Category Archives: Holidays and Seasons

Homemade Race Car Costume

Last year J was set on being a race car driver for Halloween.  Give me a quick and easy store-bought costume anyday.  So I happened on a great race car driver costume at the Disney Store (the link shows the 2011 version) and called Halloween-prep completed. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking he needed a race car to go with his outfit.  Fast-forward to October 30th about 8 pm.  My parents were visiting and my mom agreed.  He needed a race car.

That night we ended up crafting a Lightning McQueen race car out of a diaper box, wrapping paper and a few craft supplies I had around the house.  Our finished product turned out so cute!  J loved it.  In my non-biased opinion, he was the cutest trick-or-treater around!

How to:  It was so quickly crafted (and so long ago), I don’t remember details.  Lots of folding and refolding cardboard (the hard part), taping and retaping! We wrapped a diaper box in metallic red wrapping paper (it was actually Christmas paper but you can’t tell), added some foam tires, construction paper eyes and decals (the letters are foam stickers).  A little a lot of tape and glue and you have the perfect race car for a Lightning McQueen fan.  Using duct tape, we attached Christmas ribbon to act as suspenders so that J could wear his car for trick-or-treating.

This year…. J’s again adamant that he is a race car driver and wants the SAME EXACT costume.  Part of me says, “That’s not much fun!” and the other part sighs with relief.  No work needed this year!

Great Library Finds for Fall

Sometimes our library visits are well organized, I’ve searched for books ahead of time, placed some holds, and researched authors.  Other times, it’s a random treasure hunt.  I love when you just happen to find great reads roaming the shelves! I have a feeling both of these authors will be place on our favorites list.

Fletcher and the Falling LeavesFletcher and the Falling Leaves by Julia Rawlinson is wonderful.  Fletcher, an adorable little fox is concerned for his good friend when it begins shedding…. leaves.  He tries to come to his friend’s rescue to no avail.  Then he discovers that his friend still has beauty to share.  Fletcher is simply adorable.  The artwork by Tiphanie Beeke captures the story perfectly.  I love it!

South by Patrick McDonnell: Book CoverSouth by Patrick McDonnell is a picture book, perfect for a toddler or preschooler “reading” on their own or for mom and dad to join in.  A tiny bird sleeps through the last moment of fall, and finds alone when all his bird-family have flown south.  A friendly cat saves the day as they make the trip towards southern warmth together and the tiny bird reunites with his family. No words, just pictures.  A story beautifully told.

Enjoy storytime and then go outside and play in the falling leaves!

Homemade Sunbleached Puzzles

I came across this brilliant idea for sunbleached puzzles.  They were so easy to create and great entertainment (and practice) for a puzzle-lover. It was also a great little lesson in the sun’s effects.

I set out foam bath letters and numbers on dark construction paper and left them to sunbathe awhile on the deck.  J enjoyed watching the process, impressed by the magical results! We then brought it all inside to start putting it all together.  You can make this activity more difficult by adding extra foam letters to the choices.

This is great practice at letter recognition.  It’s also great way to help them learn how to spell their name, memorize their phone number or address. 

The link above used magnetic letters and shape blocks to create their puzzles.  You could also cut your own shapes out of colorful foam.

Ice Cream and Popsicle Patterns

I came across some foam ice cream and popsicle stickers in Target’s dollar section.  They were too cute to pass up.  I thought they were perfect for summer and was sure to put them to good use.

 **If you can’t find them at Target anymore, it would be simple to cut out similar foam shapes.**

I created pattern cards as one activity using the popsicle stickers.  Beforehand, I began both color and shape patterns on cardstock.  I then gave J the pattern cards and a bowl of the extra stickers to continue each pattern.  

With the ice cream cones, I created different color combinations for him to mimic.

After already creating my pattern cards, I thought it would be really cute to have made multiple dips on each ice cream cone for him to mimic.  Opportunity missed on that one!

Btw, J just set the stickers in place so that we could redo the activity again.

Sidewalk Paint

You may have seen this post I wrote last year about entertaining a toddler with just a paintbrush and bowl of water. 

Well, this is still a winning activity with J at 3 years old.  The neighbors (age 4 and 5) have even joined in on the fun. 

So far it’s been a success at 1, 2 and 3 years old!

