Pay it Froward With a Day of Service.

Since today is a federal holiday – in honor and remembrance of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King – many of us have the day off.  As we go about our errands and enjoy a bit of extra time, get the whole family involved in small acts of service.  It doesn’t take much to make a difference in someone’s life: pay the toll of the person behind you, buy a cup of coffee and a sandwich for a person out on the street, let the person behind you have that coveted parking space, let someone in line ahead of you.  You and the kids can visit a hospital and read stories to children, spend time with seniors who don’t often get visitors,  shovel snow or do yard work for a neighbor unable to do it, bake cookies or muffins for a shelter.  Leave an anonymous bag of treat on the doorstep of someone who lives alone or might need such a thing to brighten up the day.

Possibilities are endless.  The warmth and good feeling you and your children will get is guaranteed to last beyond the day.   Spread kindness.

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Easy, Kid-Friendly Ornaments to Keep and Give.

My daughter came across these simple – yet festive – ornaments that are perfect for even young kids to make on their own.     

Shower Curtain Ring Wreaths:

  • shower curtain rings
  • chenille/pipe cleaner stems of assorted colors
  • tacky glue
  • buttons, beads, ribbons for embellishment          

Step One:  Using two pipe cleaner stems together, wrap around the ring to cover it as shown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue until the entire ring is covered.  Tuck ends of the pipe cleaner into the wreath to hold tight. Repeat as many times as you wish, making each ring different…or a matched set…your choice.

Step two:  Decorate with buttons, beads, etc. Tie with ribbon or string to hang.

Apple Cinnamon Ornaments

Here is an easy no-bake dough you can use to make holiday ornaments, beads for jewelry or magnets.  The fragrance is heavenly and lasts for years…even after being stored away with other Christmas ornaments. All you need is the following: 2 C. applesauce, 2 C ground cinnamon and 2 T white glue.  Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl until you have a soft dough.  Roll it out onto waxed paper until about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut it into shapes using various cookie cutters.  Use a straw or nail to poke a hole at the top if you are making ornaments.  This will give you a hole for the string. Set the cut ornaments aside to dry.  They will take 24-48 hours and should be turned over half way through to ensure both sides are completely dry.  cinnamon stars

After they dry, you can decorate them with glitter, sequins, etc. by brushing a layer of glue onto the front and sprinkling the decoration of choice.

CAUTION: Even though this dough smells heavenly and is made of food products, don’t eat it.  It is strictly for craft use only.

Gifts That Keep on Giving: Part 1

As we shop away this holiday season, we are often reminded of those less fortunate and wonder how we can make a difference – even in some small way.  Wouldn’t it be great to buy something that not only provides pleasure to the recipient, but gives something to those in need as well?  Here are a few gift items that do just that:

  1. When you buy an American-made cotton FOREVER BLANKET, the company provides financial support to children in the foster care system by funding extra-curricular activities and therapy – to help offset the cost of adoption. http://www.swellforever.com
  2. Join those who have helped provide safe drinking water for children world-wide by buying a LIFESTRAW PLAY WATER BOTTLE. The 10 oz. bottle has a two-stage filtration feature that works well for school or outdoor activities.  For each bottle purchased, the company provides safe water for a child for an entire school year.  More than 630,000 kids have been helped so far.  http://www.lifestraw.com
  3. EVERLASTING LIQUID LIPSTICK donates 20% of its proceeds to rescue and protect farm animals from cruelty.  The vegan lipsticks are named for animals saved by the group.  http://www.sephora.com
  4. Uwezo’s eco-friendly shoes – crafted from cowhide – help generate funds for orphaned and vulnerable children in East Africa.  http://www.uwezobrands.com

For more gifts that give back, stay tuned to this blog’s post on 12-14.

Toys of Yesteryear: Do Your Kids Want to Play?

When I do school visits or talk to children about my book WHEELS OF CHANGE they often want to know how kids played and entertained themselves in the early 1900’s.  Without electricity and electronic devices, children of yesteryear had to use their imagination to have a day of fun.  Inventing games and pretend play really hasn’t gone out of style – I witness it every time I visit children on the playground or during their free time.

Toys have changed however.  Many of the things children play with today require batteries and often perform only one function.  Yet there are still some toys that have stood the test of time and continue to be popular.  During my research for the book – set in 1908 – I compiled this list of the top ten toys of the era. Do any of them appear on your children’s list to Santa?

TOP TEN TOYS OF 1900-1920

  1. Teddy Bear (1902)- in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt who, on a hunting trip, had an opportunity to kill a bear and didn’t.
  2. Erector Set- invented by AC Gilbert, a gold medal Olympian in the 1908 Pole Vault.
  3. Lionel Trains (1901)
  4. Lincoln Logs (1916)
  5. Raggedy Ann Doll
  6. Radio Flyer Wagon (1917)                                
  7. Tinker Toys (1914)
  8. Crayola Crayons 8 pack (1903)
  9. Tin Toys
  10. Tiddlywinks

Baseball Cards  (1900)    Ping Pong  (1901)   Jigsaw Puzzle (1909)

Other popular toys included:  Snap Card Game, Playing cards, marbles, checkers, chess, yoyos, wooden tops, dolls.

How many of these toys do your children or grandchildren still ask for today?  When it comes to play, some things just can’t be ignored.

Hess Truck = STEM Smarts.

While my son was growing up, one of the favorite traditions during the holiday season was the gift of a new HESS TRUCK.  These toys made their debut at Hess gas stations in 1964 and have gained in popularity over the years. Many kids receive these toys and have kept them as part of a collection.  My son has three such trucks tucked away and will no doubt hand them down to his children one day. The toys are considered collectibles and not available in stores.

This season features a DUMP TRUCK AND LOADER – with an added component: STEM lessons!

Available for FREE DOWNLOAD is a new STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) curriculum with eight lessons – all featuring the truck.  The curriculum can be used for home or school use and teaches kids about LIFTING FORCES, LEVERAGE, DEGREES OF FREEDOM, and other concepts.

Visit:  http://www.hesstoytruck.com

Kids Can Build: Free Hands-on Workshops at the Home Depot.

Do you have a child who loves working with her hands?  Does he enjoy taking things apart or building things from scratch?  Or, do you want to teach your child the proper way to use tools while creating something hand-made and original?  Try signing him or her up for one of the MONTHLY kids classes at your local Home Depot.

A recent class had children building a Military Appreciation Humvee.   Other projects have included: fire trucks, birdhouses, picture frames, toolboxes, mail organizers, race cars and many more.

These classes are FREE and the store will provide all the materials needed to complete a project.  Classes take place one Saturday each month and begin around 9AM, usually lasting a few hours.  BUT…YOU must register in advance to make sure your child has a spot.  Spaces can fill up quickly. 

The Home Depot Kids Workshop is for children ages 5-12. An adult will need to stay with the child during the entirety of the Home Depot Kids Workshop.

Interested?  Here’s information from the site on how to register:

Visit Home Depot Weekly Workshops and click on the Kids Workshops tab to view the project for the upcoming Home Depot Kids Workshop.

Click the Register button and your local Home Depot by using the Find Store button.Select the store you’d like to take your child to and choose the workshop day and time.

To complete the registration, you’ll need to fill out your name, email address, number of kids attending and their names and birthdates.