What is a sensory bin?

Do you ever find yourself asking the question “what is a sensory bin?” I’m sure you see them all over Pinterest and Google but you really have no idea what they are and why people use them. Well here is a post for you – I’m going to break it all down for you and even show you how simple it is to make them at home.

What is a sensory bin, exactly? That is a common question when I tell people what I do. Well this post breaks it all down for you from the whats, hows and whys. It even includes a free printable! #sensorybins #whatisasensorybin #whatissensoryplay #sensorybinideas #whysensoryplay #whysensorybins #whatissensory

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Scissor Skills

Working on scissor skills does so much more than just plain scissor skills – if that makes sense. It helps strengthen fine motor skills which in turns help with shoe tying, writing, drawing, etc. I know it seems scary to allow a child to have a pair of scissors and a piece of paper, but I’m here to help you see that it really isn’t!

Free scissor skill printable! Did you know how many things you're working on when you're working on scissor skills at home? It helps kids strengthen their fine motor skills, hand eye coordination - so much more! Check out this post for a free scissor skill printable for kids ages 2-5.

This post contains affiliate links. What that means is if you click on the link to purchase, I will receive a small kick back from your purchase, at no extra cost to you. 

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Play Dough Mats – Alphabet

Play dough mats are a great way to manipulate dough into shapes and also learn a little bit during the process. They’re a great activity for kids who like to learn with their sense of touch. Here is a printable for you with letters of the alphabet and numbers!

alphabet play dough mats - grab your free set here!

I don’t know about you, but my kids love play dough. They love to push and pull the dough to manipulate it into shapes they like. I think most of the time they don’t even have an end game in mind and that’s ok!

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Sensory Play

As a past teacher and now a mom, I understand the importance of sensory play. Some kiddos learn best by being hands on, and incorporating sensory play is a great way to allow them to do just that – learn hands on. If you’re wondering about the importance of sensory play, read on and learn!

want more information on sensory play? Check it out here with a free sensory bin activity guide!

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Animal Action Dice

Large motor activities are so important – especially in the winter months when you feel like you’re stuck inside all day. Grab this animal action dice printable and get to moving!

Large motor activity indoors is so important - especially when it's too hot or too cold to get out of the house. Enter this animal action dice. Simple to put together (with a video to show you how) and fun for kids! Includes a blank one so you can add what you'd like. #largemotorindoor #largemotorplay #largemotor #indooractivities #indoorplay #siblingactivities #cooperativeplay #takingturns #turntaking #animalaction #animalactiondice #freeprintable

My kiddos love large motor activities and I love easy large motor activities so this one is a win/win for us. They love acting like animals (making their movements and sounds) so I figured this activity would be perfect for us on a “stuck inside” day.

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Questions to ask a Group Child Care Center

So, you’re pregnant. After you’re done accepting all the unsolicited advice (just kidding, it never ends), you start to think about who will watch baby when you go back to work, if you need to/want to go back.

By the way, wanting to go back to work is a thing, and that’s okay.

You have a few options. If you’re lucky enough to have family around and willing to help, you probably won’t end up with child care bills the size of your mortgage. You can also hire a nanny, or if you’re looking for child care, you can choose home child care or group child care.

This post will walk you through the process of finding a group child care center that works for you.

Time out for a sec – why should you listen to me? I was an assistant principal for a preschool/child care center for almost 5 years. I did tours of our school daily and was asked ALL THE QUESTIONS. Some people say “there is no such thing as a ridiculous question,” and trust me, sometimes there is. But I’m going to tell you what you should be asking! Also, at the end of this post, I have created a printable for you to take with you if need be. You can print it off and there’s a spot to write down the answers you receive.

