Category: Family Activities & Outings

5 Free Invitations to Play: Red, White, and Blue

5 Free Invitations to Play: Red, White, and Blue

It’s hard to believe that we are already in the middle of summer! If your kids are anything like my kids, the bickering has started and you are on the hunt for simple, FUN activities too keep their hands and minds busy for at least part of the day.

I am excited to share our all-new red, white, and blue invitations to play!

Scroll down for our freebie!

In case you missed the introduction to our invitation to play series (click here), let me give you a brief introduction to how we structure these fun, simple activities at our house.  

Lunch has ended, it’s raining outside, and you’re looking for a screen-free way to fill up some time so you can send an e-mail, unload the dishwasher, or (gasp!) read a book without being interrupted.

An invitation to play is an easy, open-ended activity that uses just a few materials found around the house. Keeping these activities set aside for special times keeps them interesting and intentionally engaging for when you need 10-15 minutes to get something else done! Best of all, these simple materials can be mixed and matched for countless other activities throughout the year.

This week, I have a freebie for you: a download with FIVE simple invitations to play, including a materials list!


Here’s a sneak peek at the activities:

  • Drop cut straw pieces into an empty Parmesan cheese container
  • Playdough* with colored gems & straw pieces
  • Sorting red & blue pom poms by color
  • Count pom poms and match to Uno cards (1-9)
  • Lace red and blue noodles* on a string

* Be sure to download the freebie for our favorite playdough recipe AND directions for dyeing noodles.


Grab your 5 FREE 4th of July learning activities for toddlers, preschoolers, and Kindergarten students. | red, white, and blue | learning at home, tot school, July 4th, hands-on learning

Just fill out this quick form to let me know you want the freebie!


Melissa @ Rolling Prairie Readers

Don’t forget to share this freebie with your friends. Hit the Facebook button below or pin this image:

Grab your 5 FREE learning activities for toddlers, preschoolers, and Kindergarten students. | red, white, and blue | learning at home, tot school, July 4th, hands-on learning

Visiting De Smet, South Dakota – Ingalls Homestead and Tour

Visiting De Smet, South Dakota – Ingalls Homestead and Tour

Growing up, the Little House on the Prairie books (and T.V. show, let’s be real) were a major part of my childhood. Getting to visit De Smet, South Dakota–one of Laura’s hometowns–easily ranks as one of the top 10 destinations of my life! If you follow me on Instagram, you got to see some of the highlights of our time at the Ingalls Homestead. I hope you enjoy this deeper look at our time in De Smet.

Note: This adventure was not sponsored, and all opinions shared here are my own. This post does contain affiliate links; if you click on them and purchase an item, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting our family library! 

Laura Ingalls Wilder Tour
De Smet, South Dakota

We arrived in De Smet around lunch time, so we had time to plan our adventures. The girls didn’t know our destination until we were close to town, but we had been listening to the audio book of By the Shores of Silver Lake on our way to South Dakota. It was my husband’s excellent idea, and we all showed up at the tour with a fresh reminder of Laura’s story.

The guided tour starts in town, where two of the original properties (and one replica) have been moved to a central location. We were able to see the surveyor’s house where the Ingalls family lived during their first winter in South Dakota, as well as the De Smet School which Laura and Carrie attended together. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society has done a wonderful job, and our tour guide was very knowledgeable and kind to our girls (which I always appreciate). We were the last tour of the day, so we got some very personalized attention.  

The tour does not allow photographs to be taken inside any of the buildings, but it was well worth our time and money!

Ingalls Homestead

We arrived at the Ingalls Homestead mid-afternoon with the intention of camping on the property overnight. The facility is open until 7:00 p.m., so we had a few hours to explore and chat with the staff. In the picture above, you can see about a fourth of the homestead, which includes a dugout, two shanties, two schools, a barn, a “garage,” a church, and lots and lots of prairie.

The girls loved climbing the tower to get a great view of the entire property!

Every activity on the homestead is hands-on. Our girls got to touch the inside of the dugout, wash laundry by hand, play a pump organ, and even drive a team of horses pulling a covered wagon!

The covered wagon took us down to the one-room schoolhouse, where we all got an education from the “school master.” He finished off our time together by letting each child ring the big school bell.

Both girls got to ride a horse and play with kittens, which was definitely a highlight!  

