IN MY FAIRLY new world of parenthood I know from personal experience that many organized people can often be reduced to flying by the seat of their pants in many aspects of life. That is never more true than during the holiday season - a time that demands even more planning, thoughtfulness and attention to the family's needs and wants than usual.
I'm gearing up to stay on top of what I know is expected of me this year. Here's what I am thinking about as the holiday season quickly approaches:
1. Charitable Donations: The closer our family gets to the gift exchanging events of the Christmas season the less room we seem to have in our budget. Making a charitable donation now will get this very important item off our list. This is also helpful to the non-profits as they can pre-plan the delivery of their added services during this active time of year.
2. Gifts: I have already made some decisions about some gifts I will be giving to family members so I am purchasing them now. I am doing so to continue to get things checked-off my list. We have family that lives outside of the United States and shipping can take up to two weeks to those locations, so I am beginning to think about our seasonal care-package to them.
3. Greeting Cards: At 36-years old I can be old fashioned and I still look forward to personal mail. I like to give this gift to others. Every year I send out 50-85 greeting cards to family and friends. It is never too early to confirm my address list and start considering my options for greetings.
4. Santa: If writing letters to St. Nick is part of your family’s tradition, considering asking him to send a reply this year! For over 20 years, "Santa's Helper" in Washington state has been composing personalized replies to children's "Dear Santa" letters for a nominal fee of $5. The look on our son’s face when he hears that Santa wants him to clean-up his cars or be more helpful with the morning routine is well worth the price. (Send letters & 5 bucks to: Santa’s Helper 141 Alder N.E. Castle Rock, WA 98611.)
5. Thought: Battery toys lose their pep and most toys will eventually break beyond repair. The latest technology will soon be replaced. Giving myself a little extra time to prepare for family gifts I have time to think about giving experiences as gifts as opposed to stuff. This is a priority in our family to give experiences and not stuff! A family trip to the ski slopes, the ice rink, or a fancy holiday dinner can create moments and memories beyond the life of stuff.
Even in the Last Frontier it can be difficult to avoid getting caught up in the commercialism and market driven hype that is the holidays - especially when you have kids. Giving myself a little extra time to plan a thoughtful season will hopefully keep me away from frantic stress or a less meaningful season. Start planning now.
I WAS AWAY last week. Well, that’s not completely true; I was just not in this space. Our household almost suffered a catastrophic loss when our oldest son was in a terrible car accident. He will eventually be fine but the “almost-ness” of that accident has really got me thinking about gratitude and appreciation in my life.
What if something were to happen to me and I never let my kids know how much they mean to me? Or vice versa?
Replace kids with husband/mother/father/friends and you can see that this can apply to anyone in your life. Gulp. So with that in mind I’ve been working on being MORE grateful to the people who I value in my life. I hope that SHOWING my kids how to appreciate the people in their lives will be the best way for them to learn. Because isn’t modeling good behavior the best way to teach?
1. Be There Now. When catching up with old friends, my kids or my husband I will be more present. I will NOT check my smart phone every 3 minutes, I will close my computer and have real conversations. I will schedule a time for my computer useage and it will not be when my kids are present or during down time with my husband. All of this will be to the best of my ability, because no one is perfect, right?
Smartphones are good for adorable kid/dog photos though...
2. Greetings & Salutations. I will meet each person I know and love with a hearty and glad “it’s good to see you!” or some other appropriate greeting. I want to make sure the people that mean the most to me know that I am deeply appreciative of them and that I am happy to see them.
3. Be Thankful. When someone is kind, thoughtful and helpful we will be properly thankful. A scattered “thanks!” is ok but it won’t quite cut it every time. I want my kids to see and feel me being thankful. To get us started we will being making and giving out thank you cards to all the friends who supported us during our recent upheaval.
Beautiful flowers work well, too - lovely to receive, beautiful to give...
