Monday, January 26, 2015

Best Gift Ideas for Preschoolers

I posted before Christmas with some good gift ideas for preschoolers, and you can view that here. They are good any time of the year as well of course. I made that post with ideas from some things I had picked out for Christmas, and some things my daughter had received for her birthday a few weeks before that we loved. I haven't had a chance to post some other things we got for Christmas that we loved yet, so here it is.

More Best Gift Ideas for Preschoolers

1. The Home Depot 18-Piece Deluxe Toolbox. This is a great addition to pretend play toys for any girl or boy. They can pretend to tinker and fix anything they desire.

Melissa & Doug Can Opener Play Set -  Melissa & Doug - Toys"R"Us

2. Melissa & Doug Can Opener Play Set. This can be found at Toys R Us for a very low price and is a super fun play set. It's good for honing fine motor skills and it's a practical life skill. Pretend play in their kitchen set can become even more realistic with the addition of this play set.

3. Pinkalicious Pinkamazing Storybook Collection. This storybook collection includes six of the super cute Pinkalicious stories. It's handy to have them all together like this.

4. Little Live Pets Bird Cage - Friendly Frankie. These are so cute! They're great as a first step before getting a real pet, if you're looking to do that sometime soon. Your child can check on them every day and the more you pet them and the more you take care of them the more they talk and sing to you. Kids also get a kick out of the fact that they can record themselves saying things and hear them repeated back in a little bird voice.

Puppet Theater image
5. Step 2 Puppet Theater. We love love this! It has a light that shines on the stage, a dry erase board front and marker to write the name of the puppet show which encourages early literacy skills. It also has a space in the back to store a few puppets.

6. Don't Break The Ice. This game is a classic and my daughter thinks it's so much fun! I'm sure most other kids would too.

Melissa & Doug Color by Dots
7. Melissa & Doug Color By Dots. This is great for early preschool and for kids who aren't ready to color by numbers yet. It's also a great activity for them to do for quiet time.

8. LeapPad Ultra is the tablet I chose to get for my daughter. I think it's a great tablet and that it will last her a long while. It has both front facing and outward facing cameras. There's also a ton of apps and games available to go with it. My favorite apps/games are:
- Get Ready for Kindergarten: Rocks and Roly Polies
- Octonauts Learning Game
- Little Pim: French Volumes 1, 2, and 3
- Photo Fracture
- The Human Body: Captain Plasma's Adventure
- Disney Minnie's Bow-tique: Super Surprise Party
- LeapFrog Learning Game Letter Factory Adventures: The Rainforest
- LeapSchool: In the Kitchen with Hap
- International Food Fair

9. Sofia the First Wooden Stamp & Activity. My daughter loves Sofia and preschoolers in general love stickers and things of this nature, so this delighted her. It's great because it comes with various stampers and two colors of ink pads. There's also the little book to put stickers in and use the stampers with.

10. Fancy Nancy Storybook Treasury. Fancy Nancy books are so great and expand vocabulary in a very fun way. The price of this set is unbeatable.

11. Sofia the First Once Upon a Princess Read-Along Storybook and CD. Again with the Sofia! This book is so great because it's a long a great story. It's my daughters first story that is also on CD. I was glad to hear that the CD features voices from all the different characters in the story, sounds when they need to turn the page, and sound effects as well.

Hungry Hungry Hippos
12. Hungry Hungry Hippos. My daughter thought this game was hilarious and it made for great family bonding time. She delights in playing this and family game nights are fun for all of us when we find a game we can all enjoy together like this. This one definitely makes for plenty of laughs and is a childhood favorite.

13. Melissa & Doug Harmonica. I'm trying to inspire my daughter to have a love of music and this beginners instrument is a great one to spark that. She found it in her stocking and loves it! She is already playing it well and dancing along with it.

