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The Zany Animal Zoo

You know all those plastic animal figures you keep stepping on? Time to put them to work! Welcome to “The Zany Animal Zoo!”

First have your toddler sort the animals. This is a great time to work on reinforcing colors and size. I love to sort the animals into two groups, big versus small, and then encourage my toddler friends to place them in size order from biggest to smallest. For an added challenge, separate the animals in different corners depending on where they live — sky, sea, or land.

Next, color the animals’ feet with washable paint or stamp pads. Have them hop, race, and gallop across a piece of paper. Look at how each animal’s tracks look different! For more messy fun, paint the entire animal figure a wild color. A bright purple duck is even more fun than a yellow one.

Finally, it’s time to give our zany zoo animals a bath! A sponge, water, and some soap will keep toddlers happy for quite a while. Take this time to review body parts. Guide your toddler to sponge off the plastic horses’ back, maybe even his hooves, etc. Best part is, our toddler has had a fun filled, educating activity and done most of the clean up themselves!

Right Brain Left Brain Challenge

When kids aren’t working from both sides of their brains, chaos ensues. Ever tried logic with a tantrum throwing tot?!

Our right brains are emotional and impulsive, and they often take over. While the left side of our brains are logical and organized, we still need the right for creative problem solving and for reading nonverbal cues. It’s a peanut butter & jelly situation. One can’t work nearly as well without the other!

But how do we encourage our kiddos to use both sides of their brain for optimum growth? Through play and games of course!

– Lead your little one to color or paint with their non-dominant hand. Or for double the fun, use both hands at once! It may be frustrating at first, but once they get a grasp of it, they’ll love the challenge.

– Move and groove while crossing the midline of the body. This twisting does wonders for brain development. Try marching and hitting each knee with the opposite hand as you go!

– Take a kids yoga class. Breathing boosts brain activity and standing on each limb individually will promote balance!

– Play ball! Run, throw, kick, and catch. Bonus points if you make sure to alternate which arm/leg is doing most of the work!

– Tell a story together! This simple, creative act will build communication skills, empower the imagination, and help you make awesome memories. Who knew playing make believe could do so much good for our brains? (Okay, we did!)

(originally posted on Toddler Blog)

Spray Bottle Saturday

Next time your little one needs some weekend fun, get out a spray bottle and your imagination! You’ll be surprised at how much there is to do, when SPRAY BOTTLE SATURDAY comes to the rescue.

  1. Make safe spray paint! Mix a 1/4 cup of cornstarch with 1 cup warm water and about 5-10 drops of food coloring. Then spray a large piece of paper or old sheet into a marvelous mural!
  2. Water the plants! Can you spray just the roots? How about only the littlest leaves or largest petals? Your budding gardener will love the challenge.
  3. Give your dolls a beauty treatment. Spray her hair, then brush and style it into your best coif creation! Add a couple tablespoons of fabric softener to your spray for extra stylin’ hold.
  4. Play spray bottle freeze tag! Burn off some energy with a super speedy round. If you get sprayed, strike a funny frozen pose until you are sprayed free once more!
  5. Target practice on tissue paper! Place different color tissue squares on top of white paper. Then spray each, one by one. Watch in awe as the colors run!
  6. Aim for the alphabet. Use chalk to draw the ABCs on the ground. Then call out each letter and let your little spray it until it magically disappears.
  7. Make the old new again. Spray an older painting to see how water affects the colors and changes the whole piece. Add your latest abstract, modern art to your gallery.
  8. Try spray bottle science! Fill your bottle with 3/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup water, and a bit of paint. Squirt a pan full of baking soda and examine your experiment’s funny fizzle!

(originally posted on Toddler Blog)

Beat Balloons!

Meet the Beat Balloons! Balloon fun reaches new heights when they’re filled with small household finds. Not only will your little bean be able to peek through and investigate what object is hidden inside, they’ll also be able to hear it once they give it a shake!

We filled our balloons with sprinkles, Qtips, cotton balls, dry pasta, old buttons, small toys, and more. And we made two of each so we could also play with matching the pairs that sounded alike!

Stretch your balloon out a bit before filling it with a tiny treasure and air. And of course, please supervise littles when they’re exploring balloons and small objects.

Nature Scavenger Hunt

A trip to the park takes on a new sense of adventure when you create a NATURE SCAVENGER HUNT together!

First, make a list of things you want to seek. Littles will love to find different colors and shapes. But don’t forget to play with finding different textures too! We searched for things that were: fuzzy, smooth, rough, soft, and round.

Bigger kids can explore searching for manmade versus nature-made things. And everyone will get a kick out of finding something beautiful and finding something funny looking!

You can even include your other senses on your journey! Can you find something that smells wonderful or makes sound?

One of the best things we can teach our littles is to pay attention to detail. So get ready to see your local play spot with a fresh set of eyes. Your little explorer will learn and grow each step of the journey!

