Monthly Archives: April 2010

Homemade Toy: Pushing Puff Balls

I’m pretty sure I got this idea from Children’s Learning Activities (though I can’t find the exact post). 

ETA: Manda just referred to this activity that I couldn’t find earlier on her blog.  Here’s the link for the original idea.

It was really easy to make, just cut small holes in the lid of an old butter container.  J’s goal is to stuff the puff balls inside the container via the holes.  The holes are just smaller than puff balls, requiring J to work a little harder to get all the balls inside.  It’s a fine motor activity that I pull out once every couple weeks and J is always very intrigued. 

Age attempted:  I think I first made this when he was 18 or 19 months old.  He’s now 24 months and still enjoys this (although it’s much easier for him now; I should probably add a color matching step to it too)

24 months

Homemade Toy: Playing Mailman

I made a simple mailman activity for my niece to include in her 1 Year old Busy Box (check out #3 on the link).   At her level, it basically included the foam envelopes and a small metal mailbox.  She could open and close the mailbox, lift up the flag, and play the “In and Out” game that ALL 1 year olds seem to love!  I kept wanting to make something similar for J.

 I got the first mailbox at Michael’s Craft Store but haven’t been able to find them since so I decided to make one with a shoebox…  until I came across this mailbox in the Valentine’s clearance section at Target. 

It’s made of cardboard and opens and closes like normal on the side.  It also has a small slit at the top (originally to place valentine’s card inside).  Regular size foam fits perfectly in the slit on top.  I cut the foam envelopes according the the length of the slit and then labeled each with both a mailing and a return “address” and drew a stamp in the upper right. If you wanted, you could use real stickers and have your toddler place the stamp on each envelope. 

I’ve had this activity made for ever, but just brought it out this week.  I’m glad I waited.  Since the foam envelopes barely fit in the mailbox slit, it makes it an appropriately challenging activity for J’s current level.  He has to be very careful to get the foam inside the slit and then he has to work slowly to push the foam envelope down.  Since foam bends if he pushes too hard or moves to fast the long envelopes will just bend over the top of the mailbox instead of falling inside.  It was a GREAT fine motor skill activity for him. 

Lots of concentration going on!!

He got really frustrated at first.  Dad stepped in and showed him how to hold the envelope on the sides with both hands and SLOWLY push it into the mailbox.  From then on he loved it.  He stuck with it for awhile.  The fact that he had to focus so much and was, in the end, able to complete the task tells me he’s at the right developmental level for this.  I’m actually glad the slit was so small.  If I had made one myslef, I wouldn’t have made the slit that small which would’ve made it to easy for him. 

It can also act as a name recognition game… he can “deliver” the envelopes to the correct person (in this case, Mommy, Daddy, and J) or he can just stack them according to name.  When he’s older, I could add more recipients and J could sort them next to the recipients picture.   

He can of course also sort them by color, count the numbe of envelopes each person recieved (or according to color).

Age attempted: 25 months; a younger toddler can insert the mail through a larger slit or through the door on the mailbox.

Here’s the picture of my niece’s Mailman game

Outdoor Fun: Circle fun!

I got this idea from Little Hands, Big Work (an awesome blog by the way!) and tried it the very next day.  We all know how much I LOVE sidewalk chalk. 🙂 

 (See this post or this post for more on sidewalk chalk)

You basically draw circle paths along the driveway in various colors.  You’ll notice in my picture that our paths were quite easy with only a couple intersecting colors.  The idea is to call out a color and have your toddler jump, run or skip along that particular color route. 

The activity was definitely a win!  J took to it immediately (though he didn’t always want to follow the rules of the game!)  I should also mention that the neighborhood kids loved this activity too.  I had kids coming to play on my driveway all week! 

Age Attempted: 24 months (he could’ve done this earlier I think); You could make this harder by adding more colors, more intersections, drawing different shape paths (in repeated colors, so they would have to follow the red triangles NOT the red hearts).

Homemade Toy: Family Board Books

I made these board books for J when he was probably 12 or 13 months old.  It was SO easy to accomplish and well worth it.  J has always loved them.  I think these would be great from infancy on (just keep your little one’s slobber away since the ink will bleed… or seal the pages beforehand).

I bought a board book kit from Amazon; I’m pretty sure this is the link. I still have a three blank books to make.  The kit included the books, blank labels for each page and a computer template to download.  Of course you don’t have to use the labels.  You can draw on the books or even have your toddler create their own book.

