Author Archives: Little Pnuts

If you are a parent or caregiver looking for activities for young children, you’ve probably noticed that “sensory play” is all the rage on kid blogs and Pinterest. There are even entire websites devoted to sensory play for little ones, and while they are full of creative ideas, you may find yourself asking, “Does my child REALLY need sensory play for development?”

To answer this question, let’s look at what we know about sensory play.

 

 

WHAT IS SENSORY PLAY?

Sensory play is simply play that encourages children to use one or more of the senses.  Often called “messy play,” sensory play experiences focus on stimulating children’s senses of sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, balance, and movement.

Research tells us…

  • Young children rely on sensory input to learn about their environment.
  • Sensory play helps build neural connections that support thought, learning, and creativity.
  • Sensory play supports language development, cognitive growth, fine/gross motor skills, problem solving/reasoning, and social interaction.
  • Children’s exposure to sensory play opportunities is declining.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO US?

The first three points on the list above are pretty self-explanatory. In a nutshell, sensory experiences are like food for the brain…they provide valuable input that allows the brain to build new pathways that in turn support growth in crucial areas of development.

The fourth point, however, is what sheds some light on the answer to our original question, “Is all this REALLY necessary?”  You may be thinking, “My parents didn’t do sensory play with me, and I turned out ok!”  The fact is, our little ones spend much less time outdoors than their parents and certainly grandparents did as children.  Since the outdoors is naturally full of sensory play opportunities, this has definitely had a part in the decline of sensory play.  Secondly, although children can definitely fulfill their need for sensory play indoors when given periods of unstructured playtime with stimulating materials, the truth is that indoor time is often monopolized by television, battery operated toys, or toddler/preschool programs that focus on drilling academics rather than fostering important play skills.  This has resulted in a generation of children who may not even know how to play when given the opportunity…how sad is that?

So in short, the answer to your question is yes, sensory play is crucial for your child’s development. And since children today are no longer given ample opportunities for naturally occurring sensory play, it is up to us as parents to be sure their needs are met.

BUT WAIT!!  

Before you rush out and buy the materials to recreate every zany sensory activity you ever pinned on Pinterest, here are some much less time-intensive activities that you can do to enrich your child’s “sensory diet” without losing your sanity as well.

  • Play with sand, mud, water, shaving cream, cornmeal, water beads, dried or cooked pasta, dried beans or lentils, etc.  Provide a variety of containers, kitchen tools, and small toys for your child to explore with.
  • Sing and dance to music.  Use child-sized instruments, scarves, ribbon wands, etc. to encourage participation and engage multiple senses.
  • Build with blocks, empty cardboard boxes, or canned goods.  Knock down your towers and talk about the loud noises.
  • Add essential oils or extracts to play dough and compare all the different scents as you play.
  • Pick out a variety of fruits and vegetables at your local market (try to choose some that are new to your child).  Have a “sensory picnic” where you encourage your child to touch, smell, taste, and play with all the different produce.
  • Go for a walk in your neighborhood or in a wooded park.  Let your child stop and pick up leaves, sticks, rocks, or whatever else interests him/her.  If you want, bring a bag to fill with your “treasures” to bring home and make a collage with, or just simply to show to another family member.

MORE GREAT STUFF JUST FOR YOU:

To learn how to use fun sensory play activities to help get your toddler talking, check out Building Language with Sensory Play. (Link to- http://www.two-daloo.com/sensory-play-and-language/)

For an entire gallery of  sensory play ideas, click HERE. (Link to- http://www.two-daloo.com/category/play/sensory-play-little-minds-tot-school/)

Stephanie HaassLittle Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Blogger, founder of www.two-daloo.com

 


In a pinch for some unique Valentines for your Little Pnut’s school celebration tomorrow? We’ve got you covered. Here’s a cute DIY idea that your Little Pnut will have a blast making keeping them quietly entertained as they learn through play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • Construction Paper in various colors or Valentine themed prints
  • Foam heart stickers
  • Pencils, 1 for each child
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Double-sided Sticky Tape

 

Get Ready…

Depending on the age of your Little Pnut you may need to assist throughout this activity. First you will want to set all your work out on a fairly large table so that you can spread your heart feathers out allowing the glue to dry. Help your Little Pnut select the colored sheets of paper that they would like to use for their heart feathers. They will need two sheets per heart to create a 3-D effect. This is a great way to teach your Little Pnut how certain colors combined can create different looks and help them to understand what colors work together. Your Little Pnut will also need to count out the pencils to ensure they have enough for each friend.

