200+ Summertime Boredom Busters for Kids

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Since we try not to use the phrase “I’m bored!” in our home, I usually don’t hear my kids complaining about being bored during those long days at home during the summer months.But I have to admit that we’re still an incredibly normal family. Even without the “b-word” in their vocabulary, there are still those times when my three children just seem to be at a total loss for something constructive to do. Continue reading

Frugal Easter Basket Ideas

j0401449.jpgIf you look forward to giving Easter baskets to your children each year but don’t enjoy the high price of expensive pre-made baskets, here are some simple ideas for saving money on this fun holiday tradition. Like anything else you buy, it helps to set a spending limit — maybe $5 or $10 per Easter basket. Then have fun being creative and trying to keep within your basket budget.

Our family usually reserves Easter baskets and Easter Egg Hunts for the Saturday just before Easter — saving Sunday for church and family celebrations.

I try to shop for Easter basket fillers in advance (I use the same principle for Christmas stocking stuffers, too). You can keep a basket in the corner of a closet for storing these types of items found throughout the year. Keep an eye out for small games and toys in clearance bins at the grocery store, at dollar stores, and during any stops to thrift stores or yard sales.

In the days immediately following Halloween, bags of candy often go on sale for half price (or less), so I’ll sometimes purchase several bags of family favorites and stick them in the freezer. Frozen candy will keep quite nicely until Easter.

Small, fun items that you’ll probably need to purchase for your children during the course of the year can be saved to include in their Easter baskets: crayons, felt pens, glue stick, glitter glue, novelty toothbrushes, fun-flavored toothpastes, hair ribbons, barrettes, a new hair brush, bubble bath in fun containers.

Ideas for the Basket Itself:

  • Wicker baskets can be reused year after year (a nice tradition in itself). These can be used other times during the year for decoration or for storing small items. You can also reuse the decorative grass from year to year.
  • Paper bags decorated with bunnies, eggs, flowers, etc.
  • Easter bonnets. If you’re going to be purchasing an Easter bonnet for your daughter, turn it upside down and fill with goodies.
  • Inexpensive colorful plastic sand pails. Include a shovel and sand mold.
  • Plastic mesh storage containers. Reuse to store toys, games, socks, childhood treasures, etc.
    Lunch box.
  • New novelty pillowcase.
  • Flower pot (fill w/packet of seeds, soil, drainage rocks, gardening gloves, instructions for growing their own Spring flowers).
  • For older kids/teens, try a make-up container (including sample sizes of soap, perfume, lipgloss, nail polish, etc.), a fishing tackle box (include a few lures), a personal popcorn bowl (containing a bag of gourmet popcorn), or a new purse.
  • For teen-agers or grown children, try a grocery bag filled with their favorite foods.

Filling ideas:

  • Plastic eggs can be reused every year. Fill with jelly beans or small plastic toys of interest to the child. Bags full of fake bugs, dinosaurs, etc., can often be found at dollar stores for under a $1 per bag.
  • Homemade candy and treats.
  • Homemade frosted Easter-shaped cookies individually wrapped. You can also make cookie lollipops by adding a lollipop or ice cream stick before baking.
  • Crispy Rice Treats or Popcorn Balls colored with pastel food coloring and shaped like eggs.
  • Sidewalk Chalk Eggs: Mix 1 cup plaster, 1/2 cup water and several drops food coloring. Pour mixture into empty egg carton sections. When dry, peel away the carton and hot glue two sections together at the center to form a complete egg.
  • Toys from fast food children’s meals can be found in “like new” condition at thrift stores and yard sales for $0.25 or less.
  • Rubber stamps and stamp pads.
  • Homemade play dough.
  • Crayons.
  • Small bag of potato chips.
  • Bubbles.
  • A jumprope.
  • Jacks.
  • A frisbee.
  • Chopsticks.
  • Fancy shoelaces.
  • Stickers.
  • Books.
  • Stationary, note cards, envelopes, stamps.
  • Coloring books or coloring sheets. Find some simple Easter related clip-art and print the picture out in black and white for homemade coloring sheets, or print out several and staple them together for a custom made coloring book.
  • Audio tapes you’ve made of yourself reading their favorite books aloud. Be sure to include a signal for them to turn the page if they’ll be reading along with you.
  • Look for small Dover Books at your local bookstore. These books are high quality and usually under $1 each. They have paper dolls, holiday activity books, coloring books, etc.

Happy Spring!

