mindful living, effortless style

Mother’s Day is just a little over 3 weeks away, which means that if you’re looking to go handmade then now is the time to get planning.

Here are two of my favorite DIY projects from last year, both of which I put together for eHow’s Mom Channel:

Both activities are perfectly suited for the kids to help, or for you to tackle on your own once they’re in bed – enjoy!

P.S. Did you know that facebook has recently drastically changed the way pages like MPMK can share with their followers? Even if you’re a fan of the MPMK facebook page, only a portion of our posts and updates are showing up in your feed these days.

So how do you continue to get all of our parenting, playtime, organization, and recipe ideas?  Sign up for the MPMK newsletter!

You’ll get all of our best stuff plus exclusive content just for our subscribers, including a Free 6 week meal plan.

Most of us busy parents are on the look out for new ways to squeeze extra nutrition into our growing kids. Around here, we love using our juicer and enjoying fresh fruit and veggie juice, but it’s not really something you can grab-and-go (well you can.. but not without cleaning out a clogged-up juicer later on in the day).

Fruit and veggie gummies are our latest solution for getting good nutrition in small, portable doses.

Not only are the fruits and veggies filled with vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients, these gummies have the power of gelatin as well! Gelatin is a source of dietary collagen and protein- it’s anti-inflammatory, known to improve digestion, promote healthy skin/hair/nails and more.

Read More

Image Credit (cropped & text added): © Chris Parfitt | 05.11.08 | CC by 2.0

You know we can’t get enough of play dough play around here.  Today Amanda of Not Just Cute is back with everything we need to maximize the kids’ interest in play dough play as well as ideas on how to maximize the learning benefits of this fabulous art material.

Read on for the ultimate round-up of play dough recipes and activities!

Play dough is a staple of childhood. Like story time and hide and seek, it’s an activity that’s endured over the generations — and for good reason! In addition to being just plain fun, it’s an activity that’s loaded with powerful learning potential.

When kids sink their fingers into a squishy pile of play dough they’re getting ready to practice a litany of critical developmental skills. But don’t ask them about those skills. They’ll be too busy having fun to answer!

Here’s a look at the skills they’ll be practicing:

Fine Motor Skills

The hands are full of tiny muscles with a really important job. Gripping a pencil, holding a paintbrush, or wielding a spatula all require strength and control in this group of muscles. When kids smoosh, stretch, and roll their play dough it’s like hitting the gym for a fine motor workout! Adding accessories for kids to poke into the dough (like pipe cleaners, toothpicks, googly eyes) goes even further to work the hands in a different way, targeting the muscles needed for that all-important pincer grasp.

Sensory Play

As the hands work through different textures of dough, their hands are also picking up sensory information. Does the dough feel gritty, smooth, sticky? Couple that with the potential for different scents play dough can have and you’ve created a feast for the senses. (If you want to know more about why sensory play is so beneficial for young kids, check out this post at my site, Not Just Cute.)


Play dough is like a blank canvas. It can be anything your child (or you yourself, if you’re willing to play along) can imagine. It’s the ultimate open-ended activity, encouraging kids to think outside of the box and create something unique.

Language Skills

Many kids engage in an ongoing narrative as they create, building language skills in the process of building with the dough. Whether it’s an elaborate story, a play-by-play commentary of their process, or comparisons between the things they’ve built, they’re practicing valuable language skills. Descriptive words, along with comparisons (bigger than/smaller than) and positional words like “on top of” or “between” pack a powerful punch for budding linguistic skills and critical thinking as well!

Social/Emotional Connections

Perhaps the most surprising benefit play dough delivers is in a therapeutic sense. Most people find working the dough to be a soothing activity. The squishing and pounding can be a regular outlet for everyday emotional stress or a go-to activity for redirecting angry energy in the moment. Additionally, the act of creating, building, sharing, and working side by side with others is an excellent way to foster self-confidence and social skills.

There’s no shame in popping open a container of the store-bought stuff to give your child this powerful experience, but if you’re interested in going the homemade route (a process that has it’s own bundle of benefits if you let your child help out) here are some of the best recipes we’ve collected from around the web.

An excellent collection of homemade play dough recipes (especially love the Jell-O and calming lavender versions) - pinning for a rainy day!

