Browsing Category: Tips and Tricks

“Mom, I’m Bored!” Places to visit in Dallas to combat summer boredom

*Welcome to those of you who saw my segment on Fox 4’s Good Day! To learn more about me and my blog, go here*

 

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The month of July is settling in and the activities that held children’s attention at the beginning of the summer are starting to lose their spark. The normal go-to sources of entertainment such as local zoos, community pools and activity centers have been exhausted. Temperatures are rising, patience is wearing thin and everyone is starting to feel just a bit of the summer stir-crazies. Children are starting to whine “I’m bored.” before they even finish their morning bowl of cereal and moms only line of defense is  the haughty comeback of “Only boring people get bored.”

The result of this exchange: A grumpy family before the clock has a chance to reach eight o’clock am.

No fear, mothers. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is home to a vast amount of places that will provide countless hours of entertainment for those restless children. Cries of “I’m bored!” will quickly transform into “Mom, you’re the best!” as everyone enjoys taking part in some of these fun, unique activities.

 

Cowtown Wake Park

 

Would you love for your kids to learn how to wakeboard or wake skate, but do not have access to a boat or a lake? No problem. Cowtown Wake Park offers kids the chance to learn a variety of water sports in a safe, contained environment. Utilizing a cable system, Cowtown Wake Park provides kids and adults with the chance to enjoy summer water sports without having to be pulled behind a boat. Located on an artificial five acre lake off the banks of the Trinity River in Fort Worth, Cowtown Wake Park is the family’s answer to unique outdoor summer fun. Summer camps, birthday party packages and individual teaching are all available.

 

Fall Creek Farms in Granbury

 

Summer is the perfect time to stock the kitchen with fresh fruits and vegetables. Fall Creek Farms in Granbury, TX (about a 30 minute drive from Fort Worth) allows families to come and pick their own fresh fruit. Berry picking season is already closed but their peach crop is ripe and ready for eager harvesters. This farm hosts over 500 peach trees on their property. Visitors can tour the orchard on a tractor-pulled trolley, stopping to pick whatever peach appeals to them. Visitors are encouraged to call ahead to confirm pick times.

 

Adventure Day Camps on Lake Grapevine

 

Many mothers believe if they have not signed up their children for summer camp before the beginning of July, then it is simply too late to do so. Not the case with Adventure Day Camps. Adventure Day Camps is a camp for children ages 4-13, hosted on the banks of Lake Grapevine. Parents can sign children up for summer-long camps, week-long camps, one day camps or even 1/2 day camps. Campers learn a variety of outdoor skills and games including archery, camping, Frisbee golf, kayaking and swimming. Arts and crafts and games such as treasure hunts are also offered. Day camps run now through mid-August.

 

Texas Geocache Challenge hosted by Texas Parks and

Wildlife

 

Have a GPS device and kids who love a good treasure hunt? Then the Texas Geocache Challenge is your family’s answer to combating summer boredom. Geocaching a popular type of treasure hunting where families us a GPS device to help them find treasures (Known as “caches“) hidden by others. This summer the Texas Parks and Wildlife commission is getting in on the geocaching craze and have hidden a large amounts of caches throughout Texas. Participants can search in their local area or canvas the entire state in search of these caches. Their website has detailed information, including printouts and directions for how families can get started on this challenge. The great thing about geocaching is that the whole family, regardless of age and size, can get in  on the fun.

 

Dinosaur World in Glen Rose

 

Glen Rose, TX is the tourist place for dinosaur enthusiasts. Dinosaur World, an outdoor museum, will not disappoint the Glen Rose visitor in search of some dino action. Dinosaur World has 22 acres, filled with over 100 life-sized models of dinosaurs for families to discover and inspect up-close. Children will enjoy the daily dino dig, a place where they can become paleontologists for the day and search for treasures (which they get to keep!). Rather than hitting the hot, crowded amusement parks this summer step into the prehistoric world of the dinosaurs at Dinosaur World in Glen Rose, Texas.

 

Summer Theater

Dallas/Fort Worth is home to many children’s theater companies. Summer is the perfect time to enjoy theater with the family and support local children’s performing arts. Many of these companies offer low pricing ($5!) and a variety of child-friendly show times. Some current summer productions include Cinderella, Mulan, Seusical the Musical, Dora the Explorer LIVE! and Pinkalicious. Have a performer in the family? A lot of these companies also offer summer camps for the aspiring thespian.

