Sometimes we overthink and over plan activities for our little ones. The simplest of activities can result in hours of fun. These super simple paper tunnels were just that and Grayson loved them.
Grayson loves cars, trains, and airplanes, so our road became many different things. “Look Mama a race track!” to “Check out my runway!”. His imagination went wild!
While his little sister was napping, we often try to find quiet activities. The idea of tunnels popped into my head and thus we created his tunnels.
All we needed was some construction paper, tape, and painters tape. Oh, and a hard surface to attach them to. First, we created our road with the painters tape. Then, all we did was grab some construction paper, fold up little tabs on each side, and tape them down to the floor to create our little tunnels.
Easiest activity EVER! Grayson collected some of his automobiles and started playing. It’s still on our floor now, ready to use after nap time.
Because the tunnels are made out of construction paper Grayson had to practice being gentle and slow with his cars. This is not a task that comes naturally to him, so I little practice goes a long way.
It’s officially summer break, and while we love the pool, the beach, and park dates with our friends, sometimes we have to stay home, stay indoors, and most importantly KEEP BUSY. Anyone else find that a challenge sometimes during the longest, hottest days of the year? We have plenty of indoor activities but sometimes I yearn for an opportunity to teach them new things. I often forget how easy (and impactful) it can be without even leaving the house. Or maybe, without leaving the backyard.
Last night I was cleaning up the kitchen and getting the house ready for bed. I had to pull a few toys in from outside and saw a little toad on our back step. One day this past April we let Addie stay up late and “hunt toads” outside, knowing there were two hopping around. She had the best time and has been asking about hunting toads ever since, but we haven’t seen any, plus it gets dark SO LATE. So I scooped this little guy up, put him in our Kritter Keeper (one of the best kid-oriented purchases I’ve ever made) and let him hang out in the kitchen until the morning. Excited is an understatement. He ate breakfast right beside her. And me, being the worrisome mom I am, felt bad for starving him all night. I tried to find a cricket or moth outside and ended up finding a green tree frog (and an unlucky rollie poly) and a summer lesson was born.
Observing how things around us are alike and different is such a good exercise for growing minds. How often do we ask our littles critical thinking questions? So today we learned about frogs vs. toads. We started with the differences. I asked her which was the frog and she got it right! When I asked her to tell me about the frog. What does he look like? What color are his eyes? And then I just asked “What else?” letting her connect the dots and think of more things she could tell me about the frog. Then we did the same thing with the toad, and we started looking at how they were different. At the end of our “lesson” she was pointing out similarities herself. My favorite was that they both hop and say “ribbit ribbit.” When talking about differences, she noticed their toes the most of all things. Is that something we, as adults, would focus on?! But toddlers do. The frog’s toes were round, smooth, and sticky. The toad’s toes were pointy and “furry” as she said, but we decided she meant bumpy. She wanted to hold the frog first because she concluded that the toad’s toes would hurt. I assured her they wouldn’t, but how amazing are children?! I love how they look at the world and how they put things together.
We spent about an hour talking about the frog and the toad, naming them, and then playing with them outside before letting them go. Some quick research on the internet over breakfast gave me some facts I could share with her, like the fact that toads don’t have many predators since they taste terrible, but frogs have several predators. Frogs also like to live near water, but toads don’t have to. This helped us decide where to let them go and we talked about what bugs they like to eat. Before I knew it it was lunch time and I felt like we had a very successful summer morning!
If you don’t have an abundance of wildlife around you, this is still an activity you can do with your children, with anything! The difference between mommy’s & daddy’s car, the difference between two stuffed animals, the difference between seashells, etc. It may sound like a silly start, frogs, but it has really made me ask my daughter more prompting questions. WHY is that your favorite doll, WHY do you like strawberries, WHAT do you love about your sister? It gets their hamster wheel turning and gives my chatterbox something new to talk about.
We also pulled out the books we had which talk about differences. One of my favorites is Hello, Hello which shows how very different animals still have things in common. Another is You’re All My Favorites, which is about three bear siblings who are different and wonder who is their parents’ favorite bear. Several of the kids books already in our collection reinforced differences in animals and people, so we rode that wave all day.
How do you teach kids about differences? What are some of the questions you ask? What conversations do you have? We are all about teaching our kids the most we can about the world around them, people and animals alike, so please share your words of wisdom! Happy summering!
Let me start off by saying, I am by no means a baker, but I do love cookies. When I found this super easy recipe, had to give it a try. It looked pretty fool proof and it turns out it was. The cookies came out so good and stayed soft and chewy for over a week. So, lets get started!
Birthday cake mix
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup oil
Start by preheating your oven to 350°F.
