Lid Matching

toddler activitiesI have been sorting through photos from 2012 and came across these photos from October that reminded me I haven’t shared this fun and easy activity yet.  We pull this out every couple weeks and it’s one of those rare activities that both my girls can do and enjoy. It takes absolutely no planning or preparation and hardly any supervision, which makes it a great toddler/preschool activity for while you’re trying to get something done.

Simply set them up with an assortment of food storage containers and corresponding lids and let your children match them up.

preschool activities

Here are some other ways we play with food storage containers:

  • Vary the way the lids attach (like lids that latch, snap on, or screw on).
  • Build towers once the containers and lids are attached.
  • Nest similar containers to explore scale and talk about big-bigger-biggest.
  • Sort them according to size, shape, or color.

My girls have had a lot of fun with this and it lets me get dinner made while they are practicing their sorting skills and honing their fine motor skills. Win-win!


Preschool Thanksgiving Activities

thanksgiving art projectsBefore I became a mom, I always pictured myself as one of those moms who checks library books out for every holiday. I thought I’d do crafty projects with my kids nearly every day and always be up to date on the season’s appropriate crafts.

Now, I’m actually a mom and holidays sneak up on me. Every single time. I don’t know why “It’s November” doesn’t register in my brain as “Time to find some fun turkey crafts and check out library books about Thanksgiving!” But, for whatever reason, I’m not that on the ball.

So, this weekend, I started to think about Thanksgiving. Honestly, I felt kinda proud of myself, because I was almost a week before the holiday! (It’s the first time that’s ever happened!) I searched our library’s online catalog for Thanksgiving books and realized they’re all already checked out. Go figure. And some of them are due next week… meaning they’ve been checked out for a month. These moms are on the ball!

Giving up on the books, I figured I’d just tell the story of the first Thanksgiving off the top of my head. I think I know it well enough. (My mom actually got me Thanksgiving books in time…)

Next, I started to look up easy Thanksgiving-themed ideas. When I searched “easy Thanksgiving activities for preschoolers,” a lot of the activity and craft ideas that came up were a bit too complicated for us. (And most of them looked like an adult made them, rather than a 3 year old!) After quite a bit of time searching & a fun morning at the children’s museum, I found quite a few fun ideas that require very little planning (or money) on my part. If you’re last-minute like I am, no worries – I’ve got you covered with these 12 ideas for easy Thanksgiving-themed fun:

1. “Let Us Give Thanks!” Coloring page from DLTK.

2. Turkey Toilet Paper Roll Craft from DLTK- Beach Girl isn’t old enough to assemble this craft entirely on her own without us both pulling our hair out, so I made the turkey myself and then she colored the paper, helped me accordion fold it, and stuck it in the toilet paper roll. She’s had fun playing with her “owl.”

thanksgiving art projects

3. Thanksgiving picnic – gather any play food (Thanksgiving-related or not!) and have a picnic on the floor as you tell the story of the first Thanksgiving and think of what you are thankful for.

3. Leaf Turkeys – For slightly older kids, this leaf turkey (also from DLTK) or this one using a toilet paper roll (from 2 Kids Cooking) looks fun.

4. Turkey clothes pin color matching from Raptor Mama. This turkey is such a cute and fun way to teach color matching!

5. Paper plate turkey – Beach Girl made this at the children’s museum and, let’s be honest: this doesn’t look much like a turkey. But, she had fun making it anyway! You’ll need a paper plate, glue, a marker or some stickers for the eyes, tissue paper (for the wattle), and colorful paper for the feathers. You could also write something you’re thankful for on each of the feathers.

thanksgiving art projects

6. Thanksgiving mobile (originally from Made by Joel) – This one looks so artistic and professional! It probably wasn’t made by children, but they could at least contribute ideas of what to write.

7. “Dress a turkey” – This is another fun activity we did at the children’s museum. Just grab some feathers, a piece of cardstock, stickers or markers for the eyes, and glue. Cut a piece of cardstock into the shape of a turkey and decorate!

thanksgiving art projects

8. Turkey Snowflake – I don’t think Beach Girl is quite ready for this, but this idea to cut a paper bag like a snowflake and then decorate it to look like a turkey is super cute.

