Fostering toddler independence, DIY-style

Edited: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I will receive a percentage of the profits. 

There are some areas in which I feel very confident in letting my twins just do their thing and figuring life out on their own. There are also some areas (ahem, meal time) when I’m slightly obsessed with making sure they take small bites and chew their food 1,000 times before swallowing. I’m working on that.

I can say, though, that I foster independence at home much more successfully when I set up certain areas of my house to be ready for whatever my twins want to do. Then the decision to let them be independent is out of my hands, because my home is already set up for this exact thing. In the past few months, I’ve made a few changes in my house that have really helped the twins make choices and be successful on their own.

First of all, Pinterest is my BFF. I know it’s so stereotypical. My husband likes to tell me that Pinterest is where your wife spends hours on the computer, only to end up serving the dinner salad in a mason jar and calling it a day. It’s kind of true. But I lack creativity. I’m great at following directions. I only save pins that I feel I can and will accomplish. So therefore, all the ideas I’m about to share came from my Pinterest searches.

DIY Toddler Art Station and Art Cart

With our nanny at our house every day, all day, I wanted the twins at age 2 to be able to do arts and crafts on their own. The kids have structured play during the day but also free play. I wanted art supplies to be at the ready for whenever we’re busy and they need to entertain themselves. As is my nature, I also wanted our art station to be as cheap as possible. So I consulted my BFF, Pinterest. Pinterest led me here, and this is what I based our art station and cart off of.

DIY Toddler Art Station

I used a piece of wood I found in our basement and Target’s $1 tin buckets we already had from the twins’ first birthday party. I already had the art supplies as well, though I continue to buy more on sale and switch them out. At the moment, the sticker bucket actually says, “stamps”. I bought the hooks at Target and my husband kindly drilled them in.

DIY Toddler Art Station

We have a small table that the twins eat breakfast and lunch at, and due to lack of space in our tiny cape, I decided that table would also serve as their art area. I found an old TV cart in my basement and I already had the plastic craft trays (affiliate link) from when we started doing Tot Trays. After a little modeling, I taught the twins that when they wanted to color (or use playdoh, stickers, etc.), they needed to grab a tray first, then a piece of paper and carry them to their table. Then they could grab the bucket of supplies they wanted and bring it to their trays.

DIY Toddler Art Station

They love it. These pictures are from the summer but the art station is used daily. At this point, they now know what color tray the other twin prefers and I frequently hear C saying, “Here’s your tray, B!” On the weekends after breakfast, she typically announces, “Let’s do playdoh now!” and runs to gather her materials. It’s been wonderful to allow them to partake in arts and crafts on their own without me needing to run around gathering supplies.

DIY Toddler Picture Schedule

Over the summer, B was struggling with transitions. He was so upset in between everything that happened – from dinner to bathtime, from getting up in the morning to breakfast. It was one meltdown after another. I hated that I was the misdirected cause of his anger. It was me saying, “It’s time to do _____” that got him so upset. Our schedules are pretty solid throughout the week. I wanted him to know what was coming next and even if he got angry, it wouldn’t be at me. So I Pinterested it, obviously. I found many examples but liked this one the best. I used mycutegraphics.com, made my own cards on Microsoft Word and printed them out. Around the same time, I paid $33 for this laminator as well as these laminating pouches (affiliate links). I knew it would get a ton of use over the years. I laminated the cards onto cardstock and slapped some velcro to the backs. I used a foam board (from Walmart – $2 or $3) and now the cards are interchangeable.

DIY Toddler Picture Schedule

I put it at the twins’ height in our hallway. They know to check the board when they aren’t sure what’s coming next but typically, most things stay the same every day.

DIY Toddler Picture Schedule

I have to say, this was helpful for fostering independence. More importantly, it cut down on B’s meltdowns. The bath card is always after the dinner card. He can’t be angry at me for my sudden bathtime announcement – he knew since he woke up in the morning that bath would follow dinner. Our nanny adjusts it as she sees fit. Right now, this is really working for us.

DIY Learning Tower

This one deserves its own post and is months in the making. Almost a year ago, my husband started making the twins’ learning towers. Learning towers are a Montessori staple, but we found it on (….Pinterest…) because we wanted the twins to be able to simply see out the window. We had a lot of scrap wood and my husband said, “I can make that”. And he did. And it took a while, and wasn’t exactly dirt cheap. That said, it was way cheaper to make one than buy one, and I love how I was able to “personalize” them with the twins’ colors, blue and purple. When they were first made (and not even painted yet), the twins were 18 months old. They’re now almost 27 months old, but these towers have already gotten a good amount of kitchen use.

DIY Learning Tower

This was one of the first times we used them. B helped Daddy make afternoon smoothies. He absolutely LOVED being at counter height.

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C loved it too, and though we planned on them helping us cook in the kitchen, I found I could just hand either of them a pot and a spoon and they enjoyed pretending, stirring…

DIY Learning Tower

…and sampling dinner.

DIY Learning Tower

Someday I’ll do a post with the step by step, because my husband did take pictures along the way. I love their quality, and someday perhaps we will sell them. I don’t like how heavy they are. In a big house, they might have a permanent home against a counter but in our house, we have to move them to the mudroom when we aren’t using them.

In case you’re not up to sawing pieces out of wood and would rather invest in a learning tower, you can find a few great ones HERE and HERE! (affiliates!)

So these were a few changes we made that have really encouraged and fostered independence from our toddlers. I am always looking for new ideas, because I truly believe in the concept of independence. The more they can do on their own, the better! Selfishly, I also love that there’s less for me to do – more of it’s on them, saving me time and energy. I did pin many more ideas but haven’t yet tried them – you can find all of them on my Pinterest page!

DIY: Simple Sew Fabric Letters

I have mentioned before that I’ve always wanted to make the twins an alphabet they could hold onto and rearrange by themselves. My original idea, which I started when the babies were infants and I didn’t yet have a sewing machine, was to hand-sew felt letters filled with stuffing. I believe I made two letters before I quit – hand-sewing is just not worth it, and stuffing the letters was a giant pain. I shelved the project for quite a long time, not thinking much of it.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I will receive a percentage of the profits. 

DIY: Simple Sew Fabric Letters

Recently, after finishing my last big project (the baby blanket bunnies), I scoured the internet looking for my next craft. I stumbled upon an amazing tutorial for making fabric letters. The blogger provided clear pictures and easy-to-follow directions, which seriously helped me in making these letters. I followed her craft to a “T”. After completion, I consider this project a great one for beginning sewers, as the stitches are straight and simple. While it took me a little time (a few nights worth), it wasn’t a massive undertaking by any means and I really enjoyed making them!

So here’s what I did. First, I gathered my materials.

DIY: Simple Sew Fabric Letters

Buying fabric is kind of addicting. (This fabric is super cute, and cheap!)  I only buy what’s on sale, and I purchased the three pieces on the left for under $4 total, for a half a yard each (which was way too much!). I purchased the two solid colors for like $1.50, as they were in the scraps pile. The fabrics on the right were leftovers from my buckle pillows. I had additional fabric donated from a few relatives. The only purchases I really made were the cotton batting and the fabric marker. The batting was $9 (find it HERE!), but I only used about 1/4 of it, and it’s some good quality stuff. I’ll be looking in the future for little projects I can use this with! In addition, the letters look the best when you use pinking shears, which if you don’t know (I didn’t!), they are special scissors that are fabulous for cutting fabric.  This pair is a great deal!

DIY: Simple Sew Fabric Letters

It’s really a straightforward project. I took a night just to cut – you need a top piece of patterned fabric, a bottom piece of solid color fabric, and two squares of cotton batting in the middle. I cut out the letters provided in the tutorial (so helpful!), traced them onto the fabric with a fabric marker, pinned my pieces together and started sewing!

DIY: Simple Sew Fabric Letters

Sewing along the lines was quite easy, as it’s straightforward. Cutting out the inside of a few shapes (A, B, P, D, etc) was slightly trickier and you need a pair of sharp, small scissors.

DIY: Simple Sew Fabric Letters

After the letters were sewn, I took my pinking shears and cut closely around the letters. The scissors added a nice touch! Here’s a finished letter:

DIY: Simple Sew Fabric Letters

I really like the way they came out! This craft could be tailored to boys or girls with various interests, as the fabrics you choose define the way the letters look in the end. I was going for a “nursery” type vibe with most of my colors, but the original tutorial provides a more classic look. The next morning after finishing the letters, I surprised the twins with a new present, and they took to the letters right away; picking them up, excitedly identifying them, and sorting them on a chair.

DIY: Simple Sew Fabric Letters DIY: Simple Sew Fabric LettersThe basket of letters has now made its way into the playroom as a permanent fixture!

DIY: Simple Sew Fabric Letters DIY: Simple Sew Fabric Letters

I got this craft idea out of my system now, but every few weeks I get the itch to start up a new project! I’ve already got my next one, and it’s long-term: FELT! More on that soon…

Check out more of my recent projects as well as related links on Facebook or Pinterest

 

DIY: Upcycled Baby Blanket Bunnies

 

“Free” might be my favorite word when it comes to activities and toys for my 20 month-old toddler twins. They seem to enjoy the free things in our house more than the toys that cost money. Not only that, but I’m really into making things for them that are sentimental – that they can keep for years and years. For example, I painted a song quote on a canvas in their room. I painted the block letters that hang above their cribs. I’ve taken almost every picture that hugs the walls in our small home. And that makes me happy, so I keep doing it. After receiving my sewing machine for Christmas, (mine is similar to THIS one) I took up sewing and knew I’d want to make toys for the twins, like these buckle pillows. When I saw this project, I knew I had to make it.

