The Doctor is in! Vet’s Office Dramatic Play

Now that both boys are obsessed with Peso, the medic from “Octonauts”, and Anthony has developed a mysterious love of Doc McStuffins (where has he even seen that show?!), I thought I’d surprise them with a vet’s office set-up.

Playdough to Plato provided some adorable printable vet name tags and check-up check lists, I made some quick bandages and gauze wraps out of felt, printed and laminated some x-rays for our cardboard “x-ray machine”, and gathered our doctor kits and a few stuffed animals and we were ready to go!

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Easy to set up and both boys love it! Anthony has been carrying his bandages around all day and John has bandaged, immunized, and otherwise healed many a fuzzy friend (and family member). Amazing to see how rearranging some toys and adding a few props can prompt so much fun play!
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The Magic Box of Busyness

This box is magical. Simply magical.
After the icy snowstorm of death that bore down on Memphis kept us inside for a few days (with brief forays out to frolic in the city-paralyzing snow), John picked this box off the shelf and the magic began.

A bag of neon puffballs, dustpan, silver tray, mini muffin tin, a bag of plastic eggs, and a few random containers and spoons have sparked hours of play.

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The first day alone, the boys played for an hour making muffins, eggs, coffee, and cleaning up garbage.
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Since then, they each go back to the box a few times a day to make muffins, “bake” them on the bookshelf, and serve them to each other and to me.
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John even balances bowls of muffins on a tray, waiter-style! The boys play together and negotiate who gets which bowl and how many muffins, who gets to bake them, and who serves them.
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One box provides so many skills: spooning puff balls, sorting them by color, pouring them, practicing one-to-one correspondence with the muffin tin, and learning some valuable life skills with the dustpan. Fine motor skills, math, cooperation, practical life–all while playing together quietly. Magical.
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Marble Maze II: Because Bigger is Better

I’m sensing a theme here…
DSC_0746 DSC_0741Paper towel tubes cut in half, painters tape, and less than 10 minutes = giant marble maze!


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Marble Madness! Homemade Marble Runs

The boys love marbles–the clink of marbles tumbling into glass and the plunk of marbles on floors are music to their ears (if not always to mine!). Serving Pink Lemonade‘s adorable pictures of her marble run inspired by this one at Made by Joel looked too fun and easy not to try. The giant Costco-size cereal box I found in my craft cupboard was extra stiff and worked perfectly. 10 minutes or so with a box cutter, tape, scissors, and hot glue gun produced a sturdy, compact marble run.

As soon as I brought out the dollar-store gumball machine full of marbles and the marble run, both boys practically vibrated with excitement, jockeying to dump more and more marbles down the run.

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A paper funnel solved the problem of out-of-control marbles from cups of marbles being poured into a tiny hole and the empty sand table helped contain them further and gave Anthony a place to pour marbles from cup to cup while John monopolized the run.
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The math on two boys and one marble run didn’t add up to one harmonious afternoon. It was go big or get out of the house: one mega-size diaper box later, we had a giant marble run, complete with toilet paper entry tube.
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As the marble frenzy continued, John experimented with catching the marbles in various cups and containers as they exited the bottom of the run, counting how many he caught in each cup. The boys played with the runs for about 40 minutes, until John got hungry for dinner and followed me into the kitchen. Anthony stayed behind for a few minutes, reveling in having the runs to himself, and couldn’t resist bringing some marbles to the table to pour from one cup to the other while waiting for his pizza to cool.
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Day 2
Marble play gets full-body and even the Octonauts get a trip down the marble run!
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Final Thoughts
Super easy and super fun! Set-up to playtime was worthwhile, even for one afternoon of play. They’ll be easy to store, and the boys keep coming back to to play for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. I can’t wait to try a more involved marble run with moveable tubes!

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DIY Giant Block Puzzle: How It Worked for Us

I saw this fast and easy DIY giant block puzzle and thought it would be a perfect quick idea to liven up our winter afternoon. Set-up was easy—roll of paper, crayon, some soft foam blocks, and masking tape. 7 minutes max, including a hunt for the ever-elusive roll of tape.
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Make that closer to 10 minutes, since I had a helper who was more interested in peeling off tape and cutting it into various lengths than in tracing the shapes or matching them. He wanted a pencil to help me trace shapes–he never actually got to trace anything; sharpening the pencils was just too fun (and required a fire-fighter’s uniform). Not quite on-task, but some fine-motor skills practice anyway!
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John wasn’t interested in the puzzle, but it did ignite interest in building with the blocks, a toy that usually gathers dust.
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Anthony didn’t discover the puzzle on his own, despite the inviting bin of brightly colored blocks right next to the huge paper, so I asked him to come play with me and placed a few blocks myself. Anthony spent five minutes or so matching the shapes, occasionally surprising me (he placed the small yellow cylinder in the inner “doughnut hole” section of the square on the top left of the paper, where it would go in the 3-D piece, instead of on the small circle I traced and was more interested in matching the shapes than lining up the blocks to match the outlines).
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When I traced a new shape, he lost all interest in matching blocks and wanted to “trace” blocks too.
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Final Thoughts:
Good idea to practice shapes and easy to set up, but it didn’t hold my boys’ attention (John: 4 yrs & 4 mo, Anthony: 2 years & 3 mo) for long. I did get to practice shapes and colors with Anthony for a few minutes and it did spark an interest in building and blocks!

