We’ve all been there! A birthday is coming up and the birthday boy or girl announces they want a (insert character here) party. The problem is sometimes that character isn’t overflowing the shelves at Target. So how do you plan a party for an obscure character. Here are my four easy tips that I used to plan a Marie from the Aristocats party for my daughter. Take the mystery out of planning a killer party!
With the Fourth of July looming, we’re taking a break from the camping series to provide you with all you ever needed to know about throwing the ultimate backyard party! There is nothing so fun as an outdoor party and you can really take your party to the next level by following a few simple steps….
Food while camping can really make or break a camping trip. It’s easy to forget components or end up spending way too much time on meals, taking away from the fun time! Here are some tips that have made all the difference for us!
Keep it simple!
My husband and I find great joy in food! Not just eating it, we love tackling tough recipes and making the “best” something. But camping isn’t the time for gourmet cooking or a giant smorgasbord. Keep it simple by sticking to dishes that are familiar and camping friendly. Consider how many dishes it will take to prepare the meal. The fewer the dishes the less time will be spent on clean up later….
Congratulations! You’ve done it! You’ve made the commitment to explore the great outdoors, toddlers in tow, on a camping trip! This is going to be a great experience for your family but there will be some challenges. One of the big challenges is keeping your kiddos entertained. Just like us, modern children are a little too used to TV at the push of a button. Even if you think you’re good about limiting screen time, you may be surprised how “lost” your kids might be in the wilderness. Just like you, they’ll need some time to hone their “unplugged” lifestyle. There are some good, old fashioned activities you can bring to help them be more successful. Remember, to have a nice balance between structured activities and unstructured time. Boredom is actually really good for kids. It forces them to self-entertain and get creative. I like to give these activities out one at a time to encourage the growth of their attention span and rewind from their normally overstimulated life….
I had an epiphany today. Mom life can be very monotonous.
Don’t get me wrong, every day brings something new but overall, the days kind of blend together. As much as I love staying home with my kiddos, I realize I need to be more intentional about breaking things up. I need to set up activities that I’m going to look forward to as much as my kids. As moms, we spend a lot of time prioritizing our kids, which is important, but there’s nothing wrong with creating an activity you’re going to enjoy as well….
Okay ladies, sometimes, as a mom, its very humbling to admit where you’re at in life. As much as we want to be a put together television/magazine/stock photo mom, the truth is the real mom life falls far from that ideal. Some days its too cold/too hot/too rainy to get out and you just need a break from the daily grind. On those days, its time to take a lesson from the 80’s, call up a friend and make a mom date at your local mall!
I know, you’re kind of freaking out right now. The mall? Is she serious? Who goes to the mall anymore? I’ll tell you who, desperate moms, that’s who! The mall has a lot of great options for moms with kiddos in tow and they all have nothing to do with shopping. So, call a friend or two and give it a shot!
Stretch Your Legs
Malls provide an endless stroller friendly loop for walking. Many malls open the common area early to allow mall walkers to get their exercise in before the shops even open. If your mall doesn’t do this, arriving early will help you beat the crowds as you power through. My mall has a huge mall walking culture. They even have a “direction” they walk and you’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you try to walk the other way. Many people who mall walk are senior citizens but don’t let that fool you, some of them can leave you in the dust. They also LOVE seeing little kids out and about. You’ll become everybody’s favorite walking team.
Take in the Sights
Malls are full of strange things. From window displays to fountains to weird statuary and planter boxes; throw in the Christmas decorations and that takes it to a whole new level. These things can truly entertain kids for hours and give you a much needed break. Make a game out of counting how many things you see of a certain color. Bring some change to make wishes in the fountain. Judge which store has the best window display or which concessionaire has the silliest costumes. If you have older kids, you could even make a basic scavenger hunt. Simple games like this can really break the monotony and make the mall a fun adventure.
Hit the Attractions
No matter what size your mall, there is an attraction for the kiddos. Maybe it’s just coin operated rides or a photo booth – no need to put money in, just climbing around or looking behind the curtain is a lot of fun for the preschool set. If your mall is a little bigger, you might have an indoor playground which can always get the wiggles out while you enjoy a chat with your other mom friends. If you’re lucky enough to live near a big mall, nothing is off limits in terms of activities – movie theaters, amusement park rides and aquariums are just a few of the fun attractions found in malls across the country.
Sample the Fare
I regularly hit up our local mall without spending a dime. My kids and I have an agreement, mommy gets 3 laps to power-walk and then they get 30 minutes on the playground and then we’re out. My one exception is when I bring my mom friends along. Then, I love to get lunch or a treat. Frankly, this is one thing the mall still does very right. There are options for everyone! Traditional fast food, pizza, Asian food or, if you’re in the mood for just a snack, you can always grab a pretzel or frozen yogurt. I love it because my kids can get their usual chicken nuggets and French fries while I grab something a little more exotic.
This winter, we had record snowfall and all the kids were jumping off the walls. I planned for my MOPS table to meet at the mall for a couple hours of mom sanity. The kids played on the playground and climbed all over the coin operated toys for almost an hour. We took in the sights at the central fountain, (my daughter may have splashed a little bit too which I’m pretty sure is frowned upon). Then we had lunch – Korean BBQ Chicken for me, DQ for my kids and home for naps. It was a great morning, exactly what we needed. But, more importantly, it was a wonderful time of bonding not only with my girlfriends but with their kids. I wouldn’t change a thing.
So, tell me, have I at least caused you to reconsider the mall? Were any of you already doing this? Had you thought to try it as a group? Trust me, it’s a ton of fun. Let me know what you think below!
Last week, I wrote about sharing a meal with another family at a restaurant – you might call it a “family date” – which is a wonderful way to save yourself some work. But sometimes, it just doesn’t work for the other family to leave home. That’s why one of my other favorite ways to connect with people is to dine-in. You bring the food, they provide the place, you do all the work. It’s a great blessing to another family who feel house-bound.
When this works well
There are lots of reasons this family date might be a better approach. Maybe the family has a newborn and is more comfortable at home. Or their children have a firmer schedule and can’t deviate from it. Or someone might be injured/recovering from surgery and doesn’t move around very well. Whatever the reason, you can still bring some fun and joy into their home despite the restrictions. Of course, make very certain they feel up to the company. Make sure they know it’s not going to bring any extra work to them.
What to bring
I personally love to bring take-out to this kind of gathering. If someone feels housebound, it usually means there hasn’t been a lack of homecooked meals. They’ve either been cooking for themselves or they might have been the recipient of a meal train. Something about take-out makes it feel more like a treat and almost like getting out of the house. To minimize the impact on the family you’re visiting, make sure you bring lots of disposable plates and silverware. The last thing you want to do is leave the family with a mess to clean up when you leave. Family style meals are still great, no need to get orders in advance. Things like Chinese food or Italian are easy to share and usually a crowd pleaser!
Make it tradition!
We have friends who always seems to have a baby a few months after us. We’ve developed a fun tradition of treating each other to the most delicious Chinese food a few weeks after each baby arrives. We have a favorite restaurant and a favorite order. The family without the new baby, picks it up and arrives bearing dinner and the responsibility to clean up. It is literally the highlight of every new baby in my opinion. Celebrating with dear friends, in your sweatpants with your newborn in the Rock ‘n Play a few feet away. It’s so much fun! No pressure, no pretense.
As with anything, there can be challenges to this approach, specifically cost. But this doesn’t need to be a spendy. Pizza is a great low cost option, as is fast food burgers or tacos.
Have you ever brought take out to a friend in need? What did you take? Was there anything that worked really well or didn’t work well at all? I’d love to hear about it! Share a comment below!
I’m an old soul and I love traditional entertaining! I think it absolutely has a place in modern hospitality. I love planning large get togethers, with full sit down meals that include dessert. Getting the invites out weeks in advance. But, it’s also 2017 and I have two toddlers, so sometimes I have to throw out my grandmother’s rule book and find new ways to connect with people. I’m still the hostess, I’m arranging the avenue through which people are reconnecting, but it just doesn’t look like you’d think. This series focuses on thinking outside of the box when it comes to entertaining. Enjoy!
Some nights, no matter how much you plan, all you want to do is escape your house and the responsibilities of cooking and cleaning up. Dining out is a great time to invite another family to join you! Here are some tips to make it enjoyable and minimize the craziness!
Pick a Time
First step is to pick the time that’s best for your kids. For us, we’ve found that’s either lunch or an early dinner (like getting to the table at 4:30 or 4:45 so the food arrives shortly after 5). Just because you didn’t make arrangement way in advance, doesn’t mean you can’t invite another family to join you. I figure as long as you’re giving about an hour notice, there’s a good chance you’ll find another family that’s game to tag along!
Pick the Right Restaurant
I think we all know that certain restaurants are a better match for families. There is nothing worse than picking a stuffy restaurant and then have your kids be in a difficult mood. Unless a restaurant bills itself as family friendly, I strongly discourage you from test driving a new place with your kids and another family in tow. Some things that make for a good family restaurant are kid activities like a playground or arcade game area. Or a restaurant with a lot of interesting décor on the walls. This can provide endless games “I Spy” or counting or naming the different things you see. Buffets are also great for kids because you don’t have to wait on the food and you never have the problem of the kids not wanting to eat what they ordered when it finally appears on the table.
Pack for Success
A lot can ride on how prepared you are to be at a restaurant. I have had great success with bringing paint-with-water sets and magnetic drawing boards. I know a lot of establishments provide crayons to color with but I find I spend more time fishing those off the yucky ground then my kids spend coloring with them. I know other families who swear by Playdoh. I really like to have an assortment of vehicles to drive all over the table. It’s also a good idea to have your phone well charged and set up with kid friendly apps and videos. We don’t do a lot of phone time with our kids but we really take advantage of it in these situations. I also like to bring bendy straws (most places provide straight straws) which help prevents spilling, disposable bibs and lots of wipes.
Get Things Moving
The best distraction for kids at a restaurant is food. See if your server is able to bring you a basket of fries or some other kid friendly food right away, this will ward off wiggles more than anything else. If the adults can have reviewed the menu in advance to have a rough idea of their order that will help too. You could even tell your server that you’d like to have the kids’ food come out as soon as it’s ready even if you have to wait on the adult food.
Remember, the whole point, of inviting another family along to this craziness is to reconnect with the other adults. Don’t let yourself be too busy entertaining kids to forget to chit-chat with everyone else. If your kids are being challenging, you might consider trading on and off with your spouse so one gets the chance to visit while the other keeps the masses entertained.
What do you do to have a positive restaurant experience with kids? Do you like to go out to eat with others? Do you have favorite places you like to go with your kids? I’d love to know what you’re doing!
I’m an old soul and I love traditional entertaining! I think it absolutely has a place in modern hospitality. I love planning large get togethers, with full sit down meals that include dessert. Getting the invites out weeks in advance. But, it’s also 2017 and I have two toddlers, so sometimes I have to throw out my grandmother’s rule book and find new ways to connect with people. I’m still the hostess, I’m arranging the avenue through which people are reconnecting, but it just doesn’t look like you’d think. This series focuses on thinking outside of the box when it comes to entertaining.
This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links. I never recommend a product I haven’t been 100% happy with myself. Thank you for supporting the Pineapple Philosophy.
I’m an old soul and I love traditional entertaining! I think it absolutely has a place in modern hospitality. I love planning large get-togethers, with full sit down meals that include dessert. Getting the invites out weeks in advance. But, it’s also 2017 and I have two toddlers, so sometimes I have to throw out my grandmother’s rule book and find new ways to connect with people. I’m still the hostess, I’m arranging the avenue through which people are reconnecting, but it just doesn’t look like you’d think. This series focuses on thinking outside of the box when it comes to entertaining. Enjoy!
Family Movie Night
You all LOVED my Holiday Classics movie night ideas so much I had to revisit the topic for movies that can be watched all year round. What’s great about this idea, is that it’s no trouble to invite another family to join in on the fun! This sort of fun can be easily dialed up or down depending on the level of effort you have to offer. So, without further ado, here is some ideas to set your wheels spinning!
Curious George (2006, 1 hr 26 min)
Animals and adventures abound in this family friendly favorite. It’s excellent for the pre-school set but still entertaining for the adults. Bring some of the fun off the screen by creating a little scavenger hunt of your own. If children are not reading age yet, use pictures to guide them to the next clue. A box of chocolate coins covered in gold foil are a perfect treasure to discover at the end of the hunt. If the kids are old enough for arts and crafts, kids can make masks of their favorite jungle animal using construction paper, crayons, paper plates and wooden craft sticks to wear on their hunt.
Toy Story (1995, 1 hr 21 min)
A favorite of both young and old, Toy Story is a great option for a joint family movie night. Swing by the party store and pick up some rocket-ship plates and napkins and order a pizza to create your own Pizza Planet. Encourage the kids to bring their own favorite toy to share the evening with. For even more fun, see if the parents still have their special toy kicking around to bring too. This is sure to bring out the youthful innocence of all your guests!
Cars (2006, 1 hr 57 min)
Nothing is more fun than a drive-in movie. Unfortunately, there are only about 300 drive-in movie theaters left in the US. Luckily, you can recapture the magic in your own backyard! Visit your local appliance shop and find enough boxes for all attending children, big enough that they could sit in them. Then provide the kids with paper plates, construction paper, crayons and markers to transform these ordinary boxes into their own personal hot rod. Once their finished, line them up in front of the screen and let the film roll! The kids will last longer in their cars if you provide pillows and blankets so they can make their own little nest.
The Lego Movie (2014, 1 hr 40 min)
A newer favorite, the Lego Movie is lots of fun for everyone. Start the evening out by providing a bunch of Legos and encouraging everyone, parents and kids, to be their own Master Builder! If they need a little more guidance, you can provide a stack of cards with suggestions on them. Pick a card and attempt to build it. You can offer prizes for the most accurate, the silliest and the most creative.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
(1971, 1 hr 29 min)
It’s so fun to introduce your kids to classics from your childhood and what kid doesn’t love chocolate?! Bake some cupcakes in advance and set up a DIY cupcake decorating bar. Set out frosting and an assortment of candy that would make Willy Wonka proud! Let each guest create their own chocolate masterpiece to munch on during the movie.
I hope these ideas have gotten your wheels turning. I’d love to know if you have another idea for an interactive movie night! It’s a great alternative to trying to plan a meal for another family. What are some of your family favorite movies?
This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links. I never recommend a product I haven’t been 100% happy with myself. Thank you for supporting the Pineapple Philosophy.
I believe a major component of hospitality is putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own, even if it means you are uncomfortable for a while. This thought crossed my mind recently as I lay awake feeling a bit guilty for not visiting my grandma in her nursing home more often. She lives about an hour away, in the town my parents live in, but I still don’t make enough of an effort to go visit her. She’s lost a lot of her mental sharpness. Every visit just serves as a reminder that there really isn’t much of my grandma left. Plus, it’s just an unsettling environment and my kids are always on edge.
But here’s the honest truth. When I walk into that nursing home with my babies, those residents light up like the Fourth of July. They love kids and far too few kids come to visit.
It’s important to me that my kids feel comfortable around people of all ages. That means sometimes going out of their comfort zone to be Jesus’s hands and feet to the world. So, we’re all going out on a limb this Valentine week and visiting Grandma’s nursing home with valentines in hand for 30 of her fellow residents!
Inexpensive but Memorable Valentines
I’m pretty pleased with how my valentines turned out and they whole thing cost me less than $10 thanks to the Dollar Store. I purchased several stems of red and pink silk roses and cut them up to be individual roses. Each stem has 4-5 roses on it so you can get several flowers for just $1. Then I used white cardstock tags on little string from the office supply/craft section and wrote “Happy Valentine’s Day” on one side. On the other side, I stuck a foam sticker that looks like a Valentine Conversation Heart. I found these in the Valentine section. That candy was a staple of our grandparents’ generation. I remember my Grandpa and Grandma sending me and each of my cousins a box every year. When those elderly people see a red or pink flower with a conversation heart sticker on the tag, they’ll know in a heartbeat that it’s Valentine’s Day.
Connecting with a Nursing Home
If you’d like to recreate this activity, here are some ways to get started. First, if you have a nursing home you’re already associated with, that’s a great option! Call ahead and let them know what you’d like to do. They may even be able to provide you with the names of the residents who would most appreciate the gift. If you don’t already have ties to a nursing home, use your social media connections to locate one in your area. Always contact the administration ahead of time for permission. Most nursing homes are thrilled when people reach out so you shouldn’t have any problems getting the go-ahead. If you just aren’t ready to take the full plunge with a nursing home, think of other seniors in your life. If you have seniors in your neighborhood who seem isolated, they are the perfect person! You could also call your church and see if there are any elderly attendees who would appreciate a drive by. This approach might actually end up being a bit more work in the end but your recipients will be a bit more familiar. I think it’s fair to say this activity could be done anytime between February 1-20 and still be in “Valentine Season.”
Helping Kids Gain Perspective
As I researched for this blog post, I was a little surprised to find how little information is out there for ministering to seniors. Of course, there is page, after page, after page about parenting and every aspect of child-rearing. Is it any wonder that our kids feel the world revolves around them when even the internet seems to hold them in the center? My challenge to you, even if this isn’t the right activity, is to be looking for ways to help your kids see beyond their life place this year. Whether it’s interacting with someone much older than them, or someone who doesn’t look like them, or someone who lives in a far-away place, find a way to help them understand how big the world is and that they are only a piece of a bigger whole. Help them understand their responsibility for showing love to others and helping keep the whole thing afloat.
Have you ever reached out to senior-citizens in your life? Either in a nursing home or just in your circle of influence? What did you do? How did they react? Do you have any other suggestions on what to do with kids? I’d love to know what you’re up to! Let me know how your expanding your kids’ horizon and meeting the needs of the underserved in your neighborhood!