Learning to Blog – Post Layout Tips

Post layout tips!  How to layout your blog post and tips to get you started

Hey yall!  Welcome to another week in the Learning to Blog series!  We have covered a lot of great information to get you started with your own blog.  Here is a quick recap of the topics we have shared:

Now we get to put everything into motion and start writing. The first thing I suggest is to start a blog calendar or buy a planner. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy but make sure you have something that you can jot down ideas and have an idea of when you are going to post what. 

Post layout tips!  How to layout your blog post and tips to get you started

Start by writing a few rough drafts posts so that you get use to your blog behind the scenes.  It may take some practice, but you will get the hang of writing posts in no time!  Until then, here are a few tips for posting:

  • Be consistent in what and when you post. You don’t have to post every day but have a schedule that you and your readers can follow. If you want to start with once a week and work your way into more posts – great! Just make sure you are staying true to your niche and your voice as a writer.
  • Create a list of posts to write about. Sit down and write up as many post ideas as you can in an hour. Some of them will be duds but some will be great ideas that you can run with. Just give yourself some to think of new ideas and also a list of topics you DONT want to blog about! 
  • Use holidays to help schedule posts. You don’t have to write about the holidays but let them help you create your editorial calendar.  The rule of thumb is write about a topic 6-8 before the event. So if you are a craft blogger then you might want to start posting about summer crafts in April.  This rule is not written in stone. If you want to post about Christmas in July – go for it! Just be aware that particular post probably wont get much attention until closer to December.
  • Always have a notebook handy. Some of your best blog ideas can come out of no where. Make sure you have a notebook or an app on your phone to jot them down. Some of my best ideas come when Im getting ready for bed, grocery shopping or just playing with the kids.
  • Write, write, write! If you forget everything else, just start writing! The more you write the more you get into a rhythm and the faster the ideas start to flow. Set out 30 – 45 minutes a day to just write out your ideas. You’ll be amazed at how many things you write/type up in that dedicated amount of time.

Now here are a few tips on what a typical blog post should look like. 

  • Intro – Chit-chat and the main idea of the post. Let people know what they can expect to read throughout the whole post. “Im going to share how I made this super easy craft but giving you a step by step and..”  This does two things – it draws the reader in and it lets search engines know what the post is about.
  • Body – This is the easy part. Write your post in your voice. Make sure you do that you promised in the intro. Include pictures relevant to the post.
  • End – Close your post with a sign off. Include links to similar projects/posts/ideas and have a call to action at the bottom. A call to action can be as simple as your social media links at the end of your post. Give the reader somewhere else to go that is connected to your blog.

And there ya go!  More tips then you probably ever wanted on writing a post for your blog!  [Just kidding.]  If you have any more questions, join our Facebook group and fire away!  We are here to help.  And feel free to sign up for our email updates to stay in the loop!

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Learning to Blog – Buying a Custom Domain

How to buy your own custom domain with step by step instructions and screenshots to help you out!  Super easy tutorial

Hey yall!  Welcome to the next installment in the Learning to blog series – buying a custom domain!  Dun dun dun!  To a new blogger it sounds complicated and mysterious, but it’s actually super simple and slightly addicting.  Hi, my name is Kelley and I am a domain hoarder!  [Hi Kelley!]  I’m going to show you how to buy your own custom domain for your blog in a few easy steps.  Here we go!

  How to buy your own custom domain with step by step instructions and screenshots to help you out!  Super easy tutorial

1. Pick you name – First things first, make sure you have picked a name for your blog.  [Here are some tips for picking the perfect name!]  That was easy, right?  Onward!

godaddy

2. Check availability – You can use any domain registering service you like, but I prefer GoDaddy.  The commercials may not be my style, but I love how easy the site is to navigate.  And their customer service is pretty good too.  Head over to GoDaddy and type in your potential blog name in the box up there and search. 

If your URL is available – great!  Add it to your cart.  If not, try a few different variations.  So if you are trying to register FoodWebsite.com and it says its unavailable, try myfoodwebsite.com or thefoodwebsite.com or even foodwebsiteblog.com.  Get creative with it! 

register

3. Buy it – Once you have your custom domain in your cart you will see a screen like the one above.  I want to point out a few things before you actually buy.  Make sure you term is set to 1 year or however long you want.  GoDaddy automatically sets it for 2 years when you add it to your cart.  If you feel comfortable buying for more then one year – go for it!  But I just want to point out that they have it set to 2.  Just be sure to either renew or have your URL set to auto-renew if you only select 1 year but want more!

