Monday, December 16, 2013

Gingerbread Men!

 I've been thinking for a while that it would be really fun to make and decorate gingerbread men with Erik. It occurred to me that it would be even more fun if we invited some friends to do this with us, so we invited our play group over to our house a few days ago and had a marvelous time decorating our gingerbread men. We used this recipe and it seemed to be a big hit with the kids and moms alike.
Now, I won’t pretend to have set up a tablescape worthy of Pinterest, but just in case you want to do something like this too, here’s the set up:
I made the frosting and the cookie dough the night before the activity so I wouldn't be so rushed in the morning. I waited until about an hour before the guests started arriving to actually bake the cookies so that when they arrived they were greeted by the smell of fresh warm gingerbread wafting out the front door. Yes, it would have been easier to have them baked a day in advance, but I knew that they would smell SO yummy and wanted to share that with our friends.
I covered my kitchen table with some craft paper to keep the mess somewhat contained. I put out a bowl of frosting, as well as a few squeeze bottles of frosting so that the kids had the option of either covering their whole cookie or just using the frosting as glue (I tripled the frosting recipe that came with the cookies so that there would be plenty to go around, and boy was I glad I did). Next I set out plates of candies and other goodies to use as decorations (gum drops, marshmallows, m&m’s, chocolate chips, sprinkles, etc). Each child got a paper plate and a plastic butter knife at his seat, and I had plenty of cold milk on hand for those who wanted something to wash down all the sugar. I had planned on putting any cookies the kids wanted to take home on a paper plate with their name on it and then sliding those inside a plastic bag with a twist tie for easy transportation, but for the most part all the cookies got gobbled up LONG before everyone headed for home.
We had so much fun with this and the kids LOVED it! It was fun to see the different approaches the different age groups took to the creative process. Basically, the youngest ones didn't care what it looked like; they just wanted to shovel the cookies into their mouths as fast as mom would let them. Then there were the kids (Erik was in this group) who wanted to decorate their cookies, but not as much as they wanted to just chow down on the candies. The oldest actually took some time and thought about how to make their gingerbread men look nice before gobbling them up. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

No-Sew Nativity Hand Puppets

I found these adorable NO SEW puppets on Pinterest last year and fell in love with them (original website and free pattern here). I made a set for myself and then attended a Relief Society meeting where all the ladies got to make a set for their own families. It was a lot of fun, and the puppets are so stinkin’ cute! In the hustle and bustle of the holidays though, I never did share these on here so you just barely get to see them now. Don’t worry though, there’s still time to make a set for your family before Christmas gets here!
When I made mine I used a hot glue gun to hold together the front and back pieces and to glue on the chunkier embellishments such as ribbons and beads, but I used Tacky Glue to put on everything else. If I were to make these again, I would definitely use the hot glue for everything as I've had to re-glue several of the smaller felt pieces this year as Erik plays with them.

I love that this is a way for Erik to really get involved when we talk about or read the Christmas story. He loves the bright colors and the soft felt. My favorite is when he mimics the face the angel is making; I wish I had a picture to share because it’s pretty funny! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Easy-to-Wash Bath Paints

Well, sometime in the last few weeks (while I've been busy doing nothing important and have only occasionally stopped by to see how things were going on here) my blog here passed the 10,000 views mark. Maybe to some big bloggers out there that's what you get each day, but for me it's a pretty major achievement. So, before I jump into today's activity I just want to offer a warm welcome to any new readers out there, and a cheery hello to all the old ones. Thanks for stopping by!
With baby number two on the way here, I've been having a hard time scraping up the energy to do anything, so poor Erik hasn't had too many new things to do lately. I'm starting to realize though, that I get just as much enjoyment out of working on preparing activities and typing up blog posts as he gets out of doing the things I come up with. I've been feeling bored the last week and realized today that I need to get back into the habit of doing fun new things around here more often. So, in the spirit of that realization, I hit my pinterest boards and found this recipe for bath paints. It's cold around here today and I thought that sitting in the warm bathroom to paint and then taking a nice warm bath would probably be really nice for Erik, so we went for it.
Now, you may remember that we've done bathtub painting before, so why bother with a new recipe? Well, the other one I've used in the past can be a bit hard to clean off once it's had a few minutes to dry, so I was hopeful that this would work a little better as far as clean up goes. It was quick and easy to mix up. I actually didn't really measure the ingredients, I just used the recipe as a basic guideline and mixed things in until I got a consistency I liked. Erik is really interested in colors these days, so this was a fun chance to talk about the different colors and for him to watch new colors form when I mixed them up.

