Category Archives: Active Play

Get ready for Toddler Activities: Masking Tape Roads & Hopscotch



When I’m running out of ideas to get a little physical indoors during extra cold weather or a day I’m trying to skip baths…pulling out some masking or painter’s tape is always helpful. Several times, Pen Elaine has enjoyed some indoor hop-scotch on the living room rug, via masking tape squares, and maybe a beanbag or Beanie baby ūüôā

Sometimes we turn our hopscotch setup into city blocks for cars – especially now that we actually own more than two cars, including a set of matchbox cars that Snuggly Man received for his birthday! I saw this Masking Tape City idea via Pinterest.


A First Birthday Party in Neverland!



Snuggly Man turned 1!

I had been secretly “pinning” Neverland party ideas for a while, which turned out to be very fitting since Snuggly Man never wants to grow up and is still in denial about reaching that first year milestone…he refuses any of our attempts to coax him into taking a step, still loves to be held and snuggled, cheek-to-cheek, while sucking his thumb, at all times of day. He has made the full transition to “big boy milk” with minimal protests.

Little boys should never be sent to bed – they always wake up a day older…Peter Pan

Having a Neverland theme was also just what we wanted because we got to include mustaches and pirates, Indians and a teepee, ships and a plank to walk, fairies and a friendly crocodile, all within our “theme.” I’m not good at sticking to one theme, so having an all-inclusive one was great fun. Since this was a first birthday, with more adults than kids, we got to go big for decorations and impact with just a few activities to keep the “big kids” occupied and happy. My Honey and I had a lot of fun making our Neverland dreams come true…all for Snuggly Man and the pictures.


To turn our house into Never-neverland, we printed out a nostalgic map with the various corners of this imaginary island and got inspired about which hangouts to create.

1. Map on display (printed from a google search)


2. The Lost Boys’ Secret Hangout (Hangman’s Tree)

I thought this looked amazing – my Honey used his skills to tape down “puffs” of a green patterned wrapping paper I bought at Hobby Lobby’s after-Christmas sale, then hung brown crepe paper in the doorway, so we could actually “enter” the secret hideout of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys inside “hangman’s tree.”




3. Indian Camp Teepee

For this, we followed the simple instructions for ThrifyAndChic’s $7 diy teepee – it was simple, easy, and cheap! Plus, it looked really cool, was fun for the kids, and we still get to enjoy it.

Basically, my Honey bought a long PVC pipe, sawed it into thirds, spray painted it brown (with paint for plastic), drilled two holes in the top of each, then wound and cris-crossed rope through them to keep them together on one end. Then, my part, I cut three triangles of fabric with the top corners cut off, after getting a rough estimate of length and height from setting up the poles in a teepee shape, and sewed them all together, along with extra seams to make slits for each pole. I also cut and seamed a slit in the middle of one side for a doorway.

Pen Elaine is opening her “pirate booty” party favor inside the teepee ūüôā


4. First Birthday Mantel

Of course, I strung up Snuggly Man’s month-by-month photos from the first year, so we could gasp and coo at how he had changed so much and how cute he is ūüôā (Actually I had two of his 10-month photos at the last 2 spots, since there was no 11-month posed photo in existence.) He is picture in all of his photos with a model ship (except for his 3 month photo…) that my Honey ordered online before he was born, for Snuggly Man’s “Old Man and the Sea” bedroom, so that is on the mantel. Along with a painting by my Honey of a ship crewed by lions; he painted a picture of a ship (crewed by foxes) for Pen Elaine. Finally, I hung two stars from an empty frame, for the mantel, so guests could

Follow the second star to the right and straight on til morning!


5. Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship

For a Pirate Cove at the party, we hung a pirate birthday banner that we own, plus taped up a pirate ship cut from packing paper. I printed off Captain Hook coloring pages that kids got to color and tape to the pirate ship. Of course, what made to most impact was Captain Hook himself in attendance!


