all. Oliver just wanted to touch everything and despite my numerous requests to go to the bathroom before we went into the castle he decided 10 minutes in that he needed to pee desperately and that was the end of that.
Give up on following any routine
Yes – that’s right, nap times and routines and schedules just throw all that stuff out the window cause there’s no point in trying. Some days we had naps at 6pm and we went to bed at midnight, all of us. Some days we slept late and more than once we were wandering the streets in Strangas (a small town in Sweden) at 3am with everyone in tow. Here’s something I’ve learned about travelling with kids, stop judging other parents. Sometimes, I see kids out and about in Toronto at late hours and think about the parenting skills being used, who lets their kids go to bed that late, what are they thinking? Seriously, what am I thinking? You just never know what’s really happening.
Even the crappy moments have silver lining.
We got lost in France, very, very lost. We were on very little sleep, had a flight at 6am (from Stockholm to Paris), which meant we were up at 4am. Then another flight from Paris to Bordeaux and then we were meant to drive from Bordeaux to the rental house which was in a small town about 2 hours outside of Bordeaux. Instead though, we drove in the complete opposite direction, as a point of reference (for Canadians) it would be like if you were trying to get to London, Ontario and you ended up in Kingston instead. This was a true moment of #wtf – whose idea was it to come to Europe with kids. We’re somewhere in the middle of France, hungry, tired and longing for sleep. There were two ways we could have looked at this crappy moment, we could have started to blame one another for getting us lost (there was about 5 minutes of this) or we could look at it like an adventure and make the most of it. Always look for the silver lining. We hung out in this small town, had dinner, walked around and then got back in the car and drove for 3 hours. Our children were remarkably well behaved.
Trick of the trade – “who can be the quietest the longest” is the greatest game on earth. I will cry when both my kids learn the truth behind this wonderful game of silence.
There were also moments, when I loved my family, my children and my husband ferociously. When I was over the moon with happiness, where I truly was in the moment I was in and not worrying about other moments that have passed or ones that were to come. I wasn’t worrying about laundry, cooking, dishes, vacuuming or any other boring household chore that enter my mind when I’m trying to play superheroes and I’m simultaneously too busy trying to actually be one. I could just play with my kids, be in their little worlds and enjoy the wonderment of childhood.
Would I do this trip again? In a heartbeat. It would be helpful if I could win the lottery before the next one though, I would bring a full staff with me.
Bed time routine is starting and your child needs a bath, they’re oozing dirt out of their little fingernails and you can smell the summer dust all over them. You’re having a super, hard time getting them to get into the bath. You’ve tried your whole arsenal of tricks and nothing is working, so now what? We like to call this, “the small and big choices”. Getting into the bath is a small choice, choosing to sleep at grandma’s house (big choice), picking pj’s (small choice), picking skating over swimming for Fall (big choice). Each choice, big or small has a result. Learning about “choices and results” is a very important step some of us sometimes leap past.
The other night Ollie wanted to sleep at his grandmother’s house (she had given the ok, the ball was left in our court). We passed the choice onto the O-man, and told him that’s an example of a big choice he got to make.
Essentially the little choices we make easily, without whining, complaining, crying, swearing (oh yes, the O-man has mastered the F word – we’ll save that for another post) – little choices lead us to making big choices, all by our very selves!
A lot of toddler/preschooler temper tantrums result from them feeling like they have no control over their own lives because so many decisions are made for them. Offering your child choices, big or small, whenever possible helps them to feel like they have more control. Letting them pick their own outfits in the morning, making choices for breakfast (within reason), picking the order of morning chores, etc – lets them feel like they have control of their life. If they’re part of making both, small and big decisions they begin to understand the concept of consequences. Life is about a series of choice and results and if we could all learn that from an earlier age we may have fewer regrets in our lives.
So my little man turned 4 (well actually not till the 19th but that’s just a small technicality). He’s currently quite confused about how old he really is, either way he wanted a Teenage Mutant Ninja Party this year and thus I had to get a little bit more acquainted with the four green guys. I was pretty aware of the basics but didn’t know about some of the details, which Oliver informed me about it as we went along. The most ironic thing is that he hasn’t even watched the show, he just knows them from observations. The first craft we did to get the ball rolling was his turtle shell.
Check out our instagram post for details on how to make it. Ollie wore the shell the entire day that we made it, went “ninja-ing” around all day, and then on the actual day of his party, he had zero interested in wearing his shell, go figure.
Next we planned an obstacle course and a scavenger hunt (both TMNT related). For the obstacle course we hung skipping ropes from the ceiling and then tied streamers between them, the kids had to go over and under the streamers without touching them. Then they crawled through two tunnels, walked a tight rope and then jumped over some pylons. Some of the kids were really into it, others not so much. The scavenger hunt only seemed to interest a couple of kids, which reminded me that keeping things simple is sometimes the best way to go. Visit our IG page for the details about the scavenger hunt.
As for the decorations, well my good friend the dollar store came in super handy. I purchased everything there, including the contents of the loot bags. For the loot bags, I cut construction paper for the headbands and then glued on googly eyes and drew mouths. The cups were super easy, bought green ones, then tied on streamers and glued eyes onto them. I thought for sure the kids would fight over who got which colour but they didn’t even seem to care. The balloons were also another quick and easy craft, all you need is green balloons, streamers and permanent marker. Lesson learned from this party – stick to the basics, don’t go over-planning, sometimes just opening the presents and playing with your new toys with your buddies is the best way to celebrate your 4th birthday!