Seeds on a Sponge

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We picked seeds on a sponge for our “favorite” science and math activity this week. Mostly because we didn’t get it done in the week it was planned! I get this idea in my head that certain activities are going to be harder or take more time and then I dread them. This was one of them. It ended up going really fast and being a lot of fun. I need to remind my self of that. They always go fast and I always enjoy it!

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This activity idea originated a long time ago, back when I was a lead toddler teacher of 1-year olds. I literally have no memory of where I got the idea. I don’t really know why sponges and not just dirt. It’s even weird to me.

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But, I stick with it! And it end up being pretty fun seeing the seed. Because in the dirt you can’t see it, but on top of the green sponge we were able to see the seed changing. So, that’s probably why the sponge.

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I had pre-cut the sponges into circles to fit into sections of egg carton. That is totally unnecessary. Cut a sponge in half (or even in quarters if you want it smaller), because a whole sponge would be a lot of area to cover with tiny seeds. Set the sponge in a small container to catch extra liquid and you are good to go.

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I had my son wet the sponge first with a spoon (hello fine motor and science!) and then he sprinkled a couple of pinches of the seeds onto the sponge (more fine motor and science!).

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Then, we looked at them while they changed and talked about a good place to set them so that they could get sunlight. The great thing too is that you get to watch it change over time and sharpen those observation skills. With the youngest little ones it’s going to be a lot of you noticing and pointing things out and asking questions. Remember, just because they aren’t saying things doesn’t mean they don’t understand what you are saying! As they get a little bit older, they’ll be able to share the things they notice. Don’t be surprised if they notice things different than you. I love hearing how little guys describe things in their own language! So, be encouraging and supportive.

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Let’s talk about what’s going on here…

Fine motor: I know I already mentioned it some, but using the spoon to pour over water is a great fine motor movement. Think of all of the control that it takes to keep it steady until just the right moment that they get to pour it in the right spot.

Then, picking up the seeds gets that pincer grasp (between thumb and forefinger) going, and then sprinkling them onto the sponge just so uses the muscles again.

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Science: Clearly this is a science activity, but not really for the obvious reasons. Most people will think it is a science activity just because it is planting seeds. Yes, you are right it is science because of that. For this age though, the science is more about the process, feeling the materials (sponge, water, seeds) and then observing what happens.

Also think about the simplicity of pouring water over a dry sponge. The sponge starts hard, crunchy even, and pretty small. With the addition of water it completely changes. It gets soft, squishy, and grows. To me, water and sponges is actually an activity in itself. So, capitalize on having fun with that part of the activity and talking about the changes that are happening.

Happy Playing!

*I’ll try to update as our seeds change!

 

In the Kitchen: Kids Choice… Popsicles

If there is ever a chance for my kids to choose something to make in the kitchen… like this week… they will choose something with berries! They loooove berries. So, despite the unseasonably cold weather, they chose to make popsicles this week for our kids choice activity. They love them because like i said, they love berries. And I love them because our popsicles are pretty much just blended berries, water, and a teensy bit of honey. Super healthy and delicious!

Once I gathered all the equipment I called in my helpers. They took turns dropping the strawberries into the blender and then they each got to squeeze in a little honey.

Now you can blend it. It’s up to you and your little one how chunky or not chunky you want it. It seems like kids as a rule tend to like less chunky. Once you’ve got it to the desired consistency take a taste to make sure you’ve got it just how you want it. When it is good pour it into the molds (or paper cups), put the tops on (or popsicle sticks in), and set into the freezer. Let freeze for 1-2 hours or until frozen through and enjoy!

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IMG_0324The sky is the limit with these popsicles. You could do more kinds of fruit or a different fruit all together. You could puree the fruit and then fold into yogurt and freeze and have fruit and yogurt pops. I once heard of a dad who basically made a super healthy smoothie with fruit and kale and froze that as a popsicle! I think that’s a great idea too! So, if you want to keep it simple like us, you can. Or you can get creative and throw in all kinds of stuff!

