DIY Outdoor Reading Den for Kids

My kids love books and they love being outside, so I thought, “Why not combine the two?”  Given their fair skin we tend to play in the shade, so I decided to make them a cozy little outdoor hideaway where we could snuggle up and enjoy a few books.  The best part?  You can make it with items found at the Dollar Tree!  I love me a good frugal DIY project 🙂

All you need is a hula hoop, a shower curtain, and a pack of shower curtain rings.  For $3 and in only a few minutes you have a fun, inviting outdoor getaway spot!

PicMonkey Collage 2

First you hook the shower curtain to the hula hoop using the rings.  Once every ring has been used, tie the two rings from each end together with some garden twine (or yarn, string, ribbon, whatever you have laying around) to keep the top secure.  I then used the same garden twine to tie the hula hoop down from a tree branch.  Add in a few pillows and a comfy quilt and you have a spot that is begging to be lounged around in.

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Both of my kids loved this!  I couldn’t believe how much my daughter enjoyed the spot too, given that she’s always on the go and usually wanders around after a book or two.  The first time my kids saw this we sat and read books for over an hour!  My kids never attend to one task for that long.

Even our puppy wanted to come play in it!

This is a definite must-do activity to add to that Summer Bucket List!  What are your favorite fun and frugal outdoor activities for kids?


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!


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.


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


Sensational Saturday: Cinnamon Dough Ornaments

You gotta love when you get fun therapy assignments, and from 2 different therapists to boot!  Trevor is supposed to work with different types of dough to help build up his fine motor strength as well as improve hand-eye coordination and work on sensory integration.  Since Christmas is almost here and he loved making the Salt Dough Ornaments, we decided to make Cinnamon Dough Ornaments as well.  Trevor loved this project!  And he ate so much dough, he smelled like cinnamon for hours afterward, lol 🙂

What you need:

  • Cinnamon
  • Applesauce

Yep, 2 ingredients is really all you need!

How to Make It:

  1. Mix together equal parts applesauce and cinnamon until a dough forms.
  2. Roll or pat the dough flat.
  3. Cut out shapes with cookie cutters.
  4. Poke a hole in the top of each one so that you can hang them.
  5. Place on a cookie sheet and let dry.  (Ours took a few days to dry)

These are so easy to make!  To make one cookie sheet full of ornaments we used one cup of applesauce and one cup of cinnamon.

Tasting the applesauce:

Watching the cinnamon get measured out:

Tasting the cinnamon:

Playing with the dough:

Smelling the dough (it smells soooo yummy!):

Making ornaments:

Enjoying making a mess with the dough:

After adding some sprinkles, we let them dry:

When they were dry I added ornaments hooks and hung them on the tree with Trevor’s salt dough ornaments:

Trevor had so much fun doing this, we might even make more before Christmas is here!

Make-It Monday: Salt Dough Ornaments

Trevor is so in love with our Christmas tree.  He enjoys looking at all of the ornaments, so it inspired me to let him make some ornaments of his own.  That way, if he wanted to play with them, he could!  I searched online and found this recipe for salt dough ornaments.

What you need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup warm water

How to make them:

  1. Mix together the flour and salt.
  2. Add in the warm water and combine the ingredients until a dough forms.
  3. Lay the dough on a floured surface (or use a Silpat like we did).
  4. Roll or pat the dough flat.
  5. Using cookie cutters, cut out designs for your ornaments.
  6. Put cut-out dough on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  7. Using a toothpick, poke a hole in the top of each ornament so you can hang them.
  8. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for 4 hours, or until hardened.
  9. Once cool, decorate them however you’d like (We used fingerpaints and glitter).
  10. Attach ornament hooks or ribbon, and hang on your tree 🙂

Trevor and I had so much fun making these ornaments together!

Checking out our supplies:

He thought the flour/salt mix needed to make friends with the cookie cutters:

Helping Mommy pat the dough flat:

It’s no fun unless you eat some dough:

Choosing a cookie cutter:

Pushing the cookie cutters in the dough:

All ready to go in the oven:

Checking out the baked ornaments for the first time:

Time to paint!  I had brushes and sponges set out for him to use, but he decided to dip them in the paint instead.  I love when he guides the project in his own direction.

He was having so much fun dipping them in the plate of paint that I had to get a second plate for him so that he’d have more room:

Because an art project isn’t complete without a little glitter:

The finished ornaments, complete with hooks.  (After the paint dried I added a coat of Mod Podge so that the paint and glitter wouldn’t come off when Trevor handled them):

Checking out his beautiful creations:

LOVE that cheese face 🙂

Showing Mommy where to hang an ornament:

Trevor and Sadie checking out his finished Christmas tree:

Make-It Monday: Let it Snow and Reindeer Magnet

Since Trevor enjoyed making Our Fall Tree so much, we decided to to a winter project with contact paper.

What you need:

  • contact paper
  • snowflakes
  • glitter

First I cut a piece of contact paper off the roll and taped it to our back sliding door (sticky side out).  Then I emptied some big foam snowflake coasters and small foam snowflake table scatter onto a chair.

