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A Christmas Pajama Play Date

This morning I had one of the MOST FUN play dates ever! Seeing as the holidays are not busy at all and I have NOTHING else I should be doing with my time (are you hearing the sarcasm?), I decided this week was a PERFECT time to organize a community wide play date for our littles! The idea came to me last Tuesday, I shot out a few text messages, and VOILA! Super fun Christmas Pajama play date!

I wanted to have SOME structure to the morning to avoid chaos or boredom, so I came up with a simple schedule. We broke the morning into 4 parts:

For the first 45 minutes, the kiddos had a “free play.” A sweet friend brought one of those cute felt trees that are all the rage on Pinterest right now, I put together some sensory bins from materials we mostly had on hand, & we pulled out all of our Christmas board books.

The sensory bins, by the way, were a HIT. Who would have thought cotton balls could be so entertaining?

I was also intentional about providing activities that would be entertaining to a variety of ages. We invited preschool and under, so I chose activities that were flexible.

I knew our friends would just trickle in during this time (9am is EARLY, friends!) so it was the perfect time for the kiddos to just play and burn some energy.

Throughout this first 45 minutes, we had fun & energetic Christmas music playing! We also used this time to make sure all of the kiddos got name tags so we could learn our new friends names easier!

At 9:45, we rounded the kids up for a snack and story. I chose a healthy, yet festive option of red and green fruits as well as a sweeter, less healthy option of our Christmas Crunch.

During story time, I prepped for crafts. I had all of the tables prepared and off to the side so that all I had to do was pull out craft goodies. After snack, the kiddos were free to play again, or participate in as many crafts as they’d like! Again, I tried to chose crafts that would be versatile for the age group.

Other than fun & versatile, my other goal was to have crafts that were as hands off as possible for mommies. Lots of crafts are incredibly cute but require 100% attention by mommies (hand print paint crafts, for example). I did not want moms to be responsible for painting hands, printing hands, washing hands, and then turning said hand into a reindeer/Santa/Mona Lisa. Nothing against those crafts (they’re on my wish list!) but this time was intended for mommies to socialize too! So! With these, moms were encouraged to be close by and guide their littles, but would allow for freedom for both mommies and littles. :)

For the last 30 minutes of our play date, we had lunch & movie! We chose a 30 minute short film. This worked out great because the kiddos were ready to rest and I needed time to clean up! Plus, with this timeline, all of the kids were home in time for nap (a non-negotiable in our world).

This whole event was so much fun! I hope that I get to do more! What about you? Do you host themed play dates? I’d love to hear! Comment below or contact me through Facebook!


How We Do Christmas

How do you do Christmas gifting for your kids? Do you just set a budget and shop til it's done? Do you forgo the budget and buy whatever you love? If you're anything like me, you have just as much fun buying gifts as the kiddos do receiving them. I love this little rhyme a friend shared with me a couple years ago. It's a great way to give a little structure to my gift choices!

I'm not making any vows to live by this forever, but I really like the idea of setting a standard for what gift-giving in our house will look like. I like that it keeps me accountable to a fairly simple wish-list instead of making Christmas about everything we WANT WANT WANT!

So this year for Christmas, we have committed to living by our little rhyme again (plus stocking). Something you want, something you need, something you wear, & something you read. Done and done!

So what's on our shopping list? Beckett will be 2 this Christmas and Charlie will be 4 months. Here's what's on their lists:

Want: A Kazam Bike! It has no petals and is supposed to be a great way to teach them to ride.
Need: A helmet to match!
Wear: University of Kentucky Gear. I haven't found it yet.
Read: A subscription to National Geographic Little Kids
He'll also get a stocking full of goodies.

We haven't completely figured out what we want for Charlie yet, but I'm working on it! 

What about you? Do you have a plan for Christmas? I'd love to hear it! omment below!

5 Fun Ways We're Counting with Cards

Flash cards can be totally boring. But they don't have to be! While some teachers are very anti-flash cards, I happen to think they're a cheap and easy way to provide consistent but versatile practice with your kiddos! We LOVE flash cards in our house.

October was a very busy month for us, so we've decided to carry on our Fall theme into November. Right now, Beckett is OBSESSED with counting. He counts everything he sees. So right now, he's loving his number activities. Here are five fun activities we're doing with flash cards!

Put them in Order
Ok. This may seem basic but I challenge you to make it fun! With Beckett, I start off the first three numbers in a line, and scatter the rest around the room. We count them in all the fun ways we can (he likes to walk on them), then we have a big exciting hunt to find the next number. When we find it, we dance and celebrate and put it in order. Really, it's not hard to entertain an [almost] two year old.

Group Objects
I have several sets of cutie manipulatives (toys) that support our current vocabulary & we use for various activities.  For this, I simply grouped some of them together. Then Beckett & I counted them and looked for the card to match.

Fine Motor Counting
I grabbed these fun eyeballs from Walmart the other day. Beckett thinks they're hilarious! We used them to count onto the number cards. These are also great for fine motor skills. They're super small & exersice that pincher grasp, plus are hecka hard to pick up off the hard wood floor!

Clothes Pins
This is my new favorite activity. Beckett is intrigued by the clothes pins but can't manage them quite yet. This will be a simple & fun way to exercise those little hands. We simply counted out the number of clothes pins that matched the card I chose, then clipped them to the card.

Eat Em!
Ok.. so Beckett actually came up with this because he's way more creative than I am. His spiders started eating the numbers and I just went along with it. "He's eating a FOUR?! No way!! Can he eat the... SEVEN?! Nom Nom Nom!!" He was so. entertained.

And that's all! Simple, quick, & entertaining! If you like these cards, you can grab the apple ones by clicking here or my brand new turkey ones by clicking here.

What activities are your Tots loving? I'd love to hear about them! Comment here or message me directly with any questions or comments!

I Have Fallen in Love: Freezer Crock Pot Meals, Take 2

A few months ago, I shared a list of crock pot meals I was preparing for after Charlie Grace arrived. It's been a couple months and we're running low on prepared meals. Let me tell you: I CANNOT LET THAT HAPPEN. This was my first experience with preparing and freezing meals in advance and I WILL NEVER GO BACK. Cooking is NOT my cup of tea. I just really don't enjoy spending time cooking when I could be having a root canal instead. [Ok fine. A little dramatic.. but REALLY.] So here I am again, with a brand new list of meals we plan to enjoy this month and some cutie cute labels to boot!

Grab the free download here. In it you'll find my two week plan (which I double), a shopping list for before you prep, and labels. Note that I prep 14 different meals but I make TWO of each. So my grocery list is for 28 meals! If you only want one of each meal, you'll need to cut it in half.

If you're lucky like me, you can get together with friends and do this part. Add wine and it makes it even better. Find a friend who will do all of the work while you watch, drink wine, and tape labels, and you've hit the jackpot! (Thank you very much, BFF Katie).

I also highly recommend crock pot liners. Seriously. They take my meal planning life from, "wow! This is easy!" to "I AM THE MOST BRILLIANT PERSON ON THE PLANET!" They are worth every penny. Don't let your husband tell you differently.

So all you need now are links! Below is the link to each meal that is included on this plan. 

I'd love to hear what you think about them! Leave a comment or contact me directly with questions or comments!


A Totally Spooktacular Treat for Your Team!

I spent last night shoving candy into mason jars and topping them off with pretty little bows. It's almost embarassing how excited I get about simple little projects like these. I could spend all of my days planning parties and events and working on sweet little gifts for people. Lucky for me, it's the holidays and my husband is a business owner. He's charged me with the very important task of making sure his employees know how much we love and appreciation them. This year, I'll be bringing these bad boys to the company's annual Halloween party.

These were a bit time consuming with two needy children on hand, but incredibly simple to do. They turned out great, and who doesn't love mason jars? Or CANDY?

Just for you, I've made my VERY FIRST editable document. Woot! Go me! :) You can download these gift tags FOR FREE in my TPT store. Just click here. In order to use the same font I did to sign your name, you'll need to download KG All of Me. It's FREE for personal use. If you'd rather not download a font, I recommend using the font "Avenir Next Condensed Demi Bold" [which came with my Microsoft Word] in all caps.

