Welcome ROCmommas, ROCpoppas, and Friends!

Have fun with your kids - that's what it's all about. If you're looking for fun places to go in Rochester, NY (ROC), awesome
crafts to make, and yummy treats to bake with your kids - as well as some ideas for Date Nights - then you've come to the
right place. Welcome to ROCmomma. Happy reading, and please share your comments. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fun Dough! (Simple, Quick, No-Cook Recipe)

The weather keeps teasing us here in Rochester, NY! It warms up, we play outside. The next day it's back to 17 degrees with chilling gusts of wind. Who wants to play outside in that?! We just want Spring to get here already.

While we await the big thaw, we keep testing out indoor activities. My four-year-old wanted to make cookies; but then I will spend the remainder of the week eating all the cookies. It all goes down like this:

KID: Mommy, can we have some cookies?

ME: You have to eat your lunch, and then you can have a cookie. (When Kid is not looking, sneak a cookie and shove into mouth. Repeat as necessary.)

Using my masterful skills of misdirection, I asked if he wanted to make some "messy stuff" instead - which is usually saved for outdoor play, where messes do not matter. But desperate times, ya know?

We decided to make some homemade play dough, instead of cookie dough. A quick search for recipes yielded this simple, no-cook version. Bonus: we had all of the ingredients on hand.
To make this version of fun dough, you'll need:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 envelope of unsweetened Kool-Aid OR sugar-free Jell-O
  • 1 cup boiling water
1. Mix together the flour, salt, oil, and Kool-Aid or Jell-O in a bowl.
2. Pour in the boiling water; mix well. Once cool enough to handle, AN ADULT should knead the dough until smooth.
3. Have fun with your fun dough! Be sure to store in a sealed container after playing. Storing in the refrigerator will extend the life of the dough. However, our dough has been in containers on the counter for a week and it is fine. 

Since the original request was to make cookies, and since all of the ingredients in this fun dough are edible (NOTE: the dough is technically edible, but it will taste awful), we used the rolling pin and the real cookie cutters.

Of course, with my boys it always comes back to cars. Or dinosaurs. Or both. The dough quickly became a roadway for trucks, and eventually a landscape for dinosaurs!
What do your kids like to do with fun dough/play dough? Post a Comment below and let us know!

I hope you have fun with this quick and easy fun dough. As always, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Snow Day Fun: Playing "Home School"

We all know how to create one: Wear pajamas inside out. Keep a spoon under your pillow. Put ice cubes in the toilet. Spin around three times with your eyes closed and say, "Snow day, snow day, snow day."

But once that wish comes true, how do you keep kids entertained? Especially if it's too cold to actually go outside and play in the snow? (It's every parent's nightmare.)

We found out about the last snow day on the evening before, so I had a little time to plan and prepare. First, I asked my kids if they had any ideas. They had one; they wanted to play school. What kinds of activities did they want to do at our school? Of course, we had to recreate my first-grader's daily classroom schedule. In order.

ROCmomma's Tips for a Fun Snow-Day Home-School:

  1. Assemble a supply bin with glue sticks, markers, safety scissors, crayons, and pencils
  2. Gather materials for your first couple of activities
  3. Print out & hang up the ROCmomma Circle Time Materials; print worksheets from links below


SNOW-DAY HOME-SCHOOL ACTIVITIES:

ACTIVITY 1: MORNING WORK
1. LEGO Challenge - We started on a creative note. The boys were each given a LEGO base plate, a marble, and a tub of LEGO bricks. The challenge was to create a marble maze, with one entrance and one exit for the marble. Once they finished building, they had even more fun guiding the marble through the maze!

2. Math problems - My first-grader wrote out four math problems for each of us to solve. (7+3= __, 7+1=__, 3+3=__, and 3+1=__) He wrote the problems three times so we each had our own worksheet, and then set them up around the table with a pencil for each of us. My little future teacher!


