Fun at LEGO KidsFest: 5 Things Not to Miss


The biggest pile of LEGO® bricks you’ve ever seen. . .

Numerous building stations and places to test your creations. . .

Life-size LEGO structures of Friends, Star Wars characters, Superheroes and more.

What else could a LEGO-lover want in the course of one evening?

Last night, we spent the evening at LEGO KidsFest in Cleveland.  My kids were ecstatic and truthfully, we never even paused to eat dinner.  The kids kept wanting to try something else and there was so much to experience.

LEGO KidsFest is a traveling LEGO extravaganza featuring millions of LEGO bricks and dozens of hands-on, educational, and fun building activities for all ages.  (Check here to see if the show is coming to your city.)  Sessions are 4.5 hours long and usually sell out in each city.  Cleveland’s five sessions had sold out and I was concerned that it was going to be too crowded to do anything.  But I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Any line we waited in was brief (albeit one) and there were always open tables to design and build.

Here are our favorites and 5 things you won’t want to miss:

(Please know that some activities do change over the course of time.)


1. The Big Brick Pile – I am not usually too excited when there is a monster pile of bricks on my son’s floor and I can’t walk through his room.  But there was nothing but fun for the Big Brick Pile at LEGO KidsFest.  Twice, we hung out in the pile, building towers and not caring about the mess.  And if you’ve ever stepped on a LEGO and felt the pain, you will love that you can wear your shoes.


2. The Brick Battle Zone – In this exhibit and show, teams work to build a bridge of LEGO bricks and then test their creation by adding weights.  The first one we saw held over 35 lbs!  I loved the creativity, engineering and teamwork involved in this activity.  Plus, win or lose, each participant received a little bagged LEGO set.


The boys’ bridge didn’t hold much weight but the experience was fun!


3.  Master Builder Lab – This MUST DO exhibit starts as a 35 minute show (which was awesome on so many levels) and then leads to building and testing of the kids’ creations for strength.  The show was lead by Master Builder, Chris.  He is one of eight Master Builders . . . in the world!  He talked about the start of LEGO, how they design and build new ideas and giant displays that are sent around the globe.  It was very interesting and made use of videos to show the kids examples of what Chris spoke about.  Design comes to life!  At the end of the show, he opened up for questions and there were many children who wanted to ask the Master Builder their question.


We talked to Chris after the show and learned so much!

4.  Free Mini LEGO Sets – As I mentioned for the Brick Battle Zone, there are other places where the kids can earn free bagged sets.  At LEGO Friends, you can build a design and then show a staff member and the child will receive a set with a mini-doll figure.  My son also received a set at the Challenge Zone for participating.  The kids were very excited and I liked the added value it brought to the evening.


5.  Free Unique Photos – Yes, you can take tons of photos with all the characters made of LEGO bricks (and we did), but there were two things that I thought were extra fun.  One was in the LEGO City area, where kids held a rope and stood in front of a green screen.  The staff took their picture and then emailed the superimposed image with the child in the picture.  It was so cool, especially when you like LEGO City and chasing crooks.

The other opportunity for a unique photo was in the LEGO Friends area where you can get in a photo booth and take a couple pictures.  The pictures print on a LEGO Friends background paper and my daughter just loved getting our photo taken.

Here are some other fun pictures we took:








All of the staff we encountered were nice, but Travis went beyond.  While we were waiting in line for the Master Building Lab show, he asked my son if he had tickets for the show (which of course didn’t exist).  He told my son he would have to play Rock-Paper-Scissors to get in.  I love seeing staff who are excited to be there, have a smile on their face and interact with customers.  Thanks, Travis!  (I have his permission to share the photo.)

So, what would have made LEGO KidsFest better?  LEGO-themed food.  We probably would have stopped to eat dinner for this.  I would have loved to see kids’ meals served in an upside down giant LEGO.  However, I am willing to bet that KidsFest-associated food violates the location’s contract.  But, it sure would have been fun!

What would your kids enjoy most about LEGO KidsFest?  Be sure to check the calendar and find out when the show will be visiting a city near you!


Disclosure:  I received admission in exchange for my review.  All opinions are mine.

Win LEGO KidsFest Tickets in Cleveland!!


