Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Soap Sud Sensory Jar

I found this awesome idea from Hands on as We Grow via pinterest. It was quick and easy to make, generates zero mess, and keeps my kiddo busy, so what's not to love? I'll let you go to the original post for instructions, but you might not even need them.
 Sharli had so much fun shaking and rolling her sensory jar. She loves anything that has bubbles, and this was no exception. I love that she got to play with bubbles and I didn't have to worry about cleaning up a mess, or consoling her when she (inevitably) accidentally spills her bubble liquid.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Finger Friendly Hammer Practice

This activity (which I found here) has been on my to-do list for a long time now, so I was excited to finally get around to giving it a try. Set up is simple and cheap, two of my favorite things!
Let's gather our supplies:
-Large chunk of styrofoam (I bought mine at Dollar Tree, but you can use whatever you have handy)
-Golf Tees
-Hammer (depending on your child this can be a real hammer from dad's toolbox or a toy hammer, your call)
Both kids were pretty excited to get started on the fun. They really enjoyed pounding away on the golf tees. Erik was able to do this with no trouble, but for Sharli this took some concentration. 
 Erik was kind of picky (at least at first) about where he drove the tees into his foam block. If they didn't go in the right place he'd pull them out and try again.

 Sharli decided that the hammer was too much work, so she just shoved the tees in with her hands. Maybe this wasn't quite as much of a hand/eye coordination workout, but it still built small motor strength so you don't hear me complaining.
 One of the things I loved best was that this required so little effort on my part. I just dumped the supplies on the table and turned the kids loose. I was able to sit nearby and feed the newborn while they hammered away. Perfect!
Did you spot our Sticky Wall in the background? That's another great low prep activity for when mom can't/doesn't have time to do much prep work or clean-up.

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Thoughts on Road Trips with Kids as a Single Parent

I had an anonymous reader ask the following question, and I decided that my response was way too long to put in a comment so you all get to enjoy.

"What about a road trip as a single parent of a 23 month old who doesn't like to sit still for more than two hours in a car. Would your road trip blogs be helpful still or is there any thing different you would suggest? I've never gone on a road trip alone before let alone with a kid. From Tyler to Arkansas (5 hours away) to GA ( another 8) after a few days rest in Arkansas with my sister."

While I am not a single parent, I do have some experience with long car rides alone with my kids. We live almost 1.5 hours (one way) from the nearest grocery store, so as you can imagine we spend lots of time in the car. LOTS! In addition to our regular trips to town, I have occasionally gone on longer trips just the kids and me; like 3.5 hours to my mom's house or 4.5 hours from our last home when we moved and hubby was driving the moving van.

I do think that most of my tips from my first road tripping post still apply, perhaps even more so when you're the only adult in the car.
I feel like organization and accessibility are key here. You need to be able to tend to your child's needs and entertainment while safely keeping your eyes on the road. Ideally you would have everything you think you might need where you can reach it without having to look down to find it. I fill up a box or shallow bag with things like snacks, toys, pacifiers, etc and keep it on the passenger seat next to me. When we were moving and I was alone in the car with the 3 month old baby, I filled up all the cup-holders by my seat with pacifiers. That way when she lost the one she had I could easily grab another and pop it in her mouth without having to feel around for the last one. I also invested in one of these and I feel like it's a life saver when travelling with a rear-facing child!
Now, while most of my tips would apply as a single parent, some of the activities may not. This is where you really have to know the abilities of your child. If it were me I would probably introduce any new activity in the days or weeks before the trip to get a feel for which ones she enjoyed and could do well enough on her own. The last thing you want to do is get started on a long trip and discover nothing you packed to entertain your child is within their capabilities and you're now up a creek without a paddle! I have lots of fun, car-friendly activities here and here, but there are also lots of things elsewhere on my blog and my pinterest boards that could work too. I've added the label "Road Trips" to any of my posts I thought might be adaptable for car trips, feel free to check that out. If all else fails you could do what my sister and I did when we were stuck in the car with three tiny kids for almost 50 hours; put rocks in an empty water bottle, screw the lid on tight, and hand it to the kiddos. You wouldn't believe how long that kept them happy!