The family book I made is really simple.  I include parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  We don’t live anywhere near ANY family, but I really wanted J to learn who all his relatives were.  This way when we are able to see them, he is already familiar with their pictures at least.  Each page in the book has just one labeled picture so it’s very clear who is who.  I used to read this book a lot to him before we took a trip to visit family.  After each trip we’ve taken to visit family, J tends to return to the book a lot on his own too.   I do think if I were to do it again, I would try and include photos that were a little more fun… like Grandpa playing with a ball or Aunt Jenn riding a bike (whereas I just have a front photo of each one smiling). 

“My Dad Loves Me” was actually a Father’s day gift (from J to daddy).  This is his favorite of the two board books, probably because Daddy is J’s favorite person in the world!  I included lots of pictures of J and dad from birth until the present (or when I created the book obviously).  I added a rhyming story to go along with the photos.  J loves that he sees them playing the guitar or playing with a ball in the pictures.  When we’ve taken a few trips without dad, I brought J’s daddy book along with us to read which he really likes.

Here’s the text of J’s daddy’s book:

Right from the start, Dad was my biggest fan. 

We share kisses and cuddles and lots of big grins.

My Daddy is teaching me to play the guitar.

I’m teaching him to take care of the car.
We work out together.
We act silly together.
We walk and we ride and we explore together.
We splash around in the pool.
We eat ice cream ’till we drool.
Whether we’re playing ball or just hanging out,
My Daddy loves me. You can’t get better than that!
Another side benefit of the books is that when J has experienced a little separation anxiety and hesitant to play alone, I have kept the books within his reach so he has pictures of those he loves close by.  I got this idea from an online group I’m in.  I’m honestly not sure how much this helped since any bout of separation anxiety was very short lived.  It certainly didn’t hurt though!
FYI…. I also bought this blank board book kit and it really only included the blank book and some ideas/instructions on how to create your book.  I haven’t used this one yet; it’s currently stuffed in my craft cabinet. 

Read This: Because a Little Bug went Ka-Choo!

Because a Little Bug Went Ka-Choo! by Michael K. Frith, Rosetta Stone (1975, Hardcover)“Because a Little Bug went KA-CHOO!”  is such an adorable book that I had to mention it here.  It’s probably been J’s favorite for the past 3 or 4 months.  The book is in The Cat in the Hat’s line called Beginner Books.  It was written by Rosetta Stone (gotta love that name by the way!). 

The story is adorable, all about how a little bug’s sneeze causing a chain reaction that ends with mayhem in the nearby town.  The pictures are adorable too.  J loves that he can find all the characters on basically every page.  My aunt gave J this book, saying it was her daughter’s favorite almost 20 years ago and the first book her daughter learned to read.  Well, it’s still a winner today.  J has much of the chain reaction memorized already.

My Little Chef: Avocado Black Bean Salsa

I have no clue where I got this recipe, but it’s great for toddlers and really pretty healthy. 

Avocado Black Bean Salsa

1 avocado
1/2 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
1/2 tomato (diced)
cilantro to taste
salt to taste
lime to taste


Basically mix all ingredients together until you get the flavor you like.  The amounts can definitely be changed according to your own tastes! 

I serve this in tortillas, like a burrito, or in pita bread for lunch.  I’ve served it as a dip with tortilla chips for an afternoon snack (when I thought J needed an extra serving of fruits or proteins).  You can easily add some finely chopped spinach (precooked) for veggies or diced chicken.  It would also go well with Triscuit crackers I think.  J loves it.  I love it. 

24 months

Today it dawned on me that it’s an easy enough recipe that J could help (and pretty much make it entirely himself).  I just cut up the tomatoes and the avocado before he joined me.  He dipped the avocado into a bowl, added the beans and tomatoes and stirred them all together.  I didn’t have fresh lime or cilantro, so he squeezed some lime juice out of a bottle and shook the cilantro out of the spice container.  We added the salt together (so he wouldn’t shake the entire jar into the dip!).  He could even spoon the salsa onto the tortilla and help roll it up! 

The reward is immediate, so there’s no question in his mind that he helped create the meal. 

As a side note, I included a little science with today’s cooking too.  I happened to have an extra avocado and tomato, so I kept them out for him to feel.  We described the textures of the fruits and then I showed him what the inside of each looked like (pointed out the color, the texture, the seeds in each). 

