Summer Fun for Everyone!


Summer is awesome . . . until your kids start complaining that they are bored. But summer is a great time to let creativity and self-directed play take center stage. And have tons of FUN!

Today I’m sharing some of the fun resources and ideas we’ve used that have been a success. I hope they will spark ideas for your own summer fun!

For the Littles

Science Lab Kit

I bought this preschool-age lab kit and it has been a huge hit. For a while my daughter was asking to do an experiment everyday! And before you think that’s complicated . . . it wasn’t. First, I got my older kids to read the large laminated cards and help her. Also, all the ingredients are pretty simple things already found in the kitchen: vinegar, food coloring, water, baking soda, and the like. She loves to pretend she is making “potions.”

Do A Dot Art! Markers

This is a great alternative to regular markers. Not to mention you can google "dot marker coloring pages” and get a slew of free printables.

Kinetic Sand or Mad Mattr

Kinetic Sand and Mad Mattr are similar but each has it’s own special properties. We keep our Kinetic Sand in it’s own special larger tupperware box with molds and scoops inside. You can just grab it and play outside in the grass or if inside, I lay an old table cloth down on the floor for each clean up when the play is over.


For the Olders

Lulu Jr. Illustory Book Making Kit

If you have a budding artist or writer a writing kit may keep them busy for hours! My oldest daughter had so much fun writing and illustrating her own book on the templates provided in this kit. Then we mailed them into the company and they “published” her book! What an exciting mail day that was when it arrived!

Mark-My-Time Bookmark and Timer

I bought these for all my readers to help everyone time themselves when they read. It’s very helpful for everyone to have their own and they now use them all the time.


For Everyone

Thinking Putty

Thinking Putty is a huge hit at our house and everyone has their own special tin. It’s super fun to choose between sparkles, glow-in-the-dark, and other special features.

Butterfly Kit

We bought a butterfly kit this spring and enjoyed watching the caterpillars grow larger, make their crystalis, and emerge as Painted Lady Butterflies.

Bunch O Balloons

Tons of water fun without the awful business of trying to fill water balloons one-by-one with them breaking in the sink.

Ideas for Local Adventures

Outdoor Movie Night

Our town hosts monthly movie nights. We love to pack a picnic dinner and watch a movie under the stars with friends. Maybe check to see if any places in your area does this too?

Visit Nature Centers

We have tons of nature centers in our area. We’ve already visited two. Many have animals, play areas, hiking trails and other opportunities like classes and camps. Summer is a great time to check out what your local nature centers have to offer!

Library Reading Programs

Most libraries have reading programs to make summer reading a little more fun. We get coupons to local businesses in our packets (free ice cream, yay!) and each reader earns a free book if they read the required amount for their age! If your library does not host such a program, Barnes and Noble has a program you could join!

What fun plans do you have?

Blossom to Blossom Logo + Business Card


I had the pleasure of working with Cora, the owner of Blossom to Blossom, this spring to create her logo and business cards. Cora is a floral container gardener serving Baltimore and the surrounding area. You can often find her beautiful container gardens beautifying local business store fronts. Cora wanted to incorporate some of her favorite colors into the logo along with a feature flower, filler flowers, and a trailing vine.

You can find Blossom to Blossom on Facebook as well as on Instagram if you want to check out Cora's floral designs!

Note: Sensitive contact information was taken off the back of the card for privacy. If you are interested in Cora's work, private message her through her social media accounts.

Toddler Activity Boxes


In preparation for this school year I knew I needed a constructive plan to keep Ava, my toddler, creatively engaged. Since we homeschool, it would be important to the flow of our learning that she have her own "work" of play to do. But whether you homeschool or not, keeping a toddler busy can be a challenge while to try to accomplish other tasks.


In anticipation for the fall I created four "activity boxes" just for Ava. Call them what you want: sensory boxes, busy bins, they all are meant to engage her imagination and give her something tactile to do. I created one for each morning we are home. 

And look at that goofy face! She loves her boxes!

If you are interested in creating your own boxes, I will link to what resources I can here to help you get started. I created loose "themes" to get me organized.

Animal Box 1 (top left photo)
Felt map with animals from Target's Dollar Bin
Melissa and Doug Habitats Reusable Sticker Pad
Melissa and Doug Water Wow
Number cards with sticky foam to form the letters from Target's Dollar Bin

Craft Box 2 (top right photo)
Dot Markers (not shown--but Ava LOVES them)
Mr. Potato Head (similar)
Construction paper and scissors from the Dollar Store
Wikki Stix Adventures Across America book and Alphabet Cards


Sand Box 3 (Bottom left photo)
Sensory Sand with real shells from the beach and sand toys I dug out of the shed and washed up and added to the box.

Play-Doh Box 4 (Bottom right photo)
We've had this box for years, but I recently freshened it up by buying a bag of Mad Matter. All the kids love this and want me to buy their own bag in the color of their choice. It is very cool stuff! Similar to sensory sand--but less sandy and just more fun, in my opinion! So obviously Mad Matter is a great choice for older kids too. My older kids like to steal it out of her bin to play with it when I read to them.

You could also use these bins for "quiet play" when naptimes cease or only pull them down on rainy days. Check out my Sensory Play Pinterest boards for more inspiration. If you end up making your own boxes, or already have, I'd love to know what you filled them with!

A Playlist for Creating

danielle ayers jones, freelance writer, creativity, creative mama, workspace

When it's time for me to write, edit photos, or design a logo, I find music propels me forward in the creation process.

But not just any music. For me, this isn't the time for U2, Coldplay, or actually anything with lyrics.

I tend towards soothing instrumental music that doesn't compete with my thought process. I find that no music can be distracting; I notice every little noise. But I need the right kind of music for my particular creative project.

Anyone with me?

Do you gravitate towards certain artists or styles when you have something creative to accomplish? Do you like high energy or low? Care to share a few of your favorites?

I find I almost exclusively turn towards soundtracks. Today I'm sharing the tracks I pull up when I have an article to write or photos to crank out:

El Tiempo Entre Costuras (The Time In Between)
Okay, I know I've already raved about this miniseries. But now I've bought the music and it's newest edition to my creative playlist. A few favorite tracks are Tema de Sira, Al Borde del Abismo, En Marruecos, to name a few.

Mansfield Park Soundtrack
Whatever you thought of this somewhat controversial adaptation of Mansfield Park, the soundtrack is stellar. Some great and interesting pieces here. Some favorite ones are Through the Rain, Glass, I Don't Know You.

North and South Title Theme
I love this theme so much, I wish the soaring melody lasted just a bit longer.

Pride and Prejudice Soundtrack
While I may be a firm believer the six-hour BBC version of the movie is the best, I still enjoy certain qualities of this version, the music being one of them. Liz on Top of the World is just gorgeous and Your Hands Are Cold is another favorite.

The Piano
This music is hauntingly tragic and I love it, but particularly find it suited for a grey drizzly or rainy day. I don't know why, but that's when I usually like to play it. To the Edge of the Earth, Big My Secret, and A Wild Distant Shore are my favorites. The themes play off each other throughout the whole album and I find it great to work to.

How about you?

Creative Play for Toddlers {A Gift Guide}

I love seeing my kids play creatively. Kids do it so naturally, and yet they really do need us to foster it sometimes by taking away the screens and handing them cardboard, blocks, or paper and crayons.

I've been amazed at how quickly Ava has learned to navigate our iPad which we only purchased this year. She can skillfully find her way to "her" apps and become mesmerized for a long time if I let her.  

As a homeschooling family, our mornings have been more of a challenge to keep Ava busy, creative, and occupied while we accomplish some school tasks. Now that she no longer takes morning naps, I've rearranged our routine so that the subjects that need concentration are done during her afternoon nap time, which has helped. However, she is an active little lady who loves getting into make-up, the trash, and coloring on the table if I'm not mindful of her. I have to resist the temptation of always taking the easy way out and handing her an iPad or turning on Netflix.

So I was delighted to partner with Baby Cubby to try some of their toddler toys that encourage creative play. Both Josh and I were impressed with the quality of these toys as well as the mission of the company. The toys we received are durable, well made, and encourage open-ended play that engages the imagination while practicing various skills.

Today I'm excited to highlight the toys Ava has been enjoying the past few weeks and hopefully give you some ideas for any toddlers you have to buy Christmas gifts for in the upcoming weeks! 

PlanToys My First Camera

Ava is loving this adorable wooden camera! It has a little button to push and when you look through the lens it is a kaleidoscope! It is the perfect toy for car rides. I also love PlayToys' mission to create sustainable, eco-friendly toys.

pipSquigz by Fat Brain Toys

These toys are so fun that my 9 year-old boys like playing with them too!

They are BPA-free silicone rattles that can be chewed and played with individually or suctioned together into one toy. The toys also suction to flat surfaces so you can secure them to table tops, high chairs, or even the wall! Ava loves to try to pull it off of the wall and thinks it's hilarious. We took them with us on a recent trip and they entertained her during the car ride.

Tegu 6-Piece Pocket Pouch Prism

Another travel-friendly toy which comes in a convenient pouch, these blocks are so much fun! Again, my older kids enjoy them too, so they have a long life-span. These beautifully colored blocks magnetize to each other to create unique patterns and are less frustrating for the younger set.

