Identifying and Expressing Emotions – Learning through play

Young children often have difficulty expressing their emotions.  Recently my 18 month old son has reverted to hitting, screaming, and throwing things.  I was trying to think of a way to help him learn how to express himself in a calmer more acceptable manner.  With all the fall inspired posts lately, I got to thinking about decorating a pumpkin…

I cut out a pumpkin shape out of some orange poster board I had laying around the house.  I painted the stem green and gave it a few lines.  I colored some of the paper black into different shapes and put a little donut of tape on the back to make them stick.  

Identifying and Expressing Emotions Through Play

My 4 year old helped cut out the shapes of the eyes, nose, and mouths. We talked about the shapes and what those mouths looked like. We talked about positive and not so positive ways to express our feelings. “When I get sad, it is not OK to hit”.  At this age it is important for her to be able to express her feelings with words and associate them with how her actions make others feel.  Learning about feelings helps with her social emotional development.


“This one has a mustache!”

“This guy is sad because his sister took away his toy.”

We also had fun lining up the shapes. We had a row of triangles, circles, and ovals.

For little guy we placed the pumpkin on the refrigerator with a magnet and tape on the back of the shapes.  He had a blast making the pumpkin fall down…over…and over…and over again!
I would help him put a different shape mouth on the pumpkin and mimic the face. He thought I was pretty silly, but I think he started catching on 🙂

Surprised face!
This also helps with learning spatial relations and where a nose, mouth, and eyes belong on a face.  He was trying to put the mouth where the nose goes…he will learn eventually!

We all know that babies and toddlers have feeling just as we as adults do, they just need a little help trying to figure out what they are feeling!  Hopefully this will help my little guy learn to deal with his frustrations a little better…I will keep you posted!
Now off to our next adventure…
~Leanne

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:


Dinosaur Gross Motor Game





Baby Play! (aka Brain Building)

This blog post is one of our most popular activities.  Since writing this post in 2012, I’ve updated the images and added a few links to related blog posts for you to see.  Thanks for stopping by and joining us!  P.S.  It’s SO hard to believe that the little cuties that are the star of this post are now preschoolers and so incredibly big, talkative, and awesome!  

Baby and Toddler Brain Building Activity using Balls


If you are looking for more Baby activities, try the fun over on our Baby Play page.  We’ve been busy!
Baby and Toddler Brain Building activity using balls and a muffin tin. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills in an active activity for sitting and mobile babies.

Baby and Toddler Brain Building activity using balls and a muffin tin. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills in an active activity for sitting and mobile babies.

What do babies love to do? Take things out and put them back into containers. We have a bunch of different colored and sized balls that are so fun to play with in so many ways. I had my nephew here one day and we needed something different to do. My nephew and my Baby Girl are both 11 months old and they absolutely loved this play activity! 



I pulled out my muffin tins and they had a blast putting the balls into the tins, taking them out, putting them back into the box, and pulling them out again!



Little Guy (my 3 year old ) loved joining in too. Really, who could resist playing with all of these colorful balls???

What else do babies love? The peek-a-boo game! We had an empty cereal box that I cut circles into. They had a ton of fun putting the balls into a hole, and pulling a different one out as the box moved around…there were a lot of little hands in there moving that box around 🙂 The it’s-there-then-it’s not of a great game of peek-a-boo (or peek-a-ball in this case!) is awesome in building neural pathways of the brain. 





Fine Motor Transferring Activity for Babies and Toddlers

Transferring from box to box…working those hands to pick up different sized/weighted/textured balls.  Dropping the ball to see what happens is so predictable, but it is important in learning for babies. Just like when baby drops the cup from her highchair a million times…

We had a ball!
(couldn’t resist that one…heehee)

Baby and Toddler Brain Building activity using balls and a muffin tin. Perfect for developing fine motor skills, visual perceptual skills in an active activity for sitting and mobile babies.
Looking for more Baby play ideas?  Stop by and follow our Baby Play Pinterest board.  You will also love the ideas found on our Baby Play Ideas and Toddler Play Ideas pages.

Learning colors

A Little Sponge
Today I had my 16 month old all to myself and we had so much fun playing together.  We played outside, went for a walk, rode in his red car, and tried to play basketball, or “bunga ball” as he calls it.  Now is the time his brain is like a little sponge, absorbing it all.  

We invented a fun game that we named “Find the Binky”(he is a binky addict and any game involving finding the binky he enjoys…hehe).  



I pulled out these big plastic cups and separated them by color.  He would put the binky in a cup and I would say the color.  He would try to repeat the color (or some word that kinda sounded like it).  Most of the time he was wrong and I would correct him.  He thought that was hilarious!  

At this age, he is more adapt to using his fingers and hands, he loves stacking things and knocking them down.

Found it!

Another fun thing to do is scream into the cups…this is a neat way to learn about sound and while holding the cup he feels the vibration. 

I later found him playing this game he made up by himself…he is such a boy.  He made a t-ball stand with the cup and was swinging at the soccer ball with another cup.  What a great imagination he has already.  I love watching him think.

And who doesn’t like to put things in the dog dish???
Along with this he says “yuck”…he knows exactly what he is doing and it is amazing.
I love this age! 
~Posted by Leanne