Construction Site Sensory Bin

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I first saw the idea of doing a sensory bin with construction trucks and shredded paper on Busy Toddler’s blog. I immediately loved the idea because it’s easy to set up and includes Buddy’s love of vehicles! We haven’t done a sensory bin with shredded paper since our Open the Barn Door activity in August. Back then, Buddy wasn’t interested in the paper at all. I was curious to see how his reaction would be different now.

To set up the activity, I put some paper from our shredder in a large bin and put it on the floor of the kitchen. Then, I placed some construction trucks in the paper. These were purchased at the dollar section of Target years ago, and are used more as a decoration in Buddy’s room as a toy. As a result, Buddy was especially interested in playing with these “new toys”.

Buddy first started driving the trucks around in the paper. I showed him how to use the digger to push paper around, and he tried to do it too. Then, Buddy discovered how to fill and dump the paper in the back of the dump truck. This was a lot of fun for him.

Buddy was just as interested in driving the trucks around on the kitchen floor as he was in the paper. The cars made a noise on the floor, which Buddy thought was very entertaining.

The last time we did a shredded paper sensory bin, Buddy wasn’t very interested in the paper. That wasn’t the case this time! Buddy thought the paper was a lot of fun! Once he tired of playing with the trucks, Buddy decided to play with the paper. I was expecting things to get messy, and boy, was I right!

Buddy threw paper everywhere and made a huge mess! Then, in typical toddler style, he decided to run around the house and leave a trail of paper in his wake. Once Buddy was “all done”, I threw him in his crib and swept the floor. It didn’t take too long to pick up the mess once Buddy was contained. Even though it was a messy activity, it was worth it to see Buddy have so much fun.

I’d love to try some new sensory bins this spring. If you have any great ideas for sensory bins, please let me know!

Fishing for Magnetic Letters

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I first saw the idea for fishing for magnetic letters years ago. I pulled out materials when a friend’s kids came to visit, but we never got around to the activity. Recently, I saw the idea again on Make, Do, and Friend’s blog. Since I already had the materials, I thought it would be great to try with Buddy.

Before we started, I made a fishing pole with a slotted spoon, string, and a large paper clip. I wove the string around the different slots to keep it stable. Then, I put some magnetic letters into a plastic tub, and everything was ready to go.

Buddy was immediately interested in the activity. He wasn’t sure what to do with the spoon at first. However, once I showed him how to “go fishing”, he was excited to try it.

Buddy actually enjoyed when I fished more that when he did (it was a little challenging for him). As we caught letters, we talked about the letter and the color of it. Buddy is really excited about learning colors, so that made it very fun for him.

Buddy quickly decided that scooping letters with a spoon would be easier than fishing. He really enjoyed that as an option. Eventually, he just decided that grabbing letters with his hands would be easiest of all.

Before too long, Buddy wanted to dump all of the letters out. (He still really loves putting things in containers and dumping them out.) Buddy repeated this several times before deciding to play peek-a-boo with the tub.

Eventually, I decided to show Buddy that these were magnets. We took them downstairs and played with them on the back of our front door. We’ve never played with magnets there, so this was a new activity for him. He loved it!

This was one of Buddy’s favorite activities ever! He has played with the letters every day this week. He’s gotten a lot better at naming colors as a result. I’m sure we’ll continue to play with our fishing game for a long time.

Fun With Pipe Cleaners

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When I first saw the idea for a bird feeder made with pipe cleaners and Cheerios (found here), I thought it would be a fun and easy activity. I’m always looking for new activities for Buddy using materials I already have at home. Last weekend, Buddy and I made one together.

I decided to do this activity after snack time to minimize Buddy’s desire to eat all of the Cheerios. Unfortunately, I learned that Buddy always has room for Cheerios! When I asked Buddy, he said he wanted to make a bird feeder. However, it turns out that he was more interested in eating. For every Cheerio that was put on the pipe cleaner, he ate three full handfuls! Buddy did enjoy putting the Cheerios on the pipe cleaner, but once the rest were gone, he was upset that he couldn’t eat them off the pipe cleaner.

Buddy was excited to see the pipe cleaners.

Yummy Cheerios!

Buddy needed a little help to keep the pipe cleaner still enough to put on the Cheerio.

When all of the Cheerios were gone, I made the pipe cleaner into a circle and hung it on a tree in our backyard. I haven’t noticed any birds on it yet, but there aren’t too many birds around right now. We might have to try this one again when it’s a little warmer, and when Buddy learns a little more self control around Cheerios.

