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Sunday, August 31, 2014

10 Ways Playing with LEGOs Help Kids Learn

My oldest son Benjamin just turned 5 at the end of July, and he started Kindergarten a couple of weeks ago. Especially since he's the youngest kid in his class, we've always wanted to be doing things at home with him to help prepare him for Kindergarten, and help him succeed in school. Learning and education are also super important to me as a parent, but I think that some of the very best ways to learn and grow come from hands on activities, and things that encourage creativity and imagination. That's why I LOVE LEGOs so much, and why we encourage Benjamin to play with LEGOs ALL THE TIME to help him prepare for Kindergarten and then to continue to succeed in school.

Last week, we got the chance to build this fun LEGO Juniors set - a castle with a working catapult, some fun LEGO characters, and a white horse. (If you haven't heard of LEGO Juniors, they are designed to give children age 4-7 a great first experience with LEGO bricks through iconic, fun and easy to build models. LEGO JUNIORS sets contain quick start elements and numbered pre-packed bags that can be built without help from Mom or Dad – which makes any small builder extra proud.) Benjamin enjoyed playing with this set so much that he didn't stop for about 3 hours. He even took his white LEGO horse with him to school for his very first show and tell. He loved building the castle from start to finish almost completely by himself, and then loved playing with his 3 year old sister Lyla when it was complete.

1. Helps Build Confidence - The Lego Juniors construction sets are especially great for young builders. Some of the bigger more complicated pieces (like part of the castle wall) come as one big piece. Also, the bags are separated and numbered to make it easier to follow the directions. Benjamin was able to follow the directions page by page with almost no help from me or his dad. I could definitely see how proud and confident he felt as he built.

2. Learn to Follow Directions - Maybe I'm just training my kids to be able to build their own IKEA furniture when they get older, but I LOVE seeing Benjamin carefully follow the directions. This is an important thing that kids need to be able to do when starting Kindergarten, and even if they aren't able to follow the directions completely by themselves from start to finish, they will learn a lot by just trying. (And like IKEA furniture, the instructions aren't written, but are clear picture instructions that even a pre-reader can follow.)

3. Dexterity - Playing with LEGOs helps with fine motor skills and coordination, and helps little fingers learn to do little tasks. This dexterity will help kids a lot when they are learning to write.

4. Understanding of Simple Mechanics - Some of my favorite LEGO pieces and sets are the ones that have simple machines. This is a great early window into the world of physics. This little catapult is really just a working lever. When you press down on one side, you can send things flying into the air from the other side.

5. Working Independently - LEGOs are a great toy for kids to play with by themselves. They are able to work and build independently from other kids and parents, and the LEGO Juniors sets especially can make that possible.

6. Working Together - LEGOs are also a great project for teamwork. When Benjamin was having a little bit of trouble putting a piece in the right spot, he asked his dad for help (and what dad isn't happy to help play with LEGOs?!). Building with LEGOS is a great opportunity to work with a friend, whether you are taking turns following directions, or combining two completely different ideas into one unique creation.

7. Encourages Imagination and Pretend Play - Einstein himself said, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." LEGOs encourage fun and imaginative play in a constructive way that is so beneficial to little growing brains. Benjamin and Lyla especially loved playing with all of the LEGO people in the LEGO castle after Benjamin finished building it. Of course they brought out some of their old LEGO people to play along in the new castle.

8. Encourages them to Think Outside the Box - Following the instructions is great. However, there is so much to be learned from completely ignoring the instructions and the "supposed tos" and thinking completely outside the box. You want to put a LEGO head on top of a window on top of a horse? YES! You want to make letters out of LEGOs? YES! You want to see what happens when you stamp play-doh with LEGOs? YES!

9. Finger Strength - This is another important Kindergarten skill. Playing with LEGOs helps kids build more muscles in their fingers which helps them have a stronger grip and more control when they are coloring, cutting with scissors, and learning to write.

10. Fosters Creativity - As a lover of all things creative, I love seeing how LEGOs bring out unique creativity in kids. I love how you can see a child's personality shine through in the things he or she creates, like a little window into his or her head. Sometimes it's too easy to get caught up in worksheets and checklists, and to easy to loose track of how important CREATIVITY and IMAGINATION are for kids (and for grown-ups too!).

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

11 Home DIY Projects - Monday Funday 84

Welcome to Monday Funday Link Party!

If you are joining us again, we are so happy to have you back! If this is your first visit, well then get ready to party! Link up your projects, crafts, recipes and more one time and have it displayed across eight, count them, EIGHT blogs!

This week’s features were chosen by Cheryl at That’s What Che Said…
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Wow! There were some AMAZING projects linked up to last week’s party! If you haven’t had a chance to check them out, I recommend you grab a beverage and open your Pinterest account and get inspired! I went pin crazy! You all are so talented! Since the arrival of Spangenbaby, we have been working on some home projects and so I found 11 DIY projects this week for both inside and outside your home!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Colorful Brushstrokes Nail Art Tutorial

I'm definitely not one of those people who is always dressed perfectly from head to toe. These days I'm usually wearing a ponytail, a tshirt, and jeans. But I especially love adding a fun and bright accessory or two to my simple everyday outfit, especially for light and simple summer beauty. Cute nails, a pretty scarf, sunglasses, or a statement necklace can take a simple outfit to the next level. Plus, my kids LOVE it when I have cool nail art.

