Easy & Cheap Homemade Baby Wipes

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I know this isn’t exactly about toddler crafts and activities, but as I got ready to make a new batch of wipes this past weekend, I thought I’d take a minute to share with you what I do. DIY (with the goal of saving money) is kind of my thing, and making these wipes has been a really good decision for our family.

I started making baby wipes a year ago, when the twins had a lot of diaper rash and the store-brand wipes we bought didn’t seem to be helping. In fact, they were extremely drying on the babies’ skin. I was tempted to run a damp wet cloth over them after using the wipes. In addition to that, with twins, there were so many diaper changes in a day and we were going through wipes like crazy. Then, I found this post from Amber at Four to Adore. She ranted and raved about making her own diaper wipes and I decided to give it a try.

One year later and it was a wonderful, cost-effective move for us. They aren’t reusable wipes obviously (and I do cross the line there…), but one half roll lasts us 3-4 weeks. Not only that, but the diaper rash has greatly improved and these wipes aren’t drying on baby bottoms. Making wipes takes me about five minutes, so it’s easy to do.

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The recipe calls for:

2 cups water

1 tbsp. coconut oil (liquified)

1 tbsp. baby wash (whatever you use is fine)

2-3 drops tea tree oil

Now, with regard to coconut oil – it’s like a super food, honestly. It has more purposes than you could even think of, including for cooking, as chapstick, diaper rash cream, moisturizer…you name it. And we use it for all of those things. With cloth diapers, I can’t use Desitin or other creams, so I slather on coconut oil at most diaper changings to keep irritation at bay. I bought my coconut oil at the grocery store.

As for tea tree oil – I bought in on Amazon. It’s not cheap, but you only use 2-3 drops, once a month or so. That bottle will last us YEARS. It’s strong stuff, too. It’s the same oil that’s found in Melaluca natural cleaning products – and it keeps the wipes from accumulating mold. It basically replaces the bleaching chemicals found in store wipes.

When I get ready to make wipes, I first cut a paper towel roll in half.

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These paper towels are Costco-brand so we save some money there. They are also select-a-size which is perfect, as I don’t need giant wipes. The select-a-size closely resembles the size of store wipes. Cutting it in half leaves me the other half for the next time I make wipes, so I only cut the rolls every other time.

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The container is from the dollar store. As you can see, I’ve written down the recipe on the lid so I don’t have to keep looking it up every time. If you notice, I added a little more water to this batch of wipes (2 cups). Either amount is fine – I just found that I liked the wipes to be a little more moist.

After mixing all the ingredients in the bottom of the empty container, I then push the roll cut side down into the container and let it sit. My part is basically done!

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After anywhere between 20 minutes to a few hours (as the mixture soaks through the roll slowly), I pull up on the brown roll until it’s loose enough to come out. Sometimes I’ll forget and do other things and many hours later it’s soaked and ready to go. This time I was impatient and dragged it out sooner. The key is to mix the liquids in the container before putting in the paper towels, rather than putting the paper towels in first and then pouring the mixture on top of it. Once the roll part is pulled out, you’re good to go. I pull out the end piece that’s in the middle and voila. Wipes.

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This batch, as I said, lasts quite a while and never loses its moisture or gets moldy. It smells fresh from the tea tree oil and really, I’m a huge fan. That said, there are a couple things to keep in mind.

They are paper towels, and therefore they are flimsy. Costco brand does NOT rip, shred, etc. which is amazing. Not tearing whatsoever. However, they’re thin like any paper towel would be. It doesn’t bother me at all, but I suppose it takes a little getting used to.

The other thing is that for me, I tried taking out a bunch and putting them in a reusable container in my diaper bag for when we’re out of the house, and I found the wipes would dry out pretty quickly. Because of that, I do keep a small package of store wipes for when we’re visiting relatives or out at the store. I prefer these wipes, of course, but it was worth the occasional purchase of store wipes.

That’s it! I would absolutely recommend making baby wipes to anyone – even for kids. There’s nothing in it that makes it a “diaper wipe” – it would be safe for cleaning faces and hands too!

