Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas Shopping Ideas: Preschool Math Toys and Games

Here's a nice list of toys and puzzles that develop nascent math skills. I spend a lot of time on early math skills with my toddler because the foundation she gets now is what will carry her through later. Also, I work a lot with kids who are struggling with math and I've picked up some good insights for which toys and activities help prevent some of the deficits I see from ever developing.

1. Wooden Shape Sorting Clock. This offers the chance to review shapes, colors, number order and telling time.

2.Tangrams for toddlers. Matching and following patterns is an important early math skill.

3. Number Snail Puzzle. This is a great puzzle. You really should take a look at it. It requires kids to know that 2 comes after 1 and 3 comes after 2. Also it uses more spatial skills than the usual flat puzzles to create a 3d snail sculpture. Spatial skills are important for math.

4. Infantino Matching Colors and Textures puzzle. This puzzle requires sorting and matching skills. Because there are so many pieces, you can easily split this into two separate puzzle kits to keep things fresh and avoid overwhelming younger kids with the sheer number of pieces.

5. Memory game. One of the more serious math skill deficits I see in the kids I work with is the inability to memorize anything. They can't retain information long enough to do simple calculations in their heads. Expanding their mental capacity to not only keep numbers in their head but manipulate them mentally is a big skill I work to develop in my students and in my own kids. Memory may seem like a simple game, but the math skills it develops are critical. This is a MUST have game.

6.I Spy books are a great way to hone sorting skills and visual accuracy. This simple game also engages memory by requiring kids to remember what the object they are looking for looks like and then mentally compare the one they find to the one in their head.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Song: Little Pilgrims

Sung to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:

Little Pilgrim dressing in gray,
On that first Thanksgiving Day.
Little Indian dressed in brown,
Cam to visit Plymouth Town,
They both came to eat and pray,
on that first Thanksgiving Day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cooking with Toddlers: Kale Chips

In an effort to encourage vegetable consumption, I invited my toddler to make Kale Chips with me.

Kale is a 'super' green food. Full of goodness.

Meaning, kids won't touch it with a ten foot pole.

Well, Kale Chips have been a big hit with all the foodie blogs lately and the prep is toddler friendly so I thought we would give it a try.

Here's how you can take it for a spin and see if it gets your kids to eat their veggies.


1 bunch Kale
1/2 tsp Salt
2 to 3 tbsp Olive Oil


1. Wash the kale.

2.Pull green leaves off the stem and rip into bite sized pieces. My toddler was very good at this part.

3. Toss leaves with olive oil and salt. My toddler pronounced this step as 'squishy'.

4.Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 375F for about 10 minutes. (These can burn fast, so keep an eye on them.)

Kale chips are crispy just like real chips but more delicate--they won't work for dipping so be forewarned. My toddler did actually eat a few which is more green vegetation than her system has seen in a while. So this recipe was a win for this mommy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Toddler Crafts for Thanksgiving: Corny Cornucopia

Okay, this is not the best executed craft, but the idea is sound. I bought a bunch of food stickers from the craft store. Then, using construction paper, I made an admittedly strange looking cornucopia. The toddler then applied the food stickers and added some color with crayons.

Despite my lack of ability, this was a fun craft. We had a good time. We talked about food. We killed some time. We got the important stuff done.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thanksgiving Games for Kids: Turkey Treats Gobble

Here's a fun and cheap game to keep kids and adults alike busy while waiting for the turkey to come out of the oven. Turkey Treats Gobble is a great math game that can be adapted for either toddlers or older kids.


-Turkey clip art. I used the graphic from this site,but you can also use Google Images to find a turkey you like better. I just stuck with black and white as it's easier on the printer ink.
-Candy or other food that can be used to mark off turkeys


1.Copy paste the turkey clip art into a word document. Use narrow margins (0.5") to fit about 6 turkeys per row. Fill the page with turkeys. I was able to fit about 42 on my sheet.

2. Print your game sheets.

3.Gather your food to mark off the turkeys. M&Ms would work. Peas would too for those of us who want to be healthy. You could do a mix of candy and veggies like carrot 'coins' and tell kids they don't win unless the use all their veggies and fill the board completely.

How to Play Turkey Treats Gobble

1. Kids roll the dice and mark off turkeys in one of the following ways:

For toddlers, have them cover turkeys with treats corresponding to the number on the dice. If they rolled a 6, for example, they can mark off 6 turkeys.

Early elementary kids could use a combination of addition and subtraction to play. So if they roll a 4 and a 3, they can either mark off 7 or 1 turkeys depending on the operation they used.

Kids who have started multiplication can choose from addition, subtraction or multiplication to mark off their turkey.

2. The winner is the first person to mark off all turkeys exactly without going over, which is why subtraction is an option because, at the end, that may be the only way to fill the board. The winner gets to keep all their loot, everyone else has to start over again. Also, if you are doing the veggie thing, make sure they follow the veggie rules.

Note, I strongly suggest incorporating foods like veggies and fruits to minimize the sugar high. 42 pieces of candy before dinner = certain disaster.

3.Alternately, you can fill the board with food and kids get to eat so many pieces depending on what the dice say. This would be a sneaky way to get them to eat their veggies. The winner is the first to eat all the food on their board (including ALL the veggies. Party poopers who don't eat the veggies, can't play any subsequent rounds of the game).

4.Another alternative is to supply quarters and the winner gets to keep the money.

I really like this game for younger kids because it is a fun way to practice math facts and early math skills like correspondence counting.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Autumn Fingerplay: 10 Red Apples

This is a charming Fall fingerplay that really revs kids up with the 'shaking' of the apple tree.

10 red apples grow on a tree (hold up all ten fingers)

5 for you and 5 for me (extend hand for a handshake.)

Let us shake the tree just so (shake the 'tree' which is your toddler)

And 10 red apples will fall below (flutter fingers as if they are apples falling down)

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (count your apples)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Toddler Crafts for Thanksgiving: 'Hidden' Thanksgiving Picture

Just FYI, before we go any further, this toddler Thanksgiving craft requires some basic ability to draw. Amazingly I can kind of draw. Sort of. If you squint at me funny.

Are you squinting?

Okay, good.

This Thanksgiving craft is a lot of fun for kids because the picture is hidden until they cover the paper with watercolor paint.

This does require some preparation and planning so don't try to do this on the fly (this is why I'm posting at the beginning of November, so you have some time to prep). And you probably don't want to do this for more than one or two kids--the drawing is a lot of work. (I did 4 drawings for 3 kids and my hand was cramping by the time I was done.)

Oh, and I am sad to say my camera was acting up and the flash was only sporadically working, which greatly affected the photos of this craft. Sorry!


-White crayons (Some people have used white candles)
-White paper (thicker construction or sketch paper is better)
-Watercolor paints


1.With the white crayon, draw your design. Keep it simple because it's really hard to keep track of where you are and what the whole pic looks like. Don't get too complex. You are free to copy my designs but Google images works well. I looked for coloring book type images with simple lines as inspiration.

2.Have your toddler paint the paper with watercolor to reveal the picture. The white crayon 'resists' the paint.

This would also be fun to adapt for Christmas as a secret letter from Santa.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cooking with Toddlers: Popcorn on the Cob

One of the cool things we brought home with us from the pumpkin patch was popcorn on the cob. This is popcorn, dried on the cob. You pop it in a paper bag and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes just like store bought microwave popcorn.

The really cool thing is the popped kernels that stay on the cob which your toddler can pick off and marvel at.

We had a lot of fun with this simple 'recipe'.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cooking with Toddlers: Cajun Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

We recently came back from the pumpkin patch with our own Great Pumpkin and I decided to let our toddler try her hand at roasting pumpkin seeds.

This recipe also sparked a good conversation about what seeds are.

Here's the super simple super easy recipe for about 1 - 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin seeds.


1 - 1 1/2 cup fresh pumpkin seeds
1tsp salt
1 tbsp Cajun Seasoning (we used McCormick brand)
2tsp brown sugar


1. Separate seeds from pulp together. Some toddlers will LOVE this, others will not like it. My toddler did not care for the slime, but did eventually help me pick out the slime free seeds.

This is the most tedious part of the recipe and takes some time, so think about watching Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin while you dig out the seeds. So long as you're using a large mixing bowl, this is not very messy and pumpkin guts don't really stain anything.

2. Parents should preheat oven to 300F.

3.Have your toddler rinse the seeds in a colander.

4.Parent melts 1.5 tbsp butter in microwave.

5.Toddler pours seeds into a mixing bowl.

6.Toddler pours in butter.

7. Toddler adds in spices: 1tsp salt, 1tbsp cajun season, 2 tsp brown sugar

8. Mix thoroughly and spread thinly on a baking sheet

9. Bake for 10-20 minutes (check frequently as these burn fast).

Let cool and enjoy! These taste great on salads or you can eat them like potato chips.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Toddler Crafts for Fall: Fall Candle Holder

I read about this craft years and years ago. I thought it was soooooo cool, I actually have a large collection of empty sauerkraut jars in my closet.

The hubby is starting to think I'm a hoarder.

I'm not. I just really really really wanted to do this craft, but my toddler was not old enough until now. Every time I emptied a jar, I thought of this craft and kept it. So now I have a collection.

Anyway, this is another easy peasy craft with lots of opportunity for toddlers to play with different textures.

Here's how we did it.

1. Empty jar
2.Tissue paper cut up into squares
3.Mod Podge (we used what we had which was Mod Podge for fabric, but imagine you should technically use Mod Podge for glass--I never did say we were professionals around here.)
4. Applicator for the mod podge. Sponge, brush whatever you got.
5.Glitter (optional)
6.Jack'o'lantern face cut outs (optional)

1.Paint the jar with mod podge

2.Apply tissue paper and jack'o'lantern face if you are doing that.

3.Cover the tissue paper with mod podge

4.Decorate with glitter and let dry.

5.Put a candle inside or flashlight and see how it looks.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Toddler Crafts for Halloween: Easy Pumpkins and Ghosts with Glue and Tissue Paper

This craft is super simple and lots of fun. Use construction paper, glue and tissue paper (cut up in squares) to make ghosts and pumpkins.

