Monday, August 26, 2013

Win 4 Tickets to King Richard’s Faire

Hear ye, hear ye! Kings and Queens, Lords and Ladies, Children of All Ages.  Guess what opens in just four days? King Richard’s Faire.

 So, step right up (or rather, read right through), to enter for your chance to win a 4-pack of tickets to the longest running Renaissance Fair in New England, which opens this year on August 31 from10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on 80 acres of enchanted forest in Carver, MA, and runs weekends and Monday holidays (Labor Day and Columbus Day) through October 20.  

In all honesty, I am thrilled to offer this giveaway, as well as to take advantage of the opportunity to go to the fair myself this year.  For I always enjoyed King Richard’s Faire when I went with my parents, nieces and nephews prior to marriage and now am excited at the potential of introducing it to my own children, who I feel are at an ideal age and interest level to experience it.

My oldest has been listening to the The Complete Lord of the Rings Trilogy & The Hobbit Set and The Chronicles of Narnia on CD recently, and has also been pouring over a copy of the book Knights & Castles from the library.  So, he is all about knights, armor and warfare and cannot wait to see the live jousting matches at the fair!

My daughter, who has been listening and reading along with her brother, as well as enjoying much dramatic play, cannot wait to see a princess and the shows.

My youngest says he wants to see the big cats and other animals in the Royal Zoo and, perhaps, try a ride or game.

As for my husband and I, we are simply looking forward to seeing our children’s smiles as they light up among the merriment of entertainers, artisans and fellow fair goers.  That, and, of course, seeing how the fair ignites our children’s imaginations and acts as a catalyst for further Renaissance period learning fun.

But enough about us, let’s get to YOU and your family...

Win Free Tickets to King Richard’s Faire

You can enter to win two tickets good for September dates 9/7&8, 9/14&15 or 9/21&22. now through Monday, August 2, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. EST using the Rafflecopter below.  

Please note:  This giveaway is open to people 18 years of age or older with U.S. addresses only who will be physically able to attend to fair on one of the aforementioned dates.
One winner will be randomly selected and notified by email.  That person will have 24 hours to respond or another winner will be selected.  Final winner may request the tickets be mailed to them or may choose to come pick up the tickets directly from me (one town over from Carver.)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Get Thee to the Fair!

Regardless of if you win the giveaway or not, I encourage you to check out King Richard’s Faire.

Full-price tickets are $28 for adults, $16 for ages 4-11, and free for those under four. 

If you cannot wait to win tickets – or don’t end up the giveaway winner, go here to purchase advance tickets, click here to save $2 off an adult's admission to King Richard’s Fair on opening weekend, take advantage of Military Discount Day on September 1 or simply purchase tickets at the gate.

For planning purposes, please note that pets and outside food and drinks are NOT allowed on fair grounds, yet you won’t go hungry!  Typical period and fair food, as well as vegan and gluten free menu options are available for purchase.  (View the full menu here.)
Also, should your family be conservative like mine, you may want to plan which weekend you visit the fair based upon the special event that is happening that weekend:

  • Saturday Sept. 7th:  Cleavage Contest
  • Saturday, Sept. 14th: Vow Renewal Ceremony  
  • Saturday Sept. 21st: Royal Ink Tattoo Contest  
  • Saturday, Sept. 28th: Prince & Princess Contest  
  • Sunday, Sept. 29th: Game of Thrones Ascent Fanfest 
  • Saturday, October 5th: Beard & Mustache Contest 
  • Saturday, October 12th: Children's Fairies and Pirates Costume Contest  
  • Saturday, October 19th: Adult Costume Contest

Obviously, as fair guests get into the sprit of particular weekends through dressing up (or donning various stages of partial undress as the case sometimes is), some weekends may be more enjoyable for conservative families than others.

Notes and Disclosure:
  • All fair images are courtesy of and credited to King Richard’s Faire (since I cannot for the life of me find my own snapshots of the last time I went about seven years ago!) 
  • I received 4 free tickets for my family as well as the 4 I am giving away in return for this honest promotion and I am excited that I did.  I cannot wait to experience the fair with my children and feel blessed to give you and yours an opportunity to experience it, too!
  • have included affiliate links to Amazon in this post.  If you follow any and make a purchase, it will not cost you any extra, but will give me and mine a chance to earn a tiny amount of money.  Thank you!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Officially Introducing Art, Imagination and the NFL

About seven months ago, my oldest asked Daddy if he could start his own blog.  Daddy then approached me about it and I thought, Why not It would be a fun way for Luke to tell stories, find his voice and share his passions.  So, we challenged our oldest son to come up with a name for his blog, which he promptly (and cleverly, I might add) did, and thus Art, Imagination and the NFL was born.

