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!


An Easy “Gingerbread” House

easy gingerbread house

Yesterday, I posted about our delicious unbaked cookies.  In other sugar-related news, we also decorated a gingerbread house this week.

Every Friday, we get together with our neighbors for an at-home preschool and this week, we decided a gingerbread house would be fun.

I’m not a fan of gingerbread and making a house out of it seemed like a lot of work, so we brainstormed about different alternatives. We considered using a cardboard box, but decided to try hot gluing graham crackers together.

My neighbor did the work to build the house itself, but she said it was actually really easy. And, it turned out surprisingly strong.  Our house ended up being tall and skinny, which is perfect, because it’s just like the houses in downtown Charleston!

graham cracker house

I made the icing (which was my buttercream frosting) and spread it all over the house. We stuck the house on a sheet of cardboard, added frosting lines for a sidewalk and a few dots of frosting for “landscaping” and let the kids have at it.

Check out this spread of sweets! We used all of our leftover Halloween candy, which gave us plenty of variety to decorate the gingerbread house. I also bought some candy corn & jelly beans from the bulk candy bins at the grocery store.

easy gingerbread house

There may have been a tremendous amount of sampling while decorating (and a tremendous sugar rush and crash to follow…).

easy gingerbread house

We had so much fun and I love how it turned out! If you’re looking for an easy Christmasy craft to do next week, I’d highly recommend this way of doing “gingerbread” houses.  I’m not gonna lie… I sorta wish we had more candy so we could make another one.

easy gingerbread house
I’m linking up to: Naptime Crafters & Five Days Five Ways.

Advent Activities

Last week, I posted about my ideas for celebrating advent with children in a fun, meaningful way (that’s still totally do-able). This year, my family is aiming to read the Christmas story each day of advent and do a simple ornament craft as we follow along with the Truth in the Tinsel e-book. We’re also hoping to do one special Christmas-y activity each day, whether it’s as simple as listening to Christmas music or as special as going to see Christmas lights in our pajamas.

advent for childrenToday, I’m going to share with y’all my list of what we plan to do for our special advent activities. You can see how I made my actual advent calendars here. I’m writing each day’s activities on post-it notes on the back of my calendar so I can swap ideas out as needed and the calendar will be reusable next year.

Almost all of these are free and require little-to-no planning on my part, which I’m hoping means they’ll actually happen!

For days when we can’t actually do what I have planned, I have three easy ideas on hand to substitute. (We’ll probably end up doing each of these a few times!):

  • Have a sock “snowball” fight
  • Listen to Christmas music
  • Read a Christmas book

I’m already so grateful we took the time to come up with these ideas at MOPS last week. It’s helping me to be more intentional about planning fun than I normally am.

Our family had a blast last weekend at a Christmas parade/festival (that even included free carriage rides!) and caroling around a bonfire with friends from church. Most of our other activities will be much less time-intense or things I want to get done this month anyway, but hopefully just as much fun!

advent for children

Here’s my (tentative) plan for advent:

  1. Christmas parade
  2. Caroling with church
  3. Sing at RUF
  4. Watch the Veggie Tales St. Nicholas movie  (Santa doesn’t visit our house, but this is a great video that focuses on the story of the historical St. Nicholas… and it’s conveniently on Amazon Instant Video since I forgot to get it until today!)
  5. Make cards for teachers
  6. Take gifts & cards to teachers
  7. Make a card for our Compassion child
  8. Get a Christmas tree & decorate it
  9. Get gifts for Angel Tree children
  10. Finish Christmas shopping
  11. Decorate a gingerbread house or make pinecone glitter ornamentsadvent for children
  12. James Island Christmas Lights
  13. Pajama dance party in front of the Christmas tree
  14. Goose Creek Christmas hayride to see the lights
  15. Make salt dough ornaments for Truth in the Tinsel 
  16. Give Christmas cookies to friendsadvent activities
  17. Drive to see the Christmas lights in our pajamas
  18. Picnic dinner in front of the Christmas tree
  19. Donate food to a food bank
  20. Play Candy Land
  21. Drink apple cider and watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas
  22. Drive through manger scene
  23. Make cinnamon-applesauce ornaments for Truth in the Tinsel
  24. Go to church & open Christmas pajamas

My hope is that these activities will help me be intentional to have fun family time this month as we get excited to celebrate Jesus’ birthday in a few weeks. I’d love to hear any ideas you have to add to the list!

I’m linking up to: At the Picket Fence, Life as Mom, and Shabby Nest.

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.

Red + Blue = Purple

Beach Girl is very interested in favorite colors lately.  She tells us at least 10 times daily: “purple is my favorite color!” and generously doles out items of our favorite colors to each of her family members.  She brings me blue Legos, shaker eggs, pieces of paper, crayons, and stickers often and each time tells me “Here’s blue for you. Blue is your favorite color.” Then, she takes red to Beach Dad and yellow to Beach Baby (we’ve decided that must be Beach Baby’s favorite color because she eats so. many. bananas.) and reminds them it’s their favorite color too.

I thought it would be fun to teach Beach Girl more about how colors work and to start to introduce the basic ideas of primary and secondary colors.

how to mix colors

When Beach Girl painted recently, I gave her only 3 colors of paint, much to her chagrin.  She said “but I want lots of colors and I want to have purple.”

I leaned in really closely and whispered to her that I had a big secret… “I am going to tell you a big secret.  Are you ready for it? I am only giving you three colors – red, blue, and yellow – but, if you work really hard and get creative, you’ll be able to make even more colors by mixing them.  And, somehow, you’ll be able to make purple. Can you do it?”

She excitedly accepted the challenge and started experimenting with the different color combinations: “what happens if I mix yellow and blue? OH! It makes green!”

And finally, she figured out how to make purple and was absolutely delighted.  “I made purple!!!!! That is my favorite color!” (Are you catching a theme to my days here?)

Then, she started singing a song about “If you mix blue and red, it makes purple.”  It sounded very Barney-esque, so I’m guessing Barney has already worked with her on these color combinations. (Barney is what gets me extra sleep some mornings, so I only hear his songs when she sings them to me later in the day.)

But, Barney or not, I was surprised at how quickly she caught on how to mix colors and I love the finished product of her experimenting.  It was a great reminder to me, too, that learning is much more fun for her when she can freely explore and make the discovery on her own!

teaching primary colors