Playdoh Counting

This is a quick post to show one way we practice counting.  This was when we were working on number two.  I used some cookie cutters I got from Target (included numbers, shapes, letters, animals, transportation,…) and we first made some playdoh cutouts of the number two.  Then we counted and made two cutouts of different animals, placing a number two by each pair. 

J loves playdoh and it’s an easy way to practice almost any lesson from shapes, colors,  letters,  numbers, size,…

23 months

How’d it go?? Plane Travel with my 23 month old


J didn’t have his own seat on the way there since the plane was packed.  He still did really well.  This trip was 3.5 hours long.  We colored, read books, and he explored his new wallet for the first hour of the trip. Then dinner came and we made it last for a good 30 minutes.  After this was DVD time.  TIP: I used to prefer already having him fed and watching a show before the adult dinner trays came out, this way I could eat in peace.  Now that he shares the same meal as us, I wait to start his video until after we all eat.  It splits a 3.5 hour plane trip up pretty well.  We watched a Veggietales video and part of Disney’s Cars, spending a little over an hour with it.  After the video we took a bathroom break, and then onto the magna doodle, the puppet, and his trains.  I brought out the lollipop during the last 30 minutes.  Dad decided to give his to J too, so J had TWO lollipops sticking out of his mouth for the remainder of the trip.  That was entertainment enough to finish the ride.  TIP:  I learned to save a favorite toy/snack for the last 20 minutes or so since it seems to be J’s most trying time. I also learned to save something for the deboarding since we’re often on the back of the plane, waiting for a good 10 minutes for our turn.  We are both REALLY ready to get off by then, so I learned to give J something entertaining to push him through that last 10 minutes.  He used to be entertained enough by the people leaving, but now he could really care less!  Overall it went well.  J probably let out a tiny whine twice.  I’ve noticed he whines less when there’s someone else sitting in our row, maybe he’s too shy to fuss with them so near.


The return trip was a little rougher.  J did get his own seat AND we were sitting in the bulkhead so there was lots of leg room.  That was REALLY nice. However since there was noone else on our row (and no row beside us), J had no stranger to calm him.  Like I said before, he really does better behavior-wise and with keeping still when someone is nearby.  Still, he did beautifully until the last 30 minutes when he started fidgetting and eventually he got so frustrated he cried during the entire 5-10 minute landing process.  TIP:  I have learned that when he gets fidgety/fussy, appeasing him does no good.  Allowing him to go back and forth between mom/dad’s lap spells trouble.  He just keeps trying to get more freedom and is NOT pleased when he can’t go further than our laps.  Dad has yet to learn this (he doesn’t fly as often with J as I do so it’s understandable) and really tries to keep J moving, talking to him, attempting to distract him.  This really only makes it worse for J.  When I hold him still in my lap, tell him ONCE that I understand he is frustrated that he can’t get down but mommy says he must stay in place, and then simply hold him in my lap, the cries die down much faster.  Of course it’s best to prevent the frustration before it surfaces at all.  

I might also note that dad often assumes any cry/fuss is due to ear pressure and begins trying to get J to eat/drink to ease the pressure.  Of course this would help if the problem were ear pressure.  But J has never has problems with ear pressure on a flight.  Not once in the 25+ flights he’s taken.  And trying to force him to eat/drink when he doesn’t want to doesn’t really keep J calm either 🙂  I have seen other parents doing something similar on flights (waking a baby to drink during take-off/landing, trying to keep a toddler eating/drinking,…).  TIP:  Obviously if your child usually does have trouble with ear pressure on planes, do what is necessary to help.  However, in my research, most kids in our modern planes do not need  help with ear pressure.  I personally have drink/snacks available but I do not push it on him.  I have never chosen to wake him from peaceful and quiet sleep just to get him to drink out of fear he might develop some discomfort.  TIP: I would also recommend that if they are crying, listen to the type of cry.  Just like at home, not all cries mean hunger and not all cries mean pain.  Staying calm enough on the plane to listen to the type of cry to help determine the purpose of the cry is always helpful for me. 

