Monday, December 2, 2013

Salt Dough & Melted Bead Ornaments

This Christmas season we are making salt dough and melted bead ornaments as gifts.  I had planned to make hand print trees from the salt dough until I came across these amazing Handprint Suncatchers from Homegrown Friends. I loved them and decided we had to make our own ornament versions!

Salt dough melted bead christmas ornaments gifts
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Salt Dough Recipe:
1 cup Flour
1/2 cup Salt
1/2 cup water

Mix together all dry ingredients and then slowly add the water until it forms the texture of dough. Knead until smooth.

We rolled out the dough (we made a green batch because the kids wanted green for their trees, although color won't show when done) and they got to decided what cookie cutters they wanted to use.  
Salt dough melted bead christmas ornaments giftsSalt dough melted bead christmas ornaments gifts
We used straws to poke holes in the trees and in the other shapes.  They also had the option of using smaller cookie cutters to cut the center out like the ones we had seen on Homegrown Friends.  When they had cut all the holes they wanted the kids added beads to the holes (make sure to leave one for ribbon to hang!) and we popped them in the oven for 1.5 hours on 200 degrees.  After 1.5 hours I slowly turned the oven up 375 and kept a close eye on them so that the beads would melt. I cooked them slowly at first because they actually turned out a bit thicker than I generally like and I didn't want them to rise or puff up like I've had them do in the past if I cooked them to fast. 

Out of the oven! 
 Salt dough melted bead christmas ornaments gifts tree
I had to pull one batch (the stars/heart batch) out before the beads melted completely because our beads were omitting a very heavy smell and it was unusually cold here so I couldn't leave all the windows open. Fully melted or not I liked how they turned out. The trees went in first so they got fully cooked but by the second batch the stinky smell was getting a bit overpowering so if you're doing just one batch its possible yours won't smell as bad.

Salt dough melted bead christmas ornaments giftsSalt dough melted bead christmas ornaments gifts tree
After they cooled I let the girls who did stars/hearts choose to paint with acrylics or clear coat them with mod podge. For the trees they just painted over all the beads and then as soon as they were done I used a wet wipe to wipe off the paint, they are really easy to wipe off. The kids that chose a star with the beads in the center surprisingly didn't paint over the beads like I expected. 

On the tree!
Salt dough melted bead christmas ornaments giftsSalt dough melted bead christmas ornaments gifts tree

This is one of the mod podge ones! I didn't get to see either of them on a tree but they looked great in the sun! 

So fun!!

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Gift List for Toddlers

With Christmas closing in faster than I'm prepared for I've been going through our toys and trying to decided what to add to our selection (and what to donate).  I hadn't planned to make a gift guide but when four friends asked me for recommendations I decided to put together this list of our favorite toys and activities for children 1.5 to 3 years old.
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Jumbo Jungle Animals & Jumbo Farm Animals- These are a HUGE hit in our house! Seriously the most used toys in the house and they are loved by all ages! They have withstood the constant use (and some abuse as well) without deforming or breaking.  These also are available in zoo, petsoceanendangered, & forest animals.  We currently have the zoo, pets, and farm versions and MB will be getting the forest animals from Santa. 


Guidecraft Rainbow Blocks Set- Another favorite! We love these blocks! We use them from general building to color matching games to shadow play.  They are quality items, sturdy and made to last, and I highly recommend them! They also have bead, sand, and mirror blocks.

BLOCKS!! Blocks are a must have in my opinion! We have two sets, Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit Blocks and Citiblocs Building Blocks. Both are awesome!  I'm a bit on the fence when it comes to Melissa and Doug sometimes but the unit blocks are great.  The Citiblocs the kids love just as well! They tend to use the unit blocks for the bigger builds and the Citiblocs more for precision builds, most of the time these are combined builds :) The things they create with these are so creative and fun. 

Plan Toys Doll Family- If your children are into dolls or people then pick up one of these family sets. They are well made people that feature bendy arms and legs, colorful clothing, perfect size for small hands, and are made from all natural organic recycled rubber wood

Preschool Number 1-10- This set is great for number practice.  The colors are bright and the wooden 'cards' are well made. The cards have an indent, like a puzzle, for the number to fit into and each number sits securely into each outline.  We use these often, the kids really enjoy them. 

WOW Poppy's Pony Adventure- We love WOW toys! This toy gets TONS of use! We've had this set for about a year now and it still works fine, the friction drive has never failed and all the pieces are still in great shape.  I wish we had more of these sets! MB will be getting Motorbike Max for Christmas!

Baby Bear Sorting Set- These sorting bears have many uses! MB and the daycare love these bears and use them for more than just color sorting. They count, sort, make patterns, & play with them like dolls :) I introduced them at about a year and a half to MB and she's loved them ever since, but be aware they all small parts.

Hape Color and Shape Sorter- A great classic shape sorter activity from Hape.  Well made & non-toxic materials make this my favorite sorter.  I usually give this as a gift to all the toddlers I know :)

Pacific Play Tents 6ft Tunnel- Tunnels are awesome! We have two different ones and no matter the age they are so loved.  Pacific Play tents makes different types but they are all great quality.  I've had other brands that don't hold up as well to heavy use, these do. 

