Monday, December 13, 2010

Link Love : NieNie Dialouges

we are so excited (and flattered!!) that NieNie featured our PlayCrates on her blog; part of her "Nie's Homemade Christmas".

check it out here

If you are looking to add some "homemade" charm to your gift giving this year
or simply want to add to your child's creativity and development
Don't pass up our Play Crates


1 Hour : Make It : Button Cards

I'm using this craft at my son's kindergarten Christmas party this week. I'm sure we'll make some "practice" cards at home as well. The great thing about this project is that I can just show my kids the above photo, give them some buttons, ribbon, and cardstock, and say, "Go".

Full instructions at Martha Stewart.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Quick Share : Thanksgiving

In postpartum mode here. So, until I find a minute to post something about Thanksgiving...

Enjoy some of our ideas from last year!


Friday, October 22, 2010

15 Minutes : Play It : Pin the Face on the Pumpkin

Another one of the center activities for my son's class party: Pin the Face on the Pumpkin. So simple and classic that I wonder why I needed the internet to think of it.

But to be fair, this site reminded me how to play.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

15 Minutes : Make It : Pasta Skeleton

So, despite the fact that I'm going to have a baby any day now, I am supposed to organize--not attend, just organize--the centers for my kindergartener's Halloween party. (Believe me, this year I am definitely the reluctant room mother. But when they lay on the guilt...)

This is one of the activities I have planned for the party: just your basic skeleton made out of assorted pasta. Very easy and self-explanatory, but if you want more details, I found them here.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

15 Minutes : Read It : Stone Soup

The classic folktale, Stone Soup, is a beloved of mine. I love the lessons of working together, of selflessness, of community--it just never gets old. Here are two versions I particularly like:

Stone Soup, by Marcia Brown. You just can't go wrong with a Caldecott winner. This version is the perfect, traditional intro to this story if you're not already familiar with it. Marcia Brown's simple illustrations and text are masterful no matter what the book.

Stone Soup, by Jon Muth. Same story with a fantastic Asian flair. The villagers add their Chinese ingredients to the pot in this beautiful watercolor version.
images via


Thursday, October 7, 2010

15 Minutes : Read It : Autumn Books

My very favorite picture book to start off the fall season is Ox-Cart Man, by Donald Hall. Another excellent one is In November, by Cynthia Rylant. But since I've already reviewed both of those, I thought I'd share a couple others that are regulars at our house this time of year...

Pumpkin Moonshine, by Tasha Tudor. It's another name for jack o' lantern, for those (like me) who had never heard this old-fashioned, New England name. And really, does anything bring autumn vividly to mind like old-fashioned, New England illustrations?

Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic, by Steven Schnur. Beautiful, detailed poetry combined with intricate woodcut pictures; and an ABC book as well. Someday I'll help my kids come up with their own acrostics.
images via


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

15 Minutes : Make It : Lunches

image via anotherlunch

Have you heard of Bento lunches? I like the ideas at the deliciously beautiful site, AnotherLunch, though I wonder if some of them would be too light a meal for my sprouting sixth-grader.

I like sending my kids with home lunches for so many reasons, but I have made the compromise of allowing them to buy lunch once a week (pizza day, of course). Amazingly, after years of this pattern they are finally tired of pizza day, and are more interested than ever in trying new combinations. My second-grade daughter is especially happy to help out right now.

I haven't fully embraced the Bento ideas just because our lunch boxes aren't the right shape. However, I have added a cold pack plastic box full of vegetables or fruits; I don't know if it's the box or the fact that the food is chilled, but the kiddos are loving it.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

1 Hour : Play It : Activity Centers

image via here

Today I borrowed from the quintessential preschool/kindergarten set-up: activity centers. The truth is, I really needed to work on organizing the laundry room--which is next-door to our playroom--and I wanted my two boys to 1.)stay, 2.)play, and 3.)play happily with minimal supervision on my part.

So during lunch, I asked for center ideas and together we came up with the following:
  • Coloring center--not just crayons, but markers with big paper
  • Lego center
  • Puzzle center
  • ABC center--I added two metal baking sheets to make magnet play more of a novelty.
We put each center in a different area of the playroom, and even made "blanket islands" for some of them in order to keep the activities a little more contained. I didn't use timers like they might at school, but I did go in every so often to play, chat, or encourage a change if I sensed the need.

