Traveling Tuesday – Sensory Bins for Grandma’s House

As a travel agent, I often look for tips to help my clients have a better experience wherever they are going.  Even on road trips.  Especially on road trips.  Especially on road trips… with kids.  Our own children are far from easy to deal with on the road.  Grayson is NOT fond of his car seat.  On many levels… but especially if the car isn’t moving.  Sadly, there’s not a whole lot I can do for him.  BUT – the other thing he’s not fond of, I do have more control over – that being Becca’s volume.  When she gets tired and frustrated, she gets LOUD.  Really, really LOUD.  And then Brother starts crying even harder and louder.  And then Mommy and Daddy really just need ear plugs because there’s nothing we can do.  We have been known to pull into a Burger King parking lot way after dark and attempt to tame the savage beasts a little by reading books and feeding a bottle.  But honestly, we are still on the search for what works for us in the car.  (And yes, I’ve tried a million cute games and magazines and magna doodle things.  But, when it’s bed time, it’s just bed time, and nothing can change that.)  So, my “Traveling Tuesday” posts the next few weeks leading up to your holiday travels for Thanksgiving will have tips and tricks for traveling with your kids, but it may be a while before they include anything for on the road… B/c we are still searching for that secret.

So today’s tip is about once you get to your destination – our trip was to the Grandparent’s house.  The grandparents have great toys that are different from what we have, but I also know that it’s good to bring something familiar just in case little Miss Picky decides she doesn’t like any of the toys and the “I’m BORED!” statement comes out.  Thankfully, we did really well on this trip – I think because Mommy packed lots of stuff to do in addition to all the fun stuff already there.

Becca loves sensory bins.  And she loves sorting.  She played with this bin a little bit there, and then has played with it a lot at home.  So… how do you travel with a sensory bin?  Because you’re probably thinking of a large tub with a lot of messy junk in it, right?  WRONG.  A traveling sensory bin should be something basic and simple, and not very messy.  And most importantly, it needs to go in a traveling container that has a lid. You need something like this. (aff link – thank you!)  I found some that were different colors, so mine is purple, not white like this one.  But the important features are the lid, the clips to hold it closed, and the handle.


So what did I put inside mine?  I got paper flower petals from (not an affiliate link, but it seriously should be as much as I love their stuff and tell everyone in the world about their website…), threw in some little white shiny poms for a different texture, and then did what I’m starting to become famous for – took foam butterfly stickers and stuck them together to create some nice thick, cushy foam butterflies.







Here’s one way she can interact with the bin – by sorting the flower petals by color, and putting the poms in a bowl.  She seems to enjoy pulling out the butterflies and flying them around the room more, though.  I’m good with that.  In a couple days, I plan to throw all this stuff in a big ziploc bag, and hide it in the cabinet til Spring comes around.  But with a little girl who loves flowers and butterflies, it’s NEVER off-season to make a butterfly/flower petal sensory bin! 🙂  I’m already starting to contemplate what sort of non-horribly-messy fall stuff I can throw in a bin… pictures will no doubt come later.

Total Prep Time for Mommy: This one took a tad longer than it should have b/c I had the darndest time peeling the back off of some of the butterflies to stick them together!  I had estimated it’d take me about three minutes to dump it all together into the box, but with my sticker issues, it took more like 10 minutes.
Total Play Time for Becca: The first time, she was highly distracted (at grandparent’s house, remember), so she played with it off and on over the course of 30-45 minutes.  At home, she has played with it exclusively for up to 15 minutes.

Clock Clothespins

In my ever-continuing quest to make new hands-on math activities, I decided to make a paper plate clock with clothespin numbers.  We are still always working to improve Becca’s grip strength so that she’ll be able to easily manipulate a pencil before too long.  This is a super fun little activity that not only does that, but also reinforces the location of each number on the clock.  Once she gets further into telling time, I will add the “5”, “10”, “15”, “20”… to the end of the clips, like I have the “o’clock” on the 12.  I love it when I can come up with a project for her that is fun now, but also will have a great expansion in the future.  I also hope to add a brad and hands to this very same clock once she learns more about telling time, so that she can manipulate the clock face to say a variety of times.  I love little Judy clocks, but why buy one when you can make a game that turns into a Judy clock?

It’s so simple to make!  I suggest that you clip your clothes pins onto the clock before writing the numbers on them – so that they are oriented appropriately when you look at it.  I also put numbers on both sides of the clips to reduce frustration.  It easily stores in a ziploc bag – I used the smaller paper plate so a gallon bag is more than large enough for the clock and all the clips.

Modification idea for older kids – if they are starting out already with clock knowledge, you could put the minutes only on the clip, with the numbers written on the paper plate, where they have to match “5” to the number 1, “10” to the number 2, “15” to the number 3, etc – matching “o’clock” to the number 12.  You’ll just want to use a fine-tip Sharpee instead of a thick one like I did or your 55 won’t fit on the clip. 🙂



Total Mommy Prep Time: About 5-7 minutes b/c I didn’t put the clips on the plate before writing the numbers, and had to re-do some of them that ended up upside down..
Total Becca Play Time: The first time, she played with it about 7 or 8 minutes, but she was highly distracted.  She has played with it for longer periods since then.  And, again, any time it’s a re-useable activity, I never mind putting 5-10 mins of my own time, or even longer, into the project that I know she will use over and over again. 🙂

Sunday Sorting

Often on Sunday afternoons I’m left trying to find something -ANYTHING- to occupy Becca so we can watch football.  This is one that seems to be a favorite – she’ll do it, and then come back to it later.  And the best part is, I can do this with her fairly mindlessly while watching the game! 🙂


What you’ll need is an ice cube tray, and a bunch of poms.  You’ll need to sort through the poms before you give them to your child, to make sure that what you are giving them will actually fit in each cube space.  Then, dump them all into a container, and let your child sort!  It’s the most fun if you have different sizes as well as different colors, so they are having to sort on more than one level of thinking.

