Super Easy Valentine Heart Sensory Table Invitation: Dollar Tree Materials

 


Valentine's Day is almost here!  Add these easy Dollar Tree Materials to your sensory table for an open-ended play invitation.



Materials: 

Pink table scatter hearts
Red table scatter hearts
Foam conversation heart stickers
Red felt hearts
Pink felt hearts
Plastic tongs
Cardboard heart box

I also included the lid from a popcorn tin and 2 heart cake pans.

Sensory table invitations are so easy!  

All you do is present the materials and see what children do with them!




Brickston was very interested in counting out the hearts and making arrays.  He also sorted by color.  



Go here to see the video!



How Much Time Should You Devote to Playing with your Children?

 


I have been asked this question several times, so I thought I would make a video about it!  You can watch it by going to this link or watching below.  

We all know that I am an advocate for play!

But that also does not mean that you have to be the sole entertainer for your child.  When I visited the preschool classrooms in Reggio Emilia, I was a little shocked at how little the teachers played WITH the children.  The children were definitely engaged in very sophisticated play.  But they were engaged in play with other children. That is what we want, right?  Social skills is one of the greatest benefits of preschool and play.  The teachers in that setting were acting as the facilitators.  

Did children need items or materials for their play?  The teachers were there to make it happen.  

It is okay for children to be bored. 

Boredom creates the necessity for creativity.  Boredom is a good thing.  Often children ask us, as parents, to play with them because they are bored.  We can help children create a list of things they like to play.  The next time they come to us and say they are bored, we can have them choose something from their list. 

Play with other children is more important than play with an adult.

I know in our world right now, playdates are not happening as frequently.  You may not have access to preschool, either.  But if you are able to arrange for play with similar aged peers, do it!  Playing with other children gives your child the opportunity to practice important social emotional skills.  When you are playing Barbies with your child, you may not insist that YOU get to be the mom or you are "not playing anymore." The friend next door may do this.  And it presents a wonderful opportunity for children to problem solve and fix social conflicts on their own.  

You can't quit cold turkey.

If you have been devoting entire days to playing Calico Critters with your child, you won't be able to stop overnight.  Instead the next time you play, find ways to exit and re-enter the play episode.  
Start with small increments at first.  Just take 2 minutes away, and then check back in.  Over time you can increase the time you step out of play.

Exiting during car play:

Take a car and tell the child "I have to drive to the next town to pick up some materials.  I'll be back in a few minutes."

You can even set a timer for the child if they are anxious about you leaving.  When the timer goes off, drive your car back over to check in.

If the child is having trouble sustaining play, give them an item to EXTEND the play episode.  Give the child a toilet paper roll and ask them what they could use it for.  The child may decide to use it as a tunnel.  They may pretend it is a tree.  The options are endless, but let them do the thinking. 

Journal it!

At first it may seem like you are not making any progress getting your child to play with peers or play independently.  Stay the course!  I encourage you to jot down some notes about how your child is doing.  I think over time you will begin to see the progress!




Among Us in Real Life

 Do your children play Among Us? 

Be honest, did you even know what the game is? I didn't for the longest time.  It is an game app that seems to be all the rage right now.  My middle schooler is playing it, but so is my kindergartener.  The premise is to prepare your spaceship to launch by completing tasks.  But among the crew is an imposter who goes around killing the crewmates.  I know it sounds dark.  It reminds me of that winking game we used to play at slumber parties.  Remember you all sat in a circle, if you got winked at...you fell backwards.




Well, all of that to say my children created their very own Among Us game to play in real life.  The cool kids call this IRL.  

I honestly have no idea on the REAL Among Us rules, but this is how my children had us play.  It was so much fun.  Encourage your kids to put down the device and play IRL with you.

What you need: 

-Slip of paper for each player. All the slips should say 'crewmate' except one.  The one should say imposter.



-List of tasks that each person must complete
-Tasks set up around the house
The kids set up random things like: Pick up all the trash, push in all the chairs, memory matching game, etc.



-Flashlight (this is optional, but added to fun to play in the dark).





How to play: 

1. Give everyone a list of which number of tasks they must complete.
2. Have everyone draw a slip of paper.  No one can tell who the imposter is.  
3. Begin completing the tasks around the house.
4. The imposter slowly and quietly taps crewmates.  The crewmate who is tapped has to lay down where they are tapped. 

5. When crewmates suspect the imposter, they can say "I call a meeting!" and everyone meets up in the kitchen.  The crewmate states the case and everyone votes.  If they are right, and vote for the imposter...the game is over!
6. OR the game is over when the imposter gets everyone.





Bingo Family Game Night


Bingo Family Game Night is a great way to spice up your weekend!  Especially if you are stuck inside with nowhere to go!



This fun  activity will only cost you the price of the Bingo game (affiliate link) and a few Dollar Tree prizes.  In total I spent $25.  $15 for the Bingo game and $10 in prizes.



The children took turns being the Bingo caller.  This is a great opportunity to build listening skills.  Sometimes we had to repeat the letter and number SEVERAL times. 
 
Even our youngest played along.  She just needed someone to point to the number to cover.  Picking up the little markers requires fine motor control!
Winners got the Dollar Tree prizes!  I threw each prize in a simple brown paper bag before we got started.  Literally zero prep!
 
 
Some of our prizes: 
  • Toy guitar
  • Little light brite type toy
  • Paint with water books  
  • Flavored chapsticks
  • Fake fingernails (both my girls go crazy for these)
  • Movie theater boxed candy

Are you ready to play BINGO?



Four Dollar Tree Items for Play Centers

 These four Dollar Tree items will make a great addition to your play centers. 

My son and I headed to my favorite store this week in hopes of finding some cute Valentine items for our play centers.  Unfortunately we didn't find as much as we were hoping.  Do not worry, we will hit up another store soon :)

We did find some great items that are great for all seasons of the year. 

Foam Alphabet Puzzle



Obviously, puzzles are great for fine motor skill development.  But you can use this puzzle in so many other ways. 
  • Take out the letters and throw them in the bathtub!  They will float and stick to the side of the tub.
  • Place the letters in your sensory bin.  Children can dig through the rice, sand, or pasta to find the letters and match them to the puzzle board.  You can use different utensils (tongs, spoons, tweezers) to grasp the letters.
  • Use the puzzle board as a stencil in your writing center
  • Dip the letter pieces into tempera paint and use them as stamps

Wooden Shape Puzzle

Once again this inset puzzle is great for fine motor development, but we can use it in many different ways. 
  • Empty all the shape pieces into a basket for loose parts play.  You may want to buy a couple puzzles so that you have more pieces.  
  • Use the puzzle board as a sorting tray for small pieces.  You will have 9 compartments.
  • The puzzle board can be used as a cupcake tin for pretend cooking.

 

Sand Timer

Brickston was very excited to find this, because we lost our timer from one of our games.  You can make anything a game by adding a timer.

  • Use the timer to show children when to give someone else a turn.
  • Set the timer to see how many of the letters or shapes your child can find in the sensory table.
  • Set the timer to see how many jumping jacks your child can do. 
  •  Place the timer in your child's calm down kit/corner.  Watching a sand timer can be soothing.

 

Self-Opening Scissors

You know I love these scissors for beginners!  The little "lift assist" lever helps the scissors to self-open..

  • Create a cutting box.  Head over to this post to see how I made an open-ended cutting box for children. 

  • Cut playdough

  • Hang a piece of wrapping paper between a doorway and have your child cut the paper.  This will help your child to develop correct thumbs up scissor holding. 

     

    How else would YOU use these items?

New Year's Resolutions: Goals for My Family

 

Do you make goals for your family at the beginning of the new year?

This year I decided to keep it simple and set only 4 goals. I chose what I think are doable goals for my family.

Read a Chapter Book Each Month

I have always wanted to make the habit of reading a chapter book out loud with my kids.  I just have NEVER been consistent.  Now we are home everyday doing virtual school.  No better time to do it than now!  We are planning to read The Boxcar Children.  We are doing this right after lunch, because when we wait until bedtime it just does not happen. 

Keep a Prayer Journal for the Year

I started this last year, but I am embarrassed to say that we missed several months. I love looking back at the things we were grateful for and the concerns we prayed about.  It is powerful to see how God worked in all of our lives.  
Get a similar journal here. (affiliate link)

Be Outside for 15 minutes Each Day (at minimum)

This might be challenging during the winter months or the bad weather days, but there is nothing like fresh air and hopefully sunshine.  Our bodies need the vitamin D and our minds need the respite of nature.  Some days we may just bundle up to sit on our porch swing to read our chapter book.  Other days, we will spend the time taking our dog for walks or riding our bikes. 

Make Sure No Family Member Eats Alone

Let's be honest, not ALL of 2020 was bad.  Some of the things I want to remember from our slower year are all the dinners we ate together as a family. I am not ready to let that go.  I have a teenager and preteen in my house now.  They are busy and have practices in the evenings.  Even so, I do not want them to eat alone when they get home.  I'm making it my goal that someone sits at the table with them while they eat. 

What are your goals for 2021?