Ideas For Creating More Family Time This Winter

This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own.

I know it’s not technically winter but my boys had a snow day earlier this week and the holidays are upon us so it’s wintertime in my book! With as busy as this season can get it’s important to make sure that family time is still a priority so I wanted to share some ideas that will bring your family closer together this winter. Some of these can be done during an afternoon or evening that you may have free while others take a bit more planning.

GET OUTSIDE

The winter might not be the nicest time to get outside weather-wise but there is still plenty to do outdoors during the colder months. Growing up I have fond memories of going sledding, building snowmen, making snow angels, creating snow “forts”, and having snowball fights. No snow? No problem! There is still plenty to see when you go for a hike or take a nature walk with your family. Kids will love documenting their walk with this DIY nature journal.

GO ON VACATION

If you only have a few days you can always head somewhere local to enjoy a staycation but, if you have more time, escape somewhere tropical for a family vacation if possible! I have fond memories of the two vacations I’ve taken to Beaches Resorts, once with my oldest son to their Negril, Jamaica location and once with my husband to their Turks & Caicos location (next time I think we will check out their adults-only resort located nearby). I don’t think I’ve ever felt so relaxed as I did on those vacations (even when I took the solo trip with my then six year old). Enjoying time by the pool and on the beach, not having to cook, venturing out on the water on a catamaran….the all-inclusive resorts created a stress-free vacation for me! Plus, they have great kid’s camps and a partnership with Sesame Street which keeps kids occupied if mom and dad want some time alone together.

HAVE A GAME & MOVIE NIGHT

One of our family’s favorite ways to spend an evening in is to have a game and movie night. We play one of our favorite games and then cuddle on the couch and watch a movie together. Sometimes we watch a throwback movie from my childhood, sometimes we let the kids pick the movie, and sometimes we choose a seasonal favorite. It’s just a nice way to spend quality time together (and bonus points if we can do so in front of the fireplace!)

COOK OR BAKE SOMETHING DELICIOUS

Whether you love to cook or prefer to bake something, spending time in the kitchen is a great way to make memories in the winter months. I love baking holiday cookies with my boys like I did with my mom when I was younger. Sinisa enjoys getting the boys involved with meal prep when they have time to do so. And everyone loves adding some frosting and sprinkles to their cinnamon roll waffles when we have family breakfasts!

VOLUNTEER AS A FAMILY 

Our family tries to find volunteer opportunities throughout the year but there are always so many opportuniities during the holiday seeason. Many can be found through our son’s scouting program, local Churches, and throughout our community. One thing we love doing each year is packing shoebox gifts to send overseas and also “adopting” children through a local angel tree ministry who we then buy Christmas gifts for. There are lots of ways to volunteer and do good as a family though and I’ve shared more ideas here and here.

CRAFT TOGETHER

Does your family love to craft? If so, crafting together can be the perfect way to spend time together. You can help your kids create a family tree while talking about your ancestors, make decorations to create a festive atmosphere in your home, or even upcycle used materials around your home to make a number of fun recycled crafts.

How does your family like to spend time together during the colder months? Let me know on social! (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook)

Ideas To Beat Winter Boredom

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post but all thoughts are my own. This post contains affiliate links.

Now that the holiday season is over I’m ready for winter to be done. Anyone else feel that way? Unfortunately, most of us still have two to three months of cold weather ahead so I figured we might as well embrace this cold, snowy season and figure out how to get the most fun out of it that we can. Here are some of my favorite ways that families can beat winter boredom:

Have a family fun night

Our family loves family fun night! We watch a movie and play some of our favorite games. Bonus points if there’s pizza and popcorn involved! Personally, I like to do theme nights that go with the movie or game we are playing. We’ve had an Angry Birds themed night and a FISHtastic movie night before, too!

Play in the snow

From building snowmen and forts to having snowball fights to sledding, there are so many ways to play outside in the pretty white fluff that falls from the sky. If you live near a good skiing or tubing place that would be a fun way to spend the day. We’ve even gone to a playground before and let the boys climb and slide down snow covered slides and they had a blast. Too cold to head outside? Bring the snow inside! Put it in the sink or bathtub, put gloves on the kids and give them sand toys to play in it.

