Pumpkin Scented Rice Bin

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This was easily one of the prettiest sensory rice bins I’ve put together for Veronika. And it certainly smelled the best!

To prepare the rice, you’ll want to start the night before. I didn’t have orange food coloring, but I dripped in a good sized blob each of red and yellow, then added about 2 tablespoons of hand sanitizer. Add a bag of plain white rice, along with 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice, and stir until it’s all combined.

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I ended up really liking the striated effect this achieved, since some pieces were more yellow, some more red, and some a perfect blend of orange. All the fall colors! Spoon the mixture onto a shallow tray so it can dry overnight.

In the morning, I laid out the rice for Veronika, along with pine cones and whole cinnamon sticks. Feel free to add other whole spices if you have them, like nutmeg or star anise.

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Veronika loved the bin right away, first wanting to get her hands on the cinnamon sticks. “Can I smell them?” she asked.

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I also added in a few orange pipe cleaners so she could thread the cinnamon sticks onto them, almost like long beads.

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Cinnamon bracelets!

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Then she started sprinkling handfuls of rice over the pine cones. She loved the sound it made!

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It was fun to bury the pine cones in the rice and then unearth them. And of course she paused often to lift the rice near her nose and take a deep breath in. There’s nothing better than the smell of pumpkin pie!

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This one kept her busy for a while!

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Spaghetti Spider Web Craft

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Thanks to some recent sensory play with Veronika, I’ve learned a few tricks about how best to make sculpture from spaghetti. I realized the same method could be used to add to our Halloween decor, because it would result in perfect “spider webs”.

To start, mostly this activity was just spaghetti sensory play again. This time, I tinted a big batch of spaghetti a witchy green hue and instead of adding glue, I added corn syrup.

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Just pour it on until you have a nice coating over the noodles. This not only means the noodles won’t clump together as your child plays, but also means the final artwork can still dry like glue, but stay edible.

And good thing, because Veronika was in the mood to nibble on pasta today! I gave her a small dish of plain noodles, but she ate big handfuls of the green stuff right from the pot!

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Eventually I diverted her attention from eating noodles to making the spider web craft. Lay out squares of wax paper and help your toddler arrange noodles in a circle. The thinner the overlap of the noodles, the faster and better these webs will dry.

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Being a toddler, of course she also wanted to make big gloppy piles of noodles, which was half the fun.

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She loved calling them webs, though, as she worked.

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Once we had three neat web shapes, I placed them on a baking sheet and put in the oven at 175 degrees F for 2 hours. This was sort of a guess, but it worked perfectly. The webs came off from the wax paper without tearing or breaking at all.

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Thread yarn through the top of each “web” and hang in spooky corners or windows. Bonus points for plastic spiders to live in each web!

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Spider Sticky Wall

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We had our roll of contact paper out this morning, so I thought it would be fun to make a sticky wall for Veronika. And what better theme for an October sticky wall than spiders of course!

For this activity, tape a large piece of contact paper to the wall, sticky side out.

I cut circles from brightly colored construction paper for the spider bodies and then trimmed pipe cleaners into smaller pieces for legs. I wanted each spider to have multi-colored legs so they were silly, not scary.

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Veronika loved playing with the pipe cleaners while I prepped all our materials! Then we starting hanging up bodies. She immediately latched on to what we were doing, and loved giving each spider its legs.

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Although I briefly mentioned that real spiders have eight legs, we weren’t really concerned about scientific accuracy today. As a two-year-old, she simply began adding legs wherever she wanted. Also, our pipe cleaners kept falling down (they don’t stick well to the contact paper unless you press really hard on them), which made for lots of spiders who were constantly losing limbs.

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But that was half the fun! Veronika thought it was so funny when the legs fell, and she narrated her play to herself as she worked. “Let’s give this guy yellow legs. Pink fell down! He needs a green leg!” and on and on for about 20 minutes.

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Between their bright fuzzy legs and their happy smiles, it’s safe to say we had the cutest spiders in town.

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Pumpkin Craft for Toddlers

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This pretty suncatcher craft was a nice alternative to playing with real pumpkins!

To start, I taped a large piece of contact paper on to our craft table, sticky side up, and then set out a tray filled with squares of cut tissue paper. We had squares in red, orange, and yellow.

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Veronika immediately loved pressing the tissue paper onto the sticky surface and seeing that they got left behind when she lifted her hand away.

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I helped a little so that we could completely fill in a roughly circular area.

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Cover with a second sheet of contact paper, sticky side down, then trim into a pumpkin shape.

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For a stem, I simply taped on a rectangle of green construction paper. Hang in a window or doorway and watch the sun play tricks through the colors.

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You’ll get a neat double dose of orange, first from anywhere your toddler has actually attached orange tissue paper, and second from any place that yellow and red overlap!

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Pocket Matching

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I had a few old scraps of fabric floating around our craft bin that were begging to be put to good use. So I put together this quick project for Veronika!

To start, cut a pocket shape from at least 3 different fabric swatches. (Note: you could also use gift wrap if you don’t have fabric).

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Arrange them on a piece of poster board and cover with contact paper. Carefully use a craft knife to make a slit at the top of each fabric swatch so that you now have pockets.

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To make “handkerchiefs” for each pocket, I cut two rectangles from each fabric pattern. Place these on squares of poster board as well and cover with contact paper. You’ll notice I needed a little extra tape to secure the fabric on the edges since my contact paper peeled off, which sort of spoiled the effect. Luckily, Veronika didn’t mind!

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Now, I set down the poster board and laid the rectangles next to her. Because it stood out the most, I first asked her to find the polka dot fabric. Could she put it in the polka dot pocket? Yes!

