Go, Car, Go!

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Today seemed ripe for a little cause-and-effect play with Veronika. We built a series of “ramps” out of books or board game boxes for her cars, and then experimented with them in multiple ways!

To start, I stacked up a few books and then set one at an angle as a ramp. I aimed for a medium incline with this first round, and showed her how to set a car at the top and give it a push. Gravity does the rest of course!

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First, she simply experimented with driving the car up and then letting it go. She tended to let go in the middle of the ramp, not the top, but it was great for a toddler effort!

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Now to add a little early STEM to the lesson. What if the stack was very low and our tilted book wasn’t steep at all?

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She seemed more confused by this set-up than anything else, so I quickly changed the slope again. Now we had a really steep incline! She loved when we set two cars at once down the slide and made it a race.

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From here, it turned into more of an engineering project, with a stack of books in the middle and multiple books angling down as ramps from all sides.

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I let her explore any way she wanted, whether driving cars up the ramps, letting them race down, or sometimes just gathering them all near the top in a little parking garage.

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Box Flap Car Bridges

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Leftover flaps from Christmas packages were the perfect way to mix up Veronika’s car play today!

For set up, I simply pulled out an assortment of box flaps I’d saved, having cut the longest ones from packages we received in the run-up to the holiday. Ideally I would have liked to prop all of these flaps on top of still more cardboard boxes, but I only had one box left that was tall enough. In a pinch, chairs from our craft table could be additional supports for the ramps and brdiges.

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Anywhere I needed to attach two box flaps together, I clipped them with a clothespin. Veronika loved helping out as we set up this configuration, which turned into a neat triangle of bridges. I placed her directly in the center of all the flaps and then let a few cars loose along the ramps. She got the idea right away!

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The bridges are great for kids to experiment with, getting a little STEM lesson in the process. Anywhere they sag in a downhill, cars will roll with the force of gravity. Anywhere with an ascent, kids will have to push up.

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Veronika narrowly saved this car from disaster!

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She loved pushing cars along, zooming them down, and occasionally tossing them right off the ramps.

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In addition, the “fort” itself was a delight, especially once she discovered that she could crawl under the box flaps or back in all by herself, without me needing to lift her out.

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What a super fun way to recycle boxes and fit in car play.

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Winter Road

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What do you do when the kids want to play in the snow but you only have a thin, icy layer that’s not great for making snowmen? Make a road, instead!

I did this the easiest way ever, not even a shovel required. Instead, I took a few old markers and drew the outline of a road directly onto the snow.

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Now all the kids had to do was drive along the track.

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We added a few cross streets and curves to our road, and even a little stop sign for an early lesson on road safety.

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I had mostly intended the track for Veronika, but it turned out that big brother Travis loved driving the cars, too.

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Construction vehicles were particularly fun, like our bulldozer and dump truck which could scoop up snow or be filled with it.

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The icy wind drove us indoors fairly quickly, but at least we got in a little creative snow play!

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Painting with Baby Food

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We had a few leftover jars of early-stage baby food (i.e. smooth purees) that Veronika will never eat at this point. So we decided to paint with them instead!

I laid down a long piece of butcher paper and poured two colors (er, flavors) of baby food onto paper plates. We had yellow/peach paint and purple paint.

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At first I thought we would use this like finger paint, but Veronika was already playing with her toy cars this morning and it turned into car painting, instead! I showed her how to drive a car through a plate, and then along the paper.

She didn’t waste any time, and soon was happily vrooming. I loved that she talked about colors while she played, too. “Red car makes yellow tracks! Blue car makes purple tracks!”

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Your child might want to get in there with fingers instead of cars, which of course is perfectly fine since this is an edible paint. And there’s a high probability that the paint might turn into snack time, too!

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After she was done driving the cars around, Veronika decided they needed a car wash. I set down a tray filled with a little sudsy water and she spent arguably just as long driving the cars through the wash as she had painting with them. All in all it was a nice activity for our morning.

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Ten Favorite Transportation Books

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Who says only boys like books about trucks and cars and things that go? We’ve been reading so many books about vehicles lately that I thought would share some of Veronika’s favorites, which hopefully can help fill your home library, too!

One: Baby’s Very First Truck Book, Usborne Books

This one is almost guaranteed to please because it’s not just a book about a truck… It drives!

