Toddler Made Place Settings for Your Thanksgiving Feast

For the last 2 years I’ve done the same thing, a handprint of my son turned into a turkey. It’s cute, it shows the size of his hand at the time, I liked it…and so did the family! However, this year I felt I should mix it up a little or atleast up my game.

great for babies first Thanksgiving!
I definitely wanted something my 2 year old could make because I know for a fact that no one wants a craft my son “made” aka he destroyed his attempt and I sat at his little table and did children’s crafts! So it was important for me to find something that my son can and will actually make!! I also like the idea of incorporating a handprint or footprint so we can look back over the years and see how much he grew each year.

I also think it’s important to include your toddler in holidays and this is a great way to do it. When they look at the table set, they see something they know they made and contributed. Everyone can comment on them and make your child feel proud of their work.

I found quite a few ideas and my son, being the trooper that he can be, helped me make them all! I think this year we will have a different themed place card for each person!
We did a turkey adoring again but this year livened it up with rainbow feathers! turkey with rainbow feathers

A turkey footprint with actual feathers glued on!turkey with actual feathers glued on

An acorn handprint! place in an acorn or cork to add a personal touch to your Thanksgiving Dinner!

An owl handprint on a branch!
place in an acorn or cork to add a personal touch to your Thanksgiving Dinner!

A corn on the cob footprint!

A fall coloured leaf! (You can do a variety of these in different fall colours) you can do these in any fall colour!

You can use a handprint or a footprint to make a cornucopia…but unless you use stickers for your child to place for food, you’re going to have to attempt some drawing! 

Put the place cards in a pine cone or a cork with a slit in the top and you’ve got a cute and personal touch to your Thanksgiving Dinner!

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A Child-Centered Room…Implementing Montessori Style Play at Home

I used to teach at a Montessori based preschool and hope to enroll our son in a Montessori preschool next year. I’ve been in many preschool classrooms and I definitely like the environment provided in a Montessori set up. What I liked most about the preschool I worked at was that it wasn’t completely Montesssori, it took what the owner thought were the best parts of a number of different learning styles and combined them all.  Sometimes I struggle to wrap my head around a young child working at the same activity for hours. However it is child led, and the results you see in children who attended Montessori are great, so I’m still a strong advocate.

Until my son is ready for preschool I have tried to have some Montessori style activities for him at home. When I first started writing this blog I posted about different sensory activities my son does such as putting pipe cleaners through a milk crate and scooping popcorn seeds. There are lots of great child led activities that you can make yourself for your child to be introduced to a Montessori Style of learning and playing.

The most important thing to do is make everything child accessible.

Child Friendly Play Area

All toys are accessible to child and can be put away by child.

Everything in our family room and in my son’s room that is meant for him is within his reach. We have low shelves, drawers and baskets with all of his things in. The only activity he can’t reach in the family room is the bucket of arts and crafts and this is of course intentional because I don’t want to go to the bathroom and come back to my house covered in paint, markers and glue!      My son also has a small IKEA table where he can eat his snack, colour or use the play dough, all independently. I obviously supervise all of these as they can turn messy but he can get in and out of his chair on his own, reach something he dropped without having to be unstrapped from his booster seat and he can see everything on the table if he’s standing up.

In his bedroom he has a low set of jungle animal hooks that he is learning to hang his things up on such as his house coat. A potty that he can access when he needs (if this week’s potty training is successful)! He has an open clothes basket that he puts his dirty clothes in by himself.

Low Hooks and Accessible Potty to Encourage Independence

Reading Corner

Low Book Shelves in Child’s Reading Corner

In one corner of his room he has an open toy box where he can access his toys and a blanket on the floor with two low book shelves and a tub of books. I am going to add another shelf next to the others as my kiddo loves books and reads a dozen books a day so we like having lots so my husband and I aren’t reading the same stories over and over again, whether they’re his own or from the library. You see some really nice set ups of book shelves on Pinterest that are four or five rows high, these look great but your child won’t be able to reach half their books! Try keeping them to two rows high. IKEA spice racks work great to display your child’s books so they can see and recognize the covers. I have also hung pictures up in his room of his own paintings and photos of him and his friends and family at his height so he can look at them, they are in plastic frames from, you guessed it, IKEA!

In the other corner he has a low basket with some dress up outfits in it, another coat hanger and a small plastic mirror at his height from IKEA.

