What We’ve Been Up To

I realized that I haven’t done a real “what we’ve been doing” kind of post up since mid-October. So, without further ado, here’s what the girls and I have been up to!

Let’s start with the end of October and November. These were some of our fall activities!

Fall wreaths. Dirt pudding. Thanksgiving “thankful turkeys”. Pine cone bird feeders.

Next up is December. These are some of our Christmas activities. We spent a good portion of December at my other nanny family’s house since his school was closed for the holiday, so we didn’t do as many arts and crafts things as we typically do, and somehow I didn’t take as many pictures of what we did do as I usually do.

Gingerbread house. Christmas presents for their parents.

Here’s some of the other activities we’ve done to keep us busy during the brutally cold days we’ve had.

Baking soda and vinegar science project. Bounce house. Kinetic sand. Microwave play dough. Making snow in our sensory bin.

I try to do one outing or one bigger project (art, science, working on math, writing, etc) each day. We still don’t watch TV or have any screen time (with the exception of the very few sick days, and even then it’s limited to one show). Occasionally, I let the girls have more of a free play type day where I don’t necessarily structure something, but we still have a schedule we follow which I’ll elaborate on in another post.


Aly

Why You Need A Plan

Its 2am. You sit up straight in bed because your house alarm is blaring. Do you know what to do? Do your children know what to do?


Source

This is why you need a plan.

As scary as it is (trust me, I’ve lived it), imagine someone has broken into your house. You have no idea where or why this person is in your house. Will your kids stay in their room? Do you want them to?

I’m not saying terrify yourself and your kids so much that no one ever sleeps again. However, in modern times, it’s important to have this conversation in some context. Have a conversation where you teach your kids that when they hear that alarm go off, they know what to do, whether it be climb under their bed and hide or run to your bedroom. Run through it a few times so that it’s not something they really have to think about it. You don’t have to go into detail about why they need to hide, or why they need to run as fast as they can to your bedroom. Keep it simple – “If you hear this noise (try to get a clip of what your alarm sounds like and play it) it means it’s time to play a game. I know it can be loud and scary, but it means that you need to ________________ (hide under your bed, in your closet, or run to mommy and daddy’s room) and it’s very important that you do it. Let’s practice!” Don’t expect kids to sleep through it even though they might. And have a plan for if that happens as well.

Talk about this scenario with your spouse first to make sure you’re both on the same page and that you know what each of your roles are.

You should also have a fire emergency plan as well as a weather emergency plan, in particular if you live in a part of the country that regularly has severe storms, tornadoes, and/or hurricanes (or any other weather events). The best time to plan for these things is before they happen. You aren’t thinking clearly when you’re woken up or when you’re in a state of panic. But if you, your spouse, and your children have a plan and have practiced it before, you’ll be able to breathe a teensy bit easier.

Yes, fellow nannies, this also applies to you as well. Although you probably won’t have to deal with the middle of the night waking due to the alarm (unless you’re doing an overnight), what if it goes off during the day? Have a plan in place so that you don’t panic (as much).


Aly

One of the most talked about Super Bowl commercials

Sometimes, the important things are hard to talk about. Just because it’s hard to talk about doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. Case in point, the meaning behind the Nationwide Super Bowl commercial [I’ll put the video at the end of this post if you haven’t seen it.] The gist of the commercial is a little boy saying things he didn’t get to do because he died (from a preventable accident). The commercial shows a few of these accidents (open window on an upper floor, chemicals under the sink, a TV that has fallen over, etc). Each of these scenarios can be prevented.

While many people were in an uproar over how harsh or shocking the commercial was, the point of it is that it’s supposed to be that way. It’s meant to get a very serious message across. Think about how many people are talking about it in person and on social media. Would those people be talking about preventing deaths and injuries just in normal conversation? No way. It was definitely a commercial you watch and at the end you’re left with a strong reaction towards it. At least I was. Sure, they could have gone a different direction with the ad, and perhaps left the little boy out at the end. But would it have been as meaningful? Would it have gotten through to as many people? I’m not sure. But this one definitely did. And what better place to show a commercial that would make everyone stop and think than the Super Bowl?

