I’m sensing a theme here…
Paper towel tubes cut in half, painters tape, and less than 10 minutes = giant marble maze!
I’m sensing a theme here…
Paper towel tubes cut in half, painters tape, and less than 10 minutes = giant marble maze!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
John wasn’t interested in the puzzle, but it did ignite interest in building with the blocks, a toy that usually gathers dust.
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).
When I traced a new shape, he lost all interest in matching blocks and wanted to “trace” blocks too.
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!
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).
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!
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.
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!
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.
Glitter! Stickers! Paint! Stamps!
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:
Happy Valentine’s 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!).
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.
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).
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!
We’ve been good but we can’t last…hurry Christmas, hurry fast. The time for cheer is almost here–the fourth week of Advent has finally arrived. Countless Christmas books read, carols and Advent hymns sung, ornaments hung (and re-hung, dropped, broken, fixed, and re-hung again), Jesse tree stories completed, and Christmas here at last. I’d say “before I knew it” or “I turned around and it was December 22″, but when you’ve read the Grinch 2045 times and have listened to the boys “read” their Night Before Christmas talking book about 10000, that would be laughable.
Christmas-themed activities have kept us busy on the days when “the virus”–the malevolent entity that, according to John, causes everything from stomach upset to excess snot–hasn’t laid various boys or parents low.
The boys added to our Nativity collection with this sweet printable Nativity,
We practiced patterning and fine motor skills by decorating felt and magnet trees (and I practiced combing my beloved Dollar Tree for materials),
by hanging ornaments,
and by making them.
and basically went through all the printable packs I pinned. Printable packs = easy. Crafts = not so much. Printable packs it is!
And that brings us to the 4th Sunday of Advent. Bring on Christmas!
Advent is here! It’s a challenge to keep our focus on prayerfully, peacefully waiting for the coming of Christ when every time we step outside the world is screaming “IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!! BUY BUY BUY!!! SAAAANTAAAA!!”, accompanied by tinny Christmas carols. So in my perfect Advent, we would keep our focus on Christ while keeping the excitement and joy all around us, smoothly doing our Advent devotions and activities with smiles on our faces and nary a whine to be heard. Heh.
Our tree is up, but not lit. We are slowly decorating, so every day brings a new decoration or two to keep the anticipation and excitement up (okay, or because we have a ton of decorations and I am lazy). Every morning after our Advent wreath prayers, the boys pick the day’s numbered bags and reveal two ornaments to put on the tree. We have a huge collection, so putting them all up at once is time consuming and our memories are lost in the shuffle to just get them all up already. General Grevious and Winnie the Pooh ushered in the first day of Advent, and so far a Duke basketball, Charleston’s Rainbow Row, a Creche, and a Mama Bear reading with her cub have joined them. Both boys cannot wait to open more bags and find the perfect place for the ornaments on the tree (although Anthony has some trouble actually getting his to stay on there). I’m waiting to see when one of the boys will crash into the tree and take it out, since both love to stand on the couch arm to reach the upper branches.
After hanging the ornaments, the boys open up gold-wrapped books from our enormous collection of Christmas books. Sometimes they are religious, sometimes secular, always exciting. John remembers some from years past and some are new (or like new). Unwrapping two a day lets the boys really enjoy them all instead of being overwhelmed by a giant tub of books. They can’t wait to rip off the paper and read the books alone, together, and with me.
After dinner we do our Advent wreath prayers again, light a candle, read our Jesse Tree story, and put up the matching ornament. Last year I made these ornaments from Shower of Roses. Last year we read from the Catholic Picture Bible, but one picture and a long text were a bit much on some days for a toddler attention span, so this year I’m using the Rhyming Bible Storybook, which both boys love. John always asks to read more stories and Anthony “reads” the book on his own, babbling along in the same rhyming, sing-song cadence as the text.
Or that’s how my perfect Advent day would go, anyway. Some days John and Anthony fight over who gets to open the bag with the number on it (usually John), whether John can “help” Anthony with his (read “open it and put it on the tree himself”), and whether John can help (read: “rip”) Anthony with his book. Sometimes I forget the Jesse Tree and we do it in the morning–seriously, I’m 2/5 here–and sometimes we do everything in about 2 minutes before bed.