Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Valentine's Day Activity: Scavenger Hunt!

Here is a fun activity for your little loved ones to enjoy during this special season of love!  My kids always enjoy a scavenger hunt or a quick list of activities to complete.  These hunts work well individually, or put your little ones on a team if they need help reading or completing tasks.  
Feel free to make up your own list if you have objects in the house (ex. write a story based on this candy heart saying!) or print this if you want to keep things simple.
This is the perfect time of year to shower our kids with plenty of affection in the form of many hugs and kisses!  Remind your kids (as always!) that you love them, and don't forget to be specific.  

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  
~C.S. Lewis

**A Quick Reminder!**
We have two great giveaways going on right now.  
  • The I SPY giveaway is open through February 2. If you have not commented yet--be sure to do it today!  These I Spy bags are adorable; be sure to check them out!

  • Our 100th posts original painting giveaway will also be ending soon since we are very close to reaching 100 followers.  Check out all the details HERE!
Thanks again to all our faithful friends and followers and be sure to let us know if you have any Valentine's Day traditions or activities that have been a big hit with your kids!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Giveaway: I Spy bag

Update: This giveaway has ended.  Winner announced here.  I Spy bags are available for sale in our Etsy shop!

We are excited to offer a fun new giveaway starting today...it's an I SPY bag that could make a sweet little Valentine present for a child you know.

These handmade toys are new additions to The Mud Pie Makers' Etsy shop this week. 20 different trinkets are hidden among the pellets for children to "spy" out in the clear window. All hidden items are printed on a laminated card attached to the toy. It's a great way to keep kids entertained during travel, church, appointments, and other quiet times.

We are giving one away to one of our wonderful readers! The winner will be able to choose any I Spy bag available in our shop (even more designs coming!).

The giveaway is open through Feb. 2. The randomly-drawn winner will be announced on Friday, Feb. 3.   Aaaannnd...this one is open to worldwide readers!

1) To enter, just leave a comment under this post (be sure we have a way to contact you).

2) For a second entry, become a Follower of this blog and let us know in another comment.

Check back Feb. 3 to see if you're the winner!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Date Time with your Kids

I probably tell my kids at least 10 times a day I love them. I know they know. But in this season of all-things-love, I want to make sure I remind my children often how much I like them and enjoy spending time with them.

 As with all kids, ours LOVE to go out for some one-on-one time with Mommy or Daddy. My husband and I try to get a couple of hours with one of them each month. It's sweet to see just how much they anticipate and enjoy this undivided attention. Even my 2-year-old gets giddy if he gets to go in Daddy's truck—just him and Daddy--for a simple errand to the hardware store.

Often our dates involve going out for a meal or dessert together. This provides great talk time. My daughter is 4, and she is happy just to get a cookie or visit the animals at the pet store.

We've done a few more creative things with our 7-year-old. He and I enjoyed a pottery-painting date one Saturday afternoon.

And my husband took him to a high school football game last fall. The stuff that bonds daddies and sons.
 Some other ideas we have for date times this year are:
  • go for a bike ride
  • take a walk together at a park
  • go ice skating
  • take a box of donuts to a neighbor
  • go to a park and take funny/creative pictures
  • make a project together
  • plant something—flowers, seeds, a tree
  • go on a long hike
  • visit a hobby or pet store
  • visit an art show
  • make a fun video together
  • do a random act of kindness together
  • find a way to serve or minister to someone in need
Now that our kids are getting a little older, it's fun to find out what they think about the world. These are interesting conversation-starters for a date or even the family dinner table:
  • If you could be famous, what would you want to be famous for?
  • If you could invent one rule for the whole world to follow, what would it be?
  • If you could change one family rule, what would you change?
  • If you could keep your room any way you wanted, how would it look?
  • What are the qualities that make a good friend?
  • What do you think of my driving?
  • If you could decorate our home, what would it look like?
  • What do you think are the characteristics that make a good parent?
  • What is the nicest thing a friend has ever done for you?
  • What is the most enjoyable thing our family has done together in the last three years?
  • If you could have any pet you wanted, what would you choose? What would you name it?
We are trying to use this special one-on-one time to be more than just activity time together...we want to use it to build strong communication foundations with our kids. If we're not open with them now, we know we can't expect them to want to talk to us when they're 15. I'm working daily on being a better Listener to my children!