Good luck with your trip, my anonymous friend! I hope you and your little one have a great time visiting family and exploring the world around you!

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

TBT: Cardboard

A quick look around my blog will clue you in to the fact that we are big fans of cardboard  boxes around here. We've used them for all sorts of things. 
On this particular day we took a large sheet of cardboard we'd acquired and worked as a team (Sharli included) to create an awesome play mat. I taped a couple of markers on either side of one of the kids' blocks and drew roads, then we all brainstormed on the details. 
We drew a pond like the one near our home, a place for the toy animals to live in their very own zoo, parking lots for the toy cars, etc. This thing got played with until it literally fell apart and had to be smuggled out under cover of darkness because:

Our neighbors got a new washer/dryer, and as soon as I found out I begged them to save the box for us. This thing provided more hours of fun than just about anything else we've had in our home. It stayed like this in the living room for almost a week for the kids to play in. They colored nearly every square inch of it with their crayons over the course of the week which would've been worth it all by itself. 
 When it started to get too beat up to stand up anymore, I chopped it in half so we could stand it up easily and we made a little house out of it, complete with door and windows.
 This box lived in our playroom for more than a month. Most of that time it was known as "Maddie B's Restaurant", though I actually have no idea where that name came from. So many imaginary delicacies were cooked in there! It was sure a sad day when this box had been played to death and had to be smuggled out of the house as well.
What amazing fun have you had at your house with cardboard?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Pudding Painting

Sharli has always had a pretty serious need to put things in her mouth, so she hasn't gotten to do as much painting as Erik did at her age. I had some extra boxes of instant pudding in my cupboard, so the kids helped me mix it up and color it. I put Sharli's "paint" right on her high chair tray, and Erik's on a large cookie sheet.

 Now obviously this isn't going to create a work of art you can hang on your wall, but it does give your kid a chance to create and explore new tastes, smells, and textures. Process art is so much fun!

 We talked about colors and color mixing. It was fun to try to get Erik to guess what color we'd end up with before we mixed things together. When they were done creating we had snack time ready to go!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

TBT: Oatmeal!

This oatmeal sensory bin has become a favorite at our house. I keep a container of oatmeal in the cupboard just for sensory play, and it gets used over and over. If I need to keep the kids busy on a rainy day, or while I cook dinner, or if I don't feel well, etc then I throw a sheet on the floor, dump the oatmeal in a pan, and send the kids to get some scoops and bowls out of their kitchen toys. This will typically keep them both occupied for 30-40 minutes, which is unheard of around here. NOTHING has that kind of sticking power other than the TV.
Need a cheap way to keep your kids busy? Try some oatmeal!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

MORE Ways to Keep a Toddler (and a Preschooler) Busy on a Road Trip

Several months ago we went on a big road trip that lasted almost two full weeks. This was the first major road trip we'd gone on since adding a second kid to the mix. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to maintain my sanity while keeping the two of them entertained, it had been hard enough with just one!

I knew I already had a good collection of ideas from our experience with Erik, in fact this post I did about our major road trip with him has been one of my most popular. That post really sums up a lot of what we did on this trip, so I do recommend you check it out as well. Even though all the old ideas are still good, I knew we were going to want some new things in the mix to keep the kids interested. I spent a fair amount of time searching for ideas and assembling supplies, but it was totally worth it. Here are all the activities I came up with, hopefully you'll find something in here that might work for you too. I put each one in its own zip top bag and put everything in a backpack so I could keep it handy and organized. 
And here is more information about everything we did. Links take you to the sites that inspired us, or to amazon.com. 

***Coloring books, colored pencils, and a pencil sharpener. I purchased a new coloring book for each kid so that they would be new and exciting. I chose to pack colored pencils instead of crayons because in warm weather crayons may melt all over the inside of your car, and because Sharli eats crayons.  
*** Glow in the dark bracelets and cheapo flashlights for keeping the kids busy after dark. 
*** Books! I bought a new book for each kid. Having something new and exciting makes such a huge difference. We also packed a big bag of our favorite books from our own shelves. Erik is getting big enough that he can follow a story without needing pictures to be entertained, so we checked out Mr. Popper's Penguins from our library and read that aloud as we drove. That was a fun one for us adults too, definitely one I'd recommend!