As I mentioned, we chose to camp on the grounds for just $10 more. They also have a bunkhouse and some “covered wagons” that you can rent for the night, but since we planned our trip spur-of-the-moment, they were already booked. (The staff was incredibly nice when we called, by they way!) 

It got pretty cold at night, but we had a campfire and lots of layers to keep us warm! It definitely made me appreciate everything the Ingalls family went through (and admire “Pa’s” taste in land!). Goodness gracious, it was beautiful. 

Both girls woke up with the sun, so we were very thankful for the new books we bought at The Loftus Store in town the day before. Kate enjoyed reading one of the My First Little House books, and Addie devoured By the Shores of Silver Lake while we took the tent down and loaded up the car. Once the rest of the campground started waking up, we headed off on a few more adventures!  

We talk a long walk out to the small church on the property, since it was Sunday morning and we didn’t make it out there the previous night. West Bethany Lutheran was built in 1905 and was moved to the Homestead in 2009. On our way back toward the car, we stopped to feed the horses, donkeys, and mules that were watching us walk by. (We also said good-bye to the adorable litter of kittens that were snoozing in one of the barn stalls.)

One last picture in front of “Ma’s Little House,” which was reconstructed on the location and to the dimensions of the Ingalls claim shanty! (And truth be told, there was plenty of room inside–especially with the amazing “yard” right out front.)

Silver Lake, South Dakota

Before leaving De Smet, we drove out to the local cemetery, where Charles, Caroline, Mary, Carrie, Grace (and her husband) are all buried. Laura and Almanzo had an infant son who died, and he is also buried with the Ingalls family in De Smet. (Laura, husband Almanzo, and daughter Rose are all buried in Mansfield, Missouri.)

We also found what remains of Silver Lake. It was once the site for the city dump (likely before Laura wrote her book series and made the lake famous), so don’t look too closely. But thanks to the sunny morning, blue skies, and green grass all around, we all thought it looked lovely.

The whole reason the Ingalls family ended up in De Smet, South Dakota (according to the book) was a job with the railroad. I have no idea if this is the railroad line that was built while the family lived there, but I couldn’t resist snapping a picture of the tracks right next to the lake.

Whether you are able to visit “The Little Town on the Prairie” yourself or listen to the audio versions of Laura’s books, I hope you are able to fall in love with De Smet, South Dakota–just like I did!

P.S. If you enjoyed this post, you’re likely someone I would enjoy getting to know! (Traveler, adventurer, reader?) Consider joining our little Facebook group, The Parent Resource Room!

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Create a Flexible Family Schedule

Create a Flexible Family Schedule

Summer is a time of transition, especially if you have older kids who will be home from school for a few months!

Create a Flexible Family Schedule | family time, summer schedule, summer bucket list, indoor activities, outdoor activities

(I remember those years with younger children, when our daily routine didn’t change all that much, but all of our favorite places to spend time–like the library, park, and nature trails–were suddenly filled with lots of bigger kids. If you are a mom of little kids, don’t worry–the break will go by faster than you can imagine!)

The benefit of a flexible family schedule is that you can adjust your routines any time, regardless of the season. Some families prefer to have a full calendar, with lots of extracurricular activities…while some families prefer a more relaxed, spontaneous approach.

And then some families–or MOST families, I would imagine–are a mixture of both when it comes to their weekly schedule: some crazy busy and some that are totally light!

For that reason, I found that using a blank calendar template is best for our family. It allows me to see, at a glance, those open pockets of time where I can be a more intentional mother.

Create a Flexible Family Schedule | family time, summer schedule, summer bucket list, indoor activities, outdoor activities

Here are some of my favorite tips for creating a flexible family schedule:

  • Print off the printable calendar template for several weeks at a time. That way, nothing will stand in the way getting your week down on paper!
  • Fill in all the “out of the house” commitments for the week and all your regular family activities (meal times, nap/rest, etc.).
  • Check the weather and write it down. It’s silly, but it may help you make the right clothing and activity choices–a must for a busy mom!
  • Consider your personality and those of your family members. Do you need to pencil in some at-home time for the introverts? Or maybe you need to plan a social activity, like a playdate, for the extroverts.
  • Write down some activity ideas and family goals for the week–and remember, positive changes happen one small step at a time!

Create a Flexible Family Schedule | family time, summer schedule, summer bucket list, indoor activities, outdoor activities

Grab your family schedule template (its FREE and printable!) right here: