Our New Chore System!

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This week’s To Do List Task¬†is to reveal…

Our New Chore System!

I am extremely excited to debut this! I have been working on this project for a few months now. A few months back I knew I wanted to try a new approach to household chores with my girls and so I started looking for other ideas…..you see, what I find, at least with my kids is that what works with them for a season or so doesn’t always continue working so every now and then things need to be shaken up. This theory applies to many areas when it comes to raising kids in my experience, not just chores. We have done a few variations of Chore Systems in the past, maybe I will share some of those in a future blog. We have not typically paid them for chores in the past, this system will be the first time that I will experiment with payment, but I do think this varies depending on the age of the children and your family’s opinions on the matter.

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My girls range in age from 15 to 2 years old and so their skill level and ability vary as much as their ages. Therefore our new chore system has to be easy to understand, fun and appealing to encourage participation out of my youngest three but still mature enough to encourage my oldest daughter to be “motivated” to be the ringleader when it comes to keeping my other girls motivated. This new chore system has 4 components that I have combined to make a system that I feel will work for our family. If you like my new system, here is how you can replicate it for your family!

Component One:

The cork board squares were the beginning of our new chore system right away before I even had a clear vision for my new system. I had 4 sets of cork squares taking up space from a previous project and I immediately knew I wanted to use those for each of my girls to help them track whatever would become their new chore system! Now I purchased my cork squares years ago and I don’t remember where but I am sure you could find a similar solution at your local craft store. I used Command Strips once they were completely assembled, to hang them on the wall near our cubbies (that I discussed last week in my introductory post for¬†Thirty-One Thursdays).

Component Two:

The half folders were my next piece. In my effort to find a method that would work well across all ages, I stumbled into this mom’s solution she calls Instant Gratification¬†Chore Folders. I tweaked the concept a little so ours aren’t quite an¬†instant gratification in the same way because I want to train them up to be prepared for budgeting, tithing, saving & having to wait to “get paid”. I decided to take 4 two-pocket folders (again in each of their family colors) and cut the folders down a little less than halfway so that the top of the folder was just 3-4 inches above the pockets inside.

Next, I labeled each folder and used spray adhesive to attach them to the cork square. Once the folders were each affixed to the cork squares I took 4 green envelopes (I had a multi-colored envelope package & I specifically chose green for this step) and again used spray adhesive to attach them to the front of each folder, labeling the envelope’s with each of my girl’s names & the $ symbol………. this is where they will place their “money” until payday. On the inside of each pocket, I labeled six of the 7 days of the week, Mon. – Sat. I consciously decided on not including Sunday because after all, Sunday’s are supposed to be a day of rest.

After the folders were ready, I decided that for each day I would put a single dollar in the pocket, except for Saturday because being a member of the family requires some contribution to our home just because you are a member of our family. I mean no one pays me for all the ways I contribute to our home daily and they need to learn this first hand. They will not be paid for every contribution that they are expected to make, only the contributions they choose to complete that go above and beyond the basic expectations. Back to the single dollar bills,¬†I thought about the payment process quite a bit and decided that since I planned to do “paydays” instead of the instant gratification concept, I didn’t need real dollar bills. One of my girls had some awesome play dollar bills, so I took four of them and after careful placement & a few practice photocopies I had two templates to reuse over to create 4 double side dollar bills. I copied & cut enough to place $5 worth in each of my daughters’ folders (technically $10 for my oldest daughter as she is responsible for the most detailed & difficult versions of our chores).

Now I began looking for ideas and thinking about a way to assign the chores themselves. As I said previously, I have tried a few methods in the past so I wanted to think of a new approach, not just a recycled one. The hunt was on…….

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……..and then I found……..

Component Three:

These ADORABLE Daily Chore Calendars!

So first, I DID NOT design these and openly I take zero credit for the adorable creations themselves, but when I stumbled into them I knew I had found the right component for this important step to creating our new chore system!

The resource that I found these AMAZING calendars through is this blogger’s virtual classroom over at¬†Bloggerific!¬†It’s an awesome blog that looks to be a place I will stop back to regularly for future resources! She is an online teacher/mentor for K12 and after browsing through¬†her blog a bit I discovered she has a multitude of resources for students Kindergarten through the 12th grade. She provided the four Daily Chore Charts that I linked to below on her blog about them that she wrote back in September of 2012 and it just so happened that the dates line up with the June 2017 Calendar (with the exception of the 31st of course but we’ll just call that July 1st for our purpose!) so I decided that we would kick off our new chore system starting June 1st!

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There are 4 templates provided, two with pet chores and two without. I only used three of the templates for my personal execution, both pet calendars and one of the non-pet calendars. Even though I have four daughters, I want to encourage my 7 yr. old to be a buddy with my 2 yr. old for chore’s so they were both given one of the calendars with some pet responsibilities. My 7 yr. old greatly thrives from the opportunity to be in charge of something with clear direction and the ability to be a helper so pairing her with my 2 yr. old was a natural decision. My oldest has a fair amount already on her plate outside of the home with friends graduation parties (Uuuugh! How is that so close for me as a mom?!?), Marching Band & local parade obligations, a few church/youth group related outings, in addition to her hope of working for my cousin’s cleaning company part-time this summer as well. Keeping her household obligations separate is certainly best in this case, though naturally, she is my most experienced and enthusiastic helper, giving my 7 yr. old this opportunity will encourage her to remember she is a big sister too (because she often feels stuck in the little sister role as her two older sisters mature at their older pace). You may notice that on these Daily Chore Calendars there are days that say “Free Day”, in an effort to encourage they work towards one paid chore Mon.-Fri. these will not be implemented as actual “Free Day”s, rather they will be Free Choice Chore Day. I plan to get some tongue depressors to label with additional chore ideas that I will store in a decorative jar or cup on hand and on those days they will get to choose a chore of their choice from those ideas. These chores will also be available for additional chores, you know, just in case my girls wind up so motivated they blow me away!

Now that the chore assignment method is handled, I have 31 days to design a calendar of my own to use moving forward, but thanks to her beautiful work I have a jumping off point to begin implementing as soon as possible. My children started their summer break the Friday before Memorial Day this year so by the time we celebrated the start of summer, my youngest’s 2nd birthday & Memorial Day, I knew that Tuesday would be the first day that was really just a normal summer day in our house this year. Knowing that I was kicking off our Mindset Mondays¬†this week as well,¬†(1 hr. daily with brain work each day during the week around a certain theme) I wanted to be sure not to completely overwhelm them so starting the new Chore System on Thursday gave them time to get familiar with the weekly theme summer learning for a few days before I shook up their chores.

Component Four:

The last step was not entirely a necessary component but I found it and thought it was too cute not to use somehow for my daughters. I found this Princess Chore Tracker which I printed a little larger than a business card with the plan to also laminate these so that I can use removable stickers to mark off each day they will be getting paid for so they have a visual reminder to look at on their Chore Boards without pulling the dollar bills out of their envelope a dozen times a week! This is kind of like their time card. they will turn these into me on payday since I will be the one regulating the stickers upon completion of the chores.

