Toddler I-Spy Bag

If you are looking for a simple activity to help a toddler with colors, shapes, fine motor and pretend writing, this is the activity for you! It takes only a few supplies and is ready super quick. The best part is if you have an older sibling, they can play with it, too!

toddler i-spy bag plus ways to include the older sibling for some cooperative play

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Summer is quickly approaching, and if you don’t know already, I am pregnant with twins. I am due in September and am already feeling so guilty about the TV and inside time my kids will probably have this summer to help me avoid being out in the heat and on my feet.

little girl playing with i-spy bag and older sibling writing down their findings

My youngest (almost 3) has a speech delay so when I am getting activities for her I always try to focus on things that will help improve that. While I certainly love my sensory play, I am often looking for non sensory play stuff as well. And anything that both of my kids can do together is a super plus for me also.

Keep your kids busy and get some quiet time for yourself! Download my sensory play activity guide now!

I made this letter I-Spy bag a few summers ago when I was pregnant with my second and wanted to to make up another one. This time focusing on shapes and colors. This new one contains 2 things and takes 2 things to put together.

Toddler I-Spy bag Supplies

  • Rice
  • Small different colored and shaped beads (I got mine at the craft section at the Dollar Tree)
  • Resealable sandwich bag
  • Duct tape

It’s honestly that easy. Pour dry rice and beads into a bag (I put that bag into another bag just to be safe) and zip it closed. Make sure it’s nice and secure by adding duct tape along the edges.

child writing down letters on a white board while searching through a toddler i-spy bag

Big brother helped us because when we would find some beads and say their shape and color, he would write them down on a piece of paper (or a simple white board, like this one) which helps him work on his writing skills and inventive spelling.

As always, here is a list of skills you can work on with this activity:

Skills for Toddler I-Spy bag

  • Fine motor: Moving the bag around and manipulating the beads and rice to get a good look at them.
  • Social
    • Cooperative play: any time you add a sibling, you are working on cooperative play which is so important for toddlers.
    • Turn taking: Let the toddler mix around and then let the older kid mix around.
  • Colors: Talk about the colors of all of the beads in the bag.
  • Shapes: Talk about the shapes of the beads in the bag.
  • Speech: As with any activity, talk, talk, talk!

toddler pointing to items in a toddler i-spy bag

We are heading out of town this weekend for my brother’s wedding so we will probably bring this with for the airplane. Anything to keep the kids busy.

Sensory Play

As a past teacher and now a mom, I understand the importance of sensory play. Some kiddos learn best by being hands on, and incorporating sensory play is a great way to allow them to do just that – learn hands on. If you’re wondering about the importance of sensory play, read on and learn!

want more information on sensory play? Check it out here with a free sensory bin activity guide!

To download the post in a printable version, please find it here!

What is Sensory Play?

Sensory play is any activity that allows your child to use any/all of his/her 7 (yes, I said 7!) senses.
What are these 7 senses? They include:

  • Sight
  • Touch
  • Taste
  • Hearing
  • Sound
  • Vestibular – Movement and balance
  • Proprioception – The knowledge of where are body parts are in relation to the rest of us and how they move.

Keep your kids busy and get some quiet time for yourself! Download my sensory play activity guide now!

Why Sensory Play?

Sensory play is important for a few reasons;

  • Emotional Regulation: Did you know that a lot of times kids who have meltdowns are craving sensory activities? It’s true! Trampoline jumping, pushing chairs, playing in sensory bins. All of these can be helpful and can help avoid tantrums if added to your daily routine.
  • Safe Exploration: Sensory bins allow for kids to explore new textures in a safe and controlled environment. You’re right there with them while they’re exploring the items and you can be there to guide their play.
  • Develop Motor Skills: Sensory bins/bags oftentimes use fine motor skills. Strengthening fine motor skills from the start is so important. It helps build muscles to assist in life skills such as writing, using eating utensils, hand eye coordination, tying shoes, etc.
  • Encourage Learning: Some children do not learn well from rote memorization (ie, flashcards, repetition, etc). When incorporating sensory play, you can teach them other skills (letters, numbers, colors, math, etc) without them even realizing they’re doing it.
  • Visual Development: This is especially important in infant sensory play. Exploring sensory items in bins or bags, you can incorporate bright colors which helps stimulate babies’ visual development.
  • Keeps them busy!: Isn’t this the most important part?!

