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Filtering by Tag: creative fun with EJ

book review | national geographic animal encyclopedias

liz lamoreux

This book review is part of a collaboration with Zulily during their current National Geographic event.

When I began to flip through the two books that Zulily sent over, The Animal Encyclopedia and the Ultimate Bug-Opedia, here's what I thought:

The books are gorgeous. The photos are big and make every single animal seem life-like. There is so much information packed inside these pages that we will use when my daughter inevitably asks, "Are lions really cats like the neighbor's cat?" or "Do crocodiles live in Africa or Australia?" Because already at 4, these are the questions coming out of her mouth. And now we have a place to look up the answers. She's also expressed interest in wanting to know the names of the insects we see, and AHA! we now have the perfect book to use to identify them.

But I wasn't really sure what she would actually want to do with these huge reference books.

The real magic happened when she saw them on the kitchen table when she woke up on Saturday morning.

She wanted nothing to do with the TV or even trying to convince us to take her to the Disney Store (because after our trip to Disney World, she pretty much tries to get us to visit the Disney Store every week). 

Instead, she said, "Are these books for me? Can I look at them while I eat breakfast?"

And in that moment, I remembered how I used to look through my parents' National Geographic reference books that they kept on a low shelf in the living room. For hours. I had forgotten about them and hadn't made the connection that Ellie might love the very same thing at her age.

So we dove into the insect book. She wanted to name every single insect she knew and then had me name any that she didn't. Then she saw a wasp and said, "This one has pretty wings. What is it?" I explained knowing she would be surprised because after being stung by two wasps last fall, she's afraid of them and often asks if I see any or if there will be any where we are going etc.

We were able to read about them and talk about how colorful they are and how one kind of paper wasp can even recognize wasp faces in a similar way to how humans see faces. And she decided, "Okay, I think wasps are cool and beautiful. But I still don't like their stingers." (Me either kid.) And she concluded maybe she wouldn't be as afraid all the time now that she'd seen these photos.

That was huge.

Monday after school, I brought out the Animal Encyclopedia as our activity before dinner. She's really enjoyed drawing with me lately, so I thought we might try just drawing pictures of the animals that caught our eye as we flipped through the pages.

This simple act of just seeing how much Ellie liked the book so I could report in for this review became, no joke, one of my favorite moments ever. She went from saying, "I don't know how to draw a bear!" to just diving in. 

Then she wanted to write out their full names. It was not only an exercise in increasing her self-esteem around creating but also became another opportunity to practice writing words all while fostering her curiosity about animals and nature.

This spring break, I'm going to work with her to begin to create a field journal of all the animals we've seen. It will be full of her drawings of them based on our photos + the photos in this book. And then we'll keep adding as we see more at zoos and out in the world.

Such an awesome way to blend learning and fun and creativity for both of us.

And this is the part where I admit that I might not have purchased these just seeing the covers on Zulily. They are gorgeous books as you expect any National Geographic book to be, but how they would actually engage my daughter wasn't apparent to me. I mean she's only four.

I'm so glad I learned this lesson. Ellie loves them. And we've started doing "quiet time" at night and sometimes during naptime (at almost five she's really getting close to letting go of naps right now). During quiet time, she loves to look at huge books with lots of photos and words, so these are now added into the mix, which of course makes her science teacher daddy very happy.

These National Geographic books + other good things are on sale right now over on Zulily. If you're reading this and miss the sale, just click over and then ask Zulily to notify you when they're on sale again. You'll get an email right in your inbox when they're back.

Note: This post was sponsored by Zulily in exchange for my honest review of these books. All ideas, photos, and words are mine. And because I'm a huge fan of Zulily's customer service and have bought quite a few things over the years that I'm very happy with, it is a joy to work with them.

creative adventures :: kiwi crate

liz lamoreux


Over here, we continue to be totally delighted by the kits from Kiwi Crate. We've been subscribing to their monthly crate for about two years now, and each month, Ellie's face lights up when she sees her name on the big green box. (Love that the kits are addressed right to the kids.)

Each month there's a new theme and this past month the theme was baking. We both said it might be our favorite box yet! Though we're also big fans of the Rainforest Kit, which includes this Rainforest Frog Game. The Pom Pom pets are maybe our ultimate favorite though. Ellie and Jon still make them from time to time. (I've started giving the Mini Kits for birthday gifts now that Ellie is in school and birthdays pop up every few weeks.)

If you follow me over on Instagram, you've probably seen peeks of the boxes each month, and I thought I'd share a bit more. What I like about Kiwi Crate is the kit includes everything you need to complete the two projects inside (there are also ideas for other projects to do around the theme too in the little "magazine" that's included). 

Ellie and I do craft together a lot and she plays with beads and other things in my studio while I work sometimes, but I'm not really one of those moms who can look at popsicle sticks, beads, and pipe cleaners and say, "You know what we should do today? We should use all of these things to BUILD A CASTLE!!!" Not so much. (Maybe there aren't a lot of moms like that, but doesn't Pinterest make you feel that way sometimes? A whole post about that coming soon.)

Which is why I love kits like this one. (And that's why I only pin crafts I feel like I can actually do to my "creative fun with EJ" Pinterest board.)

The kits are also perfect for Ellie and Jon to do together. Sometimes a kit has a science theme, which makes him super happy, and they often do one of the projects in the kits when I'm away at a retreat. (Though he's really the true crafty one. Did I tell you about the coat and hat he made for her stuffed turtle while I was away at my last retreat? Seriously!)

These kits give us a great weekend afternoon activity, and the completed projects are fun to get out, especially on rainy days. Over the last two years, it has been really fun to see Ellie grow as she's gone from being able to do some of the kit to doing almost all of it herself. The company that makes Kiwi Crate also now has kits for older kids too. Love that! I pretty much want to subscribe to the Tinker Crate for me (for reals).

Do you do any crafty kits like this with you kids? I'd love to add another subscription or other kits to the mix over here. Share in the comments so we can all learn from each other.

Note: This post is not sponsored by Kiwi Crate, but links throughout are affiliate.

staying in touch with faraway grandparents

liz lamoreux

Eleanor is lucky to have three sets of grandparents, but all of them live very far away from us. One of the new things I'm trying to do to keep us connected is to send letters and artwork in the mail. She comes home with a lot of artwork from school, which is awesome, but also has me wondering what the heck to do with it all. There's a small stack that is going into cards we'll send, and we're going to use the huge pieces of painted paper that come home from time to time to wrap some Christmas gifts.

When Ellie's official school photos came home a couple of weeks ago, not only was I wondering if it might be the best school photo of all time (because seriously! it is in the photo at the bottom of this post), but I also thought we should do something special to send copies to her grandparents. Over the summer, I had a great conversation with someone over at Treat, which is one of Shutterfly's sites that focuses just on cards. It was fun to learn about the site, and as soon as I saw Ellie's photos, I finally had the perfect idea to try them out.

I sat with Ellie and we made a list of her favorite things about school so far. All the words are hers, though the editor in me couldn't stop myself from making the list "parallel" in structure. That urge just never leaves me.

We then sat down at my computer and chose a photo from the handful of first day of school photos I'd taken. She insisted it was her favorite favorite favorite, and we put it on the front of the card.

We had the option of adding another photo inside, and I remembered that we had a great one from her teachers. In September they focused on "construction" and had their first field trip to the facilities department on campus. Ellie talked about it for days. So I asked her to tell me about this photo and her favorite parts of learning about construction. I literally typed what she dictated to me, and I love how she started by saying, "This photo is full of joy!"

I typed up her list and then we were able to put a tiny photo of her on the back plus a short note. She wanted to type so I spelled "Made with love by Eleanor Jane," and she was so excited to be able to type like Mama on the laptop. The whole process was very easy and we were on the Treat website for about 15 minutes from beginning to end.

About one week later the cards arrived. You can have Treat mail the cards for you, but we wanted to include her school photo + I wanted her to sign her name because she's writing her name everywhere these days.

The ease of using Treat + how fast they come + the joy on Ellie's face when she saw the cards in person and was able to sign her name and put them in the envelopes pretty much means the grandparents will be getting these every couple of months. I can slide in other photos I've printed out at home, and they can feel a lot more connected to all of us.

So. Much. Fun!

Disclosure: Treat did not sponsor this post or provide me with free cards. However, affiliate links are used throughout, which means I receive a small commission if you order from Shutterfly or their companies through these links.

love this :: ellie's current favorites (march)

liz lamoreux

I asked Ellie if she would share some of her current favorite things on my blog. Here's the list she gave me:

Sneaky, Snacky Squirrel Game!: This game is awesome! It is great for fine motor skills + everyone has a chance to win, which means we all get to learn about being a kind winner and what it feels like not to win. Ellie says, "I like when you get a storm and all the acorns blow away." 

Ellie says that The Very Hungry Caterpillar Puzzle is her current favorite because it comes in a box you can easily carry. She just about has the book memorized and loves reading it to herself. Puzzles have been a favorite for about a year now. 

Melissa & Doug's Pattern Blocks are a favorite during evening quiet time (something we are doing after bath time to ease into bedtime). Ellie has fun choosing which animals and colors - sometimes matching, sometimes going for the rainbow look. Listening to her commentary is always a treat.

Ellie and her Daddy love reading Ladybug magazine. It's for ages 3-6. It contains a variety of different mediums - poetry, art, and short stories, and it has recurring characters that they can follow from issue to issue. I love that it gives them something special to do together. It's also available in digital format, which would be awesome for traveling. They also enjoy reading Disney Junior magazine.

Ellie also wants me to tell you that she loves her Elmo nightlight. It came in handy when we almost lost power a few weeks ago. It was early evening and the light were flickering every now and then for about thirty minutes. Ellie kept it close to her so she could turn it on right away if the lights went off. She's still talking about how "prepared" we were if the power went out.

A little more about the evening quiet time: Around Thanksgiving, we found ourselves neck deep in the "I don't want to go to bed" excuses. For weeks we tried different things. It got really intense. One day last month I asked myself, "When I look back on this six months from now, what do I want to remember?" It was a take on my word of the year practice, thinking about how I would hope this time would look like if I came at it from even more love.

As I thought about this question, I had this vision of Ellie and I sitting in my bed. Me reading. Her looking at books or playing quietly with stickers. I realized that this time could be more about just being quiet together, letting the day fall away as we eased into bedtime. I could let go of "if you are a good mom, then your three year old should be in bed by this time or she will be exhausted and not thrive and her brain won't grow like it is supposed to" and all the other crap that gets piled up on a parent trying to do the best she can.

So we're trying quiet time. Sometimes it happens at her little white table or on the couch or next to me in bed. I'm letting go of the pattern of what the evening used to look like and letting this new way be okay. I'm listening to what I know and remembering how this serves me, us, again and again.

Note: Some of the links above are affiliate links, which means I receive a small commision when you purchase something from the linked website.

creative fun with EJ :: kiwi crate

liz lamoreux

Over here, Kiwi Crate is one of our favorite companies. Ellie's aunt gave her a subscription for Christmas a year ago, and we fell in love with the green boxes that come full of crafty goodness. This past December, Kiwi Crate sent over one of their holiday kits for Ellie and I to play with, and today's post is a peek inside our afternoon of fun.

First, we created some painted ornaments. Ellie loved this activity, and I'm tucking it away as one she might make as Christmas gifts later this year (hoping they might have a kit for that). 

The kits come with great instructions with illustrations, so she's able to follow along. Lots of "Okay Mommy, let's look to see what we do next."

She had a lot of fun squeezing the paint in the plastic ornament balls and then swirling the paint. (And I did too.)

We also created a cardboard gingerbread house complete with snowy roof and pompom and rickrack trim. This one was a great exercise in letting go for me and just letting her just do her thing instead of insisting snow on the roof must look a certain way. Always learning.

What I love the most about these Kiwi Crate kits is that they contain almost every single thing you need to create these crafts (sometimes, for example, you might need scissors, though a past kit actually came with some safety scissors that Ellie uses all the time).

What this means is that you don't have to have a lot of craft supplies to have a crafty day together. So if you don't have that crafty parenting move down that comes easily to some, or like me, you sometimes want to be able to just open a box and get to having fun together on a Saturday afternoon instead of preplanning it all, these kits are a perfect answer. 

And I love the thoughtfulness that is apparent in each of the kits we've enjoyed. The design and instructions are clear and fun and often there are stories included that teach all of us something. 

You can sign up for just one monthly kit or a subscription of 3, 6, or 12 months. You can see some non-holiday sample kits here to get an idea of what the monthly kits are like.

Special for my readers: If you click through using this link right here, you'll receive a special $10 off your kit purchase. Hope you enjoy!

Please note: This post isn't sponsored by Kiwi Crate, but they did gift us with the holiday kit shown in the photos. I am an affiliate for them, which means I receive a small commission when you click through to their site and buy something. However, these opinions are mine (and Ellie's). And as you can see, we are big fans so being an affiliate is an easy choice. I gifted Ellie and me a new subscription for Christmas and can't wait to open this month's box of goodies.

creative fun with my (almost) three year old

liz lamoreux


Ellie and I have been diving into the world of crafty fun lately.

And before I tell you all about it, I want to confess something: Sometimes I really struggle with activities to do with her. She’s our only child, I haven’t been around a lot of other kids, and I’m not so much into reading parenting books (mostly because they didn't apply to us for the first two years because of her heart surgery and our experiences). So I don't have a list of "things an almost three year old should be doing each day" that I turn to when we are embarking on a day together.

That said, I’m continually being reminded by Ellie that trusting my intuition and listening to her is the best way to know what to do next. I share this to gently remind you I'm not an expert, but I do enjoy sharing what works for us because I know I'm not the only mom out there like me. 

Right now, Ellie is really interested in what I’m up to in my studio and says things like, “I want to make necklaces” and “Can we work in my art journal now?” and “I want to paint today!” Her curiosity gives us a lot to do in a day. And I'm able to really listen and follow her lead when I'm also taking care of my needs (translation: not skipping breakfast, not worrying about emails that need to be answered, letting go of the to-do list as much as possible, and so on).

Because I always appreciate lists of ideas from other parents, I thought I would share a few of the creative things we are really enjoying together.

1) Making necklaces: We made necklaces with big wooden beads for her grandmothers for Mother’s Day. And Ellie loved it! She was very clear on who would get what colors, and she had fun sorting the beads into colors and sizes. We used these wooden beads, string, and sorted them into something like this (which is what I use for my beads in my studio). She was very excited to be making necklaces like Mama. And my heart more than melted when she said, "We have to make one for you now Mama" after we finished the Mother's Day gifts. I'm wearing it almost daily around here.

2) Stickers: For several months, playing with stickers was all about piling them on top of each other. Just a big pile of stickers. But lately, she’s started getting into decorating her coloring pages. We have this reusable sticker book and it really helped her see that if she piles them, she doesn’t get to see them all (plus we can easily unpile them and they don't rip). I’ve also started having her help me use letter stickers to form words for labeling her toy storage and even for Project Life stuff.  

3) Painting: She’s been using watercolors for about a year, but she is just now really getting into how she can use the water in different ways to affect the way the colors look. We LOVE this easel from Ikea.

I want to get some tempura paint for her to use, and I realize most people probably don’t start their kids off with watercolors, but it’s working for us (as evidenced by the video above about our painting collaboration). 

4) Art journaling: She has a few different notebooks/journals that she plays in. When I called one of my Smash journals an art journal, she immediately began to call all her notebooks art journals too. I LOVE this!! We use: 

  • One big inexpensive sketchbook full of thick paper for coloring, painting, and stickers. It is so fun to look through because Jon, Bonnie (our babysitter), and I have all played in it with Ellie, and I love how it gives such a snapshot of the last 10 months or so. There are notes from each of us next to Ellie’s drawings, “This is Millie,” “This painting is for Grandma Fina,” and so on. 
  • A few little Moleskines that I can easily throw in my purse to give her something to color in when we are out and about (they are awesome on the plane and at restaurants).
  • A Smash journal (I shared more about how we are using it in a guest post over at Alisa's blog).

5) Playing with the Instax mini: Last month, I started a new project where every now and then I bring the Instax mini with us on our adventures to the park and have Ellie take a few photos. She really loves to use it, and it becomes a bit of a lesson in detachment for me as I try not to control the moment and just let her play.  

As I've mentioned, I’m learning that explaining beforehand is a very good thing for her personality. So during the drive to the park, we talk about how we are going to take some photos and I remind her that she is borrowing my camera (we've been talking a lot of borrowing and sharing these days because there is a bit of "this is mine!" going on). We talk about how excited we are to watch the photos develop etc. Then as we walk, we talk about what we might want to take photos of. This way she is less likely to just grab the camera from me and yell at me as I say things like, “BUT wait! Let’s talk....hold on...okay there went two photos of the ground...” 

Going in, I have to just know that we are going to waste some film. But this feels okay to me because we are also going to get at least one awesome photo that she is going to feel excited about (though truth be told, she's excited about all of them). Last month, she took one of my favorite photos ever of my mom when she was visiting.

I'm thinking about using a Project Life mini album to document our Instax project and will share more as we find our way with this project. And one idea: If you are taking a few people on an Instax adventure, I suggest bringing a Sharpie along so you can quickly put initials on the back so everyone knows whose photo is whose.

Over on Pinterest, I have a board called "Creative Fun with EJ" where I'm collecting ideas, especially for things to do this summer when all three of us are home for several weeks together. 

In the Comments 

I’d love to hear about the crafty fun you are having with or without kids in your corner of the world. What’s on your studio (or kitchen) table? What do you hope to create this summer? How are you having creative fun with your kids?


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There will be daily photography prompts, writing + self-care prompts, stories from my own experiences in the toddler mama trenches, plus we'll be gathering in a private Facebook community that will continue after the course. 

Register and learn more here. We begin June 5.

And please pass this course along if you know a toddler mama who might want to join us. Thank you.