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Totally Awesome Toddler Adventures

Peppa Pig toddler budget birthday party

You only turn 2 once! After her first birthday my kid has been entranced with the British cartoon “Peppa Pig”. 


We own every Peppa Pig clothing item, toy, and random other thing, no joke. So I figured it would be easy to turn our Peppa collection into a toddler party(spoiler alert, it was more work than I thought it would be!) Behold my mountain of Peppa paraphernalia! 


I had ideas, so many ideas. I started collecting packaging months in advance to use as backdrops/signs for food/activities. Peppa bus for Christmas? Better hold onto the package for 5 months just in case


Thankfully I had some great help. The kid’s godparents and most perfect people on the planet(probably) came from hours away with the sole purpose of decorating and setting up for the party, bless these two! 


They also took amazing pictures of the party(which you can tell their professional quality vs my iPhone in this post) which was awesome since the party flew by and I forgot most of it! 

Isdell Photography

Once I gathered all our existing Peppa items(countless playhouse figures, so many books, 6 stuffed animals, 2 vehicles, and a comfy Peppa couch, just to name a few) I started looking online for cheap other things to fill out the party plan. eBay was great, wish.com was hit or miss but very affordable if you have a few months to wait for international shipping, and good ole amazon prime carried some great Peppa stuffs. 

Inside first- 


Banners bought from Amazon, felt/magnet board made by me but Peppa felt set purchased on Amazon, Peppa couch was a gift but purchasable from amazon, Peppa play mat and playhouse purchased at toys r us for Christmas, on the shelves are puzzles/musical instruments/books all in theme. 


Outside-


Bubbles, bouncy castle(nana just happened to have laying around, free!) and chalk drawing. 

The drinks-


 Muddy puddle maker basket(juice boxes and water) *pro tip-dollar tree plastic baskets/bins are only $1 and you can get them in a variety of colors to fit your party theme!

And my favorite, pig nose cups. Marvel at the amazingness 

The food-


George’s dinosaur chicken nuggets and Mr. Potato’s tator tot bar(regular and sweet tots, toppings including chili/cheese/bacon/sour cream and condiments)


Peppa house sugar cookies, toddler approved!


Fairy bread(pretty but gross), Goldie’s goldfish


(Not pictured-Grandpa Pig’s vegetable garden veggie tray, Miss Rabbit’s fruit stand fruit tray)

Let them eat cake!


The birthday cake was a strawberry cream cheese cake(bright pink inside), and the cupcakes were cinnamon chocolate cake with caramel frosting and bacon on top. Bought by nana so I didn’t have to make them! Score!


The cakestand was a simple white cardboard cakestand I painted to match the Peppa landscape and the toppers were ordered online for under $5 attached to toothpicks already.

The favors-


A set of 8 small Peppa friends stuffed animals were available for around $30. I purchased different kinds of party hats(pirate,glitter cowboy, cone) and cut them down and restrung to fit the stuffed animals, stickers to decorate and personalize and a small cup with a Peppa bubble bottle. 

Party outfits-


We recycled her Halloween costume as her party dress. 

Daddy Pig and I ordered festive shirts and I cut my Halloween dress to a muddy puddle skirt to match. 


We had just enough planned activities to occupy the 8 toddlers and their parents how attended. We had wall to wall and floor to ceiling Peppa, tots and bacon enough to satisfy the crowd, and enough bubbles to drench our porch for the next couple of rainstorms. The entire party cost under $150 but the months of work and thought that went into it was priceless(and we’ll probably opt for the pizza mouse house next time around!) 

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The reality of screen time and tiny humans 

There are so many articles, memes, and posts about how #adulting is hard, and it definitely is. Do you know what else is hard? #toddlering. Being a toddler is really effing hard.

Toddlers can’t communicate what they want or need beyond garbled one word sentences that we, as their caretakers end up pretending to understand as we force them to do what we want. They have little to no say in their lives unless they can successfully break us down and drain us emotionally, mentally and physically until we cave.