Simple Easter Egg Activities for Toddlers, Part 2

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In the last week or so, we’ve been in full Easter egg mode. These eggs are such versatile toys – you can use them for so many activities and games for babies, toddlers, or preschoolers. We use them year round, though I’ve put together six activities in particular that are free (assuming you have the eggs already), simple in concept, and easy to set up. The twins did the six over the course of a weekend and loved them all.

Part 1 of our six Easter egg activities can be found here, where we played an alphabet identification game, had an egg race, and practiced sorting by color. This time, the twins enjoyed some scooping practice, a water sensory bin, and sorted with the help of an old egg carton.

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This was a “throw together last minute” activity that actually worked out well. The twins were antsy, and I quickly loaded up two trays with some eggs, a plastic ice cream dish, and a tablespoon. The original goal was for them to practice scooping up the eggs with the spoon and dropping them in the cup. C had other plans, and enjoyed opening and shutting the eggs multiple times. B did try scooping though.

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The lip of the tray helped him in scooping up an egg with the spoon, though in retrospect this activity would have been easier if the eggs were in a bowl of some kind, not a flat surface. Oh well – they got the challenging version. B is persistent when he wants to do something, and was successful in scooping and bringing them to the cup a few times.

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He had a good time, even though it was more challenging than I meant it to be.

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Our Easter egg water sensory bin, as with all water bins, was a hit for the toddlers. I added a few drops of purple food coloring, some eggs, and some other tools. After they got started, I also added a little soap for a few bubbles. Not a complicated concept by any means, but the eggs had these little holes in the bottom that made it fun to scoop water and pour from.

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Pouring practice is all the rage in our house right now. They can’t get enough of it.

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They enjoyed this water bin for a long time!

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This last Easter egg activity was unbelievably simple, like so simple I can’t believe I hadn’t done it sooner. I’ve had these eggs for a long time now, sitting in an egg carton. One night I grabbed some markers and simply colored the bottoms of the carton and let it dry overnight. The next day, the twins got their eggs and put the eggs in the corresponding spots that matched the color.

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DSC_0318I couldn’t get too many pictures because this one was a little too easy for them – they had the eggs in correct locations in about 30 seconds, and they weren’t too keen on repeating the game more than once or twice. However, it would make a great travel activity as it’s portable and easy! The only thing I would recommend is to use a cardboard carton, not plastic, as the marker didn’t stick too well.

My goal was to find Easter egg activities and games that were simple and cheap – and all six of them fit the bill!

I’m on to something slightly more complicated (though still cheap) next. It might involve my sewing machine – we’ll see if I don’t change my mind!

Simple Easter Egg Activities for Toddlers, Part 1

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Maybe I do all this just so I have an excuse to make a collage in PicMonkey. It’s so satisfying!

As you know, I’m all about the cheap and easy around here. I need activities that don’t cost much money to create, because the twins go through activities every hour and I’m not that rich. But I also need activities that don’t cost too much of my time, because I’m working full-time and I don’t have any minutes to spare.

What we do have in my house (with PLENTY to spare) are Easter eggs. We have SO many of them. They’re kind of the best toy around, I think. After pompoms, of course (I need to do a round up pompom post!). There’s just so much you can DO with Easter eggs. So last weekend I went on a mission to play with the eggs for two days straight to see how many cheap, simple games we could play. As Sunday drew to a close, we managed to squeeze in six activities – with many more we could have done. I geared these activities towards my twins’ age, 20 months – but honestly, you can practice reading and math skills for older kids with the eggs and babies can play with them as well. They’re a very versatile toy that should be used all year round.

Instead of bringing you all six in one post, I’m splitting them up, three and three. This is Part 1 of the no-prep games we played with Easter eggs. Part 2 will be coming soon!

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This game was unbelievably simple, fun and FREE. The twins never had a ramp before, and even after it was used for eggs, they sent their cars, blocks and balls down to see what would happen. I got the idea here, and we modeled it pretty close to the original. I dug in the garage and found a sturdy old box. My husband kindly folded down and taped the sides, so the eggs would slide straight down the box. Then I set it up against the couch, gave the twins the eggs and let them play. It took them a few minutes to figure out how it worked, but once they got it, they thoroughly enjoyed letting the eggs sail.

