So Much Stuff

Recently we moved.  In many ways moving is no fun.  But there is a silver lining – it is the perfect time to declutter, trash the trash and just reduce the overall amount of Stuff.  The amount of garbage bags of trash I was able to get rid of was amazing (and embarrassing).

I am now unpacking in the new house.  As I am filling the cabinets and closets I realize how nice it is to not have so much stuff shoved in every crack and crevice.  Without all of the stuff the house I have been able to keep the house fairly clean.  Mind you we have 5 kids, clean is a relative term.

Seriously though, without all of the stuff everyone’s room stays picked up.  Everything has its own place.  It has been great.

This is my dilemma: Christmas is coming…

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas.  I love Advent, and the celebration as we prepare for Christmas.  I love everything about Christmas – even the anticipation of opening gifts on Christmas morning.  I am just not excited about more stuff, which was exactly why I was so excited to find Nourishing Minimalism’s this list of non-toy gifts.

I will absolutely be looking to this list for ideas in the next few months.  Take a look at these great ideas.

18 Non-Toy Gifts for Children

  1. Classes. Music, dance, riding, drawing, classes are a great way to encourage children in their interests and let them know that you pay attention to them and what they enjoy.
  2. Memberships. Zoo, science museum, children’s museum, YMCA membership, etc. These are particularly great for family gifts! Many young families want to enjoy day outings, but affording them can be a challenge, so give them the gift of a yearly membership.
  3. Subscriptions. Kids enjoy getting things int he mail. Why not encourage their reading by getting them a magazine subscription for something they are interested in!
  4. Events. Movie tickets, tickets to a play, concert or sports event are really exciting! Having an event to look forward to makes the rest of life more enjoyable.
  5. Activities. Mini golf, bowling, skating rink. These are so much fun! And a big part of the fun is going together. Children love spending time with the adults in their lives, they want to see you enjoying your time as well as enjoying them.
  6. Recipe and Ingredients. Kids love cooking with their parents. Baking something special or cooking dinner is an ideal time to spend together and learn life skills. Print out a recipe, purchase all the ingredients and set a date for cooking together.
  7. Crafting Date. Our daughter loves making crafts. I do to, I really do enjoy the creative aspect. But I rarely take time out to do it with her. These crafting dates mean the world to our creative little girl. Keep a basket of craft supplies and get out a book for inspiration. We like this book.
  8. Arts and Craft supplies. If your craft box is running low, stock up a little on things you need. Add in something fun the kids haven’t used before. A gift of art and craft supplies often brings on the imagination and kids can’t wait to get to work!
  9. Coupons. An envelope of coupons that they can “spend” at any time: I’ll do one chore- no questions asked, movie and popcorn night, you pick the movie!, 1:1 game of cards or basketball (whatever the child’s interest is in), sit and read a book with me, Stay up 1/2 hour past bedtime
  10. Restaurant Gift Card. Dinner, ice cream, coffee, cupcake- whatever suits their fancy! Give them the freedom of inviting whoever they wish: it may be mom or dad, it may be a grandparent, aunt or even teacher that they would like to spend more time with.
  11. Dress Up Clothes. These do need to be limited, but  2 dresses and couple play silks can get hours and hours of play!
  12. Books. We get a lot of books from the library, but there are some that I just can’t find there, or it takes us longer to read through. We have read through the entire Little House series, Narnia and are working our way through Shel Silverstein’s books. Be sure to pass the books on when you are done, so they don’t clutter up your home.
  13. Clothes. When kids only have a certain amount of clothes, they often enjoy getting clothes. Make it a point to get something that fits their style. That may mean western clothes, super-hero, fancy dresses, etc.
  14. Snacks. If your child is a foodie, they will love this! Some homemade granola or cookies made just for them, is a special treat!
  15. Outdoor Supplies. If you are an outdoorsy family, giving kids their own fishing tackle or gardening equipment can be a big deal. It’s also something that gets left on the shelf in the garage, so you always know right where to find it.
  16. Telling Time. The average child these days doesn’t know how to read analog, or finds it takes too long to think about it, so they search for a digital watch. Getting them a cool watch makes them want to be able to tell time on it. Boys, girls, and even teenagers can be excited about this.
  17. Games and Puzzles. Games and puzzles are great activities for when kids have to be indoors. It’s a good practice to have individual quiet times during the day, and having a puzzle to sit and work on by themselves helps brain development and problem solving skills. Games teach a lot too! My kids talk about how they passed geography, just because we played Risk when they were little. Monopoly and PayDay have been popular and help cement math skills. Memory games are great for younger children.
  18. Calendar. Many children like to know what is going on, what day it is, how many days until ____. These kids are the ones that want to know what the plan is for the day, in what order things will happen, what time friends are expected over, etc. They struggle with spur-of-the-moment and can be frustrating if you are a spontaneous parent. But celebrate it! These children have many strengths and make our world run smoother. :-)  Embrace their inner schedule and get them their own calendar. They can write down their own classes, appointments, play dates, etc. And if they ask you, send them to their calendar so they can get used to being in control of their own schedule. You can even schedule “spontaneous days”, so they know that something different will happen that day. Trust me, it will help them enjoy the spontaneous outings!

