Pinterest to Real Life: Water Blob

blob mainIf your Pinterest boards are anything like mine, they are full of amazing ideas that are collecting virtual cobwebs. While I have intentions of actually cooking quinoa in 35 different ways and making all my cleaning products from scratch (actual pins on my boards), I never seem to get around to it. So, one of my goals this summer is to bring some of my Pinterest finds to life (see this post for more on our summer plans: [How We Do Summer]).

I first saw the idea for constructing a Water Blob on the 20 Moms’ ebook: [Camp Mom]. Since then I’ve seen it floating around Pinterest twice more. I’m always on the hunt for activities I think will tickle the fancies of all three of my boys, 18-months and 8-year old twins, and the water blob looked like it fit the bill. I mean, what kid wouldn’t love to play on a super-sized water bed in the middle of his backyard?

Materials List

1. [10×25 feet of 6 mil plastic sheeting]

2. 1 roll of [Scotch outdoor duct tape] (get the roll with the highest waterproof rating you can find)

3. water hose

Constructing the Blob

1. On a flat surface, preferably a driveway or garage floor, unroll the plastic sheeting and fold it in half.You’ll end up wrestling with grass blades when taping the plastic if you choose a grassy surface.

2. Starting on one end, tape the edges together, creating a water-tight seal. The best method is to work with 2-feet sections of tape at a time. Cut 2-feet of tape, then apply the top half of the edge of  tape horizontally to the edge of the top plastic sheet, then wrap the lower half of the tape around the edge of the bottom plastic sheet. To ensure a tight seal, rub the tape back and forth with hand pressure, or use a soup can or similar item. Water will find any “bubbles” in the tape and leak through your seal.

3. Work your way around the blob, leaving a small hole at one corner into which you will insert the hose.

Filling the Blob

1. Put your blob on a very flat surface. Even the slighted slope will cause it to inch toward the bottom of your hill as it fills with water.

2. Insert the hose into the opening you left, and push it into the blob about 2 or more feet. This will ensure your hose stays in as it fills. Find a large rock, low bin or other object with which to prop up the corner of the blob with the water hole. This will prevent water from spilling out of the “bag” when it is nearly full. We used the cover to the [Little Tikes green turtle sandbox], which worked perfectly.

3. It took about an hour to fill, but we liked our blob really full. Toddlers would probably still have a blast with less water, so you could get away with 40 min. or so with younger kids.

4. When your blob is as full as you’d like it, cover the hole with a good amount of tape.

My Review

Fun Meter | 5 stars

Ready. Set. Go.

All three of my boys and their friends had serious fun on this thing. Jax and his little friend loved rolling around on it. (No, I didn’t make him wear the bike helmet in the pictures, he simply insisted on wearing it ALL that day!) The little kids enjoyed trying to walk across it and giggled with joy when they lost their balance and fell.

The little kids loved rolling and and falling on the blob's cool surface.

The little kids loved rolling and and falling on the blob’s cool surface.

My big boys (and two of their friends) had big-boy fun! Here are some of the ways they used it:

1. They let the hose run on the top of it and used the blob as a cushioned slip n’ slide.

2. They used it as a wavy trampoline and got some serious air.

3. They balanced on an inflatable body board we have, and had contests seeing who could balance the longest.

4. They played King of the Blob.

5. They made up several games I couldn’t figure out the rules to, but wanted to be a part of, because they were laughing so hard their bellies hurt.

6. They turned the sprinkler on so it hit the blob and ran, jumped, slipped and slid.

7. On days when the blob was dry and they wanted to relax, they laid on the blob’s cool surface to read.

Blob boysOverall, the water blob gets 5 out of 5 stars for fun.

Durability | 2 stars

None of the water blobs on the Pinterest posts I read involved 8-year old boys, so I was curious about how the contraption would hold up to the abuse of two 60+ lbs boys and their friends.

