Fun with contact paper!

Yesterday was a weekend snow day. We were all trapped in the house – together! To manage the craziness of two bouncy toddlers, two hyper dogs and two tired parents in a small house, we had to break out the sensory activities. The twins are officially on one nap now, which gives them a lot of free time during the day (yawn for Mommy and Daddy), so more than one activity was needed! I’ll put them in separate posts. All were easy to set up, easy to clean, and best of all – super cheap!

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The first activity the toddlers did involved contact paper. I bought the clear kind on Amazon and then discovered the chalkboard version. I’m so excited to use that one in the future!

I got this idea from the awesome blog, Allison’s No Time for Flash Cards – the “Pom-pom Sticky Window”.

I must be contact paper challenged, because after cutting it to the size I wanted, it took me a minute a few minutes to get it on my sliding glass door. I left the sticky side out and taped up the edges with painter’s tape. Perhaps having two toddlers climbing all over me while I was trying to do this didn’t help. Prepare your area ahead of time! 🙂

I already had some Valentine’s Day colored pom-poms that I purchased from the Dollar Store and threw them in a bucket. I wished I had two packages.The more pom-poms the better! Stock up!

As soon as I stepped away from the set-up, the twins were all over it. B dumped out the bucket immediately and they both scrambled to push the little fluffy dots onto the paper.

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I wasn’t exactly sure what they would do with this activity or how long it would last. Pleasantly, they were sufficiently interested for about 15 minutes before the pom-poms started to fall off a bit. I don’t know why – perhaps all my finagling with the contact paper took some of the stick off. I thought for sure the activity was done.

But after a few minutes, it sprung new life. B found their new little brooms I have stationed next to the sliding glass door, and I asked him to help me sweep up the pom-poms in order to put them back in the bucket. Well, a few good sweeps sent those pom-poms flying and a new activity was born.

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The broom made a fun, scratchy sound as it smashed the pom-poms off the paper! We reviewed colors and textures (“sticky” is a fun toddler word!) and I sang the clean-up song which for now, works every time. I’m sure there’ll come a day when it won’t! A good half hour/45 minutes went by. So simple and so worth the little effort it took to set it up! Mess factor on a scale of 1-10: 2.

Now that I’m getting more and more into these sensory, DIY activities, I’m always amazed how just when you think the activity is over, kids will find a new way to use the equipment. There’s so much more that can be done that I would never even think of! We did two more sensory activities yesterday to round out the snow day, and as I said earlier, I’ll post them separately. Now, there’s a massive blizzard coming our way in a few days. We could be stuck inside for days. I’m on the lookout for our next activity!

Valentine’s Day Soup – A Sensory Activity

Another day at home by myself with the twins; another reason to find an enjoyable, affordable sensory activity. I’m starting to take a real interest in finding good ideas online and either copying them exactly or altering them a bit to make it work for my kids. I also love the process of picture-taking and then blogging about what I did. Most of the ideas that I find come from other blogs out there, so I’m happy to add myself to the mix to help others keep their little ones busy. And it’s not just for fun – if I don’t have something for my 18 month olds to do that’s outside of the normal “free play” (because how many hours can we do that?), they get antsy. Especially B.  I find he’s the happiest when he’s exposed to new experiences and activities. C just goes along for the ride – but it’s just a more pleasant day for us all if I’ve got something planned for them.

One of my absolute favorite blogs for sensory activities that are cheap and easy is Asia’s Fun At Home With Kids blog. She’s kind of living my dream life right now – a former teacher (ahem), she’s now a stay at home mom who has amazing ideas and activities to keep her two kids stimulated and learning. Then she takes pictures and blogs about them. So jealous.

I subscribe to her blog and came across her idea for Valentine’s Day Soup. With Valentine’s Day coming around the corner, I’d like to do some crafts and sensory activities with my two that get them thinking about lots of red and pink hearts!

I modeled our water play activity today after Asia’s almost to a T. In fact, I jetted off to the dollar store in search of some play hearts to use in our bin and came across the exact hearts she used as well (“Table Scatter”). In preparation for the activity, I gathered up some extra kitchen utensils set aside for the twins and used 5 drops of red food coloring in warm water.

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Now, regarding the mess: Yes, there’s a mess. It’s water play and the kids get wet. I also got wet. I put down two large towels under the bin and kept a hand towel ready to quickly mop up any water that made it past the towels. I put the twins in fleece, so they wouldn’t feel soaked immediately. I got my camera ready and after their nap (1 hour and 15 minutes – grrr), they were ready to roll! Water play is just an extension of bathtime. Children get to explore various objects and see how they work and affect water. They can compare sizes and colors. They make observations about wet versus dry. All in one convenient bin of water! I also like the way this is themed for Valentine’s Day – but you could do water play for any theme imaginable. If I weren’t working full-time, I’d love to do a water play activity at least once a week. It’s worth it – the kids absolutely loved it.