4. Love the one You’re With. I need to make sure my kids KNOW how much their dad means to me. Spouses and significant others can definitely get the short end of the stick sometimes and I wouldn’t want my boys to think that they should treat their spouse poorly. Or, on the other hand, be the recipient of ill behavior. So ramping up my appreciation of my spouse is on the to do list.
5. The Beauty Around. This one we practice quite a bit but it’s really worth a mention, noticing and sharing the beauty of the world around us. When our kids know and love the beautiful places of this world they will have a real appreciation for them. Raising conscious kids means they won’t litter, will respect the natural places and hopefully lead others along that path too. It can be as simple as observing the clouds or watching migrating birds or rain puddles. There can be wonder in everything.
How about you? Could you inject a little more appreciation into your life on the daily?
FALL IS HERE. Unfortunately, in Alaska, fall is NOT synonymous with gorgeous leaves and long sunny warm days. By the time our calendar says it’s fall we’re only three weeks away from snow and that’s just not fair. Earlier this year I wrote a post called 10 Things to do Outside Before it Snows and one of the things to do was get out and pick some gorgeous fall leaves. If you did happen to get out, pick some leaves and get them dried, well then it’s time to pull them out. If you didn’t get leaves this year make a mental note, or mark your computer’s calendar, to get out next fall and pick some.
1. Color It! I love the look of leaves that have been colored over. It’s very simple to do, place a leaf vein side up, lay a sheet of paper over it and gently color over the entire thing. Every vein shows up, this is a great segue to a lesson on “how do trees breath” or it can simply be an art moment - no lesson needed.
2. Glue It! We took our dried leaves, an empty pickle jar and and made lovely candle holders. You can go heavy duty on the leaves and cover it completely. The other option is one or two leaves placed on each side for a spare look. Watered down glue and a paint brush make getting leaves to stick gloriously easy for even little kids. If the leaves crumble, well heck, call it "leaf glitter" and enjoy the moment.
3. Cover It! We also used jar candles and applied the same techniques from above. Simply cover the label with leaves and on around the jar as needed to make it beautiful. Voila an easy gift for someone you love.
4. Dip It! Make those dried leaves last a little while longer. Collect some candle stubs, melt them in a coffee can set inside a pan of water - NEVER MELT DIRECTLY ON HEAT! Once the wax melts carefully dip the leaves to cover, let them drip off for a moment and lay them on a piece of waxed paper to dry. Lovely and long lasting, you could use them on your Thanksgiving table.
5. Iron It! Mentioning waxed paper above made me realize we must remember to use it for this next craft. Lay a sheet flat, add a few leaves, fold the paper over and using an old iron, seal it shut - the wax paper will melt and stick to iteself. These "stained glass" pieces can be hung in a child’s window or given as gifts.
Image via kokokokids.ru
6. Build Them! Use the leaves to build simple animal shapes and use a glue stick to hold them in place. This site has an amazing collection of animals made with leaves. My kids and I have NOT taken this one up yet, but looking at it again, I know we need to.
So many fun and simple ways to use leaves in the house. My favorite way to use leaves though? 7. Let them simply be in my garden and on my grass, I’ll tell you why. When I was taking my Master Gardener's Class the State Biologist told us they are called leaves because you should leave them. I told my sons and they have never let me forgot it, when I get huffy with leaves on the grass they love to remind me.
I KNOW IT feels like you are doing your kids a favor by not making them do chores. You’re the nice parent, right? I learned the hard way, with the first boy, that kids do need to help around the house. I thought I was the coolest mom because he barely had to help. Unfortunately, it made him think he was above mere menial work. Trust me, it was a long hard battle back from that princely place BUT we have made that journey.
Scrub a dub dub, kiddos...
My mistake with my oldest made it blatantly clear to my husband and me that the next two boys had to be worked from the beginning. And they have been. They are now helpful, willing to pitch in and so pleasant to be around. Thinking about them and the reasons why chores are important made me want to share with you all our reasonings for teaching them how to pitch in.