Plan Toys Happy Puppy

Ava loves this little wooden pull-toy puppy. It has felt-like ears and is easy to pull and it wags it's tail. She takes it in and out of the house and kisses it while saying "Awwww." Once again, this toy is beautifully made and could easily become an heirloom toy.

And since Ava loves to destroy my make-up any chance she gets, I have Little Cosmetics Essentials Toy Make-up on my list for her in the future. Then she can pretend all she wants without making a mess!

With toys at various price points, Baby Cubby provides beautiful, creative, well-made toys that you won't find at your local Target. We were sincerely pleased with each item. All opinions and images are my own.


This post was sponsored by Baby Cubby. Baby Cubby is made up of a team of parents who are passionate about encouraging and inspiring parents about how important their role is. They do this by finding the best and safest baby gear and providing it to parents in a fun shopping experience. 

They also offer free shipping nationwide for orders over $49 and price match (even Amazon!) and actively engage with parents via social media and their cubby community blog to discuss some of those hard topics of parenting. You can receive 10% off your first order by signing up for their newsletter.

To find out more about Baby Cubby, check out:

How to Nurture Creativity When You Don't Have Time

Are you frustrated creatively? Do you find yourself in a season where it's hard to get beyond what must get done for each day?

Instead of finding yourself frustrated, I hope to encourage you to not give up. I want to share three strategies to keep the creative fire alive—even when you don’t have time to create yourself.

Join me over at For the Family to find out more.

Natural Bug Spray {DIY}

2015-06-01_001 This time of year I'm excited about cookouts, swimming, and s'mores.

It's also the time of year I'm not so excited about ticks and mosquitoes.

So tis the season to whip up a batch of natural bug spray. I discovered this recipe in Amanda Soule's book, The Rhythm of Family and it seems to work. It also smells good. Which is great considering every natural, deet-free version I've bought from the store stunk to the extent I couldn't stand smelling the stuff. All you have to do is mix the following ingredients for a great smelling natural bug repellant:

1 tsp. lemongrass oil 1 tsp. lavender oil 1 tsp. eucalyptus oil 1 tsp. citronella oil 7 oz. witch hazel (any drug store should have this)

Resources: glass spray bottle Mountain Rose Herb essential oils Native American Nutritionals essential oils 

I love the above essential oil companies because they're not multi-level marketing companies, you can buy directly from the website without going through a representative or "joining" anything, and both companies sell multiple sizes of each essential oil at various price points. Mountain Rose Herbs even tells you exactly where your oil is from and the extraction method used.

What's your favorite product to make with essential oils?


Creating in the Midst

I can't remember how exactly I came across Corinne's blog. I think I may have met her in the comment section of The Habit of Being's blog. I enjoy Corinne's thoughtful writing and following her lovely Instagram feed. Corinne has been doing an interview series called Creating in the Midst, where she features various women who homeschool but also pursue creativity in some way. It's been interesting to find out how other homeschool moms seek to find time to be creative themselves in the midst of educating their children.

Yesterday, she featured my own thoughts on creating in the midst. Read my thoughts over at Corrine's blog.

Cultivating Creative Motherhood

“I don’t know how you do it,” she said as I walked my friend towards the door. “Homeschooling, four kids, writing…” her voice trailed away.

I didn’t know what to say. Instead I felt uncomfortable and said lamely, “Well, it keeps me busy!”

But that was the third time someone had said something similar to me in a month. I’m not wonder woman. I don’t have amazing multitasking skills. I don’t want people to think I do. I don’t do more or better than any other woman who juggles children, work, home, and extra-curricular activities.

But I have made creativity a priority, even after I became a mother. I don’t want to look back over my life and say, “I wish I made more time for _______ instead of washing dishes and doing laundry.”

Whether you identify yourself as a “creative type” or not, everyone is creative in some aspect of their life. As a Christian I believe God made us in His image. He is the ultimate Creator. When we use our creative talents for expression and problem solving we are imaging God, and so it is little wonder we find the act of creating so satisfying. When we create, we image God by crafting beauty, displaying truth, fulfilling a service, or doing good in the world on behalf of others.

But not everyone feels the need to be creative. I’m not writing this article to make you feel guilty if you aren’t a person who desires to have a creative outlet. I’m not advocating adding one more thing to your to-do list or for you to get less sleep than you already do. But if you identify yourself as someone yearns to express yourself creatively but struggle to find time or make time for it in your life, I’m writing this to encourage you.

Continue reading over at Ungrind.

How do you cultivate creativity for yourself in your home?

(Image from

Inspire: Women Who Create | Ruth Simons Interview


I'm not sure where I first discovered Ruth Simon's blog, Gracelaced. But I quickly started following her. I found Ruth inspiring since she was a homeschool mom like myself and also a writer and artist. I'm always interested to see how other women work from home, are inspired creatively, and seek to continue using their talents. After I started following Ruth, she ended up opening a shop to sell her artwork, which has exploded over the past year. I'm excited to introduce my readers to this inspiring woman!


