Pretend Play Grocery Store

This isn’t the first time we have made a grocery store for pretend play , but it was the first time with both kids and because it was such a hit the 2nd time around I thought I may as well post about what made it so much fun.

I started by clearing out some of our toys from the playroom. In the past I have done this in a bedroom and kitchen. In a bedroom I used the low bed for main aisles/ produce section. In the kitchen I used a shelf on an island. It doesn’t matter what you use it matters if it’s in their line of sight.  My son reached for the grocery items on the windowsill and my daughter went straight for the ones on the shelf ( well after the baby in the cart ).  If you don’t have a shopping cart grab a basket or small bag for your shoppers to put their purchases in.

For food and grocery items just raid your pantry. Last time I used real produce but my son was old enough to tell him not to eat it while playing ( which you could encourage also depending on if you need the fruit or vegetable later for a meal), my daughter is a muncher and I knew if I put any real produce out each and every piece would have little baby girl bites out of them, so I opted for our play food.

For an added layer of learning I placed the produce/ fresh food  in food groups. My son has been interested in this lately and immediately when my daughter would place an egg into the vegetable basket he’d correct her. Play like this is a natural opportunity to talk about nutrition too.

We added an old lap top and a desk for the checkout, one of our own cloth grocery bags and a simple sign on the door – then the kids!

They had a blast!  Especially my daughter who went shopping multiple times yesterday.

This time I added some labels and other print like this weekly specials board for my son to read, but both children benefit from a print rich environment so even if your child is not starting to read don’t skip them.

 Labels are a great way to boost print awareness and help show children how people use reading skills in everything we do not just reading stories.  We were crunched for time so I threw it all together but guess what things don’t need to be perfect for the play to be fantastic! Please remember that, so often I see wonderful beautiful things on pinterest and think that as pretty as those things are for the average parent trying to manage a family and throw together some fun things for their kids those perfect pretty things might not be attainable. Perfect isn’t the goal , play is.

 Now play!

Indoor Gross Motor Activities

indoor gross motor activities for kids

Warm weather is already tapering off , rain has been pounding down in many areas but kids still need to move, burn off energy and have fun doing it!  Over the years we’ve gathered many gross motor activities for preschoolers and all of these can be done rain or shine in your home.

The Easy Balance Beam shown above is as simple as can be but offers a million possibilities . We’ve been pirates, played Simon Says on the beam, even played statue while standing on one leg.

This Musical Hearts Game is a wonderful and fun way to incorporate listening, reading and shapes into a gross motor activity.  We played this often last winter and can’t wait to include my daughter in on the fun now that she is running and jumping too.

What could be more fun than knocking down your brother or sister and not getting in trouble? This Family Bowling Game lets your kids have fun knocking down custom made bowling pins while they work on gross motor skills and coordination .

Combine color matching with a classic bean bag toss with our Color Toss activity. Encourage your kids to toss the bags from further and further away as they master it.

Like the musical hearts game this simple activity turns physical tasks like jumping jacks , crab walk and high kicks into a game. The Batman get up is purely optional.

Block Basket Ball has been revived at our house with my toddler. My son loved popping these blocks into the garbage bin and now my daughter likes to play it with bean bags and a basket. Seriously simple, but they gobble it up!

Autumn Painting for Toddlers

I couldn’t wait to post this toddler art activity. Watching my daughter explore art with fresh abandon is so inspiring. The last class I taught as a preschool teacher before staying home with my own kids was a class of fun 2-3 year olds. At  the start of the year I did many art projects like this , that allowed them to explore freely, and created fun specific shapes within a theme we were learning and playing with in class.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some paper ( we are using craft paper from the mail aisle) , removable tape,  a marker, scissors, paint, paper plate and paint tools that are age appropriate for your child. For us we are using bubble wrap that is secured to a pot scrubber.
  2. Secure the paper to a table and draw leaves.
  3. If you want to use bubble wrap like we did, make sure that all edges are secure and your child can’t get the wrap int their mouth. I used an elastic to secure it to the handle of the scrubber.
  4. Put paint in a dish.
  5. Add a very excited toddler!
  6. Paint with your tool, paint with your hands – however works for you!
  7. She loved feeling the paint squish. Narrate their actions for them.
  8. Let dry and cut out.
  9. Decorate a room your child is in often and make sure to refer to how they made the leaves, how they painted.

