Tag Archives: kids activities

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)


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!

To Market, To Market….Playing “Shop N’Go”

My daughter V has recently begun to play a game she calls “Grocery Store”or “Shop N’Go” (which I think, incidentally was the brand name of her play shopping cart).   Any parent of a toddler knows that grocery shopping with said toddler can be a challenging experience.  Role playing grocery shopping experiences can help a little one become familiar with the routines and expectations of a shopping trip in a fun manner.  There are many wonderful learning opportunities that arise during play shopping and I hope to share some of them with you through this post.

To play grocery store, V and I take turns being the cashier/shopkeeper and the shopper.

The shopkeeper/cashier sets out play fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy items.

This is a great opportunity to have your little one sort the items by food group or color.  If you have more than one of an item, you can play counting games by asking your child how many of each item they are putting in your play store.

The shopper (as we play it) takes a mini shopping cart and visits the store, selecting items for the basket.  As the shopper, I like to talk about what I am buying, and sometimes talk about why I am “buying” a certain item (ex:  “I want to make a pie; oh, look, there are some apples for my pie!”).  The shopper proceeds to the cash register (we use V’s baby piano) and sets the items on the counter.  (Here again is another opportunity for sorting or counting items.)

We have a little fake scanner (the faucet from V’s play kitchen) that we use to scan each item.  V loves to make a scanning sound “BOOP!”  when each item is “scanned.”  As a shopkeeper, V then puts the items in a reusable bag for the customer.

The shopper then takes out a play wallet(I bought a brand new wallet for a dollar at the Goodwill to use during play).  We have play money (coins and bills) and also old fake credit cards (old, used gift cards and fake credit cards that come with offers) that we use to pay.  V likes to slide the credit card through our credit card reader (the space between the piano keys) and hand it back to me.  We also use this as an opportunity to learn about money.  I show V the different types of coins and that five pennies is the same as one nickel.  We talk about which coins are worth more money and that the bigger coins aren’t always the ones worth the most money.  I don’t expect her to grasp all of these concepts at two, but she is learning the names of the coins and will gradually add knowledge through our continued play.

We also practice courtesy by saying, “Thank you!  Have a nice day!”  when we part company at the register.

Recently, V and I had an awful shopping experience when our wills collided down aisle 5.  After the dust had settled from our trip, we role played a similar experience with her baby dolls who just didn’t want to listen in our play grocery store.  I pretended that the baby wouldn’t get in her cart, was running in different directions, climbing out of the cart, and grabbing things she shouldn’t.  I asked V what she thought we should do in each of the situations.  She problem solved, “Put the baby in the cart;” “Give the baby a snack;”  “Strap her in.”  All of these ideas were great solutions and I could tell it got her wheels turning as she thought about what to do with unruly Baby.  When I asked her what we should do when Baby wouldn’t listen to our choices, I said, “I’m so frustrated!  I can’t get Baby to listen!  What should we do with Baby?”  V looked at me with an understanding grin.  Our next shopping experience was a bit more peaceful, but I know the learning will be part of an ongoing process.  Involving her in solution finding for challenging behavior gave her an opportunity to experience the situation from my perspective.

We try to carry over V’s learning to real life store experiences, allowing her to help us put items in the basket, scan our card at the register, and take the receipt.  She loves to select produce and always reminds me to buy eggs.  Recently, I recited a list of items we needed to remember to buy at the grocery store and she felt really proud to remind Mommy that we needed to purchase pens and Kleenex!  And I had one less thing to remember by myself!

For supplemental learning, try reading the following titles with your child:

At The Supermarket by Anne Rockwell (This sweet title was read over and over by my little gal who loved the story line of the mom and son buying ingredients for a birthday cake that they make at the end of the book.)

A Day at the Market by Sara Anderson (This one is a little quirky, including names of people that are specific to a particular farmer’s market, dumpster divers, and exotic ingredients but it is still a helpful read for kids and captures the excitement that a child might feel at a large marketplace.)

Maisy Goes Shopping by Lucy Cousins (Who doesn’t love a Maisy book?)

