Coffee Can Games, Two Ways

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I had an empty coffee can in the house, and knew better than to recycle it; it would make a perfect prop for Veronika’s play. To wit, we found two great ways to use it today.

First up was a combination of art and musical play. To decorate the coffee can, I wrapped a piece of contact paper around it, sticky side out. I gave Veronika pieces of old gift wrap and old postcards so she could adorn the outside.

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Once it was decorated perfectly according to her toddler standards, I wrapped a second piece of contact paper on top, sticky side in, to seal her design.

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I then put small jingle bells inside the coffee can and secured the lid.

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Shake shake shake! We sang along (admittedly to unseasonable songs like Jingle Bells!) and she had a huge grin on her face.

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Then she discovered that she could roll the can along the floor and make it jingle. She chased it all around the house this way.

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The drawback to this game was that she wanted to open the lid and get at the bells inside, but I worried about them as a choking hazard. So we repurposed the coffee can! I cut a slit in the top with an X-acto knife and then rounded the corners slightly so she wouldn’t cut her fingers.

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Now she could post (a.k.a. push) pom poms through. “Where did green go?” I asked, popping down the first one as a demonstration.

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She mimicked my words perfectly and talked her way through the entire pile, mostly getting her colors right. “Where did blue go?” “Where did yellow go?”

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When they were all inside, we opened the lid for the big reveal and dumped them out. And then she wanted to do it again! What a great way to keep busy.

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What would you do with an empty coffee can? Please share in the comments!

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Sticky Board

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I needed to keep Veronika occupied while I cleaned today. Enter a classic toddler activity: a contact paper sticky board! Thinking quickly, I taped a square of contact paper, sticky side out, onto the patio door.

Next I put together a little tray of odds and ends: squares of tissue paper, pieces of ribbon (too short to be choking hazards), and pom poms.

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Now it was up to Veronika to decide what should go where!

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This was the perfect activity to leave her mostly solo as I cleaned, since she loved discovering that the contact paper was sticky, pressing curious fingers against it.

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Then she could explore the various materials at her own pace.

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Wouldn’t you know, her favorite part was the painter’s tape I had used to hang the contact paper! So I ended up ripping off a few extra pieces of that for her, and she quickly added them to her collage.

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By the end, she had pulled the whole thing off the patio door, which was just fine of course; it simply meant that the play continued on the ground! And I had time to finish my cleaning.

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Rainbow in a Bag

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This is a neat, no-mess way for toddlers to paint a full rainbow!

To start, I needed to make a thick goopy paint. Based on a recipe I found online, I combined 1 cup flour, 2 cups water, and 1 tablespoon salt in a saucepan, then cooked over medium-low heat, stirring with a whisk. It didn’t get as thick as I hoped, but stirring in 1 tablespoon cornstarch did the trick.

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Once thick, I divided the mixture among 6 paper cups and added about 20 drops of liquid watercolor to each, one for each color of the rainbow. Note: If you are worried about staining, use food coloring instead of the watercolor. However, because I knew this project would be sealed in a bag, there would be no chance for Veronika to smear it on her clothes… Or taste it!

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I placed a piece of thick white paper in a gallon-sized zip-top bag, then arranged the colors in rainbow order across the paper. Because the paint was so sticky, it grew harder to work as I went, so the colors sort of ended up at a diagonal! But this still worked fine; I sealed the bag and handed to Veronika.

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At first she was frustrated she couldn’t touch the paint, looking at me with disappointment. Oh that toddler glare!

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But then she realized the paint blobs felt mushy and squishy beneath her hands, and she loved poking around at them.

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By the end she had smeared the paints in such a way that we had a full rainbow of stripes across the bag.

Rainbow in a Bag (8)It’s actually too bad that the paint was so goopy, or I would have pulled the white paper out to dry and hang on the fridge. Next time!

Safari Binoculars

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Here’s a classic craft that I knew Veronika would love because it involves one of her current favorite things: stickers!

To assemble your toddler’s very own binoculars, start with two empty toilet paper tubes. I had bug and fish stickers, both perfect themes for this project, and she loved placing stickers all over.

