The Making of a Spider

spider costume

Halloween at our house is always a big event. As soon as October hits the kids are asking to decorate and even before that they are already talking about costumes and what they are going to be. In fact, there have been years when they have decided a whole year in advance what they wanted to be for next Halloween (and actually stuck with it).

Last year my daughter decided she wanted to be a spider. For me I prefer to buy our Halloween costumes if we can find what we need. As long as they are decent quality and not too expensive I find this the easiest and simplest. And there is quite the range and variety of costumes these days so this usually isn’t a problem. But in this case, I don’t know about you but I have never seen in a store a kids (or adult for that matter) spider costume – ever. So I knew that we had to make one.

Luckily, my very talented sister is in costume design and had already created a spider costume for herself years ago, so I didn’t have to start from scratch and I had a great guide to get the costume together. It did require a bit of work and gathering a few pieces, which can add up, but was fairly easy to put together.

How to Make a Spider Costume

This is a simple costume to put together. The most challenging part is doing the arms and legs and though not difficult requires some patience, especially if you’re not a sewer like myself!

Here’s what you need:

Long sleeved black shirtspider costume

Black leggings

2 pairs black panty hose or tights

Black gloves

Cotton batting

Black shoes or boots

4-6 Safety pins

Needle

Clear plastic thread

Black thread

Glitter hairspray

Black eyeliner pencil or facepaint crayon

1. The first thing you need to do is make the arms/ legs. Because you already have 4 limbs you only need 4 more to make 8 for the spider. Take the black panty hose or tights out of the package and measure the desired length of the arm. Do this by holding having the person the costume is for hold out their arm vertically. Hold up the panty hose leg to the arm. Have the person gently hold the end of the toes to make this a little bit easier. Measure to the arm pit and then back up a little bit and make it shorter. You want the length of the hose to be slightly shorter than the arm because when you pin it on it needs to be able to move and not be bunched together. This will make more sense when we get to step 4 – but if the panty hose is as long as the arm it will get squished and could be uncomfortable (as well as it won’t look right).

spider costume2. Once you have determined the length of the hose you need cut it straight across. Use this first piece of panty hose as your example and measure them up to the other panty hose legs and cut to make the right length. This makes it easy to get them all the same length.

3. Stuff the panty hose with the cotton batting. Use enough to make it full and round but does not need to be overstuffed that it’s pulling on the hose. Once the hose is stuffed sew the end closed using the black thread. Repeat with the other 3 legs.

This next step is easiest if you can have the child put on the rest of the costume so you can pin and line up the arms.

4. Have the child put on the black long sleeved shirt and leggings. Using a safety pin, pin one of the stuffed legs onto the hip of the pants. Pin it with the sewed end on the hip. Do the same with the second leg on the other side.

5. Next, pin the third leg on the shirt about mid way up the torso. Do the same with the fourth one on the other side.

6. Take your clear thread and attach it to the end of one of the legs that is pinned to the hip (simply just knot the end of the thread and attach it securely to the end of the leg. Be careful not to bunch the leg on the end. I did a once through, little loop and knotted, very clean.

spider costume7. Take the thread and go up to the leg attached mid way up the torso and attach the two legs together with the thread. Leave enough length that the legs are separated, hang nicely and not bunched together. You want enough space between them for movement. Attach it securely. Then continue with the thread up to the child’s wrist.

8. Create a loop around the child’s wrist. Again leave enough length between the mid torso leg and the wrist so that the legs hang nicely, have enough room for movement and are not all bunched together. Have the child lift their arm vertically to measure this and to ensure you have the length you desire. Secure the loop with a slip knot, so that you can easily open and close the loop on their wrist and make it easy to take off. Whew! Now that you’ve done the one side mastered – do the same thing on the other side.

9. Once you have both sides attached with legs, unpin the bottom legs on the hips, unloop the thread on the wrists and slid it gently off the wrist. leave everything else attached! This makes it way easier when you’re putting it on for Halloween or a Halloween event. Gently slide the shirt over the child’s head and place it in a safe place (where it won’t get disturbed or played with) until needed for Halloween.

Putting It All Together On Halloween

The legs are the hardest part but once you have those pinned and ready the rest is a walk in the park.

10. Put the black leggings on first. Gently assist the child with putting on the black shirt. Pin the two bottom legs to the hips and slid the loops over the child’s wrists. Put on the gloves and tighten the loops as needed.

11. Do hair as desired in whatever style you choose, then spray with glitter hairspray.

12. With the black eyeliner pencil or facepaint crayon draw a spider web one of the child’s cheeks (this is not a must but just add that little extra to the costume.

13. Put on black boots or shoes and voila! you have your little spider all set to go!

spider costume

 

 

Create Success in the Classroom – Essential Oils for Back to School

essential oils for back to school

Create success in the classroom with these essential oils for back to school.

It’s that time of year again back to school and fall routine. Personally I love the summer schedule, the lazy days, warm summer sunshine and the freedom of being able to just play. Go anywhere at anytime and not have to worry about ‘the schedule’.

For some kids back to school can be quite challenging. They have a hard time sitting for longer periods of time, focusing on what’s going on or simply becoming overwhelmed by all the action and energies that are going on in the classroom. This can make things uncomfortable and definitely not fun for a child who feels this way.

child-830988_1920 pixabayI have always felt that children are uniquely different and that they each have their skills and talents and learn in different ways. No one child will learn the exact same way as another, which is why our school systems have changed in so many ways over the years. I still feel the system has a ways to go to reach all children, but it’s great to see some progress and specialty programs that can meet more children’s learning styles and needs.

