Ahhh, toddlers. That beautiful stage full of curiosity, enthusiasm, joy… And tantrums. And opinions. And energy. Allllll the energy.
If you’ve got a toddler, you know that it can be hard to keep them entertained. They want to do everything, but there’s still a lot of limitations to what they can do. Restaurants, road trips, flights, dinner parties at non-baby-proofed houses- it’s enough to strike fear into any parent’s heart.
But it doesn’t have to be that way (well, not ALL the time at least). We’re bringing you a collection of easy toddler busy bags and busy bags for babies for our Littlest Salties.
If you’ve been watching our stories on Instagram, you’ll notice we’ve been making a real push to get process art into the hands of more children. Art activities for kids seem so daunting at first- people are afraid of the mess, or don’t know where to start- but they don’t have to be complicated. With a little inspiration, and a tiny bit of prep, you’ll be able to get some easy toddler art projects under way in no time.
Process art activities range from the very simple (think an easel with little pots of paint) to the more complex (like our recycled materials painting wall, see below). The beauty is that you and your kids get to decide how elaborate your process based art projects are going to be. The idea is to keep art invitations for toddlers fun, simple, and creative, and to let the kids take it from there.
So if you are looking for some exciting process based art activities for kids, we’ve got a few ideas that you can do this week, with materials you’ve already got on hand. Collect some supplies, bust out the paint, and you’ll be watching your kids create and explore art in a whole new way in no time!
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When Cole was a baby, we went on a lot of trips. Before he was a year, he’d flown to Seattle, New York, Baltimore, and Hawaii twice. And generally, it went really well. Then we had Evie, and when she was about 4 months old we decided to try a flight as a family of four. But after a 45 minute flight to Reno, we swore off air travel. It wasn’t for us. We would drive, we would cruise, but there was no way in hell we were getting back on a plane.
As a family of 5.
Going across an ocean.
It was time to get strategic. This isn’t a simple toss a baby in an Ergo, bounce and provide snacks type of production. And lots of the tips for road tripping with kids is applicable, but a plane has all. Those. Other. People. So here are plane specific tips for traveling with your band of misfit monsters darling children.
Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for nearly a year, Cole and Evie have had an emotional goodbye through a chain link fence. It’s like a scene out of some prison movie. They tell each other how much they love each other and are going to miss each other and then I tear Evie away from the gate telling her we’ll see Cole in four hours. Often, I have to carry her writhing body in one arm, while balancing a baby in the other, and haul these girls out to the car. After dealing with this week after week, month after month, Chad and I had to have a serious conversation: Is it time to start Evie in preschool?
We had made bold proclamations and decisions on our plan for Evie’s schooling. I’m a stay at home Mom and she’s just fine here with me. She can wait until she’s 3 like Cole did. We can see if they have a spot open in January and if they don’t she can start the next fall. Two years of preschool will be plenty for her.
But it seemed she was disagreeing with us.
So I asked the Director at Cole’s eternally waitlisted preschool if they happened to have a spot. No rush, anytime really, we’re fine keeping her home as long as we need – oh, what’s that? You already had her on a list because I mentioned it to you once in passing? She can start next month? Yeah, okay, that works too…Suddenly we were launched into preschool prep mode! I bought Evie a lunch bag, did some “Back to School” shopping, grabbed her a water bottle and talked about the impending start of her career as a student. She proudly told everyone, “I go to school with Cole soon!” She was excited. Like really, REALLY, excited. Drop-offs were suddenly much easier, because as they hugged and kissed each other each morning, they’d exchange excited words about how soon Evie would be joining her big brother.
She was excited. I was all the feelings. Normally made of stone, the idea of having two kids in school proved too much for my solid core to handle. I just wasn’t sure I liked this. At all.
Then it was the big day. We got dressed in one of our new outfits. I busted out the chalkboard easel for important stats and pictures and a giant display of “Evie’s first day of preschool!” I took a thousand pictures of the three kids in every possible arrangement – sitting, standing, two sitting – Evie standing prominently, all three sitting together – Cole in the middle, Evie in the middle, Izzie in the middle – you name it, I probably have a picture of it. Evie looked happy and proud – probably a combination of first day excitement and the promise of a lollipop in exchange for endless smiles.
We loaded into the car, drove down to school, hopped out of the car and proudly marched down the hall. Which is about when all hell broke loose. To our complete and utter surprise, our cool, confident, happy-go-lucky, independent daughter freaked the F out. We thought we’d done everything “right” to prepare her! She knows this school, knows the teachers, knows lots of Cole’s friends! Plus the school happens to be on our church’s campus (though not affiliated) so she literally has been in the classrooms since the week she was born! We talked, oh how we talked, about what the first day would entail. And she was sooooo on board. Lest she forgets, this was HER IDEA!
But, as is a woman’s prerogative, she reserves the right to change her mind. And oh did she change it. My husband and I looked back and forth for a minute, telepathically running through our options.
Me: Evie, it’ll be fine. Cole’s right here with you. *Jump in here dude! Tell her it’s fine!!*
Chad: That’s right, Cole’s going to go do circle time, you can sit with him. *She’s screaming! Why is she screaming??*
Me: Honey, honey, honey, calm down, baby. *I don’t KNOW!! We gotta get out of here!*
Chad: *We can’t just LEAVE her like this!*
Me: *Like hell we can’t! She’ll be FINE! Band-Aid! RIP IT!*
Chad: Okay Evie, Mommy and Daddy have to go, you’ll be okay. *You’re a heartless monster*
Me: I’ll be back sooooo soon, you’ll have lots of fun, okay? We love you! *Oh, grow a pair*
Us: Bye sweetie!! We love you!!
I may have been the one to force us to leave, but I thought of my sweet little baby all day, hoping she’d calmed down and found some fun. I picked her up a few short hours later. Before she saw me, I saw her eating and laughing and I knew we had made the right call. She looked up, saw me, ran and jumped in my arms.
When we settled in the car I asked, “What did you do today Evie?” She said, with a big smile on her face, “I did art and crying.” I laughed at her and hugged the heck out of that kid. I said, “Maybe next time we’ll try for just art, huh?” She replied, “Yeah, I liked the art.”
So yes, in the grand tradition of first days of school, there were tears. Lots of tears. Mostly from Evie. But, as terrible as it is to say, the tears were a nice reminder that even though she’s a sassy, independent, stubborn, “I can do it myself” kind of 2 year old, she’s still my two year old baby, that just needs her Mama once in a while.
Yesterday you got to meet Jaymi’s little ones, and I know what you’re thinking: mic drop stuff. Trust me, I know. I love that little sassafras and my meatball like they were my own. It’s one of the many benefits of knowing someone’s kids basically since they were covered in vernix. (Too far? Sorry. But true). But ladies and gentledads, don’t write off the rest of the Salties just yet. Mine are kinda badass too.
So, without further adieu, I’d like you to meet my three: Cole, Evie and Izzie.
Cole. Holy moly, where to start with Cole? Honestly, I’m not even sure.
Here’s the thing…I was actually supposed to be the one to post yesterday, but for the life of me I COULD NOT FIGURE OUT HOW TO DESCRIBE COLE. So you know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words? Here’s a picture that might help:
This wasn’t something special. This was just like a Tuesday. He’s a performer that just wants to entertain and make people laugh. And damned if he doesn’t succeed every time. He loves to play in the dirt with toy dinosaurs and touches ALL the bugs, building them habitats and taking care of them like beloved pets. He also likes to wear costumes, sing, dance and get his nails painted. When you think you have him figured out, he will throw you a fastball. Oh yeah, he’s also like REALLY good at ball sports despite my great desire to never attend a little league baseball game. He’s also a really, REALLY good big brother, which is probably one of my favorite things about him. Also, dimples.
Evie. My little Grumpy Cat. This girl was born with a scowl on her face and a naughty twinkle in her eye. Sometimes I feel like I’m in physical pain because of how cute she is and the rest of the time she is driving me nuts. I’m pretty sure she’s the former out of necessity of the latter. She’s very particular and knows what she wants. I have high hopes that this will serve her well as a young woman, despite being utter hell for her Mama during the toddler years. She loves to play in the dirt while wearing a dress and “farkle jelly shoes.” (See picture above). She’s lightened up considerably in her short two years, and now spends most of her time striving to be as silly as her brother. And she’s giving him a run for his money.
Izzie. My little Love Nugget. She is leaps and bounds more snuggly than any of my other kids. I had high hopes that she was also going to be my most well-behaved child, but then she stared at me in the eyes and took two steps. The week she turned 9 months. So I’m pretty sure she’s decided to defect and join the Bigs in their attempts at mutiny. At least after playing she always wants to come back to snuggle with Mama. She pretends to be shy, but loves anyone and everyone. She has stinky little feet, an ear piercing squeal, and thinks sleeping more than two hours at a time is for losers. But we love her anyway.