 

Go to a museum or aquarium

During the winter months here in Chicago many of our museums have free days. Residents of the state can get in free certain days in January and February at the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, and the Shedd Aquarium among other places. If you don’t live in the Chicago area check your local museum or aquarium to see if they have deals, too!

Get crafty

When I was a preschool teacher, it was rough when we couldn’t go outside and play. On those days I’d pull out every craft supply I had in my closet and let the kids create all afternoon long. They loved it and I loved seeing all of their creations. Crafting kept them occupied while we were stuck inside. Whether you set out craft supplies and let children create whatever they can imagine, help them make a special craft (like this heart shaped “love you to pieces” one) or get a craft kit, crafting is always fun to do.

Work on a STEM project 

For Christmas my boys got some STEM sets and these cold days give them the chance to pull them out and work on them. You can find sets for every interest, from Bloxels which lets kids create their own video games to circuit sets that let kids explore electricity to building sets like Roominate. I share some other great STEM toys here.

 

Learn a new skill

Winter is a great time to learn a new skill. Jacob recently started learning how to play the guitar but my boys have also taken art lessons and participated in sports camps as well. Ask your child what they’d like to learn, whether an instrument, dancing or an art, and find a place that offers to teach that skill. Don’t have money for lessons or classes? Consider bartering with a friend who may have the skills you are looking for, exchanging a service you can offer (like babysitting, cleaning, or accounting) for classes or lessons from them.

Cook or bake together

Lucas loves helping in the kitchen, whether it’s baking cookies or helping with dinner. It’s fun to get kids involved in the whole cooking process, from the menu planning to the grocery shopping to putting the meal together. These apple pie flavored yogurt parfaits are an easy snack to make together.

 

Find fun indoors at an indoor entertainment center

Our favorite way to beat winter boredom is to head to an indoor entertainment center. In the Chicago area, we love Gizmo’s Fun Factory, the new family fun center in Orland Park, a Southwest Suburb of Chicago. This place has it all including laser tag, zip lines, go-karts, bumper cars and climbing walls. They have 75+ arcade games and redemption-style games as well. Out of all the activities there are to do at Gizmo’s, my boys enjoyed the toyland area the most. Designed for guests under 54 inches tall, their Toyland “Ballocity” area boasts climbing tubes, slides, foam ball launchers, and more. This area is four-stories of fun and my boys loved chasing each other through it and playing hide and seek. They spent the most time in this one area and they were having so much fun that they didn’t want to leave!

While kids play parents can enjoy enjoy an upscale cuisine, craft beers and wine. Gizmo’s Fun Factory is open seven days a week. They even open early on school breaks and holidays. All this fun can be enjoyed at one price with purchase of their wristbands. The Gizmos Basic WristBand allows four hours of unlimited play on everything except Laser Tag and Sky Trail, plus a $5 game card for $22.99 (Monday-Thursday), $27.99 (Friday-Sunday). The Plus Band allows unlimited play on everything, plus a $10 game card for $29.99 (Monday-Thursday), $34.99 (Friday-Sunday). Originally I thought this sounded a bit pricey but when I think about our trips to pay as you go places, I realized I probably spent more than double for just a couple hours of fun at those other places. This money is well spent for four hours of unlimited fun, whether it’s spent raising each other in Go Karts, braving heights as you zoom down the zip line or playing your favorite arcade games.

What does your family do to beat boredom during the winter months?

 

Practical Tips To Protect Your Car This Winter {Visa Gift Card Giveaway}

(Disclosure: I am working with the International Carwash Association and was compensated to share these tips.)

Americans’ love affair with their cars is well documented, along with the dollars they spend each year to keep them running.  This is particularly evident in the winter time when the harsh elements can challenge even the most conscientious car owners.  One thing’s for sure:  keeping your vehicle in good condition will ensure a safer ride in the short term and a higher resale or trade-in value down the road.

So, before the cold weather takes hold for good, here are some tips to help your vehicle weather just about any storm!

1.       A clean car is your first line of defense against winter.  While the winter season typically takes a toll on your car, proper maintenance can go a long way to preserving your investment.   For example, according to the International Carwash Association®, getting a new wash and a fresh coat of wax before the temperature starts to fluctuate can be your first line of defense against winter elements like ice, salt, sand and slush.

