I work with 10 and 11 year old girls in our church – creating activities for them a couple times of month after school. Hallie is in the group so basically I get an excuse to spend time with her and her friends. This week we were playing Halloween games. A fan favorite in our house is always Halloween Bingo; a set I picked up a couple years back from Target for Hallie’s Halloween Carnival Birthday party.
The girls enjoyed it. It never gets old putting candy corn on the spaces or yelling out bingo and claiming your prize.
After bingo, we went out on bikes for a Halloween scavenger hunt. I drove the neighborhood earlier in the day and made a note of the many decorations neighbors had put up. The girls then had to write the house number of where they found the decoration and they could only use a house number once. Originally, the girls were going to be on teams, but they decided it would be more fun to work as a group.
We drove up and down the neighborhood streets. Each time they found one, they’d squeal in excitement. They got most of them after one pass through. But there were a few they had to circle back to and even then, there was one decoration they rode by four times before realizing it – a bale of hay. I even explained at the beginning that bales of hay come in all sizes – but of course, the girls were looking for the large bales they’re used to sitting on, instead of the smaller ones used on porches as decor.
Scavenger hunts are pretty easy to organize and I was pleasantly surprised by how engaged they all were in finding everything. Its an activity we could duplicate with Christmas decorations. We finished the afternoon with caramel apples because nothing screams fall more than caramel apples!
The kids were quietly playing this morning before heading to church and I could hear the Lego bucket being combed through. Shortly before it was time to leave, Hallie and Hunter walked into the kitchen carrying their Lego Super Bowl.
It had me laughing. Batman as the quarterback. The girl Lego Friends as cheerleaders. The guys on the bench, including the Joker, waiting their turn to go into the game. It was a work of art – I love the creativity of children!
Here’s a round up of my homemade Christmas gifts this year for the kids.
Cannon – Noah’s Ark animals
This has been an idea a long time in the making and I’m only semi-disappointed with myself that I didn’t get the ark made in time. Another year…another homemade gift. This year, he got the animals; 12 sets, 24 in total. Based on a set by Holztiger – a company from Germany which I talked about here.
My patio was a disaster for far too long. This was a labor of love and I was counting my lucky stars that I had all my fingers in tact when I finished. Scroll saws can be a little intimidating! They’re made of 1″ hard maple which was a little difficult to cut out but they’ll be much more durable than making them out of pine. I spent many weeks watching Survivor and painting all the animals with basic craft paint (all of which was left over from a homemade gift last year, the nativity puzzle). I finished them off with a couple layers of clear coat and called it good.
They turned out better than I expected and I’m pretty much in love with them. So is Cannon.
Bennett – Wooden Robots
I found these darling robots (Ollibots) at Caravanshoppe.com. These require absolutely no skills. I purchased the digital file which gave me the artwork (printed them at staples) and all the instructions as well as the part numbers to buy from an online hobby store for all the wood pieces (precut).
They suggested different options of attaching the pieces together – I went with low-profile industrial strength Velcro from Amazon and it’s worked like a dream.
You can mix and match to your heart’s content – and Bennett has!
Hunter – Lego Print
Check out Hunter’s Lego artwork gift on a previous post.
Hallie – Fancy circle skirt
I’m realizing the older my kids get the more creative I have to get with their homemade gift. It’s much easier when they’re younger!
Hallie was in need of some skirts. Typically, I’m able to find something at a store that fits her just right but we’ve had some trouble lately. She getting taller and she has a fairly skinny waist. We couldn’t find a skirt long enough with a small enough waist. I turned to danamadeit.com and followed her circle skirt pattern. It was so easy, I made one for her to wear before Christmas and surprised her with another on Christmas morning. I’m tempted to make one in my size.
I’m ready to start brainstorming this year’s gifts. (aside from Cannon’s ark which has already made the list!)