But like I said, this was only for the last 30 minutes of the flight.  It can seem like a really long time, but I still try and remember that in the scheme of the entire day or even the flight itself, it’s not terrible and we can get through it.  It keeps me much calmer which keeps J from feeding off a frenzy mom.  Toddlers will either feed off our nerves or our calmness.  I choose the latter 🙂 

During the first 3 hours of the flight J did great.  He read, played with his trains, goofed off with mom and dad, froggie washcloth, and booklight.  We shared the airplane meal (mostly a snack for J).  Then he watched his video while mom and dad watched part of the featured movie.  After he finished with his video (1 hour), he kept occupied with his vinyl sticker board.  This has been a regular plane activity and usually a big winner.  He spent a little over 30 minutes with this (great for my 1 year old!)  After this however, he was really done with everything I had.  I would’ve brought out my snack at this point, unfortunately dad had decided to give it to him with the meal J    I should’ve taken him for a walk or to the restroom, but honestly it didn’t occur to me.  I have no clue why!!  I was definitely off my game this trip and it showed.  TIP: Don’t do what I did!

Plane Travel with my 23 month old

I’m going to try and split up my plane travel reports into two posts…  the planning post and the final results when we return.   Feel free to learn from my successes and my mistakes!

 J will be 2 years old in about a week. We are leaving tomorrow for a fairly quick trip.  We will be taking a 3.5 hour flight.  We scheduled it for directly after J’s afternoon nap so he is fresh.  We will be arriving after his bedtime, so he will be tired towards the end of the flight and definitely upon arrival.  This is typically the best option for J though.  He does NOT sleep on planes anymore.  He is a boy that LOVES his bed.  Just like mommy, he can and will go forever unless you give him a quiet room and bed to sleep in.  If there’s action going on he wants to be in on it even if he’s exhausted and grumpy.  If possible, we never schedule flights during naps and definitely not after bedtime.  There have been trips where there was no other option.  As I backtrack our older flights, you can read about those and what I learned from them. 

Some toddlers sleep just fine on planes.  TIP:  Consider your own child’s tendencies in determining when to fly. 

Here’s what I have included in J’s activity bag for this trip.  Most of these things are saved for plane travel exclusively.  I fit it all inside a big ziploc which is placed in my backpack. 

  • Coloring Book and 4 colors (TIP: triangular colors don’t roll on planes!)
  • Magna Doodle
  • Froggie washcloth puppet (acts as entertainment, a replacement lovey, and available to help clean spills if necessary; AND I fold it up under the headphones so they don’t slide off J’s head)
  • 2 trains
  • Wallet with measuring tape
  • Shape matching activity
  • DVD player with headphones
  • Small travel board with vinyl (reusable stickers)
  • 4 books (2 small bathbooks and 2 paperbacks…not cardboard since they’re heavy)
  • Twistable Booklight
  • Ball necklace
  • Book for mom (not in picture)
  • **J requested to bring his links right before we left, so I added them to my bag. 

Snacks:  Granola bar, Kix, lollipop and an empty sippy cup

Other: 4 diapers, wipes, antibacterial wipes, Benadryl, miniature book for diaper changes, extra shirt and pants.  I keep these in a really lightweight cloth bag so I don’t have to bring the entire backpack with us to the restroom.  I stuff the bag inside the backpack when moving through the airport.

I’ve started to buy a bottle of water after security and fill his sippy there so I don’t have to wait longer at security (you CAN have liquid in a bottle/sippy if you want, but there is an extra security check for this). 

 I will review plane expectations with J both before and after his nap, so he is reminded of what will happen and what’s expected of him (hold mommy’s leg while I’m peparing for security, stay in seat/mommy’s lap on plane; act considerate of other people by using inside voice and using our words instead of whines/cries).  TIP: Reviewing expectations really helps.  I do this before we enter almost any new setting and notice a big difference.  I was surprised at how young he was able to understand me!

So, I’m prepared.  I’ll let you know how it went when we return!!

Archeological Dig for Toddlers

Well, I don’t know if “archeological” would be correct since we were digging for puff balls!! But J found them very intriguing 🙂

I filled a plastic tray with rice and hid pom pom balls inside.  I also set out a few scoopers and an empty tray next to it.  At the last minute I added a cookie drying rack on top of the empty tray.  It’s holes were big enough to let the rice fall through but small enough to keep the pom pom balls from falling.  I showed J how to scoop up the rice and then empty it on top of the drying rack to find the pom pom balls.  He then separated the pom pom balls by color into small bowls. 

He loved this activity. 

Age attempted: 23 months (could be done earlier; for really young toddlers you could leave out the scoopers and just let them dig with their hands)

Lesson Learned:  I set out a beach towel underneath, but I should’ve used the plastic table protector instead.  It is heavier and doesn’t move around as much.  I could’ve used the empty baby pool too.