Cereal Box Puzzles and other kid crafting goodness


Today’s toddler fun is totally brought to you by Jamie Dorobek’s book C.R.A.F.T.(Creating Really Awesome Free Things). Jamie is the innovative force behind the blog of the same name.  Several months ago I received a copy of the book for review and with my dad’s passing and my own sickness, I haven’t been able to sit and enjoy this book until now. However, I’m super excited to have it in my arsenal of fun toddler activities for our upcoming summer.

The book is full of very inexpensive and creative arts and crafts projects to do with your children. It is definitely inexpensive because most if not all need materials that you can easily find in your own home. My 11 year old was stoked to get the book, but was a bit disappointed that many of the activities seemed geared towards really young children. However, there are few crafts in there that I think we can elevate for her older standards!

I sat down with my 3 year old and we perused the book together to find something to do. He immediately took to the cereal box puzzle! He kept yelling, “Pineapple Puzzle!!!”.  My son LOVES puzzles. We’ve never made our own before. All it took was part of a cereal box (which we definitely had some that were already on their way to the recycle bin). However, any thin cardboard will do!



I drew the outline of the pineapple and my son colored it in.  I added background colors just to make the whole puzzle vibrant and to help provide even more clues for solving. This is a perfect activity for visual-spatial recognition, shapes geometry, sizing, and math.

I noticed my cuts for each puzzle piece were a bit of a challenge for my 3 year old. So we made another one with the help of my 1 year old daughter.


For this one I added swirls and made the shapes basic rectangles. It’s a good “starter” puzzle!

What I love about the book is that each project has 4-color photographs to help provide great instruction. These activities are designed to help develop a child’s creativity, imagination, and fine motor skills. Therefore, it is perfect for toddlers, preschool-age children, and young homeschoolers. I intend on using the book from here on out to supplement my preschooling efforts at home!



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24 Ways to Use Your “Elf” to Teach Giving and Kindness (+ giveaway )


{This is NOT a sponsored post.}



Does one magically appear in your house at the beginning of the holiday season?

Or are you on the fence about getting one this year?

We’ve all seen the pictures on our feeds.  Elves wreaking havoc in people’s homes:   making messes in the kitchen, tearing up the bathroom, and playing pranks on the families they visit.

Our elf playing the filipino game “sungka”
Our elf reminding us there are 9 days left until Christmas using butterscotch chips!
Our elf channeling Miley Cyrus

Many parents buy them as a fun Christmas tradition.  They tell their children “The elf is keeping an eye on you and will tell Santa  about any misbehavior they see.”

So why do we make the elves do such mischievous things?  Isn’t that what we’re trying to avoid modeling to children?

This seems rather ironic.

So instead of having 24 mornings of finding your elf doing something silly or mischievous, why not use this as an opportunity to teach your children character.  After all, we are using it partly to guide their character during the holiday season right?  This is an opportunity to teach children not about behaving well as a countdown to focus on receiving gifts on Christmas morning.  Let’s teach children about giving and kindness.

24 Ways Your Elf Can Teach Giving and Kindness

Many of the elf “surprises” can be divided into two categories:  Pay it Forward and Kid Action.  Pay it Forward surprises are when your elf does something special for your child or children and asks the children to “pay it forward” and do something similarly kind for someone else.  Kid Action items are suggestions your elf presents to help your child make their day a bit kinder.  Here are some ideas you can implement for all 24 days of December for Christmas Day or you can take some of your favorites to use!

  1. Elf can set up your child’s toothbrushes with toothpaste in their bathroom with a cute note saying “Let’s brighten that smile to share happily with others today!”
  2. Elf can set up your child’s shoes, backpack, lunchbox, etc. ready and waiting by the door with a positive note for the day “Have a terrific day!”.
  3. Elf can leave a few canned goods with a note encouraging the child to donate it to their local church pantry or foodbank.
  4. Elf will leave a holiday pencil for the child and a second one for the child to give to a friend that day.
  5. Elf will leave a compliment on a note for the child.  This could be for something specific they did the day before/recently or a compliment for their personality!
  6. Elf will make the child’s favorite treat overnight (cookies, brownies, snack, etc.) and have some bagged for the child to share with a friend.
  7. Elf will cook the child’s favorite breakfast.
  8. Elf will leave a good luck note for an upcoming performance, test, etc.
  9. Elf will leave a congratulations note for the child regarding a recent accomplishment.
  10. Elf will leave a “caught being good” note or small treat and mention something good the child did that he/she should be truly proud of!
  11. Elf will leave a blank “Thank You” card for the child to write/draw in and give to someone they’d like to say thank you to (teacher, parent, family member, friend, etc.).
  12. Elf will leave a kindness suggestion note asking the child to make a new friend that day, sit by someone new at lunch, share something with someone, etc.
  13. Elf will leave a note simply saying “I love you!”
  14. Elf will leave an ornament or inexpensive holiday decor item for the child to give to a neighbor to help spread holiday cheer!
  15. Elf will do one of the child’s chores and leave a blank “coupon” for the child to do the same for someone else in the family!
  16. Elf will leave a kindness suggestion note asking the child to hold the door open for someone that day.
  17. Elf will wrap a gift the child had ready for a family member.
  18. Elf will leave a kindness suggestion note to create a video message and send the greeting to a friend or family member who lives far away.
  19. Elf will leave a recipe and the ingredients for a holiday treat for the child to make with the family!
  20. Elf will leave socks and “Hot Hands” for the child to donate to a local shelter.
  21. Elf will leave craft materials and instructions (if needed) for the child to make a holiday craft (which they can give to someone!).
  22. Elf will leave a blank note titled “Five Things I am Thankful For” that the child can complete (with a parent if necessary!).
  23. Elf will leave a prayer card or a note with a written blessing for the child.
  24. Elf will leave a blank prayer card for the child to write a holiday prayer for the family.

Do you have any other suggestions to add!  I’d love to hear them in the comments!  But wait!!!

I have one more surprise…

To help foster elves teaching kindness this Christmas season, I’m giving away an Elf Magic prize pack!  The package includes a cute 10″ elf carefully selected from the North Pole, an Elf Magic storybook, and a container of elf magic confetti!  This giveaway has a short turnaround because I want to make sure it gets to a deserving family in time for the holidays.  So hurry!  It ends on November 24th!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a blessed holiday season!



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10 Steps to Getting Your Family Organized Before School Starts



Let’s talk about it parents…and help each other out along the way!

It’s August and the first day of school is lurking right around the corner.  How did this happen?  Where did the summer go?  Don’t fret.  There are a few things you can pace yourself in getting prepared for your family’s schedule to change once again!  I have to admit that I love the relaxed nature of the summer months…no schedules, no lessons, no early wake up times!  However, if you get organized beforehand, the harsh adjustment to the back to school mayhem may be survivable!

