Friday, January 30, 2015

Letter A Sensory Bin

Somehow I have let a LOT of time go by since we last did a sensory bin. I'm not sure why exactly, because they are easy, cheap, and VERY engaging. Sensory bins are one of the few things that will hold Erik's attention for long periods of time, so why on earth have I not been doing them?! I saw this idea for learning about the letter A through sensory play and knew we had to give it a try. It also was a perfect fit for this month's Pinstrosity challenge
I wanted to have an activity that would be fun for both kids, so we used oatmeal in our bin this time. It's cheap, edible, and not much of a choking hazard, so what's not great about that?
First, let's assemble our supplies:
   A large container (a 9x13 cake pan would do fine for only one or two kids)
   Oatmeal (ours was a combination of rolled and quick oats, I just threw in whatever I had in my         cupboard)
   Miscellaneous tools/toys for scooping pouring sifting, etc.
   As many letter a's as you can find (you'll see what I mean in a minute) 
   A sheet or something to catch any mess (this is up to you, if you'd rather just sweep/vacuum it up and throw it away when you're done there's nothing wrong with that)
 I always use a sheet spread out over the floor when we do something like this for a couple of reasons. First, it makes clean up SO much easier. Second, it creates a defined space in which making messes is okay. If I just plunked this down in the middle of my living room floor it would be a lot more difficult to set boundaries and I know I'd end up with oatmeal under couch cushions, on the TV, and who knows where else! There was still a bit of oatmeal that went off the edge of the sheet but it was not very much and vacuumed up easily.
 Sharli LOVED this. It was her first sensory bin and she dove right in. Of course one of the first things she did was shove a huge handful of oatmeal in her mouth, but it didn't hurt her and wasn't too tasty so she gave up on eating it pretty quickly.
 You can see all our "A's" in the picture above, which were placed in the container before pouring the oats in over the top of them. I took all the A cards out of some sets of flash cards we were given. I used foam sheets to cut out both upper and lower case a's. I made an upper and lower case A out of pipe cleaners. I threw in any toys we had with an A on them, such as ABC refrigerator magnets and ABC blocks.
 I didn't really push the letters thing on Erik. All the letter A items were in the bin, but other than having them there for him to discover I didn't do anything with them. I just wanted to give him a chance to see the letter in several different sizes and materials.
 He brought a lot of his kitchen toys in to the room for this activity, and was pretty excited when he came up with the idea to make A soup.
There was lots of scooping and pouring (fine motor, hand-eye coordination), lots of filling up containers (spatial relations; a pre-operational math skill) lots of imaginative play, and nearly two hours filled in a fun and meaningful way. I'm thinking I need to see what other cheap baby safe sensory ideas there are out there because I don't know about you, but I could use more afternoons where both kids are actively engaged in something that requires NO input from me!

*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, January 29, 2015

TBT: Paint

For this week's Throw Back Thursday post, I'm going to be featuring one of our favorite art mediums; paint. 

Painting has always been one of Erik's favorite activities. We've spent many hours painting, and I bet we spend hundreds more before he's grown. Paint is so versatile: you can make your own or buy it, it can be as cheap or as expensive as you choose, it can be edible or not, indoors or out. It's a great way for a child to create something unique to them with a lot more freedom than a crayon gives. It can be a great activity for fine motor skills, sensory play, learning colors, and so much more! Here are some of the ways we've enjoyed paint over the last several years.

Finger painting with store bought washable paints

Making pretty glossy creations with this easy home made (and edible) paint

Doing tape resist art with multiple types of paint (watercolors might not have been my best idea)

Making Mono-Prints with our favorite finger paint

Paint the sidewalk with this easy DIY sidewalk chalk paint

Make a brush out of a tree branch, great for Christmas time!

Get baby in on the fun with easy edible finger paint

Paint the perfect snow scene with ingredients from your pantry

Paint the bathtub then wash all the mess away with ease

Make stamps out of spuds

Toys make excellent paint "brushes", especially cars and trucks

We always love to learn about new ways to play with our favorite materials, let us know what you love to do with paint in the comments!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Is It Alive?