 Erik helped mix up the paints and was WAY excited to give this a try. He had his clothes off in the blink of and eye, and was in that tub ready to go! He dove right in, and loved every second of his painting time!
It's been a long time since I've done something creative with him other than just handing him some colored pencils and some paper; it was fun to watch him experimenting with colors and ways of painting (brushes, hands, feet, etc).  

 When the paints had been enjoyed to their fullest potential and had become nothing more than a messy slipping hazard, I turned on the water, washed the worst of the mess down the drain, and then filled the tub with nice warm water and let Erik "swim" and help wash the tub. The paint washed right off of the walls with little to no scrubbing, hooray! I love things that let Erik make a mess and have some freedom, but that are contained and easy to clean. We will definitely be doing this one again!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Goin' Fishin'

I realized the other day that I never posted one of the activities we made while we were staying with my parents this summer. It was pretty easy to throw together, and is a lot of fun!
This is just your classic fishing game, the inspiration for which came from here. Mine are not anywhere near as adorable as hers, especially my fishing rod (hers is awesome), but they get the job done. For the fish I just cut a fish shape out of different colors of felt, and jazzed them up a bit with puff paint. To make them magnetic I put a roll of wire in the mouth of each fish. Honestly, I can't give you any more detail about what kind of wire it was, it was just something I found laying around.

For the fishing rod I tied a piece of yarn around the end of a dowel rod and hot glued a magnet to the end of the string. Easy Peasy! Depending on whether Erik felt like sitting or standing, sometimes the string was too long, so we just twisted it around the end of the rod and it worked great. I liked having a bit of extra length on there to give us more options for where to play with this. 
This activity takes some practice when you first get started. We haven't played with it in months, and so today when I pulled it out it was like it was brand new again. Erik struggled to control where his "fish hook" was swinging, but he eventually got the hang of it and we sat and fished on the living room floor for quite a while. It really was a lot of fun! This is a great way to work on hand/eye coordination, talk about colors, and kill some time while you're waiting for your laundry to finish. :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sticky Spider Web Flop

As with the majority of the activities we do, this is one I saw on pinterest a while back, and when we were bored this morning I decided to give it a shot. It seemed simple enough. Make a "spider web" out of tape (we used painter's tape, since it was already handy and would come off easily), throw wads of paper at it, and enjoy watching your "bugs" get trapped in the web. 
We tried putting the tape up in a doorway, but I was having trouble getting the tape to stick well enough to the door frame, so we moved to the space between our two arm chairs so I could wrap the tape around the chair frames. This should've been my first hint that things weren't going to go as planned.
Once we'd made our web, I grabbed a few sheets of paper and had Erik help me wad them up. I excitedly told him to watch while I demonstrated how to throw the ball at the web and make it stick. Except it just bounced off the tape. Hmmm... that's odd. Brushed it off and encouraged him to try with me, sending two wads of paper into the web (double the chance of success, right?) They both bounced off. I tried just sticking the ball onto the tape, and it held, but just barely.
It was obvious that this wasn't going to work. In desperation I tried rolling up a ball of tape (sticky side out), and we threw that at the web. It worked, but in order to get the ball big enough to keep the difficulty level down, it became pretty heavy, and started pulling our web down with it.
That's when I gave up, pulled the web down, and added it to our sticky tape ball. Erik enjoyed playing with the wad of tape for a moment or two before we just threw the whole mess away and turned on Sesame Street instead. At least there's always Elmo, right?

