Homemade Wind Chimes

Lewis loves chimes. Whenever we hear them from the neighbor’s apartments when we play outside he gets excited and tells me “ding!” He also loves the ones hanging on the porch at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Vermont, and this was the first thing he noticed when we pulled into the driveway there last weekend.

Today he was helping me unload the dishwasher and we noticed how the silverware makes a nice ding sound when knocked together. I commented on how it sounded like chimes, then asked if he thought we should make our own chimes. YES!

Of course he then wanted to abandon our dishwasher task and make some chimes NOW. I finished up with the dishes then told him I would go on my computer to look up instructions for making a wind chime.

He started shaking his head “no, no, no!”

“You want me to be creative and make up some chimes myself?”

“Uh-huh!”

Alright, so I put my thinking hat on and started brainstorming what we had and what we could use. We obviously would need something to hang the chimes off of (knitting needles? an embroidery hoop?), something to hang it with (easy – yarn!), something to make the sound (something metal – cookie cutters? crochet hooks!)

(Side note: I am loving his outfit today! He doesn't often give much input on what he wants to wear, but clearly when he does choose it is spectacular. )

(Side note: I am loving his outfit today! He doesn’t often give much input on what he wants to wear, but when he does choose it is spectacular. )

After poking around a bit I came across some popsicle sticks. Perfect, except now Lewis was demanding Booba milk popsicles. Sorry bud, we don’t have any of those.

I got out a few colors of yarn and started connecting two of the sticks basically using the method to make a “God’s Eye”I then simply tied pieces of yarn on the end of each stick with a loop tied into each piece of yarn and then hung a crochet hook off each. (Three size K hooks and one size J although I’m pretty sure there are one or two more size K around here somewhere.) Obviously if you don’t happen to have a surplus of crochet hooks lying around there are plenty of other things that could be hung to make noise, including the silverware we were putting away earlier.

I hung it up higher first but quickly realized it needed to be at Lewie-height or I would be holding him up in the air all day for him to jingle it.

I hung it up higher first but quickly realized it needed to be at Lewie-height or I would be holding him up in the air all day for him to jingle it.

Lewis loved his little chime and spent a lot of the day playing with it. We hung it up for a while but really he preferred carrying it around and especially spinning around while holding it.

The acrylic yarn I used turned out to be a bit slippy so the knots came untied a few times and eventually I added some masking tape to hold everything in place. This was a very quick and easy little toy to make, and I think Lewis will get many more days enjoyment from it!

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Introducing Playdough

Playdough is one of those classic play materials that all kids love. It’s also a classic make-it-yourself material that is quick, easy, and cheap to make at home. Yet somehow, I have just recently gotten around to making a batch for Lewis to play with!

I have my mom’s recipe that she used for us as kids, but I ended up using a recipe I found online instead. Since I only have Lewis to play with it I don’t exactly need the giant batch that mom would make for us growing up. Her recipe also requires cooking and stirring on the stove top, while this recipe from Learn ~ Play ~ Imagine only requires adding boiling water while mixing.

The instructions say to use a mixer for this, but I just did it in a bowl with a wooden spoon and it turned out fine. It was a bit sticky at first but a couple additional tablespoons of flour fixed that and made it into a lovely soft playdough.

"What is this weird lump you have given me, and why am I in my highchair if you say I can't eat this?"

“What is this weird lump you have given me, and why am I in my highchair if you say I can’t eat this?”

The Recipe:

  • 1 cup flour (plus extra if too sticky)
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 T cream of tartar
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • food coloring of choice
  • 3/4 c boiling water

Boil water. I used our electric kettle.

Mix flour, salt, cream of tartar. Add in oil and mix. (I mixed this with my hands a bit to try to get the oil blended in better. I don’t know if this was necessary.)

Add a few drops of food coloring, then slowly mix in boiling water a little at a time. If it is sticky, add extra flour 1 T at a time and mix.

Give to your child and make sure you keep some for yourself to play with too!

Lewis is in a "I-must-squeeze-everything" (especially fruit! phase, and the playdough was great for letting some of those urges out.

Lewis is in a “I-must-squeeze-everything” (especially fruit!) phase, and the playdough was great for letting some of those urges out.

Part of why I’ve waited this long to introduce playdough play was the factor that Lewis still puts things in his mouth a lot, and I wasn’t sure if he’d just view it as an interesting new snack. He snuck one or two little tastes, but over all did really great with not eating it and listening to reminders from me and Chris!

