I never realized how much I would come to value my $49 Ikea high chairs. Not nearly as much as I value the fact that Sheetz now sells wine, but those chairs are highly valued, nonetheless. They’re like golden plastic to me during this current season. Especially given the weird, don’t-leave-your-house circumstances we’re living under that has guilted me into a homeschooling hot mess.
Little known fact about me: my dream was once to be an elementary school teacher. I completed 3 years of college as an Early Childhood & Special Education major. I even finished 2 out of 3 rounds of student teaching. The summer that I was to be entering my senior year, against all advice and with my parents disapproval, I made the decision to completely reroute my life plan and changed my major to Hospitality Management. I loved it. But I no longer work in that field either. Go figure.
All that to say- I never imagined I’d be both mama/teacher to my kids, on top of running a business & blogging 3-4 times per week..and did I mention I also sell Beautycounter too? Homeschooling was definitely not anywhere on my radar. But as much as I complain, I’m actually really enjoying it. I look forward to the short lesson plans that I put together each morning. We only spend about about 1 or 2 hours a day doing actual school work. And I break it up into 20-30 minute segments. The rest of the day is spent playing, reading, doing puzzles, and more screen time than I care to admit. But, hey we’re all just surviving right now. Later this week I’ll be sharing an example of my daily letter recognition lesson plans & how I incorporate a craft, preschool math practice, and sometimes a quick preschool science experiment. Okay, sometimes “science” is just me putting Blippi on YouTube. Ya know, survival mode.
In between the every day madness of Quarantine Land, I do my best to chisel out a time to sit down with my 3 & 4 year old to do school work. Reese calls me “Teacher Mama” during this time and I still think it’s the cutest thing I’ve ever heard every time she says it. They do well! They enjoy the routine of it. But Aesa & Isla? Not so much. I mean, they’re 18 months, what would you expect? Not to mention, these girls are legit partners in crime, capable of emptying an entire cabinet of canned goods faster than I can make it into the kitchen. So while I’m focusing on schoolwork with Jax & Reese, allowing the twins any amount of unsupervised free-play just isn’t happening.
I wish I could say that I came up with these high chair crafts & activities on my own but that’d be a lie. My sister is a Goddard preschool teacher who has given me some of the cutest ideas over the past few years. The 6 distractors I’m going to list for you have kept Aesa & Isla busy the longest. That makes them the best in my book. I do hate to refer to these activities only as distractors though- even though that’s what they are. But these hacks do serve actual purpose in regards to your baby’s little developing mind too. Which is just as important as your 15 minutes of peace… maybe.
Rainbow Craft Sticks & Painter’s Tape
This one is so simple and has probably kept them the busiest the longest. Even though I use activities like this to distract them while doing a miscellaneous task or homeschooling my older two, it’s hard not to stop and just watch them. The level of concentration they use to pick & pull and figure out how exactly to remove the craft sticks from their tray is really adorable. I love that this is also targeting both their fine motor skills and their problem solving skills. Be sure to use masking tape or painters tape! I used duct tape once and didn’t realize it would leave so much residue. That removal was super annoying. If your little one is still putting anything & everything into their mouth, you may want to use colorless craft sticks. We had an issue with that at one point too and Aesa had a blue mouth for a couple of hours.
Pom Pom Stuffed Whisk Balls
This one is just completely ingenious! We use the basically useless whisk balls out of shaker bottles, but you could also use just a regular whisk! Fill it with craft pom poms and hand it to your baby. My twins will meticulously remove the pom poms & then push them back in over & over again. The girls love this and I love that it’s another activity that targets a number of skills- fine motor, problem solving, and sensory needs.
Mess Free Painting
This can be done 2 different ways.. with or without card stock inside of a gallon freezer bag. If you’re using card stock, you can start by simply squirting large puddles of paint all over the paper and then easily slide it right into the bag. Your baby can then squish the paint around in different directions. Afterwards, you can remove the paper and show them the beautiful art they created. This can also be done without card stock and the paint can simply be squished around as pure sensory play. If your baby is anything like mine- you’ll want to seal the bag with duct tape or something similar. Isla has a tendency to immediately try to rip open the bag.
Individual Sensory Bowls
Use children’s cereal bowls to create a small, individual sized sensory bin. We include uncooked rice, coconut flakes, cuts of cardstock, dry pasta, and cuts of both plastic & paper straws. Just really mix up a good variety of textures! This is another one that keeps my girls busy for a really good amount of time (probably 20-30 minutes, it’s magic I swear.) Make sure they have a small spoon to scoop & swirl! Sensory bowls & larger sensory bins are another great fine motor tool, but in my opinion even more importantly they serve the purpose of meeting a child’s sensory needs. Their sensory needs are something that they can’t voice to you that they need, but they just know they need. This is a big part of why it keeps their attention for such a long time. This short and sweet “activity” is also a gamechanger to breakout when it comes to cooling tantrums. It’s a great idea to empty the bowl into a baggy or storage container for easy access the next time around!
This one is pretty much a variation of the “mess free painting” and only holds their attention if I bring it back out every couple of weeks. Any sooner and I can see it in their face that it’s just “old news”. Simply fill a large freezer bag about 2 inches up with rainbow sprinkles. Seal the opening with tape and hand it over. Your baby will be able to squish and swirl the sprinkles inside of the bag around. Sensory play for another big W!
We actually use these for both baths and highchair play! The babies love the way they stick to their trays and work so hard to pull them off. They’re bright & colorful which helps to hold their attention as well. I love that they double as bath toys too and all 4 of my kiddos love sticking them all over the shower walls & inside of the tub. You can find them on amazon here.
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