How We Do Summer

Summer Main ImageAh, summer … in Wisconsin they’re magical. I’m convinced our beautiful summers are Wisconsinite’s reward for making it through yet another winter. To be sure, summer everywhere is sprinkled with fairy dust, but, having spent the first three summers of my twins’ lives in Texas’ blustering heat, I’ve concluded that Wisconsin’s swimming season is a little bit of heaven. However, no matter where you summer, if you have school-aged kids, you’ve likely concluded that even the lazy days of the season require some structure.

I remember learning this lesson very clearly. The twins were three and preschool had concluded for the year. I had visions of us all sleeping in (remember, these were my first kids!), lounging in the morning while I drank coffee. Then we would stroll to the park, discover the bugs in our backyard, and whatever else tickled our fancy for the next three months. Well, two weeks into summer and the boys were whiny, bickering with each other and I was anything but relaxed. I quickly realized summer too required some structure: a predictable, yet flexible schedule we could all depend on. Every summer since I’ve instituted some sort of structure into our summer vacation, the form of which has changed to meet the dynamic needs of our family. This pre-planning has allowed us to enjoy the freedom summer brings while keeping the peace at home and ensuring the day-t0-day tasks that come with running a household (read: laundry, budgeting, cooking) still get done. Today I’ll share what our summer pre-planning looks like. Hopefully you’ll take away something that will work for your family too!

Summer 2013

My overarching goal for this summer is to successfully balance the needs of my big boys (who are 8) and Jax (who is 18 months). I don’t want Chase and Noah to always have to acquiesce to Jax’s limitations and nap schedule, but I also don’t want Jax to simply be shuffled between the twins’ activities and made to fend for himself while his big brothers play big-kid games. So, I approached summer planning with this goal as a priority. My method involved three basic steps: 1) Setting goals, 2) Establishing a flexible schedule, and 3) Creating a calendar and binder of activity ideas.

Setting Goals

Summer goal setting for us doesn’t involve an elaborate process (don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about a family vision and mission statement with supporting goals). I simply ask the big boys: What do you want to do this summer? And I answer the same question. This can be like a summer bucket list, but ours also involves some personal goals. For example, my twins want to do an in-depth study of  the Civil War — so “Research the Civil War” is on their goal list. “Go to a Brewer Game” is also on their list. You get the picture. Along with other things, my goals include some business goals along with actually doing the things on my [Pinterest] boards. We write our goals down and share them with each other. Both of these efforts increase the likelihood of actually achieving them. When we plan our activities each week, we will consult our goal list to ensure that we are doing things that will help us reach them. I like that this process helps us complete things that are important to us, but I really like that it teaches the boys how to incorporate goal setting into their day-to-day lives.

I'll use this to choose the ideas I want to bring to life from my Pinterest board

I’ll use this to choose the ideas I want to bring to life from my Pinterest board

I created this goal sheet for recording our summer goals.

I created this goal sheet for recording our summer goals.

Creating a Schedule

Without a daily schedule, the boys and I wonder around like lost souls. Okay, maybe that’s a bit dramatic. But, in all seriousness, I’ve found that the boys are more content when they know what’s coming next. They thrive when provided flexible structure and predictable boundaries, and a daily schedule helps provide that. Our schedule is flexible. I don’t run a military camp, and I personally would feel suffocated if we were limited to a written schedule everyday. It simply provides loose predictability — in general, it says, “This is how things go, and this is what comes next.” We won’t follow it to a tee, and some days the schedule will be sacrificed for fun all-day outings in the city. It is centered on sleep schedules (I’m a bit of a sleep freak when it comes to my kids. Well rested children equal flexible, happy kids.) So I pencil in our general wake-up time (although I let the kids sleep as long as they want), Jax’s afternoon nap and their bedtimes. Everything else gets worked around that.  This is what our schedule looks like this summer:

Our flexible summer schedule.

Our flexible summer schedule.

Chase and Noah are naturally fairly academic minded. They read like crazy (I have a harder time keeping them supplied with books than jeans that fit!) and love math. So, I don’t have to work hard to make sure they will keep up their school skills (but if I did, I’d work that into the schedule). They will beg to read and will ask to do [Khan Academy] (one of our favorite computer math sites) during their free time. I can see you mocking me by pretending to gag yourself. Stop it.

