Category: Activities

Primary Color Blending Sludge

Primary Color Blending Sludge

I can’t think of an eloquent word for the consistency that this creates. Paste? Slop? Sludge? It’s gooey and colorful and a little bit gross, which I think makes it perfect for young kids, always happy to stick their hands in goop.

This little activity is super simple and great entertainment for the kids. It’s messy, it’s fun, and my kids always love some good quality sensory play. As an added benefit, you can choose to do primary colors as an educational example of color blending.

A word of warning: this is an outdoor activity! Make sure that you immediately wash vinegar off of wood. I am a little embarrassed to admit that by letting my children do this inside on our table, I accidentally ruined the table by rushing them off to the bathtub rather than cleaning up first. On the bright side, it was a very old, beat up table, so now I get to learn how to fix it.

Supplies:

Baking soda

Water

Food coloring or watercolors (food coloring may stain hands)

Bowls and utensils for mixing

(Optional) squirt bottles with vinegar water–careful where you do this!

Steps:

1. In your bowls, add a cup or so of baking soda. You may use as many bowls/colors as you like.

2. Add water until it turns into a pasty consistency and stir together.

3. Add food coloring and stir.

4. Separate colors into containers. I did some stripes of color in a large Tupperware container for each kid.

 

5. Give them their squirt bottles and watch them have fun.

SA Outdoor Adventures for Kids

SA Outdoor Adventures for Kids

Hey, hey, hey! Today, as with many August days here in San Antonio, it’s nice and sweltering. Sure, it may get down to 90, but you’d never know it with the humidity. Of course, the heat keeps us indoors in an attempt to avoid it a lot of the time, but it’s still important to get out and go somewhere. I’m a serious believer in the importance of exposure to nature for so many reasons, so we always try to go out and explore outside a couple of times a week.

Here’s my personal list of what makes something a great day (morning or afternoon) destination:

$$$–is it cheap, or even better, free?

Will my small children be happy there?

Safety, weather, and you know, preparedness things

We moved back in February, so I have certainly not scoped out the hottest mom spots in San Antonio by any means, but here’s our favorite spots to kill some time outside with the kid monsters!

1. Guadalupe River State Park

Okay, so not in the city, I know. But hear me out! This beautiful state park is easy to get to, just a drive up Blanco Road to 46. In addition it’s extremely family friendly: they have camping, hiking, a playground (currently closed, boo), a children’s discovery center, a ton of picnic tables, and of course, swimming. There’s deeper water for parents and older kids, but for smaller children there’s also a wonderful section of shallow water. My water-timid 3 year old gets to play and splash around without being worried here. We like to take a big mat and lounge in the shade. Hands down my favorite spot to cool off.

$$$–We have a state parks pass so it’s worth it for us to go. If you don’t, you will have to pay a day use fee.

Happy kids? Very. Always have a hard time leaving.

Preparation–sunscreen (please use a non-toxic kind!), swimsuits, shade, water, snacks, water shoes (don’t underestimate how painful river rocks can be on bare feet), and whatever water safety devices you feel appropriate.

2. Phil Hardberger Park

If you’ve never been to Hardberger Park with your kids it’s definitely worth a trip. This place is huge and even has two entrances, one on Blanco Rd and one on Military. There are dog parks and playgrounds on each side near the parking lots. In addition, the hiking trails just can’t be beat. There’s a large picnic area on each side, benches on some of the trails, and even a large overlook. We go hiking here a couple of times a week and always have a great time. Sometimes we do nature scavenger hunts here while hiking to engage the kids.

$$$–free

Happy kids? Usually. Sometimes a kid gets mad that she has to walk or ride in the stroller instead of being carried.

Preparation–sunscreen (or sun hat and sleeves), water

3. San Antonio Zoo + Brackenridge Park

We purchased zoo memberships as soon as we moved. It was a no brainer for us, we went to the LA Zoo all the time in California, and it wasn’t even particularly close! The girls absolutely love it. And with all the fun enclosures (sorry, animals) and features I can’t blame them. Plus, summer animatronic dinosaurs! You can take a (very short) ride on the carousel, see the pigs and goats at the petting zoo or ride the train. You could spend hours in the splashpad area. There’s all sorts of outdoor things over in the kid’s area, including adorable mini benches. There’s even a small discovery center for the kiddos. If that’s not enough (and let’s be real, you might be beat, but the munchkins have some magical reserve of energy just for moments like this) Brackenridge park is right outside!

$$$–just buy a membership. If you go twice it’s worth it.

