Saturday, May 14, 2016

LEGO KidsFest Kansas City Review: Building Family Fun

Disclosure: I received complimentary tickets to attend this event with my family. No other compensation was received and all opinions are 100% my own and honest.

Last night we had the chance to experience family fun at an event like nothing else I've ever seen before. I told the kids we were going to LEGO KidsFest and despite watching the promo video on their website, we had no idea how amazing our night would be!

LEGO KidsFest Information

We arrived at the venue about 10 minutes before the doors opened, got our map and started planning our strategy. We planned that we would visit some of the more popular areas first and wanted to make sure to visit all of the "participation prize" stations first. These are marked on the map with a red star and we made a beeline to the Star Wars competition area first. We were in the first group to participate and the kids were thrilled to see that just for participating they got a small LEGO build to take home. After helping their team build a Star Wars star ship in a relay, we visited the Challenge Zone where we got to create an animal. We all got to build our dream houses in the LEGO Friends area and a stop at the Brick Battle Zone got us all competing to see which team could build the highest tower. The catch? It had to survive being moved to the judging table. Our tall tower, like most others, did not survive the move but the kids (and adults) loved participating!


We're a pretty competitive family so these challenge areas were a blast for us. As a bonus, we got some amazing prizes just for participating and my purse was bulging with all the kids' goodies.

After visiting all of the challenge areas, we found several photo areas that the kids were super excited about. The LEGO friends photo booth strip shown above is now in a special spot on the refrigerator. The LEGO City photos below were taken in front of a green screen and then printed right on site for us. They also emailed us a copy. How cool are these?? The best part, all of this is all included with your ticket price. None of the activities cost any extra!

We were glad we did all of those early as the lines for them got longer later in the evening so try to hit those early if you can. Connor had been not so patiently waiting to visit his favorite stations so we headed over to the LEGO Ninjago area and stayed there for quite a while. The setup was pretty awesome, each station (there were many) featured two spin battle stations that you could attach 6 ninja mini figures to. Then by simply moving the joystick around you could spin the stations around to defeat your opponent. This was one of our favorite activities of the night and the kids loved personalizing their ninjas to battle with. Of course we had to take photos with the large Ninja models as well.

Connor loves the LEGO Ninjago show right now so he would have happily stayed here all night. Here is a short video showing how the battle stations work. Connor was pretty thrilled with his victory.
video

After tearing him away from his beloved Ninja LEGO battles, Connor headed straight for the Star Wars section. Mike was pretty excited about this area too. These characters were a little harder for our little ones to build but they still loved it. LEGO KidsFest encourages parents to build with their kids and there were many adults enjoying this area just as much as the kids.

Connor wanted to play Star Wars for a while longer so Grace and I ventured over to visit the Disney Princess area. Full of princess and castle LEGO bricks, Grace and I happily built a castle to add to the large castle collection. The Cinderella model was Grace's favorite large model of the night and it's not hard to see why! It's so intricate.

The race ramps turned out to be a favorite for our family. We all built cars and enjoyed racing them over and over again. There were plenty of ramps so that everyone could enjoy the fun!

We couldn't visit LEGO KidsFest without trying out the Big Brick Pile that they are famous for. I wish I had a photo of how large this pile was but trust me, it was MASSIVE. The kids hopped right in and started making LEGO angels, tall towers, and running around like wild children. I lasted about 10 seconds laying in it but the kids loved it.

I had read great things about the Master Builder classes that are offered at every LEGO KidsFest but I thought our kids would be too young to enjoy it. But when a staff member offered us tickets for the last class of the night, we thought we might as well try it. For future reference, go get your tickets for this right when you arrive if you want to do this class. Normally they run out of tickets pretty early and you won't get the chance to go if you wait til the last minute. We just happened to get lucky and I'm so glad we did. Our 3 and 5 year old both loved it and I can honestly say I learned a lot! There are only 8 LEGO master builders in the world and we got the chance to ask him all of our questions and have him teach us some of the tricks of the LEGO building trade. Plus, he juggled LEGO balls which was pretty cool. Again, this is a MUST SEE at LEGO KidsFest and it doesn't cost any extra!

Our last stop of the night was the Model Museum. These huge models are right in the front as you enter but we waited until the end to take photos because it wasn't nearly as busy. The kids had fun taking photos with all of their favorite characters. The detail on these models is amazing!

If you have a chance to attend LEGO KidsFest, make sure to stop by the sponsor's booths.  The Santoki booth features the new LEGO stationary! I received a couple of these pens and they are so fun!
I was beyond impressed with LEGO KidsFest. We went expecting to have fun but we loved every second of it. I wasn't sure how much our little ones would be able to participate in but they were fully included in everything and never felt out of place. We got to build a ton of fun things as a family and never felt rushed. The staff was constantly picking bricks up off the floor and taking apart bricks that people were done with so they would be available for new builds. It was well organized and the lines moved fast. I cannot say enough good things about our experience. Both kids have been talking about what we did there non stop and are begging to go back. I hope LEGO KidsFest decides to come back to KC in a couple of years because we will be first in line to buy tickets!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Outdoor Summer Fun: Messy Play Date Activities


Last summer, one of my friends invited us to her house for a messy play date. What kid doesn't like getting messy? Plus she was offering to deal with the mess at her house so we were in! I dressed the kids in their swimsuits and took plenty of towels and we headed off for an adventure.

We arrived to find many different activity stations in her backyard and the kids ran around making messes to their heart's content. I asked my friend if I could blog about all of the activities because she did an amazing job and the kids had such a great time!
The most popular activity with all of the kids was messy painting. She purchased a cheap flat white sheet, condiment dispensers, and washable paint from Walmart. She filled the condiment dispensers with a mix of paint and water and then let the kids spray the sheet. The only issue with this activity was that the kids loved it so much she had to refill the containers with paint frequently.

My kids both loved the bubble blowing station. We do this activity at home a lot inside so getting to make huge piles of bubbles outside without worrying about the mess was a huge hit. For instructions on this one, check out my Indoor Bubbles post.

A water table filled with DIY slime made for hours of fun. You can find lots of slime recipes on Pinterest and I think it would be fun to use slime with plastic dinosaurs or other animals.

Rainbow spaghetti was a perfect sensory activity for all of the kids. The babies loved feeling and squishing the noodles while the older kids loved throwing and squishing it. Simply add a little cooking oil and food coloring to cooked spaghetti for messy fun!

The kids happily ran around and got messy for several hours while the moms enjoyed chatting. It was a perfect idea for a play date and I'm hoping to have one this summer with some new messy ideas. Would your kids love a messy play date? 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

3 Easy Ways to Cut Down on Dishes When You Have Kids: Guest Post

I was honored when my friend Anjanette over at AnjanetteBarr.com asked me to contribute to her book Dinner at Home. She is a long time friend (we're actually from the same city but didn't meet until college) and her husband and I went to library school together. She has 4 kids and I am amazed by her, honestly. I can barely get anything done with 2 little ones! She, like me, struggled with domesticity (is that a word? If not, I think it should be) when starting her own home and wrote Dinner at Home to provide some hints she's learned along the way for those of us who might struggle with cooking. Cooking is not my forte and I definitely picked up some tips from this book, it's perfect for any skill level. Plus, I shared one of my ultimate cooking failures in the book so make sure to read it just for that! Anjanette was kind enough to do a guest post for me to share with you her 3 Easy Ways to Cut Down on Dishes When You Have Kids. I can't be the only one ignoring a sink full of dishes right now, right?

Doing Dishes with Kids

I'm pretty convinced there's such a thing as a "homemaking gene," and that I didn't get it. Nothing in this realm comes intuitively or enjoyably for me. I have to take each chore as it comes and just do the next thing.

Still, after 10 years of homemaking - 8 with children - I am much more proficient (and efficient) than I was when I started. Trust me, there was a time that all homemaking - especially the aspects that involved time in the kitchen - was intimidating for me. I even wrote a book about it! But, thank Heaven; I've learned a short cut or two along the way!

One of the most difficult hurdles for me to overcome is how relentless things like dirty dishes are when you have lots of mouths eating lots of food every day. We homeschool, so we have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snack's worth of dishes at the end of each day. Since I have four children, that's no small pile.

But I do have a few secrets.

No, I'm not going to say paper plates. ;)

I'll disclose right away that I fill the dishwasher at least once a day. I haven't managed to cut back so much as to avoid that, but without these tips, I think I could easily be doing two or more loads a day!

1. Keep track of cups.

My mom worked as a daycare provider while I was growing up, and I remember how serious she was about us keeping our own cup colors straight. She rinsed them out after each drink and kept them on the kitchen counter. Back then we used the same cup for juice, milk, water, and soda without washing it thoroughly. I'm too much of a germaphobe for that, but I'll tell you what's worked for us.

The first is a lifestyle choice - we only drink water. It's cheap, life-giving, and doesn't leave any flavors in cups to leech into the next drink. The only exception we regularly make is that adults have coffee in the morning, and kids have herbal tea in the afternoon. We drink those in one sitting and then put the cups directly in the dishwasher.

The second help is that we've borrowed and modified my mom's color-coding scheme. Since the only liquid in the cups is water, I feel fine using the same cup all day - or even for two days - as long as the kids keep track of whose cup is whose. We prefer glass to plastic, so we usually use mason jars.  We tried using different sizes/shapes/brands of jars, but the kids started to argue. Now we use identical jars, but we color-code them by keeping colored rubber bands on them. We also restrict drinking to the kitchen or dining room, and have them keep cups on one side of the counter when they aren't eating a meal so that cups don't run around the house and get lost.

2. Simplify the dinner service.

I love those restaurants that serve foods "family style." In Japan (where I studied in college) we'd sometimes visit a yakiniku (grilled meat) diner where we were given a huge plate of raw meat veggies, which we dipped in sauces and cooked on a grill in the middle of the table.

And how much do you love looking hotdogs or hamburgers on the grill? Everyone just takes a plate and stands around waiting to serve themselves, right? You don't even technically have to provide plates if you are in the yard with family and close friends!

The way we replicate that causal dinner service in our home is to sometimes serve a variety of foods on one platter. The meal pictured with my children was one they ate with their fingers - no plates and no utensils! In fact, I didn't even prepare that meal - they did! We've loved improving their kitchen skills with the course Kids Cook Real Food.

3. Double-duty while you're at it.

Another strategy that saves both dishes and time is to cook in bulk. Even making double portions will save you from washing that pot or skillet twice, but if you can make larger batches, you'll really reap rewards. Use your biggest pot to make chili even if it's way more than you can eat, and then freeze the extra. Bake three dozen cookies or muffins and then separate them into batches that you can get through without gorging.

You may also consider cooking extra quantities of single ingredients, which is a meal planning strategy I recommend in Dinner at Home. That way when you need diced onion, you not only save a few minutes of chopping, but you can keep that knife in the knife block entirely. I like to make or prepare bulk batches of things like beans, rice, ground beef, and chopped veggies (freeze without cooking to maintain texture.)

Take time today to pay attention to what gets dirty in your home. If you figure out that your children use an excessive amount of a particular type of dish or utensil, try one of these strategies or come up with your own plan! I'd love to know what works for you!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Family Game Night: Top Picks for Toddlers & Preschoolers with Winning Moves Games

Disclosure: I received 3 of these games from Winning Move Games in order to facilitate this review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are 100% honest and my own.

Friday nights have officially turned into family game night in our house and we are all loving it. Mike and I played tons of board games before having kids but with young kids and little sleep, it was hard to find time to enjoy them. Now that the kids are older (Connor is 3 and Grace is 5) they are starting to enjoy playing games and actually following the rules, sometimes at least! It's taken some time to find games we can all enjoy together so I thought I'd share our top picks of games for toddlers and preschoolers.
 1. Hi Ho Cheerio- This is such a simple and fun game. It's perfect for short attention spans and really helps little ones work on their counting. The only downside is that somehow we always seem to end up with cherries on the floor and I'm pretty sure we've lost a few. This is one the kids ask to play over and over. 

2, Moose Caboose- Moose Caboose is a new game for us and it is by far Grace's favorite. To play, each player connects animal train cards by matching colors. The animals are adorable and when you play a "Moose Caboose" card, you collect all of the cards in that train series. Whoever has the most cards at the end wins. It is great for learning colors and we've noticed Grace learning the strategy of when is the best time to play the infamous caboose cards. Mike and I were surprised by how much we enjoy this game and even our older nieces and nephews like it. It's easy to learn and a game takes about 15-20 minutes. It's a perfect beginning card game for preschoolers.

 3. Candy Land- There is a reason Candy Land has been around for more than 65 years! This vintage favorite has been a hit with my kids since we started playing it when they were 2. Much to my frustration, the modern version sold in stores currently features a spinner rather than the original cards. The spinner causes more problems than it's worth in my opinion (the kids always end up arguing over what the spinner arrow is pointing to) so I much prefer the cards. I was ecstatic when Winning Moves sent us the classic version with the original board and cards. We play it during family game night but the kids often request to play it by themselves.

4. Crocodile Dentist- Sometimes with little ones, short games are best. Crocodile Dentist is about as simple as it gets, each player takes a turn pushing down one tooth until, CHOMP the croc surprises you! These photos were taken the first time the croc chomped and despite the fuzziness, the joy on their faces was amazing. They laugh hysterically every time we play this game. Plus they think it's hilarious to make me play as I have a well known phobia of crocodiles. This game is a perfect travel game as there are no detachable pieces and a round only takes a few minutes at most. I will say that my husband, the software engineer, has figured out the mechanics so he never loses. I am still trying to figure out how he knows which tooth is the magic one every single time!

5. Chutes and Ladders- This is another classic game that my kids love. It's perfect for practicing counting.

Our kids definitely inherited our competitive sides so family game night will be a tradition we continue for years to come. What games do you play during family game night? 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Free Activities for Kids: Kids Bowl Free Nationwide!

Summer is quickly approaching and while I'm excited for the weather, I'm already starting to worry about the inevitable fighting that will occur when the kids are together all day every day. I've got our normal list of outdoor activies ready to go but let me tell you, it can get HOT in Missouri. We regularly get highs over a hundred during the summer meaning we don't last too long outside. Sometimes you need to get inside into the air conditioning and this next free activity I'm sharing is perfect for those hot days!

Have you heard of KidsBowlFree before? If not, you need to check it out. All kids 15 and under get 2 free games of bowling per day! There are over 12,000 locations nationwide so the chances of there being one near you are pretty high. Signing up is totally free, just visit KidsBowlFree.com and please use me as your referral, momentsthattake at gmail dot com (write it out as a proper email address, I just do it that way here to avoid spam bots!) Plus, there is a family pass option where parents, grandparents, older children that don't qualify for the Kids Bowl Free passes and babysitters can join in the fun and get the same great 2 FREE Game offer every day. Our local alley offers a shoe pass for the summer for a low price so the total cost is extremely low for lots of family fun!

We often visit our local bowling alley for their Mommy and Me bumper bowling time and can't wait to spend lots of time there this summer. The kids are pretty good with the bumpers:

Have you tried bowling with your kids? Let me know if you sign up for this great program!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Easter 2016

Easter weekend meant a short trip down to Wichita to visit my family this year. Luckily it's only a 3 hour drive and the kids are pretty content watching movies on the iPads. The trip is definitely getting a lot easier now that they're older and I get to pack a lot lighter now that I don't need to bring tons of diapers! Connor hopped right into his seat and looked like mister cool guy waiting for Mike to put gas in the van.


The trip down was quick and easy. We had a busy Saturday full of time with grandparents and cousins. Our visit happened to be just a few weeks after our newest nephew Bryant was born and I will admit that I took the chance to cuddle him every time I could. It's amazing to me how small he is and it's hard to remember our kids ever being that tiny!
 Connor liked him but didn't do much other than look at him for a few seconds. Grace on the other hand started begging to hold him the moment she saw him. She was very serious about it and really enjoyed getting to be a big girl.

Due to scheduling issues, we decided to do all of our Easter activities including church and egg hunting on Saturday evening. Of course, due to a day full of fun play with his cousins, Connor fell asleep in the van on the way to church and ended up sleeping on me during the entire service. He obviously needed the nap and he was happy and ready for an exciting night of egg hunting.

Grace remembered egg hunting last year but Connor had no idea what to expect. There are 9 grandkids on my side of the family ranging from a few weeks old to 12 so the little kids were given a head start. We thought we might have to help Connor but we were wrong. He ran and grabbed as many eggs as he could as fast as he could.

Each child was supposed to start with getting 10 eggs but Connor quickly surpassed that number.

Grace happily collected her 10 eggs. I wish I had gotten better pictures of her but all of the kids were running like crazy!

Connor was pretty pleased with his haul.

He had no desire to wait for me to take this photo, he just wanted to find out what was in the eggs. The final count was that most of the kids got 10 eggs while he got 22. He ended up sharing some of his eggs with his younger cousin.

We were very glad we did the Easter egg hunting the night before Easter because we woke up Sunday morning to 2 inches of snow! Of course I hadn't packed any of their snow gear so we were stuck inside for the day. I felt bad because Grace's Easter gift from us was a t-ball set and she was really hoping to try it out. So we decided it would be a good time to dye Easter eggs instead. This was the first year that both kids were really interested in helping.

The were both very proud of their final product.

Our trips down to Wichita are never long enough. We headed back Sunday afternoon with two exhausted, but happy kiddos.

How was your Easter this year? 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic Review

Disclosure: I received media tickets for my family to this event. No other compensation was received and all opinions are 100% honest and my own.

Grace and I have been to several Disney on Ice shows throughout the years and it's become one of our favorite events. We haven't brought Connor in the past because he had a difficult time sitting still for long, but now at three years old Mike and I both felt that he was ready for the show! So I showed both kids the previews and they counted down the days until we got to see Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic.

Both kids decided to dress up in Disney gear, Grace as Aurora and Connor as Buzz Lightyear. We picked up a friend and headed to the Sprint Center for a night of Disney magic.

We arrived a few minutes late because parking was difficult to find but we finally got to our seats and the kids were very excited.


We missed the first few minutes of the Mickey and friends intro due to finding our seats, but we got settled just in time to see the Blue Fairy, Jiminy Cricket, and Pinocchio. The kids have never seen Pinocchio so they weren't too interested in this section. The energy of the audience at this show was amazing and you could hear the gasps when Nemo "swam" out onto the ice. The costumes in this section were amazing and the turtles were so much fun. The kids loved every second of it.

After a swim in the ocean, we were whisked away to the Beast's castle where we watched the Beast transform into a handsome prince.

One of the things that I noticed most about the 100 Years of Magic show was the amazing couples skating featured throughout the evening. I know I've seen some impressive skating in shows in the past, but wow, these couples were great! I could have watched them skate all night and I loved when all of the royal couples danced to their specific movie song.

You could hear all of the little girls scream and yell for their favorite princesses and it was impossible not to smile. This was by far Grace's favorite part of the whole show and she is still talking about it this morning.

The rest of the first act featured Frozen. We went to Frozen on Ice last year and this was basically a condensed version of that show. It was by far the longest feature in the show and while I understand that is the most popular Disney movie at the moment, it felt way too long to me. It was fun to hear all of the little girls belting "Let It Go" but I wish they would have shortened the Frozen section to include another film.

The second act was definitely my favorite as it contained some of my favorite Disney movies. It started with a fun Genie number from Aladdin that featured tons of Genies skating in complex formations.

Next came the section Connor had been waiting for, Toy Story. He absolutely adores Buzz and Woody so he was in awe the entire time.

Next came several songs from Mulan which I loved. We had watched Mulan the day before so it was great to see this movie featured. The war scenes were a bit abstract for the kids but this section was my favorite. The dragon was amazing!

The kids loved seeing all of their favorite characters together at the end and were sad that it was finished.

There's nothing like watching your child's face as they experience the magic of Disney. We really enjoyed that this show featured more characters than any of the other show we've ever seen and most of the sections were fairly short, perfect for short attention spans. The kids are already begging to go back again and I can't wait to take them next year.

Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic will be at the Sprint Center:

Friday, March 25th @  3 PM, & 7 PM 
Saturday, March 26th @ 11 AM, 3 PM, & 7 PM 
Sunday, March 27th @ 3 PM

Click here to purchase tickets to Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic. To learn more about Disney on Ice, check out their Facebook and Twitter pages now!


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