Author Archives: Modern Mama

About Modern Mama

A local mom who loves to explore the world with her son, while discovering new tips and tricks to enrich his life with food, activities and experiences.

Backyard Fun: Make a Balance Beam

photo(5)If my backyard could talk, it would shout “Oh boy oh boy!”  You may ask “why?”  Basically because it is all set up for boys to have adventures.  With trees for climbing, bushes for hiding and lawn for running, the backyard is fully equipped.   But even I wanted to add some more features to this playful paradise.

So, some days the boys and I will build impromptu teepees, fairy villages and volcanoes.  But the other day, my husband had an idea.  He built something totally fabulous for the boys.  With three pieces of wood and a few nails, our backyard now boasts a balance beam!  This new feature is simply fabulous in every way.  It’s good for about ten minutes of active play, but heck, the boys have so much fun stepping on it, off of it and trying to balance.  Who knew three pieces of wood would prove to be so useful!

What are your favorite ways for sprucing up the backyard for kid play?  I’d love to hear!

Mother Nature’s Toy Store

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Everyday, my boys and I check out a house that’s being built at the end of our street.  With diggers, cement mixers and tons of interesting gadgets, the site provides an endless source of entertainment and learning.

So, I came up with this idea that the boys could have their own “construction zone” at our house.  We gathered rocks, small pieces of brick and sticks.  The boys picked out a construction zone where they wanted to build.  Then, since the ground was a bit hard, I dumped out a bag of potting soil.  They’ve since spent hours building with these materials.  Putting their diggers to use, they’ve moved things around bit by bit.

With their imaginations running wild, Bobby started singing the Bob the Builder song, CJ hummed along.  Their sweet song was music to my ears.  Pure mommy bliss.

With two active boys, I’ve learned that the best toys are practically free.  More than anything, they’d prefer to play with sticks and rocks than nearly anything else.  It’s amazing how much they enjoy mother nature’s toys!  So the next time your wee ones want to hit the toystore, think about hitting mother nature’s toystore.

Foolproof tips for a Fabulously Fun Bday Bash

With two boys, my oldest being 4, I have now figured out the recipe for a fabulously fun birthday bash.  It seems there are a few ingredients that are key for the wee ones.

First, there’s the theme.  For the toddler years, my husband and I picked the themes based on the boys’ interests (trains, brown bear, race cars).  Now, in the preschool years, Bobby is able to pick his theme.  This year it was superheros.  So, everything from the food to the activities tied back into the theme.  Thank you to Tattered and Ink for permission to use her fabulous superhero themed labels!2013092895102817

Second,  age appropriate activities.  For my son’s, third birthday which was pirate themed the kids went on a treasure hunt and dug up ole pirate Davy Jones in the sandbox.  For the fourth birthday, I (well truth be told, my husband) turned the backyard into a superhero training area.  With balance beams, buildings (i.e. wrapped boxes decorated like buildings) to climb on around the yard, and target practice (water guns and balloons with villains taped on them), there were things for the active kiddos to do.

Third, have fun with decorations!  A birthday party is an excuse to get creative and to engage the kids.   There are tons of ideas online for things to do and easy ways to decorate.  The best part is adapting these ideas to your own tastes.  For example, for the superhero theme, tons of blogs show the idea of making a skyline.  With numerous ways to do it, I decided to do it with supplies I had on hand. Plain brown packaging paper saved the day. The food table had the backdrop of a sky that my boys and I had painted (on the brown paper), signs of words (pop, bang, wham) that were also painted by the boys and Superman suspended by fishing line soared through the sky.  And, then the buildings were wrapped boxes that would have just gone to be recycled.  photo(3)

A themed centerpiece works as well.  For the pirate party, there was an ocean of jello upon which pirate ships made of rice krispy treats boasting paper sails set sail.  The superhero party had sheets of kryptonite made from rock candy surrounded by villains.  (Thank you to Sugarhero for the base recipe).