Happiness factor? Kids always enjoy it. Even Matt and I are usually glad we went. Exhausted, but glad.

Preparation–sun protection, water

4. Eisenhower Park

I really enjoy this place. There are more difficult hiking trails if that’s what you’re looking for, easy paved trails if you need something simpler. There are nice, wooded trails, too. I like taking the double stroller here. There’s a nice little playground and a large climbing wall for older kids.

$$$–free

Fun level–decent. My kids are always happy if they get to play on a playground.

Preparation–sun protection, water

5. Orsinger Park

Now you should have a very good idea of where I live! This is our basic time-killing place. It’s got a large pavillion for events, bathrooms, a sandbox, and a very large, nice playground. Karissa is obsessed with the sandbox, but Madilyn always has to be coaxed into playing in the sand. There’s lots of lovely cedar elms and picnic tables scattered throughout the grove behind the play equipment. We always go for a little walk through the trails, too.

$$$–free (ca-ching!)

Happy? Oh, so very happy.

Preparation–a diligent parent might bring hydration? I usually don’t…eek. It’s okay, though, because water fountains.

Big Kid Bonus: Tom Slick Park

I’ve only been here once, but the playground was awesome. It was definitely better for older kids, but the play equipment was shaded and I was impressed. There’s a lake with a nice, easy trail to walk, exercise equipment, and what I’m pretty sure was a baseball diamond. This one is on the west side but was a really fun adventure.

$$$–free

Happiness–thumbs up

Preparation–sun protection, water

 

Dinosaur Week!

Dinosaur Week!

Sometimes I like to do themes for the kids for a day, a few days, a week, or whatever. The local zoo has a fun summer thing set up where there are animatronic dinosaurs throughout the place, so I thought that this would be a really fun way to get the girls excited about going to the zoo to see the dinosaurs! If you aren’t near San Antonio, and thus don’t have a zoo or something to take them to see the dinosaurs, you can add a fifth day of dinosaur activities.

Warning: this post is a bit long extreme. I’m going to put a link to some of the recipes instead of inserting the whole recipe so that the length will be a little more reasonable.

Pro tip: my kids are young enough that we can add the word dinosaur to almost anything and make it more exciting, hence the general basis of my naming theme.

Disclosure: some of the supplies linked are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you use this link to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Day 1

Recipe: Prehistoric Peanut Butter Cookies

Recipe here.

Activity: Dinosaur Dance Party

My girls play this silly game where they put blankets on their heads and run around saying, “I’m a scary dinosaur!” They also really like to dance and listen to music. I thought, why not try to combine these two things? Plus, thanks to Sandra Boynton, we have a pretty good idea of how dinosaurs like to dance. So throw a blanket on your head and break out your best velociraptor moves!

Day 2

Craft: Dinosaur Sticker Collage

We found these awesome holographic dinosaur stickers at the dollar tree and have some others from Michaels. With the ridiculous amount of stickers I’ve collected, it’s hard to keep track of where they come from. These stickers seem like a lot of fun.

When we do focused crafts like these I like to do them with the kids so they can see my idea of how to do it. They do whatever they want, of course, but it’s fun to do together. First, with a green piece of paper, cut out a basic “ground” shape. You might need to do this for kids, too. On a second piece of paper (orange, yellow, or blue), glue this ground to the bottom. Now the dinosaurs have somewhere to roam!

Next, bust out the markers. We’re going to add some rocks, grass, trees, and a sun–or whatever you want to, that’s just what I’m adding. Landscape complete!

Add dinosaur stickers! Proudly display artwork on wall.

Activity: Dinosaur pool party

On this nice summer afternoon we’re filling up our cheesy eight dollar blow up pool and adding plastic dinosaur toys. Voila! Simple and still on theme.

Day 3

Craft: Dinosaur watercolors

I know, it sounds lame. I’ll be totally honest, too: it’s pretty lame. The kids will be happy, though. For this you’re just going to cut out the most basic dinosaur shape that you can out of construction or printer paper (you can trace, sketch, draw, or print one out if you need to–there are a ton of awesome free printable coloring pages available via a quick google image search).