A few years back, our friend passed along some really great questions to probe the heart a little when you have some uninterrupted time alone with one child. Some don't quite work yet for our young children, but I'm hanging onto them for a few years down the road.
  • What conflicts are you and your brothers/sisters having when Mom and I aren’t around?
  • How is your heart towards your brothers and sisters?
  • Do you think your mom or I show favoritism towards one of your siblings? If so in what ways?
  • How’s your relationship with Mom? How is she doing as a mom?
  • What is God showing you about the way He made you?
  • What can I do better in leading the family to love God and love each other?
  • How are your devotions?
  • What is God teaching you?
  • In your own words, what is the gospel?
  • Is there a specific sin you’re aware of that I can help you in defeating?
  • Are you more aware of my encouragement or my criticism?
  • What’s Dad and Mom most passionate about?
  • Do I act the same at church as I do when I’m at home?
  • Are you aware of my love for you?
  • Is there any way I’ve sinned against you that I’ve not repented of?
  • Do you have any observations for me?
  • How am I doing as a dad/mom ?
  • How have Sunday’s sermons/classes impacted you?
  • Does my relationship with Mom make you excited to be married?
  • On top of these things, with my older kids, I’m always inquiring about their relationship with their friends and making sure God and his gospel are the center of those relationships. And I look for every opportunity to praise their mother and increase their appreciation and love for her.                     
                • Family Strategy questions by Rand Hummel/the Wilds
A little attention and time goes a long way...it's just hard to fit in sometimes. After the football game, my son came home with shining eyes, as well as a little hot chocolate still stuck to his upper lip. He told me it was his best night ever.  Later my husband recounted the evening to me and said he felt like even if he'd been the worst Dad in the world (and for the record, he's a fantastic Daddy!), that evening together would have redeemed him big time. It was a super special outing for both of them. And a reminder to make the effort to book these important times on the calendar before lesser things eat away our hours with our kids.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Make A Memory: How I Met Your Mother!

If you are looking to start a new Valentine's Day tradition this year, here is a great idea!   Even though my kids are 6 and under, I know they will enjoy hearing the story of how my husband and I met.  We have never shared this story with our kids before; what better time of year to retell our own love story (with each other and with our kids!) than on Valentine's Day!
I know my little girl will particularly enjoy looking through our wedding album and watching our wedding video.  If you want a few ideas to jump start this fun Valentine's Day idea, here is a free printable for you to download!
This would also be another another great page to add to your child's "All About Me" book!
This is a simple way to spend time together as a family sharing stories and experiences that will help your kids begin to grasp what love is all about.  Have fun and if you have another suggestion or story about how this works out with your kids, please share it here!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Quick Lunch Love Notes: Valentine's Day Edition!

It's hard to believe, but Valentine's Day is less than a month away. Thankfully my kids are much too young to be frittering over the silliness that goes along with this Holiday, but whether it is February 14th or not, it is important to show my kids what LOVE is every day!

Several months ago I posted this idea about placing special love notes in your child's lunch.  I wanted to make a LOVE-focused printable as a way for us to share what love is with our kids leading up to a day when heart-shaped candy and flowers become symbols of love for us all.

Here are 20 printables for you to place in a lunch or on a pillow or beside a toothbrush as a reminder that Love never fails, and Love is kind.  These notes might open up a conversation about what love means to your child, what love means to  you, and most importantly who love is.  
For God so love the world.
God is love.
I hope everyone enjoys a special Valentine's Day this year, and may we show our kids what love is really all about!

And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
(1 Tim. 1:14)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bite-Sized Blog: On the Go Go Go Go.

The Future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.  ~C.S. Lewis
We are only two weeks into the New Year and I feel like we've been in fast-forward ever since the ball dropped. Yesterday morning I spent nearly three hours in the pediatric dentist's office with my big guy.  And I feel the need to stop right here and say there is a special, special place in my heart for these people. I'm convinced pediatric dentists and their aids are performing earthly purgatory or required penance.  
{I pause to applaud you here.}

Besides the dental visits, we have simply been on the move so much, I feel like I haven't spent as much time face to face with my kids. Whether sitting and talking with them, reading or playing—I have missed our slower moments together and I am hoping to modify our current schedule with much more down time very soon. I'm having a really hard time keeping them little.

So, I am going to keep this quick, but we don't want you to think we've completely forgotten about the world of blog-dom! We have lots of fun activities and plans coming up in the next few months, and as long as we survive trips to the pediatric dentist, we can't wait to share them with you.

Even in the middle of life at full throttle, I was reminded today that we can create special moments while errand-running and carpooling.  Here are a few simple thoughts if you are feeling stressed about being on the go and want to make the most of your time! 

