Quick + Easy Photo Memory Game

posted in: Learning | 12

Quick + Easy Photo Memory GameAnother quick and easy indoor activity, this photo memory game is sure to be a hit. Assuming you can find pictures on your computer, you’ll be able to make your own memory game with the pictures on your hard drive. If you want to involve your child in the image selection process, by all means! Or, you could pick and print the photos ahead of time, to make life easier on you. That’s what I did this time, since Toby frequently tries to hijack my keyboard or mouse if I sit down with him to do something at the computer.

So, all you need to do is find some photos.  What kind of photos?  Here are some ideas:

  1. phone snapshots – these will be good enough, quality-wise, for the size we’ll be printing.  Copy them from your phone when tethered, email them to yourself, or transfer them by some other method.
  2. family snapshots – go through your old photo archives and scan or photocopy those old snapshots.  Hey, you could even take a picture of it with your phone.  (let me include my obligatory “don’t infringe anyone’s copyright” message here).
  3. your child’s artwork – I’ve been taking photos of Toby’s artwork when it comes in the door, so I have a lot of it on my computer already. I think it’d be fun to do a “match the artwork” game.
  4. public domain images – you can find a plethora of public domain images online.  Many are old photographs, so this would be fun for kids to talk and learn while playing.
  5. words – for kids who are learning sight words, you could have them pair words.  Or use their weekly spelling words in the game… the possibilities are endless.  I know there are some sites that have free photos with words in them.

For this particular game, I chose nine pictures from my cell phone’s repository. Using the “print” feature on my PC, I printed out the pictures, in wallet size — twice.

This dialog can be accessed by right-clicking on the selected images you want to print; select “Print” from the drop down menu (circled in screenshot below).

bphotoart-photo-memory-game-print

Here you can see the print dialog — this machine is running Windows 7.  I’m sure it looks different in the current edition, but al least the screenshot will give you an idea of how easy it was for me to set this up.  bphotoart-photo-memory-game

 

Notice the screenshot says “copies of each picture: 1”  — I printed the sheet of 9 images out twice, giving us eighteen cards total for the memory game.  I figured that was enough for now.

Now, you can just print on plain paper, or, if you want to get fancy, you can do one of two things:

  • Laminate it!  Print your pictures out, adhere wrapping or scrapbook paper to the back side, and then cut out and laminate each photo card.  You can get a nice thermal laminator #afflink online.
  • Print double-sided on Cardstock!  On one side of the cardstock paper, print a pattern or design for the back side off the cards.  On the other, print the wallet-sized photos. Then cut out and get playing. Here’s a link to some cardstock paper #afflink you can buy online.

And then cutting out the cards can be done with a paper cutter,  rotary trimmer, or even a pair of scissors.  whatever is easiest, whatever you have on hand.

We ended up playing memory as our “calm-down” activity before bed.  Toby was really excited to see the pictures, and specifically wanted to find the one of him at the baseball game (where Torii Hunter, then on the Detroit Tigers, threw him a ball).

We had a very excited toddler at the end of the ballgame…

A photo posted by Betsy Finn {BPhotoArt.com} (@bphotoart_com) on

So anyways, Toby loved the homemade memory game because it had photos of him and his family. He talked about the pictures while we played, which was fun for me. I can see this being a fun “looking back” game to play at family gatherings, reunions, or even low-key anniversaries. Not just for kids!

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.


This post is part of an Indoor Activity Blog Hop — Indoor Activities.

Make sure to visit the other blogs below for some fun indoor activities that you can do when the weather’s not conducive to playing outside!

Make a Yearly Time Capsule

posted in: Parenting | 6

Make a Yearly Time CapsuleAs we were relaxing after a whirlwind spree of Christmas celebrations, I started thinking ahead towards the new year.  As adults, we often make resolutions and promises to ourselves, but how could that concept be reinterpreted for kids?  It reminded me of a scene in one of the Berenstain Bears books , where Sister Bear gets to compare her drawings and handwriting from when she was 5 and 6 years old — to help her see how far she’s come (The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday #afflink).

And then it hit me — we could make a yearly time capsule for the boys to fill each year after Christmas!  The capsule could be stored away with all our holiday decorations, so I wouldn’t need to remember where it got stashed… and have the bonus of being brought out every year since we always get our house decorated to some extent (some years more than others).

So, I found a cute tea tin that we’d received a present in, and had Toby decorate a panel of paper with Dot a Dot markers #afflink.  The markers were one of Toby’s gifts from Christmas.  I have to say, these are the greatest things ever.  The fun of paint, without the prep work, mess, or cleanup.  Toby had fun putting dots all over the paper.  Meanwhile, I cut out a family photo of us.

We then used a glue stick to coat the backs of both items, and fastened them to the tin can.  Toby ran around the house with our time capsule excitedly for a few minutes; then it was my turn to write “time capsule” on the side.

After that, we filled the capsule with a variety of items:

  • Zack’s baby stats
  • Toby’s favorite things and “interview questions” that were included in our Christmas card
  • outlines of the boys’ hands
  • a family photo
  • pictures of the boys
  • favorite presents we each received
  • favorite presents we each gave
  • favorite thing we ate over the holidays
  • Toby’s artwork

Toby wanted to put a toy in the capsule too, but once I explained he wouldn’t be able to use it until next year, he decided against that.

bphotoart-yearly-time-capsule-2

We had a lot of fun filling this yearly time capsule, and I envision it becoming a treasured family tradition.  Maybe I’ll even document or scrapbook the contents each year… who knows?

Have you ever made a time capsule?  What were the most popular items you put inside?  What would you put inside a yearly time capsule?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Hand-Crafted Photo Gift Tags

posted in: Notes | 2

Hand-Crafted Photo Gift Tags - an easy 5 minute project!I love easy projects!  And this hand-crafted photo gift tag idea is one that takes mere minutes.  All you need are some photos, a pair of scissors, a hole punch, and some ribbon (or yarn, as I used).  Oh, and you’ll need gifts too.

We ended up with a number of extra greeting cards this year, so rather than wastefully recycling them, I thought we might incorporate the greeting cards into some craft activities.

But inspiration hit as I was doing some late night Christmas gift wrapping.  For pre-literate children, photo gift tags would be perfect!  They can identify who the gift should go to very easily… and thus can help deliver presents when it comes time to open all the gorgeously wrapped gifts.

Oh, and these would be so cute with kid-crafted wrapping paper!

Anyways, here’s what I did.

  1. Using the scissors, cut out freehand ovals around each family member’s face.
  2. Punch a hole out of the shape with a handheld hold punch… try to avoid the faces!
  3. Wrap your gift.
  4. Tie the photo gift tag onto the present with ribbon or yarn!

I guess you could skip steps 2-4, and just use tape to stick the photo faces onto the presents.  Your call.

This would also be cute with all those leftover school pictures that never seem to come in handy.

If you have a present for more than one person, you could string multiple tags onto the present.  Or, since we had a photo of the two kids together, I cut them out onto one tag.

And done!!

