These dollar pom pom balls from Target were a hit with both my one year old and three year old. They are so simple to use, mess free, and oh so versatile. This is also an amazing fine motor skill activity for both kiddos.
What you will need:
Tweezers (if your child is ready for them)
It’s pretty easy to get this sensory bin up and going. Dump all the pom poms you have into the container, put some cups inside, and you have a sensory bin. The more pom poms you have the better. You can also getting different size pom poms to add even more fun to this activity. Let your little one explore the bin.
Depending on your child’s ability, have them sort by color or just dump the pom poms from one container to another. For my oldest, I gave him some tweezers to make it just a little more challenging. He not only had to sort the poms by color, but also use his fine motor skills to transfer the poms from the container to the cups.
Each of them had a blast playing with the pom poms and this will definitely be a sensory activity we come back to! It took my oldest 10 minutes to sort his pom poms. Ten minutes of concentration, hard work, and silence. I sat there is awe watching him maneuver the tweezers and pom poms. He had so much fun and worked so hard. He was so proud of himself and I was proud of him too!
We are only a couple of weeks away from the start of school. Hard to believe! Before we know it we will be hitting up the weekend fall festivals, watching football, and carving pumpkins. That sounds pretty good right about now since the forecasted heat index is 107 degrees. But back to school seems bittersweet.
Summer is so alluring. I think we always hold a childhood view of summer, as we should. Long days, less rules, salty hair, endless sunshine. For me, I imagine playing flashlight tag in my front yard, listening to crickets as I look out for fireflies along the tree line, and feeling the salt, sand, and sunscreen dry on my skin in the sun. That feels like summer. So even though I can’t stand the thought of this heat (thus me being inside typing on my laptop), I will miss summer. I will miss what summer means. I’ll miss my girlls’ sweaty blonde curls, sitting outside with popsicles guilt-free, watching them run after seagulls in the sand. So let’s make the best of the last days of summer. Let’s make a bucket list.
Here are some fun summery things that anyone can do, no matter where you live!
Go Out for Icecream
As I mentioned, popsicles are a summer staple for us, but nothing feels more nostalgic than going out for an ice-cream cone after dinner and sitting outside trying to eat it before it melts away. Take your kids out and let them pick from the menu, then snack away while watching the sunset. Or, enjoy the atmosphere of an ice-cream shop if it’s a million degrees out. It still beats sitting around at home counting down until bedtime!
Build an Epic Sandcastle
No beach needed (although it’s preferred), just a sandbox or a visit to the playground will do. We often play in the sand on the volleyball court at our local park! Make a real sand castle and have your kids scavenge to decorate it: shells, sticks, leafs, even making toothpick flags for it at home. Snap a few photos to remember it by, and try to make an even bigger one next summer! For fairly cheap, you can buy or make a sand table and let the fun stretch into the fall.
Go for a Sunset Walk
When sunset is after 8pm, it’s pretty exciting to be able to stay up as a kid and do something, anything, when you’d usually be in bed. It’s been awhile, but I remember that feeling vividly. It makes whatever you are doing more exciting. Grab a couple flashlights and take a walk at sunset. Enjoy chatting with the family, screen-free, and talk about the sky’s colors and other things you see. Then whip out the flashlights and walk back under the moonlight. What kid doesn’t love flashlights? They’ll have a blast and be tired enough for bed!
What’s better than watching kids run and shriek with glee in the backyard? Not much. My daughter asks to do this every other day or so. Sometimes we see fireflies outside, and sometimes we don’t. But the thought of catching these little glowing bugs to serve as her nightlight makes her so happy. Definitely a great summer to-do item. If you can’t find fireflies, make some out of construction paper and have your kids look for them in the backyard with a flashlight for a little bug scavenger hunt. They’ll still have a blast!
Watch a Movie Outside
Set up a picnic blanket in the shade (or a tent if you’re feeling adventurous) and watch a family film outside. Add pizza or popcorn if you dare! Whether you use a projector, an iPad, or your phone, it’s different enough to peak your child’s interest. Plus, you could probably take a book outside and squeeze some “mom time” in! Win-win.
Visit a pool or splash pad while you can, because many of them close Labor Day weekend leaving both kids and parents a little sad! Especially when you live in a place where temps stay in the 80s through October (or November or December!) Pools can be elusive as most require memberships and guest passes are a thing of the past. See if there are any public pools (or pools where you can buy a day pass) in your area, or visit your local Parks & Rec page for your county to find public splash pads.
Last but not least, schedule a family day. You only get 18 summers with them. That means even though my oldest is 3, we are 1/6th of the way through her summers with us. SAD! We try to travel and go camping and spend as much time together as possible, but time will still fly. Find a summer festival, pack a picnic, or plan a day trip everyone can make and soak up that summertime bliss. Then daydream of all the ways you can make summer magical again in 9 short months.
How do you soak up summer? What activities should we add to our bucket list? Share in the comments below!
My little guy loves to practice his scissor skills every chance he gets. So, I put together a box of different textures for him to cut until his little heart was content. In his fine motor box was a bunch of scrap pieces of paper I had found in our art closet and drew lines for him to try and follow.
What’s in the box?
Toilet paper rolls
We started out with Melissa and Doug scissors, but they were not getting the job done. So, we switched to a pair of little scissors. After the switch, he hit the road running. If you do decide to use “real” scissors monitor your little one, so they don’t accidently cut themselves or give themselves a new hair do.
He cut through each of the items in the box. Then decided he was going to make a race car, something that never crossed my mind. I love when one of my simple ideas becomes something so much more because of his imagination.
Construction of his race car was underway. He cut out the doors, wheels, and even wrapped the toilet paper roll in blue foam.
If your little one has yet to master cutting on the lines or how to hold scissors all of those things will come with time. Fun practice activities will definitely help build those skills. As you can see we are still working on those very skills. He was on the other hand concentrating hard on what he was doing and giving it his best.
Just look at the pride on his face over something he made. It’s safe to say he this activity is Gray approved and that little car has been with him all afternoon. I have a feeling it may become his version of Sporky. (You ToyStory fans will get what I’m saying.)
We would love to see how this activity turns out for your little ones. It’s amazing to see their little minds work and their imaginations take over.
There are few things more stressful than dragging kids to a place they don’t want to be, and having to wait there. The doctor’s office, DMV, oil changes, etc. We don’t always have a choice to go solo, and we can’t make the wait any shorter. Plus, we don’t want to be there either! Even during family outings we find ourselves with downtime in which we need to keep our kiddos busy, like waiting for food at a restaurant or waiting in line for a fair ride.
Here are some tried & true ways (aside from sugar & screen time) to fun up those un-fun environments for kids:
Old School Games
Our parents used to drag us everywhere, and didn’t have tiny TVs or gameboys to hand us. Have we forgotten so easily? Sometimes when we struggle for the answer with our littles we just need to look back. In this case, look back to what our parents and grandparents did.
One of my favorite things to do with my preschooler while we are waiting somewhere is play “I Spy.” We once had to wait 3 hours in Urgent Care and the silver lining was getting to learn more about how my child’s mind works. We played “I Spy” for about 2 hours. We took turns and started with colors and then moved on to shapes and patterns. Even, “I spy something clear” or “I spy something with a dog on it” and she had a blast! I had a few laughs too at how clever her finds were. If this is too advanced for your child, simply name colors an have them point out something red, blue, green, etc.
We also like to list out animals. Animals that have a tail, animals that “roar”, animals that have fur. This isn’t as popular as “I Spy” in my household, but it gets your kids thinking and comparing. For older kids, bring out the ABC’s and tie in whatever they are into. ABC animals- aardvark, beaver, cat….ABC automobiles- airplane, boat, car…and so on.
Monkey See, Monkey Do
Have your kid copy your actions. They’ll think it’s hilarious and you can keep them in line. If you are somewhere very public like a pharmacy waiting room, stick with facial expressions and hand movements. If you are confined privately to say a doctor’s exam room, break out the dance moves!
