Wow, it’s been nearly a year since I’ve done one of these round-ups, so I’d say we’re a bit overdue! While I obviously can’t cover even close to everything we’ve read, done, and enjoyed over the past year as a family, I’ll go ahead and share some of what we’ve been loving recently (with the hope, as always, that it helps you and your family to find some new favorites for yourselves!).
And, as always, I truly love it when YOU comment and share the things that YOUR family has been loving lately! I’ve gotten so many of our favorites through recommendations from readers, so make sure you drop a comment below and share something that you’ve loved recently that’s worth passing along!
To see past posts in this same series, click HERE.
Note: There are affiliate links to products and books mentioned below, which means I may get a small commission on any purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you.
- Fall Tree Fingerpainting
- As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not inclined to be crafty in the slightest, but because my older two kids LOVE to do hands-on stuff like painting and crafts, I’m trying lately to be better about providing those opportunities for them. These fall tree paintings were inspired by a few different ideas I saw on Pinterest. I basically just had the kids crumple up some brown kraft paper (we used this, which comes in a nice, big roll that lasts forever because there’s so much of it), glued it down onto some heavy-duty cardstock into a tree shape, then put out squirts of these washable finger paints onto paper plates. Then the kids just dipped their fingers in the different colors and put them by the tree’s branches and around the paper (like the leaves were falling) however they wished. Honestly, I don’t direct my kids much on stuff like this — I just explain the general idea of what they’re aiming for and then let them take it in whatever direction they will. And even though my 3-year-old got a little overenthusiastic and was basically using his whole hand/palm to paint with, it was super easy to clean up because I’d put them in aprons (which went straight into the washer after), threw away the paper plates with the paint, and wiped down the table. Easy peasy. (Plus now we have some fun art for our fridge!)
- War (card game)
- It can be a bit challenging to find games that are good for most of us, or even just to play with the older two kids (who are six and three), so when we find one, we tend to play it quite a bit. However, there’s only so much CandyLand I can take, so another option is always welcome.
- The rules of War are simple — you divide your cards (we just use regular face cards, minus the jokers) evenly between all the players, which you leave face-down throughout the game. Each player takes a turn flipping over their top card, and the player with the highest number wins all the cards in that round, which are then added to the bottom of their stack (still face down). If two players both turn over the same high number (say, two kings), then those players have a “War” to see which of them gets all the cards. For the “war,” each of those players puts three cards face-down in front of him/her, then flips over a fourth card. Whichever of the players has the higher card wins ALL of the cards. Play continues until all players except one have run out of cards.
- Flower Arranging
- Now I know not everyone is a flower farmer (obviously) or has a specific cutting garden, but lemme tell you a secret — there are usually a TON of options for foraging all around you if you just start looking (which is something I had to do this year when I was short some foliage and filler ingredients during June of this year). Your flowers don’t have to be fancy (they can be dandelions!) and the filler and foliage can be from random shrubs in your yard or the weeds growing in the abandoned lot down the street, but the key is to just gather as many different “ingredients” as you can for your kids to do some little flower arrangements with. Lay out all the ingredients in piles, fill a couple small vases with water, and let your kids play around. My older two kids LOVE doing this, and they asked me multiple times over the course of the growing season when they would be able to do it again. (Also, I’ll give you a little tip: most of the flowers in your yard are likely “cut and come again” flowers, which means that if you cut them, the plant will just grow more, and usually in greater abundance as well!)
Products We’re Loving
- Pretty Pretty Princesses
- Okay, fair warning — while this isn’t MY favorite game to play together as a family, we got this for my daughter for her last birthday, and she LOVES it. (In all fairness, I loved playing it when I was younger too!) Basically the objective of the game is to be the first player to don all of your color-coordinated jewelry, win the crown, and avoid getting the black ring. It’s kind of a ridiculous game, but my kids absolutely love it. (Plus we always get some good laughs out of it as we watch Daddy (or Grandpa!) put on the “pretty earrings.”)
- Wayfair sandbox
- Normally we would have just bought the lumber and built a sandbox ourselves, but with lumber prices skyrocketing over the summer, we figured out that it was actually cheaper to go with a sandbox kit. So far this sandbox from Wayfair has held up great, and we loved that it came with a cover (something we lacked with our other sandbox).
- Wooden toy car garage
- My mom and stepdad bought this little wooden toy car garage for my 3-year-old on his last birthday, and both he and my youngest (who will be two in a couple of months) absolutely LOVE playing with it. I like that the car garage does NOT come apart (it’s just all one piece), so the only things we need to semi keep track of are the little cars that go with it. Honestly, I would say that about 50% of play time lately for the boys has been them either playing with this car garage or with the huge heavy-duty steel Tonka dump truck we bought for that same son’s 2nd birthday last year.
- CD Boom Box
- I know that for most people c.d. players are totally a thing of the past, but we actually bought this pink one for our daughter’s birthday, and it has been the perfect thing — we have a bunch of audiobooks on c.d. (most that we bought used for a steal), and having her own boom box allows her to listen to and change out the c.d.’s at will. In fact, considering that she literally spends hours on most days listening to audiobooks as she draws or paints, I’d say it was the perfect gift for her at this time.
Books, Books, Books
Obviously we’ve read a LOT of books over the past year, so I’ll go ahead and just give you a sampling of some of our recent favorites.
- Sophie’s Squash by Pat Zietlow Miller
- Sophie goes to a farmer’s market with her parents, and they buy a squash. But instead of letting her parents cook it, Sophie names it Bernice and takes it everywhere. I LOVED this book, and we actually ended up buying it for our own library so we could enjoy it more regularly.
- Ox-Cart Man by Donald Hall
- This is an older title, but one that I hadn’t read or heard of until this year. This book follows one New England family through the year as they live off the land, sell what they can, and use the proceeds to buy what they can’t make themselves and begin the process again. This is a lyrical look at what is now homesteading life, but what used to just be the way that most people lived.
- Drawn Together by Minh Le
- This is a mostly wordless picture book about a boy and his grandfather who initially have a hard time forming any sort of bond because they don’t have a shared language. However, when the grandson discovers that his grandfather knows his favorite language very well — drawing and art — they finally learn to communicate effectively. It goes without saying, but the artwork is REALLY impressive in this one.
- Eye by Eye: Comparing How Animals See by Sara Levine
- My kids are starting to get more into reading nonfiction books whenever we go to the library, and this particular one that compared how different animals see differently (and how the physical makeup of their eyes was also different) was totally fascinating, even for me.
- Leaves by David Ezra Stein
- A short and sweet story about a bear experiencing autumn for the first time, where he starts trying to put the leaves BACK onto the tree. I love books about changing seasons, and this is another one we recently added to our personal library.
All the books below are on permanent repeat in our house by our six-year-old, who listens to them via the c.d. player I mentioned above. We bought all of them as audio c.d.’s, but obviously you could go through a service like Audible as well. Admittedly, the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle narrator is not my favorite, but even I really enjoy the performance on all the rest of them (which is important, since I’m constantly listening to them all on repeat as well through proximity!).
- Ramona Quimby series, narrated by Stockard Channing
- Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series, narrated by Karen White
- Harry Potter series (Books 1-3), narrated by Jim Dale
- Little House series (Books 1-4), narrated by Cherry Jones
We’re currently looking at which titles to get her next for Christmas, so if you have any fabulous audiobooks for a six-year-old, send them my way!!
- Rowley’s Red Barn in Santaquin
- For anyone who lives around Central Utah, you NEED to know about Rowley’s Red Barn. Not only does it have fabulous u-pick options (we went for the apples), but they also have several different festivals throughout the year (think: sunflower festival, corn mazes, etc.), each with its own fun family-friendly activities. Additionally, they sell a lot of their produce as well as a good selection of locally produced food and craft items in their store. We’re about to go for a 4th time just because their prices on their fruit are incredible — 99 cents a pound for the apples (all of which taste amazing since they’re grown right there, obviously), as well as great prices on peaches, pears, and other produce. Definitely worth a look if you’re in the area!
That’s a wrap for now (and hopefully it won’t take me a year to do another one!). What things have YOUR kids been enjoying lately? Please do share!