Mar 272018
 
 March 27, 2018  activities, Book Reviews, Education Comments Off on Toddler Activities to Get Out and Explore!

Looking for creative toddler activities that encourage their curiosity and engage their little minds and hands in fun but meaningful ways? Read on for a wonderful new resource that helps parents and teachers go on everyday adventures with their little ones in ways that everyone can enjoy!

Toddler Activities to Get Out and Explore! | Alldonemonkey.com

Toddler Activities to Get Out and Explore!

Toddlers love to explore, and as parents and teachers we often struggle to encourage this curiosity in manageable ways. As much as we might want to go on adventures with our toddlers, it can be overwhelming to try to think ahead about how to create a safe learning environment at, for instance, a national park. More fundamentally, many of us need to shift our perspective to see even everyday outings like going to the post office as the adventures that they represent for our little ones.

Toddler Activities to Get Out and Explore! | Alldonemonkey.com

That is why I am so excited to share with you a new resource for toddler activities that helps parents and teachers take advantage of everyday opportunities for learning as well as try new adventures with their toddlers!

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Little Walks, Big Adventures for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Little Walks, Big Adventures: 50+ Ideas for Exploring With Toddlers is a welcome resource for caregivers of these curious little people. It takes everyday outings like a trip to the grocery store or a walk through your neighborhood and helps you shift your perspective to see it as the big adventures they represent for someone so new to the world.

Moreover, it provides considerations for each (such as the best times of day to visit, how to accommodate children with special needs, and how to scout out appropriate locations ahead of time) so that your adventure is enjoyable for everyone. The author has extensive experience as a parent as well as a caregiver, so she has practical suggestions for going on adventures with your own children or at a care center, including thinking of allergies and when to ask for permission from parents ahead of time.

I also love that it includes locations I wouldn’t have thought of. For example, I love taking my animal-loving girl to the zoo, but it hadn’t occurred to me to take her to the pet store!

Related Post: Toddler Letter Craft and Activity: G Is for Go!

The adventures are broken up by general interests into four groups – home and community, vehicles, animals, and our world. And for each adventure – whether it is a trip to a farm or a train ride – there are suggestions for toddler activities to do while you’re there as well as once you’re home, along with suggestions of how to adapt them for older or younger toddlers.

Toddler Activities to Get Out and Explore! | Alldonemonkey.com

We recently went to a local bakery we hadn’t tried before – an adventure for all of us, including my toddler! Following the book’s suggestions, I made sure to let my toddler take her time to look at all of the choices and pick out her own treat. As it turns out, she was more interested at looking around the lobby, which is fine, too! Little Walks, Big Adventures is great at reminding us to follow the child’s lead and notice what they are interested in rather than impose our own ideas.

Once we were home, I did one of the extension activities suggested in the book: making cupcakes out of play dough! Again, the emphasis is on following the child’s interests and focusing on the process, rather than the product. In other words, if their “cupcakes” aren’t perfect, who cares? Or if they decide they’d rather make little animals or just feel the lovely squishiness of the play dough in their fingers, that’s fine.

Toddler Activities to Get Out and Explore! | Alldonemonkey.com

Related Post: 10 Tips for Painting with a Toddler

My older kids loved it, too! In fact, I foresee that we as a family will be enjoying many of these adventures together, because they speak to the wonder and curiosity all of us still have, though sometimes we have to be reminded of it!

As a homeschooler, I treasure Little Walks, Big Adventures because it is an easy way to incorporate “tot schooling” into our everyday routines and helps me to remember to include our littlest member in our family adventures.

Whether you are a parent or a caregiver, Little Walks, Big Adventures is an incredible resource for toddler activities that encourages you to take adventures with toddlers and explore the big world together.

Mar 182018
 
 March 18, 2018  activities, Book Reviews 4 Responses »

We are all familiar with the benefits to children of participating in sports, benefits especially crucial to girls in today: self-confidence, teamwork, positive body image, leadership skills, resilience, social connection, and community awareness. That’s why keeping girls in sports should be a focus for anyone interested in nurturing these qualities in our girls.

Yet did you know that girls drop out of sports at an astounding 6 times the rate of boys? For every 100 girls that plays sports in elementary school only 2 will play in college.

That’s why I’m thrilled to introduce to you a new book from a dynamo team of a professional coach and an experienced mom, all about how to keep girls in sports!

Keeping Girls in Sports: a review of How to Coach Girls | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of How to Coach Girls for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Keeping Girls in Sports: How to Coach Girls Book Review

Do you want to encourage your daughter to have positive qualities like leadership, positive body image, and resilience? Sports is one of the key ways to do this, yet girls drop out of sports at an alarming rate, often just when they reach the age that it would most benefit them.

That’s why Alison Foley, Head Coach of Women’s Soccer at Boston College, and Mia Wenjen, parenting and education blogger at PragmaticMom and mother of two daughters, conceived of the idea to write a manual for professional and volunteer coaches on how to coach girls by making sports enjoyable and relevant for them.

