Thursday, February 23, 2012

sensory tray

Since I haven't been using all my ice cube trays for freezing pureed baby food any more, I've been finding some other uses for them.  Like as "paint" trays for shaving cream finger painting, or this sensory tray I made today for some (at least attempted) educational play time.

I just went through my craft supplies, our pantry, and some toys, and found a bunch of different objects with different textures and feels to include in the sensory tray.  I've seen lots of ideas for sensory tubs, but I liked the idea of having each of the different items separated into their own spaces - at least until my toddler started playing with it, and moving them all around.  But it started off so he could see what all the different objects were, and I could let him feel them individually and talk about the sensory word for each.

Here are the objects I used (and the "feel word" I associated with them):
pom-poms (fluffy)
elastic (stretchy)
ribbon (smooth)
torn up bits of construction paper (rough - the edges)
tinsel ribbon (fuzzy)
little tinker-toy like pieces (bumpy)
pasta (lumpy)
tulle fabric/netting (rough)
felt scraps (soft)
pipe cleaner pieces (fuzzy and "bendy" - which may or may not be a word...)
glass marble game pieces (smooth)
beans (smooth)
painters tape (sticky)
velcro (scratchy)
gear-shaped toy (bumpy)

I know I used some of the "feel words" more than once... but I was just going with objects I had readily on hand.  Some other fun ones to use would be things like beads, buttons, legos, play dough, rice, sand, cotton balls, etc.  If you're feeling more adventurous (or more willing to clean up afterward) you could find some things for words like slimy and slippery!

Curious about all these things!  Definitely got right into feeling and picking up all the different objects.

Really going to town now with the two handed approach.  A bit harder to teach the different feelings, but at this point he was pretty much over that, and just wanted to play with everything.

A few ways we worked on the sensory words - I would let him pick out an object, and then he would hold it in his hand and I would say what it was, and the word to describe it.  Then I would rub it on his cheek, or the back of his hand, or even on his little feet, and repeat the sensory word.  He's pretty ticklish, so this made it even more fun!

One warning: since many of the objects are rather small, be sure to supervise this activity to avoid any risk of choking.

I'm thinking of trying this out with some of the other senses.  Like different tasting foods in each spot - what a fun lunch that could make!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

happy valentine's day

Happy Valentine's Day!  We're not really that big on celebrating Valentine's in our house (my husband and I are waiting to go out until Friday because we don't want to fight the ridiculous crowds), but I still like to do at least a few little things to celebrate the day.

So here was our breakfast today.

Pink heart-shaped pancakes!!

They got a little brown from the griddle, but were still pink on the edges, and when you cut into them

Heart shaped strawberry slices to go on top!  Just cut the top off at an angle (like an upside-down triangle), and slice them, and you have hearts.  Ta-da!

 And what's strawberry-topped pancake without some whipped cream?

Happy Valentine's everyone! 

Monday, February 13, 2012

chocolate banana oatmeal smoothie

I've discovered that the best way to sneak healthy food into my toddler's diet is to disguise it with fruit.  For about two months the only vegetables he ate were in the green smoothies I started making him for breakfast every day.  He still won't eat some vegetables, but he's getting a bit better.  And we still do green smoothies fairly often.  (Let's face it, sometimes I don't want to eat my veggies either.  Fruit is just so much yummier!)

When I found some smoothie recipes that call for oats, I figured it was worth a try.  And since I didn't have all the ingredients I needed for the recipes I found, I made up my own.  It was pretty yummy.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Smoothie
(I couldn't think of a better name...)


6-8 ice cubes
2 very ripe bananas
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup oats
1 1/2 cups chocolate milk*
1/2 cup plain yogurt or frozen yogurt

*you can substitute regular milk and add about 1 Tbsp cocoa powder, but it may be a bit more bitter.

Place all ingredients in the blender, and blend until smooth.  You will probably need to stop once or twice and scrape the peanut butter off the sides, then continue blending.

Makes approx. 32 oz.

If you're worried about the fat content, you can of course use fat free yogurt and milk.

A few of great things about this smoothie:
  • It's filling
  • It's got protein and carbs (whole grains even!) for a balanced meal
  • It's quick and easy to make
  • It's delicious!  Even kids love it!
He looks sad in this picture because he's not very good at waiting for food.  Luckily this smoothie is pretty quick to make, so he only had time for a few tears.

See!  No more tears!  Happily chugging away!  He downed his first sippy cup full, and wanted more!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

elephant army

I finished up a custom order recently for what I decided to call my elephant army!  The customer wanted 30 elephant finger puppets (15 boys and 15 girls) for her daughter's elephant-themed birthday party.  What cute party favors!

Let me tell you, cutting out 60 elephant ears was probably the most tiring part.  I thought, "Oh, 30 puppets isn't that many!" without stopping to remember that every elephant has two ears!  But once I got everything cut out, it was smooth sailing.

Here's all the pieces!  60 body pieces, 30 right ears, 30 left ears, 30 trunks, and 30 pink inner ears for the girls.

My husband said the body pieces looked like a stack of tomb stones.  He's kinda right.

The finished elephant army!!  

I definitely had the "Heffalumps and Woozles" song running through my head pretty much the whole time I was making these.

A happy couple for Valentine's :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

no mess = no fun

I've seen lots of ideas lately of how to do "no mess finger painting" which I thought was a fabulous idea!  I didn't have any finger paint, but I figured some cornstarch, water, and food coloring would do the trick. Plus cornstarch and water makes a really interesting feeling texture, so I thought that would be great for sensory learning and such.

Unfortunately, Jack didn't think it was such a great idea.  I'd taped the bag of "goo" down to keep him from opening it and turning no mess into a big mess, which meant his primary goal was to get the tape out of his way so he could open the bag.  He didn't get the "finger painting" concept at all.

So after feeling like a complete failure, I decided to just go with the messy option.  I added a little more cornstarch to make it more like a clay, and put it in a bowl, and let him have at it.

Miraculously, he actually kept it mostly in the bowl.  I anticipated him trying to throw it, eat it, and generally create a disaster.  But he was so intrigued by the texture and feel of it, that he just kept poking it, trying to pick it up, and letting it drip back out between his fingers.  Mess = success!  (And it wasn't even too big of a mess! Double bonus!)

Warning: The food coloring did stain his hands a little bit.  I added it when I'd planned on a "no mess" activity.  So if you're worried about a little skin staining, don't add food coloring.  It did completely clean off by bed time though.