3 Fun Ways to Paint with Toddlers and Preschoolers

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!

As a stay-at-home mom, I’m always trying to come up with fun activities for my kids to do beyond coloring and Play-Doh.  Not that there’s anything wrong with these things, but my kids get bored of them pretty quickly.  And when they get bored, what do they do?  Bug each other.  Which in turn bugs me.  So it makes everyone a lot happier if I have a few new activities to offer, especially during the winter when it’s cold and we’re stuck inside and even when it’s summer and it’s hot outside. *wink*

This post contains affiliate links which means if you click on one and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!

The ideas I’m sharing today all use the same basic medium: paint.  I bought a set with 6 different colors from Walmart for about $6.  The paint is nice and bright and easy to clean up with soap and water.  I also opted for tempera paint which is more opaque.  You could easily use acrylic paints for any of these projects as well.

No Mess Finger Painting

This is a great project for young children.  They can’t make a mess because the finger paint is inside a bag, but they still get the sensory experience from moving the paint around with their fingers and seeing the bright colors.  We did this activity with my son (21 months), my nephew (2.5 years) and my daughter (4 years). (At the time of the original post.)

For this activity, you’ll need:

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!
  • A resealable bag, such as a Ziploc, in a quart size
  • Construction paper or cardstock
  • Paint
  • Masking tape (optional)

Step 1:  Cut your paper down to size so that it fits in the bag when sealed.
Step 2:  Shake your paint well and then squirt different colors on top of the paper in various spots (the paper should be inside the bag.)

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!

Step 3: Seal the bag.
Step 4: Tape the bag to the table on at least 2 sides to prevent it from moving around.  (We decided not to do this and it still worked fine.)
Step 5:  Let your child “finger paint” on top of the bag.  They can feel the paint under their fingers as they move it around, but it won’t make a mess since it’s in the bag!

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!

Marble Painting

I remember doing this activity as a young child in preschool and loving it!  My kids liked watching the marbles roll around the bin and all over the paper.  I bought the bin and marbles at the dollar store (just two of the awesome craft supplies you can buy at the dollar store) which I can easily reuse the next time we do this activity.  I had to help my son move the marbles around, but my daughter had no problems doing it herself.

For this activity, you’ll need:

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!
  • A medium plastic bin with sides at least 3 inches high
  • Construction paper or cardstock
  • Paint
  • Marbles 

Step 1: Cut your paper down if needed to fit inside your bin.  Mine had rounded corners to I just used a roll of masking tape to round out the corners of the paper.

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!

Step 2: Put the paper in the bottom of the bin and squirt different colors all over the paper.

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!

Step 3: Drop 3-4 marbles in the bin and start shaking the bin around to get the marbles rolling through the paint.
Step 4: Remove the paper to dry and start all over!

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!

Cookie Cutter Painting

This activity is more geared towards preschoolers since it’s not as contained and more likely to make a mess.  Also, the bottom of a cookie cutter can be a little sharp which might be a hazard for smaller children without close supervision.  My daughter did great and just got a little paint on her fingers as she dipped the cookie cutter in the paint.  This is also a great activity to do for holidays (heart for Valentine’s Day, clover for St. Patrick’s Day, etc) or preschool (letters, number, animals, etc).

For this activity, you’ll need:

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!
  • Cookie Cutters
  • Paint
  • Construction paper or cardstock
  • A shallow container to put the paint in, such as a pie tin or paper plate
  • Tape (optional)

Step 1: Squirt some paint onto your paper plate.  I tried to squirt mine in the basic shape of the cookie cutter I was using (ie. train=oval, heart/star=circle) to make it easier to get the paint on the cookie cutter.
Step 2: Tape your paper to the table to prevent it from moving around.
Step 3: Dip the cookie cutters into the paint and press it onto the paper in different places.
Step 4:  Let dry.

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!

Painting with your little kids doesn't have to be messy and can be a lot of fun!

I hope you enjoyed this post and that it gave you some fun ideas for activities to do with your kids!

What are your favorite indoor activities to keep your kids busy?

Kid Science: Elephant Toothpaste

Elephant Toothpaste

As much as I love the summertime and the sunshine and letting my kids play outside, there comes a point every day where it’s just too hot and we have to come inside and cool off.  I made a commitment to myself that I would try to have a balance between structured time and unstructured time this summer, but I haven’t been doing as well on the structured time with my kids as I would like.  So at the beginning of the week, I decided to do a little experiment that I’ve had on my mind for the last little while, but hadn’t gotten around to: elephant toothpaste.

