Play Everyday

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

Building a Fairy House

Every night, Noah and I snuggle up in my bed and read stories.  It is absolutely my favorite part of every day.  It feels like a celebratory way to end a good day and after a bad day it is my refuge.  A calm, comfy, snuggly place to remind me what matters and let everything else fall away.  Noah will go into his room and pick the book for us to read.  I’ll see him come running into our bedroom and I’m always a little nervous – Please don’t let it be Hop On Pop or Trucks!  But when he came in last night with Fairy Houses by Tracy Kane I was relieved.  And happy.  This was the first time he chosen that book on his own which made me even happier!  As we read it together last night I knew what our fun activity would be today.

Rules of the Woods:

“You may build houses small and hidden for the fairies, but please do not use living or arificial materials.”

 

We have several trees that would make suitable building sites but I knew immediately which one Noah would pick – the Tresure Tree.  We found a great little nook for our house.

We got to work clearing out the space.  Even kitty wanted to help.

    

 

I started collecting moss and lichens.  I showed Noah what I was looking for and asked for his help.  “Moss!” he yelled as he pointed to a large tree stump on the other side of the field.  What he had found was actually fungi.  As I started to explain that the fungi was actually living and we shouldn’t pick it for our house, Noah declared another discovery: “Ants!”  Right as his feet were what I would estimate to be about a billion ants.  The red biter ants.  We would have to look elsewhere for materials.

 

I suggested pine cones but Noah had another idea.  He led us into the barn to collect shavings.  We did find some pinecones and pine needles behind the barn as well.

      

 

As hard as he tried, he couldn’t harvest this post.  Bless him ❤ So he added what materials we did have to our fairy house.

    

Our Fairy House.  For now anyway…

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Marshmallow Structures

Slowly, ever so slowly, I am trying to get my kitchen cleaned out and organized.  I had a bag of giant marshmallows that I knew we’d never use.  They were left over from a campfire, which is really the only time marshmallows taste good.  With no campfires planned I was happy to chuck those, but not before having a little fun with them of course.  We had wooden skewers which were forever getting in the way when I tried to close the drawer they were kept in and for whatever reason packs and packs of toothpicks.  I think they were a gift from a family friend.  If you’re wondering what kind of person would gift toothpicks, well I’ll just say this chap is unique in every way and we love him for it 😉

  • Marshmallows, varying sizes would be great
  • Wooden skewers and toothpicks
  • Beads, construction paper and other decor could be added if your kids get really into building.  Mine was just really into nibbling.

With a long afternoon of building in front of us, it was important to keep up our strength.  I just kept thinking crash and burn, crash and burn and that I might get some sewing done later 😉

    

 

I asked Noah what we should build and without hesitation he said “barn!”.  That’s my boy!!  I put together a barn structure and we each contributed an animal to farmyard.  I made a sheep, Noah made a porcupine.  Given the materials we had to work with, both were such obvious choices I’m a little disappointed in our creativity.  I was however quite proud when Noah set toothpicks down in front of our animals and told them to “Eat!”.  He’s so good to his animals! Even the marshmallow ones.

 

I guess the animals were done eating at this point…

 

But Noah sure wasn’t…

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Balloon Yo-Yo

Here’s an easy 2 for 1 activity, especially if you’ve already made the Squishy Balls. Between an over-worked mind and my desire to just have a lazy Sunday this was a super easy activity that gave us a nice play break and a chance to giggle together.

  • Balloon
  • Flour, sand or salt (water would be great for an outdoor summer toy)
  • Rubber band

I literally just cut a rubber band and tied it around one of the squishy balls we’d made.  At the time Noah was having a snack (or doing something??) in the other room so I set it on the table to pull out later in the day when he would inevitably become bored.  Little bugger came in and found it early though.  So we played and laughed and I did the best picture taking I could, considering I didn’t have time to put clothes on my boy before pulling out the yo-yo.

    

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Blossom Bash

I made cream cheese, bacon and chives stuffed chicken the other night. It was super yum! (how could it not be?). So while Noah stood at the table having a snack, I pounded out chicken breasts with a mallet. Yes, I actually let Noah know see that sometimes cooking involves a hammer. If that doesn’t seal his fate as future chef I’m not sure what will.
I did let him take a couple whacks and I think I’ll need to keep the mallet in the special mama cupboard from now on. Today though, it was all his.

