Saturday, September 19, 2009

Animal Addiction: 5 Steps for a Spectacular Safari

Here's a list of some fun animal inspired games and websites that will be sure to provide several hours of fun.

1. The ABCs with animals. This game is perfect for waiting rooms or while running errands. Take turns naming animals that start with each letter of the alphabet. Anteater, Bumblebee, Cat etc... This will get kids thinking and eat time with discussions of the difference between an anteater and aunteater (Shel Silverstein has a cute poem on this very topic).

2. Walk this way. Avoid parking lot meltdowns by asking kids to hop like a bunny, waddle like a duck, march like an ant etc... on their way into the store. How many different animals can you come up with? Do a bit of role reversal too and have your kids t

3. Visit where kids can design their own wild kingdom for free. Every wonder what a praying mantis crossed with a buffalo might look like? You can find out on this website!

4. Check out the San Diego Zoo webcams to see what animals are doing in real time. Just click on the Live cams tab at the top of the page and select which animal you would like to watch.

5. has the lyrics and, in some cases, music to a whole menagerie of animal songs.

6.Don't forget to set up a jungle hunt or safari. For older kids, hide some stuffed animals around the house/yard and give them a list of what they need to find. Younger kids will enjoy following a string of yarn to the animal's hidden location.

Happy hunting!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cheap or Free Toddler Activities: 8 More Ideas

Here's another list of things to do when your toddler doesn't know what to do with themselves anymore.

1.Peruse the spice cabinet and smell away. Be sure to note what smells are sweet and savory to expose your toddler to those concepts.

2.Put finger paint in a gallon size ziploc bag (quarts are too small) and seal for a homemade 'sensory mat.' It's squishy, it's cold, it allows for mess free finger painting. Provide a bag for each color. Older kids can use this to play endless games of tic-tac-toe.

3.Gather a variety of different sized balls and an empty laundry basket. Take turns trying to throw a ball into the basket thereby introducing the concept of turns and sharing. Now, we did this one at home and it was not a hit, but I can see an active, kinetic toddler really getting into this. This can be adapted for multiple ages; i.e. older kids throw from further away.

4. Make a 'wave' bottle with some baby oil, food coloring and glitter. This is a variation on the I Spy bottle mentioned in the previous post. Take a used water or pop bottle and fill it with water about 1/3 of the way. Add food coloring and glitter. Top off with baby oil and seal. Put on some Beach Boy surfer music and make some waves!

5.Go for a magic carpet ride. Take an old sheet or use an area rug. Have toddler sit down on it and pick up the other end and drag them around the house. Kids love this one!

6. Thread some rigatoni on yarn or old shoelaces. This allows toddlers to practice fine motor skills. If you are feeling especially crafty, paint the rigatoni first. Bonus points to the mom who forgets to take off her necklace before leaving the house.

7. Find the alphabet. You will need a bin, some letters such as the magnetic ones on your fridge and some rice, bird seed, or dried beans. Fill the bin with the letters and cover with the rice, bird seed, or dried beans. See if your toddler can find them all before they put a bean up their nose! This activity provides a great opportunity to reinforce letter recognition.

8. Go on a Bear Hunt. While your toddler is napping, take a teddy bear and tie yarn around it's ankle. Hide the bear and leave a 'yarn trail' for your toddler to follow. Couple this activity with the book We're Going on a Bear Hunt. Really nice moms hide a special treat with the bear such as chocolate or a favorite snack.

P.S. Just a friendly reminder that stores are putting all their summer merchandise on clearance. Now is the time to scope out sprinklers and other summer toys for next year.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Free or Cheap: A Menu of Toddler Activities for the Younger Toddler

As any momma knows, it's hard to entertain the littlest of the littles. Three-year-olds have pre-school and their imaginations. Four-year-olds are almost ready to move out of the house and get married. Okay, maybe not, but when compared to a 1-year-old or 2-year-old, 4 seems ancient and wise. So I have a special place in my heart for activities that will keep the babies busy. Also, I have one of those babies.

And we've committed to turning off the TV and going TV free.

I think I might be clinically insane. Life without Sesame Street? May not be worth living. I actually like Elmo and Bert and Ernie. I will miss them. If you see them, say hello for me, okay?

Anyway, as I was creating my meal menu plan this week (which is still undone) I had a flash of insight; why not make a Toddler Activities Menu and, oh I don't know, PLAN AHEAD? Am I the only one who has noticed that it's the simplest things that are the hardest?

So I started brainstorming and googling and thinking really hard to come up with the menu below. Sample at will. If you do try something, let me know. Or if you have some ideas, please share, I beg you, because I got bupkus for next week.

1. Fly a 'kite' which will actually be a mylar balloon from the grocery store with a long lead made of yarn. Helium eliminates any wind worries and the 2 and under set have no idea it's not a kite. I think it's brilliant. Cost? Like $3.

2.Visit the paint store and get color samples for all the major color. Cut the chips out and make a graph with one color at the top and blank spaces below for toddlers to match tones. Okay, that's worded a bit awkwardly, but basically we're making a color chart and identifying tones as belonging to the same color family. The top of the chart should have a sample color for toddlers to go by. I'll try to post picks when we do this.

3. Color matching with M&Ms. I'm not sure what I'm going to use as the color match for the toddler to match her M&Ms to. Maybe cut some shapes from construction paper? Print out some fun animals in color (i.e. brown bear, red crab etc...). Use a selection of dirty socks? Something! Plus we get to eat chocolate. HFCS laden chocolate, but still chocolate! Cost? $1? Depends on whether or not you have paper/printer ink on hand.

If/When I find a place to print the animals for free, I'll update with a link. I haven't yet found anything I like though. Dirty socks, here we come!

4. Make an I Spy bottle--this one requires a trip to the craft store. Fill 1/2 a plastic pop bottle (a small one) with corn syrup, then top off with water. With your toddler's help add small alphabet and number beads along with shapes and glitter. Glue on the cap and shake. Cost? $10 for all supplies.

5. Bubbles. Just because my daughter is a bubble nut and we've been out of solution. So I will restock this weekend and we will spend hours blowing bubbles. Cost? $3 The tantrums though will be priceless; my daughter has, shall we say, control issues about blowing bubbles.

6.Water paint. I like water paints over finger paints for young toddlers. Less mess. Cost?$3

7.Stamping. Our craft store is having a blow out sale on stamps so I picked up a dozen or so costing just $1.00 or $0.50. Very cheap. We already have the stamping pad and are all set to stamp ourselves silly--last week we actually stamped our dog's head. He's very white and looked dashing with some purple butterflies on his forehead.

Cost? Stamp pads can be pricey, around $9. Stamps vary from $0.50 up to $10. Our craft store carries foam cubes for fifty cents with a stamp on each side, which is cheap, perfectly sized for little hands, and offers lots of variety in one package.

Note that stamping will result in hands covered with ink--it fades over the course of the day but if you have something special planned, like hand modeling, you might want to forgo the stamps for another time.