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    The Lost Art of Snail Mail

    The Lost Art of Snail Mail

    I love this time of year for so many reasons, but one right at the very top of my list is for all the holiday cards we receive in the mail! 11 months out of the year our mail is mostly boring and full of recyclable flyers and ads, but December changes all that! Snail mail is my favorite, and we could all use more of it! Call me old fashioned, but I look forward to sitting down in the evenings, turning on some Christmas carols and hand addressing my holiday cards. I know it would be so much faster to print out labels or pay extra for the card company to print the recipients right on the envelopes for me, but I like to idea of slowing down and taking the time to do it myself. I also search out cute washing tape, writing pens, and thoughtfully choose our postage stamps for the season, all with the intentions to make someone smile when they see our card among their stack of mail. 

    I'm happy to say that my kids have caught on to my love of snail mail, and want in on the action! You can find them writing letters and sending their artwork to their Nana (thier great grandma!), out of state cousins, and far away friends (my oldest even has a pen pal!) throughout the year, even more so at Christmas time. One thing that I love about all of those special people is that they take the time to write my kids back every single time! And my kids always light up to find a piece of snail mail waiting for them!

    It's super easy to gather up supplies so that your own little ones can do this too! My favorite place to scoop up cute stuff is...you guessed it...the Target dollar spot! I buy cards and stamps anytime I see them there. Add in some fun pens, markers, stickers, washi tape, a roll of stamps from the post office (you wont beleive how exciting it is for kids to have thier own!), and put it all in a box or basket, and viola! If your little ones are too young to write an actual letter, drawing a picture or sending a little polaroid photo is just as fun for them and the recipient! 

    So here's to slowing down a bit this season, sharing smiles with others, and bringing back the art of snail mail!

    xo,

    Amy

    My 5 Step Plan for Bringing Order to Your Kids' Clutter

    My 5 Step Plan for Bringing Order to Your Kids' Clutter

    My friends know me to be a pretty organized person, who has no trouble weeding out the "extra" in our life. And they ask me often how I do it. I actually have avoided this topic for awhile because I'm pretty intense when it comes to decluttering, and I know that's not everyone's style. A friend once asked me to come over to her house and help organize a specific room with her. We got the job done, but she may have hated me for a brief period afterwards. When I decide to tackle an area that's been bothering me, I really have to be in the right mind set. I think what hangs most of us up is sentimental attachments to our things. I've practiced decluttering and organizing for so long, that I think I've become a little immune to the emotional side of it. 


    Our ottoman pulls double duty as Lego storage!

    Jenna asked a few weeks ago how to bring order to her daughter's room, and I decided it was time for me to tackle the topic. I typically don't set out to declutter and organize an entire room, it just kind of happens when I can't stand walking by the mess any longer. One thing leads to another, and I don't usually stop until I can see a difference. So, I sat down and made a list of the 5 steps I follow in the back of my mind as I go. I hope they help and inspire you to bring order to the chaos of your kids' clutter too!

    Proof that even my house can be a disaster.

    Step #1:

    Watch what your kids play with.

    Pay attention to what toys your child gravitates to over and over again. What are the favorites? What are the toys they never touch? Once you've got a good idea of that, begin to declutter. Take out the toys they don't play with. Make room for their favorites. It's up to you what to do with the unused items. You can either move them in to storage for a younger sibling to grow into, save them to rotate back in later, or donate them. 

    Step #2:

    Rotate toys!

    Sometimes all it takes to reignite an interest in a particular item is to move it to a different spot. Maybe your child is tired of playing with cars, but put them in the bath and they suddenly have a whole new way to play with them during bathtime. Maybe your child rarely plays with their play kitchen set up in their bedroom, but move it near your kitchen area and they'll cook up dinner right along side you!

    We keep two large storage containers down in our basement. One holds Duplos, the other holds Little People. These can be classified under "toddler" toys, which I no longer have kids in that category. But you wouldn't believe how many hours of play they get out of them when I bring them upstaris on a snow day. Once the fun wears off again, back down to the basement they go.  

    Step #3:

    Play "Keep or Toss" with your kids.

    When going through a certain area or type of toy, gather all like items in one spot, and then sit down on the floor with your child. Things that are broken or missing pieces that make the item unusable get an automatic Toss. I tell my kids to try not to think about it to much. Do they love the item and can't imagine living without it? Keep. Is it just a "meh", could take it or leave it, is it a toy that they don't really care for but feel like they need to keep because it was a gift from someone? Toss (insert my desensitized heart here.) This works with clothes, books, shoes, anything that is taking up space in your home. 

    I know that this step might be really hard for some kids, especially if they've never done it before. Start small, and keep practicing the Keep or Toss game. Over time, they'll get the hang of it and will begin to grasp the idea that they just can't keep every last scrap of paper and mismatched Barbie shoe.

