A Magic Trick for Kids: Making Monsters Disappear

Our son is a pretty brave kid when it comes to things like going to the doctor, starting a new school, or running around and being a daring and active little youngster. But he has a bit of a fear of the dark. And people in costumes. And talking to people he doesn’t know. (Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, by the way. He won’t even talk to strangers when Mom and Dad are with him!) With Halloween approaching, he has mixed feelings. He gets excited about dressing up in his own costume and getting candy, of course, but he isn’t crazy about walking around in the dark, amongst other strange and scary people in costumes, and having to talk to strangers at their door in order to get the candy. It does sound a bit creepy from his point of view!

Today, we did a little “magic trick” that you may have seen or done with your children before, but we put a little Halloween monster twist on it. And we used the opportunity to talk about how monsters are imaginary, that they are just creatures that people have created in their minds, and that he will be perfectly safe going Trick-or-Treating on Wednesday with Mom and Dad and baby brother. Sometimes a light-hearted activity mixed with a more serious talk can help to let your child relax. And hopefully, they will open up and learn in the process of both.

Here is our MONSTER, GO AWAY! magic trick for kids:

What you need:

  • coffee filters
  • washable markers
  • a bowl of warm water
  • newspaper (for easy cleanup!)

How to make the magic happen:

  • Lay out newspaper, and put out all of the materials on top. Give your child a coffee filter (and one for yourself, if you like! Who says these ideas are only fun for kids?!) and ask them to draw a MONSTER on their coffee filter, and tell them that you’re going to help them make that monster disappear! My son was skeptical. But he started to draw anyway.

 

  • While your child is drawing, it may be a good time to bring up any fears that they have about monsters, or costumes, or bedtime, etc. I opened our conversation with, “So what do you ¬†think about monsters? Are they silly? Funny? Scary?” And let your child be the guide of the conversation. Try to keep it as light-hearted as possible. This is supposed to be a fun activity, but also a chance to reiterate that monsters are only something we create in our minds.
  • When your child is finished making their monster, ask them to soak, swirl, and dunk him in the bowl of water. Encourage them to be silly with it, swirling and swishing for thirty seconds or so, and let them shout at him. “Go away, MONSTER!” “Goodbye, Monster!” or as my son said, “This is for your OWN GOOD, MONSTER!!”

 

 

 

  • After thirty seconds or so, tell your child to take the monster out of the water and give him a big, strong squeeze!

  • Ask your child to open up their coffee filter, and watch him gasp! “He’s gone!” ūüėČ

 

I hope you and your children have a happy, safe, (even if a little scary) Halloween!!

 

 

 

 

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Easy Family Game Night Idea: What Am I Building?

Does your family have a “family game night?” We didn’t have a game night often when I was a child, but I remember absolutely loving the few times that we did. Maybe I loved it because it was a rare occasion. Maybe I loved it because it was a chance to sit at the table, face to face with my mom and dad and little sister, and just play a simple game. Don’t get me wrong, we were always going fun places and doing fun things as a family when I was a child, but there is something that I have always loved about game nights.

Now that I have my own family, we play games often. We don’t have a specific day of the week that we play, but whenever it strikes our fancy. And in our home, game night isn’t limited to conventional board games. We make up our own games too. My son loves having the control of creating his own game for us to play, making up the rules, and then getting to explain it so that I can understand how to play (and I ask a lot of questions to make sure I have it straight… and that he doesn’t change the rules and “cheat”). ;)We played this particular game yesterday after school, and I wanted to share it with you, although I can not take credit for the game… It was all my son’s idea!

How to Play “What Am I Building?”:

You need:

-Blocks of any kind! (we have a ton of small Lego blocks, but with a newly mobile baby, we have gotten out the Mega Blocks again. It’s perfect, because the baby can play with and chew on his own set of blocks while we build!)

How To Play:

-Taking turns, one person builds an object out of the blocks while the other person guesses what is being built.

-If the other person needs help with guessing, the builder can offer clues.

-If the person who is guessing guesses correctly, they get a point!

-If the person who is guessing can not determine what the other person is building, they can give up by saying, “I give up,” but the builder then gets the point.

 

That’s pretty much it! Even though it is super easy, I love that it involves fine motor skills and creative thinking. It is also refreshingly simple (don’t the games with a million rules and exceptions give you a headache sometimes??), but you can add different variations on the game like keeping it to a certain theme (i.e. animals, buildings, etc) or adding a timer. I preferred my son’s way of keeping it open-ended. A game of endless possibilities. ūüėČ

Here are some of my favorites that we built:

A flower (by Mommy)

An alligator (by Son)

A dog (by Mommy)

A wall (by Son)

 

Have fun!