Sometimes as parents we can’t cave. Sometimes what they want is unsafe(no we can’t make a climbing tower out of pillows to reach the kitchen knives), or it’s impossible(no we can’t magically turn your sandwich into ice cream and mommys ice cream is for later….when you aren’t in my face) and sometimes we all just need to check out(toddlers too!). That’s when screen time can literally be life saving.

Like most things in our social media driven parental world, we lie about our realities to avoid the dreaded #momshame. But what’s true is, screen time in childhood is a reality. Even the AAP has relaxed their stance on screen time for children and infants because they know that it’s impossible to keep a tiny human occupied all day everyday without at least a Daniel Tiger emotionally educational song here and there.


Fearing other parent’s disappointed side eye at play dates when your kid shows up in a character tee shirt keeps a lot of parents silent about screen time. In more “progressive” parenting groups it can be even worse since we’re all expected to provide organic, free range, locally sourced, fair trade snacks and wooden toys for our precious spawn while at the same time collectively shaming any parent who doesn’t conform or who gets “too real” about the realities of parenting.

Being a parent is hard. And a lot of the time it can suck, like really super suck your soul and identity and sanity from your body. We hold ourselves and each other to completely unrealistic standards and then pile on and shame others when they inevitably fail so we can make ourselves feel a tiny bit better about handing our kid the phone at dinner so we can take one effing bite of our now cold meal.


What’s amazing and shocking is that you can do several hours of enriching and engaging activities with your child and still have over 10 hours a day that you need to fill. You can go to the library, to the store, to a mommy and me class and STILL have hours in the day that need filled. You can stare at your tiny human’s face for hours and hours as they learn and explore and STILL have hours left in the day. And if you fill one of those hours with educational children’s programs, you feel like a shit parent who failed your future little astrophysicist and if anyone in your online facebook mom group found out you’d be thoroughly dragged through the playdough littered mud.


We sometimes forget that children are tiny people. They aren’t chia pets or clay lumps, they are literally miniature versions of adults with less impulse control and less of an ability to communicate, but their wants and needs and emotions are the same. Drilling flash cards and asking to identify body parts and associating animals with their noises has got to be exhausting for children as well. They are taking in and processing so much information all day and then are expected to communicate to us that yes, they understand and can parrot back what you’re asking or risk another game of “what does the cow say?!???” The feeling you get from binging a great show in Netflix is incredibly relaxing and healing, why can’t kids do the same thing? Watching something happy and entertaining with no need to perform or acknowledge they understand can be just as therapeutic.


The only credible argument I’ve seen against screen time in children is that the time spent watching or playing on screens is taking away time children could be spending doing enriching or engaging things. But what if you spend a large portion of the day doing engaging and enriching things with your child? What if you spend hours focusing on and teaching and guiding your child? What if you basically do a preschool curriculum in your home with your singular child that has no playmate but you? How many hours a day is sufficient to warrant a break for parent AND child? What if you have a disability or a mental illness that requires you to rest your body and mind at intervals throughout the day so that you can be more present and engaging for the rest of the day? Is it only permissible to enjoy a break if you can show a doctors note to the admins of your mom group?


As adults we allow ourselves time to check out, decompress, relax, binge Netflix….why is it such a bad thing for children to be allowed the same? Even now, you are probably reading this on your smart phone as you enjoy a little mental health break away from whatever else you’re supposed to be doing. I’m sure there’s more enriching and engaging things you could be doing? Maybe a classic novel that could provide you with some interesting commentary and parallels to today’s political and cultural climate? There’s probably a cheap/free way for you to brush up on a foreign language, you’ll probably need it coming up….might I suggest Russian? There’s endless educational resources and opportunities available for free or at a low cost and accessible right there on your screen! Or, you could access your library and get the same information slower and more cumbersome to wade through (because screens are bad!).