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We also love that the delivery truck drops off small vehicles (think scooters and bikes) at each stop it makes.

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Two: Little Coloring: Things That Go, Usborne Books

Story time can still be hard for Veronika to sit through, which is why we love this coloring book with text. Each page has a short sentence about a vehicle that I can read as Veronika scribbles!

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Three: Little Blue Truck, Alice Schertle

What’s not to love about this original book from what has gone on to became an equally lovable series? Animal noises, friends helping friends, fun rhyming words…. And every toddler wants to chime in on that little Beep Beep Beep!

Four: Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go

I honestly find this book overwhelming, but my kids love it so much we count it as a favorite. You can read pieces of it here and there, or settle in for a marathon session on days that deserve an extra-long story.

Five: The Little Engine That Could, Watty Piper

This classic features a fun variety of engines for any train lover, but at the heart it’s a story about perseverance and kindness. I still choke up reading the ending every time!

Six: The Big Book of Big Trucks, Usborne Books

If your kids love big trucks (and I mean big!) they’ll love the super-sized fold-out pages in this book about some of the biggest vehicles ever made on the planet.

Seven: Colorful World: Vehicles, Nastja Holtfreter

This book takes Veronika’s favorite theme of vehicles but poses questions that become increasingly tricky as the story goes on. She can readily identify which scooter is different, or which one is a tow truck,. But what about pinpointing a truck driving in a different direction? Or new vocabulary like which one is a convertible. High marks for the writing in this book!

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Eight: Shine-a-Light at the Garage, Carron Brown and Charlie Davis

The Shine-a-Light series always makes books intriguing since kids shine a flashlight to uncover a mystery on each page. In this particular volume, kids learn all the goings-on inside a mechanic’s garage. We love the technical details!

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Nine: Night, Night Busy Town, Usborne Books

You get multiple books for the price of one here. Each sleepy vehicle on the chunky board book pages has a favorite bedtime story to read.

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These mini books pull out with a tab and are just the right size for toddler hands. Each one then features a different learning theme (numbers, shapes, opposites, etc.).

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Ten: Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, Sherri Duskey Rinker

The rhymes are fantastic in this one and the construction trucks curl up to sleep with teddy bears. Enough said.

Okay, one last notable mention: We love Little Tug by Stephen Savage for a sweet bedtime read about a sometimes-neglected category of vehicles: boats!

What vehicle books are a must-have in your family? Please share in the comments!

Shaving Cream Car Wash

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Veronika loves a song about going to the car wash, so I knew she would enjoy making the concept come to life with her favorite toy cars!

Shaving cream does double-duty in this game. It can either be the snow and muck getting cars dirty, or the soapy suds washing them off, depending how your toddler wants to play!

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I squirted a generous amount of shaving cream onto a tray, and showed her how to drive her cars through.

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The shaving cream is so fun to scoop up with any construction vehicles your child has. It’s also great for making tracks.

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But Veronika preferred the second step of our “car wash”, which was transferring the cars over to a bucket of warm clean water. Now, the shaving cream dissolved into suds and the water was soon thick and soapy.

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“The car’s in the muck!” she said with delight. She loved swimming the cars through this bin for quite a long time.

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Finally, we really did need to get them clean! So I added a second tray of warm water to get off the last of the suds.

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Every car was soon toweled dry and sparkly clean.

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Cardboard Box Ramps

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Here’s a great use for the box from your latest package delivery, before you send it the way of the recycle bin!

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We received a large box in the mail and I knew it would be perfect for this activity. I cut off the side flaps, and then used duct tape to attach them to the insides of the box at angles. I had originally thought I might hot glue them, but duct tape seemed to work better to achieve the right angle. Veronika loved “helping” by adding some extra duct tape on top.

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Before taping on, cut a hole into each “ramp” so objects can fall from one ramp to the next. I also cut a hole in the top of the box as the starting point.

Time to see if the ramps worked! Veronika loved dropping a golf ball through the hole on top. Sometimes it rolled perfectly from one ramp to the next!

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Other times it rolled off the sides, but this didn’t dampen Veronika’s fun. You might consider some sort of buffer, though, (perhaps made from additional duct tape) to prevent this from happening. You could also place little jars at the bottom to catch the ball at the end of its run, if your child would enjoy that!