As of today, Luke's blog is but 10 posts old, so to speak, a fact that is my fault not Luke's.

Luke would happily post weekly, maybe even daily, if he could.  However, he is not yet able to type and punctuate words and sentences yet (much less be on the computer unsupervised) so his blogging endeavors are subject to parental help.

Since I have been on partial, and sometimes full out, blogging breaks myself for the greater part of the year, Luke has had to practice extraordinary patience about if and when he might blog.  This week, his patience (and, okay, persistent requests) paid off.  While I worked on some much needed de-cluttering in our home today, Daddy sat down with Luke to browse recent photographs, choose one to write about and, then type out Luke's story about the photo (or, rather, the drawing the photo is of.)  And, so marks the occasion of Luke's 10th post at Art, Imagination and the NFL, a blog our boy envisioned, requested and wants to continue to build.

Art, Imagination and the NFL is an eclectic online space.  It's one that excites my boy.  He is thrilled when he sees comments there and lights up when new location points get added to what he named the "Who in the World Am I Talking to?" map.  If you have a chance then, please pop over and leave him a comment.  He'd be psyched!

How do you support your child's interests and imagination?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

5 Steps Toward Facilitating Better Clothing Management for Boys

Jack's Accessible Clothing
When I went into the boys’ room this morning to guide Luke during Family Work Time, I was appalled by the state of his and Jack’s clothing.  Not only did I find clothing tossed and the floor and draped over furniture, but the boys’ clothing shelves, drawers and closet hanging rod were a mess – clothing was shoved about in wrinkled disasters. 

Obviously, the system I that I had had in place to help the boys become more independently responsible for the care and storage of their clothing had broken down.  It needed to be tweaked.  Thirty minutes and five steps later, it was.

My Strategy for Collaboratively Tweaking the Boys’ Bedroom Clothing Areas

Bins in drawers make for easier management.

1.  Empty all drawers, shelves and hanging spaces.

For now, only two shirts are hung in the boy' closet -- one for Jack and one for Luke, up high, to keep them wrinkle free and ready for "nice dress"times.

I believe that children should be given ample opportunity to "do it myself", or, when they cannot do things for themselves, to be given as much help and guidance as they need to complete a task, and little more.

Thus, with Luke, I emptied a drawer, continued on with Steps Two and Three, and, then, emptied another drawer.  With each drawer and shelf, Luke and I completed Steps Two and Three before moving to the next.  (I did the boy’ closet hanging rod myself later, as the timer for Family Work Time went off before we had completed Steps 1-3 and Luke was ready for a break.)

2.  Determine how many outfits/items your child can reasonably manage.

Luke is now responsible for three warm-weather outfits on his shelf, on his body or in his hamper.
We decided to limit undies to seven and socks to five, with two pairs of jammie pants for Luke and five sets of jammies for Jack.

Then, because Luke has not been managing the 7-10 outfits we keep on his shelves well, I suggested that we keep no more than four in his room right now – three for warm weather and one for cooler weather, based on the current season.  I also let Luke know that I wanted him to be successful in his responsibilities and thought he could be.  However, if we later discover that four outfits prove to many for him to manage, then the number of his accessible outfits would be reduced further until he met with success. 

Of course, Luke questioned the idea of having two to four outfits accessible.  At this point, though, I reminded him that many people have only the clothes on their backs.  Having more clothing is a privilege.  After a bit more conversation, Luke agreed to test out managing four outfits and, together, and we proceeded to pick the four he wanted to keep in his room.

I asked Luke to pick out his three most comfortable shorts-and-tee outfits as well as a pair of pants and a sweatshirt.  As he did this, I also asked him to put any clothing that he does not like wearing at all in one pile and other clothing that he would like to keep for future management and wear in another.

Meanwhile, because Jack was busy with Nina in another room while Luke and I worked, I selected outfits for him. (Jack is not picky about what he puts on.)
For Jack, I selected seven warm weather outfits and three cool weather outfits – not because Jack is better at managing his clothes than Luke is, but because Jack tends to go through more outfits in one day due potty accidents, spilling food on himself and playing with messy things. 

