5 Fall Inspired (and real life friendly) Art Projects and Exploration Activities for Young Kids

My inner pre-school teacher comes out with full force in the Fall, so with the cool air this past weekend here in the Northeast, I couldn’t help myself. E had just turned 1 last Fall, and so doesn’t have a clear notion as to why we’d be making leaf prints, painting with acorns and getting excited over Jack O Lanterns. Since we’re not in VA with my vast library of a former preschool teacher, we headed to the local library to find books about Fall and Halloween and went from there!

Having run a preschool classroom of at least 8, but typically 12, and washing up each and every little love after an art project, I can guarantee you that these are real-life friendly art activities that you can actually do with your little ones. No artistic ability on your part is required.

5-Fall-Inspired-Art-Projects-For-Kids

 

1. Make Your Own Jack O’ Lantern: You’ll need a paper plate, orange paint, black construction paper to cut out the parts of a Jack O’ Lantern (eyes, nose, mouth) and brown paper for the stem. Have a model Jack O’ Lantern for them to look at (a picture from a book, or one you made). First have them paint the plate, then using the paint like glue, have them place the parts where they think they go. This is an interesting look at their perception of what they see, and is fun to do year after year to see how they’re perceptions and abilities change.

2. Leaf Collage: Is there anything more fun in the Fall for little ones than playing with and jumping into piles of leaves? Make it a game and have them collect their “favorites” from the pile. Crunch them, fold them, inspect them all over, and if there are still leaves on the trees help them compare the two, the ones on the trees and the ones they’ve collected.

After you’ve got your bunch of leaves, help them make a glue design on a large piece of paper and let them place the leaves as they see fit. We took our leaf collage and attached the Jack O’ Lantern for a kind of Fall nighttime 3D picture.

3. Play Dough Leaf Prints: I love play dough. It is so versatile and fun, and pretty much suitable for any theme, project or lesson! Make some homemade play dough in a Fall colors, and add some Fall scents like all spice and vanilla for an extra sensory experience. Take some leaves (some will inevitably fall of the leaf collage, this is a good one to “save” those with) and press them into the Fall play dough. Talk about the shape of the leaves, the veins of the leaves that appear in the play dough, and how the really crunchy ones react when you press them into the dough.

4. A Seasonal Tree: This is fun for Spring, Winter and Fall! Here’s the one we made in the Spring. Go ahead and duplicate the project, but instead of making leaf prints with a crayon, paint the leaves with orange, red and yellow and use them like stamps. Talk about what will happen to the trees in the Winter, and the new leaves that we’ll see in the Spring. If you made the Spring one (and still have it, what can I say I’m an art project hoarder!) inspect the two trees and talk about their differences.

5. Acorn and Pine Cone Painting: This is a fun way to explore how objects roll with gravity. Take a piece of paper, and either leave it as is, or cut it into a shape (like an acorn or a pinecone) and place it at the bottom of a large but moveable container (kids will be picking it up and moving it side to side). Add some paint, along with some acorns and pinecones, and have them experiment with what happens when they tilt the container all around. Do the acorns and pinecones move? How far? What happens to the paint? Do they make different patterns in the paint? Add in seeds and pine needles if you want to make it into a collage of sorts!

Enjoy!

 

It’s Not Potty Training, It’s Potty Exposure

Potty Exposure

Pretty sweet outfit huh? Mickey underwear, a zebra sweatshirt, some sporty orange sandals and a baby doll. E’s got style, what can I say. 

I’m pretty sure that those people who say they potty trained their child in three days waited until they were going regularly by themselves and then just sealed the deal. Which is fine, but it made the rest of us think it was possible to start from square one and get there in three days.

The worst part of this guise? It will often seem like it does actually only take a few days. Three days, some M&Ms, and E was staying dry and clean all day. And then E seemed to say “Oh, I get it. This is where YOU put your wee wee and poo poo. Lovely. I’ll keep mine in my diaper for now, but thanks for the candy!” After despairing over this to a few friends with older kids, turns out I’m not alone. This is a very common occurrence.

And back we went, back to diaper changes, only now we were changing more expensive diapers in the form of Pull-Ups. Oh, Pull-Ups. Another fun part of learning to use the potty that barring you are a saint you will very likely end up with.

