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.

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

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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.

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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??!

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

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…I really began to question continuing on.

 

But I did. For reasons I still question.

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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:

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

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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!

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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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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.

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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!

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

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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.

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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?!?

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Actually, it does…

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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!)

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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)!

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

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Virtual Hug for a Far Away Valentine

We made the Grandparents these “I Love You” Valentine cards.  Since Nannie and Pop happened to be here to get theirs in person I wanted to send a little extra something to Grandma and Grampy in the mail.  What grandparent doesn’t just love anything with their grandchild’s handprint on it?  And Oh! how Noah loves to paint handprints.  So we created this virtual hug to stick in the card.

  • Finger paint
  • Card stock
  • Ribbon, cut the length of your child’s arm span

I cut the handprints out before the paint was dry which made the fingers curl up a bit and I like that.  Just like my little bean’s fingers when he gives me the best hug ever! 

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Cotton Clay

Every so often I forget to close the craft closet.  I’m convinced Noah can immediately sense this and off he goes to explore.  It’s not that I don’t want him finding activities, it’s just that there’s SO much in there that at one time was neatly organized.  Now though, every container, drawer and box is open, their contents dumped and scattered.  And of all the things he could bring to me to play with, one of the most common items – a big bag of cotton balls.  Sometimes we “cook” with them, other times we’ll blow them back and forth in a game of tabletop soccer, we’ve even just thrown them around like confetti.  So when I found this recipe for Cotton Clay I was excited to have a new way to play!

  • 3 cups cotton balls
  • 2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • Food coloring optional

First you need to pluck at every cotton ball until you have a giant bowl of fluff.  I didn’t pre-read the instructions so that was a parent fail on my part.  Noah enjoyed doing this for maybe the first three balls.  I lost him after that and was stuck plucking the balls while Noah spent his time joyfully dumping the remainder of the bag around the house.

    

Things got a little more exciting when we added the water.  If you want your clay colored, add the coloring to the water BEFORE adding it to the cotton.  But then everything needed to move to the stovetop so the excitement was over for Noah for a bit.

The instructions say to heat the water and cotton mixture over medium heat and slowly add the flour as you stir.  Continue to stir over heat for 5-7 minutes until the mixture becomes stiff.  Just the water in the cotton felt stiff to me.  I started to doubt this project.  But I forged on.  Still, it seemed…weird to me.  But then again I was making clay out of cotton balls so this feeling probably should have struck me much earlier in the process.  I will say, when I began stirring the water could easily be squeezed from the cotton.  After the flour was added and it cooked up a bit the water could no longer be squeezed from the cotton.  I used this as my definition of stiff and felt the clay was done.  In the first photo you can tell there is sitting water, not so much in the second.

    

Once cooled we got to creating.  This clay is super slimy but will air dry in 24 hours or so.  We made a DINO…                                                                            A TURTLE…  And a SNAKE.  Noah made sure the snake had something to eat…

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February Handprint Art ~ Hearts

It’s the first of the month which means it’s time to add to our monthly hand print art collection!  I was reminded recently just how significant and heart-melting these prints will be in the future.  Several weeks ago my mom was visiting, mainly to help me get my head back on straight.  I spent much of her visit gutting, cleaning and reorganizing every room in my house.  I felt like I needed a new start.  And in the midst of gutting the craft room closet I found this…

Oh how my heart melted.  Noah was about 3.5 months old at the time.  Just so tiny.  He was still at the age where his delicate little fingers were in a perpetual fist, which certainly made this craft easy.  I couldn’t get over just how tiny his hand was.  After staring at this print, his two-year-old hands seem so grown-up to me.  But I know they aren’t.  They are still so small and wonderous.  When he takes my hand in his I slip just two fingers in his palm as he wraps his still dimpled knuckles around mine.   And my heart melts.  Every.  Single.  Time.

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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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Squishy Balls (or mama stress balls)

Worry stones yesterday and stress balls today? Yeah, it’s been a rough week. I think the first time I made these were at camp. Again, it’s not that camp was stressful, but that squishing these balls just felt good.
We’ve been learning about counting and numbers lately so I added numbers to our balloons. It might also be fun to write each letter of his name on another set as he loves hearing us spell out his name and always joins in when we get to “O!”.

  • Jumbo size balloons
  • Funnel
  • Flour
  • Spoon

Because our funnel wasn’t that big we needed to use the chopstick to poke it through and into the balloon.  Noah quickly took to scooping the flour and I was in charge of poking it down through the funnel.

Once they are full, be sure to squeeze ALL the air out before tying it.  If there’s air in the balloon it will pop much easier.  As long as you get all the air out though, they really are quite durable.  Maybe clip the kiddo’s nails just to be certain 😉

Noah was done being the scooper after 3 balloons so we stopped there.  For now anyway.

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