Category Archives: parenting

Make Your Own Costume Party

With a birthday just before Hallowe’en, a make your own costume party was the perfect choice for my daughter’s 10th birthday.  The idea was that the kids would make a costume and take it home to use for Hallowe’en.

Materials to Collect

We collected materials from thrift stores, dollar stores and our local buy nothing group to inspire their imagination. Shopping was part of the fun. We chose items costing under $10, that could be customised to make a costume of their own design.

 

Suggested Items

  • Drapes, sheets and lengths of material
  • Tulle
  • Feather boas
  • Headbands and hats
  • Glasses, gloves, masks and jewellery
  • Plain shirts, leggings or shorts.
  • Any low-cost ready made costumes to customise
  • ribbons and bows
  • elastic
  • Velcro

Inspiration from Goodwill costume experts

Earlier that week I had attended a Goodwill Hallowe’en event and was able to use the advice of their costume experts as inspiration. Did you know that every Goodwill store has a costume expert?  (I didn’t). This is really useful to know, since I only ever buy costumes in thrift stores, putting together a costume is part of the fun but sometimes a bit of guidance would be helpful.

The costume experts helped us create a costume. I found a princess dress that I could also use for an 80’s prom night I’m going to with friends and at only $9.99 it was a bargain. Some of the costume ideas were really creative, I especially love the Mad Hatter ( I think the black tulle skirt she wore made it to our party and was used to form part of a sea monster costume).Goodwill costumes

For me these costumes look so much better than an expensive, ready put together one. Goodwill collect up items for their Hallowe’en costumes all year round, to put on display in October, so you will find all kinds of interesting goodies to make a unique and creative costume. There is even a dedicated Halloween Store in Tacoma. Halloween, generates the largest seasonal funding for Goodwill’s mission to provide career, job training and services to the unemployed. By shopping at Goodwill you’ll save yourself money, come home with a unique costume and support local people into employment. 

 

Design and Make Hats

The party started by designing hats made from paper grocery bags. Paper grocery bags are the perfect size to fit an average sized head.  Most of the materials came from donations, the dollar store or thrift stores.

Materials 

  • Paper grocery bags
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue and hot glue gun for bigger items
  • Ribbon
  • Fake flowers and leaves
  • Stickers and sequins
  • Tulle
  • Jewels
  • Pom-poms

making hats from paper grocery bags

How to Make a Hat

  1. Remove the handles
  2. Roll the sides of the bag from the open end.
  3. Push in the corners to make an interesting shape.
  4. Decorate with coloured paper
  5. Add decorations to create a unique hat.

The hats were judged at the end of the party and prizes awarded for the best design.

 

Make a Costume

To make the costume making challenging and fun, we chose categories. The children picked a category from a hat and set to work making a costume to fit their category. The most imaginative costume would win a prize. The categories were

  • animals
  • mythical creatures
  • magic
  • under the sea
  • monsters
  • be wild
  • make me laugh
  • a world of colour
  • book characters
  • heroes and villains

They could use any of the materials provided including elastic, velcro or ribbon to fasten things together.

items for make your own costume party

They all had really clear ideas of what they wanted to be and when they couldn’t find what they needed, improvised with what was available.  Rolls of coloured tulle came in useful as they used it to wrap their legs or arms. For a Winnie the Pooh costume, a yellow shirt was used to cover part of her legs and the rest were wrapped with yellow tulle. She added some ears and a honey pot made from paper.

 

 

Dressing up and creating their own costumes was such fun. I think it would be a good group task too. You could allocate each group a category and they could dress one person in the group. They all got to take their costumes home at the end of the party.

The creations were judged on how well they had interpreted their category and how imaginative the costume was.  We had a bat, a sea monster, a werewolf, a zombie pirate, a unicorn, Rapunzel, a fairy, Winnie the Pooh and a flash of colour.

If you want more inspiration for making your own costumes, check out these great resources from goodwill.

Costume Look Book

Video Tutorials

Pinterest Costume Ideas

 

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Upcycle Your Kids Old Toys or Shoes into Planters

Last week I was invited by Goodwill to visit Sumner, to see how small businesses there are upcycling thrift store purchases into desirable and unique household goods and clothing. I’d never been to Sumner before and was surprised to find a pretty little High Street full of independent shops selling art, antiques and other unique and interesting finds. I will definitely return, especially since it is the Rhubarb Pie Capital.