The jars are pretty self-explanatory (shove candy & go), but I still thought I'd share a few notes & tips before you get started:

I used pint (16oz) wide mouth mason jars
18 jars took about 12 rolls of (3yd) ribbon
I cut my ribbon about 20 inches long
String the ribbon between the two pieces of the mason jar lid.

To add the tag: tie the ribbon once, add the tag to just one strand, then finish your knot.

I twisted all of the ribbon so the print side was face up

And voila! You've got yourself a totally adorable & sweet SPOOKtacular treat! What do you think? I'd love to hear what else you choose to use these tags for! Who's on your special team? Comment below!

Too Sweet for Words Family Name Practice

This morning we decided to work on family names. I'm so in love with this activity.

It's sweet to see Beckett learning to pronounce the name of our family members. He gets excited about photos of family members he loves and recognizes.

Plus, working with these simple cards is jam packed with great literacy skills. I created this activity so Beckett could start learning to spell his name as well as Mom & Dad. I threw in the others for good measure. ;) During this activity we also get to work on:
Letter names & sounds
Beginning sounds
Family Name Pronuniations
Reading from left to right
Recognizing that Letters strung together form a Word
Using photos to identify words

For the first time, Beckett ran his finger under a word (Dad) and pronounced it accordingly. I could have died watching his cute chubby finger make progress in the simple skills that will one day lead to him reading independently.

Of course, he got confused too. At one point, he ran his car accross the mat, then read, "car" instead of Nana. I'm cool with that. It was a fun morning.

These cards were super easy to make. I made the boxes 1 inch wide by 1.25 inches high to specifically fit the letter beads we have on hand. Then, I used to make the photo grids. To me, it's way easier than sizing them directly on the document.

What do you think? Have you tried a similar activity? What worked for you in learning to spell your kiddo's name? If you've got a great Tot School activity to share, please feel free to link up!


Board Books We're Loving this Fall!

I'm OBSESSED with books. We have way way way too many, if that's a thing. Nonetheless, I continue to collect them! One of my new favorite ways to choose & buy books is from blogger friends sharing their favorites in posts like these! So, welcome to my first book list. :)

This month for Tot School, my son and I are reveling is some serious fall goodness. I've pulled all of our books that support the theme and vocabulary we're learning this month. ALL of the books on my list are available (or only provided) in board books.  I've also included Vocabulary We Love. When listing vocabulary, you should know I'm also referring to the illustrations. Here's a list of my favorites, in no particular order!

This story is simple & repetitive. The two adorable friends go on a search for a pumpkin.
Vocabulary We Love: pumpkin, acorn, leaf pile, log, apple tree

We love ALL of the Duck and Goose books! My son has gotten one for just about every holiday and milestone over the last year. Check out their others here!

Goodnight Goon by Michael Rex
This is a very creative parody of the classic Goodnight Moon. The rhythm & pattern is basically the same, but replaced with a spooky setting and characters. This book may be a bit scary for some littles. I think my son is still a bit young to recognize that he should be afraid, so he's pretty intrigued.
Vocabulary we love: bat, cat, hat, scary, ghost

Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Stellaluna is a sweet baby bat who gets separated from her mother and must live with baby birds. During her stay, she learns the differences between herself and her new friends, but they all realize that they can love each other anyway!
This book is a little bit long for young toddlers, but my son (23 months) sat through most of it. He really enjoyed the illustrations.
Vocabulary we love: bat, wings, birds, nest, sad, happy

Fall by Roger Priddy
I love the Bright Baby Board Books! I just discovered them during my first Tot School unit when we found the Trucks book buried among other books on our shelves. We didn't even know we had it! After we spent so much time with that book, I knew I had to have this one for fall. The pages simply have one large illustration and the vocabulary word beneath it. Unlike the Trucks book, this book is Touch & Feel, which makes it even more engaging for my toddler!
Vocabulary we love: turkey, pumpkin, squirrel, walk

It's Pumpkin Day, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff
Mouse [from If You Give A Mouse A Cookie] has a blast painting pumpkins in this book! He gives each pumpkin faces with different emotions, which could make for great conversation with your tot!
Vocabulary we love: pumpkin, mouse, leaf, happy, sad, scary.
This book is also great practice for counting to 7.