Local children’s theater companies include:

 

Step out and enjoy these unique summer boredom busters that DFW has to offer!

 

 

 

The Boredom Buster Jar

It was 104 degrees here at Casa de Phillips on Friday.

One hundred and four degrees.

Can I get a big ol “UGH!” from all of you moms out there attempting to entertain kiddos despite rising temperatures?

One thing we are about to incorporate here at our home is the “Boredom Buster Jar.” This jar will be filled with scraps of paper, each one holding a fun activity to bust us out of our boredom rut. I am thinking of having two jars, one filled with individual boredom buster actitives and another filled with family boredom buster activites.

Interested in making your own “Boredom Buster Jar”?

Here is a list of activities to get you started:

  • Host a bike and trike wash
  • Go for snow cones
  • Make fresh lemonade
  • Play a board game
  • Build a fort in the living room
  • Draw a map of the neighborhood
  • Study an artist and recreate a famous painting
  • Make s’mores
  • Turn on the outside sprinklers
  • Make leaf rubbings
  • Paint with corn syrup and food colors
  • Bake cookies for a local fire station
  • Have family movie night
  • Perform a random act of kindness
  • Make a book
  • Write a letter/draw a picture for a relative out of state
  • Cut up an old greeting card and make a puzzle
  • Blow bubbles outside
  • Make a movie
  • Create a terrarium
  • Catch fireflies
  • Put together a time capsule
  • Read a chapter book together as a family
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Host a paper airplane contest
  • Volunteer
  • Picnic in the living room
  • Make homemade play-doh
  • Trace your hand and then turn it into something else
  • Transform the driveway into a sidewalk chalk art gallery
  • Paint rocks
  • Have an indoor treasure hunt
  • Skype a friend
  • Have a “theme” day (PJ day, pirate day, princess day)
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Take a nap (Mom’s Favorite!)

Summer Schedule 2011

Let’s ignore the fact that June is winding down and I am just now posting my summer schedule. Instead let us focus on the fact that there are two more months of summer for the residents of casa de phillips, leaving us plenty of time to put this schedule to good use.

 

Before I reveal the summer schedule, let me explain the reasoning behind it. Without setting an intentional focus for the day, we often become lost in the hours between waking and going to sleep. Meaning, the kids and I seem to float about through our day. Sure meals are prepared and eaten, toys are played with, quiet time occurs. But at the end of those days I often feel a bit more tired and way less productive compared to days when our focus is set and a schedule is established.

 

Sometimes that schedule simply includes “Do nothing” and the focus is centered around just being. Although these things do not sound very different from simply floating through our day, there is a different mindset when we intentionally do nothing as opposed to simply doing nothing out of lack of planning.

 

I encourage moms to be intentional with their days. Some great books that really encouraged me in planning my days at home with the children include:
Steady Days

 

The Mission of Motherhood

 

Mitten Strings for God

 

And now, on to the Summer Schedule

 

 

4:40am

My alarm clock sounds. As I hurriedly attempt to locate and turn off annoying clock (as not to wake the husband or children…sometimes I am very unsuccessful with this venture), I have to give myself the pep talk of how I must get out of bed and get to Boot Camp. I stumble into the bathroom, usually drop no less than three things (again, so unsuccessful in not waking the husband at this hour) and get dressed for boot camp.

 

5:40 am

At this time I am right in the middle of Boot Camp, doing some crazy exercise no normal person could have created, wondering why? WHY? I ever believed this was a good idea.

 

6:00 am

Finished with Boot Camp and heading home from the gym. Super-glad my work-out is over for the day. Obviously my emotions fluctuate immensely during the hour before, during and after Boot Camp.

Arrive home to find the entire family awake for the day. The husband is getting ready to leave for work and the children are (supposedly) playing quietly in their rooms. The rule in our house is that children cannot get up before 6am (yes, the Lord blessed us with early risers. I am contemplating having both of them take on a paper routes to make use of this spiritual gift) and cannot come out of their rooms until 6:30am. This rule is not easily obeyed some days and can cause our mornings to start off in a grump. We are working on it though.

I shower, make the bed and start getting ready for the day during this time. The husband usually darts off for work and the children typically wander into the bathroom to ask if I can open something or get them something, despite the fact that I have a mound of shampoo in my hair and am (supposedly) unavailable at the moment. Ah, motherhood.

