10 Spots to Visit with Tots in Dallas Fort Worth

Because the quads were born nine weeks early we took extreme precautions their first year of life to protect them from potentially fatal germs.  It was difficult being homebound most of the time, but we do not regret that time since we did not have a single sick visit to the pediatrician until 13 months.  It’s been a year since we lifted our “lock down” restrictions and have been on a mission to explore the greater Dallas Fort Worth Metro area ever since.  It’s always a challenge getting out and about with four toddlers, but a worthwhile mission.  With each new adventure the quads learn just a bit more about the world around them.

10 places to take babies, toddlers, and preschoolers in the Dallas Fort Worth area

1. Sea Life Aquarium

 

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Sea Life Aquarium

Location:

Grapevine Mills Mall
3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway
Grapevine,Texas 76051

Hours:

Monday – Saturday 10:00 am – 7:30 pm
Sunday 11:00 am – 5:30 pm

Cost:

Adults $20

Children 3 and up $16

Children under two FREE

Favorite Features:

Seeing the fish that were featured in Finding Nemo (Dori, Nemo, and Marlin)

360 degree aquarium

Touching the sea stars

The toddler slide in the play area

Tips:

Arrive early and go on a weekday if possible as the aquarium becomes crowded easily.

Look for coupons.  We were able to get $4 off each adult ticket with a single coupon.

Pack a picnic lunch to enjoy in the food court of the mall, or grab lunch in the food court.  After you buy aquarium tickets you are allowed reentry during the same day.

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

2. Celebration Party & Event Center

Celebration Party & Event Center Celebration Party & Event Center Celebration Party & Event Center

Location:

5950 Park Vista Circle #140, Keller, TX 76244

Hours:

Tuesday-Friday 10:00 am – 2:00 pm

Cost:

12 months and up $5

Adults accompanying children FREE

Under 12 months FREE

Favorite Features:

Children’s town made up of a fire house, police station, hair salon, restaurant, movie theater, day care, and hospital

Toddler sized bounce houses

Cozy coupe cars

Tips:

If you may go frequently, consider buying a punch card ($40 for ten punches).  It can be used with multiple children and will save you money over time.

All children must have a signed waiver to play.  You can sign it online ahead of time to save you time in the center.

You can bring your own food and drinks so pack a picnic or snacks to enjoy.

Shoes aren’t allowed in the bounce house area so skid proof socks are a great way to keep your little one’s feet clean.

Arrive early to avoid crowds and go during the weekday free play times.

If you have a child who receives ECI services, ask your case manager about their monthly play dates.  Admission is discounted for ECI families during the play date.

3. Perot Museum of Nature & Science

 The Perot Museum

Location:

Hours:

Monday-Saturday: 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sunday noon-6:00 pm 
Thursday Night Late Nights: 5:00 -9:00 pm

Cost:

Prices vary depending on which exhibits you choose.  General exhibit admission is as follows,

Adults $15

Children 2-11 $10

Seniors 65+ $12

Youth 12-17 $12

Children under 2 FREE

Best Features:

The children’s museum located on the first floor was most appreciated by the quads.  They splashed in the water table and loved the side area.

Tips:

Purchase your tickets online ahead of time.  Your ticket is valid for the entire day after your reservation time, so choose an early time even if you are going later.  (e.g. if you choose 12:00 pm, you will not be allowed entry until 12:00 pm or later.  So don’t expect to enter even at 11:59 am).

The Perot has elevators, but they tend to become extremely crowded at there is a long wait time.  Therefore it is not ideal for strollers.  I do not plan to bring the quads back until they can manage walking distances and do not need strollers.

No outside food or drink is allowed in the museum area, but there is a lovely concrete park with splash pad that would be great for a picnic.  With your ticket, re entry is permitted during the same day.  Therefore, you could leave the museum for a picnic lunch and return later in the day.

Check to make sure the museum is not closed for a private event.  It was closed the original date we planned to visit.

4. Chuck E. Cheese

Chuck E. Cheese

Location:

There are multiple locations, check for your nearest location.

Hours:

Varies by location

Cost:

Technically, entry is free.  In order to play games, you’ll need to purchase tokens, and you may choose to order food from the menu.

Best Features:

Dancing time with Chuck E. Cheese (the quads loved chasing him and playing follow the leader)

The toddler play area/ slide

Tips:

Complimentary bibs are provided so no need to pack one (or more) in your diaper bag.

Remember, you don’t have to buy a meal to play at Chuck E. Cheese.  I’d suggest going when it’s not a mealtime, and either order a small snack to enjoy or eat prior to arrival.  Going when it’s not a mealtime means it’ll be less crowded and you will likely spend less money on food.  You can buy tokens and enjoy the games and play area even if you don’t buy food.

If you sign up for the Chuck E. Club, you’ll receive discounts, and a calendar with 10 free tokens.

5. Island Carousel 

Island Carousel Island Carousel

Location:

Grapevine Mills Mall

3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway Grapevine, TX

(there are many other locations nationwide)

Hours:

Monday – Saturday 10:00 am – 9:00 pm

Sunday 11:00 am – 7:00 pm

Cost:

Children 2 and up $2 per ride

Adults riding with a child are free

Best Features:

Carousels are nostalgic!

It’s located close to the Sea Life Aquarium and Rainforest Cafe so you can stop by if you are already visiting Grapevine Mills.

Tips:

If you have multiple children or plan to visit often, don’t forget to get a frequent rider punch card.  Your 11th ride is free.

If your child has never ridden a carousel, you may want to choose a stationary horse or sleigh seat.

6. Paradise Pond

Paradise Pond

Location:

First Baptist Church Grapevine

301 E. Texas Street

Grapevine, TX 76051

Hours:

Thursday & Friday mornings 9:00-11:00 am (arrive at 9:00 sharp because they close the doors when they are at capacity)

Cost:

$1.00 per person (ALL ages, babies & adults)

Best Features:

Play areas are sectioned off by picket fences, which makes keeping an eye on babies and toddlers easy.