DSC_0041 DSC_0061Such a simple concept, and sometimes those are the ones that are the most fun! Even after they got tired of racing the eggs, they practiced their newest skills, under and over. 

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DSC_0674Another FREE activity that needed NO prep time whatsoever. It happened by accident, actually. I was getting set up for something else and then the twins asked for a pot. I tossed in the eggs and remembered I had some plastic ice cream dishes in the basement. The cups matched the eggs and an activity was born. I put out the cups and asked the twins to help put the eggs in the cups. They did the rest!

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C delightfully pondered which cup to put the eggs in, and as she did so I’d ask her to name the colors. I’m finding C is really into gross motor activities, and she loved dancing around the pot as she chose her eggs.

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B enjoyed opening and closing the eggs (a great fine motor skill, even for younger toddlers!), and then sorting them into the cups.

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After the cups were filled, C dumped them and started over again!

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This third (FREE!) Easter egg activity we did involved about two minutes of prep time. I first saw the idea here.  Another set of toys we aren’t in short supply of are magnetic letters. We must have at least 3 sets. I pre-stuffed the Easter eggs with the magnetic letters and then grabbed a cookie sheet.

This activity was fun and educational for the twins on a few levels. First, they loved opening each egg and being surprised by the letters they saw. Of course, they had to shout out what they found.

Now, this activity could be modified – if your kids didn’t know their letters yet, or getting their letter practice on was too easy, you could stuff the eggs with a variety of other things – like cut out shapes from construction or foam paper, colored circles to review colors, individual beans to count and sort, etc.

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After the twins shared what letters they had discovered, they enjoyed sticking their letters onto the cookie sheet. Toddlers love magnets!

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After they emptied all the eggs, I would go and refill them as they were playing with the cookie sheet. I have since separated out 26 eggs and stored them, stuffed with letters, in a separate bag so that whenever we travel to a relative’s house, we can just bring the bag all ready to go.

As I said, these were three of the six Easter egg activities we did over the weekend. All were a success and could be done year round! Stay tuned for Part 2, and if you haven’t already, come over and like my new Facebook page. I post not only my own activities but also the best toddler crafts and games from around the internet!

Stop Stereotyping My Children

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When your daughter was born, what were your wishes for her? Were they different than your hopes for your son?

Soon after finding out I was carrying boy/girl twins, a stranger approached me and asked me what I was having. I answered matter-of-factly, expecting a simple “Congratulations”. Instead she exclaimed, eyes wide with excitement, “Oh! He’ll take such good care of her!” Wait, what? Did I miss something? Was my daughter going to need to be taken care of?

When they were born five weeks early, my son was able to return to us after only 12 hours in the NICU, while my daughter stayed there for 12 days. People commented that my son was “sturdy” and “tough” because he came to us so soon and that my daughter was “angelic” and “fragile”. So sleep deprived and emotional, I couldn’t wrap my head around what I was being told. My daughter and son were both fragile and tough because they were born prematurely. They were twins, they were preemies – they were the same.

Over the course of their first year of life, my twins swapped personalities multiple times. A once calm and light-hearted baby, my son changed into a strong-willed, passionate toddler. My daughter was the opposite. Fussy and easily irritated as an infant, she grew to be all smiles, easy-going, the life of any party. And yet, I was told, “Boys are so much easier than girls. You’ll find out when she’s a teenager.” Will I? Are all daughters doomed to be door-slamming drama queens who talk back to their mothers? (How’s that for a stereotype?) What if my daughter is different?

I heard, “Boys can’t stop moving. They’re so physical. They’ll jump, climb and keep you on your toes. They’re hyper. Little girls sit so nicely and behave.” Is that true? My daughter is currently the “active” one. She yearns to be upside down, thrown into the air, and she’s learning to stand on her head. My son will sit with a bucket of blocks for a half hour and read a pile of books five times in a row. What if he’s different?

