Monday, July 21, 2014

Fine Motor Fun - Pom Pom Sorting

Here's another simple fine motor activity! This one also involves color sorting. We did this around Easter time but you could really pull it out any time of the year.

  • 2 1/2 dozen egg tray (you could use an 18 count egg carton as well)
  • Colored plastic Easter eggs (I used 3 each of pink, purple, yellow, green and blue)
  • Pom poms in matching color, 6 of each color
  • Bowl to hold pom poms
  • Plastic tweezers
The tops and bottoms of my eggs were still attached so I opened them and fit them into the egg carton side by side. If yours are detached - or if you want to detach them - you could put just bottoms in the egg carton and leave the tops in a big bowl. I showed Little C how to pick up the pom poms with the plastic tweezers and pointed out the matching colors. After she filled all the eggs with matching pom poms, she had some more fine motor practice trying to close the eggs!

Tip: When it comes to color matching, you could ask your child to put the pom poms in the same color egg or in a different color. Either method works the brain because they still have to pay attention to the colors and know which are the same and which are different!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

DIY Toys - Doc McStuffins Doc-mobile

If you have a Doc McStuffins fan in the house, this is a must have for your little toy doctor. And if not, it's still an adorable little mobile clinic for all your pretend doctors and veterinarians! Little C had a spontaneous need for a Doc-mobile so I had to try and do it as fast as I could but I would like to replace the tinkertoy wheels and pull handle with something permanent. I will add details for those when I do it. But for now, here's what I used to build the Doc-mobile.
  • Sturdy cardboard box - I used the box from a 4-pack of gallon zip storage bags, probably about 12"x6"x6"
  • Tinkertoys
  • 3/4" ribbon
  • Adhesive-backed Velcro
  • X-acto knife & scissors
  • Screwdriver
  • Purple acrylic paint
  • Glitter
  • Doc McStuffins stickers we had lying around
Painting/decorating was the last thing we did since I wanted Little C to have something to play with as soon as possible. If you have the option, I recommend painting first!

First I used the screwdriver to poke holes on the sides of the box through which to push the rods that hold the wheels.  Then I poked a hole at the front for the pull handle. There's a yellow circle piece (like those used for the wheels) on the inside of the box to which the red flexible rod attaches.

Next, I had to make seats for Little C's friends. I cut rectangular flaps using the x-acto knife on either side of the box which would be used for seats. I cut a little notch at the top of the flap so Little C could easily pull the seat open when it was pushed closed. Above the flaps I cut 3 vertical slits (left, middle, right) for the seatbelts. I pushed lengths of ribbon through the slits and affixed Velcro pieces to either end so Little C could buckle her friends in. This left us with 4 seats, but Little C requested seats for the entire Mickey Mouse Clubhouse gang.

She wanted the last 2 seats on the back but that would have left Pluto sitting upright in an awkward position so I put them on the top. I cut another flap and stuck the ribbon for Goofy's seatbelt through it. It's a little hard to see, but Pluto's seatbelt comes up from underneath him, pushed through the top of the box.

Now, to hold all Little C's doctor tools, I cut a large flap at the front of the box above the pull handle. I put a little piece of Velcro on the end so it would stay closed. As you can see there is plenty of room for anything a little doctor would need!

Add some paint, decorations and friends and we're off to find toys - or people - in need of a doctor! If you make your own Doc-mobile we'd love to hear about it and see pictures!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Money-Saving Tips - DIY Toys

Kids are expensive. I think that's one thing all parents can agree on. The trick is finding a way to balance your child's happiness and interests with your budget. One way to do this is to make your own toys. I know that sounds like so much work to some of you but keep reading, I promise it's not all so hard!

You can choose how much time and energy to put into making your own toys, after all balancing time and money is another fun thing we get to deal with. So given your crafting skill level, sometimes it may be better to buy something rather than make it. But always keep this in mind before you spend any money - will they play with it longer than a week? If not, save your dollars. Try to spend it instead on items that will keep your child's interest, grow with them or can be used as something else when this fad is over. For example, rather than buying a super detailed Victorian mansion, a simpler dollhouse can get more mileage when it becomes the fire station or the hospital or the grocery store.

Back on topic, DIY toys. Today I have 2 examples of things Little C wanted and we gave her without spending any money.

Duplo Circus - We bought Little C the Duplo Number Train and with it came every parents' worst nightmare: a little Duplo catalog. So Little C looks through it and sees Duplo My First Circus. Now she wants a circus! Depending on where you look, this set can cost you anywhere from $24-$40! Needless to say we didn't even entertain the thought of buying it for her. But my wonderful husband, without missing a beat, pulls over her bin of Duplos and starts building her a circus. I search through her toy animals and find an elephant, lion and zebra to add. In the end she's happy with her circus and has learned that if you want something, try to make it!
 The Duplo My First Circus Set
 Train, elephant, jumping fence for the dog, ticket window and diving platform
 Bleachers for the audience, tightrope, stage and zebra

Doc-mobile - On the Disney Junior show, Doc McStuffins (kid doctor to stuffed animals and toys), Doc's dad builds her a mobile clinic which she calls the Doc-mobile. After watching an episode where Doc uses the Doc-mobile, Little C comes running over to me saying she needs a helmet, a Doc-mobile and buckles for her friends. So I quickly added some ribbon and Velcro to her construction hat to make a helmet with a buckle. I think she said something about wanting purple, but she accepted the yellow helmet without argument. The Dob-mobile would involve a little more work but I was up for the challenge! Luckily I had just emptied a jumbo box of zip bags which I thought would be perfect.  I gathered some tinker-toys, ribbon, Velcro and my exacto knife and I was ready to go. After I finished building, Little C helped me paint and decorate the Doc-mobile and she's been having a great time buckling her toys in, driving them around, taking them out and giving them checkups. By the way, I don't think there is a Doc-mobile toy on the market, not that I've seen anyway, so I didn't really have a choice but to make one!

 It has wheels and a pull handle.
 The front opens to store doctor tools.
Flaps open on the sides and top so all her friends can ride along - and everyone has a seat belt!

So there you have it, 2 examples of giving Little C what she wanted without spending a penny. One obviously involved more work and supplies than the other, but now that you have the idea next time your child asks for something maybe you'll take a minute and see if you can get those creative juices flowing to save you some cash!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cooking Fun - Knife Skills

Knife skills? A toddler? Sounds scary, right? It doesn't have to be! Does giving a toddler a plastic knife and play dough sound ridiculous? Not really. Well, when you think about it, this isn't much different. Prior to this, Little C had practiced cutting play dough and her Velcro food set with a plastic knife and now she wanted to cut apples just like mommy. So I simply gave her a small cutting board, apple sticks and a Gerber Graduates Kiddy Knife. And she did a great job cutting her apples! Look at that concentration!

A couple things to keep in mind...don't leave your child unattended with a knife, even if it is dull. They can still hurt themselves! Follow normal knife safety rules such as don't walk/run around with a knife and don't put the knife in your mouth. And if your child is not focusing on the task and is instead banging and swinging the knife around, it's best to put it away and try again another day. At this age, practicing any skill involves a combination of being physically ready and mentally interested; if either of those is missing you'll be fighting a losing battle. Always remember to have fun, first and foremost. We fight enough battles as parents, let's not add unnecessary ones!

Age: 24 months

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sensory - Treasure Hunt & Matching Game

This sensory treasure hunt & matching game is my most successful sensory bin to date. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that though this bin seemed pretty simple, it helped Little C practice several different skills. Before I get too involved in that, let me tell you what was in the bin.
  • Colored rice
  • 2 red triangles from a shape sorting game
  • 2 orange baby spoons
  • 2 yellow pipe cleaner "springs" (I cut one pipe cleaner in half and wrapped each piece around a pencil to coil it)
  • 2 green pom poms
  • 2 blue gift bows
  • 2 purple toy eggplants
  • 2 brown pine cones
  • 2 seashells
  • 2 measuring cups for scooping

There wasn't enough rice to completely bury all the items, but I hid as many as I could then asked Little C to hunt for treasure in the bin and see if she could find all the matching items. As she found them, we named the items and she told me what color each was (except for the seashells). I tried to find items of different sizes and textures and you could easily add more vocabulary to the activity by discussing those attributes.

After discovering all of the items, Little C had a lot of fun burying them again as well as scooping rice into the triangles and onto the pine cones - the rice made a fun sound on the pine cones! We took turns hiding the small items in the rice and having the other person find them. This activity could be repeated with countless different themes like shapes, numbers & letters or something seasonal. I think we'll have to revisit this activity soon, maybe with a beach or pirate theme for the summer!

Note: Please remember that any sensory bin requires supervision!

Age: 23 months

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Music - Our Top 15 Movement Songs

Little C has recently entered the stage where she loves to do movement games. She moves along with Mickey Mousekersize and really gets into movement songs. Here are our top 15 movement songs (album names in parentheses):
  1. Laurie Berkner - We Are the Dinosaurs (Whaddaya Think of That)
  2. Laurie Berkner - I Know a Chicken (Whaddaya Think of That)*
  3. Laurie Berkner - Shake Your Body Down (Party Day)
  4. Laurie Berkner - Rocketship Run (The Best of The Laurie Berkner Band)
  5. Laurie Berkner - Bumblebee (The Best of The Laurie Berkner Band)
  6. Laurie Berkner - Wimoweh (Whaddaya Think of That)
  7. Laurie Berkner - The Airplane Song (Whaddaya Think of That)
  8. Greg & Steve - The Mack Chicken Dance (Big Fun)
  9. Greg & Steve - The Movement Medley (Big Fun)
  10. Greg & Steve - New Zoo Review (Big Fun)
  11. Greg & Steve - Animal Action I (Kids in Motion)
  12. Greg & Steve - Sports Dance (On the Move)
  13. Greg & Steve - Listen & Move (We All Live Together, Volume 2)
  14. The Hokey Pokey
  15. Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes
The first 13 songs can all be purchased through Amazon; there are so many versions of the last two sometimes it's easier just to sing it ourselves! Most of the Laurie Berkner songs, and probably most of the others, can be found on YouTube. Little C loves to dance and sing along while watching The Laurie Berkner Band perform the song. And it's nice for me because she stays focused and involved even if I have to walk away for a few minutes.

So add these to your music list and get dancing!

*I recommend having at least 2 egg shakers for this song. We have a couple from our instrument set but if you don't have any, grab a couple plastic Easter eggs, fill them with dried rice or beans and glue or tape them shut.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Art - Water Painting

Painting with water on a chalkboard, does it get any better? I think this has to be the easiest and least messy art activity out there. Just rub your chalkboard with chalk, give your child a cup of water and a brush and let them have at it! To try and avoid water spills, I used a kiddie cup with a lid and cut a hole big enough to fit Little C's large paintbrushes. When the board is all filled up, just give it a quick dry and start all over again. It seems so simple but it is process art. Children practice using a brush and making various strokes and shapes to draw whatever their little hearts desire!

Age: 23 months