Apple Activity Box

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you probably remember the really fun activity centers I made for Becca last fall using our water table.  I brought it in from our summer play on the back porch, and she really had a blast… and I was super proud of all I came up with for her to do!  Fast forward a year, and lil Bro is into EVERYTHING… even things he’s not ready to do yet.  So, I found a way to re-make her apple activity center into a box that can easily be packed up and kept out of reach of Grayson’s little grabby hands!

apple box 2

You can find boxes like this one at your local craft store in the scrapbooking section – they are 13×13 and are fabulous!!!  I used scotch tape to stick the index cards on so they can easily be removed and the next seasonal activity center can go in their places.

Here are the skills that I included:
Math – apple patterning / apple adding & subtracting / measuring
Reading – a book to read and retell / a poem to read and recite
Writing – magnetic words to build / a blank book to write them in
Art – markers to make illustrations in the book and on the poem cards
Science – non-fiction book to read
Hand-Eye-Coordination/Fine Motor/Engineering – create an apple tree with popsicle sticks and buttons

apple box 1

Here are the direction cards, which guide play but certainly don’t limit it – she has gone way outside the box of just following these cards, though the lil OCD in her followed each card in order to some extent before moving on to do her own thing.  I also included with each instruction the list of items your child will need to complete the activity.  Some require prep, some don’t.

apple writing1. Write and illustrate a book about apples using the words on your magnets.
–>I got packs of 3 blank books for $1 at Target before school started!  Score. You could make your own just by folding paper together and stapling.  You’ll also need to write a few fall words on index cards, cut out, and stick magnet tape on the back.

2. Practice saying the poem without looking. (Recite from memory).
–>You’ll need to write the poem on index cards.  I got it online – original source unknown.  Here are the words:
—->card 1: Apples are so good to eat,
—->card 2: To have them is a special treat.
—->card 3: Red, green, yellow too,
—->card 4: All of them are good for you!

3. Draw pictures on the poem cards to illustrate what the words say.
–>Provide markers or crayons for illustrations

apple pattern4. Make an apple pattern. / Add the apples: green apples + red apples = how many apples all together?  (We extended this and did subtraction and multiplication as well – we have 2 groups of 5 apples.)
–>I got these little apples at Dollar Tree.  You could easily use buttons or gems or place apple stickers on index cards and cut out.  As long as there are at least red and green so that your child can make patterns, you’re good!

apple buttons5. Make an apple tree with popsicle sticks and buttons.  How many buttons did you use?  How many are left over?
–>You’ll need a bunch of random red, green, and/or yellow buttons, and some popsicle sticks.  I had green popsicle sticks, so we used those.  Any color will work.  You can really extend this by having your child pattern with the buttons, sort by size, add, subtract, make even groups for multiplication, etc.

6. Read the book “Apples” by Ken Robbins.  Retell to a grownup.
–>Any non-fiction book about apples will work.  This one fit well into the box I had.  I selected a non-fiction book to add in a science aspect to the box, but you could easily do a fiction book.  In my apple center last year, we had Ten Apples Up On Top and did a block activity with it.  You could easily have your child use the buttons to put ten apples on top of the book characters, or some such.  Use what you have, and you know your child – if your child won’t be “into” a non-fiction text, use what they will love!

apple word build7. Build the fall words on your magnet tray!
–>This activity is totally a repeat from last year’s apple center, because it’s just so fun and it’s always great to practice spelling!  I didn’t want to buy a bunch of magnetic letters, so I just wrote the words on index cards, cut out the letters, and put magnet tape on the back!  Super simple and cheap!  And obviously, you can save them from year to year to use again!  You’ll also need some sort of magnetic tray – I got this pizza pan from Dollar Tree and she uses it for all of her magnetic activities, including building sandcastles, which she loves.

apple measure8. How many cups of apple “tea” mix?  Find and bury treasure!
–>Again a repeated material from last year’s apple center, I simply took a bag of green decorative fish tank rocks from Dollar Tree and added some Black Apple Tea leaves to it to make it smell like apples.  We didn’t know that she has Anosmia back then… (Anosmia = no sense of smell.)  To extend this activity this year, I took the rock/tea mix and put into a small container and provided her with measuring cups to measure with, and a couple of fall shaped mini cookie cutters to bury and then dig around for.  She loves digging in the rocks, and will bury and find and rebury and find the cookie cutters over and over again.

This apple activity box has already brought us HOURS of fun, and I just created it this week.  It’s sure to be a hit well into early October, when I plan to take them out and convert the box to a pumpkin activity for Halloween/Thanksgiving!  I hope you enjoy the ideas… I’d love to know how you put them to use with your kids!  Please share!  If you’re not following my Facebook page, please be sure to click over and “like” the page and then share your photos and ideas anytime! 🙂

The Farmer’s Market – 2 More Ways To Play

farmer's market

You might be wondering what on Earth I’m doing talking about our Farmer’s Market set again (for the millionth time between the blog and my FB page), and what on Earth does it have to do with SPD… maybe I just mis-categorized it, right?  WRONG!  Check this out, ya’ll.

Becca is constantly playing with our Farmer’s Market Set (affiliate link, thank you!), and Grayson is too.  But today on her own she said she wanted to do something different.  This first game was totally her idea.  She got one of her brother’s baby food spoons and carefully practiced picking up each fruit/veggie with the spoon and carrying it to the correct color bucket before dropping it in!  She was so serious and concentrated the whole time!  I was really impressed!

Then, when she got tired of that, she threw the fruits and veggies EVERYWHERE.  Ugh.  So I made a game out of cleaning up, and she actually played it about 4 times!  We’d throw all the fruits and veggies out all over the foyer/dining room.  Then I’d hand her a random color bucket, she would read me the color name, and then I’d start counting down from 10 to 0.  She was racing around like a cute lil chicken with it’s head cut off!  Going nuts!  She was soo excited!  HA!

We had so much fun with these two simple made up games, that I knew I had to share them with you.  They were perfect to get her calm and centered, and then to let her run around and bend over and back up over and over in a quick period of time.  Her need for proprioceptive input is so great, and often leads her her getting in “trouble” because she just can’t control her body’s need for activity.  So racing around to pick up all of one color was an awesome input for her, and her brain had to really stop and think about what color she was picking up.  She forgot a couple of times and had to look down and read the bucket again.

So, if you’re looking for a way to occupy kids on a rainy day, or simply a way to keep your “seeker” fully engaged, these are a couple of really fun activities.  Truly, this set should be on every toddler/preschooler/early elementary schooler’s list for Christmas!!

Let me know if you have any questions – I’m happy to help! 🙂

The DoSeum – A Mom’s Look Inside

This is not an affiliate post – it’s just the honest opinions of a mom who is an annual member of the DoSeum and has visited on MULTIPLE occasions.



This post has been a long time coming… I believe we’ve been to the DoSeum now about ten times.  I consider myself to be well educated on the ins and outs… so here goes!

We’ll get the negatives out of the way real quick – auto flush toilets in a children’s museum are just a crazily stupid idea.  LOTS, maybe even MOST kids are freaked out by auto flush toilets.  Bad choice.  And then there’s the workability of the exhibits.  They’ve been open only since June 1st and in two months time there are already multiple issues with exhibits not functioning properly (for example one of the computer touch screen check-out booths in the Little Town HEB wasn’t working this morning, causing lots of frustration).  But that’s it.  That’s all I’ve got for you in the way of negatives.

So now – for all the things I love love love about the DoSeum!  Let me just start with walking in.  The funhouse mirrors are just that – super fun.  Giggles always start our visit off on the right foot.  I love that there are so many different areas for us to explore – I plan our visit each day so that we explore one specific area, but we always enjoy the front – the mirrors, the pulleys, the big interactive video screen, the wind tunnel (Becca LOVES putting on the butterfly wings and “flying”!!), and the Kaleidoscope.

I love that there are lots of tables both inside and out to eat – and that while we have the option of purchasing food, we can bring our own food.  (Have I mentioned what a picky eater I’m raising… she thinks that going to the DoSeum MEANS eating peanut butter crackers she’s made herself and fruit packed in her lil lunch box.)  Hand washing stations at various heights are readily available as well.