There is no credible research to suggest screens are “dangerous” or inherently bad for developing minds. (Exactly the opposite for kids with diagnosed ADD/ADHD) Any studies done have been misused to shame and scare parents into taking any “easy” way out of parenting(especially mothers) and any negative side effects in screens have only been recorded in extreme circumstances. (So basically, don’t strap your child down and pry their eyes open and force them to watch psychedelic images like some sci-fy novel and you should be fine.) There’s actually been studies done that show quite the opposite. A study of preschoolers exposed to pbs cartoons found that those children who watched them in the controlled environment of the study were better able to understand and communicate their emotions and feelings than those children who didn’t. Anecdotally I’ve seen the same with my child. She will stop herself in the middle of a tantrum, say “sad/mad”, take a deep breath, and count until she feels better and then moves on to something else. This is not something I taught her, she picked it up from a cartoon and it’s helped her and us a lot recently. I can say the same for her ABC’s and counting which she learned from an app on my phone exclusively while I change her diaper(because toddlers HATE being changed unless you literally hand them everything they “aren’t supposed to have”). Screens have been useful and educational for my child and helpful for me to recharge and check out during very long days being the sole entertainment. I’m not a trained cruise ship director, and even if I was, they still schedule down time for the crew!


Understanding that screens themselves aren’t bad, and watching programs, while probably not the “best” use of your time, can still be beneficial in the overall wellness and health of the family unit, can help to remove some of the shame around utilizing screens in parenting small children.

Apples: Theme 

Tailoring a unit to the season can make your life a heck of a lot easier. You’ll find more ready made materials in the store for cheap, natural materials and opportunities are available for your toddler to jump in and learn with minimal stress to you in preparation and planning. 

Fall is an interesting time. It’s busy and slow. It’s warm and cold. It’s exciting and exhausting. There are several holidays and events in fall so instead of doing a traditional monthly theme I’ve adjusted to create less scrambling to get things done in time. Also, toddlers have no concept of calendars so it’ll just be our little secret. 

September to October is a great time to try an apple study. We did, and planned to do several apple activities leading up to Johnny Appleseed Day, which overlapped our animal unit, but that’s ok. It’ll also be a much bigger deal next year when my toddler actually understands more of what’s going on. 


Starting with something tangible and as “real” as possible is key for building those learning foundations in your toddler. The first thing I introduced were actual apples. 


We did this super easy apple match game using red and green apples and colored construction paper on the floor. 


By the end of it she was eating the apples but I still call it a win. 

I’ve gushed before about Targets dollar spot but seriously, love. They had a bunch of apple things at the end of summer in preparation for back to school, and knowing that I was going to do an apple unit(see! planning helps!) I grabbed up some random crap I thought I could maybe use. 

They had felt stickers and a felt banner all in the same design so I grabbed those for $1 and $3 respectively. 


I got a bit crafty and cut and stuck and glued to get exactly what I wanted. An apple progression activity. 


Match the big apples to the card lineup. Hours of fun and distraction with this one. 

Pom-poms. All the pom-poms all the time. Pro tip: count them out before you put them in toddler hands, that way you’ll know how many to go searching for when they inevitably go everywhere. Cute apple bag from Target, $1. Poms at Dollar Tree for $1, along with the bowls. 


As with any activity, display it, then explain it, then observe while they explore and master it. 


This one took a little longer to get but she eventually understood the color separating goal. 

If you’re feeling especially adventurous you can try this easy toddler apple pie “recipe”. 


It’s not really a recipe so much as a guide. I’m all about easy, especially with a toddler so we went for store bought dough. I got small sized pie plates since mini things make me smile. So I put my mini in her high chair and we got to work. Toddlers can do more than we assume, I showed her how to press the dough into the pan and let her play a bit.


 Then we “cut” apples. An egg slicer makes for a great toddler kitchen tool.


 I presliced the apples and let her “chop” them up a bit more and put them into a bowl.


 To the bowl we shook in sugar, cinnamon, and a dash of flour. Mixed it all together and put it in the pie plate.


 We covered with strips of dough that she helped place and then baked per the dough package. 

This was a fairly small unit since fall had a lot of things I wanted cover, but by the end of it my toddler could recognize “apple” and ask for them by name so I chalk this unit up as learning #win. 


Follow along on my facebook page to get real time activity suggestions to match the season

Animals: Monthly Theme 

Sixteen months old is the perfect time to explore animals. She’s starting to recognize animals on tv and in the world. She mimics animal sounds when a book introduces a new animal character. She inspects her stuffed animals, waiting for them start barking or mooing.
 September is still a hot month in much of the country, and in the south that’s certainly true, but we do get a few mild days and even *gasp* a nice breeze occasionally. Those environmental factors made it the perfect time to have a unit with indoor and outdoor elements. 
There are so many animals present in our world. So many different climates and environments that make a vague unit like “animals” seem a huge undertaking. For this age(between one and two) I thought it best to keep it simple. Next year we will expand this unit but for now we concentrated on mostly “farm” animals. 
Pintrest was overwhelming with its suggestions for animal themed toddler activities(as you’d expect) so I pinned a few to my terribly disorganized boards(never to be seen again) and made notes the week before I started this unit. 


I started by introducing a chunky peg puzzle that depicts a farm scene. After searching through a great Montessori blog The Kavanaugh Report, I learned that there is a science to displaying puzzles for children(who knew?). Place the pieces next to the puzzle rather than offering a completed puzzle to your toddler. If you offer it the reverse(already completed) then they will take the pieces off and scurry on to something else, which is far easier and less work to do for their developing motor skills. 


This activity was left on her (brand new-IKEA $15!)shelves to be worked on and returned to throughout the month. At first she would become frustrated and just walk away, but as the days went on she began slowly mastering it. Check my Facebook Page to see a video in action! 


Matching objects and cards is a great way to work on name recognition and recall.


 I picked up these plastic farm animals in a tub at WalMart for $8(we love a deal!) and I was able to use them in several activities this month and plan to use them in future units as well. For this activity I took super awesome professional quality(per my husbands glowing review) photos using a trifold white poster board from the Dollar Tree(aka best place on earth) and my IPhone 5C(that I got for $1-boom!) and I printed them on my at home computer to photo paper. 


I used brown cardstock that was pre cut and double sided tape. maybe someday I’ll get a laminator and fancy them up but for now they work fine as is. 


With these I did a three period lesson. Identify(this is…), point out(show me the…), ask to identify(what is this). I also laid them out and had her match the animal to the card. We also did a flash card type game where I would show a card and she would go and find me the matching animal from a pile on the floor. 


We used the same animals in a sensory play.


 I took vanilla pudding and some food coloring and made a little pasture scene. I used throw away tin foil pans to make it easier on myself during cleanup. 


A second pan of water with dish soap and sponges created an fun game of getting the animals dirty, then cleaning them up. 


A rainy day activity was to pretend play at the zoo. 


I went through her mountain of stuffed animals(that I vowed to never have before having a kid) and pulled out all the actual animals(sorry Mickey, giant mouses don’t count). 


I put them in a “cage” and put them in her playspace.


 She pulled them out, put them back in, hugged them all, laid on them, threw them, tried to share her snack with them, etc. It took up a good portion of the day so I could get some stuff around the house done. 


Paint is super fun. Super duper fun. 


We had such an amazing time with painting music notes last month that I wanted to try it again this month. We used the same set up as last time except I printed off a google image of a cow coloring page(for freeeeee) and taped that to the large drawing pad paper. 


After she was finished I let it dry then cut out just the cow to hang on the fridge. 


We had a mini dance party one day. Old MacDonald and his farm made for some energy exhausting toddler moves that resulted in a long naptime. #momwin


There are so many great animal things to do in the community at the end of summer. Parents are looking to occupy kids before school starts, businesses are trying to cash in on this, it’s a win win for a thrifty stay at home parent. 


A local farm was offering a “farm fun” day for $8 a person. 


