DIY Sensory Bottles – Cheap, Quick, & Easy!

Just a quick “toy” to make with so many options and benefits.  Who says that great toys have to cost lots of money!?

Below are the sensory bottles I made for Tayler awhile ago.  Since she could grasp toys, she’s loved things that make noise.  I found small 6 ounce water bottles at Meijer, took off the labels, and filled them with various items that make different noises when shaken. Once filled, you can super glue them shut (I haven’t yet though – Tayler still likes to chew on them and I hate the thought of any glue getting into her mouth!). They are the perfect size for infants to practice their grip strength and coordination, and a side bonus is they are great to take when traveling and you need 6 ounces of water to make a bottle! Some of Tayler’s favorites are filled with: corn kernels, coins, different beads, jingle bells, and coffee grinds.  She will shake, shake, shake for days!

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As our kiddos get bigger, however, there are several other ways to fill your sensory bottles.

Some other object ideas to fill with: 

  • buttons
  • feathers
  • paper clips
  • foam cutouts
  • rice
  • pebbles
  • confetti
  • dice
  • seashells
  • pipe cleaners
  • pom poms

Just about anything that’s small enough to go in, make some noise, and peaks the interest of your child!

Some other themed ways to fill your bottles: 

  • By color: fill several bottles with different items so they can practice identifying their colors.
  • By shapes: For example – dice for squares, buttons for circles, foam triangles, etc.
  • By season: For example – jingle bells, snowflakes, red and green pom poms for winter. Acorns, mini pine cones, sticks, and a few fake petals in autumn colors for fall.  Etc.
  • Add water.  It takes away the auditory element of not having water, but it sure does add a visual element!
  • Floating: add liquids and items of different densities – see what floats the best and what doesn’t!

If your child is big enough to open the bottles, make sure they are secured shut with hot glue or super glue.

If your child is developmentally ready, you could also use your bottles to open and practice counting items and sorting!

Get creative, have fun, and play, play, play!

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The Family Countdown to Christmas and List of Ideas!

Can you believe December is only 12 days away?! I just finished putting out some Christmas decorations (yes, we are that family that does it before Thanksgiving), and stumbled upon our advent calendar.  Like a lot of advent calendars, I used to fill each day with a little piece of candy.  This year, however, I was totally put off by the idea.  First, I do not need any extra candy in this house (and why are we rewarding ourselves with junk everyday?).  Second, why not countdown to Christmas doing fun things together as a family? I know doing things together as family in December is far from a novel idea, but I thought I could share some ideas of things to do together and how I plan to set up our new advent calendar.

As I mentioned in my last post, my daughter is only 8 months – she won’t remember any of this! But if you want to do a Christmas activity countdown, this is how I plan to do it in the future (with an adapted version this year!).

No matter how much you plan and prepare, just remember life happens.  Kids get sick, tantrums are thrown, surprise plans come up, and early bedtimes are sometimes necessary – so have a flexible mindset and be sure your kids understand that too.  The countdown activities are things we hope to do each day, but if something comes up – that’s ok! Also remember this doesn’t have to cost money.  Ideas can be small and simple – the point is they are things to do together!

I used white post-its do jot down ideas.  They’re small, fit into our type of advent calendar, and can be easily moved around our big wall calendar as we lay out the month. (I wrote ideas down under the sticky strip so that once we were done I could fold them up with the idea hidden on the inside.  I also took our wall calendar down and laid it on the table so I could see the idea in each box).

First, look at all of your Christmas/travel plans you already have leading up to Christmas.  Think about city parades, when Santa will be at the mall, when your library will have Christmas activities, Christmas parties you plan to attend, etc. Jot them down on individual post-its. If you have a wall calendar, stick them over the days you plan to do them.

Next, count and see how many days are left before Christmas where you can fill in other activities.  That number will be your goal.

