Shopkins Party Planning: A Shopkins Birthday Invite

Friday, August 12, 2016

This year my daughter is turning 8 and she has requested a Shopkins party. I have to be honest, I tried to talk her into a different kind of party because off of the top of my head I wasn't really sure what would happen at said Shopkins party. Even though I proposed some other fun ideas, like a rock climbing party, or a baking party, she was adamant about a Shopkins party. Which is when I started googling and searching Pinterest for ideas and I am happy to say we have a party plan that both she and I are excited about. For the next few weeks I am going to share some of the details of what we are doing at this Shopkins bash.

When it came to the invitations, I've been looking for an excuse to try out DIY confetti poppers. So when I saw that Hello Splendid did a Shopkins Push Pop Confetti Favor I knew it would be awesome to modify as an invitation. Here's how I did it:

Gather your Supplies:

1- Push Pop Containers - these Wilton ones with the stand were the best deal when I ordered.
2- Shopkins- I ordered a few 20 packs for invitations and to make charms for bracelets (one of our party activities). I am also not sure how many of the girls my daughter is inviting are Shopkins fanatics so I wanted each guest to have a few because we are doing a Shopkins Swap as well.
3- Confetti - I have a stock pile of tissue paper so I custom made mine but you could just as easily buy already shredded paper or pre-made confetti.
4- Labels - I used regular printer paper from my home printer to print these and designed them myself, I made a rectangle that was 3.0185 x 6.1479 inches and then picked two fonts and typed in the info I wanted on the outside of the pop. I also added a warning about this being messy as it is an explosion of confetti and Shopkins.
5- Invite - Printed on regular printer paper as well so I could easily roll this into mini scrolls and place them in the push pop.
6- String or Twine - I found some purple and pink string in our craft drawer, mostly likely the remains of a jewelry kit, to tie the scrolls up twine would also work well.
7- Hot Glue Gun - this is for gluing an optional Shopkin to the top of container, I loved that Jillian at Hello Splendid did this so I followed suit.
8- Scotch Tape- or an alternate adhesive to attach the label to the push pop container.


1- Adhere the label to the container- I used tape but you could also try glue dots or double sided tape for a more seamless look.
2- Roll up the invitation into a mini-scroll and tie with string.
3- Hot glue a Shopkin to the lid, set aside to allow time to cool.
4- Stuff the push pop container. I placed my mini-scroll in first then added the confetti and 3 Shopkins to the inside next; you could easily add more or less or even other mini-figures for different themes.
5- Attach the lid on the container securely.

Gush over the adorable invitations you just made!

My kids couldn't wait to try these out and gladly did this little clasped hand pose just long enough for me to get a picture before they made it rain confetti.

I am still a big believer in the idea that an invitation should set the tone for a party or event. What do you all think? 


Reading with: Charnaie

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Good Morning Friends! We are excited to introduce you to the delightful Charnaie from Here Wee Read for today's edition of Reading With.

Charnaie is a Computer Programmer by day, an aspiring author by night and a wife and mom 24/7 and did we mention she's also a Distinguished Toastmaster?! In her spare time she enjoys reading, writing, crafting, watching classic movies, volunteering (when time permits) and spending time with her husband, children, family and friends.

She is also currently working as a Reading Ambassador for an upcoming kid's festival sponsored by Fresh Kids. Which means she gets to curate a selection of books for their Reading Orchard. How dreamy is that?

Click through for all the wonderful thoughts we gathered as we got to pick Charnaie's brain on all things reading.


STEAM Interviews: Engaging with Science

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

This summer we are excited to share a "Learning With" series focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) education.  Rania Craddock, a teacher with nearly 20 years of experience, shares some of her excellent thoughts and recommendations on how to incorporate science into our daily routines and shares so many wonderful resources.  The opportunities are everywhere!  Taking a few extra moments to stop and help our children identify what they're seeing and asking questions can make an outing an educational field trip. We are always thrilled when educators are willing to share their expertise with us and help us understand how we, as parents, can more successfully engage our children in the process of learning.  A huge thank you to Ms. Craddock for sharing so many wonderful insights with us today!

What is your professional background?
I have been a teacher for 17 years in school districts across the country.   I have an Med in Middle Grades Education and a variety of certificates that allow me to teach students with special needs from PreK to high school levels.

Why is it so important to engage students with science early?  What are the specific benefits?
It is of paramount importance to engage our children with science at an early age.  Understanding science is understanding how your world works. What is so often overlooked, or misunderstood in science education, is engagement.  To simply teach a list of standards so they can be marked off of that said list, is doing our students a disservice.  Too many of our students dread science, because they equate it to doing a worksheet, or packets, or some other form of busy work. 