Dress Up Corner

Low Hooks and Mirror for Child’s Dress Up

A lot of Montessori bedrooms have a mattress on the floor. We bought our son a convertible crib and it is now a safe toddler bed that he can easily get in and out of himself. I don’t like the look of a mattress on the floor and we’re not going to have our child sleep on the floor when he has a perfectly good, toddler friendly bed.

Toddler Bed

Toddler Bed Child Can Come and Go as Needed

So there you have it, a quick trip to IKEA and you have a fun, child-centered room for you little one. If you don’t live near an IKEA or can’t afford to purchase a lot of new items get creative, use baskets and tubs you already have around your home. Cover an old diaper bag with fabric or wrapping paper to put toys in and a shoebox for books. There are lots of great, cheap ways to help your child feel comfortable in their home and teach them to become independent.

DIY Toy Work Bench…Didn’t think the hammering noise through!

My husband and I decided to make our son’s birthday gifts this year, a sandbox and a work bench. Having a construction themed party and knowing he loves helping daddy build and fix thing we thought he would love his very own work bench.

We got a few ideas from Pinterest, mainly getting our inspiration from Finding Joy’s design. My husband, with the help of my dad set to it! Together, they had it built in a night!

They got the wood, measured and cut. We decided to have the table 2 feet high, 2 1/2 feet wide and 1 1/2 feet deep because our kiddo is pretty tall and we wanted him to use it for years to come. It also suggests you add wheels on it in a few years as your child grows.

We had bought a tool set for him and voila, his very own work bench like daddy’s! The only thing we didn’t think through is having a toddler hammering in the family room constantly isn’t ideal, it’s actually pretty awful! Our house came with a playhouse on top of the shed which we are going to fix up this year but right now it’s full of flies and the stairs aren’t safe for young children due to a lack of railings. But I think, when the play house is finished and he’s old enough to spend time playing in there, the work bench will definitely make its way out there, I might even try to make space in the garage in the mean time!

I also want to paint it but didn’t get chance to do that before his birthday so we’ll see what happens! With the right tools this was so quick and easy to make, doesn’t cost a lot of money and it’s personal and sentimental because it’s handmade!

DIY Party Decorations on a Budget! (Wrecking Ball Piñata, Banner, Food Signs)

I already did a How To for the Construction Signs and Dump Truck Photo Booth I made out of cardboard and just wanted to share a few other things that I made and that cost next to nothing (woohoo!).

BANNER

Fabric banners have become very popular as decorations, especially for back drops for cake smashes, etc. My son had his cake smash for his first birthday but I still liked the look of the banner and thought it would be a fun and easy decoration. But I improvised with things I had around the house, instead of buying fabric, I used yellow and orange streamers I had left in our party box from previous events.

Obviously, the streamers are a little more delicate than fabric, but once you get a rhythm going, I had not problems! Another perk to using streamers is that they’re already the right width, you just have to make one cut!!!

I started by cutting the streamers. My kiddo was entertaining himself so I got some string I already had at home and decided to take advantage of the “free time”! I put the string over either said of a clothes hamper so it was easier to tie, portable and out of reach from little hands when my son came over to check out what I was doing!!

I thought it would be fun to have them all different lengths, but then I wished I had kept it all the same, besides that, I thought it turned out great and it cost me nothing! $3.00 if you have to buy string and streamers from Dollar Store. I’m also hadning this banner down to a friend who is having a lion themed party the following week for her son so the possibilities are endless!

DIY Streamer Banner...so cheap and easy!

FOOD SIGNS

I also made a bunch of cute signs to put around the food which cost me nothing besides some ink in my printer! I made them in Word. You can insert a square shape, rotate it and make it the right colours or you can cheat and Google Image Construction Signs and copy and paste…I cheated!

From there, I used text boxes and put different labels on them such as wrecking balls for grapes, tools for cutlery and so on. It didn’t take a lot of time and cost me next to nothing. I taped some toothpicks to the back, and voila, a fun extra for you food table! Click here to print my party signs and save yourself some time! I thought I had cardstock paper in my printer but was wrong and didn’t want to waste the ink, but if you have, I would recommend printing on cardstock so they’re not flimsy.

WRECKING BALL PINATA

Finally, my Wrecking Ball! We had the perfect box at home from a new water filter I used but I’m sure you could find something appropriate at Costco or a furniture store, even if you had to combine a few boxes! I used this How To as my inspiration but decided to turn mine into a Pinata. In the link, you’ll see they covered their box with yellow wrapping paper from Michaels but I didn’t want to spend up to $10 on wrapping paper so I painted it…in hindsight I think I would suggest meeting in the middle and getting spray paint because with all the decorations I made and doing this one last, I had had enough of painting! But oh well, the price was right! I would also recommend using some black tape to make it easier, but again, I used what I had around the house and painted it yellow and black.

