DIY PLAYHOUSE

DIY PLAYHOUSE
DIY PLAYHOUSE

Leave her Wild

Leave her Wild
Leave her Wild

Let's talk camera

Let's talk camera
Camera 101

Room meets ocean

Full Disclaimer: This post is in collaboration with Minted. 
As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting brands that support Happily Ever Parker.

David always jokes around with me that I take forever to decorate something. Which is mostly true when it comes to finding pieces of art that I really love. If it's going to hang on my walls for a long time I want to love it. While our bedroom has been neglected for the longest time, it's slowly coming together and feeling more and more like us.

It all started when I found this large wooden circle art at a high end patio store in my city. I know - so weird. But every time I saw it in the window I fell more and more in love. Handcrafted in Bali I loved knowing that I was truly getting a one of a kind piece of art. Once we had that piece in place I knew I wanted to incorporate more art but was having a hard time picking out something that I was equally obsessed with.

It's no secret that we are big fans of Minted over here. From wedding invitations to home decor there selection is always ever expanding. I knew that they would have just what I needed (and a lot of it!). When scrolling through the art selections I was able to narrow it down to what I wanted the most. Which in my case was colors and images that remind me of the ocean - our happy place.

Since I don't have any gallery walls in our house I wasn't too skilled at matching up items at first. In fact it took me almost a week to make my final selections. I would keep adding my items to my cart and seeing how they looked together that way. I am really happy with the pieces I picked for our room!



I chose to also have them matted and framed by Minted which made my life a lot easier once we received them in the mail. Exceptionally well packaged might I add! They truly do remind me of the ocean and my goal this year was make my bedroom feel more like a retreat. Goal achieved! 

Minted is turning nine this year and to celebrate they are offering 15% off site wide until April 3rd! It's the perfect time to score on invitations, art or any other item you have had your eye on lately!

So go buy something fun and tell me what you decide on!
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Easter Finest

 

Because dressing up our littles (while they still let us) is just too fun! Hope these inspire some Easter outfits, I know as long as it twirls it gets the P seal of approval. 
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Life Lately

Life has been a bit hectic around here to say the least. Between preschool tours, gaining an hour of sun and turning another year older we've been busy. Sharing some snaps from the past couple of weeks that are quickly some new favorites. This little curly haired girl is just my everything and although days as of late are filled with "no", "but I want it", "I don't like it" and such I still sneak in every night to just marvel at her little face.


 bubble wand (we got ours at Disneyland for a better price)




 tank dress is no longer available but made by Alice & Ames








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Birthday Wishes

This Friday kicks off my birthday weekend, especially since I am taking Monday off work to enjoy my actual birthday, the 20th. It was hard to put together a wish list because everything I want is usually always for P! Her playhouse, new dresses - kid has everything! Mama is really starting to look sloppy next to her!

While some items on this wish list are totally splurge items please know that I would be happiest on my birthday with my family, camera and an ocean. I think I ask for this same thing year after year and it really is my most favorite gift. Plop me next to an ocean anywhere in this world and I feel whole.

So here is to another 365 days around the sun. 34 be good to me <3





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Getting cozy with Finn & Emma

Full Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Finn & Emma. As always thoughts and opinions are my own. 
Thank you for supporting brands that support Happily Ever Parker.

I am a self admitted pajama hoarder. When it comes to me and P it is the one article of clothing that is overflowing out of our drawers the most. What can I say? There is no limit on comfortable! The thing is though that not all pajamas are created equal. Some are ill fitting, not very soft and don't wash well.

None of that applies to Finn + Emma. Not only are the designs on their pajamas adorable - the fit and make is incredibly well done. Finn + Emma pajamas are made with a buttery soft, G.O.T.S certified organic and all non-toxic environmental friendly dyes. Made with extra room in mind for diapered bums - cloth and disposable alike - the fit is great and allows room for growing. As you can see in the photos below both girls are wearing a 3t - one with a diapered bum (seriously someone come potty train P!) and the other one not. The pajamas fit well on each of them and there is almost a whole year difference in their ages - 2.5 and 3.5. Don't just think girls get all the love here. The boys pajamas are just (if not more!) cute! I especially like this one and this one.