We got Daddy to join in and play with us too!

We got Daddy to join in and play with us too!

The three of us had a lot of fun squishing and molding the playdough, making snakes and balls, printing in it and tearing it up. We’ve played with it twice since and Lewis and I also made dinosaurs, turtles, and fish, poked toothpicks into it, and cut it up with small plastic spatulas from the kitchen. I can tell this is going to be a frequent activity from here on out!

Lewis even requested the playdough tonight while I was washing dishes, so I dragged his highchair into the kitchen so he could play next to me. I was able to talk to him and supervise while he played, and when he started putting it in his mouth a bit too much I took him out of the chair. Maybe trying to eat it when he knows he shouldn’t was his way of letting me know he was done, since he didn’t put up a fight.

Looking forward to more creative playdough play! It will be especially fun when he starts making his own creations.

In And Out

Lewis is really getting into the stage now where he likes to put everything into containers. He has been taking things out and of course dumping things for a long time now, and for several weeks he would occasionally pick up an object and put it into a basket/bowl/etc. Now just about anything he is holding he wants to pit it into something.

This means that he can and will now help us to clean up his toys. It takes some prompting to put things in the basket at the right time and stay focused to help pick up all the toys, and he is also fairly likely to put a few toys in, take a few out, put one back in, etc., but it’s still fun to see him “helping.” Last weekend we walked to the library with Daddy and there was a slightly older boy there playing. Lewis and the other boy played with the blocks for a bit, and when that boy was getting ready to leave Lewis helped clean up the toys with him (with some prompting from Daddy.)

Unfortunately this desire to put things in has also extended to wanting to put everything into the garbage can! All of our smaller trash baskets we have moved up out of his reach. (Love the trash sitting on the table with our plants and my crafting supplies. Really adds to the decor.) The big trash in the kitchen we can’t really move to anywhere else, but Chris found a way to put it up against the wall so that Lewis can’t open it for now. However, I don’t think that will last long as he is far too clever for his own good. (As I recently posted on facebook, he has now figured out how to pull the caps off of pens, Sharpies, etc. and had a fun time trying to eat some of my colored Sharpies yesterday!)

He has long enjoyed playing with the box of dominoes and dumping them everywhere. A few days ago he had stolen an olive jar from the recycling and sat down with it, very focused, to put dominoes in and out of the jar for a very long time. The jar is just big enough for him to reach his hand in to take the dominoes back out, but it isn’t a super wide mouth so it does take focus and concentration to put the dominoes in and out. Since it is a glass jar I took it away once he started walking around with it, for fear he’d throw/drop it on the hard floor and it would shatter. I replaced it instead with an empty Puffs snack container, which is similar in size. He liked looking down inside the container to see the dominoes at the bottom.

IMG_8597 IMG_8601Any clean plastic container from the recycling would be great for this. I found a link on Pinterest to a Chasing Cheerios post about using old fashioned clothes pins and a 2 liter bottle for a similar toy. Lewis doesn’t have quite enough coordination for that yet, but I’ll keep it mind for when he does! A milk jug would work great too.

We’re planning to buy him a shape-sorter as one of his birthday gifts. Probably a fairly simple one to start, with a lid that comes off and the options to put the shapes just in and out of the container since I know he isn’t quite ready to actually push the shapes through their slots. My mom also found this Crocodile toy at a yard sale which has pieces that can be put in and out as well as stacked (another skill that he is just beginning to work on – he can successfully make a tower of two blocks most of the time now). It will be a couple of weeks before we can get the toy from my mom, but I think he will have a lot of fun with it once we do!

As always, I am loving seeing these new skills developing and watching as he makes connections and finds new ways to play with his toys.

 

Pinterest Fail

Back when I was making the sensory bottles for Lewis I decided to try another baby sensory activity that I had seen on Pinterest. I originally found this post on 56 Sensory Play Ideas for Baby on the blog Growing A Jeweled Rose. There are a lot of awesome ideas here, and one of the ones I liked the look of was the Sensory Bags.  The ideas posts says that the sensory bags are “great for babies still putting everything in their mouth and they are mess free too! ” Hmm, sounds perfect for Lewis!

