Category Archives: Fun with Toddlers series

Fun with Toddlers: Pet Theme

This month’s theme was Pets, especially dogs and cats. Here are some fun pet-related things to do with your toddler:

Outings to Go On: Visit a pet store. Look at the fish, or the rodents, or the birds or reptiles. The pet store is just as educational as the zoo, and it’s free! It’s a great chance to talk to your child about animals, and to practice observation skills: “Can you find a yellow fish?” “Which is the biggest bird?” “These are all reptiles. What makes them different from the rodents we just looked at?” If you don’t have a pet at home, don’t feel like you have to buy anything. Most pet stores are used to parents coming in and hanging out with their children for a while. If you want, you could buy a bag of pet food to donate to the store’s pet food drive. (Look for a donation bin at the front of the store.)

Toys to make for your child

Balloon Puppies. Take a balloon. Blow it up. Draw animal features on, add a string and you have an instant pet for your child to take on a walk! If you want to be fancy, you could use a helium balloon and fasten on “legs” made of accordion-folder paper – the home made version of the toy pictured.

petsDoggy ears (or kitty ears). Make a circle of paper that fits around your child’s head and add ears, or turn a child’s headband into the base for ears.

Imagination Games to Play

The Dog House. Take a big cardboard box. Cut an arched doorway in it. Decorate it like a dog house. Add things to represent dog food dishes, dog bones, dog toys and more. Add stuffed puppies if you have them, and then let the play begin.

Pet Store. Set up a pet store with stuffed animals, and accessories for animals (food bowls, collars, treats, toys, and so on, and go shopping.

Songs to Sing / Rhymes to Say

Where has my little dog gone?
Oh where, oh where has my little dog gone?
Oh where, oh where can he be?
With his ears cut short and his tail cut long,
Oh where, oh where can he be?

How Much is that Doggie in the Window
How much is that doggie in the window? The one with the waggly tail?
How much is that doggie in the window? I do hope that doggie’s for sale.
[Search on YouTube for many videos of this song!]

I have a cat
I have a cat (stroke your fist); My cat is fat (arms form a stomach)
I have a cat (stroking); My cat wears a hat (hands on head)
I have a cat (stroking); My cat caught a bat (clap hands together above head)
I have a cat (stroking) Purrrrrr, Meowwww

Circle Time Ideas

Poor Kitty. There is a game that elementary school aged children love called “Poor Kitty”. One person pretends to be the kitty and goes around a circle, trying to make the other kids laugh (by purring rubbing against them, licking them…). The others are supposed to keep a straight face and just pet the “cat” and say “poor kitty” without laughing. You can adapt this for a one-on-one game with toddlers or preschoolers. (Though they probably won’t get the whole “you’re not supposed to laugh” idea.)

Puppy puppet. Bring a puppy puppet and some dog treats (or dog toys.) Give a treat to each child. Bring the puppy around the circle and have each child give the dog a treat. Have fun with pretending to be a happy puppy.

Purple cat, what do you see. Make a felt board collection of pets – brown dog, black cat, yellow bird, gold fish, etc. Give one animal to each child. Do the rhyme, similar in style to Eric Carle’s Brown Bear. Go around the circle to each child in turn, having them place their animal on the felt board. So, if you started with brown dog, and the first child has a black cat, you’d say “Brown Dog, Brown Dog, what do you see? I see a black cat looking at me.”

Books to Read

Roly-Poly Puppies by Elaine Moore. A counting book with a nice rhyming structure.

Pete the Cat by James Dean. There are lots of fun Pete books, but the best is I Love My White Shoes. (Check out our Pinterest page for lots of activities to go with Pete books!)

Aggie and Ben by Lori Ries. Ben’s dad takes him to the pet store to pick out a pet.

More ideas (and source citations) at: www.pinterest.com/bcparented

For my full collection of theme-based “Fun with Toddlers”, click on “Fun with Toddlers series” in the right hand side bar. Or if you would like them in printable handout form to share with students, click here.

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Fun with Toddlers: Winter Theme

Bring the snow inside!You may be several days into a winter break from your school and work routine now, with several days left to go, and looking for new ideas for fun activities for your toddler or pre-schooler. Here’s a collection of winter-themed fun.

Sensory Activities to Do:

Snow in the Shower. When it snows, parents will often excitedly bundle up their toddler, and take them out to play. Then the child just sits and shivers and looks sadly up at the parent. It’s not as fun as you expected it might be.

Instead, try bringing the snow inside! Make sure your bathroom is nice and warm, then bring a big bucket of snow and dump it on the floor of your shower or bathtub and put your child next to it with shovels and toys. (He can even be fully clothed to stay warm.) As the snow melts, it disappears down the drain, so no clean-up required! When your child is done playing, run a warm bath or shower to warm him back up.

