Category Archives: Activities

Valentine’s Day Sun Catchers

Last weekend I pulled out all of our Valentine’s Day decorations. I didn’t have any decorations for my kitchen, so I decided to make some with Buddy. I loved our fall sun catchers, and decided to make some for Valentine’s Day.

During Buddy’s nap, I cut some small squares of red and pink tissue paper. I also used painter’s tape to tape down clear contact paper. I decided not to do a construction paper outline like I did in the fall, because I thought I’d be able to cut out a heart without a guide.

Buddy was immediately interested when he saw the materials for our project. I put the tissue paper in a bowl to make it easy for him to grab. He loved picking out the tissue paper and putting it onto the sticky contact paper. He wanted to make huge stacks of tissue paper, though, so he needed a little help spreading everything out.

After a little practice, Buddy was better about getting every square to touch the contact paper. If there was a huge pile, I just scooped the extra off the top and put it back into the bowl.

When we had used all of the tissue paper, I put another piece of contact paper on top. Then I cut out several hearts of different sizes. I used clear tape to put our final product on our sliding glass doors.

This was such an easy project and a lot of fun for both of us. Buddy really enjoyed the process, and he was proud of the final product. I love having a little seasonal touch in my kitchen. We will definitely make sun catchers again in the future.

Please share if you have any other easy holiday activities for kids. I want to do at least one more Valentine’s Day activity with Buddy soon.

Pom Pom Transfer Activities and Toss Game

Buddy loves playing with pom poms.  (You can read about some of our other pom pom activities here and here.)  However, I had to put them away for awhile because Buddy wanted to put them in his mouth. Last week, I saw some new pom poms ideas on Busy Toddler, and thought it might be time to pull them out again.

One of the ideas on Busy Toddler’s blog was to use a multi-sectioned container and kid tweezers with poms. I bought a pair of kid tweezers at the dollar store this summer, but Buddy hasn’t been able to use them yet. I set out a multi-sectioned container, a snack cup, tweezers, and the poms for Buddy to explore.

Buddy was so excited to see the poms! He immediately poured them from the cup into one of the sections. Then he started taking them and putting them into different sections.

I showed Buddy that he could use the tweezers to pick up and move the pom poms. Buddy was very curious about the tweezers after he saw me use them. He tried a couple of times, but he wasn’t able to make them work.

After we gave up on the tweezers, Buddy just poured the poms from the cup into different sections. He also picked up poms and put them into different sections. He really enjoyed transferring the poms from one section to another. From time to time, he’d dump the whole container over and start again.

Next, we used the different sections of the container to sort the poms by color. Buddy is 21 months now, and he’s just starting to understand the idea of a color sort. We pulled out a few different colors and put them into different sections.

Buddy wasn’t all that interested in sorting the pom poms. He decided it would be a lot more fun to throw them around the room. Since Buddy wanted to throw the poms, I quickly made up a toss game. I said that we get a point for getting a pom in the container and five points if the pom gets in the center section. Buddy loved this game!

When we got a couple in the center part, I made a big deal about getting five points. Buddy decided he wanted to win the game, and he came up with his own plan. He put all of the poms in the cup and poured them directly into the center part. He was so proud that he was able to get so many in there! (I guess I wasn’t clear enough about the throw them in to get the points part of the rules.)

Buddy had a great time playing with his pom poms. He was entertained for more than a half hour, which I would call a success. (Eventually he did want to try eating them, so we had to put them away. If you do pom poms with a toddler, please supervise carefully!)  I’m sure we’ll try our game and sort activities again when Buddy is a little older.

I’d love to hear if you have any ideas on playing with pom poms or other materials in a creative way. I’m always looking for new ideas for our next play time together.

 

Kinetic Sand Play

When we were in Florida for Christmas, we took Buddy to the beach. He had the best time playing in the sand. We would fill a bucket together, make a sand castle, and then knock it down. Buddy loved this activity!

Now that we’re back in the Great White North, I’ve been looking for ideas for fun indoor activities. I came across this recipe for DIY Kinetic Sand from Baby First Blog and immediately thought of our Florida beach fun. We had an open bag of play sand in our garage, so I had everything I needed on hand. Kinetic sand has the properties of wet sand, which means it is easy to mold. I was hoping that it would be less messy (it wasn’t) and more fun (it was!) than regular sand.