Cooking activities are just the best to do with kids. I’ve never met a kid who didn’t get super excited to help in the kitchen! So it’s fun, that’s the most important part when doing things with toddlers and preschoolers! Then, there are almost always opportunities for fine muscle movement. In this case they are picking up strawberries, squeezing in honey, and think of the control it takes to hold onto a measuring cup to pour into the popsicle mold. I helped my son, but he still used a lot of his own control to pour in the mixture.

IMG_0326Making popsicles is also a chemistry experience. Isn’t that crazy!? Anytime you take a substance and change it’s properties, like baking or freezing you are doing science. Of course, we never expect toddlers to walk away from an activity stating to us scientific properties! It is more just a conversation about their popsicle. It could sound something like this, “Remember we mixed up the strawberries. Now look what happened! They are different now. They frozen and so cold! They are going to be a tasty treat to help us cool off after we play outside.”

Remember no matter what you are doing, the best addition you can make to an activity is talking, describing, and asking questions. Ideas are: point out the texture of the strawberry or the stickiness of the honey. Talk about what is happening while you blend it. Taste it and talk about what it tastes like. Pour it into the molds and explain why. Then when you set them into the freezer, give a simple explanation of what is going to happen. It doesn’t need to be formal, or teacher-y, just a simple conversation while you work together. Most of all, just have fun together!

Happy Playing!

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Spring Week 13: Spring Favorites

I cannot believe it… with this post we officially have a YEAR’S WORTH of weekly activity plans! Woooooohoooooo!

Be sure to check out and like our Facebook page… @realmeaningfulfamily next week for our first blog and Facebook anniversary! I will have previews for summer activities, tips for playing with young children, quotes, and games to have some fun! 


At the end of each season I always like to wrap up with some of our favorites or some of the big activities that we maybe weren’t able to do originally. Here are the activities we are doing this week… you pick your favorites or some of the ones that you missed throughout Spring!

Golf Ball Paint

IMG_1671This will be a fun, abstract piece of art for your child to enjoy! Lay construction paper in a container about the size of the paper. Then, let them choose paints they want to use and squirt blobs onto the paper. Drop in one or two golf balls and let your child roll the balls around in the container. This is a nice activity to combine some fine motor movements, some large motor movements, and the stimulation of colors moving and mixing. They can also have total control of what they are doing and be proud of their final product.

Stuff to Have

Construction paper

Paint

Golf balls

Plastic container, large enough to lay construction paper flat

Developing Skills

Fine motor, colors, art

Fine Motor

Button Flower

IMG_1468Lay out buttons and pipe cleaners. Demonstrate to children how the pipe cleaner can go through the button-holes. Let your child try to put pipe cleaners through the button-holes and make a button “flower.” If it starts to get frustrating for your child help them out. The point is to have fun and try something new. If you do help, try to find the balance between letting them experiment, and assisting them.

Stuff to Have

Buttons- various shapes, sizes, and colors

Pipe cleaners

Developing Skills

Fine motor, colors

Early Science & Math

Seeds on a Sponge

This is something I did ages ago when I was a lead teacher of one year olds. We had a lot of fun! Start by letting your child wet the sponge, more than just a little wet, but not dripping and place the sponge in a plastic container (or we used cute miniature pots). Then, they can sprinkle on the grass seed with a plastic spoon or small cup, just until it is covered with a layer of seeds. Place the seeds in an area where they will get sunlight and check daily to make sure the sponge stays moist as well as to see if the grass is making any progress. This activity is great because it continues over time! Talk about what you see changing and happening, what the grass looks like, what color it is, etc.

Stuff to Have

Sponge

Grass seed

Container to fit sponge into

Developing Skills

Science, observation

Cooking & Baking

Dirt Cake & Worms

With lots of supervision and helping hands, this is a kid activity that they can be very involved with. Let your child dump in the pudding mix, and the 2 c milk (insert helping hands here for sure!). Then, they can whisk it together until it is smooth. Let the pudding sit for 5 minutes. This would be a good time to put the chocolate cookies into a gallon bag and let your child crush them with a heavy spoon or other semi-heavy object. Next, mix in cool whip with the pudding. Then, add about a half-cup of the crushed chocolate cookies into the pudding mixture. Now, place the pudding mixture into individual cups or bowls (approx. 10), or into a larger bowl or container. Put the rest of the chocolate cookies on top of the pudding and refrigerate for 1 hour. Top with gummy worms and enjoy this Spring treat!

