The Chirping Moms

July 31, 2014

50 Activities for Toddlers

It's funny because now that I have three kids I never have a dull moment.  But when I only had one in the toddler stage, sometimes I would look at my son during and think, "What are we going to do today?"  I was creative & inspired to fill our days with fun for both of us.  That was all five years ago.  This September, as my oldest son heads to kindergarten and my middle son will be in preschool three mornings a week, I am finally entering "toddler" stage again with just one kid three mornings a week.  So I have challenged myself to be just as fun & creative with my third as I was with my first and have created a list to help keep me inspired this year to have fun with my baby girl during our special one-on-one time!

swimsuit:  little me

50 Ways to Keep Toddlers Busy & Happy
(Pin this post by clicking here!)

1.  Bubbles.  We recently bought this fun bubble gun that makes it easy to blow bubbles.  Watch summer clearance at stores to find a good deal on bubbles!
2.  Paint with food.  Some of our favorite paints include:  using yogurt paint in the bathtub & pudding!
3.  Pop in a kids' music cd.  My oldest LOVED this Wee Sing for Babies cd, so I'm hoping to find a few favorite songs for baby girl to listen to.  I like to put these on at times when I'm somewhat busy, such as folding laundry or doing dishes.
4.  Take a bath in the middle of the day.  Or in the beginning.  Honestly, just change up your routine from the usual.  We usually do bedtime in the evening so any time we mix it in the middle of the day, it feels like a "novelty".  Some of our favorite bath toys of choice right now come from Boon, including Boon stacking boats, Boon odd ducks set, Boon pieces, & Boon links.
5.  Cloud Dough
6.  Bring out the pool or head to a splash pad.  All of my kids, as toddlers, loved the water & are easily entertained with just a little water around them!
7.  Head to a park and swing.  Even if your little one isn't walking (trust me, the park gets a lot easier once they walk), head to a park and push them in the stroller.  
8.  Paintsicles.
9.  "Cooking" with Tupperware.  I keep a cabinet in our kitchen filled with kids' dishes that Abby can make a big giant mess & I just shove it back in when she is done.  This is perfect to keep her entertained while I am cooking dinner.
10.  Scooping Pom-Poms  - idea from Buggy & Buddy  
11.  Soap in the Water Table.  It makes "bubbles" & is a new novelty for the water table.
12.  Keep old magazines & let them tear them apart!  Abby loves to rip things, so an old magazine is the perfect item to rip:)
13.  Make a DIY Balance Beam & enjoy outside!
14.  Get a bird feeder & watch the birds every day.  This is one of my kids' favorite things to do!
15.  Water the bushes & the plants.  Again, anything with water keeps my toddlers busy forever!
16.  Mess-Free Painting  
17.  Play with a cardboard box.  Seriously use a diaper bag & let them climb in and out.  Pretend it's a boat, a car, or anything!  This keeps them busy for hours some days.
18.  Sock "Basketball".  This is a fun one to do while doing laundry.  Roll the socks into balls & have them try to make it into the laundry basket.
19.  Play-Doh.  With supervision, even little ones can enjoy play-doh.  Just watch that they don't put it in their mouths and eat!
20.  Pipe Cleaners & Colander  
21.  Stickers.  One is never too young for stickers.  Abby loves her stickers, even at 15 months!
22.  Make Your Own Ball Pit in the crib
23.  Magic Carpet Ride.  Place toddler on blanket & drag around the house!  
24.  Pillow or Couch Cushion Mountain.  Place cushions and pillows in middle of room & have a big time climbing the "mountain".
25.  Have a "tea party" in the backyard.  Bring out a blanket, a few lovies, cookies, & lemonade and make snack time extra special.
26. Cheerio Transfer or we love those little Cheerio activity books.
27.  Scrub the Table.  Let your little one have a slightly damp washcloth & let them wipe the table.
28.  Dot Paints.  Do this supervised, but this is something my little one loves.
29.  Books.  Books.  Books.  One can never hear enough stories.  I'm a huge advocate for reading at an early age!
30.  Pool Noodle Stringing
31.  Fill a soda bottle with glitter, water, & oil.  Shake and enjoy!
32.  "Bath" time for dolls, cars, Little People and more.  Fill a little Tupperware.  Place a swimsuit on your child.  And let them give a bath to their favorite play items!
33.  Balloon Volleyball with your baby.  Abby loves to play balloons with us!  
34.  Transfer Pom-Poms to a Muffin Tin with a spoon.  Put all the pom-pons in a big bowl and have them transfer to the tin.  As they get older, you can have them do this by color or use tongs.
35.  Draw on the Table.
36.  Color Wonder Markers are great for little ones.  You can only color on the paper & not anywhere else!
37.  Roll down a hill!  Easy entertainment for the backyard.  Or pull down on a tarp!
38.  Hand & Footprint Art
39.  Shaving Cream Play.  Just make sure they don't eat again!
40.  Paint with water.  This is an easy and fun one to do outside.  Fill a bowl with water.  Grab a paintbrush.  Head outside and paint the sidewalk with water.  No-mess simple entertainment.
41.  Contact Paper Art.
42.  Go on a walk with the stroller or head out on a bike ride with a bike seat or trailer!
43.  Bubble Wrap.  Anytime we get bubble wrap in the mail, my kids immediately jump on it and go crazy popping:)
44.  Color on the windows using these Crayola Window crayons.  It comes off with glass cleaner!
45.  Tube & Pom Pom Play.  
46.  Have a special "toddler & me" date.  Head to Starbucks & let them get a milk while you have coffee.  Go share an ice cream cone.  Head to the farmer's market and pick out fresh fruit and vegetables!
47.  Build a fort or put up a tent.
48.  Ice Cube Tray Snack
49.  Sensory Bins.  There are some lots of great & unique ideas on Pinterest, just search "Sensory Bins".
50. Fill & Dump.  Build & Knock Down.  Etc.  Toddlers like to ruin things:)  So make it a game to build as tall as you can before they knock it down.  Or put away as many books before they push them all off of the shelf.  


