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


  • 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


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.


  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?

Halfway There

reading challenge

I almost included Bon Jovi lyrics.  Almost. 10 points if you name the song,

Anywho, June is over. How did that even happen?  2013 is halfway over, which seems cray-cray but looking back, we’ve actually gotten a TON done.  Including reading. I’ve read 18 books thus far, with a goal of 34 by the end of the year. That’s 2% ahead of schedule–I love being ahead of schedule…that rarely happens anymore. 🙂

reading challenge snapshot

So, if you’re still looking for a few good beach reads (take me with you, please!), or just looking for a few good laughs, tears, or angel-demon love, here’s what I’ve been reading.

Parenting Books


How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Like the title suggests, the book explores how character building and character education lead to more successful outcomes than academic goals.  For far too long, children have been looked at as input x and y will come out; that is, drill vocabulary and sight words, and your child will score high on his SAT’s.  Obviously, that’s not the case, and there’s many factors influencing outcomes for kids. I especially liked that there was an emphasis on bonding with your kids and treating them with respect without being preachy.  It was  reminiscent of Jonathon Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, and a little Freakonomics-ish.


Honest Toddler Review

Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting

If you haven’t read Honest Toddler, go right now. No seriously. Go, come back later.  I think we could be good friends in real-life.  I looked forward to this book all year, and it didn’t disappoint.  Though, I am a bit disappointed that I talked about writing a book like this a couple years ago.  Always one step behind…


crappy pictures

Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures

Another blog favorite.  Check it out.  I read this book after reading I Just Want to Pee Alone, and I loved this positive tone of Crappy Pictures over Pee Alone: yes, parenting is hard, but it’s hilarious and totally worth it.


I Just Want to Pee Alone: A Collection of Humorous Essays by Kick Ass Mom Bloggers

Again, I just thought this book came off negative.  More of like, kids are horrible, stay away.  Although the first essay was hilarious, like can’t catch my breath pee my pants hilarious, the rest of the book left something to be desired.  I really felt like a lot of authors wished they hadn’t had kids or resent their kids, and that’s never a good place to be.


Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic

If someone asked me to describe my child, I’d just hand them the title page of this book. Nailed it! I read this back in February, which I shall now deem “the dark days”, and I think I almost cried in relief while reading: you get it, you really get it.  There’s a line in the book that says something like, “Do people often describe your child as Dennis the Menace?” Yes! Yes, just today that happened actually.  Matthew often gets compliments about his behavior, development and people question why I’m so tired and stressed, but I swear to God I feel drained at the end of the day, like I’m parenting 10 times harder than I should need to be. Does that make sense? No? This book isn’t for you. Yes, you feel me? This book will help!


Montessori Madness: A Parent to Parent Argument for Montessori Education

Yes, we’re those parents. You know, the one’s who stressed out about schools before Matthew was born.  The good news is that we’re open-minded.  The bad news is that we’re no closer to a solution.  But we like the idea of Montessori.  The idea.  Not so much the cost, the sense of elitism, or the way it is implemented in most “Montessori” programs.  Did you get all that?  It doesn’t really have anything to do with the book, but if you’re in the same boat as us, this book provided an interesting perspective.


Raising Boys: Why Boys are Different And How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men

The title pretty much sums up the plot of this book. Ha! Lots of talk about how boys are different than girls (duh!), research on what they need to make them happy and successful.  I highlighted a bunch in this book, and was really inspired by the fact by when Matthew hits 7-12, he won’t really need me much anymore and will latch on to Eric. Huzzah! 🙂


NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

I talked about this book here.

Random Non-Fiction Books


I’ve read numerous reviews on how hilarious this is.  I needed a few good laughs.  I think I was short-changed a bit.  I didn’t really find it that funny.  It read more of a defense against her decision to do Sarah Palin on SNL.  Maybe I’m not liberal enough or funny enough to “get” it.


Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think We Do

Most of the book was interesting.  I think the problem was that too many of the studies outlined in the book have already been talked about in mainstream media, such as the study where the soup bowls were continuously filled up from under-the-table tubes, and *gasp* people kept eating.  This study always made me chuckle because pretty sure if my bowl kept refilling, I’d keep eating, too. Mostly because I’d think I’d gone crazy or something.  But there were a few helpful tips spread throughout.


The Milk Mem0s: How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business With Babies-and How You Can Too

Again, disappointed with this book. I thought it was going to be chock full of inspiring moments and tips for new moms, but alas, there was such literary greatness as, “I brought in a box of tissues, help yourself”. Aka, not very helpful, not very inspirational, and very generic in what could have a been a very personal and encouraging book.