I got a good 1 1/2 hours out of the whole deal.

It is truly amazing how a new set-up of the old toys can change everything. Since the laundry room isn't quite done (it's also sewing/craft/general dumping area), I think we'll try more centers tomorrow.


Monday, September 20, 2010

15 Minutes : Play It : Memory

image via here

After spending five whole minutes tracking down the whereabouts of my very mischievous three-year-old, I decided we needed to have a little sit-down-and-focus time this morning. We played Memory--twice. We have the sweet, teeny Mini-Memo by Haba, but I also have visions of creating my own set like this one I saw at homemade by jill (though, technically the tutorial is on Or So She Says).

P.S. Little boy was out in the garage, hiding with various keys to various locks that were specifically placed to keep him out of trouble. Yes, we have child locks on our doors; no, that doesn't stop him; no, he doesn't respond when I call him; yes, I was doing something very quick and responsible--making my bed--when he sneaked away.


Monday, September 13, 2010

15 Minutes : Play It : Listening

image via here
Still working on listening skills...

One day as we sat on the back porch, I asked my two youngest to close their eyes very tightly and just listen. My kindergartener knew instinctively what to do and described what he could hear: helicopter, birds, kids playing, a bumblebee flying past his face. The three-year-old had more trouble focusing (and keeping his eyes closed), so I told him to listen for specific sounds. "Can you hear the car going by? Where do you think that bird is chirping?"

We also tried to be completely silent for one minute. Ha--way harder than it sounds. Did you ever play "The Quiet Game" when you were little? I think it's easier to be still when no one is telling you to be still. Once there's a goal or a requirement, the temptation to talk is just too much. Our silent minute looked more like giggles about to erupt.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

15 Minutes : Read It : Nonsense Books

Sometimes we just need some of those books that are so ridiculous and silly that my kids actually hoot out loud when we're reading them. I know any mention of underwear sends even my three-year-old into giggles, but I try to steer clear of those. (There's plenty of that without bringing it home from the library too--*sigh*) Here are a few of our favorite (non-potty-humor) nonsensical picture books...

The Runaway Dinner, by Allan Ahlberg. I love the rambling, conversational style of this one. It's told just the way a kid would tell a story.

The Monster at the End of this Book, by Jon Stone. This oldie from my childhood continues to pack a good, silly punch.

The Cow Loves Cookies, by Karma Wilson. The expressions on the characters' faces make me smile too.

Silly Sally, by Audrey Wood. Sing-song, predictable words make this one stick in their heads for days.
images via

What books guarantee a laugh from your kids?


Monday, September 6, 2010

Quick Share : PERC

If you live in my area, I hope you know about the PERC, located at the Orem Public Library. The Parent Education Resource Center loans out educational games, activities, puzzles, developmental toys, non-fiction DVDs, parenting books, etc., at no charge. It's a smallish room in the basement of the library, has tricky hours, and is only semi-organized, but don't let those details deter you. Many of the items are in new or very good condition, and some are more worn, but we always find several great things to take home. We go nearly every week to borrow items--there's really nothing like a new game to fill a couple hours.

If you can't go to our very useful PERC, check your own library or school to see what educational supplies they are willing to loan.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

15 Minutes : Read It : School Books

We like to give the teachers a new book on the first day of school. These are the ones we picked this year:

One Smart Cookie, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Each page uses a part of the cookie-making process to demonstrate qualities such as prompt, curious, prepared. Love the illustrations, love the concept.

This School Year Will Be the Best! by Kay Winters. A classroom full of hopes and wishes for the new year. My son likes the page that wishes for great field trips...and is illustrated with children floating around inside a space shuttle.

Ranger's Apprentice, by John Flanagan. When my sixth-grader saw that his teacher didn't have this, the first in his favorite series, he knew he wanted to give her a copy. We've enjoyed the series together this past year. He loves the action/adventure; I'm glad to see a book with good, loyal, smart, hardworking characters. Plus, the mentor-apprentice relationship is so beautifully played out. I highly recommend this one for the 10-15 year-old male crowd.
images via


Monday, August 30, 2010

15 Minutes : Play It : Listening Lotto

Am I the only mom who repeats myself dozens of times a day? I'm especially working with my two youngest children on their listening skills. We've been playing Outside Listening Skills Lotto together almost every day in the past week. I don't know if they're paying better attention to my voice yet, but I feel good knowing we're working on it.

