Saturday, July 4, 2015

Our DIY Toddler Loft

One year ago this weekend, my husband built our son a bed. He was going for hernia surgery July 9th and needed it to be done before his surgery. I've been meaning to write up a post about it, but it just kept getting put on the back burner.

Evan was a pro at climbing out of his crib, and we were actually hoping to use the crib with Oliver (who was already a few months old this time last year), so we needed to get him a big boy bed. There was one problem - his bedroom is small! So we needed to maximize our space.

I scoured Pinterest, and at first I saw the IKEA KURA bed. I loved what some people had done with it! But when we went to IKEA, it just didn't grab me. I didn't like the feel of it, or the mattress that was supposed to go with it. I wanted to use a normal thickness twin mattress, and I wanted higher guard rails.

So I started looking for loft plans, and basically a DIY IKEA KURA.

When I came across THIS blog post by crab + fish on Pinterest, I was SOLD. I had found the one! Or so I thought at the time.

They used a bed plan from Ana White, which led me to her website. After looking through all of her bed plans, I came to a new decision. The steps from the first plan, but I wanted to use the Surf Bus Loft Bed plan for the bed itself. Instead of making it into a bus or car, we were planning on decking it out Disney Planes style. We did end up using the Surf Bus plan, but soon realized the bedroom was too small for the stairs from the first plan. But that's ok!

We modified the height of the bed, and the rails, to fit our own preferences. To save money, as my husband was taking a month off work unpaid for his surgery, we used OSB on the sides. If we didn't have cats, that would have been fine. One of our younger cats has been scratching at the OSB, so a year later, I would like to replace it with higher quality material in the near future.

My husband ran into a problem early on. Our drill, which was an old hand-me-down, wasn't holding battery power, and wasn't charging well. It was going to be a long weekend! Since we knew he still had a lot of work to go, and that we had to go get the bedding from Target (a Planes themed sheet set), we picked up a cheap replacement, which worked for the rest of the project.

When it came to putting the OSB on, Evan wanted to help, and Eddie let him. Not that he accomplished much, but it completely made his day to be a part of it.

Eddie completed the construction before his surgery, but given the delay from the drill, it wasn't painted and ready to go just yet. That worked out well though and gave Evan time to get used to the new bed. He loved playing underneath it from the beginning.

We had chosen the colors specifically to resemble Dusty Crophopper. The white was a very simple white, and the orange was Orange Marmalade by Glidden. We bought a small container of black paint to paint the Jolly Wrenches symbol, but never got around to it. And once the cat started scratching up the OSB, it was a definite no. If we do replace the OSB, we can paint it on the side then.

 Under the bed, on the left (which is the side closest to the door), we secured a sheet of metal to be used for magnets. At the time, we kept books in a crate, and put the dresser on the right side, closest to the outside window.

We all really love this bed. My husband is definitely not a pro, and doesn't really have any special tools beyond a simple saw, jigsaw and drill, but he found it fairly simple for his skill level. It would have looked better with all the tools mentioned in the plans, I'm sure, but you can make do without them. The Ana White directions were easy to follow.

Evan loved his new bed, and still does to this day. We're hoping it can grow with him.

*Affiliate link: The comforter for the bed is a licensed Disney reversible comforter with generic planes on it. It does not have any characters on it at all, but I loved loved the design.

We've since moved the crib to our room, and sidecarred it to our bed. In doing this, we freed up a good amount of space and moved the dresser out from under the bed. We put a bookshelf in it's place.
In the future, I want to make a book sling next to the pillow on the bed, and block the gaps in the rails. There was one night that Evan somehow got stuck in the rails - we have NO clue how, because he would have to be wedged down under the mattress somehow. Luckily it hasn't happened again. But better safe than sorry.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Our Experience with Ladybug Land

I knew I wanted Evan to learn from the garden this summer. He's three and a half now, and very curious. At first I just wanted to buy a few books about gardens and bugs, but when I saw the Insect Lore kits, I just knew I had to have them! We decided to start by trying out Ladybug Land. 

 Materials pictured in this post:
 What else we used to learn about Ladybugs:
  • Book: The Grouchy Ladybug
  • Ladybug Worksheets (there will be a separate post with these freebies)

 I ordered from Amazon, so when the dome arrived, I still had to "order" the little bugs. When they arrive, they are larva in a tube. By the time they got to my house, some had already died - which I figure is to be expected. There is food in the tube with them, and then you just have to wet a little sponge in the top of the dome every couple days to keep them hydrated. There are instructions that came with the kit and detail all of this, but of course my kids destroyed them. (Luckily, that was after we didn't need them anymore.)

It was only a couple days after we got them that they began to get bigger. Evan loved checking on them each day! I was overly cautious, to be honest, because I worried he would take the lid off. Turns out, it's not so easy to come off that a kid can take it off accidentally. So that's a good thing. When we weren't checking on them, they were kept up on a high shelf out of reach, because I'm certain that cats would have found a way in.

Watching them grow was great. I really think we'll have to do it again when the boys are older. Oliver is only a year old, so he didn't really benefit this time. Ever since the Ladybugs, Evan has been even more interested in bugs and nature. He had a blast releasing them - mostly because I finally let him hold them.
Sadly, since releasing them, we haven't seen them again. I have a feeling they would have been more likely to stick around if our garden had been more established at the time, so next time we'll probably do it midsummer instead of in the spring.

**All opinions herein are my own. I was not paid for my opinion, nor did I receive free product. I actually used gift cards I earned from Swagbucks to purchase the products in this blog post, of my own choice. There are affiliate links in this post, and I benefit from people clicking through my links.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Very Versatile Chocolate Play Dough!

Back in February, I made chocolate play dough with this recipe HERE. I figured it would go well with some cookie cutters and my cute little silicone heart tray for Valentine's Day. I didn't realize at the time just how versatile the play dough could be! It worked well as pretend chocolate. Something else I noticed about it, though, was as long as I wrapped it up tight and didn't let air get to it, I could save it for quite awhile. **At the time of writing this, I have had one batch for 4 months, and it's still going strong.

When Easter rolled around, I had an epiphany. It went great with those empty Easter eggs that we had in storage, and even better with some shape sorter eggs. After having let Evan explore the play dough with these new tools, I have come to the decision that these shape sorter eggs are one of my favorite toys to use with play dough. It was so neat watching him explain everything he knew.
"This one's a triangle!" he would say as he squished play dough between the two parts.
The shape eggs could actually be used with any other play dough, or on their own, to go with a bird unit or sensory bin. I plan on keeping them in general rotation from now on, rather than putting them away with the other seasonal goods.

Next year, chocolate play dough could even be packaged up to be part of a little ones Easter basket. I actually stored some of mine wrapped up in saran wrap and tucked inside an empty Hershey's cocoa powder container. What a neat Easter surprise, as long as you make sure the kid knows not to eat it! Make sure any chocolate play dough is kept in an air tight package. If it starts to dry, it will turn white and look very unappetizing.

Some other creative uses for chocolate play dough would be as "dirt" or ground. That's likely how we'll use it through the summer. Evan loves to use his Play Doh Chuck the Truck and Friends toys whenever we have play dough out. His favorite is the excavator. They're really great toys, and while they come with tiny containers of Play Doh, it's always fun to have a lot more to use!

** This post is not sponsored, but does include affiliate links. All opinions in this post are my own.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

10 Easter Basket Fillers for Older Toddlers

 I don't really buy much for the kids throughout the year. Most of the toys and whatnot they get come from holidays. When it comes to choosing what they get, I tend to put a lot of thought into it. I especially love when what I buy for the boys will enrich their days, or provide some sort of learning.

1. Books.
We love books in this house, and I hope that my boys continue to love books throughout their lives. Every holiday they get numerous books. Some of Evan's favorites are Disney themed, like his favorite movies. He has quite a few Cars and Planes themed 'Step Into Reading' books. For non-Disney, he especially loves the 'Amazing Machines' series, which has books about everything from Fire Engines to Submarines.

2. Mr. Potato Head.
This one is a classic. If you don't have the original, start there. My son was 2 when we got him the original Mr. Potato Head, and he loved it. He's gone back and forth since, but will still play with it... when we can find all the parts. He also loves his Iron Man Potato Head which runs smaller than the classic, so his parts are not interchangeable. I plan on getting the whole Avengers set, because there's a lot of superhero love in our house. But if you're into other things, they have Daleks from Dr. Who, Yoda, and even Elvis.

3. Basic Blocks.
We have a good variety, because I like to mix up what the boys play with, and they all perform differently. We have simple CitiBlocs which are just wood planks. I look forward to watching my boys imaginations grow. We also have Mega Bloks, which Evan started with, but now Oliver is exploring those. Since Evan is getting older, we have moved onto Lego Duplo for him, which have lots of fun sets.

4. Sensory Materials.
There is nothing more fun than a sensory bin for my kids. Maybe it's the fact that it usually ends in a giant mess. We love this fine motor set from Learning Resources. Whenever I do a sensory bin, I include a few different things. Sometimes the fine motor tools, or maybe random tongs, spoons, measuring cups, and funnels. This year, my boys are getting some water beads in their Easter basket to mix things up.

5. Loose Parts.
I'm really getting into just giving Evan a bunch of random stuff and letting him go at it. I'm trying to nurture his creativity as best I can. A lot of times he'll ask for some direction, and for me to show him things he can do. I'm hoping that with more chances at free play with loose parts, he'll be more creative on his own. We have glass beads, measuring cups, pom poms, bottle caps and more that he has regular access to, but I want to broaden his materials. One problem is I have to keep all of this out of reach of Oliver, because most of these are choking hazards. I plan on adding small mirrors  and marbles (or maybe wooden marbles).

6. Do-A-Dot.
I love my Do-A-Dot markers. There are so many things you can do with them. I've had Evan do simple printables I've found online, but I've also just given him freedom and watched to see what he could come up with. I feel like these are a "must have" for every toddler.

Stock photo from Amazon.

7. Shape Sorter Eggs.
My son loves these silly eggs. I tried to put them aside in the basement so that I could "re-introduce" them this year... yeah, that failed, because he found them. But anyway, this one is great for introducing colors and shapes.

8. Wooden Train Tracks and Accessories.
We love wooden train tracks here. We have a train table, but mostly the tracks end up laid out on the floor. I love the troubleshooting and though processes that go into playing with train tracks. We already have enough basic track, but we could always use more fun accessories to add on. I've been wanting to get the SureTrack locking system to keep tracks in place.

9. Play Doh.
Evan really seems to prefer the homemade stuff, but any play dough will suffice. I have different rules for homemade than I do for store bought. Both should stay at the table, but I let Evan mix the Play Doh colors together. Ever since I had two different homemade play doughs react oddly together, he can only have homemade dough one at a time. Evan especially loves his Chuck the Truck Play Doh accessories, like the Excavator that grandma bought him.

10. Pattern Blocks.
Specifically, we like our pattern block magnets. Evan loves them, and I like that they stay in place so neat designs don't get knocked around. He's gotten pretty good at creating his own patterns and making abstract images with the shapes.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through one of the product links I’ll receive compensation. This does not cost you anything. All opinions in this blog post are my own.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Making Monster Valentines

This post contains affiliate links.

 This post is a little late to help much for this year, but I just wanted to share. Evan doesn't go to preschool or daycare, so we don't have anybody to "exchange" valentines with. However, I wanted something to give to the grandparents, and to keep for ourselves as a keepsake of sorts.
We have a crafting playgroup, and I brought the supplies for monster valentines for the kids to do, as well as some cute coloring pages. You can find the coloring pages over here, and the printable for the monster valentines here. I found both on Pinterest, of course.
I was too distracted to get pictures of the setup or while Evan was putting them together. I used little sponges to do the "body" so that I could set it aside to dry without a mess. Once it was dry, I had multiple options for the googly eyes.
I found these really neat stickers to use (here), which are great for kids who are too young to be trusted with glue! Then I also had a pack of normal googly eyes to be used with glue (here). Evan is 3 and is to a point where he understands how to use glue, though he loves twisting it up and down just for fun, but he had fun with the sticker ones too. The only thing I didn't like about the sticker eyes was that they didn't have the same variety of size. I look forward to using the sticker eyes for other crafts too!