*I went back to the original blog post and read through the comments and it looks like most people who tried this had the same problem. At least I know I'm not too stupid to make tape stick!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Water Bead Sensory Bin

So I know you've all seen these all over pinterest and the internet in general. These water beads are super popular right now as a sensory material, and I can totally understand why. They're fascinating little buggers, even for adults! I had never given them a try, but I've seen them around for a long time now and have wanted to play around with them.
A while back I decided that it would be fun to hit the dollar store every once in a while and just wander through to see what I can find. I think last time I spent about $10 and got enough fun stuff to keep us busy for a while. One of the things I found was a box of water beads, and for a dollar I was willing to give them a try. They are such bright pretty colors and look like candy, so Erik and I had a nice little talk about how we CANNOT eat these, and for the most part he did really well with that. I think the only time he moved to put them in his mouth was to get a reaction out of me, not because he actually wanted to eat them. We talked about how small they were, and tried to squeeze them to see if they were hard or soft. Then we added in the water and waited for them to grow. And waited. And waited.
 We went and played for a while, but kept coming back to check the progress of our water beads and to talk about how they were changing and growing. Erik has been interested in colors lately, so we talked a lot about the different colors we were seeing. After several hours they'd finished growing and we spent a long time just playing in the tub of beads. Erik loved it!
 When he seemed to be losing interest, I added in a few cups and scoops and we got to practice scooping and pouring. He was really enjoying discovering this new material, even his toes had to get involved...
This was  a great, inexpensive way to keep my busy boy out of trouble and engaged in something. If you want cheap, easy, low-mess fun than water beads are for you. I loved all the opportunities they gave us to develop language as we had a natural conversation about what we were seeing and feeling. They were beautiful and interesting and a whole lot of fun!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Walk (and Skip, and Hop, and Run, and...) on the Line

*Warning: If you have a problem seeing a mommy blog where the child is not dressed in a perfectly coordinated outfit (or even wearing any pants), and the home is messy and actually looks lived in then you better not read this post. :) 

Ever since he could walk, Erik has loved to see how close to the edge he can get. He loves trying to balance on things and see if he can walk on them. If he loses his balance though, he's okay with that because it means he gets to jump off of whatever it is and that's dare devil enough for him. 
I've toyed with the idea of making some kind of balance beam for him, and had even considered doing this particular idea, but I just never did it. Our new apartment is TINY so I don't have a place to put any kind of balance beam, and tape on the floor just didn't seem like it would be all that exciting. 
Then, I started seeing pins for games using masking tape all over pinterest, and thought that if everyone else thinks it looks like fun than maybe Erik will too. One day when he was bored and driving us both crazy I grabbed my roll of painter's tape and let him help me make a line on the floor. It looked too narrow, so I ended up putting three strips side by side. 
We started out walking on the line...
...but that soon turned into jumping.
 His "Ta Da!!!" pose: 
 Next he wanted to find out what else could walk the line. Various toys were put to the test, starting with this toy horse.
 It quickly became apparent that his toys were as good as he was at this game, so it was time to see what else could do it. Suddenly all the books off of my bookshelf were taking turns sliding down the line.
 Then, he decided he needed a bigger challenge. Would a can of pumpkin roll down the line? It turns out cans are a little more prone to wandering wherever they please. To be fair though, he gave a good number of cans a chance at the line, with generally the same results for them all. Cans just aren't good at rolling straight.
It was so fun to watch Erik work those legs muscles as he walked, tip-toed, jumped, skipped, hopped, and crawled along the line. It was even more fun to watch his little brain work as he tried sending object after object along the line. Amazingly enough, this simple little strip of tape kept this kid busy for well over an hour, and that's not including the time he spent the next day playing with the ball of tape we made when we pulled up the line. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Squeeze Bottle Fun

This is another one of those "busy" activities I mentioned a while back. This one has been a huge hit though, and Erik begs to do it more than any of the others.
This one doesn't come from some college class, or great pin off of Pinterest. This idea was born as I was wandering through the store and noticed these ketchup/mustard bottles on sale for less than a dollar. I've actually been wanting some of these for a couple of other activities, but when I saw them in the store that day I knew right away what their primary use (at least for now) would be.
If you want something simple to prepare and engaging for your toddler, this should do the trick. All I do is fill up both bottles with water and turn Erik loose outside. He gets to enjoy spraying water all over while also building those hand muscles. 
 Once the bottles is more empty than full, it gets harder to aim and squirt at the same time, so I trade him for a new bottle. When the next one is getting low I combine the two together and he's ready to go for a few more minutes without my having to go back inside to refill bottles at the sink.
 Erik would keep spraying things for as long as I'm willing to keep refilling his bottles. This particular day he started trying to spray each individual pebble in front of our apartment. If he'd had an unlimited supply of water (aka a less lazy mom) he could've been occupied for a VERY long time.
Building a child's hand muscles is very important since they will need strong hands/fingers to be able to write some day. The more fun you can make this muscle building the more effective it will be. 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Bored? Blow a Bowl of Bubbles!

