Thursday, April 30, 2009

Link Love: Social-Emotional Skills for Preschoolers


Amy over at Let's Explore just finished a wonderful series of posts about Social-Emotional Skills for Preschoolers. She has some great suggestions with plenty of tips and activities. I especially appreciated the segment on giving good directions. Go check it out!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Success depends on what happens in your house

"As societies as a whole have decayed and lost their moral identity and so many homes are broken, the best hope is to turn greater attention and effort to the teaching of the next generation—our children. In order to do this, we must first reinforce the primary teachers of children. Chief among these are the parents and other family members, and the best environment should be in the home. Somehow, some way, we must try harder to make our homes stronger so that they will stand as sanctuaries against the unwholesome, pervasive moral dry rot around us. Harmony, happiness, peace, and love in the home can help give children the required inner strength to cope with life’s challenges. Barbara Bush, wife of President George Bush, a few months ago said to the graduates of Wellesley College:

“But whatever the era, whatever the times, one thing will never change: Fathers and mothers, if you have children, they must come first. You must read to your children and you must hug your children and you must love your children. Your success as a family, our success as a society, depends not on what happens in the White House but on what happens inside your house.” (Washington Post, 2 June 1990, p. 2.)

James E. Faust, “The Greatest Challenge in the World—Good Parenting,” Ensign, Nov 1990, 32

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Ways to Spend a Sunday

Spending a Sabbath day is a whole different experience with young children. In an effort to maintain some sense of reverence for that sacred day, here are some of the ways that we like to spend our Sundays:

Attend our church meetings
(of course)! Even if much of the time is spent walking the halls with a crying baby or curious toddler. (My Sweet Bee had her first week in nursery last Sunday--hooray!)

Connect with family.
Since our closest family members live a few states away we don't have a lot of opportunity to interact with family. So we like to make phone calls, send emails and chat on the web cam.

Watch movies
--the Sunday appropriate kind. Anything produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here is what's in our collection.

My husband grew up watching the great BYU produced movies like The Phone Call and Measure of a Man (follow the link to watch it online) and The Award. I've sat through a few family dinners listening to quotes from these classics ("A beer can sweats, what about me?" or "Colleen. Hurry!" or "You two lovebirds all made up yet?"). I think they're great fun! Does anybody else remember these movie greats?

Don't forget home videos!

Lately we have been uplifted as we watch the Mormon Messages shared on YouTube by the LDS church. The Ant Bug loves to watch this one from President Hinckley--it teaches a great lesson.

Play with folder games, puzzles and lacing cards.

These cute folder games come from Finch Family Games.

After a recent clean-out of our ward Primary storage cupboard I found myself with a stack of gospel photos leftover from incomplete lesson sets. So I used some of them to make puzzles and lacing cards.

Make use of The Friend. The Friend magazine is an excellent resource and can fill many afternoons. The Sunday Stations story printed in the March 2009 edition provided a great pattern for Sunday activities (our stations were more like 7 minutes than 10 minutes, but it worked).

Games can be laminated for longer use.
The magazine is just chock full of stories and activities to keep little minds busy (and likely you as well). If you have multiple children using the magazine you can always print copies of the activities and coloring pages.

Bake cookies. Eat some. Share them. Enough said.

Play pretend Primary. Some Sundays we have multiple sessions of church, since the Ant Bug loves to play pretend Primary. Our pretend Primary includes a large portion of dolls and stuffed animals and much singing. Maybe someday I'll convince the Ant Bug to be the teacher, but until then I don't mind another opportunity to teach a gospel lesson.

Worship through music. We sing a lot of Primary songs at the piano. And we enjoy listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a whole assortment of uplifting musicians.

Looking for more ideas? Check out this list of over 100 Sabbath Day Activity Ideas on

Monday, April 20, 2009

Satan is the enemy of the family.

"When you stop and think about it, from a diabolically tactical point of view, fighting the family makes sense. When Satan wants to disrupt the work of the Lord, he doesn't poison the world's peanut butter supply, thus bringing the Church's missionary system to its collective knees. He doesn't send a plague of laryngitis to afflict the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He doesn't legislate against green Jell-O or casseroles. When Satan truly wants to disrupt the work of the Lord, he attempts to confuse gender and attacks God's plan for His spirit children. He works to drive a wedge of disharmony between a father and a mother. He entices children to be disobedient to their parents. He makes family home evening and family prayer inconvenient. He suggests family scripture study is impractical and not doable. That's all it takes, because Satan knows that the surest and most effective way to disrupt the Lord's work is to diminish the effectiveness of the family and the sanctity of the home.

