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

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.

My Google Calendar Method

During the Make Over Your Mornings ecourse, Crystal shared about writing a To Do List vs. Brain Dumping. Both super valuable, but the latter is what I had been calling writing a To Do list. I would end up with a million things written down all over the place and then I would get completely overwhelmed with all there was to do.

Now I have a new perspective. I can brain dump, but that stuff needs to stay dumped. There needs to be less brain energy spent going back over and over and over to that list to decide what to do and not do. Instead, I need to write a doable To Do list for the day, and use brain dumping as a method to get rid of excess, not burden myself with it.

I have used Google Calendar in the past, and now I have new motivation. When Crystal shared that she uses Google Calendar there were several people curious about how to utilize it. Since I know I do way more than a lot of people would, hopefully you can find something useful in my method.

Another Daily View

First: I create all the daily events and have them repeat daily.

  • Morning Routine (Repeats Every Day Except Sunday for 90 Minutes, I have even written down the whole routine in the Details section to check if I need to review or remember)
  • Nursing my Baby (While I am doing on demand it is helpful to recognize the approximate times she eats because those are times I can’t really be doing something else, so as I plan things I am able to recognize that I might get interrupted or need to feed her first or after)
  • Eating Meals (I will absolutely forget to eat if I don’t have someone or thing to remind me)
  • Checking Email (Ditto to Eating)
  • And for This Season, Skyping my Boys

Repeating Daily

The reason I put things on that I do daily is because it is so easy to fill a day with other things to do and at the end of the day think I failed when in fact I just didn’t account for the time that I need to take care of these daily routines.

Second: I Look at the Weekly Events That Repeat & Make Adjustments

  • Add Church & Have it Repeat Weekly (I made sure to put the start and end time from when I need to leave to when I usually get home after hanging out, etc.)
    • After adding church I realized my Morning Routine would be shifted, but I don’t want to wake up way earlier with a baby still nursing and up throughout the night
    • I split my morning routine by taking out Coffee & Bible Reading. I get both at church, but I also added Bible Reading in the evenings previously so Sunday I decided to have a longer Evening Quiet Time.
    • I am sharing a little of my thought process here, but you will have to see what are other variables in your week that disrupt or interrupt daily routines and how you are going to make your life a Thriving Life.
  • Add Friends
    • I have several friends that I see weekly, so I added those weekly engagements and adjusted the meals and Evening Quiet Times that were at the same time.
    • For me my Fellowship time does not replace Quiet Time in the evening and I still need to eat
  • Add Bible Study
    • I have a monthly Bible Study and a Weekly Bible Study available to me, and with the baby I don’t always attend, but if it isn’t on the calendar I can’t even begin to remember or prioritize that

Scheduled Tasks

Third: Add My Goals

At the beginning of the year I prayed through a lot of goals. I won’t talk all over again how this all came together, but one of the things I did was break the goals up from Year to Month to Week to Day as appropriate.

For Monthly Goals I decided what needed to happen each week to achieve those goals, so on Google Calendar I used the All Day & Repeat buttons to have these repeat for that week of the month. As I get to that week I create a new event on the day I decide will work best to accomplish that piece of the task.

  • Encouraging Louis’ Talent in Photography
    • Week 1: Find a List, Challenge, Technique, etc. for Louis to Try
      • When I get to the first week of a month this will be already on the Google Calendar for the whole week, so I can choose a day.
      • I do not change the repeating event. Instead I add a new event to the calendar on the day I am going to sit on Pinterest and choose something to give to Louis
    • Week 2: Ask Louis About Photography
      • This can happen any time, but I know that this is a way to show Louis love so I want to make a special point of doing this. However, I might not even put this on the calendar as a new event.
    • Week 3: Make a Date to Look Through Pictures
      • This is one that will take two events
        • Day 1-Make a date with Louis
        • Day 2-The Date
    • Week 4: Upload New Pictures to Computer & Blog
      • Create an event to upload
      • Create an event to select some for my Blog Folder on my computer
      • If there are blog posts ready in need of a picture, Create an event to find specific pictures for the blog

This is an example of how I go through my Monthly Goals, and I am not going to go through each event I have on my calendar.

Task List

Fourth: The Task List

This is a really fun part of Google Calendar where I put goals and new habits I am building. This part has due dates and you get to check things off and they will get crossed off the list! Fantastic feeling!

As I am working back up to my Quiet Time being all I love it to be, I am not trying to do everything at once. One thing I am working back up to is my actual Study. In the earlier days of my pregnancy I was reading a chapter a day of 1 Samuel, but I have been posting them once a week, so I was able to have a surplus of chapters posting ahead of me. In August that surplus will end, so I am starting to work toward my every day reading. On the Task List I put one chapter for next week, then two chapters the following week. If it turns out my adding a chapter a week doesn’t work I will change the deadlines, but I am looking to go back to reading a chapter a day every weekday.

Year Long Goals I originally split into Monthly steps, so I have added those with deadlines to my task list as well.

Hopefully this is helpful, and if you have any questions or want to share how you organize your days please comment.

My Goals For This Week

This Week’s Goals:


  1. Organize Kids’ Clothes:
    1. Take Out Clothes That Are Too Small
    2. Pack Up & Label Clothes That Are Too Small
  2. Pack Up & Label Pregnancy Clothes
  3. Write Love Notes to Louis & Kyrie
  4. Exchanges and Returns on baby clothes she has already outgrown


  1. Create an Arabic Study System
  2. Add the Motor Themes to the Homeschooling Curriculum
  3. Begin Reading TCK


  1. Continue Bible Reading Plan
  2. Write Lisses to Lebanon Blog Update
    1. Funding Update
    2. Timeline Update
  3. Start Reading Serving as Senders
  4. Organize the Space to Write Thank You Cards


  1. Celebrate the first 2 Weeks of my Made Over Morning Routine: Use my Coldstone Gift Card
  2. Begin Studying the Bible again by reading 1 chapter this week of 1 Samuel
  3. Choose a Book For Fun & Start Reading

I realize I might be jumping in to far too much, but what I have been learning these past few weeks as I have begun my Morning Routine again is how useful scheduling out my days can be. Thank you, again Crystal @Money Saving Mom. So, I have begun using Google Calendar in a way that I might share as soon as I figure out how to explain it. The main point is to put it down on paper and leave it there. So, before I send these goals out now I have them written down on my calendar in a reasonable way. More on that later, but for now…

Accountability through Blog, we have Re-Begun!

As always, feel free to join the accountability of goal setting by writing your own goals in the comments.

Have You Read A Good Book Recently?

I haven’t written in quite some time. I have been reading like crazy. I go to the library all the time, and I have found a new favorite genre: Cozy Mysteries. I have a reading list to review that is so long I will have lots of posts ahead of me. Today I was thinking about what books to reserve next at the library and it occurred to me that the Tucson Festival of Books is coming up again. That was the event which drew me into this blog last year, so I also thought of this blog again and realized that it has been so long since I posted last. So, with the Tucson Festival of Books March 15-16 of 2014, I have a whole new list to get onto reading. With that in mind, here is a poll to get you thinking.

I went through the list of authors in several genres and reserved many books based on each of these ideas, so we will see.

Currently, I am most looking forward to seeing Lois Lowry, author of The Giver, and Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak. These are two authors I love so much of what they have written. If you have any books you recommend my reading, leave a comment. If you have any questions about authors you can do the same.

Book Review: Pecan Pie Baby: Excellent

Pecan Pie Baby

Written By Jacqueline Woodson

Illustrated By Sophie Blackall

A soon-to-be-big-sister is not as happy as everyone else about this new baby coming. Pecan pie is the red thread through this book, reminding us all that life is lived in the small moments. This adorable children’s picture book captures the feelings of an only child not ready to lose her place in the family. The writing is told in such a way that it sounds like the little girl is speaking throughout the book.

My personal take away was a memory of my own lack of preparation for my baby sister. I wanted a puppy and I wanted that squirmy, reddish, loud thing to go back where it came from. As I read this story to my own three and a half month baby, I prayed that he would be excited to be a big brother. I want to also remember the small things in raising him that he will have his own pecan pie moments with myself and my husband.

I would recommend this book to be read to any child 0-12 years of age getting ready to have a new sibling enter the family. A friend of mine has an entire shelf of books on being an older sibling which prepared her for the event. This book should definitely be a part of that shelf in my own house.