This post contains affiliate link which means if you click on it and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!
Elephant Toothpaste

Like many kids, mine love anything that bubbles and foams.  We’ve done glow in the dark bath paint, bubble snakes and color explosions and they have all been winners.  This experiment only required me to buy one thing I didn’t already have on hand (hydrogen peroxide), and now I have it so we can do this another day too.

Elephant Toothpaste

My kids totally oooh’d and aaah’d over this activity and it kept them entertained even after the initial experiment was over.  We did it a couple of times–once with my daughter while my son was napping and then again when he woke up.

Elephant Toothpaste
This post contains affiliate links.

To make your own elephant toothpaste, you will need the following:

First, measure 2 Tbsp. very warm water into a small bowl.  Add 1 tsp. active dry yeast (1/2 packet) and stir around.  Make sure your water isn’t too hot or you’ll kill the yeast.  You can have your child help with this part.

Elephant Toothpaste

Set your water bottle in the middle of a 9×13 pan.  Using the funnel, pour 1/2 c. hydrogen peroxide into the bottle.  Add 4-5 drops of food coloring and a couple squirts of dish soap.  Swirl it together gently.  I wouldn’t recommend having your child do this part unless you feel confident they won’t spill or lick their fingers if they get stuff on them.

Pour the yeast into the bottle through the funnel.  (Again, something your child could do.)  Remove it quickly as the reaction will start right away and enjoy the crazy foam!

Elephant Toothpaste

Elephant Toothpaste

A few things:

  • The foam is totally safe to touch!  The peroxide gets broken down in the reaction, only leaving water and oxygen behind.
  • The reaction is exothermic, which means it gives off heat.  You can have your child touch the bottle and they will feel the warmth.  Pretty cool!
  • 6% (20 volume) hydrogen peroxide is a bit of a specialty item, which you can buy at any beauty supply store (or order it online on Amazon by clicking the link).  The kind you buy at the store is only 3% and it will still produce a reaction, but it won’t be nearly as impressive.

After the reaction slowed down, I brought out some little cars and plastic animal (one was an elephant of course) and let them play in the foam.  I had to take it away before they were actually done playing in it because their hands were starting to turn colors. 😉

Elephant Toothpaste

Elephant Toothpaste

This was such a fun activity!  My kids loved it and I loved watching them love it.

I hope you have as much fun as we did!

46 Ways To Have Fun This Summer {plus a FREE printable}

46 Ways To Have Fun This Summer {plus a FREE printable}

I am totally one of those people who LOVES to-do lists.  I get a ridiculous amount of satisfaction when I put a little check mark next to something that is on my to-do list and sometimes I even add things to my to-do list that weren’t there when I first made the list, just so that I can check it off.  Eat breakfast?  Check!  Brush teeth?  Check!  Make sure kids eat their veggies at dinnertime?  Double check!  (‘Cause ya know, I have two kids…) *wink*

So it should come as no surprise that I’m also a big fan of bucket lists.  These are really the best kind of lists because they are all things that you want to do instead of things you have/need to do.  And really, what better time to make a bucket list than summertime?

46 Ways To Have Fun This Summer {plus a FREE printable}
Boating and playing on the beach at a local reservoir

Our family has a lot of things we like to do during the summer.  But sometimes I forget to plan something for the weekend or my husband’s day off and then we end up either scrambling to find an activity or staying home and cleaning up the house or yard.  So in order to make sure we actually do lots of fun activities this summer, I’ve made a bucket list for our family.  It’s all centered around activities we can do with our kids.

46 Ways To Have Fun This Summer {plus a FREE printable}
S’mores up the canyon with family

I think that by creating a list of activities to draw from, we can do more with the time we have together.  We are more likely to be intentional with our time since we know we don’t have a lot of it available when my husband is home.  And planning ahead or having something to draw ideas from helps too.

46 Ways To Have Fun This Summer {plus a FREE printable}
Chalk Art Festival

In case you’re having a hard time thinking of activities to add to your own bucket list, I’ve created a printable for you to, you know, print out and put somewhere you’ll see like your fridge.  (Click HERE to print.)  When you do something, mark it off with a sticker, an X or a check mark.  You could even include the date you did it and then save your bucket lists from each year with a picture of each activity.  I think that would be a really fun summer scrapbook idea!

46 Ways To Have Fun This Summer {plus a FREE printable}

Of course, when it all comes down to it, it’s not the check mark I get to put next to an activity once it’s been done (although, yes, satisfying).  It’s the memories and time spent together.  I’ve been feeling more and more that time goes by so fast and the time we have with our kids is really pretty limited.  So go ahead and check out my bucket list or make one of your own and see how many memories you can make this summer!

What’s on your bucket list?

