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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mr. Push It busy bag

Mr. Push It
Loving this activity.  L.o.v.e. I.t. 

I do have to say that this may be the best preschooler Busy Bag out there! At least it has been the most interesting to my young preschooler so far!!  We get to use an everyday item and recycle it (snack container) plus all the items store inside for easy access.

We tried a different version of this Busy Bag called Pom Pom Stuff It In (per MoneySavingMom’s blog)…used a yogurt cup and cut slits in the top for stuffing in pom poms.  But my preschooler kept getting his finger stuck in the hole and just using pom poms was uninteresting after awhile.

I know there was also a version somewhere that used pipe cleaners and a Pringles can…but even if you wash the can, those chips always seem so greesy to me! 

After my boys quickly ate through a tub of Ritz Bitz, :) I wanted to recycle the container somehow and realized that it was the perfect container for a mix of the two activities!  We called it “Mr. Push It” because my little guy kept saying ‘pushhhh’ as he was pushing in each item.
Mr. push it upclose

To create, we started by letting my two preschoolers have ‘craft time’ and color a bunch of hole reinforcement stickers with markers. Then I got out my special single hole punch and hammer (back from scrapboooking days!) and whacked a couple of holes.  After the boys added their stickers around the holes, we found matching pipe cleaners and pom poms for each color. 

Two adjustments had to be made:
1) The holes were a bit small for the pom poms so I snipped a quick rectangle down the center for easier manageability by my two year old.
2) Plus we had to cut the pipe cleaners in half to fit the length of our container.

We made this two days ago and my preschooler has played and played with it.  Since creation, it has been found randomly in our rec room and in the kitchen and in the dining room….meaning that he has carried it around and played with it at different times all on his own – AND cleaned it up on his own! 
soy with Mr. push it

This Busy Bag activity is getting permanent residence in our Busy Bag Box as well as a copy is being made to go in the diaper bag!

Friday, March 30, 2012

More on the Toothpick Trace busy bag…

Here’s a better photo of one of the tracing pages. As noted in the original post, I made hand-drawn tracing pages using shapes from our puzzles.  After tracing, I went over the lines with a marking in some of my preschooler’s favorite colors.

We have yet to try out this activity because I’m busy hosting a booth for BusyBagCentral at a kids sale this week! (Yay!) Reader Hint: At the sale, I’ll be releasing the new Busy Bag Kits that will include a bunch of great sensory games and bags.  So check back next week for photos and reviews of the new, super-awesome kits!

When life is quieter again, we’ll pull this toothpick activity out for play and I’ll update you on how my four year old likes it! 

It’s worth noting that, when I was making this activity, my son watched me and excitedly said, “I want to do that too!” So we let him trace for the first time on his own paper and the creation of the Busy Bag became a craft in and of itself!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Toothpick Trace busy bag

Toothpick Trace
(Disclaimer: This activity is suggested for older preschoolers who can safely use toothpicks without hurting themselves.)

Here is an interesting activity that I’ve called Toothpick Trace.  I was reading about different ways to develop hand-eye-coordination in older preschoolers and they suggested using toothpicks to ‘trace’ – have the child poke holes along a pattern line.

As shown above, place a hand towel on a flat surface then a dark colored piece of construction paper and top with a pattern. (Our patterns were hand-traced from favorite puzzle pieces but you could just print off some clipart shapes.)  Once the holes are poked, the dark colored piece of paper can be hung in a window to let the light shine through the new outline!

Wooden clothes pins are placed to secure the top and bottom so my preschooler can focus on his handiwork with the toothpicks.  To reduce the risk of injury, I may go buy some of those fun toothpicks with silly decals at the top (such as little umbrellas) so there is only one sharp end.

Now, this activity does break a rule of the Busy Bag criteria list…all bags are:
non-messy and/or quick clean up, totally independent in use, interesting enough to last 15-30 minutes, and reusable products <—the rule breaker.

Even though this basically fits the concept of other Busy Bags, I wanted to give it a try with my four year old. He doesn’t show interest in writing or drawing or doodling. If he does any of these activities, it’s because I told him that he had to and then the activity only lasts 5 minutes.  This also means he doesn’t have very good skills with using pencils or paint brushes.

