As a mom (and teacher), I strive everyday to engage, nurture, and expand the mind of my little one.
Here you will find the books, music, and activities most useful to me in my endeavors.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Family Tree Craft Ideas

Mark your calendars. 
Bust out the crafting materials. 

Grandparent's Day is September 12th.

And nothing says, "I love you," to a grandparent quite like a handmade gift!

Since I also have to ship whatever we make, this little project should've been started yesterday!

My plan is to make Family Trees - one for Grammy and Grampy and another for Mimi.

I've scoured the world wide web and brought you my favorites!  Hope they provide some inspiration for a Grandparent's Day gift that is meaningful, educational, and really special :)

1. Paper Scrap Family Tree
2. Family Tree with Fiskar Scissors
3. Birdie Family Tree
4. Corrugated Cardboard Stand-Alone Family Tree

If you're looking for something with a little more kid involvement, something more hands-on, give these ideas a try:
1. Handprint Family Tree
2. Family Photo Tree

I'll leave you with a sweet grandparent quote:

"Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children." ~ Alex Haley

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Counting Around the House

The weather is delightfully gray and a little chilly here this morning ... the perfect excuse to stay indoors (after a walk to our neighborhood Starbucks) and do a little number activity!

We used our favorite foam numbers - but any numbers - playing cards, post-it notes, flash cards would work.

While NHV ate her snack, I hid the numbers 1-9 - some in obvious places and others that required a few hints from me.

Natalie hunted for the numbers. About halfway through, I asked her to put the numbers on the floor in order, so we could tell which numbers we still needed to find.

After finding all the numbers, we searched through her toy bins to find things we could count and match up to the corresponding number.

There are so many different ways you could play this "game" - stickers on index cards, pom-poms in an egg carton, beads on pipe cleaners, ...

Can't beat good counting practice ... it's FREE and FUN!  NHV wants to know if we can "pay dat num-ber game again after yunch?"  Sure, why not :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fairies in my Toes

While I was making breakfast and tending to the needs of my 8-month old, I heard my {preschooler} say, "Hey, mommy, yook!  Dere's FAIRIES in my toes."

Yeah, I was puzzled.  And busy.  Had no choice but to stop what I was doing and investigate.

Once I say what she was talking about, I had to run and grab the camera ...

If you hear the words, "There's [insert name of small object] in my [insert body part]." from your toddler's mouth, here are a few guidelines ...

Small toys between the toes ... so cute.
Small toys up the nose ... not such a great idea!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Backyard Counting Adventure

Here's a simple idea ... because, really, there's no point sharing a "complicated" idea to try with your toddler ... that would be kind of silly, huh?!

I grabbed my camera and took NHV out to the backyard. I told her the plan ... to count things we see outside and try to find one, two, three, four, and five.

To get the process started, I pointed to the lone ball sitting in the middle of the driveway (not a great place for a ball, btw) and asked, "How many balls do you see?" To which she looked at the ball and then at me with an expression that clearly said, "Is this a trick question?" Apparently that was too easy, but always good to start with a confidence-booster! I asked the same question again; to which Natalie replied, "There's just ONE ball, mommy."

"Right you are. Go stand near it and I'll take a picture."

Next we spotted two bikes hanging from the side of the house. We also talked about how many wheels each bike has and counted to four. Repeated that discussion for the pedals, and then talked about the seats ... there are only two of those, which Natalie found quite interesting.

Near the bikes, Natalie spotted three "garbage" cans ... and then also informed me that there are numbers on the side of the big blue recycling can. She even identified almost all of them correctly ... high five, baby girl!

As we stepped over the huge patch of clover in our yard, I couldn't help but point out that the clover has three leaves.

We found four steps on her little climbing wall and the ladder to her slide.

And, finally, just as Natalie was getting bored of this activity, we counted the number of flower pots without flowers planted in them ... FIVE!

Simple, fun practice counting like objects (and identifying numbers).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Snack Idea

Imagine showing up at the next playdate with these adorable snacks in tow:

I can just about hear the "oooohs" and "aaaaahs" from the mamas as the kiddos excitedly grab their very own little portion-sized (and adorable) snack bag ... filled with cheese and fresh fruit.  I mean, really, who needs Teddy Grahams when you can put a nutritional snack in packaging this cute!

There's an official "recipe" here, but I think you can figure it out from the photo.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Activities Challenge: Letter / Number BINGO

My toddler is soon to be a preschooler ... I am so not sure how I feel about that!  But I do know that I am trying to maintain a certain level of structured learning time during these summer months.  That effort has lead me to the 2010 Summer Activities Challenge hosted by  The challenge is to complete 10 activities before August 29th.  There are thousands (not exaggerating) of activities to choose from, and every age level - from preschool to high school - is covered!  The preschool level includes activities in ten different categories.  There is so much to do here, it's just silly ... and I mean that in a very good way! In addition to being a great resource for activity ideas, the challenge also boasts the chance to win prizes.  Now that's fun!  And motivating!

Natalie and I completed our first challenge.  We did something simple and fun.  We played BINGO, a version focusing on letter and number recognition.  The activity explanation is here, and it even includes ready-to-print templates of the bingo cards.

We used mini marshmallows to cover the letters/numbers, which made it more fun ... or should I say, delicious :)  Each time she identified a letter/number, she got to eat a marshmallow and then put one on the card.  All that picking up of mini marshmallows made for good fine motor practice.  Overall, the game held her attention.  But I made it harder by giving her one Letter card and one Number card at the same time.  This required her first to figure out which card to look at and then find the correct square.

