Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Get Out! 7 Ways to Help Parents Go Outside with their Children in Winter

Getting Outside: Parental Inspiration

Don’t you love all the inspiration online for things to do with kids outside! Places to go, things to see and even information on how important it is!  Then it’s 30 degrees (or less!) and all that great knowledge just doesn’t seem worth the effort to get out the door.  Although I wasn’t as regular about it as I ought to have been, my cut-off for taking the little ones outside was -20F (That’s about when it starts to hurt just to take a breath).  We walked our mile in some pretty cold temps, with the babies strapped onto me and so bundled they could hardly see!  As they got older they were moving and having so much fun, they become quite oblivious to the cold!  Now that we’re in more of the southern portion of the PNW, we’re dealing with the days on end of constant rain.  No, it’s not as cold, but it is a challenge of its own. 

Another member of an online moms group that I’m part of recently posed a question, and many more chimed in with similar issues.  Their children had plenty of motivation to get outside, but they were either too young or in an area where it was not safe for them to be outside by themselves. The moms were asking each other how they motivated themselves as parents to get out there!

I scrolled on at the time, but kept thinking about it through the day.  It can be hard sometimes, and often I am the biggest deterrent for my kids getting outside! Just because I don't want to get cold or wet?  I am so grateful that the place we are renting has enough land around it that I am fairly comfortable letting them play right outside the sliding doors where I can keep an eye on them.  At least for a short amount of time.  But inevitably they want to explore farther and farther or go to parks or hiking.   All of which I’m so glad they enjoy, except now I have to go out, too! =)

So I thought I’d share a couple things that get me going when I really just want to stay in. 

1.       Knowledge: being outside is good for all of us, despite the weather.  We will all be happier if we do it. 

2.       Proper attire: this doesn’t have to be expensive clothing in most cases, although in the negative degrees Fahrenheit, I did have a good winter jacket, long johns and boots.  But anywhere, the key to cold is layers.  Long johns or leggings under jeans, as many shirts as I can layer and still be able to move, a couple socks and you can withstand a lot, especially if you’re moving.   Even a couple extra layers under a rain coat and wellies (i.e. rain boots, splashing boots, mire boots, galoshes) can make you feel cozy despite the damp.  Just be sure to shed if you start getting too warm.  The survival mode in the back of my mind kicks in and reminds me that sweating in cold is BAD because now your under layers are wet.  When you stop exerting yourself, you’ll get REALLY cold!

3.       Ulterior Purpose: Get outdoor chores done while the little ones get their wiggles out.  If they’re having fun on their own, there’s always something I can get done while I’m out there, whether it’s just tidying up the yard or taking care of critters.  The ambitious side of me feels so satisfied when I can check some of those things off the list!  Or maybe this could mean making a phone call while they’re on a playground or just focusing on something they’re learning out on a hike.  On our last hike, we had just practiced writing the letter G, so while we were ascending, we set a goal of finding 25 things that started with that letter!  And we sort of count outside time as part of school.  They inevitably learn something every time they step out the door, and they definitely exercise, so I count it a win-win. 

4.       An excuse to ignore chores for a few minutes: this is such a horrible, procrastinator’s reason, but if I’m honest, the thought has crossed my mind a time or two.  And usually after I’ve had a little fresh air myself and listened to the little giggles and adventures, I’m in a much better mindset to get things done than before!

5.       Recruit others: I’m much better at sticking with a plan to get out somewhere if I know someone else is expecting to meet up with us.  And it sure helps to have another grown-up to share (and commiserate) the experience with, plus the littles are extra excited to see their friends!

6.       Go somewhere new: exploring a new trail or park always sounds better to me than just hanging out in our yard.  Although it is just that much extra effort and time, so this one is a little situational.  Or just go somewhere you already know you love!

7.       A piping hot mug of tea (or coffee if that’s your cup of tea.  Ha!)  This is probably my biggest help!  And now I’m going to spend too long telling you of my favorite travel mug from Contigo (Note: I am not being compensated at all for writing this, but I did obtain permission to use their name here).  I first realized what great mugs they were on a -30F morning if Fairbanks.  This is the type of temperature at which boiling water, if thrown into the air, will freeze before hitting the ground.  We rushed out the door to an indoor playground we were helping with, but not without my trusty cup of tea.  It was still too hot to sip on the drive down, and in the rush to get in, I left my mug in the car!  I was a little out of sorts the whole morning thinking about my lovely tea sitting out there in the cold, hoping that when it froze it didn’t damage the mug. Three hours later I came out to find my tea not frozen, but WARM still!  Not piping hot, granted, but still drinkably warm even after 3 hours in 30 below zero!  I also just love that the lid has two locks so I can let my little ones play with it and I don’t have to worry at all about it spilling.  A real life saver on some Sunday mornings in church when that’s ALL they want to play with to be semi-quiet.   It’s the right shape to fit in a cup holder, yet holds as much tea as my regular large mug.


Those are my biggest motivators, but I’m always up for more ideas!  I’d love to know what inspires you to get out with your little ones in bad weather! Would you comment your ideas below for others to share?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Babel's Tower: free pop-up coloring page printable

These last couple months have been such a joy!  I've been assisting a friend get a Sunday School program started for our growing church plant and we've decided to read through "The Jesus Storybook Bible" by Sally Lloyd-Jones through Zonder.  Since we are still a small group, the age range is fairly wide: from three to ten.  Finding projects to go along with the story has been a little trial and error, and a little bit of making projects up as I go!

That's why I wanted to share this free printable I made up with you.  I found the basic idea from "Hands On Bible Teacher", but was unable to locate any similar printable, so I sketched one out quickly and thought there may be someone else out there who could use the template

The basic idea is that you color it in, then cut along the top and bottom of each level.  Then, fold the stone layers forward and the rest backward to make the building stand out.  I think this would work well for a pop-up book, too, if you'd be so inclined!  Click on image below to open full sized.

To finish off the time after story, prayer, and this pop-up page, I brought in all our foam blocks and the kids broke off into teams.  The team to build the tallest tower in a set amount of time won! 

It seemed a good time was had by all and my son was even able to re-teach me what he had learned that morning, so  we're going to call it a win! =)  I hope someone else out there can put these ideas to use again, somewhere! And I would love to hear how it works for you!

Friday, January 8, 2016

Tea for Two: A Party in Blue

Tea for Two

We are already a full week into the new year!  And we’ve only had one official day of any sort of book learning as far as preschool is concerned.  But we’ve gone on several outings where they’ve learned by experiencing first hand!  That’s always my favorite, anyway!

One month ago my daughter turned two!  I love seeing her little personality and preferences come out!  I get to know who she is more every day!  I wanted to share with you about her tea party for anyone else who might like the ideas, but everyone was very much is the Christmas swing of things afterward that I decided to hold out until now.  One of the things our little lady loves (and often demands) is tea!  Though I let her have a sip or two of my Irish Breakfast Tea at times, she has a box of mint tea and berry tea of her own that she savors.  So naturally a “Tea for Two” party suited her to a “tea” =)

I scoured the thrift stores for old tea cups and saucers for a couple months.  I love how they’re all unique and some of them are quite old and lovely!  Most of them I was able to pick up for a dollar a piece.  It’s possible I was a little crazy offering real china to six children under the age of 5, but they all did great with a little parental assistance!

Blue is this little wildling’s signature color, so I worked it in as much as possible: blue and white balloons everywhere, blue tablecloth with lace overlay, chair cover, her clothes, and cakes and candies.  I made a three tiered serving tray out of plastic ware from the dollar store and used doilies, paper plates, and napkins from there as well. 

 Her little birthday crown is simply made from a length of lace and homemade mod podge (Online instructions here)

As for the food, we had cucumber (delicious recipe here) and tuna sandwiches, tomato ricotta mini quiche, apple rose tarts, and pirouette biscuits.  I attempted to make petit fours for her cake.  Basically I made a white cake from this  amazing recipe, cut tiny squares, doubled with a blueberry filling in the middle.  Then I covered with fondant and painted tiny pictures of her favorite things (horses, mountains, and flowers) in blue tinted sweetened condensed milk.  I really love how they turned out! 

We had a couple activities including the Tea Bag Toss(throwing tea bags through a giant tea cup)! I also sketched out a tea set outline for the children to design their own china pattern.  If you’d like to use this, the blank template is printable here! 

She ended up having the most wonderful time and continues to talk about it almost daily!  It may not have been perfect, but it was inexpensive and memorable and I’m quite certain our little lady felt like a princess for the day!