Sunday, September 26, 2010

Toddler on a plane - how to keep them entertained

The title of this post could have easily been changed to that of a popular movie title that struck fear and chaos into the hearts of passengers. Likewise, a toddler on a plane can and does cause parents to avoid travel all together until JR is a bit older, like on their way to college.
I had the ‘pleasure’ of traveling with my Love Bug (age 1.5) this week, and after my last traumatic experience with her in which she basically screamed/cried for 6 hours straight, I found myself wondering why I was glutton for punishment and putting myself through it all over again. But 7 months had passed and surly at 19 months, she could handle a plane ride again.
I scoured the Internet for new ideas and found a few tips that I hadn’t thought of or read before. After traveling countless times with seven other children over the years, the bag of tricks becomes pretty familiar.

I found some things that were helpful and thought I’d pass them along. I decided to do this in a series, so as not to have one gigantic post.

Part One- How to keep them entertained:
The "rule of thumb" for Toddler travel is pretty simple- lots of little activities, and lots of little snacks. The idea is to have enough short activities to add up to the length of your flight. Most activities can be stretched out with a bit of creative thinking, and most things can be repeated if you don't allow them to become too boring the first time around. Don't do all the really fun stuff first. You need to have some tricks for the end of the flight when the patience (on both parts) is long gone and there is still a bit of time left.

Snacks
Inspired by my bento box lunch craze:

 

I used a craft box with dividers (like a tackle box) and filled it with different snacks. It was absolutely fabulous. Love Bug had a blast nibbling on her little buffet and did so for almost the entire flight. She took them out and put them on her tray table, then sorted them back into the box. The crackers “walked” along the edge of the container, then hopped into her mouth. She placed fishes in my hand, and they would “disappear” until my hand opened back up and she would eat it quick. I liked that everything was separate so the Craisins which are moist didn’t slime up the yogurt space chips, etc. I folded a small piece of paper towel and put it under the grapes to catch juice and moisture. It was perfect. The flight attendants on every flight loved her “food tray” and I heard one of them telling another passenger traveling with little ones about it. The one warning: If your child is small like mine is, don’t let the container get too far away from you. We had a near tragedy on multiple occasions when she jerked it upward or pulled it away quickly. (ours was filled with goldfish pretzels, grapes, dehydrated strawberries & bananas, cheese crackers, chocolate and and graham cracker cookies, Craisins, and dehydrated yogurt)

We also used a large weekly pill keeper that has push button release to put extra special treats in, like yogos, dehydrated fruit, and fruit snacks. You could put small candy in it as well, but I was avoiding adding large quantities of sugar to the airplane experience.

In addition to my little snack trays, I had a few fruit snack packages, toddler fruit leather, and smarties (for emergencies near the end of the flight).

Activities
From this post I found a very original idea: Tape. Blue painters tape to be exact. Although I did try to find purple and green as well but ran out of time. Love Bug LOVED taking the pieces I tore off and sticking them to her shirt, her hands, the chair, the table, me, everything. She also loved unrolling it and trying to tear it. An older child would have this added experience, but her little hands weren’t strong enough. There is a book that is a tape book but I read comments that the tape was too hard for kids to tear, and why not just buy a roll?? Painters tape (a bit different than masking tape) doesn’t leave a sticky residue and it comes off super easy. We covered the DVD screen with tape and then pulled the pieces off one by one to see what was underneath. We covered the animals in her board book with tape. We used tape to make a road for her wheel pal toys to drive on. We covered pictures in the Skymall magazine with it. The possibilities are endless. Several passengers were very entertained watching her play with the tape, and were surprised at how long it held her interest. Who knew??

Retractable sewing measuring tape. Love Bug loves to play with it at home, so I thought it would be great on a plane- and it was! She pulled it out, measured something, and retracted: repeat 100 times.

Mini flashlight. Held her interest for a good 15 minutes each flight. I take what I can get.
Mini slinky. I bought a pack of party Slinky's. They were plastic and since she has had limited experience with slinky, it was a big hit.
Children’s bead necklaces. I picked some up from the dollar store. They look like Mardi Gras beads only they are actually meant for dress up. Love Bug put them on, took them off, put them in the seat pocket, snaked them around the chair, put them on her dolly, etc.

Disney Plug: Baby Einstein DVD’s. Love Bug just got some of these, unlike the rest of the gang at my house who were apparently deprived. She loves them! We watched Baby Neptune over and over. It was her favorite because she loves water. We talked about the fishes, the whales, the beach balls, etc. I would leave it going until she seemed board with it, then turn it off to save the battery. Then I would pull it out again later and it was all brand new to her! I'm sure whatever your little one is into will work too. What I liked about the movies I brought was that it allowed me to sit and discuss it with her, and it was really simple for her to understand since there is no storyline, which she's too young for.
 I found that she didn't need to have headphones on, because the volume turned up all the way on our DVD player was loud enough for her to hear, but didn't disrupt other passengers. She doesn't like headphones.

Digital Camera- Love Bug took pictures (turn the flash off so you don't disrupt those around you) and looked at pictures. She loved it!
Bubbles- I had leftover wedding bubbles, the tall slender containers. No problem with security. Love Bug was THRILLED that there were bubbles on the plane, and a few passengers were entertained as well.
New books. I had some mini board books I picked up at the $ store that she loved.

Buckle Bear- I saw a bear online at Amazon that has buckles attached. Love Bug LOVES buckles. I purchase an inexpensive bear and sewed my own ribbon and buckles on him. She had great time buckling and unbuckling her bear.
Craft items:
Pipe cleaners and pom poms were a hit with her as well. She loves bending pipe cleaners and pom poms disappear nicely into pockets, between seats, in hands, etc.
Ribbon on colorful beverage stirring wands. Lots of swirling goes on with these. Resist the temptation to add fun things like beads to the end of the ribbon. Its too close quarters for whips!

I also had some of her favorite toys with us. We brought her doll, wheel pals and a foam book that has a piece on each page you can take out like a puzzle.

I put the small items (wheel pals, necklaces, measuring tape, etc) in a lingerie bag to keep them in one place. Using more than one bag and separating items will allow you to pull out a bag now, and keep one new for later in the flight or your next leg.
Pulling out one item at a time helps keep things from getting too cluttered or rolling too far away, and picking a few items to have stashed in the seat pocket make it easy to get to something quick.

That was our entertainment!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Black and White Damask and Yellow Wedding 4

Decorations


Can you believe This used to be a church gym?


We were lucky enough to have access to a cargo parachute (I'm sure everyone has one in their garage, right??) and it was big enough to cover the entire interior of our church building's gym. A tent without the rental fees!


Lighting:

There are existing lights in the gym that can dim, so we only needed to add a bit of lighting. We choose paper lanterns, as they add a nice classy touch.
I found a great idea on the internet (I know- right?) to use throwies inside to light them(ps-you don't need the magnets). My husband had a great time putting them together. But in the end, I would have to say (as did he) that we really didn't need them. I'm guessing that in other situations, they may work fine to light them, like an outside location were it really is the only light. But indoors with another light source, they were hardly noticeable. I would highly suggest if you are considering using throwies as a way of lighting the lanterns, that you use white lanterns and don't get any larger than 16". Beyond that, you won't see much light. We used some 24" lanterns, and they had hardly a glimmer.

We used battery operated tea lights for the tables. To go along with the centerpieces, we gathered up a bunch of stage 2 babyfood jars (thanks Lori, Becky, and Crystal) and tied yellow damask ribbon on them. It was VERY inexpensive. And they turned out really nice.
Tables:
I shopped around the internet for black and white damask table overlays. They are hard to come by and expensive. Even renting them is expensive. Wedding bee has a classified section- and let me just tell you how brilliant this is! I purchased all of my overlays, and table cloths from a previous bride who also did black and white damask. I was VERY happy to find them, and I'm sure she was happy to sell them. (BTW- I am now selling them. So if you have need for them, leave me a message)

Our center pieces were made from jars we found at Target. We filled them with fresh lemon slices and the flowers purchased from Joann Fabrics. The ribbon was from Michaels.
(sorry didn't get a better picture, so this one is a repeat. You can see all the details though.)


Black and White Damask and Yellow Wedding

The Cake

Instead of having a wedding cake, the bride wanted cheesecake and a small cake just large enough to cut a piece and smash it into each other's faces. We thought a cupcake stand would be the perfect solution. I bought the cardboard stand from http://www.save-on-crafts.com/cupcaketree1.html for $35. I found damask patterned
wrapping paper at Michaels, along with the black velveteen ribbon. The flowers were from Joann Fabric.

I used double-stick tape to attach the wrapping paper, then trimmed the edges. The ribbon was attached with hot glue, as were the flowers. It was time consuming, but I liked the end result.

Going this route for the "cake" also was very inexpensive. The cheesecake we purchased at Sam's club and then repackaged in white mini cupcake papers (thanks Meagan:)because the paper they come in didn't go well with the decorations. The cake was an 8" cake from Safeway decorated like one of their wedding designs, and cost a whopping $16. I think our total for 300 mini cheesecakes, the cake, stand, and decorations for it was just under $125. Not bad for the "cake", and everyone loved that it was cheesecake instead of cake.




We also served Rita's Italian ice for refreshments. The bride picked Mango, Oreo Cookie, and Alex's Lemonade to go with her colors and theme. We purchased 6oz dessert cups from Party City that were a pretty clear plastic floral design and had a few young men serve it. It was a hit!

Black and White Damask Yellow Wedding 2

Next up on the wedding DIY scene is the table numbers. In all honesty, they were a last minute addition to our plans. We had thought of doing seating assignments, then decided not to. Changing our minds again within a week of the wedding led us to this idea: Let the bride and groom tell you where your seats are.










Using publisher, we pasted a damask pattern downloaded free off the internet as the background and then placed numbers on top of them. Then cut the number out and pasted it to cardstock. The photos were taken in black and white, then printed and tapped to cookie lollipop sticks which you can buy at Michael's. They were put into our center pieces at each table.


The placecards were printed and pasted onto yellow cardstock and taped to long lollipop sticks.

We put the placecard in jars alphabetically and divided (A-H,I-R,S-W) to make it easier to fine names. The jars were filled 1/3 full of fancy lemon drops.

The bride came up with this cute saying to go along with our lemon theme "Pucker up and pick your seat".
Here is the final product.



Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Black and white damask wedding- bouquets

We decided to go with silk flowers for the wedding. We knew that we wanted to use Forsythia because it is such a stunning yellow. Forsythia was in bloom at the time, and we saw it every where we turned. Because they are not often used in weddings, it would also offer more originality.

Rachael chose beautiful white flowers for her bouquet (I forgot their name..sorry) and we accented with forsythia. I added buttons to tie in with the boutonnieres.

For the tossing bouquet, it was fun to tie the lemon theme in. We thought a bouquet of lemons would be perfect. Of course we had to add forsythia and buttons to it as well. I found the lemon bouquet at Michaels, and then added to it

We were a bit worried about the idea of some poor single girl getting whacked in the head with something as unforgiving as fake lemons, but it turned out just fine! So there you have it, our wedding bouquets.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Jungle Baby Shower

A good friend of mine had a baby a few weeks ago. Amongst all the wedding chaos, I didn't have a chance to post the shower that I threw for her in April.

She had a boy, and her nursery theme is jungle animals. I liked the idea of carrying it over into her shower theme, but just focused on animals in general. I also thought it would be fun to use things as decorations that were actually useful to care for little Kaleb instead of things that would be thrown away.

There were a few others who were helping with the shower, and they contributed to a group gift with me. That was how we "funded" the decorations. I got busy looking on the internet for jungle themed items. Most things were toys (which she had a lot of already), or nursery decorating items. Then I remembered a fun idea from family cruises. Towel animals!

I got to work looking for towel origami instructions online, and using new baby blankets, bath towels and wash cloths I came up with these cuties. 
Dog

Pair of monkeys
Elephant
Turtle (which didn't look as turtlish as I had hoped) and a mini Seal complete with a juggling ball

I also made this snail out of diapers combining the diaper cake idea and a towel snail idea. I think he turned out pretty cute!

Then I added in some animal friends that could be played with
And to go with her jungle nursery- a lion laundry basket
and an elephant storage box, which we used to house the rest of our group gift- addressed animal thank you cards, bath items, etc.
I made banners from new clothing. Boy- with sleepers

Kaleb spelled on onesies (both were animal print fabrics)
and a laundry line of socks and newborn hats

These hard to resist pom poms (Martha Stewart) were the only decorations that weren't reusable. But seeing as though the ones I made for my little one's first birthday were then used at two additional events...maybe they are reusable)
The shower was a brunch. I had help making the food. I made these cute signs out of folded cardstock and wooden animals from Michaels- already painted.
We also seved yogurt, Dole fruit juices, and raspberry spritzer lemonade.
The tables had towel animals as centerpieces, and an animal board book.
The monkeys hung over the buffet table.
Each of the guests received a bag with a little book of recipes of the dishes served, and could also put their treat to take home in it.
At first, a few guests passed on the cute little cupcakes. Then someone who knew they were cakepop cupcakes (Bakerella) volunteered to take home whatever didn't get eaten. Someone decided to try one out, and after that, I don't think many made it in the bags....I heard that there was one guest who did well getting them in the bag, but they were gone before they reached home. I just LOVE these cupcakes.

I'm not a fan of most shower games, so we kept it to a minimum. I provided each table with several cards with questions to answer that the mom-to-be would benefit from. They were to be answered on the back. Then for our game, we sat in a circle before the gift opening. Each person in turn read a question out loud, and the person to their right read their answer. Most answers were quite humorous advice-since they didn't relate to the question asked. I collected the cards and put them together in a book tied with ribbon while the gifts were opened.
I bought a pad of cute boy print 4x6 cardstock and glued the questions to the printed side of the paper (it wsa cute rough or embossed paper, so printing onto them wasn't an option). Then I punched two holes in each card to pull the ribbon through. This was done ahead of time, so it was easy to bind and give to the mom-to-be as part of her gift.

I think it turned out really cute, and everyone loved it- especially the recipes they got to take home! Who doesn't love a good brunch recipe?

Monday, May 31, 2010

Wedding Reception Photo Booth

One of the highlights of our DIY wedding was a photo guest book idea I borrowed from this fantastic site

In place of a little book with signatures, our bride and groom will have a book full of pictures of their guests giving them personal messages written on a chalkboard. We also provided props, for those interested in using them. I was a little worried that guests wouldn't be too excited about doing it, but that wasn't the case at all.
Here are a few photos from our wedding. It was fun to see all the encrypted messages- via inside jokes, or other languages (any else translating the Albanian??):



We were very happy with how it all turned out. Next, we'll upload the photos to an online printing company and have it made into a leather bound book.