Although the bird feeder activity didn’t turn out exactly as I’d hoped, we found other fun things to do with pipe cleaners this week. Buddy had a lot of fun making pipe cleaner bracelets, putting them on, and taking them off.

We also played with the pipe cleaners and a colander like we did in this blog post. Buddy loves counting right now, so we counted pipe cleaners as we put them in and out of the colander. We also talked about colors of pipe cleaners. I asked him to find a certain color of pipe cleaner, and he tried pull it out of the top of the colander. (He knows red and orange, but he needs help with other colors.) It was a fun variation on the activity that we’ve done before.

Overall, we’ve had a lot of fun this week with our different pipe cleaner activities. (And I’ve also learned that Buddy’s not quite ready for food related crafts!) I’ve put them away for now, but I’ll definitely pull them out again the next time I need a good distraction for Buddy.

Best Toys for Older Infants 6 – 12 Months

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*Disclaimer – This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. If you purchase an item with one of these links, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting my family.*

I have always valued other mom’s opinions of kids’ products. Before I’ve purchased anything for Buddy, I’ve looked at reviews from other moms. I wanted to share some of Buddy’s favorite toys as an older infant for anyone who is looking for a gift for a child between 6 and 12 months. Many of these toys are continued to be played with currently (at 22 months).

  1. TRY-ANGLE by Discovery Toys

Buddy loved his try-angle for a long time. There are two sides of activities to keep babies interested. Buddy especially loved the gears, sliders, and mirror. I would recommend this for 6 – 18 months.

2. Tangiball by Discovery Toys

Our family still loves this ball and plays with it often. (Hubby might like it even more than Buddy!) It squeaks and is great for throwing or rolling. I would recommend it for ages 6 months and up.

3. Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Puppy’s Smart Train

When we first bought this train for Buddy, we were hoping it would help motivate him to crawl. It was one of the first things that moved that he was interested in following. He still plays with it a lot, and he loves to make it go around the room. There are multiple levels of play on it, so I’m sure it will be played with for a long time. I would recommend it for crawling infants and toddlers, ages 8 months – 2 years.

4. Toddler Bands:  Hohner Kids Toddler Band and B.Parum Pum Drum

Buddy received both of these bands for Christmas when he was 8 months old. Both said they were for older kids, but they were perfect for a sitting infant. The Hohner Kids Band was Buddy’s favorite gift that year! He still plays with both bands on a regular basis. I would recommend it for ages 8 months – 3 years.

5. Puppet books 

These were some of the first books that held Buddy’s interest. We bought the first one for Buddy at 2 months, but after 6 months was when Buddy really started to be interested in reading. We still read these books all the time. I would recommend these for ages 6 months – 2 years.

6. Baby Touch and Feel books

We were given some of these books as baby gifts when Buddy was born. We now have seven different titles in this series. (We also check out others in this series all the time from the library.) This was the first type of book that Buddy pulled off the bookshelf to “read” independently. (The picture above was the first time he did this, and this teacher mom was so proud!!) I think we are on the verge of outgrowing these books, but we do still read them on a regular basis. I would recommend these for ages 4 – 18 months.

7. Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Learning Table

We were given this activity table as a Christmas gift when Buddy was 8 months old, and it has grown with him really well. When he was smaller, we played with it on the floor. Once Buddy was able to stand and play, we put the legs on the activity table. The phone receiver is a rattle, and that continues to be Buddy’s favorite part. We still play with this all the time. I would recommend this for ages 6 months – 2 years.

8. Bright Start Roll, Shake, and Spin Activity Balls

Buddy loves balls of all kinds, but these balls have always been a favorite. They’re easy to hold and some of them make a noise when shaken. I’ve already blogged about some of our activities with these balls (read about them here: balls in a tube, balls in a muffin tin, and colander activities). I’m sure we will continue to play with these for a long time. I would recommend these for ages 6 months and up.

9. B. Zany Zoo Wooden Activity Cube

We received this as a hand-me-down from friends, and we’re so lucky they gave it to us! This was a great activity to help Buddy build strength in playing while standing. He still loves playing with it! I would recommend this for ages 9 months – 3 years.

10. Munchkin Baby Bath Ball

This was an impulse stocking stuffer, and we ended up loving it so much we bought a second one for Grandma’s house in Florida. As I mentioned before, Buddy loves balls, so it’s fun to have one to play with in the bathtub. We’ve also used it in our water table and at the pool. It is a strainer, and there’s a ball within the ball that makes noise. It’s a lot of fun. I would recommend this for ages 6 months – 2 years.