Get Set…

First you will need to start by cutting out the hearts. Selecting the 2 sheets of paper your Little Pnut would like to use for their arrow feather hearts, fold both sheets together so that your cut hearts will be the exact size. Slowly and carefully have your Little Pnut cut out hearts in various sizes. Cutting is a great exercise to further define and enhance fine motor skills and to introduce the concept of large & small. If your Little Pnut is too young to handle scissors alone help your Little Pnut with this step.

Play!

Once all the hearts have been cut out it’s now time to make the arrow feathers.  Using glue make a thin line along the fold of one heart adhering the second heart on the seam. Let them dry.

While the arrow feathers are drying your Little Pnut will want to create the arrow tips. Using two foam hearts of the same size, have your Little Pnut set the tip of the pencil in the middle of one heart then cover the pencil tip with the second. This will form the arrows tip.

When the arrow feathers are dry, you will now add the feathers to the pencil. Lay the pencil eraser side in the middle of one side of the hearts next to the seam. Taking a piece of double-sided sticky tape you’ll want to tape the pencil down leaving a bit of tape to cover part of the heart. Pinch the sides together to fold the pencil into the heart thus forming the feather part of the arrow. This should form the 3 wings of the arrow feathers.

There you have it, perfect Cupid’s Pencil Arrow Valentines! Now duck and cover…

Happy Playing!

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Fine motor development, number recognition, shape recognition, color recognition, hand-eye coordination & cognitive development.

 

—Melissa Pia Bossola Beese, Little Pnuts Founder
 
 

Little Pnuts love to put their art on display, no matter what medium they have worked in. Today we have the perfect Valentines Day activity that lets them put their love on display just in time for that special day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • Poster Paint, preferably in Valentines colors
  • White Paper
  • Heart shaped cookie cutters or other heart-shaped items. We used cookie cutters, little heart-shaped treat boxes and sponges cut into heart shapes

Get Ready, Get Set..

Pour some paint onto a paper plate or into a shallow bowl. Tip: A small piece of cardboard makes a good artists pallet too. Then, let your Little Pnut dip their heart shapes into the paint and stamp them onto the paper until their little heart’s content. When they are done, set their paintings somewhere safe to dry.

Play!

Now for the fun part! Decide how to display your Little Pnuts art. Some ideas for you.

  • Hang it as is
  • Use it as wrapping paper
  • Cut out heart shapes for it and string together to make garland
  • Cut out heart shapes and tie them off individually with ribbon to hang around the house (that’s what we did)
  • Help your Little Pnut write a Valentine’s message or To  & From on the hearts and hand them out as homemade Valentines.

Happy Playing!

 

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Fine Motor Skills, Focus and Concentration, Strategic Thinking, Color Recognition, Hand-Eye Coordination, Cognitive Development, Creative Play, Free Play.

—Jennifer Haas, founder of Plain Vanilla Mom.
 
 
 


Does the Polar Vortex of 2014 have you and your Little Pnuts looking out the window, wishing you could run outside and play? We have the perfect activity to help bring a little outdoors in eliciting hours of giggles with oodles of learning through play!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • Floral Water Beads in a variety of sizes and colors
  • Water
  • A large container
  • A variety of scoops, spoons and small containers
  • Various Small Toys, ie, Squirting toys, shells, to set the theme
  • *Optional – light table (see our DIY light table for how to make your own) Light Box Fun

 

Get Ready…

Prior to play, you’ll need to hydrate your water beads. Simply take your water beads and sprinkle them into your large container and add enough water for your water beads to absorb and plump. We recommend adding at least an inch to two inches of water to the container. The water beads will need 6-8 hours to absorb all the water in the tub. Your Little Pnuts will enjoy watching the time-lapse of your water beads changing and growing.

Get Set…

Once the beads have plumped to the size of small marbles or grapes they’re ready for play. Set up the container of water beads on a table or on the floor. Spread out a variety of tools for your Little Pnuts to use for scooping and stirring. We used regular table spoons, measuring spoons and measuring cups for scooping. We also used small containers to scoop into, pour out and sort.

Play!

Establish a theme and decorate accordingly with your small toys. We thought a colorful & playful theme would be fun using the squirt toys the Little Pnuts have in their bathtub. They loved hiding the toys under the beads and scooping them out or feeling for them. The texture of the beads are fun, similar to jello marbles and our Little Pnuts enjoyed feeling them fall through their fingers. They also loved seeing how they would bounce and roll on hard surfaces

Variations of Play

Our Little Pnuts enjoyed a variety of ways to use our water beads. We used scoops and containers to teach volume and mass. Separating the beads using various sized spoons allowed for counting and number recognition, the 1/4 teaspoon allowed one water bead to be scooped up while the tablespoon would scoop 5-6 beads at a time. We were able to segment out colors using our 1/4 teaspoon to scoop one colored water bead at a time and separate them into separate containers.