9. Turkey spoon craft – Decorate a wooden spoon with colorful popsicle sticks to look like a turkey.

10. Grateful jar – A few weeks ago, I told y’all that I’d be filling my jar with things I’m thankful for in hopes that it would help me be more grateful. It has been such a blessing to me and has helped me enjoy and remember the little moments. Even though Thanksgiving is soon, I’d encourage you to start this and continue it throughout the year.

thanksgiving art projects

11. Handprint turkey – This is probably the most typical toddler/preschool Thanksgiving activity, but also my favorite. Beach Baby made this as her first-ever craft at school last week and it’s so special to me! Every time she sees it, her face lights up and she rubs her hands together and then puts her hand over the handprint as if to show me how she made it. I’m inspired to get crafting with her!

12. If you’re really adventurous, you could go turkey bowling with your kids. That was one of our favorite Thanksgiving activities to do with the youth group when Beach Dad was a youth minister. I’m pretty grossed out by a frozen turkey (even in it’s packaging) but I’m pretty sure even my 3-year-old could hoist a turkey across the pavement to knock down some empty soda bottles!

So, even if you’re a bit behind on craft-planning like I was, I hope these ideas will inspire you to have some Thanksgiving-themed fun with your family over the next few days. And, if you have any other ideas, I’d love for you to share them in the comments.

I’ll be away from the computer this week to celebrate with my family, but make sure to check back next week for the next installment in my “Give Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget” series or subscribe to stay up to date.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

[I’ve linked up to: No Time for Flashcards & Sundae Scoop.]

Homemade Activity Bags… and a sneak peek!

With 3 months left until Christmas, it might sound pretty crazy to start thinking about Christmas presents already. But, especially with my family’s low gift-giving budget and high number of gifts to give, I like to start planning for Christmas as early as possible.

With that in mind, I’m excited to announce a series I’ll be starting at at the beginning of October — Give Great Gifts on a Barebones Budget. Check back next week or subscribe to find out more details, but if you’re looking to give the people you love meaningful and useful gifts without breaking the bank, then this series is for you.

For now, I’m going to share one of my favorite homemade gift ideas for children — activity bags.

activity bags

If you’re not familiar with activity bags, the idea is that each bag provides everything you need for a child to complete a certain activity. Depending on the ages of children and contents of the bags, these “busy bags” can be great ways to entertain (and educate) children when mom is sick, driving, or busy teaching other children.

I made my first activity bags with my MOPS group a couple years ago and Beach Girl has had hours and hours of fun with her assorted bags. We’ve also had fun making activity bags together for her to give her friends or cousins as birthday and Christmas gifts.

When I make these activity bags, I use Ziplock bags with the zipper closure (so younger children can open and close them easily) and usually stick a piece of cardstock in the bag to help give it some structure. Before filling the bag, I write the name and any instructions on the outside of the bag. As I’m sure you’re aware, you shouldn’t leave your children alone with these bags because they’re a suffocation hazard and some of the contents are chokable.

These are 5 of our favorite activity bags that would make great gifts, all of them using supplies you probably have on hand or can buy at the Dollar Tree:

Paperclips and Straws:

activity bags

  •  about 15 paperclips, opened up so they have two separate loops, as pictured above.
  •  about 25 straws

To link the paperclips and straws together, insert one loop of a paperclip into one end of a straw. Link them up to form various shapes.

Yarn and Sandpaper:

activity bags

  • Sheets of sandpaper
  • Yarn, cut to various lengths

Use the yarn to make shapes and designs on the sandpaper. The sandpaper holds the yarn in place, making this a great activity for the car or a restaurant!

Paper and Clips:

activity bags

  • 6 differently colored pieces of paper, cut into small rectangles.
  • 36 paperclips – 6 of each color to match the paper rectangles.