Edited: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I will receive a percentage of the profits. 

DIY: Upcycled Baby Blanket BunniesSee, it’s almost Easter. These bunnies would make a great Easter basket gift. My real inspiration, however, was my daughter C, who is currently going through a “bunny phase”.

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She loves bunnies, pointing them out wherever she can find them and kissing them to death. I had wanted to buy both of my kids stuffed bunnies for Easter but nice ones were super expensive. Again, this was the perfect project for me.

The original idea is called “Mooshy Belly Bunny” and is completely adorable. Holly even provided a handy tutorial that I printed out, and she claimed that beginner sewers would be able to churn out a bunny in one hour. I held on to that hope, envisioning this post being written a week ago. However, that did not happen. I am a really beginner sewer and to be honest, this project took me a week and a half, working on it only at night. I was happy to have it done, though I’m very pleased with the result.

The original bunny was made from a child’s old shirt, which I thought was wonderful and sentimental. While combing through my bags of clothes, though, I came across the twins’ old blankets, and knew that I would use them instead.

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The twins, born five weeks early, were constantly snuggled up in these blankets as all babies are. I still can’t believe they were that small, and revisiting these pictures makes me yearn for that age again (even with the lack of sleep). Yes, these blankets were perfect for the project and if I were to ever do it again, I would stick with the baby blanket theme.

IMG_0129Here’s my take on this project:

First of all, definitely print out the tutorial before starting. It’s very helpful!

DIY:Upcycled Baby Blanket Bunnies

The templates provided were great, and after gathering the blankets and my husband’s white t-shirt (for the insides of the ears), I got to work.

DIY:Upcycled Baby Blanket BunniesOf course, I began by pinning the templates to the blankets and cutting each piece out.

DIY:Upcycled Baby Blanket Bunnies

Then I sewed around the edge of the bunny body, leaving a small section open for stuffing.

DIY:Upcycled Baby Blanket Bunnies

Those were the easy parts. After stuffing, I sewed the openings shut and attached the ears. (Find the stuffing HERE!)

DIY:Upcycled Baby Blanket Bunnies

Many days later…at this point I was in the home stretch. The bunnies needed a face and a tail. The tail (not pictured) was a simple white pompom, attached with a needle and thread. The face was embroidered using a satin stitch and a split stitch. YouTube videos came in handy here, and they came out pretty good!

DIY:Upcycled Baby Blanket Bunnies

When they were all done, I had two cute little bunnies!

DIY:Upcycled Baby Blanket BunniesI have to admit, I made many errors. Many. They don’t quite look like the original. I think B’s bunny came out better than C’s, which was a little disappointing as she’s the bunny queen right now. However, I doubt my toddlers will notice (or care). Not only that, but the fact that I’ve dug out their old, worn baby blankets and turned them into something they can snuggle at night (that was free!) really makes me happy. I hope they keep these bunnies around for many years.

DIY:Upcycled Baby Blanket Bunnies

UPDATE: Since giving the bunnies to the twins on Easter, they have fallen in love! The bunnies have become an additional lovey for their cribs at nighttime, which makes me happy.

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Simple Easter Egg Activities for Toddlers, Part 2

 

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.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I will receive a percentage of the profits. 

PicMonkey Collage

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 (similar to THESE) with some eggs, a plastic ice cream dish (like THESE), 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

 

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.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I will receive a percentage of the profits. 

PicMonkey Collage

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, and they’re really quite inexpensive (get a big batch of them HERE). 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. 

DSC_0048Since the weekend, the ramp has a permanent location in our toy area.

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. HERE’s a 72-piece package that’s super cheap! It’ll hold you for a while! 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 activities from around the internet!

St. Patrick’s Day Tot Trays

 

One of my new loves 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.

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase using these links, I will receive a percentage of the profits. 

St. Patrick's Day Tot Trays

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. Looking for a good, sturdy tray? Find them HERE.

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 for $13; each color averaged out to $.87) We had pipe cleaners already but you can find them HERE.

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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! 

DIY Buckle Pillow Tutorial

I’m straying from my usual “quick and easy” theme to describe the process I went through to make a buckle pillow. Actually, three.