Awesome Textures:

Funfetti Textured Playdough Fun {Childhood 101}

An Old Favorite with a Smooth New Twist {Not Just Cute}

Peanut Butter Playdough {MPMK} Read More

Now that it’s mid-April, we’re definitely due a Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life spring cleaning post… have you gotten started yet?  Yeah, me neither. But I’m given myself a free pass with the recent arrival of M to our family.

Just in case you don’t have such a convenient excuse, Kristin has rounded up for us some of the best FREE spring cleaning checklists around to help get you started.  Good luck!

  • If there’s anyone that can inspire us to Spring Clean, it’s Martha.  Stewart, that is.  It’s that time of year we get the itch to clean out cupboards, organize drawers and basically purge dirt from the house. So let’s start with Martha Stewart’s Spring Cleaning Checklist.  She has a printable checklist with an overview of everything we need to know about the proper way to clean and organize. (Surprise, surprise.)
  • There are some like The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking that say they LOVE cleaning.  I don’t know if I’d say I love cleaning, but Read More

Here’s something fun – MPMK is moonlighting over on The Home Depot’s site, The Apron Blog.  

Lots of helpful ideas on how to make a cleaning station for kids and get them involved with helping out - love the look too!

They recently asked us to guest post on some of our favorite tricks for keeping things fresh and clean with a new baby at home – a topic that’s right up my alley these days!

This DIY kids’ cleaning station makes it fun for older siblings to help out and I’m totally in love with both the form and function of this clever space.

How cute is this idea for keeping baby toys clean?  Such an easy 2 step process for keeping germs away after a play date!

In fact, all 10 of the ideas our home-life and playtime contributor, Kaley, put together are stellar (if I do say so myself). They include:

  • the oh-so-clever cleaning-themed new baby gift shown up top
  • the best way to clean a high chair
  • a genius two-step process for keeping baby toys clean, especially after play dates
  • how to naturally deodorize a changing station
  • the best plants to purify the air in the nursery
  • how to get nearly any stain out of a onesie

And more! Check out all of Kaley’s tips and tricks here and have a great weekend.

Need some great kid art and creativity ideas? Look no further. I’m super excited to introduce you guys to Rachelle today.  Her blog, TinkerLab, is an AMAZING resource for growing creative, innovative, critical thinking kids.  

What I love most about Rachelle is that despite her impressively intimidating credentials (has a Masters in Arts Education from Harvard, oversaw school programs at the San Jose Museum of Art, lectures on Visual Thinking Strategies at Stanford University, and worked on films with Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures – just to name a few), she also has a total knack for teaching parents how to get their kids thinking and creating using quick and easy-to-implement techniques.  

Today she’s here teaching us all about how to set-up invitations to createOnce you get the basics of this concept you can use it to set up an unlimited amount of art activities for your littles – which will come in very handy during your next school break or rainy afternoon, I promise!

Thank you so much for inviting me to share some ideas from our Creative Table with your readers!

Are you interested in raising your child in a creative environment? Could you use some quick and simple ideas for hands-on making that also encourage creative and critical thinking skills to emerge?

Almost two years ago, we started a series of posts on TinkerLab that introduce children to a limited number of inspiring materials as an invitation to create. We call this series Creative Table, and I’m excited to share it with you today.

What is an Invitation to Create?

This is essentially a carefully designed prompt or provocation to make something. One person sets up materials in an inviting way, and another person makes something from them.

You can think of this as a sort of game with just a few rules. Adults can step in to offer suggestions or ideas, but the child should mostly be encouraged to find her own way.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Clear the table of anything that won’t be used in the invitation. Read More

Image Credit: © Suzette Pauwels (text & graphic added) | 01.01.11 | CC by 2.0

Are you a positive discipline disciple? If so, you’re going to love today’s post!

Another of my blogging buddies, Amanda from Not Just Cute, is stepping in while I continue on maternity leave and she’s sharing a wonderful method for dealing with problem behaviors in a positive and effective manner… And make sure you don’t miss the extra-helpful printable for trying the techniques out in your home.  

If you’ve been a reader here for a while, then you probably recognize Amanda – she’s my go-to parenting resource.  Her blog on intentional whole child development is a fantastic resource for parents and I highly recommend you visit (and bookmark) it today!

“I’ve told him a million times!”

