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Farm Sensory Box

26 Jul

farm sensory box

With the start of Summer and outdoor weather, I thought the sensory  box would be put away for awhile.  But alas, Rain-a-geddon ensued so we needed to find some new indoor fun. Or rather, just upgrade some fun.  Last Summer I built Matthew this barn and farm, and I added a sensory box and toddler-approved game this year.

Sensory Box

farm sensory box activity toddler


  • Popcorn for the base (already had)
  • Schleich animals (our animal of choice)
  • Tractor (a gift from Grandma!)
  • “Hay bales” (TP tubes cut in half)
  • “Stables” (Melissa and Doug play food crates)
  • Mini scoop (already had)

Total Cost: Free 

** I already had all the materials, but I suspect you’d be able to put this together for around $10-$12.  A large jar of popcorn kernels runs about $3 at Walmart, and these animals are also a good choice.)

farm sensory box

farm sensory box

farm sensory box

farm sensory box


farm books

1. Sheep in a Jeep. Matty is obsessed with jeeps right now. Sheep in a jeep? Oh my.  It’s on constant repeat around here.

2. Let’s Go To the Farm. We have two copies of this book. Both gifts. Both givers know a little something about kids. We’ve read this book at least a few times a week for the past year (at least).  It’s a lift-the-flap book, so we keep a copy in the car for road trips or restaurants.

3. Chicks and Salsa. I had to review this book for a college class years ago, and I loved it. It’s hilarious. I didn’t quite know if Matty would get it, but I guess it really is all about how excited the reader is, because it’s one of his favorites now, too.


  1. Try these Montessori inspired nomenclature cards.
  2. Matty is loving this farm-themed game on the Kindle.  We’ve been traveling a lot–so he’s soaking up the app time lately.  He’s actually learning too–he surprised me the other day by pointing to a picture of a moon and saying “creshent” (crescent). Play on, Buddy. Play on.
  3. Of course, we listened to Old MacDonald a lot. A lot.  We have this download with this version of OMD, which gets a little silly at the end.
  4. Farm Picture.  I printed two each of a variety of farm-themed coloring sheets.  I cut out certain parts of the picture, such as the tractor, barn, animals, and crops, and colored 1 copy.  On a large sheet of paper, I glued the remaining uncolored copy. Then we matched and glued the colored parts onto the uncolored outline of the pictures.

farm activity toddler

toddler farm activity

toddler farm activity

He’s still loving farms and farm animals (and tractors!!!)–any recommended activities?

Halfway There

2 Jul

reading challenge

I almost included Bon Jovi lyrics.  Almost. 10 points if you name the song,

Anywho, June is over. How did that even happen?  2013 is halfway over, which seems cray-cray but looking back, we’ve actually gotten a TON done.  Including reading. I’ve read 18 books thus far, with a goal of 34 by the end of the year. That’s 2% ahead of schedule–I love being ahead of schedule…that rarely happens anymore. 🙂

reading challenge snapshot

So, if you’re still looking for a few good beach reads (take me with you, please!), or just looking for a few good laughs, tears, or angel-demon love, here’s what I’ve been reading.

Parenting Books


How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

Like the title suggests, the book explores how character building and character education lead to more successful outcomes than academic goals.  For far too long, children have been looked at as input x and y will come out; that is, drill vocabulary and sight words, and your child will score high on his SAT’s.  Obviously, that’s not the case, and there’s many factors influencing outcomes for kids. I especially liked that there was an emphasis on bonding with your kids and treating them with respect without being preachy.  It was  reminiscent of Jonathon Kozol’s Savage Inequalities, and a little Freakonomics-ish.


Honest Toddler Review

Honest Toddler: A Child’s Guide to Parenting

If you haven’t read Honest Toddler, go right now. No seriously. Go, come back later.  I think we could be good friends in real-life.  I looked forward to this book all year, and it didn’t disappoint.  Though, I am a bit disappointed that I talked about writing a book like this a couple years ago.  Always one step behind…


crappy pictures

Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures

Another blog favorite.  Check it out.  I read this book after reading I Just Want to Pee Alone, and I loved this positive tone of Crappy Pictures over Pee Alone: yes, parenting is hard, but it’s hilarious and totally worth it.