 

7:00 am

Breakfast is served. Children eat and watch a program on TV while I finish getting ready. Hey, it’s summer, right? Their minds will not be fried by a little screen time and I like to get ready in peace. Once the school season rolls around, we will go back to no tele88vision in the mornings. For now, I let them enjoy a show and I (greatly) enjoy putting on my make-up in peace.

 

8:00 -9:00 am

Get dressed for the day, clean-up (kids unload the dishwasher and tidy rooms), outdoor time. It is H.O.T. where we currently live and outdoor time in the summer has to be done early (unless one is doing said outdoor time in the pool). The kids have been getting in their outdoor time before 9:00am. This can look different on a daily basis. Sometimes I shoo them out to the backyard still clothed in their pjs, other days we go bike riding and still other days we head out for a park. However, by 9:00am the sun is usually quite hot and we have to retreat to the indoors.

 

9:00 – 11:30 am

Main Event of the Day. This is the time of the day when our “main event” usually occurs. Somedays it is a playdate with friends or a fun activity outside of the home, other days it is cleaning the house (for some reason, no one is ever excited about those days), and other days we run errands. This is also when we might do a project together or work on school stuff at the kitchen table. Snacks are consumed at some point during this time.

 

Noon

Lunch happens around noon. Sometime lunch occurs at home and other times it is a picnic at the pool. On occasion, we dine out with friends. Lunch is an informal affair at casa de phillips. After lunch, the kitchen is cleaned and everyone heads upstairs to get ready for quiet time.

 

1:00-3:00 pm

Quiet time.  Need I say more? (Actually I have said more about this time in our house. Read it here.)

 

3:02 pm

I suddenly have forgotten what a quiet house sounded like only minutes ago.

 

3:03 pm

In the summer, we swim a lot. Some days we hit the pool in the mornings and other days we go after quiet time. On afternoons we are not at the pool, I try to set out an activity for the children to do upon waking. Typically this is a craft. Afterwards, the children usually do their own thing and I begin dinner prep.

 

5:30 pm

The husband arrives home, dinner is placed on the table and we all come together as a family. I am big on eating at the table as a family every night during the week. When one child is crying over the type of meal served, another child is using the loudest voice possible and the husband and I cannot manage to finish a sentence, I do question the sanity behind sitting down at the table together. However, I know the importance of eating together as a family and so we carry on, even on nights when there are tears and no one really tasted any of their meal.

After dinner, everyone pitches in to clean the kitchen. We have a little family play time before time to clean up the house and get in the bath/shower.

 

7:00 pm

Bath for Miss E., shower for Isaac. Family devotional time, prayers, and then storytime. Each of the kids is allowed to stay up reading, as long as they stay in bed. Evelyn loves to wonder downstairs after she has been put into bed to inform us that she “just doesn’t like to sleep.” Yeah, we know. She then has to walk herself back upstairs and often quickly falls alseep amid her 25+ animals. Isaac usually falls asleep reading. The other night we discovered him up reading at 10pm. It is kind of hard to get onto someone for reading, but we managed. The boy needs his sleep.

 

8:00 -10:00 pm.

The husband and I hang out. It is nice to have time together to actually finish a thought uninterrupted or to watch something on television that is not animated.

 

10:00 pm

Bedtime. Set the alarm to do it all over again.

 

A sneak preview of summer survival fun

Tick, tick, tick.

Summer is rapidly approaching. Are you ready?

Earlier this week I mentioned that I would be sharing the phillips family’s summer schedule next week. Until then, I wanted to give you a little sneak peak into one of my summer survival tips:

Reading Programs.

Last summer, the children and I participated in two reading programs. One at our local library and one at a Half-Price Books retail store. Through these programs, the children earned free kids meals to local restaurants, free ice cream, small toys and a stack of $3 gift cards. They also (unknown to them) learned accountability, responsibility and the pride in completing a task. Miss E. completed the programs as a “listener” while her brother completed them as a “beginning reader.” This year, E. will be able to do a combo of listening and reading while Isaac will be a full-fledged, chapter book-loving reader.

Interested in getting your children plugged into some great reading programs? Check out the list below.

 

 

 

 

 

  • Pizza Hut: This reading program is for kids in K-6 grades. It offers kids a chance to win a large sweepstakes once they have met the reading requirement. Although winning a sweepstakes is not going to happen to every reader, the website for this contest is a valuable source of book suggestions, literacy activities and fun learning games.