Calling all LEGO® lovers!!  The award-winning LEGO KidsFest is returning to Cleveland on November 4-6, 2016 at the IX Center!  Would you like two tickets for the Friday night event?  If so, read on!

Next month, we are so excited to be heading to the LEGO KidsFest, a traveling LEGO extravaganza featuring millions of LEGO bricks and dozens of hands-on, educational, and fun building activities for all ages.

Both of my kids (especially my son) will be in their absolute happy place building and exploring all the different things to do.  The event features dozens of life-sized LEGO models and displays, LEGO building areas, the Big Brick Pile, race ramps and more, all covering more than three acres of space.


There will be new activities and popular favorites featured in the interactive event, including hands-on building, creative experiences and one-of-a-kind activities.  Children of all ages and builders of all skills and levels are welcome.

New activities for this year’s visit include LEGO Mindstorms, LEGO Movie, LEGO Disney Princess, the Mixels, a LEGO Superheroes area and more.  Once again, show-goers can enjoy the LEGO Model Museum, Race Ramps, Creation Nation, Construction Zone, LEGO DUPLO, LEGO Retail store and LEGO KidsFest Marketplace, the Big Brick Pile, LEGO Ninjago and more.

“We’re thrilled to be returning to the Cleveland area,” said Vince Rubino, Events Manager for LEGO Systems, Inc.  “We’ve got a host of new activities as well as some areas we know are very popular with our fans. Not only will families create some new memories at the show, they’ll get another chance to flex and showcase their building skills. This event is a must for the true LEGO fan.”


The Details:

Five sessions – all identical and 4 1/2 half hours in length.

LEGO KidsFest tickets can be purchased here.  Tickets are $19 for the Friday and Sunday afternoon sessions, and $22 for both sessions on Saturday and the Sunday morning session.

Events have been selling out in prior cities … get your tickets early by purchasing in advance online!

Get more details here!



The Giveaway:

One of MY followers will win (2) tickets to for the opening night session in Cleveland on Friday, Nov 4 2016 (4-8:30pm). I encourage you to LIKE and Follow LEGOKidsFest on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram for all the latest ticketing updates as this event has been selling out in prior cities. Must be 18 to enter, 1 entry per day allowed, random drawing by USFG!

The contest ends Thursday, October 13, 2016.  The winner will be randomly chosen by USFG on 10/13/16 and announced on here on my blog and notified by email.

>>>>>>>>>>  CLICK HERE to ENTER   <<<<<<<<<<


Did You Know?

  • More than 400 billion LEGO bricks have been produced since 1949.
  • The LEGO minifigure represents the world’s largest population of people! More than four billion minifigures have been produced in the last 30 years. This is almost 12 times the population of the United States!
  • LEGO minifigures are out of this world, literally. The two Mars Rovers have an image of the LEGO minifigure etched into their front grill.
  • There are about 62 LEGO bricks for every one of the world’s six billion inhabitants.
  • Laid end to end, the number of LEGO bricks sold in a year would reach more than five times around the world.
  • There are 915 million ways to combine six eight-stud LEGO bricks.
  • Children around the world spend five billion hours a year playing with LEGO bricks.
  • With a production of about 306 million tires produced a year, the LEGO group is the largest producer of tires in the world.
  • LEGO is the contraction of two Danish words, “leg godt” which means “play well”.


7 Things We Did to Make Our Simple Treehouse Awesome

7 Things We Did to Make Our SImple Treehouse Awesome

Adventure in the woods.  Treetop games.  Climbing and swinging.  Imaginative play.  Active fun.  All things I wanted in a treehouse.  Now if you have watched Treehouse Masters, you know the possibilities are endless when it comes to treehouses.  And I think one of those spectacular structures would have been amazing if only it didn’t cost a crazy amount of money when one still needs to put in landscaping and grass at the new house.  A’hem.