Collecting Activity Ideas & Creating Calendars

This is the fun part. I strive to provide a nice balance of at-home fun with taking advantage of activities offered in our town and surrounding areas. I start by printing out [monthly calendars] for each month of summer vacation. Then I fill in all our “known” activities: weddings, sports camps, family vacation, etc. Next, I scour the websites of local venues to find all the free and low-cost activities my kids might be interested in. I add all of these “options” to the calendar. These are simply things we can do if we choose to do them. In my town, these were some of the venues I consulted:

  1. Local Public Library: Our library has a large variety of activities that fit the needs of kids of all ages. We go to the library at least once a week during the summer to check out new books. This summer we could be there up to three times a week if we choose to attend all the age-appropriate activities they offer!
  2. Local Garden Center: Our garden center offers classes (some fee-based, some free) for kids; so I added these to our “options” calendar.
  3. Bowling Alley: Did you know that [Kids Bowl Free] works with bowling alleys all over the U.S. to offer kids two games of free bowling every day of the summer? For $24, you can add up to four adults to your bowling pass. This is a great rainy day activity!
  4. Home Depot: [Home Depots] all over the U.S. offer free kid’s weekend workshops. Check your local Home Depot for days and times.
  5. State Parks/Recreation Areas: Many state park and recreation areas offer organized activities for kids and families all summer long. I found plenty of interesting options at the state park nearest our home.
  6. Zoo: We have two great county zoo options within 1 hr. driving distance. We purchased a year family pass to our favorite one. The other offers 1/2 price entry fee every Wednesday during summer, so I added that to our Wednesday options. An adjacent town offers a petting zoo. I purchased a Groupon for deep discounts on entry tickets, so this is another option for us.
  7. Museums. We also purchased a year family pass to our favorite public museum — another great rainy day option. The nearest children’s museum and science museum are other options, but they are pricey so we’ll only go once, maybe twice. An adjacent city offers three free museums on the same street: a public museum, dinosaur museum and Civil War museum. The Civil War museum offers several special activities throughout the summer. Given Chase and Noah’s goal of studying that war, we hit the jack-pot with that one!
  8. Summer Recreation Programs. Our school district offers a large selection of 1-5 day recreation programs. Most of these cost money, and I ask the boys to choose the one they are most interested in that fits our schedule. This year they chose “Gears, Levers & Pulleys.” I think they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to build a motorized machine!

With these activity options in mind, I created two quick-reference sheets:

A quick reference for addresses, hours and admission fees.

A quick reference for addresses, hours and admission fees.

An list of special activity ideas organized by distance and price.

A list of special activity ideas organized by distance and price.

Places to Visit this Summer. Half of these venues on the above list are close to home, and I know exactly where they are. Others I frequent rarely, so I created this cheat sheet I can quickly reference telling me their address, hours of operation and entry fees.

Special Things to Do. I created this list mainly for Chase and Noah. It lists activity options in three columns: 1) Options for Most Days (free and close to home), 2) Options for Some Days (farther away or have a cost involved), and 3) Once or Twice Outings (really far away or pricey). They can consult this list when we are planning our week or when they want to do something (free and close to home) during free time, but need some help thinking up options.

How We Plan our Days

So, on Sunday, we’ll consult our calendar of options (all the local activities that are going on in the upcoming week) and decide which ones we are interested in. We’ll pencil those in. We’ll then look at the “Special Things to Do” list and see if we want to add any of those options. I keep it very balanced – we aren’t running here and there all day everyday. That isn’t much of a summer in my book.

Activity Binder

I love leveraging other moms’ ideas of fun at-home activities to do with kids. My favorite are open-ended water, crafty and nature-oriented options. Pinterest is full of creative options. This year I stumbled on [Camp Mom], an eBook published by 20 Moms (amazing kid-oriented mom bloggers) . I usually don’t buy these sorts of things, but this one seemed right up my alley. For $14.99 I got a collection of pretty creative ideas. I sorted through them, choosing ones I thought all three boys would enjoy, and put them in a binder along with the activities sheets I created. I also printed out and added some Pinterest ideas I’d been wanting to try with the kids. So, when we are tired of the same ol’ same ol’, we can consult the binder and find a fun activity to try.

To make sure we are prepared to hit the ground running with all the binder ideas, I made a list and purchased all the supplies we need and added them to my existing craft supply cabinet.

So that’s how we prep for summer around here. Despite all the “formal” organization, the flexible structure created by our planning efforts seem to provide the perfect foundation for creative free play. Our summer days are fun – balanced with organized activities, chores and good old fashioned play. I don’t get flustered all that easily, because I have a plan, and a back-up plan. While the kids sometimes complain of being bored, we have a collection of new ideas to try (or I have a chore list — which do you think they prefer?) This isn’t to say each and every day is smooth sailing. We have our moments, but I find that a little planning goes a long way toward making the most of our summer.

 

The Perfectly Imperfect Mom

Perfectly PerfectI’m a recovering perfectionist. When the fruits of my labors are lacking I feel guilt. Guilt and failure. Somewhere along the line I picked up the message that my value is directly correlated to my productivity. While my heartfelt belief is that my worth has nothing to do with how much I do or how well I do it, this battle rages in my head. Most days the battle is fairly short, but other days it exhausts me.

Lately the battle is taking up more energy than I care to give it. Like most moms, I wear what feels like a million hats and rarely do I have time to take one off before putting the next one on. The weight of wearing all these hats simultaneously can feel crushing. Add to that my expectation that everything I do be done completely and perfectly, and I continually set myself up for failure. While I struggle with this at some level most of the time, the exact frequency and intensity I’m experiencing now feels so familiar. It’s like an unwelcome visitor who is starting to stink. This is the same feeling I had about seven years ago when my twins were one.

The birth of a first baby rocks your world. Having two babies at the same time is an earthquake. While I was beyond thankful for such a blessing, the change the boys brought to our lives was overwhelming. My house no longer stayed clean. Who am I kidding?  It never got cleaned. I couldn’t keep up with the laundry. I rarely cooked for my husband and me. And the fury I sometimes felt at the end of the day when neither boy would nap and they were both screaming in my arms ran smack in the face of what I wanted to feel, and thought I should be feeling, if I were a good mom. For the first two years I felt like a total failure as a wife, and a pretty shabby mom.

But it got better. As the boys grew, I did too. I learned how to be more efficient in my housekeeping, and more importantly, lowered my expectations. The beds didn’t have to be made everyday, weeds in the lawn were acceptable (shoot — expected), and wear slippers in the house if you don’t want to feel the dirt on the tile floor. This balance gave me ample time to make amazing memories during Chase and Noah’s preschool years. This isn’t to say my perfectionism didn’t rear its ugly head anymore — I just got really good at keeping it in check.

And as they got older they needed me to hold their hands less often. They went to school and played in the back yard by themselves. Their independence allowed me to reinstate some of those old expectations, because I had the time and energy. My house was cleaner, laundry was routinely put away, I made bread and most everything else from scratch, I volunteered in the community, the list goes on.

It’s been 18 months since Jax was born, and I’m feeling like the crazy is back. More often than not my house looks like a train wreck. I’ve told the big boys on more than one occasion to just “dig your pants out of the dirty clothes.” Instead of “Hi, Honey, dinner’s ready” when Kevin walks through the door, it’s “Hi, can you hold the baby, set the table, put the carrots on the stove … ” I’m battling the crappy wife and mom guilt again.

I know the intensity of the crazy will pass as Jax gets a bit older. But I also know that adding a third kid to the mix means that there’s always going to be a bit of crazy, and that it’s going to be a long time before I can give every child and every task the attention I want to give it. Chase and Noah aren’t going to get as much of me as they once did, because Jax needs me too. And Jax is never going to get the attention Chase and Noah did when they were his age, because Chase and Noah very much still need their momma. My challenge lately is to accept “good enough”. I’m giving my all as a housekeeper, mom and wife. And my all has to be good enough.

It’s also helped to better understand why I need so much of what I do to be perfect and what to do about it. Here are my buckets.

When my house isn’t clean. If my house isn’t clean, organized and picked up, I feel out of control. When other parts of my life feel overwhelming, then my need for a perfectly clean house becomes more urgent. The problem is, of course, that those are precisely the times when I don’t have time to attend to my household chores. I keep myself in check by reminding myself that the house is driving me nuts because I feel out of control. Then I find ways to tackle the real issue that’s got a grip on me.