I hope this list inspires you (and me) to just "be" with our sweet little toddlers and cherish this curious, fun stage of their lives because I have to admit that this fun age goes WAY too fast!
whale swimsuit:  crazy 8.  flower romper (swing):  zutano.   giraffe romper:  baby gap. flower romper (car):  baby gap.  striped swimsuit:  little me.  flamingo dress:  zutano.  

Below I have selected just a few of my favorite toddler entertainment toys & books that have been tried & tested through three kids:)

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Disclosure:  This post does include affiliate links.

July 30, 2014

Where to Wednesday: Back to School Style with Momtrends

It's only July, and it's hard to start thinking back to school, but for the 2nd year in a row, I got my first glance at this year's "school style" at the Momtrends Back to School Event. Last week, I spent the night checking out the top styles and trends for back to school. The event took place at the Vera Bradley showroom in New York City. 
I've enjoyed Vera Bradley for "school style" since I was in high school. I love seeing what they come out with each fall, and this year the colors and patterns are the best yet. I enjoyed walking around and browsing the Vera Bradley school styles for all ages: there were adorable lunch bags for preschoolers all the way through bags I'd love to have for myself for the daily walks to school with the kids. In addition to perusing the showroom and seeing all Vera Bradley has to offer this year, we had the pleasure of speaking with co-founder Barbara Bradley Baekgaard about how she started the company 32 years ago with a  $250 loan from her husband. Now, a public company with over 3,000 employees, Barbara told us to never let anyone tell you that what you want to do can’t be done!
Next, we enjoyed an adorable kids' fashion show featuring back to school styles from Vera Bradley, Carter’s, Appaman, Lands End, Stride Rite and French Toast Uniforms
Some of the other back to school trends I enjoyed seeing and learning about were:
 Mabel's Labels: fun, creative ways to label your little one's school gear
 Wall Pops: I saw some great products for moms to get organized this fall 
Revolution Foods: The easiest, healthy lunch option i've seen for kids! 
For a full look at this year's back to school trends that Momtrends shared at the event, you click through and can browse the list below!
Vera Bradley
French Toast
Stride Rite
Mabel’s Labels
Vamousse
Revolution Foods
Wall Pops
The Orange Rhino
Photos courtesy of Momtrends. #MomtrendsBTS
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July 29, 2014

Poketti: A Fun New Find for Kids (& Giveaway!)