I'm not really sure where the obsession came from, but lately Erik has been asking a lot of questions about what it means to be alive or dead. I decided that it was time to talk about what "alive" is and thought that it worked great as part of our letter A theme. I got the idea for today's activity here.
We started by watching this awesome movie about the scientific way to tell if something is alive: 

And if for some reason you don't want to watch Robin Williams, then you can listen to Cookie Monster tell you the same information (in a slightly less funny way) with this video:
After discussing how to know if something is alive or dead, we practiced asking these questions ourselves. 
I took two pieces of paper and wrote "Alive" on one and "Not Alive" on the other. I chose to write "Not Alive" instead of "Dead" because those aren't quite the same thing. Something dead was once alive but is not anymore, while some things never have and never will be alive. I gathered a pile of toys to represent things that belong in both categories so that we could ask the questions mentioned in the videos to figure out how to sort them. 
It was a bit tricky for Erik, because our "alive" things really were just toys representing something living. It's a bit hard to observe things like "Does it eat? Does it breathe? Does it grow?" when all you have to observe are toys.
I ended up looking up pictures of baby animals and mature animals so he could compare and see how they grow. We talked about the noises the animals make to show that they would have to be able to breathe to make any noise. We talked about what kinds of food the animal in question would like to eat. I think he eventually understood what I was getting at, but it took some work. 
 This was a fun science discussion, and also counts as a pre-operational math activity because of the classifying element. Yay for two-in-one activities!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

TBT: Foam Craft Sheets

In case you missed last week's Throw Back Thursday post, I am doing a series of posts highlighting some of my favorite and most used materials. Last week was Pom Poms, but for this week I'm showcasing ways to use foam sheets to put together lots of fun activities for your kiddo.

We have used our foam sheets  A LOT and I love coming up with new things to do with them. You can cut them into any shape you want or need just like you would paper, but they are so much more durable. This makes them ideal for activities where you need something easy for little fingers to manipulate but strong enough to hold up to some abuse. And they're super cheap, so that's always a plus! Here are some of the ways we've played with them:

Learn shapes and colors with these fun DIY bath stickers

Create some fun pictures with a Sticky Story Board (here's another way to enjoy this, and here's how to take this idea on the road)

Practice Hand-Eye coordination with these fun DIY lacing cards

Have some sensory play fun with this Ocean in a Bag

Teach your child how to spell their name with this cute Christmas Tree

Practice one-to-one number correspondence with your preschooler with this fun counting wall

Did I miss any awesome way to use these things? Let me know in the comments!

*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.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Letter "A" Alligator Craft

We found this cute alligator craft on and knew we wanted to give it a try. The directions here are easy to follow and come with free printables, so you can easily enjoy this one with us!
As I've mentioned before, I don't have a printer, so instead of using the printable, I found a font I liked in the word processor on my computer and traced the image from the screen onto a paper.
I cut a piece of green construction paper into strips and then gave them to Erik so he could cut the strips into little chunks. While he did that I cut circles for the eyes and triangles for the teeth. I also wrote the letter in in both upper and lower case and cut those out.
Erik helped glue everything together and we made up a sentence about our creation that had as many a's in it as I could manage to squeeze in.
What a fun way to learn a letter and it's sound, practice cutting (fine motor), and have fun with glue.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Letter Stomp

I saw this idea on Pinterest, but wanted to adjust it to work for one letter at a time. Here's what I came up with. 
First, let's gather our material:
    We used painter's tape, a small cube shaped box, and some blank paper. 

I started by writing the letter A on six different pieces of paper, three as uppercase and three as lowercase. Tape these papers on to the box to make a giant die. 
Next I used the tape to make a bunch of a's all over the living room floor. I handed Erik the dice and let him roll it. Then he had to jump on either a lower or upper case A, whichever one he rolled. 
This was a really good way to learn the difference between the upper and lower case, while also working on gross motor skills at the same time. Both throwing the dice and jumping on the letters count as gross motor and are really good for your kiddo. 
It was also great fine motor practice for Sharli, who was working as fast as she could to pull up all the tape on the floor. Maybe it was her revenge for my letting her look like a homeless ragamuffin that day... 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Letter "A" Activities

Erik has been really interested in the alphabet lately so I decided it would be fun to start focusing on the different letters. I don't know yet if we'll do a unit for every single letter, but for now we're going to see how far we can get. So, for this week's activities we have:

Language Arts:
     Letter A books
     Letter recognition sensory bin

Creative Arts:
     Alligator "A" Craft

     Salt letters
     Is it Alive?

Health and Physical Development
     Letter Stomp

     Sorting A's

Thursday, January 15, 2015

TBT: Pom Poms!!!

