Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Dough

With a chilly breeze in the air and pumpkin spice creamer in my fridge, I've got fall on my brain. The tastes, sights, sounds, and smells combine to make fall my favorite season. For this playdough activity, I combined one of those sights and one of those smells.

I made some no-cook playdough and colored it orange. Then, I mixed in a little cinnamon, just enough to cover the salty dough smell. I hadn't intended for taste to be a part of this activity, but Baby Bear did. The face he made with that little taste of cinnamon-y saltiness was hysterical! It wasn't hard to convince him to explore only with his hands rather than his mouth after that. :)

Squishing the dough!

Tearing the dough into little bits

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Drizzle Painting

For a fall art activity, I decided to make some yellow and red corn starch paints and let Baby Bear paint them into a mix of fall hues. I accidentally made them a little thicker than I intended, which did not work well for finger painting, but my little Baby Bear made his own fun painting technique. I called it drizzle painting.

Baby Bear began by pouring some of the yellow onto the paper and tried to paint with his fingers. When this did not work, he picked the container back up and began drizzling it all over. I guess he liked this effect because he did the same with the red.

When he moved the paper, the red and yellow paint oozed and mingled, creating a fun marbled look.

Baby Bear was pleased with the activity. The only bad part about the thick paint was that we could not keep the picture for hanging because the paint flaked off too easily once dry.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Anatomy of a Jack-O-Lantern

Baby Bear already knows the parts of a face, but when I saw these foam stickers out with the Halloween decorations, I couldn't resist an opportunity to reinforce these concepts in a fun way.

I began by drawing a pumpkin on a piece of peel-n-stick no-mess paper. Baby Bear helped a little, hence the smudge marks along the bottom. Then, I added stickers to create a face, naming the parts as I added them. I used this as an example for Baby Bear to follow for the next part.

Next, I grabbed another sheet of paper and drew an oval for a face. I handed Baby Bear the eyes and had him help me place them correctly to make a face. We did the same with the nose and mouth.

Baby Bear loves peeling off stickers just as much as he loves putting them on things. Once both faces were done, he spent some time peeling off and resticking them.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Back to Basics: Classic Toy #5

When I started blogging about classic toys, a friend of mine mentioned the ring-stacking toy. I think this is a common one that pops into people's heads when you bring up classic toys. This one is another favorite of Baby Bear's. When he first got this toy, all he wanted to do was pull the rings off. Then, he began stacking the rings in no particular order, which was good for his fine-motor skills. Now, he remembers the order they go in and can place them correctly in just one try. Or, if he does accidentally grab the wrong ring, he notices the gap between rings and fixes it, which has been great for helping him develop critical thinking skills.


Hmm, this isn't right...

That's better!

Monday, September 26, 2011

More Sensory Bottles

After reading some fantastic ideas for discovery bottles on the Pre-school Play blog, I just had to make a few of them, or ones similar to them, for Baby Bear. I hot glued the tops on because he likes to try to open containers now. These are the ones I made:

  • 1/3 oil, 2/3 water, 3 drops food coloring, 1t glitter in a plastic bottle
  • About 10 decorative glass stones in a bottle of shampoo with the label peeled off
  • The letters of Baby Bear's first name written on an index card and cut into individual letters thrown into a plastic bottle with shredded metallic tissue paper
  • Silk flowers sprayed with a floral perfume in an empty spice container (I left the lid so that it would open and Baby Bear could smell the flowers.) (Notes about this sensory bottle: 1) Make sure the flowers and their parts are too big to fall through the holes of the lid. 2) Choose your spice container wisely. I did not, and mine ended up smelling like flower perfume mixed with the spice that container used to hold. Not pretty.)

Water Colors

After letting him use paintbrushes to paint with water in the driveway, Baby Bear kept pulling the brushes out wanting to use them again. Seeing the opportunity for another art activity, I obliged.