With your kid(s), sit down and brainstorm or look over a list of some things you’d like to do together.  First decide on what kinds of activities are best suited for weekends when you have extra man-power and time.  Fill those days in first, each on a post-it, and put them over the days you plan to do it.  Move on to weekday activities next, and do the same.

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Once you have your 24 days filled on the calendar, take a picture of it or write it down.  This will be really important for planning and being prepared for each week.  Before each week begins look over the activities and see if there’s any prep to be done or items to collect. Nothing worse than picking out the “make cookies for neighbors” activity and realizing you need to run to the store for supplies.

Once you’ve got the lay-out of the 24 days recorded, fold up the post-it with the idea hidden inside and transfer to the corresponding day on your advent calendar.  Although your kid(s) may have been part of the planning process, they surely won’t remember when everything is happening and will add a fun element of surprise for each day.

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(each activity tucked neatly inside!)

**Another way to do the countdown would be a chain link countdown.  Write down ideas on strips of paper, and staple/link them in the order they will be taken off as you countdown to Christmas.  Rip off a link and read its activity each day!

Below is a giant list of ideas.  Pick ones that best suit your family, and have fun spending this magical month together!

Weekday Ideas:

  • Write letters to Santa
  • Make cookies for neighbors
  • Watch one of your favorite Christmas movies
  • Make Christmas cards for family members
  • Make Christmas cards for soldiers
  • Make a playlist or CD with your favorite Christmas songs (beginning of the month to enjoy later!)
  • Have a sing-off or dance-off to your favorite Christmas songs
  • Read a Christmas book selected by each family member
  • Make homemade apple cider
  • Make your house smell like Christmas
  • Make green and red play dough
  • Make reindeer “food” for Christmas Eve
  • Color Christmas pictures
  • Cut out and hang snowflakes
  • Make ornaments
  • Random acts of kindness
  • Wrap gifts
  • Build a snowman (snow dependent!)
  • Go on a winter walk in a city park
  • Make gingerbread cookies
  • Decorate gingerbread houses
  • Check out Christmas books from library
  • Write letters to sponsored children
  • Write New Year’s Resolutions and put them in your stockings – open them next year and see how you did!
  • Christmas Eve church service (or any other Christmas Eve traditions already in place)

Weekend Ideas: 

  • Snowball toss competition
  • Go sledding
  • Make a living room movie theater with your favorite holiday movie (think lots of pillows, blankets, snuggles, and snacks!) Ok, so maybe do this one a few times! 🙂
  • Visit a tree farm and if getting a real one, pick out a tree!
  • Drive through favorite neighborhoods while in pajamas and rate your favorite Christmas lights
  • Bring toys or food to shelters, food pantries, or donation centers
  • Family Christmas pictures
  • Trip to the Dollar Store to pick out gifts for siblings
  • Family Cookie Decorating Competition
  • Go on Christmas Train Ride (location dependent)
  • Decorate your Christmas Tree!
  • Go to a Christmas Play or Musical
  • Try and learn a Christmas carol in sign language (youtube!)
  • Make your own Christmas Play or Musical!
  • Visit your downtown (if they have lights or events going on)
  • Have a sleepover around the Christmas Tree
  • “Elf” your neighbors
  • Have a runway show of your ugliest Christmas attire
  • Visit Santa at the local mall
  • Volunteer at a local soup kitchen or place of need
  • Family “minute-to-win-it”  competitions
  • Have friends over for a Christmas party potluck

Just remember anything is special, as long as its done together! Have fun making holiday memories and creating your own traditions! 

The Thankful Tree

One of the exciting parts of having a new family is deciding what family traditions you’d like to incorporate.  The things you’ll do together each year as family, and that you’ll look forward to as the holiday season rolls around.  Traditions can bind a family together and are what a lot of kids remember most when reflecting back on their childhood.

Although my daughter is only 8 months old, I am all too excited to start our traditions this year.  No, she won’t remember them, and no, she won’t have a clue to what’s going on, but I figure it’ll give me practice so when she is of age – they’ll be perfect!

I saw the idea for the Thankful Tree on Pinterest, and fell in love immediately.  It’s easy, doesn’t cost much (if any) money, is something the family can do together, and gets kids (and adults) reflecting on what they’re thankful for in their lives.  Doesn’t get much better than that!

So here is my first stab at it.

I used: 

  • An old vase in the cupboard
  • burlap I had in the basement (tied around the neck of the vase)
  • sticks from outside (make sure they have lots of little branches!)
  • a black pen
  • my cricut
  • different colored card stock I had

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(It’ll be more full once we’ve written on all of the leaves!)

Seriously, so easy.  Luckily I had everything I needed, so it cost me a grand total of $0.  I used my cricut to cut the leaves you see below, but if you don’t have one, you could either:

  • print a leaf or different shape off your computer and cut them yourselves
  • use a paper punch (you could get a circle one from Joann’s for $10)
  • draw your own leaves or shapes

I put the leaves in a bowl with a pen so anyone can write things they think of down at any time, and once written on, they are hung on the branches.

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Some different ways you could incorporate the leaves are: 

  • Every family member writes on one (or however many) leaf at dinner time for the whole week leading up to Thanksgiving
  • Each family member is given a certain amount of personal leaves to write on, and a certain number of family leaves to do together
  • Guests or family members who come over could write on leaves when they come over
  • It could solely be a Thanksgiving day activity, where all leaves are written on the day-of
  • You could have a theme each day for the leaves (A person you’re thankful for, a toy you’re thankful for, an opportunity you’re thankful for, etc… )

How you do it is totally up to you and how you want to fit the needs of your family.

The last thing I think I want to do is get a little index card file box, and each year collect all the leaves and store them by year.  I think it would be pretty awesome to be able to look back one day and see how your lives and priorities have changed!

Enjoy!

11 Reasons Why You Should Rotate Those Toys and How To Do It!

Lets just jump straight to the goods. Rotating your children’s toys will not only benefit the play and growth of your children, but it will benefit you and your home as well! Here are some reasons why:

  1. It helps de-clutter your home.  The sheer volume of toys that are out will decrease, which will help keep your home looking somewhat like adults live there too.  Everything will have a home (which does not include your kitchen counter, under the couch, in your closet, in your dog toy basket, and in the hallway).
  2. Too often a child has too many options of toys to play with.  Too many options can lead to anxiety, frustration, over-stimulation, and feeling overwhelmed.  Adults feel this too when faced with too many options, and our kids are the same.  Simplify.
  3. Toys that have several pieces or moving parts will be used again.  Have you noticed that a shape sorter is rendered useless because the shapes are always nowhere to be found in the mass of chaos? A puzzle is pointless when half the pieces are missing.
  4. Fewer toys encourages focused play, not scattered play.  Does this image seem familiar: your child picks up a toy, looks at it for 20 seconds, drops it, moves to the next toy, looks at it for 20 seconds, drop its, and within 10 minutes they’ve gone through the entire playroom and they are bored.  Which usually causes them to go find things they shouldn’t necessarily be playing with or demand that you entertain them.  Fewer toys lets our children fully engage with a toy, learning its inner workings.  Skills and concepts can now be mastered instead of quickly being passed over. 
  5. Rotating toys allows your child to use the same toys in new ways.  Its exciting when a toy they haven’t seen in a month appears again.  Its almost like new! As they develop and grow, they can start using the same toys in different ways which encourages creativity and inventiveness.  
  6. Clean up just got a lot easier.  Instead of picking up an entire room of toys, you and your child have significantly less to pick up – which makes cleaning up a lot less overwhelming!
  7. You can more easily pick-up on what toys are ready to be donated or sold.  When there are less toys to monitor it’ll be easier to see which ones your child has outgrown. Condense, clean out, and stay organized.
  8. They will be engaged longer as their time is used more productively.
  9. Toys that were once overlooked and lost in the chaos will now be played with.  All toys are now more visible and available!
  10. It encourages independent play.  While playing with your children and engaging them is incredibly important, it is equally important for them to be able to play independently.  They’ll be better able to master this skill when they aren’t feeling overstimulated and overwhelmed.
  11. It provides a healthy attitude towards their toys.  When rotated, their toys are tools to play with that come and go – not their possessions that can’t be taken or shared.

If I’ve convinced you at this point, the next step is how to do it.  There are several ways, and you’ll really need to do it in a way that fits the needs of your home, children, toys, and family.  I’ll give some general suggestions and guidelines, and then you can make them your own! 

  1. Start by sorting your toys into categories.  Put those category piles spread out in a room. Categories to consider are things like: Stuffed animals, books, puzzles, games, costumes and make believe, stacking and building, sorting, music/sound, etc.
  2. Once you’ve got your toys into categories, bring in several clear, stackable bins.  (However many you think your toy supply will need).  Take the first category of toys, and put one in each bin until they are all gone.  Move onto category two and do the same.  The point here is that your children have different types of toys and skills to master in each bin.
  3. Take into consideration seasonal toys, toys that foster their current developmental skills, and their absolute must-haves.  When spring rolls around, bring out the bugs, balls, nets, etc.  When its summer, bring out shovels and pails, water toys, etc.  There are also some toys that should stay out all the time.  If your child is starting to sit, leave a few toys that encourage that skill.  If they are starting to pull up, leave out the toys to pull up on, etc.  And if your child has a toy or two that they love and have all the time, leave it.  No need to cause stress or anxiety.
  4. Decide how often you want to rotate.  Every week? Every day? Once a month? Once every few months? Depending on how much are in your bins and knowing your child, use your best judgment.  Do what works for you!
  5. Big toys will stay.  If you have a kitchen set or a tool bench, leave it.  Moving the giant things would get you frustrated with rotating real quick!
  6. Consider typing or writing up an inventory of each bin and taping it on the inside of the lid.  Helps keep track of toys and where they go.  Not necessary, but an option.
  7. Number your bins so you remember which ones need to be brought out next and rotated through.
  8. Make your children a part of the process if they are able.  It’ll be fun and give them ownership over the process!
  9. Tweak the rotation and organization as needed… your toys, uses, and circumstances may change – be flexible!
  10. Enjoy!

Car Seat Add-On Must

Its an image you never want to think about.  Getting into a car accident with your precious baby in the backseat.  Chances are it won’t happen, but the reality is we just never know.  Better to be prepared than not.

If you were to ever get in a wreck and become unconscious (or whoever it is driving the car), your baby would not be able to relay important information to a police officer or firefighter arriving at the scene.  When rescue workers go to get your child out of the vehicle, have that vital information visible for them.  Not only will it be incredibly helpful for the first responders, but when able, they will leave the baby in the car seat when taken to the hospital and it will be helpful for medical staff as well.

I’ve seen these online for purchase, but it seemed too simple to not type up yourself.  Doesn’t need to be fancy.  The information I included (add more to fit your personal needs), are:

  • Child’s name 
  • Child’s Date of Birth 
  • Address
  • Both Parents’ Names and Phone Numbers 
  • Emergency Contact and Phone Number 
  • Doctor’s Name and Phone Number
  • Any known allergies or medications taken by any family member 

I printed it off on blue paper so it stands out a little bit better, and put it on BOTH sides of the car seat with clear packaging tape.

Hopefully this information won’t be needed, but in the event of a crash I don’t want to take my chances!

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Below is a link to a sample sticker you can purchase online.

http://www.cafepress.com/mf/30993617/carseatorg-emergency-information_sticker?utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=321730555&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=sem-cpc-product-ads&utm_content=search-pla&productId=321730555