“If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” Number Recognition and Counting Activity

One of my daughter’s favorite books for me to read to her is “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”. I was really happy to see the animated series on Amazon Prime because it brings the book to life. The illustrations are so beautiful and I find myself singing the song when we begin reading the book. As always I have to find a way to mix in a little learning time during our days and it’s always great when there is a matching storybook to any lesson that you intend to teach to a preschooler.

_If You Give A Mouse A Cookie_ A Number Recognition and Counting Activity

Number recognition and counting is something that we try to include in everyday activities in our lives.  On the 4th of July, we went to watch the fireworks at our city’s amphitheater and even there I noticed my husband and my daughter counting the numbers on the chairs.If You Give a Mouse A Cookie She thought it was fun, but I’m sure she would have told me, “not now momma!” I hope that you and your little learner will enjoy this activity that I created just for our favorite story “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” It’s free to print. Be sure to share it with your child’s PreK teacher and your mom friends.



Oh Toodles! My Toddler Turned 3!

Time is moving so fast with my daughter. I don’t remember her sitting on our laps for a long time. We didn’t rush her to grow up, but she was just too determined to be held back for our cuddles and babying behaviors.

I know that it’s because she has an older brother and desperately wants to do what he does, but someone should have told her that I needed her to stay smaller for just a little bit longer. She’s my grace baby and yes, I cry a little inside when I say that and think of her like that.

The grace baby that we also like to refer to as ladybug, mook-mook, and sour patch kid turned 3 on May 29. She literally told us that her birthday was coming every day up until her actual birthday. She was just super excited! She told us that she wanted a Spiderman party and then a Peppa Pig party, and she finally settled with a Minnie Mouse theme party. On her actual birthday, we kept things simple with pizza for dinner and cupcakes. She knew that she was having a birthday party with her family and kept telling me that she wanted to jump outside in the tent like the last time. That meant that she wanted a bounce house. That also meant a hot outdoor party which I wasn’t looking forward to having. Because of the 98 degree temps that we are having every day, I decided to schedule her party for 10-12 a.m. That gave us 80-degree temps with a little breeze. Considering that it was rather early for a birthday party I didn’t want to serve pizza or barbeque like last year, so I turned to my favorite Pinterest boards to find some brunch ideas. I could not find any good ideas that would allow me to not have to be concerned about safe food temps, so I gave up in a little frustration and decided to leave it in Gods hands. My husband was settled that he would pick up kids meals from anywhere we wanted the next morning if we didn’t come up with something. I figured that whatever God decided to tell us to buy or prepare that morning was what it would be even if it was pizza. I kid you not, but at about 2 a.m. that morning the holy spirit told me to prepare a variety of sliders. I was like okay Jesus, help me make this taste good now! I got a few ideas of what meat to use from Pinterest and a few techniques to make them taste extra delicious. It worked perfectly for the time of day. I decided on Ham and Cheddar, Beef and Mozzarella, Turkey and Cheddar, and Turkey Sausage and Cheddar Cheese Eggs all on Hawaiian Sweet Bread.


We also served strawberries, grapes, and bananas and cake. Our beverages were orange juice, water, 100% fruit juice boxes for the kids, and of course soda. My momma, you all, oh goodness! She is the real MVP! She got in the kitchen without a blink and made those sliders like it was nothing. To top it all off she helped me finish the edible desserts which were Oreo cookie Minnie Mouse ears on a stick. My husband’s sweet cousin bagged them up into treat bags with the little twist ties.

I think everyone was happy with the food and that was my goal! Minnie Mouse decorations are one of the easiest party decorations that you can buy or make. I pulled party decor that I used from previous parties that included mason jars, tulle, and felt fabric.

I’ve realized that it’s much prettier and cheaper to buy a few yards of fabric as table covers versus the plastic table covers. You have fewer wrinkles and if you purchase a neutral color you can use them for years to come. Walmart had precut 1-yard fabric in just the colors that I needed. I used them to cover our tables and once I was done with them I just placed them into the washing machine to store away for future use. I knew that I wanted Minnie Mouse ears on everything, so I turned to one of my favorite websites, Canva. I love that you can create any type of design that you normally would have to pay for on Etsy.