I don’t know that they are, because my twins are also the same. They both love pink, wearing sunglasses, and kissing dogs. They both love running and yelling, banging pots and pans, and throwing balls.

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My husband and I know that with boy/girl twins, we’ve been given the chance to raise them as stereotypically as we want them to be. We know that in some ways, they’ll fit those stereotypes and confirm people’s opinions. There’s nothing wrong with that. Sure, we dress our daughter in pastels and our son in vibrant colors sometimes. Yes, my daughter is super social and yes, my son loves to shout “vroom, vroom” when he pushes his trucks. But my daughter also loves to wear blue, play rough and throw herself to the ground. My son asks for his hair in a ponytail, loves stuffed animals and kisses anything that stands still for more than two seconds.

Their second birthday is coming up. There’s no need for them to have separate gifts. Princesses and dolls for her, animal books and cars for him – it’s not necessary. In fact, it’s ridiculous, outdated, and just plain wrong. They share everything. That means you’ll find my daughter riding a toy fire truck down the driveway and my son cradling his pink lovey. At the same time, there’s no need to fight the stereotypes either. My daughter doesn’t need “girl” colored blocks and cars. My son doesn’t need dolls made specifically for boys. They’re going to play with whatever we put out for them. Balance is key. We hope to offer them a variety of toys and games in all sorts of colors and materials. They shouldn’t be limited to any one type.

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The coolest thing about being parents is that my husband and I get to mold our children with the values we believe in. We know we’re not going to feed the stereotypes. At the same time, we aren’t out to prove something to the world either.

We’re going to treat them the same, because they are the same. They’re both toddlers. Soon, they’ll both be just kids. Later, they’ll both be just teenagers.

We’re going to treat them differently, because they are different. Their individual characteristics (not gender specific) should be noted and respected.

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So to whoever told me that my son will grow up protecting my daughter solely because he’s a boy and she’s a girl – I ask that you stop stereotyping my children. They’re still just babies. We have no idea what kind of adults they will turn out to be. Until they’re grown, we’ll be treating them just as they are. Different, but the same.

Quick and Easy Snow Ice Cream – 4 ingredients!

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I’ve been lucky enough to write my second guest post in a week; this one for Louise at Building Blocks & Acorns. She recently created the “Outdoor Play Challenge” for the month of March and invited guest bloggers to share their ideas for getting toddlers and kids outside, exploring nature and shaking off the long, cold winter. Check out the link to her challenge for a new outdoor activity for kids every day in the month of March!

outdoor-play-challenge-imageMy twins are just old enough to finally realize how awesome being outside is, and whenever we do go out and play, they’re always devastated to have to come back in the house. I knew this challenge would certainly make the twins’ day. My problem, though, was thinking of an activity we could do outside in March, as this is New England after all. I had to laugh at all the other amazing bloggers who created these great activities that take place – in the grass. I’ve still got two feet of snow in my front yard – there won’t be any grass for quite a while! So that meant spring activities were not an option. Luckily, I had just the activity we could do that would allow the toddlers to participate, play outdoors, and then enjoy the final product – the fruits of their labor. We made snow ice cream! For those who know me – yes, I don’t hesitate at the chance to make and eat something sweet. My husband and my two dogs also really enjoyed this activity. Even though snow ice cream took only five minutes to make, It got the whole family outside for almost two hours!

Recently, we had the perfect day – a fresh snow had fallen the night before, but the temperatures were nice and cozy – mid to upper 40’s. It was the perfect day to make snow ice cream without having to come back in the house. We had a lovely Sunday afternoon! Here’s what we did:

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While the twins napped, I gathered their snow gear. Then, I mixed all the ingredients together in a bowl, except for the snow. Ready for this recipe? It only has four ingredients. SO SIMPLE!

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Mix 1 c. milk,

1/4 c. sugar

1 tsp. vanilla in a bowl, and chill until ready to use.

When ready, add 4 cups of fresh snow, stir and enjoy!

DSC_0010When the twins woke up and got dressed, we headed outside to their water table. Using measuring cups and spoons, we helped the twins each scoop two cups of fresh snow.

