Quick and Easy Snow Ice Cream – 4 ingredients!

 

My 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 activity would certainly make the twins’ day. 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!

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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’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

 

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! 

The Cheapest, Simplest Sensory Bin Ever

 

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!

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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!

DIY Zipper Board Tutorial

 

A few months ago my twins took an interest to buckles. It started in their high chairs and spread to the car seat. They couldn’t do anything with them, but they liked when we discussed buckles and clearly there was a fascination there. I went online and tried to see what I could make with buckles, and ended up making a buckle pillow (post to come in a few days). But then, the twins started in on zippers. They loved to pull down my fleece coat’s zipper and we would say, “Down…Up!” and repeat. So I got back on the computer and struggled to find a lot on what I could do with zippers until I came across this post. I knew making a zipper board was exactly what I would do.

I actually made two. It was unbelievably cheap, simple, and best of all – quick to make. I could make one zipper board in about one hour’s time. So fast!

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

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Materials needed: Cheap wood or cardboard, felt (optional), hot glue gun, zippers

Here’s what I did: I had some old, thin board in the basement – the kind that goes in the back of pieces of cheap furniture. It was a large piece and my husband helped me cut it down into four pieces. Each piece ended up being about 17in. X 9 in. I also had leftover neon green and black felt from B’s Frankenstein Halloween costume. Not the prettiest colors, but I’m all about cheap here. I also already had a hot glue gun (but you can find one for cheap HERE). Knowing I was going to make these for the twins, I purchased zippers ahead of time. I got craft zippers very similar to this set. Again, the colors weren’t my favorite, but they were super cheap. Each zipper board cost me under $5, and as I said, one hour of my time.

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After I gathered my materials, I spread out the felt and put the board in the middle, exactly like how I would wrap a present. I started in on the top flap, folding it over and hot gluing it little by little, every inch or so until the entire top flap of felt was stuck to the board.

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I did the same to the bottom flap of felt, and then I folded down the sides. The felt was doubled there and thicker, so I glued it down and then also glued in between the layers until the whole side was good and stuck. When I was done gluing, the underside of the board looked like this:

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Let me say here that I only used real wood and felt because I wanted it to last a while. If I didn’t have these materials or preferred, I could’ve just grabbed some cardboard and glued the zippers on them right away and this project would’ve been done in 10 minutes!

At this point I grabbed my zippers and at the top of each one, I cut the tips off diagonally, so that the zipper would move more easily with toddler fingers. If I kept the tips on, the twins would’ve gotten frustrated that they were pulling on the zippers and they weren’t going any higher (they have the metal piece on the inside stopping the zipper at a certain point – if yours didn’t, you could just add a staple). Here’s what I mean.

DSC_0481After I trimmed the zippers, I placed them on the board where I wanted them to go. I was able to fit nine zippers on, and I alternated which way the zippers were facing to make the board a little more challenging. Then I got to gluing. The big thing I needed to avoid was letting glue make its way into the middle of the zipper. If I did that, the zipper would’ve been glued shut. So I went down the sides of the zipper, quickly. Once both sides had glue I flipped it back over and slapped it down. I found I needed to go back and add a little more glue on the sides. You really want the zipper secure because those toddler fingers grab and pull. When all zippers were glued down, the finished product looked like this:

DSC_0483I wasn’t sure how the twins would take to the boards, because the zippers are really small and hard to grasp. I had hoped for larger zippers but that didn’t happen.

Sure enough, C grabbed the board today and got right to it. She was focused, concentrating hard, and surprisingly had very little trouble zipping!

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This activity is so awesome for those fine motor skills, which is so much of what our activities are lately. C was able to grasp the zippers easily and pull back and forth for a long time!

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She tried switching her position many times, as the board was pretty big.

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Luckily the zipper board was also very light. B joined in for a few minutes and I only had to split up their fighting once 😛

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Then B went on his merry way and C got right back to it. This was the first activity we have done where she was more into it than B.

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Given that I spent practically nothing on making these boards and it only took an hour for each one – I’d say it was worth it. Now that I think about it, it would be a great car ride activity!

What are tot trays?

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Lately, I’ve been on a wild ride. One that I’ve created. See, when I get excited about something new – I focus on that one thing exclusively for weeks with giddy anticipation for the creation of whatever I’m doing. It started last summer, with DIY sensory boards and a spaghetti sensory bin because – I was on maternity leave, and why not, it would be cute to watch. Then it took off from there. I found myself reading about sensory bins, learning towers, and skills that teach toddlers independence. B, throughout his tantrums, took a liking to all of those things and I realized, we have the need in my house. The same old toys and free play all day won’t work for them, especially B. He needs stimulation, he needs a variety of experiences, and he needs to do things on his own. I found myself drawn to toys that let the twins explore on their own and figure out concepts independently, like our treasure baskets and sensory bottles, rather than those toys that did all that for them.