Mom lays out the trail of glue to make the picture. The toddler covers the glue with tissue paper. We did a lot of experimenting with scrunching and crinkling the tissue paper.

This was very very easy and entertained the toddler for a decent amount of time.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Toddler Activities for Halloween: Foam Puppets on Popsicle Sticks

You can find packs of seasonal foam shapes for about $5 at local craft stores. Save your popsicle sticks or buy some (they're cheap!). Add in glitter, glue, googly eyes, feathers, paint etc... for a simple, fun Halloween craft.

We called these puppets (our toddler ran around for hours playing with them), but they would also make fun cupcake decorations.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Web Wednesdays: Free Websites for Kids

Got a kid that is ready to read, but needs some help? Want to use Hooked on Phonics, but don't have the money to invest?

Check out Starfall, today's selection for Free Websites for Kids.

Starfall is AMAZING. We've been using it since our toddler was 16 months old. She has learned all her letters and phonics from Starfall..for FREE.

There are a ton of activities for kids from preschool age up to early elementary. This is the perfect website to support early reading and for teaching phonics. Unless your child is computer literate, parental supervision is recommended and encouraged as kids don't really learn to read alone.

This website is my top pick because it is not only fun, but profoundly educational. Ten to fifteen minutes a couple times a week is all you need to cultivate an avid reader.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Toddler Activities: Easy Cooking with Toddlers

Toddlers aren't really ready to be sous chefs, even though they desperately want to be allowed full run of the kitchen. Sometimes, I can manage to include my toddler in cooking, but most of the time, I need her out of the way and happy so I can get something made and in the oven.

How do I avoid whining and meltdowns? Simple.

I save all my old spice bottles and have purged my cookie decorating supplies (you really don't want me to use 5 year old sprinkles on your cookies, right?). When I need to cook, the toddler gets spice jars filled with flour and sugar along with all the cookie sprinkles.

She also gets a spoon, some water, a measuring cup and a mixing bowl.

She can make whatever she wants (and she does, with gusto) while I get dinner together. It is a win-win for everyone.

Except, the floor gets kind of trashed in the process (sugar always ends up on the floor) so you'll probably have to mop when you're done.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Toddler Activities for Fall: Window Clings

This is what we are doing today, putting up seasonal window clings on our front screen door. These cost about $1 at the local craft store and keeps us busy for 30 to 45 minutes.

This is a good vocabulary builder for younger toddlers too.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cheap Toddler Crafts: Halloween Masks

We are so fortunate that the older neighbor girls like spending time with the tots on our street. These girls sing songs, play pretend, are workhorses for wagon rides, and come up with crafts for my toddler and the toddlers next door.

My house has suddenly become craft central as the weather cools and we have Friday Fun night every week now. I provide snacks, some financial support, and the girls organize the craft and supervise the kids.

I don't hear a peep from anyone for almost 2 hours. It is really nice and allows my husband and I some much needed downtime.

So last week, the girls showed up with these foam masks. I supplied the feathers, googly eyes and glitter.

This was a very simple craft and perfect for toddlers. Once everyone finished their masks, they went outside and had a pre-Halloween parade through the neighborhood. Super cute. Super fun.

The cost? $5 at your local craft store.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Web Wednesdays: Free Websites for Kids

Got bored kids looking for something new to do? Then ActivityTV is the webiste for you and your family.

This fun website presents all sorts of how tos and instructions to do everything from magic tricks to origami. This is a great website for curious kids who are pretty self-directed in their learning. Kids can follow their interests or easily expand their skills--this is a really comprehensive website.

Age range is upper elementary to tween, although some of the activities could be done by younger children with parental involvement.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Toddler Crafts:Coloring Wooden Pumpkins

Go to any craft store and you can find these wood crafts for between $1 to $2. There are four pumpkins in the package pictured on the left. Cheap and easy, the perfect combination for any busy parent.

These are also a great activity for birthday parties and other events where children will outnumber the adults. Each kit comes with paint markers, so easy peasy.

They often come in holiday themes so it's a nice, easy craft to keep on hand for slow days, or the day after you just scrubbed paint off the ceiling only to turn around and find your toddler taking crayons to the wall. Even the craftiest parent needs a low key insta-craft every once in a while, right?

Which is why painting these wooden pumpkins made it onto our list of Fall crafts.

Oh and if you can't find them in your local craft store, sells packs of 36 for like $13 but they don't include the paints.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Toddler Crafts for Halloween: Candy Corn Wreath

The inspiration for these came from a magazine cover. I am always on the lookout for crafts that my toddler can actually do vs. watching mom put everything together. This one does require some parental involvement, but after a certain point, this craft is all toddler.

Here's what you need:

1.Ribbon, any color you like. Some versions of this craft use duct tape, which is an option, but not very attractive.

2.Candy corn
3. Small wreath (about $2 at craft stores)
4. Elmer's glue
5.Glue gun


1. Mom should use the glue gun to anchor the ribbon to the back of the wreath.

2.Mom then wraps ribbon around the the wreath, creates a hanging loop and uses the glue gun to secure in place.