DSC_0021 DSC_0035After the snow was added, all it took was some good stirring for a minute or two until the consistency was what we wanted. I noticed that it got to a point that if we continued to stir, it would melt and we’d have mush. In the end, the snow ice cream was soft, but also icy – kind of like what would happen if you froze a milkshake. It had that slight icy texture. Now, our 19 month olds needed some assistance in the stirring process, but for slightly older children, they could do this entire activity by themselves – gathering their ingredients, scooping snow, and stirring it all together. It would be a great way to introduce simple and easy cooking to children.

The twins thoroughly enjoyed this delicious treat.

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I mean, they practically licked the bowls clean. My dogs DID lick the bowls clean. We just used vanilla and added sprinkles for color – and the flavor reminded me of a Dunkin Donuts Vanilla Bean Coolatta. It was quite tasty. There are other recipes out there that add other flavors, like chocolate or coffee. This was such a success that I think it will be a yearly tradition. In fact, I can’t believe I had never made snow ice cream before. I was missing out!

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C, with her mother’s sweet tooth, would have eaten the entire big bowl if we let her. She was covered in ice cream, but it was a great snow experience for both the toddlers! I don’t know if I would have thought of this idea if it weren’t for the “Outdoor Play Challenge”. But I’m so glad we did this – it was a ton of fun for the whole family!

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St. Patrick’s Day Tot Trays

St. Patrick's Day Tot Trays

Okay, so I’ve just fallen deeply in love with PicMonkey.com. I edit all my pictures there for free, and have now just made my first collage with it, and I’m really happy with the results. Very exciting!

Besides PicMonkey, another new love of mine is the tot tray. I recently tried using tot trays in our home for the first time, and I love so many things about them: the simplicity of the activities (which usually = cheap!), the ease of setup/cleanup, the educational aspects to them, and the (eventual) responsibility the twins will have in taking care of them. They fit with everything I love about toddler activities.

It’s my understanding that tot trays are usually sorted into categories that align with the Montessori model, including practical life, language arts, math, sensorial, and cultural studies. For example, you could Pinterest just “practical life tot trays” and come up with many cool ideas that help foster independence. However, for this set of tot trays, I went with a holiday theme: St. Patrick’s Day.

Over the course of a week or so, the twins did five tot tray activities that were simple, educational, and best of all – unbelievably cheap. Instead of writing five separate posts, I’m showing them all here and will keep the text on the short end as this post is picture-heavy.

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Money spent: $1.87. (Bought pony beads in assorted colors at Walmart for $13; each color averaged out to $.87)

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As hard as they tried, they could not thread the pipe cleaners with the beads. They are still a bit young at 19 months. However, they were great at unthreading the beads and did this for a while! As a disclaimer – this was their first time using beads and I was a little nervous to see how they would handle them, as the beads are quite small and could easily be swallowed. Neither of them currently puts much in their mouths right now, and B tested the waters by putting one to his mouth and looking at me. I immediately told him it was “yucky”, and asked him to help me put the bead on the pipe cleaner. He was distracted easily and didn’t try it again. C never tried it. That said, they are still a little young for these beads, and I’ll likely wait until they’re a bit older before using them again.

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Overall, they enjoyed this tot tray.

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Money spent: $1. I used an old container from our repurposing old containers activity and cut a slit in the top, then wrapped it in green construction paper for St. Patrick’s Day. I bought the coins at the dollar store.

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This tot tray was a huge hit and continues to be used on a daily basis. They loved being able to put the coins in the slot, then open the container, dump the coins out and start over. Lots of fun for this activity and it was such a simple concept. Big Y coins work just as well…

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This tot tray was serious business!

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Money spent: $0. Free!

My personal favorite – I collected toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls for a few weeks, then asked my students to help me wrap them up in construction paper during recess. I already had the pom poms from the one million things we have done with them!

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C took to this tot tray right away: sorting her pom poms, lifting up the rolls, and starting over. B (who is currently obsessed with colors), wanted his favorite colors in his possession immediately. His colors of the moment continue to be orange, but also now yellow and brown. I had brown construction paper but not brown pom poms, so I didn’t include them in this activity. However, a happy B is a happy Mommy, and he focused on trying to stack his brown rolls while C sorted. Still a success, and I plan on eventually cutting up the rolls to do a giant threading activity.

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Money Spent: $1. The dried split peas came from Walmart. I already had the tiny measuring pitcher, though any cup would do!

I almost didn’t do this activity. I thought – there’s no way the twins can pour yet at 19 months. I had never shown them how, though they occasionally did it in the bathtub or with the sensory bins. But nothing so specific as to pour this into that container. C didn’t do much pouring, really. She was entranced by the texture of the peas, which we had never used before (and would make a great base to a sensory bin!)

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But B found his niche. Pouring things is what his little self is apparently made to do right now. He LOVED IT.

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Not only did he love it, but he knew exactly what to do. As you can see from the pictures, he barely missed his target. He poured back and forth between the two containers for a good half hour. It really took me by surprise. I’m interested to see what else he can pour, and would love for him to eventually pour himself water to drink and you know, use this skill in a practical manner. A hugely successful activity for B.

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Money spent: $1 – for the stickers at Walmart. I printed the shamrock from coloring castle.com.

This last tot tray was C’s strength and she took to it for a very long time. First of all, she’s really into stickers and coloring right now. I couldn’t find St. Patrick’s Day stickers (which was my original plan), so I bought these green letters instead. I figured I’d go for the double whammy of alphabet review as well as practicing sticker skills. In order for the twins to get a sticker, they had to tell me which letter they wanted. B practiced reading his letters back to me.

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Then I gave them both a green crayon, and that’s when C’s fun really began. She colored and scribbled for a long time, until her picture was completely covered in green.

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So obviously simple, and yet still so fun. A very successful activity for C.

Total Money Spent for all 5 Tot Trays: $4.87

I wanted my newest batch of tot trays to reflect St. Patrick’s day (and our focus on the color green) since it’s right around the corner. I suppose now I’ll be pondering what to do for the arrival of spring and Easter!

As a side note, I’ve recently created a Facebook page  where I share not only my own posts but those from other bloggers with similar interests as my own. Come check it out! 

The Cheapest, Simplest Sensory Bin Ever

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This St. Patrick’s Day-themed bin was a result of what happens when you need an activity pronto that takes less than a minute or two to set up and will keep toddlers occupied for at least a half hour. I find myself scouring Pinterest and other blogs often for ideas on what we could do with the twins. But sometimes, it’s the simple things then lend themselves to the perfect activity – no trips to the store needed!

With all the sensory bins we’ve done lately, I never even considered the obvious soap and water. In fact, I didn’t think of it this time either. My husband did – and it was his first sensory bin! Go Daddy!

I wasn’t home, and I guess Lil’ C wanted to do some pouring. My husband has watched me plenty of times in the process of setting up a bin, starting with dumping out my shoes on the bed and stealing the container. He threw in some tools, a few old washcloths, soap, and green food coloring. Then, thankfully, he grabbed my camera. Another successful sensory bin!

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As usual, the twins got right to work. Out of all the bases we’ve used in our sensory bins so far (water, potato flakes, beans, and rice), water is definitely their favorite. It’s also one of my least favorites, as it’s guaranteed to soak the children and then you have to deal with mopping the water up and getting new clothes. But still, it’s worth it once in a while.

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B just loves scooping and pouring. He’s been doing a few different pouring activities lately (more on that soon!), and really – he could just transfer water/rice/beans all. day. long. He is so serious about his sensory bins – he concentrates super hard and is quiet and focused. I’d say sensory bins are one of his very favorite things to do.

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This was the first time washcloths were incorporated into a bin, and I’m glad my husband thought of it – it looks like the twins enjoyed playing with them. And really, it makes perfect sense: you can fill them with water, squeeze them out, watch water drip, scoop them up, and practice washing the tools. Great for fine motor development and strengthening hand muscles.

My husband gets home before me every Wednesday afternoon, so I’ll be curious to see if he found this fun and successful enough to start doing weekly sensory activities!