Repurposed for Fun: Bowling with Cups

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Last week, I wanted to try a new game for Try Something New Thursday. I grabbed a stack of cups that were leftover from our last party and a medium sized ball. I made a pyramid with the cups, and we were ready to bowl. 

Buddy was excited as soon as he saw the bowling game. He initially tried to throw the ball at the cups. Then I showed him how to roll the ball. Buddy tried to roll it right next to the cups, but I told him you have to go far for bowling. He thought that was really funny, and he now says “go far!” all the time. It didn’t take long, though, for him to understand how to bowl.

Buddy and I took turns bowling. We didn’t keep score; we just tried to knock down as many cups as we could. It was a lot of fun showing him how to take turns to play a game. If we didn’t knock down all of the cups, Buddy kicked over the rest of them. That was a lot of fun too. 

We played for about 15 minutes, then Buddy took a break. He decided to put his trains in a cup and pour them into a box. (Buddy still loves pouring!) Once all the trains were in the box, we got back to bowling.

We both had a lot of fun! I’m happy to have an easy game we can play with a family, and I’m sure we will play it again soon.

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DIY Felt Road Mat

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When I bought a train set for Buddy’s 2nd birthday, I knew I wanted keep it set up. If we had to set it up every time we wanted to play, it wouldn’t be played with often. We don’t have the space for a train table, so we decided to use our coffee table. We hardly ever use our living room, so it wasn’t hard for us to dedicate it to the trains.

Originally, we had cardboard under the train tracks to keep them from scratching the table. It wasn’t the most attractive solution, but it worked fine for us. The end of the school year was really busy, so upgrading the cardboard had to wait until summer break.

I bought green felt for the background and gray felt for some roads. I also used blue felt scraps from my quiet book. (Read about my quiet book here.) My original plan was to just have the green felt, but I eventually decided to add roads as well. Buddy’s train set came with many cars. When the cars and the trains are on the tracks, they are really full. It’s hard to push everything around. I hoped that roads would give the cars more places to drive and spread out. Plus, our set has a road crossing that would be much more fun with a road to drive on.

I put the felt on the table and traced the edge of the table with tailor’s chalk (affiliate link). Then I cut out the felt and ironed it.

After that, I put it on the table and put the tracks on top of it. I cut some gray and blue felt scraps and put them where I wanted them on the table. Then I used the chalk to sketch outlines of the road and water. Since we have a little bridge, it made sense to me to have that go over water. I also did some water on another part of the mat to add a little color. When I did the road, I made it the same width as the one on the road crossing.

Once everything was cut out, I used fabric glue to glue it to the green felt. Then I used puffy fabric paint to make the dashed line in the road. The hardest part of the whole process was keeping Buddy away from it while it dried! I’m really happy with the final product. Buddy loves his train table more than ever, and he plays with it every day.

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Mighty, Mighty Construction Site Sensory Bin

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Buddy is really into construction vehicles right now, so I decided to do another construction sensory bin for this week’s Time To Read Tuesday. (Read about our other construction site sensory bin with shredded paper here.) I checked out the book Mighty, Mighty Construction Site (affiliate link) from our library to go with our sensory bin. Buddy loves Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (affiliate link), so we were both excited to read the sequel.

I started by reading the book with Buddy. He loved all of the trucks from the other book and all of the new ones too. I loved the themes of friendship and teamwork. It’s a great book and definitely worth checking out or buying.

Then, I pulled out our sensory bin, poured in black beans, and added four mini CAT construction vehicles. I bought mine at the dollar store, but you can also get them here. They are really nice for the price, and all of the parts move the same way they do on the actual construction vehicles. Buddy was with me when we bought them a few months ago, but he hasn’t seen them since then. These new toys made the sensory bin extra exciting. 

I knew we had a bulldozer and a dump truck, but I wasn’t sure what the other two vehicles are. Fortunately, both were new friends added to Mighty, Mighty Construction Site. After looking at the pictures, we decided our other trucks were a backhoe and a front-end loader.

In the book, the front-end loader helps fill up the dump truck. We spent a lot of time doing that as well. Then Buddy tried using the backhoe and the bulldozer to fill up the dump truck. He had the best time filling up the dump truck, driving it around the bin, and dumping it back out. Buddy also loved grabbing handfuls of beans and dropping them.

This was one of my most successful activities in a long time. Buddy played with the trucks for over an hour! When we had to stop for dinner, he was hysterical about me putting it away. We compromised by picking up the beans and leaving them in the bin with the trucks. (Normally I keep my sensory bin fillers in an extra large ziplock bag in a cabinet.) We’ve played with it twice in the last week. It’s a mess, but Buddy loves it so much, it’s worth it. I know we’ll continue to play with our Mighty, Mighty Construction Site sensory bin often.