ACTIVITY 2: QUIET READING
Have some books handy in case one child is finished before the others.

ACTIVITY 3: CIRCLE TIME/MORNING MEETING
1. Calendar, weather - go over the days of the week, months of the year; fill in the date and weather
2. Month/season worksheets - try these free printable winter worksheets from Learning 4 Keeps

ACTIVITY 4: THE DAILY 5
There are five different activity stations; each person does one activity and will have the opportunity to do more later.

1. Computer Station: We set up the laptop so the kids could read/listen to the Pocoyo e-book "Baby Bird's Birthday Party" and play games on the HITN Early Learning Collaborative
2. Word work/writing: Word Detective worksheet (page 11 in the Freebie Word Work Activities from TeachersPayTeachers.com); Letter Grab Bag (pages 24-25 in the Freebie Word Work Activities)
3. Writing Journal - Provide some paper and pencils, and ask them to write (or draw, depending on the ages).
4. Read to someone
5. Read to self
The Daily 5,  Station 1: Playing Pocoyo games on the
Early Learning Collaborative web site
The Daily 5, Station 2: Word Detective worksheet
ACTIVITY 5: WORD FAMILIES
We wrote "___OT" on a piece of paper and the kids brainstormed "-ot" words while I wrote them down. Then we reviewed the list together. Finally, each child selected one word from our list and used it in a sentence.

ACTIVITY 6: THE DAILY 5
Station activities are the same as above; each child selects a station they have not yet completed.

ACTIVITY 7: BRAIN GYM
A well-deserved break for everyone! Choose a favorite song (You TubePandora, or Songza are good options if you don't have a particular song in your music library) and have a mini dance party. We are big fans of Cha Cha Slide and Happy.

ACTIVITY 8: THE DAILY 5
Same as above.

ACTIVITY 9: MATH
1. Visit BedTimeMath.org together on the computer and complete a few problems together.
2. Math worksheets - try these free printables from TeachersPayTeachers.com

ACTIVITY 10: INDOOR RECESS
Be creative and get the kids moving:

  • Use painter's tape to create a hop scotch board on the floor; use a bean bag or small stuffed toy as the marker.
  • Play Simon Says.
  • Play balloon volleyball.
  • Play Freeze Dance.
  • Set up empty water bottles in the hallway; roll a ball for indoor bowling.
  • Play a physically active game on Xbox Kinect, Wii, etc.
ACTIVITY 11: LUNCH

ACTIVITY 12: STORY TIME
My boys love the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne. They snuggled together and we read "Afternoon on the Amazon" from cover to cover.

ACTIVITY 13: WRITING WORKSHOP
Write about your snow day (pre-school variation: draw a picture of your snow day).
ACTIVITY 14: ART
Make snowflake rubbings! Perfect for a snow day.

Materials needed: hot glue gun & glue sticks (OR yarn & craft glue - as per the original instructions on Relentlessly Fun, Deceptively Educational), scraps of cardboard (an empty cereal box works well), construction paper, crayons

Instructions:
1. ADULTS ONLY: Use a glue gun to draw snowflakes on scraps of cardboard. (OR use the craft glue and yarn, per the original instructions)
2. When cool, instruct children to place construction paper on top of the snowflakes and use the crayons to create rubbings of the snowflakes. Children may then continue to decorate the page with additional drawings, etc.


ACTIVITY 15: SNACK TIME

ACTIVITY 16: SHOW AND TELL
Ask each child to select one thing from the house that is special. Sit together and take turns talking about the item and why it is special.

ACTIVITY 17: FAREWELL FRIENDS
Sit together and talk about what we learned today. If your kids have a goodbye song from school, ask them to teach it to you.

I was actually shocked that my kids completed ALL of these activities! We made the list the night before, and I prepared for all of them, but figured we would skip a few here and there. Oh no. They kept me on task and made sure we followed the list. In fact, my six-year-old kept tabs on the clock as well. School is over at 3:00, so we were not allowed to be finished until 3:00.