 

**I’m linking today’s post with the Weekly Kid’s Co-Op! Click here to find so many more fun and creative kid-friendly ideas and activities! Or link up something of your own by following the directions once you’ve clicked over. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!**

 


Homemade Halloween Card for Kids

Although giving children the tools to express themselves creatively–with no specific end result in mind–is important, it is also fun to occasionally create a project. I also love making homemade gifts for my boys’ grandparents. They are a huge part of our lives, and we love to make them feel special and to thank them for all they do for us whenever we can.

In the spirit of Halloween, we made a homemade ghost Halloween card that is super easy, and it cost us nothing, because we used materials that we already had around the house!

What you need:

  • cardstock (one piece of black + a couple of any fun fall colors/patterns)
  • blank card
  • white paint
  • black paint or black stamp pad
  • glue
  • pencil

How to make it:

  • Paint your child’s foot (or let older children paint their own!) with white paint.

  • Place the painted foot upside-down on the black cardstock.
  • Cut down the black cardstock to make a rectangle around the ghost.

  • Cut a couple more pieces of the fall-colored cardstock, so that they will fit into layers on the front of the blank card.
  • Glue all of the layers together.

  • Let it all dry, and then paint your child’s thumb with black paint or help them dip it in the black stamp pad. (Tip: Use a big toe with a baby. Since they like to clinch their little fists, it can be hard to get the thumb!)
  • Press the thumb/toe onto the top of the ghost to make two eyes and a big open mouth! I also dipped a pencil in the white paint to write the “Boo!” Again, older children can do this part themselves.

  • Once everything is dry, you can add your own personal touch to the inside by either writing a message like I did, “Have a SPOOKTACULAR Halloween!” or let older children practice their writing and spelling skills by writing their own message!

The finished product! Sure to make grandparents say, “Awww!”

He liked playing with the scrap paper while Mama put it all together! ūüėČ

 

What do you think about this homemade Halloween card? Do you like to make your own cards, buy a card, or skip the cards for holiday gifts?


Munchkin Meals: Homemade Rice Cereal for Baby

I am so excited about this post! My friend at The Concrete Runner has participated in Munchkin Meals via A Healthy Slice of Life several times, and I love reading about all the healthy and yummy foods that other mamas are feeding their babies. After our clinic visit on Monday, we got the go-ahead from our little five-month-old’s dietician to start some solid foods! Woo-Hoo! It’s such a big milestone, and I am ready and excited for him. Mostly because I know he is ready. I can’t eat or drink anything while holding him without his eyes getting as big as an owl’s and him grabbing at whatever he can get his hands on. It’s time for him to have his own meals!

We start simple, with a rice cereal. I bought the typical Gerber rice cereal, and I love it, because it’s iron-fortified and easy. However, I did all the Gerber stuff before with my first son, and this time around, I really want to make some of the baby foods myself. Especially since I stay at home now and have more time to do so!

So I found a recipe for¬†brown rice cereal for babies, and I just cut the portion down a bit so that it would fit in my handy little silicone freezer trays. Aren’t these the best?

They were given to me by a friend, but you can find them here at Casabella.com. They are perfect for making big ice cubes for punch bowls, brownie bites, or freezing baby food portions. I’d say each cube is about 1.5 oz in portion size, and the food pops out so easily! Oh, and they are dishwasher safe. Love!

Here’s the way I prepared the homemade rice cereal:

  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked
  • 8oz formula (you can also use breast milk or water. I am breastfeeding, but I have a terrible time pumping, so he nurses mostly with occasional formula supplements.)

Add cooked brown rice and formula to a blender. (I love my Ninja blender/food processor combo!) Puree until as smooth as possible. Pour into ice cube trays. Freeze overnight. Pop each portion out of the trays once completely frozen, and seal in a Ziploc bag labeled with the date. Can be kept frozen for up to two months. When ready to serve, take one portion (or two, depending on portion sizes and how much your little one eats) and defrost the cubes. Add more water, formula, or breast milk until you reach the desired consistency, and you can warm it up if your baby doesn’t like it cold.

 

Frozen

Defrosted, formula added, and ready to eat!

One whole block is a LOT for my little guy just starting out, and I didn’t realize until afterwards that you can slice each cube in half or even thirds, depending on how much your little one can eat. I hate to waste food! (You live, you learn.) You can also add fruits or veggies to this cereal for extra flavor and nutrients. Since we are just starting out on the solids, we keep it plain for now. He still nurses 6-7 times a day, and gets one serving of rice cereal (either this homemade version or the Gerber brand) for his supper.

So, how did he like it? It was still a little bit chunky, so I steered away from the bigger chunks of rice when spoon-feeding him. Otherwise, he did just fine!

Lots of “Mmm”s while he was eating his Mama’s first homemade baby food!

I can’t wait to start adding new foods to his diet! Keep visiting Munchkin Meals every other Thursday for more deliciously healthy baby and toddler foods! Thanks for visiting!

