DIY Baby Fabric Bucket Toy

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The following post is from the archives. It originally appeared in April, 2011.

If you’re looking for ways to mix up your baby play time routine, you might enjoy trying this simple activity with materials you may already have in the closet and recycling can.

DIY Baby Fabric Bucket

I often wax poetic about my preschooler’s creative pursuits while my little one makes the occasional appearance in the background of photos. So I thought it was about time I brought her (and her “generation”) to the forefront of this site.

I’ve posted before on creative exploration for babies (See Sensory Play for Babies), and thought you might like to see this idea that supports a baby’s natural curiosity, fine motor skills, and focus. If you’ve ever placed a baby near a box of tissues, you’ve most likely witnessed complete removal of every single tissue, along with multiple attempts at eating half the stash. Playing off of this idea, I created a reusable “tissue box” from a tall yogurt container filled with tissue-sized scraps of colorful fabric.

I cut a hole in the lid that was wide enough for her to drop a hand into.

Then I sat back to watch her grab pieces of fabric,

…and pull them out!

The focus was incredible and reminded me how serious babies can be about their “work.”

More Baby Resources

  • View more Baby activities on Tinkerlab
  • For a wide variety of well-written articles about fostering a baby’s growth, one of my favorite writers on the topic is Janet Lansbury.
  • Anna of The Imagination Tree, wrote this must-read post about Baby Treasure Baskets. I have at least two of these in my home at all times that engage my daughter’s senses and capture her thoughts. She also has a Baby Play category on her site that’s well worth exploring.

This post was shared with It’s Playtime

How to Entertain a Toddler with Pom-Poms and Bowls

toddler sitting in plastic container with pom poms

My toddler loves and adores all little things.

Especially those tiny little things that are on the do-not-give-to-little-kids-who-mouth-everything-that-comes-their-way lists. I guess it’s a casualty of being the second child to a 3.5 year old sibling, but I suppose the good news is that she’s building an understanding of what can and can’t go in the mouth.

To play to our strengths, I set up this invitation to play: pom-poms, bowl, yogurt container, and a mini ladle.

bowl of pom poms for play

Materials

  • Tub full of various pom-poms
  • Small bowl
  • Mini ladle
  • Large yogurt container with a hole cut in its top

The invitation

Lay it all out and see what your child comes up with.

toddler sitting in plastic container with pom poms

Not at all what I expected, but I’m digging it.

toddler scooping pom poms

And of course there was lots of scooping, filling containers, spilling, and dumping.

toddler invitation to play with pom poms

This is great sensory activity for building fine motor skills and developing color, size, and volume understandings.

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Chalkboard Painted Canvas

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“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” – Pablo Picasso

Chalkboards…I love them. You? The texture, the dust, and contrast are oh-so-appealing.

When I started to see them disappear from classrooms in favor of dry erase boards, I was a little bit shocked. Dry erase boards are wonderful too, but they’ll never have the same rustic appeal as a chalkboard.

This project began when I found a $3 canvas at a thrift store back in September (it had a print of a cow on it — truly hideous), and painted over it with a few layers of black chalkboard paint. Since October, it’s been filled with these house “rules,” and while I enjoyed looking at them, and even managed to inspire a neighbor to add some chalkboard quotes to her own kitchen, I was ready for a fresh start and enlisted the help of my crew to come up with something new.

And maybe I was feeling a little bit guilty on those days that I just ate buttered toast and wanted to spit. Maybe.

So I pulled the canvas down, wiped it clean with a damp rag, and let the kids go to town.

They loved it.

This is how it looked two weeks ago, and then this week we started all over again.

We also have a chalkboard that’s painted right onto part of our kitchen door, and it gets a lot of use for everything from chicken scratches to make-shift calendars to homemade infographics.

We collaborated on this one: the bunny is mine, the yellow is N, and the pink is Baby R. Funny thing, at least for me, is that back when I was brainstorming names for this blog, I called it Chalkbunny for a couple months before landing on Tinkerlab. So here we have a real, live chalk bunny, which is what we decided to call the little character in my new banner.