When I’m not giving the boys enough attention. I’m in a constant battle between feeling pulled to cook, clean, and in general “take care of stuff” and just hanging out with my kids. I used to be able to coax them into doing household tasks with me as a “fun” activity — those years have passed. In those moments when I just have to get something done (like dinner in the oven), I simply tell them they must wait. Waiting is part of life, and we can’t always get what we want when we want it. As long as this isn’t my standard response, I think learning that the world doesn’t stop because they want something is a necessary lesson. When I truly feel like I’ve pushed them aside more than I should have lately, but I still need to tackle other tasks, I ping pong between them both. I’ll do my task for 10 min, then play a game with the boys. I return to my task for 15 min, then read a few books to Jax. While nothing gets done quickly this way, everything is getting at least some of my attention.

When I yell at my kids. Gasp … yep, sometimes I yell. I don’t do it often, but every time I do I feel like a bad mom for a while. I’ve realized that I usually yell when the boys have done something that, deep down, makes me scared for their future. Like when they are acting ungrateful for all they have, I fear that they are going to turn out to be lazy and take the good things in life for granted. When they talk disrespectfully to me or Kevin, I fear they will disrespect their future bosses and wives. But sometimes I yell because their behavior has so frustrated and exhausted me that I have no energy to handle the situation more appropriately (because all parents know that it takes more energy to be calm and talk through disobedience, bad choices, etc. than to simply go off the handle). In both cases, I always go back to the boys and apologize for how I handled the situation. I ask forgiveness for yelling. We then talk through the circumstances that prompted me to yell and focus on that. Handling it in this way serves three purposes: 1) I model how to graciously admit my mistakes, 2) The boys learn that their behavior choices affect others (in this case mom’s emotions), 3) The core issue/behavior is addressed.

When I’ve neglected my husband. We’ve been married for almost 14 years, and I’ve learned that my perception of what a good wife is is different than Kevin’s. As a stay-at-home mom, I get caught up in thinking that I need to have dinner on the table when he gets home, clean laundry in his drawers, a spic-n-span house for him to relax in, in addition to nurturing our relationship in emotional and non-tangible ways. God so blessed me with Kevin because he continually tells me that, while things like dinner, laundry, etc. are nice, he doesn’t place a high value on those things. So this one is really a battle with myself — what I think a wife “should” do, and not what my husband needs and values. I’m learning that when trying to do all those tangible things stresses me out, it puts stress on him, which is the very opposite of what I want do as his wife.

Perfectionism will always be my battle. In addition to these coping strategies I do a lot of praying. My worth isn’t determined by what I do. In fact, nothing I do or don’t do could make me any less valuable. I know that, and through prayer this message is whispered in my ear when I need to hear it most. Every day I strive for perfectly imperfect. Not only is it attainable, but I figure I’m doing my future daughter-in-laws a favor. Yesterday, Noah told me I get more done in a day than the average woman does in a year. My boys’ wives don’t need that pressure, now do they.

1 Table 4 Ways

1 Table 4 Ways

I love creative uses of small spaces. Make it a multi-functional use, and I’m kind of in heaven. While we live in a moderately sized home, our main floor — what I consider our daytime living space, is a bit cramped. My challenge is to find ways to make the most of our nooks and crannies. I want these spaces to be 1) functional 2) aesthetically pleasing, and 3) honor both the adults and 3 kids that live here. (Check out this post of other ways we create Kid Spaces in Adult Places.) The way we use our train table is one of my favorite creative uses of the small space we have.

Soon after having Jax, our very good friend who has two older boys gifted us her KidKraft train table. Even when our 8-year old twins were Thomas the Train age and we were living in Texas, we didn’t have the luxury of enough play space to house a large train table. So our coffee table became our train table back then. The fact that we were given this train table (with two trundle drawers to boot!) was perfect because we had sold our mission style coffee table the summer before in hopes of finding a more modern style that better fit our current home. We never found the perfect modern piece, so this KidKraft  piece has been our coffee table since Jax was about 6-months old.

We’ve been using the table in creative ways for a while now, but now that almost 18-month old Jax is Thomas the Train age, we’ve only recently started using it to its full potential. I hope that our use of 1 table in 4 ways inspires you to get the most out of your train table (or coffee table — keep reading and I’ll tell you how!).

Train Table

Train Table

1. Train Table. The most obvious use of a train table is as, well, a train table. We mount our track down with semi-permanent two-sided tape when our kids are younger so they can play with it without the track coming apart. When they are older, we take the tape off so they can build their own Island of Sodor. We keep a bin full of trains in one of the trundle drawers for easy access. In case our big boys want to build some lengths of track, we keep lots of extra track in another bin. As “big” as our twins think they are, it melts my heart to see them having just as much fun with these toys as Jax.