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This project was a big one for me. A few months ago, in December, I saw the need for some sort of toy with buckles on it. C was taking an interest to buckles, as most toddlers do, but of course at 16 months, she couldn’t open or close the buckles herself. I knew she’d figure it out soon, though, and I went online to see what I could buy for her with buckles on it. There are a few products out there, but the most common toy is this one. With shipping, it runs around $25. As is my style lately, I’m too cheap to pay for that and wondered if I could make it. There wasn’t much out there for DIY buckle pillows for toddlers, but I did find one from This Girl’s Canon and I modeled my pillows after hers. To cut to the moral of the story – each pillow I made cost just shy of $11. To me, that drop in price from $25 was well worth my time, and my favorite aspect of it was that I got to choose the colors and patterns, making it just a little easier on the eyes.

I have to preface this tutorial by saying that before this project I had never used a sewing machine and for the most part, never even hand sewed either. When the babies were first born I had this idea to sew together felt letters of the babies’ names and I started that project, but because I was hand sewing it, I quit. Then, for Christmas I received a sewing machine and knew if I wanted to create toys for the twins, I’d need to sew. I’m still learning how to thread the thing, but yeah, using a sewing machine is much faster and easier than hand sewing. Being my first time, I think I jammed the machine every 5 minutes. Clearly I don’t really know how to sew.  Regardless, this pillow is a sewing machine project. It was not quick (not counting shopping for fabric, each pillow took me about 3 hours). It was not easy either, though for an expert sewer I think it would be. I made two of the pillows around Christmas, but that was before I decided to start blogging about toddler activities and crafts, so I didn’t take pictures of the process. But last week, I made my third one and chronicled it throughout each step. This post is pretty picture heavy.

Here’s the step-by-step on how I made a buckle pillow (picture comes before directions):

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1) Gather your materials – fabric, buckles, and ribbon. Last week, I made the pink pillow. I got that fabric from Joann’s – it was 60% off. I paid less than $3 for a yard. I used less than 1/2 a yard for this project, so really, what I needed for the pillow cost about $1.50. For the buckles – each pillow took four parachute buckles – one large one, two medium sized, and one small. Here’s the page that shows prices for the large and medium buckles (from Joann’s). Here’s the page to the small buckles (from Oriental Trading, but I saw them today at Walmart!). Together, the buckles cost me about $6.50. As for the ribbons – I walked around Joann’s with the buckles in my hand and chose ribbons that closely fit the width of the buckles. The ribbons together cost around $2.75.

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2) Fold fabric in half, then cut a piece that is 15 1/2 X 13 1/2, from the top. That way you will only have to sew three sides instead of four. Then, cut ribbon the width of the fabric. You need 2 ribbons for each buckle.

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3) Open the fabric and flip it over. Then, pin the ribbons 2.5-3 inches apart on one half of the fabric, so when you fold the other half back over the ribbons will be sticking out the sides.

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4) Turn the ribbon inside out again. Tuck the ribbons inside where they would fall naturally, rather than letting them stick out. Repin them with both layers of fabric.

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5) This isn’t a Sewing 101 post, so I’ll skip the how-to’s on sewing. I learned many things, like take the pin out before you run over it with a needle. Anyway, sew the two sides that you just pinned. Then turn it inside out again, and it should look like the picture below.

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6) Pin your buckles to the straps. I made an error here – I pinned one of the green ribbons too loosely, so that when the pillow was all done the ribbon didn’t sit nicely on the pillow; it fell down. I had to take out the stitches and redo it. So make sure to tighten the straps enough  – though not too much, as you’re going to stuff the pillow later.

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7) Sew the straps to the buckle. It should then look like the picture below. You can trim some of the excess ribbon as well, which I did after I was all done with the pillow.

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8) Stuff your pillow. I bought that polyester fiberfill from Walmart back when I was going to make the felt letters (which maybe I should just finish…). It’s a huge bag. I understuffed this pillow. Again, it’s kind of a fine line. Stuff it enough so that the ribbons lay nicely on top of it but not too much where there’s no room for it to smush, as a pillow should do. Tuck the stuffing into each corner as well.

9) This is the last step, and I didn’t even take a picture of it because it’s a little challenging to do. Sew the last side up tightly without letting the stuffing come out. When you’re done, the pillow will look something like this:

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Yay! It was fun for me – I chose how it would look, I didn’t spend much money on it, and it’s just very satisfying to see your kids enjoy something you created for them. I had been taking pictures for the last few months of the twins playing with the first two pillows I made, and this toy still hasn’t gotten old for them.

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Of course, both toddlers have now mastered buckling (though they still can’t open them), and have moved on to their booster seat buckles, the car seat buckles, and even the poor dogs’ collars’ buckles. They love these pillows! I’m going to get back to quick and easy activities because I don’t have this kind of time often, but once in a while, it’s worth it.