I Just Want to Pee Alone: A Collection of Humorous Essays by Kick Ass Mom Bloggers

Again, I just thought this book came off negative.  More of like, kids are horrible, stay away.  Although the first essay was hilarious, like can’t catch my breath pee my pants hilarious, the rest of the book left something to be desired.  I really felt like a lot of authors wished they hadn’t had kids or resent their kids, and that’s never a good place to be.


Raising Your Spirited Child: A Guide for Parents Whose Child is More Intense, Sensitive, Perceptive, Persistent, and Energetic

If someone asked me to describe my child, I’d just hand them the title page of this book. Nailed it! I read this back in February, which I shall now deem “the dark days”, and I think I almost cried in relief while reading: you get it, you really get it.  There’s a line in the book that says something like, “Do people often describe your child as Dennis the Menace?” Yes! Yes, just today that happened actually.  Matthew often gets compliments about his behavior, development and people question why I’m so tired and stressed, but I swear to God I feel drained at the end of the day, like I’m parenting 10 times harder than I should need to be. Does that make sense? No? This book isn’t for you. Yes, you feel me? This book will help!


Montessori Madness: A Parent to Parent Argument for Montessori Education

Yes, we’re those parents. You know, the one’s who stressed out about schools before Matthew was born.  The good news is that we’re open-minded.  The bad news is that we’re no closer to a solution.  But we like the idea of Montessori.  The idea.  Not so much the cost, the sense of elitism, or the way it is implemented in most “Montessori” programs.  Did you get all that?  It doesn’t really have anything to do with the book, but if you’re in the same boat as us, this book provided an interesting perspective.


Raising Boys: Why Boys are Different And How to Help Them Become Happy and Well-Balanced Men

The title pretty much sums up the plot of this book. Ha! Lots of talk about how boys are different than girls (duh!), research on what they need to make them happy and successful.  I highlighted a bunch in this book, and was really inspired by the fact by when Matthew hits 7-12, he won’t really need me much anymore and will latch on to Eric. Huzzah! 🙂


NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children

I talked about this book here.

Random Non-Fiction Books


I’ve read numerous reviews on how hilarious this is.  I needed a few good laughs.  I think I was short-changed a bit.  I didn’t really find it that funny.  It read more of a defense against her decision to do Sarah Palin on SNL.  Maybe I’m not liberal enough or funny enough to “get” it.


Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think We Do

Most of the book was interesting.  I think the problem was that too many of the studies outlined in the book have already been talked about in mainstream media, such as the study where the soup bowls were continuously filled up from under-the-table tubes, and *gasp* people kept eating.  This study always made me chuckle because pretty sure if my bowl kept refilling, I’d keep eating, too. Mostly because I’d think I’d gone crazy or something.  But there were a few helpful tips spread throughout.


The Milk Mem0s: How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business With Babies-and How You Can Too

Again, disappointed with this book. I thought it was going to be chock full of inspiring moments and tips for new moms, but alas, there was such literary greatness as, “I brought in a box of tissues, help yourself”. Aka, not very helpful, not very inspirational, and very generic in what could have a been a very personal and encouraging book.


Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

This book got a bit long and winded at points, but I found it really interesting.  Probably because I’m an introvert.  And like the author, I’ve trained myself to be able to give kick-ass presentations, speak in front of large crowds, heck, I’ve even sung and acted, but put me in a room and tell me to talk to people, and I freak.

Fiction Books

Blackberry Winter

Why would one read a book they know is sad? Because they’re gluttons for punishment.  If you haven’t heard about this book yet, you’re probably not reading your blogs close enough or scouring your Pinterest boards with a discerning eye.  Back in March, Eric and I went out for the evening and stayed in a hotel to celebrate my birthday.  What did I do for fun?  Shave my legs and read this book.  Which resulted in crying all night.  This would not have happened pre-baby. Now? Now I cry at commercials and random facebook posts.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good book, but you’ll snuggle your littles ones a little closer at night.


