Backyard Obstacle Course– Using ONLY Chalk!

Getting kids to play outside is a must-- only 31% of kids play outside today, compared to the 70% of moms who played outside during their childhood. Get them moving with this outdoor obstacle course-- all you need is a piece of chalk! #CLIFKid [ad]

Hey, mom… remember playing outside as a kid? Hours spent enjoying the grass or the swingset or making crowns out of flowers or playing at the park… it’s crazy how many memories I have of outdoor play. That’s because as kids, most of us played outside– 70% of us did, actually. Compare that to today, when only 31% of kids are spending any kind of significant time outside at all. Busy schedules, cuts in recess time, and just all-around love for all things electronic could be to blame, but it could be that we just aren’t focused on outdoor play like we used to be. Today, I’ve got the absolute easiest way to get kids moving outside with an obstacle course– all you need is a piece of chalk!

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Dino Dig Sensory Box

This post has been sponsored by PAAS Easter Eggs. All opinions are my own. Please note that synthetic eggs will yield a different result than real eggs– your mileage may vary.

Looking for a fun sensory box for your future palentologist? This dino dig sensory box is perfect for all ages and stages! With

It seems like every child goes through a dinosaur phase. The growling, the roaring, the stomping fun that comes with dinosaurs is one of the most fun phases to watch. As a child, I remember watching dinosaur movies again and again, and now my son is the same way. This dino dig sensory box is the perfect way to tap into that dinosaur obsession!

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Why I Sent My Child to Preschool (Even though I Plan to Homeschool)

I've always planned to homeschool my son, since he was born. But when it came time to enroll him in preschool, I did. And here's why I made the decision to send him to school instead of homeschooling for that first year...

Anyone who has been reading my blog for awhile knows that I’m very strongly pro-homeschooling. From day one, I’ve planned to homeschool my son, and knew that he would be learning from me.  But when it came time to enroll him in preschool, I chose to. And here’s why I decided to send my child to preschool, even though I plan to homeschool.

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Creating a Color Theme Unit for Kids

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Colors are the perfect theme for a preschool theme unit! This color unit is a great idea for teaching kids the basics of colors, color mixing, and more. Whether you homeschool, need daycare activities, or are a preschool center, you'll love the ideas in this unit that use COLORS!

Is there anything more fascinating to a child than color? I’ve never met a child that didn’t love rainbows, have a favorite color they are passionate about (even if it changes on a daily basis), and love pointing out every color they see… “Look mom, that’s a green train.” “I want the purple grapes!” What better way to inspire kids with even more colorful thoughts than to use a color theme unit?

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Tissue Paper Sun Catchers

My son is totally embracing his observation phase. He loves to pinpoint color, look through objects to see the light, and examine thing carefully. So finding a project that can cater to multiple interests is always fun.

The worst part of looking for a project is that so many have a major cleanup. Luckily, this project is pretty much mess-free. No paint, no glue. While those things are great sometimes, other times, it’s nice to have a quicker, easier project that doesn’t require a big cleanup or a lot of drying time before it can be displayed.

But first, a little tiny bit of prep work. If you have an older learner, of course, they can help or do this part, but for younger kiddos, you’ll want to do the prep yourself.

You’ll want to start out by cutting a circle out of construction paper pretty much the width of your paper in diameter. For me, that meant using my circle cutter at an 8″ setting, but you can trace the circle with a saucer, freehand it, or use whatever circle cutting method works for you.

Next, you’ll cut out the center of the circle, leaving about an inch remaining for your main sun body. Since Zach and I were each doing a sun, we decided to use two different colors to allow us to alternate the sun rays, but you can use whichever color you’d like. Be sure to save the inside piece to make the rays of your sun!

Cut the center of the sun into a pizza, essentially, creating several small rays. If you’re making more than one, of course, repeat this for each of your sun centers. I decided to use a straight-line paper cutter, but scissors work, too!

You’ll end up with an assortment of triangles (well, triangles with a curved edge, I suppose).