Look Around, Be Creative.
It's amazing what happens when you encourage your kids to observe what's going on outside the car windows (or shopping cart). It's very easy to take a simple game of “I Spy” to the next level while driving in town.  Come up with a counting or matching game if you are stuck in traffic, or help kids admire big buildings and construction equipment. Once you look up and out—there are many things to see!  This is also a great way to encourage conversations about the amazing created world in which we live.  Check out contrasting colors in the earth and sky, etc.

Promote Interaction, Create Stories.
I have always enjoyed creating stories, so this is a timeless game for me. Once you take a moment to look around you, encourage your kids to come up with stories about what they see while they are on the move. 
For example: Yesterday we saw 2 really filthy semi-trucks beside us on the highway. The kids and I came up with many ideas about how the trucks became so dirty, where they had been and where they were going.  My big guy noticed 2 clean stripes on the side and it was fun listening to him hypothesize about this mystery.

Encourage your kids to be creative! This also helps them start realizing the world is bigger than their own house and street—many license plates tell us the other cars on the road are from very far away. What is their story? This can easily be applied to a trip to the mall or Target as well. Who do you see? What are they doing?
If you want to take this to the next level, here is a printable for your child's All About Me book (go HERE to start one today).  Continue talking about your adventures at home. Have your child write or draw a story here.  It might turn into wonderful essay material down the road--you never know!  
Go here to print this:

Give a little, Get a lot.
This is a principle we need to remember in parenting as much as possible, but especially when life gets busy. If I give up control of the music playing in our car, the reward of happy, LOUD singing from the back seat is always worth it.

I recently noticed a kindred thread between two of my sweet friends: holey jeans.
As I think about the attitude and examples these ladies have shown me, I have much to learn.  Am I the type of mom who has chased on hands and knees and given piggy-back rides enough to warrant holes in the knees of my jeans? Whether or not you consider yourself a hands-on mom who gets on the floor with the kids, an ounce of interaction (on the floor or on the couch) will always be rewarded in the eyes of your child. In my opinion, holey jeans are a sign of a very blessed mom with very blessed kids. Patch up those jeans, stretch your legs and be interactive—it is always worth it.

For now, it's time for me to take a few deep breaths and get back in the fast lane. The laughing gas has worn off and it's time to lick our wounds with some tasty treats:  non-sugary, dentist-approved of course!

You will never find time for anything.  If you want time you must make it.
~Charles Buxton

Monday, January 16, 2012

Beanbags, Games, and January Blahs.

I believe the mid-January funk has hit our house. New toys are not-so-new anymore, bad weather is keeping the kids cooped up, and Mommy just can't handle one more round of Candyland...!

So the other night after dinner dishes were done and while the kids changed into pj's, I invented a little beanbag toss game for an hour of family fun before bed. It was super easy and not all that creative, but it was NEW and my kids loved it!

I took 4 metal cake pans, the 4 mini-beanbags from our Hopscotch game, and had my son make 4 papers with point values of 10, 25, 50, and 100. We arranged the pans on the floor with the different point papers inside, and then set a couple of lines to stand and throw the beanbags. (Try rolled up socks if you don't have beanbags).

Our new art easel made a perfect scoreboard--and my 4-year-old loved the number printing practice. It was great that our 2-year-old could play too (he chose to stand directly beside the cake pans and drop the beanbags in), and the game was excellent practice for him in taking turns.

After a couple of rounds, the kids changed up the cake pan arrangement.

And the next day they came up with the twist of Mystery points by placing the papers UNDER the pans, only to be revealed after the 4 beanbags were thrown. You can imagine this new level of excitement!

They kept changing things up and played repeatedly for 3 days. It's always amazing how old things can become new again--we would love to hear what little game or competition you come up with using what you already have around!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Flashing Lights and Winter Woes, Revisited.

**While scurrying around this week, I stumbled across this post from my {old} blog.  It is dated almost exactly one year ago, and it was good for me to revisit these thoughts and be reminded about the many blessings in my life as we approach yet another NEW year!
On our way home from Ohio this Christmas, my three kids, husband and I were driving through the foothills of Kentucky on 75 when suddenly the check engine light started flashing like crazy. I grew up in a home where cars regularly had flashing check engine lights and we simply covered it with black electrical tape, but to Steve it was new and scary. We slowly and carefully prayed our way through the next three states, hoping that our 1997 Plymouth Voyager would give us one last trip home.