Ice Play

  • Hockey rink: freeze a cake pan of water. Make mini “hockey sticks” and use a checker as the puck. Hit the puck back and forth to score.
  • Excavation: Use a loaf pan or bowls to make blocks of ice. Freeze items inside (e.g. plastic penguins or Legos) – give your child a toy hammer and other tools to excavate the toys. (Put the ice in a pan on the counter which will catch all the water, or you can have them sit on the shower floor or in an empty bath tub with the ice if you want clean up to be easy.)
  • Melting experiments: Give your child ice, water with pipettes or eye droppers, salt to sprinkle. Let them explore how to get the ice to melt. Add food coloring or liquid watercolors to make it prettier.

Dry Ice Experiments: Check out my post for lots of ideas.

Games to Play:

Indoor Snowball Fight. Make or buy big white pompoms, or soft white balls. Or just wad up a bunch of paper into balls. Fill a basket with them. Then spontaneously start snowball battles anytime you want to! Not only is this tons of fun, I like playing games where I throw (soft) things at my kids. It helps them be a little bolder about ball games later in life – a little more willing to “head” the ball in a soccer game.

Rhymes to Say

Up the Mountain rhyme
Sit child on your lap
Up the mountain (run your fingers up one of their arms)
Down the other side (then run fingers down their other arm)
Brr it’s cold out… (hug them tight)
Let’s climb inside! (tickle their neck as you reach your fingers under their collar)

Chubby Little Snowman rhyme
See gestures at http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Chubby_Little_Snowman
A chubby little snowman had a carrot nose.
Along came a bunny, and what do you suppose?
That hungry little bunny, looking for his lunch,
Ate that snowman’s carrot nose,
Nibble, nibble, crunch!

Songs to Sing

for the first two songs, give your child a paper snowflake and have them put it on their head, their knee, etc.

Little Snowflake Swirling Round (tune: London Bridges)
Little snowflake twirling round
Twirling round, twirling round
Little snowflake twirling round
Lands on my head!
Repeat with different body parts.

or Snowflake Fancy Free(tune: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star)
Snowflake, snowflake, fancy free,
Snowflake, snowflake, dance with me.
First on my head, then on my toes,
Then on my nose, where the cold wind blows,
Snowflake, snowflake, turn around,
Snowflake, snowflake, touch the ground. //
Snowflake, snowflake, fancy free,
Snowflake, snowflake, dance with me.
Touch my ear, then my knees,
Snowflake, snowflake, I’m about to freeze!
Snowflake, snowflake, turn around,
Snowflake, snowflake, touch the ground.

Sing the My Mittens song in those inevitable moments when you’re searching for your child’s missing mittens.

Crafts to Do:

http://www.howwelearnathome.com/2013/01/build-shape-snowman.html

howwelearnathome.cm

Mittens: Cut out 10 paper mittens. Have your child decorate them. (Or for younger kids, have them scribble / finger paint all over a piece of paper, THEN cut out mitten shapes.) Then do the 10 little mittens rhyme together.

Tracks in the Snow. Make white play-dough. Play with toy animals in it, and point out the tracks they make. (Source, with pictures.)

Shape snowmen. Check out original idea here.

Books to Read:
Amy Loves the Snow by Hoban. Sweet simple story for little ones.

The Snowman Storybook or The Snowman by Raymond Briggs. These are the same story, but the Snowman is wordless – you tell the story in your own words. Beautiful illustrations. Story of a snowman who comes to life. Note: This book has a sad ending. (I think that’s OK – helps to build emotional literacy. But some parents prefer to avoid.)

Red Sled or Red Hat by Judge or The Mitten by Jan Brett. All three are stories of woodland creatures getting into mischief with children’s belongings.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Keats. A little boy in the city enjoys a snowy day. This book, published in 1963, was noteworthy for being one of the first picture books to feature an African-American child.

More ideas (and source citations) at: http://www.pinterest.com/bcparented

For my full collection of theme-based “Fun with Toddlers”, click on “Fun with Toddlers series” in the right hand side bar. Or if you would like them in printable handout form to share with students, click here.

Fun with Toddlers: Stars and Moon Theme

holiday-kids-crafts.com

holiday-kids-crafts.com

December 21 is winter solstice. The longest night of the year. If the weather is clear, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to go out after dark but before bedtime to check out the night sky and winter constellations (look for Orion!). Here are some other fun moon and star activities.