Erik was acting bored today, so I opened up my box of activity stuff and let him pick what he wanted to do. He pulled out the water colors, and though we've only done them about twice now (and not with huge success) he seemed pretty excited to give them a go. True to my expectations he lost interest after about a minute and a half, but I already had him in his high chair and a mess started, so I wasn't about to give up that easily. I decided to pull out a few straws and try blow painting. Don't know what that is? Here's a sample...
You drip a drop of really watery paint onto your paper and blow it around with your straw. It's really fun to see what shapes emerge. Erik liked the idea of it, but seemed unable to grasp the concept of blowing through the straw (funny, since he's done it before in his drinks occasionally). He just wouldn't seal his lips around the straw, so most of the air was just coming out of his mouth, not through the straw. Unfortunately, the paint needed a fair amount of air pressure to move around, so it just wasn't working out. Time for plan C. I thought for a minute about what we could do to practice blowing through a straw, and then a light bulb came  on in my head. 
 I put a drop of dish soap in a small bowl of water and we went to town. I first explained that we DO NOT drink through the straw, only blow. Then I showed Erik what happens when you blow into the water. He was pretty impressed (I don't think I've mentioned that he's somewhat obsessed with bubbles right now).
He jumped right in and started blowing too. I don't think he ever tried to drink the water, he just loved the bubbles. 
 It didn't take long before he was up to his elbows in bubbles... fact, he ended up enjoying this whole thing the most when I'd let him put both his hands in the bowl and then I'd blow bubbles around them.
 With both hands busy buried in bubbles, he had to get creative with a way to pop them all. He decided his nose worked well for the job.

This kept Erik busy for nearly 10 minutes, which is almost a record for this kid. He had SO much fun!

*If you're wondering why I have this post labeled as one for "language development", I'll explain. Blowing through the straw helps build up those mouth muscles that a child needs to have to speak clearly. He has to be in control of every part of his mouth to get the blowing motion just right.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Balloon Free Play

Every once in a while my normally mild mannered happy boy has a day where nothing is right. Everything makes him sad/angry/cranky/depressed/etc. On days like this he is no longer known as Erik, he becomes His Royal Highness the Ultimate Cranky Pants. Seriously, it's that bad. Well, we had a day like that last week and I was desperate for ANYTHING to put a smile on his face and keep him out of my hair for just a few minutes. I dug around in my stash of odds and ends that I keep around for just such occasions and found a few stray balloons. He was immediately excited and could hardly wait for me to blow them up. We blew up a little one and a big one (gotta work on building that vocab. and spatial awareness!) and then I sat back and relaxed for a moment while he went nuts. 
Tried to belly-flop on the balloon. Balloon: 1, Erik: 0
WOW! Look how far I kicked the balloon!
If you haven't already, take note of the blanket fort I made in his crib in an attempt to keep him busy. It worked for only about 3 minutes that day, but he hasn't forgotten it and since then we've done that over and over and he LOVES it!

His favorite thing to do was throw the balloons up as high as he could and then yell "HIGH!"
We built muscles, built vocabulary, talked about colors, and I didn't kill my offspring, so I would say this was a huge success!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Pinching Pom-Poms

 This has been one of Erik's favorite busy activities so far. He loves pom poms and adding in the tongs makes them even more exciting.
My inspiration came from here, but I've seen ideas similar to this all over pinterest. Sometimes I just turn Erik loose with the pom poms, sometimes I throw in the "pinchers", and some days I get really ambitious and we try for some color sorting. Today was an ambitious day, at least in my mind. I found a couple of little cups that were similar in color to the pom poms and then sorted only the pom poms that matched the cups for Erik to play with. 
 Don't let that grin fool you though, he was having nothing to do with color sorting. Finally I gave up and dumped the rest of the pom poms out and just let him do whatever he wanted. He just liked playing with the tongs and throwing the pom poms at me. Oh well, we still managed to build some finger muscles with the tongs, and that's what counts.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Home Made Lacing Cards