Playmobil 123 Large Zoo- We love Playmobil 123 sets! We have a few and they are great for toddlers! Well made and meant to last.  MB will be getting this one for Christmas and it is the item I am most excited to give her.  We also have the Forest Animal Park & the Large Farm.

Tall-Stacker Pegs & Pegboard Set- Great toys for little hand! We love to stack and build with these! 

Ultra-Thin Portable Light Panel- This is the light table that we have and it gets TONS of use! Light Tracers are a more affordable alternative to the light panel but they are smaller and I haven't tried them personally. There is so much that can be done with the light panel and so many things you can use on it! Some of our favorite things to use on the light table are transparent counters, pattern blocks, Gems, & water beads.

KidKraft Vintage Kitchen- This never gets old for my kids, the kitchen set is one of the most loved and classic toys.  At least once a day there is some sort of dinner being created and served. We have the red version on this, it replaced a bulky and unstable plastic one, and I've had no issues with it. All the cabinets open easily for little hands and it is very sturdy. We have this Fruit and Veggie Tote and Healthy Dinner Set as well as these dishes and this cookware set.

Check out our Amazon Store for lots more ideas and favorites!

Pleas note: The toys shown above are my picks based on the skill and development of my daughter and the children in my daycare. Some toys may have smaller part or may not be suitable for all children, you know your child's ability best. I always recommend close supervision for any activity or item shown on this blog. :)

What are you most excited to give your child this Christmas?

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Friday, November 29, 2013

Christmas Holiday Books for Toddlers

Now that Thanksgiving is over it's officially time to dig out our Christmas books and raid the library's holiday selection.  The holiday books at our library disappear very quickly so I usually 'cheat' a bit and request all the books I want before Thanksgiving and then pick them up after the Thanksgiving holiday.

This is our list of our favorites from our collection of Christmas Holiday books for toddlers.

Christmas books toddlers favorite
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Dream Snow by Eric Carle- "It's December 24th, and the old farmer settles down for a winter's nap, wondering how Christmas can come when there is no snow! But when the farmer awakens, he finds that it has really snowed outside, and now he remembers something!"

This book is a top favorite this year, it's a simple story with great illustrations.  The kids love it! The sound button at the back gets pushed over and over (and over and over...) but still is going strong.

Fa La La by Leslie Patricelli- "It’s almost Christmas, and baby simply cannot contain the exuberance. There are very creative presents to make, Santa to see (must be brave), carols to sing, not to mention the big event itself."

The girls love any of Leslie Particelli's books, this one is no exception.  I like that these books are simple but still keep the toddlers entertained and interested.  MB is struggling with a fear Santa this year and the pages about being brave for Santa spoke to her (although we will be passing on the lap sit this year).

Duck & Goose, It's Time for Christmas! by Tad Hills- "Our feathered friends are getting ready for Christmas. The only problem? Goose is more interested in skating, sledding, and making snow angels than in helping Duck decorate their Christmas tree. While Goose has the time of his life in the snow, it seems poor Duck will be left to do all the work"

Another great simple yet entertaining book for toddlers from an author we love.  One of the things that I like about this book is the bright colors and easy story line.  To me it's not a overpowering Christmas book, it's simple for young children.

Tractor Mac Saves Christmas by Billy Steers-  "The snow builds and so does the worry on Stony Meadow Farm. Where are Sibley the Workhorse, Farmer Bill, and the town Christmas Tree? There will be no town tree lighting unless Tractor Mac can brave the blizzard, rescue his friends, and help a lot of new friends along the way."

Seriously what kid doesn't love tractors? Its always a hit!

Merry Christmas, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff- "Join Mouse from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie as he decorates his Christmas tree in a holiday counting adventure."

Mouse is one of our favorite characters! This is a cute story following mouse as he decorates his Christmas tree.

Frosty the Snowman (Little Golden Book)- "Everyone's favorite snowman with a magic hat, a button nose, and eyes made out of coal comes to life on Christmas every year. Based on the beloved 1969 television special, this Little Golden Book retells the whole magical story of Frosty the Snowman."

Classic Frosty! No holiday collection is complete without the story of Frosty!

Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett- "The charming tale of Matti's clever trap for the runaway Gingerbread Baby is available as a beautiful board book for younger readers. And it still features a surprise lift-the-flap gingerbread house at the end!"

A very cute spin on the Gingerbread Man! The girls are obsessed with babies and this gingerbread baby running around gets them giggling!

I Spy Little Christmas by Jean Marzollo- "Rhyming verses ask readers to find hidden objects in the photographs."

We're really into 'I Spy' and hidden object books lately and this book they love.  I really like that they "read" it together and try to find the objects plus they make up their own versions and ask each other to find other items in the photos.

Of course I always read other staples like, The Polar Express or How the Grinch Stole Christmas but they are a bit over my younger crowd's head.

What books are your favorite for toddlers?

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