How to Coach Girls contains practical advice and tips for professional and volunteer coaches on how to keep girls in sports. For example, both emphasize the need to coach the whole person by, for instance, leaving time for girls to bond socially with each other. The book’s 22 chapters focus on major issues such as picking captains, encouraging a growth mindset, body image, and even how to coach your own daughter.

What I really love about this book is that it is based on solid experience – Mia’s experience of raising two girls (and a boy) who play sports and Alison’s professional expertise as a coach on the collegiate level. For example, Alison shares which team building exercises have been most successful for her athletes, and Mia shares her observations about what has helped build her daughter’s self-confidence when starting on a new team.

Throughout the book, and in a special chapter at the end, you will find anecdotes and tips from professional coaches from a range of sports, including former Olympian athletes, on what girls need from a coach to allow them to flourish in sports, and most importantly, have fun.

So if you care about keeping girls in sports, you won’t want to miss this wonderful new book, How to Coach Girls!

HOW TO COACH GIRLS

Order HOW TO COACH GIRLS

To learn more, please check out How To Coach Girls website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

So what can be done to retain girls in sports? The answers and so much more can be found in How to Coach Girls. I am so proud to be able to support my friend Mia while also offering such a well-written guide that help parents and coaches understand the needs and tactics to make sports fun while cultivating WINNERS.

Other Stops on the HTCG Blog Tour:

Shelly Bean the Sports Queen-February 22

Wise Owl Factory-March 1

The Conscious Kid– March 2

Jump Into a Book-March 3

Books My Kids Read-March 4

Ms Yingling Reads-March 5

Youth Lit Reviews-March 6

Miss Panda Chinese-March 8

Biracial Bookworms-March 9

Mom of all Capes-March 10

Franticmommy-March 11

Randomly Reading-March 12

Here Wee Read-March 13

DawnDavis.com-March 14

The Pragmatic Parent-March 15

All Done Monkey-March 7

Order HOW TO COACH GIRLS

To learn more, please check out How To Coach Girls website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Purchase a copy of HOW TO COACH GIRLS on Barnes & Noble or Amazon

Keeping our Girls in the Game | HOW TO COACH GIRLS Blog Tour!

Jan 092018
 
 January 9, 2018  activities, Geography, raising world citizens Comments Off on Multicultural App for Kids: Heart Street Market

Want to explore the world with your kids? Looking for fun, safe games online that actually teach something to your child? Here is a great new multicultural app for kids that everyone will love!

Multicultural App for Kids: Heart Street Market | Alldonemonkey.com

This post is sponsored by Hearts for Hearts Girls; however, all opinions are my own.

Multicultural App for Kids: Heart Street Market

Those of us with daughters often commiserate about the type of games that are targeted towards girls – all frills and rainbows without much substance. That is why I was so excited to learn about Hearts for Hearts Girls, whose mission is “to empower girls to become agents of change in their communities, their countries, and around the world. We want to change the world one heart at a time, and you can be a part of that dream!”

Already known for their beautiful diverse dolls, now Hearts for Hearts Girls has launched an incredibly fun multicultural app for kids! The graphics are colorful and engaging, and the games themselves will definitely keep your child’s interest.

Multicultural App for Kids: Heart Street Market | Alldonemonkey.com

Kids can choose among 4 different characters who live in communities around the globe – India, Mexico, USA, and Ethiopia. In each community, you choose missions (games) – such as making music, playing soccer, or catching raindrops – that help build bring each neighborhood to life. Along the way, your child will learn about the culture of the place and the story of the character that lives there.

Related Post: Spanish App to Teach Language and Culture

My kids’ favorite games so far as herding ducks (India) and the bakery (Mexico), but I can tell we’ve just scratched the surface. There are an incredible 100+ missions for more than 40 hours of exploring and playing!

Multicultural App for Kids: Heart Street Market | Alldonemonkey.com

And if your kids love fashion, they will enjoy dressing up the girls in more than 25 mix and match fashions, plus fabrics and templates to create their own.

I also have to comment about how much I loved the music. Usually when my kids are playing online I have to turn the volume down, because the music is so annoying, but with this multicultural app for kids, we actually turned the volume up, so we could listen to the wonderful global music!

Multicultural App for Kids: Heart Street Market | Alldonemonkey.com

But as a mom, what I really loved is that Heart Street Market is play with purpose – the 100+ missions available are all aimed towards helping 4 characters from around the world make a difference in their local communities. In fact, Hearts for Hearts Girls is partnered with World Vision® for programs that support gender equality, education, infrastructure, and humanitarian aid. So while you are having fun playing Heart Street Market, you are actually making a difference in the real world!

Multicultural App for Kids: Heart Street Market | Alldonemonkey.com

I should also add that though the app seems targeted more towards girls, my sons loved it. My 8 year old said it was “super fun,” while my 5 year old just said “mm-hmm” and kept on playing!

