Simple Play Stations For Busy Days

simple play stations for busy daysEvery parent has those days at home when you HAVE to get stuff done. Maybe it’s work , homeschooling older children, or maybe you are fighting a bad cold and just don’t have the time to plan and play like you like to. Before you reach for the remote try simple themed play stations instead. This may look like a lot of work to set up but trust me it took 5 minutes. If construction isn’t your child’s thing don’t worry I have ideas below for 6 more themes. You may need to look through the toys in your house to see what you can use but once you write a list it will be a snap to put it together when you need it. What a set up like this does is gives your child stations to move to and from and gives you a little extra time to get things done. The day we did this I was sicker than a dog and this kept my almost 3 year old happy while I tried to get work I normally do after her bedtime done early so I could have a good sleep that night. She did end up watching some PBS Kids but much less than she would have if I had not set this all up.

  1. Choose the theme. Your best bet is to choose something that your child is really interested in. A new theme is best introduced when you can act as a guide.
  2. Choose what stations to set up. Again this isn’t a time for too much novelty . Old favorites, things they can do independently and toys that they love . Toys they love but have been put away for a while work great. My stations were :playdoughdress up , puzzles ,and books. Gather your toys and materials for the stations. Keep it simple you don’t need to make huge sensory bins or elaborate block areas. I had a puzzle, some playdough with a little people construction worker and some Duplo, a few pretend play props and some books on the theme.theme days
  3. Play . theme puzzleShow your child the stations ( space them out to your child’s liking) and ask them which they want to start with. theme playdoughMost kids will go to each briefly and then go back to each for a second look to really play. theme dress upWhen my daughter went to the book station I asked her to please read the books first by herself and then I would come and read them to her. This gave me enough time to pause what I was doing and join her.theme books

Other Theme Ideas

The links go to posts featuring these simple ideas and to products through affiliate links.

Princess Books  , pink playdough with sequins or beads, princess costume or crown for dress up, build a castle with blocks, make a princess bracelet with a pipe cleaner and pony beads.

Ocean : Books about fish , Tub of water with sea animals, swimming goggles for simple pretend play, under the sea pictures ( blue paper and fish stickers) , fish puzzles.

Bugs : Books about bugs, playdough bugs (add some straws and googly eyes)  , egg carton and pipe cleaner caterpillar, draw your own bug ( crayons and paper) ,bug puzzles.

ABCs : Alphabet books, playdough with alphabet cookie cutters, alphabet stickers on paper, letter rainbowing, alphabet puzzle.

Cars and Trucks : Car books, make tracks in playdough with cars, make a city with blocks and cars, simple car wash, draw a road on paper and fill it with car and truck stickers.

Cooking : Books about food, cook in the sink, paint with a potato masher, simple grocery store play in the kitchen.

10 Outdoor Activities For Toddlers

outside activities for kids We have been living outside lately and unless it starts really raining I am not sure the playroom will getting many visitors. Here are some of our old favorite toddler activities that my 2 year old and I have been re-visiting over the last few weeks. I hope you find something on this list to turn into an old favorite !

Color & Clean Car Wash
Sound Safari For Toddlers
Fly Swatter Painting
Sidewalk Chalk Games
Play In The Dirt
Painting With Nature
Gardening For Letters
Painting With Water
Backyard Car Wash
Color Hunt On The Go

Construction Site Sensory Play & Books

by Allison McDonald bulldozer partyMy daughter is crazy about bulldozers right now and we’ve been playing with toy bulldozers in our sensory table . This is such a simple construction site play idea. No need for anything really special other than your child’s favorite construction vehicle. You will see I had a variety of them but her little orange bulldozer was firmly in her hand the whole time.

  1. Gather your materials. We used dried beans, cinnamon sticks, popsicle sticks , corks , empty ribbon spools, and construction themed toys and tools.construction site sensory play
  2. Start by filling your tub or table with the fillings. She loved pouring the beans in .construction site sensory bin
  3. As soon as the cinnamon sticks made their way in she was busy building a new kindergarten.  construction site pretend playSensory play like this offers so many opportunities to learn but don’t push it. Their imaginations will lead them and if you are present you will be able to find little moments to jump in but don’t feel you need to by any means.construction site play
  4. The main thing she wanted to do was build with her dad ( we did this on a Saturday so he was home to play) construction site play with dadand bulldoze things off the cliff. constrution site play for toddlersShe did a lot of sorting and counting without prompting from me.construction site learning

Construction Books

 

dig-dig-digging

Dig Dig Digging by Margaret Mayo is one of the few books we have that we have bought twice. Our first copy was so well loved that we knew when it could not be read anymore that it would be immediately replaced. This book is imbedded in my brain ( and heart) because both my children have gone through a phase where it’s their absolute favorite. The book takes readers through different vehicles like firetrucks, rescue helicopters and of course bulldozers. The text is repetitive and will get stuck in your head for days but it’s ok because your kids will recite it along with you.

dazzling diggers

Dazzling Diggers (Amazing Machines) by Tony Mitton is part of the Amazing Machines series of books that are favorites of both my kids. Now my son reads them to my daughter and yes my heart bursts when he reads to her and it makes me completely forget when he tackles her.  The book themselves are little gems. This one talks about diggers and bulldozers with absolutely fantastic rhymes. What amazes me about this book is that your child will actually come away having learned something substantial about the vehicles in it at the same time as loving the brilliant rhyming text. Must read for construction vehicle fans.