Arrange your rays around the edge of your de-centered circle. Of course, if you are making multiple suns, you can alternate ray colors by using some of one sun’s center, and some of the other. Or, you can keep it all one color. Get creative (or ask your child’s input).

To make the actual sun-catcher part of the suns, you’ll want to cut out some clear Con-Tact paper. I found mine in the cleaning section of my local store, since people typically use it for protecting shelves instead of crafts, apparently. If you’re using a circle cutter, you’ll want to set it about 1/10th of an inch smaller than the outer diameter of your circle, so it’ll hold the rays in place without overlapping the outside edge of the circle at all.

Peel off the backing carefully and affix the paper to your sun, making sure to hold the rays in place and smooth out wrinkles in the edges.

If you aren’t ready for your child to work on the project, or if you’re preparing your suns in advance for the next day, or a large classroom full of kids, you can easily re-attach the Con-Tact paper’s protective layer to the sticky side to keep it from collecting dirt or dust until you’re ready to start the project.

To finish your prep work, cut several colors of tissue paper into small pieces. I love to keep tissue paper on hand for projects like this, but you can also recycle any tissue paper you get in a gift bag– it doesn’t have to be new or flat for this project. You’ll want to make the pieces large enough for little fingers, but small enough that you’ll fit quite a few on the sun for variation.

When it’s time, peel off the backing and let your child go to work!

You’ll find that your child may be extra careful and pick up one piece at a time…

…or your child may pile the pieces on by the handful with no rhyme or reason. A lot depends on their age, and how they typically approach a project like this, but the beauty of it is there is no wrong way to do it! Whether they’re piled on or carefully placed, the end result will be really pretty.

Sometimes, little artists find out first-hand how the tissue paper sticks to the sun!

This is a great artistic process that allows kids to carefully examine color, and practice those fine motor skills in a beautiful way.

The end goal, of course, is to make sure you’ve covered as much of the clear Con-Tact paper as possible!

Because there is no glue or paint, these works of art can be displayed immediately on the nearest window! Zach decided he wanted to hang his up himself (with a little help from mom), and then spent a very long time pointing out the specific colors he had used on his project. He was so proud of it and showed everyone who entered the house “Look! My sun!”

These suns are so much fun, and a great way to celebrate the spring season. Plus, they’re versatile enough to stay up through summer if you just can’t bear to part with them! And my favorite part of this project is that you don’t just have to stick to suns– you can always pick any shape that interests you and your kiddo, and cut it out to make a special shaped sun-catcher of your very own.

I know we will be making plenty more sun-catchers soon, because Zach just can’t get enough of showing people this project!


What is your go-to mess-free project for kids? Tell me about it in the comments below!

The Educational Importance of Planting with Kids

Kids learn so many things without realizing it. Or really, without us realizing it. Every word spoken, every activity done together, every book read, it all adds up to experiences, educational opportunities, and memories for a child. But when you take time to be intentional about what you’re teaching and really focus on the educational benefits, you’ll be amazed at how much the “little stuff” is really BIG stuff when it comes to teaching children, regardless of their age.

Growing plants together is a big educational opportunity that is very carefully disguised as fun. I can guarantee that if you’re planting with your child, they’ll have no clue that they’re learning, but they’ll be gaining valuable skills, whether they’re 3 or 13 or somewhere in between. And the best part is that now, anyone can grow things. Even if you don’t have a big garden, there are many kits and container gardening options that allow you to grow your own plants, indoors or out, and they’re generally available at a pretty affordable price. We picked up this grow kit for our big kid, featuring sweet basil and parsley, from Buzzy Seeds.

But you can think even smaller with these mini greenhouses that are perfect vegetable starters, available from the Miracle Grow kids product line. Both options are perfect for getting kids (and teens!) involved in the gardening process.

One of the big benefits that is present in gardening, especially with kits, is the thought of following directions. An older student can read the directions themselves and test their reading comprehension as they measure the right amount of water in the right temperature and do the steps in the proper order. A younger child can test their listening skills by listening to when to pour the dirt, when to pour water, when to stir, and how to plant seeds.

Fine motor skills are really worked to their limit when it comes to smaller children and planting. From accurately pouring from one container to another, to pressing the seeds in gently, there’s a lot of fine motor work going on during the gardening process. It is a great opportunity to get those fingers flexing and allow those smaller muscles to get a workout.

Observation plays a huge role throughout the gardening process. When you consider soil factors (young kids can watch the soil pellets in a kit expand, older kids can consider the aspects of the soil that make it viable for plants, and how it undergoes the change from pellet to soil), how light and weather impact plant growth, and the finished plant product as it sprouts, grows, and possibly gets transplanted, there is a lot to be observed. Even during the planting process, it’s a great time to whip out the magnifying glass and take a closer look at the things going on, from the seeds to the soil, and see how all of these parts play a vital role in the plant’s life.

Volume is a lesson that young kids learn but don’t realize they are learning. Anytime a small child pours water from one container to another, scoops rice from a bowl to a cup, or fills a cup with the contents of another cup until it overflows, kids are learning about volume and how it works. This is no different. In the same way that kids should have plenty of time to explore and experience the kitchen, it’s also good to give kids a chance to focus on gardening and how liquid plays a part in the gardening process. If nothing else, the small children are getting the hang of pouring.

Planting is also great for math and logic skills. A younger child can count seeds and consider where to place them. An older student can use spatial reasoning– how far apart is an inch? Can I imagine where to place the next one without getting a ruler, or use knowledge I already have on what an inch looks like to figure out where to place my next seed? How can I use those determinations and measurements to determine how deep to plant my seed?

Planting is an amazing sensory experience for younger children and older students alike. Sometimes, it’s important just to take a step back and really dig into the soil and dirt, feel the texture of it, enjoy the scent of it, and really get your hands dirty. Sensory experiences like that can’t be measured, but they’re infinitely important to a child’s growth and development. By introducing kids to different textures, you’re allowing them to better understand the world around them.

Plus, planting is about long-term responsibility as well as long-term results. By making sure to water and tend to the plants, you’ll reap great rewards of food, flowers, or other plant life in the process. When you make sure you’re watering the plant and caring for it regularly, giving it the long-term maintenance it needs, it’s a great way to learn about how living things take care, whether you’re applying it to how a pet also needs constant care and attention, or helping a child understand that they, as a living thing, need their own care and attention, such as inspiring grooming habits. It’s a really great way to explain that living things need that extra loving care. The best part is the benefit you’ll reap from long-term plant care. When growing food especially, it’s a great opportunity to then include it in a meal. For example, sweet basil is a great ingredient for a pizza or pasta! The hard effort that goes into growing the ingredients instills a sense of pride, and that pride makes the food taste even better.

Finally, planting is a great way to start other discussions. Whether you’re taking it as a good start to jump into books about planting, using it as inspiration to start a compost bin or other green activities, or even launching into a discussion about God’s creation, you’re able to use planting and gardening as a great starting point to many different conversations to come, which makes it an activity you just can’t pass up.

Whether you’re using a grow kit like we did, or you’re getting dirty outside, you’re going to find that planting together is a fantastic way to spend time together, a great way to relax, and just a fun experience all-around that will stick with kids in lifelong ways.

Happy spring… now get planting!


Do you tend a garden at home? And do your kids ever join you in the planting? Let me know in the comments below!

My Heart for Homeschooling: Part 2

I’ve previously talked about my heart for homeschooling in part 1 of this post. I feel like there are so many reasons that it is important for me to homeschool my son, and why a lot of other people homeschool, and it’s why I’ve felt compelled to share my reasoning here. After all, if I have a voice, I may as well work to be heard, especially when there are a lot of misconceptions out there about homeschooling.

Homeschool students have a great opportunity for building social skills. One huge misconception is that homeschooled kids don’t have social skills. Sure, there are plenty of examples out there of homeschooled students who have zero skills. But there are far greater numbers of students who have amazing social skills built in homeschooling. My brother, for example, is in competition soccer and takes improv theatre lessons. He’s built a friend group and has social skills, allowing him to be very social and have those great communication skills that are essential. There are many options for homeschooled students to get involved, whether it’s a local group of homeschoolers or an extracurricular activity to join in. Homeschooling isn’t like it used to be; with a growing number of people homeschooling their children, there is a greater number of homeschooled students to connect with, allowing huge networks of students to build, grow, and enjoy each other’s time.

