Monday, November 30, 2009

Curing the Holiday Gimmies

With the holidays fast approaching and more and more on the " to- do " list, pausing and planning what you really want to happen may make a lot of sense.

Think about what is most important to you, time, memories or another new thing. Ask your children what they really want. Most toddlers are in the "me, here and right now", preschoolers and up, over time, can be taught the difference between "need" versus "want". Be forewarned, this will take time, but it can be mastered if you consistently talk to your child when the "I wants" are happening. Advertisers are paid to make us think we need what they are selling. Keep the remote handy - when commercials come on mute them, ask your child what they think the benefits or the negatives would be from owning the item. Ask them to tell you what they think it would cost, then try to share with them the actual cost.

When running your holiday errands, pre-plan your list and stick to it. Plan a time to shop and make sure that includes someone to watch your children for you. Tackling the "I needs" on future shopping trips may be easier on all of you than trying this during the holiday rush. When you are out shopping with the kids, acknowledge and restate their demand, empathize, then firmly redirect or distract your child's attention.

If you don't have family meetings, consider starting them, talk and share about what you enjoy, don't enjoy and try to include one favorite "to do" from each family member this holiday. A simple way to do this may be asking each family member what food item they want included in the meal. Continue to build your families traditions, which may mean changing some of your old ones. Instead of focusing on all the "I wants" on the lists, slow everything down and focus on a reasonable amount of requests. Be creative, there are usually ways to meet each of the requests if you take time to think it out - and that doesn't mean running to the store or computer to meet the demand.

Before bundling up the wee ones and dragging them on errands think about what you want your kids to remember after the holidays.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Have Your Own Winter Workshop! Part II

With Thanksgiving this week the kids are sure to be home and looking for something to do. Try these great seasonal crafts; this week learn about creating your own easy to make reindeer ornaments!

1. Popsicle sticks are an absolute must in this craft, and you will need 3 to create one craft.

2. Take two sticks and create a basic "V" shape (glue the bottom of the "V")

3. Then take the third stick and place it at about a 1/3 of the way from the top of the "V" so it overhangs, almost like an upside-down "A". Simply use Elmer's glue wherever the sticks meet.

4. Once it is dried, use brown paint over the entire thing. (You could also do this to all the sticks individually before gluing, it is up to you!)

5. Take out the goggly eyes and place them a little under the overhanging stick.

6. Then take a pom-pom for the nose and voilia! You have a reindeer!

7. The final step is just to take a piece of ribbon/yarn/fishing line so that you can proudly hang your ornament; a good place to glue the ribbon is in the back, above where the overhang is.

Also don't forgot to have your child sign his or her name on the back in a Sharpie, along with the year so you will never forget making this fun keepsake! You can also be creative with this project, add glitter, bows, other paint colors, whatever you want- the most inportant thing is to have fun!

Another cool ornament is one you can make from used holiday cards! It is a great way to recycle last year's holiday cards, after all you want to save them but dont really know what to do with them. This way you not only recycle but you are creating a fantastic ornament made from cards from friends and family, making it all the more special and personalized.

1. First cut the fronts from the cards, the more varied the cards the better your ornament will be!

2. Once you have the fronts of all the cards you want to use you can then start cutting the fronts individually: you want to cut the card into 5 strips about 1/2-3/4 in wide. A way to get the kids involved is to have them use a ruler and mark where each card should be cut, a great and fun way to learn about counting!

3. After all the cards are cut out stack them into piles, then have the kids go through and mix the pieces up- you want a mismatch of pieces!

4. Then using a hole punch, punch holes in the both the top and bottom of all the card pieces.

5. Next using a brad, place and secure though all the card holes you have made.

6. Now fan out the card pieces, until it creates a sphere shape.

7. Lastly tie a string to the top brad and there you go!

You can now hang your sphere of holidays cards anywhere and it will look fantastic! Maybe in the window there the light can peek through!

We hope you enjoy trying out these crafts with your family, check back in two week for our last Winter Workshop blog!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Creative Ways to Give Back

There is nothing more satisfying than donating your time to enrich the lives of others. Just ask local volunteer Bill McCarthy who has dressed up in costume and dazzled families at Museum events for years. Over the years Bill has donned too many costumes to recount them all. Each costume carefully planned out and accessorized perfectly to bring the character to life. Perhaps you remember Bill as Father Time, Ben Franklin, an English chimney sweep, or maybe Mr. McGregor from Peter Rabbit.

