Friday, August 26, 2016

Sneak Preview of What's Coming in September

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The Back to School season has always been refreshing for me.  It's a great time quasi-mid year to start new routines and get back to how I *wish* we were living.  With Bear back in school and the craziness of summer behind us, I'm focusing on what I can be doing at home with Sunny {27 months} to make sure that our days at home have a routine and that I'm parenting the way I'd like to be.  She was quite sad when her Bear got to start school without her.  So I told her that we'd do school at home.  She was quite excited about the idea.  I wanted to share what's coming with all of you in hopes that it might help some of you fill your days as well!

We are starting what I call "Playschool"... Not quite all day free play and not quite Preschool (just yet).  Our Toddler Playschool will center around reinforcing the knowledge of colors, learning shapes, letters, and numbers, and exploring themes that are interesting and relevant to a 2 year old.  I asked Sunny what she wanted to learn about and then expanded on what I already know her interests are.  After that, I just filled in the blanks with topics that offer a lot of expansion and learning opportunities.
I'm so excited to share these toddler lesson plans with you... starting on September 2md. The wait is tough for me, but I'm tweaking the books, songs, and activities that I'm suggesting. Each week will have activities that are centered around a theme, letter, and color. I'll post on Fridays so that if you want to follow along with us in our playschool journey, you have the weekend to gather things.  Here is a little sneak peek of the blank lesson plan template...
I'll be sharing on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #toddlerplayschool. Make sure you're following me so you can join in the fun!

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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

First Day of School Interview for Kids {free printable}

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I'm soooo trying to get better about documenting things. It's like I blinked and my sweet little Bear went from being this tiny little preschooler to a second grader overnight. The other day, I shared some fun Back to School traditions. This year, we are starting a new one of our own. I'm going to have him fill out this little questionnaire in his little boy handwriting. Not only will we be able to watch how his interests change, but we'll also be able to see his handwriting progress.

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Friday, August 12, 2016

Cheap Easy DIY Children's Art Display

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Gearing up for the start of the new school year? Set up an area for your child to display their schoolwork for just $4. Yeah... You read that right. All you need to create a fun, interchangeable art display is a hammer, a yardstick, 4 nails, and $4. Here's how I did it:
Our local Dollar Tree had these plain clipboards. The second I saw them, I knew what I was going to do with them. Now, if you wanted to, you could paint them. Or use stickers or vinyl to label them for each child. For simplicity's sake, I opted to just leave them plain.
Using a yard stick, I laid the clipboards out at even intervals. I marked my nail locations in pencil on the yardstick.

After placing the yardstick up against the wall, I used a level to ensure it was straight. Using my pencil marks from the previous step, I put the 4 nails in the wall.

The end result is a cute, functional display that can be switched out whenever the mood strikes you.  Bear loves it because he can add things himself or take down pictures he no longer wants up there.
Like the green transportation book holder? See how we made it here.
I'd love to hear how you display your kiddo's art! Leave a link or comment below!

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

First Day of School Signs {free printable}

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First Day of school pictures. They are The Thing for moms/kids of today. There are so many cute options out there, but I thought I'd add one more. Here's a super cute free First Day of School printable for grades Pre-K to 12th Grade. There's even a Transitional Preschool sign because I've noticed that there aren't many of these.

You can print these out on cardstock and snap a picture. Or get a bit fancier and print, trim, then frame them for your child to hold in the picture. Either way, they're sure to help you create a memorable First Day of School photo with your kiddos. Just download from Google, choose the page you wish to print, and viola!

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Monday, August 8, 2016

20 Great Back to School Traditions

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You've all got that *one* Facebook friend who puts everyone to shame with her Back to School shenanigans each year, right? Or is it just me?  This can go one of two ways... It either makes me feel like crap for the lack of memory-making I do with my kids -OR- it inspires me to stop and think of things that I could do that my children would enjoy. I only bring this up because in the age of, what I call, Pinterest Parenting, it's so easy to get down on ourselves. Here are some simple ways you can create back to school memories with your kids.
Countdown to the big day with a good, old-fashioned paper chain Back to School Countdown.

Plan to do something special after school like going for ice cream or to play at the park. 

Make a back to school keychain that kids can attach to their backpack with charms that have a sentimental meaning to you both.

Throw a Back to School Eve party for your child and their friends. 

Take an annual photo of your child on their first day of school.  Here are some great ideas for photos.

Create a fun back to school teacher gift to start off the year with your child's new teacher.

Conduct a first day of school interview with your child and save them to compare the changes over the years.

Get out the paper and markers to craft a Schultuete (school cone) like the German do.

You've heard of  party bus, right? Turn your vehicle into a party car with balloons and streamers to celebrate the new year of school.

Take a picture of your child holding a picture of themselves when they were in Kindergarten and end up with some amazing photos like this progression picture.

Jazz up breakfast time with one of these yummy and fun First Day of School breakfast ideas!

Invite the back pack fairy for a visit for a little Back-to-School Eve fun!