"Look at what he accomplishes when he does that. Couples unhappy in their marriages tend not to give appropriate gospel instruction in the home, both through formal family home evening lessons and through exemplary living. They are less likely to be committed to gospel principles in their own lives. Some drift from the Church. Apathy can overcome even the active members, keeping them away from the temple and weakening their capacity to be effective leaders and teachers--thus leaving countless lives untouched and slowing the Lord's work. And the Internet, when not properly used, is a vicious influence in the home. So we know, without question, Lucifer is the enemy of the family!"

M. Russell Ballard (2003, August 19). "The Sacred Responsibilities of Parenthood," BYU Devotional Address.

"Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities."

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Create an Animal Alphabet Book

After a recent family visit to a nearby wildlife preserve, we realized that we had a lot of great photos of wildlife (thanks to the skills of my husband). The Ant Bug and I decided to make an Animal Alphabet book and it turned out to be a great hands-on learning project.

We first spent a few afternoons sorting through the pictures, selecting the photos she liked best, and then labeling and making a list of what we had.

A is for Alligator

C is for Caracara

O is for Owl

P is for Pelican

For most of the animals the Ant Bug would identify what letter the name started with, then either she (with some help from me) or I would type the rest of the name. We supplemented our collection with photos from visits to the zoo in past years, and few photos from online for those difficult letters like X and U (we went with Xenops and Urchin).

Once we had photos for all of the letters of the alphabet printed (plus a few extra for good measure) we headed to the store where she picked out an inexpensive photo album (30 pages).

We then sorted through the photos and put them in alphabetical order in the book. She added letter stickers and glued on a small label with the name.

This project kept us busy for multiple afternoons and was a fun way to reinforce emerging literacy skills. This is a great book for our collection that both of my girls love to read.

The idea for this book was inspired by a Color book I saw on Make and Takes.

If you would like to make your own, there are lots of options for homemade books: colors, numbers, shapes, emotions--just choose a theme that works for you and your child and personalize it how you like.

Happy book making!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Being a parent is a divine calling

"The Lord has directed, “Bring up your children in light and truth.” (D&C 93:40.) To me, there is no more important human effort.

"Being a father or a mother is not only a great challenge, it is a divine calling. It is an effort requiring consecration. President David O. McKay stated that being parents is “the greatest trust that has been given to human beings.” (The Responsibility of Parents to Their Children, pamphlet, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, n.d., p. 1.)

"While few human challenges are greater than that of being good parents, few opportunities offer greater potential for joy. Surely no more important work is to be done in this world than preparing our children to be God-fearing, happy, honorable, and productive. Parents will find no more fulfilling happiness than to have their children honor them and their teachings. It is the glory of parenthood. John testified, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” (3 Jn. 1:4.) In my opinion, the teaching, rearing, and training of children requires more intelligence, intuitive understanding, humility, strength, wisdom, spirituality, perseverance, and hard work than any other challenge we might have in life."

James E. Faust, “The Greatest Challenge in the World—Good Parenting,” Ensign, Nov 1990, 32

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter Essentials

Serving Pink Lemonade has a great object lesson for teaching the real meaning behind Easter. This would be great for a Family Home Evening lesson, or for a Sunday afternoon activity to keep the focus on Christ and not candy.

Gather up your plastic Easter eggs and fill each one with one of the following items and scripture reference:

1. The Last Supper -- Mark 14:22-24 (Sacrament cup and piece of a saltine cracker)
2. The atonement -- Luke 22:40-46 (Picture of praying hands)
3. Thirty pieces of silver-- Matthew 26:14-15 (Three dimes)
4. Crown of thorns -- Matthew 27:29 (Peat moss twisted and tied together to look like a crown)
5. Scarlet Robe -- Matthew 27:28 (Scrap of purple fabric)
6. Wooden cross -- John 19:15-17 (Toothpicks tied together to make a mini cross)
7. Vinegar -- Matthew 27:34 (Small piece of a sponge soaked in vinigar)
8. Earthquakes -- Matthew 27:51-54 (Small rocks)
9. Linen cloth -- Matthew 27:59 (Piece of white cloth)
10. Stone -- Matthew 27:60 (Round smooth stone)
11. Sweet spices -- Mark 16: 1-4 (Potpourri)
12. Empty Tomb -- Matthew 28:2-8 (Empty egg)

Check out The Easter Story for visual aids and all the details.

You might like to use the following Gospel Art Kit pictures to help tell the story: #225, 227, 230, 231, 233, and 239.
Kidology has a similar version of this activity that is a little simpler, using six eggs to spell out the word and meaning behind E.A.S.T.E.R. We used this last year for a Family Home Evening lesson and had much success with our then 3-year-old daughter.

Here is our family Scripture of the Week:

"And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay." (Matthew 28: 5-6)
Graphic courtesy of Elegant WordArt by Bethany

Monday, April 6, 2009

Nurture and love your children

Quotes from President Gordon B. Hinckley about nurturing:

“Rear your children in love, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Take care of your little ones, welcome them into your homes and nurture and love them with all of your hearts.”

