Posts by christy:

How to Keep Kids Entertained on an Airplane

How to Keep Kids Entertained on an Airplane

When is the last time that you had little ones with you on an airplane?

It can be good…bad…or downright ugly, right?!  Today, I’d like to share my tips on how to keep kids entertained on an airplane.

First step – fill their backpacks!

It’s all about packing the right airplane tools in their backpack, so to speak.

If they are as comfortable as possible, they are more likely to be in a happy mood and entertained.  And that takes preparation!

Good to start a few days before your trip, so that you’re not scrambling the night before (when you’re already scrambling to pack the whole family to leave!).

Besides the activities, games and books you plan to pack your kiddo, make sure each kid backpack has:

1. A clean T-shirt (and shorts or leggings, if they fit in the backpack!), an extra pair of underwear for each kid (if potty trained), and an extra pair of socks for each kid (tootsies can get cold).

2. Empty freezer Ziplock bag (for any toys that drop on the airplane floor that would be in danger of being put back into your kid’s mouth. EEW).

3. A pack of travel Kleenex.

4. A small package of hand wipes (or baby wipes).

5. A handful of travel sized, kid-friendly snacks.

6. Something to help their little ears pop – my go-to is the “Dum Dum” lollipops (they get one for take-off and one at landing).  You can also have empty sippy cups or water bottles (to fill with water once you’re past security).

How to Keep Kids Entertained on an Airplane 

Pick your favorites!

– Traditional coloring books (or activity books) and crayons (just a small pack or a handful of crayons in a small Ziplock baggie)

Crayola “color wonder” coloring books (no mess!)

– Sticker books

– Fun kid card games, like Old Maid, Go Fish, Crazy Eights…and our new favorite, Uno!

– Mini travel sized puzzles or “board” games (just beware of lots of teeny tiny pieces)

– Small reading books (I put a limit on two per kid, for the plane).

– Mini magnetic “paper dolls” – we like this one.

– Mini Etch-a-Sketches (love these, because NO mess)

– Any Melissa and Doug travel games (so many cute options!)

– Flash cards (think sight words, shapes, colors, math practice, etc.)

– Several small Dollar Store or Target “Dollar Spot” new toys or trinkets…it’s cheap, it’s new, and it makes it feel special for the airplane.  Just make sure to ration out the new items for your trip over AND your trip back.  Avoid anything that makes loud noises!

– Play good old-fashioned games, like “I Spy,” “20 Questions,” – make up silly songs, make up silly stories…just quality time with your kiddos.

– You know all those magazine you take with you on a plane?  Choose one (that is family/kid friendly!) and have your older child circle sight words or make up stories about pictures they see.  Have them tell you, or even write it down and draw their own pictures.

– Have them work on any over-due handwritten thank you notes (or pictures!).  If you don’t have any over-due notes, have them color pictures for friends or family…ideally, the ones you are on your way to see!

– Have your older kiddos start a “travel journal.”  I usually have a few composition books in stock (you can find them almost anywhere).  Have them start their first entry about their airplane experience).

– A portable DVD player with a few DVDs (Make sure to bring kid headphones! And make sure to charge the DVD player in advance).

– And, of course…the infamous iPad or tablet of choice!  Loaded with age appropriate learning games!

 What are your favorite games to play with your kids on an airplane?  Share below!

Correcting Another Person’s Kid

Correcting Another Person's Kid

Today I want to open up dialogue for another touchy parenting topic: I want to know what you think about correcting another person’s kid…if that child is being mean or destructive.

Is it okay?  Does it cross an unspoken boundary among parents?  When is it okay or not okay?

Observing the naughty behavior

Tell me if this has ever happened to you.

You’re at the park or on a play date and a kid playing with your child does something blatant like yank a toy out of your kid’s hands, call them a mean name or push them.

And even though your heart skips a little beat (oh my poor baby!), you wait a moment, hoping the child’s parent or caregiver will correct them and ask them to apologize.  Take them for a time out.  Something.  And it doesn’t happen.

Huh?!

What do you do?  Do you correct the offending child?  Do you ignore it?  Do you talk to the parent about it (Umm, hey I don’t know if you just saw this, but your little one just pushed my kid down.  Awkward…..).

I am the first to say that my children are not angels. I am constantly correcting and disciplining.

But what happens when your kid is the recipient of the naughty behavior?

Here’s my two cents – and I’d love to know yours!

Typically when this happens, I’ll address the whole group of kids, including my own (and I do not single out the offender).