Do you have a well-loved chalkboard? What makes it special? And how do your kids use it?

 

Toddler Art: Glue Dots and Buttons

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“Art is skill, that is the first meaning of the word.” – Eric Gill

Since she was 15 months old, gluing small objects to paper has been one of Baby Rainbow’s favorite activities (second to climbing into a big bin of cloud dough…sigh). We’ve also done this with sequins, feathers, and pom-poms, but I find that she gets frustrated when the sequins start sticking to her fingers. And when my older daughter was a little older than two, she spent weeks gluing beans, beans, and beans to any paper in sight [see this post]. 

To set this up for a baby or toddler who’s working on fine motor skills, I recommend using a non-white sheet of paper that white glue will show up against. Add big dots of glue to the paper and provide your child with buttons, pebbles, beans, pom-poms or other small objects of uniform shape.

As she gets older, I’ll fill a small bowl with glue and give her a q-tip to apply it to the paper herself. Shortly thereafter she’ll learn how to use a glue bottle on her own, but for now I add the glue and she’s fine with that.

And while she didn’t seem to care if she glued a pink button or black button, as time goes on she’ll refine her choices and a personal aesthetic will develop.

In their early days of art making, children begin with sensory experiences and skill building — in this case, developing fine motor skills and gaining an understanding of glue’s property as an adhesive. When my older child was this age I found that MaryAnn Kohl’s First Art : Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos was an indispensable, dog-eared resource.

I would love to know — What are some of your children’s earliest art-making experiences and art-making skills?

More Art Projects for Toddlers

12 Simple Art Projects for Toddlers | TinkerLab.com
For more toddler art projects, you may enjoy the easy-to-set-up activities that use mainly everyday materials in 12 Simple Art Projects for Toddlers.

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In case you blinked and missed it, TinkerLab rounds up all the great stuff on the internets on keeping you and your critters creative and wraps it up for you in a tidy newsletter! (And throws in some secret giveaways for good measure!)  – Yuliya P., San Francisco, CA

Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
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  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

Creative Challenge 7: Magazines

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Today I have something extra cool in store for you. Kiwi Crate and I are bringing you a super-star line-up of rockin’ kid-friendly bloggers for a no holds barred invitational kid-centered magazine challenge, and an extra-special Kiwi Crate box giveaway at the end of this post. Each of the 20+ bloggers spent some time tinkering, plotting, creating, and playing with their kids to come up with an activity that your kids will enjoy. After you read about how we manipulated and upcycled our magazines, spend some time checking out all the other ideas. Bookmark them or pin them, because you’re sure to need these ideas on a rainy or snowy day. Okay, do you have a cuppa ready? Here we go…

I spent about 20 minutes ripping pages from my favorite alumni magazine. Do you ever read yours? Loved the school, but sadly, the magazine just rolls right into my recycling bin each month. So I happily rolled the glossy pages of ho-hum stories into tubes, taped them with clear tape, and added them to a tall vase. The next morning, my 3 year old woke up to this provocation: Magazine tubes, clear tape, a stapler, and a bowl of stickers. I didn’t have a plan and was curious to see where she would take it.

She started by taping the tubes together, ignored the stapler and stickers completely, and then found another roll of tape so that I could help her. Right, tape is popular. Must remember that!

This is how it began.

Then she cut some tubes down to smaller pieces. How could I have forgotten the scissors? Tape and scissors…check. But that’s okay, we must have about 20 pairs and she knows where to find them.

Oh, and she loves ribbon too. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother with provocations when she knows her own mind. She found a few rolls and brought them over to the table. We created this structure together and then she wore it on her head for part of breakfast.

The next day her dad took a turn at the table and this is what they came up with. I’m fascinated by it because my husband has a huge thing for hanging sculptures. I mean HUGE. It’s a wonder I’m not constantly banging my head on things that hang from our ceilings.

 He screwed an eye-hook into the ceiling, tied a piece of ribbon through it, and hung their masterpiece over the couch.

When standing on the couch, my daughter can bat at it, so I think I’ll call it an interactive hanging magazine sculpture. 

Creative Challenge Participants:

Child Central Station , kids in the studioTeach MamaThe Imagination Tree,Childhood101Teach Preschoolhands on as we growArtful ParentPaint Cut PasteA Mom With A Lesson PlanToddler ApprovedKiwi CrateArt 4 Little Hands,  Red Ted ArtThe Chocolate Muffin Tree,  Imagination Soup,Michelles Charm WorldMessy PreschoolersTinker LabMommy LabsPutti Prapancha, Sun Hats and Wellie Boots


Giveaway!

Kiwi Crate has generously offered to give away one crate box to two randomly chosen winners. Each box includes all the materials and inspiration for 2-3 projects related to a theme (e.g., dinosaurs.)  Projects may include arts and crafts, science activities, imaginative play and more, and have been hand-selected and kid-tested to be open ended and encourage curiosity, exploration and creativity! I love Kiwi Crate because it embraces the same process-oriented activities that I promote on this blog, but it’s all packaged up beautifully and delivered right to your door. To enter, leave a comment with your child’s age/s and favorite upcycled materials. And then hop on over to the Kiwi Crate blog for another chance to win. Winner’s address must be in the U.S. Deadline for entry: Monday, December 12, 9pm PST. Comments Closed. Thank you to all of you for your comments. The winner is Susan P! 


 

Your Turn…

What would you (and your kids) make with magazines? If you have a kid-centered magazine project that you’d like to share, please add your link to the blog hop or comment section below. And feel free grab the button or copy the text into your HTML. Tinkerlab Creative Challenge Code:<a href=”http://tinkerlab.com/challenges/” target=”_blank”><img style=”border: 2px;” src=”http://tinkerlab.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/tinkerlab-challenge-button.png” alt=”Tinkerlab Creative Challenge” width=”150″ height=”150″ border=”2″ />

Bean Bags for Babies

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I mentioned in yesterday’s post that we made these sweet little pyramid bean bags, courtesy of The Artful Parent. I filled ours with buckwheat (picked up in the bulk section of Whole Foods) that I had to fill those lovely hot/cold therapeutic eye pillows, so I knew it would work well for these too. These little bean bags would be wonderful for all sorts of things, and in this case they were perfect for fostering hand-eye coordination and the age-old favorite of filling and emptying a container.

While I’m not a professional stitcher, I was able to crank out a full set of bean bags for my one year old during her nap. For full disclosure I’ve been sewing since I was young and studied costume design in college, but my machine has been gathering yards of dust since my kids were born. (Shhhh…if you look closely you’ll see that I made a mess out of my stitching.) If you’re a sewing veteran you’ll crank them out too, and if you’re new to sewing this is as easy as sewing gets — just give yourself time to make these and you’ll zip them out in no time.

My older daughter passed this great Melissa and Doug toy down to my one-year-old, but by the time it got to her we didn’t have all the pieces. Frustrating!

But it turns out that it’s a spectacular tool for babies to sort these small beanbags. If you don’t have a similar toy in your home, you could also try this DIY baby bucketmade from a yogurt container.

Where did they all go?

Wouldn’t these be lovely gifts for babies? It’s not too early to start thinking about the holidays, is it?

This post shared with It’s Playtime

Water Scooping for Babies

Sensory Play: Water Scooping for Babies

Sensory Play: Water Scooping for Babies

While my older daughter tore up the grass with the Slip ‘n Slide, I set my 10 month old up with a bucket of water and some measuring cups. And she got right to work, filling and emptying the cups. It was interesting to watch her attempt to fill the cups when they were upside down, and then exciting when she figured the “problem” out and corrected for it.

And then, presumably, she was proud of one of her many accomplishments.

The provocation is simple — Set your project up outside (since most babies thrive when there are airplanes to track and birds to listen for) and provide your baby with a low bucket of water. Tools are optional. And then see what discoveries come about.

Any other ideas for playing in water with babies?