We picked up this game from our library, but it's also available at Amazon. You might even check to see if your school loans out games like this.


Friday, June 18, 2010


It turns out that the RedRoko women are not at all ambitious when they are 1. pregnant, or 2. caring for new babies. Thus the long pause between posts.

We hope you'll continue to browse the activities we have posted, and we hope you'll check back in for the occasional update! Because despite the life changes going on around here, we do still play with our kids sometimes.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Quick Share : Traveling with Kids

image via here

We're now officially planning a summer vacation. While I do consider our family to be seasoned travelers--two cross-country roadtrips, several 8-10 hour trips, and a couple flights with teeny ones--it is always good to review some info and tips for traveling with children.

I really like the ideas from Simply Modern Mom.

I want to hear your favorite travel tips--for car or airplane or any other vehicle. I could always use a new website for printing off travel games.


Friday, April 9, 2010

15 Minutes : Play It : Handwriting Activities

image via here
My son and I have been focusing on improving his handwriting. For the sake of review, I print out a basic tracing worksheet of a certain letter. Somedays we choose a worksheet that has a picture; others he wants a word search. When he's finished with that, we turn the paper over and he lists and draws other pictures that begin with the same letter. Since he's often a reluctant writer, I've been trying to discover ways to encourage him. Today this worked: He loves filling papers with "roads"--continuous lines that swerve, curve, and veer. So, I tried describing the letter he was writing as a road for his car. "First the road is straight, then, oh no, the road suddenly turns the other way! And then it's going back this way again." He loved it.

I find our basic tracer page (with picture) at The site is kind of painful to navigate, so here is letter A for you; you can then find the rest of the alphabet from that page.
(On the chart, I choose from the Handwriting column, SB--meaning standard block style, and then ask my son which picture he likes.)

Here is our tracer page that comes with a word search. Same site, same messy story.

What handwriting sites do you like? How do you make this kind of practice more interesting?


Thursday, April 1, 2010

15 Minutes : Make It : Easter Printables

A few free printables I found for Easter:

A paper basket from Freshly Picked. I know I've said it before, but my daughter loves paper crafts and teeny things of all sorts. This will be tomorrow's afterschool activity.

A simple card from the talented Olliegraphic (remember her beautiful Valentines?). I really like that her designs have cutting guides on them.

Tags or small notecards from babalisme. Don't you think these are boyish enough for my sons to give to teachers and grandparents?


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

15 Minutes : Make It : Bunny Envelopes

Here's a fun Easter craft project to make with your kids. Fill the envelope bunnies with small toys, candy or hand-written notes and deliver to friends and family!


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

1 Hour : Make It : Natural Easter Eggs

I've wanted to try out these naturally dyed Easter eggs ever since I saw the Martha Stewart article a couple years ago. The fact of the matter is, I never prepare early enough, so we end up using the traditional dye tablets. Has anyone done this project? Do you have tips for me?


Monday, March 15, 2010

15 Minutes : Read It : Alphabet Books

image via here
I love alphabet books, and there are so many amazing ones out there. Small Magazine did a beautiful layout highlighting a few of their favorites--which include some of my favorites as well as unfamiliar ones. (Be sure to look at both pages of their feature.)

A few more alphabet books I like:


Friday, March 12, 2010

1 Hour : Make It : Shamrock Collage

image via here
My five-year-old and I made a shamrock collage today. He loves cutting with scissors right now, so you can imagine how happy he was to work on this project.

Print out (or draw) a large shamrock shape on cardstock. Cut out and set aside. Cut out green items from old magazines or flower/vegetable catalogs. (My son opted for all vegetables today.) Glue the pictures onto the shamrock, then turn over and trim any hangover.


Monday, March 8, 2010

1 Hour : Make It : Fairy House

image via

One "boring" day last year, I took my daughter out to a corner of our backyard and showed her how to make a fairy house. We used sticks, bark, and leaves to make a simple abode, but she then spent another hour or so collecting all sorts of natural building materials for expanding and decorating. Now that the weather is turning nice again, she's making a variation: leprechaun houses. In fact, I even found pieces of bark in her backpack--she said she needed supplies for leprechaun houses on the school playground.

Get more ideas to help you start a fairy house at


Thursday, March 4, 2010

15 Minutes : Read It : The Curious Garden

image via

The Curious Garden, by Peter Brown, is a family favorite all year long, but it seems particularly appropriate for spring. It tells the story of a little boy who lives in a gray, dreary city...dreary, that is, until he nurtures a tiny, forgotten garden until it fills the city not only with greenery, but also with newly-inspired gardeners. My kids especially like to flip back and forth between the sad city in the first illustration and its vibrant twin on the last page. The whole book makes us want to plant something.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

1 Hour : Make It : Early Garden

image via

My daughter has been asking when we can plant seeds and I know that with the spring-like weather, I'm also eager to grow something. So, this project from Family Fun is exactly the thing we need to get going on our indoor garden. We have a couple packets of flower seeds and I want to try some herbs as well.

Clear 2-liter soda bottle
Small flowerpot
Potting soil
Craft stick marker

1. Cut the top from a clear 2-liter soda bottle.

2. Find a flowerpot that fits inside the dome. Fill the pot with potting soil, then plant the seeds according to the packet directions. Tip: Consider planting herbs, such as parsley and basil, that can be transplanted outside once the weather warms, or grass, which grows fast and is fun to trim with scissors.

3. Place the pot on a saucer and poke in a craft stick marker. Slip the dome over the pot. Be sure to water the soil when it looks dry.


Saturday, February 13, 2010

1 Hour : Make It : Heart Bouquet

Note to self: Make these with my daughter for Valentine's Day next year. This is right up her alley. Actually, I think we'll make a couple for our own family celebration.

Scroll down the page at Martha Stewart to find instructions.


Friday, February 12, 2010

1 Hour : Make It : Valentines to Color

image via upupcreative
So here are the (free) printable Valentines my 1st-grader chose for her class. We printed them out (four to a page) on slightly textured cardstock; since she wanted mostly elephants and just one page of sneakers, I simply selected those pages in the print instructions. She absolutely loves to color and spent a good hour carefully coloring and writing out names on a couple dozen of these beauties.

Print out your own at Up Up, The Blog.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

15 Minutes : Make It : Heart Envelopes

Clever folding. I wonder if my daughter would like to make these for her class. If not, I'm sure her creative little mind will find other reasons to give away these heart notes.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

1 Hour : Read It : Valentine's Books

We're on our way to the library to pick out some Valentine's books. Here are the titles we have on our list today:


Monday, February 8, 2010

Share It : Three Reasons

Guest blogger, Hadley H., is a full-time mother, a part-time writer, a sometimes designer and a constant lover of beauty.

For many years, my husband and I have played a game we call Three Reasons. In a restaurant, in the car, during commercials, whenever: one of us will say "Tell me three reasons why you love me." The reasons are varied and sundry: insightful, romantic, hilarious, mundane. Sometimes surprising in their simplicity or specificity, the reasons are always appreciated and reciprocated. And, since we've become parents, also shared with our daughters.

Luke will say, "Catherine, tell me three reasons why you love Elinor;" the extrapolation of that question to reach all of us is an exercise in the expression of love, certainly -- but also thoughtfulness, gratitude, institutional memory (family lore) and, on occasion, humility. Three Reasons is an excellent instructor in the ties that bind.

With this wee rhythm of daily living quietly beating, it seemed natural to make a repository for these expressions -- on paper. Why lose them to time and the night air when, by simply recording them, they'll become future treasures? So, a few Januarys ago, I covered a box with red polka dot wrapping paper and cut a hole in the top to make a Valentine Mailbox. Beside the box is a stack of business cards, blank except for the XO printed on them. Each day, or whenever the mood strikes us, we write a love note to each member of our family. Each February 14, at our family Valentine Ball, we read the notes aloud. We hug. We kiss. We blow raspberries on necks. We tickle. We laugh. We dance. We sing. We compliment each person's choice of "formal attire." We make happy fools of ourselves. We reminisce. We love.

We belong.

And we save the notes.

Because, as much as we each desire to know we're loved and valued on Valentine's Day, what's infinitely more meaningful is to know -- with proof -- that we're loved and valued
every day.

Valentine's Day is for
families. Claim it for your own.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

February Giveaway

UPDATE: Lucky winner, chosen by, is: #5--John and Caroline. Email for details on how to order your valentines.

