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Valentine’s Day sensory box

11 Feb

For February, we’re “learning” about Valentine’s Day, about heart shapes and the colors red, pink and white.

Here’s our Valentine’s Day sensory box:

20150211_152257This box contains red and pink jingle bells; red, pink, and white pom-poms; red feathers; red and pink heart-shaped Mardi Gras beads; Valentine’s Day erasers; small pink jewelry boxes; heart-shaped cookie cutters; and white, heart-pattered plastic cups.

Everything came from the dollar store (thanks, in part, to my mother-in-law) or my arts and crafts stash.

20150208_10392120150208_103957I think this might be the girls’ favorite box yet. They love wearing the beads and transferring the beans from the big box to the small boxes and cups, or putting the jingle bells in the cups and shaking them around. They also love stacking the cups and nesting them inside each other.

20150208_104238They’re doing a much better job of keeping the beans contained to a confined space, rather than throwing them about…although they do still do that, too.

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Our take on sensory boxes

21 Jan

In searching for age- and developmentally-appropriate arts and crafts projects for the girls to do (and for us to do with the girls), I stumbled upon the concept of a sensory box.

20141202_150320A sensory box is simply a medium-sized shallow plastic storage tub with materials inside that stimulate the senses and, hopefully, spark the imagination. A sensory box is often built around a central theme or concept.

A box has three components: the base, the tools, and the treats and trinkets.

The base often is dry beans, rice or pasta (plain or dyed), sand, gravel, or similar “filler” material. The tools are things that can be used to scoop, pour, pick up, sort, etc.; they could include measuring cups/spoons, small boxes/containers, or chopsticks. And finally, the trinkets are things that make the box fun and usually fit the theme.

I had read that sensory play not only is good for developing fine motor skills, but also good for developing child-directed creative/imaginative play. I learned that they also can help with developing language and vocabulary, improving focus, and, because they stimulate the five senses, tearing down barriers to everyday “tasks,” such as eating.

I was 100 percent sold on these things. I figured the investment of money, time, and effort was minimal for the outcomes. I pinned several ideas. And I had many more churning through my head.

After a trip to the dollar store and a hunt through my craft supplies, I put together two very simple boxes: one around the theme of Christmas and the other around the theme of winter.

20141202_150337The Christmas box contained red and green jingle bells, red and green pom-poms, ribbons, foam gingerbread men and reindeer, a small jewelry box wrapped like a present, small plastic containers filled with plastic cranberries, and Christmas tree-shaped measuring spoons.

I gave it to the girls pretty early in December, and they played with it for at least 20 minutes at a time for about 5 days straight. I left it out in the living room, among their other toys, and they would ask me to open it so they could play with it at least once a day.

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They put the dry beans in their mouths every once in a while, and they flung the beans all over the floor quite frequently, but they were just so darn happy, it was hard to be upset.

The winter box contains blue jingle bells, blue and white pom-poms, ribbons, foam and plastic snowflakes, a small jewelry box wrapped in snowman paper, and pinecones. I forgot to initially, but I later added a couple of plastic cups.

20150120_165041I gave the girls the winter box for a while yesterday, but they already seem to enjoy it.

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They were taken aback by the texture of the pinecones and the snowflakes. Anna enjoyed rubbing the ribbon on her face and wrapping it around herself like a scarf, while Elise loved feeling the pom-poms on her face.

20150120_165120They also figured out how to “sort” the beans into their cups, rather than just throw the beans around the room.

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I plan to make a Valentine’s Day-themed box for next month, focusing on red, pink, and hearts, and a St. Patrick’s Day-themed as well as a spring-themed box for March, focusing on green (the former) and flowers, grass, and sunshine (the latter). I’ll be sure to post photos of the boxes as they are made.

Easy fall placemat craft for kids

3 Dec

I realize many parts of the country already have been at least dusted with, if not buried in snow, and by now the beautifully colored leaves are long gone, but…

I have a really easy fall craft that parents can do with their children: pressed leaf placemats.

These remind me of the leaf pressings we would do in Girl Scouts – where you seal pretty leaves between two pieces of waxed paper. Anyone else remember making those in Scouts or in school?

Well, this is an easier (no iron necessary!), littler-kid-friendly version!

20141111_203730Here’s how we did it:

First, we went on a walk around the neighborhood and collected leaves of all types, sizes and colors, as long as they were not torn and not too brittle.

Next, we cut out a piece of Contact paper to the size of a placemat, peeled off the backing, and laid it out on the table sticky side up; we held it in place using painter’s tape.

Then, we helped the girls place leaves face up and face down all over the sticky paper. Anna and Elise were about 15 months when we did this craft, so they picked up leaves and held onto them; they didn’t really lay them neatly on the paper. We guided their little hands, though, and managed to lay out about a dozen leaves on each placemat.

Last, we cut out a second piece of Contact paper, exactly the same size, peeled off the backing, and laid it on top of the first piece, sticky side down – sandwiching the leaves between the adhesive sides of the Contact paper.

20141111_20381220141111_203817I opted to sew double-fold bias tape around the placemats to give them a nice, finished look – and, in part, to match our existing placemats, which are a rich brick red color. I used this tutorial to sew the bias tape with mitered corners.

It is not at all necessary, but it sure makes for a polished look with relatively little effort.

20141111_203805Over time, the placemats might bubble up a bit, where the adhesive doesn’t stick well to the leaves, but they still work and are easy to wipe off! And they are so stinking easy and adorable!

These placemats were a great addition to our Thanksgiving table and would be lovely for everyday use in the fall months.

Easy DIY Halloween costumes for twins

6 Nov

Christopher and I made a pact that if the girls could walk up a driveway, up to the front door of a house, by Halloween, then we would take them trick-or-treating around the neighborhood.

We needed costumes that were simple, inexpensive and totally adorable.

A quick Google or Pinterest search reveals some pretty cute ideas for twins, but none of them really struck our fancy.

They say little girls are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice.” Christopher and I wanted to make Anna and Elise into sugar and spice.

20141031_161518Here’s how we did it:

Sugar: White pants, white long-sleeve shirt, silver headband, silver glitter fabric paint, silver glitter hair and body spray, and three sugar cubes.

Spice: Gold pants, gold long-sleeve shirt (I found one at Target that was ivory with sparkly gold stripes.), gold headband, gold glitter fabric paint, gold glitter hair and body spray, and two cinnamon sticks.

(The winter hats and matching mittens, not pictured, were not part of the costumes but were absolutely necessary with nearly 30 mph winds. The hats just happened to be a lovely – and sparkly – cream color. We just positioned the headbands over the flower adornments.)

20141031_161527Step 1. Spray the pants and shirts with the glitter hair and body spray. (It will not stick permanently, but it will add just enough glitz and sparkle for a couple of hours of Halloween fun.) Let the clothes dry for a bit.

Step 2. Paint the words “sugar” and “spice” on the respective shirts with the fabric paint. Let the paint dry according to the recommendations on the bottle.

Step 3. Affix the sugar cubes and cinnamon sticks to the respective headbands using a needle and thread or, if you have it, hot glue.

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Step 4. Dress your little ones, stand back and admire the adorableness!

20141031_161535We got the girls bundled up in their hats and mittens and put them in their wagon with a blanket, and we made it to about three houses on our side of the street. The wind was whipping. The temperatures were deceptively cold. The girls faces were red and their noses were running. We called it quits.

But, Christopher and I got these wonderful photos and made a sweet, silly memory. That’s all we could ever ask for.