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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Inexpensive Summer Toys That Will Keep Your Toddler Busy

The bloggers of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network are all writing on the topic of summer and outdoor play. Check out all of the post links below!

So the reality, is that you don't need any of these things for summer. That being said, as parents, we know all too well that a little change up in the toy rotation can work wonders for keeping your child entertained and having fun.

With endless time in the summer, it feels essential to have an activity each day that can excite your child and get them engaged.

I am all about just going outside and exploring. Find sticks, rocks, flowers, etc. Just be outside with your child and let them get dirty!

These are some items that can be with you on that outside journey, and some to use inside when the weather might be too hot.

At 3.5 our daughter can play with these on her own, all by herself. We, of course, join her at times, but she also does great independent play- especially when outside!

These are relatively inexpensive items that will last a long time. Once you have them, you have them for every summer. The great part, is that children don't outgrow these types of toys very quickly.

They'll have fun with these items for years to come!

I've grabbed these items to show you, off of trusty old Amazon, since most of us have prime memberships and take advantage of the ease of online shopping.

I keep our prime membership going mostly for amazon video. I love that we can get great shows like Daniel Tiger to watch for free! We'll also be utilizing that during the summer a bit more than usual.

I want to also mention that my new favorite place to buy fun toys like this is Dollar Tree! If you have one near you and want a fun outing, check it out.

Everything is actually $1 and you can find many of these things there. I bought a whole marker set there (for $1), whiteboards, wipe clean books, sand buckets, etc.

Today they had squirt guns, bubbles, pool noodles, jump ropes and so much more!

1. Bubbles

Bubbles  are always good fun. Kids have fun chasing them, trying to blow the bubbles themselves, and even just watching them as they float through the air.

There are fancy bubble machines, and bubble guns, but honestly I love the good old fashioned kind that you just blow. They last longer, and kids have fun trying as well!

For some good exercise, challenge your child to catch one! They will be running and running and running!

2. Chalk

Good old fashioned summer fun with chalk is always a blast. Kids can decorate the sidewalks in rainbow colors.

You can even draw games like hopscotch. When Caroline was younger, I drew shapes. I'd yell out a shape and she'd have to get to it as fast as she could.

You could do the same with letters, numbers, and colors. There are endless games to come up with!

3. Sprinkler

Sprinklers provide water. Water always equals fun! If you don't have access to a pool, or don't want to pay for a pool membership, get a sprinkler for some good water fun!

When I was a kid, we'd turn the sprinkler on and run through it in our swimsuits!

4. Sand Bucket

Sand buckets can be used for more than just sand! Of course, sand is fun if you have access to the beach or a sand box.

These buckets are great for collecting things outside. The shovels are great for digging in the dirt, and finding things in creeks. We take our bucket and shovels with us on most outdoor adventures!

5. Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are always a lot of fun and can be used to take up a good chunk of time.

We make our own (I just come up with a list of outdoor things to find), but I actually really love the idea behind this scavenger hunt.

Instead of being objects/things to find (sticks, leaves, ladybugs, etc.), this scavenger hunt has you find items with certain qualities (thin, tall, small, etc.). I love the spin on it and how it gets you finding all sorts of things!

I think this would really get kids thinking and engaged!

6. Balls

Balls- never underestimate them! This is an inexpensive pack of balls. You get a basketball, a football, a soccer ball and a baseball.

This makes for great family time outdoors, throwing and kicking the balls back to one another.

And, this toy lends itself naturally to playing with others. Your child might naturally make some friends at the playground with this.

7. Butterfly Net

Butterfly nets are fun for getting kids running and trying to catch things! I also love these for use in a creek, and trying to catch little fish!

8. Plastic Tub
Plastic tubs are way cheaper than water tables. It just so happens you can fill them up with water and have an instant water activity without the expense of a fancy water table.

Add some bath toys, or even just some kitchen gadgets for endless fun.

We give our daughter plastic cups, spoons, measuring cups, and other containers to use. She has a blast and even gets in the tub herself at times.

Plus, it serves a second purpose of holding all of those fun outside activities/toys in one convenient location!

9. Wipe Clean Books

For some indoor fun to beat the heat, try these wipe clean books. Our daughter is 3.5 and she's really enjoying tracing. 

We've been using wipe clean books since she could first scribble and hold a marker, though. They are great for fun drawing, even if just doodling on them!