As we sat for six hours in van-related thought and conversation, I kept thinking about how although I had never been “proud” to drive a little white mini-van from the 90's, I had taken for granted the fact that it would be around to get us where we needed to go for at least a few more years. As much as I had kicked and screamed about having to drive a mini-van in the first place, I realized not only had our tiny Voyager made us mini-van fans (with its sticky sliding doors and low gas mileage), it had also found an endearing spot in our hearts.

Cynthia Ozick, one of my favorite essayists, said, “When something does not insist on being noticed, when we aren't grabbed by the collar or struck on the skull by a presence or an event, we take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” How true is that? How often does it take a flashing “check engine light” to get our attention? I started thinking about all the things I take for granted daily, the endless list of things I fail to appreciate, the lack of gratefulness I show to everyone and everything around me, and I was completely overwhelmed.

The very fact that we made it to our home from the highway was something to be thankful for since 37,261 Americans are killed annually in crashes (U.S. Census Bureau). I am not the kind of person who is afraid to drive my car or fly in a plane, but the fact that we have the luxury of driving in cars and flying in planes and safely returning to our homes in the first place is really pretty remarkable if you stop and think about it.

One week after Christmas vacation we made the decision to cut our cable. Those who know me will sympathize with how much I have grown to love the convenience of cable TV and most of all, the undisputed best modern day invention: the DVR. It was painful to pack up the box to Dish Network and heartbreaking to lose hours of saved material on the DVR. I had more than begun to take advantage of the ability to pause, rewind and fast forward live television and I had forgotten how to sit and actually watch a commercial. I took for granted that my DVR box would always say, “Good morning! What do you want to watch today?” I miss my 140 channels and I hate the black pointed bunny ear antenna above my bookshelves. After a week though, I am honestly realizing I do not miss aimlessly lying in bed watching shows I don't really care about. I am already enjoying going to bed earlier and reading more. But I digress.

If there is one thing that never ceases to amaze me, if there is one thing we all take for granted daily it is the created universe. Just the ability to sit here typing this—I am held down by gravity, I am breathing oxygen in a perfect atmosphere as the perfectly sized Earth perfectly rotates around a Sun that would burn us if we were closer and freeze us if we were any further away. I could go on and on about this. Many more facts here.

In fact, the simple act of breathing is a work of art that leaves me speechless when I really think about it. When I take a breath, there are so many intricacies that go into making my heart and lungs work in perfect unison and it is really almost shocking that more things don't going wrong or that we aren't sick all the time. For those of us who are visual, here is a neat video

A few years ago I read Where is God when it hurts? by Philip Yancey and although it's not the kind of feel good book you want to just pass out randomly to your friends, I learned a lot by reading it. He talks repeatedly about working with leprosy patients in India. I never knew that leprosy is actually a disease of the nervous system; basically those with leprosy lose the ability to feel things and therefore hurt themselves routinely because they lack the ability to tell when they are in danger (i.e. touching a burning stove, wearing shoes that don't fit and ruining their feet, etc.) I had never looked at the ability to “feel” as a blessing before. I had never realized that even the ability to hurt is sometimes a good thing. We take for granted the fact that when we hurt, whether by slamming our fingers in the car door or when we are slighted by someone we love, if we lack the ability to feel intense pain, we would also lack the ability to know love or joy. We would be apathetic robots with an “I have it all together” status, but feeling nothing.

All this is nothing new and I write it mostly for myself. I am sarcastic and melancholy and I have the emotional capacity of a grape nut. I know it's impossible to skip around singing praises for every breath we take and every blessing we receive, and frankly I would be tempted to trip you if you skipped past me. However, if we stop daily to appreciate just a fraction of the amazing things happening in our lives, we might all be a little less crabby. If I pretend like the orange check engine light is flashing every time I enter the Voyager, I might savor the times when we reach our destination, instead of fussing and whining when we inevitably break down.

“When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted, or take them with gratitude.” G.K. Chesterton

Monday, January 9, 2012

Painted Hopscotch Mat

We originally had the opportunity to guest-post this project at Living Life Intentionally last month. Posting it here in case you missed it!

Are cold, rainy, or snowy days keeping your children from running off pent-up energy outside?? Bring an outdoors game inside with a Hopscotch Mat!  I taught my kids to play hopscotch in our driveway this summer. They loved it...and of couse, I was then cajoled into hopping through many a game with them. An indoor version takes a little time to prepare initially, but then it can be rolled out in a couple of seconds for instant fun. 

Supplies needed:
  • 2 1/2 yds canvas
  • acrylic craft paints in several colors
  • stiff 1/2" paintbrush
  • a large bowl or pan--square, rectangle or circle
  • pencil
  • measuring tape
  • puffy paint (opt)
  • sewing machine OR hot glue gun
  • 4 fabric scraps and dried beans (for Beanbags) OR 4 Rocks

The canvas I bought at Walmart was 60" wide, so I bought 2 1/2 yards and cut it lengthwise to make 2 mats--one for my daughter and one for a gift.

To finish the raw edges, fold them under 1/4", then fold under again and stitch all around. If you don't sew, you could hot glue them under.

For the hopscotch squares, I decided it would take forever to tape them off in order to paint straight lines. Instead, I had this rounded-square bowl in my cupboard that would work perfectly. You could use a square pyrex dish, a rectangle dish, or a large round mixing bowl. Even a combination of shapes would make a fun design! You probably want your bowl to be approx. 10-12 inches diameter.

Measure your bowl and then determine the center of your canvas width. Make some pencil dots to mark the center and give yourself some guides for the squares. At first, I tried painting the rim of the bowl and stamping it on the canvas...but it was too thin a line and hard to hold the slippery bowl.

So then I just traced it with a pencil and painted over the pencil lines with a fat paintbrush. Much easier!

I painted the lines (with a stiff brush) as evenly as I could, knowing they would not be perfect without tape guides. Afterwards, I went back over the lines with my brush fairly dry and feathered out the edges to look like chalk dust.

Now, for the numbers. You could print out your own fun numeral font at home on cardstock to make stencils, but I opted to save time and buy a $4 set of stencils at Walmart. I love these 4" whimsical numerals.

Measure the placement if you want to be precise--I'm more of an "eyeball-it" kind of girl. Holding the stencil with one hand, I dabbed the paint inside (not too thick!) and carefully peeled the cardboard away.

Then I touched up any rough spots and filled in the gaps.

Only one thing more needed for the game: Beanbags...or rocks.

If you don't sew, just find 4 clean rocks and paint them different colors. For mine, I used 4 fun fabric scraps to make little beanbags. I cut 2 squares of each color to measure approx. 3 1/2" x 3 1/2". With a 1/2" seam allowance, they turned out to be 2 1/2" square. Stitch around 3 sides and the very edge and corners of the fourth side, leaving 2 inches open. Clip all the corners, then turn right side out and poke out corners.

Spoon in dried beans or rice so it is fairly full but not stuffed.

Now fold in the raw edges on the open side and stitch closed. One final thing you may want to do is add a few squiggles of Puffy Paint on the underside of the mat to keep it from slipping on a wood or tile floor.

If you're a little rusty on hopscotch rules, refresh your memory here or here.  And now your Hopscotch game is all ready for some energy-burning, indoor fun!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Memory Maker: Video Interviews with Your Kids!

Aren't we fortunate to live in the age of Flip cams and iPhones and the ability to instantly capture the cuteness of our kids on video for forever memories?! All the sweet little stages and firsts and special events.

One thing I have done with my children from time to time is get one alone where he/she is not distracted, and ask some questions...just to capture their thoughts on video. The other day I took my oldest two outside and asked them each about 10 questions on the topic of Money. From some recent dialog, I knew my daughter did not have much financial understanding yet, and some of her answers proved to be pretty entertaining. They will both get a kick out of this a few years down the road!

You can have a lot of fun with this simple format...and provide some wonderful videos for long-distance family! I plan to interview my kids about growing up, goals, Daddy (Father's Day!), grandparents, siblings, work/jobs, family, and vacations. 

For kids who are a little camera-shy, try sitting a few feet to the side of the camera as you talk to them. If they are looking at you, that may help them forget the video and more freely answer your questions. A few other quick tips:
1) Use a tripod! You can get one at Walmart for as little as $20, and it's well worth the investment for nice, steady video.
2) Set the camera at their eye level. Don't "shoot down" at them.
3) Sit or kneel as you interview them so that you are on their eye level as well.
4) Frame your shot fairly tight--usually waist or chest-up is good.
5) Try shooting outdoors for better lighting and more scenic setting (the trade-off is background noise if you live on a busy street).
6) Ask open-ended questions--have 10-12 ready since they may pass on a few of them.

It's not hard to edit their answers together and make them fun to watch--if you don't already have an editing program, you may find Windows MovieMaker is easy to learn. It is a blast editing--and later watching--these priceless videos starring your favorite little actors!

I plan to do these videos on a more regular basis this year, so my goal is to interview my kids each month on one topic. Look for our February edition..."Kids on...Love!!"