Vehicular corrosion also occurs most quickly when temperatures rise and then fall below freezing.  That’s why most auto manufacturers recommend getting your car washed and waxed at a professional car wash twice a month, especially during the winter.

Using a WaterSavers® Car Wash can is a strong first step to ensuring that your car will be ready to withstand the winter elements – inside and out.  It’s also a great way to protect the environment.  For example, these car washes typically use only 40 gallons (151.5 liters) or less of fresh water per car wash.  Learn more and find a WaterSavers wash at Washwithwatersavers.com.

2.       Rotate your tires. Most people know they should get their oil changed every 3,000 miles, but many forget their tires need maintenance as well. Tires should be rotated before winter and then again every 6,000 miles.

3.       Add some winter weight to your oil. Changing your oil and filter is especially important during the winter. Drivers who live in a colder climate should consider changing to heavier, winter-weight oil during the winter months.

4.       Take care of your wiper blades. Your windshield wiper blades are your first line of defense when the snow starts to fly. Make sure your wiper blades are in good, working order and replace them if you have doubts. It’s better to make this change now instead of finding out your blades aren’t working when you really need them.

5.       Take your car in for a tune-up. Any noises, pings or sluggish starts you currently notice will only intensify as the temperature drops. It’s best to get your vehicle in for a tune-up as soon as possible to get any issues addressed. 

6.       Give your steering some power. Check your powering steering fluid each month, and make sure the car is warmed up before you do so. If you find the level is low, look for leaks in the hoses or pump. Low power steering fluid will make your car more difficult to steer, which is something you’ll want to avoid as the roads get slick.

7.       Protect yourself from carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide leaks are dangerous at any time, but they are especially deadly during the winter when you will be driving your vehicle with the windows closed. Have your exhaust system checked to make sure no leak exists.

8.       Apply the brakes. Besides the seatbelt, your car’s brakes are its most important safety feature. This is especially true in the winter when slippery conditions can make stopping difficult. Before the first snow fall, bring your car to an experienced mechanic to verify that your brakes are ready for the season.

Cold winter temperatures mean vehicle maintenance is even more important. By following these simple tips listed above, you’ll be able to ward off winter’s harshest advances, protect your investment and those who ride inside of it.

To learn more about protecting the value of your vehicle, visit Washwithwatersavers.com.

GIVEAWAY: 

One reader will receive a thermal travel mug, fleece travel blanket, hand mitt ice scraper and a $30 VISA Gift Card

 HOW TO ENTER:

Comment on how you protect your car in the winter

For an extra entry, share this giveaway on a social network

Giveaway ends January 20, 2015 at 11:59pm CST. Must be a US resident to enter.

Winter Outdoor Fun Bucket List

Disclosure: I am currently serving as a “Play Ambassador” for Let’s Play. This is a sponsored post, however, the opinions expressed are my own.

This is such a busy time of year. Between buying gifts, attending holiday parties, and traveling to visit out-of-town family members, making time to stay active is easily forgotten. A few years ago I created a holiday bucket list for our family so this year I wanted to share a bucket list of ideas for active winter fun!

Take a walk around the neighborhood to see the Christmas lights. If you don’t live in a neighborhood you can search for places in your town that have great light displays and walk around those areas. Make some hot cocoa before you leave and put on some extra layers to stay warm and toasty as you walk.

Have a snowball fight. Whether you play as teams or every man for themselves, having a snowball fight is a fun way to let out all the stress of the holidays while burning some calories as you run around.

Go ice skating. Ice skating and hockey are great winter sports to get involved in. Many ice rinks offer skating lessons if you have family members who don’t know how to skate.

Sled down the biggest hill in town. Sledding is a winter activity that my family looks forward to every year. It’s a long climb to the top of the biggest hill but that just means it’s more exciting to sled down!

Make snow angels. Whenever there is fresh snow on the ground, kids love to plop down in it and make beautiful snow angels. When they are laying in the snow remind them to stretch out their arms to make the biggest angel possible.

Go on a nature walk. Look for pinecones on your walk and then when you come home you can spend the afternoon making bird feeders. Here are some tutorials on how to make them.

Build a snowman. Remember how fun it is to make a snowman? Join your kids as they play in the snow and challenge them to build the biggest snowman ever. They’ll need your help!