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

This book got a bit long and winded at points, but I found it really interesting.  Probably because I’m an introvert.  And like the author, I’ve trained myself to be able to give kick-ass presentations, speak in front of large crowds, heck, I’ve even sung and acted, but put me in a room and tell me to talk to people, and I freak.

Fiction Books

Blackberry Winter

Why would one read a book they know is sad? Because they’re gluttons for punishment.  If you haven’t heard about this book yet, you’re probably not reading your blogs close enough or scouring your Pinterest boards with a discerning eye.  Back in March, Eric and I went out for the evening and stayed in a hotel to celebrate my birthday.  What did I do for fun?  Shave my legs and read this book.  Which resulted in crying all night.  This would not have happened pre-baby. Now? Now I cry at commercials and random facebook posts.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good book, but you’ll snuggle your littles ones a little closer at night.


Daughter of Smoke & Bone & Days of Blood and Starlight

Ahhh! These books are so good.  This is not normally something I’d read, but after reading this review, I decided to give it a shot.  I think I read both books in two days. I just found out the 3rd book in the series, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, has been pushed back to April 2014. Scroll down to the comments here to see how I feel about that. Definitely some of the best books I’ve read in awhile.


Calling Me Home

I just finished this and I would say it’s good. Just good. Which isn’t a bad thing. It started off a little slow for me, but picked up by the middle.  It was also a predictable, but again, that’s not a bad thing.  I really enjoyed just being able to sprawl out in bed a night and read a few chapters at a time without feeling riveted to stay up until 2am reading.

Home & Life Books

Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love

Like their blog, lots of good ideas here.  And it looks cute and trendy sitting on the coffee table. 🙂


Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life: The Quick Start Guide

Lots and lots of little ideas to get and stay organized.  Since this is an e-book, there’s lots of links to blogs, inspiration pictures, and products.  At only $4.99, it’s a quick read and I found a few new blogs to follow out of it.  Also written by the blogger behind Modern Parents Messy Kids.


I haven’t decided what to read next…any suggestions?  Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Play Theme: Squirming Worms

exploring worms--activities for toddlers

What’s Spring without a little worm play?  While preparing the garden for Spring flowers, I came across a family of worms.  I called Matthew over to take a look, and let’s just say he was enamored! He kept asking to go outside to look for worms, so of course, I decided to take it a little further and put together some activities involving worms.

Sensory Box

worm sensory box


  • Coffee Grounds (dirt)
  • Rocks
  • Cooked Spaghetti (worms)
  • Fake Moss
  • Paper Grass (carstock folded into zigzags)
  • Artificial Tulips (trimmed)
  • Shovel
  • Bucket

Total Cost: FREE (I already had everything from other sensory boxes or from around the house!)

I put a piece of styrofoam under the flowers and grass; this way, the flowers can be stuck into the styrofoam to help them stand up.  Matty likes to pull them out then push them back in.  And shovel the “dirt”.  And put the worms in the bucket.


books about worms

1. Are You Ready To Play Outside? I love all the Mo Willems books, but I was afraid Matty might be a bit young to understand a book based completely on dialogue.  I don’t know if he “got” the plot, but he loved it from the first page, which starts of with “Piggie!”.  He giggled every time I read a word.  This book is about Elephant and Piggie upset about the rain ruining their plans to play outside, until they notice worms having fun in the rain.  Worms! Yay! Cue requests to go outside to dig in the dirt…

2. Worms. This was a $.99 Kindle book.  I’m trying to introduce more non-fiction books, especially when dealing with science themes, but I forgot to get worm books at the library.  But this Kindle book did the trick.  Lots of neat pictures to look at. Plus, it was on the Kindle.

3. Baby Loves Spring.  Again, love these books. And there’s worms squiggling in the dirt. Which Matty reminded me of when he came running in the room yelling “borms!!!!” after discovering it on the shelf.



 1. Dig in the dirt for worms, of course! I considered doing a Worm Farm, but I figured we’d have to keep it forever or risk meltdown.

2. Worm in Apple Cupcakes.  I had everything laid out to make these, then bam! A month of sickness, including 2 stomach bugs.  We’re definitely on a bland diet around here that doesn’t involve cupcakes.

3. Playdough worms

4. Rhymes and Songs.  Here’s two of my favorites, mostly because they’re easy to incorporate movement.

worm songs

Anybody else got a little worm lover?  Ever tried a worm farm?

Psst…I’m linking up @ My Healthy Happy Home for Toddler Tuesday. Check it out!

