Exploring Free Play- Fostering Imagination and Growth

As a Gen X parent, I never quite understood why we “had” to fill our kids afternoons and free time with 10,000 activities (sports, club meetings, scouting, etc.). My brother and I didn’t have tons of stuff each day after school. By the time I was in the 5th grade, both my parents worked, and frequently we were left home alone for a few hours after school a couple times a week.

We did our homework, played, read, and did chores. Even before that, there were plenty of times where we were home without structured activities. We still had scouts, soccer (my brother did AYSO for one season and decided it wasn’t for him), Key Club, Choir, JV Football. Many kids in my generation were latchkey kids and filled their afternoons with free and imaginative play.

Free play is an incredible learning tool for kids. It fosters imagination and gives kids opportunities to discover and explore. There are all sorts of toys that encourage free play- dolls, food toys, blocks, legos, to name a few.

My two love Playmobil. Playmobil is a German company that has been around since the 1970’s. They have so many different sets and types of toys- everything from princesses and fairies to knights and safari sets.

A jungle adventure after preschool. Complete with a feast

Recently, my son and daughter started pulling out some of their people as well as some of the animals and created their own adventure. Enter Carl the Mongoose and Mr. Chicken. Carl is a Meerkat, and Mr. Chicken is a Bald Eagle, but the names have stuck.  Other characters include The Birdkeeper and The Man with the Gray Hat, and Cleopatrick (my daughter named her). All of these people are from various sets, Cleo was the only one that sort of resembles her name, as she came from an awesome set of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar.

The animals and their people have all sorts of adventures. They have run a food truck, run a zoo, been on a cruise, gone on safari, hunted for wild animals, opened an iron and gold mine, run an orphanage (we have a lot of little kid Playmobil people), gone to college, gone to preschool, and taken a road trip to the “ocean” in Ohio. We paused the game for a bit to look at the US map to discover there is no ocean in Ohio, but they could go to Lake Erie instead. It was deemed the “Lake Erie ocean beach” adventure.

These adventures give the kids a chance to explore themselves and work on interpersonal relationships, even if it’s as a talking Bald Eagle and his keeper.

Even in these crazy times where nothing is certain, give your kids some time to play and explore. Taking a “brain break” (which is what the big kiddos teacher calls them) throughout the day for some playtime may help your kids more than you think.

Right now we are all home together, trying to scramble into some sort of routine of distance learning, being quiet while we all learn/work, breaks, and trying to play after school is over without making too much noise while grown ups work. It’s tough. It’s crazy. The house is messy, we’re frazzled, and we weren’t “with it” last week to follow our meal plan. But we got through it, and we’re trying again this week.

We’re all learning. And that means we should grant ourselves grace.

Be kind to yourself. Wash your paws, wear a mask, flatten the curve. Have a good week!

 

7/27/2020 Weekly Meal Plan

0a5e9dab796cea8a07eabe4eb4795b9e.jpgI’ve started doing weekly meal planning on Sundays. It’s easier to do it while I’m writing up the weekly calendar/schedule and prepping the snack box for the week.

I’ve been buying snacks in bulk and only putting weeks worth out in the snack box. It keeps us out of the stores, and its healthier. I’ve been doing this for about a month, and I’ve gotten really good at hiding the extra snacks.

So I haven’t kept up on getting snacks replenished, so I’ll be getting some new snackies this week. Otherwise, we are still ok on groceries and I’ll probably be able to skip a full grocery run.

For those of you that are new to meal planning, I’ve got an easy 101 style post here with super easy tips and steps. After you get that down, here is info about batch or freezer cooking.

I’ve gotten a pretty good inventory of the pantry, freezer, and fridge done (I update it after every shopping trip), so I’m able to plan meals and use up what we’ve got with little waste. If you are looking for kitchen inventory printable, I like the kitchen inventories here. They are great printables.

I only post our dinner plans for the week, because our other meals are usually the same each day: Right now our local school district is serving lunch for a drive-through service for kids 18 and under M-F. It’s great because it helps stretch our budget and it gets the kids out of the house for a few minutes. They also include a cold lunch (usually cereal and milk and a piece of fruit) for the next morning. Often times, the cereal ends up being a snack for late afternoon. I’ll be posting more info about summer lunches this afternoon or tomorrow.

Breakfast: Coffee with 1/2 and 1/2  for me, and pancakes or something along those lines for the kids (they love the Kodiak Cakes Mix).  I also keep sandwich Ziploc bags of other frozen fruit on hand to make the kids smoothies when they request them (a few times per week). Berries, peaches, and mangos are pretty popular. recently the Big Kid has been on a protein shake kick in the AM.

Usually, I do a crockpot meal on Mondays, but now that we are home all the time, we’ve been having an odd combination of fully home-cooked, scratch meals, and frozen entrees and veggies. I have been posting our meal plans on Instagram too- As well as pics of stuff we are doing to keep busy.

We’re in the final stretch of summer vacation. Summer School is over, and so now we are left to our own devices for the next month or so.  To that end, we’ve recently started playing Pokemon Go to help get our bodies active. We go out for walks each day to try and get some monsters and steps. I love that the big kid has a pokemon Buddy in the game and as part of taking care of his buddy, he has to “walk” the buddy daily. It encourages him to get exercise and it teaches him empathy- something that can be hard for kids on the spectrum.

  • Sunday:  Leftovers
  • Monday Biscuits, Country Gravy, hashbrowns, poached eggs, and melon (I am not ashamed to admit I ate half of a cantaloupe)
  • Tuesday:Veggie Burgers or chick’n nuggets, salad or fruit
  • Wednesday: Pulled BBQ Chicken, rice, steamed veg
  • Thursday: Pizza Night (pizza and salad or fruit)
  • Friday: Shephard’s Pie (I haven’t made this in AGES, and we have all the ingredients!)
  • Saturday: leftover fiesta

Please stay safe you guys! The sooner we flatten the curve, the sooner life can go back to normal- whatever that means.

Talk Back: What are you cooking for dinner this week?

Tryazon: Apply to Host A CurliGirls Hair Styling Party

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Tryazon has a new party that is accepting applications!

Straight or curly? CurliGirls don’t have to choose! Brand new CurliGirls dolls feature MagiCurl hair that curls instantly when you pull it. The longer you pull, the tighter the curl – it’s so easy! Curl with your fingers, or easy styling tools, then accessorize with hair clips and beads. Ready to change it up? Dip hair in warm water and watch it magically straighten! Then style and restyle over and over again. The styling possibilities are endless.

Get to know each of the CurliGirls! Charli, the Pop Star, is pretty quiet – except when she’s rocking out on stage! She’s a rebel with a heart of gold. Hayli, the Ballerina, is always on pointe – a poised, ladylike ballerina who is all sugarplums…with just the right amount of spice!! Bayli, the Birthday Girl, is the life of the party! This giggly girl is super organized and loves to plan the perfect celebration for her friends. No matter which doll you choose, you can express your CURL power, with CurliGirls!

Tryazon will select 100 hosts for this opportunity. Those chosen will receive a party pack with a variety of CurliGirls products to showcase with friends and family!

To apply or learn more about what each Party Pack includes, click here.

We’ve done several Tryazon parties- it’s a great way to try and share new products!

MY SPY- On Amazon Prime!

unnamed.pngThe kids and I saw My Spy in the theater right before the stay at home order was put in place. It was super cute and both kids (5 & 9) loved it. And now you can watch it at home on Amazon Prime or at a local drive-in theater with your kids!

Drive-In Theater Listing

My Spy follows JJ a hardened CIA operative (Dave Bautista) who has been demoted and finds himself at the mercy of a precocious 9-year-old girl, named Sophie (Chloe Coleman) where he has been sent undercover begrudgingly to surveil her family. When Sophie discovers hidden cameras in her apartment, she uses her tech-savviness to locate where the surveillance operation is set. In exchange for not blowing JJ’s cover, Sophie convinces him to spend time with her and teach her to be a spy. Despite his reluctance, JJ finds he is no match for Sophie’s disarming charm and wit. The hilarious actioner is directed by Peter Segal from a script penned by Jon and Erich Hoeber and stars Dave Bautista, Chloe Coleman, Kristen Schaal, Parisa Fitz-Henley and Ken Jeong. Producers are Chris Bender, Peter Segal, Jake Weiner, Robert Simonds, Gigi Pritzker, Dave Bautista and Jonathan Meisner.

There were a few times where the violence was a little intense for the kids, but the physical comedy, explosions, and jokes made up for that.

My son loves Kristen Schaal (You may know her as the voice of Mabel from Gravity Falls, and Louise from Bob’s Burgers), so he was hooked after I showed them the preview.

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If you are looking for a fun, family-friendly action movie to entertain the kids this summer, check out My Spy

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Giveaway: Enter to Win SCOOB! Digital Movie Code!

Thanks to the peeps over at Warner Bros. for sending me this awesome offer to share with ONE of my readers!

unnamed.jpg“SCOOB!” reveals how lifelong friends Scooby and Shaggy first met and how they joined with young detectives Fred, Velma and Daphne to form the famous Mystery Inc. Now, with hundreds of cases solved and adventures shared, Scooby and the gang face their biggest, most challenging mystery ever: a plot to unleash the ghost dog Cerberus upon the world. As they race to stop this global “dogpocalypse,” the gang discovers that Scooby has a secret legacy and an epic destiny greater than anyone imagined.

Scoob is available on May 15th for 48-hour Rental via Premium on Demand for $19.99 or premium digital ownership for $24.99, check your digital platform for more details, or visit this website.

If you haven’t seen the trailer, check it out here.

D4478F73-D9DA-41FC-8202-1FE493122013Entering to win is Easy Peasy! Leave a comment on this post with your favorite Scooby-Doo memory. Your favorite episode, crossover, movie, Scooby-doo related foods or snacks, whatever you love about Scoob and the gang!

I will pick a winner on May 15th mid-morning, and email you the code. 

Keeping Kids Active During the Quarantine!

There are all kinds of ways to get your kids active during the best of circumstances. However, life during the quarantine has proven challenging for all of us.

Chuze-RECT-rgb.jpgThanks to the awesome people over at Chuze Fitness, we can get our wiggles out as a family on the daily.

 On Chuze on-Demand new videos are posted each day, so the whole family will be able to break a sweat without breaking out of the house. This workout series was made in an attempt to bridge the gap when it comes to family-friendly workout videos by providing 20-minute classes designed for both big and little Chuzers to get their wiggles out.

On-screen, instructors lead their kids in stretches and fun movements that feel like a throwback to your own P.E. classes growing up – all you need to participate is a big room and a WiFi-connected device to follow along with. To access these Family Workouts, you can find them either on the Chuze on-Demand website or the Chuze Fitness YouTube page.

b0e5d5e05457e2c8a12dc87c9b6eafc7If this isn’t your cup of tea, or your kids need something that’s just for them here are a few other exercise options:

Go Noodle: Either from their website, or their YouTube Page. There are lots of fun videos to dance along to- we like Kitty High Five, Cat Party, Pop See Ko, and Run the Red Carpet.

Cosmic Kids Yoga: Jaime is a fun Yogini! She leads kids on fun asanas that often follow themes of their favorite movies, TV shows, or games. It’s a great way to make Yoga accessible to kids. We love Star Wars Yoga.

Dance Party: I’ll put on fun, funky, or silly music and the kids and I will dance for 20 minutes. Family favorite songs to shake our tails include anything by Grand Funk Railroad, Thrift Shop by Macklemore, Last Friday Night by Katy Perry, Rock Party Anthem, Uptown Funk, What does The Fox say.

Talk Back: How are you keeping your kiddos active during this tough time? 

Craft More Happy Moments with Blueprint for FREE!!

**This post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Stuck at home with the kids? Starting to get a little goofy? We are all looking for a way to stay healthy and productive at home during this unprecedented time. Bluprint is here as your creativity-at-home resource, providing ways to nourish your creative hearts and minds, all at home, to sustain and connect during this uncertain time with a FREE Creativity Care Package designed to help families make the most of their time together.

Bluprint, an NBCUniversal online creative learning platform, provides ways for the entire family to nourish their creativity from home, offering rich learning experiences for all ages.

Join them to “Craft More Happy Moments” during our FREE unlimited access creativity event; March 26 at Noon EST – April 9. 

With Bluprint you can stream thousands of creative education classes from knitting, sewing, baking, drawing, family crafts and much more, taught by the world’s leading experts.  Bluprint is your one-stop destination for classes, patterns and project ideas for all skill levels.

During the 14 day event, Bluprint will provide free access to their full slate of content; including more than 1300 classes and series and hundreds of step by step project tutorials and patterns making this the perfect time to learn a new craft or hobby.

I’ve already signed us up! We are going to get crafting this weekend!

Put the FUN in Fundraising with Uptown Jungle!

86723436_2767364806686857_2639936442016464896_o.jpgWhen you’ve got kids, fundraising is part of life. Wrapping paper, candy, cookie dough are just a few of the things that kids have to peddle these days.

If you are looking for a new fundraiser, check out Uptown Jungle!

Uptown Jungle provides a fast and easy way for groups, schools, churches, teams, and nonprofit organizations to raise some serious cash, just for playing around and having fun.

You keep 35% of your group’s admissions! Having done a lot of fundraising in my time, that is a great return.

There are two ways to fundraise:

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Uptown Jungle is a great place for kids of all ages to play! With a special tots area for littler kiddos, you can rest assured that your littles will be safe and have fun. Bigger kids can bounce, run, climb and explore safely. And parents who don’t want to play can chill in the parents lounge. Oh yeah, there is free WiFi.

The Harlem Globetrotters are Coming to Town!

harlemglobetrotterstileThey are back! The Harlem Globetrotters are coming to town, well our town, and probably yours too!

I can’t wait to take the kids. First, we will definitely have to watch some episodes of Scooby Doo from the 70’s!

If you want to take your family, US Family Guide has partnered with the team to save you some money! Save 25% with Promo Code: FUNFAM 

All-New Harlem Globetrotters Pushing The Limits World Tour

This is more than a basketball game. It is more than a show. It is the one and only Harlem Globetrotters in an all-new, larger-than-life world tour. You’ll be on your feet, out of your seat, laughing until it hurts and loving every moment.

The 5th Quarter – The game isn’t over after the final shot! Meet your favorite Globetrotter courtside after the game to get an autograph and photo.

Don’t miss out – get your tickets today and save SAVE 25% for ALL Harlem Globetrotters Games with promo code FUNFAM (Must purchase 14 days before Game Date).

Winter Sports Fun with The San Diego Sockers!

EGHG5285.JPGDid you know that San Diego has a Soccer Team? We Do! The Sockers are our MASL Team! They’ve been here since 2009.

The Big Kid and I got to experience our first Socker’s game yesterday!

BOIP0331.JPGBefore the game, we got a chance the run around the field and kick the ball.  After 20 minutes, the big kid was panting and ready for a water break.

Sockers tickets start at $15, the club pays for parking! They have special rates for groups and a special military discount!

The Sockers pride themselves on being the family-friendly affordable winter sport in San Diego. Fans are welcome on the field after the game to meet the team, get autographs or a high five. The big kid and I had a great time! Soccer is a very fast-moving game, and there are lots of opportunities for audience participation, which he LOVED!!

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If you were wondering about the noise level? Not too loud, and just in case, I had his noise-blocking earphones in the car.

I would recommend a Sockers game for any family, especially those with kids on the spectrum. It’s a chance to enjoy time together, make noise, and watch a fun game.

And Pechanga Arena has a great variety of food and snacks. We had caramel apples, and frozen chocolate-dipped cheesecake on a stick.

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**The Sockers provided free tickets to the game- However, we were not obligated to blog or post on Social media about the event. We had such an amazing time that I had to share with y’all.