How to play with kids without really moving

by

Scott Adler

posted in Life & Home

Possibly it’s because they have a runny nose for 48 months at a time, but kids don’t understand sick.

When they see symptoms that signal you’re one step away from death, a single thought goes through their little noggins: dog pile.

At least, Stella and Theo were piling on me last week when I was sick as a dog.

But did I yell? Did I complain and make a play for pity when I had the dreaded drop-off/pickup/drop-off troika while nursing a knife in my throat and a brain incapable of simple math?

No, I turned into a human gym.

I know many of you have discovered the secrets of giving your kids a good time while you remain in a coma of calm. But in case you’re searching for solutions for when you’re maxed out or sick, I’ve perfected five techniques for lying down on the job:


Couch surfing
Slide under the cushions of your couch and let your kids surf on top of you. (One at a time is best if you have two or more kids. It also helps to scoot away typical death objects like glass coffee tables.)

It’s dark under there and you can pretend the pressure of the kids’ weight is actually the movements of a finely trained masseuse.

Mwa, ha, ha! The treasure is mine…
This one is easy, although before attempting it, you have to look inside yourself and judge your comfort with being poked and prodded while relaxing.

All you do is turn your role as evil emperor, witch, stepmother, pirate captain, or owner of Al’s Toy Barn into an act of theft where you steal something from the kids (Woody!) and then bury it under your prone-on-the-floor person. If you weigh even as half as much as I do, you’ve got at least 15 minutes of zero effort while your kids try and recover the booty under your belly.

Save me from the fire!
This is something of a variation on “Mwa, ha, ha!” But in this case you’re a victim that needs to be saved from a fire. And by that I mean dragged from one comfy spot on the floor to another.

Yes, the kids will yank on your legs, your arms, and maybe even your head. But if you’ve ever had a Thai massage, that can be great.

The only drawback of this game is that it underscores the fact that should there ever be a real fire in your house your children will not be able to drag you from harm. Fuggedaboutit, you’re toast.

 

Impossibly complicated storytelling
As the name implies, this is a trickier solution. You have to think while you’re lying there and keep thinking to sustain the sedentary situation.

I usually establish myself as man with a story to tell. A very old man who can’t move and can only remember the story by looking at various objects the kids bring back to me. So I send them all over the house for things like scarves, stuffed animals, and what not.

If you can spin a story, you’d be surprised how long you can keep them entertained running around the house.

What’s on my butt?
A friend told me about this game where you lie face down on the couch and in between passing out you try and guess what objects the kids have perched on your tush. “Is that a cement mixer up there?” You bet it is.

When the kids get older and know their ABCs, I’m definitely modifying this into the old “What am I writing on your back?” game. Oooh, I can’t wait.

Okay, that’s it. I can’t guarantee these will work for you – but they got me through last week.

And if they don’t ring your lazy bell, you could try what another friend of mine did: He taught his kid to shell peanuts.

She loves it and he gets to watch the games.

This post was originally published in June, 2010.

Photos from iStock

7 newborn photos to take before you leave the hospital

by

Jennifer Borget

posted in Life & Home

That first day or so at the hospital is prime time for snapping memories that will last a lifetime. There’s nothing sweeter than photos of a fresh baby!

To be clear, ideally these are not smartphone photos. These memories are the biggies. So when you’re packing your hospital bag, make sure you bring along your DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera, so you can capture some of those precious details right after he’s born. Don’t have one yet? Throw it on your registry or talk to your partner about saving up to invest in one before the baby is born. I promise. You won’t regret it!

Even if you only have a point and shoot, or your smart phone camera, it’s still important to think about what photos should you take? I find it helpful to create a shot list ahead of time, so I don’t forget any photos when the time comes.

Here are 7 must-have newborn memory makers:

Feel free to print this list out and throw it in your bag now before you forget.

1. First few moments: Set your camera to Continuous Shooting mode and keep snapping. A lot happens in those first few moments after your baby is born. Chances are you’ll think back later and much of it will be a daze. Have your DSLR settings set and hand daddy the camera to capture what he can so you can see it all later. Like your baby getting weighed, or his first bath. If you’re still learning your camera, you may want to keep the focus in auto-mode and let the camera do most of the work so you don’t have to fumble with your settings and miss an important moment.

newborn-hospital-3

2. Scales: Your baby will get weighed shortly after she’s born. These are some of my favorite images from the hospital because they help me remember how much my kids weighed when they were first born. Not to mention they look so tiny and cute on the scale. Set your camera to AV mode to highlight the weight on the scale, and your baby’s tiny body.

