About totsmarts

Enthusiastic mother of three young children. I am always searching for enriching, fun activities for my kids. I get ideas from other parents, books, teachers, other blogs and publications and I use my own creativity as much as I can. I hope that others will share their ideas for making learning fun for young children as I blog.

Quick and Cute Father’s Day Gift Wrapping

Happy Father’s Day!  My daughter put her handmade and sweet little Father’s Day gifts into a white paper bag and colored paper cut out into the shape of a neck-tie to be stapled at the top for wrapping her gifts to her Dad. I love the look of the white shirt and tie wrapping.  See other similar wrapping ideas below. Enjoy your Father’s Day weekend! Screen Shot 2013-06-15 at 7.35.38 AM Screen Shot 2013-06-15 at 7.39.49 AM

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Free Vintage Children’s Magazine: Highlights First Edition 1946

One of the magazines for children that we enjoy around here is Highlights, who have been publishing issues for a quite a few years.  Today being their anniversary, they offered a free pdf of their very first edition!  It is fun to read and see what the publication was like back when our parents or grandparents were youngsters.  You can see it here:  HighlightsFirstEdition

Summer Bucket List

Ahhh summer..a time to lay on the trampoline with kids and gaze at the stars, or a chance to get ahead academically so your kids will be ahead of the game come Fall (or both)?! Whatever you hope to accomplish this summer, a little brainstorming never hurt anyone. You will notice that most of these activities are not expensive or difficult to prepare for. Some people might have other, seemingly more ambitious goals, such as perfecting swimming skills or making dance teams — and that’s great — we will also be doing some things like that, but I think these types of activities are also important, especially during the summer when kids build character through exploration and gain a sense or self through a bit of freedom and new experiences. My family is young; two preschool aged girls and a nearly 1-year-old boy so the list is more for younger children, but some activities are great for any age.  I have included a pdf printable for you to fill in with your own ideas, if you would like to hang your list on your fridge or in some other spot for reference.

Bucket list printable PDF:   bucket_list

1.  Stay up past bedtime and lay on the grass looking at the stars.

2. Go camping, roast marshmallows  and tell silly/scary stories together.

3. Embrace Snail Mail.  Send postcards or other notes and artwork to grandparents or other family and friends.

4. Make some heirloom recipes from my family history with my girls and show them pictures of their ancestors.

5. Take my kids to an outdoor concert..and show off my dance moves sure to humiliate them!

6. Have a family day (or days) where the kids get to direct activities (within reason), and we follow my daughters favorite rule “no rushing around doing adult stuff!”

7. Clean out a large, used egg carton to be used throughout the summer for a rock collection, or for some other type of summer collection.

8. Participate in a service activity/make a care package for U.S soldiers to celebrate the 4th of July.

9. Make a “book”. I think we will do one all about the USA, in a notebook throughout the summer with pictures of landmarks, a map, and information about any place they go on a trip. This is an opportunity for artwork, writing, etc.. *You might choose some other theme that would spark an interest for your child..for example my daughter has been doing a nature book for a while, cutting out pictures of animals and bugs and glueing them in a notebook and writing a few letters or “words” next to the pictures.

10. Enjoy an evening at the farmers market.

11. Plant herbs.

12. Learn a few new outside games..such as croquette, hopscotch, sardines (like hide and seek), freeze tag, flash light tag at night, chinese jumprope, or relay races.

13. Participate in the public library’s summer reading program!

14. Outdoor artwork with chalk, such as doing a mural as a family at the park or trace shadows.

15. Have a family baseball (or t-ball) game and attend a Dodgers game.

16. Kite flying day / Make and fly paper airplanes.

17. Visit a farm / berry picking.

18. Make our own healthy popsicles.

20. Visit the ocean / beach day.

Last Minute Mother’s Day Gifts

Moms Day is around the corner.  If you are a mom, a dad or a friend — here are a couple of simple, cute ideas for a sweet surprise.  My daughter gave me a necklace, made from beads strung on stretchy string with a salt clay heart pendant painted pink — What A Treasure! And to all you mothers out there, working hard to bring up wonderful kids in the best way you know how:  YOU ARE FABULOUS!  Happy Mother’s Day!

1. CUTE Mother’s Day Newspaper Printout from Martha Stewart (pdf here Mom’s Gazette)

2. Home decorated picture frame.  You can pick one up at Michael’s Crafts for a dollar, or make your own out of paper or salt clay (dried).  Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 2.57.58 PM

Fun and Simple Winter Crafts

Winter has nearly gone in many places, but I know that for those family members of mine in Wisconsin and Idaho, hot chocolate still sounds great any time of day.  Here in Pasadena, we have not had a single flake of snow, of course, but that has not stopped us from at least trying to be a bit festive.  Here are some of the Winter crafts that we enjoy.  (See descriptions below)

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1. Dixie Cup Igloo (Dixi cup, glue, scissors, and marshmallows)                                   2.Snow/Paper Snowflakes (either hung or taped to windows) Tip: run them through the sewing machine on a long and loose stitch, leaving a few stitches in between to string them up with a floating effect. (Paper, scissors) You can also string cotton balls on fishing line or thread to make “snow”.  Click here for PDF Instructions on cutting out Snow Stars  SnowStar                                                                                                                                3. Paper Plate Snowman with letters of child’s name (plates, construction paper, glue)      4. Picasso Style Snowman (Melted Snowman Picture construction paper, scissors, glue)    5. Melted Snowman Sugar Cookies and Snowman Ice cream Cones for those of us wearing t-shirts in 75 degree weather this winter.

Twelve Days of Christmas: Christmas Countdown Activities

Christmas is almost here, and it is likely that little ones are ready to start counting down the days.  Here are a few countdown ideas to make the wait more fun and festive.

Wrap up Christmas books and put them underneath the tree to be unwrapped and read each night (or skip the wrapping and just have the reading ritual).  My kids love this.

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Santa’s Beard Countdown  (print file here: santacountdown )Screen Shot 2012-12-14 at 6.48.55 AM

Tricks For Unique Halloween Treats

Halloween is the perfect holiday for serving unique and silly treats. These ideas for Halloween treats might bring welcomed variety to your festivities this year, and there are even a few almost-healthy options here.  (who are we kidding?.. Halloween is about BEING ONE WITH THE SUGAR RUSH)  I can’t wait to try the caramel apple bites made with green grapes -yum!

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Halloween Brownies

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What you need:
Brownie Mix
Candy Corn
Marshmallows
Chocolate Chips

What to do:
Make brownies like you normally would, but for the last 5-8 minutes on the timer, take them out and sprinkle on the candy corn, marshmallows, and chocolate chips.

Place the brownies back into the oven and finish baking. Let your brownies cool completely before serving to excited, already sugar-overdosed children or festive adults.