Originally, I wanted to create more of a watercolor look. I was inspired by this nail art tutorial. The tutorial is translated from French, so I'm pretty sure she said she used rubbing alcohol as a way to thin the polish to create the watercolor look, but she also said she used "farting yellow" as a color. Obviously, Google translator is not perfect. I tried doing this and it just did not work for me. The polish got sort of thin and clumpy and then it seemed to peel away at the white polish when I brushed it on. So, instead I decided to go for the defined individual brushstrokes look (like this gorgeous DIY scarf), and it turned out perfectly!

I had been wanting a little nail art kit of some kind, so I headed to Walgreens with my daughter Lyla. I haven't really written about it much, but we recently moved from Orlando, FL to Lookout Mountain, GA. We literally live on a mountain. It's been a difficult transition for me because most of my favorite stores are 30 plus minutes away, but there is a Walgreens right at the bottom of the mountain, only about 10 minutes away. Hooray! #WalgreensBeauty #CollectiveBias (Plus, check out the free gift with purchase offer now through 8-30-14: Spend $20 on beauty products and get a free travel make-up brush set. Get the coupon here.)

Lyla pretty much wanted to fill our little basket with every color ever made... and I can't say I don't have the same urge most of the time. I especially wanted to try out everything from the Sally Hansen I ♥ Nail Art line!

What you need:
1. Detail Brush (I got the Sally Hansen I ♥ Nail Art Kit with two brushes and a dotting tool)
2. Nail Polish Remover (I picked up some from the Studio 35 line at Walgreens)
3. Colorful Nail Polish
4. White Nail Polish
5. Base Coat and Top Coat

What you do:

1. Start off with a base coat. Then carefully paint your nails with two coats of white polish. Make sure you wait a while between coats to make sure each coat is completely dry.

2. Choose your first color. I wanted this blue color to be the focus, so I started with it. I dabbed a little polish into a painter's pallet, but you could also use something like parchment paper. Use your thin detail or striping brush to paint stripes onto your white nails. Vary the way they look. If there is too much polish on the brush it will be thick and heavy. If there is a little less polish, you will get that great brushy look.

3. Clean your brush in nail polish remover between each color. (I filled one of the slots in the pallet with nail polish remover to make it easier.) Keep adding colors. For this look, I let some of the strokes overlap a little bit, but I mostly kept them separate from each other. I ended out using 6 different colors, but I think this look would also be beautiful with just 3 or 4. Picking your color combos is the best part!

4. Make sure the polish is fully dry and add a top coat for a finished look.

I love these Sally Hansen Neon polishes. Shown are Hot Wasabi and Pretty in Hot Pink.

Follow along with me on Instagram for more creative inspiration.

What color combo would you like to try?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fantastic DIYs - Monday Funday 83

The Monday Funday Link Party is a 8 Blog Party where you can share your latest creativity...DIY projects, crafts, and recipes! You can link up once and your projects will be seen on all 8 blogs. What a great way to grow your blog!

Monday Funday Link Party at

This week's features were chosen by Katie from Creatively Living...

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Summer Fun for a Mom of Three

This post brought to you by Ideal Image. All opinions are 100% mine.

In March we welcomed little Oliver to our family. As a whole, the transition from a family of four to a family of five has been easier than I expected. The kids love having the baby around, and Oliver is a really easy going guy. I was even able to take him to a blog conference (Haven) and we were able to go on a few family trips.

The one thing that has become a little harder this time around is me finding time for me. Especially when we are travelling or out and about, there are just so many little things to do and so many people who need me, I don't spend much (or any) time on myself.

In July, we all headed to the beach (we're lucky because Daytona beach is only 45 minutes away from our house) with some extended family. We stayed at a fun kid-friendly hotel, and really had a blast. However since I spent most of the time holding Oliver, putting on sunscreen, making sure nobody drowns, teaching Benjamin to swim, cleaning off sand, making trips back and forth to the room, getting juice boxes, feeding the baby, changing diapers, and a million other mom things, I barely had any time to myself. I certainly did not have much time to worry about how I looked. (The swimsuit is cute, but I was pretty much a happy mess the whole time we were at the beach. Plus, losing the baby weight has been particularly difficult this time around.)

As a mom of three Ideal Image Laser Hair Removal sounds like an amazing idea. If I was able to not have to worry about shaving my legs, that's valuable time I could spend doing something else for myself like excersizing, napping, or being creative. The three main reasons people say they are interested in laser hair removal are: convenience (YES!), confidence, and a more permanent solution for hair removal. And right now Ideal Image is offering 70% off Laser Hair Removal. Be sure to request more information about Ideal Image!
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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Geometric Heart Gift Tags (Free Printable)

Earlier this summer, I shared a really simple craft where you turn a pencil eraser into a triangle stamp. Well, I had so much fun playing around with these stamps, that I decided to turn this little hand-stamped geometric heart into a printable gift tag.

What you need:
3. Embroidery thread (or ribbon, twine, etc...)
5. Scissors and Card Stock

What you do:
1. Download the free printable.
2. Print onto card stock. I used 60 pound Card Stock in different colors.
3. Cut out the gift tags just slightly outside the black lines.
4. Punch a little hole in the top of the tag.
5. Thread embroidery floss through the hole and tie off to make a little tassel. 

 *This post contains Amazon affiliate links.
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