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Brown Bear Matching Activity

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For our first Time to Read Tuesday of the summer, I chose the book Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? (affiliate link). I came across amazing resources for this book on 1 + 1 + 1 = 1’s website, and I was excited to finally be able to use them. (The version of the activity on the website now is a little different than the one I downloaded.) To prepare the heads and tails Brown Bear matching activity, I printed off the cards and laminated them. When I cut them out, I cut each card in half.

Buddy and I started the activity by reading the book together. Once we reached the last page, I told him we’d use it to help us solve a puzzle. Buddy was excited because he loves puzzles. We spread out all of the cards and started to look for matches.

It was easy for Buddy to find matches. He knows his colors well, so that helped a lot. Initially, he liked to check the cards with the book to see if they were the same animals. I loved that he really made a connection between the book and the cards. 

While Buddy had no problem making matches, he did have a little problem putting the two parts together correctly. Again, we used the book as a reference to help us. Eventually, he got better at lining the cards up correctly.

Buddy loved his Brown Bear matching activity! We did it three times in a row, and then two times again later in the week. Every time he finished it, he was so proud! It was so easy to make, and it will be a great busy bag. I will definitely try some other matching puzzles later this summer. 

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Road Trip Activities for a Two Year Old

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

Buddy and I started our summer break with a road trip to visit my family. Since this trip was in the middle of the week, Hubby wasn’t able to join us. That also meant that I had to find activities to keep Buddy occupied for more than 6 hours in the car. All of these activities had to be things that Buddy can do independently and would hold his attention. They also had to be easy to pack and carry in the car.

Buddy actually looks excited to start his long car ride!

Last summer, I blogged about tips for driving alone with a toddler (read here), and I used many of those same things on this trip as well. I modified the toy box set up a little from last year, but otherwise it’s the same. I poked holes in a shoe box and used string to tie it to the arm rest next to Buddy’s seat. Then, I loaded it up with small toys and books to keep him occupied. 

Here is what is in the box:

1.Water wow – This is one of Buddy’s favorite things right now. It’s a paint with water book that goes back to black and white after it dries. It actually didn’t fit in the box, but I handed it to him separately. I filled the water pen ahead of time, and he is able to put it in and out of the holder himself. We brought the water wow to a family dinner and all of the kids were obsessed with it. Buddy had to take turns with his 5-year-old and 3-year-old cousins painting one object at a time.

2. Colorforms – These we actually didn’t do in the car, but I bought them to do at my dad’s house. I’d been looking for reusable stickers for plane rides, but couldn’t find anything I liked. Then I came across Colorforms at Toys R Us and realized it was perfect! Buddy’s older cousins loved the Colorforms too.

3. VTech Go Go Smart Wheels – Buddy loves these. (Read about the portable tracks I made for these cars here.) He can turn the noises on and off himself. I did make the mistake of bringing our fire truck, and it took awhile to realize why I kept hearing sirens all over the place…

4. Old MacDonald Hand Puppet Book– Buddy sings Old MacDonald non stop, so of course I had to bring our book/puppet for it!

5. I Spy bottle – I linked one that you can buy, but I packed one that I made out of a tiny water bottle. (See the DIY directions for our larger one here.)

6. Finger puppets– These are small and fun to play with.

7. Indestructibles Books – I have blogged before about how much I love these books for travel. They are made of the same material as packing envelopes, and they take no space to pack. Several of them live in our diaper bag at all times. The Things That Go one is our current favorite.

8. Fisher Price Smart Phone – Buddy hadn’t seen ours in a while, so it was extra exciting for him on this trip.

9. Small board books – Buddy loves reading, so I always bring a bunch of books. I really like these small chunky books that are 2 inches by 2 inches because they don’t take up much space.

10. My First Thomas Pull Back Racer – Buddy loves all things Thomas, and these are a little larger and easier to bring (and not lose) than the wooden trains. They are the best pull back toys I’ve ever seen. They go forward a lot for just a little effort.

11. Stuffed animals – I probably didn’t need a link for this one because every toddler I know has a ton. The one I linked is a Peter Rabbit that is a current favorite of Buddy’s.

12. Munchkin farm animals – These are supposed to be bath toys, but we’ve never used them in the tub. Buddy loves playing with these animals.

13. Baby Einstein Music Toy – The music and lights make this interesting for both babies and toddlers. It is one of the few toys that I packed that would also be appropriate for a night drive. (I drove during the day, but we’ve had the problem of what to pack for dark drives during other parts of the year.)

14. Snacks are an important activity (in my opinion) to keep a toddler happy and entertained in the car. We love this Munchkin snack cup and Munchkin straw sippy cup.

I brought a few more toys and books to play with during our trip (a deflated beach ball is always a favorite of mine because it takes no space to pack). For the most part, these travel toys were the favorites both in the car and out of it. If you have any questions about travel tips with a toddler, please ask in the comments.

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DIY Portable Road Strips

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Buddy and I started our summer break with a road trip to see my family. Before our trip, I looked for new toys to keep Buddy occupied at his Granddad’s house. I wanted to find or make things that were small enough to travel with us. Since Buddy loves cars and trains, I decided to make portable road strips.

To make the road strips, I cut strips of black felt that were 2.5 inches wide. I decided to make them this width in order to be wide enough for Buddy’s Smart Wheels Cars (affiliate link). Some of them are straight, and some have corners. I wanted a variety of road strips so Buddy could set up the road in many different ways. I used white puffy fabric paint to make a dashed line in the middle of each road strip. 

We played with the portable road strips several times on our trip. Every time, Buddy was really excited to see the road and help set it up. He figured out quickly how to fix it by patting it flat when it got scrunched up a little. 

Buddy also really enjoyed mixing up the layout of the road. He needed a little help to get everything put together, but he could do a lot of it himself. Buddy tried his road strips on both the floor and the couch. 

After awhile, Buddy wanted to put other things on the road besides his cars. He walked his stuffed bunny up and down the road. He also put some of his Melissa and Doug Alphabet Train Lacing Beads (affiliate link) on the road. 

This was such an easy DIY project. It took me less than 20 minutes to put together, and it kept Buddy entertained for a long time. I will definitely bring these road strips with us on future trips. I’m sure we’ll also play with them often at home.

Tales of a Teacher Mom’s First Anniversary

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This week is the first anniversary of Tales of a Teacher Mom. One year ago, I started this blog unsure if I’d enjoy it. I hoped it would give me motivation to find new activities to do with Buddy and keep me busy during the summer. It definitely did both of those things and more. During the last year, I’ve connected with many other parents, and it’s been amazing. I love that my writing has been helpful to others.

A few statistics from this first year. (I’m a math teacher; I can’t help but include numbers!) This year I have written 57 posts and had 31,866 views. At the beginning of 2017, I set a goal for myself to write a new post every Monday, and so far I’ve met that goal. On Pinterest, I’m averaging 383,445 monthly viewers of my pins and engage about 17,644 every month. My most popular article (Painting with Water) has been pinned by more than 18,000 people. I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished so far, and I hope to grow even more this year.

My top five blog posts:

  1. Painting with Water
  2. Airplane Activities for a One Year Old
  3. Making Rain Sensory Activity
  4. Cornstarch and Water Sensory Play
  5. Repurposed for Fun: Water Bottle and Straws

Five more posts that I love:

  1.  Thomas the Train 2nd Birthday Party
  2. Cardboard Box Coloring
  3. Find That Shape: A Sidewalk Chalk Game
  4. Fishing for Magnetic Letters
  5. Five Easy Chores That a One Year Old Can Do

My first blog post: Road Trip Tips For Driving Alone with a One Year Old

My favorite post: Twelve Things About Being a Mom

Thank you so much for reading. Your comments have been especially motiving to me. It’s been a great year, and I’m looking forward to another year of blogging.

Easy Ideas to Keep Your Kids Entertained All Summer

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One of my favorite parts of being a teacher is having summers off. I love my job, but it’s really fun being home full time with Buddy. Now that summer is almost here, I’ve been thinking about all of the fun things we’re going to do together.

Last summer was my first summer home with Buddy (not counting my maternity leave). I was nervous about what I’d do to keep him entertained all day. After spending a long time looking, I eventually found plenty of ideas to keep both of us busy and having fun. I want to share my ideas to help out any other parents who need things to do this summer.

The best way to keep Buddy entertained is to get him out of the house. My favorite two resources are the park district and the library. The library has many fun classes and crafts available for free. Ours has story times by age level, and Buddy and I made some great friends in his reading group last summer. I also love being part of the summer reading program. Buddy had a great time earning prizes, and it was a great excuse to read a lot every day. This winter, Buddy won the grand prize in the reading program and he was so proud! Our library also has free reading and snack times once a month at the mall and Panera. We did a couple of those last summer, and they were so fun!

Buddy and his grand prize!

I also spend a lot of time looking through the park district summer catalog. Last summer, Buddy took a music class and gymnastics class through the park district. This year, we’re doing a music class, an art class, and a sports class. It’s really fun to have someone else plan activities for Buddy, and most of the classes are reasonably priced. Buddy loves the interaction with other kids his own age. He’s used to being around kids all day during the school year, and being at home with just me is a huge change for him. These classes helps with that transition. Our park district also hosts free kids concerts, summer movies, and group walks. Plus, the parks themselves are lots of fun too.

If you have older kids, there are great free or low cost classes for kids at Home Depot, Michaels, and JoAnn Fabrics. Unfortunately, Buddy is too little to take advantage of these for another few years. Barnes and Noble has free story times followed by a craft every Saturday. We also love playing with the Thomas train set when we visit Barnes and Noble.

Between the library and park district events, Buddy and I are busy and out of the house most mornings. But I still need something to keep Buddy busy during the afternoons. Last year I made a daily schedule for our summer. (Read more about it and get the free printable here.) Our days are Make Something Mondays, Time to Read Tuesdays, Water Wednesdays, Try Something New Thursdays, and Field Trip Fridays. Our classes are in the mornings, and in the afternoons we will do something related to themes. I might switch up our Thursdays and sometimes do a Throwback Thursday when we do something that we haven’t done in a long time. Once Buddy is a little older, I also like the idea of doing a Thoughtful Thursday where we do something nice for someone else.

One of our favorite Try Something New Thursdays – playing with cornstarch and water

Another possibility is doing themed weeks. When I worked at a day camp, we had a new theme every week. I loved coming up with crafts, stories, and games related to that week’s theme. My favorite week was holiday week, where we celebrated a different holiday every day. We made valentines, had an Easter Egg hunt, dressed up in costumes, and made graham cracker gingerbread house all in the same week. Other fun theme ideas are space, ocean, farm, circus, dinosaurs, water, and Olympics. Winder-Mom.com has a great list of themes and resources for doing themed weeks at home. I haven’t done any themed weeks with Buddy yet, but I might try it for a week or two this summer.

Some of the other things on our summer bucket list are:

  • Visit every park in town
  • Attend at least one baseball game
  • Go to a children’s museum
  • Play outside as much as possible
  • Go swimming often
  • Play in the sprinklers
  • Go to the zoo
  • Attend at least one outdoor concert
  • Have a picnic
  • Take nature walks
  • Go to a beach or lake (or both!)
  • Walk to the Dairy Queen and have ice cream as a family

Finally, it wouldn’t be summer break without taking at least one trip. Buddy and I will be taking a road trip later this week, and the whole family will be going to Baltimore in July. We also plan to take some short day/weekend road trip to see friends within a few hours of us. Hubby and I have always loved to travel, and summer is the perfect time for us to get in a few trips.

Hopefully some of my ideas will be helpful to you for kids of any age. I’d love to hear some suggestions for activities to do with Buddy this summer. Please leave a comment if you have a fun idea for us.

Ten Activities to Entertain a Sick Toddler

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*Disclaimer – This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. If you choose to purchase an item from these links, I receive a small commission at no additional expense to you. Thanks for supporting my family.*

A few weeks ago, Buddy was sent home sick from school. Hubby stayed home with him on his first day off, and I was with him on his second day. By that time, Buddy was feeling much better, and he needed a lot of activities to keep him busy. He was still too sick to go out of the house, but he had enough energy to play. These are some of the things we did together.

  1. Read books – Buddy loves reading, and when he’s feeling a little sick, he has extra patience for sitting and reading. His favorite books are ones that have parts to move, like this  really cool version of “Wheels on the Bus”.
  2. Sing songs – Buddy is finally able to sing many of his favorite songs. He especially loves “Wheels on the Bus” and “Old MacDonald”, and we sing them all the time. We also love singing along to songs on the toddler song station on Pandora.
  3. Playdoh – Playdoh is so much fun for toddlers. We usually only pull it out on weekends when we have plenty of time at home. Buddy especially loves playing with his Thomas train playdoh set from his Thomas party and these Playdoh tools. 
  4. Play with forgotten toys – I rotate Buddy’s toys and books every month. It’s especially great for days like this where I need something “new” to distract Buddy. Buddy was excited about several of the rotated toys, but he was most excited about this Fisher Price firetruck
  5. Play with favorite toys – It’s nice when we have enough time for Buddy to play with all of his favorite toys. Right now, his favorite is his “choo choo tracks”. (We bought him a train set similar to this one for his birthday along with some Thomas trains.)  He played with these for a long time. 
  6. Box play – It’s amazing how entertaining an empty box is for kids. I gave Buddy the Thomas toss game box from his party and offered to play the toss game with him. He decided it would be more fun to put all of his trains and cars in the box and push them around. We’ve also had a lot of fun in the past coloring in a large cardboard box. (Read more about that here.) An empty box offers a lot of different entertainment options for toddlers. 
  7. Make music – Buddy has a lot of different musical instruments, and he enjoys making music with them. (We have the Horner Kid’s Band and the B. Parum Pum Pum Drum and love them both.) On this particular day, we spent some time playing our piano. We don’t do that often, so it was a lot of fun for Buddy. 
  8. Do a sort – Buddy is very interested in shapes and colors right now, so I decided to pull out my attribute links. We’ve played with these before (read about our shapes activity here and our colors activity here), but it’s been a long time. I asked Buddy what he wanted to sort first and he wanted to do a shape sort first. Then we mixed everything up again and sorted by color. Even if you don’t have attribute links, Pinterest is filled with many ideas for doing different types of sorts with shape and color.
  9. Stickers – Stickers are such an easy way to entertain a toddler. Buddy’s very into stickers right now. (We’ve even started carrying some in the diaper bag to keep him entertained when we go out to eat.) My favorite places to buy lots of cheap stickers is Party City and the dollar store. Buddy spent a lot of time putting lots of Thomas stickers on paper and making scenes of the characters. 
  10. Be artistic – Being stuck in the house is the perfect excuse for an art project. Right now, Buddy is really into his Water Wow book that he got for Easter. He can paint a picture with water, and it is really fun. We could have also drawn a picture with crayons, used his Color Wonder markers, or actually used paint. Since the Water Wow is new and easy, that’s what we did. Hopefully we are done with sick days for awhile. But I’d love to hear more ideas for sick day toddler activities if you have them.

Twelve Things I Love About Being a Mom

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In honor of Mother’s Day, this week I want to reflect on my favorite things about being a mom. It’s hard work being a parent, and it’s not always fun. But the last two years that I’ve been Buddy’s mom have been my favorite years of my life. Here are a few reasons why.

  1. Unconditional love – The love I feel for Buddy is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I can’t imagine life without him.
  2. A stronger bond with my husband – I love watching Hubby and Buddy together. Hubby is a great dad, and that makes me love him even more. We also are a team who support each other as parents. Buddy brought us together as a family, and he has changed our relationship in wonderful ways.
  3. Reliving my childhood – It’s fun to be a kid. And as a parent, you get to relive a lot of the fun things again. Right now, we spend a lot of time drawing with sidewalk chalk and playing with bubbles. I didn’t do those things as a childless adult, but now I do them all the time.
  4. Lots of hugs and cuddles – We have a family hug almost every morning before Buddy and I leave the house. Buddy gives lots of hugs throughout the day. Sometimes we rock and cuddle before naps on the weekends.
  5. Being someone’s whole world – Buddy needs me. Even though there are times when I’d like a little more distance (Really? You’re going to cry because you’re playing with Daddy and I need to get something downstairs?), it’s flattering. A hug or a kiss from me can fix a boo-boo or help Buddy if he’s nervous. It’s amazing to be loved so much.
  6. Lots of music – I’ve always loved singing and music, but I never did it as much as I do now. Buddy’s on an “Old MacDonald” kick, and we sang it today going up and down the aisles of Walgreens.
  7. Reading kids books – I love reading, and it’s a lot of fun to share that love with Buddy. We sometimes reads old books from my childhood, but we also read lots of new, fun books as well.
  8. Being silly – It’s so much fun making Buddy laugh. Being a mom gives me an opportunity to be silly and playful.
  9. Making new friends – I have made a couple great new mom friends, which is so fun. Adults don’t often make new friends, and it’s exciting to have friends that I can socialize with while our kids play. If I wasn’t a mom, I wouldn’t have ever made these friendships.
  10. Creative activities – I love finding new fun activities for Buddy. We have so much fun together doing arts projects or sensory activities. I wouldn’t do nearly as many creative projects without Buddy as I do now.
  11. Spending more time with family – Hubby and I both have families that live out of state. Before we were parents, we saw our families once or twice a year. Now, we see them much more often. Buddy is a perfect excuse for us to visit or for them to visit us. I love our families, and it’s great seeing them more often.
  12. Seeing the world in a new way – There are so many things that I notice that I wouldn’t have before Buddy. He loves it when I point out trucks or construction equipment as we drive around. We spend time watching birds and people walking their dogs. There are so many exciting things in the world when you are two – it’s fun to find them.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of my readers! And thanks for reading.