This spring, my boys arrived home from a friend's birthday party carrying the most adorable party favor I have ever seen.  My boys have yet to put down since it arrived in our house.   Say hello to Poketti, or a "plushie with a pocket".  


Learning more about the company & being connected to them through a friend, I am excited to bring one of my favorite new finds this year to the blog and share it with you all.  Poketti "is derived from the Japanese word "poketti" meaning pocket, and the Italian pluralization rule changing "o" to "i" because we are certain you will want more than one."  These plush animals are adorable & lovable.  

But not only are they fun & the perfect companion for kids, read more about the great story behind these fun plushies:

"My name is Sydney. Poketti was inspired by my 7th grade team entrepreneurial project at The Girls' Middle School in Palo Alto, California. During the course, we learned to write a business plan, design, manufacture and sell a product. I enjoyed the process so much, I convinced my family to turn my design into a real company: cute and functional animal pillows with a useful back pocket to hold a cell phone, notebook, tooth fairy offerings or other small treasures.  We raised $20,000 on Kickstarter for manufacturing, and have recently received our first series of professionally hand-sewn products: Poketti™ Plushies with a Pocket. Series 1 includes Sydney the Penguin (because I'm obsessed with penguins), Toni the Bunny (my sister Toni loves bunnies), Baxter the Puppy and Roxi the Kitty. "
Yep, you read that right.  One amazing 14 year old, Sydney, is the mastermind behind Poketti.  How awesome is that?!?!  You can read more about the story in this article on the Huffington Post.  Today we are sharing some fun ways our Pokettis have been put to good use in our households & why we love them so much. 

5 Things You Can Do with a Poketti
1.  Love, squeeze, & cuddle.  This is what Abby does best with her Poketti.

2.  Store little girl toy "trinkets".  Courtney's girls love to store all those tiny pieces that come with the dolls and miniature horses in the pocket of the Poketti.  Courtney loves that they can keep all the parts in the pockets & is portable to bring to restaurants, parks, or even just to the backyard and she doesn't have to keep track of all the tiny little pieces of the toys.


3.  Hold an iPod, which is perfect for a little older children.  I have to admit that Aiden does have an iPod, but a very old one!  Like maybe close to the first generation (hand me down from his grandma).  But he treasures and cherishes it listening to tunes & pretending to have many phone conversations with family and friends.  So the Poketti for him holds his iPod.  It's the perfect-sized pocket to store the iPod without losing it when we travel or even around the house.


4.  Store superheroes & Hot Wheels.  Andrew is really into his superhero figurines.  (He thinks he is Superman.  Trust me!)  So his Poketti dog holds his superheroes when we head out and about.  Another great toy that it holds for my kids are Hot Wheels.  You can store about three or four Hot Wheels to take with you when you head out!


5.  Our Poketti plushies have also been perfect to use: holding crayons and a miniature notebook for coloring & to practice writing, a travel pillow in the car and on the airplane, a stuffed animal to join the "imaginative play", and even a place to store snacks on car rides.  


You can find more information and order Poketti from their website & online shop.   AND two lucky readers today will win a Poketti & a fun mini notebook that will fit right into the pocket of the Poketti.  Enter in the Rafflecopter below and good luck!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

July 28, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream Recipe

“This shop is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group™ and Wet-Nap but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #showusyourmess  http://my-disclosur.es/OBsstV


There is one thing on my summer bucket list every year:  make AND eat homemade ice cream.  I am a huge ice cream fan.  Trust me.  In my teenage years, I worked in a homemade ice cream shop & there is something special about eating truly homemade ice cream.  It's delicious, creamy, & the classic All-American summer treat.    Now that I have kids, I like to join forces with my curious, eager children to create the ultimate summer ice cream that both kids and adults love!  This year, I wanted to try a new flavor with the kids by combining two of our summer favorites together into one creation.  But it has to be simple and easy because with three little kids, I don't have time to waste in the kitchen!   One of our favorite desserts is the Fudgiscle, kind of like chocolate ice cream on a stick.  So we combined the Fudgiscle flavors with our favorite candy, Reese's peanut butter cups, to create a Chocoate Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream with only THREE ingredients.  

