Category Archives: Toddler Friendly Activities

The Ants Go Marching and Other Bug Related Fun for Kids

(photo by PML)

My little gal, V, has shown an utter fascination with the small creatures of the world lately.  From slugs to ants, bugs have been on her curious brain!  She enthuses over them, cautiously and gingerly touches them with exclamations of pride, and points them out everywhere we go.  So I have become a mom that pets ants outside of the strip mall smoothie place and one who carts slugs on mulch pieces to somewhere other than our vegetable garden.  It’s been real…

Not wanting my ant-induced itching inclinations to impact my girl’s passion for the little critters, we went to the library to stock up on all items bug related for some fun theme reading.  Here are some selected choices for your insect explorations:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle:  We own two copies of this (board and hard cover) as it has been a favorite of V’s since she was quite small.  She has always enjoys the part where I exhaustedly and speedily read all of the crazy foods that caterpillar eats on Saturday!

Miss Spider’s ABC’s by David Kirk:  The brilliantly colored illustrations make this book so appealing to little ones.  They can learn about all types of bugs that come to the surprise party for Miss Spider while learning their ABC’s!

The Eensy Weensy Spider by Mary Ann Hoberman:  The classic song is told as an extended version with lovely illustrations; you can use this in combination with some music time for your little one.

Chirping Crickets by Melvin Berger:  This non-fiction title for kids is very informative and even includes a craft and other activities on the back page!

Thinking About Ants by Barbara Brenner: What a fabulous book!  It takes the perspective of an ant and has interactive questions that really draw kids into learning about ants.  Using the questions as prompts, V has decided that she is a purple ant, I am a blue ant, and Daddy can be a red ant and that we all have matching antennae, abdomens, and food!  The stories she is coming up with after reading this title are hilarious and hearing a two year old pronounce “antennae” and “abdomens” is darn cute.  There is a reference in the back to help parents talk about the types of ants depicted in the illustrations.

About Insects:  A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill:  This simple book describes characteristics of insects using illustrations of different bugs.  It is almost like a very elementary field guide and overview of the insect world.  V loved using it as a reference for the bug movie we watched: MicroCosmos.

If you want to go beyond the page and the species found in your own front yard, I recommend checking out MicroCosmos.  It is a quiet (with the exception of some rousing musical accompaniment) documentary about bugs from the perspective of a bug.  Kind of like a real-life “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” experience from the bug side of things.

MicroCosmos is rated G, but be aware there are some real life “ahem” bonding moments that occur between some of the bug friends. They get really natural so you may have some explaining to do with older children. We like to call it “the bugs dancing” in our house.  Overall, though it was a wonderful viewing experience and V kept excitedly pointing out things to us, “Wow!”  “Daddy, LOOK at that guy!”  “What IS that guy?”

I found it helpful to have our bug books on hand so we could look up some of the species as we watched, so it might be useful to have some kind of field guide handy to help answer the questions of curious minded kiddos (for those of us parents who aren’t entomologists)!

Finally, I invite you to do what we do:  go on a nature walk and look at all the bugs you can find.  Talk about them, point out features and share your knowledge.  Most of my bug knowledge was acquired informally, through hearing adults share what they knew about bugs.  Sing “The Ants Go Marching” or “The Eensy Weensy Spider” on your walk.  Check out Pinterest bug activities (we like making bugs out of colored cotton balls, google eyes and pipe cleaners and putting them in glass pickle jars).  There is no end to the fun you can have with bugs.

On a more challenging note; we may have become known as a too friendly to bugs household this week.  We have begun facing off an ant invasion (they were coming in under our front door and running their tiny bodies ALL along the molding from the front to back of our house…).  I’m convinced we’ll win the battle with our liquid ant traps in and outside the house, but for a pesticide-phobic person like me, I really prefer when the bugs keep to their habitat and us to ours!  Keep your fingers crossed that V’s cries of “Get him!  Smash him!” regarding the ants don’t infringe on the awe and respect we are currently forming for our bug friends!  I’m hoping that my explanations of “Bugs are fine outside the house but not inside,” will suffice, but after she’s watched my smash and stomp routine this week, I feel like there’s some mixed messages going on in our home about the presence of wildlife.  She did enjoy watching the ants marching in line from our front door to the ant trap and kept asking me to “Come on Mommy!  Let’s go watch the ants!”  I felt a little guilty knowing that they were in reality marching to their doom…

Anyway, get out there, get itchy and squirmy and check out the species in your front yard!  What are some of the bug friends that your children love?


A Fairy Good Time

An attentive purple fairy at the library program (photo by PML)

We recently have enjoyed some fairy themed projects and excursions. V and I went in full fairy regalia to a fairy themed summer reading program at our local library.

Mama and V fairies at the library program (photo by MEL)

There, we listened to fairy stories, made fairy dolls, magic wands, crowns, and participated in other fairy activities.

To continue our adventure into fairy land, we have been reading the following titles:

A Fairy Went A-Marketing by Rose Fyleman: A sweet story about a little fairy who releases captive animals back into the wild.

Fairy Tea Part by Jamie Michalak:  A sweet little story that helps children learn colors in the context of a fairy tea party.

Usborne 1001 Things to Spot in Fairyland:  V has been loving look and find books and this one on fairyland is delightful!

Talking to Fairies by Sheila Jeffries: While the writing is a little amateurish, the stories and fairy facts are fun. And the quotes about fairies by young children are just plain adorable! I plan to check out some of the titles mentioned in her book for additional reading with V.

Ann Arbor’s Fairy Village (photo by PML)

Enchanted Village (photo by PML)










On our family excursion to Michigan this summer, we enjoyed additional fairy activities with Grammy and Uncle J.  First, we went on a tour of Ann Arbor, Michigan’s fairy doors.  If you haven’t been on this walk, I recommend it (although it’s probably a bit more enjoyable in cooler weather…we went in 90+ degree heat!).  I lived in Ann Arbor for three years and never heard of the fairy doors until my mother told me about them this year.

(photo by PML)

(photo by PML)

We started out checking out the fairy village, then rambled about exploring fairy doors throughout the downtown area.  In the participating key shop, V was given a special Yoda key, which she then used to try to unlock all the subsequent fairy doors.  The walk was enchanting and reminded me of all I love and miss about Ann Arbor.

(photo by PML)

The keys to fairyland…(photo by PML)

A lush fairy garden home (photo by PML)

M & V on a fairy door walk

During our visit, V and Uncle J and I made some fairy houses based on a wonderful house shown by local artist, Diana Gorham of Craftworks, during the library reading program.  Her fairy house was absolutely gorgeous and delightful; it inspired me to give it a go.

V’s fairy A-frame complete with bling: a moss carpet, a stone table and stone chair! (photo by PML)

After a severe thunderstorm gifted us with many loose branches and bark scraps, we went on a nature walk to gather fallen items.  If you do this activity, make sure you aren’t violating any park laws by scavenging where and what you shouldn’t…

The back view of V’s fairy house complete with glitter, beads, and lichen
(photo by PML)

Our rule was to take what was fallen, although I admit to pirating a small scrap of moss from the next door outlet.  Here is what we came up with using twigs, bark, stones, moss, hot glue, craft sticks, beads, pipe cleaners, and glitter:

Front view of J’s fairy summer cottage (interior included Adirondack chair and table designed by J); note the festive flag pole!

Even 10 year old J was enthralled by his fairy house.

Side view of the summer cottage including a stone fireplace, moss garden and pine cone trees (photo by PML)

It was a wonderful way to pass a sweltering afternoon while keeping two children occupied.  My husband M, V, and I have plans to construct additional fairy dwellings over the years; we just love the idea so much!  (And sorry, Mom, I forgot the extra bark I gathered in your car…yep, even big kids still leave car messes!)

A rare view of the ‘secret’ goblin house on our fairy door tour… (photo by MEL)

Celebrating America’s Independence: Flags, Fireworks and Reading Fun for Toddlers

Hot summer days are officially here.  With the temperature soaring to the upper 90’s today and the 4th of July approaching, I decided that it would be a great day to teach V about America’s Independence Day celebration.  Together, we read some stories and created some simple, kid-friendly crafts to celebrate the 4th of July holiday.

Two books that guided our learning experience are:

The Story of America’s Birthday by Patricia A. Pingry


The Story of The Star-Spangled Banner by Patricia A. Pingry

American Flag Craft

Together we made an American flag out of paper and paints.


Red, white, and blue construction paper, scissors, Elmer’s Glue, white tempura paint, paintbrushes


I cut 6 strips of white construction paper and a blue rectangle of construction paper in advance.  I also lined them up in proper American flag order with the red stripe starting at the top of the flag and thirteen stripes total showing.  Line up the white stripes on a piece of red construction paper, creating alternating stripes starting and ending with red and having approximately equal spacing.  Have your child apply Elmer’s glue and affix the stripes to the construction paper.  Then, have your child glue the blue rectangle in the upper left corner of your flag.  Let them create white stars on the blue corner with white tempura paint.  Another option is to have them use silver foil star stickers (the kind that teachers use for grading) and apply them to the blue rectangle.

Firework Paintings


Red, white, blue, yellow (and any other color) tempera paints,  (We especially like to use sparkly ones!)  paintbrushes, and black construction paper.


Let your child free paint their version of sparkly fireworks on the paper.  Allow to dry and display!  We practiced color mixing while we painted our fireworks (V learned to mix purple, green, and brown colors from primary colored paints).

Mama's Version for Demonstration

4th of July themed Nature Table/Tray 

This Montessori/Waldorf concept can be adapted so many different ways.  There are a ton of websites that give examples of nature trays for you to explore as a reference. We like to make learning our own in our home so this is what I came up with and what V added.

Our Nature Tray

Materials and Instructions:

Take a small wooden tray (you can find them at a craft store).  I lined ours with blue sparkly felt for the season.  Our nature tray contains red stars, red and white “jewels”, sparkly star stickers, shells, sticks and rocks that V recently collected on outside excursions, fish, frog, flower, and bug stickers for some interactive seasonal fun, shells and a fossilized fish skin we found when visiting my dad in Florida.  We will add items as the weeks progress, and change out the 4th of July theme following the holiday.  We keep our tray on a little table near the entrance to our house so V can easily add to her collection.

(As with all crafts/activities posted here, neither this blog or the author accept liability for related injuries.  Please be responsible and provide proper supervision and use discretion when determining whether your child is old enough to complete the above projects, especially with children under the age of 3, for whom small objects might pose a choking hazard.)

Renaissance at Home: Creating a Renaissance-Themed Playdate

I have this great idea (at least now I think it’s great; we’ll see if I can keep motivated to continue with it) to explore and blog through art history with my daughter, V.  As a amateur(very…amateur) artist, I hope to educate both of us through this experience, which I hope will evolve over the years to include more complex and intricate projects and study.

Through this course of study, I hope to blog about several children’s activity books and our experiences with the projects contained within.  I imagine we will skip around time periods a bit in V’s early years, where exposure to mediums, textures, colors, and sensory experiences is the primary focus.  I also know I will be adapting many of the activities to be age-appropriate for V, as well as coming up with some of my own ideas.  I know my husband, M, a talented artist himself, will also be excited to join us on our art adventures.

Following our trip to the Renaissance Faire the other day, I wanted to continue exploring the theme with art, music, costume, and cooking activities at home.  I was excited to involve some of V’s young friends in these activities over a day-long playdate.

Our fair maiden

We used the book Days of Knights and Damsels:  An Activity Guide  by Laurie Carlson as a source for our day, completing 5 activities in the book.  I love this book and plan to purchase a copy (this one was from our local library) for continued use.

Here are the five activities we completed:

With the two girls (aged 2.5 and 8), we completed the “Lady’s Looking Glass” on pg. 18 of the text.

Cut two pieces from cardboard using the pattern found in the book.

V’s mirror pieces, painted.

Mirror painted by V’s artistic friend!

Final front view, once we glued on “jewels”

Back view

V’s final bejeweled version

Back of V’s mirror

The next project we did was designing shields, inspired by the project on pg. 33.  We adapted our project for simplicity, simply cutting a shield shape out of paper and creating our own designs with paper, pencils and paints.

Blank shield shape

Our young 10 year old friend began designing his shield using his family crest, which he had previously found online.

V painting her shield

Two other books that might be helpful for designing your shields or for general reference  if you are completing the project with older children are shown in the picture below.  V loves the pop-up Knight book that I had actually purchased before she was born.

