Toddler Activities

Learning Song Series

 We sing a lot in our house. Like so much that we should start a family band and take it on the road. I just love to sing finger-play songs, or instructional songs (the clean-up song is big in our house), or I’ll just make up little ditties about whatever is happening in the moment to make it more exciting or interesting for my toddler. (And really, for me too, especially as I do boring chores like that fifth load of laundry with him. Or when I’m sensing one of us is about to have a meltdown. Those moments need a little levity sometimes!) When I was teaching full-time I would sing when I got stressed or overwhelmed to make my mood lighter and I find it still works for me at home, most of the time. It’s also a super easy way to build a multitude of skills, including language, cognitive, math, and social, all while keeping kiddos on task or alerting them to common rituals and transitions.

In addition to the Bookworm series, I’ve decided to add a song series that can help with skill building and transitions in your daily routines. It doesn’t matter if you are a classically trained musician or can’t carry a tune to save your life, most kids respond to music and singing with joy, and it can make things so much easier, so go ahead and sing to your hearts content!

silhouette of man holding guitar on plant fields at daytime
Photo by Keith Wako on Pexels.com
Toddler Activities

Bubble Up! Super Easy Bubble Solution

 

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It’s finally Spring! Here is a super-easy bubble making recipe so you can get outside and enjoy the sun:

Easy-Peasy Bubble Solution

*Warm Water (about 2 1/2 cups will make enough for one bubble sesh)

*Dish Soap (I use Puracy or Seventh Generation, but any soap will do, even baby shampoo can work as long as it can lather up. About 1/4 or less will do with the 2 1/2 cups of water)

*Pinch of Guar Gum

–Mix guar gum with warm water until it is completely dissolved.

–Gently add the dish soap. Try not to let it bubble up as you add it!

Fun bubble wand options:

*Plastic berry baskets

*Wire Hangers (bent into a circle)

*Slinkies

*Wooden Rings

*Pipe Cleaners (bent into a circle)

*Whatever you can find!

Making bubble solution is fun and easy way to add some math and science to your day, as well as fine and gross motor as your kiddos make and chase the bubbles around. Side note: blowing bubbles is a fantastic way to build the muscles in the mouth and lips needed for language development. Bonus!

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Toddler Activities

Sand Bin: Quiet Time Activity

 

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So I love “quiet boxes” (and “quiet time” however rare it may be sometimes!) and here is one of my favorite quiet box activities because it’s cheap, easy, and hours of fun: an indoor sand bin!

This is just an old (and I mean ancient, I’ve had this thing since high school!) under-the-bed storage bin filled about halfway with play sand that I got from Lowes for about three bucks. I put in some wooden blocks and a bunch of matchbox cars (Kai’s newest obsession) and with almost zero effort, I have bought myself literally hours of quiet time! This is such a great calming activity that fosters a gigantic amount of independence, imaginative and sensory play, spatial and cognitive awareness, and builds fine motor skills to boot. Kai will use this first thing in the morning and before bed or rest time, and it is rather soothing…especially when I add a little distilled lavender oil. It also gives him a sense of ownership and responsibility because he is able to take the cover on and off, spray the sand with some water if it is “too dusty,” and can use his mini broom and dustpan to clean up after himself. (Though a sheet under the whole thing really catches most of the sand that might try to escape.)

It sounds so simple because it really is, but I just had to share it because it has been such an absolutely amazing addition into our day. This is literally his favorite thing, and we didn’t need to spend a bunch of money on a special sand table or sensory bin. Even though we love water play (and have another old bin for that), he really gravitates towards this because he loves making up scenarios for the cars (mostly they get stuck and need a tow), building ramps, and just digging itself can be so calming, even more so than water play for some kiddos. I love it because I get some of that much needed “quiet mom time” to take a little break, and I absolutely adore listening to him talk to his cars and make up little stories about what’s going on in the sand. It’s also been interesting to hear what other things might come up, like a friends name that he hasn’t seen in awhile may be driving one car, or he might start having a conversation with himself about what he wants to do or really, just chatting about whatever is on his mind outside of the cars getting towed, and that information is invaluable to me as a parent. This is a super win-win, hands down!

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Toddler Activities, Uncategorized

Ice, Ice Baby: Ice Cube Fun

What better way to spend a warm Spring day then by playing with ice? I love to keep ice cube paint and ice animals chilling in our freezer to pop out whenever  we need something fun to do (or when I need to keep my toddler busy for an extended period of time, whichever comes first.)

