Farm Sensory Box

farm sensory box

With the start of Summer and outdoor weather, I thought the sensory  box would be put away for awhile.  But alas, Rain-a-geddon ensued so we needed to find some new indoor fun. Or rather, just upgrade some fun.  Last Summer I built Matthew this barn and farm, and I added a sensory box and toddler-approved game this year.

Sensory Box

farm sensory box activity toddler

Inclusions:

  • Popcorn for the base (already had)
  • Schleich animals (our animal of choice)
  • Tractor (a gift from Grandma!)
  • “Hay bales” (TP tubes cut in half)
  • “Stables” (Melissa and Doug play food crates)
  • Mini scoop (already had)

Total Cost: Free 

** I already had all the materials, but I suspect you’d be able to put this together for around $10-$12.  A large jar of popcorn kernels runs about $3 at Walmart, and these animals are also a good choice.)

farm sensory box

farm sensory box

farm sensory box

farm sensory box

Books

farm books

1. Sheep in a Jeep. Matty is obsessed with jeeps right now. Sheep in a jeep? Oh my.  It’s on constant repeat around here.

2. Let’s Go To the Farm. We have two copies of this book. Both gifts. Both givers know a little something about kids. We’ve read this book at least a few times a week for the past year (at least).  It’s a lift-the-flap book, so we keep a copy in the car for road trips or restaurants.

3. Chicks and Salsa. I had to review this book for a college class years ago, and I loved it. It’s hilarious. I didn’t quite know if Matty would get it, but I guess it really is all about how excited the reader is, because it’s one of his favorites now, too.

Activities

  1. Try these Montessori inspired nomenclature cards.
  2. Matty is loving this farm-themed game on the Kindle.  We’ve been traveling a lot–so he’s soaking up the app time lately.  He’s actually learning too–he surprised me the other day by pointing to a picture of a moon and saying “creshent” (crescent). Play on, Buddy. Play on.
  3. Of course, we listened to Old MacDonald a lot. A lot.  We have this download with this version of OMD, which gets a little silly at the end.
  4. Farm Picture.  I printed two each of a variety of farm-themed coloring sheets.  I cut out certain parts of the picture, such as the tractor, barn, animals, and crops, and colored 1 copy.  On a large sheet of paper, I glued the remaining uncolored copy. Then we matched and glued the colored parts onto the uncolored outline of the pictures.

farm activity toddler

toddler farm activity

toddler farm activity

He’s still loving farms and farm animals (and tractors!!!)–any recommended activities?

DIY Ice Cube Puzzle

ice puzzle

With the days heating up and a little one who is slightly afraid of water (at least at first!), I’m trying to come up with creative solutions to stay cool.  He’s very much in an “ice” stage right now, including singing “ice, ice babies…doo doo doo doo da doo doo”. 🙂

ice puzzle activity toddler

I picked these ice cube trays up at Hobby Lobby back in April-ish for just a couple dollars.  I also got letters, but since he’s loving numbers and counting right now, I decided to focus there.

First, we filled them up.  I wanted to use colored water to make it a bit more fun, but didn’t want to use artificial dyes (because he inevitably did taste them!)–so strawberries and blueberries it was!  Then we did a little fine motor skill practice.

After an overnight in the freezer (although they freeze in just an hour or so), it was on to the next step.

I dumped them all out, and he immediately went to work putting them back in.  I stepped in occasionally to ask if he could find “2” or correct him from trying to stick “8” into the “3” slot.  I was impressed with how into this he was, how well he could get them to fit into the mold, and how many times he wanted to do it (4 or 5).

By this time it was melting, but I wanted to occupy him a bit more.  So I grabbed our trusty roll of paper, and we did a little ice painting.  Unfortunately the colors weren’t strong enough to really show up well, so I added a blob of purple finger paint to the mix. I mean ice and painting–does life get any better?

diy ice puzzle toddler activity summer

Let’s Go to the Zoo: Sensory Play

zoo sensory box

I love the zoo! And apparently, this little guy does, too.

