Pretend Play Travel For Kids

airplane pretend play

We love to travel. we don’t get to do it as much as we like or get to go as far as we once did but we still want to instill a love of travel, of exploration and geography in our son. Between the trips we do make, playing with maps and pretend play travel like this I think we are getting to our goal. I like making props because I find they support more complex pretend play, and keep the activity going as well as the questions and learning going as well! It’s easy to sneak in letter and number learning too.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some chairs and your child. Really that’s all you need, but we also used some paper,crayons,  a marker, painters tape ( protect your chair finishes) our passports , an atlas and a backpack.14th 056
  2. Start by making your boarding passes. We chatted about what to add, I asked him where we should be going and we grabbed the atlas and found our destination and decided on our seats ( letter and number recognition! ).14th 059
  3. He decorated the boarding passes while I made14th 061
  4. The seat numbers and pilot sign.14th 065
  5. And a ticket counter sign.14th 062
  6. Next we arranged the chairs14th 063
  7. Added the seat numbers ( in order so it took some talking and figuring out)14th 066
  8. Played- we acted out getting our tickets at the counter, showing them our passports, saying out name etc..
  9. Find your seat14th 068
  10. Fill the rest with friends14th 070
  11. Next I pretended to be a flight attendant and passed out snacks- he’s sharing with Brother Bear.14th 072
  12. Have fun by no means should you follow all our steps, make your own but don’t be afraid to use props. After we played like this my son played independently with his stuffed animals many many times, acting out things we did as well as many new scenarios.



Planes by Byron Barton is a basic little board book that kept my son’s attention as a 14 month old long enough to read it. It’s bold colors and basic text are perfect for introducing planes to babies and young toddlers. We used to read this before going on trips with our son when he was tiny and always took it with us as well.

the little airplane

The Little Airplane by Lois Lenski is the exact opposite to the previous book.  I have been around airplanes all my life and I learned more about them from this picture book than I have from anywhere else before.  To say this book is detailed is an understatement , it goes step by step how a prop plane works, and what a pilot does during the flight. The retro pictures are both a favorite of mine and my son’s, they take you back and make you feel like you are in another place and time. This book will be too long for young toddlers, there is a lot of text.

Angela’s Airplane by Robert Munsch captures children’s fantasies about flying planes and adds in a cautionary tale about what could happen if the fantasy became reality. Angela finds her way onto a plane and starts pushing buttons, before she knows it she is in the air alone. The plane crashes but she is ok, and promises to never fly another plane. Do you think she keeps that promise? My son adores this book and while you may think that the crash would be scary for kids it’s not , the ridiculousness of a 5 year old flying a plane makes the crash equally as fictional though effective in opening a dialogue about touching buttons you shouldn’t!

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Letter Of The Week t !

letter of the week craft t weekPirates are big around here right now and if my son’s friends are any indication they might just be a big deal at your house too! I think when you use projects that really interest your child the learning will happen naturally, making something fun is much more memorable then sitting down and doing worksheets ! If this letter of the week theme doesn’t strike your fancy here are our other T projects, you can make them as upper or lowercase.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need 2 pieces of construction paper, some plastic gold and/or silver coins, plastic jewels, markers, scissors and glitter.14th 005
  2. Start by drawing a lowercase t , I was using up scrap paper today.14th 007
  3. Hand it to your child, have them decorate it however they want.  I offered up markers and glitter. It was up to him what colors he wanted to use and if he wanted to use both or just one. My son is almost 3 now so even with more structured crafts I am starting to give him more choices. Of course the bulk of what we do day to day  is open ended and there is no mom instruction at all, just creation. 14th 008
  4. He chose glitter14th 010
  5. And a red marker.14th 012
  6. Add the glue. Try to add less than my son did, it’s midnight and still not dry!14th 018
  7. Add your coins and jewels. 14th 020
  8. Let dry… it may take a while !

Books !

class three at sea“Class Three at Sea” by Julia Jarman is a great book . A class field trip is almost ruined when the boat is taken over by pirates! Luckily some quick thinking and a repaid favor is enough to save the class.  The plot is simple but the way that story is told is fun. The rhymes are hilarious, the pirates names are perfectly gross and your kids will love that it’s not a parent or even a superhero that saves the day, it’s just a kid! I like that there is a message of helping others, among the pirate shenanigans too! I read this to my son while he was eating and we had to stop because he was giggling so much I was afraid he’d choke!