So what do you do when you have awesome pajamas? You call one of your besties over for jumping on the bed, playing in the teepee and whipping up creations in your pretend kitchen.

If you're on the hunt for organic, unique gift ideas check out Finn + Emma and everything else they have to offer. From toys to blankets they have it all!






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We bought a...

You guys! We went and did it. We bought our very first house.

Well playhouse.

It's large enough to be considered an extension of our home - so does that count? Jokes aside I have been scouring Craigslist for some time now in pursuit of the perfect playhouse. After letting two slip through my fingers I was one determined mama. Sure I could buy a brand new one but since my plan was to give it a facelift, full price wasn't something I wanted to be paying.

I can't wait to share it once it is all done getting a makeover - even though my husband I think wanted to cry when I slapped white paint on the cedar exterior. David modified it from its original state (this thing is gigantic) but I am so excited to see this house get loved on. Our yard is tiny but we sure do make the most of it all summer long. So far P has called it...yucky. So we will need to work on that.

Here are some of my inspiration ideas for the new outdoor space for P. I am so excited to see it all come together.


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Important questions to ask when choosing a play based preschool

Now that P is of preschool age and will be starting this September I realized I had so many questions about the whole process. Mainly what questions should I be asking of the potential school we enroll her in? For us, our family and our lifestyle the only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted a play based preschool for P, not a Montessori. Absolutely nothing wrong with a Montessori - I just know that the way we parent and live our life is more akin to a play based school.

PBS does a really great job at telling you the differences between different preschool philosophies, many of which overlap in a lot of ways. I think half the battle is knowing what you and your child will thrive in best.

From PBS

Play-Based

In a play-based program, children choose activities based on their current interests. The term “play-based” is often interchanged with “child-centered,” which could be used to describe the majority of available preschool programs. The play-based classroom is broken up into sections, such as a home or kitchen, science area, water table, reading nook, space with blocks and other toys, or other areas. Teachers encourage the kids to play, facilitating social skills along the way. “Even though it seems like they are just playing, they are learning valuable skills, including important social skills and cooperation with others, learning about signs (as most items are labeled), and early math,” says Jenifer Wana, author of “How to Choose the Best Preschool for Your Child.”

Academic

Alternatively, there are academic programs, considered didactic, “teacher-directed,” “teacher-managed.” In these classrooms, teachers lead the children in a more structured way, planning the activities, then guiding the children in doing them. This design is aimed at preparing kids for the kindergarten setting. For the most part, classroom time is devoted to learning letters and sounds, distinguishing shapes and colors, telling time, and other skills.
Although parents may take comfort in knowing their child is in a more academic setting, some say this only makes a difference in the short term. “A lot of people put children in Montessori, for example, because they want them to learn academics early. Research shows that’s true only up to a certain point,” Wana says. “Preschool is time to learn social and emotional skills so you are ready to learn those academic skills later on.”
If you worry that a play-based classroom is too chaotic and your child would not thrive in it, you can easily find a more structured setting. The important thing to remember is that preschool should not look like elementary school. “It should be organized so there is a plan and routine for the day. But at the same time, it should not be regimented in the sense that kids are spending five minutes at this, ten minutes at this, with no exception,” Pianta says. “It shouldn’t look like a fourth-grade classroom.”

Once I decided that play based was a better fit for our family then came all the questions. Specifically what questions should I be asking of P's potential educators and the facility she would be spending a bulk of her days in. Luckily I didn't have to think too hard because a friend of mine from grade school, Vanessa, a preschool teacher in Boston had sent me the most amazing email. She laid out not only the questions I should be asking - but the answers! How's that for doing your homework?!

Once I read her email (and forwarded it on to a few friends) I asked her if I could share it with all of you. Because if it helped me it's certain to help others! She kindly agreed and now you reap the benefits.  