Day 1. With three fourth grade boys jumping, sliding and wrestling on it, the blob wore it’s first hole about 1.5 hrs. into play. I could tell pretty much right out of the gate that a hole was only a matter of time as you could see the plastic stretching beneath their feet when they jumped on it. They continued to have fun despite the hole as plenty of water remained within the bag, but it needed repair for round #2 the next day.

Day 2. I patched the hole with my Scotch outdoor duct tape, and reinforced other areas that looked like they’d open up soon for our second day of play. This patch job did the trick as it took the boys’ abuse for an entire afternoon without wearing another hole. Some of the seems, however, were beginning to give way. These were easy to patch by simply slapping another layer of tape over the leaky areas.

Day 3.  The blob wore two more holes by the end of day three, after taking the abuse of my big boys and another one of their friends. I haven’t tried to repair these yet, but at first glance this may be the end of our blob as they appear irreparable.

While the blob would likely last the entire summer when used by toddlers or even preschoolers, kids who can jump with force will probably wear holes in the plastic after several uses. Because my big boys only got three days’ use out of it, I gave it 2 stars for durability.

How I Will Make it Differently Next Time

We will give this project another shot, but I will change my approach in a few key ways.

1. I will use stronger plastic sheeting. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find a conveniently sized 10’x25′ roll of anything thicker than 6 mil. I have found 8 and 10 mil that comes in 100′ rolls and cost $150+. I have also found “reinforced poly sheeting” that doesn’t have a mil rating. Even after calling the manufacturer itself to inquire about how it stacks up to 8 and 10 mil non-reinforced sheeting, I still don’t know which product will be a better choice. Home Depot assures me that if I special order it, they will take it back if it doesn’t meet my standards. So, I’ve found a few moms whose big kids would love blobs in their backyards, and we are going to split the cost of the large roll. I’ll let you know the results of this second phase of the water blob when it we’ve put it to the test!

2. In another attempt to increase the strength of the top of the blob, I’m considering using the tape to create a grid pattern – think checkerboard. The places where I patched our original blob held up really well, so I’m thinking that the criss-cross pattern with the tape will significantly increase the durability of the plastic.

3. The other water blob posts I read suggested adding food coloring or glitter to the water for a fun effect. While I may add blue coloring, I don’t think I’d want the hassle of dealing with the glitter upon emptying the water.

All in all, the water blob was tons of fun, I just wished it would of lasted longer. It was enough of a hit, though, to motivate me to find ways to make the thing more durable. While I think the $30 I spent on the plastic and tape is a steel compared to the $65+ I would have paid for three days worth of passes to our community swimming pool, I’d like to get a bit more mileage out of the blob for my money.


Momma Knows Best

As moms, we get lots of advice. Some because we ask for it, but most is unsolicited. I’ll never forget the most useless parenting advice I received. My husband and I were flying with our then 8-month old twins from Texas to Wisconsin. No matter what we did, we couldn’t console them for about half of the two-hour flight (which felt like an eternity). They wouldn’t nurse, they wouldn’t take a bottle, they wouldn’t fall asleep. Despite our 1000 ways of trying to distract them, they wouldn’t take the bait. Many people looked at us with understanding, others with pity. But some were just getting mad. We were trying one gentleman’s patience in particular. I could see his frustration growing with each passing minute. He’d look back at us, take a deep breath and resist the urge to roll his eyes. With exaggerated exhales he’d shift positions in his seat way more often than any normal human being would deem necessary. Finally, he looked back at us with a scowl and stated, “Maybe you need to change their diapers.” “Thank you genius,” I wanted to answer, “I never would have thought of that.”

While most advice isn’t that condescending, looking back I believe that, more often than not, I knew more than the well-meaning person passing along his or her wisdom. It’s not because I’m more educated than them, nor because I’m smarter than them. It’s largely because I am the parent of the child they are giving advice about — not them. So when I say “Momma knows best,” I’m not saying your momma or the momma down the street knows best. I mean you — you know what’s best for your child.