 

First Drawing

drawing together

My kids just reached an age where they hang out and play together. It’s really sweet when it’s sweet, and then not-so-sweet when a civil little game of Row your Boat can turn into vigorous rowing that capsizes the boat and knocks the baby overboard. Or something similar. But here we had a nice afternoon that was full of sketching for everyone, or at least that’s the way I remember it. My memory isn’t so hot these days and the reality is that all hell may have broken loose moments later.

Baby Rainbow (10 months) watched my oldest, N (3 years), make drawing after drawing in her sketchbook, and then she snuck right in, took a pencil for herself, and added marks to her big sister’s sketchbook. As you can imagine, big sister was none too happy about this. So I pulled out large sheets of paper, sat little Rainbow right in front of them, and we had two happy drawing campers.

Baby Rainbow loved this! She seemed to understand that she was responsible for making the marks on her paper, in the same way that she recognizes that pushing a light switch down turns the lights out. It’s remarkable to watch these firsts, full with their “ah-hah” moments, as each succeeding experience builds on these foundations. 

If you have a baby and you’re thinking about this activity, I say give it a go. You could look for signs of interest or just go for it by setting your baby up on top of a big sheet of paper with some crayons or markers (we prefer markers because they move easily and they’re vivid — easy to use and easy to see!). You’ll be rewarded with your child’s first drawing, something wonderful to hang on the wall, and maybe a little marker on the face (look closely and you’ll see it!).

What “first” is your child currently working on?

Baby Bean Bowl Exploration

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Baby Sensory Play: Bean Bowl.

My little one is almost 9 months old and her curiosity has pushed her to see past the same ol’ toy basket (do you see it there, hidden under the cabinet?), in search of new stimulation.

“Enter stage left: Bean Bowl!”

I created the bean bowl for my older daughter to sort and sift through while I’m busy in the kitchen, and I was only sort of surprised when little baby Rainbow (my older daughter’s nickname for her) scooted over to see what it was all about. She adores the sandbox, isn’t big on on eating sand (do you hear me knocking on wood?), so I thought that with supervision this would be a fun experience for her curious little mind and body.

The level of focus was palpable.

And refining fine motor skills was in full force! In addition to beans, I threw in some beads, sequins, and mini toys to keep the interest high.

Once she got comfortable with this new medium, she tried several things including pulling the bowl toward her, sifting beans through both hands, pushing her fingers deep into the bowl, and eventually tipping part of the bowl over into her lap. This was all so much fun that we decided to try it again the next morning…

The same experience lasted for about three minutes before all the pieces were dumped on the floor! Sigh. As you can imagine, we haven’t done much with the bean bowl since! Now that I see how much she enjoyed this experience, my next plan is to move the beans into our non-tipping sensory tub.

If you try this with your little ones, use common sense, especially if they’re prone to putting small objects in their mouths.

Sensory play for Babies

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It’s exciting to see a baby emerge from the shell of sleepiness and into the world of awareness; a transition that becomes more obvious as she mimics a smile, tracks movement above her head, or is surprised by sounds.

One of our family’s favorite activities for tactile awareness is to gently billow and twirl a colorful scarf above and over the baby’s head, bringing huge waves of joy to her face that we can only interpret as awe. I like silk scarves for their translucent flowing quality, but lightweight cotton works nicely too.

This stuffed bee, with its plush body and crinkly wings, is the first object my older daughter grasped independently. Gaining knowledge through the sense of touch. Soft and squeeky. Tension and texture. I noticed she was especially fascinated by the crinkly wings, which led to this next experiment…

Exploring the sounds and textures of a plastic bag. I know, I know, plastic bags are absolutely not toys, and she was closely supervised throughout! If you try this at home, please use your best judgement. While she was captivated by this bag, even I could see that it was an inappropriate make-the-baby-happy-toy, and I stitched up one of these:

It’s a little plastic bag pillow: two pieces of fabric stitched over and around two pieces of heavy, crinkly plastic. Cute, safe, and noisy!

I found a noisy, crinkly bag. Chip, cracker, and baby wipes bags are usually really good for this sort of thing. Test different bags to find a sound you like, or make a few of these to play with different sounds.

