First Cutting Activity: Play Dough

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There’s a reason that cutting projects are a go-to at nursery schools and preschools; scissors are fantastic for honing fine motor skills. So today it seemed time for Veronika’s first cutting activity, using the safest material I could think of: play dough!

First, I simply set out new play dough for play, but I focused on making shapes that could easily be cut later. That meant rolling up lots of “snakes” and “hot dogs”.

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I gave her a “hot dog” and a pair of safety scissors, and showed her where to put her fingers in the holes so the scissors would open and close. Obviously she’s young for this, so it turned into more of stabbing at the pieces. But she was so proud.

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“I’m cutting!” she reported. Whenever big brother Travis took a turn with the scissors, she immediately asked for them back, very aware that this was the task she wanted to tackle.

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It helped if I placed the scissors upright over one of our “snakes”, and then all she had to do was squeeze them shut.

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Mostly, I sat back and let her experiment. More precise cutting will come with time, and no doubt we’ll try out another material for cutting practice soon.


Make a Mini Troll

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After reading in Highlights magazine about an artist who makes troll sculptures from wood and recycled materials, Travis was eager to make his own. A walk to a nearby beach was the perfect opportunity to collect pieces of bark, branches, and wood shavings on the ground.

Troll Statue (1)

We returned with a plastic bag full of pieces and now needed to design the troll! Travis loved setting this out, initially with the troll lying down.

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He carefully arranged arms, legs, and a head.

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I then used hot glue to make his creation stand up in 3D. We even added a little orange peel as a hat!

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What a ferocious little troll it was, and a neat concept to boot.

Pretend Car Wash

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Veronika’s favorite cartoon right now features a tractor that gets muddy and dirty. With just a few craft supplies, we could replicate the idea right in the kitchen!

I drew car shapes on craft foam (using a very simple profile of a car since that was easier than a tractor), and cut them out.

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I then gave Veronika the “cars” along with a few sponges, and a shallow basin filled with warm soapy water. Note: I used baby shampoo, to avoid tears if she rubbed at her eyes, but dish soap would work, too.

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Place everything on a towel to nix the possibility of slippery spills and to make clean-up a cinch. Then I showed Veronika how to scribble over the cars with marker. “Oh no!” I said in pretend dismay. “The cars are getting muddy! They’re covered in dirt.”

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She parroted right along, catching on to the game and coloring “dirt” over the cars.

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Now it was time for a car wash! Show your toddler how to dip a sponge in the soapy water and then scrub on the craft foam. The washable markers come right off, even without much scrubbing, so Veronika was soon rewarded with squeaky clean cars.

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And then of course she wanted a repeat!

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You can also anticipate lots of fun simply squeezing water out of the sponges, splashing cars through the soapy water, and playing with the car shapes after you’ve toweled them dry.

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Sound Walk Scavenger Hunt

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When we go on nature walks, I tend to draw Veronika’s attention to things we can see… a natural tendency, and of course a great way to help her hone skills of observation. But it can be easy to neglect other senses. So today we specifically focused on things we could hear on our walk instead!

Armed with a cute template, we set out on a sound “scavenger hunt”.

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I loved this template because the pictures were cartoon-ish and easy for even a young toddler to understand. “Bird!” she said, looking at the drawings. “Plane!”

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The template is also just right for this age because it only includes a few items, instead of an overwhelming list. Pretty soon, we could start to check items off.

We met a dog on our walk, who barked happily. “Dog!” she said. I showed Veronika the dog on her paper and helped her check it off. (Older toddlers will no doubt proudly make the check marks themselves).

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Then she eagerly pointed when we heard a plane! And that earned a check.

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A bird near the water caught her attention and she chased after it yelling out “tweet tweet!” So that one got a check, too.

There is ample space to add other sounds that you hear, so we drew in a little cartoon of the wind after listening to it rustle through the leaves.

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Perhaps we’ll do a scavenger hunt for our sense of smell or touch on our next walk!

Pinto Bean Roll-Ups

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Cut tortillas into slices for this fun pinwheel-shaped sandwich. You can leave the carrots and cabbage raw for older kids, or steam lightly before putting the roll-ups together for younger toddlers.


  • 2 flour tortillas
  • 1/4 cup refried pinto beans
  • 1/4 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup shredded cabbage
  1. Warm the refried beans and spread evenly over the tortillas.
  2. Divide the carrots and cabbage among the tortillas, and then roll up tightly.
  3. Cut each tortilla into slices, and arrange face up on plates.

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If your kids like salsa, serve it on the side, or even a yogurt-salsa dipping sauce.