Happy Arbor Day!

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To celebrate Arbor day we have some fun literacy and craft ideas for you!

This is a day to plant or observe the importance of trees in our lives. Take this time to read some adorable stories with your children, do some crafts, and maybe even go on a nature walk. Let us know what other activities you guys come up with as you observe Arbor Day today!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a fun story to tie together a conversation about tress with a conversation about letters.

Tree Craft

A fun tree craft made with different colored paper shapes for the leaves and a hand print/arm tree trunk.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

This book can help open conversations about the importance of trees in our lives and the types of creatures that may live in trees.

Caterpillar craft

This neat caterpillar craft is simple and fun for the kids using paint or stamps to make the caterpillar body.

Family Resource Guide

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Family Resource Guide Pinal County

The 2020 Pinal Family Resource Guide is a terrific source of information for parents and caregivers throughout Pinal County searching for resources in their area.

This guide breaks down what resources are available in these categories:

  • Basic needs
  • Childcare/Provider Resources
  • Disabilities Special Needs
  • Education Recreation Enrichment
  • Emergency Services
  • Employment Finances Legal
  • Family Support
  • Health

Let us know if you need help seeking additional resources. You can also check out the First Things First website below if you are seeking additional resources, or if you live outside of Pinal County.

First Things First website

Week of the Young Child!

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Music Monday April 13 10 a.m. & 3 p.m.
City of Maricopa Public Library

Tasty Tuesday April 14 10 a.m. AZ Health Zone https://www.facebook.com/PinalCountyCooperativeExtension

Work Together Wednesday April 15 10 a.m. Developmental & Sensory Screening https://www.facebook.com/UACE.developmental.sensory/

Artsy Thursday April 16 10 a.m. & 3 p.m. Coolidge Public Library https://www.facebook.com/coolidgepubliclibrary/

Family Friday April 17 10 a.m. & 3 p.m. Apache Junction Public Library Fun Van https://www.facebook.com/FunVanbyFTF/

Follow #PinalWOYC to keep up on the week’s events. The Facebook Live events will be available to watch after the times listed above.

Have you Heard the News?

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We are giving away sets of Kwik Stix to a few lucky winners!

We are doing a referral giveaway! If you refer someone, and they attend the upcoming Fun Van session (March 9th- May 22nd), your name will be entered into a drawing for a Kwik Stix set. The new attendee must attend the first week of classes and put your name in the referral space on the registration form. Every new person you refer puts an entry in the drawing! The contest ends on 3/13/20. the winner will be announced on FB on 3/16/20. Good luck!

Embracing the New Year With Young Children

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Happy New Year’s from the Fun Van team! We are so excited to start another year with all of our wonderful families. Now that the holidays are over and life is probably back to some sort of normal routine, we wanted to give our parents a couple of tips to help kick off a fantastic new year. Below are 3 ideas to help you harness the excitement of a new year.

Young children are still learning the concept of time, so the term “New Year” may not mean much to them, however, the beginning of the year is an excellent time to put in place new systems and strategies to ensure success for the entire year.

Practice Gratitude- One of our favorite traditions in my family is having a gratitude jar. Throughout the year we write down things that we are thankful for and place them in a jar along with the date. This could be something as big as getting a promotion, to something as little as getting to sleep in a little later. On New Year’s Eve we dump out the entire jar and take turns reading through all of the awesome things that have happened during the year. It’s so much fun to read through and remember all of the good things that happened to us. For younger children, consider letting them draw a picture of what they are thankful for and then write their thoughts under the picture.

Set Goals- As you know, setting resolutions is a major part of preparing for the New Year for most people. Although you may have your own feelings about the overall effectiveness of resolutions, this is the perfect time to sit down with your children and talk about what a resolution is, and why we set them. You can talk about goals, if the concept of a resolution seems too big for your child to understand. Then have some fun letting your child set their own goals for the year. Mrs. Ashley shared that her daughter’s goals from last year were to learn how to ride a bike and pump on the swings. By setting goals with your child you are getting an insight into what skills are important to them, as well as how to help motivate them to accomplish their goals. Goal setting is an essential part of being a responsible adult, and it’s never too early to give your child opportunities to practice this skill. Plan out a reward for your child once they hit their goal and a way to keep track of their progress. Make sure they set goals that are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time- Based). Learning how to drive a car at 5 is not a SMART goal (not attainable or relevant), but learning how to ride a bike before their 6th birthday could be a better goal.