Fourth, a simple menu. To make things easier on game day, a simple menu cuts down on prep.  For a light lunch, sandwiches, fruit, a couple of salads and a kid friendly snack work well.  In photo(4)addition, kid sized snack holders are a hit! Whether it’s a bowl of crackers with tiny dixie cup cups for scooping or paper cones filled with treats, kids love have fun carrying around their own booty.

Fifth, a fantabulous dessert. Being a self proclaimed sugar addictIMG_2388, this is one thing that I love to make.  Figuring out how to make a cakes look like a race track, baby bear or batman symbol has been quite the experience.  Luckily there are tons of ideas on-line. and, it makes me wonder how our mothers’ did this without the internet.  For the batman cake, I ventured into the realm of fondant.  Yes, I was a bit apprehensive at first wondering how it would turn out.  But at the same time I was completely stoked to have the chance to make something that looked absolutely professional.  And, it worked!  Here’s the recipe I used.

Lastly, flexibility is key.  Accept the fact that not everything will go as planned.  I could give you story after story of things that didn’t go as planned like a balloon drop that didn’t drop.  At the end of the day, these things don’t matter as all that matters is your birthday star has a wonderful day surrounded by those who adore him or her.

Camping with Kids – 5 Things to Bring Along

campAs my last post emphasizes, I am now a fan of camping with my kids.  The boys love it, I love it, even our dog, loves it.  That’s not to say it’s not a butt-load of work, which it is.  But at the end of the day being out in nature without the distractions and conveniences of home provides a unique time to create memories.

Here’s my list of five things to remember to bring.

flashlights
glow sticksjiffy pop
harmonica
silly ghost stories

From the flashlights to the ghost stories, each of these things enhances our trips. For example, the glow sticks became the vehicle for Bobby to put on a light show.  How he loved seeing them dance in the dark.  The jiffy pop was more of a distraction, but a fun one.  And, of course the ghost stories told around the fire usually involving two superheros who scare the ghosts away.  That’s right – Bobby and CJ were the heroes –  hopefully will be cherished for years to come.

A New Approach to Pottytraining – Camping

camp

For those of you who’ve known me for awhile, you’d think that I’d be the last person to go camping or look forward to doing so.  It’s one more example of how kids have changed me. (in a good way).  It took awhile for me to muster the courage to camp with the two boys, but all in all it was absolutely worth it and now I’m (and they’re) hooked.

We combined a camping trip with potty-training which was a gamble.  Turns out it worked out well.  My nearly four year old has been reluctant to potty train.  For months we’ve been trying, with “potty treats” displayed on the mantle as motivation including a glass vase full of lollipops.  Having tried nearly every trick in the book, it was time for a new approach (and less sugar).  Something drastic.  It was time to pull out the big guns.

Before the trip, my husband and I explained that big boys had to wear underwear camping.  Bobby seemed up to the challenge.  With tons of extra clothes for him and the potty (and a few back-up pull-ups) we were ready to go.  Bobby did extremely well the first day (none). Then the second day was not as successful, which really didn’t matter.  The point was the trip represented a change.  From then on, Bobby was in big boy pants.  So, all in all it seems to have worked.

We’re still working on that number two though, and I’m hoping it will come with time.  I’d love to hear what worked for you.

What’s in your backyard?

Fun with Sheets!

of Women and Wine

teepee

Today was one of those days when after a morning adventure down at the Sonoma County Regional Park, the boys just wanted to explore the backyard.  They found some pretty long sticks.  In an attempt to keep them from sword fighting, I asked the boys if they wanted to build something.  I already knew that the boys would want to do this as both of them love building anything.  Inspired by a friend who just built a teepee for a party they’re throwing, I thought about recreating a mini version for the boys.

