Picking out the perfect Christmas tree

Today we had a wonderful adventure picking out the perfect Christmas tree. The thing is, nothing ever goes as planned – especially when there’s a toddler involved. I wanted pictures, the tot was running amuck, and the husband was focused on finding the ultimate tree.

Doing holiday stuff with a toddler can be challenging at times.

But, after we had a little chat about how running in the tree farm is a no-no, trying to pick up the mini trees isn’t a good idea, and holding hands is actually fun, we finally found a pretty-near-perfect tree.

During all this I was crazily attempting to get a few pictures of the unfolding events. My parents did a great job of taking pictures for us to look back on and I wanted to do the same for my daughter.

Once we got home and finished putting the (unbreakable) ornaments on the tree, I had a brief moment to look at the pictures I had snapped. They were fun and cute, but what to do with them? I could pop them up on Facebook or share a few on Twitter….


I was recently introduced to LiveOn.com, and let me tell you – they kinda rock.

keep on reading…

Homemade chalkboard from a picture frame

The other day during nap time things got really quiet downstairs. You see, the tot doesn’t really “nap” anymore, she just kind of “hangs out.” I decided she was safe and fine and couldn’t do anything really bad all happily enclosed in her room.

I was wrong.

After about an hour or so, I went down to see how things were going and found this:

I’d seen lots and lots of people making homemade chalkboard paint, so figured that would be a perfect solution for covering up her crayon creation without making her seem like she’d done something horridly wrong. I had some old trim and a piece of plywood somewhere…

See, as an art teacher (and now a parent), I get it that she found a crayon hiding somewhere in her room (or had it hostage in her pocket) and decided to express herself on the wall. I could go all crazy and scream and throw a fit, but, really, it’s not that big of a deal. Even if I scrub-a-dubed like crazy to get that crayon off the wall –  she’d probably do it again.

Creating a nice chalkboard spot for her was the perfect solution. While I was making up the tot’s chalkboard, I decided to turn a couple of old picture frames into cute and funky chalkboards to give as holiday gifts. Big or small, handmade chalkboards are super fun – and super easy!

And the kiddies can totally get in on the fun – just use paint brushes and acrylic paint for covering the frames instead of the spray paint!

What you need

Old wood picture frame with glass removed

Piece of balsa wood or pressed board (I used an old backing from a larger picture frame)

Un-sanded grout

Latex Paint – any color

Plastic cup or container

Paint stir stick

Foam brush or roller

Spray paint – any color

Old sheets


Ribbon/string/twine (just for fun)

(Ruler, pencil, handsaw, eye hooks)

What you do

Find a nice outdoor area to work. Put down an old sheet or drop cloth and place your frames – free of glass and stuff – flat on the sheet. Now spray them like crazy with whatever color of spray paint you selected. I picked a nice shiny silver for my holiday gift chalkboards.

Go ahead and place your board on your work area and get mixing your chalkboard paint. If you need to pre-cut your wood, measure and mark, and then cut to size with a hand saw. You can also do this after you’ve painted if you’re using a large piece of wood for several small chalkboards.

This is so easy – and you can make your chalkboard paint any color you’d like! Measure about 1 cup of the latex paint along with 2 Tablespoons un-sanded grout in a plastic cup or container and then really stir things up, making sure their aren’t any clumps and lumps.

Roll that paint all over your board or use a foam brush to super-saturate the whole thing with your chalkboard paint.

That’s it!

Let things dry overnight and then prep the chalkboard by giving it a light sand with low-grit sandpaper and then rub with some fresh chalk and wipe off.

If you want to make things super cute, cut a length of ribbon and attach it to the top corners of the frame with small eye-hooks for hanging. I had some adorable *felted circle string left over from a gift-wrapped box from Anthropolgie that worked wonderfully!

Here’s how things turned out in the tot’s room…

*Want to make your own felted circle string? Simply cut several circles from felt…

fold in half and cut two small slits…

and string onto any decorative ribbon or string!


Environmental learning theory: Stuff vs. your child


The nature versus nurture argument has going on forever, with some finding nature, our genetic make-up, to have greater influence on personality, learning and individual abilities than nurture, or the environment around us. Psychologists, philosophers, doctors and educators all have weighed in on which has dominance, but the debate still goes on. There is still to be a determination on whether nature or nurture reigns.

I know it’s supposed to matter, but really, what matters to me is how to help our environment conducive to happy toddler behavior – and me staying sane.

The environment encompasses all things around the individual that has influence or offers an impression. Young children are greatly inspired and motivated, as well as deterred, by the environment around them.  Not only does this include how furniture is arranged in the home or classroom, but peer pressure and interactions with others. And, the general environment has greater influence on development and learning of the young mind than some might think.

The Environmentalist Learning Theory

Environmentalist learning theory is the understanding that the child’s environment shapes learning and behavior. It is also thought that behavior and learning are reactions to the environment. This perspective encourages families, schools, and educators to understand the child develops and learns new skills in reaction to items she finds around her. Psychologists such as Albert Bandura found through observational learning, that the young child will observe and copy behaviors of others, leading to decision-making skills and development.