Create a Time Capsule- The beginning of a new decade is the prime time to create a time capsule. Grab an old recycled metal can or even a plastic box with a lid and ask your children to collect a couple of items that they think people years from now would find interesting. It’s really fun to see your children’s ideas of what makes an item meaningful. Write a note to the lucky person who will find your time capsule and include things like what it is like to be a child in the year 2020. Talk about what your children like to do, eat, wear, anything goes. You can even enclose a few photos (in a sealed plastic bag to protect them). Then find a good place to hid or bury your time capsule. If you choose to use somewhere other than your personal property make sure you obtain permission to leave or bury something there. One of my friends chose to leave their family’s time capsule at the vacation home they visit every year. Then make a note of where the time capsule is and set an alarm on your phone to retrieve it at the designated time. You can choose any given amount of time. I suggest two or more years for the nostalgia.

I love the hope and anticipation a new year brings and getting to share that with children is even better. Do you and your family have any traditions or activities that your do to kick off the new year? Share your comments below!

Gift Givers Guide for Great Gifts for Little Ones!

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Can you believe that it is almost the holiday season? It seems like time flies when you are raising little ones. Here at Fun Van we often have parents ask where we get our toys and which toys we like the most for different age groups. Since the season of gift giving is upon us, we thought we would create a gift guide of a few of our favorite things and where you can grab them. We found all of these on Amazon (not sponsored). Happy Shopping!

Magna Tiles: Ages 3 and up

Great for open ended play, building, science concepts like magnets and physics, pricier than other brands but also more durable with stronger magnets for sturdier creations.

Mini Squpz: Recommended for Ages 5-10 but suitable for younger ages with adult supervision

These stick to any smooth surfaces like high chairs, windows, bathtubs and more. Great for tactile sensations, fine motor skill development and easily portable. Also dishwasher safe.

Magna Doodle: Ages 3 and up

The perfect toy for mess free writing and drawing. Kids love the easy erase feature and our teachers recommend it for car and plane rides.

RAINBOW TOYFROG Spinning Toy for Baby- 12 months and up

This is a crowd favorite among Fun Van participants. This simple toy helps children practice fine motor skills. Children love to watch the pieces spin and fit together.

Learning Resources Pretend & Play Doctor Kit for Kids, Medical Toy, 19 Pieces, Blue, Ages 3+

Ideal for pretend play and social-emotional development. Children also get fine motor development practice, as they must use this skill to grasp and maneuver the medical toys. We recommend pairing this toy with baby dolls or stuffed animals so you or ill-fated younger siblings don’t become the patient.

Melissa & Doug Magnetic Dress-Up Set Ages 3 and up

Great for imaginative play, fostering diversity, science concept of magnetism and social emotional development. We also love that there are tons of options for different types of dolls

Top Bright Wooden Race Track Car Ramp Racer With 4 Mini Cars Ages 1 and up

Simple toy that teaches scientific concepts, turn-taking, fine motor skills, and language development. We love watching the children light up with excitement as they anticipate which car is going to win.

Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden Town & Vehicles Play Set 40 Pieces includes Play mat Ages 3 and up but suitable for younger ages with supervision

This wooden play-set is great for stimulating imaginative play, building vocabulary, and making real world connections. A durable toy that lets kids enjoy creating their own city with buildings, vehicles, and workers to match, including a fireman, mail carrier, farmer, animals, and more!

Remembering Me

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It’s 5:15 am and my alarm is blasting the soundtrack to Guardians of The Galaxy. There’s something about waking up to Redbone that makes the morning a little more manageable. I run through the list of things that must be accomplished today and decide on the appropriate outfit that will allow me to both wrangle toddlers, but look polished and put together, and yet not be upset if paint somehow ends up on the back of my pants. It’s a delicate balance for sure.