Geography Game(s) for Toddlers and Preschoolers

To celebrate July 4th, why not pull out (or purchase) a US map puzzle!

J adores maps.  I think his fascination began because of his love for puzzles.  His grandma bought him a USA board puzzle back when he was one year old that required a little more skill than all the other pegboard puzzles and I guess he liked that challenge.  We have since bought quite a few map activities and puzzles as he remains fascinated.  My thought is run with what they enjoy!  Most of what he’s learned, he’s initiated on his own.  I don’t consider knowledge of all 50 states or all 7 continents essential for a 2 year old but since he’s continually asking questions, we answer and encourage that interest.   

I do find that maps offer great practice with shape recognition, spacial recognition, directional and locational instructions (north/south, above/below), and even speech as he practices saying each name (many of which are not easy for adults to pronounce, let alone a toddler).  These are all great benefits!   

So onto our geography games

1. Bean bag drop – This came about on the fly after he completed one of his puzzles.  I pulled out some bean bags (ours are each a different color) and started calling out a color bean bag for him to use and then a state to distinguish.  He would then try to drop the bean bag on top of that state while standing straight above it.  This was my attempt to encourage some practice with motor skills and hand-eye coordination while taking advantage of his interest in maps.  We first tried tossing it to the appropriate state, but he is far from able to accomplish that.  We then reversed rolls and he called out a color beanbag and a state for me to hit.  

2. Flying across the US - We’ve also played a similar game using our map puzzles and a free helicopter we got from a fast food kid’s meal.  If you pull the tail of the helicopter the propeller flies off and lands, spinning like a top.  So we used that, again practicing motor skills (to work the toy) and he had to name the state that the spinning propellers landed on. 

3. Photos across the USA/World - J has family all across the country (and world), so this game is something he can relate very well too.  We use photos of family members for him to place in the correct state or country.  I often pull this out when we’re about to travel so that he can get a good idea of where we’re going.  He flies his toy plane from one place to the other, mimicking what we will do in the air (or car if we’re driving).  We also use favorite characters/toys to help him relate to the state (ex: Mickey Mouse lives in Florida, cars are made in Michigan… a generalization of course, but something a 2 year old can relate to).

4. Twister Geography – You would need a large map for this activity (we use the foam floor maps).  He has to touch a certain location with a designated body part.  “Right hand on Georgia!” or “Left wrist on the Pacific Ocean!”  So far J can only handle one set of instructions at a time.  With preschoolers you could give multiple instructions similar to the game Twister.

I’m actually really excited about his love for geography (since I love it too!).  As a jr. high teacher we did a ton of geography games and activities that I’m currently trying to figure out how to adapt for a toddler.

So what is your little one interested in?  Maybe it’s not geography but cars or animals. How can you use that interest to capitalize on other skill practice (perhaps even more needed skill practice)?

Age attempted: 34 months

Here are some of the map products we have that have served their purpose well:

Battat Wooden USA Puzzle: My mom got J a set of puzzles that included this.  This was his first map puzzle.  There are no pegs in the US puzzle.  He played with the others in the set much earlier since they had pegs and were far more simple.  The states are mostly grouped together by region to create larger pieces (only Texas and California stand alone).  This isn’t a great puzzle for state recognition but it was a great transition puzzle from the simple wooden peg puzzles to the traditional cardboard puzzles. 

Imaginetics Magnetic USA Map - they simply lay each piece on top of the corresponding spot in the magnetic book.  This was J’s 2nd geography “puzzle” and worked well. Since you don’t have to complete the entire map, this was a good step up from the board puzzle.  We also used the magnetic sheet that each state came in as a shadow activity for shape recognition (just play on a cookie sheet).  Many of the pieces are small and a few with tiny parts have broken (Michigan and Maryland).  It is still worth the cost for us.

Melissa and Doug USA Puzzle - this is a cardboard puzzle we got J for Christmas; I should note that each state is cut according to its shape and does not have the traditional puzzle cutouts.  The border (oceans) fit together like a normal puzzle, but the states do not.  I love this feature.  J has had to learn how to deal with this so that the states aren’t moving around as he builds.  IMO this has helped him learn even more skills than a normal puzzle would offer, but it can be frustrating before they figure it out the best process.

Wonder Foam Giant USA Map -  J’s grandparents bought him this for Christmas (so yes, now he has two USA floor puzzles… and he loves them both!).  This is a very large puzzle.  Each state fits together like a traditional puzzle.  I like that they attempt to teach the general location of Alaska and Hawaii in relation to the continental US whereas most puzzles just place them in a corner. 

World Map Foam PuzzleWorld Map Foam Puzzle – This is a REALLY large puzzle with very thick pieces so it is very sturdy.   This map is pretty busy and a newer concept for J by introducing all the countires.   This is definitely one we work on together, though it’s amazing how fast you see improvment with practice!

Globe – When school supplies were really cheap at Target, I bought him a globe that he loves.  Since we have family both across the country and around the world, he has been encouraged to locate where they live on the globe.  I think a globe is a great resource/toy for kids since it really helps put geography into perspective.  Through playing with it and asking questions about it, he has learned the names of each continent (though he can’t locate them all).

Homemade Flag of Toys

We’ve been so busy, I needed some quick, no-prep needed activities for Independence Day.  This is one that I came up with…

I sent J through the house on a toy hunt.  He had to find

as many red and blue toys as possible.  Actually I tried adding white too, but we just didn’t have enough white toys. He LOVED this mission.  I was shocked at how long he stuck to it and how many toys he came up with.

Please ignore the child safety sticker on the lid. Like I said, last minute improvising!

The next step was to create our US Flag.  I was going to have him create it on the kitchen floor.  But since we didn’t have enough white toys, I improvised and pulled out a white storage lid instead.

I set out a picture of the US Flag and told him we were going to use the toys to create our own flag.  The only part he needed me for was help with making the blue shaped like a square.

He was so proud of the final result and insisted we keep it out for dad to see.

July 4th Index is Up

Check out the July 4th Index  to see some of my favorite Independence Day activities, snacks and lessons from around the web.

Also check out the activities J did last year for July 4th.

ETA: Adding the list here before I delete the page.

Here’s some of my favorite activities for Independence Day.

Coloring pages

Crafts:
Doilie Fireworks (how creative!)
Cookie Cutter Star prints
Glitter Fireworks
Popsicle Stick Flag
DIY Placemats (lacing)
Sidewalk Chalk Star Stencils

Learning Packets:
From 2 Teaching Mommies

Snacks:
Spangled Sandwich Pops  (so cute AND easy!)
Berry Trifle
Patriotic Juice
(if this actually works it would be pretty cool!) 

Patriotic Songs

Pick Your Own Fruit and Vegetables

This is the season to pick your own fruit!  We’ve done this twice now.  Last year we picked apples when J was 2.5 years.  This month we picked strawberries.  This is such a great activity.  For someone like me who can’t manage to grow anything, this is the only way he’ll probably ever see for himself where our food comes from (other than the grocery story!)

He’d much rather sleep in his crib.

 

Of course he loved enjoying the reward of his hard work too! 

I’ve found this website helpful in searching for farms where you can pick your own fruit/vegetables.  They have maps of each state so you can find farms for your specific county.  For those like me who are completely ignorant about which foods are harvested in which season, they also have harvest dates for your region.

Homemade Water Table

This is something I wrote on our family blog from last summer.  It’s a great alternative to spending money on a store-bought water table.  J’s is still just as entertained this year at 3 years old as last!
 
We’re still playing with water almost every time we head outside.  I noticed that they sell water tables at all the stores but thought it was a little ridiculous to spend good money on a glorified bucket!  So we made our own water table with what we had. All it required was pulling out a flat storage box (luckily it was just lying there empty under my bed) and J’s wagon.  It’s a perfect fit!  He loves it.  And when there’s no shade, I just wheel the wagon into the garage.
I found that sand/water wheel last summer on clearance for $2.  He played with it in the tub until this summer’s homemade water table. 
Here he is trying to pour water into a dropper.  Smart boy! Pouring is easier than manipulating the dropper to fill it up.  Too bad the experiment wasn’t so successful.
He loves blowing bubbles
Pouring is much easier with a funnel!
I made some blue ice cubes that he liked scooping into the tub, stirring them, letting them melt in his hand, watching the water turn blue, and then refilling the tray to make more ice.