How To Build a Sensory Bin

  • First, you need a base: 
    • This is the sensory part of your bin.
    • Please be mindful of this part! Nothing your littles can choke on your will fit in their nose if they are of the
      nose-shoving age.
    • Food is okay, but don’t pick something that will spoil if you plan on reusing the bin.
    • If you think you found something great, try to freeze it! This usually buys you some extra time.
    • Some examples of bases:
      • Water beads
      • Pom poms
      • Small pieces of tissue paper
      • Dry pasta (color them using this tutorial from Typically Simple)
      • Dry rice
      • Dry beans
      • Cut up drinking straws
  • Then, you need a learning tool:
    • What skill do you want to work on? Letters, numbers, colors, sorting., animals and their sounds, body parts. etc.
    • If it’s sorting, don’t forget some small bowls or cups to do the sorting when they fish the items out of the sensory bin.
    • This part is super easy to switch out—it’s the extra educational tool!
    • Some learning tools include:
      • Plastic animals
      • Foam letter puzzle
      • Puzzles
      • Laminated pictures of letters, animals, etc.
      • Plastic bugs
      • Plastic shapes
  • Finally, you add some tools:
    • This one isn’t necessary but can add a challenge.
    • Add tweezers, tongs, plastic spoons, etc.
    • Be creative, but safe!
    • Some examples of tools:
      • Tweezers
      • Tongs
      • Plastic spoons
      • Small bowls
      • Plastic Easter eggs
      • Scoops
      • Measuring cups
      • Measuring spoons

And of course, you’ll need something in which to put it all. You have a few options:

  • A plastic bottle: This is great for infants or toddlers that will make a mess but can still be entertained by visual toys. Make sure you remove the label and it’s a good idea to hot glue the lid to the bottle after filling it.
  • A plastic resealable bag: This is another great option for infants and toddlers. Make sure you take out all the air possible and it is a good idea to put it into another bag and tape it shut with packing tape or duct tape.
  • A box: This will get messy! But there are a ton of different options.
    • A cardboard box: Big enough to fit in is good too. If you have a child who needs even more sensory output, they can sit inside the bin and dig around.
    • A plastic bin with a lid: One that can sit on a tabletop works for just hands or you can do a large one for more exploration.
    • A baking pan: If it’s a one time activity (water, shaving cream, etc) this is a great vessel!

Some extra tips and tricks for Sensory Play

  • Exercise other skills: If you have a specific skill you want to work on with your kids (letter recognition, colors, shapes, etc), think about how you can incorporate sensory play into it to get your kids more engaged.
  • Large motor activities: Any sensory bin can incorporate large motor (ie, running, skipping, hopping, etc) activities as well. Put the bin one one side of the room and a sorting mat or cups/bowls on the other side of the room or a little farther away (if you’re playing outside). This allows a high energy kid to let off some extra energy!
  • Keep the bins as a special activity: If you’ve just had a baby and need a few minutes to nurse or get them down for a nap, take out a sensory bin for your toddler/older kid to keep them busy while you tend to the baby. Do you cook dinner every night? Tape some sensory bags to your sliding glass door for a quick activity where you can keep an eye on them and still get your stuff done.

Try out some bins and come back and comment – let me know what you’re doing and what your kids are loving! Head over to Instagram and tag me, too!

Animal Action Dice

Large motor activities are so important – especially in the winter months when you feel like you’re stuck inside all day. Grab this animal action dice printable and get to moving!

animal action dice with free download

My kiddos love large motor activities and I love easy large motor activities so this one is a win/win for us. They love acting like animals (making their movements and sounds) so I figured this activity would be perfect for us on a “stuck inside” day.

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Toddler Sorting Activity

This toddler sorting activity addresses lots of skills and is super easy to put together. I even adapted it to add my 5 year into it as well.

Toddler sorting activity

It’s cold outside. So we have been focusing on some indoor activities for the kiddos. We’ve done large motor, literacy/math for my older kiddo and now we’ve done a toddler sorting activity for my 2 year old.

This activity is so easy to put together! My 2 year old actually was able to help me put it together (this wasn’t planned. But as we all know, toddlers don’t care at all about what is planned and what isn’t planned.

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Educational Netflix Shows That Won’t Make You Feel Guilty

Netflix. The new babysitter.

I will admit – as a work from home mom, my oldest gets a lot of Netflix time. But when he started spouting off random facts about the Earth, animals, lakes and ponds, I started to feel not so guilty. That is the joy of educational Netflix shows.

I realized that it really isn’t the worst thing (except when he starts fact checking ME) and wanted to put together a list of shows you can let your kids watch on Netflix and not feel guilty about putting them in front of the TV.

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Postpartum Depression vs Baby Blues – How Can I Tell the Difference?

In the mom’s Facebook group I started, moms are often asking about Postpartum Depression vs Baby Blues. I reached out to a fellow mom blogger and social worker and asked if she could clarify for us. Thank you, Sami!

Postpartum Depression vs. Baby Blues

Think about it. Your hormones and emotions are at an all time high. Your excitement to welcome your new little one into the world is immeasurable, but like most mothers to be, there is an aspect of anxiety to all that you are feeling. You then go through the feat of labor and delivery and your new little baby is placed in your arms. Euphoria. Joy. Excitement. Love, pure love.

