Playroom Makeover: Stroller Savvy Edition

Before we had kids, we swore we would not be those people with too many toys. Alas, 4 Christmases, 6 birthday parties, numerous yard sales and countless hand-me-downs later, we are.

When we moved into our new house, we knew the bonus room would be the perfect play space for our kiddos and their friends. We dumped the majority of our toys in there and it quickly became just that…. a dump. The kids would create such a mess (as they should) that it became overwhelming to clean up. Eventually even their play was distracted and disjointed.

PMProductivebefore

With a lot of work, help from our friend Pinterest, and some ingenuity, we have finally created a play space we are excited about. By creating zones and adding in some organization, the kids are able to play more freely and really get into whatever they want to do. It is also far easier to clean up. Our 4-year-old knows exactly where everything goes, and even our little ones are able to identify what goes where. Here are some of our favorite areas:

Reading Nook

We have several comfortable places to read throughout the playroom, but we also wanted to provide a quiet area where the kids can retreat with a book if there is too much hubbub going on elsewhere. When the kids are older we will put fun beaded string curtains up, but they are not safe for the ages of our kiddos at this time.

We created inexpensive bookshelves using plastic gutters. Facing the books forwards is a proven strategy to entice readers. Our oldest has always been an avid book lover, but since installing this in our playroom, the babies have shown greatly increased interest.

ReadingNook

                          bookshelves booknook

I created these letters using wooden letters, scrapbook paper, and Mod Podge. I am not going to lie, it took a lot longer and was much more stressful than I anticipated. I may have even said a few choice words to old Ms. Mod Podge. However, I am very happy with how they came out, so it was worth it in the end.

Read Sign                         reading

ARt area

Kids need a space to create. We laid down foam pads that will be easier to clean when inevitable spills occur, found this awesome table at a yard sale to enable the kids to sit together comfortably, stocked the above cabinets with paper, crayons, scissors, markers, play dough, paint, etc. (Ideally, this would all be out so they can use it whenever the mood strikes, but since our twins are still in the eat-it, write-on-walls stage, we opted for safety first 🙂  )  Our piece de resistance- a giant chalkboard wall created with chalkboard paint. As you can see, it is a huge hit. Even our teenage cousins loved it when they came to visit!

Art Areachalkboard

Finally, we created a place to display their works of art. We stenciled the word Masterpieces, hung thin wire and attached small clothespins.  

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 Imagination Station

We created this dress-up “closet” using an old media center. We gave it new life with a fresh coat of paint, stenciled letters, knocked out a few shelves, and inserted a tension rod. We are debating adding a mirror (fun vs. vanity). The part that says “Imagine” opens to reveal smaller shelves that hold mustaches, necklaces, badges, and eventually princess shoes I imagine. It keeps the dress-up clothes from ending up all over the floor, gives extra life to Halloween costumes, and encourages imagination and dramatic play. Our son will go through several outfits in a matter of minutes- he certainly comes out with some interesting creations at times!

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PMCostume

Construction Zone

Filled with trucks, cars, blocks, and a DIY train table (we prefer letting the kids use their imagination to create their own tracks instead of a pre-designed one), children can zoom around to their hearts’ content.

train table

Barn

We actually made this for our son’s second birthday party. At the time we got a lot of flak for all the work we put in, yet here it is still going strong two years later!  When it is time to officially retire the barn, it will become something else- a spaceship, pirate ship, castle, house. With a box, paint, and duct tape, the sky’s the limit!

barn

Ball Pit

I had seen people fill baby pools with balls, but wanted something with higher sides to contain my meandering duo. Enter the Pack-n-Play ball pit! It was such a hit, even the four year old climbed in. Now that they are older, they don’t like to be contained for long, so I often put this in the garage as a holding cell when I am loading or unloading the mini-van.

ballpit

BINS Bins Bins

Bins are a toy organizing savior. They are perfect for storing smaller toys- Legos, balls, puzzles, figurines, etc. The key to keeping them from becoming a receptacle for gathering all randoms is labels. Use both the picture and the word to help non-readers know what goes where.

PMLabels

By leaving the walls neutral and using decals, it is a space that we can adapt as the children grow. Eventually the baby toys will make way for a couch, the train table will become a foosball table, the books in the reading nook more complex, the artwork more intricate. (I already have big plans for a Lego table!)

Our hope is that this room always remains a place of joy, memory making, learning and growth.

After

I would love to see pics of your favorite playroom spaces as well!

beforeafter

 

Thanks to the following Pinspirations!

Money Saving Sisters https://www.pinterest.com/pin/395753885982364970/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/395753885982364975/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/395753885982364966/

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/395753885982364979/

 

 

Why Children Should Color Outside the Lines

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A dear cousin gave Jake this beautiful piece of art when he was born. We promptly hung it in his room.

Fast forward 4 years to this St. Patrick’s Day craft we were doing.  Jake spent a lot of time working on his project, putting the colors in rainbow order. He would add a few dots in different spots “for creativity”, and I was cool with that.

