Excite and Explore

One mom, one toddler and a passion for learning and adventure.


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DIY Farm Play Mat and Mini World

   This is a fun project that you can make for your kids out of some pretty basic materials, that will give them hours of entertainment and spur their imaginations.  I started with a big cardboard box, it has been sitting in my garage for about a month and I finally decided that it was time for it to be used. I cut it in half and trimmed off the edges. In hindsight green felt would probably have worked better for the grass than my choice, green wrapping paper but this has been an extra thrifty month for us and this was what I had on hand, however if you are looking for a more durable option go with the felt. I was initially going to use construction paper for the dirt, (I vetoed using real dirt since this is an indoor play area) but I didn’t have enough, but what I did have quite a bit of was burlap, and I figured as an added bonus it would add a bit of sensory exploration to the mat. I made a pond out of blue construction paper and my base was put together.

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   Then I started adding little details. In the fields I glued down little puffs of tissue paper as crops (though not to many, feel free to add more than I did, I had a limited amount of time) and added some rocks, a farm dog, some tractors and a tree.

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    The pond gained some trees, small rocks, a few sticks as logs, and some farm animals getting a drink.

 

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   I placed in a toy barn with some more animals, trees and what not. I even picked a few small flowers and placed them around the area.

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   And so our farm play mat was born and ready for the little one to do some serious playing.

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   The little man was quite excited, though anything involving tractors excites him at this point in time, and he dove right in, like a tiny Godzilla tearing through a farm. I thought it held up pretty well, the paper I used as grass ripped in one corner, which is why if I do it again I will make it out of felt. Here are some action shots of the wee man busy plowing the soil.

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   That is what we have been up to today, thank you for joining us at Excite and Explore, we hope you enjoyed this post!


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Letter Of The Week: The Letter A

   Today we started a new series called the Letter of the Week! Gray has recently started showing an interest in learning his letters, when he see’s one he points to it, inquiring what it is called and has started identifying them (admittedly he only knows B, H and R on sight now but hopefully by the end he will know some more) and repeating what they are called when I tell him. So now every weekend we will feature the next letter in the alphabet and share some activities and crafts we did that day. We started off the day with a little display I made in a cake pan full of things that started with the letter A, a book and some small examples of the letter A. Ours had a small plastic apple, a spear of asparagus, a wooden ambulance, an alligator, an ant, and an airplane. As he explored it we discussed the different objects and sounded out the words, emphasizing the A sound.

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   For snack we had chocolate Avocado nibs, a recipe he adores (and so do I) that can be found on this wonderful blog called Cheerfully Imperfect which I made into little Ants using cheese for legs on a pita.

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   After nap we did some stamping with a homemade stamp I made out of an apple. It was really simple to make, I just carved the letter A in half of an apple (I’m pretty sure a potato would also work) with a knife, using the apple seed divet as the hole in the A and stored it in an airtight container overnight so it wouldn’t get all mushy.

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   I poured some paint onto a paper plate and we stamped the apple into the paint and onto a piece of construction paper, Gray really likes stamping so we tend to do this a lot. This was his picture.

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   We finished off our day of observing some ants outdoors and looking at their ant hills while I explained how they make tunnels underground ( I’m fairly certain he didn’t quite understand this but he seemed to be interested.) all the while emphasizing that Ant starts with the letter A.

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   That is all for our day learning about the letter A, feel free to join us again next week as we explore the letter B, and thanks for stopping by Excite and Explore!

 


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Under the Sea Sensory Play

   What a time of the year! The weather is lovely, the flowers are blooming and it isn’t boiling hot out yet! It has been really warm however, so to cool down a bit I whipped up a fun Under The Sea Sensory Bin for the little man to play with out on our back deck, incorporating some water play and imaginative play with a fun sensory experience. This is a really easy bin to make, it took maybe 5 minutes to whip up and has provided hours of entertainment so far. I used the small rock/gravel you put on the bottom of fish tanks that we had left over from my sons fish tank ( Grandma took him to the pet store to ‘look’ at the animals and when they came home they had a small friend. ) some rocks and plastic coral as well as a fake plant also meant for a fish tank. I added some plastic underwater animals such as fish and whales to the bin and it was ready to be filled up.

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   I filled it up with water from the garden hose and it was ready for little hands.

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   As he explored the new bin we chatted about the different animals in the bin and I named them as he held them up for inspection. He really liked the gravel, it was something new for him to dig through and feel and of course there were lots of splashes. I’ve been keeping this bin outside simply because the weather is nice enough for it and that way there is little mess to clean up once he wanders of to do something else.  That is all for today folks, thank you for joining us at Excite and Explore!

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Box and Ball Painting

   We are finally all feeling better and getting back to some fun activities at our house! The other day we decided to try something a little different, and it was quite a bit of fun! For this activity you will need scissors, a piece of paper (we used a white piece of printer paper but if you want to go for some fun colours!) a shoebox, some tape, paint, a paper plate or pie tin and some type of ball (s) we used some little balls leftover from an old toy Gray used to have but another great option if you don’t have any of those lying around would be golf or ping pong balls.

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   Trace the bottom of the box onto your piece of paper and cut it out, then tape it to the bottom of the shoe box.

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   Choose your desired colours (We used 3 since that was how many balls we had dug up.) and pour a small bit onto your paper plate, you don’t need a lot. Let your child dip one of the balls into each of the colour, coating as much of it as they like and place them into the box.

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   Place the lid back on your shoe box and tape it shut. Then encourage your little one(s) to shake around the shoe box as hard as they can until they tire of it, or like mine get bored. Then open her up and remove the balls. (I gave ours a wash off and they are as good as new)

 

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   You should be left with a neat looking painting that, depending on the size of ball you used, will probably have a border where the balls didn’t touch, an added bonus. This was our end product, feel free to add more paint and do it again or switch up colours.

