Q-Tip Painting, 4 Ways

Whenever Veronika spots q-tips in the bathroom, she’s eager to play with them. So today we gave into that urge, and used the cotton swabs for arts & crafts instead! Below are four different methods that she and I tested out.

One: Negative Images

For the first craft, you can use any glass pie plate (or baking dish or loaf pan) as the “canvas”. I spread a little tempera paint thinly in the bottom, then handed Veronika a q-tip as her brush. Any lines that your child makes leave a negative image or etching behind.

The idea was a bit advanced for Veronika, but after she’d done some scribbling, she loved seeing the deliberate images I drew for her, like a sun or puppy.

We even tried making a print of it by pressing down a piece of white paper, although it ended up looking more like abstract art.

Two: Color mixing

Cotton swabs are just right for mixing up colors, giving a chance to teach a little about primary and secondary colors! I poured a little of each primary color (red, yellow, and blue) onto a paper plate, and first showed them to Veronika as we named each.

One at a time, we mixed them! Our red and yellow made orange, yellow and blue made green, and blue and red made purple. Now we had a full palette for…

Three: Pointillism

The tip of a cotton swab is naturally suited for making dots (although Veronika practiced making a few swirls, too), which is a great introduction to the pointillist style of painting.

I dotted right alongside her, so pretty soon we had a pointillism rainbow and sun and clouds, with a little blue puppy beneath. Veronika loved adding to the picture I started, making very emphatic dots. My little artist at work!

Four: Counting

For our final q-tip activity, I wrote out the digits 1, 2, and 3 for Veronika. After encouraging her to name each number, I asked her to make the correct number of dots with her q-tip underneath. “Can you make 1 dot?” I asked her. Dot!

She was also able to do this for number 2. By 3, she just started dotting everywhere. But of course preschoolers can tackle this task all the way up to 10, or higher! For an even greater challenge, stamp out a connect-the-dots with the q-tips, then number them and have your child connect the lines.

Which of these q-tip activities does your child like best? Please share in the comments. Many thanks to Hands on As We Grow for all these q-tip ideas!

Water Cycle Bags

Travis has been learning about the water cycle in school, so here was a fun way to make the lesson hands-on at home.

In the morning before school, we each copied a template onto sandwich-sized zip-top plastic bags with Sharpies. Travis insisted that his sun have sunglasses and a smile! Make sure to draw the arrows showing evaporation, condensation, and precipitation, the three main movements of the water cycle.

We then added a little water to each bag (filling them about half way) and added a few drops of blue food coloring. Now it was time for a test! Travis’s bag went in a sunny window. Mine went in a window on the shady side of the house. The idea was to observe them for a few days and spot any differences.

After school, Travis could scope out the differences. The condensation was noticeably more apparent in the sunny bag. Obviously since the bags are a closed system, it won’t mimic a perfect water cycle, but kids can observe any changes over a few days and even take notes!

Marching Song

Whether your toddler has reached that age where he or she is determined to walk instead of being carried (“all by myself!” Veronika insists) or whether you’re trying to encourage such a shift, there’s one inconvenience to those independent toddler footsteps: those little feet can go sloooow. Sometimes, a good marching song is exactly what you need to help the pace along!

This version is to the familiar tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, making it easy for little one’s to latch onto. So for example when we make a routine daily trek, like our walk to the mailbox, Veronika and I sing:

See the soldiers in the street,

Hear the marching of their feet.

They are singing as they go,

Marching, marching to and fro

See the soldiers in the street

Hear the marching of their feet.

This definitely helps Veronika pick up the pace. As a bonus, it can help you as the grown-up feel less frustrated, and more engaged in the moment! There’s a reason soldiers have marched to songs for millennia.

Shoebox Train Craft

Veronika has loved books about trains lately, especially old favorites like The Little Engine That Could. So today we made her a train of her very own!

To set up, I used three cardboard boxes (none of which were actually shoeboxes, despite the title of this post, but they were roughly that size). Make sure the box you choose for the engine still has a lid. Cut two rectangles from that lid, and cut out a “window” from each, then adhere to the sides of this first box as the sides of the engine. Our engine box also still had a flap on the front which was perfect for gluing down an empty toilet paper tube as the funnel. You can also affix an additional flap of cardboard here if needed.

Next, I measured construction paper to fit the sides of each box, and then affixed with hot glue. We used blue for the engine, green for the middle car, and red for the caboose. Cut black circles from construction paper as wheels and glue down. Finally, punch a hole in the front and back of each box so you can tie them together with string. This train was ready to chug along the track!

I pulled it up to the “station” (i.e. the playroom) where lots of Veronika’s stuffed animals were waiting to board. She wasted no time loading her passengers into the train!

She absolutely adored chugging the train all around the apartment, sometimes pausing to let passengers on and off, or sometimes talking to her passengers: “Come on black puppy!”