1. To Be Needed. Everyone, no matter who they are, needs to be needed. I began to notice in my oldest son that he drifted around being mildly annoying and causing trouble when we were working. He wanted to help, but didn’t even understand that, neither did I. I wish, oh how I wish, I had figured it out earlier.
I NEED you to sweep up those toast crumbs!
2. To Help Each Other. We need help. We all do, each and everyone of us. When we can learn to say “I need help” we can finally admit we can’t do everything on our own. Letting others help us, even our kids help us, makes for lighter work. Yes, I know sometimes working with kids is like 3 steps forward and 87 back, but calm perseverance will eventually pay off. Learning to breathe deeply and count to ten is important for parents, letting kids help you will give you lots of practice. WIN/WIN!
3. To Be Useful Adults. I want my boys to set forth into the world educated in the ways of scrubbing toilets, sorting laundry, dusting, vacuuming and properly making beds. Their chore charts reflect as much. They will be great catches, like my husband, for any wonderful woman they choose to love. As they grow older they will begin lessons in cooking, too, so they can cook for themselves and for anyone else they happen to need to feed. They are also learning to care for our animals, cats, mastiff and a happy flock of hens. All of these skills will round them out and make them wonderful men in the future.
Future awesome boyfriend...
4. To Stay Busy. Kids need to be busy. If you’ve ever seen a bored kid you know the trouble they can cause. Ugh, it is not pretty. If they have a nice amount of chores to occupy them the less time they will have to cause that trouble. I am certainly NOT advocating keeping them working so they get no free time or time to just be. I AM saying that a nice block of 30 minutes of work will cause them to intensely enjoy the time when they are not doing chores.
Seriously, what kid doesn't love a feather duster?
It’s a balancing act: keeping them busy enough to be happy yet free enough to be kids.
THE THINGS I'VE learned from carving pumpkins with my children for the last 10+ years:
1. Every child needs their own pumpkin. Let their creative juices flow. They can take ownership and take pride in their finished product. Even if it does end up looking a little unpolished and unprofessional. This isn’t about perfection or winning carving contests. Of course, help them when they’re little, but they can always take a sharpie and draw their design, letting their parents do the hard work of cutting it out. Just stand back and watch their little faces light up when they see their creation come to life.
2. Don’t carve pie pumpkins. Save those little ones for pies or decorating them with pens. They may seem cute - and they are - but there’s not much room for error and larger pumpkins are easier to work with. So, when your daughter cocks her head and looks at you with those beautiful eyes, begging for a cute little pie pumpkin, just say no. I’m talking to myself here.
3. Imperfect pumpkins are perfect. My kids always liked to pick out the perfectly shaped, unblemished pumpkin. I like the warty-looking, off balance, imperfect ones. It’s a good lesson that nobody is perfect, even pumpkins, on the outside. It’s what’s inside that matters. Never mind that you’re eventually going to throw the pumpkin in the garbage once it rots or gets eaten by moose…which brings me to #4...
4. Take pictures right away. I’ll never forget the year we made intricately designed pumpkins. We were all very tired by the end of it so we decided to take pictures later, leaving them on the porch until the next day. When we went to look for them, all that was left were the stem lids. The moose had eaten them all. Our beautiful pumpkins were moose vittles. Now we had no pumpkins, no pictures, and no proof. They were beautiful. Take my word for it….
Greasy, grimy pumpkin guts!
5. Don’t throw out the pumpkin seeds! I know the “innards” of the pumpkin aren’t fun to deal with sometimes. In the midst of that slimy, stringy, globby mess are some very tasty and nutritious seeds! Pumpkin seeds are loaded with zinc, magnesium, and vitamin E, and other health-promoting antioxidants. Here’s our family’s favorite recipes. Sweet or savory, take your pick!
Savory Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat oven to 300˚
Dry pumpkin seeds well with paper towels. Even better, dry them overnight in a single layer on a baking sheet.