6. Window Art: Peter Pan & Wendy Cameos and Quote

I wanted to paint something on my glass window that currently hangs by our kitchen table that would work for Snuggly Man’s birthday party but could also last through Valentine’s Day…I was being realistic about when I would get around to repainting it. So, I used this really sweet quote I saw in Anthropologie’s catalogue and added silhouettes of Peter Pan and Wendy. To make the cameos, I pulled up a googled image on a tablet, then placed it behind the window (laying flat on a table) so I could trace them with a chalk marker, then fill it in with craft paint. The quote and decorations were all with craft paint as well.


6. Birthday Banner

For Pen Elaine’s first birthday, I made a glittery, dainty, beautiful birthday banner that gets pulled out every year, multiple times, but it definitely looks like a “girl” birthday banner. So, I felt Snuggly Man deserved a birthday “boy” banner that could be used every year, but was especially made for him. First, I pulled out some old ready-made muslin flags I had picked up on super sale from Hobby Lobby and realized I was one letter short from being able to make a Happy Birthday banner using only those. Plus, they were extra small in size and would be hard to see ūüôā So, I bought some more ready-cut pennant flags from the same material and painted the letters to spell Happy Birthday on the larger pennants and drew little chevron stripes on the alternating, little pennants. I feel like it fit the Neverland/Lost Boys theme but can also be used for any boy birthday theme in the future.



For Snuggly Man’s first birthday party that included a few friends and mostly family, I opted for invitations of 2015 – “evites.” These are not as cutesy as paper invitations, but Snuggly Man is a boy, and he is one, so I think he is good with evites. Plus, evites are fantastic because people actually rsvp for them, as opposed to the paper ones that rarely get any rsvp’s – in fact I usually don’t even try to get them when I send paper. Also, I was still able to include cute little sayings about flying off to Neverland for the birthday party. Instead of my family inviting everyone to the party, we went by pseudonyms: Hook, Tigerlily, and Tinkerbell invited everyone for Snuggly Man’s party. “Follow the second star to the right; think happy thoughts and you’re sure to take flight! Wear a costume if you wish or must! Instead of presents, bring faith, trust, and a little bit of pixie dust!”



1. Dress-up Station & Indian headband craft: Since we invited guests to come in costume, I wanted to have costumes and props on-hand for anyone who forgot or couldn’t find anything around their house. So, we included pirate swords and hats, “Lost boy” masks that were really a pack of fox, owl, and raccoon masks I found in the party section of Hobby Lobby (I think they were meant for a forest/woodland creature party). I wanted to buy green fairy wings at the dollar store, but they only had red ones in stock, so we just pulled out a few costume wings we had in our dress-up box and a glittery fox mask for girly options.

I also laid out supplies on a craft table for kids to make “Indian headbands” using brown paper (cut in thirds, horizontally), feathers, crayons and stickers, and cute masking tape. Instead of waiting for glue to dry or glue sticks to work well, I gave them striped/chevron masking tape I had bought for a previous party activity to be used for attaching paper strips together to make a wide-enough headband and for affixing feathers to the paper. It worked great!


2. Walk the Plank: In our Pirate ship area, we laid out a blue blanket and put a two-by-four on top of it with the words “Walk the Plank.” This was as risky as we were going to get with 6 to 9 kids, all ages 5 and under (and all walking except Snuggly Man).


3. Ride the Crocodile: This not only looked cool, next to our pirate ship-infested waters, but it was such a huge hit and totally worth the 10.99 we spent on Amazon!


4. Hook a Pretzel: All I needed to buy for “Hooking” a pretzel was a bag of pretzels, then round up my costume pirate hooks, a big bowl, and a chalkboard sign. I saw this somewhere on Pinterest and thought it was such a cute idea. The preschool crowd we had thought it was so fun. It seemed like they just loved being able to access their own snacks, and they loved showing off their skills with a plastic pirate hook.



Somehow, I forgot to take a photo of the table, but we decided on breakfast tacos! Snuggly Man absolutely loves eggs, and he loves tearing into his very own tortilla, so this was his perfect party food. We bought three different types of tacos, and labeled each serving dish with a chalkboard clothespin. We also had guacamole, pico de gallo, and chips to go with them. This was a super easy food plan. I also bought green paper goods, some green paper straws, a pirate table cloth (red and white striped), and some striped napkins. I also framed an 8 x 10 picture I printed on my printer of a googled image from Peter Pan to display next to food stations.