I decided to print the calendars, these Royal Duties Chore Trackers & prepare the Chore Boards and hang them Monday evening after they had all gone to bed. This way they would see them on Tuesday and start to get a little curious about them, and if I was lucky maybe they would even get excited (I could hope)! I also printed out our new

BONUS 

Daily Task List’s

I was introducing these as a more organized approach to our Daily Task List in addition to the Chore Boards. Every day there are basic tasks obviously that must be done:

  • getting dressed for the day & properly handling their pajamas
  • making their bed in a very loose sense, no hospital corners here!
  • teeth brushing
  • breakfast & breakfast clean-up
  • devotions time in their bible
  • caring for our pets (1 dog & a tankful of fish)

I struggle daily reminding my children to do these things, I feel like the nag of all nags EVERY SINGLE DAY. I am constantly asking them if these things were done or reminding them to complete them, so I finally realized a list they can visualize & check off may be just the trick to ending the nagging. In addition to these daily tasks to be done, I added a few additional items especially for summer to ensure they eliminate the excess of electronics this summer and find healthier alternatives whenever possible, requiring some reading time & creative play time. I put together a Daily Chart that I call the Checklist for Electronics Summer Template. I printed it up Monday evening as well and had them sitting on our dining room table Tuesday morning at their place with their bible & journal.  I did not let them write on them though after they saw them and I had explained to them I took them up to get laminated so they can use dry erase markers to track weekly. (To my glee, the girls were all very receptive to the Chore Boards as well as these New Checklists to earn their electronics use daily when they discovered them Tuesday morning. So excited in fact that I did have to print a new copy for my second oldest daughter because she had starting completing things & checking them off on her paper before I even had time to explain them!)

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As one final little EXTRA treat for the moms, I found this helpful Calendar that offers a weekly, monthly & yearly solution to a full coverage clean of your home! FB_IMG_1452031241732

Now don’t get me wrong, I do not follow this to any degree, I have actually had my cousin’s cleaning company out twice in the last month and a half to help me maintain and rebound from our horrific first quarter of the year. I did, however, find this buried in the files on my laptop while I was file sorting & organizing a few weeks back. I found it and thought it was a good resource for those of you gifted in the cleaning department. I can only find true peace & tranquility in a clean space so I prefer a tidy home. This is a direct reflection of how good a housekeeper my mother was when I was a child and still is to this day. I picked up a good portion of her cleanliness habits but with four kids running around there are just not enough hours in the day to keep up with it all. I have many gifts that God has blessed me with, what I am not blessed to be able to do easily is maintain a regular cleaning schedule. It get’s done, but not weekly when it should, not monthly in some cases and all together, never. I can’t get one room cleaned well and thoroughly and move onto another room without progress either being halted or redirected, thus meaning I never manage to get my entire house clean at once to enjoy it at all……………………unless I have

The Cleaning Ladies

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out occasionally to help keep me in line and save me valuable time to make memories with my kiddo’s while! The incredibly reasonable price I pay to have them out to clean is far better than the tortured task of feeling like I never get it all done and honestly when paired with just a little bit of maintenance chore effort through this chore system I am left with time to redirect my energy to another money-saving task, money-raising project or memory making fun! Just once or twice a month and your whole life could be changed! Take it from me, implement a Chore System that works for your kids and give The Cleaning Ladies a call! Let Laurel know you want your house to Dazzle like mine! ¬†Now head out to get your kids moving, because a little bit of structure can change your world this summer!!!

As always, thanks for reading!

~Rebecca

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Summer Fun Book Buckets!

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It was brought to my attention today that the school year has officially ticked along ever so systematically for the last 9 months and we are now simply less than 2 weeks away from Summer Break Beginning! I LOVE SUMMER, I love, love, love summer, I absolutely without a doubt, no questions asked, emphatically love summer break! (Did I get my point across, I LOVE SUMMER!) So I am going to share with you one of my absolute FAVORITE Summer Break Tips that I do with my girls, “Summer Book Buckets”. It’s become somewhat of a tradition and my children look forward to this at the end of every school year now, but first, a little background before I dive into the specifics!

Here’s some background…

Once I became a mother of two and it wasn’t just me and one little sidekick looking for adventure anymore, summer became quite challenging for me. I found myself hoping and wishing for school to begin by July of my first summer as a mother of 2 children. Entertaining my (then) 6-year-old had become difficult with this little (then) 7-month-old addition to our family tagging along and so by the middle of July I was approaching every day of summer with a “just survive” mentality and by the time I was sending my oldest little girl to 1st grade I was thrilled that I had somehow survived the rest of the days of summer and still managed to check all the things off the back to school checklist. That was until Halloween at least, by that point I was feeling dreary & grey (not unlike the Northeast Ohio weather I lived in) and I was regretting wishing the warm golden days of summer away! Now it was about this time that I realized I needed a better approach to summer so we could THRIVE through our next summer break instead of simply SURVIVING it.¬†I made it through that fall and crept by right into winter able to distract myself, at least a little, with the holiday hustle & bustle and before I knew it we were nearing spring.

{Now here’s a side note: I hate rain, it drives me a special kind of batty, really it’s like nails on chalkboard to me if I’m honest, so I don’t love Spring by any means but there are many things about Spring that I do appreciate, mainly that the warmer weather is on the horizon}.

The fact that Spring was in the air had me daydreaming towards summer again. This year I was determined to soak in the days and appreciate the summer instead of wishing it away. We had a vacation planned, we were also planning a few random camping excursions and I had decided to sign my oldest daughter up for a summer swim class. I was not going to let my being home with my 2 girls for most of the summer wear me down again. I would kiss every last night of summer goodbye having fully appreciated the day…..well that was until I found out I was expecting baby #3 around mid-July of that summer and then morning sickness (all day sickness actually) had me once again waking up with the “just survive” mentality. I did just that until fall, sadly looking forward to 2nd-grade beginning and a break from being sole caregiver, teacher & entertainer all day. My pregnancy sickness didn’t fade (in fact I had it almost my entire pregnancy, bummer) and I just couldn’t get through the holiday’s fast enough so I could get to my 3rd baby’s due date in the middle of March 2010. I had begun my stretch as a SAHM just a few weeks before giving birth and welcoming her into our family in the middle of March. After getting settled in at home as a family of 5, I again began anticipating the summer but this time with a completely new level of excitement.

I have been guilty of ¬†letting myself get wrapped up in the difficult seasons in my past and have been known to wish them away. I was guilty of rushing my life a fair amount as a new mom of my oldest for those first few seasons and it’s something that once I recognized it in myself I have consciously tried to prevent moving forward. We are only blessed a certain number of days here on earth, in the company of others and when we coast through life, when we wish for the next season, when we hope for a future we are unsure of, we are taking for granted the time that we do have and the people we are with. I realized after a health scare with my 3rd daughter in the first month after her birth that we must live our time here intentionally, because we never know when our time or the time of a loved one is up…

 

So here I was at the beginning of summer weather, in the midst of an unusually warm May, just a few weeks away from school being out for Summer Break again except now a mother of 3. My oldest was completing her 2nd-grade year and reading like a miniature little book addict like I was at her age. ¬†She always had a book in her hand and was reading quite well, ahead by at least a grade. She was also turning into quite the little helper with her sisters. It was clear to me that I needed to get ahead of my summer plan so I took to Pinterest. This was just weeks after it launched as a site and it was still pretty ground level. I started searching summer/end of school year ideas and I remember being disappointed that so few ideas came up. I looked through the few results and decided to use them as a jumping off point for what would become my new tradition…………..

