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!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Valentine's Day Fine Motor Fun

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To work on Evan's fine motor skills, I had Evan sort pink and red colored pom poms into a silicone heart tray (here). I wasn't totally sure if he would go with it, but he's getting increasingly better at following directions. Not only did he go along with it, he had fun! He's actually asked to "play with his hearts" multiple times since I introduced it.

I got a set of plastic tongs (here) to use, but also allowed the option of tweezers that we already had handy. He used the tongs mostly, but I think he could use more practice with both. After a little bit, he resorted to using his hands because that was easier. I also noticed he was making a pattern of his own creation in the tray.

I love that the tray has multiple purposes. My next plan for it is for some play dough fun.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Get Fit on a Limited Budget

**This post contains affiliate links.
In a perfect world, we could all afford gym memberships, personal trainers, nutritionists, and more. Heck, maybe you only dream of being able to order Shakeology and the various Beachbody programs out there. And that's ok! You don't need ANY of that to get into better shape. Those are just perks.
Some of you are probably like me, just getting by. And I know we can't afford to spare money on a bunch fitness programs that may or may not get completed.
If you have absolutely zero money to spare, don't sweat it! You don't need expensive programs, diet products, or even a scale to get into better shape.
Start by simply moving more. I won't say "eat less" because I don't know your diet. If you're a calorie counter, throw out the "1200 calorie" expectation, and check out a personalized calorie calculator that takes into account your weight, height, and how active you are. I like the IIFYM calculator. You can join a free website like MyFitnessPal to keep track of your intake while also keeping track of your activities. Be aware that MFP's estimates (for calorie intake and for calorie burn) are simply estimates.
Free activities you can do to get active are going for walks, running (check out the free program/application C25K if you're not a runner), playing games with your kids, or even weight lifting. Right now, you might be thinking that you can't afford weights. That's OK! Do you have a child? They can be used as a weight. So can bottles or jugs of water, or pieces of furniture.

Some free workout plans include, but are not limited to the following:

Some inexpensive workout plans include the following:
Biggest Loser: Weight Loss Yoga

One of my resolutions is to actually complete all of the programs I currently have. The only one I've finished is 30 Day Shred, which gave me great results! Then I got pregnant. So now that Oliver is about 9 months old, it's beyond time to get back on the wagon. I'll be starting with PiYo, which I bought last summer.

If you've resolved to lose weight or get fit this year, how do you plan on getting there?