Tag Archives: preschool

Button Snakes and Beans


No matter how much of an effort I make to spend time with my kids outside during the heat of the summer, sometimes my internal thermometer begs for some indoor activities.  North Carolina is hot, y’all.  I know there’s a heat wave all over the country right now, but the South is known for it’s brutal summers and thick humidity.  Air conditioning is my friend.

My heat intolerance isn’t problem for Christopher, who is old enough to ride his bike outside with his friends even when I’ve had enough for the day.  But for His Majesty, it can sometimes take a little creativity to keep him busy,and adequately distracted from the things he wants to do outside.  If you have the same dilemma with your own toddler, allow me to suggest two ideas that have made our indoor time simple, quiet, and enjoyable.

The first idea is playing with dried beans.  All you need is some dried beans, a kitchen funnel, a few measuring cups, bowls or containers in various sizes(empty yogurt cups, spice jars, or oatmeal containers will work great for this), and spoons.  You can make an easy funnel by cutting off the top of a plastic pop bottle if you don’t have one.

His Majesty has enjoyed this activity since he was about 18 months old. It’s a bit messy, but I just vacuum after he’s done, and all is well.  He loves pouring and scooping the beans.

When your child is ready, you can make clean up a sorting activity, and sort the different beans into similar groups.  You can count them.  You can also hide little toys (he likes when I hide little people in the beans) and have your child can dig for them, like a little sensory scavenger hunt.

His Majesty has never been the type of kid who mouths things, so I don’t really worry about him choking on these.  Plus, if he decided to eat a few (which hasn’t been a problem thus far), beans are obviously edible, so no worries there.  However, you should also be aware that some kids will stick things in their ears or nostrils, so keep an eye out if your kid is into that.

When we’re done playing with these, I put them back in a container in the pantry and they’re ready to play with the next time.  I don’t cook dried beans (I honesty don’t know how, but I do know that doing so takes a long time, so I don’t really care to learn either), so I don’t have to worry that they’ll accidentally end up served for dinner after laying on the carpet or being handled by sweaty toddler hands.

Another fun, and very easy, busy toddler activity is a button snake, like this one from The Activity Mom. All you need for this is some very basic sewing skills, a button, some ribbon or fabric trim, and felt squares in assorted colors.  I also used an elastic hair band, but that it totally optional, and I’ll tell you about that in a moment.

Start by cutting your felt into shapes that you want your toddler to “feed” the button snake.  I used squares, just because it was the easiest, but you could use triangles, stars, circles, hearts, or a combination of shapes.  Set one shape to the side to serve as the base of your button snake.

In the center of all of your shapes except for the one you reserved, cut a slit long enough for your button to fit through.  Those will be your button holes.

Take the one felt shake that you set aside and sew your ribbon (I used a squiggly trim, since it was a bit firmer) to it.  I made a few passes with my sewing machine, and I didn’t even change the thread color, I just used the pink that was already in there.  Make sure you sew it on there securely, since your toddler is going to pull on the ribbon, and you want this to stay together so that the rest of the shapes don’t slip off the ribbon.

The next step is to sew your button on the other end of your ribbon.  I hand sewed it flush with the ribbon, and I did about 40 passes, to make sure it was good and sturdy.  Toddlers are rough, after all.

Here’s where an elastic hair band came into the picture.  I sewed the hair band to the underside of the felt base. I  sewed right down the middle of the band, giving me two loops.

That makes it easy to wrap everything up and keep it together for storage.

That’s it.  Your button snake is ready to rock.  Hand it to your toddler and let him or her “feed” the button snake.

The monkey tail you see peeking out from behind him is totally optional.  He got that at his Best Friend’s monkey themed birthday bash, and he has made it part of his daily wardrobe now.

The button snake is quiet and portable enough to bring to the doctor’s office, or on car trips, making it a great addition to a busy bag.  You can also reinforce color recognition into this activity, and, if you cut your felt into different shapes, you can extend the activity to include shape recognition.  As a perk, there’s little, if any, clean up involved when the fun is over.

Having simple little activities like this on hand has been really useful if I need a few minutes to make a phone call, or to assemble lunch or to just have a few moments of quiet.  Plus, they are great for fine motor development.

What have you been doing to keep yourself or your children busy this summer? I’d love some new ideas if you care to share!

