Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Origami Cat to Print and Fold

Download this printable to create an origami cat.  Head over to Growing Play to download the origami cat freebie.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

#1 BEST IDEA to Entertain a Toddler

I have to admit, I find the toddler stage the most difficult time when raising children.  For years, I heard from other parents "wait until  you have teenagers...".  Well, I have teenagers and a toddler - a toddler is MUCH harder in my opinion.  I am speaking mostly about the 18-24 month stage.  Don't get me wrong there are moments when I absolutely love having a toddler ie watching him splash in puddles, getting hugs, reading him books, etc.  But there are moments when I can not wait for this stage to be over. I think the main reason is that I find it very hard to entertain toddlers.  Each of my children have been different, but in general if I can get a toddler to do anything more than 10 minutes I am super excited.  

Since my current toddler is our 6th child, I have been around the block a few times with this stage.  I have come to the conclusion that the number one, all time BEST IDEA EVER to entertain a toddler is to put him or her to work! When I ask my toddler to help out with a chore he is super engaged and excited to participate.  Now I am not talking about picking up his toys (let's not be ridiculous).  I am talking about chores that make him feel like a big kid.

For example, using a sponge.  He is so excited to stand up on his stool and wipe the counter for me. Look at that face - super proud of himself!

Each of our children have chores.  His chore is to feed the dog.  He loves it!  Does he occasionally spill it?  You betcha but he cleans each one up and puts it back into the dog's bowl.  Does he occasionally dig around the dog food bucket and run his little hands through the dog food?  Yup, but we just wash his hands and he is good to go.

Is it always easy?  Of course not (see above).  BUT, the stirring of the brownie mix definitely entertained him for quite some time. Did I have to do laundry afterwards?  Yup, but I do laundry everyday anyway so who cares!

So tomorrow on our to do list of toddler activities is: sweep the floor, wipe his plastic table off and if he gets lucky wash the dishes!  

Here are 3 more simple toddler activities:

Need ideas for the outdoors?  Just open your door and follow behind or watch your toddler.  They will find their own entertainment.  

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

5 Ways to Play Rock Paper Scissors

Who doesn't love a quick game of Rock, Paper, Scissors especially to settle a disagreement.  My kids can do it really fast because they are so used to settling arguments this way.

1.  ORIGINAL ROCK PAPER SCISSORS - So we all know the usual rules - Rock smashes Scissors - Scissors Cut Paper - Paper covers Rock.  On the count of three, you put on your hand as a rock (fist), scissors (two fingers open) or paper (hand flat) and then determine a winner.  It can be one and done or best out of 3 trials.

2.  ROCK PAPER SCISSORS BET - Rock Paper Scissors is a great game to pass the time when the kids are bored too! Try making a game out of it.  If you lose, you have to perform some physical activity.  Maybe the loser has to do 10 jumping jacks, push ups or climb the stairs.  Or maybe you can agree that the loser has to do you a favor within reason.

3.  ROCK PAPER SCISSORS GETS MOVING - Try changing up the motions - jumping with feet apart is rock (jump feet wide apart to symbolize a big rock), kicking one leg forward is scissors and jumping with feet together is paper.  Face each other, count to three and perform your jump.

4.  ELEPHANT CAT MICE - Try changing up the characters. Elephants stomp on cats, cats chase mice and mice scare elephants. On the count of three, either stomp feet, scratch like a cat or shake your mouse tail.

5.  ROCK PAPER SCISSORS TAG - Have a large group of people playing?  Separate everyone into two teams.  Create boundary lines of where to play the game.  You have to stay within the boundary lines during the tag game.  Decide together what motion each team will perform.  On a count of three, everyone on their team performs rock, paper or scissors.  The winning team has to chase the losing team.  If you get tagged you have to sit down.  Once everyone is tagged start over.

Need more game ideas?  

