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Fun Thanksgiving Activities For Kids

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I remember being a little girl running around my grandparents’ home with all my cousins. Their house had a basement with a pool table so we would spend most of our day down stairs attempting to play pool, but none of us were very good at it. If the weather was nice we would head out before dinner to play wiffle ball in the backyard and then after dinner we would somehow find ourselves walking the neighborhood loop. I made some of the best memories with my cousins on any holiday spent at my grandparents. We are all so close in age so no one was left out and we all got into trouble together.

I can’t wait for our little boy to be able to make the same memories with his cousins as I got to. I’m lucky that my cousins all have children who are close in age to our son, so it makes getting together just that much sweeter. Our afternoons are no longer filled with ball in the backyard, but are now filled with watching our kids play together and wobble around the living room. If you have a toddler-aged child then you know just how hard it can be to entertain them for long periods of time. Especially if dinner is taking a little longer than usual or you’re waiting for someone to get off work.

I’ve put together a great list of easy and inexpensive activities you can do with your little ones this Thanksgiving.  These work great for kids of all ages and they don’t cause too big of a mess, which is a huge plus when you have a busy house full of people. 

Let’s get into it, here are my favorite

Thanksgiving activities for kids:

Leaf Art

Collect leaves from outside and glue on pieces of construction paper into various shapes

Paper Bag Puppets

Take brown paper bags, glue on eyes, feathers and pieces of paper to make a turkey face. On each bag have kids write down what they are grateful for this year (you may have to do the writing for them).  Here’s a great tutorial for you.

Scavenger Hunt 

Put together a list of clues that lead to hidden objects around the house or outside in the backyard. You can make this as easy or as difficult depending on the age of the kids.  If they’re a bit older, trying using codes that need to be solved before they’re able to figure out their next location.  The end prize could be some dollar store treats, a new game, or whatever you have on hand.

Thanksgiving Bingo

Put together a game of bingo using this template from The Crafting Chicks.  You can create (or find for free!) so many themed bingo games online. They are so much to play and you can even put a bigger kid in charge of pulling numbers and handing out prizes to winners.

Turkey Feathers

This game looks super fun to play! You can find the tutorial from The Idea Room and it looks pretty simple to setup.  All you need is a turkey cutout with numbers 1-6 listed on it, some clothes pins and a dice.  Each kid takes turns rolling the dice and they place a clothes pin on the turkey for the number they rolled. If you roll the dice and already have that number with a pin then you’re turn is over.  Once you have all the numbers covered, you win!  

What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving activities for kids from when you were little?  

Getting Your House Ready for Thanksgiving Dinner

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I have this dream of hosting family dinner and it looks like a scene from a movie. The table is set perfectly with lovely place holders, crisp white table clothes and beautiful centerpieces. The food is served out of sterling silver and everything is cooked to perfection.  Then after dinner, everyone moves into the family room where miraculously there is enough seating for everyone. We watch football, but don’t really pay attention and spend the rest of the evening telling stories and catching up.

But that’s not reality, that’s just a dream. So let’s talk about a real Thanksgiving dinner looks like.  Kids running around making memories, everyone showing up at different times because people have to work, the tables are usually a mix of folded card tables, kitchen tables with chairs, bar stools and piano benches laid out everywhere.  There are no centerpieces because no one has time between raising a family, working until the last minute and having to cook a few dishes to bring. The biggest concern is making sure you don’t forget anything you were supposed to cook…. well at least that’s my biggest worry considering I did forget to bring a dish I said I would one year… oops!

Why do we have these picture-perfect standards that only cause our stress levels to go up? Why do we do this to ourselves?! Well this year, I say enough is enough! This year I’m forgetting about the image you see in a movie and am embracing my reality. A reality filled with chaos, laughter and very loud voices. 

Hosting a family dinner or even friends for Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be this stress-induced moment.  All you need is a plan to get your house in order and a time table to make sure the food is done on time.  In this post, we’re going to talk about making sure your house is presentable to the outside world (especially if you have little ones running around) and it not cost you hours of cleaning to get there.

One Week Before Thanksgiving

Clean and organize guest rooms if you have anyone staying the weekend with you. Change sheets on the bed, vacuum the carpet and dust the furniture.

Childproof your home if you have any small children coming. If you don’t have time to childproof everything or don’t want the inconvenience at least try to place outlet caps in the electrical outlets. It makes life so much easier for toddler-aged parents when they are fascinated by everything they shouldn’t touch.

