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!

Create Your Own… Recycled Christmas Tree

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Looking for a super fun, EASY, throw-it-together-in-two-minutes project for your kids that involves STEAM?  Check out this fun little engineering activity I did with Becca this morning!  She had to miss “school” (Mother’s Day Out) today because we are all sick, but I promised her something fun.  She agreed that this project delivered on that promise.  And seriously, ya’ll… it was SUPER easy.

recycled christmas tree

All you’ll need are some cups (any kind of cups would work, but we happened to have green and yellow solo cups, so we had a green tree with a yellow star on top!), some straws, some fruit pouch lids (or any sort of recycled lids you can use), and some masking tape!  Our lovely Christmas tree is now in our foyer on our entry table next to our nativity set – she said we should put it there so Baby Jesus could see it.

This project was great for her problem solving skills – we had to use a lot of tape to make sure the cups wouldn’t fall, and she was upset that our first design didn’t look much like a tree, so we re-built it and she was much more satisfied with it’s shape the second time.  We spent about twenty minutes working on this together.  It was the perfect easy time killer, and lots of giggles were included!  She can’t wait for Daddy to get home from work so she can show him our “masterpiece!”

Looking for more Christmas activity ideas?  Check out my post here for little “busy bag” activities you can put together to keep even your toddlers busy!

Looking for more STEAM and Engineering activity ideas?  Check out my STEAM and Engineering pages!

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: http://www.thedoseum.org  You won’t regret it!

Creating an Obstacle Course for Baby

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Grayson is crawling.  EVERYWHERE.  He is into EVERYTHING.  There’s really not a whole lot I can do to slow him down except put up a couple of gates!  HA!  But, since my Big Butterfly seeks a lot of sensory input, I’m always trying to think of new ways to engage BOTH kids.  (Which really isn’t a bad thing!)  They have both really enjoyed using our bean bag, blankets, chair and couch cushions, and pillows to create a crawling obstacle course!  (And the bean bag really slows Grayson down!  He has to work hard to get off of it!)

apr 6 obstacle course


It’s also a great activity for feeling different textures (thus my boy is shirtless).  I noticed when Becca went across the “osticle” course the first couple of times, she was continually rubbing her hands on the different textures.  She absolutely LOVES our couch and chair – they do have a really cool texture – I agree!  So this is a fabulous activity for ANY child with proprioceptive sensory needs!

But it also presents my Baby Bee with a challenge to climb down and up – all in a relatively safe environment where he isn’t going to fall directly onto the hardwood floor.  It took him a good five minutes to get up and down across the whole course.  And then he was off to his next task – he found his Sister’s purse and started chewing on it!  HA!

Setting up an obstacle course like this is a fabulous way to work on those gross motor climbing and crawling skills that are so important to develop in your Baby Bee.  Ironically, I had already planned this post when Jamie from over at Hands On As We Grow shared one of her posts from a while back when she made a couch cushion obstacle course for her Baby Bee.  You’ll want to check out her post – it gives some great ideas for once your crawler has conquered the “basic” obstacle course like I made.  I love her idea of stacking the cushions up to make “stairs” and also adding some balls into the course to chase around and encourage movement and participation!  We’ll be using those ideas in the future as Grayson gets better at climbing, for sure!