While your oven is heating up, combine the cake mix, chocolate chunks, oil and eggs. Mix until they are combined.
If you have a melon baller, use that to form the cookie balls. We don’t have one, so we used our hands. Right before the cookies go in, garnish them with sprinkles!
Pop the cookies in the oven for 12-15 minutes.
Just like that, you have delicious cookies for everyone to enjoy.
This recipe yielded 24 cookies. I stored mine in a Ziploc bag with a piece of bread to keep them soft!
As we came inside to take a break from playing in the rain, I noticed all the colors dancing around our playroom. I realized that the toys we play with day in and day out are, in themselves, a learning tool. So, we went on a treasure hunt, well, a color hunt. You’ll see what I mean.
What you will need:
Two toilet paper rolls or one paper towel roll cut in half.
Grab your big piece of paper and divide it into equal sections. I did 9 squares, but you can use as many or few based on what is best for your child. Next, write down the names of the colors using the corresponding marker.
While making the grid, have your child color the toilet or paper towel rolls. Once they are done coloring, take some tape and tape the rolls together. Now, you are ready to go on a color hunt!
Place the piece of paper in the middle of the room and let your kiddo go to work. Have them look around and find anything they can that matches the colors in your grid. Gray loved looking through his binoculars to find each new item.
Some colors can be a little tricky, like those teal puzzle pieces. He switched them between the green and the blue a few times, but either would be have been correct. Let your kiddo problem solve and search without interference, unless they ask for help of course!
Gray looked around the playroom for almost an hour, adding and taking away things as the grid filled. This is something that we will do again in the near future.
If you want to add more literacy, this fun art project pairs well with the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear. It is one of our favorites and a great way to explore color learning.
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It has been HOT here in North Carolina, so we have been eating a ton of popsicles. As my kids sat there devouring their sugary treat I couldn’t help but wonder how I could make it a bit healthier. I don’t know if its just my two kiddos, but they have a ton of energy all they time. Feeding them basically frozen sugar water wasn’t doing myself any favors.
So, I hopped on good old Amazon and ordered some popsicle molds. Thanks to prime, two days later they arrived on my doorstep. You would have thought I would be googling recipes while I wanted for the molds, but nope I didn’t. Of course, my son was so excited when they arrived we needed to make popsicles immediately or so he told me.
I found a few recipes on Pinterest, but didn’t have nearly enough ingredients for any of them. So, we created our own!
This is not an exact science and you can add or substract whatever ingredients you may like. We did not add sugar and I think the popsicles came out pretty sweet. Bonus, my kiddos loved them as well.
How to make them:
Chop up some watermelon and throw it into the blender.
Juice about a half of a lime and add that in as well. *This is where you’d add the sugar, if wanted. *
Once everything is smoothly blended together pour it into the molds. Leave about a half inch at the top for the popsicles to expand when freezing.
This was the hardest part for my son, put them in the freezer for at least 4 hours. I am pretty sure I heard the question ” Are they done yet?” at least 20 times that day. So, in retrospect it may be best to make these at night and skip the “Are they done yet?” question.
Once they in fact were done, the verdict was in and they were a success. We can’t wait to try out different flavors this summer.
What are some of your favorite popsicles flavors? I would love some ideas for next time.
It is 100 degrees right now as I sit down to type this. ONE HUNDRED DEGREES. In May! That is not something we are used to here in North Carolina. Also, we have not gotten rain in a couple weeks, which is nearly unheard of at the Carolina coast. There are toddler chalk drawings on my patio and fence that I have stared at for way too long. I have had to work watering bushes and outdoor plants into my nightly routine and bring several things inside that have literally started to shrivel, as I would if I had to be outside for any length of time. So let’s talk about some ways to beat the heat and not go insane from your overly-energetic children!
1. Revisit local attractions
It’s easy to feel like you’ve been there and done that, but try taking a look at some favorite indoor attractions near you to see if anything has changed. We have a Children’s Museum that opened up within the last year, and while we have gone a few times and not made it back, but Kate noticed today that they have added new attractions! One of which is meteorology center that this weather nerd can’t wait to play with. I mean, have my kids play with. Last summer our aquarium added a dinosaur exhibit that my daughter LOVED, I think we went 3 times while it was up. Businesses really hone in on kids being out of school and parents looking for indoor activities, so be sure to take advantage! Next week Kate & I are taking the kiddos to a planetarium show sponsored by our county’s government center. So see what is new near you. Also check Facebook for local events. That is a GREAT spot to find out if the random farm or coffee shop is hosting a kid-friendly event.
2. Stay in(side)
I take “outside” for granted. We have a big fenced in backyard and plenty of outside toys, so it is SO NICE to just let my kids out to run around and explore. When it is this hot and the UV index is literally 11 on what I thought was a 1-10 scale, we stay in. Sometimes it seems like challenge to stay indoors and limit screen time, but here are a few suggestions! –Paint with water colors (or just with water, for younger kiddos!). Have a theme. Paint bugs or dinos or princesses, whatever your child is into. Paint a story. Make a picture book where you write the words. Painting keeps my toddler occupied for a good while! –Play-doh is amazing stuff. We have collected a few kits so there are plenty of play-doh toys, and I love watching my kids get creative with how they use it. You can also make your own play-doh or modeling clay, or use kinetic sand which is awesome too. But don’t underestimate the power of the classic Play-doh! –Make a fort. Didn’t you LOVE making a fort out of couch cushions, mom’s big comforter, and anything else you could find? It was the best! So join in and help your child build one too. –Cook together. Make lunch or prep dinner, even make freezer meals for later! Kids enjoy sorting, cutting, spreading, sprinkling, and all those fun cooking verbs. So let them help out and check some things off your to-do list while you are at it! –Make cleaning fun. Go through a closet or their old toys and keep them involved. Maybe a clean closet means a fun hide out, or getting rid of old toys means picking out a new toy? Kids may not enjoy doing stuff like this every day, but remember that deviating from the ordinary can be magic for kids, and who knows what treasures you may uncover! –Have a tea party. This was one of my FAVORITE things as a kid. I had a small crystal (Gasp! Melissa and Doug would never!) pitcher and cup set and I would fill it with water and have tea parties with my parents or my toys. Set up a picnic and let your kids have a tea party too! Make lemonade and cookies or just play pretend!
I know these may not seem like groundbreaking new ideas, but sometimes I myself just need a little reminder of all the indoor crafts and activities we can do to switch our routine up on day 6 of a heat wave.
3. Make a cold treat
My sister-in-law visited with her family over Memorial Day weekend and she made the best homemade ice-cream. I’ll include the link to the recipe she used below. Not only was it amazingly delicious, but the kids had to shake the ice-cream for 10-15 minutes which is a win-win! One important tip: splurge for name brand ziplock bags to avoid leaks! I also may or may not have a dozen homemade popsicle recipes pinned to try with fresh fruit and juice. And did you know you can add ginger ale to jello to make sparkling jello? YEAH! Start googling and making because adults can enjoy these cooling treats too.
Fill up the pools and water table and bust out the sprinklers. Sometimes you just have to slather on the sunscreen and brave the heat…with the help of some cool water sources. There are some great inflatable pools at Amazon and Target for a $30 price point, so turn your backyard into a wet & wild haven. I love a good beach day or day by the pool, but this way you can skip packing all the snacks and nicknacks and just start playing, then quit whenever you’re ready.
5. Try getting ON the water
We have a hand-me-down canoe that has seen it’s fair share of adventures, and living about 10 minutes away from a public water access allows us to get in the water and paddle around easily. For some that’s a lot harder to do! But look into your local lakes, parks, ponds, and even campgrounds around rivers to see about rentals. You can rent kayaks and canoes inexpensively, or just pay a small fee to float down the river on a raft and be shuttled back. If you are a military family, check on base to see what rentals are available to you! You’ll still be in the elements on a warm day but we all know life is cooler on the water. When all else fails, hit the beach (or lake) if possible. You’re guaranteed a good nap time!
We have all summer to keep these kiddos busy, so please share your favorite activities with us! We would love to try some of them out!
My one year old is very into picking things up and putting them in something…a bin, a toy box, a random kitchen drawer, the garbage can. Oh yes, we find toys everywhere. She’s THAT child. So I like to make some activities for her where she can sort and store at will. Here are two DIY activities that are really simple!
Start by showing your child how to thread the pipe cleaner into the colander. Let them play with putting it in, pulling it out, and feeding it through. Even twisting it up a little bit! Our colander has different shaped holes as well which makes for fun trial and error to see where it will fit. We added a step today by threading Apple Jacks cereal on some of the pipe cleaners. My 3 year old enjoyed that part a lot more!
Parmesan cheese is pretty essential in our household and therefore I often buy the big container. Ours was almost out so I just transferred it to a new container and cleaned out the parmesan cheese shaker, which is great for sorting! We used q-tips but you can also use beans or other small child-safe objects to place in the two different sides. (I recommend adult supervision with q-tips so they don’t try to stick them in places they shouldn’t go…because kids.)
This was definitely the favorite of the two activities. My 3 year old spent more time with the colander than my 1 year old, and even took it over to her play kitchen to “make pasta” so hey, the activity that keeps on giving! They both loved putting the q-tips in and then opening the other side to try and shake them all out.
Have any tried and true activities using household items? Please share below!