10. Color by Number

More indoor fun. Color by number books are something I've been really wanting to try with Caroline. I think she's at the perfect age to follow something like this. 

She actually has an app on the Ipad that she uses to paint by number. In fact, I think a paint by number would be even better if I could find it!

11. First Mosaic

This first mosaic kit is too cute not to mention. We got this last Christmas, I believe. Caroline was just barely 3. 

She had a blast with this, and could pretty easily do it on her own. They have to stick foam stickers down on the board, while matching color and shape. 

You can then hang the pictures up (they even give you supplies). Super fun indoor activity!

12. Squirt Guns

I just had to come back and add this bonus item today. Squirt guns are so much fun. 

My daughter just spent 2 hours outside playing and making new friends while sharing her squirt guns. This is so worth buying a big pack to share!


Babywise Friendly Blog Network

Christine: 5 Cheap and Easy Outdoor Activities For Toddlers

Valerie: What to Put in a Welcome to Summer Gift Basket for Your Kids

Caitlin: The Best Outdoor Toys for Toddlers

Kimberly: Science By The Pool

Emily: 5 Easy Disney Themed Movie Nights

Other Posts of Interest

Let Your Toddler Get Dirty

7 Ways to Encourage Toddler to Embrace Their Natural Scientific Tendencies

Summer Activity Schedule for Our Toddler (3.5 Year Old)

"I live in a safe area"
-The denial mom

"Trust in our lord"
-Clearly that's not working for anyone mom

"It could happen anywhere, so we need a new plan"
-Seemingly more and more the realistic mom

"Never letting my children leave the house again"
-Overprotective mom that we all fight off being

Here's the reality... it can, and does happen anywhere. Shootings don't happen in the "unsafe" schools. They happen in all types of schools. Your school is not the safe school that it won't happen in.

Here's the other problem though...

My husband and I 100% do not want to home-school or send our children to private school. It makes me so sad to even look at the home-school curriculum. And we refuse to spend thousands on a private school- even if we could afford it.

It makes me feel so sick to even know that parents are now put in this horrible situation where they feel the need to think about home-school or private school.

I am a former public school teacher. I am a public school graduate. There are so many reasons that I want our children going to public school:

1. Public Education is made up of fabulous teachers. 

I want our children exposed to as many influential adults in their lives as possible. Public school teachers aren't there for the money.

They are there because they have a passion. A passion for their subject, and/or a passion for teaching- hopefully both.

And guess what? It doesn't matter the test scores of the school. The rankings don't matter.

Some of the best teachers out there are the teachers that are at some of the "lower ranking" schools. They work their butts off to do their best. Every single day.

For this exact reason, when we bought our hopefully forever home just now, we didn't even bother to look at the schools.

People always ask me what school our daughter will go to and if we are moving for the school.

NO. In fact, I'd have to look up what school she'll go to. The only reason I have any idea is because the real estate listing mentions it at the bottom.

I trust that the teachers at any school she goes to will be great. And I know that we'll make the best out of any school, and any situation.

Our children will get a great education- no matter where they go.

2. It is what you make of it. 

The child going to a free public school, can get the same great education as the child going to private school whose parents are spending thousands of dollars each year.

Parents set expectations. Children have expectations of themselves as a result.

Is your child bored in a class? Ask for extended material. Enroll in high level classes.

Take initiative and learn more. Run with what you are given.

Is your child behind in a class? Ask for help. Teach your child to advocate for their education. Get ideas from the teacher, and help at home.

It doesn't matter what school they are going to, these are things you might run into. It's how you move forward that matters.

Education should be a collaborative effort with teachers, parents, and students all at the table.

Parents helping to set the expectations and guidance, teachers to teach and do what they do best, and children to rise to the occasion and make something of what they are given by this phenomenal team effort.

3. Diversity and Culture

We live in a very culturally diverse area. I love that.

I loved teaching in that environment, and I love that our daughter will experience it as well. I have no intention of keeping her home where she wouldn't experience such a diverse world.

4. Social experiences

I want our children to learn how to interact with other people- adults and peers. I want them talking to more people than just family at home, and a few select friends from a home-school co-op.

They need to learn about the real world in this way. They need to learn how to make friends, and how to spot people that are not true friends.

They need to learn to follow their instincts, help others, and do kind things.

They need to experience what it's like to not follow the crowd, sit alone, and not always be invited to the party.