Happy Trails


We were off again last week, this time headed up north, to visit with some friends in the Wisconsin Dells, with a stop along the way to see my in laws in a neighboring state. Not exactly a kid free trip to NYC, but it was sure to be interesting, nonetheless.

One reason it was certain to be interesting is that His Majesty despises being confined in any capacity, but more so than any other form, he loathes being in the car. He literally has come to associate car trips of any length with mindlessly stuffing his face full of food, preferably in form of empty carbs. As in, we eat breakfast and immediately get in the car for a 10 minute drive to a friend’s house, and he starts squawking for “something else” (food) before I even have his car seat buckled. This makes road trips not only messy, but inherently annoying, as we collectively try to shovel food in his direction while he repeatedly barks orders at us (“I want TWO crackers!”), lest we move too slowly and he morph into a cranky tantrum-laden troll. Oh, and did I mention that he stubbornly refuses to nap in the car– that he refused such a challenge, even as a newborn baby– despite our best efforts, bribes, and begging?

Sounds like a blast, no?

At this point, we are both used to his travel challenges, and ridiculously sick of them. We travel a lot, and I wanted to read a book in the car or nap or daydream uninterrupted. Enter THIS idea, courtesy of Crazy Domestic, for travel trays.

I was pretty much willing to try anything at this point, so some chalk spray paint and dollar store cookie sheets seemed like a small investment to make in the “Travel in Peace and Quiet” fund. I found the chalkboard spray paint at Hobby Lobby, and the cookie sheets, stickers, magnetic chip clips, pencil boxes and twist crayons (hoping they won’t melt as quickly as regular crayons) at the dollar store. The chalk and magnetic letters we already had handy, and I printed some free coloring sheets. We also liberated some matchbox cars from Christopher’s room. Everything for the project cost less than $15. The chalk paint was the costliest item, but I used a 40% off coupon, saving a few bucks.

I sprayed the trays during nap time. I did 4 thin coats, letting each coat dry for about 20 minutes in between. Per the paint instructions, it is recommended that you not write on your new chalkboard for 24 hours, so leave yourself adequate time before your trip so you aren’t disappointed.

On one tray, I used chip magnets to hold coloring sheets. Unlike Crazy Domestic, I decided not to glue the pencil case onto the surface of the tray, since the cases I’d purchased would take up too much play space on the trays.

Instead, I used magnets so that they would adhere to the front of the tray, and also serve to contain everything into as compact and portable of a package as possible for transport. I used the other pouch (not shown) to carry the matchbox cars.

I filled the case with the stickers, magnets, crayons, and chalk.

On the second tray, I stuck the magnetic letters, and more magnetic clips.

The third tray, I reserved until we arrived at our cabin.  It was my “ace in the hole”, the card to play at that immiment moment when His Majesty was just about to lose it.  Like my inspiration, I drew a little road on the tray in chalk, and let my little guy drive some of Christopher’s cars around the tray.

I would like to tell you that these simple trays revolutionized our road trip, and that we drove in blissful silence the entire drive, each of us enjoying the sound of the other’s breathing, but as great as they are, we still had plenty of noisy carb loading from our resident toddler, who kept a pretty constant running commentary of nearly every item we passed on the road. He is two-years-old, after all. However, the truth is that he thoroughly enjoyed the trays, loudly squealing in delight whenever I whipped them out.  They bought us far more quiet time than we have enjoyed on any other road trip since His Majesty arrived on the scene in 2010, which is a certain return in the time and money invested in this simple project.

And, as it turns out, our chalk board trays served an additional purpose.

Our friends used one of them to leave us us a good-bye note before heading back to their own home in the wee hours of the morning, after having spent a few days with us.

When I woke up to this on the counter, it was my turn to squeal with delight.  Gotta love handwritten notes! (The pterodactyl reference is an inside joke.  Hahaha, you just had to be there.)

What are your travel tricks and tidbits?  Do you have a masterful way of packing a suitcase, or stuffing an unbelievable amount of luggage into a vehicle?  Is there something that you or your family MUST travel with?  Tricks for occupying kids on trips, long or short? Share the love, share your travel tips!

2nd Birthday Pin-sanity!


