Our Toddler Nighttime Routine

I always heard when Noah was an infant how important a bedtime routine was. Newborns don’t really have any sense of day or night, but was told to try to develop a habit early and they would eventually adapt to it. Our nighttime routine has changed a little bit since Noah is now in full throttle toddler years, but there have been some things that have stayed consistent. We have consistently read to him since he was 6 weeks old, there isn’t anything cuter than a book in his chubby little fingers!

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Valentine’s Day: The Family Way

Before having our son, my husband and I rarely went out on Valentine’s Day. It’s so much more fun to stay in and cook a big meal of all our favorites (and also a lot cheaper!). Now with a toddler, we still celebrate with a home cooked meal, but it’s slightly different. If you are staying in with your family, I put together an easy meal for you with a fast cleanup that you and your family to enjoy together this Valentine’s Day.

Drink- Shirley Temples

One of my favorite drinks to order as a child was a Shirley Temple. I always felt so grown up. To be honest, I occasionally still order them. This makes the perfect Valentine’s Day drink because kids love it, it’s festive and adults even make it more “adult” like if they’d like 🙂  I prefer using tall plastic SOLO cups because really, kids and glassware just don’t mix.

IMG_1512.JPGIngredients

  • 1 (12 ounce) bottle Grenadine
  • Ice
  • 1 (2 Liter) bottle lemon-lime soda
  • Maraschino cherries for garnish

Instructions

  1. Pour 1 ounce Grenadine over ice in a glass.
  2. Top with 8 ounces lemon-lime soda.
  3. Garnish with maraschino cherries.

Shirley Temple Recipe using SOLO cups for Valentine's Day

Shirley Temple Recipe using SOLO cups for Valentine's Day

Main Dish- Pizza with Heart Shaped Pepperoni

Heart shaped pizza is such a fun Valentine’s Day dinner, but to save time on making it, why not just buy your favorite pizza and make heart shaped pepperoni? It’s easy and you can do it together.

Making heart shaped pepperoni pizza for Valentine's Day

You can use a cookie cutter, but I just used scissors and cut the pepperoni into heart shapes.

Making heart shaped pepperoni pizza for Valentine's Day

Making heart shaped pepperoni pizza for Valentine's Day

Heat it up and serve on SOLO plates. These can later serve as crafts for your kids to color and make their own hearts!

Making heart shaped pepperoni pizza for Valentine's Day

Dessert- Cake “Fondue”

Now, for the best part, dessert. Instead of the traditional cheese fondue, replace the cheese with frosting. This cake “fondue” is so fun to dip your mini cake pops into different icings and everyone customize their own Valentine’s Day treat.

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Ingredients

  • 1 box Funfetti cake and cupcake mix
  • Sprinkles of your choice
  • Cookie sticks (quantity depends on how many you want to make)
  • Cream cheese frosting
  • Fruit of your choice (I like pineapple with cream cheese frosting!)
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Pink, purple, red and white gel food colors
  • Mini cupcake liners
  • SOLO bowls with lids
  • SOLO plates

Instructions

  1. Bake the mini cupcakes according to the instructions on the box
  2. While baking, make your frosting colors in the SOLO bowls.
  3. Let the cupcakes cool for 10-12 minutes.
  4. Place the mini cupcakes on the cookie sticks
  5. Dip away!

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

For the leftover frosting, stick a lid on the bowl and place in the fridge.

Valentine's Day kid friendly fondue using solo products

Enjoy your Valentine’s Day meal with your loved one!

Until next time,

Christine

This post was sponsored by SOLO cup however all opinions and experiences are my own!

Game on: A Kid-Friendly Super Bowl

Super Bowl is one of my favorite events of the year, but you guessed right, not for the game. But for THE FOOD. Super Bowl food is the best. I took some classic Super Bowl recipes, fun hosting ideas and made them a little bit more kid-friendly. So whether you have a family or a party with kids, there is a little something for everyone to get you ready for the big game!

Setup
I love hosting. It’s one of my favorite things to do. But if there are a lot of people, especially with little ones, I need easy ideas for setup and clean up. I decided to minimize the dishes and use Solo Cup Products to make clean up easy and less complicated. They are completely disposable, recyclable and really durable. Once you are done with them, they can also be used for kids to write and color on them. It’s a win, win right?

Some fast and easy ideas are a snack bar, pigs in a blanket, tater tot skewers and individual 7 layer dip cups (because nothing says football more than dip).

