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Category Archives: Unplugged Play

Decoupage

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de·cou·page
ˌdāko͞oˈpäZH/
noun
noun: découpage; noun: decoupage; plural noun: decoupages
  1. the decoration of a surface with applied paper cut-outs, often finished with varnish or lacquer.

This is one of my favorite art projects to do with the girls.  It’s so simple and pretty foolproof.  All you need is tissue paper or some other paper product and Modge Podge (I actually just use Elmer’s mixed with water for the girl’s projects).  Then, you pick whatever object or surface you want to cover and let them “paint” until everything is good and coated.  You could use this concept to decorate jewelry boxes, holiday projects, etc… I even used this idea to make canvas art for our playroom, covered in torn out pages from children’s books.  I can’t stress enough how easy this is.

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This week we made “stained glass” Easter eggs.  I cut out an egg frame from poster board and laid wax paper on it.  The girl’s then did the tissue paper additions to their masterpieces.

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They turned out really pretty and they had a lot of fun making them.

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I Am In Love

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These trays are my latest Mommy discovery.  And I almost didn’t buy them.  I am still slightly embarrassed at their price ($15) but I use them almost daily, so I guess I can get over it.

I had previously been using my old, beaten up cookie trays as craft trays.  They were great for catching stray beads, keeping glue contained and simplifying clean up.  However, they are my cookie trays, which I do use fairly often.  Constantly covering them with foil and having to clean them daily was getting old.

So, I started doing some research and finally ordered these.

http://www.toystogrowon.com/sku582

There are cheaper ones on amazon, but they didn’t get the same reviews about quality.  I am really happy with these.  They are bright, a great size and the edges are a good height.  We use them for everything remotely craft related, including playdoh.  The girls go get them out themselves and if we are only temporarily taking a break from a project, we just leave things on the trays until we are ready to get back to it.  In my opinion, everyone with craft inclined children should have these.

Apparently, it doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Cold Days = Craft Days

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Winter has settled in pretty comfortably these past few weeks and the girls and I are definitely feeling cabin fever.  And cabin fever with an over tired Mom and two youngsters means lots of crabbiness, whining and tears (for all of us).  So, even though I am not one to jump on the next holiday this early on, I decided to do some winter and Valentine’s crafts with them today.  For their development and my sanity.

Today we made valentine “flower pots”.

Here are the finished products.

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What you need:

Cupcake Liners

Decorative Take Out Containers

Pipe Cleaners

Shredded Paper

And the directions are really easy.

First you take the cupcake liners and turn one inside out so you have designs on both sides of your flowers.  Playing with the cupcake liners was Meredith’s favorite part.  She took it very seriously.

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The you push a pipe cleaner through the liners, bending one end so it will stay put.

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Then you fill the take out container with the shredded paper.

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Then you simply “plant” your flowers and you have a cute little holiday decoration. I did secure the pipe cleaners to wooden skewers to make them easier for the girls to plant.  Nora wanted to tie them with a ribbon so they would look more like a bouquet, so we did that too.

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The girls really enjoyed this project and it was easy enough for me to supervise without having to interfere with their process.  It was also relatively mess free which is always nice when you are trying to fit a simple activity in amongst the rest of your chaotic day.  They were very excited to show off their projects and to find the “most perfect” place in the house to display them.  I was happy to see them engaged and not whining for at least a few minutes today.

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Crafty Discovery

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Today I discovered oven-bake polymer clay.

Well, technically, I knew this existed, but I had never attempted to do anything with it before and had no idea how simple it would be to use.

The girls and I used the clay (they sell it in a variety of pretty colors), cookie cutters and glass beads to decorate all kinds of pretty shapes this afternoon.

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I definitely recommend this activity for parents of preschoolers.  Nora loved it.  She spent over an hour pushing beads into her clay shapes and would have probably kept going if we hadn’t run out of clay.

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Look how excited she is watching them bake in the oven.

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Later on she told me that “today was a happy day” because she had so much fun decorating her shapes.

I’ll take it.

Megaland

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Today’s adventure was a trip to check out a park on the other side of town.  It was a bit of a drive for us, but we wanted to check out the old school wooden play structures that this park supposedly had.  And on that front, it didn’t disappoint.  It had a wonderful wooden play space with all kinds of things to climb and bridges to cross.

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The one disappointment was that things have kind of been neglected with time.  It is a great park and I imagine when it was first built, it was really amazing.  It is sad that some things are so obviously in need of repair.  My husband even joked that if we ever go there again, he is bringing a hammer with him.  To this end, they have recently started charging a $5 fee for parking to help go towards repairs and you can see where they have recently replaced some of the ropes and boards.  So, they are trying.

The flip side of some of the things being older is that they still have things like this slide.

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Which made me nostalgic for the parks of my childhood.  The girls loved it too.

I think the kid’s favorite part of the day was when we took a little walk and found the amphitheater.  The girls and their buddy Milo met two other kids and all 5 of them spent a good amount of time singing, dancing and just running around crazy.

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I don’t see us returning often simply because of the distance from our house, but I really hope they do manage to get the funds they need to keep the place such a fun destination for families in that area.  It is definitely a place worth a little effort.

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Books for Little Girls

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I love reading.  I want my kids to love reading.  I have wonderful memories of my Mom reading chapter books to me and my brother before bed when we younger and I am so excited to start this tradition with my girls in a few years.

Until then, we read the more appropriate children’s books before bed every night.  I try to introduce them to the classics from my own childhood, but there are also a few new ones that we have discovered together and I have fallen in love with.

One of these is Betsy B. Little, by Anne Mcevoy.

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I am a little embarrassed to admit that I actually teared up the first time I read this book.  I LOVE the message behind this story.  It encourages embracing differences and overcoming obtacles in a way that exceeds any and all expectations.  And it is told in such a cute way.  I highly recommend this to all parents, but especially those with young girls.

Another more recent find is The Monster Princess, by DJ MacHale.

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This one also has a good message about accepting yourself as you are and finding the light you bring to the world because you are you.  But, I mainly like this one because it’s a cute little story that combines two things my girls are obsessed with, princesses and monsters (don’t ask).  This one will have to go back to the library soon, but I might have to add it to our permanent library because of how much fun we have reading it together.

I love that my kids give me an excuse to explore the children’s section in the library.  It warms my heart.

Little Artist

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Art has been a part of my life forever.  I grew up sketching and drawing… eventually evolved into charcoal and a little water color.  Finally ended up immersed in the darkroom and photography.  To this day, my college art thesis is one of the best things I have ever accomplished.

I want my kids to have things like that in their lives… things that brings them joy, grows to help define them and give them a sense of accomplishment and pride.  I don’t really care what those things end up being for them, but I am not going to lie… I would be very excited if one of them became an artist.

Nora has thus far not shown a very strong interest in the whole art thing.  She does not even really like coloring books.  When she does do “art” she often colors or stamps a small part of the paper and moves on.  Meredith seems to enjoy the act of coloring a little more, which is ironic because she is proving to be slow in actually learning which color is which.  But, the other day Nora painted this:
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She had a whole story about it.  The thing in the bottom left hand corner is a snail – a pretty good one too if I do say so myself.  I think the dots behind it were lily pads or stepping stones or something along those lines.  I love that she used so much color.  And that she used the whole page.  And that there was a creative plan behind what she did.  I love that it’s official art.

She may not become an artist or even end up getting the joy from art that I do, but that won’t stop me from savoring this particular creation as much as I can.

Membership Insanity

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“Do you have a pass to everywhere?”  This question was posed to me by a good friend today while we sat poolside at the YMCA… where I recently signed our family up for a summer only membership.  And the answer to this question… is (somewhat embarrassingly), yes, I do.

But, I have a good explanation for this and it is more than an unhealthy compulsion to feel like I belong.  For most places, the price of the membership pass is equal to (or sometimes even less than) the cost of two general admissions.  So if you go more than once, it makes more economic sense to buy the membership.  And you often get other added benefits, such as free parking and discounts on food.  So, yes… a lot of wallet space is now taken up with family memberships, but really, is it my fault that Cincinnati is actually a city that has a lot to offer it’s families?

But, not all memberships are created equal, so here are my reviews:

YMCA – Not all of these facilities are the same, so I highly recommend getting a tour before signing on the dotted line.  But, the one I joined is a nice facility with a great baby pool area and I plan to use some time this summer to teach my kids swim lessons on my own.  So, $299 for a summer membership (which does include the exercise facilities as well) is worth it.

Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens – Almost everyone in Cincinnati has this membership.  The highest level of family membership is about $130 and includes the rides (train, carousel), parking, 6 free tickets to the 4D movie experience, 1 free guest per visit, 20% off of all purchases (food and stores) and you earn zoo bucks with all purchases as well which can be redeemed for money off down the road.  This is the best membership by far if you ask me and our zoo is amazing.  Zoo Blooms, Zoo Babies, Festival of Lights, Penguin Days, Zootini, Zoo Brews… amazing.  http://cincinnatizoo.org/

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The Cincinnati Museum Center – This one is also about $130 for the basic family membership and includes admission to all of the museums (otherwise each has it’s own admission fees), free parking and discounts on admission to the omnimax theatre.  It is also worth the expense if you ask me and is a great place to go on the rainier/colder days.  http://www.cincymuseum.org/

Kings Island – This one is pricey (about $90 per person), but still, if you plan to go more than once the pass makes sense.  We actually got ours last Fall, which let us in then and all of this year as well.  If you get the gold pass, it does also include parking.  I was a little leary of getting passes because my kids are so young and this is a full on amusement park, but we have been 3 times already this year and the girls LOVE it.  They have the regular park as well as the water park, which makes the price seem a little more worth it.  I think the girls actually like going to the pool at the YMCA better than Soak City, but they love the kid’s section at the park and there are a good amount of rides for them there.  I was surprised they were so into it already.  And since the grandparents typically give this as a Christmas present to their kids and grandkids, why not?  https://www.visitkingsisland.com/

The Newport Aquarium – This one is by far the biggest rip off as far as money goes.  There is no such thing as a family pass here, so you have to pay a pretty high price for each individual to have their own.  An adult pass is about $50 per person.  Again, if you go more than once, you are better off getting the pass, but next year when we have to pay for all 4 of us separately, I may have to think long and hard about this one.  It is nice for those rainier/colder days as well and it is always fun to run around Newport on the Levee, but you still have to pay separate for parking in the garage and even the 20% discount in the store and food court do not necessarily make up for that.  They do have Scuba Santa though.  http://www.newportaquarium.com/

Highfield Discovery Garden – This annual membership is $40 for the family.  This is one of the few Hamilton County parks that you have to pay additional (beyond the annual parking sticker) to get in to.  But, it is such a cute place and they have nice interactive educational classes in the morning and afternoon most days and the grounds are beautiful.  It’s just a different type of play area, which includes a giant tree house to climb in, a butterfly garden, a frog pond, a bridge and tiny little fairy village and more.  Plus, I feel good about giving my money to the park.  http://cincykidsapprove.com/reviews/index.php/parks/highfield-discovery-garden/

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So, there you have it – a little information on many different membership options.  I am sure there are others, but it’s probably best if I don’t know about them.

Sidewalk “Chalk” Paint

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Recipe: 1/2 Cup Cornstarch, 1/2 Cup Water, 4-5 Drops of Food Coloring

Tonight I decided to take the girls out and let them get messy.  I am not going to lie, playing with my kids like this makes me feel like supermom.  I love seeing them get excited about trying new things.  Some of my ideas are stolen from my own mother and my childhood and some are from Pinterest (like this one).

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This was a lot of fun.  Eventually it evolved from painting the driveway to painting themselves, but I expected that.  The bonus is that the cornstarch makes this “paint” dry fairly quickly so it’s not as messy as it initially seems like it will be.  By the time we went inside, the girls were colorful, but not dripping paint and it washed off really easy in the bathtub.  This is definitely something we will do again.

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Urban Beauty

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Tonight’s family adventure was to the somewhat recently refurbished Washington Park in the Over the Rhine neighborhood of downtown Cincinnati.  The city has been putting some effort into revitalization of this historic, but gone to crap over the years, area of town and it is really starting to show.  The neighborhood itself is beautiful at it’s core… old architecture and history that includes underground beer brewing tunnels and a lot of interesting stories.  The people and the activity of this area have not been so beautiful in recent years, with a lot of crime and run down buildings.  But, the neighborhood has never been devoid of potential.  Anyway, long story short, there is now a thriving business and social undertaking that is making OTR a destination once again.  Washington Park is part of that.

http://washingtonpark.org/

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We parked on the street at a meter (a brick paved street at that – love those!), but there is garage underneath as well for $1 an hour if you feel safer parking there.  Washington Park really has it all.  It has a sectioned off dog park, open green space, organized events (tonight’s was a free yoga class and there had to be about 60 people there for it), a water fountain play space and a more traditional play space.  The girls loved the sand area, the castle with the slides and the musical instruments.

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My favorite part was watching the girls play in the fountains and on the waterfall steps.

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It is important to note that the neighborhood is still rough around the edges.  A friend and her son witnessed a fist fight one night while they were there and you can count on likely hearing some colorful language at some point.  However, I still feel strongly that this park is one that everyone in this area should visit at least once.  As a born and raised Cincinnatian, it is nice to see the promise of how amazing this city can be.  And the park is truly beautiful… and fun.  We will go back.