All Things Gingerbread

So, here we sit.  Just two days until Christmas Eve.  And if you are anything like me, you are frantically trying to figure out ways to occupy your children, who are more than ready to kill each other.  Y’all, I have even pulled out the “Santa doesn’t bring gifts to children who aren’t kind to each other and their parents” line.  It’s gettin hectic over here.  Plus, I still have gifts left to wrap, bows left to tie, a house to clean, and a whole mountain range of clean laundry to fold and put away (since I conquered the washing part yesterday, thank the Lord!)


The one thing that seems to be my saving grace the last two days has been All Things Gingerbread.  Seriously.  I threw together some gingerbread play dough, and since we made gingerbread cookies last week, the kids are so excited about this play dough!!!  I gave them the same little cookie cutters we used for our cookies, and they have had a blast making “cookies” and “cookie pops” and then yesterday they even got out Gray’s little construction trucks and informed me that the play dough looks like dirt, and it’s super fun to put into the construction trucks, apparently!  (So sad I didn’t get any pics of them playing, but y’all, seriously – they were happy, playing TOGETHER, and I was taking full advantage and fixing dinner – in peace!!!)

Today I plan to make another batch so they each have their own big ball of it, give them the giant gingerbread man cookie cutter (aff link thank you!), some buttons, some pipe cleaners (for hair or whatever else they get creative and come up with) and let them go to town making their own gingerbread friends!  (Fits great with the fact that we’re frantically finishing up our Christmas Around the World unit (link to the file on TPT) and today is Germany… which is where the gingerbread traditions originated!  Plus, I’m using a Gingerbread Girl organizational chart (it’s in this FREEBIE file on TPT!) today to diagram about the Gingerbread Girl book by Lisa Campbell Ernst (Aff link, thank you!)… dang, doesn’t this make me seem so organized?  HA!  Seriously, y’all… I’m not.  Being real, I originally planned to do this stuff yesterday, but can’t find the Gingerbread Girl book in the vast cavernous mess of books in Becca’s room, and if all else fails, I may try to find a youtube or just say screw it and forget the organizational chart and attempt to do it next year.) (Keepin’ it real here.)  (Also keepin’ it real – if you made it through the mess of links and () in this paragraph, I love you.  HA!)

The best part about play dough is it takes WAY less time to make than it does for me to write this blog post, which I’ve been intending to write for a couple days now.  So you can do it!  Buy yourself a little time (and patience!)… and better yet, stop everything and sit down and play WITH them.  Playing play dough is so calming for me.  Have you tried it lately?  Becca and I loved making “cookie pops” and then “selling” them to each other to work on her money skills!

Here’s the recipe for my Gingerbread play dough:


And because I know some of you sweet mamas are going crazy and trying to find a gingerbread cookie recipe that your kids will actually eat… use mine.  It’s super easy and even my pickiest eater loves them!  I make these every single year.  Without fail.  Even if I don’t make any other cookies.  I’m in love with them.  Which is why I felt a picture of my tattered, dirty recipe card page was the best way to share it with you.  This recipe is WELL loved.

And so are you, dear blog reader.  Merry Christmas!  May you be richly blessed this holiday season.


Pumpkin Dough


I recently had a friend share a pin with me… because she knows I’m ALL about homemade play dough.  We seriously are play dough obsessed around here!  When I saw this recipe, I immediately knew it would be a hit with my kids, and it was similar enough to my favorite recipe that I already had most of the supplies on hand in my pantry.  Becca loves colored doughs, and Gray would love the scent (y’all, it really does smell like fall!)!  I followed her recipe exactly except that I doubled it, and I only made it orange, so I mixed the color in while it was in the skillet.  Rather than list the recipe here on this post, I’d love to give credit back to the original mama who took the time to post it, so please go check out her post HERE.