So a simple treehouse was in order and  I am okay with simple.  Because even with simple, you can always dress it up in fun, inexpensive ways.

wood treehouse

First, let’s give you an idea of our structure:

  • It is supported by two trees and two posts.
  • It is 14×14′ with the two front corners cut off (for interest).
  • It is high up in the air.  Since Dan is very tall, he wanted to be able to walk under every bit of the treehouse.  This meant that at its lowest, the footer is 8′ in the air.  But since the ground slopes toward the creek, it is 12′ off the ground at the opposite end.  Be still my heart.
  • The hand rail is flat all around so that we can set cool things on it.
  • There is a smaller platform that allows for easy access off and on the cargo net.
  • The ladder is bunk bed style with hand rails.
  • Dan’s cousin built the treehouse for us.  His work is impeccable in craftsmanship and quality.  (Quality being the most important when you’re putting your children 15 feet up in the air.)
  • More pictures of the structure can be found at the end of the post.  I will have to wait until the leaves fall to get that great shot of the entire treehouse.  Check back!  Meanwhile, you can pin this.

Now, here is what we did to make our simple treehouse awesome:

7 things we did to make our simple treehouse awesome (19)

1. We added a Swing.

I knew my daughter in particular would love this spot to swing and sing away her cares.  But I also wanted adults to be able to use it, so I purchased this heavy duty swing.

2. We put up a Cargo Net to climb.

I can remember being a kid and climbing the pirate ship’s cargo net at Sea World (when it was still in Ohio).  It was such fun!  Those massive nets are a tiny bit pricey, but I knew climbing something would be great for the kids.  So I found this cargo net.

It is not for the faint of heart when it comes to heights, however.  I will fully admit that I stood under the net the first several times my kids climbed it.  This feature is probably one of my favorite things of the treehouse.  It is fun, adventurous and good exercise!
7 things we did to make our simple treehouse awesome (5a)

3.  We wrapped big Plastic Tubing around a nearby tree.

I really expected to get some weird looks when I showed up at the commercial plumbing supply store and asked for big, flexible plastic tubing that I could send hot wheel cars down.  To my surprise, they didn’t act like they were dealing with some crazy lady and her two rambunctious kids.

What do we do with the tubing?  We throw stuff down it!

7 things we did to make our simple treehouse awesome (4a)

I chose corrugated piping so that I could hear the fun clank of objects being cast down the tube, spiraling around the tree.  Hot wheel cars sometimes get stuck, but the variety of balls . . . oh it is fun.

One kid stands up top sending the balls down.  One kid hovers down on the ground catching the balls as they fly out of the black hole.  Cheap and easy entertainment!

7 things we did to make our simple treehouse awesome (18)

4.  We added a Bucket Pulley System for transporting items.

Any treehouse requires the classic bucket or basket on a string.  The kids send the balls back up to the top in the bucket and we have used it for snacks and drinks.

7 things we did to make our simple treehouse awesome (12a)

In this picture, I am sending my glass Dollar Tree luminaries down so I don’t drop them as I go down the ladder.

7 things we did to make our simple treehouse awesome (6)

5.  We created a Fun Design with Rope.

Originally, I had dreamed of large sticks surrounding the sides of the treehouse platform…going for a fort look.  But when we realized how much work that was going to be, I started thinking rope was a wonderful idea.  It allows for easy visibility of what is going on in the treehouse and gives it a fun look!

I purchased this rope and got my inspiration from this Houzz picture.  With a little time, trial and error, I figured out how to reproduce the look.

7 things we did to make our simple treehouse awesome (3a)

6. We set the stage with a Rustic Sign.

You’ll find this wood-burned sign along the path to the treehouse.  Yes, adventure most certainly does await!

How to make a giant decoding disk (31)

7.  We made a giant Decoder Disk.

We love writing and decoding secret messages.  This decoding disk was such fun to create and is even more fun to use.  Get the full tutorial here.

Here are more pictures of the treehouse.  Come back to see it entirely when the leaves fall.



7 things we did to make our simple treehouse awesome (17)


7 things we did to make our simple treehouse awesome (15)

Have you thought about building a treehouse?  What do you want to include to make it extra fun?

A Fun Family Quest to Get Your Kids to Watch & Learn About the Summer Olympics

A Fun Family Quest to get your kids to watch and learn about the summer olympics

On August 5th, millions of people around the world will tune in to the watch the opening ceremonies of the 2016 Summer Olympics.  Will your family be among them?  

As my kids get older, they are becoming more interested in the Olympic games.  They are learning that these are the best athletes in the world.  However, I don’t think they comprehend that these individuals have worked fiercely, tirelessly and with great sacrifice to arrive at this moment and become an Olympian.

