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.


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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MOMS Club of South Hills Open House


I’ve mentioned the moms’ club I belong to a number of times in my posts, and I wanted to elaborate a little more on the club today in anticipation of our Open House this Friday.

I joined the MOMS Club of South Hills about a year ago and it has become such a source of support for me.  I am lucky enough to live near family, but I was missing the support that comes from those who are going through the same things you’re going through on a daily basis.  I looked up a number of moms’ clubs in the area and decided to check out this club…and I’m so glad I did!

Our club has a monthly calendar with daily activities that you may choose to participate in.  The activities are anything from playdates in members’ home to trips to the Aviary to park picnics or even fire station tours.  We also have monthly meetings to make decisions about how our club should be run and themed monthly parties.  We have family activities on the weekends, afternoon and evening events, and a monthly moms night out!  There is no requirement for attending events – you attend the ones that interest you and fit your schedule.

I joined because I wanted to make new friends and because my daughter loved being around other kids.  The calendar took the guesswork out of planning what to do everyday and many of the places I write about on my blog came from experiences we had with this group.

What I wasn’t expecting was the second family these women would become.  I joined in my third trimester of my pregnancy with my son…and gave birth within a month of 5 other moms!  One mom and I were in labor at the same time, and delivered our sons right down the hall from each other at Magee.  For most of us this was our second child, and it was a huge advantage to have each other as a support system while we figured out how to be a mom to two little ones.  The moms who have done it before had great advice to offer…along with bringing dinner and offers to baby sit.

I also wasn’t expecting how quickly strong friendships would be formed and how quickly I would feel included and accepted into the group.  It is a group of women, after all, and I have found it challenging to make and sustain friendships in adulthood.  But this group is very accepting of others and embraces different experiences and perspectives.

The best part about the group, for me, is that it has helped me build my confidence as a mother and know that IT IS OKAY TO NOT DO IT ALL.  One mom can wake up in the morning and without even thinking twice whip up a quiche.  Another mom is so organized with craft projects with her daughter she could put local preschools to shame.  One woman is my resource for breastfeeding, one gave me the best chili recipe I’ve ever tasted, one threw an amazing wine tasting party JUST when I needed it, and another encouraged me to train for and run my first 5k.  Everyone has a strength, but rather than compete, we share our strengths with each other to benefit us all.  It is an AMAZING group of women to know, and my life is richer because of them.

This Friday, October 25th, at 11:00 is our Open House at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Brentwood.  It is a Halloween party, so feel free to dress your kiddos up in their costumes (or not, that’s fine, too!) and come check us out.  For more information check out the link to the flyer below, or email Kelly at

MOMS Club open house flyer 2013


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Johnny Appleseed Day


Photo Credit: Euclid Public Library

September 26 is Johnny Appleseed Day!

Chances are you haven’t thought about Johnny Appleseed since your elementary school days, but sharing the story of Johnny Appleseed  is a fun way to celebrate fall with your kids.

Fun Facts about Johnny Appleseed:

  •  “Johnny Appleseed” was a real person, named John Chapman, who lived from 1774-1845.
  • He walked over 100,000 square miles, through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois planting apple seeds and selling young apple trees to settlers for as little as 6 cents.
  • The pot he’s known for wearing on his head was not just a statement headpiece – he used it for cooking his meals, too.

Johnny Appleseed Day is a great excuse to celebrate fall and enjoy a juicy apple straight from the farm.  Here are some apple-themed ideas to share with your family:

  1. Pick your own apples at Simmons Farm in McMurray.
  2. Buy some apple cider from Trax and serve it warmed up with a cinnamon stick for an after dinner treat.
  3. Read a book about apples:  The Apple Pie Tree by Zoe Hall, Ten Apples Up on Top by Dr. Seuss, Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell and Ten Red Apples by Pat Hutchins are a few of my favorites!
  4. Do an apple craft – check out No Time for Flash Cards list of Easy Apple Crafts for Kids (I’m going to do the apple stamping with my toddler!)
  5. Do an apple taste test – do more people in your family like red, yellow, or green apples?  Use descriptive words to compare the apples – which was the juiciest, the most sour, the sweetest?
  6. Make homemade applesauce:
  • Wash, core, and chop apples (you don’t have to peel them, but can if you want).
  • Place in a pot and add a couple inches of water.
  • Heat, covered, over medium heat.  Stir every couple of minutes, checking for softness.
  • When apples are soft enough (around 10 minutes, depending on how many apples you used) begin to mash gently with a potato masher.  You may start mashing then decide to let them cook a little while longer – that’s fine!  Continue cooking, stirring, and mashing until your desired consistency is reached.  If it’s too watery, lower heat to low and remove the lid so the water can steam off (keep stirring occasionally, though, so the apples don’t burn).
  • Eat it warm (maybe with some cinnamon sprinkled on top) or allow to cool then store in the fridge for about a week or freeze it to enjoy later.



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What’s next?

I really enjoyed featuring a playground every day of August.  I enjoyed getting to know the South Hills even better – the adventures of the past month took me to parts of my community I never knew about before!

Setting aside time to work on my blog every day gave me the chance to learn a lot about blogging.  I’ve learned how to make my blog more user-friendly, I’ve created a Facebook page, and I’ve networked with other bloggers.  I still have a lot to learn, but I know I’ll pick it up as I go along.  I won’t be posting every day anymore, but you can expect a post every two or three days.

Now that my August playground series is over, I’m excited to expand my blog to include new topics.  We will still feature new playgrounds as we visit them, but stay tuned to read posts about more resources in the South Hills, including:

  • local farms
  • library programs
  • birthday party resources
  • local walking trails
  • indoor play areas
  • seasonal activities in the area

I will also be including things to do with kids outside of the South Hills, including:

  • county parks (Allegheny and Washington)
  • Pittsburgh city parks
  • museums
  • miscellaneous kid adventures in the city and beyond

In addition to local resources, I am also excited to write about other parenting topics like kid-friendly recipes and early education.  Before becoming a mother I was a first grade teacher, and the back-to-school time of year always gets my inner teacher going!  I’ll be sharing fun ways to introduce and practice literacy and math skills to toddlers and preschoolers.

These are just a few ideas I have to take with me from this point on, but since my goal is to be a resource for YOU, your suggestions and ideas are most welcome, too!  What would you like to read more about?  I’ve received great support from fellow moms in the area, and have gotten great ideas from them (like finding the best spots to go sledding, or fly a kite, or take family photos), so I know there are tons of ideas out there for the future of my blog.

Please comment below if you have a suggestion for a future post, have feedback about how to improve my blog, or have a resource you’d like to share.  I’m certainly not the expert on the South Hills – I’m discovering most of the things I write about as I go along.

Thanks for reading so far…and please keep coming back!

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