South Hills Mom

a mom's guide to kid-friendly resources in the South Hills

Animal Sorting Cards

As you’re well aware…it’s been cold out.  Freezing cold.  Thirty-degrees-below-freezing cold.  Way-too-cold-to-take-my-kiddos-out cold.

So we’ve been housebound, trying to stay warm and busy.  Luckily, my kids are pretty easily amused.  My daughter loves to color, so she’s been coloring for about three days straight now.  (Thank you to the insightful friend who made her an art box for her birthday!)  My son is into getting into things, so baskets of toys (or laundry) that he can dump out and fill back up again keep him happily amused.

We’ve also stayed in pjs too late and watched way too much TV, and by day three of this I decided we needed a little mental stimulation.

My daughter has a newfound passion for owls, which is replacing her previous adoration for ducks.  Being two she is eager to learn new things about her interests, so I created a new game which we’ve come to call “Duck or Owl?”.

First, I created several picture cards of ducks and owls.  This was easy enough.  I ran Google image searches for pictures of owls and ducks, selected my favorite pictures (8 of each bird), and saved them to my computer.  I pulled them up in a Word Document, cropped and resized them to my liking, and printed them.  (I did this in Word because I know how to; I’m sure there is a better way to do it, but this worked for me!)  I printed out the words “owl” and “duck,” too.  I cut them out and taped them onto cardstock.

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They aren’t fancy, and the teacher in me wanted to have them laminated for durability, but a trip to Kinkos wasn’t in the forecast and I was excited to share them with my little girl.  Turns out, she loved them, and the lack of laminating didn’t offend her at all.

I introduced the cards to her by handing them to her one at a time.  I started out with a couple owl pics, and she exclaimed “owl!” or “hoo hoo” with each new card.  Then to mix it up, I handed her a duck card.  She laughed at me, and started quacking.  I handed her each card and she continued to identify the birds by naming them or saying their sound.

Then I just let her look at them for a little bit.  She laid them all out and spent some time looking at the pictures.  She really seemed to enjoy looking at so many pictures of her favorite animals!

Next I asked her to give me an owl card.  She handed me one (saying, “hoo hoo,” of course).  I continued to ask for duck or owl cards until we ran out of cards.  She REALLY liked that, so we did that again (and again, and again…).  After the second round, when I gave her all 16 cards back, she spread them all out on the floor and put the ducks to one side and the owls to the other.  I was pretty much exploding with pride, watching her classify and organize the cards on her own.  We played duck or owl one more time, then put the cards away for another time.

We’ve gotten a lot of use out of our duck and owl cards!  “Duck or Owl?” is still our favorite, but we’ve made up some other variations, too.  Some other games we’ve played are:

  • What does this animal say?  (Hold up a card, and she says “hoo hoo” or “quack.”)
  • How does this animal move?  (Hold up a card, and pretend to fly like an owl or waddle and flap like a duck.)
  • Water or nest?  (Put the ducks in a blue bowl that we call “water,” put the owls in a brown bowl that we call “a nest.”)

water or nest

  • Asking for specific cards, like the picture of the white owl who is flying, or the baby duck.

From a learning standpoint, sorting is an excellent way to teach children to classify things by similarities or differences.  I used sorting daily when I was teaching, as it can be applied to any topic.  You can sort pictures by the sounds they start with.  You can sort words by word family.  You can sort pictures of animals by habitat.  You can sort numbers by whether or not they’re divisible by 5.  The possibilities are endless, and the best part is that it seems more like a game than anything!

 

What did you do to keep the kids sane during the cold??? 

 

 

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Gymsport Athletic Center – Bridgeville

One of my favorite places to take my little ones to blow off steam is Gymsport Athletic Center in Bridgeville.  With all the open space and opportunities for running, climbing, swinging, hanging, and jumping, it practically guarantees a nice, long afternoon nap!

We frequent Gymsport during Preschool Playtime, which is for ages 5 and under, Monday-Friday, 9:00am-noon.  There is also a Mini Open Gym, for ages 9 and under on Friday from 4:00-5:00pm, and Open Gym for ages 6 and up Wednesday 8:00-10:00pm and Friday 5:00-8:00pm.  The rate is $5/hour per child to play.

The first place my little girl always wants to go is up the stairs to a play area designed for toddlers and preschoolers.  There are tunnels to crawl through and a small trampoline built into the floor.  There’s also a balance beam and a small bar with a mat under it to practice hanging from.  But the best part of this room is obviously the slide and zip line…which dump kiddos right into a foam pit!  It took my daughter about 10 visits to Gymsport before she got the hang of the zip line, but now that she knows what to do, that’s ALL she wants to do!

This play area is in a slightly elevated room (accessible by stairs or a ramp).  Below this room is more room to play, with a rock climbing wall, tunnel, and miscellaneous toys like stuffed animals, hula hoops, scarves, beach balls, etc.

Other than this room, it’s an actual gymnastics gym!  For preschool playtime we have access to the floor area (which is great for running off energy, or playing with the aforementioned toys), the trampoline track where kids can jump into yet another foam pit, and an area with beams and bars designed for young children.  Children SHOULD NOT venture into the other parts of the gym with uneven bars, high balance beams, etc., since that equipment is meant for much older children.

My daughter really likes the beams and bars area, too.  There are rings to hang and swing from, a ladder to climb to access another bar to dangle from, balance beams of all kinds of thickness, and mats for tumbling.

We’ve been coming to Gymsport for over a year now.  As soon as your kiddo can walk there is something for him or her to do!  My son just turned one and isn’t walking yet, and while he enjoys crawling around on the different mats and chasing balls around the floor, I’m usually just scooping him up and keeping him away from things that he’s just too little for.  My daughter has always enjoyed running around like the crazy little girl that she is, but now that she’s just turned two, she’s really started to figure out how to use the equipment more meaningfully.

Be warned, though…your kids won’t be the only ones worn out at the end of your visit to Gymsport!  Like I mentioned before, this is an actual gymnastics gym, and children require a lot of attention and support to make sure they are using the equipment correctly.  Moms and Dads should expect to run around, lift kids to reach bars or zip lines, spot kids while climbing, and dig kiddos out of foam pits.  Dress appropriately – yoga pants and sweatpants are perfectly acceptable here (and socks, since you can’t wear shoes in the gym)!

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Lilliput Towne Center

A few weeks ago we visited Lilliput Towne Center with some friends.  I’ve always noticed the storefront (located in the same shopping plaza as Panera in McMurray, right off of 19), but I had NO IDEA until recently that there was an indoor play area for children!  So we set up a playdate to check it out.

Oh my gosh…this place is the cutest!  It’s set up like a mini town, with play stores and shops for children to explore and make believe.  There’s a grocery store with play food and a cash register, which my son enjoyed since he could easily knock food off shelves and remove fruit from their baskets.

My daughter and her buddies LOVED the salon, where they dressed up in dresses and took turns doing each others’ hair in the salon chair.

Fire Station

Another favorite was the fire station, which had a play fire truck the little ones loved “driving” as well as a long hose to unravel and fireman coats and hats, to really look the part!

There was also a post office with a mail box to deposit mail into, a garage with a car and gas pump, an ice cream shop with pretend tasty treats, and a doctor’s office to make pretend boo boos all better!

Trolley

In the center of the “town” is a trolley with a slide inside.

My kids happily played here for a couple of hours until it was time to leave.  Next time I will plan ahead for lunch; there is an eating area at the back of the store for families to enjoy lunch or a snack (food and drink must remain back on this tiled floor area).

I would recommend Lilliput mainly for kids who are 18 months and older.  That’s not to say that younger toddlers and babies wouldn’t enjoy it, but that’s the age that I noticed my daughter really starting to enjoy pretend play.  My son enjoyed “driving” the fire truck and car, rolling the play oranges around like balls, and pulling himself up to look in the different windows of the “stores,” but he didn’t truly appreciate all Lilliput had to offer.  My daughter and her friends ranged in ages from 18 months to almost 3 years old, and they all really enjoyed and appreciated their playdate here.

The rate for a day of play is $10 for the first child, $6 for any siblings, and non-walking infants are free (with a paying child).  The hours are 9:30-4pm, Monday-Friday.  Call for weekend hours; they offer play time on weekends if no birthday parties are booked.  (Oh yeah, they have BIRTHDAY PARTIES here, too!)