3.Lay a generous track of glue. Generous is important otherwise the candy corn won't adhere well.

4. Give toddler a big bowl of candy corn. Coach them on not eating the ones with glue on them and turn 'em loose.

My toddler did all the gluing on the wreath pictured above by herself. She had a great time and has been begging for more candy corn ever since.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Toddler Activities: Mixing Phonics

Here's a new twist on magnetic letters that my toddler loved. Take your Leapfrog Fridge Phonics set and make it 'brand new' again with a mixing bowl.

My toddler's been taking them out and putting them back in while singing '1 little, 2 little, 3 little letters.'

Friday, October 1, 2010

Free Toddler Crafts: Fun with Glue

Here's what we've been doing with glue.

Gluing feathers onto paper.

The feathers get delightfully soggy with glue which is a texture revelation for the 3 and under set.

Also? Very low key, low prep toddler craft, which is a win for Mommy.

Unless, you happen to be Martha Stewart, in which case, why are you here?

Then I took some pinking shears and cut up a bunch of construction paper. As a bonus I made shapes; triangles, rectangles, squares, and irregular shapes that I just now invented (and should receive a Nobel Prize for aaaaany second now).

Then I left a trail of glue on some paper and had the toddler cover the glue with paper. If your little one can manage the glue, let them make their own paper trail.

Other cool things to do, spell out words and names in glue. Make a smiley face or other picture.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Web Wednesdays: Free Websites for Kids

Today's website is The Toymaker. This website has several downloadable paper crafts for parents to print and kids to enjoy.

There are cards, games, paper boxes, paper mice and all sorts of neat paper projects. You will probably want to invest in some card stock so the end product is sturdy enough for play. I love the fact that there are options to print a black and white template or a color template so kids can color or not.

This is a really neat website that kids ages 5 and up will love. This would be a perfect place to go for slumber party activities or birthday party crafts. It's simple, unique and cheap--the perfect trifecta!

Oh! And don't forget to check out the holiday section--fantabulous. I LOVE this site. (Can you tell?) Here's a short video showing an example of a Halloween paper craft.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Toddler Toys: Best Toy Ever Critter Clinic

Our toddler's aunt arrived for a visit with this gem of a toy. It's a vet clinic with animal cages and color coded keys. The top holds all the medical equipment and various animals can be housed in the 'hospital'. Toddlers will LOVE the keys which are color coded and are great manipulatives that give budding fine motor skills a work out.

Really really cute set and our toddler has been playing vet ever since. Not sure what stores carry it, I know I haven't seen it in our area. Thankfully Amazon does have it, although a slightly different version for $19.99-- our version pictured here is selling for $77! Wowza!

Also the manufacturer seems to be somewhat eco-conscious using soy based inks and recycled paper. (Although the toy is still plastic so, you know, take that for what it's worth.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I know everyone is in Fall mode---it seems like all the craft, mommy etc... blogs are talking about apples.

But we haven't even bothered with apple picking here.

Not when raspberry season goes until Halloween.

Picking your own raspberries is the most cost effective way to buy raspberries and it doesn't take too long to pick 3 quarts. I can do it in about an hour.

Our toddler eats her weight in raspberries and is covered in red smears by the end. So it's a perfect way to spend a morning--her cramming the berries into her mouth as fast as she can and me picking. We also get to see bees (who don't care about us, they are drunk on raspberries), butterflies and spiders.

Check out the u-pick websites to see if anyone is growing raspberries in your area. We use ours in banana raspberry muffins and raspberry freezer jam. They can be frozen whole as well.

I always tell my toddler that when it is very cold outside and it seems like the snow will never end, we can remember summer by eating raspberries.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Web Wednesdays: Free Websites for Kids

Web Wednesdays is a new feature that will post weekly on Craft Impaired. I know we love kid websites around here and I'm always looking for something new and fun to do online.

If you have a website you want to recommend, I'm all ears, please do share.

So, on to our inaugural website...

Todays Free Websites for Kids is....


Kideos is Youtube for kids. Videos are arranged by age, from infants up to the age of 10. On Kideos, you know your kids won't see anything inappropriate. The only downside? No embed option for sharing videos which made it hard to complete this blog post. However, I was able to source one of the videos on Youtube to give you an example of what you can find on Kideos.

Check out these too cute baby pandas. Roly poly balls of adorable. This is what Kideos is all about.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

How to Make A Play Kitchen: Tips and Mistakes to Avoid

We recently made a play kitchen for our little girl and what an experience! We wanted to do something that would look nice without the $200 price tag of other wood play kitchens and without the plastic of the $99 made-in-China play kitchens. Here's how we did it along with some tips and ideas on designing your own play kitchen based on our experience.

Note this is not a step-by-step tutorial. We assume that, if you're interested in making a play kitchen, you or someone you know has basic carpentry skills. This is more of an overview for the planning stages that will help you design a play kitchen and be happy with the end result.

  1. Use found materials whenever possible. Visit second hand stores, garage sales or local junkyards to find items for the play kitchen. The hardest thing to find is usually the cabinet that will form the main structure. Old kitchen cabinets or desks work well for this. If you can't find anything suitable, some crafty people have used inexpensive Ikea furniture, but a sturdy piece of plywood will work too so long as you have power tools and know how to use them. (Our kitchen used scrap wood from a painting facility that would have been put in the landfill if we hadn't taken it.)

  2. Make stove burners out of paint can lids or stain wood circles (from a home improvement store) and use those.You can also paint burners on the stove top. Some DIY play kitchen instructions suggest using CDs, which, while attractive, could pose a shattering hazard.

  3. Use a small stainless steel mixing bowl for the sink and a second hand or new (cheap) faucet. Glue both in place with a product called Liquid Nails.

  4. Design the oven door to swing open to the side instead of folding down. Play kitchen oven doors that fold down end up being climbed on and they aren't designed to hold a child's weight. (Ask me how I know!)

  5. Incorporate real kitchen elements such as an egg timer. Glue in place with Liquid Nails glue. (Before gluing anything, lay all the accessories out to be sure they'll fit.)

  6. Obtain handles and knobs from places such as Target, Home Depot or Lowes. You can buy wooden wheels at craft stores to make oven knobs. Don't attach the wheels too tightly, keep them loose so they'll spin.

  7. Be sure to add enough storage space for pots,pans,play food and other accessories. No one likes a small kitchen, even if it's a play kitchen.

Mistakes we made building our play kitchen.

1. The depth was not big enough. We went with 12" when we really should've gone with "16 or "18. With just 12" there's not enough counter space for pretend food prep. In our experience, the best dimensions for a play kitchen are: 26" high (not including back splash) x 30" wide x 16" or 18" deep. The height should be adjusted for your child's height.

Alternatively, look at the dimensions of your dream play kitchen and use those.

2.The oven door fell off due to kids climbing on it. Definitely do a door that swings open to the side. I know I already mentioned this, but it is a huge safety hazard which exposes nails. I don't want anyone to make the same mistake.

3.We used small nails to attach the back and the back fell off as a result. To fix it, we drilled in screws, which is what we recommend using in the first place.

4.Not enough food storage. I would add a shelf over the top of the kitchen for extra storage. While we did an okay job building in enough storage, we're a hair short on space.

Overall, though, our play kitchen has held up and still looks as good as the day Daddy made it.

Have you ever made a play kitchen? Did I miss anything?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Better Picture of Dragonfly Craft

Here's a better pic of our dragonflies, cavorting with some hand print butterflies. You can check out how to do this dragonfly craft here.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How to Select Dance Classes for Children

Since we are in the thick of signing up for children dance classes, I thought I'd throw together what we've learned so far.

1.Decide what kind of experience you what for your child. Exposure to movement, a fancy recital, no recital, or hardcore ballerina training.

Knowing what you want will help you find the right dance class for your child.

2.For introductory classes with no recitals and a low-key environment, check out local rec center schedules. These classes tend to be less expensive, less uptight and more about having fun. They introduce kids to the basics so if they want to pursue dance more seriously, they will have some basic skills under their belts.

3.If you want a recital, sign up at a dance studio. Recitals can get expensive, but can also be fun, especially if you have a natural performer on your hands. Be sure to ask the school about their recital policies and procedures, some dance schools get kind of wound up about recitals and issue handbooks bigger than a phone book packed with rules and regulations.

Also screen the dance school's approach to recitals. Do they think 'Bootylicious' is a good song for 3 year olds to perform to, while wearing a barely there tankini? Or do they keep it age appropriate?

4.If the goal is to develop a future ballerina, look at local universities, art centers, and theaters. Some dance studios also specialize in more intense dance instruction, but you'll have to ask around to find them. These dance classes for children will be much more traditional and are for kids who can follow directions well. They will also have a strict dress code (i.e. hair in bun, leotard, ballet shoes etc...). Which is fine, but I know my toddler would never do a bun, so we would totally be expelled from these type of children dance classes.

So how did you find dance classes for your children? What was your experience? We are starting with a rec center community class and we'll see from there. Having studied dance quite a bit myself, I hope our toddler is interested, but knowing her genetics, she probably won't have the body type for classical dance. I ended up performing folk dance myself.

Oh, and don't forget to take a second to check out my review of Brontorina a lovely book about a dinosaur who wants to be a ballerina.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Toddler Video: Tinkerbell Youtube Preview

Just in case you didn't know, the Tinkerbell movies are perfect first movies for young toddlers. They are gentle and not scary and kids (girls at least) love Tink.

Disney has figured this out and there's a new Tink movie coming out later this month on DVD. You can treat your tot to an 8 minute preview on of Tinkerbell on Youtube.

Check it out.

FYI there are 3 Tinkerbell movies, which I'm going to list here simply because I've been trying to figure this out for myself (we have a birthday coming up and someone is going to be Tinked out of her mind).

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Toddler Activities for Fall

Here are our plans for Fall fun this year.

1. Pick apples and make homemade apple sauce. Mmmm can't wait for this one!

2. Rent a pontoon boat at our nearby national park and see the Fall foliage on water.

3. Decorate our dining room table for Fall using pumpkins and other seasonal goodies. (We didn't have a real dining room for the last few years and just finished a big home remodeling project to create one, so this is a Big Deal for us.)

