Friday, February 28, 2014

Beach Sand Play Dough

I love trolling the internet for cool activities and projects to do with Alexa. I think these moms and teachers and caregivers who come up with these ideas are amazing. I also like experimenting with my own stuff. After finding a cool recipe for chocolate clay from Growing a Jeweled Rose, I decided to try and come up with my own recipe for some kind of play dough using stuff we had around the house.

We've been having some really beautiful weather in Linz and so I decided to try and make my own version of Cloud Dough. I grabbed some flour and baby oil because I thought that would make a great soft, fluffy textured play dough. What I ended up with was an amazing play dough that felt just like a nice sandy beach. It wasn't exactly what I had set out to make, but it ended up being a lot of fun anyway.

Alexa and I had a great time squishing and pressing the sand dough into different molds. She crushed the sand dough in her hands and into the bucket. I think this would be a very interesting addition to a sand/water table in the summer.

Beach Sand Play Dough

1 cup flour
3/8 cup baby oil

Mix well with your hands and then have fun building a sand castle with your new sand dough!

I left our sand dough out for several days. It held up perfectly, so today I put it into a clean and dry baby food jar and labeled it for storage. I'm not sure how long it will hold for, but I like being able to keep it for more than one play day.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Carrot Zucchini Bites

Alexa is starting to get a little bit picky when it comes to food. If she can't feed it to herself with her fingers or with a fork then she is not interested in eating it at all. Some veggies that she loved as purees, like zucchini, she doesn't care for the texture as a whole food. This was a quick and easy way I thought I could get a variety of veggies into her.

1 cup shredded zucchini (approximately 1 small zucchini)
1 cup shredded carrots (approximately 2 medium carrots)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (or topfen)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup vegetable oil OR 2 eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder or 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon basil
1/2 stem of fresh chives, chopped
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Mix all ingredients except the flour until they are well combined. Add the flour and mix thoroughly. Roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into balls and drop onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 2 dozen.

Bottle Caps

Bottle caps are the new cool around here. For some unknown reason, we have an entire container of plastic bottle tops in the Tupperware drawer. While I was making lunch the other day, Alexa came across the bottle caps. She ended up testing each and everyone of them by sticking them in her mouth. She took them out of the container they were in and then put them back in. She sucked on the spout tops and then blew her cute little spit all over the kitchen. She was in baby bottle cap dreamland.

I really don't know what it is about these bottle caps, but she has seriously been playing with them almost every day for the last three days. Today, she explored with them in a big metal mixing bowl.

Beware, it's loud. Very loud. However, Alexa loved it. She played long enough for me to figure out what to make for dinner and then to actually make it. That makes this a new go to activity.

After a while I even gave her a wooden spoon to "mix" her bottle caps with. She loved it. This was even louder...just so you know. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Apple Stamping

Alexa got a small little stamper as a treat from someone recently, a toy that is much much too small for her to be playing with right now. The stamper did get me thinking that stamping would be fun for her. She loves doing dots with her crayons and stamping requires that same movement. I decided to make her some infant safe stamps using apples.

2 apples
2-4 cookie cutters
a knife

I started off by cutting the apples in half. I then stuck a cookie cutter into the middle of one of the apple halves.

Then using the knife, I cut about 1/4-1/2 inch around the cookie cutter.  Once you remove the cookie cutter you have an apple stamp!

I made star, flower and moon stampers.

Using finger paints, I dipped the stampers in the paint and then helped Alexa stamp them on her paper. After a few practice stamps, she got the hang of it and was stamping on her own.

She was initially shocked at the shapes and I let her investigate the paint covered apple stamps. She had a lot of fun stamping. The green star stamper ended up being her favorite!

Happy Stamping!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Brownie Cookies

I found this amazingly delicious and easy recipe on Pinterest for Brownie Cookies. These things are the fantastic!!!!

They were so easy to make and I had all of the ingredients in the house (technically). I made a few changes to the directions, barely any,  but it worked better for me.