We bought a membership last May, and went once last Summer. It was very exhausting.  Our membership technically didn’t expire until the end of May this year, so we wanted to fit in a trip this Spring, too.  And…we’ve already gone twice. With no crying. No whining. No running away. Generally lots of fun.  I love this age.

We have an awesome zoo in Cincinnati, complete with a petting zoo (where you can brush the goat’s hair!), and a train.  We weren’t sure how Matthew would like the train, but we’ve been hearing “more train” nonstop for the past few days. Actually, we’ve been about nothing but the zoo (and Grandpa) for the past week.

The first time we went, he got a bit freaked out when the elephant actually started moving (ha!), but quickly warmed up once the elephant shot water out of his nose (like his new favorite book).  He was also totally freaked out that the giraffe got close enough to touch, but once we backed up, he was happy again.

The hands-on exhibits were an obvious favorite, too.  No fear about running around with goats, petting lizards, being surrounded by thousands of bugs and butterflies, running towards alligators, or feeding birds from his hands.  The playground doesn’t hurt either–I was so proud? that he climbed to the top of  the “big kid” playset while Eric and I sat on the bench. He even went through the tunnel, which is HUGE for him because he seems to be scared of small spaces and usually avoids this at gymnastics. Actually, he maneuvered his way around the entire playground for about 20 minutes before even realizing we weren’t right there with him–then he just sauntered over, said “hello” and ran away again (to try to get in another mom’s wagon…).  Getting so big!

Needless to say, we needed some serious “zoo play” at home.

Sensory Box Table

zoo sensory box

Yeah, we took over the whole table for this one.  After all, the zoo has a train, people, and little trucks that drive around (he was enamoured by this too).  I was going to add little roads and and such, but this is as far as I got during naptime. He was very happy with it when he woke up, so I let it be.

zoo sensory box

zoo sensory box

zoo sensory box

zoo sensory box

zoo sensory box

zoo sensory box

Apparently, the bear needed a transfer.  And we might need to have a chat about why polar bears and rhinos can’t hang out.

Inclusions:

  • pea gravel from the rockbox
  • landscaping rocks from the yard
  • faux moss vase filler
  • twigs
  • tupperware
  • oats
  • water
  • Toob Wild animals
  • Toob Zoo Babies animals
  • Whittle World people
  • Train track, Thomas, trees, and cars are hand-me-downs, so I don’t know the origins

Total Spents: $10

The only thing I had to buy was the animals, which I got from Hobby Lobby.  They’re originally $8.99, but I used a 50% coupon.  Not a bad toy investment since these things will last for years and can be used for a lot of activities.

Books

books about zoo

1. Dear Zoo.  Animals! Lift-the-flaps! Zoo! It’s like the toddler trifecta.

2. Put Me in the Zoo. This book doesn’t actually have much to do about the zoo,  but it says “zoo” a lot and I contribute that to Matty learning the word.  It also lends to some fun crafts, like the one below.

3. From Head to Toe. We have this Big Book, which is exciting on its own.  Each page shows the way a different animal moves and encourages kiddos to do it too. Lends well for animal charades!

Activities

zoo activities

1. Animal Count & Sort. Umm, just a fancy way of saying, “play with the animals!”.  I took them out to his rock box, and grabbed a few things from the house I thought would make it fun.  This is where he surprised me.  First, he put them in the tray, one in each spot, counting, “one, two, two, six”.  The fact that there was 12 animals and 12 spots was just a happy accident!  Then, he said they need a “dink” (water), because he noticed all the animals at the zoo had water.  This really held his attention for awhile.

2. Put Me in the Zoo Craft. I just traced the bear-thing character onto paper, then gave him “garage sale” stickers to make his spots. We did two colors of his choice before he moved on to bigger and better things. 🙂

3. Animal Charades. This stemmed from reading From Head to Toe.  Then I added crawl like a bear, crawl like a turtle, swim like a fish, gallop like a zebra, etc.  I think his favorite part is watching me do it.

4. Visit the Zoo! Did you see the first part of this post? He had so much fun!

5. I’m Going to the Zoo Sing Along. I remember singing this in 1st grade, and started singing it to Matthew in the car.  I had to brush up on the words, and this video helped.

6. Coloring Pages. I put these out on his coloring table for him to do what he wanted.  Just a little something different than plain paper.

Questions:

1. Zoos…love ’em or hate ’em?
2. What’s your “must see” animal when you go to the zoo?

5 Rainy Day Nature Play Activities

rainy day nature play

April showers may bring May flowers, but they also bring a new round of cabin fever to little ones (and their parents) who have had a taste of outdoor play for the first time in weeks (if not months).  We’ve had typical Ohio weather lately–one day it’s sunny and 80 degrees and the next day it’s cold and windy.

Spring is the perfect time to take an interest in nature, but that can be a bit difficult when you can’t get outside in, you know, nature.  So I started thinking of ways to fill our rainy afternoons indoors while still exploring “The Great Outdoors”.

Before the rain really started coming down, we got our trusty bucket and took a walk around the yard.  Naturally, Matty picked up sticks and put them in the bucket (this is a favorite activity lately), and I started pointing out other things such as leaves, dandelions, and rocks.  We talked about the objects, and then I asked him if we should put them in our collection.  This was great way to incorporate some new vocabulary!

nature collection

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toddler nature sort

To begin our sort, I dumped out all the objects for some free play.  As he started losing interest, I asked him to point out certain things, like sticks, or rocks.  At this point, he started realizing their were more than one (“one, two, six..”–he’s a good counter).  So I suggested we put all the alike things in a pile.  We did leaves and sticks first, since that was easiest, then moved on to random objects, discussing their color, texture, size, and other characteristics.  Again, great vocab building!

toddler nature sort

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toddler nature collage

Over the next couple of days, we started using our collection for some crafts.  This works better with contact paper (check out a great example here), but I didn’t have any.  So I used a sheet of easel paper and spray adhesive.  That dried up towards the end, so we used a craft brush and Elmer’s glue, which was a big hit!  Matty loved this–it’s like real-life stickers. 🙂

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toddler nature creatures

Who doesn’t love googly eyes and pom poms?  I was going to do this alone then give them to Matty, but he was totally into it.  However, he does think they’re owls.  There’s a Mommy, Daddy, and Baby.  I’m not sure who is who, or who the other one is…

nature play

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pinecone bird feeder

We meant to do this back in the Fall, but didn’t get to it.  So when we were at Lowes earlier in the week, and Matty went crazy over the bird feeder section, and carried a two pound bag of “brird teets” (bird treats) to the cart, I knew we had to do it.  P.S. I have no idea how he knew the bird food was indeed bird food save the bird on the bag…

We used a knife to spread peanut butter on the pinecones, then rolled it around in the seed.  However, I think he was very sad that bird treats are not like cat treats, i.e., he can’ t hand-feed the birds.

pinecone bird feeder process

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nature music intruments

I came across this pin awhile back, which links to this idea.  Being the little music lover he is, I gave it a try.  Forget the music because of course, it’s a cat toy.  What was I thinking?

sistrum music instrument

P.S. Am I the only one who thinks of Melman the Giraffe from Madagascar every time I hear the word “nature”? “Ahh, the nature, it’s all over me, get it off!”

P.S. Happy Earth Day!  What are you doing to celebrate?

Color Theme: Yellow

yellow

This has been Matty’s favorite sensory box so far, yet his least favorite crafts.  We did finger-painting and he hates getting his hands dirty.

Color Learning Tip #3

Use the word “color” when teaching colors.  For example, say “this is a flower and it’s color is yellow.”  We often ask kids, “what color is this?” or “do you know your colors?”, but rarely attach the attribute “color” to what we’re teaching.

