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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

How To Make a Weighted Blanket


I have made three weighted blankets for my girls now. One for Meghan as a baby, one for her once she was a good bit bigger, and now one for Katie. I have been asked several times how to make one, so I thought that I would photograph the entire process while I made Katie's blanket. 

This project can be a frustrating one. You are managing small beads (the weight) while you are sewing and broken needles seem to be inevitable - though, I only broke one while making Kaite's blanket! I recommend working sometime when you can truly focus on the task and not be distracted by little ones needing you. 

Without further ado, here's the process! 

Materials: 
blanket fabric (I have always used polar fleece) 
poly pellets (see below for how to determine how many you need)

Prewash your fabric. ALWAYS (unless you're quilting) prewash your fabric! 


You are going to be doing lots and lots of sewing - I recommend having a few bobbins prepped before you start if you can. You don't need six - but that's what I had so that's what I used. 


I purchase my fabric so that it will be as wide as my kid's armspan and as long as they are head to foot. You can choose whatever shape you want, but that's my general go to measurement. First, fold your fabric in half, right sides together, and square up the cut. 


Next you are going to sew around three sides of the blanket - I always go down one long side, along the short, and back up the other side. You will want to leave enough space to fold the fabic over and do a French seam at the end of your project - so start sewing about an inch or two from the edge and finish sewing and inch or two from the edges. This is the first of two times while sewing you blanket that you won't end by backstitching and stitching back to the end to secure your stitches - you want these to be able to be torn out if needed at the end. 


Turn your blanket inside out so that the right sides are now on the outside. Use a pointed object to completely push the corners out. Stitch about an inch in from the edge to create a French seam - this adds strength to your blanket and makes it look nicer. Just like above, 1-2 inches in, and for the second time, do not backstitch and restitch to secure your stitches.


(The bottom corners will look like this)


(The top of your blanket - don't start at the very edge.)


(You want that area to be able to be opened for when you complete the project.)


Now it's math time. Measure your blanket inside of the French seam. Note how wide from side to side and how tall it is from the bottom seam to 2x the width of your French seam from the top. Use those measurements and the weight you intend to make your blanket to sketch out the sizes of the pockets you will be making for your pellets and how many pellets will go in each pocket. I recommend more pockets than fewer so that the weight will be equally distributed throughout the blanket. 

To determine how much weight, the rule of thumb that I have been taught is about 10% of their body weight plus one to two pounds. I always add two pounds because that gives them some extra time to grow before you will need to make another blanket again. 


Using a pen that will erase in the wash, draw in your vertical and horizontal lines on the top of your blanket. These will be your guides while sewing. This is a great opportunity to be sure that your math actually will work out the way you thought it would :) I'm always a fan of checking things twice!



Starting 1-2 inches from the part of your blanket with the opening, stitch from the top of the blanket down the vertical lines all the way to the bottom line of stitching. Stitch backwards and forwards again to be sure that your stitching will hold. Do this for all of the vertical lines. 

Now you are ready to add weight and start completing the blanket! 



I use kitchen scale to weigh out my pellets. Weigh out the amount you need for one pocket and use a funnel to pour those pellets into one column. Do this for each column - add the amount you need for one pocket to each column. Then, working carefully, make sure that all of the beads have made their way to the very bottom of the column.

Now, make sure you're feeling patient....here comes the hardest and potentially frustrating part.


Sew across your first column. Make sure you back stitch and restitch when you begin and end this row of sewing! Very carefully, with your weight hanging off the machine and the extra fabric on your right, sew across your marked line for the first row. Sew carefully, making sure that no pellets get up under your needle. Those suckers will break the tip of your needle right off!!

(In the picture above, I was several rows in.)


Complete this same process for every row that you need in your blanket until you get to the last row which will close up your whole blanket. Make sure to check to make sure you have enough bobbin thread before each row - there is nothing more frustrating than getting halfway down one of the rows and realizing you ran out of bobbin thread and having to replace it and start again mid-row (I don't think you need to ask how I know this!). 


After putting beads in the last row of pockets, fold the fabric on both sides into the middle. Pin liberally to hold the seam closed along the top and sides. Stitch across the top of the blanket (through all four layers) backstitching and forward stitching again at the beginning and end of the row. Sew on both sides from the top to part way past where your previous stitching began, backstitching and forward stitching to keep it from coming a part. Make sure that you have sealed the entire blanket when you have completed this step. 


That's it! You have completed your weighted blanket and it's ready for your little one to use. Wash it up to remove the lines you sewed over and it should be ready to go! Congratulations!! 

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I'd love to hear if you use these instructions to make a blanket for your little one! Also, feel free to let me know if you have any questions! 



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

DIY Rainbow Clothespins for Dramatic Play


We tend to love brightly colored things around this house. Cole and I both do, and our girls seem to have picked up the same love! While looking through the Nova Natural catalog that recently came, Meghan was excited to see the rainbow colored clothespins being used on her clothesline (which we purchased for the girls from Nova Naturals). The price was more than $1 per clothespin - but since we hang dry most of our laundry, we have hundreds of clothespins at our house and I couldn't see any justification for paying so much for something we already have. That is when I came up with this idea, and it has worked swimmingly!

First, I took apart several clothespins and put out a work mat to protect the table.


Then I carefully, while listening to a book, colored four wood pieces with each of several brightly colored Sharpie markers. I left them out to dry for about 4 hours and then put the clothespins back together. I put them all in Meghan's clothespin storage basket and she was THRILLED!


She has been having so much fun using her colored clothespins to hang clothes on the clothesline! Using clothespins is such a great way to build fine motor skills, so I love that activity in addition to just loving how cute it is to watch her play that she's doing the same work I do! 


Such an easy project and so much fun! I hope you'll give it a try and have just as much fun!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Simple Clothes for Children


Your little one's clothes don't have to make a "statement" beyond the obvious ones: "I'm dressed and ready for school" or "I'm comfortable and ready to play." Your child has better things to do than be a walking advertisement for mall stores or brands.....Having fewer choices simplifies getting dressed. Young kids can still adopt all sorts of flash and style, playing with different looks, roles, and fashion statements in their dress-up play......"Choice" is often a false distinction when a child is more interested in what they are going to do, once dressed, than in the clothes themselves.
-- Kim John Paine, Simplicity Parenting

I love that quote from the book Simplicity Parenting (one of my all time favorite books!). It articulates quite nicely the way that I think about my girls' clothes.

I try not to have their clothes be a walking billboard for companies. Whenever possible, I try not to have their clothes say anything at all (there are the occasional cute little saying or Kansas State tees, but in general my rule is becoming more and more "no words"). My goal is to have a few simple, weather and size appropriate shirt/pant or dress/legging combos for each girl.

(Meghan's shirt collection for this fall/winter - a dress with leggings, 5 tees (four appliqued by my mom!), and a denim shirt for layering. Minimal. Simple. And she loves it!)

I try to purchase basic jeans/jean shorts or yoga pants. When it comes to shirts I pick stripes, dots, or other patterns as well as basic single color tees. My mom has an embroidery/applique machine and LOVES to make the girls custom shirts according to their interests on single color tees. (I know, seriously, how lucky are we?!?) Thus, the only "statement" that my kids clothes might make is "I like dragons" or "Ask me about butterflies" because of the images my mom has added to their shirts.

I feel like these kinds of clothes can be hard to find. But, I spend the time and energy to seek them out because I would rather my kids clothes not make a statement for them (especially since the statements on many shirts aren't ones I would want my kids to make anyways!). I want my kids to make their own statements with their own actions and words.

(Katie's shirt collection for this fall/winter - she has more than Meghan since she will be in SMO's and needs onesies to wear with them. Katie has a dress with leggings, 3 tees (two embroidered/appliqued by my mom), and 5 onesies. She has two words on a few but they were special exceptions - she's a rainbow baby & is great at making us smile!)

I also choose not to have super cute frilly clothes for my girls (though, I drool over them when they are on Zulilly!). They have some super cute (though still simple and comfy) clothes for church that fill that "Awwwwwww, how cute" need Mamas of girls have. I would rather my girls be free to play and be wild than burdened by super nice or restraining clothing.

I've found that with simple clothes for the girls, I'm less stressed as well. I don't have to think about their outfits and what we're doing for the day and what outfit would be best for that purpose, etc. etc. etc. I simply grab whatever outfit is in front of their closet or allow Meghan to choose which shirt she wants to wear today, and we move on. No stress. No nice clothes that can't be worn to play outside. No clothes that we  don't wear out in public. No stress. I like having one less thing to stress about!

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Homemakers are busy people. I think it's very important for us to have routines for the mundane tasks whether they occur daily or every few months or once a year. I share our routines not because I think they are perfect or will work for any other home than ours, but as encouragement that we can find routines that work well for our families. It's always something we can be working to improve. I also share our routines as a springing-off point for planning a routine if you don't have one in place. I often find that reading what others do, trying it, and tweaking it for our family's needs can be a very helpful way to grow as a homemaker. I pray that these peeks into how we do the mundane are a blessing and an encouragement to those that read them!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Homemade Block Crayons


Block crayons are great for helping kids develop fine motor skills while coloring! They are also just a ton of fun to use while coloring and drawing. The price is steep for these crayons on Amazon, but we made some for ourselves for a total of $2 with back to school sales! I'll share what we did - it was a fun simple project that Meghan and I were able to do together during Katie's nap.

First, I peeled and broke the crayons - I used 3-4 crayons for each block crayon. I packed the small pieces into a Tovolo square ice cube tray (I used to use these for making and freezing baby food - this did "ruin" on into being only an art project tray). 


I put the crayons in the small convection oven at a low temperature until they were melted through (about 30-45 minutes). Then I removed them and put them into the fridge to cool. 

(I made two sets of crayons - the ones that I did not put in the fridge had some clear wax settle to the top while cooling - that wax had to be scraped off before it would color.)


After they were good and cool, I popped them out of the ice cube trays onto a drying rack to finish curing. After a few hours they were completely hard.


Once the crayons were completely hardened, I tossed them into a basket and we set to work coloring!


It was such an easy process to make these fun crayons! Next, we might experiment with making swirl crayons by not completely melting the wax of multiple colors in the same cube. We'll have to see what other fun ideas we come up with!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Velcro Activity Mats


We desire to homeschool at our dining room table. That means that all of our homeschool materials in use need to be able to be stored in the kitchen area.

We don't want our main living area to look like a classroom. We want our house to look and feel like a home while also meeting the educational needs of our children.

We are aspiring minimalists - well, truly simplicilists - we don't like having lots of stuff everywhere. White space is very important to stress reduction to those of us who live in this house (and, I'm guessing, for most people!).

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These three things combined have guided us as we developed our homeschooling area. It's simple and minimal. While I believe young children learn best when they can manipulate their learning we don't have space upstairs to have a large number of supplies. I have found a simple solution to this that Meghan LOVES!


These velcro activity mats are a hit with Meghan. She asks for them even if I don't mention them!!

They allow her to manipulate her learning of core, rote skills. They take up slightly more space than two pieces of paper and we can store all of the mats in our homeschooling notebook. We can fit several activities and learning content in a small amount of space - win!

I simply laminated the mat, laminated the pieces and used clear velcro to attach them together. So far, we have mats for the following activities:

  • fruit & vegetable picture matching 
  • continent matching 
  • US state matching 
  • numbers 0-20 in order 
  • upper/lowercase letter matching 
  • color & color word matching

I'm sure I could look through an educational catalog and find all sorts of games and manipulatives that could teach theses same skills - but they would cost more money and take up more space for the same learning task as this simple, inexpensive activity. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Lego Building Cards


Our girls LOVE Duplos.


I love that they are great for free imaginative play and can be used for a variety of "educational" play activities. Here's one that I made for Meghan to work on visual discrimination and following directions.

I built structures out of her Duplos, laid them on a white piece of paper, and took pictures. I ordered the pictures, laminated them, and put them on a ring.


She has a blast trying to build the structures that I made and they often provide a springboard for her to use them in creation of new buildings.


We have so much fun using these cards and building with Duplos!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

On Open Ended Play - and - My Favorite Toy Companies


We are big about open-ended play around here! Given my past as an educator as well as research I have done on my own, I have strong opinions about toys and what is best for children. I am particular about what toys come into our home. As a result, I have found that our girls truly enjoys playing with their toys and are is learning to use their imaginations and creatively use toys at a very young age.


My general "rules" about what comes into our home are:

  1. Toys do not "play" for the child. We have only one which takes batteries - it's a stethoscope that makes a heart beat sound. I would prefer that they engage with a toy and make it do what they want  it to do rather than it having a pre-set number and type of activities which is does. Also, I find the sounds that come from most toys with batteries completely annoying - and if I have to listen to toys all day, I want to be hearing pleasant sounds. 
  2. Toys are not based on movie or tv characters. I very rarely even allow toys from books. I would rather the girls have a generic princess who can be any character they have read about, seen on a movie, or dream up in their mind. A licensed character is much harder to be creative with. 
  3. Toys are made from high quality materials. Wherever possible, this means wood. Wood toys have a beautiful aesthetic, they make pleasant sounds (as compared to many plastics), and they can last through lots of young child abuse love. However there are also some toys for which plastic just works well or better and for those toys we look for very high quality. 
  4. Fewer toys are better than more. I would rather pay more money to get a few of a high quality toy than have a whole bunch of toys which break or get ruined. This saves money and energy as we create less waste and have to shop for and re-purchase fewer toys due to not being able to take the abuse of playtime.
  5. They are pleasant to look at. For three reasons - 1) I have to look at them all the time and I appreciate pretty toys. 2) Our playroom is right inside our front door and we like the area to look nice and welcoming to company despite housing all of our toys. A most importantly 3) Beautiful toys are more pleasant and more inviting for children to play with.

Some of our favorite toy companies to purchase from (where most or all of their toys meet these requirements) include: 
  • Plan Toys (wood)
  • Hape (wood)
  • Green Toys (plastic made from recycled milk jugs) 
  • Schleich (high quality plastic animals)
  • Lego & Lego Duplos (plastic)
  • Haba (we love their games and cloth dolls)
  • IKEA (great prices on large wooden pieces)
  • Little Tikes (esp. for outdoor sports, climbing, riding toys)
  • Guidecraft (wood)

If you're looking for good, high-quality toys, a search on Amazon for these brands will reveal some of our very favorite toys! 

Do you have a favorite toy company that I missed or one I haven't heard of? I'd love to hear about it!!