I’ll say something like, “Hey everyone…looks like we’re having lots of fun playing and we don’t want anyone to get hurt.  Let’s go over here and ______________ (insert distraction or new activity).”

Then, I take my hurt kiddo aside (albeit, hurt feelings or hurt boo boos), and ask them if they are okay and give hugs and kisses.

If it happens again, I will mention something to the parent or caregiver…and say something like, “Looks like the kiddos are getting a little rough with each other.  Maybe we all should take a break and let them cool off.”  Or something like that.

If a child is at my house for a drop off play date, I have no problem correcting the offending child, whether they are my own or not.  “_________ (insert offending child’s name), let’s not push, that’s not very nice.  Why don’t we all go play ___________ together?”

It’s sensitive…

I don’t want to offend the other child’s parent (yes, as parents, we all have different discipline methods and thresholds for what is “okay” or not)…and yes, children do need to learn conflict resolution.  Of course.  But, where do we draw this kind of touchy parenting line?

Do we say something…or not?

I’d love to get your opinion on this!  Let’s open up an easygoing dialogue below and talk about this issue.

 I’d love to hear about your experience.

Staying at the Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove Hotel

Family-Friendly Hotel Near Disneyland

[Disclosure: My family received a complimentary room to facilitate this Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove Hotel family review.] 

This Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove Hotel review is for anyone looking for a fun, comfortable, family-friendly hotel near Disneyland (as well as lots of other great Orange County parks and attractions).  My family and I recently had the opportunity to stay at this newly renovated Wyndham property, and we had such a great time!  Let me share my experience with you…

The Rooms

Check-in was a breeze, and we excitedly took the elevator to our room.  We were told that we had a “family room,” so we were all excited to see what that meant.  My kids burst through the door…and squealed.  A family room means BUNK BEDS! You would have thought they had won the lottery. (No, we do not have bunk beds at home, so this was a BIG treat for them).

Giggles, ladder climbing, fort building and peek-a-boo from the top bunk ensued.

This mommy was happy because the rest of our room was clean, fairly spacious for our family of four, and comfortable.  Us parents got a nice Queen-sized pillow-top bed plus a coffee maker (check!), a mini refrigerator (check, check!) and flat screen TV you could see from all beds (check, check, check!).

I also wanted to say that after the kiddies fell asleep around 8:30 p.m., the hotel and surrounding areas were quiet.  Yes, please!  That was a BIG plus.

Bunk Beds in Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove

Splash Time

What did we do five seconds after we finished oohhh’ing and ahhh’ing over the bunk beds??  Head to the pool, of course!  Vacation for my kids means swimming.  They would spend all their time in the pool if they could!

This pool was great for families – spacious, clean and inviting.  There were plenty of chairs, lounges and towels available.  Private cabanas are also an option on a first come, first served basis. We nabbed a few lounges and the kids dove right in.

Not too cool, not too warm.  The temperature was pretty comfortable!  The pool started at 3 1/2 feet…went to 5 feet toward the middle of the pool…and then tapered to 3 1/2 feet again on the other side.  Families and kids of all ages were there when we were there, so it was a nice mix of company.

There was also a comfy little hot tub….or as my son calls it, “the hot baby pool”…that felt great after playing in the water.  And again, very family friendly.

Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove Pool

Eats at the Hotel

The Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove Hotel has plenty of dining choices for your and your family.

The California Grill & Bar

We ate dinner at the California Grill & Bar, and it was delicious.  It is open all day, and serves quintessential California cuisine, including organic and gluten-free options.

I was especially impressed with their kid food options – for $7, each kid meal came with a (large) portion of the entree, choice of drink, and a post-dinner peanut butter cookie treat (make sure to ask for an alternative, if your child has a nut allergy).  That’s a pretty sweet deal for that price!  The food is quality (yes, I sampled both my son’s pizza choice, as well as my daughter’s mac and cheese – both yum!).

My husband and I started off the meal with creamy crab artichoke dip and crisp crackers (it was so delish, I could have made a meal off of that alone!), paired with a nice glass of Chardonnay.  Then, we each ordered two different entrees and enjoyed sampling – the Cobb Salad with Bleu Cheese dressing and the California Grill Burger with a side of mixed greens.

The Cobb Salad was enormous and very loaded with every possible Cobb topping you could imagine (And then some.  Like fresh mango)!  This could easily feed two people (perfect, if you’re splitting an appetizer and/or a dessert).

