Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Granted, it's March. Most of us aren't ready for popsicles yet, but oh well!
I like homemade popsicles more than store-bought for many, many reasons.
1) they're much, much, MUCH cheaper, at about 30 cents a batch (maybe 1 dollar for juice ones) instead of 3 dollars.
2) The kids can help with it. These would be a good activity for learning solids/liquids, or hot/cold, or pouring, or mixing, or helping, following directions, etc.
3) They're not as huge as store bought popsicles. I can barely make it through a whole store-bought popsicle before it melts, and my kids don't stand a chance against the ticking time bomb that is room temperature. These little treats are small enough for even my 1 year old to get down before it turns into a major mess. If they want more, they can always have two!
To make homemade popsicles:

Kool-Aid Popsicles
1 package kool-aid, your favorite flavor
1 cup sugar
4 cups water

Mix together. Pour into ice-cube trays and put a stick of some sort in each spot; tooth-picks, popsicle sticks, chopsticks, or skewers all work. Freeze for about 3 hours or until solid. Pop out of the spots and enjoy.

If you're not a fan of Kool-Aid or want to make it healthier, try this recipe:

Juice Popsicles
1 frozen container (12 oz, I think, the tube kind that makes 2 quarts) juice: grape, cranberry, or apple work good
1/2 cup sugar (1 cup for cranberry or pineapple)
4 cups water

Mix together. Pour into ice-cube trays and put a stick of some sort in each spot; tooth-picks, popsicle sticks, chopsticks, or skewers all work. If desired, place a small piece of whole fruit in each cup too, like a tiny piece of apple, a frozen raspberry, or a slice of strawberry. Freeze for about 3 hours or until solid. Pop out of the spots and enjoy.

*Note: these recipes make about enough to fill 2 ice cube trays. If you want, you can freeze all the popsicles. Or, you can add enough water to double the leftover in volume (for example: if there's two cups of the leftover popsicle mix, add 2 more cups of water) and drink it like regular kool-aid. This does NOT work with the juice type, because you added sugar. It will be extra sweet if you try it.

Picture disclaimer: I know my son Lee is making some strange faces in these pictures. It's hard to smile at the camera when you're sucking on a cold popsicle!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Physical Activity

I've added a new (for me, at least) area of focus to my FAD lessons with my kids: Physical Activity.

This is coming from a person who has a lot of issues with physical activity; which is why I'm implementing it! I had a couple of bad experiences when I was a kid with exercising, and it has crippled me. I do not want the same thing for my children. So now, every day as part of our lessons, right along with music time and story time, we will have Physical Activity time. Right now it is snowy where I live. We stretched our bodies, ran in circles, danced, and laughed. It was a blast. The funnest thing was seeing my little one-year old trying to copy us too, and I gained immense satisfaction over the knowledge that my kids will be full of good physical experiences that will hopefully sustain them through the days where they don't get picked first to play kick-ball.

With childhood obesity rates on the rise, and not much help from the restaurant business, it is so important for us as parents to take charge of our kid's health. Since I've already blabbed away about food, this is the second part: keeping fit. I believe that kids that learn good physical habits in the home are at a great advantage in school.

Now, like always I ask you: any good ideas for fun physical activities for kids? Particularly indoor ones. I would love some more input for what has helped you or what you like.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Have a FAD button!

For smart kids!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Home Cleanliness: My Thoughts/Your Thoughts

First off, I'm asking for some advice. Please read the following and then give me your ideas.

With small kids, it seems like the cleaning in my home is endless. 98% of my house is carpeted (everywhere except the bathroom, including the kitchen). I have to vacuum at least 3 times weekly to keep the house looking decent; not even presentable. Every day I pick up toys, garbage, and laundry; except Thursday, which tends to be the day when I just can't take the constant hassle of cleaning, and it isn't yet the weekend when I can get out of the house/have my hubby's help to get the house back in shape.

My man and I have come up with a few things we do to help keep the house in a semi-orderly state, but I could really use a few more ideas.

Here are my successes:
1) There has to be some major compromising. I want my kids to have a creative, happy, open atmosphere to grow up in. I don't want their imaginations to feel restrained by anything--not super-strict cleanliness, but not awful messes either. I think either extreme is distracting for children. I aim for somewhere in the middle.

2) We keep all the toys under child lock. May sound a little extreme, but see the next few points.

3) In the morning, we let the kids pick 3 toys for the day to play with. If partway through the day they want to switch, that is totally fine. They put away the toys they're done with, and then take out new ones.

4) Right before dinner, the toys go to bed. They are put away for the night. Then the kids wash up for dinner, and we have our evening time together as a family, for playing games and reading books and maybe watching a movie.

Here are my struggles:

1) The kids LOVE the kitchen. They get out all my cooking utensils and take them all over the house. I have no clue where my biscuit cutter is at this moment because the kids played with it months ago. And considering the very central location of the kitchen in my house, and the metal cabinets that can't have child locks screwed into them, I'm not sure how to keep them out of there; yet I can't let them just have free reign, because some of the utensils are breakable, dangerous...or at best, will have to be cleaned after every play session.

2) I have a hard time motivating the kids to pick up after themselves. I have a 3 1/2 year old who I think is old enough to learn how to clean up, yet I'm not sure the way to go about it. Do I reward/bribe? Do I punish for disobedience? How much of the mess should I clean up as he's puttzing around putting away 1 or 2 toys? And how long can I wait before just finishing the job myself?

3) Lastly, I don't like picking up the same messes every single day, two or three times a day. Once a week? no problem. Twice a week? doable. Twelve times a week? kill me now! Any ideas on how to make it from day to day without pulling my hair out?

Thanks! ~Lisa


You can make errands a fun experience with your child. When you go to the post office, ask to see if you can show your child how they sort mail, or at the store show them what goes on there. It will become more fun, and an enjoyable experience for your child.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Valentine's Day Playdough

Valentine's Day Playdough
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • about 4 drops of red food coloring drops
  • 2 Tbsp clear glitter (optional)

Add the food coloring to the water before mixing with dry ingredients. (I used 4 drops of red food coloring for this shade of pink). Mix all ingredients in a non-stick pan and heat on medium, stirring, until it forms a ball (It really will form a ball so keep stirring-- and it doesn't take long). Take out of pan and knead until it reaches desired consistency. Be careful. It will be hot.

While kneading, I added about 2 Tbsp. of clear glitter. I packaged the playdough in these take-n-toss containers from Wal-Mart (for my three oldest kids at the time) and stamped it with a small heart-shaped cookie cutter before putting the lid on. Also, cool completely before putting lid on. These were their prizes at the end of their Valentine's treasure hunt one year.

Happy Valentine's Day rolling and cutting and playing dough with your little ones for less than a buck!  Visit LifeAsMom for more Frugal Friday ideas that may or may not be kid-related.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Lunches for happy kids and sane mommies

First off, let's talk just a titch about eating with our families.

One meal a day. Research shows that children who eat one meal a day with their families as a sit-down, all-together meal, are less likely to get into drugs, alcohol, and teen sex; they have higher test scores and better concentration in school; they are happier, better-rounded, have higher self-esteem; and are generally "Better" kids than those who don't eat with their families. That is why it is important, no, crucial that we ensure our children eat with us, and that we have dinner as a family.

Now, this post is about lunch, and this post is for Nikki, just to help give some ideas of quick, easy and FUN lunches we can prepare for our little ones. This is for the days when we are sick of PP&J, Mac 'n cheese, or hot dogs.

Lunch Menu #1: Make your own "Lunchables"

Crackers (assorted kinds)
Sliced Cheese (assorted kinds)
Deli lunchmeat (assorted kinds)
Fresh fruit and vegetables

Lunch Menu #2: Salad Wraps (sorry if this one is redundant)

Whole-Wheat tortillas, spread with butter and cooked in a frying pan until brown on each side.
Assorted vegetables, sliced (cucumber, lettuce, tomato, avocado, carrot, etc)
A little ranch dressing and/or mayonnaise
sliced cheese
-Let your kids pick what vegetables they want in their wraps, and then let them go for it. Since everything is so healthy, you don't have to fret if all they want is a tortilla, a carrot, and cheese.

Lunch Menu #3: Roasted Veggies with Cheese

1) Dispatch 3 potatoes, 1 head of broccoli, 1 head of cauliflower, 4 carrots, and 1 bell pepper (or any combination of delicious vegetables...these are our favorites) into bite-size pieces.
2) In a monstrous bowl, toss assorted vegetables with 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil; 1 tbsp salt; and 1 tsp pepper. 1 tsp garlic is optional.
3) spread out on a cookie sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray.
4) bake at 375 for 30-40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
5) At the end, sprinkle 1 cup shredded cheese (your favorite kind) and bake for 5 more minutes, just to let the cheese melt a bit.

*Notes: watch out for that 30-40 minute cooking time. While this recipe is ridiculously easy and amazingly delicious, it does take a bit of time to cook. Not to prepare, just to cook. So start it around 10 or 11, depending on when you usually eat. We will eat this and nothing else for lunch; however, if you prefer something a little more substantial, you can serve it with cooked rice. This also makes a fantastic side dish with dinner.

Lunch Menu #4: Baked Potatoes

1) Bake some potatoes! I do mine in the microwave. It takes about 3 minutes per potato. Just wash the spud, pierce the skin a few times with a fork, and put in the microwave on high. If you are making lots and lots of potatoes, you can do it in the oven the exact same way (no foil necessary), at 350 for about 1 hour (except for mondo-huge potatoes, which require more time, like 1 1/2 hrs to 2 hrs, or even longer.) ALSO, the crock-pot works. These, you do want foil on. High for 4 hours, so right after breakfast put them in. Microwave is fastest, but you do what you like.
2) Serve potatoes hot with butter, sour cream, chopped green onion, or our favorite, cottage cheese. If you have some, steamed broccoli (leftovers, frozen, or fresh works), leftover cooked chicken cubes, or chopped ham is also yummy on top.

Lunch Menu #5: Oven Chimichangas

1) In a large bowl, mix together: 2 cups cooked rice, 1 small can refried beans, and 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Also good: black beans, corn, salsa, sour cream, chopped green onion, cooked chicken, cooked pork, mashed avocado, etc. Add in what you like.
2) place 1/2 cup of the bean mixture in a flour tortilla and fold into a little square. Place in a casserole dish or on a cookie tray that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Place seam-side down.
3) Top completed chimichangas with a little shredded cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is melted and chimichangas are hot through. Serve with more sour cream or salsa, if desired.

*Note: since you mix together the filling cold, this is a great use-up for leftovers, and a great place to get kid's help. They can help stir the filling, pick what they want in it (you can even make a basic filling, and then spread out the other things and they can spoon in things in their own...just figure out a way to mark them when done), and they can help fill the chimis.

For more recipes and meal ideas, go check out my food blog. It's not as well organized for lunch menus as this post, but I think I've written enough here for one day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Be a Contributor!

Nikki mentioned this on her post below, but I thought I'd put in another little plug here:

Focus and Discovery is now (and always has been, and always will) searching for more contributing authors!

FAD is a blog for parents of young children, or parents of older children who have been the block a few more times than us young ones, or anyone who has any interest in the well-being and education of the next generation. We talk about lesson ideas, tips on how to teach kids, fun games that have helped us in our parenting, success (and failure!) stories, and generally inspire each other to be better, and to have fun with our children.

If this sounds like something you would like to be a part of, please leave me, Lisa, a comment with your name and email address (or, if you don't want to put your email in such a public place, you can email me directly at (lisa.sheffer) @gmail.(com), without the parentheses). I will be happy to invite you to be an author of Focus and Discovery.

Only one minor request: keep the spirit of FAD alive. No obscenities, or vulgarities will be allowed.

I hope you come join us! We would love to have your ideas, even if you only post once or twice a year.

Love, the Administrator

I *heart* happy lunches.

Every Wednesday is a half-day at school for my two oldest kids who currently go to public school. They come home in time for lunch. One Wednesday a few weeks ago, I was experimenting with festive holiday kid meals and thought up this super easy one.

lunch meat and sliced cheese
cookie cutters of your choice

Sometimes I cut a great big heart, shamrock, bunny, star, circle, or gingerbread man out of the middle of the sandwich. I eat the discarded outside edges and the rest is the perfect size for my preschoolers combined with some crunchy veggies or pickles.

This particular day I made platefuls of festive sandwich makings, handed them plastic knives, and let them go at it. (We also make PBJ cookie cut sandwiches.)

The benefits:
an opportunity to learn safe knife handling
the sense of accomplishment in a DIY meal (sort of DIY)
and fun!

Making lunchtime fun and creating smiling faces works for me!

Other of my Works-For-Me-Wednesday posts that may or may not pertain to teaching young children, can be found over here.  Thank you for visiting Focus and Discovery.  Please leave a comment if you would like to be a contributor and our blog administrator will contact you. 

An article I wrote a few years ago and originally posted on a WFMW post can be found here with Associated Content -- The Ultimate Family Guide to an ALL OUT Valentine's Day Celebration.  It is chuck full of ideas for this fun upcoming holiday.   And here's a link to my family blog where I'm hosting a contest to win beaded holiday socks for a special little girl in your life.  The contest is easy.  All you have to do to enter is submit a name suggestion.  Then the winner will be drawn at random from the entries. 

Monday, January 4, 2010


Our FAD lesson today was about our bodies. I drew a picture of a body and we had a great time talking about each of our body parts and what they do.

We covered our eyes, then plugged our ears, then practiced wiggling our hands and feet. We talked about being sick, and how that is when our body doesn't work or feel right (very basic terminology for a 3 year old). Then we talked about what we can do to make our bodies feel healthy. I really liked this part as a parent, because it was a fun way to warm Lee up to things he struggles with. For Lee, I particularly focused on eating healthy foods, exercising, and washing our hands, faces, and taking baths. A child who doesn't like the doctor's office or brushing his teeth, though, could really use a lesson on what the purpose of these things are, and that could help.

Since our lesson was about 11:00 this morning, I let him color pictures and we sang songs while I prepared lunch and then we tasted all the healthy foods that I had made (lean stuffed meatballs, carrot sticks, and baked french fries) and talked even more about eating healthy.

(*Note, I'm making this sound like Lee has bad eating habits. He doesn't. It just happened to work out today that we were eating at the same time we were working on FAD.)

Great songs for this lesson would be: "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes," "I'm being swallowed by a Boa Constrictor," or other songs labeling body parts. We have one we like to sing, I think it's from Sesame Street, called "No one like you." I searched YouTube in vain for this song, but oh well; the words are cute and simple and list body parts too.

This one turned into a really great lesson, and the icing on the cake was when my husband came up for lunch, asked Lee what we'd done that morning, and Lee told him without a single prompt, "We did school time, about our bodies! And so our bodies can be healsy!"