Thanks to you loyal readers. Look forward to another giveaway in March.

Here's a giveaway that's perfect for you and your kids--printable valentines from Olliegraphic. One winner will be chosen to receive $10 credit to the Etsy store, Olliegraphic. As mentioned in a previous post, you get to customize the valentine online, then Olliegraphic emails you the pdf, and you print out as many as you want. Check out the selection at this great store.

Rules of the game:
  • Leave a comment on this post. Be sure that you leave a name or that your comment links to a public blog or profile. (I need a way to contact you!)
  • One entry per person please.
  • Winner will be chosen and posted at 10pm (MST) on Saturday, February 6th.


Friday, January 29, 2010

15 Minutes : Make It : Snail Valentines

image via zakkalife

I think these will be perfect for my 5-year-old to create and give away. Find the free printable template at ZakkaLife.

More printable valentines here and here.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

1 Hour : Make It : Valentines

image via olliegraphic

I like the printable valentines that we can find on the internet these days. A friend showed me this one, available to customize and purchase at the Etsy shop, Olliegraphic. You can make a girl or boy, then choose hair, eyes, skin color, saying, etc. Then (after paying), you just print out as many as you want. Love it.

I'm looking around for more printable Valentines and I'll post my favorites over the next couple weeks. Let me know if you find great one!


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

15 Minutes : Play It : Bubbles

image via psychologytoday.

My kids--even the school-age ones--love blowing, catching, stomping, and clapping bubbles. I don't know what happens when you blow bubbles on a cold winter day, but recommends trying it.

As for the random bubble questions that are bound to be posed, Bubblesphere provides more information about bubbles than I ever needed to know--and possibly enough facts for my curious kindergartener. For instance: What is the biggest bubble ever made? Why do bubbles pop? What is the best bubble solution?

We're going to be bubble experts after this activity.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

15 Minutes : Play It : ABC Puzzles

I have both of these puzzles sitting in my Amazon shopping cart. I can't decide which I'll get for my son's third birthday. I like the Alphapatterns puzzle (above) because each letter is its own piece; but I also like the gorgeous pictures on the Crocodile Creek ABC puzzle (below). Would it be too boring to get both? He loves puzzles, we're working on ABCs, they're both well-made puzzles that will last I'm just looking for reasons to make it a puzzle birthday.
Alphapatterns available cheap here, and also at Bambino Mountain.
Crocodile Creek available at Amazon.

images via here and here


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

1 Hour : Make It : Write a Letter

image via here

January 8th through 14th is Universal Letter Writing Week. Use this as an opportunity to help your kids learn the art of a handwritten note. Create a letter writing station with notecards, pens, crayons, markers, envelopes etc., and let them create handmade thank you notes for friends and family. It's the perfect time to thank others for holiday gifts or just write a quick note to say thanks.


Monday, January 11, 2010

15 Minutes : Make It : Snowmen on Sticks

image via

We like to make these seasonal snowmen for snack-times. Healthy and fun: that works for me. (I will not be giving a skewer to my almost-three-year-old; instead, I will arrange his snack on his plate. Still fun, yet no potential for danger in the hands of that little tornado.)

Find the easy instructions here, at


Friday, January 8, 2010

15 Minutes : Know It : Bentley's Snowflakes

The above image was taken by Wilson Bentley, the first person to photograph a snowflake. His first successful photo was taken in 1885, and by the time of his death in 1931, he had taken over 5ooo photographs of snowflakes. You can see some of that collection in the book, Snowflakes in Photographs. Or, examine them closely by visiting

Interesting facts about snowflakes:
*Snowflakes always have six sides.

*The largest snowflake on record fell in Montana in 1887; it measured 15 inches in diameter and 8 inches thick.

*A blizzard occurs when you can't see more than 1/4 mile; the winds are at least 35 mph; and the storm lasts at least 3 hours. If any of these conditions are not present, it is only a snowstorm.

*Stampede Pass in Washington state receives the most snow in the USA: an average of 430 inches annually.

*A snowflake falls at an average speed of 3 mph.
Facts via suite101 and here.

Want more information about snowflakes or their photographer?
*Read the Caldecott Award-winning book about Wilson Bentley, aptly entitled, Snowflake Bentley.
*Learn more about Wilson Bentley here: Highlights Gallery of Bentley's Snowflakes