Now, don’t get me wrong Etsy is still a great site because there are a few party products that you can find that save you time from creating and that Canva may not be able to reproduce, mostly the vinyl products. However, for the most part, you can DIY your own decor if you have time and only plan to use cardstock. I decided to make a happy birthday board that just says “happy birthday Mariyah” for the gift area. I always use our fireplace as the gift area to save space from a traditional gift table. To make the birthday board and other printables for the party, I switched between the Gochi Hand and Brusher font on Canva. To finish the birthday board I cut streamer paper into circles and my sweet son helped me glue them to the board. I also added some Minnie Mouse ears with a bow.

I love the party frame that allows guest to take fun pics, so I had to make one of those as well. I used pink paint, glitter, and my husband hand drew Minnie Mouse ears with bows. The glitter hearts where leftover from previous party decor and the Minnie Mouse hands were from a free printable clip art site. The old mason jars worked perfectly for a table centerpiece and the different shades of old tulle worked as a table runner. I didn’t place any of the pink plates on the table as decor because of sanitary reasons and kids. I also decided to use plain pink plates because I think Minnie Mouse plates would have been too overwhelming on a table along with all of the Minnie Mouse decors in the room. I had Minnie Mouse ears on the wall, on the doors of our dining room, and on napkins. My daughter also wore cute Minnie Mouse ears that she refused to keep on the entire time of the party. Oh well! The tags that I created to place into the mason jars were made from Canva and it was a card with my daughter’s birthdate and initial, a Minnie Mouse quote, and Minnie Ears.

You can find the craft sticks at hobby lobby or you can use kabob sticks for a sharp point to press through the tulle. My mother-n-law added the balloons to the jar as a special touch.

Let’s talk about balloons. I purchased two jumbo balloons from Winn-Dixie and for whatever reason that were deflated within an hour after the party started. I purchased them specifically for the cake table which meant that there was now no decor available for the cake table. Thank goodness my mother-n-law had already bought a ton of Minnie Mouse balloons, so we were able to use a few of those. I already struggle with decorating cake tables, so I definitely did not like that my $20 for two balloons was gone. Yes, I got my money back on Sunday. Now, you all should know me by now! Frugal….frugal!


The bounce house was fun for the kids and everyone was happy. The cake was delicious as expected because the baker is so gifted with her hands. Mariyah has told me several times that she had fun at her party and that she loved her party and that was my ultimate goal, but next year I will let a party place do the work. I’m over this, but I do believe birthdays are important enough to be celebrated every single year. She’s three and I’m thankful that she’s thriving and healthy.

Did any of you celebrate your birthday in May like my daughter and me? Let me know in the comments below!

Easy DIY for Kids Pretend Play Food

Pretend play is fun, but also a necessary component for child development. Children learn to use their imaginations when they pretend to play out different roles or scenarios. This helps with social relationships, emotional skills, thinking skills, problem-solving, but more importantly, it’s just fun!

As an advocate for all things Early Childhood, it’s important to me that my daughter has every experience that she would have if she were in daycare or preschool. During our #totschool sessions, we make sure to include pretend play. One of the great things about pretend play is using lifelike props such as purses, costumes, wigs, play food, and so much more.

My daughter enjoys pretending to cook and bake, so we gifted her a KidKraft kitchen set for Christmas. Although we bought her a ton of play food and dishes she still wanted to use our food containers and utensils from our kitchen. One day I gave her an empty box of pasta and she was so excited to pretend to actually cook the pasta in her own kitchen set. It’s a good idea to buy the durable plastic play food for pretend play, but many of the play food sets that are now sold in stores are made from wood with labels that peel very easily or from wooden boxes that bend and tear. I decided to share this easy DIY to make your own play food boxes. This DIY is also perfect for daycare, PreK, and Kindergarten Teachers.


Protecting Our Children from Monsters

I’m not talking about the monsters that children say they’re afraid of, I’m talking about the monsters that we expose them to as family and friends. It’s happening to so many children and there is something that we can do about it. In our recent headlines, last week, 3 different accounts of children were victims of murder by their mothers’ boyfriends.  Why is this topic still taboo in 2017? The gut of my stomach turns when I think about it, it’s called sexual abuse and rape. Let’s stop tip-toeing around the subject and do something about it. There is no one specific measure to follow to prevent this from happening to our children, but the signs are sometimes present and we choose to dismiss them.

  • The first step is TRUSTING YOUR GUT instincts with everyone and I do mean everyone! Wolves in sheep’s clothing are real, so you have to pay attention to that feeling in the pit of your stomach. It’s called the holy spirit. If you’re wrong, so be it, but at least you didn’t take a chance of leaving your child with a predator. You can’t take the abuse back once it’s done. Healing from it takes an extremely long time. You don’t have to accuse people of being sexual predators, but remaining aware of your instincts about individuals is equally important.

  • STAY CLOSE AND KIND to those that you can trust with your children. So many times people will overuse or misuse the people that are available to help with their children. Stop that! If you have family or friends that you trust with your children, and they offer to babysit them for you, be kind to them, pick them up on time, and offer money or services when possible. If it’s a grandparent, offer to buy groceries or snacks for your child during their stay.  Use their help when it’s absolutely necessary; examples of this would be work, a doctors appointment, illness, or short mental break for yourself. Limit your mental health prevention break to an hour or two. If you’re allowed a weekend by your sitter, don’t take a break every single weekend. protecting our children from monsters (2)

  • INCLUDE YOUR CHILDREN INTO YOUR PLANS regularly. Before my mother married my step-father, she included my brother and me in all of her plans. We went to dinner together, we shopped with her, and we went places as a family of 3. We only stayed with my grandmother when it was completely necessary. I’m sure there were times when my mom went out with friends, but it wasn’t often and her dates with my step-dad soon included us. This leads me to the next point.

  • STAY OFF THE SCENE so often. There is no reason that any parent should not have a mental health prevention break here or there. I get it, parenting can become overwhelming. I’m not judging you for wanting to have a life, but if your co-parent or spouse isn’t available to care for your child, stop hitting up the city hotspots every weekend! Your babysitter isn’t for that, people become burned out and you are more likely to lose your reliable help. In return, you rely on someone that just may be a sexual predator. Men are not the only people that sexually abuse precious children.

  • GET CONNECTED with other parents at work, church, or a child’s school. Find out who they rely on as their sitters. Use your instincts with these sitters as well. If your child attends daycare or school, ask your child’s teacher about after hour and weekend care. Many Teachers have weekend jobs and summer jobs as sitters. Never be afraid to ask!

  • STOP TELLING YOUR CHILDREN TO BE GOOD when you leave them. There are times when our children’s instincts cause them to naturally rebel against certain people. If your child cries when you leave them with a person after several visits or they express to you that they don’t like their sitter, you should sincerely ask them why. Constantly telling your children to “be good” in the presence of someone that may be very bad, takes away their natural instinct to defend themselves. You will know the difference between your child having a behavioral issue or a genuine fear of a person.

  • USE PROPER BODY NAMES AND DISCUSS SAFE TOUCH when you are talking to your children. My husband and I decided with our son during his potty train months, that we would use the word penis. He and his dad took things a little further by saying that he has “nuts”. While it may seem politically incorrect to some people, my son has always been aware of his genitals and aware that no one, should touch his “nuts” and other body parts! We taught him how to clean his private areas as early as 3 and to explain to everyone that he did not need their help even when he had to poop. We helped him to clean his daily germs at night during bath time. Sexual predators are very cunning. They sometimes use the “let me help you” tactic to touch children inappropriately. Our son was made aware that only mommy, daddy, and his grandmothers could help him with his private area and wipe him if he needed help. We did not include the doctor in our conversation with him because we knew we would be present for his doctor visits. We would give him consent during that time. Explain body parts to your children with proper names and talk openly about who is allowed to touch them and where.

  • TALK PRIVATELY WITH YOUR CHILDREN when you pick them up. Don’t ask your child if everything is okay or if they were on their best behavior when you pick them up. I once read an article where a woman stated that everytime her mom returned to pick her up, her abuser would listen for her reply to her mom’s question, “were you a good girl?” In return, she was afraid to tell her mom the truth because her abuser was listening and staring for her response. Pay attention to whether or not your child looks different, disheveled, or overly sensitive when you return to pick them up. Signs are sometimes there, we just have to be in tune with them. Ask them what was the best about their stay and the worst. Ask them if anyone said or touched them inappropriately? Yes, just come out and ask! We can’t afford to be relaxed with strangers when it comes to our children. Be ready to listen and act accordingly.

  • ROLE PLAY the what “if’s” with your child or children. In the past, I’ve asked my son what he would do if someone touched him here or there? Depending on his reply, I would provide the right answer. You can use scenarios such as, “Hey (insert child’s name) bad people will say to you, “do you like me?” They will also say “If you really love me, you will help me.” (Insert child’s name) They may also say “Will you do this for me? You can’t tell because your mom or dad will be mad at you.” These are ugly and nasty things that predators tell children when they are grooming them to be abused. We have to educate our children to be prepared to tell us and to tell the abusers NO! www.lifewithcarmen.com

  • CONSTANTLY REMIND YOUR CHILD or children how special and precious they are to you. When abusers groom children, they start with breaking their confidence and they play with their emotions first. Build your children up with love and remind them that they are your first priority.

  • WATCH PEOPLE THAT ARE RECKLESS around your children. People that scream, curse or yell at your children, should be watched closely. While they may not be sexual abusers, they may mentally and emotionally abuse your children. Everyone should not have the freedom to discipline your children. Some people have no filters and do not know when enough is enough. Be mindful of people that are comfortable with viewing pornographic material and even rated R movies around your children. Sexual predators also use these tools to groom their victims. Regardless, to any motive, it’s also wrong. 

    I hope and pray that these tips will help you and your family. Remember that you have people that genuinely are concerned for you and your children. Keep those people close and trust your gut instincts, always! 

Sweet Dreams Baby: 8 Bedtime Stories for Babies and Toddlers

Bedtime is a big deal in our home. Parents deserve a little time each night to unwind alone and our precious children need rest, to be renewed for the next day of busy fun. Reading any book to your little one each night is a good way to help them learn and unwind, but reading a bedtime story is particularly a special way to send them to dreamland quickly and peacefully.

These 8 books that focus on love, cuddles, and bedtime are sure to make you or your little one sleepy.

Sleep, Baby, Sleep, by Maryann Cusimano Love

This bedtime story has animals that are encouraged to sleep a restful sleep and to rise and conquer the day refreshed and happy.Sleep, Baby Sleep

Lull-a-bye, Little Oneby Dianne Ochiltree

This sweet bedtime story has illustrations of human characters and takes baby along on a relaxing bedtime routine. From play time to bath time….this story is sure to unwind even a very active little one.

Little Owls Night, by Divya Srinivasan

This book has the most beautiful pictures that any bedtime story could offer. Little Owl is an interesting character that wakes to see his friends adventures during the day….a pretty interesting, but peaceful read for your sleepy adventurer. Little Owls Night

Good Night, Gorilla, by Peggy Rathmann

What bedtime story could be cuter than this! The sleepy time story allows you to introduce animals to your little one and encourage a sweet slumber. While there are not many words in the story, it still tells a story that will help your child relax and unwind. The zookeeper is also in need of a good night rest!Good Night, Gorillia

Meet Me at The Moon, Gianna Marino

This story may not be designed as a bedtime story, but it gives reassurance to a sleepy child— that mom or dad will always be there to comfort them and guide them, even at bedtime. Mama and baby elephant are two sweet characters surrounded by other animal families.Meet Me at the Moon

Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney

I think that what’s most sweet about this story is that it gives dad’s a chance to be celebrated for comforting their toddlers. Little Nut Brown Hare proves to his dad just how much he loves him, and isn’t that what all of our little ones enjoy showing us? Cuddle up, and enjoy this read. Guess How Much I Love You

Hush, Little Baby, Sylvia Long

It’s definitely hard to pass up on an adorably classic lullaby that we all have sung to our baby at least once. Having it as a storybook will make it even more memorable.

Baby’s First Lullabies,  A collection of Lullabies

This book is a collection of familiar lullabies such as Brahms Lullaby, All The Pretty Horses, and much more. A CD is included for you to use in a nursery or on a relaxing car ride. Baby's First Lullabies and CD

What are some of your favorite bedtime stories for babies and toddlers? Share them with other readers in the comments below.