Gardening Sensory Bin

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Buddy loves sensory bins, so it’s always fun when I come across a new sensory bin idea. I first saw the idea of making a gardening sensory bin on Frugal Mom Eh’s blog. Now that it’s spring, it is the perfect time to try it.

Buddy and I bought the gardening materials from the dollar store. I had him pick out some flowers he liked, and I bought some small plastic pots as well. We also bought a jumprope with carrot handles. I cut off the rope so we could use the carrots in the bin. We bought five bags of black beans at the grocery store, and the rest of the tools we already had at home.

Before we played in the gardening sensory bin, I cut down the stems of the plastic flowers with wire cutters so they would fit in the pots. I wrapped the ends with electrical tape to cover up the exposed wire. I also found some toy gardening tools that we’ve used with some of our other sensory bins.

The bin was set up with the flowers and some black beans in the pots and the carrots buried in the “dirt”. Buddy was very eager to play in the bin, and he immediately started taking out all of the flowers.  I hoped that picking out the flowers with Buddy would increase his interest in them, but it didn’t.

Buddy’s favorite part of the bin was the plastic pots. He loved scooping up the beans and putting them into the pots. Then he’d pour the beans out of the bin, and start over again. Buddy also loved banging the pots together and stacking them in one another.

I loved the black beans as a sensory bin filler. In fact, it is my favorite filler that we’ve tried. Buddy loves it as much as rice because it’s easy to rake, scoop, and pour. I prefer it to rice, though, because it’s much bigger and easier to pick up. Buddy also helped me pick up the spilled beans to put back in the bin (something he can’t do when we play with rice).

Overall, Buddy and I both were really happy with this sensory bin. It entertained him for a long time, and was faster to clean up than some of our other sensory activities. I’m sure we’ll do it again soon.

Thomas the Train 2nd Birthday Party

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Buddy turned two last weekend, and we had a big party to celebrate. One of my favorite memories of my childhood is planning themed parties with my mother. I was so excited to finally do a themed party for Buddy. Last year, we just did a “one is fun” theme, but it wasn’t related to anything that interested Buddy. This year, Buddy loves the show Thomas and Friends, and I couldn’t wait to plan an exciting party for him.


The decorations for the party were a blend of items that I bought at the party store along with things I made myself. I cut out yellow circles out of 12×12 yellow card stock to make railroad crossing signs for our porch. I used painters tape to make tracks and put a Thomas door sign from the party store on our front door. We also had Thomas balloons on our mailbox.

I made centerpieces for the dining room table and one of the food areas from card stock and dowel rods. The Thomas image I found online and printed onto card stock before cutting out. I was able to use a die-cut machine at school to help with the 2s and circles. The metal pails were found at the party store, and I filled each with M&Ms to keep the dowel rods up. On our dining table, I also put a circle of wooden track with Thomas and Percy on it. The track and trains came together in a Thomas the Train Wooden Railway Starter Set.  I bought the set because it ended up being cheaper than buying the trains on their own!

Another decoration that I made was a photo display. I put up a lot of photos at Buddy’s first birthday, and our friends and family loved it. I wanted to do that again this year, but with a train theme. The train and cars were all cut from cardstock, and I used double sided tape to attach the pictures. It turned out so great! The train says “Choo choo… this year flew!” and under each picture is the month it was taken. I included one picture from each month over the last year.


I wanted to keep the train theme with the food as much as possible. I made a train of snacks using small metal trays from the dollar store, and I drew wheels on with permanent marker. The train was from our Fisher Price train that Buddy’s loved long before he knew about Thomas. Initially, I had planned to make cards for each car to say things like “log car” for stick pretzels and “coal car” for mini oreos. In the end, I just decided to make one card that said “Chugga Chugga Chew Chew” and leave it at that.

I had originally planned on doing a cute sheet cake I saw on Pinterest, but Hubby convinced me that cupcakes are so much easier. (He is so right!) To set up the cupcakes, I placed 50 unwrapped fun size Kit Kat bars on a cake board to look like train tracks. We already had a Thomas Pullback Racer toy, so that was put at the front to pull the cupcake train. I put some Thomas cupcake toppers in the chocolate ones to make them look a little different than the vanilla. I also had some leftover candy coated Oreos from our favors, so I put those on the board too. We had a lot more cupcakes than what fit on the train, so I put the rest on a cupcake tower and an extra plate.

