Cactus Toss

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This game is sure to get laughs from your kids, and is a fun craft to boot!

Start by drawing two cactus shapes on green poster board, about 1 foot high. Older kids will have fun drawing these on their own; I did this part for Travis, who declared my cactus “clumsy”, which I thought was just about the best description in the world.

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Decorate the cactus with paint markers. I helped Travis think about how we could depict spikes and thorns, with lots of crosses and slash marks.

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Make a slit in the bottom of one cactus half and a slit in the top of the other so they can slot together. Add point values to each arm of the cactus, and glue pom poms on top.

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Time to play! To set up the cactus, place it in a clay dish. We added sand and rocks for desert authenticity.

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Twist pipe cleaners into circles for your playing pieces. I was yellow and Travis was red. Here’s the wind up…

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…and the toss!

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First player to 10 points wins. Travis was so proud when he hooked a 5 pointer on the top!


Sensory Play with Frozen Veggies

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Not only is this game great for toddler sensory fun, it doubles as a comforting way to soothe all those teeth coming in. Veronika is currently getting 8 new chompers, in addition to the 8 front ones she’s already got, which made the timing just right.

To play, I simply opened up a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and emptied them onto an pizza tray.

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I added a big ladle for her to scoop with, but the lip of it was too tough to get under the veggies, so soon we switched to a regular dinner spoon.

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She took it from there! She loved the sound that the spoon made in the pan, shoveling through the veggie pile, and of course pushing them to the floor.

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The small carrots, peas, and corn will thaw pretty quickly, but remain cold enough to soothe, which means she was thrilled when she lifted the spoon to her mouth and got a taste.

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This became an impish game, testing if mommy was going to chide her for eating her “toys”. Not this time!

If you want to throw in some quick learning, talk about the colors of the different veggies!

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Mostly, though, I let her play solo; the veggies kept her happy on the kitchen floor for almost a half hour, a big win in my book!


Flashcards in Envelopes

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I spotted this game online and found it a delight in so many ways. It works fine motor skills for toddlers (taking flashcards in and out of envelopes), requires no fancy materials, keeps your tot busy for ages, and doubles as a lesson on word recognition. If you don’t have a set of flashcards, consider investing in some. You can play this game now, and use them with a beginning reader far down the road.

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To play, I simply put about 10 flashcards into empty business envelopes. If your toddler is closer to 2 years old, consider sealing them shut. For Veronika, I left them easy to open.

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She started out sitting on my lap, as I showed her how to lift the envelope flap and remove the card inside.

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Soon she was concentrating hard on fitting the cards back in again.

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Once she had mastered the mechanics of this, she started to pay more attention to the pictures on the cards. I had deliberately used some that are her early words, and she happily said or signed them to me.

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Hat! Duck! Cat!

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Once she got tired of that, there was simply a big heap of fun envelopes and cards to play with for a while, making this activity great for self-entertainment.

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