 

baby-weighed

 

3. Capture the rare silence : Use silent shooting mode to get great sleep shots without disturbing your newborn. You can capture every changing inch with a series of close-up details featuring different parts of their feet, hands, mouth, and eyes without disturbing your sleeping baby.

newborn-hospital

4. Meeting big brother/sister: Some of my favorite photos from my son’s birth are the photos of our daughter meeting her little brother. She was so excited, and adorable as she got to look at him, and hold him for the first time.

 

big sister 2

 

5. Family Photo: You’re a family plus one now! Make sure you get some photos of all of you together.

 

birth baby t2

 

6. Tiny Details: Don’t forget the tiny details!. Get some close up shots of his little ears, nose, fingers and toes.

birth baby t feet

 

7. Going Home: You know you’ve had your baby’s take-home outfit picked out for months. Now is finally your chance to put it on her. Be sure to snap some photos of her in her outfit before you put her in the car seat, which can be an adventure the first time.

newborn-hospital-2

 

How to clean up a nail polish spill

by

Jamielyn Nye

posted in Life & Home

Last week my little girl requested pink toes, so I gave her chubby little feet a pedicure. After her toes were painted, I went to grab a paper towel and within a few seconds the nail polish had been spilled all over the floor. What a nightmare! Nail polish may be one of the hardest things to clean. Luckily I was able to get it out.

How to clean up a nail polish spill:

1. Make sure to clean the mess as soon as possible. The longer it sits, the harder it is to clean.

2. Pour nail polish remover over the spill and let it sit for a minute or so.Then wipe it up with paper towels.

3.  Next scrub the floor with a magic eraser to remove any stains that are still there.

4. For extra stubborn stains spray a little hair spray and let it sit a few minutes. Then wipe clean with paper towels.

5. When the polish is removed, clean the whole area with soapy warm water.

Hopefully this tip will be able to help some of you. Thanks for reading!

This post was originally published September 18, 2012

Party time! The best party punch ever…

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

With all graduation and Memorial Day weekend festivities coming up, it occurred to me that I’ve never shared my favorite punch-to-serve-a-crowd. I love this. My kids love this. My husband loves this. My girlfriends really love this with a splash of vodka. It’s just a great all-purpose crowd pleasing punch.

And it couldn’t be easier.

I’ve been making this for years, though I’m pretty sure the recipe is not my own. I have it scratched on an old piece of notebook paper from my college days, but I’ve found other versions online too. Savor Home Blog even calls it by the exact same name I do, so I think it’s safe to say this recipe has been around the block 🙂

You can use diet soda if you want to cut the sugar a bit. I really don’t notice too much of a difference. (Perhaps that’s because I usually drink the version with vodka in it! :-))

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the Whole Family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

best party punch ever 2_small

The Best Party Punch Ever
Don’t add the ice til the last minute so it doesn’t dilute the punch.

1 cup frozen concentrated lemonade (thawed)
3/4 cup frozen concentrated orange juice (thawed)
2 cups cranberry juice
3 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
2 liters Sprite or 7Up, chilled
Freshly sliced lemons and oranges
Ice

Add the lemonade, orange juice, cranberry juice, water, and sugar to large punch bowl or drink server. Stir until all of the sugar is dissolved. Add soda, ice, lemons, and oranges. Stir and enjoy!

Serves 15-20

This post was originally published May 19, 2014

12 classic kids’ party games

by

Rebecca Miller Ffrench

posted in Life & Home

Do you remember a time when there were no bouncy castles, clowns, or dress-up characters at kids’ birthday parties? It was just lots of good ol’-fashioned homespun fun. Sadly, party games are facing extinction.

Before these games completely fade away, it’s time to revive the classics—they promote camaraderie, physical activity, and intellectual stimulation, plus lots of laughs. You’ll be amazed at how little it takes to create some homemade interactive fun. Each game requires only inexpensive or household items. And you can amend them to fit any theme. Below is a refresher of the games we played as kids; they’ll evoke a nostalgia that makes you feel five again. And the best part, your kids will carry on birthday traditions so these games aren’t lost in the computer age.