Family and friends will want to come visit you and the new baby and company may be abundant. The attention that you were receiving when pregnant has now shifted to the new life you brought into the world. Then, just like anything, the novelty of having a new baby will wear off and people will get back to their everyday lives. Then, when you try to get back to your everyday life you realize that nothing is the same. This can be overwhelming.

The pressure to feel extreme happiness and pure bliss after having a baby is oppressive. It is only natural that women feel shame, disappointment or even denial if they feel anything other than joy and contentment. If this is not the case for women, they often feel guilt or shame. However, guilt and shame should not be felt. The levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are at an all time high during pregnancy. Post delivery, they hit an all time low triggering the baby blues.

Knowing the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression is important. First, I would like to note that both are not your fault. Both are a result of hormonal changes within your body that you cannot control. However, it is essential to recognize that the baby blues is normal, somewhat expected, and will pass. Postpartum depression on the other hand is more serious and usually requires professional help.  It is difficult to differentiate between the two because on paper, both conditions appear to be so similar. So many symptoms are shared between the two conditions such as irritability, inability to sleep, crying bouts and mood swings.

The baby blues are short term, usually last less than two weeks, and typically resolve on their own. The symptoms and signs of the baby blues are feeling sad, overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, anxious and like you want to escape your new life. However, with encouragement and assurance these symptoms will decrease.

Postpartum depression affects about every 1 in 7 new mothers (Bennett, 2016). The symptoms and signs of postpartum depression are excessive crying, depressed mood or extreme mood swings, difficultly bonding or growing close with your baby, loss of appetite or eating more than you typically would, withdrawal from family and friends, severe anger, feelings that you are an inadequate mother, shame, guilt or feelings of worthlessness, insomnia or excessive sleep, loss of energy, a drastic decline in interest and pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy, severe anxiety or panic attacks, thoughts of death or suicide and/or thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby. Again, I want to reiterate that if you are experiencing any of these symptoms that it is not your fault. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You deserve help. It is also important to recognize that you do not need to have all of the symptoms listed to have postpartum depression. The bottom line is if your thoughts are bothersome and intrusive and if your moods are getting in the way of your ability to care for yourself, your baby, your family and things that you would normally do day to day then get help. It is important to note that new mothers may not recognize that they are experiencing these symptoms or may deny it if asked. If you recognize that a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of postpartum depression, do not be afraid to get them help.

Let it be known that if you experience a traumatic birth, are forced to have a birth experience that did not go as planned such as a c-section or induction or if you’re having difficulty breastfeeding, if your baby has colic, of if you have a personal or family history of depression than your odds of postpartum depression increase. Social support is also a large factor in whether or not postpartum depression is likely for you. The more social support you have, the less likely you are to develop postpartum depression. The less social support you have, than the more likely you are to develop postpartum depression.

 Postpartum depression has gotten a strongly negative reputation for several different reasons. Historically, infanticide, which is the killing of an infant at the hands of a parent, has been blamed on postpartum depression in the media. However, it is important to note that postpartum psychosis is the leading cause of infanticide, not postpartum depression. To be clear, postpartum psychosis is a rare psychiatric illness that occurs in approximately 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries. The symptoms of postpartum psychosis can include delusions (false, typically strange beliefs), hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t truly there), irritability, hyperactivity, decreased need for or the inability to sleep, paranoia or suspiciousness, rapid mood swings and difficulty in communicating at times (Post Partum Support International, 2017).  Postpartum psychosis is very serious, yet is treatable with professional help. If you are experiencing any of the listed symptoms, please receive immediate help.

The general rule of thumb is that if two weeks pass and you are still feeling the symptoms of anxiety and depression than a woman should proceed in scheduling an appointment with her ob-gyn for an evaluation. The treatment for postpartum depression most commonly includes medication therapy and psychotherapy. There are support groups available for new mothers in most areas. The support groups are typically free and occur weekly. Support groups are most certainly beneficial and something worth looking into. It is so helpful to form connections and a network of support from new mothers experiencing similar symptoms and circumstances. A trained professional who specializes in postpartum support often leads these support groups. If you are not sure if your area has a postpartum support group, contact your OBGYN or local hospital for information.

Postpartum support international is a wonderful resource for those who are struggling with symptoms of postpartum depression or for loved ones of those who are struggling with postpartum depression. On the postpartum support international website (www.postpartum.net), you can find local resources, chat with an expert, join an online support group, call the telephone support line or simply look up information on postpartum depression which may help you decide what your next step should be in terms of treatment and recovery.