Stuff to Have

1-3.9oz package instant chocolate pudding

2 c milk

Cool whip

15 chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed

Gummy worms

Developing Skills

Cooking and baking, fine motor


Our weeks always go better when we spend a lot of time getting those big muscle groups working too! Things like jumping, running, riding a trike, climbing! This is so important for building their strength, balance, coordination, and brain development. I strongly believe that my kids are way better behaved when they have had some exercise!

Reading should also be a big part of your day! Go to the library and pick out some of your child’s favorite characters, read about spring and the change of the season, try some new books and add to your favorites. Reading is extremely multi-dimensional and is a must do every day!

Similar to reading are music and rhymes. These are so fun and so beneficial for language development and future reading skills. Do an internet search for Spring songs for kids. You will find a lot of great little rhymes and songs to add throughout the day. You don’t need to have a set “music time” that you sit down and sing, just sing them as you go about the day!

Happy Playing!

Spring Week 12: May 22-26

Art

Paint the Sidewalk

It’s always nice to combine activities that are traditionally done indoor, with the outside. This is a painting activity that will combine large muscle movements and the creativity of your child. There is not a lot of structure to this painting activity, just fun to be had with the freedom of painting on the sidewalk.

Stuff to Have

Sidewalk paint, homemade or purchased

Paintbrushes

Developing Skills

Art, large movement, colors

Fine Motor

Seed Sort

There are two main concepts in the seed sort, fine motor and classification, which is an early math concept. This week the focus is the actual movement of sorting seeds. Add spoons, tongs, tweezers, and cups to utilize different fine motor muscles. They can sort them into a muffin tin or ice tray, but focus more on the movement of picking up the seeds, whether by their fingers, tongs, tweezers, or spoons. Younger children may be challenged just using their fingers. As children progress, they may want to try a spoon, then tongs, then tweezers. The smaller the object (ie. Tweezers) the harder they tend to be to hold. Keep talking about colors, shapes, and any other characteristics you notice as your child goes through this. What utensil is easier or do they prefer? What are these seeds for? What do they look like? Take advantage of simple activities, and draw out learning experiences from all areas of development.

Stuff to Have

Various seeds (larger seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, and corn seeds are good for this)

muffin tin or ice tray

Utensils: spoons, cups, tweezers, tongs, etc. (optional)

Developing Skills

Fine motor, math (sorting), sensory

Early Science & Math

Nature Walk

Things have changed a lot outside since we last did this in week 3! Spring and Fall are the best seasons to go on frequent nature walks and check out the changing scenery and temperature! Talk about what has changed. What flowers are there now that weren’t? How tall are they? What color are they? Are the trees different? Bigger? Greener? What are the leaves like? Are they the same or different than another tree? What are the birds doing? Are there any nests to check out? What is the temperature like? Your child will naturally explore things that are interesting to them. Picking up rocks, feeling the grass (or not if they don’t like it like my kids early on!), checking out flowers and plants at their level. And then it’s our job to capitalize and talk about what we see, and what they are interested in.

Developing Skills

Early science, observation, large motor

Cooking & Baking

Free

Toward the end of each Season I like to leave a cooking and baking activity open for you to make something you enjoy with your child. What’s a favorite springtime food or treat you grew up making, or would like to make a tradition for your family?

Whatever you choose find things like dumping, stirring, rolling, patting, squishing, crunching, etc. for your child to do and participate as much as possible. This will be one of their favorite things to do with you!


Our weeks always go better when we spend a lot of time getting those big muscle groups working too! Things like jumping, running, riding a trike, climbing! This is so important for building their strength, balance, coordination, and brain development. I strongly believe that my kids are way better behaved when they have had some exercise!

Reading should also be a big part of your day! Go to the library and pick out some of your child’s favorite characters, read about spring and the change of the season, try some new books and add to your favorites. Reading is extremely multi-dimensional and is a must do every day!

Similar to reading are music and rhymes. These are so fun and so beneficial for language development and future reading skills. Do an internet search for Spring songs for kids. You will find a lot of great little rhymes and songs to add throughout the day. You don’t need to have a set “music time” that you sit down and sing, just sing them as you go about the day!