Twaddle-Free Holiday Celebrations

Copyright Deborah Taylor-Hough. Used with permission. All rights reserved. http://thesimplemom.wordpress.com


Since we’re currently in the midst of the December holidays, I chatted at length with Catherine Levison (author of A Charlotte Mason Education and More Charlotte Mason Education) and we put our heads together to come up with ways to apply the concept of avoiding “twaddle” (or what modern parents might call “dumbed down” literature or activities) in our holiday celebrations, family times and Christmas reading materials.

Defining Twaddle in Literature

First, let’s look at the synonyms of twaddle which include: babble, drivel and silly. Ordinarily twaddle refers to literature written down to children. Books written specifically to children are not avoided. A good example would be any of Beatrix Potter’s works — she wrote to children but not down to them. Or the original A.A. Milne “Winnie-the-Pooh” books are another good example of twaddle-free just-for-fun reading material.

Regarding children’s literature, look for interesting content and well constructed sentences clothed in literary language. The imagination should be warmed and the book should hold the interest of the child. Life’s too short to spend time with books that bore us.

If our children have only been exposed to junk food, they may resist trying nutritious food. If they’ve been raised on twaddle, they may need to be weaned slowly off of this mental junk food. Ideally, if they were not exposed to twaddly books in the first place, all involved would be way ahead of the game.

It’s our opinion that dumbed-down literature is easy to spot. When you’re standing in the library and pick up modern-day, elementary-level books, you’re apt to see short sentences with very little effort applied to artistically constructing them to please the mind. Almost anyone can write — but not everyone is gifted in this field. Gifted authors bring images alive with their choice of words. Gifted authors often write classic literature, and classics are an excellent way to spend one’s reading time.

Twaddle is easy to come by; the planet is filled with it. People coped with it in previous centuries, and we must cope with it in ours. If anything, literature has deteriorated even further. The best way to handle this excessive quantity of bad books is to stand firm and only spend our money on the best — even at holiday time.

But what about friends and relatives who unknowingly supply our children with twaddle at gift-giving times?

Try talking to those who are apt to buy gifts for your children and tell them about the direction you’re heading with reading material. Some people pick up on things easier than others, therefore, for some folks a simple explanation of the type of literature you want purchased as gifts is all they’ll need. If you’ve started to collect any particular set of children’s classics currently in bookstores or catalogues, you could provide Grandma with a list of titles you’d like. Be specific, and offer to help her with the ordering or perhaps even drive her to your favorite bookstore.

Twaddle-Free Holidays

How else can we apply the concept of twaddle to the holiday season as a whole?

Well, I firmly believe that twaddle is in the eye of the beholder. That means that some of the following ideas may appeal to you while others may not meet your expectations. Catherine and I put our heads together and came up with the following ideas — some of which were shared with us over the years by other people. As always, take what you like and ignore what you don’t.

During the holidays, I frequently discover a large number of low-cost entertainment options by reading the “What’s Happening” section of our local newspaper. For example, this week I found a listing for a singing group performing traditional Celtic holiday carols at a local church for just a small donation. Many churches and community groups put on low-cost (or free) live performances during the holidays.

Rather than taking the family to a newly released holiday movie, consider spending a few extra dollars and attend a ballet or classical concert instead. Many times attending a concert by a local symphony performing familiar Christmas songs is a very child-friendly introduction to symphonic music for children who haven’t previously experienced that type of music. Also, many churches offer sing-a-longs of Handel’s Messiah that are open to the general public.

As we all know, holiday music is drastically varied. Perhaps some attention to playing classical music around the house — while avoiding animated cartoon characters screeching their holiday favorites — would be more soothing.

Many families, including both Catherine’s and mine, buy one new Christmas book a year and have their collection on display. Catherine’s favorite is called The Christmas Story featuring the paintings of Gennady Spirin. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and priced accordingly — however Catherine insists it’s worth every penny. This is one way to include masterpiece artwork into this season of the year.

It’s also time to buy next year’s calendar. If you haven’t thought of it before, hold out until you find one featuring fine art rather than kittens, horses or cars. Along with being a practical item, the calendars often provide excellent prints to use for art appreciation throughout the year.

While grown children and other relatives visit, provide some old-fashioned fun that can be enjoyed by young and old alike. Charades, sing-a-longs, board games and caroling are easy, affordable and fun. Catherine’s family collects Christmas jigsaw puzzles — which may appear to be a bit twaddly at first glance — but they truly enjoy spending time together which makes it more than an aimless pursuit. You could also choose puzzles depicting masterpieces or popular works of art.

Many families are constructing their own advent calendars from wood and incorporating photographs and other touches. If everyone participated in a project of this sort, then they can all look forward to getting it out each December.

