Wednesday, December 30, 2009

15 Minutes : Play It : Bubble Wrap Stomp

image via here
Ring in the new year with this idea from Family Fun. Buy bubble wrap (the large bubbles work best) and spread out on a hard floor just before midnight. At the end of the countdown, stomp! It sounds like firecrackers and is a fun way to start the year.


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Quick Share : Christmas Music

image via Amazon

We have quite a few Christmas CDs playing during this season, but this is one of the very favorites: First Christmas Record for Children. It was first released in the early 40's and 50's, and it contains music from such legends as Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Gene Autry, and even Captain Kangaroo. Famous names aside, my husband enjoys the nostalgia from this childhood favorite, and my children love the songs and poems. The whole "record" just feels like old-fashioned Christmas.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

15 Minutes : Know It : Merry Christmas in other Languages

image via here

Christmas is celebrated all over the world. Pick a country that you can learn about with your children and learn to say Merry Christmas in that language. Here are just a few to get you started... (via

Arabic: Milad Mijad
Brazil: Feliz Natal
Chile: Feliz Navidad
Czech: Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok
Danish: Glædelig Jul
German: Froehliche Weihnachten
Hawaii: Mele Kalikimaka
Philippines: Maligayan Pasko!


Friday, December 18, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Christmas Bow Wreath

image via
Purge your saved bow collection by making this easy wreath with the kids. We made one last year and put it up in the playroom.
paper plate
glue and scissors
Christmas bows

How To:
Cut out the center of the plate. Glue the bows around the remaining plate rim. Hang where the kids can see their creation.


Monday, December 14, 2009

15 Minutes : Read It : This is the Stable

image via
I bought This is the Stable last year because it was half-price after Christmas. Last week we read it for the first time this season, and I was impressed again with the beautiful, vivid, even whimsical illustrations. The words are calm and lovely and simple. We like it very much.

Available at
Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Paper Trees

image via
This Christmas craft caught my eye because two of my kids spent an hour yesterday punching hundreds of holes in a piece of paper. (Maybe I should post that as an activity by itself!) The layering of several pieces of paper makes the "lights" shine through. And if we don't like that effect, we can always glue on some of those bits they already punched out.

Find the full instructions at Family Fun.


Monday, December 7, 2009

15 Minutes : Play It : The Picnic Game

image via here
The Picnic Game is a favorite at our house. Besides the sturdy box, besides the pretty illustrations, besides inspiring nutrition...this game is absolutely perfect for every age. Spin the spinner, choose a food from that group (or lose an item to the ants), and collect a full meal. We made one change to the rules: instead of spinning to get a plate, we always start with one. (The rules indicate that players can't collect food until the spinner lands on plate--talk about frustration and tears.) Honestly, even two-year-old gets it, yet 10-year-old still deigns to play with us.

Find it cheapest at
Land of Nod.


Saturday, December 5, 2009

1 Hour : Play It : Tinkertoys

image via here

I forgot all about Tinkertoys until we visited my brother's house. Maybe it was because this was the only toy there that my son spent all of his time playing and building creations. If Santa brings a set to our house, I think we will all (re-)discover our inner tinkers.

Amazon has the 66-piece starter set, as well as larger (more expensive) sets.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Quick Share : Printable Hidden Pictures

image via here

My kids love those hidden pictures, and I like the printable ones from Highlights because they have illustrations of the hidden items at the bottom of the page. Here are some good ones for winter:

And many more for any holiday or just any day.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

1 Hour : Make It : Monogram Tags

This project from Martha Stewart is a fun way to have your kids help wrap gifts and practice the alphabet and spelling at the same time. Use scrapbook paper or recycle old christmas cards and have your child trace a letter on to the paper. Cut the letter out, punch a hole and tie with ribbon.


Monday, November 30, 2009

15 Minutes : Know It : Gifts

image via here

I drive myself almost crazy trying to ponder and order and find the perfect Christmas gifts for my kids. I take into account their wishlists, interests, abilities, and the skills I want them to work on. For instance, last year I wanted my 4-year-old to master the alphabet, have his own game, and incorporate animals (his true love). Found it. My 10-year-old loves Sudoku, but I'm looking for something a little unique? Found that, too.

