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{Toddler Thursday} Fun With Pasta! Pasta Necklaces

18 Aug

Fun With Pasta! is our latest installment of the Fun With Food! series.

What do you get when you mix pasta + paint + a toddler?  Painted pasta necklaces and a whole lotta messy fun along the way!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your pasta jewelry (think bracelets, headbands and crowns, too):


  • paint
  • paintbrushes
  • tube pasta (try penne)
  • ribbon, string or yarn
  • work surface saver (e.g., newspaper, cardboard, paper grocery bags)

Step 1

Paint your pasta.  I tried using a flattened cardboard box from the recycling bin as our paint palette, but Jane decided it would be her canvas instead.  She wasn’t ready to paint the penne right away.

Then she decided making handprints would be more fun than painting the pasta.

Eventually, she came around the idea of painting the penne.

Step 2

String each painted and dried piece of pasta together.  We used curly ribbon we had lying around the house, but you can use any type of ribbon, string or yarn handy.  Just tie several knots on top of each other to form a ball larger than the opening of the pasta; thread the pasta; and knot the two ends of the necklaces together.

Step 3

Don your fabulous creations!

LEARN! Colors, fine motor skills, manual dexterity, concentration

If you liked this post, check out other posts in the Fun With Food! series, like Fun With Beans and Fun With Gumdrops.


Construction Paper Dress and Windsock

11 Aug

As y’all know, I love making crafts or projects using the bazillion brown paper grocery bags we have stockpiled in our kitchen drawer from over the years (like this One Minute Paper Bag Monster) or other recyclables lying around our house that would otherwise turn to waste (like this Repurposed Easter Grass Garden, these Rock Candy Maracas or our paper roll projects like these telescopes, binoculars and finger puppets).

This time around we made a paper dress using the top of a brown paper grocery bag and strips of construction paper:

When the fun of the dress wore off, we hung it in our backyard as a colorful, fluttery windsock:


  • brown paper grocery bag
  • construction paper
  • scissors
  • tape

Step 1

Cut off the top third of the grocery bag, which will form the top or “bust” portion of the dress.

Step 2

Snip lengthwise strips of the construction paper in whatever colors suit your fancy.  Tape the strips hanging vertically from the bust.

Step 3

Cut an additional strip as a border for the top of dress and tape it down horizontally.

Do the same for the remaining three sides of the bag.

Step 5

Embellish with cutout shapes or glue on gems and glitter.  Now twirl!

LEARN!  Colors, scissor cutting, pretend play.

Themed Sticker Books

4 Aug

In the middle of Week One of my adventures as a working mom staying at home, I stood in the middle of our kitchen/family room scanning the busy counter spaces and heaving bookshelves, waiting for inspiration to pop out at me.  Luckily, it did.

“Let’s make a book!” I exclaimed to Jane, who was supposed to be sleeping but had decided to give up napping for my first week home.  She was keen and our project was on.

Here’s how you can make your own sticker book:


  • hole punch
  • cardstock
  • ribbon
  • stickers
  • markers or crayons

Step 1

Fold three sheets of cardstock in half cross-wise.

Step 2

Punch one hole in the fold at the top and the bottom of the crease line that forms the book’s “spine.”

Step 3

String the ribbon through the holes and tie a knot on the outer spine side.  You could staple the book together, but since Sam is still in the eat-everything-in-sight stage, I wanted to avoid retrieving swallowed staples from his stomach.

Step 4

Let your toddler decorate the pages of her new book and don’t forget to give your book a title on the front cover!

We chose puffy bug stickers and Jane enjoyed sticking and re-sticking the insects to different pages.  She decided this would be a “Bug Book” for Uncle B.

At this age (2.5), the fact that Jane made a book and the joy of peeling and placing the stickers was enough for her to feel satisfied with the activity.

For an older child, you might want to write the names of the various insects (or whatever theme you have chosen) underneath each sticker.  For an insect-themed book like ours, you could add fun facts about each bug and talk about what the bugs eat, where they live, and even go outside to look for one in your backyard!

LEARN!  Fine motor skills, concentration, manual dexterity, topical facts

Potato Stamping

15 Jul

This toddler activity is an old favorite from my own childhood.  Nothing like some good ol’ fashioned potato stamping fun, or “playing Juicy,” as Jane calls it.

It’s so simple, you have no excuse not to try this.  Unless, of course, you’re planning to serve the potatoes for dinner.

Step 1

Cut a potato in half and carve out a shape for your stamp.

Step 2

Mix food coloring and water to make stamping ink.

Step 3

Stamp away!

Not part of the potato stamping process, but part of Jane’s fun:  drawing on the paper with crayons dipped in the ink!

LEARN!  Shapes, colors, fine motor skills, manual dexterity.

Butterflies and Binoculars {More Paper Roll Ideas}

17 Jun

I guess we’ve been on a “roll” lately.

Last week was telescopes, this week it’s butterfly finger puppets (and room decor) and binoculars.

Butterfly Finger Puppets


  • toilet paper roll tubes (or paper towel roll tubes cut in half)
  • construction paper or coffee filters (the cone type)
  • pipe cleaners
  • crayons (or markers, paint or stickers)
  • double-sided tape (or glue)
  • scissors

Step 1

Cut a piece of construction paper to fit around the paper roll tube and tape or glue the paper to the roll.

Step 2

Cut along the two seams of the coffee filter and spread it out on your work surface to create butterfly “wings,” or cut out construction paper wings.

Step 3

Decorate the “wings” with crayons, markers, stickers or paint.  Then, lay the butterfly’s “body” in the middle of the wings and tape or glue down.

Step 4

Add butterfly “antennae” by folding a pipe cleaner in half and curling the ends.  You can tape or glue the antennae down if necessary.

Now, put them over your fingers and flap away!

Even Hubby enjoyed playing with the butterfly puppets!

*Tip #1:  if you have a small toddler, place all her fingers into the tube and it will be easier for her to manipulate.

*Tip #2:  When your toddler tires of her puppets, you can always use them as a fun new room decoration!

We taped ours to Jane’s bedroom mirror to go along with the butterfly theme:


Step 1

Use tape to stick two paper roll tubes together.

Step 2


Tell me that wasn’t the easiest toddler activity ever!

LEARN!  Fine motor skills, coordination, imaginative play

Paper Roll Telescopes

11 Jun

For some reason, every tube or hole Jane can spy through she pronounces a “telescope.”  There are variations, like the spy scope, the super scope or the pirate scope.

So a perfect idea for a recent rainy day was to break out my teeming stash of toilet paper and paper towel rolls to make some telescopes.  These actually turned out to be great party accessories for Sam’s pirate birthday.


  • Toilet paper or paper towel roll tubes
  • paint and paintbrushes

Step 1

Pick off all of the pesky last pieces of paper that are clinging to your tubes.

Step 2

Arm your toddler with paint and brushes and let her go to work!

It’s easiest to start out painting the tubes with them lying flat on your work surface and when one side has been painted, continue painting the other side with the tubes standing up.

Step 3

Dry the tubes standing upright.

Need more ideas for what to do with all of your paper roll tubes?

Try these three great ideas from paint cut paste:  paper roll airplanespaper roll pumpkin garland and a hallogreen monster or this fun toilet paper tube target practice idea from Pink and Green Mama (check out her St. Patrick’s Day printmaking project, too).

You can even make wall art like this amazingly crafty toilet paper roll wall hanging from Unfamiliar Ceiling.

Happy painting and creating!

LEARN!  Manipulation/dexterity, imaginative play

{Fun With Food} Fun With Beans

8 Jun

I don’t care what the so-called parenting gurus say:  food is fun.

Fun to eat.

Even more fun to play with.

This is the second post in a series of Fun With Food! posts for you and your toddler to enjoy!  Check out Fun with Gumdrops! for our first Fun With Food! post.

Every year my father receives a boatload of never-to-be-used Christmas gifts from his well-meaning patients.  None of it is ever used or appreciated – well, the thought is appreciated – except the scotch, wine and chocolate.  The rest of it gets dumped on whichever of our family members is sitting nearest to him while he’s unwrapping the gifts.  This year, I was the lucky recipient of a jar of Holiday Bean Soup mix.  Yipee.  Now I have a matching jar for the one from last year.

Just as I was about to pour the poor beans into the trash during spring cleaning, I realized Jane was finally old enough to play with them instead of eat them.  Of course, they’re still a huge choking hazard for Sam, so we started on our little bean games while he napped.

Mixing, Pouring, Stirring, Sifting

First we poured out all of the beans.  I tried to get Jane to pour them all into the three pots we had set up on the floor, but of course, dumping them all over the floor was much more fun.  The great thing, though, was that she spent half an hour picking up every individual bean that spilled and placing them back in the pots, so I could sit back and drink my cup of coffee in peace.

Once the beans were in the pot, she spent another ten minutes digging her hands into the pebbly mixture, just sifting through it and alternating lifting the beans up with the palm and the back of her hand.  We had a few spatulas out for her to start mixing and pouring the beans from one pot into another.

Big, Bigger, Biggest

After having our fun manipulating the beans, we moved on to learning big, bigger and biggest; small, smaller, smallest; and less, more, least and most.

We pointed out which beans and pots were the biggest or smallest and separated the beans into different piles based on size and color.

Geometrical Shapes

Next we tried making shapes out of the beans.

We made squares, triangles, rectangles, circles and hexagons (Jane’s favorite for some reason).

Animal Shapes

Lastly, we made animal shapes:

This is a whale shark if you couldn’t tell.

Other Ideas

Other fun ideas to try:

  • Glue the beans to a paper plate to make faces, shapes, numbers or letters
  • Fill empty baby jars with the beans to make maracas like our Rock Candy Maracas (of course we did this one!)

Now go have some fun with your food!

LEARN!  Shapes, counting, animals, sounds, fine motor skills
lil luna link party button

Beneath the Rowan Tree

Twig and Ribbon Princess and Magic Wand

3 Jun

Jane loves sticks and stones.

When we took a pre-bedtime walk last night to meet Hubby at the train, she picked up a nice little collection of branches as usual.  Unfortunately, Hubby was delayed for two hours due to another poor soul’s unfortunate experience and we weren’t able to pick him up from the station.  Jane was thoroughly disappointed, so instead of making her throw out her twiggy treasure, I let her take them inside the house and suggested we come up with a project for them after I put Sam to bed.

My first thought was painting with them or on them, but nixed the idea after realizing it would involve another bath.  Making a 3-D structure like our toothpick-gumdrop tripods also seemed like a good idea, but I was too tired to do all the intricate tying that would be involved in making a house or boat out of string and twigs.  Luckily, I spotted some shiny silver ribbon on the counter and came up with the super fun idea of making a magic wand.

Jane was completely engrossed with the cutting process:

and had a great time pretending to spell out words like Princess Presto with the finished wand:

Here’s how you and your toddler can make this super simple wand:


  • a twig or slender branch (try to find a curved one)
  • ribbon (preferably shiny!)

Step 1

Have your toddler snip lengths of ribbon either with you holding the ribbon taut or on her own.

Step 2

Tie the ribbon pieces to the top portion of the stick and curl each piece with a scissor blade.


Also very fun, according to Jane – trying to wrap yourself up as a present:

LEARN!  Fine motor skills, scissor cutting, pretend play


Toddler Twister With Party Plates

17 May

Even though April showers are supposed to be over by now, we’re still getting our fair share of dreary, drizzly weather.  Not being able to play outside is a bit of a drag, but not if you drag out your paper or plastic party plates from the Rainy Day Construction Paper Octopus project or your Special Agent Oso themed birthday party!

Jane came up with this great idea for Toddler Twister:

Try it on your next day in!

LEARN!  Counting, colors, parts of the body, coordination, gross motor skills

{Fun With Food!} Fun With Gumdrops

9 May

Goody goody gumdrops! Fun With Gumdrops! is the first post in our Fun With Food! series.

Remember gumdrops?!

I used to love the sugary, spicy taste of these yummy gummy confections.  My mother always broke them out at Christmastime for our gingerbread houses and just the scent of these candies makes me nostalgic for my childhood.

Somehow I hadn’t seen them for years, so when I passed a bag of gumdrops in the grocery aisle the other day, I had to pick them up.  Turns out they are perfect for learning colors, counting, geometrical shapes and hours of fun.  All you need are toothpicks and you’re ready to go!

An older child (Jane is 2) would be able to make more than just these tripods.


  • other shapes (squares, hexagons, octagons, you name it)
  • 3-D shapes (like a house or box) or
  • atoms and chemical structures.

LEARN!  Colors, counting, shapes/geometry, fine motor skills

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