Then my blog took a turn, focusing on activities and crafts, because that’s my life at home right now – that’s what the twins do. I don’t know what direction this blog will go in the future but it’s my hobby and I enjoy it. And whatever the twins are interested in, I’m interested in. I made buckle pillows and zipper boards (posts coming soon!). I got a sewing machine for Christmas. I got so pumped about all these little things I couldn’t sleep at night. I even got my husband into it, as he’s still making those learning towers (they won’t be done until spring, unfortunately!). And then, I stumbled upon the Montessori Method. I’m not the kind of person who throws all the eggs into one basket – there are many correct ways to do things. HOWEVER. I knew nothing about Montessori, except that it was an expensive preschool. I still don’t know much about it, so this post isn’t about that. But what I have found is that everything B needs, everything that my husband and I believe in (independence at a young age, discovery, problem-solving, etc)….matches the Montessori method, almost to a T. We had no idea. As I read more about it, I’m really in agreement with so many of the Montessori concepts. My twins are only 19 months; they aren’t going to preschool for quite a while. So I wanted to implement something at home that resembled “preschool learning” because the twins love to learn new things.

Since I’m focusing mainly on cheap, simple toys (which typically do fit within a Montessori-type activity), I hosted a Busy Bag Exchange back in December (another future post). The bags were great but I wanted more.

So just recently, through a Montessori lens, I discovered tot trays. And fell madly in love with them. As far as I can tell, “Tot Trays” were coined by Carisa at 1+1+1=1. Her website is loaded with ideas – more than I could ever search through in one night. But the idea is quite simple, and very much like a busy bag. Basically, the child does an activity; a simple, cheap, educational activity on a tray. I just bought trays but when I tried tot trays for the first time, I didn’t have them and used a cookie sheet instead. The activities are not meant to last hours and hours (though bonus points if they do!) – they are short activities that reinforce skills – everything from math or language arts skills to practical life skills (like practicing pouring water into a cup, or picking up things with tongs, or scooping with spoons). It can be anything really, so long as it fits on a tray. It’s not complicated and it doesn’t need to be over-thought. Many people do tot tray activities without knowing they have a name. The idea with the tray is that the child will be responsible for it. As soon as they are able, they will carry the tray with the activity on it over to the floor or a table and return it when the activity is over. From a practical standpoint, trays have raised edges, and raised edges keep messes from going everywhere! I just adore them.

A few weeks ago when it was (shocker) snowing again, we needed something different and quick after nap. I decided to implement our first two tot trays, back to back. First, we started with a color matching tot tray. I printed out the color sorting mat from here, grabbed an old cookie sheet and the large sized pompoms I already had. After realizing I only had one cookie sheet, I ended up giving the babies their coloring mats on the table with a container of pompoms for each of them. Their only job was to take the pompoms and match them to the corresponding colors on the mat.

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They did it in about two seconds. I don’t know if that’s good or bad! That’s the thing with tot trays – I mean, I obviously started them with one that was not a challenge for them, which made the activity short. I would imagine the goal is to challenge them at least a little bit. I love the many skills being applied here – knowing the colors, but also identifying letters, feeling textures, and the fine motor skills necessary to place pompoms on a small circle. B was especially into this tot tray, and kept trying to get the pompoms to stick to the paper. (I added pink, white and black pompoms at first because I knew they knew those colors – but when your mat doesn’t have those colors on it? Yeah – don’t do that. Lesson learned!) B practiced saying the colors a few times.

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And that was it for our first tot tray! Luckily, I had one more planned. I grabbed two sheets of plain paper and as this was around Valentine’s Day, I drew a big heart on each paper. Then, on the “tray”, I gave the babies a sheet of heart stickers and two Dollar Tree crayons. So simple and so cheap! My kind of activity!

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I tried to get the twins to put the stickers “inside the heart”. That didn’t work out exactly, but that’s okay. C was especially into this tray. She is madly in love with stickers right now – they both are. I had to peel them off for her but she stuck every one down and then went to town with the coloring.

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She couldn’t stop smiling through the multiple sheets of stickers she went through! She really had to work her fine motor skills around pulling stickers off my fingers and then sticking them onto paper.

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This tot tray lasted much longer than the first one, which was nice. When they were done, we hung them up on the slider with our other heart crafts. My first introduction to tot trays was a success. I’m not sure how I’m going to post about them and organize them here on this blog, but I plan to do many more tot trays with them in the future. Next up – learning to carry a tray!

On a side note, I won’t have a blog post about this one but my nanny made amazingly adorable weather sensory bottles.

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This picture is not my best work, but the bottles demonstrate “snowy”, “windy”, “rainy”, “sunny”, and “cloudy”. I’ve just set up a Facebook page and there you can find the link where my nanny found the idea!

Repurposing Containers: A Fine Motor Activity

I am so over this cold weather. We are desperate to get out of the house, but the temperature has been below zero for days, if not weeks. Yesterday I bit the bullet and took the two 19 month-old toddlers to the library for the first time. By myself. I knew what I was getting into. It was every bit as exhausting as I knew it would be, but the twins played with some new toys and took out a few board books. We just needed a change of scenery, and on a Friday afternoon after a long work week, I didn’t have it in me to think of something new and fun for them to do at home.