Also, if you want to make your information private, click the second bubble under “Protect your personal information.”  I have a few domains that are public, and I have a few that are private.  I decided to make my business sites private to ensure that people can’t find my home address through the WhoIs look-up.  WhoIs is a website that pulls public records from domains.  It can have information like your email and home address.  If you want to keep that private, be sure to buy the protection!  Below is an example of my WhoIs report for the Grant life.  And yes, I have the protection. 

whois And the third thing before you finally buy – double check your price.  Make sure everything adds up and then head on over to the purchase screen.  You will have to either create a new GoDaddy account or enter your existing customer information.  You can then either pay with a credit card, PayPayl, gift card or even a checking account.  Read and agree to the terms and hit “Place Your Order”

Congrats!  You have officially bought your first custom domain name! 

Next week I’ll show you how to set it up with a Blogger or WordPress blog, so be sure to either join or Facebook group or sign up for email updates below.

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Learning to Blog – Blogger vs. WordPress

Learning to blog - blogger vs Wordpress.  Which platform to choose and the proscons of both

Welcome, welcome!  Today is the 3rd installment of the Learning to Blog series here at the Grant life.  [First part was where to start and second was naming your blog.]  I was going to go straight to how to register a domain but I realized that I needed to take it down a notch and talk about picking a platform first.  I’m just going to cover the two most common ones (and the ones I have the most experience with) blogger vs. WordPress.

Learning to blog - blogger vs WordPress.  Which platform to choose and the proscons of both

A blogging platform is the actually place where you write and share your content. It all may look intimidating at first but once you start using your blog regularly everything becomes routine.  But which platform do you pick?  Today I’m sharing the pro’s and con’s of using a Blogger.com blog and both versions of WordPress. 

Option number one – start a free blog on Blogger.com

Pros -

  • Its free! You literally sign up and start writing. They even walk you through the design process with free basic templates.
  • Its user friendly. Very user friendly. The dashboard is easy to navigate and contains everything you need to write a post. Also, the design side is easy to customize with a few simple tutorials.
  • Its common. The majority of bloggers that I know start on a blogger blog and some very successful bloggers still use and love blogger!
  • You can monetize it. You can put Google Adsense or outside advertisers on your blog to help generate an income.

Cons -

  • Its owned by Google. Which means Google owns all your content on your blog. Yes, you wrote and published it, but since you are using a free service provided by Google, they technically own your content. And can shut your site down at any time. I have had this happen to friends and its scary. One friend almost lost 3 years of content because Google wrongly shut her down. Not trying to scare anyone, just letting you know all the facts first. 
  • Not as SEO friendly. SEO means search engine optimization or how people find your site through search engines. (Ie google or yahoo) SEO has to be hard coded into your website which should be done by a professional.
  • Switching later is tough. If you ever want to switch off a blogger you either need to read up on it or hire someone to do it. It can be costly and you may lose content. 

Option number two – start a free WordPress.com blog

Pros -

  • Its free! Again, you sign up and are walked through a simple design process before you start blogging. Takes a few minutes max.
  • It has plugins. Plugins are essentially apps for your blog that do different things. They are only on WordPress blogs and do a wide variety of things to help your blog. (More on plugins later)
  • SEO friendly. Unlike a blogger blog you can download plugins that help with SEO (search engine optimization.)

Cons -

  • You can not monetize your blog. WordPress.com blogs are not allowed to have any sort of advertisements on their site. Its against the Terms of Service when you sign up.
  • The plugins are limited. You don’t get the best plugins, although you do get a wide variety.
  • Less user friendly

Option number three – start a WordPress.org blog

Pros -

  • Fully customizable – Most professional websites and blogs are built on wordpress.org sites. You can totally customize your site using this platform.
  • Unlimited plugins. A WordPress.org blog comes with all the bells and whistles for optimizing your site. There are unlimited plugins available to use.
  • SEO Optimized – There are a bunch of different plugins that are based only on SEO (search engine optimization).
  • You own your content. No one can take your content from you. Its yours and you don’t have to worry about your site being shut down for good.

Cons -

  • Its not free! If you start a WordPress.org blog then you have to buy your own domain and hosting for your site. Granted its not a lot, but its money you have to spend out of pocket when the other two options are free.
  • Less user friendly then a blogspot blog. 

Most professional blogs are WordPress.org blogs, that’s just a fact. They offer the most options and control over your content. I started on a blogger blog and transferred to a WordPress.org site after a year. There was a slight learning curve but I am fortunate to have great friends that are willing to help.

–> Tip: Pick whatever platform you feel comfortable using. Just do your research on each one first. You can move from one platform to another but it may be a hassle (and potentially expensive) to change. <–

Hope that helps you make a decision on which platform to use for your blog!  If you have any more questions or want to join others in your blogging journey, head over to our Facebook page

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Pinterest for Business – Working Together

How to work together on Pinterest to drive traffic

I have seriously loved sharing these Pinterest tutorials with yall!  I learned some new things in the process so I hope you have as well.  The past few weeks I’ve shared:

And today Im going to talk about gaining exposure on Pinterest by working together.  There are two ways to work together to gain followers, pins, and/or traffic.  And the great thing is – they are easy to do!

How to work together on Pinterest to drive traffic

The first way to work together on Pinterest is to create a ‘group board’.  When you create a new board you ‘invite’ your friends to pin to that specific board.  The board then shows up under every members boards.

Pinterest for Business -Working together

A great thing to do is set it up so that when people pin to your group board, everyone repins to their personal boards.  This would give you great exposure since that specific pin is being shared multiple times.

Pinterest Tutorial

The second thing to do to increase your Pinterest traffic is to set up a Pinterest swap or exchange.  Find a group of friends, start a Facebook group or email chain and swap pins with each other.  If you have 10 people in your exchange then your post/product/service is getting pinned at least 10 times.

A bit of warning though – keep your brand in mind when doing pin exchanges.  If you dont feel comfortable pinning something or feel it will hurt your brand, don’t do it.  A few pins are not worth ruining the brand image you have built.

Well, thats it.  Create a group board and start a Pin exchange.  These two things have helped grow my Pinterest traffic tremendously over the past few months.  I encourage everyone to use Pinterest not only for pleasure, but also to help grow your business!  If yall have any questions, please feel free to email me!  Ill give all the Pinterest help I can.

What is your favorite part about using Pinterest for business?

Who Am I?

Honeymoon

Going to Blissdom has made me question who I am as a person and a blogger. Sometimes I wish I was a crunchy mama, a workout fanatic, a party girl. I would like to be that person, but its just not me. I get so caught up in who I want to be like, that I sometimes forget who I am.  And then I start to doubt myself as a person, and I dont like that.  Doubt is an ugly thing.  I’ve come up with an extremely long list of things that are me.  I thought it would be good to have a list of things that represent me in case I ever forgot and doubt starts creeping in.

Honeymoon

  • I listen to country music and Fresh Beat Band.
  • I can’t tell you the last time I paid full price for anything. And Im kinda proud of that.
  • Im more pro breastfeeding now then when I was actually breastfeeding my babies.
  • Im terrified of missing my plane and being stuck in an airport. It gives me anxiety.
  • I am loyal even to cell phone companies.
  • It takes me a long time to purchase a ‘trend’.
  • I don’t count coffee as calories.
  • I hate new pillows.
  • I dont own a blow dryer and I dont plan on buying one either. If I curl my hair I let it dry naturally and if I want to straighten my hair I wash it the night before.
  • I try to please everyone. This can be considered a flaw at times.
  • I compare myself to others and put myself into a funk when I dont feel adequate.
  • I like to make my own mind up about people, even if I’ve only heard negative things about them. Everyone deserves a fair shot.
  • I cuss when Im around certain freinds but never in front of my children.
  • Im not perfect.
  • My son has major attitude and I blame myself.
  • I would rather take the blame then lay it on someone else.
  • I think I can type fast because I’ve been using a computer since AOL chat rooms were all the rage.
  • You may not be able to tell I genuinely dont like you.
  • But I HATE having to pretend to like people when I dont.
  • I sometimes get ahead of myself and skip steps in recipes, projects, life.
  • I rarely wear earrings or necklaces.
  • Ive never worn red lipstick.