(This is my first time entering The Pinterest Challenge!  Be sure to check out the talented hostesses, Sherry at Young House Love, Katie at Bower Power, Cassie of Hi Sugarplum, and Erin at The Great Indoors, and go scope out their great Pinspirations!)

Oh. My. Gosh.

I had so much fun this weekend.  Scratch that. I’ve had so much fun over the past FEW WEEKS, planning His Majesty’s 2nd Birthday party.

My party planning board is one of my favorites, because it not only gives me ideas for parties, but it makes me want to throw parties.  Lots of parties.  When I started pinning, the party board was the first board that I got going on, and the barnyard theme stuck out immediately as a great idea for His Majesty’s birthday.  And barnyard/farm is such a popular toddler theme that you can definitely reach information overload, trying to filter through ideas, so it was nice for me to have a place to keep all of the great ideas that I wanted to try in one place, to refer back to.

March is a tough time to plan a party with an outdoor theme.  Some might say it is a bad time to try to plan a party with an outdoor theme.  But the truth is, where I live, it could be 75 degrees in March, or it could snow.  And while it would suck to play an outdoor party and have it snow, it would suck to stick with an indoor party because you were afraid, only to wake up to a perfect Carolina blue sky and 75 degree temps.  NC springs are glorious (minus the thick coating of pollen, but hey, that’s what Elderberry syrup is for), and I wanted His Majesty wanted a petting zoo.

So, I planned a party with outdoor themed elements, mainly a traveling petting zoo, but I figured we’d spend some time indoors, too, playing games and such.  As luck would have it, rain was forecast the entire day of the party.  My friends started giving me sympathetic looks about mid week, when it became clear that I was going to have to do something with the party plan.  I realized that I had to suck up the idea that farm animals were going to end up in my garage, and as much as that horrified me in theory, it wasn’t too bad when it became a reality.  It actually didn’t rain the entire time of the party, but it was wet out from rain all that morning, so we put the large animals in the garage, just in case the sky opened up.  The smaller animals were penned in on the grass, and it worked out perfectly.  Turns out, these mobile petting zoos know what they are doing like “whoa”.  They put down a little outdoor carpet in the garage, and kept a big brooms handy, plus, they cleaned up everything.  Seriously, when they were gone, I couldn’t tell they’d ever even been here.  Very professional people. I was so pleased.

So, crisis averted, thanks be to God, and the show went on.

Want to see what we ended up with?


I loved this invitation from Zazzle, because it allowed me to stick my kid in a cow costume that was originally his big brother's, but that likely won't fit him come Halloween, plus it was customizable, so I could add the cheesy rhyme, AND, it was two sided, so the fun little tag line was on the front, and there was plenty of room for the specifics of the party (date/time/etc) on the back. There's always a coupon code online for Zazzle, so be sure to check if you ever want to order.


Gingham tablecloth made by stitching the cut edges of a 36 inch by 80 inch piece of fabric; Mason jars decorated with gingham ribbon, filled with crayons and flowers; free farm animal coloring pages; dollar store wicker baskets with gingham ribbon hot-glued for accent; Metal pails from Hobby Lobby filled with apples; Barn Door wall decor from Oriental trading company. Folding chairs rented for something ridiculously cheap like $1 each/day.

Cow print fabric and gingham ribbon banner, with felt letters; Accented with wooden farm animal accents from Hobby Lobby.

"2" Photo collage, done with the help and awesome innovation of my super smart husband. Just wait until I show you how he helped me do this. The man is a problem solver.

Streamers and string of balloons hung by my adorable (and previously mentioned) husband.

Another angle of the streamers and balloons.

Table covered with fabric leftover from making the tablecloths; Lollipops covered in barns/farm animals made from cardstock in mason jars filled with popcorn kernels; Barn themed gift boxes from Hobby Lobby filled with farm animal stickers and tattoos from Oriental Trading Company, and farm themed activity book from Hobby Lobby;


Barn cake and cupcakes made by a lovely woman who donates the proceeds of her cakes to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Talk about a noble cause.

Veggie platter with tomato, cucumber, bell peppers, carrots, and celery with hummus and french onion dip; Fruit platter with grapes, blueberries, cantaloupe, and oranges; Bite sized pigs in a blanket.