That being said I think a majority of schools still teach to the average child, which is a small percentage of children in the class, while the rest fall above or below the line for various reasons. Little Johnny can’t focus so he misses out or gets in trouble a lot because he’s always fidgeting and moving. It’s not that he doesn’t want to, his body just needs a little support in doing so – and there’s nothing wrong with that.

In comes essential oils, an easy, simple and effective way to help support children (and adults too) at school and in their daily lives.

Keys to Success at School

essential oils for back to schoolIn order for children to have success at school they need to have a strong foundation which consists of these 5 elements

  • Good diet, nutrition and exercise
  • Proper rest (so they have enough energy for the day’s activities)
  • Boosted (strong) immunity
  • Emotional support
  • Mental clarity and focus

These key elements prep a child (and adult – we need this stuff too) to be able to function at their optimal level throughout the day. If even one of these is out of whack, it can affect their ability to focus, process or manage themselves emotionally.

How Essential Oils Can Help at School

Essential oils are great tools to add to a child’s wellness routine to not only assist and support them in these elements but to maintain a healthy balance. There are a number of oils that can support these. Here’s a quick overview of some of these oils to get you started.

Focus & Concentration

essential oils for back to schoolWe all know how hard it is to get things done and done well when we can’t focus! Try these when you can’t focus or need to.

In Tune – is a focus blend that helps enhance and sustain focus. This works wonders with my son who often needs support in this area. Roll this oil on the back of the neck or the bottoms of the feet. I have been using the InTune blend quite a bit this week myself, as I have been having trouble getting myself focused after my relaxed summer vacation! And it has been working like a charm. I feel like I’m on fire and have accomplished so much this week.

Rosemary – helps maintain concentration and supports memory. Apply topically under nose and across forehead.

Immunity Boost

essential oils for back to schoolOnGuard – this blend is my top go to when boosting immunity. It supports healthy immune function, respiratory and circulation, support’s body’s natural antioxidant and is energizing and uplifting. You can diffuse it, add it to a spray bottle with water for a natural hand sanitizer or spray on your counters to clean and sanitize surfaces.

Ginger – commonly known for it’s aid in reducing nausea, ginger also has strong antioxidant properties, inhibiting the growth of bacteria and stimulates blood circulation (which means more oxygen is getting to your tissues to help remove toxins and viruses).

Calm & Balance

We all know how difficult it can be when we are riled up, anxious, overwhelmed or upset. Who can concentrate, focus or even function when our bodies are in that state? Essential oils can cross the blood brain barrier and therefore act quickly in providing the needed support; supporting the child in moving back into balance quickly and easily. Feeling better in their bodies and able to manage what is happening around them and do what they need to do, whether it be at home or school.

Balance – is one of my favorite blends which we use frequently at our house. This blend calms and balances emotions, reduces stress and anxiety. It also has a lovely scent which I could sniff all day!

Frankincense – is known as the King of Oils, is a grounding oil and supports emotional balance.

Healthy Digestion

digestzen-15mlStarting with a healthy breakfast in the morning is only part of the equation. Ensuring our bodies are digesting properly and absorbing the nutrients we need is key. This is why using essential oils to support digestion can be of great benefit.

Lemon – we start with a glass of lemon water in the mornings – 1-2 drops of lemon essential oil mixed in a glass of water, which flushes the system, hydrates the body, boosts immunity as well as improving digestion. The advantage of using the essential oil over fresh lemon is it does not cause deterioration of the enamel on our teeth or damage the gums.

DigestZen – is a wonderful companion to aid in the digestion of food, soothe occasional upset stomachs, and reduce uncomfortable gas and bloating. When my daughter has a sore tummy we apply this topically on her stomach and she feels more comfortable within minutes. 

Restful Night’s Sleep

essential oils for back to schoolWe all know a good night’s sleep is key for anyone to function well during the day. Lack of quality sleep can affect mood, focus, concentration, memory, weakened immunity and overall health. Diffusing calming oils overnight can help balance and process days events as well as support a restful night’s sleep.

Breathe/ Easy Air – is a wonderful one for sleep as it supports the respiratory system and opens up the airways therefore allowing more oxygen to enter the body and creating a more restful sleep. Often can reduce or eliminate snoring as well.

Lavender – a common one used for sleep as it promotes calming and relaxation. One thing to note with lavender is for some children and highly sensitive people lavender can have the opposite effect and instead of calming it can energize. Experiment with this one to gauge what the effects are and perhaps choose a citrus oil instead.

The beauty of essential oils is that there’s not just one oil with the support you’re looking for. Many of the oils share similar properties, so if the one you choose to try first doesn’t work for you, then there is another one to try!

Give some of these combinations a try and let me know how it worked out, either with yourself or the kids.

Interested in what other oils could support focus, immunity, sleep, etc.? Would you like to give some a try? For the month of September I am offering Back to School Essential Oil Kits to support these different elements. Check them out here.

essential oils for back to school

And this month Enter to Win Back to School Essential Oils until September 30th.

Tips for Taking Kids to the Calgary Stampede Parade with Ease

calgary stampede parade

Kicking off “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth”, the Calgary Stampede Parade is a world famous parade that showcases floats, bands, riders, cultural entries and much more. Led by the World Champion Stampede Show Band this two hour parade is not one you want to miss and is an important part of the Stampede experience.

