June 2013 archive

2×4 Balance Beam Activity for Toddlers

I always wish I had those big padded gross motor mats for Peanut to balance on and crawl all over. You know, the ones that are hundreds of dollars for one piece? So, I searched for a way to create some gross motor activities I could do at home where Peanut was able to balance and crawl on things. I got my inspiration when cleaning out the garage and I found several scrap pieces of 2×4.

2x4 Balance Beam for Toddlers

2×4 3-4 feet long

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To set up this activity all you have to do is find a place with a soft, but flat surface to put your 2×4 on, inside or out. Place the 2×4 and let your toddler go!

2x4 Balance Beam for Toddlers

This is another one of the activities I let my mom do with Kennedy while she was here for a visit. Since my mom is a teacher as well, she’s pretty good at leading these activities as well. :) She showed Peanut what to do and helped her walk across the board by holding her hand and leading her across.

2x4 Balance Beam for Toddlers

Every time Peanut crossed the board she offered less and less help, until Peanut was going the length of the board on her own. Of course she was stepping off, falling down, and all over…but she was getting some great balance practice in!

2x4 Balance Beam for Toddlers

In the end, Peanut ended up working on her arm muscles for her gross motor activity and not her balance. But, remember, we go with the flow when we’re playing with toddlers!

2x4 Balance Beam for Toddlers

We’ll come back to this activity again and add some difficulty to the balance challenge, but for now it’s a staple in our backyard because she liked using it so much.

Shaving Cream and Shells Sensory Activity

When I saw this post from A Mom With a Lesson Plan I knew I wanted to try it with Peanut. We’d already played around in shaving cream before so I was looking for something to add to the activity. This seemed perfect: simple but fun!

Artificial Shells, medium to large size, can be purchased here
Shaving cream
A table or container to play on/in

As I stated before, our plastic bins are packed away currently so I had to find a place Peanut could play without getting shaving cream everywhere it didn’t belong, but could also explore the activity sufficiently. So, we did this activity in her high chair. It kept the mess in one place, but Peanut was still able to get her hands on it.

I have to admit, no matter how often I urge Peanut to get messy with new or seldom introduced materials, she still isn’t’ a big fan. She won’t dig right in and needs some encouragement to really give it a try. I thought adding shells for her to search for in the shaving cream would create motivation to get into the cream, it wasn’t a big help.

I have to admit, my mom did this activity with Peanut while she was up for a visit. So, her behavior is second-hand, but she mostly swirled the shaving cream around with her index finger. I plan to play with shaving cream a bit more often to see if we can’t get over this avoiding messes thing!

Hopefully your kiddo will explore a bit more with this activity. Let me know about your experience with it. How did your child react?

Water Beads and Plastic Cup Sensory Activity

Water beads can be used many ways, so they’re great to have on hand and inexpensive.

water beans, can be purchased here or at any craft store in the floral department
container for playing out of
plastic cup

The biggest part of setting up your water bead activity is to find a place where you can find any run away beads easily. They’re bouncy and slippery, so you will have run aways. Secondly, make sure you are available to be with your toddler when they are playing with water beads because they could easily be swallowed.

Ideally I would have used a bigger container for play, but we’ve packed up most of our plastic containers to move to a new home in a couple of weeks. But, Peanut had a lot of fun playing with the beads in the small container…it just sent me chasing beads across the floor more often. Peanut dug right into this activity. She enjoyed splashing the beads around and trying to grab them. They were so slippery she had to work for a while before she figured out how to get ahold of one bead. Then she started trying to use the cup to pick the beads up and pouring them back out. At first she tried pouring them as if she was taking a drink. After I showed her how to pour properly, she concentrated on filling the cup and pouring it out correctly. Eventually she started trying to put beads in her cup one by one.

I was surprised at the amount of time Peanut wanted to spend on this activity. Just when I thought she was done, she started in on a new “activity” with the beads and spent another 5 minutes playing with them. I also had a lot of fun observing her during this activity. Her wheels were clearly turning. From trying to figure out what exactly she was playing with, to trying to get ahold of one bead, or pour the beads back into the container without spilling she was always concentrating intensely.

We will build on this activity more in the future, but for now it was one that ended up being a lot more detailed than I intended.

Toddler Obstacle Course

Have I ever mentioned that I love activities you can set up quickly and easily with stuff you already have? Well, I do. And this is one of those activities for outside!


Any outdoor toys you already have!

It’s great to get outside in the summer and get lots of gross motor practice in. For toddlers that can be as simple as navigating grass or bumpy walking surfaces. But, when your kiddo has mastered walking through grass (even if it needs a good trim!) it’s time to introduce some new gross motor activities for outside.