With the competitions about to begin, I thought it would be fun to create a little family quest for the Summer Olympic games.  This printable will have your kids watching the games to see athletes win their first medal, hearing the difficulties that an athlete has persevered through and learning about the games, themselves.  

>>Join me over at Motherhood On A Dime to grab the printable and see what other frugal craftiness I’m up to.

How to Make a Giant Decoding Disk

How to make a giant decoding disk (41)

Do your kids like secret codes?

A couple months ago, my son started making paper decoding disks to write secret messages.  The idea was inspired by this cool book for boys (affiliate links included in post).  Since then, we have been writing messages for each other and even before school ended, we prepped disks for his entire class.  We have been having so much fun with code writing, but then maybe I’m just a secret spy at heart.

Where it went from there . . . 

After the tree house was finished, we had a medium sized stump sitting there looking all lonely.  It was asking for something to be done with it.  At first, I thought I would just buy a large wood round to make a table top for when I was bringing a tray of lemonade out to the kids.  Practical, right?

And then it hit me like a big wood circle smack on the head.  I should build a giant decoding disk.  It would serve as a spot for me to set a tray but with the additional feature of decoding ultra secret messages, it would be beyond cool.

If your kids like decoding secret messages, this is a project they will love!  I kept it a surprise until it was all done and did our final reveal as the end of a scavenger hunt.

How to Make a Giant Decoding Disk

Materials Needed:

How to make a giant decoding disk

I purchased my two wood rounds at Home Depot. Check their site to see if they have them in stock at your local store.  I talked to one person who told me they didn’t have them, but then when I asked a different employee and showed him my phone with an “in stock” report, he searched until they were found.

How to make a giant decoding disk (1)

You would be smart (as in I was not . . . ) to determine the center of your circle first.  See the video below for instructions.  I like to eyeball things and wanted to dive right in.  And so I did.

The first thing to be done is marking where the 26 letters of the alphabet should go on the smaller wood round.  I created an asterisk of painter’s tape to help me divide the space.  Keep in mind that with 26 letters, 13 need to occupy each half.  This means that A and N should be directly opposite each other.

Once marked with tape, write the letters in pencil.

How to make a giant decoding disk (2)

Check to see that the size of your letters is consistent.  I used my ruler edge for the start of the letter and then adjusted my letters to be just over an inch tall.

How to make a giant decoding disk (3)

Once you are happy with your letter positioning and sizes, pull out the wood burning tool.  This takes a little practice, but even after doing quite a bit, some of my letters weren’t exactly pretty.  The tool needs to be very hot.  Take a break every so often between letters to allow the tip to reheat.  Smooth, strong strokes is what you are trying for.

If you have never used this kind of tool before, I would suggest practicing on a piece of scrap wood first.  Get the feel for holding and applying pressure as you move on the wood.  If you hold too long in one spot, you end up with a divot as the tool burns down in the wood.  Practicing first will definitely help.

How to make a giant decoding disk (4)

If needed, go over the letters with the burner a second time.

How to make a giant decoding disk (5)

If you haven’t yet found the center of your wood rounds, this is the time to do so.  I used a square as in the video below.  You need to determine the center of the circle (and complete the next step) before you write your letters on the larger wood round.

How to make a giant decoding disk (6)

Once you have determined the center of the circle, drill the holes.  They will need to fit the 3/8″ lag screw.

How to make a giant decoding disk (9)

There are two ways to determine spacing of your lower round letters.  You could repeat the process from the first round or determine the placement based on the upper round.  I chose the latter.  To space out in this way, line up your wood wounds by putting the lag screw in place.


How to make a giant decoding disk (10)

Write the letters on the lower round in pencil, working through the entire alphabet.

How to make a giant decoding disk (12)

Again, pull out the ruler to ensure consistency.  Adjust as necessary.  Erase as necessary.  I made these letters larger . . . 1 3/4″.

TIP:  If you can’t get all your pencil marks off and you are using a light stain, grab a piece of sand paper and sand them off.

Next, separate the two wood circles for convenience and burn the letters on the lower round.

How to make a giant decoding disk - legend

Once both sets of letters are burned, you will need to create code keys as in the photo above.

When you send a code, you have to tell your kids how the code should be deciphered.  How will they know where to start the decoding disks so that they can correctly translate your message?  Will you tell them to line up the boards where A = K?  Or will you use special symbols?  I chose symbols.