Summer Book Buckets:

A¬† GREAT way to get your kids excited about FUN reading to help keep the brain fresh over summer vacation. A good way to encourage an alternate downtime entertainment idea instead of the electronics. A creative way to make books seem less like a mandatory for a school activity and more like a fun playtime activity. When you encourage reading from a young age and also continue through the summer months I have found it creates a healthy relationship with books for most children. I used plastic beach buckets for the first few years that I did this because they are great tools for the beach or splash park and my kiddo’s love sand and water. I didn’t want the book part of the “Summer Fun Book Buckets” to be the only focus so the beach bucket was a fun idea to start. I would also encourage you to try to include a few other non-book items related to your children’s other favorite summer activities. Here are some picture’s I found from 2 different previous years…

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About 5 years into this plan I switched to metal buckets. It was the year after my 4th daughter was born and I found them at TJ Maxx just in time for Easter. I was lucky enough to find them in each of my daughters’ favorite colors too. They are multi-purpose through the year as Easter baskets & “stair clutter buckets” and they have a chalkboard plaque on the front. I do not use all new books, I typically only include one brand new book if any at all. My plan is always to include at least 5-7 books in each girls bucket (however I have done as many as a dozen or more before).

When I executed this idea that first summer, my oldest was such a good reader and advanced to the point that I needed to have real quantity for her because the substance still needed to be age appropriate, but 1 age-appropriate book kept her occupied for an afternoon if I was lucky. She would read an American Girl chapter book in just a few hours so I would visit the discount bookstores and thrift stores. The recent addition of “Buy Sell Trade FB pages” has given me a new outlet to obtain books inexpensively in the last few years also. I do watch store sales in anticipation throughout the year now that it has become an annual tradition and I stash them until the end of the school year. I find that by choosing titles they are interested in and curious about they will want to dig right into them! As I mentioned before I mix in some non-book¬†summer related items¬†like a new beach towel¬†sunscreen & sidewalk¬†chalk or bubbles to complete my “Summer Fun Book Buckets”.

As a bonus here are a few of my other go to end of the school year ideas that I do with my kids

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Hang poster paper on the door and make a list with your kiddos of things to do over the summer before you go in!

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Crepe Paper the door so when they get home from school they can burst through!

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Ice Cream is always a great way to kick off Summer Break too!!!

I hope this inspire’s you to try one of these ideas to get your kids off to an exciting new start to the 12 weeks of summer! Check¬†back in the upcoming weeks to see some of the ways I plan to keep my kids on top of chores over the summer, limit their electronic use, and instill some character building Virtue Lessons! Plus I will try to update on all of our fun adventure’s, celebrations and new ways to sneak Family Time into our busy summer schedules! I hope you have an AWESOME¬†Summer Break!!!

As always, thanks for reading!

~Rebecca

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Pro’s & Con’s of Store Bought vs. Creatively Led Birthday’s

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There are so many ways to approach a child’s birthday and the amount of time and expense you devote to it. Many differing opinions could be presented about how to celebrate a child’s birthday and how much financially should be spent and it seems that birthday traditions are as varied and diverse as we are as a culture. More so, it seems just like with many things, many people seem to feel very strongly that their approach is best. Not unlike with many other topics, we tend to not have healthy debates with ourselves anymore, we just go with what we know, what we’ve always seen demonstrated, what we are comfortable with or what seems on trend. The same can be said for how the average parent approaches their child’s birthday. In today’s culture, it’s somewhat of a joke in any number of sitcoms or advertisements one of two parent/child birthday narratives.

A. That parents allow themselves to get so caught up & often overwhelmed in the day to day that they forget birthdays amidst their other obligations and can’t afford a “big to do” on their meager budget. This narrative is fed off the fact that so often we are living in the same hamster wheel as parents and we just do what we’ve always seen done to survive each day and breeze through to the next, right past one big moment after another, stuck in the grind of living paycheck to paycheck thus “celebrating” with a last minute cake, balloons & crepe paper and a handful of sporadic guests.

OR

B. That parents spoil their children rotten with whatever they want, throwing them an “over the top” celebration creating little narcissistic, ungrateful children. This narrative is fed off of shows and other celebrity/media culture that implies throwing a birthday party for your child over a certain price tag somehow designates the child as ungrateful and the parents as ignorant for wasting money and treating their children like “Princesses” or “Princes”.

I have to say that this seems silly to me that these are the two most common narratives our culture presents considering that the majority of the world lives somewhere in the middle of the financial class and that even though parenting is hard we are not all too overwhelmed by parenting to celebrate our children and put a little bit of time and effort into going the extra mile to do so on even the most meager budget.

I have decided that there is a third narrative that needs to be pushed and that’s what has inspired this blog series about Kid’s Birthday Party Planning. That third narrative looks like this…

C. That parents are possibly overwhelmed from day to day occasionally, and they may be living paycheck to paycheck and feeling financially strapped, but they cherish their children and are grateful for every year that they get to celebrate and therefore they use the child’s birthday every year as that reminder and reason to celebrate the amazing person they are growing into! They do take a little time to mentally appreciate, take stock and prepare a personalized celebration for their child and their loved ones and they work hard to earn whatever budget they have so they will use it to celebrate the¬†occasion¬†however they see fit. This¬†narrative is off of my personal thoughts and beliefs on this topic as I will outline in one of my Blogs about how¬†Party Planning Pays Off in the Moments and the Memories

¬†The fact of the matter is, how you choose to celebrate your child’s birthday IS something personal and the details don’t really matter as long as you DO celebrate your child and your accomplishments as a parent every single year you are blessed to do so. ¬†Whether you throw together a cake, pizza, balloons and a bunch of your little person’s favorite people with some store bought party supplies or whether you start planning months in advance and make it a bigger deal and a whole family affair, it doesn’t matter at all. What matters is that you reflect, you celebrate and you create memories.

This pros and cons list are to help you decide, in the season of life you are in, for the party you are currently planning, with the theme you have picked and the budget you are working with whether you should do Store Bought or let your planning be Creatively Led.

Ok so Let’s break down the Pros and Cons of each method:

First I’ll start with Store Bought Approach

Pro’s

– It is easy, just go to the nearest retailer of choice or do an Amazon search & you can have them in no time at all.

– You can find a wide variety of choices, patterns and trademarked character party supplies at your disposal now in stores and on any number of online sources so if you want to do a theme, you can likely find it.

– NO real thinking or creativity necessary, just buy what you need from the available party collection for your chosen pattern or theme.

Con’s

– Without a lucky coincidence of finding the theme or character included in a semi seasonal clearance sale, the store bought products come in smaller increments and they are on the pricier side allowing your expenses to quickly multiply if you start getting into guest quantities above 8-16 total before you consider purchasing prepackaged favors or decorations.

– There is always the chance that one of their friends will have a birthday just before or after your child’s party with the same stuff and it may feel a bit generic.

– The extra supplies and the left over decorations feel like so much of a waste because it’s not like you can put it away for next year, your kid will be onto a new favorite obsession within 6 months. So you pass it forward or throw it out in most cases.