Some helpful titles

The next project that we did, which was a hit with all of the kids, especially our 10 year old chef, was to make pretzels, pg. 46 and mead, pg. 62.

Our homemade pretzels

We adapted the recipe in the book a bit; we brushed the egg mixture and added toppings BEFORE cooking, so as to not have raw egg on the top of our pretzels.  Our young guest chefs also suggested making a sweet topping for some of the pretzels, so we mixed cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on half of them.  This was a great texture experience for my little gal, who loved twisting and kneading the dough.

And the mead:  though it’s pretty much just honey and water, it was surprisingly good.  (No, we did not make the alcoholic kind, which is DEFINITELY good).

Finally, we made the Scroll Carrier from pg. 107.  I do not have pictures of the carrier; the 10 year old boy was the only one to complete this project and what fascinated him most was the paper we made.

Here is an activity that I created on my own to make parchment like paper for the scroll carriers.

First, brew a cup of regular tea.  Let it cool.  Pull out a cookie sheet with high sides or a baking pan.  Pour the tea in the pan and add a couple scoops of coffee grounds, stir, and let it dissolve into the tea a bit.  Put a drying rack over your sink to allow the paper to drip without staining your countertops.

Our drying paper

I used craft paper to cut the edges of the paper in a jagged sort of way.

Then, we swished the paper in the tray, covering them a bit with the grounds.  If you leave some of the grounds on the paper when drying, it creates some great dark staining, which looks awesome.

Place the paper on the rack and allow to dry completely.  Brush off the grounds in the sink, and you have instant parchment.

Our parchment paper

There are many other wonderful activities to complete in this book, and I hope to blog about more of them in the future. I also hope to explore some Renaissance artists with V and create some relevant projects based on their work.  Keep your fingers crossed that I can maintain this project, because I think it will be so much fun!

Jousts, Caverns, But No Dragons In Sight: Our Mini-Vacation in Photos

Recently, our family took our first vacation alone since our daughter was born 2.5 years ago.  It wasn’t long (two days) and we didn’t go far (4 hours) but it was a change of scenery and we did some fun family stuff.

First, we attended the Virginia Renaissance Faire.  This year, M and I went as pirates with purple pirate princess V. Last year, V was knighted at the faire, but opted not to do it this year(there was a HUGE crowd of kids).  We did however, make sure to see the joust:

V considers the joust atop the shoulders of her knight…or in this case her pirate!

V tried on some armor, attempting to lift the helmet onto her head all by her big self!

V knows exactly what to do with the gauntlet without even being told…

Putting on a more “kid” sized helmet.

Ready to fend off dragon fire with her stout shield!

Daddy models the helmet for V.

Sword raised, V takes on Pirate Mama and fells her with a single blow!

Along with all the action and armor, we enjoyed playing with V in the kid’s area where they had coloring, medieval toys, costumes, instruments, bubble blowing, and other fun activities.

V’s excited to color a picture of Queen Elizabeth!

Pirate Mama with V in the kids area before I met my demise.

A goofy pirate captured having fun in the kids area!

After a day of travel back to the Renaissance, we decided to go even further back in time and check out some spectacular caverns at Luray, VA.

It takes 100 years for the stalactites (hang tight from the ceiling) and stalagmites to grow an inch.

I was inspired to write a poem after viewing these two formations, reaching over hundreds of years towards each other.

Mama and V

V was part nervous, part awestruck by the caves, but she did great and started pointing out pictures for us to take.

Anyone else see Jabba the Hutt here?

It took millions of years for these spectacular formations to develop.

A waterfall appearance.

Daddy and V

Some interesting formations

The cavern seems infinite…

Some scrambled eggs, anyone?

We had such a good time and I wanted to capitalize on V’s interest for some additional learning.  We had a playdate with two of V’s friends (aged 10 and 8) where we spent the day in costume listening to Renaissance music, completing Renaissance themed crafts and baking activities which I will feature in an upcoming post.  Additionally, I checked out a book for V on caves, which she enjoyed, Cave Detectives by David L. Harrison.

Though we did not encounter any dragons on our adventures, we are surely prepared through our armor training and cave explorations should any venture our way!

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