Amazing Messy Play Ideas and the Benefits of Sensory Play

Amazing Messy Play Ideas and the Benefits of Sensory Play

I recently wrote about the benefits of outdoor play and an added benefit I didn’t mention but is a huge one in our home is that the mess stays outside! We love messy play and I know that you are going to love it too when we look beyond the “mess” aspect and into the benefits and learning outcomes of creating these opportunities for our little ones. In this post you will find:

  • 63 amazing ideas for messy play

  • The benefits of messy play and sensory play

  • Our favourite messy play activity

  • An awesome freebie printable for you to download!

  • A homemade finger paint recipe

*This post contains affiliate links which if used cost you nothing extra, but a small percentage comes back to me to support more learning! You’re welcome to check out my privacy policy or reach out to me directly with questions anytime!*

But first let’s start with what messy play is all about!

I am a tidy person for the most part and I love organization, but having a child with the wind as her guide and a business that I’m so passionate about, leaves little time to clean and organize the way I once would have. Plus, who wants to be scrubbing dishes when the rest of the family is running around in the yard? In welcoming all types of play, I want my daughter to investigate the world in whatever way she likes, chase her passions and part of that means letting her make a mess. Taking all of this outside let’s us both walk away with a win (read more about the benefits of outdoor play here). She’s getting the benefit of playing in the fresh air, getting to play with messy and wonderful methods of play, and I can use the hose to clean it all up at the end!

Amazing Benefits of Messy Play Plus 63 Great Activities You Can Do at Home BooksBeesAndABCs.com #messyplay #sensoryplay #quickandeasy #toddler #preschooler #activitiesathome

What are Sensory and Messy Play and Why Do These Activities with My Child?

Amazing Benefits of Messy Play Plus 63 Great Activities You Can Do at Home BooksBeesAndABCs.com #messyplay #sensoryplay #quickandeasy #toddler #preschooler #activitiesathome

What is Messy Play?

Messy play is play with no set outcome, using materials that can be manipulated and changed that evoke the use of children’s senses while working their hand-eye coordination, fine and gross motor skills, life skills such as pouring, mixing and measuring, and essentially ends up with a happy child and a great big mess (although not always)! There are so many types of messy play and materials you can use. I’ll list a few further on in this post.

It can be intimidating to take on messy play in our homes when our days are already filled with so many tasks, taking on a great big mess in the middle of our living rooms can be daunting. But there are so many benefits of having our children dive into this type of play.

What is Sensory Play?

Sensory play is often a goal in providing messy play that is well known in the early childhood education world. It provide experiences and opportunities that make a meaningful contribution to a child’s cognitive and creative development as well as so much more. We all use our senses in more ways than we can understand, to make our way through our day to day but more so in young children who are making sense of their work, through touching everything in sight, putting everything in their mouths, smelling things we can’t imagine smelling, watching and searching out information in all they see around them, listening to every word (yes, they can hear everything and often repeat it!) they hear, and moving in such a way that they involve themselves with their surroundings; climbing, crawling, jumping, rolling, sliding, dancing, twirling. This is all sensory learning through play.

In creating opportunities for children to apply what they are naturally drawn to do, we are allowing them to develop parts of their brain that sitting back and “watching” or “listening” as you would imagine in traditional educational environments simply can’t provide. We are giving them the opportunity to learn more about their world while using their 7 senses.

What are our 7 senses?

We are so familiar with our five senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch

But it turns out there are actual 7 senses in play, the two additional are: Vestibular and Proprioception

Sight – the ability of the eyes to focus and detect images of light and translate the message to the brain about colors, hues, and brightness.

Smell – the ability to detect odour molecules which send messages to our brain based on how mild or strong the information is.

Taste – the ability to gather information from food and some minerals through our taste buds and send the message of sweet, bitter, salty, sour and savoury to our brain.

Hearing – the ability to translate sound from changes in the air, or vibration and pass that information to the brain to recognize and interpret.

Touch – the ability to take variations in pressure, usually on the skin using hair follicles and tell the brain of the message and where on the body this sensation is felt.

Vestibular – has to do with balance and telling our brain when our body is in motion and when it needs support from other senses to stay stable (example: walking on an uneven or slippery surface)

Proprioception – is about the overall placement of our bodies, where our arms and legs are and what they are up to, and if they are able to do what the brain is asking of them next. (example; jumping from a rock and landing on our feet knowing our feet will be there to land on or clapping our hands with our eyes closed).

Amazing Benefits of Messy Play Plus 63 Great Activities You Can Do at Home BooksBeesAndABCs.com #messyplay #sensoryplay #quickandeasy #toddler #preschooler #activitiesathome

The Benefits of Messy Play and Sensory Play to Child Development

  1. complete more complex tasks through practice of life skills
  2. enhances cognitive development
  3. enhances language development
  4. stimulating the senses
  5. gross motor development
  6. fine motor development
  7. practice using tools (shovels, paint brushes, tweezers, spoons, cups, etc.)
  8. supports independence
  9. enhances memory
  10. conflict resolution
  11. problem solving skills
  12. decision making
  13. concentration
  14. patience
  15. STEAM learning
  16. unique experience each time
  17. freedom to learn with no set outcome
  18. planning ahead
  19. responsibility and care for materials
  20. can be done anywhere, anytime with any materials (list provided below)
  21. relaxing and soothing
  22. meaningful interactions with friends and family
  23. boost confidence in mastering skills such as pouring or measuring
  24. learning shapes, sizes, patterns size, shape, height, weight, counting, grouping, buoyancy and volume
  25. learning about cause and effect
  26. learning about literacy
  27. hand-eye coordination
  28. it’s fun!
  29. develop imagination, curiosity, and creativity
  30. investigation and testing theories
  31. incredible tactile experience
Amazing Benefits of Messy Play Plus 63 Great Activities You Can Do at Home BooksBeesAndABCs.com #messyplay #sensoryplay #quickandeasy #toddler #preschooler #activitiesathome
A beautiful resource for homeschooling, and enriching learning through play at home with toddlers and preschoolers, which will take them into adulthood. Builds upon core concepts that are increasingly challenging so as your little ones grow and knowledge expands, you have the resources to support them all in one place.

Purposefully made with calming colors to prevent distraction and provide a focused space for learning through play with a parent or teacher,

The Love of Learning Binder can be used in a homeschool setting, preschool, or as a daily part of a momma life with little ones at home.

63 Amazing Outdoor Messy Play Ideas for Your Children to Enjoy

Bug Hunt and Collection for Investigation
Build a bird feeder or bird house
Building and Decorating Cardboard Boxes
Camping Fun (super cute ideas here)
Chalk Painting
Collage Creating
Colored Rice
Cooked Noodles Play
Cooking Adventures – let them cook up a family favourite or be adventurous like this kimchi recipe or this homemade butter!
Digging for Dinosaur Bones (This is a cute activity about finding dinosaurs in the ice!)
Dry Pasta Play
Finger Paint
Flour Fights
Garden Play
Giant Canvas Painting
Glitter Activities
Grass and Mud Soup
Ice and Snow Painting
Jello Bins
Jelly Balls
Large Scale Construction
Learning About Food Coloring (Dying Carnations Experiment)
Learning How to Use Liquid Glue
Make Giant Bubbles
Making “Dough” – Letting the Child Take the Lead.
Making Music with Homemade Instruments (and learn how children around the world make music!)
Marble Painting
Modelling Clay
Move Indoor Toys Outside
Move Pillows and Blankets Outside
Mud Kitchen (and learn about different feasts around the world for inspiration of what to create in your mud kitchen!)
Nature Inspired Painting (clouds, flowers, trees)
Oat or Dry Cereal Play
Outdoor Bath
Paint Balloons
Painting with Feet
Pasta Jewelry
Picnic
Play Dough
Play in the Leaves (fall)
Playing is Messy Weather (rain and snow)
Playing with Beans
Potato Flakes
Put on a Play (with beautiful set creation)
Rock Collecting
Rock Painting
Sensory Bins
Shaving Cream
Shower in the Rain
Slime
Soapy Water (or better yet, make this elephant toothpaste! So fun!!)
Sports Play (while learning about the sports children around the world play!)
Sprinkler Fun
Stamp Painting with Nature Items
Stamp Painting with Potatoes
Take Messy Meals Outside to Let Your Child Enjoy with the Freedom of Allowing the Mess to Happen.
Tea Party
Turkey Baster Painting
Washing Station
Water Balloons
Water Painting
Water Play
Working with Tools (with adult support)

Invite the Scientist

Exploration Through Painting – Our Favourite Outdoor Messy Play and Sensory Learning

We love painting outside. Little Bee loves to make a giant mess on craft paper wrapped around our big oak tree, painting rocks, or logs, making prints with leaves and grass, but most of all she loves to mix and pour the paint, learn about it through hands on play. 

STEAM learning allows our little ones to create their own colours, mixtures, art pieces through investigation and testing their own theories. What started out as everything ending up brown, my daughter has been learning to mix colours in such a way that she can now create the combinations she wants from primary colours, and add texture when she decides to do so. She is learning hand-eye coordination, fine and gross motor skills, life skills such as pouring, mixing and measuring, to name just a few. The most important and meaningful benefit to today – she’s having a wonderful time!

