Monthly Archives: June 2011

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

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

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

Patriotic Songs

A Simple Dot Marker Activity

Yes, I am rather cheap and I tend to save everything.  I’m always contemplating what activity we could do with would-be trash. 

As J finishes sticker sheets, I often peel the remaining border and stick it on a sheet of paper.  It’s saved for some random rainy day… or days spent inside with a colicky (but adorable) baby. 

I gave J some dot markers and a border sheet of what had been a set of smiley face stickers.  Each empty circle was bordered with a different color.  I simply asked J to use the dot markers to fill in each circle with the corresponding color.  Simple, yet effective in entertaining while I fed his little brother.

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.

Animal Silhouettes

I found a set of foam bath shapes at Toys R Us (in the cheap-o section at the front).  There are 4 different animals, each in 4 different colors.

Prep Work:  I chose a group of shapes to trace onto cardstock and then colored each shape. 

During the activity:  I give J a set of shapes along with the silhouette page and ask him to match the correct shape on top of each silhouette. 

This is an activity that J first did around 26 months.  It’s a step up from regular matching because he must match both color and shape, and then he must figure out how to match the shape on top (which might mean turning the duck over so it is facing the correct way).  When he first started I gave him only the shapes that could be found on the silhouette sheet.  As he got better, I slowly added more shapes for him to search through.  So he might have to bypass the orange and blue duck in search of the green duck. 

Now at 3 years old, he is still challenged by the activity.  To add to its difficulty, I added another page of silhouettes for him to match and I give him the entire bucket of foam shapes to search through (there are many extras that will not have a match, making the search harder). 

Here is another silhouette activity J enjoys.

Hidden Puzzles

This is such a great idea that one of my online friends, Karen uses with her toddler. I asked her to share her great idea for all to enjoy.  If your toddler hesitates to pull out those puzzles, this is a great way to add some interest.  Thanks Karen!   

Not your same old boring puzzle….

Age attempted: 25 months

 Materials needed:
Shoe size clear plastic tub with lid (for storage)..I bought at dollar general for $1.00
Large bag of uncooked elbow macaroni
½ bag of dry beans
Puzzle of your choice (I use Melissa and Doug’s See-Inside Numbers Peg Puzzle )

1. Pour the bag of noodles and ½ bag of beans in the tub
2. Pour out an age appropriate puzzle into the tub with mac and beans
3. Have the child hide the puzzle pieces in the mac and beans (or you can show them the first time)
4. Have the child find the pieces of the puzzle and put them into the puzzle board in the right places

I like to put the tub on a child’s table at the child’s reach and the puzzle board on the floor so it’s an up and down work out (but it’s not necessary).

I’ve been doing this with my two year old with a number puzzle he had ZERO interest in. I figured the tactile mac and beans would get him interested in learning his numbers and it was an instant success! We’ve only been doing this for two weeks and he can already find most of numbers in order.

The first time you do this you may want to let your little one explore the mac and beans before pouring in the puzzle pieces.

Alternative: use oatmeal and/or rice in the tub to hide puzzle pieces. 

Mother May I?

Remember this game?  It’s really a great game that keeps toddlers and preschoolers entertained quite well.  My mom actually taught J how to play while I was in the hospital after his little brother was born.

It’s actually great practice for them in counting, size, gross motor skills and of course following rules since they have to return to start if they forget “Mother may I?”  It made me think, if J can follow the rules to this game well, there’s no excuse for him to forget to follow our house rules like saying “please” or “thank you”,  “May I get down now?” or “May I go upstairs now?” and the list goes on and on…

How to play:  Designate a starting spot and finishing spot.  You stand at the finish line and have your little one stand at the start. You call out different type of movements for them to make as they move towards you.  For example, “Take 3 giant steps,” “Take 2 bunny hops,” or “Take 6 skipping steps.” Get creative and have fun with the commands!  They must first respond with “Mother may I?” before following out your instructions.  If they forget to say “Mother may I?”, they have to return to the beginning to start over again (which is sometimes part of the fun for J!). 

J and I take turns.  Sometimes he gives the commands and sometimes I do.  Either way, it makes for great and cheap fun.  This is something you can play while waiting in the doctor’s office, in a hotel room, while you’re cooking dinner, feeding the baby,…  You gotta love these good old fashioned activities that required nothing! Why do we make things so intricate today?? It’s really not all that hard to entertain kids J

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.

Flower Mobile (or possibly placemat)

J made a flower mobile for his grandma as a get well soon gift.  It would be a great gift for any girl on any occasion really. I think it turned out really cute and J had a lot of fun creating it.  He stuck with it until it was all finished!

What you need:  Construction paper, contact paper, scissors, flower magazine, marker; you will also need a  hangar, a hole punch, and string if you want to create the mobile

Prep Work:  I cut out the borders for each flower, using different colored construction paper.  I also cut out two equal sizes of clear contact paper, taping one to the work-table (sticky side up).  The other piece of contact paper is saved to place on top after the flowers are completed.

During the activity:  J placed the flower-borders onto the contact paper though he needed some help with the larger pieces since they can get tangled easily.  He then searched through a flower magazine to find flowers to fill each border, matching the colors accordingly.  I just had him tear the pictures out of the magazine rather than using scissors.  We then worked together to tear the pictures into small pieces that he could stick inside the corresponding colored flower.  After all of the flowers were filled, we added a message for grandma and J signed one of the flowers himself.  I then placed the second sheet of contact paper on top.  If we were creating a placemat, the activity would basically be done. Just trim the edges of the contact paper to make a more finished look.  (My intention was to create a placemat, but I did not plan well.  The flowers were so huge that the placemat covered half the table! So I improvised and decided this was going to become a mobile instead.)

For the mobile:  I cut apart each flower and punched a hole into the top and bottom.  I also cut small pieces of string to attach the flowers together.  J helped thread the string through the holes and I tied the knots.  We then tied it onto a hangar. 

Age attempted: 3 years

Mix and Match Patterns with Plastic Eggs

Here’s an activity where I’m guessing you won’t have to spend one dime, just use what you already have!  Plastic eggs, crayons, and paper.  This was a great activity I found online that I prepared and stored away for after the baby was born.  I first gathered the plastic eggs from the basement so that I knew which colors I had to work with.  I then colored some mix and match eggs on cardstock. 

I gave J both the cards and the plastic eggs and told him his job was to create eggs to match the cards. 

This activity offered practice with color recognition, size recognition and fine motor skills.

For younger toddlers/preschoolers:  They might need help clicking the egg pieces together, but they can find the correct colors themselves.  Some might not yet be able to recognize the size difference in the top/bottom of the egg.

For older toddlers/preschoolers:  They can practice placing the eggs together themselves.  To add a level of difficulty, be sure to make it clear in your drawing which part of the egg is on top and which is on bottom.  This way they not only have to match the correct colors but also the correct part of the egg. 

Age attempted: 3 years