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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Best Play Food for the Toy Kitchen

Best Play Food for the Toy Kitchen // In Our Pond // Gift Guide for Kids // Fuel the imagination // Pretend Play

Growing up, I loved playing with my toy kitchen!  It was so awesome to be able to cook up anything I wanted without the limits of resources, time, ingredients, or ability.  I think every child should get some time playing pretend before their grown.  Companies like Melissa and Doug make it very easy to find play food options that will engage your child's imagination and storytelling skills.  I think I write about play food every few months, but here's another collection.  For this year's All Wrapped Up series, I'm focusing on the best play food for the toy kitchen!



Best Play Food for the Toy Kitchen // In Our Pond // Gift Guide for Kids // Fuel the imagination // Pretend Play // Basic Kitchen Toys

If I was only going to buy two basic things for my kids' play kitchen, I would buy the pots and pans and the bowl set.  The Melissa and Doug Pots and Pans are one of the most durable toys we've owned.  They've gone from the house to the mud kitchen (even staying outside in the snow for months) without any problems.  The pots are adorable and durable, which is the perfect combination for play kitchen things.  Plus, they can be filled with so many other pretend foods and objects, like the inserts from the Melissa and Doug Fill-A-Bowl Set.  Your child can use the pots to cook up the tomato soup, chicken soup, or mac and cheese, and then put them in the bowls to serve it.  The set also includes cereal and a salad.  Click on the links to buy the basic play food sets.

The addition of other kitchen accessories makes the playtime more realistic.  Add a set of colorful plastic dishes like the Melissa and Doug Wash and Dry Dishes Set  and some metal utensils from the Melissa and Doug Mealtime Utensil Set.  The Melissa and Doug Drink Set comes with two empty cups and slide in refills with several options.  Add some Melissa and Doug Stir and Serve Cooking Utensils for mixing up fun and a Melissa and Doug Condiments Set that really squirts and shakes.  Click the individual links to go to each product.




Best Play Food for the Toy Kitchen // In Our Pond // Gift Guide for Kids // Fuel the imagination // Pretend Play // Make Meals just Like Mom and Dad

For the most variety in food options, I recommend the balanced meal play sets.  The Melissa and Doug Combine and Dine Blue Set includes protein options (steak, chicken, shrimp, and a veggie burger), veggies (peas, broccoli, and corn), starches (rice and beans, sweet potatoes fries, bread roll, and baked potato), and desserts (ice cream, apple slices, cake, and a cookie).  The Melissa and Doug Combine and Dine Red Set is similar with meat (ribs, lamb chop, chicken leg, and salmon filet), veggies (green beans, carrots, cauliflower, and beans), starches (rice, spaghetti, mac and cheese, and mashed potatoes), and desserts (pie, brownie, orange, and cupcake).  The two Melissa and Doug Combine ones come with menus, which makes them great for restaurant pretend play.   Click on any of the links to go directly to the products.

If you're looking for a bit of variety in the menu, you can't go wrong with multicultural set.  This Melissa and Doug Pasta Set has many different types of pasta and sauces, perfect for the budding chef.  If your child enjoys raw fish, the Melissa and Doug Sushi Set offers lots of slicing and dicing fun.  To buy either of the sets, click on the product links.




Best Play Food for the Toy Kitchen // In Our Pond // Gift Guide for Kids // Fuel the imagination // Pretend Play // Large collections of pieces give lots of play potential

Some of the play food sets are simpler, while other have many pieces, allowing for a lot of involved food preparations.  For example, the Melissa and Doug Pizza Set has 54 pieces of playing potential, including slices of pizza and toppings.  Or, teach healthy salad making with the Melissa and Doug Slice and Toss Salad play set.  If running a sandwich shop is more your kids' style, then the Melissa and Doug Sandwich Set has everything they need to make food for several customers.  Outdoor kids will enjoy the Melissa and Doug Grill Set, which has shish kabobs with lots of pieces for patterning play and a grill for cooking them up.  Fans of baking will love Slicing up a tube of fake refrigerated cookie dough, baking them, and then decorating them with the Melissa and Doug Slice and Bake Cookies.  It also comes in a Christmas Cookie version for tons of added play potential.  Click the links to go to any of the sets.




