Pine Cone Toss

Robert’s Age: 3

Success Rating: A nice afternoon distraction!

This is a simple one, but after collection some cones (they were actually spruce cones as we didn’t yet have any real pine cones on the ground) in a basket, placed it at the top of the ramp to our shed, then placed another basket a short distance from the bottom end of the ramp, and Robert walked up the ramp to get a cone, then down the ramp to tossed it in the other basket. This activity bought me the 20 minutes I needed to clean up some trash the raccoons had so very kindly distributed across our yard!


Robert’s Age: 3

Success Rating: Fun, but Robert preferred Mommy to do the painting!

How about an art activity with zero cleanup! Now, if you’re driveway is not bitumen, or it is in mint, freshly sealed condition, this activity may not work for you, but a slightly weathered bitumen driveway is perfect for disappearing paint…. i.e., Water!

Don’t have the right sort of driveway? Try this at the park instead.

I used a 1 inch paintbrush that I picked up at a local yard sale for a quarter, and a plastic tub from the kitchen. This activity is best done on a slightly cooler day with not too much wind so the ‘paint’ doesn’t evaporate too quickly.

Robert tried his hand at it for a while, however, admittedly he preferred Mommy to do the painting. A row of circles became a great jumping activity (and I know he has an apple in his hand but I promise he wasn’t actively eating while jumping, I just couldn’t get him to put it down!)

And no art activity is complete in our home without a whale with a blow hole…


Robert’s Age: 3

Success Rating: Great! He’s played with these every nice day this fall!

As our house can be prone to blackouts in the wintertime, my husband likes to make sure we have a good stash of firewood at hand for ‘just-in-case’ heat…. ok, so judging by the piles in the background, maybe he’s a little obsessive about his firewood collection, but the up side for us is that a recent delivery of stumps from the local tree guy turned into a myriad options for play. After convincing my DH that using a few stumps used as temporary climbing structures would not have a significant impact on his firewood supply (they wouldn’t be ready for burning this year anyway) I set to work arranging some stumps in the yard.

It took a few tries to find the right angle/placement before they were level and steady enough for climbing, but much fun followed. Robert had a great time stepping at first…

…then jumping from one stump to the next.

Then we took a smaller round and rested an old plank across it to make a see-saw type structure. It’s not the type you’d want to sit on, as I didn’t attach a piece of wood to the bottom of each end of the plank to keep fingers from getting jammed, however it was great for walking…

He spent some time testing it out…

… but once Robert got the hang of the motion it wasn’t long before he was running as quickly as possible across it became a fun game.

We then tried our see-saw with a larger round, but it was a bit too scary for Robert to scale without assistance, so he tried his hand at rolling the round instead.

And of course, you have to make time for pondering pine needles…

All in all, a delightful fall activity!!!

Robert’s Age: 2-3/4

Success Rating: Robert LOVES to play in the bath!

I know for some parents bath time is a production line… get them in, get them washed, dried, and dressed. For Robert it’s one of his favorite play times. So I usually run the bath while he fetches is whales, then pull up a pew (aka, the toilet) and sit back for a half hour or so…. sometimes he wants me to join in, but usually he’s quite content to play by himself so I’ll read a book or play a few turns of Words With Friends on my phone 😉

Sometimes he’ll do some pouring, as shown above, but his favorite bath time game is with his whales. He’ll have them breaching, diving and splashing their tales. Sometimes he asks to take a bath two or three times in a day just so he can have more play time with his whales in ‘real water’.

And what’s his favorite whale? The Humpback Whale. Sometimes he’ll even sing like a male Humpback, or have the mommy Humpback nudging her baby to the surface to breath (thanks to a David Attenborough’s documentary on Humpack Whales, which he loves.)

Bath time is definitely one of our favorite times of the day!

Playing with Whales in the Bath

Robert’s Age: 2-3/4

Success Rating: Fabulous! Until it popped 😦  Note to self, always have a large supply of balloons on hand.

Last winter we had a lot of fun playing balloon volleyball, but I never thought to attach a string to one. This balloon came to us courtesy of the Warren County Farmer’s Fair in early August. It was originally a helium balloon, hence the string. That was fun, but the next morning, much to my surprise, having lost its loft it became an even greater hit. Robert pulled that balloon around the house for an hour and a half! He draped it over furniture, pulled it up and down stairs to see how it would bounce about, and up and down the hall.

I will definitely be adding a string to some of the balloons we blow up in the future!

Robert’s Age: We set these up when Robert was 2-1/2

Success Rating: Huge Success! Robert is way less inclined to fling his toys everywhere in search of the one he wants, and way more inclined to put them away by himself.

In March 2011 we banished the toy bins!

Prior to setting up these shelves we had toys in bins, and puzzled stacked under the coffee table and in cupboards. Many of them didn’t get played with because they were not easily accessible, and others were constantly thrown about as Robert would dig down in a bin trying to find the toy (usually one of his animals) he wanted to play with.

I searched high and low for a shelving solution, both new and second hand. The problem was most traditional shelves were set too far apart for maximum storage within easy reach of a three foot high child, shelves designed for paperback books were not deep enough, and purpose built preschool shelves were prohibitively expensive. So I started looking at shoe racks, many of which are also quite expensive for what you get, but found a solution at Sam’s Club that met our needs.

These are not the world’s strongest shelves by any means, the shelf slats are plastic, and the metal frame is fairly light weight (if you have an avid climber they may not be for you) but for my purpose they have been brilliant. Each unit has three shelves, 24 inches wide by 12 inches deep. They are stackable, so after stacking two units I have  five shelves that Robert can easily reach, and one that he’ll be able to reach in another year or so.  Pictured above are two units stacked one on top of the other. They are also modular, so downstairs (see below) I have three units assemble in a different configuration.

Unfortunately we don’t have enough shelves for all his puzzles and toys (nor space to put them), but I keep the rest stored away and rotate them regularly. Since putting up these shelves I have several friends who have asked me to get some for them!

As the shelves are slatted, they didn’t work so well for his animals (the feet can fall through), so instead I cleared a shelf on one of our existing bookshelves for animal storage. Now Robert only pulls out the animals he wants to play with, and while he’s not inclined to put his animals away unprompted, he’s very good about doing so when asked.


Robert’s Age: Made for him at 2-2/3

Success Rating: Great Success! Robert LOVES the autonomy of being able to put his own books away. Since we set up this bookshelf in Robert’s room three months ago, he puts his own books away, unprompted, about 80% of the time.

We don’t have a lot of room in our house. There definitely isn’t enough floor space in Robert’s bedroom for a ready made sling bookshelf, and I was getting sick of picking up all the books off the floor. Robert LOVES his books, but he would always pulled half of his books off the old shelves in order to locate the one he wanted,  and struggled to put them away. So after some searching online for a workable solution I stumbled across this great set of instructions from Instructables for Canvas Pocket Book Shelves.

The only note I would make is that I made a 48 inch wide shelf instead of the 36 inch width in the instructions. If I was making it again I would increase the diameter of the dowels to 3/4 inch as they have bowed a little, since I made the shelves three months ago, but not noticeably, nor enough to impede the function of the shelves. If you are making a 36 inch wide version I’m sure the 1/2 inch would be fine. Enjoy!