This is another of my busy activities I did that I talked about in my previous post. These were super easy to make and have provided a fair amount of entertainment. 
 The inspiration for this activity comes from here. Hers are much cuter than mine too, so I'd recommend checking them out!
When I was at the store picking up the foam sheets and the shoe laces to put these together, I made a few little mistakes. First, I accidentally picked up a package of adhesive backed foam sheets. I was not in a position to be able to just run to the store and exchange them for regular foam sheets, so I just made them work, but I actually decided I liked this better anyways. I took each sheet and cut it in half, then stuck the sticky sides together to make a double thickness of foam. I was too lazy to cut out super cute shapes like the lady at Tot School did, so I just did a few basic shapes. The second mistake I made while shopping was in assuming that when it came to shoe laces, the bigger the better. I bought the longest ones I could find, but when I got them home and opened them up I quickly realized they were WAY too long. So I cut one in half, knotted the end, and it works great. Now Erik can't pull the lace all the way through the card (although I could have knotted the end of a shorter lace too).
These have turned out to be a life saver. They are small enough to fit in my little purse, but will keep him busy for quite a while. I keep them in my purse for times like church, visits to the bank, etc and pull them out whenever I just need Erik out of my hair for a few moments. I love that I can keep him busy and work on those fine motor skills he'll need for writing someday at the same time!
For now I'm not too picky about him lacing the hole in order or all from the same side of the card. We can work on that some other time. 
*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 This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Busy Beads

The next few posts (including this one) are of some simple "busy" activities I put together this summer. We spent a week staying with my in-laws so that we could be close enough to the hospital my mom was in for me to go help care for her during the days. This left Erik and his Daddy trying to fill the days by themselves as the in-laws were very busy with their local county fair. There was a lot going on and we needed some ideas to keep Erik's little fingers busy and out of trouble, so I put together a small box of activities for my guys to do while I was away all day. These are all pretty simple little activities that don't take much prep or detailed instructions, so they'll make for short posts, but that's okay. 

The idea for this one came from here. It's pretty simple, get some beads and some pipe cleaners and practice those fine motor skills while making gorgeous new jewelry for mommy. Erik needed a little help at first to hold the pipe cleaner steady, but it didn't take too long before he figured it out. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Practice Pouring

We are finally settled in our own home, with the hubby loving his new job! We don’t have our internet hooked up yet (and since we may be changing housing set-ups in a few months anyways, we may not get internet here at all) so blogging is a bit tricky, but I hope to be more regular from now on. For now I’m going to shoot for once or maybe twice a week for posts, and we’ll see where we go from there.

Today’s post comes to you from the mind of a desperate mom whose boy wanted to be outside despite the blazing hot temperatures of summer in the desert southwest. In desperation I grabbed some pitchers of water, a few cups, and a hubby/photographer and we all headed out to the shade of the back porch for a little wet fun/learning.
Erik is pretty interested in being as independent as possible these days, so we’re working on some of the skills he needs to be able to do more things on his own. One of those things is pouring his own drinks.
I started out by demonstrating how to pour from a pitcher of water. This is tricky, because I’m strong enough to pour with one hand, and do so habitually, but he’s going to need to use two. So, I had to remember to use both hands and demonstrate good hand positioning to support the weight of the pitcher each time I poured. I've been trying to remember since this activity to always pour with two hands when he might be watching, but I’m not sure how good I do with that. 

 We finally got Erik’s hands positioned right, but then we had the problem of the cup getting knocked over by the stream of water, so I had to hold the cup while he poured. After that things worked great!

When I finally decided we’d wasted enough water and put the pitchers away, Erik still continued to practice pouring the water from cup to cup until it had all been spilled or drunk and there was nothing left to play with. We played outside for a few more minutes for our wet clothes to dry and then headed inside for lunch.
I love a good learning activity that is also engaging enough to help fill up a good chunk of our day if I want/need it to!