 

 

The BEST Homemade Playdough Recipe Ever

There was a time for me when the thought of making homemade playdough coincided with things like spinning yarn, milling flour and milking cows.  There was no way.  Why bother when you can buy playdough in a can from the store?

Well, after 4 children I finally learned – homemade playdough is awesome!  The number 1 reason I make my own playdough is because homemade playdough is so much cheaper than buying playdough in the store.

These are some other reasons why I now make my own playdough:

  • I can make a lot of playdough at one time.
  • I can make any color I choose.
  • Because it is so cheap to make I am not concerned with how my kids choose to use it.  Want to mix colors – sure, go ahead.
  • If necessary (because of allergies) I can adjust ingredients, like using rice flour instead of wheat flour.
  • Scents can be added.
  • It lasts a really long time.

Play Dough Recipe:

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoon cream of tartar
  • 1  tablespoon oil
  • 1 cup water
  • food coloring

Mix first 5 ingredients in a pan with a wire whisk until smooth.  Add food coloring.  Cook over medium heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for about 3 – 5 minutes. Dough will become difficult to stir and form a clumpy ball.  Remove playdough from the pot.  Transfer to lightly floured countertop and knead for 5 minutes.  After playdough has cooled transfer to a plastic bag or other airtight container.

Secrets for perfect playdough:

  • Always use Kosher Salt.
  • Be sure to whisk ingredients before heating until smooth.
  • Add scents to your playdough like cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, essential oils, or extracts like vanilla, lemon, etc.
  • Add glitter to your playdough as you are kneading.
  • If your playdough is too gooey, add additional flour as you knead.
  • If you want to make smaller batches with a larger variety of colors, do not add the coloring before cooking.  Cook white playdough and add a couple drops of coloring to small batches as you knead.
  • If it doesn’t turn out perfect the first time, try again.  Make an adjustment.  My first mistake was cooking the playdough too long before transferring it to the counter.

Seriously, take my word for it.  Homemade playdough is easy to make, and so worth the little bit of effort it requires.

Enjoy!

Board Games are more than just Family Fun

Board games are pretty popular in our house.  We play a lot of board games on our Family Nights.  Sometimes it can get pretty intense.  Have I ever mentioned we are all a little bit competitive?  Well, actually some of us are VERY competitive.  And arguments deep discussions have ensued.

Truthfully though, we do argue over the rules, there is always a moment of pause when one looks for a specific point that will make or break his move, and continued discussion most often follows.

And it is awesome!  What better place is there for children to learn strategic planning, communication and negotiation skills.  I know folks who pay big money to master these skills.

This is our family Top 10 list of Board Games (not necessarily in order of favorite)

1.  Chess

2.  Blokus

3.  Quirkle

4.  Quarto

5.  Mexican Train

6.  Mancala

7.  Uno

8.  Catan (for the older kids)

9.  Swish

10.  Animals Upon Animals (for the younger ones)

and just a few more…

11.  Chinese Checkers

12.  Scrabble

13.  Monopoly (not really my favorite, but the kids like it)

What are some of your favorites?