So I’m open to any kind of activity for him that builds his skill at “writing”…and using toothpicks is included! 

For more photos, go to the Facebook page under “BusyBagCentral” and be sure to ‘Like’ us so you can get in on the fan-only giveaways. Orders can be taken on Facebook or by emailing ( Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wednesday Why's: reasons why we love Busy Bags...

Reason #5 why we love Busy Bags:
My preschool-aged boys prefer to run around or play with toys like vehicles.  They don’t generally like to sit and play with anything craft.
Yet they will occupy themselves with a Busy Bag activity for up to 20 minutes at a time. That speaks for itself!

What are the reasons you like Busy Bags? What is your favorite activity for your child related to their age or skill-level?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Twist-Ties busy bag


For this Busy Bag, you take a handful of twist-ties and a handful of objects and present it to the child then let them play.  We don’t use twist-ties in my house because our trashcans have either a bag with a built-in drawstring or they are recycled bags from the grocery store.  But I’m a saver and collect these each time we empty a bag of bread.

The interest of this activity comes because the primary object (the ties) are new and different for the preschooler. We’ve included a variety of items for the twist-ties to be twisted around – a pencil, an empty spool, tupperware, and so on. We also included a few pipe cleaners for more twisting fun.

So far, my two year old is not sure what to think of the activity.  Since we don’t use twist-ties, he is having a hard time wrapping the ties around and keeping them around anything.  He is more interested in stuffing all the objects into the green tub for the moment but he has asked to play with this again today and left all the parts out, as if he wanted to play with it again later.  So we’ll have to make an effort to develop his twist-tying skills to make this more interesting. 

I know my four year old can do this type of twisting motion so I’ll post again once he plays with the activity to let you know if it’s a winner or a dud of an activity for him.


For more photos, go to the Facebook page under “BusyBagCentral” and be sure to ‘Like’ us so you can get in on the fan-only giveaways. Orders can be taken on Facebook or by emailing ( Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness -- Cookies and Cupcakes

A goal of mine for this blog is to provide tips to simplify education with preschoolers.  And one of the areas we educate is about what we value in our home. 

One of our core values in our home is giving. We live in such a harsh world and so it's critical for us to show our little ones how to spread kindness wherever they can!  So as a random act of kindness, occassionally we deliver goodies to our neighbors.

In the photograph above, we had a 'cooking' activity with the boys in which they drizzled melted chocolate over cookies and home-make cupcakes...then we delivered randomly to our neighbors! It was a good opportunity to open a discussion on different ways that they can give to others.

What ways do you help show kindness and giving to your little ones?

Calendar of events: Fun with preschoolers in April

As noted in a post earlier this month, we are taking inspiration for daily activities from crazy-kooky national holidays.  And with April right around the corner, here is a list of the national holidays coming this next month:

April's National Holidays
April Fool's Day and Palm Sunday - 1st
Children's Book Day - 2nd
Find A Rainbow Day - 3rd
Passover/Good Friday - 6th
Easter - 8th
Look-A-Like Day - 20th
Earth Day - 22nd
Hug a Friend Day - 26th
Tell a Story Day - 27th
Arbor Day - 29th

Check back during the month of April to see photos of activities, cooking, and crafts that we did to celebrate with our preschoolers!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Why's: reasons why we love Busy Bags...

Reason #32 why we love Busy Bags:
Knowing that the child is learning hands-on without me having to do all the hands-on teaching every single time; and WITHOUT the help of TV or other electronic stimulus.

What are the reasons you like Busy Bags? What is your favorite activity for your child related to their age or skill-level?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Movin' Mondays -- Build something with your preschooler!

There's something neat about building with your kids.  They get the opportunity to follow your lead, learn about following step-by-step directions, as well as obtaining a better understanding that individual pieces work to make a whole.

Last summer, my oldest preschooler and I put together a windchime. We found it on sale at Sam's...I had been looking for one for awhile but the large ones are so pricey! The longer the metal tubes, the better sounding chimes...and this wind chime sounds beautiful! 

I was very happy to find this great bargain and excitedly asked my 3 year old if he wanted to help build it once we got home. He agreed and after some work together, it was up and ready for use.  After the first windy day, my son was quick to note that he heard the chimes. And then the next day I heard them and we both agreed how nice they sounded.  

Many times over the past year, when we hear those chimes, my son and I just look at each other and smile or we talk about how nice our project turned out.  Taking a little extra time to build the project together has resulted in many moments we can enjoy together. 

Even though preschoolers are a challenge when helping build, work, cook, clean, etc, I encourage you to take the extra time to include them.  You both will be rewarded!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

More yummy green food = Spinach Smoothies

My boys LOVE green so we had a lot of fun doing activities with green this past week in preparation for St. Patty's Day.

I want to share one of my favorite green foods = Spinach Smoothies! We eat smoothies regularly around here because the ingredients are so easy to keep on hand....milk and yogurt in the fridge along with fruit from the freezer. Plus, adding a pinch of spinach doesn't affect the flavor at all and it's a great way to get extra vitamins!!

TIP: Never have ripe bananas go to waste again! If you can't eat them before they go bad, peel and then chop them into 1" chunks and put them in a freezer-safe ziploc and store in the freezer for up to 6 months.  Same goes for any other fresh fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, etc.

Recipe for Green 'N Healthy Banana Chocolate Smoothie: 
1/2 cup of juice or milk
1/2 cup of yogurt
3-4 ice cubes
half a banana
handful of chocolate chips
pinch of spinach, fresh or frozen
(can add a tablespoon of water to thin if needed)

Grind everything up in a Magic Bullet or blender and enjoy!

Note that spinach is optional but, honestly, it really does NOT change the flavor of the smoothie.  But also note that the green dominates the color, even if you put in blueberries, so don't use if you can't get over eating something creamy-green.

Other combinations of smoothies that we have tried:
>Blueberries with apple juice (instead of milk) plus bananas, yogurt, & ice cubes
>Strawberries with orange juice  plus bananas, yogurt, & ice cubes
>Bananas and orange sherbert with a bit of milk and ice cubes

Now go make...enjoy...and be healthified!

St. Patty's Day cooking craft

Happy St. Patty's Day to ya!  We used an idea off of Pinterest for a cooking craft with our preschoolers = yummy Shamrock flowers!!

We took three pretzels and laid them next to each other (ours were waffle-shaped but the regular ones would make the end product look more like a flower).  Then I had my toddler bite one in half for our stem while my older boy laid wax paper inside a cooking sheet (to contain our mess).  :)

After melting almond bark, I drizzled it onto our 'shamrock' and then let the boys sprinkle with green sprinkles. We finished it off with a bit of green icing for the stem.

Our shamrock flowers each got their own unique touch and we enjoyed eating each of them!!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wednesday Why's: reasons why we love Busy Bags...

Reason #12 why we love Busy Bags:
As an adult, I haven’t played with beads, crayons, or jewels since I was a child…it’s fun to enjoy these kinds of products again with my own child.

What are the reasons you like Busy Bags? What is your favorite activity for your child related to their age or skill-level?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Play-Doh = Play-Quiet

DSC_0586 (800x532)
Play-doh.  Honestly, it annoys me.  If you squish it, you get gunk in your nails.  If you kneel in it, your pants get stains.  If you don’t keep it collected in an area, little bits end up in the weirdest places and dry to the floor. Yuck!

But in my house….play-doh means quietness. My preschoolers just love to use their fingers to create on their own. We have a ‘bag of playdoh’ that came with plastic scissors, several shape-cutters and a rolling pin as well as a few other items to push/shove/squish. This past week, playing this activity hit the spot!
DSC_0580 (800x532)

Do you have any tips for playing with play-doh? And do you have any tips for getting it out of the carpet? *wink*

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tennis Balls & a ‘safe’ indoor game idea

tennis balls
What little child doesn’t love balls?!?  But in the winter, there are few opportunities to play with balls since we like to keep our pictures hung nicely on the walls. *wink*  So a game we came up with for indoor ball play is with tennis balls and a pop-up tube.  It’s wonderful way to burn off a little energy, build skills at hand-eye coordination, and keep the walls safe!