Amazing Benefits of Messy Play Plus 63 Great Activities You Can Do at Home BooksBeesAndABCs.com #messyplay #sensoryplay #quickandeasy #toddler #preschooler #activitiesathome

The Amazing Benefits of Painting with Your Child

  1. Allowing an artist to form and discover their creativity.
  2. Allows children to express their feelings by discussing their creation.
  3. Learning the science of the materials they are using. How each works, the effect and impact of each type of tool or canvas, different types of paint. Chemistry, and physics all wound into one simple activity.
  4. Never the same activity twice. Even in the most simple form, with paper and paint using fingers to create, the picture will be something unique each time.
  5. Given the freedom to create, children are able to take control of the activity and make it whatever they wish. It’s entirely up to them and they can allow the experience to guide and direct them.
  6. There are so many ways to use painting to build sensory experience and move those muscles, both fine motor in holding the painting tools, to large motor in moving one’s body to create the picture.
  7. Decision making – colours, materials, design and critical thinking
  8. Supports Independence
  9. Cleaning and Care for Materials
  10. The materials you can use are endless (list shared below)
  11. Relaxing and Soothing
  12. Meaningful Interactions with Friends and Family
  13. Accomplish a Goal – Ending the Activity with a Final Product
  14. Enhanced Concentration
  15. Appreciating the Arts
  16. Create Gifts for Others – Spreading the Joy
  17. Boost Confidence in Mastering a Skill
  18. Learning Shapes, Sizes and Patters – Introductory Numeracy!
  19. Learning About Colour Mixing
  20. Hand-Eye Coordination
  21. It’s Fun!
  22. Engaging the Senses
  23. Develop Imagination, Curiosity, and Creativity
  24. Investigation and Testing Theories
  25. Learn About Beauty, in Nature (inspiration) in the Tools and Supplies (such as our beautiful things bin) and in Creation (what is made in the process and final product)
  26. Cognitive Development (both sides of the brain are used in creative and emotional application as well as logic and step by step process application)
  27. Language Development – using descriptive language to explain what you are doing and asking the same of the child, explain what they have created, what materials, what colours, how many colours, shapes, sizes, widths, designs, what have they used as inspiration, why did they choose it – get them talking, describing and building their vocabulary.
  28. Enhanced Practical Skills: pouring, wiping, cleaning, counting, organizing, to name a few

Bonus Benefit to Painting with Your Little One

It can be inexpensive! You can create you own paint or use inexpensive paint you purchase –  you can create you own brushes using nature’s supplies or use non at all (finger painting), use can use paper, or natures canvases all around (rocks and leaves). This is an activity that is accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere!

HOMEMADE FINGER PAINT RECIPE:

(requires stove)

•2 cups flour

•2 tsp salt

•2 1/2 cups cold water

•2 cups hot water

food colouring

Have your little one mix the dry ingredients while you add the cold water. Mix until smooth (or if you are using a mixer, you can take over to move this process along). Add the hot water and place on the stove to boil stir until it becomes clear and smooth. Add your food colouring to the mixture or split into many bowls to create multiple colours.

The Best Painting Supplies for Your Child

If you aren’t feeling quite ready for messy painting –

we love this mess free paint for when we are somewhere we don’t want to make a big mess,

such as Little Bee’s Grandparent’s house

– thanks so much Amanda, Avery and Max for introducing this to us!

Download Your Freebie Here!

This amazing type of play sets the foundation for those basic concepts that from afar may look like “mess making” but when you get a better understanding you come to find that in fact they are building important core skills that will take them into adulthood, they are investigating and practicing and becoming who they have the potential to be. Cleaning up a bit of rice after knowing this, is so small when you are setting the stage for someone amazing to become someone amazing. 

Amazing Benefits of Messy Play Plus 63 Great Activities You Can Do at Home BooksBeesAndABCs.com #messyplay #sensoryplay #quickandeasy #toddler #preschooler #activitiesathome

Amazing Messy Play Ideas and the Benefits of Sensory Play

I recently wrote about the benefits of outdoor play and an added benefit I didn’t mention but is a huge one in our home is that the mess stays outside! We love messy play and I know that you are going to love it too when we look beyond the “mess” aspect and into the...

read more

The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children

The Amazing Benefits and Importance of Outdoor Play for Children of All Ages Most children love to play outside if given the opportunity, which in itself is a beautiful benefit; the joy and laughter they experience and the smile beaming across their face. Knowing the...

read more

How to Declutter Toys That Have Taken Over Your Home

How Our Decluttering Adventure Started We have a very small house that was formerly a daycare that I loved with all my heart. It was a beautiful space for a home-like learning environment that I filled with meaningful toys which allowed for learning through play. When...

read more

Making Meaning out of Making Marks (free download)

Making Meaning out of Making Marks: Activities for Little Ones Learning to Write Little Bee, who is about 2 and a half now, loves to colour together. But what I think she loves most about it is watching me and making meaningful marks on the page, like when I write her...

read more

Sharing is caring - Tell a friend about Books Bees & ABCs
The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children

The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children

The Amazing Benefits and Importance of Outdoor Play

for Children of All Ages

Most children love to play outside if given the opportunity, which in itself is a beautiful benefit; the joy and laughter they experience and the smile beaming across their face.

Knowing the enjoyment from the exploration is only the beginning as below I go into detail about:

12 Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children

From developing strength and coordination, building independence and confidence, children learn of the incredible opportunities that playing outside provides and share it with us every time they lace up their shoes to go outside. They already know, and now it’s our turn to learn.

*This post contains affiliate links which if used cost you nothing extra, but a small percentage comes back to me to support more learning! You’re welcome to check out my privacy policy or reach out to me directly with questions anytime!*

May 17th was the most recent Outdoor Classroom Day – a movement by educators looking to enrich the learning experience of children and love of the outdoors. While running Profound Play and Learning, we always took part in Outdoor Classroom Day (of which there are two a year – winter and spring) when the weather allowed, spending our entire day outside.

With yesterday being Outdoor Classroom Day, Little Bee and I still wanted to make it a special part of our day so we packed up a bag and took our play outside. We always incorporate outdoor play in our day but for a special day like this, we try to spend the entire day outside to really bring home the idea of the benefits of outdoor play.

What is Outdoor Play?

For Little Bee, outdoor play is fun and freedom, a wide open space with room to spin with arms spread, welcoming the sun, rain, snow and wind. Building confidence, coordination, strength and understanding, Little Bee is learning to appreciate the outside world through physical and mental play and development.

12 Benefits of Playing Outside for Children

 

  1. Physical Health – I think this one would be a clear benefit for anyone who has ever watched a child play outside. They are non-stop movement, with room to spread their wings and the urgency to run, dance, move and spin. All of this activity works to build their strength in muscles and bones, gets their heart pumping and blood moving, gives them the ever important fresh air to fill their lungs and Vitamin D for their growing bodies. Practicing those skills in fine and gross motor development, balance, flexibility, and coordination while encouraging exercise and enjoyment of the outdoors.
  2. Mental Health and Wellbeing – Children who are able to shake out their sillies and be the natural investigators they are in the outdoors tend to be happier and more resilient people. Burning off the energy that is wound up inside these little people all day allows them to concentrate, and be more relaxed (which supports classroom success and behaviour) in addition to those feelings of happiness.
  3. Improves Sleep – A third of school-aged children in Canada are sleep deprived, according to a 2016 ParticipAction report card, which states that a sedentary lifestyle and too much screen time are to blame. According to another 2016 study, published in Acta Paediatrica, longer screen time is greatly associated with shorter nocturnal sleep duration among two- to five-year-olds. It found late bedtimes and poor quality of sleep lead to hyperactivity, depression and obesity, as well as stunted physical growth and lower IQ scores. But there’s a simple fix: That same study found that kids who had more outdoor playtime were less likely to wake at night. Exposure to sunlight helps regulate sleep patterns, and physical activity helps children fall asleep faster and get better quality sleep. Dietze saw this first-hand at a daycare centre in Trenton, Ont. When outdoor time (including naps) was increased from two to six hours a day, it resulted in the one thing parents of daycare-age children want most: The kids slept through the night. (Quoted from Today’s Parent)

