Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Decorating Pumpkins... Toddler Style!

Decorating pumpkins is one of my favorite things about Halloween - probably a close second to getting candy! For Derek and me, it's really a family affair. Family or friends come over and we spread a huge drop-cloth or piles of newspaper in the living room and all carve away. So it was really important to us to be able to get Emma involved. I saw this idea on Young House Love last year, and have been looking forward to trying it ever since!

We got two small pumpkins for Emma. (And at a dollar apiece, I can't complain!)

I smoothed on a layer of painters tape, then traced out two jack-o-lantern faces.

With a sharp knife, I cut around my pattern, and peeled away the excess tape.

After spreading an old plastic table cloth over the highchair and table - to help with clean up - we let Emma go to town with finger paint!

She had fun getting messy, smearing paint, and splashing in the tub afterwards! The finished product turned out great, but I would suggest peeling off the tape when the paint is still wet. I waited until the next morning, when the pumpkins were dry, and there were a few sections that had thicker paint that tried to come off in big chunks. With a little finesse, the edges turned out fairly clean, but I think it would have been easier if the paint was wet.

All in all, it was a blast to watch Emma decorate her pumpkins, and she looked like she had a blast well. We'll certainly do this with youngsters for Halloween again! 

What did you do with pumpkins this year? How did you include younger kids and toddlers in the activity? 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Toddler Activities: 14 Months Old (Part 3)

Here are a few more simple activities that you can do with your 14 month old. You may also be interested in Part 1 and Part 2.

Ocean Sensory Basket: Discovery baskets, or sensory baskets, are a simple way to engage your little one in learning about the senses as well as language learning. When Emma was younger, we had a lot of fun with our ribbon sensory basket, but now that she is older and less apt to put things in her mouth, we are expanding our sensory experiences! In our ocean sensory basket, we have a variety of shells, stones, coral and driftwood. Let your child touch and explore each object, and try to use many different words to expose your child to language as you describe the texture or appearance of the objects as hard, crunchy, shiny, etc. Let your child move things around, and you can describe objects as they are over, under or beside each other, etc.

Pushing Pom Poms: This is such a simple idea, and very easy to make. Take an old plastic container and cut a few small holes in the lid. The holes I made are just about the same size as the pom poms, so Emma doesn't really have to push them in, but she does have to line it up pretty well. It's a good fine motor activity and keeps Emma occupied for a good length of time. 

Squishy Bag: This fun activity will aid in developing your little one's hand muscles! This is a pretty basic recipe using water and cornstarch. I've included the amounts I used, but you could probably adjust the amounts with the same results. To begin, boil 3 cups of water. In another bowl, add a small amount of cold water to 4 tablespoons of cornstarch to make a paste. Slowly add the cornstarch mixture to the boiled water. Continue to cook and stir until the mixture is thick, then add food coloring. Allow the mixture to cool and pour it into a Ziploc bag. You can also add glitter or small toys inside the bag. Seal the bag securely. I put a layer of duct tape or packing tape over the opening for added safety. Let your baby enjoy squishing and squashing the bag!

Update: While my original recipe did turn out okay, I've made a few more bags since then and tweaked our recipe a little each time. My most recent recipe had the most "bulk" to it. Mix 4 cups water, 1 cup cornstarch, and 1/3 cup sugar. Heat in a pan until thick. When the mixture has cooled, pour into a Ziploc bag. Put some drops of food coloring, and add glitter or small toys inside the bag. Seal the bag securely.

And, as always...

Reading is one of the best activities you can do with your child at any age!

A few of Emma's current favorites are:
My 3 good things for today are:

  1. I had everything on hand to make a squishy bag for Emma! There's nothing quite like finding a recipe that you'd like to try and already having all of the ingredients in your pantry. 
  2. Moo, Baa, La La La! is such a fun book! It is always nice to find a book that Emma and I both enjoy, especially when she wants to read it over, and over, and over again!
  3. I got all the laundry done today - even laundry basket is empty - for the next five minutes at least!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Toddler Activities: 14 Months Old (Part 2)

Here are a few more simple activities that you can do with your 14 month old. You may also be interested in Part 1.

Jumping in Leaves: Okay, so this is really more of a seasonal activity than an age-specific activity. I have as much fun jumping in the leaves as Emma! We get a lot of fresh air and exercise playing in the leaves outside, and it's actually a great sensory experience for Emma as she feels and hears the crunching leaves around her.