*We advise that parental supervision should be present at all times. If your Little Pnut is still putting things in their mouth we recommend you wait before introducing them to water bead play.

Water beads really are an amazing way to enhance sensory exploration. Our Little Pnuts enjoyed many hours of learning through play.

Watch the Video:

Little Pnuts Learning Through Water Bead Play!

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Fine Motor Development, Language Development, Focus and Concentration, Sensory Exploration, Cognitive Development, Number Recognition, Color Recognition, Hand-Eye Coordination & Team Work.

 

—Melissa Pia Bossola Beese, Little Pnuts Founder
 
 


Stuck indoors? Here is a fun activity for your Little Pnut that combines science, art, sensory play, and fine motor practice. Read on for instructions on setting up your own Colorful Ice Play!

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • Ice cubes or an ice block (we made ours by freezing water in a plastic butter container)
  • Colored water (we used diluted liquid watercolors, but food coloring also works great)
  • Salt
  • Medicine droppers or pipettes
  • *Optional – light table (see our DIY light table for how to make your own) Light Box Fun

 

Set Up & Play

Set up is simple – place your ice or ice block on a tray (use a clear one if you plan to use the light table). Provide containers of colored water and salt for your Little Pnut to experiment with.  Our Little Pnuts enjoy squirting the water on the ice with pipettes and watching the colors mix on the tray.  Sprinkling salt on the ice will cause it to melt quickly where the salt touches it, creating beautiful patterns. Our Little Pnuts love this activity and yours will, too!  Using a light table kicks up the fun one more notch – place your clear tray on top of your light table (wrap the light table in plastic to protect it) and watch the colors mix and swirl.

 

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Fine Motor Development, Language Development, Focus and Concentration, Sensory Exploration, Problem Solving

 

—Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Blogger, founder of www.two-daloo.com
 
 

The holidays are always bright and cheerful and tend to bring a coziness into the home. This holiday while busy prepping, keep your Little Pnuts entertained with a tree they can decorate on their own. 

 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • Green Construction Paper
  • Pom Poms in a variety of shapes and colors
  • Glue
  • Scissors

Get Ready…

Draw or trace a Christmas tree shape onto the green construction paper. If your Little Pnut is able, have them cut out the tree with the scissors. If your Little Pnut is not using scissors yet go ahead and cut out the tree for them ahead of time.

Create invitation for your Little Pnut to decorate their Christmas tree by setting out your materials in an inviting manner. I set our tree on our table on top of some paper towels to protect our work space. Putting the pom poms in a small bowl makes them inviting to little hands.

Trim Your Tree!

Let your Little Pnut glue and stick pom poms onto their Christmas tree until their little heart’s content.

Variations:

If you want to challenge your Little Pnut, give them some tweezers or tongs to manipulate and place the pom poms with.

If your Little Pnut is still not ready to use a bottle of glue try pouring a little glue into a small bowl or cup and allowing them to dip the pom poms into the glue prior to placing them on the tree.

Finally, sit back and admire their tree. Don’t forget to find the perfect spot to hang it for the holiday season!

Happy Playing!

 

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Fine Motor Skills, Focus and Concentration, Strategic Thinking, Color Recognition, Hand-Eye Coordination, Cognitive Development, Creative Play, Free Play, Imaginative Play.

—Jennifer Haas, founder of Plain Vanilla Mom.
 
 
 

Looking for an activity to celebrate Fall with your Little Pnuts? How about a pumpkin hunt? This is a super easy and inexpensive activity that has lots of potential for fun and playful learning!

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • A bag of miniature pumpkins and gourds, preferably in a variety of shapes and colors (often sold in the produce section of your grocery store during the season)
  • Somewhere to hide them – we used a nearby playground, but even your backyard would work!
  • A bag for each Little Pnut to collect his/her pumpkins

 

Let’s Begin

To set up, simply hide the pumpkins and gourds around the designated area while your Little Pnuts are engaged elsewhere.

 

Let’s Play

When the pumpkins are all hidden, give each child a bag and have them collect the pumpkins.  Once they’ve all been collected, bring them all together to investigate and compare.  Talk about the different shapes, sizes, colors, and textures of the pumpkins and gourds.  Help your child sort the pumpkins by various attributes (bumpy and smooth, round/not round, etc.). Slightly older Little Pnuts may enjoy a turn hiding the pumpkins for the adults to find! You can also work on expressive language by having the children give you verbal directions to help you find the hidden pumpkins.

 

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Problem Solving, Reasoning, Fine/Gross Motor Development, Receptive/Expressive Language, Sensory Development

 

—Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Blogger, founder of www.two-daloo.com
 
 

It’s a creepy crawly time of year! Help your Little Pnut celebrate all things spooky with this fun fine motor activity, complete with an army of eight-legged friends!