Ok so now I’ll give you the pro’s & cons of a more Creatively Led Approach.

Pro’s

– It can be executed using a lot of the same retailer outlets and with a clear vision and a little planning ahead of time it can be equally as easy. In fact I now consider it easier because taking the extreme level of character images and licensing out of the printed and disposable item allows for left overs to be neatly packed away and stored to be recycled into future party visions. Therefore saving the task of having to acquire some of these same things for future events.

– The chances of your child having a friends birthday with a similar look or feel is unlikely, allowing even the most basic get together to have a unique and special atmosphere for making memories.

– The sky is the limit as far as your choice of theme, style or pattern when you take a more creative approach to the party planning. If you can think it you can create with with a little extra work! Just choose anything, from a book or movie title, to a color or favorite hobby. Even a favorite food or location can become the jumping off point for planning your celebration. Think about what you are celebrating and who you are celebrating and something will come to mind (this is kind of a secondary pro, you can use this choice as a way to highlight the personality of your guest of honor).

– As for the creativity side of things, the Pinterest and blog culture that is amidst us means you don’t really have to be creative at all anymore! Just willing to spend a little time searching ideas and be also willing to try implementing someone else’s idea within your personal skill level & budget…………. AND if you are really against doing it yourself then you can always find yourself a local to you version of me who would be willing to implement the creative & planning portion of your event for expenses and a fee of some sort. (I will talk about this as well as other areas of your life and home that you can delegate for a far more reasonable fee then you would expect in most cases in an upcoming blog series I hope to do this fall 2017 so keep an eye out for it then!)

– As previously mentioned (but worth it’s own point) when you stick with a broader creative approach to your party theme you open the door to a more likely ability to recycle or re-purpose party supplies and leftover paper products and decorations on future events. Instead of having dozens of leftover “Spongebob Squarepants” paper plates and napkins to use and birthday banners with Patrick and Mr. Crabbs on it, you could simply have leftover yellow and blue napkins to pack away in a gallon sized air-tight ziptop bag and stored until the next time you need one of those colors. Instead of the money wasted on a character specific birthday banner you will never hang again you could take a different approach to the sign or handcraft one with an underwater feel being more easily capable of reusing for say a future Mermaid themed birthday or underwater scuba party!

– It can be a memory making experience in the process of planning and creating as well, allowing you to include your children and other willing loved ones in these elements of the party allowing more opportunities to make memories.

now for the¬†Con’s

– It requires a little bit of planning ahead and willingness to spread your to do list for the event out across a few weeks, even months. I will share planning & organizing tools in weeks and months ahead.

– It may require some hands on projects and potentially also some crafts or small construction projects which in turn will require a little bit more of your time but with proper planning and scheduling this doesn’t have to be too challenging of a Con to tackle.

– Once you begin to make the shift to a creatively led approach to your events & celebrations be prepared to unleash a monster in yourself and possibly other members of your family. The memory making will begin to look as it never has before and you will begin to increase in excitement level and will want to continue taking chances in your events to continue creating even more one of a kind memories. Hold on tight! It’s about to get fun by this point!

So now that you have my Pro’s & Con’s you can weigh them against the other details and factors in your life to begin approaching your celebrations appropriately according to your season! Remember it’s not about how much you spend, how many people you invite, how many people can show up or how many handmade features vs. vendors paid went into creating your event. What actually matters is that you so take the time to celebrate the moments and create memories with the ones you love today, because tomorrow is never promised! Go make memories!

As always, thanks or reading!

~Rebecca

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Party Planning Pays off in the Moments & in the Memories

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I LOVE any reason to party so people who don’t like to party confuse me just a little. I mean I am an introvert with extroverted tendencies so I actually do kind of get it but even though the “act of partying” drains me, I still enjoy it and strongly value the time spent and memories made with those whom I get to party with. Like everything, of course, it must come with a balance, especially for me as an introvert. When it comes to my kids though I go next level, so just know that what I’m about to say next is coming from a loving heart, I promise.

I commonly hear people say, “We don’t spend much on our kids for their birthdays” or “We don’t really do birthday parties” and the one that maybe irks me the most is¬†“Oh we don’t make a big deal out of our kids birthdays EVERY year” and it makes me a little sad inside for those kids, every, single, time. Don’t misinterpret what I am saying, I don’t think these people are bad parents, (and if you fall under this category of parent please don’t take offense, but rather please continue reading to hear my reasoning).¬†I don’t by any means think you have to spend a fortune¬†on your kids for every birthday (or any birthday really) BUT I do strongly believe that you SHOULD make a big deal out of their birthday EVERY SINGLE YEAR!¬†

Because Next Year is Never Promised…

Why do I think this? I feel like it should be common sense honestly, but any more in the culture we live in and the world around us today we sometimes get so swept up in the mundane day-to-day that we forget, next year IS NOT PROMISED. Excuse me here, but Hell, tomorrow isn’t promised at all so the logic that “We don’t need to make a big deal out of Johnny’s birthday this year because we are so busy and kinda broke and can just make up for it next year….” is completely ignorant to me……… because of this I try to celebrate my children often and I am known to celebrate them BIG sometimes!

I have sadly watched from a distance as a friend has lost their child in a sudden, terrible, horrible, gut-wrenching way (not to imply that, there is a way to lose your child that isn’t these things). Even worse I have done so more than one time over my 15 years as a mother. Every time my tears fall & my heart weeps for that Momma & those families. AND every time I vow to be more in each moment with my children. To celebrate who God has made them to be and to do so everyday while God is blessing me with the time with them here on earth to do so because I never want to wake up one day and feel like I wasted my time with them and if I am taken from them for some reason in God’s plan, I want to leave them with a lifetime of happy, celebratory, fully involved mommy moments to draw from .

Let’s Celebrate Our Kids!

I celebrate them in small ways, in unnoticed ways, in silent ways, and in prayerful ways more often than not. I do however have a BIG personality and a passion for partying & creating memories so I love the opportunity to celebrate my kids in BIG ways too. From the first moment I knew I was blessed with each one of my girls on I have tried to celebrate each stage, each season, each age knowing it will go by in a flash. The pattern remains that I look for all opportunities to celebrate them and it goes without saying, but I celebrate them extra BIG practically every birthday.

I know I have had many a fellow mom  (intentionally or not) that have judged me because I do so. I spend more money on the birthday parties than many moms I am sure (though we are not loaded so I definitely get outspent by plenty of other moms). I DEFINITELY spend more time preparing the details than the average mom but it is an area I am passionate about and consider it a personal hobby too. I have been told more than a few times that I go a little crazy over their birthdays but I do it all in the attempt to celebrate that God blessed me with another year as their mommy here on earth!

Resist Satan’s Desire to have you Compare…

Now the comparisons that I just made are not in any way meant to make any other moms feel guilty or less than. This blog topics purpose is to encourage that we celebrate our journeys and look for opportunities to create memories, big & small. Just because I may spend more money or time in preparation on my child’s party does not make me a better mom. Each family has their own set of circumstances and in my family, for my children, in the ways that we choose to we are capable to do so in the ways we do and so….we do!