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? Well, if the snow doesn’t come to you then go to the snow. Some folks make an annual trek to the mountains during December in order to be assured of some contact with winter weather.

Obviously, there are countless good ideas that help families enjoy each other. Catherine and I send our absolute best to you this holiday season and may each of you be truly happy.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Deborah Taylor-Hough (author and mother of three) is a free-lance writer, editor of The Charlotte Mason Monthly email newsletter [ join-cm-monthly@hub.thedollarstretcher.com ], and author of the popular Frozen Assets cookbook series and several other books including Frugal Living For Dummies®. You can visit Debi online, connect with her blogs, and order her books at: http://www.SimpleMom.com

An Autumn Poem …

I used to read this poem out loud to my kids each Fall when they were little… I love how it flows when read aloud. Honestly, the kids probably don’t even remember this poem. But I do. 🙂
.
WHEN THE FROST IS ON THE PUNKIN
by James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
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When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
.
They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here–
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock–
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
.
The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries–kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below–the clover over-head!–
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!
.
Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ‘s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! …
I don’t know how to tell it–but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me–
I’d want to ‘commodate ’em–all the whole-indurin’ flock–
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!
.
According to Dictionary.com, fodder is: “coarse food for livestock, composed of entire plants, including leaves, stalks, and grain, of such forages as corn and sorghum.” And a “fodder shock” is in the photo above, or at this link for a more modern version (Amish field): http://www.flickr.com/photos/cindy47452/60826148/

Thanksgiving Ideas

thankstreeLater this month, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving Day. One of our family traditions for this particular holiday is making a Thanksgiving Tree.

We either make a tree trunk with bare branches out of black craft paper or we draw a tree onto a large sheet of paper.  Then we tape the “tree” to our dining room wall. We cut out individual autumn-colored leaves (red, orange, yellow, brown) from more craft paper.

Whenever someone in the family thinks of something or someone that they’re thankful for, they write the item, event, or person’s name onto one of the leaves and then tape the leaf to the tree branches.

We try to put the Thanksgiving Tree in place by mid-November so our family has at least a full week to add more leaves to the tree.

By Thanksgiving Day, the tree is FULL with the names of people, events and things we’re thankful for. This is great fun for the kids and a meaningful addition to our family’s holiday traditions.

Another idea along these lines is to make a Thanksgiving Jar. Throughout the year as things came up that your family is thankful for (new baby, new job, answered prayers, etc.), write the event onto a piece of paper and slip it into a specially designated Thanksgiving container.

A family at our former church in Olympia empties their Thanksgiving Jar once a year and reads each slip of paper on Thanksgiving morning during their family breakfast.

Do you have any special activities or traditions your family shares on Thanksgiving or any other upcoming holiday?  I’d love to hear about them!  🙂

Taking Your Homeschool Outside

by Geoffrey Moore

Like anything else in your life, your homeschool can be in a rut. You wake up every morning, crack the same books and do the same lesson plans. After a few months of this, both you and your kids are yawning and dreading sledging through the drudgery.

The good news is that you have the power to change this! You don’t have to do school-at-home. Do you have an outdoor fire pit or other fun area you can gather? Put down the plan book and break away from the textbook rut.

Here are a few tips to get you started. Continue reading

Frugal Family Field Trips

Family field trips are a simple, fun, and fairly inexpensive educational enrichment activity you can enjoy regularly with your children.

Here are some quick ideas to get you started:

  1. Many manufacturing plants offer free tours to families or small groups, and any free samples given out make great souvenirs when on vacation. Call ahead to find out about tour availability.
  2. Field trips to local attractions such as zoos or aquariums can be expensive, but purchasing an annual family pass pays for itself in just a couple trips. Knowing you can come back again and again, frees your family to thoroughly enjoy themselves without feeling the need to hurry and see everything in one day to get your money’s worth out of the admission price. Return to the same site whenever you want a family outing, and then buy a pass to a different educational attraction next year.
  3. If your family enjoys attending live performances, check for free concerts, plays and other cultural events in local parks during the summer months.
  4. You can also contact college or community performance groups (drama, ballet, orchestra, etc.) to see if they’ll allow you to watch them rehearse for free.
  5. Many local theater groups need volunteer ushers for their live performances. Volunteering in this manner is an excellent way for the older members of your family to gain free admission to a wide variety of cultural events, plus it provides a useful service to the local arts community.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Taylor-Hough is a full-time mother of three, free-lance writer, and author of several bestselling books including, Frozen Assets: How to cook for a day and eat Visit Debi online at: http://www.SimpleMom.com