This was such a fun day for the three of us, and I'm glad we did it. If you're looking to fill an entire day with lots of boredom-busting fun (and a little learning, too!), then try out these snow day home-school activities. Be sure to Post a Comment and let us know which one your kids liked best! As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Three Easy, No-Prep, Super-Fun Scavenger Hunts

We are big on scavenger hunts lately! My four-year-old asks me daily, "Can we make a list and find stuff?" That would be a scavenger hunt.

Last month, we stayed at a house in Lake Placid with a few other families (11 adults, 8 kids ages 1-8). We try to get the kids out of the house during the day, but once the sun goes down it's cold…so I even brought a scavenger hunt there as one of the activities to keep the kids occupied in the house. Worked like a charm.

As you can imagine, we are amassing a variety of scavenger hunt challenges around here. What else would I do but SHARE THEM with the awesome ROCmomma followers?

These are all fairly generic so anyone can use them in just about any home. There are links to print each scavenger hunt page (PDF file) within the captions below.
Free Printable: Super-Fun Scavenger Hunt
Free Printable: AWESOME Scavenger Hunt
Free Printable: Extreme Scavenger Hunt Challenge!

Looking for more scavenger hunt variations? Check out these indoor and outdoor ideas on ROCmomma's Time for a Scavenger Hunt.

Have fun using Scavenger Hunts to fill in the last few wintry days before Spring is finally upon us! Hopefully, that's not just wishful thinking. As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 3, 2014

ROCstar Moments in Child's Play

Testing out ideas pinned on Pinterest provides an excellent opportunity to teach kids an important lesson: IT IS OKAY TO FAIL.

Failure can even be fun!

The past few days have been full of "ROCstar Moments" for me. Have you seen those "Nailed It" photos on Pinterest, Facebook, et cetera? Yeah, kind of like those.

I pinned three ideas to try out with the kids. They looked like fun, and seemed to be simple enough:
  1. Kool-Aid Rainbow Slime
  2. Water Beads
  3. Fizzy Ice Cubes
SLIMY ATTEMPTS

First up, we tried the slime. In an effort to save money, I bought the generic fiber supplement rather than Metamucil. That was a mistake. I mixed the ingredients, microwaved it as long as the instructions said, and was left with pink water. No trace of slime. Oh yeah; who's a ROCstar?!?

Lesson Learned: When trying out a new activity from the web, link back to the original source if possible. Occasionally, the original lists an important note that the second-hand blogger did not carry over. 

Example: When making Kool-Aid Rainbow Slime, it is important to either buy Metamucil or a generic fiber supplement with psyllium as the active ingredient. No psyllium? You're simply left with colored water. Colored water = not nearly as much fun as colored slime.

WATER BEADS

Second, we tried to make water beads. These looked so awesome, I couldn't wait to try making them! On Growing a Jeweled Rose, these looked like fabulous, colorful, squish-able marbles. Here's what our water beads looked like:

Colorful and squish-able? Yes. Fabulous and marble-sized? Not so much.

We still had fun with them. I had bought two packages of tapioca pearls because I wasn't sure how much we would need for this misadventure. While I cooked one package, my four-year-old had fun playing with the uncooked package.
 
We scooped the cooked tapioca into bowls then added food coloring and different colors of Kool-Aid powder or sugar-free Jell-O. There wasn't a huge selection of Kool-Aid colors available, so I thought we'd give Jell-O a shot. (pun intended)
After they cooled off in the fridge for a bit, we started to play. TIP: Place a large drop cloth or plastic tablecloth in your play area, and keep a couple of old towels handy.
                                         
We added water so they were free-flowing, instead of gelatinous blobs.