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Mom-Owned Business – Brittny Creates

I’ve had so much fun featuring local mom-owned businesses on my blog.  This will be the last feature post for Christmas, but I will occasionally feature other businesses throughout the year.  The directory will be updated continually, though, so please continue to submit businesses for that!

Today’s mom-owned business is Brittny Creates.  Brittny is a Stampin’ Up consultant, and creates fun and unique cards, party invitations, and so much more.  I really love Stampin’ Up products and the versatile projects that can be created with them, and I think Brittny’s work is exceptional!

Brittny Creates

How did you get started with Stampin Up?

I was pregnant with my first son and wanted to find something I could do that would make some extra cash while I stayed at home when he was born.  I don’t even remember how I found Stampin’ Up! but I did and couldn’t have been happier!
What’s the most rewarding part of selling your creations?
Cards and gifts are given all the time for different occasions.  It’s so much better when you get a response from someone when they realize it’s a handmade creation.  The person just seems to appreciate it more knowing that you spent your time and effort on what you are giving them!
What’s your favorite kind of product to create?
I love making things that require more than one project.  For example, I’ve begun to get in to making invitations, thank you notes, décor, etc for birthday parties and other events.  I just love to take a theme and show different things you can do with our products!  I also love making treats to send my kids to school for their friends and teachers.
How old are your kids?  How do you balance your business with family life?
DJ is 4 and Cameron is 2.  My husband is a big help when it comes to running my business with family life.  I make a calendar 3 months in advance to schedule for available dates that I can have a party at nights and weekends.  We coordinate those dates so he is aware then I work on filling those dates.  We also plan family days that I do not work on my business at all.  This keeps us all happy!!

How can readers view more products and submit orders?

My website to place orders is http://brittnysmith.stampinup.net  (You will need to click on Shop Now under the Products tab) You can also find the classes that I teach as well as available dates for parties at this site.
I also have a blog that I try to stay up to date but have been falling behind on and that’s my new year’s resolution for my business is to stay up to date on the blog.  There I show examples with pictures and directions how I make the project.  The site is http://brittnycreates.blogspot.com
Facebook is another tool that I use daily with my business.  Like my page at http://facebook.com/BrittnyCreates
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Mom-Owned Business – Itty Bitty Heart Creations

This mother-daughter duo creates customized clothing and accessories for the special little ones in our lives!

Itty Bitty Heart Creations

 

What made you decide to Itty Bitty Heart Creations?

In December 2012 I was going stir crazy from quitting my full time job in November because our son was very ill.  I talked my mom into starting the business together.  She had owned a wearable arts business when I was young.

Do you have a favorite product that you create?

Because I have two boys I love doing girly birthday outfits, but we really do enjoy making boy shirts because as a mom of boys I know how cute stuff for boys can be hard to find.

How old are your kids?  How do you balance your business with family?

My boys are Nate, 2 (finalized his adotion last week :)))and Brody, 2.5. We are also expecting a little girl in February and then my mom has me and my 30 yr old brother. We work a lot during my kids’ nap time and at night after they go to bed.

How can readers view more products and submit orders?

Www.facebook.com/ittybittyheartcreations or www.ittybittyheartcreat.etsy.com

When should orders be submitted in order to be ready by Christmas?

To guarantee Christmas delivery, orders should be submitted by Dec 15.

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Mom-Owned Business – Tutus by Jen

Today’s business, Tutus by Jen, creates sweet outfits and accessories for the little ladies in our lives!  She is having a big sale on Black Friday, so check out her Facebook page for a good deal.

Tutus by Jen

How did you get started making tutus? Do you sell products other than tutus?

It all started when I was looking for a tutu for my daughter 1st birthday and decided to watch a youtube video and I learned how to make them myself.  I started out making them for friends and family and that is how I got into selling my creations! I sell tutus, applique shirts, legwarmers, headbands, pony holders, high chair tutus, wreaths etc!!!

What’s the most rewarding part of selling your creations?

The most rewarding part is when my customer sends me a photo of their little one wearing the creation/outfit that I had made for them!

Do you have an all-time favorite product that you created?