If your board turns like mine, you may not be able to spin the circles and have the letters all line up every time.  I had three positions where the letters lined up nicely with each other.  At these spots, you will need to burn code key symbols.

I chose infinity, an asterisk and three dots (“therefore” in math terms) as our symbols.  When the kids receive a code from me, I will put one of the symbols at the top of my message.  The kids will then know they need to line up the symbols so that they can determine the correct message.

How to make a giant decoding disk (11)

When you are all done burning, stain the decoding disks to the color of your choice.

How to make a giant decoding disk (13)

How to make a giant decoding disk (14)

Seal your disks.  I used a water sealing for decks that happened to be 20+ years old and it left certain parts sticky.

How to make a giant decoding disk (15)

So I added a couple coats of acrylic indoor/outdoor spray.

How to make a giant decoding disk (16)

Now it is time to start building.  Grab your hardware, tools and head out to your tree stump or table base.

How to make a giant decoding disk (18)

The furniture glides will help your upper decoding disk slide on the lower disk.  Think of it as creating a lazy susan and these guys will not only keep the two layers separated, but also help in supporting and turning the upper disk.

How to make a giant decoding disk (19)

Hammer the glides into the board.  If you have purchased the same sized materials as I did, there is no need to worry that the sharp ends of the furniture glides will poke through the bottom board.

How to make a giant decoding disk (17)

Drill a pilot hole into the stump.  Make sure you drill an appropriate size!  We did not make it large enough and snapped the screw.  Thankfully, the stump was a little oblong and we drilled a new hole right next to the original spot.

How to make a giant decoding disk (21)

Check and see how many washers you need between the boards so that they don’t exceed the height of the furniture glide.

How to make a giant decoding disk (22)

Now, position the center hole of your lower decoding disk above the stump’s pilot hole.  Then, line up the washers over the hole.

How to make a giant decoding disk (23)

Add your top decoding disk and another washer.  Then, insert and tighten the lag screw down through the wood and into the stump using either a ratchet or impact driver.

Just for clarification, here is the order of materials from top to bottom:

Lag Screw
One Washer
Smaller Decoding Disk
Furniture Glides and Multiple Washers (to match height).
Larger Decoding Disk
Tree Stump

Here is what it looks like when complete:

How to make a giant decoding disk (24)


How to make a giant decoding disk (25)


How to make a giant decoding disk (29)

I sent the kids through the house and the yard on our scavenger hunt.  This was the final clue.

(Arbor Home = Tree House)

Notice my code key for this secret message is the infinity symbol.  The kids had to line up the infinity symbol on the upper and lower disk to figure out the meaning of the code.

How to make a giant decoding disk (30)

Here they are running through the woods to discover their surprise.

How to make a giant decoding disk (36)


How to make a giant decoding disk (31)


How to make a giant decoding disk (37)


How to make a giant decoding disk (39)

Writing a code to his sister!

When writing codes, I find it easiest to write the letter of the top disk on the paper to point to and reveal the letter of the lower disk.  But make no mistake, writing the code takes concentration and super spy focus.  It is easy to get mixed up and write it in reverse.

Have fun, my spies!

What would your kids think if you built this giant decoding disk for them?  Would they love it?


Do your Kids Love Secret Codes-

How to Get my New eBook for FREE

Let's Celebrate!

Did you know that there are hundreds of holidays that don’t make it onto the calendar each year?  I’m talking crazy, bizarre and just plain silly.  And while I’m not mentally nor physically prepared to start celebrating Marooned Without A Compass day, there are many celebrations that do deserve a little recognition.

In this ebook, you’ll find five silly holidays to celebrate each month that can draw your family together in fun and laughter.  And because a heart for helping others is an important virtue to develop in our children, you’ll find that one of the holidays each month is an opportunity for service.

Also included in the back of the book are printable cards for quick reference, perfect for the family bulletin board!  Get this ebook for free by joining our mailing list.  Or if you prefer to purchase it, you can do so here.


How to Make Simple, Yet Gorgeous Dollar Tree Luminaries

how to make simple, yet gorgeous Dollar Tree luminaries (13)

(This post contains my affiliate links.)