I told you this project was easy.  Now you have no excuse as to why your gift wrapping can’t be personalized.  Easily.  That’s the key.

You just need some photos, scissors, a hole punch, and some ribbon or yarn!
You just need some photos, scissors, a hole punch, and some ribbon or yarn!
String multiple photo gift tags onto one present for a shared gift!
String multiple photo gift tags onto one present for a shared gift!

Do you have any easy gift wrapping tips? I’d love to hear them… please share in the comments below!

Make a Photo Frame Ornament with Crayons!

posted in: Notes | 3

Make a Photo Frame Ornament With Crayons!

For my son’s preschool holiday party, I offered to make ornaments for the kids.  I’d been planning on making some sort of photo ornament, but when I saw a crayon ornament on Pinterest, I was inspired.  My variation might not work as well for a school photo due to the triangular shape, but I really like how it turned out.

The crayons perfectly frame the picture, and I even found a creative way to include a slot for threading ribbon.

Materials Needed (#afflinks):

The first thing you’ll want to do is print out your photo.  Or find a photo that you are willing to cut up.  We had this one on the computer, and I was (unfortunately) out of color ink the day we made this craft.  That’s why I did a black and white photo… but I actually like how it turned out!  If your crayons are “standard” sized, then you should be able to use a 3.5×5 photo to make your ornament.

Next, you’ll need to select three crayons for the project.  I made a number of these (one for each child in Toby’s class), and can attest that they look best with 3 different colors… or with three of the same color.

Lay out your three crayons in a triangle shape on your cardboard.  You’ll probably want to use a pen (or crayon, whatever’s easiest) to sketch out the equilateral triangle.

Then cut out the triangle.  Check and see how the crayons will fit (note that I made my triangle sides go from the butt end of the crayon to the edge of the paper near the tip.  The last part of this step is to cut off the end of one corner — this is where you’ll thread the ribbon later.

Now it’s time to assemble your ornament.  Using your hot glue gun, run a bead of glue along one of the triangle’s edges, then put the crayon in place.  Repeat this for the remaining sides, making sure that two of the crayons’ pointy ends will meet where you cut off the corner of the triangle.  Although, they don’t have to meet perfectly.

Now, flip over the ornament, and add a blob of glue anywhere that needs reinforcing (I did the “bottom” two corners).  Then, take a little strip of cardboard and cut it to a little less than an inch.  This will go at the top of the ornament, ensuring your ribbon has someplace secure to hang.  After a dry fit, put two dabs of glue on the cardboard and then put into place.

On the back (non-photo) side, I used metallic markers to write my son’s name and the year.

Cut a piece of ribbon, thread it through, and tie a knot… then you’re done!

Honestly, the longest part of this project was designing it.  Once I knew how to do it, these crayon ornaments were easy to make!

Kid-Crafted Wrapping Paper

posted in: Notes | 6

Child Artwork repurposed as wrapping paperIt’s probably fitting that my son is a prolific artist. Toby loves to draw, color, and create. And while I do save a representative sampling of his artwork for “years down the road” …it would be insane to hold onto everything. So, rather than throw away the “lovely drawings” (Toby’s words), I’ve found a way to give them a new purpose. We’ve been repurposing his old artwork as wrapping paper. Sometimes the sheets of paper are large enough to cover an individual gift on their own, but if not, I will just tape two (or three) sheets of drawings together. Presto chango …we have a one-of-a-kind gift that is meaningful both inside and out.

I’d go into more detail on “how to” make kid-crafted wrapping paper, but it’s pretty simple. I have a bin where I save the completed artwork, and as it comes time to wrap gifts throughout the year, I will use this supply of artwork for wrapping presents.

An alternate option, if you love this concept, but don’t want to part with your child’s many drawings, is to wrap the gift in plain paper. Then, hand it over to your child with an assortment of pens, pencils, or whatever your heart desires. Let your kid go to town with “decorating” the present. I did this recently — Toby decorated the plain brown cardboard shipping box with a metallic permanent marker. It actually looked pretty spectacular when he was finished.

In case you were curious, here’s the “before” shot of the drawing. I think it’s a combination of crayon, marker, and dry erase marker. Plus the errant sticker. But “mixed media” sounds better, so let’s go with that!

Do you have any great ideas for repurposing your child’s plethora of drawings or other artwork? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

bphotoart-child-artwork-repurposed-wrapping-paper-1592

Cocoa Salt Dough Ornaments

posted in: Parenting | 1

bphotoart-cocoa-ornaments-Toby was excited to make salt dough ornaments again this year (last year we made gluten-free ornaments during a playdate).  After our Polar Express hot cocoa activity, Toby was ready to write off cocoa powder as being “yuck” …so I decided we would scrap the entry level stuff and just save our Godiva hot cocoa powder #afflink for any future ingestion.

So, what to do with several cups’ worth of cocoa powder no one in our house enjoys?  I suppose I could’ve given it away, but we decided to try our hand at making cocoa powder ornaments.  This is an adaptation of a salt dough recipe I’ve used before.

Cocoa Salt Dough Recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 c. flour
  • 2/3 c. salt
  • 1 c. water

Directions:

  • Combine all dry ingredients, mix well.  Add water; blend until well combined.
  • Roll out onto flat surface and cut into shapes with cookie cutters.  Transfer to baking sheet.
  • Poke holes for hanging with the end of a chopstick.
  • Bake at 275 F for 30-60 minutes per side, or until dried.
  • Minimize cracking by leaving the ornaments in oven to cool.

So, there you have it.  These ornaments have held up pretty well so far.  I’d say they’re a bit brittle, but maybe that’s just because Toby dropped several on the wood floor and they broke.  Can’t expect them to be unbreakable, right?

You can either thread ribbon through the holes or just use the metal hangers… your choice!  We hung them on the tree with our popcorn garland!

Click on any image to enter gallery view mode.

Teaching Empathy Through Happy Heart Kid Crafts

posted in: Parenting | 6

I’ve been loving activities that cultivate empathy, compassion, and understanding.  Last year around the holidays, Toby chose toys to give to “sad kids” (compassion).  Last month, we explored the concept of diversity with a book and rainbow popsicle activity.  And most recently, we got to try out the Empathy box from Happy Heart Kid.

The kit contained a number of different crafts and activities:

  • Flowers (to give to others)
  • Empathy Placard
  • “Feeling” Faces
  • Coloring Book

I handed Toby the unopened box and let him have at it (while documenting in pictures, of course).  He was excited to unpack the box, and checked out each of the activities as he placed them on the table.  I loved that all the crafts were compartmentalized in plastic bags, so that the parts didn’t get mixed up.  Ok, well, the crayons weren’t.  But all the small bits and pieces.

After checking out all the options available to him, Toby decided to make the flowers first.  I was in charge of reading the directions while he got out all the craft supplies.  As he made the flowers, I followed the conversation guidelines mentioned in the activity booklet.  We talked about how giving people flowers can make them feel better, and I mentioned some times in the past that I had received flowers or when they might be given:

  • “Just because” – from Daddy to Mommy
  • “Get well soon” – to people who are sick, like the people to whom we deliver meals
  • “Congratulations” – to celebrate the arrival of a new baby like Zack

Since the craft included enough materials to make three flowers, Toby decided to give flowers to three people (instead of the whole bouquet being given to one person — spread the joy, right?).  First, he wanted to give one to “the sick mama” that we delivered a meal to several weeks ago.  It took me a few minutes to figure out who Toby was talking about, but I thought it was so sweet that he remembered her, and was being empathetic!  Next, he decided he would give one to Grandma… and since he has two grandmas, that filled our quota of three flowers.

We then briefly explored another craft — feeling faces.  Toby enthusiastically stuck eye stickers to all of the faces, and we talked about different emotions associated with specific events, but he was hesitant to put mouths and noses on the faces because he didn’t like the texture of the included clay.  Ever the problem solver, Toby ran to the playroom and returned with his own modeling clay.  Smiling and frowning faces were then created, with nose that then turned into a tooth.  Don’t you love how creative and adaptable kids are?

Over the next few days, Toby diligently reminded me that we needed to deliver his flowers to the “sick mama” and his grandmas… because “that will make them so happy!”

DIY Photo Advent Calendar

posted in: Parenting | 4

DIY Magnetic Photo Advent CalendarAs a child, I used to love getting to open a window in my advent calendar in the days leading up to Christmas.  This homemade take on the advent calendar is a great alternative to store bought calendars, is reusable, and your child will enjoy helping put everything together!

You can actually make this two ways — hold the photos on with tape, or with magnets, depending on what supplies you have available, and how long you want this calendar to last.

First, we cut out a free form tree from a pretty green gift bag.  I found a plain brown paper lunch sack for the trunk of the tree.  We taped this whole segment on the fridge.

Then, we printed out 24 photos, with the faces approximately quarter-sized.   I printed out two copies, one for Toby to cut with his scissors, and a set for me to cut into circles. This let Toby practice his scissor skills and feel involved while I made the circles for our face “ornaments.”  Toby had a lot of fun helping me pick which pictures to use.  Sadly, we couldn’t include all our family members…since we have more than 24.  If you’re planning to have this last for more than one year, I’d suggest printing on card stock or laminating the photos.  Otherwise, plain paper works.

Once all the photos for the 24 days of advent were cut out, we started putting them on the fridge, around the tree, of course.  If you’re using plain paper photos, just use pieces of rolled up tape to hold them on; if you made durable photo ornaments, then attach squares from an magnet tape roll #afflink so you can have these stick to the fridge.

The final touch was a sign, also from the paper lunch sack, that said “Countdown to Christmas!”

Toby is really excited to start putting ornaments on the tree, and I’m sure he will have fun picking out which family member should go on the tree next.  This DIY magnetic photo advent calendar is a great way to familiarize kids with their relatives (and their names too)… and it is definitely more meaningful than your run of the mill advent calendar that can be bought at the store.

We may also add a gold star for the tree topper, that would be put on the tree Christmas morning.  I think that would be a nice touch — but didn’t think of that until just now.

Enjoy some pictures of our photo advent calendar being made below!  Click on an image to open it in gallery view mode.

 

Making a Photo Thankfulness Tree

posted in: Notes | 3

Make a Photo Thankfulness Tree for Thanksgiving - BPhotoArt.comTo help us get in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I came up with the idea to make a Thanksgiving tree decoration with photos. We are calling it our Photo Thankfulness Tree.

Making a thankfulness tree can be as simple as elaborate as you like. We went the simpler route… I pulled out some craft supplies (orange paper, a brown paper bag, tape, scissors, and a glue stick). After cutting the brown paper bag into strips, we taped it onto the window, bending and folding the straight strips to create knotty branches. While we were doing this, my printer was putting family snapshots and photos onto paper for us to cut out. Once printed, we cut out the faces in free form circular shapee. I then traced a few leaves onto a piece of paper for Toby to practice his scissor skills while I cut out the rest of the leaves free handed.

Toby picked out the photo faces one at a time, gluing each to its own leaf. We talked about that family member while their leaf was being made. As we worked, I also asked Toby what he was thankful for. His responses were recorded on the leaves that were leftover. Have kids collage a Thanksgiving tree by cutting out faces of family and friends they are thankful for. Include pets, toys, and other “favorites” that are cause for thanks. Just a simple: “what are you thankful for?” prompted all sorts of interesting conversation for us while making this photo thankfulness tree.

When it came time to tape the leaves onto the tree, Toby intially was reluctant. In his words, “the leaves fall off the trees onto the ground.” So we compromised with several fallen leaves on the ground, and then he proceeded to post the rest on the branches as I requested.

We finished our tree just as my husband was walking in the door; Toby was really excited to show Daddy everyone and everything he said he was thankful for.

Next time we do this, I’ll incorporate it into our month of gratitude for November. How, exactly? I think I would make and set aside an additional set of 27 leaves (or however many days until Thanksgiving), and each day, I would have the kids add another thing they are thankful for. Note to self – remember to plan ahead for that next year.

Gift Guide: Arts and Crafts for Kids

posted in: Parenting | 0

If you have a kid who loves arts and crafts, sometimes it can seem daunting to find just the right gift.  There are so many creative options out there these days, and it’s sometimes tough to get a feel for what your kid might really enjoy.  To that end, I’ve put together a gift guide of arts and crafts for kids.  I’ll cover some things you can buy locally or online, supplies you may want to stock up on, and finally how to make your own arts and crafts box for hours of imaginative crafting.

Note that all links will open in new windows for your convenience (most are Amazon affiliate links).

Arts and Crafts Products You Can Buy

Although I’m a fan of repurposing things around the home for arts and crafts, there are some things I’ve found worth purchasing.  I’m sure there are more things I’ve acquired for my toddler’s arts and crafts time… but these should get you started so far as items I consider essential for our home for when my little Van Gogh wants to go to town.  All the product #afflinks below will open in new windows for your convenience.

Gift Guide: Arts and Crafts for Kids ...plus 50 Items to include in your arts + crafts bin! - BPhotoArt.comCraft Supplies – various craft supplies that are geared towards kids are often fun.  Here are some suggestions of things we use (that still allow for open-ended creating:

Craft Kits – sometimes kids like to work by the book, so to speak.  And that’s when a kit comes in handy.  Here are some kits that I think are pretty neat:

Art Travel Easel – we gave this to my son last year as a gift, and it has seen much use.  The portable art kit has two drawers for art supplies, a white board, a chalk board, and props open for use as a table-top easel.  It can also be used as a lap desk.

