{Fine Motor} Button & Cork Builders

It’s getting to that time of the year when our time outside is limited by bad weather ( we still go out, just don’t stay out as long) and I am looking for new and frugal ways to engage my kids on long days . This idea came from nothing other than staring at my supplies and thinking ” I wonder if this will work?” and it did. Using corks and buttons to build with is fun but add in some Velcro dots and it’s even more fun. After playing I realized how multi-sensory this activity really is with the texture of the Velcro both soft and spiky, the sound of it pulling apart, the hard buttons and the softer corks. Did I mention we had a blast with them too?

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a board or shoe box lid,  some self adhesive Velcro dots, big craft buttons and corks.
  2. Start by putting Velcro dots on the shoe box lid, I only gave her hook dots. I like using a lid like this so that any corks that fall don’t roll too far away and create frustration. Peeling the stickers off and placing them on the lid is fantastic for fine motor development.
  3. Press them on well.
  4. While she did that I put them on buttons and corks. I put one hook and one loop dot on each cork and some buttons got one of each , some just got loop dots.  Ideally try to give it 24 hours before playing after putting the dots on. If your child is insistent as mine was ( what 2 year old wouldn’t be?) you can give them only a few and then return to the rest after 24 hours when the adhesive is at it’s strongest. In my experience none of the dots came off the buttons at all even right after popping it on. The natural corks didn’t fare as well, they stuck fine but when we went to reposition a handful came off.
  5. Play ( now or later) .
  6. Don’t they look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book?
  7. She loved the buttons !

Byron Barton Books about Building

Building a House by Byron Barton is a no frills look at how homes are built. The bright colors and concise wording is perfect for toddlers and young  preschoolers. I love that there is writing on one page and illustrations on the other, makes it super easy to show children the pictures as well as for them to see you follow the text with your finger! My son started enjoying this book well before age 2 and still grabs it for me to read at three and a half although seems to yearn for more details than this simple book provides.

Machines at Work by Byron Barton is a bold and bright book that is perfect for toddlers who are obsessed with construction vehicles. The text is brief but effective. My son loved this book as an infant ,  at 2 he enjoyed reading it, as well as counting the workers and trucks on each page. Now at almost 4 he will still grab it and read it to his imaginary friend Sammy who ” can’t read yet”.  All in all it’s been well loved over the years !

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Build With Letters – Alphabet For Starters

jumbo cardboard blocks The  goal for our Alphabet For Starters series is to give you ways to  introduce letters to your children through all sorts of play. This activity the 7th post in our series pairs gross motor play with letter recognition perfectly! Don’t forget that the number one thing you can do to teach your children about letters is to read to them so after the activity we’ve included some of our favorite books and if you are looking for alphabet books for kids we have 50 Alphabet Books too!

  1.  Gather your materials. You will need some big blocks like these from Melissa & Doug ( cardboard boxes will work just great too ) ,scissors,  painters tape if you don’t want to alter your blocks forever or a sharpie if you do.
  2. Using the tape make letters on the blocks. I did this obviously but she wanted to help , it was tricky…
  3. So she got in the bin and supervised while I made a bunch of letters that she suggested and I popped in a few others too.
  4. Then my son came to help too. He wanted the O to be on a blue so he suggested making the o I’d already made into a Q. I was all for it.
  5. We didn’t make every letter because they were super eager to play. But don’t feel like you have to do every letter. If you think 26 letters will overwhelm then focus on s few that your child knows well and a few that they have yet to recognize so you balance challenge with success.
  6. BUILD!  The most fascinating thing was that every time she grabbed a block she’d recognize and say the letter without prompting. As we built I would sometimes say ” Should we put the W on top?” or ” Grab the T and I’ll put it here.” We were playing with letters without testing or drilling and while we were building someone decided to start spelling too.
  7. Knock it down and build another.

Last night I had to make more letters because my son was begging to spell all sorts of words. I was excited to see him sit down and sound out words first before asking me if it was right .  I absolutely love that they both have enjoyed such an easy to make activity using their favorite blocks.

