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I joined a play group over the summer that has been awesome so far. The babies range from 6-18 months, but Luca seems to be on the younger end of the group. We recently did a busy bag exchange and I wanted to share with you how it went!

So, a busy bag is intended to be something small, quiet, and simple to help occupy a toddler easily- think doctor’s waiting room, restaurant, church, etc.  Ours were all hand made, although I’m sure you can buy them somewhere online if you wanted to (etsy sells everything these days, doesn’t it?)

We had 30 (!) participants in our group, which meant that each mom made 30 of the same activity, and then we swapped so that at the end of the day each mom walked away with 30 different activities.  Thirty was definitely a lot, but I think it was worth it.  All of the moms worked so hard on their activities, and Luca has really enjoyed them so far!

I wanted to first show you the activity I made for the group.  I chose a sensory bag because it seemed easy enough- and it was easy but was also time consuming having to make so many of them.  I searched around for a few examples and then headed out for my supplies.

 

You can use any small items you’d like, but I went with googly eyes, smooth rocks, foam shapes, beads, and larger hooks in various shapes.DSC_0174

Then I filled a sandwich bag with colored hair gel.  (I used LA Looks- it came in large bottles and was inexpensive. I used 1/4- 1/3 of a bottle per each bag.) Then I carefully dropped in a few items and sealed the bag.  I then put that bag inside of an additional sandwich bag, and then sealed all sides with colorful duct tape.DSC_0177

The bag is soft and squishy and it seems to hold Luca’s attention for a minute or two.  I can’t ask for much more at this point, so I will call this project a win! DSC_0180

Over the next week or two I want to share some of the activities we received from the swap. They are awesome- and really great age-appropriate ideas to entertain toddlers.

(In the past few posts, I’ve noticed Luca is wearing the same pair of pajamas. I assure you, the kid has more than one pair, so it is just a coincidence that I photograph him in the same thing each time!)

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Luca has started to show an interest in coloring and drawing which is awesome! I wanted to share with you guys a product that I found to be really age appropriate for Luca and the stage that he’s at right now.

I started off with Crayola’s toddler markers but I have to say I’m not totally crazy about them.  I do really appreciate that they are fat and make it easier for him to hold, but I find it so difficult to get the color to come out! You have to press on the tip and shake the marker to bring the color to the tip.  They are great beginner markers though, and the width of them keeps them from rolling off the table.

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Getting ready to color at his new table!

Side note- I also purchased Luca some coloring books from Target and later learned that Dollar Tree sells the EXACT same books (as in, the pictures are exactly the same) for one third of the price.  The only difference I found was the dollar store books did not have a sheet of stickers inside.  That’s not a big deal for us, since Luca is terrified of stickers (yes… really)- but that’s a story for another day.

Occasionally, Luca would try to put the marker in his mouth and eat or suck on the ink.  I know they’re non-toxic but I still wanted to find an alternative for him that worked well. The solution- water!

We browsed through the toy store one afternoon and came home with three products that I totally love and find to be very appropriate for his age.

One- the Aquadoodle mat. This is a large floor mat that allows you to fill a pen with water and draw all over it.  Luca loves this and likes to sit directly in the center of the mat and trace around his feet. I love that the material is fabric so I’m not worried about him breaking anything.

Two- The B. drawing board.  Luca received the B. drum set for his birthday and loves the instruments.  We also have a set of cars (these are similar) that get lots of play time.  Truthfully, everything we have played with from this brand has been wonderful! We definitely recommend them.  But back to the drawing board (see what I did there?)- this thing is awesome.  It has four water-filled pens to use and is double sided.  It’s a bit large but can travel well (I foresee this being a great tool to bring to Sunday mass, on car rides, and so on).DSC_0188

Lauren and I try so hard to not compare his development with other kids.  It’s tough.  You see other kids around the same age doing things you would have expected your own child to be doing (eating a wide variety of foods, saying certain words, singing, walking, etc.,) but you have to remind yourself that development is a process, and every one’s process is unique.

For example, Luca hasn’t shown too much interest in walking – crawling lets him get around quicker!  He’s quick to climb and cruise, but hasn’t been eager to take those daring steps.  Maybe he’s just lazy like his dear old Dad. :)

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Finally, he decided he wanted to take a few steps the other day, and was consistently walking 2-3 steps between Lauren and my Mom, and I did the one thing every stereotypical dad does…I pushed him too hard.  I widened the gap, and encouraged him to take just a few more steps.  He fell on his knees and cried, and we haven’t seen him overcome that fear and walk since.

I learned a valuable lesson in fatherhood – don’t be that dad.  He doesn’t need to walk like a man.  He needs to walk like a little boy learning to walk.  Luca is going to fall, and I know that, but he doesn’t need to fall because I pushed him beyond his limits.  I think I got over-excited, but have since quickly realized that patience and support is all he needs right now.

He’ll get there (and maybe I will too.)

Technically, I don’t even know if this qualifies as a DIY because I literally did nothing more than plug in a hot glue gun.

As I mentioned before, Luca is spending more time standing right now.  He discovered that the dishwasher is magnetic, and has been having a lot of fun moving the magnets around on there.  Unfortunately, we thought that the magnets might be scratching the stainless surface so we had to nix this activity…. for now.

I was determined to come up with an alternative for him, as I was really pleased with how well Luca was standing with his hands full and wanted to help him develop this skill even further.  After a bit of searching (pinterest is the best, isn’t it??), I found the most simple solution.DSC_0167

This is an oil drip pan, found in the auto section at Walmart.  This thing is MASSIVE- and the best part? It’s only $12. I quickly collected a few various items to use as fun magnets, like hot wheels cars, bug and dinosaur figurines, and foam letters.  I purchased flexible magnets (from Michaels) and hot glued them together.

I have it leaned against the wall in our ‘temporary housing’ right now, but my plan is to screw it into the wall of Luca’s play room.  I definitely wouldn’t leave it leaning, as Luca has tried to pull it down several times already, but it will be fine until we move.  I also plan to paint it to match his play room down the road (with metal- safe spray paint).

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He loves taking them off and on and ‘vrooming’ the cars all over- I mark this little project as a success!