It’s an exasperated complaint I’ve heard frequently from both parents and teachers of young children. They’ve corrected a behavior again and again, and yet it persists. The only change that seems to be occurring is the increase in the adults’ blood pressure!

It seems like willful disobedience. (Or at best, a frustrating case of amnesia.)

But let’s take a look at a few things that will change your perspective and help you make actual progress when you find yourself in a similar situation.

First, a little perspective.

What has it been like for you to change your own behaviors? Personally, I know I’ve been told “a million times” that all I have to do to get into the best shape of my life is to hit the gym at 5 am and stop hitting the chocolate chips at 5 pm.

Simple, right? I mean, I have been told “a million times”, so I should just be able to do it.

But for some reason, I’m quick to hit the snooze on my alarm and slow to put down the chocolate when that familiar craving hits. Read More

I love Easter.

One of the reasons I love it so much is that it heralds the arrival of spring. And after this winter, I think most of us could use a little spring.

(I won’t lie – I love the chocolate too).

Plus, my little girls love all things related to rabbits and baby chicks.

These eight titles are perfect additions to your Easter collection,whether you buy them or check them out from the local library: Read More

Up-cycled or recycled planters are the perfect Earth Day activity for kids, which is coming up April 22nd (only 2 days after Easter so don’t blink and miss it).

It incorporates two earth-friendly activities – up-cycling AND planting – plus this particular version involves goggley eyes and what kid doesn’t love those?

Check out my full tutorial over on eHow’s Mom Channel.

For More Earth-Friendly Kid Activities, Check Out:

I’m so happy to have Jenna from Small Fry here today while I continue on my maternity leave.  

Small Fry is such a fresh, clean, inspiring site for modern mamas – I totally adore their craft ideas, recipes, and product recommendations… It’s a definite must-read!

Hi MPMK friends! I’m SO excited that Stephanie asked me to guest post for her while she’s away. This is such a beautiful space and I love reading MPMK daily!

I blog over at Small Fry, which is a children’s lifestyle blog… come and visit us some time.

As a busy mom of two boys, I find it really difficult to come up with new ways to get our family to eat different foods. We are dairy free in our household due to allergies so that adds to the challenge.

One very simple way I have found to get my kids to try new foods is to make them fun, and it doesn’t have to be hard. Read More

With Easter just a few weeks away, it is the perfect time to start thinking about Easter baskets! I usually try to keep the basket pretty simple, stay away from candy and sweets, and instead include art supplies or other creativity-boosting materials. This year, I will be including my daughter’s all time favorite play dough, and a fun play dough mat to go with it.

This took me just about an hour to make (including making the play dough), only cost a few dollars, and will keep her entertained for hours. And the best part is there will be no post-Easter sugar crash from too much chocolate. Read More

Image Credit: © Suzette Pauwels (text added) | 01.09.11 | CC by 2.0

Today I have something uber useful for you guys – a bedtime post from Jillian of A Mom with a Lesson Plan (a great site you really should check out if you’re not already familiar).

I’ve posted Jillian’s game-changing, quiet-time-before-bedtime idea on MPMK’s facebook wall a few times and have always gotten a huge response.

Today she’s here to expand on the idea and share her favorite pre-bedtime quiet activities broken down into categories for toddlers, preschoolers & kindergartners, and school-aged kids.

A couple of years ago we were searching for a way to get our kids to go to bed without a fight. By the end of the day, everyone is tired, everyone is ready to unwind and everyone needs some downtime.

The technique we found allows the kids to have quiet time before they go to sleep. We call it “rest time” at our house and it has been a game changer for us.

With quiet time the kids get a chance to play on their own and reflect on their day. It’s turned out to be a really neat way for them to connect as siblings as well. The added bonus? Adult time before we are too exhausted to enjoy it.

Finding activities that are relaxing, able to hold little one’s attention and inspire independent play can be challenging.  Over the past couple of years we have found some great activities perfect for quiet time and I’m happy to be here today sharing our favorites.

Quiet Time Activities Perfect for Toddlers

  • Sorting Colors – Lay out different colors of construction paper. Before you leave the room place one object of a matching color onto the paper. You never know what type of color matching activity this might inspire!
  • Busy Bags – Have a container full of fun and easy busy bag items in your child’s room. Try to keep only 2 or 3 activities in there at a time and rotate them every couple of weeks. This will keep your little one from being overwhelmed and ensure there is always something “new” offered. Read More

Spring is in the air and Earth Day is in a few weeks so I thought it might be a good idea to wrap up the week with one of my favorite projects for teaching kids about planting.

