Japanese Gardens {Spot to Visit with Tots}

Toddler Friendly Places to Visit in Dallas Fort Worth

With four curious toddlers, we are making an effort to get out of the house a few times week, and to visit somewhere new as much as possible.  Too much time spent at home often results in stir crazy toddlers and haggard parents.  It’s an ordeal just to load the van, but outings are always worthwhile, they refresh all of us.  When George had a recent holiday from work we took a field trip to the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens- Japanese Garden 

Location:

3220 Botanic Garden Blvd.
Fort Worth, TX 76107

Hours:

Daylight Savings Time

Monday – Sunday 9:00 am – 7:00 pm

Standard Time

Monday – Sunday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Cost:

Adults $5.00
Senior (65 and over) $4.50
Child (4-12) $3.00
Under 3 Free

Favorite Features:

The Koi ponds are by far our favorite part of the Japanese Garden.  The quads had a fabulous time watching them and of course feeding them.

The entire garden is serene and relaxing.

Tips:

Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy somewhere in the garden.

The garden is stroller friendly so bring one along if you have young toddlers who may tire easily.

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

I didn’t dress everyone warmly enough, but fleece blankets from the van made for cozy stroller rides.

The quads had a blast stopping at each Koi pond to for a feeding frenzy.

The quads had a blast stopping at each Koi pond to for a feeding frenzy.

Japanese Garden

This spot was my favorite for feeding the Koi because the concrete wall created a nice barrier between the little people and the water.

Japanese Garden

Look carefully, and you’ll notice the water droplets all over Harper’s face. He got in the Koi pond splash zone!

Japanese Garden

This bench proved to be ideal for our picnic. We had a serene view of the Koi pond and a nice place to sit.

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

If you are a Dallasite or Cowtown family, what are some of your favorite places to visit?

Hugs!

Amber

Read This, Made That {Cheesecloth Ghost}

In Say Boo!, Ben the ghost is practicing his scariest “boo” for Halloween night, but it comes out mixed up most of the time.  In case you were wondering, ghosts don’t say “moo” or “coo”, they say, “Boo!”  Even though we already made wispy ghosts, another ghost craft was in order for this story.

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at cheese cloth ghosts, but never attempted them.  I found simple directions at One Good Thing by Jillie to try.  I created a form using ball pit balls taped to paper towel rolls, which I secured onto paper plates.  Then, I covered the form with two layers of cheesecloth.  The quads helped by spraying the cheesecloth with liquid starch until they were soaked.  I set our soppy figures in the sun to try for 24 hours.  The next day, I dotted glue on the tops of the forms and let the quads stick googly eyes and oval mouths on them.  I think they are adorable!  In fact, I’ll try to pack them up to use for next year’s decor.

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Happy Halloween!

Amber

Read This, Made That {Tissue Paper Pumpkin}

I cannot take the credit for implementing this adorable craft, but it is the kid’s handiwork.  Last week our family friend, Billie, babysat and brought a craft for the quads.  Being a former preschool teacher, Billie is a pro with the crew.

She printed jack-o-lantern coloring sheets from Make and Takes and colored the faces with black marker.  Then, she pre-cut and wadded orange and green tissue paper into squares.  She dotted glue along the pumpkin and let the quads stick orange tissue squares there.  Then she dotted more glue along the stem and vine for the green squares.

The activity paired well with The Biggest Pumpkin Surprise Ever!, coincidentally a gift from Billie.  There are flaps throughout the book, and the goal is to find and count all of the hidden pumpkins. Beneath the final flap is an enormous jack-o-lantern.

tissue paper stuck onto pumpkin coloring sheet, toddler fine motor craft

Hugs!

Amber

PS- Don’t forget to share photos of your Halloween art on our Facebook page!  We’d love to see it.

Read This, Made That {Spindly Spiders}

In this tale, Happy Halloween, Max pulls out all the stops including dangling rubber spiders in a futile attempt to scare Ruby.  The quads absolutely L-O-V-E waiting for the end of the book when Ruby startles Max.   In honor of Max’s not-so-scary spider, we made our own spindly spiders.

We had black dessert plates from the quad’s birthday party that we used as the spider body.  I punched eight holes around each plate and let the kids string pipe cleaners through the holes.   I then dotted the center of the each plate with glue and let them stick an assortment of googly eyes. For a little more pizzazz, I swirled more glue onto the spider and let the quads dust them in black glitter.

paper plate spider with pipe cleaner legs and googly eyes

 

Hugs!

Amber

Psstt…Don’t forget to share your pictures on our Facebook page if you try any of our craft projects.  We’d love to see your handiwork!

Read This, Made That {Wispy Ghost}

I have fond memories of listening to Curious George books as a child.  There’s something about that curious little monkey that’s been touching children for generations.  In fact, George’s “Original Adventures” began publication in 1941 (source Wikipedia).  It’s no surprise that Curious George Goes to a Costume Party became a family favorite among our Halloween book collection.  In this story, George attends his first costume party, and accidentally startles party goers as he appears to be a ghost.