You can store the Water Beads for up to three days in the fridge. However, once the colors are mixed together the beads look like a stand-in for brains in a zombie movie.
Lessons Learned: Follow the blog post and search for large, instant tapioca pearls. Small, non-instant ones take three times as long to boil. Plus they are miniscule.

NO-FIZZ CUBES

Lastly, we made a batch of Fizzy Ice Cubes. We mixed the water, baking soda, and spooned it into ice cube trays. Then we sprinkled different Jell-O powders on top and used a toothpick to mix in the colors.

The next day we popped the cubes out into a container of water and waited for the fizz…

There was no fizz.

I had lemons in the fridge and added a few slices to initiate a reaction. Nothing. So we added the water beads and just played until it looked like this:

Yes! Nailed it! I mean, doesn't that look like something you want your child sticking his or her little hand into, playing, and splashing?!? Definitely.

Determined, we tried once more. This time we poured the cubes right into a vinegar bath. We even spooned some extra vinegar on top of the cubes. Success!

TIP: Use a drop cloth or plastic tablecloth to protect your play area, and keep a few towels handy.

Lesson Learned: Fizzy Cubes (with baking soda) need vinegar in order to actually fizz. Duh! I knew that. After all, we only made a zillion volcanoes in the backyard last summer. Sheesh! Also, read directions carefully. Somehow I completely missed the "vinegar" part of the instructions. Oops.

I hope your adventures in Pinterest, crafts, and science experiments are much more successful. If not, Post a Comment and share your misadventures! As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

25 Quick & Easy Elf on the Shelf Ideas

If you have an Elf on the Shelf in your home, chances are you're always on the lookout for new and simple hiding places for your elf. Last year we had ROCmomma's 25 Days of SIMPLE Elf on the Shelf Ideas. This year, we're back with more! I have been pouring over Pinterest and blogs to come up with a 2013 schedule for our elf, Alvin.

Here is an easy breakdown of supplies you will need to follow this schedule.

WEEK 1:

  • December 1: art supplies, glue stick, sign that reads, "I missed you!"
  • December 2: Angry Birds toys (or other favorite toy set)
  • December 3: bathtub basketball nets (or other tub toys)
  • December 4: candy canes and ribbon to tie them together
  • December 6: white string and black paper to make a small eye patch
  • December 7: marshmallows, toothpicks, cotton balls, another toy/figure for a "snowball fight"
WEEK 2:
  • December 8: fishing pole (e.g., Let's Go Fishing game), Goldfish crackers
  • December 9: new ornaments, wrapped
  • December 10: Spider-man web (e.g., from a Lego set)
  • December 11: toy tractor, toy farm animals
  • December 12: dominoes
  • December 13: toy dinosaurs, string or ribbon
  • December 14: Christmas wrapping paper, tape, safety scissors
WEEK 3: 
  • December 15: favorite snack bag for each child
  • December 16: Lego fire truck (or other favorite toy)
  • December 17: Lego Star Wars ship (or other favorite toy)
  • December 18: child-size knife and fork, plate piled with Hershey's Kisses (or other favorite candy)
  • December 19: small washcloth, bowl, water, mini shampoo bottles
  • December 20: toilet paper roll
  • December 21: Christmas book, stuffed animals or other toys/figures
WEEK 4:
  • December 22: Christmas stocking
  • December 23: mixing bowl, flour, sugar, cookie sheet, packs of Mini Chips Ahoy
  • December 24: Reindeer Food (glitter & oatmeal) to sprinkle on the lawn
  • December 25: goodbye letter
Other materials to keep on hand for posing your Elf during the next few weeks include: 
  • glue dots
  • double-sided tape
  • twist-ties (the kind to close a plastic bag)
  • string
Check back throughout the next few weeks to check out pictures of our Elf in these poses.

One more thing! We are not using an Advent Calendar this year because I have a different idea. Our elf will hold a note each day of December instructing the kids to do a different holiday activity. For example, one says to make and decorate a gingerbread house. Another says to read a Christmas book. Each day is a different, simple activity to help us celebrate the season as a family.