Our Bedtime Books

Baby Giggles (Beautiful Babies) by Rachael Hale is a simple board book that my daughter adores. She can’t go to bed without reading it and saying goodnight to the babies. Now something about my daughter is that she is baby obsessed which is why this book was bought for her in the first place, it’s page after page of all sorts of babies. The text is simple and rhymes but isn’t anything to be wowed by. The photos are adorable and even after a million readings she giggles at the baby picking her nose and kisses the sleeping babies at the end of the book goodnight. Definitely a favorite at our house even if it will never be a classic.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. is another book that can go with a baby from infancy through toddlerhood and into the preschool years. The bold colors of the illustrations by Eric Carle are perfect for catching infant’s attention and will continue to grab it through the years. My son enjoyed this book and loves reading it to his sister now but she absolutely adores this book.  We have read it every night before nap and bed for a few weeks and I think it’s going to be a bedtime favorite for a while. I also completely credit this book for teaching her some of her colors. It’s a great bedtime book because of the even rhythm and predictability that is calming and great to wind down to. There are other titles in the series , including ; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?, Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? , and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? but this one is my and my daughter’s very favorite!

Tabletop Loose Parts – Creative Activity For Kids

loose parts no time for flash cards

If you aren’t familiar with the idea of loose parts it’s the idea that giving kids groups of loose parts ( branches, logs, rocks etc..) they can create their outdoor play space instead of being limited by the playground designer’s imagination . I absolutely adore this and at our church playground that doubles as a Waldorf school playground they have been engaging in this for years.  Just as I was reading more about this the very same day I came into my son’s preschool class and they’d done a huge class project with loose parts as well. Seeing how much my son adored it I knew we have to get some for the playroom. This is a fun variation for those of you with no yard, lots of rainy days and small spaces. For a  more colorful take with different materials check out this post by The Imagination Tree .

  1. Gather your materials. We got these bins at the dollar store and gathered the materials over a few weeks. We have some cardboard, empty ribbon spools, corks, glass beads, card board tubes, rocks, cupcake liners, popscicle sticks and shells.Loose Parts
  2. I present the parts and that’s it. This is in NO way adult directed. It’s completely open .
  3. My son started with corks earth friendly play for kids who he told me were guards for a secret temple.
  4. We’ve done this a handful of times and he always seems to have a lot of symmetry in his creations. I find it fascinating because I have a deep desire to make everything symmetrical.
  5. We usually leave the creation up for a few days and he adds to it , changes things around and generally it’s rather dynamic. This one we did in the playroom for the photos ( way better light) but we usually do it in the dining room with a taller table so my daughter can’t get at it and it’s small parts. What’s nice though is you can use whatever loose bits you have so if you want to do this with a younger child just use whatever is safe for them. I will often just grab the toilet rolls while i am cooking at sit my daughter on the floor and she builds with them.

There is so much learning going on in this activity I seriously get giddy watching my son think. Creativity, balance, fine motor, imaginative thinking…  all with things we had around the house and a few dollar store bins . Not bad. When it’s not being played with I stack the bins and pop them under the bathroom sink.


Be an Architect !

Blueprint Project

Blueprint craft 009I had the idea for this ages ago but knew that my son wasn’t ready for it. I am so glad I waited. We have been taking him to open houses lately, and talking about how houses are built , floor plans etc.. for a few weeks so this was the perfect time to become architects ourselves and make some blue prints! I helped a lot with this craft but older children ( 5 +) would have no problem doing it independently. Toddlers would likely get frustrated, so here is a great alternative for them Shape House.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need a white wax crayon ( yellow will do in a pinch), some white paper, blue paint and some sponge brushes or rollers. The sponge brushes really ensure that there isn’t too much paint which makes all the difference!Blueprint craft
  2. Start by drawing your house with the white crayon, pressing hard. My son wanted me to draw the “real picture of the house” meaning the outside , I made him a deal that if I did the outside he’d have to do the inside.Blueprint craft
  3. For the inside if your child is like mine and still too young to make things exactly how they want them but old enough to get upset if they aren’t perfect help them make the floor plan. How we did it was I  put one finger at the starting pint of each wall, and one at the end point and he drew the lines. He eventually felt confident enough to do a few all by himself.Blueprint craft
  4. Next decide which rooms should be which- this was probably my son’s favorite part ( well until he started painting), he went on and on about if they needed a bedroom more than a garage. Bedroom won out, maybe our next house will have a garage !
  5. Label them.Blueprint craft
  6. Time to paint. I thinned the paint just a tiny bit with water.
  7. Roll it on!Blueprint craft
  8. Sometimes you need to blot with these types of paintings if the paint glops on too heavy, we didn’t this time but grab a paper towel if you do and gently wipe.
  9. Let dry. Grab some lego or other blocks and build the house :) Blueprint craft


This is the way we pound our nails,
pound our nails, pound our nails,
This is the way we pound our nails, so early in the morning.
This is the way we turn the screw,
Turn the screw, turn the screw
This is the way we turn the screw, so early in the morning.
This is the way we saw the wood
saw the wood, saw the wood,
This is the way we saw the wood, so early in the morning!
This is the way we build a house,
build a house, build a house.
This is the way we build a house so early in the morning!


Building A House

Building a House by Byron Barton is a no frills look at how homes are built. The bright colors and concise wording is perfect for toddlers and young  preschoolers. I love that there is writing on one page and illustrations on the other, makes it super easy to show children the pictures as well as for them to see you follow the text with your finger! My son started enjoying this book well before age 2 and still grabs it for me to read at three and a half although seems to yearn for more details than this simple book provides.
Building by Elisha Cooper

Building by Elisha Cooper is a really stunning book. The story itself is really detailed and although he sat for the whole thing my son’s attention was thinning out at parts, I edited the text a little but we got through it. There is nothing wrong with this book, its just too long and detailed for the average 3 year old. A keen 4 year old or 5 year old would totally dig it though.  The illustrations are watercolors and so beautiful, but are not detailed like the text. Visually they are beautiful, but my son wanted to know why no one had faces.  If you are learning about or interested in the process of construction from start to finish this is a wonderful book to read.
How a House Is Built
How a House Is Built by Gail Gibbons is the happy medium for my son of these two other books, while one was a little too simple, the other a little too detailed, this one was just right for his attention span and need for details. In this book  readers are taken from the architect’s desk to the day the family moves in with just the right amount of detail about all the intermediate steps. Each worker and what they contribute to building a house is explained briefly, from the laying of the foundation, the carpenters who frame the house and even the landscapers who lay the sod. If you have a little builder in your house they will love reading about the steps and many people who help build a house.

Letter Of The Week

House h Letter h Craft

This week’s letter of the week craft is fun but be prepared to use paper that matches your house. I had red paper all ready, my h was written out and I hear from across the table ” I want a white house, our house isn’t red mama it’s white!” he was right, our house is white so we started over, I took new materials pictures and we were all set.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need 3 colors of construction paper, some markers( crayons will be fine too!), glue, and scissors.Letter h lesson
  2. Start by writing a lowercase h on your paper. Letter of the week craft h
  3. Have your child decorate it anyway they want. My son is starting to show interest in writing and has been tracing the letters lately when we make these crafts then pronounces he’s ready for the next step. I just sit back and watch , loving how this came about so naturally. Letter of The Week lesson
  4. Ask how many windows they want and cut them out ( I added crossbars) , also cut o.ut a roof and the top of a chimney. Letter of The Week h
  5. Cut the h out and glue it on a contrasting sheet of paper. Letter of The Week h
  6. Time to add the glue for the house pieces! Letter h craft
  7. Add the roof. Letter of The Week h
  8. Add the windows and chimney topper.Letter of The Week h Letter of The Week h
  9. Let dry.


Building A House

Building a House by Byron Barton is a no frills look at how homes are built. The bright colors and concise wording is perfect for preschoolers. I love that there is writing on one page and illustrations on the other, makes it super easy to show children the pictures as well as for them to see you follow the text with your finger!

House For A Hermit Crab

A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle is a fun book about a hermit crab’s search for things to make her house a perfect home.  Each month she finds another thing ( or sea creature)  in the ocean to add to her house. This book is a good teaching tool for months of the year, sea life and houses.

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