The templates for the caller cards contain ALL letters/numbers, but the Bingo cards themselves do not, so I called a lot of letters/numbers she didn't have.  I guess it was good practice searching and then realizing she didn't "have" that one.  But, boy, was she disappointed to miss out on a marshmallow!

The game of BINGO can be easily modified to just about any and all learning content.

The next activity on our list ... Weave a Colorful Yarn Mosaic!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

You Should Know: Juice Boxes

1. A Juice Box has Wings ... but it can't fly!
Every time I hand NHV a juice box, it comes with a stern warning.  "Here you go, sweetie.  Here's your juice box.  DON'T SQUEEZE IT."  I mean, really, you would think I was issuing some sort of safety warning, not just making an effort to keep her shirt from getting juiced!  It's gotten to the point that Natalie issues the warning herself.  In this super dramatic voice with her eye brows raised, she turns my plea into a question, "No 'queeze dat duice box, right, mommy?"

Geez, she's been drinking from a juice box since last summer, so we've had a full year's worth of "don't squeeze it" warnings ... and subsequent, yet accidental, squeezes.  And, let me tell you, NHV gets distraught when her shirt gets we-et. (She puts an extra syllable in this word and adds a little Southern twang, and I think it's adorable!).

I read about this somewhere - just recently, but I cannot for the life of me remember when or where ...

Before you hand over the juice box, pull up on the two triangles on each side.  I call these the "wings."  Tell your child to grab the box by the wings

And, to be honest, I thought it was too simple of a concept to be a) effective or b) useful to anyone besides me.  Well, I was wrong on both counts.  It works.  It really and truly works, and Natalie loves the idea of  her juice box having wings.  At a recent playdate, I heard a mom mention the "squeezing the juice box" predicament, and so I shared my new idea ... thinking all the other moms would already know about it, but it was "news" to all five of the moms there!  Imagine how cool helpful I felt :)

2. Apparently Juice Boxes also have Lead ... and that's not good!
When I put a juice box in Natalie's hand, I think about the sugar content - just before I remind her to hold the wings.  I wonder whether or not that is the most nutritional choice.  I worry that she'll fill up on those "empty" calories and not eat her meal as well.  But it never - and I do mean, never - crossed my mind that I should be concerned about lead content.  Lead in old chipping paint?  Sure.  Lead in some plastic toys?  Yes, I've heard of that and have a great source for knowing which toys are rated safest for lead content (click here to find out more). 

But now, testing shows that in more than 85% of sampled bottled juice, juice boxes, and packaged fruit the lead content is higher than federal allowable limits for our youngest population.

There's an article at a great site called Inhabitots.
And the complete list of tested products - pass or fail - is here.

It seems I've solved one problem only to stumble upon a much bigger one!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Feed Me Books Friday: Interview with an Author

This week Janna over at The Adventure in Motherhood, the hostess of this fabulous Feed Me Books Friday, shared a book she wrote and even encouraged her participants to do the same.  "Share a book that I've written?" thought I.  Well, that would require me to stop dreaming.  Stop talking about it.  Finally get brave enough.  And just do it already.

Long story short ... I have not (yet) written a book.  But I share that passion and dream with Janna ... and countless other mommy bloggers is my guess.  However, I have had the very distinct pleasure of interviewing an honest-to-goodness, ridiculously talented and successful children's book author.  It was a thrill.  It was inspiring and intimidating all at the same time.

Her name is Linda Ashman.  Before I "knew" her, Natalie and I fell in love with her book Babies on the Go.  It was a random library find, and for a solid month it was read over and over.  Fast-forward about a year, and I started writing for Macaroni Kid in Colorado.  Through my online research, I discovered that a handful of well-known children's book authors live around Denver, which blossomed into an idea for a feature about the "author-next-door."   Through email I was able to learn more about her and her process of writing. What follows is an excerpt from that interview, originally published here.

To look a handful of books written by Linda Ashman, you may be surprised to learn they are all written by the same author.  She writes about a wide variety of topics and has worked with a multitude of illustrators.  Twenty of her books - many of which include poetry and masterful rhyme - have been published. Her books have earned much praise as well as a long list of literary distinctions.  One of her first books, Babies on the Go, is a nighttime favorite of my two year old.  I am a big fan of Creaky Old House; a story about a family who solves a problem and discovers a fondness for their home.

You've written so many books - covering a wide variety of topics - what inspires you? 
For the most part, I tend to write about things I love.  My son Jackson has been the biggest inspiration, but I also write about nature, animals, my dogs, and things that happen to interest me--like monsters in The Essential Worldwide Monster Guide, and life in 13th Century England in Come to the Castle.

Is your writing at all influenced by where you live?  By your daily life? 
Yes, definitely.  As just one example, I wrote Creaky Old House shortly after we moved to Denver, when my husband was busy fixing up our 1919 bungalow.  Jackson was five at the time, and obsessed with all things construction.  He wouldn't go anywhere without his hard hat and tool belt. Between the tools, old house magazines, and renovation conversations, it's no coincidence that I wrote a book about a wacky family and their home repair efforts. 

If you came here looking for a book recommendation, without hesitation, I say read with your child ANYTHING written by Linda Ashman!

Let's Go for a Ride!

Father's Day came early this year ... because the weather was beautiful last weekend and I couldn't wait for NHV and her daddy to try out their new bike seat!

I did a lot of research on bike seats. I knew that we did not want one that attaches to the rear of the bike. Chad wanted to be able to see and hear his rider. I just don't feel like a rear seat is safe. With that in mind, I started searching and found a few options, but none of them reviewed as well as this one. This is the iBert safe-T-seat, and we ordered ours through REI because they have the best return policy.

I took this information directly from their website because these are the two questions I know I would be asking:

Will it fit your kids?  The safe-T-seat is designed for children age 4 and under. The minimum age is 12 months as the child needs to be able to sit up well and hold the weight of a helmet on his/her head. The maximum height of the child that can use the safe-T-seat is 42 inches. Kids much taller than that will be uncomfortable. The recommended max weight is 38 lbs. Above 38 lbs and the maneuverability of the bike may be affected. 

NHV is almost three years old.  She only weighs about 33 pounds, but she is TALL for her age - not sure of her exact measurement.  Already her feet hang just outside the "stirrups" of the seat, but she doesn't seem to mind at all.  I am guessing we will only be able to use this seat through the summer.  But, again, CJV will be able to use it next year :)  

Will it fit your bike?  The safe-T-seat is the most adaptable child carrier on the market today. It fits more bikes than any other front mounted seat. A minimum of 3/4 inch is needed on the handle bar stem to accommodate the stinger assembly.

How much does it cost?  About $100.00.  I'll admit the price was a bit out of my price range. However, we have a second one who will someday ride with her daddy, so I think we'll get our money's worth out of it.  Just from the handful of times NHV has gone for a bike ride with her daddy, I think this is a great investment!

This makes a great Father's Day gift ... I know it's late notice, but you could order it and just print a picture to wrap :)

I should also mention that iBert did not ask me to write this "review" - I just love this product and thought I'd share.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Rainbow Rice

First and foremost, I have to give credit to my brilliant sister-in-law for posting about this idea on her website: Fun Finds for Moms.  

Natalie has been "playing" and learning with rice since about the age of one.  I became very interested in the idea of developmental play after watching an episode of Every Baby's Adventures.  You can read more about the learning behind Pouring and Scooping here.

Anyway, I had read about dye-ing pasta and rice online somewhere else.  I saw rainbow rice/pasta-filled tactile learning tables when I toured preschools back in January.  But  we didn't have any food coloring in the house - for months - so I continued to forget about this fabulous idea.  It is very easy, relatively inexpensive,  somewhat messy, and toddler-pleasing!

You'll need uncooked rice, white vinegar, food coloring, a tablespoon, measuring cup, cookie sheet, foil, and at least one jar.  The majority of which I am guessing you already have in your kitchen.  I had to raid CPV's woodworking shop and dump out an old peanut butter jar filled with screws!
  1. Measure 2 tablespoons of vinegar and pour it in the jar.  My toddler quickly noticed the unusual odor.  She also pointed out that it looked like water.  I took the opportunity to remind her that we do not drink unknown liquids.  Just because something looks like water (or milk or juice) doesn't mean that it is safe to drink.
  2. Next add about 2 cups of rice.  We used a 1/2 measuring cup and counted to four.
  3. Squirt in the food coloring, secure the jar's lid, and shake, shake, shake!  Clearly this was her favorite part ... we made up songs and had a great time.  NHV was amazed to see how the white rice took on a new color.  
  4. Pour the contents onto the foil-lined cookie sheet.  Must warn you, it was stinky!
  5. Rinse the jar.  If you have the time and don't mind the increased mess-factor, I highly recommend toddler help with this step ... the sink is always a big hit!
  6. Repeat the process with another color. We did the four colors included in our set: red, blue, green, and yellow.  And then mixed red and blue to make purple and red and yellow to make orange.
  7. Put the pan in the oven on 175 degrees for about 10 minutes.
  8. Pour your Rainbow Rice into an air-tight container for storing ... after you PLAY with it, of course!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Evolution of the Potty Seat

Natalie is - for the most part - potty trained.  Just shy of her third birthday.  We've been working at this milestone for the better part of the last year.  I'd love to tell you what worked for us ... and I am going to start with the equipment :)

Around 18 months, we started with one of those stand-alone potty seats with the lid that lifts up and the "collection" reservoir beneath.  You know the kind that requires emptying into the toilet and then flushing.  It's gross, and I often wonder, who's idea was this?  For the most, NHV just sat on that potty with the lid down and treated it like her own little chair.  I guess it was good for getting her use to the idea of sitting to do her business.  We left it in the living room for a while and then moved it to the bathroom where she could sit while mommy was "in there."  Side note: I do believe modeling is a part of the learning process.

Next, for her second birthday, we bought one of those cushioned, cartoon-character-clad, rings that you set on the actual toilet.  Hers had Sesame Street characters on it, and I must say she did get pretty excited to sit on it.  And it was a major step in the right direction ... at least now we had cut out the "middle man" - no more emptying and then flushing.  However, I was still fairly disgusted by the idea of constantly moving the ring ... and figuring out where to put that darn thing when it wasn't being used ... but keep it handy enough that it be ready at a moment's notice, which is often the case with a potty training toddler.  I especially hated having a "ring" in the powder room downstairs, our most utilized potty by those who live in our house and those who happen to visit.