One of Bill's favorite costumes over the years was the English chimney sweep he portrayed one year for the New Year's Eve Gala. Bill was the most cheerful chimney sweep you had ever met as he stood on stage handing out gold coins to the kids, helping them ring in the New Year. It is easy to tell from the grin on his face that he is having just as much fun as the kids, simply by volunteering his time and giving back to his community.

When it comes to giving back there are many alternatives to writing a check. You can't put a price tag on donating your time and creativity to a good cause. You could be creative like Bill and volunteer to dress up and entertain children at a local event or hospital.

Or, maybe you would like to get the kids involved and volunteer as a family. There are many opportunities out there for families to teach their children the value of giving back to the community. How about helping out the local food pantry during these tough times. At your next birthday party ask everyone to bring a canned good item. Collect all the canned goods and drop them off at the food pantry. You could also host your own winter coat drive. Spread the word to family and friends that this year you will be collecting old coats to donate to a local homeless shelter. The coat drive is a win, win situation. Not only are you helping someone in need stay warm this winter, you are also helping family and friends clean out old coats that no longer fit and make room in their closet for new coats. If your family enjoys the outdoors try volunteering to clean up a local park or walk dogs at a local animal shelter. Perhaps you could host a bake sale, yard sale, or lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to a local charity.

By giving back to local causes not only are you helping those less fortunate you are also helping your own family as well. Giving to a local charity helps make our community a better place by providing goods and services to local people who may not otherwise have access to them. When we raise the standard of living for the least among us we raise our own standard of living in return.

Not only does volunteering give you a personal sense of accomplishment, it is also beneficial to your physical and emotional health. Studies show that people who volunteer live longer, are more mobile, have lower rates of depression and fewer cases of heart disease than people who do not volunteer. For more information click here. Helping others really does make people happier and healthier, it's good to be good! For more ideas on how to volunteer in your community visit the PBS website click here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Have Your Own Winter Workshop! Part 1

Halloween was only a few weeks ago, but it's already time to start thinking about holiday season! Before you know it you will be in a whirlwind of holiday parties, recitals, visiting and of course those dreaded trips to a crowded mall. So this year, while there is still a little time left before the craziness of the season starts, take a look at some fun ways you can spend time with your family and enjoy the holiday season! Have your own "Winter Workshop" at home! Put your favorite holiday CD, a festive sweater (and maybe a smock over that! and prepare for a day of family fun, which will be educational, low-cost and environmentally friendly!

First up- holiday cards! There are so many ways to make your own cards! Simply buy basic blank cards, in any color- you can find them at local stores like Target and A.C. Moore. One fun way is to use potato stamps! Easy to make but adults definitely do the cutting!

1. First cut a potato in half.
2. Next draw out a design in marker on the potato- such as stars, snowflakes etc,
3. Then using a knife carefully cut away the excess potato until you are only left with the shape you want.

4. Now let the kids dip the stamps into paint and let them design the plain cards however they like! By making the cards themselves it create a truly unique cards that friends and family
would love to have!

Another, less messy, way of using plain cards is to use office supplies! Yes, office supplies! For instance creating a tree on the card front is both easy to make and made of things you can find around the house.

1. For the tree itself use round green color coding labels, easily found at Staples (and if you dont have green stickers you can spray paint it green or use another color, be creative!). You can also have a counting lesson here too, by starting the tree with one sticker, then the next row two, then three and so on.

2. Once the shape of the tree is done decorate it with reinforcements and smaller 1/4 in color coding circle sticker labels (both also found at Staples.).

3. And lastly top the tree off with a star sticker! Using office supplies as decorations may sound funny at first, but it very budget friendly and really lets you stretch your creativity!

A great card to make is the "Santa" card. Here you will want to buy red card stock, available at craft stores such as A.C. Moore. (it is too late this year but after Christmas/Valentine's Day sales are great times to buy this at a discounted price.)

1. What you want to do next is make a "belt." You will also need sticker paper (found at Staples) and a can of spray paint in both black and gold. Once you spray the paper let it dry.
2. Have the kids cut out a rectangle the width of the card, remove the backing and stick to the card at the middle.
3. Then on the gold paper have them cut out a square, but you may want to cut another, smaller square inside the bigger square for them; then remove the backing and stick over the block of black- thus creating a belt!
4. Using some of the white sticker paper you have not painted cut out a fun shape;
three of the sides will be straight and line up with the bottom and width of the card. The last part however, make a fun wavy shape to create fur at the bottom of Santa's coat.
5. Lastly you want you can add three black round stickers as buttons! and there you have it, a simply card that looks awesome!

Another great way to use those potato print stamps is to create your own wrapping paper. Yes, it sounds like this could be hard, but really nothing could be easier, promise! Simply go to a craft store and buy a roll (or rolls if you like) of craft paper, 30 in x 15 feet is a good size.

