Time Out with Kids: Making POM Flower Vases

Back around New Year’s, our Jewel had the POM drinks deeply discounted, which was perfect for using the $1 Off Pom Coupon to get them for under $1. The bottles that the juice comes in was so interesting that I rinsed them out and kept them for a “rainy day.”

Yesterday, I decided to make some POM Flower Vases with the kids as a gift they could give their Grandmother. Here are the supplies that we used:

POM Bottle – emptied and rinsed clean
Tissue Paper
Elmer’s Glue
Container/Qtips for the Glue

Before you get started, you’ll want to cut your tissue paper up into squares, or your shape of choice. I used a divided plastic container I had kept from a snack tray we had picked up.

I always keep containers from yogurt or mac & cheese cups as they make great little buckets to put in glue for projects like these. When I asked at the craft store what would work for pasting tissue paper, they recommended simple Elmer’s Glue that was watered down a little bit. This actually worked out really well. The kids took the watered down glue and, with the Qtip, spread a small amount on the POM bottle. Then they’d put a square piece of tissue paper on the glue.

I let them do their own thing. I’m still working on not wanting to make their projects perfect because the true art is that they do whatever inspires them. I love that everything doesn’t have to be just so and that they didn’t feel the need to cover the entire bottle. When they were done, they were done. LOL. The only thing I had asked is that they do is to not paste over the heart in the word POM.

We had some lighter colored tissue paper that we tried to double layer around the letters on the jar as it was still showing through. We left the heart visible and I had them put a letter “I” above and “U” below so it would look like it read “I LOVE YOU.” They added a few butterfly stickers to cover up the other letters, too.

When we went shopping for supplies, I let them both pick out their own artificial flowers. They both decided on ones with butterflies in them as “That’s her favorite.” Here’s what they ended up looking like (the picture doesn’t do them justice, though, as they are actually a lot prettier.):

We had a fun time together and they were both excited to be able to make their own Valentine’s gifts for their Grandmother. I’m hoping that if you decide to make one that you’ll have fun, too, when you take a Time Out with Kids!

Time Out with Kids: Making a “Seek and Find” Container

I love trying to find ways to re-use containers, especially if it can turn into a fun game with the kids.

Yesterday, the kids and I took some empty and clean Parmesan Cheese containers, some rice and some items that we found around the house to make some “Seek and Find Containers” like their own “I Spy” game. The first place we went to look was in the craft closet. There we found things like feathers, cotton balls, small wooden items, water balloons, stickers, etc. Next I raided our office/school supplies to find some rubber bands, broken crayons, letter/number magnets, etc. We found a few items around the house like little lid caps and a lone domino to add to the pile.

I had a bag of rice in my pantry that I had been able to get nearly free after coupons and this is what we used to fill the container to hide the items in the container. You could also use small pasta or anything else small you have on hand.

One by one, we added the items into the containers and I’d write them down on a sheet of paper as we went along. I had added the rice at the end but if were to make another one, I think I’d add a little rice after each item was added to spread them out a little better. We were able to get them mixed in by turning it quite a bit but it took awhile.

The last step was to put on the lid and add some letter stickers to the edge of the lid rim to personalize each one. My kids are great about not opening it but if you worry about your child opening it, you may want to use some tape to seal it shut. I plan on switching out the items so I didn’t tape mine. Here’s what they ended up looking like:

After we were all done, the kids played “I Spy” telling me what they saw as they twisted the containers around. As they went along, we’d describe the objects’ color and I’d spell each word to them as we played. We’ll keep switching out the items as time goes by and as they get older, I’ll have them write down the items as they find them. Hopefully it will become a fun learning tool.

The kids not only had fun making these containers and playing with them but they also had fun on our little “scavenger hunt” throughout the house trying to find items to fill it. In the end, the project didn’t cost me anything extra as I just used items we already had.

I thought I’d share this little fun project we did in case you were looking for a fun activity to do with your kids, as well. I cannot stress this enough, though….only fill these containers with items that are age appropriate for your child. You do not want a fun game to turn into a choking hazard.

Thanks to Chanin for the idea! I hope you have a fun time when you take a Time Out with Kids!

Gift Idea for Kids: Book Box

Several years ago, my Mom started this wonderful tradition with my kids. One of their presents they receive from her is a Book Box. It’s a festive Christmas box that she has filled with wrapped books that she works on finding throughout the year. Each book is individually wrapped and here’s my favorite part–rather than opening them all at once, the kids get to pick a book, at random, throughout the year.