 

 

  • Build-A-Bear: In the past, Build-a-Bear had a summer reading program for kids. Although their website does not yet have details regarding this year’s program, it should still be in operation. Read books and earn fun Build-A-Bear prizes!

 

  • Public Library. Most importantly, do not forget the public library. Take advantage of reading programs and special events hosted by your public library this summer.

PBSkids.org (a favorite website of ours) has a campaign devoted to developing strong literacy skills in children. Sometimes as parents we want our children to accomplish a task (i.e. reading) but do not know how to help them with such an accomplishment. The Raising Readers campaign is a great place to start!

Happy Reading this summer!

If you know of a reading program that I left off of this list, please be sure to share it in the comments section. Thanks!

**Wondering why my oldest child is sitting outside in May under a blanket? Well, he had a fever the day this picture was taken. Bless his sweet little heart. I was sad for his fever but my mama heart always loves to see my babies wrapped up in quilts from their infancy.

Simple displays of gratitude

There are many parenting lectures that I dole out on a regular basis.

Don’t run in church

Please, please, puh-lease use your quiet voice when in public.”

When I say it is time to leave, do not have a complete and total meltdown.”

and the infamous lecture that we visit around Christmas and birthdays every year…

“No matter what the present is…even if you have 12 of the same thing or really do not like it….be sure to thank the person.”

My children (knock on wood) are pretty good at the whole “Thank You” thing.

What they are not good at is sending the follow-up thank-you note.

This is likely due to the fact that they can neither drive to the store to purchase said note cards, write out a complete Mrs. Manners style response, locate the stamps and send off a note by themselves.

Perhaps I should restate the above proclamation to read “What their mother is not very good at is sending the follow-up thank-you note.” to be fair to my children who are only five and four years of age.

In the past, I have let the complicated process of issuing a thank-you note get in the way of actually sending a thank-you note. I desire for my children to understand the effort and thought that is placed into the gifts they receive. I want them to understand the importance of displaying gratitude. I want them to be able to drive to Target and purchase their own thank you notes, write the notes and mail them out (all in a timely fashion).

Obviously the last thing will not happen for quite a few years.

Until my children get a drivers license and a job, I am trying to better at helping them issue cards of thanks for gifts received. Last weekend Miss E celebrated turning four. She is now the proud owner of many new gifts. In order to make her thank-you notes cute, inexpensive and a collaborative process, I opted to get resourcefully crafty this year.

(I think I am also going to opt to coin the phrase “resourcefully crafty” as well)

I took a large chalkboard and wrote a simple “Thank You!” on it in festive colors. Grabbing the camera, I snapped quite a few pictures of Miss E. holding the chalkboard. A little photo editing on the computer and a few quick prints and our thank-you cards are complete.

Because E’s writing skills are still developing, I wrote a simple note on the back of the card (dictated by her) and she signed her name. Evelyn was in charge of stuffing the cards into the addressed envelopes and placing them in the mail box.

A little team effort and our thank-you card task was complete.

How do you tackle the whole thank-you card issue with children? Do you write them yourselves? Skip it altogether? Film a fancy thank-you rap and post-it to YouTube?

Little Chefs Birthday Party

The baby in our house turned four this week.

Four years old…practically on her way to a driver’s license and a full time job.

This year, we choose a cooking theme for her party. Over the past twelve months, Miss E. has really displayed an interest in helping me in the kitchen. Her cooking skills are coming along nicely and she really enjoys pitching in with supper. I figured a cooking party would be a great way to celebrate her entrance into her fourth year of life.

Because our children are still young (ish), I like to keep the list of attendees low at birthday parties. This year the children switched to a new preschool, where the culture is for everyone to invite everyone to their parties. I love this new school but the idea of inviting over 34 preschoolers to cook in my kitchen seemed a bit absurd and sounded like a recipe for disaster. Instead,  we invited a handful of friends to join-in on the cooking fun.

For decorations, I decided to go with a vintage/kitschy look. Everything was a mix of spring colors and floral prints. Nothing really matched, which gave it that vintage feel. The children and I worked on a massive paper chain that we hung from the ceiling of our front room. This was an easy, free decoration, which happens to still be hanging from the ceiling.

Anyone need a 12 foot paper chain?

Once our party guests arrived, they went on a scavenger hunt for needed kitchen items. This proved to be a fun game that helped ease into our time of cooking. Once the hidden items (such as measuring cups, small bowls and spatulas) were retrieved, everyone washed hands and then put on their serious cooking attire.