Don’t get me wrong, other moms are invaluable sources of information and support. I don’t know how I would have made it through the first few years of motherhood without my mom friends. I was involved in a twins club, community moms’ club and a moms’ Bible study through my church. I learned  a mountain of good stuff from them and received even more encouragement (still do). I don’t now that I would have maintained my sanity without them — and I’m only half kidding.

Those moms, and the boys’ pediatrician, preschool teacher, random people everywhere … gave me advice. It’s like people can sniff out a first-time-mom. The anxiety, the self-doubt — it must seep from our pores begging people to swarm to the rescue. And the advice in-and-of itself isn’t the problem. It’s what I chose to do with it that became the issue. When given advice we have three options: 1) to disregard it, 2) apply it, or 3) take pieces that fit and use them. We make the choice after evaluating the advice. We can do this by asking these questions: 1) does it fit my value system, 2) does it fit my child, and 3) does it fit my family.

Handle advice wisely.

In those first few years, when I struggled with something (like nursing, sleep “training,” transitioning to solid foods, dealing with disobedience, etc.), I doubted myself. Maybe I don’t know what I’m doing after all. Maybe I’ll never know what I’m doing. Maybe I’m going to totally screw up my kids. It is during these times of self doubt when I lose the ability to critically evaluate advice. It is during these times when I’m susceptible to throwing my own intuition out the window and grasping on to the tips and tactics offered by others. So I’d apply the advice even though I knew deep down it didn’t fit. The suggestion didn’t fit my child, my family or both.

But, as my kids got older, I trusted myself more and I learned to trust them. Now that I have a baby again, I’m trying to give myself credit for what I know. And really, it’s not that I know more now because I have older kids, it’s that I knew it to begin with – I just didn’t trust myself to know. Here are the top 5 things that I’m trying to remind myself about this time around – things that I know best.

1. If you think something is wrong, get it checked out. You spend more time with your child than anyone. You are best positioned to know if something is “off.” My stomach still turns when I think about the issue that taught me this lesson. My twins were 18-months old and Chase was still not sleeping through the night. On the “expert” advice of my pediatrician, I’d been trying to help him learn to sleep by crying it out. For months I’d been on a strict behavior modification system. I Ferberized, Baby Wised and otherwised to no avail. I knew something was wrong, but no one validated my intuition. I called the pediatrician in tears and she’d tell me to keep at it, that eventually he’ll give in. Finally, I took matters into my own hands and ordered a pediatric sleep textbook written for med students. My son fit all the criteria for obstructive sleep apnea. I researched a credible pediatric ENT and, low and behold, he was diagnosed with exactly what I suspected. After surgery to remove his enormous adenoids, he slept like, well, a baby.

2. If you think nothing’s wrong, wait a while and see. Conversely, if you think the issue is just a bump in the road, wait it out. The mom who tells you that you have to get that ear checked out because it might be an ear infection may have three kids with histories of chronic ear infections which only dissipated with tubes. Know that her advice is coming from her experience, which isn’t yours. Of course, get urgent issues looked at asap. But most things can wait a while. If your mom instinct is telling you to give it a while, that’s probably okay.

3. Yes, your baby will eventually learn to sleep — but you know the best way to teach him. Because my son had sleep issues, I feel like a walking encyclopedia on pediatric sleep. I read every popular book out there, and even dabbled in the medical literature. Believe me, there are as many “proven” ways to get your baby to sleep as Carter has pills. After helping three kids learn to sleep, I’ve concluded that not one way works for every child. And no one way will work for that one child at every stage. The best way to soothe your 12-week old baby to sleep could be very different than your approach with your 18-month old. And, while a approach may have the potential to work equally well with two different children, that approach may not fit the child’s families equally. So, solicit sleep tips from your mom friends and pediatrician, but don’t assume they are the best approach for you because they worked for others. Decide what works for you, your child and your family. Then be consistent and give it a chance to work. No approach will be successful if you only stick with it a few days or switch erratically between several approaches.

