Posts Tagged ‘toddler play’


Playing through Winter

January 22, 2013

For me, January, February, and March are the toughest months of the year. The holidays are over. Sunshine is scarce; the days are short. It’s cold.  Stinkin’ cold. So stinkin’ cold that a two-year-old might walk outside and promptly say, “It really cold. My teef (teeth) hurt.”

On top of all that, it’s flu season. We really don’t want to risk getting sick again, which means this mama is about to go stir crazy!

It’s time to get back into fun, creative, at-home play. Here’s what we’ve done so far:

Cotton Ball Snowman

Inspired by an online tutorial (here), we made a snowman.

I drew three circles. The toddler helped me squeeze out glue. She added the cotton balls.


I drew a little hat. She cut it out. (Yes! By herself!)

I drew one arm. She drew the other.

We added buttons (pom poms).

We added eyes.

The toddler saw no reason to stop with just two eyes, so our snowman has five eyes. None of them actually made it on his face.


Colored Snow

We’ve had one notable snow storm so far, and it melted so fast we hardly got to enjoy it. Oh well, I’m sure there will be more. Probably in April or something. This is Indiana, after all.

One day we had a few minutes to kill while we were waiting for Daddy to get home for lunch. We grabbed the condiment bottles we use in our water table, filled them with water, and added a few drops of food coloring.

Then we went outside to “color the snow pink.”

It didn’t take long for her to empty the bottles and ask for a refill.

PicMonkey Collage1

At one point she said, “Look, Mommy! I make heart!” What do you know? That does look like a heart.


Are you collecting ideas for toddler play on pinterest? If so, send me the link to your board!

Any other winter activities you think we should try?


S is for Spider–Easy Halloween Craft, {Healthy!} Snack, and Sensory Bin

October 29, 2012

Our public library is renovating, so toddler storytime for October was canceled.


But some friends suggested we invite our library group to our house and try DIY storytime. So last Wednesday we had three of our little buddies over and guess what? We didn’t read a single story. But we did talk about spiders. (It’s almost Halloween. Of course we talked about spiders.) We counted their legs, and we made  and ate our very own creepy, crawly creatures.

At the grocery store the other day, my little helper spotted and grabbed some humongous suckers. They reminded me of this craft that I found on Pinterest. It was the perfect starting place for our “S is for Spider” play date.

For each spider you’ll need:

  • Sucker
  • Googly eyes
  • 4 pipe cleaners
  • Glue (or glue dots would have probably worked better)

Fold four pipe cleaners in half and wrap them around the sucker “body.” Spread them out and bend to look like legs. Add googly eyes. We put two eyes on each spider, but follow-up research revealed that most spiders actually have eight eyes. Eight eyes would definitely up the creepy factor.

We worked up an appetite making spiders, so we followed up our spider craft with a spider snack. For this snack you’ll need:

  • Banana(s)
  • Pretzel sticks
  • Raisins

Cut the bananas into small chunks. Break pretzel sticks into small(ish) pieces. Add eight pretzel pieces (legs) to the banana chunks. Add raisins as eyes.

Did the toddlers eat the pieces faster than the mommies could assemble the spiders? Perhaps. Oh well, it was a fun idea and included some of my daughter’s favorite snacks.

Finally, I wanted to have some sort of sensory bin for the kids to explore. So I picked up a pack of spider rings and dumped them in a big plastic tub. Since it’s fall and our lawn is covered in leaves, I had planned to hide the spiders in real leaves. Sadly, our lawn was soggy. Spanish moss from a local dollar store had to suffice.

The toddlers dug around in the moss in search of specific colors of spiders. They tried on the rings. They buried the spiders back in the moss.

Later I helped the baby sit in the box and wiggle her fingers and toes in the moss. She was not impressed. Could it be because she’s only three months old? Perhaps.

I look forward to next year when she can actively participate in our Halloween fun!

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Trash or Toy? (Have you tried this? Part 5)

October 23, 2012

Who doesn’t love popping bubble wrap!?

At first, I thought the answer to that (supposedly rhetorical) question was going to be “my daughter.” The other day, I busted out the bubble wrap with the hope of exposing my toddler to the satisfying joy of squeezing and popping everyone’s favorite plastic packaging.

But it was hard work. She wasn’t quite strong enough to pop the bubbles by herself. We tried stomping on them (gross motor skill!), jumping on them, squeezing them between her thumb and forefinger (fine motor skill!), pressing on them with the heel of her hand, and even poking them with her elbow. Nothing worked. Finally, I put some pressure on the bubbles and then let her give them a final squeeze.  In that way, she managed to pop a few.

I thought she’d be disappointed with my “fun” idea, but the next day she pulled out the bubble wrap and said, “Mommy, show me!” Which loosely translates to, “Can you show me how this works? Because I can’t do it by myself and I’ve yet to learn how to properly ask for help.”

To which I answer, “Gladly.”


A’s favorite experiment (Have you tried this? Part 4)

October 19, 2012

Yesterday I pulled out a cookie sheet with the idea in mind to do a magnet activity, but my toddler had other plans.

She wanted to play with bubbles on her cookie sheet.

I gave her a bowl full on vinegar (last time we added food coloring), an old medicine dropper, and a pan full of baking soda.

Then I left her alone (well, you know, I was there. But it was child-led play), and she went to town.

This is a classic toddler experiment. Does your kid love it as much as my daughter does?!

The last time we tried this, A had a little trouble handling the dropper/vinegar by herself. But her fine motor skills are improving, and she did much better this time. However, when her little fingers eventually grew tired, I took over the squeezing and just let her point out where she wanted the vinegar to go.

Her interpretation of the sizzle sound? “Pop, Pop, Pop!”

And what did she think it smelled like? “Bubbles.”

What did it taste like? Who knows! “No eat it, Mommy.”

In the end, I let her dump the whole bowl, and she smeared the vinegar and baking soda around the pan.

That didn’t last long. She’s kind of a clean kid (no complaints here!), and she kept asking me to wipe her hands.

When we were done, she wanted to “bake it.” She’s right of course; we usually do bake the things we put on cookie sheets. Maybe next time we’ll have to try baking our baking soda!


Have you tried this? Part 3: Alphabet Snacks

October 11, 2012

I really shouldn’t care if you disapprove of what snack foods I feed my kid. But I’m kind of terrified to publicly admit that I feed my toddler things that are as nutritionally worthless as animal crackers. White flour! Sugar! Empty calories! No vitamins! I feel the need to jump to my own defense. (I promise my child could eat her weight in fresh fruit and veg! She begs for things like quinoa, avocado, oatmeal, and hummus. Her favorite snack at the moment would be a clementine!)

But, let’s face it, sometimes convenience matters.

On our walks, I really don’t want  to worry about banana ending up in her hair or orange juice dribbling down her face. So yes, I sometimes (often?) hand her easy, mess-free carbs. Although the snack I’m about to recommend has no nutritional value (you’ve been warned!), it’s been a great teaching tool!

I stumbled across these fun little alphabet treats when I was comparing prices of “animal” crackers. Wouldn’t you know it, because they’re store brand (Kroger), these were even cheaper than the real animal crackers.

A has been big on letter recognition and sounds lately. These little crackers urge her to practice. She’ll hold up a letter and excitedly call out a letter and a word that starts with that letter: “U, umbrella!” Never mind that the “U” she sees might actually be a “J”! Her mistakes give us the chance to encourage and teach. (“That does look a lot like U! But that’s actually a J for jump!”)

Nutritional win? Not a chance! Fun toy, teaching tool, and reward all rolled into one? You bet!


Have you tried this? Part 2: Sparkly Pumpkins and Glitter Glue

October 8, 2012

Is this idea worth sharing? I’m not sure. I know you know about glitter glue. But have you shared its sparkly awesomeness with your toddler? Until the other day, I hadn’t. (Let’s face it…glitter + glue? Sounds like a mess!) But I had some glitter glue (3 bottles for $1 at a local dollar store) and some time (Daddy was on dinner cleanup/baby duty), so I decided to introduce A to the wonderful world of glitter and sparkles. And, guess what? My two-year-old daughter thought it was…(wait for it!) APPLESAUCE. (Applesauce?!)

