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.
 
 
 

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

 

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.
 
 
 

Photo Credit: Cheltanham Parks.

When we think of Play and Structured Play, we immediately realize that observation skills and learning go hand in hand. Both are highly beneficial to your child’s development. Do you often ask, “What is Child Development”? According to Kid Sense Child Development, “Children’s development occurs across a range of skill areas including: physical (motor) skills, speech and language, social and emotional, cognitive and intellectual abilities”.  Monitoring of Child Development is crucial to your child’s success, while making sure their milestones are being met. Let’s delve into helping your families use three techniques to take your fun playtime and make it slightly more structured, you can do this without your child even knowing they are learning! Here it goes!

  1. Introduce (1-2) specific concepts for daily playtime sessions – Choose specific times whether early morning or after afternoon snack to structure your child’s play. Get on their level and engage with them. Find something you know your child likes and set up an activity around it. This could take place at the carpet, table, or outside on a walk. Use props, materials and high energy. Ask open-ended questions, discuss observations, and use visual cues. Your child can go into any direction they choose and you follow their lead, this will make a huge difference for the future. This will offer a wealth of knowledge for the child.
  2. Create a home model of an educational space/classroom – This can be used for children infant to preschool. Purchase bins, drawers, chairs etc. and turn your child’s entertainment space into an educational realm. This means having everything in its order and all materials having a home. I.E. books on a shelf, small table and chairs for art, puzzle rack, stuffed animals on a shelf, cars in a bin. This will give it a structured look and even free play will be semi-structured.
  3. Use team building and appropriate social skills on playdates – We encourage children having play dates and or friends. A play date is the perfect time to see what developmental, and social level your child is on. Use special techniques to discuss emotions, proper sharing techniques, and listen to the language they use with peers. Take notes, and see how you can improve these for the next visit. Encourage success using positive words and modeling appropriate behavior.

    Photo Credit: Cheltanham Parks.


—Jessica Howard, Little Pnuts Educational Play BloggerFounder and CEO of Kid’s Night Out Parent’s Night Off in NYC.

 

Looking for a fun art project to keep little hands busy? Try using adhesive shelf paper to create relief art with your Little Pnut!

 

 

 

  

 

What You Will Need

  • Blank paper or canvas
  • Several colors of paint
  • Adhesive shelf paper
  • Paint brushes (or you can finger paint!)

 

Let’s Create!

First, have your Little Pnut cover his/her canvas with a background color. We used pink and then sprinkled on a little glitter. After the paint is dry, cut a shape out of adhesive shelf paper, peel the backing off, and stick it onto the canvas.  Press the edges down well.  Now, paint over your shape with a new paint color/colors that contrast well with the background color.  We used two different shades of blue and a little bit of white.  Before the paint dries, carefully peel off your shape to expose the background color.  And there you have it! A beautiful work of art to proudly display on your wall!

 

Developmental Milestones:

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

Fine Motor Skill Development, Hand/Eye Coordination, Focus & Concentration, Creativity, Sensory Exploration

—Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Bloggerwww.two-daloo.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

In the mood for a winter play activity, but no snow in the forecast?  Never fear! Your Little Pnuts will love playing with this peppermint-scented cloud dough so much, they won’t even miss the fluffy stuff!  Scented cloud dough only needs three ingredients and the possibilities for creative sensory play are limited only by your imagination. 

 

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

What You Will Need

  • A large plastic container
  • Flour
  • Cooking oil (we use olive oil, but vegetable oil, canola oil, and coconut oil work, too
  • Peppermint essential oil (optional)
  • Assorted kitchen tools, containers for filling/dumping, cookie cutters, small toys, pinecones, etc. for playing in your “winter wonderland”

Making the Cloud Dough:

Place your container on a low table or on the ground where your Little Pnuts can access it easily.  Add flour and cooking oil (stay away from baby oil – it smells nice but can be toxic if ingested or inhaled) in a ratio of eight parts flour to one part oil.  Add a few drops of peppermint essential oil if desired.  Have your Little Pnuts help you mix the oil into the flour with their hands, a spoon, or even a whisk.

Let the Fun Begin:

Encourage your Little Pnuts to explore the cloud dough with their hands and feet, kitchen tools, and/or toys. Use your imagination…gently press the dough into balls to make snowmen, or if you are brave, have a “snowball fight!”  Flatten the powder with your hands and use cookie cutters to stamp holiday shapes.  Use pinecones to make “trees” in your tiny winter landscape.  Measuring cups and ice-cream scoops are the perfect tools to make pretend food with your cloud dough.  You can even use a stick or a cotton swab to draw or write letters in the dough.  Open-ended play activities such as this are wonderful opportunities for language enrichment– talk about how the dough feels and smells and describe your play as you go.

Variations:

Try using various essential oils to and/or spices to add different scents to your cloud dough.  Pumpkin pie cloud dough would be a fun autumn activity; lavender-scented cloud dough would be very soothing. If you are concerned about Little Pnuts ingesting the dough, be sure you buy “therapeutic grade” essential oils as they are the only ones that are edible.

To add color to your cloud dough, try adding crushed colored chalk,  powdered gelatin or drink mixes.  Make it sparkly by adding fine glitter.  Of course, just plain-ole’ cloud dough is loads of fun, too!

Developmental Milestones:

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

Fine Motor Skill Development, Hand/Eye Coordination, Focus & Concentration, Vocabulary Development, Symbolic Play, Sensory Development, Social Interaction

 

—Stephanie Haass, Little Pnuts Early Childhood Activities Expert & Bloggerwww.two-daloo.com
 
 
 

 

 

A fun indoor or outdoor activity for Little Pnuts of all ages.  This is a game that  allows you to be a pirate and a detective all at the same time. Your Little Pnuts will have a blast “scavenging” for the treasures you’ve hidden to and fro! 

 
 
 
 
 

*We recommend that the teams have Preschoolers who are learning to read for this variation of the game.

 

What You Will Need:

  • Small, Silly, Fun Items that you can hide in various locations either in the house, outdoors, or even both.
  • Pre-made lists with all the items to be found. This will be handed out to each team to gather. To help with new readers include a picture next to each word to help with word association and to ensure they will be able to find the items they are looking for.
  • A timer depending on the age of your teams set the timer to what you feel is an appropriate amount of time to find the items on the lists.
  • Prizes 2 types, some for the winning team and some for the losing team. Make sure there are enough for everyone.

 

How to Play:

Hide all the items in locations where each team will search to find them. Place the same number of items as there are teams in each location. When a team finds an item, they are only permitted to take one item.

Set a timer for the amount of time in which each team must find all of the items listed on their list.

On your marks, get set…GO!

Each team is off to find the items as listed on their sheets. Send them off in different directions so that they are all looking in a variety of locations. Remind them to keep each location where they found an item a secret, making it difficult for the other teams to find out where they might have found the items on the list.

 

End of Game:

The first team to find all the items on the list within the allotted timeframe wins.

 

Developmental Milestones:

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

Gross Motor Skill Development, Coordination, Reading Skills, Word Association, Focus & Concentration, Logical Reasoning, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, Teamwork, Understanding of Winning & Losing, Competition, and Social Interaction.

 

—Based on a game found in the book. “You’re It!”, by Katie Hewitt
 

 

Whether it’s the first time you are dropping your Little Pnut off at school or a skill you’ve practiced for a few years now, it’s always difficult to say goodbye on that first day of the new school year, perhaps even more so for you. Now is the time to wipe away those tears of sadness (or relief) and relish in the knowledge that your Little Pnut is embarking on the adventure of his life.

Your Little Pnuts are about to have the time of their lives. With so many new skill sets to be acquired and mastered and so much knowledge to be absorbed your Little Pnuts are now beginning to develop a deeper love for learning about the world beyond their immediate surroundings.

In preschool, your Little Pnuts will also begin to foster relationships with other Little Pnuts, some of which may last their lifetime.  They are further establishing their social skills, interacting with more depth and thoughtfulness. They are learning to take turns, practicing patience as they wait for their chance to try something or play with something, all the while developing focus and concentration. They are learning more and more each day in an environment that is fun, playful and engaging. Your Little Pnuts are now enjoying learning in a social setting—with friends.

At home you will begin to notice your Little Pnut having an increased desire for you to read even more to them. They will begin to interact with stories and to ask unending streams of questions while you are in mid-sentence. Their curiosity is never-ending, absorbing the most amount of knowledge in these years versus the rest of their lives. It really is true, they really are little sponges at this phase in their development.

We as the parents of preschoolers should enforce this love of knowledge as best we can. Conscientiously answering that endless stream of questions with true facts and knowledge. We must challenge them to learn about both winning and losing and how to be motivated to always strive for the best. We must prepare them for their future success so they will know and understand that with hard work and determination they will accomplish what they set out to do.

Preschool is put in place to help your Little Pnuts engage more practically with the world around them and to begin to flourish as little beings. Congratulate them as they are about to conquer the world.

Preschool is fun!