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream
Note: You do need an electric ice cream maker for this recipe.

Ingredients:
2 cups whole milk
1 box of 4-ounce instant chocolate pudding
1 cup chocolate peanut butter cups, chopped

Directions:
1.  Mix whole milk and chocolate pudding together in bowl until well-blended.
2.  Pour into freezer bowl of ice cream maker.
3.  Turn the ice cream maker on and let mix until mixture thickens. (Our ice cream maker took approximately 20 minutes)
4.  Add the chopped peanut butter cups when there is only about five minutes left or once the ice cream begins to harden.
5.  Place in freezer to get a firmer consistency.
6.  Serve and ENJOY!


Now, let's talk about eating chocolate ice cream with young children.  I don't know about you, but one of my least favorite stains to take care of in our laundry is chocolate ice cream.  So to be prepared, there are two items to have on hand when you eat chocolate ice cream:
  • Wet-Nap canister.  I like to keep a canister of Wet-Nap in our kitchen nearby for a quick way to clean those messy faces after dinner and/or dessert.  During mealtime, we use napkins to keep our hands and bodies relatively clean, but as soon as meal is over, I like to grab a Wet-Nap to easily and quickly clean those dirty faces.  Trust me that with a wriggling toddler & quick-moving preschool boys, I have about two seconds to clean those faces before those kids run away.  The Wet-Nap is soft, strong, and even moisturizes their face with aloe making the process of clean-up easy for moms.  I found my Wet-Nap canister at Wal-Mart, the store of everyday low prices, near the hand soap section (also could be found in napkin aisle)  where I used this coupon (while supplies last) to receive an extra 55 cents off Wet-Nap products.
  • And for the stains that do get on the clothes, I am giving away my super secret ingredient for laundry.  A Fels-Naptha bar, also found at Wal-Mart.  If you don't have one, buy it.  All you do is a rub a little on the stain for about 10-30 minutes prior to wash and that should make the stain go away!  

So here's to happy eating...

& happy cleaning!

 

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July 25, 2014

Friday Favorites: 5 Pregnancy Essentials

It's not easy to remember to take care of yourself when you have little ones running around. They demand so much help, attention and food, that "time for mom" is limited to a fraction of the day. When you are pregnant, regardless of how many other people you're taking care of, it's important to find time to take care of yourself. It was a hard routine to get into for me, but my first trimester was pretty rough, and taking time to take care of myself starting making it a lot better. It's not easy for me to remember all day, everyday, but I've been trying to take a little more "me time" the past few months and at least take my vitamins and eat some lunch! 

