Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dr. Seuss Party

I'm a terrible blogger.  We had a great toddler party and I didn't take nearly enough photos.  I will share the few I did take and resolved to do better next time.

So first, let me explain my party philosophy:  Don't hide in the kitchen.  Don't have an agenda.  Don't spend a ton of money.  And most importantly, have fun!  So with that in mind, I set up some play centers around the house using our Seuss theme.

My grandfather retired from Random House, so I have quite a collection of Seuss books.  I gathered them together and put them with some of the alphabet toys we've collected over the years.  Another area I set up (and didn't photograph) was based on "Mr. Brown Can Moo".  I had my older kids bring the Little People barn out of storage and set it up with all of the farm animals I could find.

You can't have a Seuss party and not include a One Fish, Two Fish activity.  (Shouldn't that be "an One Fish, Two Fish"?  Grammar police, please help!)  Using a tri-fold board (Dollar Tree - $1), a yard of flannel (Jo-Ann Fabrics - $3), and 4 sheets of felt ($1 for all 4 - Jo-Ann), I made a quick felt board.  Most of the kiddos at the party were around 2 years old, so generally they pulled the fish off the board and giggled, but they had fun.  If we hadn't had such awful weather for the weeks leading up to the party, I would have picked up a plastic fish bowl to keep the pieces in, but Mother Nature had other plans.

A Cat in the Hat bulletin board set worked as the backdrop for a table of yummy food that I forgot to photograph. (Pinterest has oodles of ideas.  I went with quiche and small sandwiches since it was bunch and other kid-friendly snacks.)

Brown paper protected the train table nicely as it became the craft station.  Since they were mostly toddlers, we did simple crafts.  They put animal stickers on a zoo print out ("If I Ran the Zoo"), stars stickers on Sneeches, apples on a tree (apples = pom poms, "Ten Apples Up On Top"), and they made a cute Cat in the Hat craft.

Party favors are always fun, but of course I didn't take a picture.  I was able to have a friend order a copy of The Napping House through Scholastic for a dollar a piece.  I would have preferred a Seuss book, but that would have completely ruined my budget.  I added Dr. Seuss pencils, crayons, erasers, and bookmarks all found in the dollar section of Target last fall.  Wrapped them in striped tissue paper and voila - fun favors.

I hung streamers for Valentine's Day and left them up for the party.  They initially looked something like this, but without the polka dots.  (Check out this adorable birthday party theme):

After about 45 minutes, the kids discovered them and they very quickly became the best dollar I've ever spent on an unintentional party game. 

Once they'd finally pulled them all down, they spent 15 minutes giggling and shouting "Hooray!"  It was a wonderful end to a very fun party.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

What to do with a Wonderful One Year Old (Finger painting... again.)

Before I share a wicked cute series of finger painting photos, let me first tell you I fail more often than I succeed.  My initial attempt at the famous Pinterest finger paint project is proof of that.  This is true of my attempts at not only toddler crafts, but at many things in life:  housekeeping, baking, sticking to my grocery list, making it to the gym often enough, walking up stairs without falling.  But sooner or later I manage to figure most things out or come to the realization that it wasn't that important in the first place.

For our second attempt and this project, I used some heavy drawing paper stolen borrowed from my oldest daughter's art supplies.  I decided to shed my slightly obsessive need for things to be straight and symmetrical and went with a funky off kilter design.  (Cutting myself some slack is on my list of 'ways to be a better person'.  'Mastering stairs' is on that list, too.)

Popped a diapered baby in the tub and let him have at it.  Finger painting in the bathtub works well.  It limits the mess and results in a clean tub, clean baby, and cute art.  The finger paints were purchased at the Dollar Tree.  I couldn't find my homemade, cotton candy scented, organic finger paints.  The potentially poisonous, made in China out of Lord only knows what, cheap paints worked just fine.  He didn't put them in his mouth.

As you can see, Connell doesn't limit his artistic efforts to just his canvas. 

Hanging the finished art on the mirror to dry worked well.  The mirror needed to be washed anyway (as you can see), and the paint came right off.