Looking at Google images for assistance

Once you have your dinosaur, simply hand it to them with some watercolors. They will have a blast painting their own dinosaur. Once done, I like to let them (or do it myself) glue this to a second piece of colored paper and display on the wall once dry.

Recipe: Stone Age Soup

So, here’s the deal with Stone Age Soup…it’s really just a way to get everything that’s been sitting unused in the fridge into edible form. Squash, carrots, onion, frozen veggies, old meat or a scoop of gelatin…What I’m saying is that you probably don’t need to go out and buy ingredients. It’s a mom way of framing something dull into something a little more fun.

Day 4

Activity: Dinosaur Containers

These are what we’ve been using as our portable busy boxes lately due to the current dinosaur obsession. But it turns out every morning before breakfast they want to play with these while I cook. Win!

Recipe: T-Rex Treats

Recipe here.

Day 5

Day 5 must be awesome. It’s what all the days have been leading up to, which is why on day 5, we have zoo day! Alternatively, you can use these awesome endings.

Recipe: Dinosaur Pancakes

Recipe here.

I tried dinosaurs three ways: freehand, using a squirt bottle, and pouring into cookie cutters.

The squirt bottle probably would have been amazing if I used regular pancake batter, but I had some almond flour clump and clog the nozzle.

Cookie cutters worked the best, but the first batch I didn’t remove the cookie cutter quick enough and they got stuck.

Some of these attempts were just plain hilarious:

Strange monster and swirls
Turtle and witch “dinosaurs”

Activity: Paleontological Excavation

This might seem like a bit of work, but it’s really not so bad. Just bear with me.

First, you need to decide where your “dig” is going to happen. If you want to fill a tub with sand or dirt, that’s great. I’m going to pick a little patch of dirt outside because I think my girls will enjoy that a lot, and I’m not using it. Plus, it’s good for them to be in the dirt.

Next, locate some plain rocks that you can draw or paint on. I’m going to be lazy about it and just draw with a white paint marker. I have two kids, so I’m doing about 10 each. Draw some bones on there–the beauty of this is that they can be ugly/imperfect and it’s no big deal.

Bury your dinosaur “bones” in your excavation site. Be sure to spread them out a bit. If you’re doing this outside like us, stick some small sticks around the outside to mark the area and “rope” it off with some string.  Be sure to create separate dig sites for each kid.

Hand them a shovel and let them dig!

Simple Activity Schedule

Simple Activity Schedule

I’m not good at sticking to complicated things. I like to have the freedom to go spend the day out and about without feeling like I need to rush home. Sometimes when we’re at home, though, the kids get restless, and I feel like the day is easier if I have a schedule to fall back on.

This is the activity schedule that we’ve been (loosely) following lately. If they don’t want to do something on the schedule I don’t force them, this is just designed to make the day flow a little easier and make all of us a little happier.

Disclosure: some of the supplies linked are affiliate links, meaning that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you use this link to make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Morning Music

Before I’ve had time to wake up and become less of a grouchypants, we start by singing a few little songs. It puts me in a good mood (usually) and encourages that patient mom part of me. I also think that it helps them with their patience a little bit, too. Plus, I just think that music is a very important skill to encourage.

If I find that I just really don’t have it in me I’ll set out some instruments instead–they have a keyboard and xylophone that they really enjoy.

We sing lots of Little Baby Bum songs and songs from these children’s music CDs that we use as car music.

Breakfast

Next is breakfast, also known around here as morning monster feeding! Karissa will usually start saying that she wants food and little sister mimics this. Half of the time they repeat it enough to drive me crazy, and the other half of the time they must notice that I’m already crazy because they leave it alone. Sometimes I’ll give them something to do at the table while they wait. This usually helps but depending on the activity can also lead to more mess to clean up.

Skill Building 

After food it’s time to clear the table and do some activities that require thinking! This is when we get out the puzzles, do pom pom color sorting, counting exercises, or lacing. Madilyn isn’t super into the puzzles, but I like watching Karissa do them. She will try for a while and then if she can’t get it she will start to get frustrated, but just ask for help.