Calico Critters Baby's Love 'N Care Set -  International Playthings - Toys"R"Us
14. Calico Critters Baby Love & Care Set. My daughter loves babies and when she got this she knew she would get to set up a nursery in her Calico Critters house. This play set has everything needed to set up an adorable nursery and take care of some babies in the house.

15. Melissa & Doug Slice and Bake Christmas Cookie Play Set. This toy was perfect for Christmas time and would get any child in the spirit. It's a great toy for pretend play. My daughter got out her baby dolls and had them each pick a icing topper to decorate their cookies with just like at her cookie decorating party we had. They are all velcro pieces and can be sliced apart during pretend play and put together in all kinds of different ways, just like the birthday cake set and pancake set.

16. Eeboo Simple Words Puzzle Pairs. These are great for early readers and can help them learn sight words easier.

17. Discovery Kids Extreme Weather Tornado Lab. This is a great learning tool for a weather unit in preschool and above. It looks so fun and is interactive, the child can press a button and hear tornado noises again and again. There is also an educational DVD about tornadoes and hurricanes included.

18. Frozen Elsa of Arendelle Doll. This doll is enchanting and any little girl or boy who loves Frozen would certainly appreciate it. My daughter has been off of Frozen for a while, but she absolutely loved this doll and wanted to bring it to the park with her.

19. Sofia the First Talking Clover. If your child loves Clover this will surely be a hit. Santa left this gift unwrapped among all the wrapped presents and my daughter ran right up and hugged it. It is super soft and says a few cute phrases when you hug him.

20. Calico Critters Burger Cafe Play Set. This is an adorable play set to add to a Calico Critters collection. If your Calico Critters have a house and need someplace else to go for a change, this is sure to be fun. They can put together burgers and pretend to order as costumers or serve as workers.

Water Bird Whistle
21. Water Bird Whistles. These are so cute! You fill them up with water and blow into them and it sounds just like a bird whistling.

22. Cra-Z-Art Crayons 24 pack. I usually wouldn't put something as simple as crayons on a list like this, but my daughter got these specific ones for her birthday and I really liked the colors that were in this pack. There was a lot of interesting ones and they're nice to add to your regular collection of crayons.

Disney Villain Classics Ursula Doll
23. Disney Villain Classics Ursula Doll. Need I say more?

24. Dessert Bullet. I got this for Christmas, but I really asked for it for my daughter as well as myself of course. She's been loving making healthy ice cream in it with me. It's great for bonding in the kitchen and I'm glad we're finding even more ways to eat healthy fruits. Homemade, dairy free is the best ice cream there ever could be. We love this thing! It provides good opportunities to talk about ingredients and step by step processes with children when doing it together.

LeapTV Dance & Learn Educational, Active Video Game
25. LeapTV Dance & Learn Educational, Active Video Game. You need a LeapTV to play this game, and if you do you should definitely get this game for it. It's so much fun for the whole family and when you have a play date or party for the kids it's sure to be a hit with them as well. Not to mention the literacy skills of your child will be growing while they are being active!

Doodle Bear - Glow Doodle -  Just Play - Toys"R"Us
26. Doodle Bear - Glow Doodle. I got this for my daughter for Valentine's day, so I can't tell you how much she loves it yet, but I really am thinking that she will. This specific one also has a marker that the kids can doodle with and then turn out the light and see it glow where they doodled.

Valentine's Search & Collect Sensory Bin

This is one of my favorite Valentine's sensory bins we've done! I love it so much because there's a game for the child to play while they also gain new tactile experiences and have holiday themed fun!

Isn't it beautiful?

All that you need to make it can be purchased from Dollar Tree.
- pink imitation rose petals
- red imitation rose petals
- sparkly hearts
- sparkly heart box

For the picture I put the sparkly hearts on top quite a bit so you could see them, but the whole point of the bin was that they are hidden beneath all the imitation rose petals and the child has to feel around to find them. There's all kinds of new tactile experiences within this bin. The imitation roses have a pretty one of a kind feeling, and the sparkly hearts and box both have that rough sparkly feeling.

Instruct the child to open up the lid to the heart box and fill it up with the sparkly hearts that they collect.

Winter Bucket List

There's not a whole lot of Winter left and there's so much to do! Make the best of the last weeks of your Winter with these fun ideas!

(Picture from last year, we haven't had enough snow to do this yet this year)

1. Making potato heads in the snow, just like in this picture above. All you need to do is form a snow potato head shape, and help your little one stick in the pieces.

2. Snowman breakfast with snowman shaped pancakes with coconut flake snow falling down on the plate, and vegan hot chocolate.

3. Tape Resist Snowflake. Use painters tape on a canvas to make a snowflake, then let your kiddo paint over it. Once the paint is dry peel the tape off and you'll be left with a really pretty winter artwork to display.

4. Bring some snow inside and make snow paint with it. All you need to do is mix some snow with food coloring.

5. Sparkly Snowflake Craft. Get some black or blue construction paper and use some glue to make a snowflake shape, then let your child shake some white sparkly glitter on top to make a cute snowflake craft.

6. Bring some snow inside to paint it. You can put a big sensory bin outside when it starts to snow and let it fill up, or just after it's snowed go shovel some snow into the big sensory bin. Then fill up a tall glass with water and add in an entire Kool-Aid packet. Then pour that into an empty water bottle and poke a small hole in the lid. Then you let your little one squeeze the water bottle over the snow to paint it.

7. Make a pizza that's shaped like a snowman with organic Mozzarella cheese and black olives as the eyes.

8. Make hot chocolate scented sensory rice for sensory bins or tot trays. All you have to do is take some uncooked white rice and put it in a ziploc bag with a little bit of alcohol until it's all coated. Then add in a packet of Duncan Hines Frosting Creations hot chocolate scent. Zip up the bag and shake it all around to get all the rice coated in the hot chocolate color/scent. Then you can lay the rice out on a sheet of foil until it's dry. Then get to using it for your sensory plays!

9. Make a mitten hand print. Paint your little one's hand with white paint and then put their hand print on a colored piece of construction paper. Once it's dry you need to cut the construction paper out around the hand to make it into the shape of a mitten.

10. Read The Mitten by Jan Brett. This is such a good story, and we got to meet the lovely Author and get her signature on our copy.

11. Winter I Spy from The Pleasantest Things. 

12. Build igloos out of sugar cubes. 

13. Take a bath with hot chocolate bath paint. Just mix shaving cream with a packet of Duncan Hines Frosting Creations hot chocolate packet,

14. Make snow play dough. All you need to do is make a batch of white play dough! You can use it with toy winter animals.

15. Make smores.

16. Paint a snowman with puffy paint. Make puffy paint just by mixing equal parts shaving cream and glue.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sparkly Fizzing Heart Science

We used a heart bowl from Dollar Tree today to make some Sparkly Fizzing Heart Science reactions! It was so much fun and could be done over and over again. Kids always love the baking soda and vinegar reactions no matter how they are done, and with a Valentine's theme it's even more fun and exciting.
I let my daughter pour the vinegar so she is creating the reactions. I would put about a 1/4-1/2 of a cup into the measuring cup at a time so we could do it again and again.

It looked beautiful!

You will need:
- A big plastic heart bowl
- Glitter
- Baking soda
- Vinegar
- Pink food coloring
- Measuring cup

Just put the baking soda in the bowl, let your little one sprinkle on some glitter, and add a few drops of neon pink food coloring on top. Let them pour on the vinegar and watch the reaction take place again and again!

Healthy Bento Lunch for Kids

Looking for a simple lunch to throw together in the bento box on your way out? Here's a quick idea!

Sandwich made with the square FunBites sandwich cutter. You could put anything you want in it, anything your kids like. I did peanut butter mixed with flax seeds and chia seeds, with some organic concord grape jam.

Then I put in a kiwi. Next spot had skewers of strawberries and honey goat cheese. Other spot had some organic baby carrots and beet hummus in the dip container. Since she didn't need any utensils in the utensil spot I added a Baby Mum Mum.

Fine Motor Heart Drop

 My daughter is just a whiz at fine motor activities, but they are still fun for her to do. We like to recycle and reuse things, and my cousin had an empty Pringles can so we said we'd take it! We turned it into this Fine Motor Heart Drop.

You will need:
- Pringles canister with lid
- Pink construction paper
- craft foam heart stickers (can be purchased at Dollar Tree)
- wooden hearts of assorted colors (I'm not sure where these were from, we've had them for a long time, but I'm willing to bet you could find something similar at a craft store like Hobby Lobby. 
- scissors
- tape

So, you tape the pink construction paper around the Pringles canister to cover it, then you let your little one decorate it with the craft foam stickers. 

Cut a slit just big enough for the wooden hearts to be stuck through. 

And there you have it, your little one can fill up the canister with the wooden hearts. Having fun and honing their fine motor skills! Great thing to have the kiddos do while you are making their lunch or something, and it's especially perfect to have during this time of year when Valentine's day is coming up. 

Healthy Valentine Snack

Don't these look delicious? 
When it's close to a holiday I like to make my daughter meals and snacks that get her excited for the coming up holiday. She loves eating skewers, and we usually do strawberries and honey goat cheese, but I did these strawberry and kiwis.

The heart skewers are what make them Valentine's adorable, and you can find them at Dollar Tree, along with some cute Valentine's cupcake liners.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Safari Bath

This is such a cute bath and I just adore this picture of my daughter! I'm very excited to share this bath with you!
All you need to recreate it is:
- green food coloring
- shaving cream
- a plastic bowl
- paint brush
- animal print crepe paper, can be purchased at dollar tree
- some toy safari animals
- binoculars (optional)
- an explorer hat (optional)
- some safari animal cut outs, can be purchased at dollar tree in the school aisle (optional)

You just fill up the tub about halfway then add in some of the green food coloring, mix it around and continue to fill the tub up. Then you make the bath paint by mixing shaving cream and green food coloring together until you get the color you like, I used neon green food coloring for the bath paint.

Set the animals around the sides of the tub, or add them into the water. Tape up the crepe paper and cut outs and there you have it!

MLK Day Equality Craft

Equality should be taught to children all throughout the year, but on MLK day it's always nice to talk about what a great man Martin Luther King Jr was and what his dream was, and work in a lesson on equality. In addition to reading some books and having a discussion, we did this craft.

It's a collage of all different kinds of kids from magazines we had. Not only are the kids of various nationalities, but we also talked about other differences people can have and got some of varying hair and eye colors as well.

Not only was this obviously a great lesson in how all people have their differences but are all equal, it was also good fine motor work. My daughter is a pro at cutting and gluing by now, but for kids just starting out with these skills it's great practice.

And the greatest part, she was so proud of it!

Princess Story Time Bath

Sometimes it's fun for the kids to have a story time bath and listen to a tale or two while they splish splash and get clean. I created this Princess Story Time Bath for my daughter to enjoy a few nights ago. 
I used:
- neon pink food coloring
- shaving cream
- crown craft foam shapes
- a plastic bowl
- a paint brush
- Disney Princess The Essential Guide book
- two plastic princess cups
- an Elsa balloon
- a dress up tiara
- Ariel bath/pool doll
- princess ball

You could create a very similar bath and not have most of those things. Just the pink water, bath paint, and story would be enough for many little ones to enjoy. We just have a lot of princess odds and ends around here of course, and the craft foam crowns can be found at Dollar Tree. Everything else was just something we had on hand. You might not have a princess ball to add to the theme, but that's not really the point. Do what you can and your kids will really enjoy it.

So, for my step by step process first I started to fill up the tub and then added in the neon pink food coloring when it was about half way full, swished it around with my hand to spread the color around.

Then I made the bath paint by just squirting from shaving cream into the pink plastic bowl, adding a few drops of neon pink food coloring and mixing it together with the paintbrush.

Once that was done I added in all the extras, and sat the book on the ledge of the tub for the picture, but then moved it right off. We don't want that getting wet!

I got the cutest picture of my daughter in the tiara enjoying the bath, but she wasn't wearing a swim suit for this themed bath, so I'm not going to post it.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Planting Hearts Tot Tray

I love this tot tray and my daughter does too. It was a big hit last year, and is this year as well. It's really simple to put together and doesn't cost much either, just a few dollars. Everything for it was purchased at Dollar Tree (the little bucket with hearts on it, rose scented epsom salt, and heart sticks).

In the picture above we didn't have it on a tot tray, but it's totally a great activity for a tot tray and we have done it that way in the past. All you do is present it to your little one with the bucket filled with the epsom salt and the sticks laying next to it. They will probably automatically start sticking them in the bucket and arranging them how they like, but if they don't a little instruction never hurts.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Scented Valentine's Day Sensory Bin

I adore this bin! It is perfect for Valentine's day, it's SCENTED, and it is extremely frugal. Costs $2 or $4 to put together.

The base material is rose scented epsom salt. Added are some sparkly hearts of pink and red. Both things are sold at Dollar Tree. I also put in a measuring spoon and offered a heart shaped bowl on the side, but which can also be purchased at Dollar Tree if you don't already have them.

Lots of good tactile experiences to be had within this bin. The smell of roses, the hard epsom salts that can be scooped and poured as well as played with in the hands, and the rough feeling sparkles on the hearts may be all new sensory materials for your little one to explore.

Color Sorting Beads

We've been doing color sorting activities for so long that this is very easy for my daughter, but it's still great for working the mind and for some quiet time and an activity she can do all on her own. She loves to sort! Her fine motor skills and color recognition skills have been great for a long time now because of activities just like this. I highly recommend this and my other fine motor activities for honing those fine motor skills.

For this color sorting activity we used beads of various colors and a mini muffin tin. All I had to say was "sort these" and she got right to work. When she was younger and first starting out with color sorting I would use fewer colors and put one of each in the spaces I wanted her to put them. You can try that if your child needs assistance. While they sort you could talk about which colors are which if they aren't sure yet.

We only had one green bead and one yellow bead in the mix. My daughter said "that pesky green bead" and it really made me laugh! Hopefully you and your kiddo have fun with this activity as well. It'd be great for a tot tray.

Josef Albers Inspired Art Squares

Firstly, I would like to make it known that I'm not taking credit for this idea. It was something my daughter got to do at our local library. I'm pretty sure it was an idea given by a book about Josef Albers art, but the librarians may have came up with it, and they put it together. I'm not really sure, but it was way too good of an idea not to share.

If you're not familiar with Josef Albers you should read up on him on the internet with your child, or see if you can rent a book about him from your local library. He used a lot of different colored squares for his art works, putting them together all different types of ways. He noticed how colors look different when placed on top of other colors.

I think this is a FANTASTIC color lesson for kids already have all their colors down. For those that don't, you can use it to teach them what colors are what too of course. But if you can really get your child thinking about how colors look on top of different colors that's so great!

You'd need to provide:
- A large sheet of white paper
- Big squares of several different colors of construction paper (enough to fill up the entire sheet of white paper, using every color just once)
- Little squares of the same colors of construction paper (the same amount as the big squares)
- A glue stick

Let them play around with it for a while until they get the design they love and connect with. Have discussions about how certain colors "pop" when placed on top of other colors, or how they "blend in." Good color terms to get kids familiar with. Once they have a design they like they can glue it down, or you can just glue down the big squares and leave the little squares paper clipped to the top to do over and over again.