At the end of the commercial, they provide a website to visit (http://makesafehappen.com/). If you go to the website, it gives you lots of safety tips categorized by age, location, and risk factor. Sure, it was made by Nationwide, but the commercial had nothing to do with insurance. It was essentially a PSA on keeping children safe. If this commercial gets through to one person and makes that person go home and add a lock to their cabinet or anchor their furniture or not go answer that phone call while their child is in the bathtub, isn’t it worth it? If one child’s life is saved, it’s worth it to me.

Now, lets get away from the hoopla about whether or not it was an “appropriate” commercial and onto the meaning behind it. A lot of parents don’t realize how many accidents can happen in their home, particularly in the instance of furniture falling over. Let’s face it. Most adults don’t climb on dressers or up shelves or climb on other furniture so we don’t think about a dresser tipping over on us. But children do climb. “In 2010…unstable furniture sent about 23,600 people – the highest number since 2006 – to emergency rooms. Most of the injured were less than 10 years old.” (Source) In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), one child dies every 2 weeks because of furniture tipping over on them. (Source) One child’s death is too many, let alone one every 2 weeks. The solution? Anchor your TV and any and all furniture that has the possibility of tipping. (dressers, bookshelves, armoires, etc) When you go to cover all your plugs to make sure little fingers don’t go into them, make sure you remember to anchor your furniture too.

A new “thing” that has been happening is children being poisoned by the dish washing or laundry detergent pods (which was one of the accidents in the commercial). I mean they’re colorful and typically smell good. Why wouldn’t a child want to taste it? Every day, over 300 children in the United States ages 0 to 19 are treated in an emergency department, and two children die, as a result of being poisoned. (Source) Be sure to always have a child proof lock on cabinets that contain chemicals and medicines. Also, make sure you know the national poison control hotline number (1-800-222-1222).

Overall, small things (definitely not limited to the things I talked about above) that take 5-10 minutes to do could save your child’s life. Why not do them? Hopefully this commercial made people more aware and inspired them to prevent as much as they can.


Aly

Growing Lima Beans

One of my favorite but easiest science project is growing lima beans. I use it to teach about the life cycle of plants and also give kids a “job” (watering and caring for a plant). All you need are dried lima beans (you can find these at every grocery store), a paper towel, sandwich bag, tape, a window, a cup, and soil.

First, talk about what the lima bean looks like now. Is it soft? Smooth? Bumpy? Etc. Then help your child wet a paper towel enough so that it’s pretty damp but not dripping. Have your child fold the paper towel in half with the lima bean in the middle and then place it in the sandwich bag. Tape it to a window that gets a good amount of sun.

Observe the lima bean over the next few days. It won’t destroy it to take it out of the bag and paper towel. Just be gentle with it if the roots start growing through the paper towel. Be sure to keep the paper towel damp. Talk about what the bean looks like and feels like after it’s been in the paper towel for a few days. Here’s what ours looked like after 4 days.

Once your bean has sufficient root growth (see above picture), it’s time to transfer it to a cup. We found our cups in the dollar spot of Target, but any cup will do. Have your child put enough soil in the cup so that it’s about 1/2 to 2/3 full. Encourage them to dig a small hole in the middle of the soil and help them gently put their lima bean in root side down and then cover with soil. Then have them water it enough so that the soil is wet but not soaked.

During the next few days allow them to water it and watch for it to pop up to the surface.

As the days pass, your lima bean plants will grow taller and may need more room to grow. Transfer them to a bigger pot if needed.

Eventually, it will produce flowers and then bean pods.

Extend the activity: Read a book about how seeds and beans grow. This book is my favorite, especially for younger children (even 2-3 year olds can grasp the concepts in this book, but it’s also appropriate for older kids). Print out ***sequence cards and help your child put them in the correct order. Talk about what plants need to grow and how your plant is getting them. You can even discuss photosynthesis.

*** Note: You can take out some of the sequence cards from the link provided to make it more simple for younger children.


Aly

Shaving Cream Fun!

