SENSORY SURPRISE BOX FOR TOTS



WARNING: Complete this tutorial at your own risk. If toy is played with, children will not be able to control their urge to take every wipe out of wipes boxes and/or tissues out of Kleenex boxes ever again.

So, my mom made Kinley a really cool toy that she loves for her birthday. And in doing so, she also unleashed a monster. A tissue destroying, wipes wasting, way too adorable monster. 
It's really simple, this toy, and it has already provided hours of entertainment for sweet baby Seahorse. My mom said she found the idea for this project on a great blog called Counting Coconuts. It's just a wipes box filled with rectangular scraps of fabric. The idea is for Kinley to push the button to open the lid (her favorite part,) and reach her little hand in the slot to grab the scraps and pull them out. There are all sorts of fabrics in there so it's kind of a sensory project, but it also requires a lot of fine motor skill to push the button and grab the fabrics through the little hole. My mom suggested, too, that when Kin is a little older she will be able to sort the different fabrics into piles by color or texture, etc. 
My mom made Kinley's box out of a Huggies wipes box and I think that was a smart choice even though we are a loyal Pampers house. The Huggies box has a cool rubbery, easy-to-push button and it uses the same rubber around the slot where the wipes come out. It feels really cool, but it also makes it a little more challenging for little hands to pull the fabric scraps out in big wads. Plus, Huggies boxes are pretty. So obviously, if you've got another brand's box on hand, use that, but if not and you have a great coupon for Huggies wipes, this would be a great time to use it.
All you really have to do is cut some fabric into rectangles--Kinley's box has about 25 or 30 of them. I'm not sure what method my mom used for making all the rectangles the same size, but I would just make a pattern and trace and cut them all out. The ones Grammie made are about 3 inches x 4 inches, and they fit through the slot perfectly. She sewed the edges of some of them (brown polka dot one in the picture,) but that took too long and she ran out of time before Kinley's birthday, so on the rest she just put some Fray-Check on the edges. Both ways work great.
Kinley loves her sensory surprise box and she has played with it every day since she got it for her birthday a month ago. 
It just occurred to me that you don't have to use fabric if you don't have any on hand or you don't have time with a kid running around to cut and sew/Fray Check 30 rectangles. You could fill the box up with ribbon or paper scraps or whatever you want to, really. Get creative! :)
Now before you hand this awesome new toy that you made for pennies over to your tiny human, go do a quick run through the house and make sure all wipes and tissues are out of reach from tiny human hands because no one wants this cheap project to turn crazy expensive. 
I wish my sensory surprise box would've come with a warning label like this tutorial has. I wasn't prepared for the consequences like you are.
Thanks, Mom.

RECYCLED CARDBOARD CLOVER STAMP

Kinley got a brand new smock at Ikea on Monday, so we just had to try it out today and we also just happened to have collected our fourth empty toilet paper roll, so what better to do than make a four leaf clover stamp? 
I pinned the idea for this project to my shamROCK board from PrudentBaby, who also has an awesome step-by-step tutorial. It's super easy and FREE. I am a Pinterest ADDICT and get so many ideas from all those fabulous pins. 

You only need four empty toilet paper rolls, some tape and your trusty hot glue gun. 
First you squish all of the rolls flat:
Then you bend one side in so it looks like a heart and put 2 bands of tape around the whole roll at both ends so it will hold it's shape:
When you've got all four done, 
Just use your hot glue gun and squirt on a line from end to end right next to the point of the heart on one roll and then another line next to it just to make your stamp extra sturdy, and stick it to the next roll heart points together. This is what it should look like when you're done:
Time to break out the paint and get to stampin'!

Turns out, Kinley HATES her new smock. I mean screaming, yanking, panicking kind of hate. Good thing it was cheap! But luckily, she likes her shamrock stamp. Once we got that irritating smock out of her way, she was all business. 
She loves to do everything herself, so of course that includes dipping her stamp in the green paint. 
Here's one of her masterpieces:
The plan was to dip her pointer finger in the paint and make the clover stem that way, but she didn't think that step was necessary. 
Here ya go! Let us know how your's turns out :)

CINCINATTI, WE LOVE YOU!!


If you haven't already noticed, I am like a paparazzi circling around my poor toddler. When we do something that's actually a great picture opportunity, like a vacation, I am seriously out of control. She has actually started rolling her eyes and grunting when she sees the back side of my phone pointed at her. I just can't help myself.
So consider this post like the present day equivalent of me sitting you in my living room and aiming the slide projector at a blank wall. Get comfortable, grab the guacamole. This might take awhile. :)

For Valentine's Day this year, my parents gave us a overnight trip to Cincinnati. We were so excited and planned a million things to pack into our little getaway. 


Even Kinley was excited! She loves adventures and she really loves getting to eat mini blueberry muffins in the car. She's such a good girl on long rides and almost always sleeps the whole way...we are lucky ducks.

Our first stop in Cincinnati was my favorite store in the world, IKEA!! It was the first time I've been there that it wasn't a crazy busy madhouse and it was so nice to be able to look at everything and let Kinley run around and try things out. 

We ate lunch at their restaurant and it was so yummy, nobody cared that Kin flung her strawberry yogurt everywhere, and bonus, every Monday at Ikea is FREE DESSERT MONDAY! 

Next we headed to the Gap Clearance Center. This place is totally hit or miss. They sell all of Gap, Piperlime, Old Navy, and Banana Republic's leftovers. I spent around $100 last time I was there and got Kinley about 15 tees and tanks, 2 or 3 pairs of capris and shorts, a pair of flats, and a few sundresses. Awesome! This time was not nearly as cool. We got her a few tshirts for spring and a new winter hat for next year for $.50. It's totally worth running in there if you're in the area though, especially if you're preggo. I got two pairs of Gap maternity jeans for $9 a piece when I was pregnant.
Moving on, hotel check-in! Kinley's favorite part of the whole trip was the built in Kleenex box in the hotel bathroom--she was literally shrieking with glee as she ripped every last tissue out of the box and put them straight in the trash. Being one must be so fun!


We went to dinner at Uno which was mediocre, then came back to the hotel to take our little seahorse swimming! 


She was in HEAVEN!! Not only could she splash to her heart's content, she figured out pretty quickly that being inside of a hotel pool room is like being inside of a giant microphone and microphones just happen to be one of her favorite things in the whole world. She kicked and screamed (in a good way) for 45 minutes and it's safe to say that the pool was second on her highlight list.
Now, to my favorite part of the trip, Newport Aquarium


This place is seriously AWESOME! They have everything--penguins (which, if you pay $25 extra, you can PET!!,) jellies, sharks, sea turtles, crocs and gators, seahorses, octopi, you name it! We were all amazed--so many tanks, so much to see. We went on a Tuesday and the crowd was just the right size, but I bet it would be hard to see and enjoy everything on a weekend when it's really crowded. Here's a tip: buy your tickets at any Kroger in the Cincinnati instead of at the aquarium--they are $10 cheaper. 


We stopped in the gift shop on the way out and got matching purple mother/daughter aquarium tshirts and decided to try out a restaurant right outside the aquarium that caught our eye on the way in. 

It's called Tom+Chee. No, it's not Korean BBQ, it's actually short for tomato soup and grilled cheese.


They have about a million grilled cheese options listed on a chalkboard wall, 3 kinds of tomato soup (chunky, creamy, and smooth,)  and even dessert grilled cheese (the bread is a doughnut!) I had a classic grilled cheese (American cheese on white) with kettle cooked potato chips inside and a dip size cup of creamy tomato soup and it was soooo delish!! 


Dave had a ham and cheese with Swiss on rye, and also allowed me to take a lame picture of him:


Kinley got a kid's meal--half a grilled cheese with a super fresh strawberry banana fruit cup and her very first juice box...she was thrilled.


It was totally laid back and kid friendly and we loved it and all three of us ate for less than $20! Good news Columbus friends, they are building one in Hilliard and one in Pickerington right now! Wahoo! I googled the restaurant chain on the car ride home and apparently they got their start on that show Shark Tank. Cool, huh?

Well, that wrapped up our trip. Who knew you could have so much fun in 24 hours in Cincinatti, Ohio? If you live around here or ever pass through, hopefully you will have time to check out some of the fun places we tried. 

Thanks for sticking with me through that super long slide show. Hang on, let me go refill the guac and reload the projector with the slides of me doing trip laundry and washing out sippy cups! Oh, you've gotta get going? Shoot. Well, next time?




APPS FOR TOTS

Like every errand-running momma, I am sometimes in need of something to occupy my sweet little toddler after all of her Gerber Crunchies are gone (she can't get enough of the ranch ones!) 

Kinley has recently become obsessed with my phone, so I thought maybe I could find an app that would keep her busy while we were stuck in line at Target or waiting for her name to be called at the pediatrician's office. 
The first one we love is noisy and fun and Kinley LOVES it. It's called Sago Mini Sound Box and it was a little pricey--$2.99. I never pay for apps so had I not had a giftcard to use I probably wouldn't have found out how awesome it is! 
You can pick any of these different types of sounds--they are all super cute. Kinley especially likes the farm animal noises. 
Your kiddo can just tap their fingers all over the screen and make new sound bubbles. All the sound bubbles bump into each other when you turn your phone around and pop when you shake it. If you hold your finger down, the new bubble turns into an egg and out pops a cute little animal. Adorable! And it totally keeps her attention for a few minutes at a time when I'm in a pinch.

