Using Naptime To It’s Fullest Today

Today is all about getting my barrings before summer hits the household! Yikes! Four kids and… me. I like to think it’s not four against one, but to make that a reality, I have to come prepared! I’m using this nap time to organize the calendar, plan our activities, browse Pinterest for fresh ideas and the best part: make a SCAVENGER HUNT!! computer scavenger huntI’ve never done this before, but I’m super excited a about. I primarily want to it to be something that the older two kids will do together, but I’ve decided to throw in a few things for the younger ones, as well. At the end of it, we ALL get to go Putt-Putt Golfing, I decided. So whether they like it or not (and I think they will) we all win in the end.

How do you spend your nap times? Are we all fearing loving that summer break is just around the corner?

DIY Bingo Game for PreSchoolers

Sometimes when you’re watching kids, do ever just really want to play a game? That happened to me last week. I was tired of dolls and coloring… all I wanted to do was play BINGO! Insert problems here: 1. The standard rules of BINGO are a bit complex for three year old’s; and 2. We didn’t have any BINGO boards around the house.

So I decided to take matters into my own hands. Luckily, we have this box filled with game mysterious game pieces. And since no one knows what the game pieces actually go to, we are free to use them however and whenever we want. As a side note: I wanted there to be some sort of learning involved. However, I didn’t want the twins to pick up on the fact that they would be doing a “learning” activity. So, I decided I would only focus on one lesson: learning the letters of their names. Having a narrowed focus makes it less intense for young ones. With that said, here is how I made our simple homemade BINGO boards.

1. Create a grid on the back of the old kid’s homework left-overs.

2. Place images and letters on each of the squares.

3.  Make two copies of the papers & the use contact paper to strengthen each.

bingo games 2bingo games4. Cut one of the copies into small pieces and place them in a container. These will be the pieces they place on top of their boards. bingo piecesAfter this was done, we played! The rules were pretty simple, I would draw out the pieces and they would yell, “Yes!” if they had it. The first person to yell “yes” earned the piece and would then place it on their board. Once your board was completely filled, you would yell “BINGO!” Sometimes we would yell, “cannonball” too and that was just as fun. Hey, whatever works.

What games have you had to change the rules of for your preschoolers? Do you also make your own games to pass the time? Please share!

Our Earth Day Celebration

We love playing outside. Honestly, what’s not to love? So when I explained to the kids that it was Earth Day and they looked at me with blank stares, I knew I had to bring it down a level. “Today is about celebrating outside,” I sang. (This is not an exaggeration, I actually sang this line to them). And they clapped and we started yelling and singing things we love about the outdoors. Our list included: trees, birds, flowers, yellow flowers, not worms, the sun, snowmen, sandboxes. We also all agreed we liked Buzz Lightyear, even though he wasn’t quite part of the outdoors. I knew they would love Earth Day once we got rolling on comprehension, and boy was I ever right!

To make it extra special, once the kiddos went down for their nap I got busy working on their Earth Day surprise: we were going to decorate an Earth Cake. I especially love baking when I am at work because I get to plug in the Kitchen Aid Mixer of my dreams. Don’t you just love a great kitchen appliance. Anyway, I have all of these amazing memories of special cakes from my childhood. My mom was great at designing and baking cakes, and I was hoping to emulate some of that for the kids I nanny for. Unfortunately I didn’t exactly inherit that trait… so the image I had in my mind didn’t translate too well. But one of the many joys of working with toddlers is that they really don’t care too much about details and they have wicked imaginations. Which made this project thrilling for them.

So like I said, I made the cake. Then, after I made the white cake mixture, I swirled blue food coloring and green sprinkles into the batter. I was hoping for a stream and land effect. Insert toddler imagination here. When the oven timer went off, it ended up looking like this:ckae pan

I also made some small, flat cupcakes. Then, I found the bag of leftover Easter candy. Hey, if we were going to do this sugar thing, we were going to do it right. Once the twins woke up from their naps, we began our cake decorating. As a disclaimer, I must admit that I let the twins do the majority of the labor involved in this process from here on out.

Like we had earlier in the morning, we talked together about nature and what facets of it we loved most. After they answered, we would then find a way to represent their appreciation onto the cake. And so it went.