Sensory Box

Inclusions:

  • Popcorn base
  • Cars
  • Wooden blocks
  • Cups
  • Hammer
  • Mega Bloks (he loved putting them in the holes and pouring)
  • Lid
  • Ribbon
  • Counting bears
  • Foam stickers
  • Foam ball
  • Wooden puzzle piece (duck)
  • Flashcard
  • Lemon-scented felt square

Total Spent: $3.88 for popcorn

yellowbox

He LOVED the popcorn.  He liked to just sit and run his hands through it, or drop it just a few at a time into the cups to hear the “plink plink” sound.  His favorite, though, was leaving tiny little piles of it all around the house. “For keet” (for kitty).  He thought they were cat treats for some reason.  I even witnessed him chasing the cat down with one and trying to force feed it.  Needless to say, this box didn’t last as long as the others–I can only pick up so many tiny piles of popcorn kernels–but definitely worth it.

Books

yellow books

1. Press Here. I fell in love with this book a while ago, but have been waiting for a good time to introduce it.  Matty’s really into “dots” and pushing buttons right now, so it was perfect.  The book starts with one yellow dot, with instructions to “press here”.  As the page is turned, it’s morphed into 2 dots, with instructions to turn the book on it’s side or shake it, with the dots corresponding to the action.  There’s a lot of emphasis on the yellow dots, so it fits well with this theme. Really fun, really cute, and got lots of giggles from Wee One.

2. This is My Duck. Matty got this for his birthday in September, and it’s been a favorite ever since.  Each page points out a different attribute of a duck (fluffy yellow feathers, webbed feet), and ends with, and “she says”…which prompts kiddos to push the button to hear “quack, quack”.  It also has touch and feel for each attribute.  **It seems this book is out of print now, but there’s still some second-hand ones being sold on Amazon.

3. My Many Colored Days. Not specific to yellow, this book covers all colors in a unique way.  Ever have a gray day, or a blue day, or a red day? I thought this book might be a bit too abstract and subdued for an active toddler, but alas, he was enamored.  We checked it out from the library and ended up renewing it.

Activities

1. Handprint Sun. This didn’t work out for us–somebody had too wiggly of hands. But once I let him go back to just using one finger, he had a blast fingerpainting.  Sometimes simpler is better!
2. Yellow Song & Dance. Ah, yet another annoying toddler song. But, of course, Matty loves it. We had a bout of sickness around here, so this got played over and over and over again…at least toddler dancing is the cutest thing ever.

3. Lemonade from Scratch.
4. Yellow Snack Tray. Try bananas, yellow peppers, butternut squash, pineapple, corn, peaches, different cheeses, or yellow apples.
5. The Basics. Yellow playdough, markers, stickers, and stamps. Again, simpler is sometimes better!

Easter Rundown

Easter. Spring. Synonymous, no?  No. At least not in Ohio this year.  One Easter egg hunt has already been cancelled due to a snowstorm.  And there’s still 3″ of snow on the ground.  So it’s been a bit difficult to really get into bright colors, butterflies, and “signs of new life” when everything is covered in white.  But, we have done a few fun things!

easter sensory box

Sensory boxes should engage all the senses, right?!  Even taste?  This one does!

  1. Cut some green paper or cardstock into strips.
  2. Fold strips into zigzags (I did 2 or 3 together then just separated it.  I also made the hubby fold some while he was vegged out in front of the TV.)
  3. Grab some plastic eggs from your stash, or pick up a new bag of 25-50ish.
  4. Fill with super-fun toddler treats. We used:
  • Foam stickers
  • Gel stickers
  • Glitter stickers
  • Pom Poms (Matty loves these because the cats play with them.)
  • Real coins for the piggy bank
  • Chocolate chips (We always have Enjoy Life’s chips around.  Dairy free, soy free, gluten free, egg free………)

Cost: About $5 for stickers (which we have plenty left over for other activities) and $1 in change

Okay, okay. Candy? What?! Here’s the secret. Use only 3-5 pieces of candy. They will keep looking and looking and looking and looking to find each piece of candy.  Ahhh, 30 blissful minutes of kid occupation.

egg sensory table

At that point they’ll realize they’re in over their heads and recruit Daddy to help.

Seriously, he drug Daddy in by the hand, patted the ground to make him sit down, then handed him an egg and said, “ope” (open).  He wouldn’t let Eric leave until they were all open.

Most of the time we leave our boxes out for a few days at least.  We’ve done this box every day this week, but obviously only brought it out once/day, like when I needed to clean the kitchen or catch up on Vampire Diaries (why am I still watching this?).

NOTE: Make sure each egg has something in it.  Not only does it increase motivation, but they get a little angry if they didn’t get a treat and you’ll hear, “No. Mommy! All gone. All gone!”

I also realized he needed a place to put his stickers (his shirt was filling up fast), so I taped a piece of easel paper to the wall next to the sensory box.

Fun Easter Crafts

Bunny Watercolor Painting. Draw a bunny using a white crayon (and pink and black for eyes & nose, if you so desire).  Use watercolors to paint over top, and the bunny magically appears! Cut out, add ribbon for hanging, whiskers (pipe cleaners or paper) and a fluffy bunny tail.

watercolor easter bunny

watercolor easter bunny1

Tissue Paper Egg Dying. Grab a few pieces of craft tissue paper (not the non-bleed kind).  Cut into 1″ x 1″ squares. Use a wet paper towel to dampen the egg.  Place the tissue paper squares on the egg, using a small paintbrush with water to tamp it down (don’t make it too wet or the color will bleed all over–just wet enough to stick).  We found that multiple layers of tissue paper worked best for transferring color.  Leave out to dry (a cut tp tube works great), then peel off the paper. Voila. P.S. A bit messier than you may think, but not too bad.

tissue paper easter eggs

Good Reads

And what’s a theme without a few good books?

easter books

1. Happy Easter, Mouse.  Who’s hiding Easter eggs around the house?  A good counting and color book.

2. Where Are Baby’s Easter Eggs? Matty loves the Karen Katz books. He found this at the library and started yelling, “Baby!”

3. What is Easter? It’s fun to celebrate with eggs, bunnies, and candy, but Easter is about a lot more.  This book relays that message in a simply, fun rhyme.

Tales From the Crib: Week 46

I HAVE BIG, BIG NEWS! (No, it’s not a baby brother.)

I CAN WALK.

I HAVE MORE BIG, BIG NEWS! (No, it’s not a baby sister.)

I KNOW HOW TO SAY WORDS.

I HAVE EVEN MORE BIG, BIG NEWS! (Ummm, yeah, this one is baby related.)

I’M GETTING NEW TWIN BABY COUSINS.  It’s going to be so much fun.

So, Grandma came to visit me this week and she didn’t know that I had lots of teeth.  So what else don’t you guys know about me?  Let’s do a developmental run-down, shall we?

Growth

  • 30″ tall
  • 25 lbs.
  • 8 Teeth–4 top and 4 bottom
  • Very fine blond hair that’s getting very mullet-ish on just the left side. Please help.

Gross Motor Skills

  • Walking across the room
  • Climbing onto my toddler bed
  • Climbing backwards off the bed and couch
  • Climbing into the windowsill
  • Throwing a ball

Fine Motor Skills

  • Pinching Mommy’s chest
  • Pinching Mommy’s nose
  • Pinching Mommy’s ears
  • Picking up ANYTHING small, like lint and dirt off the floor (Mommy really needs to clean this place up!)
  • Opening cabinet doors
  • Opening drawers
  • Reaching into containers to take things out or put things in, like laundry from the dryer or Mommy’s cell phone into my ball popper (Listen up, this was not as fun as I anticipated.)
  • Clicking an ink pen open and closed
  • Unscrewing lids, like child-proof teething tablet bottles

Favorite Toys

  • Books: Llama, Llama Red Pajama; Brown Bear Brown Bear; 5 Little Monkeys; Does Kangaroo Have a Mommy, Too?; Whose Baby Am I?; 10 Tiny Tickles.  We’ll read these over, and over, and over, and over again for like 45 minutes.
  • Push-car (BEST $7 GARAGE SALE FIND EVER!)
  • Balls
  • MegaBloks (with cars and little people)
  • Pop-Up Animal Thingy
  • Puppy Scout
  • Hose
  • Mommy
  • Nature
  • Kitty
  • Dirt

Words

  • Mama, Mom
  • Dada
  • Hi
  • No, no, no! (This is my favorite. But I’ve since learned this is, in fact, NOT Kitty’s name.)
  • Ball
  • Duck
  • Cold. (I like ice.)
  • Go
  • Good. (I ALWAYS do a good job, so I hear this a lot.)

Animal Sounds

  • Meow. (Duh, how else am I supposed to communicate my shenanigans with Kitty?)
  • Neigh. (I rode a horsey!)

Signs

  • Come on (Daddy is reeeaally slow.)
  • More
  • Hi
  • All Done
  • Eat
  • Yay (Clapping)
  • No (Shaking Head)
  • Go Crazy (flailing around)
  • I also raise my palms up and shrug my shoulders whenever anyone asks a question or when I have a question.  Mommy isn’t sure where or why I learned this…

Favorite Foods:

Eat 3x/day + snacks, though a “meal” is anything from 2 crackers to a Chipotle taco

  • Chicken, black bean, and rice tacos from Chipotle
  • Spaghetti w/Skyline chili (just like Daddy!)
  • Eggs
  • Strawberries (whole or cut-up)
  • Apples (ONLY a whole apple)
  • Peaches (sliced)
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Plum Organic Cremes
  • Puffs
  • Chex Cereal
  • Any meat, cooked or deli style
  • Carrots (uncooked)
  • Mommy’s homemade oatmeal-banana muffins
  • Veggies straws and pita chips
  • Graham Crackers
  • Broccoli
  • Raw Spinach (WHHHY can I eat leaves at the table, but NOT when I find them on the ground outside? I don’t understand.)
  • Oh, this is getting tiring. I like food.
  • Mommy Milk. 6-8x/day still…what? I’m a growing boy.
  • OH, and dirt.

Oh, and of course, I no longer like to sit in my chair to eat.  I like to stand in my Learning Tower.  I also have to be as naked as possible. Mommy lets me. She’s fun like that…most of the time.

Sleep

Ha! Like this should get its own category.

  • Down to 2 naps/day and have been for about a month.  Usually about 40-50 minutes each. Ok, just sometimes.  I took another 12 minute nap the other day.  Just keeping Mommy on  top of her game.
  • I really like to sleep in the car.  Mommy is okay with this.  We gets lots of errands done, and Mommy gets lots of books read while she’s waiting for me to wake up. Win-win, I say.
  • Usually start getting sleepy around 8, but fight it off until around 9:30.  THEN, if I’m really lucky, I wake up at 12:30, 3:00, 5:00, 7:00 and up for the day around 8 or 9, depending on if I accidentally fall back asleep after my 7:00 milk.  If I’m really, really worn out, I wake up at 12:30, 4:00, and 8:00.  Thankfully, Mommy and Daddy haven’t figured out to get me really, really worn out every day.
  • Mommy tried a complete night-wean, but yeah…She’s still awake, I’m screaming, and Daddy is saying naughty words.  Good choice, Mom.

Other Baby Things

  • Bathtimes are cool.
  • Walks in the stroller are still fun.
  • I do a good job riding in the car (NOTE TO KARMA FROM MOMMY: Please don’t take this as a tempt of fate. I’d like this to continue. K-thanks.)
  • People! I love the people.
  • I have 2 babysitters while Mommy goes to “work” sometimes.  Mr. James is so fun and we play blocks.  Miss Hayley is so pretty and lovely and sparkly and smells like rainbows and unicorn kisses.  While I like my babysitters, I have managed to never let Mommy be away from me for more than 3 hours. Ever.  I think I heard some crapt shenanigans about Mommy and Daddy leaving me for the WHOLE day at Grandma’s soon, so I’ll have to talk to them about that.
  • I give kisses. Good ones.
  • Library. Park.  Toy Store.  Perfect daily outing.

And, as a final note:

SAVE THE DATE!

Saturday, September 15

I’m having a birthday party! But I have to go now and ask Mommy and Daddy if you’re all allowed to come over.