 
From Vanessa

1. What is you child/teacher ratio? 

Obviously the smaller the ratio, the better...but for two year olds...a comfortable and reasonable ratio is 10:2. For three year olds: 20:3 (+ an aide) or 14:2.

2. What is your educational philosophy?

Key words to look for: Play-based, emergent curriculum, organic (theory) curriculum, Reggio-inspired, "process not product".

3. How much time do you spend outside?

The outside space should be utilized as an extension of the classroom, in terms of environmental exploration and  experimentation among a natural environment. There should be plenty of outside time incorporated into a child's day (especially if it's a full day). Extra points if the classroom is "free-flowing, indoor/outdoor"...where the child has a choice to be either inside or out during their free-play time. Children should be able to get dirty...sandy...or muddy, that is the sign of a fun and successful learning environment. It's important for a child to experience the natural world around them, in every sensory-enhancing way possible.

4. How do you handle disciplining a child?

Obviously, no program should EVER advocating putting a hand on a child, nor using "time out". Time out (in a school setting) is ineffective. Key words you should hear are "setting firm boundaries", redirection, "get down on the child's level and ensure eye contact and focus", and explaining behavioral expectations to the child in a developmentally appropriate way.

5. What are the ways teachers use to communicate with parents about a child's progress, potential concerns and keeping abreast of general classroom goings on?

Every school will have a different method, but some form of email communication i.e. Constant Contact or Google Groups should be used to send weekly updates and pictures. Also, a parent/teacher conference at least once a year, if not twice is important. 


6. How do you handle diapering, potty training and accidents?

If your child is still in diapers, they will have a set policy in place in terms what you as a parent need to provide for your child. When you as a parent, see signs that your child is ready to potty train (and vice versa if a teacher is recognizing signs), it's important to communicate with your child's teacher about it, to come up with a game plan so that everyone is consistent and on the same page (with the language, incentives  involved, potty patterns noted, if pull-ups are being used etc.) Potty training should be a team effort and a positive experience, not stressful on the child in ANY way. 

7. What is your teacher turn-over rate?

This is VERY important. Ideally, you want strong, happy, well-educated and experienced teachers in your child's classroom environment. A low teacher turnover will also give you an idea about what goes on behind the scenes, in terms of teacher satisfaction and director competence. It's important to be assured that your child will be bonding with teachers who they can count on and who will be in the classroom consistently.

So those are the main questions, other than logistical, flow-of-the-day information given. 

Here are some specific developmental areas you should be able to immediately recognize and identify around the classroom to ensure a well-rounded and quality program: 


*art area 
*easel for painting 
*dramatic play area with access to dress-up, babies, play food, kitchen, etc.
*science area: live plants, magnifying glasses, rocks, science related books
*fine-motor manipulatives: activities involving tongs, eye droppers, anything exercising fine-motor skills
*library area with books on display, children have free access to books
*quiet corner: soft pillows, cushions in an area for children to have quiet time
*block area: large area for block building
*the less plastic and the more natural materials the better
*sensory tables/tubs: areas for water play, messy play with ice, shaving cream, cornstarch etc. 
*clean classroom with teachers constantly wiping surfaces (especially before meals are eaten) and sweeping floors.
*classroom and center are ascetically pleasing...soft, neutral and calming colors...pleasant smell...free of clutter
*warm disposition of the director and teachers. Carefully monitor the interactions you witness between the teachers and the children: are the teacher's warm and friendly? Is the volume in the room to loud and over stimulating, or is it relatively calm and controlled? Are the children comfortable and supported in the space?

Hopefully this helps! Choosing the preschool that is the perfect fit for your child is a lot about going with your own "gut instinct" and knowing what type of environment your child thrives best in. The preschool you chose should feel like a second home and everyone in the classroom should feel valued and important, just like family.


Thank you so much Vanessa! For anyone getting ready for the preschool years ahead I hope this helped!



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