1 cup Nutella (or any chocolate hazelnut spread)
1 egg
3/4-1 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F*. Scramble one egg in a mixing bowl using a fork or whisk. Add the Nutella and mix until thoroughly combined. Add the flour**. Scoop teaspoonfuls of the dough and roll into a ball on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Do not over bake. Makes approximately 20-24 cookies.

*Make sure your oven is completely preheated. If it is not, you might need to add 1-2 minutes to the baking time.

**When I made these I added the full cup of flour and you could still taste the flour once the cookie was baked. I suggest using NEARLY the full cup, but not quite the entire thing. The dough should not be sticky.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Shaving Cream Fun

Playing with shaving cream is such a cool sensory activity for little ones. At one of our Mommy & Me art classes at The Giggling Pig, Miss Lisa sprayed shaving cream on the wall for Alexa to play with. It was instantly a hit with her and all the other little ones in attendance. I decided to give the same thing a try at home.

Be forewarned, this is a VERY messy activity, but it is totally worth it.


Shaving cream - the foam kind, not the gel
Large bath towel
Wet washcloth

**Make sure you have ALL the supplies handy BEFORE starting this activity.**

I corralled Alexa into the corner by the balcony door and then busted out the shaving cream. As soon as I started spraying it on the window she started laughing and reaching for the shaving cream.

She smooshed it between her fingers and had so much fun spreading it all over the window and the floor. She had fun watching me write her name into the shaving cream too.

This is such a great sensory experience for little ones. Do you think you would try this at home?

Monday, February 17, 2014

I feel like Supermom

It's a very rare day around here when I get a ton of stuff done. Oh, don't get me wrong, I start a ton of stuff every day, when I ever happen to get around to finishing anything is a whole other story! After a really rough Sunday (Alexa had a high fever all day and night), I somehow woke up this morning energized. Now, let me run through my version of a Monday morning for you. Monday morning (possibly every single morning Monday-Sunday) - can't lift head off pillow, eyelids are glued shut, small person who somehow ended up in my bed is pulling my hair and smooshing my nose so I can't breathe. Yup, that sounds like just about every Monday morning I've had for quite some time.

Today was no different, HOWEVER, once I physically got up and out of bed the dust, dirt and grime of the apartment began mocking me. It was like a magnifying glass had replaced the normal lenses in my glasses and every single speck of dirt became life size. Ew. After Alexa and I had breakfast I took off like a bat out of hell. Washed, dried and put away dishes. Pulled out the vacuum and vacuumed the entire apartment. I went from room to room picking up toys, pulling pillows off the floor and vacuuming over, under and on anything that looked remotely dusty. Did you know there are toys in every single room of our apartment. EVERYSINGLEROOM. This includes the hallway! I stripped all the beds and then put new bedding on. I  took down and folded the dry laundry from the drying rack and hung a new load of freshly washed clothes, then started a new load. Every room had music playing to keep me motivated. I finally took action against the deadly corner in our bedroom, formerly known as Michael's nightstand. It was filled with a random array of crap that belonged nowhere, but attracted Alexa like a bee to honey. There were papers, cough drops, screws, books, cables, name it, anything that Alexa should have exactly zero access to was on that tabletop. It's now living in a shoebox on top of the desk until it finds a permanent new home.

Please, don't think we are horrible parents. We've tried to baby proof, but how do you baby proof EVERYTHING?? Things I would never think she would touch she goes right after. She removed all of the rubber corners we put on the sharp furniture edges. She loves trying to stick her little fingers into the outlets (don't worry, those are safely covered). She is short, but can still make herself big enough to reach up on top of the desk, the bookshelf, into drawers and on counter tops. It is terrifying! She is EVERYWHERE and into EVERYTHING all of the time. 

The entire time I was cleaning, Alexa was a GEM! She played nicely in every room. She even tried to help while I was putting laundry away (aka unfolded all of the clothes that I had just folded). She was patient and played quietly. It was seriously a dream morning. Now that the apartment has stopped mocking me, I think I'll try and come up with a fun activity to do with Alexa after gets up from nap. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that?! I even got the baby down for a nap. Not too shabby for a Monday morning. Not too shabby at all.

