Commence the Extracurricular Activities

For Christmas, the quads received a generous monetary gift from a dear family friend to be spent on activities.  Originally I intended to buy a family membership to the zoo or children’s museum.  I did some preliminary research and decided memberships weren’t prudent since the quads have free admission most places until their third birthday, which isn’t until July.  When I found a dance studio offering summer dance lessons buy one, get one free I decided it would be a fabulous way to use the gift. Long before the quads arrived, I hoped to one day enroll my own children in dance lessons, and recently I’d begun thinking of enrolling the girls when they were ready.  Though I’m not planning on keeping the boys in dance lessons (unless they request them), I figured it would be a fun summer activity for all four, and an excellent opportunity for them to practice gross motor skills, following directions, and being separated from us while also being away from home.

In the weeks leading up to the first dance class, I rummaged in the attic and unearthed my first pair of tap shoes, which I wore at about three years old.  I was delighted when they fit Rylin perfectly.  I managed to find a secondhand pair of tap shoes for Sydney at Kid to Kid, and surprisingly we had hand me down shoes from my cousin’s kids that fit the boys.  Though the dance studio indicated tennis shoes would suffice, I wanted the girls to have their own classic pink ballet slippers.  Being short on time, I ordered ballet slippers and black leotards from my favorite go-to retailer, Amazon.  The quads proudly schlepped their dance shoes in toddler backpacks given to them by my grandmother,

Toddler Dance Bag

toddler backpacks

I allocated about 30 minutes to get everyone ready for class, and felt accomplished when everyone donned dance garb in 15 minutes.  That pride faded when I noticed Harper removed his shoes and Rylin pulled her hair out.  At times like that, I feel as though I’m in a constant game of Whack a Mole.  As quickly as possible, I put Harper’s shoes back onto his chubby feet and re-styled Rylin’s hair before ushering everyone to the van.

Much to my surprise, we arrived at the studio in ample time for me to complete registration and pay for lessons.  Once everything was settled, the quads waited with me for their class to begin.  More importantly, they did a stunning job staying seated the entire wait.

dance class

Sydney is fascinated by taking selfies and snapped this photo during the wait.  She really has a knack with the camera, sometimes snapping better photos than me.

When it was time for class, the quads were called by name and given a name tag.  Then, they were led into the studio and were assigned a cubby to house their backpacks.  Once they were settled, I made a quick escape so they could attend to the teachers.  Rylin was notably hesitant to participate, and I knew if I lingered she’d cling ferociously.  I didn’t hear any screaming or crying, which I figured was a good sign.  Towards the end of class, parents were invited to the studio to watch the kids demonstrate the “freeze dance”.   Of the four, only Mason and Sydney were willing to partake in this demo, and they seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves.  Rylin outright refused even with me cajoling her and Harper seemed oblivious as to what he should do.  At the conclusion of class, each of the students received a sticker.  Rylin wasn’t keen on dancing, but she was rather articulate about which sticker she wanted, and where it should be placed (sigh).

dance class

freeze dance

dance class

Though I was responsible for getting the crew to dance lessons, George met me at the studio after work and helped me load the van for home.  As we approach the next dance lesson, Rylin’s been telling me she has no intentions of going.  I sincerely hope she’ll fall into place when she sees the other kids.  The boys are humoring me with these dance classes, but on several occasions Harper blatantly stated, “I’m doing baseball in the fall!”  I’m not sure he knows what baseball, or t-ball entails, however.

dance class

What extracurricular activities did you enjoy as a child?  Did your parents force you to participate in any?

hugs,

Amber

PS- If you can’t get enough of Four to Adore, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Toddler Activities for Bad Weather Days

Today marked day three of school and business closures thanks to fickle Texas weather.  Another lovely blanket of snow (yes, real snow!) covered our lawns and streets.  Prior to that, we had an ice storm and several dreary, rainy days that kept us inside.  Ironically, after a few of these days I experience feelings of cabin fever (I’m sure those of you in cold climates are laughing, it’s ok).  I can’t stand it!!!  Since the arrival of the quads venturing out is a rarity, but when I feel as though weather traps us, I feel irritated.  We play outside every single day even if we stay home and we crave the sunshine here. The kids pick up on my feelings, and  their behavior deteriorates quickly.  Everyone gets cranky and demanding, which exacerbates cabin fever for me.  To keep my cabin fever at bay and behavior in line, I tried a few new activities to keep us occupied.  All are worth a repeat!

Indoor activites for toddlers when the weather keeps you inside.

1. Salt TraysMy Nearest & Dearest inspired this one (stop by her page for a few other ideas we are yet to try).  I sprinkled a thin layer of salt into Brookstone sand trays (a cookie sheet with sides or a lunch tray would work).  The quads used their fingers to create designs and also ran cars through the salt to create tracks.  It was a rather “Zen” activity that relaxed all of us.  I played yoga tracks from Pandora, which helped set the mood.

Pour a little salt onto trays and let kids trace designs or make tracks in it

2. Colander Game– Borrowing from Learning and Exploring Through Play, I used wooden skewers to create a maze through a colander then the quads took turns dropping pom poms through the maze.  They worked on turn taking and recognizing attributes (e.g. color, size, texture) for this one.  It involved maybe a minute to prep and clean up, and they were entertained about 15-20 minutes.

Colander/ Pom Pom Game

3. Tea Party- We hosted several tea parties when the quads had a cold this winter and it’s always a nice distraction.  It’s also the opportune time to practice table manners and drinking from open cups.

Tea Parties are great for practicing manners and when the weather keeps toddlers inside

4. Bring the Snow Inside– Typically I’m in favor of bundling the kids to play in cold weather, especially if they’ll have an opportunity to play in snow.  However, I didn’t feel up to the challenge again.  Instead, I brought the snow inside.  Scooping, shaping, and coloring the snow kept all four occupied for a solid 45 minutes!

If you don't want to bundle up to enjoy the snow, bring a tub inside for sensory play.

bring snow inside for a sensory experience

5. Window Clings– I periodically snatch gel window clings from the Dollar Tree or Target’s One Spot and now we have a decent collection for each season.  I pulled the den blinds up and let the quads loose with sheets of them.  I was surprised at how they independently sorted them by attributes and reassembled several of the designs including a snowman, Santa, and penguins. It involved zero prep on my part and took less than five minutes to clean up.  They played happily for about 30-40 minutes!

Window clings are fun for toddlers to arrange.

What are some of your favorite indoor activities for bad weather days?

hugs,

Amber

PS- If you can’t get enough of Four to Adore, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

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

IMG_2830.JPG

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 2 and under 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

PS- If you can’t get enough of Four to Adore, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

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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A Golden Hour

Just when I thought spring was here to stay, Mother Nature threw a curve ball.  Once again, the temperature dropped about 30 degrees with drizzle, successfully holding us as hostages indoors.  ARGH!!!  To top it off, Mason and I both have an irritating cough.  Consequently, he’s extremely clingy, needy, and whiny today.   If I could, I’d snuggle him up and read or watch movies all day long.  Yet, the other three babies crave enrichment and attention.  I’m sorry, Mason, unfortunately it’s not a snuggle all day sort of day.

A few weeks ago, I stocked up on Target One Spot items, some for the quad’s Easter baskets, and some for rainy days like today.    After that particular haul, I attempted to execute a craft that I saw on Texas Tales that involved gluing pom poms onto Easter themed die cuts.  Similar aged quads managed it, I expected similar results.  It didn’t go as planned.  At all.  I dotted glue on the shapes and directed the babies to stick their pom poms.  They dutifully stuck their pom poms onto the glue.  It started out well.  Then they proceeded to remove the pom poms and smear the glue everywhere.  Or, in Harper’s case to attempts at eating the pom poms.  Feeling deflated, I scooped up all components of this activity and stuffed them into our craft box for another day.

Today it was time to revisit the pom poms, but not as the original craft.   Instead, I pulled out our old baby food making ice trays.   I gave each of the babies a tray and a handful of pom poms, directing them to put the pom poms into the squares.  For a good five to ten minutes, they stayed in their toddler chairs as they stuffed pom poms into the trays, emptied them and refilled them.  I was delighted at that and really didn’t expect it to last beyond that.

This is how our activity began, at the coffee table with toddler chairs.

This is how our activity began, at the coffee table with toddler chairs.

Look closely and you'll see how each of the quads approached this task in their own way.  Some put one pom pom in each cube while others stuffed several into the same cube.

Look closely and you’ll see how each of the quads approached this task in their own way. Some put one pom pom in each cube while others stuffed several into the same cube.

Amazingly, these pom poms continued to entertain the quads for a full HOUR!  Say what?  Naturally, they didn’t sit at the table for an hour, but they found an array of ways to play with the pom poms and enjoyed every minute of it.  I actually think they would have happily played longer, but nap time was fast approaching.  The $2 I spent on pom poms was by far the best investment I’ve made in a while.  They created a golden hour for us on an otherwise dreary day.

 

After they had enough table time, the quads found new ways to play with their pom poms.  Harper stacked them onto a chair.

After they had enough table time, the quads found new ways to play with their pom poms. Harper stacked them onto a chair.

Sydney piled them on her feet and kicked in delight.

Sydney piled them on her feet and kicked in delight.

Rylin stuffed a baggie with them.

Rylin stuffed a baggie with them.

Meanwhile, Mason filled an empty wipe box.

Meanwhile, Mason filled an empty wipe box.

 

 

What’s your favorite One Spot find?

hugs!

 

Amber

 

P. S. Pom poms are obviously choking hazards so this required some diligence on my part.  Surprisingly, Harper only tried to consume one pom pom and no one else even considered snacking on them.  A win in my book!