I had zero inspiration for Valentine’s cards this year. Last year, I planned the Matchbox Valentine months ahead, but no lightning bolts were happening this Valentine’s season. It is with heavy heart that I must admit that I completely lifted our Valentine’s cards idea from Pinterest. Mr. Star Wars and Miss Priss love them, so maybe it is not such a terrible thing, and they were easy to make in bulk. I would like to thank Kim at 733blog.com for posting the original Tic Tac Toe Valentine’s card idea.
I created a 2-column template in a Word document (link in the materials list below). I inserted a table in the document and removed the borders to build the tic tac toe board. The part I find clever about the card is the “XOXO” part at the bottom. It is a traditional closing on a card as well as an homage to the Tic Tac Toe game. Yes, I know that detail will be lost on the 1st and 3rd graders who will be receiving these Tic Tac Toe cards Friday.
Print the cards in color on white cardstock. My template prints 4 to a page. Rather than burn out my printer, I used FedEx Office for this job. The color print and cardstock paper is much better quality than what I could print on my home printer.
When I picked up the print job, I stayed at the store and used their paper cutter to make sure the card cuts were consistent and even. It was a lot of cutting because I needed to cut all edges, not just down the center. This was a tedious part of the process. The finished cards are 4 1/2″ tall x 3 1/2″ wide.
Sign the bottom of each card after the XOXO. We used bright colored Sharpie pens in reds, pinks, and purples.
Put one card in a clear bag.
Add 4 M&M’s of one color and 5 M&M’s of another color to the bag with the card. Make sure to insert the M&M’s on top of the front of the card. Here is an interesting little tidbit– there are hardly any white M&M’s in the Valentine’s M&M’s mix. The majority are red (isn’t that the poisonous dye color?), and the two shades of pink have about an even amount of each. We dumped out the whole bag of candies and sorted into color piles before assembling the Valentine’s treat bags. A 12-ounce bag of M&M’s made ~37 Valentine’s bags (9 M&M’s per treat bag).
Seal the bag. I used my 4″ x 6″ ziploc bead bags from Michael Crafts. Clear gift bags with a twist tie or curly ribbon would be cute too but more time consuming to close securely.
I seem to spend a lot of time posting about school lunch for kids and teachers. It is not because I enjoy packing lunch. In fact, it is the opposite. I dread making school lunches. Currently, I have TheRoomDad on lunch packing duty, and my mornings are much more efficient and stress free.
One favorite lunch staple at TheRoomMom’s house is the classic wrap sandwich. I made them a few times last year for Miss Priss’ kindergarten snack duty. I like them because they can be made the night before, and they do not get soggy in the refrigerator overnight. We stuff with a variety of fillings to satisfy adult and child eaters, and they are not too unhealthy.
large flour tortillas
thinly sliced turkey, ham, salami or whatever deli meat you prefer
cream cheese, softened
shredded lettuce (optional)
grated carrots (optional)
red pepper strips (optional)
Spread a thin layer of cream cheese on one side of a tortilla. Cover the entire surface.
Cover the cream cheese with a layer of your deli meat of choice.
Near one edge of the tortilla, sprinkle a line of lettuce, carrot, red pepper strips, or whatever veggies you choose to use.
From the end with the sliced vegetables, roll the tortilla.
Slice into 5 pieces. (I discard the ends– and by discard, I mean TheRoomDad eats them.)
The Miss Priss Special
cream cheese, turkey, sliced red pepper
The Mr. Star Wars Special
cream cheese, salami, shredded lettuce
cream cheese, turkey, shredded lettuce, shredded carrot, sliced red pepper
cream cheese, salami, sliced tomato, shredded lettuce, shredded carrot, sliced red pepper, a few shakes of black pepper
Sometimes, no matter what great books we try to coax children into reading, they just can’t get through a chapter book. Struggling readers can be overwhelmed by the length of longer reading selections, and they need materials that can be completed in one session. Picture books work but may give the impression that they are intended for little kids. Magazine subscriptions are a great alternative for school aged kids who are reluctant or struggling readers.
For information about using magazines to encourage struggling readers and improve comprehension, visit my guest blog post at EasyReadSystem. The article also includes a list of children’s magazine subscriptions and links for ordering.
And, a little grandparent tip– my parents give each of my children a magazine subscription every year for Christmas. My kids love (1) getting mail and (2) getting new “stories” every month.
Click here to read the full article and get names of magazine titles and ordering information.
Mr. Star Wars has an August birthday– in South Carolina. That rules out any outdoor party unless it is swimming. We tried an army swim party and ran into pop up thunderstorms, so we were on the hunt for an indoor party location this year. After attending my niece’s totally cool rock climbing party at a lovely, indoor, air conditioned spot, Mr. Star Wars thought that would be fun.
My niece lives 4 states away from us, so I could not use the same place. I was able to find an indoor rock climbing location close to our house that would host a children’s birthday party. It met all of my criteria for a party facility: air conditioning, a dedicated area and staff for our party only (no mixing with the general public), and a flat fee (no surcharge for outside cakes or other weird costs). It was also a great activity for an older group. Mr. Star Wars is turning 9. He is not that old, but we are moving into a more “mature” party theme. In fact, I would not plan a party like this unless the guests are at least 8 or 9 years old.
I used a site called Swanky Press to order the invitations. I found lots of rock climbing invitation choices through a Google search, but many had cartoony stick figures on them, which I thought looked too babyish. Once I ordered, I received an e-mailed proof within 2 days. I had to make one edit, and they turned the correction around in a day. The invitations arrived at my door in about a week.
I also ordered matching gift enclosure cards, which I attached to the party favor bags. Coordinated thank you notes are available too.
From my limited indoor rock climbing experience, there seem to be two options at rock climbing facilities. Kids will either hook up to an auto belay system, which is like a pulley that lets you come down the wall on your own. Or, kids do boulder climbing on much shorter walls, and the kids jump down onto mats. For my son’s party, we did boulder climbing on shorter walls in a room dedicated to our party. We had two staff members who led games that required the kids to work around the walls. The staff members provided instruction while kids climbed, and they “spotted” for safety too.
At my niece’s birthday, the kids climbed tall walls using auto belays.
Whichever kind of location you have, make sure that there is enough space that most of your party guests can be climbing at the same time. If kids are standing around waiting for a turn, it gets chaotic. Based on our experience as a guest and as the party host, I would limit the party size to no more than 10 kids. 8 kids is probably ideal.
Parents will be required to complete a waiver in order for their child to participate in the climbing. We mailed the waiver with our invitation and asked parents to bring the completed form to the party. Some rock climbing locations have an online waiver that can be completed ahead of time.
Missing or incomplete waivers slow down the party. If parents will be carpooling to the party, make sure they understand the importance of having the completed waiver. A child will not be allowed to participate without that thing signed by a parent!
Mr. Star Wars wanted chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. No problem. I ordered my favorite grocery store birthday cake. This year, we ordered a round cake with orange trim (to match the invitations). The grocery store added a few candy rocks, but it was very simple.
I picked up orange and dark grey plastic dip bowls at Target a few weeks back. They have funky sides that look like the handholds at the indoor rock climbing places. Personally, I would never use these dip bowls for entertaining because the colors are totally obnoxious, and the dip bowls are pretty hideous. That is probably why they were on the sale shelf. However, they were perfect for a rock climbing themed party. I wanted to fill them with GORP, but Mr. Star Wars wanted something with cookies. I made a trail mix of two kinds of mini Oreo’s (white and black), mini Chips Ahoy, animal crackers, and small pretzels.
We filled the bags with a stick of rock candy, Pop Rocks, and a small candy container that had chocolate rocks in it.
I attached small key chain caribeners to the filled bags and added our small gift tags that said, “9 Rocks!” I found the caribeners at a local outdoor shop, but I have seen them at Party City or online.
What are other good party themes for kids who are older… but not that old?
So, here is the download from our 4th of July neighborhood party. We have a fab neighbor who has a degree in recreational something and is a professional when it comes to organizing group events. She agreed to again coordinate a 4th of July family bash for our street. We followed the same basic format as last year and here are a few highlights. In case you are new to TheRoomMom’s world, you can read about last year here.
The Parade, The Games, and the Prizes
Each family decorates bikes, scooters, wagons… This is the kick off to the party. Any participants ride up and down the street a few times to the cheers and shouts of the bystanders.
Following the parade, we are teamed up and compete in a sack race, dizzy bat race, egg carry, and other classic relay races.
Prizes for the winners awarded after dinner. I made this year’s “medals” with Mardi Gras beads, jewelry clips, and silver posterboard with a printed message glued to the top. They are not as nice as the Dollar Store trophies from last year, but I was under a time crunch.
After the races ended, a few adults wrote in silly award names like “Best Competitor”, “Most Confident Egg Carrier”, or “Best Spinner”.
The Food and Drinks
There was lots of grilled meat and tasty (but bad for you) party food. One person did contribute a fresh fruit salad, but we mostly ate things with melted cheese in them.
I baked a pizza dip, which is a party dip that works for any occasion, any age, and any time of year. Click for the 4th of July Recipes 2013.
I also concocted a blue drink for the adults. Be careful because it does look like Gatorade. I wanted to make the cherry margaritas for the crowd, but it takes time to pit all of those cherries, so I tinkered with the recipe for this blue drink and created the Dizzy Eagle (name is not finalized– please send suggestions if you have them). Click for the 4th of July Recipes 2013.
The Cake Walk
This is everyone’s favorite event. Each family donates a sweet treat or two. Kids stand on a numbered square. An adult plays music. When the music stops, the child stops on a square. Our organizer draws a number. The child standing on the matching number gets to pick a treat from the table.
You can let adults play too, but we have it worked out so all kids win one item.
This year I boxed Oreo Truffles. I had trouble melting my white chocolate, so they did not look as professional as I would like. The taste, however, was not compromised. Click for the 4th of July Recipes 2013.
Jackie knows how to cut a large white paper plate into 3 masks from a former job as a camp director. She cut an oval (football shape) from the center of the paper plate. The resulting 3 pieces are the 3 mask shapes. Then, two eyes are cut in the center of each shape. You can also do the football shape in the top half of the plate and create 2 masks from one paper plate.
I took over after Jackie cut the masks. I found red bamboo skewer sticks in the 4th of July section at Hobby Lobby. Using a piece each of red, white, and blue curly ribbon, I tied them together around the end of a stick in a knot. I hot glued the stick at the point where the ribbon knot is to the back edge of each mask. Once the glue cooled, I curled the ribbon.
We had a table at the party with Elmer’s glue, glitter, sparkly stars, and markers. Kids could walk up and decorate a mask.
We set a big disposable roasting pan on the table with the glitter jars inside. Kids set the mask in the pan to glitter. It made clean up very easy.
FYI– this would be a great craft for Halloween parties and school celebrations.
How do you celebrate the 4th of July? Jackie was exhausted, and this may have been the last time she will be organizing a neighborhood event of this scale. Do you have any suggestions I can bring to her for consideration?