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This little guy loved watching his big brothers build!
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Be mine, Valentine! Sensory bins, Valentines, and Dollar store love.

Dollar Tree, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…
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200 red and pink hearts (table scatter) and 12 red, pink, and magenta heart boxes, that’s how many ways I love thee, o cheap purveyor of holiday sensory bin & craft items (can’t forget a shout out to the Target Dollar Spot, my second favorite materials source, for the “spiky” Valentine’s pom-poms).

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The boys sorted pom-poms and hearts into their matching heart boxes, carefully rearranging the hearts to cram more inside. We counted the hearts that fit in each box and added one box’s contents to another’s (7 hearts in one box + 8 in another = 15 total). I would steal some hearts to practice subtraction, although Anthony was quick to demand them back!

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John practiced his fine motor skills “capturing” the hearts in his bug catcher and by tonging pom-poms. Anthony enjoyed counting out the hearts and lining them up in patterns and sorting them into groups. The boys played with the sensory bin for about 20 minutes and have been going back to it for 5-10 minutes at a time over the past few days, often bringing me hearts to count (John in particular likes to practice doubling the hearts, bringing me two boxes with the same number of hearts in each).

The heart boxes (part of a Valentine’s gift from my parents last year) did double duty with these sparkly, puffy heart stickers from the Target Dollar Spot for an earlier sorting exercise.

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These Valentine’s Day printables (& this one) + some candy heart erasers (hello again, Dollar Spot!) were fun for color matching, sorting, counting, patterning, and memory matching. This printable pack was great for little boys—Valentine’s trucks and cars for Anthony!

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The heart erasers didn’t offer the full selection of colors to complete the patterning sheets, so I picked up a big bag of conversation hearts. John immediately starts matching the hearts and patterning, then he looks up at me and says, “Mama, do you have to go to the bathroom?” “No.” “Um, I think I hear baby crying. You should go get him.” The little stinker wouldn’t eat the hearts while I was there (because I told them not to eat the ones in the bowl), but he couldn’t wait for me to step out of the room so he could sneak a few! Meanwhile, Anthony was gobbling them down while John distracted me. DSC_0587 DSC_0586

The boys were thrilled to use our Dollar Tree materials to make valentines and Valentine’s wreaths to decorate our house and send to their grandparents. DSC_0637 DSC_0636

Glitter! Stickers! Paint! Stamps!
DSC_0594 DSC_0602DSC_0595  DSC_0603 We explored color mixing (making different shades of pink led to mixing yellow, purple, red, and all sorts of crazy combinations), stamped, and painted with Q-Tips (to make dots, swirls, and lines).

We made some Valentine’s Day Wreaths to decorate the house:

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

DSC_0599 Who could resist these beautiful blue eyes and chubby cheeks? Even if he never sleeps :)

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The Snowy Day

A Snowy Day in Memphis! Well, not really. Today we read “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats and began my first intentional attempt at a literary-themed study.

Since Memphis is not obliging with snow–just freezing cold, freezing rain, and general freezing dampness–we had to improvise with making tracks. I took the plunge and invited Play-Doh into the house for the first time (previously banished to the crusty old train table on the porch) and broke out the Arctic animal TOOB. Both boys enjoyed exploring the animal tracks, igloo marks, and sled tracks (and Jeep, Smurf, and Octonaut tracks!).

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Both boys built some “snow”men, which lead to incorporating the “10 Little Snowmen” rhyme into the playdough fun. John insisted that each brother get 5 snowmen and then subtract snowmen as they melted.
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John wanted to keep working, so we practiced patterning with snowflakes (he made his longest pattern yet, all on his own), used these story cards to retell the story and put the events in order (there was definitely some peeking!), and sorted items based on their beginning sound (“S” for “snowman”) and whether they would be appropriate winter or summer wear (from this printable pack).

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Finally, we make salt dough hand-prints as Valentine’s Day presents. I tried footprints, but between sticky dough and too-stompy feet, hands seemed a bit easier. Now just waiting to buy some paint to decorate them!

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