It included a horse ride(or horse sit photo op if your toddler isn’t big enough to ride alone down a hill), holding soft bunnies, a hayride and getting up close and personal with some pigs and chickens and goats. 


We also have a great aquarium nearby(that’s located inside of the outlet mega mall, discount goodies score!). 


If you buy tickets online you get a discount, under two years old is also free, so it was $15 for both of us to enjoy some fish for the day. 


There’s a science and natural history museum in our town as well that we have a yearly membership to that also has some great exposure to animals both alive and previously alive-currently majestically stuffed. 


The great thing about this place is it’s usually very empty so it’s nice to let the toddler roam and explore without worrying about her getting trampled or lost. 


Check out your local mom groups as well for leads on discount or free stuff to do in your area. 

Music: Monthly Theme 

Music is a great theme to explore during a month where inside activities are a must(global warming is real y’all!). So we slated August to be our music exploration month. Between the heat and humidity we can barely make it from the car to front door without succumbing to heat exhaustion(slight exaggeration). Having an indoor theme is a great way to keep occupied. 


I started the week before our month began by gathering supplies and sifting through my chaotic Pintrest boards while taking notes on activities I wanted to explore with my 15 month old. Activities need to be age appropriate so unfortunately we won’t be learning the difference between treble and bass staffs(psst! one’s high and the other is low!) but we can do plenty of other neat things!


In a previous post I detailed how I plot my themes. During the month I break down the weeks to focus on one sense/awareness of the theme. The first week of music is focused on an introduction of instruments. The second week is focused on creating music. The third week is how we can embody music. The fourth week is an interactive exploration of music in our world. 


Introducing instruments was a fun first activity. The night before I set up an “invitation” on her table. Most were borrowed from my mother in law or Christmas toys that had been lying around. I displayed everything clearly and accessibly so she could grab and explore easily on her own. 


We received an awesome book from my daughters great-god mother which features a unique female composer and set the stage for our theme this month. 


After checking out all of the instruments and how they worked, we read the book together(four times…because toddler) which took us all the way up to nap time. 


I kept all of the materials in a basket, still within reach and cleaned up every time she left the room for meals or naps to “reset” the space for her. 


I followed the same approach in introducing the basket of rattle sounds.


 I made them available and let her explore the differences in plastic versus metal sounds while playing independently. 


Several of these were in my “to be sold” box after not seeing much use the last few months, so it was neat to see her actively enjoy them with a different and purposeful intent. 


Most were purchased for under a dollar at thrift stores or given to us second hand.


The second week was spent teething molars(yay…) so we had a lot of down time recovering from sleepless nights and runny noses. 


When the Nutella and the sinuses stopped flowing we got back into our creativity focused week by making an upcycled trash band! 


Thank goodness for Nana’s with good eye. She saved us some real gems from the recycling bin including snow cone cups, paper towel rolls and cardboard cans. 


A quick and cheap DIY project accomplished on three hours of sleep was this great oatmeal container drum. Just some glue and leftover art paper to hide the label.

 I put some jingle bells inside because I hate myself and didn’t think banging on cans all day was enough noise. Super cute though! 

I saw a similar “painting notes” activity on Pintrest for a slightly older kid and thought, “meh let’s do it anyways and see what happens”(basically my new motto). The Dollar Tree has giant paper pads for, you guessed it, $1! I also got this adorable art apron there as well. I picked up this pack of art brushes and sponges and paint(non toxic washable) at Wal Mart for $5 each.


I used my phone and a zoomed-in picture from google images to fudge a treble clef onto my sharpie drawn lines and taped this sucker DOWN. One thing I’ve learned is a must with toddler art is you have to secure the work space with tape all the way around or else you’ll have a half ripped piece(not ideal for fridge art) or paint will go everywhere. 


I used an ice cube tray(Dollar Tree yay!) to contain the paint and did not let her have access to it. I repeat-do not hand the toddler a tray filled with paint. Maybe next time I’ll try with one of those suction bowls to the table but not today, partner! 