Multicultural App for Kids: Heart Street Market | Alldonemonkey.com

I highly recommend Heart Street Market for global learning fun and play with purpose (though your kids will just think of it as fun!) Find it on Google Play and iTunes and follow them on Facebook!

Dec 142017
 
 December 14, 2017  activities, family, food, Sacramento Comments Off on 3 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Kids

As parents, life can get so busy that often we have to stop and catch our breath and wonder, where did the time go? I always look forward to spending time with my kids, but practically speaking I actually spend most of my time running errands and doing household chores. Someone is always tugging on my leg asking to play freeze tag or build a fort in the living room, but I usually put them off because there is always a diaper to change, or a meal to cook, or laundry to fold. Trust me, I would much rather build a pillow fort! If you also find yourself struggling to find time to enjoy your family, here are three simple ways to reconnect with your kids – even when you are really busy!

Disclosure: I received complimentary samples of Mighty Kong Muffins for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

3 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Kids | Alldonemonkey.com

3 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Kids – Even When You Are Really Busy!

1. Take Play Breaks

My four year old could play freeze tag all day long. From the moment he wakes up until time to brush his teeth at night, anytime there is a pause in activity (and usually when there isn’t), he asks to play freeze tag. Somehow it always seems like he asks just as I need to change a diaper or when I’m in the middle of cooking. Rather than put him off completely, I try to take short play breaks with him. Be realistic about how much time you have, then set a timer and give your child your focused attention – no checking Facebook, no picking up toys off the floor, or straightening the furniture – just playing with him.

For me, this is usually 10 or 15 minutes at a time on a weekday. (I make sure to do non-timed, longer play times together on the weekends, but these are usually not practical during the week).  This seems like a really short amount of time, but it always seems surprisingly long, considering I am really focusing on him and not multi-tasking like I usually do.

It doesn’t stop him from asking to play again 5 minutes later, but he is more understanding when I have to say no, and I feel less guilty about getting my work done.

2. Play a Game after Dinner

Our kids get screen time in the evenings, yet we noticed that this often resulted in a race to leave the dinner table and get back to electronics. So now we have instituted the rule that we play a game (or do a puzzle, etc) after dinner before we all retire to our corners to relax before bedtime. The kids love it, especially since Daddy is home to join in as well, so no one is watching the clock and rushing to leave the table. As much as I love game nights, this abbreviated version works for us during the week, so we can still get in play time together as a family and make sure we really reconnect with our kids in the evenings.

3. Do Read Alouds

We all know how important it is to read together, and most of us tend to do this at bedtime, which is such a snuggly, cozy time to share a good story. Yet I noticed that we tend to do this with our kids individually (as they all go to bed at slightly different times), plus the stories tend to be shorter because of the late hour.

I loved that old-fashioned idea of a family sitting around reading a great book together, so I started doing family read alouds during the day. It is wonderful bonding time, plus it is a great way to engage kids with slightly more challenging material or to read stories they might not have considered. For example, a younger child might be more inclined to stick with an easy chapter book because of the excitement of reading with older siblings, and another might be surprised to find that they like a story outside of the genre they tend to favor. (For great reading ideas, see my book reviews!)

I have found that the easiest way to keep everyone’s attention, despite the range of ages and interests, is to involve food. Give the kids something to eat at the table, and they are more likely to be sitting quietly and listening as you read. As homeschoolers, we can often do our read alouds over lunch, but it’s also a great way to relax together over an after school snack. This is especially true if you have a child that doesn’t like to sit and talk when they first come home – here is a great way to reconnect with your kids without forcing conversations they aren’t ready for.

Finding a Great Snack to Share

We have recently discovered a new favorite snack, which is perfect to share during our family read aloud. While we do have the occasional treat, I am rather picky about making sure my kids have healthy snacks. So I was excited to find out about Mighty Kong Muffins, a family-run and locally-owned Sacramento business that makes the most delicious gourmet bran muffins in a staggering 22 varieties. (See their interview on a local news show).

3 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Kids and Might Kong Muffin Review | Alldonemonkey.com

I know what you’re thinking: Gourmet bran muffins? Yes, it’s true! The ingredients are all high-quality and non-GMO, with fresh fruits and nuts and high grade dark chocolate. You won’t find any flour in these muffins – or any preservatives or artificial ingredients, for that matter. These mini-muffins are a great snack you can feel good about sharing with your kids.

We received a variety pack of the Mighty Kong Muffins and so had fun sampling four different flavors: Ape Dates (date walnut), Naner Naner (banana walnut), Wapple Apple (apple raisin), and the seasonal Rumplepumpskin (cranberry pumpkin). (Note: all flavors are available without nuts). My younger son loved the Wapple Apple, which my older son couldn’t decide between the Ape Dates and the Naner Naner. Personally, I loved the Rumplepumpskin. In other words, every single one was a hit!