I received these flowers from my Father-in-Law.  It seems like such an awful thing to do to a gift you received, but knowing his grandson would be having such fun I figured he’d forgive us.  We enjoyed this bouquet on our kitchen table for a week or so and waited until the blossoms started to dry and droop, regardless of adding fresh water to the vase.  I imagine the colors would be more plentiful and vibrant had we used fresher produce but like I said, we were too busy enjoying them.  As a bonus, this activity really brought out the floral scent.  Our kitchen was filled with the scent of roses which even in thier fullest bloom on the table they did not offer.  This idea was inspired by a post on All for the Boys. I’d love to try their exact idea this summer and fall with nature items collected on hikes.  But it’s the middle of winter and we had a vase full of rotting flowers…

  • Old Towel
  • Mallet or hammer
  • Flowers or kitchen produce
  • Tag board

I set a towel down on the kitchen floor to muffle the sound and of course to keep Noah from pounding holes in the floor.  I recommend doubling up the towel.  Anyone who’s this anxious to use a hammer needs a doubled towel.

     

 

I initially laid another towel on top of the blossoms but that didn’t work very well.  We also found the tenderizer side of the mallet worked best for our semi-dried out flowers.

    

 

I looked through the fridge for more bash-able produce and came up with kale.  The green was a nice contrast.  We flipped the paper over to feel the bumpy texture.  Clean up was a cinch!  Just shake the towel outside and let nature take care of it proper.

    

 

This masterpeice can stand on its own or be used as a background for more creative play later!

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Natural Treasures Bracelet

It finally stopped raining today!  My heart felt so much lighter knowing I wouldn’t have to worry about the pony standing out in a storm (at least for a few days) I had a full day with no appointments and with the sun shining, I couldn’t wait to spend the afternoon outside with the boy and run the dogs.  I had been needing to dump the compost bucket for days – thank goodness it has a lid!  I asked Noah if he wanted to come with me.  “Oh yes!” he said, followed quickly by “brrrm! brrrm!”.  We often ride the tractor out to dump the compost.  Our compost pile is a good couple of acres out in the field and Noah loves driving the tractor so much I think we’d ride it out there even if it was a couple of yards in the field.  Unfortunately with all the rain we’ve been getting the field was much too soggy to take it out today.  I told Noah we’d have to walk but we could take the dogs out with us and hunt for treasures.

Most every walk through the field ends with a treasure hunt.  There’s an old, magnificent oak tree near the barn.  Beneath its canopy we find acorns, leaves, lichens and moss.  There’s the occasional piece of bailing twine, beetle carcass and bird feathers.  Oh and sticks. Soooo many sticks.  So pretty much that tree is Nirvana for Noah.  Typically when we collect our treasures I am in charge of holding all of them and we display them on the kitchen table.  Making these bracelets allowed Noah to be in charge of his treasures and we have a new way of displaying them on the wall.  I completely didn’t think about everything being wet, especially things under the fallen leaves where any treasure hunter will tell you, is where you find the best treasures.  It was mostly the lichen and acorn tops that didn’t stick well but we found plenty of dry treasures to fill our bracelets.

  • Duct Tape

First order of business was dumping the compost bucket.  And splashing in puddles.  Soooo many puddles!

    

Once satiated on soaking, we ran up to our Treasure Tree.  I wrapped a piece of duct tape around my wrist and one on Noah’s.  Then it was time to start digging!

    

I went to making a patterned bracelet while Noah found some flowers for a more abstract design.  If only he could get this “stick” on his bracelet!

    

After we came in I just cut our bracelets off so I could display them on the wall above the kitchen table.

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Bug Painting & January Handprint Art

We’ve been playing a lot with our little bugs lately.  Whether making Squishy Treasure Hunts or hatching them in a Bug Bath we’ve definitely gotten a good bit of use for being useless leftovers from a previous craft.  The idea to paint with them has been showing up on Pinterest lately so I thought we’d continue with our bug play while Noah is still into it.  I follow No Time for Flashcards on facebook which is where this idea was originally posted and it’s a wonderful site for hands on learning activities for babies, toddlers and kids!

I was also reminded of this Hand Print Art blog post I’d pinned some time ago.  It shows a new way of making hand print art each month, matching the theme or season at the time. The idea comes from E is for Explore! which is full of both Art and Science experiments for littles.  definitely try visiting that blog sometime! January is almost over and I still hadn’t started on it.  We’d have to squeeze in a painting double-header today!

  • I used acrylic paint and a paintbrush for hand print art.  It is less slimy/slippery, more opaque, and I thought would look best over time as these will definitely be keepers!
  • I also used a heavier tag board for the hand print art
  • Bugs replace paintbrushes in the second activity where we worked with only our trusty finger paints.
  • Just scrap paper for the bug painting

First up was the hand print art.  I was busy trying to keep him as clean as possible and not touching furniture.  I’d say we did pretty good considering Noah’s penchant for body painting…

I swirled together blue and white paints to create this hand print snowflake.  I will write “January 2012” beneath it before hanging it up.  I waited for that, thinking it might take us a few tries to get it but the first one looks just perfect!  A quick rinse in the tub and we were ready for the bug painting….

I squeezed out some swirls much like I did for our Train Tacks painting.  I’m not sure that works better than having containers to dip the bug in but it’s what Noah likes so there you go.  There was a good bit of imaginary play as we made the bugs fly, hop and swoop through the paints.  I made them kiss, Noah made them eat each other.

    

And apparently bored with body painting, Noah experimented with hair dying (SO like his mama!!)

He certainly brought plenty of color to my day!

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{Discovery Box} Shake & Stack

Before you think I’m a pill junkie I should tell you I’ve been saving these pill bottles for years. I can’t recycle them with our local recycling center and thought certainly I can recycle them somewhere. Finding out where is still on my to-do list, but in the meantime I thought I could at least repurpose them and have some fun.

  • Empty Pill Bottles with labels removed (pill bottles work best because they can’t be opened)
  • Dry Beans and Pasta of Varying Shapes and Sizes

I had been squirreling my bottles away in a paper gift bag which made presenting today’s Discovery Box as a “sprize” a cinch.  I just threw some newspaper on the top on we were ready to go.  Before that I filled some of the bottles with different types of dried beans, pasta and even oatmeal and quinoa.  Each made a different sound when shook.

    

He was excited before he even pulled the bottles out…

He began pulling them out one at a time, shaking them then tossing them aside.  That was a most inefficient system.  Dumping would be far more productive.

    

His concentration was unbreakable while he focused on his tower…

Followed of course by lots of silly crashing!

    

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Spray Art

My day started at 1am. I just couldn’t sleep. Middle of the night wakenings are not uncommon for me but usually I am able to fall back to sleep after an hour or two. Not so much last night.

Noah slept like a rock though so at least one of us would be in a good mood, right? Not really. I felt so sick our trip to the barn was basically a drive-by breakfasting. Back home I was so not up for any kind of play. Even speed bump playtime had my stomach churning.  Noah was out his favorite playmate and there wasn’t enough sleep in the world to make him feel good about that.

After coloring (his entire body) with markers I stuck him in a nice, warm bubble bath, snuggled him in bed and quickly, mercifully, fell to sleep. At least I fell asleep. Upon waking next to a snoring boy I noticed there was a jar of peanut butter in our bed. He must have been so disappointed when his unconscious mother refused to open his jar of peanut butter! I nervously snuck out into the family room to see what other creative ways he’d chosen to entertain himself. I wouldn’t say the room was tidy, but it was just toys that could be picked up. Even most of his markers had the caps back on. Bless his heart ❤

And while exhaustion took over us both inside, outside the sun was shining, the birds were singing and temperatures were climbing to near 60 degrees. We absolutely, without a doubt had to get outside to play today! Because Noah had such fun with the spray bottle in his bath today I thought this activity would be just what we needed.

I was inspired by this post on the Critters and Crayons blog. There are several other blogs that use different techniques; watered down tempra paint or kool-aide, sprayed on papers and fabrics. I’m all about using what I have on hand though so I improvised…

  • Spray Bottles
  • Colored Water (color with food coloring, paint, inside of markers that are otherwise “dried” out at the tips…)
  • Light Colored Paper or Fabric

I had an old piece of foam board I thought would be great.  Turns out it wasn’t.  Had we been using the paint method it likely would have turned out better.  So at first, and especially with using the yellow water, it just looked like one of the dogs had peed on a piece of foam board.  I ran inside for fabric and found some dish towels which were perfect because they were white and stained.  Anything Noah did to them would be an improvement.  They did take the color much better and in the end I had a pastel, tie-dye looking dish towel.  Much improved!

    

It hardly mattered what the end result was though.  He had the best time spraying!

And not just spraying the canvas.  He loved spraying Mama…

  He loved spraying Echo…

 He sprayed Hooley and puddles and just about anything else he could find.

    

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Hatching Bath Bugs

I combined a couple of ideas I collected recently on Pinterest for today’s activity.  The first was adding colored ice cubes to the bath, which I found here at Mommysavers which is another WordPress blog full of frugal tips for living well on less.  The other was to freeze little sea creatures and add those to the bath which was originally posted over at Make, Do & Friend.  I still had lots of little buggers left over so I threw those in an ice-cube tray, added some colored water and they’re hibernating in the freezer now, getting ready for Noah’s bath tonight.  I can just imagine how that feels to be submerged in nice warm water and have these frozen little creatures sliding up against you.  It doesn’t really sound appealing when I say that out loud but I’m actually a little envious of having that sensation.  I think it’s going to feel strange and fantastic!

  • Ice Cube Tray
  • Water
  • Coloring
  • Buggers or other tiny treasures

This activity takes a tiny bit of forethought.  I used blue and yellow food coloring so his bath water would end up being a bit greenish.  I thought that was a good buggy color.

You could vaguely see the trail of color as they melted.

    

He was most interested in sucking on the ice.  Blame the 2-year molars.

Until he realized he could make Mama squeal by “chasing” her with the bugs.  Now that was fun!

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“Cooking” (in quotes)

“Cooking” is one of Noah’s most requested activities.  It’s right up there with painting.  When I can get him cooking (involved in helping with meal prep) that’s wonderful.  When I can’t, we always have “cooking”.  I typically use this as an activity he can do on his own.  Something to keep him busy when I need to sew or to help him feel involved when I’m cooking on the stove or doing prep work that’s equally as toddler-friendly such as chopping veggies.

I had the rare opportunity to ride this morning while Grampy stayed home with the boy.  When I returned, Grampy and Daddy were going to take Noah to the aquarium while I stayed home to sew and work on custom orders.  So pretty much I was doing my own thing for most of the day.  Hooray me!!  In between riding and sewing I had set Noah down with his cook set and a shaker full of flour so I could get some things done around the house while the boys got ready for their outing.  When it was time to go to the aquarium, Noah wasn’t too excited.  He just wanted to stay home and cook!  I did my best to make the aquarium, with its birds, otters, penguins, fish and sharks sound like more fun than a bowl of flour but Noah wasn’t buying it.  It was only the promise of more cooking with mama when he returned home that had him wiping away the tears.  Future chef?  Perhaps.

He, of course, had an amazing time with Grampy and Daddy at the aquarium, telling me about the snakes and birds he saw!  But today, as promised I was going to do some more extensive “cooking” with him.  After having so much me-time this morning I was more than happy to get extra-messy with him and include more than the usual shaker of flour or corn meal.

  • Kitchen Utensils (sifter, wisk, funnel, measuring cups/spoons…)
  • Pots, pans, colander….
  • Ingredients with varied textures (I love corn starch for a silky feel, corn meal for gritty, rice for bumpy…
  • Ingredients with varied scents (Perfect time to throw out any old herbs and seasonings!)

I gathered what we had on hand in put each in one of Noah’s teacups from his cooking set.  We used flour, cornmeal, rice, cornstarch and water.  I put the corn meal in an old spice shaker.

We mixed, added, stirred…

    

As if those chubby feet weren’t delicious enough they now appeared to be sprinkled with powdered sugar!  Irresistable!!

Not to mention that sweet face!

Our gooey, lumpy, bumpy special was ready!  I offered to cook it on the stove top in one of my pots but Noah was satisfied with his creation.  So was our dog.

    

It was so delicious, she even took seconds.

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