They need to learn to include others, and be thoughtful of those around them and how their words and actions affect people.

They need to learn about all of this while under our roof. So we can help them learn how to get through it.

They need to learn how to speak their voice in respectful ways, while standing up for what they believe in. These things happen in social settings.

5. Teamwork & Discussions

One cannot enter the workforce without knowing how to work as a team. You just won't be successful. It doesn't matter what your job.

School is where you learn to work as a team. Where's the teamwork when you are doing home-school? Where are the collaborative projects?

I hated doing team projects in school. But I learned a lot. I learned that my way isn't always the right way.

I learned that other people work at different paces. I learned that I have a hard time speaking up to my peers about things I dislike.

I learned that my natural tendency is to take over. I learned how to overcome that and work better as a team player rather than just doing it all myself.

Those projects were valuable lessons on some of my weaknesses. It was also eye opening to me as to some of my qualities- work ethic, my expectations of a final product, ability to follow deadlines, etc.

And the discussions! Discussions in a class setting are invaluable. Discussions spark ideas. Ideas spark creativity and scientific thought.

6. Exposure and challenges

I was the girl in high school that would get invited to a party, and I'd ask if there would be alcohol. If there was, I didn't go.

I learned the hard way that parties involved alcohol. I also knew I was uncomfortable in those settings.

I had a few surprises where I didn't think there would be alcohol but there were. One time I came home with bloodshot eyes because I walked into a room to meet some friends, and they had a bong lit up that was about 3 feet tall.

It was not pleasant and I left as soon as I could.

Were those experiences fun? No. But I'm so glad I had them.

I was able to draw the line for myself as to what I felt comfortable with. I had been exposed just enough that I wasn't in total culture shock when I went to college. I could handle myself.

I had my parents to call upon when I was in high school. I didn't have that in college.

I'm glad I was exposed to things when I was under their roof and their protection. I found my footing and knew how to handle things.

Is it essential that we expose our kids to these things? No. But the reality is that they will be exposed to drugs and alcohol at some point in their lives.

It can happen under your roof, or it can happen when they leave for college. I'd much rather it happen while they are still living at home.

In a school setting you also have to rise to academic challenges- projects that aren't necessarily your style, learning in environments that may not be your ideal situation and ideal learning style, etc.

You are challenged frequently to step outside your comfort zone and rise to new levels.

Character is built through challenges. Whether it be exposure to alcohol, or dating, academic challenges, or seeing others cheating on tests.

Character is built through facing obstacles. I want our children to face some obstacles.

7. Rules, deadlines, and reality

To be successful in the real world, you need to be able to follow rules, meet deadlines, follow instructions, and do high quality work.

You need to be on time, be able to communicate effectively, and even have practice talking in front of an audience.

You need to be able to give presentations, manage your time well, and get things done efficiently.

Children also need to learn how to dress in a professional manner. Yes I said it.

I'm A-okay with dress codes at schools (as a parent and as a teacher). There is a way to express your style and personality, all while keeping your butt cheeks, cleavage, and belly covered up, not wearing shirts that have profanity on them, and keeping your pants belted where they should be.

Sure these are all things we'd teach on our own at home anyway. But public schools provide an extra place to learn about all of the above. And children have an extra push to manage their time on projects, homework, papers, etc.

8. Who am I to think I can teach everything and do it well?

No offense to the parents that home-school, but teachers are teachers for a reason. Teachers are trained experts in not only their subject, but how to teach!

I was a high school chemistry teacher. I certainly won't pretend I know how to teach Kindergartners to read, or how to teach calculus.

Could I figure it out? Most of it, sure. Would I be as good as the teachers? Most definitely NOT.

Public Schools Aren't Perfect...

Public schools are far from perfect. As a teacher I saw that first hand. I'd love for the standardized tests to go away.

I'd love for project based learning to be the reality and not infiltrated with "busy work" requirements.

Elementary schools have far too little time for play.

Class sizes are too large. I taught in a high school with 7 periods, and 35+ students per class. I couldn't make an impact on every child. It took me far too long to learn all of their names.

And clearly, the shootings are unacceptable. The safety of our children should be the number one priority in this country.

It's not perfect, but the advantages far outweigh the negatives for us.

So no, I don't want to live in fear. I know it's far more likely for our child to die in a car accident than it is for her to die in a school shooting.

I know that we could be at a concert, or at the mall and get shot there. I know those things.