4. Yes, your child will eat, but you know what strategies to try. Eating issues are another way I learned to trust my instincts. To this day, one of my 8-year olds eats a very small variety of food. The issue started when transitioning from purees to solids. I suspected he had texture issues, but listened instead to the myriad of moms who insisted he’d eat eventually and to just be tough. Don’t make him separate meals, make him eat the dinner he refused in the morning for breakfast — that’ll teach him. And these tactics did eventually “teach” him to eat his food. But as he’s gotten old enough to talk to me about why he struggles to eat, my hypothesis has been confirmed. He has texture issues. He also can’t stand the smell of some foods. He knows he has to eat a small variety, so he’s developed coping mechanisms, like swallowing peas whole instead of chewing them. It pains me to see him struggle and it breaks my heart when he says, “Mom, I wish I didn’t have to eat food for energy.” If I would have listened to my intuition instead of doubting my God-given wisdom and gotten him the therapy he needed, he would probably struggle less with food today.

5. You know what’ll work for your family. This is the big one for me — the one against which I evaluate all advice that sounds good at the outset. What works great for your family might not work for mine simply because our families are different. I remember listening to the advice of a very wise, patient mother. Her solutions for various kid-centered issues sounded perfect. Then I started thinking about the logistics of applying them to my family, and I couldn’t figure out how she did it. I then learned she had one child. It then became clear. Her solutions worked like a charm for her situation because she could focus on that one child, but they had a rougher application for my family because I have three. So, after evaluating her solutions against my family situation, I decided to apply some of her advice and modify other aspects of it. Applying it carte blanche would have lead to frustration and failure I’m sure.

If you’re anything like me, when offered advice, you feel judged and have to fight off the “I’m not good enough” syndrome (but I’m prone to that, read this post if that resonates with you: [Momma You Matter] ). Especially when the tip is unsolicited, I feel like I must have “Crappy mom” pasted on my forehead. But I’ve learned that it’s within my control to feel this way or not. All advice comes from the giver’s experience, which is generally different from mine. And, at the end of the day, no one knows your child like you do. Sure, try on other’s tactics, but don’t force them to fit if they simply don’t. Trust yourself, Momma. And, for Pete’s sake, don’t judge the mom giving the advice. She really is trying to help. I’m pretty sure the guy on my flight to Wisconsin didn’t have kids, so I’m giving myself a pass on that one.

Teaching Life Skills: Cleaning 101

Cleaning 101I need some help around here. Seriously. It occurred to me fairly recently that I would have more time to actually play with the boys if they contributed more to the household tasks. And I don’t mean contribute by adding to the tasks (more dirty laundry, more dirty dishes). I specifically mean helping me tackle the daily and weekly cleaning chores required to ensure our homestead doesn’t turn into a pigsty.

It also occurred to me fairly recently that the big boys (I have 8-yr old twins and an 18-month old baby boy) are capable of so much more than I require of them. Until Jax was born, they did relatively little around the house. Sure, they cleaned an occasional toilet, took out the trash, etc., but they weren’t required to help routinely. Kevin, my husband, and I set their priorities on academics, violin, and their chosen sports.  And quite frankly, when homework, violin practice and sports were complete after school (not to mention dinner) it was pretty much time for bed. As a result, we required them to complete very few chores.

But after Jax’s birth, I literally needed them to help. And they stepped up. They gathered dirty laundry, put clothes away, cleaned up after dinner … all because I couldn’t complete these tasks and tend to a newborn at the same time. But as Jax got older, I got better at managing a family of five and asked Chase and Noah to do less and less. But summer is here, and one of my goals is to teach them how to clean.

As a young girl, I learned to clean. It was one of my weekend chores. Because I’m a list-maker, I made a list of each task I needed to do as I cleaned each room of the house and checked it off as I went along. While my brother might have learned too, I don’t remember him sharing in the cleaning duties. He probably retreated to the bathroom for the hours I Mr. Cleaned the house. I’m not kidding. Every night he and I were required to clean up the dinner dishes, he would literally excuse himself to the restroom after cleaning his plate and not emerge until I was finished with the dishes. He knew I was too impatient to wait him out, and he won every time. But I digress.