I love everything that I make. I spend a lot of time on each piece and try to make it very special for that person. I am starting to learn to embroider and make dresses as well!

How old are your kids? How do you balance your business with family life?

My daughter is 15 months.  I am also a nurse and work only a few times a month.  I make my creations during Sofia’s naps and when she goes to bed at night!  The majority of my time I spend being a mommy and a wife:)

How can readers view more products and submit orders?

Readers can send me a private message regarding what they would like to order.  My photos are organized into albums to make it easier to look for ideas when placing orders.  I also have several sales a week, occasional giveaways and daily specials. I will be having a big Black Friday sale!

When do orders need to be submitted in order to be ready in time for Christmas?

I will take orders up until 1 week before Christmas.

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Mom-Owned Business – Budget Blossoms by Jilliann

Today’s featured business is Budget Blossoms by Jillian.  I love Jillian’s story and her work is stunning!  Make sure you “like” her Facebook page for upcoming holiday promotions.

Budget Blossoms by Jilliann

What made you decide to start Budget Blossoms by Jilliann?

I decided to start the business when I was laid off by my employer of 10 years. I was 9 months pregnant and had never been able to stay at home with any of my boys. I worked as a Human Resources Director for a large company and was pretty burnt out. I had done some floral deign work in High School and college and did the occasional wedding for a family member and always loved it. I decided to try and get some weddings… the first year I had maybe 5, the second year I had 20 or so and I have almost 50 booked in 2014!

I decided to go the budget way of doing flowers because I remember  getting quotes for my flowers back in 2000, and being totally shell shocked by the costs.  Every Bride deserves flowers.  I love trying to come up with a plan for someone who is on a tight budget and seeing her relief and joy that she will have something beautiful.  And I love working on the huge weddings and hearing that I came in $2000 less than the other local florists! 

Do you have a favorite product that you create?

My favorite product by far is the Bridal bouquet. I love getting pictures of the bride’s dress ahead of time and pictures of what she loves. The night before when I am working on her bouquet, I imagine her holding it. I love buying the perfect ribbon, pearls and  bling to make it spectacular.  I pride myself on being totally unique and artistic.

How old are your kids?  How do you balance your business with family?

 I have 4 sons! Mitchell is 11 and in 6th grade at Jefferson Middle School in Mt. Lebanon, Owen is 8 and in 3rd grade at Lincoln Elementary, Patrick is 6 and in first grade and Collin is 2. I’m not going to lie, it’s hard! I get caught up with emailing brides, looking for inspiration pictures and ordering and then I’ll look up and see that half of the day is gone. I started telling myself that my boys will only be this young once and I am really trying to slow down and spend time with each of them, kind of taking mental pictures along the way. Fridays and Saturdays are crazy, but it’s a thrilling craziness that is over the minute you deliver or set up the last arrangement. My husband is an Architect at a local firm and he is also busy but we work together to make sure that the boys get to swimming, boy scouts, soccer, haha, it’s never ending. He’s my biggest supporter. We’ve been married for 13 years and I could not be doing this with out him. I also have wonderful female cousins who pitch in and make my Saturdays easier!

How can readers view more products and submit orders?

People can like my Facebook page to see my work along the way and I will be posting pictures of available Holiday arrangements. My website is BudgetBlossomsbyJilliann.org and I can be reached through there or at BudgetBlossomsbyJilliann@aol.com

When should orders be submitted in order to be ready by Christmas?

I can do arrangements with 2 days notice!

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Origami Owl Promotion

I am so excited for today’s post, which is a promotion brought to South Hills Mom Blog readers from Kristin at Origami Owl.

Origami Owl

If you aren’t familiar with Origami Owl, it is a unique jewelry line that allows you to create customizable necklaces and bracelets to have a personalized product that is meaningful to you!  Their Living Lockets are not only customizable, but you can change the charms inside the lockets as desired, so you can have a new product as often as you’d like.  (It’s a great option for families that are still growing; you can always add on elements for a new member of the family!)  The Tagged line offers inspirational tags (“believe,” “Namaste,” “hope,” etc.) as well as accents like crystals or initials to create a one-of-a-kind look.