History ~~ About a year ago, my preschoolers we were bored playing indoors during the winter and I wanted some sort of game that got us up and moving.  We had recently purchased a bag of tennis balls and I thought my two boys would enjoy rolling them around our living room.  The younger of the two kids was only 1.5 years so it was very hard for him to keep the balls on the floor – he desperately wanted to throw them!  I tried to find a way to allow him to throw yet keep the balls contained and then thought about our nylon tube that goes to our pop-up tent…it was perfect!
DSC_0431 (532x800)

We pulled it out and I told the boys to throw or roll the balls inside the length of the tube.  Not realizing that both boys had very bad aim, we STILL had balls flying!  Haha!  That’s when I realized what a great tool this activity could become at building hand-eye-coordination as well as finger strength while also motivating them to get up and move.

Skip forward to this winter ~ Both boys have better throwing skills now but we’ve moved the game into the hallway because those balls sometimes jump out of their excited little hands. Having the bag of balls is very handy because it allows the ball-thrower multiple opportunities to practice and we're not having to throw-stop-pickup-then start again.

Sometimes we play with one kid on each end and see who can get all their balls to the other receipent (since some balls stop mid-way in the tube) or we have both on one end of the tube and see who’s faster at rolling.  And it usually ends with at least one person rolling around inside the tube along with lots of giggling!
DSC_0423 (800x532)

You can always modify the activity if you don’t have a pop-up tube like this and just use a closed-door hallway.  Plus, you can challenge the preschooler to knock over items at the end of the hall (empty soda bottles?) or put obstacles in the way of ball rolling or whatever else may fit your playtime.

Please share any thoughts on the activity and let us know how your little one(s) did with building their rolling/throwing skills!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

‘Rainbow Stew’ preschooler play – clean, messy fun!

DSC_0679 (800x532)
We attended “Messy Madness” last week – an event hosted by our local elementary schools and the Parents As Teachers program.  The focus of the activity stations at the event was for children to use their hands to play with ‘messy’ items.  Stations varied from a tub of white, slippery clumps (which was shreds of paper towels, ivory soap, and water) to painting with toilet plungers (put the round rubber head in a tray of paint then stamp paper) along with several more activities. 

They gave a handout of the recipes to recreate messy fun at home and we decided to make one of them this week: “Rainbow Stew”  The nice thing about this activity is that is uses everyday ingredients and is really non-messy since it’s contained in a bag!  Plus we had fun ‘painting’ with our fingers to see how our rainbow colors would mix.

Here are the instructions for this craft ~
“Rainbow Stew”
4 cups water
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup cornstarch

Mix the water and sugar in a pot on the stove. Slowly add cornstarch so as to avoid lumps.  Cook over low heat until thick.
(The directions didn’t note what “Thick” meant so I just made sure to stir often and wait until it became about the consistency of runny playdoh…at least 20 minutes.)
DSC_0634 (800x532)

Divide into thirds.  (We placed into large soup bowls.)

Add food coloring to each bowl; one color in each bowl.  Mix until desired color is achieved.
(We just did three primary colors – blue, yellow and red…which was pinkish. But you could mix and make a lot of color combos….hint: This is a good lesson for kids to learn about how colors mix and change! We let them choose the colors and how many drops that I placed in the bowls. Then we saw the cause 'n' effect of adding more drops.)
DSC_0640 (800x532)

Put a small ball of each of the three colors into each ziploc bag.  This quantity should make 6 bags.

Let the child use their fingers to make color combinations by pushing, squeezing, and kneading.
Have fun!

--We only used half of the ingredients called for and it was enough for 3 bags…one for each of my boys and one for me too so I get to have fun with them!
--Our 4 year old really liked using his fingers as a 'paint brush' if he was painting the inside of the bag. And our 2 year old just went to town much that most of the colors mixed and turned gray/brownish.  But they had fun!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wednesday Why's: reasons why we love Busy Bags...

Reason #294 why we love Busy Bags:
A perfect quiet-time activity. My older preschoolers quit taking naps at 2 years of age so this is a perfect form of entertainment while the baby is sleeping!