Take a picture every year of your child wearing a class of 20__ t-shirt. I'm partial to this one because this is what we do.  Order a shirt of your own in my Etsy shop.
Roll out the paper and invite the kiddos to draw self portraits of themselves. Would be fun to compare every year.

Take an annual picture in front of the school sign. I've got a lot of friends that take these. It's adorable, whether you're a military family or one that stays put every year.

Have a school supplies scavenger hunt and let your kids find all of their back to school gear.

Go shopping together for a new first day of school outfit. (This was my favorite as a kid.)

Use this printable to help your kiddo write letter to their new teacher.

Organize a school supply drive using these tips.

Create a balloon avalanche on your child's bedroom door using balloons and streamers.

There are so many great ideas out there. But the bottom line is that our children are going to remember the things we did with love. It's amazing the things that stick in their memories. If you'd like, you can follow my Back to school Pinterest board here.
I'd love to hear about any back to school traditions that your family has! Share them in the comments below!

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Special thanks to Jessica Sawyer Design for the darling schoolbus in today's pinnable pictures.  Find more of her digital papers and clipart designs here.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Remembering Summer with a Paper Bottlecap Collection

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Bear is at that age (7.5 yrs) where he is into collecting things.  And by "collecting", I mean that I'm constantly struggling to keep his dresser and shelves free from piles of acorns, leaves and sticks shaped like random objects, bottlecaps, and anything else you can imagine.  We've got quite a busy summer going on, and I've been trying to find something that would feed into Bear's collection interest. This is what I came up with...

You know how Girl and Boy Scouts all have badges that they get for different accomplishments they make and activities they do?  I took that concept and changed it up a bit.  I made this bottlecap printable to go with the Bottle Caps song by Laurie Berkner and figured it would be perfect for what I had in mind.

I printed it out on cardstock so that it could withstand being handled frequently. I then challenged Bear to crate a bottle cap design based on our summer adventures so far. We've been to the fire station, the strawberry patch,  the zoo, swim lessons, and lots more. Here's what he came up with:

After he created his bottle caps, he cut them out and glued them on this "My Summer was Poppin' with Fun!" sheet that I made up. We've got it displayed on the wall in our dining room. It often serves as a point of conversation during meals.

Using this activity is a neat way to find out what aspects of daily life impact your children the most.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

U.S. Landmarks Word Search for Kids {free printable}

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Whew! It's been a busy, busy summer for us. I'm quite excited to finally go on our family vacation to the Iowa State Fair in a couple weeks. I dream of more exciting family vacations once Sunny (2) is a bit older. I made a list of some of the places I'd like to visit and turned it into a fun word search for kids. Perfect for those road trips or just to keep those hands busy! 

Get the U.S. Landmarks Word Search Printable here

Headed out on the road? Hurry over and print out my free Summer Fun and Road Trip word searches to keep those little minds busy while you travel.

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Monday, August 1, 2016

Is Pokemon Okay for Christians?

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Recently a reader posed the question on whether or not it's okay for Christians to play Pokémon.  Now, before she asked, I had never given either of my children's interest in Pokémon a second thought in regards to how it connected to our faith.  My immediate response is, of course.  Pokémon is fine for Christians to play.  Then, in true mom-fashion, I second guessed myself. Was I leading my children right into the arms of Satan worshipping and occultism? Was I failing my children where it matters most? Okay, stop. Time to breathe. Surely my children aren't going to Hell over a video game and some cards... Are they? So I did some reading. Okay... A LOT of reading. And thinking. And praying. Here are my thoughts on whether or not Pokémon is okay for Christians.
In case you're unfamiliar with the history, Pokémon, (short for "pocket monsters"), are characters that grew from a card game into video games, books, and cartoons, and the latest Pokémon Go game.  The whole point of the Pokémon phenomenon is for trainers to catch, train, and battle as many Pokémon as they can.  So what's the big deal? Why are people (specifically the Christian community) so worried about its effects on children?  What could possibly be contained in the Pokémon phenomenon that is so threatening? Here are some of the issues that people have with Pokémon...
Is Pokémon anti-Christian?
Well, sure, I guess. But isn't the world? Pokémon creator, Satoshi Tajiri, has admitted that the game was created as backlash against his very strict, Christian parents.  So, yes... but. So are Halloween and Christmas trees, according to some.  Halloween has questionable roots, and many question if Christians should celebrate it. Some believe that Christmas trees stem from Pagan roots. It is what you make it.  The world is anti-Christian.  So do we avoid *anything* that has been created with non-Christian motives in mind? No, of course we don't.  When you go to your favorite Chinese restaurant, you finish your meal and are handed those yummy little, sugary fortune cookies.  Do you eat your cookie and read your fortune or demand they remove these cookies from your influential children's presence? Because the Bible does have something to say about fortune-telling.  I'm going to say it again: the world is anti-Christian.  As we go through our days, we are hit with a barrage of influences that are not God-like, but as Believers we just teach our children how to moderate these influences and be His light in the world.

What about Pokémon's supernatural powers?
All the Pokémon have supernatural powers, but do they really have occultic undertones?  These superpowers are akin to ones that superheroes have, in my opinion.  I perceive it more as their own personal strengths that they use to battle. Some see these powers as nods to the occult. For instance, Abra reads minds, Haunter can hypnotize, and Nidoran uses poison.  But is this really any different than Maxwell Lord's ability to control minds? Or Captain Marvel's clairvoyance? Or Poison Ivy's death touch? All of these characters have one thing in common: they are imaginary. 

Do Pokémon promote evolution?
Many of the Pokémon are able to evolve into more powerful forms.  However, the term "evolve" does not follow the same basis as the Theory of Evolution.  Not all Pokémon evolve into more advanced forms as Darwin's theory would suggest.  Instead, it's more of a transformation based on learning and personal experience, no different than our own evolution of self from one stage of our lives to another.  And chances are, many of our kiddos are going to be exposed to Darwin in school anyway.  So if you are a Creationist, and the topic comes up, why not use this as a talking point. Talk to your child about why you believe what you do and the importance it plays in your faith. Arm them with the tools they will ultimately need to defend their faith instead of sweeping conflicting secular views under the rug.

Does the tagline "Gotta catch em all" promote addiction?
The phrase "Gotta catch em all" does no more to incite an addiction to Pokémon and the occult than  the Pringles catchphrase "Once you pop, you can't stop" does to cause overeating.  The key to Pokémon and any other video game or collection is moderation. Do we see people having theologically-charged discussions over the disturbances that Shopkins have caused in schools or on playgrounds?   They are animated, inanimate objects.  Surely someone somewhere should have an objection to this.  Not to mention their slogan, "Once you shop, you can’t stop!"  Yet there's no concern about these little plastic formed trinkets causing shopping addictions or compulsive spending habits.  So while Pokémon acting as a springboard to similar games and movies may be true,  the argument that its catch phrase fuels the craving for more occult games, books, and videos is groundless and pretty redonkulous.

Are there any benefits to Pokémon?
Yes! Pokémon Go is allowing some teens are using the Pokémon Go craze for evangelism.  Fired up teens used transitions such as "Do you know who the ultimate gym trainer is? Jesus." to spark conversation on salvation.  Others were more blunt and just went straight for it with, "Do you know what’s worse than running out of poké balls? Hell." Jesus directed his disciples to become fishers of men. "Gotta save 'em all", right? Again, I think He would approve.

"Welcome to the world of Pokémon, a special place where people just like you train to become the number-one Pokémon Master in the World!" How empowering is that?  Sure, it's just imaginary, but there's such a positive message that is sent through Ash, the lead trainer in the Pokémon movies and books.  He's just an average kid.  And with hard work, dedication, and compassion, he's able to achieve great things.  A good message to send our kids, no?

So... Yes or No?
Bottom line... Pokémon is a cartoon.  If children have a strong, Christian foundation, a little bit of imaginary play will not shake that. I find it incredulous that anyone would purport that a game would have the intrinsic powers to turn a child from Christ. Might the trading cards be a distraction in school? Yes.  Might children disobey their parents because they'd rather be playing the Pokémon video game? Yes. But that doesn't mean that Pokémon is some big, bad voodoo force that is infecting our children. That's kids being kids. Insert the word "Barbie", "soccer", or "Mario Brothers" into the battle against Pokémon and the outrage won't be found.

In Matthew 7:17-20, we are told, “A good tree produces good fruit; and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down, and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions." (NLT)  Using this analogy, doesn't it make sense to say that if we are growing "good trees", it shouldn't matter what "birds" land in their "branches". 

Pokémon is a flash in the pan in regards to things that can possibly steer children off track. As they get older, there are  more and more things that can lead them astray from God's path. Are we doing our children a disservice by flat out not allowing games like this? Or can we use them to teach moderation, how to discern the difference between fantasy vs. reality, and how to filter influences in the secular world? 

Don't let anecdotal stories of Pokémon cards causing children to steal, lie, or become deviant sway you. That's just taking the blame off of the child and putting it upon an external force. And what does that teach the child? That they can blame their poor choices on an inanimate object. Much like the "twinkie defense", it allows parents to say, "Pokémon made him/her do it" instead of addressing the real behavioral causes at hand. This way of thinking just adds to the mindset of our society today. We've lost our sense of personal accountability.

The Bottom Line
Avoidance of the Pokémon phenomena (as well as other controversial issues) is nothing more than a trained human reaction to a fear of the unknown. And I get it, I really do. None of us wants to make a parental choice that screws up our kids for the rest of their lives (or eternal lives). I get that, too. But where do we draw the line between protecting them and censoring the world for them? 

I want the world to be all rainbows, puppies, and cotton candy for my children. But the reality on the nightly news tells us that it's a crappy, crappy world out there. So let's arm our children with critical thinking skills, discernment, and self-control so that they may take what the world hurls at them and still live righteous lives.  Pokémon is not a Heaven or Hell issue, nor is it one that divides the Godly from the Godless.
So. If you are still in doubt about whether or not Pokémon is okay for Christians, I ask you to pray upon this, one of my favorite verses from the book that speaks to my heart....

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
Romans 8:38

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