DIY Balloon Pinata

The Piñata…I am a piñata virgin, I’m sure I went to parties as a child with piñatas but I have no recollection of it, I don’t ever remember swinging at a colourful thing full of candy so, as you do, I decided to jump right in and as my first piñata experience come up with a way of making my own from scratch! I found a link on Pinterest to make a piñata using a punching balloon and set to it! I found it easier to dip the strips of paper in and scrape them along the side of the casserole dish rather than just putting them all in the paste which made them soggy and impossible to work with…this was my first time doing paper mache since I was in elementary school! There were times I cried inside but by the end, I had it down and there was no looking back! I used black tissue paper (which was delicate!) for the final layer so it would be black.

DIY Wrecking Ball Pinata...Construction Themed Birthday Party
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, it’s so important to keep the kids in mind so when I got sick of painting and it wasn’t perfect, I reminded myself that 2 year olds won’t care. When The final black layer dried and it was covered in dry white paste, I told myself 2 year olds won’t notice and if someone does, I’ll tell them it’s sand. It’s a party for small children and it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s the thought that counts!

After following the directions in the link (kind of!) and letting it dry I cut a small hole in the top, pulled out the balloon…I had left the elastic hanging out that came with punching balloon which made it easier to pull out. I had been impatient and didn’t let the first layer dry before continuing (I had a time limit that was the length of my son’s nap time) so when I cut it open, I let it stand for a few hours to dry the inside better. I snuck some small treats through the hole and attached it to the stand I made.

Check out next week’s pictures of the party to see everything set up and in action! Happy Party Planning!

Planning A Party for Your Child…NOT for You!!!

The most important thing about planning a kid’s birthday party is keeping your child in mind. If your child is turning 1 or 2, you have to admit that the party is a little for you too because let’s face it, they don’t really care how many decorations you have or if you’ve been up all night trying to bake and decorate the perfect cake!

Once you’ve come to terms with realizing that it’s a about you and not just your son or daughter, you’re ready to plan a great party! Pinterest has 100s of ideas to help you but remember to keep your child in mind.

My son is turning 2 next week and on we are having a Construction Themed Party for him on Sunday. When I look on Pinterest for ideas, it seems to be a popular theme for a child’s 3rd birthday so I’ve had to improvise a few things to make sure my 2 year old and his friends get the most out of it.

There are lots of cute table setting ideas where each child is meant to sit nicely at the table, wearing a hardhat and opening a cool paper toolbox full of goodies! Well my 2 year old and his friends will not keep a hat on, will not stay at a table and would destroy that toolbox or get frustrated because they can’t open it themselves. We are having a grazing table. I will be labeling the food with fun signs (for the adults to enjoy!) but the kids will be grabbing pre-cut food so they can help themselves, because that’s just what kids do, they’re hungry when they’re hungry and they want to eat.

There were so many cool game ideas…pinning tires on a vehicle, driving or racing cars around a racetrack, working together to construct and paint a cardboard play house…these are awesome but not appropriate for toddlers. A birthday party is supposed to be fun and trying to coordinate a bunch of toddlers and insisting they play your games is not fun for anyone!!!

Our activities are going to be a bunch of tractors for free play in his sandbox, construction vehicles and playdough, construction stickers and a road picture and just running around being kids…activities that the kids can enjoy and only need supervision.

We’ve also made a Dump Truck Photo Booth which I have to be open to the idea that it will be destroyed during the party. Instead of foam props, I bought some cheap tools from the Dollar Store so they stand a chance against a bunch of young boys hyped up on cake. My only hope is that I get a few good pictures while it’s still intact…and perhaps some fun ones of it being destroyed!  I’m also in the process of making a wrecking ball piñata (how to blog to follow! Stay tuned!) I’m still not sure exactly how it will work, I think I will just set it up and if kids want to swing or hit it that’s fine and if it’s still standing, I will bring out a bat for them to take turns hitting it with a lot of adults around to help. I’ve got some healthier snacks to put in (Fruit to Gos, etc.) to justify the goodies that will be served during the party. We’re giving bubbles out for favours so they’re appropriate for all the ages of the kids at the party (0-4 years old).

