Fabric Free Play

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Veronika is legitimately obsessed with stars, so when I found a swatch of star-print fabric in my craft bin, I knew I had to let her play with it. It prompted the idea to let her play with lots of fabric scraps, and this turned into great sensory and solo play!

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First, I showed her how to simply pile the fabric scraps in and out of a small box. She needed no further demonstration, and loved moving the scraps in, out, into smaller boxes, back to bigger boxes… You name it!

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Inevitably, your toddler will probably let the fabric rain down like confetti!

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She then had a game going in her head with the big star-print piece, pretending it was her bed.

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For some learning fun, point out any different colors and patterns you might have. I showed her the difference between big dots and little dots. Or between polka dots and stripes.

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You can help your child sort them by color or pattern, too. Finally, you can turn this into movement and music play! I took the longest strips of fabric and tied them to a jingle bell ring from our music bin.

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She loved shaking this in the air.

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Later in the day, I turned to find her busy with the fabric swatches again. So busy in fact that I had time to bake a cake!

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So before you toss any fabric scraps, don’t forget that they make a fantastic toddler toy.

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Swirly Pound Cake

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This cake is true to its name, with a full cup (pound) of vegan butter, but it’s well worth the indulgence. Consider this your family’s social distancing reward of the week!


  • 1 and 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  1. To prepare the batter, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add the Ener-G eggs and beat until combined.
  3. Add the flour and condensed milk, beating just until combined.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water. Spoon 1 cup batter into a clean bowl and add the cocoa mixture, whisking until combined.
  5. Alternate adding the vanilla and chocolate batters to a greased 9×5-inch loaf pan, beginning and ending with the vanilla. Use the tip of a knife to swirl through a few times for a marbled effect.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 60 minutes; a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

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Food-Coloring Fingerpaint

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Go figure! I’ve been trying method after method to encourage Veronika to keep her fingers out of the paint, but when I tested out this neat idea that actually encourages finger painting, she wanted to use a brush! Luckily she did switch to hands eventually, and I was glad she did. This is goopy glorious toddler art at its best.

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To start, I set a thick piece of white paper on her highchair tray and drizzled on a little corn syrup. Squirt a few different colors of food coloring into the corn syrup blobs; the colors will instantly run and bleed in a beautiful way!

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Veronika began cautiously dabbing at this with a paint brush. She was so intrigued as she lifted up a drop of colored syrup, then transferred her brush over to another section of paper to press down.

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I love watching when she concentrates on art this way.

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Well, eventually it was up to me to get my hands dirty first! I showed her how she could rub a finger through the mixture, swirling the color and corn syrup together for a glossy paint-like effect.

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At last! The fingers went into the finger paint.

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“Goopy!” she squealed with delight. “Squishy!” This girl is not afraid to get her hands dirty. She loved smearing it, rubbing sticky hands together, and watching the colors mix.

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The painting looks quite shiny and pretty once the corn syrup dries! Definitely one to display.

Duplo Printing

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This novel painting method is an easy way to mix up art projects with a toddler. It’s also an ideal introduction to the process of “stamping”, since Duplo fit perfectly in those toddler-sized hands.

I squirted a few blobs of paint into a shallow tray, and set out some of Veronika’s Duplo pieces, along with sheets of thick white paper. I showed her how to dip the Duplo into the paint (ideally with the bumps down) and press on to the paper.

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The first mark will probably come out splotchy but as you continue to dot, the bumps become clearer. “Bump bump bump!” she said with excitement.

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She grabbed for a piece, and – not surprisingly – didn’t quite get the bumps in the paint on her first try, so I assisted a little bit.

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Instead, her prints tended to be of the sides, bottoms, or edges of the Duplo pieces, but this gave nice variety to our pages. She looked so proud of herself, and at the process of making this art!

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Meanwhile, I continued to dot the bumpy side of Duplo pieces more clearly around her work, to show her the effect. A full length “train” piece gave nice variety.

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You can let the paint colors overlap for subtle color mixing, or just let your toddler run wild with the project.

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One note of caution: Be sure to wash the paint off soon after ending the project, especially if your child will be upset at favorite Duplo pieces being soiled.

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We knew we were done when she dipped in her hands, not the Duplo pieces!