I know every mom thinks their kids are the coolest, and I’m no exception. Mine are pretty awesome. I mean, most days anyways. Other days I threaten to throw them both in the trashcan twice before 8 am. But that’s for another post. This post is for introducing you to my two little salties, the little cuties that made me a mama and the reason I drink have so much to say on this blog.
Lila, Age Four- Lila is something. That little girl started acting up in the womb, pressing her little booty against my tummy and shaking it for all the world to see. We promptly had to change her name from the sweet, demure Caroline we had planned to the takes-on-the-world-and-makes-no-apologies name Lila. And she has not disappointed. Lila is petite, has this tiny voice, and has an incredible spark. My daughter is smart and fierce, she catches attention everywhere she goes, and is incredibly bossy shows amazing leadership skills. She loves making new friends, and can play with them for hours. She loves fashion and makeup, has five boyfriends at any given time, and loves nothing more than putting on a show for people. She was born a diva, and she’s still going strong.
Abram, Age Two- Abram is alllllll boy. He loves basketball, cars, and super heroes. Though I never intended to buy him toy guns, he started “Pew-Pewing” people with a wrapping-paper-shotgun around 16 months old, and he received about 1,110 nerf guns for his second birthday. He is quite the charmer, and knows how to shoot you a winning smile after he breaks the TV, or give a sweet kiss and “sorry” after kicking you in the knee. He is busy but easygoing, and as cuddly as he is strong. We are constantly laughing at our silly little guy, and giving him a thousand hugs and kisses- when we can catch him, that is.
So those are my two little Salties, but there’s more where that came from. There’ll be a whole other set of Salties to learn about tomorrow! In the meantime, we’d love to hear more about YOUR little Salties. Drop a comment to tell us about your babies below!
The morning started out in our usual way. Mommy makes coffee for herself, breakfast for all the kids, makes Cole’s lunch while the kids eat, and then once the kids are done/too restless to eat without making a bigger mess than I’m prepared to handle we move to the living room for a dance party led by DJ Alexa.
Alexa Dance Party is usually a complete and total highlight of the day. It’s fun Mom shit. My kids think I’m cool and not all rigid and full of rules. I lipsync to Trolls and Moana and put on a performance reminiscent of Britney in her heyday. I’m a pretty big deal for a few minutes each morning. The kids giggle and clap and dance and sing along and we all just have FUN.
Sometimes, when the party is really rockin’ and rollin’ I sneak out to go to the bathroom in peace. Inevitably this is when the party gets REAL real fast. Usually it’s something I know how to handle: “Evie ate my banana.” “Cole knocked me over because he was dancing too much.” “Evie won’t dance with me.” “Cole is singing too loud.”
Here’s another banana, say you’re sorry, try dancing with Izzie, sing louder too.
I can field those all day long. I was not prepared for this mornings fight. I ran out of the bathroom to INCONSOLABLE SCREAMS from 2/3 of the children. I breathed a sigh of relief upon realizing at least the baby was happy. One point for Mommy. The other two were simultaneously screaming something about Trolls.
Mommy: Kids, kids, kids, what’s the problem?
Evie: Cole wants to listen to Trolls!
Cole: But EVIE wants to listen to Trolls!
Mommy: Okay, I don’t understand, you both want to listen to Trolls?
Evie: YES! But it’s MY TURN to pick!
Mommy: Okay, so pick Trolls.
Evie: But COLE wants to listen to Trolls.
Mommy: Okay, Alexa, play music from Trolls soundrack.
Cole: NOOOOO I want to listen to Trolls!
Evie: NO! It’s MY turn, I want to listen to Trolls!
Mommy: I’m so lost. You both want to listen to Trolls, but you won’t listen to Trolls because the other one ALSO wants to listen to Trolls?
Both kids (wailing): YEEEEEESSSSSSSSSS
What. The. Hell?
I, of course, sent my Salty Mama Jaymi a play by play of this insanity that was my morning to which she calmly and rationally responded: “Kids literally just want to make us crazy.”
And somehow, that made it better. My stubborn side came out, I dug in my heels, and played freaking Trolls. They screamed louder because they HATED that the other one was happy, even when it was really what they wanted. They threw themselves on the ground and then they decided to – yes, I’m going to go there – get back up again.
They just couldn’t help themselves. As quickly as it all went to hell, it went back again. In a few minutes, we were back to normal: I was painting my sons nails while breastfeeding Izzie…but that, my friends, is a post for another day.
Probably a day where the kids fight over who gets to tell Alexa they want to listen to Shiny from Moana. Because Lord knows they’ll both want to.