What is your family’s favorite way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter? Join me and make active play a daily priority in the lives of your kids and take the Let’s Play pledge here. Follow along on Social Media, too! Find Let’s Play on FacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram.

 

 

Winter Is Almost Over!

(Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by Campbell Soup Company and I am being compensated as an Ambassador.)

Exciting news!! Winter is ALMOST OVER! It was 56 degrees here today! 56! See all of the exclamation points in the previous statements? That is how excited I am.

Along with winter, my time as a Campbell Wisest Kid Ambassador is also coming to an end. I have enjoyed introducing you to The Wisest Kid in the Whole World and sharing Campbell Soup Company recipes.

Some of my favorite recipes have come from the Campbell’s Kitchen. I especially loved the mini green bean casseroles since that’s a fun take on one of my favorite side dishes. My kids love the mini macaroni & cheese cups the most. Checking the website again today I see another recipe I am going to add to this week’s menu plan, the mini cheesy chicken enchiladas. So many ways to use soup that I didn’t even know existed!

Wondering which recipes were the most popular? Below are three top ranked recipes from the site. Which one was your favorite?

If you are still looking for indoor activities, consider cooking a delicious meal with your kids, a lunch full of dunkables with Campbell’s Condensed Tomato soup, or one of the fun ideas featured in this video below.

What Do Farmers Do In The Winter?

(Disclosure: I am an Illinois Farm Families Ambassador. All thoughts are my own other than italicized writing which is that of the farmers.)

When it’s cold out I want to do nothing but stay inside. Driving out to my mom’s house I pass fields and I’ve always wondered what Farmers did during the winter. I pictured them relaxing for a few months a year and thought that must be a nice job. I decided to chat with a farmer and finally get all my questions answered. Donna Jeschke and her husband own a farm in Mazon, IL where they grow corn and soybeans.

Question 1: Do farmers take winters off (or any portion of the winter or another season)? If not, what do they do during the winter?

Donna’s Answer: Dec, Jan, and Feb seem to be as busy as the planting, growing and harvesting season! It is during this time when we are finalizing agronomic plans for the next crop. This includes deciding which varieties of seed corn and seed beans will be planted in which fields. We review yield results from the previous fall, as well as, study the latest soil test from each field to help make these decisions.We are also doing maintenance and making repairs on the machinery we used to harvest the crop in the fall as well as on the machines we will use to plant the upcoming crop. During this time, we also may decide to trade in older machines for more undated equipment. This year we purchased a new machine to apply nitrogen to the corn fields this spring. The liquid applicator came disassembled so my husband, brother and nephew have been working in our shop this winter to put it together. During the winter we spend about 30 days hauling the corn and beans that are stored in bins on the farm to the grain elevator or terminal facility that we sold them to. In our area, that could be a facility on the Illinois River in Morris, to one of our local coops that loads cargo containers for export, to a processor in the Chicagoland area, or to a agricultural grain company who rails corn and soybeans to livestock markets in the southeastern US or the southwestern US. Also during these three months, we attend various conferences and seminars where we learn about new agricultural technologies and equipment. These meetings help us to become better farmers by learning from other farmers, industry professionals and university researchers.

AND, the most fun is that we try to spend a day, or part of a day, each week with our 2 granddaughters! They live about 50 miles from us.

Question #2: How do you deal with the cold while working on the farm?

Donna’s Answer:  We just put on more clothes if we have to be hauling grain or working on other outside activities! On the days that are below 0 degrees, we are working in the shop (which is heated) or in the farm office(that’s in the house). Those days are good to catch up on bookwork!

Question #3: How and why do you choose specific seed types and varieties?

Donna’s Answer: We made all of our seed variety and purchases in December. We decide to plant certain varieties based on how they yielded previously on our farm, our neighbors’ farms or in variety seed plots in Illinois. We meet with several seed salespeople who sell the different products and listen to their suggestions for our specific types of soils and agronomic needs. This can be a whole blog if you want to dig deeper.

Question #4: How far in advance do you plan for the next year’s crop?

Donna’s Answer: We begin planning for the next crop year as we are planting the present crop. What I mean is we may see a situation, such as the way a particular corn variety germinates in April, and decide to plant or not to plant that variety again. We “evaluate” constantly what we are doing, why we do it and how it is working. Our actual purchasing of seed is done in the Nov-Dec months for the following year.

Question #5: Has the extreme cold and record snow we’ve been having this winter effected your work at all?

Donna’s Answer: The record winter cold and snow has not affected us too much except that my husband has moved a lot more snow in the farmyard so we can move grain trucks in and out more easily. The piles if snow around here are pretty high! We also have used more LP to keep the shop warm enough to work…that’s around 50 degrees. I guess the house heating bill was higher too :)

Learn more about the Jeschke’s farm here. What other questions do you have for the Illinois Farm Families?

 

Snow Themed Activities For Kids {HOP}

It’s been a very snowy winter here in Chicago. Our local news was reporting that it’s snowed the last 10 out of 11 weekends and that this winter is the fourth snowiest winter on record. Naturally, while looking out the window and thinking about activities to share, my mind went to snow themed activities.

One of my favorites is really simple and perfect for little ones….bring the snow inside! This picture is from 2010 which is why Jacob looks so tiny but he loved this. Other fun ideas for indoor snow play include hiding objects in the snow, rolling the snow into snowballs, and spraying the snow with warm water to watch it melt.

Looking at the HOP linkys I found some other fun snow themed activities to share. Jackie from Happy Hooligans shares about her indoor snow play idea and how her kids used watercolors to color the snow. Fun!

These Watercolor Snowflakes from Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds are cute.

 Looking for more ideas? Check out my Winter Themed Lesson Plan for Preschoolers and Toddlers!

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I’m really excited to be joining in as a host of the Hands-On Play Party with some fabulous bloggers. This linky will be posted each Tuesday. I will be sharing some of my own activities for kids plus sharing some other great ideas from bloggers that link up each week.

 Visit my co-hosts!

Gold, Silver & Bronze Sensory Bin from Stir the Wonder

Ways to play with the Hands-On Play Party from P is for Preschooler

Simple Play Ideas from Little Bins for Little Hands

Winter Baby Sensory Play from Lemon Lime Adventures

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Now it’s your turn! What fun hands-on play activities have you been creating at home? If you are a blogger you can link up your blog posts (no more than 3 please) or, if you don’t have a blog, share your activities on Facebook and leave a link in the comments below. Just looking for activity ideas? You can do that as well by clicking on images linked up below to view the full posts.

(Please note: If you are linking up below you give the hosts permission to use an image with a link back if you are featured in a future HOP post.)



First Real Snow Of 2013 {Wordless Wednesday}

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Snow Themed Crafts Kids Can Make

With all the snow we got recently I was inspired to gather a bunch of snow related crafts kids can make.

{Click on the pictures to be taken to the posts they come from}:

Snowflake

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Marshmallow Snowman

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Paper Plate Snowman

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Popsicle Stick Snowman

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Puffy Snowman

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Snowflakes And Mittens

Tot School Review- Winter Wrap Up

Today was the first week of tot school. It didn’t go quite as I would have liked it to because I found that though I had a list of activities for Jacob to do I needed a lot more time to prepare each night. From now on I will have all of the activities and materials ready at the beginning of the week so that I don’t have to worry about the “lesson plan” the night before.

Below are some pictures of this week’s fun:

Snow Fun

Snowflake Art

Fingerpainting

Jacob's First Art Project w/ Glue

Jacob's First Time Using Scissors

Tot School- Winter

This week’s theme is: Winter

Here are a few of the activities that I have planned:

* Bring the snow indoors- It is supposed to snow tomorrow so we will be bringing snow into the house. We will use a bucket to fill the sink up and sand toys to play in it.

* Coloring a snowman printout from Confessions of A Homeschooler

* Song- “I’m a Little Ice Cube” from A to Z Kids Stuff website

* Chalk winter themed picture- Use white chalk on a blue piece of paper

* Cutting practice sheets from Confessions of A Homeschooler

* Winter themed board books

* Snowman Craft- gluing cottonballs onto a snowman shape

* Play with white playdough

* Footprint snowman from PreschoolLearningandCrafts.com

 

Looking for Valentine’s Day themed ideas? Find my Valentine’s Day lesson plan here.

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FIND MORE TOT SCHOOL CURRICULUM THEMES HERE:

http://www.makingtimeformommy.com/lesson-plans-for-toddlers-preschoolers/