Sandwich Ring from our grocery store deli with Dukes Mayo and Comeback Sauce; PBJ and sandwich thins;

Cow print cake pops and white chocolate covered marshmallows. Cake pops, YUM. White chocolate covered marshmallows... marshmallow-y... I guess I forgot that I really don't like marshmallows, and as it turns out, neither do my kids.


Pink "Pig" Pom Pom Poppers and "pig pen"

"Pig Pong"

Coloring break!

Sensory play "scavenger hunt"-- I had no idea that even the big kids would enjoy this so much!

Ribbon pull bar pinata from The Paper Factory.

And, my favorite part of the day, playing with the animals!  They had traditional farm animals, like goats, a donkey and sheep, and then a lizard, a ferret, a duck, several bunnies, an Alpaca, guinea pigs, a tortoise, a pot bellied pig, and a few snakes, like this ball python.  They had a hedge hog, but he was sick, so they didn’t bring him.  Bummer.  Maybe next time.  The animals were all super friendly (two of the bunnies even tried to get extra friendly, if you know what I mean), and the kids were able to handle them and pick them up at will.

The pig was my personal favorite.

Whew!  There was certainly a lot of pinning going on for His Majesty’s barnyard bash.  Take a look at some of the ideas that inspired this Pinsanity:

The Invitations, decorations and Table-scape were (p)inspired by:

Shin Dig Diva (pin and pin)

Hostess Blog (pin)

The Celebration Shoppe (pin)

Live Smile Celebrate (pin)

Sara’s Party Perfect (pin)

The photo collage (p)inspiration was from Persnickety Prints

The Cake/cupcake (p)inspiration was from Disney Family Fun

The farm animal lollipops were (p)inspired by this pin and this pin and also this pin

The Pom Pom Poppers were (p)inspired by Fish Out of Water (pin) and Come Together Kids (pin)

Pig Pong was (p)inspired by Pen n’ Paper Flowers

Covered Marshmallow “Moo Pops” were (p)inspired by Catch My Party

The Farm Play Sensory Scavenger Hunt was (p)inspired by Counting Coconuts

The fabric birthday banner was (p)inspired by many of the blogs that helped me choose the decoration and tablescape, , but the tutorial that helped me lay out my plans is from Martin Family Living (pin)

And the Petting Zoo was hosted by Kiddie Kritterz out of Pilot Mountain, NC.  They are the nicest folks we’ve met in a long time, they arrived on time, cleaned up EVERYTHING, and were a joy to work with.  I highly recommend you give them a call if you’re looking for a mobile petting zoo or pony rides.

I’d also highly recommend you have awesome friends attending who will help you move the party along and keep track of all of the kids in various stages of activity throughout the event.  My friends are so amazing. If we happen to have the same friends, you know how lucky you are.

And that’s the story on how a whole lot of pins became one super fun 2nd birthday party!

What are some of the fun party themes you’ve been pinning?

Valentine Fun


Tomorrow is His Majesty’s play school Valentine’s Day party.  Play school parties, I’ve come to learn, require roughly as much food as that necessary to feed a high school football team, only packaged prettier so as to attract the little tykes’ attention.  For the Thanksgiving party, I signed up for the “snack tray”.  I brought a two pound bag of chunk cheese and 2 boxes of pretzel crisps, figuring I’d bring the rest home as an afternoon snack.

When I arrived to pick him up, less than three hours later, every bite of the cheese and crackers was GONE.

There are five children in His Majesty’s class.


They collectively weigh less than my (naturally and annoyingly thin) husband, and they ate TWO POUNDS of cheese and TWO ENTIRE BOXES of pretzel crisps, PLUS the “Main Dish” and fruit platter that were brought in by other parents.  I was absolutely astonished, but more so, I was secretly relieved to know that it wasn’t only my toddler who ate like every morsel of food set in front of him was his last meal.

This time, it’s my turn to provide the “Take Home Treat” (which is their way of describing goody bags). I knew that I wanted to make sure to include enough stuff to actually make it home.  I mean, if they can blow through two pounds of cheese and crackers two hours after breakfast, I’d better have more than one thing to tide them over until they got out of the parking lot.  Naturally, I turned to my pinterest boards.

The first thing I decided to include was this holiday snack mix, from Betty Crocker.  I followed the directions exactly and whipped up a batch, packaging it up into individual servings in these cute little heart sandwich bags.  Pretty, colorful, AND tasty.  It reminded me of what I’ve always called “monkey munch” (and what my husband calls “puppy chow”), except with vanilla instead of chocolate.  I made a double batch to pack some in my husband’s lunch, for a play date that we’re hosting this week, and of course, for Christopher to have a special treat. The recommended servings were really small, though (seriously, a TEASE), so I ended up making TWO double batches.  If you’re going to make a mess in the kitchen, do it right.  At least, that’s how I like to do it.

Next, I saw this school valentine idea using Swedish Fish (from Bateman Buzz), and I decided that it would be the perfect way to incorporate His Majesty’s favorite treat on the planet:  Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers.  Oh yeah, baby.  I kick myself for not having bought stock in Pepperidge Farm prior to His Majesty’s discovery of them, but luckily, we have a Pepperidge Farm Outlet a few miles from our house, so he’s not breaking the bank with his demands indulgence.  I did a quick Google search for “Free Fish Clip Art” and came up with dozens of choices.  My favorite was these kissing fish, from Squidoo.

I cut and pasted the images onto a 3 column table, picked a font, typed the rhyme from the Bateman Buzz post, and printed everything out on regular old printer paper.  I cut them apart, and then used a hole punch and yarn to string the Valentine to the individual cracker bags.  You could use card stock, if you’re that cool.  You could even get fish stickers and really fancy it up. I am not that cool, so printer paper it was.  Maybe next year I’ll be cooler.

Next came the butterfly suckers.  I got the idea from this pin, which led me to Mud Pie Studio , where I read her incredible post of 101 Valentine Ideas for Under $5.  The list is a keeper, so be sure to pin something from it for next year.   The butterfly sucker#8, was the original idea that I was after, and it was easy to recreate, using (the obvious) suckers, Valentine themed scrapbook paper to print the template (so graciously provided by Mud Pie Studio), scissors, wiggly eyes, and tacky glue.

Cute, right?  Hold that thought, we’ll come back to it in a minute…

While I was perusing Mud Pie’s List, #65 also caught my eye; What toddler doesn’t love bubbles? Seeing that I already had some mini bubbles (from the stash of pinata supplies I’m collecting for His Majesty’s big birthday party coming up in a few weeks), all I had to do was search for “Free bubble clip art”.  I found this little cutie from Clkr, and my search was complete.

I made another table, typed out the text, printed it, picked up the scissors, and went to work with my paper punch and some valentine ribbon (I got the valentine themed mini ribbon multi-pack last year from Michael’s).

I was pretty pleased with myself.  I got out the Valentine’s Day boxes and treat bags that I bought on Super Clearance last year, and I also threw in little harmonicas from my growing pinata stash.   At Christmas, one of the take home treats was a little plastic flute, so I decided to stick with the noise making toy tradition.  His Majesty loves that thing, and it’s so funny to watch him dance around the living room “making music”.  Toddlers are so fun.  I spent less than $20 on everything,  which is $4 per kid, with several leftovers to give to friends, and lots of leftover chex mix to enjoy and, of course, for the teachers.  Not too bad.

But, do you remember when I told you to hold the thought about the suckers?

Do you see a problem here?  Look again…

Think about it…. Toddlers… play school party… suckers… And no, I wasn’t worried about the sugar.  I know some people who are super freaks about sugar, and that’s cool for them, but I’m a moderation person.  Plus, I don’t even give His Majesty juice, not even watered down juice, so I’m ok with giving him a sugary treats here and there.

But sugar worries exempted, the problem was indeed the suckers.  Specifically, that I had chosen to use Blow Pops.

*Forehead Slap*

Blow Pops have GUM in them.  As in, pretty much the number 1 edible item that “they” tell you not to give to toddlers. Play school parenting fail.  I got so excited about the cute pin that I pretty much forgot about who I was making them for.  Boo.  But, no worries, we have a playdate the day after the big party, so we’ll be giving some to his older friends.  Plus, Christopher assured me that he could handle eating “a few”, all in the name of not letting any go to waste of course. He’s such a team player, that one.

So, I guess three out of four ideas turned out as intended, and I’m ok with those odds.  75% was a passing grade when I was in school, and I’ll take it for my parenting prowess as well.  C= MOM.  Oh Happy Day.