And then, I used the bathroom at a friend's house and had a little potty epiphany ... before I even sat down!  Allow me to introduce to you ... the integrated potty seat:

This lid replaces the existing one on your toilet.  The toddler-sized ring is integrated into the lid.  When you close the lid, a magnet automatically engages the smaller ring.  You do have to pull the smaller ring down to use it.  NHV loves this seat because it looks just like the one mommy and daddy use.  She is very interested in doing things "like a big girl" and this seat fits the bill.  I love it because it's easy to keep clean.  I don't have to store it somewhere.  Its appearance is not kid-like.  I feel like we've streamlined our potty needs.

This particular potty seat was purchased at our local home improvement store for just under $30. It comes in both oblong and round; I didn't even know which we had until I got both of them home!  I think it is well-worth the price considering that NHV can use this until her bottom is big enough not to fall through the regular opening and someday our second will be using it, too.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I'm thinking of ...

... a Sesame Street character

... and he has red fur

Did you guess, Elmo?

Well, of course, you're right! 

Have you ever thought about the thinking potential behind a simple game?  This is a game I've been playing with my toddler for more than a year ... and it's ever-evolving!

It started as a way to review colors. I'd give a clue about the color of a Sesame Street character - "I'm thinking of a Sesame Street character and he's yellow."  NHV would guess and I'd give another clue.

The more we played, the clues became more complicated.
  • "I'm thinking of a Sesame Street character who is taller than all of his friends." (Big Bird)
  • "I'm thinking of a Sesame Street character who knows his numbers better than anyone else." (The Count)
  • "I'm thinking of a Sesame Street character who plays the saxophone." (Hoot)
  • "I'm thinking of a Sesame Street character who is NOT blue." (multiple answers)

I always start with "I'm thinking ..." because I want NHV to make that connection ... I am using my brain to come up with a clue to then share with her.

Eventually and after plenty of modeling, NHV started coming up with the clues.  How's that for thinking!  I love experiencing the way her little brain comes up with the clues.  Her creativity astounds me, but I especially love it when she gets so excited by a "good" clue that she accidentally tells me the answer before I can guess!

I love this game because ...
  • it can be played anywhere - on the potty, in the car, at the dinner table, waiting in line at the grocery store, ...  and anytime
  • it's absolutely free and doesn't require any materials
  • it has continued to evolve and grow with my little learner
  • it's fun ... and, really, what better reason is there?!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Feed Me Books Friday: Books About Mamas

I just found The Adventure of Motherhood through one of my favorites, Little Page Turners.  And it it turns out there's this great way to share books called, Feed Me Books Friday.  Sounds like my kind of par-tay  ;)

First of all, can I tell you that I really LOVE being a mom!  Who doesn't, right? Especially at this time of night ... when the house is quiet except for the white noise of two baby monitors gently humming in my ears.  Just kidding!  There are plenty of other times when I LOVE being a mom ... and in all honesty, there were a few moments today when I didn't love it so much at all.  Which is why I am happy to have an excuse to write about a book that makes motherhood seem so darn fantastic.  A book that remind me of the "bigger picture" of raising two daughters, who will possibly become mothers themselves.  Ooooh, I just got this "full circle" chill down my spine!

Let's get to the books before I get complete lost in my thoughts ... but if you're enjoying where that's going, you may want to read this post from about a year ago.

Someday by Alison McGhee

This is a book I absolutely cherish - because it came from my good friend Laurie, first, and then Missy gave me a second "keepsake" copy ...  and because it's just beautiful. The mostly white pages are wonderfully illustrated, each one listing a milestone and then wishes the mother has for her daughter's life. The author includes simple acts like holding hands while crossing the street and running with complete abandon.  Alongside those everyday experiences, there is also mention of life-chaning moments like discovering great joy and experiencing terrible sadness.

For me it serves as a poignant reminder to enjoy where and when we are right now (even in those moments when I wish I was somewhere else). My totally entertaining almost-three-year old will soon enough be heading off to preschool ... and then college! My sweet, sweet Charlottle will never be this same helpless, cuddly baby girl again. A thought that is beyond bittersweet.

After reading this book, I remind myself that someday is everyday.

Now I am off to peek in on those little sleeping faces ...

Oh, before I go, I should mention that this book makes a wonderful gift for an expectant mother with a baby girl on the way.

Monday, May 3, 2010

RECALL of Kids' Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec, Benadryl

Emmett's mommy - over at Rocky Mountain Big Boy - sent me an email yesterday, and I was a little shocked to read about a current massive recall of Kids' Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec, Benadryl.  According to,  43 liquid child/infant products are being recalled by Johnson and Johnson's McNeil Division.

Thankfully, there have been no reported injuries or deaths related to the recall and the chance of such an incident is being called "remote," however parents are being warned NOT to use these products.  A refund will be available - but those details have not been released yet.

A complete list of the recalled medications can be found HERE.
There's also a form for refund/replacement HERE.

Take a minute today to check your medicine cabinet!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Feed Me Books Friday: Books You Can Sing

I am just found The Adventure of Motherhood through one of my favorites, Little Page Turners.  And it it turns out there's this great way to share books called, Feed Me Books Friday.  Sound like my kind of par-tay ;)

And this week's theme, Books You Can Sing, is just perfect because NHV is currently obsessed with two such books ... both written by Mary Ann Hoberman:

This extended version of a patriotic classic just makes us giggle!  It's a clever story of cast of characters - including Yankee Doodle and his pony, of course - who start a restaurant serving noodles, baloney, and apple strudel.  The rhymes are really interesting, and it's so easy to sing along with!

There's so much more to the spider's story!  The waterspout climbing is just the beginning.  She also hugs baby hugs, falls into a stream and gets rescued, and even goes shoe shopping!  So much fun!

