Archive for the ‘4 Years’ Category

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!!!


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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.


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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!

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Robert’s Age: 2-3/4

Success Rating: Moderate – he likes it when I wear the puppet and make it talk but isn’t interested in wearing it himself yet – maybe when he’s a little older. But if you’re little one likes puppets, this one is sure to be a hit!

Koala Puppet Completed

I was born and raised in Australia, so I figured my first puppet should be something from ‘home’. Stay tuned for a lion and a frog puppet, coming soon.


  • Koala Puppet Pattern (PDF)
  • 2 sheets gray felt
  • 1 sheet white or cream felt
  • 1 sheet black felt
  • A pen
  • Sewing pins
  • Gray thread
  • White/cream thread
  • Black thread
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine (or, if you have a little time, you could sew it by hand)


  1. Print the Koala Puppet Patternand cut out the pattern pieces.Koala Puppet Pieces
  2. On the front of the body, position the whites of the eyes on the felt, then place the black eye centers on top of them, and position the nose beneath the eyes. Pin the nose and one of the eyes to the koala. Stitch a small cross in the black center of the other eye to attach it to the body, then repeat with the other eye, then stitch around the edges of the nose.Koala Puppet Eyes and Nose
  3. Now position the belly on the front of the body, pin it, and stitch it in place.Koala Puppet Belly
  4. Take the left white inner ear piece, and place it on top of one of the left outer ear pieces, then stitch the inner ear to the outer. Repeat with the right ear pieces.Koala Puppet Ears - Front
  5. Take the second left outer ear pieces and place it behind the left front piece. Stitch around the edge of the outer ear with gray thread to secure the two pieces together. Repeat with the right ear.Koala Puppet Ear Backs
  6. Take the back body piece and position the ears, pin them, and stitch them in place.Koala Puppet - Ears Attached
  7. Place the back body piece, with ears attached and facing up, and place it on your work surface, then place the front body piece, on top, with eyes, nose and belly facing up. Pin the two body pieces together, then stitch around the edge making sure not to stitch the bottom edge (where you hand will go inside the puppet.)Koala Puppet Completed

They also make great party favors.

Koala Puppet Party Favors


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Robert’s Age: 2-3/4 but this activity would be great for 3-5 year olds to help them learn their fish
Success Rating: Excellent! Hours of fun catching fish off various surfaces around the house, dragging them down hallways and up the stairs.

As my husband is an avid fisherman, and Robert is sooooooo into whales and fish, I’ve been contemplating making a fishing game like the one posted on How the Sun Rose for a while. At first I was going to make some nice bright tropical fish out of felt, but wanting to incorporate more ‘sense of place’ education  I decided to investigate what it would take to make some local fish species instead.

The problem with local fish is that they do not have as many color variations as tropical fish, and I decided sewing something that would have any chance of being identified was going to be too difficult and time consuming, so I decided upon a ‘printable’ fish game. I hope you enjoy it!

I trolled the web for public domain images (i.e., ones that are not subject to copyright) of local fish, and after several hours of searching and Photoshop-ing, developed twelve fish for the game:

  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Brook Trout
  • Brown Bullhead
  • Channel Catfish
  • Green Sunfish
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Striped Bass
  • Walleye
  • Yellow Perch


For the Fish

  • 5 sheets copy paper for printing the fish worksheets (or, if you wanted to make them more robust you could use printable card stock or photo paper)
  • A color printer
  • PDF Fish Worksheets
  • Scissors
  • A glue stick
  • Clear contact paper
  • A sewing needle or similar sharp instrument for poking holes in the fish (a compass point would also work)
  • 12 paperclips

For the Fishing Pole

If you already have another fishing game or puzzle that includes a pole, feel free to use it. If not:

  • A stick, or piece of wood dowel, about 18 inches long – a bit shorter or longer doesn’t matter
  • A knife for notching the stick (I just used a serrated kitchen knife)
  • A piece of fishing line, or string (length will depend on your child’s height, but I cut mine about 28 inches long)
  • A magnet that can be secured to the end of the string with a knot

For the Water

  • A piece of blue or green fabric works well. For a greater challenge you might want to put the fish inside a deep bowl (so your child can’t see them while fishing) or drape your fabric over (and inside) a big cardboard box to conceal the fish – you could also paint the box blue.


For the Fish

  1. Print the worksheets.
  2. Roughly cut up the worksheets to separate the fish, then take a fish and fold the two halves together along the fold line so that the picture is facing out.
  3. Lightly apply glue to the back of one side of the fish and press the two halves together. If you use too much glue the paper will rip when cutting.
  4. Cut out the fish (it doesn’t matter if you don’t cut out every tiny detail, it’s just a game.)
  5. Cut a piece of contact paper twice the length of the fish, then fold it in half, with the back sides of the contact paper facing each other.
  6. Peel off the backing paper and place the fish on one half, then fold over and press to seal.
  7. Cut away the excess contact paper, leaving a good quarter inch (half cm) strip of contact paper all around to help protect your fish.
  8. Take the sewing needle and push through the fish’s mouth to create a small hole.
  9. Thread a paperclip through the hole.
  10. Repeat with the remaining fish.

For the Fishing Pole

  1. Cut a small v-shaped notch about 1-/4 inch (0.5cm) in from the end of the dowel or stick, then roll the dowel and repeat on the other side (of the same end.) This will help hold the line in place.
  2. Tie your line to the end of your dowel, making sure to cinch it in the notch (I just used a reef knot), and cut away the excess line.
  3. Attach your magnet to the other end of the line, and cut away any excess.

Now set up your ‘water’, place the fish on/in it and you’re ready to go fishing!!!!

Feedback on the worksheets is always welcome. I hope you enjoy the game!

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