Learning Tower – this is a must; we do a lot of our crafting in the kitchen and I love how the learning tower allows my son to stand and work at the counter with me.  The railing keeps him secure, and he can climb up and down as needed; my toddler can even slide this around the kitchen to get supplies since I put felt pads on the bottom of the learning tower.

learning-tower-amazon #afflink

Art Easel – We were gifted an art easel similar to this one when my oldest son was not quite big enough to use it.  I love the dual sided nature of the easel, the holder for a roll of art paper, and the fact that the easel can be made taller as your kids get bigger.  We ended up storing bins of art supplies on the shelf under the easel.  If you’re not an easel fan, you might check out this artist table, which incorporates many of the same features into a flat-topped workspace for kids.

easel-amazon

 

Artist’s Smock – these are essential for younger children if you’re at all concerned about keeping the mess off your kid’s clothes.  We have one or two like this that came with our easel.  Or, you can go the old fashioned route and wear some of dad’s cast-off work shirts.  Whatever works!

artist-smock-amazon

How to Make an Arts and Crafts Box

Finally, there is nothing better than gifts that inspire open-ended play.  Last year we made an arts and crafts box for my toddler, stocked with everything you could think of.  It was a huge hit.  Want ideas for making one of your own?  Here are 50 different things you could include, depending on what is age appropriate for your child:

  1. buttons
  2. assorted pony beads
  3. tube of glitter
  4. glue sticks
  5. construction paper
  6. empty toilet paper tubes
  7. q-tips
  8. cotton balls
  9. assorted stickers
  10. multi-colored tissue paper
  11. cardboard shapes
  12. pencils
  13. pencil sharpener
  14. crayons
  15. paint brushes
  16. shoelaces
  17. embroidery floss
  18. old fashioned clothespins
  19. magnet  strips
  20. pom poms
  21. googly eyes
  22. bubble wrap
  23. toothpicks
  24. cinnamon sticks
  25. pieces of string
  26. assorted origami paper
  27. post-it notes
  28. fabric scraps
  29. pop bottle lids
  30. rings from milk jugs
  31. bread bag tabs
  32. twisty-ties
  33. jingle bells
  34. pipe cleaners
  35. sheets of foam
  36. felt shapes
  37. key rings
  38. envelopes
  39. paper plates
  40. wooden beads
  41. yarn
  42. fake fur
  43. ribbon
  44. blank address label stickers
  45. mini spiral notebooks
  46. bingo chips
  47. homemade playdough
  48. hotel room keys or used-up gift cards
  49. tape
  50. stamps + stamp pad

Do you have any more ideas for arts and crafts gifts?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

More Resources and Gift Guides for Kids

This post is part of the Kid Blogger Network Gift Guide for Kids. More than 75 unique lists for all ages, interests, and budges have been compiled by bloggers around the world. To visit other lists, visit Gift Guides for Kids.

Follow Erica • What Do We Do All Day?’s board Gift Guides for Kids on Pinterest.

gift-guides-for-kids

6 Tips for Helping Kids Carve Pumpkins

posted in: Parenting | 1

I have fond memories of carving pumpkins when younger.  At a kitchen table covered with comic pages, we would concoct elaborate designs for our jack o’ lanterns as we scraped out the pumpkin guts and seeds.  Our mom would whisk the seeds away to the oven, roasting them while we carved our pumpkins.  At some point, we’d be asked to pause for a snapshot or two, and once we finished carving pumpkins, the creative masterpieces would be carried carefully out to the front stoop.  I’m sure many of us have similar fond memories of carving pumpkins.  And I want our boys to have the same fond memories of carving pumpkins when they are grown.

6 Tips for Helping Kids Carve Pumpkins - Betsy's Photography - BPhotoArt.comOf course, there’s the whole question of helping kids carve pumpkins — how much should you let them do on their own?  Last year, our pumpkins were object-specific.  Toby wasn’t really at the point of designing yet, so he gave input on the things to be carved.  We ended up carving a tractor, a block letter for our favorite sports team, and called it good at that.

This year, Toby was ready to do the whole carving pumpkin thing himself. …well, aside from touching the pumpkin guts.  For whatever reason he hated the slimy feel.  i wasn’t ready to let him do everything on his own, but set him loose on the pumpkins to create designs — with no restrictions.  he got to help me cut some of the holes, but most of his time actually carving pumpkins was spent waiting for me to finish cutting so he could poke out the pumpkin pieces.

It was great to see his creativity come alive as he told me about his designs.  We had 5 pumpkins this year — two gifted to us by our neighbors, another two from grandma.  Here’s what he designed, from left to right:

  • a bear with ears and a toothy grin (the teeth were added midway through carving).
  • an alien monster, with many eyes and mouths all over.
  • an angry face (he let me draw this one).
  • a silly face with a really big mouth, and an almost forgotten nose.  This one also had a baby on the side, go figure.
  • a happy face – 2 eyes, a noes, and a mouth.

Toby was thrilled with our activity, the fact he got to design everything himself was a big selling point.  When Daddy came in from cleaning the garage, Toby proudly showed off the pumpkins we’d made.  And, of course, we enjoyed toasted pumpkin seeds too (recipe later on).

Now let’s get to those 6 tips for helping kids carve pumpkins I’ve promised you!  These are geared towards helping your child feel “in charge” while keeping things safe.  Because that’s part of helping kids carve pumpkins — making sure they’ do so safely.

1. Don’t micromanage your child

It’s amazing how many times I catch myself about to direct my son’s activity in a certain way.  It’s a force of habit, but one I try to curb.  I’d much rather Toby create something from his own ability and thought process, rather than draw within the lines of my constraints.  It’s like process art vs. paint by number. Process art lets creativity shine.  So set back and don’t micromanage when carving pumpkins with your child.  Who cares if the smile is crooked, or missing a tooth?

2. Help as needed, to keep things safe.

While I’m all for letting kids do things themselves, there is an age appropriateness factor.  My son has been practicing knife skills for quite some time, but I decided it wasn’t time yet for him to saw the openings in the pumpkin.  Maybe next year.  So to keep him involved, I let him place his hand on top of mine as I sawed; he also “held” the pumpkin steady for me while I sawed (hands far away from the blade).  You know your child — go with your gut and keep thing safe.

3. Invite your child to draw a design on the pumpkin.

And then step back and watch.  Ask open-ended questions if you want, but try understand your child’s creation from their point of view, rather than making assumptions or guesses.  I gave Toby a permanent marker and let him have at it.  He drew swirly spiraling circles for eyes, lines for ears, and chicken-scratch noses.  It’s ok if there are too many lines (I’ll address that in the next tip).

4. Have your child direct you which lines to cut.

Toby pointed out the lines I should cut — I followed one of the many lines for the eyes to make a shape that approximated his abstract swirls.  The mouth I followed, to an extent — suggesting we shorten it so the pumpkin didn’t fall apart on us.

5. Don’t be afraid to improvise.  Follow your child’s lead.

We added teeth midway through our bear pumpkin carving — Toby was thrilled with the design change.  It may not have been on his drawn design, but that’s ok.  I let him call the shots as we carved the pumpkins.

6. Have no expectations.

Having no expectations really freed me to enjoy the whole experience.  And I have to say, I love the results.  The pumpkins that Toby and I carved are whimsical, creative, and definitely not run of the mill.  The most standard one is the baby pumpkin that I carved… how uncreative of me, right?  But that’s the thing.  As adults, we have preconceptions of how things are supposed to look.  Kids are often free from those constraints — it lets their creativity flourish.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Recipe

Now, as promised, here’s my recipe for delicious roasted pumpkin seeds.  Or, one of my recipes… I have a few variations!  There’s no measuring, you do everything by feel and to your preference.

  • pumpkin seeds
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

First, separate the seeds from the guts.  I tend to leave some of the slime on the seeds, but you can rinse it off if you want.  I add enough olive oil to coat the seeds, then sprinkle generously with sea salt.  Then it’s into the oven on a baking sheet at 350 F for 30-40 min, stirring after the first 15 min and then every 5 thereafter.  They’re done once the pumpkin seeds no longer are wet, and the pan has no remaining oil or liquid on the bottom.  Usually by this point, mine are nicely golden brown, or even a little darker.  Enjoy once they’ve cooled enough to handle!

I’ve also added seasonings with much success — one of our favorites is Italian seasoning sprinkled over top.

One of Toby's drawings on a pumpkin
One of Toby’s drawings on a pumpkin
Removing the cut out pumpkin pieces
Removing the cut out pumpkin pieces
Excited to show off his first pumpkin!
Excited to show off his first pumpkin!
The pumpkin carver and his creations
The pumpkin carver and his creations
Pumpkins with the lights out
Pumpkins with the lights out
And a close-up of the glowing faces
And a close-up of the glowing faces

A Toddler’s Money Bank

posted in: Parenting | 2

Every kid becomes interested in money at some point. I’m not sure when Toby started carrying coins around in his pockets, but the kid has a great eye for spotting spare change. Over the years, we’ve acquired several money banks, including a few family “heirloom” ones. But realistically, they weren’t all that practical for holding money. Who really wants to fish money out from a tiny hole in the bottom of a ceramic pig, anyways?

So, with practicality in mind, I came up with an idea for a toddler-oriented afternoon of fun. Toby would get to design his own money bank!

Money Bank Materials

As you’ll see, we didn’t need to buy anything for this project. Everything was scrounged from around the house.  But, just in case, I’ve linked to Amazon (#afflinks) for your convenience:

Making the Money Bank

As is the norm for us, the project was pretty open-ended.  I covered the counter with saran wrap, set out supplies, and let Toby have at it. He wanted to wear his smock for part of the project; I didn’t complain.  While he painted the sides of the container, I made sure the lid area was covered with saran wrap (so it could still be opened for removing money later).  I cut some shapes out of paper for Toby to stick on, decoupage style.

Once Toby declared the sides complete, we moved on to the top.   He wanted to glue shapes on the top… no problem.  Then I cut out two slots – one sized for a quarter, the other sized for a penny.  This is where I used the knife — making sure toddler hands were safely out of reach.

Wait, two slots?

Yep.

Sure, you can use one slot for everything, but what fun is that?  Toby was thrilled to have coin-specific slots.  (Hint, don’t try to make one for a dime, it’s practically the same size as the penny and isn’t worth your effort).

Once the money bank was dry, I screwed the lid on, and gave it up for toddler testing.  After a few minutes of coins being dumped out by an excited child, I handed the bank to my husband to have him super-tightly screw on the lid.  We can still get it off, but my toddler doesn’t have the arm power to open the lid and dump money everywhere now.

Not so fun for him, but more practical for everyone. Particularly baby brother and the cats.

See some photos of our project below.  Click on an image to enter gallery view mode.

Related Resources

Martin Luther + Katherina von Bora Puzzle

posted in: Parenting | 4

In honor of Reformation day (okay, a bit early), we made a Martin Luther and Katherina von Bora puzzle!  You can see the how-to blog post over at In All You Do, as well as learn some more about Martin Luther — the ex-monk, who married an ex-nun.

I love how easy it is to make photo puzzles like this, …well, painting puzzles, in this case!  All you need is a printer, some paper and cardboard, a glue stick, and a good pair of scissors.  Depending on your child’s age, you’ll have an eager assistant for some of the creation process.

Toby was thrilled to help glue the paper to the cardboard.  Since his scissor skills aren’t quite there yet, I did that portion of the project.  Then we had fun putting the puzzle together multiple times.  Toby’s favorite section of the puzzle was Katherina von Bora — possibly because “she’s a mama” …or because her picture had more details and was easier to assemble.

Head over to In All You Do to read more about this project, learn more about the Reformation, and even download a free printable to make your own Martin Luther and Katherina von Bora puzzles.

Click on an image below to enter gallery view mode.

3 Reasons Mess Making Is Ok

posted in: Parenting | 2

I’ve never been one to keep neat when being creative.  As a child, I came home from school with paint all over myself — my mom probably lost track of how many outfits I ruined.  I’ve been lovingly called “messy Betsy” on more than one occasion — worrying about keeping clean would just hamper my creative process.

Now, as a parent, I’m revisiting the relationship between messiness and creativity.  My older son cares a lot about “keeping clean.”  So I will frequently remind him, “it’s ok to be messy, we can clean up when we’re done.”  It’s not that I’m unappreciative of his desire for cleanliness, but that sometimes focusing on keeping things neat diverts your attention from the creative process.

This came to the forefront of my mind when I invited Toby to help me paint some cabinets I’d acquired.  We were prepared to be messy — painting clothes, drop cloth, paper towel, you name it.  As we painted, Toby enjoyed himself to no end.  But I had to catch myself a number of times as I felt the urge to keep things neat.  “Don’t let the paint drip… Stop getting so much paint on your paintbrush…. don’t get paint on me… you have paint in your hair…” My attention was on managing the mess instead of having fun with the creative process of painting.

I had to chuckle at myself, because Toby was a picture of messy creativity.  He was thrilled to be helping mom with an important project, excited to use big paintbrushes, and just as messy as I was in childhood.  I’m grateful I was allowed to be messy — and I want to afford him that same opportunity.

So, with that in mind, here are several tips to help you release your inner child… or to encourage you in as you parent a little mess maker.

1. Creativity is messy sometimes.

As I just mentioned, we sometimes try to split our attention between creativity and keeping clean.  But, if you’re worried about keeping from making a mess, part of your attention will be distracted from being creative. To do your best work, to tap the depths of your creative resources, you need to get past that need for being neat, and accept that sometimes… creativity is messy.

Extending this to kids – let them make a mess!  Before painting, have them put on clothes you don’t care about.  Take the project outside so that you don’t have to stress out about cleaning up afterwards.  Use materials that won’t leave a permanent mark behind.  Don’t interrupt your child’s creative process just to remind them to “be neat.”

2. “Coloring outside the lines” isn’t a bad thing.

Maybe it’s from our schooling, or maybe it’s from a desire for outside approval, but we frequently try to stay in the box when it comes to self-expression.  Coloring books galore send subliminal messages that you need to use a certain color, and stay within the lines provided.  You have to get past those restrictions, the rules.  Free your creative mind from the approved “lines.”