We started with real underwear, that’s what she was “potty trained” in “in three days”.Then life happened. We had lots of family around, and going potty was far from E’s mind. This resulted in her wetting her pants and getting really, really upset. Now maybe I should have pulled out my Tough as Nails Mom act, but I couldn’t. My poor love was so upset, so I decided that rather than go back to diapers, which seemed like a huge step in the wrong direction, we’d do underwear inside a Pull-Up.

Apparently it wasn’t the wetness that bothered her, since she had no problem staying in wet and soiled underwear inside a Pull-Up. Awesome. Once again, not wanting to take a step backwards (though by this point we’d taken about 50 steps back already) I kept her in Pull-Ups. And here we stay…

This morning it seemed as though we’d finally hit a turning point! She asked to go potty, and…she went! Both 1 and 2! Insert fireworks here! Stickers were given out, even a Fig Newman cookie! And then…downhill from there.

And with all of this in mind I propose that we call it what it is: Potty Exposure, not Potty Training.

See we can’t “train” our children. They are little autonomous beings who exert control over their lives in any way they can. We can try to lure them into deciding that going in the toilet is a grand idea, but at the end of the day, it has to be their decision. And we as parents have to have faith that our sweet loves will someday, before they turn 18, decide on their own that toilets are awesome and diapers suck. Though I will continue to offer stickers that she will inevitably stick on the wall to make her own little glorious mural, and may even throw in some M&Ms. I’m an optimist and a dreamer.

Es Star Mural

I found this in a corner. I call it E’s Potty Sticker Starry Sky. There are more below, but this does the whole thing justice I think.

So who’s with me? #pottyexposure

 

Life is Not a Hallmark Card, and Neither is My List of 10 Things I Want My Daughter to Know

E on the Flats

1. There is One Thing in This Life That is Guaranteed: You will have a big butt. It’s your genetics. Own it, tone it, love it.

2. Nothing Makes a Woman More Beautiful Than Her Confidence in Herself: Not her size, her makeup, her skin tone, or the cost of her outfit and accessories. It’s her confidence in herself.

3. Confidence is Made, Not Given: Take risks, live outside of your comfort zone, and do what is right, not what is easy. This, and this alone will make you a confident woman.

4. Be Unoffendable: People will hate you. They will scorn you and mock you. And when they do, you’ll know you’re onto something. Keep it up. Don’t give them the fight they want, move on in peace with faith in yourself and the vision you have for your life.

5. Food Will Never Fill an Emotional Void. Only Healing Will: If you’re hurting emotionally, don’t be too proud to seek the help you need. Food, and drink alike, will never fill that void. They’ll only make it worse.

6. Your Clothing Size Does Not Determine Your Worth: Maybe you won’t be a size two. Maybe you will. Whatever size you are, OWN IT. See #2.

7. Follow Your Arrow and Do What You Love: Don’t allow preconceived notions of “the right path” to keep you from where you know you belong. I have complete faith that you will succeed in whatever you choose to do. As should you.

8. Your Family is Your Backbone: Your aunts, uncles, cousins, hell even distant cousins, these people will inevitably have a large impact on and in your life. They will be there when things go bad, which they will. This is life. Build these relationships, now and always.

9. Life Will be Hard: And it will. You will grieve and you will be heartbroken. But you will always persevere. Know that and thrive.

10. I Love You, Always: And Forever. And Always Will. It doesn’t matter what you do, what size you wear, what you eat, what career you choose (or don’t choose) or who you marry (or don’t marry). I love you and I will always have faith in you.

You come from a long line of strong women. You, like them, will persevere no matter what life brings. You will succeed and you will overcome obstacles you never imagined you could along the way. I have faith in you.

 

Family Pic on Beach

The Art of Doing it All Over, Day After Day, Again and Again.

Whether you are a working mom, a work at home mom, or a stay at home mom, I imagine that you, like myself, have the same schedule a majority of the time. Day, after day, after ever loving day. I also imagine that you, like myself, wake up on a Saturday and contemplate what it would be like to not know what the day might bring. Can you even remember those days? Or are they for you, as they are for me, this distant foggy memory of a time when I wasn’t ruled by a really demanding, albeit also really cute, toddler with an attitude. For stay at home moms, this reality can be even more daunting, as there is no break sans a hopefully quiet night. 