I doubled the recipe and used two cups of sand. The next time we do this, I will probably prepare at least another two cups for play. The recipe said to let dry for a couple hours, but I let mine out over night. It was a little dry, so I added a little more water before we started playing.

I set out the kinetic sand and a few tools in a pan for Buddy. He was so excited when he saw the it!

We recreated the same play activities that we did on the beach in Florida. I had a small pot from his water/sand table (affiliate link) that we filled with sand. Just like on the beach, we filled, dumped, and knocked down our towers over and over. Every time we made a new sand tower, Buddy was in awe!

And then he immediately wanted to knock it down!

Buddy did a great job of keeping most of the sand in the pan. He actually was much neater with this activity that he is when we do our rice sensory bin. The kinetic sand kept Buddy entertained for over a half hour! It was a bit messy, but Buddy had so much fun, it was worth it.

I’m hoping to do some more sensory bins this winter. If you have any good ideas, I’d love to hear them!

Repurposed for Fun: Colander Activities

I love when I can find new activities for Buddy using materials I already have at home. Today, I pulled out an old colander of ours for playtime. (This idea originally came from Powerful Mothering’s blog here.) To start, I gave Buddy a bunch of pipe cleaners in the colander, and let him explore the materials. It’s been a long time since we’ve played with pipe cleaners, so they were new to him.

Buddy enjoyed pulling the pipe cleaners out of the colander and bending them.  Then he put most of the pipe cleaners back into the container. When he saw that one of the ends had poked through a hole, I showed Buddy how to pull the pipe cleaner through it. Then, I put a bunch of pipe cleaners in the holes, and Buddy had fun pulling them out.

After awhile, Buddy decided he wanted to try to put them into the colander holes himself. This was a little challenging for him, but he worked at it for a long time. I’m sure when Buddy is a little older (he’s almost 21 months now), he’ll be better at this part of the activity.

At one point, Buddy decided to flip over the colander to pull the pipe cleaners out of the other side. I loved seeing his creative thinking!

After awhile, Buddy took out all of the pipe cleaners, and he decided it would be fun to play peek-a-boo with the colander. There was much laughter involved in this game because he could see me through the holes!

Buddy played with the colander and pipe cleaners for more than 20 minutes, which is forever in toddler time. Eventually, he needed a new activity. I decided to pull out a bunch of his small balls to put in the colander. These were a combination of our Bright Start balls, Munchkin bath balls, and other balls we happened to have (affiliate links).

Buddy had a great time putting balls in the colander and spilling them out again. Sometimes they went all over the room, but sometimes they just stayed in a small pile. He chased them all over the room and threw them back into the colander.

These activities took absolutely no prep time on my part (hooray!), and there was very little clean up involved. Even better, they kept Buddy occupied for about 40 minutes. We both had a great time, and I’m sure we’ll do it again.

Stuffed Animals in a Laundry Basket

Buddy got a Little Live Pets dog (affiliate link) for Christmas. (He loves dogs, so this was the next best thing to getting a real one.) Since then, he’s been into his stuffed animals more than ever. A few days ago, Buddy started pulling out several of his stuffed animals, and I had the idea to pull out a laundry basket to hold them.

Buddy and I found all of the stuffed animals in our house and put them into the basket. He was happy to find some “new” stuffed animals to play with. (I happened to be rotating out some toys after the holiday, so there were some stuffed animals he hadn’t seen in awhile.) Before long, Buddy climbed into the basket to sit in with all of the animals. It was like a stuffed animal ball pit! He loved it!

I pulled the laundry back and forth, and Buddy laughed so hard! He had the best time moving around the room in the basket with his animals!

Once the laughter died down, Buddy just wanted to cuddle in with his stuffed animals. He loves them so much.

I love how easy this activity was to set up! Buddy had the best time, and it was very easy to pick up when we were done. We will definitely be doing this again soon.

Best Toys For Infants 0-6 Months

Christmas is just around the corner, and I’m already thinking about the items I want to put on Buddy’s wish list. Any time I’ve gone to buy things for Buddy, I’ve always looked for ideas from other moms. When buying toys, I want things that will entertain Buddy for a long time (at least 15 minutes in one setting) and will last for a long time (at least 6 months, and for older age toys, preferably at least a year). These 10 toys were Buddy’s favorites as an infant, and several are even still being enjoyed today at 19 months.

Disclaimer – this article contains affiliate links for your convenience. If you choose to purchase an item using these links, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. All opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting my family. 

1. Freddie the Firefly

firefly

Freddie was Buddy’s first toy. The back side of the wings are black and white patterns, and he loved looking at them as an infant. As Buddy got older, he loved all the sounds the firefly makes (crinkly wings, squeaker, jingles) and all the textures on his body. The rings at the bottom were also fun for him to pull. I love that the ring at the top made it easy to clip Freddie onto the diaper bag or stroller. Buddy loved this toy from 0-14 months, and I was really sad when he outgrew it.

2. OBall Rattles

oball-rattle-collage

We have a lot of different OBall rattles, and we love them all. They are easy to grab, and there are lots of different parts to look at. Buddy still plays with the OBall car, and I’m sure he will continue to do so for a long time. We have played with these from 1 month – 19 months.

3. Kick and Play Piano Gym

piano-gym-collage

This piano gym was Buddy’s favorite activity for a long time. There was one point in time that we loved this so much that a friend loaned us another one so we could have one on each floor of our house. Buddy loved kicking the piano and making music. He also loved all of the dangling objects. We still have this out in our family room, and Buddy still likes to play with the keyboard. So far it’s lasted us from ages 1 month – 19 months.

4. Indestructibles Books

These are the best books for travel! They take up literally no space in the diaper bag, which is amazing. They were also the first book that really held Buddy’s attention (at about 3 months). We have a couple with animals and some nursery rhymes as well. Right now Buddy is obsessed with books, so these are great to throw in the diaper bag any time I know we’ll be waiting. (Am I old fashioned in wanting Buddy to be doing something besides looking at my phone in a doctor’s office?) We were introduced to these at age 3 months and we are still loving them at 19 months.

5. Fisher-Price Ocean Wonders Aquarium

When Buddy was smaller, he really loved watching the fish when he was awake and in the crib. It was great for holding his attention while I used the bathroom or threw in a load of laundry. Buddy still has it in his crib, but he doesn’t look at it as much anymore. I would recommend it for ages 0-12 months.

6. Sophie the Giraffe

sophie

Buddy was very picky with his teething toys, and Sophie was one of the only ones he liked. Thankfully he is done with teething, but he still likes Sophie and her squeak. I love that Sophie is the perfect size to throw in the diaper bag and is easy to clean. I would recommend Sophie for teething infants (for us that was 6 months – 18 months).

7. Hello Baby Mirror Board Book

It might be the reading teacher in me, but I wanted to read with Buddy as a newborn. The Hello Baby Mirror Board Book has high contrast pictures that are interesting to newborns. There are many different books in this series, but I liked this one the best because of the mirror. Buddy liked the mirror a lot. We enjoyed this book from ages 0 – 9 months.

8. Taggies clip toy

elli-taggies-toy

We named our Taggies clip toy Ellie, and she went everywhere with us during Buddy’s first year. Buddy loved the crinkly fabric and the silky tags. I love how easy it is to bring Ellie along because she takes up very little space. I would recommend Taggies toys for ages 0-12 months.

9. Exercise ball

I bought an exercise ball towards the end of my pregnancy, and thank goodness I did. Bouncing on the ball was the only thing that would calm Buddy down. Beyond that, bouncing on the ball together is an activity that we continue to do together. I would recommend an exercise ball for any age.

10. Fisher-Price Deluxe Bouncer

monkey-bouncer

We used this bouncer at my cousin’s house on Buddy’s first road trip. He loved it so much, we ended up taking it back home with us. Buddy wasn’t into swings, but he loved the bouncer because he could move it himself. He outgrew it at 6 months, but he loved it so much, I had to put it on this list. I would recommend it for ages 1-6 months.

Stay tuned for more recommendations for older infants. And if you have any ideas for great toys for 18 months – 2 year olds, I’d love to hear them!

Fall Sun Catchers

I wanted to make sun catchers with Buddy this summer, but we never got around to it. A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that it would be really cute to make fall  sun catchers. However, our October has been crazy, and we just didn’t have time. This week, Buddy was sent home sick from school, which meant that we had extra time at home with nothing to do. So we finally got around to making  fall sun catchers.

