See What We’ve Been Saying on TV!

I’ve neglected to share with you all of my recent TV appearances! I love the folks at Fox6 Real Milwaukee and always have a great time when on the show. Over the past several months, I’ve talked about winter car seat safety, cloth diapering, and buying used toys as gifts. So give the segments a listen and tell me what you think! (I seriously get SO nervous before each one and make my husband practice with me over and over the night before. He’s so patient!) (more…)

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Save Big Time on Kids’ Holiday Presents: Why Shopping Gently Used Makes Dollars and Sense

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Okay, maybe the thought of gifting your children previously owned toys and gear is greeted with an eye roll or — let’s be honest — disgust. I get it; I used to be that way too. Using hand-me-down clothes and older siblings’ baseball cleats is one thing. But, what would I be saying with a used gift? That my kid isn’t important enough, not valuable enough, to receive a brand-spankin’ new toy? I mean, what kind of parent does that?

But then came private preschool bills (for two — my oldest are twins), a move to a state with a significantly higher cost of living, college savings funds, life insurance, health insurance, you-name-it insurance premiums, and then the birth of our third child.  Over the course of these events, I wised up. (more…)

We Were on TV Talking About Making Super Easy Homemade Toys

I’m loving these TV spots! The hosts are super fun, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share ways to create inexpensive and developmentally appropriate play for kids. This was my third appearance on Fox6 Real Milwaukee (here are links to our other two if you are interested: http://bit.ly/175LE2Chttp://bit.ly/1agOgNy). This time I talked about how to make homemade toys out of common household objects. I have SO many toys that fit the bill, that it was hard to narrow my ideas down to what would fit into a five minute segment.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, some of these will be familiar. But, I also added a few I haven’t written about yet (but will). Just click the picture below to view the segment. Enjoy!

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Of course, at Jax in the Box, we stock lots of ready-made toys (no hot glue guns required). So click on over and browse our selection. You’re bound to find toys that will mix things up in your playroom without breaking the bank.

We Were on TV Talking About Age-Appropriate Toys

While I generally don’t blog about topics directly related to our store: jaxinthebox.com, today’s an exception. We were invited back to Fox6 Real Milwaukee shortly after our first appearance (here’s that link if you are interested: http://bit.ly/175LE2C) to talk about toys. Specifically, I was asked to address age-appropriate toys and common mistakes parents make regarding toys for their kiddos. Well, I couldn’t resist. I could talk about toys for hours!

Click the pic to view the video of our Fox6 Real Milwaukee segment.

Click the pic to view the video of our Fox6 Real Milwaukee segment.

Pinterest to Real Life: Water Wall

Water Wall

I’ve vowed to stop using Pinterest unless I actually attempted some of the super-cool looking ideas just sitting (and sitting) on my boards. I’m happy to report that, this summer, I’ve cooked, baked and crafted some pretty amazing finds that I’ve pinned. The  [Water Blob]  was such a huge hit that I was eager to try another outdoor kid-centered activity via the 20 Moms’ ebook, [Camp Mom]: the Water Wall.

My favorite activities are ones that my 8-year olds, Chase and Noah, and my 18-month old, Jax, will all enjoy. The hope was that my big boys would get a kick out heading up the construction phase, and they all would love playing with the finished product.

Materials List

1. [2×6 or 3×8 wood lattice] $8-15 at your big box store (or you can use any old piece of wood you have lying around or a section of your

We only purchased the lattice for this project.

We only purchased the lattice for this project.

backyard fence if you have one)

2. Several plastic bottles, funnels or tubes (we only had bottles, so that’s what we used)

3. Thin, bendable wire, twine or other means of securing bottles to lattice (or small nails if you are using a solid board). We used gardening wire because it is coated and won’t rust.

4. Hack saw and scissors for cutting your bottles

5. Rubber mallet and Philips screwdriver for piercing holes in your bottles

6. Tub or other plastic container to catch the water at the bottom of your wall for re-use

Constructing the Water Wall

1. Stand your lattice (or board) upright.

Constructing the wall was the best part for the big boys.

Constructing the wall was the best part for the big boys.

2. Cut the bottoms off your bottles with the hack saw or scissors. We found that the hack saw worked well for large juice bottles and to start the initial hole in the bottles made of thinner plastic. Using scissors to finish cutting those thinner bottles worked best.

3. Starting from the top of your lattice or board, secure your first bottle. Keep in mind that your

kids will need to be able to reach the top to pour the water. We started ours as high as we could because our older boys thought it was fun to climb the table (or stand on a chair) to dump the water.

4. Continue securing bottles down the lattice, testing your water path as you go. We wanted a few “water entries” so we added two additional ones off the side of the lattice as we went, ensuring that the water paths from the different entrances met at some point.

5. Secure your lattice or board so it won’t fall over when used. We tied our lattice to the edge of our cedar plank-topped table with twine.

My Review

Fun Meter | 5 out of 5 stars for the little guy; 3 stars for the big boys

water wall.play

Jax definitely has more fun using the constructed water wall than the big boys. The fun for the big boys came from building the project, but they lost interest in the final product after a while.

Jax, however, loves watching the water pour from the higher bottles as his big brothers experiment with pouring water at different rates from the three “entrances.” But, his favorite activity is filling up the pitcher and pouring the water himself. We made sure to make an entry at a Jax-friendly height. While we’ve only been using the wall for a couple of days, he never tires of the filling and pouring ritual — and the pride on his face when he watches the water drain from bottle to bottle is heart-warming.

To conserve water, we use our rain barrel water. If you chose that route, just make sure no one drinks it! By placing a tub under the last bottle on your wall’s path, you can re-use the water for another tumble down the wall or to water your flowers.

So far we’ve only poured plain ol’ water down our water wall, but here’s a few ways we might use it in the future:

1. Have contests to see whose pour reaches the bottom of the lattice the fastest.

2. Add small objects (counting cars, marbles, rocks) to the water and see if they make it to the bottom of the wall. (Make sure that your littlest people don’t put those tiny objects in their mouths.)

3. Using those same small objects, experiment with tossing them down the wall with no water and see which ones make it to the bottom.

4. Pour different colored water (colored with food coloring) into two different entrances simultaneously to see what color water results when they are mixed at the end (e.g., yellow and blue water to make green).

5. Experiment with using different pouring angles to determine the technique that results in the least amount of water “lost” over tops and edges of the bottles.

Because the finished product is more successful at holding the interest of the little ones, it gets 5 stars from Jax. While older kids enjoy it too, it offers less in the form of attention-staying power, thus earns just 3 stars from the 8-year olds.

Ease of Construction | 3 stars

While I thought both the twins would love constructing the water wall (I even let them use tools including a hack saw!), only Chase sincerely enjoyed it. After Noah cut a few bottles and secured one, he asked if he could be excused to read a book. So, Chase (who’s generally more into engineering-type play anyway) and I worked together to finish the project. And we really did have a blast creating the water path together. It was fun watching his excitement as his strategy came to life.

I did, however, think this was going to be a much easier and quicker project to complete that it turned out to be. Because we were always trying to keep Jax entertained and out of harm’s way (think hack saw, scissors and sharp screw drivers), progress was slow. It was also tricky to determine where exactly to pierce our bottles and secure them to lattice so our water would flow how we wanted it. I let Chase do much of the cutting, piercing and path mapping. While it would have been quicker had I done it myself, the construction was part of the fun and the primary learning experience for my older boys.

Ease of construction with kids assisting gets 3 stars. Doing so sans kids would earn 4. While it’s not all that hard, it’s still a process that takes some time.

Go Ahead, Make Your Own Water Wall!

Even though my big boys aren’t head-over heels with the final product, it was definitely worth the cost and effort. Because we saved bottles that we would normally recycle and used gardening wire we had on hand, we spent less than $10 on this project. Building it with Chase was a quality, bonding experience, and I predict that Jax will gather and pour water down the wall all summer long.

While I’ll probably store the wall in our backyard shed as-is over the winter, you could take the bottles off and construct a different water path each summer if you felt up to it.  While it’s possible we’ll mix up our path next summer, I think I’ll need the 10 months or so in between to forget how challenging it was to help Chase while wrangling Jax at the same time before I approach that again!