Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties

Alertness

From an early age, I have always been both a teacher’s pet and an overachiever. I passed all the tests. I got all the awards. I always often came in first.  For years, I’ve eagerly been awaiting my own kids’ turn. I told myself that I wouldn’t be pushy, wouldn’t assume my kid would be the best and the brightest, and was determined to let her go her own way. When the first few award ceremonies went by and Lila didn’t get an award, I tried my best to shrug it off. That’s okay! Everyone can’t get an award, or they would be meaningless!  I mean, she has her moments, but she is fiery and passionate and smart and funny and AWESOME. Her day will come!

And today, when I opened up her homework folder and saw that slip of fancy copy paper, with the hint of a fancy border showing- well, I just knew. Our Her day had finally come.

“Congratulations! Your child has been selected to receive an award. Please join us for a ceremony on Tuesday, as Lila is recognized for… Alertness.”

I’ve never been so proud confused. Continue reading “Alertness”

Crafty Mamas, Holidays, Kids' Activities, Kids' Art Projects, momlife, parenting, The Salties

Valentine’s Day Marbled Print Art

As a preschool art teacher, I have to say that I strongly favor process-based art for kids. The research all shows that the true benefit of art for kids comes from the process of making something- mixing colors, experimenting with lines and swirls, and getting hands-on experience with creative expression. Your average Valentine’s Day art projects, with their prescribed colors and shapes and outcomes, are typically not in line with process-based activities.

But.

I’m also a mother. I want some art for my dang refrigerator, gosh darn it.

So I’ve created this fun, process based art activity that will end with a product that you can display.  By limiting the colors you present the kids with (pink, purple, and red for example), you can ensure that the project stays on theme- and the kids will be none the wiser. (Or feel free to go rogue here- this project can be accomplished with any colors and any shape of paper- including a plain old rectangle.) Continue reading “Valentine’s Day Marbled Print Art”

Cheapskating, Kids' Activities, Mama Loves a Party, momlife, The Salties, Tips & Hacks

Birthday Gifts on a Budget

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I don’t know how it works in your circle of friends, but in ours? We are heading full-throttle into what we affectionately call Birthday Season. From now until the end of April, we will likely be attending anywhere from one to four birthday parties every.single.weekend. And my kids LOVE it. But my budget? Yeah, it doesn’t.

So how do I tackle all of those Big Birthday Bashes on a Budget? There’s a few tricks I use to celebrate all of our favorite little people without breaking the bank. Continue reading “Birthday Gifts on a Budget”

Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salty Mamas Bookclub

The Magic of Reading with Your Kids

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From the time my kids were little little, I had dreams for them. All the usual things – I wanted them to be happy. I wanted them to follow their dreams. I wanted them to be good and decent and kind human beings.

And I wanted them to love reading.

I know how much I’ve gained from falling back in love with books. From the practical – expanding vocabulary, being well-read to engage in conversations with others, having a good and purposeful hobby – to the fantastical. That feeling of getting completely lost in a book, expanding my imagination, exploring new worlds, ideas, feelings. All of it.

I wanted that for my kids.

So for the past four and a half years, I’ve surrounded my kids with books. Story time at the local libraries, reading as many books as we can every night before bed, sitting and reading a book in front of them while they play, teaching them to take a book everywhere, and basically never saying “No” when they ask for a new book.  Continue reading “The Magic of Reading with Your Kids”

Cheapskating, Crafty Mamas, Holidays, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties

Cheap and Easy Class Gifts

This post contains affiliate links. You can read more about it at our Legal & Disclosures page. Thank you!

You think you’re done with your holiday prep. You’ve baked. You’ve shopped. You’ve even wrapped. You have done the impossible- you’ve finished Christmas a full week ahead of time. You pat yourself on the back for a job well done and prepare yourself for a blissful evening drinking a glass of wine and watching “Love Actually” one more time.

And then you get a sweet little note from your child’s lovely teacher (and I mean that. She is SO wonderful), asking that you send twenty identical wrapped gifts to school the day after tomorrow. And since said teacher is seriously SO wonderful, you decide to oblige her one last request.