They have a limit to the number of guests per day so it doesn’t get too crowded.

Tips:

Shoes are not allowed in the play area, and socks are required.  They have loaner socks available, but you’ll want to pack your own.  If you feel generous, and want to support the ministry, I suspect they’d appreciate new packages of white socks, especially in toddler sizes.

The area is designated for ages 2 to 6th grade.  There are plenty of areas for smaller babies to play with close supervision.  Older children, especially pre teens would not likely find this play area entertaining.

There is a required Liability Release Form that can be printed and completed at home.

Girls wearing dresses are not allowed in the jungle gym or bounce house, so dress your children accordingly.

7. Fort Worth Zoo

Fort Worth Zoo

Location:

1989 Colonial Pkwy, Fort Worth, TX 76109

Hours:

open 365 days per year

10:00 am – 5:00 pm (hours may vary on holidays)

Cost:

Adults (13+) $12

Children (3-12) and Seniors (65+) $9

Children 2 & under FREE

Parking $5/ vehicle

Best Features:

MOLA (museum of living art), which houses the reptiles and fish

the food court is open to MOLA, which creates an entertaining back drop for family meals

There is a toddler and children’s petting zoo and play area that looked great, but we did not have time to visit this trip

Tips:

If possible, visit on a Wednesday when admission is half price.

Check for coupons, local employers often have access to discounted tickets as well.

The zoo is stroller friendly so be sure to bring one if you have little ones who will tire from lots of walking.

8. Dallas World Aquarium

Dallas World Aquarium

 

Location:

1801 N Griffin St, Dallas, TX 75202

Hours:

9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily

Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas

Cost:

Adult  (13+) $20.95

Child (2-12) $12.95

Under 2 FREE

Senior (65+) – $16.95

 

Best Features:

The majority of the facility is indoors and climate controlled so it’s a great place to visit if it’s rainy, too hot, or cold.

Despite being an “aquarium”, a significant portion of the facility is made of rainforest creatures.  The quads most appreciated the monkeys.

9. Legoland

Legoland

Location:

Grapevine Mills Mall

3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway, Grapevine, TX 76051

Hours:

Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 6:00pm

Saturday  10:00am – 7:00pm

Sunday 11:00am – 4:00pm

Cost:

Children 2 & under FREE

2 and up $18

Best Features:

The Lego miniature of Dallas-Fort Worth was by far our favorite attraction.

Tips:

Look for coupons, especially if you are also interested in visiting the Sea Life Aquarium.  There are often discounts if you buy tickets together.

If you don’t score a coupon, you can save money by booking tickets online the day before.

There is no reentry and outside food and drinks are not permitted so plan accordingly.

Allow about 2-3 hours for your visit.

While babies and toddlers are welcome to play, Legoland would likely be most appreciated by children over three.

10. Old Town Lewisville Playtown

Old Town Lewisville Playtown

Location: 

Vista Ridge Mall

2401 S. Stemmons Freeway
Lewisville, Texas 75067

Hours:

Open during mall hours, except for cleaning at 3:00 pm

Cost:

FREE

Best Features:

The entire play area is soft sided, which is ideal for new walkers, and even crawling babies.

Everything is toddler sized and not too tall for younger babies.

The price is unbeatable!!!!

Tips:

Visit early in the day, or after the 3:00 pm cleaning so the area is fresh.

 

There are so many more places on my list….The Dallas Arboretum….The Botanical Gardens….The Dallas Zoo….AND at some point we plan to travel outside of our metro area for a legit vacation.  I’d like to wait until the quads are potty trained and sleeping in beds before we take that plunge.

What’s the best place to visit in your hometown?

 

hugs!

 

Amber

Ahoy, Mateys! Greetings, Ladies!

As the quad’s second birthday approached I began to panic as I fell short on party ideas. Instead of choosing a theme and then searching for a coordinating invitation, I reversed the order.  I perused invitations first, and found a simply adorable princesses and pirates birthday invitation for boy girl twins. I contacted the designer and she customized the invitation for us by adding an extra pirate and princess making it the perfect invitation for quadruplets.   Once I had a theme and invitation chosen, I discovered a treasure trove of ideas on Pinterest fit for a princesses and pirates bash.

pirates and princesses birthday party

When we choose a party theme, George and I go all out.  consequently, we both dressed the part. I made good use of an old bridesmaid dress my mom had in storage and accessorized it with my bridal tiara. George wore a few tatty items from his closet with a dew rag to create a pirate look.  As part of their birthday gift, I ordered princess dresses (on clearance) from the Disney store for the girls and Carter’s pirate t-shirts for the boys.

After our guests were welcomed, each tot was given an empty bag personalized with their name, which would later be used to collect game prizes.  Little pirates were to take a hat, sword, and eye patch while princesses were asked to select a dress and tiara.  The pirate gear was all found in Target’s party section and doubled as party favors for the boys.  The dresses were on loan, but  the tiaras were also party favors.  I used a shower curtain rod to display the selection of princess dresses available.

Give party guests an empty bag to fill with game prizes at a party

I used free clip art from Disney Junior to create labels for the loot bags.  Unbeknownst to me, it’s a “Princesses and Pirates” summer on Disney Junior.  This made finding party goods a cinch.Pirates birthday party dress up clothes double as a favorI used more free clip art found online to create signage for directing pirates and princesses about what to get.

Use a shower curtain rod to hang dress up clothes for a party or to store in a play room.

A few weeks before the party, it occurred to me that the quads weren’t familiar with pirates.  To prepare them for the party, we watched The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie and Jake and the Neverland Pirates.  We also read Unexpected Treasures from our own bookshelf.  Since I love literacy based crafts, we created a few pieces that served as party decor.  Pirates don’t generally have the best reputation for being kind and such so I carefully selected books and videos where pirates were portrayed as having desirable virtues.

