Food Fun Friday - Meringue Snowmen

My girls have developed a love affair with meringues. I started buying containers of them at the store, but they are a little pricey. I decided to try my hand at making my own. I remember seeing some adorable meringue snowmen in a magazine a few years ago, but cannot remember where this idea originated. Now that I know how easy and inexpensive it is to make meringues (not to mention how amazing they taste!), I will never buy the store kind again.

Easy DIY Advent Calendar and 35 Advent Calendar Ideas

This Easy DIY Advent Calendar is made using popsicle sticks. There are also 35 ideas for fun activities and experiences to write on the sticks.

I just love going to MOPS. Besides, the friendship, fellowship and great food, we get to make fun craft projects. A few weeks ago we made an easy Advent Jar. What's an Advent Jar you ask? Well, its just like an advent calendar, except you use a jar and Popsicle sticks. Following the advent calendar tutorial are 35 ideas for activities and experiences to write on those sticks. If you are still looking for some holiday gifts for your favorite little artist be sure to check out 20 Gifts for the Budding Artist.

Kids Holiday Gift Guide 2012 - The Best For Less

There are lots of holiday gift guides out there, but being that I am a frugal gal who loves to save money, I decided to focus on great toys that also were on sale for at least 40% off. If you plan to do some Christmas shopping for kids and are on a limited budget, this guide is a great place to start. It helps that Amazon offers free shipping with a $25 purchase for all the items below. A number of these have been favorites with my kids. I have divided the toys up into age groups so you should be able to find something for all the kids on your list.

Infants-2 years old

My kids had a version of this as infants and they all loved it. Brightly colored balls popping and rolling is the funniest thing in the world to a baby. This toy adds 8 different songs to make play even more fun. Babies learn about cause and effect as they roll and pound to music and lights.

The recognizable Big Bird greets your baby as they stack the red, yellow,blue and Big Bird rings. This toy not only keeps baby busy, but works on important fine and gross motor skills. The rings all have different textures which make them perfect for teething babies. 

My twins are now 4 and I still have the Freddie the Firefly toy I bought for them as babies. I could not bear to get rid of it as it was such an loved toy. This soft toy has a teether and so many other colorful features that crinkle and crunch and awaken baby's senses.

This soft baby toy allows baby to nest the cups and build a flower. This helps build hand eye coordination and fine motor skills. The Nest 'n Bloom also contains pieces that rattle and crinkle, keeping baby entertained. Babies will love taking the toy apart and trying to put it back together.

Ages 3-6

My Pillow Pets Miss Lady Bug 18" 47% off

I am a little biased here because this my daughter's exact Pillow Pet. This is a great price! Her fur is so soft and plush that my little one loves to lay her head on her each night and cuddle her each day. It's machine washable so you can just pop it in the washer when it gets a little too "loved."

I confess, we never bought this, mostly because I never saw a price this low on it. But a friend of mine had it and when we would go over to visit my kids would jump the whole time. If you're looking for a toy that will wear out your kid, look no further! The legs fold for easy storage and it's good for up to 80 pounds.

Being a mom of 3 girls, I wanted to throw in something for little boys (girls would enjoy it too) to dress up in. Dress up play is so important for preschoolers and really allows them to use their imagination to transform themselves and creative unlimited play scenarios. This fits size 4-6x.

Keeping with the pirate theme, this Learn and Go has a full keyboard and 10 learning activities designed to keep little ones challenged. Kids will love it because it features the real voice of Jake and pirate music. Arrrrrrr!

This is another favorite in our house. We have had this Laptop for a while and the girls still enjoy it. There are just so many games and activities that it's hard to get bored. You can even connect it your PC for customized downloads. The mouse stores in the cover which makes it great for carrying around. We always take this laptop with us when we travel.

I love all the options on this thing. You can play with it 6 ways - Digital Reader, Game Player, MP3 Player, Photo Viewer, Art Studio and Notepad. It has a 3.5 inch color screen and the whole thing opens and closes like a book. Great for travel!

Ages 7-10

Simon Flash  53% off

Do you remember playing Simon as a kid? Well, it's back with a high tech twist. They have added different styles of game play here so your kids (and you!) can test your memory, speed and logic skills. I am all for games that promote family togetherness and this fits the bill. Because this is small, it is perfect for road trips and travel.

Gather Round Dinner Game is something I will be getting when my kids are a little older. I love the idea of promoting family mealtime. This game will give your family lots to talk about and be challenged by. It includes 132 activities. People have said it encouraged their picky eaters to stay at the  table longer and eat more because they did not want to stop playing.

This fun game will encourage siblings of all ages to play together. The object is to pull clothes out of the dryer using only your sense of touch. Younger kids will benefit from the tactile exploration and the chance to develop their fine motor skills, while older kids can help with the counting and matching.

This is the original kick scooter made from Razor. I love it because it gets kids outdoors and using their muscles, is a fun form of transport, and lets face it, you can't beat that price. It's only 6 pounds and folds easily for quick storage. Be sure you have a helmet if you get one of these for your child. Recommended for ages 5+.

