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.
 
 
 

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

 


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.
 
 
 

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.

Photo Credit: Nathaniel S.

What is Play? What is structured and unstructured play? Do you ever wonder or think, is my child playing too much or not at all? When my child plays is it even educational or developmentally appropriate? As Early Childhood Development Specialists we are here to tell you, Play can be the most beneficial and important stage of your child’s life from infancy to their preschool years! Wow, You Say!  Well come on already, ask us why?

Well according to the Academy of Pediatrics, play contributes to the physical, emotional, cognitive and social skills of your child. Play also gives that time for parents and or caregivers to be fully engaged with the child. With the new movement of academics and curriculum being pushed down earlier, and with the new rush of technology many families are not engaging in play like generations ago. We know there are 2 different types of play; free play– which is when children are left to amuse themselves in any way, and use their imagination without any direction or guidance from adults. We have even witnessed some free play unsupervised for older children. Structured Play-, which is when children are given direction and or guidance in specific activities to broaden and or develop the necessary skills for their current stage of development. Both types are necessary, but more structured play can be utilized with you at home, used with nannies, and or when deciding on how to choose a school for your children.

Below are the top 5 ways to engage in more structured play with your children, to take their individual development to the next level. The key is to practice being in a conscious state as much as possible to notice what you are doing and how to adjust- not to make yourself try to be perfect.  Show your children, you can get down and dirty too!

  1. Provide new ideas and learning opportunities- Next time you are home, or the caregiver is with your child, let the child peruse around to find 2-3 of their favorite toys. Use these toys as an opportunity to ask open-ended questions, discuss observations, and use visual cues and so forth. This will open your child’s mind to answering questions (even if they can not speak). This will further benefit their comprehension and cognitive skills for the future. Make a commitment to begin this once a day!
  2. Boost up the physical activity and motor play- Do you understand how important active play is for growing children? Make use of a playground, museum, taking a walk, and or playing a movement game at home. Your child will love playing leapfrog, roll over my friend, or hop and jump scooter at home. Make up games, and remember they do not have to be lengthy; using 15 minutes to begin is just as suitable.
  3. Emotional Tolerance/Social Skills/Team Building- Children need to be given outlets and techniques for handling their emotions. Guiding our children to learn how to behave and what is expected in every situation is crucial. Learning how to work as a team, even if it is just you and baby, or sibling and baby. These are skills for life. Find games to encourage team building, kindness and concern for not only themselves but also others.
  4. Encourage Their Use of Imagination- In today’s society we do not see many people still dreaming or understanding how important it is to use your imagination. Begin on a weekday and take 15 minutes to create imaginary fun. This will not only boost their self-esteem, but also have your child engage with either words or facial expressions to show you how they are feeling. Encourage the love of books and reading by bringing life into your story time, imagination goes a long way.
  5. Take notes on your child’s developmental level- This is an important step, begin taking notes about where you feel developmentally your child is. Check out the CDC, website to get a guideline of where your child should be for their age. Use this to challenge them as you create more activities. Have fun, this is what childhood and parenting is all about. You and your child were made for each other and have a special gift together. Work on that gift, master that gift and teach others.

 

Photo Credit: Shane O’ Mac


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

 

 

 

It’s that time of year–Autumn. The leaves turn, pumpkins are harvested and coziness settles in. It’s our favorite time of year. A time of year that invites outside play, beautiful sunsets and family interaction. Here is a fun outdoor activity for Little Pnuts of all ages that envelopes the Fall harvest. Perfect for a pumpkin playdate or a Halloween party–why not play a game of Pumpkin Patch Leap Frog?

  
 
 
 

What You Will Need:

  • Eight medium-sized pumpkins test them out to see if your Little Pnut can jump over them easily
  • Two short pieces of rope these will be used to mark your start and finish line
  • A timer to be used to see which Little Pnut gets through the pumpkin patch the fastest

 

How to Play:

Find an open area and create your pumpkin patch obstacle course, either by placing your pumpkins haphazardly or in a straight line about 3 feet apart.

Using the pieces of rope, mark a starting point and ending point on both ends of the line.

Have your Little Pnuts line up, taking turns, have each Little Pnut leap over each pumpkin one at a time all the way to the finish line.

Using a timer, time each Little Pnut to see how fast it takes them to leap from start to finish.

 

End of Game:

The Little Pnut with the fastest time leaping through the pumpkin patch, without tipping over a pumpkin, wins.

 

Developmental Milestones:

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

Gross Motor Skill Development, Coordination, Balance, Focus & Concentration, Logical Reasoning, Understanding of Winning & Losing, Competition, and Social Interaction.

 

—Based on a game found in “Kids’ Garden, 40 Fun Indoor and Outdoor Activities and Games”, by Whitney Cohen
 

 

 

 

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
 

 

Life is great. You have your Little Pnut and all you want to do is stare into his beautiful eyes, glance longingly at his face as he sleeps and cuddle with him when he’s awake. He is the ultimate of perfection and you know it.

His first year is for achieving all of those wonderful and magical milestones that you read about and each of those milestones will guide your Little Pnut into becoming an amazing young man or woman one day. You as his parent, have all the tools to set your Little Pnut up for a lifetime of success, simply by being there for him and helping him learn about his world and how to experience it to the fullest. Right now is the perfect time to start getting him excited about learning, teaching him how to use his imagination and inspire his creativity. All of this wonderful learning can be done through your interaction with him at playtime.

The first 3 months of your Little Pnuts life is truly all about learning about the senses. Seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling. He is developing each of these five senses every minute of each day. Strengthening his eye muscles as he stares lovingly into your eyes, listening as you whisper his name softly and feeling your hands gently caressing that baby soft skin of his. The world he knows gets bigger and brighter every day through each of these senses.

Months 3-6 are all about experiencing the senses. Your Little Pnut is seeing things up close and in color, hearing and being able to distinguish sounds, smelling new things more closely, tasting different flavors by putting things in their mouth and touching everything around them. It is through these senses that they experience and learn about the world around them.

Months 6-9 are all about interacting with the senses. Your Little Pnut is now able to hold onto things and bring them closer to look at them more inquisitively, shaking things to see if they make noise. He can now touch the textures and feel the curves and straight edges of an object putting them in their mouths to interact with them more intimately. He may even have started crawling and getting into everything. You may start introducing solid foods now with even more tastes and textures. His little world is expanding and his experiences within his world are only making it more fun to discover.

Months 9-12 are about further perfecting your Little Pnuts interaction with his senses. Crawling around pulling on things pushing things, trying to pull himself up. His gross motor skills and fine motor skills are being further perfected allowing his senses to control how he observes and interacts with the world. He is loving the learning and growing that his little body and mind is allowing. He is beginning to push the limits, trying everything, experimenting with everything and investigating everything. Each day his environment further blossoms, allowing him to continue on a journey to learn something new.

It’s a bright and beautiful world for your Little Pnut, introduce it to him!