Another that finds the environment as an important factor in learning and development of the young mind includes Julian B. Rotter. His social learning concept focused on the idea that personality represents an interaction of the individual with his or her environment. Along with taking into consideration the individual’s reaction to the environment, the individual’s experience plays a role, too. The combination of the environment, the individual, and her reaction encourages behavior and learning.

Creating an Environment

When the child is in an environment not conducive to learning, she will not learn to her best abilities. When the environment is altered to encourage greater learning, her educational opportunities increase. Whether in the home or classroom, creating an environment conducive and supportive of learning aides in the young mind’s evolution to greater knowledge.

You might be surprised at how simple things can be adjusted to motivate learning in your environment. Take into consideration:

  • Lighting: Dimly lit areas make reading or studying challenging for young learners. Keeping areas that are designated for play or learning well lit encourages positive learning skills and habits. Light deprivation not only affects learning but can also lead to depression in children.
  • Music: Incorporating music in the educational environment or home encourages memorization skills as well as creates comfortable and enjoyable surroundings. Along with listening to music, including musical instruction or instruments in a learning environment offers the child the opportunity to explore the connection between math and music, along with self-expression and emotion.
  • Furniture Arrangement: The way a space is arranged and created for learning affects those within it. In the classroom, the furniture arrangement not only reflects the teacher’s style but also encourages the child to explore and react to her environment causing learning. Creating an arrangement, which offers eye contact with children is beneficial as well as creating quiet corners and work areas. Arranging informal learning areas is also an educational opportunity in either the classroom or home.
  • Temperature: When a child is too warm or cold, they may not feel motivated to learn. Keeping the learning environment at a base temperature offers the child the ability to learn what her internal temperature is, and how to compensate. Encourage a child that often seems cold to bring an extra sweater to leave in the classroom or have available at home. Allow warmer children to remove clothing as needed.

Environmentalist theory offers the ability to change the environment for the learner potentially benefiting the young child. There are other factors, including negative elements that should be taken into consideration, such as:

  • Media: Turning the television off, as well as video games and computers, during learning times encourages the child to use her own skills for problem solving and learning. Using the television as a babysitter or learning tool is not always effective and does not offer human interaction beneficial to learning.
  • Model Positive Behavior: As the saying goes, “monkey see, monkey do.” When the child sees an adult behaving a certain way, she wants to emulate and copy. Avoiding drinking, smoking, or using harsh language around children in any type of environment creates positive modeling and promotes good behaviors.
  • Eliminate Unnecessary Noise: Loud noises are not beneficial to the young learning mind. Help encourage learning by turning off or removing items that create loud noises. This way the child feels nurtured and encouraged to learn without disruption.

Take the time to consider the environment when considering the learning and development of the young child. Simple environmental changes offer wonderful results.

Now, go rearrange all your furniture – or don’t 🙂


Felt flower hair clips

With the holidays right around the corner, I’m getting together all my crafty ideas for creating cute homemade holiday gifts. Along with making stuff for my family, I also like putting together a couple of things for friends. And, this year, I’m making stuff for my own tot. She’s finally old enough to understand this whole “gift opening” thing. So the hubs and I are scrambling to put together a few fun items for her to tear apart come Christmas morning.

While hanging out with my extended family over Thanksgiving, I had so much fun watching my niece and daughter play together – and get into some “girly-girl” stuff. Okay, I’m first to admit I’m not tossing bows and ribbons at my daughter, but it was fun to see her getting into wearing her niece’s hair clips and wanting to actually do something with her hair….

Which gave me a great idea for a holiday gift!

Itty-bitty felt flower hair clips.

This is a cheap and adorable homemade gift to make, and you can put your own spin on the basic design by adding beads or other fun embellishments. But, for the most part, you only need a few materials and, before you know it, you’ll have created a whole collection of adorable hair clips (and I guarantee you’ll keep a couple for yourself).

Start out by picking up some small hair clips from your local everything store. I found ones that were shades of pastels, but plain metal ones would also work wonderfully. I think they cost me about $3.

Now get out some colorful felt. Sheets of felt run about $1. You could play match-matchy and use colors that coordinate with your hair clips, or mix things up. To create simple flour rosettes, start by cutting a small circle out of the felt, about 3-inches in diameter. Then cut a line into the felt, swirling to the center of the felt circle – kind of like you’re making a snake – but stop cutting once you hit the middle.

It’s as simple as starting to roll the felt at the outside edge and continuing until you get to the middle and securing with a glob of hot glue.


Attach the felt flower to the hair clip and you’ve got an adorable gift! And your total cost is pennies!

For fun you could add small beads around the flower, bundle a couple of felt flowers together, or create the flowers out of different sizes of felt – or even newspaper or other materials.

I kinda fell in love with the big orange one…

Have fun – and Happy Holidays!