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The basic idea of the bags is that you take a ziploc baggy, fill it with something squishy such as paint, shampoo, lotion, etc. and you can also add extras like glitter or small objects. This is another activity that I had done a version of in my classroom, filling bags with paint and taping them down for the kids to draw and “write” on. For Lewis’ bag I squirted in some hotel sample bottles of lotion and shampoo that we had sitting around, and topped it off with a little extra baby lotion. I also added some green rice, since I had colored too much of it when I made the sensory bottles with rice. Since it is just food coloring on the rice the green color came off and colored the goo in the bag. The original post recommends sealing the opening of the bag with packing tape, to help make sure there was no leakage. I had some old ducky packing tape sitting around and this happened to be the first thing I found when looking for tape. Perfect! The bag was nice and squishy, and all sealed shut. Time to give it to Lewis!

IMG_4776Of course the bag went straight to his mouth and he had no interest in just squishing it with his hands. The original post seems to think this is ok, but I started to worry about the bag busting open. Unfortunately my ten year old ducky tape wasn’t as sticky as packing tape usually is. (Huh. I wonder why.) I took the bag from him, laid it on the floor and taped down two sides. I figured this way it would encourage him to explore with his hands and if it did happen to bust open at least he wouldn’t be getting a mouthful of lotion and shampoo.

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Lewis almost immediately was able to pull it out from the tape, and then I noticed that the bag was leaking a bit of green slime. I thanked myself for having the sense to do this on the kitchen floor and not our apartment’s cream colored carpets. From first handing the bag to Lewis to the time that I tossed it in the trash was probably about 5 minutes. The kitchen floor felt a bit slippery from the lotion for a few days, even though I wiped it up with a wet cloth.

I still think the sensory bags are a fun idea, and I have a few ideas for how to make them work a bit better when we try them again. My first thought is that maybe these really aren’t that awesome for a baby, and perhaps I should wait until he is a little older to do this. I also realized that I’d be a little more comfortable doing this with a young baby if the bag was filled with a food substance, such as yogurt, applesauce, or pudding. This way I wouldn’t be freaking out about the potential for a mouthful of soap or lotion. Food coloring could still be used to add some interest to the bag and/or add-ins such as oats, pasta (cooked or uncooked), or cut up fruit. And of course it would also help to have a bag with a better seal, and tape that was actually sticky! (No ten year old packing tape next time.)

This was a very short lived activity for us, but we will probably try again in the future and hopefully have more success with it.

Sensory Bottles, revisited

Alright, so I obviously had a severe case of Mommy Brain when I wrote my post on sensory bottles the other day! I managed to forget a couple of the things that I had been planning to mention in that post. I blame the fact that I am always trying to write these posts a few sentences at a time whenever Lewis lets me, or trying to fit in a whole post during one of his few-and-far-between half hour naps that he takes in a day.

So, the first thing I realized I forgot to share was this variation on sensory bottles. Sensory boxes from the Little Moments blog. This is a really great example of using what you have. She didn’t have bottles so she used little plastic boxes she already had, and they turned out awesome! I love that they are stackable.

I also really like her point about these being a great way to let baby “explore” some materials that aren’t safe for him to actually play with yet. That was part of my thought with the pom pom bottle I made Lewis. He can’t play with pom poms yet because I know he would just pop them straight in his mouth, but maybe he would like to look at them. Turns out this bottle is too boring for him, but maybe he would like it better if I took some of the pom poms back out so they had some movement in the bottle.

The other thing I meant to mention on my first post that slipped my mind was how perfect these are to pack in a diaper bag to keep busy in the waiting room or on a car ride. If you use small boxes or mini water bottles you could easily fit a couple in a corner of your bag to take along. And since they are so easy to make and have so many different options for filling them it is easy to keep them fresh and interesting.

Well, hopefully my Mommy Brain won’t get the best of me too often and I won’t have to keep writing second posts just to add something I’ve forgotten!

Sensory Bottles

Sensory bottles are a really great home-made toy for kids of any age – infants up through elementary school. Infants can enjoy looking at and eventually rolling, shaking, etc. with the bottles. Older kids can help out with actually making the bottles, which is a great fine-motor activity. When I was working with 2-3 year olds this was an activity that we did periodically. We usually used water with beads or sequins/confetti with my class but any small item that fits through the neck of the bottle works well! During our beach them one year the kids filled them with sand and small sea shells. The more variety the better for infants, since seeing all the different materials will stimulate their sight and exploration. You can also have older kids help fill the bottles with water using a funnel, which would be a great way to learn about pouring and the properties of water. Once we had made the bottles I usually sent one home with each child and also kept a few for the classroom. These often got pulled into pretend play, especially in combination with the play food in the classroom.

Lewis obviously can’t help putting tiny objects into bottles yet, but I made several for him using different materials to fill each and he has enjoyed exploring them. He already seems to have certain “favorites.”

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The bottles have:
1) Beads
2) Green rice w/ green wooden beads
3) Red rice w/ yellow and orange beads
4) Water, red food coloring, shiny confetti
5) Small pieces of pipe cleaner
6) Pom-poms
7) Pieces from a puzzle
8) A little water with a squirt of dish soap
9) Water with cut pieces of straws

I chose to use mini water bottles as I thought this would be easier for him to manipulate. Even with the small bottles the ones that are completely full of liquid are a little too heavy for him to really handle well, and he tends not to play with these as much. He seems to enjoy the dry ingredients (the rice, beads, and puzzle pieces) that he can shake to make noise or just look at the movement of them. He also likes the bubbles and likes watching the movement of the water.

Making some music with Daddy. Lewis was shaking bottles while Chris banged on others with a spoon.

Making some music with Daddy. Lewis was shaking bottles while Chris banged on others with a spoon.

These are so easy to make, and really can use just about anything you have on hand. The rice I dyed by mixing it with a small squirt of food coloring and allowing it to dry. For older kids you could use colored (or plain) rice to make an “I spy” bottle with a variety of small items hiding in the rice. This could include tiny toy animals, buttons in different shapes, shaped erasers, or any other little ‘treasures’ you can think of. There are some great ideas in this post by The Imagination Tree. I got some of my inspiration from there, but mostly just went with whatever materials I had on hand and what I found at the dollar store. (Looking back at that post reminds me that I was planning to do one with ripped foil pieces though!).

Very focused, watching the movement of the beads as he tipped the bottle.

Very focused, watching the movement of the beads/rice as he tipped the bottle.

This is another easy homemade toy that has definitely been a success for us. Since I made so many I plan on only keeping about half of them out at a time, and then switching them out when he seems to get bored with them.

Homemade Toys

Lewis has lots of toys, but that hasn’t stopped me from wanting to make him some homemade ones! I made a couple that were kind of “fails” since he hasn’t shown much interest in them. One was a crocheted ball, which I’m sure he will enjoy once he learns about throwing things. The other “fail” was a little taggy blanket I sewed for him that he never wants to play with. But I’ve also made a few things that he likes playing with! I love crafting, and baby toys can be made with almost anything you have on hand once you get creative. It is a great chance to up-cycle some things that would otherwise be going into the trash or recycling bin. When I was a kid I remember playing with a bunch of blocks that my mom had made from milk and orange juice cartons. There are six kids in my family and she also ran a childcare in our home, so I guess we went through a lot of milk and orange juice!

Shakers made from a tea tin, prescription bottle, and two vitamin bottles.

Shakers made from a tea tin, prescription bottle, and two vitamin bottles.

I made him some shakers before we went and bought him some music toys to play with, but even with the new toys we still keep the homemade shakers out and they get played with just as frequently. He likes to shake them, bang with them, and of course suck on them! The vitamin bottles were sticky when I tried to take the labels off, so I covered them with some pretty contact paper that I found on clearance at Target. The big vitamin bottle has a jingle bell inside, the prescription bottle has dried beans, and the other two have a few buttons each. I basically played around with putting different things in each one until it made a sound I liked. Lewis can’t take the tops off yet so I’m not worried about him getting into them, but shakers for an older baby would need the lids to be glued or taped on.

I also made a ribbon pull toy. This is an idea from The Imagination Tree that I found through Pinterest (of course.) I just used a yogurt container and didn’t bother covering it over with anything but Lewis doesn’t seem to care. I tried to use different textures and thicknesses of ribbon. Some were too thin and when I knotted them they just pulled through the holes anyway, so I tied the ends of these around buttons. Of course the buttons are his favorite part! They are pretty securely attached but I do keep an eye when he is playing with it just to make sure they don’t come loose and become a choking hazard. This toy often catches his eye on he shelf and he will pull it down. He practices his pincer grasp trying to grab the ends of the ribbons, and likes to suck on the ribbons. I have also seen him bang this against the floor when he gets a good hold on it.

Very focused on studying the ribbons.

Very focused on studying the ribbons.

It feels good to make something that baby enjoys, and often it is these simple toys that gives them so much more benefit than all the store-bought things. I am working on a set of sensory bottles for him, which will get a post of their own once I’ve finished filling them.

Have you made any simple up-cycled toys for your baby? Do you remember having toys like this when you were a kid?