I realized there are several different materials that we have gotten LOTS of mileage out of and thought it would be fun to share those with you in a series of Throw Back Thursday posts.

So for this week, here is a round up of ways to play with pom poms.

A good sized package of pom poms is pretty cheap, and can provide hours and hours of fun. For example, you can:

Dump them in a bowl and enjoy some free play (why is free play so awesome? Check this out)

Strengthen finger muscles by poking them into a home-made toy (bet you have the stuff to make it without having to leave your house)

Work on hand eye coordination by dropping them down a tunnel you can make yourself (again, bet you already have the supplies)

Build fine motor skills by pairing them with some contact paper.

Work on pre-operational math skills by sorting them according to color or size

Create a work of art by painting with them

Keep your little one busy and entertained (and out of your hair) by sticking a handful in an empty egg carton

Enjoy some sensory play when you use them to create a sensory bin

Teach new vocabulary to your baby as you discover what "soft" or "fuzzy" means

How have you and your kiddos played with pom poms? Leave a comment so we can join in the fun too!

*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.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ginger Bread Man Pre-writting Activity

I try to stay away from things like worksheets, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do. Erik doesn't have much interest in coloring or really any fine motor activity, but I know how critical it is for him to build those skills so he can learn to write. So, since he has been reading the story of the Ginger Bread Man lately, I thought maybe I could get him to do a bit of tracing. I found this idea here, but don't have a printer to take advantage of her handy printable so I made my own worksheet. 
I handed it to Erik and told him these ginger bread men need his help getting home. I told him he needed to draw a road for them to take to get to their houses. He was thrilled and did the worksheet over and over, each time using a different color of crayon. He didn't follow the dotted lines perfectly, but I was impressed at how well he did, as this was the first time we've done anything like this.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Candy Cane Can Stilts

So you remember our candy cane striped tape resist art? 
Remember I said I wanted it for another project? Well, today is the day you get to see my favorite of all our Christmas activities. We made can stilts! I was sitting looking at the growing stack of infant formula cans that was piling up in my kitchen and all the sudden I remembered this activity and knew these would be perfect. I used a nail to poke two holes in each can (one hole on each side of the can) then ran a length of string through the holes. Tie the ends of the strings together to make loops and there you go!
 Now, to be honest, this may have been a bit above Erik's ability level, but he has been determined to figure these things out. I've never seen him work so hard at something before! It's been impressive to watch his tenacity as he figures out how to balance, coordinate hand and foot movements, and just have fun.
I do think I got the strings a bit too short, they probably should come up to about his waist, but they work well enough for us.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Jingle Bell Magnet Exploration and Discovery Bottle

I saw this idea on Pinterest, and just couldn't resist the allure of a two-for-one activity that required less than a minute of prep time and was totally free. What could be better than that?!

I grabbed an empty bottle we'd been saving for just such an occasion, and filled it with a handful of different sizes and colors of jingle bells, red and green stuff, and some little plastic Christmas light-bulb beads.
 And that was all it took to make a really fun Christmas discovery bottle for Sharli to play with. To make this fun and perpetually interesting for Erik, all I had to do was hand him his magnet wand (which was nowhere to be found the day I was taking these pictures). He spent a lot of time exploring the effect of the magnets on the contents of the bottle.
Since I couldn't find the magnet wand the day I took  these, I put a strong magnet on the lid of the bottle just to show you how fun the magnets are when they interact with the bells. You definitely want to give this one a try!

*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, January 1, 2015

Pine Branch Painting

After I saw this idea on I knew it had to part of our Christmas activity list. We got a free permit from our local Ranger Station and cut our own tree this year, so I had plenty of pine boughs to work with. I grabbed a few pieces and taped them together to make a brush and turned Erik loose. I decided to use tape to make some resist art for another project (which you'll get to see in a day or two), so at first I only gave Erik red paint to make it look like candy cane stripes.
 After a while we broke out the rest of the colors and (as always happens) Erik ditched the brush and went for finger painting. He had a marvelous time though, no matter what he was using to paint with.
 I decided that it was high time for Sharli to get some painting experience, so I mixed up a batch of edible finger paint and set her up with some tape resist art as well. It took her a moment to figure out what to do...

 ...but then she LOVED it! She had a grand time smearing and splashing paint all over the place.
 In the end we wound up with some fun candy cane striped paper to decorate with, and some fun memories as well.