The entire process was fun and a reminder of why life out here in the country is so fabulous.  After finding the long sticks, the boys helped hold up the sticks while I tied them together with green rope.  Wrap it up in an old sheet secured with clothespins, and voila – a cozy spot where…

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Pick a Pattern

patterns

Mornings around here are magical.  The boys do so well.  On those rare days when both boys get to relax at home in the morning, our day usually goes something like this.  Breakfast, active time to expend that boy energy, snack and then an inside project, puzzle or activity.   So this morning after our exploration down the local trail discovering creatures, caterpillars and chickens, and a nice snack, the boys were ready to dive into something more.

Having had a bin of lacing beads around for a year that have provided little interest, I decided to try something new and create sheets of pattern puzzles for Bobby to solve.  Basically, I took sheets of paper and drew out patterns based upon the beads that I already had.  If you want to try this, but don’t have time to make your own pattern sheets, rest assured that you can buy them online .

Bobby then was able to solve the pattern.  First, he was tasked with matching the bead to the pattern.  Then, I asked him to continue the pattern.  This second part was more difficult for longer patterns, but he was able to figure it out.  In fact, he ended up wanting to draw the color of the bead on the paper first before placing the bead in sequence.

In addition to providing a fun and challenging activity, the patterns teach concepts that are fundamental to learning math.   So, I encourage you to pick a pattern and let your kids have fun figuring it out.   You can use pretty much anything from beads, to hotwheels and legos.  Get creative!

For those tough days…

Here’s one parenting resource that is extremely helpful.  Check out Hand In Hand Parenting.  I had the pleasure of attending one of their seminars on dealing with emotionally charged kids.  The tools they talked about using as a form of discipline were extremely loving and seem to work (most of the time).  For example, check out their strategy to curb aggression with the “vigorous snuggle”

Sink or Float

With the summer heat comes extra time to spend outside, of course incorporating water as much as possible.  But there is only so long that a baby pool, water table and sprinklers will capture the attention of my boys.  So, I’ve been coming up with some fun games to prolong the fun.  We’ve done all sorts of things from building ramps between the water table and pool to practicing to fish.

But one game has stood the test of time around here.  We call it sink or float.  Wanna play? Here’s how.  First, we went on a hunt for objects around the yard.  CJ pulled a little red wagon which not only kept him engaged but also proved to be most photohelpful. Then both boys picked up various objects like rocks, leaves, moss – oh and their favorite — sticks.

Once all items were collected, we went to go test out to discover which ones would sink or float.  Before putting an item in the water, Bobby would guess whether it would sink or float.  Then he or CJ would toss it in (or slide it down the ramp). To build a ramp, just get some handy dandy hotwheels track.

You should have heard the cheers when Bobby’s guess was right.  Not only does this simple game provide loads of fun, but it also is an easy way to start talking about buoyancy .

Now, my boys are trained so that when they see the baby pool they start searching for materials to test out in it.

making memories & mini muffins

This afternoon, I picked up my boys early from school just so we could spend some special time.   After naps, we made some zucchini mini muffins.  From start to finish, it was such a joyous activity.   Making the batter was just plain fun.  For starters, I will always remember – Bobby’s gleeful dumping of everything into the bowl.   And, his radiating smile of accomplishment.  Especially with the flour, which when it spilled all over the counter provided a nice opportunity for controlling me to let go.  After all, who cares if the flour spills?

Then, CJ playing with the muffin tin liners – happily sorting them from spot to spot.   It was just one of those moments that I’ll remember forever, like reading stories and singing them songs as they enter dreamland.  Motherhood is surely god’s greatest blessing.  And, this mama is so eternally grateful.

For those of you who want to try the zucchini banana mini muffins, here’s the recipe.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line muffin tin.  Mix butter and sugar until creamy.  Add vanilla, salt, baking soda,  Add zucchini and bananas.  Add eggs and cinnamon.  Then add flour.  Mix until blended.   Check after 15 minutes.  Done when the toothpick comes out clean.  Enjoy the muffins but more importantly savor the memory.

adapted from King Arthur Flour‘s Heavenly Healthy Banana Bread available at kingarthurflour.com