One activity that I’ve seen just about every kid I’ve done it with love is playing with shaving cream. There’s something about watching it change from a gel to a foam (if you use that kind) and then spreading it all over a table and making a huge mess that kids just love.

As a bonus, spreading shaving cream also helps get rid of build up gunk and grime on tabletops. It will leave a bit of a film on most tables, but you can easily get that off with a baby wipe or a damp paper towel.

This activity gets pretty messy, most kids have it up to their shoulders by the time it’s over. So, I suggest putting them in old clothes or an art smock.

If you have a young child who would put the shaving cream in their mouth, I suggest using whipped cream or cool whip!

Extend the Activity: After your child gets bored with just playing in the shaving cream, encourage them to draw shapes or write letters and words. You can also add some food coloring or finger paint to color the shaving cream. Add two colors and encourage mixing to create new colors.


Aly

Caterpillars

The girls and I have been enjoying a special project these past few weeks – Caterpillars! It’s one of my favorite activities to do with kids, and I’ve been counting down the months until I could do it with the girls. Had Spring actually shown up in March when it should have, we probably could have done it earlier. But oh well, we did it now!

I ordered through Insect Lore who was running a special where we got two cups of caterpillars, the habitat, and a few other things, for an awesome price. The caterpillars are contained in a little cup and you don’t have to do anything with them (except look) until they make their chrysalises.

At first I was a little disappointed because the caterpillars were a tiny bit bigger than the last time I got them (for my old preschool class) but it ended up not being that big of a deal and they still stayed as caterpillars for a while.


E taking a close look at her caterpillars

After around 2 weeks more or less as caterpillars, they crawl to the top and make their chrysalises (yes, they are chrysalises. The Very Hungry Caterpillar book is wrong. Caterpillars who turn into moths make cocoons. Caterpillars who turn into butterflies make chrysalises. I really wish they would fix it!)


The caterpillars beginning to make their chrysalises

Once they have made their chrysalises you need to move them to their habitat. Open the lid of the cup and carefully take out the paper that they’re attached to. Use a safety pin (or a paperclip) to attach them to the side, about half way up the habitat (wait until ALL the caterpillars are completely finished making them. You have at least 7 days until they come out as butterflies). If one falls, gently put it in the bottom of the habitat. It should be okay. [Check out my Instagram for a short video of a caterpillar in a chrysalis showing off it’s natural defense mechanism]


Butterfly watch 2014

Within 7 to 14 days, the butterflies will begin to emerge. It’s really a fascinating thing to watch! Unfortunately the girls were napping when the butterflies came out, so they weren’t able to watch it, but I did record a great video to show them that I’ll add at the end of this post!


Freshly out, still needing to spread it’s wings

Once they’re out, they need some time to spread their wings and let them dry. You may notice some red stuff coming from them and on their habitat. It’s not blood, it’s actually meconium. Yup, it’s poop.


Spreading it’s wings to dry them

You can either keep them for a few days (be sure to feed them) or let them go on a sunny or overcast (but not rainy day) after their wings have had time to dry (at least two hours after coming out of their chrysalises).

Honestly, I was pretty nervous they would die if we didn’t let them go soon after they came out. 5 came out one day, and then the other 5 the next. We let the first 5 go the same day they came out and the next 5 stayed overnight (due to rain) and then we freed them the day after.

The girls had a blast and were able to hold them for a few minutes before they flew away. They LOVED it!


Setting them free!

Through this activity, the girls learned a ton! We talked about the life cycle of a caterpillar, they learned a new word – metamorphosis, we talked about how caterpillars don’t grow like we do, so they shed their exoskeleton (the girls even wanted to hold it, so once we moved the chrysalises to the habitat, I let them hold some), etc. They were always very excited to watch the caterpillars and asked questions about what they were doing. I think this will definitely be a repeated special project!

Here’s the video of the butterfly coming out of its chrysalis! [Keep your eye on the chrysalis on the right. It’s a little hard to notice what’s happening at first. It will help to make the video bigger if you can!]


Aly

Sidewalk paint: A Review.

