Purple (waterbead) Sensory Bin

This was a fun and easy little sensory bin to put together.  Someone (cough, Big Sister, cough) threw some bath water colors into the bin of blue water beads we had out.  They absorbed the color reeeeally fast.  And are VERY vivid in their new purple hue.
I found a few purple bracelets and cookie cutters, and a few other purple things, and voila!
Purple Sensory Bin fun!
I’m not sure why, but every time we do water bead or corn bin sensory play, Little Guy goes into the kitchen and grabs my whisk and whatever other utensils look right.  So, now Baby Girl does the same thing.  I guess it’s just fun to mix and stir when you’re playing with a sensory bin!
Have you done a water bead sensory bin?  Link up in the comments…we would love to see it!

Magnetic Letters on the Garage Door

We have a bin of magnetic letters that we’ve been playing with for years.  Packs of these magnetic alphabets are everywhere; You can find them at the dollar store and so many other stores.  I have pulled this bin out so many times for play.  Each child has loved to sort, dump the bin out, place all over the fridge, and more.  The big kids are spelling their name and words.  We’ve used these letters in all kinds of sensory bins…even molded into Jello for messy sensory play!
Last week, we took the bin of letters outside and found the BIGGEST magnetic board EVER!

Big Sister is learning to spell and read some words and found the letters for a few words she knows.  Little Guy is a big fan of spelling “stop” at every stop sign we come to on the road.  So, he found the letters to that word.
((He also has the recent …funny…habit of spelling “YES” or “NO” instead of saying the actual word when you ask him a yes/no question.))  SO funny, and SO him!

Movement and Learning in Letter Identification and Spelling

There is a lot of research out there showing that incorporating movement into learning helps with so many aspects of cognition.  Kathryn at Movement and Learning shares a great collection of research.
We played a little game to sort out the letters to a word that both of them knew really well.  I wanted to encourage self-confidence by starting with a word they know.  I put one of each of the letters of “stop” in different areas of the garage.  Little Guy (who is learning letter identification) looked in the pile of letters on the ground and found an “S” and put it with the rest of the “S’s”.  Then he found a “T” and put it with the rest of the “T’s”.  He found each of the letters in order and went through the word “stop” three times.
Big Sister is learning to read beginner words.  I wrote some “-ar” words on the driveway in chalk (car, jar, far, star) and she would walk from the word to copy the words in magnets on the garage.

Cross Lateral Movement and Learning

I had them try another game to put the letters back into the bin.  I asked them to put the letters away one by one, using alternating hands to reach across their midline to grab the letter.
What is the midline?? Imagine a line going down the middle of your body from the middle of your forehead, and strait down, dividing your body into two symmetrical halves.  Your right and left sides are divided by your midline.
The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body.  Crossing midline forces the two halves of the brain to work together.
It was a little difficult to get them to reach for letters with their non-dominant hand.  It required more verbal cues, physical prompts, and visual cues.  Why was this so tricky?  Because the brain was being asked to do something novel.  Both Big Sister and Little Guy needed the extra prompts and cues to reach across their midline, all the while recalling the letter in order to spell the word.
Pretty Cool!
So, is crossing midline difficult for your child?  Try these play activities:
Crawling in a tunnel, finger painting with both hands, digging in sand to find objects, Pat-a-Cake hand and rhythm games, Simon Says games, playing with ribbon wands or scarves.

3 Rainbow Sensory Bins

We’ve been playing with a rainbow theme alllll week around here.  These are three rainbow sensory bins that we have been exploring.

Any time that I pull out the corn bin, everyone gets very excited.  I added ribbons in different colors and some “gold coins” (aka yellow Connect Four game pieces!)

Another little sensory bin that we’ve been playing with is a simple bowl of these Fuse ‘M Beads.

I added a couple of pairs of tweezers and an ice cube tray and let them go at it!
This was a fun fine motor activity, but mostly they just loved running their hands through the beads.
Baby Girl loved exploring these little beads.
((These are really little, so if you play with these…or any little parts…keep an eye on your little ones if they tend to put things in their mouths.  Baby Girl does pretty well and won’t put things like this in her mouth.))