  4. Independence – Often when playing inside, children feel they need someone to play with them which can be tricky for moms who are also trying to accomplish a few things on their to-do list. Opening up to the space of the outdoors often encourages little ones to push beyond the normal distance of adult involvement and become engaged in an activity all on their own. Pouring water, digging in the mud, poking sticks in freshly dug holes, gathering flowers, all becomes quiet, focused activity. Even while playing with others in a running game, hide and seek or group activity, children are often just far enough away from an adult (while still being safely observed) that they are led to deal with small conflicts on their own, work as a team with those they play, and take turns all on their own. The biggest of this that I’ve watched and felt so much pride are those moments when children pick themselves up after a tumble, dust themselves off and carry on in play.
  5. Confidence and Self Awareness– Playing outdoors allows children to build on skills they are newly learning and challenge themselves when they feel ready. Relying on balance and coordination, children can actively build confidence in their bodies and minds. They can feel proud of themselves and their ability to accomplish something they felt was beyond their reach just days before.
  6. Education – As a strong believer in learning through play, being out in the fresh air and sunshine (or even clouds and rain or snow) children are keen to investigate and navigate their surroundings and use new tools in their play such as rocks, sticks, mud, grass and snow. This also helps to promote the idea to children that play is valuable, that it can be done anywhere, and doesn’t require traditional toys.
  7. Endless Play Opportunities – Parks well known or new to you, yard, field, gravel, dirt, gardens, school grounds, downtown (safely with adults nearby), a friend’s house, church grounds or community spaces, hiking trails, farms (with invitation), ponds and lakes, all offer incredible adventures and learning opportunities.
  8. STEAM Learning – Born scientists and explorers, the outdoors provides wonderful opportunities to intrigue growing minds and passions. No matter how big or small the discovery, I ask questions of Little Bee’s findings to encourage her to learn more about the world around her and to test out theories about what she already knows. Read more about STEAM learning here.
  9. Push beyond comfort – Encouraging children to push through hesitation in learning new skills, climbing a rock wall, jumping off a log, or flying down a swirly slide that is their own Mount Everest. Safe risk taking is a topic among many educators; providing those opportunities where children can gain understanding of risky play (falling from various heights, slippery conditions, rough and tumble play with friends) and learn of their capabilities with a trusted adult nearby.
  10. Creativity and Imagination – I’ve mentioned a wonderful book before Not A Stick, which is such a sweet, simple way to explores how wide the world becomes with the most basic of play things. Using nature’s toys, children are encouraged to create their own stories, and provide their own entertainment, unstructured and apart from traditional indoor toys.
  11. Social Development – Watching others play, being invited into a game, watching strangers act out their day, talking to neighbours and friends, all encourage children to apply those growing social skills that indoor play often distracts us from. Importantly here as noted above, children also learn how to work and function on their own, a very important skill through language development in expressing themselves to others, the power of their voice, and the ability to be mindful within themselves. 
  12. Love of Nature – Taking in the fresh air, sunshine, amazing puddles to splash in, grass to pull and investigate, mud to create with, rocks to build with, logs to climb on, snow to dig through, the outdoors are filled with amazing and magical play things, learning equipment and tools for exploration. Even while sitting on a small hill, in the span of a few moments, we could see and hear birds, watch ants at work, see a worm disappear into the dirt and hear a nearby dog call out a request for attention. During a walk, we enjoy the water (and of course throwing rocks in to watch the ripples), hear the hooves of horses, and take in all that we don’t see in our own back yard. Each trip offers something new, even if going to the same places on different days (check out this link for a free downloadable scavenger hunt!). The outdoor classroom is the very best one and allows us to connect with nature with a science lessons around every corner, under every leaf and within every shadow.

When children are pushed in a swing, or when they propel a swing themselves, they engage all of their muscles to hold on, balance and coordinate their body to the rhythm of moving back and forth. Swinging provides children with first-hand knowledge and experience of cause and effect and of understanding spatial learning, such as up and down and back and forth. Also, while swinging, children get a chance to see the world from a new perspective. ~ Fisher Price

Playing outside each day has become a part of our regular routine and is a welcomed part of each day. Some days this process takes longer with layers of winter wear, and others after a slather of sunscreen (this is our favourite) we are ready to run out barefoot. No matter the weather, we are ready and willing to be a part of the outdoors although I will gladly admit that those summer days splashing in water are by far my favourite.

Using special days to draw attention to how lucky we are to have an Outdoor Classroom all around us, such as a picnic or hike, or Outdoor Classroom Day, makes play outdoors meaningful and promotes meaningful conversation with Little Bee and I; moments and memories being built each time.

Although I try and take photos when I can, I often get lost in the play myself or am covered in paint or mud so don’t take out the camera or phone. I should try and make a better effort to capture these moments.

What do you like to do outside with your little ones? Do you venture out on even those not-so-nice days or do you prefer sunny weather? I would love to hear

Amazing Messy Play Ideas and the Benefits of Sensory Play

I recently wrote about the benefits of outdoor play and an added benefit I didn’t mention but is a huge one in our home is that the mess stays outside! We love messy play and I know that you are going to love it too when we look beyond the “mess” aspect and into the...

read more

The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children

The Amazing Benefits and Importance of Outdoor Play for Children of All Ages Most children love to play outside if given the opportunity, which in itself is a beautiful benefit; the joy and laughter they experience and the smile beaming across their face. Knowing the...

read more

How to Declutter Toys That Have Taken Over Your Home

How Our Decluttering Adventure Started We have a very small house that was formerly a daycare that I loved with all my heart. It was a beautiful space for a home-like learning environment that I filled with meaningful toys which allowed for learning through play. When...

read more

Making Meaning out of Making Marks (free download)

Making Meaning out of Making Marks: Activities for Little Ones Learning to Write Little Bee, who is about 2 and a half now, loves to colour together. But what I think she loves most about it is watching me and making meaningful marks on the page, like when I write her...

read more

Sharing is caring - Tell a friend about Books Bees & ABCs
How to Declutter Toys That Have Taken Over Your Home

How to Declutter Toys That Have Taken Over Your Home

How Our Decluttering Adventure Started

We have a very small house that was formerly a daycare that I loved with all my heart. It was a beautiful space for a home-like learning environment that I filled with meaningful toys which allowed for learning through play. When we decided to move on from our daycare, I found that transitioning the space back to a family home style meant that I was tripping over these toys piled miles high. I really didn’t know where to start as I had taken such care in choosing each item, watched them lovingly played with and investigated by the littlest loves that I had in my care. I was attached to them and the memories they held for me in watching these tiny beings grow.

*This post contains affiliate links which if used cost you nothing extra, but a small percentage comes back to me to support more learning! You’re welcome to check out my privacy policy or reach out to me directly with questions anytime!*

I’m so grateful for all we have. We’ve been so fortune and it’s been so wonderful. I loved being able to spend the extra time with my daughter and loved watching other littles learn in my home as well. But now, surrounded by the toys of those moments, I felt overwhelmed by the mess and the clutter and was ready to be free of it. I know my daughter felt the same way as our first goal each day was to get outside and away from the clutter. It was hard for her to play when she barely had the floor space to stretch out when all the toys come out of the bins and onto the carpet. When it was time to tidy, it become emotional and overwhelming to think about where to start and I don’t blame her. To find her favorite toys, she had to power through piles of “stuff” and the play and learning got distracted, the moment lost of having to look for what was on her mind a moment before.

I had to consider what I wanted for the space now and I had to think about what my priorities were. It had to become a space for our family to connect and communicate without being lost in a sea of chirps and peeps from the toys that made noise.

Where to Start Clearing Out Extra Toys

I really felt that I had done a pretty good job in keeping toys at bay for the daycare. We accepted toys being passed along to us and I continued to buy toys with the best intentions of thinking of the children, rather than the space to keep them. My garage was filled with bins upon bins of toys to be swapped out. My cupboards, once designed for dishes, were overflowing with puzzles and puppets. I had great storage ideas in place but I had a hard time convincing myself that I had enough for these growing learners, so the closets continued to overflow.

I had decided when my daughter turned two, that I was going to have a small family only party for her to minimize on gifts and focus on family time and experience – a lesson learned from my sister who so much values the memories made rather than a gift to unwrap. But it can’t be helped that we feel obligated to give, give, give, to these little people who we love with our whole hearts. When I walk into a store with my daughter I can’t help but want a cute little something for her to shower her with my love… but why is that?

Why do we feel obligated to give gifts?

I know for myself I LOVE to give gifts. I love the feeling of seeing that look on someone’s face when you’ve surprised them with something they truly enjoy. It’s a high I continue to chase in sharing myself with others, especially when I can’t give my time or be there for someone in person – gifts provide that reach of a hug to someone a you don’t see as often as you would like. But it becomes hard to keep up with the standard created of giving a gift at every holiday or celebrated moment. Gift giving holidays can be stressful in making sure everyone has something “equal” in value, while still allowing them to feel special and appreciated in our lives. It gets out of hand quickly. When pregnant with my daughter I told myself that I wouldn’t be over gifting for her, that I wanted to her really enjoy the things she had and not be surrounded by endless amounts of toys, but here I was walking through the store trying to “apologize” for her having to sit in the shopping cart with a toy to love on for the time being.

I’ve reset my mindset on gifting. I still love it, but now I think of it as sharing and passing along those items we are ready to see loved by someone new.

My daughter doesn’t even blink when I say we are packing things up to pass on to someone else. She already has the ability to let go of those toys that she considers “secondary”. She has her special toys, which aren’t for sharing in her mind, but anything else is easily passed along.

Simple living has been on top of every Pinterest feed I open and with good reason. It’s a movement to help people get back to simple living, to feel a freedom in opportunity and creativity, and to get our time back rather then spending it organizing, cleaning, searching for the things we buy.

I fully appreciate this as I pick up what seems like 8 million pieces of Lego from my backyard. Squished into the mud, many now will just be a part of the backyard forever (maybe a treasure finding adventure for another day) I didn’t feel like the toys were being enjoyed and appreciated among all the others around them. We were transitioning our home from the daycare but hadn’t let go of the amount of toys now being used for only one child.

When I realized that it needed to change:

We recently spent 2 months at my parent’s home hours away from where we live. When I was packing for the trip I knew I didn’t have much space and so I had to think about what toys would be meaningful – for learning through play, while allowing for independence and imagination to flourish. What I came to learn was that she really didn’t need all that much and she was more than happy with the few things we had brought with us. We spent our time outdoors, in the kitchen, reading, and using what we had brought as loose parts in many types of play.

Spring Cleaning Toys

This is the perfect time of year to make a change in our toys – it’s that time of year where I already feel obligated to be cleaning and organizing our home; that spring cleaning vibe. We are spending so much time outside that there isn’t as much heartache about seeing the toys going out the door to their new home.

