Viewing category ‘Learning activities’

Milk and Cookies

with Kristen

I'm a mother of five, a bargain hunter, a recreational comparison shopper, and always trying to make more time - for me and for you, too. On this blog I'm sharing my favorite tools and finds to help make your work-life juggle a bit easier.

You can find my personal blog at Swistle.com.

Games we can bear to play with children

Categories: Crafts and activities, Gifts, Keepsakes, Learning activities, Toddler gear

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I am breathing carefully and calmly through my nose as I think of playing board games with children: Monopoly, which goes on forever and makes children cry; CandyLand, which seems like it’s about to end and then someone gets sent back to the beginning.

I do have a few, a very select few, that I am willing to play. I look for a game that is fun for me as well as for the kids, and that doesn’t require me to hold way back in order to avoid trouncing my opponents.

Wits & Wagers Family (photo from Amazon.com). I prefer the grown-up version, which I first encountered at my brother and sister-in-law’s house, but the kid-friendly game is nearly as good. I am timid and suspicious of games, but this one won me over: it’s like Trivial Pursuit except you’re NOT SUPPOSED TO know the answers. The idea is that everyone will be guessing. The guesses are laid out in a row, and then everyone can bet on the likelihood that the guesses are correct; in this way, you can win points even if you didn’t know the population of Vatican City, or how many points an athlete scored in his best game. It ends up being a lot of fun and a lot of laughing, and as soon as I got home from that game night I ordered the family version to play with the kids.

Set (photo from Amazon.com). This game was recommended to us by one of the kids’ teachers, who had the kids make their own small decks to practice with. The point of the game is to find three cards that make up a “set”: the three cards can be different colors but the same shapes, or different shapes but the same colors, or all different colors/shapes. It took me a little while to catch on, but after that it was simple and addictive.
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Road trip supplies for older kids

Categories: Books, Crafts and activities, Fashion, Learning activities, Travel

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Paul has started a new annual tradition of taking the two older kids on a road trip each summer. Here are some of the supplies I bought for them this year, when they were ages 11 and 13:

The Hunger Games trilogy (photo from Amazon.com). Both kids read the first book, but we’ve spent the rest of the summer on the library waiting list for the second one. This was the perfect moment to finally give in and buy the set. And there was no fighting over it, because one kid wanted to re-read the first book before reading the second one, and the other kid didn’t.

Brain Quest for the Car (photo from Amazon.com). We’ve loved these Brain Quest cards for littler kids; I hadn’t realized they had sets for older kids. I first considered the set for 7th graders (one child is going into 6th, the other into 8th), but this car-trip set seemed more fun. I worried it might be too young for them (it’s marked ages 7-12), and probably would have gotten the America set (ages 9 and up) if it hadn’t had a predicted shipping delay.
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Birthday party gift ideas for a 10-year-old girl

Categories: Crafts and activities, Fashion, Gifts, Learning activities, Toys

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William, Robert, and Elizabeth have all been invited to a birthday party this weekend, so I need to come up with three presents for a 10-year-old girl. I could use a hand, if you have a minute—and then we’ll have this later as a reference for the next time we need it!

She likes cats, and she likes anything cute or fuzzy. She likes Phineas & Ferb, and SpongeBob Squarepants. She likes crafts. She plays soccer. She’s William’s age and grade and is mostly William’s friend, but she plays with everyone when she’s here.

Normally I aim for about $10 for a party gift (in this case, from each of the three children), but I’d be willing to go a little higher.

First candidate: Aurora Plush Fluffee Fluffy Tails (photo from Amazon.com), about $9.00. Most households already have more stuffed animals than they can handle—and yet, the sight of this cat reduced our household to “OHHHHhhhhhhhhhh!!!”s of cuteness.
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Thank you notes for children

Categories: Learning activities

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When Paul and I got married, I had to write all the thank-you notes for our wedding gifts. Not only had he not been trained to write them, he hadn’t been trained WHY to write them. Purely aside from WANTING to tell the person who sent the gift how much you appreciated their kindness and generosity, the thank you note is a practical acknowledgment: it says “Yes, the gift successfully traveled from you to me.”


(photo of Dinosaur silhouette card from Simplicity Papers on Etsy)

In the case of children’s parties, it communicates to the parents who were not there that the gift went as planned: it wasn’t lost under the table, it was opened with knowledge of who it was from, etc. And it is such an excellent teaching opportunity for one’s own child on a subject it’s hard to remember to lecture about and practice: kindness should be appreciated, and the appreciation should be communicated, and here is the practical information about what to put between “Dear ____” and “Love, _____”. Also, you may not play with the present until you’ve written the note, so get on it.
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Gift-wrapping so easy a child can do it

Categories: Crafts and activities, Gifts, Learning activities

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We have the kids choose presents for the other parent at birthdays and Christmas, because it’s such good practice in gift-selection techniques: “What would the other person like? Not what would YOU like, but what would THEY like? No, Daddy doesn’t like sour gummy worms, that’s YOU who likes sour gummy worms”—and so on.

Wrapping the gifts is a pain. I am not the “Patient Teacher” personality type, I’m the “Here, I Can Do That Faster and Better and Easier Myself” personality type. I try to overcome this because I know it’s important, but a person can only stretch so far. So Paul came up with what I think is the best idea ever for letting children do their own gift-wrapping without the parent losing his or her mind.
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Birthday party gift ideas for a 5-year-old

Categories: Crafts and activities, Gifts, Learning activities, Toys

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Here is the problem: The twins have been invited to the birthday party of a little girl turning five. I need two presents by this weekend. I’m looking for things that cost about ten dollars, although less would be even better. I have a few things I’m considering buying, and I also have some maybes on the gift shelf.


Stomp Rocket Jr Glow Kit (photo from Amazon.com). My mom has a stomp rocket and the kids LOVE it. I would prefer to get one WITHOUT the “glow” feature, but the glow one is marked down to $7.83 AND comes in a “junior” version, so…


Crayola Telescoping Pip-Squeaks Marker Tower (photo from Amazon.com). About $11.  Maybe it isn’t the same in everyone’s house, but at our house we have an endless need for marker replenishment.
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