Work of Art
I always carry a few crayons and some scrap paper in my purse, but even those limited materials can be challenging to break out. One of my new favorite things for waiting rooms and car rides is Melissa & Doug’s Color Blast or Magic Wow coloring books. One mess-free marker and a neat little book is all you need, and it keeps kids busier than handing them some blank paper and a few crayons.
I know, I know, stickers can be ridiculous, but hear me out. For toddlers and preschoolers, even up to elementary school-age kids, the right sticker book can be a game changer. Hop on Amazon and search “sticker activity book” and see which strikes your fancy! My oldest loves the Sticker Dolly Dressing collection.
You can also print out our own matching game. Search online for free printables or use characters from your kid’s favorite movie to make your own. Puzzle and maze print-outs work well too! I often grab extras of these at restaurants or the public library. Here’s a website I stumbled across that has some cute activity worksheets you can print for free.
Real Life “Where’s Waldo”
This is kind of like a version of “I Spy” with people, so if you are somewhere you can people-watch, this can be pretty fun. We once had our car inspected at a building with a lot of sidewalk traffic outside, so we looked out the window and saw what we could see. I would tell my daughter, “Find someone with glasses,” or “Find the orange cat.” It’s surprisingly fun for adults too!
Re-Imagine a Favorite Book
Waiting around makes for some great reading if you ask me, but if you have little kids with you who can’t read on their own, bring a favorite book or two of theirs. I like to pack two that are full of possibilities, aka have very busy illustrations. You can use a book in so many ways. Find things in the pictures, ask your child to point out all of the letters that are in their name, make up your own story, etc.
Classic Deck of Cards
My daughter doesn’t quite understand all of her numbers yet, but loves counting and matching. While trying to keep her busy one rainy afternoon on a family beach trip we realized the magic of Crazy Eights. Ever played? If not, look up the rules! It’s the perfect card game for preschoolers. All they have to do is match the cards (same number or suit) and they can basically play unassisted. (Jumbo cards make it extra fun.)
Bring a String
Okay, call me crazy, but my daughter can entertain herself with a string for ages. She “ties knots,” drags it around, puts things on it. It sounds nuts, but sometimes simple objects bring out the most in their imagination. I have this car dash gripper for placing things in your car so they won’t roll around and she asks to play with it all the time. She pretends it’s a camera, folds it up different ways, all kinds of things. So toss a shoestring in your purse the next time you think about it and break it out when you’re waiting somewhere and let me know if your kid keeps busy too!
We hope this helps ease those unwanted waiting times. If you have any genius ideas, please share them with is! It takes a village!
Sometimes using paintbrushes or our to paint can become mundane, so we switched it up. I found a pair of cheap water guns that the kiddos could use easily and an idea was born : Water Gun Painting.
Who said water guns should only be used for water? Not I, so we used them to paint. Neither kiddo had ever used a water gun, so I knew this would be a really fun experience for them. While Gray dove right in, Charlie needed a bit more assistance working her water gun.
What do you need to get started?
Large pieces of paper
Easel (or fence)
We used acrylic paint, but you can use washable paint to save your little ones clothes. First, you want to dilute that paint and create a 50/50 water to paint solution. You can just eyeball it, it is not an exact science.
Then you want to load up your water gun with the paint/water solution. I squirted the water gun in the sink a few times until the paint started shooting out. That way when the kiddos start spraying it works instantly.
I brought our easel outside, but you could also tape a piece of paper to your fence. Once your piece of paper is secure, let them go to down.
Gray noticed that when you sprayed the blue on top of the yellow he made green. If you had three water guns it would be a lot of fun to use the primary colors to show how colors are made.
Try as you may to avoid it, having kids changes your social life, and I think for some people who have yet to have kids it’s hard to understand why the change is often very drastic.
“Why don’t you just have someone watch them for a little bit?” “Why don’t you sleep when they sleep?” “Why don’t you try telling them ‘no’?” “When I have kids they are going to listen to me, that’s for sure.” “At least since they are staying up late they will sleep in!” “Noisy kids in a restaurant is one of my biggest pet peeves.” “Just bring them with you!”
No, no, no.