In reality the childcare component, in and of itself, is mostly enjoyable. I love watching E have an “ah ha” moment, or just play her little heart out. Seeing her run down the beach with the biggest smile, laughing uncontrollably, that warms my soul. Time outs and tantrums, not so lovely, but when she goes to do the same thing later on and makes a better decision, it makes it all worthwhile. So yes, the caring part, I’m good with that.

It’s the doldrums of the everyday need-to-do list that really make being a mom, and specifically a stay at home mom, challenging. 

Sure, don’t clean. And then proceed to rush around like a mad thing trying to get out of the house because you don’t know where anything is. Laundry? Let it go. And then come up with a creative way to clothe your child for the day when everything that fits them is dirty. Meal planning? Far too time consuming. That is until dinner time arrives, and you have nothing to make dinner out of. My point is you just can’t choose to not do the everyday tasks, and focus solely on parenting. Well, you can, but you’ll live in filth and disarray, making every outing and life in general more of a struggle, and you’ll be eating whatever you can scrape together from the random food in the fridge.

So we can’t avoid them, but what can we do then to make life with the monotony of the every day need-tos more tolerable?

1. Give Yourself a Weekly Cheat Day: Both on healthy eating (if that’s your thing, I won’t get preachy but it should be) AND on the chores. Pick one day of the week where you are OK with eating whatever your tastebuds desire, as well as nothing getting done on the ever so present, never ending list of crap that needs to be done. Yes, that may mean one extra load of laundry the next day, and maybe even sandwiches for dinner, but it gives you a much needed break to replenish you for the next 6 days of healthy choices and an abundance of chores. And hey, maybe while you take a break someone else will pick up the slack. *wink, wink*

If_Its_Your_Cheat_Day_Make_It_Good

2. Make a 6 Most Important Things to Do List the Night Before: This successful tool isn’t just for people in the business world. Come up with the Top 6 things you NEED to get done tomorrow (not want to, need to) and do those first, starting with the one you want to do least or that is the most challenging. Once those are done, whatever else you happen to accomplish is just icing on the cake of an already successful day. 

3. Do One Really Fun Thing Each Week for You: Often we moms do a little something for ourselves each day. An at-home pedicure (read use a pumice stone and clip our toenails). A mid-day glass of wine on a Friday. Sleeping for an extra three minutes through the early morning “mooommmmmyyyyyy”. Finishing off our kid’s last bit of mac n cheese. And yes, these luxurious moments are slightly satisfying, but they sure as hell aren’t about to propel us into a state of renewed vigor for what the next day holds.

But you know what will? And possibly get us through the next WEEK? A great night out, a ridiculously delicious and kid free meal (an at home dinner with your love works too!), an actual pedicure, or that one item you’ve been jonesing after for months now. Like a new camel coat for the Fall and Spring. This is a classic piece that you won’t regret investing in. 

inspiring-fall-outfits-camel-coat-look

This isn’t to say we should throw ourselves into financial turmoil to psychologically survive motherhood, but instead, rather than get by with a few half hearted attempts at pleasure, each week we should give ourselves a “paycheck” of sorts. Kisses and hugs are great, but a delicious meal and a great bottle of wine sans small children? Not to mention a camel coat…

4. Take Pleasure in the Mundane: At the end of the day, all the laundry, the dishes, the dirty floors, the food prep and KP duty, are all reminders that you are so very blessed to be a mom. Many, many women only dream of such a life. And yes, that will mean very little as you spend yet another afternoon cleaning up messes you had no hand in creating, but when the little ones are in bed, and all is quiet for five minutes, remember how blessed you really are. Let that be the thought that you go to sleep with, how beautiful motherhood really is. It just may help to pull you through when those sweet little faces wake you up at 4:45am, on a Saturday. 

 

 

E’s Second Birthday: A Semi-Homemade Party Designed with Little Ones in Mind

It’s very easy to get caught up in the Birthday games, where the winner is the mom who spends their money, time, blood, sweat and tears on the perfectly created theme where no detail is ignored. A beautiful party is a lovely idea, but on many occasions these kind of parties are not kid-friendly (or mom friendly for that matter). A slew of colorful decorations and elaborate tablescapes in a theme that very often the child couldn’t care less about can be overwhelming for children, as can large crowds. My feeling as a parent is that if it’s supposed to be a party for the child, shouldn’t it be about the child?