We started at Goodwill and my upcycling advisor Juli from Junkers Nest, helped me choose interesting items that could be turned into planters. The great thing about buying from Goodwill is that all the store profits go to helping career path job training for the unemployed and disadvantaged.

Goodwill Puyallup Treasure Hunting 01

I wanted to choose something that would appeal to my kids or would be cool decor for a preschool so we went for the toy section.  Old toy cars, toy animals with a hole cut in them or small dolls houses would all make great planters. It would also be a great way to save the environment from the multitude of plastic toys thrown away every year.

I plumped for a Halloween theme and chose a Monster High coffin. I also chose a pair of baby shoes. Sadly, I threw out all my baby shoes when I moved to the US (including the ones featured in my logo), if only I hadn’t, I could have turned them into something like this.

 

shoe planter

At Blue the Goodwill Boutique, I found this little table and chairs and an old tea set at Junkers Nest.

small table and chairs

My intention, once the rainy season is over, is to plant in the little cups and put it out in the garden. For now the girls have commandeered it for their American girl dolls.

We spent the day gaining inspiration for upcycling goods from Inta Vintage . By the end my mind was racing with ideas of how to upcycle some of my old furniture.

At VanLierop Garden Market the ladies worked their magic to turn our items into planters.

VanLierop Garden 05

The kids helped me make some extra embellishments and here is the finished article displayed (a little early) ready for Hallowe’en.

coffin planter made from toy

Inspired by some of the other bloggers projects, on our thrift shopping trip to buy birthday presents for their dad, the girls looked for items to turn into planters

We chose a pot and my daughter painted it with her own design.

upcycled planter

I’m looking forward to many more trips with the girls as we find fun items to upcycle for family and teacher gifts.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post, sponsored by Goodwill WA.

pinterest upcycling toys and shoes

 

 

 

She Used to Be Mine

I’m really excited because this week I’m finally going to see Waitress. I’ve loved this song since I heard Jessie Mueller sing it on the Tony awards a few years ago and I’ve been meaning to record it ever since.

Through the many transitions of life, we all have times when we no longer recognise ourselves and long for our younger selves. I felt this loss of identity, intensely when I was at home all day with three small children. There seemed to be no time for me, to look after my appearance, to get out of the house and be myself or to have a purpose other than being a mum. As they get older, after so many years of being at home, I struggle to find my purpose and identity when they are not around.

As I approach my late 40’s, sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder if it is really me. I long for my youthful skin and slender body. However, some of the things I missed when I was a mum of young children, are creeping back. I’ve rediscovered old hobbies like dancing and singing  and explored new ones, like playing the ukulele.  This is my first recorded attempt at playing an instrument and singing at the same time (a new and exciting skill for me).  As the song says ‘she’s imperfect but she tries’. Fear of being imperfect holds me back in many things, this is an attempt to let some of that go.

Almost every decade past the age of thirty brings a shift in identity; becoming parents, returning to the workforce, kids leaving home, divorce and separation, retirement, old age, all make us re-evaluate who we are. This song is a sad song about wishing you were who you used to be, but also a song of hope. The people we used to be are still there, we are those people, but our life experiences add depth to them. It is natural to miss who we used to be, but carry them with you through life, they are us and we are them.

The Steves: Picture Book Review

If you are a fan of  ‘I am Bat‘  you will love Morag Hood’s new book, The Steves.  Written and illustrated in the same quirky but simple style, it captures perfectly young children’s competitive nature and their drive to be bigger and better than friends and siblings. I can almost hear the words flowing from my daughters’ mouths.

Kids will laugh out loud at the insults they throw at one another and the wonderfully, comical illustrations. I love the way Morag Hood captures emotion in her illustrations.  Simple, beautiful and funny – a perfect package. I have no doubt the Steves will become a classic favourite for young children.

The Steve’s is available on Sept 4th 2018.

Benji & the Giant Kite: A Picture Book Review and Giveaway

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Benji & the Giant Kite by Alan C. Fox and illustrated by Eefje Kuijl, tells the story of a boy who, more than anything in the world, wants a big orange kite.   To buy the special kite, Benji has to earn money, so he gets to work helping his mother in the garden until he earns enough to buy the kite. Benji watches the kite sour through the air but when it is time to let it down he is overcome with an urge to set it free.

Alan Fox explains, that Benji and the Giant Kite is based on true events from his childhood. “I wanted to share the sense of achievement I felt by working hard to obtain something I really loved.” explains Fox, “But once I saw the kite flying at the beach, I wanted to let it go. My dream had been accomplished. It was time to move on to another, new experience. You must always keep going to fulfill your dreams and aspirations”.

Benji and the Giant Kite is visually stunning. The illustrations fill a double page with beauty and energy. The colour pallet of turquoise, pinks and greens is peaceful and warm. I love the way Benji’s hair blows and his little dog follows him around. I also love the depiction of the natural world with rolling waves, bees and flowers, birds building nests and glorious sunsets.

Benji and the Giant Kite

The underlying message of working hard to achieve your dreams makes this book particularly endearing. My only disappointment was the ending where Benji let the kite go.  My children didn’t really understand that part too. They wondered why after all his hard work he would just let it fly away – wasn’t it wasteful? I think this makes an interesting discussion point and it is refreshing to have an unpredictable ending. Do our dreams become meaningless once they are achieved? Should we move on to the next dream or should hard work help us to appreciate our achievements more? If we save hard for something should it be precious for a long time? Why do they think Benji let the kite go? Would they have done the same? I think I’m with the girls, I was a little disappointed in Benji and felt he should have treasured the kite, if he truly wanted it.

Benji and the Giant Kite is available on August 1 2018.

Giveaway – I have one copy of Benji and the Giant Kite to give away the winner will be drawn on August 8th

Leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway. Additional entries can be found via the Rafflecopter link.

Open to readers in the US.

Win a copy of Benji and the Giant Kite via Rafflecopter

Disclaimer: links are Amazon affiliate links – if you buy the book via this link I will receive a small commission.

Snail Mail: Book review & classroom activities

Snail Mail  by Samantha Berger is the story of a girl, who sends a letter to her friend on the other side of the country, delivering it the traditional ‘snail mail’ way. As the four special snails slowly travel across the country, they find by taking their time, they discover beauty in the world.

The illustrations by Julia Patton, show four snails with unique characters. Children will enjoy looking at the equipment each snail takes with them on their journey and tracking how it is used in the different climates. The snails move across the United States, through deserts and mountains, passing famous landmarks, through flat prairies and different weather until they reach New York City.  The illustrations are quirky, full of expression and packed with tiny details that children will return to time and again.

The story of the snails delivering their precious cargo emphasises the magical nature of receiving something in the mail. It is a reminder that in the modern world of email and texting, there are some things that are more special if they are delivered by post.

My children loved it, they thought it was a charming story and spent a long time pouring over the detailed illustrations.  I love the sentiment of the book, reminding children of the magic of receiving a special message in the mail.

This would be a perfect book for a classroom as an introduction to many projects

  • writing letters – practice writing letters to friends or family, set up a class mailbox to post them, find a class in another part of the country/world to be pen pals with.
  • sending postcards – provide postcards in the writing area. How is writing a postcard different from writing a letter? Have the children ever received postcards – bring them in to talk about.  Do we still need postcards, make notes for and against.
  • making and writing cards – create a greeting card station, provide lots of examples, make and write cards.
  • how does mail get from one place to another? Find out about the mail service – how does mail get from one place to another? Find out if the way people receive mail is different in other countries.
  • the post office – set up your role play area as a post office, visit a local post office or sorting office
  • introducing maps – look at maps of the united states and mark the route the snails took. Has anyone visited these places? Encourage family and friends to send the children letters – mark on a World and US map, where the children’s letters have travelled from.
  • the desert – research desert climates and the animals and plants you can find in a desert.  Write a piece of informational writing about a desert animal.
  • mountains – research mountain climates and the plants and animals that live there. make list of similarities and differences between deserts and mountains.
  • Famous landmarks around in United States – talk to the children about some famous landmarks they may have visited, ask them to share pictures and stories – make a class book about the wonderful places they have seen.

