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Family Fun - Keeping Kids Busy During Holiday Break

by Desi Sowers

Holiday break.  It sounds like fun. It should be fun. You start the break with images of snuggling up to read stories, making hot cocoa and going for adventures outdoors.  But sometimes it can be challenging for parents to figure out how to fill the hours of free time kids have over the holiday break. Before you know it, you are in survival mode – just trying to get through the break with your sanity intact.  That is why it is a prudent idea to start the break with a plan in mind. It certainly can’t hurt to have a few activities planned to fall back on to keep your kids entertained and engaged.  Here are five budget friendly ideas to keep your kids busy during the holiday break.

1. Creative Coloring 

A box of crayons and some paper can keep toddlers occupied, but as children grow, they may need a few more creative ideas for how to use those crayons to stay busy. Here are some creative coloring options:

  • Coloring wrapping paper. Who doesn’t need more wrapping paper for the holidays? This is a twofold activity. You get your wrapping paper at a low price, and you keep your kids busy awhile. Just buy rolls of cheap, plain-colored wrapping paper. (The cheap kind is thin, so darker colors work best.) Roll it out a few feet at a time on a table or a hard floor, and let the kids go to town.
  • Upside down coloring. Turn coloring on its head – literally – with this easy activity. Just tape coloring sheets to the bottom of a table, and turn your child into a tiny Michelangelo. This is a great way to keep them busy and build upper arm strength.
  • Color the windows. Kids love being able to use crayons on surfaces that are usually off-limits. Crayola makes some crayons specifically for coloring on windows. Grab a pack of these, and let kids decorate the windows for the holidays.
  • Try complex coloring sheets. Older kids may think freestyle coloring is boring. Try printing off complicated geometric coloring sheets. Kids can create gorgeous designs, and the challenge keeps them engaged longer. (Note: They may need colored pencils and a good sharpener to be able to tackle these detailed designs.)

2. Indoor Games

Probably the worst part of the holiday season is that it may be too cold to play outside. And you probably don’t have a gym like your kid’s school does where they can release their pent-up energy. Luckily, with some creativity and basic supplies, you can create your own indoor gross motor games to burn off that extra energy.

  • Obstacle courses. Obstacle courses are surprisingly easy to create, and you can customize them for kids of any age – even elementary-aged kids would love a superhero obstacle course. These can be heavy on the prep work, but one course could keep your kids busy the entire day. (Worth it!) This letter recognition course is simple. This yarn laser maze is great for older kids, as is this pompom racing course.
  • Hopscotch. What better way to burn off energy than with hopscotch? Crafty parents can put together this adorable indoor hopscotch mat to use again and again, or you can just make a hopscotch course with masking tape. Here’s another variant you could use to teach shapes or colors.
  • Scavenger hunts. You may think scavenger hunts are just for outside play, but you’d be surprised. You can put together some fun indoor scavenger hunts. These are a great way to get kids to play independently or in teams while you get other stuff done. (Or just relax with a cup of coffee for 20 minutes!) This indoor bug hunt is great for little kids. You can come up with any number of scavenger hunts tailored to your kids’ ages and interests.
  • Tossing games. Throwing balls in the house is usually off-limits. But indoor tossing games turn that rule on its head. This newspaper and spider web activity is great for practicing hand-eye coordination in a safe way. Or try this shape tossing game to work on identifying shapes with younger kids.

3. Arts and Crafts 

Before the holiday break starts, plan some crafts for your kids to do during the break. Then, hit your local craft store sans kids, and pick up the supplies you need. Stick supplies for each craft into a gallon-sized bag, and write the name of the craft and any necessary instructions on it with a marker. This may seem over the top, but when your kids are in the throes of boredom two days into break, you’ll be glad you have an activity to pull out and run with. Here are some craft ideas to try:

  • Holiday gifts. Kids love to make things to give to others, and if you have a lot of people on your list, you can keep them busy all break long making DIY gifts for the holidays. Hand-painted ornaments are always a great option, and these handprint ones are especially cute. Grab some canvas aprons, and let the kids decorate them with fabric paint as gifts. Older kids can also make no-sew blankets and pillows without much supervision.
  • Winter crafts. Kids of all ages will love to make and play with this snow clay, which you could use to make ornaments for gifts. This adorable luminary jar ornament would be great for older kids, or try this snowman slam game, which you can make and then play with. And, of course, kids of all ages love to make paper snowflakes!

