Dinner isn’t always peaceful at our house. With a 2 year old who pops out of her chair and a negotiating 6 year old who’s food taste changes more often than his socks it sometimes feels like it’s kids vs. parents. That’s not how I want to spend my evening and I don’t like to view my kids as the opposing team either . To change the focus from getting of her chair and getting out of eating whatever is on his plate we often play games. This Valentine’s day themed dinner table conversation starter does double duty as decor as well!
- Gather your materials. You will need some foam hearts in various colors ( dollar store!), a red marker, pen, ribbon and clothes pins.
- Start by writing the classic conversation hearts sayings all in uppercase letters on your hearts.
- Next write out interesting and conversation provoking questions on the opposite side. No yes or no questions!
- Hang your ribbon close to your dinner table. You could make a garland, wreath or even pop them in a bowl too. Get your kids interested in this before dinner.
- At dinner have a child choose a heart and read both sides. We went around in a circle giving our answers and letting others comment and ask questions about each answer.
- My daughter wanted to read too – we aren’t sure what her’s really said but she asked us ” You like candy?” We all shared our favorite types of candy . We will keep this up until Valentine’s Day and hopefully have as enjoyable dinners ( most days) as we did tonight.
A preschool board meeting prevented me from posting this when I had planned and we have now had 3 dinner with these conversation hearts. All have been fun, informative and really great family time. My kids have been racing to the table to be the one chosen to pick the first heart. My daughter has chosen the same heart every night but asks us new questions that we can usually decipher. Tonight I learned that my son loves a new book , my daughter loves her brother more than princesses, that my husband loves math more than sports and when it comes down to it I like reading about educational psychology more than art history, even if the pictures aren’t as pretty.
Here is the list of questions I included:
What is your favorite game to play?
What is your favorite subject to learn about?
What do you want to get better at?
What is your favorite book?
What is your favorite sport?
What character from a book/movie or TV show would you like to be?
What was your least favorite ride at at Disneyland?
What is your favorite food?
How old do you have to be to get married? ( My son said ” Well the law is 18 right? So I’ll stick with the law.” I almost choked on my dinner.)
What is your favorite room in the house to read in?
If you could visit any country in the world where would you go?
what do you want to be when you grow up?
Like so many families ours is spread across many miles and keeping my kids close to their aunts, uncles, cousins and grand parents takes lots of work. We look at a lot of pictures talk on the phone and visit when we can. My daughter loves lift the flap books and I thought I could use that love to keep her close to people who love her too. Active activities like this that lets little hands touch and grab are perfect for toddlers who play to learn.
- Gather your materials . You will need some diaper wipe lids ( you could use simple folded paper too) , pictures of your family ( I made a collage and printed it out on copy paper), glue, green and brown paper, foam adhesive dots, markers and labels.
- Start by writing out the titles of each family member on the labels.
- Pop them on the flip top lids.
- Next make a tree for the wall. Make sure it’s secure enough that it can hold all the lids. I used construction paper taped to the wall and then used thumbtacks as well.
- Add the lids to your tree. I just stuck many of the lids on because they still had plenty of adhesive left on them from the packaging. However the ones that didn’t were popped on with adhesive dots .
- Cut and glue the pictures of your family under their coordinating lid. I kept the lids open so it wasn’t too hard for my daughter to open.
- Invite your little one to come and have fun. She immediately started looking at all the pictures.
- Then I asked her to see if she could find specific people and she happily played along excitedly yelling out name after name.
Books About Families
Reading about families like their own as well as families different from the one they’re in is important for children. Check out these books about all kids of families.
I wish I’d thought of this earlier but they had a blast and it was great to reminisce as a family as we look forward to 2012. Every family member contributed to the activity and making the memories that made 2011 such a fantastic year.
- Gather your materials. I originally thought of making a wreath but when I saw my tinsel tree I grabbed it. Either works. You will also need some ribbon – ours was sheer and HARD to write on, plain cotton strips would be the easiest to write on but sheer is so pretty. You will also need some small containers ( eggs work great) to hide the memories in , some paper to survey your family for their favorite events/memories and some pipe cleaners for the tree topper.
- Start by asking your family for the top 12 events of the year – we tried to do one per month but it was closer 3 per season. We went around the table at dinner letting everyone add whatever they wanted. Hearing every one’s proudest and most special moments was in itself a great activity.
- Using pipe cleaners make a 2011 tree topper. I admit I did 2012 first and had to fix my mistake. Pop it on the top.