And then there's the question that looms in every parent's mind: Will it be enough? Or, most often in my mind: Will it be too much? My husband and I balance each other in this game. I, though not at all a Scrooge, tend toward the practical, traditional, lovely yet cool, and of course educational. Staying power, that's what I'm looking for. He looks at my purchases a few days before Christmas and says, "I'm going to Target." He wants to be sure each kid has one really neat-o toy that will bring instant magic to Christmas Day. He isn't concerned that the little r/c helicopter is shelved a week later, that the fancy princess shoes fall forgotten to the bottom of the dress-up box. He just wants them to have fun for a few hours. Like I said, we're the perfect combination of sensible and spontaneous.

So, regarding gift-giving plans, I can say this: I make the plans, my husband adjust the plans, and the kids are happy. It's enough.

Read some more great thoughts about gifts here:


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

15 Minutes : Read It : This is the Feast

image via

We bought This is the Feast as our Thanksgiving book this year. With a rhythm reminiscent of The House that Jack Built, this beautiful picture book tells the pilgrim story with excellent detail and imagery-filled language.

Available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

15 minutes : Make It : Boat Place Holders

image via

I like this idea...good for my two kids who are currently into paper folding and gluing.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Folk Art Pilgrims

image via

Look at these sweet, folksy place cards! We could even use them as Happy Thanksgiving cards for the kids' teachers and friends. (And I'm always trying to find ways to encourage my daughter to practice writing.)


Friday, November 20, 2009

Congratulations to the winners of this month's giveaway...tvmom & G.E.S. Please email with your choice of coloring book and your address.

Be sure to check RedRoko for another giveaway in December, as well as our favorite holiday ideas.


15 minutes : Make It : Napkin Folding

Teach your kids these simple, elegant napkin fold techniques. Then, let them show off their skills as they help set the Thanksgiving table (or and dinner table). I think we may even add napkin folding to our list of setting the table chores.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Hand Trace Turkey

I've never known a child that hasn't loved their hand being traced. There is just something so cool about seeing the shape of your hand transferred onto paper and being able to create it into something like a turkey.

I love this activity because with a little creativity anything can be created. You can use crayons, colored pencils, paint, or even use different materials to create different textures (features, glitter, pasta, rice).


Saturday, November 14, 2009

1 Hour : Play It : Snap Circuits

image via kidstoyclub

My oldest received Snap Circuits for Christmas a couple years ago...and he still plays with it. He builds the projects in the manual (included), and he also tries to come up with his own electronic creations. Here's my favorite part: he is now starting to teach his siblings.

Find it at Amazon and Kids Toy Club.


Thursday, November 12, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Veggie Cornucopia

I love this appetizer idea from Family Fun for Thanksgiving dinner.

Here's how:
1. Give each child a tortilla cut in half.
2. Roll the tortilla into a cone and secure with a toothpick.
3. Have your child fill the tortilla with veggies from the veggie tray.
4. Serve with dip or dressing.


November Giveaway

I don't think a day goes by that I don't color with at least one of my children. I assume the same is true for many moms, so I thought I would offer coloring books as this month's giveaway. Dover Publications has a unique selection of quality coloring books; many are educational (alphabet, history, literature), many are interest-specific (fairies, trains, sports), many are artistic (geometric patterns, stained glass). There is truly something for every kid and parent.

To enter the giveaway, leave one comment on this post by midnight (MST) Thursday, November 19th. Two winners will be selected to each receive a coloring book (choose one of those pictured in this post) and a new box of 24 crayons...because no matter how many crayons you have, there is magic in opening a new box.

images via dover


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

1 Hour : Make It : Cranberry Bread

image by redroko

Mini-loaves of cranberry bread make a festive, delicious gift for a teacher or neighbor. My kids helped me make a batch, then we wrapped the loaves and delivered to couple friends. Here's our recipe for this seasonal favorite.

Cranberry Nut Bread
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 cup chopped cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

1 Tbsp. orange zest
1 egg
2 Tbsp. canola oil
3/4 cup orange juice

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add cranberries and nuts. In separate bowl, combine egg, oil, juice, and zest. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Spoon batter into sprayed mini-loaf pan (or muffin pan, or 9x5 loaf pan). Bake at 350-degrees for 12-15 minutes (or up to 50 minutes for one large loaf), until toothpick comes out clean. Let bread sit in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

Notes: I usually use frozen cranberries because they are storable and easy to chop with a food chopper. You could also use a food processor for this step. Orange zest is best fresh, but I keep a bit in my freezer to have ready anytime.


Friday, November 6, 2009

1 Hour : Play It : Animal Bingo

image via here

My five-year-old loves animals, and I love teaching the alphabet using games. Magnetic Alphabet Bingo was made for us. We played it again today--he giggles when he's beating me.

Find it at Amazon.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Leaf People

I found this idea and picture on a cousin's blog. Two of my kids and I spent quite a while creating our own leaf people on the backporch. They enjoyed it so much that I know we'll make more before fall has completely frozen.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

15 Minutes : Know It : Vote

image via

My main way of showing my kids how Election Day works consists of one activity: taking them with me to the polls. I answer any questions they ask, and have occasionally had a short political discussion with my 10-year-old. It's a start, right?

I may print off a word search or coloring page as well. My oldest would like some of the activities I found at

Julie had more ideas about Election Day. Find those here.


Monday, November 2, 2009

1 Hour : Make It : Thankful Tree

image via flickr

We plan to make a "Thankful Tree" this year. We'll use these leaf templates to help us out. I think this will keep gratitude in our minds during this Thanksgiving season.


Saturday, October 31, 2009


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

15 Minutes : Play It : Ghost Puppets

Puppets are a great imaginative activity any time and these ghost puppets are supper simple to make. Just take a white paper napkin, two small ponytail holders, two black dots with a marker, and one cute little hand. Simply secure "arms" with rubber bands on the pinkie and thumb and let the little ones start hooting and howling. I had dancing ghosts in my yard all afternoon.


Monday, October 19, 2009

15 Minutes : Read It : Humbug Witch

image via

Humbug Witch, by Lorna Balian, is a funny, old Halloween book. Don't be taken aback when the witch starts undressing--I promise that this one has no bathroom humor, only clever, innocent silliness.


Friday, October 16, 2009

1 Hour : Make It : Halloween Paper Dolls

image via babalisme

This is so sweet and I know my daughter would love to find another reason to cut up paper. I'm thinking she would even make more outfits out of scraps of patterned paper.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

15 Minutes : Play It : Hide The Mini Pumpkin

image via google

Do your kids love hide-and-seek and hot-and-cold games? Mine do. This season make your game a little more festive by hiding one of the mini pumpkins you have hanging around. This is a great activity for toddlers to work on their listening skills.


Monday, October 12, 2009

15 Minutes : Know It : Columbus Day provides the following helpful information about this lesser-known holiday. (In the state where I grew up, we always had school off.) In addition to telling your kids a bit about about Christopher Columbus, you can find short quizzes here and here.

Also, here are some coloring pages for your kids to work on today.

Columbus Day is celebrated on the second Monday in October. (It was formerly observed on October 12.)

The holiday honoring Christopher Columbus' sighting of America on October 12, 1492, is observed in the states of the United States and also in parts of Canada, in Puerto Rico, and in some cities in Italy and Spain. Although Columbus was not the first explorer to set foot in the Western Hemisphere, his landing at San Salvador Island in what is now the Bahamas was very important. It opened the way for the settlement of America by Europeans. It is probable that the first celebration honoring the event was held in 1792. Columbus Day became a legal holiday in the United States in 1892, 400 years after the famous voyage. It was then called Discovery Day. Many cities and organizations sponsor parades and banquets honoring the holiday.

October 12 is celebrated in Latin American countries not only as Columbus or Discovery Day, but also as the Day of the Race (El Día de la Raza). It honors the many different peoples of Latin America. Schoolchildren in the larger cities parade. Fiestas, sometimes lasting several days, are held in the areas with large Indian populations.


Friday, October 9, 2009

1 Hour : Make It : Paper Pumpkin Ornament

Came across this cute kid friendly Halloween craft from three wheels turning, a paper and design company. Now these were the types of projects I was making when I was in elementary school. Maybe that's why I love them so much.
Click here for the directions.


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

1 Hour : Play It : Chores in a Bag

image via here
We have several ways to do chores on Saturdays (our big day for cleaning). One way that has been a hit since my oldest was just a little tyke is this: With the kids we write a list of the chores to be done, then cut them into strips, and place in a plain paper bag. Taking turns, we pull out the jobs and do each one as a team. We also include some fun chores to keep things on the light side.

Here's a peek at some chores we often have in our bag:
Make beds (again, as part of the game, we do each one as a team.)
Wash three windows
Unload dishwasher
Pick up playroom
Pick up back yard
Read a book
Vacuum (I do this one, while the kids try to beat me on finishing the next job.)
Have a snack
Organize mudroom
Wipe doorknobs


Monday, October 5, 2009

1 Hour : Know It : Incentives

image via here

I'm not usually a fan of money-based reward systems, but I just read a very interesting article that explains how to "pay" for behaviors in an appropriate, temporary way. Here are a couple of the suggestions:
  • Use monetary rewards as a last resort solution.
  • A small amount--even a nickel or quarter--is often sufficient to motivate.
  • Use incentives in combination with teaching about the principle (eg., delayed gratification).
I can think of one specific, ongoing issue at our house where these ideas might help: staying up way too late reading. Maybe a quarter for on-time lights out? I may try it.


Friday, October 2, 2009

October Giveaway

Congratulations to the winner of this month's giveaway...Kim Johnson.

Be sure to check RedRoko daily to try for other giveaways, and for great activities you can do with your kids.


15 Minutes : Make It : Wolf Mask

I have a small collection of Martha Stewart: Kids magazines (no longer in print).
There is a lot of stuff in these magazines that is not available these wolf masks.

For that reason I have scanned them in for your convenience. Just print and cut...and tape (a craft stick).

I know I're welcome :)


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

15 Minutes : Play It : Math Puzzles

image via amazon

My five-year-old is enjoying working on these 2-sided Math Puzzles. One side has simple math problems that he figures out, then he places the plastic cover over his puzzle, flips it over, and sees the picture. If the picture is correct, his answers are correct. My other children have also tried the subtraction, multiplication, and division puzzles. All are available on Amazon and other sites.


Monday, September 28, 2009

15 Minutes : Play It : Grocery List

image via here
I need to pick up some groceries today, and I always have helpers with me. One easy way I involve my kids in this errand is by giving them each 3-5 items to remember. They recite their "lists" on the way to the store, and then as we shop I repeatedly ask each one to tell me their list. This way, I don't forget anything and the kids have something important to do.


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Update and Giveaway

After a two month, unintentional hiatus, we are going to post again. Thanks for your patience.

As a reward to RedRoko's loyal readers, we will host a little giveaway: a hardcover copy of Ox Cart Man, one of my favorites, and an excellent, classic read for fall.

image via

Please leave a comment on this post by midnight on Thursday, October 1st. Tell us what you wish we would highlight at RedRoko--more book recommendations? Recipes? Chore helps? Ideas for a certain age group? We want to hear it all. We love sharing our favorite things.

*Leave your name and comment on this post anytime until Midnight PST, Thursday, October 1st.
*Duplicate comments and comments without a name will be ignored.
*Winner will be picked at random and announced Saturday morning.
*Winners should email redroko{at}gmail{dot}com
within one week of the giveaway closing or a new winner will be chosen.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Share It : Philosophy for Kids

Guest blogger, Rochelle A., is the mother of 6 children, ages 6-18.

image via

Little Big Minds, by Marietta McCarty is a wonderful book on getting kids into Philosophy; it has a world of ideas for summer reading, listening, doing, creating, experimenting and getting kids talking about their "big" ideas. Each chapter highlights a philosophical idea to be shared with children and includes background on the philosophers who explored the idea, music and literature that explore it, and even a craft or experiment or creative expression of the idea, all with ideas for discussion and exploration specifically for kids.

I am really excited about sharing the ideas with all of my kids-from the 6-year-old, to the 18-year-old.

Here is a sampling of some of the chapters:
Chaper 1: Idea-Philosophy. Philosophers-Socrates and Plato. Music-Haydn's Symphony #22. Literature-Saint Exupery's "Little Prince", Emily Dickenson and William Carlos Williams (of "The Red Wheelbarrow"). Experiment-Taste Testing (exploring how each child describes the taste in a way that is as unique as they are).

