Play Everyday

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

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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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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Exploding Stars

I remember making these with my brother.  I’m sure it’s something our dad taught us how to make.  I also remember calling them “throwing stars” but for some reason that sounded a bit too violent.  Exploding Stars probably isn’t much better but that’s exactly what happens.  And it’s super cool!

  • 5 popsicle sticks per star

Here’s the end result…


Take 3 sticks, holding them together at one end with the center stick on the bottom 

Weave 1 stick across, going under the center stick

Weave the last stick across, going over the center stick


You have to throw them down fairly hard.  Noah had a little trouble making them explode but it was fun just having Mama do it


As usual, Noah had his own ideas about how to play with the stars.  He liked throwing them into a tree, which is exactly how our Christmas tree was decorated this year 🙂 



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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…


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.


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.



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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Wishing Stones (or mama worry stones)

I had to make a late trip to the barn last night to blanket pony. I was waiting out a nasty storm complete with a terrific show of lightning. It was reminiscent of the summer storms I remember growing up in Ohio. Warm winds, heavy rain and quick flashes of brilliant white light. Not great for a pony without shelter, but I was going to blanket her before the temps fell drastically to below freezing and I felt good about being able to check on her after the storms.
Caught in traffic I arrived later than I’d hoped and the last ray of the setting sun was far gone. It was pitch black, pouring rain, and my pony was all alone. Huh?!? Refusing to eat her hay and even the bucket of warm mash I’d set before her, she stared out of her field into the darkness whinnying. I didn’t know what was going on but now we were both stressed out.
After some texts and calls I found out Little Bit’s friend was placed on stall rest for the entire week. I could either leave her in the field where she would be cold, wet, and alone but in familiar surroundings or I could move her into the barn where she would be less cold, dry but in an unfamiliar, box stall. She was too stressed to eat in the field so I chose the latter. She whinnied as I latched the stall door closed and left her It was clear this was a lose-lose situation.
I worried about her all night as I pictured her calling out, pacing or worse yet trying to roll in the awkward space and getting cast. Did I mention this 10’x10′ stall also has a 10’x2’x8″ cement platform along one side? Yeah, totally awkward.
I rushed out this morning at day break, snuffly sick boy in tow, to bust my pony out of jail. Though she hadn’t eaten a bite of her food from last night she trotted off to a nearby field and immediately began to graze. She was going to be fine. And thanks to a wonderful friend who agreed to transplant her horses into our field for the next week to keep Little Bit happy, I felt miles better as well.
The worry-filled sleepless night had me thinking though. I remember my grandma giving me a worry stone (which I’ve also heard called wishing stones) when I was a little girl. It was a marbled yellow color, shaped like an eye with a smooth divot in the middle. You couldn’t hold the stone and not begin rubbing your thumb over that smooth center. I could have used that stone last night.
I don’t remember ever using it because I was worried but I very much remember keeping it in my pocket, arranging it on my dresser, taking it to show-and-tell and rubbing that smooth center. Best of all, it always reminded me of my grandma.
With Little Bit taken care of I turned my attention to Noah who, though sick and stuffed up, was happier than a pig in…mud. All that rain had produced what I imagine Noah’s version of Disneyland to be. My first instinct was to get that sick boy out of this awful weather. That suggestion was met with tearful cries of “No! More mud!”. I can’t imagine a broken heart does any good for a sick little boy so I made him a deal. “We need to get home soon, but first let’s look in this mud for a really cool rock”. Wiping away tears, which left his face streaked with mud, he agreed. Going home was still not on the top of his to-do list, but holding his treasure for a fun activity later in the day did make the transition slightly easier.

  • Stones
  • Paint – acrylics will give the best coverage (of both stone and boy) but finger paints worked just as well for Noah
  • Embellishments – glitter, puffy paint, stickers…

Here is the stone that helped get us back to the truck.  I also picked up a couple of rocks myself.  One vaguely resembled a heart, the other had this wonderful curve that fit just right in my palm and a little dip on the other side.  Perfect for rubbing my thumb across.

When we painted later in the day I couldn’t find his stone.  I later discovered he had squirreled it away in the seat of his ride-on dozer.  I think it was too pretty to paint anyway.  So we painted vague heart stone and curved dipped stone together.


Noah was apparently satisfied with his creation and started on his favorite canvas – himself.  It wasn’t long before he began requesting for his post painting session bath.  I am now fully convinced this is why painting is his most requested activity.  He was so excited to move to his bath that he quickly cleaned up and put away all his paint tubs!


We’re going to let these dry and add some details and embellishments later.  At least I will.  I imagine Noah will just paint his hands and demand a bath 😉

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Air Rockets from dish soap bottle

This seemed more like an outdoor play activity and that’s what I initially had planned for us. But after spending 3 1/2 hours at the barn this morning, my face chapped from the wind, Noah’s hands stained red from digging in the clay mud, I just couldn’t leave my warm cozy nest.
I pinned this as a 4th of July activity that Almost Unschoolers shared on their blog. It just happened to work out as the perfect repurposing craft for us, as I dumped the last of the dish soap in Noah’s bubble machine for last night’s Bubble Bubble Bath.

  • scrap paper
  • ribbon scraps
  • scissors
  • tape
  • empty dish soap bottle, or similar squeeze bottle

Here’s everything you’ll need.  Plus tape.  Nowie absconded with the tape before I could take the picture.

We cut a circle out of scrap paper, cut a slit into it and taped it to create a small cone.  I told Noah we were going to put ribbons on the cone.  This is his interpretation of that:

Not bad.  While I tried a different way of attaching the ribbons, Kitty showed up.  Big surprise.  Kitty seems to show up a lot during our play adventures.

With a few ribbons attached, we placed the adorned cone atop the dish soap bottle and squeezed.  The rocket shot into the air!  Noah had a bit more difficulty squeezing the bottle with enough “umpf” but he quickly developed his own way of firing the rocket into the air.

And if all else fails, you can always just play with the ribbon.

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