Play Everyday

365…ok 366 days of simple, inexpensive and wildly fun 2-year-old play!

Intro to Water Beads

I’ve seen so many great play ideas using water beads. My first introduction to them was through Play At Home Mom It’s something I’ve been wanting to do with Noah for months. I do try to create all our play activities with items we already have in the house. I was also hesitant because the packaging just said “polymers”. Plastic. Ugh. But after seeing Noah’s face while he played with the beads at a friend’s house earlier today, I caved. We picked some up on our way home.
I reconciled my decision by reminding myself there are so many applications for play with these beads. And honestly, I think it’s probably less plastic and chemicals than what goes into a pack of markers which never last nearly as long as these would.
I was actually pretty excited to goosh my hands in the tub of beads. I immediately wanted to jump in (figuratively and well, literally too) and do all the extension activities involving them. But you know, he was just happy playing with them as they were. There would be plenty of time and opportunities to get fancy.
So I took a cue from the boy and enjoyed the moment with him.

These are the two varieties we bought. One to play in right away and more to hydrate later. The dehydrated variety is easily more economical though.


Just enjoying our new beads. After this photo we did add some dry beads and water which more than doubled our stash.


Noah wanted to play water beads with Daddy when he came home from work. They added food coloring. Because the beads weren’t fully hydrated yet they absorbed some of the colors.


Before bed I added a bunch of water so the beads could fully hydrate overnight. It was so beautiful!


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Cardboard Guitar

We had the most amazing weather today. Sunny, 70-something, slight breeze…and this is February. I wasn’t going to spend one single moment inside unless it was absolutely necessary, and since Noah wore a diaper, he certainly wasn’t about to spend any amount of time inside.
We’ve collected a large assortment of moving boxes which, much to my disappointment, won’t be needed anytime soon. I thought this guitar activity, from Make It & Love It, also featured on apartment therapy, would be a great use for at least one of them.
Because it was such an AHHH-MAZING day though, a little outside guitar painting was definitely in order!

The actual assembly of the guitar however was all on me. It is what pushed this activity from fun evening play into a full-on weekend project. The template and the instructions were easy to follow. Maybe it was just that my husband was out of town for the week and cardboard guitars, cool as they are, weren’t a priority.

The size, traced from a ukulele, is just perfect for Noah. Having to cut around those curves was another story. At this point all I could think was, I have to cut FOUR MORE??!


And when I presented him with this rudimentary, no-frills, stringless cardboard guitar and got this reaction…

…I really began to question continuing on.


But I did. For reasons I still question.



While stringing the rubber bands through the tiny holes, I began to look back fondly on the cutting of the cardboard which was a breeze compared to this. What kind of cardboard did they use?? Did it by chance contain rebar? Because this is what my efforts produced:



Oh and remember how happy he was with that rudimentary, no-frills, stringless cardboard guitar…


By now I had to make this work. I couldn’t let the cardboard guitar win. I glued a paint stir stick in the neck of the guitar which fixed the bending. The strings were taut and actually made noise! My little rock star loved it!



But you know, he loved it all along. In fact, I bet he loved it when it was just a cardboard box. We always want to do the most amazing and magical things for our kids. Sometimes it’s more than worth it (like when you’re good at making cardboard guitars). But sometimes, maybe even most times, magic is found in simple things like cardboard boxes and small moments of quality time with a mama who is fully present. Lesson learned, thanks to my boy ❤

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Indoor Treasure Hunt

I had planned on doing a geo caching activity at the park with some of Noah’s friends. The sand there would have made burying treasures, and more importantly uncovering treasures, a breeze. But weather, pony duties and a packed schedule didn’t allow for that today.
I also wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to practice map skills in a relatively unfamiliar environment. I felt Noah could be more involved, independent and successful if we practiced first in our home. Honestly, even doing this at home I wasn’t sure he’d “get it”. As usual though, the boy surprised me and I’m already looking forward to doing this activity again!

Here is out ill-drawn, not to scale, treasure map. Pssst-all that doesn’t matter!


I tried to direct noah to items that went from cool to super cool. I thought if he found an extra awesome treasure mid-hunt he’d be so distracted by that he wouldn’t want to continue on. Well, it didn’t take me long to screw that up as we discovered the bubbles just three treasures in. But it didn’t matter at all! The thrill of the hunt is what this activity was about for him! We spent some time playing in the bubbles but it wasn’t long before he was excitedly grabbing the map from me saying “Again! Again!”. Here is a collection of our finds…

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But it was this moment I could tell he was making the connection between the map and his treasures. He started referencing the red Xs. Awesome!