What are some of your baby’s first favorite foods? Do you make your own baby foods, use store-bought baby foods, or a combo of both?


We’re All in this Together: Blending in Special Medical Needs

When one person in the family has an illness, it can sometimes be difficult not to single that person out. We say all the time that we don’t define our son by his disease, but at the same time, there are certain precautions that we do need to take in order to give him the healthy life that he deserves. But how do you do this without singling out the person with the illness? Here are some tips that work for our family, and although our needs are catered to our little guy’s cystic fibrosis, many of these ideas can be helpful for other families who have a loved one with special medical needs.

  • We try to be as matter-of-fact about any changes or special needs as possible. We do our best not to place emotions with our son’s needs in order to prevent him from getting unnecessary sympathy, sadness, or fear. Instead of asking our older son to wash his hands when he comes home from school, because we’re afraid that the germs might our little guy sick, we ask him to wash his hands, so that the germs from school stay at school.
  • Whenever possible, we make the changes for the benefit of all of us. It is certainly much better for our little guy if everyone washes their hands more often, and we avoid going to places that allow smoking. But it’s healthier for all of us too. There’s no need to say, “We shouldn’t eat there, because our baby can’t be around smoke.” It’s just better for our family if we choose a smoke-free restaurant. When our little guy needs to get exercise, we can go for a walk or play soccer in the backyard as a family, because exercise is healthy and important for everyone. Never mind the fact that it helps to keep our little guy’s lungs clear.
  • If there is a special need that does not apply for the rest of the family, we do our best to let it blend in to the rest of the family’s routine. Our little guy is going to have a specific diet with higher amounts of calories, fat, protein, and salt. We have already mentioned this to our older son when we first explained cystic fibrosis to him, and his reaction was, “Aw, man! But I like salt! I want extra salt too!” That’s an understandable reaction from a child. But how do we try to keep our meals from being focused on the differences in what we are eating? This is where some creativity is involved. We can find ways to cook one meal, but add extra calories like butter or oil and extra salt to our little guy’s portion before serving the meal. That way, each boy could add a little salt to their food at the table, but neither of them would realize they were eating anything different.
  • We can embrace the differences as a family. During treatment times, hospital stays, or long doctors visits, we can find ways to make those bonding times as well. On Monday after our little guy’s two-hour clinic appointment, we spent the afternoon at the zoo. During hospital stays (which we have not had yet, praise Jesus!), we could bring lots of games to play, books to read, and movies to watch together. During breathing treatment times, we watch a favorite TV show. When it’s more about family bonding time than the medical need itself, those important needs are being met, but they sort of fade into the background.
  • We all get involved. I do most of the care-taking for our little guy’s needs during the day when my husband is working and my older son is at school, but in the evenings, my husband helps with treatments and medications. We also let our older son help with treatments–turning on the breathing machine, keeping track of the time with the stopwatch during PT, etc–so that he feels involved too.

Today at my older son’s school, the health department was providing a free flu vaccine for each student. Most of the students were able to get the vaccine in the form of a nasal mist. However, it is not recommended for those who will be around someone with a weaker immune system. Therefore, my son needed to receive the injection, but our little guy’s CF doctor suggested that we didn’t tell him, “You have to get a shot because of your brother.” So I thought all day about how to tell him he needed to get the shot, when he knew that the rest of the kids were going to get the mist, without putting the blame on our little guy. I ended up telling him that we thought it was best for everyone if he got the shot instead of the mist, because sometimes the mist can make people sick. Then, I pointed out that his dad and I were both getting the shot on Thursday, and his little brother would get the shot as soon as he turns six months old in November. He was a little bummed at the thought of a shot, but he understood and had no hard feelings towards any of us for it. (Oh, and he said it didn’t hurt, that he didn’t cry, and that he was glad they didn’t do it in his “throwing arm.” We also have a wonderful school nurse who had a couple of the older kids that also needed the shot get it at the same time as my son. They went first and then made funny faces at my son to distract him when it was his turn. She is so good!)

With any sort of special need, it’s always healthier for the family to have a “we’re all in this together” attitude. It creates unity, whereas focusing on the needs themselves creates distance. I’m sure there will be times where our little guy will still feel singled out, despite our best efforts, but the fewer times that happens, the better it will be for his mentality.

If you have a special medical need in your family, how do you create a sense of unity where there are obvious differences? I’d love to hear some other ideas, since we are still very new to this. ūüôā


Find Your Inner Strength

¬†‚ÄúWhat lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.‚ÄĚ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I tell people that my son has cystic fibrosis, I often get the same responses:

“Oh, that’s so sad.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“Poor little guy.”

Feelings of sorrow and sympathy are the natural reaction to hearing that someone’s loved one is ill. I react the exact same way.