In a medium bowl, add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
Add dried seeds, mixing well until thoroughly covered with spice mixture. Place in a single layer on a parchment-covered baking sheet.
Bake for 20 minutes, stir seeds, then bake for 25-35 more minutes. We like our seeds very crispy and not chewy. The longer you bake them, the crispier they will be.
Sweet Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
Preheat oven to 300˚
Dry pumpkin seeds lightly with a paper towel. A little moisture is okay for this recipe.
Follow directions as above, but after 40 minutes, add additional spice mixture, sprinkling on seeds, stirring to mix well, and bake an additional 5 minutes. The additional moisture in the seeds will help the spice mixture “stick”.
IN MY HUMBLE opinion there are three things kids should be able to make with a sheet of paper. Why should kids be able to make anything from a sheet of paper? Simply put: self amusement. We expect our kids to amuse themselves to a certain extent and we don’t do video games or TV, so paper it is. Folding paper is a great way to keep busy and amuse yourself, amaze your friends, make new friends, practice motor skills, discover why precision matters and it keeps you coming back again and again. The more your kids practice the better they'll get and then they'll be teaching all their friends. It's a GREAT way to empty that office paper recycling bin too!
1. The Humble Paper Airplane. Seems so simple and easy right? Yeah, not so much, one wrong fold and your plane continually dives to the right or smashes nose first into the ground. The website Simple Paper Planes has great, easy to follow tutorials. Your kids will fold everything they can find into paper airplanes, so hide your bank statements and the deed to your house. The great part of making paper airplanes is that you can make a game out of it, like flying into a laundry basket, making micro flyers, launching them from a swing while swinging or having distance or loop-the-loop competitions. The fun never stops in our house when paper planes are en vogue.
2. Cootie Catcher aka Fortune Teller. Where would fourth graders all over the world be without their all-knowing fortune tellers? I mean seriously these things are the best! Simple folds, kind fortunes and it's good for hours of fun telling your friends' fortunes again and again.
I mention kind fortunes because if it starts as a rule that the fortunes must be nice then nasty mean things just don't enter the equation. The website Enchanted Learning has, hands down, the best tutorial I’ve found yet.
3. The Paper Boat. A bit more on the difficult side for folding BUT really super simple once you figure it out. Our 7-year old has been known to fold the entire recycling bin into paper boats and float them on all the puddles in the driveway. Yes, he grudgingly cleaned them up too. The paper boat lends itself well to playing science, too. Can you sink it? Will it sail. How long will it last? Can you put a cannon on it and make it fire? (Ok, the last one we never tried but it has been much lobbied for and firmly denied.) We have even used paper boat folding at birthday parties as an activity, then sinking with a slingshot for sport. After searching I found that this site which has a great tutorial - superclean and easy to read.
So there you go; how your kids will be entertained with paper! Next thing you know they’ll be churning butter and walking to school uphill both ways in the snow, they’re so old fashioned!
KEEPING YOUR KIDS in nice clothing can be tough on the budget. Our boys will wear anything, as long as they have something on - Split from zipper to knee? Who cares if it fits! Elbows blown out? WHATEVER! When I clothe my kids I want sturdy, dependable, brand-free and I want to be able to respect myself when I'm done shopping. No buyer's remorse. My kids simply want clothes to put on and wear until they fall off. We are working to align our goals.
1. Think Ahead. I keep an eye out for things my kids will wear next year and purchase those items whenever I find them. The clothes can easily be kept in the side of a closet or slipped under a bed in a box for later use. It's nice to open a box and have all new clothes for them as needed.
2. Get Thrifty. I hit up a thrift shop every week. I keep a list of things we can always use and buy them as needed. Once I found the motherlode of kids' jeans and didn't need to buy any for several years. Other trips have been a complete wash, but you never know until you try it.