What are the reasons you like Busy Bags? What is your favorite activity for your child related to their age or skill-level?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday Tip: Use a Busy Bag Box

((photo of one of our boxes with name spelled out in stickers on the lid))

Children love ownership and adore the chance to be responsible.  Help them foster these feelings by having a Busy Bag Box to hold all of their Busy Bag activities.  

We use a series of several tubs with five bags in each for each day of the work week.  After they play with a bag on, say Monday, it gets moved to an empty tub and is reintroduced a few weeks later. With two preschoolers playing and multiple tubs, we decided it was best to label and we let the boys use some scrapbook stickers to decorate their name on their boxes.  Your child can also be encouraged to color or draw on their box as an additional craft!

Multiple boxes are great so that bags don't become 'boring'.  Plus, the nice thing about most activities is that they can be tailored and adjusted to make the activity more challenging after the basic skills are built!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Moving activity idea: Box Train!

To further inspire all of you who play with preschoolers, I’ll start posting details about activities we do at home.  We try to incorporate activities on a daily basis that engage and grow the small motor skills as well as the large motor skills.  Please comment or email if you have done or decide to do any of the activities posted in this series on Mondays…let us know what you do and how your preschooler enjoys it!

This past week, we were recovering from the flu so that meant lots of indoor playtime.  Plus, we live in Missouri and the weather changes at the drop of a hat right now so many of our skill-building play is indoors.

Here is an activity that incorporates both small and large motor skills plus encourages lots of communication!

“Box Train”
Fine-motor skills/finger strength:
We started by collecting empty boxes from around the house.
My kiddos used their little fingers to thread yarn from box to box and then we practiced tieing knots. Then we practiced using scissors to cut the yarn.
Next we made binoculars out of TP rolls and tape and string. And then pulled out several stickers to decorate our ‘box cars’.

Gross-motor skills/arm and leg strength:
We were ready to fill our train so I asked the boys, “What jobs do people have on the train?”  They decided we needed:
1. Passengers = stuffed animals. After collecting our ‘passengers’ from around the house, we discussed where people go on a train and I mentioned that some ride in a ‘sleeper car’...well then we obviously needed our blankies too!
2. A “lookout man” who would use the binoculars to look for deer (per the imagination of my 4 year old boy).
3. and a conductor (who rode in a “special car” in the front = laundry basket) and he needed a flashlight and conductor hat to be able to drive.

The boys really had a good time playing.  They don’t like to play with stuffed animals on a regular basis but this was a fun way to use toys to open discussion and talk about how trains work and the places they go.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Preschooler Cooking: Oreo day on March 6th

In honor of March 6th being the first day Oreo’s were sold (in 1912), I'll share the recipe for our favorite treats: Oreo Balls!

Start out with a package of oreos…any kind will do!  Put half the bag into a gallon-sized plastic baggie and crush.  In efforts to have my preschoolers help in the kitchen, they are usually given this fun task.  The 4 year old likes the kitchen mallet but the 2 year old is only trusted with a rolling pin so far. *wink*
photo - Copy

After they crush the cookies as finely as possible, we place in a bowl along with a softened package of cream cheese.  Some perfectionists I know take a further step by putting the cookies in the blender to really grind into bits…but we’re lucky if the oreos even make it into the mix (versus our mouth) so we just bypass this step to faster treat-eating.

Use an ice cream scooper or melon baller to scoop the mix into ball-form and place onto a piece of wax paper. Then scoot the wax paper onto a cutting board and place in the fridge or freezer to flash-cool for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Next, melt half a bag of almond bark or chocolate chips, per the directions on the bag.  Pull out the firm balls and set on the counter then begin to coat with the melted chocolate. Again, we aren’t perfectionist nor can I manage to keep my balls in ball form if I dip into the chocolate….grrr.  We pull out spoons and let the boys drizzle the melted chocolate over the balls. 

After the chocolate hardens, they are ready to serve!  Leftovers should be refrigerated.

We like to use almond bark because a) it’s cheaper and b) it hardens very hard and makes the balls easier to hold by the little hands of my preschoolers.