We’ve been lucky that we have friends with little ones that we can pass things onto. Toys that Little Bee has outgrown are welcomed in homes of friends who have little ones learning new skills. So we’ve started to go through toys that Little Bee has moved beyond in her own development. We are slowly going through and thinking about whom we know that might benefit from them. Having Little Bee be a part of this empowers her and allows her to feel that wonderful feeling of sharing with someone she loves.

 

Toys are Learning Tools – Choosing Them with Care

Children are natural investigators (check out my guest post here on the topic) and providing them the tools – toys – for learning through play allows them to make the most of the opportunity.

I mentioned before that I spent a lot of time and energy choosing toys for the daycare that allowed for learning through play, contributed to imagination, loose parts play, and a love of learning. I was careful to keep branded items at a minimum and include toys that could cross play cultures and become “anything”. With a background in Educational Psychology, I applied a lot of my approach for creating environments for learning from educational theories such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and Walforf Schools. But it isn’t easy to stick to this when we are surrounded by media marketed messages that we need the newest toys and that kids feel that they have to have the greatest gadgets. We don’t have a television in my home but we do have an iPad, and for us Paw Patrol and Minnie Mouse can be spotted a mile away at any store, or any park on a t-shirt or backpack of a playmate. It’s brilliant marketing and sales; beautifully done, and incredibly impactful. I do what I can to minimize the messaging for my daughter, but I know especially when she gets to school that will be more challenging to deal with. What I can do is enrich the values now. I can remind her that she is not the sum of all her belongings and reinforce those lessons in learning through play (more on that here)

11 Rules for an Organized Playroom

  1. Less is More: And the lifelong lessons that come from that – sharing and taking care of toys, organizing and being responsible, developing imagination, more time for quality play when less time is spent searching for and cleaning up toys.
  2. Choose Valuable and Meaningful Toys: Purchase and accept toys into your home that can grow with your children, provide meaningful learning through play and are truly enjoyed.
  3. Revisit the Spring Cleaning of Toys: This isn’t a one-time process and could be reevaluated after holidays, birthdays as well as seasonally.
  4. Create a Space for Toys to be Displayed: Whether you have a toy room or a child’s bedroom, or in our case the toys live among our main living area, they all have a home within our home – a dedicated place to be returned to when the play is over where they can be organized and found with ease. Display toys that are important, meaningful, support learning through play. If there isn’t room, the toy goes.
  5. Toys In, Toys Out: Sharing with friends and family is encouraged (and much more budget friendly), birthdays are exciting and worthy of celebration, holidays provide rich memories but all of these things result in more “stuff”. When one new thing comes in the house, one old thing goes out the door.
  6. Encourage Learning Through Play: Make play valuable time that doesn’t always have to be with a toy – playing (safely) in the kitchen, outside, or with learning activities, and create a routine where tidying up is part of the activity.
  7. Avoid the Sparkle of New Stuff: Your child doesn’t need every toy on the market. It’s a big business for a reason and a company’s job to make us feel that we need and want the latest and greatest toys and versions of toys. I want the very best for my child and would love to give her the world, but I also want to teach her to use her mind and to place value where it is important. This one is really hard, especially when children get older and they feel their friends have more than or better than they do. That’s why it’s so important to set these standards early – that toys can be appreciated, replaced (when other toys move out and on), and less is more.
  8. Be the Example of Change for Your Child: If I am constantly surrounding myself with new things, filling closets with stuff I never use, and feeling overwhelmed by the clutter, these messages are clear to the little ones looking up to me. Before I can think about asking my child to sacrifice her belongings, I must be willing to do the same.
  9. Be There: Children really want your time and attention – find activities that involve them and allow them to contribute to the home, take time to focus on them completely, and play with them.
  10. Involve Your Children in Organization: Children are surprisingly open to this idea. Who would have thought a 2 year old would be as keen to give what I had assumed were her favorite toys, to a friend. Making decisions is hard and teaching them how to do this is a valuable lesson – for everyone… I’m still learning. Letting them know where the toys are going allows them to feel good about what they are doing.
  11. Play Everywhere: I take Little Bee to places where she will have access to other toys and appreciate them as something new and exciting such as the library, playgroup, friends house, outside, kitchen, and so on. This makes her toys that much more special when they are unique and makes each outing fun!

5 Steps to Decluttering Toys

 

  1. Start Small: Go through books and remove those that you and your children have moved beyond. Organize blocks or Barbies and look at each area individually. Once you have each small section done, you can stand back and look at the big picture and fine-tune what you have already decluttered. Organizing one area at a time helps me get an understanding of how much of it we had (usually way too much) and how much of it we needed if we even did at all. Also, it allowed me to see what I needed for storage for this item.
  2. Involve Your Children in the Process: There are so many lessons to be learned from this experience (read more below) and children are natural helpers and have good hearts. Once they understand what is going on, they will be surprisingly eager to help. If they are not quite there yet, spend some time talking to them about sharing and giving.
  3. Define the Space Where the Toys Belong: I found labelling the containers or color coding to be helpful when I had the daycare. The kids came to understand what was in each box and more importantly where things went when it was time to put it all away. Now, with less to deal with, Little Bee and I have a shelf for most of the larger toys and bins that smaller parts and toys can go into. This makes cleaning up and staying organized that much easier. If it doesn’t fit, or have a spot, it doesn’t stay.
  4. Once It Goes in the Garbage/Donation/Re-gifting Pile, It Doesn’t Come Back Into Play: This is a tricky one as formerly forgotten toys become instantly loved when they are found again. Get rid of it immediately or within a short frame of time, the longer you “store it for later” the more likely it will be forgotten, or taken back out and put into toy rotation.
  5. Take the Time to Appreciate and Hold Each Item Before Making a Decision: Each toy held a lot of memories for me and was a great conversation for my daughter and I. Do we love and play with this item? Do we have a place to put it where it can be appreciated? Remember the time…? Who do you think would love this item now that we are done with it?

*This comes as inspiration from The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying Up – A guide for organizing and simplifiying without overwhelm. Such a great book to help wrap your head around moving on from all your “stuff”. I really do recommend it – like most of my books, this one is covered in highlighter and pen marks from all the notes worth going back to.

 

What Do I Do with All The Toys We’ve Purged?

Now that you’ve gone through the process, what do you do with all this stuff? Where do you take it all? This is what we did.

  • Donate to local schools
  • Donate to charity boxes or drop zones
  • Pass on to loved ones – family or friends with children who could would welcome it. Welcoming it being the key so you don’t set them up with the same problem you are having 😉
  • Throw away those things that have had their time, are now broken or beyond repair
  • Sell items that you feel you could pass onto to someone but still have lots of value. There are lots of local consignment groups on Facebook or kijiji.com for example
  • Repurpose before throwing away. Some items we have found have made great craft projects, or have become part of our “beautiful things” box.

7 Additional Tips for Downsizing Toys

 

  1. Some communities have a toy library where you can borrow just as you would books, and then return them at a later date. This is a wonderful idea that we’ve never taken part in but might look into for the future.
  2. I used to do a toy rotation when I had the daycare – I don’t feel I need that many toys on hand for Little Bee as we play outside, and take part in community and then we can play at home for a set chunk of the day each day so I haven’t found the need to increase the number of toys at this point.
  3. Some people recommend setting a number of toys to help keep the clutter in check but for my house it depends on what Little Bee is interested in, what skills I’m supporting and knowing what toys can grow with her in a meaningful way. I think this is a great strategy for a lot of families but for us it has more to do with space and value. I’m willing to make space for a great learning toy or one that Little Bee really loves, but not so much for a McDonald’s toy. Depending on your space, having a set number of toys for each child might be a great idea!
  4. Some things can stay regardless of number. We have a bin of “beautiful things” that are part of our art supplies. Feathers, flowers, ribbon and sparkles that allow us to make something incredible when we sit down to create. I leave art supplies out all the time now on her little activity table, although this has resulted in having a child used as a canvas rather than paper… (I looked away for 2 minutes and these were not washable markers…) but it also encourages her to be creative when the moment strikes!
  5. Open-Ended Toys are incredible for creative, imaginative, and constructive play. Using blocks as loose parts allows them to be multi-purpose. That doesn’t mean I want to be stepping over toppled towers all day, so we’ve had to come up with a way to store and transport them.
  6. Artwork gets displayed in frames. I swap out creations by Little Bee (when time allows). What we don’t display, we put lovingly in a binder or mailed to loved ones as a fun activity and going back to that gifting and sharing idea!
  7. This is (unfortunately) not a one-time process. As seasons pass, toys get shared with friends and passed down to us, holidays happen, we will reassess and that’s totally fine, welcomed and appreciated. It’s a chance for us to look through and evaluate what we have and check to see if it resonates with us and contributes to our learning through play.
9 Benefits of Having Fewer Toys

 

Longer Attention Span and Concentration: When children are constantly being “entertained” they have a harder time with quiet moments and finding ways to creatively use their time.Focus on one activity and seeing it through rather than jumping from one activity to the next, one toy to the next without much thought.

 

Playing with Real Life and Using Imagination: Toys become all sorts of other things, through loose parts play and allow  a child to creatively create their play instead of working within the confines of the specifically designed toy.

 

Sharing: There is so much that comes from learning to share: the conversation, the social skills, the compromise, learning about time (he has it for 5 minutes then my turn), the joy in others, problem solving, dealing with conflict, working in groups, relationship building – amazing skills to be learned.

 

Responsibility for Ownership: Taking care of them to allow toys to last longer, not leaving them outside, understanding their value (monetary and meaning) , putting them away at the end of the day.