Cleaning 101

House cleaning — like cooking, laundry, money management, etc. — are important life skills. Whether they live on their own, share a pad with a bunch of friends in college, or marry and live with their wives and kids, I want them to know their way around a broom closet. So I’ve enrolled them both in Cleaning 101 and I’m their professor. Here’s an overview of my syllabus:

Summer is 12 weeks long, which is plenty of time to learn the basics regarding what it takes to clean our abode. So, over the course of the summer, the boys will learn how to clean our bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchen. They will also learn how to complete the other daily/weekly tasks required to keep clutter and chaos from taking over: dusting, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, cleaning windows, etc. Now, they know how to do to many of these already. But my syllabus also involves teaching them how often these chores need to be done: which need to be completed daily or every 2 days, and which only need to be done once a week. Their wives will thank me one day I’m sure.

If you’ve followed my blogs, you probably get the idea that I’m big on providing structure for my kids. Cleaning 101 is no different. I know that I need a fairly flexible system in order for it to work for us. While I like schedules, I need them to flex for last minute changes or just because we decide we want to do something different. I know that if I create a master cleaning schedule (Monday: change sheets, Tues: vacuum, dust, etc.) we’ll get off schedule. Once I’m off, I know I won’t be able to “catch up” and I’ll throw out the schedule all together. So that approach won’t work. To help structure a cleaning routine that works for us, while making sure that all the necessary tasks get done, I created Cleaning Cards and Chore Cards.  The cards also relieve me of having to go through my mental cleaning list each day and assigning the boys their tasks.

Cleaning Cards

Cleaning cards are simply laminated 5×7 cards that list the tasks required to clean the major rooms of our home that get cleaned once each week: bathrooms, bedrooms and the kitchen. (I used [Scotch Self-Seal Laminating Pouches] to laminate the cards.) While the other rooms will get cleaned too (dining room, living room, playroom), they don’t involve any tasks that require special training that I won’t cover when teaching tasks on my Chore Cards. For example, cleaning the living room requires vacuuming and dusting. I have Chore Cards for both of these tasks, so I don’t have a separate Cleaning Card for the living room. The boys can use dry-erase markers to check off the tasks as they complete them. We’ll erase the marker and use them again week after week.

Laminated Cleaning Cards allow kids to check off completed tasks with dry-erase markers.

Laminated Cleaning Cards allow kids to check off completed tasks with dry-erase markers.

Chore Cards

Like Cleaning Cards, Chore Cards are laminated. But they are the size of business cards and simply have the name of the task written on them.

Kids choose Chore Cards once or twice a day. These tasks generally take 10 - 20 minutes each.

Kids choose Chore Cards 1-2 times/day. These tasks generally take 10 – 20 minutes each.

Our Cards in Action

This is how we use our cards … The cards are inside a small index card box, which sits in a larger bin [Command Strip Large Organizer]. The large bin is attached to the side of our refrigerator. I’m sure you could find two cute matching boxes to use, but I wanted to stick to something I already had around the house. Each day the boys choose one or two Chore Cards (depending on what we are doing that day). They choose one when I’m cooking dinner (see my [How We Do Summer] post for info on our summer schedule) and sometimes another during quiet time. When they choose a card for the very first time, I teach them how to complete the task. When they are done with the chore, they place the card back inside the small box if it is one we do every day or two. They place it outside the box, but still inside the larger bin, if it is one we do once a week.

We used Command Strips to hang our bin of Cards to our fridge.

We used Command Strips to hang our bin of Cards to our fridge.

They complete the Cleaning Cards on the weekends, during rainy days when we are inside longer, or during their quiet time if they want to get it over with and avoid doing them on the weekends — it’s largely their choice.

