Hands On As We Grow is all about learning to do hands on activities with your kids. I share lots of practical, easy activities, and sneak in learning opportunities whenever I can. You’ll find crafts, art projects, gross motor activities, and fine motor activities regularly on the blog.
Our 4-year-old and 1-year-old both love this and it is a great tool for sorting and tracing.
4 Creative Ways to Use Your DIY Lightbox
DIY Lightbox Color Sorting
Mostly our 1-year- old likes to put different objects on the lightbox and watch the light shine through.
He is plenty busy just using the lightbox as one tool in free play. He silently puts all sorts of different things on it.
I am sure he’s learning without any additional input needed from me.
However, I did print out a color sorting sheet to put on top. I have started talking to him about the colors and he enjoys putting different objects into the circles, which is great fine motor practice.
My 4-year-old loves doing the color sorting as well, even though it is no challenge for her.
DIY Lightbox Letter Writing
Our DIY lightbox is an excellent tool for moving to free letter writing. It can be used as a transition between tracing and free writing.
Just take any page of letters or workbook page and put it on top of the lightbox. Add a plain piece of paper over it and the child can “trace” away.
We like to use this for card-making too. Our 4-year-old loves making cards for friends and family.
I can write out the words (i.e. Happy Birthday Pop-Pop) on one sheet of paper and she can place her sheet over that. She feels very proud about making a card independently!
Lightbox Number Writing
If it’s numbers you are working on, use a number page over the lightbox. Your kids can trace the numbers and sort objects into numbered piles.
Screen-Free Mom is a psychologist who is happily raising her two kids sans screens. She runs Screen Free Parenting where she writes about the effects of screens on children and provides tons of screen-free alternative activities. She has developed a system to help organize the activities she believes young children learn and grow from: the S.P.O.I.L. system. Before you turn on the screen, she asks, “Have you SPOIL-ed your child yet today?". You can follow Screen-Free Parenting via her website newsletter or on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Start making the different sounds as your kids make the movements. Make the sounds in the same order or mix it up – totally your call.
Pro Tip: some kids listen “better” with their eyes shut. Give it a try and see what happens!
Ready to stop playing? Make the sound to communicate to stop and transition to the next activity.
A follow-up variation could be for your kids to become the sound maker and you make the movements. Or your kids could play this game as an independent group activity as well.
Did you know there’s an extra little bit of sneaky learning in this game? Beyond just following directions, kids are actually discovering the basics of coding – where one symbol (like a sound) stands for another (like an action).
It’s the basis of Morse code, sirens, first responder alerts, and more!
Have fun and enjoy listening, moving, and making memories together.
We love to move and learn together! What are your family’s favorite active learning games?
Chill out with a fun, edible frozen excavation for toddlers! It's a fun way to beat the heat together!
It’s been a hot summer! And we’ve been hunting for ways to cool off while still enjoying lots of outdoor summer fun.
In order to Beat The Heat last week, we froze some berries and dug them out!
Using tools to find hidden treasures is thrilling for a preschooler!
Yummy Edible Frozen Excavation Sensory Play for Kids!
To make your own edible frozen excavation, you’ll need:
berries or fruits, fresh or frozen
ice cube tray
a big freezer-safe container
toy/child-friendly hammer, pliers, screwdriver, etc.
Henry was so excited to dig out his buried treasure. We got started by making the “buried treasures” together.
We had some leftover fruit in the fridge: blueberries, black raspberries, and grapes. Together, we added them to an ice cube tray partially filled with water and froze them.
I also used a bigger freezer-safe container to make a giant block of “treasure” for Henry to uncover later. If you don’t have an ice cube tray handy, you could just make one or more bigger frozen fruit blocks.
I think Henry snacked on as much of the fruit as he did “burying” them.
I brought the salad spinner outside. Beside it, I set out some watered down red and blue paint, spoons and coffee filters.
I enticed Henry to come check it out. Mostly, I just shared that I was going to do a messy painting project and did he want to help.
First, place a flattened out coffee filter into the bottom of the salad spinner. Drip a little of each color paint onto the coffee filter.
We used a spoon, but you use use a medicine dropper or a syringe. Or fingers.
Then the fun part!
You can also drip one color, spin, and then drip the other color and spin.
Check out those creations!
Henry was in complete awe of them.
Sometimes it takes a couple of times to get enough coverage. If that happens, add a little bit more paint and spin again until you get the result you’re looking for.
Turning Spin Art Into Streamers
I could have left them alone. Just by themselves, they were very beautiful and fun spin art!
However, I was looking for a 4th of July craft to do. So, we made them into spin art streamers!
After letting the coffee filters dry for a little bit, I cut them in swirls.
This could have been a great fine motor skill and cutting activity if Henry was to that stage in cutting. But he’s still getting the hang of cutting a straight line, let alone in circles close together.
So I cut it this time! You could freehand the swirl cut or follow a lightly drawn pencil line if you’d like it to be more perfect.
I asked Henry to grab me four sticks that were still floating around in his sandbox after we created the Tin Can Forest.
He grabbed me exactly four.
No questions asked, no other help needed. I’m a very proud mom.
I tied the cut coffee filters onto each stick. Looking back, I should have used yarn to tie them on.
Hand them over to your preschooler, and you have super safe “sparklers” for the 4th of July!
My boys ran, jumped, and played with their spin art streamers all day long!
What are your favorite 4th of July crafts for kids to make? We’d love to see your creative ideas!
My other daughter soon joined in and had the paperclips “dancing” on the construction paper using a magnet underneath.
Then, she grabbed a marker and drew a line on her paper.
The paper clip began traveling across the line thanks to the magnet she was moving underneath the paper.
Did you know the longest paperclip chain contained 66,000 metal paperclips, was 1997.9 meters long and was created by a nine-year-old kid? I didn’t until one of my daughters asked, and we did some research.
Of course, my daughters weren’t going to beat that record, but they still had fun making their own paperclip chains. More fine motor practice!
a sample – either a real US flag or a printed picture
yarn or heavy string
red and white crepe paper
blue scrapbook or construction paper
white scrapbook or construction paper
Count & Pattern with the Flag
Take a peek at your sample US flag. Either a real flag or a printed/digital picture will work.
I had grabbed our flag from the porch to save it from getting ripped to pieces. For this activity, I pulled it out and put it on display at kid-height.
First, I tied a piece of yarn up as tight as I could across an open doorway. If I did this again, I’d probably use a heavier piece of string or twine because our flag is quite heavy.
Then, I hung the flag with clothespins. If you have a clothesline, it would be awesome to do this outside to have it blow in the wind!
I pulled out the step stool for Henry to get a closer look.
I just left it like that for a bit as Henry observed it. Counting the stars as best he could and mostly just being excited about seeing it in the house.
Once we had talked through all the elements of the flag – stars and stripes – we got to work creating our own version!
Easy DIY Fourth of July Activity for Kids
We kept our real flag on display so we could peek at it for ideas and inspiration.
Remember: You don’t actually need a real American flag for this activity. Print off a picture of one or show one on your tablet device.
Note: Absolutely no damage was done to the American flag in this activity!
I didn’t have crepe paper on hand and I really (really) didn’t want to go buy some just for this simple activity.
Since we were missing crepe paper, I was tempted to make a small flag craft on construction paper. But I really wanted to make something big with the kids so they’d get more into it and not think of it as a craft.
So, I gave in and ran to the dollar store and bought crepe paper rolls, for $1 each. Not the end of the world, I guess.
With newly-purchased crepe paper on hand, Henry got to work making his very own American flag. We left our flag up to serve as the backdrop to the kid-made version, but you could certainly separate the two for an extra challenge!
First, he clothespinned one end of the crepe paper at the top to the flag and string, matching colors as he went along. He let the crepe paper hang loosely to the floor where he cut it at the bottom.
This is where I thought measuring could have come into play by pre-measuring his strip of crepe paper. Henry outsmarted me with his way of dangling the crepe paper to the floor, so I let that go.
He worked his way across the flag, one stripe at a time. We talked constantly about the pattern and what color stripe was coming next.
Patterning Your American Flag Stripes
Henry was doing awesome. Once we got to the block of blue, we started getting into some confusion.
Henry still got the red and white stripe pattern right, but his spacing of the stripes got way off. He was ready to put the last stripe space-wise, but based on our actual flag there were still three left to place!
We went back and counted all the crepe paper stripes again, just to make sure we had it right. And we discovered that some of our stripes had gotten mixed up.
Turns out, having the actual flag behind where we were pinning the crepe paper wasn’t such a perfect plan.
After a minor meltdown, we started up again. First I separated the real American Flag with our kid-made one, hanging them side by side.
I had Henry count the stripes again to find that the real American Flag had thirteen stripes. We had made twelve already, so we only had one left!
Phew. That drama was over.
But what color came next? Could he figure it out without the crepe paper on top of the flag?
No problem! Of course, red came after white!
Getting the pattern right was the hardest part. We checked a few times to make sure we had it just right.
Adding Stars to Your Stripes
At last, it was time to add the blue square with a piece of paper. We pinned it up with more clothespins so the crepe paper wouldn’t fall down.
I drew a few stars on a piece of paper for Henry to cut out. I told him he could cut as many as he liked for his flag.
He decided one was all he wanted. I don’t blame him, cutting stars is a pain!
Since I already had the blue paper hung up, we just used a glue stick quick to slap the star on it. You could also pre-stick the stars before you pin up the paper.
If your child isn’t into cutting or is not quite ready for scissors, use star-shaped stickers instead! Going with stickers over hand-cut means that you can totally increase the counting and patterning practice.
That’s it! Your own American Flag that you and your child just made together!