The author has several other books in the series, and I would bet they are all pretty fantastic, but these are the two we love and read again and again!

*Disclosure: The book links are Amazon Affiliate links and I will receive a small percentage (4%) of the sale if you purchase one. However, I believe your benefit will be far greater than mine.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Birthday Greeting from afar

My toddler has many friends that live far away.  Technically, her little friends are actually the children of my friends, but you get the idea.  Those friends have birthdays ... each and every year.  I know, imagine that!  It's really hard to keep up with sending gifts, especially when you A) don't get to enjoy the party and B) don't get to watch the gift being  opened.  Where's the FUN in that?  So, I try to come up with fun and creative way to wish a little one happy birthday ... from far away ... without spending a ton on shipping.  I also want to try to involve my toddler in the process as much as possible.  To get the biggest (cutest) bang for my buck, I usually fall back on photography - I take pictures of my toddler :)

Well, my friend Debbie, who I taught with at the beginning of my career, is also mom to three of the cutest two year olds on the planet. You can find out more about Debbie and her triplets at The Growing Cunninghams.  I mentioned that her toddlers are two, but I failed to tell you that milestone is officially TODAY!  

Happy Birthday, H, M, and L!

  • The easel served as the backdrop.  Grabbed a piece of chalk and wrote a simple message.
  • Used PowerPoint to create a really large number 2 (representing the age of the birthday girls and boy).  Typed each kiddos name on the number.  Printed them out.  Cut them out.
  • My toddler sat on my lap and named the letters of each name.  I told her what "she" spelled.
  • Had Natalie choose TWO stickers to put on each one, and then we counted to figure out that 2 + 2 + 2 = 6.
  • I then attached toilet paper tubes to the back of each number to give her something to hold onto.
  • Grabbed my camera and started bribing with jelly beans and clicking like a crazy woman.
  • In the end, I had a bunch of photos to choose from and made a collage using Google's Picasa - that's what you're looking at up there :)
  • I sent the collage to a local place to be printed in an 8 x 10.  
  • Debbie and the birthday kiddos got an electronic copy emailed to them first thing this morning. 
  • The print, all three 2's, and a personal message will be sent to H, M, and L in Virginia.
How's that for a fun and easy birthday greeting?

Toilet Paper Roll Caterpillar

Earth Day has me thinking about the "waste" we produce ... which brought me to the idea of finding a toddler craft involving toilet paper tubes.  Take a second to think about that one ... hee, hee!

I found this one at

It's easy.  It's fun.  It uses some of those pesky toilet paper tubes that we seem to have so many of.

Great way for your toddler ...
  • to practice color recognition / naming
  • to practice fine motor skills - lacing the yarn through the holes
  • to retell a story using a prop
  • to talk about where a caterpillar lives, what one eats, etc.

DLTK's Crafts for Kids
Toilet Paper Roll Caterpillar

This is a simple three dimensional craft that is easy and fun for children to make and play with.   Older children can cut the toilet paper rolls in half for more "joints" in their caterpillar (this is what we did in our photo).  Younger children will want to leave the toilet paper rolls whole as it can be tough to cut them.


  • three or four toilet paper rolls (or a paper towel roll)
  • construction paper
  • scissors
  • glue
  • hole punch
  • string, wool or ribbon
  • Optional:  wiggly eyes


  • Optional:  Cut each toilet paper roll in half so you have twice as many, shorter tubes
  • Glue a piece of construction paper to each tube.  You can use all one color or you can make a multi colored caterpillar (good colors practice).
  • Punch a hole at the front and back (two holes) in all but two of the tubes. 
    • Those two will be the head and the tail. 
    • Punch just one hole in these two tubes
  • Thread a piece of string or wool through the holes of each tube  (like you're sewing them together). 
    • Tie off the string at the head and tail.
    • Don't make the string too tight or your caterpillar won't wiggle.
  • Decorate your caterpillar further with sticker polka dots, marker, paint, etc.
  • Cut two thin strips of construction paper from yellow paper and curl around the end of a pencil
  • Fold a small tab at the end of each and glue it onto the head (the front tube) 
  • Glue on wiggly eyes or draw eyes on with a marker
  • or cut eyes out of white construction paper and draw an eyeball in the middle of each with a black marker

Sunday, March 28, 2010


Natalie was reading books in the other room.  She had been quietly turning pages for about 15 minutes when I heard her say, "Mommy, take off my shirt, my pants, and my diaper."

She made her way into the room where I was just putting the baby down for a nap and repeated her request while counting off each item of clothing on her little toddler fingers.

"Mommy, take off my shirt (index finger), my pants (middle finger), and my diaper (thumb)."

I was puzzled by this request and asked her, "Why do you want to take off your shirt, your pants, and your diaper?"

Again, she demanded - in a very polite yet persistent way - that I take off all that she was wearing ... because she wanted to be nakey!  Well, duh!  But WHY?

"I want to paint like those kids."  Huh?

"Those kids in that book."  Ummm ... you better show mommy what you mean.

She took off running and I followed ... to the bookcase where I found  a proudly smiling toddler and a photography book opened to this page ...

Aaaaah, now it all makes sense!  And how could I refuse her request?  She was inspired by something she saw in a book.  She wanted to try painting in very little clothing.  It does look like fun, doesn't it?!

And so ...she got semi-nakey and painted to her heart's content. 

We compromised and left the diaper on because I was able to point out that two of the kids in the book are wearing their diapers.

Finger painting was not what I had planned for our afternoon.  But we had so much fun ... and she even got an unexpected middle-of-the-day bath after some of that paint managed to get all over her belly - just like in the photograph :)

This experience was such a good and needed reminder to let my toddler take the lead sometimes.  To follow her whims and wants and ideas.  To take something from a book and make it real.  To get nakey and messy :)

What inspires your toddler?  What was the last unexpected thing you did together?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fun on the Go Box

Sick and tired of diaper bag full of "distractions" for my toddler ... especially now that the diaper bag is also for the newborn ... I created our very own "Fun on the Go" Box.  The box lives in my car - and stays there.  I can just grab it when needed ... like for dining out or waiting in the doctor's office.

The Box was once the packaging for store-brand floor wipes (like Swiffer) - nice repurpose, huh?! :)

Inside (aka the Fun) you'll find a baggie of crayons, flash cards, several small books, stickers, and tiny notepad.

What would you put in your toddler's very own Fun-on-the-Go Box?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Night Light Stories

NOTE:  I am reposting this information ... because this is a site you really should visit!  I especially enjoyed their latest poem, Captain Destructo.

I am also very excited to announce an upcoming series of children's books written by the husband-wife team behind NightLight Stories!


As much as I love to cuddle up with a good book, there's something truly magical about having a story read to you. During my years in the classroom, I always treasured the times my students gathered around to hear my voice read the words of a favorite chapter book. Sharing that special time with my own toddler is not only a daily treat but also holds lasting memories for me. And, I wish, so much that my sweet husband would read aloud to me; I love the sound of his voice.
And all of that is just a fraction of the reason that I adore Night Light Stories.

"Night Light Stories is a podcast featuring original children's stories." The stories are funny, entertaining, and great for kids of all ages. Another unique aspect of Night Light Stories is the re-occurring star character, the author's pet ferret Mojo.

The site currently includes 10 episodes, each episode is an original story written by an experienced teacher and mommy ... with some help from her husband. The latest, The Watermelon Seed, is a darling dialogue between a young boy and his grandmother via letters ... over the course of his mother's pregnancy. The story features a soothing rhyme pattern, facts about what plants need to grow, and time transitions over the seasons. In the end, the young boy is introduced to his new baby sister. Too cute!

Aside from the creative content of the stories themselves - which makes this blog well-worth visiting, the podcasts are produced with obvious skill and attention-to-detail. Love that!

As if the stories aren't enough, t
he text of each episode blog post includes useful and engaging features:

  • Words of the Day, aka "juicy words" - really great new vocabulary with words and simple definitions

  • Activity Ideas - ideas for extending a child's story-listening experience.

  • Comprehension Questions - leads for discussing the story with your child and helping him recall details
and ...
Bright Birthday Wishes - the author provides you a creative way to wish someone a happy birthday. All you have to do is send an email to have an announcement made at the end of each podcast episode and on the blog. What child (or adult) for that matter wouldn't love that?

Teacher Thought:
There are three modalities of learning: Seeing (visual), Hearing (auditory), and Touching (tactile). Listening to stories - via podcast - is an excellent way to develop a child's ability to process information auditorially, a skill that is extremely helpful to all students in a classroom. This skill is invaluable and is much different than sitting on a parent's lap and following along with a book.

Give Night Light Stories a try; you won't be disappointed!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Placemat Lesson 2

I try to use my toddler's afternoon snack time as a learning time ... rather than giving into her requests for Elmo or George. I also find that she eats healthier if we are engaged in an activity together rather than plopped in front of the tube. If I blog about it, I am more likely to form a habit ... and perhaps it will inspire your own placemat lessons :)

This is a perfect rainy day - can't-get-outside - kind of activity ...

Take a "virtual" walk through your neighborhood using paper, crayons, and whatever drawing abilities (mine are limited) you possess.

I must give credit to the game CandyLand ... and the little man playing pieces included in the game.  NHV loves those little plastic men, so we decided to take them on a walk!

I started by drawing a road/sidewalk.  

I then asked my toddler, what do we SEE when we go for a walk?  

As she answered that question (I asked it over and over), I drew in the details that she mentioned ... a tree, a puddle, sticks, leaves, a car, a house, the sewer grate, our mailboxes, a school bus - to which we added "tudents" and a "diver," ...

Then it was time for the little men to take a walk.  

First, NHV walked them around and told me what each man was looking at - recalling the details we had drawn/discussed.  

Then, I gave her simple requests like, "Put the yellow man near the tree."  "Walk the blue man to his house."  "The red man needs to check his mail."

Simple, fun, ... learning!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Seuss Activity #2 - Ten Apples Up on Top

For our second Dr. Seuss Book Activity, I chose a familiar book - one Natalie and I have read and enjoyed many times ...

Ten Apples Up on Top

For counting to10, this is a great book!  And my toddler loves the simple animal characters. 

The idea of stacking apples on your head is pretty funny, too!

That's how we started this activity.  I handed NHV an apple and told her to try stacking it on her head.  She giggled like crazy and gave it a try.  Of course, it fell off and plopped on the ground and bruised ... but she sure had fun!

Since stacking an actual apple didn't quite work, we stacked paper apples on a photograph of NHV's (and baby sister's) head.  I just printed a sheet of apples on red paper, cut them out, and put a tiny roll of tape on the back of each one.  She "stacked" and re-stacked using fine motor skills. and counted all along the way.  

We talked about which girl had more apples stacked on her head, and a discussion about sharing ensued. In the end, we tried to put the same number of apples on each head.

Here's the sheet-o-apples I made in PowerPoint:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dr. Seuss - Activity #1

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss!

In celebration of Dr. Seuss' Birthday and Read Across America, NHV and I are reading a Seuss book everyday this week.  Along with each book, I've put together a quick toddler-friendly activity to share with you :)

Today we read "One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish" ... or to be more accurate, we read just over half of this delightful but rather loooong book.  We don't actually own this Seuss book; I picked it up at the library just for the occasion.  

The text starts out rather simply with a predictable rhyme scheme but gets complicated with so many words having the same sound. However, we really enjoyed the illustrations and found lots of meaningful opportunities to count. 

After reading (most of) the story, I put a page of fish in front of NHV and asked her to count them.  
One fish, two fish, three fish, ...

Then I picked up a crayon and asked her, "What number is this fish?"  She started out with 1, 2, 3, and then out of nowhere skipped to 16.  Back to 4.  And finally 20.  I went with it because my goal was for her to say a number and then see it written.  Mission accomplished.

The fish were printed on white paper, so we grabbed the crayons and colored each one a different color.  I liked the repeated shape for this because it gave her a chance to kind of experiment with her method of coloring.  Most of the fish were covered with a few circles of color but she also tried back-and-forth scribbles.

I also printed the same sheet of fish on three different colored papers ... red, blue, and yellow.  We attempted a few patterns starting with alternating red-blue.  NHV did fairly well with that one, so I upped the ante a little and tried yellow-yellow-blue-yellow ... as you can see in the photo, she was struggling and tired by this point ... we'll have to try that one again another day.

Here's my "sheet-of-fish" - you should be able to click to enlarge it and print ...

Tomorrow's activity ... Ten Apples Up on Top!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Read Across America

 "You're never too old, 
too wacky, too wild, 
to pick up a book 
and read to a child."

Tomorrow - March 2nd - is National Read Across America Day.  It also happens to be Dr. Seuss' birthday ... no accident or mere coincidence here.

This is a day designated to celebrate reading and the impact Dr. Seuss books have had on generations of young readers.

This is also a great opportunity to read a book (or a dozen) with your toddler.  And why not make it a Dr. Seuss book?  I am certain there's at least one (or a dozen) living on a shelf in your house right now!

If not, you could always turn to the great-and-powerful internet ... 

The official Seussville website.

YouTube Videos, like ...

Or, be inspired by these Seuss-themed Muffin Tins; I especially love this one.

NHV and I plan to celebrate this special day ... all week long ... with five of our favorite Seuss books.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for a peek at  our Seuss Activity-of-the-Day :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Everyday Learning: Left and Right

I've been working lately with NHV to learn left and right ... in particular her hands and feet :)

Here are a few simple things that have worked for me us:

Play Hokey Pokey ... there's a no brainer for you ;P  
But it's also helpful if you put gloves and socks on before you start playing.  When the song announces, "Put your right hand in," I take off her right glove as a visual and kinesthetic clue.  Same thing with the socks.  Or you can add a sticker to the hand or foot that the song calls for.

Another game we love to play ... and it is a little "gross" ... 
Let Me Smell Those Feet
I don't ever make NHV smell MY feet, but I do pretend to smell hers, and she loves it!  I'll say, "I wonder which foot is stinkier, your right foot - sniff, sniff - or your left foot - sniff, sniff."  I throw in a few dramatic "peee-uuuus" and we start giggling!  Then I'll ask her to raise her right foot so I can get another smell ... and so on.  If feet smelling is too disgusting for you, we've also played Let Me Kiss That Hand :)

I Want To Hold Your Hand ... 
"Which hand do you want me to hold?  Your right or your left?"
Giving choices is a way of helping toddlers feel in control.  And an in-control toddler is a happy toddler, so I am constantly offering NHV a choice ... to the point of being silly really!  But this isn't a silly example.  It has ended hand-holding struggles and reinforced her distinction of left from right.

Which Way Do We Go?
When we're on a walk around the neighborhood and come to an intersection, I let NHV make the decision (again, I think choices are awesome!).  I tell her to STOP and then stand with her arms out like the letter T.  

I say, "Wiggle your right hand.  Wiggle your left hand."  This is a great way to practice the need to stop and listen.  Then, I explain her choices while shaking the coordinating hand.  If we go RIGHT, we'll end up at the big park.  If we go LEFT, we'll end up walking past O's house."  Which way do you want to go?"

Got the Munchies
While NHV is eating a snack like Veggie Booty or Yogurt Bites - something she picks up with her fingers - I'll tell her, "Your right hand has the munchies. See if you can eat two bites with your right hand."

What special tricks do you know for reinforcing left versus right?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pinecones, Rocks, and Leaves

Oh My!

The weather here in the NW has been incredible ... very un-winter-like.  There's been plenty of sunshine and moderate temperatures, which means we've been taking walks ... and squinting as we go!  

When you're "stuck" at home with a two year old and a two month old, the chance to get outside is such a blessing.  When your walk turns into an afternoon activity for the toddler, you've pretty much hit the jackpot!

As we walked through our 'hood, NHV carried a plastic bucket and collected whatever struck her fancy ... mainly pinecones, rocks, and leaves (as the title of this post suggests :P).
When we got home, first order of business was to give her "finds" a bath.  Natalie loves to bathe things, and it usually eats up a good 20 minutes ... 
  • While running the water, we talk about temperature and feel the water change from really cold to warm.  I also remind her that colors on the faucet knobs tells us which is hot, which is cold.
  • As the sink fills, we do gentle splashes and harder splashes to see what happens  ... how is the noise different?  what happens to the water?  A big mess ensues, but that's okay :)
  • Objects go in the water one at a time.  We talk about how the color changes when it gets wet.
  • And finally, Natalie "observes" that some of the objects go to the bottom of the sink while others stay at the top.  Great opportunity to reinforce vocabulary: sink and float.
We also took the time to dry everything and wipe out the sink ... cleaning the powder room was on my To Do List anyway, and Natalie was happy to help!

And since baby sister was still taking a snooze, we decided to "take off our scientist lab coats" ... quite literally ... and get artistic.

As you can see, by artistic I mean we busted out the paper plates, brushes, and paint.  No guidelines here.  I just squirted a little paint on the plates and we gave Mother Nature a little run for her money ;)

I love that Natalie gets some fine motor practice, and she just loves that she's making a mess!

How do you turn a simple walk into an afternoon of fun?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Musical Hand Wash Timers

I have always been a big advocate for handwashing.  As an elementary school teacher.  As the mom of a toddler.  As a person who prefers being healthy over being sick.

I am not a germaphobe, but I am very germ conscious, especially since bringing a newborn into my house.  

I insist (politely, of  course) that NHV wash her hands as soon as we get home from where ever we've been ... eventhough I've already doused her with hand sanitizer when we get in the car.

As she climbs up on her stool, I even explain to her that we are washing the germs off our hands.  When she asks, "What are germs?"  I tell her they are things that can make you sick and they get on our hand when we touch things that a lot of other people have also touched.  (I sure hope I don't give her some huge complex!)

While we're at the sink, we pick a song and sing together ... a good distraction for making sure we've scrubbed long enough.

Recently, I saw this advertised in a magazine ... and further "researched" it online ...

It's a little timer that attaches to the top of your soap dispenser.  The music plays for about 25 seconds, the recommended time for effective hand washing.  For the reasonable price of $3.99, I think I've gotta try this.

Perhaps this will make hand washing more fun, and it may even encourage a bit of independence.

What do you think?  Worth the money?  Necessary?

Do you have tricks you use to make hand washing fun and effective?  Please share!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Question of the Day - Naps

As moms (and dads), we are suppose to have ALL the answers, right?! The big ones like the hows and whys. And the more mundane wheres - like my shoes? I tell ya, Alex Trebek's got nothing on the parents of the world!

It's a good thing we have each other to rely on. To share what works and what doesn't. To suggest a new approach. To tell about the latest and greatest and the oldies-but-goodies. To speak from experience. To learn from mistakes. To impart wisdom. To provide ah-ha moments :)

Right around the holiday season, my husband composed this little ditty to the tune of "Oh, Christmas Tree."  It has since become a daily ritual ... we sing it on our way up the stairs at naptime.

Oh nappy-poo
Oh nappy-poo
It is that time in the afternoon

Oh nappy-poo
Oh nappy-poo
What would we do without you?

Now, there's a question.  What would we do without our naptimes?

At our house, I so look forward to 1:00 ... when I know that I won't be entertaining my toddler for a few hours.  And I may even manage to accomplish something around the house .... or, gasp, take a nap myself!

NHV (2.5 years old) naps for about three hours every day.  I put her down around 1:00 and never let her sleep past 4:30.  However, in the past few weeks, she has thrown her fair share of nap rebellions.  At least once a week, she completely refuses to nap.  I insist that she rest for two hours.  And when NHV doesn't nap, she's a cranky mess, so I know she NEEDS a good nap everyday.

So here's my question for you ...

Is your toddler still napping?  For how long?  At what time of the day?  Are you having any nap struggles?  Be sure to include your toddler's age in your comment.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Try It: Foam Paint

Love to paint with your toddler?
Or at least love the idea of painting with your toddler?

Hate the mess?
Hate all the wasted paint?
Hate the time it takes to dry?
Hate the thought of toxins or allergens?

If you're head's a-nodding ... 

You've gotta get some FOAM PAINT.

I stumbled upon this fantastic art supply while at a recent preschool open house (a big decision process I'll save for another post).  Based on a quick search, I think you have to order it online - wish a local store carried it.  I did find foam paint at this school supply site for about $5 per bottle. I think it would be completely worth it to order a few bottles and pay for the shipping, especially when you consider ...

  • Foam paint does not spill ... or drip!  
  • A quick squirt - right out of the can - is all it takes to get your toddler painting with fingers or brushes or any kind of painting tool.
  • The product overview claims that "an 8 oz. can equals 14 full cups of awesome art activities," and 14 cups is a lot of paint!
  • Also, foam paint is completely allergen free ... the description says that it does not contain latex, dairy, casein, egg, gluten, peanut, tree nut, or soy.
  • It dries very quickly ... and you can even wipe it with a paper towel to dry it instantly!
Art projects just got a whole lot more fun with FOAM PAINT!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Return of the Brain

It's been an exhausting and wonderful eight weeks.  My brain has been mostly occupied with nursing (or pumping) around the clock, sleep deprivation, and changing lots of diapers.  But now I've got plans to revive ToddlerBrain.

Maternity Leave is Over!

ToddlerBrain will be back starting February 1st!

Lots of fun ideas to share!