Plus, I made cupcakes inside of ice cream cones, which turned out great (this was my first time to try this fun way of baking them). All you do is fill each cone about 1/2 way full of the batter, and bake them as normal. I set each cone in a muffin tin, to help keep them upright. Having the cupcakes in cones made them easier to handle for icing and decorating them (less messy), and it made holding one and eating it much easier for 1-year-old Snuggly Man – Win/Win! For decorating the tops, i slathered on some store-bought vanilla frosting tinted blue with food coloring. Then, I dipped them in a bowl of green crystal sprinkles – very cute and very fast. Lastly, I used a small tube of black gel icing to draw an “X” and little dotted lines to make a treasure map – actually, I drew one and let my little sister (Sunflower) draw the rest…about 1 minute after the party was supposed to be starting, ha! She made them beautiful and super-cool-looking!


For the big “smash cake” time of the party, I had Snuggly Man’s high chair set up in front of dark, pretty curtains so that photos wouldn’t be washed out by backlight. He absolutely loved having balloons tied to his high chair, so we got cute pics of him gazing in wonder at balloons and his very own cupcake-in-a-cone. It was magical, and the (iphone) photos turned out so precious.



For party favors, I let Pen Elaine decorate brown paper lunch sacks with pirate stickers and wrote “Pirate booty for a BOY or a GIRL” on each of them. I filled them with (leftover Christmas stocking) candy…as well as plastic gold coins for boys and necklaces for girls. (Confession: I went through my old necklaces and picked some I never wear and seemed sturdy enough to last a day or two in the hands of a preschooler.)



I think Snuggly Man had a fun time at his party!


Make a Preschool “fall festival” at home!



We are loving fall and all the Halloween, dress-up, outdoor festivals, and pumpkin activities that go along with it! October is a great month to have kids under 5! Pumpkin patch photos and choosing my baby’s costume is enough to make this the best season ever. seriously.

Recently, we watched the newest pbs kids special: “Curious George’s Boo Fest,” which includes a lot of talk about their Halloween festival, including games, costume contests, haunted “fish” house/tunnel, etc. Halloween movies for preschool and toddler-age kids are definitely my favorite, just the right amount of spooky for me.

Watching this show inspired Pen Elaine and I to make our own “fall festival” at home, starting with a “haunted tunnel” that was really just a blanket thrown over toddler sized chairs and table. Pen Elaine loves making tents and tunnels already, and tunnels are helpful for my little crawler (Snugly Man) to practice and develop his gross motor skills. The three of us crawled through it like a train, and Snugly Man returned to it periodically during the whole time it was set up. The tunnel was a definite hit at the festival!






Brainstorming carnival/festival games, I thought of the Ring Toss. So, I gathered some plus rings from a baby toy, and we tried tossing them onto a pumpkin stem. This proved rather difficult for both Pen Elaine and me, so we tried using little plastic bracelets, and while those were a little easier, we only played this game a few times and never returned to it. We did feel extremely accomplished¬†and proud when we got a bracelet to land on the pumpkin.¬†“Pumpkin toss”¬†had a good run.








diy preschool "festival" @Whimsyinlove


To make our festival complete, we obviously needed a sign, so we used a chalkboard for a cute, “scary face” photo op.







The absolute hit of our DIY festival was most definitely the “Ball Toss.” Using a doorway that led to a dead end hallway, I used masking tape to taped up some butcher/wrapping paper remnants that almost spanned those whole doorway after writing “Ball Toss.” Next, I cut out the middles of three paper plates and used duct tape to attach them to the bottom of the sign. For balls, we gathered up some little plastic “ball pit” balls and toy “coins” that could fit through the paper plate openings – “balls” that would not cause any injury if accidentally¬†thrown at Snugly Man.