1. Pass the Parcel

What you Have: Gift wrap and music What to Buy: Small prize such as train whistle, bubbles, or book

Rules:

Before the party, parent wraps a small prize as many times as there will be guests. Children sit in a circle. Music plays. When it stops, child holding parcel unwraps a layer. Play continues until all layers are gone. Child to reveal the prize wins (make everyone a winner and include prizes for all in the box!).

2. Clothespin Drop

What you Have: Clothespins, chair, and jar What to Buy: Nothing

Rules:

A large-mouth jar is placed at the base of a stable chair. One by one, children stand or kneel on the chair (facing the back) and try to drop clothespins into the jar. Clothespin must be held at chin level before dropped. Children may have five tries with an extra turn for every clothespin that goes into the jar.

3. Suitcase Relay

What you Have: Suitcases, dress-up clothes What to Buy: Nothing

Rules:

Fill two suitcases or overnight bags with silly outfits (sunglasses, wigs, large pants, susupenders, etc.). Divide guests in two teams. One at a time, have each player run to a designated spot with the suitcase, put on all the items, return to the line with the suitcase, undress and put items back in suitcase. Continue until all guests have had a turn.

4. Peanut/Tootsie Roll Hunt

What you Have: Brown lunch bags What to Buy: Bag of peanuts or Tootsie Rolls

Rules:

Hide lots of peanuts or Tootsie Rolls in a specified area (making some obvious and others more difficult). Give children small paper bags and when you say “go,” the hunt begins. Allow five minutes for children to seek. Then have kids count their finds. Have extras on hand to even out the stash.

5. Steady Eddy Egg Relay

What you Have: Eggs and spoons What to Buy: Nothing

Rules:

Place plastic spoons of two colors in a bowl times the number of guests. Have each child choose a utensil. This determines which team he’ll be on (or you can just use conventional silverware). Give each team an egg and have kids race one by one to a marked location and back with the egg on the spoon. (If you’re indoors, use a hard boiled egg.) Have a bowl of extra eggs on hand so players can grab an extra one if necessary. First team to finish wins.

6. Balloon Bust

What you Have: Hot air What to Buy: Balloons and small prizes such as mini erasers, small wrapped candies, etc.

Rules:

Possibly the simplest game on earth but it guarantees laughs. Place a small prize in each balloon before inflating. Blow up balloons an hour or so before the party and place in a laundry basket. Let kids pick a balloon and on your count, let kids sit on the balloons to pop it. They can use the floor, chairs, or even the couch, but no hands, just their bottoms!

7. Smell it, Hear it

What you Have: Jars, spices, notions What to Buy: Nothing

Rules:

Wrap small jars with paper to block contents’ view. Fill with items such as cinnamon, vanilla, paperclips, and pennies. Seat kids in a circle and pass the jars around to smell or shake and guess contents. (If you’re worried about spillage, you can hold open jars under each child’s nose.) After each jar is passed around the circle, let each child guess what it is. Then reveal the contents.

8. Musical Chairs

What you Have: Chairs and music What to Buy: Nothing

Rules:

Set up chairs in two rows back to back or in a circle facing outward. Have every child stand in front of a chair. Start your child’s favorite music. Children walk around the chairs. Remove a chair. Stop music and have everyone take a seat. The child/ren without a seat can help you remove two chairs the next round and so on. Last man seated wins.

9. Memory Tray

What you Have: Household items, tray, scarf What to Buy: Nothing

Rules:

Collect recognizable objects (shell, block, toothbrush, etc.) and place 7-10 on a tray (less objects for younger kids). Have children view the tray. Place a scarf over the tray and remove an object. Have children name the missing object. Child who names the object can remove the next item. Repeat until all kids have had a turn.

10. Sock ‘Em 

What you Have: Socks What to Buy: Song from itunes

Rules:

Place at least six times as many socks as guests in a basket. Have children sit in a circle. When music starts (download a fun song like “Shoe Bandit” by Uncle Rock) and have kids try to put on as many sock as possible (one over the other). When the music stops, the one with the most socks on wins

11. Button, Button

What you Have: Button What to Buy: Nothing

Rules:

Children sit on the floor of a room. The birthday child leaves. A parent hides the button in the room. When the child re-enters, he tries to find the button. The onlookers tell the child whether he’s hot or cold (near or far from the button). After he finds it, he chooses another child to leave and hides the button. Continue until everyone has a turn.

