Category Archives: Birthday

Conversation Card

The outside of the card might not seem like much, but it’s the inside that counts the most! For Father’s Day this year, I’m starting a new tradition.  I asked J a few questions about his dad and wrote down his responses.  When he made  his Father’s Day card (this year was just construction paper, stickers and markers), I made sure he left space for me to include his responses.  The plan is to do this every year.  Hopefully posting this here will help me remember to keep it up!

We also did this for his Grandpa’s card. 

My questions were basically geared towards getting a 3 year old to share his thoughts on dad/grandpa. Here’s how one of our conversations went…

What’s your favorite thing about ___?
     “His toys.”
What do you like to do with ____?
     “I like to play with him.”
How would you describe ____?
     “He has a head. He has some eyes. He has a nose and a mouth.”
What do you want to say to ____?
     “I love you!” and then he says to me, “Thank you!” And then I say to him, “You’re welcome!” And then he says to me, “I love you.” and I say to him, “Thank you!” And then he say to me, “You’re welcome.”

I personally would love to get a card with my son’s thoughts about me, however simple.  I’m hoping dad and grandpa love it too.

Handprint and Footprint Valentines Cards

I saw this idea on Children’s Learning Activities last year and thought the message was so cute.  I’ve had it stored away in my mind since. 

For J, this activity was a ton of finger painting fun.  I taped some butcher paper on our kitchen floor and gave him a plate of finger paint.  He ended up filling 4 or 5 long sheets of paper.   While he was enjoying all the painting, I was sure to get some hand and footprints out of the fun.  We ended up having more than enough prints for grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, and some for mom to keep too. 

We cut out the prints, glued them down and the wrote the message, “I love you from the tips of my fingers to the tips of my toes.”

They’re ready for the mailbox!

Age attempted: 33 months

Homemade Gift: Magnetic Foam Frames

J made these to give to some of our family as a Christmas gift.  This was a homemade gift he could feel completely responsible for and KNOW that he created it himself. 

Materials: Foam, Magnetic plastic frame (from dollar store), Stickers, Buttons, Googly Eyes, Post-It Notes, Glue

Prep: I cut out the foam frames and gathered materials for J to choose from to create his gifts. **You can also buy prepackaged foam frame crafts and just add the fridge photo magnet on the back yourself.**

We had 4 frames to complete as gifts, so J chose the color for each recipient and the materials to decorate it with.  This also meant that one set of materials weren’t used (he didn’t choose the googly eyes this time).  I helped make sure he was spelling his name correctly on frames (all except one, which he declared was for Grandpa and would hold a picture of Grandma since he loved her so much… hence no need for J’s name on the frame!).  The only other involvement I had in the process was some encouragement to practice creating a pattern with the buttons.  He’s all about patterns right now though so not much need to push with that!

He also didn’t complete all the frames at one time.  After he finished a couple and chose the materials for the others, I packed some up for him to complete on the plane.  This was a great activity to do on a plane, little packing, light-weight and kept him focused.

I was so surprised to see how symmetrical he designed the frame with bubble stickers, maybe he’s finally getting out of that stage where he wants to stack stickers on top of each other! 

After everything had dried, I glued a magnetic frame (bought at a dollar store) onto the back so the frames could be placed on a fridge and photos could be traded out easily. **Be sure you don’t glue the frame closed so that photos can be changed out later.**

Age attempted: 33 months

Butterfly Card

J made two butterfly birthday cards, one for his grandmother and one for his cousin who both love butterflies.  I remembered an adorable card a college roommate made me way back when and decided we would try a toddler version of the same. 

I also found these instructions from Enchanted Learning and modeled ours close to that.  Basically I cut out two butterfly shapes and then trimmed one about an inch smaller than the other (saving the trimming for our 2nd butterfly).  The other supplies we used were googly eyes, glue, a stamp pad, hole puch, and pipe cleaners.

 J could do most of the rest really.  Though this was J’s first attempt with a hole punch and it was honestly too difficult.  Eventually he just pushed the puncher down over the paper and thought he was helping as I gripped the handles and did the work.  He found the hole puncher very intriguing!

His favorite part was the fingerprints.  I should’ve known red ink last a LONG time on fingers.  It’s supposed to be washable… and I guess it technically was, but it tooks LOTS of washing. 

I forgot to show the final result when we had the birthday message written on the cards too.  I thought they turned out cute.  They would work as Valentines, Mother’s Day, or birthday cards or even as decor for springtime.  I think it would be pretty to create a few different designs and hang them all together on a mobile.

Age attempted: 33 months

Homemade Toy: Audio Books

When I was little my grandmother used to record stories on tape for us.  We still have some of them!  She also sent some to my cousins who were overseas at the time.  I think this is an awesome gift for little ones that live far away.  They get to hear your voice on a consistent basis, acting out your love from thousands of miles away by reading stories to them!

A few years ago I took the same concept and made a set of books on CD for my nephews (age 2 and 3 at the time).  I chose some favorite books from childhood and recorded myself (and my husband) reading them using my computer. 

I used a free recording software called Audacity.  It worked well.  Their software was easy to use and easy to edit.  I later went in and added a little chime sound for when the page should be turned.  The software made it easy to dub the chime to my saved recording.  Just Google “free sound effects” to find a wide array of choices.  Finally I burned all the stories onto a cd, made a cute little cover for it and packaged cd and books together for my nephews. 

We also recorded some fun family stories and songs and I added a few stories from my grandma and grandpa (using the tapes they gave us as kids).  

I should add that I am not a technological expert by any means.  I have trouble with Facebook! :)  I guarantee that if I could do this, anyone could. 

It really wasn’t a difficult project to complete and I think it’s a great gift.  I recently burned all those same stories onto a cd for J so it’s become a gift that keeps on giving!  It’s been great to use on road trips and plane trips.  It also works great while cooking dinner.

If you’re still deciding on a Christmas gift for a little one in your family, you should try this out! 

Age attempted: 2 and 3 (for nephews and for J)

Homemade Gift: Door Draft Stopper

I think our Slithering Snake door draft stopper turned out pretty cute.  J and I made these together for his greatgrandparents. You can use them by doors or windows, or just as a cute decoration in a nursery.

When I first saw this idea, here at Family Fun, I stopped reading as soon as I saw “stitch it closed.”  If an activity/craft involves sewing, I typically declare it NOT FOR ME.    

After going back and forth for weeks, I decided we’d try it.  We pretty much followed the instructions on the original site exactly. 

What you need:  Cute tights, filler (we used a full 5 lb bag of rice), 2 googly eyes, red felt, fabric glue, needle and thread. 

I made a homemade funnel (water bottle) for J to use in filling the “snake” with rice.  I then forced myself to break out the dust-ridden sewing box and finish it off.  It wasn’t as hard as I had expected and took me about 10-15 minutes to sew it closed.  Most of you would probably find the sewing pretty simple (and a 5 minutes job).  I found it manageable.  Trust me, if I can do this, ANYONE can!

J then glued on the googly eyes and the tongue using fabric glue (I later sewed down the tongue for extra durability). 

The photo is actually of the one we made to use ourselves.  I wanted to give it a test-run to be sure it didn’t break easily before making more for my grandparents.  I certainly didn’t want my grandmother’s to end up vaccuming  rice all year long if they were to break.  I’ve found it actually holds up really well, so no worries there.   We use ours actually to block out the light that streams under the door in J’s room.  We have skylights right outside his door.  I found the sleeps sooooo much longer in the mornings if I block that light.  His room is also open to the rest of the house it can get noisy.   Who knows, maybe this will also help block some of the noise!

I think these are cute choices for homemade gifts, something that takes anywhere from 10-30 minutes to complete!

Age Attempted: 32 months

Ziploc Photo Books

My grandparents are always telling me that really all they want for birthdays or Mother’s day are lots of pictures to show off.  So this year, J made a photo-filled birthday card for his great-grandma.  This would be a great art project for toddlers to give at Christmas time.

All you really need is a stack of ziploc bags, photos and a stapler and/or duct tape.  To make this activity last longer, I added construction paper and various art supplies to the materials.  I set out the materials and J chose how to decorate each page (stamps, stickers, dot markers, crayons, rolling stamps, …  hmmm that’s all I remember).  He then chose which picture he wanted to place with each page and placed both his art piece and his photo into the ziploc bag.  I stapled all the opened end of the bags together and covered it with fun green duct tape. 

Older kids could write their own story, draw their own pictures and give their first published piece to grandpa or grandma. 

Age attempted:  29 months

My First Recipe Cards

I thought I’d share something that I’m giving my 4 year old nephew for his birthday busy box.  He loves to cook, so I thought we’d start helping him work through simple (VERY simple) recipes on his own.  Many of the recipes involve no actual cooking, focusing on just the basic skills of working in a kitchen (ingredients, measurements, and following steps). They are recipes that preschoolers would enjoy eating as much as they enjoy “cooking”.  I included pictures to go along with most steps to help a non-reader out.

I’m going to try to do one of the easier ones with J pretty soon. I already have some modifications in mind to make it even easier for younger ones, but I do think these will work well in their current state.

Here’s the entire set of cards. My First Recipe Cards

To prepare them, I printed them on cardstock.  I then cut along the horizontal line and folded along the vertical one to create a front and back for each card.  I then hole punched along the left side of the cards (the open side) and used two small binder rings to combine the cards together. 

Add some measuring spoons, cups, mixing spoons, a hat and apron and laminate these great toddler/preschool food charts  as a placemat and you have an easy gift for birthday or Christmas.  If their interest continues, you could easily add a few recipes to their collection each year. 

If you try it out, I’d love to hear how it goes!

20 Month Old Busy Box

I put together these activities for a friend’s little girl.  While mommy is serving in Iraq, I thought this busy box might help to keep her little one busy and hopefully even allow her dad some much needed time off from entertaining.  Most of the activities are homemade, repurposing items from around the house as is my norm. I housed them in a simple decorative box.  J’s own “busy box”  is kept in a closet and the activities are only brought out at certain times throughout the week.  This helps keep it’s novelty.  Some of the activities are repeats from the 1 year old Busy Box I made my niece awhile back, though I tried to make them a bit more difficult for the older age.  You’ll also notice that these activities are mostly ones I’ve mentioned in previous posts.  When I make a busy box, I try to pick the most successful activities from J’s experience, many of these are motor skill activities.  Some of these activities are things Ella can enjoy now and some she will grow into in the next few months.

You’ll have to excuse my poor decorating abilities.  That is certainly not my forte.  Most of the original toys that I made for J aren’t decorated at all.  J never seemed to mind, so hopefully little Ella will look past the covers and still enjoy the meat of the activities!

1.  Pushing Puff Balls – this is a fine motor activity and has always kept J entertained; see this post for more info

2. Color Sorting Pipe Cleaners – again a fine motor activity and I added practice with colors; this is probably the favorite homemade toy for J; see this post and this post for more info

3.  Color Wheel – practice with colors and fine motor skills; you can use the wheel in other ways too. See this post and this post fore more.

4. Puzzles -These foam puzzles were one of the best buys for J. They were just $1 at our local grocery store and I picked them up on the fly one time.  When I saw them there months later, I bought a few more as gifts. I bring the color puzzle on plane trips sometimes since there are few pieces and it’s very light. 

5. Family Bag – this is similar to J’s family magnet pics.  I added each family member’s name to Ella’s pics, laminated them (with contact paper) and gave her a little purse to carry them in.  J has loved his family pics since before he was one.  I thought adding the names could encourage name recognition.

6. Seed Family Worship CD – I had previously sent one of their CDs to my friend while she’s in Iraq, but thought her daughter might like one too.  These cd’s are really great and not just for kids IMO.  They are an excellent way to help us write God’s Word on our hearts.  See this post for more.

7. Fish Counting and Matching file folder game – J has a similar matching game, I just made this one a bit more durable by adding it to a file folder for safe keeping.  The envelope holds the laminated fish cards to match as well as the fish to place on the counting page.  I found the counting template here from Tot school and have used it many times with J.

8. Sponge Jewelry – a fine motor activity and again a favorite of J’s, simply thread the sponges onto the pipe cleaners.  I found a greater variety of sponges for Ella’s jewelry.  A girl needs to match!  See this post for more info.

1 Year Old’s Busy Box

I thought I would share a recent gift I prepared for my one year old niece.  I called it her “Busy Box” and included some homemade activities that she can enjoy both now and over the next few months.  She is the third child so her house is already overflowing with store-bought toys and they really need little more.  So I thought a little creativity was in order.  Afterall, toddlers LOVE to play with anything that isn’t technically a toy anyway!  Many of these activities were J’s favorites at the same age (the ones with stars) and I threw in a few extra… 

The box itself was a simple photo box.  I wanted it to be small enough to hide away (some activities will need adult supervision) and cute enough to be displayed if wanted.  This also meant activities needed to fit inside the box itself.  I finally decided on…

1. Pipe Cleaners in a Bottle **

All toddlers love a good game of In and Out.  This is just one more way to get some practice!  I used an old container of Puffs from J’s baby days, decorated the outside and punched holes in the lid.  I filled the bottle with colorful pipe cleaners.  It’s also a good idea to fold and twist the pipe cleaners in half to make them sturdier.  As a pretoddler it will be easiest to simply remove the lid completely and let her take the pipe cleaners in and out but as she gets older, simply add the lid and the activity becomes more advanced.  If I could’ve found my colorful Sharpies/reinforcement stickers, I would’ve given each hole a specific color.  This allows one more difficulty by trying to match the colored pipe cleaners to the corresponding colored hole in the lid. 

Another option is to use colorful straws, but I chose pipe cleaners since they’re so versatile.  She could also use them to make shapes, letters, jewelry,…  Oh and this makes a GREAT plane activity. 

2.  Colorful Flowers

Again and In and Out game, or just a way to focus on colors.  I used colorful foam to make the flowers and added a tin flower pot.

3.  You’ve Got Mail

I cut out envelopes, stamped and addressed each one with recognizable family names.  I intended to create my old mailbox with a box, but decided to go with this cute store-bought mailbox instead.  She can learn to open and close the mailbox, of course play the In and Out game with the mail (do you see a trend?), and when she gets old enough for name recognition she can play mailman and pass out the mail to the intended recipient. 

4.  Clothespin Drop

I bought some of the old clothespins (without the spring) and gave each one a different colored tip.  She can play the In and Out game (yes, again!), try to drop the clothespins in the tin flower pot and hear the nice clangy sound they make, and when she’s much older can fit the clothespins around the tin edge since they fit perfectly.

5.  Half-Dozen Eggs **

I mentioned this activity in an earlier post.  It was such a winner when J was younger, that it had to win a spot in E’s Busy Box.  It takes literally no work, just an egg carton and some plastic eggs.  ** I also meant to add puff balls inside each egg, but of course forgot. 

6.  Cupcake Magnetic Puzzle

This was made completely out of the colorful foam.  The muffin tins and cherries are glued down but the cupcakes themselves can be removed, rearranged and replaced (because of the magnetic backing).  Since she is so young, cupcakes work great.  Any color cupcake will fit on any muffin tin.  

This is an activity where a parent needs to be nearby since it includes magnets.

7.  Photo cards **

I printed and laminated family photos.  This is a great way for her to learn each family member (they’ve recently moved away from home) and I’ve never known a toddler that didn’t enjoy playing with pictures! 

7.  Colorful Dice

I threw this in last minute since J has a set and enjoys them.  I found these at Michaels.  For now, it’s just something to toss around (they are rubber so they bounce), but eventually it’s a way to practice counting.