Somehow, I forgot to take a picture of the drinks, but they had a train theme too. I had a big drink dispenser of cherry limeade, and a framed list of all of our “diesel fuel” options.


The most challenging part of my planning was coming up with train themed activities for a variety of ages. We had seven kids at the party (including Buddy) between the ages of 22 months and 5 years. I decided to make different activity stations so kids could choose whatever they were interested in to do. Each station had a sign to guide kids (and parents) to see what type of activity was in each location. I put each sign in a page protector to make it look nice.

Station 1: Photo Booth

I bought a party background of Thomas and Percy and put together a box of hats and other dress up accessories. The kids could dress like Sir Topham Hatt, a train engineer, or a fancy passenger and then take a picture with the trains.

Station 2: Trains

Buddy’s big gift from us was a wooden train set. We set it up right before the party, and Buddy was so excited when he saw it. We bought this one along with some Thomas and Friends trains, and we’re really happy with it so far. This station was a huge hit with Buddy and his friends.

Station 3: Books and Puzzles

We have a ton of books about trains in general and also ones about Thomas. (I also picked up a few more for the party from the library.)  I put them all in a basket on the floor where the kids could easily reach them. There also was a shoebox of puzzles that I printed and laminated. I found the puzzles free online here and here. There was also an extra memory game from our treat bag that I put in the box. The books were enjoyed by several of our guests, but I didn’t see anyone try the puzzles. Buddy was very interested when he saw them before the party, so I know they’ll be used eventually.

Station 4: Playdoh

This was by far the most popular station! I was so glad that I invested in this folding picnic table before the party. (It folds flat like a card table and is now in our garage waiting for the next time we need it.) With the picnic table, there was a lot of space to hold kids and at times we had five kids at the table! I bought this Thomas and Friends play doh set so the kids could make their own trains and roll out tracks for them. I also bought a bunch of regular play doh and set out our regular play doh tools.


Station 5: Coloring and Stickers

I printed out a bunch of different Thomas and Friends coloring pages that I found free online here and here. This station also had some Thomas and Friends stickers from the party store and white printer paper. I set out some regular crayons as well as the Crayola Washable Triangular Crayons that I love to use with Buddy. (They wipe off with water so easily!) The kids seemed to enjoy this station as well.

Station 6: Toss the Coal in the Hole Game

For this game, I combined a couple of ideas I saw on Pinterest. I saw the idea of “toss the coal in the hole” with just a bucket. Another website I found showed some diaper boxes turned into Thomas the train costumes. I decided to make a Thomas out of a diaper box, and use that as the target for the toss game. After cutting a hole in the top, I painted the box blue, and used red and yellow painted details to make the sides look like Thomas. I printed a Thomas face that I found on Hello Wonderful’s blog and used double sided tape to attach it to the box. For the coal, I bought a three pack of kids’ black socks from the dollar store. The socks were each rolled into a ball, giving me six balls of coal for the game.

Outside activities:

The weather in early April is unreliable, so I wasn’t sure if we’d make it outside. Luckily for us, it was sunny and almost 70 during the party. After cake and presents, we went outside for bubbles, chalk, and playing with Buddy’s new soccer ball. We already had a bubble blowing Thomas toy, and Buddy was excited to bring out “Tommy Bubbles” during his party. We also bought a large Thomas shaped bubble wand at the party store that was played with at the party.


Even though it is a kid’s birthday party, I wanted to have small favors for my adult guests too. Many of our family and friends traveled a long way to be at the party, so I wanted something small as a thank you for coming. Of course, I wanted to have treat bags for the kids at the party too.

I made candy dipped Oreos for all of our guests. They were dipped in yellow candy melt, and I used cupcake decorating gel for the writing. In retrospect, I wish I had used something else because the gel smeared when I put them in their bags. They still tasted good though.

I made two special treat bags for our infant guests (ages 4 months and 5 months). In each, I put an Elmo teething ring from the dollar store, a Disney board book from the dollar store, and a squirty Fisher Price bath toy. (These were the bath toys, but I was able to buy them individually at our grocery store.)

In the bags for the rest of the kids, there were a mixture of Thomas toys as well as other things I thought the kids would like. Most of the items were purchased at the party store or our grocery store. The contents of the bag are shown below. I’m not a big fan of giving candy and sweets to young kids, so the only food treat I included was a bag of Thomas and Friends fruit snacks.