I mean, you cry first, of course. But then you get to brainstorming. Continue reading “Cheap and Easy Class Gifts”

Holidays, Kids' Activities, Salty Mama Lists, Traditions

I’m NOT Dreaming of a White Christmas

Ding, dong, it’s December. And for many people that means snowmen and snowball fights and the dazzling white of the first snow and did I mention snow? But here in sunny Southern California, winter looks a little different. Sure, it’s a brisk 45 degrees out right now as the sun comes up, but I’ve got to dress the kids in light layers at school because it’ll be 70 and sunny when I pick them up at noon. And I’m bringing POPSCICLES to school for my daughter’s birthday. Basically, snow is not on the menu this December. And I’m not even a little salty about it.

But for some people, winter and Christmas and Santa all need snow. So here are some fun and festive ways to spread holiday cheer, without any of the freezing cold white stuff. Continue reading “I’m NOT Dreaming of a White Christmas”

Effing Four Year Olds, Holidays, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks

The Elf on the Friggin Shelf

It’s easy enough to pretend the Elf on the Shelf is not a thing when your kids are little. Maybe you pass by them in the store, tell your kids those are dolls, and move on with your life. Maybe you have vowed never to take up with that foul creature. Maybe you’re just bitter you aren’t the marketing genius that came up with that thing. Whatever the case may be, you’re probably okay skipping the elf without anyone knowing the difference.

Until someone starts school. And then get ready to hop up on that bandwagon sleigh.

I knew “all the kids” in Lila’s class had elves, and had even successfully fielded some questions about why we didn’t get one at our house.  Santa knew Lila was nice enough already without sending an elf to spy on her, and all the elves were visiting other kids this year. She accepted it cheerfully enough and I thought we were out of the woods.

And then we had a friend from school over for a playdate, and they asked to see her elf, and Lila was like, “oh she’s on the roof today.” I was a Hill, “silly Lila, we don’t have an elf,” and she burst into tears, and I found out my daughter sits on a throne of lies (see what I did there?). She felt super left out when the other kids were talking about elves, and so she had told them she had one, too. She’d even told them stories about her elf’s exploits. So when she got busted? Yeah, she had all the feelings.

So we wrote a letter to Santa asking what the hold-up was in the elf department. Lila requested he “find a solution and send an elf to this house by Friday.” (She told me to write that part in a stern voice.) So it looks like I’m heading to Target and trying to find an elaborate backstory as to why her elf took so long to get here.

*******

So for others who might find themselves in a similar situation…we’ve compiled this list of resources to help you.  Or not. Because, despite what our kids would have us believe, you are still in charge and you can do what you want to.

And if you decide to take on the Elf on the Shelf

…Check out the Paper Heart Family’s Elf on the Shelf for Busy Mom’s Guide for the easiest way to accomplish the whole elf thing without driving yourself bananas

…And follow our Easy Elf Ideas pinterest board so you’ll be prepared

…Or read why it’s okay to love the Elf on the Shelf at A Modern Mom’s Life

… But don’t forget to have some handy excuses prepared for when the Elf Forgets to Move.

And if you are never doing the Elf, never not ever…

…Prepare yourself with this List of Reasons Why You Don’t Have an Elf 

…Or simply Indulge Your Hatred with TheEverydayMomLife.com.

And if you started Elf on the Shelf and regret it every day…

Do what this mom or this mom did, pat yourself on the back, and pour yourself a margarita. It’s the Salty Mama way.

 

The #ElfontheShelf- Love it or Leave It? Read the pros and cons- and tips for either approach!- at thesaltymamas.com.

 

Effing Four Year Olds, Holidays, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks, Traditions

Teaching Kids the Spirit of Giving This Holiday Season

Last year at Christmastime, I had everything. I had a beautiful Christmas tree, home baked goods, the love of my family and friends…

And an entitled three year old who thought SHE should have everything, too. Everything from the Target toy aisle, anyways.

No matter how I tried, I could NOT convince her to pare down her list. Every catalog that came in the mail, every trip to Target for diapers, even phone calls to the grandparents seemed to unleash her inner Gimme Monster. On one particularly bad, trying-to-make-a-list-for Santa Claus day, this Mama had had enough. Continue reading “Teaching Kids the Spirit of Giving This Holiday Season”

Crafty Mamas, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks

Achieving Super-Mom Status with a Busy Bag

This post contains affiliate links, but as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are our own. You can read more at our Legal & Disclosures page. Thank you!

You know those times when your kids have to just sit quietly for a really long time, and you are out of data and/or don’t have enough phones to go around and/or they’ve already watched 75 hours of TV today? Like when the doctor is running behind, or if you’re flying to Hawaii, or when your husband sends you and your two children to stand in line for a few hours at a Best Buy for a video game system at 6 am on fifteen minutes notice?

No? Is that one just me?

Well at any rate, I don’t always feel like a super mom, but the thing that is sure to make me give myself some major kudos is my fully-stocked, always-so-ready-it-lives-in-the-trunk Busy Bag. My bag of choice is the Zip-Top Organizing Utility Tote from Thirty One  (which I love because ALL THE POCKETS), but it can be done with any similar bag.

(Side Note: A fully loaded Busy Bag makes an INCREDIBLE family gift for Christmas, or when a new baby is on the way.  If you are giving this as a gift, I would definitely go with the Thirty-One Tote. It definitely gives it an extra polish, and can be embroidered. Yes, Christine sells Thirty-One. But I’m being completely objective here- it’s got Wow Factor.)

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The most crucial aspect of the Busy Bag, besides the bag, is the little tray that lives inside of it. It’s just a cheap cookie sheet from the Dollar Tree, but it operates as a desk, magnet board, flannel board, and snack tray when we are out and about. And as a bonus, it fits PERFECTLY across the armrests of my kids’ carseats during road trips.

So once you’ve got your bag and your tray ready, it is time to fill it with all sorts of cheap, won’t -break-my-heart-to-lose-it, engaging little activities for your youngsters. What’s in mine changes constantly, which is probably part of the allure of the bag for my kids. I am always on the hunt for little Dollar Bin finds to fill it with, and dollar stores are a surprisingly rich treasure trove of everything-included projects.

Here are a few of the items that make regular appearances or are permanent fixtures in our bag:

• Coloring Books and Crayons
Color Wonder Markers and Paper
• A PlayPack or Two
Playdough
• Magnet Letters and Numbers
• A few magnet puzzles, or small puzzles with magnets attached to the back.
• Beads and pipe cleaners for lacing
Sticker Mosaics
• Stickers and Blank Paper
• A Magna Doodle
Activity books
Water Wow Books
MagicInk Books 
• Non-Perishable Snacks
Laminated Eye Spy Pages, Connect-the-Dots, Finish-the-Picture Prompts, Tracing Pages, etc. with a dry erase marker
• Color By Number Pages
• A few pre-prepped craft activities and a glue stick
• Some of these Melissa and Doug “On the Go” sets
• Memory games
Magnetic tic-tac-toe
Paint-With-Water Books/Pages
• Duplo blocks for younger kids, or small bags of Legos for older kids

I’m telling you, this bag makes me look like I have my stuff together. And after the initial setup, it just takes a little refill here and there to keep it fresh and exciting. Beyond that, I am ready to look like one of THOSE moms at any time, in any place. Like while watching the sunrise in a Best Buy parking lot.

*****

Want to see the Busy Bag in action? Head over to Facebook to watch a video that shows the bag’s features and what I keep inside!

 

 

Looking for a gift for an entire family? This thoughtful gift will have you one and done. Read more at thesaltymamas.com. #familygift #christmasgift #giftideas
Road trips, appointments, flying with kids? We've got the perfect solution to entertain your kids anytime, anywhere at thesaltymamas.com #busybag #roadtrip #flyingwithkids

 

Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Threenagers

4 Myths About Play-Based Preschool

When I first sent my son to preschool, he went to a traditional preschool – the kind I remember. A carpet with letters and spots for each kid to sit. Charts on the wall showing the alphabet, calendar, weather. Super cute crafts for every holiday, with a Pinterest perfect sample of what they would be making that day. But he wasn’t learning his letters. He wasn’t great at sitting. He wasn’t participating in the crafts. So we moved him over to a play-based preschool. And he LOVED it. But everyone else? Well, they thought we were crazy. And I learned there are a LOT of myths about play based education.

Continue reading “4 Myths About Play-Based Preschool”