Today, however, we had a nice, relaxing morning together. We started off with dried beans in the water table, which I’ll post more about in the future. After that, we moved on to a basket I had been working on for quite a while – repurposed, recycled containers. DSC_0519

Most toddlers seem to get a kick out of household items that aren’t toys (or is that just my twins?). They constantly want what they can’t have and it’s frustrating for them and myself when I have to repeatedly tell them “no”. At this age, they are also going through a phase of wanting to open everything themselves. So a few weeks ago I began collecting containers. I tried to choose those that varied in size and difficulty in opening. As you can see, some containers only need a quick twist to open, while others are much more challenging.

I washed all the containers thoroughly with soap and water, let them dry, put them all in a basket and let the twins go to it. Judging by their silence and focus – I’d say it was a hit. Of course they chose to sit with the light from outside at their backs, not helping my photography efforts, but I still managed. 🙂

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Both toddlers focused on this repurposed ice cream container as it had an easy to twist lid.

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It was really fascinating to watch them work their fingers around the small lids and their entire hands around the large ones – it was really a wonderful fine motor exercise for little hands. Not only did they seek to put the lids back on the containers, but they practiced matching which lid went to which container, and C even stacked smaller sized items into the bigger containers. It kept their attention for a good 30 minutes.

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Fitting with my theme, this activity was FREE (not counting the money spent on the containers from their original purpose). It was easy to set up, easy to clean up, and a simple concept – my kind of activity! When the twins got bored, I packed all the containers up and stored them away, to be used again when we need an instant filler activity!

Valentine’s Day Sun Catchers

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

Well, I’m almost done posting about Valentine’s Day activities and crafts. I’ve got just a couple more to go. After that, I won’t want to see or work with another heart for a long time. Until next year, obviously.

The twins and I made Valentine’s Day Sun Catchers on yet ANOTHER snow day this past weekend (yes, that’s my back deck piled almost to the top with snow).

Materials needed: contact paper (find it HERE), tissue paper, painter’s tape (bought HERE)

As with all my other activities and crafts, I was going for easy and cheap. It was pretty easy to construct, I’d say, and it was FREE. I had already purchased the contact paper which I used for our pom pom window activity and the tissue paper came from recent Christmas and Valentine’s gifts the twins received. It’s funny, I’m starting to think differently about items I would normally recycle or throw away. Tissue paper is a perfect example. Over the years I’ve no doubt wasted TONS of tissue paper – open the gift, throw away the paper. Now I find myself thinking, “Could the toddlers use this for something?” I’ve been doing the same thing with containers I normally recycle. Now I’m a junk collector – ugh.

Anyway, I contemplated ripping up the tissue paper myself the night before this activity so that it would be ready for the toddlers to use but then I thought that perhaps they could rip it themselves. That ended up being their favorite part of the whole activity. I gave them sheets and sheets of tissue paper and they went to town, ripping it, throwing it off the table, and making a massive confetti mess all over the dining room floor. That alone could have been our activity!

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When it was ripped up (with my help), they had a bucket full of pieces, ready to go.

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Meanwhile, while they were ripping I cut out a long piece of contact paper and folded it in half. Then I drew a heart onto the folded sheet and cut out the two hearts. (I did this twice, of course). This way I had the front and back of the sun catcher done and ready. After taking the back of the contact paper off, I taped two of the four hearts to the floor, sticky side up.

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Then I invited the twins to come over and stick their tissue paper to the hearts on the floor. I remembered how, the day before, B was disappointed that his alphabet hearts didn’t stick to the butcher paper and he got frustrated as he pressed down hard, only to find the letters slipping away. I was hoping I could make up for it with this activity. Both B and C understood quickly what to do and started sticking the tissue paper pieces to their hearts.

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Of course, there’s always something else these guys want to do with the activities I plan that I never think of. This time, B was happy to have the tissue paper stick, but unhappy that it didn’t unstick. He wanted to practice putting the pieces on and taking them off again. And he kept trying to stick the tissue paper to the blue tape, which of course did not work. Regardless, he squished his pieces on until the heart was sufficiently covered. C did the same. Then I peeled up the hearts off the floor and took the backs off the other two hearts I had. I stuck them together, sealing the tissue paper pieces inside the two layers of contact paper. I handed B his heart and he admired his handiwork. (In typical C fashion, she took off for other toys after a minute or two.)

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I showed B where we were going to tape the sun catchers to the slider and he tried his best to get it to stick.

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Of course, then I made a silly parenting move and taped them right there where B and C could reach them. They immediately peeled the hearts off the slider and tried their best to destroy their crafts. So I taped them again, higher and out of reach this time. Since we’ve done the activity, the twins have enjoyed pointing out their hearts and commenting on the colors they see. One more heart activity for the books!

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