Supermom doesn't visit often around here, but when she does, it is AWESOME!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Funday: Cardboard Box Coloring & Building a Box House

Sunday Funday is back. Here's another great family activity that your little ones will love!

Get Imaginative.  We decided to build a cardboard box house. All you need is a large box (that you don't plan on using again), some crayons or markers and a pair of scissors. (*Cutting a cardboard box can be difficult, this should be done by an adult.)

This activity ended up developing along the way. We started off sticking Alexa in a large empty box with some crayons. That was a little too much for her, however, she did enjoy dropping and picking up all of her crayons repeatedly in the box. She also enjoyed handing me crayons to draw with. After a few minutes she was over my baby in a box idea and was ready for something else. I can absolutely see this being a great idea for an older toddler. It lets them get creative and crazy in a contained environment. If you have a wall scribbler, cardboard box coloring is definitely for your little one!

I decided to make her a little house out of the box. She loves her play tent and really enjoys when I build her forts to play in, so I thought a cardboard house might be fun. We flipped the box upside down. I drew a door on one side and two windows, one on each side. I then used scissors to cut the doors and windows open.

Alexa had fun helping to decorate and color the outside of her house.

Then we played! She loved playing peekaboo through the windows and door. She liked when I would knock on the door and she would push it open from inside. It was a great way to role play a few daily greetings..."Hello, how are you?" - open the door, "Bye-bye" - shut the door. I also told her some opposites: open/close, in/out.

One day she flipped the box onto it's side and played inside for quite a while. I guess some houses have their door on top!

She has really been enjoying her house. She plays with it, in it, or on it nearly every day. It was definitely a great Sunday activity.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Goop Day!

Michael and I don't really celebrate Valentine's Day in your traditional flowers, candy, ooh lala kind of way. We hang out and love each other just like we do every other day, only sometimes I make brownies and we eat the whole pan together. With Alexa in the picture, we decided to do a family swimming day....and then we found out the pool doesn't open until nap time and then it's lunch time and just wasn't working out. Instead, I decided to make yummy heart shaped strawberry pancakes for my two loves.

Alexa, of course, wanted to help. So, I let her mix the flour, salt and baking powder together. Then I added the wet ingredients and she REALLY wanted to help. I let her stir it a little bit, but I realized disaster was in the air. That is when I came up with the great idea of letting her make her own pancakes!

First, I gave her a bowl and a spoon that was more Alexa size. I added a little bit of flour to her bowl and let her mix and play with that for a few minutes. When she started getting bored I added some water. She had her own bowl of goop and she was thrilled!

She mixed it. She squished it. She ate it and put it in her hair. She had so much fun and I was able to make her special Valentine's pancakes while she played.

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you and your family have a loving, playful day today!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Chocolate Clay: Edible, No Cook Play Clay

I found this really easy and very inexpensive recipe for edible, no cook chocolate clay at Growing A Jeweled Rose. As soon as I read the blog post, I knew Alexa and I would be trying it out. Shockingly, I did not have cornstarch or nutella at home, so this morning we ran to the store and picked up our supplies. I bought the store brand of nutella because let's be's the same exact thing and I'm using and to make play dough. The nutella knockoff and the cornstarch cost 2,68€.

The recipe from Growing A Jeweled Rose says you can use as much nutella as you want. I wasn't sure how the recipe would turn out so I erred on the side of caution. I used one super heaping tablespoon of hazelnut cream.

Then I added two heaping tablespoons of cornstarch to the mix. The spoons were pretty useless in mixing the ingredients, so we dug in with our hands. It was messy, but felt so cool!

I let Alexa explore a little with mixture. She didn't really like how sticky it was, but yet she couldn't resist touching it repeatedly. Once it was mixed well and wasn't sticky anymore, I set Alexa up in her high chair with some cookie cutters.

She wasn't quite sure what to do at first, so I took the clay out of the bowl and showed her how to roll it in her hands. She mimicked what I was doing. Then we flattened the clay out and explored it's texture.

I'm not going to lie, she totally ate some. I'm pretty sure she would have eaten all of it if I hadn't stopped her. I can't blame her though, hazelnut cream smells great and tastes even better!