- Cut 12 pieces of ribbon. Write the memories onto the ribbon. Hold the ribbon tight and writing is easier. Use a permanent fine tip marker.
- Pop them in your containers. I was going to use eggs but I have NO clue where they are. Luckily I had a package of 12 paper favor boxes. Putting these together took longer than the rest of the activity. I need to find th0se plastic eggs.
- Hide them – how many can you see?
- Find them! Read the memories as they are found.
- Tie them onto the tree and keep going until you find them all.
Happy New Year !
I hope you and your family are blessed with fantastic memories of 2011 and countless opportunities to make great ones in 2012.
Have fun burning off energy and learning about physics with this simple and earth friendly bowling game. We have had a cooler than normal summer in the Pacific North West , unfortunately my kids don’t have lower than average energy . Sometimes getting out of the house isn’t an option but you can still have fun and burn some energy without trashing your house . I love making things with family pictures but you could easily number the pins, label them with shapes or letters too.
- Gather your materials. You will need some paper towel rolls ( toilet paper will work but don’t topple over as easily. I highly suggest paper towel rolls), pictures of your family printed out on regular printer paper, tape, scissors and a ball.
- Print out pictures of your family. You will want pictures that are vertical .
- Tape and roll.
- And tape again.
- Make as many or as few as you want. We didn’t play by real bowling rules , instead we just tried to knock as many down as possible.
- Then we set the pins up in a different formation to see if that would help knock more down . In all we tried 4 different set ups, I was just looking to have fun and play and we ended up with a physics lesson! See learning through play people!!
- After we were done my daughter enjoyed talking to the pins while I cooked dinner. So it was a win with both kids. Perfect!
Books About Family
Snuggle Puppy by Sandra Boynton. This author is a preschool parents dream, short and easy to read melodic books with illustrations to die for. The story is simply a little love song about all the ways the dog loves the puppy, simple and touching. As an educator something I love is that the dogs don’t have an obvious race , they don’t even have an obvious gender which is perfect. Regardless of who loves who in your family your child can see you in the dog and themselves in the puppy! I think that is the perfect valentine! My son didn’t warm up to this book right away, but now not only does he love it he is very very specific that only I can read it to him . It’s become a big favorite in our house.
Sometimes It’s Grandmas and Grandpas: Not Mommies and Daddies by Gayle Byrne is a wonderful book about grandparents who are raising their grand daughter. There is no long drawn out explanation about where her parents are, or what led to her grandparents having custody and I don’t think there needs to be. They are her parents, love her, snuggle her, read with her and love her just like any parents. She does wonder about her parents and shows signs of feeling different but the security and love her grandparents provide overcome those insecurities. The author’s note at the back of the book explains that she herself is raising her grandchild and offers more resources for grandparents who are primary caregivers as well.
Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler had my son clapping and be bopping in his jammies before bed. This book is so fun to read, the musical words are impossible not to dance to. My son loves jazz, and his only disappointment was that there were no trumpets in the book. He didn’t understand that the family in the book , which included grandparents, aunts , uncles and cousins were listening to a record. I tried to tell him it was like a cd but the illustration was clearly a record player and he wasn’t buying it. Still we loved this book , the family was loving and I loved that the older brother was holding the baby, not common in kids books to see a boy holding a baby. Great book even without a trumpet.
We are a very outwardly affectionate family with lots of hugs, kisses and loving nick names , Stink Bug is loving right? But this activity isn’t so much about celebrating what we all love about eachother it’s about thanking , praising and even boosting self esteem. Although I wrote the specific awards my son dictated them and it was interesting to see what he valued most for both my husband and I as well as himself.
- Gather your materials. You will need some plastic ( metal will work too) lids, double stick tape ( glue is fine we are trying to keep glue to a minimum while we sell our house), card stock , a black permanent marker, colored markers , scissors, ribbon, glitter glue and strong tape.
- Start by tracing the lids on the card stock.
- Ask your child who they want to make medals for and what they want to write. If they can write have them do it. My son dictated them for me to write, his writing is too big and he would get very frustrated when it didn’t fit. Always ask though, don’t assume they want you to do it.
- Time to color the medals.
- Add some bling ( glitter glue). Let dry.
- Cut out.
- Add double stick tape to the lids.
- Stick the medals on.
- Add ribbon to the back with tape.
- Present to your family.
You may notice we didn’t make one for my daughter, she is simply too young to have anything around her neck even while supervised. Let that be your reminder to closely supervise kids when they have anything around their necks.