3 Simple Ways to Reconnect with Your Kids and Mighty Kong Muffin Review | Alldonemonkey.com

Related Post: Healthy and Fun Lunchbox Ideas

Which flavor will become your favorite? Check out Mighty Kong Muffins and order yours today!

What’s your favorite way to reconnect with your kids?

Nov 142017
 

Looking for some ideas for easy indoor winter fun? As much as we love to get outside, where we live in Northern California it is often cold and rainy this time of year, so we are stuck inside much of the time. So instead I came up this simple snowman craft – and the boys invented a fun indoor winter game! Plus you don’t want to miss our review and giveaway of a wonderful new winter books that is sure to become a family favorite! GIVEAWAY EXTENDED UNTIL MIDNIGHT on WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 29!

Easy Snowman Craft and Indoor Winter Fun | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Easy Snowman Craft and Indoor Winter Fun

This snowman craft is great for a range of ages – little ones will love just playing with the cotton balls, while older children can do more elaborate creations. And the materials are ones you probably already have on hand!

You’ll Need

cotton balls

toothpicks

glue

spare buttons

Easy Snowman Craft and Indoor Winter Fun | Alldonemonkey.com

That’s it! Just glue the cotton balls together and add decorations to make your snowman! This can also be an engineering challenge for kids as they figure out the best way to put the cotton balls together to make the creation they want – or perhaps to make it stand up! We found that it was easiest to put the toothpick arms in between the cotton balls rather than trying to stick them into the cotton balls.

Easy Snowman Craft and Indoor Winter Fun | Alldonemonkey.com

Buttons are great for the snowman’s buttons of course, but all the eyes or even hats!

When you’ve finished your snowmen, you can also do what my kids did – have an impromptu “snowball” fight with the leftover cotton balls! (I wasn’t able to get a good picture of that, too many snowballs flying everywhere!)

They’re back! The adorable owl siblings we came to love in  Hoot and Peep (read my full review) are back in a new book that celebrates the wonder of a child’s first winter! A Song for Snow is another gorgeous book from famed author Lita Judge. Little sister Peep can’t wait for her first snow, but her big brother Hoot can’t answer all her many questions – he was young last winter and can’t quite remember all about it, especially what its “song” would be like! Children will identify with Peep’s excited impatience, as she flies around the beautiful Paris landscape waiting for snow. But they soon learn, along with Hoot, the wisdom of waiting. Wonderful book to celebrate winter with children. It also serves as a gentle reminder of the importance of mindfulness and learning to appreciate the pace of the natural world.

And now you can win your own copy! Just comment below with your child’s favorite winter activity! (Or if your child is young, let us know what you are looking forward to doing with your child this winter).

Winner will be selected by random drawing. US shipping only. Giveaway EXTENDED! Ends Wednesday, November 29, 2017 at midnight PT.

Song for Snow Blog tour
SCHEDULE:
 
November 13 – Thoughts from a Highly Caffeinated Mind – Review and Art Project
November 14 – All Done Monkey – Review
November 15 – Crayon Freckles – Learning Activity
November 16 – Product Review Café – Review 
November 17 – Gravity Bread – Review with Language and Learning Tips

 

Oct 082017
 
 October 8, 2017  31 Days of ABCs, activities, Book Reviews, crafts Comments Off on Toddler Letter Craft and Activity: G Is for Go

My toddler is just starting to learn about the ABCs, so I thought it would be fun to do a very simple toddler letter craft to teach her that G is for go! I made it more complicated for my preschooler, so he could work on his fine motor skills (and not get bored!) We also had fun with a car-themed activity afterwards, and I’ve included some great books with a transportation theme for a full tot-themed unit.

Toddler Letter Craft and Activity: G Is for Go | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Go Is for Go! Toddler Letter Craft and Activity

Simple Letter Craft

The great thing about this toddler letter craft is it is super easy to prep, easy for little hands to do, and fun for them to play with afterwards! All you have to do is cut out the form of the letter G and some “wheels” for your little one to attach to it – because G is for go!

Toddler Letter Craft and Activity: G Is for Go | Alldonemonkey.com

For my preschooler, I gave him a bit more of a challenge by having him cut out the letter and wheels himself. I thought he would protest because it can be a lot of cutting, but he was proud of himself for doing it on his own! If they are interested, you could even see if they would like to draw the letter to cut out.

Toddler Letter Craft and Activity: G Is for Go | Alldonemonkey.com

My toddler is just discovering the glue stick, so she had a ball with this! They can also color it and decorate with stickers if they want. (Check out these adorable transportation stickers!) Pro tip – always use washable markers like these Crayola Washable Markers, especially if your child likes to draw on themselves (and the table, etc) like mine does!

Toddler Letter Craft and Activity: G Is for Go | Alldonemonkey.com

Toddler Letter Craft and Activity: G Is for Go | Alldonemonkey.com

G Is for Go Activity

Toddler Letter Craft and Activity: G Is for Go | Alldonemonkey.com

Afterwards I drew a couple of large G’s on cardboard and made them into roads!

