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If you follow me on Facebook, you probably realized we are on vacation right now.
Last week we were at Disney World for a few days. When we first made our Disney plans, I had originally planned on surprising my daughter with dining with the princesses. At almost $200 for the four of us, I quickly changed my plans — especially when I found out we could see the two she REALLY wanted to see for FREE. (And FREE is better than $200 any day!)
Our second day at Magic Kingdom I got a couple Fast Passes right away to see Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Rapunzel over at Towne Square Theater.
Then my princess and I headed over to ride her favorite ride a second time — the new Under the Sea ride. I surprised her afterwards by heading to Ariel’s Grotto. “I wonder what’s in here,” I said, after I saw the wait time was just 15 minutes.
And 15 minutes later….…she was meeting Ariel and showing her her new charm necklace — full of Disney princesses.
Then we ate lunch and headed back to meet the other princesses. (Definitely do the Fast Pass here — the original line we stood in said an hour and NEVER moved; then I realized we could Fast Pass it. We waited only 20 minutes that way.)
Of course, my little boy didn’t want to see princesses. For him, Lightning McQueen is the ONLY Disney character worth seeing.
Thankfully I was able to grant his wish by staying at the Art of Animation Resort — where they have a pool that is surrounded by the Cars characters. The Art of Animation Resort is actually made up of 10 different hotels… The Cars pool was the one furthest from us, so I brought his umbrella stroller… We zoomed over to see Lightning McQueen at least 4 times during our stay, and took pics EVERY time.
Currently we are at the beach (MY dream come true).
Today we took a break from the sun and sand to see a few animals at the Jungle Gardens, where my daughter had one more wish fulfilled….Yes, that is my preschooler with “Tiny”, a Royal Ball Python around her neck. I’m not sure, but I think she was almost more excited to hold the snake than she was to see the princesses…
This week, I am thankful for each dream we’ve had come true this trip.
What are you thankful for this week? Leave a comment, or, if you have your own thankful post, come and link up with us!
Remember how thankful we were for all the strawberries this summer? We had more than enough to enjoy plenty of fresh berries as well as make a few tasty treats with them.
And, thankfully, I have two willing chefs who helped hull strawberries and stir them to make freezer jam. We’ve made 2 batches so far – and we have plenty of strawberries in the freezer to make more jam and smoothies later this summer!
When we made the first batch of freezer jam, there was still a cup or so of cut up strawberries. I didn’t want them to go to waste, so I smooshed them up a bit with the potato masher and spooned them into popsicle molds.
I have to say they are the most delicious popsicles I’ve ever had! (No sugar added, just plenty of sun-ripe strawberries.)
If you have an over-abundance of strawberries, I highly recommend making some delicious frozen treats this summer!
Do you have a yummy summer recipe I should try with the strawberries we have frozen?
I like spending a week or two on a particular theme, enjoying many different types of activities including math, language, art, science and music and sensory play. I usually set up a table for a theme and put out a variety of items such as sensory bins, Montessori style trays, puzzles, books and whatever else I can find to go along with it.
However, another great way to enjoy a theme anytime and with little effort is to create a themed play box.
A themed play box is a bit different from a theme week or a theme table! It is literally complete play in a box! Also it’s a fabulous tool that has helped our son to be able to play a little better and a little longer with us but also independently. This box is not a weeks worth of materials but just enough items to play with for about 45-60 mins or more depending on how much your child enjoys it!
For each themed play box, I collect several books, a dress up costume, toys or props, craft supplies and well, whatever else I think would go well with my chosen theme. I keep everything in a covered clear tote so that is always all together and easy to access. The boxes can be easily stored and stacked to keep everything organized and a label or a picture of the contents is a good idea! No scurrying around for this or that since it contains everything you need to just play!
The first step to building the right themed box for your child is really determining what the goal of the box should be for play time. Do you want to play with your child and have an opportunity to model play and engage with your child? Do you want to encourage independent play in your child? Do you want a themed box that siblings can play with together? Or do you want some of each?What you choose needs to fit your goal so a two person game or to hard puzzle might not be great for independent play. Also consider your child’s interests and likes to make it fun. You may choose to introduce new ideas but remember your goal. New ideas may be great for play between the two of you but not for independent play. If the box is meant for siblings to share, make sure you have filled it with enough supplies so that sharing isn’t overwhelming the play time!
For older children, a laminated sheet of ideas might be helpful. Role modeling for younger children will show them what to do to play for a longer time. If your child is self-directed, you may be able to let them choose a play box and then you can can get some work done! For children with a learning delays or autism spectrum disorder, this is a wonderful way to show sequence of play, model play skills, interact and engage with others, and develop the ability to play for a longer period of time. This is a great idea for all kids too! I have also found it very helpful to pull out a box when I am feeling low on ideas and energy!
Liam’s favorite is his birthday themed play box. He loves birthday parties. We have modeled for him how to use his beloved stuffed animals as guests and he usually picks one out to be the recipient if I haven’t been chosen to be the birthday girl. I decided to put together this theme in particular after I saw how much he enjoyed playing with a friend’s birthday cake and pizza set. Every time we visited his friend, Liam wanted to have a party. He was never much into the play kitchen we had but he enjoyed the party part of the pretend play aspect. It is also a wonderful way to model what might happen at a real birthday party. A themed play box is a flexible tool. Change it up as the needs or interests of your child change!
Here are the contents of the box and a loose play scheme. The most essential part is a good-sized box to properly store everything.
Melissa & Doug Wooden Pizza Set and Birthday Cake Set
Educo coffee maker & accessories
plates and cups
balloons, masks, paper hats
Birthday theme books: Happy Birthday Hamster by Cynthia Lord, If You Give A Pig A Party by Laura Numeroff, Curious George Surprise Party by H.A. Rey, Sydney & Otis by Laura Numeroff, 5 Little Monkeys Bake A Cake by Eileen Christelow
paper, markers, stickers to make a sign or card!
There are so many more things that can be included like a party game, small musical instruments, and old decorations or cards. If I have a little extra energy, I will get out some music too!
Here’s our latest adventure with the birthday themed play box. Liam decided it would be his birthday and he brought a bunch of his animal friends to the party. All on his own he decided he needed a table-cloth to keep the table clean. Have to wonder how he came up with that but very sweet so why not! We sang, ate, read, made a sign, played music, threaded a necklace for me to wear, and blew up balloons. Even better, we spent quality family time playing together!
I would love to hear what you would put in a themed play box or what theme you want to start putting together. I love your comments!
My next themed play box will be all about pirates!
This is us! I am wearing my necklace he made for me for our pretend party. I never know where the day will take us. I am a stay at home mom to a lively, beautiful and happy almost 4 year old little boy. We face our challenges on an hourly basis that’s for sure. He has a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome and Sensory Processing Disorder. We have in home therapists, preschool and mommy school. I am working hard to find out the best way to teach my son and expose him to all the amazing experiences life has to offer in a way that feels safe and acceptable to him. I don’t know where the road will take us for homeschooling but I will diligently follow whatever path is set forth for us.
I am thrilled to have Ginny Marie of Lemon Drop Pie guest posting today! She has some great ideas on how to keep your kids reading this summer!
School’s out for the summer! One of the first things we do every summer is sign up for our public library’s reading program. However, sometimes reading conflicts with what we really want to do. My daughters and I spend a lot of time at the pool and playing outside. Reading can fall by the wayside. Lily, who is eight years old, loves to listen to me reading books to her. Reading independently, however, has been a struggle for her. Here are some ways that worked to keep her reading during second grade. She came up with most of these ideas on her own, and then I encouraged her to keep reading!
1. Read to a pet or stuffed animal.
Lily loves reading to Stripe, her pet fish. She really thinks that he listens to her read, and who am I to argue with that? Emmy, my five year old, was caught reading to her teddy bear the other day. She just finished Kindergarten, and all of a sudden she is becoming an independent reader, too!
2. Find a quiet reading nook.
Lily and Emmy have a small play tent that I will bring out for fun every once in a while. With some pillows and blankets, this little indoor tent makes a perfect reading nook. This summer, we’re going to set it out in the backyard for an outdoor reading spot. Emmy also creates her own little reading spot in her bedroom. She will put her child-sized rocking chair in the little nook between her dresser and bookshelf and camp out there to read.
3. Become a reporter for your local newspaper.
The joy of writing also encourages reading. Lily often grabs a notebook to report the latest news in our neighborhood, such as a water main break. Of course, every day happenings are not always that exciting, but Lily has included our daily adventures such as trips to the park in her one-copy-only newspaper. She also knows that I am a writer, and has even written a guest post on my blog.
4. Have some DEAR time.
I encourage Lily to sit with me on the couch to read her book while I’m reading mine. So far, this has been a challenge because Emmy hasn’t been an independent reader for very long and doesn’t know what to do with herself while we read. We’ll keep working on this one. (You may recognize the D.E.A.R. acronym: Drop Everything and Read.)
5. Don’t let the enjoyment of reading end when the book is over.
Lily LOVES to talk about her favorite books, even when she’s done reading them. Her favorite characters in books become friends, and she talks about them as if she really knows them. After reading The Mysterious Benedict Society with her dad, she talked about Kate and her red bucket for days. You can help your child extend the book by having them draw a picture of their favorite part or write interview questions for one of their favorite characters. Lily has also written a quiz on Goodreads for one of the Magic Tree House books that she loves. (I checked her questions and answers before I published her quiz on Goodreads.) After reading a retelling of The Gingerbread Man, Lily and Emmy held a mock trial to decide if the fox was guilty or innocent after he ate the Gingerbread Man. My husband and I were the jury. Extending the book in these ways help enrich the reading experience for your child.
Most of all, if your child sees you reading, whether it’s a novel or your favorite magazine, you are sending a message that reading is fun! Enjoy your summer reading!
Ginny Marie loves sticking her nose in a book, and has often forgotten to start making dinner because she can’t put her book down. She taught second grade for thirteen years and now she reads books to her preschool students. She blogs at Lemon Drop Pie, and you can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
My kids have been loving our little science experiments. (They still talk about our Play-Doh volcanoes.)
When I mentioned that I had an experiment for “exploding milk,” my son just couldn’t wait!
We started the experiment with a little milk in each of their containers, just about 1/4″ deep.
Then they each put a few drops of food coloring into their container.
Now for the fun part — you need a couple “magic wands.” Don’t have any? You just need a toothpick with a little liquid dish soap on the tip. (For extra affect I said a few “abracadabra’s” while I prepared them.)
Once the soapy end of the toothpick touches the food coloring, BOOM! It’s like mini fireworks of color in the milk.
We had to do this one 3 or 4 times before I decided they’d probably like the pepper experiment my husband told me about, too.
This kids experiment is very similar.
We started with a little water in each of their containers, about 1/4″ deep.
Then they got to shake pepper on the water. I think this might have been their favorite part. (There is just something about shaking stuff when you’re a kid.)
Once they had some pepper floating on top of the water, I gave them the same “magic wands” as before.
The pepper immediately scatters away from the toothpick.
This was another one they had to do over and over again. (I have to admit, I was pretty impressed by this one, too!)
If you are looking for an easy way to keep them entertained this summer, I highly recommend trying one or both of these super easy kids science experiments. You might want to try our coffee filter science/craft, too.