4. Take the dogs to the same park as #2 for a walk and a swim.

5. Visit our favorite pumpkin farm and binge on pumpkin donuts.

6. Our toddler is starting preschool!

7.And dance class!

What are you doing with your family as the seasons change? I would love some more ideas!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Preschool Math Games: Numbers Game

Our daughter has been showing some ability to count objects lately. To support her learning curve, I made a simple preschool math game that also works fine motor skills.

She really loved it and played with it as intended as well as performing a complicated pretend piano concerto on the clothes pins.

Here's how to make this great preschool math game.


Index cards
A stamp* or Dot paints
Sharpie marker

*It might be fun to use a seasonal stamp such as apples for Fall.


1.Use the stamp or Dot paints to create quantities 1 through 10 on the index cards. Try to keep the formations for 1-6 the same as used on dice.

2.With the Sharpie, write the numeral on the clothespins.

3.Write the numeral on the back of the index cards so kids can check themselves.

How to Play:

The child should count the dots (or stamps) on each index card, find the corresponding numeral and attach the clothespin.

Believe it or not, this game kept our toddler busy for almost an hour. I know, as an adult, I look at activities and stuff-to-do-with-kids and go meh, how uninteresting. I forget I'm pushing 40, the toddler is pushing 3 so it's all new to her and new is fascinating. So if you are kind of skeptical about this game or any other activity, just remember if your kid has never seen anything like it before, odds are it will be a huge hit.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Brontorina: A Book About Dance Classes for Children

We recently ordered the book Brontorina for our toddler who is just dying to start a dance class. She's a dancer without a dance floor. Unfortunately, children dance classes don't start until age three, which the toddler didn't hit until this year. She is going to be soooo happy later this year when she starts her dance class.

In the interim, I bought the Brontorina book in the hopes of not only entertaining our toddler but to open up the topic of dance classes for children. We talked about how dance classes operate, what dancers wear etc...

The book is utterly charming and all about letting people be the dancer they were born to be. It also covers some basic dance terms like plie and releve.

This is a definite must read for any young dancer. Plus, it's not too girlie girl and could easily be adapted for boys who will be taking children dance classes. And it doesn't take too long to read either, which is always a plus.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cheap Toddler Crafts: Shiny Dragonflies

A few weeks ago we attempted this lovely dragonfly craft , but being unable to locate my glue gun, it became more of an adventure than I bargained for.

But the kids had fun once I figured out what the heck maple keys are (helicopters). I didn't glue my fingers together like I usually do when using a glue gun and it only took me a week of patient attention to attach everything with Elmer's glue.

So, basically, what I'm saying is, you really need a glue gun for this craft.

Below is how we did it, but definitely check out the link above to see how they made their dragonflies.


1.Glue gun. If you can't find the glue gun, just give up now.
2. Maple keys a.k.a 'helicopters' those tree seeds that churn in the air like a helicopter.
3.Short twigs.
4.Teeny tiny baby acorns or beads
5.Glitter or paints. We used glitter glue.


1.With glue gun attach the maple keys to the twigs to make wings. Glue on the acorns or beads to make eyes.

2.Let kids decorate as they wish.

3.Make a dragonfly mobile or tape them to the wall.

P.S. Sorry for the poor quality pic, I am working on taking a better picture.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Stool Goes to the Playroom

Here's a pic of the stools we made in the playroom. I am happy with the results. What do you think?

See how we made it here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Crafts Gone Horribly Wrong:Making Stools for the Playroom

I am not much of a crafter. Yeah, I have a glue gun, but do I know where it is? No. Which is unfortunate since we are trying to make dragonflies with sticks, leaves and glitter today.

Anyway, I caught sight of these lovely bar stools over on The Crafting Chicks and thought, 'Huh, I have old bar stools and a playroom with a distinct lack of pint-sized seating. Also, this looks pretty easy.'

Anyone ever notice that easy is a four letter word?

So I gave my hubby orders to chop the stools down to size, bought some paint and fabric and fully channeled my inner Amelia Bedelia.

The first major hurdle, I didn't have a large craft paint brush or sponge applicator. I used the BBQ basting brush from the kitchen instead. So what if the finished product smells a little bit like liquid smoke?

Application of the Mod Podge was a bit more challenging than I had anticipated as well. It's much thicker than I thought it would be. Also, I realized, after the fact, I bought the wrong kind. I'm not much of a Mod Podge connesieur, they all looked the same to me. Mod Podge is Mod Podge, right?

Well, time will tell as the stools are still drying. While we're waiting, if you want to attempt this craft yourself, here's my take on the instructions.

Supplies & Tools
  • Paint --We used Rustoleum spray paint from Walmart.
  • Brush or Sponge applicator (FYI the BBQ basting brush actually worked okay.)
  • Scissors--We used pinking shears.
  • Fabric--1/2 a yard if you're good at cutting fabric out, 1 yard if you plan on making mistakes.
  • Large plate to use as template for the fabric
  • Thin tipped Sharpie or marker
  • 1 jar Mod Podge--We used Fabric Mod Podge, but Glossy Mod Podge is recommended.