  • Do you currently have space or do you have a waiting list? How do I get on that list? Personally, I think this is the most important question to ask! Don’t let the answer scare you away, either. If their answer is yes, time to find out how long. And just because they tell you their next spot isn’t available until 3 weeks after you need to start doesn’t mean it’s not right for you. Someone ahead of you may decide between now and then that they don’t want to go back to work, or they got a new job and the location doesn’t work anymore, or grandma decided she wanted to watch the baby. There are so many things that can change. We have also had people go with another school because they weren’t full, so they thought their baby would get more attention there. Not always the case. Sometimes there is a reason why they aren’t full. Don’t pick a school just because the timing is right.
  • What is your sick policy? This question is important for a few reasons – you want to know what precautions they take to avoid everyone else getting sick. When do they allow the child back in? What do they do if a child shows up sick? Do they wait to see if they get better before calling? Do they not let the parent leave the building without the child? Do they call parents if the child just “seems” sick or if there is an actual fever? If you have a demanding job, it might be difficult for you to leave work so you don’t necessarily want to be called for everything. Or, you have a super flexible job and you do want to be called. Most child care centers require a doctor’s note to return and the child needs to be fever free (anything above 100F is considered a fever in most places) for 24 hours without meds to return.
  • What is your policy on payment if the child is sick for an extended period of time? A lot of schools don’t have this in writing but can be flexible if your child misses 5 or more days consecutively, but this is entirely up to the school, especially if it’s not specified in the contract.
  • How do you handle discipline? You don’t want a school that will disenroll your child for biting as a toddler because this behavior is age appropriate. It’s unpleasant for sure, but it is completely age appropriate. Will they work with you to try to rid your child of inappropriate behaviors? (IE, biting at 3 years and up, hitting, etc.)
  • What is your vacation policy? I worked at one school where you had to pay half of your tuition when you were on vacation, and another where each year you get a free week if you’re gone from Monday – Friday and your weeks did not roll over to the next year. So if you don’t use it, you lose out on it.
  • Do you have yearly price increases? What percentage, typically? Most schools do, and we would have a lot of parents who said they had no idea!
  • Do you provide diapers, wipes, formula? You may also ask if they will do cloth diapers for you and how they handle sending home the dirty ones.
  • As an infant, do you follow the parents’ schedule or your own? Some child care centers will adjust baby’s schedule to accommodate the hustle and bustle of the school and some will follow yours.
  • Do infants get outside time? Some group cares will take the infants out for a stroller ride, allow them to sit and get some fresh air, maybe read a book outside. Outside time is important for babies.
  • When you move children up to the next class, do they all move together or with their birthdays? This is important because if they move children based on their birthdays, then how do they adjust to the current curriculum that is happening in the new room? Children should be moved together to cater to their curriculum and current abilities.
  • How do you handle late pick ups? Most schools have a certain amount they charge, per minute usually, for late pick ups.
  • How do you track infants’ milestones? Infant rooms should have a curriculum they follow. To some, this may sound silly. But trust me, in between all that crying, napping and bottle feeding, learning is so important!
  • When children are older, how do your teachers handle rough drop offs? Starting your child as an infant is a great start to avoid rough drop offs. They’re more common with kids that start after 18 months. However, they can still come when kids are old enough to test their boundaries. Find out how they would handle a kiddo who is having a rough drop off and ask why they do those things to help you understand.
  • Can I call to check in on my baby? When are the best and worst times to call? Running an infant room is tough work. You want to make sure they are okay with you calling, or if it easier for the teacher to call  you when they have a few minutes of downtime. You don’t want to call in the middle of 5 babies all needing a bottle at once!
  • What days are you closed? Child care centers are generally closed for major holidays, but some random ones can sneak in there for teacher improvement days so you’ll want to know if you need to make special arrangements for those days. Don’t let them sneak up on you!

Some tips for you when visiting schools….

  • Ask to see more classrooms, not just the infant room. You want a school where you feel comfortable until Kindergarten. Don’t be afraid to take a peek at what older children are doing!
  • Read the contract. Don’t just sign it and hand it over when filling out your paperwork. It’s a lot of reading, but make sure you are reading it right! Every school has different rules and you want to make sure you understand them.
  • Ask for a daily sheet (if they have them) or an example of how you will know how your child’s day went. A lot of schools now have apps where you can read about their day on your phone. Ask to see an example of that so you know how you will be filled in about their day.
  • Ask for references, specifically people who have been there a long time. They have been through lots of rooms, teachers, and kids.
  • Decide if you want a center near your house or near your work. If it’s near your work, it’s easier to get to if something should happen or your child is sick. If it’s near your house, your child will have less time in the car.

I hope this is helpful, and if you have anything to add, please leave it in the comments section below! Here is your printable I promised 😉

What Your Wife Really Wants For Mother’s Day

Are you wondering what your wife really wants for mother’s day? Well wonder no more, my friend. I have asked some real life, tired, over worked mothers what they want – and I’m sharing the “secret” with you.

What your wife really wants for mother's day. Hint - it isn't flowers!

Anniversaries, Birthdays, Christmas…All of these holidays are to celebrate something, right? Mother’s Day is no exception.