Chapter 2: Idea-Friendship, Philosophers-Karl Jaspers, the apostle Paul, existential ideas. Music-Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" and "Friend of Mine" by Kate Wolf. Literature-"The Centaur" by May Swenson from the collection Cage of Spies, Joyful Noise, Poems for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman and Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss. Topics for discussion include the art of listening and an exploration of bullying.

Other ideas (chapters) that children and parents can explore together include: Responsibility, Happiness, Justice, Time, Courage, Death, Prejudice, God, Humanity, Nature, Compassion, Freedom, Love and Thanksgiving.

Check out Ms. McCarty's site at


Thursday, July 16, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Vegetables

image via here
My kids are even more interested in eating an assortment of raw vegetables when they are hungry. Since they are extra hungry five minutes before dinner, I try to have some carrots, zucchini, broccoli, etc. ready on the table as an appetizer. My kindergartener is a great helper in arranging the vegetables on a tray and acting as server.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

1 Hour : Play It : Quiddler

image via

I have a 10-year-old who enjoys word games as much as I do. Quiddler, a game that is kind of a mix between Scrabble and Phase 10, is a new favorite for the two of us; he's gotten so good that I really have to use all my skills and brains to win (no mercy for the cackling super-smarty!). While we play, my eager-to-be-included younger kids use their cards to spell out their names and other words.


Monday, July 13, 2009

15 Minutes : Make It : Snack Trays

image via here
Here's a fun way to have healthier snacks available for my family. I know some munchkins who would be happy to both prepare and munch on their culinary creation.

More muffin tin snack inspiration at My Happy Little Life.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Focus : Swimming Fun and Safety

Ruby collecting rocks in Hawaii
Marrying a boy from the islands certainly has its perks when family vacations are concerned. Last month we spent a few weeks enjoying Hawaiian beaches and my children are definitely missing their daily trips to the blue waves and white sand. Although the beach and pool are fantastic summertime activities for all ages safety is always my main concern. Check below to find fun swimming activities as well as keeping everyone safe.

Swimming Activities
- Do you remember playing "Marco Polo"? This game never gets old.
- Jumping/Diving/Splash contests off the side or diving board.
- Dive Rings. My kids LOVE rings. Our favorite game for younger tots is putting the ring on the first step of the pool and encouraging them to put their face in the water to pick it up. This is a great way for them to get comfortable getting their faces wet.
- "Monkey Wall" Teaching babies and toddlers how to grab onto the side wall. You'll be amazed how well they can hold themselves up.

Swimming Safety:
- Never leave a child unattended near water.
- Invest in swim lessons. It's important for kids to learn to have fun in the water but also to have a healthy respect as well.
- Always have one adult on "lifeguard duty." If you're with a group of adult friends who want to chat, take turns designating one adult to be on duty--carefully scanning the water counting every head. It only takes seconds for dangerous situations to occur and having a sharp eye could make all the difference.
- Have younger swimmers wear life jackets. Although tubes and arm floaties are cute, children can easily remove themselves when mom and dad aren't paying attention. For our non-swimmers life jackets are non-negotiable if they're in the water; unless of course the kids are having one-on-one time with mom or dad practicing their swimming techniques.
- Remember the sunscreen. It's best to put it on before you leave the house to give it time to start working. Always re-apply for longer activities.


Thursday, July 9, 2009

1 Day : Visit It : Tracy Aviary

image by redroko

My family loves Tracy Aviary, in Salt Lake City. We plan to take a day trip soon, and hope to see/do some of our favorite things at this "bird zoo".
  • Have a picnic with friendly peacocks who enjoy bits of our lunch.
  • Try to pet the tinamou (above).
  • Get up close to the flamingos.
  • See turkey vultures, black swans, emu, owls, and even a bald eagle.
  • Interact with birds at one of the programs.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

1 Hour : Play It : Water Buckets

image via here

A couple days ago I filled a bucket with water, collected a few objects--funnel, scoop, toy boat, paintbrush, cup--and took the kids outside. I watched as they played in the water, "washed" bikes and patio furniture, and filled and emptied a dozen containers. It was a great way to cool off on a hot July afternoon.
**Be sure to practice water safety by keeping young children in your view at all times.