Guest Post: Kendra Leigh Photography: How To Choose Colors for Family Pictures

How To Choose Colors for Family Pictures: 7 great tips from a professional to make sure you choose the best colors for your family!

I’m so excited to introduce today’s guest poster: Kendra Hill, owner of Kendra Leigh Photography and Video!  Kendra and I live in the same neighborhood and go to the same church house so we see each other pretty regularly.  Kendra is actually the photographer who took our most recent family pictures and she also took my kids’ pictures about a year ago for Mother’s Day.  And see that picture of me on the sidebar?  Yeah, she took that one too.  So I am very familiar with her work and think she is great and totally recommend her to anyone looking for a photographer.  When I asked Kendra if she’d be willing to do a guest post for me, I was so happy she said yes because I know photographers are always super busy in the spring with weddings and family pictures.  I’m guessing that some of you might even be in the midst of planning one of these things out for yourself/your family.  Today, Kendra will be sharing some tips for choosing colors for family pictures (which I always find super tricky)!

***

Ohhhhh the joys of pictures! Honestly, I love them! That’s why I am a photographer. Not only do I love taking pictures, but am also a complete ham in front of the camera. After being a photographer and taking hundreds of family pictures, even I still struggle with picking outfits for my own family.

Last month we had our own family pictures taken and I went through about 3 different outfit variations along the way. I knew I wanted them to be more simple and classic so I decided on pink with white/cream, and have the boys in blue jeans. I had a dress I planned to have my daughter wear and then I bought myself a dress. The colors of our dresses didn’t match at all! I was going for a rose pink and hers had a slight orange tint while mine was a little more purple. Not good. I played with the idea of adding in turquoise as well, but with 4 of us I felt it might get overpowering for the clean and classic look I wanted. Still, I came up with new outfits adding in the additional color. I didn’t like it. I eventually took the dress back and happened to find a perfect one when I stopped by Down East Basics on a whim (I’d already looked and didn’t find anything before)! I was back to my original color scheme of white, pink, and blue jeans. I love how they turned out! I do have certain tips I give to my clients, some of which I didn’t follow…. and reaped the consequences. I hope these help you avoid my faux pas, and take some stress off of your shoulders.

How To Choose Colors for Family Pictures: 7 great tips from a professional to make sure you choose the best colors for your family!

1. Choose a Location: You want to be sure you will not blend into the background. Pick outfit colors that will stand out! If you want a location that has a lot of trees and green grass, you don’t want to wear green. If you are taking pictures with red brick, you don’t want to wear red. White barn? Don’t wear white. You are paying to have pictures done and to document your family, you want to be able to see everyone. If you have no clue about what location you want, speak with your photographer, or you can search on Shootipedia.

2. Pick a Color Scheme: The time of matchy-matchy outfits (jeans and white shirts anyone?) has gone the way of the dodo. When you are first picking your outfits, its best to pick 2-3 colors and a neutral. If you have a hard time picking colors that go together, I suggest looking at design-seeds.com and finding a pallet of colors you love and match your outfits to that.

How To Choose Colors for Family Pictures: 7 great tips from a professional to make sure you choose the best colors for your family!

3. Wear Something that you Like:  If you are uncomfortable in your clothes it will show through the pictures. This goes for children too. If you force your child to wear something they hate, it is more likely they will be upset and hard to work with. Also, watch out for accessories that they may like to put in their mouths when you’re not looking, or will be a distraction. I put a bow-tie on my little man because he always pulls off his ties and puts them in his mouth. I knew that I would end up taking it off before pictures were done and I really wanted him to have a little pink to tie our color scheme together.

How To Choose Colors for Family Pictures: 7 great tips from a professional to make sure you choose the best colors for your family!

4. Pick the Outfit for the Hardest to Dress First: When I started planning my family pictures, I made this mistake. My daughter had tons of cute dresses and I had a couple to pick from and thought it would be easy to find a dress for me. NO! After I scrapped everything twice, I found a dress for myself and suddenly everyone else’s outfits slid into place. Pick the person in your family that will be hardest to find an outfit for and start with them.

5. Add a Pattern: Too many patterns get busy, but having one person in a pattern with one or two of your selected colors looks great! Too many solid colors can become boring, especially if you have a lot of people in your pictures.

How To Choose Colors for Family Pictures: 7 great tips from a professional to make sure you choose the best colors for your family!How To Choose Colors for Family Pictures: 7 great tips from a professional to make sure you choose the best colors for your family!