Being in all these mom groups on Facebook, I feel like every single year on Mother’s Day, someone is posting saying they were not celebrated on Mother’s Day. They got nothing.

Yep, you heard that right. NOTHING. When you have small children who don’t know how to express their gratitude (or simply don’t have the money or means to shop), as the partner, you need to step in.

Every year when I read these posts I am baffled. Baffled that there are men out there who do not celebrate their wives/girlfriends on Mother’s Day. If this is you and you are reading this right now, shame on you.

These women made you a father for those kids you love so dearly. These women sacrificed their bodies to become a mother for these littles. They worry all day about them and they bust their asses to be the best mom they can be.

Everyone loves to be appreciated. So I reached out to my mom friends and asked them….What (attainable) thing do you really want for Mother’s Day?

I have compiled some of the best non-material (and material) gifts. What you do with the information is on you. I am here to help 😉

What your wife really wants for Mother’s Day

  • Sleep – A pretty popular one was simple – just let her sleep in. If that means you have to sleep on the kid’s bedroom floor so you can intercept them climbing into bed with mom, then so be it. Whether your wife is a working mom or SAHM, sleeping in is a thing of the past! Maybe even take the kids out of the house early in the morning. Treat them to breakfast (but make sure you bring some home for her!)
  • No Responsibilities – One mom suggested she wants to do their regular outings like they normally do on the weekends, but she doesn’t want to make the plans or pack the diaper bag. She wants her husband to do it all. This idea got the biggest reaction from our group of moms. Someone also said to just spend the day with them – she feels her husband doesn’t spend any time with her and her son.
  • Do It Yourself – In relation to this one, lots of other moms said they want a day (if you’re feeling extra nice, a whole weekend) where no one needs them to tell them what to do. You finish eating? Wash your dishes. Dirty clothes on the floor? Put them in the hamper or just do the laundry.
  • Silence – alone time. Movie by themselves, shopping alone, whatever. Feeling brave? Take the kids out for the whole day. Not just until nap. The whole dang day. And don’t call her to ask her questions. Just figure it out.
  • Other mothers – Moms don’t want to have to worry about other mother’s Mother’s Day plans. Split up your weekend and spend Saturday with the other mothers.
  • Material Gifts
    If your wife’s love language is gifts, here are some ideas for you…
  • Pampering – Spa day, manicure, pedicure, massage. Or all of the above. Send them away for the day and do all the planning for her.
  • Jewelry – The popular theme with jewelry was child related jewelry. So, stackable rings with the kids’ names on them, bracelets with their names, necklaces with their names. Google will be your best friend.
  • Cleanliness – Clean the house. If you don’t trust yourself, spring for a cleaning lady. We just want a day where we don’t have to clean. Or lift a finger, really. Also, a few of the ladies wanted a clean car.
  • Family photos – Moms are usually the ones to schedule these so if you take the initiative, that would be so much more meaningful.

Bottom line, put some thought into it. And involve your kids when you can (handmade cards, painting on a canvas, whatever). Speaking of which, here is a cute printable you can give your kids. Ask them the questions and fill it out for mom. I promise, she’ll smile.

 

 

Lazy Mom Cleaning Hacks

(This post contains one or more affiliate links)

I am lazy. AF. During the day, the last thing on my list is cleaning. I’d like to say it’s because I spend so much time with my children that I just can’t bother with it. Truth is, I just hate it. I do the necessary things – sweep the floor when things are getting stuck to my feet, vacuum under the kitchen table when Reagan can muster an entire meal from the “crumbs” (I miss my dog), laundry when Dylan has to break into his whitey tighties, clean the toilet when….I’ll spare you the rest of that one.

I do have a few cleaning hacks that I use so I reached out to my Facebook group of moms and asked what their hacks are. Because let’s be honest – we all have at least one. AT LEAST!

I compiled them for you in a nice little list (you can print it out at the end, too.)

Cleaning Hacks to Keep Life Mostly Under Control
(You see what I did there?)