“Pirate Pete’s  :Talk Like A Pirate” by Kim Kennedy is a fantastic vocabulary lesson hidden in a fun book that will make you laugh. See Pirate Pete is looking for a crew but just anyone won’t do. Readers follow along as he interviews potential crew members and rejects each one.  The problem is that they don’t speak “Pirate” instead they use funny big words which are awesome and wonderful to share with your children , words like misappropriated. How awesome is it to read a children’s book with a word like that in it? This book offers so many possibilities for learning and teaching about new words.


“Pirates Son’t Change Diapers” By Melinda Long is a sweet tale about taking care of a baby sister, while dealing with rowdy friends , who happen to be pirates. Luckily the pirates help out and in the end things are even better than you’d imagined.  Maybe I am just looking at this book through mom glasses but the pirates put off finding their treasure because they have to take care of the baby, they delay their own gratification because someone needs them.  It’s a nice lesson about responsibility, and caring for those who can’t care for themselves. Of course there are diapers on cats, dogs and head enough to make it funny to your little one too.  My son is just now getting into this book, at almost 3.  It’s a bit long for toddlers but preschoolers will love it.

Letter of The Week d

Door d !

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Sometime a craft really makes you proud, I know this isn’t rocket science but I was pretty excited when I thought of this , it reminds me of the lift the flap books that my son still loves and has since he was a baby. Inside the door we hid a dinosaur! Even with it’s novelty the craft is fast and easy .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need 2 pieces of construction paper, some crayons, scissors, a marker, glue and a sticker or two.AASept7 002
  2. Start by writing a lowercase d on one piece of paper.AASept7 003
  3. Have your child color the d. My son discovered he can hold multiple crayons in one hand for maximum coverage!AASept7 004
  4. Cut out the d and cut the inner circle on 3 sides. Leave one side attached and fold carefully back.AASept7 005
  5. Glue the d back on. My son was insistent that he do the gluing , I wanted to do it so it didn’t get on the flap but conceded to writing x where he needed to put it. He did great and I was reminded yet again to chill out.AASept7 006
  6. Place it on the 2nd piece of paper.AASept7 007
  7. Add the sticker, you could also add a door knob, my wee one declared ” No door knobs mama, you’re silly” a hole punch dot would be perfect if you want one. AASept7 009
  8. Let dry! AASept7 011



” Dogabet” by Dianna Bonder is a fun playful alphabet book, perfect for animal lovers. We love dogs in our house so this was a sure fire hit, but even if you can’t tell a foxhound from a poodle you will like the busy pages and cute alliterative text. Each page is devoted to one letter and a corresponding breed of dog,  our favorites were the Otterhounds with their oboes and the purple Pugs. Also at the back of the book there is a guide to hidden images on each page that all begin with the proper letter, as well as a cat and bone. My son loved this book and playing “detective” with it.

Sleepy ABC

“Sleepy ABC” by Margaret Wise Brown . I had never read this book before, and although I have a legendary hatred of Runaway Bunny I generally love this author, I can’t get enough of The Big Red Barn right now. I like this book, and the illustrations will zip you back in time for sure.  Unlike many alphabet books it has a great rhythm for reading it all without breaks.  My one complaint is that the child is tucked into bed then a few letters later is out listening to a story from another woman not their mom. I am not sure perhaps those are different children, didn’t bug my son one bit, but left me wondering. Like it’s title suggests it’s a good alphabet book for a bedtime read, it even ends with something I say often ” Go To Sleep!”.


“ABeCedarios : Mexican Folk Art ABCs in English and Spanish” by Cynthia Weill and K.B.Basseches , wood sculptures by Moises and Armando Jimenez.  This is a simple but amazing book.  The text is simply labels in both English and Spanish for the bright and wonderful photographs of the matching sculptures. I loved that for X the sculpture is of a mythical animal and the book asks the reader to make up a name begining with X, very clever!

Jackson Pollock Painting {and tips for the museum}

jackson pollock style painting for toddlers

I packed up my monster yesterday and we went into the city and to the Seattle Art Museum. I’ve taken him to galleries and to kids museums before but this was his first time checking out a museum with diverse and masterful works . I was giddy with the thought of him seeing a real Warhol, I was in my 20s before I got to. After our art project I have tips below on how to make field trips like this work for toddlers. Of all the awesome art we saw yesterday the one that he enjoyed and was the easiest to adapt to our needs was Sea Change by Jackson Pollock .

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some paper, canvas or cardboard. We used cardboard because you need to have a fairly large piece and it’s all we had. You will need paint( I thinned ours just a tiny bit with a few drops of water) , a plate and some paint brushes.
  2. Start by laying your canvas down with some extra paper or cardboard , this is messy.
  3. Pour your paint onto a plate – we just used one plate but you can do different ones for each color.
  4. Dip your brush in and fling it on. To get my son to use the right flinging action I told him to put a spell on the canvas, and it was perfect. We both flung the paint on.
  5. He took my brush and put a double spell on it too!
  6. Then we reached for the paint jars.
  7. Let Dry.