The other miraculous shopping trip saving app is Elmo Calls.
It's basically FaceTime with everyone's favorite monster! It comes loaded with a bunch of calls--some just funny random ones, some holiday calls, and ones to help you with stuff like dentist and doctor appointments and potty training.
There are a ton of extra calls you can buy for more money, of course. It's really cool even without spending extra money, though.
It also has a feature that let's you schedule Elmo's call--so he could automatically call at bedtime, for example, and say night-night to your kiddo. This one was only $.99...totally worth it. There's another one available that is the same idea, but instead of Elmo, it's Cookie Monster. We haven't tried that, but I bet it's just as fun.

I've been looking for a great doodling app for kiddos, too, but haven't had any luck. I want one that Kinley can't accidentally push a button and buy something or get on the web. I'll update this if I find one, or if anyone knows of a good one for us to try, please let me know! Hope these provide a few stress free minutes in line or in the car.

They sure made our trip home from Cincinatti easier! 

**UPDATE**  I just got the perfect doodling app and I had to share. It's another Sago one like the fun sounds one I mentioned before and this one was $2.99 too, but totally worth it. It's seriously perfect and exactly what I had in mind. It's called Sago Doodlecast.

There are a bunch of fun ways to play with this one and I'm pretty sure it will keep Kinley happy for many years to come. 
First, they have a ton of creative idea prompts, like these:
And when you choose one, the app reads the description aloud so even non-readers, can do it all by themselves. 
Obviously, Kinley's not old enough for that part yet, but she definitely can do the blank page part, and she was loving every minute of it this afternoon. Here's a peek at that screen:
You also have the option of taking a picture within the app and doodling on top of it. It's really cool and I would've taken a screenshot of that for you, too, but I am currently blogging in my pitch black bedroom while my husband and daughter snore next to me.
So, the coolest parts of this app are:
1. It doesn't have any buttons or advertisements for curious little fingers to push that may end up being very costly, just the harmless home and all done buttons. The doodle app of my dreams! :)
2. This is the coolest part: the app records each brushstroke you make and the sounds happening around you as you doodle! So older kids could tell a story while they draw or little kids could hear their mommas telling them what a super job they're doing over and over again. It plays like a little movie and it's really cool.
3. Every movie auto saves! You never have to worry about losing a really cool work of art.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we are! Happy Doodlecasting!



CRAZY NOODLE SENSORY BIN

We've been so busy, busy, busy today catching up on chores and laundry. I made the mistake of reading a ton of judgy, unrealistic blogs and articles when Kinley was tiny, so now if I go fifteen minutes without giving her my full attention I feel like the world's worst mother. It is REALLY hard to get and keep your house clean, make dinner, fold laundry, and every other thing on my list of responsibilities in 15 minute increments, but it's either that or lay in bed at night wondering how much damage I did to her fragile sense of self by making her spend half an hour playing by herself. I know, I need mental help. And a nice, looooong vacation! Note to all expectant first time moms--even if you feel like you are doing everything wrong and you think you need to search the web for ways to do everything right, DON'T DO IT. Just don't. And stay far, far away from babycenter's community boards...those women are nuts. Trust me.
Back to today, I wanted to sit down and do something fun with my goo for a few minutes, so I thought we would try crazy noodles. They are really fast and easy to make and she had so much fun playing with them that I hardly got any good pictures...they were mostly all blurs of excited hands and wads of noodles flying through the air.
All you really need is food coloring and the noodles of your choice. I had an open box of thin spaghetti that I needed to use up so that's what we used, but I bet penne or farfalle or wagon wheels would be awesome, too. I tried the tiny alphabet soup noodles once and they didn't work very well--they are just too little and all mushed together and the daycare babies just got very angry because they couldn't get the tiny noodles off of their hands. 
You are gonna need a different pot of boiling water for each color you want to make because you just add the food coloring straight to the water before adding the noodles. I used paste food coloring today, probably about 1/8 of a teaspoon to a soup pot full of water.
I cooked the noodles to just under al dente (because I didn't want them to be too sticky,) drained them and spread them out to cool for a few minutes on wax paper, then just threw them in the sensory bin with some tongs. PLAY TIME!
See what I mean about the noodle wads flying? (If you are wondering why she is wearing a too small swimming diaper, it's because she was taking a bath after noodle time and I had to change her before noodle time for stinky reasons and didn't want to waste a real diaper. It backfired though. I ended up with a pee-soaked tshirt...live and learn.)

Not very tasty, I guess, but so much fun! Kinley used these noodles for bracelets, wiggled her toes in them, launched them at the cabinets, you name it! She's really gotten into trying to pick things up with tongs, thanks to a game my mom made her (tutorial coming soon,) and these sticky noodles were really easy for her to snag with them. 
I put them in a big baggie in the fridge, I'll let you know if they are reusable. I'm guessing they will turn into a big tangled mass, but we'll see. 
This activity is a little messy if your kiddo gets as excited about it as Kinley did, but it cleans up easy and none of the food coloring came off on our fingers. 
Give them a try--even if your little doesn't like playing with them, you can just pour some spaghetti sauce on top and voila! Lunch is served! :)