Ice Cube Paint: 

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This is so super easy and really can keep a toddler or preschooler (or even an older kiddo) busy for quite awhile, which makes it worthwhile for that reason alone! It’s basically as easy as making a homemade popsicle, I even use old popsicle molds, but ice cube trays or small containers/cups work too.

How To:

Just mix some homemade or store-bought paint with water and a dash of liquid soap and pour into an ice cube tray or popsicle molds and freeze. Whalah, done! See how easy?!

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Paint Pop Tips:

I usually make larger paint pops by using the whole popsicle mold. This is super because my Bub will paint until the whole thing melts so obviously the bigger, the longer this project will last! It’s also easier to re-freeze the popsicle-sized ones if they don’t use the whole thing.

If you make ice cube sized ones, you can use popsicle sticks (or reusable popsicle handles, like I did) but crayons, pencils, and old markers also work well as handles and are also reusable!

About the paint…I used to make homemade, all-natural and organic paint all the time with my kiddo. But, super honest time: now we sometimes use store bought watercolor paint because the colors are brighter and it’s way easier since we do so much art it’s hard to keep up! (I still make it whenever possible, but for this post I used store-bought.) That said, there is zero judgement here so use whatever you want, it’s your project! Watercolors are great, but it can work with any kind of paint, really. (For thicker paint, add more water and soap to thin it out so it will freeze.)

This is better for kiddos that aren’t still mouthing everything, especially if you use popsicle molds, because who doesn’t want to eat a delicious brightly-colored popsicle?!

These can be messy, so you might want to have a tray or something underneath the paper for the melty-ness.

Ice Animals

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I always keep some icy animals in the freezer in all seasons. (and I love that my husband has never questioned why there are frozen animals and such in our freezer).  These are even easier than making the paint pops, just toss some mini animals in an ice cube tray (or bag), add water, and freeze. Done and done! I use waterproof reusable lunch bags, but any kind of bag  or freezable container will do the trick.

After they’re frozen, I just pop them into a tray or tub and give my two-year-old some tools so that he can help to free the frozen animals. The tools we use are kitchen utensils, a wooden mallet, and a small hammer, as well as kid-sized goggles and sometimes even a pair of mittens or “work gloves.” Then he can smash away at the ice until the animals are free, which can take a long, long time. Once they are out of the ice, they usually like to frolic in the icy tub, especially in winter if I add some snow. (Adding water to the tub on warmer days is also a ton of fun! Sometimes the ice cube animals like to swim around until they melt on their own.) You can also add other natural items to the tub for the animals to make homes with after they escape the ice, like small twigs, fallen evergreen branches, acorns, and the like. (This can even be an additional part of the activity: go on a nature search with your kiddo for items the animals might want to use for building or playing.)

Ice Animal Tips:

If you want to use the ice cubes in water, having smaller cubes is fun because it’s easier to hold the animals and have them “swim.” Bigger blocks of ice in water are MUCH harder to deal with and break apart because slippery. And icy water. So beware!

My general rule of thumb is: the younger the kiddo, the smaller the cubes. I also add more to the tub so that they don’t have to concentrate only on breaking the cubes apart, but can also build animal homes or just play with the snow or water.

Let kiddos add salt and/or warm water to the tub to see if it helps melt the ice faster. Have sponges, scrubbers, and/or warm washcloths ready to keep little non-mittened hands warm, or to help with melting and washing animals.

**Side note: I usually use plastic or reusable animals for this project but you could easily freeze pinecones or other natural treasures to avoid the plastic animals.**

**COMBINE BOTH ACTIVITIES FOR SOME FUN AND SILLY ART!** 

Why Try It?

Both of these are fantastic for fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

Using alternative art supplies is a super way to stretch cognitive and creative thinking.

Painting and using tools build spatial awareness as well as focus and concentration.

If your kiddos help to make these, there can be math and science lessons in there, when measuring out water and/or paint, filling up trays or bags, and waiting for them to freeze.

These can be completely all-natural and reusable in every way.

They are both suer easy set-ups but can buy you some much needed time! It’s also great to have an activity that can be made whenever you want and used at a later date when you need them most. Win-Win!