Dry Erase Table2. Dry Erase Table. We only erected the Island of Sodor recently. Until then, our train table spent most of it’s time as a dry erase board. We simply bought some thrifty white hardwood panel  board from our local big box home improvement store (about $13), had the guys at the store cut it to the dimensions of our table, and “wala” — we had a dry erase board. We opt for Crayola Washable Dry Erase Markers because they are, well, washable.

Newsprint Table3. Paintable, Markerable, Colorable Mural. With the dry erase board inserted, wrap the top of the train table with newsprint, and you have a large space for painting, coloring and all things crafty. At this age, Jax loves dot a dot paint, markering with big, fat markers, and coloring with triangle crayons. I stalk Hobby Lobby after VBS season to grab the large 36″X100′ rolls on clearance.

Sensory Table4. Sensory Table. We love sensory tables around here. (see this post for directions on how to make your own sand/water/sensory table). We simply cut a piece of press board that fits into our train table, then routered holes to fit 5 smallish storage bins.  You can put just about anything in these bins. Right now, we have 1) balls in assorted textures, colors, and sizes 2) rice, 3) blocks in assorted textures, colors, and sizes, and 4) cotton and colored puff balls, and 5) oatmeal in our bins. I’ve also emptied the bins and played a game where Jax and I toss balls into them — the possibilities are almost endless. I only use sensory material that can be easily vacuumed up because this is indoors and atop a wool rug. We save the water and other irrevocably messy stuff for outside or in the basement.

We have our train table sitting in front of our couch (like a coffee table would be situated), and we have our couch kitty-corner in our living room. We have 3 “tops” for our table (the train, sensory press board, and dry erase board). The train top is our “default” top and spends the most time atop the table. When the dry erase board and sensory press board tops are not in use, we store them behind our couch (due to its corner placement, you can’t see what’s stored behind it — genius).

Have a coffee table but no train table? No problem! This was our situation when the twins were toddlers  My husband simply constructed a “topper” that slipped on top of the coffee table and had a lip that wouldn’t allow the trains, markers, etc. to roll off. The easiest way to do this is to cut a piece of press board the size of your table top, then cut base board to fit around the top. Nail the press board in the center of the each piece of base board so you have a “hat” to fit on top of your table. Half of the base board sits below your coffee table top, and half of the base board sits above the top to prevent anything on your table from rolling off. Then, cut a piece of particle board (or other suitable material) to fit inside your topper for your train table. Cut the dry erase board to fit inside your topper. While you won’t be able to construct a sensory table with this method (unless you are willing to cut holes into your coffee table top), you could cut an additional piece of particle board and paint with chalkboard paint and have a large chalkboard surface.

So there you have it: 1 table 4 ways. You know as well as I do that toddlers demand variety, and using our train table in this way delivers just that. It also prevents our whole living space from looking like Toys R Us.

DIY Sand & Water | Sensory Bin Table: 60 minutes + $50 = Done

DIY Sand/Water Table

DIY Sand | Water Table

Spring has finally arrived in Wisconsin. I actually whispered that because I fear if I speak too loudly snow will return and I’ll have to, once again, haul out the mittens and stocking caps. I’m giddy with excitement as I start planning summer fun for the boys and me. Mission #1: find a sand/water table for Jax.

Seven years ago I bought a water table at Toys R Us. It was too small, wobbly and just an overall disappointment. This time around I knew exactly what I wanted, but wasn’t willing to fork over the money necessary to purchase one commercially made.  An overview of the internet DIY offerings revealed several options, but none that were exactly what we were looking for. We then combined the aspects of the ones we liked best and came up with this version.

I preferred a table with two bins because I wanted Jax to be able to play with sand and water at the same time. I also wanted the flexibility of using it as an outdoor sensory table – adding whatever tactile-friendly elements to the bins I wanted. Finally, we needed it to be super easy to build — requiring a low-level of handiness. While my husband and I can install tile floors, plumb your new bathroom or paint up a storm, woodworking isn’t our forte. Thus, we opted for a PVC frame versus wood. Here’s how we did it:

Watertable suppliesThe supplies required  are minimal. We purchased all of them at our local big-box home improvement store: Menards. The total bill for our supplies was $49.88. I didn’t compare prices at Lowes or Home Depot, so you may get them cheaper elsewhere. We used a circular saw to make our cuts, but a hack saw will work just fine. Here’s what we paid per piece:

  • Bins: $5.97 x2
  • PVC Pipe: $2.72 x6
  • 90° Street Elbows: $1.79 x8
  • PVC Tee: $.73 x 10

I chose bins with lids because I like the option of covering the sand/water (or whatever I have in them) when we weren’t using it. If you opt for different sized bins, your measurements for your cuts will be different than ours — just make your cuts to fit your bins’ length and width. We chose Bella brand bins (because that’s what Menards had), which measure 24″x16.56″x5.88″.