 

Patience: Having to wait for another activity (getting ready for the grocery store, or driving to playgroup) and not being distracted with toys to help time pass.

 

Playing Elsewhere: Playing outside, creating art, dancing and singing, helping around the house, reading, spending time with family, are all great ways to spend time in meaningful ways without the need of excess toys.

 

Play Exhaustion and Decision Fatigue: Children are often overwhelmed with too many choices and can sometimes feel that is too much in the room to focus on, thus moving from one thing to another, or not playing with anything at all. Having fewer things (as noted above) allows children to devote time and attention to the importance of learning through play.

 

Teaching Children the Value of Moments Rather Than “Stuff”: This one speaks for itself in that memories can be treasured instead of piles of toys.

 

Use the Toys They Have More Often: It’s now easier to access those toys they have as there are fewer to weed through.

Challenges in Decluttering Toys

We’ve had to mention to family that we love how much they love our daughter but that we hope they would show that with their time and attention rather than with gifts. This is hard because as someone who loves to give gifts, I understand the joy that comes from creating that look of wonder on someone’s face and I didn’t want to take that away from Little Bee’s grandparents in giving her something special if they wanted to do so. We put in place the rule that when something new comes in, something old goes out. It’s hard to avoid that value being placed on getting something “new” being better than something old, that more, more, more means “worthy” and that every achievement deserves a gift. Little ones deserve to be celebrated but that doesn’t require wrapping paper.

Stuffed animals are my weakness. I love them. Now and when I was a kid. I can’t seem to stop buying them for Little Bee, and never seem to want to get rid of them. But they take up so much room! So many of these were not even played with because they were at the bottom of a basket, or buried in a pile of other furry faces. Now we have fewer (although still too many) but we display them around the house so they can easily be found and enjoyed.

We don’t have a dedicated toy space. If we had a room to spare perhaps I would create a beautiful playroom but we just don’t have the space right now. And that’s okay. I want Little Bee to know that her books, and toys are valuable tools for learning and are an invitation to a creative world where her imagination can run wild. I love seeing her play, hearing her voice build stories and adventures. It’s amazing. But, I don’t love tripping over the mass of toys that this often encourages. We had to be able to blend the two worlds of home and play. I didn’t want to have to “hide” her toys to make it look like a home.

Books are another hard one for me because I really value books. We have WAYYYYY too many books. Something I thought I would never say because I didn’t think there was such a thing as too many books. I have too many, AND Little Bee has too many. We just recently went through books that we had an scaled down those that were duplicates (or very similar) and chose a favorite, those we have grown beyond, or those that were very damaged (unless they were also very loved). We’ve passed along those books to friends and family who have little ones, donated to our local school, and recycled those that were beyond repair.

Life Long Lessons in Decluttering

All of this becomes so much more clear in the wake of a flood that has hit my community – seeing neighbours and friends lose almost all of their belongings overnight. They can tell you first hand that at the end of the day what is important is having each other, being safe and healthy, and having that bond that helps you get through those moments together. It’s a reminder of what’s important – where our focus should be as I prepare bags of “stuff” to be donated.

Share with your children how proud you are that they were able to pass on something of their own to someone else – if it’s someone they know, or if donated to charity, it’s something worth celebrating. They are positivity impacting someone else’s life and that is incredible.

Next Steps for a Minimalist Mindset

The idea here is to keep things simple – in having fewer toys to play with, but also fewer to clean up. The toys become viewed as special and appreciated, valued and cared for, displayed as parts of the home. The hope is that fewer will lead to less stress for my daughter and myself when it comes time to clean it all up. Living with less will give us more time together rather than my repeating time and time again that we need to put this or that away before taking out the next piece and wasting time looking for the lost piece of the puzzle in a box of a million pieces.

Starting with the toys is only the beginning. I’ve recently created myself a little office – still a work in progress – and it feels so great to have a dedicated place to go to do my work where I don’t have to climb over or interrupt my daughter’s play to get there. There is, however, a dreaded closet in that room that is filled to the brim with “stuff” – leftover this and that which doesn’t seem to find a home anywhere else, and I really need to bring myself to dealing with it. Our garage needs a lot of attention as we had moved from a bigger home to our smaller home, which meant we had a lot of extra furniture that all landed in the garage. This past weekend I cleared out a third of it… it’s a start.

I grew up in a house that was not filled to the brim with toys. That didn’t mean my sister and I went without; we had more than enough to play with and keep us busy. We also had a devoted play space, which is more than what my daughter has now. What we learned was that if we didn’t take care of our toys we didn’t get to keep them. We donated toys that we no longer used and we passed items on to our younger cousins. I remember babysitting my adorable cousins Monica, Emily and Bridget (who have turned out to be incredible young women – I wish I could take some credit for how good they did turn out but it was 100% their parents and who they genuinely are) and seeing toys and books my sister and I once loved. Being young at the time, my first thought was shock. These were my beloved items! But upon looking back, it was a valuable lesson in sharing these things with family, in seeing them have a second life and getting to appreciate them again while playing with my cousins. Pretty neat. My mother was teaching me a lot in those moments. I hope to teach my daughter the same character creating lessons.

 

What other ideas do you have for reorganizing your space? Do you have strategies for staying on top of the toy clutter?

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The Importance of Having a Daily Routine with Toddlers and Preschoolers

The Importance of Having a Daily Routine with Toddlers and Preschoolers

Purposefully made with calming colors to prevent distraction and provide a focused space for learning through play with a parent or teacher,

The Love of Learning Binder can be used in a homeschool setting, preschool, or as a daily part of a momma life with little ones at home.

The importance of establishing a routine with little ones at home, toddlers and preschoolers thrive from routine and it makes life a lot easier for a momma working from home #SAHM #momboss #workingfromhome

Little Bee and I are adjusting to a new routine. Our day looked a lot different a few months ago while I was running a daycare in my home – the most wonderful way to spend each day – but after a whirlwind of change we’ve decided to enjoy our time together just the two of us while hubby is at work. Change can be really hard when having to adjust to a new “normal” and more so when it comes on unexpectedly. I was already having a hard time fitting in time for myself, focusing time on consulting work and what was then daycare administrative work, and accomplishing anything around the house. I felt I had to use every moment of the day and justify what I had done, give 100% attention to my daughter, tick a million things off my to-do list, leaving nothing for myself. With all of this we were handed a shock of family illness and drastic changes to business regulations, which would force closure. I was exhausted. I had to make a change.

To do this, Little Bee and I have to make great use of our hours in the day. This doesn’t mean I’m “doing it all” but rather I have a loosely made plan for what I want my day to look like. I knew if I was going to work from home, spend quality time with my daughter and get the most of this big change we’ve made in our family, financially and logistically, I would have to become incredibly productive with the small crumbs of time I had here and there throughout the day.

*This post contains affiliate links which if used cost you nothing extra, but a small percentage comes back to me to support more learning! You’re welcome to check out my privacy policy or reach out to me directly with questions anytime!*

I also wanted to prioritize my health and show my daughter that this is a valuable aspect of my life, worthy of time investment. My father had recently gone through cancer treatment, which was a huge eye opener for me. I think it’s a great message for Little Bee that I not only value my health, but I am prioritizing care for myself, to be around for her longer, to have the energy to play with her and keep up with her as I want to, and most importantly teach her that our health is worth investing time and effort.

To focus on my new priorities, my work from home job, maintain the house, and educate my little love, I create a little list the night before, which gives me one less thing to stress about and focus on the next morning – when Little Bee wakes up it’s time to get moving and coming up with a list at that point gets quickly forgotten.The importance of establishing a routine with little ones at home, toddlers and preschoolers thrive from routine and it makes life a lot easier for a momma working from home #SAHM #momboss #workingfromhome

Finding my list on the counter after Little Bee jump starts my day provides relief knowing:

  • I’ll start my day off right while still giving myself the flexibility to make choices if I choose to do so.
  • That feeling of success as I tick things off my list. It’s oh so satisfying to see the list of “things” diminish.

Turns out, I’m not the first to have figured this out as the research to support the value in routines is incredible.

 

The importance of establishing a routine with little ones at home, toddlers and preschoolers thrive from routine and it makes life a lot easier for a momma working from home #SAHM #momboss #workingfromhome13 Benefits of Establishing a Routine for Your Toddler and Preschooler

  1. Children feel reassured and less anxious when they know what to expect from their day. Of course there are benefits to mixing it up a little bit to have them experience change, but having a flexible schedule allows little ones to feel the most safety and reassurance – so when big changes occur, they are more prepared to take them on and have the confidence to handle it.
  2. Routine helps deal with those power struggles that we all face with little ones. When children know the routine, they are less likely to put up a fuss about: brushing hair, teeth, getting ready for bed, because this is just how it is. Every day.
  3. Routine helps encourage independence at an earlier age. When children come to understand the routine, they are eager to take part in brushing teeth, dressing themselves, getting out items to be placed on the table for supper, pack their snacks for play group the next day, etc.
  4. When children know what to expect in their day, research shows that they are better behaved and perform better in school.
  5. Children are always keeping us on our toes. New teeth, flu and colds, growth spurts, trouble at school – it’s constant readjustment and getting to know these growing beings. Having a flexible routine allows us to deal with those changes more readily, be less stressed when changes arise and work these new aspects of normal into the day.
  6. Real life happens without a doubt, causing a big change in everyone’s routine and day, but having the foundational skills to deal with that change and how to bounce back into your routine allows the whole family to have a sense of security.
  7. Developing Skills and Habits in Toddler and Preschoolers that take them into adulthood and prepare them for life can be established through daily routine #routine #planning #toddler #WAHM #SAHM #preschooler #prepare BooksBeesAndABCs.comFlexible structure allows children to learn those ever important skills and habits that will take them into adulthood and set them up for life long success:
    • Self Care (bathroom routines, washing, dressing)
    • Organization and Responsibility (tidying up, having tasks and responsibilities expected the child)
    • Time Management and Self Directed Productivity (understanding that chunks of time end and it will be time to move onto the next activity, no matter how engaged the child may be in the previous one, making the most of play time as there are other times in the day where there are “jobs” to do)
    • Focus and Self-Control (waiting until a less desirable task is over until the most desirable task begins, knowing it will come eventually).
    • Communication (supper time, getting ready for bed, playtime with family members is focused time when children are aware they have your attention)
    • Dealing with Conflict and Challenge (having the confidence to deal with the unexpected when it does occur).
  8. Allows you slow down and prioritize family time and moments of connection without feeling distraction from all the other areas of your life as there is now an established and devoted time for each. When Little Bee and I are working on her Love of Learning Binder together she knows she has my full attention. When we read together we can talk about the pictures on the pages without my feeling that I have a million other things to do. I do. But they can wait until their time.
  9. Children who know what to expect in their day, tend to have better sleep patterns, which you know the value of – I know I do!
  10. Allows you to be more productive with the time you have when you know what to expect of the rest of the day – If you have 3 things that NEED to get done you have a better idea of how much time you can spend on each.
  11. Feeling of accomplishment and success. You can’t underestimate the power of your mindset. We already have the voices in our head from mom guilt, decision exhaustion and being overwhelmed, the least we could do is lift ourselves up with our successes and accomplishments!
  12. More likely to be consistent if everyone knows what to expect. They aren’t asking for ice cream for supper when they know supper is a healthy meal that we all sit down to enjoy together at this particular time. They won’t be asking for treats at the grocery store if the routine is to bring a list of items and buy only the items on the list. They won’t be shouting at you while you are on the phone making an important call when they know that when you are done you aren’t rushing off to the next thing, but rather taking a moment to appreciate them.
  13. Routine allows you to find ways that your child can help. For them and you. It makes the job easier for you (after they get a handle of it… Little Bee loves to sweep but let’s face it, I still have to sweep afterward), and your child feels involved and appreciated and as a valued member of the family.

14 Ways to Set Up a Daily Routine for Your Family

  1. Create your list the night before. For me, I know that I can only have between 5 and 7 things on my list without feeling overwhelmed. And I know it’s better for me to have a main list of things to do that day, finish the list and then add to it if I have time, rather than have a giant list and never see the end of it. Be realistic. Set yourself up for success.
  2. Have an important activity to do with your child like the Love of Learning Binder – which can be established as a quiet time activity for those older children who can play independently while you do the tasks you need more focus for.
  3. Build your routine around what already happens naturally if you can. You know what time everyone wakes up (give or take), what time everyone likes to eat, what time everyone needs to crash for a break and refresher in the day – work with that and build a routine around what works for your family.
  4. Give yourself enough time for those things that take a little longer. Little Bee is really excited to take part in dressing and undressing herself right now, which, let’s face it – takes a little longer so I put fewer things on my daily list while we work through this together.
  5. I pick up and tidy up through the day in real time, but I always start my day with a “chore” which helps me feel accomplished, and I end my day by cleaning the kitchen counter, putting dishes away and living room tidied at a minimum as these are the first few things I see each morning and it prevents me from feeling overwhelmed before the day even starts.
  6. I set aside time to spend one on one time with my daughter without distraction. I usually let her choose what we do if we don’t have something planned but my phone is away, my computer is closed, the iPad is off; it’s just us. This is such valuable time for the both of us and let’s her know I appreciated her understanding when I needed time to work on something else.
  7. I set aside time at the end of the day to prepare for the next day. On my list it is written as “plan tomorrow’s amazing day” to set myself up for success with a positive mindset. I pack any bags I need, clothes laid out or at least thought through, to-do list for the next day, snacks packed, confirmations with plans made, last minute tidy.
  8. Involve your little ones – they love to help. My daughter loves to help me clean/prep for next day/help with dishes/clear the table, etc. It takes way longer but it’s building her independence and will eventually become a job she can do on her own.
  9. Be consistent where you can but allow for flexibility – how backward does this sound? But it’s true. I know that there are particular things in the day that I’m going to do, that I really NEED to do but that there are also those parts of the day that I can just go with the flow or completely let go of if the day requires it.
  10. Streamline processes that you do often, make checklists once you establish a method of doing something that works for you so you can do that part of your day faster and more efficiently – even with distractions. Think of it as a recipe for your best chocolate chip cookies. You may know it off by heart but what about the days where tiny hands are pulling at your shirt or you are feeling a little off, or you are mid potty training and someone shouts that they have to pee – having a quick checklist to make sure you haven’t missed a step is a huge time saver in the long run.
  11. Not all tasks are daily, weekly, monthly. I don’t clean my windows everyday… or week… or month. I really don’t get around to cleaning my windows as often as I probably should but it isn’t a priority item and doesn’t NEED to be done as regularly. I’m going to start making monthly lists for goals, and then quarterly goals. Windows would be on one of those… I’ll put it on tomorrow’s to-do list to jot it down 😉
  12. Find a good system for YOU! Bullet journaling is beautiful and such a hot topic right now and with good reason. It works wonders for some people, but I don’t find it super helpful for me because I get caught up in the aesthetic of the page rather than the task and that’s not very useful. I use a simple coiled notebook and my favourite pens. That way, if something needs to be put on another list, I can pop it on another page and it all stays together, but when I finish a list I get the satisfaction of ripping it out and throwing it away. Love that feeling. And the sound. This is just what works for me – I also have notebooks for everything… I have a lot of notebooks and lists and I probably get a little carried away but that’s my system and it works.The importance of establishing a routine with little ones at home, toddlers and preschoolers thrive from routine and it makes life a lot easier for a momma working from home #SAHM #momboss #workingfromhome
  13. Get an understanding of your day and plan accordingly:
    • The importance of establishing a routine with little ones at home, toddlers and preschoolers thrive from routine and it makes life a lot easier for a momma working from home #SAHM #momboss #workingfromhomeWhen are you most efficient? Make this the time to get those core goals done for the day. I know that I have lots of energy in the morning so that’s when I try and accomplish one “chore” that I don’t really look forward to and would love to have off the list. I also know that I don’t need brain power for this and that I’m much more friendly after a cup of coffee (come to think of it, my family understands this too because everyone gives me lots of space until they see a cup in my hand).
    • I know that if I eat a heavy lunch, my work time/quiet time is loggy and not impactful, so I’ve changed my mindset on fueling my work with a healthier lunch.
    • I know that coming on the end of the day, I’m trying to put together a supper that suits everyone so I can’t sit and read with Little Bee. I use this time to offer her a hands-on STEAM type activity so we can still chat and the time is still meaningful.
  14. Your time is just as important and valuable as anyone else’s:
    • I love getting together with my friend Lee for coffee. It’s probably one of my favourite things to do because she is a breath of fresh air and I always leave our chats feeling like a new person. Where she gets her inspiration and energy I have no idea, but with her amazing personality, she is also incredibly understanding that my schedule is busy and takes no offence to my having to decline one of our meets. She knows that when I’m sitting across a table from her that I’m disconnected from anything and not distracted by all the other things in my life, but sometimes I’m not able to do that. Sometimes I have to work because I’ve been offered an unexpected quiet time that I could get a big project done for work. Having amazing friends that I never want to cancel on (and try never to cancel on) means they also understand why it takes so long to get together each time.
    • Just as I don’t answer my phone when I’m with my daughter in “our time” or when hubby and I get our time at the end of the day, I don’t answer my phone when I’m with a good friend. I prioritize the relationship and ensure they know this. It’s an easy message to send, and one to receive.
    • Ever carve out time that you almost couldn’t get to, move around a million things in your schedule, frantically find babysitters, scrounge for the “frivolous spending money” for the event you’re attending, only to hang out with friends who are lost on their phones, in their email, thinking of something else and leaving you feeling less than important? Well, just as you feel that, you can send (or not send) that vibe as well.
    • Just as it is important for you to be cognizant of the message you send, you need to remember that you don’t have to take on all the responsibilities and let everyone else have the fun. If everyone is playing outside and you are scrubbing a floor, drop the mop and join them, then, when the game is over have everyone help you with the chore. You are valuable and deserve to have the fun moments as well.

Sometimes Having a Routine Doesn’t Apply

I’m not saying your entire life has to be written down in an agenda and stuck to as if it were written in stone. Of course this isn’t possible and it wouldn’t be recommended. Knowing what to expect and having some sense of organization to your day benefits everyone and allows you to get an understanding of what you can accomplish in a day, no matter what your day looks like. We are all incredibly busy and cannot compare with the Jones’. The idea is to look at YOUR day with YOUR family and think about how you can make the most of it, enjoy everyone the most, while leaving time for those goals you would like to see come to fruition. Time is something we all have little of, so making the most of it means a better life for everyone.

There are those life moments that are so special and so worth tossing the to-do list to the side. While supporting my father in his cancer treatment, Little Bee and I were away for a while only to come home to the warmest of welcomes from my hubby. Little Bee’s dad took a day off work and we simply spent it together. We went for lunch, played in the yard, went out for ice cream, the three of us together and it was wonderful. Our routine wasn’t thought about once that day and that was more than okay. It didn’t need to be. Now, we can’t have days like that all the time and expect things to get accomplished, but how much more enjoyable is that day when it was out of the blue? Because we stay on top of things (most things…) most of the time it’s easy to take a day now and then to just ENJOY each other and think of nothing else. And, we can easily jump back into our routine the next day as the foundation. Again, it’s like the recipe. Tossing in a little something extra, or cutting back on an ingredient because it’s what you have in the house is more than fine. It still works out and makes it a little more special, but we all find comfort in the original recipe, which is why we continue to go back to it.

If you have babies at home, this isn’t always possible. My daughter was a colicky Little Bee and that meant that I was flying by the seat of my pants most of the time, and that was okay, but I still had 3 (fewer then, because I understood my limitations) things that I aimed to get done those days. Sometimes I wrote down: 1. Eat 2. Change clothes 3. Sleep when Hubby gets home. It’s whatever works for you.

How it works for us:

The importance of establishing a routine with little ones at home, toddlers and preschoolers thrive from routine and it makes life a lot easier for a momma working from home #SAHM #momboss #workingfromhomeLittle Bee knows that during “Quiet Time” Mommy does her work and she must play independently. This is the reason I can be home with her in the first place and she knows and understands this. She also knows that when I am done, I put everything away and focus on her completely, so she feels appreciated in letting me have that time. This also teaches her to be patient – some days more successfully than others. This is my time to get my work done and it’s time that I have decided to be on my computer or phone, whatever needs to happen. So, while I’m sending the message to my daughter that this is my work time, I also want her to understand that I’m making the most of it. I’m not wasting it on Facebook or other social media, I’m working efficiently and effectively so that when my time is up, I’m entirely back on with her. I owe her that much. I offer her quiet activities to do at this time so she feels she has “work” to do too – because napping seems to be non-negotiable.

I don’t plan for perfection. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out and I don’t mind (anymore). If I can get 3 of the items on my list done, that’s great. Some days it’s 1. Other days the items all get scratched off. It’s more of a guide to help me make the most of the day when I can but at the end of the day I have my priorities in order. Family and self first. Everything else second – even work. I love what I do. So so so much. But caring for myself is also caring for my family and my business so ensuring that every choice is for the best of our all over health and wellness is primary focus.

4 Lessons Learned in Building a Routine for a Toddler and a Work from Home Mom:

  1. I used to make the mistake of putting too many things on my list and then daily felt the awful overwhelm and guilt of not getting it all done. I was setting myself up for failure. This wasn’t a good vibe for me and I needed to change my mindset on the whole idea, making it more positive. Even what I write I put in positive wording “Plan tomorrow’s awesome day”. It helps more than you would think.

2. I used to be a clean freak. Everything had to be spotless at all times and I would get anxious over the idea of anyone “popping by” to see the minimal mess I had in the kitchen. Now, I’ve refocused what is important to me. Sure, I would love it to be cleaner, more organized, and to get around to scrubbing that marker off the wall I can see out of the corner of my eye right now but I also know my time is just as valuable as anyone else’s in the house so I don’t want to be the only one worried about dishes in the sink (because that ends up with me being the only one doing them). Instead, I’ve recruited help. I’ve stopped thinking that I have to DO IT ALL, and now I reach out to my hubby and daughter with jobs that they can do to be supportive. Everyone deserves downtime, including me, so when everyone is putting together a giant puzzle in the living room, the old me would take the minutes to wash a few dishes, the new me jumps in with the corner piece of the puzzle and enjoys my time with my family. When we are all done, everyone can work together to get the dishes done. I don’t need to miss out. And I also don’t need to expect perfection because asking them for help means that it’s not done to a “Jessica Standard of Cleanliness” but that has become okay.

3. I still have a hard time taking care of myself first, so I have to write two things that appear on my list every day – if not, I would forget to do them:

  • Drink water
  • Go to bed at a reasonable time.

My evenings are my only actual “Quiet Time” so I can easily work into the wee hours because I love what I do and you can quickly lose yourself when you are passionate about your work – it’s awesome but exhausting. I know I have to take care of myself to take care of everyone else and doing that means getting to bed and drinking water. And I know myself well enough to know I need the reminder.

 

4. I’ve mentioned a few times that we recently had a big shake up in our life when we had to close the daycare and decided to go to Prince Edward Island to support a family member with cancer. Having our routine, although greatly changed in location, looked very similar which was a big help to Little Bee and I while we adjusted to our temporary version of normal, and again now that we have returned home to a different life, without the daycare. Those foundational parts of our day that have always remained consistent were the anchor for us when thrown a loop. We kept bedtime routine the same (although we missed Daddy and his part), and morning routines the same (which now included Nanny and Grampie), and had projects through the day that mimicked what we were doing at daycare, such as the Love of Learning Binder. Having something reliable and consistent made this much less stressful for Little Bee which in turn was much less stressful for me. It was a great reminder that routine works.

What do you do at home to make routine work? Do you find having structure provides foundation or does it cause restriction in your home?

Amazing Messy Play Ideas and the Benefits of Sensory Play

Amazing Messy Play Ideas and the Benefits of Sensory Play

I recently wrote about the benefits of outdoor play and an added benefit I didn’t mention but is a huge one in our home is that the mess stays outside! We love messy play and I know that you are going to love it too when we look beyond the “mess” aspect and into the...

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The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children

The Benefits of Outdoor Play for Children

The Amazing Benefits and Importance of Outdoor Play for Children of All Ages Most children love to play outside if given the opportunity, which in itself is a beautiful benefit; the joy and laughter they experience and the smile beaming across their face. Knowing the...

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How to Declutter Toys That Have Taken Over Your Home

How to Declutter Toys That Have Taken Over Your Home

How Our Decluttering Adventure Started We have a very small house that was formerly a daycare that I loved with all my heart. It was a beautiful space for a home-like learning environment that I filled with meaningful toys which allowed for learning through play. When...

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Making Meaning out of Making Marks (free download)

Making Meaning out of Making Marks (free download)

Making Meaning out of Making Marks: Activities for Little Ones Learning to Write

Little Bee, who is about 2 and a half now, loves to colour together. But what I think she loves most about it is watching me and making meaningful marks on the page, like when I write her name, or the date, or a grocery list if it comes to me in the moment. She has interest in making letters she knows, or the starting letter of someone she loves, but she is still developing the muscles in her hand that allow her to control the marker, pen, or paintbrush.

 

Using fun and engaging activities to support your little one in their skill development for writing - this builds confidence and independence while helping to form the muscles that allow for skill development to occur in your toddler and preschooler. There are additional activities listed for your school aged child as well! Fun for everyone! Freebie here to downloadIn an effort to prevent frustration, this morning we tried something new

 

We have played with sand trays before using anything and everything you can imagine:

 

  • sand
  • rice (white, or more fun – coloured!)
  • lentils
  • beans
  • salt
  • sugar
  • flour (with sparkles mixed in if you are brave)
  • seeds
  • grass
  • small beads (keep in mind the learner you have or younger siblings that might ingest fallen bits)
  • cornmeal
  • couscous
  • or anything else you might have on hand that would be small and light enough to manipulate in a small tray or box – I would love to hear what other ideas you have!

*This post contains affiliate links which if used cost you nothing extra, but a small percentage comes back to me to support more learning! You’re welcome to check out my privacy policy or reach out to me directly with questions anytime!*

 

This activity is all about making the shapes, lines, and designs that exist in later letter formation without the pressure of “correctly writing the letter”. It’s a fun, relaxing, exciting and artistic way to draw in the sand, rice, flour, salt – learning through play.

 

Using fun and engaging activities to support your little one in their skill development for writing - this builds confidence and independence while helping to form the muscles that allow for skill development to occur in your toddler and preschooler. There are additional activities listed for your school aged child as well! Fun for everyone! Freebie here to downloadWhat children learn from this activity:

 

  • practice holding a brush, stick, pen for control and fine motor muscle development (used to shape the letters for handwriting)
  • concentration
  • coordination
  • confidence
  • independence
  • preparation for handwriting

 

Moving beyond simply tracing something that exists on a page (although there is value in this too and our freebie can be used this way also – see more below), children like Little Bee have a freedom to create, develop an independence in making meaningful marks, and most importantly develop a confidence in their growing abilities in letter formation, and eventually writing. 

 

What we did:

 

In using the same steps to build muscles in the hand (fine motor), and the same tactile experience that one would get putting pen to paper, we are working on early writing skills while keeping the activity playful, meaningful and entertaining. 

 

FIRST: I printed the freebie and cut the sections of inspirational mark making. I wrote Little Bee’s name on the bottom section before laminating.

