April 2019 Materials List

Here are the materials for activities in April! Most of these things will be things you have on hand, but some things take a little more preparation. There are two printables at the bottom, one in color and one in black and white depending on your preference!

April 2019 Materials Pic

April 2019 Materials List color

April 2019 Materials List BW

September Materials

Check out these materials lists and get ready for Fall fun in September! I am having so much fun getting ready for these Fall activities!

I have the materials lists broken down by week so that you can look ahead and know what to expect. Some of the things that you might not have on hand are dry beans (which are used all throughout the fall season, so hang on to them!) and craft leaves (or you can collect leaves that fall from your trees). Links to the printables (color and black & white) are below the graphic.

September Materials Color JPG

September Materials Color PDF

September Materals B&W PDF

Fall Week 1

Fall Week 1: September 3-7

Fall 17 week 1 heading

At Real. Meaningful. Family. my goal is to provide information based on research for parents and caregivers, and to create regular opportunity for you to have special together time with your child. Toddlers and preschoolers learn from the environment and daily interactions. We are in no way seeking to create a school-like setting for your young child. Research has clearly indicated that academic learning (think reading, writing, and arithmetic) for these young children is not developmentally appropriate, learning for this age is in the every day details. The activities below have been created as a time to set aside specifically for parents and care givers to have a fun interaction with their children. I would recommend you first prioritize time to read, snuggle, dance, sing, move, rhyme, play, and then add these activities in as you can. Don’t stress… keep it simple, and just be together!
“The work will wait while you show your child the rainbow. But the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.” -Erik Erikson


Finger Painting

Start the week off with this kid approved classic! Provide paper and a selection of paint that your child picks out. Let them get messy and make their own creation!

Stuff to Have

Non-toxic finger paint

Construction paper

Ample wet cloths for cleaning up!

Newspaper to cover table/counters

Developing Skills

Creative expression, colors, sensory, fine motor

Fine Motor

Bean ScoopIMG_0551

Pour 1 or 2 bags of dry beans into a large container. Provide spoons, bowls, cups, tongs, or anything else your child would enjoy digging through beans.

*Variation: Provide a separate bowl to scoop beans into with the utensils. Or for older children provide a muffin tin or ice tray to sort beans by shape and color.

*Variation: Add a problem solving element by putting small toys or objects in the bean container for children to find.

Stuff to Have

1 or 2 bags of dry beans

Large open container

Cups, bowls, spoons, strainers, etc. (Be creative and change it up each time you do this!)

Developing Skills

Fine motor, sensory

Problem Solving

IMG_0657Fall Puzzle

I find it fun to include activities that for the most part fall within the season we are in. We don’t have a fall puzzle, so I decided it should be easy enough to make one. If you don’t want to make a puzzle, no problem. Just do some of the puzzles that you have together. To make our puzzle I freehanded 4 different colored and different shaped pumpkins (you could also do leaves or apples if you want to keep it in the fall theme). I cut out the 1st 4 pumpkins and traced each of them on the same color paper. So, my result was 2 of each color of mathcing pumpkin. Then, I glued one of each color onto a sheet of paper, and the other 4 pumpkins are left to match up for the puzzle. Whether you are doing your own puzzle or this fall puzzle be interactive and encouraging. If your child becomes frustrated give them some hints- this isn’t a test!

Stuff to Have

8 pumpkins (4 different shapes/sizes, 4 different colors)

1 Piece construction paper


Developing Skills

Problem solving, follow through

Early Science & Math

IMG_0599Sort Leaves

You can either collect fall leaves while on a nature walk or you can purchase craft fall leaves. Allow your child to sort through the leaves making piles by size, shape, and color. The younger the child is the less we are interested in them doing it “right.” For all ages let them explore the textures and the colors.

Stuff to Have

Fall leaves collected from nature or fall craft leaves

Developing Skills

Colors, size, shape, problem solving

Cooking & Baking

Apple Slices and Peanut Butter

Parent prep: Cut up an apple into thin slices.

Let your child dip apple slices in the nut butter and enjoy a tasty and healthy treat!

Stuff to Have

1 Apple, sliced

1 T nut butter of choice

Developing Skills

Fine motor, sensory

Happy Playing!


Summer Week 13: Favorites!

Here we go with week 13 of Summer… we blinked and Summer flew by us! We will start with new fall activities next week, but for now let’s wrap up with some of YOUR favorites this week. Check out all of the summer activities here to pick your favorites!

Here’s what our plan is for the week. Let us know what you are doing for your favorites!


Sidewalk Chalk or Paint

Sometimes it’s good to just get back to the basics! Take art outside and use sidewalk chalk or paint to create something new. Let younger children experiment with this new concept, and let older children stretch their creativity on the pavement. You can join in and make your own creations too. Be sure to ask a lot of questions and describe what you see!