It creates an atmosphere of constant celebration and makes my home a factory for memory making! I want to encourage that same model in other people’s homes how, where & when it fits into their life journey. I also aim to make it feel accessible to be replicated in whatever ways you feel challenged to try. I am well aware that as moms we are all just doing the best we can with the mothering and personal skills God gave us and the life journey He placed us in. For every area I may excel in there are easily two more areas that I daily seek strength from God to survive or thrive in. So please resist the urge to compare, instead please reach out to me and let’s open up communication.

I love helping to encourage other moms! I also love hearing kind constructive criticism so feel free to lovingly share any that you may have for me because I believe we can only grow better in Him by reflecting on ourselves and our interactions with others. I digress, let’s jump off that tangent and get back on topic.

Break Free From the Rat Race

When we live in the rat race day-to-day we can easily let our big events and reasons to celebrate get lost in the mix and accidentally become afterthoughts, but this cheapens your memories in my opinion. It minimizes your reasons to celebrate turning them into just another chore instead of maximizing the opportunities to celebrate together. Living in the moment and living in the rat race doesn’t have to be the same thing and I encourage you to prayerfully work towards finding the balance in life to get out of the rat race mentality if that’s where you are. I was trapped in the rat race in my head for a long time and still find myself slipping back to it when I am not mindful, but I find the best first step to getting back out of it is by taking control of my schedule, daily, weekly and even seasonally and by reflecting on & evaluating our priorities as a family regularly.

Time together must always be one of the first priorities as a family, even above higher income potential, hobbies, training and other extracurricular type activities that can quickly complicate the schedule building on the rat race lifestyle. Once you have figured out the balance needed to keep your family from constantly living in that rat race lifestyle it creates more available time and will make those opportunities to celebrate more apparent and even more manageable in your life so you can enjoy them and not be burdened by them!

Planning Pays Off in the Moments & the Memories…

These are what I consider to be my main Tips to Planning  Ahead to Create Lasting Memories.

  • Looking at your schedule and calendar seasonally (or quarterly) in addition to monthly will allow you to begin to prepare in advance and save time & expenses accumulating the elements to/for your events that are coming up in each season. I have a large Dry Erase Calendar that I fill in at the start of the first week of every month with the most current 30 days of our schedule and it gets updated daily when new things need to be added. I keep a command Center pretty religiously as of the last 5 years and it has DRASTICALLY improved our families schedule (and ability to stay out of the rat race) At the bottom of the calendar there is a large notes area and I use that to note upcoming important dates for the next 2 months. This eliminates me being surprised that 3 whole months flew by and suddenly I am two weeks before the birthday and wondering where all my prep time went.
  • Keep a separate notebook on hand for just your “Reasons to Celebrate”. {My mom used to have a birthday card book when I was little where she tracked all the birthdays in each month and could quickly reference them. This is essentially my model for this notebook but with more details, on steroids, if you will.} Most importantly I use this notebook to help me just look at the next 3-4 month overview, not the entire year. ¬†I only include those whose events I am choosing or expected to partake in planning, not every birthday card that I plan to send {though one of these years I am going to type up one Master List of Birthdays for the niece & nephews & such}. Now for most people, this book will just contain parties for the most immediate members of your family. I will throw a party for anybody if asked! Therefore I am typically juggling a few different events of the birthday & non-birthday variety, but again, I digress. Back on point. This notebook will give you one place for the planning thoughts to accumulate helping to keep your brain a little less cluttered and more focused on being in the moment with your kids.
  • Find a solution in your home to accumulate the necessary things for the party without creating excess clutter. If you aren’t careful these celebrations can get to be a thorn in your side at home so be certain to stay ahead of the problem and find a solution that suits your life & home. I purchased Rubbermaid bins with lids in a few sizes to begin to store the accumulated needed items in for each event & out-of-the-way so they can’t be discovered or messed with prior to the party. This also prevents me most of the time from making a purchase ahead and then forgetting where I stashed it or worse completely forgetting I even purchased it. When you have a predetermined storage space for it all until the event that is much harder to do and it can also be extremely helpful to keep these things from cluttering the main areas of the home. These totes get consistently cycled through parties in my home and have a permanent home stacked on a shelf in my office area while in active rotation.
  • Fight the urge to go disposable with your partyware!……….and don’t be afraid to make practical, partyware & service item purchases when needed, just be sure they can be somewhat universally used from one party to another and are of a decent enough quality to last. This will ultimately save you in the long run because you will only need basic paper plates, napkins & plastic silverware to stock up on before parties and the rest of your partyware will not follow those items into the trash to add to our existing overflowing landfills. Items like a set of catering chaffing dishes, cake plates, cupcake stands, beverage dispensers and other food platters may seem pricey at first but when you sale shop, look for coupon opportunities, even Buy Sell Trade groups on Facebook, or sometimes just to bite the bullet and cough it up (eh, sometimes) WILL pay off in the long run. These types of things are worth finding spare pantry space for, or room in the garage for a few extra storage totes to have them on hand to use over and over again because the alternative is a whole lot of extra waste, especially once you realize how fun and worth it that it is to find more reasons to party!
  • Pin with a purpose, this means to search specifically to your theme/event/colors/idea and set a time frame for yourself before you begin. ( check out this tip and more directly related to Pinterest in an upcoming blog about “Putting a Pin in a Pinterest Problem before it Begins”!) Also, limit yourself to only a few ideas, don’t try new food recipes for the very first time the day of the party unless you are somewhat familiar with it already at least a little. Be sure to not take on more than you can handle in your own abilities and time restraints around work and other commitments. Remember it’s always better to perfectly approach and execute a few really cute ideas than to put up a bunch of Pinterest fail type elements at the party.
  • Don’t forget to check¬†My Fool Proof 6 Point Party Planning Steps¬†to help you get the details nailed down for any event type! This is my method¬†every single time…
  • My last and MOST VALUABLE tip is to not bog your own enjoyment of the party with an unrealistic expectation list for yourself. We don’t have to all throw our kids parties like David Tutera would (though I do personally try hard because I LOVE him!) There is absolutely nothing wrong with hiring out some of the work too if it is in your budget and you want something out of your skill or ability, and in so many more cases than you would probably expect it won’t really cost that much more to hire a reasonably priced vendor instead of doing it yourself. I always try to look in my immediate community and in the small or home business department because I love to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit. I recognize my own creative & personal limitations and love to take the opportunities whenever possible to brag on someone else for their God-given skills.

I hope this has made you look at your own opportunities to celebrate those you love a little differently and I pray it has challenged you to make a little more of a priority out of it. We as parents need to really be in these moments with our children and with some simple planning ahead you can create more fun, more memorable and more aesthetically pleasing celebrations for them and their friends than ever before and they WILL remember that more vividly than an overcrowded Saturday afternoon bowling party or cold pizza, chips, and kids running around screaming in your backyard. The details make the event what it is, so stop letting yourself get so swept up in life that those details get overlooked until too late, we never know which birthday we are giving ourselves or our children their last memories on earth…so go forth and plan a celebration! Just find a reason, pull the ones you love around you and set the atmosphere of the party for fun! I have given you the starts to your party planning toolbox! Take it and be in your Moments, creating Memories for eternity!

Thanks for reading!

