Here is the fourth set of ideas to help survive (and thrive) during toddler days. Click here to see
Introduction and 1-10
***NOTE: I have some photos I wanted to drop in here and there, but my computer is being DIFFICULT and I want to get this posted today. Hopefully I can drop them in later, so check back.
31. Felt faces - I bought a toy at a dollar store for Sister one day that inspired this game. It was made of vinyl stickers and little cardboard faces that were blank. The idea was that you put the vinyl stickers (various types of eyes, noses, mouths, ears, etc.) on the cardboard pieces to make silly faces. The kids loved it, but the pieces were so small that they were lost quickly. I decided to recreate the game in felt, and it's been a big hit. (A good travel toy, too.)
32. Prop boxes - Those of you with early childhood education in your background will have already heard of "prop boxes." A prop box is a collection of objects, books, toys, etc. that support a central theme. For example, we have a "Doctor Kit" prop box. Inside you will find our pretend medical instruments in a doctor bag, a set of scrubs, several ace bandages, two picture books about going to the doctor, a digital thermometer that doesn't really work, a small flashlight, and some old CT scans of Mommy's brain. Other prop boxes at our house are the beauty parlor prop box and a pet shop prop box (a good thing to do with the surplus stuffed animals.) The beauty of prop boxes is that they promote creative play and support organization. Before we started our Doctor Prop Box, the toy medical instruments were strewn all over the house, making it very hard to play doctor. The box also makes the toys more novel, since they aren't out all the time. I store our prop boxes up in my closet- the kids know where they are and can request them, but the fact that they're not always out makes them MUCH more interesting! Check out this site for more ideas. This site has tons too- choose a letter of the alphabet to see lots of ideas! It's great on a rainy day to have a "fresh" box of toys to bring out and offer the kids, "Hey! Let's play pet shop!" :-)
33. Do some yoga: I will admit, I'm not really the yoga type. But when Sister's preschool teacher started teaching her some yoga for kids, I was amazed at how quickly she picked it up. Her teacher sent home a "yoga for kids" booklet, and we've been having fun trying out all the poses. Brother is pretty good too! (And it gets Mommy off her tush and doing a little exercise.)Here is a great book (especially for preschoolers.) These two are good for babies and toddlers. Check your library!
34. Play grocery store with stuff from the pantry - There are some days when my kids simply MUST be near me no matter what. The magnetic Mommy forces cannot be defeated. It's hardest when I'm trying to cook supper but I've learned one way to cope. I open the pantry door and let them play grocery store. They get out boxes and cans and set them up nearby, shop, ring themselves out, and bag them up. A toy cash register and toy buggy would probably make it even better. To bad we don't have those! The one thing I've learned to hard way is to store the heavy cans and jars up high where they can't reach. Smashed toddler toes are NOT a good thing.
35. Create a “cave” in a closet. Bring in “supplies” like snacks, blankets, etc. Bring in stuffed animals and dolls, read stories with flashlight. Make S'mores in the microwave. You could also do a mermaid or pirate cove this way and add some blue fabric or sheets to the floor to indicate “water.” White Christmas lights add a magical effect.
36. Shadow/light play - Are you familiar with the Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education? If not, read about it here on Wikipedia. I am fascinated with many of the concepts that have come from this movement that was founded in Italy after World War II. One of the ideas I've gained from reading about Reggio Emilia is the use of a light table as a sensory exploration tool for young children. Just look at this photo and you'll see what I mean. We don't have a light table (a little out of our price range) but we do have an old overhead projector. (Surplus from the school district.) The children love to play with objects on the lit top of the projector such as transparent and translucent items (you can find things especially for overheads at a teacher store) as well as flat-bottomed glass beads, etc. It's also fun to draw with Vis-A-Vis markers on the glass. The added bonus of the overhead projector is that it also offers an element of shadow play because it projects images on the wall. We just got ours a few months ago but I have big plans for some shadow-puppet plays too! PS- Check out this photo and see why I love Reggio Emilia. Such beautiful environments!
37. Make a list of places to go so you don’t have to think on your feet if you’re tired, frustrated, etc. and need a change of scenery. Post it on your fridge. My list includes Grandma's house, Target, Barnes and Noble, a variety of parks around town, the farmer's market (on certain days), the museum, the toy store, a bakery, my husband's school (after hours), etc. You wouldn't think you'd need such a list, but the truth is that tired moms can use all the helpful reminders possible. Without such a list, I get into a rut.
38. Watch home movies - So many of us beat ourselves up over letting our kids watch tv. (I do!) Even though I limit the quantity, I still wish I could get rid of tv time altogether. But the reality for me is that there are times I simply NEED tv: when I'm sick, when they're sick, when it's been cold and raining for 3 days straight, etc. I recently discovered a happy medium: home movies! We have a video camera that hooks up to the tv and the kids LOVE watching shows that feature them! Birthdays! Christmases! Sweet little moments from baby-hood! They love it all, and I feel better about it because our home movies lack the over-stimulating, brain-numbing quality found in most modern television programming for kids. This is not to say that we never watch an episode of Sesame Street anymore, but I have been able to phase some of that out and replace it with something much more authentic and meaningful for our family.
39. Fruity Art: Sister went through a Strawberry Shortcake phase as a toddler (and actually never left the phase.) She loves dolls, and those sweet little dolls that also smell good really tickle her fancy. One day I remembered a craft I had done with kindergartners several years ago and thought it would be perfect for Sister. We were going to make our own Strawberry Shortcake paper dolls! First, we drew several "dolls" on heavy white cardstock and colored them. (Actually, we painted them with watercolors, but you could color them any way you like.) Next, I put out little bowls of scented Kool-Aid powders in various flavors/colors. I helped Sister put Elmer's glue on each doll and then we sprinkled a powder on top of each doll (like glitter.) After we shook off the extra, we let them dry. Sister had a BLAST playing with her "Strawberry Shortcake" dolls, and later we turned one or two into necklaces (punched a hole in it and tied it on a piece of yarn.) This activity was a BIG hit, and could be used with any type of drawing- not just "dolls."
40. Get inspired by a children’s artist- There are so many fabulous children's illustrators out there today. You can create an amazing art activity just by mimicking some of these illustrators. A favorite example is Eric Carle. When I taught elementary school, I used to do a little unit on him where we read lots of his books and then created our own collages based on his techniques. The skinny of it is that you 1)Create lots of beautiful papers with paint and lots of fun objects such as brushes, stamps, scrapers, fingers, wads of saran wrap, etc.! 2)Then you come back another day and use those papers to create collages. See this website for a step-by-step explanation. (It's actually a lesson plan but don't be scared of that! A lesson plan is basically just a well-written set of directions!)
Only 10 left! See you tomorrow.