 Once dressed, I head to the bathroom and catch my reflection in the mirror. “Decent”, I think as I wash off last night’s sleep and decide to skip make-up because it’s just going to get wiped off or sneezed on at some point today. I settle for SPF moisturizer and mascara and call it good. All at once I am taken back to years of prepping in the mirror getting ready for volleyball games or putting on stage makeup for theater performances. Where did that girl go? When did I forget what it felt like to have the rush of excitement wash over me as I challenged my physical and mental capabilities? At one point I used to look in the mirror and see all of the possibilities, now I just see all of the problems. My thoughts are interrupted by rustling on the baby monitor and I see my little girl perk up from her sleep. Back to reality I think and I flip off the bathroom light, leaving the past me stuck in the mirror.

With a long stretch and a sleepy smile my toddler rolls over and catches me staring at her in her crib. She springs up and grabs all of the lovies that slumbered with her last night. A baby doll, a mermaid and her chicken Wubanub find their way tossed over the crib railing and onto the floor; her way of saying she’s ready to get up. I pick her up and snuggle her close. She melts into my arms and squeezes my neck tight. Her warmth washes over me and I whisper a quick “thank you” to the heavens for letting me be her mama. And just like that the moment is over. She wiggles out of my arms, ready to embrace the day. Since the day she was born, my daughter has always woken up with a smile, excited to see what the day holds for her. I envy that about her. Already at one and a half, she greets each morning full of joy about the potential and possibilities the day holds.

I have forgotten how to do that. How to be excited about each day, instead of dreading the tasks to be done or longing for the next weekend, vacation or paycheck. Parenting does that to us. We slowly start handing over little pieces of who we are in order to better predict the needs of the children we are raising, in turn forgetting what make us excited, inspired, or really just us.

 When I first became a mom, I struggled with the loss of who I once was before children. I used to do it all. I played sports, wrote poetry, excelled in school, volunteered with the youth in my church, did theater, went on trips and held down multiple jobs. If you asked me what I was passionate about, or what made my heart race, I didn’t have to think twice before answering. But now, I have no idea. I love being a mother, and I love my daughter. I have wanted to be a mom since I was a toddler myself. But, I didn’t realize how much of me I would forget once that happened.

I see the same thing with the parents in the classes I teach during the week. Last week we played a simple game where parents chose a scrabble tile out of bag and used the letter they pulled to list qualities they liked about themselves. To say it was challenging would be an understatement. Every parent struggled to list off things they liked about themselves, or they were proud of, or were good at. The truth is, I know each parent has talents, passions and accomplishments. As I think back to all of the parents and caregivers I have had the opportunity to teach, I am reminded of all of the amazing talents they have shared with us. A mom with a knack for painting rooms, a grandma who is a rock star belly dancer, another grandmother who sewed pillowcases that held a book, a dad with a passion for rock climbing, a mom with a knack for organizing play groups and social events, and so many more.

The magic of who we were is still there. It just gets forgotten somehow between the mess and the mundane, between the Mondays and motherhood. Maybe the real trick is not forgetting who we were to make room for our children’s needs. Maybe instead, it’s remembering who we are and passing those lessons on to our little ones. Lessons like choosing to show up for sports practice because you committed to being a part of a team, even if the coach doesn’t play you. Or, learning how to determine if bread dough is ready to be kneaded, or how to stretch just a little more to reach the next foothold in the rock wall. It’s easy to forget, it’s harder to remember. Harder to remember to choose to try something new, or make time to invest in your own hobby. We give ourselves excuses that we don’t have time, or that it costs too much money, or who would watch the kids if we invested in the passions that make us unique and fired up for life. I think it’s time for us to remember that those very things are the things that we get to pass on to our children. We get to show them what it looks like to follow our dreams, to try something new, to not be perfect, to be uncomfortable, and to be deliriously happy when we reach a goal. Maybe that looks like pulling out your old band instrument, or having a theatrical reading of The Three Little Pigs.  Maybe that’s asking someone to watch your kids so you can go on a run, or choosing to knit instead of watching Netflix after the kids are in bed. Our children are so lucky that we each bring our own set of talents to the parenting arena. It’s time that we look in the mirror and force ourselves to see possibilities, to see hope, wonder and amazement at all that lays before us.

 I am setting a challenge for the month of November and I would love for you to join me. Once a week I am going to challenge myself to choose an activity that I either used to love or would love to try and to just do it. Maybe I will have my daughter join me, maybe I won’t. But either way, I know I don’t want to forget who I was before children. I want to become a better version of me with children.

Comment below and share what you are willing or do this month to remember who you are and what inspires you!