E at the moment likes Thomas the Train, Mickey Mouse (specifically Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, don’t judge) and Octopuses. Tablescape that one.

Being that we were clearly going to be piecing this one together (surprisingly enough there isn’t a large demand for Thomas with Mickey and some Octopus decor) while also keeping it kid-centered I had E help make the decorations. Displaying children’s art work is a wonderful way to validate their abilities and efforts, while also giving them a sense of ownership over the space. It becomes not just a well decorated room, but a special place they took part in creating. I came up with the odd idea of Mickey and Thomas (as Mylar balloons in this case) sailing the high seas, each in their own ship, along with some fish net on the opposite wall lined with fish, octopuses, Thomas decals, and a Mickey Mouse Happy Birthday Banner. E showcased her artistic talents in finger painting, marker swirling, and having her hands stenciled by painting the boats, coloring the tops of the waves, and having cutouts of her hands be the arms of the octopuses.

The Party DecorThis was a multiple day process. For the boats, after she painted the paper brown I let it dry and then cut out the shape of the boats. The tops of the waves are coffee filters colored with blue and green markers that are then lightly spritzed (I used a garden hose nozzle on the mist setting) to make the colors bleed together like watercolors.

Tops of the Waves close up

The Octopuses are a repeat, you can find the original post here.

the Octopi upclose 2

For the tables we used cloth mermaid themed tablecloths (a repeat from her first birthday party, reuse and recycle) and had a light brunch menu with various salads and breads, including Goldfish for the kids and Mimosas for the mamas.

Party in action cropped

And of course, a cake!

The Cake from Above 2

We kept the party very intimate. My sister and her family, a few close family friends and their respective little ones. We asked guests that weren’t intent on bringing a gift to not feel obligated as she was going to get so many as it was. Like overwhelming crowds, tons of gifts can be too much for a little one, taking the fun out of birthday presents. And really, how many toys does one two year old need?

More than enough gifts

We were clearly not lacking in gifts, and with a manageable number we were able to let E open each one in her own time.

Present opening with mama

Her favorites: A Thomas The Train for toddlers, and anything to do with baby dolls. The various puzzles and Duplo blocks (including a block set that came in a John Deere Truck) were also at the top of her list.

I wasn’t completely sure I was making the right decision by having it be a small party with handmade decor, but by the time the party had begun I knew I had made the right decision. It was calm, fun for all, and E was excited on multiple occasions to point out her artwork. Proud mama I am. Best of all, E’s Dada was there to celebrate with us.

Family Pic on Beach

A family picture from the night before E’s party, at my extended family’s annual beach party. Yes, that’s my necklace she’s sporting, and no, she’s not donning a crop top!

Here’s to many more calm Happy Birthday Parties for E!

 

 

Let’s Call it What it Is: Mom Bullying

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Stressed Mom

Being a mom in any parenting situation is challenging enough. No mom, myself included, needs  any more stress in their lives. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with another mom who feels the need to “help you” by forcing their beliefs and views on you by making sure to tell you exactly what you’re doing wrong as a mom, you are not alone. And no, it’s not OK.

These women use their preferred parenting practices as an excuse to bully other moms, looking for ways to start a never ending circular argument designed to do nothing more than cause drama. These aging versions of Mean Girls‘ Regina George are cleverly disguised as moms helping moms through constructive criticism. If any of these lovely descriptions sound familiar, follow your instincts and run. And if they sound like you, just stop and find a new outlet for your pent up aggression. 

The Attachment Nightmare 

You’re really into baby wearing. As far as you’re concerned it’s the best thing for your child’s emotional and physical well being.You wear your child on you for a majority of the day, and perhaps sleep with them too. So when you see a mom in the grocery store carrying her child in a torture device, otherwise known as a bucket car seat, you feel the need to share with them the damage they are doing to their child. God help the person you see wearing their child facing out in a standard Bjorn.

The Nipple Nazi

You want only what’s best for your child and children everywhere, so you breastfeed. Exclusively. And you plan on doing so until they ween themselves, whenever that may be. When you hear of another mom who is opting to formula feed from the start, you feel you must share with them all the possibly harmful ingredients in the formula and the vast benefits of breastfeeding, as well as the resources available so they too can exclusively breastfeed. You can do it, so clearly they have no excuse.

