Book Review: 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids

I got this book from the library, took it home, and realized I had already pinned almost everything in the book! I already follow the blog and love the ideas! However, being in transition for so long has given me only enough motivation to pin and not enough to do. With the book in hand I was able to share it with my son, who immediately chose some things he wanted to do. I was also able to explain some of the ideas to my husband with the pictures and explanations and chapters. Wow I love books!

    I have wanted to do sensory bins for some time, and this book had some great ideas. Once I was able to show this book to my husband he latched on to the idea, and the next day we went out and bought the bin ($3 at Walmart), a bag of insects, lizards, and frogs ($1 at the dollar store), a bag of shells at Michaels ($5) and we had everything we needed for several of the ideas in the book. We already have at home many many small figurines in lots of themes: farm, dinosaur, ocean, Noah’s ark (multiples of animals), desert, rainforest, Arctic, etc. I am not crafty and artsy by myself, and I was a little concerned that I would put too much work in and nothing would come of it, but Davy loved it! Louis loved it, and I am looking forward to adding this to our homeschooling this year as a recurring activity.


The second thing I was excited to take from Pinterest to Reality was Discovery bottles. It is so easy to see the beautiful pictures on Pinterest and in reality the work outweighs the reward, or the supplies are out of reach. Since we chose an ocean theme first, since we were reading Jonah, we wanted to make a Discovery Bottle with sand and shells and shiny marbles. What we got was a murky mess. This book included the same Discovery Bottle I had pinned, and upon actually reading the instructions, it calls for craft sand or no sand at all. As I said I am not creative on my own, so it was essential that I get these two ideas because I had not thought of it myself. The book also explained that upon filling the bottle with water or gel or oil it might be too heavy for baby to lift. This was very useful because it brought my expectations to reality, and when it was too heavy for Kyrie, Davy and I just dumped it into the ocean sensory bin and played with the items ourselves.

    I hope the two experiences I took out of this book can give an idea of the usefulness of this book. If you are like me and are looking for ideas to play with kids, and would like them to be in your hand instead of in the digital expanse, this is the book for you. I love this book, and I am going to be using it quite a bit this year. Too bad the library only lets me renew books 4 times. Other fun things in this book include Slimes, Doughs, Paint (including all-natural paint that you color using items like carrots, beets, & spinach), other Sensory Activities, and DIY Toys. I am so excited to share with you in the coming years all about how I am using this book (and the corresponding blog).

The facts about the book.

Title: 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: The Very Best and Easiest Playtime Activities from!

Author: Asia Citro, MEd

Publisher: Adams Media, Avon, Massachusetts

Publication Date: 2014

# Pages: 255

Special Features: Easy Doable Activities, Upcycled Supplies, Age Range for Each Activity

Price: Free from the library or Kindle Unlimited, and the ideas are all on the website/blog The books even have some DIY kits to give these books as gifts to a parent. $12.66 on Amazon or read for Free on Kindle Unlimited.

ISBN: 978-1-4405-7615-7


Book Review: The Quick and the Thread

By far my most read category of books is Cozy Mystery. I can read them in 1 to 3 days usually, and I love the variety out there for me to choose hobbies, interests, and fun to go with a murder mystery. They are hard to review in that I read them so quickly I feel that it is easy to discount the work the author put into the book. However, I made this blog to share the books I am reading, so here it goes.

    In my desire to calm down and read I grabbed some Cozies off my wishlist at the library, and chose this one because it is An Embroidery Mystery. I love to cross stitch, so the idea of hearing about embroidery and cross stitch throughout the book appealed to me. The cover also actually made it easy to choose: large dog, books, yarn, puns. It is all my type of book. If you are into cozies, read this one, too.

    The only negative to this story was the motive. I am not enough of an adult yet to understand much about real estate and finances. So, the main conflict of mortgage fraud of some kind was confusing to me. I kept thinking, “I should go look this up,” but as I said, I read the book too fast for that. So, before you read it make sure you know what straw buyers are as they relate to fraud.

    This is the first book in the series, and I immediately liked the main character and her friends. The love triangle was disappointing only because I liked both the guys introduced, and while I knew who I wanted her to choose, I wanted the other one to just be a friend. That seems unlikely with his determination to get her to like him.

    I did predict the end (which is my thing, so it shouldn’t detract from the book for you), but I had my doubts all the way until the reveal. That is a great bit of writing. Usually I know who did it for most of the mystery, and I just enjoy seeing who figures it out and how. This time I was right there in with them suspecting everybody. Amanda Lee had a great way of writing to cast suspicion on others. Especially since we were just meeting the characters.

    An important piece of a Murder Mystery review for me is to share with you the gore level. There was nothing truly disturbing in this beyond the dead body being found. If you have an active imagination there might be times that you can get a thrill, but nothing is described to the point of disgust or disturbing, which is a very good thing for me. I enjoy the mystery, the relationships, and the relative peace in reading the book, so I don’t need the blood and guts.

The facts about the book.