Stuff to Have

-Sidewalk chalk or sidewalk paint

-Concrete sidewalk, driveway, or patio

Developing Skills

Fine motor, planning and follow through, sensory, colors

Fine Motor

Balance a Golf Ball

Hold a spoon with one hand. Place the golf ball on the large part of the spoon and demonstrate to your little one how it can balance if you keep it steady. Now, show them what happens with you tip it. It falls off. Let them try balancing the golf ball while walking around. Too easy for your older toddler? Let them try holding the golf ball on a smaller spoon or between a large pair of tongs.IMG_0374

Stuff to Have

-Cereal or soup spoon

-Golf balls (or similar size ball)

Developing Skills

Fine motor, hand-eye coordination


Splash Time! Water Play

Every child loves water play, and playing outside in water is a natural option in the summer. It is also a great learning opportunity! Fill a small pool or a large shallow container with water, or use a hose attached to a gentle sprinkler. Not only is it a sensory activity, it is science (water properties), fine motor (playing with spoons, cups, etc.), math (volume and measuring), and of course one of the most fun things for kids! Capitalize on the chance to play in water by adding anything that will enhance their play and their learning. This could be plastic cups, bowls, spoons, ladles, colanders, sponges, etc. Be creative and have fun!

Stuff to Have

-Small pool, hose with a gentle sprinkler, small shallow tub

-Cups, spoons, sponges, bowls, colanders, etc.

Developing Skills

Sensory and texture, early math, early science, problem solving, colors, fine motor

Early Science & Math

Who’s My Mommy: Fish Match

Make 5 large fish in different colors of construction paper, and make 5 small fish to correspond to the colors of the large fish. This is an activity of matching. Matching the mommy fish to the baby fish based on color. Let your child play with how to match the fish together, all along describe what they are doing and what you are doing. If they enjoy matching, they can also sort by size, putting all of the big fish together and all of the little fish together.


Stuff to Have

-Mommy fish: 5 large construction paper fish (all different colors)

-Baby fish: 5 smaller construction paper fish (corresponding to the mommy colors)

Developing Skills

Early math (matching and sorting), fine motor, problem solving

Cooking & Baking


IMG_0088S’mores seems like the perfect way to round out the summer months! Find a way to make s’mores that works for you and your family. If you have a way to build a fire to roast marshmallows, and you feel comfortable with your little one under close supervision roasting their own marshmallow, go for it. Otherwise you can roast marshmallows over a grill, in an oven, or even for a couple seconds in the microwave. (If you aren’t going to roast them over a fire, you can pretend roast marshmallows over their art campfire to get the feel of camping). Once the marshmallow is roasted or heated through sandwich the chocolate and marshmallow into two haves of the graham cracker, give it a little squeeze and enjoy the chocolatey gooiness!

Stuff to Have

-1 graham cracker

-1 large marshmallow

-1/4 full size chocolate bar

Developing Skills

Fine motor, cooking

Of course… try to sprinkle in large muscle movement, reading, and music and rhymes in every day during the week. They are so important!

To get large muscle groups working you can do things like jumping, kicking or throwing a ball, dancing, twirling, running through a sprinkler… get creative and have fun doing this together. I think we will need to try and pull the sprinkler out a couple times this week before it gets too cold!

Get lot’s of reading in too. Read some of your favorites and mix in some new books from the library. Maybe look for books about camping, vacations, travel, fruits and vegetables that you are harvesting from your garden… Read the books, talk about the pictures, the colors, and what things are similar to your child’s world.

And don’t forget music and rhymes! Even if you don’t consider yourself musical try to have fun and include music and rhymes in your day, your kids aren’t judging you and there’s no one else listening! The sing songy-ness of music and rhymes is instrumental in literacy and language development (think future reading), plus it’s fun, it gets kids moving, and it can be a great way to change a rough day into a happy one!

Happy Playing!

25 Super Duper FUN Learning Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers

When I say the word “learning” what do you think of?

Books… School… ABC’s & 123’s… Math… Science… Grammar… History… Quantum Physics?

Not bad associations with the word learning!  Now check out my 25 Super Duper FUN Learning Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers and I’ll catch you on the flip side to talk about it!

  1. Go to the grocery store.
  2. Play at the park.
  3. Blow bubbles.
  4. Play with play dough.
  5. Build a fort or a tent.
  6. Cook something together.
  7. Pick wildflowers.
  8. Play music and dance or make up new moves.
  9. Sort toys by color, shape, or size.
  10. Run, jump, and climb, inside or outside.
  11. Make a sticker collage.
  12. Take a bath.
  13. Pretend play.
  14. Find shapes in the clouds.
  15. Have a snack.
  16. Go for a walk.
  17. Color.
  18. Roll a ball.
  19. Make and play homemade instruments.
  20. Play hide and seek.
  21. Sing a song.
  22. Finger paint.
  23. Bring your child’s favorite animals to life with a puppet show.
  24. Read a book.
  25. Do nothing. Rest and snuggle together!