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Hope this keeps you cool and your kiddos busy! xo Meredith 

Toddler Activities

To Market, To Market: An Easy Market Game

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A Market Treasure Map

When I hear people talking about how their kids have meltdowns in the supermarket, I totally feel their pain. The kids pain, I mean, because sometimes when I’m in the grocery store I want to cry. There are just too many decisions and people and things to think about and expensive stuff that I really, really want but can’t justify buying and weird smells (clean that fish counter, ugh!) and I just get overwhelmed. But my toddler pretty much loves “marketing” so even though my husband does most of our grocery shopping, my son and I will take a trip there every once in awhile. (Did I mention we also play ‘market’ for hours And hours. And hours. Funny how my little one completely imitates me, grabbing a reusable bag and car keys, and buys the same things over and over. Yup, me to a T.)

Since this has been a huge theme of our days recently, I decided to make little ‘treasure map’ lists that he can use to identify letters and items. We can take them to the market to keep him busy searching for items on the list and avoid the dreaded meltdown (for both of us, really) or we can use them in the house when we play our eight millionth game of market. (I’ll stash real items from a list he’s dictated around the playroom or will use felt veggies and fruits so he can find them over and over.) This is such an easy early-literacy game that he just finds delightful, and getting to make silly little grocery doodles keeps me off the streets, so we both kinda win!

Why Try This:

Putting together pictures with words (basic pictograms) can really help build vocabulary and letter-sound recognition. Now he knows that “Eggplant” starts with an E, and what sound an E makes. Now when we talk about other words, like elephant, he might be able to identify it’s first letter.

A treasure map is fantastic for cognitive function and building those thinking and focusing skills!

It keeps us both sane in the grocery store, which is sometimes the most important part of all!

Hope this helps to keep your next shopping trip melt-down free! xo, Meredith

 

Toddler Activities

Bookworm Wednesdays: Tap Tap Boom Boom

Tap Tap Boom Boom

Written by Elizabeth Bluemle and Illustrated by Brian Karas

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April showers bring May flowers, but we can still enjoy those rainy (or snowy, in Vermont) days while they’re here!

Why I Like It:

The rollicking rhyme scheme is fantastic for reading aloud.

The repeating phrase of “tap tap boom boom” is so much fun for any toddler. My two-year-old loves to say it even when we aren’t reading the book.

The cool illustrations have so much to look at and talk about, almost every page is an adventure.

There is some great vocabulary in this book, including words like “congregate,” which are super language-builders and discussion starters!

The author used to live in NYC, where this book takes place, but now lives in Vermont.

Keep It Going: 

Cloud Art: IMG_4888

Supplies needed:

Cotton Balls and/or Cotton Pads for clouds

Cotton Swabs for rain drops

Washable Paint

Tweezers, Tongs, or Chopsticks (for holding the cloudy shapes)

Glue or Mod Podge

Dish or hand soap

How To:

Mix some glue or Mod Podge with the paint (add a drop of dish soap to make it an easier clean-up.) and then cover those cotton balls/pads!

Using tweezers or tongs, place the sticky clouds on the paper.

Add some drops of rain using the cotton swabs.

Why bother? This is a great way to build fine motor skills, especially if your kiddo is using tweezers or tongs to place the cotton balls on the paper. Holding cotton swabs is also good for those fine motor skills, and all of this helps with hand-eye coordination. Beyond that, using alternative painting tools really gets those cognitive skills fired up…one of the benefits of thinking outside the box!

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Disclaimer: This one is done with homemade paint, so I only had one not-super-bright color. If you make your own paint or use store-bought, it might be fun to have a variety of colors to make black or gray clouds, different colored raindrops, and rainbows!

Splat Clouds

Supplies Needed: 

Stockings, tights, old socks, whatever. (I used old pantyhose I found at a thrift store.)

Old play dough , sand, birdseed.

Washable Paint.

How To:

Fill the foot of the stocking or whatever you’re using so it makes a cloud-like shape. Tie off the top, leaving a small handle.

Dip in paint and splat on the paper.

Once the paper is covered in clouds, you can add some rain drops or just leave it as a cloudy day.

 

Active Reading Activity:

Whenever you read the words “Tap Tap Boom Boom” have your child bang a drum, jump up and down, or do a yoga pose. This will help them build those listening skills while also keeping them engaged, especially kinesthetic learners!

 

Count The Booms:

As you read, see if you can count how many times you say the word “tap” or “boom.” You can use tools to help you keep count, like drawing lines on a paper or lining up cars or other materials.

Rainbow Fun:

My two-year-old really likes the page with the rainbow, so we have to add some rainbow fun here too! Besides painting and drawing rainbows, we used prisms and the shiny sides of old CD’s (remember those?!) to make rainbows shine from the windows.