Clear away any clutter. Go through the main rooms in your house and put away any paper clutter, miscellaneous items, and things taking up space.

Wipe down the bottom of the inside of your fridge and clean your microwave.

Make a game plan for when you need to cook each dish you’re providing.  Some dishes can be started 2-3 days before Thanksgiving.  Try to get done what you can so you aren’t spending all day before dinner int he kitchen.  

Three Days Before Thanksgiving

Sweep the kitchen and vacuum rooms where guests will be.

Mop the kitchen and bathroom floors.

Dust the house. Make sure to take care of the main rooms in your house.

Buy any last minute foods or fresh produce.

Day Before Thanksgiving

Clean your bathrooms – this is probably the most important room to clean before guests arrive (besides your kitchen). Hide any bath toys, clean the toilet and sink area. Make sure your toilet paper is stocked and wipe down the mirror. I like to hide everything on the bathroom counters, too. That way your toothbrushes aren’t in the way and the only thing visible is soap and a hand towel.

Run the dishwasher and put away any clean dishes. Now you’re sink will be empty and your dishwasher will be ready for all those dirty dishes.

Add a box of baking soda to your fridge to help reduce any odors.

Setup any extra tables and chairs that will be needed for dinner.

Morning Of Thanksgiving

Light candles in your bathrooms.

Wipe down kitchen counters.

Make sure to adjust your thermostat before everyone arrives.

Don’t stress over the last minute details. Make sure to enjoy your day.

 

 

How to Make Gift Bags from Wrapping Paper

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It never fails – we’re running late and should have left the house 20 minutes earlier.  Our son has decided that he doesn’t want to wear shoes, our dogs know something is up and are following me through the house, I have a gift to wrap before we leave and I can’t find a big enough bag.  

Luckily there is a trick you can do to turn wrapping paper into a gift bag that is just the right size.  Plus, it only takes a few minutes, which is perfect for me since I’m almost always running late and never seems to come easy this time of year.  

I created a quick video you can watch online or below to see just how to make gift bags from wrapping paper.

This technique comes in super handy around Christmas time. I don’t know about you, but it seems that gift bags cost so much more than a simple roll of gift paper.  So to save money, just buy a few extra rolls of paper and make a few bags to have on hand for those last minute gifts.  The gifts will be unique and impressive, but at the same time you’ll be saving money!

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5 Frugal Holiday Tips | Help You Save The Most Money This Christmas

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I’m coming at you today with my top five frugal holiday tips to save you the most money this season.  I know this time of year can be hard.  Like, really, really hard. We have our normal, every day lives to manage and now we have to make sure we buy gifts for a lot of people, host dinners and attend parties.  Not to mention if you have school-aged kids the Christmas programs you have to help with.  This time of year can be stressful.  

To help you out, I’m sharing these top frugal holiday tips so that you don’t have to stress about money.  

You can watch the 5 Frugal Holiday Tips video online or down below:

The first tip is to create a Christmas Budget.  You can read this post from earlier in the week where I shared just how we create our budget, what we track and where we get an idea of how much to spend on every person in our lives.

Your second tip to saving money is DIY. I know this one might seem a little hard, especially if your pressed for time but you can easily find a simple project that takes hardly any time and costs hardly anything.  For me, I love the idea of making something for someone I love over buying a gift.  It seems so much more personal and shows just how much I care.

Here are a few DIY ideas:

  • ornaments
  • wreath
  • oven mitts
  • framed photo

A third frugal holiday tip is to host a potluck instead of exchanging gifts.  Let’s be honest, gift buying can get overwhelming and expensive. So get together with friends or neighbors and suggest a potluck instead of a gift exchange.  Have everyone bring a dish and then just spend time together.  I’m sure having a few hours laughing over a meal would mean more than a gift that will end up collecting dust.

The fourth tips is all about shopping smart.  You can find amazing deals online by using coupon codes and promotional discounts.  Always search on Google for a coupon code before checking out to make sure you’re getting the lowest price.  Another great way to shop smart is by going to the Dollar Tree, Big Lots and other discount stores.  If you’re willing to go earlier in the holiday season you can find some great items for a fraction of the cost as other retailers.

My final tip for racking up those holiday savings is host a cookie party. Invite a few friends over and each of you bake 1-2 cookie recipes, but make sure your batches are big enough to share.  Then at the end of the day you have about 6 different recipes you can split between you to pass out as gifts. 

How To Setup Your Christmas Budget

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The holiday season is upon us.  The moment Halloween is over, it seems that Christmas is in full swing.  I need time to slow down just a little, it’s going by way too fast.  I can’t believe it’s going to be our little guy’s second Christmas this year.  In a recent Budget Q&A I shared the concept of our Christmas Budget – what we include, how it works and what all I track.  Well in that post I promised I would bring a more in-depth tutorial on how you can setup your Christmas Budget to help you tame the chaos this year.  

You can watch the video online or below:

You need to create a simple spreadsheet in either your journal, Excel or you can even use Google Sheets to create one.  You need 7 columns to get you started:

  1. Who
  2. What
  3. Budget
  4. Spent
  5. Bought
  6. Received
  7. Wrapped

Who

This one is pretty self explanatory, who do you need to buy a gift for.  Make sure to include all of your family members, friends, co-workers, any hostess gifts for dinner parties, mailman, trash pick-up guys, etc.

What

The what category always takes you a little longer to complete.  This is where you will brainstorm a gift idea for everyone on your list.

Budget

Fill in how much you plan on spending for each person.  You can use this guide to help with gift limits.  

Spent

Once you buy a gift, fill in this section.  As I said in the video if you go over by a few dollars on one person’s gift – that’s okay.  Just make up for somewhere else. For instance, if I spend $5 more for my sister’s gift than I had budgeted, then I need to spend $5 less somewhere else.  It could be on one other gift or I could save a $1 or so on several different people to make up the difference.  

Bought, Received, Wrapped

Use the last three columns as a checklist.  Now you can look at your budget at any moment to know who you need to buy for still, what gifts you’re waiting on to get in and which ones still need to be wrapped.  These three additions to your budget are a game changer. I promise! No more waiting until the last minute to get a gift for someone because you forgot.  Now you will know exactly who you have left and about how much you still need to spend.  

For more tips and budget help, check out these great posts:

How We Use Our Credit Card Rewards

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Our Favorite Money Saving Apps

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How To Make Money Shopping Online

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Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner on a Budget

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  Are you prepared? This year we’re staying in town and having dinner with my family.  It’s going to be great getting together with my sister (and brother-in-law), my cousins and their kids.  My cousins and I are about the same age and even are kids are close in age.  So it’s great when we all get to be together.  We usually laugh until we get headaches, we tell stories of our past and just enjoy ourselves.  

You may remember from October’s Budget Q&A from not too long ago.  We mentioned taking the time to plan out your holiday budget.  I do have a post all about preparing your Christmas Budget, which includes Thanksgiving dinner coming this week (so stay tuned!). Your holiday budget not only includes gifts you have to buy for everyone, but also anything you have to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, road trips to see families and much more.  

The first think you need to do is to go through your holiday budget and make sure you know exactly what you planned on making or buying for Thanksgiving.  It’s important to remind yourself so you don’t overspend.

Today, I wanted to share with you a few tips for hosting Thanksgiving dinner on a budget:

Have a Potluck

Don’t put the stress and responsibility of preparing every dish on just one person.  Ask for help.  Ask each couple or person to bring a dish or two.  It really helps on the food costs and the time it takes to prepare.  My family does this every year.  That way everyone is contributing some dish to dinner and is helping out.

Prioritize Your Dishes

Make a list of every dish you would like to have at dinner.  From there you can see what people are bringing and then anything left over needs to be prioritized.  Let’s be honest, there’s usually too many dishes and foods at Thanksgiving dinner.  So, don’t be afraid if something doesn’t make the cut.  

Do Without Store Bought Decorations

If you have any decorations or centerpieces from previous years then use those.  If not, then get creative.  You can find a ton of fall decor ideas on Pinterest.  Another option is to head outside and use leaves or pinecones you find in your backyard.  Use a little spray paint or imagination and you can make your own perfect pieces.

Make It Yourself

Obviously hiring a caterer sounds like a genius idea, but they can be costly.  Another way your budget can jump is having a bakery prepare your cakes, pies or other bakery goods.  Do without hiring someone to make dishes and do it yourself, from scratch.  Buying goods from bakeries and stores can be costly, but so can buying pre-made or pre-mixed foods too.  

There you have it! Simple tips to help you stay within your budget and still enjoy time with your family.  It’s too easy to get wrapped up in this idea of the perfect Thanksgiving dinner.  The food has to be perfect, the decorations have to be spot-on and the house has to be spotless.  But that’s not what Thanksgiving is about.  It’s about time with family, being thankful for what’s most important and enjoying the moment.

 

What We Did For Halloween

Since this was Dent’s first year getting to trick-or-treat we wanted to make sure he enjoyed it.  We started the night off with heading to my parents house so my Mom could actually get a trick-or-treater for the first time since I was a little girl.  You see, my folks live a little ways out of town and we never had any come visit us for Halloween.  Every year my Mom would hope, but they never came.  

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So I wanted to make sure she had a least one trick-or-treater at her door.  He loved it.  He walked up to the front door and then strutted straight inside to get his goodies.  Afterwards we headed back to our house to trick-or-treat our street.  We knew he wouldn’t make it all night, so we just stayed close to home.

I know I haven’t been a kid in a very long time, but I don’t remember Halloween being such a madhouse.  Parents just rolling up to a house, kids running out of the cars and straight to the candy bowls then hitting a few more houses before sprinting back to the car for Mom to roll down the street a little more.  It didn’t seem fun, it seemed about it was all for the candy.  I remember being a little girl and walking the street as a group, which I spent most of my childhood Halloweens with my Grandma handing out candy, but the few years I did go – it was about having fun with friends.

Our little NASCAR driver loved walking up to someone’s house and being handed candy. He wasn’t quite sure what to think of it, but he loved it! He even started waving bye-bye to people as we walked away.    

Tips for Traveling With a Toddler

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With the holiday season fast approaching, we are planning for some road trips to see family.  Now that our little man is almost 17 months old (cue tears!) we travel a little differently than when he was first born.  Long gone are the days of him sleeping most of the car ride and we’ve replaced those peaceful days with fighting the car seat, boredom and counting down the seconds until we reach our destination.

I make it sound just horrible traveling with a toddler, don’t I? It’s really not that bad.  Sure some trips are better than others.  Some days he’s a peach in the car and entertains himself with a small toy and a few snacks.  Other days he can’t stand his car seat and is sure to let us know how unpleased he is.

But as I’ve told him over and over, Mommy and Daddy have to use the car seat because it’s the safest place for him to be.  He usually fights me, but I at least try to reason with him (HA!).

With J’s family living a few hours away, we tend to travel on a regular basis.  I wanted to share with you my tried-and-true travel hacks with you.  I want you to be prepared for those long car rides you’ll be facing and nights away from home.  Plus this time of year usually means the roads aren’t always the best, especially with temperatures dropping below freezing at night.  So I like to make sure we have our little guy nice and calm during road trips so that it makes driving a little easier on us.

Not too long ago I shared some of my go-to tips when traveling with a baby.  Now as he’s gotten older and a little more independent some of my tips have changed.  But if you have a younger baby then these tips could really help you.

Let’s get into today’s post – tips for traveling with a toddler.  Now don’t worry I am going to cover everything from the car ride to staying the night.  So let’s do it.

What to bring in the car:

Snacks

Few Favorite Toys – I typically bring one (or two) that makes noise and the rest are silent. I either bring a few balls, books or stuffed animals.

Diapers and wet wipes for any changes – I like to leave a few of these outside the diaper bag so I don’t have to dig around for an emergency stop.

Towel – in case there is a mess that needs to be cleaned up or we have to do a diaper change in the back seat.

iPad to watch movies

What to bring for overnight stays:

Pack-n-play – that way when it’s bedtime your little one has a place to sleep that’s all their own.  

Blanket – it’s nice to have something that smells like home and can be a comfort to them

Extra Clothes

Favorite Bottle or Sippy Cup – my little guy still loves a bottle in the morning.  We’ve been able to replace everything else with a sippy cup, but not his morning one.  Since he takes medicine I prefer not to fight him just yet.  

Favorite Foods – you pack snacks or non-perishable foods you know your little one likes.  This works great if you’re eating out a lot or not sure what meals will be prepared.

Bedtime Routine – it can be hard to stick to a similar routine that you have at home, but try.  Your little one loves having a routine and it makes it a lot easier on them if they are being put down about the same time each night and follow the same steps they would at home.  For us, it’s bath, brush teeth, have some water, snuggle for a bit then be laid down.

Morning Routine – again, try to stick to the similar routine you have each morning.  I know it can be hard, but just do your best.

If you plan on flying with your little one, then check out my tips here to make it so much easier on yourself and your child.