Toddler Activities

Blooming Seed Start Hearts

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Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Our two-year-old goes to school two mornings a week and though it was a winding, and at times difficult, road finding a classroom environment we felt comfortable with, we all absolutely adore his teachers and school. So as the year comes to and end, I wanted to do something special for them to let them know how much we appreciate them and all the hard work they do. (Because as cute as two-year-olds are, caring for a group of them all day, every day is no easy task! Obviously.)

I love DIY projects, especially when my kiddo can participate in the making part. I also love useful gifts so seed starts hearts fit the bill for both of those things.  Not only are they super easy to make, they’ll leave a lasting impression as they bloom over the summer months!

Ingredients:

1 cup Flour

1/4 Cup Cornstarch

1/4 cup Water (give or take)

A handful of Epsom salts

Seeds! I used organic Echinacea seeds because they’re beautiful flowers and what teacher doesn’t need an immune booster around?! I included directions on how to plant them but also how to use the echinacea once it blooms. If they’re into that sort of thing. If not, who cares it’s still a pretty flower to have around!

(Want them to have more color? Add some simple spices like cinnamon or paprika, or even a dash of spirulina.)

To Make: 

  1.  Mix the flour, cornstarch, Epsom salts and water until it makes a play dough like consistency.
  2. Shape into whatever your heart desires. I used heart-shaped baking molds, but cookie cutters or even seed balls are fantastic!
  3. Sprinkle generously with seeds, or roll through a pile if making a ball. We made carrot seed balls for ourselves and my toddler absolutely loved rolling the dough through the tiny seeds.
  4. Let fully dry in a warm spot, but not in direct sunlight.
  5. Depending on the shape you make, you can poke small holes in them and add string once dried. That way, if your teachers aren’t gardeners they can hang them up as either decoration or a mini bird feeder.
  6. I wrapped them with some cute string and added a card that had planting instructions on one side and Echinacea-uses on the other. I also used some envelopes that my little dude stamped when we did our eggplant stamping last week. Bonus!

 

Here is our test run, drying:

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Getting ready to wrap them with some of our eggplant-stamped papers…

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Toddler Activities

Eggplant Stamps

I know potatoes and apples are usually the big ones when it comes to making stamps for painting, but I really like using eggplant tops because they have a fantastic little handle on them that is just the right size for grabbing and leaves hands pretty mess-free. (Another low-mess tip for stamping, paint the stamp instead of smooshing it into a pile of paint.) I also love the fact that we aren’t using something that would otherwise be eaten, these tops were headed for the compost anyway (and using natural paints means they can continue their journey to the compost once the art is complete.)

After we stamped to our hearts content, my son helped me cut up the rest of the eggplant so we could roast it for dinner. He was pretty excited to see the eggplant used in two different ways, for art and for deliciousness. Two fun projects with one material, and we got to spend almost the whole afternoon immersed in eggplant. Score! Both of these projects build fine-motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and cognition and art is always good for the creative process (which has been shown to help boost mathematical and scientific thinking, so get your art on!)

Finding other “food tops” are great for stamping projects, like a pepper or end of a cucumber. I also like to cut the core out of the apple and just use that, instead of just slicing a whole apple in half. That way you can snack while you paint and still send the core to the compost. What else do you use for stamping in your art projects?

 

The eggplant leaves help to give the art texture.

Toddler Activities

Little Bunny Rabbit: A Song For Building Cognitive Skills

Whoo hoo, it’s song #1 in this learning songs series!

This easy little finger-play song is great for building concentration and focus, and most little ones think it’s so much fun to play! It has a similar concept to the song Bingo in that you’ll substitute a hand motion for song lyrics.

For Little Bunny Rabbit, you’ll sing the whole song through once or twice using both the hand movements and words. Then you’ll sing it again, swapping out words for only the hand movements. (For some kiddos, it might be best to sing it through a bunch of times first to give them a chance to get to know it better.)

Little Bunny Rabbit:

Little Bunny Rabbit (make bunny ears) had a fly upon her/his nose (point to nose)

A Fly Upon Her/His Nose. A Fly Upon Her/His Nose (point to nose every time)

Little Bunny Rabbit (make bunny ears) Had A Fly Upon Her/His Nose (point to nose)

So She/He Swished It And S/He Swashed It (“swish” your hands by your nose)

And It Flew Away! (hands can be wings, flying away)


After singing it a time or two, leave out some words but keep the hand motions:

Little (make bunny ears) had a fly upon her/his (point to nose)

A fly upon his/her (point to nose)/ a fly upon his/her (point to nose)

Little (make bunny ears) had a fly upon her/his (point to nose)

So she/he (swish and swash hand by face) and she/he (swish and swash hand by face) and it (make hands fly away)


Here are the words without the hand motions, just to make it easier to read (with female pronouns, but feel free to change it to the pronouns you use with your child):

Little Bunny Rabbit had a fly upon her nose

A fly upon her nose, a fly upon her nose

Little Bunny Rabbit had a fly upon her nose

So she swished it and she swashed it and it flew away!


Make this song your own by using your child’s name instead of the word “Bunny” and whatever pronouns you use with your child. You can also make up your own hand movements, or add new ones. I usually do one for fly and swap that in and remove the word fly on the second sing-through. Whatever makes it more fun for you and your kiddo!

This song will help build important cognitive skills, including focus, concentration, listening, and memory, all while increasing motor planning skills and strengthening the fine muscles in the hands and fingers. Hop on, little bunny!

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