Women’s Studies 101  

Little girls who prefer dolls over trucks only do so because their parents force such toys on them. So you go out of your way to find androgynous toys for your child. Pink and blue are not for you. And plastic? Uh-uh. Wooden open ended toys are the only way. In fact you make sure to give such marvelous toys at each and every birthday party you attend, while also explaining the purpose of the gift, so as to show them the errors in their toy selections to date.

The Card Carrying Member of the Intelligentsia 

TV is wonderful. For those who can’t read. Your children never watch a bit of TV (but know each and every character in Frozen…hhhmmmm) and you can’t imagine introducing it into their daily lives. Studies show it should be used sparingly, at max for 30 minutes a day. So you share this with all of your fellow mom friends, and all the creative ways you’ve come with to avoid using the TV as a “babysitter” so they can start to cut down on the amount of TV their kids watch.

The Unqualified Nutritionist 

You buy only organic and clean foods for your family. So when one of your children goes to a playdate at a friend’s house and comes home excited over the awesomely delicious Ding Dong paired with a Sprite they had for a snack, you obviously must share with this other mom that your children don’t eat that way, why they don’t eat foods like that, and provide healthy alternatives to such snacks so they too can live the healthy lifestyle you do.

Yes, it’s more subtle than hateful comments and profanity spread all over Facebook, but it is no different than any other form of bullying. It’s the same mean, underhanded, nasty Girl-World bullying that happens throughout schools, only now it’s being done by adult moms, and even worse, under the pretenses of “helping” and “teaching”. Worst of all, this mom bullying is hurting other mothers, to the point of increasing rates of Postpartum Depression and its many forms, which can occur up to 4 years after childbirth. 

Your child won’t perish from a processed food treat, there are millions of healthy adults with no major issues who weren’t breastfed or worn by their mothers, and I bet you played with Barbies. Stop being a bully. And if you see another mom being a bully, call them out. I’ve got your back.

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Family, Young Cousins, and Life During Deployment for E

This past weekend was a fantastic one with my sister and her family on the Cape. 4 kids under 4, 4 adults and 2 dogs in one house, and all survived unscathed. The gorgeous weather may have helped!

Grammie loved having both her girls and all her grandkids home at the same time. E and her 3 year old cousin played so well together, screaming, laughing, jumping and engaging in general kid antics for the whole weekend. My sister’s infant twins weren’t left out of the fun, what with their playful big brother and E mothering them as much as possible.

My favorite picture from the weekend is this one, with all the kids and adults gathering and playing on the backyard lawn.

Everyone on the lawn

Although we had a lot of fun, the stress on E of having her Dada away on deployment was very apparent. E clung on to her Uncle this weekend, and asked for pictures of her Dada often. Having a Daddy around (even if it was her cousins’ and not hers!) meant a lot to her.

Sometimes only a Dad figure will do to brave the water!

Sometimes only a Dad figure will do to brave the water!

 

The pictures on the iPhone weren’t doing it, so I ended up cutting up a picture from our wedding that my mom had and giving it to her to sleep with. Clearly a Daddy Doll is needed, so one is on order. I honestly thought she’d get frustrated with a Daddy Doll, and not understand why min-Dada was there but not there, but obviously that isn’t the case as she loves her Dada picture.

I most definitely lost it crying a time or two when she called her Uncle “Dada” (her cousin was calling him that, so she was probably just following suit, but still). We slept together last night as she had a hard time going to bed on her own. I give lots of credit to those who co-sleep, as I got kicked in the legs and whopped in the face all night by a soundly sleeping tot. The goal was for her to sleep well, so it was a win all in all.

She was heartbroken when my sister and her family left, but luckily so worn out from all the playing and outdoor fun that she fell asleep well on her own.

Hangin in the BOB on the way back from the neighborhood bay beach

Hangin in the BOB on the way back from the neighborhood bay beach

Here’s to hoping that that was just a blip (one of many I’m sure) and we’ll have smooth nights from here on out for a bit (Daddy Doll, please come quickly!)

I also ordered a set of oils from Young Living, many that are purported to have a calming effect. For this and future deployments, I hope they help! If nothing else the lemon oil is supposed to help to increase metabolism, and what with all the extra Summer treats, I could use that for myself.

-Me