You should see their excitement when I tell them that they can get something from their Book Box. Their little eyes light up and they run over and grab one and get the joy of opening a present on a day that might be a little gloomy or a day when something special happened or just any old day when we need something new to do. And they know that the gifts are from “Nana” and it’s a great way to think of her often!

When the books are all gone, the box goes back to my Mom and she reuses it for the next upcoming Christmas.

I wanted to share this with you all in case you wanted to start the unique tradition with your family. You should be able to find festive holiday boxes on deep discount now. You can also pick up some discounted wrapping paper, as well. (I highly recommend having separate paper for each box. My kids love when she does that!) And you can start your search for the discounted books to save you money on the overall gift. Don’t be afraid to use used books that are in good condition–the kids wont’ mind! Here are some places to consider for books:

1) Thrift/Secondhand Stores such as Goodwill, The Salvation Army, or “Gently Used” Children’s Stores. Check with your Goodwill store as some have programs for discounts, such as 25% Off on your birthday, etc.
2) Garage Sales
3) Library Sales – Most libraries will do a once a year sale or they’ll have an area where you can pick up books for donations
4) Amazon’s 4-For-3 Sale This is a great way to get a few new books into the collection
5) Seasonal Sales or Clearance Areas at Book Stores
6) Target Clearance Areas by the books – I’ve found a lot of them there!
7) eBay – Look for “Book Lots” to get several books for one low price. Find ones no one is bidding on
8)  Dollar Bins – They typically have some simple books for younger kids

This is a great way to spread the love of books to kids and add a little bright spot on the days when you need them! This idea would also work for birthdays, baby showers, etc.

Where else have you found luck in finding deals on books?

Time Out with Kids: Farm Theme Week

Over the course of this last year, I’ve been doing my best to teach my kids the importance of eating healthy and buying only “good” food. My kids and I have been to several farmer’s markets together, they see me choosing Organic foods at the store and I do what I can to explain where foods we eat come from. We’ve been blessed to find a great farmer that’s close enough to order pork and beef from throughout the year, as we need it. So, this last week, when my son asked if we could play “Farmer’s Market,” I wasn’t quite sure what this “game” would be but it turned into a week-long farm theme of fun.

Now, first thing you need to do (apparently) is line up all your Hotwheels and Matchbox cars and hang up signs saying, “Farmer’s Market” with an arrow. It looks something like this:(if only there was this many people waiting to get to real farmer’s markets)

Then you set up some kid’s tables, which are the farmer’s booths, and then you drag out tons of play food and divide them by fruits, vegetables, meats, breads and dairy products and make it look like this:

You have to have a reusable bag and you can only pay with cash. And then you listen to music, just like at the “real” farmer’s markets. Funny thing was, in the middle of playing this, our farmer called to get our order for how we wanted our 1/2 hog which will be arriving next week. (There’s nothing quite like farm-fresh brats and bacon!) Boy did she get a kick out of hearing what we were playing!

Throughout the week, I would take certain foods and I would explain to the kids where it came from, such as french fries are really peeled and chopped up potatoes, etc. We then took a trip to our library for some new books to read. Some of the ones we read were:

The Berenstain Bears’ Class Trip – They take a trip to a honey farm.

Good Morning, Farm!

Farm Animals

Barnyard Dance!

John Deere: Tractor Power

Oh, What a Noisy Farm!

Fantastic Farm Machines

We also watched the All About John Deere for Kids, 4-DVD Collection that my son had received as a gift. (Great gift for kids that love trucks/tractors!)

Another day, we took time to build our own play farm. I found this great farm animal set on Amazon (currently not available) which had 32 pieces for just $6. But you can typically find plastic farm animals at dollar stores/bins. I then picked up two tins at our dollar store. The kids and I then went on a hunt throughout our yard finding grass, rocks, twigs, etc to end up making this:

The duck pond is made from tin foil. This idea came from the book The Ultimate Step-by-Step Kids’ First Gardening Book (which has wonderful ideas in it, by the way.)