***An I Spy bottle. I somehow didn't get a picture of the kids playing with this one. It wasn't a huge hit, but it did keep them busy for a few minutes here and there.  
***Magnet Discovery Bottle. This one wasn't much of a hit with my kids. I think we ended up throwing it away part way through the trip because it was taking up room and nobody wanted to play with it. Who knows though, maybe your kids would love it. 
***Pipe cleaners. These were to be used on their own to play with, as well as to be used in our Pipe Cleaner Drop and to make Pipe Cleaner Shapes, both of which are outlined here. For the Pipe Cleaner Drop I ended up wishing I'd used one of those little snack size Pringles cans, since the full size one was kind of unwieldy for Sharli. Plus, the smaller things are the less room they take up in the car. I also remembered too late that we learned with Erik that sticks work better than pipe cleaners for this one.  
*** Sticky Sticks (and matching game). These have been one of the most favorite things we made for this trip. Months later they still get played with a lot. This one is so easy to make. You just attach velcro dots to craft sticks and you're done. If you want to make the matching game then you cut shapes out of paper and write the name of the shape on them. Even if your child isn't reading yet, there is still great value in giving them chances to become aware of print in the world around them.

***Open and Close Activity This one was pretty easy to put together. I looked around the house and the dollar store for small containers that I thought little hands could open and close and put them all in a bag together. It turned out that some of them were pretty difficult for Sharli to open, so I incentivized the work she'd have to do to open them by putting fruit snacks inside. 
***Button Snake. This was an activity I had intended to be more for Sharli, but Erik loved it! He begs to play with it at least once a week. I somehow failed to get any pictures of this one, but the link above has all the info.
***Pom Pom Magnets. These were super easy to make. I just picked up some thin magnets from the craft aisle and hot glued pom poms to them. The magnets I found were in little strips, so I glued a whole line of pom poms on with my hot glue gun (the adhesive already on the magnets wasn't enough to do the job) and then just snipped in between the pom poms with scissors. Throw in a cheap cookie sheet (I got mine for just under $1) and you have a great magnet board, as well as a hard surface for you kid to set on their lap for all the other activities as well. Both kids really enjoyed these magnets. Erik pretended they were cars driving around, or made pictures with them. Sharli mostly just enjoyed dumping them onto the tray and then putting them back in the bag. 

***Lacing Cards. We've made these before for Erik to play with, but that was a long time ago. They were a hit then and they are now too.
***Clip Sticks Counters. Erik might have liked these better if he weren't too distracted by all the other stuff in the activity bag. They were easy to make, all you need are some craft sticks (which is handy, since you'll want some for the Sticky Sticks too), some circle stickers, and a few clothes pins.
***Ping Pong Ball Puzzles. I thought this was a pretty clever idea. You can make an infinite number of puzzles, and increase the difficulty by increasing the number of balls so it's an idea that can grow with your child. Pick up a cheap package of ping pong balls, salvage an egg carton from your recycling and you're ready to go. 
One thing I talked about in my first Road Trip post was the power of snacks. If all else fails just throw some food to your kids and that should keep them quiet for at least a few minutes. Two snack ideas that made a re-appearance from our last road trip were edible jewelry and Surprise Snack Mix. Check out this post for more details. 
And because I'm super nice, I've been working on figuring out the perfect mixture for the snack mix so you all don't make the same mistakes we have. I learned last time that there are some snacks that don't play nice with the others. Our problem snack this time around was the frosted circus animal cookies. They did great until the car got too hot and the frosting melted. Then everything stuck together and got really messy and difficult to eat. Oh well, maybe next time it will be better. Our mix this time included the Circus Animal Cookies, fruit snacks, M&M's, and Goldfish crackers (except ours were the cheap brand so they were penguins instead of fish). I tried to include a mix of textures and flavors to keep things interesting.
I think that about covers it. Now that we've got a third little one in our home I'll have to let you know how things go next time we go on a major trip, but for now this should be enough to go on. Have a good trip!

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. This post contains affiliate links.