Toddler Letter Craft and Activity: G Is for Go | Alldonemonkey.com

Even my 7 year old set down his book to come over and play with it. Zoom zoom!

Transportation Books

Extend the learning by reading these fun books about things that go! What are your favorite transportation themed books?

Charlie Rides: Planes, Trains, Bikes, and More! is a really sweet book that celebrates all kinds of vehicles – but also a child’s relationship with his father. Read my full review.

Of course we can’t forget Richard Scarry! My kids love poring over the pages of his books. There is so much to look at! Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go is a fun one to include for a transportation theme.

Little Blue Truck board book is now a staple of most children’s bookshelves. Everything comes together – the rhyming text, the fun illustrations, and the moral about the value of taking the time to help others. And now, just in time for Halloween, there is also Little Blue Truck’s Halloween!

Since most toddlers love cars and dinosaurs, what better than a book that brings them together? Dinosaur Zoom! has realistic drawings of dinosaurs (or at least as realistic as a drawing of an allosaurus driving a car can be!) and cars, with very simple text and storyline. My preschooler still loves this one!

Blue Boat is another great easy to read story that teaches an important lesson. The little blue boat is a hero, facing touch conditions to rescue a family at sea! A favorite in our house. Read my full review.

Aug 302017
 
 August 30, 2017  activities, Sacramento 9 Responses »

Fans of Guardians of the Galaxy will be excited to know that a new Marvel Universe Live! show is coming to Sacramento in September! This exciting new show, which will be at the new Golden 1 Center from September 14-17, 2017, will feature Guardians of the Galaxy and more than 20 favorite Marvel super heroes and villains!

Marvel Universe Live Age of Heroes Giveaway & Coloring Page | Alldonemonkey.com

We are big fans of Marvel Universe Live and can’t wait to see a new show at the Golden 1 Center! And best of all, you can win a family pack of 4 tickets to opening night just be commenting on this post and telling us your kid’s favorite Marvel super hero (or villain)!

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to this show for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own.

Don’t miss the action-packed adventure of Marvel Universe Live! Age of Heroes. Spider-Man and The Avengers will be joined by the Guardians of the Galaxy, including Star-Lord, Gamora, Groot, Rocket and Drax. Witness a legendary battle to defend the universe from evil, in this newest production from Feld Entertainment, the world’s leading producer of live touring family entertainment.

What: Marvel Universe Live! Age of Heroes, featuring Guardians of the Galaxy
When: September 14-17, 2017: Thursday, Sept 14, 7:00 PM; Friday, Sept 15, 7:00 PM; Saturday, Sept 16, 11:00 AM, 3:00 PM & 7:00 PM; Sunday, Sept 17, 1:00 PM & 5:00 PM
Where: Golden 1 Center, 500 David J Stern Walk, Sacramento, CA 95814
Tickets: Tickets start at $20 each! Discount Opening Night tickets available for only $15 each on select seating  (not valid for premium/VIP levels)

Grab your free Marvel Universe Live! Age of Heroes Coloring Page to get ready for the show!

This September, take your kids out for a show with non-stop action, movie-style thrills and amazing stunts! Immersive video projection and cutting-edge special effects will captivate and transport audiences across the universe from the fantastical Savage Land to New York City and beyond. Spider-Man and Wasp’s dynamic aerial stunts along with Captain America’s daring motorcycle skills will be on display in the ultimate race against time to save mankind.

Tickets now available for purchase online at Ticketmaster.com, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or visit the venue Box Office.

*Ticket prices subject to change; tickets may be subject to service charges, facility and handling fees. 

Marvel Universe LIVE! Age of Heroes will travel throughout North America on a multiyear tour, including stops in Denver, Las Vegas, Bay Area, Salt Lake City, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Dallas, Miami and New York.  After North America, the show will embark on an international tour starting in 2019. For a complete list of North American tour dates, locations and to purchase tickets, please visit MarvelUniverseLIVE.com.

Enter for a chance to win a family pack of 4 tickets to opening night on September 14: Comment below and tell us your child’s favorite Marvel super hero or villain! Winner chosen at random. Contest ends September 6, 2017, at midnight PT. 

Jul 202017
 

Cooking with kids always seems like such a great idea – until you actually do it. If you can see past the messes and inefficiency, however, you will be rewarded with a sweet experience that neither of you will ever forget! Cooking together builds confidence, teaches life skills, and encourages healthy eating habits. In addition, it can bring some of your most treasured bonding moments – that is, if you can manage to relax and enjoy yourself instead of worrying about the state of your kitchen. Here are my top tips for enjoying cooking with kids. Share yours in the comments!

Cooking with Kids: How to Relax and Have Fun | Alldonemonkey.com

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of the book below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Cooking with Kids: How to Relax and Have Fun

If You Invite Them to Help, Make Sure Your Mean It

If you are going to cook with your child, make sure you are really in the mood for it. If you are already feeling anxious or irritable to begin with, take a rain check and do it another time. Cooking with kids requires all of your patience and attention, so don’t start off at a deficit.

Organize Your Space

Before beginning, make sure their work space is clear, accessible, and safe. You don’t want to have them get started only to notice that the kitchen knives are within reach of your toddler or that there isn’t really enough room for them to roll out their dough. Take a few extra minutes to clear off the counter space and bring all of the ingredients into easy reach, so you aren’t leaving a small child unattended while you go to pull items out of the pantry.

Know What You’re Doing

If it is a new or less familiar recipe, be sure to read it over carefully ahead of time. Remember that once you begin you will be distracted by your kids.

Safety First

Make sure that anything dangerous is out of reach before you even begin and keep a sharp eye on what your child is doing. They seem to have a knack for discovering dangers you never would have dreamed of! Remember that you will be distracted, so as you cook, triple check that turn off the burners and put away equipment.

Allow Extra Time – But Know Your Limits

Be sure to allow plenty of extra time, not just because you’ll be cleaning up spills or teaching them how to crack eggs. Children are also much more process oriented than adults, so they will likely enjoy stirring together the ingredients or cutting out the shapes longer than is strictly necessary. Bite your tongue and let it go on for as long as you can, because often this is the part they most enjoy. Mine tend to linger at the mixing stage then lose interest and wander out of the kitchen. But do know your limits. If you feel your frustration building, gently move them along after a reasonable period.

And reliably, your child will have a messy diaper or need to go potty at a key point in the recipe, so try to make dishes that can sit on the counter while you take necessary breaks!

Cooking with Kids: How to Relax and Have Fun | Alldonemonkey.com

Embrace the Mess

Cooking with kids is messy and slow – and fun!  But you have to accept the first two in order to really enjoy the latter.

I never realized how uptight I was about messes until I had kids.  Now I really try to relax and enjoy the moment.  After all, there is often little you can do to contain the mess! Your child, covered in flour from head to foot, is bound to take off for the living room, bouncing off all the furniture, just as you have your hands full with hot cookie sheets from the oven and can’t possibly chase him down. Or he will decide to “help” you crack the eggs on the counter when you have your back turned for just a second. No matter what, there will be a mess to clean up, so you might as well make it worth it!

Set Your Priorities And Lower Your Expectations Accordingly

If you expect to bake perfect dishes in no time flat with little mess, than you have no business bringing your child into the action.  You will only become frustrated with your little one, who has very different ideas about what is going to happen.

But if you have asked your child to join you, it is probably because you want to have a special, fun experience with him, rather than a perfect product.  Just keep reminding yourself of this, when you start to switch back into a default mode of “I must get these in the oven right now!” and “Don’t pull apart the cookies!  They were so pretty!”

Cooking with Kids: How to Relax and Have Fun | Alldonemonkey.com

Try to Work with “Child Efficiency” Rather Than “Adult Efficiency”

If you are working alone, you will probably complete the steps a certain way in order to be efficient, but that may not be the most efficient way to do things when you have a little helper.  For example, when making cookies, normally I would roll out all the dough, then cut out all the shapes, then move them all to the cookie sheet.  When I did that with my toddler helping me, however, dough disappeared into his sweet little mouth before I could cut out all the shapes, and what shapes I could do were often broken or “transformed” into something entirely different by the time I could put them onto the cookie sheet.

So instead, I rolled out a bit of dough, cut a few stars, and moved those to the cookie sheet before rolling out a bit more dough.  Much more “child efficient.”

A Final Note

Some cookies will burn.  Some cakes will be lumpy.  And key ingredients will probably be forgotten.  But chances are everyone will love it anyway, especially if they know your little one helped!

And just remember: When you are cooking with kids, you always have a great excuse if your dishes don’t turn out perfectly!

Marigold Bakes a Cake

A really fun book you and your child will both enjoy is Marigold Bakes a Cake. Poor Marigold is a perfectionist, especially when it comes to baking. That is why he does it alone – until the birds show up. First one, then more fly into his kitchen and mess up the perfect cake he is baking, until Marigold finally loses his temper. After Marigold calms down a bit, he leaves to go on a walk and regain his composure. Meanwhile, the birds decide they will fix the situation by making Marigold the perfect cake he had dreamed of – except they end up making even more of a mess! Yet Marigold recognizes their love of cooking (and affection for him) and decides to teach them how to cook.

For me, this book is about learning to live with imperfection in our cooking and in ourselves. Marigold tries to be patient but fails, yet he realizes he needs to take a break to calm down. And the birds never do learn how to cook, but they have so much fun the reader can’t help but be swept up in their enthusiasm. Marigold Bakes a Cake is a fun way to remind kids (and parents!) to enjoy the process rather than getting caught up in having perfect results.

Jun 272017
 
 June 27, 2017  activities, family Comments Off on Favorite Family Games and Activities

I always looked forward to family game night as a kid. It was a break our everyday interactions, where we were often caught up in chores and homework. Instead, we could really all sit down and play together. Family games are a fun screen-free way to spend time together on rainy afternoons or to unwind after a busy day. Here are some of our favorite family games and activities, especially for those with young children.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by AK Media; however, all love of family games is my own! I received complimentary copies of some of the products below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.