Calgary Stampede ParadeWhen I first came to Calgary I was scared away from going to the Calgary Stampede Parade (attended by up to 400,000 people each year) by my boyfriend at the time. He told me horror stories about how you had to get up at 5 in the morning to go downtown and claim your spot so you had a decent place to view the parade – which started at 9. The whole idea of going down that early and waiting around for the parade for hours just did not appeal to me, no matter how much I loved parades, so I never went.

And I definitely could not imagine getting up that early and doing that with kids! So it’s ironic that it wasn’t until I had kids that I started going to the Stampede Parade. My oldest was 8 the first time we went, and the twins were 2. I really wanted to go and I was tired of waiting around for someone to come with me and being scared by the prospect of not being able to find a spot to sit.

The Magic Formula

Calgary Stampede ParadeA few years earlier my sister had been in town and had gone to the parade with her girlfriend who lived here in Calgary. Her girlfriend had discovered a ‘secret formula’ that allowed her to go down to the parade at a reasonable time and still get a decent spot to sit and view the parade – with her kids and without fighting the crowds; so I took a chance and tried her method to take my kids to the parade without having to go down for 5 am (which honestly is ridiculous). Sure you can purchase bleacher seats and show up whenever you want but these tend to be expensive and few, as 80% of the route is free seating.

It worked beautifully. Not only did we get super spots, right on the curb to view the parade, we only had to wait for an hour or so before the parade came our way (and there is pre parade entertainment starting at 7:30 am) – so it was super easy to keep the kids entertained and engaged until the parade started. Honestly it was fantastic, the kids loved the parade and I was so glad that I had taken a chance and went.

Now we attend the parade every year using this technique that well, yes I am going to share with you, as well as these 6 other tips to make your Calgary Stampede Parade experience with kids not only memorable but easy and fun for all.

7 Easy Tips for Taking Kids to the Calgary Stampede Parade

Pack a Healthy Lunch & Snacks – a well fed kid is a happy kid and you are a happy parent. I always pack lots of snacks and a lunch for everyone so that nobody gets cranky from being hungry. Yes there are places downtown where you can purchase food, but the pickings may not be the most healthy and lines will be long. If you bring your own not only can you choose foods that you want your kids to eat (and they enjoy) but they can eat when they’re hungry and you don’t have to go chasing after food or make them wait.

Calgary Stampede ParadeBring Folding Chairs – you may find these a bit challenging to carry with the kids but believe me it is worth it (and as they get older they can carry their own chairs). Watch the parade in comfort as sitting for two hours on the curb can make your butt pretty sore. The kids will likely be up and down from their chairs but that’s ok, still make sure everyone has their own as everyone will be more comfortable. They are also great space markers if you have to zip to the bathroom or run and grab something and don’t have another adult to leave behind to ‘guard the spot’.

Get into the Spirit of Stampede (and get the kids excited about it) – dress for it! Grab cowboy hats and boots, jeans and button down shirts and wear them to the parade. Kids gear is not that expensive or you can buy second hand. The kids will love dressing up and it’ll build their excitement and interest in what’s happening.

Bring Hats, Suncreen and Water – it can get very hot along the parade route and you are sitting there for at least two hours. Make sure you have full water bottles for everyone, hats (cowboy style of course) and sunscreen. Some places along the route provide some shade then turn into sun or vice versa so be prepared.

calgary stampede paradeDress in Layers (or at least bring a sweater and raincoat) – my mother always taught me to be prepared and that you never go out the door without your raincoat, even when the sun is shining brightly (we all know how fast Calgary weather can change). It also tends to be cooler in the morning as you are waiting and the parade starts and much warmer by the time the parade is over. If you bring a few layers it allows you to put on and take off as needed so that your body temperature is comfortable during the parade.

Pick Your Spot at the end of the Parade Route – this is what I do every year and we find a really good spot curbside for the kids. We drive down and park near the end of the route, getting down there by 9 in the morning, and we never have an issue getting a spot. Now this year they have thrown me for a bit of a loop because they have reversed the parade route – going backwards to what they usually do – so this throws a bit of a glitch into my plan, but the same concept will apply. We find our spot at the end wait maybe an hour for it to start (doesn’t that sound way better than 5 am) and the parade is finished on our end by noon.

Bring backpacks and/ or a wagon – you’re probably wondering how you’re going to carry all this stuff. When the kids were smaller I would bring a large backpack that I put everything in and a wagon for the chairs. As they got older though they would bring their own backpacks and carry their own chairs (seriously start them early and it will become second nature to them – when we went to Florida this year there were times I carried nothing because everyone could carry their own stuff, it was fantastic).

The parade really is a wonderful experience and can easily be enjoyed with kids and by parents with these easy tips (one tip for parents if you want coffee bring your own the line ups for this coveted beverage are crazy!)

Calgary Stampede Parade Combo

It is not one to be missed simply because you’re concerned about the crowd or getting a spot, these can be easily navigated. Really everyone is down there to have fun and enjoy the parade. So as long as everyone is mindful, patient and polite the Calgary Stampede Parade can be added to the memory books as a positive experience and one that is enjoyed year after year.

Calgary Stampede Parade

Have a tip you use when taking your kids to the parade? Share in the comments below.

Thinking of taking the kids down to Stampede grounds? Check out these tips to get the most out of your day, have fun and keep everybody happy.

8 Tips for Gardening with Kids

gardening with kids

I love getting outside with the kids and digging in the garden. They love getting out there and putting their hands in the dirt, planting their seeds and then watching attentively each day waiting for that first bit of green to come up.

They get so excited when it peeks through and though I sometimes have to tell them things like not to overwater their plants, they love the experience and enjoy the success of producing their own flowers or food.

Benefits of Gardening with Kids

mud activitiesGardening with children provides many benefits and learning and you can start involving them at a very young age. It builds upon their innate curiosity to learn and ask why, learning by doing and of course nurturing their love of playing in the dirt (playing in the dirt is actually good for you!)

It teaches them responsibility, environmental awareness, patience and developmental benefits such as fine motor skills and planning and organizing. There’s even scientific and math concepts that you can teach through gardening which I always find so amazing how nature can teach us just by being involved with it. Plus it’s a fabulous bonding experience and it’s fun! Not to mention that your outside getting exercise and soaking up the sunshine.

Gardening with kids can be super easy and with these tips you’ll have success in no time.

Tips for Gardening with Kids

Give them their own spot – this is the most important thing. The kids need to feel like they have their own spot that they can garden in and that you are ok to relinquish control over! You should certainly work with them and guide them on what to do, but you really want to allow them to do it and try a few things as that is how they learn. It’s ok for them to plant a seed too deep and have it not come up or to over water an area. Yes you want them to experience success but it’s also ok for them to experience something not working. Then there’s the opportunity to discuss and explore why. And if you don’t have a lot of space try container or pallet gardening.

IMG_0900Give them their own gardening tools – set them up with their own kids size gardening gloves, garden shovel, knee pad, etc. which are easily found at your local garden center or online sites like Amazon. When they have their own tools to work with it makes them feel more important and that they have more control. Also make sure their tools are durable and strong, invest in the metal ones, not plastic that can break easily.

Start from seed – one of the best learning experiences in the garden is to start right from the beginning. I know in some climates the growing season is short and it’s easier to buy seedlings and plant those. Children will learn more by seeing the growing process right from the beginning – plus they get so excited when they see that first shoot of green peeking through.

In those situations start your seeds earlier inside and then transplanting them to the outdoor garden once it’s warmed up (here in Calgary rule of thumb is nothing until after May long weekend). You could do a combination, some from seed and a few of seedlings, which is what I tend to do, which provides both experiences.

Let them pick what they want to plant – if they get to choose what plants they want then this not only empowers them it gives them a more vested interest in what’s happening. As the parent give them choices that would work in your garden space and that will provide the kids with the most success. Choose from this Top 10 list of Crops for Children which are easy to grow, have short growing seasons and are fun to harvest.

gardening with kidsLet them decorate their garden – let the kids add a little bit of their own flare to the garden by making their own garden stake or scarecrow. Adding a fairy house or some other decorative item to a corner of their garden. Let them be creative!

Show off their work – when showing off the garden – either physically or through pictures – make sure to highlight the kids garden. This will ensue a sense of pride and accomplishment and creates a motivator for them to continue.

Encourage them to work it right to the end – work with the kids to see the garden season all the way through. Get them to help care for the garden even after the fruit has been harvested and teach them how to prep it for the winter and next growing season. This is a valuable lesson in teaching them the importance of all the steps and how each step supports the fruit that they produced and enjoyed. As well as all about the circle of life.

gardening with kidsModel what you want them to do – the easiest way to get them started is to be gardening yourself. Kids watch and learn from the adults in their lives so if they see you doing it they are going to want to do it to. Encourage them when they come over and ask questions, give them small tasks to get them involved and take time to answer their questions.

When I was little my aunt had a huge beautiful garden (and still does) that she worked and enjoyed every year. I loved going to her place and helping her, asking questions. Even as a family we had a small garden plot – and as a result all 3 of us girls love gardening and do so in our adult lives.

Starting with these simple tips will ensure the most success for gardening with kids. As you get going and the kids get older, with more experience you can then introduce concepts like rain barrels and why they’re beneficial, planting specific plants to attract pollinators like bees, humming birds and why that’s helpful to the earth. It doesn’t mean you can’t talk about them now (as you are likely doing some of those things in your garden already) but you can use them as ways to expand and build on their knowledge as they go and so as not to overwhelm them with a lot of information at once.

The best tip though is to enjoy yourself! Get out there and have fun with the kids and reap the benefits as a bonus!

gardening with kids

Have some great tips for gardening with kids? Share in the comments below.

Winter Adventures – Snow Tubing

Blog Winter Adventures Snow Tubing

You could win a Family 4 Pack for Snow Tubing at Calgary’s Acura Snow Tube Park courtesy of WinSport. Enter here

Snow Tubing is a fabulous outdoor winter activity that has taken many ski resorts by storm! This exhilarating concept of cruising down the snow covered hill on an inner tube is not only fun but a great family activity.

A secondary activity to the toboggan, snow tubing originated sometime back in the 1800’s. The concept of cruising down the hill in a tube slowly gained popularity over the years and really took off in the 1990’s when many ski hills decided to offer an alternate outdoor activity for the increased non skiers that were coming to the hill.

snow tubingAnd let me tell you snow tubing is an absolute rush! We had the pleasure of trying snow tubing for the first time at Winsport’s Acura Tube Park here in Calgary. Boasting 9 lanes and Western Canada’s largest tube park, it is quite different than hopping on the toboggan and zooming down the hill. First off, it is safer as the tube park is set up with lanes, so when you go down the hill you have your own wide space to zip through. Plus it is staff supervised and they moderate when people go, making sure the lane is clear before the next person zooms down.

Second, you can save those legs going up and down the hill with your tube each time because you ride the magic carpet to the top. This allows you to stop and enjoy the ride up as well.

snow tubingThird, the lanes are groomed and maintained. So though you may experience some dips and curves they are none of the bumps or bare spots that you might run into on the traditional toboggan hill. Easier on the tailbone and the rest of the body!