The next step is to “Let it Snow” – stick those snowflakes on the paper!

When Trevor decided he was done adding snowflakes to the project, we went to the table and got out the glitter:

Shake, Shake Shake!

Trevor actually took the cap off of the tube of glitter and dumped it all over the contact paper:

Whoa, Look at This Mess!

I think the one good thing about being a kid with developmental delays is that when you take the cap off the glitter and dump it all over the table, yourself, and the floor is that you don’t get in trouble.  Instead your mom applauds your amazing fine motor skills!  🙂

When he used up all of the glitter I put another piece of contact paper on top so that all of the glitter and snowflakes would stay on.  Then I cut a piece of ribbon, added a couple clothes pins, and hung it up in our window with a suction cup.

Let it Snow

As usual, the finished product turned out great!


The other Christmas art project we did this weekend was to make a Reindeer magnet out of Trevor’s handprints and footprint.  This project isn’t as interactive as a lot of the ones we do since Trevor obviously can’t trace with a crayon or cut with scissors yet.  But there’s something about handprint art that makes a Mama happy 🙂  We did this last year and it’s neat to see when you look at last year’s magnet how much he’s grown.

What you need:

  • Hands and a foot 😉
  • Crayon
  • Paper
  • Felt (you could just use the paper, but this is more fun!)
  • Permanent marker
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Googly eyes
  • Glitter pen
  • Magnet

First, trace both of your child’s hands (for the antlers) and one of his feet (for the reindeer’s head)

Then cut out the tracings of the hands and feet.  These will be your templates.  (If you’re using just paper instead of felt you can skip this next step and simply use the paper cut-outs for the reindeer’s antlers and head.)

Lay the templates on the felt and trace them with a permanent marker.  To make the reindeer’s nose, trace a circle onto some felt (I used a quarter as my template for this)

Once everything has been traced, cut all your pieces out.  Then glue the antlers to the top of the head piece (where your child’s toes would be), and glue the nose to the bottom of the head piece (where your child’s heal would be).  Also, glue on the googly eyes.  Then, using a glitter pen, write your child’s name on one antler and the year on the other.

Finally, glue a flat magnet to the back of the reindeer and display proudly on your fridge.

I put this year’s reindeer magnet next to the one I made last year.  I can’t believe how much he’s grown in just one year!  I’m planning to do this project for many more years to come so I’ll be able to watch his growth through this fun Christmas project. Hopefully in a few years he’ll be able to help me cut the pieces out and be more involved in making his reindeer magnets.

Sensational Saturday: Christmas Sensory Bin

As I’ve said before, sensory bins are a great teaching tool.  They also really help kids focus.  After some guided sensory play Trevor’s balance is better and his words are clearer.  It’s amazing how much a good sensory diet can help a kid!

Sensory bins full of beans and rice are great, but they can get old after awhile.  So since the Christmas season is upon us, we decided to create a Christmas sensory bin 🙂

First, you need to assemble some supplies:

For the “snow” I used a couple bags each of iridescent tinsel and white paper shreds.  Then I added in some Christmas trinkets:  Christmas-themed erasers; small bows; plastic snowman and penguin; jingle bells; round, plastic ornaments; shiny, present ornaments, pom-poms, plastic candy canes and a cup for filling/dumping/pretend play.  I love that these things are all different sizes and textures and that some reflect light and make noise.  I added everything to an under-the-bed storage container, and there you have it, a Christmas sensory bin:

What’s the next step?  Oh yeah, have fun!

This was Trevor’s favorite sensory bin to date.  He loved it so much, he wanted to get in it:

Make-It Monday: Our Fall Tree and Leaf Painting

Trevor and I do a lot of fun crafts, especially around the holidays.  Most of the ideas for the crafts we do I come up with on my own.  However, this latest project was inspired by the blog Play At Home Mom.

On the Play At Home Mom site this tree was done a little differently, but this is what worked for us.  I put fake leaves (thank you Dollar Tree!) in a bowl, taped a tree cut out of brown construction paper to the backside of some clear contact paper, and then taped the contact paper (sticky side out) to our back sliding glass door.  Then I let Trevor go to town and stick the leaves on the contact paper.

Trevor had a lot of fun doing this project.  He loves playing with stickers, so this was kind of like that.  Sadie came into the kitchen to check things out, and Trevor decided that she should have fun doing this craft too.  He kept trying to put the leaves in her mouth, lol 🙂


Keeping with this fall crafting theme, Trevor and I also did another project involving leaves.  We went out by our trees and collected some real leaves.  Trevor loves putting things in his pumpkin pail he used to trick-or-treat with, so we used that as our collection bucket.

Then we brought the leaves inside, dried them, and pressed them.  I put some paint on a paper plate, and let Trevor use the leaves as his paint brush.  He thought it was great!  He really enjoyed using a different object to paint with.

His picture turned out beautifully of course 🙂