Books About Fall

 A Friend for All Seasons by Julia Hubery is a gem! The book explains the change of seasons in a fun and easy to understand way for young children. Readers follow along with Robbie Raccoon as he notices the changes that are happening around his home, a big oak tree.  My favorite part of this book was when Robbie and a few woodland friends notice that the tree’s leaves are falling and they assume he is crying, so they give him a hug. I loved that! Robbie’s mama raccoon explains the changes and before they go to sleep for a long time during winter’s dark days, they plant 5 acorns . This was a fun part of the book because I had my son predict what would happen. I liked that it gives parents an opportunity to extend this into a science lesson about seeds, and a oak tree’s life cycle. Sure enough when Spring comes there are tiny baby oaks waiting for Robbie when he awakens. I loved this book and would recomend it happily!

Every Season by Anne Love Woodhull and Shelly Rotner is a keeper. The text is simple, but the pictures really capture all the wonderful things that each season brings to make up a whole year. The photographs can be used as ice breakers about things children love about each season, are looking forward to or even don’t like. Either way this book is full of possibilities.

I Know It’s Autumn by Eileen Spinelli  is  age appropriate for young preschoolers and  toddlers. The book is a simple look at all the things that tell a small child that Autumn is here. Pumpkin muffins, apple picking, cooler weather,  hayrides and more all signal that the summer is gone and the fall has arrived. I like this book because there will be something a child will relate to and be able to identify with. I also love that the family is biracial and there is no mention of it at all. It’s nice to see and I wish more books were so non challant about representing all kinds of families.

Cereal Box Apples Craft

apple craft

You know when you don’t have enough of one kind of cereal and you have to mix two to get a full bowl? Yesterday I had to finish off 2 and while looking at the empty boxes I knew I wanted to make them into something fun for fall.  Our apple trees are heavy with fruit and I can’t wait to do some apple printing but until then these cereal box apples are proudly displayed on our mantle.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a cereal box , some craft paper, tape, red paint ( crayon or marker), a popsicle stick, green felt, pinking shears,  a gold or brown pipe cleaner, scissors, a dish for paint and a large brush.
  2. Start by taping the box closed and wrapping it in the craft paper just like you would when wrapping a gift.
  3. Time to paint!
  4. My daughter wanted to do it too but wouldn’t hold the brush, she was all about the marker though and just wanted to stand so we improvised using a chair.
  5. While my son painted I wrapped the end of the pipe cleaner around the popsicle stick.
  6. When he was done he did the rest.  I did my daughter’s stem.
  7. Let dry.
  8. While waiting they played and I cut the leaves out of felt with pinking shears.
  9. When dry make a hole in the felt, make a hole in the box with scissors. Adults only , you need sharp scissors.
  10. Stick the stem through the hole in the leaves and into the box.
  11. All done!

Books About Apples

Apple Picking Time by Michele Benoit Slawson  was not what I was expecting , it was so much more. I was expecting a basic book about picking apples at an orchard.  This book is anything but basic, it’s dreamy and while reading it I almost felt as thought I was back in time when a whole community would come to a stand still for something like apple picking.  The protagonist is Anna a little girl who works hard in the orchard along side her parents and grandparents . She isn’t as fast as her parents, but with hard work and the support of her family she reaches her goal and fills a bin! I loved this book,  I would suggest it for preschoolers and up.

Apples, Apples, Apples by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace will not be returned to the library on time. We got it out today and my son has had me read it to him 3 times, and his dad read it twice. Clearly it gets the 3 year old seal of approval. It also gets mine. The story is more than just a story about a afmily going apple picking at an orchard. It explains all sorts of apple facts but what I really love is that it also explains that there are different kinds of apples and each are used for different things. Since each member of the family is using their apples for different purposes that fact is driven home . Great book for preschoolers going on a apple picking field trip , making applesauce or apple prints ( psst check back for a craft in a few days!).

