Monday, March 30, 2015

Awesome Lunchbox and Water Bottle Review!

**I am an affiliate of PlanetBox, they provided me with a BottleRocket water bottle at no cost to me in return for an honest review. I purchased the Rover complete system myself and am sharing my review because I choose to. This post contains affiliate links, if you click on a link to Planetbox and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission, this will not affect your purchase in anyway. Thank you for helping support this blog.**

I have a fun new product to share with you all today. I know many Montessori and Homeschooling families are often also interested in environmentally friendly and health conscience products. A while back I shared another product from the same company and I will also do a follow up on that product. 

Planetbox Rover lunchbox with BottleRocket water bottle. T's lunch includes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread, cheese crackers, carrot coins, fresh mozzarella balls, strawberries and kiwi, plus a few reese's pieces. 

We have been using the Rover lunch system from Planetbox for about 8 months now. T (8) takes it to his Montessori school with him every single day. I can not even tell you how many little plastic baggies were saved over the course of this year. I also didn’t have to bother with a bunch of smaller containers that would each need to be cleaned separately. The Planetbox systems are made of stainless steel and its all connected so you just open it up and place it in the dishwasher or hand wash super quickly. I have not been disappointed with this product at all, its awesome! T loves using it and it makes it easy for me. When I make lunch, it takes about 5 minutes to place it all into the divided spaces in the single tray and close the lid. When I used baggies or separate containers, it would take triple that amount of time. 

We purchased the complete Rover system which includes the tray with attached lid, two water proof containers, carrying bag and magnet set. T used the magnet set for about a month and decided he didn’t really care for them. While it is cuter with the magnets, I think it looks really nice without them. I also was quite happy because they are just an extra step when cleaning because you have to remove them first. The small water proof containers are great for things that would leak like yogurt and juicy fruits. I also have placed things like taco meat, pasta with sauce and mac & cheese in them (of course you’d either have to eat these cold or place them on a plate before reheating since the containers are metal). The lunch bag is the one part that I am not totally thrilled with. I do think its held up nicely but its not perfect. The insulation on the bag gets bent when a water bottle is placed in the pocket. The front pocket next to the water bottle could be a bit bigger (i like to put fruit in it and its a tight squeeze). It is difficult to clean making it not look new for very long. I think that while the metal lunch system will definitely last years and years, the bag will most likely need to be replaced each year to keep it looking nice. I still think this is a good deal because most fabric lunch bags need to be replaced at least once a year. When my son was in primary Montessori he went through 3 lunch bags in one year because the zippers broke or the fabric ripped. These hold up nicely, they just look a bit dingy after a while. I also think he’ll want a new color next year anyway.

The new product I want to share with you is their new water bottle. When it first came out, I wasn’t planning to buy it. We have been using the Thermos Funtainer water bottles for years and love them. Planetbox offered to send me a bottle in exchange for a honest review so we gave it a try. I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by this water bottle. It is about the same size as the Funtainer bottles and has a similar button pop lid. The Planetbox BottleRocket (goes along with their space theme) has a little metal latch that locks the lid so it won’t pop open in transit. This is a necessary part because this bottle is NOT spill proof. The BottleRocket has a silicone spout that opens directly into the bottle so you tip it to drink rather than suck through a straw. It also has a rubber piece in the lid to keep it from leaking. I have found this bottle to be totally leak proof even when laid on its side. In the past my son would bring home his lunch and lay it flat on the counter leaving his Funtainer on its side, it would leak out the top all over his lunch bag. When he does the same with the BottleRocket, it will not leak. Another big benefit of the BottleRocket, is that it has no straw. I know I’m not the only one who hates trying to clean those Funtainer straws! No matter how well I clean those straws, they never quite seem clean enough. No straw in the BottleRocket makes it so I know it is clean, and it can all go in the dishwasher.

The Gray Planetbox BottleRocket compared to a blue Thermos Funtainer

Planetbox BottleRocket has No Straw

No Straw, easier to keep clean

The price tag of the PlanetBox BottleRocket is a bit steep, but that is true for the food systems as well. This bottle costs about $10 more than most Funtainers but the benefits may make it worth the cost. I personally, never paid full price for the Funtainers I bought. I paid about $5-10 for each of our Funtainers which I thought was a much better price for what I got. If I had to pay more than that I think the BottleRocket would be a better quality bottle for the price. I definitely think our Rover system was well worth the cost for the year we have already used it and will use it again next year. 