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As soon as she had the idea, she matched up white flowers to white flowers and blue flowers to blue flowers.

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She absolutely adored these little “handkerchiefs” and opened up the pockets to find them and repeat several times.

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When I wasn’t directly guiding her, she mix and matched patterns of course. But she seemed aware of this, too. “They don’t match!” she chirped up at one point, putting the polka dot rectangle into one of the floral-print pockets.

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This activity is great both to engage directly with your toddler and to leave him or her to it solo as a busy activity.

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Pumpkins with Mustaches

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It was time to get silly with some of the pumpkins we brought home from the farm stand!

You can start with pale or white pumpkins for this project, saving yourself the step of painting. But since painting is half the fun, we used orange pumpkins and first pulled out the white paint.

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Veronika loved slathering it all over two pumpkins. I recommend at least two coats of paint if you don’t want any orange peeking through, and would have done a third coat had there been time.

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Once the paint dried, we glued on mustache templates that I found online. Travis got to pick which shapes we’d use! You could also draw them with marker, but the 3-D effect is so fun.

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Silly and unexpected pumpkins like these are sure to delight those who see them on your doorstep.

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Halloween Countdown Day 19: No Mess Pumpkin Art

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Here’s a quick seasonal spin for a toddler to paint in a zip-top bag. This time, instead of plain paper inside the bag, I inserted a template of a pumpkin.

You can squirt in orange paint, but where’s the fun in that? Add a little blob of red and a little blob of yellow and it will become a lesson on color mixing, too! Now simply seal tightly and hand across.

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Veronika was so surprised when she touched the red paint and realized her hand wasn’t messy.

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Same thing with the yellow!

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Now she was doubly intrigued. She either used the flat of her palm for squishing the paint, or sometimes scratched at it, too.

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As soon as our red and yellow started to mix, I pointed out that she was making orange. In retrospect, I should have added more yellow, as the red was definitely dominant. But we achieved a neat tri-color effect on the pumpkin.

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Note: Your piece of paper will be so saturated with paint that likely it will tear if you try and remove it from the bag. So this project isn’t a keeper, but it is fun in the moment!

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Melted Crayon Pumpkins

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After melting crayons to make planets, Travis wanted more melt-y fun this morning. So we thought we could decorate pumpkins this way!

Our pack of crayons had multiple hues in the red, orange, and yellow family, so I took all those from the box and soaked them briefly in water. This will help the wrappers slip right off. Snap each crayon in half.

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At first we tried arranging them around the stem of our medium-sized pumpkins, but realized they were going to slide off, as they was not enough surface area to rest on.

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So then we thought to do the project on our biggest pumpkin, even though the original intent was to save this one for carving. Now, although the crayons could balance, they flew off as soon as we turned the hair dryer on!

Thinking quickly, we backtracked to our medium pumpkins (phew, the big guy can safely await carving day), but this time I used a dab of hot glue to secure each crayon near the stem.

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Success! Now we could turn the hair dryer to high heat without the crayons flying off. It’ll take a few moments of patience, but sure enough, they’ll begin to ooze and melt.

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This was fantastic fun, all the more so because the goriness of melting crayons just feels downright Halloween-y. It takes longer than I would have thought, but Travis insisted on watching every dripping, melting moment.

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He loved when rivulets of wax would drip down but cool almost instantly (in much the same way that icicles form), leaving neat strings of wax behind.

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These were fun to snap off, too!

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Keep going until all your crayons are completely melted.

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One note of caution: the melted wax will fly further than you think, due to the force of air coming out of the hair dryer. So be sure to cover your surface area completely with wax paper or newspaper.

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The end result is a beautiful way to decorate your pumpkins with no carving knife!

Mix and Match Monsters

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After playing with felt faces to make happy and sad people, it felt like it was time to get a little more Halloween-y and play a version with… felt monsters!

For each monster body, I simply drew free-hand on a piece of felt and cut out the shapes. My monsters were fairly cute and definitely not threatening. Think bubbly round buddies and short stubby limbs.

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I then hot-glued black felt onto white circles for a few monster eyes, but mostly, I relied on pre-cut pieces of felt to form additional facial features.

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Time to make some silly faces! Veronika was delighted as soon as she saw what we were up to. She loved making a three-eyed monster with a smile. “She’s happy!” she told me (happily). So this very quickly turned into a lesson on emotional learning, too.

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We made grumpy monsters and surprised monsters.

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Then she wanted to get them dressed. This one, according to Veronika, was wearing pants and his shirt.

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I loved watching the way she interacted with these little creatures.

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And nothing was too spooky!

Paper Bag Pumpkins

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Here’s a classic toddler Halloween activity that never disappoints: easy pumpkins made from brown paper lunch bags!

Use sandwich-size brown bags for this project, not larger ones. First up is stuffing them with tissue paper (or any similar material like old newspapers). “Can I make a ball?” Veronika asked after watching me do the first one, and she was a big helper wading up pieces and stuffing them into the bags.

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Once they were about two-thirds of the way filled, I secured each top with a rubber band and twisted tightly so they resembled pumpkin stems.

Time to paint! Veronika couldn’t wait to get her hands on orange paint and paintbrushes, and helped smear all over the bags.

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I wish we’d had more orange paint (or a thicker acrylic) for a better coat to hide the writing on our paper bags, but at least we achieved a mostly orange look!

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You can also paint the stems a deep brown, but since the bags were already brown, we skipped that part.

Once the paint dries (which takes a while!), add pumpkin faces with black marker.

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I made a traditional jack o’ lantern face, and Veronika added her own toddler interpretation.

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These make a fun addition to your Halloween decor!

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