Apple Farmer Annie by  Monica Wellington is another  favorite in our house. My son loves this author and I like how simple but informative this book is. Your little reader will learn about the basics of what happens at an apple orchard , but you can take it further if you want. On many of the pages there are chances to learn more, like the page about sorting and classifying, where there are apples ready to count 1-10, and sorted by colors. I love the last page that says that Annie is so happy to have her own apple farm. I loved that message and think it’s a lot more powerful than some may think, women on farms in most books are “farmer’s wives” and I love that there is no one but Annie doing her own thing.

Bubble Wrap Starfish Craft

star fish craft

A great way to get children interested in science is to go on field trips to learn first hand. I like to take my children somewhere exciting every Friday then use our trip as a launching pad for more learning with books and of course a creative craft.  Last week we went to our local aquarium and checked out a new octopus, some jelly fish ,  crabs and of course starfish! For the craft when we came home we used both bubble wrap for my preschooler and a easier to manipulate tool for my toddler. I am always happy when we can find crafts that work with both kids at the same time.

    1. Take a trip to your local aquarium, beach or even a pet store and check out some sea life!
    2. Gather your materials. You will need some paper ( we love using grocery bags), self stick bubble wrap ( regular works too but man was the self stick awesome), paint, a plate for the paint, marker, toilet paper roll and scissors. If you are doing this with toddlers you may also want a dish scrubber with a handle.
    3. Start by drawing a starfish on your paper. I taped the paper bag right down to the table with painters tape to use it as a drop cloth and project all in one. I had one kid at each end of the table.
    4. Cut your bubble wrap so it wraps around your toilet paper roll. The self stick stayed on like magic , I am in love. I swear this post isn’t sponsored by the bubble wrap company .
    5. Choose your paint colors and pour into a plate. Not too much or the bubble wrap won’t show. Roll the bubble wrap in.
    6. Roll it on your starfish.
    7. We never get sick of how awesome bubble wrap prints are, and we’ve made a few over the years!
    8. Now for the wee ones. I gave her the same plate and let her smack her star with the scrubber. As you can see it did go to her lips but because it’s harder plastic all she could do was lick it. This is why I don’t sponge paint with her yet, she could bite off a piece and choke. Another tip for babies and toddlers, keep some stained clothes for art time, many will refuse a smock and it’s easier to get a good fit with clothes.
    9. Let dry and cut out.

Books About The Ocean

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A House for Hermit Crab is a book I have owned for many years. It offers so many learning opportunities for young readers and doesn’t loose any of the entertainment in trying to hard to teach. The hermit crab feels drab and each month he asks different sea creatures to help decorate his shell . As the shell is getting more and more beautiful it’s also getting more and more snug and almost time for the hermit crab to leave it behind and find a bigger one.  The book teaches about sea creatures, months of the year and moving. More than moving it teaches about change . Change is  difficult for all of us but a little trickier for most preschoolers which makes this book so valuable

Hooray for Fish!: Candlewick Storybook Animations by Lucy Cousins gets are huge “Hooray” from our house. I thought my son would think this book was a little young for him. He’s started saying board books are for babies, and he’s a big boy and even though this isn’t a board book it’s simple, big and bright like one. Nope, he loved it. Little Fish takes the readers on a tour of all the different kinds of fish , the bright fun illustrations are so interesting to look at , and choose your favorite fish on each page. The rhymes are fun and when we finished reading my son immediately asked to read it again! Edited for 2011 – now that he is almost 5 he flatly refused to read this with me but his sister who is 14 months liked it!

Way Down Deep in the Deep Blue Sea by Jan Peck is about a little boy swimming in the “deep” looking for treasure. Along the way he encounters different sea animals and greets and says good bye to each before swimming away on his treasure hunt. The cute kicker is that all along the little boy is really in his bath tub and the animals are just toys. I liked the twist and so did my son who then requested a laundry basket to play bath, funny how he didn’t actually want a bath… a mom can dream! Edited for 2011 – my son re discovered this book as we were setting up the playroom in our new house. It’s still a hit with him after 2 years.