Snail Mail is published in the US on May 1st by Running Press Kids.

 

Disclaimer: links in this post are Amazon Affiliate links.  Advance copies of the book were received for review purposes.

Visiting New Zealand with Kids? Try these exciting and educational activities.

Today I have a guest post from Harper Reid.  Harper Reid is a freelance writer from Auckland, New Zealand who has a passion for child learning and development. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her reading through the latest E-learning trends and early childhood activities. You can find more of her work on her Tumblr.  (Disclaimer: this post does not contain sponsored content).

Though I haven’t visited New Zealand myself – it is top of my list (alongside Reggio Emilia) of must visit places in the world. If you are lucky enough to visit New Zealand, you may like to try out some of her suggestions.
Whether you’re from or live outside of New Zealand, vacationing around Aotearoa with kids, is the family adventure for a lifetime. New Zealand’s towns and cities are a veritable treasure trove for tourists – and especially for families. With outdoor experiences and historical sights galore, you won’t have to work too hard to schedule an exciting itinerary for your time in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
1. Explore the country’s national reserves

new zealand park

Image Source Park via Pexels.com

New Zealand’s national parks and reserves make introducing your kids to the country’s topography and native wildlife a dream – and with so many to choose from, you’ll have no shortage of outdoor days. Some of the most beautiful reserves include Abel Tasman National Park on the top of the South Island, Tongariro in the central North Island (particularly stunning in winter), and the stunning Mount Aspiring National Park near Lake Wanaka.

What’s more, the reserves are dotted with informative plaques, native wildlife habitats, and informed guides to get your mini-biologists looking out for specific species of flora and fauna.

2. Go on a heritage tour

Because New Zealand’s recorded history spans just over a couple of centuries, many of the country’s first settler houses and towns are still in pristine condition. This is great news for budding history buffs in the family.

To explore 19th-century New Zealand’s goldrushing history, put Arrowtown in Central Otago  on your map, and consider road-tripping around Hokitika on the West Coast to discover some pioneer-era halfway houses. You’ll also want to schedule in a stop at Waitangi to discover more about Aotearoa’s fraught bicultural past – a great way to introduce your kids to issues of colonisation and land ownership.

3. Get involved in rural life

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Photo credit Gabriel Peter

New Zealanders take great pride in their rustic roots, which is why the national education system makes room for unique outdoor play experiences like Calf Club and Agriculture Days.

Held in the springtime, Calf Club and Agriculture Days are a wonderful way to get up and close with New Zealand’s preeminent dairy and agriculture industry, and will allow your children to see what’s distinctive about an NZ upbringing – namely, the ability to rear your own sheep, calf, or goat, and bring it along for judging!

You might also consider attending an A&P lifestyle show, which is basically a Calf Club Day on a larger scale. Complete with horse and cattle events, shearing, and fun food stalls and rides for all the family to enjoy, you’ll be feeling like a local in no time.

4. Visit one of NZ’s top museums

New Zealand may be small, but its museums are world-quality. Auckland’s Maritime Museum, the Otago Museum, Te Manawa in Palmerston North – near every major centre, will serve up culture and history to feed to your kids.

Wellington’s Te Papa, in particular, is sure to enthral children and adults alike. With exhibitions about everything from World War I, to giant squid, to New Zealand’s Maori culture and heritage, there isn’t much you won’t find at Te Papa. And make sure you experience the earthquake simulator, too.

5. Encounter the Antarctic

newzealand aquarium

unsplash-logoCaroline Hernandez

Probably because of its geographical proximity to the continent, New Zealand is host to a variety of Antarctica-related experiences which you’d be smart to take advantage of whilst you’re in the country. If in Auckland, make a beeline to Kelly Tarlton’s, the world-famous aquarium which offers an “Antarctic Encounter” experience complete with penguins and snow.

Go all-out in the South Island with a trip to Christchurch’s Antarctic Centre, a vast warehouse near the airport which is just about as close as most of us will ever get to Scott’s Base.