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

SOLO has write on cups that are perfect to label the snacks. The kids can make their own snack bowls with lids.  These bowls are easy for them to hold and whatever they don’t finish, the bowls serve as to-go cups. The small, clear cups are the perfect size for the individual 7 layer dip cups. Lastly, the paper plates are the adults for the skewers and other snacks. Don’t forget about the red and blue cups for the adult or kid beverages you serve. Plus, they add lots of color to your table.

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

Snack Bar
The best part of a snack bar is that you can customize it to your guests preferences. Since this is more kid friendly, the options are kid friendly, but even adults would enjoy them (I know I do!)

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

Snacks
Here are the snacks I used:

  • kid puffs
  • graham crackers
  • ring pops (everyone’s a champion!
  • M & M’s
  • pretzels
  • Doritos
  • blue corn chips

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

Pigs in a Blanket
This is an appetizer that everyone likes. You can definitely make them with recipes like this or you can buy them frozen, whatever makes your life easier! But either way, they are a great for kids and adults.

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

7 Layer Dip
These are perfect for a few reasons. The cups are very sturdy, so they are able to hold a lot without feeling too heavy. They are great size for those small hands and you don’t have to worry about any double dipping 🙂

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 ounce) can refried beans
  • 1 (1 ounce) package taco seasoning
  • 1 cup guacamole or homemade guacamole
  • 1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
  • 1 cup chunky salsa 
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar or Mexican blend cheese (I used both!)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes , diced
  • 1/2 bunch of green onions, sliced
  • 1 (2.25 ounce) can of sliced olives, drained (Optional- my son doesn’t like olives)
  • (9 ounce) SOLO cup plastic cups
  • tortilla chips (I like blue corn chips)

Instructions:

  • In a small bowl mix taco seasoning with refried beans.
  • Add about 2-2 1/2 tablespoons for each layer
    • Layer 1: beans and taco seasoning
    • Layer 2: sour cream
    • Layer 3: guacamole
    • Layer 4: pico de gallo
    • Layer 5: cheese
    • Layer 6: tomatoes
    • Layer 7: green onions and olives
  • Garnish with one tortilla chip. Store in the refrigerator until serving and serve with chips. Makes around 6 individual dips.
super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

 

Tater Tot Skewers
These are super easy to make and really fun to eat. You can eat them right off the skewer or add it to your SOLO plate. 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees, let them cool and add 4-5 tots to each skewer. You can add ketchup to the small SOLO cups for dipping.

super bowl kid friendly ideas using solo products. Snacks and food

So if you are inviting friends over to watch the Super Bowl or watching it with your family, enjoy the game, whoever is playing….most importantly, enjoy the food with a no fuss clean up.

Until next time,

Christine

This post was sponsored by SOLO cup however all opinions and experiences are my own!

Winter Fun for Everyone: Indoor places for the Family

Chicago winter months can be brutal, especially with little ones. The days can become even longer when you are stuck inside all day. I have rounded out a list of our favorite indoor spots. I have included classes, open playrooms and additional fun, indoor activities to keep everyone entertained (hopefully!) and sane during the cold months. I also got some help from fellow moms too and included their favs. Even included a special discount code, a promotion and several free options because who doesn’t like to save some extra cash right?!

Chicago:

Merry Music Makers– Music based classes from kids birth to 5 years old. Children can learn to sing in tune, keep a beat and participate in the music of our culture, provided their early environment supports such learning. Merry Music Makers offers research-based curriculum.

TIP: There are three locations throughout the city; Lakeview, Andersonville, and Edgewater

NYC Kids Club– Just recently opened, this gym has various classes, but several are gymnastic based. We have done one open play and a Gym Tots class and really enjoyed it. They have some great grand opening specials that includes Monthly – 50% off your first month + 1 year unlimited open play! Offer expires January 31. 

TIP:  There is a parking lot on the side on the building.

NY Kids Club- Chicago

Bubbles Academy– We have been to several events and open plays here, Noah has always enjoyed it. They focus on an art integrated curriculum and have many classes like art, music and creative movement. The facility has lots of space and they are always having FREE events. Some upcoming parent workshops like potty training and building math skills are really informative for parents.

TIP: Sign up for their newsletter and get the latest events, workshops, and classes.