I noticed that some of our bird seed had fallen and started to sprout some little plants from the sunflower seeds. So we carefully transplanted some so it would create a look like rows of crops. We took a few matchbox tractors my son had (these are only $1 at many stores) and he spent quite awhile driving the tractors around “harvesting” the crops:

We got real lucky as our farmer’s market was having a special event for Father’s Day and they had tractors and a petting zoo there. The kids loved getting to pet the llamas, goats, chickens and bunnies. They pretended to drive the tractors and I was able to get a picture of them sitting in one of the wheels:

The kids were able to pick out a few things they wanted to buy and it was a really good time. Overall, I was surprised at how much we had been able to do throughout the week for such little money.

I’m hoping that if you are looking for something to do with your kids this week, that you might consider having your own “farm week.” You might not only have fun, but you might also be able to teach your kids where food comes from.

Time Out with Kids: Panda Bear Theme Week

So this week, we decided we were going to have a Panda Bear Theme Week. It started off so simple just wanting to finally watch Kung Fu Panda since the 2nd one was already out. I pulled up panda bears on wikipedia and took a look to see if it would trigger anything and I started reading about what they eat. “…the panda’s diet is 99% bamboo….In captivity they may receive honey, eggs, fish, yams, shrub leaves, oranges, or bananas…” Well, we couldn’t eat bamboo but we had just picked up some asparagus from the farmer’s market and then a google search led me to decide we’d have a panda meal. Here’s what it turned into:

Each of us had a bamboo bowl of rice with olives that I tried to make look like a panda. I got the idea from Dollar Store Crafts, which I found through Google.

I set up the table all nice and added a cup of tea to each of their spots, along with a small bowl of honey to dip their food in. In the middle I had small dishes of fish, bananas, asparagus (fake bamboo!!) and the leftover olives from making the panda rice dish. I called them to dinner and told them they had to feed their pandas and then be panda bears themselves. It’s one of the few times I’ve ever gotten them to eat asparagus! And for once Mom was cool cuz I let them play with their food. :) I was bummed my hubby missed out on this meal but he had a work event that night.

The next night, we finally watched Kung Fu Panda together as a family. I had some popcorn ready and the kids loved the movie.

On Day 3, we made an attempt to make some “Kung Fu Panda Noodle Soup.” I’d love to share the recipe but….well, it tasted mostly like noodles in chicken broth so I’ll spare you. I think I would have had better luck if I had just made a package of Ramen Noodles and thrown in some veggies. I’ll have to keep working on this one.

On Day 4, we found some Free Panda Printables online and had fun doing mazes, writing letters, coloring and doing number searches. Just a little free fun and some education mixed in. We also watched some videos on YouTube, watching Panda Bears in their natural habitat and learning more about them. But the one they kept making me watch over and over was the one of the Panda Bear Sneezing.

On Day 5, we took a trip to the library and found some panda stories. While we were out, we stopped at the dollar store and picked up some black and white balloons. The kids dressed up as pandas by just wearing black and white and I made some ears from construction paper that I taped to headbands. (They are toddlers—simple is exciting for them.) They played panda warriors keeping the balloons afloat and coming up with their own obstacles. When they got exhausted, we stopped to enjoy the books that included:

~Zen Shorts – Loved this one! It’s on my list to buy for our book collection now.
~Zen Ties
~Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?
~Bears! Bears! Bears!

On Day 6, we made some Panda Bear Cupcakes. I based them on the ones I saw at Crazy About Cakes. I used chocolate cake mix, white frosting, mini-oreos for the ears and eyes, chocolate chips for the nose and middle of the eyes but then I switched the mouth to mini M&Ms as I had a bag of them already here. We made a dozen of them like this and then froze the rest, unfrosted, for another day. And the reason we made a dozen was because….

On Day 7, we took the kids on a new adventure and went to a drive-in that was showing Kung Fu Panda 2. Kids under 5 were free so we only had to pay $16 for all of us and we could bring in our own food/drinks/snacks. But of course we couldn’t pass up the popcorn made with real butter! My sisters and their families met us there and we all had a blast and ate some panda cupcakes to end our week. They had a second movie but we were too tired to stay and watch it. Maybe next time!

We had one more thing on our list for the week and that was to play Panda Bear, What Do You See? Game that I had picked up on a deal over the holidays but we decided to save that for another rainy day. Overall, we were able to have a whole week of fun for very little money.

I’m hoping that by sharing our little adventures, you might have some fun with your kids by having your own panda week when you take Time Out With Kids this week!

Time Out With Kids: Rainbow Theme Week

The most important thing to me is my family. While I love blogging and helping out others, my family always comes first. My kids are at such a fun age, 2 and 4, and I am trying to capture more of the things that we do together with the hope that it might also provide some fun activities for other families. So as I mentioned before, I am starting a Time Out With Kids series to share some of our adventures.

Now that summer is here, it gives us so many endless possibilities of things that we can do outside together. Living in the Chicago area, there seems to be more cold days than warm ones so I try to take advantage of each beautiful day that we have. For my son’s birthday, I always renew his subscription to Our Big Backyard, a publication by the National Wildlife Federation. Each time it arrives, he exclaims, “I got mail today!” and it makes it worth every penny I spent on it. Well, in the May 2011 issue, there was a story about how the animals went on a Rainbow Walk. Immediately the kids wanted to do one of their own.

It’s a real simple concept—you go for a walk and try to find something of every color of the rainbow- red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and purple. My first impulse was to make some fancy sheet for them but if there’s one thing my kids have taught me, it’s to keep it simple. So I used some half sheets of paper from the bottom of printable coupon print-outs and I let them take some crayons and scribble a small sketch of each color down the left column. I dug in my supplies closet and found two small clipboards I had picked up in the dollar bins at Target. Since they are still so young, they would hand me their clipboards when they found an object of one of those colors as we went on our walk in our wagon and I’d log their find. They had a lot of fun and wanted to continue on with the rainbow activities during the week.

We took one day and came up with rainbow foods, simply brainstorming to think of foods for each color. Blue is a tough one unless you go with non-natural food coloring items. Otherwise we thought of blueberries and blue potatoes. We then would try to eat one color of the rainbow each day–Tomatoes, Oranges, Bananas, Asparagus, Blueberries and Purple Grapes, etc.

We also checked out some books on rainbows/colors at our library. A few included:

Radio Flyer: My Red Wagon

Planting a Rainbow

This last one became a favorite of my son’s and you can guess his next request—a rainbow garden! We are going to work on this one by buying what I call “rescue plants” throughout the year. These are plants that are discounted and just need a little extra TLC to keep them growing. We’ll also use some flower seeds I got from that great Seeds of Change deal. I also found a packet of Poppy Ladybird seeds at a local nursery that were just too cute to pass up, as they look like little ladybugs! This should create some fun time outdoors for us.

The kids loved their rainbow walk so much that they’ve requested we go on so many more since. It’s such a simple idea and I hope that you take Time Out With Kids this week and just enjoy their fabulous eye-opening world. I’m always so amazed at how much they teach me, and the greatest of these is–enjoy life, keep things simple and find the fun in anything!

More fun to come next week!

Coming Soon on Coupon Geek!

It has been a very busy month of May with Easter, Mother’s Day and some other projects I’ve had going on. So I hope to spend the next week catching up on some on my postings that I’ve fallen behind on.

I have been keeping up with my challenge of trying a new recipe each week for “What’s New for Dinner.” Some of them have been: Baked Tilapia, Bacon Roasted Chicken and two others that I want to share separately as I thought they were really great and are definitely part of my permanent monthly meal plan going forward!

But I have some fun things planned for this summer on Coupon Geek.

Last year, I did a Wednesday’s Reading Day and shared what I was reading with my children and did a giveaway for you guys to pick your own new books. I will be sharing books again this year but I am going to do the giveaways in one big one at the end of each of the summer months with several winners for new books–and one additional giveaway to kick off our fun!

My garden is ALMOST set-up now and I’ll be sharing some pics with you and some ideas for getting your own garden started this year. Produce coupons are so rare still and having your own garden is an amazing way to save money and have some fresh veggies worked into your meal plans.

I am also working on a “Time Out with Kids” series, sharing some frugal ideas that I’ve done with my kids throughout the week. We had a fun little outing last week that I can’t wait to share as my kids keep asking me to repeat our adventure this week. You’d be surprised at how much fun you can have for free or nearly free. (A special thank you to my friend Keri Lyn for making my button for this series!)

Some of you have asked what my plans are for fitness coming up. June starts off my 5K training again with hopes of signing up for the Susan G Komen Chicago 5K Race. I am also digging out an old DVD of mine of my favorite fitness instructor, Denise Austin, called Blast Away 10 Lbs. It has some fun kickboxing routines on there and Denise is one of the most motivating trainers I’ve found. So I’ll be doing these along with several walks with kids and loads of outdoor fun with them, taking advantage of Chicago’s limited warm weather months!

So stay tuned for some fun and as always, thank you so very much for stopping by Coupon Geek and following in my adventures and coupon savings!