This post contains affiliate links because we love this bath light and Amazon. Learn more about this here.
We love us some light play activities at home and at our early childhood center!
We have been having light baths ever since our eldest was a teeny babe. Someone had given her a small sphere shape bath light from Avon, and we have of course added glow sticks to baths.
SAFETY TIP: DO NOT CUT GLOW STICKS OPEN!
I once saw a #fail post when this became a trending pin on Pinterest thanks to the gorgeous photos from Growing a Jeweled Rose. Someone didn't read her instructions, cut open some glow sticks and poured the content's into their kids' bath. Glow sticks contain a GLASS TUBE with a separate liquid, which is why that cracking sound happens when you snap it - the two liquids combine to activate. You DO NOT want that inside your child's bath water!!
So when we had an freezing rain storm causing all school boards to shut down for the day yesterday, having a fun bath activity was added to our day's list of fun things to do. The kids chose the bath light, lavender bath bomb, and mermaid dolls for some magical play.
My daughter was missing her original bath light she received from a friend who ordered it from an Avon catalog YEARS ago. It finally died... but Santa came to the rescue when he left one under the tree this past Christmas. (He knows his stuff doesn't he? Wink, wink.)
If you like bath time and sensory play posts, you may like:
Mud Play: A Little Dirt Never Hurt!
Our Favorite Beach Supplies
Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon Affiliate links to some of my favorite products. You can read more about this here.
We have been brand loyal to another blender for the past 12 years: receiving one as a wedding gift, and then replacing it 7 years later with the nutritional edition. When that broke a while ago, we waited until we found a good deal on any brand. We had seen and heard good things about Ninjas, so when I saw the discount on the model I wanted, I asked Santa for one right away. (Important to note here: no one is paying me to say all this about Ninjas, I am truly in love with ours.) Here it is in all it's glory:
The whole family loves blending, but I ESPECIALLY love the health benefits and how easy it is to get more veggies and vitamins into our systems. ALWAYS on my mind: more ways to spend time with the family, and it's so fun to get us all in the kitchen to make new concoctions.
I wanted to share all my favorite supplies with you, all things I use to accompany our smoothies and such.
1. Reusable Straws
2. Bottle Brushes
3. Popsicle Molds
I am very loyal to Tupperware for all our food container needs - they literally last FOR.EV.ER. My childhood friend's mom had some of these growing up, and I just had to get the newer version for my own kids. I love how they are individual containers so a tray won't make my freezer dirty, and that they catch drips in the mold that turns into the handle. And again, I can toss them into the dishwasher - top rack. (I think it's apparent that I love quick clean ups.)
4. Reusable Squeeze Pouches
5. Healthy Ingredients
What are your favorite things to do with your smoothies? Got more tips to share? Lett me know in the comments!
So you liked this stuff? You'll probably like these posts too:
The following post contains affiliate links for some of our favorite things. You can find out more about that here.
If your kids are anything like ours they love making forts: Pillows, couch cushions, blankets... anything they can get their hands on. I love to watch their creativity as they find materials, and methods of making it all stay put so they can crawl inside. So this product has been on my daughter's wish list for a while now.
I had read many reviews and heard from friends and fellow educators that the Crazy Fort rods bend easily, so I was interested to see how well the Discovery version would hold up as the inside is reinforced, as you can see in the photo below:
I don't know what I was expecting the pieces to be made of, but it definitely wasn't this: the connectors are made from a hard foam like plastic that is sort of malleable to an extent. (Please correct me if you know the actual name of this material in the comments below!)
I was having a bit of difficulty inserting the rods into the connectors sometimes, but once I got them into place, they stuck and it didn't come apart.
I wonder if it will be easier as we use it more and more as the connectors are malleable...
I grabbed some old Queen sized sheets to cover the structure, which I would recommend to make sure you cover the whole thing. We used a fitted sheet around the roundest part the igloo structure we created and that made it even easier to keep it in place.
Once built, our 3 year old loved bringing his toys in and out, but also putting them on the sheet to make it collapse on his sister as she relaxed with a pillow and blanket inside.
The result: we love when we find family activity products that can get all ages involved, so this one definitely fits the bill!
Do you have a favorite structure / building set? Let me know what else we can try out by leaving us a comment,
If you loved this post, you'll also enjoy...
If your family lives in Canada like mine, you know how it can get in the winter time: you feel cooped up inside, and if you do go out, your eyelashes start to freeze. Plus there is only so much energy your toddler can get out in his puffy snowsuit... You start to miss those days at the park when the kids would just run and climb for hours.
Like the playground, indoor play places have lots of benefits for a child's development: gross motor of course, but self-confidence, autonomy, social and cognitive skills as well. As an early childhood educator, and in the past a family activities animator at a resort, play places have always been one of my favorite field trips for my groups.
But... these places come with concern for some parents, which is why I wanted to share some pros and cons I've collected from experience and word of mouth, so that you can decide for yourself if going to one is right for your family.
The number one subject that comes up when I speak to other parents about play places is cleanliness. If I had a nickel for the number of times that a parents has said that they wouldn't take their kids to a play place because they are worried about germs and cleanliness... I have to admit, this isn't an unfounded concern. Since I work in an early childhood center, with my kids attending since they were a year old, and I figured they are going to get cold and flu germs at any public venue - especially the airborne ones. Before eating or drinking anything while at an indoor play place, it's hand washing time right away for us.
Most indoor play place companies have a regular scheduled day where they are closed to clean the facilities completely, including ball pits and tunnels. You can find this schedule on the company's website, but if not, don't be afraid to inquire via phone or email. If you really are worried about this, plan to go right after a cleaning day.
Are you a parent of a little toddler just starting to move around more? Some play places have a smaller zone sectioned off with smaller equipment meant for their youngest clients, so you don't have to worry about older kids running around and rough housing.
Once, while we were on a little road trip, we stopped at a play place to blow off some steam. We happened to just swing by so I had not done my usual research of reading reviews or looking at pictures online. As I was going through one of the tunnels with my daughter, I noticed a screw pointing out of a piece of plastic of the tunnel. I notified the person working behind the counter, and then we high tailed it out of there. The point of my story is to do your research of where you visit like I should have: in addition to making sure there is a cleaning schedule (see above), inquire how often the equipment is inspected. If you walk in, and the equipment or facilities aren't up to your standards, ask to speak to a manager and tell them what you think needs work, ask for your money back and leave.
Tip: Indoor climbing play places do not allow shoes inside, and socks are mandatory. I always pick out a pair for my kids that have the little rubber treads on the sole so they don't slip on the hard surfaces of the tunnels, mats and flooring.
I'm sure I am not the only parent that gets overwhelmed with the size of the play place and where you're kids happen to be. We only frequent locations that have a scanning system. Our favorite has bracelets with bar codes for each family member. To leave the premises, the children bracelets have to match those of the adult. Once scanned, they will buzz you through the gate.
Tip: These locations can be huge. As my kids got a bit older and were able to go off and play on their own, I usually spend my time walking around structures and observing my children - remembering what color shirt they were wearing so I can spot them faster as they move at the speed of light through the tunnels and slides.
We have been to many of birthday parties at indoor play places (see below for more about that), so we know just how crowded these places can get on the weekend!
When we had year admission passes at our local place, I always planned to arrive when it opened, what ever day of the week it was. Often we had the place to ourselves for a good hour or so. If it started to become to overwhelming, we would leave.
Tip: If you are planning on going on a week day, call the location ahead of time and inquire if there are any schools or daycares attending that day, and plan accordingly.
Most locations (especially here in the Montreal area) charge for parents as well as children, but usually at a smaller price. This may seem unfair to some who plan to watch their children from the sidelines as they play, and the more parent supervision, the less need there is for them to pay employees to do it. However, I've witnessed lots of families using the games with their children, and even climbing on the structures.
There are ways to save depending on the company. Look for deals on their websites as some have special days where parents or grandparents have free admission, or cheaper admissions for all on ped days and holidays. I have also seen some great prices on yearly passes, that work out to paying off after your third visit; which means you attend for free the rest of the year
When you end up paying for the entire family, I recommend making it a day trip. Which brings me to my next point...
All play places are different in the food area. A lot have restaurants and do not allow food brought in, while we have been to a couple that have a peanut free picnic zone.
A lot of the restaurants can be focused on kid friendly junk food, so it's not the healthiest option. But if you consider the amount of exercise your family is getting, you might not mind it as a treat.
I always preferred the ones that have a picnic area - I'd pack mostly healthy food, and then buy a big bag of chips from the counter to go with our sandwiches for a treat that was more cost effective.
A glance at an indoor play place price list for parties can come at a shock for some, especially for those with their first born, just starting to plan those "friends" parties as children get older. It'll all come down to personal preference on the amount of money, time and effort you want to put towards a birthday party. There are options that include everything from meals, snacks, the cake, a private room... even favors or loot bags! If you want all of that taken care of for you, it may be worth it to you to pay that little bit extra.
Out of the 10 kids birthday parties I have thrown, my favorite by far was the one I threw at our favorite play place for my daughter when she was three. It was easy to plan and came out to just about the same price compared to if I had planned entertainment and decorations at home. The best part was that the kids were entertained the entire time; and I didn't have to worry about my own house (and anxiety level) as they ran around and screamed and climbed. Since we just showed up, set up a treat table, and then left, we came home to a clean house, and had time for a nice long nap!
Did I leave anything out? Do you have some advice or experience to share about frequenting play places? Let me know in the comments below!
If you liked this article, you may also enjoy these:
Our Bags for the Homeless Story
Volunteering, charity, and helping our community is really important to me, and it is a goal of mine to encourage my children to have these same values.
Always on Pinterest, I of course noticed the Blessing Bags posts circulating. I always thought it was a great idea, but then would keep scrolling.
Last Christmas, my friend Rebecca from Spoonfed Nomore told me she received $75 for Christmas to put towards a charity of her choice and asked me who I would donate to. I said, "There's this 'Blessing Bags' thing I keep seeing online, I've been wanting to do..." and she said, "Let's do it."
With my birthday coming up, I thought it would be a great idea to get my family involved too. I told them for my birthday that year, I didn't want gifts or cake, and to instead spend the money on 20 small items to put into 20 toiletry bags I could hand out to the homeless for my birthday.
As a mom, I want to teach my children the importance of helping each other and the less fortunate, and this is a simple way to get them involved. My daughter loves putting together a gift bag like this for someone.
A lot of people had given me money to go get what we needed and I was able to fill 20 Ziplock bags. I get the kids to help sort and pack the bags. Sometimes our daughter will put a drawing or note inside too.
Montreal Homeless Support Group
How we found the Montreal Homeless Support Group was pretty serendipitous. We (My husband Bob, our eldest, our friend Rebecca and I) set out towards downtown Montreal on a tip from one of Rebecca's friends who suggested visiting some of the parks near Montreal's popular shelters. We drove around for a while not noticing many people outside - it was a cold January day after all.
Driving in circles, Bob was about to give up when I said, "Let's go down this way, I see a park just up ahead." When we approached, I noticed some tables set up with lots of people at the other side of the park and yelled "There!" and pointed. When we got closer, we saw they were serving food. I asked if they minded if we handed out the toiletry bags with them. Anne, the person who runs the group, asked if I had heard about them on Facebook, and I said, "I didn't, we were driving around looking to where we could hand out our toiletry bags, and we just happened to have spotted you." That's when she told us that they usually meet on Saturday evenings at the same park (Parc Emilie-Gamelin) but couldn't make it, so they came on a Sunday afternoon instead. And we just happened to have run into them.
We returned to the park this summer on our own during Formula 1 weekend. It was the perfect time to go, no other groups were there, probably because race weekend in Montreal can be really busy. It just so happened that it was clear sailing from our place - not an once of traffic. One person said to me "I didn't think I was going to get to eat today."
We went with 24 toiletry bags, and 30 lunch bags with sandwiches, cookies and vegetables that day. Everything was gone in about 20 minutes.
How to Collect Toiletries for the Homeless
We got the word out on my own Facebook that I was collecting travel sized and sample sized items for this purpose, and included a list. Coworkers were ready to help out and work together: sharing the post saying they will collect items, and going out and purchasing what we needed.
After the word got out, my family and friends know to save the items listed below for me. The bags in the photo below were collected from my aunt's travels in hotel rooms and from samples she receives.
Do you often get samples in the mail? Maybe when you make a purchase at a store? Sometimes you can find small one-use samples in magazines!
What to Collect
This is the top item requested at shelter, and the least item donated. I always include socks in our Ziplock bags. Check out the Toe2Toe organization in Montreal, created by Chris Costello who came to the realization that the majority of homeless people that were coming into the ER while he was on duty was to be treated for foot-related problems. Walking outside, often in harsh weather conditions, is the norm for the homeless, so having new socks to change into is a necessity. I always include new socks - a big bulk bag from Walmart or Costco is not very expensive, but it can help out so many people.
We like to add a granola bar but you can add any lunch box snacks that they can keep to snack on later: cookies, fruit cups, crackers, etc. We have also added a water bottle or juice box to each bag. I also like to add gum or mints.
One tip I have seen online was to add a $5 gift card to a common fast food restaurant. This would allow not only a warm beverage or snack, but a place to use the rest room or get shelter from the cold or rain, since you have to be a paying customer.
Dental Hygiene Products
Dental hygiene is an important part of maintaining good health. These products are on the cheaper side, but it all adds up: toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, floss, My sister and law is into extreme couponing, and has scored us free toothbrushes and tubes of toothpaste.
For Rebecca, it was important to add dental floss to our bags - as she puts it: "there's nothing more luxurious than a piece of dental floss." and I have to agree. It's the little things. It's the little things we take advantage of. Plus, it's what all dentists ask their patients: "are you flossing every day?" Does your dentist give you samples after your cleaning or check up? Save them!
As mentioned above, if you travel often, save the items from your bathroom where hotel chains often leave out small travel-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and shower gel or small bars of soap. Even shower caps - they can protect someone in the rain or snow. Especially if you're someone who likes to bring your usual products with you when you travel, these little items can go to someone who needs it.
Side note: Since these bottles will be used once, or carried around with them, I always ask for and buy travel-sized items.
Small Toiletry Tools
Combs, nail files, disposable razors... we have also collected small toiletry bags (pictured below) so that they will have something to carry their items in.
First Aid Items
Bandages, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, lip balm, wipes, tissues, antibacterial cream...
Where to Donate
If you're not in the Montreal area, try calling a local shelter to inquire if there is a meeting point for the homeless if there is no space left in the shelters. You may even be able to donate these items directly to the shelter.
A great tip I saw online is to always have a few in your car in case you happen to cross paths with someone who can really use it. We make sure to pack a couple of bags whenever we do go downtown.
Do you have any ideas for what else can be added to the toiletry bags? Leave me a comment below! If you're curious to know what the park is like, or would like to see more about the toiletry bags we make, head on over to my Instagram story highlights under "Giving Back" for some videos.
Melissa is a mom, wife, and early childhood educator who blogs about her journey looking for new experiences for family time.