Paint to Learn!

I love any activity that is not only fun for my kids, but educational too.  This was also ridiculously simple to set up, which is always a bonus.

For this project I pulled out my fantastic Melissa and Doug Finger Paint Paper (not sponsored, I just love it…although if Melissa and Doug wanted to sponsor me I wouldn’t be opposed 😉 ).  This paper is great because it’s thick and doesn’t tear when kids add a lot of paint to the paper.

All I did was take a trusty Sharpie and draw shapes on the paper for my daughter, and some of the Dolch Pre-K sight words on my son’s paper.

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I taped the paper to our kitchen table and let them paint away with some homemade flour paint (though you could just as easily use store bought).  My daughter still tends to eat a lot of our art projects 😉

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This activity was great because we got to talk a lot about what they were painting on (identifying words and shapes).  Fine motor, language, and sensory skills all tackled in one simple project = a total win!

Coffee Filter Flower Garden

We absolutely love our sliding glass door.  It is such a great location to do all sorts of fine motor and play activities.  Recently I set up a coffee filter garden for Trevor to water.  He had sooooo much fun!  And using a spray bottle (plus working on that all-important vertical surface!) is great for improving strength.

On the inside of the door I drew the stem and leaves of the flowers using a green window crayon.  Then on the outside of the door I taped up some coffee filters that I had dotted with our dot markers.  Finally I gave him a spray bottle filled with water and let him go at it!

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He had a great time “watering his garden”.  After he had sprayed literally every single inch of the coffee filters, he wanted to go inside and spray away the stems too.

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I hope your kids enjoy this activity as much as Trevor did!

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Tic Tac Drop

This is a simple, DIY fine motor activity to work on the pincer grasp. Trevor’s school OT sent home a list of activities for us to work on, and I’m going to try and share some of them on the blog. But as anyone who reads this blog knows (if there are any of you still out there, lol), life is busy and this blog takes the backseat to everything else. I always love finding new activities online though so hopefully I’ll do a better job at blogging these ideas 🙂

What you need:

* 3 larger straws
* Empty Parmesan cheese shaker container (we use this a lot)
* Tape
* Tic Tacs

How to make it:

The only guidance I had on this was “drop Tic Tacs down a straw”. So if you don’t have the above materials on hand I’m sure you could come up with a different way to achieve the same result :). I took three straws, taped them together near the middle with duct tape, and then inserted them into the parmesan cheese shaker lid. Then I screwed the lid back on and set it next to a container filled with 20 Tic Tacs.

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We counted the Tic Tacs as he dropped them in, both to work on counting skills and because it helps distract him a little from the difficulty he has with his pincer grasp. I loved that he was forced to use his pincer grasp with this activity. We’ve dropped other objects down straws or the Parmesan cheese shaker holes before, but they were longer and he could cheat on his grip. There’s no room to cheat using Tic Tacs!

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All Natural Chocolate Slime

When I saw this new Borax-free slime recipe on Pinterest from Blog Me Mom, I knew I had to try it. Trevor enjoys slime, but I’m not super comfortable letting him play with it. I loved that this recipe used an edible, all natural ingredient as it’s base. But given the fact that he’s sensitive to artificial food dyes, I’ve also been looking for ways to make our sensory activities dye-free as well. The original recipe contained food dye and I wanted to find a substitute for that. Since the kids both loved the hot chocolate cloud dough we made, I figured the perfect way to make this slime recipe all natural was to dye and scent it with cocoa powder!

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To make it, all you need is psyllium fiber (found near the Metamucil), cocoa powder, and water. Combine 1 tablespoon psyllium powder, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, and 1 cup of water in a very large, microwave-safe glass bowl. Cook on high for about five minutes, or until your desired texture is reached (ours took nearly six minutes to cook). It does bubble up a lot, so make sure you keep a close eye on it and stop the microwave before it bubbles over. When it settles back down you just start the microwave back up again. After it’s cooked, stir it well and make sure it cools a little before giving it to your kids, as it’s obviously hot from the microwave. Then let them play away! And know that the ingredients are all natural and safe for them 🙂

Trevor enjoyed pulling it apart:

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And delivering chocolates from “Hershey, Pennsylvania to Washington state” on his toy train and truck. He loves geography and learning facts about states.