11. High chair toys Melissa and Doug Wooden Bead Maze and Sassy Fascination Station

Whoever invented toys with suction cup bottoms for high chairs was a genius. We have two different ones (linked above), and we love them both. It is so nice to have a toy on hand while finishing cooking, unpacking groceries, or cleaning up after dinner. The Sassy one in the picture we used more when Buddy was younger, and we use the Melissa and Doug bead maze more now. I would recommend these for ages 6 -18 months.

12. Baby Einstein Activity Jumper

The activity jumper was another hand-me-down from a friend. But it is totally worth the money to buy one if you don’t have one that you can borrow. Buddy loved this so much! He would jump and laugh for a long time. It was great having him contained, so I could do things like grade papers or clean. We were all so sad when Buddy outgrew his jumperoo. I would recommend this for ages 7 months – 12 months.

13. Stacking rings

There are a lot of variations of stacking rings out there. Ours lights up and makes noise, and I know Buddy loves it. It was a challenge for Buddy to do this independently at first (at 8 months), but he was so proud once he could do it. I think he’s almost outgrown it, but we do still play with the stacking rings from time to time. I would recommend it for ages 6 – 18 months.

If you’re looking for a gift for a younger infant, read my blog about toys for infants 0-6 months here.

Drawing with Cars

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Recently, Buddy has become more interested in drawing pictures. Most of the time, we just use Crayola washable crayons (affiliate link) and sometimes stickers too. However, I’ve been looking for other easy art projects to do with Buddy. I first saw the idea of drawing with cars on Housing a Forest’s blog. We actually tried and failed with this activity last summer, but I thought Buddy was ready to try again.

While Buddy napped, I set up two marker cars and taped down a “road” with some painters tape and white drawing paper. I used packaging tape to tape a Crayola washable marker (affiliate link) to the back of each car. The cars were purchased at the dollar store for craft purposes, so I wasn’t worried about the tape wrecking them. It also made it extra fun for Buddy because these were new cars to him.

Buddy loved both the cars and the markers. We drew with one color for awhile and then we colored with the other one. For the most part, Buddy did a good job of coloring on the paper. There were a few times though that the markers went on the floor. Fortunately, they wiped off easily with a wet paper towel.

We did have some problems with cars getting untaped. Buddy didn’t help, because once he realized the markers came off, he was very interested in playing with the cars and markers separately. I was able to retape the cars and get Buddy to draw with them again.

Once we were done, Buddy helped clean up our activity.  He used a wet paper towel to wipe up the marker. Then, he picked up the painter’s tape.  He actually enjoyed these activities almost as much as the drawing with cars activity!

Buddy is really interested in cars and trains right now. If you have any activity ideas for us, please leave a comment!

Heart Stamping Art Project

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Last week, Buddy and I made Valentine’s Day sun catchers. This week, I wanted to do another craft related to Valentine’s Day. (What can I say? I love getting ready for holidays.) When I first saw this heart stamping idea on Housing a Forest’s blog, I knew it would be a perfect activity for Buddy.

I started by folding three toilet paper tubes into heart shapes. Then I put each heart on a paper plate with paint. (This was our first time using Crayola washable kid’s paint [affiliate link], and it was great!) I also used painter’s tape to tape down a piece of construction paper.

At first, Buddy was more interested in the containers of paint than the actual project. He wanted to play with the containers like blocks, and he was upset when I took them away. However, once I showed Buddy how to make hearts with the tubes, he was very interested.

Buddy did a great job of stamping hearts on the paper. He wanted to use both ends of the roll for stamping, so that made a bit of a mess. He also liked to see what the paint looked like when it smeared, so not all of the hearts were perfect. But overall, I’m really happy with how it turned out. I would say it’s Buddy’s best art project yet!

Buddy was really proud of his final product! I think it looks great for art done by a one year old! We will definitely try this again next Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day Sun Catchers

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Last weekend I pulled out all of our Valentine’s Day decorations. I didn’t have any decorations for my kitchen, so I decided to make some with Buddy. I loved our fall sun catchers, and decided to make some for Valentine’s Day.

During Buddy’s nap, I cut some small squares of red and pink tissue paper. I also used painter’s tape to tape down clear contact paper. I decided not to do a construction paper outline like I did in the fall, because I thought I’d be able to cut out a heart without a guide.

Buddy was immediately interested when he saw the materials for our project. I put the tissue paper in a bowl to make it easy for him to grab. He loved picking out the tissue paper and putting it onto the sticky contact paper. He wanted to make huge stacks of tissue paper, though, so he needed a little help spreading everything out.

After a little practice, Buddy was better about getting every square to touch the contact paper. If there was a huge pile, I just scooped the extra off the top and put it back into the bowl.

When we had used all of the tissue paper, I put another piece of contact paper on top. Then I cut out several hearts of different sizes. I used clear tape to put our final product on our sliding glass doors.

This was such an easy project and a lot of fun for both of us. Buddy really enjoyed the process, and he was proud of the final product. I love having a little seasonal touch in my kitchen. We will definitely make sun catchers again in the future.

Please share if you have any other easy holiday activities for kids. I want to do at least one more Valentine’s Day activity with Buddy soon.

Five Easy Chores That a One Year Old Can Do

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My students have jobs in my classroom, and I love their help. They earn extra credit, build responsibility skills, feel good about helping, and I have less work to do. Now that I have student helpers, I can’t imagine doing everything by myself. Even though Buddy is much, much younger than my middle school students, I still want to do a similar system at home.

I have seen many lists of kids’ chores online, but every one I’ve seen starts at age two. In my opinion, one year olds are capable of helping out around the house. Just like my classroom, my end goal is to have less work for myself. At this point, these chores are about giving Buddy opportunities to help. Yes, it will be faster for me to do them on my own, but eventually, he will be able to do more independently. And Buddy loves being my helper.

Here are the five chores that Buddy does in our house. Buddy was a very late walker, so he started doing all of these chores before he could walk. Now that he’s walking, he’s even better at these chores.

Putting Away Toys and Books

We started making Buddy put toys away around 10 months old. Most of his toys are thrown in the bins that are on the lower part of the bookshelf pictured above. Around 12 months, we started expecting Buddy to put books on the shelf correctly. He knows which part of the book is the spine, and he knows that he needs to have that part face out.

Some days, Buddy’s very willing to help pick things up, and some days it takes a little more effort. Giving options (“You pick up one, I’ll pick up one. Which one do you want?”) and counting (“Let’s see how many toys you can put in the box.”) are my best ways to encourage Buddy on days that he’s not interested in picking up.

Putting Clothes in the Hamper

Buddy started putting clothes in the hamper at 17 months. This one doesn’t happen that often right now. I usually undress Buddy on the changing table and throw his clothes in the hamper as I change him. But there are times that we ask Buddy to put things in his hamper. We talk about playing hamper basketball, and he loves it!

Dusting

This one is my personal favorite. I hate dusting, and Buddy thinks it’s so much fun! He has a great time cruising around our coffee tables with the duster. I do have to do the very center once he’s done. I have also walked around with Buddy and held him up to dust higher objects. Buddy started dusting after he became confident in cruising, which was around 16 months.

Cleaning up Food Messes

One of our house rules is you make a mess, you clean it up. When Buddy started on solids, he had a lot of problems with throwing food. Hubby and I decided that if Buddy threw his food, he would have to pick it up. If that food is sticky, Buddy also has to wipe the floor with a wet paper towel. Making Buddy clean up after himself helped quite a bit with the food throwing. We started this chore around 14 months.

When Buddy is at daycare, he has to wipe the table in front of his space when he’s done. He loves to wipe now, so we let him do that as much as possible. (It’s also a great way to help Buddy wait in a waiting room or when we’re going out to eat. We give him a napkin, and he starts wiping the table.) I also have Buddy wipe the table after he’s been coloring to clean up the crayon mess.

Laundry

I know that some people think I’m crazy for having a one year old help do his laundry. But I don’t want to do Buddy’s laundry for the next 17 years, and it’s easier for him to learn now while he’s interested. I’ve had Buddy help with every part of the laundry process. When I’m loading the washer, Buddy will hand laundry up to me so I don’t have to bend over. Then he pushes the power and start buttons. When I switch things to the dryer, he helps me push in the wet laundry and put in the dryer sheet. He also helps with the power and start buttons on the dryer. When everything is done, Buddy helps put the laundry into the basket.

While I’m folding, Buddy will go through the basket, pull out the socks, and put them in a pile. Sometimes he can do this well, sometimes it’s just laundry everywhere. In the last few weeks, Buddy has started to put things away in low drawers like socks, bibs, and washcloths. Buddy’s favorite part of the laundry process is when we’re done, so he can play with the laundry basket. (Read more about some of our laundry basket fun in this blog post.) Buddy started helping with laundry around 15 months.