While Buddy napped, I prepped the materials. I cut red, orange, and yellow tissue paper into small squares and put it in ziplock bags. Next, I used a crayon to draw a pumpkin and some leaves on black construction paper, and then I cut them out. Since it’s almost Halloween, I decided to make the pumpkin a jack-o-lantern. The shapes were put on top of a large rectangle of Contact paper. Then, I used painters tape to keep the edges of the Contact paper from curling up.

suncatcher-prep

Once Buddy woke up, I put him in his highchair without the tray. We started by just putting orange tissue paper on the pumpkin. Buddy was a little unsure at first, but he quickly decided that he liked putting the paper on the sticky surface. He started with a few squares at a time, but towards the end he was grabbing large handfuls of tissue paper and throwing it all over the paper. After the pumpkin was mostly covered, we moved on to the leaves. I had to thin out some of his tissue paper clumps, but the majority of the color was done by Buddy. Once we were done with the tissue paper, I put another layer of Contact paper on them and cut out the shapes.

pumpkin-suncatcher

Buddy had a great time with this activity. It was the perfect easy craft to break up a long sick day at home. I’m sure we will make sun catchers again. Our final products were nice enough that I plan to save them and put them up again next year!

finished-jack-o-lantern

final-product

If you have any other easy fall crafts, I’d love to hear about them. I’d like to try something Thanksgiving related in the next few weeks.

 

Fun Fall Outings for Young Kids

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the changing seasons and the many colors of fall. I’m lucky enough to live in the Midwest where there are plenty of orchards and pumpkin farms to visit this time of year. During the last month, our weekends have been completely packed with fall fun! Here is a recap of what fall outings have been the most fun for Buddy.

Apple Picking

picking-apples

We met up with some friends at an orchard and pumpkin farm at the end of September. Originally, I wasn’t planning to do apple picking with Buddy, but I’m so glad we did. He loved the train ride out to the orchard. (He’s very into tractors and trucks right now, so it was really fun to see a real tractor in action.) Buddy had so much fun helping us pull apples from trees! I didn’t think he would be able to eat a whole apple, but he actually ate an apple and a half! We had a blast.

Pumpkin Patch/Farm

goat-smile
We actually went to several different orchards/pumpkin patches with farm animals and family activities. Buddy absolutely loved seeing farm animals, and the farm we went to with a petting zoo was his favorite! He LOVES farm animals and has started to say names/sounds for different animals. He liked exploring pumpkins as well. The pumpkin farm we visited in mid October was very picked over, so if you plan to get a pumpkin, go early.

Fall Colors Hike

fall-walk

fall-walk-with-mom

Every year, Hubby and I take a fall colors road trip. Now that we have Buddy, we spend less time driving and hiking, but this is still an important fall activity for us. Buddy loved seeing all of the fall colors and playing with the leaves. He really enjoyed walking through the leaves as well. Buddy is too little to remember last fall, so everything is brand new to him. I tried to let him just sit in the grass and explore to his heart’s content.

Football Game

football-family

I have to admit, football isn’t an important fall activity for me. However, it is very important to Hubby and Buddy too. We took Buddy to two basketball games last year, but this fall was his first football game. Buddy enjoyed watching the people around him and the band too. We did have to pull out some of our airplane toys (see blog post here) to keep him entertained by the end of the game. It was a fun thing for us to do as a family, and I’m sure we’ll do it again next year.

Local Fall/Halloween Celebrations

cubs-costume

The zoos near us have fall celebrations, and it’s a fun excuse to go see the animals. (Have I mentioned how much Buddy loves farm animals? Between the farms and the zoo, we saw farm animals four weekends in a row!) Our town just had a Halloween celebration, and we had a blast seeing police cars and fire trucks. Buddy met several of his friends there, so that made everything even more fun for him.

Are there any other fun fall outings you suggest for a little one? Our weekends are mostly open between now and Thanksgiving, and I’d love more ideas for fall fun.

 

Window Finger Painting

When I saw the blog post about mess free paint bags on Parenting Chaos’s blog, I knew I wanted to give it a try. I love finding activities where I already have all the materials at home. For this one, all I needed was a ziplock, some paint, and painter’s tape.