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Uncategorized

Book Worm Wednesday: Farmer Falgu Goes On A Trip

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Farmer Falgu Goes On A Trip

Author: Chitra Soundar

Illustrator: Kanika Nair

Why I like this book:

The illustrations are fantastic! Really, I totally dig the illustrators modern style for a classic kind of tale.

The story is simple enough for a toddler to enjoy, but could also keep the attention of a preschooler with it’s easy rhythm and cool illustrations. Since there are a lot of characters in the book, it opens itself to different discussions about their lives and occupations. (My two-year-old is also into all things with wheels and farm animals, so it hits the mark for those things too!)

The idea of looking for silence but finding that sound has happiness in it too, is such an interesting concept that can be explored in may ways. It shows how both silence and chaos can be embraced and are necessary parts of life at times.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It!: 

If you like Farmer Flag, there are a few other books that feature him! Check out Farmer Falgu Goes To The Market and Farmer Falgu Goes Kite Flying.

Keep It Going! Simple Expansion Activities: 

Math: How many people ride with Farmer Falgu? My two-year-old and I decorated clothespins and used them to illustrate each person that climbed aboard Farmer Falgu’s wagon. We clipped them to a wagon toy as each person got on board during the story. So many people got on, some had to ride in the wagon, but it made it even more exciting to see if it would overflow. (The life of a two-year-old really is a roller coaster of excitement!) After we read the book and got everyone on or in the wagon, we counted the clothespin people. Then we counted backwards as they got off the wagon at their stop. If you don’t have clothespins, you can just draw each person or use pieces of string to represent all the peeps in this story. (If you use clothespins but don’t have a wagon, a cardboard box is just as exciting, and makes a fabulous sound if you drop all the clothespins in and give it a few shakes!)

Art/Music: Playing drums like the musician or dancing like the dancers can be fun ways to think more about the characters in the story. You can also try to be the chorus of sounds that Farmer Falgu hears on his farm each day and night!

Self-Care: Take a deep breath and reach your arms to the sky. Breath out and reach to the Earth. Find some silence in your day through a few moments of relaxed breathing, gazing into the flame of a candle, or resting softly on a cloud (i.e. a cozy blanket, couch cushion, pillow fort, nap mat, whatever.) Even kiddos as young as two can find at least 30 seconds of silence within themselves and it really brings a calming energy that you might want to delve into at times when you’re feeling like Farmer Falgu and want to get as far away from the noise and chaos of your day as possible, but can’t find a bathroom or closet to hide in…or a wagon to ride away on!

Social Studies: Oh, this book is basically the crown jewel for starting more in-depth social studies with toddlers and preschoolers! As a teacher, my brain basically exploded with all the ways to fit this book into a social studies unit, from the relationships in the story, to the location and cultural studies, to mapping…hot diggity! (Yes, I’m a social studies dork. I will totally own that.)

For my two-year-old we talked about where Farmer Falgu and his new wagon-riding friends might live. I guessed it was India, and so we looked that up on a map and talked about what is happening in India (and in the book) that is the same as where we are (cows! music! dancing! wagon rides! farmers!) and what is different (clothing? methods of transportation? weather?) We found so many similarities, it really cemented that world connection. Same, same but different.

We also made a makeshift map of his route, which is basically a lot of marker scribbles. We added painted dots where each person or group might have joined in (dot makers are fantastic for this, but any paint or even stickers will do). We took a walk around our own neighborhood and made another scribbly map of our route, and added painted dots that showed where our favorite spots were, like the tractor barn and the boo boo trees that fell down in the storm. The maps looked pretty similar, which added to our list of similarities. Again, we are same, same but different!

For older preschoolers, you can really dig into these activities making more detailed maps and discussing where you think Farmer Falgu lives and why you came to that conclusion. Figuring out where he lives and finding it on a map or doing more reading about that area of the world could also bring the story further to life. If you decide to make a map of his route and a map of your neighborhood, you could add more details, including practicing letter writing by adding street signs or written details (i.e. Charlie’s House or Tree). Mapping for kiddos is a phenomenal activity, it gives me all the feels as a teacher, but also as a parent. I can see what is so important to my kiddo that he actually remembers it after the walk is over, and it gets me thinking deeper about who he is and what he finds interesting. And I know I find him interesting so I’m all about learning more about how his brain is ticking!

I hope you like this story as much as me and Kid K do, and find something out of these activities useful. Even if you don’t, the book itself is a fun read if you come across it. If you live in Burlington, VT I know it’s at the Fletcher Free Library so check it out while it’s hot! 

xo, Meredith