Nothing is cuter than a kid in a chef hat, in my opinion.

I purchased these chef hats and aprons, along with some other party supplies, from the dollar section of my local Michaels.

Once everyone was dressed as a chef, we headed to the kitchen to cook. Cooking with preschoolers is a lot different than cooking with older children. Before the party, I had pre measured all the ingredients and set them out on trays. I also covered my granite island with a plastic tablecloth to protect it from spills and messy hands. Finally, I had set small stools around the kitchen island to provide a safe place for children to stand and cook.

For this party, we cooked:

*Sparkle Sandwiches

*Fruit Salad on a Stick

*Yogurt Dip

*After-school Granola

I made and laminated recipe cards for each item we were making. After the party, I put the recipe cards in with the kids’ play kitchen items to be incorporated into future creative play.

The children really enjoyed cooking. Knowing that I was working with preschoolers, I made sure each recipe did not take more than 5-10 minutes. We moved quickly through the cooking exercises, being sure to place each newly prepared item on the children’s plates to be eaten for lunch.

The finished product:

There was also a table of “real” food for all of the adults to eat. After the children finished their lunch, we decorated pre-made shortbread cookies, which we paired with cake and ice cream (the sugar rush all of those foods created later came back to haunt me in the form of very hyper children).

The cake was a simple two layer, white cake (per the request of the birthday girl) with yellow frosting and polka dots (per the request of the birthday girl’s mother). The polka dots were simply candy I added in a random fashion to the cake.

After cake and ice cream, it was present time.

Miss E. loved all of her gifts but was a big fan of her new bike and Leapster. Both of these toys signified (to her) that she is now a Big Kid!

After all the gifts were open and all the food consumed, our guests left and we collapsed. Hosting a party is exhausting.

Before our little chefs departed the party, they were given a party favor.

I found these cute shopping baskets and stuffed them with measuring cups (perfect for the upcoming pool days), lip balm, stickers, and crazy straws. The chef hats and aprons, along with the laminated placemats, went home with guests as well.

All in all, it was a great party.

The funny aspect about dealing with preschoolers is that the main thing they want to do it play. The kids enjoyed the cooking. They had a blast with the scavenger hunt. They consumed way too much sugar.

However, they had the most fun just running around and being silly.

Happy Birthday, Miss E!

Rainy Day Survival Tips

It is raining, reader.

The rain began here yesterday as we were leaving a local restaurant after Sunday brunch.

As Miss E. attempted to navigate the cold, hard rain while wearing shoes that mysteriously became too big overnight, she cried “Don’t get my dress wet!” to the drops that fell from the sky.

That sweet little girl, already understanding  how some rain can upset a girl’s day.

The rain has continued to fall all night long and is predicted to be with us until tomorrow morning. Rainy days can be both a blessing and curse to the stay-at-home mommy. They allow us a chance to stay home and enjoy our sweet babies. Rainy days also allow us a chance to stay home and be driven crazy by our sweet babies who are being driven crazy by the confinement of an indoor space.

Bless all of our hearts.

Having a plan for a rainy day cuts down on the craziness, the whining and the fighting. (Notice I said “cuts down.” I have no cure to completely eliminate the craziness, the whining and the fighting.). Below are some fun activities and ideas for surviving a rainy day at home with young children.

  • Host a birthday party. This is a Mommy  trick that works every time. Have children select a favorite stuffed animal or doll and throw a birthday party for it. Children can make invitations, set out decorations and help bake a tasty treat. This activity is also a great way to make use of those random leftover party supplies sitting around the house.

 

  • Create an indoor zoo. My children did this activity back during Snowmaggedon 2011 and loved it. Haul out all the stuff animals and have children arrange a zoo. Create zoo keeper vests out of old paper bags. Teach children how to classify animals and set up various exhibits. Once the zoo is established, Mom and Dad can be the visitors and be taken on a tour by their lovely little zoo keepers.

 

  • Bake a treat for someone special. I love to bake, but hate having the temptation of cookies sitting around the house. Baking for someone else gets kids in the kitchen and the yummy food out of the house. Baking for others also teaches children about hospitality and sharing with others.

 

  • Read a good book out loud. Currently the children and I are reading Peter Pan together, after finishing up Around the World in Eighty Days last week. Today is the perfect day to snuggle up on the couch and read a few chapters together.