In her post, she also mentioned collecting items from nature to use with the play dough.  We already had some seeds from our Seed Collecting and Sorting activity, and then I gave the kids a bunch of silk leaves that I got at the craft store.  They also used some fall shaped cookie cutters (this super cute set is similar… aff link… thank you!) that I’ve had for a while.  They both had a blast making trees, bushes, and a variety of other pretend creations with their play dough and leaves!  (Gray wasn’t allowed to use the seeds since I was afraid he would eat them, and I was trying to get the dishes done while they played.)

I love how simple this activity is, but how entertained it kept them!  Typically their play dough play is simply with dough and cutters, or possibly different toy animals or cars to make footprints/tracks.  Adding the leaves and seeds aspect was new and exciting for the kids and they loved it!  I think I want to do something similar in December perhaps with buttons they could use to decorate play dough Christmas trees…. hmmm… my wheels are turning!  😉

What do your kids like to do with their play dough?  Do you have a favorite recipe?

Busy Hands, Happy Heart


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Most of my posts here are about homeschooling Becca, but this one is all about what to do with the little ones… and highlights what I do to keep Gray occupied so Sis can learn.  (And SHHHH! he’s learning, too!)  Keeping your toddler occupied while your older child does homeschool is NOT easy!  But hopefully a few of these ideas will inspire you and be helpful on your journey!


One thing we really struggle with with Gray is that he still likes to put things in his mouth – a lot.  I can’t just give him an activity and pay total attention to Sis.  So, I have to very carefully select what he does when I’m busy with her.  He loves our pop beads set – so when I’m teaching her, I pull out only the large beads on a tray and let him sit on the bench right next to me in our family room (which doubles as our homeschool room).

-homeschool work area-

If we are doing something downstairs at the dining room table, he gets to do play dough next to me, and loves to make prints in the dough.  We have little stackers, dominoes, construction trucks, and dinosaurs that all make awesome dough stamps, not to mention our fabulous cookie cutter set.  He can stay occupied with play dough for almost an hour!  (Plus, I make my own dough, so I can make it any color I want, and he loves to take two different colors of dough and squish them together… which works on those fine AND gross motor skills all at the same time!)

Back upstairs in the family room, we have a little Duplo table (this is the one I’d like to get once we move up to only Legos) and some diaper boxes full of Duplos that Gray loves to build with.  Then we also have big wooden blocks (that my dad made for me when I was little!) with which he can build larger-scale items.  We also keep crayons and coloring books readily available so that he can color when Sis is illustrating – because nothing is more exciting and makes you feel big and important like coloring when Sis is coloring.  And he has been enjoying playing with window clings that I got from Dollar Tree!

There are so many fabulous things you can get your little ones excited about that are going to stretch them and help them grow their fine AND gross motor skills.


Pretend play is so important for little ones, and Gray is all about pretending.  He is fairly quiet with his pretend play, so he doesn’t distract Sis too much.  If you have a louder child who likes to play really loudly, you might want to skip this section and move on down to the academic ideas, leaving the pretend play for non-school times.

Gray loves our new set of felt dinosaurs.  He likes to tell little stories with the dinosaurs, and can either use the portable board with which they came, or can use the larger cork board that I covered with felt that is up in our family room.  I love that both kids can stand together at the easel and play, or he can play alone right next to me while she works.  He also loves to drive his cars and trains on the activity rug that sits on the floor next to me, and cook “meals” for us in their kitchen, which is across the room. (This link is to a similar set – ours is no longer sold.)

He also loves to grab a reusable shopping bag and pretend he’s shopping, play dress up, and play with Little People figures.  The beauty of doing school in our family room is the multiplicity of options to keep him entertained.  We do not choose to have the tv on during school time.  That is far too distracting for Becca.


Sometimes there is just no other way than to teach her with him sitting in my lap or standing right next to me.  (His love language is touch.)  For those times, I have some little academic activities that aren’t distracting to her that I can do with him while she is working independently.  We have number puzzles matching the numerals 1-10 to their values, and he can sometimes do 1-5 alone.  Sometimes he gets frustrated when they don’t fit exactly together (fine motor work!), but I can help him.