PVC Pipe Cut Measurements

PVC Pipe Cut Measurements

While these are the cut measurements for our table, we recommend putting your table together as you go and making your cuts one at a time. This way you can adjust your measurements if necessary. When measuring and cutting, remember to account for the fact that you will be inserting your pipe into a fitting (either a elbow or tee). The overlap — or the number of inches your pipe will go into the fitting — is 1.25 inches. So, if the length you need to account for is 24 inches, you need to cut your PVC pipe 24 + (1.25 x 2) inches to account for the fact that your pipe will overlap into the fitting 1.25 inches on each side.

Step 1: Build the top frame. If you are using bins the size of ours, cut a “short base”, fit it into an elbow fitting on either end, add a tee fitting to each elbow fitting, and make sure your bin will sit securely on your partially-built frame. Use a rubber mallet to ensure that the pipes slide completely into the fittings. Then proceed to cut two “short top” pieces, fit them into the tee fittings on one end, then add another tee fitting to the other ends. Again, make sure your bin continues to fit. Now cut another “short base” for your middle support, and insert it into both tee fittings. You should now have the correct sized opening for one bin. Continue to cut PVC pipes and add fittings in this manner to support your second bin.

Watertable constructionStep 2: Add the table legs. Turn your frame upside down (so the openings in your tee fittings face up). Cut four vertical posts. Insert these into the tee opening at each of the four corners of the top frame.

Step 3. Build the bottom frame. Keep your table “upside down”. Add a tee fitting on each of the four vertical posts (table legs). Then add an elbow fitting to the outermost tee opening (to crease the corners of your base). To build one of the two the short sides of your base, cut a “short base” and insert it into the corresponding elbow. Working your way around the base, cut a “long base” and insert it into the corresponding tee openings. Then cut and install your final “short base,” followed by the final “long base”.

Step 4. Make final adjustments. Ensure all your pipes and fittings are tight and secure, then flip your table right-side up. Insert the two bins, and take a step back and ensure all your angles are at 90° and your table legs are straight. Make any necessary adjustments, which may include dis-assembling some table lengths and making minor cutting adjustments.

We chose not to glue our pipes into our fittings because our table is very sturdy (I could even sit on it). Because we have limited storage space, I like being able to take the table apart at the end of summer for storing over the winter months. But you could certainly glue it together if you wanted. The perfectionist in me wants to spray paint the frame, but I’m resisting. While using a paint like Krylon Fusion for Plastic will probably work, I’ve decided that I could better use the time I’d spend painting raking the snow mold off my grass.

We test drove this table the day after it was completed. Jax and his sweet friend, June, had a blast. It is the perfect height for these

almost 18-month olds. The two of them played comfortably around the edges, and I estimate we could have six toddlers playing around the table at one time. I predict we are going to get lots of mileage out of this project!

UPDATE: So we’ve been using our sand/water table for a few weeks now and have discovered a flaw. One day, the water bin fell through its hole and broke. As a solution, we simply bought strapping at our local big box store (we chose a $10 pack of two narrow straps with “claws” that ensured they would stay secure) that would sit under each bin to provide extra support. We  wrapped each strap around the top PVC pipe that supports the long side of the bin, strung the strap so it sits under the bin, wrapped it around the center PVC, strung it under the second bin, then wrapped it around the other PVC pipe that supports the long side of the second bin. Then we secured the strap into it’s “claw” underneath the bins. We repeated this same process with the second strap and positioned them parallel from each other near the top and bottom of each bin. Now both bins are supported by the two straps. So far, this solution has solved our problem.

** UPDATE 1 year later: I continue to be thrilled with our DIY table! We use it for sensory bins in the winter, and are now pulling it on our back deck for its second summer. We did end up using PVC cement to glue the pipes into their fittings. We found that the weight of heavy sensory bins (like rocks) were much better supported when the table was glued together. To see our spring and Easter sensory bins ideas, check out this post: Easter | Spring Sensory Bins.