Octopus Bottle Buddies

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Travis has been a little bit homesick at camp, so we made a “buddy” to go along with him today… attached right to his water bottle!

The first step was to draw an octopus outline on craft foam, and this was tricky even for me.

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I copied an example in Highlights magazine and still needed a few tries, so I didn’t expect Travis to master the shape. But he sure loved drawing on extra craft foam (little sister, too!), making this a great art session even before we moved on to assembling the rest of the craft.

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As you draw, make sure the top two arms of the octopus reach up over its head and nearly touch; you’ll need to glue them into a loop that will hold on to the water bottle.

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Once you’ve drawn the octopus shapes, cut them out. Next, draw accessories on additional craft foam and cut out. These shapes will be simpler for kids to help with. We included a surfboard, sunhat, and a little ukulele. Think anything beachy and tropical!

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Use tacky glue or hot glue to add wiggle eyes and the foam accessories to each octopus, and glue the top two arms into a ring.

Once the glue dries, your new “buddy” slides right onto a water bottle.

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Travis chose the blue one to take to camp!

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Cardboard Weave

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I’ve been working with Travis on weaving this summer, which is not only great for fine motor skills, but also the perfect craft for Camp Mom. Here’s another version that’s very easy for beginner fingers. The trick? Instead of a tiny needle, your child will weave with a stick!

I cut a small square of cardboard from an old delivery box, and wound yarn around it a few times, taping on the back.

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Now we took a stick (you can use one from a recent nature walk, if you like!) and wrap a second color of thick yarn around it a few times.

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Begin threading over and under the yarn on your cardboard.

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Travis was able to do this with no assistance, unlike more delicate weaving projects. He liked the way the stick pulled through at the end of each row.

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That said, he did still tire out quickly, so his final product was only a small scrap. Snip the yarn from the cardboard down the middle of the back, and tie the loose ends together. Chances are Travis can find a way to feature this weaving in games with his action figures!

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Skin Therapy Play Dough

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This is the softest play dough in the world, thanks to a recipe based on silky quick oats with zero salt. It’s a great homemade alternative store-bought play dough. Just note that because there is no salt, it will only last for a day or two.

To make the play dough, stir together 1 cup flour, 2 cups quick oats, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add 1 cup water and 2 tablespoons olive oil, stirring to form a dough.

Sprinkle on extra flour as needed, if the dough is still a little sticky.

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You can add food coloring, but we decided to leave ours natural. I liked this because it really looked like cookie dough! But instead of mommy using it all up for cookies, this dough was all Veronika’s to play with.

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She loved using it with a play dough kitchen set, including pots and pans, cookie cutters, and little spoons and knives.

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We even rolled up mini cookies.

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She later transferred the dough over to her tea set, and was pouring cups of play dough “tea”.

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This kept her busy for so long! And I loved knowing how natural and safe it was for her skin and hands.

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Wave Bottles, Three Ways

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Summer means lots of empty sparkling water bottles in our house, and before recycling them I wanted to turn a few into fun sensory bottles for Veronika. There are so many ways to do this, and here were three I put together as a set this morning. She loved going back and forth between them all day!

For version number one, I filled a bottle 1/3 of the way with water. Add a drop or two of food coloring, then some fun items to swirl around; we used large glitter and small pony beads. Fill the rest of the way with baby oil. Seal the cap with hot glue.

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She loved this one, immediately delighted by the colors and shine.

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“Look at the beads!” she said, watching things swirl around.

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For version number two, I used a larger 1.5 L bottle. Fill the bottle 1/3 of the way with water. Add a few spoonfuls of tempera paint (we used red), then add 1/3 cup dish detergent. Seal the lid with hot glue. Shake it up and watch the colored bubbles!

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She loved how bubbly this one was.

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It was also fun to roll it on the floor and give chase!

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For the final version, I snipped a few pieces of brightly colored yarn to about 6 inches in length. Add to an empty bottle, add water, and seal the cap with hot glue. Now the yarn lengths dance and swirl in the bottle. They almost look like jellyfish!

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She loved watching this one. The more you swirl it, the better the yarn “dances”. I loved watching her move the bottles around all day, sometimes rearranging them on shelves, or shaking them, or just picking them up in her playroom and looking at them. A great way to fill those summer hours!

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Pompom Counting Fun

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Veronika and I have been exploring early math concepts lately, and here was another fun way to do so using simple materials that she loves: stickers, plastic cups, and pompoms!

I marked three clear plastic cups with dot stickers, each cup with a different color. The first cup had 1 yellow sticker, the second had 2 red stickers, and the third had 3 blue ones.

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I then showed Veronika the one dot on the first cup, and told her there was one sticker. “Can you add one pompom?” I asked her. I chose to color-coordinate the pompoms to the dot stickers for clarity, but you don’t have to.

She dropped in one pompom!

Now I held up the second cup and we counted the stickers. One sticker, two stickers. “Can you add two pompoms?” Plink plink into the cup!

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We repeated for the third cup with three pompoms. Obviously I was directing the game very clearly, which helped her get each answer “right”; don’t expect a toddler to do this game solo. But the activity reinforces the notion of counting up, and that numerals are attached to a tangible amount.

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It would be been coldhearted not to let her play with the extra materials after that! There were more stickers she could happily dot onto extra cups, and lots more pompoms to play with and keep herself busy for a while.

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While we were at it, we could talk about a few opposite concepts, like over the cup and under the cup.

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So this activity is definitely a winner.

