8 Simple [and Cheap] Activities for Kids

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Have you ever looked around at all of your kid’s toys and thought…why aren’t they playing with all of this? Or how do they have this much junk…I mean stuff?

My son is 22 months old and is actually really good at playing with toys. He has quite an imagination and is already so creative. I have been able to “work” on this by playing with him intentionally since he was young (around 6 months old).  I myself have always had a creative imagination so it’s fun and easy for me to sit down and play with him.

Even with all of his amazing playing, he still has SO much stuff that a lot of it sits around most days going untouched.  My minimalist-loving self wants to donate a lot of it already, but we keep it and are teaching him to play with one thing at a time to avoid: making a mess, and stimulation overload.

A lot of parents joke how a child’s favorite thing is usually the packaging/boxes/paper right? So why not use those Amazon boxes you have coming out of your ears to create opportunities for play, adventure and creativity.  I love watching my son’s eyes light up when I create something for him that wasn’t originally there.  You can see his brain learning and growing, all while enjoying the simple things.

If you are someone who desires to purchase #allofthethings for your child you aren’t alone, but why not create an opportunity for imagination to soar in your little one and save some money too? Win, win!

As Mr. Rogers so adequately pleaded, the world is constantly bombarding our children with so many harmful, negative, alarming things, and as parents we have the privilege to guard their hearts and minds while we still can. Let’s take advantage of the safe space that is our homes and utilize what we have at our fingertips. We can show our children that having the next best thing isn’t really the goal, the goal is having fun with what you have at the moment!

Besides, you know what I noticed almost immediately about all of those fancy electronic toys that do so many “cool” things: they can be very overstimulating for young children, they leave out the creative part of the brain that has to work harder to think, they are VERY expensive, they don’t require adult interaction (meaning you can leave a child unattended with it for a long time), they usually have obnoxious sounds and children begin to crave that stuff the more it is offered to them.

*Side note: there is absolutely NO JUDGEMENT here if you have and utilize these toys. So do I! I’m just highlighting the fact that a lot of parents struggle to give their children everything they never had (or go into major debt trying to), but maybe if we step back and take a different perspective  we can begin to realize that they might be better off not having all that new, fancy stuff and that it’s actually good for them to just sit and play with an empty container for a half hour! #parentsaresuperheros #youareagoodparent #youknowyourchild

Here are a few ideas for you if you have 1,000,000 Amazon boxes piling up in your home (and a good reason to save a few before you recycle them!):

*[I will probably have to put a disclaimer on this post that a lot of these suggestions require parental supervision. Please don’t leave your child unattended with small objects such as uncooked rice, pasta or buttons]* 