This is a super sinister comparison, but what the heck, having kids is like contracting a virus. No, more like a lifelong disease. It impacts every single aspect of your being. How you breathe, how you sleep, what you can and can’t do, how you feel. It literally alters how you think. Are there ways around this? Sure thing! Some people manage to travel the world with their babies and change very little about the life they lived before. But for most of us, it will forever change how we live our lives. We need our friends who are not yet parents to understand that we are still us, and we still are still friends, we may just ask to do a few things differently. Just bear with us.
Most of you know Kate and I are military spouses. Among other things, that means we live away from home. Away from family and friends, and our husbands are often gone. When we have someone else watch our kids, it’s either A) each other, or B) relying on a stranger. And I know you don’t yet have kids to worry about, but it’s a scary world out there, and I am not that mom that interviews babysitters. I need to know you, I need to trust you. That may seem like a helicopter mom thing to say, but my next door neighbor told me her 18 month old was killed in a daycare fire, so no, I think I would rather bring my child along to our coffee date rather than hand them off to someone else. I think about 75% of parenthood is worrying about all the things that could happen. And even if I do get a babysitter, that’s costs money and doesn’t really relieve any stress because I have to anticipate everything he or she may need, pack it, and then worry about it the whole time we are hanging out. Sure, we watch each others kids from time to time, but that is no easy feat either, so please understand that sometimes it’s not that easy to just leave young children with someone else to get a little time away, no matter how much we need it. Conversely, it’s not always easy to just bring kids with us, because then we actually have to watch them instead of holding an adult conversation or enjoying the party. However; and this is very important, PLEASE KEEP INVITING US. We want to come and be our old selves, we want to feel included, we want to spend time with you too.
As a stay at home mom, I simultaneously feel like I don’t have a job, and also I have a job that never stops. I respect my friends that work full-time (and then some), especially those that work weird hours. I am glad I don’t have to do that. But please know that even though I am home all day, my life is also exhausting. I don’t get to sleep in. Ever. No one makes meals for me. I am a 24/7 Google search bar for my preschooler whose curious little brain wants to know why all the things are the way they are. I’m also a complaint box for my toddler who screams at me in a foreign language and I’m pretty sure would give me one star on Yelp. I am extremely thankful that I get to be a SAHM, but sometimes I want to complain. I want to vent. I want my friends to understand that my day spent at home was long and hard. You may think I get to play with kids all day and that’s awesome, and yes in many ways it is, but sometimes I want to just hide in the bath tub and listen to white noise, which by the way I can’t do because someone will probably harm themselves in the 30 seconds I am gone. And if I do get to sneak away for some “me” time, I always feel like I’m staring at a stopwatch, seeing seconds fly by and feeling like I need to get back to my kids. So please know that my job may not be the same as your job, but it’s a hard job, and just like you complain about yours, I may want to complain about mine too.
You would think that with all the hours in the day, I could clean or do laundry while I’m at home. You probably look at my laundry on the couch or see dishes in the sink and think “Man, if I have a full-time job and do this, why can’t she find the time?” Or actually you probably don’t think that at all, you’d help me in a heartbeat if I asked, but that’s what I am worrying that you are thinking because I often feel like I should be able to do it all. Trying to get anything done during the day when your kids are home is like trying to type a research paper with an undo button on repeat every 10 seconds. I put toys away, it’s instantly the most fascinating thing in the room and my kids must play with it. I fold laundry and my preschooler wants to “help”, which really means take laundry from the folded pile and try to fold each one again. Cooking meals takes extra time because I have to tell my kids, “it’s hot!”, “don’t touch!”, and “stay back please!” a million times, and again the preschooler wants to help. I once sent my friends a picture of dirty laundry in color-sorted piles lining my hallway and one friend said, “I don’t think I have ever seen that much dirty laundry in my life.” It didn’t hurt my feelings. It was a lot of laundry. When you have two small children who are messy eaters and play in the dirt and the water you never get to have empty laundry baskets, that’s for sure! And FYI, if you sleep when the baby sleeps, that means you never get any of the above done either. It’s very unfortunate.