1. At home lay out the craft paper on the table; now you can either leave it plain or paint it a background color is you prefer. If you paint it make sure to let
the paint dry. Then the fun can start!
2. Bring out those potato stamps and let the kids loose! Have them
stamp in whatever paint color they want, using whatever shape they want! There are no rules except to have fun and be creative. Once it is dry you will have a unique wrapping paper that you can truly say is one of a kind!

We hope you have fun doing some, or all!, of these crafts! Look for a new holiday blog in two weeks!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Budget Family Friendly Ideas for All Seasons!!

The South Coast of Massachusetts offers two tucked-away gems of places that can provide hours of fun for kids of all ages.

The first is the Lloyd Center for the Environment, in Westport MA. Their nature center is on a beautiful stretch of Westport Beach and provides 5 miles of hiking trails and a broad range of animal exhibits, programs and seminars.

Not to be missed is their observation deck, which was named one of 15 "special places" in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. From there you can see Cuttyhunk and other of the Elizabeth Islands, ospreys and migrating birds in flight, harbor seals basking in the sun (during the winter) and much more.

A salt water touch tank lets the kids touch crabs, sea stars and other local sea creatures. A variety of aquariums provide appropriate coastal environments and information on local fish, shellfish and other invertebrates.

While the Lloyd Center’s primary focus is on students and teachers in grades K-8, younger children will also enjoy a visit there. Best of all, there is no charge to enjoy the center or the wooded trails, but a donation is always welcome!

According to their website, the Demarest Lloyd State Park “is one of the best kept secrets in the Massachusetts forest and park system”. I would heartily agree, since on a recent sunny Sunday when the line to Horseneck Beach stretched for miles, this pristine park with saltwater beach was just moderately busy, with lots of available parking and no lines of traffic to get in.

Perfect for families with young children, the surf is calm, the waters shallow and because of this the water temperatures are delightfully warm and agreeable. Plan to picnic in the shady groves, nicely equipped for you with tables and barbecues. You could spend the entire day here, and the kids will busy themselves exploring in the tidal pools, building sand castles. Bring a nature guide and see if you can spot egrets, herons, ospreys, terns and hawks overhead. The beach is a real winner!

Contact info:

The Lloyd Center for the Environment, Westport Ma

430 Potomska Rd
Dartmouth, MA 02748


Demarest Lloyd State Park,
Barney’s Joy Road, Dartmouth, MA
508-636-3298 (summer)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Brewing Up Some Halloween Fun!

Friday was an excellent day to "drop- in" to the museum! The got milk? team stopped by to share their favorite chocolate milk recipes with us and snap some milk mustache photos.

Local processors HP Hood and Midland farms provided chocolate milk and chocolate milkshakes for everyone to enjoy and get their chocolate milk mustache going on! There were also sticker mustaches for those who didn't delight in the chocolate milk deliciousness. Once everyone's chocolate milk mustache was in place, milk mustache photos were taken in a spooky and fun Halloween setting.

While waiting for pictures to print, the got milk? team handed out canvas goodie bags to all the kids. Goodie bags were stuffed full of got milk? t-shirts, fun Halloween sticker tattoos, chocolate milk recipes for moms and dads, and even chocolate milk to take home. It doesn't get much better than that!

We all know that sweets are at the heart of the Halloween fun. Serving chocolate milk gives moms the opportunity to make the Halloween season a little bit healthier with out being booed by the kids. Drinking chocolate milk, the official drink of Halloween, is a tasty way to build strong bones that no one will find scary.

"Chocolate milk is a nutritious alternative to sugar-filled sodas and fruit drinks that contain little or no nutrients," said Dr, Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, and author of Mommy Calls, Dr Tanya Answers Parents' Top 101 Questions about Babies and Toddlers. "Chocolate milk provides the same nine essential nutrients as white milk and is packed with the calcium and vitamin D kids need to build strong bones."

Here's a spooky fact: two out of three kids fail to get enough calcium and studies show that kids who drink chocolate and other flavored milks have higher calcium intakes than those who don't. They also tend to drink fewer sugary sodas and fruit drinks and are more likely to be at a healthy weight compared to kids who drink little or no milk.

Visit for more healthy Halloween tips, to find festive recipes - such as Goblin Good Rice Pudding and Minty Witch's Brew - and to create your very own Halloween-themed Milk Mustache digital card using the "Make Your Own Milk Mustache Ad" tool. Don the 'stache, share with friends and encourage others to celebrate chocolate milk as 'The Official Drink of Halloween'.