 

I recommend laminating because I LOVE laminating but here are a few other great reasons:

 

    • for dramatic play in which your child comes up with their own meaning for what these can be: money, mail, recipe cards – this allows them to last through the play longer – these pouches are my favourite
    • place them in a zip lock bag to do a similar activity as this one, but while tracing over the designs in a bag of paint, goo, or shampoo (I’ll write more about this later – it’s a really fun activity) and then use a finger to trace over the shapes and swirls.
    • laminating the whole sheet before cutting for use with dry erase markers or crayola washable markers which can be wiped off again and again (a favourite here and shown in the EXTENSIONS below)

 

Using fun and engaging activities to support your little one in their skill development for writing - this builds confidence and independence while helping to form the muscles that allow for skill development to occur in your toddler and preschooler. There are additional activities listed for your school aged child as well! Fun for everyone! Freebie here to download

 

 

 


With this freebie, you are welcome to print off as many copies as you like – for, as you will see, there are so many uses for it! ENJOY! Using fun and engaging activities to support your little one in their skill development for writing - this builds confidence and independence while helping to form the muscles that allow for skill development to occur in your toddler and preschooler. There are additional activities listed for your school aged child as well! Fun for everyone! Freebie here to download

 

NEXT: Little Bee could choose a twig, pencil, marker with cap on, or paintbrush to make her marks. It doesn’t really matter what she uses, her finger works just as well too, but this is just a chance for her to hold the tool and get to know how to use it and manipulate it, while developing the muscles to hold it with control. Building the strength to hold a pencil is something that takes time and allowing her to use all sorts of different tools makes this more interesting for her and allows her to experiment with the way each works. BONUS: We turn on relaxing music that encourages Little Bee to take her time, without my suggestion to do so. This makes the moment that much softer and allows us both to get lost in the movement of the activity.

We use music and when we are trying to quiet down after a busy morning, below is a great video I often play in the background while doing a low key activity – while winding down.

 

 

 

Save

 

 

Using fun and engaging activities to support your little one in their skill development for writing - this builds confidence and independence while helping to form the muscles that allow for skill development to occur in your toddler and preschooler. There are additional activities listed for your school aged child as well! Fun for everyone! Freebie here to downloadLAST: I filled a pie plate with flour and sparkles and placed the newly cut cards (from the freebie) beside the tray for inspiration. She could choose one at a time, or make multiple in the tray at once. It was her time to play and learn and there was no wrong way to go about it. I also filled myself a tray to do this along with her, to let her watch me work and copy if she chose to do so, or to allow conversation to happen which is always the best part for me. The stories my girl comes up with are amazing. But this is also an activity that she can do independently if I need a quick moment here or there to work away at something around the house (nearby in case her creativity opts to take this activity to the floor…)

We usually use a cookie sheet, which come in so many sizes for activities like this as the height of the edges is perfect to contain the flour (or whatever you might like to use) and the surface is large enough to make lots of marks. Little Bee has her own cookie tray that we use for activities so that we don’t have to worry about mixing our learning through play with our kitchen experiments – just in case. But we had been baking earlier this morning (which is why the flour was readily available) and we wanted to extend the activity afterward by adding water to make a sloppy mess of “sparkle pie”. There are incredible Montessori trays made for just this purpose, and Melissa and Doug toys come in beautiful boxes that we use for this type of play as well. But, we’ve found the cookie sheet to work just perfectly and is magnetic as well for magnet play! This post contains affiliate links which if used cost you nothing extra, but a small percentage comes back to me to support more learning!

 

 

EXTENSIONS:

    1. Using fun and engaging activities to support your little one in their skill development for writing - this builds confidence and independence while helping to form the muscles that allow for skill development to occur in your toddler and preschooler. There are additional activities listed for your school aged child as well! Fun for everyone! Freebie here to downloadAs noted above, we also laminate the whole sheet (writing Little Bee’s name on the bottom section beforehand in a light coloured marker), and use either a dry erase marker or a Crayola washable marker to draw over the lines and wipe clean to use the same sheet over and over. Even wiping the page clean again works on the skills needed to strengthen the hand and control the muscles.

 

    1. If you have someone in the house that is working on cutting skills, print out an extra copy of the freebie and cut out each section as you did for the letter formation in the sand, but this time provide scissors and have them cut along the swirling, whirling lines.

 

 

 

Getting ahead on the learning for preschool, here is our Love of Learning Binder which you can use with your toddler and preschooler to learn, and enrich their education at home be it through homeschool or a morning routine this binder printable is packed with activity mats, cut outs and additional learning activities to make this a simple and quick process for you! From BooksBeesAndABCs.comIt’s important for me to encourage this exploration in my Little Bee. Splashing in a pond and watching the ripples move across the water holds a world of meaning, just as the swoosh of a paintbrush across a newly placed piece of paper does to both she and I. It could be the baby steps to a budding artist, writer, song writer or change maker, preparing to make a difference with her meaningful mark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have any activities you like to do with your little one to encourage independence and confidence for later skill development? I would love to hear about it! Comment below or reach out directly ♥

 

 

 

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Fun Earth Day Activities for Your Little Ones (free printable)

Fun Earth Day Activities for Your Little Ones (free printable)

Simple and Fun Earth Day Activities to enjoy with your preschool and toddler as well as school aged children. Great book ideas, easy crafts and activities and fun videos to watch together!Earth Day is just around the corner (April 22nd, 2018) and there are so many fun and educational activities that tie into this topic that will have everyone engaged and learning!

Having the weather be just that much nicer is encouragement to take these activities outside. Little Bee and I have been playing around with play dough (recipe here) a lot as well as an interest in footprints in the snow, and now mud. What a perfect pairing! We took our play dough outside and made prints of all the nature things we have found around us that we were searching out for our scavenger hunt (free download below).

Simple and Fun Earth Day Activities to enjoy with your preschool and toddler as well as school aged children. Great book ideas, easy crafts and activities and fun videos to watch together!

Coming in after our outdoor play, rosy cheeks and tired from walking all over the yard to collect our art supplies, we took a few minutes to sit and have a cuddle (and warm up… common summer) on the couch, when I found this video that I thought you might like to share with your little one too!

*This post contains affiliate links which if used cost you nothing extra, but a small percentage comes back to me to support more learning! You’re welcome to check out my privacy policy or reach out to me directly with questions anytime!*

Check out this adorable little video I found that talks at a very high level about Earth Day, with a catchy little song that my Little Bee has now requested on repeat more than once. 

Free Scavenger Hunt Download!

Simple and Fun Earth Day Activities to enjoy with your preschool and toddler as well as school aged children. Great book ideas, easy crafts and activities and fun videos to watch together!

Simple and Fun Earth Day Activities to enjoy with your preschool and toddler as well as school aged children. Great book ideas, easy crafts and activities and fun videos to watch together!We love to play outside and spring is the perfect time of year to investigate those fallen branches from winter winds or ant hills in the making. I created this little scavenger hunt for Little Bee to get to know the language of her backyard and to burn off a little of that energy we’ve been saving for when the rain stopped. We thought you would love to share this with your own children as a great activity for outdoor play! Click the button below and enjoy (you made need to check your junk mail folder to find it)!

 

Amazing Earth Day Books for Kids

Simple and Fun Earth Day Activities to enjoy with your preschool and toddler as well as school aged children. Great book ideas, easy crafts and activities and fun videos to watch together!As always, I use books to reinforce activities with my Little Lady. This is easy addition for us as she and I both love to read independently (me with books beside any spot that I could sit still for any length of time, for her… everywhere…) but most of all together.  What better gift than an addition to her ever-growing library. These are a few of the books we have picked up at the library, some that have been a part of our library for a while, and a few new additions I have ready to share with Little Bee when she wakes up on Earth Day, to make it feel extra special! In true Eric Carle style, The Tiny Seed describes the journey of little seeds with informative language that is not overwhelming for younger readers (although is a bit long so can grow with them) but still provides rich conversation for older readers. I love Eric Carle stories – so thoughtfully made. Bonus: you can check out this video below for a reading of Eric Carle’s story for free!

I’ve mentioned the National Geographic series for children before, and no better time to point it out again than for Earth Day learning. There are so many great topics that could be included here as well as levels of readers, one of my favourite aspects of this series of books, but here are two; Seed to Plant, and Caterpillar to Butterfly, that would fit beautifully into a library that provides value in learning to your child now, with bright colours and meaningful language, while acting as a great resource in later years, especially for school projects.

Curious George is a popular character at our house – we have a lot of the George books now and they differ greatly depending on when they were published. The newer series are wonderful in that they also have corresponding activities at the end for added value. We have a great one about the rainbows that is really cute and teaches about spectrum formations throughout the story as well as how to form rainbows and has additional facts, real photos, experiments, and activities at the end. Curious George Plants a Tree is an older story where George learns a lot about how to help his neighbour as well as planet Earth and is filled with those adorable little illustrations that my daughter loves so much.

A true favourite – The Lorax, which is also available in an early reader series,discusses the impact on the environment each act we take can have. Pretty impressive for Seuss, talking about these issue way before it became such a supported day on the calendar.  Seuss books always engage little ones with the rhyming, tongue-twister language while teaching something important. Seuss never goes out of style. This story is also available as a movie (DVD link), or you can watch for free when you sign up for Amazon Prime and stream shows, movies, etc. with their service. Pretty cool.

These are the two on our list for this year’s celebration of Earth Day. I’m going to be giving Little Bee two new books for her library. Compost Stew is a cute A through Z book that talks about composing, at school or home. And, Earth Day: An Alphabet Book – illustrates animals familiar and new as well as other incredible aspects of nature that we may often overlook. ABC books are wonderful additions to little libraries. They offer the alphabet reinforcement, are great introductions to early readers as they become familiar with the story and can associate words they know with the letters and sounds, and are incredible reference materials as they grow. Looooooove books that grow with kids – they are great investments.

Simple and Fun Earth Day Activities to enjoy with your preschool and toddler as well as school aged children. Great book ideas, easy crafts and activities and fun videos to watch together!

What do you have planned to celebrate Earth Day this year? Reach out with your great ideas – I would love to showcase them with our readers and subscribers! *

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