~Rebecca

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The Inaugural 5th Birthday Carnival Party

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Almost immediately after finishing my daughter’s¬†Dora the Explorer 4th Birthday Fiesta¬†I began thinking about her 5th birthday. I wasn’t trying to rush the calendar or anything but I had officially been bitten by the birthday planning bug and just a few months after she turned 4 she started preschool and began making friends. I found myself trying to dream up fun ideas to make her 5th birthday party extra special for her. I ruled out a few ideas before settling somehow on a carnival theme.

I must make 2 distinct notes at this point:

1st- This was almost 11 years ago and Pinterest was not a thing yet.

2nd- The plethora of themes available at your average party supply store today (rock star, fiesta, disco, hoe down, awards show, CARNIVAL/ Circus, ect. ect. ect.) is a vast improvement from the party themes available ready made a decade ago…….trust me I searched.

I make these 2 distinctions because I must relay that I had to really do work and put in time back then scouring page after page of search results looking for inspiration and then “Collecting” the ideas via “copying” images of inspiration and “pasting” them into a Word document creating a collaboration I called my Party Boards.

This is what I consider to be the more structured beginning of my My Fool Proof 6 Point Party Planning Steps. As I scoured for ideas I looked in these 6 categories or steps as I had in the past as described in my previous blogs in this Party Plan Series.

Winnie the Pooh 1st Birthday, the one that started it all…

Classic Princess Party for a 2nd Birthday

Blues Clue’s 3rd Birthday Party

Dora the Explorer 4th Birthday Fiesta

Eventually, I grew more efficient in my research stage but at this juncture, in my party planning evolution it was still a semi time-consuming process to research and create my Party Boards. The creation of Pinterest was a HUGE time saver for me (only AFTER I learned how to keep that hobby under control though. Read about that HERE in an upcoming blog about Putting a “pin” in a Pinterest Problem before it begins!) In the case of this carnival birthday I began searching for ideas in stores and online 4 months out from the big day and realized quickly that within my meager budget (especially because by this point we were renting a house of our own finally!) and considering the limitations on inexpensive and/or disposable carnival themed birthday items available, I needed to get crafty. If the things I had gotten used to just buying ready made were proving difficult to find then I decided to get in tune with the “Me” before “Mom”. That person was a super creative, 4 year Fine Art student obsessed with crafting or creating art and when that person was crowned “Mother” she tucked away those supplies (and inherently talents) in a closet long ago. ¬†This party was the perfect reason to open that closet and pull it all back out. This party will go down in my history as the “Crown Jewel” of my “mommy crown” that brought the “Me” back out of me. So let’s get down to the details…

Theme?

I was fully committed at this point in replicating a carnival in honor of my little girl. By this point that was all I knew. I didn’t quite know what to expect myself to actually pull off but I was committed…….even more so after my step sisters gifted my daughter & my oldest nephew a combined gift of a personal home inflatable bounce house………(yes I did say, stepsisters. If you caught that, then yes it had become official a few months before Christmas that year and it was exciting and fun to have sisters for the first time…..but back to the topic at hand.) The gifting of this bounce house in December solidified the plan, gave me 4 solid months to prep & plan ahead and added a fun new level to this carnival theme! With the creative part of me unlocked for the first real time in over 5 years, it gets really FUN! Hold on tight, I went all the way with this theme……

Where.

As previously mentioned, we were renting a house by this point in our life, we had moved in just a few months before Christmas also. We were renting a 2 story house with a kitchen large enough for a table & chairs to fit comfortably AND a dining room.  We had a good sized living room & a partially finished basement and we felt like our space was huge! Thanks to the size of the house and a front yard large enough to use for guest parking and a little back deck, backyard & two car garage I felt equipped to entertain at my own house this time. With more time to prep the party space, I got moving as soon as the snow melted and began cleaning up the yard & flowerbeds as well as organizing our garage (in case we had rain & needed an outdoor cover since my oldest daughters birthday is in early May this always has to be a consideration).

When..

I wanted maximum attendance from our family & family friends and we were inviting friends from her preschool class so I went with a Saturday afternoon, the day after her actual birthday and not a school day. I planned for this party to be longer in time than the ones I had previously planned because there was going to be a lot to do so it started just afternoon and went well into the early evening, but we were again blessed with beautiful weather so that helped the fun continue seamlessly.

Decorations…

We started a few hours before the party on the task of inflating helium balloons to adorn the railing of our back deck, the canopy cover for the eating area, and various other places throughout the party to create a festive feel to our outdoor space. I also began working weeks in advance on painting signs for the various games & stations of our “Carnival” including this welcome sign!

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Welcome Sign

 

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View from the back deck where our grill & concession stand was located.

Food & Beverage….

For the food, I decided to go with a concession stand theme like you would find at a school or local church carnival.

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We set up a 6-foot tale in the middle of the deck and had food offerings lines up buffet style. I had positioned my grill on the other side of the table with my brother graciously volunteering to man the grill, cranking out burgers and hot dogs as needed. ¬†I had prepared popcorn in bright colorful paper bags¬†already portioned out to minimize waste and so it could be grabbed on the go easily.¬†At the time my aunt owned a small bar & restaurant and hooked me up with the use of her nacho cheese warmer & ladle so we had authentic nacho’s readily available as needed and I had purchased a box of soft pretzels from our wholesale club and had a few batches of those cycling in and out of my oven right in the kitchen during the main food portion of the day.

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As for drinks I went with bottles of water, cans of soda and little juice barrels for the kids. All in all the food was a raging success and went off very smoothly and I was happy to have offered a new variety of choices a little outside the normal, pizza, chips & cake offered so frequently at kids parties.

Entertainment…..

As for entertainment, well the whole party was really the entertainment. I had come up with a handful of game ideas that I could easily replicate at home (as referenced in the signs above) and those were space out throughout the back portion of our driveway and in the front of the garage doors. Games like:

  1. Balloon Pop – I had taken a small piece of MDF and taped blown up balloons across it offering 3 beginner darts to the children to attempt to pop a balloon.
  2. Bean Bag Toss –¬†We had a small tic tac toe bean bag toss game that had been previously gifted to my daughter and we set that out allowing the kids to use bean bags to try to flip 3 in a row!
  3. Ring Toss – For this I simply purchased a set of pool rings and 6 2 liters of the cheapest soda on the shelf. I chose 3 orange sodas and 3 grape sodas and set them up like bowling pins letting the kids try to ring the top of the bottles!
  4. Sitting Ducks –¬†I had been lucky enough to find an inflatable kiddie pool shaped like a duck and then I found 2 sets of rubber duckies in the baby bath department. I took paint markers and painted dots on the bottom of the little duckies in one of 3 different colors and the kids got to pull 3 ducks to determine the prize!¬†
  5. Ring of Fire – This was the most time consuming of all the games. I took a standard hula hoop and cut out construction paper flames in red, yellow & orange and then taped them around the hoop. The finished product was cute and was the perfect Ring of Fire for a stuffed lion tiger to be tossed through!

 

 

We had also set up a face painting station that my new twin stepsisters had offered to work during the party!

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My stepsister Jennie painting my little girls face and discussing some other face painting options some of the other little guests

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My sweet birthday girl with her face painting creation!

Then there was the BOUNCE ZONE! We had set up the small inflatable bounce house just off to the side of the covered eating area where the adults spent a good portion of the time so that there was always plenty of supervision and we limited it to 2 children at a time to ensure a safe fun experience, but the kids sure did enjoy it!