Laminate the pieces of colored paper if possible (you can use clear contact paper or DIY laminating sheets for this). To do the activity, lay out the colored rectangles and sort the paperclips according to color. Clip the paperclips onto the rectangles. (Honestly, when we made this one at MOPS, it sounded pretty boring to me, but this has been one of Beach Girl’s favorites. She loves getting to clip on the paper clips!)

Foam Stickers:

activity bags

  • Half sheets of paper
  • Foam stickers

Something about foam stickers makes sticker time even more fun! I found foam shapes with sticky backs at the Dollar Tree, but if you can’t find that, just include regular foam shapes and a glue stick.

Tissue Collage:

activity bags

  • Tissue paper in assorted colors, cut into approximately 2-inch squares
  • Construction paper
  • Wax paper
  • Glue stick

Glue the tissue paper onto construction paper or wax paper to make a colorful collage. The wax paper collages look cool hanging in a window.


I hope y’all have fun making these bags! Do you have any ideas for activity bags or other homemade gift ideas for children?

This post is linked up to Simple Kids, Hip Homeschool, A Round Tuit, Life as Mom, The Shabby NestNo Time for Flashcards, & I Heart Naptime.

Make sure to subscribe or check back next week so you don’t miss out on how to Give Great Gifts on A Bare-Bones Budget!

Update: You can check out my series here – Give Great Gifts on a Bare-Bones Budget.

Our Favorite Musical Instruments for Kids

For Beach Girl’s first Christmas nearly 3 years ago, Beach Dad and I were excited to give her her first musical instrument.  We bought a Little TIkes xylophone, opened the package, and Beach Dad started to sound out a tune.  It sounded awful! The notes were completely out of tune and we were sorely disappointed. After that, we tried out other kids’ musical instruments including another (supposedly better) xylophone and the Parents’ Bee Bop band set and each time, we felt like we were hurting our kids’ musical education more than helping it.

Finally, we found a few musical instruments that we absolutely love. Each of these has been a great value for the price and has stood up to many jam sessions with a baby and preschooler. My favorite thing about them is that they actually sound pleasant… even when they are played by “beginners”. Of course, we do love our kitchen percussion, but if you’re looking to expand your musical instrument collection, here are our favorites:

Woodstock Percussion Mini Chimalong:

musical instruments list

Hohner Kids Rainmaker:

Meinl Plastic Egg Shaker (4 pc Assortment):

Hohner 4 Piece Baby Band (apparently this one is especially well-loved… I can only find 2 pieces of the 4 right now!):

musical instruments list

Trophy 4 Bell Wristlet:

Sonor – Glockenspiel (Xylophone) with Songbookmusical instruments list

Just so you know, if you buy any of these musical instruments from these links, you’ll be helping to support  As always, I only vouch for products I truly love.

Homemade Playdough Recipe

Homemade Playdough Recipe

We made playdough with friends the other day and it reminded me how much I love our homemade playdough recipe. For one, it’s a lot of fun to let Beach Girl help “cook” her own batch – especially if she gets to try and make it her “fav-or-ite cul-lah”, purple. But even more than that, I really appreciate knowing that if when my kids sneak a little playdough “snack”, they’re not ingesting anything all that bad. (What is it about playdough that compels kids to eat it?)

Here’s the recipe we use, which is based off of this one from Simple Mom:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tablespoon oil
  • 1tsp lemon juice (The original recipe calls for 1/2tsp cream of tartar, but we don’t usually have that in the house. Lemon juice seems to work well as a substitute.)

Mix everything in a saucepan over low heat until it gets doughy. Then take it out and knead it on a floured surface until it cools down. Break it up into pieces for as many colors as you want, then add few drops of food coloring to each lump and work the color in.

Hand it off to your kids and let the rolling of the logs/worms/snakes commence!

To store our playdough, I wrap each color in Saranwrap and store them in a plastic Ziplock bag in the refrigerator.  This makes a great activity for those stir-crazy, hot summer days.

Paper or Plastic? Or Pre-Reading?

One of the best ways to prepare children to read is to familiarize them with the need for reading and writing in everyday life. Sometimes, it can be hard to come up with ways to connect written words to real life in a way that a toddler can understand and get excited about, but I stumbled across a way to incorporate this pre-reading concept into one of Beach Girl’s favorite activities – pretend shopping.

