When We Let Kids Do Things {with FREE printable!!}

When we let our kids do things ~ Our Cozy Den

Do your kids ever say, “That’s not fair! ______ gets to ______!” Then you respond with the typical parent response, “You’ll get to when you’re his age!”

But is that really true? Honestly?

I don’t know about you, but I have about ten million thoughts in my head at any given time. The last thing I can remember is how old little Johnny was when he lost his first tooth, or got to stay up until 8 p.m., or get his first cell phone.

So what did I do to keep track of it all? I bet you can guess. I made a chart.

When we let our kids do things ~ Our Cozy Den

Now, I recognize that life isn’t fair. One kid doesn’t necessarily get to do things at the exact age as another kid. It depends on the environment, your location, the maturity of the child, and many other factors! But it does certainly help me, as a mom, from having to keep all of that information inside my head! And for some things, it helps my kids to know that there is an official age when some milestones occur. Then they don’t whine about it!

Here’s a blank copy of the chart, if you want to edit and use for your own family! It’s a Microsoft Word doc, so you should be able to save it and make changes on your own.

May you be filled with peace {and not too much bickering}!


How We Go to the Zoo (with FREE printable activity sheets!)

How we go to the zoo (with FREE printable activity sheets!) ~ Our Cozy Den

In our homeschool this year, we’ve been doing Field Trip Fridays – with a fun educational outing each and every week. We’ve been to some pretty neat places, but one of our favorites is the zoo! I don’t know about you, but a trip to the zoo with a vanload of kids can be pretty stressful for me. That is, until I changed the way I did things! Here’s my failproof, stress-free zoo plan!

1. Break it up.

Don’t try to see the whole zoo in one trip. There’s no rule that says you have to look at everything every time you go! For our family, a yearlong membership paid for itself in only 2 visits. We got the membership, and then made a plan to see small pieces of the zoo in greater detail over the span of a year.

A few reasons this rocks:

  • You’re not running around the whole zoo like crazy trying to see it all.
  • You can spend less time there, knowing you have another trip in the works. Our zoo trips are usually only 1-2 hours.
  • The kids actually absorb more and learn more when you’re going at a slower pace.

2. Do your research.

Go to your zoo’s website, and download a zoo map. Look at which animals are in which areas and which ones are indoors vs. outdoors. Print off a map, and draw your planned route for the day.

3. Plan your route around your studies and/or the season.

We are studying animals in science this year, so I have broken up our zoo trips into our areas of study. In fact, I planned our homeschool units in this order, so that we could study the indoor zoo animals in the colder winter months, and the outdoor animals in the summer.

Our homeschool runs on a calendar year – January through November. (Read more about that here.) We did reptiles first (Jan/Feb), then amphibians (Feb/Mar), invertebrates/bugs (Mar/April), mammals (May-August), birds (Sept/Oct), and lastly sea life, the fish and marine invertebrates (Oct/Nov). We are taking 1 trip to the zoo for each unit, except the mammals unit got 3 trips since it is so large and extensive.

4. Tell your family the plan.

Make sure the kids know what’s going to happen! Avoid meltdowns (“I didn’t get to see the monkeys!?!”) by telling them ahead of time, “We’re only going to the reptile house today. We’re going to see the monkeys on another visit.”

5. Bring along some activities.

Kids like to be active in their learning. Don’t just show them the animals and expect them to learn anything. Engage their senses, by having them observe and record what they see! See below for free printables!!

6. Have fun!

Don’t get too crazy about your route and your plan. If you have a little extra time, it’s okay to swing by and see the elephants (even if you haven’t studied them yet, gasp!) My husband is the one who really enforces this for us, since I tend to be more plan-oriented. He makes me a better mom!

How we go to the zoo (with FREE printable activity sheets!) ~ Our Cozy Den


I made up some zoo activity sheets for you guys, to make your zoo trips more educational and FUN!

The printable pack includes 3 activity sheets:

  1. A “Zoo Fun Sheet”, geared for elementary school aged kids who can read and write on their own.
  2. A preschool page that requires no reading or writing, just drawing and coloring.
  3. A Zoo Scavenger Hunt, for all ages (non-readers will need help knowing what to look for). You can do all the sections, or pick and choose which ones you are doing on that day’s trip — for example, just the color and name sections, or the people and classes sections — it’s up to you how much to do, based on how much time you have and their attention spans! You could also do one section at a time, with a winner for each section, and that person chooses which section to do next. There are lots of ways to use this!


By clicking the link above, you agree to the following terms of use:

All printables on Our Cozy Den are for personal use only. You may save the files for your future use, but please do not send them directly to others. Instead, direct them to this blog post so that they may download them.

Thank you for visiting, and may you have many happy, stress-free zoo trips in your future!


Encouraging Kids to Eat Healthy (with FREE printable food pyramid!)

Encouraging Kids to Eat Healthy (with FREE printable food pyramid!) ~ Our Cozy Den

I was getting fed up. My kids were asking me for food constantly, and my response was always, “What did you already eat today?” Then they would list foods, while I dissect which food groups they were lacking. Then I would make a few snack suggestions. It got old, and it took up a lot of my time. But I also didn’t want them to have free reign on snacks, because they would choose carbs about 150% of the time.

So I decided that we needed individual food pyramids that they could use to track their daily intake. All of the food pyramids I could find online were the outdated (and wrong) 1950’s version that encourages all that wheat. This is my own recommendation for my family, based on my many years of reading book after book and blog after blog about healthy eating and dietary recommendations. (disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, just a mom. If you have concerns about it, ask your doctor.)