Finally, the cake! I am planning a chocolate cake with tractors working on a hill covered in dirt, a.k.a. cookie crumbs. I knew immediately that if I put this in front of my son, tell him to blow out the candle and then take it away from him before he can play with the tractors, he will have a complete tantrum and will be devastated watching me cut it up!!! Instead of real toys, I splurged and bought little construction vehicle candles and a number 2 sparkler. I’m still trying to decide that without real vehicle he’ll be ok with it or if I should just put the cake out for everyone to see and let him blow a candle out on a cupcake. I really want to use the cake, we’ll see how it goes…

So there it is, I’ve got lots of (I think) fun things for the kids to do, some cool decorations that the adults and hopefully kids will appreciate and it was all planned with my 2 year old son in mind! I admit, I have fun planning parties and I get a little carried away but I everything I did, I thought, Would my kiddo like this? Will it actually work? Is it appropriate? No matter what the theme, planning and throwing a party can be so much fun, HAPPY PLANNING!

DIY Construction Themed Party Signs

Cardboard signs are practically free, completely free if you already have paint at home, a couple bucks if you have to run to the dollar store. I always have paint at home. Here is how I made the signs for my son’s 2nd birthday party. YOU WILL NEED:

  • cardboard
  • ruler
  • exacto knife
  • scissors
  • sharpie
  • pencil
  • stencil or printout if you can’t draw freehand
  • paint
  • super glue or duct tape
  • sticks to put signs in ground (optional)

DIY Construction Themed Party Signs 

First I cut out squares from cardboard boxes and rounded the edges. The easiest way to cut cardboard is lay it down flat on a cutting board or another piece of cardboard and with a ruler or straight edge (I use a long paint stirrer, free at most hardware stores) cut along your “ruler”. Press down lightly, not cutting all the way through the cardboard, helping you make a nice clean line, then hold the cardboard up and cut down the line you just made. I find this much easier than putting all my weight into trying to cut through the first time, sometimes slipping and cutting a wiggly line.

DIY Construction Themed Party Signs

After you’ve cut out your squares, use your scissors to round the corners. Once you’ve made your shapes, paint your signs yellow or orange. I did 2 layers of Acrylic Paint from the Dollar Store. Once your paint has dried, use your “ruler” and draw a line around the edges with a black sharpie.

I’m awful at free hand bubble letters so I used a stencil for some and for others I printed the words from a word document, cut them out and traced them. After tracing them with pencil, I outlined them with sharpie to help keep it neat and easier to paint.

DIY Construction Themed Party Signs

DIY Construction Themed Party Signs

After everything was dry, I super glued the cardboard sign to some sticks I found in our garage or you can use the paint stick stirrers and then used some duct tape just in case his party fell on a windy day. Voila! Some awesome signs to get your guests pumped for your theme as they approach the party! …and to help them find the bathrooms!

DIY Construction Themed Party Signs

BE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY OTHER POST ON HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN

DUMP TRUCK PHOTO BOOTH! 

Upcycling for Mother Earth

My mother is passionate about recycling. There wasn’t a recycling program at the school she was teaching at, so she started one. We lived in the country without garbage and recycling pick up so we loaded up our car and took everything, I mean absolutely everything recycable, to the depot in town. My mom composts everything she can because she can’t stand waste. So it’s only natural that I also recycle and don’t like to waste things either. But I’m not quite as passionate about it as my mom.

We also live in the country now and have to take our sorted recycling into town. I haven’t started composting yet, but definitely plan on it once my garden is up and running. My favourite part about recycling is reusing, repurposing and upcycling.

My craft room is full of old coffee jars and shoeboxes recovered with paper or fabric to store my supplies in…and so is the rest of my house! I also love coming up with creative ways to repurpose things for crafts! Check out some of my examples!

These are fairy lights covers made with old KCups covered in scrapbooking paper. A great way to decorate for a party or BBQ!

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These are napkin rings I made last Thanksgiving. The brown fabric is from an old blazer that couldn’t be donated because of a stain. The rings are made with toilet rolls and the ribbons are repurposed from old gifts and purchases. I’ll be making these with brown felt to sell in the fall for this upcoming Thanksgiving, so keep checking out my Etsy Shop! 🙂

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I also love to upcycle things for party decorations, such as the Dump Truck Photobooth from a cardboard box or these red carpet ropes made from pie plates, wrapping paper rolls spray painted silver, dollar store Christmas balls and Red garland.

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The possibilities are endless! Check out my Reduce, Reuse & Recycle Pinterest Board for more great ideas for Upcycle Crafting! Happy Earth Day!