Eating The Alphabet:  Fruits and Vegetables From A To Z by Lois Ehlert:  (Even I learned some new fruit/veggie names from this title.)

Create Your Own Toy Doctor’s Kit

A Zelda metal lunchbox transformed into a sturdy medical kit!

In an effort to help my daughter become more comfortable going to the doctor’s office, I was inspired to introduce to her some pretend play on the theme.  Formerly a tantrum-inducing battle, taking her temperature suddenly became a fascinating experience; she pursued M and I time and again to take our temperature and let us take her own with little fuss.  This little kit has been the impetus for pockets of creative play, where her baby dolls arms and legs have been cleaned and bandaged, records have been logged on her medical record chart, and we were kept abreast of our temperatures.

A resource for this project was: http://www.kristensguide.com/Family/Fun_Kid_Stuff/pretend_and_learn_doctor.asp

Age:  3+ years (V is two, but doesn’t put things in her mouth, so be cautious with choking hazards)

Materials:  Old metal lunch box or cardboard box, white or grey primer spray, white and red paint, cotton balls, tongue depressors, empty and cleaned medicine droppers, old t-shirts, disposable medical masks, file folder, mini pencil and paper, document clip, cheap digital thermometer

Instructions:  I found an old metal lunch box at a thrift store and we primed the lunch box with white primer spray paint.  I would recommend using grey primer if you have a dark colored lunch box you are trying to cover.  You can then spray white paint over the box, or do what I did (because the spray primer did not cover the logos completely) which is paint the box by hand using acrylic paint.  I also painted a red cross on the front of the box.  Remember that First Aid kits have crosses with equivalent lengths, unlike Christian crosses (my husband reminded me of this).

Inside, I gathered cotton balls, tongue depressors, cleaned medicine (needle-less) syringes, gauze, a paper medical mask, an old insurance card and an old thermometer.  I made V a medical chart by clipping paper to the inside of a file folder, and included pencils in her kit. Our medical record chart; yes, I know this is a dated technology...

I made bandages by cutting strips of cloth from an old white t-shirt just the right size for wrapping dolly arms and legs.

Bandaged baby!

I cut out faux BandAids from pieces of brown and tan colored felt.  A trip to the ER (for a treatable and resolved infection) with V produced a pair of plastic gloves to add to the kit.  We also found a Certified First Aid badge among my old Girl Scout badges that I will use (thinking about how to make a doctor’s coat…) for a future project.

There are many items you can choose to include in your doctor’s kit.  One I would refrain from using until children are a bit older is fake pills or actual empty bottles of medicine; small children can get the idea that they can make decisions about taking medicine.  It is my preference to err on the safe side of waiting to introduce this concept until my daughter is old enough to understand the appropriate medicine safety rules.

V's patient records...

I hope you enjoy your homemade kits; I used things that we had in the house.  I plan to add a cheap used stethoscope someday; I’m scouting thrift stores for items.  You can, of course, purchase a pre-made kit relatively cheaply, so be careful that you don’t bust the budget while building your own.  I just like the quality and realistic experience of a homemade kit, but either will facilitate creative playtimes for your little one.  Hopefully, the play experience will also make the next doctor’s visit a little bit less scary as well!

Flour Tray Play Activity

Our flour play tray!

Materials Needed:

Baking sheet/roasting pan/or large Tupperware container


Matchbox cars/trucks

Cookie cutter shapes/forks/child sized rakes


Age:  2 years or after your child is old enough to not put everything in his/her mouth!

Objective:  Textured play

Instructions:  Cover your floor with newspaper or have your child move to an area you don’t mind cleaning if it gets really messy! Dump a large portion of flour onto baking tray or container, shake a bit to semi-evenly disperse. Give your child cars/trucks/tools to use to create tracks and piles and shapes in the flour.

V playing with her play tray!

V played happily with this tray for what seemed like hours (but was probably half of that!).  Still, a very long time for a toddler.  When your little one can’t play in the sand, this is a fun alternative and no harm if they eat a little too!  Doesn’t stain clothes, either, though it does make a big mess, so be prepared…

Dada and V share a floury hug!

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