Tip: When selecting fabric, try to find fabric that has the same background color as the paint for a seamless look. Or you could do what I did, which was pick fabric in a contrasting color for a not-so-seamless look.


1.Paint the stools at least twice, thrice if necessary.

2. Fold your fabric in half and on the wrong side (e.g. inside out) and place half the plate on the fabric. Trace half the plate (e.g. you're tracing a half of a circle) on the fabric and cut along the line to create a circle.

Trust me, it is much easier to cut the fabric like this. I cut one full circle out and it was much harder to control the fabric and scissors. The folded fabric, half circle method is much easier.

3. Apply Mod Podge. There are two ways to do this, each has its pitfalls for the impaired crafter.

Method 1. Apply a circle of Mod Podge on the stool and place fabric on top. Pro of this method: Allows for easier movement of the fabric to center it on the stool. Cons of this method: Hard to thin out thick lumps of Mod Podge trapped underneath the fabric and can lead to a bumpy lumpy finish.

Method 2
. Apply a thin smear of Mod Podge to the back of the fabric and flip onto stool. Pro of this method: Avoids the bumpy lumpy accumulation of Mod Podge. Cons of this method: You better hit the center on your first try or this could get messy.

I had two stools and used each method. Personally, I think method 2 looked better in the end.

4.Smooth the fabric with hands or a ruler to eliminate air bubbles and excess Mod Podge. Note: It's really easy to pull the fabric off center or create wrinkles so be careful--this is a real hazard of Method 1 in step 3 above.

5.Let dry for 10-15 minutes.

6.Cover the top of the fabric and stool with a thin coat of Mod Podge. Don't panic, it should dry clear.

7.Let cure for several hours or overnight.

8.Apply a clear coat or polyurethane top coat to seal the stool and add a glossy luster.

9.Let the stools cure again. The hubby is an experienced painter and we both work/worked (he's still there) for a Big Name paint company so we know something about paint and sealants. Curing can take time, especially if the weather is humid. Put the stools somewhere safe and just leave them for a couple days after step 8.

If you use the stool before it properly cures, the finish will be soft and even peel. So just set it aside and let it be. If you can put it in direct sun to cure, all the better.

Now, drumroll's a picture of our stools so far. All we need to do is seal them. What do you think?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Toddler Art Activities:Six Easy Crafts for Toddlers

Today, some link love for this short 'n' sweet article on easy crafts for toddlers. Six great ideas, using stuff you probably already have, and if you don't, it's cheap enough to buy.

Check it out!

Six Easy Crafts for Toddlers

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Music for Kids that Even Adults Will Enjoy: Dan Zanes of Sesame Street Fame

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of saccharine overly oomphed music for children. I need something earthier, something with soul.

And I'm not alone. There are several artists out there producing authentic music for children. Music that doesn't make me cringe.

My favorite, hands down, is Dan Zanes. You may have seen his music video Jump Up on Sesame Street. It's a catchy tune that never failed to grab our attention and, one day, I started googling to find there were entire albums filled with his lovely music.

Here's the video for Jump Up. (Be sure to have the kids watch with you, they'll love it.)

And one for All Around the Kitchen Cockadoodle-doodle-doo, which is a fun, active song.

Albums can be purchased at Amazon.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Not Just for Laid Off Parents: Kids Activities Ideas

This article is geared toward parents who've gone through a lay off and are suddenly home with the kids all day, but I thought it had some good ideas for all parents. In fact, thanks to this article, I found a splash pad in my area. Never heard of 'me before, nor would I have without reading this article.

From Lay Off to Stay-at-Home-Parent: Keeping the Kids Busy

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hot Toys for Summer

The Today show had a segment this morning about summer toys for kids. There were some interesting ideas in there, although they all require purchasing something. Still, it's worth a look.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Monday, July 12, 2010

Baby Beluga Song By Raffi Becomes Book

At the bookstore the other day, I chanced upon a new board book called Baby Beluga. I have a life long love of the ocean and its animals, so I was delighted with the book and, with what is happening in the Gulf of Mexico, it seems especially bittersweet now.

Little did I know that Baby Beluga the book is based on a popular children's song performed by Raffi.

What a great pairing; a book and a song in one!

Our toddler loves this book and the song. Yours will too. Order the book here.

Here are some 'music videos' of the song to share with your tot.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Free Activities for Kids: 5 Things to Do Today with Your Kids

Here are five simple and fun activities for kids that take minimal preparation and set up--perfect for summer's slower pace.

1.Watch the clouds while laying on a blanket and eating a popcicle.

2. Do the Hokey Pokey. Seriously. Just do it. Here's a video with music to get you started.

Now do it again!

3.Balance a ping pong ball on a spoon. Put a ping pong (or similar) ball on a spoon and see who can carry it the longest without dropping the ball. Create an obstacle course if you're feeling really ambitious.

4. Play 'What am I?'  This is a fun guessing game that works critical thinking skills. Adjust the clues accordingly for age. Here's an example.

I am small.
I have wings.
I'm red and black.
I'm a real lady.
What am I?

5.Play I Spy with flashlights in the dark. This is best done at night, but a dim room would work too. Use flashlights as pointers. Kids love to play with flashlights! We do this a lot at bedtime and there's no more complaining about having to got to bed--they can't wait to turn on their flashlights.

Great Free Preschool Curriculum

Check out this simple and wonderful preschool curriculum at Letter of the Lots of great ideas and things to do that will keep busy toddlers busy.

Did I mention it appears to be a free preschool curriculum?

Can't beat that!

Note: This is not my preschool curriculum that I was working on in March. That has been shelved temporarily since I was seriously ill shortly after that last post.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Free Summer Preschool Curriculum Coming & How You Can Be a Part of It

I'm working on an exciting project, an ebook full of toddler activities for the summer. It's about 1/3 of the way done and I'm actively looking for crafts to add to the ebook. If you have an activity on your blog, drop me a line at netwriterm AT gmail DOT com with the link. This is a great opportunity to promote your blog or website and help out parents facing a looooooong summer at home with active toddlers.

The ebook will be free BUT I reserve the right to charge a fee at a future date. If you contribute a craft, there will be a link back to your specific blog post in the text. I won't reproduce your content at all. It will simply be a straight link back to your blog. It would be helpful if you would send me a picture of the completed craft to use, however, in the ebook.

Again, if you're interested email me at netwriterm AT gmail DOT com.

Unit themes in need of craft ideas include:
Bees & Honey

Here's some information on how the ebook is formatted...

Each lesson has the following components:

1. Finger play
2. Song
3. Book recommendations
4. Art activity
5. Investigation Activity
6. Cooking Activity
7. Bonus Activity

Traditional preschool is usually 2 to 3 days a week so don’t do everything in one day. Instead, spread it out throughout the week. The intent is that the fingerplay, song, and books will be repeated and reread several times during the curriculum week. This repetition gives your toddler time to absorb all the facets of the lesson. Add in one big art, investigation or cooking activity per day. Also, don’t think you have to do everything—there are no preschool police coming to give you a ticket for failure to complete the lesson!

The Finger Plays and Songs
With the finger plays and songs, encourage your toddler to learn the words. Say all but one keyword of a phrase and ask them to fill in the blank—this shows you they are retaining what they hear which is an important skill for life long learning.

The Books
When reading, ask open ended questions such as ‘Why do you think they did that?’ ‘How do you think this made them feel?’ ‘Would you do that?’ ‘What do you think happens next’ to engage nascent critical thinking and reading comprehension skills.

Typically, the first time the book is introduced, it is read straight through to familiarize the child with the story. Subsequent readings should challenge your child to remember what’s next or infer a character’s feelings.

It’s okay if your questions are met with silence or confusion! That’s normal. Just answer the question yourself so your child can learn from you. If you are consistent with this, your child will soon surprise you with their opinions and imagination.

A note on the books used in this preschool curriculum… Books can be found at the library or purchased. I’ve taken the time to select books that mostly meet two criteria:

1. They must cost less than $10 to purchase.

2. They are part of the’s 4 for 3 promotion so for every 3 books you purchase, you get 1 free.

The Art Activity

Art activities are meant for toddlers to do with the idea that the experience is more important than the process or creating something ‘nice’. I’ve either created my own art activities or found the best ones for the theme from various blogs on the internet --in which case you will find a link that will take you to that site for craft instructions.

Toddler art projects were selected on the basis of whether or not a toddler could complete them from start to finish and were limited to activities that used common art supplies. These art projects are not fancy and require minimal parental involvement because the point is to have the toddler do it.

The Investigation Activity

These activities are designed to allow your toddler to explore science or ‘how stuff works’ aspect of the curriculum theme. Some of them are surprisingly scientific. Others are extension activities that build on concepts introduced in the books. Be sure to ask open ended questions and have toddlers try to predict results. The investigations are intended to be thought provoking and develop critical thinking skills. They should also be a lot of fun too!

In researching activities for the book, I have to say I think this free ebook is going to be one of the nicest early science resources out there.

Cooking with Kids

This section uses recipes specifically created for young children. Most recipes, with some exceptions, tie in directly with the unit theme. I made every attempt to use whole, healthy foods, but strict adherence to that ideal was not possible.

This was, by far, the most difficult part of the curriculum to develop because toddlers have limited skills and parents don’t want to (or need to) spend three hours in the kitchen. Nutritional concessions were made in the interests of time and in order to accommodate the skills of budding chefs. If a recipe violates the food ethics of your household, please feel free to cook something else.

Bonus Activities

Some units lent themselves to games or imaginative play prompts. Those are included as well whenever possible. Additional products are sometimes suggested as well that compliment the unit.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday Fingerplays: Winter Clean Up

This is a great fingerplay for teaching children what needs to be done when they come inside after playing in the snow. Pantomime each action and then recite this little sequential fingerplay when they really do come inside after building a snowman.

When I come inside

When I come in from outdoor play.

I take my boots off right away.

I set them by the door just so.

Then off my cap and mittens go.

Zip down my coat and snowpants too.

And hang them up when I am through.

I'm a helper, keeping my things clean.