Color Theme: Purple


This is the last of our color themes.  I was going to do white, black, and brown, but he’s picked those up already.  Actually, I’m 95.7% sure he knows all of his colors, including pink and tan! Yay!

Color Learning Tip #6

Kids will be able to point out or pick up something purple before saying “purple”.  To check for understanding of color learning, give children opportunities to “show what they know” instead of asking them to tell what they know.

Sensory Box


Again, with my experiment to try new types of containers, I decided to use an oversized  cooking pot.  This actually turned out awesome!  I kept it in a corner on the kitchen counter, and brought it out when preparing meals or when I still had a few bites left and Matty was all done.  He thought it was great, and meal prep went better.  I’ve actually been keeping a small bowl of toys on the counter for this exact purpose now.


purple books

1. Purple Little Bird. Purple Bird lives in a purple house with purple decorations.  Something’s not quite right, so he explores, and discovers many other colors to add to his house.

2. Harold’s ABC. Yes, yes. Harold and his damn purple crayon.  I planned on using that book for this theme, but I think my little rascal would have thought he was totally hilarious and colored on the wall.  So we used this alphabet book instead.  The letters are incorporated into the illustrations, with some common words, c for cake, and odd words, a for attic.

3. Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes. We got a Pete the Cat book for Christmas, and Matty loved it.  So we got this one for colors.  It explores all colors, too, so it’s been out for a few weeks.  It’s got a cat, so of course it’s a hit!


1. Blueberry painting. Slightly thaw a small bowl of frozen blueberries. Poke with toothpick. Paint!  Matty loved repoking the toothpick (fine motor), and ate the entire bowl of blueberries (the first time he ever ate them!).  Great activity.

2. Purple snack. Try raisins and grapes. If you’re more adventurous try eggplant and plums. Even more adventurous? Track down purple carrots!

3. Purple People Eater.  This song was on our Halloween mix, which we still listen to…toddlers know no bounds when it comes to holidays.

4. The Regs. Purple playdough, markers, stickers, and crayons.


Has your kid had a “Harold” moment? Aka, coloring on the wall?

Psst. Interested in more color themes?  Here’s a color recap:

Blue          Red         Yellow       Green        Orange 

             Getting Started with Sensory Boxes



Play Box: Little Blue Truck

Little Blue Truck

We used Little Blue Truck with our blue theme,  but of course it’s stuck around much longer, i.e. we’ve read it 100 times.  After so many readings, I had the epiphany that I could change it up a bit.  We had everything we needed on hand to turn this into a fun, interactive read along.

I set it up during naptime, and let’s just say excited didn’t begin to describe Wee One when he woke up.

I used coffee grounds for the “mud”, and added all of our Schleich animals from the play barn.  Except the toad.  The only frog/toad I had was an Ikea finger puppet. Whatever works.

This was his favorite.  In fact, after this box, I put the book away for awhile, which Matty found this week.  He demanded asked for the toad before we could finish the story.

This was a great way to pass some time during a rainy afternoon (in which we apparently stayed in pajamas for).  And the coffee grounds made my entire house smell wonderful. Note to Self: Put out fun sensory box before guests come over; look like super-mom and have a fresh smelling house. 🙂

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.

2013 Reading List

2012 was a good year in terms of reading.  Mostly because I assumed that a new baby=zero reading time.  But having a constantly-needs-to-be- nursed-and-held baby is an excellent way to squeeze in some reading time. Especially with a Kindle.   At the start of last year, I joined Goodreads’ Reading Challenge and set a goal of 32 books.  I figured that was 2-3 books/month, and I was very happy to find that completely do-able.  In fact, I topped out at 34.  Of course that doesn’t include children’s books–though maybe I should track those…I estimate that I read 100-125 different picture books to the wee one this year! Wowza.

This year, I’m curious about how much reading I can actually get done.  But a challenge is a challenge, and I’m resolved to take more “me-time” this year (and not feel guilty about it!) so I upped the baseline to 34 books this year.

2013 Reading List

1.   Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

This was actually on last year’s list, but I never got around to it.  It’s probably going to be one of my first reads this year.


2. Raising Boys

Boy are different. True story.  And I think it’s important to tap into that “special boy magic” (aka energy) and harness it for good.

3. 15 Minutes Outside

I meant to read this one last year, too. But I had no problem finding at least 45-60 minutes to spend outside each day with the wee one, so I pushed it back.  However last year was spent on walks in the stroller and laying on a blanket–I don’t think that’s going to fly this year.