Outside Time 

I think that it’s important to get a little Vitamin D  every day, preferably without toxic sunscreen involved. Our backyard has a huge shade tree in it, so we don’t have to worry about too much sun when we’re back there. There’s a 95% chance that the kids want to play in water when we go outside, and only about 5% chance that I get out of it.

Snack

Quick, simple snack (hopefully). Lately it’s been leftovers, slices of things like peppers, carrots, cucumbers, cheese or meat.

Nap/Rest

Madi still absolutely NEEDS a nap every day. Her mood this afternoon indicates that she didn’t sleep enough. Karissa likes to skip naps to hang out with dad instead, but can get pretty grouchy in the afternoons if I let her skip. Naps are usually my favorite part of the day, because if both of them are sleepy then I get to nap and snuggle both kids. Mommies need naps, too!

Afternoon Art

After we take a nap, we’re all recharged and ready to go. This is the time for creativity and fun at the table! Sometimes it’s as simple as water painting (I love these Melissa and Doug water pads), practicing using scissors, or stringing beads into a necklace.

Focused Reading

We’re participating in the Half Price Book summer reading program. To be completely honest, this is mostly to motivate mommy and daddy to read to the kids more. They’ve both been showing lots of desire to read, and Karissa is constantly sitting with books in her lap trying to read by herself, reciting the story, or telling a story based on the pictures on the pages. This is very exciting for me, so I really want to help encourage that desire!

Karissa’s (older) current favorites: Go Dog Go, One Fish Two Fish, The Gruffalo, Barnyard Dance, Blue Hat Green Hat

Madilyn’s (younger) current favorites: Hand Hand Fingers Thumb, Little Yellow Bee, Moo Baa La La La, The Belly Button Book, any Karen Katz lift the flap book

My current favorites: Dinosaur Dance, The Gruffalo, And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street, But Not The Hippopotamus

Dinner

By the time dinner rolls around we’re all ready to sit down and eat together. Usually this is some kind of meat pan fried with vegetables thrown in, sometimes an easy crockpot concoction, or leftovers. Occasionally my husband makes a fantastic brisket that I can whip up veggies for, and usually they last us a week. Of course, after the first two or three days I start to dice it up and throw it in stir frys to make it less briskety.

Tidy Up

After dinner we try to get the kids to help us tidy up, I usually try to clean the kitchen and ask them to pick up toys and books. This is met with mixed success, but is infinitely more successful thanks to a work/reward system that I will be writing about soon.

Bedtime Routine

Baths, toothbrushes, diapers, pajamas, and bed!

By this time I’m thankful for some peace and quiet and ready to finish up what I need to get done and hit the hay myself.

Obviously some of our routines will be different than others, but this simple framework works great for our family.

Portable Busy Box

Portable Busy Box

Sometimes you go somewhere, like a restaurant or the doctor’s office, and the kids get bored and restless sitting there. What can you do?

I’ll admit that I have resorted to handing over my phone in some dire circumstances, and although I am never particularly proud of myself for this, I am thankful for the temporary reprieve that it offers.

However, I knew in my bones that there had to be a better way. And then suddenly, after a hankering for turkey lettuce wraps, the solution sat in front of me in the form of an empty lunch meat container.

Just a smallish container and the possibilities became endless.

Supplies:

A small container per child

Art supplies–colored pencils, crayons, markers, stickers, and coloring pages have worked well for me

Small, versatile toys–blocks, figurines, or even a puzzle might be fun

Directions:

Mix and match! I like to change the contents of the containers frequently because I enjoy their surprise when they see what’s inside.

That’s it! Cheap, simple, fun, and effective.

Bird Seed Sensory Play

Bird Seed Sensory Play

Well, sometimes it’s hard to keep your kiddos actively engaged, isn’t it? My younger daughter loves cups and pouring, usually with water, but sometimes I don’t want to deal with 2 soaking wet girls when it’s all over.

HEB had a coupon for a free bag of bird seed, which is just perfect for playing with! We can go sit outside and play as long as we like with it, then just sweep it into the yard when we’re done. No worries.

Supplies:

Bird seed

Buckets, cups, spoons, shovels, whatever else you think might be fun to play with

Kids

Steps:

Kind of a no brainer here. Just divide up your bird seed into small tubs or buckets and distribute play equipment. Being outside is a good idea. My older daughter doesn’t share well, so I have to split everything evenly.

