With shorter days and longer nights Fall allows for more family fun in the evening. With the use of a flashlight and a bit of imagination your Little Pnut can bring Halloween to life right in your home!

 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • Old 
  • Craft sticks
  • Glue
  • Black construction paper
  • Pencils 
  • Scissors
  • Halloween shaped cookie cutters (optional)
  • Flashlight
 

Assemble Your Puppets

Using the cookie cutters trace Halloween shapes onto black construction paper. We used a bat, ghost and pumpkin but you can use whatever you might like. If you don’t have cookie cutters not to worry, just draw your shapes of choice by hand. Or,  if your Little Pnut is able, it might be fun to have them draw the shapes. Next cut out the shapes. If you’d like, also c

Get Ready

While your shadow puppets are drying you and your Little Pnut can gather up a flashlight and scout out a nice empty spot on a wall in the house (preferably in a dark or dimly lit room) for some spooky shadow puppet play. You might even want to round up a couple of fun Halloween stories.

Imagine & Play

Once your shadow puppets are dry let the fun begin.  Aim your flashlight at the wall and have your Little Pnut hold the puppets in front of it until you see the shadows on the wall. Now, let your Little Pnuts’ imagination take over. We used our Spooky Shadow Puppets to act out Halloween stories (like Five Little Pumpkins) or you (and your Little Pnuts of course) can use your imagination and make up your own fun (or spooky) stories. We had a super fun bat & ghost race at our house!

Happy Playing!

 

 

Developmental Milestones:

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

Fine Motor Skills, Focus and Concentration, Shape Recognition, Hand-Eye Coordination, Creative Play, Imaginative Play & Free Play.

—Jennifer Haas, founder of Plain Vanilla Mom.
 
 
 

 

Autumn is such a picturesque time of year, the leaves change, colorful crops are harvested and the air becomes crisp and clean. Capture some of the season’s highlights with this stained glass activity that both you and your Little Pnuts will enjoy making together. 

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • Transparent Contact Paper
  • Glue Stick
  • Colorful Ribbon
  • Natural Items Collected from outside; leaves, twigs flowers & sticks.
 

Prep

Spend an hour outside with your Little Pnuts collecting things that symbolize Autumn, fallen leaves, twigs, sticks, flowers etc. If you have time you can even gather them while out on a nature scavenger hunt to add a bit more fun.

Prepare your materials. Cut 2 equal size squares from the contact paper. Keep the backing on the sheets until you are ready to assemble.

Select your ribbon and measure out 4 pieces that are in equal length to each of the four edges of your contact paper. This will be the frame.

Create

Carefully pull off the backing from one of the sheets. Have your Little Pnut place the items they found carefully on the sticky side of the sheet. Work through the exercise with your Little Pnut having them think about how they’d like to arrange each piece. Would they like to arrange by colors? Do they want to arrange by shape? Do they want to create a pattern?

Once they’ve decided the placement of their items you’ll need to remove the backing from the second sheet of contact paper. Carefully line up the edges and slowly place the second sheet sticky side down on top of the arrangement. Be careful not to get air bubbles between the sheets but if they do occur simply try to rub them out with the tip of your finger.

Have your Little Pnut put glue along the edges of the 4 pieces of ribbon and carefully place them along each edge of their stained glass, framing their artwork.

Lastly, find a window with good light that comes from the setting sun to capture the colors of their stained glass coupled with the Autumn light and hang.

Happy Playing!

 

 

Developmental Milestones:

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

Fine Motor Skills, Focus and Concentration, Color Recognition, Shape Recognition, Hand-Eye Coordination, Strategic Thinking, Cognitive Development, Speech Development and Creativity.

—Melissa Pia Bossola Beese, founder of LittlePnuts.com
 
 
 


Breathe new life into old crayons with a star shaped mold by transforming them into something new festive and fun with this easy activity (just in time for the 4th of July). These adorable shaped chunky crayons make great party favors or toss them in a bag along with some paper for those long summer road trips with your Little Pnuts

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • Old (or new) Crayons
  • Star Shaped Silicon Cupcake Molds (often found at your local craft store)
  • Paper
 

Prep

Peel and break your crayons. Your Little Pnut will love helping with this. Although sometimes it can be a little tricky to get the paper off, It’s a great way for little hands to work on dexterity and fine motor skills. Once all the crayons are peeled have your Little Pnut break them into little bits.

Next have your Little Pnut distribute the crayon pieces into the molds. We made Red White & Blue stars in honor of the upcoming holiday by placing pieces from various shades of blue and red crayons together along with a few pieces of white crayon just for fun. Be creative. You could make solid colors or mix them in a variety of ways.

Bake

Bake your crayons in a 250 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Ours actually took slightly less (more like 18 minutes). You want to check your crayons frequently while they are baking and pull them out just at the point when all the pieces have completely melted. If you let them go too long you’ll end up with a waxy soup and all the colors will meld together too much (not very pretty).

Play

When your crayons are cool pop them out of the molds. The silicon molds will pretty much just peel off making removing the crayons pretty easy. However, if you need a little extra help, put mold in the freezer for 5-10min and then the crayons should just pop right out. Now all that’s left is to color and create. Give your Little Pnut the crayons and some paper and let the creativity flow! Chunky crayons like this are not only fun to make and create with, but they are perfect for those little learning hands of even the littlest of Pnuts to hold.

Note: Don’t worry if you can’t find star shaped molds. These crayons are just as much fun made in a regular old muffin tin too!

Try a Fun Variation

Try experimenting using solar power to melt your crayons like we did HERE

Happy Playing!

 

 

Developmental Milestones:

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

Fine Motor Skills, Focus and Concentration,  Color Recognition, Shape Recognition, Hand-Eye Coordination, Creative Play, Imaginative Play & Free Play.

—Jennifer Haas, founder of Plain Vanilla Mom.
 
 
 


Play Dough Impressions CollageWhen it’s just too hot outside to play why not bring your Little Pnuts in for some cool play dough fun. Your Little Pnuts will have so much fun making impressions with their blocks & play dough they won’t even realize they are learning through play!

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • Blocks in Different Shapes & Sizes
  • Play Dough
  • Rolling Pin (optional)
  • Small Basket or Container to Hold the Blocks

Set Up

Gather your materials.  Use the rolling pin to roll out the play dough so it’s a nice large flat surface.  If you don’t have a rolling pin just flatten the dough out using your hands. Place the blocks in a small basket or container next to the play dough.

Explore

Invite your Little Pnut to use the blocks to make impressions in the play dough. Your Little Pnut will most likely know just what to do and begin experimenting on their own but if not , go ahead and show them by making a few impressions with the blocks yourself.  Talk about the different shapes or marks that the blocks are leaving in the play dough. If you have a younger Little Pnut this is a great way to turn a tactile sensory experience into a fun lesson on shapes. When the surface of the play dough is covered with impressions simply roll it out again.  If your Little Pnut is able go ahead and let them use the rolling pin.

Make a Game of It

Here’s my favorite part! Once your Little Pnut has had a chance to handle and experiment with the materials, make a game of it. This time you press the block shapes into the play dough to make the impressions and then return the blocks back to the basket. Now, ask your Little Pnut to find or otherwise match up the blocks to their play dough impressions.

Try a Fun Variation

As a fun variation, experiment and play the game with objects other than blocks like we did HERE. What kind of impressions do other objects leave behind?

Happy Playing!

 play dough collage 2

Developmental Milestones:

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

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

—Jennifer Haas, founder of Plain Vanilla Mom.
 
 
 

Bring a little luck o’ the Irish into your home this St. Patrick’s Day, with these darling DIY Salt Dough Shamrocks both you and your Little Pnut will enjoy making together. You’re sure to have a visit from a Leprechaun, or two, with these hanging about the house.