6. You Don’t Have to go Shopping: Many people don’t realize that they already have the perfect outfits already. Before you go shopping at the store, go shopping in your closet! Take the color palette you have chosen and go into everyone’s closets and pull all of the clothing items that fit your vision. Put together as many outfits as you can (or all of them!) before you go to the store. When I spoke with the mother pictured below, she told me how much she hated shopping and I told her to go shopping in her closet before going to the store. They had a lot more than she thought, and they decided to go with shades of blue for their pictures.

How To Choose Colors for Family Pictures: 7 great tips from a professional to make sure you choose the best colors for your family!


7. Plan for the Weather: I live in Utah so you never know if it is going to be cold, rainy, sunny, bright, snowy, etc. In fact, you could get all of the above during your session! Crazy Utah weather. If it is below freezing, perhaps find some nice sport coats for boys and pea coats for girls. Just because there is snow, it doesn’t mean you can’t get pictures! Just be sure you know your kids personalities (and husband’s…) well enough that you know they will weather the cold and not be grumpy the whole time. If it is going to be rainy, take some umbrellas and use them as props as well as to keep you dry! Regardless, take the temperature into account and wear the appropriate amount of layers, sleeve length, thickness, etc to give you the most comfort during your shoot.

How To Choose Colors for Family Pictures: 7 great tips from a professional to make sure you choose the best colors for your family!

I hope these tips help you to create beautiful family pictures, and take some stress off of your shoulders!

How To Choose Colors for Family Pictures: 7 great tips from a professional to make sure you choose the best colors for your family!

About Kendra: I am a stay-at-home mother of 2 and a huge advocate of sweat pants. Though I adore my two children, I sometimes lock myself in my room with a large glass of chocolate milk and some loud rock music to keep my sanity. I am also the owner of Kendra Leigh Photography and Video which is a boutique photography studio specializing in providing an amazing experience for my clients rather than simply giving a disk or thumb drive.

Feel free to contact me via email with any questions or to set up an appointment at kendra@klphotographyandvideo.com.

How Do Dinosaurs Books Review

How Do Dinosaurs Books Review

Ever since I was young, books have been a huge part of my life.  I have a memory from when I was about five years old walking home from the library with an entire wagon full of books we had checked out.  That little wagon sat in our front room where I could pick a book and look through it or my mom would read it to me.  Before the week was done, I had looked through all the books at least once.  The next week, we took the books back and got another wagon full to bring home.  This love of reading has stuck with me all my life.  I love getting lost in the world of books.  My husband laughs at me because if I’m reading a book, I have no idea what’s going on around me.

I’m happy to say that this love of reading has been picked up by my own children.  We have all types of books from Dr. Seuss to Sandra Boynton to Sesame Street to Disney.  In the last year or so, my son has started to take a special interest in dinosaurs.  So when we went to the library last month, I picked up a few books from the How Do Dinosaurs series by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague.  I’d heard about the series from a friend of mine who has two boys who also like dinosaurs.  The moment we got home, my kids pulled all the library books out and asked me to read them.  We had borrowed three of the How Do Dinosaurs books and with the exception of Pinkalicious and Fancy Nancy, even my daughter loved reading them.

How Do Dinosaurs Books Review
Illustration from How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

So why do I love these books?  First of all, the illustrations are amazing.  The illustrator draws pictures of dinosaurs doing the things he talks about in each of his books (along with the name of it).  I’m just as captivated as my kids are.  Second, they’re educational and promote good behavior.  My kids learn lessons about how to behave at school or when they are mad through the use of humor.  After only reading the books a handful of times, both my kids could “read” the story based on the pictures.

How Do Dinosaurs Books Review
Illustration from How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

I’ve decided that these books are definitely worth spreading the word about and definitely worthy of taking up space on our bookshelf.  I hope you and your kids love them as much as mine do!

Below you can see a list of all the How Do Dinosaur books as well as links to purchase them on Amazon.  (Note: any purchases made by clicking on these links will provide me with a small commission at no extra cost to you).

How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? (Hardcover)
How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon? (Hardcover)
How Do Dinosaurs Clean Their Rooms? (Board Book)
How Do Dinosaurs Count to Ten? (Board Book)
How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? (Hardcover) (Paperback)
How Do Dinosaurs Play with Their Friends? (Board Book)
How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors? (Board Book)
How Do Dinosaurs Go To School? (Hardcover)
How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You? (Hardcover)
How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Cats? (Board Book)
How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs? (Board Book)
How Do Dinosaurs Laugh Out Loud? (Board Book)
How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Birthday? (Board Book)
How Do Dinosaurs Go Up and Down? (Hardcover)
How Do Dinosaurs Play All Day? (Paperback)
How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas? (Hardcover)
How Do Dinosaurs Eat Cookies? (Hardcover)
How Do Dinosaurs Say I’m Mad? (Hardcover)
How Do Dinosaurs Stay Safe? (Hardcover)

What are you favorite children’s books?

60+ St. Patrick’s Day Activities and Coloring Pages

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.

I think St. Patrick’s Day is such a fun holiday!  There are so many activities that make it enjoyable, especially for kids.  My daughter hasn’t quite decided if she likes leprechauns or not though… Oh well!  I hope you enjoy this fun round up I’ve got for you today.  There are activities and coloring pages galore.  So take a peek and see what you like!  (Click on the link below the picture to be taken to the page.)

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
 St. Patrick’s Day Treasure Hunt  |  Tauni Everett

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
Magic Leprechaun Rocks  |  Gift of Curiosity

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
St. Patrick’s Day Scavenger Hunt  |  The Dating Divas

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
Rainbow Binoculars  |  Crafty Morning

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
3-D Over the Rainbow Craft  |  Crafty Morning

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
Green Kool-Aid Playdough  |  Rockabye Butterfly

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
Rainbow Pots  |  Make

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
Four Leaf Clover Handprint Art  |  In Lieu of Preschool

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
Shamrock Coloring Page  |  Honest to Nod

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
Luck Coloring Page  |  Coloring Pages Bliss

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
10 St. Patrick’s Day Coloring Pages  |  Celebration Doodles

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
Irish Blessing Coloring Page  |  Skip to my Lou

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
Leprechaun Color-by-Letter Page  |  Reading with Kids

60+ St. Patrick's Day Activities and Coloring Pages--lots of kid crafts and coloring pages to keep little hands happy.
May the luck ‘o the Irish be with ya! 😉

Teaching Your Preschooler Time

Kadie: “Mom, what’s for lunch?”
Me: “It’s not lunch time, it’s breakfast.”

Kadie: “Mom, last year I went to Aunt Dani’s house.”
Me: “Sweetheart, we were there yesterday.”
Kadie: “Mom, what’s today?”
Me: “It’s (insert day of the week).”
Kadie: “Does that mean it’s splash pad day?”
If you’ve ever tried to help a young child understand how many days it is until a certain event or activity, you’ve probably been met with confusion and frustration that it’s not happening right now.  This is because small children live in the present and they have a hard time thinking abstractly.   Time is a very abstract and intangible concept, which is why it is difficult to grasp until they get closer to age 6 or 7 and their brain starts to develop in a way that they are able to begin to understand things such as time.
My daughter, like many children her age, ask a lot of questions.  Some are pretty easy to answer–“Can I have a cookie?” and others…not so much–“Where do babies come from?”  While these seemingly non-stop questions can be frustrating, especially when the same one has been asked 10 times in the last half hour, it’s helpful to realize that they are asking because they are trying to understand their world better.  As parents, it’s our job to help them.  But how can we help them understand something they can’t see?
As my daughter has gotten older, she asks questions about time without really understanding time itself.  She knows that things happen in a certain order, but doesn’t have the cognitive development to fully grasp how it all works together.  In my desire to help her understand her world better, I’ve tried a few techniques that have been helpful:

Teaching Your Preschooler Time--tips on how to help your child learn the concept of time

 Make a countdown chain  This last fall, my daughter started preschool (aaahh!).  She was really excited about it and asked me regularly if today is “preschool day”.  Finally, I decided to help her make a “Countdown to Preschool” chain so she could have a visual representation of the amount of time, or days, left until she starts.  I let her choose the colors for the chain, cut out and decorate the top of the chain, and then she helped me tape it together.  We put it up on the wall in the kitchen where she can see it every day.  I explained to her that each day she could tear off one of the chains and when she tore off the last one, it would be the first day of preschool.  We also included other activities that are happening between now and preschool so that she has other events to look forward to along the way. 

Teach them a song  When my daughter was really little, we watched a lot of Sesame Street.  Some of the first words she learned beyond “mama” and “dada” were from the songs we watched and listened to.  In addition to watching the videos, we sang during diaper changes, in the car, during baths, etc.  So when she got a little older, around 2.5, we taught her a little song for the days of the week.  It’s nothing special, but after singing it over and over with her, she knows the song without help.  While she doesn’t fully understand what the days of the week are, she understands enough to recognize that each day has a name and goes in order.
Use a calendar  We have a calendar up in our kitchen that helps me with my meal planning.  Just like any calendar, it has the days of the week at the top.  It’s been helpful at times to take the calendar down and show her what the current day is and what day a certain event is happening.  For example, we went camping a few weeks ago.  She kept asking if today was camping day.  We got the calendar down and showed her that, no, today is Wednesday and we’re camping on Friday.  And then we’d count how many days until camping.  We repeated this the next day, and the next, until it was the day we were going camping.  She didn’t ask as often when we were going because she would look at the calendar and remember what we had talked about.  I could also remind her of our earlier conversation so she could think back and answer her own question.

*Another method we could have used was to cross each day off as it happened, which is a variation on the countdown chain.

Teaching Your Preschooler Time--tips on how to help your child learn the concept of time

Help them learn their numbers  We’ve been working with our daughter on numbers for the last year or so.  She is at the point where she can count up to 20 easily.  She also recognizes numbers if she sees them written down or on a clock.  She used to ask me all the time, “Mom, can I have a snack?”  Rather than keep telling her that it wasn’t time for a snack–an answer she doesn’t understand–I showed her the clock and said, “When the short arm reaches the 10, then you know it’s snack time.”  The next time she asked, I pointed at the clock and asked her if the short arm was at 10.  If it was, then she knew it was snack time.  We’ve done the same thing with lunch time.  This has helped her learn that time moves forward and that certain things happen at certain times.  Having a clock to look at makes it more tangible. 

Have a routine/schedule  One of the very best things you can do for your child is to have a regular, predictable routine or schedule.  This applies to many areas, including teaching your children about time.  While this doesn’t deal directly with numbers or calendars, it does help them know what to expect.  A child that can count on something happening is going to transition easier, better and faster than a child that doesn’t know what to expect each day.  For my daughter, it is helpful if I give a basic outline of what is happening that day.  (I usually break it down into morning, afternoon and evening.)  If she knows we are going to the grocery store after breakfast, then it’s not surprising to her when I tell her she needs to get her shoes on so we can go.  If she knows we are going to the park when she wakes up from her nap, she is more likely to go to sleep so that it comes faster.  Schedules and routines work wonders with kids and their ability to adjust more quickly and easily.
*If you don’t have a regular schedule in place for your kids, try doing it a little at a time by implementing a morning or bedtime routine.  It may take a little time, but probably less than you expect if you stick with it.
I hope that some of these suggestions have been helpful.  Every kid is different and so some of these may work better than others depending on your child’s age and how they process information.  

Is there something that you do that helps your preschooler understand time?  I’d love to hear it!

12 Fun Ways to Teach Your Child the Alphabet

12 Fun Ways to Teach Your Child the Alphabet--these activities feel more like playing than learning so they'll want to do them!
This post originally appeared on Muddy Little Toes where I was previously a co-contributor.

One of the first songs I remember singing to my daughter was the alphabet song.  I’d sing it while changing diapers, in the car, during bath time, waiting for dinner…pretty much all the time.  When she was about 20 months, she started singing the song on her own with a little help here and there.  By the time she turned 2 years old, she knew the song and could recognize some letters (mostly the ones in her name).  Currently, she is 3 (turning 4 in January) and she knows all the letters by sight, can write about half of them, and knows 3/4 of them by sound.  I’m not telling you this to toot my horn or say that I’m a great teacher when it comes to letters.  But there are some tools I’ve used that have proven to be successful for my daughter, and my son is starting to catch on as well (he is 18 months).  Check out the list below and see if anything catches your eye!

Sing the ABCsI mentioned this one already, but I wanted to include it as part of the list.  This is the simplest way to expose your kids to the alphabet.  Most babies and young children like songs and music and catch on quickly.  Even if you only sing the ABCs anytime you change their diaper and they’ll hear it at least 5 times a day.

12 Fun Ways to Teach Your Child the Alphabet--these activities feel more like playing than learning so they'll want to do them!

Watch Sesame Street alphabet videos
Say what you will about letting small children watch tv, but it was something that I allowed my daughter to watch for maybe 10-15 minutes a day when I needed to distract her while I got dinner ready or used the bathroom or straightened up the house.  I wanted to make sure that any exposure she had was educational, so I simply subscribed to the Sesame Street channel on YouTube and let her watch alphabet videos and other songs.  Before long, she’d ask for the “elemeno” song and would try to sing along.

Sidewalk Chalk (3 variations)

  1. In Order: Write the alphabet out on the sidewalk, driveway or patio with chalk.  I got into a habit of doing this almost every time we went into our backyard in the summer (starting when my daughter was about 18 months).  She didn’t pick up on a lot at the beginning but just seeing the letters consistently helped her recognize them more easily as she got older. 
  2. Mixed Up: Write all the letters of the alphabet on the sidewalk, driveway or patio with chalk.  Then quiz your child on where any given letter is.  This is an activity to be used once your child is older, probably 3+.  It stimulates them mentally and physically since they are walking/running to each letter. 
  3. Trace Letters: Write all the letters out on the sidewalk, driveway or patio with chalk.  Give your child some chalk and help them trace the letters as you tell them what the letter is.  Not only does this expose them to the letters, but it also helps strengthen their fine motor skills which are important for activities like writing.
12 Fun Ways to Teach Your Child the Alphabet--these activities feel more like playing than learning so they'll want to do them!