As a parent and as a science educator, I asked myself many years ago, “What can I do to change this?”  Engagement was the answer.  Science must be fun, engaging and safe for our youngest learners.  By safe, I am implying our students must feel intellectual safety to ask a question, to take a risk in hypothesizing an answer, and most importantly, to know they can learn just as much from a wrong answer as they can from the “right” answer. 

As a parent, modeling inquiry is key for fostering that burning desire to know why something happens.  It doesn’t have to be another activity for you to plan and to pay a lot of money.  It can happen naturally while you’re doing something with your child, for instance, taking a hike.  While walking and talking, pause by a tree whose roots are exposed.  Ask your child to take a closer look at the tree’s roots with you.  Ask your child why the roots are exposed in some areas more than others.  Then move on to another tree to see if your guesses are true with other trees in the area.  This questioning transcends into a fun detective game.  You are modeling the scientific method for your child.   If you are unable to provide the scientific explanation or reasoning—even better!  Your child observes that it’s okay to not know all of the answers. However, together, you can find those answers at the Library, by reading science books, or looking up information on the computer.   

Modeling question-asking, investigating how our world operates and acquiring information together is science! The benefits abound—you have a child who enjoys investigating their world and how it operates—which evolves into a child who loves science!

What are some of your classroom activities that you’ve found to most successfully interest and engage your students?
As an educator, I know that any new information must be linked to prior knowledge or experiences to make learning meaningful.  Hands-on science activities are key for engagement, but there has to be purposeful thought into the design of the lesson. 

I use a variety of techniques for providing learning opportunities, however, they are contingent on what my students already know.  If I note my students have very little experience with a given topic, I design an opportunity for them to immerse themselves in the content to build an “experience.”  For example, I designed an interactive Jeopardy-like vocabulary game for my students to play one year.   fun, but it was formative piece of data for me to see how much of the content my students already knew.  I quickly realized my students knew very little about the properties of matter and, in response to this, I designed a lesson to immerse them with opportunities to describe matter, giving each student unnamed “matter” and various tools to use in identifying critical properties.  These two lessons—the vocabulary acquisition lesson and introduction to properties of matter-- allowed for fun, non-threatening opportunities to build experiences to later reference for future learning.

In science, instruction is varied and unique to content and student-understanding.  When taking notes, we “read a little, see a little, do a little and write a little.”  We read a small amount of content, we manipulate materials with our hands to observe the content, we see a virtual representation, or a 10-second cartoon demonstrating the content, and we record the information in our journals. 

Each Friday, we have STEAM Friday, where students from the fifth grade classes are randomly assigned to a teacher and in groups of 3-4.  They are presented with a problem and must follow “engineering” steps to solve that problem with the materials presented. Our students love these opportunities to collaborate and solve problems together. 
The most successful and engaging activity design I have implemented in my classroom is the STEAM menus we offer our students in math and science.  Each unit in math, I design a menu of options for the students to “show what they know” in a different avenue.  The STEAM menus offer options for building, designing, programming, writing and artistically representing their learning in a meaningful manner.  For example, when learning about decimals, students were provided with a menu list of many opportunities to demonstrate their understanding of operations involving decimals.  Some included: design and build a fun rec room, write a children’s story which shows how a decimal number increased and decreased in its value through the adventures it experienced, design a video game cover which shows how to multiply decimal numbers and code a game of your own which matches the cover’s design, Write a “Reasonable or Not”  book which consists of student-generated word problems, with reasonable and unreasonable answers for the reader to choose.  These menus and options for students to peruse offer them choice and different avenues to demonstrate the depth of their understanding of a concept.  It integrates other subjects and disciplines to show connectivity and importance of all subjects. 

In summation, the most successful activities have a clear purpose when they are designed.  They are linked to prior knowledge, they are varied and change according to students’ needs, they allow for peer collaboration and creativity—but just as important as the activity’s design is the atmosphere in which it is carried out.  The atmosphere is one that encourages questions and concerns from the students and one which allows them to take a chance.  And regardless of the failure or success that follows, each is celebrated because learning has occurred.

As an educator, what do you wish parents would do more of at home?
As a working parent myself, I completely understand the constraints of day-to-day obligations.  We are all striving to be the best we can be to provide the most for our children.  If I were to impart advice from my own successes and failures as a parent and as an educator, I would say this: Make learning together fun and let your children know there are lessons to be learned from failures.  I see so often how much pressure our children put on themselves to be successful and to always have the right answer.  Make learning fun and help them see the value in trying something new and in failing.  Learning from mistakes is life—and it is science!

What books/activities would you recommend for at home activities?
There is a wealth of resources available at bookstores and on-line.  Oftentimes, the availability of resources is overwhelming and can feel defeating when trying to make a selection.  Below, I’ll list some resources that I have personally used with my own children and students:


Pipsticks Review

Thursday, June 16, 2016

How many of you had sticker albums growing up? Sticker albums were definitely a thing at my house, so when I heard about Pipsticks, a monthly sticker club, I wanted to immediately sign up. Then I remembered a few of the sticker mishaps we've had, like stickers on the car doors and wood floors and told myself it would be better to wait until my kids got a little bit older.

Now my kids are 7 and 3 and for the most part they have stopped putting stickers places they are not supposed; since they are ever so much more mature this summer and generally use their stickers on paper or on their bodies I figured we would be go to go with the Kids Club Classic. This one runs $14.95 a month, there is also a Kid's Club Petite option for $9.95.

Our first envelope arrived this past weekend and I gathered the kids around to divvy up the goods yesterday. Let me start by saying that their marketing is awesome. Exhibit A: the packaging

I love good packaging so I was delighted by how the stickers arrived.

Once I opened the package I laid everything out for us to admire, and admire we did. How great is that blank postcard, with postage included, this went to my oldest to create something with. Also included are some prompts on using the stickers as well as a few sheets of colorful paper.

The stickers themselves are wonderfully diverse, puffy, sparkly, varying subject matter and size and my kids were extremely excited about having this influx of stickers to add to their stash.

There is also a section on the Pipsticks site dedicated to sticker projects- I can't wait to try out the sticker crowns and mandalas with my kids.

Bottom line: we're big fans of Pipsticks so far, and are excited to get our envelope next month. My one question is how long we will stick with this during the school year as our free time isn't as plentiful then. I'll have to update you when school starts back up.

Have you tried Pipsticks or another subscription box you like? We'd love to hear which ones have been hits with you all!


Reading With: Amy

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

We are so excited for another installment of our Reading With Series!

This month we are featuring Amy from Sunlit Pages who has always loved reading but fell out of the habit as a music major in college because a lot of her time was spent practicing music instead of reading. Once she had her first son she picked the reading habit back up and has not looked back. Besides reading and blogging, Amy also loves knitting, dating her husband, going on neighborhood walks and eating yummy food she doesn't have to make herself!

One of our favorite thoughts that Amy shared with us is that the books she reads with her family mark the milestones of their lives as much as their activities and achievements.

Read on for more of Amy's lovely thoughts.


Five Tips for Road Trips with Kids

Friday, May 27, 2016

Are you a road trip family? I must admit that the idea of an epic road trip is slightly seductive, but be that as it may I am still a reluctant road tripper. However, since road trip season officially begins this weekend we have a small road trip planned and we would be remiss in not sharing these 5 tips from Elise at 3kidsTravel that are making me feel more prepared for it!

1. Get your kids involved in travel planning. Before your trip, show your kids a map and the route you are going to take. Talk to them about what they might see on the way and where you will stop to eat, go to the bathroom, and run around. You can also talk to your kids about what they might need to pack or wear on your trip and what you will be doing when you get there. When my kids are excited and invested in our road trip it is a lot easier for them to have a good attitude and have fun along the way.

2. Pick the "right" time to travel. There is no wrong time to travel, but you want to pick the best time to travel for your kids. If your kids will sleep in the car, you might want to travel at night or during nap time. If your kids don't nap, you might want to do something active with your kids before you head out. Also, make sure to check traffic patterns, construction delays, and rush hour times so you can maximize your travel time.

3. Find activities to do other than watch TV. Don't get me wrong, we rely heavily on our DVD player in our car. But, kids can only watch so many movies. Be prepared with some car games (I Spy and the License Plate game are fun), books on tape, window clings, stickers, WaterWOW books, Legos, Boogie Boards, or anything else your kids think is fun. There are so many non-messy activities you can bring in the car, just make sure nothing you bring has really little pieces that can get lost.

4.Take turns driving (or don't) with your partner. We have found that I'm a better driver and my husband is a better navigator. I always drive on road trips and he navigates and handles the kid's many requests. I get carsick when I have to keep turning around to check on the kids and I may be a little bit of a backseat driver so this arrangement also helps us keep harmony in our marriage. Decide with your partner how you are going to break up the car duties and make sure everyone is happy with the plan.

5. Bring clean-up supplies and stay on top of cleaning your car. If you are driving your own car, make an effort to clean up every time you fill up with gas. I always bring garbage bags, paper towels, baby wipes, and towels in our car. When we stop to get gas we pick up garbage, clean up spills, and try to refresh our car. When I take just a few minutes to keep our car clean it makes everyone happier and it reduces the amount of cleaning we have to do when we get to our final destination.

Sleep and safety are also key to road trips with kids. Make sure you get plenty of sleep the night before and that you've checked your car for any potential problems ahead of your drive. We just barely got back from a road trip to Yellowstone National Park and it reminded me how much fun it is to have your whole family packed into a car for a long ride. There may be tough moments, but it is really a great way to bond as a family. Safe travels!

Do you have any other tried and true tips for road trips with kids? We'd love to hear them!

Text by 3kidsTravel photo by Tee & Penguin


Five Tips for Airplane Travel with Kids

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Have you ever had a flight, where you are perhaps traveling alone with a small child who is tired, and your plane is delayed for hours and said child decides that the most convenient moment for them to stop cooperating is when you have to get the two of you and your stuff half way across the airport?

Early on in my parenting days, that was me and my daughter and the situation eventually escalated to her unbuckling herself from her stroller and throwing herself on the ground kicking and screaming. It was not our finest travel moment to say the least.

Now, I am older and wiser and have friends who frequently travel with their kids. When I am getting ready for a trip I will often consult my friend Elise on the particulars, like whether or not to bring a car seat on a plane ride to Europe (depends on the age and temperament of your child), or what the latest travel gizmo is.

Elise and her family (which includes 3 girls that are ages, 2, 5, and 6) are experienced travelers to places near and far and she has got her travel system down. We sometimes joke about how she can get her family of small children through security faster than some adults traveling on their own. That requires some finesse my friends, so we asked her for her top tips on keeping it all together while traveling with young children. These tips will make your travel days easier and I wish I had had them years ago.

Text by Elise image by Tee & Penguin 

Five Tips for Airplane Travel with Kids

1. Make a plan and make sure everyone knows the plan. Planning is key when traveling with kids. Before we head to the airport we remind our kids about all of the steps involved in getting us from Point A to Point B. We narrate the whole day for them and make sure to focus on the fun parts (like the new airplane activities or snacks). We also talk about how we are going to board the plane, behavior we expect on the plane, and who is going to sit where (so there is no fighting). When everyone knows the plan (even our two year old) our day seems to go better and now that we've flown enough times our airplane travel has a certain rhythm and predictability to it (right down to when to expect meltdowns).

2. Wear coordinating colors or matching t-shirts. Since we are now outnumbered (three kids/two adults) we like to dress our kids in a way to visually help us stick together. We usually have everyone at least wearing the same color, if not the same shirt or dress. This helps us easily spot kids that try to run away or get lost and it helps other people help us. There is also something about clean, well-dressed kids that makes everyone around us on the plane nicer to us so we always make sure to look pulled together (at least at the start of the day). Not sure why that is, but we need all the help we can get.

3. Lower your expectations. I used to be a pretty anxious flyer when my kids were really little. Over time I learned to envision in my head the worst possible scenarios that could happen on our flight (i.e. run out of diapers, majorly delayed flight, sick kids) and then I prepare for the worst. Sometimes our flights are near perfect and sometimes they are nightmarish. But, I never expect things to run smoothly and then, if they occasionally do, I am pleasantly surprised. It might seem like a mind game, but by controlling my anxiety I also have been able to stay calm in hard situations and keep my kids calm too.

4. Bring a lot of snacks. We never rely on airport food. Some airports have amazing food choices and some are horrible, we always like to bring something with us. When I know we are going to have a layover on a full day of flying I pack all of our meals just in case we are delayed and don't have time to grab food. We like to bring a mix of healthy snacks (apples, carrots, yogurt, cheese sticks) and snacks our kids don't get as often (themed fruit snacks, goldfish, 100 calorie snack packs, vanilla wafers, etc.) We try not to feed our kids too much sugar when they travel to avoid a sugar high, but we also keep Dum Dums around for emergencies and to reward excellent flying behavior.

5. Customize activities to each child. Every kid is different. My five year old will watch Star Wars for an entire flight over and over again and my six year old likes to color and do crafts. My two year old changes what she is interested in every single time we fly. I feel that my role as a responsible parent is to make sure my kids have enough stuff to do on a flight so they do not bother other passengers. I know we can only do our best, but at least I always know I've tried to help my kids be respectful of other people. I keep our travel backpacks stocked with dollar store toys and activities and leave them in our travel closet. My husband's job is to add new game and movies to the iPads before each flight. We change up the iPad content depending on our kids' current interests. Everyone's backpack content is slightly different and my kids love having a few new things to do. The anticipation alone about the fun new things in their backpacks usually helps us to motivate good behavior from the airport parking shuttle until they board the plane.

Lastly, I would add, get sleep the night before you fly. These tips might seem really simple, and there is a lot more the I could add, but when I am well prepared for a flight (mentally and physically) it usually tends to go well and I can handle whatever things come my way. Also, when I'm prepared and things do not go well at least I know I tried my best and I am usually able to laugh about it rather than cry.

We can't wait to incorporate these tips on our upcoming trips. I love the idea of customizing my kids backpack activities, as well as their iPad content. Also, how wonderful is the thought about lowering our expectations for a smooth flight? I know a lot of times when I am upset or flustered it is because of the expectations I had of a situation vs the reality.

What do you do when flying with kids? Any additional thoughts on how to make flying with kids a smooth experience?


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