Pirate and princess crafts to decorate for a party

The quads had fun making their party decorations and still enjoy looking at their masterpieces.

Princess themed birthday

My friend, Jen, kindly served as our party photographer. I have enough trouble being a hostess without also managing the camera. Besides, she’s a far more talented photographer than I! To make sure she’d be IN a picture and not just behind the lens, I snapped this one of her.

My sister and cousin, Brandi were both on board with our princess theme and donned old formal dresses to the party.  Noteworthy…CiCi is wearing my junior prom dress, and I think she looked just like Belle.

Wear old prom or bridesmaid dresses for a princess themed birthday party princesses and the queen

Matt did his best to dress for the pirate theme with his red and white stripes with eye patch.

Matt did his best to dress for the pirate theme with his red and white stripes with eye patch.

Each of our little pirate guests came sporting pirate themed threads, but our quad buddy, Harrison matched Harper.  It was adorable!

Each of our little pirate guests came sporting pirate themed threads, but our quad buddy, Harrison matched Harper. It was adorable!

Since the quads are two and all of their guests were two, I planned a few simple party games to keep everyone occupied.  First, everyone tried their hand at fishing.  My cousin, Ryan, sat behind a black curtain hung by a tension rod while the little ones tossed a fishing pole over the curtain.  He then clipped goldfish crackers or shark fruit snacks to their line for the “big catch”.

Go fishing game for a pirates birthday party.

I also set up a treasure dig in the yard.  I filled a bucket with sand and littered it with gold doubloons (Dollar Tree plastic coins), gems, and rings.  Each guest had a chance to riffle around to find a few treasures of their own.

treasure dig game for pirates birthday party

My friend, Ashley, is talented in the baking department so I sequestered her help for creating cupcakes and cake pops.  Both were a huge hit!  By the end of the party one cake pop remained and I enjoyed savoring it with a glass of vino.

pirates and princess birthday cupcakes

Ashley made cupcakes for each princess and captain, and the liners coordinated with their “assigned colors”.

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pirate and princess cake pops

Ashley hand-made each of the sweet treats served at the party.  Her attention to detail is impeccable. The boys easily made wishes and blew their candles out, but the girls were a bit more hesitant.  Rylin used a straw to finally blow hers out, but Sydney got help from Mason.

The boys easily made wishes and blew their candles out, but the girls were a bit more hesitant. Rylin used a straw to finally blow hers out, but Sydney got help from Mason.

This year the cake smashing was much more tidy.  I love how each of the  quads approached their cupcake their own way.

This year the cake smashing was much more tidy. I love how each of the quads approached their cupcake their own way.

Harper willingly wore his eye patch for just long enough to capture a photo.

Harper willingly wore his eye patch for just long enough to capture a photo.

With four tykes, gift opening was a bit like a Christmas extravaganza.  I was proud of how well the littlest guests as well as our four managed the scene.   No one protested, tried to get into things they shouldn’t, or caused any trouble whatsoever.

The quads worked well together to open packages.

The quads worked well together to open packages.

The quads are all able to tear through paper, but still need a bit of encouragement to realize there's something beneath the pretty paper.

The quads are all able to tear through paper, but still need a bit of encouragement to realize there’s something beneath the pretty paper.  With a little help from Captain Flynn Jen, Mason decorated his arm in Jake temporary tattoos as did his troupe of friends and siblings.

Set up a temporary tattoo station for a pirate themed party.

Little princesses chose from an assortment of princess tattoos. Sydney’s choice was none other than Cinderella.

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What a scene!

What a scene!

The boys immediately made use of the pirate ship riding toy they received.

The boys immediately made use of the pirate ship riding toy they received.  This toy has been among our most popular toys since the party, and is often sought after.

Hugs!

Amber

I missed out on taking pictures of our food spread, but we served toddler favorites (PB & J, goldfish crackers, fruit, chicken nuggets, ect) and paired them with cute labels with fancy names for the Plain Jane fare.  Here are all the printables I created using the free clip art from Disney Junior.  Feel free to edit and use for your own Princesses & Pirates Party!

Treasure Dig

Captain Flynn’s Tattoo Parlor

Go Fishing

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Pirate Food Labels

Pirates Please Take

Princess Food Labels

Princesses Please Choose

Thank You Labels

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Health & Wellness Month

July is apparently our family’s official health and wellness month. EVERYONE, including the dogs had one or more annual well visits this month. I kicked off the round of appointments with my dental cleaning, which I firmly believe counts as “me time”. For a full hour, I sat comfortably in a lounge chair as I watched uninterrupted television and someone spoke to me as if I were the most important person in the world. I left with a sparkling white smile, a goody bag of dental accessories, and clean bill of health. Ahh! I LOVE having my teeth cleaned!

During the middle of the month, Sydney lapped up a little mother daughter time when she returned for her follow-up appointment at the pediatric ophthalmologist. She loved every minute of it as she got to snuggle in my lap while watching The Princess and the Frog. Since there are limited opportunities for screen time, Sydney clamors to watch a new flick whenever she can. Long ago George dubbed her a “professional movie watcher” due to her zeal over movies. Even though she’s mildly far-sighted, Sydney’s vision is within normal limits and does not require corrective lenses. Whew! Glasses are adorable on toddlers, BUT I shuddered to think of the challenges of keeping glasses on this feisty girl with three toddler siblings.

Last week marked a trifecta of appointments.  Breaking from our usual group well visit, everyone went in pairs.  We started with the girls.  It was so much more relaxing focusing on just two kids at a time, and not trying to either cram four kids into a tiny exam room or pop in and out of two separate rooms.  Both girls remain petite, but thankfully have grown in the past year and are overall very healthy.  They are also doing well with developmental milestones.

2 year well visit & stats

Sydney also enjoyed the feature film in the pediatrician’s office.

Following their appointment, I took the girls out for a mini girls day complete with a Target shopping trip and lunch at Chick fil A.

George's cousin, Brandi, came along for the girl's day.

George’s cousin, Brandi, came along for the girl’s day. And, in case you’re wondering, that is ketchup on Sydney’s cheek and all over her fists. She believes ketchup is a stand alone food rather than a condiment.

Two days later, it was the boys turn. Both were given a clean bill of health and kudos to developmental progress as well.  Given the statistics regarding premature birth, I’m both relived and proud of the progress they made to close the gaps of prematurity.  Aside from being tiny, there is little to no evidence of their rocky start.

The boys seemed to enjoy not having their sisters tag along for the appointment.

The boys seemed to enjoy not having their sisters tag along for the appointment.

The boys didn’t get a shopping trip, but they enjoyed the kiddie rides outside Kroger after I rented a movie.  Then, they came along to drop of a baby gift for a friend. They behaved so well at my friend’s house they were given plenty of praise, which made me a proud mama.

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Later that evening, Nisey babysat while I took Sasha and Lily in for their annual well exams. Lily’s anxiety kicked into overdrive and she behaved like a lunatic while Sasha cozied up on the exam table.

The quad's car seats worked well for transporting the dogs to the vet.  I buckled the harnesses and secured the leashes to them.

The quad’s car seats worked well for transporting the dogs to the vet. I buckled the harnesses and secured the leashes to them.

The canine family members didn’t fare as well as the human ones…both are due for dental cleanings and Sasha needed allergy medication for her skin and eyes. We love those two nonetheless and I’m relieved all those appointments are DONE, at least for another year. It was exhausting on my part.  The quads still need their first dental exams, but we are waiting a few more moths for that as I recover from our health and wellness month.

Sasha's calm demeanor seemed to help Lily ease her nerves after a while.

Sasha’s calm demeanor seemed to help Lily ease her nerves after a while.

My favorite part about all well checks is tracking the stats, and for fun I included the dogs weights.  Lily is officially the smallest family member and always will be.

Rylin

21 lbs

2′ 8″

Harper

27 lbs, 4 oz

2′ 9″

Sydney

19 lbs, 8 oz

2′ 7.5″

Mason

21 lbs, 4 oz

2′ 7.5″

Sasha

20 lbs, 4 oz

Lily

9 lbs

 

Do you find dental cleanings relaxing or anxiety provoking?

 

Hugs!

 

Amber

Four Foodies

Before the quads, George and I enjoyed trying local eateries, sampling different ethnic cuisines, and trying our own hands at the culinary arts.  During my pregnancy with the quads, our foodie days quickly became a distant memory.  I couldn’t venture out and there was no time for whipping up new dishes.  Much to our dismay, many meals were reminiscent of our college years and newlywed days.  You know, boxed macaroni and cheese and Hamburger Helper type meals.  Not terribly adventurous or healthy stuff, but it was what we needed then.

As we began to adjust to life with quads, we slowly began cooking again, but meals were simple and often from the slow cooker.  It was sustenance, not really anything a foodie would appreciate.  When the quads were six months old, we excitedly began serving up homemade baby food and took great pride in expanding their palates.

Once the quads experienced a reasonable variety of foods AND had enough teeth for noshing, they started eating family dinners with us.   Now, as toddlers they most certainly express their opinions on food.  That doesn’t stop us from serving them a wide array of foods, and giving them many chances to decide if they are willing to sample them.  I’ve heard it can take a toddler over a dozen exposures before they’ll decide if a food is liked or not!  And, they are fickle.  One day they’ll gorge themselves on something and the next day refuse the same item  (this has happened with everything from bananas to tacos).  They are fans of the usual kid favorites: chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, and yogurt.  BUT atop the list of favorites are black beans, quinoa, curry chicken with roti or basmati rice, and pomegranite.

As they are maturing becoming easier to manage outside the home, we are gradually trying new eateries fit for foodies.  At the start of the summer, our friends Allison and Preston, joined us for an al fresco meal at a food truck park.  There, the quads enjoyed street tacos, tater tots with jack cheese and chives and salted watermelon lemonade.

Dining at the Food Truck Park with quads

The food truck park didn’t have high chairs or booster seats so we improvised with our Combi twin strollers.

street tacos and salted watermelon lemonade

Mmmmmm, street tacos with salted watermelon lemonade! I don’t even typically like watermelon and found this drink extremely refreshing as it screamed “summer!”

Food truck park

Though the quads enjoyed their meal from stroller seats, they proved they were capable of sitting a the big kids table.  Next time, we probably won’t bother with strollers.

food truck park

Not long after our food truck adventures, Aunt CiCi and Matt joined us for a Thai lunch.  There, the crew scarfed fried rice, padthai, and spring rolls.  This particular place may become a family hot spot since they also boast a toddler play area!  It worked splendidly for occupying quaddlers as our meal was prepared.  I love watching the quads as they experience these new things, and hope with continued exposure they develop an appreciation for trying new foods and of other cultures in general.

toddler play areas at restaurants help keep everyone happy

The toddler play area included a playhouse, which could have easily entertained the quads for hours. Thankfully, our food was ready much sooner than that.

toddler play area

I’d love to have a playhouse like this in our backyard!

 

spring rolls and pad thai

Spring rolls and padthai were both beloved by the entire family, and everyone enjoyed eating leftovers later that night for dinner.

Restaurants with large tables and many high chairs are ideal for large families

Another perk of this establishment? HUGE tables and plenty of high chairs to accommodate our family.

 

Quads scarf Thai food

Thai cuisine, quad approved!

 

What is your favorite type of cuisine?

 

Hugs!

 

Amber

Four Two Year Olds

It’s official, four two year olds now reside in our home!   It’s unbelievable to me.  Today we celebrated the momentous occasion with a Princesses and Pirates birthday bash.  This mama is quad-exhausted so enjoy these snippets from today, and stay tuned for more.

 

Pirates and Princesses birthday

Mason, Rylin, Harper, and Sydney on their second birthday.

Princesses and Pirates birthday.

 

 

Hugs!

Amber

Easy Literacy Based Crafts for Toddlers

Any craft can be literacy based, all you need to do is read a related book first, and introduce new vocabulary/ concepts. Pairing books with crafts helps make concepts and vocabulary salient for little ones.

Last week Rylin casually informed me that she’s not a baby.  She very earnestly said, “Mommy, I not a baby.” as she furrowed her brow.  It was like daggers to the heart, but she was right.  The quads aren’t really babies anymore.  They are transforming into children with opinions, thoughts, and voracious appetites for learning.  They never cease to amaze me with bits of knowledge they absorb.  I want to nurture this love of learning, and literacy in particular so I’ve begun literacy based crafts.  It sounds fancy, but I promise it’s simple.

Part of our day is devoted to semi structured learning activities such as flash cards, songs, and story time.  A few times a week we do a craft, most typically one I remember doing from my days in the classroom and sometimes a Pinterest find.  Crafts in themselves are fantastic for toddlers; they can teach direction following, concepts (e.g. shapes, colors, counting, alphabet recognition), develop fine motor skills, and inspire creativity.    However, children learn and recall new concepts best when associations are presented to them.  Therefore, I’m now pairing our craft activities with literature (aka toddler appropriate board books).  When I have a craft project I’d like to do, I peruse our library to find a book that coordinates with it (or a favorite book inspires a craft).  I read the book to the quads as I present new vocabulary and concepts related to the book.  As I read, I also ask many “wh” questions (e.g. who, what, when, where).  Of course, these questions are all asked with toddlers in mind.  For instance, I may say, “what animal is this?”  I also try to help the quads draw connections between the book and their world by pointing out things in their environment or that they’ve seen other places.  Following the story, we do the craft, which I hang in the quads new “art gallery” (aka a wall in their playroom).  As days and weeks pass, I continue to ask the quads about their art and the corresponding story.  When I re-read the story, I bring up their art and they proudly tell me about it.

Does it still seem complicated?  I assure you, it’s not!  Here are two recent crafts:

1. Coffee Filter Butterflies

I remembered doing this craft while working in a daycare and found two books from our shelf related to butterflies.  We happened to have The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Caterpillar Spring, Butterfly Summer so I chose those for our literature. Any book related to caterpillars or insects would suffice.

Vocabulary Introduced: Butterfly, Caterpillar, Cocoon

“Wh” Questions: What did the caterpillar eat? What did the caterpillar turn into? Where did the caterpillar sleep?

Butterfly Summer and The Very Hungry Caterpillar were both in our library so I pulled them for this activity.

First, the quads scribbled on their coffee filters with maker.  I used Sharpie to write their names.

First, the quads scribbled on their coffee filters with maker. I used Sharpie to write their names.

I sprayed the coffee filters with water to make the marker run, creating a watercolor effect.  Then I pinched the middles together and wrapped them with pipe cleaners to create our butterflies.

I sprayed the coffee filters with water to make the marker run, creating a watercolor effect. After the filters were dry, I pinched the middles together and wrapped them with pipe cleaners to create our butterflies.

Simple toddler craft: coffee filter butterflies.  Scribble on coffee filters with washable marker, spray with water, allow filter to dry then pinch together with a pipe cleaner.

I love how every time I ask the quads what a butterfly used to be they say, “caterpillar”.

2. Muddy Car Tracks

One of the quad’s favorite books is Little Blue Truck.  Again, it reminded me of working in day care and painting with car wheels.  I read the book as well as another related to cars and spent time discussing mud.  It was fitting that it was a rainy day so we peered out the window and watched the raindrops create mud in the yard.  Afterwards, I explained that my plate was covered in mud (brown tempera paint), and our toy cars got stuck.  The quads then had a great time dislodging the cars and creating muddy tracks on construction paper.  It’s been at least three weeks since we did this project, and the quads still talk about their muddy tracks, and tires getting stuck.

Vocabulary introduced: mud, stuck, tracks, tires

“Wh” Questions: What does blue truck say?  Who helped push the trucks? Where were the trucks stuck?

The Little Blue Truck was ideal for introducing the concept of mud.  However, any book related to vehicles would work for this project, and the paint could be any color to create tracks.

For this project we used: construction paper, tape, brown tempera paint, and Little People cars.

Toddler craft: roll cars through paint to create tracks.  Brown paint looks like mud.

I taped the edges of the paper down to keep it in place as they rolled cars.

Chikldren's art gallery wall using picture frames.

This is our new art gallery wall in the playroom. I used the frames from our old study, and found another to expand it. The quads LOVE seeing their materpieces and telling about them. It probably doesn’t hurt that I constantly ask them to talk about their art.

Anytime we do a craft, I try to keep it simple using basic supplies we already have, most of which I collected from the Dollar Tree.  There’s no need to make things complex or expensive for toddlers.

What is your favorite toddler craft and/ or book?  Any we should try?

 

Hugs,

 

Amber

 

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Toddler Tip #457: Improvised Seats

With each passing day, I find myself trying to solve some new challenge with raising four toddlers, aka “quaddlers”. They are a cunning lot who inspires a little ingenuity on my part (and George’s) just to manage day to day life. While my ideas are born from being surrounded by four toddlers, I think many of them could be helpful to any parents of little ones so I'm sharing.

This weekend, we headed to Nisey and Poppa’s for a family dinner. In the past, we brought our Super Seats for mealtime away from home.  It was easy to line the babies up for a spoon feed, or to pull them right up to the dining room table for finger feeding.

The Super Seats are amazing for traveling spoon feeds!  Love them!

However, we recently parted ways with our beloved seats as the quads were getting too big for them, and I was tired of storing them.  I refuse to spend money on any more booster seats because I know they would be short lived.

Instead, we improvised at dinner using an old trick I learned from my cousin, Jennifer. We boosted each child with a floor cushion.  We then tied the apron strings around the back of the chairs to keep each child seated.  This little tip worked especially well since I forgot to put bibs in the diaper bag. The aprons covered the majority of the quad’s clothing and laps.  For some reason, by parents happen to keep four aprons, which was perfect.

Use an apron and a pillow/ cushion/ phone book to make a booster seat when eating away from home with toddlers.

Phone books would have worked well for boosting, but Nisey and Poppa only had one remaining. I think the internet made phone books nearly obsolete.

Use an apron and a pillow/ cushion/ phone book to make a booster seat when eating away from home with toddlers.

The quads didn’t stay at the table as long as they have in booster chairs or the quad table, but our improvised seats enabled them to self feed and for the adults to enjoy dinner.  A win-win in my book!  After dinner, I just shook the crumbs off the aprons and hung them back in the pantry for next time.

Hugs!

 

 

Amber

 

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, please see my disclaimer page.

Puddle Jumping

As soon as the temperatures rose to the 90’s we started enjoying water play in the back yard almost daily.   Between our water table and inflatable pools, the quads have passed many hours of splishing and splashing.  However, Fourth of July weekend marked their first time in a full sized pool since last summer.  When they were little babies, we bought Swim Ways inflatable baby floats, which worked great for water exposure.

Family picture in the pool.

This summer, the quads would have fit easily into their old floats, but as busy toddlers, they would have been irritated by the constraints of a float.  Instead, I decided we’d try the Puddle Jumpers, which were given to us by the Crisanti Quads earlier this year.  Before heading to the pool, I attempted to get the quads to wear their Puddle Jumpers around the house, but only Harper agreed to this idea.  The others fought me tooth and nail so I wasn’t expecting much at the pool.  In fact, I braced myself to sideline at least three toddlers at the pool if necessary.

On July Fourth, we visited our family friends, the Turner’s.   Since they have a beautiful pool, it was time for the maiden voyage with the Puddle Jumpers.  Although they initially resisted, each of the quads eventually donned a Puddle Jumper.  The next problem…getting them to wear them in the water.  Initially all four were extremely timid and hesitant to touch the water.  After all, the water was cool in comparison to the Texas heat and they were wearing foreign devices.   Each of the quads was paired with an adult who coaxed them into the water and showed them how to splash and blow bubbles.  Of the quads, Sydney proved herself to be brave.  She happily jumped to us, back floated, and kicked her legs about.  In time, the others enjoyed themselves and worked up hearty appetites for our barbecue.

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They had a second opportunity to use Puddle Jumpers at Grandaddy’s house later in the weekend.   This time, all four were more eager to enjoy the pool.  To my surprise, they all seemed to appreciate the goggles I scored at the Dollar Tree earlier in the week.  Keeping their eyes free of water seemed to really help ease them into the pool.  Even with a healthy fear of the water, all four enjoyed lots of jumping and kicking around the pool.

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Even with the Puddle Jumpers, we watched the quads like hawks since they could easily face forward in the water.   This year we opted out of swimming lessons since we’d probably only visit a large pool a handful of times at best, and the quads wouldn’t be able to recall skills learned next year.  When they are old enough to participate in a class and develop salient memories, we will absolutely enroll them in swim lessons.  Swimming is a critical life skill.  In the meantime, we are fans of Puddle Jumpers!

Just for fun, George and I took snapshots of the quads on the Fourth of July using our color accent feature on the camera.

I realize it's not kosher to allow an American flag to touch the ground...but with four almost two year olds around, they may have grazed the ground a bit.  Please forgive us.

I realize it’s not kosher to allow an American flag to touch the ground…but with four almost two-year olds around, they may have grazed the ground a bit. Please forgive us.

Rylin

Rylin

Harper

Harper

Sydney

Sydney

Mason

Mason

 

How old were you when you learned how to swim?  Who taught you?

 

hugs!

 

Amber

 

 

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, please see my disclaimer page.

Play Date for Eight

We finally settled into our new digs enough to host our first play date with none other than our quad buddies, the Bells. After several trial and error play dates, Amber and I discovered that evening play dates are pure genius. Initially we tried the traditional daytime rendezvous and failed repeatedly. The babies usually played happily until nap time.  However at nap time, the visitors protested voraciously and the host babies were upset by wailing visitors. This left two frazzled mammas with eight grouchy babies.  It wasn’t pretty.

We now meet up after all babies are refreshed from naps and have several hours before bedtime. The hostess serves up dinner for everyone and the mammas enjoy a glass of vino while the kiddies play in harmony. I can honestly say this is the only way to have a relaxing play date with so many little ones.

Despite a week of flash flooding, we opted for an evening of water play.  What better way to celebrate summer?  In preparation for the event, I littered our backyard with water tables, a mini pool, slide and an assortment of water toys.  While my quads snoozed, I prepared a picnic for everyone: P B & J triangles with berries and veggie sticks for the quads, pimento cheese for the adults, and cakeys for dessert (cake bars Rylin dubbed “cakeys”).

During the day, I showed the quads pictures of the Bell family and explained they were coming over.  After nap, I dressed everyone in swimsuits and doused them in sunscreen as I reminded them of our company.  Clearly they knew it was time to parr-tayy because all four began running circles in the den as they squealed in delight.  When Amber and her crew arrived, I gave her the quick house tour then we ushered all eight babies outside.  Thankfully, George was home from work a bit early so he helped set up the goods for water play (he was also instrumental in clean up efforts).  Everything went swimmingly!  All eight babies scampered around, finding ways to entertain themselves.

It didn't take long before all eight babies were fully entertained with water play.

It didn’t take long before all eight babies were fully entertained with water play.

This is like a game of Where's Waldo....can you spot all eight babies?

This is like a game of Where’s Waldo….can you spot all eight babies?

Mason and Trystan cozied up in the mini pool.

Mason and Trystan cozied up in the mini pool.  Aren’t they adorable together?

I dropped some of our Color Dropz into the water tables and mini pool for a little pizazz!

I dropped some of our Color Dropz into the water tables and mini pool for a little pizzaz!

Amber helped dole out ice water to little beggars.

Amber helped dole out ice water to thirsty little beggars.

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It looks like someone found the mud.  No worries though, Amber and I had a solid clean up plan.

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All eight of the quads now interact with each other, and don’t always stick to their familiar siblings, which indicates play date success in my book.

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Look carefully in the background and you’ll see Harper bailing water from the mini pool to the galvanized bucket. He managed to fill it halfway with just that little red scoop!

As the dinner hour approached, I gathered our picnic trappings and brought them outside along with plastic dinnerware.  Within seconds, all eight babies gathered around our Little Tykes picnic table where we dished out dinner.   Our quads don’t have the best track record for eating meals away from their quad table so I wasn’t really sure what eight would do.  They amazed us as they sat for the entire meal and gobbled up dinner.  I suppose they worked up hearty appetites playing outside.

I couldn't squeeze eight plates around the picnic table, but sharing is commonplace for multiples so it wasn't a problem.

I couldn’t squeeze eight plates around the picnic table, but sharing is commonplace for multiples so it wasn’t a problem.

As the babies noshed on their picnic, Amber snatched ice water for everyone.   She's a pro at this!

As the babies noshed on their picnic, Amber snatched ice water for everyone. She’s a pro at this!

After dinner, George became very popular as he was the cakey server.

After dinner, George became very popular as he was the cakey server.

When the sun began to set, George, Amber, and I created a pioneer style wash basin for the babies with our toy bucket.  George filled it with warm water then Amber and I took turns sponge bathing our respective babies and wrapping them in dry towels.  As each one was wrapped tightly, we lined them up in the den for a Veggie Tales movie.  Amber and I managed to “bathe”, dry, and dress eight babies in pajamas (complete with lotion) in a matter of minutes.  Impressive, I think.  I turned on our classical lullaby playlist as everyone enjoyed perusing a few books and novel toys before bed.  George tucked our babies into cribs as Amber and I loaded hers into the Suburban before we said farewell.  Another successful play date for eight!

Ahhh, clean, dry and jammied babies with a few good reads before bed.

Ahhh, clean, dry and jammied babies with a few good reads before bed.

hugs!

 

Amber

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, please see my disclaimer page.

What’s the Magic?

 

terrible twos

I practice school psychology, and have for nearly a decade now. Even before I began my graduate program, I worked as both a nanny and daycare teacher. And that’s not to mention the fact that both of my parents were teachers.  Based upon those experiences, I have all the knowledge and skills to mold my children into well-behaved little people. Except, I don’t always use the tools sitting in my toolbox. In the heat of the moment, when four toddlers are shrieking at the top of their lungs and I’m covered in food splatter, my skill set tends to go out the window. I’m not implying that my training hasn’t gone to good use or that I never use my toolkit. Rather, I’m admitting that I am indeed a human being and just like every other parent, teacher, and caregiver, I lose my cool sometimes.  I don’t always make good use of the skills I possess because sometimes I forget.

As the quads are getting older, more independent, and smarter, it’s clear that it’s critical that I work harder on doing the exact things I recommend others do. Of course, it’s always significantly easier to give suggestions to others than yourself isn’t it? Nonetheless, I’m making an effort to take my own good advice and use it on my own children.

Years ago, I was trained in Teaching with Love and Logic: Taking Control of the Classroom. It’s a program that I frequently recommend to parents and teachers.  When one of my colleagues informed me that there was a toddler version, Love and Logic Magic for Early Childhood, I found it on Amazon and placed the order. As I read the book, it brought all of my training to the forefront with toddlers in mind. If you have a toddler, or toddlers, I highly recommend snagging a copy for yourself to see if you can adopt some of the concepts within it.

When I consult with parents and teachers, I find myself offering many of the same recommendations time and time again. It’s not because I’m lazy. Instead, it’s because I’ve seen particular strategies work time and time again for many different types of kids. During my days with the quads, I’ve been taking time to pause and consider what I might tell a teacher or parent in my position. The same tried and true school interventions work at home, and I’m seeing positive results.  Some of my go-to suggestions include:

1. Set clear, consistent boundaries, and follow through with all consequences immediately.

After we moved into the new house, I seized the perfect opportunity to establish new house rules in order to break some bad habits. In addition to the rules, we are teaching the quads to be responsible for their actions. For instance, they often think it’s a lot of fun to toss food and utensils during mealtime. If someone drops something from the table, we say, “Ooops, all done”. Then, after everyone is finished with the meal, the offender picks up anything thrown and wipes up spills. In a nutshell, the rules are something to the effect of “If you make a mess, clean it up. If you break something, fix it. If you hurt someone, apologize…ect.”

The quads are well aware that they must sit in order to enjoy a drink.  When they request a drink they now say "sit down" as they comply with our house rule.

The quads are well aware that they must sit in order to enjoy a drink. When they request a drink they now say “sit down” as they comply with our house rule.

It’s important that consequences occur immediately after an offense otherwise, they think they can get away with rule breaking anytime. I know we are making headway in this arena because when a rule is broken, I sometimes hear the renegade say, “Uh oh!  Time out?” or another child will say, “Uh oh!”

It's not unusual for our kitchen floor to look like this during or after a meal.  However, I'm done cleaning up everyone's messes.

It’s not unusual for our kitchen floor to look like this during or after a meal. However, I’m done cleaning up everyone’s messes.

Instead, the quads are now responsible for cleaning up their messes.

Instead, the quads are now responsible for cleaning up their messes.

Time out is among the consquences in our house.  When I first introduced time out, I set the offender in my lap as I held their arms across their chest and counted aloud.  We have since progressed to nose to the wall or corner.

Time out is among the consquences in our house. When I first introduced time out, I set the offender in my lap as I held their arms across their chest and counted aloud. We have since progressed to nose to the wall or corner.

2. Provide sensory motor breaks throughout the day, especially between transitions.

With toddlerhood, our schedule is much more flexible than it once was. However, we still maintain quite a bit of structure in the day, which helps make things predictable and comfortable for everyone. Of the quads, Harper tends to have more energy to burn. With him, I make a point to integrate physical activity into our day, several times. Often times, he has days where he pushes the others or runs around destructively. When I notice that type of behavior, I know it’s time to either go outside, or to use some of our gross motor toys (e.g. mini trampoline, slide, riding toys).

Lawnmowing counts as a helper task and gross motor activity!

Lawnmowing counts as a helper task and gross motor activity!

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3. Allow the child to participate in “helper” activities aka chores.

Everyone likes to feel important and valued, toddlers are no different. As the quads receptive language skills have improved, they’ve been very capable of carrying out simple 1-2 step directions. With supervision, they clean up their playroom, put laundry in the hamper, throw trash away, and feed the dogs. I find that they do best when I am very specific about what needs to be done. For example, I may say, “Please put the blue plate in this basket”. If a verbal direction doesn’t work, I sometimes model what I’m asking for, or help them complete the task hand over hand.  After they’ve helped complete some task, I offer ample praise, and they always beam in delight.

The quads are always proud of themselves after completing a chore.

The quads are always proud of themselves after completing a chore.

4. Provide TONS of praise, which is specific to the behavior. (Praise should ideally occur four times more than redirection. So, if you reprimand a child, he’ll need to be praised for about four appropriate behaviors).

When the quads have done something I like, it’s important to know exactly what they did right so they do it again. For example, they are trying really hard to use their manners so if I hear someone saying “please” or “thank you”, I try to jump in immediately and tell them how well they are doing with using manners.  I may say, “Wow, Mason!  Great job saying thank you!”  or “Oh Sydney, I love how you said please.”

5. Phrase redirection and rules in positive terms (e.g. Say, “Our feet go on the floor” instead of “No standing on chairs”.

Little kids often hear the last thing you said so if it’s in negative terms, they may misunderstand you. You don’t want a toddler thinking you told him to “Stand on the chair”!  Again, with little ones or kids with developmental or language delays a verbal message can be lost.  Sometimes modeling or showing pictures of what the rule is can help.

6. Empathize with an upset child and allow cool down time.

The quads are toddlers and they have tantrums A LOT. Toddler tantrums are never pretty, and they are exacerbated with multiples. Even though toddlers are not generally rational, they have feelings too. If someone is upset I try to tell them I am sorry they are feeling angry/ mad/ upset. This doesn’t mean I try to rescue them or coddle them. Most of the time, tantrums occur because they were denied their way. Giving them what they wanted (e.g. a cookie, a particular toy) to stop a tantrum will make it significantly worse. Giving in would be counterproductive because it would teach them to have tantrums to get what they want.

When someone is having a very difficult time, I offer them cool down time by taking them to a quiet place and encouraging them to take slow deep breaths. If me facilitating cool down time is unsuccessful, I typically leave them alone for a minute or two, allowing them to calm down independently.  I find that placing them in their crib with a preferred toy or book can help them regain composure.

Cool down time is different than time out in that it’s not punitive, rather it allows everyone time to become calm.   Sometimes cool down time is needed before a consequence can be implemented.  Take the example of making a mess at the table.  Sometimes being asked to clean up spurs a tantrum.  I may allow time to cool down before I expect a clean up effort to occur.

7. Provide 2-3 acceptable choices.

Everyone likes to feel as if they have control and power.  However, it’s not wise to let toddlers and children rule a home.  Instead, it’s better to give them parameters for decision making.  This can actually be very simple.  For instance, at meal times, I let the quads chose between two bibs to wear and two colored plates.  A choice can also be between having something or not such as “Do you want to wear socks or no socks.”  This empowers little ones and helps prevent future meltdowns.

I also offer choices in the heat of a tantrum as a means to help redirect them.  Let’s say Rylin had a tantrum because she wanted strawberries instead of blueberries and we have no strawberries.  I may say, “Would you like blueberries or no berries?”  This type of choice can help refocus her attention from the strawberries we don’t have.

The quads chose their hats for this one.

The quads chose their hats for this one.

8. Use first/ then statements.

Kids often want instant gratification and become upset when something doesn’t happen immediately.  With the quads, I often use first then statements to let them know the order things will happen.  For example, if someone approaches me and says, “Read it” while I’m busy.  I may reply, “First, I’m washing dishes then I’ll read it”.  It also works to get them to comply with something undesirable.  For instance, the quads resist diaper changes because they want to do something else.  My response is usually something like, “First I’m going to change your diaper, then you can do your puzzle.”

Even though I’m making an effort to utilize these particular tools as well as my training and experiences, I won’t get it right every single time. There will be times I will make a mistake with the quads, and that’s okay. In those moments, it’ll be important for me to apologize to my children and explain to them that Mommy is a human too. After all, grace is a virtue I want my children to learn too.

 

hugs,

 

Amber

 

Note: This post is in no way sponsored by Love and Logic, but it is a parenting book I feel is beneficial and wholeheartedly recommend.  Also, my tips are not a summary of Love and Logic.  Instead they are based upon my professional training, continuing education, and experiences, which include Love and Logic training.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more info, please see my disclaimer page.