Check out 50 Sensory Motor Activities for Kids!  This is an electronic book of 50 sensory motor activities that get children moving.  This collection of creative, fun filled activities promote fundamental motor skills, sensory processing, motor planning and body awareness.  The book is divided into three sections - Games to Play in Small Spaces (classroom or small room), Games to Play in Large Spaces (gymnasium or outdoors) and Games to Play with Bean Bags.  The activities require simple equipment such as bean bags, hoops, rope, balls, etc.  Find out more or add to cart below.  You will receive an email with a link to download the book.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

5 Best Card Games to Play with Your Kids

If you told me I could only have one "toy" in my entire houseful with 6 kids, I would pick a deck of cards for sure! We go camping quite a bit so we definitely play a lot of cards. Even at home, we will have a card night where we all gather around the dining room table to play cards.  Here are my 5 best card game suggestions for kids ages 4 years old and up:

1.  Feudal Lords (our version of this card game) - we go through phases where we get hooked on different games.  This is the current game.  It is super easy and fun.  Deal out all the cards.  Players sort their cards from highest to lowest.  Suit does not matter.  The player with the 3 of clubs goes first, all 2's are wild and Ace is high card.  The object of the game is to be the first player to get rid of all your cards.  You go clockwise taking turns.  You have to follow in numerical order by either matching the number on the card or going higher.   

Here is an example of how a round would go - 
Player one plays the 3 of clubs.  
Player 2 must play a 3 of any other suit or any card(s) higher than a 3.  So let's say player 2 plays a single 4.  
Player 3 plays 2 fives.  Player four must now play two of any numerical card.  
Player four plays 2 tens.  
Player five plays 2 Aces.  
Back to player 1 - must play 2 aces or a wild 2 to clear the board.  If you can not you pass.
Player 2-4 do not have 2 aces and/or do not want to play a 2.
Play returns to player 5 who gets to clear the board and start over with whatever card he/she chooses.

Continue playing until everyone runs out of cards.  The first person out of cards is the KING.  Next person out is the QUEEN.  Last person out is the SERVANT #1.  Second to last person out is the SERVANT #2.  Everyone in between are smoothies.  If you are playing with only three people just have a king, smoothie and servant.  When you play the next round, Servant #1 has to give the King his/her two best cards and the King gives the Servant back 2 cards.  Servant #2 gives the Queen his/her best card and the Queen give Servant #2 back one card of his/her choice.  

We usually play for a set amount of time.  Sometimes we play with candy.  Everyone starts with a pile of treats.  If you are the King you get to pick a piece of candy from the Servant's pile.  When you get to the last round, everyone keeps the candy that they have left.  No eating any candy during the game.  

2.  Old Maid - My kids still love to play this game.  Although it always lands up that someone cheats.  You can read the rules at Bicycle Playing Cards.

3.  I Doubt It - I used to love playing this game as a child and my children enjoy it as well.  This is another one that can go on forever though so set a time limit.  Read the rules here

4.  Go Fish - This is probably one of the best games to start with for younger children (around 4 years old).  Super simple game of making matches.  Read the directions here.

5.  Solitaire or Double Solitaire - This is an absolute classic that you must teach your children.  First of all they can play it by themselves....need I say more.  Read the directions here.   Another version we love to play with more than one player is double, triple or even quadruple solitaire.  Everyone plays solitaire at the same time but you all put your cards up in one shared location.  Therefore, if one player puts up the Ace of diamonds, I can play my 2 of diamonds on the Ace even if I have not put my Ace of diamonds up.  By playing with more than one person, in turns Solitaire into a face paced game of racing who can get their cards in order first.  One rule is that you can only touch one card at a time.  This is a favorite game of mine for sure.  You do need a lot of table space.

What is your favorite card game to play with kids?

If you are looking for some great fun activities to play with the kids check out Set the Record.  Only $1.99 and ready to print and play.  Kids of all ages LOVE this game!  

Check out all the other Family Game Night Ideas!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Circle the Different Doodles

Challenge visual discrimination and visual spatial skills to find and circle the 10 differences between the doodles. Submit your email below to go directly to the download!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Word Association or Disassociation Game

Word association is a simple word game to play while waiting in a restaurant, on a long road trip or sitting around the campfire.  All you need to do is to start with one word and then say the first word that pops into your head.  The next person says the first word associated with the previous word.  Continue this pattern until a set number of words (ie 100 words or everyone takes 5 turns).  For example, if player one says CLOUDS, player two says the first word that pops into his/her mind ie SKY, next player says BLUE, next player says RAIN, next player says RAINBOW - POT OF GOLD - LEPRECHAUNS - ST PATRICK'S DAY - GREEN - GRASS and so on.....

For word dissociation, just change the rules and state the first word that pops into your mind that is NOT associated with the word.  For example, the starting word is FIRE - WATER - LIGHT - DARK - RAINBOWS - STARS - EARTH'S CORE - OUTER SPACE and so on....

Try it yourself.  Creating word associations is much easier than creating word dissociations.

Waiting Games is a 22 page download of twenty games to play while on a road trip, waiting for an appointment or sitting around a campfire.  This collection of activities encourages children to develop self-regulation, creativity and communication skills while they wait.  Get more information here or add to cart below. 

To order Waiting Games for $3.99 click on the ADD TO CART button. You will receive an email with a link immediately following payment to download the book.  

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Quietest Game to Play Around the Dinner Table - Who Has the Spoon?

Need a last minute game around the dinner or restaurant table for some family fun? Or maybe a birthday party is getting a little out of control and you want to settle the children down. Try playing a quick game of "Who Has the Spoon?"  Here is how you play:

1.  One person is the "GUESSER" and closes his/her eyes tightly throughout the entire round.  

2.  Everyone else passes a spoon around the table.  

3.  One person keeps the spoon.  That person makes a sound with the spoon.  For example, gently tap on the table, clink a glass or smack it on your hand.

4.  The guesser has to determine who is making the sound with the spoon.  

Want to make it more difficult?  Pass around a sugar packet and shake it (much harder to hear).

If someone keeps cheating by opening their eyes (and as parents we all know this will happen - haha) change up the game. One person can still be the guesser but keep his/her eyes open. Pass the spoon under the table to different people.  After 10-20 seconds, the guesser has to determine who is holding the spoon. Make sure people are fake passing the spoon to confuse the guesser.  

Want to make it more difficult?  Pass around a spoon and a sugar packet.  The guesser has to determine who is holding the spoon and who is holding the sugar packet.

For either version, everyone must play the game quietly so the guesser can hear the sounds and concentrate.  

Waiting Games is a 22 page download of twenty games to play while on a road trip, waiting for an appointment or sitting around a campfire.  This collection of activities encourages children to develop self-regulation, creativity and communication skills while they wait.  Get more information here or add to cart below. 

To order Waiting Games for $3.99 click on the ADD TO CART button. You will receive an email with a link immediately following payment to download the book.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

3 Reasons Why Kids NEED to Play

There was an excellent article posted on nprEd entitled What Kids Need From Grown-Ups (But Aren't Getting).  The article is a summary of a conversation with Erika Christakis the author of the book The Importance of Being Little.   Here are a few of my favorite points:

1.  "I think the No. 1 thing is for kids to have a chance to play, to make friends, to learn limits, to learn to take their turn."  - This is spot on.  The focus of preschool and kindergarten has changed so that students are expected to sit still for long periods of time and learn extensive academic material. The problem becomes that many children do not have the self regulation skills to accomplish these tasks resulting in challenging behaviors that distract from instructional time.  When children learn through play, they guide the exploration, take turns and learn how to wait.

2.  "If you're building a fort with your peers, you're talking, using higher-level language structures in play than you would be if you're sitting at a table. You're doing math skills, you're doing physics measurement, engineering...that's very powerful." - Think about other played based skills - maybe a simple tea party.  Children have to learn to pour liquids (life skill), determine proper measurements (volume) and take turns (social skills).  How about playing superhero?  Children are developing imagination skills, creativity, verbal expression and social skills.  I am sure that completing a letter worksheet will not address all the previously mentioned skills.  

As children get older, you can introduce more direct literacy skills into play time.  For example, provide play prompts, such as Doctor and Hospital pretend play pages, to help spark imagination and literacy skills.   

3.  "Boredom can be a friend to the imagination." - Children in today's society have very little or no down time. For some reason, parents today feel the need to sign their children up for every enrichment activity under the sun.  It is okay for children to have nothing to do and that does not mean turn on the television, grab a smart phone or play a video game.  Children need to learn to develop leisure skills which help them to determine their talents, expand their creativity. feel a sense of accomplishment and relieve stress.  Sometimes, all children need when bored is a few suggestions to get them started or some simple tools/props to get going.  Play Move Develop has 100 ideas to encourage development through play skills.  

You can read the entire article here.

Reference:  Turner, C.  What Kids Need From Grown-Ups (But Aren't Getting). NPRed.  Retrieved from the web on 2/10/16 at http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/02/09/465557430/what-kids-need-from-grown-ups-but-arent-getting?.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Toddler Time: Unwrapping

Materials: small toys/objects and tin foil

Preparation:  Wrap up the toys and objects in some tin foil.  Place the wrapped objects in a bowl or bucket.

Activity: Start to unwrap one of the objects a tiny bit and let the child complete the unwrapping to discover the object.  Once the child learns how to open the tin foil encourage him/her to unwrap each object.

The child may also enjoy just tearing up little bits of tin foil or making a tin foil ball.

This activity could also be done with boxes/lids or jars/lids.  Put the toys inside the boxes or jars. The child has to open the box or jar to reveal the toy.

This activity lasted for at least 10 minutes with my toddler (record breaker)!  He loved it.  I had to wrap and rewrap objects several times.  

This activity is from Play Move Develop.  This is a collection of 100 reproducible sensory motor activities to encourage motor skill development and learning. FIND OUT MORE HERE.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Toddler Painting

Today we did some painting with water. My little guy is a handful. So finding activities that entertain him in one location for a few minutes can sometimes be a challenge. This activity gets a thumbs up from me. He "painted" for about 5-7 minutes straight which is lengthy for this guy. Thank God it wasn't paint since he drank it and ate the paintbrush! 
He was quite proud of his masterpiece and showed it off to his brothers and sisters. We will definitely do this activity again. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Penguin Coloring Page from Animal Coloring Pages

I just love all the new coloring pages I see online and in the stores.  The only problem is that they take way toooooooo long to color!  I just created a set of 20 zentangle animal coloring pages that are easier and less detailed. Translation - you will actually be able to color the whole picture!  Download the free penguin page here.

To get the complete Animal Coloring Pages download for  $1.99  SALE PRICE of $0.99 until 2/28/16 click on the ADD TO CART button below.


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

5 Unique Pretend Play Ideas

1.  Pretend Play Library - if you follow my blog you know that one of my favorite things to do with my children is go to the library.  It is so peaceful and quiet with so many learning opportunities.  Here is a great set of free printables so the children can play library at home.

2.  Pretend Play Travel Agent - set up a small chair and table.  Write Travel Agent on a piece of paper and hang it from the desk.  Toss some brochures, maps and these trip planning printables on the table and start booking a trip.

3.  Radio or Television Station - set up a table with two chairs.  Divide up the roles - show host, person to interview, make up, hair, camera person, etc depending upon how many children are playing.  The children can pick a topic to discuss or just ask random questions.  Here are a few questions to start with from Minds in Bloom.   

4.  Pretend Play Ballet or Exercise Studio - check out this homemade ballet bar which would be even better if you put it in a room with a large wall mirror.  Add some seating and move right into the pretend recital.  Ballet not your thing? Throw some mats on the ground, jump ropes, cardboard tubes for weightlifting bars and open up an exercise gym. 

5.  Orphanage - my children love to play this game!  We set up all the dolls in shoe boxes, on pillows or in pretend cribs. Someone runs the orphanage and other people come to visit to see who they would like to adopt.  We make up all these crazy stories about why the babies are there and why we have come to adopt them.  Super simple set-up with hours of fun and imagination.  

Need quick ideas for pretend play?  Check out all of our printables.