Planetarium trip

Many planetariums offer shows especially for young children. At Pacific Science Center in Seattle, they have Preschool Trip to the Moon for kids under 4. At Bellevue College, they have shows for kids 6 and up.

Sensory Activities

Mirror Painting. Let your child finger-paint on a mirror. Use blue paint (or blue and black), silver glitter paint, or shake-on glitter. The swirls of color and sparkle look like a starry night. When the mirror is covered with paint, you can use a clean finger to “write” on it.

Star Play-Dough. Make dark blue & purple playdough with glitter and star confetti mixed in.

Songs to Sing / Rhymes to Say

At Night I see the Twinkling Stars – rhyme
(see gestures here)
At night I see the twinkling stars
And a great big yellow moon!
My Mommy tucks me in at night
And sings a good-night tune.
Good night!  ZZZZZZZ. . .
WAKE UP!

We’re Flying to the Moon – rhyme
We’re flying to the moon. We’re flying to the moon.
Oh, what an adventure! We’re flying to the moon.
10 – 9 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – BLAST OFF!
(lift baby into the air)

Four Little Stars – rhyme
(Use your fingers to count down)
Four little stars winking at me,
One shot off, then there were three.
Three little stars with nothing to do,
One shot off and then there were two.
Two little stars afraid of the sun,
One shot off, then there was one.
One little star, alone is no fun.
It shot off, then there was none.

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star – song

Crafts to Do

Star Stickers. At any office supply or drug store, get a pack of star stickers, like a teacher would put on homework. You can let your child stick them all over black paper to make a starry sky, or make a holiday card by drawing a Christmas tree, and encouraging them to decorate it with the stars.sticker

Tip: It’s often hard for little ones to pry up stickers. Make it easier by pulling all the background paper up from around the stickers, leaving just the stickers on the paper. (Click on that picture for a better look.)

Popsicle Stick Stars. Give your child 5 popsicle sticks to decorate with glitter glue or paint or markers. Then assemble them into a star.

Books to Read

How to Catch a Star by Jeffers.

Goodnight Moon by Brown.

Twinkle books. There are LOTS of books with the words from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and variants on that theme. Check some out!

For my full collection of theme-based “Fun with Toddlers”, click on “Fun with Toddlers series” in the right hand side bar. Or if you would like them in printable handout form to share with students, click here.

If you have a child age 3 – 7, learn about lots of hands-on activities for teaching them about the science of stars and constellations at https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/2017/02/28/stars-2/

Fun with Toddlers: Farm Theme

IMG_20140905_145903210Here’s a collection of fun farm-themed activities for toddlers and preschoolers.

Outings to Go On

Take your child to a farm park or petting zoo to see and interact with animals up close and in person. Click here for options in the Seattle/Bellevue area. In the fall, go to the fair! (state fair, county fair, etc.)

Take your child to u-pick farms. (Look here for listings of farms in the U.S., Canada, and more.) In Washington state, we pick berries June through September, apples in September and October, pumpkins in October, and more. Or join a CSA: Community Supported Agriculture farm that allows you to visit the farm.

Game to Play

Animal Sounds. Show your child pictures of animals, and teach your child animal sounds. Then ask your child “what noise does a cow make?” Praise them when they say moo. And so on. Children can often make recognizable animal sounds before they have much language, so it’s a fun way to see how much your child really understands. If you want your child to speak multiple languages, ask the question in other languages (like “Que dice la vaca?”). They will learn the answer is also moo. This helps them start making connections between meaning in the different languages.

Video of real farm animal sounds: www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuiwA4Ne_pU;
Fun animal sounds song: www.youtube.com/watch?v=t99ULJjCsaM

Snack to Make

Bread. Make yeast bread (here’s a super simple sounding option) or a quick bread (banana, pumpkin, zucchini…. ) from scratch with your child helping to measure, pour and mix. (Note: cooking with kids takes a long time and makes a big mess – remember this is more about doing a fun activity with your child than about efficiently preparing food.) Or, choose the easy route and make refrigerator biscuits where all you do is pop the tube, put them on a pan and bake.

Butter. Buy whipping cream. Take a small empty glass jar (like a baby food jar or jelly jar) and lid and put it in the refrigerator till chilled. Then fill the cold jar about 1/3 of the way with cold whipping cream. Have your child shake it vigorously for about 15 minutes. (Little ones need your help to shake it enough.) When solid lumps of butter begin to form, pour off the liquid (buttermilk) and keep on shaking until it’s solid. Enjoy!  (See more details here.)