Favorite Family Games & Activities | Alldonemonkey.com

Fun Family Activities

Charades

One of the things I love about charades is that you can do it anywhere, with no preparation, so it is great for those times when you find yourself in need of an activity to entertain the kids for a while. It can also be adapted for different ages, so that even very young children can play. I would often use this as a reward at the end of our Spanish lesson as a way to practice vocabulary!

Storytelling

In this activity, someone starts a story then the next person continues it, and so on until the last person brings it to an end. You could have a ball or other object that you pass as you take turns telling the story, or each storyteller chooses the next person to continue the story. You can also have the person act it out as they tell their part of the story!

Drawing Together

I’m not sure I ever would have thought about doing a collective drawing except that my son (now 4) got us started on this several years ago. Both of my boys now love to draw with us, often with rather elaborate stories that they invent as we go. They prefer doing battles (where you each pick sides and “battle” each other in the drawing), but it can also be a great way to create inventions, design houses, and tell stories together.

You can also pick a coloring book to work in together. I love the gorgeous A Touch of Asia Coloring Book: Serenely Elegant Designs from the East from Tuttle Publishing. It is an adult coloring book, so I often enjoy working in it by myself, but I’ve also found that it can be fun to do with my kids. At an age when they are usually focused on cartoons and action figures, they are still naturally drawn to beauty, a quality that is often not nurtured in boys especially. But mine love helping me with “my” coloring book and filling in some of the simpler designs, while I save the more intricate ones for solo work.

Build Together

Creating together is also high on our list of family activities, and what kid doesn’t love paper airplanes? Making paper airplanes is a classic skill that is often passed down from parent to child, so why not up your game with these fantastic looking, high-performance versions that are actually easy to make? Talk about being a hero for your kids!

Favorite Family Games and Activities | Alldonemonkey.com

The High-Performance Paper Airplanes Kit comes with pre-cut models that are easy to put together. The kit also comes with a Catapult Launcher. Need I say more?? And if origami is your thing, try Michael LaFosse’s Origami Airplanes. It includes a DVD and instructions for 28 origami paper airplane projects. (Note: does not include the origami paper). The planes are so realistic looking and really do fly well! I also love having the DVD tutorials to follow.

Favorite Family Games and Activities | Alldonemonkey.com

But my personal favorite is the Flying Dragons Paper Airplane Kit. They are just so cool looking! There are 12 original designs, like the Flame Dragon and the Flying Shark, plus 48 folding sheets, an instruction book, and YouTube tutorials.

We also love building sets like this Plants vs. Zombies Wild West Skirmish Set from K’nex. A must-have if you have a Plants vs. Zombies fan in your house! The characters actually look just like the ones in the game. And best of all, once you’ve had the fun of building it together, you still have unlimited play time left with the assembled scene. Really great for doing pretend play together!

Favorite Family Games

One of my favorite childhood memories was getting together with my cousins during the holidays. I vividly remember all of us kids in the back room of my grandparents’ house, playing favorite family games like Deluxe Pit together and laughing our heads off. Pit is a fun, loud, rowdy game that everyone will enjoy. It is something like Go Fish, in that you have to try to get all the cards of one kind, but everyone is yelling and trading cards at the same time in the race to be the first to make a set. My kids love ringing the bell when they finish!

Guillotine is the game that my 7 year old always shows people when they visit us. Believe it or not, it is a game all about the French Revolution and – yes – people getting their heads chopped off. Sound macabre? Perhaps a little, but it’s so silly and fun (and sneakily educational) that you will soon forget! The premise is that you are a bunch of guillotine operators competing with each other to see who can execute the most valuable nobles. Each noble card is ranked by point value, with, for example, the King being 5 points and a minor functionary being worth only 1. Just don’t accidentally execute a hero of the people, worth -1 point!

I love cooperative games like those from Peaceable Kingdom. If your kids are anything like mine, most games can bring out a competitive streak that can sometimes lead to arguments and hurt feelings. Cooperative games like Feed the Woozle are not only fun, they also encourage teamwork and skill building. In Feed the Woozle, for example, players take turns trying to carry food tokens across the room on a spoon – but they might have to spin or march or bunny hop while doing it!

Favorite Family Games and Activities | Alldonemonkey.com

Everyone works as a team to take 12 tokens to the Woozle before they run out. It is great for both fine motor and gross motor skills, as well as counting. Even my toddler likes to get in on the fun!

Favorite Family Games and Activities | Alldonemonkey.com

Stack Up! is another great team-building game from Peaceable Kingdom, in which players try to stack blocks as high as they can, while doing challenges like matching colors or singing songs as they stack. Hoot Owl Hoot is a simple strategy game that even young children can play, as players work together to help the owls reach the nest before the sun comes up.