I love toys that encourage creativity and Knex certainly does that. This 400 piece tub contains bricks, rods and connectors. As a mom, I appreciate the fact that they come in a handy storage tub which makes clean up a breeze. There are so many things kids can build and then play with. Each time they play with the Knex it's a new experience.
At the time of this writing, all the items were available at the above discounts on Amazon. Prices and availability on Amazon is subject to change. 

This post contains affiliate links, but each of these products were personally chosen by me.

I link up at these great parties.

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Food Fun Friday: The Ultimate Caramel Apple Dessert Pizza

Caramel Apple Pizza Dessert

Want to have a delicious apple treat but don't have the time to make apple pie? Then you've come to the right place. If you don't have all the ingredients listed for this apple pizza, run out and get them now. This is THAT good. 

Scented Pumpkin Pie Craft

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and like many, we will be eating the traditional menu of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. Well, the adults at least. My kids are not fans of pumpkin pie. I am hoping to change that this year and when I saw this adorable scented pumpkin pie craft in my daughter's preschool class, I thought it was a good way to start. This simple Fall activity uses many items you already have at home. If pumpkin pie is still not your child's thing, you can always try these Butterscotch Pumpkin Muffins.

*If you would like to purchase any of the items used for this activity, affiliate links are provided below.

Christmas Tree Math Game

It's going to be a little while until we put out our Christmas tree, but there's no reason the kids can't start decorating now. I picked up some felt at my local craft store and made a fun Christmas game for them to play that reinforces math and counting skills.

You will need:
  • Green felt and other colors of felt
  • Scissors
  • Index cards or small paper
  • Marker

You really only need a larger piece of green felt to make a Christmas tree. If you have leftover felt, you can use that to make the ornaments and decorations.

Cut a tree out of the green felt. You can get fancy here and make a tree with branches and stuff, but my my ability in this area is limited, so I just did a triangle shaped tree.

Cut out some ornaments out of the various colors of felt that you have. I cut out some circles for balls and then remembered that I had some pre-cut felt pieces around. My decorations are a mix of pre-cut felt pieces and ones I cut out myself.

Write some numbers on your index cards. The numbers will depend on the level your child is at. My kids are pretty good at recognizing numbers and counting, so I used bigger numbers. 

Give each child a stack of number cards turned face down along with an empty tree and plenty of ornaments. They can turn over the first card and count and place that many ornaments on the tree.

My daughter working on getting 10 ornaments on her tree. 

When she thought she was done, she counted her ornaments to make sure she had 10 on the tree. When she finished, she removed all the ornaments, and picked a different card with another number.

One of the best things about decorating a felt tree is that the ornaments don't fall off even when you pick it up.

When the kids are done with the game they can just have fun decorating the tree however they wish. I cut out some strips of felt to use as garland and my youngest added it to her tree.

The possibilities are endless!

If you liked this idea please pin it! Thanks!

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Food Fun Friday - Easy Dried Strawberries

Easy Dried Strawberries

We recently had an over abundance of strawberries. I had bought some on sale and my mom came over with a bunch she got at her local farmer's market. What to do with all these strawberries before they spoiled? I have always enjoyed the dried strawberries you find in some cereals and thought I would try and make them myself. We don't have a food dehydrator, so I used the oven, well, the toaster oven to be exact. You can use either. So how simple are these to make? Read on...

Woven Paper Pattern Placemats

We are celebrating Thanksgiving with friends this year, but are doing a family Thanksgiving the next day at home. Back in my teaching days, we always had the kids make woven paper pattern placemats for Thanksgiving. I had totally forgotten about that until this week when I saw that my daughter's preschool class was making placemats. I thought it would be great to make these with the kids at home because it reinforces fine motor skills while creating a beautiful pattern. It's super easy to make and only requires a few things you probably already have.
You will need:
  • 9 x 12 Construction paper in Fall colors.
  • Scissors
  • Tape

Decide which color you will use for your mat. We picked orange. Fold the paper in half and make five cuts almost to the end. You can see below how I left the end of the paper attached.

Next, you will cut some strips out of the remaining colors of construction paper. Try to get these strips roughly the same size as the lines you cut on the larger piece of construction paper. It doesn't need to be exact though, so you can just eyeball it. You will want to make sure you don't cut any strips in the same color as your mat will be. We used 9 x 12 construction paper and found that 6 strips were enough to weave the entire paper.

Demonstrate for the kids how they can weave in an over under fashion. You will start with the first strip under the paper and then pass it over the second cut and under the third and so forth. When your child is done with one strip have them rotate the mat and repeat the process on the other side.

When you are done with a strip make sure you push it to the strip next to it so there will be room for all the strips.

Don't you just love the concentration as she weaves the paper over and under? Can you see why this is such a great fine motor activity?

The finished product! You can see that the ends stick up a little bit. I used some tape to stick the ends to the construction paper. If you skip this step the strips will move about. You can secure the ends using tape on both sides of the mat.

These pattern placemats were so easy to make and can be customized for any holiday or occasion. They were really quick to make and might be fun for kids to create before Thanksgiving dinner. When I was teaching, we laminated the mats which really made them durable and able to be used again and again. I don't have access to a laminating machine, but if you do, or want to pay to have them laminated, they would last quite a while.

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