Options:

  • If you want it to turn to butter more quickly: refrigerate a glass marble along with the jar, and when you pour in the cream, add the marble. When you shake, the marble helps agitate (churn) the butter. Just don’t shake it so hard the marble breaks the jar!
  • If you like salted butter, just mix in a little salt at the end.(Or honey… or cinnamon…)
  • If you plan to keep the butter for a few days (we always eat ours right away), follow these directions and thoroughly drain and rinse the butter before refrigerating.

Songs to Sing

Old McDonald.
Video www.youtube.com/watch?v=5oYKonYBujg
Lyrics and Mp3: http://singwithourkids.com/songs/old-macdonald.htm.

Old McDonald had a farm. E I E I O
And on that farm there was a cow. E I E I O
With a moo moo here and a moo moo there.
Here a moo, there a moo, everywhere a moo moo.
Old McDonald had a farm. E I E I O
Repeat, replacing the animal names and sounds.

BINGO
Video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mmF8zOlh_g
There was a farmer had a dog, and BINGO was its name, oh.
B – I – N – G – O, B – I – N – G – O, B – I – N – G – O,
And Bingo was its name, oh!
Repeat. On first repeat, instead of saying the B when spelling it out, clap. On the second repeat, replace B and I with claps, and so on.

Activities to Do

animal match

Match the animal. If you have small plastic animals, then find pictures of those animals (in magazines or online) and make “flash cards.” Have your child match plastic animal to its picture. Source

milking-a-cow2Egg Hunts. Hunt for eggs anytime! It’s a fun, easy learning activity.

Milk a cow. Take a latex (or non-latex) glove. Fill with water (like a water balloon) and tie it closed. Then use a pin to prick holes in the tips of the fingers. Show your child how to “milk” the water out of the “udder.” (Sources: see Pinterest)

Books to Read

Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown. Sweet bedtime book about a day on the farm, that winds down to bedtime. There are lots of details in the illustrations to talk about.

Farmer Duck by Martin Waddell. A story about a duck who does all the work till the animals rebel against a lazy farmer. Great rhythm. Just a fun story! (Even though my son is 25 now, if I just ask “How goes the work?” he replies “QUACK!” just like Farmer Duck says!)

The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say MooAllen. Animals try out other animal’s sounds.

The Little Red HenThere are several book versions of this classic tale. Galdone‘s is nice. If you’re making bread, this is a nice tie-in to that activity.

Poke a Dot: Old MacDonald’s Farm. This is a counting book. Each page has plastic dots you can “pop”. I’m normally not a fan of “gimmicky” books, but I think this one is great for learning one-to-one correspondence, an essential math skill.

More fun on the farm ideas at: www.pinterest.com/bcparented

For my full collection of theme-based “Fun with Toddlers”, click on “Fun with Toddlers series” in the right hand side bar. Or if you would like them in printable handout form to share with students, click here.

Fun with Toddlers: Fall Theme


fall
Here are a collection of fun toddler activities, crafts, and books related to autumn.

Songs to Sing / Rhymes to Say

Apple Tree
[Miming gestures here; video here]
Way up high in the apple tree.
Two little apples smiled  at me.
I shook that tree just as hard as I could.
Down came the apples
and mmm they were good.

5 Little Pumpkins
http://wiki.kcls.org/index.php/Five_Little_Pumpkins
Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate.
The first one says, “Oh, my.  It’s getting late!”
The second one says, “There are witches in the air!”
The third one says, “But I don’t care.”
The fourth one says, “Let’s run & run & run.”
The fifth one says, “We’re ready for some fun!”
Ooooooooooo went the wind, and OUT went the light,
and five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Pumpkin, Pumpkin (tune of Twinkle Twinkle)
Pumpkin, Pumpkin on the ground (crouch down)
How’d you get so big and round? (stretch arms to make a circle)
Once you were a seed so small (pretend to hold a seed)
Now you are a great big ball (make a big circle with hands)

Homemade Toys to Make:

Play-dough: There are LOTS of recipes for Play-dough available online. Here’s one I like: Mix 1 1/2 cups water and 1/2 cup salt. Heat to almost boiling. Remove from the heat and add 2 TBS. vegetable oil, 2 TBS alum*, food coloring. Cool & knead in 2 – 3 cups of flour.

* You can find alum in the spices section of the grocery store. Or you can substitute cream of tartar.

Felt Tree: Cut a tree, leaves & apples from felt. Let your child stick them to a felt board.

Activities / Games to Play:

Sticky spider web. Use painter’s tape / masking tape to make a spider’s web across the doorway. Your child can throw things at the tape and see if they stick. Try cotton balls or wadded up newspaper or whatever small lightweight things you have handy. Source

Leaf Hunt. Go for a walk and collect fall leaves. Talk about the different colors and the different shapes, count how many points they have, compare small to large, and notice smooth edges versus serrated edges. Point out which tree each leaf fell from.