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Kristin has graciously offered to host an online catalog party for South Hills Mom Blog readers.  The online parties are easy to navigate; you click on the party’s link, here, and create a piece of jewelry that you love.  Typically the hostess earns rewards based on the sales her party brings in, but in this case Kristin will be raffling off $40 of Hoot Loot to someone who places an order!  Online orders will be accepted until Dec. 9th, at which point Kristin will randomly select an order to win the Hoot Loot.  The Hoot Loot will be $40 worth of merchandise credit the winner can select to add on to their order.  It’s a great opportunity to create an entirely new piece of jewelry for someone on your shopping list, or add charms and add-ons to the piece you already created.  Thank you so much, Kristin!!

Again, the party’s link is here, and orders will be accepted until December 9th.  Happy shopping!

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Mom-Owned Business – Totally2TooCute

The name of today’s featured business pretty much sums it up – Totally2TooCute!  With ribbons, bows, and tulle galore, this mom of all BOYS has something for the little men in your life, too.

Totally2TooCute

1. What made you decide to start T2TC (Totally2TooCute)?
My love for tulle started about 5 years ago and hasn’t stopped. However, T2TC did not come about until March of 2011. I started making tutus for family and friends,then decided to turn my hobby into a business. I feel as if T2TC has sky rocketed since then.
2. Do you have a favorite product that you make?
It is hard to pick a favorite item when all of my creations are custom made and filled with an equal amount of love. IF I had to pick one item to be my favorite right now, I would have to say my tie tees for the boys. They still make me chuckle each and every time I see a little one wearing them. A close second would be the birthday sets. They are totally fun to create!
3.What’s the most rewarding part of selling your creations?
The most rewarding part of selling my creations is the enjoyment in the childs face; wether I am able to see it in person or  through a photo. My heart is just full of joy at that very moment.  I also love running in to customers of mine in public wearing items made by T2TC. That is by far one of the coolest feelings ever!
4. How old are your kids? How do you balance your business with family?
I have two wonderful boys, yes BOYS, ages 11 and 8. Can we say T2TC is my girl fix?  For the most part, I work when my children are at school and my husband is at work. However, I am usally working in the evening hours as well since thats when my brain comes up with crazy ideas. Like my one friend has always told me, “I would love to be able to pick your brain apart and see what you are thinking of next.”
5. How can readers view more products and submit orders?
 
Readers can view my page via Facebook by clicking here.  Please “like” my page so  you can be up to date on all new products and deals.
Viewers can order from my facebook page by sending me a private message OR by sending me an email to: totally2toocute@gmail.com
 
6. When should orders be submitted in order to be ready by Christmas?
As of right now, T2TC is on about a 2-3 week turn around. IF you need an order done prior to that time frame, please contact me to discuss a rush fee.
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Mom-Owned Business – Bling Jewelry

I am excited to be featuring Bling Jewelry today!  Several friends of mine have pieces of Anita’s jewelry, and they are stunning pieces that make an everyday outfit special.  Of course they would also really glam up a special occasion, too!

Bling Jewelry

What made you decide to start Bling Jewelry? 

I have always loved Swarovski Crystal and blingy, sparkly things…I really enjoying putting the colors together….I have a lot of fun doing it!

Do you have a favorite product that you create? 

I love making pieces that have sentimental value….jewelry for a special day or gift. I do a lot of Bridal and Bridal Party Jewelry and it’s so nice to be a small part of someone’s special day.

What’s the most rewarding part of selling your creations?

Meeting great people…I have made some great friends through my business. And mostly, helping my family…I work hard at this to help support them and provide for my kids.

How old are your kids? How do you balance your business with family?

I have 2 teenage boys, soon to be 18 and 16. Where does the time go?  I also work full-time…so I work a lot..so I don’t always have all the time I long for.

How can readers view more products and submit orders?

You can contact me through my Facebook page, my email: manfredanitak@aol.com, or cell…412-334-9860. You can visit me at many local shows or shop at my home. I can ship anywhere also. I do home-parties too….contact me to schedule and get free Bling!

Are you accepting custom orders at this time? If so, when should orders be submitted in order to be ready by Christmas?

I am accepting custom orders always, and will do my best to accommodate all holiday orders.

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