If you feel like you’re running out of activities to do with your child, I have another new resource for you! If you’re like me, you’re running thin on ideas of how to keep your kids occupied and entertained. This week, I spoke to local mom of one, Katrina Egan about the new site she’s created in the midst of social distancing. Her handle, @toddlertimeactivities curates all of the activities, educational and fun, she’s been doing with her daughter Sianna, 2. Many of the activities can be scaled up or down depending on the child’s age and require materials that you probably have in your house.
Katrina, thanks so much for sharing your page with us! I know you were in education before having Sianna, can you share a little bit about your background?
It’s my pleasure. Yes I have been an educator since 2003. I completed my BA Honors Degree and Post Graduate in Secondary Education in England and I taught in High Schools in Liverpool teaching English, Religious Education and Drama before moving to the U.S in 2006. Since then I worked as a Mental Heath Counselor and homeschooled students as well as working in High Schools. For the last 8 Years I was teaching in Stamford and held a Dean of Students position before taking year this past year off to be with my daughter.
When we’re not social distancing, I know you and Sianna are very active and do a lot around town. What are some of your favorite activities to do and places to visit in our area?
We definitely love to be social and we have become very active in the community over the last few years. In Newtown we are spoilt for choice! There is always so many activities to choose from. We love the Community Center for Toddler Time and Swimming. Main Street Adventures is a great place we love to go to get some energy out and for fun play . Story Time at the library has been our favorite since she was a few months old – she loves seeing her friends and singing all the nursery rhymes. It also gave me the opportunity to socialize and meet so many other moms . She had just started dance classes which she loved before social distancing started and we try to attend a lot of the Newtown Moms Club activities when we can. We are so thankful the town has so much to offer for kids.
And what is your favorite spot in Newtown? Your favorite thing about living here?
I love the sense of community here in Newtown, everyone really goes out of their way to help others and support one another and that’s hard to find. I love the small town atmosphere and the amazing selection of restaurants. There are so many amazing activities for kids and families and there is always something to do and so many community events. We have so many spots that we love in Newtown it honestly depends on the day – however we love Fairfield Hills for walking, the Community Center, Treadwell Park, Eichler’s Cove and many more.
I love how you’ve been documenting everything you’ve been doing. It’s a wonderful way to capture the memories, stay busy, and share all your ideas. What inspired you to create @toddlertimeactivities? Where do you get your ideas from?
Thank you so much. I really did want to capture the memories of everything we were doing. I have always loved the idea of learning through play and even in the classroom I used to create a lot of innovative learning activities to help keep learning fun and engaging.
For me it was just a fun way to help her learn, play, explore, grow, and enjoy our quality time together. I have so much fun doing it with her and she loves it too which is what matters.
I was already planning and creating some activities to do each day before social distancing, but since this started I decided to share some of my activities and what we were doing on Facebook. Friends and family were messaging me asking me for more ideas and I thought it would be a great idea just to have it all in one place for everyone to have access to it if they needed it. I know the days can be long especially with toddlers and with a lot of people being at home it can be a challenge to keep them stimulated and happy.
My goal was just to offer an additional resource that people could use. Fun, creative, low maintenance activities and crafts that could be easily recreated at home. A place to give families a variety of ideas to help keep their toddlers entertained and engaged for a while to help break up the day. It gives it a little structure in a fun way and can sometimes help to reset . I think it’s a tricky time for a lot of families and it can throw off even the most organized people. It’s all about balance and doing some of the activities can really help toddlers focus and keep everyone happy. For us it really encouraged communication and listening skills too. It’s such a great way to help their brains develop and connect with them at home and help channel their energy into positive experiences.
Sianna is very social and since she wasn’t getting the social interaction she was before I introduced a lot more ways to encourage her imagination and creativity and keep her occupied. On my page I try to incorporate a variety of different activities that include crafts, sensory ideas, art , science experiments , Basic Math, Literacy and Fine Motor Skill activities.
Along with being enjoyable there are so many added benefits to a lot of the activities, they foster so much imagination and creativity and its so exciting to see their little imaginations at play.
Toddlers & preschoolers are tough customers! What types of activities are Sianna’s favorites?
They definitely can be and its so important not to stress if activities don’t go as planned. I have a lot that go amazing and other days I often set up crafts or activities and she does something totally different with it or decides at the last minute she doesn’t want to do it and comes back to it later and that’s okay. She loves to engage whether its singing, a game, reading or playing and she loves to role play and bring books to life which is fun to watch.
We rotate a lot of activities so she doesn’t get bored with them and we reuse them a lot but so far her favorites are usually sensory activities like rice bins or anything play doh related . She could spend an hour or two creating things and she loves exploring all the textures and colors. She also loves the counting and sorting activities and working with beads and stickers and anything to do with letter recognition. She really loves to learn and they have made a huge difference in helping her focus and expand her knowledge of the alphabet and being able to identify all her letters so quickly and notice them in her environment. Lately the weather has been so nice so we have been doing a lot of outdoor activities such as scavenger Hunts and Nature play which she loves too.
My ideas come from a lot of places, I usually research a lot at night and look through blogs , Pinterest , Facebook and Instagram for ideas and inspiration as well as my own ideas. There are so many amazing ideas out there.
Can you share a few of your favorite activities?
Absolutely. It was hard to narrow it down because they are all so different but here are a few that are easy to recreate at home.
1. The first craft is a Heart and Butterfly Sun-catcher, we did this the first week of social distancing and it is still going strong on our window. They are so bright and beautiful when the light shines on them and you only need a few supplies. Such a great way to being color into your home.
What you need: Heart or Butterfly Template, white paper, colored tissue Paper, Scissors, black marker, Contact paper or Press n Seal.
What to do:
- Print or draw the template that you want to use with a black marker. (I googled a heart and butterfly template and printed off one of each).
- Cut out the middle of the heart or butterfly and cut around the template to get the shape you desire just leaving the black outline.
- Cut a piece of contact paper or Press n Seal slightly larger than your template. Stick the template to contact paper or Press n Seal.
- Cut up small squares of different colored tissue paper and invite kids to press them on the contact paper or Press n Seal (I used tissue paper that was left over from gifts that I had received) .
- Get a second piece of contact paper or Press n Seal and put it over the Butterfly or heart or whatever shape you have created and seal it down. Cut off any extra contact paper leaving the desired shape.
- Stick it on your window and let the colors shine through. (We used double sided tape to put it on the window but you could also hang it up with string.
2. DIY Rice Sensory Scooping Station
This is an oldie but goodie and it is one of my favorites because it is so easy and quick to set up and you can use it again and again. You can add measuring spoons, scoopers, plastic eggs and basically anything you can find to scoop , pour and play with. You can hide letters, numbers or puzzle pieces in there for them to find and complete a puzzle.You can make shakers, art projects, discovery bottles . The list is endless. There are so many ways to play with it and I find it such a relaxing experience. It keeps my little one entertained for hours. The goal is to scoop the rice into the funnels and into the eggs. I do set ground rules not to throw it , dump it or eat it and I usually put a large blanket or plastic table cloth underneath to contain any mess.
What you need: Rice , containers, scoops , storage tub, paper towel rolls, plastic eggs, Ziploc bags, vinegar , food coloring.
What to do: To make the colored rice I get 4 zip lock bags and put 2 cups of uncooked white rice in each. I put 2 tablespoons of vinegar in each and a few drops of different colored food coloring in each bag. Close the bag and shake it (kids like to do that part). Once it is mixed well put parchment paper down and spread it out on a tray or container and let it dry. (The rice keeps for years if it is stored in an air tight container).
– Pour rice into a storage bin and add your items such as measuring spoons, scoopers, paper towel rolls for funnels and have fun.
3. DIY Popsicle Stick Puzzle
This is such a simple, fun DIY activity that is also great for learning, counting and problem solving. They are so easy to make and great to take to restaurants or places when you are looking for something quick to entertain your little one. They are super easy to store in a ziplock bag and easy for little hands to assemble and use over and over. You can change it up with all their favorite characters or animals.
What you will need:
Popsicle sticks, markers and paints , painters tape, Ziploc bag
What to do:
-Get 10 popsicle sticks and line them up beside each other and tape the back of them together to keep them in place.
-Number them 1 through 10
-Depending on the age of your little one they can help draw their favorite animal or character on the popsicle sticks and color them in or paint them or you can do it for them.
-Let them put the puzzle together using the numbers to guide them.
-Put them in a ziplock bag and take them with you.
4. Rainbow Scavenger Hunt
This is one that you can throw together last minute and a fun way to explore the outdoors and so much fun to do together as a family. It is also a great way to introduce plants, flowers, leaves and discuss textures and colors.
What you need: Paper, markers, paper bag (Toilet paper rolls for binoculars (optional) )
What to do:
- Write Rainbow Scavenger Hunt at the top of your paper.
- Choose the colors you want to include in your hunt and draw squares or hearts down the side of the paper.
- Take a bag with you and go around exploring and collecting pieces of nature to match to the chosen colors. Place the items in the bag and bring it back to put on the paper.
- Have fun telling everyone about the items you have found. It’s a fun challenge when a few people are taking part as they get to compare their findings with everyone else.
- We added the homemade binoculars for an extra fun element.
5. Alphabet Soup
This is a fun Sensory and Early Literacy Activity that’s been around for a long time but that never gets old. It’s such a great way for them to move and learn and engage with letters and anything with water is usually a hit. It can be done inside or outside.
What you need:
Storage container, chalk, letters, water and food coloring (optional) , ladle or spoon
What to do:
-Fill up a storage bin half way with water
-Add food coloring (optional )
-Add in letters and get a ladle or scooper
-Write the alphabet on the ground with chalk or use a sharpie to draw it on an old cookie sheet.
-Scoop one letter out at a time, ask you little one to name the letter and then match it with the chalk letter on the ground. ( you can extend it by asking for words that begin with the letter)
-Continue with same process with the rest of the letters and have fun with the water .
Keep up-to-date with all of the at-home activities Katrina is doing with her daughter by following @toddlertimeactivities on Instagram. Check it out today, try one of her suggestions, and tag @toddlertimeactivities this week!