Looking to buy poms?  You can find them at any craft store, or save a trip and have them delivered to you!  Here is an AWESOME option from Amazon for just $8.74 (Affiliate link – thank you!):
Pepperell Craft Making Assorted Pom Poms, Standard Colors, 750 Per Package51-cphyRAJL._SY450_




Total Prep Time for Mommy: About 3-5 minutes – just because I had to gather materials and sort the poms to make sure what I was giving her would fit and make sense.
Total Play Time for Becca: About 15-20 minutes at a time, several different times throughout the game, and then later in the week, too.

Money Monday

Today we’re taking a quick break from our Autumn activities to look at an easy-to-prep money project to throw together for your kids.  I was at Dollar Tree the other day (insert the sound of angels singing here… ha!) and found an AMAZING veggie/dip tray that was exactly what I had been dreaming of… Becca is super interested in “monies” – mainly because she knows that they buy her things, but also because she gets to put them in her piggy “dank” and they make fun sounds.  You gotta love the basic joys of childhood, right?  When was the last time you stopped to listen to the sound of money clanking into a piggy bank?

Anyway, I digressed.  I wanted to find a way to introduce the coins and their values that would be fun and simple now, but could grow more complex with her understanding.  Enter the fabulous veggie and dip tray.  (Again, with the sound of angels.)

Here’s what I did – I made this document – made available to you as a free printable!  Woohoo – now you really are with me on the angels singing thing, huh?  I knew you would be eventually. 😉  Print it out, color the coins (Sienna and Silver are the two crayon colors I used), and cut them out.  Then, I used book tape to attach my lovely little coin labels inside each section of the tray.

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Then here’s how I used it to teach:  First, I sorted through our play coins and pulled out about half of the amount of each coin that we had (only one 1/2 dollar and only one Susan B.) – I didn’t want to be too overwhelming the very first time.  Then I reminded her that play money looks a little different than real money (you could totally sort with real money if you had those coins laying around – I got these play coins in a set from the Target Dollar section, so we used these instead of dumping her piggy bank.)  I reminded her of the names of the coins, and then told her what each coin is worth – placing one of that coin inside the section where it belongs.  Then I encouraged her to sort the coins – looking at their size, color, and pictures to determine which picture they matched with.  As she would place the coin in the correct spot, I would say the name of the coin and it’s value.  “Good job!  That’s a nickel – worth 5 cents.”  It wasn’t long before she began parroting back to me whatever coin name and value I had just said.  😉  She got a little distracted and tired of sorting before she was done, but I pulled her back to the activity by doing some of the sorting for her and having her “check my work” to see if I was right.  (I threw one quarter in with the dimes, and she did catch me, so I knew she was paying attention… I’m sneaky that way.)  All in all, I felt like our first coin lesson went really well, and she asked to sort her “monies” later, so it was obviously something that she found fun and interesting.

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Eventually, I would like to do this activity as a building lesson – where she would sort the coins and then count to see how much money she had in each section, and then how much she had in all.  Would be a great way to sort her piggy bank before next Christmas – when I plan to have her use some of her piggy bank savings to buy a present for her brother, daddy, and each grandparent.  And by that point, she’ll be familiar enough with the activity and with the coins and their values, that that will be entirely possible!

I hope that this activity helps you to make teaching about coins a little more interesting for your child!  A fabulous extension that I already have in mind involves bills… you won’t want to miss that coming up here in a couple months! 🙂

Total Prep Time for Mommy – well, for you it’ll be about 5-7 minutes – download your copy of the printable, color, cut, tape, and then grab your “monies!” 🙂

Total Play Time for Becca – our initial lesson and discovery time was about 7 or 8 minutes, but she has played with it several times since then, and with the extensions I plan to do, this tray will be in use in our home for a long time.

Crazy Hair Day

As I have been racking my brain trying to think of good hand-eye coordination activities that also include math, this was a fun one I came up with using a styrofoam ball that I cut in half, and pipe cleaners that I cut into quarters.  These spiky haired dudes are super funny, apparently, because giggles abounded when I brought them out.  Then we worked on patterning by threading the colored beads onto the “strands” of “hair.”  I would start a pattern, and she would continue it.  She also liked sorting them by color so that one strand had only purple or only blue.  This was the first time I really worked with her on patterning, so I was amazed to see how well she did – I even introduced an “AAB” pattern, and she repeated it like a pro.  Her attention span of adding to each strand was short – so sometimes she would just say with color came next, which I thought was just fine.  I have left this activity where she can reach it – still on its tray, with all beads available for use, and she keeps coming back to it at various times to add more beads.  She says it’s “super fun, Mommy!”


The original presentation

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I had to show her how to put the first bead on the pipe cleaner – she was unsure what to do with them, which kind of surprised me because she usually does really well with invitations to play, and figures out on her own what to do, but she was trying to poke the beads into the styrofoam, which was NOT what I wanted her to do.  After a while, she got obviously tired, so I dumped the beads out on her tray, and grabbed her bulldozer, which was nearby, and let her have fun pushing the beads around.

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Total Prep Time for Mommy: About 5 minutes – since I had to cut the styrofoam ball and the pipe cleaners and then stick them in, and try to find a little bowl for the beads.

Total Play Time for Becca: In the first sitting, she played for 30 minutes, but has gone back to the tray several times for 2-5 minutes at a time.