4. The Milk Memos: How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business With Babies- and How You Can, Too

I don’t have plans to go back to work full-time this year, so this is for pure entertainment factor.  Plus, reading stories of moms who battle working out of the house helps put into perspective how blessed I am to be able to stay home (even though some days I’m clawing the walls by the time the hubby gets home 🙂 )

5.  Dinner: A Love Story

Oh, dinner. Together. It’s getting harder.  Wee one goes to bed earlier. Hubby comes home later.  I’m exhausted from trying to figure out what everyone wants to eat.  Wee one is done after 2 bites…

6. Montessori Madness

I studied Montessori in college, and I think it’s good for a lot of kids, but I’m a huge proponent of finding what’s best for your kid. The hubby is definitely a “Montessori type person” and I’m more of a “creative” type, so we’ll see where the wee one falls…

7. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Not sure if I want to read this, but I feel like I should read this…

8. Room

I put this on my list last year, and I’m just not sure if I’m going to be able to do it.  Becoming a parent has done me in.  I now cry at Hallmark commercials and develop insomnia worrying about how to protect my child from gunmen.

9. Cheaper By The Dozen

I’ve never seen the movie all the way through, but apparently the book is funnier.  That’s what I need. Funny.

10. The Autobiography of Santa Claus

What a fun holiday read! A friend recommended this after reading it for her book group, so I’m sold.

11. Cloud Atlas: A Novel

I thought the previews for this movie looked good, so of course that means the book has to be AWESOME, right?

12. The Warmth of Other Suns

Sometimes I want to read.  I don’t want romance. I don’t want drama. I don’t want anything that’s going to keep me up worrying. Historical non-fiction.  It may become my new favorite genre.

13. Code Name Verity

I have some weird obsession with WWII. Not the battles or the weaponry or the tactics, but the people.

14. Jefferson’s Sons

I have to admit.  I watched the made-for-TV movie about Sally Hemmings and Thomas Jefferson that was made years ago, and even though it was full on inaccuracies, I became kind of fascinated with his story.

15. Casual Vacancy

J.K. Rowling for adults?  What was Harry Potter then? Ha.

18. 50 Shades…

I’m gonna do it.  I said I wouldn’t, but I’m going to.  I pretty much get the story.  And the aftermath–50 Shades of Grey babies, anyone?    I was talking with a friend the other day who mentioned this book was “life-changing.” Life-changing? Definitely interested in figuring that out.

This list covers about half of my reading for the year.  And apparently after reading 50 Shades I’m going to want to do nothing but “color” (Sex in the City reference, holla!), so maybe I won’t reach my goal this year. Ha. Most of the rest of the spots will be filled with books from an online parenting book group, with a few spots left to pick up something spontaneously (I’m a wild one, watch out!).  Plus, you never know when Nicholas Sparks will release a new book <–read ’em all!

Any good recommendations?  Is 50 Shades really worth my time?  I mean, I could be using that time to read about vaccines and tantrums and food strikes and potty training and how to remove crayon marks from EVERYTHING.

Countdown to Christmas: Day 23

Elf on the Shelf

I taught Klaus how to do my favorite chore–clean the lint trap! Ok, maybe it’s not my favorite, but top 5.  Klaus had to get all of his laundry done because we have to drive him back to the airport tomorrow.  He has to be back in time to help Santa with Christmas deliveries!


Advent Calendar Book

Aww, man.  It’s still not a Christmas book.  BUT, it’s about a doggy, so that’s cool.  I was so excited about my present that I didn’t even let Mommy get it all the way out of the present drawer…yes, from henceforth, this shall be called the present drawer.


Family Photo FAIL

And, for some behind the scenes bribery…candy and Gatorade!





**Don’t worry, I don’t actually drink Gatorade; I just like to put the lid on and off.

Countdown to Christmas: Day 22

Elf othe Shelf

Yes, yes, Klaus! We do organize my new toys from Uncle Jason and Aunt Kristin! That’s the spirit. Keep up the good work, little buddy.


Advent Calendar Book

Yay!!! Two presents tonight.  I’m really practicing for Christmas Day! So exciting, yet so sad neither of them are Christmas themed…bottom of the barrel, eh Mom?


Family Photo FAIL

Oh, man. Grown-up kisses. I’m outty, clowns.



Countdown to Christmas: Day 21

Elf on the Shelf

Hehehe.  No, no, Klaus.  We don’t gamble. Ok, Daddy likes to.  He never wins.  Mommy doesn’t like to.  She always wins.



Advent Calendar Book

Interactive and shiny. YES!


Family Photo FAIL

Ahhhh. It’s Sasquatch.  I’ll smile, I promise. I’ll smiiiile. Heeeeelp.