  1. Share a family calendar online.  You may prefer a wall calendar, but a shared calendar that everyone (including all kids and the husband) can access on their mobile devices or online is really helpful to keep everyone on top of everything.  It’s also great for everyone involved to enter their own events, because for one person to handle it all is just too much! I personally like to use Google calendars (everyone will need to access it using a gmail account).  You can find set up instructions here.  Especially if you have older grade school, middle or high school students, it may help avoid the constant question “When is ____?” or “Are we doing anything this weekend?”
  2. Clean up all computers and devices.  Delete any unnecessary school documents, images, and projects from previous years.  Create a folder for each child on an external hard drive and transfer anything you want to keep over.  Make sure all software is up to date.  Make folders for each child to save their documents for the upcoming year on the Desktop or somewhere else they can easily find it.
  3. Set up email folders for each child.  If you are like me, you’ll be getting inundated with email this upcoming year after signing up for the email newsletter lists for everyone’s school, team, club, etc.  Make email folders in your Inbox for each child (you can make subfolders for teams, clubs, etc.).  This way, if you don’t have a chance to read the email or want to keep it for future reference, you can file it away.  Also, at the end of the school year, you’ll be able to dump all of the contents and start over!  Such an easy way to purge old emails in seconds!
  4. Create a “Command Center” in your house.  I’m not talking about an elaborate wall in your whole kitchen.  You just need an organizational space or procedure for dealing with the incoming paperwork to come.  This can be as simple as the refridgerator.  You’ll be getting tons of flyers throughout the year, some for events, some forms to sign or complete and more.   Find an organization solution to serve as a place to post events and store paperwork that needs to be acted on.  I personally like magnetic file holders for the fridge.  You can search for any that you like, but I like the Officemate series.  You can also get magnetic solutions to hold notes, pencils, and more.  When paperwork is in the file folder on the fridge, these are obvious enough for me to know I need to act on something.  When any paperwork I need to sign is sitting in a filing area on the counter, I completely overlook it.  I only use one file magnetic file holder for papers I need to read/sign. Event flyers get entered into the online calendar and get posted on my fridge. Most papers my kids take home for me to look at get discarded (unless it is cool artwork or thoughtful writing/essays…then I keep them in an art portfolio!). I also use a dry erase calendar for the younger kids in my house.  Do what works for you and what will actually help tackle the clutter to come.
  5. Set up and organize a “homework area” for the kids.  When I was a teacher, I always advised parents to have their children do their homework in a open and public area of the house.  Choose the dining room table, kitchen table, or any space where they are visible.  This will allow you to help keep them from being tempted towards distractions.  Make sure the area is cleared off (you mean your dining room table isn’t always covered with “stuff”?!) and that your children know where to access extra supplies, pencil sharpeners, etc.  Make sure the space can accomodate for any laptops, computers, or mobile devices the children will be using for their school work.
  6. Go through all of the kids’ stored fall/winter clothes.  Check to see what still fits and what doesn’t.  Anything that doesn’t can be stored for other siblings or sold in consignment.  Getting a gauge on what clothes your children need for school will make for more cost-effective shopping trips during the tax-free holiday weekends in August.
  7. Make sure all lunchboxes, thermoses, windbreakers, coats, umbrellas, boots, backpacks, and other school gear are all in working order.  If you haven’t done so, give them all a good washing, label as necessary, make any minor repairs and make sure they are available and ready to be accessed!
  8. Start stacking up on school-year pantry essentials.  Now is the time to start stacking up on lunch box goodies like juice drinks/bottles, snacks, granola bars, crackers and the kids’ favorite morning and after school goodies (cereal, fruit snacks, cookie dough, etc.).  Be on the lookout for buying in bulk, sales, and coupons.  Once the fast moving train that we call the “school year” starts, it might make it easier to have these non-perishables stocked to decrease the amount of time you’ll need to visit the grocery store.  I’m all about decreasing anxiety!
  9. Make arrangements for any needed after school or before school care.  If you haven’t done so already, make sure arrangements are booked and arranged.  If you’ve already done so, now is the time to gather allergy meds, label all of your child’s gear, and store all pertinent childcare phone numbers in your cell phone.
  10. Make all needed doctor, dental, and other necessary medical appointments.  Whether it is a well-check up, a sports physical, an allergy checkup, etc. doctor’s offices need time to get any necessary forms completed for school.  I also like to squeeze in a dental appointment before my kids go back in the fall!  Make those appointments early because the few weeks before school starts is one of the busiest times of year for them!

Does this seem like a lot?  If you take it one step at a time, you’ll have it all covered by the first day of school!  I’ve made a downloadable checklist for you if it will make it easier!

What’s your biggest tip to getting your family ready for the school year?

Share in the comments!

Best wishes on school year 2015-2016!


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