He also loves our pattern block shapes that I made out of thick colored card stock and laminated.  I use them with Sis as math manipulatives, and he also loves to sort them out and try to count them.  You can print your own here for free!

I have also laminated some little basic puzzles that have come out of magazines the kids get – he loves to put the three pieces together to make the trucks, and can put them together wrong to be silly and it’s ok, so he feels very successful with those.

I love the Target dollar section.  Sometimes I get surprised and find a $3 item that I love and just have to have, but normally I stick to the $1 stuff.  I got some really neat felt sticker numbers there (for $1), and placed one each on a set of 10 index cards so that he can actually FEEL the number, and attempts to put them in order.

He loves so much the big bin of Scrabble letter tiles at the DoSeum, so I finally bought this set so that he can play with the letters at home – and Sis can use them for spelling practice!  They are both so excited to have their own letter tiles at home now!  Sis also enjoys playing Scrabble Jr, so this now gives him letter tiles to play with, without messing up the board while we are playing!

I hope that you find these ideas helpful, and I so appreciate you purchasing via my affiliate links!  What helpful hints do you have to share?  What do you like to do with your toddler?  And which of these ideas that I’ve shared are you ready to try this week?  Let me know!  I love to hear from you!  Send me comments, and please be sure to head over to my Facebook Page to get involved in the discussion!

Summer Bucket List… Modified.

summer bucket list modified

I keep hearing from folks who have a summer bucket list.  And I’ve done that in the past.  It’s fun.  Especially if you have a cute picture (like this one from Lindsey over at Pen and Paint) to add your list to!  But what I’ve done in the past is try to think of all these amazingly outstanding things that honestly, end up being a lot of work… so I don’t do them.


This year, my summer bucket list is MODIFIED.  And so far, the kids are loving it!  It’s all about finding activities we already have that they haven’t done in a while, or using dollar store items to try something new and different.

Right at the end of the school year, we made glitter playdoh in two colors.  It still hasn’t lost its sparkle, or its excitement.  When it does, we’ll take a break for a couple weeks, and then make some in new colors!

I got dollar section Crayola bathtub soap/paint – that we’re going to use in our water table outside. (affiliate link, thank you!)


I got some little toy boats from Dollar Tree that will be another water table outside modification.

They also love it when I let them play in cheap shaving creme – which would be another fun outside water table activity – where it’s easy to hose them down when they are done!

They are still enjoying Gray’s new garden table (affiliate link, thank you!) that my parents got him for his birthday, so it hasn’t lost it’s novelty yet.  If you don’t have an outdoor activity table, this is one to consider because it can double as a sand/water play station, or they can simply pretend they are gardening!


I re-organized our kid movies and we’re going to watch a different movie that we already own each week as a family.

We’re discovering new recipes on Tasty Junior that we want to try.

My next big goal is to clean out/reorganize our activity closet – and I’m sure we’ll find all kinds of fun things we haven’t played with in a while.

The other day, Becca rediscovered her love of Castle Logix (affiliate link, thank you!), and has played it several times.  She even asked to move it to her room so she can play it in there!


Grayson is now big enough to enjoy our Animal Habitat Boxes, so I plan to pull those out – a new one every couple of weeks – and let him explore (and Becca can re-explore).

He is also big enough now to start building more complex train tracks, so I plan to play with him (and Becca) to make some of our family name tracks like we did with Becca last year.

mar 12 family names

We have a bunch of puzzles in the family room – my goal is for us to work one each week.

Yes, we’ll take a weekly trip to The DoSeum and Sea World, and a monthly trip to the zoo, but this summer isn’t going to be all about going places – it’s going to be about enjoying and exploring AT HOME.  I feel like our kids get so stuck on going places and doing things that they forget how much fun we can have at home!!  So while two days out of the week we’ll be going somewhere, I plan to have lots of fun at home the rest of the time!

I do plan to take one big, fun trip out and about – to have both kids paint at Painting With a Twist!  Did you know that they have “all ages” paintings that are perfect for kids?  Becca has loved painting there in the past, and I’m ready to take the plunge and let Grayson try it as well!  (I’m thinking I’ll get some adorable pics of him painting in his diaper…;)  Note that while each painter is a $35 fee, they frequently do drawings and giveaways on their Facebook page, so you should follow them to possibly earn your painting trip for FREE!

If you like this idea, but you’re just not sure where to start on activities without spending a ton of money buying stuff, you really should consider getting THIS BOOK – Raising Creative Kids (affiliate link, thank you!)– my friend Colleen has done a wonderful job of compiling ideas to get you AND your kids thinking creatively!  I plan to pull it out at least once a week and set up challenges for the kids!

I would also challenge you to go through closets, book shelves, and boxes in the attic – find things that you think your kids are done with… and recycle them!  Find new ways to entertain them with those activities.  Or if they are simply way too young for your kids, stick them in a box for your next local consignment sale and turn them into cash!  Your summer bucket list could MAKE you money instead of costing you money!

Just keep in mind that the summer shouldn’t be all about ONE thing.  It’s not all about sitting in front of the tv.  It’s not all about going somewhere new every day.  It’s not all about swimming every day.  It’s about BALANCE.  A good, wide variety of activities that don’t have to be expensive, or take you away from home.


Super Simple Playdough

Happy Valentine’s Day!!  If you’re like me, this day has snuck up quickly – quicker than usual, it seems.  And somehow I recently realized that I haven’t made any play dough since Christmas.  Yeah.  We go in phases of play around here, and we’ve been out of a play dough mode for a while.  But, Becca’s been asking for some, so I thought I’d make her a wonderful surprise and make glitter play dough!  So, I looked online at a million different recipes and decided that I guess I’m just lazy.  Or maybe I’m stuck in a rut.  But whatever it is, I’m just not willing to try a new play dough recipe.  I like mine, and I’m stickin’ to it!

Maybe you’ve been looking for an EASY recipe, too.  So many of them require the stove or an electric skillet.  And honestly, this was the first time I made my recipe without the electric skillet, and I felt so silly that I had ever used it in the first place!!  Here’s what you need to do to make my Super Simple Playdough.

super simple play dough

In a bowl, mix together 1 cup of flour, a little less than 1/2 cup table salt, 2 tsp cream of tartar, three packages of your favorite Koolaid for vibrant color (I used cherry for this to make it red.  Fyi though, if you do grape wanting to make purple, only use one pack b/c three comes out almost black), and then if you want, stir in some glitter, too.

In a larger mixing bowl, heat 1 1/4 cups water and 1 overflowing Tbsp of vegetable oil.  Make sure it’s boiling when you pull it out – I heated mine for 3 minutes.  Dump in your dry ingredients and stir well.  You’ll have a sticky mass in your bowl.  Let it cool for about an hour.  Then it’s ready to be played with!  No adding extra flour or any stovetop mess!  Super simple.

Store it in an airtight container, and it’ll be great for play for a couple of weeks.  After that point, you’ll need to add flour if you want it to not be sticky… or just throw it away and make a new color/scent!

So if this Valentine’s Day you need something fun to occupy the troops… pull out a few packs of cherry Koolaid and make some play dough! 🙂

NOTE: If you don’t have any Koolaid on hand, food coloring works just as well – add it to the boiling water.  You can add a drop of essential oil to the water for a scent if you’d like.  If you have a child who is eager to dive in and doesn’t mind the CAUTION – HOT! dough, you can throw a little flour on the counter and let them go ahead and dive in to kneading the dough as soon as it is mixed!