The kids were super excited to give it a try. Children have to be at least 42″ to ride by themselves but children 36″ or more can go if they ride with an adult. Chloe was a little trepidatious but totally wanted to go by herself regardless. Luke, as he does, just watched everyone else go first, getting the lay of the land, seeing what to expect, and was quite confident to go on his own once it was his turn.

snow tubingWhen it’s your turn the staff actually give you a push and launch you down the lane. Either giving you a spin or sending you straight – which they ask you what you’d prefer before they do. Being a little cautious myself I asked for straight the first time I went, but honestly you want to spin! (Just remember to wait a minute or so when you get to the bottom cause you might be a little dizzy). It is so much more fun. Spinning and zooming safely down the hill really is exhilarating. I screamed every time and loved it!

You can also go down in groups of up to 4, where each person is in their own tube but you are all holding onto another tube in your group. This can also be lots of fun and another way to share the experience.

snow tubingPasses for the park are quite reasonable, starting at 18.99 for youth and can be purchased in 2, 3 or 4 hour rides. You also have the ability to reload your cards at a reduced rate for future rides!

The only downside is even though the park has 9 lanes it can get quite busy at the top and hard to determine which line for which lane you are in. Since they are newly opened, they are still working out some of the kinks in the running of the park so that it is smooth and efficient. But they are doing a great job! the staff are so fun and friendly and most people are pretty understanding about being patient and waiting their turn.

Snow tubing is a fabulous alternative to tobogganing and I feel a bit safer as it’s more controlled (you also don’t need to bring any equipment). And with the new bylaws here in Calgary only allowing toboganning on 22 designated hills it provides another great option for kids and families. I also love that it’s local! There are other snow tube parks in the mountains outside of Calgary like Norquay, Nakiska and Lake Louise but if you don’t want the addition of the longer drive then this is perfect! So zip down to WinSport and check it out before the season ends.

Want to experience Snow Tubing at the Acura Snow Tube Park for yourself? Enter here to win a Family 4 Pack courtesy of WinSport. Contest closes March 5.

5 Easy at Home Workouts

easy at home workoutsIf one of your New Year’s resolutions is getting in better shape but the time and expense of a gym just doesn’t appeal to you – I have the solution for you with these 5 Easy at Home Workouts.

I get it, you’re a busy mom/ parent on the go. There are days when you are just happy you’ve had time for a shower and something to eat, let alone a little exercise. It’s also winter – and I don’t know about where you live, but right now it’s freezing and snowy outside! So though I love being outdoors and enjoying winter when I can – the reality is we tend to hibernate in winter. We don’t get out as much, and we tend to be less active in general.

easy at home workoutsFor me, I love things that I can do at home. Because though I do go to a gym and enjoy it, I also love the option of being able to get a workout in without having to go anywhere. Cause honestly sometimes you just don’t have the time to pack your bag, get in the car, drive to the gym… you get the idea. But you do have 10-15 minutes.

And truly 10-15 minutes can do wonders for your overall health, well being and exercise plan. You do not need a lot of fancy equipment to get the blood moving and the heart pumping or to notice the results of your efforts. Plus it’s easy, and I don’t know about you but I love easy. If it’s easy it makes it more of a reality that it is going to happen.

I also like variety. I don’t always want to do the same thing everyday so I like to have options to choose from when I want to switch it up. These 5 Easy at Home Workouts offer a variety of options that are more than just weights and constant repetitions. They are short and great for getting up and moving. They are also easy to do with or involve the kids if you want to. It can even be contagious! My daughter does my 5 minute yoga routine with me most mornings and now does her own periodically throughout the day!

5 Easy at Home Workouts

Easy 10 Minute Workout – Simply using your body and a chair, this workout routine provides 8 strength training exercises to strengthen and tone.

easy at home workouts

Mini Trampoline Workout – Move to your favorite tunes with this low impact workout. I love this idea as you just cue up enough music for the length of time you want – 5 minutes, 10 minutes, etc. and then you jump and move and play. That’s it! Easy. Yes you need a mini trampoline but they are inexpensive. They are also portable and fit just about anywhere.

easy at home workouts

Fun Hoola Hoop Exercise Routine – I think this my favorite one. Even though I am terrible at using one, the laughter and joy from doing this would be beneficial in itself. Besides they say practice makes perfect and if no one is watching you (another benefit of doing it at home) then there’s no need to be self conscious. Give it your all!

easy at home workouts

 

5 Minute Yoga Routine – This has become my cornerstone in my daily routine. I do it each morning and I love it because it is only 5 minutes. It’s easy, it gets me moving and if on the odd occassion I don’t do it first thing like usual, I can easily fit it into my day somewhere else. Because it’s only 5 minutes! Don’t worry if you haven’t done yoga before. Krista takes you through all the moves in the video.

easy at home workouts

 

Easy at-home Exercises – 10 minutes, your body and a couple of soup cans. Voila! Easiest at home workout ever.

easy at home workouts

So before you decide to throw out the idea of getting more exercise this year pick one of these workouts and give it a try. If one doesn’t appeal to you try a different one. It’s only a few minutes, it’s easy and you’ll be thanking yourself later.

Regardless of which one you choose, and you could even do a combination, you’ll easily reap the benefits of regular exercise in the comfort of your own home. Tone, strengthen and relieve stress.

