Author Archives: Teacher Mom

Cooking With Kids: Banana Muffins

Buddy and I got a snow day last week, and it was Buddy’s first snow day ever! We spent the morning outside in the snow, but I needed an activity to keep us busy in the afternoon. I decided it would be a great time to bake something, and I quickly found this recipe for banana muffins from The Busy Baker. Luckily, we had everything we needed to make the muffins.

We started by preheating the oven to 350 degrees and putting muffin cups in the muffin tin. Buddy thought that was a lot of fun!

Then we put three ripe bananas in a bowl and mashed them with a fork. Buddy and I took turns mashing them, since it was a little difficult for him to do a thorough job of this on his own. 

Next, I measured 3/4 cup of white sugar, and Buddy poured it into the bowl. 

Then, I cracked an egg into a measuring cup, and Buddy added it to our bowl. We also added 1/3 cup vegetable oil and mixed it with a wooden spoon. We needed to take turns again to make sure that everything was combined. 

Next, we measured 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour and put it into a different bowl. 

Then we added the rest of the dry ingredients (1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt) to the bowl and mixed with a fork. This step Buddy could do by himself. 

Buddy helped me pour the dry ingredients into the wet ones, and we took turns mixing it with a wooden spoon. We also threw in some chocolate chips to the mixture, although the recipe doesn’t call for it. (I used a small amount that was left in the bag, which was about 1/4 cup.) Then we used an ice cream scoop to add batter to the muffin cups. Buddy tried to help me with this, but it ended up being a lot easier for me to do it myself.

The muffins baked for about 25 minutes, and then they had to cool. (We did that during nap time.) When Buddy got up from his nap, we each had a muffin as our afternoon snack. They were very moist and so delicious! We both loved them, and Hubby did too! We will definitely be using this recipe again the next time we have to get rid of a few old bananas.

 

Love Note Scavenger Hunt

I first read about doing a love note hunt for Valentine’s Day in Real Simple magazine. They suggested hiding a note about something that you love about your children each day in February. Then on Valentine’s Day, they can look for all 14 notes. I thought it was a great idea, but 14 notes would be too much for Buddy.

After a little thought, I decided to take that idea and make it into a scavenger hunt for Buddy. We usually buy Buddy a small gift for Valentine’s Day, and this hunt will lead to that present. My mom often did scavenger hunts for my sister and me growing up, and we loved them! It’s a special tradition that I want to continue for Buddy.

I cut out 6 hearts out of red construction paper. On each heart, I wrote one thing that Hubby and I love about Buddy. I also put where to find the next clue. Since Buddy is still pretty young, I wanted to keep the hunt clues pretty straight forward. I’m very excited about doing our hunt this year, and I plan to make it a tradition for years to come.

Since it’s not Valentine’s Day yet, I don’t have any fun pictures of Buddy to share. But I wanted to share the idea before Valentine’s Day in case any of you want to do something similar for your family.

Heart Stamping Valentine

Buddy’s school asked every student to make a Valentine for his or her classroom. I decided that we would do the heart stamping activity from last Valentine’s Day (read about it here). Once Buddy finished his painting, we made it into a valentine.

*Disclaimer – this blog contains affiliate links for your convenience. If you choose to purchase an item through a link, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting my family.*

I started by pulling out a sheet of painting paper, which I taped down with painters tape. Then I pulled out a couple of paper plates, washable kids’ paint, a heart cookie cutter from the dollar store, and two toilet paper rolls. I poured paint on the plates, and I creased the toilet paper rolls to look like hearts. Finally I pulled out Buddy’s smock to keep the paint off of his clothes.

Buddy started with the cookie cutter. I liked using this in addition to the toilet paper hearts because it gave us a different size of heart. 

Once Buddy was done with the cookie cutter, we switched to the toilet paper hearts. We did these in two different colors. 

We let the picture dry for a couple hours. During that time, I asked Buddy about all of the things he loves about school. Once the picture was dry, I wrote his responses into some of the hearts with a black felt tip pen. Then we added a Happy Valentine’s Day and Buddy’s name at the bottom. 

I’m really happy with how this turned out! It was a lot of fun and very easy.

Decorating Dinosaurs

This Christmas season, Buddy and I decorated play doh Christmas trees with pony beads. I got the idea from Child Care Land’s blog, and Buddy loved it! But I had other things to blog about in December, so I never got a chance to blog about this activity. 

Since Buddy loved it so much, I wanted to take the idea and adapt it to something besides a Christmas tree. Since Buddy is interested in dinosaurs, I decided to use dinosaur cookie cutters and decorate them with spots. This could easily be done with any shape though – other animals or even letters and numbers. (These are the cookie cutters that I have and they’re great! affiliate link)

Buddy and I started by rolling out playdoh and cutting out the dinosaur shapes. He loved using the cookie cutter to get his dinosaurs.

Then Buddy used the pony beads to give his dinos spots. He had a great time squishing the beads into the playdoh!

 

Buddy decorated two dinosaurs, and then he decided to play with the third one instead of decorating it. He made the dino walk around the table, and then the dino went swimming in the beads. 

Buddy loved having a new, fun way to play with playdoh. I’m sure we’ll do this again soon.

Do you have other fun and easy play doh ideas? Please share in the comments.

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Cooking With Kids: Banana Bread Cookies

I love banana bread, so when I first saw this recipe for banana bread cookies, I had to try it. They have become my all time favorite cookie recipe. The cookies are easy to make, and so delicious! They are very moist and taste like the perfect combination of banana bread and chocolate chip cookies. My favorite part is I don’t feel too guilty when I eat them because they have banana and oats.

Buddy and I made these before Thanksgiving to bring with us on our 9 hour car trip. (These were a great car snack – delicious, filling, and satisfying!) This was Buddy’s first time baking cookies with me, and he had a great time.

The first thing we did was to put the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. I measured the ingredients, and Buddy put them in the bowl. 

Then we put two sticks of butter into the mixer, and whipped them until they were fluffy. This was Buddy’s first chance to use the stand mixer, and he thought that it was amazingly fun! I let him turn it on and off (with close guidance), and he thought that was the best!

We added some brown sugar and whipped it up some more. I measured it out, and then I put it into a bowl to make it easier for Buddy to add on his own. 

Then we added two bananas, vanilla, and eggs to the butter mixture. We turned the mixer on low to combine the ingredients. Usually I have old bananas in the freezer that I use for these cookies, but this time we happened to have two very ripe bananas on hand. 

Next we added the flour mixture into the batter. This was a little messy for Buddy, but not too bad. 

Last, we added oats and chocolate chips to the batter. The recipe also calls for walnuts or pecans, which I’ve never used. Then we stirred it briefly before turning off the mixer.

Once everything was mixed, Buddy and I used soup spoons to form balls of cookie dough. (The recipe says to use a teaspoon, but I prefer bigger cookies.) Then we baked them at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. I totally forgot to take a picture of our final product, but they were great! Since we had a ton of cookies, I took a bunch to school and they disappeared almost immediately!

You can get the full recipe on White Lily’s site here.

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Great Games for Toddlers and Preschoolers

Buddy is really into games right now. It’s really fun that he’s finally old enough for us to play games as a family. Before Christmas, we started playing memory and go fish with a tiny Thomas the Train card set, which was a favor from his Thomas the Train birthday party. We also tried a game from our library (Zingo), and he immediately fell in love with it. I asked my family to get games for us for Christmas, and we got some awesome ones! All of them are appropriate for both toddlers and preschoolers.

Disclaimer – the Amazon links below are affiliate links, and they are all products I love. If you choose to purchase an item through one of these links, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for supporting my family. 

Most of the boxes for these games suggest them as for ages 3 and up, but they can be appropriate for younger kids. I’ve listed the needed skills for each to help you decide if it is appropriate for your child. Right now, Buddy is 33 months old, but he would have been able to play most of these at a younger age. Not only are these games a lot of fun, but they also help Buddy to work on many different skills, including learning to take turns and to be a good winner/loser.