 

The last activity planned was a photo op that I had thought up. With help from my father, we designed an easy to assemble and easy to store solution and he purchased the supplies and assisted me in the cutting and construction portion (because truth be told I am a little scared of power tools). I had worked for a few hours on in the last few weeks before the party sketching it and painting it. I don’t pride myself of drawing lifelike people so the sketching was almost agonizing enough for me to quit but I persevered through my doubts and completed it for an enjoyable photo op that you will see again in future parties.

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My goofball brother posing as a clown in my homemade photo op spot!

Now if you have read my previous parties then you know this is where I normally sum up the party, the special moments and offer any last minute tips of my own before sending you off to be creative yourself, but as I have warned, THIS PARTY CHANGED ME! Besides just embellishing the theme into more areas of the party I also added a new step to my planning so don’t go away yet!

THIS IS A NEW STEP!

I explain the addition in an amendment to my original post about My Fool Proof  6 Point Party Planning Steps (referenced in the link above)

Favors……

In all of my past parties, the favors were an afterthought, something I did because as a parent that’s what I was obligated to do and candy & crumby little plastic toys were what you filled those little bags with right?

*** Now I want to make a side point here, I know that to give favors or not to give favors can be a questionable topic. I understand that celebrating birthdays isn’t just about material things. I also have been blessed to have a family who REALLY enjoys giving gifts, sometimes to the point of excess, and because of that, I have always felt that favors at a child’s birthday are not any different from favors at a wedding. They are meant as an immediate gift of gratitude for not just bringing a present of monetary value, but ALSO and more importantly to me, as a Thank You for their presence and for making the time in their life to come to celebrate with us! I discuss this more in further depth in this upcoming post “Favors…to do & what not to do” If favors isn’t your thing great, if they are then enjoying this additional blog & this added step will be a fun step for you to look forward to in future party blogs of mine!***

Back to the topic at hand… Favors! I decided to re-imagine our party favors this year in keeping with the theme, so naturally, I decided on a prize table where the kids could take the tickets they had “won” participating in the games and redeem them for prizes. Now I was not very strict or observant of the actual redemption since the children were all with the company of their parents I just let parents do the general management of their child’s choices.¬†I set out a variety of useful yet fun items like pencils, plastic sunglasses and small bubbles with a few candy options mixed in like suckers and smarties.

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Our Prize Table!

The fun part was that I had enjoyed planning this party so much, and was actually already expecting our second daughter at the time of this party so I made a plan all the way back then to make the Carnival a tradition for our children for their 5th birthdays so packed up all the leftover prizes, game components, signs and our photo opportunity for our next carnival almost 6 years away. All in all the party was a tremendous success

 

and my little lady had her “Absolute Best Birthday Yet!” …………but I had unleashed a monster in myself so that title would forever be up for grabs with each additional birthday party I organized and the gift bag in the front of her gift pile gives a little hint to her next birthday theme! As always use this as inspiration to step outside of your own party bubble and try some new things, it pays off in the moment and it pays off in the memories I promise! Now go be creative and as always…

Thanks for reading!

~Rebecca

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My Top 10 Valentine Alternatives for Kids

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So Valentine’s Day is coming and that means if you have children who leave your house for school, you likely have already started hearing the endless pleas for the cheesy, pricey character valentines or some sort of candy alternative from your kiddo’s. Now I have been known to take the easy way out and pay way too much for inevitably more Valentines than I need (because one box is never enough so you end up being stuck getting a second box for 3 more right? Anyone else’s luck or is it just me?). I don’t like this option though because it’s either wasteful & generic and gets thrown out immediately or it is something made of, coated with or dipped in some sort of sugar as if we need more excuses to give our kids more sugar!

For the most part I try very hard to steer clear of those, but I must rat myself out, between expecting my newest daughter and now I have taken the easy way out each year………so this year I decided to get back to thinking out of the box and attempting some of my favorite ideas that I have Pinned over the years. I put together this list of…

 

My Top 10 Valentine Alternatives for Kids

So let’s start this list off with 5 healthy & delicious edible non candy alternatives

1.) You’re a “Cutie”

Great healthy option for a Valentine's Day treat! Free printable "you're a cutie" Valentines are an easy candy free alternative kids will love.

Supplies Needed: easy peel oranges, plastic treat bags, twine or ribbon, a hole punch & a printer with ink and paper or card stock for the tags

Quantity: Easily Flexible,  print tags by the dozen.

This is a relatively affordable alternative that will still hit the sweet tooth! It works well for any age and is an easy one for the kids to help assemble not to mention if you have to buy another package of “Cuties” for just 3 more the rest can still be enjoyed instead of shoved in a drawer & forgotten about like the rest of our leftover paper Valentines!

Great healthy option for a Valentine's Day treat! Free printable "you're a cutie" Valentines are an easy candy free alternative kids will love.

Check this link out for other cute ideas and different colored tag options for the tags above and access to the free template for download! Free Cutie Printable Here!

2.) Goldfish Treats

Supplies Needed: Goldfish snack crackers, plastic treat bags, twine, ribbon or twist tie, hole punch or stapler & a printer with ink and paper or card stock for the card.

Quantity: Easily Flexible,  print cards 4 at a time.

This is a relatively affordable alternative that will stand out amidst the sweet choices! It works well for any age, who doesn’t LOVE these things? It is also an easy one for the kids to help assemble not to mention if you have leftovers they are great everyday snacks!

cute toddler valentine ideas - Google Search:

For a cute color graphics template hop over¬†HERE¬†where a talented mommy blogger created a super adorable design, one that can print 4 at a time! This idea allows you to purchase a large box of goldfish for a bulk price instead of prepackaged options if you need to stretch a buck. I just had a 30 oz. box delivered today with my Amazon Prime Pantry box for $7.69 and I didn’t even have to walk into a store!

Here’s another cute option too, with the Link¬†to the original source for access to this printable too in case you prefer prepackaged (or as the case may be required by some schools because of food allergy concerns).goldfish valentine for kids

On the off chance that you don’t like either of these beautifully cheesy puns, one simple search on fish-related treat rhymes will turn up too many to choose!

3.) ¬†You are my “Main Squeeze”

or

“Awesomesauce” pouch covers/tags

Supplies Needed: Your favorite Applesauce pouches, twine or ribbon, hole punch & a printer with ink and paper or card stock for the card.

Quantity: Easily Flexible,  print cards 6 at a time.

This is a relatively affordable option also and great for all ages, toddlers clear thru grade school age. It is another healthy option that will stand out amidst the sweet choices! It works well for any age and can be purchased in many flavors…

“You’re my main squeeze”¬†is a great gender-neutral printable¬†Main Squeeze tag available for printing by clicking on the link.preschool valentines

Here is an adorable Awesomesauce Printable available for free download Here

and made available here by another blogging mama.

4.) “Let’s Stick Together” String Cheese

Supplies Needed: String cheese sticks, scissors, cardstock for the card, markers & holiday stickers or embellishments.

Quantity: Easily Flexible,  makes 6 per standard cardstock sheet.