There is so much stigma surrounding new moms and the baby blues/postpartum depression. The bottom line is there should be no embarrassment, guilt or shame in talking about your feelings and emotions and asking for help. Actually, the strongest and smartest mothers are those who take the step to get help as soon as possible, to best better themselves and their family. Postpartum depression is like any other potentially serious condition. If the proper help is received, than a complete recovery can be expected.

Article by Sami Rae, Licensed Master of Social Work. Blog can be found at www.raeofsun.blog

Bennett, S. (2016, August 31). Do I Have the Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression? Retrieved November 15, 2017, from http://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/baby-blues-or-postpartum-depression/

Postpartum Psychosis. (2017). Retrieved November 15, 2017, from http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/postpartum-psychosis/

 

Holiday Gifts your Kids’ Teachers Actually Want

The holidays are so amazing, aren’t they?

They certainly can be, but I find that the most stressful part of the holidays is finding the best gifts for everyone on your list. But on the top of almost everyone’s list (outside of family) are those teachers. The people who spend so much time with your kids, whether we’re talking daycare, preschool or elementary school. They are such an important part of your lives and your kids’ lives. We want to treat them right, am I right?

First, let me address the “do I need to get my teacher anything?” question. In short, no. You absolutely do not. To be honest, I did not have a list of who was giving gifts and who wasn’t giving gifts. It doesn’t make a teacher treat your kid differently (yes, I’ve heard that question before from parents!). Anything you decide to give is appreciated – whether it be a tiny piece of chocolate or a $50 Target gift card. It means you and your child were thinking of them and that warms their heart!

In my 10 years of teaching and managing, I have received some of the best and some of the most odd gifts you can imagine. In the mom’s groups I’m a part of on Facebook, every year around this time people are asking what we’re doing for our kids’ teachers. Almost always, you have teachers chime in and tell the moms what to get and what not to get.

With the help of my trusty old memory and my teacher mom friends, I have compiled a list for you. Things to get your kids’ teachers and things to take a hard pass on this year. Also, here is a free printable if you want your teachers to fill it out for you so you can get even better stuff.

Do get:

  • Gift cards. I think this one is pretty obvious. Every teacher is so different. I always hate giving gift cards because it feels so impersonal to me. But with teachers, I think it is an exception. I have worked with so many teachers with such different personalities. With a gift card, that teacher can spend it on him/herself – and trust me, they appreciate it! Some gift card ideas:
    • Amazon
    • Movie theatre
    • Liquor store
    • Lettuce Entertain You
    • Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks
    • Target
    • Restaraunts
    • Red Box
    • Visa gift card
  • Beverages. But, always ask first! This goes for alcohol and coffee. When I taught, I had stacks and stacks of Starbucks and DD gift cards and you know what? I hated coffee! I didn’t start drinking coffee until I had kids (go figure). As far as the alcohol goes, please make sure they are of drinking age and it’s okay with the higher ups. A gift card might be better in place of an actual bottle of wine 😉 Not every teacher drinks wine and coffee. I know, hard to believe.
  • A nice, thoughtful letter. Teachers want to be appreciated. Sometimes it can be the most thankless job out there. So just write them a letter and if your child is old enough, have them do the same. This one was mentioned a lot and I remember really enjoying reading some I received as well.
  • Pens. Sounds silly, right? Teachers love different colored pens! Teachers go through pens like water because they get used up or stolen/lost. Buy them one of those huge packs from Costco!
  • Personalized blanket. Last year I made these for my son’s preschool teachers (and towels for end of year) and they were a huge hit. I tossed in some warm socks and some R+F stuff for the winter. You can order some personalized ones here (sorry, shameless plug!) but the deadline is 12/1 to make sure they come in time for Christmas break. You could also order some for anyone else!
  • Essential oils. Yes, out comes the weirdo in me. A roller bottle for winter time! Ask your local distributor! A couple teachers I polled said they received roller bottles to help with fighting winter colds and they loved them.
  • Baking mix. I hate baking because I feel like it takes too long and makes such a mess. One year I had a parent (who is now a good friend and our boys are besties – shout out to Karla!) give me the dry ingredients in a really nice glass canister. It had directions on how to make the cookies (just had to add a few wet ingredients). Bonus – I now have a glass canister I use in my kitchen and I think of Zach each time I make rice! 😉

Do not get:

  • Smelly stuff. Teachers get so much of this. Hand sanitizer, lotions, candles, body washes, etc. A lot of times teachers will get stuff that they do not like. The only exception to this rule is if you know for a fact that they like that scent and want it. I know, I know…”but Melanie, you said get them essential oils!” This is different! Trust me! The oils can help you fight colds.
  • Candy. So much candy. Again, the only exception is if you know they like it and it’s their favorite.
  • Clothes. Yes, this happens. Stick to a gift card to a clothing store if you are really set on clothes.
  • Apple related gifts. Not every teacher likes apples.

So there you have it! A teacher gift guide written by teachers! Have fun 🙂