 

  • Encourage a time of independent play. Children need to learn to play alone in a room by themselves. Have a set time when everyone plays quietly in their rooms. This gives mom a break and teaches independent play skills. Remember, it is OKAY for kids to be bored. Boredom can really ignite one’s imagination when given the chance.

  • Measure the house. I love this activity and my children are about to take part in it right now. One can also Count the House, an activity that we did a few months ago (and might repeat depending on how long today starts to seem!).

 

  • Make a productive craft. Mother’s Day and Teacher Appreciation Week are all upon us. Take a moment to have kids craft something with purpose. I love these Tin Can Treats. As for our house, this morning we are working on decorations for Miss E.’s upcoming birthday party.

 

  • Map the Neighborhood. Haul out some large craft paper or even unused wrapping paper and help kids draw a map of your neighborhood, being sure to include fun landmarks like one’s house, the local park and important roads. Once the map is complete, use small toys and cars on the map to create an interactive experience.

Embrace the rain today and spend time with your kids. Teach them something, provide a quiet moment for them and do something productive for others. Remember that God not only gives us a day of rain to nourish the earth but to nourish our own spirits as well.

The Secret Closet (GIVEAWAY!)

Remember Monica’s secret closet?

If not, allow me to take you back to Thursday nights circa 1999.

The storyline focuses on a closet in Chandler and Monica’s apartment that Chandler cannot open. The closet drives him crazy, until he manages to get it open one day.

Inside he discovers this:

Greatness.

Here at casa de phillips we have a few secret closets. One of those is in our mudroom. It is a closet whose door I rarely open and when I do, it is merely to throw something in quickly and shut the door before something else escapes.

That ol closet has not seen the organizational light of day. It will soon, but not yet.

There is also a secret closet under our stairs.

This secret closet started off organized (unlike the mudroom closet, which has been a disaster from the very beginning). The secret closet under the stairs is affectionately known as the “Art Closet” to the four residents of casa de phillips. It is home to games, puzzles, play doh (worst toy ever), and a plethora of art supplies. The Art Closet is constantly being opened and closed as little ones disappear into its recesses in order to find a much needed crafting item.

We are big into the art here at casa de phillips, in case you missed the memo.

The Art Closet slowly turned into a secret closet over the winter. There were puzzle pieces strewn about, crumpled up paper tossed around, dried up markers wondering what happened to their lids and a dozen forgotten art projects sitting in a heap.

A few weeks ago I decided that the Art Closet needed to resign its status as a secret closet of our house. It was time to haul everything out and get some organization in place. Because this is a space that the children use on a daily (hourly) basis, it needed to be organized in such a way that two sets of little hands could put away items at the end of the day with minimal to no adult help.

When organizing spaces that children occupy, I find the following guidelines useful.

Contain everything.

The best way to control a mess is to put boundaries in place. I am a huge fan of the plastic container. For the Art Closet, I have two rolling plastic containers that have four drawers each. Each drawer holds a specific art or education tool. When containing messes in closet spaces, I use a variety of tools: ziploc bags, plastic containers with lids, open plastic buckets, and boxes.

Label everything.

When organizing a space used by many family members, it is best to use labels on everything. I have labeled each drawer in my rolling plastic cart to allow everyone to know its contents. If your children are not readers yet, use picture labels along with word labels (never underestimate the power of the written word for a non or emergent reader).

Provide ownership of the space.

When children feel like they have ownership of a space, they take pride in that space. When I noticed that art supplies were rapidly dwindling, I made each of the children use some of their own money to replace the supplies. I then gave them their own space in the closet in which to house the supplies they purchased. They are very cautious in how they use and store these supplies.

Keep things cheerful.

 A closet can be a dark space, where one can quickly toss an unused item aside (ahem, mud room closet). However, when the space is perky and festive the owner is less likely to simply toss contents inside and run away. I have grand ideas of painting the inside of the art closet some fun color. For now, we use its walls to display some of the children’s art. It keeps the space cheerful and helps us remember to not treat it as a dungeon of discarded art.

Have you been wanting to organize your own secret closet? Ziploc would love to help. They want to offer one reader a three pack of organizational items. Simply leave a comment letting me know about your secret closet (it does not have to be an actual closet…it can be the space under a bed, a kitchen cabinet gone terribly wrong or some other nook in your house that makes you shudder). A winner will be chose at random on Friday, April 8th.

Just for fun, here is  clip from Monica’s secret Closet…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4VCrlWyXbQ

(Excuse the link, the site will not let me embed the video)

St. Patrick’s Day Crafts for Little Hands

Top of the mornin’, to ya!

In honor of St. Patty’s Day, I thought I would pass along some fun crafts to celebrate this spring holiday. I know many moms leave a trail of gold coins or dye food a festive green to acknowledge the arrival of March 17th. At casa de phillips we craft…a lot…when it comes to celebrating a holiday.

The past two days have been a blur of scissors cutting paper, glue sticks being tossed back and forth and of not-so-casual attempts of me saying “Please, please don’t spill paint on the new floors or you can kiss your college fund good-by.” repeatedly.

Good times.

Behold: The St. Patrick’s Day Craft-a-Palooza.

Leprechaun Wands

Materials Needed:

  • paper
  • paint
  • stapler
  • ribbon (we used leftover Christmas ribbon)
  • straw or stick
  • bells

Draw three large hearts on a piece of paper. Allow kids to paint or color them green (No paint on hand? Mix green food coloring with condensed milk…it makes a beautiful, edible paint.)

Once the paint has dried, cut out the three hearts. Glue them together at the point to make a shamrock.

Staple a straw to the back.

Attach ribbon to the straw and glue miniature bells to the shamrock.

Instant Leprechaun Wand!

A Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow

I love mixing in a bit of education with crafting. The boy has been obsessed with the order of the rainbow since he turned two. “ROYGBIV” is often discussed around here. Today the girl and I practiced the order of the rainbow, while Isaac practiced some handwriting.

All in the disguise of “Let’s color a rainbow!”

Then we all daydreamed about what we would buy if we found that illusive pot of gold…

Leprechaun Mask

Transform your child into a leprechaun for the day!

Materials:

  • Green construction paper (cut in the shape of a hat)
  • paper plate, with the center removed
  • yellow or red construction paper (cut into strips)
  • scissors

Directions:

  • Glue hat onto top of plate
  • Glue strips of paper on bottom of plate
  • Decorate hat as desired
  • Curl “beard” by wrapping the strips of paper around a pencil

 

Such menacing leprechauns, huh?

See?

These are easy, fun crafts your preschooler can make to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

Want to see the not-so-easy part?

Clean-up.

Spend Spring Break in Dallas/Fort Worth…and keep your pennies in the bank

Spring Break 2011 is here, my friend.

In times when gas prices are reaching astonishing highs and airlines are charging passengers per piece of luggage (good-bye, suitcase dedicated solely to shoes); dreams of a spring vacation to somewhere exotic and sunny are quickly fading. Before all hope of having a fun and exciting spring break is lost, take a look around at the Dallas /Fort Worth area. Home to thousands of family-friendly attractions, DFW is a great place for a family to spend their Spring Break.

Knowing it is just as easy to break the bank on a vacation at home (When will we ever get over using the tired word “Staycation”?) as it is laying on a tropical beach, finding local, affordable fun is a must for the budget-conscious family. Below are  two great fun-filled days of budget-friendly activities in the Dallas Fort Worth Area.

Unpack your bags, give your bank account a rest and load up the kids for some fun at home. Texas-style.

Dallas

There is a reason ol JR, Bobby, and Pam took residence in Dallas: Big D is home to a plethora of fun adventures. Although JR likely never had to check the family budget before taking out Sue Ellen and the boys, these days Dallas residents know the Dallas places to play that are both family-friendly and kind to the wallet.

Dallas Museum of Art

The Dallas Museum of Art is welcoming Spring Breakers by giving half-price admission and ½ price parking to all their guests the week of March 14-18th (After 5pm). The DMA is hosting “Spring Break Family Experiences”, four fun-filled days of activities including a chance to craft with wire in the Space Bar, an opportunity to create a Stickley-inspired photo shoot, story times, interactive gallery tours, and family movie time. Art museums are not merely for the old and educated. The Dallas Museum of Art makes the museum-going experience fun and interactive for guests of all ages.

Dallas Farmers Market

Nothing is more evident of spring’s arrival than a visit to the famous Dallas Farmer’s Market. The Dallas Farmers Market is one of the largest public markets of its nature in the country. It offers a wide variety of locally grown produce, specialty foods, and landscaping materials such as shrubs and flowers. Introducing children to an abundant selection of fresh produce (farmers often pass out complimentary pieces of fruits and vegetables to sample) is a great way to expand their palate. The Dallas market is open seven days a week, 362 days a year. Check out the market’s website for a list of produce that is currently in season and to learn more about events and classes hosted there. The best thing about visiting the Dallas Farmers Market is that children might be inspired to try a new fruit or vegetable…perhaps even something green and leafy.