But I also know that school shootings are far too common in the United States.

I know that so far in 2018 more children have died in school shootings, than soldiers in our military!

And so, I'm scared. I have nightmares about this reality that has become our nation. I think we all do as parents.

I have nightmares about not feeling able to put our children into public schools, even though I don't feel there is another option.

It makes me sick to my stomach that we have to teach active shooter drills.

As a teacher it was just unreal to do these nonsense drills and to think..."should I be a hero and save someone's child, or go home to my family?" These drills won't save our lives.

And as a parent, I can't imagine our daughter's first year in Kindergarten having to learn something so horrifying. 

Such innocent little hearts learning such scary things. 

There's no good answer. There's no solution right now. I'm sick of hearing thoughts and prayers. I'm sick of moments of silence.

I want to feel like we can send our children to public school- to high school. I want some action so I don't have to make myself sick worrying about things like this.

I want to be able to feel comfortable sending our children to school. I don't.

I have even more than these 8 reasons for preferring public school. Yet this one thing is making me so fearful.

In the end, we'll choose to not live in fear. We'll choose to send our children to public school.

I hope so much changes in our country by the time they are in school. We have a long, long way to go.


When going through the emotional turmoil of having an unborn child with a terminal condition, it is near impossible to think straight. There are a million things going through your mind, and so many things to take care of, yet so little energy and time to do so.

I was incredibly lucky to have a medical staff that was proactive, and incredibly prepared. They helped us prepare along the way, and I'm forever grateful for that.

I've heard so many stories of hospitals, and medical teams being insensitive, and down right acting in disgusting manners when parents choose to induce, or (terminate for medical reasons). 

As in, I've talked with moms that had their baby handed to them in a bedpan. I've talked with moms that have had their moments with their baby forced to be in the bathroom, instead of in a nice comfortable room.

I've talked with moms that weren't given time with their baby to honor them. They were treated so poorly and it's heartbreaking.

There are hospitals and medical staff that will take care of you, however. There are hospitals and medical staff that will honor your wishes. Find one. The one we went to is Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland. 

We had such an amazing team of medical professionals at this hospital, that I would HIGHLY recommend this hospital. They went above and beyond for us. 

So, even if you are out on the west coast, I'd travel. I'd make sure that you and your baby are treated the way you deserve.

One of the ways they were able to help us so much, was by reading our birth plan. I didn't have to explain what was going on to every shift change. I didn't have to go over the details of our dying daughter for the umpteenth time. 

Thanks to one of the chaplains at Hopkins, we'd been given the idea of creating a birth plan. That birth plan was printed and hung on the board in our room, and another copy was hung outside of our door, and probably one in our chart. 

We were able to think through our wishes and desires ahead of time, and get it all out on paper. I didn't have a birth plan for my first daughter. 

I knew full well that I was just going to have to go with the flow. My only request was an epidural! 

But, with something like an early induction, when you know your child's life will be ending, there are a lot of T's to cross and I's to dot to make sure your plan happens, and happens the way you want. 

So, today I'd like to share our birth plan. A template was given to me by a chaplain at Johns Hopkins. I tweaked it to work for us, and you can do the same. 

I've taken out phone numbers, and some names for privacy reasons, but the important things are still here. I left all of our specific details and wishes so you can get a full picture of what we were envisioning for April's birth.

Please feel free to download a copy of this birth plan (at the bottom of the post), and edit it to make sense for your family. If nothing else, it might just get you thinking about all of the things to include. 

I know I was super thankful to have as many resources at my disposal as possible. This is just one more resource for you to use as well. 

Birth Plan- Katrina Villegas

Our overriding wish is that we keep our baby, April Rey Villegas, pain free. If she is alive for a brief moment, we want to comfort her in our arms and say goodbye peacefully. We want as much scientific learning to be done as possible, and welcome/invite medical students and residents to any and all parts of the induction, delivery, examination and autopsy.

Essential information
Baby's name: April Rey Villegas
Parents' names: Katrina and Joseph Villegas
Older sibling’s name: Caroline Villegas

Contact numbers for family:Mom’s cell (insert name): 
                                                    Dad’s cell (insert name): 
                                                Grandparent’s cell (insert names): 
                                                Grandparent’s cell (insert names): 

Contact numbers for contacts at Hopkins:

Chaplain Kat helping to coordinate birth plan
Katie R. (genetic counselor with fetal therapy group) helping to coordinate tissue donation process

Contact numbers for tissue donation with the University of  MD: 410-706-1755

Contact number for photographer: insert name and cell

Summary of Pregnancy & Diagnosis
April Rey was diagnosed with full trisomy 13 when we were 15 weeks into the pregnancy. Since her condition is terminal regardless of our path, we are choosing to spare her any pain by inducing early (19.5 weeks).