So I printed out our pyramids, laminated them, and hung them on the refrigerator… IMG_2848

Then each child used dry erase crayons to check off their boxes as they ate throughout the day…


And they easily chose a more well-rounded diet, without any prompting from me!



CLICK HERE to download your own copy of my Healthy Eating Pyramid! I printed 2-per-page for my family, so they would fit easily on my refrigerator door. Hope your family enjoys it!

Happy Snacking!

Findlay Summer Park Passport (FREE printable!)

park passport header

Spring is here!!! I don’t know about you, but my kids LOVE playgrounds. We also love to visit all the lovely playgrounds that our community has to offer! One thing I do to make this fun for them, and to make sure we don’t miss any great spots, is to make a little park passport to chronicle the parks that we visit.

Since I was making it for us anyway, I decided to go ahead and make it a free printable for all of my local readers so you can print and use as well!

If you are not local to me, the passports are very easy to make. I use mapquest.com’s list feature to drop pins on a map. Once I have all the parks on there, make a screen shot of the map you’ve created. Paste your image into a Microsoft Word document, along with a list of your parks, and a title page, using the format seen on my example. Print and assemble according to my instructions, and you’re done!

How to assemble your park passport:

It’s easy!


1. Print on regular printer paper.

2. Cut in half.

3. Place the two halves together, blank sides facing each other. Fold in half with the map on the inside, and staple in the middle.

4. That’s it! Your passport is done. You can glue/tape/staple the blank sides together if you want, but I don’t bother with it. We use little stickers to denote the parks we have visited, and after we have hit them all, we usually celebrate with ice cream!

Click here to download your FREE Findlay, Ohio park passport printable!

Have a happy summer!!!

Road Tripping with Kids – √ Success Plan!

Recently, we went on a BIG road trip. From Ohio to Texas and back, it was 46 total hours on the road. That’s a LOT of time to spend cooped up in a car with 4 kids.

These are the things we did to prepare for our trip:

1. Invest in a DVD player.

I know they are expensive — that’s why we didn’t get one earlier. But we decided that now was the time, so we got the fancy installed kind that flips down from the ceiling. We got a great sale, in conjunction with a military discount so the whole thing installed was under $450. And it was worth every penny.

Their faces when they saw the new DVD player. They knew that other people had them, because sometimes they would scream, "THOSE KIDS ARE WATCHING FROZEN IN THEIR CAR!?!?" They never thought that would get to be them.

Their faces when they saw the new DVD player. They knew that other people had them, because sometimes they would scream, “THOSE KIDS ARE WATCHING FROZEN IN THEIR CAR!?!?” They never thought that would get to be them.

2. Scour the internet for ideas.

Pinterest was my best friend here. I pinned a bunch of ideas, and made lists of the ones that would be best for my kids’ ages and interests. At the end, I had a list of 14 fun and unique activities.

3. Buy some basics online.

We got a few things on amazon.com – a lap desk for Finn, travel bingo cards, and some Melissa & Doug travel games. I’m in love with this whole line. They are great for both home and on-the-go. They have a license plate game, hangman, bingo, memory, and more.

We had SO much fun playing this game. There's a big sticker on the back that lists tons of different ways to play.

We had SO much fun playing this game. There’s a big sticker on the back that lists tons of different ways to play.

4. Buy everything possible at the dollar store.

To save money, we bought everything we could at the local dollar store. I spent less than $40 and got TONS of things to keep the kids busy.

Click here for a FREE printable dollar store shopping list!

5. Collect free and cheap movies.

I used my Disney Movie Rewards points to get a few new movies, we got several multi-packs from the Walmart $5 bin, I cashed in other points and gift cards for a few more, and the grandparents bought some too.

6. Pray.

We prayed over our home, our van, our travels, and our queasy stomachs. Prayer works!


So when it was time to hit the road, I put all of our activities and new movies on tickets, and taped them onto a piece of construction paper. I put little dots to differentiate between the movies and activities, and I saved half for the way home. All I had to do was say “Choose an orange ticket!” or “Pick a purple one!” We had enough movies and activities to keep them busy every minute of the trip. They literally didn’t have time to say “I’m bored.”

High tech, huh? The other side said "Let's Go Home!"

High tech, huh? The other side said “Let’s Go Home!”

Here is the list of our activities:

* Aluminum foil modeling (give each kid a sheet of foil, instruct them to build a sculpture)

* Hangman

* New coloring books ( x2 )

* Road trip Bingo

* Draw with chalk on black paper

* Lacing cards

* Washi tape pictures (give them a little roll of washi tape and a sheet of construction paper)

* Decorate sock puppets

* Decorate hats

* Pipe cleaner sculptures

* Letter plates (Write the ABCs around the perimeter of a paper plate. Cut them apart so the letters are on tabs. Fold the tabs down as you play. We played this one two different ways: find the actual letter, like on signs or license plates; or find something that starts with the letter.)

* Guess Who (Get some little strips of paper, write down characters from the kids’ favorite movies & tv shows. Then play the classic guess who game, asking yes/no questions until you guess who the person with the paper is. You could also play this with relatives or friends, which would be especially fun if that’s who you were on your way to visit.)

Aluminum Foil Modeling

Aluminum Foil Modeling

So that’s it! That’s how we survived DAYS in the car with all these blessings.