We used cookie cutters to cut out star, flower and heart shapes...all of which she promptly put in her mouth! Then we rolled balls of chocolate clay into a caterpillar shape and squished it flat to poke holes into.

Alexa enjoyed playing with the chocolate clay. I think her favorite parts were mixing it together and then tasting it! I might hold off a little longer before introducing other types of play dough because she still puts everything in her mouth, but I was glad to know that this was safe to eat.

What else would you make with chocolate clay?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Sunday Funday: Mess Free Painting

Sunday Funday has definitely taken on a new meaning since I've become a mom. They used to be crazy days of drinking wine and hanging out with friends. Now, I drink decaf coffee and hang out with my little bean. This past Sunday was a long kind of day. Do you ever have those? Where the day just seems to stretch out and bedtime seems like it's a dream away. Well, we needed to get creative because our usual playing with toys and family snuggling just weren't cutting it.

Get Artsy. While Alexa was down for her nap, I prepped a fun mess free art activity that I could leave up for her to find when she woke up. I decided to try out mess free painting, a cool idea I found at Laughing Kids Learn. All you need is a ziplock bag, paints and some tape.

Next time I think I'll tape down all four sides of the bag. My little bean is VERY curious and nearly pulled our mess free painting down.

I'm pretty sure I had just as much fun playing with this as she did. Alexa is very into "dotting" everything from crayons to paintbrushes. Once she saw me making dots she joined in and we made an entire dot picture.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

5 Rainy Day Activities

1. I found this great idea on Laughing Kids Learn for mess free painting. We will definitely be trying this out today. What a great idea for a clean, messy activity!

2. I just found the coolest toddler activity EVER! This is a sensory activity that no child, regardless of age, would ever be able to say no to. This is such an awesome idea brought to you by Hands On As We Grow. This awesome activity has everything little ones love. It is incredibly messy. It is ooey and gooey. It has fun colors. They get to mix and pour, squeeze and spread. It is seriously perfect in every way. We had so much fun playing with Squish. This is definitely going to be a go to rainy day activity for us.

3. Shaving Cream. It's just that simple. By your basic foam shaving cream at the store. Kids can have hours of endless fun with this. Spray it on their highchair, a table top or even a big window and let them have at it!

4. Bottle Top Sort. Alexa had a field day in the kitchen tupperware drawer this morning. She found all of our extra bottle tops and had a blast putting them into and taking them out of a bowl. She liked putting them in her mouth and trying to fit them into one another too. Definitely a quick and easy activity to keep your little one occupied.

5. Cardboard Band. We like to use toilet paper rolls as horns and paper towel rolls as drumsticks. It is an easy way to use your empty cardboard rolls and the kids have fun making a cardboard band! For older kids, let them color and decorate the cardboard rolls before parading around the house pounding their drumsticks or tooting their horns! My little one likes to imitate the noises I make with the horn and attempts to copy the beats I play with the drumsticks. Let your imagination run wild with this one. There are so many ways to have fun!

What other rainy day activities do you enjoy doing with your little one?

Friday, February 7, 2014

Valentine Projects and Activities

With Valentine's Day just around the corner I have been racking my brain for some fun and cute activities to do with Alexa. I found one online that I really liked and also ended up coming up with a few of my own.

Salt Dough Hearts. I found this great post on Facebook the other day from Growing A Jeweled Rose and I absolutely cannot wait to try it out with Alexa. Salt dough has so many uses and it is quick and easy to make. I love that the ingredients are things that everyone has in their pantry as well.

This was such a fun and easy project. It was a little too early for nap time today, so I decided to give this project a try.  Alexa was able to help me pour the ingredients into the bowl. She wasn't really interested in helping to mix the dough, but she did love playing with the spoon! I lined a cookie sheet with baking paper and shaped the dough into a heart shape. Then I put the entire cookie sheet on the floor and let Alexa step in the dough. She wiggled her toes all around and generally enjoyed the feeling. After we made the footprints I used the end of a spoon to write her name in the dough and a toothpick to write the year. We followed the directions for baking our footprint heart and now we just need to paint it.