Homeschool students have a lot of extracurricular options. As I mentioned above, my brother, a homeschool student, is able to take improv theatre, play competition soccer, play Minecraft on a server that is specifically for local homeschooled students, and more. Students can take art classes, music classes (both solo and in group settings, similar to a band class), drama, participate in community theatre, play sports both competitively and non-competitively, and more. There are so many options for homeschooled students to learn skills and participate with each other.

Some studies have shown that homeschooled students have better self-esteem. Not only are many homeschoolers removed from the trauma and pressure of bullying (after all, closer-knit class groups for extracurriculars and their school day being spent largely around family versus around peers allows for more close monitoring to stop bullying in it’s tracks, as well as less opportunities to allow it to begin in the first place), but they’re also spending their days in an environment that tends to foster a feeling of safety. When kids feel safe at home, and safe with their parents, they’re able to build that self-esteem in a safe environment. Not to say there aren’t horror stories out there– there are in every situation–but the majority of students who are homeschooled are able to build higher self-esteem. Not only is bullying cut, and a safe environment available, but homeschoolers also tend to learn at their own pace (and challenge themselves). By having a better grasp on their skills and by being able to get personal attention when they’re struggling, rather than being put in a remedial class or being held behind, they’re able to acquire skills without feeling like they’re a failure or having the emotional strain of not being “good enough.” Unfortunately, students who aren’t grasping material well are pushed farther behind their peers, and students who are grasping material too quickly are often slowed down, resulting in a cycle of falling farther and farther behind, culminating in peers, and sometimes even teachers, shaming them. In homeschooling, this isn’t the case. All-around, it’s easy to see why students who are homeschooled tend to have better self-esteem in a loving environment.

Homeschooling is widely accepted. Over 4% of children in America are homeschooled, and it’s growing in numbers every year. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you took all of the students in the 10 smaller states in America, you’d get the SAME number of students as are homeschooled currently. It’s a pretty big number, actually. Some universities have specific policies in place for accepting homeschooled students, even if those students didn’t earn an accredited high school degree (since homeschools are essentially unaccredited schools in many states). I went to college with many homeschooled students, and all of them were at or above my level as a student entering from public school.

Students have less access to drugs and alcohol in homeschool, and are less likely to over-indulge later. Studies have shown that students who consume alcohol before the age of 21 and are around it in a peer setting (a party, in a limo on the way to prom, at a friend’s home, even their own home) are more likely to abuse the substance later. Because families that homeschool tend to spend more time together, there’s less opportunity for a student to indulge, say, after school at a friend’s house. Homeschool families don’t really have latch-key kids, so the kids spend fewer hours home alone, with fewer opportunities to get into the wine cabinet. Don’t think private school kids are immune to this trouble, either… it actually turns out that statistically, because families who send their kids to private school tend to have access to more funds, kids are actually MORE likely to use and/or abuse substances than they would in public school… and, other studies have shown that if they are caught, they’re less likely to face serious consequences. By homeschooling, you can remove your child from an equation like that entirely, or at least severely reduce their chance of dealing with it. You can do so even more if you’re a home like mine, where alcohol isn’t even around.

There’s less violence in a homeschool situation. There’s been a lot of talk about bullying, cyberbullying, school shootings, fights, and suicide. While again, there are horror stories out there, homeschool environments are largely safer. There is a lot less risk of cyberbullying when kids are homeschooled, and parents who are involved with their children’s studies (whether they’re homeschooled or public schooled) are more likely to pick up on bullying and help stop violence in it’s tracks. Homeschooling, by nature, requires the involvement of parents, and it’s proven that kids who are homeschooled are less likely to be involved in (as a victim or a perpetrator) violence, whether emotional or physical.


I’ve got a lot more reasons for wanting to homeschool, and again, this is just a glimpse. Check out part one, and keep an eye out for part 3, coming soon.