Bath Crayons
This is really just another way to help introduce letters to your child.  It is fun for them because the get to color in the bathtub, but it’s also an opportunity to teach them where they (generally) won’t run away from you.  You could do all of the same activities as you would with bath crayons as you do with the sidewalk chalk.

Foam Bath Letters
Foam bath letters are similar to bath crayons but nice because the are reusable and cheaper than bath crayons.  The same activities used with chalk and crayons can be used with these as well.

Refrigerator Magnets
I bought some inexpensive letter magnets from the dollar store and wrote out the alphabet on a piece of construction paper and stuck it to the fridge.  Then I gave my daughter the letter magnets and told her to find the letter that matched the one I had written and place it on top.  She loved this activity and has asked me to do it multiple times.

Alphabet Books
This is kind of a no-brainer, but alphabet books are awesome tools to help your child learn their letters.  My kids love the ones that have the letter and objects that start with that letter surrounding it.  I think it’s a good way to help them make an early connection between letters and reading and the objects around us.

12 Fun Ways to Teach Your Child the Alphabet--these activities feel more like playing than learning so they'll want to do them!

White Board
When you feel comfortable letting your child use markers, a white board is a good indoor activity to use to help your child practice recognizing, tracing and writing letters.  (We’ve also used our white board for shapes and numbers.)

Letters of Their Name
The first letters my daughter became familiar with were the letters in her name.  I would write her name over and over and we’d practice saying each letter.  She got to the point where she could recognize those letters in books, on signs, cereal boxes, etc.

Pencil/Pen and Paper
Recently, my daughter has been asking for pen/pencil and paper to practice her letters.  Sometimes we’ll write the alphabet and other times we’ll write words or names.  We started with her name and we’ve expanded to writing my son’s name, “mom” and “dad”.  This is another activity that helps strengthen their fine motor skills.

12 Fun Ways to Teach Your Child the Alphabet--these activities feel more like playing than learning so they'll want to do them!

Leap Frog
Once your child hits about age 3-4, letting them watch the videos put out by Leap Frog may be something you want to look into.  They cover everything from letters to numbers to reading.  I really like them because they are simple, straightforward and they use music to supplement the learning, which kids love.  My two favorites are Letter Factory and The Amazing Alphabet Amusement Park.
 

Bananagrams
Another activity we’ve been doing recently with my daughter is using the game Bananagrams to quiz her on letters.  We also spell words with the letters or ask her to spell some of the words she knows. It’s just another activity to help with letter recognition.

I hope you found something that you think will help your child learn their alphabet!  Keep in mind that all kids learn at different rates and what works for my kids might not work for yours.  But I think the key is consistency.  If you are working with your child on a fairly regular basis, they will catch on eventually and at their own pace.

What have you done with your kids to help them learn their alphabet letter and sounds?  I’d love to hear your ideas!

Glow in the Dark Bath Paint

Glow in the Dark Bath Paint--a great indoor activity and so much fun for the kids!

You know those glow in the dark stars that every kid growing up in the 80’s and 90’s had?  I remember wanting them so much that I asked for them for my birthday and was so excited to get them!  I put them up all over my walls and ceiling and would rearrange them into different shapes or the initials of my latest crush.  Now that I have kids of my own, they are just as fascinated by things that glow in the dark.  So when I found a “recipe” for glow in the dark bath paint, I was excited to try it out with them.

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I looked in a few places online to find out what kind of glow in the dark paint would work best.  I wanted this to be an affordable activity so that my kids could do it often without breaking the bank.  I finally found a good solution at Michaels using their Craft Smart brand.  I bought one bottle of regular glow in the dark paint and then a bottle each of pink, orange, green and blue neon paint of the same brand.  When I was at the local dollar store, I picked up a can of shaving cream.  I also bought a blacklight lightbulb (not pictured) for $3 from Walmart since I plan on doing more glow in the dark activities in the future.  That’s all you need!

Glow in the Dark Bath Paint--a great indoor activity and so much fun for the kids!

To start out, I grabbed a small, 6-opening muffin tin to mix the paint together.  I used about 1 tsp of glow in the dark paint and 7-10 drops of colored paint.  Put the paint into the bottom of each muffin cup and mix it together before you put the shaving cream in.