Piggy Bank: Whenever Grandma and Grandpa come to visit, they bring coins for Emma's college fund. Emma loves to put the coins in her little piggy bank and hear the quarters and dimes go plink, plink, plink. It's also a lot of fun to empty the bank and let her drop the coins in one after the other. We practice counting and Emma works on her motor skills by carefully lining the big quarters up with the narrow slot. Little ones should always be supervised when playing with coins since they are a choking hazard. 

Box Adventures:  I got a new bread machine this week because my old one died,  not very gracefully, while burning making its last loaf of bread. So not only did I get a new toy, but Emma got two new boxes to play with! Let be honest, everything is more fun in a box! She read in the box, played puzzles in the box, even sat in the box and talked to her doll. It's a great reminder to look for play in the simple things.

And, of course...

Read! Reading is one of the best activities you can do with your child at any age!

A few of Emma's current favorites are:

My 3 good things for today are:
  1. I got all of the leaves in the front yard raked into nice, neat piles.
  2. Emma already has a start on her college fund!
  3. Four words: Fresh Cinnamon Raisin Bread. Yum!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Family Date: Corn Maze

A great family activity for the fall is to visit a Corn Maze! I feel very fortunate to live in the Midwest, where we're able to visit a local farm to pick our own pumpkins, or drive a few miles to to the largest corn maze in the state.

If your home is located where this type of outing is possible, I would highly recommend it. Derek and I reallly enjoyed it, and Emma had a blast, as you can see from the pictures!

We went to the Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze in Brooklyn Park, MN. Near the Twin Cities, there are at least half a dozen corn mazes including Sever's Corn Maze and Fall Festival which is celebrating its 16th year of fun and games. Many have other activities, such as hayrides, pumpkin slinging, and even haunted houses!

We chose the Twin Cities Harvest Festival this year because it fit our budget and had activities that we thought Emma would enjoy. I'm sure we'll visit other venues in future years as Emma gets bigger and is able to appreciate some of the other activities they offer.

The attractions we enjoyed most were the corn maze (of course!), as well as the giant corn pit, and petting zoo!

My 3 good things for today are:
  1. We had a great, fun-filled day together as a family, for about the same price we would pay for movie tickets.
  2. Something we really appreciated about the Twin Cities Harvest Festival is that they donate a portion of every ticket sold to the Minnesota Military Family Foundation. So we helped support a good cause in addition to having fun!
  3. We got some great family photos to remember the day!

What fall activities do you like to do as a family?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Toddler Activities: 14 Months Old (Part 1)

One of the challenges of being a stay at home mom is finding activities for your little one to keep them entertained throughout the day. These are a few of our current favorite activities:

Stickers: Toddlers love stickers! Plus, manipulating stickers with their tiny fingers is great for fine motor development. Emma can't peel stickers off the sticker sheet by herself, so I peel off a dozen or so and lightly stick them to a piece of plain paper. Then she entertains herself by unsticking and re-sticking them all over the paper. Playing with stickers can also be a great counting and color sorting activity!

Pom Pom Drop: I first saw this idea from how we montessori on Pinterest, and logged it away in the back of my brain. Then the other day, Emma and I were over at my mom's house and my mom and I were busy with a project in the kitchen. Emma was getting bored, but we needed a few more minutes to finish, so I whipped up this quick activity for her. All you need is an empty toilet paper roll or paper towel tube, some tape, a bucket, and a handful of pom poms (or small blocks, or crumpled paper, or really anything that will fall through the tube). Then let your baby drop the pom poms through the tube and into the bucket. Repeat! I'll be honest: After a few minutes, Emma decided it was more fun to just carry the bucket around and scatter the pom poms on the floor like she was planting seeds. But it did capture her attention for those precious few minutes and we will certainly be trying it again. 

Ball pit: Emma was first grandchild and niece for both sides of our family, and subsequently, she is quite spoiled! In fact, for her first birthday, she got a personal inflatable ball pit! It's the kind of thing that I would probably never buy for her myself, but she really does love it, and it can be a great way for her to expel some energy. For those of you who don't have an overzealous Auntie to buy an inflatable ball pit, you can also use your Pack-and-Play or plastic kiddie pool. The balls themselves are actually pretty cheap. You can order them from Amazon, and we've actually picked some up at our local Goodwill and Once Upon a Child since Emma's birthday.

And, of course...

Read: Reading is one of the best activities you can do with your child at any age!

A few of Emma's current favorites are:

My 3 good things for today are:
  1. I've finally gotten over a nasty cold! Maybe it will be my only one this cold and flu season. Maybe? Maybe?
  2. Grandma gave Emma a whole book of new stickers that someone else was just going to throw away!
  3. Emma giggled and giggled and mooed when we read Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type. Too cute!