This was my favorite party I’ve ever thrown. Both the kids and the adults had a lot of fun, and Buddy especially had a wonderful time. All of the kids got along well, and they loved all of the activities. Even though it was a lot of work ahead of time, it was so worth it. I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. This was truly the perfect party for my train loving little boy.

If you are reading this because you are planning a train birthday party, please let me know if you have any questions about the things I created. I have attached the printables I made for the party in case you want to use them. Best wishes on planning your party!

Baggage Claim PDF

Baggage Claim Docx

Diesel Fuel PDF

Diesel Fuel Docx

Thomas Party Stations PDF

Thomas Party Stations Docx

Ten Easy Activities To Do With a One Year Old

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Buddy turned two this weekend. I can’t believe it. When I look at the picture above, it’s hard to believe the little boy in the top (Buddy at 14 months) is the same boy as the one in the bottom picture (Buddy at 22 months).

It’s been an extremely busy weekend filled with a Thomas the Train birthday party (more to come on that soon) and lots of out of town family. I haven’t had much time to blog this weekend, but I wanted to reflect on this occasion. One of my goals of this blog was to find easy activities to do with Buddy and share them with others. I’m pretty happy with most of the ones I’ve done so far, and I hope they’re useful to you.

Here are my favorite ten activities that I’ve done in the last year with Buddy:

  1. Painting with Water

2. Making Rain Sensory Activity

3. Fun with Homemade Play Dough

4. Rice Sensory Bin

5. Fall Sun Catchers

6. Cornstarch and Water Sensory Play

7. Repurposed for Fun: Water Bottle and Straws

8. The Snowy Day Indoor Snow Activity

9. Fishing for Magnetic Letters

10. Cardboard Box Coloring

I’ve done so many fun activities with Buddy this year, it was hard to pick just ten. (And if you’re looking for more ideas, please look around on the blog. I have lots of them!) Now I need activity ideas for Buddy as a two year old. If you have any good ones, please share in the comments.



Cardboard Box Coloring

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Sometimes the best activity ideas are the easiest. A long time ago, I saw the idea of coloring in a cardboard box on Pinterest. (See the original idea on Berry Sweet Baby’s blog here.) I immediately thought it was a great idea, but Buddy was too small to do it at the time.

Last week, Buddy received a gift that came in a very large cardboard box. I took the present out, but I didn’t immediately break down the box. Later in the day, I needed an activity for Buddy when I remembered the coloring box idea. I grabbed Buddy, gave him some crayons, and put him in the box.

Buddy loved being in the box! He colored for a bit, and then he had a lot of fun knocking down the sides of the box. Every time he hit the side, Buddy burst out in hysterical laughter!

Buddy loved coloring in the box as well. He actually loved this activity so much, we did it four days in a row! (And then we revisited it again later in the week!)

Buddy loved to take peek-a-boo breaks from his coloring. He loves playing peek-a-boo, and the box made it extra fun.

This was such a great activity! I left the box with crayons in it in our living room for a few days, and we would color whenever we needed a fun activity. It was worth the eye sore to have a quick, fun activity right on hand. We’ve since thrown out the box, but I’m sure we’ll do it again the next time we have a large box delivered to our house.

Find That Shape: A Sidewalk Chalk Game

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I’m so excited that spring break is here! As the weather is getting warmer, Buddy is extra eager to go outside to play. A friend and colleague of mine told me about a shape sidewalk chalk game she plays with her granddaughter. She draws different colored shapes in chalk and tells her granddaughter to find different colors and shapes. Since Buddy is working on colors and shapes, I knew it’d be a perfect game for him.

To make this game easy for Buddy, I only did one of each shape and color. I also picked shapes and colors that Buddy knows. 

I told Buddy to find a specific color/shape combination and jump on the shape. He had a lot of fun finding each shape. Buddy can’t jump yet, but he enjoyed stomping on each shape as he found it.

Buddy took some breaks from the game to draw on our driveway with the chalk. We’ve never played with chalk before, so that was fun and exciting for Buddy. Then we’d go back to playing our game again.

We also played a variation where he told me which shape and color to jump on. Buddy thought that was lots of fun too.

Once Buddy becomes more confident with his colors and shapes, I will make this game more difficult by making shapes in more than one different color. So far, we’ve played it twice this week, and it’s quickly becoming one of Buddy’s favorite activities.

Buddy and I have some extra time together this week due to spring break, so I’m looking for more things to try with him. If you have any ideas, please share!

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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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!