I demonstrated once with the circle sponge and she went to town.


I had visions of her screaming, throwing paint, licking everything…nope. Just a singular focus on making paint dots and smudges. She would dab a few times and then delicately hold the brush out to me for more paint. She worked for over half an hour, until the paint started to leak through the paper. 


Once the paint dried, I removed it from the table and drew on music notes to half-way resemble the original purpose of the activity. 


Physically experiencing music was our next mission. The library is a great resource for CD’s to borrow. We checked out a collection from various places around the world. African, Folk, Jazz, and Latin tunes made up our soundtrack for the week. We danced, made up clapping songs to the beat to work on hand eye coordination and read books while music played in the background. This week was a light one on activities since we were also dealing with teething issues. It was nice to regroup and have some down time at home. 


The last week was all about music in our world. we took advantage of several cheap or free music opportunities in our area. The library offers a baby/toddler storytime twice a week which includes songs and books. It’s a great way to get some free interactive play and socialization as well as pick up some books while we’re there! 


We also love our Kindermusik class! It’s like a better version of Gymboree without the parachute. 


Our local class is offered once a week for her age group with free play in the music studio afterwards. Classes are under $15 for a drop in or 4 for $50. The class and free play ends up being almost two hours so around $5 an hour isn’t bad for an amazing class like this one. They sing songs, use instruments and dance. The person who leads our class is amazing and my daughter is always right on top of her so she won’t miss a thing. The studio is super fun and we end up staying almost the entire time afterwards exploring the instruments with other little friends. 


All together I spent around $25 for supplies and experiences for the month. Once she’s a little older we’ll revisit music with more focus of sounds and musical theory but this was an age appropriate plan that turned out quite well! (next month: Animals!) 

Macro to Micro: how I plot themes

It might be a leftover from my choreography days but I love plotting out and planning. Starting with an idea, a big picture, and working my way down to the details. That is how I approach planning our at home adventures. Each month has a theme chosen around the season to make for budget friendly fun. Once I have the theme it’s time to break it down weekly.

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Start out introducing the concept as simply as possible.

What is it?

Next explore the subject. How can you manipulate the broader idea to explore it in all the senses?

End the month by giving freedom to all the ways you’ve learned and explored the theme.
Once you’ve designated directions for each week you can plot out the days. Keep these plans as “tentative” since life with a toddler means flexibility above all else. I like to schedule one outside of the home class or activity a week for my sanity and her socialization.


In the first week of introduction I will plan for several different Montessori style “baskets” which are presented as an invitation to explore on a table or shelf. Each basket would have its own theme or intent and the child is given free time to explore all the objects in the basket. If they aren’t engaged you can introduce using the three period lesson. First, introduce the object, “This is…”. Second, point it out, “can you point to the…”. Third, ask them to name the object, “what is that?”. Show them how an object works and what it’s function is. Demonstrate how to use it, and then let them free play and explore. Keep in mind that the focus should always be on “help me to do it by myself”.

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Try to plan a creative based week for art exploration around the theme. Incorporate visual learning to stimulate them in ways they wouldn’t normally engage with the theme. Paint or crayons or creating art depicting the theme are great ways to do this.

 

Think about how to physically embody the theme as well. Have a week based around interactive physical play. If your theme is based around a physical object then allow them time to really get messy as they experience all the physical properties of the theme. Find real world examples of your theme that expose them to physical applications of what they’ve learned so far as well. Going to a museum or store or farm can provide cheap or free ways to get out of the house while staying focused on your theme.


I use my monthly and weekly planner pages to plot out what my focus and direction for each month and week will be. It helps to hold me accountable and stay motivated when it’s so easy to throw on Peppa Pig and zone out.


It takes a few minutes of prep Sunday night since I’ve built up my stash and organized all of my supplies and space as I’ve detailed in previous posts. Keeping a clear focus and feeling like you have a purpose as a stay at home parent to a toddler is the only way I’ve found to keep from feeling like I’m just going through the motions.

create a YES space 

Setting up your space in a way that promotes less chaos and more freedom of play is key to not feeling like you’re drowning in primary colored plastic. It takes a little thought, maybe an entire weekend of rearranging furniture and possibly a day trip to IKEA(grab a cinnamon roll while you’re there!), but once you have your “YES space” set up, you’ll be ready for a stress free toddler time. 

Totally Awesome
 

We have a fairly large open floor plan which makes setting up a play space much easier than most. I removed my big fluffy scoop chair reading nook(when do I have time to leisurely read anymore?!) and designated it as the new toddler corner. Baby proofing the rest of the living room involved protecting corners, blocking off the TV, and moving everything into another room that could be swallowed or used as a projectile. 

We ordered a child/pet gate(because they really are the same thing at this age) and blocked off the kitchen. She was less than stoked about it. 


Having a space that is safe and open, allows for free play and exploration with minimal parental involvement. This is key for tiny human development but also for grown up human sanity. Being able to mentally check out for a few minutes while the little meticulously organizes blocks into bowls will help you to feel less like a mombie(mom-zombie) and more like an actual person. 

Less really is more. We have a tendency to over do, over pack, over supply. Kids are simple, they don’t need as many options as we often present them with. When organizing your play space, start a mini purge. Group toys by type and place only one of each type in the space. This will help with overstimulation and allow them to focus on a task or “work” without becoming distracted. Plan to rotate toys every few weeks or when you notice them becoming bored. 

Reset the space during naps/sleep. Having a clean slate will help to keep the chaos to a minimum. Everytime she goes down I take a spin around the space, putting everything in its place. It makes me feel better and I notice it resets her focus when she wakes which limits the meltdowns. 

I use Dollar Tree baskets to place toys/books in. Everything needs its own separate container. Kid’s stuff has a tendency to explode all over everything. Knowing that it has a compact place to collect back into is a comfort on those hectic messier days at home. It also teaches them that when we’re done with something it goes “home”. Involve them in the clean up whenever possible, maybe they’ll get it through osmosis. 

Our space has a table, which is necessary for activities and art projects.

We received it second hand which I preferred knowing we’d be exploring crayons and other potentially messy adventures in the next few years. 

We recently purchased a play kitchen after enjoying one on an IKEA trip. We try to be as “Montessori” as possible which to us, means using as many real world things as we can manage in miniature.

The IKEA “nybakad” kitchen was $39.99 and is neutral in design to not be too stimulating. 


It has shelves which are perfect for my storage baskets and after adding some command strip hooks on the sides for utensils and hanging toys, it’s perfect for what we needed. 

If it fits, I sit!
 
I had originally intended to purchase an IKEA spice rack to house a few books for my bibliophile but decided to go with a large wooden crate for $2 more at the last minute. It’s a great fit in the space, and works for imaginative play as well. 

A shatter proof locker mirror adds some fun to our space and has given her hours of interactive exploration. (Who needs siblings when you can hang out with the coolest kid around?)

My cozy reading chair cushion was coopted to use to complete our space as a floor pad for her rest on throughout the day. 

Create a space that is safe and organized and you’ll worry less and enjoy more awesome adventures with your totally awesome toddler. 

build up your (craft) stash

By now you’ve been perusing Pintrest and have likely saved a few fun activities. You’ve started having dreams of perfectly planned sensory bins. You’ve made a list and checked it twice. Now what? 

In order to execute interactive and enriching toddler adventures you’ll need a stash…of crafting supplies! Now is the time to put your feelers out on Facebook, request any old or rejected crafty items from your local moms group, keep an eye out for sales. 

The best place I’ve been able to get my stash padded is Dollar Tree. It’s gotta be the Tree, not the general, the the hub, not the lot. Dollar TREE. Everything is $1. No exceptions. Even steaks!(disclaimer: don’t actually buy steaks from Dollar Tree….I beg of you) As far as Montessori supplies go they are hands down the best budget friendly option I’ve found. Their practical life items(which I’ll be covering in a later post) are perfectly sized and durable for totally awesome and destructive toddlers. 


I picked up pipe cleaners, pom pom balls, popsicle sticks, glitter, bells, marbles, stickers, and clothes pins for my craft bin. These are all multipurpose items that I’ll be using throughout the year in different activities. I spent under $10, which would have run me well over $30 at a craft supply store. 

Trash, it’s not just for Oscar the Grouch


Start collecting trash. No seriously. Do it. Coffee cans, shoe boxes, water bottles, plastic spoons, clothes to donate, toilet paper rolls. All the trash. It’s free and saves the environment, probably. Repurposing things is a great budget tip to making an inexpensive activity. 


Here’s an old drink mix can and popsicle sticks. I got a solid hour of quiet time out of this one and it cost me $1 for the sticks. The can was provided by my totally awesome mother in law who I can guarantee you is better than your mother in law. Just kidding….but seriously though….she totally is! 


Once you’ve collected all the necessary materials, designate a clear and organized space to house them. You’ll need quick and easy access, so no attic cubbies! I keep mine in a lower cabinet in the kitchen, mainly because we have a ridiculous amount of kitchen cabinets. This makes it super easy to pull out a few items mid toddler meltdown, or set up an activity during nap time while I catch up on my programs. 


A solid stash is a must for keeping at home structured playtime affordable and accessible. Build yours up for under $20 and you’ll be able to reap the benefits all year long! 

Obligatory white-middle-class-mom-loves-Target post

I worked at Target until getting pregnant with my now 14 month old daughter. I spent 40 hours a week for 2 years behind the scenes and witnessed horrors you wouldn’t even believe if I told you(naked feces covered shoplifters….that’s a thing that happened) and even *I’m* not immune to the hypnotizing red symbol and enchanting decorative chotchkies. Target is my happy place. It’s the place I go to get away from it all while being simultaneously immersed in “it all”. Grab a 5% off discounted frappacino and pull up a chair(or baby carrier)! Don’t know what I’m talking about? ask about the redcard! (damn….can’t shake the former employee line….oops!) I’m gonna let you in on the totally awesome toddler tip of the day. Dollar Spot! *sigh* I wish I could quit you! I know they changed the name to “See spot save” but I’m a creature of habit so dollar spot it shall always be, no matter what giant dog statues they hang from the ceiling. Dollar spot is THE most overlooked section of the store and THE most awesome in my biased opinion. For instance, I bought a short binder and short binder paper and short binder planner pages for around $20 in the school supply section because I FORGOT TO CHECK DOLLAR SPOT! I went in today and dollar spot had the same exact things but packaged differently(and far cuter prints!) for a package total of $10. Seriously, always check dollar spot! Dollar spot is always one step ahead of the season. Summertime? Back to school supplies! I was pleasantly surprised with how many toddler ranged school items they had, of which I bought all. Flash cards, wooden blocks, Dr. Suess dry erase boards and stickers, felt activity books, puzzles, coloring, those magic no mess marker things. So. Much. Stuff. I Spent around $15 and scored. I’ll be using these throughout the year in various activities and projects. (just a few of the things I grabbed) 

When dollar spot is on point it pays to load up on goodies. My monthly themes are mostly planned around seasonal events to maximize on cheap deals like dollar spot stocking. Multi-purpose tools like blocks or coloring supplies can serve a variety of uses, so if you can find a deal, take full advantage. Target generally will put you out a few dollars more. You pay a little extra for your Oreos to not have to deal with Wal Mart people. I’m in a position of having enough privilege where that sometimes appeals to me, especially on the days when I pretend like I’m on a mini vacation. Sipping my faux Butterbeer Frap and perusing the novelty socks. But realistically, I’m all about a deal. Target dollar spot can provide you with some of the best deals if you take a spin through before wandering aimlessly throughout the rest of the store. 

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