Actually making the balls go through the rings was only successful for Pen Elaine if she stood very close to the goals, but she also decided that simply throwing your ball well enough to make it roll all the way to the back of the hallway also made it a “winning” throw, so this game turned out to span skill levels. Placing the ball toss in front of a dead end ensured that balls did not go flying everywhere – they were contained. As with any game played with a preschooler, this was great practice for gross motor skills,¬†taking turns, being a good sport and encourager, teamwork and cooperation, and following rules.¬†Plus, it turned out that Pen Elaine and Snugly Man both loved hanging out in the hall behind the ball toss rings, catching balls and throwing them back, being in the middle of the action. Because of that, we kept the ball toss game up for over a week – making visitors come in through the garage door or duck underneath our sign, since we loved playing this so much. For a few days, it was a pre-bedtime ritual to come play ball toss, with both kids retrieving balls while my Honey and I honed our aiming skills. This game will definitely be a returning DIY festival tradition!

As you can imagine from the last pic, Snugly Man did eventually rip the bottom ring, leaving two behind.






Pen Elaine’s most favorite book…this week

Pen Elaine’s most favorite book…this week

We recently checked out the old classic Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina; I remember seeing this book on Reading Rainbow as a kid, and my Honey says it was one of his favorites. This is a funny tale that is quaintly dated, since it is about a “traveling/walking” hat salesman! We checked out the book on cd version and listened to the story being told, but where the real fun began was when we started acting out the story as we listened. Pen Elaine loved being the monkeys best, making me the hat salesman who falls asleep and gets all his caps stolen. We got to practice our imitation and how the characters in the story handle frustration and anger. Below, Pen Elaine is being the sleepy salesman (Snuggly Man soaking up our play in the background) while I sneak a photo and pretend to steal her caps before hiding up in “the tree” (on the bed) behind her. I think we re-lived and listened to this book about 5 to 10 times in this one sitting before I was really ready for a new activity…probably making dinner.



Reading comprehension is a very important skill, so practicing ways of helping the message and events of a story to “sink in” prepares children for school success and all those standardized tests that will one day come to haunt their educational journey, ha! Furthermore, acting out stories or just the beginning of an event can open up a world into the heart of a child. Children act out their fears, joys, and representations of family, friends, etc., through dramatic play. The characters in her play will face and handle what is on Pen Elaine’s mind and heart…and often get into trouble for the same behaviors that Pen Elaine is struggling with at the time. Talking through these little dramas in the safe setting of dramatic play is a fun way to reach your child’s heart.



Mommy & Me class: BIG and small


Thanks to Jenn for a fabulous class of learning opposites, big and small, with so many great ideas for books and activities! Here’s a recap of most of her ideas…


Craft/Activity #1: Roll play David & Goliath free printables by SundaySchoolKids

This was a simple coloring activity PLUS role playing/creative play in one! Click on the SundaySchoolKids link for the free printables and more detailed instructions.

We simply colored the printed pages, cut a few straight lines,¬†and then taped or stapled them into a roll. Pen Elaine and I wrote the first letters of their names on David and Goliath’s “figurines.”

Craft/Activity #2: “Stone” in a cup game


Supplies: hole-punch, bit of string/yarn, fuzzy ball, paper cup, scissors to cut out a picture of Goliath, hot glue to attach fuzzy ball to bit of yarn

This creative creation starts with a printed picture of goliath stapled to a small paper cup. Next, we hot-glued a fuzzy ball to a bit of yarn (approx. 4-6 inches). Finally, we punched a hole in the cup to attach¬†the piece of yarn with ball. Now, you’ve got one of those games where you try to flip the ball into the cup…or for an easier, toddler version, you can just lay cup on the ground and let them throw the ball into the cup…or try hitting Goliath’s head with the “stone” fuzzy ball. This game was more fun for me than my toddler, I think, ha!

Craft/Activity #3: David’s Sling with 5 stones

Okay, I’ve saved the best for last! Pen Elaine and I love-loved this activity, for hours! First, you make your own slingshot…toddler safety version!

Supplies: square of fabric (about 4x4inches, give or take – can be any shape actually), scissors, some yarn/string (at least 2 feet, depending on size of fabric), 5 “stones”-fuzzy balls or anything small and soft…if you want to outlaw throwing them, you could use actual stones


After cutting your square-ish of fabric (if you don’t have any fabric scraps lying around, cut up an old tshirt), cut small slits 1-2 inches from the edge, going all the way around – I cut about 4 slits per side on my fabric square. Then, you thread your yarn through, going in and out – if you have an older preschooler, they can do this job. Once you’ve made it all the way around the perimeter, through all the holes, pull the yarn taut to form a pouch – done! Now for the really¬†fun part!