Glow in the Dark Bath Paint--a great indoor activity and so much fun for the kids!

After mixing the paint together, shake up your shaving cream and squirt it in.  I used about 1/2 cup of shaving cream per color.  Then I used a paint brush to mix it all together.  I found that mixing it in a circular motion, almost like whisking, worked best for me since it helped me scoop the paint off the bottom and distribute it evenly as possible throughout the shaving cream.  There’s really no science behind it, so if you find a method that works better for you, then go for it!

Glow in the Dark Bath Paint--a great indoor activity and so much fun for the kids!

We ran the bath water and replaced the regular bulb in our bathroom with the blacklight bulb.  (Depending on the size of your bathroom, you may need more than one bulb to get enough light to see the paint colors really well.)  Then we plopped the kids in the tub and let them have at it!

My son has a thing with rubbing any that looks like bubbles all over himself, so that was the first thing he did with the bath paint.  My daughter started painting the tub walls and drawing pictures using her fingers and the paintbrush.  The kids had lots of fun and when the paint was gone, we drained the water and rinsed out the tub, which made the tub nice and clean–yay!–(and extended the time before it needed to be cleaned again–double yay!).

Glow in the Dark Bath Paint--a great indoor activity and so much fun for the kids!

Glow in the Dark Bath Paint--a great indoor activity and so much fun for the kids!

Glow in the Dark Bath Paint--a great indoor activity and so much fun for the kids!

This is a great year-round activity, good for all ages and fairly inexpensive, depending on the brand you buy.  I spent a total of $5 and had paint and shaving cream left over.  All in all, it was a fun activity and definitely worth repeating!

Find 7 other colorful hands on kid activities HERE.

Have you done any glow in the dark activities before?

Kid Science: Color Explosions

Color Explosions--Watch your kids faces when they do this fun and simple experiment using household ingredients!

As an adult, I forget sometimes how neat the simplest science experiments can be for kids.  So many of these experiments can be done at home with items you already own or are inexpensive to buy.  One such activity is combining baking soda and vinegar and watching the bubbles form.  Add some food coloring and dish soap and you’ve got an even better homemade explosion that will impress your little ones for sure!

While I was pulling out the supplies I needed, my daughter thought we were making some food and scooted her chair on over to see what was going on.  She watched closely and I let her help in the prep as much as I could.  She asked multiple times what I was doing, but I didn’t want to spoil the surprise.  Here is what you need to do this fun experiment:

  • Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Water
  • Dish Soap
  • Food Coloring

First, put the baking soda into a small container, such as a cup or bowl.  I used about 1 Tbsp of baking soda per glass.  Then, drop some food coloring into the cups.  You can use more or less depending on how bright you want the color to be.

Color Explosions--Watch your kids faces when they do this fun and simple experiment using household ingredients!

Put some water in a different container and pour at least 1 Tbsp of dish soap in, stirring slowly to mix it around.

Color Explosions--Watch your kids faces when they do this fun and simple experiment using household ingredients!

Pour some water into the baking soda and stir it around.  Don’t pour too much in, otherwise the water to vinegar ratio will be off and you won’t get as good of an “explosion”.

Color Explosions--Watch your kids faces when they do this fun and simple experiment using household ingredients!

Color Explosions--Watch your kids faces when they do this fun and simple experiment using household ingredients!

Place your cups/container on a baking sheet or in a shallow pan to catch any liquid that overflows when you pour the vinegar in.

Pour the vinegar into a measuring cup and give to your child to pour into the cups.  Watch their faces as the baking soda reacts to the vinegar and creates some fun color explosions!

Color Explosions--Watch your kids faces when they do this fun and simple experiment using household ingredients!

Color Explosions--Watch your kids faces when they do this fun and simple experiment using household ingredients!

Color Explosions--Watch your kids faces when they do this fun and simple experiment using household ingredients!

Color Explosions--Watch your kids faces when they do this fun and simple experiment using household ingredients!

Color Explosions--Watch your kids faces when they do this fun and simple experiment using household ingredients!

Because the baking soda and vinegar create bubbles, the dish soap you put in will also help increase the explosion.  You can also give them a spoon to stir the mixture around and see if they can get the reaction going again.  My daughter loved mixing the colors together and stirring them around on the pan.

Color explosions are a great year round activity:  In the summer, you can do it outside and easily rinse it off the sidewalk/driveway.  In the winter, you could also create a snow volcano.  I think the next time we do this, I will try using different sizes and shapes of containers to see which ones give the best explosion!

Find 7 other colorful hands on kid activities HERE!

Have you tried baking soda and vinegar experiments before?