3 Reasons Mess Making is Ok. Tips to help you release your inner child... or to encourage you in as you parent a little mess maker. - Betsy's PhotographyIf your kid doesn’t want to color “the right way” …what’s the big deal?  My toddler doesn’t like to color in coloring books.  He’ll cover the pages with elaborate swirls and patches of color, or put splashes of color over the faces on a coloring sheet.  But that’s the extent of our coloring within the lines.  There doesn’t have to be a “right” way to color, it’s the process and the self-expression that we really want to encourage.

3. Making messes teaches responsibility.

On a related note — it’s only by making messes that we learn to clean up after ourselves.  If we keep things ship shape for our children, there’s no opportunity for them to learn what happens if things get a little messy, and how good it can feel to clean up after ourselves.  By teaching that responsibility goes hand in hand with creativity, we can help our kids to get beyond the mentality that cleaning up after ourselves is an inconvenience.  Just like encouraging your kids to help clean house is a skill that will benefit them later in life, picking up after oneself is an essential life skill.  By letting your kid make a mess, you can teach and educate during the clean up phase too.

More Resources on Being Messy

I’ve collected a few posts about being messy, or doing messy activities, that you may find enlightening.  Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

And, here are several messy art projects that may prove helpful for you as you explore the relationship of messiness and creativity with your kids. These links will open in a new window too.

Do you have any tips or ideas for cultivating messiness (as it lends itself to creativity or other beneficial processes)?  I’d love to hear them.

50 Things You Can Do With Your Toddler While Caring For Your Newborn

posted in: Parenting | 13

As mom of now two boys, there are days when I’ve reached the end of my creative rope, so to speak.  It’s not that I’m overwhelmed, but that I’ve run out of ideas for keeping my toddler engaged while caring for a newborn at the same time.  Activities with lots of prep work just don’t cut it.  Sure, I can put something together during my newborn’s naptime… or maybe do some prepping the evening before, but it’s really just easier to do something that doesn’t require a lot of planning.

With that in mind, below you’ll find a list of 50 things you can do with a toddler while caring for a newborn.  But first, let me list several books that you might want to have on hand if you’re not one to go clicking on links when you need an activity. I love having books like these on hand! Click on any book title below to visit the page’s Amazon listing via my affiliate link — these have all gotten rave reviews!

Seven Books for Busting Boredom

  1. Busy Toddler, Happy Mom: 280+ activities that will keep your toddler’s attention, using things that are easy to find and inexpensive.
  2. 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: activities that stimulate creativity and imagination, no electronics!
  3. The Toddler’s Busy Book: 365 creative activities and games that use items found around the home.
  4. The Arts and Crafts Busy Book: 365 creative activities that are easy to put together
  5. Project Kid: 100 Ingenious Crafts for Family Fun: projects and basic DIY tutorials to help build a DIY arsenal
  6. 101 Kids Activities That Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever!: activities for kids of any age that will keep kids from being bored
  7. 99 Fine Motor Ideas for Ages 1 to 5: activities to keep little hands busy (and practice fine motor skills)

books-toddler-activities

50 Easy Activities for Toddlers

50 Things You Can Do With Your Toddler While Caring For Your Newborn - Betsy's PhotographyAnd now for that list of 50 things you can do with your toddler.  No complex prep work, no hours of setup. Easy ideas for when your toddler needs a reprieve from boredom. {links open in a new window}

  1. Nature Art – all you need is a box and some “findings” from the great outdoors (nuts, seeds, plants, flowers, etc).
  2. Sculpture Activity With Cardboard Tubes – get creative in sculpting with curved pieces cut from cardboard tubes.
  3. Have Your Toddler Help With New Baby – five ways your toddler can be a big helper.
  4. Smoothie Bottle Bowling – pull those empty bottles out of your recycling bin and save them to use as bowling pins.
  5. String Painting + Printing – experiment with the effects of paint on string.
  6. DIY Sticker Seek + Find – a homemade matching game that will be sure to entertain.
  7. Play Flashlight Games – what kid doesn’t love playing with flashlights?  I know mine is a fan.
  8. Play Outdoors – it’s easy to find ways to entertain a toddler outdoors.  We often just “explore” …and find neat things.
  9. Clean House – toddlers love to clean.  Might as well have that energy be productive.
  10. Seaside Sensory Bottle – sensory bottles are great for calming and entertaining.
  11. Autumn Tree Craft – there’s nothing better than a craft you can pull together in minutes.
  12. Letter Recognition Game – all you need is a deck of aphabet cards and some floor space to play.
  13. Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt – have a camera?  Take a walk and see what you can photograph.
  14. Strawberry Planter Pom Pom Drop – pom poms are very entertaining for toddlers, especially when dropping into something.
  15. Painting With Flowers – flowers make great paintbrushes — and clean up is easy.
  16. Slime Sensory Bag – have hair gel and a ziploc bag?  You can do this activity.
  17. Sock Mopping – gross motor skills and cleaning all in one, your toddler will have a blast.
  18. Stacking Cups – not speed stacking, but toddlers love to stack and unstack things.
  19. Snow Sensory Play – if it’s snowy out, there is no better entertainment than a pile of snow with some kitchen utensils.
  20. Egg Carton Train – egg cartons are often on hand, might as well turn one into a cool train.
  21. Water Wall Painting – this activity is great for outdoors.  No clean up required.
  22. Spider Web Discovery Basket – really quick and easy activity, if you can find a spare laundry basket.
  23. DIY Reverse Kerplunk – if you’re a fan of the game kerplunk, you have to try making your own.
  24. Prism Play + Chalk Art – prisms cast cool colors.  Learn about light and trace the colors.
  25. Train Track Bowling – bowling is fun (and easier?) when you can use a train track to keep “on track.”
  26. Go Apple Picking – get outdoors, pick some fruit.  Fun activity, and good harvest for snacking later.
  27. Coin Drop – kids love putting money in banks.
  28. Pre-writing Tray – use cornmeal, salt, or another sand-like item to make a surface for drawing shapes and the like.
  29. Leaf Threading – make a necklace or garland out of leaves from your backyard.
  30. Simple Play With A Ramp – have cars and a piece of cardboard?  You can do this activity.
  31. Painting With Nature – fun activity using different items from nature to apply paint to paper.
  32. Make a Discovery Basket – a list of 150+ things you could use to make a discovery basket.
  33. Balloon Badminton – all kids love to hit balloons up in the air — and your newborn won’t get hurt if it bounces off baby.
  34. Mailing Thank You Notes – give your kid a paper and some markers, and you can send off some lovely thank you drawings.
  35. Make Spicy Paint – use spices and water to paint on paper.
  36. Animal Trackers Club – get a membership to a monthly “club” …your toddler will be excited and entertained when each package arrives.
  37. Gel Paint Mixing Experiment – mixing colors is always fun, and pretty easy to set up.
  38. Sensory Play With Jello – if you have gelatin and water, you can make jello.  And edible sensory play is always fun.
  39. Carpet Doodles – use different toys to make transient doodles in your carpet.
  40. Edible Sand Play – if you have stale bread, you can make tgis “sand” …great for a construction sensory bin.
  41. Toddler Sewing Basket – put together a basket of todder-safe sewing items.
  42. Playdough-filled Balloons – the sensory aspect of squeezing and squishing these ballons is sure to be a hit.
  43. Bird Watching – put out a bird feeder and wait to see what birds stop by.
  44. Stirring and Mixing Free Play – get some miscellaneous kitchen ingredients, let your child loose.
  45. Build a Great Blanket Fort – forts are a surefire way to entertain your toddler.  Perfect spot for playing or reading.
  46. Milk Gallon Clothespin Drop – provide long lasting entertainment with this simple activity.
  47. Masking Tape Roads – if your toddler likes cars, you have to check this activity out.
  48. Read Books – reading is an easy way to give your toddler attention when you are tired or stuck on the couch.
  49. Cooking With Toddler Made Simple – if you have to be in the kitchen, here are some ways your toddler can help.
  50. Cuddle Time – often toddlers just need “mommy time.”  Cuddles can do wonders for any big brother or big sister.
  51. Grow Pea Seeds in Jello – learn about nature and seed germination with this quick project that will last for days.
  52. Create a Childrens’ Garden – while this takes time to set up, once you have a garden your toddler will love “working” in it.
  53. Magnifying Glass Exploration – observe and explore your environment with a magnifying glass.
  54. Play With Bathtub Paint – what better place to get messy than in the bathtub?  Clean up is so easy.

Looks like we got a few extra!  Oh well, the more, the merrier.

So, there you have it.  50+ things that you can do with your toddler while caring for your newborn.  Some require a little more hands-on help from mom than others, but hopefully this list can help get those creative gears turning for you.  I know that sometimes one activity will morph into another at our house.  So maybe this list is even exponentially longer!

Planting a Rainbow Book Activity

posted in: Parenting | 14

This summer, we have been enjoying reading — a lot.  I’m a bookworm myself, so it doesn’t surprise me that our toddler is a bookworm himself. Proof that we love books around here?  Here are some ways the books in our personal library (and at the local library) have been getting a lot of mileage:

  • Summer “read-to-me” program at the local library (our goal for the summer is 150 books)
  • Bedtime ritual includes 3 books
  • Naptime is preceded by 3 books (yes! naptime still!)
  • Spontaneous reading throughout the day (car rides, free time, etc)

So, when I heard about the Love Books summer book exchange, I knew we had to participate.  I’m not sure which part of the book exchange was more fun — preparing our book activity package and mailing it, or getting one in the mail.

Now, onto the package that we received from Jen (Plain Vanilla Mom) for the Love Books exchange (see Jen’s post about the book and activity we sent). As we has just mailed our package a few days prior, Toby was very excited to see something in the mail for him.  We retrieved it from our mailbox late one evening, so waited until the next day to open it.  There is no fun in opening a package you can’t play with right away, right?

What came in our package?  Take a peek below (click on any image to enter gallery view mode).

The book, Planting a Rainbow (#afflink), by Lois Elhert, was a big hit.  We talked about all the flowers and colors in the book, and then my son decided to find the flowers that “matched” the cookie cutters we received.  From there, we started into the Planting a Rainbow book activity in full force.  If you want to replicate the Planting a Rainbow book activity with your kid, here’s a list of supplies (#afflinks)

As you can see from the images below, the entire activity was a huge hit!   (click on any image to enter gallery view mode)

The finished flowers are sitting on the windowsill of my kitchen, where I can admire them as I do dishes.  Sadly, the pom poms didn’t stay stuck of the glue dots, but ended up in my kitchen sink.  Though, there’s a good chance that one of my cats could be the culprit in regards to that… I can’t say for sure.

I love that this Planting a Rainbow book activity was open-ended, and that Toby took the craft and made it his own.  It’s so fun to watch kids be excited about being creative!  I may need to create some more book-based activities for us to do, as this project went over so well.

Planting a Rainbow Book Activity - BPhotoArt.com #lovebooks

love-books-summer-exchangeLove Books Summer Exchange

This post is part of the Love Books Summer Exchange. Over 50 bloggers are participating in the 4th Annual LOVE BOOKS exchange, hosted by The Educators’ Spin On It.

Participants select one book and one amazing, open ended activity to go along with it, and exchange it with another family via mail. Each blogger shares about the book and activity they got.

Big Brother Kit (3 Busy Bag Activities)

posted in: Parenting | 4

Earlier this week I shared the fabric lovey for baby that we made as part of a virtual busy bag exchange — well, today, you’ll get to hear about the toddler-aged busy bag I created for my son. Since our new baby’s arrival is any moment, I thought a big brother kit would be the perfect topic for a busy bag!

Big Brother Kit - 3 Busy Bag Activities - BPhotoArt.com
Big Brother Kit – 3 busy bag activities for while mom and dad are at the hospital.

The Big Brother Kit (3 Busy Bag Activities)

Since big brother may need a few days’ worth of activities, I together three busy bag activities for him.  I’ll briefly tell you about each, and then this post will focus on the third one: the “Waiting for Baby” busy bag.

1. Bookworm Busy Bag

The first busy bag I assembled, perhaps the easiest.  This is a selection of travel-sized picture books in a little carrying bag. Perfect for any reader, and the small size of the books makes it easy to bring a number of different stories along.  And, needed, given that my toddler chose to read 150 books this summer through the library read-to-me program.  That’s about 4 books a day, so manageable if we keep on top of it.

2. Big Brother Kit Memory Game Busy Bag

A simple busy bag, pairs of photos printed on cardstock.  For this busy bag, I went through our photo archives (see some of Toby’s first year memories), and selected images that grandma and grandpa (who Toby will be staying with his baby brother “comes out”) could use as a “big brother kit prep” activity.  You know, sleeping, nursing, first food, first steps… all the things babies do that my son will know soon enough.

3. Waiting for Baby Busy Bag

This busy bag activity kit was my tour de force.  I spent the most time on it, and there are two components: a spiral bound photo storybook, and some photo puzzles. Both feature our family maternity portraits.  Now, onto the details of how I made this busy bag!

Waiting for Baby Busy Bag Storybook

When brainstorming ideas, I remembered how much Toby liked looking through the baby photos of himself.   All kids love pictures.  Well, since we just did our maternity pictures, I decided to put together a little storybook featuring the maternity portraits.  The storyline is pretty simple, and focuses on waiting for baby, how my son will be a great big brother, how much mommy and daddy love him, and how our family will be changing as baby arrives.

I made sure to incorporate familiar phrases from our daily conversations to add familiarity for my son — as this will be his first extended stay away from both of us parents.  Reminds me of the Berenstain Bears and the Week at Grandma’s (#afflink).

I thought about making fancy printed text for each page, but since I was trying to get a lot of things done before baby’s arrival…I took the quicker route.

Here’s a sampling of the text I wrote to accompany the pictures, plus some images of the book’s pages.

When I check on my baby,
I know he is drinking and eating,
getting big and strong. He likes
to get kisses from me and Daddy.

I’ll always be Daddy’s little man,
but soon I’ll be a big brother too.

I don’t know who is more excited
to meet our baby, me… or Mommy and Daddy.

Click on an image to open in gallery view mode.

I was really excited with how this part of the busy bag turned out, and since my son is a bookworm, I know he’ll love it.  Kids always love seeing themselves in pictures, so the personalized aspect will be a bonus.

The benefits of this activity in the busy bag?  Well, first off, it gives my son something to do (as well as talk/think about) while he is with his grandparents and we are at the hospital.  I’m hoping that the familiar phrases from our daily routine will help lessen any anxiety or concerns he may have during the extended visit.  Honestly, he’s a pretty well-adjusted guy, so I don’t expect there to be many issues, but you never know.   So I wanted the storybook’s text to remind our son that we love him no matter what, and how excited we all are to be nearing the end of the “waiting for baby” phase.

I also love that this little photo book is just his size, so he can tote it around and “read” it whenever.

The perfect addition for a big brother kit, right?

Busy Bag Photo Puzzles

Onto part two of this busy bag… the photo puzzles.  Again, I decided upon using several of the pictures from our maternity family portrait session in case our son needed to see our faces while he is not with us.  I took 5″x5″ pictures, glued them with an  to a piece of cardboard, and then cut them out once dry.  I ended up going random sizes and shapes for the puzzle pieces, more of a free-form cutting activity for mom!  Depending on the kid, the number of pieces will vary; I think the most I made for a single puzzle was 5 or 6.

Each puzzle then got packaged in its own ziploc bag.  Let me give you a tip — if you make this busy bag and do multiple puzzles, be sure to label the back of each puzzle piece so you know which ones go together — without having to assemble the puzzles during cleanup (huge timesaver)!

One other thing — Since our faces are on the smaller side in the photos, and I wasn’t using the most precise scissors, I made sure not to cut through any faces.  This may not be practical if you use a photo of a large face, but for these images, it ended up working well.

Here is a list of the supplies used for the photo puzzle busy bag (#afflinks):

Click on an image to open in gallery view mode.

So far as the benefits of this busy bag activity, puzzles are great for brain development.  Our son loves puzzles, and having portable ones that would travel easily seemed like a great idea to me.  I know these will be a big hit because they feature our family, so he gets to see mom and dad as he’s putting the photos together.

Since the backsides are labeled with different letters of the alphabet (one designated letter for each puzzle) — this could be used as a more involved matching game too — find all the letter ‘A’ pieces, then assemble each puzzle once they’re organized by letter.

Now to Wait…

The hardest part of making this big brother kit busy bag activity?

Waiting.

Usually I get to share projects like this with my toddler as soon as they’re completed.  But, since this is going to be a special big brother kit — to be opened with the grandparents, I’ll miss out on my son’s reaction as well as his first experience playing with each item.

But, that aside, I’m hoping he’ll thrilled and that these busy bags will be a good diversion for grandma and grandpa (if they need one).  I’ll be interested to hear how these puzzles are received by our son, and what he ends up doing with them.

Big Brother Kit Ideas

Busy Bag Ideas for Toddlers


Virtual Busy Bag Exchange SeriesVirtual Busy Bag Exchange Series

This post is part of a virtual busy bag exchange.

Check it out for busy bag ideas that are portable for traveling, and more or less mess free. You’ll find busy bags for the following age ranges: babies, 1 year olds, 2 year olds, 3/4 year olds, 5/6 year olds, and school aged children.

Fabric Lovey for Baby (…a virtual busy bag exchange)

posted in: Parenting | 15

Fabric Lovey for Baby ...a virtual busy bag exchange - BPhotoArt.com

This week, I’m participating in a virtual busy bag exchange with kids! Today’s post is a virtual busy bag exchange for babies, and in addition to my fabric lovey, Nadia from Teach Me Mommy is sharing how to make a textured photo book for babies. I’m so excited to share this with our new little one! Later this week I’ll be doing a virtual busy bag exchange for toddlers.

Making sure Floyd smiles for the camera
My son with “Floyd”

Now, before we get into the fabric lovey, let me give you a little back story. Earlier this summer Toby picked out two sewing projects, one for him, and one for baby.

“Floyd,” the stuffed monster to the right, was the result of our toddler sewing project (see more photos and read about the pattern book).

Since we completed the first project, someone had been on my case to make baby’s sewing project too! And, since new babies don’t really do much except for eat, sleep, and …well… you know, this lovey-style baby gift will get at least a few good months of mileage.

Making the Fabric Lovey for Baby

Making a busy bag for a baby is more of a creative exercise, since the younger kids are, the less they need to be entertained. Since we’ll be welcoming a newborn to the family very shortly, I thought this fabric lovey would be perfect for baby. Toby helped pick out the pattern (from Sew Together, Grow Together) as well as the fabric for the project.

We used a navy cotton terrycloth for one side, and a flannel caterpillar print for the other side. The ears and heart embellishments were made from those materials also. We used some white acrylic yarn for hair, and embroidery floss to make the eyes and mouth. I wasn’t originally planning to add any stuffing, but both the boys here (dad and big brother) thought it needed some, so this fabric lovey has just a little “poof” to it. To help hold everything together and define the fabric lovey’s shape, I top-stitched around the edge of the lovey, and added some top stitching on the face, arms, etc.

fabric baby lovey, first side
fabric baby lovey, first side
fabric baby lovey, second side
fabric baby lovey, second side

Benefits of a Fabric Lovey

Toby had fun helping make this, so I guess it was a toddler activity of sorts too. But in general, fabric loveys are great for babies because of their tactile sensory benefits. Having something to chew or suck on, different colors to look at, and different textures to feel — all these things make an object interesting for babies. Our newborn, when he arrives, will have to grow into all these “busy bag activity” …but that’s ok since it will extend this fabric lovey’s “life” as a toy of interest.

One other thing you can do to help a fabric lovey be comforting for babies is to make it smell like mom. You can accomplish that by sleeping with the lovey yourself for a few days, or holding the fabric lovey close to you when you’re holding your baby. That way, when baby isn’t next to you, “l’essence de mama” will still be nearby in a subtle, comforting way.

Wondering about other ways to enhance the tactile/sensory benefits of a homemade lovey? You could add little fabric tags to the edges, more colors of yarn for the hair, or multiple colored embellishments. While we didn’t add any crinkle fabric or bells to the inside of this lovey, when making a fabric lovey it is really easy to put such “sound-makers” inside.

Fabric Lovey Photo Gallery

I wanted to share some photos of how we made the fabric lovey, and also detail shots of what the finished product looked like. Click on any image below to view it in gallery mode.

Busy Bags for Babies

Here are some resources and ideas for making a busy bags for babies!


Virtual Busy Bag Exchange SeriesVirtual Busy Bag Exchange Series

This post is part of a virtual busy bag exchange.

Check it out for busy bag ideas that are portable for traveling, and more or less mess free. You’ll find busy bags for the following age ranges: babies, 1 year olds, 2 year olds, 3/4 year olds, 5/6 year olds, and school aged children.

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