Plus there’s no financial investment. You don’t even need workout gear, you could simply do them in your pyjamas (seriously I do it – who’s watching). The biggest thing is to be consistent, even if you only do it once a week but do it consistently it’ll make a difference. So go for it! Make exercise easy and have fun with it. I’m off to play with my hula hoop…

Tips for Experiencing the Calgary Stampede with Kids

calgary stampede with kids

I love the Calgary Stampede! It is one of my most favorite times of year. The whole city comes alive with buzz and excitement, and the energy in the city is fantastic. When I had kids I knew that the Calgary Stampede would become one of our summer traditions. People looked at me like I was nuts wanting to take my kids to the grounds because it is busy, crazy and loud. But I have found over the years that going to the Calgary Stampede with Kids is not a difficult or horrible endeavor. In fact, with a little planning and awareness, you can have a fantastic day on the grounds with both you and the kids wanting to come back for more.

Tips for going to the Calgary Stampede with Kids

Pre-Plan

calgary stampede with kidsTake a look at the schedule and decide what events you would like to see and what days and times they are. Then plan the rest of your visit around them.

Go during the week

I always recommend you go with your kids on a weekday (omitting Kids Day and Family Day). The crowds are smaller and things are less busy. This will cut down on your waiting times and keep kids happier as they are engaged quicker.

Go early, leave early

Go early in the day, when the grounds open (typically 11 am – there are a couple of exceptions). You not only beat the crowds but head out with kids that are fed (give them a good breakfast), fresh and ready to go. Then when you’re ready to call it a day, for us it’s usually around 4 or 5, the evening crowds just starting to come in and you are on your way out.

Take your own food

Pack a lunch, healthy snacks and waterbottles for everyone. I find when my kids are fed and hydrated they are happier and last longer. I’m not saying don’t enjoy some of the fares on the grounds, but they can be quite expensive and add up fast. Also they are not always the healthiest choices and kids need good stuff to keep them going. When you have your own food, it allows you to feed the kids when they are hungry, without having to go find somewhere to eat, stand in line, etc. Also having water and staying hydrated is key. The grounds can get quite hot, so water is important.

Take advantage of the Free Kids Activitiescalgary stampede with kids

There are lots of free kids events like the Kids Tractor Pull, Chuck Challenge and Penning. There’s also Buckaroos with kids performances with their favorite characters, as well as a character performance on the Coca Cola Stage. There’s the Dog Bowl and the Corral show. Of course there’s the Kids Midway and new this year is the Indian Village Interpretative Program, where you can see daily dances, traditional Pow Wow and drumming. All free with gate admission.

 

Pre-purchase Ride Cards or other coupons

calgary stampede with kidsBefore the Stampede starts you can buy Ride n’ Play cards at Sobeys and Safeway. You cash them in on the grounds for either a ride all day wristband or 60 coupons and save about $20. They are only on sale though up until Stampede starts. Once it has started you cannot purchase them. You can also get deals or coupons on gate admissions. Kids to the age of 6 are free, but you can get free admission for 7-12 year olds when you buy a case of Coca Cola.

Don’t forget sunscreen and hats

It can get quite hot down there on a sunny day and the sun beating down on the pavement. Put sunscreen on before you go and take it with you to reapply throughout the day.

Dress for the weather

Weather during the Calgary Stampede can be unpredictable. Take a raincoat. Even though the prediction may be bright and sunny, thunderstorms are not uncommon this time of year. Also dress appropriately for the day. Bring layers or change of clothes for the kids.

Plan it into your Budget

calgary stampede with kidsThere are no if’s, and’s or but’s about it, the Calgary Stampede is expensive. I always plan it into my budget each year as well as take advantage of the deals and coupons that provide savings, making my dollar go a little farther. Another good idea is to decide what amount you are willing to spend on the grounds. Be realistic but cap it and stick to it so you won’t regret it later.

Know your limit

Don’t do too much and don’t overstay, know when your kids have had enough and it’s time to go home. Better to go home on a high where you all want to go back, talking about what you’d like to see and do next year, then one where you’re so relieved to be home and will never go again.

Last but not least, have fun and take lots of pictures. Relax and enjoy. Don’t stress about the lines or the crowds (I always go over with my kids the expectations when we’re on the grounds, stick together, hold hands, etc. I also register them at the Lost Child booth as soon as we get into the park). Go with the flow and be able to let things go. It’s ok if you don’t get to it all.

Going to the Calgary Stampede with kids can be easy and fun. With a little pre-planning and a backpack of items with you, you’ll create an enjoyable and memorable experience for all. I have used these tips with my kids over the years and as a result they love it and ask to go back every year.calgary stampede with kids

Get Dirty! Mud Activities for Kids – Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

mud activities

Mud glorious mud! I love mud. I love playing in it, building with it, digging in it, rolling in it, squishing my toes in it. No wonder kids are drawn to it, it is so much fun to play with. Whether you are covering yourself in it from head to toe or creating something with it, it just feels good. And it’s good for us!

Mud often gets a bad wrap because it can be quite messy and a huge job to clean up. But playing in mud is actually extremely healthy for us and is part of an innate need to not only ground ourselves (connect to the Earth) but a basic biological need for our growth and development. Plus it’s fun!

mud activitiesPlaying in the dirt and mud has many physical, psychological and emotional benefits. The exposure to natural organisms in the dirt actually builds strong healthy immune systems, decreases the risk of allergies and asthma as well as decreasing anxiety, depression, stress and obesity. It allows kids to get creative and explore their natural world. Whether they are building a mud house, making mud pies or just squishing their fingers through it.

And there are so many options when it comes to playing in the dirt. When I started exploring different mud activities I was surprised at how many things there were to do. Many of them quite simple (I’m sure a child would just come up with these things but as an adult sometimes I need a little nudge in the right direction).

Playing in mud certainly does not have to be a structured activity and there is a lot of value in free play, such as discovering limits, developing creativity and ideas, testing things. I find kids can play in mud for hours without any specific goal or purpose and in that they are learning. But there is also value in guided and structured play which helps a child focus on a specific goal, leading to deeper learning, development and expanding their exploration.

When I announced to the twins that we had a ‘mud project’ to do, Chloe was all over it, while Luke was a little hesitant and said he might not do it. I said that was fine but knew once he saw what was going on he’d likely get in there. (And I was right!)

3 Simple Mud Activities for Kids

What you will need:mud activities

  • big bag of dirt
  • water
  • buckets
  • shovels
  • old clothes

We used our sand table and started by dumping a big bag of garden dirt into it. It was the perfect height for the kids and kept it contained in one spot. I had put the kids in old clothes so that I didn’t have to worry about staining or washing. We added water and off they went, immediately starting to mix with their hands.

The first thing I did was just let them mix it, squish it, shape it, do whatever they wanted with it. There were lots of oohs and awes and screams of delight at how sticky and messy it was. Chloe soon started covering herself in it.

I had set out the materials for the two other mud activities I wanted them to try so they were ready for them to move to when they were ready. These were mud painting and making mud bricks. I had explained to them beforehand what activities we were going to do so they knew what was happening. This allowed them to move at their own pace and complete the activities.

mud activitiesMud Painting

  • paint brushes
  • large sheets of bristol board

This is simply taking mud and painting with it. Get a large piece of bristol board (you’ll want bristol board or something similar in thickness as paper will get soggy fast with the water content in the mud); and some paint brushes and let the kids go to town. You may find that they’ll quickly discard the brushes for their hands and that’s ok too.

Mud Bricks

  • egg cartons

We used an empty egg carton and packed the mud into the different sections. I explained to the kids that we did not want the mud to be higher than the top of the carton and that they needed to be levelled off. Once the carton was full, we put it in the sun to let them dry and set. Curious and excited the twins wanted to know how long it would take them to dry. I told them it would likely take a day for them to be ready, then we could pop them out and build with them.

Tips to make your mud activities successful (and easy clean up)mud activities

  • do it outside
  • set up the space you want them to do it in
  • go over expectations for mud play (where to do it, what activities they could try, etc.)
  • use a large tupperware, sand table or something similar to mix up your mud
  • use old clothes so you don’t have to worry about staining or washing
  • hose them off (literally) and clean them up outside

And get in there with them! Mud play is good for us adults to. Think about it, we go to the spa and spend money to get a mud wrap, willingly. Not that I’m saying don’t go to the spa, as it has so many other benefits, but playing in the mud at home is free! And it’s a great way to connect with your kids and share beautiful, fun, happy memories. So go ahead get dirty! Play in the mud!

Going on a Sound Hunt… Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

sound huntYesterday I took my kids on a sound hunt. I picked them up from school and we went straight to Fish Creek Park (a provincial park very close to our house) to play and explore. When I announced what we were doing Luke and Chloe were sooo excited. Luke even said so! He said “I don’t know what a sound hunt is but I am so excited to do it.” How wonderful! It made my heart swell how willing and open he was to the whole thing. A sound hunt, sounded exciting, it must be good.

Exploring nature through sound allows children to learn and recognize things they may not have noticed before. By engaging and focusing on sounds it allows children to connect what they hear with what they see. It also enables them to identify the many different sounds of nature. How the wind through the grass can sound slightly different than the wind through the trees. It begins to help them identify not only bird sounds, but that there are different kinds of birds. And once they hear and identify the different bird songs, their innate curiousity leads them to learning visually what the different kinds of birds look like.

As soon as we stepped out of the car Luke and Chloe were already telling me what they heard and named at least 3 things before we formally got started. They really were raring to go!

How to Set Up a Sound Hunt

What you will need:

  • notebook or paper
  • markers/ pencils
  • listening ears
  • a sense of adventure

sound huntI had brought along notebooks and markers to help record what we heard in the forest. I told them that we would be going for a walk through the park and listening for all the different sounds. We were to walk along quietly and when they heard something they were to stop, pause and then share what they heard. They set forth with their listening ears on and wonder in their eyes.

Shortly down the path, Luke stopped and said he heard wind, Chloe birds, an airplane. I said I heard our footsteps along the path. Cause although that was not a sound specific to nature it was one we were hearing in nature, and later could talk about the differences between the natural sounds and the sounds we made in nature and how they could be good or bad (a discussion about noise pollution).

sound huntThey did very well. We’d walk for a bit in silence, they announce some things they heard, chat for a bit about it, then we’d continue along in silence. The listening quickly lead to the visual connection and more discoveries and exploration. Our natural response when we hear something is to turn towards the sound and look. First we heard the squirrel and then turned to see him scampering by. We heard a bee buzz by, then spotted him digging around on the ground. We were able to watch him for a bit, which was quite fascinating and wondered what he was looking for. He was madly using his feet to search for something. After a bit, he flew off but not too far and we were able to watch him land and dig again. Also noticing that as he flew low to the ground searching for the ‘right spot’ to dig that he actually created enough air movement to move the pine needles on the ground without touching them. It was super cool!