Have fun with this relatively messless sensory activity!

Educational Nature Scavenger Hunt

Educational Nature Scavenger Hunt

Learning about nature and understanding the outdoors is an important and often underestimated component of a well rounded education. My children love to be outside, but on the rare occasion that they need a little bit of motivation to get moving, this is what we use!

A nature scavenger hunt is an ideal way to get kids outdoors, moving, and engaged in the world around them. It encourages development of motor skills, spatial awareness, and identification skills. I am always astonished at their ability to identify and remember information about plants and animals that we do this with.

My girls are 1 1/2 and 2 1/2, so short and simple works best for us right now. If your children are older a longer list will work better.

You will need:

Paper (I use standard 8 1/2 x 11)
Colored pencils, clip art, or printed pictures

Google for some quick facts

Pen or dry erase marker

(Optional) Laminator or water protective sheet cover and tape

Making the List:

Choose the objects, plants, or animals to be found. I enjoy doing plant hunts, so a plant themed list for us might look like this:

Acorn

Catbriar

Elm leaf

Oak leaf

Dewberry leaf

Wood sorrel

A mixed list might look something like this:

Squirrel

Cactus pad

Sunflower

Flint

Cardinal

Butterfly

Have fun and be creative. The more fun you have the more they will enjoy it, too.
Hand draw, insert clip art, or print pictures and place them on a sheet of paper as a visual guideline. I like to hand draw, even though I’m not the best at it, because it helps demonstrate that what you’re looking for will not always look the same and encourage critical thinking. Print the name of the object next to the image.

On the back it’s great to include some information about the things that you’re looking for. Hit up google or Wikipedia for two or three interesting tidbits. I find that engaging in conversation about the hunt really excites my 2 1/2 year old and stimulates her curiosity much more than just telling her what to look for. So, for example, I might put:

Acorn: Nuts of oak trees. Can be processed to make flour.

Catbriar: climbing vine with tendrils and thorns. Soft tips can be eaten.

Elm: Grow very tall. mistletoe likes to grow on elm trees.

Oak: Oak trees grow acorns. Wood is used for building.

Dewberry: small, thorny shrub. Relative of blackberries. White flowers turn into edible berries.

Wood sorrel: commonly mistaken for clover. Has heart shaped leaves. Leaves and flowers taste like lemon.

Laminate:

Laminate the scavenger hunt page if you have access to a laminator so that you can check the list off with a dry erase marker as you go. You can forego laminating if you want to use a plastic sheet protector and tape the top. I like to reuse these, and they can be customized appropriately for your location. In California, for example, we found pine cones and sweet gum seed pods, but in central Texas those things are notably absent, so they’ve been replaced with local flora.

I skipped this step because I do not have a laminator and can’t find my sheet protectors.

The Hunt:

Take your (hopefully) eager participant out into the great outdoors and turn them loose.

If you are on private property it’s really fun to collect the items that are collectible as you go. Afterwards we set the page down, lay the objects on top over the pictures, and talk about everything we found. This is a great way to engage in active learning with the kids–lots of times I’m learning along with them!

If you’re in a state park or other similar location, however, you may have to simply check your list off as you go and take pictures if you can. My daughters really love talking about everything we saw on our walks, so I highly encourage you to review afterwards.

Safety Tips:

I do think that a list of things to be cautious of is very important to cover at some point. Snakes, scorpions, ticks, wasps, and centipedes are obvious dangers, but some inconspicuous aggressors may lurk in the underbrush. Plants that might be listed include poison ivy, oak, or sumac, cactuses, agave, giant hogweed, and hemlock. Things like lilies, oleander, datura, and azaleas are commonly used in landscaping and are lovely, but toxic. Children as well as adults should be aware of this.

Use caution with any kind of foraging/edible information with kids. I’ve had problems with my older girl wanting to eat stuff outside when I’m not looking, so I’ve been withholding that kind of stuff for now or only under supervised situations.

It’s always a good idea to have a safe word for when you’re out and about. We use “hot” as an all-encompassing signal for danger. (This was a tip from Merriwether at http://www.foragingtexas.com/)

Happy Hunting!