 

 

 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 cup flour
  • Shamrock shaped cookie cutter
  • A straw
  • Various colors of green paint
  • Ribbon or string
  • Paint brushes
  • Baking sheet
  • Mixing bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Rolling pin

Make & Bake the Salt Dough

To make the salt dough, mix the flour, salt and warm water together until a soft dough forms. We like to get ours started in the bowl and then finish kneading it on a floured cutting board until it’s just the right consistency. It should feel a bit like soft play dough. Little Pnuts love doing the mixing so let your Little Pnut get their hands into that dough!

Next, help your Little Pnut roll out the dough on a floured surface. Using a shamrock cookie cutter have your Little Pnut cut out shamrock shapes.

Important: If you want to hang your shamrocks, this is the time to use a straw to poke a hole in the shamrocks before baking. Don’t forget to remove the straw before baking though.

Place the salt dough shamrocks on a cookie sheet and bake them at your oven’s lowest setting until they are completely hardened.  Usually around 250 degrees fahrenheit and about 2 hours but it could take more or less depending on how thick your cutouts are. Check them every hour and turn them so they don’t get too brown. Once they are completely hardened remove them from the oven and let them cool.

Paint Your Shamrocks

Once your shamrocks have cooled completely they are ready to paint. Present your Little Pnut with some green paint and let them have fun painting their shamrocks.  The more shades of green the better! We ended up with some with a beautiful swirled marble effect on some of ours by mixing multiple shades of green.  Once the paint is dry string some ribbon and hang your shamrocks.

Try a Variation: Add a little green food coloring when you are mixing your dough and you’ll have green salt dough shamrocks you can either hang as such or paint further.

Most importantly have fun! Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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, Shape Recognition, Hand-Eye Coordination, Sensory Play, Cognitive Development, Creative Play, Imaginative Play & Free Play.

—Jennifer Haas, founder of Plain Vanilla Mom.
 
 
 

Colored pasta is a fantastic medium for a whole host of activities. Even coloring the pasta can be loads of fun for your Little Pnut so be sure to let them take part in the process.

 

 

 

What You Will Need:

  • Dry pasta in as many shapes or sizes as you want
  • Liquid water colors or food coloring
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Plastic zip lock style bags
  • Trays, cookies sheets or plates for drying
  • Paper towels

Choose Your Pasta

There are lots of shapes and sizes to choose from. We recently colored these little pasta wheels and having been using them in all sorts of ways.

Color Your Pasta

There are few different ways you can color pasta. We love the vibrant colors that using liquid water colors produces so more often than not that’s what we choose.  To color the pasta your desired amount of pasta in a plastic zip lock style bag (we usually start with a cup or two for each color). Then  add a few squirts of liquid water-color and shake until it’s the pasta is thoroughly coated. Your Little Pnut will love the job of shaking the bag, of that I am sure!  If the color isn’t vibrant enough add a little more liquid water-color. Better to start with just a little at a time and add more if necessary as too much wet will begin to make the pasta sticky.

If you don’t have liquid water color you can color your pasta using a few pumps of hand sanitizer and a few squirts food coloring. We prefer gel food coloring because it tends to yield more vibrant results.

Dry Your Pasta

This step is important! Line cookie sheets or other trays with paper towels. Spread your freshly colored pasta out separating any pieces that might be stuck together and leave it to dry. We usually let ours dry overnight before handling it but a few hours should do the trick.

Play, Explore & Create

The possibilities are almost endless. You can use your pasta as sensory bin filler. It’s great for color sorting. It can be used for art work in various ways. Our Little Pnuts like gluing pasta shapes on paper to make pictures or collages. It can be strung on cord for jewelry.

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, Shape Recognition, Hand-Eye Coordination, Sensory Play, Cognitive Development, Creative Play, Imaginative Play & Free Play.

—Jennifer Haas, founder of Plain Vanilla Mom.
 
 
 

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

 

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.
 
 
 

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