I decided to try using colored water as a sort of toddler-friendly water colors activity. I filled 2 small plastic containers with about 1oz of water each. Then, I added just enough orange drink mix to one container to color the water without leaving clumps at the bottom. I didn't have any other colors of drink mix at the time, so I added a couple drops of blue food coloring to the other container. Add 1 paintbrush, 2 pieces of white construction paper, and an eager toddler to the mix, and you've got a great outdoor painting activity!

Baby Bear tried dipping the brush into the paint at first, but he became impatient and dumped the orange water on to his paper. He painted this way for a minute or so.

Then, he grew impatient with the paintbrush and decided to try painting with his hands. This did not work as well as he had hoped because the water soaked into the paper too fast for him to spread it much. He still had fun drizzling the colored water onto the paper, though.

While the blue water created a brighter picture than the orange water, I think we'll stick to using drink mixes for this activity in the future. The blue food coloring stained Baby Bear's skin a little. It came out after a couple of washes, but Baby Bear wasn't too keen on being a Smurf.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Painting with Water

For the life of me, I cannot remember (nor find) where I read about this idea. If/when I finally come across it again, I will be sure to post an idea credit at the bottom of this post. Anyway, here is the idea: paint with water. That's it! I just filled a bowl with water, grabbed a couple of paintbrushes for Baby Bear and myself, and sat us down in the driveway to paint.

Painting with water basically gives you a reusable canvas because once the water dries, you can start all over again. Baby Bear didn't quite understand the appeal of painting with the water, but he did like splashing with the paintbrush and letting it drip all over the cement. I imagine as he gets older, the painting part will become more interesting. Also, when he is a little older, I can turn this into a fun lesson on evaporation and the water cycle. There really is a lot of gray between learning and having fun!

Frozen Treasure Hunt

In my search for summertime, toddler-friendly activities, I came across this idea on the Messy Kids blog. Take various small toys, freeze them in some water, and let the kids watch the toys magically appear as the ice melts. I decided to give it a go with Baby Bear. I froze a shape from his sorter, a pig from his Little People farm, a bath toy, and a pacifier in 4oz plastic containers.

At first, Baby Bear just stared at the figures and tried to figure out what on earth Mama Bear had done this time.

After a few minutes of observing the frozen treasures, Baby Bear decided they needed to go in the pool... and so did he! He really wanted to see what would happen if he ran the hose over the frozen objects. (I think he realized it made them melt faster... he's too smart!)

The frozen pacifier had the best reaction! Once Baby Bear realized what was hidden in that block of ice, he kept trying to put it in his mouth, ice and all! After a couple minutes of laughing and taking pictures, I helped him break off the remaining ice. ;)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Back to Basics: Classic Toy #4

 Around our house, we love blocks! Almost every evening after Papa Bear gets home from work, Baby Bear grabs his bag of blocks and wants us to build with him. Sometimes Baby Bear just wants to destroy whatever we are building, sometimes he wants to help, and sometimes he builds a figure of his own. Sometimes Papa Bear and I will keep building even after Baby Bear has moved on to a different toy. :)

Until Baby Bear began playing with blocks, I didn't realize just how much hand-eye coordination goes into making two blocks fit together. This toy was actually a little frustrating to Baby Bear for a little while because he wanted to make the blocks to go together, but this skill didn't come naturally. It took a lot of practice and a little help, but eventually he got it. The tip that helped our Baby Bear the most was telling him to pat down a block after he put it on top of another one so they would stay together. The first time this worked gave him such a sense of accomplishment!

Showing Grandma his mad skills

Spot Sprinkler

As stores were just starting to move summer stock out and fall stock in, I found a little flower-shaped spot sprinkler on sale. My son loves the fountains he can play in at a nearby shopping center, so I thought he would probably like this, too. I was wrong; he didn't just like it, he LOVED it!!! Simple, affordable, and so much fun!

Baby Bear giving himself a shower :D

Splashing a little

Getting a drink

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Back to Basics: Classic Toy #3

Baby Bear loves his pop-up toy for two reasons. First, it's Sesame Street. Second, the toys suddenly appearing makes him smile almost every time. What mother doesn't love a toy that makes her kid smile? Not to mention, learning to make the toys pop up helps develop fine motor skills, finger/hand strength, and hand-eye coordination. This particular one is especially hard to work (a yard sale find, so I'm not sure how old it is... newer ones I've checked out in stores seem easier to use), so I would recommend examining how user-friendly a pop-up toy is before purchase. I think even the harder to use ones are worthwhile if they include some favorite characters, though.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Water Play

I wanted to change things up a bit to let Baby Bear play with water aside from his baby pool and the bath tub. So, I collected various containers, toys, and kitchen tools along with the hose. I filled the containers with water, threw the tools and toys in, and sat Baby Bear down to see what he would do.

He immediately began using the toys and kitchen tools to pour water from one container to another. He splashed and poured to his heart's content. I also let him play with the hose running on low for a little while. He had a blast! This type of water play lasted at least half an hour.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Back to Basics: Classic Toy #2

In my opinion, there are few better places to look to find a simple, fun, classic toy than the kitchen cupboards. Pots, pans, mixing bowls, spoons, spatulas, and whisks can turn a little one like my Baby Bear into a one-man-band. As I make dinner, Baby Bear and I sing songs, and he keeps the time with his "instruments."

Dr. Seuss Nursery

One of the first things I began to plan when Papa Bear and I found out there would be a little Baby Bear was the nursery. There were so many cute, gender-neutral themes and color schemes to choose from! In spite of Papa Bear's protests, we did not find out if we were having a boy or a girl until the day Baby Bear was born.

One day, while searching the Babies R Us site for the umpteenth time, I came across a Dr. Seuss crib bedding set, and I was in love! It was a little on the boyish side, but deep down I was pretty sure our Baby Bear was a boy, anyway. This led me to search for pictures other people had posted of Seuss-themed nurseries, which led me to projecting and painting my own images on the nursery walls.

I began by choosing the images I wanted to include. Then, I connected a projector to my laptop and projected the images one at a time where I wanted to paint them. I stenciled the outline of where each color would go in pencil. Next, I painted each color (it looked like a bunch of color blobs at this point). Finally, I carefully reprojected the images onto the wall so that I could trace all the details in black Sharpie. For the quotes above two of the pictures I just used letter stencils and paint. My wrists ached, and I must have gone through almost two dozen Sharpies, but I had fun, and it was a great way to pass the time during my third trimester.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 peeking out from the sides of the window. I had to manipulate these images a little on my computer before projecting them to get them at these angles.


Crib with Cat in the Hat bedding (I used a different sheet because I thought the one that came with it was too busy). I also framed some flashcards themed from Dr. Seuss's ABC's to spell Baby Bear's name above the crib.
Balloon guy

You can find these decor items and more at and at I was pleased to discover the other day that the Seuss Land site has added many more items to their store. What a great way to share a love of reading with a baby right from the start!

Ice Play

Sorry it has taken me so long to upload some of my summertime activities. I took the pictures on my phone, and my phone was having issues with the pictures. All is well now, though.

Around here, our hot days a numbered (thank goodness!), but playing with ice is a fun activity for those summer days that remain. All I did for this activity was dump a couple dozen ice cubes into a large, plastic mixing bowl, set Baby Bear outside where it was war, and let him play. That's it! As he touched the ice, I repeated many times, "Cold. The ice is cold," followed by a shiver and "brrr" sound effect. As the ice melted, I explained to him in simple terms what he was seeing (i.e. Look! Now there is water!)

So simple, yet so fun for Baby Bear. :)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kool-aid Playdough 2

I found this recipe for Kool-Aid playdough that I think will work better. My guess is that the first recipe I posted did not work so well because of the sugar. This one uses salt instead. We are still using our no-cook dough, so when that one dries out we will try this one and let you know how it goes. I wanted to post the recipe now, though, in case anyone wanted to try it sooner. Let me know how it goes if you do!



