March 17, 2013

Keep This Kid Learning

As I mentioned in my last post, we go to a local co-op preschool once a week and we really love it! As with any other non-profit organization, our preschool needs to raise some money. This year they'll be organizing a Move-A-Thon. We'll get out the stroller on April 27th and head out to the park for a walk.

Since we don't know a lot of people (and have no family) in the area I thought I'd set things up so I can beg for donations online. Pretty clever, eh? So, if you'd like to throw a few dollars towards a good cause, just click the "Donate" button to the right and give, give, give!

Thanks so much!

UPDATE: Thanks for donating!

March 11, 2013

Easy Handmade Toddler Activities

 At some point I will not begin a post with something like, "gee, it's been a long time since my last post!", but not yet. I really have been meaning to get some of our new crafty activities on here, really. (WARNING, this is a long post too). We keep pretty busy around my house, and I'm glad to say a lot of what Miss Mimi does is handmade, yay! Here are some of our latest activities...

Sensory Bins

 We love a sensory bin! Mimi has had a huge bin of rice in my sewing room since last summer (should have taken a picture, sorry about that). It's got about a dozen baby food jar lids and a water wheel (very inexpensive beach toy) and she just loves it. I like to go with what she enjoys, so I've started to do a new themed bin every month or so.

In February I dyed some rice purple and pink with some natural colored rice mixed in. I got some heart candies at the dollar store and threw in some sequins and sparkly puff balls. I try to provide some scoops & dishes in matching colors and it's just enough to keep her going for 15 or 20 minutes on the kitchen floor (sometimes longer). Mimi is pretty good at keeping the rice in the box, so I haven't had a lot of trouble with messes. We always make sure she cleans up what she spills as best she can too...good practice with the broom & dustpan.

 This month we're doing split peas, gold chocolate coins and some buttons. She likes putting things in the orange bowl and either trying to shake them out through the hole or closing them in with the lid. I have to say, those "Take & Toss" bowls with lids (I got mine from the grocery store) are one of the best "toys" we've had. After St. Patrick's Day I'm going to leave the split peas and switch to a Spring theme. Tiny silk flowers, plastic carrots etc.

Marching Ribbons

 At our co-op preschool we march. When the teacher gets out the marching ribbons, the kids go mad! My kid is a ribbon-hoarder too, so I thought we'd better make some marching ribbons we can use at home. Ours are made with some plastic bracelets I got in the $1 section at Michael's and some spools of $.50 ribbon. I think it cost me about $5 to make 24 of these. We keep them in a little box with a lid and dump them all over the floor when we feel the need to march.

 Button Snake

I've seen lots of these on the web & Mimi is particularly interested in buttoning right now, so here's the version of the "button snake" that I made.  I used 2 buttons (about 1") and an 8" length of 3/8" ribbon. All you need to do is sew a button on to each end of the ribbon and you've got your snake. The squares are just bits of felt with a slit cut in them so Mimi can thread the button through. This is so simple and so entertaining, and taking the buttons off the snake is a whole new, more advanced, activity. This is great to throw in your bag when you need to keep your toddler busy for a few minutes.

 *Warning* This project can be addictive proceed with extreme caution!

I've been planning to cut out some cool felt shapes for a long time, but I never could decide what to do. Then it came to me...clip art! Yes, clip art. I bought some great clip art on Etsy and printed the designs I wanted onto printable iron-on transfer paper. It's pretty easy, but not cheap. Mimi just about died when she saw Goldilocks and the three bears though. I just got some bigger pieces of felt for the backgrounds and clip them over her art easel. We've got a cool alphabet, Goldilocks, some fish, a farm and some other woodland creatures. My only tip is to use white felt for the shapes or they just don't show up well.


At the moment, playdough is probably the #1 loved past time at my house. I think we first tried it right before Amelia's 2nd birthday (it was our giveaway for the party). The first time I made it, I used this recipe and found it to be really great, especially the batches I made for the party. The colors you see above are all colored with gel food coloring. 

This time, I decided to try a new recipe that doesn't require cooking (but you do need boiling water). 

I colored these with Kool-Aid and I like the results. Here's what I learned when making this round of dough:
1. Start with less water!
I poured the full 2 cups right in and never could get the stick out...I made a 2nd batch of orange and started with 1 cup of water, then added a bit as needed.

2. I had to add quite a bit more flour and oil to get the stickiness out.

3. This makes a pretty sizable blob of playdough.
If you use Kool-Aid to color the dough, it goes into the water before you add it. If you don't want a huge amount of playdough in 1 color, use food coloring when you knead the dough so you can divide it onto different colors.

4. If your child loves playdough, don't leave it out until it's perfect. 
I tried halving the recipe last night to make a smaller amount of Kool-Aid dyed dough and I put too much water in. I made the mistake of putting it on the kitchen table and guess who saw it this morning and wanted to play with it?! Now I've promised to remake the pink so she can have it. 

5. Cream of tartar does not go a long way.
Those teeny little bottles of cream of tartar from the grocery store will make about 2 1/2 batches of playdough. If you think you'll be making more, buy in bulk. I just ordered a 1 lb. bottle for way less than what I'd pay for that quantity at the grocery store. Here's what I got. Now I can make dough with reckless abandon.

We've got a whole jar of cutting tools we use with playdough along with these awesome rolling pins from Lakeshore:

Playdough is great because we can play with it in so many ways. I've given her everything from a bowl of buttons to plastic silverware and farm animals, it all seems to be met with delight.

Okay, so I've gone on and on about our fun times. I'll leave you to it now. Here are some links to the sites I'm loving right now with great toddler ideas: