Fostering Independent Play with Activity Boxes

by Jessica Lieb on August 22, 2014 · 0 comments

activity boxes for kidsAfter what seemed like weeks of constant rain I noticed that my children were becoming restless. They got bored easily, couldn’t maintain focus on a task for very long and were generally more grumpy. You see, we’d been watching a lot of television and their little bodies and brains were simultaneously under and over stimulated. They were getting way too much audio and visual input when they need more healthy brain stimulation like creative play, reading, physical activity, etc…

Like most Americans my kids watch too much TV. To be honest it’s an easy way to keep them distracted while I attempt to get stuff done. Now we love watching a good movie or our favorite shows but when the television became my go-to-entertainment for the kids I knew I needed to switch things up.

I decided to turn OFF the TV.
At first it was difficult. They wanted to watch their shows. They didn’t know what to do. They needed my constant direction.
It was rough the first few days but then I had an idea.

I pulled out our collection of puzzles from the closet and like moths to a flame they devoted their entire attention to this “new” activity. It was then that I realized they just needed new activities to explore. Their little brains needed to be activated. That didn’t mean I had to take them new places or buy them new toys, it was as simple pulling some old toys out of storage.

I then started to create activity boxes.

What is an Activity Box?
An Activity Box is a box/bin filled with similarly themed toys/projects/games that are stored away and brought out for special use or play.

Here are a few examples of our activity boxes.

LEAPFROG TAG READER AND BOOKS- LeapFrog LeapReader Reading and Writing System

leapfrog activity box

VTECH TRAINS – VTech Go! Go! Smart Wheels – Train Station Playset



PUZZLES- Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden USA Map Puzzle


MEGA BLOKSMega Bloks First Builders Big Building Bag


LEGOS-LEGO Bricks & More Builders of Tomorrow


WOODEN TRAINS- Brio Classic Train Set


I’m still working on assembling activity boxes that all 3 boys can enjoy. Maybe Lincoln Logs, Gears! Gears! Gears!, cars, action figures, coloring, etc…

The idea is to group together sets of toys that will hold your child’s interest and then set them aside to specific play. We still have a selection of toys out that are played with on an everyday basis but separating out specific toys for independent play gives them a special purpose which make kids love playing with them (not to mention much easier to clean up).

I will also bring out games like the Let’s Go Fishin’
game. Although the younger 2 still require a bit of assistance when it comes to playing games.

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 1.53.42 PM

The addition of Activity Boxes has greatly reduced our screen time, meltdowns, and need for constant direction from mom. They have also increased the length of independent play, attention span, ability to sit still for longer periods of time and overall creativity.

What would you put in your kids’ activity boxes?


Baby 4 Gender Reveal: It’s A….

by Jessica Lieb on August 21, 2014 · 1 comment

Baby 4

Yesterday we had our Anatomy Ultrasound. Jude has been very interested in Baby 4, especially the 1st ultrasound pictures that hand above my desk, so we thought he might enjoy attending the next ultrasound. We picked him up a little early from school while grandma watched the two littles.

Jude loved getting to see the baby and learn as the ultrasound technician identified all of the different parts of the baby. Baby 4 is healthy and growing right on schedule.

We decided to find out the gender of this baby and Jude was ecstatic to learn he is having another baby brother. He immediately named the baby Charles. Joe and I said we would take it into consideration.

Afterward we stopped at Goodberrys for a little celebratory ice cream where Jude announced to the world that his mama is having a baby boy.


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A Week of School Lunches – Week 1

by Jessica Lieb on August 20, 2014 · 2 comments

Last year Jude took lunch to school for the first time. I was at a complete loss as to what I should pack in his lunch. He’s not a terribly picky eater but when we were at home I would just throw together whatever we had on hand, be it left overs or a pb&j sandwich. I didn’t give much thought to lunch until I had to pack it for him every day. So this year I decided to be better prepared with an arsenal of lunch ideas and appropriate tools.

Now I’m not a bento box mom. You won’t find me creating fancy cut outs or landscapes with food but I do want to insure that my child eats a well balanced meal. So I bought a few of these Ziploc Divided Rectangle Containers, they fit nicely inside his lunch box and make it easy to create appropriately portioned size lunches.

school lunches

A Week of School Lunches – Week 1

Day 1 – Turkey and Cheese Sandwich with zucchini muffin, grapes and yogurt (not pictured).

Day 2 – Pizza Roll Up, zucchini muffin, veggie chips, cantaloupe and yogurt.

Day 3 – Star Wars Peanut Butter and Banana (I used cookie cutters), Tortilla chips, half banana (which didn’t get eaten because peeled it and it started to turn brown), animal crackers, yogurt raisins and yogurt.

Day 4- Joe’s Pizza Roll Up (he folded it instead of rolling it), carrots, chocolate graham cookies, peach, yogurt.

Day 5 – Turkey and Cheese Sandwich, tomatoes, animal crackers, yogurt.

All meals are packed with a water bottle.

As you an see there isn’t a huge amount of variety. I packed days 1-3 and Joe packed days 4 & 5. I try to switch things up a bit when I make Jude’s lunches but Joe just sticks with what he knows and is easy.

I will continue to post our weekly lunches to show variety and what was a hit and what was not. The peeled banana was NOT a hit. The Pizza Roll Up was a BIG hit.


Save the Handwriting with BIC #BICFightForYourWrite

by Jessica Lieb on August 19, 2014 · 0 comments

With the advancement of technology comes to loss of important skills like handwriting. I know I spend a lot more time typing on a computer than I do actually writing out things with paper and pen. I think handwriting is a very important skill that needs to be taught to all children. Many children spend so much time on electronic devices that they have very poor penmanship.

Did you know that writing is also a critical learning tool for children? Writing helps kids become better readers, boosts their confidence and sparks their creativity.

I’ve been working with Jude (1st grade) to help him with his handwriting. I decided to take advantage of his love for technology and downloaded a handwriting app on my iPad. We used the BIC Kids Stylus so he learns how to properly hold a pen/pencil while writing his letters. He loves that he can practice his writing and “play” on the iPad.

BIC Kids StylusWe also have an assortment of BIC pens and pencils, many of which are specifically designed for kid’s small hands, to learn proper writing.

bic fight for your write

BIC Fight For Your Write
Join BIC in their Fight For Your Write Campaign to save handwriting. BIC is giving a minimum donation of 50,000 pens and pencils to and will continue to donate 1 pen/pencil for every signature from now until 12/31/14 (up to 100,000).

Sign the petition NOW to SAVE HANDWRITING.

Why is writing important?

  • Writing is an important vehicle for communication because it distinguishes us and promotes individuality.
  • Writing is also an important learning tool for children. Writing helps kids become better readers, boosts their confidence and sparks their creativity.
  • Together we want to show children just how great writing can be…and how great they can be!

Like BIC Pen Pals on Facebook

I received the featured product in exchange for my opinion. The opinions expressed in this post are my own and not influenced by the company.


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