Additionally, these freeze well so you can place the leftovers into a freezer bag and keep them frozen until a need should arise…maybe unexpected guests are coming and you need a treat to serve, or you just have a chocolate craving. *wink*

There are many more crazy national holidays this month, as listed in the previous post.  So check back often to see stories of more preschooler activities to come!

Does anyone else plan to celebrate March 6th’s date of Oreo Day or the holiday of National Dentist Day??

Calendar of events: Preschooler fun in March with National Holidays

Last year, we had a wall calendar that listed a bunch of really obscure national holidays. Many are pretty silly but it gave me an idea:
We could use the theme from the funny holiday to be our inspiration for learning and our activities for the day! 
National Ice Cream Day, anyone?? *wink*
Here are the nationally recognized holidays for this month: 

Dr. Seuss's Birthday - 2nd
Dentist's Day (& Oreo cookies were sold for the first time in 1912) - 6th
Barbie's Birthday (in 1959) - 9th
Daylight Savings Begins - 11th
Potato Chip Day - 14th
St Patty's Day - 17th
1st Walk in Space Day - 18th
1st Day of Spring - 20th
Toast Day - 23rd
Doctor's Day - 30th

We'll try to post photos during March of activities celebrating the different holidays.  As always, we'll include our daily play with Busy Bags for the preschoolers plus check back for posts about our adventures in cooking and motor-skill-building.

I already know that for St. Patty's Day, we'll have our 3rd annual Green Eggs And Ham Brunch with Grandma!  MMMmmm!  I'm hoping some of these new activities we do this year will be worthy of becoming fun annual events that create fond memories for my kiddos. 

Do you know of any other holidays this month? What does your family to make celebrations eventful?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Activity ideas: Dr. Seuss day with a FREE activity book

With it being Dr. Seuss' birthday and with all the hype about the new movie, The Lorax, there are all kinds of activities to be had!

Energy Star is offering a FREE activity worksheet based on the book and you can download a copy or request a printed copy to be mailed to you!  Here is the link for the Join The Lorax activity book page.
They also have other resources on energy savings.  We've requested ours!

Here are some other ideas for activities based on books by Dr. Seuss:
>> Try 'green eggs and ham' -- mix food coloring in with your eggs and enjoy!  We do this every St. Patty's day.  (Tip: A little blue food coloring in yellow eggs STILL makes green eggs...weird, huh?)
>> Read "Mr. Brown Cow Can Moo, Can You?" and go on a 'sound scavenger hunt' to talk about all the noises heard inside and out.
>> Read "Oh The Places You'll Go" and pull out an old printed map or pull up a Google map online -- then plot out a journey to where you and your little people can go!  Since maps aren't used on a daily basis for kiddos, they are a wonderful tool for education and communication!

Does your family enjoy Dr. Seuss? What activities did your family do this week?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

More ways to play ~~ Classy Colors busy bag

alternate upclose of text - Classy Colors

As noted in the original post for the Classy Colors busy bag, there are several ways to play with this activity to make it more challenging. 

We did just the two portions of the paint chip strip but I’ve seen photos of the activity using the entire strip.  This requires quite a few clothes pins which also means a larger storage bag…and you know me, I’m all about having the activities fold down neatly and in small containers!!!  Maybe when my 4 year old gets tired of the activity, we’ll modify it in this manner.

Additionally, since my 4 year old knows letters and numbers, I included portions of the text on the chips glued to the clothes pins; showing words and/or numbers. 

upclose - word example of Classy Colors

NUMBERS: After he tires of matching color shades, the game can become harder by having him use the clothes pins only and sort by ascending numbers on the clothes pins tips only.  Again, using just the small paint chip on the clothes pin tip is much harder than visually seeing all the shades next to each other along the strip.

LETTERS: Or we can have him do a ‘letter hunt’ and search for certain letters on the clothes pins or he can try find only the pins with letters in his names or anything similar.

ORDER: The paint strips can also be adhered to one long paint strip in whatever order you would like.  Just glue the actual strip to another longer strip.  This way you can have the child focus on only certain colors versus playing with a whole variety of smaller chips.

If you do decide to make this activity, please comment and let us know what you do and what works for your preschooler!