I gathered up 4-5 obstacles to put out for Peanut to tackle. I used items that were easy to place, attractive to Peanut, and that would encourage big movements. I ended up using our slide, two pool noodles, a ball, a bubble mower and her kiddie-sized outdoor chair. She could work on several different gross motor movements with the items I selected. She could climb up her slide, step over the noodles, carry the ball, push the bubble mower, and sit down in her chair.


When I had all my obstacles set up, I walked through the course with Peanut showing her what to do and helping her through. Then, I brought her back to start and let her take to the course on her own. Of course she skipped the slide, kicked the pool noodles (a great gross motor skill as well), and tried to push the mower with the ball still in her hand. She had a blast though running through the course several times. Even though it wasn’t perfect, she was still getting to practice those skills and that was fine with me.


As I have said before, toddlers are constantly learning. Setting up thoughtful activities is a great way to make sure they’re getting exposed different experiences and learning opportunities. But, they’re not old enough yet to expect them to do structured, perfect activities!

Tube & Pom-Pom Play for Toddlers

Peanut has a favorite toy at the local indoor playground: a clear plastic tube attached to the wall she can drop balls in and watch them fall. So, when I found this post on Tube Play from Laughing Kids Learn I had to try it with Peanut!

Tube Play for Toddlers

Pompoms of various sizes
Empty tissue paper roll or toilet paper roll
Small basket, container or bowl
Painter’s tape

Tube Play for Toddlers

This is another one of those great activities that doesn’t take much set up. If you love to craft, or at least have your kiddos craft, you probably have all the supplies on hand. When the time comes to play, simply attach the tube to the wall with the painter’s tape, dump some pompoms into a small container, and bring baby over.

Tube Play for Toddlers

Peanut was more interested in trying to rip the tube off the wall when she first saw the set up, but when I modeled how to put a pompom through the tube she dumped the pompoms and started putting them through the tube.It took a bit of redirecting to keep her from ripping the tube off the wall. I wanted her to spend at least a few minutes dropping pompoms down the tube before I let her explore, since I’m trying to slowly work on having her focus on directed activities. After a few minutes, I let her explore on her own and it only took minutes before she had the tube down and the tape off the tube and was playing with it instead.

Tube Play for Toddlers

In the end we talked mostly about colors and how sticky the tape was. I definitely have some changes I want to make to the next time I attempt this activity. First, I want to find a clear tube to use. I plan on hitting up the hardware store soon to find the perfect tube. Then, I want to offer a variety of tubes for her to play with. Finally, I want to add different configurations of tubes. When you’re first introducing an activity though, less is more. It gives toddlers an opportunity to learn a behavior (like dropping pompoms down the tube instead of ripping the tube off the wall) instead of being too overwhelming for them to understand what they’re learning.

I can’t wait to build on this activity and try it again. I think there is a lot more I could do with it!

Shopping List for Next Week’s Toddler Lesson Plans

As promised, here is your shopping list. I still have a few posts to write before I put up the actual lesson plan, but I wanted to get the list up for you so you can do your shopping over the weekend!


Shopping List:

painting tape (or similar that will easily come off a window)
contact paper
tissue paper squares
sidewalk chalk
Instant pudding
1 cup salt
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon oil
few drop fresh lemon juice
fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, or mint
pom poms
paper towel or toilet paper roll
plastic cups, preferably clear
beads or beans
duct tape or electrical tape
bean bags
Memory game
Shaving cream
Sea shells, large to medium in size
2×4 board, at least 2-3 feet long
sand box
sand toys (shovel, bucket, sifter, etc.)
water beads

Things you probably have or can’t “get” but should plan for
Water/watering can
Items for outdoor obstacle course (use whatever you can find!)
A park—find one with in walking distance!

DIY Noise Maker for Toddlers and Babies

Toddlers and babies alike love to make noise. A sound can stop them in their tracks to investigate where the noise came from. This DIY noise maker is great for nearly any age, but particularly those babies and toddlers.


2 plastic cups, preferably clear
duct tape, in a fun color!
beans or beads


If you’re creating this for a baby, skip the decorating steps and go straight to the adults only part of the project. If this noise maker is for a toddler, the first part is half the fun!


Present the cups and stickers to your kiddo. Peanut needed me to show her how to put the stickers on and also needed my help to get the sticker started peeling off the sheet. We worked on grabbing the sticker sheet with one hand and getting a sticker with the other and you could tell she felt like a big girl getting those stickers with only a little help from mom. Then, I had to remind her what she was supposed to do with the sticker nearly every time. But, she enjoyed sticking the stickers everywhere on her cup. We ended up with several inside the cup to flop around with her beans. When she seemed like she was not interested in decorating anymore came my part.


I added some dried lima beans to the cup, letting Peanut see what I was doing and play with a few of the beads. I stacked the cups lip to lip and wrapped the duct tape around the cups several times. This is the most important part, and why this is the part I recommend an adult takes over. If there isn’t enough tape or the tape isn’t secure, beans will be flying everywhere in no time.


With the beans securely taped inside the cup, I handed Peanut her creation and the shaking began. I asked her if she wanted down from her chair and she was so enthralled with shaking that she just stayed put. She shook like crazy with both hands, figured out how to tip it back and forth, tried it with one had. She had so much fun…and went right back to it this morning when she found it on her toy shelf.


I like this project for several reasons. 1) it works on fine motor skills (putting the stickers on) and gross motor skills (shaking), 2) it’s a project where Peanut got to create something and there isn’t any mess to clean up 3) it can grow with her. When she’s older I can let her select what she wants to put in the cups to discover how those objects sound compared to the beans. I can also increase the difficulty of the decorating to work on different fine motor skills as she grows. It’s a great, fast project!

All Natural Scented Homemade Play Dough


I have a confession. I’ve never let Peanut play with play dough before this. I was always afraid she’d eat it…well, I was right, so I was glad I remembered this recipe for DIY play dough from my preschool teaching days. It took me a while to get around to making it wondering if most of it would get ingested or if Peanut would actually play with it. But, I finally did it!


1.5 cups boiling water
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
a few drops lemon oil
2 tablespoons oil, extra if dough is crumbly
20-30 drops lemon essential oil or essential oil of your choice
A big bowl
metal spoon
play dough toys or old kitchen utensils, safe for toddlers of course!


Start by boiling your water. Mix flour, salt, oil, and essential oil in a large mixing bowl with the metal spoon. When the water is boiling, add it to the mixture and mix with the spoon until the dough is cool enough to knead. Knead with your hands until it becomes smooth, soft, and pliable. Add a splash of oil or water if the dough seems crumbly. Knead that in for a while before adding more, if needed. You can also add more essential oil if the fragrance is not strong enough for your taste.

All Natural Homemade Play Dough

Then, set dough on the counter in a large ball for 2-3 minutes to cool a big longer. Set up your play place and play dough toys during this time. When the dough is cool enough for your toddler to play with, let them have at it.

All Natural Scented Homemade Play dough

Peanut particularly liked sticking things in the dough. I had to really prompt her to squeeze or squish the dough, but she stuck just about every toy in front of her into the dough all by herself. We talked about squishy, squeeze, sticky and how it was something to play with not to eat. :) I also encouraged her to smell it, carefully, since she sticks things she’s smelling very close to her nose.

All Natural Scented Homemade Play dough

When play time is over, store the play dough in a plastic bag. When you go to play the next time, if it’s a bit dry, wet down your hands and knead the dough for a couple of minutes and it should come back to life. You’ll know when the dough has reached the end of its life when it is very crumbly and can’t be revived with a bit of water.

Bubbles! (Tons of them!!!)

I am well aware that you are perfectly capable of playing with bubbles. I don’t have much to tell you about bubbles other than they are great for babies to work on tracking. They’re great for toddlers to work on gross motor skills as they chase them and attempt to catch them.

Gazillion Bubbles Typhoon

The most important thing I have to tell you is to buy this bubble machine. Holy cow. This thing is amazing!! A friend brought theirs to a splash play date we had and Peanut was amazed….frankly so was I. The packaging says it lets out over 1,000 bubbles a minute and it absolutely does. It would take 20 kids to catch all the bubbles this bubble machine puts out. Not to mention it runs for hours on one tank of bubbles. We found ours for $19.99 at Target. This thing is going to be years of fun! Gazillion Bubbles Typhoon…

Go buy one!

Bean Bag Toss for Toddlers

With so many possible set ups for this bean bag toss, it’s a great activity to have in your arsenal.

Bean Bag Toss for Toddlers

Bean bags, can be purchased here
Baskets or targets you have on hand

Bean bags are great to have around the house. They can be used for a lot of activities and for a wide range of ages. This activity is another that has a simple set and clean up. All you have to do is set out a variety of containers for your toddler to aim at as they’re tossing bean bags around.


Peanut grabbed the brightly colored bags and ran off before I could even show her what we were going to do. But, once she saw me tossing bags into the laundry basket she found her way back over to join me. Before long she was so busy tossing bags in the baskets, out of the baskets, from one basket to the other, making piles, throwing them for the dog to get (thank goodness the dog left them alone!) that I think she hardly noticed me. I tried my best to call out the color she was interacting with…but even that proved to be hard she was so into simply throwing the bags. So, I took a hint from her and just played with her. We tossed the bags everywhere.


I had a great reminder that toddlers are constantly learning during our play as she started saying “throw” during our play. Sure, she wasn’t focused on the colors as I HOPED she’d be, but with a toddler that’s absolutely okay! They’re still learning!


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