You can use these train cars in other ways, too, even for color sorting blocks or other toys into the train car with the same color paper. We skipped that part today, though, since Veronika loved loading it up in conjunction with another read-though of Little Engine.

Chugga chugga choo choo!

Alphabet Sand

When I needed to occupy Veronika quickly today, I gave her a little tray of alphabet sand, one of those “oldie but goodie” sensory games that never fails.

What is alphabet sand, you ask? It isn’t sand at all, but my secret mix of equal parts sugar and salt in the bottom of a cake pan. Set it down in front of your toddler and let them practice tracing the alphabet!

For early learners like Veronika, I usually start out by coaching her through a few easy examples like O, X, V, and T. We use our fingers, but also lollipop sticks, which make great “pens”.

After she’s done a few letters, she’s usually ready just to squiggle, or to draw lines and circles. She also loves to let the mixture sprinkle down into the cake pan from her fingers. When she shifts her sprinkling over to the floor, that’s when I know the game is done and we quickly sweep up.

Want something similar but a bit more challenging? Hide alphabet puzzle pieces in the mixture instead!

Tofu Lasagna

The kids have loved lasagna lately, but lasagna recipes often feed a crowd, and we never quite make it through leftovers. This version bakes up in an 8-inch pan and is just the right size!


  • 6 lasagna noodles
  • 1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu
  • 1 (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, chopped
  • 2 cups chopped baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded non-dairy mozzarella
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, mash the tofu with a fork to desired consistency. Stir in the artichoke hearts, spinach, nutritional yeast, and garlic salt.
  3. Spoon a little of the sauce into the bottom of an 8-inch baking pan. Add three lasagna noodles. Top with the tofu mixture, followed by the remaining lasagna noodles. Pour the remaining sauce on top and sprinkle with the mozzarella.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes.

Toddler Ball

Spring weather and spring sports are calling us outside! It seemed like the perfect time to finally invest in a wiffle ball bat and tee set for Veronika. These sets are great because they work so many gross motor skills for kids. Batting, of course, was the first step. But then we mimicked a full game of baseball!

Whenever one of us whacked a ball off the tee, we ran to the nearest tree as a “base”. She might not have understood, but my excited modeling of the behavior and cheering of “Go go go!” had her running and grinning.

Pretend to try and tag each other “out” on the way back to home base.

Of course enext you can work on tossing skills (i.e. fielding the ball). She loved passing a ball back and forth.

For fun, I also had her kick the balls a few times, which is always good practice even if these balls were not meant for soccer. That meant we tackled three sports skills with one set: batting, throwing, and kicking.

It all looked like so much fun that big brother Travis ran out to play!

He even hit a few home runs out of the park!

Simple Origami Jumping Frogs

These little folded frogs were too complicated for my kids to follow along with the steps, but they loved leaping about the final product!

Rather than attempt to explain instructions for folding, simply check out the step-by-step tutorial here. I cut green construction paper into squares to start, but you can also use standard origami paper. By the end it should look something like this from the bottom:

And like this from the top:

Once the little frogs were folded up, we drew on eyes and black spots. Kids can decorate however they choose, or even add long paper tongues!

Place a finger near the back legs, then release to watch the frogs hop hop hop.

The kids loved watching the frogs leap, making this well worth the folding effort.

Dump Truck Domino Counting

Here was a fun way to combine Veronika’s truck play with a little early counting! She can count by rote up to about 20, but it’s still early for her to connect the idea that those rising numbers correlate to one more thing added each time.

We chose dominoes for the activity because we have lots of them and they fit easily into the truck bed. My hope was that physically them out would help her make the link. First, we just started filling up the truck randomly:

She eagerly counted along as we placed each domino in, and we made it all the way into the teens before she was too tempted to… dump!

For the next round, I challenged her to fill the truck with only a certain color. This meant we only counted as high as ten, and then it was time to dump. We repeated with the remaining colors.

For older kids, you can even make predictions about the point at which dominoes will start to spill out, without having to tip back the bed of the truck at all.

We played this version toward the end, piling in all the dominoes (confession: we stopped counting!) and watching them spill out. Chances are your toddler will stay happy with trucks and dominoes for some solo play after the lesson, too.

Density Tower

Travis and I have explored density with a jar like this in the past, but our layers haven’t always mixed quite right. Using our past experience as a guide, Travis helped set up the following 6 liquids today:

Corn Syrup

Maple Syrup

Water – tinted blue

Dish Soap – tinted green

Vegetable Oil

Rubbing Alcohol – tinted red

A few of the liquids were left their natural color but for those that would otherwise be confusingly clear, we added a little all-natural food coloring.

Travis and I talked briefly about our hypothesis (the day’s fancy word!) for the order they should go in. The only one we got wrong was water and dish soap, having thought water would float atop the soap, but it turned out to be the opposite.

As our layers took shape, Travis loved bending down to see the strata.

The red alcohol on top was hard to see, but the rest of the layers were quite well demarcated. Overall, this was a neat little STEM experiment in a jar.