If you would like to do the same, simply print these out on card stock, cut out the cards, and tuck one into your Elf's hands each night.


I hope you and your family enjoy these Elf on the Shelf ideas. There are some anti-Elf people out there, and that's okay. I just know that there is an expiration date on my kids' belief in Jolly Ol' Saint Nick. These few years when they believe in Santa Claus are short-lived and personally I would rather make the most of them, and watch my kids enjoy the magic. 

Please Post a Comment to share your Elf on the Shelf's favorite hiding spot! As always, thanks for reading.

Friday, October 25, 2013

How to Have an Amazing Spider-Man Birthday Party: Part 4

We hope you've been enjoying these ideas this week for an amazing Spider-Man birthday party. The activities you plan can make or break the party, so it's best to have a few extra tricks (or webs!) up your sleeve, just in case. Don't worry! We've outlined the party activities in great detail below, along with an extra activity idea and some modifications for an indoor party.

One of the things that became ingrained while I was student teaching was this: change the stimulus every 15 minutes, or else. The same holds true for a child's party. Below you'll find the activities are divided into 15-minute chunks, with a longer break allowed for lunch and cake. When you change things up often, the kids don't have time to get bored.

It is helpful to keep a shopping bag for each activity with all of the supplies needed. Or for activities with larger supplies, such as the boxes needed to "Rebuild the City," you may wish to keep them piled up with a tablecloth or old bed sheet covering them up. Go through the activities and supply lists ahead of time to organize everything. A few minutes of preparation in advance will do wonders in ensuring a smooth-running party.


Activities

11:00 - 11:15 a.m. - Free Play & Spider-Man Gear
Supplies needed: toys for free play or crayons and Spider-Man coloring sheets; Spider-Man masks, temporary tattoos, paper towels, spray bottle filled with water, small trash bag (for tattoo backing paper and used paper towels)

For almost any party, the first fifteen minutes should be free time to allow all your guests time to arrive. Have some toys out for the kids to play, or coloring pages and crayons.

We also used this time to get into character. Each child received a Spider-Man mask and Spider-Man tattoos to get us off to a great start.
ROCmomma TIP: Write each child's name on the inside of the Spider-Man masks before the party. This way you always know which mask belongs to whom throughout the party. Also, if the tattoos are connected on one sheet, it is helpful to cut them apart ahead of time and store in a baggie or small container.

11:15 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Super-Hero Training Camp
Supplies needed: Spider-Man game, masking tape, rolls of toilet paper, lots of empty cardboard boxes, string, cones, tunnel, toss game, cans of silly string

Explain to the kids that Spider-Man is counting on each of them to become a super-hero and help save the city. In order to become a super-hero, they each have to complete the five activities in Super-Hero Training Camp.

Super-Hero Training Camp Activity #1: Practice using their spider-sense to play the Spider-Man game. This activity may be done indoors as well.

Pin Spider-Man on the Villains game was lots of fun for us. Unfortunately, it is no longer available, but there is another Spider-Man game available through Party City.

Super-Hero Training Camp Activity #2: Villain Wrap! Practice using their spider web to wrap up a villain. This activity may be done indoors as well.

Divide into teams of 3-4 and ask each team to choose someone to be the villain ("bad guy"). The other teammates will use the toilet paper as their spider web to wrap up the villain.

Super-Hero Training Camp Activity #3: Rebuild the City! The villains have destroyed the city, and Spider-Man is counting on each super-hero-in-training to help rebuild the city.

Divide into two teams; each person may only pick up one box at time. Bring the boxes to their team's area and stack them to see which team can build the tallest building.

ROCmomma TIP: For an indoor party, you may want to use ordinary blocks to recreate this activity on a smaller scale.

Super-Hero Training Camp Activity #4: Obstacle Course! Test your super-hero strength and spider-senses on this challenging course.