I don’t require them to do every cleaning and chore task every week by themselves. I pitch in as does my husband. Cleaning is a family responsibility, and we all share in the work. I also don’t require perfection. I do expect them to give a good effort toward the job. If the end result is shoddy, and I can tell they were simply going through the motions, I’ll call them back for a repeat. But, they are 8, and I expect an 8-yr old’s end result.

While it’s certainly tempting, I don’t use the Chore or Cleaning Cards as consequences for bad behavior. Chores are just a part of life, not punishment for living. (I do use other cleaning jobs that the boys are not routinely in charge of, like cleaning the van, as consequences though.)

And Don’t Forget the Toddler

No, I don’t expect Jax to literally pitch in. But, he doesn’t want to be left out. So, I supply Jax with his own pint-sized vacuum, broom, mop, spray bottle (filled with water) and feather duster. This way he can follow along with us, mimicking our behavior while feeling like a part of the action.

Providing young siblings pint-sized cleaning tools helps them feel a part of the action.

Providing young siblings pint-sized cleaning tools helps them feel a part of the action.

My hope is that the boys will learn some domestic tasks while gaining an appreciation for what running a household requires. Albeit they won’t realize they learned the later nor appreciate it until they are young adults. And, their help really does ease my burden a bit. Now I can say “yes” to the request to play Mouse Trap one more time or go for another bike ride instead of shutting it down because I have to gather dirty laundry. That eases my mommy guilt (a bit). While they don’t love (okay, some days even like) doing these chores, I see the pride in their eyes when they know they’ve completed it well. I also notice that they plan out how they will tackle the tasks: Will they complete them in the morning to get them over with? Will they check off their Cleaning Cards on Thursday so they can save Saturday for all-day fun? Those unintended lessons too are life-skills that, I think, are even more valuable.

Get the Printables

For PDF versions of the Cleaning Cards and Chore cards click here: Printable PDFs. Want editable templates instead? Comment below with your email address, and I’ll send them your way. Happy cleaning!

Add a Chore and Reward Chart to your System

I am a big fan of charts and used them for various reasons until the boys were around six years old. They add structure to kids’ chore lists, provide a visual reminder of their responsibilities, and help both parents and kids track what tasks have been completed. There are hundreds of great charts out there, so I’m linking you to a few that I like.

Find a chart that is easy for you to use. Complicated systems might look ultra organized, but their multi-step approach is often a set-up for failure. And remember to use pictures that represent chores for children who cannot yet read. Personally, I like charts that allow me and my kids to choose different chores for each day/week because that flexible system better fits our family’s needs. But if these charts provide too little structure for your style, simply Google “chore charts” and you are bound to find one that will work for you.

Reward charts can be very motivating for children as the promise of an earned reward can make the difference between doing the chore and neglecting it for days on end. Remember kids aren’t inherently intrinsically motivated … it’s our job as parents to teach them them using baby steps over the course of their childhood. I believe that offering rewards for jobs well done when kids are younger, then phasing them out as they develop the habit of helping, is an effective teaching strategy.

I’ve used reward charts in many different ways. When it comes to chores, if a child has completed the agreed number of chores each week, then he receives a sticker on the reward chart for the week. When he receives the agreed amount of stickers, he earns the reward. Consider your child’s individual personality and motivations when deciding how many stickers are required and what the reward will be. If he loses motivation quickly, choose a small number of stickers and a reward that costs little money (as you’ll be offering rewards more often). A trip to the ice cream shop or the promise of family movie night are great ideas. If your child is older and shows more maturity, maybe he works for 12-15 weeks over the winter to earn a new bike for the upcoming summer months. Whatever the reward, I like to print off a picture of it (e.g., an ice cream cone, bike) and tape it right on the reward chart so my kids are reminded of what they are working toward.

As your children mature, you might consider linking their allowance to their chore responsibilities instead of offering separate rewards. To read how we do it, click here: Teaching Money Management.

Here are some chart links to get you started:

Chore Charts: I Should Be Mopping the Floor, Homeschool Creations

Reward Charts: Activity Village, Choretell, Reward Charts 4 Kids