12. Bucket Toss

What you Have: Buckets What to Buy: Ping-pong balls, small prizes

Rules:

Bozo circus anyone? An all-time favorite, line six buckets up in a row, filled partially with small prizes. Mark a line that kids’ feet must not cross. One at a time give children a ping-pong ball to toss. If a child makes the bucket, she receives the prize. After three misses, it’s the next child’s turn.

For more party ideas, check out my celebration posts at sweet-home.com or follow me on Pinterest and Twitter.

This post was originally published March 1, 2013

This family of 6 co-sleeps in a bed you have to see to believe

by

Sara McGinnis

posted in Life & Home

Is it possible that it’s the size of bed and not how many people are in it that’s the key factor in making co-sleeping work?

All I know is that suddenly my disinterest in having a family bed is weakening after setting eyes up on the cozy monster Kim Constable shares with her husband and four children. Take a peek at the bed she, former rugby player Ryan Constable, 11-year-old Corey, 9-year-old Kai, 6-year-old Maya, and 5-year-old Jack all can snuggle up in:

family bed co-sleeping

Obviously, this is no regular bed. It’s made out of one king size bed, one super king and a single — all joined together to make one huge 18-foot bed!

“Before the big bed was created I spent my nights bed running about from room to room trying to get all the children to sleep,” Kim explained to Belfast Telegraph. “I am there for my children 24 hours a day and night. Whether they have a bad dream or want a drink of water, I will be there for them during the night just like I am during the day.”

It isn’t just the bed arrangements that are unusual in the homeschooling Constable household. The bedtimes are, too.

Kim went on to explain they “let the kids decide when they are ready to go to bed and most nights that will be between 10pm and 11pm” when she and Ryan are ready for bed. “We will all go and get our PJs on and clean our teeth and all that happens together as a family. Then we all snuggle down together and talk or read a story.”

She usually goes to bed with the younger kids, while 11-year-old Corey tends to stay up later. If it’s been a busy day the younger ones will tell their mom they’re ready for bed about 8 or 9pm, and “that is okay, too.” Kim will take them up to settle them in bed, and then she and Ryan will go to bed later.

“Corey is a real night owl so he will go to bed anytime between midnight and 3am,” Kim shared, however he will go to bed with his siblings if the family has something scheduled the next morning. “But because we homeschool, he doesn’t have to get up at any particular time unless we have morning activities. So if he goes to bed late, he will maybe not get up until about 1pm.”

“Again I don’t force anything onto my children, I let them set their own pace. As they are homeschooled Corey doesn’t have to be up for a certain time.”

Check out Kim talking about their co-sleeping arrangements with This Morning:

Kim, who describes herself on Facebook as “Yogi, vegan, unschooling mum of 4 kids, fitness fanatic and founder of www.deyogatox.com,” was kind enough to speak with BabyCenter despite her obviously busy schedule. A peek at what she shared with us…

What has the reaction to your giant family bed been like?

“It’s funny because you can’t really appreciate the size of the bed until you see it with your own eyes, but it’s huge! People usually have mixed reactions; they either love it or they hate it! Camps are very firmly divided.

Many people say ‘Oh my goodness, I would love to have this for my family because it would make my life so much easier and we would all sleep better!’ or they say ‘There is no way I would ever do this with my kids. My bed is my bed and I won’t share it with anyone except my husband.’ When friends have seen my bed in the flesh (so to speak) they are usually in awe of the sheer size of it. And quite often they will admit that it looks extremely cosy, even if co-sleeping isn’t something that they’ve ever done.

My experience is that we tend to do what was done with us when we were growing up. Of course there are exceptions (me being one of them!) but for the most part I find that if you didn’t co-sleep with your parents, then you are less likely to sleep with your own kids. Also, many people are against co sleeping because at one point or another they have been squished into a double bed with their husband and child or children and suffered a terrible night sleep. So this is their point of reference. But when you bring in extra beds and make sure everyone has enough room, co sleeping can be very enjoyable.”

How do you handle those who say negative things about the arrangement?

“Parenting tends to bring up very strong emotions in people. We all want to do the very best we can for our kids and we want to believe that the way we are doing it is the best way. So when we see things that are different to how we’re doing it, it naturally brings up fears about our own parenting choices. I understand this and don’t judge it.

When people say negative things it’s really because they just don’t understand it. They make assumptions about how we live and parent, based on their own experience and beliefs, that generally aren’t accurate. But I’ve been doing things differently my whole life! I’ve always been “the black sheep” so to speak, so I am used to people judging me.

After a while you realise that the negativity says more about them that it does about you, and you learn to just smile and move on. I honestly just don’t let it bother me. In fact, it’s got to the point where I love reading people’s comments on social media just so I can have a good giggle. People are so serious! And it always makes me smile. I’m a very lighthearted person and not much gets me down.”

A peek at Kim, Ryan and their four sweeties:

How long do you imagine your family will continue sleeping this way?

“Actually about six months ago I started sleeping regularly in the spare room with my husband, leaving all the kids in the big bed together. I asked them if they’d be happy for me to sleep with daddy in the other room and they said they didn’t mind at all. They all have each other and take comfort in sleeping tucked up together.

Then about 3 months ago, Kai my second son who is 9, decided that he wanted his own room so we moved one of the beds out into another spare room for him. So now it’s only a 12 foot bed and sleeps Corey the eldest, and the two youngest children. Corey seems to love sleeping with the little ones and has no plans to have his own room just yet, although I imagine it will happen soon. If someone wakes in the night they either snuggle up closer to each other, or they come and get into bed with Ryan and I. Or I will go and get into bed with them. We’re very relaxed about sleeping arrangements!”

Anything else you care to share with our readers?

“If you look at 99.9% of the parenting manuals on the market, they are all geared towards meeting the needs of the parents and not the child. They are all about satisfying the parent’s need for control and very few, if any, address what is healthy and optimal for the child.

I think that parents needs are important and if the thought of co sleeping fills you with horror, then you definitely shouldn’t do it. It wouldn’t be healthy for you, or the child. But if you have a secret desire to see what it’s like to bed share with your children, don’t be worried about what society will say, and just give it a try. Nothing is permanent and very few things are irreversible. Rules are made to be broken and if you obey all the rules, you’ll miss all the fun.

Making the decision to be more relaxed about bedtimes, sleeping and parenting in general has completely transformed our lives. Everyone is much happier because of it. Your children are only young for such a short time. Make every moment count and you’ll never regret it.”

Seeing as how my kids are 12 and 10 now, and have been sleeping on their own most of their lives, I don’t imagine a mega-sized family bed is in my future. If I’d thought of it years ago, though? We just might have given it a try.

Last year at this time my family of four was sharing a 27 ft. camper together. There was a double bed on one end for my husband and I, and bunkbeds for the boys no more than a handful of steps away. Although we weren’t technically co-sleeping, we were most certainly room-sharing — and I kind of liked it. There was peace of mind I’d never had before being able to easily see and hear them.

But, full disclosure here, there was also farts, snoring, and teeth grinding.

That being said, I do kind of miss it now that we’re back to a traditional house and room arrangement. Seems a little too late for me to get on the mega-bed bandwagon, but perhaps it’s not for you?

Does the idea of an enormous bed change your interest in co-sleeping? Why or why not?

Photos shared with permission from Kim Constable, whom you’re welcome to connect with on Facebook and Instagram.

If you’re curious, you can check out Kim’s recent TEDx Talk about parenting here.

This post was originally published in November, 2016.

Ready for more? Check out how one mom of 5, built this ultimate co-sleeping bed:

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Photo: Earth Mama Photography

6 ways to make store-bought frosting taste homemade

by

Lindsay Weiss

posted in Life & Home

I know. I know.

Homemade frosting is always better.

But sometimes, like today, you look at your calendar and realized you committed to bring 48 cupcakes to a school event and you have, like, an hour to get them done.

That, my friends, is when you break out your favorite doctored cake mix and frosting recipes.

I thought there may be one or two of you out there who might be as disorganized as me and could benefit from the, um, way too many shortcuts I’ve invented over the years.

Today I whipped up (literally) a Honey-Roasted Peanut Butter Frosting. It was so darn good — no joke — no less than four moms asked for my “recipe.” Pshaw.

Honey-Roasted Peanut Butter Frosting

1 canister creamy chocolate or vanilla frosting
1/3 cup peanut butter
2-3 teaspoons milk
Chopped honey-roasted peanuts
Sea salt

Combine frosting, peanut butter, and milk. Pipe onto cupcakes and sprinkle with roasted peanut chunks and sea salt.

Other Frosting Shortcuts:

Biscoff (speculoos cookie butter) frosting: Use same recipe as above, but sub Biscoff spread (or Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter) for the peanut butter. Omit salt and peanuts and use crumbled spice cookies on top. This is AWESOME!

For homemade-like cream cheese frosting: Blend an 8-ounce package of cream cheese into a 16-ounce can of store-bought vanilla frosting. It enhances the flavor, reduces the sweetness, and increases the amount of frosting. Try it with any flavor. Perfect for carrot cakes, red velvet cakes, spice cakes, etc.

For light and fluffy frosting: Mix a can of store-bought frosting (any flavor) with an 8-ounce container of whipped topping. The result is so soft, creamy, and easy to spread that everyone will think you made traditional cooked seven-minute frosting.

For mocha-flavored frosting: Add a tablespoon of strong brewed coffee to one can of frosting. Pipe on cupcakes and top with a coffee bean.

For any other flavored frosting: Add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. of your favorite flavoring extract to the store-bought frosting to improve flavor. I especially love using a caramel extract and sprinkling sea salt over the top. Root beer extract is awesome too — top with a root beer candy or use a Peppridge Farm Pirouette cookie as the “straw.”

Photos: Lindsay Weiss/Sugar Mama

Looking for more Sweets and Eats for the whole family? Find Lindsay at Sugar Mama.

This post was originally published September 13, 2012

13 freaky challenges that make the kids squeal

by

Sara McGinnis

posted in Life & Home

Whether bad weather has you stuck inside this winter, it’s Halloween time, or you’ve got a kid set on a Fear Factor birthday party, there are plenty of freaky-fun challenges out there to entertain a crowd. How far is your child willing to go? Find out!

Thanks to years of running weekly Fear Factor challenges at the YMCA youth center, I’ve got a trick or two up my sleeve, and know a few tips on how to steer clear of trouble. Here are 13 of my favorite freaky challenges for kids:

1. Afraid of frozen toes? Find out who’s tough enough to put their tootsies in an ice bath. Fill a large bowl with half ice, half water, and a few small toys (marbles, game pieces, plastic spiders). Each participant is given 30 seconds to fish out as many items with one foot as possible. Each ice cube knocked out of the bowl negates a retrieved item, however! (Prevents wild splashing)

2. Jell-O jiggles, wiggles, and makes for a great memory game. Mix up a batch of a light-colored flavor, but drop in an assortment of odds and ends before allowing to harden. (Dice, toothpick, small toys, bread tag, etc.) When it’s game time, keep the concoction out of sight until everyone is seated with paper, pen or pencil. Everyone gets 30 seconds to look before the Jell-O collection is hidden again. Give one more minute to write (or draw for non-writers) down everything they can recall. For more fun pull each object out of the squish as you check off the lists!

3. For a round of survival of the quickest, give balloon stomp a try. Blow up as many balloons as there are participants. Tie a string around the balloon knot, and another around a child’s ankle. When someone says ‘Go!’ try and pop others’ balloons while keeping yours safe.

4. Bobbing for apples may be a time-honored tradition, but there’s not much fear to freak-out over there. Try bobbing for “monster eyes” (Brussels sprouts) in a “blood bath” (water with red food coloring).

5. Make like a mummy — the classic race to wrap someone up with toilet paper like a mummy hasn’t gotten old yet. To make sure everyone has a hand in the process, divide kids into two teams, each with one volunteer to be wrapped. Using a stopwatch, give each person 15 seconds to wrap and roll before being tagged out by a teammate. Best mummy wins!

6. Boil some spaghetti, break out the blindfold and toss in some tofu. Each participant gets one minute to reach into a bowl of cold, oiled noodles to fish out squishy squares of tofu. Ramp up the freak-factor by using basil pesto to make your batch green and gooey, while telling a tale of monster brains. Tofu too hard for your age of kids to pick out? Try paper clips or Legos.

7. Stick with it! Divide participants into two teams that will compete in a relay race. Each team needs one pair of chopsticks and a bowl of mini-marshmallows. Some distance away, place a cup or bowl to drop them into. First team to get 10 marshmallows (or double the number of participants on each team, which allows everyone to have at least two tries) to their goal using just one hand wins!

8. Tape 10 cups to a table (or onto a piece cardboard placed on the table). Number each cup 1-10. Have each participant take a turn bouncing 5 ping pong balls into the cups and add up the points. For bonus creativity points, decorate your ping pong balls with monster eyes or another theme.

9. Slurp! Eating Jell-O may not be hard, but downing a small cup of the jiggly stuff through a straw is a different challenge entirely. First one to empty their glass wins.

