Simple Winter Crafts with a Toddler

Here are some of the crafts Mr. Monkey has done this winter. I recently hung up a string in our dining room where I can hang his crafts for display using clothes pins. I like the idea of keeping to a theme with our crafts, especially a seasonal theme. Especially in winter. It makes it a little more cheery.

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From left to right:

A snowman painting using a sponge.

Mittens cutout from construction paper and decorated with markers and glitter. (This we made after reading the story “The Mitten” by Jan Brett).

Foam/felt sticker art. I like buying the foam and felt stickers at Michaels especially when they’re on sale at the end of the season. Mr. Monkey gets excited when I pull them out. He likes peeling off the backs and sticking them on paper.

A foam dreidel that we did at Hanukkah.

Foam snowmen (There was a big container of foam sticker snowmen parts at Michaels. You can put together the snowmen with the stickers and learn to put the snowmen together).

A cotton ball snowflake. I just drew a basic snowflake shape with liquid glue and Mr. Monkey would put the cotton balls on the glue.

I also found these cute little foam gingerbread men at Michaels:

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Mr. Monkey had so much fun decorating them with beads, sequins and glitter glue.

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I think I have a weakness for kids craft supplies, especially when they’re on sale. But seriously, they don’t get all used up in one season and can be stored for next year!

 

 

Easy DIY Maternity Skirt

This is an easy sewing project for a beginner sewer. I’ve recently taken up sewing and enjoyed making 2 maternity skirts for this pregnancy. I wear skirts every day, and in my experience it’s been hard to find long maternity skirts, especially winter ones. I’ve found lots of skirts to work well for maternity in the summer. All you really need is a nice skirt with an elastic or drawstring waste-band and you can just wear it under the bump. But in the winter it’s harder to find maternity skirts. Most regular skirts won’t work because they don’t have adjustable waste bands. In maternity stores, there is a very small selection of skirts in the winter, and they’re usually really expensive. So, I made some myself.  The one on the left is a casual skirt and the one on the right is more dressy.

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These are really easy to make because you use the top part of an already made piece of maternity clothing.

You will need:

1. A pair of maternity pants or mini-skirt

2. Fabric of your choice (about 2 metres)

At my local thrift store there’s usually lots of maternity pants and also some maternity mini-skirts. It’s the long winter maternity skirts that are hard to find. For the skirt on the left I used the top part of a denim maternity mini-skirt. For the skirt on the right I used the top of a pair of black maternity pants. This way the waist of your skirt with a maternity band is already pre-made for you.

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For the denim/grey skirt I found the grey corduroy fabric at the thrift store. I specifically wanted a warmer fabric for winter and found 2.3 metres of grey corduroy for only $2.50. The denim mini skirt was $5 so altogether this skirt was less than $10 to make. A lot cheaper than at a maternity store and a lot cheaper than ordering online from a maternity boutique. For the black skirt I also found the black pants at the thrift store but I found my black fabric at the fabric store in their clearance section. It is actually a type of “suit” fabric with vertical pinstripes so it is more dressy.

So, here are the steps to make these skirts:

1. Cut off the top part of your pant or miniskirt at the length where you want it. You can cut it off right below the maternity waste-band, or if you want it to be a bit longer and have some contrast with your other fabric then you can cut it several inches below the maternity band.

2. Measure the circumference of the bottom of your cut-off pants/skirt. Mine measured 42 inches. Add 2 inches for a generous seam allowance (44 inches). This is measurment “A”. (If you’re a newbie like me, you want a generous seam allowance for mistakes…always better to have a little too much fabric than not enough!)

3. Now you’ll want to find out how much length you need to add on. To do this, put the cut-off skirt/pants on yourself and measure from the part it is cut off to the length that you want it to be (mid-calf, ankle, etc). My measurement was 26 inches. Add 2 inches for hem and seam allowance (28 inches). This is measurement “B”.

4. Now you’ll want to decide how full you’ll want the bottom of your skirt to be. For this part, I picked a skirt from my closet that I liked and measured the bottom circumference of the skirt. It was 70 inches. I like my skirts full and roomy. Add 2 inches for a general seam allowance (72). This is measurement “C”.

5. Next, you’ll want to lay out your fabric on the floor and draw your skirt panels. I made mine really simply and just did 2 panels. You can do more panels if you like, and adjust your measurements accordingly.

6. To draw your skirt panels, you want to start with a straight line going down what will be the middle of the panel. It should be the length of measurement B.

7. Since each panel is half the skirt, you want the top horizontal line to be half of measurement A and the bottom horizontal line (the hem) to be half of measurement C.

8. Here is a little diagram I drew on paper to illustrate a panel. You would make 2 panels that are exactly the same. The line down the middle helps to divide the top side and bottom side evenly so that you have your diagonal lines at the proper angles.

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9. Cut out your two panels.

10. Sew together the two sides.

11. Pin the top part of your panels to the bottom of  your cut-off skirt/pants. Now sew them together.

12. Hem the bottom of your skirt with a double-hem.

Here is what the skirts look like on me, when I’m 37 weeks pregnant:

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When I first finished the black skirt, it was actually not long enough for me, it was at that awkward length above the ankles where it looks like it’s made for a petite person. So, I added a ruffle to the bottom.

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If I were to make it again, I would’ve added more fabric to the ruffle horizontally so that it’s more ruffly. Now I know for next time.

There it is, an inexpensive way to make easy maternity skirts!

Our Second Busy Bag Exchange

In March last year my friends and I did a busy bag exchange. We’ve enjoyed using our busy bags with our little ones for quiet play at home and to keep them quietly busy at church. Well, now it was time to add some more busy bags into our collection. We went along with the same guidelines as last time. We wanted the busy bag activity to be contained in a ziploc bag, to be non-messy so we can take them along to places and of course to be appealing to our children. There are 5 of us in on this so we made 5 of the same busy bag that we then exchanged with each other when we got together.

Here are the busy bags that we made:

S made two busy bags. The first one was a magnetic dry-erase board with foam magnet shapes.

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The second one was buttons and string. This could be to practice lacing buttons, but Mr. Monkey also enjoyed using it to sort the buttons by colours and shapes as well as to practice counting the buttons.

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J made worm pick-up. It’s a fine motor activity. The goal is to try and pick up the “worms” off the “grass” using the clothes pin.

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C put together a set of squares made from foam and felt and alphabet stickers. You can re-stick the stickers on the squares and try matching upper case with lower case letters.

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D made felt rings. The rings stick together with velcro on the ends and can be put together to make a colourful chain.

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I made a pre-printing activity with Wikki Stix. You can manipulate the Wikki Stix to make the shapes or letters on the laminated cards. Wikki Stix were a popular manipulative when I was teaching in elementary school.

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For our busy bag exchange day, we rented a gymnasium for a couple hours. We brought ride on toys and balls as well as snacks. The children had lots of fun playing in the gym, and we had fun too!

Our frugal tips.

We are a single-income family. I have a degree in education and taught in public school for the first 2 years of our marriage, until our son was born and I went on maternity leave for a year.  After that, we’ve been single-income. I have never regretted the decision to quit my job. It has always been my dream to one day be a stay-at-home wife and mommy and to home-school our children. So in the first two years of our marriage, while I worked full-time in a professional career, my husband and I both had the goal that I would stay home when our first child would be born.

With that in mind, we prepared for being a single-income family by living as much as we could like a single-income family while we were dual-income. That means that we tried to live off of my husband’s income. My income went into paying off our school debt, and when that was paid off, it went into savings.  That way, when the time would come to make the big financial change, it wouldn’t seem as much of a shock to go from two incomes to one.

Now that I have the “career of my dreams”, here are some tips that I’ve found helpful to save money in little ways here and there:

Buy used The Duggar family, from TLC’s show, 19 Kids and Counting have a financial motto that says “buy used, save the difference”. We save a lot of money buying things used. Most of our furniture is used, as well as most of our clothes (except for shoes which I usually buy new, and here is a blog post on that).  My husband is in the music industry and he found an amazing deal for our used piano. Most of Mr. Monkey’s toys and books have been gifts or bought used as well.

Rental Income When we looked to buy our first home, my husband specifically wanted to find a house that has a separate basement suite included, with a separate entrance. This way, we have an extra rental income that helps pay off our mortgage. It’s nice having a rental income because it’s one of those incomes where you don’t really have to “work” for it. Financially, it is really helpful. The downside is that it’s sometimes hard to find good tenants that we trust enough to have in our basement, and also this way we have less space as we can’t use most of our basement for storage or extra room.

Homemade laundry soap. There are lots of tutorials online to make your own laundry soap. I’ve made a few different kinds, and haven’t had to buy laundry detergent in a long time. The ingredients for most laundry soap recipes are usually: borax, washing soda and some kind of soap (Fels Naptha, or a castille soap or even Blue Dawn). Currently, I’ve been using the Duggars’ recipe for laundry soap made from a bar of Fel Naptha soap. This soap is only sold in the States. When I was visiting my parents in southern Ontario, I went for a fun road trip with my mom to Michigan. I got a few bars of that soap there, they are only $1 each, and compbined with borax and washing soda, I think my batch of laundry soap cost around $3 or less. I started using it in September and am about halfway through it. Since I’ve been making my own laundry soap I feel like I just can’t buy the stuff from the store anymore. It’s so much cheaper to make your own. And it works just fine.

Haircuts at home. My dear husband has wonderful curly hair. I once suggested to him that he should let me try to cut it. And he did! (Even with me having no experience in this department…he must really trust me…). We liked the results, so since then I’ve been cutting his hair. We also cut our son’s hair. This saves us some money from going to the barber regularly. I rarely get my haircut, but when I do I like to get layers so I go get it done professionally. I’m wondering if maybe there are tutorials online on how to cut layers and then my husband could try it.

Budgeting I’m not very good at numbers and things like that, so my husband comes up with our family budget and reviews it with me and we both decide if it sounds reasonable. In our budget, we have an amount designated for groceries, fuel, household things, utilities, and other necessary categories. We also each have an amount of money every month that we can spend on whatever we personally like.  I found this to be very helpful. Before we started this, I always wasn’t sure if I should buy something that I wanted and sometimes wondered if I spent too much. With our personal spending budget, I now know how much I can spend and I can enjoy it. This also helps me not to feel “financially tight” because we can still buy little extras. My husband usually spends his money on books. I usually spend it on crafty things. Mr. Monkey has his budget too, which I’m in control of, and it’s used for extra things for him like books, toys, or craft supplies.

Eating at home This comes with being a stay-at-home mom. I see it as part of my “job” to make nutritious and delicious meals for our family that we enjoy. When we were both working full-time, we ate out more often because we would be so tired and rushed getting home from work. Now we rarely eat out. It saves us money and it’s also healthier.

Buying in bulk One of my new favourite stores is Costco. Although you have to pay for a yearly membership, I find that prices there are a lot cheaper than the regular grocery store because you buy in much bigger packages.

Entertainment We don’t have cable. Actually we don’t even have a TV. Or Netflix. Sometimes we buy good-quality appropriate movies. Our date nights are usually my husband and I at home curled up on our  couch with a hot drink and talking our hearts out to each other. Just like when we were betrothed.

Free Fun Since I’m home all day with Mr. Monkey, sometimes we can get into a bit of a rut. Mr. Monkey doesn’t have any siblings he can play with – yet. So instead of spending money on expensive toys (that he may or may not play with), or taking him to programs that you have to pay for, I’ve found some free alternatives. Of course, we spend most of our time at home, and I find that Mr. Monkey is more content and entertained when I involve him and myself together. So sometimes I play with him with his toys. Or make crafts with him. Or I involve him in my chores.  I’ve also been happy to discover that the community centre close to our home offers free play events for parents with little ones. Our favourite is the Monday morning jungle gym. It’s basically a gymnasium full of ride-on toys, push toys, tunnels and balls. Mr. Monkey has so much fun there, and it’s great for him to burn off his energy in the wintertime when we can’t always go outside to play. And then there’s the library. Our local library is a 10 minute walk away. Not only are there books but you can also ask for “story bags” that are themed bags of stories and toys or puzzles that go together in a theme.

Cloth diapers We’ve saved some money by using cloth diapers instead of disposable ones.

Cloth tissues Instead of paper tissues. Also relying more on towels and dishcloths instead of paper-towels.

So, those are some ways where we try to save money and be good stewards of our resources. There are areas where we can’t be too frugal. Food for example is one of those areas for our family. We really try to eat healthy. Processed packaged food is generally cheaper than whole food, but that is an area where we don’t want to compromise, so we choose healthier food even though it’s more expensive.

What are some ways that you save money?