Thursday, October 29, 2009

Taming the Toddler, Part 1

While sorting through some old files on my computer, I found two documents loaded with fun ideas to do with your toddler/preschooler. I can't remember where I originally found these, so if you happen to know the origins, please let me know so I can give credit. I thought there were some great ideas here so the next two posts will be dedicated to sharing them with you. Before you get started - a disclaimer that I have not tried all of these activities (yet), so I can not vouch for how well some of these work (particularly the fingerpaints and other recipes).

  • Sandbox (if you don't want to invest in a big one, just get a large rubbermaid container and sand)
  • Water Table (same thing for the water table as sandbox)
  • Sprinkler
  • Bubbles
  • Sensory Box (filled with rice, beans, pasta, whatever)
  • Bucket of water (soapy or not) with sponges, towels, baster, and paint brushes. Or drop rocks in the bucket for the splash effect.
  • Spray bottle of water
  • Spaghetti Swimming: Cook 2-3 packages of spaghetti. Put into a large basin or kids swimming pool. Add food coloring and 1/3 cup water. Mix. Let the kids at it! NOTE: This will kill your grass if you leave it there!
  • Bean Bag Toss (indoor or outdoor): Fill old socks with beans. Tie ends into a knot. Throw into various containers like buckets or a laundry basket.
  • Ice Cube Bags (indoor or outdoor): Freeze colored water (red, yellow, blue) into cubes. Place several ice cubes into a baggie. Kids can watch it melt, move it around etc. If you add 2 colors into one baggie they can watch the color change.
  • Balloon Tennis: Blow up a balloon. Glue a paper plate to a paint stick (or any stick). Use paper plate to hit balloon.
  • Milk Jug Sprinkler: Poke holes in the bottom of a milk jug. Fill with water and let child water the grass, flowers, plants, weeds...
  • Object Slide: If you have a slide, have your child slide things down it -- cars, rocks, sticks, paper tubes, whatever. You can also do this with a flat board (indoors or outdoors).
  • Play Dough
  • Paints of all kinds
  • Various household objects to use for stamping/printing or as paint brushes (potato masher, cookie cutters, cotton balls, etc.)
  • Shaving Cream
  • Gluesticks
  • Scrap paper of all kinds (construction, tissue, wrapping, tin foil)
  • Stickers
  • Crayons, Markers, etc.
  • Spaghetti Art: Cook some spaghetti in colored water. Drain. When it cools, place in designs on a paper plate. (Use as few strands at a time or it will get too heavy to stay on the plate.) Spaghetti will dry hard and stick to plate.
  • Colored Pasta: Place dried pasta in a baggie with a few drops of food coloring and about a tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. Mix around until everything is colored. Lay out to dry on a paper towel. Use in sensory box, gluing on cardboard, or for making necklaces.
  • Necklaces: Use dried, colored tube pasta or cereal and round pretzels for an edible necklace.
  • Squishy Bags: Fill baggies with hair gel, ketchup/mustard, shaving cream, thick paint, pudding toothpaste, or lotion. Squeeze out air and seal. Let kids sqoosh them around and "draw" on them.
  • Popsicle Painting (indoors or outdoors): Freeze water colored with paint. Be sure to add a stick. Take out of freezer and let sit for 10 minutes. Use to paint on paper. Be sure to watch so kids don't eat this!!
  • Contact Paper Collage: Cut out to pieces of clear contact paper. Unpeel one and stick anything you want to it: tissue paper, pictures from magazines, wrapping paper, etc. Cover with second piece of contact paper.
  • Fly Painting: Dip a clean fly swatter into paint and plop on paper.
  • Music CD's. Laurie Berkner and Brady Rymer are great. Bare Naked Ladies and They Might Be Giants are also good, but anything will do!
  • Scarves (for dancing and dress-up -- capes, hats, sashes, etc. -- toss and catch)
  • Balls
  • Ropes
  • Carpet Squares
  • Hula Hoops
  • Musical Instruments: Coffee can drum, water/soda bottle shaker, paper plate maraca (color/paint bottom of a paper plate. Fold in half and tape or staple all but a few inches. Fill with beans or rice. Finish taping/stapling. Add ribbons.)
  • Dress Up (scarves, hats, gloves, bags, vests or make your own out of paper bags)
  • Build forts with pillows and sheets.
  • Tape Road: Run wide masking tape along floor. Use to walk on, balance on, or to drive toy cars on. Use it to make an obstacle course. Use your imagination. NOTE: Test to make sure the tape will come off with out damaging anything!
  • Toddler Train: Have your child decorate 3 shoe boxes. Tie each one together with string. Add a string for a handle. Let him/her fill the boxes and pull it around.
  • Pipe Play: Cut 1-inch PCP pipes into various lengths. Add joints. Construct away!
  • Dance Ribbon: Cut the middle out of a plastic lid. Tie on long lengths of ribbon. Dance away!
  • Fishing: Cut out fish shapes from paper. Add a paper clip to each on. Tie a magnet to a string and the string to a pole. Use pole to get the paper fish.
  • Flying Fish: Cut out strips of paper. Cut a slit half way up on one end. Cut another slit on the other end but on the opposite side. Bend the strip and connect using the slits. Throw the fish in the air and catch.
  • Mailbox: Decorate a shoe box. Cut a slit in the lid. let child "mail" pieces of junk mail, old envelopes, etc.
  • Toy scale with various small toys, objects to "measure"
  • Magnets (just be sure they are too large to swallow)
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Kitchen tongs with objects to pick up (pompoms, ping pong balls)
  • Tee Off: Get a block of florist foam and stick golf tees into it.
  • Bottles and Caps: Collect bottles with screw on caps. Children can match the caps to the bottles and try to open and close them.
  • Clothes Pin Drop: Drop clothespins into a milk jug.
  • Rock Collection: Collect rocks (or buy from a craft store). Use them to wash or stack. Add various containers to put them in for sorting, etc.
  • Pompoms and Cups: Have child put large pompoms into cups.
  • Cereal Fun: Get two or three different kinds of cereal (the cheap, store brand kinds). Let your child scoop the different cereals into bowls and containers. When they are done -- store in a different container and eat for breakfast!
  • Kleenex Box: Let your child have a full box of Kleenex. Or...fill an empty boxes with old scarves or handkerchiefs.
  • Letter Sandwiches: Spread bread with peanut butter, jelly, or honey. Use alphabet cereal to spell out your child's name or to add a message.
  • Homemade Butter: Put heavy cream into a small jar (small batches work best) and shake, shake, shake! Spread butter on toast, muffins, or crackers.
  • Apple Smiles: Spread PB on apple wedges. Put two wedges together to look like lips. Add marshmallows for teeth.
  • Banana "Cookies": Crush 3 graham crackers in a baggie. Slice a banana or other fruit into small pieces. Add a few pieces of fruit at a time to bags. Shake.
  • Bananasicles: Cut banana in half. Add a popsicle stick. Spread half a banana with yogurt. Roll in granola or wheat germ.
  • Painted Toast: Color a couple tablespooons of milk with food coloring. Use a small, clean paintbrush to paint it onto a piece of bread (sugar cookie dough works too). Toast bread.
  • Apple Shake Ups: Peel and cut apples into small pieces. Mix small amount of cinnamon and sugar in a baggie. Add apple pieces and shake.
  • Fruit Kabobs: Add fruit chunks to coffee stirrers. You could proabably use small pretzel sticks too.
  • Rice Cake Faces: Spread rice cake with PB and add fruit, nuts, candy to make a face.
  • Ants on a log: Spread PB on celery. Add raisins. Be careful with this one -- the stringy celery makes me worry!
  • Banana Balls: Mash a ripe banana in a bowl. Add finely chopped nuts and a pinch of cinnamon. Form into balls. Cover and refrigerate. Eat alone as a snack or add to cereal.
  • Pretzels
  • Bread (yeast and quick)
  • Muffins
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Pizza (get a premade crust and let you child add the toppings! or make a homemade crust)
  • Rice Crispy Treats (not really baking, but good for measuring the cereal)
Boxed mixes are okay! It's easy for small children to dump a cake mix in a bowl!


Easy Pretzels
1 package dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 tbsp sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix the yeast and water together. Let stand for 5 minutes. Mix together flour with fingers. Add salt and sugar. Mix again. Add water/yeast. Mix until a ball is formed. Generously sprinkle extra flour onto table or counter. Roll dough out on flour with a pin for about 5 minutes (or just knead it). Roll out dough into coils and form into pretzels or other shapes. Brush dough with beaten egg. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Apple Bread Pudding
4 beaten eggs
2 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 cups dry bread cubes (have kids tear these up!)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1 apple, chopped

Beat together eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Place bread in a small baking dish. Sprinkle with raisins and apples. Pour egg mixture over bread and fruit. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or until center is set.

Cheese Pastries
1 cup flour
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded cheese
Seasoning (seasoned salt, garlic powder, etc.) to taste
Cold water

Mix flour and butter together. Add remaining ingredients and 1 tablespoon of cold water. Mix with hands. Add more cold water a little at a time unitl dough sticks together but is not soggy. Add flour is dough becomes sticky. Roll out to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut into strips and twist them slightly. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until browned and crispy.

Mud Balls
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup powdered milk
1.2 cup raisins
Crushed graham crackers
Chocolate milk powder

Mix first 4 ingredients together with your hands. Let your child do this too. Form balls with the mixture and roll in graham crackers or chocolate milk powder. Refrigerate any you don't eat right away.

Dump Cake (this is one of Pinky's favorites)
20-ounce can crushed pineapple
16-ounce can cherry pie filling (I prefer blueberry filling)
Yellow cake mix
3/4 cup butter cut into small pieces.

Butter a 9 X 13-inch baking pan. Dump in pineapple (with juice) and spread evenly. Spoon in the pie filling evenly over the pineapple. Sprinkle in the cake mix. Place the pieces of butter over the top of the cake mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Agression Cookies
3 cups quick cooking oats
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Dump all ingredients into a bowl. Pound, punch and knead the batter -- the longer and harder the better! Roll dough into balls. Bake on a cookie sheet for 10-12 mintues.

Peanut Butter Cups
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter

Crush cereal until powdery. Melt chocolate in the microwave a few seconds at a time. Add peanut butter and crushed cereal. Divide evenly among muffin cups. Cool in refrigerator.

Shake & Make Ice Cream
2 tbsp sugar
1 cup mik or half-and-half
1/2 tsp vanilla
6 tbsp rock salt
1 pint-sized plastic zip bag
1 gallon-sized plastic zip bag

Fill the gallon baggie half full of ice. Add rock salt and seal. Pour remaining ingredients into small baggie. Seal. Place small baggie into larger baggie and seal. Shake the bag for 5-7 minutes or until ice cream is set. Open up and enjoy!


Play Dough Recipe
1 cup water (mixed with food coloring)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup salt
1 tbsp cream of tartar (yes, you need this!)
1 cup flour

Combine colored water, oil, salt, cream of tartar in a saucepan and heat until warm. Remove from heat and stir in flour Once dough is easier to handle, knead unitl it is smooth. Store in an air-tight container. Will last up to 6 months.

Scratch & Sniff Watercolors
1 tbsp unsweetened Kool-Aid
1 tbsp water

Mix both ingredients together in a small bowl. Use as a paint. Allow to dry overnight before scratching and sniffing.

Bathtub Fingerpaint
1/2 cup clear, mild dish detergent (I imagine that clear body wash would work too)
1 tbsp cornstarch
Food coloring

Mix detergent and cornstarch together in a small bowl. Pour mixture in equal parts into a plastic ice cube tray. Add 1-2 drops of food coloring to each section. Stir. Use for painting in the tub.

Sidewalk Paint
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
Food coloring

Mix ingredients together. Use to paint on sidewalk. It will easily wash away with water.

Sidewalk Chalk
1/3 cup plaster of Paris
1 tbsp powdered tempra paint
3 tbsp water
Molds (toilet paper tube -- sealed at one end --, plastic cookie cutters, candy molds, etc.)

Mix ingredients together until blended. Quickly spoon mixture into your mold. Let dry for 30-45 minutes. Carefully pop out of mold

Face and Body Paint
2 tbsp solid shortening
1 tbsp cornstarch
Food coloring
Make-up sponges

Mix ingredients until well blended. Apply to skin using make-up sponges. Remove with soap and water.

Cotton Clay
3 cups cotton balls
2 cups water
2/3 cup flour
Food coloring

Tear cotton balls into small pieces. Mix water and cotton together in a medium saucepan. Slow stir in flour. Keep stirring and cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes until mixture begins to stiffen. Remove from heat. Place clay on a thick cloth town until cool. Use to sculpt. Allow sculptures to dry for 24 hours to harden.

Jiggle Fingerpaint

1 3-ounce package sugar-free gelatin
2 tbsp hot water
Freezer paper (use shiny side)

Mix gelatin and water together. Don't overmix. Let cool 5-10 minutes before using on freezer paper. Paints will dry completely in 24 hours.

1 cup flour
2 tbsp falt
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 1/4 cups hot water
Food coloring
Freezer paper (use shiny side)

Combine flour, salt, and cold water in a saucepan. Bead with a wire whisk until smooth. Heat the mixture over medium heat. Slowly stir in hot water. Continue stirring until the mixture boils and begins to thicken. Remove from heat. Beat with a whisk until smooth. Divide into several different containers. Add food coloring to each container and stir.

Window Clingers
1/4 cup white glue
Food coloring
Plastic overhead sheet

Mix glue and food coloring together. Paint designs on the overhead sheet. Let set for 24 hours. Peel off designs and stick to any glass surface. Will peel right off when you are done.

Fruity Fingerpaint

2 cups flour
2 envelopes unsweetened Kool-Aid
1/2 cup salt
3 cups hot water
3 tbsp cooking oil
Freezer paper (use shiny side)

Mix flour, Kool-Aid and salt together. Stir in water and oil. Paint on freezer paper.

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