We discovered and learned about woodpeckers and how they peck for insects in trees, examining the holes they left behind. We found chickadees after we heard their call and Luke even imitated their call. We even heard the noisy crow cawing over and over but actually didn’t see him.

chickadeeAt one point, we did stop along the path and I asked Luke and Chloe if they could tell the difference between the wind through the leaves and the wind through the grass, as there was a slight difference. At first they couldn’t but as I pointed out the subtle yet distinct differences they were able to identify them as well.

We heard many sounds. Gophers squeaking (they thought it was neat they squeaked), squirrels chirping, bees buzzing, wind, different kinds of birds (at least 3) and more. One of our favorite sounds was the creek gurgling by and Luke and Chloe were specifically on the hunt for this sound. They knew it was here from being to the park before and kept saying “Where is it?” not resting until they heard and found the creek.

When we did find it, after wading in and playing a bit, we sat by the creek and took out the notebooks. They each spent a few minutes writing or drawing the different sounds they heard in their books. Recording what they had heard and starring their favorites. Taking these extra few minutes to have the kids record what they have heard helps solidfy it and increases retention. It also gave us another opportunity to sit one more time and listen. Seeing if there were any new sounds that they had not yet heard on our sound hunt so far.

sound huntWe spent over an hour in the park playing, listening and learning. And when we returned to the house it was amazing how calm, grounded and happy they were. Chloe stayed outside and blew bubbles, while Luke came in and relaxed doing a guided children’s mediation. The whole experience was amazing! and we definitely reaped the benefits of our outing.

The other neat thing is is that after our adventure, I have heard Luke talking about and sharing it with others. Telling them how much he enjoyed it and what he learned.

Exploring with kids through nature is such a rich and exciting experience. By having them focus on identifying sounds not only heightens their sense of awareness but quickly leads them to connecting visually, engaging their other senses and deepening their exploration.

Like to do more with sound outside? Check out this idea on Making Outdoor Sounds

Seeking and Sorting – Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

outdoor nature activities for kidsChildren naturally love to be outside. Running, jumping, playing, climbing are all elements of outdoor play. We should not underestimate the value of outdoor nature activities for kids  and playing outside as it has many benefits.

Children who spend more time outside learn to appreciate and care for nature. Their natural curiosity encourages them to explore and learn in ways that we may not even realize. They develop physical and gross motor skills, burn calories, get their Vitamin D and contribute to their aesthetic learning as well. Think of all the colors, sights and sounds out there engaging the senses – from bird song to the feeling of bark under their hands or mud squished through their fingers. These activities are all contributing to the development and growth of your child.

outdoor nature activities for kidsThough free unstructured play in the outdoors definitely has it’s place and benefit, you can enhance your child’s learning experience by doing simple and exploratory outdoor nature activities with them. Deepening their appreciation of nature, teaching them basic skills/ concepts as well as growing their curiosity. Outdoor nature activities for kids can introduce them to something they may not have thought of before or learn about something that they may just take for granted. For instance, the feeling of the bark of a tree – some are rough, some are smooth, while others have a powdery substance on them. Then this can lead them to asking why? why are the barks different? Or looking at and finding all the different colors there are in nature – there is not just green and brown, exploring a little through different activities can show them the many colors of nature and where to look for them.

outdoor nature activities for kidsOver the next 6 weeks, we will explore different outdoor nature activities for children, featuring one activity each week; their benefits and how easy they are to do. You do not need a lot of equipment, just curiosity and a sense of fun and exploration. Depending on the age of the children, will depend on how deep you take their exploration. I find the best is to start simple and then take cues from the child as to where to go with it next and how long to spend on it. Something that might keep one child engaged for 20 minutes, might only engage another for 2. That’s ok, length of time is not important – it is the experience and what they get out of it. Besides the child who is engaged for less time might find another activity of more interest to them and spend longer with that one.

Seeking and Sorting

Children naturally love to collect stuff. They often run outside and collect dandelions, rocks, leaves, etc. This activity uses this concept to start to grow their appreciation as well as some basic math and counting concepts. You can easily do this with a group of children as young as 2 years old or one on one.

  1. outdoor nature activities for kidsGather the children into a circle and show them what it is you want them to collect. Depending on the age of the kids I may ask them to find a specific number or simply to collect as many as they can. For instance, I hold up a dandelion and ask them what it is. If they do not know then I tell them.
  2. Once they have identified what it is I ask them to go and collect 3 of these and bring them back and put them into a pile in the middle. Once they have done that, I will move on to the next item, say a stick. I emphasize that they are only to take sticks from the ground, as we want the ones that are attached to keep growing. I will ask them to collect 4 and bring them back and place it in the pile. Depending on the age group will depend on how many items we go seeking. With preschoolers I usually choose 2-3 items.
  3. Once we have a great big pile, we may pretend it’s a campfire and sing a campfire song. Or I tell them one interesting fact about the items they’ve collected, like pine cones hold the seeds for the new trees.
  4. Then I will get them to sort them into 3 piles, all the dandelions in one, all the sticks in one and all the pine cones in another. Kids not only love to collect, they also love to sort! Sorting activities for children teaches them how to organize, how to determine alike and different as well as beginning math skills.

outdoor nature activities for kidsThe great thing about this activity is it provides the foundation for other activities that you can now use the items you’ve collected to do. Activities like Woodland People, Building a Nature City and Nature Collages all utilize the items you’ve collected and bring in a little creativity and imagination.

Try out this Seeking and Sorting Activity this week and share in the comments below how it went and what favorite things you found!

Next week we’ll build upon this activity by Building a Nature City, that uses what we’ve collected.