  1. Sprinkle baking soda in the garbage can (and diaper pail) before putting in the new garbage bag, but after you take the full one out.
  2. Essential oils in the air filter for your house to drown out the smell of stinky kiddos/animals.
  3. Put the toilet bowl cleaner in the toilet bowl before cleaning anything. Do your other cleaning, them come back and do the toilet. It has sat there for so long that it has already done most of the cleaning for you. So much less scrubbing.
  4. Baby wipes. You’d be amazed at how well they clean.
  5. Take a bath with baking soda – good for you, good for the bathtub.
  6. Fill one of these bad boys with 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 dish soap. Keep it in the shower and clean the shower while you’re showering. Mind. Blown.
  7. Clean your bathroom mirror and/or counter while you’re brushing your teeth or swishing with mouthwash.
  8. Dryer sheets on the back of a fan to bring a fresh scent into the room.
  9. After cooking something in the microwave with water, wipe away the grime and caked on food with a cloth right after you take out the food. The steam from cooking the food helps loosen up the yuck.
  10. And the obvious – cleaning lady! Treat yourself!

Download and print the list here.

Are you looking for laundry specific hacks? Check out Keri’s post about Life Without Laundry.

Happy “cleaning!” 😉

Sensory Bin Ideas – All From The Dollar Store

Sensory bins are our go-to in our house. They’re so easy and they keep your kids so busy! Bonus – they can also be very inexpensive.

Sensory bins are life.

The Dollar Tree is also life. That is always my go-to when I need stuff (that they sell). My friends usually come to me first when they wonder if The Dollar Tree sells something in particular. What can I say? I’m cheap and everyone knows it.

I did a post a while back with sensory bins. I went through the aisles of The Dollar Tree and grabbed anything I could find that I thought would be good in a sensory bin. Thus, my first sensory bin post was born. And I can’t look back on it anymore because it makes me so sad to see D’s chubby little toddler hands! WAHHHH!

I also did some sensory bottles for the babe when she was tiny. We actually still use them!

You can also find the bins from The Dollar Tree – this is what I use

I had on my list to make a big giant list of all things sensory (and you can download the printable list at the end) so people can keep it on them and take it out when you need to. It’s a whole list of sensory bin ideas. You can take anything from column A (fillers) and add it to anything in column B (tools/toys). And they are all available at The Dollar Tree! (disclaimer, they are all available at MY Dollar Tree in Villa Park, Illinois) 😉

Keep your kids busy and get some quiet time for yourself! Download my sensory play activity guide now!

Here we go!

Column A

*Decorative shred
*Sand
*Rocks/pebbles
*Balloons
*Crepe paper
*Buttons
*Cut up drinking straws
*Pipe cleaners
*Tissue paper
*Rice
*Pasta
*Dirt
*Clean mud (shredded bar soap, torn up
toilet paper and water)
*Water beads
*Shaving cream (will need new each time)
*Hair gel
*Popcorn kernels
*Dry beans
*Wrapping paper
*Salt (table, sea or
Epsom)
*Play-doh
*Tinsel/garland
*Battery powered Christmas lights (seasonal)
*Pom poms
*Fake leaves (seasonal)
*Feathers
*Easter grass (seasonal)
*Marbles (NOT FOR LITTLES!)
*Pony beads (NOT FOR LITTLES!)
*ABC beads (NOT FOR LITTLES!)
*Raffia cord
*Ribbon
*Cotton balls
*Bird seed
*Foam shapes/letters
*Oatmeal
*Construction paper
*Soapy water
*Fake snow
*Coffee grounds
*Dry cereal
*Baby oil
*Yarn
*Googly eyes
*Frozen veggies

Column B (tools/toys)

*Fake flowers
*Measuring cups
*Measuring spoons
*Cars
*Spatula
*Silicone pasty brush
*Serving spoons
*Nesting bowls
*Fork/knife/spoon (play versions)
*Plastic food
*Chalk
*Kid scissors
*Cups
*Party favor cups
*Magnet letters
*Fake money
*Stickers
*Plastic bugs
*Plastic snakes
*Easter eggs (seasonal)
*Rubber ducks
*Ice cubes
*Plates
*Baby bottles
*Socks
*Tweezers
*Toothbrushes
*Toothpicks
*Small ceramic pots (seasonal)
*Gardening tools (seasonal)
*Potato masher
*Sand toys (seasonal)
*Large blocks
*Gardening tools (seasonal)
*Superhero/Disney figures
*Dinosaurs
*Funnels
*Whisk
*Sponges
*Cookie cutters
*Small plastic storage containers
*Slotted spoon
*Tongs
*Water balloons (seasonal)
*Cleaning brushes

If you’re ready for more education at home activities, you can find them here.

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I had way too much fun creating all of that! Use your noggin when it comes to things that are age appropriate, alright? alright. Have fun!