I put some red, yellow, and orange paint in the bag because I was ready for fall. (If you notice, Buddy is still in shorts and short sleeves. It’s been so hot here!) I used painters tape to tape it to the sliding glass door in our kitchen.

window-painting

Buddy wasn’t sure what to think of the paint at first. However, once he saw me draw some lines in the paint, he was very interested. Buddy had fun pressing his hands into the bag and seeing the prints. He also enjoyed picking up the bag of paint and squishing it.

pulling-off-paint

paint-streaks

This activity didn’t hold Buddy’s attention for too long, but he did enjoy with it. I think  once Buddy is a little older, this will be even more fun for him. If you have any other ideas for finger painting, please leave a comment. I’m always looking for new ideas!

Best Toy Free Ways to Entertain a One Year Old

Buddy just turned 17 months yesterday. (Where has the time gone?) As Buddy gets older, he’s become more vocal about his preferences. He wants to eat his favorite foods and nothing else. He wants to read the same books over and over. And he wants to decide what to play with. (Ah… life with a one year old.) The interesting thing is, right now, Buddy doesn’t really want to play with toys.

The bookshelf in Buddy’s room has four bins of toys. One bin has electronic toys, two bins have non-electronic toys, and the final bin has non-toys. Buddy’s current favorite bin by far is the bin of non-toys. (The electronic toys bin is his least favorite bin, which is interesting…) I’ve blogged about some of these repurposed-for-fun activities before, but I thought it might be handy to have several of these ideas in one place. I’m sure I’m not the only mom constantly on the lookout for new playthings that already exist in my house.

Pom poms

Buddy practicing pouring with pom poms.

Buddy practicing pouring with pom poms.

There are a million ideas on Pinterest for toddler pom play for a reason. Toddlers love pom poms. The cup of poms is usually the first non-toy of choice for Buddy, and we’ve played with them in a lot of different ways. We’ve pushed them into a snack container and put them through paper towel tubes. We’ve even done a small portable pom container on an airplane. Right now, Buddy loves pouring them into containers, on himself, or on me. He sometimes puts them into an ice cube tray and then pours them on himself. The trickiest thing about poms with this age is they look tasty, so they must be closely supervised. The rule at our house is if the pom goes in the mouth, they are put away for the rest of the day.

Pouring poms is so much fun!

Pouring poms is so much fun!

Straws and a water bottle

water-bottle-straws

Putting straws in the bottle requires a lot of concentration.

I go into more detail about this activity in this blog post, but I just cut straws down to fit in an old water bottle. Buddy can play with these for a long time. He loves the sound they make when they’re in the bottle. Sometimes, he hands the bottle to me to blow across, and he loves that noise too. This was a great travel activity for us last weekend. I always drink out a water bottle when I travel, so I just packed the straws and used the water bottle once I was done with it.

Lids and containers

container-hat

Wow! This is so much fun!

Sometimes we play with lids and containers together, and sometimes we play with them separately. Buddy loves putting things into containers and using them as drums or as a hat. He also enjoys trying to put the lids onto the container.

Playing with lids is a great high chair activity.

Playing with lids is a great high chair activity.

Pans

Listen to that noise! It's great!

Listen to that noise! It’s great!

We have an old cake pan and an old muffin tin that live in Buddy’s room. Usually we use the cake pan for magnet play, like we did in this Chicka Chicka Boom Boom activity. However, sometimes Buddy just likes to bang on it like a drum or put other things into it. The muffin tin is usually used for putting in balls or animals like we did in this activity.

Getting ready to pour out the balls.

Getting ready to pour out the balls.

Cotton balls

Look at these snowballs!

Look at these snowballs!

These actually don’t live in Buddy’s room because they leave lint all over the carpet. But they are a lot of fun, and Buddy loves playing with them. Usually, we do this as a transfer activity between two bins.

Water

Cups and water are so fun.

Cups and water are so fun!

We have played with water outside in our water table, as well as inside in pans. (The picture above is from our Making Rain activity.) Buddy is especially excited about pouring water out of a cup, and he can do this forever. It can get messy, but it’s always worth the hassle.

Of course, Buddy still  loves playing with actual toys, but most of the time, the above items are his first choice. If you have any other ideas for untraditional play items, please leave a comment. I’m always looking for new ideas.