Now you can re-enact the story of David & Goliath with your sling – Pen Elaine played David most of the time, leaving me as the giant. We loved acting out the story to the song “Only a boy named David” by singing and acting it out over and over and over – we had to perform again when my Honey got home. We switched parts and performed twice…at least. Before each rendition, we put the “stones” somewhere that we designated as the brook so that the five stones were ready to be “gathered.” Here’s a pic of Pen Elaine “slinging” the sling around and around and around.


Book Recommendations:

David and Goliath (found in 1 Samuel 17)

Jenn recommended the version from Jesus Calling Bible Storybook. Kids can really relate to the story of an underdog who was small, literally. God can help them like God helped David.


The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle – another classic story about growing from small to big


The Three Bears – this is a fun way to talk about sizes: small, medium, and large

Jack and the Beanstalk – another tale of little boy and BIG giant (photo from A First Book of Fairy Tales)


Song Recommendations:

For some more active practice, we sang this song version while holding our hands close together or far apart, for small or big respectively. Then, we sang it again while making our whole body small, crouched on the ground, and then big, standing with our arms up and out, when saying the words “little” and “big,” respectively.

To the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
This is big and this is little
This is big and this is little
Big, little, big, little
Big, little, big, little
This is big and this is little
This is big and this is little


For more craft and activity ideas, see our Pinterest page.

Mommy & Me class: Halloween Week



So, for Halloween week, we did some fine motor skills and put some of my saved toilet paper rolls to use for stamping and making scarecrows. Scarecrows and skeletons are a great way to have fun with body parts and getting little bodies moving around in big ways.

CRAFT/ACTIVITY #1: Toilet paper roll Scarecrows (Thanks to juxtapost for this fun idea!)

Supplies shown:

toilet paper roll

muffin liner

craft stick/popsicle stick for arms

construction paper for hair and patches

scissors & glue (I used glue stick)

sharpie/marker for making face (and toddler decorating, optional)


Here’s how ours turned out – so cute, right! They were really easy and fun to make. I cut some fringe, paper hair for Pen Elaine to glue on before gluing on the hat that she decorated (muffin liner). The trickiest part for me was punching the hole for the arms with some sharp scissors, but it worked!



This is one I loved on Reading Rainbow, as a kid, and it’s super fun for Halloween and includes lots of opportunities for motions and learning body parts, etc. We’ve actually used this book in class before, and I’m pretty sure Pen Elaine learned how to nod, about a year ago, thanks to¬†this book.


“(Dem) Dry Bones” has been around a long time, and it’s a fun skeleton song! (Link to youtube cartoon that includes lyrics) The meaning comes from Ezekiel 37:1-14 with a prophesy from God.

Here’s one version of lyrics, but it’s the type of song that has several different varieties and can be sung however you want to mold it for your kids, depending on what part they like best and what body parts you want to emphasize. When you’re not naming body parts, and pointing to the corresponding ones, the bridge is¬†a good time to march or wiggle around like a skeleton of dry bones!

Ezekiel cried, “Dem dry bones!”
Ezekiel cried, “Dem dry bones!”
Ezekiel cried, “Dem dry bones!”
“Oh, hear the word of the Lord.”

The foot bone connected to the leg bone,
The leg bone connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone connected to the thigh bone,
The thigh bone connected to the back bone,
The back bone connected to the neck bone,
The neck bone connected to the head bone,
Oh, hear the word of the Lord!

Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk aroun’,
Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk aroun’
Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk aroun’
Oh, hear the word of the Lord.

The head bone connected to the neck bone,
The neck bone connected to the back bone,
The back bone connected to the thigh bone,
The thigh bone connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone connected to the leg bone,
The leg bone connected to the foot bone,
Oh, hear the word of the Lord!

CRAFT/ACTIVITY #2: Sandpaper tree with stamped pumpkins (tree idea thanks to



20131021-111859.jpgFor this easy, fall craft, all you need is old sandpaper, toilet paper roll, orange paint, and scissors.

I cut a tree shape from old, used sandpaper for Pen Elaine to glue to a piece of paper. Then I gave her a collected toilet paper roll to use as a pumpkin stamp with orange paint. Of course, she went from stamping the circle/pumpkin to stamping her fingers and hands more quickly than I had hoped, but it turned out kind of fun-looking, and she definitely had fun creating. At first, I let her hold my big scissors to attempt cutting out her own tree, which she was very excited about – the 5 to 10 seconds were so thrilling for her, I had to capture the moment with a photo.

I wondered about stems afterwards and tried to add little ones with a crayon, which did not turn out cute, but cutting some swirly stems from construction or craft paper would probably look really artsy!


Mommy & Me class: Big & Little & October Fun


We can’t get enough of fall, so all our activities seem to revolve around leaves and pumpkins and trees. We’ve also been having really nice weather, perfect for taking kids outside and collecting leaves!


CRAFT/ACTIVITY #1: Toddler-sized Tree with real leaves

For this, you need a big roll of paper – I always keep a roll of craft/butcher paper on hand but the backside of any wrapping paper would work just fine. The only other items needed are leaves collected from outside, crayons, and some sort of adhesive for the leaves – glue stick, glue, or double-sided tape.


With your toddler, (1) collect leaves, then lay¬†your large roll of paper on a hard surface to¬†(2) draw a big tree on your big sheet of paper, now you can (3) glue on the leaves together. We used glue sticks because that’s easiest for us, but liquid glue or double-sided tape would probably hold the leaves more securely. If you want to make this activity even more related to the story and song, or just to get more time out of this fun, trace your toddler’s body on the paper beside or on top of your tree (before attaching leaves!). To do this, just have your child lie down on top of the paper, then trace them with a crayon while they lie as still as possible with hands and fingers spread out.


the story of Zacchaeus, we like the version in Read-Aloud Bible Stories, volume 1, by Ella K. Lindvall, illustrated by H. Kent Puckett. The illustrations in this series are mesmerizing, and I still remember being captivated by them as a child. My daughter wants me to read these stories to her for longer than I can last myself! (I’ve mentioned them before here and here.)



Now, no reading of Zacchaeus with a toddler is complete without singing “Zacchaeus was a Wee Little Man.” This has been a favorite of young children for many, many years.

Please find the lyrics and motions HERE or HERE (the first one may not work from being blocked).

CRAFT/ACTIVITY #2: Garland using real leaves (DIY leaf bunting by simpleasthatblog)

20131024-151659.jpgSince we were collecting a bunch of leaves anyway, this seemed like the right opportunity to make a garland with them on upcycled book pages. We used old book pages, cut a triangle out of the bottom and punched two holes on either side of the top, for stringing some twine through them to hang up the finished garland. Now, we used double-sided tape to attach one leaf to the center of each flag, then put our twine through and hung up our leaf bunting Рbeautiful for fall!20131024-151718.jpg

CRAFT/ACTIVITY #3:  Ghost writing, idea via Pinterest

For this simple activity, you just need to write a secret message or picture with a white crayon on white paper. With your toddler, you can let them paint with water colors or draw with fat markers (depending on your child’s skill level)¬†over the secret message to make the “ghost writing” appear. If they have a hard time with this fine motor skill, stand directly behind or in front of them to help direct their little hands.¬†This seemed like a fun activity for October, writing “boo” or drawing a heart or whatever your toddler would like ūüôā

CRAFT/ACTIVITY #4: Pumpkin Face, idea inspired by vixenmade.blogspot

This is such a fun idea for using felt, but I don’t keep that around the house, so our pumpkin faces use paper plates, to be colored orange with crayons, and black construction paper (and glue sticks for the final product). The only prep is to cut out a bunch of facial feature shapes, e.g. eyes, nose, mouth, mustache, etc. To make this educational for young toddlers, you can talk about parts of the face and where they go when making your pumpkin face. These are great, no mess, jack-o-lanterns for Halloween!

As you can see, our end result was not super cute, but I really liked my co-teacher’s idea and will make another one this way: instead of coloring the plate, tear pieces of orange construction paper to glue down before attaching the face pieces!