Right now I am considering purchasing a Launch system which is a larger version with a glass dish that is microwavable. I think it would be nice to have two difference systems to choose from depending on the food he is taking. It works well right now for him to put foods to reheat in his metal container since he has plates to transfer foods at school, I think it would be easier to just reheat in the glass container though. Check out the full Planetbox lineup at their website

Not only will I give you my review but I will also share my 8 year old's review since he is the one who uses these products on a daily basis. T says "Tell Planetbox that I love my lunchbox and new water bottle. It works great and its the coolest in my class. Tell everyone on the blog that they should buy their kids these lunch boxes and water bottles because they are fun and make it easy for kids to pack their own lunches. They keep the food separated and nothing gets squished and the water bottles don't leak. The only thing I don't like about it is that sometimes the lids are a little hard to take off." The lids he is talking about are the big and little dipper containers that go with the rover box, they seal really well and are sometimes hard to get off if a tight vacuum has occurred. The top of the water bottle can be a little difficult to remove as well, it twists off but the rubber part inside also create a vacuum.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What have we been up to?

Hi everyone! It has been a while since I posted. Life has changed a lot for us and it has not left as much time for blogging. I would like to take a moment to update you on what we have been up to lately.

T is nearly 9 now. He has been enrolled in a local Montessori school in the lower elementary program for 8 months. In this particular school they have a large enrollment and have split the elementary program into two parts, lower 6-9 and upper 9-12. This is a fairly common practice in schools with large enrollment. The year prior to T attending they had fewer students and the group was combined. They had several students move up from primary (3-6) and new students enroll making the group too large for just one classroom/teacher. I really like the way they have arranged things at his school because while they did split the group, they have several activities together.

T absolutely LOVES his school. I am happy to report that our decision to stop homeschooling and put him back into a regular Montessori school was a huge success. He is a super social person and he really needed that collaboration time with his peers. No matter how many groups or outside activities I planned for him with other children while homeschooling, it just wasn't enough for him. He is a strong extrovert. I had a bit of trouble understanding this because I am a strong introvert and the idea of homeschooling over any school would have thrilled me, but it was not the same situation for him. He is thriving in his new school.

We have noticed several improvements in his acedemics while attending his new school as well. He has struggled with handwriting but it has greatly improved this year. It is still far from perfect but it is easier to read and he is not using as many uppercase letters in the wrong places like he used to. He has recently started practicing more cursive writing too. His school has a weekly spelling "test" which I think has really helped him. While they do test the child's knowledge of the spelling of words, it is not a standard test where all children learn the same words, study everyday and pass or fail the test. Each child works through the word cards at their own pace. They do several exercises during the week that incorporate the words so they can learn them through usage rather than studying. If they misspell a word on the "test," they simply repeat the same words the next week and only move on when they have mastered that list of words. I was worried at first because he was always a phonetic speller, but he has really done well with his spelling. He has also improved greatly on his self direction. While homeschooling he would often not know what to work on or he didn't have interest in working on any of the works we had. I think a big part of his motivation is linked to seeing other children use the works in the classroom setting. Also, his Montessori trained teacher has a better handle on keeping plenty of new work rotating in the classroom for when children need motivation.

We have not found much of a downside to sending him to his new school. I feel like it is a good fit for our family. The costs of private school are substantial which is a downside but we are willing to make the sacrifices to make it happen. Some things I miss about homeschooling include the lack of commute, our own schedule, field trips, and more family time. The commute is not that bad but I do often feel like I am always running the kids somewhere. T is in school each day, B does a small preschool program for a couple of hours a few days a week, then there is karate three times a week. It can be hectic, I miss the easy schedule of homeschooling. I also liked the fact that we could make our own schedule day to day and holidays/breaks. His new school mostly follows the public school schedule which is  ok, but that means we have to have breaks during busy times. I personally, really miss the field trips. We loved going to all of the places nearby like museums, zoos, etc. Now we can only go on weekends and breaks when they are crowded. I don't enjoy crowds so we do not visit these places nearly as often anymore. Still, the positives for our current situation far out number the negatives so we plan on sending T back to his current school next year.

B turned 3 years old a couple of months ago. She has been working on some tot school at home with me and she has also been attending a preschool program. We had some issues with her before starting preschool where she did not want to be separated from me at all. I, growing up as an extremely shy child, wanted to work on this right away. I have always felt that being shy made it much harder to make friends and I just do not want that for my children. I never had a problem with shyness with T, but I feel like B needed to work on it a bit. I am happy to report that she got over being shy very quickly. She is very happy going to preschool and has several friends in her class. When we first started her she was going for 2 days a week for 2.5hrs, after she turned 3 we increased to 3 days a week. We have decided that she will be enrolling in the same school as T next year and joining the primary class. While I thought about homeschooling her, she loves school so much that I feel like it will be a similar situation as her brother. Both children love going to school so much. I think it will be a fun year when they are both in the same school.

Thank you for reading my long update. I'm sorry it has been so long since my last post. I will try to keep up with posting to this blog more often. We have been doing quite a few fun things on weekends and after school that I would like to share with you all.

If you haven't liked my page on Facebook please click here. I have noticed several new likes on my page recently which I love. I try to share there when I find something Montessori or homeschool related.

Oh.... and we got a new puppy this year! He has grown a bit from this picture, but I had to share.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

PlanetBox Lunch Box Review and Sale!

*This post contains affiliate links.

The new school year brought some changes in our home with T starting back at a school. Over the past two years of homeschooling we all got very used to eating at home for lunch. T would fix his own lunch most days, at whatever time he felt like eating lunch. He often ate leftover dinner foods for lunch as opposed to sandwiches. There are days when he is happy to have a sandwich for lunch but I really wanted to find a lunchbox that would allow him to have other options that he was used to. I found a wonderful lunchbox that is exactly what we wanted. I purchased this lunchbox for T to take to school with him but he is also great for field trips or day trips for homeschoolers as well. 

First Day of school lunch. Turkey and cheese sandwich cut into the shape of an apple with a left made from nori (seaweed) and a gummy worm inside. Goldfish crackers, baby bell cheese, chocolate peanut butter power ball, strawberries and raspberries and one small cookie. 

The Planetbox lunchbox systems is made of stainless steel so I don’t have to worry about chemicals leaching from plastic. I can put it in the dishwasher or hand wash it depending on how quickly I need it washed. It has lots of little sections to keep foods separate and allow for the food to be on display. Sometimes I like to make cute little lunches that have themes, when I have the time, and this works great in the Planetbox. There are three sizes of Planetbox, the largest is the Launch, medium size is the Rover and the smallest is the Shuttle. The Rover kit (which we have) comes with a lunch box, insulated lunch bag, set of cute magnets to go on the top of the box, and two waterproof containers. 

First Day of School lunch in Planetbox Rover

Inside of the lunchbag has a spot for a napkin or utensils and ice pack.

My favorite part of the Planetbox Rover is the one piece, dishwasher safe stainless steal box. Its so easy to pack, send and clean when finished. I love not having to put everything in the wasteful plastic bags. We have a few reusable baggies that work ok, but this is so much easier and faster to pack and clean. T’s favorite part is the little treat compartment in the Rover. There are 4 larger sections but also one tiny little section in the center that holds a treat. I don’t feel bad about sending one tiny little mini cookie or a few M&Ms. He is thrilled with the treat even though its tiny. 

Planetbox offers several cute magnet sets to go with their lunch boxes. T and I had some trouble choosing a set for his Rover. He ended up choosing the dinosaurs but he was not thrilled with them. They had a lot of cute selections for toddlers and girls but the older boy selection was not very extensive in this box size. Luckily for those purchasing at this time, they now offer custom magnet sets. You can actually put any picture of your choosing on a set of magnets. We are still deciding what we want to have made but I think we’ll be ordering those soon. 

Planetbox Rover with Dinosaur Magnets

The price of this lunchbox is fairly high. When I first saw the price I was a bit shocked and even thought of dismissing it because of that. The more research I did and the more I thought about it, I changed my mind. First, this is a stainless steel lunchbox that will last for years. Planetbox has a 5 year warranty on them. If you can expect your child to use this lunch box over a five year period the price doesn’t seem so bad. Most plastic lunch boxes out there you are lucky if they last one school year before they need to be replaced. The Planetbox can be used for years and passed down to siblings (although I think B will be getting her own soon). 

I was so happy with my Planetbox purchase I have become an affiliate and they kindly offered a private sale for my readers. Planetbox is offering 15% off any of the basic, plus and complete sets (Launch, Rover or Shuttle) to my readers on October 16 and October 17, 2014 only. Individual Items and accessories are not included. Please enter the code ExpeditionMontessori2014 on the last page of your checkout to receive this 15% off discount. 

Here are few lunches T ate in the first few weeks of school. 

Leftover orange chicken with rice (inside big dipper), red bell peppers, cheese crackers, fortune cookie, power ball, string cheese, strawberries and one gummy worm.

Strawberries and blackberries (in big dipper), carrots with ranch (in little dipper), turkey sandwich cut in half and stacked, cheese curds, cheese crackers, small cookie.

Leftover grassed beef taco meat (in big dipper), wheat tortillas, lettuce, cheese, cheese crackers, apple and small cookie (T has access to a microwave to heat his meat, you must never place the metal dippers into the microwave, reheat on a plate).

Turkey and cheese sandwich, cheese crackers, baby bell cheese, carrots and pea pods with ranch (in little dipper), a few chocolate covered peanuts.

Turkey and cheese pinwheels, ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins), strawberries and raspberries, string cheese, cheese crackers, power ball and one small cookie.

Raspberries and plum (in big dipper), cheese crackers, turkey and cheese sandwich cut and stacked, string cheese, orange bell pepper slices and one small cookie. 

*This post contains affiliate links. I am an affiliate of Planetbox, if you click on one of the links in this post and make a purchase I will receive a small commission. This will not cost you anything. This review is my own honest opinion of this product and company. I purchased this product myself and was not compensated for this review.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Future Looks Different For Us

It has been quite some time since I have posted to this blog. Our family has been adjusting to some changes and I have not had the time to write lately. When I started this blog, it was to share our adventures with others who may be interested in the Montessori method at home. This school we decided as a family that homeschooling was not working the way we had hoped. We decided that T (8) would be attending a Montessori school this year. I will be continuing with this blog, but the focus will not be on Montessori elementary homeschooling anymore. I will focus on my toddler, B (2.5) and her early Montessori education at home. I will also focus on some of our after school activities for elementary. We are still very much following Montessori, just not at home full time.

I would like to share some of the reasons for our decision with you all. A big part of this blog for me is sharing the good and the bad with those who may be in a similar situation. We struggled with homeschooling for 2 school years. My son attended a Montessori school for Primary and when the school developed some major administrative issues, we decided to pull him from the school. We looked for other options but we were very set on a Montessori education and the schools nearby were very limited, especially for elementary. We felt that our best option was to homeschool using the Montessori method. At the time, I was only familiar with the primary program and I dove into researching Montessori's elementary curriculum. I believe that the fact that we started homeschooling at the same time as transitioning to elementary was the worst timing for both of us. I did not have any teaching experience and I had no idea how to plan lessons. My son knew how things worked in primary and did not want to change his methods. We also had not acquired all of the materials we needed because I did not know how quickly he would progress. I purchased mostly primary materials when he was almost finished with them.

Our first year of homeschooling was horrible to say the least. We struggled every day and I began to give up. My son did not want to be at home, he missed his friends. He struggled with reading and writing which made most other subjects all that much harder. I let go some, and we did some unschooling for most of that year. The second year, I felt that we had wasted so much of the first year that I needed to get him on track. He was still struggling and I wanted to give up. We did a lot of field trips and anything that got him interested in work. The Great Lessons helped with his interest, but not as much as we needed. We talked a lot about how things were going and I found that he was just not happy at home. He missed his friends, he missed working with other children. He has been a very social child his entire life, and he was not thriving in this environment. We had homeschool groups but they were once or twice a week for an hour or two. His sister was home with him, but she was a toddler. He needed the collaboration with his peers that Montessori talks about in her elementary methods.

Another issue that we had was my daughter who was only 6 months old when we started homeschooling. She was also not happy with the situation. It was very difficult to have mobile infant in a classroom full of elementary Montessori materials. My son worked on the floor on rugs most of the time and she would rampage through the room scattering everything and putting tiny pieces in her mouth at any change. We had to ban her from the classroom altogether for my son to get any work done at all. I had to set up a separate space for her work as she got older because the age difference was just too great. There were times when she had recently turned 2 that she could work in the classroom with her lessons as my son worked on the table next to her. It would only be for short times and both would end up distracting each other.

In the end, we decided it wouldn't hurt to visit some local schools. There were two open houses of Montessori schools nearby. We took T with us and his eyes just lit up. He was so excited at the thought of attending either of these schools. He talked with the teachers and asked them questions. He walked around the room examining the materials and comparing what they had to what we had at home. I had not seen him this excited about these materials since he left his old school.

It hurt a little, to be honest, that he wanted so badly to go back to school. I had put everything I had into homeschooling him. I spent all of my evenings preparing lessons and materials for the last two years. I spent my days teaching and doing anything I could think of to get him excited about learning again. In the end, the idea of going back to school is what got him interested in learning. Once we toured the Montessori schools and talked with him, we decided to enroll him. Once he knew that he would be going back to school, he started working harder at home. His reading and writing improve dramatically over the next few months. He seemed happier all around.

I write this in part to explain our decision to no longer homeschool our child. I also write this in part to let others know that homeschooling really isn't the best option for every child. I love that we have the option to homeschool, and we are keeping that option open for next year if things don't go well at school, but it doesn't seem like it is for us. I have read many blog posts from homeschooling moms telling me that anyone can homeschool and any child can be homeschooled. For a while I felt like a failure because of this. I realize now that just because any child can be homeschooled, doesn't mean they will be happy in that situation. I would rather my son be happy and excited about learning at school.

I hope to continue this blog with a different perspective but the same goal. I will continue to share our journey through Montessori education, some from home and some from school. I hope you continue on our journey with us and I would love to hear some of your comments on what I share.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Tot School: DYI Color Matching Toy

B is 2.5yrs old and she has known her basic colors for quite some time already. She got very interested in colors right around her 2nd birthday. We spent a lot of play time talking about what color her toys were. She would start out by asking what color each toy was and later went to quizzing me, her dad and her brother to see if the answer we gave was what she knew it to be.

I had plans to make this color matching toy for her months ago but got side tracked and totally forgot about it. I decided to go ahead and make it anyway because I thought she would enjoy playing with it.  I am considering added numbers to this toy in the future because she is very interested in numbers at the moment. For now she is having fun matching the color of the little peg man and his cup.

This is a really simple toy to make and it cost very little. I bought the little wooden peg men and cups from the craft supply store (I think it was Michael's but Ive seen them at Hobby Lobby too). For 6 of each, using coupons I spent less than $5. I used regular watercolor paints (melissa & doug was what I had on hand but any brand would do). I finished them off with natural beeswax polish (Three BEEautiful Bees  is the brand I used)

Once you have your pieces, check them to make sure the pegs fit into the cups. I had to sand several of the cups and pegs to get them to fit well. You need them to go in and out smoothly and leave a little extra space because the watercolors will make them expand slightly and the wax will make them slightly sticky.

I found that the pegs and cups were quite varied in size so I made sure that each peg fit into a cup and kept them together.

 Paint with regular or liquid watercolors making each set a different color. I had 6 so I made the colors of the rainbow. If you have some wooden pieces with darker parts use those for the darker colors, use ones that have less imperfections for the light colors where they will show through more.

I let these dry a couple of days before applying the beeswax polish. Usually watercolors dry pretty quickly, they were probably done in a couple of hours but I didn't check. To apply the beeswax, just take a small amount and wipe it all over each piece, including the inside of the cups and allow to dry overnight. The next day take a dry, lint free cloth and buff the surface of each piece, including inside the cup. You really just need to wipe off enough that it doesn't feel very sticky and the pegs slide easily into the cups. At this point you are done! I let them sit for a couple of days before giving them to B just because we had other things planned. I noticed that the stickiness was totally gone after a couple of days.

I placed these on a small tray for B, but a basket would work well too. If you have a smaller child a basket would be easier to carry.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Everything is Awesome when Lego makes Female Scientists!

I posted on Facebook not too long ago about a product that I was really excited about. I promised to tell you all what I thought of it when it arrived. Well, today my Lego Research Institute set arrived in the mail and I have to tell you all about it.

First, I would like to state that I am a HUGE Lego fan, as are my husband and both of my children. My husband and I played with Lego as kids and still build today. T started with regular Lego (after megablox and duplo) when he was about 3. B started with regular Legos before she turned 2, although she still builds duplo as well. I don't recommend regular Lego for that age unless you are supervising them because it is a chocking hazard. Other than being really big fans of Lego, I have no affiliation with them. The only downside we have found with Lego is the high price tag, but in general, I find them to be worth the price because of the open-ended play opportunities. Now on to the review.

Lego set 21110 Research Institute

I ordered this set online on a Saturday morning. I had seen sneak peeks for this set last month and had been waiting for it's release. I woke up on Saturday and a friend had shared a article stating that the set had been released. I immedately went straight to to see if it was in stock. The list price for this set is $19.99 which is a little high for a 165 piece set, but not so much that I was shocked. I waited long enough to call my local store to check stock and when I found they didn't have it, I went ahead and ordered it. Later that day, I read that they were out of stock and backordered until the end of the month. I was pretty excited that I was able to snag one. It took just under a week to arrive which isn't too bad since it went FedEx Smart Post.

I would like to make it clear that I bought this set for ME! Yes, that is right, I bought it for myself, not my kids. T (boy 8yrs) wants it also, but there was a limit of 1 per household when I ordered it and I wanted it for myself. I don't order much for me, so I'm not feeling guilty. T gets a regular allowance and I told him that he could buy it himself if he really wants it. I think the fact that he does is a good case that kids like science and they don't really care if the person is a boy or a girl in the set. He might replace their heads and hair with boy minifig heads, or maybe not. I think this set would be great for either gender. I think B (girl 2yrs) will like this set when she is older, right now she is sticking with basic blocks. She has a few girl minifigs that she likes to play with already. I really wanted this set because I love science. I studied biology and chemistry in college and practiced as a microbiologist for a short time and then a chemist for several years before having children. Science is a great love of mine that I hope to continue to pass down to my children.

This set comes in a cute little box that includes each smaller set in its own individual plastic bag. It also comes with a booklet with the instructions and a short description of each career (astronomer, paleontologist and chemist. It also has information on the lady scientist who came up with the idea for this set.

I built all three scenes in about 15 minutes. They are not difficult to put together, although the box has it listed as 10+ for age. My 8 year old son was watching over my shoulder telling me he could help me if I have any trouble. There are a lot of very small pieces so finger dexterity is important.

The chemist is a dark haired woman wearing a white lab coat, orange top, gray pants and safety glasses. She has a work bench with flasks and jars. There are also syringes in the drawer and some glasses with handles in the cabinet. Honestly, I have no idea what the gray and yellow thing in her left hand is supposed to be.

 The Paleontologist is a red haired woman with a blue top and brown pants. She holds a magnifying glass (that REALLY WORKS!!) and has a microscope (sadly this doesn't work, wouldn't that be awesome?) and a skeleton of a dinosaur (T-Rex I assume).

The Astronomer is a blonde woman with a gray blazer, pink top and scarf and blue pants. She has a super cool telescope and a constellation chart. The telescope has a protractor to get the correct angle.

Here are a couple of close up shots of the minifigs, they all have two faces. Not sure what was up with the exposure of my photos but the only thing I changed was turning their faces around.

And a closeup of the adorable little syringe (3 were included) and glass with handle (2 were included) that were hiding in the chemist's drawer and cabinet.

I just love this set! I was so excited about it and it really is even better than I expected. I had fun building it and then played around with a bit for fun.

Since I have red hair I swapped the brown hair for red on the chemist (to make her me) and put on her scared/shocked face. I also put the microscope in her lab since I love using them as well. I put the little yellow disc under the microscope to pretend it is a petri dish growing something yucky.

The set up of the microscope didn't really work for her actually using it without a step stool of some kind. I took apart the stand, placed the microscope on the lab bench and used the stand as a chair. I was able to look into the microscope much easier this way.

I highly recommend buying this set if you are able to get your hands on it. I'm sure it will be available soon and surely there will be plenty before the holidays. I think it is a great way to introduce little girls, and boys too, to different fields of science in a fun way. I am really happy that Lego made these female scientists. I would have been happier if one of them was male just because it might appeal to both boys and girls equally, but it might change the message to girls since they are all different fields of science. To be totally honest, there are so many boy minifigs, I don't see why any boy that liked this set couldn't just swap out the heads/hair to make them boys. The lab coat body looks neutral, the others look more feminine but you could swap out the torso as well. Or just let the boys play with girl minifigs, the girls have been playing with boy minifigs forever.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Happy Birthday Harry Potter!

Wait... you didn't know that July 31st is Harry Potter's birthday? Ok, I'll admit it, I didn't know until last week either. A bookstore nearby was hosting a Harry Potter birthday party last Saturday and I took T. We had an awesome time!

I started reading the Harry Potter series aloud to T when he was about 4 years old. We had been reading aloud to him since birth and he became quite advanced in his ability to comprehend complex story lines. At first I thought it might be too old for him but we gave it a try. He really enjoyed the story, as did I, so we continued. As we continued, we discussed the story line just to make sure that he was actually understanding the plot. We took breaks between books to explore other pieces of literature but we always came back to Harry Potter. I have to admit, I didn't expect that I would love it as much as I did. After each book was completed, we would sit together (sometimes Dad joined too) and watch the movie that went along with it. We would then discuss the similarities and differences between the book and the movie. Of course, the movies were never as good as the books but they did do a really good job on the movies as well.

In honor of Harry Potter's birthday we attended the bookstore's party which included the children being sorted into houses by the sorting hat. T was sorted into Ravenclaw, which disappointed him a bit because he wanted Slynterin or Gryffindor. Each child received a goodie bag with a coloring page of their house crest, stickers, a word search, a maze and two bookmarks. T's favorite part was the glowstick wand each child got. The served birthday cupcakes (the one pictured below was mine, T got one with green frosting for Slytherin but he ate it so fast, I didn't get a picture). They also served pumpkin juice which was sort of like a pumpkin latte but without the coffee. I thought it was yummy but T didn't care for it. 

While we ate, one of the employees read from the book "The Tales of Beetle the Bard", which we really enjoyed as we haven't read that one yet. They also had a Harry Potter trivia with prizes for the top two winners. We didn't win but it was fun just the same. Finally, we played a guessing game where the child randomly chose a character name from a jar. Everyone except that child got to see who the character was, then the child had to ask "yes or no" questions to determine which character they had chosen to be. T was a bit embarrassed that he first chose Hermione but he was thrilled that he chose Tom Riddle for his second character. For those who haven't read the books, the reason he was embarrassed is because Hermione is a girl. It was a really fun afternoon of Potter fun and it was all Free! 

When we got home we were on a Harry Potter kick and T suggested we watch one of the movies. I normally would have said yes, except that he had just gotten back from a week at his grandparents house where they let him watch TV all day long if we wants. I told him I had a better idea and pulled up a photo that I had pinned quite a while ago of DIY wands from chop sticks.

We collected supplies from our art closet and got to work. T decided that chop sticks were too short for a proper wand but we had some small wooden dowels that worked nicely. We slightly sharpened the tip of each dowel with a pencil sharpener. Then I used a low temperature hot glue gun to add lots of glue to one end. We didn't use many beads as in the inspiration photo we just used a 8mm round bead for the end. I rolled the glue in my hands after it had cooled a bit to smooth it out. T wanted his just smooth, I added a spiral of glue all of the way down my handle.

Before painting

Close up of my wand handle with spirals.

T mixed some red and green acrylic paint to make a nice dark brown for his wand. After his was painted, I added a little white and yellow to the brown to make a lighter brown that is almost gray once dry. Once painted and dry, they actually look like solid wood. We thought they turned out really nice. The wand with the longer handle that is lighter in color is mine, the darker wand with the shorter handle is T's.

T proceeded to dress in his Death Eater halloween costume from last year and enjoyed playing with his new wand.

If you or your children are interested in magic or other fun fantasy novels, consider reading the Harry Potter series. T is planning to reread the entire series soon on his own. The movies are really good too. I feel like the first few movies are fairly tame for younger children but you may want to pre-watch the second half of the series as they get quite dark. We read these and watched the movies over several years. I was comfortable with him, at 4, reading/watch the first books but he was 7 before we finished the series. Even if you aren't interested in Harry Potter, this wand craft would be super fun for any sort of magical play. Just supervise young children because these can be dangerous.