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The reason why I want something all natural and edible for the kids to use in play:

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Paige also had a great time with the slime:

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We had fun pretending to mix up our batch of chocolate together:

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Hot Chocolate Cloud Dough

We were hit by a big winter storm this past week. We got nearly a foot of snow! That is crazy for where we live, since we usually only get a dusting. We had our fun sledding, hanging out in snow caves and building a snowman, but our family is a little over the snow now. To combat the chilly, frozen outdoors I was inspired to create some Hot Chocolate Cloud Dough for Paige (and later, Trevor) to explore.

Typically with cloud dough you mix 8 parts flour to 1 part oil. For this recipe I started by mixing together 3 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, and 1/2 cup oil. I decided it needed to be a little more chocolatey, so I added approximately another 1/2 cup cocoa and a few more tablespoons oil. Cloud dough is super forgiving. If it’s too dry you just add more oil, and if it’s too wet you just add more flour!

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Paige enjoyed eating playing with this Hot Chocolate Cloud Dough 🙂

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And apparently chicken legs go well with cocoa, because she toddled over to her play kitchen and brought back this play food drumstick, haha.

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This cloud dough recipe was actually less messy than your typical flour and oil recipe. Usually the cloud dough gets EVERYWHERE, but even with her walking around the kitchen it didn’t make that big of a mess. The cocoa must absorb oil a little better than the flour does. I may have to look into tweaking our regular cloud dough recipe to help with the mess!

Do your kids enjoy cloud dough?

A Little Fine Motor LOVE

Yes, I am the worst blogger in the history of the planet ;). What can I say, as much as I love to blog, life is busy! So after a two month hiatus I’m back…maybe.

Since Trevor loved the Winter Toothpick Village we did in December, I wanted to create a similar activity for Valentine’s day. I picked up a pack of heart-shaped toothpicks at the Dollar Tree and wrote the word “love” on a piece of styrofoam I’d saved from a package. Each letter corresponded to a toothpick color so we could work on color matching too. I deliberately set the toothpicks out so that he’d have to cross midline to get the correct color. This is a skill he struggles with.

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Before we started I helped him trace the letters with his finger. Just tracing letters in styrofoam is a great tactile learning activity! Trevor really enjoyed poking the toothpicks in the styrofoam.

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He also decided to let them have a “party” and just went about poking handfuls into the styrofoam in any order. His imagination is really blossoming!

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It looked pretty cool when it was finished too!

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I hope your little ones enjoy this fine motor activity too!

Advent Calendar Activities 6 – 10

Here are another five fun Christmas activities we’ve enjoyed this year:

Day 6: Decorate a Window Crayon Tree with Foam Shape Ornaments

This is probably my favorite activity we’ve done so far. I drew a Christmas tree with window crayons on the outside of our sliding glass door. I also cut circles, triangles, and squares out of craft foam for Trevor to use as ornaments. I then gave him a spray bottle of water to spray on the image of the tree so that the foam would stick to the glass. He had a lot of fun decorating his tree. Spray bottles are excellent fine motor work too 🙂

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Day 7: Make Salt Dough Ornaments

We make salt dough ornaments every year, and so of course we had to continue with the tradition. This is the recipe we use. This year Trevor chose to only use the penguin cookie cutter (to make Chinstrap penguins he told me), and the reindeer cookie cutter so that he could make all of Santa’s reindeer. He didn’t want to paint the ornaments once they were baked, but he’s been having fun playing with them plain. The penguins have been looking for the South Pole 🙂

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Paige enjoyed making the salt dough ornaments too, lol 🙂

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Day 8: Play With Snowflakes on the Light Table

I picked up a 10 pack of plastic snowflake ornaments at the Dollar Tree and set those out on the light table, along with snowflake gel window clings and a light-up snowman decoration I found on clearance. We made snowflake sandwiches and did snowflake dances.

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Day 9: Play With a North Pole Toothpick Village

I saw some toothpick and styrofoam Christmas activities floating around on Pinterest and put my own spin in it for Trevor. I simply did a quick Google image search for Santa’s workshop clip art, printed some figures out, cut around them, and then laminated them. I then cut the laminated figures out and taped them to the toothpicks. Easy peasy! I had saved a sheet of styrofoam from a package just for an activity like this. Trevor used the styrofoam as snow and had a great time sticking the toothpick figures in it and creating different scenes. I just love how much his imagination has grown! He had such a blast with this activity, I see a lot more toothpick and styrofoam small world play in our future. This too is great at building those fine motor skills.