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Then I ran upstairs to get the babies, came back down and found this:

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At first I was very upset.  His picture looked so good and now he had ruined it. (Shamefully, in the back of my mind I was thinking “ugggh, I was planning to post this picture on the blog!”)  I started to yell at him, then I looked at his face. Full of wide-eyed innocence he said “I was seeing what happens when I mixed it all up” with such pride in his voice.  After all, we do LOVE the book Mix It Up!

I took a step back and the words “color outside the lines” kept flashing in my mind.  I had a choice- berate him because his art didn’t look like the cookie-cutter example, while squashing his creativity, diminishing his confidence (he is a perfectionist, so this risk he took was HUGE), and quelling his curiosity OR smile, tell him I loved all of the colors he used and proceed with a science experiment on how long it will take to dry. (For the record, he immediately deduced that we should put it outside to dry faster. Furthermore, I neglected to put paper under it, left it in the rain, and now have a green-stained deck, but that’s beside the point.)

This simple project meant as a holiday decoration reminded me of all of the the things I want for my son.

I want him to take risks and be unafraid of failure.

I want him to to express his creativity and individuality without pressure to conform.

I want him to think outside the box without repercussion.

I want him to be spontaneous and have fun without holding back.

I want him to try new things without the constraints of perfectionism.

I want him to act with passion not restriction.

In the end, it was a lesson learned for all. He gained valuable art, science, fine motor, and personal growth experience, and I learned to let go of preconceived notions and just let him be.

Life doesn’t have to fit neatly between the lines. Color it any way you want!

P.S.   I still despise paint and did not enjoy the mess, but it is so very worth it.

17 Great Ideas to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day

All of these wonderful St. Patrick’s Day ideas have  put nutritious food in our bodies, creative activities in our hands, and a big dent in the Stroller Savvy Pin Challenge! Not bad for a non-Irish lass!

The Foods:

We have truly been eating the rainbow and feeling great!

Pinterest Challenge 4Rainbow Detox Soup

Consider this tasty detox soup I made last night. It was by far the tastiest I have had, and I would have been pleased receiving it from a restaurant. Tomatoes, red onion, carrots, garlic, ginger, lemon juice, kale, broccoli, celery, and purple cabbage along with many antioxidant-rich spices.

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Original Pin:  http://www.theglowingfridge.com/cleansing-detox-soup/

Keeper?  Yes! I doubled the recipe and froze some for later!

 Challenge5Pepper Egg

 

Sure to impress, this simple yet fancy looking egg-in-a-pepper dish adds a fresh twist on your ordinary fried egg. It was far easier than I expected and tasted great!

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Original Pin: http://www.sixonesixblog.com/2014/05/egg-in-pep.html

Keeper? Yes!

Challenge6Shepherd’s Pie

An Ol’ Irish favorite with a healthy twist. This low-fat, veggie-packed Shepherd’s Pie is topped with a cauliflower puree! The whole family loved it and the coconut oil added a nice flavor.

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Original Pin: http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/cauliflower-not-carbs?utm_term=.edDvlMELD&sub=3566540_4609988#.ld89QlPJmy

Keeper? Yes!

Challenge7Rainbow Salad

This fabulous salad can be adapted to use any ingredients you desire. I used red beets, shredded carrots, yellow tomatoes/garbanzo beans (I intended to use yellow peppers, but Hubby and Jake at them before I could), a mix of spinach, broccoli and kale, and purple cabbage.  I didn’t follow the dressing recipe exactly. I didn’t use anchovies or capers, but my concoction of greek yogurt, dijon mustard, honey, garlic, seasoning mix, and olive oil was actually quite good on this. I love the use of red beets and purple cabbage since they aren’t foods I eat often, but they are so yummy and nutritious!

IMG_2155IMG_2159Original Pin: http://www.scalingbackblog.com/savory-bites/shredded-rainbow-salad-with-greek-yogurt-caesar-dressing/

Keeper?  Absolutely! We threw some rotisserie chicken on the leftovers for another delicious meal.

HChallenge8ealthy Green Eggs

A healthy twist on green eggs, these garlic and kale filled eggs were so simple and quite tasty! My 4-year old and 18-month olds even agreed.

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Original Pin:http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/03/01/recipe-green-eggs-and-ham/

Keeper?  Definitely! This will become a regular rotation in our breakfast repertoire.

Challenge9Avocado Shrimp Salad

This nutritious salad is an easy go-to meal anytime. The creamy avocado makes it dressing optional. Beware- the shrimp is spicy!

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Original Pin: http://www.thebestrecipesever.net/2014/03/shrimp-and-avocado-salad-with-miso.html?m=1

Keeper?  I will make some variation of it again, but I would most likely just grill the shrimp without all of the added spice and ingredients. It would certainly save time too!

Challenge10VEggie Guacamole Rainbow

We made this simple, delicious snack. I didn’t get a picture before the kids attacked it, so this one is from the Family Fun magazine. I made my own version of guacamole, which is simply mashed up avocados, diced tomatoes, a little minced garlic, and a splash of lemon juice.