this is me

  • I love that Ryley says Im her best friend and I hope she truly believes it.
  • I desperately want to be able to support my family financial while staying home with my kids.
  • Im torn about telling my kids the truth about the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fairy. I want them to know the truth. I think.
  • I want to be everyone’s friend.
  • I like repetitive tasks.
  • I say yay and holla a lot.
  • I drive the speed limit and have never gotten a ticket.
  • I can be pretty selfish at times.
  •  Two years later, I still dont fit into pre-pregnancy clothes.
  • I raised pigs in high school and went through a phase where I didn’t eat pork.
  • I made asked my husband to buy me another wedding band when I was pregnant with Ryley because I felt like people were juding me without one.
  • I have never dyed my hair.
  • Im a size 16 and some days Im ok with that.
  • I hate confrontation.
  • Im Italian and Czech so that last one comes as a surprise to even me.
  • I do talk with my hands and I am very animated.
  • I have a dirty love affair with carbs.
  • I kinda hate sweet tea.  I like unsweetened tea with sweet n low. 
  • The only site that I check out everyday is dlisted.com.  Judge away. 
  • Clinique is the most expensive makeup I’ve bought. 
  • I started college thinking I would be an anesthesiologist.  You can laugh. 
  • I dont like Valentines Day. 
  • I love Chicago.
  • I love my family so so much.  Even though some days, they really drive me bananas.

 

 

Things People Don’t Tell You About Blissdom

meeting people
I feel like Im still taking in all aspects of Blissdom.  My emotions are still on high and my brain is still processing the event.  I am still soaking it all in and not letting my emotions get the best of me.  I had an amazing time and met some great people but I was slightly disappointed with some things at Blissdom.  There were alot of things that I didnt expect and some that even shocked me.  But I dont want to put out only the negative things for a few reasons:
 

 

I like to always see the positive in things
I NEVER EVER want to hurt anyones feelings
People put ALOT of work into the conference
I had fun
I met some amazing people
I got free stuff
I had a great weekend away
 
There is always a good or postive thing that comes out of any situation.  I took away many great things but its overshadowed by a few negative things.  Things no one tells you about Blissdom.
 

 

People are clique-y

This surprised me the most.  People had their own cliques and stuck pretty close to them.  Blissdom encouraged connecting but not many people went out of their way to make new friends.  Myself included.  I am an outgoing person – until you put me in a room of 800 other women.  A lot of us tended to stick to our group of people we already knew and didn’t venture outside our bubbles.  What I didnt expect was when I sat at a table of new people to be looked up and down and instantly judged.  I sat at a few tables where no one talked to me.  I got a few dirty looks from other people when I laughed with my group of friends during a presentation.  Ooops.  [Ps.. not saying my group was clique-y.  We were very friendly to all.]
 

 

 

You don’t have to go to the classes

I made more contacts outside of the sessions then I did at those round tables.  I ran into more people who genuinely wanted to connect then inside the conference center.  Some of the classes I honestly I had no interest in attending but felt obligated.  I skipped a class and ran into some girls who I instantly connected with.  Connecting was far more valuable then that particular session. 
 

 

 

 

It didn’t teach much about blogging

This sounds silly to say but its true.  The sessions were more motivational then educational.  You had to have a decent knowledge of blogging to understand the context of some of the sessions.  It was very inspiring but didn’t teach you much in the means of blogging.  This seemed to upset people the most about the conference.  At first I was upset too, but I know that I learned other things and made some great connections in the process. 
 

 

 

You need extra luggage for swag

Swag is free stuff that sponsors hand out.  There were some amazing sponsors at Blissdom and they loved giving away their products.  I loved taking their products because they were things I used everyday.  Gain?  Check.  Vo5 shampoo and products?  Check.  Pedicare?  Check.  Extra bag?  No check.  I had to buy a bag to get all my goodies home.  Lame-o?  Check.

 

 

 

Blissdom gives you baby fever

There were a dozen or so mommas that brought their babies with them to the conference.  And I loved it!  My ovaries did not.  They kept telling me to say things like ‘I want a baby to bring to Blissdom!’  ‘What sling is that?  I need it for my next one!’  ‘Im not even pregnant or trying but I keep thinking of names!’  What?!  I might as well name my next baby Blissdom.  [That’s Emily from Sweet Bella Roos baby girl!]