Hand-print Hearts. During our trip to the US in December, I enrolled Alexa in a Mommy & Me Art Class at The Giggling Pig Art Studio. The very first art class we attended we made these really awesome Santa Hand-print Plates. I pulled the hand-print heart idea from that. You can either use a plate (white or clear glass) or just a piece of paper for this project. If you are making it as a gift, I suggest using a plate. You will also need a black sharpie, acrylic paint (red, pink or purple) and a small paint brush (the foam paintbrush gets the paint on fastest - and speed is essential with tiny, wiggling hands!). First draw a heart on your plate (or paper) using the sharpie. Next, paint one wiggling hand with the acrylic paint and lay it flat within one half of the heart (attempt to get their little thumbs as close to the middle of the heart as possible). Repeat with the second hand. Now, for those of you who have done this on a plate you now want to bake the plate. Once the paint has dried, place your glassware into a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 350F (175C). Bake for 20 minutes, then turn the oven off. Leave it in to cool for 10 minutes. Wash by hand.This will set the paint. Don't forget to write the child's name and the date either on the front of the plate or on the back of the plate prior to baking.

Valentine Sensory Bin. While we were in the US, I picked up some extra large pompons in the craft store. For this Valentine Sensory Bin, I pulled out all of the red, pink, purple, silver and white pompons. I put them in a large plastic container and added different measuring cups and spoons for scooping. For older toddlers, try and encourage them to sort the pompons by color.

Alexa loved scooping the pompons from one container into another.

Toilet Paper Roll Hearts. Use a toilet paper roll and paint to stamp hearts on paper. This is a great activity for little hands. The toilet paper roll is large enough to make stamping fun and easy!

What other Valentine activities will you be doing with your little one?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Playing with Squish!

I found this really cool project idea over at Hands On As We Grow that uses your most basic ingredients: flour and water. They call it flour piping, but we called it Squish! Alexa had the most amazing time creating and playing with Squish. I hope you and your kids have just as much fun!

First, gather your supplies...

Plastic sandwich bags
Washable paints (Optional)

I poured a bunch of flour into a bowl and handed a spoon to Alexa. She thought it was so cool that she was allowed to stir and make a mess with the flour.

Then, I used my watering can and added water. She stirred and played in the flour water mixture the entire time. She tested the texture with her fingers and squished it in her hands. She even tasted it. I helped her stir the flour water mixture until it was nice and soupy.

After we got our Squish to the right consistency, I scooped it into the sandwich bags. We did two sandwich bags with one teaspoon (you probably don't even need that much) of paint per baggie. We used blue and red washable finger paints. I suggest letting a grown up scoop the Squish into the bags because it was super messy. I ended up quickly washing off the baggies before giving them back to Alexa.

Alexa LOVED squishing the baggies to mix all the paint. She wasn't quite sure what to do at first, but once she saw the paint starting to spread she went to town squishing and kneading the bags.

At Hands On As We Grow, they piped the Squish onto paper. That was a little too messy for us, for older toddlers I think it is a perfect idea, so we went to the shower instead! I stripped Alexa down to her diaper and put her and her baggies of Squish right in the shower. I snipped a corner off of each baggie and she was able to paint and play for quite a long time.

I actually think she would have played a lot longer, but she started eating the Squish by the handful and I didn't want her to get a tummy ache. Clean up was a breeze...I turned the shower on and washed it all down the drain. Alexa even benefited from a bubble bath to wash away all the Squish.

Happy Squishing!

4th Trimester Bodies Project

I can't remember if I have shared this with you all before or not, if I haven' you go. If I have, look at it again. It is beautiful and empowering. Having a child changes you mentally and physically. Your heart grows a million times and your body changes forever.

Here's one for all the moms in the world...

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Snowy Day at Oma's

Last weekend was a lovely snow filled weekend and we spent the day at Michael's parent's enjoying the snow and visiting with family. Alexa even went on her first sleigh ride, which she loved until she face planted.

Here are a few photos from our day...