3. Trade Party. Host a clothing swap. Invite friends with kids a little older and younger than your own. Tell them to bring nice clean items to trade. Serve a snack and get to swapping!
4. Consign It. There are consignment stores and there are consignment sales. One is a fixed location with nice used clothing. The other is a bi-yearly sale where anyone can sign up to sell their used clothes. If you sign up and volunteer you get first shopping rights and a better cut on your consigned items. I just participated in one and bought winter coats for my kids and made 100 dollars selling our old clothes. It was well worth the 1-2 hours getting my items ready to sell. There are two local consignment businesses in south central Alaska Bella49 and Hand Me Ups.
Last weekend's consignment hosted by Bella Kids in Palmer
5. Creative Patching. My kids are tough on clothes, oy! We pre-patch the back side of the knees to prevent holes and then patch when they eventually blow them out. Check out this post on Patching with a POW! for fun ideas in the realm of patching.
6. Bargain Hunt. Sales are always happening and if you time it right you can clean up on reduced price items. Again think ahead to next year and buy accordingly, your checkbook will thank you for it.
Check out Laura's new radio show "Local Eats" on Radio Free Palmer - 89.5 KVRF at 5:30 on Mondays. She'll be eating her way around the Mat-Su and sharing tips on food prep and preserving, too.
SUMMER IS GONE, dear reader, and while I hate to be a bearer of bad news, whether you like it or not our short little fall season is almost gone, too. A few more weeks is all you get to enjoy life without ice and snow and hat head. So why not revel in the those last few precious weeks and enjoy whats left of this warmer weather?
1. Bike It! The bike trails are clear and mostly clean right now, get out for one or two more bike rides before the snow flies and the sun goes away. [Bike Trails in Alaska]
2. Hike It! Most of the local hiking trails are still incredibly clear and perfect for hiking. Look for snow and ice at higher elevations, but lower climbs and hikes will be open and clear. Plus, you can't beat that gorgeous, glorious foliage right now.
3. Walk It! Lets face it lots of us have kids that just don't hike yet but they can walk! So hit up your local parks for all kinds of walking trails just right for any age kids, even stroller babies. [5 Stroller-Friendly Hikes in Alaska]
4. Park It! The local playgrounds are wonderful this time of year and just waiting for a gaggle of kids to fill them up. Hit your local playground before the snow renders them un-fun and dangerous.
5. Farm it! Check out your local farms for picking. Sure it's late in the season but the apple orchard next door JUST opened for its U-Pick business - guess where we are headed this week? [PickYourOwn.org/AK]
6. Pet it! Check out your local farms for fun. The Reindeer Farm out in the Butte has October family fun days with all sorts of FUN family ideas. What a great way to get out and enjoy one last glorious day.
7. Pick It! High bush cranberry picking is in full swing. See if you can pick enough to make cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving day! Simply follow any pectin package recipe for cranberries or even currants, the recipe will make a fine addition to your Thanksgiving table.
8. Gather It! Pick a few of each kind of leaf colorful leaf you find and tuck between the pages of a heavy book. Lay another book on top and press for a few weeks. The results? Lovely dried leaves that will look great gracing your Thanksgiving table. In a few weeks I'll be showing what you can make with all those dried leaves so make sure you gather them now!
How many mushroom fairy rings can you find outside?
9. Shroom It! Grab a few kids and head out to inspect mushrooms growing in the moist fall weather. This does not mean EAT them simply see what's out there! Hit up the local librabry and grab a copy of a mushroom book and learn to identify them. You may even know a local shroomer who will guide you through identification. Never eat any mushroom without proper research and identification!
10. Catch It! Our favorite fall game is what we call "Catch Leaf". Simply wait for a windy day and get out there and catch leaves. Thta's it! It's so much fun and the kids will love trying to beat mom and dad.
So while the sun is still shining on green grass why not get out and do something outdoors? In the middle of winter you'll remember these golden-leaved, crisp days fondly.