As I expected, both toddlers took an interest right away.

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There was a lot of stirring, splashing, and plucking out the hearts one by one, which is great for fine motor development. They transferred the hearts to cups and counted them. They put them back in the water. C tasted her wisk after stirring out of habit, as that’s how she eats with her spoon (stab, stab, stab, lick).

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We talked about dropping the hearts from high above our heads and seeing what would happen. We discussed patterns (no, B didn’t do that), and practiced “sticking” the hearts to the side of the bin. And then after 25 straight minutes of play, C got up and started doing other things. This was no surprise to me as she typically does this. She’s not the type of toddler who sits down for a long period of time. She’d rather explore a variety of toys. Free play works well for her. And also as expected, she rejoined us on the kitchen floor a few more times after that to check in and shove her hands in the water.

But B stayed at that bin, stirring, pouring, counting – so focused, so serious, for almost an hour and a half. In toddler time, that’s like 5 years.

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It made what could have been a long afternoon into a very easy, laid-back, happy one. Another successful sensory activity!

How we managed the 2-1 nap transition

I wanted to quickly post how we transitioned from two naps down to one. I had been dreading this and had read that it’s the toughest of the nap transitions for babies to make. At the time, I felt very limited by two naps. We couldn’t go anywhere between the hours of 8-11 and 1-4, unless we planned ahead to have the twins nap in the car. I joyfully looked forward to the day that they took one giant, long nap.

But what if, after making the transition, the one nap is still as short as the two naps were!? Ugh. I’m not entirely sure our transition is complete, but here’s what happened:

The twins stopped being ready and tired for their first nap at the ever-so-trusty 9:30. (This was rough at first, because they transitioned to two naps from three early on, at only 7 months. We stayed at the 9 and 2 schedule for so many months!) And then after a few weeks, 10:00 was also too early. We got into a rhythm of a 10:30 nap for a week or so, which would last until 11:45-12:00. During that time, I’d put the babies down for a power second nap around 3:30. I only let them sleep 30 minutes, max. And when they napped that way, they’d go to bed around 8:00. I knew this was just step one in our transition.

Then B started refusing his second nap. Even if his first nap was early and he woke at 11:00, he fought and screamed his way through the second nap no matter what time I put him down. For a week there, I drove around whenever I could just to get him to power nap in the car around 4:00. But then he stopped falling asleep in the car.

I knew we were on our way to switching over to the one nap. I even started pushing back the first nap a little later, around 10:45, and then 11:00, and then 11:15, assuming the transition needed to be slow and gradual (it does not). And right in the middle of that, the babies got roseola (with a high fever lasting a week….separate weeks). Two weeks later, they both got nasty colds that turned into bronchitis for B and a double ear infection for C. That was a week in itself. All this illness completely botched up any nap transition we were attempting and we just let them nap whenever they wanted to for as long as they could.

When it was over, I decided to bite the bullet and go for a normal-timed one nap. I moved lunch up a half hour to 11:30 and they currently nap around 12:30. It’s been over a week, and there’s no turning back now. Our two nap days are totally over. Unfortunately, I was envisioning two kids who take a three-hour nap. I don’t believe I have those kinds of kids. C has slept for 2.5 hours a few times, which is lovely and I will let her sleep as long as she can, but it doesn’t give me any rest if B isn’t doing the same thing! B’s longest nap now has been 1.5 hours. Most days it’s between 45 minutes to an hour. I understand that this isn’t normal. So either he’s in a bit of a Wonder Week (which supposedly at 18 months is a thing) or he’s still getting accustomed to this transition. Either way, I’m now regretting wishing for 1 nap. We’re on baby duty from 7:00-12:30, and then 1:30 until bedtime! Where’s the break? I’m really hoping B learns to nap for a longer period of time over the coming weeks. We’ll see.

The one thing I can say and recommend to anyone about to embark on this transition is to move bedtime way up. When kids first start taking only one nap, they’ll be tired by 6:00. It’s been a challenge for us but we’re attempting a 6:30 bed while this is still in transition. Most nights it’s more like 7:00, especially if they took a good nap. Tonight, after only an hour nap, we had them sleeping for 6:45 and it really should have been earlier. They would’ve easily gone down. And I’m sorry, I love those twins more than life itself, but there’s nothing more satisfying than closing their bedroom door at night and breathing a sigh of relief. The earlier the bedtime, the better!

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It’s tough growing into big kids!