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I find it helpful to peel up the edges of stickers slightly at this age, so she can then pull them the rest of the way off the sticker sheets without frustration.

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Resist the urge to correct your toddler’s sticker placement; it was just fine if a few overlapped, or if she clustered them in one spot!

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I glued the tubes together (or you can use tape if you don’t have time to wait for the glue to dry), then punched a hole near the top of each tube on the outer edge. I threaded yarn through to make a loop so Veronika could wear them around her neck.

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Now it was time to head out into the wilderness! Off she goes for her first safari.

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Honestly she was probably more into them as an accessory than a viewfinder, but they were particularly neat for watching bugs up close.

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Older siblings may just clamor for a turn, too!

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If you prefer to have your safaris indoors, consider using these on a stuffed animal hunt instead.

Sponge Printing

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I recently introduced Veronika to the idea of stamping, by making Duplo prints. Today, we made sponge prints instead!

This was a great activity for outside on the patio, since first we needed to get the sponges wet. I misted them with a spray bottle until saturated, then showed her how to chalk all over the surface of the sponge.

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Press down firmly on a piece of thick white paper and the mark of the sponge will be left behind. The sponges have a bubbled appearance, with more surface twists and turns than you might expect!

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Next I cut a few of our sponges into shapes like hearts and plus signs.

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She liked seeing the various shapes in our prints.

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Then we discovered that if we used the chalk on wet pavement and then dipped the sponge in the colored water, we ended up with a more saturated print.

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The wetter the sponge the better the print, so eventually we used a bucket of water to dip instead of the mister bottle.

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Of course then Veronika just loved dipping the sponges in the bucket and squeezing them out, and lost interest in stamping!

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But this just fine; it meant this craft was a great way to spend some time making art and simply playing outside.

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Drawing with Cars

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Kids love to paint with cars, but this time there was a twist on the activity! As opposed to letting the tires make the art, Veronika’s cars had passengers along. Crayon passengers that is!

To set up, I taped a long piece of craft paper to the floor so we had a good long “road”.

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Use masking tape to attach jumbo crayons to the side of toy cars. The bigger the car, the better this worked; the crayons were a little wobbly on some of Veronika’s smaller cars.

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I mostly tried to tape crayons to the same color car, but we had a few mismatches, like our yellow car with a black crayon.

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Now it was time for Veronika to drive! She took the cars for a few spins around the road, and the crayons left fun scribbles in their wake.

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To be honest, she was soon more interested in the pieces of tape than the crayons! But this was still a cute art project while it lasted.

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Sidewalk Chalk Mark Making

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While big brother was busy using chalk for a school assignment, Veronika made chalk marks of her own today! Originally, I thought it might just be fun for her to use chalk on a bench, as opposed to pavement, for the novelty of the drawing surface. But this also turned out to be the first time that she announced she had drawn a specific thing!

First, we simply started chalking side by side. I made a few recognizable objects for her like a star and heart, and pointed them out.

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Moments later, she told me this red mark was a bird! “Tweet tweet!” she said. “Red bird!”

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I knew she was being deliberate, because she picked up blue next and said, “Blue bird!” as she scribbled.

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From there she was off and running. She told me she was drawing Daniel Tiger, rainbows, and more.

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Of course none of her marks would be recognizable as such, but it was the intent that amazed me coming from an eighteen month old.

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She looked so proud of her work. We’ll have to chalk on non-traditional surfaces more often!

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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!

Firefly Craft

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Here’s a cute little firefly your kids can put together, and it really glows! Bonus points: it’s simple as can be to make.

Fold a piece of black construction paper in half, and draw a shape that looks like the head and body of a firefly as seen from the side. I copied a template from Highlights magazine, not quite trusting my artistic skills.

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Cut out, then use scraps of black paper to add legs. We also cut a small circle from yellow construction paper as the eye, and two yellow antennae.

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Glue the eye, antennae, and legs on with a glue stick. Now tape a yellow glow stick just under the tail, and watch him flicker!

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Travis liked the craft so much that we made a quick bee, too!

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