Beach Girl will pretend shop ’til we both drop… or at least until I drop. And, honestly, I get a kick out of it too.  I have fond memories of pretend shopping as a kid and, to this day, I still choose the self-checkout lane whenever possible.

Before we start pretend shopping, she loves to make a list of what we need to buy. She carefully sounds out the words as she “writes” them and then proudly reads her list to me.

I sometimes will make a list of items that we want to “buy”. I draw a (very rough) picture of the item and then write the word while sounding out the letters to her. When she writes her own list, it’s fun to see how much detail she notices on her own. For example, see all these lines she drew across the page under her squiggles?

When I asked her to tell me about the lines, she said “I put lines under my words just like you do” and pointed to where I had underlined under the words “Shopping List”.  I hadn’t even noticed I’d done that, but she picked up on it. A couple days later, she showed me where she had carefully underlined her name after she “wrote” it on our wall. Kids certainly don’t miss a thing!

After we’ve made our lists, one of us goes shopping while the other waits by the cash register (which is a keyboard and mouse set up on our coffee table). When we’re done making our selections, we practice excellent customer service by asking things like “did you find what you’re looking for?” and “what’s your phone number?“. (Notice how Beach Girl is – complete coincidentally – wearing her Piggly Wiggly pajama shirt? We’re Big on The Pig!) Then, we scan and bag the purchases. (Yes, that is a mini light saber that we use as our scanner!)


As we pay, we either hand each other a piece of paper to swipe like a debit card or an empty handful of imaginary money. When she is older, I’ll buy/make her some play money that we can use to introduce math concepts like how much things cost, the values of different coins, and how to make change. But, for now, it’s all imaginary and the most mathematical we get is making up an amount for the items’ totals like “$75.54”.

She always makes sure we sign the receipt (another need for knowing how to write!) and we wish each other a nice day as we walk the purchases to “the car” (also known as a piano bench) and start all over again.


Do you have any other tips for introducing pre-reading into everyday games? How about games that you enjoy (almost) as much as your kids do? We always love fun ideas!

How to Entertain A Toddler While Nursing A Baby

Before Beach Baby was born, I had visions of Beach Girl and I snuggling on the couch, reading books while I nursed. After Beach Baby was born, though, Beach Girl didn’t have any interest in doing that more than once a day… if that.  In fact, she preferred to take advantage of the time when I was tied up on the couch to get into whatever mischief she could. Thus, this list was born.  Here are my favorite toddler activities while mommy is nursing baby:

1. Snack time! Beach Girl loved getting to have her own snack on the couch while she snuggled me and Beach Baby nursed.

2. Hair time – Toddler lies on the couch with her head on the Boppy so mommy can play with her hair. I’ve tried to get her to play with my hair, but no luck so far!

3. Reading books… If she’ll let you! The books that worked best for us were Walter Wickham’s “Can You See What I See?” series. These books worked especially well because we could put the book on the couch and go a long time between turning pages while Beach Girl searched each page, leaving my hands free for nursing.

4. Cooking – Beach Girl loved to “cook” food for me in her play kitchen and to serve it to me while I was on the couch.

5. Driving cars/trains – Mommy’s legs make great bridges, roads, and tunnels!

6. “If you’re happy and you know it”

7. Puzzles – Bonus points for the fact that you can’t help, so the toddler has the chance to figure it out without any hands-on help.

8. Baby doll – Beach Girl loved to pretend to nurse her own baby doll, change her diaper, etc. It seemed like having a specific task to work on is what entertained her best.

9. Doctor – A nursing mommy and baby are great patients!

10. Stickers – There’s no way we could have done anything like scissors or glue while I was nursing, but stickers worked wonderfully.

As Beach Baby has gotten to the stage where she is nursing less and is more easily distracted, these don’t apply for us as much anymore.  But, they were super helpful activities when we needed them, so I wanted to share them with you.

How about you? Are you the idyllic picture of snuggling a toddler and nursing? Any other ideas for how to entertain a toddler while you’re otherwise tied up?