C and I originally made these cheerful succulent gardens for his preschool teacher on Teacher Appreciation Day but you could easily adapt the project for a variety of occasions.

Use the chalkboard labels to write a special message for Mom on Mother’s Day or simply to record the name of the plants you select.  Go here to get the full tutorial and make sure you don’t forget the colorful dinosaurs!

Here are a few more planting projects to try with the kids:

I’m gone on maternity leave for the time being so my sweet friend Tiffany from the visually stunning blog Peanut Blossom is here today generously filling in.  Along with being an amazing photographer, Tiffany is also quite the chef (check out the recipes on her blog for proof) and today she’s sharing – what else – the perfect meal to bring to a family who’s just welcomed a baby to the family.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful or anything, I definitely appreciate the post!, but I really wish Tiffany lived in the same state so she could also bring me this meal.  I love that it’s not the usual-fare (we ate lasagna brought to us by kind-hearted friends for a month straight when S was born) and it just looks so good!

Read on for the recipe as well as Tiffany’s handy-dandy packing and transport tips.

New Babies = Casseroles. It’s a law of nature.

But when you’re on the receiving end of that amazing gift, despite your never-ending gratitude there are days when you think you never want to see another noodle. Ever Again.

Please don’t get me wrong. As a new mother to a tiny 6 pound ball of joy, I would have been grateful for someone to fix me a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. The thought is truly what counts.

But after an amazing 6 weeks of mommy meals provided by my playgroup after the birth of my second daughter, I learned first-hand what a difference just a few tweaks to your staple recipe rotation makes for the families you’re providing nourishment.

This menu is just as easy to make and transport as your standard casserole and brownies. I promise.

And the new mom in your life? She just might kiss you with gratitude for being unique.

tacochiliThe Rockstar Lineup:

  • Slow Cooker Taco Chili – spicy, but kid-approved
  • Veggie Dippers with Seasoned Sour Cream
  • Cheesy Corn Bread Toppers
  • Pineapple Upside Down Sundaes

The Game Plan:

  • Cook the chili in your own slow cooker but transfer it to a large plastic disposable container.
  • Wash and cut the veggies and store separately in plastic zip-top baggies.
  • Prep the seasoned sour cream (I prefer Fox Point seasoning from Penzeys but even a simple ranch packet would be popular with the kids) and transport in the sour cream container itself or another plastic container.
  • Bake the corn bread toppers, wrap lightly in tinfoil.
  • Assemble the pineapple topping, transport in a plastic container.

Final Assembly & Transportation Tips:

In one grocery bag, pack all the cold items:

  • frozen corn
  • sour cream
  • shredded cheese
  • veggie bags
  • container of vanilla ice cream
  • pineapple topping
  • whipped cream and cherries (optional)

In a second grocery bag, pack all the hot items:

  • Chili
  • Cornbread toppers
  • Package of tortilla chips

Grab your bags and go! Easy peasy!

And all the new mommy has to do? Heat the chili up and add the corn, and reheat the cornbread. And everything is freezer-ready if something comes up and she prefers to hang on to it for another night. Read More

Aren’t these DIY wooden watercolor Easter eggs fun?! I love their vivid colors so much – the only problem I’m having is deciding whether to make them with the kids or surprise them with a set in their Easter basket.  


I’m out on maternity leave this week and Asia from the absolutely amazing play blog Fun at Home with Kids is here today filling in.  Check out her cheerful Easter DIY below…
I am so excited to have a chance to guest post for Modern Parents Messy Kids!  My name is Asia, I have two kids:  a daughter who is 4 and a son who is nearly 2.  We do a little bit of everything on our blog – art, sensory play, DIY projects, science, and, well, just about anything else that catches our fancy.


Last Christmas I made the kiddos a set of DIY Rainbow Grimm-Style Wood Blocks.  We love them so much, I figured it was probably wise to make a set of Easter eggs for some fun Easter-themed play.  These rainbow wooden eggs are so easy to make that my four year old daughter made every last one herself.I squirted some liquid watercolor into a container, provided her with Read More