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Day 10: Make a Christmas Tree Lacing Ornament

I really like a lot of the ornaments they do over at Happy Hooligans and was inspired to create Trevor a lacing tree. I simply cut a triangle out of green construction paper, laminated it, then used my hole punch to punch some holes in it. I cut a strand of red yarn and a strand of white yarn for him to lace with. I made needles for him out of pipe cleaners. He struggled a little with this activity, but stuck with it. I was proud of him for that!

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Advent Calendar Activities 1 – 5

Last year I set up different Christmas-themed activities for Trevor to do every day in December until Christmas. It was a way to give him some special Mommy-Trevor time after his sister was born. As soon as he saw our advent calendar again this year, as we were unpacking decorations, he told me that he can’t wait to do our “penguin calendar” again this year. I wasn’t really planning on doing the advent calendar this year (hoping to be a little more lazy this year, haha). But with that kind of enthusiasm, there’s no way I could tell him no. So it looks like an activity advent calendar will be a new tradition around here.

I love seeing holiday-themed kids activities online, so I thought I’d begin to share our own take on Christmas fun for kids!

Day 1: We made snow slime! It was inspired by this post over at Growing a Jeweled Rose, although we ultimately used a different slime recipe because we had less glue on hand than the recipe called for. Trevor loved that this slime was cold. He loves any kind of ice or cold-temperature play. It is so great to see how much his imagination has come in a year too!

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Day 2: I found some Christmas learning printables online. Over at 2 Teaching Mommies I found this matching game. I printed, cut, and laminated it. The first time through Trevor found all of the matches himself. The second time through we played together so he could work on turn-taking.

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Day 3: I created a brand new Christmas sensory bin for Trevor. I dyed four cups of rice red, four cups green, and left four cups white. I also added peppermint extract to it all so that it smells wonderful! I added in a few Christmas items that I picked up from the Dollar Tree, as well as items from around the house. Trevor’s been having a great time with it.

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Day 4: I separated out some red and white pony beads into two bowls, and let Trevor choose a pipe cleaner to make a beaded candy cane ornament with. I knew I was pushing him with this activity given his fine motor struggles. I honestly was hoping that he’d just string a couple and not get too upset. Well, despite a lot of “I can’t”s and “It’s too hard”s, he strung 16 beads! I was so proud of him. The candy cane ornament is now hanging on our tree and it is by far my favorite ornament of all!

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Day 5: Today we did a Christmas clothespin number match game. This came from another printable pack from 2 Teaching Mommies. I laminated these cards too. You are supposed to have the child clip the clothespins on the correct number at the bottom of the card, but I knew Trevor’s accuracy with clipping wasn’t quite there. So I wrote the numbers 1 – 10 on ten clothespins. So after he counted he found the clothespin with the right number and just clipped it anywhere on the card. I was really impressed with his patience during this activity! He lost his place counting a few times, but didn’t get upset. He did grumble a bit, but never freaked out (which is huge for him).

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In may be a lot of added work for me, but I love how excited Trevor is every morning seeing what advent calendar activity we’re going to do today. Activity advent calendars really are so much nicer than ones where the kids get to open a cheap toy or junk food. The memories we’re making he’ll have forever! Plus I’m also happy when I get to sneak in some OT practice into our routine :). Do you do an advent calendar?

Turkey Baster Bathtub Play

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In an effort to improve Trevor’s grip strength and grasp I’ve been trying to add in some fun fine motor activities to our daily play. Lately he’s been having a lot of fun with a turkey baster that I picked up at the Dollar Tree. I thought I’d share three of the fun activities with you:

1) Washing Off Name/Words Written in Foam Soap

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2) Filling Up a Cup

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3) Mixing Colors

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Glowing Fall Sensory Bin

We have been doing lots of Fall themed play around here. I just made this great new sensory bin for Trevor the other day and he had so much fun with it.

I filled up our bin with our black light-responsive rice (dyed with neon paint instead of the normal food coloring). Then I made a “tree” out of a paper towel roll, neon duct tape, and pipe cleaners. I cut leaf shapes out of neon paper, laminated them for extra durability, and used a hole puncher to punch a hole in the middle of them. Trevor got to do some fun, Fall-themed lacing work while lit up with a black light!

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I also painted some fake pumpkins and squash that I picked up at a discount store with the neon paint too and included them in the bin as well. He had fun lacing the leaves on the tree and “watering” it with the rice. This was a great fine motor and sensory activity!

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