To ease us through the doldrums of January, we hosted a Trolls themed party for eight four-year-olds. The highlights of the party were a make-your-own troll hair headband craft, strawberry cupcakes, and dancing to music from the Trolls movie.
For the troll hair headbands, I mostly followed the instructions I found here. I figured it would be more fun – and less work for me – for the kids to make their own headband (with help from a parent) during the party. So I just did a little preparation by cutting lots of strips of the tulle (roughly 5″x22″) in advance. Then I laid out the tulle, headbands, ribbon, and decorations on a table so everyone could make their troll hair headbands whenever they wanted to. Pretty soon there were a lot of Poppy-inspired trolls running around our house, and a few more unique trolls as well!
We also printed out some Trolls coloring sheets to provide another party activity for the kids, and handed out Trolls goody bags as the guests headed home.
On a cold winter New England day, a warm, humid butterfly house is just the place for me.
The Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens, in South Deerfield MA, is a great change of scenery and climate during the winter. You’ll find yourself immersed in beautiful flowers and greenery, with butterflies flitting all around you (and sometimes even landing on you).
In the main butterfly room you’ll also see uncaged birds (including a hummingbird and parrot), a tortoise in a large open pen, and a small koi pond. An adjoining room contains numerous terrariums housing many species of amphibians, reptiles, and insects.
On our Christmas vacation, we visited the Springfield Museums. This museum complex includes five museums and a sculpture garden, so you could definitely spend the whole day exploring (if you can handle that much museum time in one day). The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden has been here since the 1990s. In 2017, it was joined by the newest museum in the complex, the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss.
Housed in a beautiful old home, the first floor of this museum includes many rooms with interactive kid-friendly exhibits and lively, colorful representations of characters and scenes from popular Seuss books such as The Lorax, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, and Horton Hears a Who!.
The upstairs of the museum has more adult-oriented biographical and historical information about Seuss himself, and the basement offered some hands-on craft opportunities for children.
On the weekend before Thanksgiving, we went to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery Lights in Fort Collins. This is a great free activity for families, anyone who likes Christmas lights, or people who like Anheuser-Busch beer. We really enjoyed the Christmas tree maze and riding the little train that went through a snowman tunnel and past many of the lights.
The train ride costs $1 per person, but entry is free and there is free beer as well. Other food and drink were available for purchase.
We had a tea party for several four-year-olds in early September. This was a really easy, but fun, party to host.
We served two kinds of (caffeine-free) tea, sparkling pink lemonade, grapes, and lemon cupcakes with vanilla frosting, sprinkles, and maraschino cherries on top. The kids enjoyed their late-morning snack time on the deck, which was also a practical location in the likely event of spilled tea or lemonade. After they were done with the tea and snacks, the kids blew bubbles and played in the yard.
The Denver Zoo really knows how to decorate for Halloween! When we visited in early October, there were many displays of animals and dinosaurs made out of pumpkins scattered throughout the zoo. This was my favorite of the pumpkin displays.
Here’s a brief summary of the Halloween party we had last year, for a crowd of mostly three-year-olds (with a few older and younger siblings joining as well). We had a number of activities for the kids set up around the house:
- drawing and Halloween stickers
- silly monster craft (see below)
- stick the nose on the monster game (see below)
- spider web game
- monster bowling
And for fun, yet relatively healthy, party snacks we had:
- pumpkin mini muffins
- orange and black fruit (cantaloupe and blackberries)
- cheese slices cut into pumpkin and ghost shapes (see below)
- apple cider
We had a great day visiting Dinosaur National Monument in July. The huge park stretches from western Colorado to eastern Utah, but we only visited the Utah side since we really wanted to focus on the dinosaur bones and petroglyphs.
Our first stop was the Quarry Exhibit Hall, shortly after it opened for the day. It was awesome to see the exposed dinosaur bones as they were discovered in the quarry, and to even touch some of the fossilized bones! There were also some nice reconstructions of dinosaur skeletons.
The landscapes outside of the Quarry Exhibit Hall were also incredible.
The Green River flows through the park, and rafting down the river would have been a fun adventure.
After a short drive from the Quarry Exhibit Hall, we stopped to see petroglyphs and pictographs left by the Fremont people that lived in this area about a thousand years ago. We then continued driving to see more of these ancient carvings and drawings at another location farther from the Quarry Exhibit Hall, and enjoyed a picnic in a nice shady spot near a historic homesteader’s cabin.
There are two great hot springs options in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The Old Town Hot Springs are easy to get to, and great for kids since the the temperatures of the various hot spring pools are regulated between 98°F and 103°F. Plus, there is a regular warm shallow pool, big water slides, and a kiddie play area.
Strawberry Park Hot Springs is a completely different hot springs experience. After a short, pretty drive from town, you will find a very natural hot springs setting. The Strawberry hot spring pools were beautiful and unique, but a little too hot for our family to truly enjoy being in them on the morning we visited (the springs naturally fluctuate slightly in temperature and these pools are not temperature-regulated).
The little one has broken a lot of crayons over the last couple of years, and I’ve been collecting the crayon fragments because I figured we could eventually do something cool with them. This melted crayon craft project was just our speed, and our funky multi-colored crayons made great gifts for the kiddo’s friends.
After peeling the paper off of the broken crayons, we put the crayon pieces in a mini muffin pan and baked them at 170°F until they were completely melted (24 minutes). Then we removed the muffin pan from the oven, and decided to quickly stir one of the new melty crayons (a mixture of purple, blue, and pink) to make a special new shade of purple. We left the other crayons alone for a marbled look. Then we put the muffin pan in the freezer for 20 minutes. Next I inverted the pan and the new crayons all came out easily.
Our special purple swirled crayon broke when it came out of the pan, so it’s possible that our stirring before freezing affected that crayon’s structural integrity, but it turned out really pretty. A few of the other crayons broke later on, but that’s not so bad because these crayons are actually easier to draw with when they are broken in half. Overall, this was a fun recycling project to do with a three-year-old!