This is another healthy option that will stand out amidst the sweet choices!¬†String cheese is an outside of the box Valentine idea too and¬†providing your little one doesn’t have a dairy ban due to allergy in their classroom it should be permissible and can double as a healthy no mess morning snack. Again this is another relatively affordable option also and great for all ages, toddlers clear thru grade school age.

How do you make these? Start with basic card stock of your liking. You will need to cut the card stock about 2 inches longer than the cheese stick and about 3 times its width. You should be able to get 6 out of a standard  8 1/2  x 11. Cut two holes, one on either end of the cardstock rectangles, about as big as a quarter and decorate with your choice embellishments. Stick string cheese through &  use a marker to sign your message!

5.) Pirate’s Booty

Supplies Needed: Individual Pirate Booty Bags, scissors or paper cutter, cardstock and printer with ink and stapler.

Quantity: Easily Flexible,  makes 2 per standard cardstock sheet.

This is another healthy snack, yes but it is not necessarily as affordable, HOWEVER, my 3rd girl LOVES Pirate Booty so when I found this template I just had to include it in my favorites!!!

Click Here to print the template for 2 of these Pirate Booty Bag Toppers.

Don’t see an edible option you like? Try this link instead!

Phew!!! Ok So now let’s move on to finish off this top 10 list.

Next is¬†5 of my favorite Usable¬† non candy Valentine alternatives…

6.) Make creative magic while disguising a pencil

Supplies Needed:¬†Pencils from your favorite dollar store, no stick scissors or paper cutter, and either card stock google eyes & colorful pom poms (caterpillars) ¬†OR Duct Tape & glittery sticker paper (Cupid’s Arrows).

Quantity: Easily Flexible dependent on how many pencils you purchase to use.

Whether you are looking for ideas for preschool age or something more appealing to the tween or teens in your life, pencils can be the framework for a totally adorable & functional Valentine.

top image       Heart Arrow Pencils for Valentine's Day

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Caterpillar template¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Cupid’s Arrow Pencils

Everyone could use an extra pencil to wear out after just returning from Winter Break as they work the rest of the school year away.

7.) “Don’t Burst my Bubble” or “Blowing Kisses Your Way” Valentines

Supplies Needed: Mini party bubbles (available for order online or in most party stores typically under $5 for a 24 ct. box), cardstock, twine or ribbon.

Quantity: Easily Flexible dependent on how many bubbles you purchase to use.

Whether you are looking for ideas for preschool age or something more appealing to the tween or teens in your life, bubbles are not a common choice but they certainly are a FUN Valentine idea!

Blowing Kisses Your Way Instructions¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†Don’t Burst My Bubble Template

Bubble-valentine-Crafts-Unleashed-10                  Bubbles-Valentine-PrintableBubble-valentine-Crafts-Unleashed-1OL150

Free Blowing Kisses Printable Template

8.) Crayon Creations!

Supplies Needed: Broken crayons, card stock, twine or glue or a removable adhesive runner.

In theory, you could break new crayons but that seems so sad to me lol, I love a new Crayola!¬†(I hoard our broken crayons, which ends up being most crayons that enter this house, I’m OCD about the crayons my kids have readily available looking newer and being full. Once they snap one time I can’t stand it being in their normal supply)

Quantity: Easily Flexible dependent on how many crayons you have to use and desire to bake & cool.

We made these about 6 years ago before I was a blogger so I have none of my own resources to share because I didn’t document like a blogger then. I have scoured the interwebs though, tirelessly looking for the perfect resources to share for this one because WE HAD A BLAST making these, they were virtually free and they received rave reviews from all the friends & peers that received them so¬†Here¬†and¬†HERE¬†are two whose methods I and templates are personal favorites!

Great valentine idea. Cute alternative to candy for the kiddos! | best stuff:           Valentine heart crayons       free printable crayon Valentine card   

“Color Your Heart Out” Free Template¬†¬†Use this for a Valentine their friends can color!

“You make my world so very Colorful” Free Template

How To:         You enlist the capable kiddos to help you peel the crayon pieces that still have paper while snapping them smaller. If an adult wants to they can use a knife to break them up smaller carefully. You can sort them by color family or just go random rainbow but fill muffin molds shaped in a heart. Preheat the oven to 230* and bake them for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, Let cool and they should pop out of the molds easily.

**Disclaimer, I would encourage keeping a separate set of silicone molds for this project. I had to scrub and scrub to get the film off so that I could use the molds again. Bonus to crayons being non-toxic so if I missed any, it wasn’t harmful LOL**

Now if this all seems like too much work but you love the crayon idea, you can still use either template & attach 4 crayons with washi tape.

9.) Paper Craft & Fun!

Supplies Needed: A heavy printing paper, scissors, optional small stickers or rub on tattoos to put inside the fortune cookies.

Quantity: Easily Flexible dependent on how many you print to use. Fortune cookies print in pairs.

With a teenager and a full-on tween these immediately appealed to my eye. The beauty with the Fortune Cookie idea is that you can print one set as a template and use ANY paper color or print you like and just cut circles of the same size and then proceed using the instructions in the link below.

The cootie catchers are another teen & tween appeal alternative. I’ve included a few options I have come across however much like the fortune cookies, the template can be printed and used as a pattern to create cootie catchers using any paper color or print also so hit the scrapbook aisle and see what your kiddos can come up with!

Free Printable Fortune Cookie| evermine.com

Free Printable Valentine Cootie Catcher

Visit this very talented fellow mom & blogger here to get the templates and detailed step by step on these cute Fortune Cookie Valentines

Visit this talented fellow blogger and mom here to  get the instructions for the Cootie Catchers and to check out her other ideas!

10.)Valentines Goo!

Supplies Needed: 6 oz bottle Elmer‚Äôs Classic Glitter Glue,¬†¬ľ cup water,¬†¬ĺ cup warm water,¬†1 teaspoon Borax,¬†(6) 2 oz disposable containers

Quantity: Each 6 oz. bottle of glue will get you 6 two-ounce containers.

This looks like a fun project and my 2nd girl is a budding scientist so I see this in our future, if not this year definitely soon thereafter! I have not attempted this project yet so again I can offer no personal testament to the ease of recreation, however, it looks legit and super fun & easy and definitely an outside of the boxed Valentine! Be sure to head over to the creator of this Gooed Valentine recipe!!!

 

Ok, so there you have it! I slaved for hours compiling this list (he he, slaaaaved) and checking and double checking ideas looking for easy to accomplish ideas that most of which can be done quite affordable. Now if you still didn’t find an alternative that made you look twice then swing thru this blog post where there are over 30 more no candy alternatives!!!¬†Plus with a full weekend ahead of you hopefully can sneak in an hour or so to craft these with the kids………Life is about making Memories after all!

 

BONUS! For those of you that took the time to look through this list thoroughly and maybe even tackled one of these ideas for your child’s class, I am giving you a cute and easy Teacher Valentine!!!

     

Rolo Pencil Treat for Teachers, these are adorable and easy to do so follow the link for step by step instructions and most of all…

 

….ENJOY YOUR TIME MAKING THESE VALENTINE’S WITH YOUR KID(S) BECAUSE YOU ARE TEACHING THEM THEY ARE IMPORTANT ENOUGH FOR YOUR TIME AND YOUR TRAIL & ERROR WILL CREATE MEMORIES FOR A LIFETIME!

Now have a wonderful weekend!

 

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