Have I gotten annoyed at a baby crying in a movie theater? Sure. A lot of things used to bother me before having kids. I never knew getting crapped on could actually bother me so little, but what do you know?! Please know that some parents take their kids places as a way to enjoy their time together (not doing kid things) and that means that the kids can get a little bored. Having fussy kids in a restaurant is MUCH MORE annoying to us than it is to you, trust me, we just may not show it on our faces. We have to choose our battles and therefore our frustration at our kids often lives deep inside and slowly just eats away at our souls, that’s all. We also would prefer our kid not cry or throw rolls but to us, it’s worth it to have a little time out when we are used to cooking mac n cheese. We are sorry that our kids cause a ruckus. We wish that wasn’t the case too, but kids are kids.
Trying to talk to kids when you don’t have kids can be challenging. I’ve been there myself. Sometimes you don’t even know what they are trying to tell you. You smile and nod and say “ohhh, cool!” on repeat. But please be mindful of what you say when they are around, because they are ALWAYS listening. Even in a conversation you are having with me, they are listening, and they will ask questions later. Also, some common topics to avoid: dead pets, Santa, sweet treats or any food not currently in my house, and anything scary. If I spend MONTHS convincing my child that ghosts do not exist, and you come in and they say, “What was that noise?” and you say “A ghost, eek!” I will gut you with my eyes. True story. Getting kids to eat vegetables, getting kids to not be scared, these are just some of the things we spend so many man hours on, please don’t ruin it for us! And if you mention some food that we don’t have I am going to hear about it every day until I buy it.
Please know that kids also defy logic. If they stay up two hours after their bedtime, they will not sleep in later. They will wake up at the same friggin’ time with an attitude like they have a hangover. There is this thing called “overtired” where they get SO tired that they are actually restless, and it is real. And it is scary. So if we have to leave early or skip an event because of child nap times or bedtimes, please know it is for our own sanity. We wish we could be there. If we make an exception for you, you know that we must like you a whole lot! A young kid staying up late is similar to Daylights Savings, it takes several days to adjust after.
I want to be clear that I am not speaking to my friends directly, or any friend in particular. (Except you Jeremy, the ghost comment was not cool!) This is just an open letter to things I have heard or had said over the years. All of this is in good fun. As parents, we are used to the stereotypical sayings and assumptions. We get it ALL THE TIME. Even from other parents. The point is, we don’t really know anyone’s whole life, do we? The friend that works 60+ hours a week in the medical field, the mother of one who has to give her child multiple medical treatments each day, the friend without kids who desperately wants kids, the mother of five under five who barely keeps her head above water but always has a smile on her face. We don’t know, so we don’t judge. Or we try not to. There is always someone worse off than you. There is always someone better off than you. The best you can do is be understanding. When a friend says they can’t come, they can’t talk right now, believe the best in them. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Believe that they are trying to juggle all the things, but right now something is more important and it is not a reflection of you. Also know that we don’t just assume you think badly of us. You overlook our laundry and dishes and restaurant tantrums and so much more with understanding eyes. Sometimes we just worry we don’t have it all together, just like I’m sure you do.
To my friends without kids, I love you. Thank you for being my friends. Thank you for letting me be yours.
Over the weekend we attended this super cute Christmas in July festival. As we walked past all the little shops, my son caught sight of a simple sand table. When I say he stayed at the table the rest of the day, I mean it. The only way I got him to leave was to go see Santa. No food, drinks, or cute puppies was taking his attention away from the sand table. So, I decided to make one at home.
What you will need:
A container to hold the sand, I used our water table.
Sand friendly toys
That’s it. Those three things will bring your little ones hours of fun. I would suggest doing this outside for the sake of easy clean up. There is nothing worse then finding sand all over your house. I hosed both kiddos down before they headed indoors.
Grab some sand, pour it into your container, throw in some toys and BAM! You have a sand sensory bin for your little one to enjoy. Grayson spent most of the morning filling and dumping sand from one truck to another. Charlie scooped and transferred sand alongside him.
This sand table made for a quiet and relaxing morning. Hopefully your littles enjoy this sensory bin as much as mine did.