They gave me their first answer: Flowers. “Dey smell so good “Da-nelle”. So we looked through all the sugared supplies on the table and they opted for dumb-dumbs as flowers. At one point, one of us got very excited about flowers and took the opportunity to create an abstract poppy field like on the Wizard of Oz atop one of the cupcakes. Then I asked them what they liked about nature again. They answered: digging in the sand. So, I helped them with the idea of using the small cupcakes to make hills. They globbed on the chocolate frosting, amply licking their fingers in between, and then added some green sprinkles for grass. candy hills

Next we talked about loving animals in nature (even the squirrel who was “quite a little stinker during our picnic”), but since we only had peeps and they wanted MORE animals, we decided to use teddy grahams because “bears are animals, too, Da-nelle”. bears on hill

And so were done with the bulk of our Earth Day cake! All that was left was the strategic placement of our hills, flowers and peep bird onto the cake. Phew! finished cakeCake, 2

We didn’t actually eat the cake. Not on my watch– all that sugar?! Are you kidding me!? I threw mom and dad under the bus for that one! Instead I made a fruit salad for them to eat on the porch and we talked about all the exciting things we did that day. Earth Day really is great. And we sure do love that Spring is finally, finally, FINALLY, showing it’s face in this land!

Hope your Earth Day was JUST as fun as ours. Oh yes, and bon appetite, too!

Help! We’re Trapped Inside ALL Day!

Here are ten of our favorite indoor activities for when we can’t get outside. What do you like to do when you’re trapped inside all day?

1. Put the crayons and paper on the floor. 

There is something about doing art on the floor that increases a child’s attention span. It’s true. Try it! One of our favorite things to do when we’re trapped inside is get a LONG piece of paper, trace ourselves and make self-portraits. And when we have lot’s of time to burn, I pull out the big guns! Oh yes, you know what I’m talking about: glitter. Because no self portrait is complete without a glittery shirt.

2. Make a mess. 

I give up on cleaning some days. After all, at my job, the proof of a successful day is a messy room.  In an attempt to keep this fresh, I rotate the toys that the kids have from the basement to the playroom upstairs every month or so. In this way, when we are trapped indoors, I can grab a box from the basement we haven’t seen in a while, dump it on the floor with a grand gesture and VOILA! We have new toys to play with!

3. Bake some muffins. 

Food can cure a lot of things… hunger pains, a headache, boredom. When we’re trapped inside, I like to start baking with the kids. Our favorite thing to whip up is muffins. I like to time my baking with when the older kids get off the bus. If we save our baking projects until late in the afternoon, it gives me and the kiddos something to look forward to! And also, this way the other kids have a warm snack when they get in!

4. Puppets.

We have two favorite puppets around here: Girlfriend, who is a cheerleader, and the cook, who has a Russian accent and tends to be a bit bossy.  I don’t know where the kids get these ideas from... ok, fine. You caught me, I thought of these ones. But when I tire of hearing myself, I sometimes call for the puppets to reveal themselves from hiding. If I yell loud enough, out they come and soon the laughter follows! It isn’t always easy to transition into “puppet mode”, but on a good day I could probably audition for Sesame Street.

5. Movie Theater.

This is something I used to do a lot when I was in college and watched a preschooler. We would spend hours getting a movie theater ready. This took more time than you might imagine. First, we had to decorate paper sacks for the popcorn to go in. And they had to look good. We didn’t want our movie goers to be disappointed. We would color and use glitter until you couldn’t even see that old paper bag!

Then, we would make money. Of course movies are expensive, so you need to make a lot of money. For this I would cut strips of paper out. Then we would practice writing numbers on them, along with drawing lots of shapes. After which, we find our fanciest purses and evenly distribute the money.

And what would a movie theater be without a concession stand and ticket counter? After popping popcorn, making lemonade, slicing apples (to go with the peanut butter of course) we would fill our trays, then stand in line to pay. At last, all of that hard work paid off and we could sit on the couch, snuggle and watch a movie. Phew! We deserved a break after that!

6. Tea Parties.

We have quite a few tea parties around here. Aren’t all the two year olds doing it? While they are getting dressed in their princess and cowboy costumes, I warm up the water. Then, once they come to the table, I give them each a spoonful of honey to stir into their water to make “tea”. On special days, I give them some oranges to squeeze into their tea for a little extra flavor. They love it! And I love it, too. It’s nice to have someone to drink tea with in the afternoon.

7. Alphabet Hunt

For this, we pull out our alphabet flashcards. Then, one at a time, we look around the house and try to find where that letter is. This game is as much fun indoors as it is to play outdoors.

8. Dance Party.

Need I say more? Get those endorphins pumping with a little Neil Diamond. At least that’s what we do around here.

9. Kids Yoga.

You can never get kids involved in yoga too early. Sometimes we drop down into downward dog when we aren’t even doing yoga- it’s just that fun! Yoga with kids is awesome and definitely something that I intend to do more as the kids get older. The positive effects that it has on the kids blows my mind! And this calm physical activity helps to expend a lot of energy without making the kids more crazy! Hooray! What’s not to like about that!?

10. Bath Time.

Not baths for us…baths for the toys? What, even Elmo needs a bath now and then. For this activity I find the biggest bowl in the kitchen, fill it up with warm water and bubbles and toss their little figurines in. Then, I put the bowl on a big towel in the middle of the kitchen. Most of the time, I’ll let the twinners strip down to their diapers, but as they get older this activity makes less and less of a mess. I just give them a little wash rag and let them go at it! Sometimes the twins can do this activity close to forty minutes, which is quite a long time for such little ones! I HIGHLY recommend toy bath time!

Making Juice

Knowing we would be locked indoors due to illness and bad weather, I brought the juicer along to work. It seemed a little crazy at seven in the morning when I toted it out the door, but when the kids woke up from nap with a bad case of spring fever, it was JUST the ticket! What? Most toddlers don’t use a juicer? Huh.

After explaining that we weren’t just going to pour the juice from the bottle like we normally do, we scoured the kitchen for their favorite fruits. We found oranges, clementines, pears, and grapes. The twins helped peel the clementines and put them in a bowl while I peeled and diced the pears & prepped the rest of the fruit. Then, we fired the beast up, which brought lots of giggles and threw all the fruit in. OrangesJuice Cup

After we made all the different kids of juice, we tasted them and mixed them. In the end, we discovered that no matter how you mix it, you can’t go wrong. What are your favorite kinds of juice?

A Party for the Toys

Does your little chickadee have their own chickadee? A doll or a stuffed animal that they just can’t leave behind?

When I lived in Atlanta, the littlest one I watched certainly did. In fact, we were extra blessed because she happened to have twins: Charlie and Shelly. And they were quite the busy pair! Always wanting to eat ice cream and go places, always getting toys out and not taking care of them, always needing us to take extra care of them so they would stay out of trouble. Yes, Charlie and Shelly were quite the handful!

Avery and Shelly at the park

One day, my little chickadee came downstairs and announced that it was Charlie and Shelly’s birthday! And didn’t I feel foolish for not knowing! After all that time together, surely I should have marked it on my calendar.

“Well when is their birthday party?” I asked.

“TODAY!” she told me, “so we had better get to work!”

And so we did!

First, we made a picture list of everything we had to do. (Do you make picture lists with your little ones? They’re pretty simple. It’s just like a regular to-do list, only with pictures of your goals instead of words. This way, anyone can follow it- even the littlest chicks who can’t read. yet)

Next, we made decorations. We called our friends down the street. We made birthday hats. We gave the twins an extra nap so they would be on their best behavior. And then, we got to work making cupcakes, because what is a birthday party without cupcakes!

Avery at Party

It didn’t imagine the whole neighborhood would show up. But everyone did. And everyone had fun! And to this day, it is still one of the best parties I’ve ever been to!

Growing Toddler Autonomy: Getting Dressed!

Today is a snow day! We didn’t get much snow, but nonetheless it will be nice to have some real conversation throughout the day with the older two kids I watch.  Unfortunately, with a nagging double ear-infection and a body still recovering from influenza I may not be the best of company for them.  But I will put on my positive face (and a little extra make-up) and prepare myself for a good day! In case there are many other nannies out there feeling snowed in themselves, here is something to do with your little ones to buy some time:  MAKE A BOOK! This is an example of one we made the other day. Enjoy! xOxO

There are no things more rewarding than the things we can do by ourselves. I don’t know who said that. Perhaps I just made it up on my own. But regardless of who said what, the truth remains the same: autonomy is empowering. And, if it’s empowering for adults when we create something & can say, “I did that”, why wouldn’t it also be empowering for toddlers to recognize their own accomplishments as well? I have said it before and I will say it a million times again “the most important thing we can give a child is a sense of autonomy”.

And I’m not always talking about big feats. Most of the time I am talking about small things– using a spoon to stir the muffin mix, knowing where to look for crayons, taking care of their blocks and the most challenging task of the day: GETTING DRESSED!

We often forget that someone took the time to show us how to put on our clothes. But it’s true. Someone did. And for the little ones I watch, we have been growing and learning all about clothes & different strategies of getting dressed. We have discovered that tags go in the back for a reason & sometimes our socks can feel funny.  And while all of these lessons sound simple, they are not. It’s lots of trying and lots of patience for everyone!

So, one thing we did a few weeks ago was make a book about getting dressed.
004 I cut out different clothing items. Then I let them each glue the clothes onto the pages.  This was exciting! The twins I watch just love using a glue stick! I explained to them as they went along that we were making a book. This was even more exciting for them now, as we spent hours reading books, but have never made books before!

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Once the pages were done, I wrote the words. I used simple, repetitive language that they could easily remember if they were looking at the book alone, and that would trigger vocabulary the next time we were getting dressed.

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This book lasted about two weeks around the house, which was a pretty good lifespan for two-year olds. Whether or not the book helped, I’m not sure, but it was fun to use the glue stick and read along with together. Why not make something they already enjoy doing into a life skills lesson without their knowing? This nanny is tricky. And isn’t that what learning is all about, the fun we have along the way?