We’ll be ready for our geo caching adventure in no time!

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Fizzy Tub Scrub

Noah generally enjoys helping me with just about anything. Cleaning, cooking, sewing, feeding, brushing…he’s always asking “Nowie help?”. And as often as I possibly can I try to find ways to involve him. This is one of his favorites as it involves a spray bottle. The fizzing is just gravy to him.

I sprinkled the tub with baking soda and filled the sprayed bottle with vinegar. Adding food coloring just makes it more fun. The color washes right away so you don’t need to worry about it staining.



I did have to steer him back towards the tub a few times when he started spraying the sink, walls, towels…but he was always happy to listen and get back to the fizzing!

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DIY Oobleck from Dr. Seuss’ Bartholomew and the Oobleck

This is a fun activity to bring to life the Dr. Seuss book Bartholomew and the Oobleck. I made the mistake of asking noah if he wanted to do a fun activity with me before we read the book. Anytime i ask him this he jumps up, shouts “Yes!” (or my favorite “Oh Yes!”) and immediately runs to the kitchen and sits cross-legged on the floor where we do a lot of our messier tasks. Noah dies love to read, but this book has more words than most of the Dr. Seuss books we have, so we flipped through as I narrated the pictures. At last it was time to make an Oobleck!

I found this recipe at apartment therapy. We didn’t have much cornstarch so I really just eyeballed it, adding small amounts of water between stirrings as needed. Here’s a more specific recipe:

  • 1 1/2c cornstarch
  •  1/2c water
  •  Food coloring (optional)
  •  Scent extracts (optional)

Here we are measuring and mixing. Noah was surprisingly hesitant to dig in and mix the goop. This was a good thing though, as stirring too quickly can keep the cornstarch from absorbing all the water properly.

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When we play with playdough, Noah often asks me to make him a ball. I asked if he wanted me to make him a ball from the Oobleck. Of course he was excited about this. I began rolling the goo in my hands and continued to do so as I told him to put his hands out. I quickly transferred the ball from my hands to his but…ooooozzze, the ball melted!


We had a great time squishing it in our hands, opening them then saying “It’s meeelltiing!!”.


We were having so much fun in fact, that I nearly forgot to add the food coloring. After all, it was green goop that gummed up the works from our story.


As for the moral of the story, I have only praise and pride for my boy. He will consistently and often without prompting, say he is sorry. I’ve even caught him saying “Sorry Hooley.” after accidentally bumping into the cat. The cat is of course long gone by then but I sure wasn’t. I rushed in with a big hug. More importantly it is his ability to independently apologize to me, often after taking a moment to cry, that has taught me a great lesson. “Please” may be magic, but “I’m sorry” is memorable. And heart-changing.

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Fizzy Balloon Rocket

I love science! I really love science experiments, even when they don’t involve chemical reactions. But what tops all that, by a long shot, is this look on my boy’s face.
Wow. Does it get any better than that?!?


Actually, it does…


A big thanks to blogger, NASA Earth Ambassador, Bacteriologist, and super mom Liz Heinecke at The Kitchen Pantry Scientist for this and many other wonderful activities.  You MUST check out her blog!  And all it takes to get that look of awe is

  • Glass bottle with narrow neck (olive oil bottles are great!)
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Balloon
  1. Add 1/4 – 1/2 c vinegar to bottle
  2. Use funnel to fill balloon with baking soda
  3. Carefull wrap balloon around neck of bottle
  4. Lift balloon to dump baking soda in the bottle

Noah was able to help with the filling of the balloon and dumping the baking soda in (the real magic!)


After the balloon was full, Noah would knock it off the bottle and watch it shoot around the room! This will be a great outside activity (if it ever stops raining)!

The speed of the balloon took us both my surprise, hence the blurry photo 🙂

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Glow in the Dark Bath

A friend of mine did this activity with her two little girls months ago. I’d kept it in the back of my mind for months. Recently I had to pick up some note cards at the party store and while I was there I actually remembered to look for rave supplies glow in the dark sticks.

It looked so magical and relaxing I wanted to crawl in with him.




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Bauking Chicken

I discovered this craft in an old binder I kept from a college course. Each day a fellow classmate would present and lead us in a new craft. We would keep that handout in our binder as we added our own. It was to serve as a resource for us later in our careers in the world of camping. And I’m not even kidding. I was after all, majoring in Recreation. Again…not kidding.
We had everything we would need for it but I thought it would be fun to decorate our chicken with real chicken feathers. After the morning fog lifted and the drizzling ceased we were left with an unbelievably gorgeous day so we donned our muck boots and set out for a feather hunt in the barn.
Going out there is hard for me. Everything is still exactly as it was the day the horses left. All of Callie’s things are still hung, hay nets stuffed full, even the water bucket is topped off. I’ve only been in the barn a couple of times to retrieve the basic necessities of brushes, blankets and bridles. I thought certainly there would be feathers in the hen stall or feed room. I found only one tiny downy brown feather from Hazel though. And this…

Oh that made me sad. Because I was out of town when the animals had to move Dave had to do it on his own. He was probably so frazzled he never noticed that blue egg in the corner.
So we continued to look in and around the barn, in some of the hens favorite hangouts. At least I did. Noah mostly hung out in the shavings room doing this…

And a lot of this…

So we were coming home empty-handed but the dogs were muddy, the boy was covered in sawdust and everyone was worn out. It seemed we’d have to settle for a featherless bauking chicken, but not before everyone took a nap.
In gathering supplies later, I found a wild turkey feather we received while visiting the Wild Turkey Museum in South Carolina. With that, a plastic cup, ribbon, toothpick and fun foam we assembled our bird:


You could just knot the ribbon at the top but I think it’s easier to make a bigger hole for threading your ribbon (you can also use string) and tying it around a toothpick to keep in place.


Wet the ribbon and pinch it tightly as you pull down. It will create a very loud squawking sound. Although Noah did have his turkey clucking quietly, it was difficult for him to make the loud squawking sound. He mostly got a kick out of pulling the ribbon out of the top as I gasped in simulated-shock. Oh, the little things…


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Bouncing Balloon Balls

We were stuck inside all day today with a constant, drizzly, freezing rain outside. These crazy-bouncing, ball-filled balloons helped give a colorful party atmosphere to an otherwise grey day.

The only bouncy balls I had were pretty big. I was still able to stretch the neck of the balloons enough to get the balls in. The easiest way I found was to nearly turn the balloon inside out. It was a stretch (HA!) but I managed.


I helped Noah perform the countdown he learned this past New Years and we dropped all four balloons at once. As the balls continued to bounce around inside the balloons, they jumped and shook chaotically. Definitely something Noah could relate too.


We played around with the intact balloons for a bit…


…But then it was time to pop them and find the treasure inside. He was just as excited for this part, maybe even a little more.


He continued to bring me all the balloons asking me to pop them, but he kept more of a distance for the next three.


Again we practiced our countdown leading to the *POP*! Immediately he would hop up and run to collect the glittering treasure inside.


Even more fun-runs, giggles and woofs followed as Noah played a combination of fetch and keep-away with one of our ball-crazy dogs. Three fun activities with two simple toys. It doesn’t get much better than that!


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Planting Seeds

I had always pictured Noah’s first gardening experience to be outside, in our weed-free garden, a gentle breeze carrying the scents of newly blooming wisterias through the spring air as butterflies flitted by. We would be planting heirloom seeds from my Mom’s garden and using compost cultivated through organic gardening and raising happy, healthy horses, hens and sheep.

But here we are. And the realty is we’re still in a rental, our horses and hens are now being boarded, it’s the middle of winter and the only scent floating through the air is dogs and diapers.
All of that hardly mattered. I so badly wanted some sort of gardening experience with my son. I have no doubt the organic farming adventure is in our future, but for now we would have to settle for these boxed sets.


I found these at Target and thought they’d make nice Valentine gifts for two of my best friends and their children. In college a dear friend of mine had gifted potted forget-me-nots to our close circle of friends (herself included) and it was a sweet reminder of our friendships, knowing we were all growing and caring for our plants as we thought of each other. Now, with this circle including kiddos, I thought the addition of planting and watching the seeds “hatch” would be a fun extension of that idea.

Maybe you have a lovely garden patch. Maybe you even live the idyllic life (IMO) of a pioneer-esque farm girl. But even if you don’t, even if you live in a 1-bedroom apartment with your children, high above an asphalt jungle, even still, every child should have some experience with gardening. With watching a tiny seed, under their care, grow into a beautiful blossom or nourishing food.
This project was simple enough. Add water, drop in seeds and watch it grow!


“Growing fast!” Noah was excitedly saying. Patience. Just another virtue learning through gardening. I sat our pot on a sunny windowsill. I remind Noah to water it just a bit everyday. As anxious as I am to get sight of the first stem and leaves, I’m most looking forward to seeing Noah’s face when he does!


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