I recognize my blogging has decreased since teaching lo, those many years ago (and I'll just relieve the mystery and say I think I've decided I can only commit to two letters a year to B from now on: a half birthday and a birthday post), but I thought I'd give a sneak peek to my current obsession.
The seeds were planted in December when a friend linked to a laminating machine on major sale. This sort of information is dangerous in the hands of a former teacher that gets excited in office supply stores. Before I knew it, the $17 laminating machine was at my doorstep, and for $12 more I had 100 laminating pouches (the prices have returned to what seems to be their normal - about $30 for the machine, $15 for pouches - but I still highly recommend both).
Now, there wasn't time before Christmas to pull it out of the box, so it sat in my sewing area, just waiting for inspiration. Eventually, though, all Christmas crafting was finished, snow storms were dodged, and we returned safely after a couple weeks in Iowa.
Meanwhile, one day last week I cut up an egg carton so Brennan and I could make some caterpillars. A photo was posted to Facebook, and a friend recommended making butterflies from coffee filters. A day later, we did so (yet another reason it's fortunate I drink coffee!).
Due to that conversation thread, a friend sent me a link to a butterfly symmetry "busy bag" - I haven't yet made that one (no felt on hand), but it led me down a rabbit hole. I followed all manner of links for ideas for busy bags - contained activities that can be toddler-led with little to no direction after the first introduction.
Many of the items I had on hand, so I began printing, cutting, and laminating and am just now coming up for air. As an aside, I'm a huge fan of our color laser printer and my paper cutter (the latter purchased for use in my Etsy shop and I have not regretted the investment and the time saved since its acquisition).
First, I created a lego busy bag - there are cards showing a number of stacked Duplo bricks, and the child is supposed to recreate the pattern. Brennan took to it right away.
Then I prepared one that is supposed to develop writing skills; the child traces a variety of lines. Brennan also likes this one, but she isn't forcing herself to stick to the lines at this time, instead seeing it as a novelty to use dry-erase markers on paper. I have plans to bind these together, but now they are loose.
This next activity required quite a bit of cutting. It is an I Spy activity. Print out two copies of the I Spy page. One copy is trimmed down and laminated. The second is cut up to create the card pieces. One person recommended just cutting out a variety of pieces, which is what any sane person would do, but I'm a glutton for punishment and decided I couldn't offer this activity unless every image could be part of the search. Therefore, I cut up all 100 tiny images, glued them into 1.5 x 2 inch pieces of paper, wrote the name of the image below, and then laminated the bunch. Now I have four bags of 25 cards. I tell myself this is worth it, as it means Brennan gets more enjoyment out if it and won't get bored as quickly. She does enjoy this activity. She'll take her dry erase marker, find the image, color it in, and then erase it before finding the next. And, in theory, I could print out a couple more full pages and laminate them for friends who might want to do this activity with her when visiting. Each child gets their own board with a baggy of different images.
This next activity didn't require any laminating (I may have needed a break after the above!), but I picked up some pipe cleaners and dug through my button stash to group them by color. Brennan hasn't been introduced to this one yet, but I will place all the buttons in a small container and let her sort by color, working on her fine motor skills as she threads them onto the pipe cleaners.
I printed out a set of images; there are 24 loose cards that fall into eight different categories, and the child is supposed to sort them accordingly.
Then for a name activity, I picked up some leaf shapes at Dollar Tree and glued letters onto them, spelling out Brennan's name on two different sets. One set was laminated onto cardstock, and the other is loose so Brennan can learn how to spell her name. In time, the next step would be to take away the set on cardstock paper and have Brennan spell her name without the template's help.
Next off, I set off to gather images to use in a dry-erase activity book. I used many of the links (and the template) found in this post. She put cardstock back-to-back when she laminated. I chose to double-side the sheets instead.
We've started doing a weekly family movie night, and Brennan has loved talking about the highlights of them; she doesn't have tons of words, but she has enough to act out her favorite scene in Dumbo (she whimpers to represent him missing his mom, and then she starts singing, demonstrating his mom rocking him).
She essentially loves anything we'll actually let her watch, so her favorites also include Sesame Street, the Muppets movies, Finding Nemo, Ice Age, and the Incredibles. So while searching for images, I found a number from these movies and printed them out (this page is amazing for coloring pages).
I printed, assembled, and bound the book last night (the binding machine is one I bought in the last year to use in my Etsy shop, and I had some extra binding wire from what is leftover from the upcycled notebooks). I presented it to Brennan this morning, and she has loved coloring in it with her dry-erase crayons (available for around $4). Another crossover from my Etsy activities? I carry flannel cloths in my shop, and some sample ones I made and kept back are perfect as erasing cloths with the dry erase markers and crayons.
I have plans to make a couple other activity books, more geared to actual learning (alphabet, letters, writing, matching, etc.), but some of those images weren't as good as the coloring pages, so it is on hold for the moment as I find better quality pictures and finish assembling other sets. Some of the activities I still want to do can be found linked on my Pinterest page here.
I'm thinking the dry-erase activity book will be a great addition to our diaper bag when we're out to eat, at small group, etc. She likes me to help erase the crayons (they don't wipe as easily as the markers), but then she's ready to go again. And there are enough pages to keep her excited for quite a while.
I look back at all I've done in a week, and I'm amazed - hopefully I've gotten it out of my system so I can resume normal activities!
And I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I still have other busy bag activities that are almost ready to go, just waiting for some laminating or final assembly. You'll see them here eventually, I'm sure!