There are two huge outside play stations.  We have not yet played in the sand (my kids honestly don’t know that area exists b/c I have a thing about sand + water + my car…), but they have really enjoyed the water fountain and little river.  They are anxiously awaiting the opening of the giant treehouse (which I think is totally amazing – it’s constructed for handicapped children to be able to join in the play, too with fabulous wide ramps all the way up!!!), and I know they’ll love playing in there as well.

The other outside play station has a giant spider web, log pile, obstacle course that ends in a giant slide, and… a huge water play area.  With water wheels and plenty of places to experiment with the various ways that water moves, it’s just a simply amazing out door play space, perfect for any explorer – from just a few months old to the oldest visitors.

Which is where I’ll pause – Cody and I LOVED our date night – #ReDoRecess, they called it, or #NightAtTheDoSeum – a night just for kids ages 21+ – where we got to have the run of the place!  We had a blast playing all over the place for a couple hours, and are looking forward to the next adults only event!
11811572_1667181053497185_5065488900645456456_nHere we are sitting in one of the incredible outdoor chairs, made from a huge old gnarly tree!  There was plenty of room for both of us!

Taking a step back inside, we explored the spy academy on our date night, and determined that for older kiddos with an extreme interest in spy stuff, and the attention span to go with it, this is an absolutely incredible area!  Perfect for your upper elementary and middle school students, or even older, there are so many activities to do, you could easily spend a couple of hours just inside the spy academy!

Becca’s got a couple of favorite areas, but one of them is definitely the little town.  When we go with our babysitter, we split up – she follows Becca, and I go with Grayson to the baby area.  Then we switch.  Because following Becca around is dizzying!  I love the fact that there is a DoSeum employee at the entrance to this area, so that if she does happen to get away, she’s not going to go far – she can’t leave that area without an adult.  I’ve also been impressed that every time we’ve gone in, the attendant has made an effort to really match us up in his/her mind and also stands next to the strollers and sees which one is ours.  Just that little added sense of security that I really appreciate.  Inside the little town, everything is on a little kid scale – a fabulous grocery store, a trolley, a bank, a restaurant, vet office, construction site, car wash, post office, and airport complete with a boardable/”flyable” airplane that even has luggage and a “TSA” security station!  As a mom, I appreciate all that she learns about the various occupations, and I also appreciate the fact that there are employees and volunteers constantly walking the floor and putting things back in place (esp in the grocery store and restaurant) so that new kids coming to that area can find what they need.  I also love love love the garden in the center for babies.  It’s gated, and has lots of fun sensory activities on the wall, balls and soft toys to play with, etc.  All in all, the little town is fabulous!!

At date night we explored the light and sound area.  We haven’t taken Becca there yet because of her sensory issues with auditory defensiveness and also her extreme overexcitabilities regarding low lighting.  We both had a blast in there, and think she’ll really enjoy the shadow play and light table activities.  We’re looking forward to bringing her to one of the sensory evenings that they have for kids with ASD, SPD, and other sensory issues.  Get this, parents – they have sensory evenings where they provide headphones/earplugs, sunglasses, and have special signage to warn adults about sensory issues that might be found in certain areas.  Lighting is different for these nights (not as dark), and everything caters to our kiddos who have special sensory needs!!!  Isn’t that just amazing?  It’s finally a museum that truly caters to ALL of our kids!

We briefly visited the “Imagine It!” area with Becca, but she wasn’t fond of the sounds there – again, this would be a great place for her on sensory night – but she did go nuts when she saw the room FILLED with books.  Pretty sure she would live in that room if she could!  She’s also enjoyed using the story starter prompts to tell stories, etc.  Definitely so much there for aspiring writers to enjoy!!

And ya’ll, that’s just the downstairs!!!  Seriously – there’s a whole second story!  The engineering section upstairs is just amazing.  Places to build with all kinds of different materials, to test out different materials to see how to make them fly, etc.  And then there’s what Becca calls the “Ball Room” – where balls shoot through tunnels of air directed by different knobs and levers that the kids can adjust.  It can be a super high action, rockin’ place.  I chose to stand by the door (it’s a small enclosed space, which is FABULOUS!) so that she can run and explore and always knows exactly where I am.  She can’t leave without me, and has a tiny tad of freedom to play til her heart’s content.