“I hope you keep nurturing and loving your children. . . . Among all the assets you possess nothing is so precious as your children.”

“Never forget that these little ones are the sons and daughters of God and that yours is a custodial relationship to them, that He was a parent before you were parents and that He has not relinquished His parental rights or interest in these His little ones."

Cited in Strengthening the Family: Resource Guide for Parents, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2006.

Nurturing involves responding to a child’s needs in a kind and loving way. It includes nourishing (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), loving, teaching, protecting, helping, supporting, and encouraging.

How successful are you at nurturing your children?

What can you do to improve your ability to nurture your children?

For practical suggestions on nurturing your children, read Session 4 in Strengthening the Family: Resource Guide for Parents

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lessons Learned in the Kitchen

Lesson 1. If your crock pot ever ends up looking like this, use baking soda and water.

If your BBQ Chicken ends up a little overdone (as in black sauce) you probably shouldn't waste a lot of muscle power trying to scrub it. Let it soak overnight in soapy water instead. When you wake up in the morning and it still looks the same, you might decide the best solution is to do a Google search on "how to clean burnt crock pot". Don't be fooled by the claims of boiling vinegar water in the crock pot for a few hours. Don't even think about wasting a dryer sheet by letting it soak overnight in the crock pot. Instead, just add water to your crock pot past the burnt line, stir in a few tablespoons of baking soda, and let that solution boil for a few hours. The burnt stuff will float right off, leaving your beloved crock pot good as new and ready to cook up your favorite recipes on low for 6-8 hours as usual.

Lesson 2. It's a very good idea to never leave anything on the stove (except for a pot).

Hypothetically speaking, you should probably never leave a plastic measuring cup on the stove because you might turn on the wrong burner when you're making rice for dinner. And you might get busy putting laundry in the washing machine, with two little girls eagerly pulling on your leg so they can help throw the clothes in the machine. And as the water is running in, you might start to wonder what you're smelling: Could the washer be malfunctioning? Is the rice boiling over?

You might be shocked to discover a smoking something on your stove (the cup is beyond recognition now). While you stare in surprise at the stove and your kitchen fills with smoke, you might start yelling for your husband. You'll probably come to your senses enough to turn off the stove and herd the children out of the house, while your gallant husband scraps off the stinky mess on the stove.

You might even be lucky enough to have your house smell like burnt plastic for a few days! Don't hesitate to pull out your arsenal of scented candles to mask the smell, and be glad you live in Florida where you can open your windows and doors really wide in the middle of March.

And just be thankful that nothing more was destroyed and nobody was hurt. :)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Red Ripe Strawberries=Homemade Freezer Jam

It's springtime (and nearly summertime) where I live, and that means red ripe strawberries!

My girls and I headed off to a local pick your own farm and had a grand time picking berries. We picked 18lbs in about 30 minutes. Then we went back a week later and picked another 18lbs!

With 36lbs of strawberries, we are stocking our freezer with delicious homemade freezer jam.

This is what you'll need to make your own.

-Containers to store your jam

If you're new to home preserving, this is what you're looking for when you shop for pectin. Depending on your local store, you might have a few options. No cook pectin is the way to go. To my delight, this year I discovered the no cook packets on the left which use 4 cups of berries and only 1 1/2 cups sugar. The liquid pectin on the left calls for 2 cups of berries and 4 cups of sugar. Hmmmmm. You decide.

Once you have your pectin, it's pretty simple. Just follow the directions included on the package.

Wash the berries well, then cut off the stems. I cut the berries in half or quarters to save myself a little mashing effort. Crush them one layer at a time using a potato masher.

You'll need to provide your own cute assistant.

Mash the berries to your desired consistency. I like my jam still a little chunky.

Follow your directions for adding the pectin. Some recipes also call for lemon juice. Mix it really well.
Ladle into jars, leaving space for expansion during freezing. I like the Ball freezer jars shown above (they come in 8 or 16oz size), but you can also use regular tupperware containers. Don't they look beautiful?

The jam will keep for 3 weeks in the refrigerator, or up to 1 year in the freezer. Peanut Butter and jam sandwiches are a staple in our home, so a jar never lasts long!

If you still have strawberries leftover they also freeze well.

Wash them well, then you can cut them up depending on their size. Load them into bags (quart or gallon size) and load them into the freezer. Simple, and you have tasty berries all year round to top your waffles.

Since we've got strawberries on the brain, we decided to make this cute lumpy bumpy strawberry from an idea I saw on No Time for Flashcards.

Can't get enough strawberries? These two books are our favorite "berry books".

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear
by Don and Audrey Wood

Jamberry by Bruce Degen

Happy strawberry days to you!

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