Pumpkins and golf tees: Get a pumpkin, golf tees, and a toy hammer. Kids ages 3 and up can hammer the tees into the pumpkin. For toddlers, you can hammer several golf tees in – they can take the tees out and put them back in – great small motor practice!

Crafts to Do:

Leaf Suncatchers. (See photo at top of page.) Take the prettiest leaves from your leaf hunt and sandwich them between two layers of clear Con-Tact paper. Frame (if desired) with a paper plate rim or construction paper, and hang in the window. Source

Sticky Apple Tree. Cut out a tree shape from brown contact paper for the trunk. Cut green paper leaves and red paper apples (or use green and red pompoms). Hang the contact paper on the wall, with the sticky side facing out.  Let your child stick “leaves” and “apples” to the tree, take them off the tree, and stick on again. Inspiration

Apple prints. Put some paint on a tray. Cut an apple in half. Show your child how to make prints by dipping the apple in the paint, then pressing it on to a paper. Source

Pumpkin finger puppets. Make finger puppets to go with the five little pumpkins rhyme. You could make them with playdough or felt or mini post-it-notes stuck to your fingers.

Books to Read:

  • Owl Babies by Martin Waddell. One of our favorites!! A sweet story about three baby owls who worry when mama goes hunting. But of course mama comes back!
  • Five Little Pumpkins by Dan Yaccarino. An illustrated edition of the finger rhyme above.
  • Apples and Pumpkinsby Anne Rockwell. Simple book that features fall themes like apple picking, jack-o-lantern carving, and trick or treat.
  • Apple Farmer Annie by Monica Wellington. For kids 4 and up. Talks about apple picking, counting, sorting, baking, and selling at a farmer’s market.
  • The Very Busy Spider by Eric Carle. Lots of farm animal noises & repetitive lines for kids to join in on.
  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider by Iza Trapani. Builds on the classic and familiar song as the spider goes on further adventures around a house

Printable handout of these fall activities here.

More ideas (and source citations) for this topic at: http://www.pinterest.com/bcparented

For my full collection of theme-based “Fun with Toddlers”, click on “Fun with Toddlers series” in the right hand side bar. Or if you would like them in printable handout form to share with students, click here.

photo at top of page from: http://artfulparent.com/2011/09/fall-nature-suncatchers.html

Fun with Toddlers: Babies & Families Theme

learning-about-emotions-diy-toyAt my toddler classes, we organize the kids’ activities and room decor around a series of themes. Each theme runs for 3 – 5 weeks. This year, I will be writing a series call “Fun with Toddlers” with ideas for activities parents can do at home: songs, games, crafts, and books. Our first theme of the year is Families and Babies, and lots of my activity ideas tie into learning about the parts of the body.

Songs to Sing

One Two (I have two eyes, so do you…)
Find lyrics, sheet music and an mp3 at: http://nancymusic.com/SOM/2008/one-two.htm

Two Little Eyes (tune: Twinkle Twinkle)

Two Little Eyes to Look Around
Two Little Ears to Hear Each Sound
One Little Nose to Smell What’s Sweet
One Little Mouth that Likes to Eat
Eyes and Ears and Nose and Mouth
Eyes and Ears and Nose and Mouth

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Homemade Toys to Make:

Happy/Sad Face: Use cardboard and paper fasteners to make the face shown in the picture at the top of this post. Spin the features to make happy faces, sad faces, and more. Directions at www.mrprintables.com/learning-about-emotions.html

Family Magnets. Take photos of family members. Glue onto magnets. Let your child play with them on the fridge. You could draw a family tree with pictures on it and have your child match magnets up to names and photos on the tree.

Sensory Activities to Do:

Baby Doll Bath Time. Put a doll and washcloth in a sink full of soapy water. As your child bathes the doll, name each body part.

Games to Play:

Body Part Flash Cards. Find photos of eyes, hands, and so on. Glue to index cards, and write labels. Your child could explore these on their own. Or you can call out a body part and ask your child to find the matching card. Or you can put tape on the back of each one and have your child label your body – sticking each card to the right part of you.

Put Your Finger On… Ask your child to “Put your finger on your nose. Put your finger on your toes” and so on.

Books to Read:

Where Is Baby’s Belly Button?(or others by Karen Katz)

Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toesby Mem Fox

I Can (or other books by Helen Oxenbury)

[This section contains Amazon Associate links.]

More ideas (and source citations):

www.pinterest.com/bcparented/family-and-babies-theme/