Upgraded PlayDough Play!

After a long day in the sun, sometimes you need some air conditioned fun… To keep littles’ boredom at bay, try our Upgraded PlayDough Play!

  1. Work with a plastic fork and knife to practice cutting skills.
  2. Take your leggos and plastic blocks to make different imprints in the dough. We like using a comb and rubber band too.
  3. Rediscover your plastic animals and make fossil prints!
  4. Roll tiny dough balls and practice counting, addition, and subtraction.
  5. Roll long lines of dough and use them to make the letters of the alphabet or spell out your name.
  6. Bust out some pipe cleaners, beads, and googly eyes to create your own creepy creature.
  7. Add some essential oils or glitter for even more magical, Upgraded PlayDough Play!

The Imagination Station

When all the toys have lost their luster, and antsy littles are looking lost… It’s time for a trip to the The Imagination Station!

All aboard, because here, our favorite things can be used in a brand new way! Will you create a silly farm, a wild jungle, or maybe even a new planet? At The Imagination Station, the possibilities are endless!

Step 1 – Use a large roll or sheet of paper as a base. We put ours atop a giant table for more playing room. Now use crayons to decorate your giant paper as a backdrop! Are there clouds in the sky, animals on the land, or ships in the sea? It’s all up to you!

Step 2 – Add some texture to your masterpiece. One by one, we added stickers, googly eyes, pipecleaners, and blocks. Watch creatures form and buildings grow. Really any leftover art supplies, or odds and ends will do. The Imagination Station is the perfect boredom rescue!

(originally posted on Toddler Blog)

Beyond Finger Painting

Painting is boundless fun, no matter your age. And painting using different materials as tools will work fine motor skills, lead to better pencil grasp, and excite little imaginations to no end!

Here are our favorite items to create with when going BEYOND FINGER PAINTING!

Raid the kitchen for inspiration!

Sponges provide lots of messy, painting fun. Cut old ones into smaller pieces to extend the playtime.

Cookie cutters make perfect shapes on a page.

Plastic forks can make awesome flower petals or fireworks.

Straws can turn globs of paint on paper into beautiful, modern splatters with one big breath out.

Break out the baster. Just add a bit of water to your paint and your little will love squeezing it up and out!

Explore the toy box! 

Toy trains and cars make awesome tracks across the page.

Plastic animals have paws and fins that love to leave a trail of colorful paint behind them.

Place old school marbles or small bouncy balls in a box with your paper, then roll them around in paint.

Keep it natural! 

Press flowers into pastel colored paint for a Springtime mini masterpiece.

Use leaves to create an Autumn inspired canvas.

Feathers glide creating soft, unique strokes across the page.

Don’t underestimate the bathroom!

Qtips make tiny, adorable prints. Try using one in each hand to get both sides of the brain working.

Cotton balls create fluffy clouds and soft tree tops. Use them attached to clothespins for double the fun.

Use old caps as different size circular stamps.

Don’t toss that toilet paper core roll. Dip it in different colors and let it roll across the page!

Don’t forget to use what you have right in front of you! 

Mom, your recycled wine corks make for great stamp making.

Bubble wrap give paintings texture that can look like fur on animals or leaves on trees!

Flyswatters in paint take outdoor painting to a new level of excitement.

You’ve tried your fingers, now try your toes! Toe painting is one your littles own’t soon forget!

(originally posted on Toddler Blog)

Shape Snoop Snatch!

Learning takes on a new level of excitement when kids see how things can be found off the page and in real life! Just this week, a few rounds of SHAPE SNOOP SNATCH reignited our kiddos’ passion for shape recognition. A clock, a ferris wheel, and the moon all made circles enticing again!

Playing is easy! Snoop around (on tippy toes for extra sneaky snooping!) and start to investigate your little’s room, your house, then your neighborhood for each shape. Have your kiddo whisper “Shape Snoop” when they’ve found one. This is great practice in delayed gratification and using their words before action. Then only after you have snuck up on the shape and “caught” it together, exclaim “Shape Snatch!”

Little kids will need clues, or two distinct choices to pick from, when snooping a particular shape. Bigger kids will embrace the challenge of snooping a whole area by themselves. And the tongue twister of “shape snoop” versus “shape snatch!” will entertain all of you!

(originally posted on Toddler Blog)

Pom Pom Play!

We love Pom Poms because they keep little bodies busy for a long time. You’ve seen these at the store, but did you know you can use them for a lot more than just crafting?

– Practice sorting them with toddlers. Sort by color or size. And use salad tongs or tweezers to sort for an added challenge!

– Get silly and sort them with your toes! Put some cups down on the ground and kids will get a kick out of filling the cups up with poms using only their feet!

– Move them using only your breath! Just like you are blowing out birthday candles, you can blow them across a table or floor. Make sure you are behind, not above the pom, to make it race the fastest!

(originally posted on Toddler Blog)