While selecting “keeper” clothes, Luke and I chatted and, defined “managing clothing” as:
  • If an item is clean when you take it off, put it back on your shelves, in your drawers or on your hanging rod.
  • If it is dirty, put it in your hamper.
  • When putting away clothing, put it in the right place, neatly folded or rolled.
3.  Guide your child in folding and putting away “keeper” clothing.

Luke is also keeping one pair of pants and a sweatshirt out for cooler days and nights.

While deciding which clothing Luke and Jack would be keeping in their rooms as clothing available for daily wear,  I realized the way we had Luke's shirts and shorts folded was easy for him folding-wise, but not stacking-on-, nor taking-off-shelves -wise.  So, we practiced a new way of folding. 

Then, I guided Luke in putting away his clothes neatly while I put away Jack’s.

4.  Sort and bag up the rest of the clothing to be donated, sold or kept to use later.

Paired down jammies drawers helped us beef up the take-out-of-the-room bags.

After our Family Work Time timer went off, the children enjoyed some free play while I bagged up clothing that would no longer be stored in their room.  It felt good to carry the trash bags of clothing to the basement, leaving only as many clothes in the boy’ room as I think they can reasonably manage.  (Well, to be honest, I am not sure if they can reasonably manage what is now in their rooms, but at least there is a greater chance that they will and facilitating this chance is my current goal!)

5.  Be sure there is an easily accessible hamper for your child to use.

Potty training means lots of laundry.  Hampers are essential!

While working, I noticed that the boys’ pop-open bedroom hampers were knocked over in a corner of their room with stuffed toys near them.  Ah, perhaps that was the reason I found clothing on the floor.  I thought.  The boys may have been using their hampers for imaginary play.

With this, I re-set the hammers, and reminded them that hampers are for dirty clothes only.  If they want burrows for stuffed toys, they can find other ones or ask me for something to use.  (Care for their environment and their imaginations are both important in my book!)

And, so it was the tweaking of our boys’ room clothing storage and care system was finished this morning.

Now, I am happy to report, that our efforts are already proving fruitful.  After Luke got himself wet during some outdoor play, he went into his room, changed his outfit and put his other outfit in appropriate places.  Let’s hope the trend continues!

Drawers that have plenty of empty space don't explode often.

By limiting accessible clothing, putting it all in places where it is easy for the boys to reach and working with the boys regularly to help them master folding and putting away their clothing, I hope to increase their sense of "I can (and will!) do it myself!"

How do you help your boys to help themselves with independent clothing care and storage?

This post is being shared at Montessori Monday.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Apple Picking Sensory Bin Kit

It looks simple and, yes, a bit Christmas-y instead of fall-like, but, oh the sensory and learning it can inspire!  (Read to the end and I think you'll agree.)

While planning for the Sensory Bin Swap we hosted the other day, I had many ideas about what to put in the bags we gave out.  A pumpkin patch theme.  A stuff-your-own-scarecrow one.  An apple orchard one.  And more.  In the end, I decided to recycle and re-use to make an apple picking themed bin, since apple picking is one of my family's favorite fall activities.

Making the bin became a family affair.

Nina and Jack helped me make the coffee-scented dirt that would be used at the base of our bin.

Then, the kids helped me cut soft evergreen garland to become "grass" for the orchard.

Nina then busied herself taking remnants of toilet paper off toilet paper rolls before the kids colored them brown to be "tree trunks", while I got to work cutting some red "fallen apples" off holiday bouquet ornaments I had tucked away and funding some holly decorations to become "tree branches, leaves and apples on the trees.

Meanwhile, Luke decided that each bin should have people, so he set to work drawing families of five, plus a dog and a picnic blanket for each family.

Daddy was enlisted to help cut some of the people, dogs and blankets out and Jack helped me stuff all the bags.

Finally, I typed up an info. sheet to go into each bag, the text of which is copied below in case you'd like to replicate it or tweak it to suit your needs.  (NOTE: Should anyone want a printable of the insert, leave a comment and I will get one up here or send you one via email.)

Apple Picking Sensory Bin Kit


  • tactile and olfactory stimulation
  • imagination
  • fine motor skills
  • concentration
  • story telling
  • potential calming

  • Activity Directions
    Place kit materials in a shoe-box sized bin and let child explore. 

    Bag Includes
    • 1 baggie of Coffee-Scented Play Dirt
    • 1 baggie of “grass”
    • 1 baggie with apple tree parts (trunk, leaves and apples and 6 loose apples)
    • 1 baggie of hand drawn family figurines (which can be colored by your child)

    (1)   Add more props – a small container for collecting apples, a toy tractor, little people, more “trees”, more “apples” etc. Encourage imaginative story telling.
    (2)   Use the Coffee-Scented Play Dirt for other bins. For example, with small play trucks it can be part of a construction-themed sensory bin.  With small containers it can be used for filling and dumping.  With little coins hidden in it, it can be part of a treasure-hunting themed bin. With the “grass” and some plastic flowers and bugs, it can become a spring or summer theme bin.  With the “tree trunk” tube and other open objects, it can be used for filling, shaping and molding.
    (3)   Place loose apples in the “dirt” or in the “grass” in the bin with nothing else in the bin, and have child search for them.  .
    (4)   Use the “grass” as part of a Christmas or evergreen-theme bin.
    (5)    Practice counting and other basic math skills using the loose apples and the ones on the tree.

    Source Inspiration
    • materials we had on hand
    • fall season

    ALLERGEN NOTICE: The “dirt” in this kit contains whole wheat flour, coffee grinds, corn flour, salt, vegetable oil and water.  Be aware of possible allergens.

    WARNING:  Although intended for children to use somewhat independently, this

    activity includes plastic bags (which may pose a suffocation hazard if used inappropriately), small parts (which can pose a choking hazard if swallowed) and covered wire (which can pose an injury hazard if used inappropriately)  Adult supervision is required.

    What fun sensory bins have you put together lately?

    This post is being shared at Montessori Monday.

    Thursday, August 8, 2013

    Organize and Host a Sensory Bin Swap

    Luke, Jack and friends playing with beach-theme sensory bin contents on a tray.  Note the girls sorting gems and rocks while the boys engage in dramatic play.  What great materials that bag had  rocks, gem stones, shells, sand, plastic figurines variety to engage children of many ages!
    Today, our family hosted our first ever Sensory Bin Contents Swap – an idea that I came up with more than a year ago, but one that I have just gotten around to making a reality.

    Why it took me so long to organize and host a Sensory Bin Contents Swap, I have no idea.  But, I am glad I finally did it.  It was easy and enjoyable.  Plus, now we have even more sensory bin fun to look forward to in the coming year.

    Would you like to model a similar exchange after our tried-and-true experience?  Please feel free to tweak what I did to meet your own needs.

    First, decide how many folks you want to involve and who to invite.

    Making four bags to give away and one actual sensory bin box to play with ourselves was quite manageable!

    For me, the magic number was five and the group was a local group for families with young homeschoolers. 

    I chose five because I recalled the hours and hours it took me to cut materials for the traditional activity bag exchange I participated, which had 10 other folks in with ten other families and decided making more than five sensory bin bags to exchange might become tedious and time-consuming.

    I chose a group of local homeschoolers because:

    (a)   As much as I LOVED the long-distance original activity bag exchanges I did with a long-distance blog-friend, I also enjoyed the in-person tea time exchange the kids and I experienced with the aforementioned traditional activity bag exchange.

    (b)    Sensory bin materials can get heavy, so shipping costs might make the exchange cost prohibitive.

    (c)    The particular group I chose is full of enthusiastic moms who I enjoy dialoguing with in person and online.

    Second, send out an invitation.

    My invitation follows:

    Hello, all!

    I am in the midst of thinking about the coming year’s homeschool activities, including repurposing some of the areas in our home to better integrate our learning efforts. In doing so, I am hoping to knock off a project I have LONG been meaning to – re-designating a sensory bin space.
    With that in mind, I have decided it would be fun to do a Sensory Bin Contents exchange and wanted to invite other folks to participate. The details of the exchange are below. Let me know by next Sunday if you are interested in participating.
    Thanks! I look forward to a fun exchange.
    WHAT: Fall Sensory Bin Contents Swap
    WHEN: Now (for the planning) through a TBD later date for the actual swap (Date TBD once we know who will be actually participating.)
    WHERE: Depending on the locations of those that will participate, we can choose a centrally located park to do the exchange at. Or, I can host the exchange at my home. If you want to participate, but cannot make it for the actual Swap Day and Time, you’d be welcome to drop your bags-to-be-swapped off ahead of time and, then, to pick up the bags they were swapped for on a later date.
    WHO: The first four people who respond by next Sunday will participate along with us. Should more than four other people respond, I may organize a second exchange, since I think making the exchange larger than five people may make it cost/time budget prohibitive for some.