Bubbles Academy

Purple Monkey Playroom– Located in Bucktown, this playroom is nice for children to explore in the large play space. They have free coffee, tea, and WiFi. I really like the mini kitchen area to heat up lunch and have some snacks. We have always done a day pass for $15 and usually stay for at least minimum of two hours. I think its a great place for play dates on a cold day.

TIP: They have lot parking available in the 90 mile Cuban Cafe gated parking lot at 2449 W. Armitage, directly under the El tracks. It’s about a 3 minute walk to the playroom.

Purple Playroom

Sod Room– Sod Room is an eco-friendly, indoor play space located in the South Loop of Chicago.  They provide toys and materials from recycled cork flooring, low VOC paint, and reclaimed wood. It is uniquely designed to utilize as much natural light as possible.  They also have workshops and classes. A day pass is $15 dollars.

TIP: They also feature a retail boutique which offers local, organic, fair trade, and recycled products and gifts for children and parents.

Goldfish Swim School- Through some research and word of mouth, we found Goldfish Swim School and we LOVE IT! It’s our favorite activity to do as a family. We each take a turn in the water with him during the 30 minute class (because of his age). We have the same teacher each lesson in a very small class and they work with you and the level your child is at. You can read more about our experience here. By lesson 3, Noah was enjoying it and learning to do the activities much more independently. After we showered, they have diapers, blow dryers, lotion and wipes to help get ready after the shower.

TIP: They have locations in Chicago and Chicago-land suburbs.

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Lesson 1- He definitely warmed up 🙂

Lil’ Kickers Soccer– We started soccer lessons when Noah was 20 months (now turning 2 in two weeks) and LOVE it. The program is designed to help develop a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive skills while providing physical exercise and developing players who are good sports and good teammates, on and off the field. The coaches are very encouraging, always high-fiving, and players get stamps at the end of each lesson (my son’s favorite part!). It is a 50 minute lesson with an adult, but at the age of 3, a parent is no longer required.

TIP: They have locations in Chicago and Chicago-land suburbs.

LIl' Kickers soccer practice

Mini City on 21– Located in Norwood park, this is an open playroom that is a parent/guardian supervised indoor play, party and cafe. They have have classes and birthday party packages available. Day passes are $10 for children 1 – 10 years old and $7 for children 11 – 12 years old. 0-11 months are FREE.

TIP: You can get a MINI “PASSPORT” (only for children 1 -10 years old) with a 5-day pass, $40, 10-day pass, $80 or 15-day pass, $120.

Tinkergarten–  All classes take place outside at a local park. Outdoor classes where children can play with other children alongside adults to learn through well-designed, outdoor play-based activities. They help kids develop a host of important capabilities, including empathy, collaboration, creativity, persistence and problem solving. Classes range from 18 months to 8 years old.

TIP: Free trials in March for the spring season

Zumbini– Created by Zumba and BabyFirst for kids ages birth to 4 years old, the Zumbini program combines music, dance and educational tools for 45 minutes of parent and child bonding! Also taught by a local fellow mom! Check out their schedule for classes all over the city.

TIP: Use the code Mamatribe15 for 15% off (only valid at the Irish American Heritage Center).

Young Explorers at the Adler Planetarium– Children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old can check out Young Explorers’ Mondays from 9:30 am – 1:00 pm, where children and their families can try hands-on activities like Fly a Kite, Stories Under the Stars, and more. Or add a sky show to your day when you purchase a Basic Pass that includes One World, One Sky: Big Bird’s Adventure.

TIP: Free with admission.

Kids playroom at the Adler Planetarium

Kidsyard–  Located off Irving Park Road, it is a 2,400 square feet play center for children aged 0-12 years. They have soft play structures, giant blocks and a climbing wall. All activities are created and appointed based on the age of the children and other safety requirements. For the babies or children under 4, there is a specific area to enjoy, with activities that engage their senses, body and mind. They have their own ball pond, mini slide, soft play blocks to crawl on and play equipment.

TIP: They do NOT allow outside food, but have a cafe.

Learning Loop Academy-Learning Loop Academy is dedicated to providing a safe and caring learning, playing and growing space where parents and caregivers can spend time together with their infants and toddlers. It is an interactive area to gather and explore many aspects of movement, music, art language and literature with the opportunity to meet and connect with other families. Check website for pricing.

TIP: Free parking and Wifi

Image result for learning loop academy

Chicago-land Suburbs:

Kohls Children’s Museum– Kohl Children’s Museum in Glenview, offers 17 interactive, hands-on exhibits for children ages birth to 8. All of our exhibits and programs are aligned to the Illinois State Learning Standards and are designed to nurture a love of learning in young children. Adults and children are $12 dollars.

TIP: Children under 1 years old are free.

Adventure Playland– Located in Mt. Prospect, it is an indoor playground for the kids while serving food, coffee and free WiFi for parents. Open to children 6 months to 7 years old.  Children under 1 are free with paid sibling. Monday-Thursday is $10.00, Friday & Sunday is $12.00. An after school special on Monday-Thursday after 3:00PM, is $7.00 per child

TIP: They have punch cards available.

Adventure Playland

Fun Republic Play– Fun Republic in St. Charles, was founded by three local moms whose main goal was to create a play center to help children not only develop basic motor skills and social skills, but also develop self-confidence while having fun. Fun Republic strives to offer a safe, creative and exciting play setting for children of all ages.

TIP: Kids under 1 years old are FREE.

Wonder Works  Wonder Works is 6,400 square feet of fun, a place of creative play for kids birth to age eight. Located in Oak Park, the children’s museum helps kids, their parents and caregivers unleash their imaginations. Wonder Works Children’s Museum provides a hands-on environment for children from birth to age 8 years old. The museum includes six permanent experience zones and hosts parties, field trips, concerts and other fun, educational events. Plus, an outdoor organic garden. Regular Admission is $7 per person, child or adult

TIP: Wonder Works also offers reduced admission for groups of 10 or more children when scheduled in advance through our field trip program.

Peekaboo Playroom– A playroom located in Oak Park, children from 0-6 years old can enjoy the variety of toys, play hide-and-seek in between the little house, read books in the book corner, play basketball, climb and slide in the clubhouse, and much much more. One day unlimited play is per child $12, sibling #2 and Sibling #3 FREE.

TIP: 1 hour pass for $6 dollars

Meet at Gather– Located in downtown Evanston, this playroom offers a place to Gather for art and music classes, workshops and events, open to all ages and abilities. They are open for drop-in art and play Monday-Saturday.

TIP: They have won for Best Playroom in 2017.

Gather for kids in downtown Evanston

Gather in Evanston

Free:

Story Time at Barnes and Noble

Dawn- Marie’s Toddler Jam Sessions

Garfield Park Conservatory

Harold Washington Library

Swedish American Museum

Free Thursdays at the Nature Museum

French Story Time (Various locations)

When all else fails:

Have the fun delivered to your door! These are kits that are toys with a purpose. Ranging from science to arts and crafts. Here are some kits that you can customize based on your child’s preferences. 

HOOT for Kids- For newborn to 6 years old, these treasure boxes are customized based upon your child’s age and developmental stage. They are toys with a purpose.

Bramble Box– Bramble Box award winning Play and Craft Kits are hand-curated activity boxes for kids age 3-7. Mom created and kid tested for hours of fun (& learning) with items to inspire imaginative play and all the materials for at least 2-3 hands-on activities and crafts.

Curiosity Pack– Curiosity Packs inspire a love of learning through age-appropriate activities. Children will learn about letters, numbers, friendship, science, art, love, and every other intriguing subject you can imagine.

My Giant Box– My Giant Busy Box will keep ’em busy! ThB001AQDA50ere’s 16 projects, mold dough animals, collage a farm and sticker art. Decorate paper bag puppets and tissue art pictures, then frame them. Includes plastic frames, animal punch outs, bright dough colors, peel and stick tissue art pictures, tons of tissue paper, glue, and easy to follow instructions.

Building Tiles Set for Kids

Magnetic building blocks are hands on learning tool. They can be combined in so many different ways! It includes a set of 102 pieces, including magnetic alphabet blocks & numbers. 

With a few more winter months left, I hope some of these ideas help out your little ones (and you!)

Until next time,

Christine

 

Helmets and Head Shapes

IMG_0143 (1)Around a year ago, my son had to wear a helmet from ages 3-6 months. Right around his 3 month check up, we started to notice that Noah’s head shape was starting to take on more of a “flat head” appearance in the back. But it wasn’t until our pediatrician suggested we see a specialist that it really sunk in for me. It was just too difficult to even imagine having him wear a helmet, but even worse, to think about what could happen in the future when he was older. It was not an easy decision. We were seeking the perfect head shape, but it was starting to become very obvious to us that it wasn’t going away. Read more at Motherhood & Family