Monday, October 13, 2014

Car Activities for Travel

My kids love to fight. I'm not sure if it's the four year age difference, the gender difference or just a deep desire to drive their sibling-inexperienced parents CRAZY. I have a sister ten years old and Jason has a half brother nine years younger so neither of us has ANY experience in sibling rivalry.

When we were planning our big trip to Disney World last month, I knew I was going to have to pull out all the stops to keep them occupied and minimize arguing on the long drive to Florida (and back). I stalked Pinterest, Google, my Feedly blog feed, everywhere to gather together ideas for how to keep them busy. 

All told I spent maybe $70 on everything, including extra special snacks. Once I was done shopping, I gathered everything together and wrapped each project in plain paper (I used bulk Uhaul wrapping paper leftover from our move). I numbered each package and kept notes so I knew what was in each package before they opened it. Some packages required daylight and some were better for evening so I wanted to guide those choices. In addition, there were some duplicates and I didn't want them to open the same things back to back. I stored everything in the "hole" in the floor of our minivan. 




They also had their 3DSs, a DVD player with lots of movies and half the library worth of books but those have already proven to not be enough to avoid the fighting on road trips. At every stop, I would let them each pick out one package. Most of the projects would keep them busy for an hour plus. And the best part, the only fighting was when they were playing their 3DSs together and one was upset that the other was "cheating" (i.e., winning). Since it was really easy to take the 3DSs away, the fighting was kept to a minimum. 

To help keep everything more organized, I gave each kid a small cookie sheet (also from the dollar store) to use as a (magnetic!) lap desk. We also picked up and put away things at every stop. 

Here is the list:

Pre-packaged Items

Items from this list may vary for you. These were pre-packaged mostly complete. I found these at the Dollar Tree, Big Lots and the Dollar Spot at Target. 
  1. Magic Kits - There were two different sets and I wrapped them together so each kid had one to play with. These were simple rope tricks, disappearing ball tricks, etc. with instructions. 
  2. Sticker books 
  3. Word find books
  4. Sudoku books
  5. Create-a-Town Sticker Scene Activity Sets
  6. Matching game
  7. Miniature 4x6 puzzles
  8. Classic Activity/Coloring Pages pads (I think they are the same ones I had as a kid)
  9. Learn to Draw workbooks from the school supply section
  10. Science Trivia card game
  11. Lanyard jewelry making kit

Toys & Fun Snacks
  1. Candy jewelry - this didn't last long as an activity but it's not the sort of thing the kids get often so it was still very popular. 
  2. Squishy critters - those rubbery, squishy toys that stretch a LOT. These had lights inside them. My kids LOVE playing with these things. 
  3. Glow sticks - These made for GREAT after dark fun during those last few boring hours. I let them listen to the dance station on Pandora and they had their own mini "dance" party in the backseat. 
  4. Light-up Rings - Same concept as the glow sticks

Craft / Creative Projects

  1. Post-it notes - to make art. Canvases for post-it note art can include the cookie sheet lap desk, blank paper or even the car windows. 
  2. Pipe cleaners - I don't know about your house, but at mine, I have to hide any pipe cleaners I don't want acted upon by children. They LOVED having a large supply to play with to their hearts' content. 
  3. Colorful paper clips - to hook end to end for all sorts of creative, imaginative play. 
  4. Aluminum foil - probably the most popular item of the trip. A whole roll to sculpt as they wished.
  5. Balls of yarn - my kids love finger knitting and used up many balls of yarn knitting away. 
  6. Squiggle cards & a box of markers - I saw this idea at the Make and Takes blog. 
  7. Travel Scavenger Hunt - Found at free.puzzles.net. I printed on card stock but these could also be laminated to use over and over. 
  8. Sticker Story books - I made a half dozen mini books (out of a single sheet of paper, instructions found here).  I wrapped them with sheets of Halloween stickers for the kids to make story books with the stickers.
  9. Would You Rather? Cards - printables found at The Measured Mom
  10. Fruit Loops & Yarn - I found Fruit Loops cereal already packaged in round bowls at Big Lots. I paired those with balls of bright orange yarn for cereal jewelry making.
  11. Origami books from the library & a stack of origami paper
  12. How to Draw books from the library & new drawing pads from the craft store
  13. Play dough & a few play dough tools 
  14. Legos - we made travel containers out of old wood wine boxes a few years ago. We cut large Lego plates to size and glued them to the slide out top of the wine box. 
Seat Back Supplies 

Both of the kids have seat back organizers. I stashed the following supplies into each of their organizers before we hit the road. 
  1. Scissors
  2. Colored pencils & crayons
  3. Tape
  4. Pens & pencils
  5. Erasers
  6. Pencil sharpener
  7. Water bottles
  8. Snacks
  9. Headphones
  10. Gum
Bonus Ideas 

I thought of these but didn't have the chance to organize them for this trip. 
  1. Marshmallows & pretzel sticks - snack and engineering project in one
  2. Lacing cards 
  3. Embroidery books from the library plus fabric, floss & other supplies
  4. Finger puppets
  5. Funky scissors, construction paper & tape
My kids enjoyed everything. I had them rate each item out of 5 stars and most things got 4 or 5. The preteen boy gave the sticker scenes from Dollar Tree only 3 stars but that was the only thing that didn't get good reviews. We didn't get to everything I had packed so I have put everything left away for our next road trip. I hope these ideas help you keep the peace on your next road trip!






Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Newest Norburys

For her 7th birthday, my daughter really, REALLY wanted a pet. We already have two dogs and an old cat so I didn't want to add any more of the larger, four-footed variety of pet. We discussed Guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, geckos, frogs and more. She wanted a pet who would interact with her and that she could play with. After lots of library books and many questions to Travis at the local Petco, we settled on rats. We adopted two who were already a year old.  Meet Messi & Kiwi. They are brothers and VERY sweet. They LOVE, LOVE, LOVE walnuts and playing with the kids.



Rats get a bad wrap because of their wild relatives, but pet rats have been domesticated for so long, they are really almost a whole different animal (though they are still the same species as the wild brown rat, Rattus norvegicus). They are very dedicated and trusting of their humans.. trusting to the point that having a pet rat involves a higher stewardship to their safety. They trust us implicitly and will eat anything we offer them. Another example with our two is that they have no fear of our dogs... though they really should fear our standard poodle. We just lock her out of the room or the house when they are out.

If you are considering a pet for your child, look into rats. They are very sweet, can learn tricks and are easy to care for.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Multi-Child Discount

It just occurred to me that a multi-child discount would be useful for my homeschool classes. I am now offering a discount of 25% off your total bill if you sign up more than one child. Children must live in the same household and must be siblings, half-siblings or step-siblings to qualify. The discount can be applied across multiple classes. In other words, the children do not have to be attending the same classes.

And, remember, childcare for younger siblings is available for most sessions so you can use the opportunity to get some errands run... or just go have a quiet child-free cup of coffee at one of the many nearby coffee shops in Lee's Summit.


Many thanks to CWH for letting me use an image of her multiple children for this post.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Homeschool Classes - Fall 2014

When it became apparent that I needed a way to contribute a bit more to our family's bottom line, I pondered, contemplated, mulled over and meditated on what I could do that would fit into my busy schedule. During this time, I found myself in the middle of teaching a class on Andy Warhol and Pop Art to a great group of kids for my homeschool coop. And the light bulb went off! I was already doing the thing that could help with the bottom line... I just needed to rethink it as a business and not just as a coop offering.

With the incredibly unoriginal name HeatherAnne's Homeschool Classes, I am launching my new venture. I'm taking it pretty light this fall with offerings in art and music theory. I will also be taking on a few private piano students. Please take a moment to check out my offerings for fall! And feel free to suggest something! In addition to art and music, I also love teaching math and science and have a law degree. (I'm already thinking of either a high school moot court or Bill of Rights class for the spring).

You can see the fall class offerings at the following link or by clicking on the "Homeschool Classes" tab just under the blog's home page banner. http://foofynotfoofy.blogspot.com/p/homeschool-lessons.html


Monday, June 16, 2014

So what is Forest School?

The first time I ever heard of Forest School was from the following Ted Talk about hackschooling.



The name sounds AWESOME, right? What's not to love about something called Forest School... even though I had no idea what it was. The Wikipedia article was not all that helpful and www.forestschools.com is only really helpful if you live in the UK. And in reality, none of these definitions came to be what our Forest School is like. Every Forest School is different as defined by the varied locales and the individuals who attend. My most promising lead was from my friend Jerritt, who attended Forest School with her kids!... and lives half a country away. So it became evident that if I wanted the Forest School experience for my kids, I was going to have to create it myself.

So then, what is Forest School? It is fun, it is educational, it is freedom to explore, it is turning nature into a self-guided classroom, it is wet, and it is often muddy. The first step to starting a Forest School is to find the right forest. Wild, but maybe not too wild and relatively conveniently located since the idea is to visit the same place year round at least once a month but possibly more often. While many excellent choices were around the KC Metro, since I was going to be the "leader" of this muddy band of nature lovers, I chose a location close to me. The park where we go has a rocky bottomed creek, bluffs full of fun rocks to climb on and lots of beautiful green... all behind a park with ample parking and a play ground. The nature area is hemmed in by the park, a neighborhood and two streets so the kids can safely roam without getting lost. The creek always leads back to where the adults are. On the other hand, when you are in the creek bottom chasing tadpoles, those "civilized" spaces might as well be miles away for they are not intrusive to the peace of the nature area at all. 

We go year round... every second Tuesday and any (bonus) fifth Tuesdays. Rain or shine or snow. (We do skip dangerous weather). Because the creek is in a small dip (it's not really deep enough to be a valley), the temperature there is often warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer and the winds aren't as strong. Once there, the kids just... go. They play. They explore. They swim (even when it's 60 degrees out and the water has only just thawed). They get muddy. They get SOAKED. No agenda, no curriculum, no lesson plan. Nature teaches them. And even the most screen-obsessed kid jumps in with both feet, literally and figuratively. It's a beautiful thing. There are no rules (though parents are encouraged to require a buddy system of exploration). Every family lets their kids explore with the supervision with which they are comfortable. If I have an interested audience, I'll point out different plants and explain their medicinal and culinary uses. But mostly, it's all kid lead exploration. And in a couple hours, worn out and wet, we'll ascend from the creek bed reconnected a bit to nature and to ourselves. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lorde - "Royals" Parody | Kansas City "Royals"





LOVE LOVE! Especially entertaining when you know that Lorde was influenced by a picture of Kansas City Royal's legend George Brett when she wrote her song.