Of course, you can’t forget the classics! Hasbro Connect 4 Game is another one of the family games that I grew up on, so it’s especially fun to play it now with my kids! And if there is a younger sibling that doesn’t quite get the game yet, it is also just a fun board to use to make designs and patterns. We even used it to make our own coding game.

This is one that my 4 year old adores, and now you can get the Candy Land 65th Anniversary Game. It is designed for pre-readers and doesn’t require any strategy, so it’s a great first game for children to play.

Online Games

If your family likes to do online gaming together, I’ve got some great websites for you to check out! Our family loves puzzles, and it seems like we never have enough. That’s why JSPuzzles is so fun! They have so many puzzles to try, with gameplay and other fun features that are great for group or individual play.

Do you love Sudoku? Then you won’t want to miss LiveSudoku, where you can do free online Sudoku puzzles – including multiplayer mode! A fun way to introduce your kids to Sudoku.

Solitaire is a classic card games that never gets old! And even though this may seem like a strange choice for a list of family games, when kids first learn to play it really is more of a group activity.  It is a fun way to teach them the basics and have fun together. Solitaire Bliss has many different versions to try, so you’ll be sure to find something for everyone!

What are your favorite family games and activities?

May 162017
 
 May 16, 2017  activities, Summer Comments Off on Swimming with Kids: What to Pack

This post was sponsored by SwimWays as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central and all opinions expressed in my post are my own.

As the weather gets warm, we always start to think of swimming! I must admit, though, packing up all the essentials for family swim time at the pool or the lake can be a daunting task, especially with young children. Here are my tips for you really need to pack next time you go swimming with kids.

Swimming with Kids: What to Pack | Alldonemonkey.com

Swimming with Kids: What to Pack

Do you love swimming with your kids but dread having to pack up all that gear? Or, on the flip side, have you ever gotten to the pool just to realize you forgot something essential, like sunscreen? Here are our top tips for what you really need to have in your bag next time you go swimming with kids:

Sunscreen and sun hats: So important to protect your little ones from the sun! For very young children and babies, go one step further and keep them covered up and in the shade as much as possible. (See below for a great way to keep babies protected).

Water: Make sure to keep everyone hydrated, especially as children may be less aware of how thirsty they are getting when splashing around in the water.

Snacks: All that playing around will get them hungry, so be sure to pack some power snacks, especially if you think your child may fall asleep in the car on the drive home. Fruits like watermelon are a great choice because they can help them keep up their fluid intake and are so refreshing!

Towels: One for everyone, and usually one extra, because one towel always gets spilled on or stepped on, and then someone is left shivering!

Swim Diapers: These are incredibly convenient, plus they are required at most pools. Just make sure you have regular diapers to change your child into later, as swim diapers really don’t hold things in well outside the water.

Change of Clothes: If your child is potty trained, don’t forget to pack a pair of underwear along with their dry clothes!

Anti-bacterial gel: If you’ve ever used the bathroom at a public pool, you will appreciate how levels of hygiene (and hand soap) can vary, so better to be prepared and have some anti-bacterial gel in your bag when you go swimming with kids!

Floats: Older children can use arm floaties for a little extra support, and plus there is an incredible float just for babies! I love the SwimWays Baby Spring Float Sun Canopy, which is designed for very young children (9 to 24 months), who are just getting used to the water. As Step 1 of 3 Swim Training stages, this adorable float is a safe, fun way for little ones to get comfortable in the water so they can eventually learn to swim.

Swimming with Kids: What to Pack | Alldonemonkey.com

I remember when we first put my oldest in the pool – he was terrified! That’s why I’m so glad that today we have the SwimWays Baby Spring Float Sun Canopy for my one year old daughter. It is durable and very stable in the water, with a patented inner spring around the outer edge for extra security. Plus it has a wonderful shade that you can adjust in two different positions or remove altogether with easy snaps. The shade also has UPF 50+ so I know she will be well protected from the sun.

I love how soft the mesh seat is and that there is a mesh play area so she can play and splash around. The SwimWays Baby Spring Float Sun Canopy is the perfect combination of comfort and security. I can relax knowing that she is safe and supported, and she feels great and can have a blast!

Swimming with Kids: What to Pack | Alldonemonkey.com

And despite the fact that it is so wide when it is open (part of why it is so stable and balanced), the SwimWays Baby Spring Float Sun Canopy actually folds up easily into three flat, compact circles that fit into an included bag for easy carrying and packing. So important when you are carrying around other gear as well!

Don’t miss out on this great float for babies, available at Target (in-store and online)!

National Learn to Swim Day

Did you know that May 20th, 2017 is National Learn to Swim Day? SwimWays is a leader in promoting water safety and helping children learn to swim. That’s why they started National Learn to Swim Day in 2012. It is always the 3rd Saturday in May, so that as pools open across the US parents are aware of the importance of swim safety and teaching children how to swim. Learn more on the Teach Me to Swim website!

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial