I’ve read nearly 800 different books with Raven over the past couple years as part of the 1,000 book challenge we’re trying to complete before she enters kindergarten, but I’ve hardly talked about kids’ books (or toys or activities or crafts) here on the blog at all. I figured it might be fun to do a little series every once in awhile that rounds up some of the activities, books, and other things we’ve been enjoying lately.
Note: There are Amazon affiliate links below, which means I may get a small commission on any purchases made, at no extra cost to you.
- Spaghetti and Marshmallow Structures
- One of the hardest times for me as a mom is the span right before dinner, when the kids are cranky and hungry and hanging all over me, begging for food. This is an easy thing to pull out for my 4-year-old, and as long as you don’t mind your kids sneaking a few ‘mallows before dinner, it’s the perfect distraction. Basically, you just give kids dry spaghetti noodles and marshmallows (any size), and they try to create structures/figurines with those two things by pushing the noodles into and through the marshmallows.
- Lava Rescue (pictured above)
- Get a piece of paper colored with red and orange squiggles (or a piece of orange/red/yellow fabric or a blanket) to act as the “lava” river. Then get some kitchen tongs and a bunch of random, assorted toys or small objects of varying sizes and shapes. The objective is to use the tongs to move each piece safely across the lava without a single one falling in. If there’s more than one kid playing, they could keep a tally and compete over who can rescue more objects safely (and you can make it harder by increasing the size of the “lava river” or by getting particularly small/awkward-shaped objects).
- I am not crafty. Like, at all. But my daughter loves making things, so one of the easiest crafts I can give her to make is a bookmark. Just cut out a rectangle or have your kids cut one out (you can do a decorative edge or corners at the top if you’re feeling adventurous), put out markers and stickers, and let them go to town decorating them. At the end, punch a hole in the top, put a ribbon through (I usually use leftover ribbon from gifts we’ve received), and call it good.
- If you have a preschooler or a kid old enough to use scissors and glue sticks on their own, collages are an easy activity to pull together (albeit a little messy). Just put a bunch of magazines and newspapers on the table and let your kid cut out the pictures they like and arrange them on a piece of blank cardstock or computer paper. I had to show my daughter a couple ideas, but once I did, she completely took over and made about 5 on her own over the next hour or so.
- Pete the Cat: Wheels on the Bus by James Dean
- We’ve owned this one forever, and I’ll admit, it took me awhile to not roll my eyes when it was chosen to be read yet again. But now, we have actions and specific things we do for each verse of the song and both kids get super into it, which is just fun. (And, if all else fails, I can sometimes manage to be sneaky and skip a few of the pages as it is a bit long, ha ha.)
- Tremendous Tractors by Tony Mitton
- Both my kids like big machines/trucks/trains/construction, and I liked this recent library find because I legitimately learned stuff about certain farm machines I didn’t before, plus the book had good flow and fun illustrations.
- Car, Car, Truck, Jeep by Katrina Charman
- This is one I’m thinking of buying for my son’s stocking for Christmas (for more board books that make great stocking stuffers, check out this post). The book is set to the tune of Baa, Baa Black Sheep and is all about things that go.
- The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits by Douglas Florian
- Both of our kids are kind of obsessed with animals (especially our youngest), and this board book explores some of the daily activities of rabbits (many of which will mirror a typical child’s), and I personally always appreciate a book that ends with the main characters going to sleep, as it encourages bedtime.
- Shake a Leg! by Constance Allen
- I usually avoid “character” books at any cost (aka, picture books based on popular culture), but this Sesame Street board book was surprisingly fun—it basically is a rhyming song that has kids up and dancing and moving around, and it always got both kids laughing when we read it together.
- Hippo Has a Hat by Julia Donaldson
- This silly book about various animals in different items of clothing has a great rhythm to it, plus the illustrations are funny. It’s one I wouldn’t mind owning.
- Nelly Gnu and Daddy Too by Anna Dewdney
- Dewdney is a big favorite at our house (we’ve read most of the Llama Llama books), and this story about a girl and her fun-loving daddy is one we just ran across and took to immediately.
- Homemade Mac & Cheese
- The first recipe listed in this blog post I did on homemade mac and cheese three different ways is a regular lunch staple at our house. It comes together in the same amount of time that it takes to do the boxed stuff, but it’s way healthier (and tastes better I think, too).
- 10-Minute Garlic Alfredo Sauce
- This recipe from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe is on regular rotation at our house. It’s quick enough to make for lunch, but we make it even more often as a dinner option that we know will be loved by everyone. (Note: Dinners are usually my time not to worry about what the kids want to eat and just make them eat whatever so they get into good eating habits and don’t get picky, but sometimes it’s nice just to know I’ll get no pushback from my preschooler about what I’ve made.)
- Deconstructed Meals (i.e., enchiladas)
- My 4-year-old isn’t super picky, but she is definitely more hesitant about eating certain things than my toddler son. One entire class of foods she’s basically decided to blacklist? Enchiladas. So now, whenever I make enchiladas (which is a couple times in a month), I just do a “deconstructed” enchilada for her and just do all the components separately. For whatever reason, it makes it so she’ll eat most of what’s put in front of her (perhaps because she can see all the separate things that are in it?) instead of just turning up her nose immediately. (Our favorite beef enchilada recipe is this one, and we regularly make these honey and lime creamy enchiladas.)
- Melissa and Doug ABC Puzzle
- We bought this one probably a little *too* early for our daughter (before she started learning her letters a couple years ago), but she now LOVES it—it’s the perfect way to practice what she’s learning in preschool. My only complaint when we bought it is that the pieces were all basically interchangeable, where I would have preferred each alphabet pair to have its own unique design to fit together. Now though, it looks like they’ve fixed that problem, as the pieces look different from each other when I just looked it up on Amazon.
- I’m so excited we’re finally getting to the point where we can play “real” games with our oldest, and her latest favorite is Uno (plus it’s a great way to practice her numbers and teach basic strategy).
- Melissa and Doug Animal Fridge Magnets
- My 17-month-old has spent hours playing with these on our fridge (pictured below). He loves practicing the different animal sounds, looking for whichever animal we tell him to pick out, and seeing all the different surfaces they stick to. And, surprisingly, our 4-year-old still plays with them almost as much as he does, too (though her play is a bit more complex, as you’d expect).
- I Spy Go Fish
- Another “real” game we can play together (that’s not Candyland yet again!). We’ll play the traditional version of this game, but since this is the I Spy version, we’ve also done lots of little variations of it (many of which are included in the game’s instructions).
- Thomas the Tank Engine Ride On Train (pictured above)
- So my sister actually gave us this as a hand-me-down, but I am kind of flabbergasted as to how much literally every kid that comes to our house loves it and plays with it. I would say that it’s by far the toy that gets the most use in our house lately (by both kids), and it’s also been a good way to encourage Mathias to walk, since he likes to just walk and push it along in front of him. Best hand-me-down we ever got!
What have your kids been into lately? We’re always on the lookout for new things! (And if you have anything else kid-related you’d like to see in this series or in another post, please let me know!)