CRAZY WEATHER, EH? I don't know about you but the storms this past week have really kept us inside and cooped up for the day. And with winter coming, we'll have quite a few more days cooped up inside. Don't despair though! I have a list of fun things to keep a family happily busy inside for a day!
1. Plan It! Whenever bad weather holds us inside or cancels school the first thing we do is to get ready for the survival possibilities - like not having any water so we fill a pitcher, or the possibility of no toilet, so we fill the tub with water to use for flushing the toilet. My kids love to plan for inclement weather and being ready settles them. So set those busy beavers to collecting candles, filling water jugs and finding flashlights. Meanwhile make yourself another pot of coffee, you're going to need it.
2. Don't Forget the Animals. While the kids are busily preparing for the worst also remind them that the best needs preparing for, too. Of course I'm talking about any animals you have, indoors and out. Older kids can definitely head out to care for outdoor animals, but even the smaller ones can fill the cat's bowl and the dog's water dish.
3. Get Beany With It. It wouldn't be a stormy day with beans in our house. My kids marvel at how different beans turn out after cooking all day. Why not put them to work sorting beans and washing them to prep for a rainy day meal? Boil the beans for one minute, turn off the heat and soak for one hour. They can simmer the day away on the stove, filling your house with the delicious scent of dinner cooking all day long. If you're not sure what exactly to do with dried beans, check out my blog, Hey What's for Dinner Mom? for a whole bunch of recipe ideas. Be sure to save a few dried beans to compare to the cooked beans at dinner time.
4. Chores a Go-Go. A stormy day is definitely different than most but it's no reason NOT to do your daily chores. So while you nurse a second cup of coffee the kids can be sent off to do their chores. Beds still need making and if school's canceled why not send them in with the vacuum cleaner while they’re at it? Of course this is an age-appropriate chore, but my 8-year old loves to run the vacuum and I feel confident letting him do it all he wants.
5. Baking the Day Away. If you happen to have kids like mine, they crave making things and they need to be busy and, of course it has to be meaningful busy-ness. So on a day when you're cooped up why not make a few batches of cookies or muffins? I know you may not want them around because they are so munchable, but what if you had kids wrap them and freeze them for school lunches? How perfect would it be to have a bunch of lunch stuff put up in the freezer?? Brilliant.
6. Game Time. A day of inclement weather does not pass us by without someone wanting to play RISK or Battlemasters, all-out all-day games. Of course, if you have little ones, shorter and less intense games may be just what you need. They can also be included as appropriate in the bigger longer games, say for rolling dice or passing cards.
7. Movie Marathon. Sometimes you just need a good movie saga. Star Wars? Indiana Jones? Lord of the Rings? Pixar-a-thon? Whip up some popcorn and settle in for some serious screen time.
Make your own play dough with what's in the pantry!
8. Make your Fun. If you have littles why not whip them up a batch of play dough (here's a great recipe)? Really, the whole family can have a lot of fun making and playing with this sweet smelling, squishy mushy dough. Best part is it will keep for a while in the fridge so the fun can go on and on.
9. Forts and More Forts. It always seems that bad weather days bring out the fort-making in my kids. Maybe it's because by the time mid-afternoon rolls around I'm just plain tired and forts are easy - grab your biggest blankets and some chairs and you're all set. Make a fort, if it causes trouble between squabbling kids make another fort. Repeat as necessary until the warring factions realize it's MORE fun to have ONE BIG fort that a bazillion little ones. Once built, cuddle up and read for a while and snacks in forts are a definite MUST. Before you know it, the day has passed and it's time for dinner and bed.
10. Get Out In It. Just cause the weather's raging doesn't mean you can't go outside! Put on your windbreakers or snowpants and brave the elements. It's always great to feel the power of the natural elements, but, of course, be sure to take care out there.
Snow storms bring a whole different list of possibilities!
Bad weather certainly doesn't mean bad time, it can be challenging though. Keeping busy and squabble free will make your day so much easier. What do you on those kinds of days?
Laura Sampson is mom to three boys. She lives, loves and writes in the Mat-Su Valley. Find more great ideas for stormy days at her blog, Hey What's For Dinner Mom?
ELMO AND DORA are adorable and fun, no arguement here, but they are brands, too. Brands designed to get your kids hooked, keep you buying them and make corporations money. A few years ago our family decided to step away from branding for a couple reasons. The number one reason was economical - we simply wanted to save money. The other being that we wanted our family to be free to choose the things we like rather than the things corporations would like us to like. Well, it's easier preached than done, of course, as any parent knows who has also made a decision to drop something they felt was unhealthy for the family - plastics, sugar, television...
Who's up for a tree climbing party?
So, I thought that the hardest thing about being mostly un-branded would be kids parties because 99% of the party stuff available at the store is thoroughly branded. Our first un-branded party with other kids invited was a little nerve-wracking but we lived through it, and it was spectacularly fun! We've been hard at it ever since and throwing fabulous parties.
Here are few tips for throwing fun, fabulous and unbranded kids' birthday parties!
1. Theme Time. What are your kids into? Sit down a few weeks before the party to brainstorm ideas, coming up with themes like knights, race cars, karate, tea party, make-and-take, bake-and-take, movie night, holiday themes, farming and so on. You'll be surprised at what your kids will say, trust me I am the mother of a boy who asked for a Titanic party. Luckily we were able to agree on a different - more buoyant - theme.
2. Let Them Eat Cake. Skipping a bakery cake will save you big bucks and help sidestep around that branded cake with a printed picture. Older kids will be happy to pick out a cake mix, help make it and certainly proud to serve their friends. There are tons of good ideas for cakes out there to choose from and hundreds of specialty cake pans you could have fun with. Jello poke cakes are fun, castles can be made with ice cream cones, a loaf pan shaped cake can be a treasure chest, the ideas go on and on. We once had a Mad Scientist party with a Baked Alaska cake as the grand finale, FUN!
Make a treasure chest cake in a loaf pan, perfect for pirate-theme parties!
3. Decor and More. Simply put - less is more. Once we have a theme picked we decide what colors to use for balloons and streamers. Sometimes we also buy matching colors for plates and utensils, sometimes we use our plates from home. Decorate with color, it's simple and effective at creative a festive mood and there is so much you can do with a simple sleeve of tissue paper.
Image via ohhappyday.com
4. Fun's in the Bag. If you plan to have treats for kids to take home plain colored bags are readily available in a variety of colors. If you have a little or a LOT of goodies for kids make sure you provide a proper sized receptacle. We've handed out bags and markers as a party activity before, so kids can decorate their OWN bag and make it theirs. We've also used plastic cups, sand buckets, brown bags and paper popcorn style buckets for treat holders.
5. The Takeaway Treats. So you've side stepped a LOT of branded things so far but looking at party favors can be a mind boggling branded affair. Take a deep breath and turn around, the unbranded items are usually on the other side to the shopping aisle! WHEW! What you need depends on how you plan to give them out. You may simply want to hand them out at the end of your party, award as game prizes, have a treasure hunt or any other fun inventive way. Once we did the white elephant approach; I read a book and every time I read a certain word the kids got to pick a prize from a pile of thrifted goodies on the table, that was fun!
6. Game On! Whether you play traditional games or other activities this is an easy area to keep unbranded. Games can be as simple as pin the tail on the donkey to more fun, romping adventures like capture the flag. If you are doing a make-and-take crafting party you may not even need games. One thing’s for sure, kids will need to get up and run for a bit, so make sure to work that in somewhere or you will regret it. We usually begin with 20 minutes of free play and then do a quiet activity and then a raucous activity and keep that rhythm throughout the party.
Simple, imagination-filled parties can be yours! Kids may grumble a bit at first but once their imagination takes hold they will be sold and you will be, too!