10. Candy toss — the mess is up to you. Each child gets 5 pieces of candy. Have one volunteer (an adult makes the game extra fun for the kids) sit in a chair, holding a cup on their head, 10 feet away. To keep it clean, each kid gets a point for each candy they can toss and land in the cup. To make it messy, fill the cup with liquid! Water, soda, juice, milk?

11. Is there a strong boy or girl among the crowd? Find out by having a yoga-inspired pose-off. Who can hold Tree or Triangle the longest?

12. Let the food fight back! Tie mini powdered donuts on a string and hang from the ceiling or an entryway so that kids on their knees can reach with their mouths. First person to eat their donut while their hands are behind their back wins.

13. Frog egg munch time! Have each participant roll a die to find out how many servings of “frog eggs” (tapioca pudding with green dye) they have to eat. To easily serve, spoon your green goop onto saltine crackers.

Over the years, I have found the best way to play a Fear Factor-style game is to award points along with each challenge. That way, everyone gets a chance to participate in everything (no one is left out of the game for losing the first or subsequent rounds), and a winner is automatically decided at the end.

My rules:

– Check on everyone’s allergies! I never used peanut butter while at the Y, but didn’t found out about one boy’s gluten allergy until he was elbow deep in a bowl of spaghetti. Yikes. Everything worked out fine, but it reminded me it’s always better to ask first.

– Expect a mess: Double check that you’re prepared for your challenge supplies to be squished, splashed and mashed into clothes and onto the floor.

– No one has to do a challenge: Got a kid who’s too freaked out to taste frog eggs? No big deal. I don’t think forcing anyone into what is supposed to be fun is the right approach. They can pass on any challenge and still be in the game, they just won’t get any points for that round.

– Getting hurt isn’t fun: Being pushed to the limits is an adrenaline-pumping experience, but mouths burnt with hot sauce or children made ill by handling raw eggs/meat makes what should be a perceived threat too serious.

– Play it by ear: Challenge too hard for the kids? Change the rules. Have a little one who can’t keep up? Bend the instructions for different age groups. You’re the boss, feel free to take liberties as necessary!

Take photos! Smiling pictures are a must for any parents, but there are other facial expressions that ought to be considered priceless too. Shock, horror, disgust and out-right excitement mixed with mess and commotion make great keepsakes when put into photobooks.

Images by iStock

This post was originally published October 29, 2012

5 things to know about baby’s coming-home outfit

by

BabyCenter Guest Blogger

posted in Life & Home

By Sharon Schneider, Moxie Jean CEO

Each time I’ve brought a baby home from the hospital–I’ve done it three times now–I learned something new about what we really needed.

First, you will be relieved to know you don’t need baby clothes for the time you are in the hospital. The nurses dress your baby in a little onesie and keep him/her wrapped up in a thin “receiving blanket.” They also put a little hat on the baby’s head to keep it warm, as babies aren’t great at regulating their body temperature and they lose a lot of heat through their heads.

So the time actually in the hospital is taken care of. But what about departure day? Here are my top 5 tips for when it’s time to go home:

1) Bring layers: For that going home outfit, you will want something picture-worthy. But remember it has to be comfortable, too. I put a plain onesie underneath, and lean toward one-piece outfits on top.

2) Watch the head:
Or better yet, avoid it. For new parents, dealing with the floppy head of a newborn is scary stuff! They just seem so delicate. Think about the neck opening of newborn clothes. You want a nice roomy neck and preferably something that buttons in front so you don’t have to fit it over their head or figure out how to get snaps done on the baby’s back. I also avoid lace or other fussy stuff around the neck as it is more likely to just be annoying or scratchy for that precious sensitive skin.



3) Bring a backup outfit:
Your baby might be a cute little 6 lbs 5 oz. munchkin. Mine were not. They were all over 8 pounds at birth, and my son was almost 10 pounds. So they wore size newborn for like five minutes. Go light on the newborn-size clothing and bring a back-up outfit in size 0-3 mos.

4) Keep it simple: Look, you have to put the baby into a car seat in whatever cute outfit you dress him/her in. Remember that means a buckle between the legs and over the shoulders. Too much frill and fuss will not make your baby happy.

5) Bring a blanket for covering the baby on the ride home:
Even if it’s 90 degrees out, you are going to want to cover those delicate, tiny little legs. And the hospital won’t let you take theirs.