Daughter of Smoke & Bone & Days of Blood and Starlight

Ahhh! These books are so good.  This is not normally something I’d read, but after reading this review, I decided to give it a shot.  I think I read both books in two days. I just found out the 3rd book in the series, Dreams of Gods and Monsters, has been pushed back to April 2014. Scroll down to the comments here to see how I feel about that. Definitely some of the best books I’ve read in awhile.


Calling Me Home

I just finished this and I would say it’s good. Just good. Which isn’t a bad thing. It started off a little slow for me, but picked up by the middle.  It was also a predictable, but again, that’s not a bad thing.  I really enjoyed just being able to sprawl out in bed a night and read a few chapters at a time without feeling riveted to stay up until 2am reading.

Home & Life Books

Young House Love: 243 Ways to Paint, Craft, Update & Show Your Home Some Love

Like their blog, lots of good ideas here.  And it looks cute and trendy sitting on the coffee table. 🙂


Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life: The Quick Start Guide

Lots and lots of little ideas to get and stay organized.  Since this is an e-book, there’s lots of links to blogs, inspiration pictures, and products.  At only $4.99, it’s a quick read and I found a few new blogs to follow out of it.  Also written by the blogger behind Modern Parents Messy Kids.


I haven’t decided what to read next…any suggestions?  Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Let’s Go to the Zoo: Sensory Play

4 Jun

zoo sensory box

I love the zoo! And apparently, this little guy does, too.

We bought a membership last May, and went once last Summer. It was very exhausting.  Our membership technically didn’t expire until the end of May this year, so we wanted to fit in a trip this Spring, too.  And…we’ve already gone twice. With no crying. No whining. No running away. Generally lots of fun.  I love this age.

We have an awesome zoo in Cincinnati, complete with a petting zoo (where you can brush the goat’s hair!), and a train.  We weren’t sure how Matthew would like the train, but we’ve been hearing “more train” nonstop for the past few days. Actually, we’ve been about nothing but the zoo (and Grandpa) for the past week.

The first time we went, he got a bit freaked out when the elephant actually started moving (ha!), but quickly warmed up once the elephant shot water out of his nose (like his new favorite book).  He was also totally freaked out that the giraffe got close enough to touch, but once we backed up, he was happy again.

The hands-on exhibits were an obvious favorite, too.  No fear about running around with goats, petting lizards, being surrounded by thousands of bugs and butterflies, running towards alligators, or feeding birds from his hands.  The playground doesn’t hurt either–I was so proud? that he climbed to the top of  the “big kid” playset while Eric and I sat on the bench. He even went through the tunnel, which is HUGE for him because he seems to be scared of small spaces and usually avoids this at gymnastics. Actually, he maneuvered his way around the entire playground for about 20 minutes before even realizing we weren’t right there with him–then he just sauntered over, said “hello” and ran away again (to try to get in another mom’s wagon…).  Getting so big!

Needless to say, we needed some serious “zoo play” at home.

Sensory Box Table

zoo sensory box

Yeah, we took over the whole table for this one.  After all, the zoo has a train, people, and little trucks that drive around (he was enamoured by this too).  I was going to add little roads and and such, but this is as far as I got during naptime. He was very happy with it when he woke up, so I let it be.

zoo sensory box

zoo sensory box

zoo sensory box

zoo sensory box

zoo sensory box

zoo sensory box

Apparently, the bear needed a transfer.  And we might need to have a chat about why polar bears and rhinos can’t hang out.


  • pea gravel from the rockbox
  • landscaping rocks from the yard
  • faux moss vase filler
  • twigs
  • tupperware
  • oats
  • water
  • Toob Wild animals
  • Toob Zoo Babies animals
  • Whittle World people
  • Train track, Thomas, trees, and cars are hand-me-downs, so I don’t know the origins

Total Spents: $10

The only thing I had to buy was the animals, which I got from Hobby Lobby.  They’re originally $8.99, but I used a 50% coupon.  Not a bad toy investment since these things will last for years and can be used for a lot of activities.


books about zoo

1. Dear Zoo.  Animals! Lift-the-flaps! Zoo! It’s like the toddler trifecta.

2. Put Me in the Zoo. This book doesn’t actually have much to do about the zoo,  but it says “zoo” a lot and I contribute that to Matty learning the word.  It also lends to some fun crafts, like the one below.

3. From Head to Toe. We have this Big Book, which is exciting on its own.  Each page shows the way a different animal moves and encourages kiddos to do it too. Lends well for animal charades!


zoo activities

1. Animal Count & Sort. Umm, just a fancy way of saying, “play with the animals!”.  I took them out to his rock box, and grabbed a few things from the house I thought would make it fun.  This is where he surprised me.  First, he put them in the tray, one in each spot, counting, “one, two, two, six”.  The fact that there was 12 animals and 12 spots was just a happy accident!  Then, he said they need a “dink” (water), because he noticed all the animals at the zoo had water.  This really held his attention for awhile.

2. Put Me in the Zoo Craft. I just traced the bear-thing character onto paper, then gave him “garage sale” stickers to make his spots. We did two colors of his choice before he moved on to bigger and better things. 🙂

3. Animal Charades. This stemmed from reading From Head to Toe.  Then I added crawl like a bear, crawl like a turtle, swim like a fish, gallop like a zebra, etc.  I think his favorite part is watching me do it.

4. Visit the Zoo! Did you see the first part of this post? He had so much fun!

5. I’m Going to the Zoo Sing Along. I remember singing this in 1st grade, and started singing it to Matthew in the car.  I had to brush up on the words, and this video helped.

6. Coloring Pages. I put these out on his coloring table for him to do what he wanted.  Just a little something different than plain paper.


1. Zoos…love ’em or hate ’em?
2. What’s your “must see” animal when you go to the zoo?

Play Theme: Squirming Worms

29 Apr

exploring worms--activities for toddlers

What’s Spring without a little worm play?  While preparing the garden for Spring flowers, I came across a family of worms.  I called Matthew over to take a look, and let’s just say he was enamored! He kept asking to go outside to look for worms, so of course, I decided to take it a little further and put together some activities involving worms.

Sensory Box

worm sensory box


  • Coffee Grounds (dirt)
  • Rocks
  • Cooked Spaghetti (worms)
  • Fake Moss
  • Paper Grass (carstock folded into zigzags)
  • Artificial Tulips (trimmed)
  • Shovel
  • Bucket

Total Cost: FREE (I already had everything from other sensory boxes or from around the house!)

I put a piece of styrofoam under the flowers and grass; this way, the flowers can be stuck into the styrofoam to help them stand up.  Matty likes to pull them out then push them back in.  And shovel the “dirt”.  And put the worms in the bucket.


books about worms

1. Are You Ready To Play Outside? I love all the Mo Willems books, but I was afraid Matty might be a bit young to understand a book based completely on dialogue.  I don’t know if he “got” the plot, but he loved it from the first page, which starts of with “Piggie!”.  He giggled every time I read a word.  This book is about Elephant and Piggie upset about the rain ruining their plans to play outside, until they notice worms having fun in the rain.  Worms! Yay! Cue requests to go outside to dig in the dirt…

2. Worms. This was a $.99 Kindle book.  I’m trying to introduce more non-fiction books, especially when dealing with science themes, but I forgot to get worm books at the library.  But this Kindle book did the trick.  Lots of neat pictures to look at. Plus, it was on the Kindle.

3. Baby Loves Spring.  Again, love these books. And there’s worms squiggling in the dirt. Which Matty reminded me of when he came running in the room yelling “borms!!!!” after discovering it on the shelf.



 1. Dig in the dirt for worms, of course! I considered doing a Worm Farm, but I figured we’d have to keep it forever or risk meltdown.

2. Worm in Apple Cupcakes.  I had everything laid out to make these, then bam! A month of sickness, including 2 stomach bugs.  We’re definitely on a bland diet around here that doesn’t involve cupcakes.

3. Playdough worms

4. Rhymes and Songs.  Here’s two of my favorites, mostly because they’re easy to incorporate movement.

worm songs

Anybody else got a little worm lover?  Ever tried a worm farm?

Psst…I’m linking up @ My Healthy Happy Home for Toddler Tuesday. Check it out!

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