Also upstairs is a huge social studies area where kids can build mini cities, practice putting a giant foam US puzzle together, learn about energy usage in homes, and explore various info about the continents of our world and view different globes.

Did I mention there’s a set of stairs that make noises when you step on them?  Oh – and a separate glassed in baby play room that’s just for babies?  Impressed doesn’t even begin to cover it.  Glad to be annual members?  Oh yeah.

I’m just not sure what I’m gonna do once school starts and my 12 yr old set of wonderful, helpful hands is back in school and can’t come with us every week to help me wrangle my two lil Explorers!!  (Oh – and get this – I was able to add her to our family annual pass for just $15… and it’s only $11 for a one day admission… talk about a fabulous deal!  We’ve been pretty much every week this summer!)

Ready to plan your visit?  Check out their website here:  You won’t regret it!

Nature Photography Art

steam activities header

Today’s Theme: Science, Tech, Art, Math
(yup, 4 for the price of 1… and technically, you could say it’s Engineering too if you use your items collected to build something…!)

With my life as crazy busy as it has been lately, I’m going to be perfectly honest with you that we’ve been doing a lot of super free, unplanned play.  Like watching a lot of Sesame Street.  And Creative Galaxy.  And Super Why.  And building train sets.  And marble runs.  And working puzzles.  And coloring in coloring books and on plain paper.  Ya know, the ordinary, unexciting activities that make up MOST of our normal lives.  Not a whole lot worth blogging about and saying “wow, isn’t this fantastic?  Don’t you want to do this with YOUR kids?”  HA!  But, I know that one of the things my readers comment on the most is how they feel inspired by what I share.  And honestly, that is humbling.  And it helps hold me to a higher standard for my own kids.  And I appreciate that.  Maybe it’s something about turning 31 today (really?  31?  I remember when 30 seemed ancient… and now 50 doesn’t sound that old…), or maybe it’s just because my life has been so crazy that I’ve had to think about hitting the “reset” button on our school time… but for whatever reason, I came up with a super fun, EASY activity to do with Becca this past week that she absolutely loved.  And hopefully your kids will too!  (And hopefully I can come up with some more fun ideas very soon!  Might be time to pull out my Raising Creative Kids book again and snag some more ideas from Colleen!!  Have you gotten her book yet?  OMG.  You need it.  You really do.  The link is on the right hand side of this page… or at the bottom if you’re on a mobile device.  And yes, it’s an affiliate link, so I make some dough from your purchase – THANK YOU!)

Wow.  That might well have been the longest run-on paragraph I’ve ever written here on my blog.  Thank ya’ll for sticking with me through that!  HA!

And now to the nitty gritty – Nature Photography Art!

Becca LOVES to get out in our yard and explore.  We are so blessed to have some amazing land for her to roam around on, and even more blessed that we’re on the edge of Texas Hill Country, so our wildflowers each Spring are just simply incredible.  With zero work on our part.  God just paints our land every single year for us, and we are so blessed!  Cody and I both love to take nature photos – it’s one of the things that we first found that we had in common when we met.  So our kids see us take pictures of flowers and trees and butterflies and random rock formations ALL. THE. TIME.  And Becca often asks me if she can take the picture.  But I hesitate to let her hold my phone outside – especially on a day like the one when we did this activity – because the ground was moist and there are random rocks… ya know, my luck I’d hand her my iPhone 6 Plus and she’d drop it face down into a mud puddle with rocks at the bottom (I know Apple Care is great, but…)!  So I came up with this idea to get her involved, let her take nature photos, and yet do it in a structured environment.

IMG_8425I took this photo in our front yard while we were working on collecting our flowers for this project.  The butterflies were fluttering EVERYWHERE, and the Indian Blankets are just gorgeous!