In the spirit of this book, we loosely used an idea from Happy Hooligans to make cotton ball ghosts.  To create our ghosts, I pulled cotton balls into thin wisps.  Next, I squirted glue onto black construction paper into the shape of a ghost and let the quads stick the wisps over the glue.  Finally, I let them choose a pair of googly eyes to stick on the top and a pre cut black oval for a mouth.

cotton ball ghost toddler craft

Instead of using black googly eyes, I let the kids choose their own color. Rylin naturally chose pink…

hugs!

Amber

Psst….If you give one of our projects a try, we’d love to see your handiwork.  You can share them on our Facebook site.

Read This, Made That {Candy Corn}

In this cute little tale, 10 Trick-or-Treaters, the children’s cache of candy is displayed on the final page for a counting game.  The iconic candy corn was in the mix and naturally inspired our next craft.

To create our masterpieces, I cut orange construction paper into triangle shapes with rounded edges.  Next, I taped the triangles into the bottom of a shallow pan.  I dunked about 4-5 marbles into white tempera paint, dropped them into the pan, then let each child tilt the pan.  In time, the marble made its way across the paper several times over creating a striped effect.  I then dropped 4-5 marbles dipped in yellow paint and repeated the process.  When we were done rolling marbles, I thought they looked boring.  We added a dusting of orange glitter for sparkle.

After our works of art were complete, everyone sampled candy corn for the first time.  For a sweet and salty snack we also paired candy corn with salted peanuts.  Delicious!

Candy Corn craft: cut orange paper into triangles then roll marbles dipped in white and yellow paint over the paper

 

Do you have a favorite seasonal candy?

Hugs!

Amber

Read This, Made That {Paper Plate Jack-O-Lanterns}

After years of hating Halloween, the kids are helping me change my perspective. We live in one of the best neighborhoods for Halloween, and it’s high time I enjoy it. In fact, last spring as we searched for a new home, we felt a sense of relief knowing we would stay in our beloved neighborhood. It’s the type of community where families play outside together, take walks, ride bikes, and know the neighbors. On Halloween night, hundreds of children will line the sidewalks escorted by parents clad in costumes. Families living on cul-de-sacs will invite others to join them for snacks and activities. This neighborhood makes Halloween night exactly what it should be- filled with community fellowship, and I want the quads to experience every bit of it.

When October rolled around, a family friend gave each of the quads a Halloween themed book. Little did she know, these books would help stir the spirit of Halloween. As I read these toddler books, it brought to mind the nostalgic parts of Halloween, and the reasons kids adore it. As I read, I began explaining the process of trick-or-treating and other spooky traditions, increasing our anticipation of the holiday.  In addition to the books gifted to us, I scored a treasure trove of Scholastic books at our community garage sale, which resulted in a decent collection of Halloween themed toddler books.  Since I’m a sucker for thematic crafts and activities, we spent the month of October creating a gallery of Halloween themed art loosely tied to toddler literature.  Check out my post about literacy based crafts to see how I approach these.  We read several if not all of these books at least once daily.

 

Halloween books for toddlers and preschoolers

 

We kicked off our Halloween literacy based crafts with Five Little Pumpkins paired with  a paper plate jack-o-lantern craft. The book is actually a poem, and the quads now recite  it as I read, which melts my heart every single time.

To create the craft, each child painted a plate with orange tempera paint (mixed with a few drops of dish soap). When the paint was dry, I dotted glue on the plate where the face should go, and let them add facial features (pre-cut them from black construction paper). I finished it off by tracing their hands on green construction paper to create leaves and a stem.

Toddler craft: paper plate jack o lantern

Stay tuned to find out what other crafts make up our Halloween art gallery.  I’ll be posting a new one daily until Halloween.

Hugs!

Amber

Personalized Pumpkins

After visiting the Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch, we amassed a variety of pumpkins, which needed decorating, and of course personal touches.  Pumpkin carving is a festive tradition, but in the Texas heat they grow mold almost immediately, and you can’t appreciate them long-term.  Instead of carving, I prefer a little paint and a few stickers.

With the first found of pumpkins, we let each child choose a tempera paint color to slather on a pumpkin.  It was an utter mess, but they had a blast expressing their creative sides.  Plus, it was a full on sensory experience; they covered their arms, hands, and cheeks before they finished.  After our little art extravaganza, I used copious amounts of Shout and washed clothes multiple times to rid them of bright paint splatter.  Thankfully, there’s no remaining evidence of art on their clothes.

painted pumpkins painted pumpkins

For the second set of pumpkins, I created a monogram for each child using the same process I used to make cookies for Santa plates.

First, I printed individual letters in 300 pt French Script font from Microsoft Word.

DIY monogrammed pumpkin

Then, I flipped the paper over and rubbed pencil over the area where the letters were.

DIY monogram pumpkin

I pressed the letters, print side up onto a smooth part of the pumpkin and traced over it with heavy pressure using a pen.

DIY monogram pumpkin

This left a faint outline, which I filled in with a paint pen. It’s very faint in the picture, but there is a light outline of the “R” on the face of this pumpkin.

DIY monogram pumpkin

 

When I was finished, we had four handsome monogrammed pumpkins.  I let the kids loose with Halloween stickers so they could leave their own flare.

DIY Monogram pumpkins

The best part about pumpkin decorating is displaying them on the porch for others to admire.  The quads beamed with pride when I let them carry their own pumpkins to the porch.  I helped with arrangement of course.

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We placed the tempera paint pumpkins under the covered part of the porch since rain tends to wash them clean.  Each time we go out the front door, the kids point out their personalized pumpkins with their “letter”.

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Fall porch decor

On Halloween Eve, we’ll carve the largest pumpkins together and cross our fingers they last 24 hours.  What is your favorite way to decorate pumpkins?

 

Hugs!

 

Amber

Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch {Spot to Visit with Tots}

Lists of places to take toddlers in Dallas Fort Worth

You may recall several months ago, I shared a listing of toddler friendly places we’ve visited with the quads.  After writing that post I was eager to begin a new list, but a compilation of ten places may take another year.  Instead of waiting for a list I’m starting a series, sharing as we go.

Last weekend we joined our local mothers of multiples club at the Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch, and I believe we began a new fall family tradition.  George had to work, but Nisey and Poppa joined us for the experience and helped me manage four two year olds sans strollers.  Here’s the scoop:

Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch

Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch

Location:

Double Oak Ranch
5100 Cross Timbers Rd
Flower Mound TX 75028
(817) 430-4536

Hours:

Seasonal from October 1st – 31st
9:00 am – 7:00 pm

Cost:

Parking is $5 and ALL activities (e.g. train ride, hayride, corn mazes, bounce houses, photo opportuniites) are included

Buses and walk-ins are $1

Favorite Features:

Our crew enjoyed running through the rows and rows of pumpkins as well as the hayride.  For older kids, there are bounce houses and corn mazes.

 

Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch

Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch

Running in a pumpkin patch can be dangerous business.

The pumpkin patch is a fantastic place for snapping photos.  During our visit it was overcast, which made for great fall pictures.

Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch

 

There are hundreds of character cut outs perfect for photo ops.  Our attempts to convince the quads to pose with the cut outs were futile, however.

Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch

Since the quads were unwilling to sit next to the cutouts, this is the only picture we snapped of them. This is a mere fraction of the cut outs we admired.  Literally every popular children’s character is represented somewhere on the farm.

There isn’t a petting zoo, but we had a blast watching the farm animals.  The main attraction? Horses snacking on pumpkins of course.

Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch

Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch

Tips:

On weekdays only drinks are sold on site, so pack snacks or a picnic to enjoy during your stay.  On Saturday and Sunday, vendors sell seasonal favorites such as kettle corn, grilled burgers, corny dogs (Fletcher’s!), and pumpkin bread.

Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch

After nibbling at our picnic lunch, these four gobbled bright, festive cupcakes provided by our local moms of multiples club.

Radio Flyer wagons are provided free of charge, you can borrow one to cart any bags, snacks, ect as well as any pumpkins you plan to purchase.  No need to bring your own wagon!

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Bathrooms are port-o-potties so plan ahead the best you can…I personally avoid those at all costs.

The Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch gave us a fantastic, nostalgic fall experience. What is your favorite fall activity?

hugs!

Amber

Leftover Oatmeal Cookies

Since we are feeding a family of six now, wasted food makes me cringe.  Our grocery bill is high enough without also being wasteful.  Unfortunately feeding toddlers with finicky palates means food gets wasted far more than I’d like.  One day they’ll scarf a bunch of bananas then refuse bananas for six weeks straight.  I do what I can to reinvent leftovers so we waste less.  For instance, leftover taco meat becomes spaghetti and meat sauce, grilled chicken is great in quesidillas, and pot roast is perfect for French dip sandwiches.  Some leftovers pose a greater challenge.

One of my favorite go-to breakfast meals poses such a challenge.   The quads typically devour crock pot oatmeal.  In fact, they love it so much I double the recipe to make sure we have enough for second, third, and sometimes fourth helpings of it.  Yet, sometimes there is leftover oatmeal, which doesn’t keep and reheat well.  Yesterday, I decided to try using it to make cookies.  I searched Pinterest for such a recipe, but came up short.  I ended up creating my own recipe, and ended up with rich, chewy cookies.  The quads demolished them during afternoon snack- a clear indication of a keeper recipe.

Make cookies using leftover oatmeal

Leftover Oatmeal Cookies

2 cups cooked oatmeal

1 stick of butter softened

1/4 c. brown sugar

4 eggs (the cookies turned out a bit fluffier than I prefer so I think I’ll try fewer eggs next time)

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. baking soda

freshly grated nutmeg

2 c. chocolate chips (raisins would work to create a healthier version, but we LOVE chocolate here)

4 c. flour (I added flour gradually until I had a soft dough, you may need more or less depending on the consistency of your oatmeal).

bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes until cookies are golden brown

Serve with cold milk!

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Do you have a favorite way to reinvent leftovers?

 

Hugs!

 

Amber