  1. Mix dry ingredients, add wet.
  2. Knead until smooth (careful-- it's hot! may take a minute or two before you can really ditch the spoon and get your hands in there!) You may need to add extra flour for desired consistency.
  3. Now grab your cutters and rollers and whatever other playdough toys you like and have FUN!

Monday, September 12, 2011

No-Cook Playdough

Over the weekend, Baby Bear got to play with playdough for the first time! I actually made two kinds of playdough that day, one a no-cook recipe and one with peanut butter. I gave him the no-cook dough because it was evening, there was a 99.9% chance he would taste it, and the one with peanut butter contained a decent amount of sugar. :)

At first, Baby Bear just stared at the dough looking a little confused about what it was. Was it food? Was it a toy? Then, he started poking and prodding it. This must have passed his initial test because the next thing I knew he was merrily squishing it between his fingers. This lasted for a few minutes before the inevitable taste test. He must have like the saltiness because he kept trying to eat more. Papa Bear and I had to take the dough away after only about 5 minutes of play time because we did not want him to get sick off it. (The recipe is non-toxic and technically edible, but I imagine tasting more than just a little would leave one not feeling so well.)

I will try this activity with Baby Bear again soon, though. I think it was a great sensory exploration activity, and with practice Baby Bear will learn all the wonderful things he can do with playdough besides try to eat it.

Initial reaction
Papa Bear pulling Baby Bear's hand back as he tried to take a second taste
 This is the recipe I used from

1 1/2 cups boiling water
2 cups plain flour
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons cream of tartar
Stir together in a large bowl then play!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Kool-aid Paint

Previously, I posted a recipe for Kool-aid Playdough. Well, I tried this recipe, and it turned out gloopy and sticky, more like a thick paint. I tried to thicken it with more flour. I tried powdered sugar. It was still more reminiscent of paint than playdough, so we painted with it instead! Turns out, Kool-aid is a great way to create vibrant, edible paint colors! I am going to keep the recipe around, but we will use it for painting instead of playdough. I have found another Kool-aid Playdough recipe I want to try, though.

Baby Bear immediately grabbed a handful of the Kool-aid gloop and began painting.

He loved the thick, sticky texture!

When this happened, I thought for sure he would have pink hair for a week. Papa Bear and I let him play in the sprinkler after this, though, and it all washed out just fine.
This is the recipe I used from
1 c. water
2 tbsp. oil
1 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1 pkg. kool-aid, any flavor
Mix together water and oil. Microwave on HIGH for about 2 minutes. Remove and add flour, sugar and kool-aid. Mix together with a spoon.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Muffin Tin Sorter

In my search for ideas to entertain a toddler, I read over and over again that toddlers like to sort things. I ready many ideas for facilitating various sorting games, and most of these included using an egg carton or a muffin tin. I figured Baby Bear was more likely to chew on the egg carton than use it for sorting, so I went with the muffin tin.

I handed Baby Bear the muffin tin (which he had to play with by itself for a while because it was something new), and then I handed him a collection of small toys. I began placing the rings, balls, shapes from his shapes sorter, and Little People figures into the muffin tin so that each compartment held one toy. He was quick to upturn the muffin tin! In fact, this was the game we played the first few times we did this activity. Mama Bear sorted and Baby Bear emptied, which was fine because he was having fun.

Eventually, Baby Bear began helping me sort the toys into the muffin tin. This proved to be a good lesson in capacity as Baby Bear learned that if he tried to make all the toys fit in one compartment, that would not work. He also experimented with placing larger objects into the compartments and discovered that the big toys would not fit.

I love this activity because it is versatile. As he gets older and begins expanding his math skills (yes, matching is a math skill), I can extend this activity to include sorting by shape, color, and size. We could also sort by types of toys (i.e. Little People in one row, rings in another, shapes in another, balls in another).

The blog that convinced me to try this activity was The Imagination Tree.