Cedar Shaving Indoor Sandbox

I love finding new materials for toddlers to use as an indoor sandbox, and today we tried something totally different: cedar shavings. Veronika took right to the material, and I quickly discovered there were three things to love about it.

First, it smells incredible. That meant the play doubled not only as tactile sensory play, but olfactory sensory play, too. Veronika would pick up handfuls and declare, “It smells really good!”

Second, there was a down-on-the-farm vibe to how the cedar shavings looked in a bin (they made me think of hay in a hayloft), so we set up a little pretend farm play. We added a funnel to be her “silo”, and Veronika loved filling it up with a pitchfork (er, beach shovel).

Then we added toy animals who could play on the farm. Veronika loved sprinkling the cedar down on them, or burying them underneath the shavings.

Finally, the cedar is a dream when it comes time to clean-up. Unlike tiny materials (rice!), this sweeps up cleanly and easily. A win for parents and kids both.

Picture Sort

Veronika and I are working on the concept of making a “match”, so here was a new way to turn the idea into a game!

To start, I cut images from magazines that could be sorted into pairs. These weren’t exact copies of each other, although you could make them so if you have a double copy of one magazine. Our pictures included: 2 shoes, 2 houses, 2 chairs, 2 images of flowers, and so forth.

Glue all these images onto index cards. For a more durable version of this game, you can try a few suggestions from The Toddler’s Busy Book. One option is to cover the cards with contact paper. To take it a step further, glue each image to a round metal lid, as from a frozen juice can, before covering with contact paper.

I kept things simple with the index cards, though, and set them out in a scrambled pile in front of Veronika. Her job was to make each match! When she picked up one shoe picture, I asked, “Can you find it’s match?” She quickly did so, showing that she’s grasped the concept.

Once the cards were all sorted, she had fun simply playing with them and looking at the images for a while. Next time, I might add magnetic strips to the back of the index cards so she can move them around like magnets on the fridge.

Rain Catcher

With two days of rain in the forecast, we took advantage and decided to make a rain catcher. This version is especially fun for toddlers since it involves a little “person” standing guard in the rain.

To set up, cut an empty plastic water bottle apart about two-thirds of the way up with a craft knife. Turn the top portion upside down so it forms a funnel down into the bottom portion, and then add masking tape along the rim to cover any sharp edges.

To make the person, mark off 1/2-inch increments on a wooden spoon with permanent marker. Add character with wiggle eyes and additional features in permanent marker. Travis decided our fellow should be called Dave.

We set the handle of “Dave” into the bottle, then placed him out in the rain. And just in time! Within a few hours, there was already half an inch of water in the bottom. Then, this happened:

Yup, snow in mid April! It was a wonderful and unexpected chance to show Veronika how several inches of snow melted down into only about 1/2 an inch of water, once the temperature warmed back up.

By the end of the evening, the water was nearing Dave’s two inch mark. But oh no, then the wind picked up… and knocked Dave and all our hard work over!

How much rain can you collect in your rain catcher? Please share in the comments!