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • A bag of miniature spiders, usually found at craft store
  • A ball of white yarn
  • A round wire wreath form, found in the floral section of craft stores (you could also use an embroidery hoop for a smaller version)
  • Tongs or tweezers for each Little Pnut (optional depending on developmental level)

 

Let’s Begin

To set up, take your wreath form and tie one end of your yarn somewhere on the wire. This is your starting point. Then, wrap the yarn around and around the circle, overlapping and criss-crossing until you end up with a large “web” (see photo). Secure the yarn by tying to the wire at your desired end point and trimming with scissors.

 

Let’s Play

To play, grab your spiders and arrange them around your “web.” Invite your Little Pnuts to place the spiders on and off the web. Younger Little Pnuts will benefit from using their fingers to grasp the spiders. Older Little Pnuts will enjoy using tongs, pincers, or even spoons to try to move the spiders from place to place.  You can work on spatial relations and prepositions by asking your Little Pnuts to place the spiders at the top, middle, or bottom of the web, etc. You can also use this activity to work on early math concepts with children who are developmentally ready.

 

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Fine Motor Development, Receptive Language, Imaginative Play and Cognitive Development

 

—Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Blogger, founder of www.two-daloo.com
 
 

Fall has arrived and with it comes the changing of colors on the trees, a crisp coolness in the air and the change of scenery in nature. Why not bring some of those changes indoors with this creative reflection on Autumn Leaves. Seasons inspire creativity and with it the imagination!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • White Paper
  • Brown Paing
  • A Paint Brush
  • Construction Paper in various fall colors (Red, Yellow & Orange)
  • Glue

Get Set…

First paint a tree shape onto the white paper with brown paint and let it dry. Be sure to give it lots of branches (your Little Pnut will be putting leaves on these later). If you happen to have an older Little Pnut you could have them do this as part of the project. Let the tree dry completely. In our case I painted the tree during nap time so it was ready after.

While your tree is drying, tear the construction paper into little bits and set them aside. I put ours in a bowl to better contain them.

Decorate!

Present your Little Pnut with the tree, the bowl of leaves, and some glue. Have your little one glue the “leaves” (ie. construction paper bits) onto the tree. In our case, this was one of the first times that our Little Pnut had used a glue stick so there was a bit of learning with that. If your Little Pnut is more experienced with glue let them have at it! The possibilities are endless. Leaves on branches, leaves falling off the tree, leaves on the ground, even a huge pile of leaves. This is also a good opportunity to talk about what happens to the leaves in the fall and do a little color recognition. Most importantly have fun! Don’t forget to find the perfect spot to display your Little Pnut’s fall tree after it’s done. Little Pnuts love seeing their artwork on display.

Happy Playing!

 

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Fine Motor Skills, Focus and Concentration, Strategic Thinking, Color Recognition, Number Recognition, Cognitive Development, Creative Play, Free Play, Imaginative Play.

—Jennifer Haas, founder of Plain Vanilla Mom.
 
 
 

With Back-to-School it’s always great to have activities at home that reinforce and inspire your Little Pnuts love for learning at school. Here is a classic play dough activity that will have your Little Pnuts squealing with delight while also working on their fine motor skills- color surprise play dough!

 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup salt
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil (I’ve used canola oil, vegetable oil, olive oil, and coconut oil)
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • Liquid watercolors or food coloring in several colors

Let’s Begin

To make your play dough, combine the dry ingredients in a saucepan and then add your water and cooking oil. Cook over medium/low heat, stirring constantly. Your play dough will quickly form a ball around your spoon; remove it from your pan and allow it to cool on some foil or wax paper.

After the play dough has cooled, it’s time to add your surprise to WOW your Little Pnuts!  Divide your dough into small balls, at least one for each of your colors. Next, poke a hole in each ball and squeeze a few drops of watercolors or food coloring into each hole.  Close the hole by carefully pinching it shut. Your play dough will not look any different but will contain a fun color surprise for your little ones to discover!

Let’s Play

Invite your Little Pnuts to take the balls of play dough and begin kneading and smushing them.  They will quickly discover the colored centers…encourage them to continue mixing the play dough until it takes on the color of the dye.  Then make some colorful creations with your Little Pnuts…the activity is limited only by your imagination!

*Note – Be sure to wear old clothes and prepare your play space for mess…food coloring and liquid watercolors may temporarily stain hands and/or clothing (but it’s soooo worth it)!

Developmental Milestones:

This activities focuses on the following Developmental Milestones for your Little Pnuts:

Sensory Exploration, Creativity and Imagination, Fine Motor Skill Development, Cause and Effect

 

—Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Blogger, founder of www.two-daloo.com