This is a true lesson, while doing this we talked about the painting we saw and how Jackson Pollock made it. I asked him if this was as big as the painting we saw and other little questions to make connections to the field trip and this activity. Most of all though we had fun putting spells on the canvas.

Tips for Visiting A Museum with Toddlers and Preschoolers

1.Take advantage of free days.

This make it less frustrating if you need to leave because they have melted down or are done before you are. Also these days are busier which for an adult can be a negative but when you have a young child a noisier ( still not noisy) museum is a plus. We were able to talk in normal voices without distracting anyone. I didn’t have to shush him more than once and because of that I was able to positively reinforce how well behaved he was being and that encouraged even better behavior .

2.Go on a full belly.

Feed them right before you go , hungry = cranky.

3.Have realistic expectations.

We lasted almost an hour.

4.Don’t linger .

Accept that you may not have time to read the info for the works, at least I didn’t. After getting home and my son was napping I went on the museum’s website and caught up on what I missed.If they really like a specific work of art go back to it, many times if need be. For me today was a chance to teach my son that art isn’t just in books and that people can experience it collectively . That sounds lofty but it’s absolutely attainable if you break it down. By returning to a painting he liked ( Target by Jasper Johns) three times I was trying to foster a desire and love of seeing art in person. I want him to like art and museums and so following his lead was helping attain that.

5.When they say loudly that they are done.

Head for the elevators. This was the only time I shushed him today but it was clear to me and the 4 others looking at the alter pieces it was time to pack it in.

6.Have fun !

Messy Monster Craft

Fuzzy Monster

This craft did not start well. Easter grass is messy on good days but answering an email, after I got the grass out ( oops) I found my son trying to clean it up in the family room. The grass was everywhere and all I could do was laugh. Here’s a pic of the carnage. That said, we had so much fun doing this monster craft which was inspired by the books below and my son’s newest pjs – which will debut once the weather cools.

  1. Gather your materials. If you are brave( and crazy like me ) use Easter grass you have laying around. If you are smart, grab some green tissue paper. You will also need some colored scrap paper , green construction paper and another full piece of construction paper in a contrasting color, scissors and glue.
  2. Start by cutting the green paper into a monster body and 4 limbs.
  3. Next hand your child the glue and have them glue the body onto the plain full size piece of construction paper.
  4. Add the limbs, I made 4 but my son only wanted his monster to have 2. That’s cool.
  5. Time to add a lot of glue – if you are using tissue paper add a few layers, adding glue as you need it.
  6. Add the grass. A cool trick is to make balls with the grass and glue those on. This minimizes the mess and random stray pieces falling all over your floor. After he added a ball of grass I would squish it hard to the glue to make sure it stuck.
  7. While they are adding grass cut out your features. I made horns, a big happy mouth, some claws and one eye with an iris.
  8. Glue the iris to the eye.
  9. Add glue for the facial features to the grass.
  10. Add on your mouth and your eye.
  11. Add the horns.
  12. Add the claws/toenails, or in our case, knee pads.
  13. Let dry!


“My Friend The Monster” by Elanor Taylor is a sweet and not at all scary look at a friendship between a little fox and the monster who lives under his bed. The monster was left behind by a previous owner of the house that the little fox moves into. This is a sad monster but with a little time and patience the monster and the little fox make new friends and all is well. The monster even gets his own bed in the little fox’s bedroom so he doesn’t have to live under the bed anymore.

“When A Monster is Born” by Sean Taylor is funny, my son didn’t find it as funny as I did but he still laughed and didn’t seem scared any of it. The story is about a monster and all the life changing choices he faces every day like whether to eat a principal or run through a wall of a school. This book feels like a choose your own adventure book, it’s fun , repetitive and silly. There is quite a bit of talk about monsters eating people , though nothing too gory.

“Go To Bed Monster” by Natasha Wing is a book anyone who’s ever struggled with bedtime will instantly relate to. The little girl in the book Lucy isn’t sleepy so she draws a monster but soon his refusal to go to bed even after she is sleepy backfires. I like this book, and despite his refusal to believe the monster was a monster not a dinosaur my son really likes this book and it got read 5 times today! * ( See comments for one from the author, I am so sorry I referred to Lucy as Sarah- you’d think the many times we read it itwould have stuck- no more late night blogging for me! )