Monthly Archives: April 2017

Gardening Sensory Bin

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

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

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.