Title: The Quick and the Thread: An Embroidery Mystery

Author: Amanda Lee

Place: Tallulah Falls & Portland, Oregon & San Francisco, California

Publisher: Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Publication Date: August 2010

# Pages: 324, Including the first chapter of the next book in the series

Special Features: Cozy Mystery, First book in a Series, Embroidery

Price: Free from the library or from $0.01 on Amazon

ISBN: 978-0-451-23096-6

Book Review: Science Play!

When I majored in Education in college it was within a cohort that focused on multiage education and play education. This is the idea that through play, children learn. My emphasis was math and science and I taught middle school science for a year. So, with these two passions in my back pocket as I am entering my second year of homeschooling, I was overjoyed to find a book that neatly sums up these two loves. Science Play! Has turned out to be everything I hoped. It is a book overflowing with fun activities for 2 to 6-year-olds which will help them begin understanding science that is all around them.

    The book is written in such a way that you could use an entire chapter, or pull out individual chapters. The chapters are split into categories which are excellent to help both the kids and their “Grown-Up Lab Assistants” see how easy it is to enter into science. The first chapter is laid out in such a way that I could start right away with my son. It is written in a way that a kid could understand, and as they learn to read they can even take charge of their own learning experiences. The backyard and bathtub even become science labs in this book. These experiments are so amazing, you really do need this book. I am going to be keeping this book handy for many years to come.

    The very first chapter of activities is my favorite so far, Home Sweet Home. The title is perfect for the lack of items I need to buy, making my home very sweet indeed. This will be a great introduction for my 3 year old to his new class this year in homeschool: Science. The idea is to go on a “Science Safari”. On this safari (there are multiple examples given of ways to do this safari) different items will be collected by the child that fall into categories of either different senses, or the other categories in the book: water, plants, and bugs. Very few materials are needed since the child will be doing mainly collecting. The next few pages share ways to display and store these “treasures” in a “mini-museum”. Once again, the material requirements are few and you can choose based on what you collected and what you have already at home. Then the activities move to observing and learning from what we collected, which involves more trips outside.

    I know I am making it sound too simple, but it really is that easy! If you have a kid 0-6, get this book! I am not just recommending it, but making it an essential if you want to introduce science to your kids. Also, I am going to be using this book in our homeschool curriculum this year, so stay tuned for more posts about how I am using this book!

The facts about the book.

Title: Science Play!

Author: Jill Frankel Hauser

Publisher: Williamson Books, Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date: 1998

# Pages: 143

Special Features: 2-6 Year-Olds, Activities and Experiments, Easy to Read, Many Activities Have No Required Items

Price: From $2.68 on Amazon. I got it for free from the library first, but I liked it so much I bought it for $2.67.

ISBN: 978-0-8249-6799-4

Book Review: The Girl In The Steel Corset (Good)

I have to start by saying I LOVE STEAMPUNK! I love the idea of a parallel universe in which there are gears and cogs and shiny metal in clothes and fashion that is funky. I love it so much that Wild Wild West is a movie I will watch over and over again no matter how many good movies there are up against it. Now, I don’t actually watch it over and over because I have a husband who would like to watch only good movies and I don’t really watch movies alone. But I do read alone, so I found this series that is Steampunk and has amazing beautiful covers.

    The Girl in the Steel Corset is the first in the series, but I do not think I will be reading the rest of the series. However, do not let that dissuade you. The book was fully in the Steampunk world. There were contraptions and gears and it was marvelous. However, I realized that liking to pin Steampunk fashion on Pinterest is not the same as knowing all the lingo, and I missed the prerequisite course to know all of that. It was easy enough to catch on, and I think the Teens and Young Adults that it is targeted for would like to enter into the world building alongside the book and to see what sorts of contraptions there are in other books that are mentioned. The characters were in their early twenties, but it seemed like it could have just as easily been a high school book.

I would definitely recommend this book to teens and young adults. With all the sex and erotica being thrown into the mix alongside paranormal romances and whatever other parent cringing subject matter that is out there, this was a great wholesome book. There was romance and kissing, but no quivering members. It was a book I could quite happily let my kids read almost as soon as they could read at that level. And I think that the characters have a chance for depth in the following books that could make them very interesting reads. For instance, the engineering done by both men and women showed intelligence alongside the fun of their personalities. So, while it was not for me in the end, I could see the many merits and would suggest it to anyone else interested in the world of Steampunk and Electronics.

The facts about the book.

Title: The Girl in the Steel Corset (The Steampunk Chronicles Book 1)

Author: Kady Cross

Place: London, 1897

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Publication Date: 2011

# Pages: 480

Special Features: Beautiful Covers, Steampunk, Intelligent Girls

Price: I checked it out at the library, but right now on Amazon the price is $0.01

ISBN: 978-0373210701

I Stopped The Crazy Spin Cycle Before It Could Ruin My Day

    Today is a day to share about the need to take that Grace and let your cup Overflow! I shared about my constant need to return to the fountain of Grace to refill when Guilt overwhelms me. Now I want to keep that Guilt away so that it loses the capital G in my life. I want the only Capital G to come from Grace. One way that this happens is by returning to that Grace fountain even when I am not overwhelmed! When we get into that headspace where we are just spinning, we have already made it far down the rabbit hole. We don’t get there in one moment. We are overwhelmed by things piling up, even if just in our head.

    I woke up this morning to a crying baby who needed food, which meant that several hours before I wanted to be up I had to wake up to stress. I am not someone who can usually wake up and jump right into the day, so this was something that could have turned disastrous quickly, but it didn’t. I got up, made a bottle and fed her. She remained wide awake so I got myself up for real and let her play while I did my Bible Study in 1 Samuel. Before 8am I accomplished more than I thought I would all day! This was something to stop and praise the Lord about! And I did a little dance.

Next I decided to take it a step further and do my workout before Davy even woke up! Unheard of! Davy is my little alarm clock, and every time I change my schedule to wake up before him he wakes up 30 minutes before that (and his bedtime never changes…yep, grouchy toddler). So, I went and got my workout clothes on and when I exited the bathroom, he was sitting up in bed. I took this change of plans in stride and sent him off to play so I could continue with the workout plan (neither of my kids like to eat within half an hour of waking up usually). This is another praise because I am also really good at avoiding things that are for me. I did my workout, which was a fit test today. I started out doing better in each exercise, but the last few exercises I did worse than before. This is where the Crazy Cycle started spinning. I also ate before I worked out and I think didn’t wait long enough, so all at once several factors started getting to me. And I think Satan saw signs of stress or something because guilt started jumping on me and as I walked past the calendar I glanced at it to see the page of instructions for the surgery that has been canceled. I started to get snappy (how could this pillow have fallen onto the floor?) and mad (what are these socks doing in the bathroom floor?!) and in the shower I had an argument in my head about all the anger I had, and as I heard the words in my head I knew I had let the Crazy Spin Cycle get to full speed in a matter of minutes.

Pictured here: Davy in a laundry hamper helping to give a visual for the Crazy Spin Cycle, with a smile to help us all avoid it in the future.

As I shared with Louis about my frustrations with his clothes on the bathroom floor (which had nothing to do with anything I was feeling), I finally broke down and shared the above story. As he listened he was quick to point out the different things I had done well, the major deal it was that I had been able to do more pushups. Then we stopped and prayed. My entire day went better from then on. Now here I am even taking Quiet Time! Alone time for myself! And as I took a few deep breaths I knew that a major part of my mood improvement came from taking time throughout the day to Praise the Lord! To take His Grace and slather it all over my day.

(Do you ever read a blog and think, “Sure that works for her, but I have no idea how to do that!” Especially with tips like: Have Faith, Give Yourself Grace, etc. Hopefully you don’t leave here today with that thought, and if you do feel like that please comment!)

  1. Share your praises and thanksgivings with God all day long. A journal of thanksgivings is wonderful, and a good rule of thumb is to write 5 praises in it each day. The key to doing this is to write them down right away. Sitting at the end of the day and trying to remember is really hard. It is almost impossible to think of things to be thanful for when the Spin Cycle gets to full Crazy Speed.
  2. Admit that you have some Crazy in you. As women especially we can get very touchy about being called Crazy, so save your loved ones the frustration and just admit it now. If you admit that there are some times that your frustrations, anger, anxiety, mania, worry, or whatever else you tend to call it rule you, then we can pry that loose and start to remove it with some Grace and Praise!
  3. When you discover that you got to full Crazy, go back over the events to try to find the trigger. It is not good to go over the events again just to prove you were right. In my story above it may seem so fast, but it is usually not that fast for me. Sometimes I am crying and yelling for hours before I recognize that nothing is getting done because I have gone off the rails of reality. It is only recently, in the past six months that my emotions have stopped having first say in my actions. Finding the trigger (disappointment because I had set up unrealistic expectations for my ability to do tricep dips & the recurring disappointment that my daughter’s surgery was canceled) allowed me to give that to God specifically. I spent a long time just going back to God with, “I am sorry for losing it again” and never giving up the things that were pressing Start on the Cycle.
  4. Don’t press Start on the Cycle the next time. For me this is taking down those surgery instructions which are now meaningless and throwing them away. Mentally I need to return to the purpose for working out, which for me is Stamina and Strength. I want to be able to keep up with my kids and be able to lift them onto the changing table. While I might have argued with myself that my failure was a failure in Strength, I have lifted both kids up just fine today to change their diapers. I had someone share once about getting over an addiction. It is no good putting the magazines in the closet. You know you are going to open that closet every day, so just burn the magazines. Don’t let the Crazy Cycle be your habit aka addiction. Burn the triggers.
  5. Find Accountability. Let someone call you Crazy. This is a hard one for me, but I think it is essential. We were not meant to walk this road alone. We have Jesus interceding for us, and we need others. I don’t mean you need to actually use the word Crazy. My husband says Spinning, Boiling, Simmering, or makes references to Rabbit Holes or Train Tracks. Find what works for you. Accountability is not someone who says Good Job all the time, but someone who can stop you from taking a wrong step. Let someone in, and let them tell you what you are doing. Also that my hubby is willing to change diapers, stop and help me talk it all out, point out the praises, and jump in to help clean while I worked on some homeschool projects keeps me sane. He can call me “Crazy” because he is in the relationship 100% so I know he has my best interest at heart.