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School Valentine’s Day Candy Alternative

10 Feb

My family includes a third grader, a first grader, and a kindergartener, and kids that age traditionally exchange Valentines.  Usually, they are those little cards with characters on them, but we like to make something more fun and original.  When my oldest was in kindergarten, we made leis I found online.  We spent several hours constructing them from yarn, die cut hearts, and one-inch lengths of coffee stir straws.  Now that there are 3 children in the family, such elaborate projects are not practical, but I still wanted to do something special that the children would enjoy.

My main objective is to stay away from candy.  Kids these days get way too much candy as it is, and I don’t want to add to the problem by giving it out to their classmates.  (I’m sure their parents would appreciate that as well.)  Another objective is to avoid giving out small trinkets that aren’t all that useful and often end up on the floor, followed by the trash.
IMG_20130210_204505So, we went with pencils, the perfect junk and candy alternative!  Kids are always in need of more this time of year, and I hate that teachers end up spending their own money on school supplies, so it seemed like the perfect choice!  We bought a large box of pencils on Amazon, plus a box of eraser caps for the teachers.  You don’t necessarily need to buy Valentine’s Day themed pencils.  In fact, the embellishment we added is enough.

For the embellishment, I used my Silhouette Cameo to cut several heart-shaped pencil toppers (available in their online store here).  I had each child write “From [name]” on the hearts, then they put them on the pencils.  My daughter found that bending the upper circle in half helped it stay on the metal part of the pencil better.  If that doesn’t help, you can always add a small piece of tape to hold it in place.

We wanted to include a gift for the teachers as well.  I cut a small card stock bag with a heart design that came with my Silhouette (here is another design that would also work).  Then we filled each one with a handful of pencils and eraser caps.  This is, in my opinion, a IMG_20130210_204539great teacher gift because it is useful and ultimately saves them from buying supplies for their class with their own money.

That’s what our children’s classmates and teachers will be receiving this year.  What are your plans this year?


Taming the Toy Clutter Monster

11 Mar

I have a family with 3 young girls.  Three young, messy girls.  You may have messy little children in your home as well, and you may well be frustrated with the cluttered mess too.  I’ve tried to teach them about putting like items together, and how this is beneficial.  “See, now next time when you want to play with your Barbies you’ll know where all the pieces are!”  It falls on deaf ears.  I’ve tried helping them clean.  I end up doing all the work while they dawdle and complain.  I’ve tried punishment; the toys go into the “Saturday Box” and you’ll get them back on Saturday.  Well, they have so many toys that they forget all about the ones in the “Saturday Box.”  I’ve tried forced donations to Goodwill.  They don’t care.

Then, one day the idea just appeared in my head.  Let’s group the toys by type, put them into labeled boxes, and have them check them out like library books!  I am pleased to inform you that after one week, we just might have a winner.  We have a clean bedroom; completely unheard of around here.

I started by grouping all the toys by type, placing them into plastic bags in order to gauge the size of box I would need.  The girls were actually quite helpful with this.  Next, I went to my favorite store, IKEA, and chose some large, low-priced paperboard boxes.  The product series is Kassett, and I bought a total of 12 boxes at $5 each (sold in packs of 2).  I also had a large bin I used for the Barbie stuff, since there was so much of it.  And I already had the bin.

I got home and assembled the boxes, printed labels for them, and emptied the plastic bags into them.  I stacked the bins as shown:

(The top one was already “checked out”.)  Look how neat that looks!  It’s almost magazine worthy!  This is the complete opposite of how their room has looked.  This is their sister’s room, but it’s pretty comparable in messiness:

Yes, the term “fire hazard” was lost on them.

The girls were actually pretty receptive to the idea of “checking out” their toys.  I think this may be because they were afraid I was going to throw the toys out, so anything besides that was wonderful in comparison.  Whatever it takes to get them to buy in, I’ll take it.

Next, I needed a way to track what was checked out and by whom.  That’s when my neglected scrapbooking supplies came in handy.  I fashioned the contraption pictured, and while it is far from an artistic masterpiece, it gets the job done.

The deep middle pocket holds the cards with names of the corresponding boxes, and the 2 side pockets have the girls’ names.  For example, Hailey has checked out the Dress-Up box.  She will be responsible for its contents.  If she would like to allow her sister to play with the items in the box, she remains responsible for their return to the box when they are done with them.  This eliminates the “hey, who left this out?” line of questioning that inevitably ends in arguments and passing of the buck.

So far, the girls have been compliant in not taking the boxes of toys without signing them out first.  I think they actually enjoy having all their toys together.  I’ve heard many exclamations of “I was looking for that!” which tells me they are buying into it.  And of course, it is teaching them the value and benefits of being organized.

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