    This next step is crucial: bag up the Toss pile and remove it from your home asap, whether that be to the trash can or a donation drop off (I usually offer usable items to our teachers and schools first). If you don't, minds might start to second guess, or another family member might come and riffle through it and decide to claim an item or two.

    Once you've paired down to your Keep pile, move on to step #4.

    Step #4:

    "A place for everything, and everything in its place" -Benjamin Franklin

    To make clean up quick and painless, everything must have a home, and your child must know where that home is. I love containers and baskets for this very purpose. Please don't run to Target and drop $100 on storage items, because you might already have all you need! First, check around your home for containers that you might already have or things you can repurpose to create more "homes". I like baskets because items can be tossed in easily and then placed on a shelf. Staring at a bunch of baskets is much more pleasing to my eye than staring at piles of toys stacked upon each other. It just kind of brings a streamlined look, which makes my heart happy.

    Once you've gathered up some baskets and bins, label them! If your child is too young to read, take a photo of what goes inside, and attach it to the basket. If your child is older, label the bins with its contents. You can get fancy and creative here, or you can use making tape. Both options get the job done.

    As time goes on and you start to notice that baskets are overflowing or things aren't in their proper home, then you know its time to sit on the floor again, and give everything a good sorting, and maybe even another round of Keep or Toss.

     

    Step #5:

    Teach your child how to clean up.

    This one is so painful for me. There is nothing I'd love more than to tell each of my four kids to go clean their rooms, and they actually go upstairs and complete the task to my satisfaction. This rule took a long time and a lot of frustration for me to learn, and it actually came from our parent educator back when we attended early childhood classes (which we've since aged out of and I miss so much!). If you want your kids to keep clean and orderly spaces, they must be taught how to do that. It might take years, but I promise you one day they'll be capable of doing it on their own, and they might just even help younger siblings to catch on!

     

    I truly hope these ideas are helpful for you and your kiddos! December is such a good time to do this with your kids, as we'll soon be bringing lots of new toys into our homes. This can even be a great time to donate gently used items to a shelter or family in need. 

    Wishing you the best of luck and clean rooms forever!

    xo,

    Amy

    THE KIDS TABLE: A THANKSGIVING PRINTABLE FOR YOUR LITTE ONES

    THE KIDS TABLE: A THANKSGIVING PRINTABLE FOR YOUR LITTE ONES

    Who's ready for Thanksgiving?! I sure am! I'm ready to see my extended family, eat lots of yummy food, and have an extra long weekend! What's not to love?

    Typically we host my side of the family, which is about 15 people, 8 of those being my own kids and my nieces. They range in age from 4-23, but I still classify them all as kids, ha! It's so fun to watch my four pair up with my sister's 4, they seem to naturally navigate towards a cousin buddy and entertain each other for hours.

    I reached out to my friend Rachel, and asked if she could create a fun printable for the kids' table this year. I always like to offer some sort of activity to entertain the little kids while they wait for food to be served, or finish eating before the others. I told her to just do her thing, and it turned out so darling! I knew I had to share it with all of you too! (With her permission of course! Unfortunately, she doesn't have a business or page to direct you to, but she totally should because she's super talented!)

    Feel free to grab this image, print it off and use it at your own gatherings this Thanksgiving! If you do, snap a picture and share it with us over at the Friends of Bumbelou Facebook page, we would love to see!

     

    Wishing you all a safe, cozy, and love filled Thanksgiving!

    xo,

    Amy

    The easiest playdough recipe ever!

    The easiest playdough recipe ever!

    With the weather turned colder, we are definitely finding ourselves indoors much of the time. My kids are really great at imaginative and creative play, but I do still hear my fair share of "I'm bored, what can I do?" It always feels cozy to hunker down this time of year and focus on home and family. 

    One of our favorite go-to boredom busters is making homemade playdough! Little hands love to help make it, and its really quick and easy. I've tried plenty of recipes over the years, adding in colors and scents, but this recipe is the one I always come back to! I almost always have all the ingredients on hand, and it stays the softest of all the kinds we've tried (nothing is worse than crumbly playdough, and I right?!)

     Ingredients needed:

    2 cups flour

    1/2 cup salt

    2 tablespoons cream of tartar

    2 tablespoons oil

    2 cups water

    food coloring

    *optional: chunky glitter!*

     

    Step 1:

    In a medium saucepan, mix together all the ingredients except for the food coloring.

    Step 2:

    Cook over medium heat, stiring continuously. Once it begins to thicken, add the food coloring (4-5 drops will do, adjust to your color preference). 

    Step 3:

    Stir until the dough is pliable and no longer wet. *Overcooking will result in dry playdough.* Remove playdough from the pan and place on wax paper to cool. 

    Step 4:

    If you're adding in glitter, sprinkle some in and knead the playdough. Continue to add in glitter until you are satisfied with the sparkle ratio. I prefer to use chunkier glitter (I found ours in the Target dollar spot), and it sticks better and doesn't leave a mess behind. Gather up any cookie cutters and kitchen utensils you can find, play and enjoy!

    Step 5:

    Store in a sealed Ziploc bag or airtight container. We leave ours out and it stays good for several weeks. It can be stored in the fridge too!

    That's it! Easy peasy! Wishing you cozy days and creative play ahead!

    xo,

    Amy

    Five Favorite Read Alouds For Older Kids

    Five Favorite Read Alouds For Older Kids

    Reading aloud to my kids is one of my favorite things to do with them. Especially with the weather turning colder, I feel like it's such a cozy way to wind down an evening. We like to get all ready for bed first, and then snuggle in our pajamas under layers of warm blankets. I've mentioned before that I absolutely love adding to our ever growing collection of picture books, and I get just as much enjoyment out of helping my older kids find chapter books that interest them. One of the best perks about reading aloud to your older aged kids is that even if a book might be a little challenging for them to read on their own, you can read it together! As my kids have grown older and become more independent in many ways, they still have always enjoyed having a read aloud with me. Even my daughter who is 11! And I hope we'll still be reading books together as long as she is under our roof. 
    I went through all the book shelves in our house (yes, we have several!), and I pulled a collection of our most favorite titles. We definitely have more, but these are at the top of our list. 
    I couldn't wait to read this one with my daughter, and actually had it for a few years before I pulled it off the shelf for her. We have just a few chapters left, and we are both looking forward to watching the Netflix series that goes along with the book, Anne with an E. The story is about a young orphan, named Anne. Her whole young life, all she has wanted is love, acceptance, and to find her place in the world (Don't we all?!) She finally finds it in the home of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a brother and sister duo who live on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and had sent out a request for a young boy to be a farm hand. Anne quickly wins them over with her free spirit and imagination. We have loved following along with all of Anne's silly antics, and watching as Matthew and Marilla's, along with the hearts of the town folk, are softened and enlightened by this sweet girl. (Side note: This absolutely gorgeous cover makes for lovely decor in any young girl's room!)
    I read this book in college as a part of a children's literature course I was taking for my elementary education degree. I instantly fell in love with 10 year old India Opal, and all of the equally quirky and lovable characters. Opal adopts a stray dog that she she finds at her local supermarket, The Winn-Dixie, and the two become an inseparable pair that understands each other in a way no one else does. Throughout the summer, Winn-Dixie helps Opal to discover friendship and forgiveness, in a sweet coming of age story. (Bonus: The movie is just as good!) Orelia and I got to meet the author, Kate DiCamillo, last fall, and she is incredibly down to earth, inspiring, and encouraging! Meeting her in person made me love this book even more!
    This is a classic that I remember being read to as a child! I read this to my older two a few years ago, and now that it's pulled off the shelf, I really should read it again to my whole crew! You are likely familiar with this one, but the story is about a pig named Wilbur, a spider named Charlotte, and a little girl named Fern. Fern fights to save young Wilbur, who is the runt of the litter and deemed not to survive. She nurses him to health, where he is then sold off to her uncle's farm. In his new pen, no longer a runt, he learns that he is being raised for slaughter. He befriends Charlotte, and the two hatch a plan to spare this life. It's a sweet story of friendship and beating the odds. 
    This is hands down one of top favorite books ever! If you are local to Mankato, MN, this one will draw you right in! It's actually the first book in a series written by Mankato auther Maud Hart Lovelace. The series is semi-autobiographical, meaning the events and locations are mostly based off of her real childhood life and people. The character names and locations are renamed in the story, but the actual house she grew up in and many of the landmarks where much of the first novel takes place, is located in Mankato! You can visit them in person and even tour her house! I love when we can make real life connections with a book. The series follows the adventures of two young girls, Betst and Tacy. In the second book, an equally lovable third character, Tib, is introduced. The series starts when the girls are just five years old (It will draw your young reader right in!), and follows them as they get in to all kinds of mischief and imagination. We've read our way through much of the series, but our favorites are definitely the ones that follow the girls when they were young. My daughter laughed out loud often as we read this together!
    Saving the best for last, this is the first book in the Little House series. It's an autobiography written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and tells the story of her early life in a pioneer family. It is an accurate and incredible look into life in the 1870's, as they learned how to survive, love each other, and work hard to stay alive in the little log cabin in the woods of Wisconsin. It took us the better part of a year, but we worked our way through the entire series, and i'm planning to start it again this year! This first book especially is my favorite, and over time i've collected a hard cover copy for each of my four kids' memory boxes. It's one that I hope they reflect upon their childhood with, and read it to their own kids some day!
    I hope this inspires you to read aloud to your older kids! Even your younger kids will enjoy snuggling in and listening too! We're always looking for new books to share together, so i'd love to hear your favorites too! Happy reading!
    xo,
    Amy