The friends compete to see who can put stack apples on their heads. In true Dr. Seuss form, the book has a fun rhythm and rhyme. My son tends to get bored before the end, but we do love counting the apples!
Vocabulary we love: apple, tree. This book is great for practicing counting to ten.

Boo by Leslis Patricelli
I've recently become fond of Leslie Patricelli's board books as well. (She has a cute Potty one we're using to help gear up for training!). This Boo book is really adorable and LOADED with great vocabulary. First, the main character picks and carves a pumpkin. There is a page with adorable illustrations modeling several facial expressions to choose from. Then he chooses a costume and the illustrator lays out a lot of options to discuss with your little. Finally, he goes trick or treating with his dad. The illustrations are great for discussing staying with a grown up, what happens when it gets dark, using manners, etc.
Vocabulary we love: leaves, pumpkin, scarecrow, corn, bat, spider, cat, candy, happy, angry, monkey, ghost, scary, thank you

10 Trick or Treaters by Janet Schulman
This is an adorable rhyming book that counts backward from 10. On each page, another trick or treater disappears. I like that the final page ends with "and then there were none." We talk about them being "all gone" and talk about zero. The last page shows all of the numbers, 10-0.
Vocabulary we love: bus, firefighter, spider, apples, fire, pumpkin, cat, moon, & numbers 0-10.

The vampire bat insists he's scarier than all of the other things in the castle. The book is repetitive and simple, with adorable illustrations. At the end of the book, the vampire bat decided he's actually the cutest thing in the castle. :)
Vocabulary we love: bat, star, scary, spider, web, ghost, dark

Ok, if I'm being real, I actually don't like this book at all. My son, on the other hand, LOVES it. The book features a mail carrier (Fox) who loses all of the letters he's carrying to the wind on the very first page. The rest of the book features opposite words on each page (up/down, wet/dry, left/right, etc). We're not quite ready for opposites and I think the concepts are too abstract for the illustrations to really do justice. HOWEVER, the leaves are embellished with a metallic, shiny paper material that is eye catching and fun. Beckett mostly flips through the books and feels the shiny material. If he's happy, then I'm happy. :)
Vocabulary we love: leaves, fox, duck, tree, squirrel

The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle
Throughout the book, different animals approach the busy spider asking him if he wants to play. The spider is always too busy building his web. I like that the story is repetitive, yet each animal asks to do an activity specific to their personality (the dog wants to chase a cat). 
Vocabulary we love: spider, web, various animals & their sounds, sleepy, night

Biscuit has a series of books. This is just a quick, simple story featuring Buiscit's trip to the pumpkin patch. They paint pumpkins and make some friends.
Vocabulary we love: pumpkin, wagon, apples, happy, sad

Ok, I don't love this book either, but my son is a fan of the shiny cover and the "mon" (monkey/George). This book is a compliation of poems describing different aspects of Halloween. The poems are fun to chant and are full of good vocabulary. I'm not sure that a young toddler is going to comprehend them, but they would be great for Kindergarten age. I generally read one page at a time and discuss the pictures before moving on to another book.
Vocabulary we Love: pumpkin, web, ghost, bat

Teaming Up with 180 Days to Happy!

I'm really excited about today's post, guys. So listen up.

Throughout my [two years this month!] of bloggy adventures, I've run into some really incredible bloggers who have a heart for people and a desire to encourage & motivate. Among these is Rachael from 180 Days to Happy.

Today, I'm honored to be a part of one of Rachael's beautiful endeavors to share inspiration with teachers [among others] everywhere. I got to design October's free monthly download, which is designed to inspire & motivate you to set goals and go after them in the month of October! Check out Rachael's blog and grab the download here!

I'd also like to send a shout out to Krista from Creative Clipart. The design for this set is inspired by her use of bright colors on black, which I've fallen in love with! 

Make sure to let me know what you think!