Here’s what you’ll need to do this activity:
A bucket or basket of some sort
A source of wildflowers, leaves, grass, or rocks
A sheet of white butcher paper
A good lamp
A magnifying glass
A digital camera of some sort that you are willing to let your child use
Optional extension:  A computer with internet for photo editing (I use

So just take your bucket to your source of nature, and collect objects.  It can be ANYTHING.  Any small piece of nature can be a fabulous source for photography.  Keep in mind that live objects such as caterpillars are harder to photograph – especially for kids – because they are a moving target.  So encourage your child to select STILL LIFE objects.  You can explain that still life is a type of art that depicts objects that are alive, but not moving.  Flowers don’t get up and walk away.  Nor do rocks or grass.  So they work great for this project.  Try to pull an entire wildflower plant up – root and all – to examine with your child.  If that’s not possible, no worries, but it certainly extended our conversation GREATLY to have a couple full plants.  We talked about the parts of the plant while out there in the yard, and also again once we got into the house – a fabulous science lesson.  You can totally do this with rocks as well, and get into discussing and sorting the features of the rocks, and create a rock collection box.

Once your basket or bucket is full, head inside and lay out your white butcher paper.  Set up your lamp and grab your magnifying glass and camera – the fun is about to begin!  Start laying out your objects on the paper.  You can talk about their shadows, their colors, examine them close up, and watch the paper closely with your magnifying glass as lots of teeny tiny little bugs will crawl off of the flowers and begin to explore your paper.  This is a fabulous time to talk about the features of the camera with your child – especially how to make it focus.  If your little one has shaky hands and you’re using a phone for your photos, work as a team – you hold the phone, let your little one select where on the screen to focus, and push the shutter button to snap the picture (that’s what we did).

Try laying your objects out in all different ways – you can get as creative as your child wants.  You could spell nature words with your objects, you could spell your child’s name, you could build something with your rocks, or you could just do random grouping nature shots.  Encourage your child to try holding the camera closer to an object and farther away to see the difference in the two shots.  How does the shadow look on the screen?  Can you move your camera to a different location to make the shadow longer or shorter?  Etc.  The possibilities with this activity are ENDLESS.  And totally repeatable!!  Just collect different objects each time, and you can do this activity over and over and over.

If you want to extend the activity further in the tech area and your child is really into it, you can easily upload your photos to your computer and check out (totally not an affiliate link, I just love them so much and use their site for everything!).  Try making a collage of your photos together, or even play around with their favorite photo to make a sign for their bedroom door, an inspirational saying for their bathroom mirror, or add text to several of the photos to create a book that you can print out and stick in a 3 ring binder for them.  You could also do this activity throughout the seasons and use these photos instead of paintings for your 2016 calendar!  You could also add some math to this activity by measuring each flower and sorting them by length!  The possibilities of where you can go with this activity are truly limitless, and think of the OWNERSHIP your child will have in this project – and the fabulous opportunity to do something one on one with your child.  (I know I’m frequently looking for something special I can do with JUST Becca so that she feels special and grown up.  We did this while Grayson was napping.  If your younger child doesn’t nap anymore, you can easily have them go on the hunt with you and collect their own items in a separate basket, then give them white paper as well and let them play with the objects.  They could draw ovals around them with crayons, count their objects, and sort by color, just to give you a few ideas.)

Here are some of the beautiful pieces we came up with together:

apr 30 nature photography art

Jesus Loves Me


Becca Door SignI am truly so excited about this activity, and I can’t wait to do it with her again with other objects and different flowers!!  I especially loved her root picture (she wasn’t that fond of it, but she loved examining the roots and playing with the shadows!)  IMG_8446


I hope that you will try this activity with your kids, and that you’ll SHARE your results on my Facebook page!!!  I would love to see what you are doing!!!  Check back next week – I’m hoping to get more posts up before then for the start of our next new month!!

Mini Engineering Challenges

steam activities header

Here we are, once again, on the 2nd Thursday of the month!  I’m not quite sure where March went, to be perfectly honest with you!  But, we did some awesomely fun mini engineering challenges in March… so here are some new ideas for you to try with your little engineers!

apr 9 building w bristle buildersWe love our Bristle Blocks!  If you don’t have a set of these, you can definitely purchase them on Amazon here (Battat Bristle Blocks Basic 112 Piece Set Building Kit – affiliate link, thank you!).  Bristle blocks are fabulous for so many reasons, but Becca really enjoys the way they feel – as a sensory seeker, she will sit and rub these blocks while she’s thinking about where to put them.  They just feel really neat in her hands.  Many times, I just let her build whatever, but sometimes I’ll say “see if you can build a ______” and give her an idea.  It is fabulous to let your little engineer free play with blocks and building materials, but it’s also a wonderful idea to give her a specific task to focus on – it puts her brain into the mode of needing to solve a problem, and figure out how to best complete the task at hand.  So next time you get out the bristle blocks, try some of these fun things as building challenges:

  • boat
  • car
  • house
  • rocket
  • dinosaur
  • school

apr 9 construct a city

Becca loves to build cities.  Who knows, maybe someday she’ll be a civil engineer and work for some large city, or be an architect who designs skyscrapers.  I love that the sky is the limit for her.  And all of the activities we do encourage her to grow and play in new and different ways.  She loves the wooden blocks that my dad made for me when I was a kid, and she plays with them frequently.  (If you see the apples on some of them and wonder about that, check out this post from last fall about our Ten Apples Up on Top activity – she still enjoys doing that, and anytime I mention taking the apples off, she gets very defensive of the apples!  HA!)  But anyway, if your kids don’t have a wonderful set of wooden blocks, there are some fabulous ones available on Amazon – try this set: Melissa & Doug 60-Piece Standard Unit Blocks. (aff link, thank you!)

So when your kiddos are building with their wooden blocks, free, imaginative play is awesome, but you can also take it to a different level by creating a challenge for them – see if they can create a variety of structures.  Becca loves to build towers with her blocks, so I asked her one day, “well, how about if you build a city this time?”  (She typically builds cities only with her Duplos.)  She had so much fun creating roads and buildings and even decided where each person in our family would live and work, where the park and school and church were located… she really got detailed with it!  I would definitely encourage you to play blocks with your kids and challenge them to build a city!  See what fabulous ideas they come up with!

apr 9 creative play with straws

Becca loves straws.  She’s fascinated with them – not only in their function, but also in the various ways she can play with them.  The other day, she decided on her own that we could “probly” make a rainbow with them, but informed me “I’m gonna need some major help.”  So I obliged, gladly!  She knew the rainbow started with red on top, so we found all the red straws and laid them out, then we talked about each color and figured out how to place them inside of each other.  When she was done, she declared “George is the treasure under the rainbow!” and proudly placed him underneath.  That made me smile so big.  This girl has a heart of gold.  And she really does cherish her little friend.

Encourage your little engineer to play with straws.  Remember that building doesn’t always involve making a 3d structure – but also can be a fabulous 2d construction as well.  We’ve made several other straw pictures since then – we’ve built a house, a pirate ship, a dinosaur, some clouds, and an airplane.  I love how so many of the STEAM subject matters overlap each other!  This project is clearly engineering AND art… as is our next idea!

apr 9 mini create a firetruck


I’ve mentioned previously how much Becca LOVES the Amazon show, Creative Galaxy.  She watches it on her Kindle regularly.  She has seen each of the 9 episodes at least 9 times, if not 20.  In one of the shows between the shows (where real kids make art), they use recycled materials to build items.  One of the ideas they mention but don’t build is a fire truck.  So, Becca got it in her head that she wanted to build a fire truck!  She told me the materials she wanted to use to make it, and I obliged.  I held the hot glue gun, but she placed each item where she wanted it, and did the art work to draw the windows and headlights.  She even determined she wanted the ladder to stick up like it was going up to a house to help someone.  So, we figured out how to do the glue so that it would dry sticking up into the air.

I loved so much that she came up with this project on her own, and that I took the time to make it possible for her.  So many times it’s easy for us to hear an idea that our kids have and say there isn’t time, or we don’t have the supplies.  But this was a project that really benefited us both – I was amazed to see what she is capable of and how her brain works, and she was given a confidence boost because Mommy believed in her idea and helped her make it a reality!

What we used: an old puffs container, fruit pouch lids, straws, hot glue, Sharpee marker, scissors (she cut the straws into pieces – fabulous fine motor practice!)

I’d love to see your kids make items from recycled materials!  Please share your finished engineering feats on my Facebook page anytime and label them #engineeringrocks!

Looking for more engineering ideas for your kids?  Each month on the 2nd Thursday I post Mini Engineering Challenges!  Check out my Engineering page for links to my previous months, and visit next month for more new ideas including a Lego game your family is gonna love!