Best Play Food for the Toy Kitchen // In Our Pond // Gift Guide for Kids // Fuel the imagination // Pretend Play // Set up your own shop and start serving customers

Entrepreneurial children can set up their own pretend store and start serving customers with these adorable selection of shops and counters.  Bakers will love the Melissa and Doug Make-a-Cake Mixer Set with bread pan, bread loaf, mixer, eggs, mixing bowl, recipe card, butter, and box mix.  Pair with the other sweet treats like the Melissa and Doug Scoop and Serve Ice Cream Counter and the Melissa and Doug Frozen Treats Sets  to fill your Sweet Shop with toothsome delights.  If your kid dreams of owning a diner, the Melissa and Doug Restaurant Set and Diner Table and Chairs (not pictured) are the perfect solution.  Add the Melissa and Doug Toaster Set to expand your line of offered foods.  Or, maybe your kid loves all the toppings and slices of a pizzeria and would enjoy the Melissa and Doug Top and Bake Pizza Counter.  All of these collections encourage math, reading, writing, logic, sequence, money handling, and more.  Click on the links to read more about each product.



Best Play Food for the Toy Kitchen // In Our Pond // Gift Guide for Kids // Fuel the imagination // Pretend Play // All the adorable accessories make the kitchen realistic and fun

I wouldn't help adding the Melissa and Doug Pots and Pans Set to this list as well- they're my favorites and I think every family needs them.  If your child enjoys playing ice cream shop, the Melissa and Doug Dessert Toppings are a necessary addition, allowing them to serve up yummy sundaes and treats to everyone.  The Melissa and Doug Condiment Set and Melissa and Doug Favorite Condiments Set really squirt out pretend sauces, which make them fun accessories for the play kitchen.  For kids who enjoy putting small things into other things, the Melissa and Doug Grocery Cans are perfect, since they have removable lids.  The Melissa and Doug Juice Bottle Set has disappearing liquid for extra fun pretend play.  The juices would pair nicely with the Melissa and Doug Breakfast Caddy Set, which has syrup and jams with removable lids.  Kids who enjoy baking will love the Melissa and Doug Baking Spices Set with clicking lids and real shaking sounds.  Or, if your child fancies himself more of a pizza chef, then the Melissa and Doug Pizza Spices would be just what he needs.  To hold all these awesome and adorable accessories, be sure to grab at least one Melissa and Doug Shopping Cart.  Click on any of the links to read more about a specific product.


I hope this gift guide gave you lots of ideas.  Thanks for joining me for another day of this year's All Wrapped Up Pre-Christmas Series.  So, now it's your turn to talk- do you prefer store bought play food or handmade?



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Best Play Food for the Toy Kitchen // In Our Pond // Gift Guide for Kids // Fuel the imagination // Pretend Play


Monday, October 22, 2018

Children's Books about Christmas Elves



I've been sick all week and it's been tough to keep up with my self-imposed 31-day blogging blitz.  I had hoped to be further along with the crafting and have more to post.  As I was working on elf housing and elf crafts and thinking about my favorite Elf movie, I decided to do a post on Elf children's books.  I wrote a post about Nativity books last year and one about Christmas classics a few weeks ago, but I haven't done anything with Santa or Elves.  Click the red links to add some new elf books to add to your Christmas collection.



Elfie the Elf- A lonely girl meets a elf and begins a heart-warming tale of friendship and learning to accept our differences.  Originally written in 1990 and only just now published, this book will soon become a classic.

Memoirs of an Elf- Take a look at a day in the life of a Christmas elf as he helps Santa deliver presents on Christmas Eve.  When a wiggly surprise shows up at the North Pole, who will save the day?  Contains math and writing tie ins, which make this a great book for homeschoolers or teachers.  The author has a whole collection of Memoir books that looks so interesting and fun- check them out by clicking the link.

Pig the Elf- Pig is a pug dog, who gets tangled up helping Santa.  There's a whole series of Pig the Pug books, which young readers will enjoy if they like this elf story.

The Littlest Elf- Many parents commented that this is the book they had their Elf on the Shelf bring to the kids.  It's a sweet story, which reminds kids that no matter how small they are, they can still bring joy to someone else.

How to Catch an Elf- Many kids want to catch Santa in the very act of giving them gifts, but he can be tricky to snag.  Instead, this book tells you how to capture a smaller prey.  From the author of great books like How to Babysit Grandpa and more, this fun, rhyming book is sure to become a favorite.

Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf- Families that celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas will appreciate this blend of dreidels and Santa.

The Twelve Hats of Christmas- Some elves make cookies in trees and some make toys, but this elf makes hats.  With the rhyme of Dr. Suess and the colorful pages of a Disney movie, the 12 Hats tells kids that the best gift of all is themselves.

The Christmas Elf Countdown- A lift-the-flap board book for toddlers, this book goes through how elves get ready for Christmas.

How to Build an Elf Trap- Although this looks like a sequel to "How to Catch an Elf," they're actually written by two different people.  The book give you twelve ideas for building a trap and has lot of STEM connections, which makes it a sneaky way to teach planning, engineering, math, and more.

I am actually surprised that there aren't more available since the Elf on the Shelf is so popular.  Did I miss any?  Comment below.  What's your favorite elf book?




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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Code of the Elves printable

Elf Movie Code of the Elves free printable sign // In Our Pond // Christmas movies // Elf on the Shelf // Doll Miniatures // Dollhouse // Christmas Decorations // Will Ferrell Elf


I've been working on my elf house quite a bit lately, but I'm not ready to reveal it yet.  As I was thinking about what I wanted to go in my house, I've been drawing a lot of inspiration from the Elf movie.  I love everything about that movie, from the adoption theme to the memorable quotes.  I'll be writing more about Elf in the coming months, but today I wanted to share a free printable!


Elf Movie Code of the Elves free printable sign // In Our Pond // Christmas movies // Elf on the Shelf // Doll Miniatures // Dollhouse // Christmas Decorations // Will Ferrell Elf

This picture was taken inside my elf doll house.  The lighting was a bit funky, but the picture is about 3x4 inches.  I made a frame for it with skinny craft sticks, which I painted red.  The base is a piece of 1/8 foam board, which I've been using to build all the interiors of my elf house.  Foam board can be a bit finicky to cut, but I think I'm getting used to it.  I recently ordered a new craft knife and blades to that should help, too.

The printable has elf rules in 4 sizes, including a 8x10 for framing.  It is a very plain interpretation of the rules, but I think that makes it more accessible for crafting.  It's perfect for elves and humans raised by elves.





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Elf Movie Code of the Elves free printable sign // In Our Pond // Christmas movies // Elf on the Shelf // Doll Miniatures // Dollhouse // Christmas Decorations // Will Ferrell Elf


Saturday, October 20, 2018

Getting Grinchy with the Grinch

Getting Grinchy with the Grinch // In Our Pond // Recipes, Family Movie Night, Toys, Crafts, and more // Illumination The Grinch 2018 movie releases Nov 9!

My kids can't wait to see the new Grinch movie coming out on November 9, 2018!  They love the Grinch story and have already started planning our lime green feast for this winter.  Dragonfly (age 7) knows that a new movie means new themed toys in the market.  This list was her idea.  Click on the red text to visit products, recipes, and other blog posts.

Not a sponsored post.



Have you seen the movie trailer yet?  Click on the picture to check it out.



Getting Grinchy with the Grinch // In Our Pond // Recipes, Family Movie Night, Toys, Crafts, and more // Illumination The Grinch 2018 movie releases Nov 9!

Rooftop Playset- Move the holiday wreath to cause Max to race around the chimney.  Go around and around until the Grinch pops out the top.  I think this is a clever take on the traditional Jack in the Box.

Reindeer- This goofy looking animal is one of the new Grinch's pets.  He looks so soft!

Advent Calendar- Countdown to Christmas with the Grinch and get a new toy every day.

Wooville Figurine Collection- My family likes using these types of figurines on birthday cakes, but they'd also be great for a sensory bin.

Whoville Town Center- Reenact scenes from the movie with this playset.

Young Grinch Plush- Dragonfly has her eyes on this adorable stuffed Grinch.

Santa Grinch Plush- Give this to someone who has a Grinchy spirit and watch their heart grow three sizes that day.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas- Every family should own a copy of this classic book.

The Grinch Jr Novelization- My early reader enjoys listening to the audiobooks of her favorite movies.  It's a great way for her to be exposed to some new vocabulary and style of books, while enjoying a favorite story.

Christmas Ornament- Honor the Grinch by placing him on your tree.




Getting Grinchy with the Grinch // In Our Pond // Recipes, Family Movie Night, Toys, Crafts, and more // Illumination The Grinch 2018 movie releases Nov 9!

After you've seen the Grinch movie in the theater, you're ready for a Grinch marathon at home!  My kids loved the lime green foods and dyed milk last year and are already planning for this winter.  Since I'm always looking for more ideas, I decided to add this section.  Many of these foods use green chocolate melts and candy hearts, so we sure to stock up (click the link).

Hot Cocoa // Giggles, Gobbles, and Gulps- Dragonfly (7) has been bugging me to make her green hot chocolate since we started talking about the Grinch this morning.  I know she'd love this recipe.

Chocolate Bark // Design Dazzle- This would be a great treat to bring to a party or to give as a hostess gift.  Add to warm milk to make some sweet cocoa.

Rice Crispies // Sprinkle Some Fun- These cereal treats are already one of the easiest things to make.  Adding green makes them amazing!

Popcorn // Two Sisters Crafting- Another good food gift.  Maybe paired with one of the plushes from above?

Crinkle Cookies // Simplistically Living- I'm putting these on my holiday baking list!

Jello Cups // The Keeper of the Cheerios- This super easy food craft would be awesome for a classroom treat or to send in a child's lunch.

Party Punch // Sandy Toes and Popsicles- Mix juices and add a bit of blue food coloring to make this fun green drink.  Easy peasy.

Mint Brownies // Yessi Yummy Foods- I love mint and chocolate so this combination looks amazing!  Since I'm the only one in the family who would enjoy this recipe, I'll have to make some soon (wink).

Pretzel Bites // That's What She Said- We made these last year for our Grinch movie night.  It was so easy and the kids could help, which made it even better.




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Getting Grinchy with the Grinch // In Our Pond // Recipes, Family Movie Night, Toys, Crafts, and more // Illumination The Grinch 2018 movie releases Nov 9!





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Friday, October 19, 2018

Homeschooling with Gingerbread

Homeschooling with Gingerbread // In Our Pond // Ideas, Crafts, Sensory Activities, Learning Printables, and more

If you're new to the blog, you've probably been confused over the last few days by all the Christmas posts.  You might be saying, "I thought this was a homeschool blog!"  We are indeed a homeschool family and are 35 days into our new school year.  I've been writing a 31 day pre-Christmas series all this month.  Today, I'm combining the two and offering some Christmas-themed homeschool ideas.  You have plenty of time to gather your supplies to do these during December for homeschooling or for winter break fun if your kids attend school.

Click on the red words (links) to go to the posts.



Homeschooling with Gingerbread // In Our Pond // Ideas, Crafts, Sensory Activities, Learning Printables, and more

Play Dough // Fantastic Fun and Learning- Make cookies over and over and decorate them any way you want with this play dough recipe.  Great for a classroom or home.  Use your own gingerbread cookie cutters or buy some here.

Fun and Games with Gingerbread Baby // Babies to Bookworms- One of the variations of the Gingerbread Man stories is the Gingerbread Baby.  Get lots of fun games and activities on this blog.

Growing Salt Crystals // Little Bins for Little Hands- Salt Crystals are a great science experiment for any time of the year.  I love how these gingerbread man ornaments look sprinkled with sugar.  This would be a great tie-in for how snowflakes form.  If you're kids enjoy making crystals, they'd probably appreciate a crystal kit for Christmas.

Felt Busy Box // Teach Me Mommy- I love how this mom makes felt kits for her kids every few months.  She's has lot of ideas that you should check out on her blog.  The kits would be great for the car, grandma's house, Christmas Eve service, or any other time you need the kids to be quiet and occupied this season.

Dissolving Cookies // Little Bins for Little Hands- Some of the gingerbread man stories have the cookie falling and dissolving in the water.  This experiment looks at how long it would take the cookie to meet his end.  Expand the activity by looking at how long it takes other Christmas treats and candies to succumb to the water.

Long-Lasting Ornaments // Schooling a Monkey- I remember making cinnamon ornaments with a babysitter.  They're a classic.  This blog post has a recipe for ornaments that last year after year.




Homeschooling with Gingerbread // In Our Pond // Ideas, Crafts, Sensory Activities, Learning Printables, and more

Honey Gingerbread Cookies // Preschool Powol Packets- These cookies sweetened with honey sound lovely.  Get the recipe on the blog.  Don't forget to bring your gingerbread man cookie cutters to the party!

Scented Slime // Little Bins for Little Hands- Straight from the Slime Queen herself, gingerbread scented slime!  It sounds amazing, and I love how it features a different texture from most gingerbread sensory activities.

Magic Painting Activity // Homebound but Hopeful- Color your gingerbread man with white crayons and then paint over it to reveal your design.  Be sure to stock up on washable watercolor paint!

Paper Plate Craft // Natural Beach Living- Aren't these gingerbread faces adorable!  I think they would be great for a classroom bulletin board.  It would also be a cheap way to decorate your home this season.

Chemistry Experiment // Little Bins for Little Hands- My kids love kitchen chemistry so I know they'll enjoy this easy experiment.  Christmas time is a great time to learn some science!

Gingerbread House Ornaments // The Inspiration Edit- My kids have already started talking about making gingerbread houses this year (probably because I keep making miniature ones for our elf).  These kid-friendly houses can be packed away and hung on the tree year after year.




Homeschooling with Gingerbread // In Our Pond // Ideas, Crafts, Sensory Activities, Learning Printables, and more

Crystal Ornaments // Little Bins for Little Hands- Expand on the ever popular salt crystal experiment by using it to create ornaments for your tree.  They can be tied on presents as gift tags too.

Glitter Slime // Natural Beach Living- Christmas can never have enough glitter!  Here's a beautiful, gingerbread scented slime for your family or to give as a gift.

Candy House Craft // The Preschool Toolbox Blog- Are you about to have lots of candy in your house from Halloween?  Use it up by crafting with it!  If you work at a school or co-op, everyone can pool their candy stash and make really neat houses.  All without the frustration of cookie walls and frosting.

Cookie Numbers // J Daniel 4's Mom- These numbers are great for cookie themed math (I have a printable you could use them with too- click the link).  My kids love when I make our math more interesting by giving it a theme and these numbers are just what we need for Christmas.

Play Dough // Natural Beach Living  This no-cook dough recipe uses real gingerbread cookie ingredients like molasses, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  It also doesn't contain any cream of tarter, so it's good if you don't have that ingredient in the house.

Gingerbread Loose at the School Activities // The Preschool Toolbox Blog- A fun, comic book style version of the Gingerbread man has spurred lots of activities for children.  Click on the blog to check them all out.




Homeschooling with Gingerbread // In Our Pond // Ideas, Crafts, Sensory Activities, Learning Printables, and more

Shape Craft // J Daniel 4's Mom- Explore shapes and build a gingerbread ornament for the tree with this easy activity.

Gingerbread STEM Activities // The Natural Homeschooler-  Give your child a bunch of store-bought gingerbread cookies and then ask them to perform a series of tasks.  If your child enjoys STEM activities, they'll probably enjoy these STEM kits for Christmas, too.

Kindergarten Printable Pack // Natural Beach Living- This printable pack is full of lots of preschool and kindergarten skills.  Just print and go.  Take it in the car or show it off to the relatives.

Paper Bag House // J Daniel 4's Mom- Decorating gingerbread houses couldn't be easier with this paper craft project.

10-Frame Printable // Modern Preschool- My 6 year old son is doing very well using 10-frames for counting and math concepts.  This gingerbread themed set will be perfect for Christmas learning.

Writing Tray // The Imagination Tree- I am always so inspired by the Montessori-inspired writing trays at this blog.  This gingerbread one might just convince my reluctant writers to try it out.  I love how she used it for sight words, spelling, and math- that's a lot of school subjects for one activity!  Buy some Gingerbread Men cutouts here to make the differentiation of the activity for each kid easier on you, the teacher.




Homeschooling with Gingerbread // In Our Pond // Ideas, Crafts, Sensory Activities, Learning Printables, and more

I few days ago, I put out a blog post with new versions of classic holiday books.  The gingerbread section was particularly fun to write, as there are so many different themes.  Click on the link to visit the post and see other books in the Nutcracker and Night Before category.





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Homeschooling with Gingerbread // In Our Pond // Ideas, Crafts, Sensory Activities, Learning Printables, and more