 

 

Pictures can be deceiving

I met a ton of people, some that I only talked to for a few seconds and some that I had in depth conversations with.  I took pictures with a few people but only the ones that I connected with.  I didn’t walk up to people and just ask to take a picture.  Why?  Well it felt fake to me to say ‘OMG I love your blog!’ when I didnt even read it just to have a picture with huge blogger x.  So yes, you may have seen a ton of pictures but how many of those people made true connections?  A picture is worth a thousand words, unless its a lie.  [That’s Jamie from C.R.A.F.T.  Squeal!  She’s so genuine and this picture does not belong in the deceiving category.]
 

 

I had an amazing time at Blissdom.  I honestly truly did.  I just want to make sure that if you are considering going next year that you know what I didn’t.  If you are considering a blog conference where you can meet the best sponsors and be inspired – Blissdom is right for you.

 

Water Bead Sensory Play

Hey Grant Life friends. It’s Michaela from Covered in Mod Podge back to share a fun sensory experience for your littles today.

After college, I wasn’t very sure what I wanted to do. However, I knew I was good with kids. That led me to a job working with children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Man oh man did I LOVE working with that population of kiddos! One valuable lesson I took away from my time in the field was the importance of understanding how sensory experiences effect us all differently.

Even without sensory processing issue, most of us have textures we just hate. For me, I can’t stand avocado  I’m fine with it in guac, but I sure don’t want a big old slice of it on a sandwich. We learn, develop, and grow through experiencing a wide variety of sensory inputs.

Over time, many of us learn which kinds of inputs we enjoy (warm water in the form of a bubble bath) and which we want to avoid (loud noises). Its important to expose our kiddos to a wide variety of sensory inputs from an early age. You’ll quickly learn which your kids like, which they hate, and which can have calming or overstimulating effects on them. This information can be used in a variety of ways, including helping create a calm environment when you’re kiddos are overstimulated.

One of my favorite things to play with back in the day were water beads. They are round, marble sized squishy beads that are often used in centerpieces and as vase fillers. They feel wet, cold, and squishy all at the same time. They even bounce. You can get them from a variety of places on line as well as Michael’s and Joann’s. I got a big old container from Michael’s for around $5 with a 40% off coupon.

The great thing about water beads is you can use them purely for sensory input or as medium to explore other topics. I filled a large tuperware box with the entire container of water beads. I then added shapes from our shape sorter. This let us explore both the texture of the beads as well as talk about shapes.

Emma was very timid at first. She loves all things involving being wet, so I was hoping she’d get on board. With a little coaxing from Dad she dove right in. Emma played for a good thirty minutes before we had to clean up for nap time.

During the play, we talked about all the sensations she was experiencing  We also talked about the different shapes and used the shapes as cups to scoop up the beads. She’s only 22 months old so our shape talk was secondary to letting her play. But you could easily adjust this activity with age to have the kiddo receptively or expressively identify the shapes.

The possibilities with water beads are really endless. You can put in different animals and have your kiddo find them and make animal noises. You could have your kiddo guess how far a water bead will bounce and then evaluate their predictions. The sky is really the limit when it comes to different ways to use these beads!

A couple of safety notes…

You should be watching your kiddos at all times when playing with water beads. These suckers can easily be mistaken for candy. They defiantly shouldn’t be eaten! Also, keep track of where the beads roll off to during play. I know our cats were pretty interested in what we were up to. I doubt they would be good for pets to eat. When you’re done playing, throw them back in the container and top it off with a little water. They last forever!

I think providing your kiddos with different sensory experiences is both fun and rewarding. There are so many creative ways to use so many different materials. We recently busted out the shaving cream. Emma was not a fan. I’d love to hear what your favorite sensory play materials are!

Simple Twitter Tutorial

twit1
So.. I’ve been asking people to follow me on twitter recently.  Why?  Because Im slightly obsessed.  Ok.. slightly might not exactly describe it.  But thats what Im sticking with for right now.  
Now youre asking.. why are you obsessed with twitter, Kelley?  Ohhh.. Im glad you asked!  Here is my short list of why I heart twitter.. 
1. Its easy to interact with friends
2. Keeps you up to date with friends/blogs/family
3. Its very easy to use
4. It helps increase your sites traffic
If you’ve never used twitter is may seem scary.. or difficult to use.  Or maybe you just dont even know what it is or what it does.  
At one point I had no clue what twitter was all about.  I started using twitter in 2009 when I lived in Michigan and coached softball.  And the only thing I used it for was to send reminders to myself of who wasn’t at practice, or who wasn’t starting the next game or something I needed to go over.  Kinda silly, right?
Well, I put together a simple twitter tutorial to share what I know why you.  Which is really the basics.. but its enough to get ya started and to have fun tweeting!  
First step.. sign in or sign up.  Told ya this was simple.  
Here is the screen that you will see after you sign in.  When you first sign up it will be a little different since you arent following anyone.  Thats ok.  Just search for friends/family and add them.  Then your screen will look like this.  
You type your message in the space that I labeled ‘Type your tweet here’. Clever.. I know.  Then click the ‘Tweet’ button and your message will show up in your timeline (below the message box).  Your tweets can only be 140 characters (including spaces) so if you have something long to say you can write more then one tweet.  Thats allowed.. no worries!  
This is what other people see when they click on my name.  They can see everything I’ve tweeted and who I’ve responded too and what pictures I’ve posted.  

If youre new to twitter then you have an egg as your profile picture and nothing in your bio section.. which is what people see when they click your name.  Its important to have a bio because it tells people who you are and what you do.  If youre trying to increase your followers make it something personal that would make a new friend want to follow you.  
So click Settings (its to the left of ‘Who to Follow’ under your name) then go to ‘Profile’ and choose a new picture and update your bio.  Easy peasy.  And it will make a huge difference.  No more egg face! 

You can also change your background to something fun or personal.  Click the ‘Design’ tab (its in the same  area as the ‘Profile’ tab) and find a picture or background you can use.  It has to be under 800k (dont ask me how big that is or what it means.. Im not that tech savvy!).  
Click ‘Save Changes’ and admire you new twitter account!  Yay!  Now that you have a super sweet twitter account you can start tweeting.  
“What the heck is a tweet?  She’s been talking about these tweets this whole time!”  Its twitter lingo for message.  Don’t worry.. twitter has its own language but you’ll catch on quick.  Here are the more common twitter terms that you may come across and scratch your head at (like I did).. 
Twitter Lingo
tweet – message that you type into twitter and share
@ – call out other users (for example – I love that twitter tutorial @thegrantlife!) Once you tweet your message the person you called out will see that you mentioned them.  
‘handle’ – username in your twitter URL  (for example – twitter.com/thegrantlife)
# – use this with a specific word to make it searchable on twitter.  (for example – #themommypanel.  People can search twitter for tweets with a hashtag and ‘themommypanel’ after them to find relevant tweets.)
DM – direct message.  You can directly message a user instead of sending a public tweet 
#FF – follow Friday – used to call attention to your favorite followers so that others can check them out and follow them in return.  #FF is normally included in the tweet
RT – retweet – posting another users tweet on your twitter
OH – overheard
And I found this while searching for popular lingo… 
dweet – drunk tweet.  Im not sure why, but I think this is hilarious!
You can find more twitter terms here.

Once you get the hang of twitter on the web you can download a (free) twitter app for your phone.  This is pretty much how I became obsessed.  But I enjoy being about to see what other people are doing and talk to real people during the day.

I hope this little tutorial helps!  If you have any questions feel free to ask me.. Im not an expert but I can try and help ya.  Oh and if you do set up a twitter account be sure to add me ;)

Happy Tweeting!  

Flour/Rice

flourandrice

I read that bean pouring is great for a little ones fine motor skills.  We didnt have any dry beans handy so I gave Ryley a half cup of flour one night.  I was amazed that it held her attention for so long!  I sat in front of her high chair and watched her pat, grab, pour and scatter the flour all over her tray for at least a half hour.  She really enjoyed herself and it was really easy to clean up.
Later that week we tried playing with rice with the same results.  She made it look like so much fun that I started playing with it too.  I loved to watch her face as we filled up the measuring cup, turned it over and the rice spilled out.  Although this was fun, I dont think we will be doing rice play anymore.  I am still finding pieces of rice everything!  It was a good time but probably the last.  :)
What do you do that entertains your little one for a good amount of time?