Other Ways to Help

I wouldn’t classify these as chores, but I like to give Buddy every opportunity I can to “help”. He loves it!

  • Turning on/off the light
  • Closing a drawer or door
  • Bringing something over to me
  • Carrying something so I don’t have to carry it
  • Putting trash in the trash can
  • Pouring or stirring when I’m cooking

As Buddy gets older, I plan to increase the amount of chores he does independently. Hopefully, Buddy will become confident in his independent skills and be willing to help our family. If you have any ideas for other great chores for toddlers, please leave them in the comments.

Pom Pom Transfer Activities and Toss Game

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Buddy loves playing with pom poms.  (You can read about some of our other pom pom activities here and here.)  However, I had to put them away for awhile because Buddy wanted to put them in his mouth. Last week, I saw some new pom poms ideas on Busy Toddler, and thought it might be time to pull them out again.

One of the ideas on Busy Toddler’s blog was to use a multi-sectioned container and kid tweezers with poms. I bought a pair of kid tweezers at the dollar store this summer, but Buddy hasn’t been able to use them yet. I set out a multi-sectioned container, a snack cup, tweezers, and the poms for Buddy to explore.

Buddy was so excited to see the poms! He immediately poured them from the cup into one of the sections. Then he started taking them and putting them into different sections.

I showed Buddy that he could use the tweezers to pick up and move the pom poms. Buddy was very curious about the tweezers after he saw me use them. He tried a couple of times, but he wasn’t able to make them work.

After we gave up on the tweezers, Buddy just poured the poms from the cup into different sections. He also picked up poms and put them into different sections. He really enjoyed transferring the poms from one section to another. From time to time, he’d dump the whole container over and start again.

Next, we used the different sections of the container to sort the poms by color. Buddy is 21 months now, and he’s just starting to understand the idea of a color sort. We pulled out a few different colors and put them into different sections.

Buddy wasn’t all that interested in sorting the pom poms. He decided it would be a lot more fun to throw them around the room. Since Buddy wanted to throw the poms, I quickly made up a toss game. I said that we get a point for getting a pom in the container and five points if the pom gets in the center section. Buddy loved this game!

When we got a couple in the center part, I made a big deal about getting five points. Buddy decided he wanted to win the game, and he came up with his own plan. He put all of the poms in the cup and poured them directly into the center part. He was so proud that he was able to get so many in there! (I guess I wasn’t clear enough about the throw them in to get the points part of the rules.)

Buddy had a great time playing with his pom poms. He was entertained for more than a half hour, which I would call a success. (Eventually he did want to try eating them, so we had to put them away. If you do pom poms with a toddler, please supervise carefully!)  I’m sure we’ll try our game and sort activities again when Buddy is a little older.

I’d love to hear if you have any ideas on playing with pom poms or other materials in a creative way. I’m always looking for new ideas for our next play time together.

 

Kinetic Sand Play

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When we were in Florida for Christmas, we took Buddy to the beach. He had the best time playing in the sand. We would fill a bucket together, make a sand castle, and then knock it down. Buddy loved this activity!

Now that we’re back in the Great White North, I’ve been looking for ideas for fun indoor activities. I came across this recipe for DIY Kinetic Sand from Baby First Blog and immediately thought of our Florida beach fun. We had an open bag of play sand in our garage, so I had everything I needed on hand. Kinetic sand has the properties of wet sand, which means it is easy to mold. I was hoping that it would be less messy (it wasn’t) and more fun (it was!) than regular sand.

I doubled the recipe and used two cups of sand. The next time we do this, I will probably prepare at least another two cups for play. The recipe said to let dry for a couple hours, but I let mine out over night. It was a little dry, so I added a little more water before we started playing.

I set out the kinetic sand and a few tools in a pan for Buddy. He was so excited when he saw the it!

We recreated the same play activities that we did on the beach in Florida. I had a small pot from his water/sand table (affiliate link) that we filled with sand. Just like on the beach, we filled, dumped, and knocked down our towers over and over. Every time we made a new sand tower, Buddy was in awe!

And then he immediately wanted to knock it down!

Buddy did a great job of keeping most of the sand in the pan. He actually was much neater with this activity that he is when we do our rice sensory bin. The kinetic sand kept Buddy entertained for over a half hour! It was a bit messy, but Buddy had so much fun, it was worth it.

I’m hoping to do some more sensory bins this winter. If you have any good ideas, I’d love to hear them!