Check out more homemade gifts from previous years:
I’m always on the lookout for different toys for my boys. I keep a running list in my Amazon shopping cart of different ideas and then when a birthday or Christmas rolls around I scour through pages of pages of different ideas and make my selections. Some toys have come recommended from family or friends, and some toys were seen on a website or magazine. I’ve had several people ask to see my amazon shopping cart – so I thought I’d pull a few fan favorites and some potential favorites I have my eyes on.
Magformers: This is a staple at our house and I’m not sure we can ever have enough. There on the pricey side but it’s a toy that is passed down from kid to kid and we’ve not had one piece break.
Plasma car: One was not enough and the next year another one showed up on Christmas morning.
Karaoke machine: We gave this to Hallie last year and she loved it – but more than anyone I hear Bennett’s little voice echoing through the house and even Cannon has started picking up the mic.
Automoblox: These are wooden cars that can be taken apart and interchanged with other cars. My sister-in-law had them and my boys loved them.
Citiblocs: These are the most basic blocks that we originally found at Costco one holiday season and they get played with a lot. They build with them, they create tracks with them – really whatever one imagines.
Ratuki: This has to be one of the most simple of simple card games but the kids love it. Our friend, who worked in the toy department at Kohls, introduced us to it and the kids enjoy playing with us and each other. What’s nice is it doesn’t require supervision.
Boogie board: this was purchased on a whim for a long road trip (two years ago) and it has been used consistently since then. Think magna doodle – but better. We take it in the car, to church, to the doctor’s office. It doesn’t make any sounds and our younger ones have proved that it’s indestructible!
How to Draw Animals book: My kids love to draw and this is a book they can start learning from really young. It uses basic shapes to make different animals and it makes them feel like they’re artists!
Penny Board: This is a great little skateboard for great little legs and feet and yet I see adults riding on them all the time. It’s made of plastic but it has great wheels and it’s easy to maneuver.
Perler Beads: Also referred to as “Melty beads” in our house. This is not a new toy, but this craft never gets old. The kids love making patterns and animals over and over again and every piece seems to be unique. We have the kids do this activity in a large sheet pan so the beads are contained for the most part.
Sensory Balls: these are great for little hands and yet as they get holder they’ll have just as much throwing them at each other!
Tickle Monster: This has to be one of the kids favorite books and it comes complete with “Monster Gloves” to make the tickling even more fun!
Sometimes you come across products that you just can’t help but be freakishly excited about all the while thinking – “Why in the world did I not think of this?”
I spent the summer battling cup clutter; on every single counter. The kids each have their own camelback which worked decently, but they were homeless and always ended up haphazardly on every counter. And then a kid wouldn’t be able to find one and they needed a drink so bad, so they grabbed a new cup and wouldn’t you know it the other one mysteriously appeared. The cups multiplied like rabbits! I’ve never wanted an indoor drinking fountain so bad.
Towards the end of the summer I started to look for some solutions online. Many involved magnets which I didn’t love and I was never able to pull the trigger.
When visiting our friends in Colorado a few weeks ago, they had these fancy schmancy cups hanging on their fridge. I watched as her kids would take a cup off the fridge, drink out of it and put it right back. They were the Puj Phillup Cups. It was exactly what I was looking for and I immediately pulled it up on Amazon and made my purchase.
Now for my disclaimer: They’re not cheap…but they have made my life easier and that’s worth something! They come in four colors in either a one, two or four pack. The cups hang from a little nub that is mounted to the surface using a very strong adhesive. I hung mine vertically so that Cannon is only able to reach his cup and Bennett is only able to reach his.
A major disadvantage: The little loop on the cup isn’t very strong and Cannon broke his the very first time he was pulling off his cup. At his age he pulls down, not off, which led to the break, but it still hangs fine. My friend had one cup that had the same loop broken which is evident of the toddler in her house.
We’ve used them for a month now and I’m shocked at how much I’ve loved them for how simple the concept is. Only one cup has been misplaced and that was Cannon’s cup – we’re still training him on making sure it makes it back to its home. But it’s working for us. And the upper rack of my dishwasher has never had more free space!