Category Archives: Activities

Pouring Water Sensory Play

This week’s Water Wednesday was the rainiest day of the summer. It poured all day! Fortunately, I had planned a water activity that worked inside or outside. I originally got the idea of a water pouring station from Busy Toddler’s blog. Buddy loves to pour water, and his favorite bath toy is a cup for dumping water. I knew Buddy would love a pouring water activity.

First, I pulled out our sensory bin and a bunch of different cups. I also grabbed a funnel and an empty water bottle. Our two pitchers were both from the dollar store. The blue one was the water bottle that we used for the Bubbling Colors activity without the top. The other one I think was supposed to be for salad dressing. Both were perfect for toddler hands to lift and pour.

Buddy was so excited when I told him we were going to practice pouring water. He couldn’t wait to start!

He quickly poured out both pitchers into cups. I had hoped that he would pour the cups into other cups but he preferred to pour the cups into the open bin. He also poured into the funnel into the open bin. (Silly me thought he’d use the funnel to go into the water bottle or another cup!)Buddy had a lot of fun pouring water from the pitchers into other cups. He didn’t stop when a cup was overflowing, he just kept pouring all the water. When he wanted more water, I’d refill the pitchers. After awhile, the water on the bottom started to get a little deep, so I poured it out. (I didn’t want the bin to get too heavy for me to pick up and pour out.)

This was such a simple activity, but it was a lot of fun for Buddy. And it was a great real life skill that he got to practice too. I’d like to build up to Buddy using a small pitcher to pour a drink for himself. (A lot more work than just me getting it for him, but I know he’d love it.) I know we’ll be using the pitchers again this summer to practice pouring.

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Bubbling Colors: A Science Activity for Toddlers

For Try Something New Thursday, I wanted to do a science activity. I’d seen several different activities with baking soda and vinegar on Pinterest. Since I had both of those ingredients on hand, it seemed like a good activity to try. I especially loved the hidden colors activity on Busy Toddler’s blog, so I decided to try it.

To start, I put two old muffin tins into my sensory bin. Then, I put several drops of food coloring in each cup of two muffin tins. Some of the cups had just one color, and some of them had two different colors. Then, I poured some baking soda in each cup. I put the vinegar in a water bottle from the dollar store. With the cap open, the vinegar dribbled out slowly. It was perfect for Buddy to pour the vinegar on the baking soda. 

I set out the materials for Buddy to explore. Buddy initially wanted to explore them with his hands. But once I showed Buddy the water bottle of vinegar, he was excited to pour it into the cups. He loved the bubbles that came up! It took a little while before we could see any color, but that was extra exciting once they showed up.

Buddy was happy to keep pouring the vinegar into the baking soda. The longer we did it, the better we could see the colors. He kept walking around the container making sure that he got into all of the muffin tin cups. 

Once most of our bubbles were gone, I shook out the top of each tin into the bin. After I did that, it exposed the extra baking soda that was still dry. Then we were able to continue our experiment. 

This was a fun and easy activity. Buddy really had a lot of fun, and it was easy to clean up. I love that Buddy had a chance to do a science experiment. Hopefully, we will be able to do another experiment sometime this summer.

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Repurposed for Fun: Duplo Drop

We had an extra couple of boxes at our house last week. Immediately,  I knew I wanted to use the larger one for some cardboard box coloring. However, it took a few days for me to figure out an activity for the smaller one. Eventually, I decided to make a Duplo color sorting activity for Buddy. I originally saw this idea on Toddler Approved’s blog, and I knew Buddy would love it.

First, I used a box cutter to cut five holes in the box. Then I used some paint to outline a different color outside the edge of each hole. Since I only needed a little of each color, I used a q-tip instead of a paint brush to make clean up easy. 

I let the box dry for a couple of hours. Then I showed it to Buddy. He immediately knew what to do with it. Buddy was very excited to put each Duplo into the matching hole for its color. We’ve been working on colors, and he’s pretty confident with them. 

After he played with it for a while, Buddy decided to be silly. He would attempt to put the block in the wrong color and laugh about it. “Red in blue?” Buddy thought this was the funniest thing ever!

Our box wasn’t the strongest, and I was afraid it was going to break. Every time Buddy reached across the box, he put all of his weight on it. Eventually, I decided to put it vertically, and it fixed the problem. Plus, it was a whole new way to play, which made it more fun. 

Overall, this was a fun and easy way to repurpose a box. Buddy loves his Duplo drop and plays with it often. We will probably keep this out for a while and then fold it flat to save for later. If you have any other ideas for a cardboard box, please let me know. I’m always looking for new ways to play with the ones at my house.

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Repurposed for Fun: Bowling with Cups

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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Mighty, Mighty Construction Site Sensory Bin

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

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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Tales of a Teacher Mom’s First Anniversary

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

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

*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.

Move Like the Animals: A Gross Motor Skills Game

Buddy was a very late walker, and he works with a physical therapist once a week. As a result, I’m always looking for fun ways to build his gross motor skills at home. Last week, Buddy’s physical therapist mentioned that they had been imitating different animals in their session. I thought that sounded like an idea that would be fun to do at home as well.

Buddy received a set of Fisher-Price Little People Zoo Animals (affiliate link) for Easter. I thought they would be fun to incorporate into our animal movement game. To play the game, Buddy chose an animal from the tub. Then, we would try to move like that animal. Some of the animals were easier to think of movements for than others, but it was fun trying to make up movements for all of them.

When we first started, Buddy spent a lot of time looking through the animals and deciding which one to pick.

Once he picked an animal, we both got up and moved like it. For the zebra, we did high marching kicks. For the panda, we pretended to climb up bamboo. We swung around like a monkey, waddled like a penguin, hopped like a kangaroo, and snapped our arms like an alligator’s mouth. We crouched and crawled and roared for both the lion and the tiger. The seal was the weirdest one movement wise; we just waddled around and barked like a seal. Both of us had so much fun!

Marching like a zebra

Climbing bamboo like a panda

Moving like animals is so much fun!

After a little while, Buddy wanted to just play with the animals and the container, which was fine. He had a lot of fun just lining up all of the animals and then saying their names.

It was a really fun activity for both of us, and it was great for practicing some of his gross motor skills. We have played this game several times so far, and I’m sure we’ll play it again soon. If you have any other ideas for fun gross motor activities, please share in the comments.