Oh friends, when my eyes caught a glance of these decorative glass bottles, I knew I had to do something fun!  And with a quick little addition, for a whopping total of 2 bucks, I made Dollar Tree Luminaries.

how to make simple, yet gorgeous Dollar Tree luminaries

Not only are the luminaries ultra easy to make, the bottles are gorgeous and well, each luminary only costs $2.00!  You can bet I’ll be saving these bottles for a long time and using them for all sorts of things.  In fact . . . I think I need to buy more . . . sorry, honey.

The Dollar Tree luminaries are great for summer entertaining, nighttime fun for the family or any other time you want to create a special glow.  When we sleep in the tree house for the first time, I think they will be perfect along the path back to the house.  The glass reflects the light and makes the whole thing look super cool!

how to make simple, yet gorgeous Dollar Tree luminaries (2)

Here is how to make the luminaries:  Buy the bottles and glow sticks from the Dollar Tree.  Open all packaging.  Crack the glow sticks and drop them in the bottles. . . . Yes, it is that easy.  I used one pack of 8 bracelet-size glow sticks for each bottle.

how to make simple, yet gorgeous Dollar Tree luminaries (11)

Coordinate the glow sticks with your party theme.  Go red-white-blue for July 4th celebrations.  Choose team or school colors if possible or simply, mix and match for a festive feel.

how to make simple, yet gorgeous Dollar Tree luminaries (1)

how to make simple, yet gorgeous Dollar Tree luminaries (3)

how to make simple, yet gorgeous Dollar Tree luminaries (10)

how to make simple, yet gorgeous Dollar Tree luminaries (8)

how to make simple, yet gorgeous Dollar Tree luminaries (12a)

how to make simple, yet gorgeous Dollar Tree luminaries (7)

how to make simple, yet gorgeous Dollar Tree luminaries (4)

What will you use the luminaries for?  Do you have something special in mind?  

>> If you like to save money and you love entertaining, you may like to read my post on finding inexpensive table linens.

DOLLAR TREE luminaries


19 Ways to Savor Summer

19 Ways to Savor Summer - have fun and enjoy your time together

I was sitting down with a couple of moms the other day, talking about all the excitement of summer.  One of them mentioned that as quickly as summer will soon start, it will fade just as fast.  I immediately knew what she meant.

As summer begins, there is a twang of grief deep inside because I know that the time goes by so quickly.  In a few short months, my kids will be back to school, another year older and another year closer to spreading their wings beyond my apron strings.  I almost can’t stand it.  And that is when I have to take a breath and remind myself of all the fun to be had, the memories to be made and the need to savor the time at hand.

Usually at this time of year, I post our Summer Bucket List.  But instead, I am sharing 19 ways to savor summer . . . to slow down, to enjoy the little moments and have fun with your growing babes.  Take a glance and see how you will take on summer and squeeze every drop of fun, relaxation and time together.  *You can print a copy down below.

19 Ways to Savor Summer - free printable


1. Write a Summer Bucket List

As a family, write a list of activities you want to do this summer.  Ideas may include:  berry picking, making sno cones, visiting a new park . . . make it a joint effort and let everyone choose a couple activities that excite them.

2.  Plan a Fun 1st Day off of School

3.  Do Something for a Lark (an activity done purely for amusement or adventure)

No rhyme or reason, just do something for the fun or it.  Make a run for the beach, stop for an impromptu ice cream treat . . . take a spontaneous adventure.

4.  Play Outside Often

5.  Do a Scavenger Hunt

6.  Plan a Road Trip

7.  Pick a New Activity to Try as a Family

8.  Go Camping

9.  Sleep In

10.  Be a Tourist for a Day in Your Own Town

11.  Have Lots of Unscheduled Time

Enjoy the freedom of summer without the constraints of run here & run there!

12.  Eat Ice Cream

Keep your freezer stocked this summer or start an ice cream day tradition.

13.  Attend a Local Concert

14.  Have a Picnic

15.  Catch Fireflies

16.  Throw Water Balloons

17.  Swim until Pruny

18.  Stop at Every Lemonade Stand You See (or sell at your own)

19.  Participate in July 4th Festivities


Download and Print Your Own Copy Here > > 19 Ways to Savor Summer Free Printable

Wishing you a fun-filled, memory-making, terrific summer vacation!

~ Kristen