The other day, I picked up Crayola’s sidewalk paint kit. It says it’s for ages 3+, but that’s because of the small parts. Personally, I think as long as your child is monitored, any age could really use this. Like all Crayola products, it is non-toxic, but I wouldn’t allow your child to eat it. The girls love painting and they love being outside. I figured that they pretty much would have to love this. I was right. 
They were excited before I even got it out of the package. We talked about it over and over before breakfast, and M even had me bring it up with us while they ate breakfast. Once we headed outside with it, there were some squeals of pure excitement as I opened it. The girls dove right in, using it to paint the sidewalk.
It comes with three, 8oz bottles of paint – blue, yellow, and pink. Each color is bright and a great consistency. Not too thick, but not thin enough that it runs off the brush either. It comes with a reusable tray, with a spot to hold both the paint once it’s squeezed out, but also to stand up the bottles as well. [Note: It also comes with 3 pieces of chalk, but we didn’t use those this day]
The girls painted for almost an hour straight [aside from 5 minutes when we saw a caterpillar crawling by]. Not only did they paint the sidewalk, but they also painted acorns and leaves. The kit includes the paint, tray, a roller sponge, and a big paint brush. It could just be the “nanny to twins” in me, but I wish they had put more than one of each painting tool in. We have some paint brushes since we paint so often, so I was able to bring out a second one, but they had to share the roller, which of course was the most desired tool. The girls are really good about taking turns (I am lucky, I know) and tend to not have issues with sharing, but I wanted this activity to be more fun than a lesson on patience. Either way, we were able to work it out and each of the girls had a few turns with the roller.
Aside from wishing there were two rollers and two brushes included (but understanding why they aren’t), my only other wish would be that there was more paint! We used around 1/2 a bottle of each color in one hour. I tried to find refill bottles, and all I could track down was this listing on Amazon. $40 for just the paint? No thanks. You can buy the whole kit for 1/4 of that price. I’d assume they’ve jacked up the price because the refills are hard to come by, but still it’s ridiculous when you can buy the kit for $10 at Target.

We talked about the colors they were making as they mixed them together. They were fascinated by the colors on the brush changing as they dipped it into another color. Not only did the sidewalk, acorns, and leaves get painted, but so did the girls. They were covered in paint. 

In true Crayola form, the paint is washable. I can attest to this. The girls clothes went right into the wash once we went inside, looking like this:
When I pulled them out of the wash, they were nice and clean. No paint left on them what so ever. This was such a fun experience for the girls, combining some of their favorite things, painting and being outside. I can’t wait to find another day where we can use sidewalk paint again!
Note: This is NOT a sponsored post. 

Aly

Welcome Fall!

Finally! I have my computer back. Every single thing is gone though. I’m trying to think positively and think of it as a fall cleaning for my computer. Although, I will admit, it did just hurt a bit when I went to save a picture for this post only to find none of my folders (and all of their contents) were there anymore. Lesson learned though…within the next few days I’ll be getting an external hard drive where anything remotely important will live. 
Speaking of fall, even though it’s not technically fall just yet, I’m totally in fall mode. If it weren’t for 70 degree temperatures you’d already see my boots and scarves making an appearance. I already have a ton of fall art and activities I want to do with the girls. 
Today we made our seasonal craft. At the beginning of each season we do a different one (who cares if we’re a week early for fall). For spring we did chicks/ducks, for summer we made paper ice cream cones, and today we made a handprint tree.
I started by drawing a tree trunk on a piece of cardstock and gave each of the girls a brown crayon. Once they colored the trunk to their liking I helped them put their handprints as the leaves of the tree. This was the end result – a quick, easy, fall craft you can modify just a bit to do even with the youngest of children. 