Happy Playing!

Time for Art: Golf Ball Painting

 

I love this activity for so many reasons… it’s easy and not too messy, it’s a ton of fun, and it gets the whole body moving and experiencing! You’ve got to try it!

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I borrowed two golf balls from my husbands golf bag… I don’t know if this would bother a golfer or not, I didn’t ask. I figure they get smashed across the golf course that a little rolling around in paint won’t hurt them.

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Then, I squirted a couple of blobs of paint onto the paper inside of my container. This time my little guy wanted just dark blue. It’s great though if they use more colors because then you get a fun mixing of colors on the paper.

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Once it was set I helped him get the idea of what to do, and he went to town rolling the balls around, creating his masterpiece!

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Like I said earlier I love this activity because it gets the body moving and experiencing what they are doing. This is engaging the brain in so many ways… here are my two favorites in a nutshell:

Art: A couple of things here with art and creativity. In this activity we are using a new instrument (the golf ball) to paint. So, kids are learning to be creative and think outside the box to create. It is also a chance to see how colors mix and make new colors. It’s up to us to talk a lot about what we see happening.

Movement: Active little ones will love engaging their whole body to do this art activity. Figuring out how to move their arms and torso to get the balls to move just so, is getting the brain engaged in so many ways!

Happy Playing! 

 

Spring Week 11: May 15-19

Art

Golf Ball Paint

This will be a fun, abstract piece of art for your child to enjoy! Lay construction paper in a container about the size of the paper. Then, let them choose paints they want to use and squirt blobs onto the paper. Drop in one or two golf balls and let your child roll the balls around in the container. This is a nice activity to combine some fine motor movements, some large motor movements, and the stimulation of colors moving and mixing. They can also have total control of what they are doing and be proud of their final product.

Stuff to Have

Construction paper

Paint

Golf balls

Plastic container, large enough to lay construction paper flat

Developing Skills

Fine motor, colors, art

Fine Motor

Button Flower

IMG_1468Lay out buttons and pipe cleaners. Demonstrate to children how the pipe cleaner can go through the button-holes. Let your child try to put pipe cleaners through the button-holes and make a button “flower.” If it starts to get frustrating for your child help them out. The point is to have fun and try something new. If you do help, try to find the balance between letting them experiment, and assisting them.

Stuff to Have

Buttons- various shapes, sizes, and colors

Pipe cleaners

Developing Skills

Fine motor, colors

Early Science & Math

Seed Sort

There are two main concepts in the seed sort, fine motor and classification, which is an early math concept. This week the focus is the classification of the seeds… noticing the differences and sorting based on them.Younger children probably aren’t going to sort them exactly the way we would, but they will experience the differences through feeling them and noticing difference in color and shape. No matter their age, they will benefit a ton from you talking about colors, shapes, and any other characteristics you notice as your child plays. What color are they? Which one is the biggest? The smallest? The weirdest? What are these seeds for? What do they look like? Take advantage of simple activities like this, and draw out learning experiences from all areas of development!

Stuff to Have

Various seeds (larger seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, and corn seeds are good for this)

muffin tin or ice tray

Utensils: spoons, cups, tweezers, tongs, etc. (optional)

Developing Skills

Fine motor, math (sorting), sensory

Cooking & Baking

Ants on a Log

The old classic, ants on a log! I was never a big fan of it, but my kids seem to like it and I like including healthy cooking activities as well as fun ones. And this activity really lets them get involved, there’s no cutting or difficult processes or cooking. Let your child spread peanut butter into center of celery. Then they can line raisins, “ants,” along the celery stalk.

Stuff to Have

Celery, cut into 2”-3” pieces

Peanut butter

Raisins

Developing Skills

Fine motor, creative play

Happy Playing!

Spring Week 10: May 8-12

Art

Card for Mom

Happy Mother’s Day week to all of the mom’s out there! So, this activity is kind of a weird one for us moms to have our kids do. No, I’ve never said “Mother’s Day is coming up, go ahead and make me a card.” Maybe dad, or grandma, or a non-mom friend can do this one? These activities with no structure are fun because kids get to use their creativity to think of what they want to put on their card. Younger children might need more help, but of course let them have freedom to try things on their own. Help them plan and collect the materials they think they might need to put it together and then let them go to work.

Stuff to Have

Construction paper

Decorations: Paint, stickers, ribbon, glitter etc.

Developing Skills

Planning and follow through, fine motor, colors, gift giving

Fine Motor

Button Flower

IMG_1468Lay out buttons and pipe cleaners. Demonstrate to children how the pipe cleaner can go through the button-holes. Let your child try to put pipe cleaners through the button-holes and make a button “flower.” If it starts to get frustrating for your child help them out. The point is to have fun and try something new. If you do help, try to find the balance between letting them experiment, and assisting them.

Stuff to Have

Buttons- various shapes, sizes, and colors

Pipe cleaners

Developing Skills

Fine motor, colors

Early Science & Math

Sprout a Veggie

Have your child wet a paper towel and place it in the jar. Place the vegetable seed on the side of the jar next to the wet paper towel. Place in an area where the seed will receive sunlight. Check daily to make sure the towel stays moist. Older children could track the progress with drawings or pictures of the seed’s progress. With younger children simply talk about what you are seeing as it changes.

Stuff to Have

Glass jar with a lid

Vegetable seed

Paper towels

Developmental Skills

Science: growth of a seed, observation

Cooking & Baking

Mom’s Favorite Treat

Mom pick what you want to make this week! Have fun working together in the kitchen and enjoy your tasty treat!

Early Science & Math: Colored Carnation

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Five minutes… that’s all you need to do this activity! It goes quickly, but it has a lot of learning and fun packed into it.

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Just getting to experience picking colors, dropping the colors in, and watching the swirling transformation in a fun science experience in itself.

It really is kind of mesmerizing!

Then, getting to add in their white carnation and see what happens adds an extra element. And it’s really not too messy, unless you forget to warn your oldest that the last bottle of food coloring is different than the first two! Then, you end up with this and both kids start yelling “It’s blood!” Because obviously it’s automatically blood if it looks like it!

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So, what’s going on in this activity?

Fine motor… squeezing the color into the water and stirring the color in both engage the small muscles used to control the fingers and hand.

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Science & Math… Observing the color transformation and using water and food coloring are science and math components. It’s just fun for our kids, but it’s laying this early foundation of experience with these materials and with the different colors.

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 Sensory… If you let your child gently explore the different parts of the flower they are going to gain different sensory experiences.

Happy Playing!

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Time for Art: Build a Flower

This activity takes a little prep, but we have done it every year for the last 5 years and it is so fun to watch the transformation over the years as they become more and more aware of what they are doing.

To start you need to make 5-7 petals… in the color of your child’s choice of course, a stem, and a circle for the center of the flower… this is also what everything gets glued to so it needs to be fairly substantial. I go ahead and make a couple of colors that I know my kids will want to use.

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Several years ago I got smart and made myself a template for a large petal and a small petal to make it easier on myself and make my petals uniform. Take a piece of card stock (heavier paper will hold up over the years), fold it in half, and draw half of your petal shape- kind of like mine pictured on the left. Remember the old trick to get a symmetrical heart? This is the  same concept you’re just making a petal shape. Does that make sense? This is what I do for every shape that I need to be somewhat symmetrical. Now, while it’s still folded cut it out, and then open it. Voila! You have a symmetrical petal to replicate over and over for years to come!

Once everything is ready, go ahead and let your child put together their flower. With my younger kids I help with the glue, but I try to let them have as much freedom as possible. It’s more fun to end up with their own creation rather than what we want to make, anyway!

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Let’s talk about what’s going in this activity:

Fine motor: Gluing and putting the paper together are great ways to engage the small muscles of the hand and forearm. It takes a lot of control to gently place paper where you want it! And this is definitely a fun way to work on this area of development.

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Art/Creativity/Independence: Knowing what something will look like and planning ahead is not something that we are naturally born with. Getting to have freedom in activities like this allows our children to explore and learn about what they can do on their own when they are in control. Let your child explore, make mistakes, get messy, and problem solve on their own. It is in these activities that we have to remember it isn’t the outcome we are going for, but the experience!

Happy Playing!

flowers final

Spring Week 9: May 1-5

How are we already in May?! Well, April showers bring May….

FLOWERS!

Get ready for a week all about flowers! I hope your spring is blooming and you are having fun with your child!

Art

Build A Flower

There is just a little prep for you before getting started on this activity. Free hand a petal template and use it to make 5-7 petals. You can do it! I have free handed petals for the last 5 years, and drawing is NOT my strong suit. Then cut out a stem (just a long very skinny rectangle, leaves, and a circle out of orange or yellow for the center of the flower.

Now your child can build their flower by gluing the petals to the round center, and then the stem and leaves. Just like any art project with a toddler or preschooler, the process of putting it together is what they will learn from. The final product isn’t really important. Offer suggestions, but let your child take the lead in making their creation. They will learn what a flower looks like with time, right now they are practicing fine motor skills and learning about the different materials and colors. If you wanted, you could make your own flower ahead of time if you would like to demonstrate to children what they could make, or sometimes it is fun to make your own along side of your child. This way you can narrate what you are doing, while giving your child ideas for their own project. Keep the age and experience of your child in mind as you go through this activity and assist as you see appropriate for your child.

Stuff to Have

Flower parts: 5-7 petals, stem, leaves, yellow or orange round center

Glue

Markers, crayons, paint (optional)

Developing Skills

Fine motor, colors, problem solving

Fine Motor

Button Flower

IMG_1468Lay out buttons and pipe cleaners. Demonstrate to children how the pipe cleaner can go through the button-holes. Let your child try to put pipe cleaners through the button-holes and make a button “flower.” If it starts to get frustrating for your child help them out. The point is to have fun and try something new. If you do help, try to find the balance between letting them experiment, and assisting them.

Stuff to Have

Buttons- various shapes, sizes, and colors

Pipe cleaners

Developing Skills

Fine motor, colors

Early Science & Math

Colored Carnation

Several years ago when I was working with one year olds, I learned that adding food color to water was a fun and easy early science activity for that age group. This activity extends on that by adding the carnation component. You’ve probably all done this activity at some point in your life, and it’s always fun to see the final product.

Let your child pick out a food color to add to the water for the carnation. Let them squeeze in a few drops and give it a little stir. It will be exciting to watch how the color changes the water. Trim off a small amount of the carnation stem, and then place it in the colored water. Talk about how the carnation is just like us, it needs water to live but instead of drinking it uses it’s stem like a straw to suck up water from the cup. It will take some time for the carnation to change, so find something else fun to do and check back periodically to see if there are any changes to the petals. The colored carnation will be fun to see, and will maybe start building a little understanding of how the water went from the cup all the way to the flower petals making it a fun early science activity.

Variation: leave one carnation out of water and the other in the water. Compare over several days how they are different.

Stuff to Have

White carnation (as many as you would like to color)

Glass of water

Food colors of your child’s choice

Developing Skills

Science, observation

Cooking & Baking

Flower Cookies

Roll dough into balls and roll each ball in a colored sugar. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets. Once dough balls are on the sheet use kitchen scissors to cut the balls in half. Then cut each half into three parts. This should result in a 6-petal flower. Sprinkle the inside with colored sugar. Bake according to package or recipe instructions.

Stuff to Have

Sugar cookie dough, homemade or store bought

Various pastel sugars

Kitchen scissors

Developing Skills

Baking, science, fine motor, colors


Hopefully the weather is warming up, making it easier to get outside and get those big muscle groups moving! Jumping, climbing, running, crawling, riding… to name a few. These movements are good for the whole body! So, get moving with your little one!

In addition to large movement, reading is so important! And you know what, you don’t even have to read the words. Talk about the pictures, point out colors, relate the book to your child’s life. Talking, conversing, hearing new words being tied to familiar things… that is how your child is making new language connections.

And finally music and rhymes! Another great way for kids to hear the sounds in words! These are skills that will come back to them when they are learning to read later on. Do an internet search for Spring songs for kids. You will find a lot of great little rhymes and songs to add throughout the day. You don’t need to have a set “music time” that you sit down and sing, just sing them as you go about the day!

Happy Playing!