Originally written as an Instructable: https://www.instructables.com/id/Educational-Nature-Scavenger-Hunt/

The Zebra Box

The Zebra Box

Hello and happy Friday! This week I’m excited about sharing something wonderful that’s been happening in our house. I hope that it might be of some service to you as well!

My kids hate to clean, which is fine–a lot of people don’t like to clean (myself included), and they’re both still very young. Nonetheless, it’s important that they learn to clean up after themselves. We ask them regularly to tidy up once they’re done playing, but they are oftentimes so busy having fun that my pleas go unnoticed.

One evening, after a particularly hectic day, I sat down on the bed and looked at the bedroom. Our girls sleep in our bed, but have two toddler beds as their own personal spaces. Clothes and toys littered the floor. As I was cleaning up the mess I had a multipurpose idea: what if someone left them each a small box to entertain them when they first woke up? I could wake up more leisurely and get dressed without hearing “mommy, pick me up,” and they would be happy. Perhaps the condition under which this occurs is that the floor is clean enough to walk through.

The first morning when we woke up I told them that on the way to bed I met a zebra that told me he’d like to do this for them, but it had been very hard for him to get into the room with so much stuff everywhere. If they kept it clean enough then he would make sure that they had new items in the box every morning. The box is very simple: a few quiet, low key items such as a book, a stuffed animal, and some blocks or figurines.

To my surprise, it’s working! Tonight before bed it was extremely messy in the living room, so daddy asked them to please pick up so that the zebra could fit through the living room, and to both of our astonishment they both tidied up the entire floor (while singing “Tidy Up” from Little Baby Bum).

The stray necklace came later.

My two and a half year old excitedly jumps out of bed to see what’s in her box! What other creative ways do you get your kids to help out? I’d love tips and new ideas!

 

Toddler Activities for Rainy Days

Toddler Activities for Rainy Days

Well, we had told the kids that we would go to the zoo today because it was supposed to be cooler. We woke up to a dark sky and pouring rain–no way was the zoo happening. Boo!

Oh well. I felt bad, though. I wanted to give them something different and engaging to do.


Activity 1: pom pom toss

I used painter’s tape to tape some toilet paper and paper towel rolls to the wall and handed each a cup full of pom poms. Karissa loved this and kept going back to it constantly.

Bonus Activities: Madilyn dropped a few through the tubes before deciding that it wasn’t really her thing. She decided to sit down and sort the pom poms instead (she really loves pom poms), and then wanted to stick and unstick tape to the wall for a while.

Relocated pom pom toss

Activity 2: Paper Basketball

My mom in law constantly gets junk mail clothing catalogues, so today we utilized them! We made some crumpled paper “balls” and tried to throw them in our bucket “baskets.” Alas, mommy doesn’t have great aim.

Oh well, still fun.


Activity 3: Straw Bead Necklaces

I still love crafts, but since we moved I’m not sure where everything is. This is really easy–all you need is some stiff string (we used paracord), plastic straws, and scissors to cut your straws into beads.  Give them to little hands for great motor skills practice. I was very impressed with both girls, Madi even strung the beads herself.

So proud of her work

I love getting to share what we do with you and I’m always looking for new fun and/or easy activities to do with my girls. What does your family do for fun on rainy days?

Painting with babies

Painting with babies

Karissa has recently fallen in love with art projects. Which is awesome, I love art. I’ve been trying to encourage artistic exploration for probably a year now and it’s just starting to blossom in her. Madilyn likes to draw, too, so it’s very fun.

I’m still not used to the chaotic nature of toddler arts and crafts, though. I handle the mess just fine, but it still surprises me sometimes just how much paint there is. It looks like such a minuscule amount when you squeeze it out of the bottle.

In all of my mommy brilliance I thought, 2 year old and 1 year old–let’s do an art project. We’ll do a handprint zoo! What could go wrong?

Lots, mom. Lots.

So I already know that Madi can’t have regular paint. I squeezed food coloring gel and tossed sprinkles onto her tray to entertain her.

Karissa made her own artwork and put a “lion” handprint on our group zoo paper. Madilyn did what would be the tiger.

Buuuuut Karissa wanted to paint a lion herself.  So much for the zoo. So cute, though. We ended up with a red globby mess and a happy kid. No real lesson here except to expect to be flexible with your expectations.