Wishes for labor and delivery

 Vaginal Birth

If induction/vaginal delivery does not work for any reason, I’d opt for a c-section over an abortion procedure. We want her body intact for tissue donation, and to hold her and say goodbye.

 Comfort measures and pain relief for the mother:
Reduce physical pain as much as possible without compromising my ability to deliver April. Would like an epidural. I received an epidural for the birth of my daughter (Caroline), and it was the perfect amount of pain control. I asked for minimal relief (take the edge off).

I wanted to be able to have full control over my legs, and feel when I needed to push. This was accomplished perfectly, and I’d like the same with this birth if at all possible. I have a slight herniated disc between L4-L5.

I’ll be in plenty of emotional pain, so if I can minimize physical pain I’d be grateful to have that relief.

 Cutting the umbilical cord: Can be done by medical staff.

 Support people you wish to be present: Only my husband during labor/delivery
We’d like a photographer present during delivery and after to capture as many moments as possible. We do not want my family to have to worry about taking photos while we are grieving and saying goodbye to our daughter.

Please keep (
insert name) updated as to my status for delivery. She needs to have enough time to make it for delivery, ideally, in case April is alive for a brief moment.

(insert name and cell again)   She’s planning to be on call and will be expecting a phone call indicating that she should come!

 Medical students/residents:
We’d like for as much scientific learning to be done as possible. Medical residents and students are welcome and invited to observe the induction process, delivery, and April’s examination and autopsy.

We would like April Rey to be put in my arms as quickly as possible. 

We do not want her to have any painful procedures.

If she is alive for a brief moment I want that moment to be in my or my husband’s arms.

●  Wishes for our time with our baby:

We would like a few moments to hold April and say goodbye (just my husband and I). When we are ready, we’d like for the baby to be bathed and wrapped in a blanket. We’d then like for our daughter, Caroline, to be brought in to hold her baby sister.

After our immediate family has had our time, we’d then like to invite grandparents to join us in the room and have a moment with April as well. We would like April taken away as soon as everyone that wants to has had a chance to hold her.

 Older sibling:
Caroline is 2.5. She’s asked to meet April and hold her. We’d like to make sure that April is clean and covered nicely so that she is presentable for her.

Caroline will be with her grandparents in the waiting room, and we’d like for just Caroline to be brought in (my husband will likely help bring her in) so we can have a few moments just with her.

We would like our photographer 
(insert name and cell again)  to come in to take pictures during delivery and after April is born.

We want all the memory work we can get. We are interested in the memory box with handprints, footprints, etc. We would also like any other keepsakes we can take with us such as April’s ID band.

 Birth Certificate:
If April meets the requirements, we’d like an official birth certificate. If she does not take a breath and qualify as a “live birth”, we’d still like an in-house certificate to acknowledge her birth. Chaplain Kat at Hopkins (443-223-8433) was looking into all of this for us.

●  Plans for April’s body:

April Rey’s body is being donated to science. Katie R. at Hopkins (insert phone number) is helping to coordinate tissue donation process.

We’d like an autopsy done and for results on findings to be sent to us. Her tissues (brain, blood and skin) are being collected for the University of MD brain and tissue bank. Again, Katie Rock is helping to coordinate these efforts.

Once tissue collection and the autopsy have been completed, we’d like for her body to be sent to the Maryland State Anatomy board for cremation.

We do not wish for her ashes back. We’d like for medical students and residents to learn from April and be a part of her medical examination, autopsy, and tissue collection.

Feel free to copy and paste the above birth plan. 

If you'd like an editable Word document, and a pdf emailed to you, please go to this link:

I apologize... I am unable to upload documents directly to the blog, so Etsy was a good secure way to send this document.

Etsy would not allow me to make this a FREE item as I desired....

As a result, I've decided to charge a minimal fee and ALL proceeds will go to helping moms like you and me get through this. 


Other Posts of Interest: 

See our Trisomy 13/April Rey page here. All of our posts along this journey have been kept on this page.

Baby V #2 Update 15 Weeks- The Longest Wait of Our Lives

Trisomy 13 - The Day After Our Heartbreaking News

Genetic Counselor Questions Asked and Answered

Trisomy 13- Why Would I Ever Consider Not Fighting the Fight?

Trisomy 13- Getting More Information & Our Plan Moving Forward

My Worst Fear That I HATE Admitting      

Trisomy 13- April Rey's 17 Week Anatomy Scan

Summer Activity Schedule for Our Toddler (3.5 Year Old)

I don't know about you, but I cannot sit around and just pretend play with my 3 year old all day long. I honestly can only do it for a short period of time before I am bored out of my mind.

I then take to getting on my phone, finding small tasks to step away for, and not paying as much attention to her as I'd like. With summer rapidly approaching, I knew I needed an activity schedule to keep us occupied, so we have things to do other than just free open play.

Yesterday we decided to make a collaborative list of things to do for the day. The list came about for a very specific struggle we are having right now: our daughter is throwing all out fits at times when we have to stop playing with her for a moment.

She goes through phases where she plays so well on her own, and then phases where all she wants is attention and more and more of my time. I don't blame her, I mean playing is so much more fun with someone else. I get it. But I need to be able to step away for a few moments.

So, on the morning that this list was created, Caroline had already thrown 3 fits. Three. I was not going to have that. The list was born.

Usually when this happens, we focus on doing more independent play. At this age, I simply explain to her that, until she can demonstrate to me that she can do independent play without a screaming fit, we will be practicing it formally every day.

We are casual about it in our house at this point and don't do formal independent play often. The reason for that, is simply because she does so well with playing independently most of the time!

Independent play was going to be on our list, no doubt. It was the reason I decided to do a list.

When it was finished, we had an awesome list. When the day was done, I realized it was the perfect plan. We didn't put set times or even a set order to the list.

After all, I like the idea of a relaxing summer where we can go with the flow. It is a list that can be added to, and it is a list that can be agreed upon in the morning.

We both have ownership of it and get to add things. As a result, the day went super smoothly. AND we accomplished everything on our list!

So, our summer activity schedule is going to be just this- a list of ideas!

I'm planning on keeping a running list, not starting from scratch each day. If we want to add to it, we can. If we have other plans, we'll just look to the list when we are home.

On our list for our 3.5 year old, is the following:

1. Walk/bike ride 

Our plan is to beat the heat. First thing in the morning, I have to take the dog out anyways, so why not make it into a walk/bike activity for all of us!? Caroline is LOVING riding her tricycle at the moment.

She is suddenly an absolute pro at it and can even go up hills. She rides her bike daily, and I walk the dog along side her. It is a perfect early morning activity when the sun isn't at its full force yet.

The goal here is to get energy out and to be outside. However that happens. Maybe that means going to the playground one morning instead.

Maybe that means free outside play (digging in the dirt, etc.). Or, maybe we do all of the above. Whatever it looks like, we want to spend time outside and get moving!

2. Playtime with Mama

I want Caroline to know that, even though we will be working on independent play at times, she will get special playtime with me. I want her to know that it is our time.

I want her to know that I haven't forgotten about just spending some good old fashioned time with her playing whatever it is that she wants. She gets to pick. This also gave her a lot of ownership of this list. She started adding ideas in immediately!

3. Independent Playtime

Independent play was the reason for this list. It had to be on here. We do 1 full hour of independent play. She knows that, when her clock turns yellow, independent play is over.

Sometimes she plays, sometimes she reads, and other times she rests. She can do whatever she'd like, as long as she's doing it by herself.

I sometimes give her ideas of things she can do, but for the most part she comes up with things on her own. She has access to anything in her room.

She's also old enough, that she can go outside on the porch and play by herself there if she'd like. She does choose this at times!

4. Tracing

I wanted to have some sort of focused learning activity for the summer. Writing practice was initially our goal.

It is causing major frustration for both of us, however. But, we both agree that tracing is something that we can succeed at together easily.

Caroline has so much fun with it, and she's getting very good at it, as well. If she chooses to, she can do writing practice on her own, but it is not going to be something I ask of her since it caused some issues. (Read about those writing issues we ran into here).

5. Coloring Together

Caroline added this option. Coloring together is something we had done the night before. We both had a really nice time just doing our own pictures next to one another. We may draw on blank paper, may color pictures, or may draw on whiteboards.

Whatever feels right that day is what we'll do! This could also change into any craft or artsy activity. We might paint, make something, or even draw with chalk outside. The point here is that we are being creative and doing it together.

6. Reading Books Together

Caroline also added this option. She loves reading. It's something we do every day before bed. We used to read a lot during the day as well. We've gotten away from that as she's gotten older and more active. So, I thought this was a fantastic idea of something to get back to.

7. Independent Reading Time

This is another Caroline addition to the list! At school, they have independent book time. At home, we've also done this. I remember when I was pregnant with April, being so tired. I wanted nothing more than to kick my feet up on the bed.

So, I asked Caroline to join me for independent reading time. We both brought a book (her several), and we sat on the bed reading for 30 minutes together. It was lovely!

8. Family Walk

Caroline's final addition to the list, was a family walk. When Daddy is home, we do this as a whole family. I love this. Obviously, it is something that we need to do for our dog, and I think we all really enjoy the outside time together.

When it's really hot, this might change into family pool time to cool off! Somehow we'll have some family time as a whole unit. Other days we might play inside. But the whole family part is key here, and something Caroline really looks forward to.

This list is fluid. We can add to it. We may or may not do everything on our list every day. It was the perfect amount of things to do on our first day, however. It worked out great. On days that we have playdates, we may adjust this list.

Our goal is not to have a set schedule or be locked into anything this summer. Our goal is simply to have ideas up our sleeves of things to do to break up the day. A good variety is key and makes the day go very smoothly.

I love that Caroline had so much involvement making this list. I think that is key. Take turns adding things to the list, but get your toddler's input. That way, they'll be excited about the idea of a list!


Other Posts of Interest

Two Christmases ago, my parents bought Caroline her first game: Roll and Play. This game is amazing for 2 year olds, and I've wanted to make a point of writing about it for quite some time. So 1.5 years later, here we go LOL!

2 year olds are just barely able to start playing games. I was thrilled to get this and very excited to give it a shot. I am a huge fan of playing games as a family, and I love games to teach rule following and patience.

It is hard to take turns. It is hard to not always win. It is hard to follow all of the rules- when you are 2. But it is also so much fun if it's the right game.

This is the right game...

Why this game works:

- It has a physical component:
There is a large stuffed block that gets rolled before each play. We let Caroline roll for us as well to keep her entertained, so she was getting the physical play even when it wasn't her turn.

- The content is the right level: "There are six categories of cards – emotions (giggle and laugh), body parts (rub your belly), animals sounds (bark like a dog), counting (count 5 fingers), colors (find something green) and actions (play pat-a-cake). "

Caroline had just turned 2 and she knew 90% of the content or more. At this age they just love practicing body parts, numbers, animal sounds, etc. They love showing off what they know! This game really engaged her as a result.

I love that this game is teaching so much...

1. Content

  • Emotions
  • Body Parts
  • Animal sounds
  • Counting
  • Colors
  • Actions
2. Following Instructions

At the age of two, it is sooooo so important that your child listens to you well. There is no better way to practice this skill, than by playing a game! They have no idea that they are "listening" and following instructions... because they are simply having fun. All games really reinforce things like this in a passive way, and I just love that. 

3. Waiting Your Turn

Caroline starting learning to wait her turn when we joined gymnastics at 1 year of age. I am so glad she learned it so early, because she is a pro at it. When you are having fun, however, it is hard to stop and let someone else take a turn. This game is active, and fast paced, so it really gets the concept of waiting your turn in, without completely boring your child. It's the perfect mix.

4. Grouping

Each of the categories has a specific color card. So the emotion cards, for example, are all blue. You can play this game by sorting and grouping the cards first as an extra activity. That way, picking a card is much easier than digging through a massive pile to find the right color. We do it both ways!

5. Creativity

I think any game like this really sparks creativity. We can come up with new ways to play the game, incorporate new rules, or even come up with our own (extra) content! If we've done all of the animal noise cards, then when we draw again, we can get creative and come up with new animals that aren't on the cards. 

6. Predictive Skills

Did the block land on blue, again? What do you think the card is going to ask for? That's right, an emotion! Even 2 year olds pick up on things like this. It's a great way to teach them that they are learning predictive skills. 

At the 3 year old age Candy Land, Hi Ho Cherrio, and Zingo are our three favorites!