Their California Grill Burger was juicy, melty (cheese and topping goodness) and on a super soft, yummy Brioche bun.  The mixed greens was a great side (Yes, that night, I choose to believe that the green salad completely made the burger meal healthy!)

Blend™ Café

At the Blend Café, you can sip on a variety of freshly roasted and freshly brewed organic coffee drinks, and sample their baked pastries – perfect for a light family breakfast. They also offer stuffed Panini, freshly prepared sandwiches, and an assortment of gelato flavors – all day long – as well as a variety of tasty fare to grab-and-go.

We ate here for a light breakfast, and it was great!  The kids noshed on bagels and cream cheese, and I tried their hearty breakfast burrito for only $6 (so big, I couldn’t finish it)!  We took our plates out to the pool area and enjoyed a nice little meal in beautiful weather.  A great way to start the morning.

There’s more… 

There is also a wine bar and poolside dining (with a a wide variety of appetizers, entrées, drinks, and specialty cocktails).

Going to Disneyland?

The Disneyland theme parks are just 10 minutes away from Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove…so this is a perfect family friendly hotel near Disneyland for you set up camp for your Disney vacation.

This hotel makes it as Disney accommodating for you as possible with their “Mouse Ear Disney® Desk” in the lobby, open from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m. daily.  You can purchase tickets, pick up maps of the park, or ask their experts at the desk any of your Disney questions….they can provide information on all of the parks, the best rides, the best spots to eat, and all things Disney!

There is a Disneyland Shuttle (which is already included in your nominal “resort fee”) provided by the Wydnham that runs every half hour, starting with hotel departures at 7:10 a.m. (all the way to 10:40 p.m.)

Return trips from the parks to the hotel start at 9:30 a.m., all the way until 1 a.m.

disneylandkiosk

Wyndham Customer Service

Three words:  Helpful, friendly, and attentive.  This is from my own hotel experience, as well as observing the customer service happening around me with other guests.  This makes such a huge difference in your hotel stay, especially when traveling with children.  Because inevitably, your kids will need an extra towel, pillow, napkin, bottle of water, toothbrush…you name it…at some of the most inopportune times.  Friendly service is a must!

You can read more of their hotel reviews here.

Good to Know…

– This hotel property is close to so many attractions and places!!!!  Check it out!

– Did you forget something?  Want to pick up munchies for your room?  Need more sunscreen?  You can literally WALK to Target AND Walgreens across the street.  Tell me that isn’t every mama’s dream when you’re away from home?!

– You are within walking distance to LOTS of great family friendly restaurants, including Red Robin, The Outback, Joe’s Crab Shack and Coco’s Bakery.

– The hotel provides complimentary 24-hour WiFi in your guest room.  You can choose to upgrade, should you need to.

– All rooms are non-smoking.

We loved staying at Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove Hotel!  This is such a great family-friendly hotel near Disneyland for your next Disneyland (or Orange County!) vacation.

http://www.wyndham.com/hotels/california/anaheim/wyndham-anaheim-garden-grove

https://www.facebook.com/WyndhamAnaheimGardenGrove

All opinions expressed here are my own – my family had a great experience here, and we hope you do to!

Tips for Cooking with Kids

Tips for Cooking with Kids

Cooking or baking sounds like the perfect way to spend some quality time bonding with kids, right?  I had a breakthrough this week which inspired this post on tips for cooking with kids I wanted to share with you.

I’ve always had this romanticized idea about cooking with my children. We excitedly pick a recipe, and they carefully pour, stir, and measure. They wash their hands before and after they cook.  They clean up their messes.  We set the timer and anxiously watch our food bake or cook. And, then we enjoy our delicious creation together.

Reality is, things can get messy and it rarely (never) goes down that way.  Yes, things can get messy, but if you embrace that aspect, it can actually be part of the fun.

The reality…

Here’s what typically happens in my house.

The kids race to wash their hands.  Soap misses the hands.  They fight over who gets to stand on the step stool at the counter (and I remind them that we have two step stools).  They fight about who gets to open the refrigerator (and cupboards) to get the ingredients. They fight over who gets to hold the recipe or mixture box.  One of them inevitably breaks an egg.

As I’m cleaning that up, scobbling ensues.  One gets mad and stomps off.  The other one fights to dump more ingredients in the bowl.  Mommy gets frustrated and tells the remaining kid to go play while she cleans up.  No food is actually made in this situation.  Only a sink full of dishes and a frazzled mama remains.

My tips for cooking with kids…

I finally wised up and these are some things I learned.

Tip – Let them help pick the dish to cook.

I took both kids shopping and let them pick out muffins (pre-mixed) to bake.  I figured this would be a super easy, super fail-proof place to start.  A pre-mixed muffin mix with three added ingredients.  Check.

Tip – Get a set of ingredients for each kid.

Instead of fighting over taking turns with one dish, I decided to let each kid have their own cooking “station.”  I set up two sets of ingredients and cooking utensils at the kitchen table for both kids.  No step stools.  They each got to sit in their own kitchen table chair. (Why didn’t I think of this earlier?!).

Tip – Set up a cooking “class” environment. 

I told the kids that this was cooking “class.”  My 1st grader read the ingredients, instructions, and made accordingly.  I helped my preschooler look at the pictures of the ingredients, and helped him measure.  And I pretty much gave them total control over the process for each of their own batches of muffins.  The result?  They each felt super special and accomplsihed.

Tip – Let them get MESSY.

Yep, by giving them control over the process, egg shells will mix into the batter.  Oil will be over-measured.  Drips, spills, crumbs.  You name it.  And, it’s okay.  Let it happen.  For some moms, this is totally not a big deal.  For me, I have to intentionally take a step back and let them learn to “cook” and be in charge of their own process.

Tips for Cooking with Kids_2 (This is a picture of my four-year-old’s cinnamon muffin mix.  Wow.  But, he had fun!!!).

Tip – Teach them to clean up.

Part of cooking is cleaning up the mess.  Give them paper towels and wipes, and ask them to each clean up their cooking class work station.  Have them put leftover ingredients away.  Have them help carry dishes to the sink…and for older kids, have them help wash them.

Tip – Let them put their cooking creation in their own labeled Tupperware.

Remember how we talked about them making a big mess?  Who knows how their lovely finished “product” will turn out.  But, no matter what, they will be SO proud of themselves.  Praise them!  As long as it is (somewhat) edible, let them eat it. If they like it, put it in their own Tupperware or baggie…and label it with their name. That way they can munch on it, and it’s theirs.

Do you cook with your kids?  What are your tips to making it fun (and easy)??  Share below!

My Favorite Easy Tuna Casserole Recipe

My Favorite Easy Tuna Casserole_3

Today I want to share with you my favorite easy tuna casserole recipe my family loves.

I’m a mama who likes tasty meals (with basic prep!)…and I have two picky little eaters on my hands…so this easy tuna casserole recipe is one of my go-to’s.

It was given to me years ago (I think at my wedding shower!) by one of my dear childhood friends (and fabulous cook!), Nancy.  I’m so glad she’s given me a handful of easy recipes to follow.

Here we go!

Easy Tuna Casserole Recipe

My Favorite Easy Tuna Casserole_2

Ingredients:

– 6 oz wide egg noodles

– 1 can 9 1/4 oz can tuna

– 1 cup sliced celery

– 1/3 chopped onion (sometimes I leave this out, per the kiddos’ request)

– 1/4 cup chopped pimento (optional)

– 1 teaspoon of salt

– 1 cup cream of celery soup

– 1/2 cup of milk

– 1/2 cup of mayonnaise

– 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

– 1 small can of French’s fried onions

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 475 degrees.

2. Cook noodles until tender and drain.

3. Combine noodles, tuna, mayonnaise, veggies, and salt in a big bowl.

4. Blend soup and milk; heat through.

5. Add cheese to soup mixture; stir until cheese melts.

6. Add tuna noodle mixture and soup mixture together.

7. Transfer into an oven safe casserole dish.

8. Bake in the 475 degree pre-heated oven for 15 minutes.

9. Add fried onions on top, and let cook until onions are golden brown; this usually only takes 2-3 minutes. (Sometimes, I shred extra cheese and sprinkle on top with the fried onions…yum!).

10. Let cool for a couple of minutes.  Enjoy!

Picky kid tips:

– I call it “macaroni cheese pie,” instead of tuna casserole.  Somehow this name resonates better with my kids.

– If you sprinkle cheese on top of the casserole and let it melt, it looks more like “macaroni cheese pie.”

– I leave out the pimentos and chopped onions…that’s a little too much my kiddos’ tastes!

– Only sprinkle the fried onions on one half of the casserole…my kids only really like the “noodle and cheese part, mom.”

Last, I add a quick salad or heat up some frozen veggies, and voila! Dinner is served.  It’s easy prep and is an easy crowd pleaser!

You can check out Nancy’s foodie Facebook page, Cooking with a Side of Sunshine for more recipe ideas!

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