Tell us a little bit about you, your family, and what a normal day looks like for you?

I’m a Chinese-American mother of 6 boys (ages 1-12) and a wife to Troy for almost 17 years. My husband Troy was a preaching pastor for 7 years at a church we planted, but now serves as the headmaster to a Classical Christian school we started here in New Mexico that employs a part time home classroom schedule. That means, I homeschool 4 of my boys every other day at home, and run my blog and art business at on the days they are at school. Neither of us ever expected to do such big “start-ups” with our lives, but we are so grateful that God chooses to do more than we think we are able to do on our own.

Did you study art in college or are you self-taught? Did you envision pursuing a career in art?

I was a typical Chinese over-achieving academe, and pursued a degree in biochemistry with scholarships and grants, but during my second year of college, the Lord pursued my heart in ways deep ways, that ultimately led me to finish out my university studies with a fine arts degree. Back then, before blogs and social media...a career in art didn’t seem practical or faith and family friendly. So, no, I didn’t plan to pursue a career. I was just studying what I knew I loved.

What brought about the decision to open your shoppe?

I had been writing at the blog ( for 6 years at the time, and having recently joined Instagram, found a social media outlet that favored my love for words and images. In October of 2013, I joined in The Nester’s 30 days challenge to write on any topic for 30 days. I chose a theme “Drawing Close,” in which I would write and draw something for 30 days. My desire was to challenge myself to rediscover my love for art, and to include it in my blogging. The response was so supportive, and the requests to purchase artwork was so great, that I decided to open a shop to try it out. I opened my GraceLaced Shoppe the following month, with $300 worth of inventory. The rest, as they say, is history.

How do you carve out time for your artwork in the midst of life with six boys and homeschooling? Do you fit it in around the edges of your day, or do you have set times where you sit down and work?

When I first started, I painted during naptimes and often during lunch breaks. But, as the demands of the shoppe increased, orders overwhelmed what I could handle on my own, and custom order paintings began to pile up, I knew I needed to create better boundaries and more specific time for work.

I now paint in the evenings and afternoons during naptimes on days when the older boys are at school, and do minimal work on days when I’m homeschooling. As of 2015, I’ve hired the first part-time help I’ve ever had in 13 years of mothering. :) It was a tough decision, but as the shoppe grew, I knew it was necessary for me to manage my time well, steward the opportunity with discernment, and to find help in things that I can hire for.

Approximately how many pieces are you creating a week right now?

In original art, I paint an average of 2 a week for commissions. I’m always developing new artwork for the shoppe, but I’m also learning to paint “for fun” and to practice the art...for the process.


Your artwork is often inspired by Scripture. Do you have a specific mission in mind for your artwork? What takeaway do you hope someone gets from purchasing a Ruth Simons print or custom order?

You know, I didn’t actually begin with a particular desire to do scripture art, but I think my artwork just flows out of whatever the Lord is teaching me, and so, as I write, read, and work through the things that I desire to grow in...the artwork featuring scripture just flows out. I do offer many giclees, prints, and original paintings that don’t necessarily speak explicitly of God’s word; however, my desire remains the same: I want to inspire others to observe God’s faithful, creative, and merciful provision in his creation. Such faithfulness can be seen in the soft petal of a fading flower, as well as a sunset. I pray those who own my artwork find a reminder of God’s glory through the strokes, colors, and words scripted...that his praise would be quick on their lips on account of a beautiful reminder.

What encouragement do you have for other women who desire to use their artistic gifts in a meaningful way but have yet to find an outlet?

That is such a good question. I wrote something about this very thing recently “Creatives: 4 Things To Consider As You Pursue A Dream.”

But, I also like to tell those who are still waiting to see how the Lord will lead:

Despite how much I wanted “to do something” with my gifts and talents 10 years ago, I don’t think I would’ve been prepared like I am now. The Lord had me focus on being a mother, ministering from my kitchen table, and supporting my husband...that I might have the content, the wisdom, and the inspiration from which to create. Starting a business or creating art simply to succeed, grow financially, or keep up with peers is the most stifling thing to creativity. As artists, we simply cannot create anything authentic if we are not truly living, reading, growing, and becoming. My encouragement to all who desire to take their artistic dreams, and to joyfully walk first with the Lord, and treasure that above all else. Then, when the affirmation and acknowledgement of your work one day comes, you will not be so lured by the opinions of others, but the applause of One.

Thank you, Ruth, for taking the time to be interviewed! I hope it will be an encouragement to others! 

Find Ruth online at the following online spaces: Gracelaced Blog Gracelaced Shoppe Pinterest Instagram Facebook