The finished project will be a fun addition to our already growing collection of Valentine crafts!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What to do with a Wonderful One Year Old (Cat in the Hat Edition)

This is the view of the tree in my front yard.  We're possibly going to lose my favorite branch.  Connell and I have spent hours peeking out the window, watching the bird feeders dangling from that branch.  When he was brand new and fussy, we spent even more hours standing in the sunny window, watching the shadows cast by its leaves.  I'm trying not to begrudge Mother Nature, but please, lady, just leave my branch, okay?  We won't even discuss the lilac situation.

To continue to fight the mid-winter blues, I've decided to have a little gathering of playgroup friends in a few weeks.  We're going to throw Dr. Seuss a birthday party.  Selfishly, it gives me something to think about while we're trapped in the house by the evil weather.  The trick will be figuring out what activities the 'under two' crowd can handle in our limited space.  I decided to start with a simple Cat in the Hat craft and do a bit of a beta test.

Instructions:  Using red card stock, I cut out a rectangle to make the hat.  White card stock worked for the stripes.  Construction paper circles made the face and whiskers.  Leftover foam heart stickers worked for the nose and beads (stolen borrowed from my daughter's bead bin) made great eyes.

I found the key was to talk him through the activity.  He wanted to touch the glue, which was fine.  He enjoyed sliding the "stripes" around a bit.   We talked about "stick".  When we put the face together, we talked about nose and eyes.

It's fun to find ways to work new language into fine motor skills.  At this point, he will focus on things like this for anywhere from 3 - 5 minutes, so I find having everything handy and ready to go helps.  Eye contact, reassurances ("Good job!"), and encouragement ("Keep trying!") keep him engaged.  And his smiles keep winter from driving me completely insane.

What to do with a Wonderful One Year Old (Valentine's 1.0)

Winter seems pretty endless these days, so I've been trying to keep Connell engaged and busy.  After he settled in for a morning nap, I sifted and sorted through craft supplies to see what I had on hand to entertain him.  Luckily I tend to stock up on and squirrel away lots of odds and ends.

We focused on the color red and the words 'heart' and 'stick'.

(Finger paints still terrify me... we didn't touch those.)

I decided we'd start with "stained glass".  Using wax paper, I let Connell pour the glue and spread it around with his fingers.  Luckily, Elmer's has an adjustable spout and is nontoxic.  We sprinkled glitter on one piece of wax paper and covered the other with small squares of tissue.  (Baby wipes are great for quick clean up.)  Foam heart stickers made the frames festive and in a matter of minutes, he was ready to move on to the next craft.

He was still raring to go.  Using coffee filters (Do people still make full pots of coffee?  Probably.), I cut a quick heart shape.  We used My First Crayola Water Colors.  By the time he worked his way through 3 of the 4 colors, he had painted a mustache on his face.  Of course, I washed it off before I snapped a picture.  

A few hours later, he found the pom-poms and stickers (and by "found", I mean, "Mom left them within his reach and he carried them all over the house saying "STICK!  Momma!  STICK HEART!"  I tried really hard not to have visions of him someday becoming a vampire slayer.).  We tried a bit of counting and color sorting.  A little more glue, and voila!  A pile of toddler crafts to brighten up our dreary mid-winter blahs!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dear Target

Dear Gregg W. Steinhafel (CEO, Target):

This isn't okay.  Blurred Lines is the name of a song about date rape.  You did not designed the shirt.  And I  understand your buyers chose it.  But you, sir, are untimely responsible for promoting the idea of blurring the lines even more.

You are selling the idea that date rape is cute.

According to University of the Sciences, 1 in 4 college women are victims of date rape.  84% of those women knew their attackers.  The Center for Family Justice  reports that every two minutes a women in the United States is sexually assaulted.  55% of gang rapes happen at fraternities where this song is likely to be played during parties. (One In Four)

The long term effects of rape are devastating.  Depression, borderline personality disorder, sleep and eating disorders, just to name a few.  We won't even get into the impact unintended pregnancy due to rape has on society.

Article after article dissects the lyrics and their meaning.  The bottom line is this:  As a major American retailer, you are responsible for the messages on your clothing.  You are responsible for knowing what you're marketing to little girls.  You are responsible for making date rape cute.

You are a father, Mr. Sheinhafel.  Would you let your daughter wear this shirt?