Aly

The Mall Play Area

I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with the mall’s play area. The girls absolutely love it and I usually do, but sometimes not everyone follows the rules which can take away a bit from the experience. We’ve gone 3 or 4 times now and the girls are always enthusiastic about playing on the different little sculpture type climbers they have there. However, there’s no employees working it, so it’s sort of a parent or caregiver run kind of deal. 
The downside to that is that there’s not always parents in there that read the rules and have the children in their care follow them. Shoes need to be off and I’ve seen them on a few kids – not a huge deal. Also, you’re not supposed to have kids taller than 42″ in the play area. Another rule not always followed, again typically not a huge deal if the kids are being monitored. Last week we went and had to deal with an older man who had 6 children in his care. Most, if not all, of them were well over the height requirement and were running around playing tag. He asked them not to run one time because there were little kids in the play area, but then got too absorbed into his phone to ask them again. The girls and I ended up hanging out on one climber at a safe distance until they left. 
(Taken after the older kids left)
The other young kids that were there pretty much did the same thing. A few of the kids that were in the man’s care overtook a climber that one little girl was playing on. They were sliding into her and jumping in front of her to slide down. The little girl’s mom stepped in and repeatedly asked the kids if her daughter could have a turn. She must have asked 6 or 7 times before the kids moved to another area and her daughter got a turn. It made me kind of sad that because these children were playing where they weren’t supposed to be, and more so because they weren’t being watched, other kids weren’t able to enjoy the play area like they should be able to. It probably wouldn’t have been so bad if they were actually being monitored. On the bright side, problems like these will be mostly avoided once school starts back up in a few weeks. 
I do like that it’s a safe environment – play structure wise- for the girls and other kids. The floor is carpeted, but bouncy at the same time. Similar to the floor at the gymnastics center we visited. The walls around it are made of vinyl mats, again much like you would use for gymnastics. They also have a mirror and a few other toys embedded into the walls. It’s also kept clean. It also provides a nice social experience for the girls. They get to interact with kids their age, younger, and older depending on the day.
E enjoying a chat with a new friend.
Overall, we’ll be coming back regularly (especially because they have children’s events each Tuesday morning) and hopefully since kids will be back in school soon we won’t have the same problems again. Check out your local mall to see if they have a play area for children. Many malls across the US are adding these in.

Aly

Gymnastics Time!

As the girls get older, they (as all children do) want to do more. I’ve been looking for ways and places where they can be more independent and be more physical – climbing, swinging, jumping, etc. Enter a local gymnastics facility {Because it’s a local place, I’m not going to name it for privacy reasons, but there’s plenty of places like it around the US} We went for the first time last week, and let me just say, the girls were in absolute heaven. The price is pretty reasonable – $5 for those under 1 3/4 (not sure why they don’t just say under 2) and $10 for 1 3/4 and up. I think this is like the bounce house where if you bring a child older than 2, you get someone under 2 in for free. Maybe. I have to double check that for future trips!
At first when we were looking through the glass as we took our shoes off, M didn’t want me more than half a foot away from her. It was pretty crowded since school is out, so that’s probably why. Once we got inside and I told her she could go on the trampoline it was an entirely different story. E was the same way. They basically wanted nothing to do with me. For a few days prior to that, they had been pretty attached to me, so it was a welcome change – not that I mind them wanting my attention frequently by any means, but it was a nice change of pace for them to show their independence. 
Of course I stayed with them and helped if needed, but for the most part they didn’t want my help climbing or jumping at all. They wanted to do everything on their own (except the rings and practice bars which they had to have my help or they couldn’t reach) We explored the trampoline, foam pit, balance beam, vault (which to them was more just something to climb), rings, and practice bars. I think there was a tie between the practice bar and the foam pit as far as favorites go. I do still hear “trampo-leeeeeene” pretty regularly {and randomly} though. The girls loved jumping into the foam pit. Who wouldn’t want to jump into a pit full of soft foam where it’s practically impossible for you to get hurt? Not only was jumping in fun, but it also challenged the girls muscles when they were crawling around in it since it makes it harder to move.
E exploring the foam pit!

The floor on the entire gym floor (at least from what I saw) is padded. The girls fell multiple times (just from getting their legs tangled up when running around and climbing on things) and popped right back up each time. Not to say that them falling was a good thing, but I’m glad the floor was padded and it gave them a chance to practice how to catch themselves when falling in a safe space.
Here is what going to a gymnastics facility can do for your child:

To find a place for you – google “Gymnastics facilities in (put your city and state here)” and then find one with an open gym time. Call ahead to see if there are age restrictions if you have a child under 2!

Aly