First, we went up the ladder or rock wall, then down the slide.
Next, we crawled under the spider web (yarn set up between two folding chairs).
Then we dodged the villains by weaving through the cones. (Supplies needed: soccer cones, garden stakes, and villains* printed on card stock and attached to the stakes with packaging tape)
Next we crawled through the tunnel.
And jumped over a few buildings (just take some boxes from Rebuild the City).
Last but not least, a bean bag toss to get a villain. (We had the game Toss Across. I printed out some villains* to attach to the game. There was a pre-made toss game on Amazon but with shipping charges, this was way less expensive.)

ROCmomma TIP: Indoor parties CAN have an obstacle course. You can still set up a course where the kids crawl under the web, weave (walking) between cones/villains, crawl through a tunnel (or under a tall chair), jump over buildings, and hit a villain on the toss game.

Super-Hero Training Camp Activity #5: Zap the Villains! To finish their training, these super-heroes must use their own spider-webs to defeat the villains.
ROCmomma TIP: Remove the seal around the caps ahead of time. While you explain the rules to the kids (e.g., do not spray faces), have one adult shaking the cans and have a second adult spread out the cones with the villains (from the obstacle course).


ROCmomma TIP: You may be able to get the kids to help pick up the silly string by challenging them to see who can make the biggest ball out of the string!

12:00 - 12:30 p.m. - Lunch & Cake
Get the kids seated, pass around the wet wipes, and serve lunch. We sang "Happy Birthday" and served cupcakes and ice cream immediately afterward. It's much easier to get the kids seated once, rather than have them play, eat, play, eat.

This is also a great time to take pictures of all your guests. Walk around and ask each child to make his or her best Cupcake Face. I like to print the pictures and slide one into each thank-you card so that our guests have a little something to remember all the fun they had at the party.

12:30 - 1:00 p.m. - Piñata & Free Play
Supplies needed: piñata (filled ahead of time; we used Spider-Man tattoosSpider-Man stickersmini bottles of bubblesspider rings, plastic spiders, and Spider-Man fruit snacks), string to hang the piñata, baseball bat (optional), goodie bags for each child to collect their loot.

We ended the activities with a Spider-Man piñata found at Party City. The pull-string piñatas are a great option since they can be used indoors or out. We have also found that injuries tend to happen when you hand a baseball bat to a blind-folded kid. True story.


After the piñata, the kids went back to free play. However, if you'd like to fill the remaining time with a more structured activity, try a good old scavenger hunt (below).

Bonus Activity: Spider Hunt
Supplies needed: plastic spiders or spider rings (Note: Party City has bins of small items and we were able to find spiders. You may also want to try Michael's - they have a section with bins of small toys and sometimes have plastic animals and insects.)

Simply hide the spiders before the party. Explain to the kids that some radioactive spiders have escaped Spider-Man's lab and he needs their help to recover them all. The kids can add the spiders they find to their goodie bag.

ROCmomma TIP: For outdoor parties, you may wish to place the spiders in snack-sized plastic bags or to tie bright ribbon to the spiders. This will help kids identify the prize and avoid picking up an actual garden critter.


1:00 p.m. - The Party Is Over
Say thank you, and say good-bye, because your party is done! Make sure they have their goodie bags and masks, and send the kids on their merry way. Then help yourself to a post-party cocktail (or a cupcake) to celebrate your hard work. YOU DID IT!



* FREE PRINTABLES: Here are the printables I created for this party in PowerPoint for Mac. Here is another pdf version, in case you have trouble opening the PowerPoint version. Please note that I do not own these images, nor do I have permission to sell them. These are FREE and are for your personal use and convenience only.


We hope these ideas have been helpful, and that you have a truly AMAZING birthday party for your child! Be sure to check out the rest of the How to Have an Amazing Spider-Man Birthday Party series for more ideas:

As always, thanks for reading!
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