Our Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum

Are you looking for some curriculum recommendations? Here are our Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum choices as we start schooling at home this Fall.

our kindergarten homeschool curriculum
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I have been asked by numerous friends and family about our curriculum choices for Kindergarten. I am certainly happy to share what we have decided to use. First, let me share the tool that really helped us make some decisions. This book has been a Godsend to me. It is a handbook of sorts for homeschooling families. In fact, I’ve included it before as a must-read homeschooling book in my post 4 Books You Need to Read Before Homeschooling.

The resource is Duffy’s Homeschool Picks. In this comprehensive book, Duffy provides a questionnaire to help narrow down the homeschooling method that is right for you and your family. (You can read more about homeschooling methods in my post Homeschooling Methods Explained) Then, she provides information on how to determine how what kind of learner your child is. For instance, some students may be tactile learners (hands-on), visual or etc. Some children prefer to work independently, while others need instructor-led education. Some families prefer textbooks, while others want an online experience. This book helps to determine those choices and ranks curriculum based on those needs so you understand which material will be a good fit. The book also provides a thorough review of each of the curriculum choices including the time intensity of the program, other materials that might be needed, and cost.

You can purchase Duffy’s Homeschool Picks through the affiliate links below. You may also purchase it through her website, Cathy Duffy Homeschool Reviews. I think the book is easier to navigate than the website and provides more handholding when choosing a curriculum, but the website is also a wonderful curriculum source.

Lastly, when it comes to choosing which subjects you are going to teach, understand that some states may have specific requirements. So, don’t forget to look up your state’s requirements first.

Where to Buy Curriculum

First, all publishers of the curriculum have their own websites with information and links on where you may purchase curriculum. However, my favorite shopping source is Rainbow Resource. Even though they are a smaller company they have one of the largest selections. They carry about 40,000 educational resources all geared towards homeschooling. You can purchase online, but they also provide (for the asking) paper catalogs that you can browse through.

Homeschool Buyers Co-Op is another good source for curriculum. They run sales often and even provide teacher and student IDs for your homeschool for about $5. As a co-op, they have big discounts on lots of curriculum. You can also find curriculum on Amazon, Christian Book, and The Curriculum Store. You can even buy used curriculum in Buy/Sell Homeschool Groups on Facebook.

Our Kindergarten Homeschool Curriculum

Social Studies / History

Most kindergarten curriculum does not include social studies or history at this age. However, even at the preschool age, I introduced my son to Egyptology. He is fascinated by The Great Sphinx. Jack can name things like a cartouche, sarcophagus, canopic jar, and hieroglyphics. He can even recognize the images of Pharaoh, King Tut, and Nefertiti. We talked about the four directions (the points on a compass). I taught him how to find our city, state, and country on a globe. We’ve also talked extensively about our Apache heritage. My point is that even though they are young, your child may enjoy social studies and history. Most children don’t really start this until the elementary years, but since our son has expressed interest and we are history lovers ourselves, we have introduced it earlier. You certainly do not need to include this in your homeschooling unless your state requires it.

We are using 180 Days of Social Studies. I plan on using this workbook for regular social studies lessons. Additionally, I plan to supplement some fun field trips to museums and historic sites here locally. The social studies workbook has 180 days of lessons which is the average length of a school year.

We are also using DK Geography Workbook. The geography book covers topics like how to read maps, our community, landscapes, and spatial skills. The workbook itself is fairly short so I will combine.

The social studies workbook introduces concepts like civics, economics, and history. I admit that I don’t like that these books are in black and white. The lessons are very simple. I would prefer something more comprehensive, but there aren’t a lot of choices at this age so I’m willing to use this for now to at least introduce the subject matter. I’m sure in first grade I will find something more in-depth.

Math

Math is a scary subject for me. Perhaps because I’ve come to realize that it’s very easy to fall behind and then stay behind. So far, Jack has done very well learning things like counting to 100, number recognition, etc. I think that he may need some visual and hands-on work as we start to introduce additional math concepts to him in Kindergarten. So I found a program that is both Classical-friendly and also has some tactile learning for Jack. Horizon’s Math. The set includes two workbooks and a teacher’s manual. The lessons include directions and positions, introducing simple fractions, time, days of the week, money values, adding and subtracting single digits, etc. The other nice thing about Horizons is that they have done the lesson planning for you into 180 lessons.

In addition to the curriculum, we use these math manipulatives and math counters so that our children can visualize addition and subtraction.

Horizon Math

Handwriting

Jack is struggling with handwriting. He hates coloring and using a pencil. Honestly, it has been a frustrating experience for both of us. Because he laments doing anything that requires writing, we had been more focused on pre-writing skills. We’ve been doing lots of things that don’t feel like handwriting practice, like salt writing, tracing, looping, etc. After lots of discussions with teachers and hours of research, we are going to be using Handwriting Without Tears. This program seems to be one of the better ones for resistant learners. Hopefully, this will help us break through some of the frustration. HWT is a workbook based writing program but includes multisensory learning. It has leveled books and a teacher’s manual. Wish us luck!

Phonics and Reading

So far, choosing a Phonics program has been one of the hardest things I’ve researched. There are so many choices out there that claim to be the best. Dyslexia runs in my family, so naturally, I am concerned about that with Jack. I do think that Jack needs a program that is fun and engaging. We are starting with Hooked On Phonics. One of the main reasons we are choosing it is because my brothers and I used it to read when we were children, so obviously, it’s been around for a while. It tried and true. There are two levels for every grade and you can buy them individually. The levels are about $26 each so it also one of the more reasonable programs out there. I figured we can try it and if it doesn’t work out, we haven’t invested much.

Since we are classical homeschoolers, we focus heavily on reading. Here is our fiction reading list. We will also be reading lots of other books that are about science, notable people, places, and other things, but here are our storytime books. I’ve included them in the post, Classical Books for Kindergarteners. We are getting most of them through the library and used book sources.

Bible Study

Our Bible Study is simply consisting of reading stories from The Complete Children’s Illustrated Bible. This bible is in full color and has beautiful illustrations on every page. One thing I love about this particular bible is that it does not omit stories that other children’s bibles do. For instance, in the Moses story, it plainly says that the Egyptians drowned when God closed the Red Sea. It does not water down Cain murdering his brother Abel or the killing of the firstborns by Pharaoh. Nor does it leave out Sodom and Gomorrah. It does however, leave out the Song of Solomon. I love that even though it is in story-form for young readers, it still is very complete.

We are reading 2-4 pages per day. Since a great deal of the pages are illustrations, it is a very quick read. In addition to reading Bible stories, we will also be singing some praise songs, hymns, and children’s Christian songs.

Supplements

Melissa and Doug Learning Clock

I never considered how confusing it it is to explain the concept of time to a four year old. Seconds, minutes, hours. The 7 represents both a 7 and 35. The 12 is a 12, 60, and a 00. This learning clock by Melissa and Doug has been awesome. We bought it in May this year and it has totally helped him under the concepts better and he’s doing fantastic so far telling time. First we worked on learning 5 minute increments along with the hour. After being fluent in that, we will then introduce how to read the precise minute. Then we will introduce quarter and half hours. This clock comes with flash cards to practice. It has been so helpful! In just the first week of owning, my son finally understood what I had been trying to explain for months.

learning clock

Play Money

This past year we started to implement a small allowance for my oldest in exchange for doing household chores. It’s important to us that he learn the value of money and delayed gratification when it comes to buying things. That said, it dawned on my that he had no concept of the worth of money, so I decided to dedicate some time to learning about money. Sure, we played store. He understood the concept of money being exchanged for goods and services, but it was time to learn how to count money. So, I purchased some realistic play money to be used in our math studies.

Calendar

We learned about seasons and weather in preschool. Now in Kindergarten, I am requesting that Jack use this Melissa and Doug calendar at the start of our homeschool day.

Music and Arts & Crafts

We will incorporate arts and craft times throughout the week. I find hobby stores have lots of seasonal crafts that are fun as well as coloring and painting.

Over the last couple of years. Jack already knows some musical terms like piano, pianissimo, crescendo, accelerando, forte and fortissimo. We will continue to introduce and add more musical terms and we will listen to one piece of classical music a day. Jack already loves several pieces by Verdi and Peer Gynt “In The Hall of the Mountain King.”