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After playing with the balls for a while, we decided to test toy cars.

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These didn’t work quite as well on the ramps, but it did turn the box into a fun little “garage” for a while.

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Parking Game

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Here’s a fancier spin on a cars and colors game I played with Veronika as she was just starting to learn her colors. Now that she knows them well, this version involved more of a craft, and had an imaginative component, too.

For each garage, you’ll need a thin cardboard box. Big cereal boxes are perfect, but Veronika loved the game so much that I had to raid the pantry for cracker boxes and oatmeal boxes to add to her little town.

For each parking garage, use a craft knife to cut an opening for toy cars to drive into. Use masking tape to close any loose flaps on the boxes.

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Cover each with a different color of construction paper. Originally I intended just to make a blue garage and red garage for her. “What color is it?” I asked, holding up the paper. “Blue!” she said with delight.

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I used double-sided tape to make quick work of covering each box instead of waiting for glue to dry.

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In short order, Veronika could drive in her cars.

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We sorted the toy cars by color, and I parked them relatively near the corresponding garage before asking prompts like, “Can the red cars drive into the red garage?”

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Sometimes I tried to trick her with a car pulling up to the “wrong” spot. She quickly spotted it each time!

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She had so much fun driving the cars in and then dumping them out, too.

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Pretty soon we had a whole little town. Between making the craft, playing with it, and returning to it over the course of a few hours, this made for a wonderful morning activity.

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Very Sticky Play and Recycled Sculpture

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It’s near the end of the month, which is when I sort through my craft bin, think about stocking up for the month ahead, and don’t mind getting rid of leftovers. With the end of a roll of contact paper left,  the morning was ripe for some sticky play! We combined a few old favorite ways to play with this material with some fantastic new finds.

First up was a classic “sculpture” on the wall. Veronika loved helping me sort through the craft bin as we filled a tray with leftover odds and ends like yarn, pieces of ribbon, cut up straws, small pom poms, and strips of crepe paper.

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The favorite turned out to be leftover wiggle eyes! ” A little eye!” she said with delight, and she promptly trotted over to stick this on the contact paper.

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To add a little learning, you can talk about all your various materials: textures, size, 3D versus flat ones, etc. If siblings are working together, it can also be a great lesson in collaboration.

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But honestly Veronika was so interested in the wiggle eyes that we didn’t end up with too much decoration on this wall version.

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So next, I taped the final piece of contact paper down to the ground, which is always fun for stepping on. “Sticky feet!” Veronika said.

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Encourage your kids to lie down too, or crawl across it for a novel sensation.

Here’s where the novelty kicked in; we decided to see if stuffed animals could stick and soon had dinosaurs stomping through swamps.

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Hmm, what about toy cars?

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Well now Travis discovered that if he wound up the car tires, they still could move forward on the sticky contact paper… but as slooooowly as a snail.

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This led to an hour of “racing” play. Even I thought it was neat!

Little sister Veronika wanted to add her tractor and bus to the mix.

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When the races were done, we used up all those remaining leftover art supplies. This time, tiny beads were the biggest hit, which the kids sprinkled by the handful over the paper.

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Travis asked for glitter. Oh heck why not, it was already such as mess that I handed it over.

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Travis loved this even more than Veronika!

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Although of course she loved it too. You know you have a happy toddler when they start rolling around in glee.

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And then I folded up their sticky “sculpture” and the mess was gone.

If you do have leftover bits of glitter on the floor, here’s a quick hack: a lint roller gets them up much easier than a dust broom. You’re welcome.

Car Wash

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This is one of those activities that turned out to be just beautiful. I had originally intended the game for Veronika after a morning trip to have our real car inspected, but big brother Travis was eager to join in, too!

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We have a kid-sized Mustang that was perfect for the activity, but truly any kid “vehicle” would work, whether toddler ride-on toys, old tricycles, or bikes! Pull out the buckets, sponges, mild dish soap, and rags, and set your washers to work.

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Both kids immediately loved dipping little sponges in the bucket of soapy water and scrubbing gently all over the car.

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Travis focused on the exterior…

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…while Veronika liked cleaning the seats!

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When it was all soaped up, we rinsed with the hose. Then it was time to towel dry.

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And then of course we took the car for a spin!

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This was watery, soapy, sunshine-y summer magic at its best.

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