  1. Create a sensory experience! I love following those IG accounts that promote sensory play. With all of the video game playing/TV watching and iPad using children have gradually lost their fine motor strength. What to do? Get an empty box, fill it with rice and/or pasta and put vehicles in there as a construction site or little figurines for a beach setting.  Find other items around your house to use in the play scene and VOILA a free toy that stimulates your child’s brain in a healthy way!
    1. Took an empty Amazon box, fitted some leftover green felt inside, cut it up to look like grass, put uncooked rice and pasta inside, added in some circular cardboard cutouts, a cup, taped the box to the table with strong tape to keep it from flying off and then let my boy play with his vehicles in there! He had a blast and it kept him occupied for quite a while. I did have to continue reinforcing that the rice needed to stay in the box, I taught him how to brush his hands off (just like we do with sand at the beach) and then I just vacuumed up all of the stuff he dropped on the floor (and trailed throughout the house on his feet LOL) 🙂IMG_0906Cutie boy having fun in the sensory box! [He has shorts on!]
  2. Draw a scene You might be thinking you have zero skills in the drawing department, but it doesn’t matter to kids. Children are remarkably good at not being critical. Take that empty box and draw on it to be a farm for their stuffed animals, a rocket ship for them to be an astronaut, a car, a town with trees and a lake, or even a learning box (write their ABCs, numbers, shapes and colors). So many fun ideas! You can have them decorate it with stickers or even use other objects around the house as part of the scene. Bonus: cut out shapes to create a dollhouse, car or something they themselves can play in!
    1. This large box was from something that shipped to us for the house. I immediately saw it and thought to turn it into something for our little guy.  I used a razor blade to cut it open and taped the sides to stabilize it for when he sat inside and leaned against it to play. I used my Crayola markers to decorate it. As I decorated it we discussed what belongs in a town. I let him use 1 marker at a time to help me color it.  Then I took out my teacher stickers to let him decorate the rest of the box.  We placed his vehicles inside and had fun driving them through the town.img_3583.jpgA village I drew for my son to play in. It included a lake, parking lot, train tracks & an airplane!
  3. Think Simple: (Cheap items can go a long way, search the Dollar Store for some good buys) Pom poms are a go-to for me.  My son and the toddlers I work with LOVE these. You can just play for fun, throw them around, pretend to ‘Achoo’ them out of your hands, use them with vehicles as objects to be pushed/pulled/picked up, or you can utilize them as a learning activity for sorting by color, counting, matching to colors in the environment, etc. These can also be used as a great fine-motor sensory activity by placing them into empty tissue boxes or paper towel rolls taped to the wall. You could even have your child blow out the end of a straw in a race to see who gets theirs to the end of a track first (put masking tape down on the floor – one row per person). The possibilities are endless and a pack goes for $1!!!IMG_3826.jpgOne of my cases & I using pom-poms as “blue water” and blocks as boats for the toys!
  4. Save the Empties (boxes, paper rolls, plastic containers etc.) these can all serve multiple purposes for life with children! Organization, sorting, using for homemade products (slime anyone?), musical instruments and more. My son enjoys using the empty paper and toilet paper rolls as horns. Once they get too wet or torn I just recycle them or throw them away! Empty containers are perfect for holding paint (especially homemade paints) and paper rolls make great painting utensils – if you’re worried about a mess in the house take it all outside in the warmer months and just hose them down when done!_storage_emulated_0_DCIM_Camera_0404181537My son putting Pom-Poms through the roll to land in the basket!
  5. Go Outside! Beach/Park/Grassy area (Look around in the environment for sticks, leaves, bugs, birds) – this is always so fun for my son and he loves to watch (and touch) the ants around an anthill, collect leaves and sticks or just listen to the sounds while identifying the animals that made them. The ground has tons of bugs for them to observe. Get out that magnifying glass (also sold at the Dollar Store) and get exploring. For children that need more support print out a nature scavenger hunt with real pictures so that you can check off the items as you collect them or see them. If you’re looking to make something more educational have them identify or collect items to match by color (leaf=green), number (5 rocks) or even shape (flower center=circle). Possibilities are endless and fresh air is always good!
  6. Same toys, NEW play! Sometimes children get “bored” because they keep looking at the same things in the same way.  They struggle to see a new opportunity to play so they stare blankly at their room full of toys all while screaming there’s nothing to do (I know plenty of ladies, including myself who do the same thing staring at our too full closets…persepective, right?).  🙂   Sometimes children just need an exciting idea to get them going that we can offer to them (and sometimes physically show them to get their imagination going). For example: have them combine two toys together (vehicles and people) to make a whole city all while utilizing the empty Amazon boxes, take the toys outside or to a new room, allow them to play on furniture as part of the setting, give them objects that aren’t “toys” but can be used as part of play (q-tips, a plastic cup, buttons, a tissue box, tape etc.), or just show them how to play in a way that excites them! Creativity soars when we can get them to see that they don’t need a dollhouse to play dolls and they don’t need a store-bought track to race cars. They can make their own and still have a lot of fun!
  7. Shake it off! Have a dance party in the house. Get moving together to a playlist: if you have Apple Music or Spotify you can easily create a list of songs you and your child love.  Even better, if you have Alexa or a Bose you can play that list even louder.  Be silly and have fun, sing along and be dramatic. My son loves when I belt out songs, especially from ‘The Greatest Showman’ soundtrack.  Sometimes I pick him up and we mimic Zac Efron & Zendaya during  ‘Rewrite the Stars’. It’s a good break for both of us to let out some energy and take our minds off of other stuff going on.
  8. Take Advantage Your district library offers a ton of programs for children.  We are fortunate to live in an area with a great library.  We have utilized many of the programs there, gone to play when it’s too hot or we need a change of pace, and taken out a lot of books to read.  Our library has a backpack system for young children where they can read 1,000 books before Kindergarten and we are making our way through each one! We also got to attend an event called ‘Touch-A-Truck” that my son loved because he could walk onto each vehicle and sit in the chairs. Check out your local library’s events! (They even have nice programs for adults too)

I hope I inspired you that you don’t have to “have it all” to impress your children.  I’ve worked with a lot of different age groups and on a Monday morning at school, when I would ask my students what the best part of their weekend was, MOST of the time it included an activity with their family members….not the stuff they so quickly forget about.  They really do just want to enjoy time with us.  Even now, as an adult, I really cherish one-on-one time with my parents.  For one, it’s not very often that I get to be with just them and it really helps to solidify our relationship, I also feel as though I’m heard and seen more than when everyone is together. There are SO many distractions in this world. Some of my favorite moments with my son are when I put all of my electronics away and just sit and play with him. These are the good old days and I am soaking them all up like a sponge because before I know it he won’t be needing me quite as much.

Let me know if you’ve tried any of these, done something similar with your kids or have another awesome idea! I love to learn from others!

Be well,

Name

An Old Armoire Gets a Makeover!

I have finally documented a before & after piece step by step!! See my post below for all the details:An Old ArmoireGets a makover

 

I have repurposed/repainted quite a few pieces of furniture (one of my favorites being our gorgeous hutch – see the picture below!). [PS. That banner is also created by me…I have a hand-lettering business, but I’ll save more on that for another post ;)]

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Getting back to the armoire! My husband Nick’s grandmother generously gave the solid wood piece to my brother-in-law, who so graciously gave it to us.  We have had our Ikea “furn-a-kit” pieces for 5 years now since we purchased them back when we got married. Ikea is amazing for so many things and we love it there, but our dressers began falling apart and wiggling every time we opened them.  We knew we needed an upgrade, but solid furniture pieces, that you would keep forever, are quite expensive.  When my brother-in-law offered this piece to us we JUMPED on it! Fortunately we already had the two end tables that match!

Once they got the piece into our basement I had to decide what color to paint it. This is always the hardest decision for me, and I let myself grapple with it for a while before I jump in and paint anything. I have to love the color and it must work in the space where it’s being placed.  On Facebook, I’m in quite a few groups that give me ideas and inspiration and also are very encouraging when it comes to a question you have about a design idea.  Disclaimer: I am NO designer, I just enjoy loving on my tiny home and cozying it up!

So I asked the nesters in the exclusive Nesting with Grace FB group what type of paint I should use. They gave me so many great ideas, some of them I had used before and others were new to me.  I got quite a few responses suggesting Fusion Mineral Paint so of course I was intrigued and had to check it out. Guys…..it is amazing and very ‘user friendly’! I searched online where to purchase it and realized that it is a specialty paint so that means only certain stores get the “rights” to offer it to customers (think: Annie Sloan Chalk Paint at Suite Pieces in Huntington) – Side bar: obsessed with that place!  So I googled the paint first and then searched for a store in my area that sold it. I came across a store in Huntington called Crafts Off Main. It was only just having it’s grand opening the day after I found them…how funny is that?

I was going to order it online but then decided that I wanted to see the paints in person and take a look at their cute store.  This place does not disappoint! It sells scrapbooking items, a few different brands of paint and of course what I came for: the Fusion Mineral Paint! I had a color in mind that I chose and loved before I went in, but I had a great time discussing the paint, how it maneuvers, best practices, etc. with the owner.  She showed me a few pieces she painted herself and I loved the richness of the colors!  The color I chose is called: Homestead Blue!

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It is a gorgeous, creamy blue…not too dark and not too light.  Originally I was thinking of going with a navy, but they all ended up looking either too bright or too deep for me.  This color was just the perfect blue hue for our bedroom and tied in some other pieces we already had [win, win]!

I prepped my piece, let it sit for a night and painted it the next day in about 1 1/2 hours (I never track my time I usually just get lost in the project). See my detailed steps below with pictures!