Over the Veggie Rainbow: This Saint Patrick's Day snack provides a golden opportunity to entice your kids to eat fresh vegetables.

Original Pin: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/149392912615962366/

Keeper? Absolutely! Can’t go wrong with veggies and guac!

The Crafts and Education:

Challenge11No St. Patrick’s Day is complete without the appearance of leprechauns! Here is a cute, cheesy craft that we used as our seasonal wall decoration. It was fairly simple, but me being the genius that I am didn’t think to just buy orange plates and took the extra step of painting white plates orange. I probably spent more on the paint than I would have on new plates. I like to think the stiffness from the paint enabled us to curl the beards better…

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Original Pin:  http://happyhomefairy.com/tag/leprechauns/

Keeper? Yes! My son loved it. I love these kinds of cheesy decorations to put a fun twist on the holiday and capture a memory of this point in time.

Challenge12Nor is any St. Patrick’s Day complete without Fruit Loops!  Jake only gets to eat them when we stay at hotels with continental breakfast, so he was tormented all week looking at the box in the pantry. He was so excited that we invited some friends over to do Fruit Loop crafts with us!IMG_2170First we made the fruitloop necklackes. I recommend a large blunt tapestry needle to help thread the cereal on the string- especially for the younger children.  This kept them all quiet and actively engaged for quite awhile!

It also made for some hilarious conversations. Every few pieces J would inform me “this one is too big (or too bumpy, or weird…) and will look ugly on the necklace. I think I should eat it.”

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He later became a walking commerical. “I am hungry and don’t have time to go downstairs for a snack. I think I will take a bite out of my necklace, chomp chomp”.

Original Pin: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/149392912615851129/

Keeper? Definitely! He  has already made three! As he gets older he can work on creating interesting patterns.

ThChallenge13is activity was incredible for sorting and fine motor development. It kept his attention and turned out so cute! He wanted to do a second one with any color all over 🙂

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Original Pin: http://thebubblyblondeteacher.blogspot.com/2012/02/st-patricks-day-craft.html

Keeper? Yes!

Challenge14

This was a simple, fun craft. The biggest challenge for me was cutting out shamrocks, because I am just that bad at drawing! I ended up tracing an image from the computer and cutting it out on construction paper. We cut up different patterns of scrapbook paper with varying shades of green, covered the shamrocks with glue sticks, and applied our “mosaic tiles”. Of course Jake added some TMNT stickers- they are green, right?!

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Original Pin from: http://www.happinessishomemade.net/2014/03/11/st-patricks-day-kids-craft-mosaic-paper-shamrocks/

Keeper?  Yes!!! Easy, cute, held interest. I even used them as a front door decoration in the middle of a wreath.

Challenge15This was another fun one. I cut out a pot from construction paper and drew lines on a piece of construction paper to help guide the shape. J and ROY G. BIV are on a first name basis by now. IMG_2142

Original Pin from: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/149392912615978065/

Keeper?  Yes. It was cute and fun, but I REALLY despise paint. See why here. Oh the sacrifices we make for the sake of our children’s enrichment and entertainment!

Challenge16This was another simple one. All we did was cut the tops off of peppers, dip them in paint, and stamp them onto the paper. The babies were able to do this one, and all three kids really enjoyed it! We skipped the step of drawing stems, so they don’t really look like shamrocks, but that’s okay 🙂

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Original Pin from: http://www.learnplayimagine.com/2012/03/peppers-and-shamrocks.html

Keeper?  Yes! I look forward to experimenting with all different types of materials- acorns, apples, leaves, etc. I love that all ages can enjoy it. As they get older, challenge kids to form more intricate designs.

Jake also had a blast doing educational worksheets. I remember loving thematic worksheets as a kid- it is a “break” from the traditional learning and even though you are reinforcing the same skills it doesn’t feel like it.

Challenge17He amazed me with how easily he was able to identify which word did not fit into the the word families and got some great reading practice in with this one:

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Challenge18This counting one was a little too basic for him, but he still enjoyed it. It was fun for him to be able to do it completely unaided.

IMG_2233Original Pin: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/FREE-St-Patricks-Day-Literacy-and-Math-Printables-1109851

Challenge19He had a blast with this domino activity. He would pick a domino from a pile, tell me how many dots were on each side and then add them all together. I was impressed when he didn’t flinch at the higher sums!

IMG_2237Original Pin: http://myfabulousclass.blogspot.com/2014/03/crafty-sundaywith-some-freebies.html

Keeper: Of course! I will always seek out thematic educational activities to meet their current academic level.

Challenge20He absolutely loved this craft. He put it together quickly and finished with an impromptu play about how clouds change for different types of weather. It was awesome.

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We will do a few more activities on St. Patrick’s day, but I wanted to make sure you had some ideas to prepare yourself for the holiday. Have a Pintastic time!

Don’t forget to add your pins to the Group Challenge and #strollersavvypinchallenge