Below are 5 pregnancy essentials that i'd highly recommend:
1. Mama Mio: About a month ago, I started using a few products from the Mama Mio skincare line and love them. Over the course of 3 pregnancies, I've tried quite a few "belly creams" and the Mama Mio TummyRub Butter is my favorite. It doesn't go on thick and sticky like some do. It's omega-rich and safe and effective for protecting against stretch marks and itchy bellies. My skin always changes a lot during pregnancy, and I always find that my usual face wash and lotion needs to be switched up.  I've been using the Mama Mio Gorgeous Glow Face Wash and Face Swipes and they've been the perfect solution for my skin. I'd highly recommend this line! 
2. Prenatal Vitamins: I've been taking Rainbow Light vitamins for a while, but each time i've been pregnant, I have a lot of trouble with prenatal vitamins. I tried breaking the capsule open and sprinkling in a smoothie or in breakfast (you can do that easily with some of the Rainbow Light Prenatals), but during the first trimester, I was having trouble eating most foods that  I could add the vitamin to. I found out that Rainbow Light makes a "Prenatal Petite" and tried it. They are awesome if you have trouble swallowing/ tolerating prenatal vitamins. They are so much smaller than a regular pill. The Rainbow Light Prenatal Petite is gluten-free, sugar-free, lactose-free, dairy-free, wheat-free and yeast-free. It is 100% natural, and contains no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives or additives.
3. Earth Mama Angel Baby Organics: I had a few friends recommend this brand for different reasons: pregnancy products, breastfeeding and for babies. While I haven't tried the breastfeeding products just yet, the pregnancy items they have are awesome. I was very sick the first trimester and continue to have to rough mornings and nights here and there. The Earth Mama Organic Wellness Morning Tea and the Happy Mama Spray are wonderful. I've also recently tried the Organic Heartburn Tea too and it helps more than antacids! The whole line is all natural and safe. Two of the baby products that we've all been using this summer: Angel Baby Bottom Balm (helps bug bites!) and Mint Herbal Lip Balm. 
4. Kocked Up Fitness: It was a lot easier for me to find time to workout and take exercise classes when I was pregnant with my first. Now, in order to work out or take a class I have to go late at night when my husband gets home or hire a babysitter. I recently found a great way to fit in prenatal workouts at home: Knocked Up Fitness. I'd recommend starting with the The Knocked-Up Fitness Guide to Pregnancy Book (there's an e-version too) and then getting to work with the DVDs. Knocked up Fitness really helps out with keeping you in shape while pregnant. It offers safe and effective exercises to stay fit in as little as 10 minutes a day so you may have a faster delivery, healthier baby, and quicker return to your pre-baby body. The workouts are fun, provide a great workout and my kids get a kick out of watching me do them in our living room! 


5. Relaxing: This is by far the hardest thing for me to remember to do during pregnancy. I've never been good at "resting" during the day and usually push myself to the limit and pass out at night. This was really taking a toll this pregnancy and i've had to think of ways to get the kids to "relax" with me for a little while each afternoon. I've also found a great mother's helper in my neighborhood who comes and plays outside with the girls once or twice a week, while I rest inside. One of the best ways I "relaxed" this summer was after SwimWays sent along one of their Spring Floats (the kids were supervised in the pool by another adult while I relaxed). This float is so comfortable and even holds up a growing pregnant lady! We don't have a pool of our own, but this float travels well: it easily folds up into a small circle and slips into a bag. The Spring Float makes relaxing in the summertime a breeze. 
Now for a fun Friday giveaway: One lucky winner will receive a SwimWays Spring Float. You don't have to be pregnant to enjoy some relaxing in the pool this summer! You can enter using the Rafflecopter below. Happy Friday! 

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

July 24, 2014

Fun Water Activities for Kids

We have been a little creative this summer with having fun in the water.  Where we live at the moment, there is no public pools and private pools have wait lists that last several years.  But since I have three little kids who aren't the world's best swimmers, I have used my imagination on how to have fun in the water in the comfort of our own backyard.  Today, I am sharing some fun & easy ideas on how to have fun in the water at home!


1.  First, the thing that we use most is our inflatable pool.  We quickly inflate & jump in!  We bought this big swimming pool and thankfully it has lasted for two summers now.  We play in it at least three times a week - a perfect place to play on these hot summer days.  One way that we make it "new" each week is by picking out a new pool toy every week or two.  Our favorite toys come from Swim Ways.
  
Swimways has a great mixture of fun toys for kids that are durable for the long summer season and perfect for the backyard pool as well as heading to the pool with friends!  Their swimming masks, especially the fun character ones, have quickly become our favorite for our little "fish"!  Some of our favorite pool toys this year include: the Gobble Gobble Guppies shark to help practice counting and colors and the SquiDivers to dive for over and over again.

Other favorite backyard activities include:

2.  Paint with Water.  Take a paintbrush and bucket of water out.  Practice writing names, paint drawings, draw your self portrait, and more!
3.  Add bubble bath to the water table.  This is perfect when you want to do a "car wash" or doll/superhero "bath".
4.  Play Water Tag with a water ball.  Instead of tagging a person to be "it", you throw a ball at a person and if you hit them then you are it!
5.  Ride bikes in the sprinkler.  This is one of my boys' favorites.  We even pull out the Cozy Coupe and push car so Abby can have fun!
7.  Play "Fill the Bucket"  Turn on the hose and spray up.  Each kid has a bucket and whoever fills their bucket first wins!
8.  Water Balloons are always a hit.
9.  Do a yard obstacle course with water involved.  For example, run down the slip and slide.  Do three flips.  Crawl under the hammock.  Do five jumping jacks in the pool.  Touch the fence.  This is great for high-energy children:)
10.   Hot Potato with water balloons.
11.  We use our snorkel, goggles, and flippers to have races across the backyard through the hose.
12.  Colored Ice in the pool.  Make some colored ice earlier in the day with food coloring.  Throw it into the pool and watch it melt as they play!
13.  Sprinkler Freeze Dance.  When the sprinkler is on, everyone dances.  When it turns off, everyone freezes:)  Repeat until soaked!
15.  Enjoy popsicles in the pool!

Cheers to a little fun & cool to the rest of your summer!

For more backyard fun, make sure to check out our post, The Ultimate Backyard Toy Guide for Kids!
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Healthy Seasonal Recipes: Grilled Tilapia and Asparagus


During the summer, I cook most dinners on the grill. I'm always trying to coming up with new recipes, and not just grill the same thing all the time. One thing my family enjoys is tilapia, but in the past, when I tried to cook it on the grill, it would stick to the grill or grill basket and then break into pieces. Thanks to PAM®  Let’s Grill, I finally figured out a way to make one of our favorite oven baked tilapia dinners on the grill! It stayed in one piece and was even tastier than when I make it in the oven. I served it over one of our summer grill favorites and ended up with a delicious, easy and healthy summer meal. 


Grilled Tilapia and Asparagus: A Healthy Seasonal Recipe

Ingredients:
Tilapia
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 table spoons of olive oil
Pepper
Oregano
PAM®  Let’s Grill
Asparagus 
PAM® Purely Olive Oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Other supplies: foil paper and metal grill basket (see picture)


Directions: 
Start by creating a marinade for the tilapia. Place tilapia in a glass baking dish and coat with the olive oil and lemon juice. Then sprinkle a liberal amount of pepper and oregano on both sides. Let sit for about 10 minutes. While it's marinating, prepare the asparagus. Make a little "bed" for the asparagus out of tin foil (see picture). Spray the asparagus on all sides with PAM® Purely Olive Oil. Then, sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. 


Heat the grill on med-high. Once heated, lower to medium. Take the grill basket and spray with PAM®  Let’s Grill, then place it on the grill. Spray the tilapia with PAM®  Let’s Grill as well. Place tilapia in the grill basket. Place the tin foil "bed" of asparagus on the grill as well. Close the grill and cook for 6-8 minutes. After 6-8 minutes, move the asparagus around bit to be sure to cook on all sides. Get ready to flip the tilapia: spray the side facing up with PAM®  Let’s Grill and then carefully flip. Close the grill and cook for another 6-8 minutes or as soon as the tilapia is cooked through. Remove everything from the grill and serve the tilapia over the grilled asparagus. Last, but not least, enjoy a healthy summer meal! 


PAM®  non-stick cooking sprays have become an essential past of our grilling this summer. I use PAM® Purely Olive Oil and PAM® Let’s Grill in almost all of my seasonal recipes this year. Not only do they help keep them healthy and easy, they make the clean up so much faster. The grill, grill basket, and any other prep dishes are so easy to clean when I use PAM®  sprays in the recipe. 
Cooking on the grill and eating outdoors is one of our favorite parts of summertime. I'm glad I have a a new healthy seasonal recipe, Grilled Tilapia and Asparagus, to add into my rotation of meals to make! 


Click on the image above to learn more about PAM® non-stick cooking sprays.  “Leaving up to 99% less residue, PAM is your ally in the kitchen and allows you to save time during prep and clean up."

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Disclosure: Compensation was provided by ConAgra via Mode Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of ConAgra.
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