    1. Decide on a sensory bin theme.
    Themes are open, and I am happy to offer you specific ideas if you need some. Seasonal ideas (fall flowers, foliage, apples, squirrels, pumpkins, seeds, scarecrows, acorns, etc.) and general ones (specific colors, numbers, letters, body parts, etc.) are all appropriate.
    You can find some inspiring (albeit many elaborate) ideas for sensory bins at the following links:
    -   Examiner
    -   1+1+1=1
    Breathe easy as you browse the above links, though: Your idea need not be as intricate as some of the ones you’ll be wowed by. I know mine never are!
    2. Gather enough supplies to include three or more different types of textured materials and/or props that match your theme in five identical (or nearly identical) bags.
    Be creative. Think about supplies that you already have on hand, can recycle or can up-cycle. If you wish, you may purchase items, but please do not spend more than $5 per bag, tops. (The more frugal, the better! I am a big believer in budget-friendly kiddo fun and learning.)
    Ideas for materials can be found at this webpage.
    3. Divide yours supplies into five bags.
    These can be recycled shopping bags or 1-2 gallon Ziploc bags. (The latter is preferred.)
    For ease of transfer and storage, you may wish to put some of the items in each bag into smaller bags.
    For example, if I were making a BUGS bin, I might decide to use dirt, shredded green paper grass and some plastic bugs, plus a magnifying glass and/or bug net and/or bug house and/or funnel and/or scoops, if I were feeling really ambitious and had extras laying around. To ensure that the bags would stay “neat” during transfer and storage, I would put the dirt into a smaller Ziploc, the grass into another one and the bugs into yet another one. Then, I would pop all these into a larger one.
    4. Attach a label to each large bag that indicates your theme, and, if appropriate, a suggested time for use.
    Please indicate if the theme relates to a specific observance or holiday, particularly more obscure ones like those listed here.
    5. Bring four of the five identical bags you created to the Swap.
    You will exchange these for four different bags, leaving you with an entire month’s worth of sensory bin fun, plus the bag you made for yourself.
    6. Enjoy the Swap.
    Bring your kiddoes along with your bags. The kids can play together while we chat and swap. If we swap at my house, depending on the weather, I will put out a communal “messy” sensory bin for the kids to enjoy while they are here – most likely something water-based as I expect it will still be warm, so feel free to have your children wear or bring swimsuits and come prepared with a change of clothes and towel handy.
    Third, once folks respond with interest, decide on a date and time for the exchange and clarify any details.

    With different textured materials, props, recycled materials and an open-ended theme these exchange bag contents from another mom were right on target!  She figured autumn, falling foliage and decay.  Thus, sawdust as a base with laminated bugs to crawl though it, fake fall leaves, twigs for trees and homemade toilet-paper tube owls.  Love it!

    Our group decided that exchanging bags at my home instead of at a park would work best for everyone.  That way, moms could carry bags back to vehicles and, then, corral kids once the exchange playdate was over without worrying about others.

    Details I clarified included that the SIZE of the sensory bins was a plastic shoe box-to-dishwashing tub size and that no one should reveal what they were doing before the exchange day, so we could all enjoy the surprise and creativity of one another’s work. 

    Fourth, put Your Sensory Bags together.

    Nina and Jack thoroughly enjoyed making the coffee-scented "dirt" for the bags we exchanged.

    In my family’s case, putting together bags to exchange was a mom-kiddoes project.  The kids helped prepare and stuff all the contents, which turned into a sensory experience in itself!

    Finally, set up some sensory fun, welcome guests, then exchange and enjoy!

    Of course, my sensory seeker and a friend ended the day sliding in shaving cream!

    We kept things simple.  To entertain all the children, I set out:

    -         a sensory sandbox/pool with shaving cream, matchbox cars and foam paint brushes
    -         a sensory sandbox/pool with dishwashing detergent bubbles, shells, cloths and a bucket
    -         a sprinkler
    -         an easel with an art kit and chalk
    -         ride-on toys

    Another mom made a "China Bin" with cotton balls, post cards, crinkled Chinese magazines, origami cranes and stars and chinese candies (for scent or eating).  Clever and cultural!

    For the actual exchange between Moms, I simply put a large blanket on the ground.

    Luke, at first, thought everyone at the play date was "too young", but soon enough became engaged by the new bin materials, which got spread on a tray for his playing delight.

    Truly, fun was had by all today and I smile thinking about the play and learning that will unfold as all the children explore the goodies each family brought home today.  

    We'll definitely be doing another exchange.  How about you?

    Have you exchanged sensory bin contents (or actual sensory bins) before?  What other types of exchanges have you enjoyed?


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