4. Service Projects 

This is the time of year when many of us are trying to find ways to give back. Why not involve your kids in giving back this year? Some ideas include raking leaves or shoveling snow for older neighbors, baking cookies for local police officers or firefighters, or making boxes of goodies for ill children. Another option is to make cozy fleece scarves for a local hospital or nursing home. Older kids can even plan, shop for and make a meal for ill or elderly neighbors, or the couple down the street with a new baby and no time to cook.

5. Sensory Bins

Finally, crawlers to elementary-age kids love sensory bins. (They can be surprisingly fun for parents, too!) Yes, these can get a little messy. The best trick is to set up a sensory bin on an old-fitted sheet. Weigh down the elastic corners with books, and you’ll create a little valley to catch most of the mess. Here are some sensory bin ideas for the holiday season:

  • Apple pie bin. This simple sensory bin is just dough (flour and oil), a pie plate and some measuring cups. You could add in cinnamon for apple pie smells, and include red gems to look like apples.
  • Cotton ball snow bin. For a less messy sensory bin, fill up a tub with cotton balls. Add in some measuring cups and winter-themed toys, and you have your very own (not-so-messy) snow-scape.
  • Decorate a tree. This is a genius idea that may keep some of the sensory bin materials more contained. Instead of measuring and pouring, this decorate-a-tree activity lets kids carefully place decorations on their own tree.
  • Sparkly snow bin. This sensory bin features sparkly snow made from Epsom salt, iridescent flakes and tinsel garland. Add in some winter-themed plastic animals, and you’re good to go.

So, if your kids are bickering or complaining that they are bored, save the day with these fun, inexpensive activities and enjoy the holiday break!

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/A-Home-for-the-Holidays-5-Reasons-to-Buy-Now

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Making-Holiday-Guests-Feel-at-Home

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Putting-Your-House-on-the-Market-During-the-Holidays

Wrapping up Christmas - Holiday Storage Hacks

by Desi Sowers

I know you probably just finished pulling out all your holiday decorations, but it’s not too early to start thinking about how you’re going to put it all away. If you’re like me, every year you tell yourself “this year I will be super organized when I put my Christmas decorations away!” Also, if you’re like me, by the time the holidays are over you are exhausted and just want to get the stuff put away as quickly as possible.  Then you go to pull it out the following year and you say, ”this year…I will organize it all this year.”  Sigh.  Part of the problem is figuring out how to organize everything.  There are lots of Christmas storage containers and bags and bins and boxes for sale out there, but that can get expensive!  And let’s face it, just after Christmas the last thing you want to do is spend more money.  But it is possible to organize your holiday decorations without spending a fortune.  Here are some holiday storage hacks to help you get organized this year:

 - Do you eat eggs?  That may seem like more of an Easter question, but stay with me here. It’s not the eggs you need, it’s the cartons they come in.  They are perfect for storing small, round ornaments. 
 

- Keep strings of lights from tangling with this easy hack - wrap them around cardboard before storing them.  You can use shoe boxes or any of the many boxes that were likely delivered to your house before December 25 to cut pieces to size for your light strings. Then place them all together in a bin where they will remain safely untangled until next year!

- Hang your wreaths year around.  Keep your holiday wreaths in pristine condition by hanging them rather than putting them in a storage bin, where they are likely to get crushed. If you don’t have room in a closet, you can use an inexpensive portable coat rack.  Cover the wreaths with plastic trash bags (garment back style) and hang them on the rack. 

- Turn bins you already have into ornament storage bins with this easy and inexpensive hack.  Three words. Red. Solo. Cups.  They aren’t just for parties!  With cardboard, a glue gun and cups you can create a DIY ornament storage bin.  Just glue the cups to cardboard pieces cut to fit and place them in the bin and, voila!  You have the perfect place to safely keep your holiday treasures!

- Shiny beads make a beautiful garland for your tree, but when they are all tangled up in a box you may decide it’s not even worth it to try to untangle them.  This year, save up your plastic water bottles and use them to store your garland.  They will stay untangled and be easy to pull our when you’re ready to put them on the tree again.

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/A-Home-for-the-Holidays-5-Reasons-to-Buy-Now

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Making-Holiday-Guests-Feel-at-Home

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/How-to-Prevent-Electrical-Hazards-in-Your-Home

Making Holiday Guests Feel at Home

by Desi Sowers

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.  A time for friends and family to come together to celebrate the holidays.  Many of you will be hosting guests in your homes over the next few weeks and while you are surely delighted to spend time with your loved ones, it can be a stressful time as well.  If you are opening your doors to family members or friends this holiday season, here are some ideas for prepping your home so that you’ll be ready to welcome them with open arms.

Tidy up the house.  Use this as motivation to thoroughly clean your house. Get rid of clutter, make small house repairs and complete that decorating project you’ve been putting off.

Stock up on food and drinks. Make sure you have different types of beverages and snacks that your guests enjoy. It’s nice for them to be able to easily grab a quick snack whenever they want.

Have activities planned for your guests. Depending on how long they are staying, you may want to plan some special events or activities for your guests.  Whether it’s a shopping excursion, a day at a museum, a holiday concert or just a nice dinner out, your visitors will appreciate your thoughtfulness in keeping them entertained. Click here for a list of fun events happening in the New River Valley area this holiday season: Holiday Events

Be mindful of the little ones. If your guests include children, be sure to plan for them as well.  If you don’t have children, you may want to pick up a game or some arts and crafts to have around for them.  Find out their food preferences prior to their arrival so that you are prepared to accommodate them at meals. 

Provide comfortable sleeping spaces. Be sure to have nice, clean sheets, pillows and extra blankets.  If you have a guest bedroom that has not been used in a while, strip the bed and wash the bed linens so that they are fresh for your guests.  Prepping a Room for Holiday Guests

Provide toiletries.  The guest bathroom should have soap/body wash, shampoo, conditioner and lotion available for guests.  5 Tips for Preparing Bathroom for Guests

Give instructions for electronics. If the guest room has a television, leave written instructions for how to use the remote.

By following these tips and prepping your home ahead of time, you will be able to offer a warm welcome to your guests and enjoy the time you have with them!

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Thanksgiving-is-a-VERB

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Putting-Your-House-on-the-Market-During-the-Holidays

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/New-Home-New-Traditions

Warm Wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving!

by Desi Sowers

Courtesy of Desi Sowers

 

Thanksgiving is a VERB!

by Desi Sowers

The holiday season is the perfect time of year to show how grateful we are by helping others in need.  Not everyone will spend the holidays in a warm home surrounded by loved ones, but those of us that will can make the season a little bit brighter by donating time, food and gifts to those less fortunate. So, give thanks this year by helping others! To make it a little easier for you to do so, here is a list of places where you can volunteer or make donations in the New River Valley area:

Virginia Salvation Army - There are numerous opportunities to give back to the community via the Salvation Army.  Help feed the hungry this holiday season by volunteering to be a bell ringer, making donations or giving or your time to help their many endeavors.  Click here to find the Salvation Army location closest to you.  Join the Army and make a positive difference in someone’s life this year!

Special Olympics VA - Come help to create a magical holiday celebration for the wonderful athletes that participate in Special Olympics.  What could be more fun than dancing the night away and bringing smiles to the faces of these amazing people?  Contact the organization here to get involved. You will be glad you did!

New River Community Action - This organization provides many services for the most vulnerable residents of the community - the homeless, the disabled, former offenders, and struggling young families.  You can donate here, or give of your time to volunteer.  Volunteer opportunities are numerous and include helping with Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Feeding America Southwest VA - FASWVA makes it so easy for you to help those in need! They are hosting several events where they will be accepting donations as well as providing volunteer opportunities.  With your help, nobody will go hungry this holiday season!

Thank You For Your Service and Sacrifice!

by Desi Sowers

"To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"--President Woodrow Wilson

So began President Wilson in November 1919, when he dedicated Armistice Day, November 11, to the cause of world peace and to honor the sacrifice of the US military after World War I. Nineteen years later, a legal holiday was officially signed into being, and in 1954, the name was changed from Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor all veterans. Veterans Day differs from Memorial Day in that it celebrates living and dead US Veterans, and pays tribute to their sacrifices for the freedoms in this country.

Ceremonies, parades, and special events dedicated to honoring our veterans happen all over the country, and what better way to pay tribute than to attend an event in our local area?  See the links for more information!

All National Parks admission is free on Veterans Day Weekend
Virginia Veterans Day Parade
Veterans Day Remembrance Ceremony at Va Tech

Putting Your House on the Market During the Holidays

by Desi Sowers

The idea of putting your home on the market during the holiday season may seem overwhelming at first, but it turns out there are several good reasons to do so. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity to get your house sold before the end of the year!

  1. If people are looking for a home during the holiday season, chances are they are serious buyers.
  2. Serious buyers have fewer properties to look at during this time of year, which means less competition and more money for you!
  3. Since the number of listings will increase dramatically in January, that means more competition and less money for you.
  4. Who doesn’t love a home delightfully decorated for the holidays?  Homes show better when festively dressed up!
  5. Buyers may have more time to look at houses during their holiday breaks.
  6. Some people want to buy before the end of the year for tax reasons.
  7. If you sell now, it may provide an opportunity for you to be a non-contingent buyer during the Spring, when many more houses are on the market for less money. This will allow you to sell high and buy low.

Tips for Selling a Home During the Holidays

If you would like to talk more about selling your home, give me a call at 540-320-1328 or visit my website to discover your new home!

Halloween Trends 2017

by Desi Sowers

Happy Halloween!

Courtesy of Desi Sowers

Happy 4th of July!

by Desi Sowers

Today we celebrate freedom
thanks to those who came before.
Those brave men who fought and died
in each and every war.
Freedom always comes at a price,
And while we celebrate
We should tip our hats to the heroes
who made our country great. 

Patriotic Produce!

by Desi Sowers

With July 4th approaching, I have red, white and blue on my mind.  Celebrate independence with patriotic, healthy fruits and veggies!

Eggplant

Not only is it tasty as vegetarian entree, it has also been proven that eggplant helps prevent age-related mental disorders and improves memory!

Bosc Pears

These sweet treats are fat-free and filled with nutrients. They make a great, sodium free snack on the go, but can also be used in yummy recipes.

Blood Oranges

This delectable, rouge infused fruit has a lot to brag about! Packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, it also contains anthocyanins which help protect the body from cancer.  And that’s not all…they also make some unique and flavorful cocktails!

Beets

Beets can leave stains behind, but their benefits far outweigh that little inconvenience.  They serve as a pro-liver blood purifying agent, a high source of energy, and a natural toxin cleanser. And…they make amazing salads!

White Nectarines

The profusion of Vitamin C in white nectarines helps build a resistance against infections.  This luscious fruit tastes amazing too! Their delicate flavor compliments both savory and sweet recipes, so you can be really creative with them.

Radishes

This red, crunchy root vegetable does all the work for you: it eases digestive stress, keeps viral infections at bay, and has even been known to sooth a sore throat.  They are mostly eaten raw in salads, but they are a delicious addition to recipes as well.

Purple Asparagus

Ok…it’s not technically blue, but it is your #1 source of vitamin A, so we’re going to count it! Similar in appearance to other varieties of asparagus, it is actually less fibrous and therefore more tender.  It also has a sweeter taste and when cooked develops flavor notes of artichoke, barley and almonds.

Plums

Again…a little more purple than blue, but plums have so many healthy benefits they have to be included here.  Plus, they taste heavenly! Plums are the bowel regulator of the fruit community.  They also boost bone health and neutralize cell-damaging free radicals, providing you with sharper memory.  They are convenient to carry as a quick, fresh snack…but you will really love them in a delicious dessert!

Parsnips

This pale cousin to the carrot is a root vegetable that contains a treasure trove of dietary fiber which helps to reduce obesity and blood cholesterol levels.  They are sweet like the carrot, but contain more starch and have and earthier, nutty taste.  High in vitamins and minerals (especially potassium), they also contain antioxidants.  They can be eaten raw, but are especially appetizing cooked in recipes.

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Creative-raised-bed-and-planter-gardening

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Lake-Swimming-Safety-Tips

 

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