That’s it. If you have questions about curriculum or homeschooling, feel free to ask them in the comments section. If this is your first year of homeschooling, try not to stress too much about it. Homeschooling is a journey and there is a lot of trial and error as you find your way.

Blessings,

Mary.

Classical Books for Kindergarteners

Introduce your child to the joy of reading classical literature. Here is a list of classical books for kindergarteners for homeschooling or reading pleasure.

classical books for kindergarten
This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of the links I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you.

Classical books are some of the greatest teaching tools for your children. When you introduce a child to reading, you introduce them to a vivid imagination, new vocabulary, and novel concepts. Classical books that stand the test of time in regards to storytelling, subject matter, and quality. As a classical homeschooler, we focus heavily on Classical literature. But even if your child is public schooled, I encourage you to read classic books.

Many classic books are more conservative than their contemporary counterparts, thus preserving your child’s innocence. Also, classical literature typically contains richer vocabulary than most modern books which are full of modern colloquiums. Classic books also offer a different perspective of history and the world, which brings me to my next point.

Classical Literature For a Lifetime

Starting the habit of reading classical literature can foster a love of classical reading for a lifetime. I was very blessed that my mother read all the books I’m about to share below. As I grew, my love of books continued well into my teenage years and remained a cornerstone of my classical education. As your child develops and matures, continue adding age-appropriate classics. For example, as a pre-teen, I loved reading Jane Austin, Bronte, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Rimbaud, and James Fenimore Cooper. By high school, I was reading books like The Devine Comedy (Dante), Paradise Lost (Milton), War and Peace, and In Cold Blood (Capote) and The Count of Monte Cristo. As a young adult under twenty, I read 1984 (Orwell), Animal Farm (Orwell), Atlas Shrugged (Rand), Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky), The Canterbury Tales (Chaucer) and The Prince (Machiavelli).

I am certain of how introducing reading early, particularly classical literature and poetry, can cement a fondness for it that lasts a lifetime. I absolutely attribute my love of books to my mother, who read to us every day as children. Most people are surprised to learn I have dyslexia. Although reading and writing requires more concentration for me than for others, I’ve always enjoyed reading. Perhaps in a future post, I’ll compile a list of classical books for adults.

Classical Literature for Children

Although this list is long, you needn’t worry about buying every book. Public libraries are a great resource for classics. Some libraries offer the ability to order books from other branches if it isn’t available at your branch. Many libraries even have their catalogs online, so you can see if your public library carries it. Some even allow you to reserve copies online. Half Price Books, ABE Books, and other used book stores are also a great resource.

If you can only afford a few books, I recommend investing in Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Aesops Fables, Greek Mythology, and Hans Christian Andersen Fairy Tales. You will see that so many of the great stories we come to know as children originate from these books. You can find illustrated versions of these books at Amazon and other book retailers. Here are some examples of the stories you can find in those treasuries.

Famous Tales by Hans Christian Anderson

  • The Emperor’s New Clothes
  • The Little Mermaid
  • The Princess and the Pea
  • The Snow Queen (you know it as Disney’s Frozen)
  • The Ugly Duckling
  • Thumbelina
  • The Tinder Box (The Pied Piper)

Famous Grimm’s Fairy Tales

  • The Twelve Brothers
  • Rapunzel
  • Hansel and Gretel
  • The Fisherman and His Wife
  • Cinderella
  • Little Red Riding Hood
  • The Bremen Town Musicians
  • The Shoemaker and the Elves
  • Thumbling Travels (Tom Thumb)
  • Briar Rose (Sleeping Beauty)
  • Snow White
  • Rumpelstiltskin
  • The Golden Goose
  • The Twelve Huntsman
  • The Wolf and the Fox
Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

Benefits of Reading to Children

Reading is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your child. Just take a look at some of the benefits your child receives by daily reading.

  • The sound of your voice is calming to your child
  • It models proper diction and enunciation
  • Increases their vocabulary
  • Showing your child the text improves letter and word recognition
  • Promotes a longer attention span
  • Books teach about morals, situations, personalities, emotions, and relationships.
  • Helps to reinforce parental bonds and quality time
  • Fosters imagination
  • Raises IQ level

Classical Books for Kindergarteners

I really hope that this list of classical books for kindergarteners helps you and perhaps even challenges you to read more classics with your child. I know it will be a great experience for both of you! In the comments below, I would love to hear what your favorite book was growing up.

Easy Chicken Tetrazzini

Today I’m going to share my favorite dish to use up leftover chicken, easy chicken tetrazzini, a creamy cheesy casserole that is easy to whip up for a weeknight dinner

This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through a link I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you. See my full disclosure policy for details.

I stumbled across this dish nearly two decades ago. When I first started making it, I learned that chicken tetrazzini was a casserole dish from the turn of the century. Some say it dates back all the way to 1908. You might think it is an Italian dish because of the name and the fact that it has pasta, but it isn’t. It was actually named after turn-of-the-century opera Luisa Tetrazzini.

Making Chicken Tetrazzini

It was very popular in the 1940s and 1950s as a staple casserole dish. In my household, it has become one of our beloved family favorites, not just because of the delicious creamy taste, but because it is a wonderful way to use leftover chicken. I also go to this recipe if I don’t have enough chicken to make it a main course. This recipe stretches a few breasts out enough to feed a family.

Apparently, that’s why it grew in popularity. During the Great Depression, it was used to make the most of the little meat families had. Housewives also used whatever pasta they had on hand. That’s why you see it with all kinds of pasta like spaghetti, broad egg noodles, linguine, even penne, and elbow macaroni. In fact, many people even use the recipe to make turkey tetrazzini with leftover turkey. I almost always do this after Thanksgiving. During the 1940’s and 1950’s some housewives even used canned tuna along with whatever cheese they had on hand. Tetrazzini is a truly versatile dish.

It may surprise you to learn that there is no universal standard recipe for tetrazzini. It was kind of a first throw-down recipe of sorts. Earlier recipes are slightly more complicated than what I will share today. Early recipes call for sautéing your own fresh mushrooms and then creating a cream sauce with heavy whipping cream, butter, white wine or sherry, meat stock, and cheese. However, thanks to the 1950’s housewife, she used a more convenient method of using Cambell’s Cream of Mushroom and Cream of Chicken condensed soups to quicken this recipe and that is what I am going to show you today – easy chicken tetrazzini.

Roasted chicken
Courtesy of Unsplash

Start by shredding your chicken while your pasta boils. If you prefer, you can slice your chicken or meat into bite-sized chunks. Once your pasta is drained, add it to a large bowl, combine your cans of cream of chicken soup and cream of mushroom soup. Add milk, half and half, or cream. If you are using cream you need about a cup of cream. If using half and half or milk, you can use about a half cup or change until you reach your desired consistency. We like ours extra creamy and rich. If you don’t care for such a heavy sauce, you can dilute with more milk. If you don’t have milk, you can substitute a half cup of meat stock to dilute.

You’ll add in your cheese to the cream sauce. I reserve half for spreading on top. As I mentioned earlier, housewives used whatever cheese they had on hand. I prefer parmesan because it adds a lot of flavor. But I’ve used Mozzarella, Monterrey Jack, Colby Jack, Cheddar and various combinations of cheese. Some people also like to put a topping on the top. Like toasted breadcrumbs, crunchy cornflakes or fried onions like a green bean casserole. I, however, don’t do that, although you can if you want. You may notice, I’ve omitted any salt from the recipe. That’s because there is plenty of sodium in the condensed soups and cheese. So I suggest tasting before you add any salt on your own.

Easy Chicken Tetrazzini

Al dente noodles and chicken are smothered in a creamy, cheesy sauce in this easy casserole.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 2-3 Large Chicken Breasts, Cooked Shredded
  • 1 ½ Cups Shredded Parmesan or other cheese Divided (two 3/4 cups)
  • 1 10.5 oz Can of Cream of Chicken Soup Preferably Campbell's
  • 1 10.5 oz Can of Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • ½ Lbs Spaghetti or other pasta
  • 1 Cup Heavy cream or half and half (or milk for a lighter sauce)
  • 2 Tbsp Fresh Parsley, finely chopped (Optional)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 375°
  • Cook pasta according to the package instructions
  • While pasta is cooking, shred cooked chicken into a large mixing bowl.
  • Add one can of cream of chicken condensed soup, one can of cream of mushroom soup and cream or milk. Stir well to combine.
  • When pasta is cooked, drain well, and combine with cream sauce.
  • Add half of the divided cheese into the pasta mixture and combine well.
  • Transfer pasta to a deep casserole or baking dish.
  • Spread remaining cheese on top and bake at 375 for 30 to 40 minutes or until it is bubbly and cheese is golden.
  • Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.
Keyword chicken, chicken breast, chicken casserole, easy casserole, easy recipe, family favorite, leftovers, pasta, weeknight dinner
chicken tetrazzini

Serving and Storing Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken Tetrazzini is a heavy dish, so I like to serve with a garden salad or other green like roasted asparagus or green beans. If you have leftovers, chicken tetrazzini will keep in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can microwave it or warm it in the oven to reheat it. I have never tried freezing it, although pasta normally freezes okay if placed in a good quality container to protect it from freezer burn. Also, I’d probably allow some room in the container since cream tends to expand when frozen. As I said, I’ve never tried freezing it, so let me know in the comments if you try it.

chicken tetrazzini

Thank you for joining me for this recipe. I know you will enjoy it. Over the years, I’ve really grown to enjoy using older recipes because they are tried and true and women knew how to feed a large family and provide comforting home-cooked meals every day. If you are fond of casseroles, be sure to check out my Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole and Baked Ziti.

100 Things To Keep Yourself Busy at Home

The COVID-19 quarantine has forced us all into our homes. It’s not uncommon to feel a little bored at home. Here are 100 things to keep yourself busy at home during the Coronavirus shutdown.

Coronavirus has turned all of our lives upside-down. We are spending lots of time at home right now and if you are like me you may be wondering how to stay busy at home. During the first couple of weeks of quarantine, it was actually a little nice. My husband was working from home. We were all together as a family and spending lots of quality time together watching movies and relaxing at home. But after the initial honeymoon, I began to feel really bored. I’m kind of a homebody, but I never realized how often I get out during the week with the kids.

There are lots of reasons why we feel bored. It could be that we may not feel intellectual stimulated or challenged. Sometimes boredom comes from not socializing enough or simply not doing things that bring enjoyment. If you are feeling bored, stop and evaluate exactly what is driving it. For me, it is all three.

Finding Focus and Projects

This is a perfect time to focus on projects. Maybe you’ve been wanting to landscape your backyard. Many nurseries are doing curbside shopping. Now is the perfect time to design your dream yardscape and work outdoors. Perhaps you’ve been wishing to learn a new hobby like knitting, drawing, hand lettering or woodworking. Now is a great time to learn how to do those things. Maybe you are like me. Over the six months, I have totally let the house get out of control. It’s time to do some serious reorganization and some deep cleaning. Since there are fewer distractions right now, it’s the perfect time to dig in and create organization projects.

If it is socialization that you miss, there are ways you can do it virtually. If you haven’t checked out the Zoom app, you don’t know what you are missing. The Zoom app was created for businesses for video conferencing. Zoom has a free package that allows you 40 minutes of conference time. Personally, I think it is better and more stable than FaceTime. They also have paid packages which allow for more time. Lots of people are utilizing the app to do group events virtually. I have some friends who have used it for a virtual girl’s night. One of my friends is hosting a virtual book club while another friend is meeting with other mamas in the mornings for coffee and chit chat. A dear friend of mine is utilizing it for group bible study. I used it to celebrate my son’s second birthday so he could see all of our family while we sang “Happy Birthday.” If it is socialization you are missing, consider harnessing the technology we have available to fill the void.

100 Things to Keep Yourself Busy At Home

  1. Play / learn an instrument
  2. Make a streaming binge watch list
  3. Clean out your junk drawer
  4. Try out a new recipe
  5. Write a short story.
  6. Write a haiku or poem
  7. Watch some funny fail videos on youtube
  8. Clean out your email inbox and unsubscribe to emails you don’t read
  9. Read some classic literature. Many are free to download.
  10. Window shop online
  11. Learn how to do hand-lettering or calligraphy
  12. Watch a Stand-up comedy show
  13. Start a blog
  14. Write product reviews
  15. Give yourself a manicure or pedicure
  16. Doodle or draw.
  17. Watch Ted Talks
  18. Skype or Facetime someone
  19. Start a virtual book club
  20. Create a budget
  21. Clean out old contacts on your phone
  22. Listen to a new Podcast
  23. Mix up some cocktails
  24. Rearrange your furniture
  25. Run diagnostic, clean up or maintenance tasks on your computer
  26. Knit, sew or crochet
  27. Organize paperwork and bills
  28. Clean out your medicine cabinet
  29. Take an online course
  30. Play some board games
  31. Fix things around the house
  32. Catalog all your movies or books
  33. Update your resume
  34. Create a weekly meal plan
  35. Do a jigsaw puzzle (you can even download jigsaw puzzle apps for your mobile device)
  36. Clean out your fridge or pantry
  37. Exercise. You can stream lots of fitness videos on YouTube. Consider taking your workout outside.
  38. Write in a journal
  39. Make some music playlists
  40. Make a bucket list
  41. Back up your computer or files
  42. Sell things you don’t need on Ebay or other online consignment outlets
  43. Plant an herb garden
  44. Browse PINTEREST for ideas
  45. Clean up old photos on your phone
  46. Bake cookies
  47. Bible study
  48. Wash your windows (you’ll be shocked how much more natural light you get)
  49. Clean your house
  50. Decorate your porch
  51. Write a goals list
  52. Read inspiring quotes
  53. Photograph nature in your own back yard
  54. Create a vision board
  55. Picnic in your backyard
  56. Grill out and dine al fresco
  57. Start a bullet journal
  58. Study a new language
  59. Toss out expired products
  60. Write a letter to someone (you can order stamps at USPS online) or fill a care package up to send to someone (you can print shipping labels at USPS online and schedule a porch pickup).
  61. Take a nice long bath
  62. Give yourself a facial
  63. Take a walk
  64. Scrapbook photos / create a photo book online
  65. Start a YouTube channel
  66. Do a crossword puzzle
  67. Play online or mobile games with friends
  68. Listen to music and if you’re feeling it, dance!
  69. Clean out your car
  70. Wash your car
  71. Learn how to bake bread
  72. Clean out your fireplace
  73. Paint a picture
  74. Make your own “Starbucks” coffee with flavors in your pantry
  75. Learn how to solve a Rubix cube
  76. Enjoy some hot tea
  77. Play with your pet
  78. Pray / meditate
  79. Find some fun accounts on Instagram to follow
  80. Take an online cooking class
  81. Write an ebook
  82. Get outside and do yardwork
  83. Plan a future trip
  84. Learn origami
  85. Learn Magic tricks
  86. Explore apps on the App store
  87. Binge read the other posts on this blog (wink, wink)
  88. Take a virtual tour of museums, zoos or theme parks (See also this list of 300 museums with online tours.)
  89. Write your memoir.
  90. Plan a ZOOM party with friends ( Get creative: host a dinner party, girl’s night, coffee and brunch or game night)
  91. Create a time capsule
  92. Research a new subject you’ve always wanted to learn about (like an event in history or how something works)
  93. Learn an old-world skill (like candle making, bookbinding, canning, hide tanning, blacksmithing, breadmaking, soap making, etc.)
  94. Watch Best Picture Oscar-Winning movies
  95. Research your Ancestry
  96. Have a karaoke night with the family
  97. Create fun Tik Tok videos
  98. Have an Opera Night. (The Met Opera is streaming free ones)
  99. Do a Spring Cleaning Challenge
  100. Volunteer virtually

What Are You Doing

In the comments below, I would love to hear what you are doing to stay busy and productive at home. How are using your time during the COVID-19 quarantine? What have been the silver linings in your life during this downtime?

How to Make White Sandwich Bread

No bread at the store? No problem. Today I’m going to show you how to make white sandwich bread the easy way at home. No special tools required!

how to make white sandwich bread
This post contains affiliate links. Should you make a purchase through one of the links I provide, I may receive a small percentage at no cost to you. I only link to things I personally love, own or want to own.

I’ve been baking up a storm during the COVID-19 outbreak. When all of this started, I bought tons of flour and a few pounds of yeast because I know that as long as you have those things, there are infinite kinds of bread that you can bake at home. Pizza dough, hamburger buns, dinner rolls hot dog buns. Later this month, I will show you how to make some unleavened bread (bread that doesn’t require yeast) like tortillas and pretzels. But today I’m going to share how to make white sandwich bread at home. Plain white sandwich bread is very versatile and you can conjure up lots of different lunches with some plain white bread. It’s a great recipe to try if you are new to bread baking. Once you get comfortable with simple white sandwich bread you’ll be excited to learn how to make other breads like bagels, ciabatta, baguettes, dinner rolls, buns, and pretzel bread.

Tools of the Trade

One question I get asked is, “do you need any special tools to make bread?” Not really. You certainly don’t need a bread machine. A bread machine just takes some of the elbow grease out of baking bread. You pop your dough in and it will knead and bake it for you and take a lot of guesswork out of baking bread. But let me tell you that baking bread isn’t as complicated as you might think. I was intimidated by it for years before I finally decided to learn. I was surprised at how simple it really is. You can make bread with just your bare hands and a loaf pan. After all, that is how people have made bread for centuries. However, if you would like to take out some of the work you can use a stand mixer with your dough hook attachment. That’s what I do. This recipe takes around three hours from start to finish, but nearly all of that time is rising and baking. The prep time is actually fairly quick.

dough hook
Dough hook attachment and bulk yeast

The only other thing you need is a work surface. A well-cleaned countertop is fine for that. Also, you will need a loaf pan. I have found that metal pans seem to bake bread more evenly than glass ones. I recommend using a small standard loaf pan because freshly baked bread doesn’t last very long. Unlike store-bought bread, it isn’t packed with preservatives to keep it from molding. So I keep the size small and eat it quickly.

I will however, introduce you to one of the best $30 finds on Amazon. This bread slicer was one of my best Amazon purchases! You slip your loaf inside the wooden guide and it allows you to cut perfectly sliced bread every time. I wasted a lot of bread because I wasn’t cutting it evenly or straight. This solved that problem! It even has a board underneath to catch crumbs. Incidentally, I save the breadcrumbs! Don’t buy bread crumbs from the store when you can make your own for making meatballs and breading meat.

(Click on the picture to purchase)

PRO-TIP: Always use a serrated knife to cut bread. Smooth knives will smash your bread rather than cut it.

Ingredients

So the first thing you need is yeast. Personally, I buy yeast at Sam’s Club because they sell it in two one-pound packages and it is way more cost-effective that way. Yeast is also sold in packets. If you use yeast packets you will need one full packet, plus 1/2 tsp more. I highly recommend refrigerating yeast once you open it. You can also store it in the freezer. If you have yeast in your pantry and you aren’t sure if it is still good, you can do a simple test. Pinch some dry yeast and put it in a cup. Add a pinch of sugar and a little warm water. If it bubbles after a few minutes, it is still good. If there is no or very little activity, it’s expired. The bubbling is called “blooming.”

After a few years of baking, I’ve learned that bread flour is superior to all-purpose flour when it comes to baking bread. I can definitely tell that it makes a stronger, denser, spongier bread. That is because bread flour has a higher gluten content than all-purpose flour. That said, I make this recipe with all-purpose flour all the time. There is no need to buy special flour for this recipe. Use your all-purpose flour if that is what you have. Someone asked me if they could use wheat flour for this recipe. In all honestly, I have not tried it. However, I will say that wheat flour is much denser than white flour and so you normally use less of it. Personally, I recommend finding a tried and tested wheat bread recipe instead of trying to alter this one.

When you are done baking your bread and while the bread is still hot, I recommend buttering the top. Bread tops can seem a little hard when they are baked. A simple brush of butter is all it needs to soften the top again and it makes it more like the sandwich bread you buy at the store.

dough

White Sandwich Bread

White sandwich bread is so easy to make and deliciously simple. You'll love being able to whip up soft, fluffy white sandwich bread in a few hours whenever you need it!
Prep Time 3 hrs
Course Breads

Equipment

  • Loaf pan
  • Stand mixer

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Cup Hot Water
  • 2 Tbsp Sugar
  • 2 3/4 Tbsp Active Dry Yeast
  • 3 Cups All-Purpose Flour or Bread Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1.5 Tsp Salt

Instructions
 

  • In a stand mixer, add hot water, sugar, and yeast. Water should be very warm, but not scalding hot. Let it sit for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to bloom (bubble).
  • With your dough hook attachment on low, add vegetable oil and salt. Slowly add flour one cup at a time. Alternatively, you can mix ingredients by hand in a large bowl and knead by hand.
  • Turn up speed slightly and continue mixing by hand. The dough should cling to the dough hook, but not to the sides of the bowl after a few minutes. Mix for another 3-4 minutes until the dough is tacky.
  • Remove dough from the hook and place the dough in a large bowl and place it in a draft-free area of your kitchen. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. If you are worried about germs from the towel, spray some cling film with some baking spray. Cover the bowl loosely with it, then cover the cling film with the kitchen towel. Let the dough rise for 1.5 hours or until it doubles in size.
  • Once risen, punch down in the center. Then shape the dough into a long oval. Tuck any excess dough underneath the bottom of the loaf.
  • Grease a loaf pan. Transfer the dough to a loaf pan and cover again and let rise a second time for about an hour.
  • When done rising, bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  • While still warm, brush bread top lightly with butter before cutting and serving.
Keyword baked goods, bread, flour, sandwiches
how to make white sandwich bread

Storing Your Bread

I recommend storing your bread in a ziplock bag or an air tight container. If you bake often like I do, Amazon has some great bread bags that I use. I’ll drop the links below.

I’ve been asked before if you can freeze bread. In short, yes you can, but you will need to wrap it really well to prevent freezer burn. Also, make sure you freeze it before you it goes stale. Freezing won’t change staleness. If it was stale when you froze it, it will be stale when you thaw it out.

Alternatively, to save freezer space, you can also freeze dough that hasn’t risen. Make your dough and instead of letting it rise, freeze it. Once you are ready to bake, drop the frozen dough in a greased loaf pan. Get some cling film and lightly spray it with baking spray. Then cover the top of the loaf pan loosely with it. Layer a clean dish towel on top of the cling film. Let the dough thaw and rise for 7-8 hours. Then bake as normal at 350 degrees for 25-30 mins.

I hope you enjoyed learning how to make white sandwich bread. If you have questions feel free to leave them in the comments below and if I’ll try my best to answer them. Be sure to check out some of my other scratch recipes like Rich Fudgy Scratch Brownies.

How to Find Joy During Social Distancing

Are you struggling to stay happy during the COVID-19 outbreak? You can still find peace and contentment even during these tough times. Here is how to find joy during social distancing.

How to find joy during social distancing

Fear Is the Real Infection

I don’t fear the virus so much. I have a father who has major heart disease and complications from that. I have a son who has severe reactive asthma. I certainly fear it for them. I will be secluding myself in my home for likely the next twelve weeks. But that isn’t what really scares me. The truth is, many will get it and the great majority of us will be just fine.

To be honest, I fear people. I fear their hysteria and panic. Already videos are starting to emerge of people fighting in stores over toilet paper. Toilet paper! The world is not ending. At least not by a virus. People need to calm down. The biggest threat to society is not the virus, it’s panic.

Like all pestilence, Coronavirus will run its course around the globe. In fact, most of the world is already fully involved. Let the bug do its thing. Social distancing will flatten the curve so as not to overwhelm our healthcare system all at once. This bug will never go away. It will make its rounds every year now, much like the flu. Get used to that idea.

Don’t forget that out of all the countries in the world, we in the U.S. have a great advantage. We have a robust health system, some of the top minds, ingenuity, and some of the greatest resources. In twelve to eighteen months, we can even expect to have a vaccine. Already some medications like those used to treat HIV and Malaria look promising in treating Coronavirus. We will be just fine. This will pass. It will not last forever. Stay calm.

Focus On What Really Matters

That said, I want to share how to find joy during social distancing. You know, in some ways, there are silver linings in all of this. I’ve lived in other countries before. Americans are very busy! At the very least, this is causing our busy lives to slow down. Over the next few weeks, we will all be forced to take note of the things that really matter in life.

When this is all over, we will appreciate a lot more. We will appreciate being able to go straight into a store and being able to pick up a pack of toilet paper. Every restaurant will be packed with people. Pews in churches will be full. Things like this show us what we take for granted.

How to Find Joy During Social Distancing

Turn Off the News

Seriously, turn it off. I found myself doing that this week. This will only bring on feelings of doom, panic, and fear. You already know what you need to know about the virus. You really don’t need to know much more than that. If you want to start feeling “normal” again, turn off the news. The media has already poured gasoline all over this and lit this thing on fire. They’re responsible for inciting the panic we are seeing. Reject it. Choose calm.

Don’t Panic Buy

Like I said, I don’t fear the virus, I fear the hysteria. Most people don’t think of themselves as being hysterical. Hysteria is really just acting out of extreme emotion. Its letting emotion determine your actions instead of common sense, logic, and reason.

You see things disappearing from the shelves and you think, “I better buy some now or there won’t be any left when I need it.” So you grab one. Then you think, ” I better grab two or three. There won’t be any for me.” This fear of missing out is a self-fulfilling prophecy. People overbuy because they fear there will be a shortage. Shelves are empty. So they attempt to buy more fearing there is nothing more coming. Now a shortage grows and it drains supply chains. And the cycle continues. Stop the madness. Decide that from now on, you will only buy what you would normally buy. The only way this cycle stops is when people decide to return to normal.

Don’t just do your part to flatten the curve. Do your part to end the insanity. Choose which emotion you will feed – peace or fear.

Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

Connect With Someone Everyday

Text your friends. Reach out to relatives. Take advantage of FaceTime and other video chats. Connect through Facebook or IG Live. Utilize the tools we have to stay in touch virtually. I even took some time this week to write some letters to family. I challenge you to reach out to at least one person every day. Check up on people. It’s very important to maintain socialization even though we are physically distant. Its the heart of what it means to be human. Now is a great time to focus on maintaining and investing in relationships.

Photo by Alexa Suter on Unsplash

Get Outside

Did you know your body’s brain chemistry responds to sunlight? When your body detects sunlight through the optic nerve, your melatonin levels decrease (the neurochemical that makes you feel sluggish and sleepy) and your serotonin increases (the neurochemical that elevates mood). If you have a backyard, spend as much time as you can in it. Go for a walk around your neighborhood. If you are in an apartment, take your laptop on the balcony and work outside. We aren’t stuck indoors. We are just trying to stay physically distant from others. Take a hike in nearby hills. Grill out and eat dinner outside. Have your kids ride their bikes. Garden. Spend some time outdoors and you won’t feel so cooped up. Remember we aren’t avoiding the outdoors, we are avoiding crowds.

Move Your Body

Staying active can do wonders for your mood. Try to stay active even while we are at home these next few weeks. Take a walk. Exercise. Just move your body. It increases serotonin levels, makes you feel refreshed and gives you more energy. These days, there are lots of home workouts you can stream. You can even find free ones on YouTube.

Stay Grateful

Part of the panic buying is because we are afraid we “do not have.” One way to stay grounded during a time when others are fretting and worrying is to remember all that we already have. We have already been given much. I challenge you to take five minutes out of every day and write down five things for which you are grateful. Alternatively, you can do my Gratitude Journal Prompts and answer one question a day. Staying grateful helps you stay positive. Focus on the positive!

Encourage Others

Over the last couple of days, I’ve seen people on Facebook asking for posts that aren’t virus-related. The constant bombardment of the panic, hysteria, and fear-mongering posts is stressful. I admit I was sharing a lot of that stuff. But as I scrolled through my newsfeed and saw people begging for something else – anything else – I decided that I will start turning the tide. I’m going to start posting normal, everyday things. Happy things. Encouraging things. I’m going to be a light in the darkness. I will remind people that it’s going to be okay. People need to hear that.

I challenge you, go out and be a light. Be encouraging. Be uplifting. Spread peace. Invite calm. Don’t engage the fear, the hysteria, and the madness.

Take Breaks From Social Media

That said, take a break from social media. I know it can feel like a lifeline right now, but its also flooded with virus-related negativity, debates, and fear-mongering news. I’m not purposing that we stick our head in the sand when I suggest avoiding this. I’m suggesting balance. Take breaks and get your mind off coronavirus for a little while. The truth is, social media hasn’t connected us the way we’d hoped. If anything it made relationships more hollow. If you really want to know what is going on in someone’s life right now, pick up the phone and call them, FaceTime, or text them. Today I avoided social media and it felt amazing! I had no idea how much anxiety was being driven by Facebook.

Pray

I once read something that described anxiety as a fear-centric TV show that we produce and direct ourselves. We take snippets of images and themes in our head and turn it into a fear-centric show with ourselves as the star. We imagine and play out our worst fears over and over again as if it is really happening. Prayer is effective because it makes God the star and not us. God becomes the hero. Exactly one year ago, I created a 30-day scripture reading for anxiety and fear. You can follow along by doing one verse per day.

I highly encourage you to pray when you start feeling overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety, worry or fear. God promises never to leave us in times like these. More than any other phrase in the bible, the “do not fear” mantra appears more than 300 times in scripture. God knew how scared we would be about the unknown, but he tells us over and over again that we are not to fear, not to panic and he is always with us. Scared? Pray. Worried? Pray. Anxious? Pray. Ask the Holy Spirit for his peace.

February Scripture Reading

Create & Stay Busy

Most people don’t idle well. When our brain isn’t engaged, sadness and boredom can set in. Stay busy. The biggest silver lining in all of this is that we are being forced to slow down. We are normally so busy and this is forcing us to cut out obligations and events. Take a week or two just to rest. Then get back to keeping active. Treat it like a staycation. Attitude is everything!

  • Find a way to volunteer virtually.
  • Try new recipes in your cookbook.
  • Bring out your craft supplies and create something.
  • Play virtual games with friends.
  • Declutter / reorganize your home
  • Mix cocktails at home.
  • Play games as a family.
  • Read or Host a Virtual Book Club
  • Write short stories
  • Stream exercise videos (there are lots on youtube)
  • Take some online courses.
  • Learn a new language
  • Garden
  • Binge watch some movies
  • Keep a journal
  • Wash your cars
  • Learn a new skill
  • Do a crossword puzzle
  • Do woodworking
  • Get some DIY projects done. Fix things you’ve been meaning to fix.
  • Take virtual tours of museums, national parks, etc
  • Put your Christmas lights back up to add some cheer.

I’ll write a separate post on all the things you can do at home, but here are some ideas to start with.

Help Others

Helping others has a dual effect. Obviously, it helps someone in need, but it also makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. It feels good to help other people. The panic buying? That”s selfishness. Reach out to those around you and see how you can help each other. Barter supplies. Do small acts of kindness for people you know. Check in with elderly neighbors. See if they need anything. In moments like these, the world needs our humanity, kindness, and mercy. If you are looking for a more corporate way of giving back, there are websites online that allow you to volunteer virtually.

Treat Yourself

I didn’t really get to celebrate my birthday because of all of this. Normally I’m not a big birthday person, but it was a milestone this year. I turned 40. So this week, I decided to treat myself to some art supplies that I wanted. A couple of nights ago, for example, I made a few dozen chocolate chip cookies for absolutely no reason. These days, you may feel very worried. Make sure to take opportunities to be kind to yourself. Treat yourself here and there to small, simple pleasures.

If you are feeling stressed over this, remember to take this one day at a time and reject worrying about the weeks ahead. Keep busy with your family and remember that this will all end soon. We will survive this.

If you are looking for things to do with your kids at home take a look at my post, Boredom Busters for Kids.

Boredom Busters For Kids

With kids being home during the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be wondering how to keep your little ones busy. I’m sharing some boredom busters for kids to keep you from losing your mind at home.

boredom busters for kids

With the COVID-19 virus, lots of schools have extended Spring break or suspended classes. While that might be fine at first, I think a lot of moms are intimated and maybe even a little terrified that cabin fever will set in.

For homeschool mamas like myself, this is just another day for us! But that got me thinking that a lot of moms out there are probably scratching their heads trying to figure out how to pass the time at home. Most of what we do is learning activities, but I’m sharing some ideas that are mostly just boredom busters for kids that you can do.

Boredom Busters for Kids

Indoor Tennis

Grab some old birthday balloons you have kicking around. Blow them up. Grab some spatulas from the kitchen and let your kids play indoor tennis or ping pong with them.

Laser Obstacle Course

Do you know those half-used paper party streamers that are at the bottom of your party decor drawer? Take them out and create an obstacle course. Cut various lengths of the streamers, tape across hallways, doorways, and walls. Let your kids crawl and maneuver around the course without touching any of the streamers.

Free Education Subscriptions

With lots of schools and daycares being closed, many education websites and apps are offering Free subscriptions for the duration of this outbreak. You can find a list of companies here.

Sock Fight

I admit I’ve got some rambunctious boys and one thing they love to do is roughhouse. Mama isn’t too into that, but I do love a good sock fight. There isn’t much to it. Take some clean socks, ball them up and have your own indoor “snowball” fight.

Dramatic Play

Dramatic play is a type of play where kids are assigned roles and then act it out. Typically, there are lots of make believe props to help kids immerse themselves in make believe. For example, if you child is playing vet perhaps you make their stuffed animals the patients. Create forms or pretend x-rays, give them a doctors kit. You get the idea. Create a simulated environment.

Dramatic play is great for vocabulary, building social skills, modeling adult behavior, sharing, taking turns, fantasy/reality, helps them use their imagination, etc. Here are some ideas for dramatic play. We do dramatic play and let me tell you that creating the dramatic play center is just as fun as playing. For example, if we are playing store, the kids select boxes in our pantry to be the grocery store items and they help me set up the “pretend store” and cash register. The setting up keeps them just as busy as the actual activity does.

  • Post Office
  • Bakery
  • Restaurant
  • Airport
  • Grocery Store
  • Doctor / Hospital
  • Ice Cream Shop
  • Camping
  • School / Teacher
  • Coffee Shop
  • Beauty Shop
  • Flower Shop

Here are some great ideas for dramatic play. Over the next few weeks, I’ll try to create some printable for y’all to use!

Get Painting

Watercolors, tempera paint, finger paint – it really doesn’t matter. Painting is fun sensory experience for any kid and it’s therapeutic. If you’ve got a small child and you are really worried about the mess, you can always do it in a dry bathtub then just give them a bath afterwards.

painting

Indoor Water Table

Use your bathtub. Fill it up with a little water. Add measuring cups, toys, and other water-friendly things. We actually use a long, shallow (under the bed) Sterilite tub. I add some colored bath drops to make it more interesting.

Build a Fort

Come on, admit it, you loved building forts as a kid. My older brother made some really elaborate forts with tunnels and we’ve always found that sheets work the best because they don’t weigh as much. If you don’t want to build a fort, you can use a small pop-up tent. Set it up in their bedrooms or in your living room and watch how easy it is to get them to go to bed!

Indoor Picnic / Pinic

Lay a comfy blanket out, find a comfy spot in the living room and turn an ordinary meal into something special. Or better yet, have an actual picnic outside. Put a quilt down on the grass and take your food outside. Afterwards, lay on the blanket and gaze at the clouds. It’s funny how just switching up everyday things can change the mood!

Moon Rock Toss

Gather some small waste bins or other containers and line them up at different distances. For added fun, label points on them. The farther away the more points. Then crumple up balls of tin foil and take turns trying to throw them into the containers.

Cardboard Box Play

Maybe you are like me and you have a ton of cardboard boxes in the garage that you haven’t had time to cut down and put in the recycling. Well, there are lots of ways your kids can play with them and it will keep both you and them busy. Just take a look at some of these really cute ideas.

Jigsaw Puzzle

Full confession – I’m a nerd and I love jigsaw puzzles. We actually love to do jigsaw puzzles and now that my oldest son is getting older he is starting to get interested in them too. We love Thomas Kincade ones because they are pretty challenging. They take a while, they kill time, and the whole family can do it together.

Dance Party

Music is not only great for getting energy out, it’s great for lifting spirits. I put music on all the time for me and the kids and it helps us get out of a rut. Put on some tunes and get you and your kids dancing. If you want to get creative, try looking up a popular dance on YouTube and learn the steps. Suggestions (Cha-Cha Slide, The Hustle, The Charleston, The Cupid Shuffle, The Thriller Dance, Texas Two-Step, The Moonwalk, etc.)

Homemade Bowling

All you need is a ball and empty plastic containers like water bottles. Set the water bottles up in a hallway or long room and try knocking them down. Traditional bowling uses ten pins, but you could use less if you wanted. Six works really well also.

Make Pasta Jewelry

You stocked up on a bunch of dry pasta, right? Why not let your kids use a little to make some pasta jewelry. All you need is a string and pasta with a hole like penne, elbow macaroni, rigatoni, ziti, etc. You can even dye it different colors. Here is how to color dry pasta.

Draw Self-Portraits

Get your kids to draw self-portraits or portraits of each other.

Keep a Diary

If you’re kids are old enough to read and write, why not have them journal about the COVID-19 quarantine day by day. Encourage them to pen their feelings and observations about all the things going on around us right now. If you doubt the value of doing this, remember how Anne Frank’s diary has become a treasured account of the horrors of World War II.

Kinetic Sand

One thing my kids really love is kinetic sand. If you haven’t used this, it is a lot of fun. It’s almost as if play dough and sand had a baby. It’s way easier to clean up than regular sand and its completely moldable. This can keep my little ones busy for hours. Sometimes I put little toys underneath the sand like little toy dinosaurs, plastic bugs, and seashells and let them excavate them in the sand. They absolutely love that!

Activity Books

We have a few of these that we pull out on rainy days. First, they are educational and they brush kids up on their alphabet, colors, shapes and early math skills. For older kids, maybe get crosswords, sudoko, mad libs and brain teasers.

Ages 3-5

Ages 6-9

10 and Up

Bingo

Bingo is a fun game the whole family can do. You can purchase one online or you can use the one I created in my post, Valentine’s Day Bingo Game. You can print it out on your home computer and play right now. For square markers, you can use dry beans or pennies.

Memory Matching Games

Memory matching games are super fun for kids. You can certainly buy some online, however, I have a Halloween Memory Game you can download for FREE and print out on your home computer.

halloween memory game

Make Your Own Play Dough

You can make your own playdough at home. It really is very simple. Just a side note, homemade play dough out very quickly, so make sure to store it in an airtight container.

Here is what you need to make it at home

  • 2 Cups All-purpose flour
  • ¾ cups salt
  • 4 tbsp cream of tartar
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (or coconut oil)
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Quart sized zip lock bag or storage container

Make Birthday Cards

Have your kids make some birthday cards for your family members this month. Let them use glitter, stickers, markers / crayons, sequins and any other spare craft supplies. Then mail them to people!

Dominoes

I love playing dominoes, but my preschooler loves to set up dominoes to knock them down. Challenge your kids to set up a long domino fall. We love using this set below, because it has 91 dominoes in the set.

Make Fake Snow

We do this all the time as a winter activity. We don’t get snow here in South Texas, so we make our own. All you need is 3 cups of baking soda and half cup of conditioner.

Hopscotch

If you are doing this outside you can use sidewalk chalk. If you’re doing it inside, you just need painters tape or masking tape. All the jumping around wears them out and gets out their wiggles.

Make a Pretzel Log Cabin

We found this cute activity a while back on how to make a pretzel log cabin. All you need is some pretzel rods, confectioners sugar, and water. It was a fun STEM activity for my little guy.

Write a Soldier

If your kids are old enough, have them write a letter to a soldier and thank them for their service. Soldier’s Angels is one place to start, but it is more of a pen pal setup and they ask that you write to your soldier for at least three months. If you don’t want that kind of commitment, you can use Any Soldier. You can choose to send a letter or a care package.

Alphabet “Sand” Writing

My son loves to do this! Just get a mostly flat container, lid or tray and fill it up with salt or granulated sugar. Give your little one a pencil, paintbrush (use the pointy end) or another instrument and have them practice writing their letters in the “sand.”

Rice Sensory Bin

Make an indoor “sandbox” using colored rice. It’s very easy to make. You just get 4 cups of rice, 3 tablespoons of rubbing alcohol and food coloring. You can make batches of different colors if you want “rainbow” rice. Put it in a container and give your little one scoopers and any other toys they want. This keeps my toddler and preschooler busy for a long time! It’s very easy to clean up, but you can always do it outside if the mess bothers you.

Magazine Collage

Give your kids a stack of old magazines you have kicking around and ask them to make a collage of everything they like.

Balloon Toss

Blow up a balloon and challenge your kids to see how long they can toss is around without it touching the ground.

Board Games

This is is kind of a no-brainer, but sometimes, I think people forget how versatile this one is. There are so many board games to choose from.

Some of our favorites for young children (ages 3-5) are:

Ages 6 and up

Density Tower

This can be a fun STEM activity. Take various liquids of varying density and let your kids discover how the liquids separate. You can use liquids like water, oil, dish soap, honey, milk, rubbing alcohol, maple syrup, corn syrup, etc. As an added bonus, you can drop small objects like (a small ball, a cherry tomato, a popcorn kernel, a penny, etc.) and see if it floats or sinks through the different liquids.

Make Your Own Race Track

Don’t throw away the cardboard in paper towel roll. I save them for the kids to make their own racetrack. I tape some to the wall so my boys can put their hot wheels inside and see it come racing out. There tubes I cut in half lengthwise and we tape them all together to make a track. Don’t forget to add the dotted line in marker so it looks like a road. It’s funny. My kids have actual toy race tracks, but I’m always surprised at how making our own is so fun to them.

Take a Virtual Museum Tour

Lots of museums around the world offer virtual museums online. You and your kids can explore museums and their treasured works right from your couch! Take a look at these virtual tours.

virtual museum tours
The Van Gogh museum is just one place offering virtual tours

Take a Virtual Field Trip

While we are on that note, lots of companies are offering a virtual field trip. For example, Cincinnati Zoo is offering a live animal show at 3pm every day via Facebook live. Here is a list of websites that offer virtual field trips right on your computer or mobile device.

Have a Treasure Hunt / Scavenger Hunt

Hide some candy, a toy or anything else your kids might like and get them to hunt for it. Alternatively, if you don’t want to hide a single item, you can do a treasure hunt version of “eye spy.” Basically a scavenger hunt. Ask them to find the following:

  • Something red
  • Something round
  • Something old
  • Something metal
  • Something taller than you
  • Something you throw away
  • Something that starts with a letter ‘S’
  • Something that moves
  • Something you wear
  • Something that can’t get wet
  • Something that made of wood
  • Something brown
  • Something with numbers (but not a watch or clock)

You get the idea…use your imagination. Additionally, you can take this and give them an outdoor version of eye spy.

  • A leaf
  • Rock
  • Spider
  • Something with wings
  • Frog
  • Deer
  • Grass
  • Butterfly
  • Moss or algae
  • Spider web
  • Cacoon
  • Etc.

Give your kids a list and this will keep them busy for a while.

Marshmallow Building

Another fun STEM activity is to build sculptures out of nothing more than marshmallows and toothpicks. Stick the toothpicks into the marshmallow and keep building!

Draw Your Own Comic Book

If you have a child who loves to draw, encourage them to come up with a special character and have them draw their own comic book on paper.

Giant Tic-Tac-Toe

Use some Washi tape, masking tape or painters tray and make a tic-tac-toe board on the floor. Take paper plates and write X’s and O’s with markers. It’s kind of silly how just making it large makes it more fun for kiddos. Take the activity outdoors on the lawn too!

Sink or Float Experiment

Grab a glass pitcher or other large see-through container (like a storage tub). Fill it up with water. Then gather small objects of varying sizes and materials. (examples: cork, coin, rock, bottle cap, toothpick, crayon, plastic toy, etc) Have your child choose one object at a time and have them guess if it will sink or float. If your child is old enough, have them record their findings on paper. Take the opportunity to explain why an object sinks or floats. If an object floats it is less dense than water. If it is denser, it sinks.

Water Displacement Experiment

I did this with my oldest son when he was both three and four. It’s a great STEM activity that introduces fluid mechanics to your child. We talked about Archimedes and his theory of fluid displacement. Like the sink or float experiment, you will need a large container full of water. Leave some room at the top. I like to use dry erase markers if the container is glass or plastic. Gather household objects of varying weight and size. Insert each item individually and watch how much the water in the container rises. Get your child to mark where the water rose with a dry erase marker. Fluid displacement is all about volume. When an object is immersed in a fluid, displacement occurs as it pushes the fluid out of the way and it takes it’s place.

Make a Cardboard City

Take some of those empty Amazon boxes and food boxes and turn them into your own cardboard city. Use wrapping paper of construction paper to cover them up and draw on them. Then have your kids get their toy cars and people and let them play in their city.

Other Helpful Things

Maintain a Schedule

At our house, we maintain a schedule. It isn’t rigorous, but it ensures that we are mixing things up during the day. Here is a quick look at our schedule over the next coming weeks.

Read

This might sound overly simple, but reading is one of the best things you can do with your kids. Seriously, take this opportunity while we are all stuck at home and read to them! If your child is older, have them read classic literature. Great stories like Treasure Island, Call of the Wild, and Little Women never go out of style.

For More Ideas

Take a look at my other post, The Best Toys to Tame Toddler Energy.

Why Turning 40 Isn’t That Bad

This week I turned forty. So that got me thinking about why turning 40 isn’t that bad. If you are worried about aging, there are lots of perks.

why turning 40 isn't that bad

This week, I turn forty. Can I be honest? I was having a hard time with it. Seriously, what happened? I was just in my twenties. My thirties went by so quickly. As I approached my birthday, I started to feel old. So that got me thinking. What does being forty feel like? Or maybe more to the point, “how am I different at forty?” I began to realize, there are actually a lot of perks at this age. Here are my reasons why turning 40 isn’t that bad.

You Don’t Care About Being Cool

I finally made it! I don’t care about being popular in social groups. I no longer feel the need to be hip or cool. I’m just me. My husband will poke fun at the fact that he has tamed me into a lame mom. At first, I cared, but now…I’m totally comfortable in this stage. Once you hit forty, you’ll realize that there is a lot more important things in life than popularity and fitting in. You find you don’t need the constant validation of the world. After all, that’s exhausting.

You Become Aware of Your Own Mortality

Now that I’m forty I am burying more people, particularly in my parent’s generation. Recently, I’ve become aware of my own fleeting life. Now, this isn’t all gloom and doom. Don’t worry, I’m not writing my own eulogy or making internment plans for myself. Rather, I’m aware that I am in the second half of my life and when that happens, things become more meaningful. Forgiveness becomes easier once you realize that time is short and that most arguments and misunderstandings don’t matter in eternity. Realizing your own mortality helps you make wiser decisions for the future and for your kids. I’m suddenly very aware of how time is precious.

You’re Quick to Kick Toxic Relationships to the Curb

I think by the time you hit forty, you generally lose patience for things that are toxic. That includes people and situations that just aren’t good for you. At this point in life, you’ve become more discerning about who you let into your inner circle. You have standards about how you expect to be treated and you aren’t afraid to tell someone to “take a hike” if they are poisonous or soul-sucking. You also become more aware of when someone is taking advantage of you. Getting older simply means you have no time for jerks in your life.

Being 40 Doesn’t Feel That Old

Being forty is such a weird feeling. I don’t feel particularly old, but I also don’t relate to twenty-year-olds. I find myself asking if I was that dumb and naive at that age! People in their twenties suddenly look and act like teenagers. When did that happen? I don’t feel as young as I did when I was in my twenties. I’m less energetic and not nearly as spry as I was and yet, I don’t feel old yet. I have a ton of grey hair sprouting all over my head that reminds me that I’m experienced.

You Wish You Would Have Saved More

When you are young, you think you have all the time in the world. Money? You have plenty of time to earn that! Wrong. You only have so many years you can work and as far as companies are concerned you have a shelf life. People in their late fifties and early sixties are pushed out of companies because of their big salaries and their productivity level. You want to leave your kids something and you realize that you may have to live off your retirement savings for decades. You suddenly realize how important it is to save money.

There is No More Condescension Because You’re Young

I can only think of one person who still treats me like I’m a child and that’s my mother, but I think its common for moms to always be moms. Everyone else treats me like the forty-year-old that I am. Experienced. Wise. Worthy of respect. At this age, you finally know a thing or two. You feel like you have more equality with peers and you feel well-rounded.

Your Peace Becomes a Priority

One thing that has changed as I’ve grown older is how much I value peace. I find I have no time for drama, nosy people, or things that stress me out. I detest busyness and value “me time.” I appreciate quiet time, a full prayer life, and personal relationships before anything else. I’m choosy about how I spend my time. You become more comfortable saying “no” to people and situations.

You Become More Practical

I’m not saying that you suddenly give up on dreams or goals when you become middle-aged. But what I will say is that you become more practical about goals. These days my goals are more realistic. Your priorities shift too. You become satisfied with the smaller things in life. The things that really matter. Designer labels and status symbols don’t matter to me anymore. I roll my eyes at fashionistas and I don’t care what shoes I have as long as they are comfortable. I’m happier at this age because I have found contentment in simple living.

You Become Kinder to Yourself

This may or may not be true for everyone, but it has certainly become true for me. At this age, I’m way kinder to myself. I’ve become better at taming my inner critic. It’s become easier to accept myself the way I am. I’ve learned to slow down and give myself time to rest and recharge. I give myself grace and room for mistakes, something I never did when I was young. I was harsh with myself. Some of the insecurities take a back seat and you discover a whole new kind of confidence. These days, I’m gentle with how I treat myself.

Good Health Becomes A Blessing

It’s true. I think around this age you stop taking your health for granted. People around you are having health issues and you begin to realize that good health is a blessing and something that requires conscientiousness. You start to realize if you want to see your children grow and have children of their own, you need to take care of yourself.

You Realize Most Problems Aren’t The End of the World

When I was younger, I fretted a lot more. I will always worry more than my husband, but I still worry a lot less than I used to. Experience tells you that most of our problems work out and often for the better. Many things we worry about never even happen. You gain perspective and learn to let problems play out. You realize that everything will be okay. Finally, you figure out that tough seasons don’t last. It becomes clear that disappointment isn’t the end of the world and that success is never a straight line.

Tell Me What You Think

As it turns out, turning 40 isn’t that bad. If you are over forty, I would love to hear about how you feel about your age. How have you changed as you’ve grown older? What is different about you in middle age?

30 Non-Candy Easter Basket Ideas

Don’t want to fill your child’s Easter Basket with sugary candy? I’ve got 30 non-candy Easter Basket ideas just for you!

30 non candy Easter Basket ideas
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Hey there, friends. Spring has arrived and Easter is right around the corner. We love doing Easter egg hunts for our kids while they are little. It’s so fun to watch them hunt and search for eggs.

I certainly allow my kids plenty of chocolates and candy. I even sneak a few Cadbury Eggs and Reece’s eggs for myself. I mean, there has to be some in perks in being a mom! Okay, so I’m not actually taking it out of their basket, I just make sure not to put the whole package in their baskets.

In fact, I try to keep most of the basket with fun activities and toys instead of just sweets. But remember you can always add non-sweet food like crackers, popcorn, goldfish, fruit and other things like that. Today, I’m sharing 30 non-candy Easter Basket ideas. In fact, there is no food at all in this list.

30 Non-Candy Easter Basket Ideas

  • Coloring Books
  • Crayons
  • Stickers
  • Bubbles
  • Easter storybook
  • Prayer Book
  • Children’s Bible
  • Windup Toys
  • Stuffed Animal
  • Sidewalk Chalk
  1. Playing Cards
  2. Balls
  3. Socks
  4. Jump Rope
  5. Flashlight
  1. Whistle
  2. Dominoes
  3. Watercolors
  4. Paintbrushes
  5. Bath Letters
  • Bubble Bath
  • Band-Aids
  • Color Bath Drops
  • Washi Tape
  • Diary, Journal, or Drawing Tablet
  • Sippy cups
  • Playdough / Silly putty
  • Movie / DVD
  • Lip Gloss / Chapstick
  • Bath Paints

I hope that helps you have an awesome Easter. Remember, there is no need to fill your child’s Easter Basket with junk. Less is more and stick to things that your child will actually use and enjoy. Don’t forget to check out my Spring Bucket List for fun Spring activities for you and your family! Happy Easter!

Lenten Journal Prompts

Spend time before Easter Sunday reflecting on your relationship with Christ with these 40 Lenten Journal Prompts.

Lenten journal prompts
Photo by Mary Lentz

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Welcome friend. Today, I’m sharing 40 Lenten prompts. Lent is typically acknowledged by Catholics as the 40 days before Easter in the church’s liturgical calendar. For example, in the Catholic church, this is a time to give alms and we fast on Fridays (abstain from meat) to align ourself with sacrifice. This small sacrifice serves as a reminder of what Christ did for us.

I think this goes beyond doctrinal differences of Christians. The forty days before Easter is also a good time to reflect on the health of your relationship with God.

Journaling

I love journaling. I’ve been doing it for years and really feel like it’s a beneficial tool of introspection. First, journalling helps document where you are emotionally and spiritually at a given time. Next, it serves as a timeline, gracefully depicting an arc of your emotional growth. Once you become accustomed to journaling, I know it will become a great tool for self-therapy.

Additionally, if you’d like more ideas for journaling, please read my other posts:

All you need to get started is a notebook and pen. If you hate writing, don’t worry. There are plenty of digital options these days. Day One, for example, is a great digital diary that even allows you to post photos with your writing and is available in the cloud for all your devices.

Lenten Journal Prompts

  1. How can you help your spouse become closer to God?
  2. What do you feel God wants you to change?
  3. How can you help your children become closer to God.
  4. Describe a recent situation where God was clearly present.
  5. What verse gives you comfort in hard times and why?
  6. How can you better serve God?
  7. What do you need to leave at the cross?
  8. Who or what needs forgiving?
  9. For what are you asking God?
  10. With what do you need patience?
  11. Name three things you are grateful for this week.
  12. About what are you most fearful?
  13. What does the cross mean to you?
  14. What mysteries do you wish you knew?
  15. Delight in the Lord and give praise.
  16. How can you better serve others?
  17. Which bible character inspires you most and why?
  18. How can you be a better steward with money?
  19. Describe a prayer God has answered recently.
  20. Which deceased friend or family member are you still grieving? Which bible verse give you the most comfort?
  21. Who do you find hard to love and how can you pray for them?
  22. How can you become more humble?
  23. Have you ever evangelized? How did you feel doing it?
  24. What is your favorite verse in scripture and why?
  25. How can you make time for more prayer?
  26. Of the gifts of the spirit, which do you most like to possess and why?
  27. Describe a time God answered your prayer in a better way.
  28. In what situation do you need to praise God instead of complain? Why do you find it so hard?
  29. We all have a role to play in God’s world. What do you think your purpose is?
  30. The enemy loves to attack our joy and hope. Where do you feel like you’re being attacked and how will you fight back?
  31. Give thanksgiving.
  32. What does “following Christ” mean to you?
  33. When you reflect on your life, what hard time are you most grateful for?
  34. When do you feel God most distant?
  35. Why do you love God?
  36. From what do you need healing?
  37. Write a prayer for your enemy (I know this is a hard one).
  38. Confess something to God.
  39. For what God-given gifts are you most grateful?
  40. How do you think God sees you?

Before You Leave

I hope these forty lenten journal prompts help you understand your relationship with Christ better. Lastly, don’t forget to pin this post, so you can use this year after year.

At least once a month, I post a Christian themed post, usually rooted in Bible study. Finally, I invite you to join me by subscribing to my blog so you never miss a post. Thanks for reading.

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