Are you thinking that is NOT a super duper FUN list of learning activities for toddlers and preschoolers? Are you thinking that is a super duper boring list of things that happen every day for toddlers and preschoolers?

You’re right! These are super simple things that are huge sources of learning for toddlers and preschoolers. Learning for young children doesn’t come in the traditional form of learning that we typically think of and it doesn’t come from making them sit down and learn what we want to teach them.

Learning starts with US! It takes us asking questions, making every day interactions interesting and applicable to their lives. Describing what we see and making connections for them. Playing along side them allows them to see our ideas and try them in their own play, it makes our relationship stronger, and is teaching them ways to interact with others.

So, this list of 25 things are some of the best (although not the only) ways that we can play with our kids on a daily basis. They will learn so much about themselves, social interactions with us and others, their language abilities will grow, as well as personal experiences with scientific and math properties (water, volume, matching, colors, observation, sorting, seriation, etc.), fine motor processes to lead to future use of scissors and writing utensils (stickers, picking up small objects, using utensils like forks, spoons, measuring cups, stirring, dumping etc.), problem solving abilities to stick with problems in their environment, art processes and letting creativity and imagination thrive, and lot’s of other areas of learning!

These are the types of concepts that I try to spread out throughout the weeks in my weekly activities. They should be simple, they should be developmentally appropriate, and they should be opportunities to play together to enhance their learning and your relationship! That is what my goal is every week with these activity plans. Not to create toddler or preschool “school” but to set aside time each day to ensure we are playing together with our little ones!

So, let’s go play together!

Capturing the Rainbow

 The work will wait while you show your child the rainbow…

But the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.

-Erik Erikson

Just a sec… no, I’m not tearing up, I just have something in both eyes…

That quote gets me every time!

I have a major tendency of going overboard for special occasions… birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, holidays… I have that in common with Clark Griswold I guess…

I think there is something great about setting aside that time as different than the rest of life. Life kind of stinks sometimes, right? The world is chaotic, even scary at times, and in general ranges from over-scheduled chaos to the hum drum boringness of making food (it’s constant right? Or is that just my house?), folding laundry, and cleaning up the latest milk spill on the floor. So, when something is special, I want it to feel totally set apart from all of that… not ordinary, or every day, but fun, pretty, exciting, sometimes sparkly, and different. This isn’t to say that this is normal or necessary (my husband can attest to this), but just to give a glimpse into some of what drives me.

I realized a couple of years ago that I didn’t just want special occasions to be set apart from daily life, but I wanted to have chances every day that were set apart and meaningful. I was tired of putting my kids to bed feeling like I hadn’t done anything with them, rather we had just kind of gone through the routine of the day, coexisting rather than interacting.

…I have a point, and it does relate to this blog…

So, I started to fashion my schedule around my kids as my first priority and using these activities as a set way to know what I was going to do with them. Instead of working my kids in around everything else, I started trying to work in everything else around my kids. Now obviously it doesn’t take a plan, or special materials to connect with our kids or to have them learn. What this plan did for me was take away the constant “what should we do today?” It was just ready to go and I could focus on our time playing together.

And that’s what I want to share here in this blog “space”… my first goal is getting moms (or dads, grandparents, aunts, uncles, babysitters) playing together with kids in a developmentally appropriate way. To take out the guesswork and have little to no prep, in order to set aside time each day to do something together with our kids. Not to mention, they are going to be learning, because toddlers and preschoolers are constantly learning!

Now, as an aside… the takeaway here is not perfection in parenting or teaching children. It’s about being real too. There are still busy days that we don’t get activities done. So, that’s why I wrote 25 Super Duper Fun Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers. Check that out to learn more about how these little guys learn… I think it will help take a lot of pressure off of your daily life! 

What’s in store for the next year you ask?

Well, I’m glad you asked.

The activity plans will continue to post with fun, developmentally appropriate activities and my tips and ideas to keep them fun and interesting.

My goal for the next year is to talk about research as it applies to children, development, families, relationships, discipline, education, and on and on… tons of topics that I think anyone with kids will want to hear. When I was in grad school I always felt like research information that would benefit families got stuck in something of a research cloud. It’s been my goal ever since then to get that information out to people that it matters!

So, that’s a little bit about where I’ve been and where I’m headed. It doesn’t feel possible that a year has gone by, but I’m extremely happy to have that milestone under my belt. If you want more information about me or my blog check out these pages:

Welcome to Real. Meaningful. Family.

Dr. Emily’s Story

Why Real. Meaningful. Family?

And of course…

Happy Playing!

There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

-C.S. Lewis


Winter Week 12: February 20-24


Yarn Mittens

This art activity gives your child to “knit” their own mittens while using their creativity and fine muscle movements. Cut various lengths of yarn. Let children either dip their yarn in glue or squeeze glue onto their mitten. Then they can stick their yarn onto the mitten and decorate it as they like. Talk about what the child is doing (narrate) and ask them questions. It’s a good opportunity to talk about colors and texture of the yarn, as well as to expound on the activity by talking about what our mittens feel, look like, and what their purpose is.

Stuff to Have

1 (or 2 for a pair) large mitten(s) cut out (see “Mitten Match” instructions below)



Developing Skills

Art, fine motor, color, gluing

Fine Motor

Cotton Balls

This is the same idea as the classic sensory sand table (the at-home version) only instead of sand use cotton balls or white craft balls. Fill the large plastic container with 1 or 2 bags of cotton balls. Your child can dig in and experience the texture of the cotton balls, the weight, and also volume when they use the cups and measuring cups.

Stuff to Have

Bag of cotton balls

Large plastic container

Measuring cups, bowls, spoons, etc.

Developing Skills

Fine motor, sensory

Problem Solving

Snowball Transport

Set out cotton balls (or craft balls) in a large bowl along with the empty muffin tin or ice cube tray. Let your child experiment with different types of utensils (tongs, spoons, tweezers) to move the cotton balls from the larger bowl to the small compartments. Younger children will have an easier time using spoons, and older children might enjoy the challenge of tongs or tweezers.

Variation: If using colored craft balls make sure to talk about the colors. Older children might enjoy sorting by color adding an early math concept to this activity.

Stuff to Have

Cotton balls or craft balls

Spoons, tongs, tweezers, etc

Muffin tin or ice cube tray

Developing Skills

Fine motor

Early Math & Science

Mitten Match

Adult prep, making the mittens: Grab 5-8 different colors of construction paper. Use your own hand, or your child’s hand to trace around. Make sure to keep all 4 fingers together and thumb sticking out to get the mitten look. Cut 2 mittens out of each color. Have children match the mittens based on color.

Variation: cut out 4 mittens from each color. Cut 2 small and 2 large. Children can not only match based on color, but also based on size.

Stuff to Have

5-8 pairs of construction paper mittens

Developing Skills

Early math, colors

Cooking & Baking

Mitten Cookies

This is going to be pretty easy, but a fun way to incorporate the mitten theme into cooking this week. Mix up your favorite sugar cookie dough recipe, or just use store bought. Whatever’s easiest. Then roll it out to about a 1/4 inch thickness, just like if you were going to use cookie cutters. Now, instead of using cutters, place your child’s hand on the dough with four fingers closed and thumb out… the shape of a mitten! Repeat as often as you can on the dough, and you have cute, mittens just the size of your little one!

Bake according to your directions, let them cool, and then decorate. My icing recipe is below.

Of course, all throughout get your child involved as much as possible. Dumping, stirring, rolling out dough. Make it their project and you will have an easier time letting them fully participate.

For the icing:

Combine butter and powdered sugar and about 1/2 cup of the cream. Slowly add more cream until you reach the desired consistency for your icing. Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Separate into smaller bowls and add desired food colors.

Stuff to Have

Your favorite sugar cookie recipe or store bough sugar cookie dough

For the Icing:

2 tablespoons butter, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup-1 cup Half & half cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

Various food colors, optional

Developing Skills

Fine motor, sensory, cooking & baking, early science & math

Add on Activities

Large Motor: As it starts to get colder getting large motor movement into the day gets harder and harder to do. Definitely take every chance you can to bundle up and get outside to run, jump, climb, and play! But on the days that you can’t, get creative. Try yoga for young children, keep a balloon up in the air, toss scarves up and try and catch them, or have a silly dance party. Not only will your kids have fun, they will be learning and growing at the same time!

Music and Rhymes: Have fun looking for winter themed music and rhymes! Hearing rhymes and the sing-songiness of music is building a foundation of phonics for learning letters and reading in the future! But for now, just be expressive and silly and have fun with it!

Books: Head to the library or read some of your favorite winter books. Reading is such an important activity for building vocabulary and adding to that foundation for reading in the future. Not only are they getting so many learning benefits from reading, but you are getting special one on one time with them!

Join us on Facebook!  For more tips about play, activity plans, large motor, music and rhymes, and book ideas check out the Real. Meaningful. Family. Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/realmeaningfulfamily/

Mostly enjoy your child and happy playing!