McKinney Avenue Trolley

Ride the rails this Spring Break on the McKinney Avenue Trolley.The M-Line trolleys run 365 days a year, from 7:00am to 10:00pm during the week. The best part of this authentic street care experience…it is FREE. Spend the day in Uptown shopping, dining and enjoying a free ride on the McKinney Avenue Trolley. Children will be intrigued by the seats that can change direction with a flip of (strong) hand and watch passengers pull the stop cord to let the conductor know the trolley has reached their stop. Hint: The Dallas Museum of Art is at one end of the trolley stop. Pair a trip to the DMA with a ride on the McKinney Avenue Trolley for a day filled with adventure.

Farmers Branch Historical Park

Step back into the late 1800’s and walk through buildings reminiscent of days gone by at the Farmers Branch Historical Park. While at this park, families will enjoy visiting a school house from 1905, a railroad depot built in 1877 and the home of the former first mayor of Farmers Branch. Children can walk through a recreated Texaco Service Station from the 1930’s and stop in and shop at an interactive 1920’s General Store. Admission to the park is free, but donations are always welcome and greatly appreciated.

Heritage Farmstead Museum

When people think of Plano, they rarely of a farmstead tucked into this sprawling suburb. However the Heritage Farmstead Museum is an old-fashioned farm right in the middle of this busy Dallas suburb. This Spring Break, the Heritage Farmstead Museum is hosting a Staycation at the Farm (March 15 -18). Charging only a $2 admission price per person, this outdoor museum is hosting four fun-filled days of self-guided tours around their turn-of-the century farm. Visitors can play historic games, visit craft stations, and enjoy petting farm animals.  Pack a picnic lunch and spend the day at this living historical farm.

Fort Worth

Home to more than cows and beautiful sunsets, Fort Worth is a hot-spot of family-friendly fun that is easy on the budget. Toss on some boats, grab a cowboy hat and step into the friendly culture of Fort Worth.

Amon Carter Museum

The Amon Carter Museumis set in the heart of Fort Worth and is devoted entirely to American Art. During the week of March 15-18, the Amon Carter Museum is hosting “Family Fun Week.” Each of the four days during this series has a different theme, ranging from an inside look at the wild west to an exploration of photography. The family programs run from 10:30am to Noon, Tuesday through Friday. Admission is free.

Fort Worth Botanical Gardens

Spring is evident among the eight gardens that comprise the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens. Spend a sunny morning walking through the gardens’ grounds, examining a variety of roses in the Rose Garden or taking in the view from above as one wonders along the Texas Native Forest Boardwalk. The Gardens are open from 8:00am to dusk. Admission to parts of the Gardens is free, while entrance into the Conservatory costs just one dollar. Be sure to bring a camera, as there are many photo opportunities to be had at the Fort Worth Botanical Gardens.

Forest Park Miniature Railroad

Spend time riding the rails…miniature rails. The Forest Park Miniature Railroad is a Fort Worth staple when it comes to children’s entertainment. Children young and old will enjoy this 45 minute train ride, which takes passengers through the scenic Trinity Park and over six different bridges (including a 350 foot girder bridge that will make moms hold on a little tighter to their little ones and make kids squeal with glee). Trains run on the hour, starting at 11:00am until dusk. Adults are $3, while children are $2.50.

Fort Worth Herd

When tourists think of Fort Worth, they often think of cowboys and ranch hands. The Fort Worth Stockyards is the best place for tourists and locals to get their cowboy fix. Daily visitors to the Stockyards can witness the Fort Worth Herd, a scene of cows, horses and cowboys all coming down the brick-paved streets. Cattle-herds are not common sites these days, especially in the middle of a city, which makes this fun show a great way to spend a part of one’s afternoon. Catch the Herd at 11:30am and 4pm daily. Arrive early to grab a great spot to witness all the action.

Kimbell Art Museum

Fort Worth has its own share of museums, one of those being the Kimbell Art Museum. From March 15-18, the Kimbell is hosting their Spring Break Art Extravaganza.  This free event (*Special Exhibits do require an admission fee.) is packed full of crafts, mini art tours and family friendly films. Stop by the Kimbell while out and about in Fort Worth from 10am -3pm and experience a slice of art with the family….for free!

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