Except when it’s¬† you or your loved one, you tend to¬†feel differently. When we heard the news, yes, it was sad. You get the bad news, and then you say, “Okay. What do we do now?” As a parent, we have no other choice. I know sometimes parents of a child with a serious or chronic illness get down. We feel bad for what our children go through. It hurts to watch them struggle.¬†But we can’t afford to let it keep us down. We can’t afford to accept the sympathy that comes with the disease. Because then,¬†we are letting that disease define us. CF is¬†something my child has, it’s not who he is.¬†So he has some extra pills to take every day. So he has breathing treatments and airway clearance techniques to do every day. That’s just something his body needs. It’s not who he is.

I hear all the time, “He’s so lucky to have such a strong mom like you.” I don’t always feel strong. Sometimes I feel very weak and vulnerable. But when¬†there is something that needs to be done for my¬†kids? That’s when I become strong. That’s when I take better care of myself. That’s when I won’t let the¬†sympathy seep in.

It’s easy to be sad. To complain. To say life sucks. To say life isn’t fair. But that’s not good for us, and it’s not good for our children. Bad things have happened to you. Bad things are going to happen to you again. But it’s who we are inside, our inner strength, that can make those bad things get better.

Be strong, moms and dads. Be confident that you can take care of your children the best that you can. Find the best parts of you inside, and bring those out to light, so that you can shine that light on your children when they need it.

Please pray for my little guy at clinic this coming Monday. I am happy to say that last time, his growth was at the 70th percentile (last time we were hoping to get above the 50th… Little over-achiever!) and his throat culture showed NO germs which is fantastic news. No germs in his throat means there are¬†likely no germs stuck in his lungs. He is a healthy and happy little boy!

Have a happy weekend, everyone!


Making Math Fun!

“It’s time to do your math homework,” I call to my son.

He drags himself to the kitchen table. “Ugh,” he sighs. “Do I have to do this now?”

“Well, if you don’t want to¬†do your math homework, then you will be the one at school explaining that to Mrs. H tomorow.”

He takes a big exaggerated breath, and lets it out through his pursed lips. Not unlike a horse.¬†“Okay, fiiiiiine.”

He does his homework. He does a good job. But he doesn’t like it. Being a writer, I understand where he’s coming from. I would much rather get lost in a good book–a story filled with the unknown and many possibilities, all carefully described by the creative mind of the author–than to calculate numbers on a worksheet with only one right answer possible.

Still, basic math is a skill that we all need. We need it to get through the education system, and we need it in the real world. And like any other skill, being good at math requires practice. Teachers are begging parents to help their children practice these skills at home. But I think my son might run away screaming, if I bring him more worksheets to do.

So I took an idea from my son’s “Math at Home” suggestion at the bottom of his homework, tweaked it to our liking, and we made math practice FUN! For both of us! It was fun for him, because he had choices, and it involved using his favorite toys. It was fun for me, because he was practicing math and writing numbers without a single protest, whine, or sigh. Success!

How to make math fun:

  • Let your child choose¬†some favorite toys. It can be a bunch of random toys, or a specific set of toys. If your child¬†is having trouble narrowing it down, you can give them suggestions such as Squinkies, Hot Wheels cars, action figures, stuffed animals, etc. We used these little football helmets that my son collects from quarter machines at the grocery store.

  • Let your child choose a writing utensil (marker, crayon, pen, pencil, chalk, paint) and something to write on (copy paper, chalkboard, poster board, notepad, scrapbook paper). A few small choices¬†let your child¬†feel like¬†he has¬†a whole lot of freedom! We used my son’s dry erase board and dry erase marker that he LOVES to use!
  • Know what your child is working on in math at school. Right now, my son is working on greater than, less than, and equal to, so that’s what we focused on, but you can certainly use this same idea with addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division. He is also working on numbers 0-5 in school, so we stuck to those numbers, but again, you can go as high as you like with this activity, assuming you have enough toys. (I know we have no shortage over here!) ūüėČ
  • ¬†Ask your child to separate the toys into groups. For example, we started with four helmets¬†vs. five helmets. Talk about the two groups in a way that relates to what your child is learning at school. I asked my son, “Which group is greater than the other?” “Which group is less than?” and “How can you make the two groups equal to each other?” If¬†your child is practicing¬†division, ask your child to pick ten objects, and then ask, “How can we divide these into five equal groups?”
  • Finally, let your child practice writing the equation.

3=3

Most importantly, play around with it and have fun! If your child starts playing with the toys, play along! Just find a sneaky way to add in a little math. If he starts racing the cars around the floor, ask him, “How many cars are in the race?”¬†Let’s say¬†he says eight, then you could¬†ask, ¬†“How many¬†should we add to make fifteen racers?” He’s still doing math, but in a way that is much more entertaining to him, and less stressful for you!

Happy Learning!