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Sometimes the weather makes it difficult to connect with nature.

And the winter months present several challenges -- nature is no longer in 'full bloom' and cold weather has set in which usually means less time outside.

But I love a good challenge ;)

Whatever the weather, I think it's important to encourage the kids to learn about the world around us. 

Plus, there's all those amazing benefits toconnecting with nature whether you are inside or outside - increased creativity and problem-solving, enhanced performance at school, improved eyesight, lower stress -- we all need a bit of nature in our day. 

So today, let's take a peek inside nature with this easy INDOOR science activity.


Take a look inside nature

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Wouldn't it be wonderful to travel the world?  To be able to visit beautiful places and experience new cultures would be amazing!

But world travel is also expensive ... and not so easy once you have a family.

Which is why I rely on using a variety of children's literature to introduce our kids to different cultures and places around the world.  Books are a great way to explore the world with your kids!

Today, we are celebrating Multicultural Children's Book Day with bloggers and children's book publishers from around the world!

It's a day when we share some outstanding children's books, fun activities from a variety of world cultures and tips on bringing diverse literature into your home and school.



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We love doing simple science and every once in a while, we find a GEM of an experiment! 

So many of the activities we do are ones that I've experienced before but are new to the kids.  

But THIS ONE!  This is one of those really cool experiments that even I was impressed with (and as my husband will tell you, I'm not easily impressed ;)

I should have titled this "Make Your Own Gong Using a Spoon and Fork" -- because that's exactly what you'll get to do!

It's a simple, fun and pretty awesome activity that explores the science of sound waves and how they travel. 


Sound Wave Experiment for Kids

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Do you have kids who LOVE to pretend?

One day, they're a zoo keeper and the next day, playing dress-up with friends -- pretend play is a HUGE learning opportunity for kids!

It encourages them to role-play, expand their vocabulary and communication skills, practice their social skills and think about "what they might be once they grow up".

One thing that has been a big hit at our house are printable activities that can be used to enhance pretend play sessions.

For example, playing library is SO much more fun when you have library cards and check-out tabs for the books.  And according to my kids, having a 'real' ID card is a must if you're going to be a police officer or secret agent :)

So we've rounded-up some really AWESOME free printables your kids can use as they pretend to be anything under the sun!


Free activity ideas for pretend play

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We're starting a new monthly series on the blog today -- A Year of Simple Science!

Each month, we'll feature some fun science experiments or projects that can easily be done at home or in the classroom. 

These hands-on activities will give kids an opportunity to learn about various science concepts and practice their skills in observation, testing and scientific inquiry (yep! asking all those questions is a GOOD thing ;) 

All of our kids can use more exposure to STEM activities (science, techology, engineering & math) to peak their curiosity and keep them thinking.

January's activities are all self-contained which means LOTS of exploration with a small chance of messes.  They can be done indoors or outside and most have a very easy set-up. 

Get ready for -- Simple Science in a Jar!


Easy Science Experiments for Kids

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As am sure you know, we are big readers at our house. 

And as readers, do you know what's worse than dropping an ice cream cone around here?  Waiting for the next book from a much loved author or illustrator to come out!

Seriously, when you find an amazing author or an illustrator that your child LOVES, you know their books are worth their weight in gold! 

Your child will WANT to pick up the book and linger.

Authors and illustrators who capture a child's attention in this way help us to build readers -- and we adore them for it :)

This booklist is different than most of the others we share -- these books will be released in 2015 and are not yet on the shelves. 

But today, we are able to give you a 'sneak peek' at some of the AWESOME titles coming in children's literature in the coming year!


Sneak peek at the great kids books coming out this year!

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Have you ever needed an activity to keep the kids busy while you're out to dinner or waiting at the doctor's office?  

You know, something you could keep in your purse or car and pull out at a moments notice -- perfect, right?!

Or maybe you have a deck of cards that's missing one or two (in our house, that's a regular thing).

Now you can have 20 different activities right at your fingertips!

We have a great list of card games, learning activities, crafts and fun things to do -- perfect for traveling, passing the time while waiting or that next "I'm bored" moment ;)


 Card games and activities for kids

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Have you ever visited the zoo with the kids -- they look at the animals, play around, you talk to them about various things -- and then you're home for a hour or so and the questions begin...