We started by drawing some shapes to decorate on a piece of construction paper, and then A went to town smushing, squeezing, and smearing glitter all over the paper.

We also took our glitter outside and covered a few of Papaw’s pumpkins. Why? Because it’s fall. And glittery pumpkins are fun for fall.

What’s more, the local squirrels think our pumpkins make a delicious snack. To discourage the little buggers, we’ve tried spraying our pumpkins with hairspray, coating them with hot sauce, and now covering them with glitter.  I know the glitter will wash off in the rain, but it’s a pretty way to discourage them for a day or two.

Total cost? $.33 for a tube of glitter glue. (Admittedly, the cost would be more if you don’t have a pumpkin farmer for a dad. But you were going to buy pumpkins anyway, right?)

Mess was minimal. (Certainly less messy than CARVING a pumpkin!)

The toddler had fun.



Have you tried this?

October 4, 2012

Our big girl is 25 months old. Like most kids, eighteen to twenty-four months was a period of rapid growth. Her vocabulary exploded. She started forming  (slightly more) complex sentences with helping verbs, pronouns, and conjunctions. These days, she’s giving us a lot of lengthy monologues: “Mommy, my waffle down in my belly already. Sofi (the dog) no eat my waffle. Mommy happy. My diaper poopy. I poopy on pot pot. I thirsty.  I need milk, please. Mommy said, ‘No throw milk.’ I drink Daddy’s water…and on and on and on!).  She started remembering  colors, numbers, letters, and things that happened in the past….like how Mamaw (secretly) gave her a (forbidden) cookie at the grocery store. She started singing songs and remembering rhymes. She learned to run, jump, use scissors, draw a circle, and (sort of) pedal a bike.

Not surprisingly, Nate and I feel like it’s already a challenge to challenge her. Heaven help us as she gets older/wiser/smarter/more capable! To stay one step ahead of her, we’re always on the lookout for easy-to-put-together, cheap, fun, educational, creative, and challenging activities for our blossoming toddler. (Can I get an “amen!” for Pinterest?) Sometimes I feel like I’m the last one to discover some of the ingenious ideas I find on the internet. But, in case I’m not, I decided to share some of the extremely cheap, incredibly fun ideas the toddler and I have tried lately.

First up: Gel balls. Have you heard of water beads/jelly balls? I think I first stumbled across the idea at PlayAtHomeMom.

We found our first bag for $2 at Walmart, but I just knew Amazon could do better. After we tried out our first bag (and loved it!), I immediately got online and ordered twelve bags for $3 (with shipping!) here.

So what are water beads/gel balls? They’re actually found in the floral department. They’re meant to go in vases with flowers. (They expand to the size of a marble once placed in water.) However, they’re nontoxic (not that I’d let my kids eat them!) and make for great sensory play!

We dumped them in a plastic shoe box with water and did a little hypothesizing. I asked A if she thought they’d get bigger or smaller after they soaked in the water. (She guessed “smaller”).

She “worked” on her fine motor skills by picking up the tiny beads that landed on the table and transferring them to the box.  I added a spoon and a bowl so that she could scoop, dump, and pour. (She also pointed out that the bowl “floated” on the water. Very observant, child. Very observant.)

The next morning, A saw the box and got soooo excited! “I play balls, Mommy! I play with slimy balls!” (Oh, my.)

She poured. She scooped. She counted. She transferred beads from box to spoon to bowl to box.

After A asked, “Where water go?” I got to explain that the balls soaked up the water, which is why they got bigger. When daddy got home, she repeated this lesson to him by telling him that the balls drank the water. Sure? That’s one way to say it.

I’ve read that these balls can be reused for up to two years, but they need to dry out (on towels) or they may mold.

All in all, it was $2 well spent. And I’m sure we’ll get our $3’s worth (like I said, we’re cheap) once our Amazon package arrives!

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