Zingo

Skills Needed: Matching pictures

Skills Practiced: Fine motor skills, counting, comparing numbers

Zingo is Buddy’s favorite game right now. We play at least 3 rounds of it every day, and he can’t get enough of it! The idea is simple – be the first to match all of the pictures on your card. The red shooter dispenses the pictures, and they can be inserted in a slot on the shooter if they aren’t needed. We count how many pictures we have, how many more we need, and who has more pictures. There are two different levels of cards, and one side has more overlapping pictures between the cards to make the game more competitive. There are several other versions of this game including sight words, counting, and spelling.

Uno Moo

Skills Needed: Matching colors and farm animals

Skills Practiced: Colors, counting, fine motor skills

Uno Moo is a great version of the classic Uno game for young children. Each player starts with five animals, and you take turns putting them into the barn by matching either the color or the animal. There are figures that represent wild cards (the little boy) and draw two cards (skunks). Buddy loves the little figures, and it’s easy for him to know what can and can’t be matched. I got the older version of this game because I wanted the haystacks to hide the animals and the puppy figures. (Both are not included in the new version.) There is also a card version of this game.

Stack Up

Skills Needed: Stacking blocks

Skills Practiced: Colors, counting, fine motor skills

Stack Up is a cooperative game. Players work together to stack all 12 blocks before the smasher smashes the tower. Younger players use their hands to stack the blocks, but older players work together to use sticks to stack the blocks. You spin the spinner to determine what color block to stack. If it lands on the smasher, the figure moves forward one space. If any blocks fall, the smasher moves forward again. Buddy can hardly stand the excitement by the end of the game (see the second picture above)! There are challenge cards and two different types of sticks to challenge older players.

Seek A Boo

Skills Needed: Matching pictures

Skills Practiced: Memory, vocabulary, counting, shapes, colors

Seek a boo is a spin on the classic memory game. There are 36 large circle cards and 36 square find it cards. All of the cards are split into groups of six with a different color and a different topic (shapes, animals, clothing, outside objects, food, and toys). The child spreads out the six cards, and the parent shows a square card with a picture to find. We count how many times it takes for Buddy to find the matching card. After you do the first six, you can do another round with a different color. You can do two or more colors at a time to make it more challenging for older children.

Go Fish

Skills Needed: Matching farm animals

Skills Practiced: Find motor skills, counting, comparing numbers

Go Fish is a classic card game that is usually played with older kids. I really wanted to find a Go Fish deck for Buddy’s stocking since he loved playing it so much with his Thomas cards. But his Thomas set only had 8 matches, so it wasn’t really enough to play a good game. Most decks out there are made for older kids that can read numbers. But the set that I linked above just has pictures of farm animals. The deck is set up to get all four cards of each animal, but we just play with half the deck and have two card matches. We got this card holder to help Buddy hold his own cards, and it’s a great fine motor activity putting cards in and out of the holder.  When we finish the game, we count the amount of matches that each person has and compare the numbers to see who wins. We have also played memory with these cards.

Memory

Skills Needed: Matching pictures

Skills Practiced: Memory, counting, comparing numbers

Memory is a preschool game that has been around forever. It’s a great way for young children to work on remembering things, which is a great skill to practice. I made the set shown above on Shutterfly with pictures of our extended family. We have a large extended family, and none of them live close to us. This is a great way for Buddy to learn everyone’s names. He loves seeing everyone’s pictures and pictures of himself with them. When we finish each game, we count our matches and compare to see which person won.

Candy Land

Skills Needed: Color recognition

Skills Practiced: Fine motor skills, colors

Candy Land is another classic game for preschoolers. Small characters travel a multicolored path towards the Candy Castle. Players draw a color card to figure out where to go on the path. Specially themed candy cards send players forward or back to specific points on the board. Whoever reaches the castle first wins. Picking one card off the top of the deck and moving the figure on the path are both great ways to practice fine motor skills.

Our family loves playing all of these games, and I ‘m sure your family will too. Have I missed any great toddler or preschool games? Please leave your ideas in the comment section.

Wooden Puzzle Storage from the Dollar Store

Did your child get wooden puzzles this holiday season, and you’re wondering how to store them? If so, you are in the right place.

Buddy got some wooden puzzles for his first birthday, and I wasn’t sure how to store them. The puzzle racks are kind of expensive and take up a lot of space. They also didn’t fit the Melissa and Doug Chunky Puzzles, which we have. So I went looking for alternative puzzle storage solutions. I saw the idea for using plastic envelopes from the dollar store on Ally’s Helpful Hints for Mommies’ Blog. These large envelopes are packaged three for a dollar, and they are the perfect for wooden puzzles!

The regular peg puzzles fit perfectly into these envelopes without any adjustments needed. 

The chunky puzzles fit in the envelopes, but they were too big to close with the snap provided. I used two Velcro dots to fasten the envelope at the right place. I store these puzzles on their edges lined up like books in Buddy’s closet. They take up little space when placed vertically, and all of the pieces stay together in the envelope. I can’t take the credit for coming up with this idea, but I hope my sharing it has been helpful for you.

Laundry Basketball

Happy New Year! My resolution for 2017 was to blog every Monday of the year, and I’m thrilled to say I was able to keep it! I hope to maintain that goal for 2018 as well. Thanks so much to everyone who has read this blog in 2017. Your comments and pins mean so much to me.

Buddy and I made up the game of laundry basketball a few weeks ago. It is so easy, and so much fun, that I had to share.

Usually, when I fold Buddy’s laundry, he’s always in my way. Sometimes he wants to help put away things like washcloths and small blankets. But often, he wants to either dump everything out of the basket or put a bunch of stuffed animals in it. (Read here about our laundry basket stuffed animal activity.) Both make it difficult for me to get the laundry folded and put away.

Buddy has a beach ball in his room, which we throw around a lot. On this day, Buddy decided to try to throw it in the laundry basket. This game was the perfect activity for the two of us while I folded laundry! Much of the time, he missed the basket, so nothing affected my folding. When he missed, he happily ran after the beach ball to try again. Sometimes, the ball came into the basket when I was pulling out clothes. When this happened, I batted the ball away, and he didn’t get a basket. Buddy thought this was hilarious! And sometimes, he was able to get a basket when my hands were busy folding or putting things away.

When I got around to taking pictures, my laundry basket was mostly empty. But when we started our game, it was completely full!

This game was the perfect activity for the two of us. Buddy got some practice with his gross motor skills, and he had a ton of fun.  I was able to fold laundry and have fun at the same time. Best of all, there was nothing to clean up when we were done. Laundry basketball will definitely be a regular game in our house for a long time.

Do you have any ideas for other easy games? Please share in the comment section!

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Christmas Cutting Box

I’m always looking for fun and easy ideas to do with Buddy. When I first saw the idea of doing a cutting box on Paper and Glue’s blog, I knew Buddy would love it. He’s been learning to use scissors at school, and he’s very excited about it. We’ve done very little cutting at home so far. I want to help Buddy learn, so I knew this would be the perfect activity for him.

I bought these toddler scissors (affiliate link) for Buddy. They are kind of magical. They cut paper, but they don’t cut skin, hair, or clothes. These scissors are perfect for helping Buddy learn to cut in a safe way.

Last weekend, when I was wrapping some gifts, I set aside scraps for Buddy. I included several different sizes of wrapping paper, some paperboard, ribbon, and a bow. I meant to put in some tissue paper in there as well, but I forgot. 

We have a Christmas activity advent chain (read more about it here), and I set this as an activity for one day. It was great as a low prep activity. I pulled out the box and scissors, and that was everything we needed.

Buddy was very excited about cutting the different items. He did well with the wrapping paper. He’d cut a piece, scrunch it up, and hand it to me. “Here’s your present!” Buddy thought that was a lot of fun. When I left to start dinner, he ran back and forth over and over to give me more “presents”. (His table is within my eye sight in the kitchen. If he was using sharper scissors, I wouldn’t have let him finish this activity without close supervision.)

Buddy did have some difficulty cutting the bow and ribbon with his safety scissors. I was able to do it, but both needed to be held taught  to be cut. If you are using regular kids’ scissors, it shouldn’t be a problem to cut ribbons and bows.

This would make a great after Christmas activity because there is always a bunch of wrapping paper trash once packages are open. I’m planning to set some of that aside for Buddy, and try again after Christmas.

From my family to yours, Happy Holidays!

 

 

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Tips for Making a Gingerbread House with a Toddler

Gingerbread houses have always been a special holiday tradition for my family. My mother used to host a gingerbread workshop at our church every year. As a result, I learned a lot about constructing a solid gingerbread house and what types of candy are best for decorating.

My first gingerbread house, made with help from my mom and little sister.

I still love gingerbread as much as I did as a kid. I love finding the perfect candy for decorating the house. And I love building gingerbread with people I love. My friends and I have an annual tradition of making haunted gingerbread houses at Halloween. This year, Buddy helped for the first time. However, the house was a bit of a mess. I knew I wanted to try again at Christmas, so I put some thought into how to make Buddy’s house a successful one. Here are my tips for making a gingerbread house with a toddler (or for kids of any age).

1. If you are new to gingerbread, use a kit. 

I love homemade gingerbread, but it takes a lot of practice to do it well. When you make it from scratch, not all edges will be perfectly straight and not all pieces will be the same thickness. Royal icing hides mistakes well, but it’s easier if everything is shaped the way it is supposed to. It also is a lot less time consuming to just buy a kit.

2. The younger the kid, the more candy you will need. 

You will need more candy besides just the kit. The pictures on kits have a little candy and a lot of icing decorations. But young children can’t do that. I bought some extra peppermints, spice drops, m&ms, and Wilton icing decorations. Other favorites are sugar ice cream cones (for trees) and white chocolate covered pretzels (for fences) and snow caps.

3. Get your house built and candy set up before bringing the toddler to the table. 

We did a gingerbread train kit because Buddy is obsessed with trains. While Buddy took his nap, I constructed the train. I also took all of the candy out of the packages and put into small bowls. The kit icing comes with a cap so you can easily do some early and the icing will stay fresh. If you do a real royal icing, a wet dish cloth over the bowl will keep the icing fresh for a couple hours.

4. Give your toddler easy decorating tasks. 

The tiny candies are really hard for small hands to place accurately. Large candy has to be held to dry, otherwise it slides down the house . Neither of these things are particularly easy for toddlers to do. The best places for toddlers to decorate are flat surfaces. Buddy was most successful decorating the wheels (which rest on the ground), the top of the train, the top edge of the caboose, and the fence/yard.

5. Let your toddler have some input over the more difficult decorating tasks.

I asked for Buddy’s input on places that I knew were going to be tough for him to decorate himself. Some sample questions I asked were,  “What candy should go here?”, “Where else should we decorate?”, and “What color should I use next?” We also ended this way when Buddy couldn’t resist the candy any more and every piece in his hands went into his mouth. (Eating the candy is the best part of decorating, so I don’t blame him!)

6. Let your toddler be creative. 

Toddlers and adults see the world in very different ways. A toddler’s viewpoint is actually great for gingerbread houses. Buddy wanted to add some dinosaurs to our train to make it a dinosaur train. And while I never would have thought to do that, I think it adds charm to our train.

7. Accept that it won’t be perfect. 

I am a perfectionist, so I want my colors to be in patterns and my candy to be nice and neat. It just won’t happen if a toddler is an active part of the decorating process. And that’s ok. We had a lot of fun  together, and I think our gingerbread train turned out great.

Please comment if you have any questions about anything related to gingerbread! And good luck with making a gingerbread house of your own.

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