Bonus tip: Pack up all the stuff the hospital gives you. Washcloths, wipes, diapers, creams, soaps and lotions, pacifiers. Hospitals are like restaurants and if you don’t use whatever they put out for you, they just throw it out. So clean out the bottom of your baby’s hospital crib: you can use the supplies when traveling and to stock your diaper bag.

This post was originally published in August, 2013.

Images from iStock

Sharon-profileSharon Schneider is co-founder & CEO of Upscale Resale web site Moxie Jean, which sells hand-picked newborn baby clothes from Newborn to Size 8. She and her husband are raising their three young kids in the Chicagoland area.

11 books to read with your kids for Black History Month

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

In honor of Black History Month, we’ve pulled together a list of books to read with your kids. From tales based on actual historic events to fiction featuring African American kids (who are still grossly underrepresented in children’s literature), here are some books here to get your celebration started.

Like any book list, this one was hard to narrow down. Hopefully this is a jumping-off point for finding more books you and your family can read together!

1. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier — A great introduction of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for children. The book uses many of King’s own words to share his story and show how he changed the world. The book has beautiful watercolor illustrations and was a Caldecott Medal Winner. 

2. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats — This has been one of our favorites for years…a sweet book about a little boy out investigating his city on a snowy day. The beautiful collage illustrations are bright and unique. It’s a trailblazer as well — according to Horn Book Magazine, this was “the very first full-color picture book to feature a small black hero.” It’s also a 1963 Caldecott Medal winner. Just a perfect book.

3. What’s the Hurry, Fox? And Other Animal Stories by Zora Neale Hurston and Joyce Carol Thomas — Author Hurston, who also wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God, traveled through the rural south collecting stories and folktales. Thomas took those stories and re-wrote them to be easier for kids to understand. Discover “Why the Dog Hates the Cat,” and “Why Whitecaps Have Waves,” in this great collection.

4. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson — Full disclosure: I haven’t read this yet. But everyone I know who has just loves it. It’s a longer book, probably for kids 10+, but there’s also an excellent audio recording so you can listen in the car with the younger kids. It’s a collection of poems written by Woodson about her experiences growing up as an African American in the 1960s and ’70s. By the way, if you’re looking for more books for older kids and adults (I still love YA novels), this podcast has some great recommendations.

5. Papa’s Mark  by Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert and Colin Bootman  — Samuel T. Blow participates in the first election where African Americans are allowed to vote. But he wants to write more than an “X” on his ballot — he wants to write his name. And so he turns to his son, who helps his dad participate in this historic event.

6. Please, Baby, Please! by Spike Lee , Tonya Lewis Lee, and Kadir Nelson — Filmmaker Spike Lee and his wife write a hilarious book that’s relatable for both kids and their exhausted parents (“Go back to bed, baby, please, baby, please. Not on your headbaby baby baby, please!…”). We follow the rambunctious toddler through her day, ending with a sweet moment between her and her sleepy mama before bed.

7. This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt and R.G. Roth — “This Old Man” is reworked to include some of the greatest jazz musicians like Satchmo (Louis Armstrong), Bojangles (Bill Robinson), and Charles Mingus. SNAP! BOMP! BEEDLE-DI-BOP! A really fun read.

8. What Color is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Raymond Obstfeld, Ben Boos, and A.G. Ford — The basketball star shares the stories of little-known African American inventors who created everything from the ice cream scoop to the cortisone shot. Funny stories that are easy for kids to read or listen to, and that will likely teach adults a thing or two also.

9. Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Store of the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson, tells us the true story of Henry Brown, a slave who sees his entire family sold to a new slave owner, and eventually finds freedom by shipping himself in a wooden crate to a “place where there are no slaves.”

10. Belle, The Last Mule at Gee’s Bend: A Civil Rights Story by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Bettye Stroud,  and John Holyfield — After Martin Luther King, Jr. visits Gee’s Bend to encourage black people to vote, the sheriff shuts down the ferry that would take them to their polling place. The residents refuse to be deterred and hitch their wagons to mules (including Belle) to head on a long journey around the river instead. Inspired by a true story.

11. Welcome, Precious by Nikki Grimes — This is sweet, lovely book about the arrival of a new baby. The illustrations are wonderful, the writing is poetic — it’s a perfect bedtime story, or a great book for child getting ready for a new little brother or sister.

Do you have any favorite books you’d add to this list? I’d love to know what they are — we’re always looking to expand our reading lists! 

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

This post was originally published in February, 2017