Hand it to your child and see what they think of it. In reality, my daughter was more captivated by the plastic bag, but this still got a lot of use. An easy no-sew alternative is to wrap a bandana or square of fabric around a ball of wax paper or plastic, and tie it off with a yarn. Cut loose ends short, and keep an eye on your child at all times. If you’re up for sewing, you could also follow this ball/wax paper method, and then stitch it off for a more permanent toy. Related baby bonding activities can be found here.

What sensory activities does/did your baby enjoy?

We interrupt this program…

Back Camera

In case you’re wondering what happened to TinkerLab this week, I’m on an early mini-vacation at the hospital for the arrival of little girl #2!  At 36 weeks, our baby moved into a breech position, and after trying everything under the sun to turn her — External Cephalic Version, spending hours on a slant board, swimming, chiropractic adjustments, long walks, acupuncture, and even moxibustion (check it all out here) — our child remained steadfast in her cozy sideways position.

My incredible OB scheduled a C-Section for tomorrow, September 10, but the baby had her own ideas and we welcomed her into the world on Monday, September 6. Although she’s so far nameless, her big sister has decisively named her “Baby Rainbow.” It’s a compelling name, but I’m pretty sure it won’t pass once it goes to committee.

N sings the first song to her baby sister: Down by the Station, Early in the Morning…

While I’m not sure how life will pan out once I move back home, I expect that TinkerLab will be back in business in no time. Please stay tuned and check back often! And until then, I leave you with these creative thoughts:

“The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.” Alan Alda

If you can, do something today that you’ve never done before. It can be simple or elaborate.

  • If you’ve been afraid to paint with your kids, now’s the time to pick up some paints and set up a painting project.
  • Get your little one/s sewing with some easy and cute handmade sewing cards.
  • Pick up a basket for a “collecting” nature stroll around the neighborhood. See what new and unusual objects you can find.  Print this list of nature/camping scavenger hunt items, this list for a garden scavenger hunt, or grab your GPS and roll your family into the fun of Geocaching.
  • Make a homemade marble run from a cereal box.
  • Brainstorm a list of 30 possibilities for your child’s (or your own) Halloween costume. Push that list to 50 or more. Did you come up with anything really cool?
  • Make a Fortune Teller with or for your kids.

Day One: Documenting Passion

cupcake face

I’m spending the week documenting my child’s interests. Check out yesterday’s post for more information.

Day one

  • Going on stroller rides. My otherwise stroller-hating child has been interested in this since we arrived at the Grandparents’ house.  Here, she’s not only patient with the activity, but she will actually climb into the stroller on her own accord and ASK for a ride. What’s going on with this?
  • Imaginative play with a mini dollhouse. Putting the animals and fairies to bed, feeding them, having them climb ladders, etc.  A great sign, since I recently purchased a dollhouse for her that’s waiting for a remodel and fresh paint in my garage.  It looks like this could be a hit when we reveal it in a few weeks.
  • Reading books: She chooses Going on an airplane and Peg Leg Peke. We’ve been traveling for the past 2 weeks, and I think the first book plays to her fascination with airplane travel and all that’s involved with it.  Up until 2 days ago we’ve also been reading Big Girls Use the Potty, which I think was a hit for similar reasons, but she seems to have tired of it and is enjoying a fresh story. Peg Leg Peke is pretty hilarious.
  • Play-Baking with grandma (cracking eggs is really fun!), playing with egg timers, mixing, setting up meals for teddy and bunny
  • Cupcakes — eating them and pretending to bake them
  • Selling things. Finding objects (i.e. napkin rings) and selling them to family members for “two dollars.” She appears to enjoy the game of exchanging objects for money, and vice versa.
  • Organizing things — putting objects in their places, sorting
  • Cleaning — an ongoing joy of hers. She’s a tidy kid, and likes everything in its place.
  • Throwing a sticky velcro ball to Grandma who was holding a reverse velcro Kadima-like paddle. She loved how the ball would get away from them and roll into the bushes and “brambles.” This activity lasted a good 45 minutes, and could have kept going were it not for lunch.  She actually cried when we tried to pry her away.