  1. I started by prepping the piece first, unscrewing all of the hardware handles, and ripping out all of the old liner that was glued in (this came out quite easily with a razor blade to help lift the stuck edges).
  2. Then I sanded the whole piece. I used my husband’s sander which worked well for the flat surfaces, but in hindsight I should have just used a piece of sandpaper for the tighter spots. *Sanding a waxy/glossy piece will help the paint to adhere to the surface better instead of sliding around.
  3. Then I wiped the entire piece down with a damp rag and let it sit over night.IMG_0868
  4. The next day I wiped it down quickly with a dry rag and prepped my paint brush by flicking it back and forth to get any loose hairs out.  **If there is one piece of advice I can give it is DO NOT skimp on a paint brush. The cheap ones lose all of their hairs in your work and a decent brush will last you a long time when cared for properly!** I used a Staalmeester #20 for this piece (purchased at Crafts Off Main in Huntington where I purchased the paint)
  5. I made sure to use painter’s tape to mark off any edges I didn’t want to paint. Ex. inside the cabinet, where the original stain stopped, and around anything else you don’t want painted.IMG_0876
  6. I began painting my piece starting with the top and working down the sides (no primer needed because this paint has amazing coverage).  This paint is thick and goes far so you only need to dip half of the paint brush in and wipe off all of the goopy excess!  The paint brush holds A LOT, so doing this will also prevent the paint from getting too thick in certain spots. Once I finished a section, moving back and forth, I moved onto the next.
  7. Once the whole piece was finished, including the tops of the drawers, I let it sit again overnight to dry.
  8. I washed out my paint brush, pushing it down into the bottom of the sink under streaming water until it ran clear.  I straightened out the bristles and laid it flat on a paper towel to dry.
  9. The next day I went back to the piece and checked it over. Any spots I missed or seemed thin I went back over or touched up.  I did not do a second coat as this paint is meant to cover well the first time!
  10. While I was letting my touch ups dry I took all of my hardware and used Rub N’ Buff in Antique Gold to brighten up the fixtures! This dries fast so you have to work fairly quick. I used my hands because that seemed easiest and was able to work the paint into the hard to reach creases.
  11. To clean your hands you will need to use a rag with rubbing alcohol and/or nail polish remover.  It takes a few days to get out of those stubborn areas (around your nail crevices).IMG_0887
  12. There was one drawer where the hardware was broken/missing so I decided to head to Hobby Lobby to find new handles. They have so many adorable choices I always spend a good amount of time in this store anyway, but choosing hardware kept me occupied for a while 🙂
  13. The gold of the new hardware was too yellow compared to the Rub N’ Buff so I used that on the gold parts  and screws of the new hardware, buffed it in and let it sit.
  14. While the hardware was drying I took my leftover Annie Sloan Soft Wax and rubbed it into the armoire with a rag.  This is the most tedious part and takes some time.  You do not have to do this with the Fusion Mineral Paint (they do have their own line of waxes as well), but it is a high traffic piece for us so I wanted to save the paint job as best as possible.  This stuff seals it in and keeps it from chipping easily.IMG_0893
  15. I put all the hardware back in the piece and added in new shelf liner to compliment the color (found at Target).  The shelf liner I flipped over, measured and cut to match using a scissor and a razor blade.  It doesn’t have to be perfect as your clothes will be covering it and brings the whole piece together nicely.IMG_0896

Here is the before and after:

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I am so happy with how this piece came out and I hope you were able to walk away with some tips to go and paint your own piece! It doesn’t take much to make cozy, unique changes to your home! You can do this…have fun with it!!

Name

 

Back to the Basics of Simplicity

This blog has been in the making for years.  It was going to be so many different things at random moments throughout my journey and now that I’m a wife, mommy and homeowner trying to figure life out I feel like it’s the perfect time to jump into this blog world!

I really want to treat this space as a journal for myself and my family. A place to look back on in admiration.  I have always been a laid back, low maintenance person so simplicity has been woven throughout my lifestyle since as early as I can remember. I have reworn, repurposed, saved, DIYed, bargained & thrifted to my hearts content. The older I get, the more I realize what is most important to me and it isn’t more stuff! It’s my family and friends and the time I spend with them.

Growing up my parents both worked so hard to provide for our family. Being entrepreneurs and working multiple jobs at different points. They taught me all of my values about hard work, living within your means, having patience for things and being content with what you have.  They gave me and my brothers a beautiful life, and we always recognized where it all came from.  They have been great examples of what it looks like to work hard for what you want, not overspending outside of your means and having patience with the process.

One of my goals as a mom is to become more of a homesteader down the road. Since having my son I have been keenly aware of all the toxins in and around us. My son is only 22 months, but I have already learned a lot about what I choose to feed him and put on him.  And I am still learning. I have so many goals for my family that are exciting and overwhelming at the same time so I do have to remind myself to take each day as it comes and make small, important and powerful choices little by little.  The Lord Jesus will give me clarity to know what to do next so I’m trusting in Him!

Thanks for stopping by on our journey getting back to the basics.  A simple life is a happy life. Stuff is nice [ #givemeallthethings ] but it isn’t top priority in my life. It’s taken me time to get over wanting all of the things and finding joy in what I have in my life right now, but I’ve also found that when the hardest habits break the deepest joy comes.  What’s most important to me is providing a healthy, happy home for my hubby, son (& future babes) and living a ‘content with whatever I have’ kinda life. If you are eager to do the same, then I’d love for you to stick around and follow me…I love connecting with like-minded people! ❤

Be well,

Name

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

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