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Water Play At Home

We have been sick in our house, and it has been miserable, which is why this post has been delayed for so long. We have been excitedly waiting for the weather to get nice enough to set up the water table in the backyard, but unfortunately that time is still not here, so I went ahead and set up a water station in the kitchen. Toddlers seem to love water, any water, whether it is a muddy puddle in the yard, the water you left on the table last night that their little hands found their way into, or in the tub where they can splash around to their hearts content. And why not? Water play is great, it is so open ended, they can take it anywhere and it has so many variations that no session need be like the last! We have hardwood so I put down a drop sheet on the floor and covered it in towels (I imagine a tarp would be even better but I couldn’t find ours) so that he could splash around without to much water soaking through. I gathered some supplies from around the house.

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   We used bowls and trays filled with water, funnels, measuring cups for scooping and pouring, spoons, tea bags to add some scent when mixed into the water, water beads in a bowl, paint brushes, a sponge, a turkey baster, and a muffin tin filled with water. I added food colouring to this one, an invitation to explore colour mixing. After this picture was taken I also added a spray bottle. I stripped him down to his diaper and since I knew I was probably going to get wet as well I took of my shirt and let him have at it. He went straight to the water beads. Water beads are a great item for sensory play, they start as these little tiny beads and after soaking in water for a couple days they turn into a much larger bead that is slippery and a bit squishy, for example, here is what they looked like before expansion.

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   And here they are once Gray started scooping them up. Water beads are definitely something that needs to be monitored while young children are using them, they are small and easily a choking hazard, even thought they are non toxic.

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    For added fun and discovery earlier in the day I had frozen a few things into ice to add to our water play, I froze a small plastic bug, some water beads, and a few dice for him to discover as the ice melted, they were much to big to fit in an ice cube tray so I froze them in small cups and ran the cups under hot water to loosen the ice chunk so I could remove it.

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   Once we moved on to the muffin tin he discovered the different coloured water and boy was he excited! He took up one of the paint brushes and started painting the towels so I got him a piece of construction paper and he painted that with the coloured water.

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   He then discovered the sponge, which he quickly learned would absorb the coloured water and left a really cool looking splatter, which he had a  lot of fun mixing colours into.

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   The sponge ended up being the biggest hit of the play session, and once he discovered that if you squeezed it water would come out he squealed in delight and squeezed away, followed by a revelation that if you throw the sponge at the pan of water it makes a big splash. As I mentioned there is so much you can do with water play, and he spent an hour and half with just this small set up! I would love to hear about your water play ideas and what you like to do, thank you for joining us at excite and explore!

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3 Easy Crafts For Toddlers

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It has been a very crafty week in our house, and I thought I would share our work with everyone so you can get crafty as well. First up we have a good craft to celebrate spring, our tissue paper tree. It is an easy craft that appeals to toddlers since they just have to stick the ‘flowers’ on. Start out with a couple of pieces of coloured construction paper to make your tree trunk and leaves. Cut out your desired trunk and tree top and glue them together, then cut out a piece of contact paper and tape it to the outside of your tree top.
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Cut around the contact paper to regain your tree top shape.
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I scrunched up tissue paper into little puffs for our flowers and put them aside and your tree is ready for your little one! Once ready peel of the outside of the contact paper and let them have at it.
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Next up is another simple on perfect even for babies as well as toddlers and requires virtually no set up. The contact paper collage! I taped a piece of contact paper to the window and provided lots of fun doodads such as pipe cleaners, paper flowers, yarn bits and buttons. We are working on colours so I named all the different colours as he stuck them in place, and he had an even better time pulling the pieces off and sticking them back on again.
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Earlier in the week I was at a craft store and they had finger paint in these awesome neon colours so I grabbed some. This one is a classic, we used to do it when I was a kid. All you need is some paint, a toilet paper roll and some paper. I set this up in the garage for messes sake and we stamped away, dipping the toilet paper roll (by which I mean the cardboard tube found inside) into the paint and stamping it on the paper. My little guy really liked this one, and it brought back a lot of good child hood memories for me.
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This was our finished masterpiece.
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That was our week in crafts, I hope you get a chance to try out some of these simple toddler crafts at home and thank you for joining us, please come again!


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Help A Bird Build A Nest

Gray has been pretty interested in birds lately, and bird season is coming into full swing now that the weather is getting nicer so today we made a little ‘cage’ full of nesting materials for all the birds visiting us every day. You can buy these little cages made out of metal from some gardening and home stores but I figured we could make our own. Gather some supplies.
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First we cut up some yarn into pieces, 4-8 inches are ideal for the birds to build their nests with. We also used colourful ribbon and leftover felt, Gray had a great time unravelling the yarn and throwing it all over the place. I cut an egg carton in half for our base and we filled it with our scraps of fabric. To cover it and keep the wind from blowing our scraps all over the yard we covered it with the netting from the top of a clementine container, quite a few fruits come in this netting.
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I ended up hot gluing the netting to the egg carton but if you have the patience you could use regular glue or poke holes in the carton and thread the netting in. I wanted to use wire to hang it but I couldn’t find ours so we used the yarn, and I figured why not find a way to attract the birds to our little helping hand so we threaded the yarn we were hanging it up with full of cheerios (Also great for fine motor development) and had a bit of a snack at the same time. This was our finished product.
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Gray was quite proud of this little project and carried it around the house for a while before I took him outside and we hung it up in our back yard, here’s to hoping we will see some colourful little nests around the area soon! Thank you for joining us at Excite and Explore, if you have any questions feel free to ask and please come again!
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