This last sensory bin used the Fuse ‘M Beads again.  The next day, I put the beads and some cotton balls (clouds) into a big ol’ bowl and added a melon baller and kitchen tongs. 
More fine motor skills and sensory play combined into one colorful activity!

We hope you get some good ideas from these sensory bins.  have you done any fun sensory bins recently?

Christmas Ornament Memory and Sorting Game **25 Days of Christmas Play**

Day 18 of  25 Days of Christmas Play….
 This busy activity is great for toddlers and babies (supervised!) for color concepts, shape and texture exploration, transferring skills, language development, and so much more!  Grab some child-friendly Christmas ornaments, a basket  or bin, and get ready for some excitement from your tot!

Christmas ornament sort learning game, perfect for a busy activity for babies and toddlers

Ornament Sorting  Basket for Toddlers

This day of play involved sorting, matching, memory, and just plain fun!

We took a few ornaments off of the tree and put them in a basket.  My little guy just loved this game because he has been trying to play with these for weeks now!  All of the ornaments on our tree are fairly kid-friendly, so I figured why not?  I picked two of each color so there could be some matching, some of the same size and some different, some smooth, and some rough.  We had to have a few sparkly too for my daughter:)

My 4 year old had fun sorting them by color and sorting them by biggest and smallest…

 We also had fun playing a game of memory. I would put a few it the basket and my daughter would take a look, then turn her head and cover her eyes while I took one away. She had to try to remember which one is missing.

It was also fun sorting them by texture, the ones on the left had sparkles and the ones on the right were smooth and shiny!  This is a great way to work on vocabulary as well as learning about textures for my little guy.  He is learning new words every day and trying his hardest to repeat.

And do babies love anything more than putting things in and out of a basket?!?

We had so much fun with this easy Christmas activity!

Find more Christmas play activities in our 25 Days of Christmas Play series

Christmas Cutouts **25 Days of Christmas Play**

Day 16 of 25 Days of Christmas Play

These Christmas Cardboard Cut-outs were perfect for Gross Motor skill play.

 I put these together for a playgroup Christmas party/Little Guy’s preschool Christmas party and my kids had to make sure they worked and were fun, of course!

I am always making cardboard stuff for parties, games, play…it has gotten to the point where people just drop off cardboard at my house, knowing it will be used…so funny! 🙂

The bean bag toss is an awesome Gross Motor activity…tossing the bean bags into the targets, crossing midline, eye-hand coordination, visual-perceptual-motor skills, developing body awareness,  language development, proprioceptive skills…  Bean bag toss games are used in rehab settings for people of all ages, and for good reason!  You could also use a variety of heavy or light balls/bean bags/anything to “wake up” the muscles.

This was just for fun at the parties.  Who doesn’t love to see themselves as a snowman???
We are loving all the new followers and visitors we’ve had recently.  This blog thing has been so much fun so far and we love knowing that our fun play days are inspiring you.  Thank you for your comments and continued visits.  Enjoy this holiday season and Every Day.  Today is a Gift! 

Ghost Catch Game

We have been playing a fun Halloween game recently.  We used empty milk jugs to make these friendly ghost scoops.  It was a multi-step activity…with lots of fine motor work and fun.

Ghost Catch Craft and Game
I cut the tops off of the milk jugs, keeping the handle on.  While I did that, I had Big Sister and Little Guy paint white contact paper with black washable paints.  They covered a big square, painting the whole thing black.  Little Guy said he was making “tracks” with his paint brush in the paint. We let it dry for a day…
Then, Big Sister cut out shapes from the painted contact paper.  I didn’t draw circles for her.  I wanted her to work on rotating the paper, using her mind’s eye to picture the shape she wanted for eyes and mouths. 
She did pretty well!  Her ghost’s eyes are pretty similar in size and shape, and those smiley face mouths are pretty good!  She was really working those bilateral coordination skills, to hold and turn the paper, while cutting a shape she saw in her mind.

Ghost Catch Craft and Game
Figuring out how much space she had on the sheet for all of the shapes she needed for four ghosts was really great visual-spatial organization.  This is so important in handwriting.  When a writer gets to the edge of a sheet of paper while writing a sentence, she needs to be able to determine how much space is left, and if the word will fit…or decide that she better write the word on the next line of the page.  
Neatness in handwriting is very dependent on visual-spatial organization.
Big Sister and Little Guy worked together to stick the shapes onto the milk jugs.  They look pretty cute! 

 Ghost Catch Game

We have been using these ghost catchers for a ton of fun catching games…catching leaves as they fall from trees outside, catching bubbles, scooping up balls in a fun catch game, tossing bean bags into them.
Even the babies have been loving this activity.  They put toys into the ghosts and take them back out again, over and over and over….
Have you been playing any fun Halloween themed games?

Learning Red, Apples

This Apple Gross Motor Activity is the perfect way to introduce learning about the color Red and Apples this Fall with toddlers, preschoolers, and babies.  We made our own life-size apple tree (well, make that Toddler-life size!) that kids can really climb and develop gross motor skills while learning.  We’ve recently update our Toddler Play page with all of our play ideas in one place.  Your Toddler will love some of the other creative play ideas we’ve shared in the past.
Gross Motor Apple Tree activity for learning red and apples with toddlers and preschool children. Kids love this in the Fall!

Gross Motor Apple Activity for Toddlers and Preschoolers

So, two days a week, I have my nephew here with us while my sister is working.  That makes a 5 year old, 3 year old, 1 year old, and 11 and 1/2 month old.  We had a Red/Apple play day one afternoon, with something for each age to love! (This post contains affiliate links.)
Even with two children in two different stages of preschool (3 y/o class and Pre-K), it is easy to supplement school lessons at home (and keep the babies occupied).  Keeping the activities PLAY makes learning fun.  They never know that you are actually teaching so many ideas (turn taking, manners, colors, handwriting, developing motor skills…& so much more)!



 This time of year, it is all about apples in preschool. My 3 year old is learning all about red, apples, and circles in his class. We pulled those concepts into our play with this fun apple tree activity.  I placed this set up on our living room floor and had the kids pick ‘apples’. We counted them as we put them into baskets.  My 5 year old loves writing when I spell out a word, and so we worked on writing the words “red”, “apple”, “circle”, and “tree”.  She was “in charge” of  simple math ideas (We have two apples in the basket. Adding one more apple makes 3 apples).


The babies loved putting the red balls into baskets, taking them back out and then putting them into a different basket.  They are learning through exploring!




We did some Gross Motor balance beam play on the “trunk” of the tree. This was a hit for all of the kids.  These babies WATCH the big kids and try their hardest to keep up!



Gross Motor Apple Tree activity for learning red and apples with toddlers and preschool children. Kids love this in the Fall!
Gross Motor skills are tasks that require the large movements of the body.  Development of gross motor movement is important for so many play skills of childhood (riding a bike, throwing and catching a ball, hopping, skipping, climbing).  Developmentally, we refine our fine motor skills after and as a result of, appropriate gross motor skills. For example: Stable shoulder girdle strength is needed to produce controlled fine motor control needed to hold the pencil and write in a small area.

Baby Apple Theme and Red Learning Activities

The big kids did a few more motor tasks including tossing the balls into the baskets.  The controlled balance needed to stand on the balance beam, while tossing the ball into the basket is really working their eye hand coordination and can be a challenge for many kids!  
(The babies had a blast carrying the baskets around).
We went on a search for red toys, keeping with the red theme. These were put into a pretzel tub that we keep to store the baby pop-beads.
Babies love to manipulate objects, explore how they can move objects…love to see what they can do to a toy (chew it, bang it, throw it…).  And then see if they can do it again!  


Baby Girl is always putting these stacking rings onto her wrist. She’ll walk all over the house with one on her wrist, just like a bracelet. My other two never did that at this age! Is she a future fashionista??? Have your babies done this???


The babies loved pulling red objects out of the bin, chewing on a few, putting them back in (…pulling them away from each another, grabbing it back with a screech…these two cousins are more like siblings…LOL)
This is a great opportunity for language development.  Say each item that baby has.  Babies, at this age, love to hear your voice in different pitches.  Describe to baby the details of a toy, pointing out interesting parts.  Talking constantly to baby truly does wonders for their language development.

We finished up with a snack of sliced apples for the big kids and applesauce for the babies.
This post was originally posted in 2012.  We’ve recently updated to share with you again!

Our favorite ways to work on gross motor skills: