Lessons for Toddlers

It took many years, but in time, I learned that the simple things are the things that matter most to a two year-old. Sure, the iPad and expensive toys can distract, but what they crave? Your time.

With four young children, time is what I have the least amount of and yet I know it is precious to each and every one of my girls. This became even more apparent this week when the two year old climbed up to our homeschooling super-desk for an impromptu lesson with me.

It reminded me of the time before I knew what to do with a two year-old. I was a new mother and used every distraction under the sun including fun trips to the aquarium, zoo, children’s museum and children’s play places to keep my toddler happy. It took a visit from my mother-in-law to learn that my toddler was happiest sliding pine straw through the cracks of our deck for an entire hour. She craved quality time, not distractions.

Here are some fun and inexpensive things to do with your toddler:

  1. Shaving Cream

Materials: Shaving cream from the dollar tree, a pan to draw letters, shapes and people in or a bucket to immerse toys in the shaving cream.

This is my least favorite activity because it is such a mess so not surprisingly it is also my girls’ favorite activity to do. That is why I almost always get the babysitter to do this activity with them๐Ÿ˜‚. It’s still quality time- just not with my sanity as the price.

2. Water Beads

I order these water beads from amazon. A little goes a LONG way. Soak them for a few hours and watch them grow! You can store them in Tupperware bins for future use but beware, they will mold after a while! We get spatulas, measuring cups, ice cube trays and sort them by size or color. The girls love the way they feel and bounce and regrow when you add more water.

3. Rice, Pasta & Corn

You can also fill those dollar tree storage bins with rice, corn or pasta. Play with it then put the lid back on to store for another time! We use the same utensils as with the water beads. Since my youngest has multiple food allergies, she is limited to just the pasta but she still has a ball ๐Ÿ™‚

3. Pipe Cleaners and Colanders

This is the simplest activity that has enamored my children for over an hour a time multiple times. Pipe cleaners from the dollar store + a colander = hours of fun. It is wonderful for their fine motor skills and requires little to no supervision from you. Winning!

4. Counting Bears

For the bargain price of $9 you can get yourself a set of counting bears that will entertain your toddler for hours. Elizabeth knows all of her colors and how to count to twenty thanks to these bears! You can get free counting bear mats at this site: This was one of our impromptu lessons this week. She loves the feel of them and loves to sort them. She also makes pyramid towers out of the cups. You can play games like “which cup is in the bear in” as well as create a domino line of bears sorted by color or pattered by color. The possibilities seem endless!

I could go on and on about the time spent with Elizabeth. We spend a LOT of time outside, collecting “cypress balls” from the cypress tree at the end of our street, making “pancakes” out of the rocks in our rock garden, and pushing her baby dolls in their strollers all over our neighborhood. We paint all of the time, read a gazillion books, do puzzles, dress up, play with barbies and play with a TON of play doh but I wanted to at least provide you with a few activities that you could set your toddler up with and leave them be while you teach, wash dishes, or take a break for yourself! I hope this gives you a few ideas :).

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Better Late Than Never

Christmas morning, 1988. My step-dad surprised our family with matching jammies he had sewn himself. Long after their divorce, I regretted not learning how to sew myself, for the memory of his gesture has never left my mind.

At 15, I left for an all-girls boarding school where one might assume I would have learned the home economics trade, but alas, it was solely academically focused and the opportunity continued to evade me.

Fast-forward through college and my first career as a teacher, beyond my wedding and the birth of my four daughters and as much as I wanted to, I still had not learned how to sew.

It took the interest of my eldest daughter to force my hand. First, she attended workshops, then week-long camps and finally, we attended a mother-daughter class together. For her 8th birthday she received a sewing machine, table, fabric and patterns but she still needs assistance and on my limited knowledge I have felt unqualified to help her.

Her sister’s 7th birthday is this fall and as a budding artist, we are having a painting party: cue, the need for a home-sewn art smock.

I searched the internet high and low until I came across the most perfect little art smock that you ever did see, INCLUDING a free pattern. You can find it here:

My eldest and I ventured on to Joann Fabrics to explore fabric options. Her first time there, she was like a kid in a candy shop!

Spontaneously, we decided to visit my mother-in-law the following weekend. She is a master seamstress, capable of anything from zipper and cushion repairs to quilts and curtains. After mentioning our project in passing, she offered to help. Why hadn’t I thought of this before??

Within hours we had cut the pattern and started to sew.

Our design was reversible with pockets on either side and after much finagling we tried it on our 4 year-old model and here she is!

Better late than never, right?

Life is never too far gone to try something new and I. am. living. proof.

Better late than never.


DIY Dollhouse

Home with four kids for the last 100 days, we are running thin on creative ideas to keep them entertained. Toilet paper rolls to the rescue!

Maybe it’s the elementary school teacher in me or perhaps it’s the prospect of homeschooling this upcoming school year but I can’t seem to bring myself to throw away a paper towel or toilet paper roll, much less a tissue box or cereal box- they are free craft materials, after all!

I present to you, a DIY Dollhouse crafted by my three big girls and their very patient babysitter.

Not only did they create a two story house out of our Kiwi Crate Boxes but they also created furniture out of popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners from the Dollar Tree! If you look closely, you’ll see bunk beds, a couch and even a rug. We ordered the Peg Dolls from Amazon- honestly, they play with those dolls more than any other plastic we have in the house.

After years of failing to keep the craft materials in order, I finally broke down and purchased a Craft Cabinet. It holds everything from googly eyes, buttons and pom-poms to tape, glue and beads. I haven’t gotten around to labeling it yet- one day at a time….for now, it gets the job done and has definitely inspired the girls to craft more often :). I call that a win!

Now the question is. . . how long will this sucker last before it finds its way to the recycling bin? A great excuse to make a new one! Happy Crafting!

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