What about you, though? Are you passing out Valentine’s this year?  Are your children?  Anything that was inspired by Pinterest? Share it with me, maybe I’ll be able to use it next year!

Holy Smokes, I did a Guest Post!


I’ve been on a  fantastic two week vacation with my family (including my adorable 80 year old Grandma, who seems to defy age in every possible way), but I couldn’t resist popping by to say hello, and to let you know that I was asked to do a guest post for Triad Moms on Main!  It’s about a Reindeer hand print Christmas ornament that I made with His Majesty, as part of a family ornament tradition that we started a few years ago (Pssst! It would make a really great addition to your tree, or a great keepsake gift for Grandparents and Godparents).  Pop on over there and check it out!

Hope your December has been fantastic, low stress, and full of fun family traditions.  Looking forward to showing you some of the fun stuff that I’ve been up to when I get home in a few days!! In the meantime, add Triad Moms on Main to your blog roll– they always have something interesting to say!

Happy Holidays!



More Clean Fun! Homemade Bathtub Paint


So, remember last week, when my group of science club kids and I exploded Ivory soap, all in the interest of understanding Charles’ Law?  Well, when our little science experiment cooled down, it left me with this:

A big pile of powdery soap flakes.  So what did I do?

I followed the example set by Housing a Forest, the same blog that gave me the idea to do the ivory soap experiment, and we made bathtub paint!  I figured His Majesty was the perfect age to enjoy painting himself, the bathtub, and anything else that happened to get in his way, with slippery, foamy homemade bathtub paint.

Making it was simple. Of course, if you haven’t already, you have to stick an ordinary bar of Ivory soap (it has to be Ivory) in the microwave for about 2 minutes.

It will grow to about 5x it’s original size, and will gunk up your microwave, but it’s just soap, so no worries, wipe it up and move on. Then, set the soap cloud out to cool.  Mine sat out for about 30 hours, simply because that’s when I got around to making it, and it still worked out fine.

As far as what you’ll need to make the paint, you probably already have everything handy in your kitchen and pantry.

All you need (beside your cooled, exploded Ivory soap flakes) is a blender, food coloring, and some boiling water (which I prepared in that teapot, to make it easier to pour into the blender). Simple enough, right?

Since making the paint isn’t an exact science, I just grabbed a few handfuls of flakes at a time, filling the blender about half way.  Then, I slowly added water (if you add it too fast, you’ll get foamy soap bubbles, which is definitely not paint), and pulsed the blender.  The source blog advised that you blend your mixture to the consistency of yogurt, which took me about 10 seconds to achieve.  She also put hers into icing bags, so that her kids could “pipe” the paint, but His Majesty is more into squishing paint and using a brush, and I had the perfect little empty containers lying around to use for this activity…

Yogurt cups!!  We save them because they are good for lots of things:  Christopher loves to build towers for His Majesty with them, and His Majesty loves to stack them and knock them down, plus we use them to “water paint” on the cement, and I use them when I paint with acrylics. Save your yogurt cups, they really come in handy.

Anyway, fill up your cups with your soap-water mixture that is at the consistency of yogurt.

Then, add your food coloring, and mix your paint.

See how pretty the colors are?  His Majesty’s favorite is “Boo”.

Then, take them to the bathtub and have a go with your fantastic homemade bathtub paint.

My husband likes to be in charge of bath time, and he said that His Majesty was a little tentative about having the paint ON him (I guess my husband figured it WAS soap, so why not wash him up with it), but that he enjoyed smearing it around and “painting” the walls with it.  When the water turned colors, and my husband rinsed it down the drain, His Majesty started chirping “Paint!  Paint!” wanting to have some more paint.  Lucky him, we have plenty left over to use tomorrow.  We used the shower head to rinse the “paint” off of the walls of the tub surround, and it came off without a problem.  I’m thinking that if it’s warm enough in the coming days, I might take him outsideand let him paint the patio.  Cleaning it up shouldn’t require more than the hose.  My kind of clean up.

Two thumbs up for homemade bathtub paint.  Inexpensive, easy to make, and easy to clean up.  But don’t take my word for it, try it yourself! And then come back and let me know how your kids (and you!) liked it.