Goodnight-Goodnight-Construction-Site

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker will have to be renewed from the library while I wait for my copy to come from Amazon. This book is starting to get pretty popular and rightfully so, it’s a lovely book. In it busy little construction vehicles wind down for the night and fall asleep. I never thought I would say an excavator was cute but the one in the book is. It’s a wonderful bedtime book and your child will enjoy winding down with the sleepy bulldozer and his friends. My daughter completely adores this book.

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Recycled Art For Earth Day

by Allison McDonald

earth day activity for kids Earth Day is coming up and I have been talking to my kids more and more about why we recycle and what we also try to re-use at home.  As you can imagine we re-use many things for projects and activities I write about on the blog. So much so that my son will often hand me his garbage and say ” Can you use this for a project?” Even I haven’t found a good use for string cheese wrappers ! Today we are using a collection of recycled objects for a wide open recycled art project. As you will see my daughter has a favorite earth friendly painting tool.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some paint, a tray for the paint, some paper, and recycled objects to paint with.  We went around the house and into my art closet to choose the objects.earth day activity for kids
  2. Pour paint into the tray ( or cake pan) . I had my daughter look outside to tell me what colors she saw. Then we used those colors for the painting. I have the paper taped down because I had a feeling she’d end up finger painting and this keeps the paper from sticking to her hands and ending up on the floor.
  3. Explore! earth day paintingThis is wide open . She liked the toilet paper roll  but hated the little cap. earth day painting with recycled objectsThe ribbon spool made interesting prints but the real fun was in using her hands.earth day craft The ultimate re-usable paint brush! earth day craft for toddlersAfter plopping on the paint with her hands she explored the marks that some of the recycled objects made. earth day art projectRolling the toilet paper roll was a fun discovery too. earth day painting with toilet paper rolls

Books About Recycling

plasticbottle

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The Adventures of a Plastic Bottle: A Story About Recycling by Alison Inches is awesome! I only wish that my son was old enough to enjoy it as much as I did. It’s not aimed at 2 year olds at all, but he did like to open it to the page with the recycling truck and point out all the parts to me. The book itself takes the reader through the complete process from crude oil, to bottle and then to synthetic fleece. I am not too proud to admit I learned s a few new things and had a few good laughs along the way with the books little bits of humor too. I think most 5 year olds would enjoy this book, and it’s easy to break it down for those unable to sit for this much text. Also the book was printed on 100% post consumer waste paper.

Trash and Recycling

Trash And Recycling by Stephanie Turnball is a great book ! I learned more about garbage and the recycling process reading this to my son over lunch than I ever knew! He loved it and despite being a pretty sophisticated book for a 3 year old immediately asked to read it again as soon as I closed it. It explains the whole process from curbside pick up, land fills, incineration and recycling. The idea for today’s activity came from the sorting of recyclable garbage from this book!

 

Toddler Butterfly Craft

spring craftsMy toddler is in the eating paper phase and the fling the paint phase. We are still having fun with paint but when we do my camera is safely on a shelf since I need two hands to wipe down the playroom walls. Today while her brother was at school we made this mess free butterfly craft with ribbons something she has no desire to eat or fling. If your toddler’s reaction to an activity frustrates you find a way to connect and create with them that doesn’t push your buttons. I say all the time how if we make the challenge too great for our kids they shut down and stop learning well it goes for us too. If I am frustrated I am not connecting with my child and getting angry about exploration serves no one. Don’t give up on the messy stuff (they need it) just try it again when you have the patience to deal with their exuberance.

  1. Gather your materials. You will need some sturdy paper , contact paper , ribbons in your choice of colors , scissors and crayons.
  2. Have your child color the paper first. I forgot. For really little guys skipping this like I did is probably best, it’s another step that might make it too long. While they do that cut the ribbon.
  3. Fold your paper and cut out a butterfly shape.
  4. Cut out the middle.butterfly craft
  5. Peel the back off your contact paper and press your butterfly on sticky side up.bug theme for daycare
  6. Trim.
  7. Give the butterfly to your child. She just felt it for a minute or two. I just let her explore.bug craft
  8. Hand them the ribbon. She immediately started adding it to the butterfly.toddler easy crafts
  9. No need to help unless they seek it, every now and then I would say ” That’s a nice red ribbon.” or ” You found a yellow one.” but it wasn’t a constant dialog.
  10. They will let you know when they are done. Activity will slow, items may start finding the floor… just know that toddlers typically won’t spend long on a structured activity like this and don’t feel like you are doing anything wrong . We spent about 5 minutes total. This is her “done” she claps her hands once and says “un!”
  11. Put it up where your little one can see what they made and know you think it’s fantastic!