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Family Tree Calendar with Bottle Cap Accents!

If you are ready for a project with tons of room for creative variety, then today is your lucky day!
I know the new year is already here, but for those of you who didn't receive a calendar for Christmas, or for those (slightly crazy) people who want to begin a special 2012 Christmas present, then here you go.

To get started, you will need several things.
A sheet of metal. You can find this at your local Hardware store. My husband cut our metal sheet to 15"X15."
The following can be purchased online or at a craft store:

  • Bottle caps
  • Epoxy 1" bottle cap toppers like these
  • Magnets
  • Super glue & craft glue
  • Decorative craft paper (for tree) and cardstock to print numbers

After the metal sheet was cut, my husband framed it nicely with painted wood. This is optional, the metal sheet is nice by itself, but since we are trying to make this an interactive family calendar, the sharp metal edges made me nervous. If you don't have a custom framer in your home, I'm sure some decorative duct tape or something similar would work well to frame around the edges. 
Once we had our metal ready to go, I cut out my tree.  I drew a tree freehand onto a manila envelope; once I was happy with the size and shape I cut it out as a stencil. Then I traced this tree onto a large piece of black scrapbook paper with a white pencil.  I used an exacto knife and sharp scissors to carefully cut the black paper.  This is not a project that you are going to just whip out in a few hours!  It is a labor of love.
Next, I used craft glue to adhere the tree to the metal.  Not just any glue will work since it is a metallic surface.  If you have a favorite glue that will spread quickly and easily over the surface of the tree--go for it!  Carefully spread a layer of glue over the back of your paper tree and place it wherever you want it on your calendar.  Press and smooth it down as much as possible...it is slightly tricky!

While your tree is drying, you can begin thinking about how you want to decorate your family calendar.  Disclaimer: I was inspired by this neat idea in October and am just now finishing up, so don't be discouraged if you don't get around to it right away!  It will take a while to gather all the materials, etc.
First, decide how you want the Month displayed at the top. I scratched out several ideas along the way.  If you have the colorful magnetic alphabet letters on your fridge at home, then this might be an option.  You will need several uniform packets to have enough letters, but it will be bright and fun.  I also printed out and laminated the month, but I didn't like how that turned out.  I ended up using these wooden letters that I found in a packet at Hobby Lobby in the wooden crafts aisle.  They were very cheap (less than $5 for 2 packets) and I only had to super glue a magnet to the back.  Quick and done.
1st attempt using fridge magnets
2nd Attempt using wooden circle letters
Now it is time to start having fun with bottle caps.  I have been introduced to the world of bottle caps and there is no turning back.  There are now mysterious 1" holes throughout many paper products in my home thanks to this project.  If you don't have a 1" paper punch, it is definitely an investment ($10 or less) that I recommend!
For this project, I created a template to have uniform numbers on our calendar.  Like I said though, this project can be modified so much.  Feel free to let your kids track down all the numbers in magazines and punch them out so that each number is unique! If you like uniformity, then here is a printout for you:
Simply print this on cardstock and let your 1" paper punch do the rest.  If you haven't had time to collect 31 bottle caps, you can buy them at most craft stores.  I used a hot glue gun to secure all 31 numbers inside their own respective bottle cap.  When the glue was fairly set I placed a clear epoxy bottle cap cover on top.  After that I used Gorilla Glue (super glue) to attach a circular magnet to the back of each bottle cap.  This process is tedious, but each bottle cap is a mini work of art!
I used clothespins to hold the magnets still while the glue dried!

Now it's time to put everything together!  To finish our calendar I printed a picture of the kids and laminated it.  I used a few flat, adhesive magnets on the back, and they were ready to go! Start adding your magnetic letters and numbers and watch your calendar come to life.  To hang our calendar, I screwed an eye hook on either side of the back of the frame and tied wired ribbon through the back. 

My kids have enjoyed seeing which magnets will work on our calendar, and it will be fun to add a new magnet for each day of the month.  I plan on making (or having Kylee make...) a little bag to hold the extra numbers that are not in use until the end of the month.  I also plan on making special bottle cap magnets for days like birthdays, no school, vacation, anniversary, etc.  I want to add our family name to the top with large letters or painted directly onto the metal. I intend to decorate the tree with leaves in the Spring and snowflakes in the Winter, and the inspiration goes on and on.  

This is a fun project that the whole family will enjoy on a daily basis for many months and years to come. I'd love to hear all about your success stories and variations if you choose to tackle this calendar. Have fun!