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Wet and Dry Sensory Play

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Veronika is at the age where’s she’s starting to understand opposites: empty and full, tall and short, loud and soft, etc. Here was a fun pair to play with in a sensory way: wet and dry!

We started with a shallow tray of dry oatmeal on the kitchen floor. She immediately ran curious fingers through the flakes of oats and loved the sensation. We talked about how the material was very dry and soft.

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I asked her to help me pour a little water from a measuring cup onto the oats. Whoops, the first cup went all over the floor! So I carefully poured a second cup of water into the oats without toddler “assistance”.

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Now they began to clump together and grow softer. But oh no, she didn’t like how it stuck to her fingers!

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We rinsed her off, dumped that batch, and then poured in a new dry material. I had intended to use cornmeal, but was all out. Dry breadcrumbs worked in a pinch! Again, she was immediately digging through, as we talked about the dry coarse crumbs.

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Again I poured in some water. Now the bread crumbs expanded and grew softer. Again she preferred dry to wet!

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Another clean off and another dump. For the final experiment, I poured dry cornstarch into the tray. She loved stirring through this with a giant spoon!

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I added water and of course now we had classic ooblek. She didn’t want to touch it, but she sure liked watching the way I could grab a solid clump and it would drip down through my fingers.

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I would definitely repeat this activity with other materials in the future (even wet and dry paper!), because it was a great way to teach the concepts of wet and dry.

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Mailbox (8)

Veronika is very into the mail truck lately, wanting to watch our postal worker deliver the mail every chance she gets. She even got to peek inside the back of the truck! So today we recycled an old toddler favorite, with a homemade mailbox. Now that she’s older, she understands the role play involved, too.

First was the arts & crafts portion of the game: we needed to decorate a mailbox! I set out stickers and construction paper, along with an old box. She loves glue sticks and happily smeared onto strips of colored paper, which we then stuck onto the box.

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I had ocean-themed stickers, which felt appropriate here in the summertime. What a beautiful mailbox!

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I cut a slit in the top with a craft knife, and then showed Veronika how to stuff old junk mail through the slit.

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Sometimes she had to turn a letter a little to make it fit…

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…or give it an extra push to slide all the way through…

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…but she was delighted with each success.

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Time to open up the mailbox and see what she received!

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One pamphlet just happened to have images of sheep and cows, and she was so happy. “Cow is in the mail!” She wanted to send and receive this “letter” over and over.

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She also loved being able to take the lid off and put it back on all by herself, a big important toddler feeling of accomplishment.

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We then decided to write a few of our own letters for big brother Travis. She loved scribbling with marker before adding her notes to the mailbox.

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I could tell she was so proud to have her very own mailbox today, and left it out so she could return to it over the course of the afternoon.


Craft Stick Chain Reaction

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If you thought dominoes made for a great chain reaction, try this neat craft stick version! It’s sure to make kids (and grown-ups!) say wow.

The set up is definitely a little tricky, and best done with two sets of hands.

Cross two jumbo craft sticks into an X. Add a third stick, so that it is under one part of that first X and over the other. You have to keep your fingers on the cross of that first X, or the whole thing is going to jump apart!

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Keep adding sticks in an X pattern, under one, and over the other. Once your start to move outwards, move your fingers forward by one X to hold it all steady.

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As I mentioned, this gets tricky, and I needed Travis to lift the bottom craft stick so I had space to slide the new one under. You can literally feel the tension building in the sticks as your chain gets longer.

We only made a chain that was 4 X’s deep, but hypothetically you can keep going. Release and it pops apart! It all happens so quickly that it’s no surprise my picture is blurry.

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You might want to set a slo-motion camera on a smartphone to really grasp what’s happening, but here at least is a fast video.

A fun one!

Levitating Slinky

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Slinky play is such pure childhood fun. We have a new slinky from the dollar store, and mostly Travis just had a free-for-all with it today. But we threw in a tiny bit of science, too.

First Travis simply wanted to check out all the ways this toy can wobble, wiggle, and stretch. He loved turning it into a stretched-out U shape and calling it a smile.

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And of course we gave it the classic try down the stairs.

But what’s really going on in a slinky? To investigate, we needed a smartphone with a slo-mo video camera. Stand in a clear space and hold the slinky still, then drop it.

Ideally, what you’ll capture is that the bottom coil doesn’t move until the upper ones catch up to it. That’s because the tension of the coils is holding them together, even as gravity is pushing the slinky down. This makes the slinky appear to levitate just for a moment before it falls to the ground.

Our slo-mo camera wasn’t great at capturing this. I’d love to hear your results in the comments if you get a great shot!

Bean Bag Toss Sight Word Game

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All you need to help prevent the summer slide is one great item: an alphabet mat! Today we pulled it out along with a few bean bags to do a quick review of Travis’s kindergarten sight words, because first grade is quickly sneaking up on us!

His class had a sight word song to the tune of Bingo, so we started with that. “There is a sight word of the day; the sight word is ‘my’. M, Y, My…” and so on.

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As he sang through each word, Travis’s task was to toss a bean bag onto each letter, and then remove it from the mat.

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To make things tricky, I didn’t arrange the letters in alphabetical order. He really had to seek them out!

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Then, he arranged the letters off to the side to spell out each word.

Next up was L-I-K-E, like!

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Travis tired out after a few words, but this was a fun way to do a sight word refresher, and we can work through his whole kindergarten list a few words at a time. You’ll notice little sister Veronika wanted in on the ABC mat action, too! Simplify this game for toddlers by tossing the bean bag on a letter and simply naming it.

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