Why do the monkeys comb each other?  

How many stripes does a zebra have?

Did you notice the baby penguin was grey and white?

All those little details that you never realized they saw during their visit. ;)

A science notebook or journal is a great way for kids to record the things they observe and learn.  It's also a wonderful way to track all those inquisitive questions and ideas that kids have based on their observations and encounters.

This is the first post in a 2-part series on Science Notebooks & Journals.  Today we'll share some tips and resources to get the kids started on their own science journal!


 science journals for kids

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We always seem to have great animal encounters on our outings & vacations. 

And not just ONE animal.  Nope -- we seem to see large groups of animals. 

A few years ago, we saw moose and big horn sheep on a trip to the Rockies.  Then we got an close-up look at bison & elk during our family travels to South Dakota

And this summer, we swam with sea turtles – it was awesome!

I'm working on some cool sea turtle stuff that will be coming up this Spring because they are such beautiful animals.

During one of our sea turtle encounters, it was interesting to learn that a group of sea turtles is called a bale.  And it seems the kids are always keeping me on my toes -- “What do you call more than one…?”?

Like, what do you say when you see more than one moose?

"There's a group of Meeses?"

Ah..., no.

Since inquisitive minds want to know, we did a little research and created some free printable activities featurning our favorite marine and woodland animals.


Groups of Animals printable worksheet

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Right now, it's 2 degrees outside and I am *wishing* for a day at the beach.

Anyone else with me?

There's nothing more fun that turning a day on its heels and just totally doing the opposite of what's around you.

Like 'visiting an island' instead of shoveling snow off the driveway :)

Not to mention, it's fun to interject a little sunlight into these long, cold winter days.

So close the shades, ignore the winter weather and host an Island Day with the kids.  We've got movies, books, activities and some fun food ideas that will have you basking in the sun in no time!


Island Activities for Kids

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I participated in a campaign on behalf of Influence Central for The Salvation Army. I received a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

How many times did you drop coins into a Red Kettle this holiday season?  

It’s one of the things my kids look forward to when we visit the grocery store in December.  

Clink, clink, clink, clink!

It’s not just because the amazing volunteers who ring bells are so fun – they ALWAYS say ‘Merry Christmas’ even if we don’t have any change for the kettle, they ALWAYS smile at the kids and many of them love to ‘dress the part’ while ringing.

The kids know that the money we drop into the kettle each year will be used to help others having a happier holiday. 

Teaching kids to help others when they see a need

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Young kids always have high hopes for staying awake until midnight on New Year's Eve (and ours did make it ONE year ;)  But more than that, kids love to countdown the hours until the next year!

Sometimes we'll celebrate New Year's Eve with friends and other years we'll do a family-friendly New Year's Countdown.  However we celebrate, we always include some fun activities, a countdown and hats! 

Really, what's New Year's without some crazy hat ;)

If you think about it, the coming of a New Year is a pretty big thing -- a year is a really, really long time when you're younger than 12!  For us adults, the year seems to fly by :)

New Year's Eve is the perfect time to recap all the great things that happened the previous year -- think about all the fun things the kids have done for the first time, see how much they've grown in the last 12 months, go through all those photos you still have on your phone and share some memories together.

It's also the perfect time to ask the kids what their hopes and dreams are for the coming year -- I'll bet you'll be surprised as some of the things they reveal.

In honor of the coming year, here are 20 fun ways you can help the kids bring in 2015 -- from crafts to family games and even some wonderful ways to capture all the special memories from last year.


Fun things for kids to do on New Year's Eve

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We have family coming to visit us this Christmas -- yea!  So in addition to cleaning and decorating, we're also pulling together some fun Minute to Win It games in order to create our own version of Rudolph's reindeer games!

Have you ever watched Rudolph?  I'm sure you've seen how the reindeer play games -- and we thought it would be a hoot to put together our own themed holiday activities to do. 

The kids helped by letting me know some of the minute to win it games they've done at school.  Then we created a few of our own and also looked online to find a some super cool ones that other families have done.

Our goal -- one or two short and friendly competitions each day.  Some of the activities are for teams and others are done individually. 

We tried a few of the ideas out over Thanksgiving and had a great time -- even the older kids will love to get involved (and half the fun is watching the rest of the family make feeble attempts at these crazy antics).


 Minute to Win it games for Christmas

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I participated in an Influencer Activation on behalf of Influence Central for DSM.  I received product samples and a promotional item to thank me for my participation but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The holidays are here which usually means parties, cookies, a lack of time to devote to exercise and a New Year's resolution to "do better next year".

But Don't!

Don't push off keeping yourself healthy -- you deserve to be healthy NOW and still enjoy the holidays!

Yes, it can be done.

I know what you're thinking-- that I'm going to tell you to eat less of Grandma's amazing cookies.  Well, I'm not!  The holidays are a time to celebrate, right?

However, there are some super simple ways to eat healthy, squeeze in some exercise and start the New Year off on the right foot! 

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The tree is up, the halls are decked and we are counting down the days until family 'comes to town'.

Most of our relatives are miles away from us so we really look forward to having them visit, especially during the holidays.

But I will admit, it can be a bit daunting to double the number of people in your house overnight.  So I love to find ways that the kids can help as we get ready for our guests.

One area I always let the kids take over is the kitchen table.  In addition to setting and clearing for meals, I also count on them to put together centerpieces, arrange cookie trays and create other festive ways to make the table look nice.

So today's "Get Ready for the Relatives" project are these adorable Cinnamon Scented Jingle Bell Placecards!


Placecards for the Holiday Table

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I participated in an Influencer Activation Program on behalf of Influence Central for Sprint. I received a sample device to facilitate this review.



Today I want you to take a walk with me -- it's the holidays; life is busy, and when life gets busy, I take a walk :)

For this walk, I brought along the new Sharp AQUOS Crystal smartphone as part of our latest Sprint Ambassador review.  My daughter was good enough to plug it in and charge it for me (please tell me I'm not the only one who forgets to plug in their phone).

First, I should tell you that a walk for me never seems to be "just a walk". 

It's when I go through my to-do list, try to relax and push aside the chaos, take photos of nature (something I love to do) and enjoy some music -- you know, the kind I like to listen too without the kids asking me to put on their favorite songs :)

I also like to bring along a family member -- ideally only one -- so that we have a few mintues to catch up about life too. 

And the best part about this phone -- it can accommodate everything I like (and need) to do while walking!

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A number of years ago, we started a tradition at our house -- giving books for Christmas. 

Each year, our kids get to open one of their gifts early -- oh yea, they love that

When they come home on their first day of holiday break from school, there is a gift waiting for them -- we call it our 'winter break books'. 

And one of my favorite things to do with this gift is to turn it into some fun adventures for the kids.

A book is a great gift but pairing a book with an interactive toy, game or experience turns it into an AWESOME gift!

And I have a festive surprise for you -- not only are we sharing fun ways to Gift Books as Adventures, we also have one AMAZING giveaway for the holidays!

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I don't know about you but once December 1st rolls around, my kids turn into math wizards -- they are able to let you know at a moments notice how many days are left until Christmas.

It's amazing considering that the rest of the year they always need to ask me how many days are left in the week ;)

But I'll be honest -- counting down to the holiday is just as much fun for me as it is for them.

Because let's just admit it, no matter how much we try to keep the month calm and relaxing, the world just doesn't seem to cooperate.

The days begin to fly by faster -- the items on our 'to do' list pile up -- and then WHAM!, it's Christmas Eve and I can't fathom where the last 24 days went.

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When my kids were young, I loved to take them to the library. 

We would search the shelves for our favorite books and attend storytime sessions.

And sometimes we would explore a new area of the library -- which is how we found the children's periodical section on one cold and snowy Tuesday.

It's kind of hidden at our library, tucked back behind the non-fiction books in the corner.  But once you know where to look, there's so much to see!

So on that first day, we checked out a copy of Ladybug Magazine for Kids.  We read the short stories, enjoyed poems, sang songs and challenged ourselves with the puzzles.

And we put the magazine shelf on our weekly list of places to explore!

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How many times a day do we reach for our phone when we see something awesome?

Think about it – most of us never even grab  a camera any longer.  “Oh, I’ll just use my phone”, right?

Because we always want to capture those AWESOME moments --


 pumpkin patch

That gorgeous Saturday afternoon visit to the pumpkin patch.....

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